Slowing Down – COTH Staff Blog

I wrote a blog for COTH this week about my trip to Ireland. I promise my real Ireland blog is coming this weekend!

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Slowing Down

I’ve dreamed of traveling to Ireland for as long as I can remember. A self-described Anglophile, I’m obsessed with anything British or Irish, so when it came time to decide on my big vacation for the year, I knew where I’d be heading.

I picked a 10-day tour of the Emerald Isle, starting and finishing in Dublin (but just shy of the Dublin Horse Show, darn!) that covered just about every major attraction in the country, plus a couple of stops in Northern Ireland.

I carefully planned my schedule so as not to interfere with my competition season, and I booked my trainer to ride my off-the-track Thoroughbred for several days of dressage boot camp.

Luckily I had a really great event right before leaving, so I left with that cloud nine feeling you get after a foot-perfect cross-country round.

“Are you going to ride while you’re there?” my co-workers asked. For a horse person, the logical answer would be “Yes,” but I decided against it, as I look at most of my vacations as a chance to satisfy my interest in history and culture and take a break from the constant riding, training, reading, photographing and writing about horses that consumes every day of my life.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my job, having my horses at home, and learning all that I can, but there’s a lot of responsibility and never a day off! I tend to do “staycations” when I need a break from horses, and those come few and far between with my schedule of traveling to cover horse shows, competing and lessons.

A “day off” for me is going up to Washington D.C., and visiting a few museums, but the horses still have to be fed in the morning and evening and turned out.

So, before I left, I wrote up a detailed list for my family to keep handy while I was gone. The most important item on the list was “check for blood and lost shoes every day,” followed by some of the smaller details such as making sure Oh So has his second fan on, that the Ace is on the shelf in case they get upset about the fireworks, that the Banamine is in the fridge, and that Sam likes his belly groomed, but be careful around his face.

Armed with my guidebook, iPad, passport and luggage, I left my horses in my family’s care and crossed my fingers that life would continue on as normal in my absence.

For 10 days, I traveled over 1,000 miles around Ireland, taking in the cities, villages and scenic views that I’d always dreamed of. And you know what? I didn’t even think about riding! It surprised me, but with days starting at 6:30 a.m. and not ending until 10 p.m. or later, I didn’t even have time to think about normal life.

Sure, there were pamphlets for stables offering beach riding, jaunting carts in Killarney and the occasional cross-country course spotted from the highway, but it turned out to be a welcome break.

On the flight home, all of my horsey responsibilities started flooding back into my head. “Oh So needs a gallop. Oh my gosh, I just realized that the Adequan shortage is worse than I thought, and I only have three vials left for him. I need to memorize two dressage tests before our schooling show on Thursday. It’s going to be so hot!”

Despite those thoughts, I felt like I came back refreshed and ready to tackle my next event, and my horse was no worse for wear. I was able to experience another culture and realize that sometimes you don’t know how fast you were going until you slow down.

A quick trip south

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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 photo-1horse 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.

858335_10100864363944677_406375108_oAfter 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-photocountry 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 DSC_5582the 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.