Catching Up On March

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It’s been a busy month as my travel schedule and show schedule has ramped up. I went to a combined test with Bear at Morningside on the 19th to do the novice, and it ended up being cold and miserable, but we survived!

His test was quite steady, but he was a little low in the poll in trot. We’ve been working on lots of bending on circles at home getting him to use his body, especially to the right, but sometimes he gets low as a result. We scored a 36, which I thought was too high, but oh well!

I didn’t get a chance to walk the whole show jumping course, but I know the ring well enough. We had the first rail down, which was a tall vertical. He was a little distracted going around the ring, and I let him get a bit flat, so he trailed his hind end. The round got better as it went on though, and by the triple combination at the end, he was jumping very nicely and I didn’t screw it up!

We wanted to go out on the hill after, but it started snowing, so those plans got scrapped!

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We did get a chance to go schooling the next week though at Gordonsdale, and we popped over some bigger stuff, as well as some drops into water and banks, which he was very brave about.

I headed off to Red Hills at the beginning of the month. It’s a really unique event in Tallahassee, Fla., where I think the non-horsey public ratio is higher than the eventing enthusiasts who attend. They redesigned the course this year, which I think the riders appreciated. Since it was my second time there, I had a better idea of where I wanted to shoot, and I was really happy with my photos.

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The Carolina International at the Carolina Horse Park last weekend was my next stop for one of my favorite events to cover and ride at. It was a bit warm for the first two days, then kind of cold and dull for cross-country day, but I got tons of great photos. I really wish I could have packed my horses for the trip!

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Bear went schooling again on Tuesday this week at Loch Moy. He’s never done their schooling course, and it’s been awhile since I’ve done it, but there was a ton of stuff to do on some decent hills, so we worked a lot on jumps up and down, as well as jumps before and after the water. He also did his first baby keyhole jump and ducked just like Oh So does!

What that school revealed is that he needs to get stronger cantering down the hills, and I need to sit in the correct balance and not let him get too much in my hand, which results in me taking my leg off as we approach a jump at the bottom of a hill.

We had our first event of the season this weekend at Morven Park, which is my hometown event now that I live literally five minutes away!

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His dressage was very steady, and I worked to keep his poll up this time. We had one bobble in the free walk to medium walk transition where he anticipated, but otherwise, I worked on riding some shoulder fore on the long sides and tried to trot from canter as soon as I came off my circles to help him step under with his inside hind and make the transitions smoother. His final halt was a little more unbalanced than usual (i.e. not square), but he ended up with a 29.5 for first place!

The show jumping course was about as flowing as it could be for the shape and size of the ring at Morven, and he was feeling pretty good about himself! He was jumping around the fences nicely, but was a little bullish about his inside shoulder around the turns, and I was working on stepping into my outside stirrup and not touching the inside rein.

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He jumped clear there and got pretty excited about going to the start box when we got down to cross-country. It’s fun that he’s starting to know the routine, even if he’s a little unsure of some of the fences sometimes.

The beginner novice course was on the “Big kids” side of the property this year, which gave it a lot more galloping space. I asked for a bit of a long one to the second fence and unfortunately set the tone for the next few jumps and the gallop stretches. He’s still learning to gallop in between the fences, and I had to work had to keep him from getting too much on his forehand, especially as I got about 10 strides away from the jumps, but the jumps themselves he was brave about. I couldn’t seem to find a rhythm until the end, but he was motoring along and finished confidently.

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The water question was a big one with a log coming out, then straight down into a gully in the shadows, and he thought about it a little, but when I asked he went.

We finished well and ended up winning! He also won the TIP Award for beginner novice. I kind of wish we’d entered the novice, but we ended up with the better weather day, and I’m glad we got a confident run in. Now we continue to school and put the jumps up more as we look to MCTA possibly for a novice move up.

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Oh So had his first jump lesson in a couple of weeks after he felt a little weird behind the saddle, right hind. I think it’s stifles, so he has an appointment with the vet this week. He’s felt fantastic this week though, so hopefully it’s just some maintenance, then we can get on with planning some cross-country schools and some shows with him.

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I’m off to The Fork this weekend, then a few weeks until my first work trip to Rolex!

 

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Is it spring yet?

