Monday, November 30, 2009

Pine Top Horse Trials

This years Thanksgiving Pine Top was the complete opposite of last years weatherwise.It was so cold and rainy last year that we chose not to go cross country and sadly withdrew the devils.Thankfully we were blesed with perfect weather and footing at Glenn and Janet Wilsons fantastic Pine Top Farm.Pine Top has turned into an incredible facility and every time I go there I am fascinated by all the improvements Glenn adds to his property.I am envious of his ability in building and earth moving. I am hopeless at both.

With three horses in the same class,I expected to be drawn number one and ride at eight am.If you enter three in the same class you better be ready to play. Barbie has really got a great system down and we have never been late yet. I had two other helpers as well Cameron age 10 and Lizzie age 15.Team Paradise was on their toes.Cameron was my body gaurd with a copy of the dressage test and a rag and saw me into the ring on Harry (Next Dance) who went first.I got my running orders from her as they called my number and tried to remember all she told me.We had a plan at Pine Top that our dressage tests were going to be about submission and softness,not impulsion .Those were my orders!I was to release my hand on the reins at least once in every movement!

Harry entered a bit tight but felt better as the test progressed. He had a nice go and I was pleased but in seeing his photos I felt he was overbent at times.He had a lovely show jumping nearly jumping me out of the tack. Glenn outdid himself this time in his design. It was SO GREAT. He was a genius at using the ring. A PURE GENIUS!Clearly he has as much fun designing as I do and I thought this course was extremely well planned out.

Peter had a great dressage and none of his antics from Poplar Place were evident .It is impossible not to grin from ear to ear when riding this devil when he tries like that.He has really grown up this past year.Next year I want to get him more from behind but he was right on track last Saturday.Sadly I had a sharp rail in the Show Jumping as he got a bit strong after the double and I didn't react quick enough to Glenn's clever broken line.Precisely the way the course designer planned it! Well done!This rail proved to be the only major mistake I had last weekend.So if I only had one that's pretty good for me!

Pickles was a very good boy in dressage. He was strong in his big fat snaffle ,but maintained his shape again and was fairly obediant.I am hoping to move him into a big ring next year at the intermediate level and can't wait to be able to ride in the double!This year we have accomplished a ton with Pickles who has been a stalwart to my team. Though he is not the most comfortable in the dressage he has only made three jumping mistakes all year and I have extreme confidence in his ability.

Cross Country was fabulous as usual at Pine Top.The course was reversed from the normal direction. In all my years riding over there I had never ridden it that way before. It was grand.Nice questions. Solid ,beefy jumps and great galloping.One can really have a go at Pine Top.

Harry jumped beautifull but I feel he gallops a bit low and strong. So I have to work on getting him a bit more up.When I step on the gas I feel it is hard to get him back up quickly so I am wasting a few seconds here and there. But the quality of his jump,the quickness of his feet and thought process are all very good for this level.Peter is a speed machine that just buzzes around. He is exactly my size and just eats up the courses.Again I had a watch issue while riding him as I thought I was in the time but had a few penalities anyway. Who cares.He is a GAS to ride and if I were in the trenches in a war zone I would definately want him to be my buddy.And Pickles clocked around inside the time again on a loose rein.He actually does it the right way everytime.There is something very reassuring about that complicated devil.It makes all the impossible times on the flat well worth it and I have to remember that when I act like a spolied child because he won't relax in an extension at home.

A great way to finish the season for me and the devils.They have earned themselves a small holiday .The year had a dodgy start with my shattering my leg before their first outing in March.But we ended with a different sort of bang.The kind we like.

I couldn't have had any of this fun without the help of Barbie Reeser.This girl has REALLY hung i there.She has been with me now for two years. Many of you out there will agree ,she has to be made of steel to survive two years with me!She has earned the tiltle of Paradise Farm Super groom.She is the volunteer coodinator at the farms Horse Trials.She gets as many as 7 horses ready back to back during my dressage days here at the farm.She is a tireless individual that always puts the horses first.Anyone that has seen the devils at any outing will agree they are immaculate always at the ring. I am very fussy and very proud of the work that she does. If you see her around tell her from me you read this and I appreciate her because it is not always an easy job I assure you!

Antonio Henandez runs the farm.He is going on 5 years and he is an angel from above.I can finally leave the farm with complete confidence that he is in charge and will handle everything that comes up.

To Linda Hickey my vet. We could not have done the year without you.She is right up there on the five star list and I will NEVER EVER Forget how she saved one of my horses lives over a horrific five day period this year.again an act of complte selflessness that blew me away and makes everything else worthwhile.

