Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Virginia Horse Trials

It was a fifty fifty week for us up in Virginia. Barby and I were really excited to be taking Peter and Harry up to the Virginia Horse Park for their first Three Day Event. I think it has been over 9 years since my last one star competition with Riverdance and Charlie up in Bromont.

Peter did not take well to his digs up at the horse park. He was hysterical from the word go. I did not know what to do with him. He is a seasoned traveller by now and rode well in the trailer but HATED the stalls at the horse park. He spun round and round in a complete lather, pacing frantically back and fourth like a caged lion. He kicked the cement walls for 5 days straight and we were very very worried about him. He kicked both his hind shoes off in the stable Friday night. of course the clip went straight into the middle of his foot and bled like crazy. Barby caught it right away and the blacksmith helped us get it off. So it was a very long night taking care of the foot in the hopes we could run cross country the next day.

Peter and Harry were well behaved at their first trot up and were accepted. It is a very special feeling to jog your horses up in front of the ground jury. Three Day Events are a big deal and we are so lucky and privileged to be able to ride in them.

Dressage was really fun.I wore my tails and very old top hat and felt great. The boys looked beautiful and we were very pleased with the way they went.Peter finished 7th and Harry was 16th but not far behind in points.My pictures show room for lots of improvement in my riding . It is clear to me where I am losing points.I have to confess I learned the wrong dressage test before I went up there. But luckily I figured that out in time!And I even remembered it twice.Thank God!

The cross country course was very hilly. I thought the footing a bit hard. But it was rolling and the jumps were challenging enough.The time was 7 minutes and 53 seconds. WE measured the course short and I should have paid more attention to that. I thought the time would be very hard to make with the hills.

Peter went first and was not himself in the warm up. I have a real bond with Peter and we were definitely not firing on all cylinders on the day. He was actually behind my leg.My first 5 jumps were good and I was on the clock but I decided to angle fence 6 very slightly to help cut a second or two and WHAP!!!!!!!!Peter hit it very hard and I FLEW out of the tack like a rocket and landed with a thud on my left rear cheek.I sat there in a heap until David O'Conner came over and said "you alright honey?"I grunted and got up and was put into a golf cart by the medical staff. Apparently I had cut up my nose(have no idea how).Peter ran off like a shot and was gone from sight.

Well DARN!!!!!!!!!There went my chances on Peter. I haven't fallen off in competition in a while. This was a pretty good fall too. I knew it would stay with me for a while.Typically I had had a good dressage as well.

Enter one thousand mind games.This is not your event. Give it up. Go home. Get out of here. God is warning you. Bad Karma. Get out. Did I mention the Peter was number thirteen? If I ever get drawn that number again I will withdraw.VERY VERY VERY BAD NUMBER!!!!!

I still had to ride Harry and he deserved the best I could give him.I got on him and had to warm right up as I only had 30 minutes between rides. Good thing as I would have been stiffer had more time gone by.I really had to pull myself together and put all the bad thoughts behind me.I thought I would ride conservatively as Harry missed his last outing at Poplar.Well I went a lot straighter at fence 6 and it was not a problem.Harry went clear and inside the time. I was very proud of him.He was a saint the whole weekend.

Harry was as calm as Peter was hysterical. It was awful.We cleaned everything up after cross country and settled the horses in and it started to pour. We were very lucky indeed with the weather!Barby and I were pretty tired after worrying about Peter all night. We went and watch last years Burghley tape in the freezing trailer and took a break.Watching the best riders in the world fall off and have run outs made me feel much better. I am in very good company.

Show Jumping was a little let down. The course was very nice. Really fair and I am happy to be back jumping some bigger jumps. Harry didn't mind the indoor ring but I over rode two fences and had them down.I was not in my best form I have to admit.

