Im sitting here listening to the chirping frogs after having taken the dogs for their nightly walk…. so warm outside and I was overdressed in my sweatshirt. One of the nicest, sunny “rainy” days that the weatherman has forecasted all year. And yet it was a mere 4 days ago when I thought that our climate could not have been more of an embarassment!!! How are we supposed to attract more world class horse enthusiasts here to PNW if it keeps flooding in November and January, ice storms in February and snowing in March!?
For the last month, the meterologists have gotten it depressingly right in terms of weather. However, I would have loved for them to be wrong. It has rained/snow/hail/slush a little bit on each day for the last 3 weeks. I cried: how were we supposed to keep our intrepid Australian, come Floridian, warm? Adult Riders organized the clinic, and I think it was John Meriwether’s first attempt at this luminary role. I got a phone call on Thursday morning, a mere 12 hours before the first guests were to arrive, that OMG we had to do something about the weather!! I know this experience has helped him gain confidence in the types of stalwart riders that AR clinics attract, and he might also come away with a new respect for hosting an early season clinic at Polestar. I believe more than one person asked whether they were going to be flooded in. My response: Why not??
But back to the clinic. Scott was a boost for my riding, as he is every single time that I lesson with him. I find his teaching refreshingly straight forward and lacking any bombast and pretension that can come with the role of ‘clinician’. He very clearly told some riders that they are welcome to disregard anything that he tells them this weekend, but does appreciate if they keep an open mind and give it a try for the next two days. Take the bits that work and drop the bits that dont work. For me, there isnt much to drop. I appreciate his little bit of cowboyness, where he is thinking like a horse. Practical advice and very well delivered. But I mostly appreciate his ability to help riders (myself included) jump the most organized courses that they possibly can, with the best skill set available. I have ridden with him over cross country jumps, and I have to say that I get the most from his lessons over the show jumps. I noticed that he rarely ever mentions how the distance to a jump could be better. For some of my amateur students, this is a great thing. There is nothing so frustrating as someone telling you that you were too long to the first two jumps and too short to the next two…. and finding that elusive “spot” becomes ever increasingly obscure to them. The distance is not the most important thing to focus on – he will more often correct pace, position and path before he says anything about the “perfect spot”. And as result, he gets riders riding their horses with relaxation and confidence.
I hope everyone noticed that we got a bewildering photo posted to Eventing Nation of the blizzard on Sunday. Yea us. Way to think that we were unique with our snow storm in March. Only the next hour did they post 6 (SIX!!) photos of Arizona getting several inches of snow. Whatever. As if that is unusual.
How much fun was that weather last Saturday??? Snow, sleet, horizontal rain, wind and snow flakes flopping around like flounders. It was not exactly the perfect day for a horse show… but its Seattle in February! And gosh darn it, Im going to get my horses off the property, no matter what.
The plan this spring was to avoid the California trip which normally included Ram Tap and Twin Rivers events. While I have had a lot of fun doing that trip for the last 4 years, it just didnt make fiscal sense last year when the price of gas was around $4.50/gal. A 2011 record that coincided right when we were driving south, of course! So this year, I thought that I would do Plan B, not the pill, but which was to enter two clinics, 4 schooling shows and one Thunderbird show for the same price! First clinic was completed in January with Claudia Cojocar at Meg and Sandy Stafgaard’s lovely barn in Clearview. I rode Rory and Max and had a wonderful time, as usual. Claudia helps me as much with the basics of my riding as she does with my teaching. She is a fabulous instructor and I always learn something from watching her. Next, was the Aspen Derby, which was yesterday in all that fabulously breathtaking weather.
We packed up 8 horses yesterday and only ONE owner amongs them!!! Not to make the other owners feel badly, but it was a little funny to receive two phone calls explaining how the weather was icky and their to-do list was long…. would you mind riding my horse? Of course I will happily! Kiera Davis, the new working student, was going to experience immediate immersion with this experience! (and she passed with flying colors!)
Jon designed a fun course in their main arena, involving some portable XC fences and the bank at the side of the arena and lots of show jump fences. The first horse I rode, Cochlear, might have been the highlight of the day. I have been working very very hard with Lear this winter, trying to find out just where his insecurities lie in show jumping. This horse is a complicated animal, and I am totally committed to solving his confidence issues. Last year he did very well at BN, and moved to Novice at Rebecca and finished the season schooling at Training level. He was schooling well at that level at home, and yet, it was not the jumps that undid him… but the atmosphere at the shows. He has eyeballs that pop out to observe the smallest of changes. Nothing escapes his notice. And while he wanted to be a very careful jumper, the more careful he was the more he got himself into trouble with awkward jumps and the more nervous he would get.