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I almost titled this blog post “Death By Dressage,” but then I caught myself becoming what I’d feared – an indoor arena complainer.

I’ve never had access to an indoor ring and have always made do with outdoor lights. If the ring froze, then no riding, but our Virginia winters are mild enough that it doesn’t freeze every night.

Unfortunately, the barn owner where Oh So and Bear live had the outdoor lights taken down in December to be replaced and they have yet to be put up, so I’ve been stuck in the indoor with both horses during the week for nearly three months.

It’s also been so wet and muddy that I haven’t been able to get out on the hills or hack really anywhere until recently, which is a change from home, where I was able to at least walk up and down the hill in our small field and on a trail behind our property with good footing.

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The fields have been ankle-deep mud, and I’ve just closed my eyes and prayed every day that I turn the boys out, hoping they don’t injure themselves.

As far as work, they’ve both been doing well. I’ve been trying to do a weekly flat lessons as I can afford them. I’ve been used to have two flat lessons a week, one on each, so I’m struggling to find things to work on and trust my instincts. I feel like I’m stifling Bear’s progress a little since we’re kind of doing the same thing a lot, but after my lesson last week I’m feeling a little more confident in my abilities.

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Heidi hadn’t seem him in a couple of weeks because of weather and my travel, and I’ve been working on bending and more forward, as well as working on getting him more laterally supple and moving his shoulders using counter leg yields and leg yields on a diagonal in walk mostly, but some in trot.

We started in walk, just bending and flexing him to the inside on small circles, and that really helped keep him supple when we trotted off. He’s been getting very good with his stretchy trot circles and gives me a good feeling. Oh So’s always been tough with those, but Bear keeps a nice steady rhythm and really goes down. The fact that he did that made me feel like we’re on the right track with his training. He still needs to be sharper off my aids, but he’s slowly progressing.

We finally got off the property last weekend and went up to Loch Moy to jump around their derby course. He was a little rogue and excited, but it was fun! We had a good gallop around the big ring and settled him over some smaller stuff on a circle before jumping most of the novice stuff. He was a star, and I felt like we could go on a jump some of the training level stuff, but Lisa rightly told me to hold off since we haven’t jumped much at home because of being stuck in the indoor.

Oh So has been doing well. I’m really hoping to get him out on the hills this week finally because he needs to strengthen his hind end before we think of taking him to an event this season.

I had a tiring flat lesson this morning in which we worked on collection in canter. We worked some canter/walk transitions, which we’ve been practicing, then moved on to some haunches in on the long side in preparation for more serious work on canter half passes in the future. He was struggling going left, and my left arm is kind of limp now, but he was trying hard and I didn’t lose him mentally, which is good. He’s been a good sport about all of this flat work this winter, and I’m hoping to start letting him have some fun with some cross-country schools soon.

He got to go up to Loch Moy in January before we had the big snow storm and really felt great. Last week we went to a new ring and played hunter over some small stuff. He was quite rhythmical and I was actually happy with how I was seeing things and not messing with him.

I had a busy February traveling to Wellington, Fla., for three days for a contest I won through Practical Horseman. I took my friend and co-worker Kimberly and we had a great time not working, watching horses jump and playing tourist/VIP.

We went on an airboat ride at a kind of red-neck establishment and almost froze to death, watched the Wellington Eventing Showcase and got sunburned, and finished it out by almost being blown away at the Wellington Masters.

I went down three days later for work to the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and covered the CDI****. I always love covering dressage and wish I did it more throughout the year, but Florida is the place to be, without a doubt, this time of year.

Next I’m heading to beautiful Tallahassee for Red Hills, then it’s pure craziness with the Carolina International, The Fork, Rolex and Jersey Fresh, in addition to slipping in some competitions. I’m hoping to start out with a Morningside CT and go from there.

A Whirlwind Trip To France

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It’s taken me forever to gather my thoughts (and the time!) to write this blog, but here goes…

Next on my bucket list of countries was France. To be honest, I never thought much about France, but once I started researching, I realized it was a big country. I picked an 8-day vacation, but wish I’d added a couple of extra days in Paris. The tour only went from Paris, counter clockwise down to the Loire Valley and back to Paris, so there’s a whole lot of country left for me to explore!

