Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Aiken Hounds Christmas Hunt

A few years ago,we established a new tradition of having a meet of the Aiken Hounds at the beautiful Green Boundary Club.For some of "older guard",the "GB" as we fondly call it holds many memomories.My personal favorite is running around as a junior terrorist and putting saran wrap over the toilet seats in the rooms,short sheeting beds, and setting off fireworks outside and then hiding in the trees at night while Aiken's finest was trying to have a high time.

Now, as a much more civilized Joint Master of Hounds, I have simplified my routine to dressing up like a big fat Santa and parading around during our GREAT Christmas meet at the "GB".The Santa suit basically started on a dare and now how turned into a spectacular annual event.This year we had a group of singing angels,complete with halos and beautiful wings ,three wise men,many elves,Mrs. Claus was there(much too thin).There were antlers, thousands of bells,miles of tinsel and a sea of bright red that complimented the traditional green coats our more sedate staff members wore.

Crossing Whiskey road must really be a sight. Looking back down beautiful Berry road ,seeing all the beaming faces is another great Christmas present to me.People really had fun.I do believe,the horses and hounds enjoyed it too.

We had a nice hunt with three drags. The weather was absolutely perfect. How lucky we are to live here and be able to do this.The sound of my huge sleigh bells round the neck of my galloping horse kept perfect time.It was pure magic.

Afterwards,we met again at the GB where we started and had far too much to eat and drink as usual.Many thanks to all our unmounted members and friends that put on the huge spread we all enjoyed so much!

I raced home in my suit of red as there was no time to change and went straight out to my big ring and started teaching upon arrival back at the mother ship.I'm sure the people that drive by Paradise Farm get a kick out of what they see go on in that ring. One NEVER knows what will be happening out there!

So it was another great Christmas Hunt.WE are so lucky. First our opening day on Thanksgiving a hugely traditional special day,then Christmas,then the Horse Show in the woods and then our Hound races,then the Hunter Trials and we start it all up again!Who could want anything more.

Merry Christmas to all.Ho Ho Ho

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Barefoot,Pigtails and Who Needs A Saddle?

I have to write a blog about a young lady that comes to ride here at Paradise.I have been teaching this girl since she was about eleven. She would arrive with her mother, two waist long braids and a pony,stay about a week,jump everything in sight and dissapear again until they could manage the long trek back up here and do it again.As soon as mom's car left the driveway,shoes and the hair brush went straight under the bed.This girl is my type. She eats,sleeps and breaths horses.

I had to practically force her to use a saddle.This child(now beautiful young lady), has jumped around my entire training level course and a lot of the prelim bareback. After every session,off would come the saddle and into the pond she would go,tranforming the white Connamara into a black slimy mess. Matter of fact the two of them would be black.But the gleam of the white smiling teeth could always be seen from the middle of the pond.

Now at age sixteen,the braids have turned into a more serious single ponytail.This young lady is taller than me and rides EXTREMELY WELL!This girl is a breath of fresh air that ,is exactly what we all need to be. Her work ethic is extreme. She manages to help finace her dream by riding and selling ponies.She can stay on anything.She bought herself a saddle has worked tirelessly and has the support of incredible parents that are one hundred per cent behind her.These people work hard to make this all happen.It is a great story.

Currently,she is experiencing the heartbreak of her horse being injured. WE have all been there. The anquish of being on the sidelines as a competitor,and not knowing if ,or when the injury will heal and go away.This is part of the game.

The silver lining is she has been given the ride on a horse that is just what she needs. An experienced mare that will catapult this girl into the next level.And the great thing is ,she knows how lucky she is.

Watching her yesterday was very exciting.She and her mother made my heart sing,just being around them.I considered their time here a Christmas present to me.I am so proud of these people.

So a good story this time. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That Finally Found It Feeling

Yesterday,I was helping out a friend with her horse and I saw them get that finally found it feeling.All of a sudden God let her in to find all the necessary buttons to get her horse lined up enough to feel the magic. She saw the light.She knew where she was. She knew what she was looking for.She felt safe!

The safe place. Isn't that what we are all looking for? Just last week this same girl was on the floor,brushing wet sand off her breeches as her horsey went flying for the gate.I got on and changed his opinion a bit,but what I really did was try to realign him physically and mentally.Most of the time when we have issues with our horses it boils down to three things. The three most basic requirements of survival and progress are CALM ,FORWARD and STRAIGHT!This horsey was lacking in all three of those catagories.

Once we can manage to "line up the bones" I call it,usually the head falls into place( both literally and figuratively!)Once we can find the hindquarters ,barrel,shoulder we can usually have the neck and the front end. This does not only apply to high powered riding but to everything.

I am having the best time climbing all sorts of ladders with my own horses but I spend the majority of my time teaching young horses and green riders.This is what I teach them. To get lined up ad most issues take care of themselves thereafter.This is what I try to teach myself.That old straight line hits you in the face all the time.