He is about as laid back, nonchalant thoroughbred as I have ever met. If I had a living grandmother, he is the one I would put her on! He walks at a pace that a small child could out run, he stops to watch airplanes fly overhead, he nibbles his food slowly, and his most favorite thing is to stand still and just watch life happening around him. He might be the perfect instructor’s riding horse, one that willingly stands still in the middle of the arena for an hour. Perfectly entertained, ears up. I adore him. But I also worried about his competition abilities last year. So over the winter I designed a very specific program for him, and Aspen derby was the first test of my success.
Over the winter, I finally sussed that every day had to start with the most basic of tasks. Lear had to start out every single jump workout with a single pole… trotting and cantering for many, many circles. After that one pole was conquered, we progressed to an X jump. I would jump that single X for 10 times and infused would be the poles to confirm his confidence. At this point I could start to introduce verticals, oxers, liverpools, flowers etc.. anything I could think of and Lear would be bombproof. His swagger is noticeable when I did this plan, but I could not skip the steps. Every day starts out like he is a 3 year old, green horse. One other thing that made a huge difference is to give Lear plenty of rests with a long rein. If I kept the pressure on and continued with a 20 minute workout, he will feel demoralized. If I jump for 4 minutes, and drop the reins and reward him, then repeat… his attitude is through the roof. Ive never experienced such an emotionally tender horse who is also so blase about most things in his life. He is a reminder to me that each horse is very unique and it is in our best interest to try our hardest to be the horse’s guardian.
But, back to this weekend. Because it was a schooling show, I was able to use the warmup arena to my suiting. I had a warm up pole that he hesitated at for the first 5 attempts, but then he got in his groove and continued to improve. He jumped two BN rounds that were SO much fun!!
Taukalot and Olievia (JoAnn Green’s mare) also went to the derby after rehabing from injuries in 2011. I am thrilled to say that neither one acted like an orangutan and they both had a great day. Taco, the intrepid intermediate horse, had a clean round at Beginner Novice and also tried his hand at Novice! The goal being polite, easy jumps. We did have some of those, but there were also some jumps that were a wee bit enthusiastic! But I wouldnt expect any less from him!
Next adventure: Adult Riders hosted clinic with Scott Keach here at Polestar.
Due to the plunging Euro and the troubles in Libya, we did not receive a huge number of entries for the combined test at the Horse Park. So, instead of worsening EI’s fiscal bottom line, we decided to cancel the CT and morph the weekend into a relaxed schooling show.
The format for the show is a “pick two” meaning for the same price, you can ride a dressage test and sj round, two dressage tests or two sj rounds. That allows for riders and trainers to do a lot of schooling and horse/rider training! I personally will be taking Cochlear there to sample moving him up to training level. That way when he goes to NWEC event he will already have done two out of the three challenges of the weekend. Hope to see you there!
I have finally taken a breath to recover from the weekend. As my last post noted, the start to the event was really, really tough. Only when I got home and had a glass of wine on the couch, did it hit me just how intense the extended weekend was.
Parts were great and parts were really not great, but let me start at the beginning. Once we got to Inavale, I snuck away on Thursday and had half a day with my sister and her family in Eugene, which was awesome. Laura and I ate lunch on the bleachers and watched the kids play soccer, then went back to her home and repaired the chicken coop fence. After dinner with the whole family, I went back to Philomath to meet up with our large gang of Polestarters. I thought, at that point, that I was refreshed and ready for anything. Boy, was I wrong! I think that the biggest thing I learned from the weekend was just how difficult it can be to both be a rider and an instructor. Last year, I had 3-4 riders with me at events, which was easy. This year, it is more like 6. And I was unprepared for the crushing To-Do list on Friday where both BN and N rode dressage and XC. It was a large day, to say the least. And that was if everything went right….
But when something goes wrong, suddenly the mood deflates. Most all of our dressage tests were above average, some being stellar, like Lori’s on Max Factor. So when we started XC, spirits were high. But then when Max switcherooed his winning ways at jump 5 and deposited Lori on the ground, we all felt her agony. Unfortunately, Lori did break her ankle in that naughty mishap. And Max won himself a ride with me at Rebecca. He seems to have a pattern of misbehaving at events, and while he has been perfect for 10 months at home, he needs a come-to-jesus moment at an event, which is the only place he has ever shown any misbehavior. Some horses have strong reactions to competition stress, and he appears to be one of them. I am very very hopeful that I can help him see that this is much easier than he is making it out to be. Cheers to Lori, who is sitting at home with her lovely Where’s Waldo colored cast!
On a more happy note – I am thrilled with Cochlear at his first Novice. (more…)
Today finally feels like spring, but as I said this, my wonderful mom reminded me that it is supposed to rain 1/2″ tomorrow. I am over complaining about the flooding, and now I am going to start complaining about the mowing! All this rain and pleasant temperatures mean that I am mowing the entire 80 acre cross country field once per week! Im running out of podcasts to keep me entertained during this 6 hour task. When Blue is very very old (I thought he was old at 21 now, but he still is very spicy) he can wander the farm freely and help us eat up the grass. I do see an end in sight to the winter turnout situation, and we are starting to transition the horses over to the grass. They are LOVING it.