Champs elysees
Champs elysees

I got to Paris pretty early in the morning and dropped my things at the hotel, which was on one of the outer arrondissemonts, or neighborhoods of Paris. The trips I usually take are budget trips, so the hotels might not be in the city center or very fancy, but they’re typically  still good.

I shared a cab ride with another women from another group tour staying at the same hotel and we stuck together and walked around the base of the Eiffel Tower, took the metro to the catacombs, which had a line around the block, then hopped on a hop-on-hop-off bus for the rest of the afternoon to get oriented to the city before we were both ready to fall asleep!

Dome des Invalides
Dome des Invalides

My first impressions were that Paris is huge! Sites are sort of grouped together, but somewhat far apart, so the metro is very valuable and pretty cheap. If you had a bike, that might be a good choice, as well as the city buses or hop-on-hop-offs, but those are somewhat slow.

The second day we took a group tour of the highlights of Paris. We had a local guide show us around Notre Dame and the highlights of the Louvre Museum, which would take days to truly appreciate!

Sacre Couer
Sacre Couer

We saw the Mona Lisa, which as expected, was much smaller in person, but it was absolutely mobbed by tourists. You had to fight your way to the front of the crowd of people taking selfies with the thing!

The Louvre
The Louvre

I hadn’t expected to have the afternoon off, but since I didn’t sign up for an optional welcome dinner, I took off from the Louvre on my own. I strolled through the gardens and had made a plan to not spend a ton of money on cabs to go back to a few places I wanted to see, but realized the walk would be quite long, so I bought another ticket on the hop-on-hop-off and headed to the Champs Elysees first.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

I immediately found my mecca, the flagship Sephora store, and took a stroll around. Knowing the Euro was good, not great, I made sure to focus my purchases on things you can’t find at U.S. Sephora stores, so I brought home some fun things to try, including a cute keepsake palette.

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I ended my evening climbing the steps of the Sacre Couer for a decent view of the city. It’s located in the “red light district” of Pigalle near the Moulin Rouge. It was quite touristy and a bit far from the Eiffel Tower and the main sightseeing areas, but it was worth the bus ride up.

We headed northwest on day 3 to Monet’s home at Giverny to see the gardens that inspired his impressionist style. There were beautiful lilly ponds, a Japanese bridge and so many flowers I’d never seen before. His home was modest and had a great view of his gardens.

Monet's home at Giverny
Monet’s home at Giverny
Giverny
Giverny

There wasn’t much else to see in the little village surrounding Giverny, so we headed off to Rouen, a town made famous for its beautiful cathedral and for the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It featured wooden framed houses, giving it a cool medieval feel.

Rouen's cathedral.
Rouen’s cathedral.
Rouen
Rouen

Next up was a quick stop in Honfleur, a fishing village with a famous wooden church. It was near the Normandy Bridge, a beautiful cable bridge connecting the town to the rest of the Normandy region. They sold Calvados, a regional apple flavored liquor that’s found throughout the Normandy region, so I picked up a sample set!

The church was quite small, and the town was definitely small, but I popped in one of the many caramel shops, another regional specialty, to pick up some samples.

Honfleur's wooden church.
Honfleur’s wooden church.
Honfleur's port.
Honfleur’s port.

We arrived in the seaside resort town of Deauville in the early evening, but we were all pretty exhausted, so only had time and daylight enough to take an hour stroll. The Deauville American Film Festival was being held while we were there, so we got to see the red carpet, but I was too tired to go out after dinner to see any celebrities. Apparently Keanu Reeves, Orlando Bloom and Robert Pattinson were there.

Deauville
Deauville

 

A Deauville mansion near the beach.
A Deauville mansion near the beach.

The next morning the tour group was up bright and early to go to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Unfortunately, as we drove up to the gates, we were informed that it was closed due to a “technical problem”! Needless to say, a lot of people were very disappointed, but our tour guide made some arrangements and we were able to visit the actual beach that morning and a smaller American Cemetery a little further inland the next day.

Omaha Beach memorial.
Omaha Beach memorial.

Omaha Beach was a really moving experience. There were still pieces of machinery in visible in the water and the memorial looked out to the sea. We drove a little further up the coast to a town called Arromanches, which has a WWII museum and several other artifacts overlooking the beach.

