Year-End Recap

Now that my eventing season is over, I wanted to take a look back at the year and look ahead to the next with some goals for the winter.

Our best dressage test at Waredaca.

We started at Southern Pines in March, where Oh So skipped around the training level cross-country and proved he was definitely ready for prelim after our successful debut last fall. And then came Morven Park. It was quite a big track for our second prelim ever, and in general for the first prelim in our area. I know my trainer Lisa knew it was tough, but she has a good trick where she’ll walk the course with me as if it’s just another prelim, then after I’m done, she’ll admit it was tough. It helps keep me calm I think!

Oh So tried his hardest on cross-country at Morven, but he got a bit surprised at the drop into water and hit his stifles. As a result, for the rest of the course he was quite backed off and I was taken aback, but he still tried even though he was hurting (although I didn’t know it at the time). That run didn’t give me a lot of confidence going forth, but Lisa kept reminding me that we could both do it, so I had to convince myself too.

Show jumping has been really tough for me this year, although I know he’s trying for me. I think our best show jumping round would be at Virginia in the spring when he came out and tried very hard and only had one rail. Even though we had time penalties (everyone seems to in that coliseum), it stood out to me as a smooth ride. And, we ended up winning

One of our best show jumping rounds at Virginia.

in a big division, so that was really exciting. I never expected that, especially so early in our prelim career together.

Over the summer we went through some bitting issues, which resulted in some less-than-stellar show jumping results. It was quite discouraging and a little embarrassing to have 3 or 4 rails down, but his dressage was getting better simultaneously, so that was a bright spot. We broke into the 20’s twice and were leading the dressage or in the top 5 almost every time. At the same time, we made our second level debut at some dressage schooling shows. Doing back to back tests really helped both of us get more comfortable in the ring. I’d say my best dressage test was at Waredaca in August. He warmed up average, but I was able to keep him calm and he got better right as we were getting ready to go in the ring. Even though I had a brain fart and we had an error, he stayed the exact same in the ring as he did in warm up.

Our best cross-country round was at Maryland in July. We were only 2 seconds over time and he made everything on course feel so easy. We hit every fence at the perfect spot and it was a lot of fun. Obviously our low point was at Maryland in October when we had the first stop he’s ever had in his life. But that served as a wake up call on my position and I was able to correct that with the time that I had before Virginia in November, where he was also awesome cross-country and we had one of our better show jumping rounds at prelim. I was also able to ride on my first ATCs team, which was a lot of fun.

My goal at the beginning of the season was to just get around at prelim, and I feel like by the middle of the season, my anxieties were starting to ease. Oh So just makes everything seem so easy, no matter how difficult. Whereas at the beginning of the season, I would gulp when I walked my courses and saw huge tables, corners and big drops, by the summer, I honestly didn’t notice. I think I was subconsciously telling myself that once I was out on course galloping at those big, wide, tables, he had enough scope to jump them. I also hadn’t planned on trying to make time for our first season, and we definitely racked up some time penalties, but towards the end, we were getting pretty close.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, I have to say I’m thankful to have a sound, happy and healthy horse at the end of our first season at prelim. I’ve been thinking about my goals for the winter and of course, they consist of getting more comfortable at the prelim height. I also need to force myself to work on my lower leg by riding without stirrups and working up and down hills. With our flatwork, I’d like to get him more confirmed at second level. That includes working more with our canter/walk and walk/canter transitions and our haunches in and medium trot. I’d also like to get him more confirmed in his flying changes

Our best cross-country round was at Loch Moy.

and start to work a little more with half pass.

On a personal level, 2012 was a big year for me. I left the NSLM and returned to The Chronicle, but this time as a full-time staff member. It’s my first real job and it’s definitely been an adjustment as far as making time for my horses, but I really enjoy working with a group of people who are as passionate about horses as I am. I’ve been able to travel a bit this year and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more in the coming year. I’ve talked with some really interesting and passionate people, as well as some…interesting people, but that’s just a part of the job!

I also got to travel to Spain, which was really eye-opening and fascinating. I’m saving up for a trip to Ireland next year, so now’s the time to start planning!

Now that I don’t have an immediate goal to prepare for, I’m feeling a bit lost in my training, but it’s normal for me. Getting used to slowing down for a few months takes some time. I’m doing a couple of show jumping rounds at Morningside’s combined test on Sunday and I was just a demo rider for the USDF’s L program, which was interesting. I wasn’t expecting to ride in front of 60 people and an “I” judge, but Oh So was quite happy to show off once he got used to being in an indoor with a loudspeaker.

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Spain

So I’m now sure why I’ve been putting this off for so long, but here goes.

Our flight to Madrid was uneventful, but long. As expected, I didn’t really sleep on the plane, so I watched “The Descendants” instead. Good movie!

