Friday, January 30, 2009

A Wonderful Feeling of Support

There are so many different sides to life in Paradise.The farm side,The horse side,Horse Trials, Fox hunting, Eventing, teaching, selling,veterinary, mowing,machinery maintenace,book keeping,fatique,emotional,employee,telphoning and communication with DIAL UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and the most important one,trying to maintain a balance.That one is right up there with trying to ride a straight line.

With the new year,I am excited about so many things.Already January has flown by.I mentioned in an earlier blog,December was not a great month for me.I had a feeling of tremendous loss and doom hung over me for weeks.I felt as if I had reached the end of Paradise as I had known it.

The devils are in great shape andI have grown up enough to have made an executive decision not to enter them in any competitions until March.This is difficult when there are so many competitions right in my backyard.But I have made the decision to put the farm first this year.I am lining up my ducks so that after the Paradise Farm Horse Trials I can go on the road with a clear conscience.It is after all a very long season.

Organizing the Horse Trials is madness.I am getting much better at writing off much of my normal riding time with time spent talking on the phone ,e-mailing or face to face with all the millions of people that are involved.Tasks that one should think would be fairly simple can take days and days.And if you are not there ,right on top of it PERSONALLY,you can bet you will have to do it over at least once.Many of these tasks used to reduce me to puddles of tears and the burning urge to walk around the farm with a loaded shotgun.Now ,after much practice I can simply smile and say,"How Nice!"

When things go right,and when so many people pitch in and join up,it is a great feeling.I have managed to collect all my volunters for the event in an organized fashion without tears.Everything is running fairly smoothly on the farm.We are at our maximum number of entries for the event.This is HUGE.I am VERY VERY greatful to all of the riders that have entered and to those that are on the waiting list,I am sorry we can't take more.

Putting on an event is very scary.There are many sleepless nights.What about this and that.Oh my God I forgot this.Endless issues creep up.You can bet that EVERYTIME you try to get on a horse or teach a lesson ,someone that REALLY needs to talk to you will appear.No matter how organized or well thought out you think you have it,you can bet something will pop up unexpectedly.Just like riding!

Not only do we have GREAT entries (thankyou thankyou thankyou) but I have a GREAT sponsor.Arenus!Last year they helped me get to the Us Eventing Championships with the three devils.This year they have GENEROUSLY taken on the title sponsorship of the Horse Trials.This also helps me sleep a little better.Working with Katie Pell and Ken Kopp always leaves me feeling on top of the world.

WE had a wonderful evening January 19 where ARENUS came and gave a delicious dinner and imformative presentation of their products and philosophys towards the care and well being of horses.So many friends came and listened,it left me with another great feeling of support from Aikens community.Even the busiest vets in town came to listen which meant a great deal to me! Thank goodness that meant most of Aikens horses were in good health that night!

Aiken is such a busy place.There is so much going on all the time.WE are blesed with this great group of people and wonderful town.The support I have received over the years has allowed to me to pursue so many things.Eventing all over the US and Europe, and being able to continue to ride this season is a great luxury.Without this support, it would be an impossible dream.So,once again ,Thankyou all for being there.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Charlie Ferrari

Yesterday while galloping through the Hitchcock woods after the Aiken Hounds in full cry,I kept thinking about how much I love the horse I ride,Charlie Ferrari.This hore is a TB gelding ,that raced,went up to 2 star eventing,knows fourth level dressage and at age 19 is just about the finest drag horse anyone could ask for.He is gorgeous to look at ,he moves like a dream and jumps like a stag.I have been riding this horse for years.He has hunted hounds and led the field with grace and speed and the lightest footwork imaginable.

He can fly downhill as easily as up.Yet he will wait and listen at anytime upon command.He reads the land as well as the hounds always looking and knowing exactly where to go and how to get there.He is a horse that gives me a thrill and a tear every single time I have the honor to ride him.

He fits right in at paradise and should definately be on the devil list as he delights in opening any stall door,throwing the bar down with a crash and gallops down the lane as fast as he can ,laughing al the way till someone comes to catch him which is another game in itself.This happens on almost a daily basis.There are always ropes and barracades around Charlies stall door (and he still gets out!)

He thrives on his hunting and gets very hurt feelings when I choose to ride another horse.I have been so blessed with fine horses to hunt.I must make mention of my Blessed Pierre.A different sort entirely but remembered with eqaul amounts of love and admiration.