We drove to the town of Bayeux next to see the Bayeux Tapestry. The town had a beautiful cathedral and lots of shops selling poppy-themed things. The tapestry itself was amazing. The museum gave headsets that you listened to as you walked along the tapestry and learned the story.

Bayeux Cathedral
Bayeux Cathedral

By the end of the day, we’d made our way to another overnight stop at Mont St. Michel. We took a bus on the causeway and were dropped off in front of what was one of the most impressive feats of human engineering I’ve ever seen. The abbey towers above the water, and because we came while the tide was out, looked even more monstrous.

I hiked up to the top, through narrow winding streets of what was once an old town. Now it’s just touristy stores, a few hotels and restaurants. The view from the top was impressive looking out over the water. To one side, Brittany, to the other, Normandy.

Mont St.Michel.
Mont St.Michel.

The next morning, we headed to the American Cemetery in Brittany. It was smaller, and according to the American vets who ran the place, gets much fewer visitors than the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, so they were thrilled to show us around. It was a very somber experience to walk amongst the graves and read the names.

American Cemetery at Brittany.
American Cemetery at Brittany.

I particularly loved the Normandy region because of the caramels! I brought home lots of different kinds, as well as some apple liquor, or Calvados. Yum!

After the cemetery, we went to another seaside town, St. Malo, which was enclosed by medieval walls. There were several ruins of old fortresses that were only accessible when the tide was out.

I grabbed a baguette for lunch and walked with it (something I ended up doing a lot!) since we only had a couple of hours. The tow itself had lots of modern shops, so I ended up in a few beauty stores to check out some French brands. I walked around a bit of the city wall too.

St. Malo
St. Malo

We made a seemingly random stop in the college town of Rennes, which was beautiful with some timber-framed houses, but we only had an hour, which was hardly enough time, and I felt like I saw better timber houses elsewhere in Normandy. But it was cool to see a little slice of life in a more modern French town. We were about the only tourists though, so we got some strange looks!

A square in Rennes.
A square in Rennes.

Day 6 brought us to chateau country, where we stopped at Chenonceau, which was pretty amazing. The gardens were beautiful, but the house itself, straddling a river, was pretty spectacular. The interior seemed quite modest (by Versailles standards).

Chenonceau
Chenonceau

You could spend weeks hitting all the chateaux in the Loire Valley, but we hit some of the bigger ones. After a quick trip for a wine tasting in a traditional limestone cave, we went to Chateau de Amboise, which was perched atop a hill looking down on the city of Amboise. There was a pretty cool winding staircase that knights used to ride their horses around to get to the top of the castle, and lots of examples of gothic architecture and scary gargoyles. The town had lots of cute shops and restaurants, and a bakery to die for.

Chateau de Amboise.
Chateau de Amboise.

On our final day, we stopped at Blois to see its chateau, but I got a little lost and missed the good view of it! I did find another Sephora though…

We made a stop to see the famous Chartres Cathedral, which is a strong example of gothic architecture, but to be honest, it wasn’t as impressive to me as others we’d seen along the way.

Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral

We ended up back in Paris in the afternoon for a guided visit to Versailles. Luckily it was a quieter day, but it was still packed inside every room! Everything was covered in gold and the hall of mirrors was pretty amazing. I strolled around the gardens for a half hour before it started down pouring. I know we only scratched the surface of what’s inside, but our guide showed us some good highlights.

Versailles
Versailles

I ended the night with a trip to the Cabaret with a few other ladies in the group. It was for real, with topless dancers and all!

I feel like I’ve only just gotten started discovering France. I wish I’d added on another day in Paris on my own to do things like the catacombs or a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so now I have a list for when I go back!

As for the country, there’s so much more to see and I’m unsatisfied that I couldn’t tick the whole thing off my list! Now I’ll have to go do more of the Loire Valley and southern France next.

There’s always an excuse with the World Cups Finals being awarded to Paris in 2018…

 

August Catch Up

Sorry for the delay in posting. Things got busy after my last post from Toronto.

Show jumping ended up with a jump-off for the medals and in the end, McLain Ward and Rothchild got the gold. I love that little horse and it’s McLain’s first medal. I somehow knew it would be his weekend when we got there and I’m glad I predicted right! I also got my second COTH cover ever out of it!