With the rails I solemnly went back to the stall and pulled all Harrys braids out and undressed and put the tack on the trailer ready to go.Well we got called back into the ring in 10th place. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!It was like a bad dream!!!!!I squashed my boots back on.Threw on a stock tie.Tacked Harry back up and galloped into the ring JUST as they were announcing our name.We were honored to win a prize but I felt very shabby next to everyone else.Apparently there were lots of rails.

Our drive home was uneventful thank god.Peter seems to have settled back into himself and Harry looks like he never left.

Barby was great at the event. I could never ever do this without her.She never leaves the horses and took a lot of pressure from me.She is a star.

One Star complete.At least for Harry. We are going to take a small break for a while and work on our show jumping and dressage some more before our next eventing outing.Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Once upon a time there was girl that was horse crazy. She thought about horses and riding all the time. She dreamt of riding in the Olympics and almost made it. Nothing stopped her. Not even sixty four broken bones , or being told twice that she would not walk again. This horse crazy girl had it bad. Her madness is undoubtedly terminal.

This horse crazy girl traveled around the world working with all kinds of horses. Race horses, polo ponies, hunters , jumpers but she loved eventing the most. In her travels, our girl worked hard to be able to climb the ladder of success. There were many great moments and many that were hard and sad.Throughout it all the desire to learn to ride better and understand horses never ceased.That was never an issue. Most of the time, it was in fact not the horses themselves that made things unpleasant and difficult. It was other people.

Our horse crazy friend knew the only way she could continue her journey with her horses was to make the horses her livelihood. So she began teaching and riding horses for other people. She drove trucks, walked hots at polo games, galloped racehorses ,washed, clipped, scrubbed , you name it. She (reluctantly) sold many of her very good horses to carry her through to the next phase of her journey. All for the sake of her thirst for knowledge, and her love of the horses.
It was a horse called the Travelling Man that was sold to Mr. Bruce Davidson that led our girl to buy a farm she called Paradise.The name came from the Isle of Wight and happy times.The land was perfect for an event. So this crazy horse girl became even crazier and dedicated the next phase of her life to building up the farm and hosting a Horse Trials.

Our crazy girl was so lucky to have been associated with some of the finest riders and teachers all over the world. She was raised to be an athlete and honor sport. She made an effort to watch and listen and learn where ever she could. She collected programs from all over competitions in Europe to remember the types of jumps she saw on the courses. Who knew she would develop a huge interest in course designing herself later on.

So the Events began at Paradise Farm. It is hard for the average person to even imagine the dedication it takes to pull off a competition on ones own farm with ones own money. Our crazy horsey girl had no idea herself. She was in fact completely certifiable for thinking she could manage this all on her own. But she did. (Along with TONS of FRIENDS, SPONSORS and OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE!!!!)

The events were well received by the eventing world. The courses were deemed challenging but fair. Many of the countries top riders came to compete at Paradise. Most of the time things were very pleasant and the competitions were run like a well oiled machine.

This story is about a little toad that came to one of the competitions and tried to be a very naughty, slimy little green monster. She was a girl toad, but she was not at all a lady . She was an ugly,gnarly,with nasty horns and bumps all over her. And she thought she was a special toad.

From the minute she arrived on sight to the minute she left, she drug herself around complaining, leaving a trail of disgusting slime behind her. She was rude to officials, volunteers, and the farm staff. Her behaviour was obvious to the officials and she was in fact eliminated from the competition several times for numerous infractions. Each issue was met with lies and a horrible croaking attitude that was almost laughable. Have you ever heard a toad croak with a British accent? Well, this toad has one!

Paradise continued to host one of the nicest events held so far. The weather Gods anointed the beautiful farm with perfect weather,footing and camaraderie for all except our little toadette.She was not a happy toad.She was a very naughty toad. She behaved VERY BADLY.

So the event finished and everyone went home happily ever after, except our slimy, bumpy, ugly, grumpy, horny toadette.