To my Blacksmith Antonio Sambrano,who has driven to and from Paradise so many times and never ever argured or been hard to deal with under very trying circumstances. (Peter pulling his shoes off repeatedly in the same day!)

And to all of the clients and clinic organizers that have helped Paradise farm stay afloat. You are the ones that have let me go eventing.You are the ones that have enabled these devils to come up through the ranks.You have paid my entry fees and let me take lessons.So I thankyou all. You are all part of team Paradise and I hope everytime you see these guys fly by you will say to yourselves.I helped with that team!

And last but not least to my sponsor Arenus.This company has been a great pleasure to work with. Not only have their products really helped my horses but they have helped me with their knowlegde and personal support.Everytime I deal with the people from Arenus I have a huge smile. They are like a breath of fresh air to me.I really feel Steadfast has helped my horses stay on track and The Assure system has done absolute miracles for Pickles.I cannot recommend these products to you all out there enough.I belive in them and am going to stay with it.My horses have been in the top ten very consistantly at every outing this year.

I have three great horses to ride at the moment that have given me the confidence to get back out there and do what I used to do.The roller coaster continues. Poplar left me feeling unsure and full of self doubt(nothing to do with the event itself ,just my own riding!),but this weekend it all fit back into place.

We left with a Grand slam Peter on top in 2nd,Pickles moved from 12th after dressage to 3rd and harry finished 4th due to a few XC time penalties.So now it's time for the second string to come up.I have some nice babies at the moment that will be out next year. Stay tuned!

Aiken Hounds Opening Meet

I always wake up on a holiday morning with a warm and fuzzy feeling.For some reason ,I do not think about all the pressures of the business and farm,or what needs to be done with the eventers,lessons,bills ect..Even though it was a very early pull from my nice warm bed to go out and get the horses ready for hunting,I knew it was going to be a beautiful day. And it was.

This year was easier for me than years past as I only had two horses to braid and we had everything ready the night before.I have had many a scattered morning before our opening hunt chasing people around looking for stock ties boots and who knows what. This year Barbie and I were very civilized,left right on time and were in our standard parking spot with time to spare.

It was a beautiful day,perfect temperature. We've had really nice color in the woods this year and Memorial gate is such a special place.I love to see the people come down there and really enjoy the pagentry of this special occasion.The children look up to the horses with stars and magic in their eyes.I think I like that the best.I love to see the families walking down to the gate. Young and not so young at all people take the time out of their busy lives to see the horses and hounds.It really is a tradition for so many of the towns people to come see the hunt off.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Aiken Hounds livery is the prettiest there is. Our green coats and very well turned out staff were truely magnificent.I felt tradition had not been let down in anyway this year.We had two great drags.The hounds spoke beautifully and stayed true to the lines.Three large fields enjoyed the day and as usual we ended up in the show ring,this year with drinks and nibbles!

I love to see the exiliration on everyones faces at the end of opening meet.We all have tons to be thankful for.Just being able to get up early and go do that is enough for me.I hope Mrs. Hitchcock got to look down on us last Thursday from above. I think she would have approved of what she saw.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Message from Above

Poplar Place was a fun event,but one I left in a state full of self dissatisfaction,worry and doubt. I hadn't felt my horses that edgy all year and I was concerned and harbouring far too many thoughts about going backwards with my Devils instead of forwards.

We all try to pinpoint the good and the bad. The good always has to come first, or else the negative can outweigh the positive.They say there is a reason for everything.I racked my brains and was happy we all came home safe and sound but something was a miss.

Dressage was very tense at poplar but I think I can really attribute that to a very busy and crowded warm up. My boys aren't used to that yet. They will have to learn to deal with it but for now it is what it is. I am very pleased with their confidence cross country and feel pretty good about that area.

Show Jumping has long been a real bugaboo for me.I have battled the hold back then squirt and run to the jumps syndrome for eons.This year I thought I had met a lot of those demons head on and thought they were gone out of my reperatoire,but they surfaced again at Poplar."Oh no,not again," I thought.

So off I went back to Micheal Tokuruks for some lessons with the FOUR devils. I thought I'd ride King Riverdance first as he has been SOOOOOOO Perfect for so long.We call him my equitation horse.Micheal asked me what I wanted to do and all I could say was ride better. I whined about what I was thinking ,he smiled and knew I was making it all up.

I felt so rusty infront of Micheal. I rode like a real putz,froze up ,was stiff,spastic and generally quite pathetic.But........his eyes were able to pinpoint what I was doing and I was able to feel it ,realize it and adress it after jumping a few lines. OH THANKGOD. COULD THIS BE WHAT WAS WRONG?After Rivers lesson I was feeling more positive and couldn't wait to get on the devils.