I had half a day to tour Toronto, so I went on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour of the islands and to see the skyline. I wish I’d had more time, but I got a great view of the city for next time. I think a vacation of Canada’s biggest cities is now on my bucket list.

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Before I left for Toronto, I had a great gallop/cross-country school with Oh So that Sunday, but by the Wednesday before I left, he felt off. My trainer confirmed my fears when she tried riding him while I was gone and promptly asked my dad to take him to the vet at Morven Park.

He was diagnosed with some stress/wear and tear on his left deep digital flexor tendon sheath, so they injected it. He also flexed off on his right hind, even though he’d had hock injections 10 days before. They elected not to pursue the right hind until I got back.

We gave him two weeks off while I was gone and when I got back I walked him for a week up until Sunday when I tried trotting. He felt pretty good, but on Monday my trainer thought he still felt off, but maybe from the right hind. I rode him again tonight and I felt right hind also. Not bad, but it’s there.

I’m a little unsure right now as to what I should do. I think I’ll probably keep working in more trot work for a week or so, and if it’s not getting better by then, I’ll have to have the right hind checked out.

I think he aggravated the deep digital flexor with the gallop. He’d had a mysterious lameness back in April where we ultrasounded and saw some change in that area, but it was never called an actual injury. We gave him two weeks off, he came sound, and went on to do a dressage show and Waredaca, as well as a couple of gallops and cross-country schools.

I’m starting to believe that this is the beginning of the end for him, unfortunately. We tried so carefully to bring him back from his right front issue and had a few good months before little things kept happening. I’m not sure why he can’t keep it together, other than that he raced until he was 7. He’s the type of horse that seemed like he would go into his 20s, but his body is just not holding up.

It’s really hard for me to accept it because he’ll be my only horse once Bear is sold. If I have to do dressage for the rest of his career, I’d be OK with that, but I don’t want to give up jumping and I really don’t think he wants to either.

I thrive on having goals and achieving those goals through showing and it just doesn’t look like I’ll ever be able to make plans with him again.

I’m trying not to be a Debbie Downer about it all, but with each day that passes, I lose a little more hope.

Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.
Lisa posing Bear for his photo shoot.

As for Bear, he had a shoeing change while I was gone and is really feeling great about himself! He’s been quite forward and even a little 5-year-old-ish, which is kind of funny.

We took some glamour shots for his sales ad and he’s officially on the market. We took him to Gordonsdale for a cross-country school on Saturday and had the first person try him. I thought it went well, but’ll see what happens!

I’ve got a fairly quiet August until my vacation in September, then it’s full steam ahead with the AECs, moving myself and my horses and then Fair Hill. I’m hoping to enter Bear in another event for fun, maybe Marlborough in September, but it will depend on how everything goes.

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Crazy wall jump for Pan Am show jumping.
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Pachi the Pan Am mascot.
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Pan Am flame in Toronto.

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Checking In From Toronto!

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OK, so I’m not actually in Toronto, but Orangeville, Ontario, covering the Pan American Games for COTH with my co-worker Lisa. The equestrian disciplines are being held at the Caledon Equestrian Park and it’s lovely, but we’re feeling a bit disconnected from the rest of the Pan Ams, most of which are held downtown.

I was a little hesitant leaving my horses behind for two weeks, but how could I pass up the opportunity to visit a city I’ve never been to? Who knew I’d be going to Canada twice in one year?

We arrived on Thursday July 9 and drove out to Orangeville, about an hour and a half from Toronto, to our AirBNB house. I’ve never used AirBNB before, but Lisa has, so I trusted her judgement! We actually met the family before they headed out the door so they could give us a tour. We’re in a neighborhood off the one main street in the town, but it’s quite a maze and both of us have nearly gotten lost when we go walking or running. Each house seems to have it’s own beautiful, unique landscaping too, so I can usually find my way back based on what flowers or sculpture they have in their front yard (is that normal for suburbia? Or is it just me?)

Our home away from home.
Our home away from home.

It is really bizarre living in someone’s home–sleeping in their bed, using their kitchen, sitting on their coach. I feel like I’m in an alternate suburban reality and I’m living someone else’s life, or maybe the life I could be living if I didn’t have horses (and in this alternate life, I also have a baby with baby proof cabinets. So annoying!)