A week later our toadette decided she was going to stop her check. She felt she did not have to pay for the privilege of riding at Paradise Farm.She thought she was special. She felt she did not have to pay because she had broken no rules and was falsely accused .She in fact went on to question most of the officials and their decisions for a very lengthy time after the event with our National Federation. The officials are all licensed , experienced people that were respectfully asked to be at the event to share in the love of our sport and the horses. Our toadette was very disrespectful to the officials. But that is not anything our horse crazy girl could be a part of. She was just the organizer and landowner. She had no official capacity in any political decision making regarding the breaking of toadettes rules.That was for the big guns to decide.

When the naughty toadette decided to withdraw her money from the competition, that did effect the horse crazy organizer. The toadette was very naughty and disorganized and asked the organizer if she could enter her 5 horses way after closing date. The horse crazy organizer tried to be accommodating and let her in.The toadettes behavior was unacceptable.

Huston, we now have a problem.

Riders cannot refuse to pay a competition after they have entered and ridden in that competition. EVEN IF THEY DISAGREE WITH THE OFFICIALS!!!!!!!!

After weeks and weeks of our toadette being a very very naughty toad, she was forced to pay her dues to the competition, thanks to our National Federation. All her efforts to scam Paradise Farm were for naught. Her efforts to not accept her mail, further avoiding responsibility, did not work in her favour. Her efforts to continue to stall payment due by sending an unsigned check was also unproductive. In the end she had to pay.

Our toadette is an experienced competitor and the four star level.She has had many falls from her horse recently and it is believed she does not have control over all her faculties. Poor Toadette.

This toadette will not be allowed to come back to Paradise. She is no longer welcome to school her horses, participate in any clinics or even teach her clients here. She will be escorted off the property should she try and come in future. She is not a good sport.She blatantly lied over and over. Naughty, bad, Toad!

Our horse crazy organizer only wants nice people,that compete for the love of the sport. She does not want naughty toads. Our organizer loves her farm and the sport of eventing and horses ,puppies, and bunnies and butterflies.

So that's the story of the Horse Crazy Organizer and the Naughty toad. Bad toad ......Go away!

New Faces Coming On

I am excited to write about some new faces making their worldly debuts. Barbie has the ride on a good friend of mines horse. The horse was sent to me to ride but she gets on with him so well, it gives me the greatest pleasure to watch her go out there and jump around. Finally I have something that she can have the luxury of trusting and she can find her balance and distances easily. Red has a beautiful jump , one that I would love to take over very big jumps (and I intend to as he gets stronger) but for now it is a gift from God and one I can pass onto Barbie.

Barbie has spent the last three years of her life baby sitting me in every way, shape and form. My stable and horses are immaculate. Her dedication to Paradise farm far surpasses anything I have ever experienced before in my life. Though there are three other EXTREMELY dedicated people that are also part of the team and deserve FULL BLOGS themselves. Dedicated person number two is Antonio Hernandez. He has been with me for five years (and has had three children with number four on the way, which means it isn't all true what people say about me (that I work everyone to death)) Antonio has seen it all.Without him , I would be dead and the farm would be an overgrown mess. Angel number three, Dr. Linda Hickey. I have worked with lot's of great vets,but I have never ever ever seen anyone more dedicated to their practice. Honorable mention goes to her husband Howard that has to put up with her schedule. She is busier than I am and that is not easy. Angel number four is my farrier Antonio Sambrano who gets weekly panic calls from us and helps us anytime. He is always cheerful ,on time and helpful. He listens to this group of cackling hens at Paradise and does his job.He has been tested out completely. Peter Pan alone has tested us all out. Antonio does not fit into the grumpy farrier syndrome .I have a special criteria for farriers and he has fit them all. Not easy to do.I shan't write what they are..........

Ok,,, I digress. Back to the new faces.Anne has been slogging away with Norman and it is so exciting to see the progress. She is one of those sleepers that struggles at home and goes in the ring and aces it all.Right now, she is stepping it up to the serious flying changes and adjustability thing. She and Norman are soon going to be a pair to be reckoned with.