Long story short. Harry (Next Dance) was next. Everything reverted back to disater from the first jump on.Then I fell off(second time in two weeks,but a different horse) through and oxer about 2'6" broke a rail. Harry bolted back to the trailer ,destroyed his bridle in a million pieces and stood there shaking.Great. Just what we needed for our shattered confidence!I switched bridles,got back on and finished.He was better after the" gallop" as Micheal so kindly put it but I was disgusted and still at a loss.

Peter jumped well enough but seems to think he is the black stallion at the moment.I had to carry a persuader,not for jumping but to keep his mind on the ground. He seems to want to jump up in the air a lot lately. But I felt secure on him and we were Ok about his lesson.

Pickles has been great this season with very consistant clear rounds. We ended up putting the rein off his gag and onto just the snaffle . He was strong but we liked it. I wasn't thrilled as I had hope when I left and Barbie kept saying to me."We need to come backsoon for more lessons. "In all fairness I haven't had a lesson in a year. I am rusty to say the least.

Micheal said I was using too much hand and not supporting with my legs enough. I take away from the approaches and I don't trust my eye. True true true..But how to fix it? UGH. Don't want to go backwards.

So now I had an event and a lesson day that made me even more frustrated with myself. What to do? I do not want the horses to go backwards.

The next day , I reset the jumps in my ring to simulate a few very simple lines from the day before and went out there with just plain snaffles.I worked on the same ideas we discussed in the lessons the day before. I worked it out with all the horses and myself!.So I plan to jump again in two more days just to see if I was lucky or I can own it.Then I'll have to see if I can take it with me to Pine Top.

I would like to think there is a reason for my shakey experiences at Poplar and during my lessons.I think that someone out there is reminding me I need to ride better.I am very grateful that someone from above allowed me to feel good about myself with my horses yesterday.Confidence makes for more confidence.That's 99% of the game.

Five days to go till Pine Top. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A new Journey

I am about to finally embark on a more focused journey to learn more about cross country course design.It is very hard to do everything.This year I set my sights on the USEA'S ICP program. Now I can take a huge deep breath and put that behind me.

Practically all the officials that have come to this farm for the events and most of the pro's that have come for clinics here have encouraged me to pursue getting a license in cross country design.I have put it off for a million reasons but now I am going to begin the journey. I look forward to mentoring with as many designers as I can to improve my knowledge and further my perspectives on this aspect of our sport.

I bought Paradise Farm years ago as the back field is a most amazing place. The footing is perfect for galloping horses and there is just the right amount of terrrain.Though we lack trees and forrest,the jumping possibilities out there are only limited to my lack of funds!

Over the years I have had a lot of knowledgable people out there ,that are always impressed with the quality of the grass,the construction and presentation of the jumps and the concepts behind them. I have receieved many compliments and a lot of encouragement to carry on.It is fun.

Yesterday I spent the day with Tremain Cooper who has thankfully agreed to come back on board as course designer here and also spend some time teaching me about his craft. Tremain was kind enough to buzz me around Poplar Places courses last weekend.I took notes in between bumps and lumps flying around in the gator!I was a very lucky girl to get this private tour and wanted to take it all in.He was full of explanations as to the why's and theories behind the questions proposed to the riders at the different levels.We'd quickly hop in and out and he'd describe how to make things look a certain way yet still measure ect.We spoke about so many things there just wasn't enough time to even scratch the surface. This is going to be a long project!

At Paradise, Tremain spent a full day out bonding with the field, redesigning new courses for the future.I spent the afternoon walking the tracks ,just spinning with his ideas and information.Again I am very lucky to have had this time as Tremain has traveled around extensively and seen a lot of cross country courses worldwide.I am excited about working with him once again. Can you tell?

Paradise farm lends itself to the education of horses and riders. That's what its all about.The courses are up to a national standard. One has to ride to the level and be prepared. All the jumps and questions asked are there to bring horses on not discourage them.It is an amazing place to school as most jumps can be seen from one location. Horses can jump lots of fences at a time without pulling up.

We take a lot of care of the grass here. I understand that people are not aware that schooling is avaialable here..That is certainly not true but we do limit the use of the courses prior to the events so the tracks can be in their best shape for the competitions.I do hope people will come school this course as they used to as the funds brought in from schooling all go towards new jumps and the upkeep of the course.There are tadpole jumps at 2 feet up through preliminary level.I encourage people to come with their own coaches to use this facility or they can ride with me,or within their own groups. We do discourage people jumping by themselves however for saftey reasons.

