I headed south on Friday morning for a quick trip to the Rocking Horse Winter II horse trials to cover the cross-country for COTH. The flight down was non-eventful, but I knew I was in for an interesting time when the car rental guy and the lady sitting next to me on the plane, who had lived in Orlando for much of her life, had never heard of Altoona, Fla.
After about a dozen toll booths, I got onto a four lane highway through, from what I understand, is typical Florida- lots of retirement communities and trailer parks. I did drive through some cute, small towns and didn’t see one horse, until all of a sudden, boom. A horse trial.
The farm itself was not that fancy, but the cross-country course was awesome. It was located in the Ocala National Forest, where the soil was quite sandy and the terrain was very flat. They were able to make some nice man-made mounds and banks though. I eyed the prelim course and thought it seemed a little stiff compared to an early season course in Area 2. There was one stride to a pretty big drop into water and a couple of pretty severe angled combinations.
After walking the cross-country course, I went to watch a little bit of prelim show jumping. It helped to get me a little bit more in the mood for my competition season by being able to watch from the ground.
The drive to my hotel was beautiful, basically going around a big lake and through a neighborhood with pretty willow and palm trees.
Saturday I started out shooting the intermediate, which seemed to ride pretty well. In the advanced, Buck Davidson had 6 rides, so I kind of guessed I’d be interviewing him. He ended up winning two divisions, so I caught up with him at his trailer. He was quite candid talking about his top horse, Ballynoe Castle RM, and I was really pleased to hear him talk about how much the horse meant to him. I even asked him if he remembered Sam, and he did, which was kind of cool.
This trip really represented why I like my job. If it was up to me, I’d be shooting cross-country all day! I feel like I was able to get better interviews by speaking with people in person, so I was really pleased with how my online coverage came out because I tried something a little different.
The trip home was fairly uneventful, save for a kid throwing up in the seat behind me on the plane (gag) and I got home at about 1am. Since I seem to not be able to sleep in, I woke up at 6:30am and had to immediately get going to a lesson in Middleburg. Nicky had ridden Oh So while I was gone and said she had a nice ride on him. For our jumping lesson, we went to an indoor and Lisa actually set the jumps up, which made it tough, but forced me to ride forward and not pick. We did a serpentine over three verticals across the middle of the ring, and a canter bounce, bending line to a vertical, around to an oxer off a short turn. He was really good and actually listened to the snaffle pelham. I think I ride better when I’m exhausted!
On Monday night, I had a flat lesson with Nicky and we worked on a few of the second level movements in preparation for a schooling show on Sunday. We’ve been getting some really nice canter/walk transitions, but I’ve been making them too easy by doing them on a circle, so now I’m struggling a little bit with doing them on a short diagonal like they come in the test.
Tomorrow I’m taking Oh So for some conditioning work then doing a jump lesson with Lisa, so I think he’ll enjoy being able to let loose a bit. We’re planning on a cross-country school next weekend and this weekend, I’m going car shopping for something with better gas mileage. I’m leaning towards a used Prius, because I have exactly $0 to spend over what they’ll give me for my car, so hopefully I’ll find something.