When we come back to the house after a long day of work, we make dinner if we haven’t eaten out, do laundry, go walking through the neighborhood, watch TV…I can’t say I’m bored yet even with all that extra time I might be spending riding because of the mostly long days where we come home and want to crash.

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Our first full day in Canada was spent finding the horse park, then driving to Toronto to get our press credentials validated at the MPC. It was sort of illogical to have to drive all the way back there because there was no satellite office near the horse park. We were advised not to drive into the city because of traffic, so we took a GoBus from a station about 45 minutes from our house. Well, the buses only run once every hour during the day and the trains only run at rush hour, so we had lots of waiting to do. It took about an hour on the air conditioned coach  to get to Union Station where we then hailed a cab to get to the MPC. Our cab driver was super nice and helpful, find of like every Canadian we’ve come across so far!

MPC
MPC

We stopped inside the MPC, which was inside a convention center with lots of food, space to work, air conditioning, journalists from other sports…that was our one and only look because we have our own media center on the grounds of the horse park. It would have been fun to talk to other journalists. Ah well, the people we did meet who gave us our photo vests and swag were very nice.

Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony

We had a quick bite and made our way over to the Rogers Center where the opening ceremonies were held. Our seats were so-so, but we had the 300mm lens so we took a few photos without totally whacking people in the back of the head! Cirque Du Soleil performed basically a world dance party, then the athletes came out. We stayed until the United States came out, cheered, then walked back through town to catch the bus so we wouldn’t be too tired in the morning.

Canadian Exchange on the way to the MPC
Canadian Exchange on the way to the MPC

Things at the venue for dressage went fairly smoothly. There were lots of complaints about no live streaming, no food for the media, and not being allowed to bring certain items in through security, but otherwise it was lots of fun to watch Steffen Peters and Laura Graves do so well. The U.S. team won gold!

We only had the eventing jog on Thursday, but I went out to check out the cross-country course. It was beautifulyl built with lots of little Canadian touches and you could see quite a bit from one place. The jumps weren’t that big, but they were technical.

2015-07-16 09.51.26Eventing dressage day on Friday was fairly uneventful and a little bit of a letdown after watching Grand Prix dressage. Cross-country day was hot, about 87, but the local weather made it sound like it was the apocalypse with heat advisories. There was a bit of a breeze and some occasional cloud cover that made it bearable, but the walk to the media center, which was so far out of the way in the most illogical place, was tough. It was a safe day of sport with not too many scary rides.

Show jumping day was full of tension and my heart was beating in my chest each time a U.S. rider came in. It was down to the wire, but we got gold and Marilyn Little got individual gold.

The press conferences have been a bit disorganized, but I got what I needed for my magazine story, which I worked on all today. We’ve got jumping starting tomorrow through the end of the week, so that should be exciting. I haven’t covered a grand prix in awhile and we’ve got some heavy hitters coming up. We’re hoping to get back to Toronto to do the tourist thing on Friday and home on Sunday!

It’s been going by so fast and I can feel my riding muscles wasting away, but it’s been lots of fun so far. Maybe a tad hot, but certainly better than at home. Everyone we’ve met has been super friendly and it’s been interesting seeing a slice of daily life in Canada.

2014 Recap – Some pretty high highs, but some pretty low lows

 

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

When I decided to write a year-end recap, I had initially decided to title it something like, “2014–the year that never was” or, “2014 Sucked”, but once I started looking back, I realized that while 2014 was full of lots of lows, it was also full of plenty of highs.

I was feeling pretty good heading into the year–I spent New Years covering a George Morris clinic in Florida–five days of beautiful, sunny weather and lots of learning–but as I prepared to board my flight to go home, I found out my English Pointer Ramsey had died suddenly. My parents tried to keep him comfortable so I could say goodbye, but he just couldn’t hold on.

It was devastating to lose a member of our family and I still think about him everyday. This is the first Christmas in awhile where he won’t be there.

Most of January and February were spent surviving one of the coldest and most miserable winters we’ve had in awhile, all while trying to start Oh So’s rehab under saddle and transitioning him to some turnout after being on stall rest. It was odd not preparing for Southern Pines in March, but I did have something to look forward to with Bear, who turned four in February.