Tremain was really positive about what he saw. That meant the world to me.I look forward to learning more about the inner workings of a course designer.I hope to travel a bit and have some time to devote to this end. Stay tuned. Of course I am not giving up the riding end yet though!I think furthuring my knowledge in the course designer end will only help my riding.Hopefully!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poplar Place Horse Trials

We had a beautiful weekend at Poplar. The nights were cool but the days were perfect for the horses and not too hot for us either! The ground held up remarkably well after Georgia had been hit with so much rain. Poplar had made great efforts to provide footing where needed and the cross country track was open for galloping.

I hadn't competed at Poplar in a while, and was surprised to find the tracks very different this time. A lot of thought and effort went into this event that hosted seven different levels of competition, from Beginner novice to FEI two star level! Not easy to do!Poplar has a great team of volunteers. I am sure everyone is exausted after the weekend!

The devils were unsettled this weekend if I were to pick one word to describe it all. Pickles kept a much improved shape in the dressage. Huge progress is on the way but his nerves got him and he was clamped up like a clam in the ring.We are still looking for relaxation and flow from our boy. It's almost there!He hates the small arena. Looking forward to the big arena next season!He jumped two double clears so was a star.I was glad to ride him first in the xc as there was a big combination on that I wanted to get under my belt properly before riding the two less experience devils. It was a tentlike table, four strides to a large set of rails that sloped away to a considerable drop. I thought it a serious question and did not want to make an error there. Pickles gave me just the right ride so I felt better about it on rounds two and three.

Peter did not handle the dressage warm arena well at all. He was extremely stressed by the large number of horses crossing all over the place. I seriously wonder if anyone teaches their students to pass left to left in the ring anymore. It would make a big difference if everyone knew that concept. I think it is very important and could prevent a few problems in the warm up and really help the horses. Peters dressage was not his usual. I felt I had to be on guard rather than ride his usual flowing test. He was definately very distracted mentally. I thought the judge very generous to put us tied for 3rd. I had two very off moments, one I got distracted in my rein back as a bell went off and I thought it was telling me I was off course , so I did too many steps as I was looking at the judge. Then he gave me a leap in the canter transition from the walk. So to finish third was a blessing. The standard of dressage is good now. One cannot afford to make silly errors and give points away. I seemed to do that a lot this weekend. Peter handled the XC well, I was surprised to have been alotted time penalties, as I had two watches running that put me in under the time, but not to worry. He gave me a solid ride and that was good enough. In the show jumping he was distracted again by a rather busy warm up and I pulled two rails which dropped us to 9th. I felt rushed in there and not at all soft. I did not ride the way I wanted to at all. Again dissapointement. But........ Can't have it perfect all the time! I am going to try though!

Harry (Next Dance) was also a bit put off by the confusion of the dressage warm up and wasn't happy in his test. He can be sensitive sometimes. So we had a little tension and finsished 7th I think after dressage. He pulled and slipped XC more than the others which did give me 4 time faults(that I totally agree with). Harry likes to gallop really low,is a great jumper but its a bit off putting sometimes. He was also rattled in the SJ and I had an uncharacteristic rail at a lovely oxer that was another dissapointment plus time penalties. He finished the best of the devils in 7th place.

I have had a great season with the devils. I left the show jumping ring full of self doubt and over analizations.Maybe I should have done this and that,everything is my fault,blah blah,blah.Everyone does that.

The important thing is to remember how lucky I am to be able to ride these wonderful horses. I still say eventing is like going to war. One never knows what will happen and you have to be prepared and fight to get out alive! The horses gave me what they had this weekend. It was good enough. Of course I would have liked to have placed higher at the end of the day. But I have three solid citizens out there in the field today after the event and that is what is important. Having the bobbles ,the nerves and the rails is part of it.Take it or leave it. I am going to take it.

I did make a call to get some show jumping lessons this week though.Its been almost a year since I've had any!So it's back to the drawing board. Stay tuned.Thankyou Poplar Place for hosting a great event!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whiskey Road Opening Meet

Who can believe it's already November first.Christmas is just around the corner again!Halloween was great fun this year,the night ended late and the morning came far too soon. It was chillier than normal today and half of me really wanted to stay in the sack but today was Whiskey Road's Opening Meet and I had a horse to get ready and find the new fixture.

In my great efforts to be early,boy was I ,arriving onsite at 7 am!The day was perfect for hunting and Mr. Weldon Wyatt's place was magnificent. A good crowd showed up. The blessing was uneventful and off we went. I rode Spencer today and he was a perfect gentleman the entire time.The hounds spoke beautifully. The countryside this year is very colorful. WE had lovely views of the hounds all day but no quarry.There was just enough galloping to make it really fun. Especially when one's horse was being such a Cadillac to ride.I had a blast.

The breakfast was delicious. Everyone piled their plates high.No one left hungry.Great weather,people, horses,hounds and delicious food.The season has begun .Look out waistband.Thankyou Whiskey Road!