This coming weekend is a large outing for us, we are taking 9 horses to the Washington Horse Park (hereafter called WHP) for the spring Hunter Pace. Equestrian’s Institute is putting it on, along with clinics with Jen Verharen and Todd Trewin. We are taking advantage of all the events, and are planning to have a great time. I currently hold in my hands 20 CDs for the karaoke machine and party on Saturday night. Please bring your skinny jeans, beach cowboy hat and hoot with us. Should be fun.
Oh, and while I am at it…. let me introduce Annika McGivern! She is riding Crescent in this photo and is our new working student from Nelson, B.C. She is here with her lovely dog, Shadow, and two very lovely horses, Tanna and Ringo. Welcome!!!!!!
Hi, I wanted to share with everyone that I am very biased towards who wins at Rolex this year. Yes, I think that Mark Todd has a good shot and it would be exciting to have him win his second **** in a row, thus rekindling the Triple Crown win. And, we should always watch Phillip Dutton and Mary King with awe. But neither of them are going to cause me to switch teams and cheer for them. I am completely and totally a Griffindor/Kristin Bachman devotee.
Kristin has a long history of good rides with Griff, he is her long time partner…. ever since she bought him from ME! So you can excuse my bias! I used to gallop Grif for Homestretch Farms, Auburn WA, where he was bred and trained. When I decided galloping racehorses was a good way to shorten my life abruptly, I bought Griff and took him home to become an event horse. Kristin came over a few weeks later and pointed to him and said: “I want that one. Is he for sale?”
I was cowed, who was I to argue against true love?! Besides, it is a dream come true to watch a partnership that I helped form, come to be one of the great love stories in our sport.
So, THREE CHEERS to them and I wish them the best. Just dodge those tornadoes, Grif!
Hi All, I just got a text from Mark asking me why I stopped blogging. Sorry! Yesterday, I was waiting to download photos to put up on the blog. Still have not done it, but I will explain the weekend anyway, sans photos.
Dino came up with a slight swelling in his hind tendon area, and I asked a vet to come out and check it out. He was ultrasounded and there is swelling in the tendon sheath but no tendon damage. I decided to not take any unnecessary risks and scratched from the show. Now, I know most of you are saying “Why??? He is not lame! Why not run?” I will tell you why: Ive learned through the years that it is not worth it to aim for the short term goals. The much wiser thing to do is to take him home, do some shockwave therapy, walk for a few weeks and resume work when he is 100%. Which is what I am going to do. Yes, it is disappointing to not compete here, and lordy do I wish that I was an ignoramus and could just blast through the competitions and not give a regard to my horse’s welfare. But I am not that sort of person. I want Dino to be my next Advanced horse, and the road is LONG to get there. Just imagine if he did injure the tendon, could I come home and say that it was worth the damage to have a clear and fast run at Novice level? Nope.
Shauna had a surprising bruise in Romeo’s foot! He came out of the stall quite sore on his hind leg on Friday and thankfully the vets and farriers have worked hard to get him ready to compete…. but a day too late. He looks great today! But unfortunately, not in time for dressage yesterday. So, she is being a good sport and jump judged all day today. Again… it is a teaching moment: better to know that your horse will be fine in the long term. Sadly, a bit of a let down after such a great experience at Ram Tap. But the season is long and Shauna will have her chance in the sun (or rain if in Washington) for another good event.
Jordan was the hero this time. She had a great dressage, 190% better than her dressage at Ram Tap. Brogan was relaxed, swingy and obedient. He could have been better in a few transitions and more uphill for a top score, but we were all very happy to have such an improvement from last weekend. Today he show jumped and was a wee bit wild. While Novice and Training levels are show jumping, the upper levels are running XC a mere 100 feet from their warm up arena. Brogan noticed! He and Jordan were also mixed up in a crowded warmup situation, which did not relax him any. He had a good round that can be improved upon with more experience. She will go XC tomorrow morning, the course looks quite inviting and fun. Im excited for her. Its always nice to sit on a horse that makes the jumps feel small!
Im coming home with a tan, a show savvy Dino and ready to tackle the upcoming season. Desipite the few setbacks, it was still a great experience for the horses to go to back-to-back shows. Dust the rust off, apply grease and kick on. See you at home!
If you have already checked the scores for Ram Tap, then you might be wondering what in the heck happened. Well, you know we didn’t start off on a great foot with the dressage, so I was already the slow hound behind the pack. The fox had left the county and I was still sniffing around for the dropped sandwich on the ground.
The good news is that Dino learned a LOT on XC today. (more…)