He made quite a bit of progress over the winter and we were finally able to get out and cross-country school in March, where he proved that he had the aptitude for eventing. We did several combined tests and he surprised me with his willing attitude. It was such a difference to Oh So–no drama!

We did out first real event in early September at Loch Moy, and save for a little drama in dressage, had a good time.

Over the summer, Oh So returned to full work and we had a few cross-country schools under our belts before deciding to try for a novice and a couple of trainings in the fall season. I was feeling a bit out of practice over the bigger fences but towards the end of the summer, I really felt like I was back in sync with him.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Unfortunately, he did something to his right hip/SI joint around the same time and it took awhile to figure that out. I was so close to being able to compete with him that I could taste it! We’re now starting to jump again and I’m hoping to compete again in the spring.

As a result of Oh So’s injury, Bear got to start his recognized eventing career sooner than I’d thought. I was pretty nervous but he did very well at his first beginner novice at Seneca Valley, save for being eliminated at the water!

We had a longer gap than I wanted between that and Waredaca, which was full of drama and ended in me falling off, but we rebounded for Virginia the next weekend and completed (and went through the water!).

AEC Texas-style!

This is the first year of my life since I started eventing where I really haven’t had a “season”. At times I felt lost, both in my training because I didn’t have a goal to work towards, but also with what to do when my whole life has revolved around the eventing season.

But as a result, I got to travel quite a bit and learn through osmosis. Watching the best horses and riders in the U.S. as part of my job is a treat, whether it’s eventing, dressage or show jumping.

Riding Bear has taught me a lot more about riding than I imagined. He might be mentally quieter than Oh So, but I have to sit tighter from time to time since he is still four!

I’ve also learned to savor every ride. Before Oh So’s injury, I got worked up about this or that as we prepared for an event, but to be honest, I’m lucky he came back from his injury and that I can still ride him. I’m looking forward to that moment as the starter counts us down in the box in our first event back.

The view from San Gimignano

Outside of horses, I got a sister-in-law when my brother got married in May and I learned I’m becoming an aunt next year to a little girl!

I also traveled to Italy for 10 days. I love traveling and find I always come back a much more educated person. I’m not sure where I’ll go in 2015, but I’m thinking maybe Germany later in the year.

On a sad note, we had to put down one of our cats, Winnie, who we inherited with our farm back in 2002. He was quite old and developed cancer cells on his lungs, so it was time, but sad none the less.

Professionally, I took a step up at COTH this year and really felt like I found my place and became a part of the team. I traveled A LOT, which is my favorite part of the job.

I met interesting people, saw cool places and took lots of photos.

Here’s a recap with links to my coverage-

George Morris clinic
Nations Cup Wellington
Global Dressage Forum North America
Carolina International
The Fork
Jersey Fresh
WEG Prep Trial
National Young Horse Championships
Plantation Field
AECs
Fair Hill
Mary King Clinic
USEA Convention

I’ve got a lot of cool things lined up for next year, including a trip to the Pan American Games in Toronto and a big life change that I’ll post about when it happens.

I’m looking forward to next year and I’m glad to say goodbye to 2014. Here’s to hoping for Oh So’s return to competition, finding Bear a good home and a little bit of luck.

Horse Trials and Tribulations

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted because I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

After Seneca, I gave Bear an easy week and a half, then went for a quick overnight trip to Plantation Field for the CIC divisions.

It wasn’t an official work trip, but I found the photos I took last year to be useful so I borrowed a lens and went to the press conference. Buck Davidson won the CIC** and was a gracious interview as always. He and Boyd Martin have been criticized recently because they took their WEG horses to Plantation three weeks after failing to complete in France, but they both gave honest and reasonable answers to my questions about why.

Buck knows his horse better than anyone and shares a special partnership with him, one I’ve seen and heard him talk about first hand on multiple occasions, so it was sad to see him ripped apart for it. He was able to finish the season on a good note on a happy and sound horse. Isn’t that something we all hope for after a bad go?

Check out a photo gallery from Plantation Field.