I have three seriously nice youngsters coming along. Not sure of their futures. Katrina is a lovely filly,very uphill . A Four year old that shows a lot of talent. I am very excited about her. Ping Pong is another Argentinian TB gelding only 5 and is pure fun. Very brave and put together very well. Rasta, Lynda Clary Burkes horse is a dream to ride. Thank goodness Lynda is out of her neck brace but I am having Tanya Harding dreams about having to give this horse back to the owner. Then there is another really fun mare called Bally that is a Conammara cross. I am trying to convince her owner to hold onto her too. These horses all belong to different people so more than likely I'll sell them on to other lucky soles. They will be well worth it when the time comes.

These horses are all ready to go out and face the world. We are heading to lots of smaller shows and riding them in the Hunters (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! my SCARIEST thing!!!!!),the small jumpers and they will all also event a little. More than likely they will all go out with hounds as well.I love giving these new babies lots of experience.It all helps a lot and makes us all better!

So heads up world there are lots of new devils coming on! Stay tuned!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Poplar Place Horse Trials

I have been very bad at writing I know. It seems I cannot get caught up here at the farm. Barbie and I took off for our annual treck to Rolex and then I was lucky enough to be invited to teach at my friend Janice Holmes beautiful Holmestead Stables the Monday after Kentucky.

Janice was VERY kind to have me teach her students and she even took about four lessons herself! I headed back to Aiken at 9.30 PM to be ready to ride the next morning. Three king sized Red Bulls later I arrived at Paradise at 7 am and started back to work. It was a complete whirlwind at the farm leading up to Poplar Place.

Barbie hacked everyone out while I was gone. I am so lucky to have such reliable and trustworthy help. She is an amazing person and invaluable to the horses. I show jumped them on my day one, working on simple adjustability excercises. The horses were great. Then they had a gallop. Wednesday was a stretching day and Thursday dressage lessons before our depart for Poplar.

We had an early start and arrived on time to avoid the crowds at Poplar. Last time I rode Peter Pan there he was VERY VERY unhappy with the crowds and a complete liability to those around him.Harry is a cooler customer and doesn't seem to mind as much.

Our Friday warm ups were really fun. I was looking forward to the next day. I love Intermediate test A and I love the large arena even more.It is very hard on the horses to perform in the small arenas. Peter was very good in his test, though I had a small blip with an early transition ( his choice , not mine ) that proved to be very costly. I still have to let his neck out, always something......

Harry had another meltdown in his counter canter but it was better than last time. We need to get over this small drama and then he will really be something.

Sadly the event turned into a 50/50 for us. We ended up having to scratch Harry due to an infection in his leg. I had a very awkward show jumping with 5 rails down AND I had to make a circle before the triple. Poor Harry was not himself. He was running through my hands badly and very very unhappy. I thought about pulling up after about the fourth rail but chose to keep going in the end in the hopes I could give him a good experience. I did not.

We immediately decided to withdraw and give him some meds to make him feel better. I have to extend a huge thank you to Rachel the vet at Poplar for all of her help and advice. I was disappointed not to be able to run the cross country with Harry but there will be another day. And the horses come first.

Peter had an expensive rail in Show Jumping , knocking us from third to 6th place.His brilliance across the country pulled us up to 5th to finish. I was very happy with his footwork cross country. He was brave, agile and very willing.

We REALLY MISS Pickles. What a complete luxury it was to be able to ride three horses at an event. I am very grateful to have the two, but to be able to ride those three devils around the same courses really helped my riding. When one is down to two and then one needs to be pulled , it puts a huge damper in the training process.

I hope I can find a third horse to ride at the upper level. I have some very nice babies at the moment but it is a big difference once the levels change. I need as much practice as the horses to keep my eye and my mind in the right place! If anyone out there knows of a horse that needs a jockey, please let me know!

So now it's time for some ice on my shoulder and bed.I have some very juicy blog topics to discuss so stay tuned. I just need to find some time.