To have horses like Charlie Ferrarri , a horse that will gallop and jump yet wait with the most extreme balance and grace is simply and honor and a thrill.That is the sign of a great hunter.I am sad when people think hunting is wreckless and dangerous.It does not have to be.It takes years and years to make a great horse.It takes time to get a horse to read your mind and know your every move.

Charlie has run off with me many times.He has stopped at fences and I have gone over his head.He rarely walks back to the meet and often jigs home in a lather.Those are not the signs of a great hunter.He hates the show ring and ALWAYS refuses at the show in the woods!I have walked out of the ring mortified more than once.Oh and he won't live hunt.Not patient enough to stand around for that!

But he always knows when it is Tuesday and Saturday.He always knows when I go to clip him out that he is going to fly with the Aiken Drag the way he loves to go.And for all his other sins,he is forgiven with a huge smile and the biggest hug I can give him around his hadsome neck.He is worth an oil painting,A perpetual trophy even a bronze in my mind.I hope everyone feels that way about their horses and their days out with hounds.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


It has been a while since I have written about hunting.It's POURRING rain today and it makes me think of England and hunting.Not that we always hunt in the rain but very often over there it was pourring and freezing but it was GREAT FUN and a real thrill.Hunting over here is quite a bit tamer.

The Aiken Drag is a different thrill from British hunting but a thrill nonetheless.This year we have had a season of many changes but most for the very best.We have a new huntsman,new hounds andI have a new horse that I think is going to be a very solid citizen next to my stalwart Charlie Ferrarri.

WE have put a lot of thought into how we can best manage the changes of our beloved Hitchcock woods,notably the rise in the number of live game in the woods.We have put a lot of thought into how best to improve the drag without changing its character for the changes in horses and riders of our fields.There are fewer people out these days that are comfortable with the speed and large fences of yesteryear.

And so with these changes we have had a super season so far with large fields in the second flight and hilltoppers.Those that take on the first flight have done so with aplomb and stay right up with the hounds.Another change is we have added a third drag to our days,one I am delighted with.

Galloping through the woods ,listening to our new hounds is something hard to describe.My horses have been so balanced and keen ,I can fly through the woods over everyfence with an open hand and say have at it boy!My horses know every turn,every hill,every jump with their eyes closed.It is sheer bliss twice a week.

I had the opportunity to go out with Red Mountain during the Masters Regional meeting on another delightful horse.Spencer belongs to my friend Taylor Myers and she graciously allowed me to ride him up there with Linda Mclean,Emily Smith and Katherine Gunter.Aiken hounds were well represented.Our green livery stood out amongst the field of scarlet coats with all the other Masters.The countryside up there was magnificent and the day glorious.It reminded me of how I love hunting.Sadly my schedual doesn't permit me to take enough time for these opportunities.

I had one more opportuntity to go out with Flat branch Hounds here in Aiken on my new horse Dice.Though I have been riding this giant for years, it is this year that he has decided to really enjoy hunting and have some fun.Again the opportunity to just be out there in the beautiful woods on a horse that it obediant,soft,interested in the hounds is one I never get enough of.There are so many fine people out there in the hunt fields as well,that it makes the experience all the more special.

I can't wait to go out with Whiskey road and Why Worry.We have so many choices here in Aiken it is amazing.It is so interesting to see the subtle differences with each pack and each different country.One can never get enough.

Hunting is the missing ingrediant to so many peoples riding.One has to pay attention to many things around them.It increases ones reaction time to things that are real and not subjective.It makes horses better without a doubt.Our Footing here in Aiken is the best on earth.
we are truely blessed.

AS I get closer to Eventing seasonI just wanted to express a few thoughts on hunting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Better Riding Through Knowledge(not luck )Clinic 1

Paradise held its first Better Riding Through Knowledge clinic January9-10 .WE had a very enthusiatic group come ride for the two days.There were several riders that chose to ride privately on the flat and then there were show jumpers that practiced their skills in the ring for two days and then we had a SUPER group of Jumiors that came out for cross country.

The flat lessons are aimed at teaching the rider how to find a more balanced ride from their horses.There is a huge amount of theory given.Lots of time is spent talking about the mechanics of how to get your horse obiedient to the aids and how to affect his balance and get him to not lean or pull or drift.Huge emphasis is placed on straightness and how to achieve that.There is lots of stop and go,then we proceed to lateral work.The riders are made aware of specific body parts of their horses and how to manipulate them for various effect.It is great fun and hugely rewarding to me to see the lightbulbs go off and feel the enthusiam from the riders when they find the right buttons! And the horses go whew!Everyone smiles.