Plantation Field
Plantation Field

I left for Texas for the American Eventing Championships the Thursday after Plantation. Sadly, the day before I left, my family made the decision to put our cat Winnie to sleep. We’ve had him since we inherited him when we moved to our farm in 2002 and he was about 2.

He’s lived a long, healthy life, but over the last two months, he started coughing. We took him to the vet and she found cancer cells on his lungs on an X-ray. We treated him with antibiotics and he seemed a little better–moving and eating normally but coughing a little. A few days before I left for the AEC he had some blood coming out of his nose and was uncomfortable eating. We made the decision to take him to the vet, but I decided I didn’t want to go. I’ve never been in the room for that before and I just didn’t think I could handle it. My dad went and held his paw during his final breaths.

10687219_10101805294891517_7728162552678193557_nI’ve never had the opportunity to choose when one of my animals is put down because they’ve always either died tragically or gotten sick or injured very suddenly, so I was glad that we had the choice this time to end his suffering, but it’s still sad nonetheless.

He was a sweet kitty and I’ll miss watching him lay in the sun with our other cats or dip his paws in the water bowl to get them clean. I hope he’s hanging out in the sun with Ramsey somewhere.

I headed off to Texas with a heavy heart, but I enjoyed my trip. My friend Megan, who used to work at COTH, freelanced for us and helped me out. She lives in Ft Worth now and works for the APHA. We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Thursday night and had three full days ahead of us.

It was hot, but not too sticky. I was sad to see a small group in the advanced division, especially when they get the bulk of the prize money. There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about what the AEC should be and if they should move around or stay in Texas.

I can only say that I was disappointed to have the Adult Team Challenge move there. I really enjoyed my first and only ATC in 2012 at the VA HTs and wish they would stay regional. It’s just not viable for most amateurs to go to Texas, especially when it’s that hot in September.

That being said, the ATC riders I spoke to were all really fun. As much as I enjoy speaking

AEC Texas-style!
AEC Texas-style!

to the professionals on a weekly basis, I like finding out other people’s stories and telling them.

Here’s a link to all of our coverage.

 I had an uneventful trip back from Tyler through Houston and came back to Oh So feeling not quite right from behind again.

Before I left for Texas, he had started back walking and trotting under saddle after his SI injection and felt much improved for the first four days, then felt off again. I gave him the weekend while I was gone, hoping for the rest to do him good, but it didn’t.

I had the vet out again and she said he looked improved from behind, but still weak. She thought maybe he needed another week of before we started riding again, so we worked out a plan of lunging for a week and walking under saddle. I’ll start trotting under saddle this week and see what happens.

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Morven Park

Needless to say, I’m really disappointed that we won’t even be able to get to one event this year. I’m just hoping he comes sound again and that this isn’t going to be a battle from here on out. His check ligament and suspensory look good and feel good, but the more I think about it, the more I think he did something in the field to make himself so ouchy from behind. I’m hoping slow work will help him recover.

I had a busy weekend taking Bear for a jump lesson and cross-country school with Lisa at Morningside. He hadn’t been off the property in three weeks and I thought the fact that it was 35 degrees and we were alone would bother him, but he stood quietly while I put studs in and tacked up. He was a bit up as we trotted around the ring, but settled nicely and I surprised myself by not feeling totally out of practice.

We popped over a ditch, went down a bank and went up and down the hills a few times before we went through the water to end on a good note. I slowed things down a bit by trotting to the water the first time and letting him stop, then calmly asking him to walk in and he was fine. Lisa said not to make him flustered by using my whip or kicking for now. I’m hoping to try that strategy at Waredaca in a few weeks so we don’t get eliminated!

I also went to Morven Park on Saturday to watch the advanced and the CIC***. There weren’t that many riders unfortunately, but there were more than last year, which had about 5 start cross-country.

I was really bummed about not being able to compete Oh So there. The prelim course looked nice, although I’m not happy that they keep holding the show jumping on the muddy grass in the fall. There were apparently a lot of problems over the weekend.

Check our photos from Morven Park.

I’ hoping to take Bear cross-country schooling again this weekend while Lisa is out of town, then I’m off to Fair Hill next weekend to cover it for COTH, then Waredaca and VA HT to close out the season. Fingers crossed for sound horses and dry weather!

Morningside at 7:30am.
Morningside at 7:30am.