When we arrived at our hotel, we realized it wasn’t really in a central area. There wasn’t much to do, so we wandered down the street to an anthropology museum that was free. Then we wandered around the streets people watching. There was a nice little pedestrian walkway across the street from our hotel that looked like it would be lively during the week, but on Saturday, the city was fairly quiet. We also trekked up to a large park that was apparently the size of Central Park, but we only touched on one end of it.

Day 2 started bright and early with a bus tour of the city. Madrid was the one city on the trip where I felt slightly short-changed. The bus tour went through some cool parts of the city, like the old town, but the guide only briefly pointed things out before we had to go stand in line at the Prado Museum. Had we not been exhausted from traveling the day before, we may have wandered around more, but we would have had to find our own way there.

We had a few hours at the Prado, which is a world famous art museum. Of course with Spain’s Catholic history, a lot of the paintings were quite violent and dark. We saw famous paintings by Valazquez, Degas and Picasso. Of course, we only scratched the surface of the collection before it was off to El Escorial.

El Escorial is a royal palace that was built by King Phillip II. It houses a monastery, mausoleum and beautiful gardens. We strolled through a cute town on the way up a hill towards it.

On the way back to Madrid, we stopped by the Valley of the Fallen, which is a church/memorial to those lost in the Spanish Civil War. It was quite impressive as we drove up the hill, over a bridge looking down on the valley, then walked up to the plaza in front.

The next day we headed towards an afternoon stop in Cordoba. It was hot, about 95 degrees, but the humidity was low. We walked through the Jewish Quarter then made our way to the Mosque of the Caliphs. A lot of the architecture in Spain is a mix of Muslim and Christian art because of the long religious history, and this site was definitely one of the best examples. Inside, it was what looked like an endless sea of candy-cane arches, and parts were opened up with magnificent alters. We wandered down through an old Roman arch over a bridge and got a great view of the city.

We spent two nights in Seville, which is in the heart of Andalucia. If I ever go back, I’d love to take a trip south to Jerez, which is apparently horse country, and to some of the smaller Roman-influenced towns to see some more ruins. But, I feel like we got a good sense of the city.

Our hotel was in a nice spot near a few parks and a cute neighborhood. It was fun wandering the narrow streets at night to see how the locals live. Homes in Seville pride themselves in decorating their courtyards, so we peeked in to a few on our walk.

The next morning we did a bus tour to get our bearings and headed to the main square to see the Alcazar, a Moorish fortress that was taken over by Queen Isabella. It was probably one of my favorite sites because I love Muslim design. The ceilings, walls and floors were incredibly detailed and preserved. The gardens were quite extensive too.

Our last night in Seville was spent at a dinner theater where we saw an authentic Flamenco show. It consisted of a lot of clapping and twirling and shaking, and the men weren’t too shabby to look at!

Our drive to Granada featured miles of olive trees and grape vines. It’s interesting to just watch things go by when driving on the highway. I was noting the types of buildings, cars, and general scenery, which reminded me of California in many ways.

The main attraction in Granada was the Alhambra complex. It was basically a small city at one point and was another beautiful example of Moorish/Christian architecture. The Generalife gardens offered a beautiful view of the city.

We headed to Valencia the next morning where we passed by cave dwellings where people actually live in homes carved into the sides of hills. I wish we’d gotten a chance to look at one up close, but we had a long drive. We also crossed through Spain’s version of the Grand Canyon, which wasn’t nearly as deep, but still impressive. We also got a quick glimpse of the Mediterranean as we drove alongside the coast. Each little town had sections for British tourists, Dutch tourists and other nationalities.

When we arrived in Valencia we took a quick bus tour of the major sites. The river through downtown was diverted years ago and now the empty river bed has been turned into a park. There was a lot of modern architecture and we visited the arts and sciences complex which featured museums and a theater in a very modern style. The shallow pool surrounding some of the buildings is apparently filled in with sand to become an arena for the Global Champions show jumping tour. Cool!

We spent our final two days in Barcelona. We actually stayed in a decent spot where we were withing walking distance of many of the sites of the 1992 Olympics, an art museum, and an old bull fighting ring turned into a modern shopping mall. We took a bus tour that stopped off by the harbor where many of the Olympic sports were played.

We took a trip up the hillside to Montjuic for a nice view of the city and a look at Gaudi’s modern architecture at the Park Guell. We saw his unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, which was started in the 1800s and won’t be finished until 2026.

Our last excursion was to Montserrat, which involved a crazy, winding drive around a mountain with break taking views. My photos can’t do it justice. The monastery itself was beautiful, but the views from outside were awesome.

Our flight back was pretty awful. The plane was late, so we missed our connection at JFK and there were no flights left, so we took a taxi ride through Queens to get to La Gaurdia, sat for a few hours, then finally landed at Dulles around 10.

I was really glad I went on this trip. It was fascinating be among people who don’t speak English as a first language. All of the people seemed so beautiful and stylish and all of the cities we visited were clean. I’m a fan of history, but it was nice to see the modern architecture and go to the mall in Barcelona to see how modern Spanish people live.

Next stop Ireland!