Anyway, my friend found it yesterday.She has been through a lot with this horse.The same stuff we all go through.Serious expense both financially and mentally.I have seen the frustration on her face and heard it in her voice. But this woman has hung in there.

Yesterday she saw the beginning of the way out.That finally got it feeling!She dared her horse to spook.She had him.She knew what to do. Horses go like people ride them. No question. Well this girl really rode him yesterday. I was so proud to see it. I was so thrilled to see her confidence and that CLEAR expression of I own this ride.It was a definite wow day.

I am so sad to have seen many people give up. Riding takes so long.Just when you think you've got it,something goes wrong.There are no quick fixes.The safe place is a magic place. When you can set your hands down and open your fingers over a four foot oxer. Or be brave enough to release your hand once in each movement of a dressage test.When you can ride in balance. When your horse WANTS to stretch.Those are the wow moments.Those are what we are looking for.

I am so happy for my friend. I know her joy.She deserves it. The horse was smiling too!It was clear he knew he was in the right place.All was right with the world.All I can say is "Good on ya".Mission accomplished.Now ,the fun really begins!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Horses-Patience-Desperation-Frustration - Exilhiration

We must ask ourselves why we want to ride so much?Why do we do this?Why do we kill ourselves to add all the hardwork and dramas of horses to our already jammed packed dramatic lives?

Horses are a terminal desease.If you have them in your blood you are doomed. Period.Even when you are lying in a hospital bed,broken and hysterical, all one thinks about is getting back out there and doing it again.

Last weekend I had a grand time with everything falling magically into place.Things have gone well for team Paradise over the past two years. I am the first one to tell you that I have had more down years than up and that I am extremely grateful and appreciative of the good times.

I am an eventing senior now and love it today as much as I have ever loved it. Riding a straight line with a soft hand is my goal .Communicating with the horses is my passion.It does not always work and I have had my fair share of miscommunications,arguments and problems.

Last weekend I saw some of my really good friends have issues with their horses.Everyone puts time ,effort and tons of money into preparing for an event.When things go wrong,it can be emotionally devastating.My heart went out to these people and my words were not enough to console them.

Anything can happen at an event (or anywhere).Tack breaks,Horses break,rails come down,dressage tests are forgotten,we fall off or miss a fence,a shoe comes off and the horse goes immediately lame when he was sound five minutes beforehand.I've seen world championship level riders get kicked in the warm up and have to withdraw.One point can make or break you in terms of a qualifying score and cost you HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars.And you can get lost on cross country or never even make it out of the start box or even in the start box!Half the battle is getting over the first fence and that can only happen if you can control your nerves enough to even drive to the event in the first place that morning!

Why do we do it?Why do we take ALL THOSE EXPENSIVE LESSONS?Why the torture?For me it is just because I love it.I have wanted to give up many many times.I sadly must admit it was not until I retired my horse of a lifetime Riverdance that I have learned to ride him.I took Riverdance from a certified runaway to four star level and never owned the ride.I have brought 10 horses up to advanced from the start.I have never won a really big event.But,I got to play. I was so fortunate to be able to get there.I have been last in dressage more than most.But I have also buzzed around a lot of courses in a lot of countries and wouldn't trade it for the world.

It takes years and years and years. It takes many many horses. One has to learn the rules the hard way.One has to claw their way up the ladder.Forgotten dressage tests,wrong leads,tension,breaks in the extensions,seventeen flying changes down the centerline,wheeling in the halt.You name it I have done it.

Falling off in cross country two fences from home,a million times and only when I was seriously in the money.Run outs,refusals,my recent set of fractures at a schooling corner that kept me out of the saddle for the spring season.Ghosts,night terrors,fear. The what ifs.He did this last time.I haven't schooled that before......I am not ready.It is a crazy game.

You can train all you want to.You can have the most experienced horse in the world,the best teachers,and the most money.But when you enter that ring,or cross the starting timers,you have to be ready for anything.No one knows what will happen and ANYTHING Can happen out there.

This is why we do it all. Because of the shear challenge.Can we do it?If it goes wrong,the answer is dust yourself off and get back out there.Remember how lucky we are to be able to at least try.Take care of yourself and your horses.Regroup if it goes a muck and it will go a muck more than not.But it will get better if you keep going.It may not be easy or pretty.You may not hear things that are "nice"from your coach.

If you ask someone for help,hopefully they are going to be honest enough to be straight forward and direct. This needs to be fixed now!You may not like what you hear. You have the option to process.Try not to personalize mechanical directives.This is an entirely different blog subject.....

So,some people come out of events,shows,hunts on the moon and others come out on the floor. Some leave smiling and some crying.Thats the draw. Thats the challenge.

As the Eventing season starts to wind down a bit till Christmas we all need to reflect. Always think of the good things first and foremost . Next to your list for Santa,make a list of the things you need to practice to improve your confidence and your preformances.Talk to your horses and ask them what they want for Christmas.What they want is very important too.

We have to earn the good rides. WE have to earn clear rounds and good dressage tests.I know I am going to keep on trying.Hope you all will too!