The show jumping always starts out with stop and go.Then we add poles on the ground and proceed to the jumps.Everything is progressive.We had three charming handsome men in the first group and had the addition of a beautiful blond the second day.Horses were all of varying degree of greeness but everyone completed a technical jumping course of bounces,triple combinations,skinneys,barrels and the brush box by the end of the weekend.Riders worked on control,direction,track,size of stride,leg position,you name it.WE had grunting,moaning,smiles,and screams of delight!And we had a huge cheering section for all the riders which always makes it more fun.

Cross country on Sunday was a group of three juniors that were keen,brave and effective riders.We worked on a safer cross country balance and emphasis was placed on the set up before jumps and then the gallop on the getaway.I use alot of small drop type questions with jumps in quick sucession to get the riders in the right position.AS usual God steps in with the use of the drops and the riders develope their own religion quickly!These juniors all ride to hounds and really show the benefits of that through their natural riding styles.Very exciting to an old fart like me that was brought up that way too.There is no doubt that riding out cross country whether hacking or hunting is the greatest way to learn balance.

A very enthusiatic group of mothers took milions of pictures and video of the session and Ben Baugh from the Aiken Standard came out to interview the children to add to the excitment.

It is hard to know what to call these clinics.I try not to scare people away with serious hard core horse language.I prefer to teach in a more relaxed way ,encouraging people to allow themselves and their horses to fumble and made mistakes.Hopefully through systematic excercises with lots of theory behind ,people and their horses can start to learn to progress by understanding what it is each excercise,each type of jump,each course,each dressage movement is asking for and why.How one thing needs to progressively lead to another.All levels of horse and rider benefit from these sessions.And everyone has a great time.Thankyou to all for supporting these clinics.I look forward to the next one January 31 and Feb.1.Stay tuned!

Hold Onto YOUR HAT!

I can't believe it is already the middle of January.I haven't been able to pull myself together enough to write but here we go again.Thankyou to everyone that has inquired as to why I haven't written in so long.It in inspires me to continue.

After my last blog and for several other reasons December turned into a horrifically complicated month.I had planned to take December easy.I did let the devils down so that gave me an extra six hours in the day.But many many other things crept up that led me to feeling like I had to pack it all in.I felt like I had to have a giant pillow of stone over my head the whole time,not a nice hat to wear.Let's just say THANKGOD January is looking better and we are back on track.

Life in Paradise is complicated.WE all wear many hats here.I wear a rider,teacher,Joint Master of the Aiken Hounds,Event organizer,Cook,maid,bookeeper hats.Barbie wears the grooms hat and excercise rider and volunteer coordinator hat at the Horse Trials(rapidly approaching),Antonio wears not a hat but a halo and does EVERYTHING,PRAISE THE LORD!!!!

January is a month of no sleep despit all the efforts.It is also a month of no chocolate or Alchohol!Can you say stress?The Horse Trial opens and we are on pins and needles waiting to see how the entries go.(We are SO SO GRATEFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!to those that enter early)Knowing about the entriers is so huge one can never know unless one organizes and pays for the endeavours of aHorse Trial.It totaly sets the standard for the competition in every way.Did I say THANKYOU AGAIN to those that enter early!!!!!!

Pulling the farm together for the event is one thing.Getting the devils ready for the new season another.Clipping ,manes tails,Entries,reguistrations ect.Hours and hours at the Dial up computer.AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

THANKGOD people are taking lessons again.December was very slow.Thankyou to everyone that comes.You all keep the ball rolling here.No matter what,I am never too busy to teach !

Hunting is in full force and we are having a fabulous season with our new hounds! I have even been able to get out live a few times.(MUST DO IT MORE!!!)I have 2 great horses to hunt and it is an extreme pleasure.Hunting is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO they way to GO !

Clinics have been a riot to teach.WE have had lots of new people that are REALLY making an effort.It makes EVERYTHING ELSE SO worthwhile!

I will try and elaborate in some more blogs ASAP about each of those latter subjects later.Aiken is exploding as usual.So we are all trying to hold onto our hats.Good Luck