Sunday, May 23, 2010

Virginia HT 4th Place!

It was a fun weekend down in Lexington, as you can see from the picture where I'm standing on my tip-toes doing my best "Where's Waldo" impersonation! Morris, I know would agree, as he got to go galloping all around the Oak Hill side of the Virginia Horse Center with an absolutely breathtaking backdrop of the mountains. Because this was his last outing before the CCI2* at Bromont and a course that has a lot of terrain, I tried to make the most of this run fitness-wise and really made him sprint up every hill that we had on the 6 minute 20 second track. The going was a little tricky around the turns especially because of several downpours that timed their start pretty much right as the Intermediate began on Saturday morning. Going into cross country I had some mixed emotions about the previous day's competition. Morris had his best score in the dressage, a 34.4 which put him fourth in a very competitive field. He was very obedient and after watching the video I was impressed at how fancy my scrappy little boy from New Zealand was starting to look! I also wanted to declare a personal victory on my reinback. Honestly, the dressage test is somewhere in my show trunk buried somewhere in my trailer...tackling that is the morning project and after that I will let you know if the judge thought it was as good as I did ha ha ha. Anyway show jumping in Lexington is tricky because the big classes have to jump in the coliseum and you never really know what you are going to get in there. It is big and empty and bright white walls and whatever jumps they rent are the shiniest things in the world and I swear the horses just all get a little overwhelmed. Morris fell into that category, he doesn't even particularly care for our indoor at home (he prefers the wide open spaces what can I say) so I should have been even more aggressive with riding him forward and being a little tougher on the both of us. Instead I tried to make him smooth and calm through the turns and honestly that just wasn't going to happen. It wasn't time to was time to jump clear! I had a rail, which would have been acceptable; but I also had 4 time and that is something I am still a little annoyed at myself about to be honest. A good wake-up call, however, and I promise I will be on a mission when I jump up at Bromont!
There are 2 good things that came from my jumping round. First of all, not having the time faults really wouldn't have changed my placing at the end of the competition. Second of all, it really ticked me off enough that I was going to make sure I was aggressive and getting the job done around the cross country! Had to be a touch careful with that plan considering the changing conditions due to the rain. Morris rose to the challenge and jumped through the entire course as though he couldn't get enough. He is just so quick and so smart with his feet he never slipped and quite frankly I don't think he understood why I was bringing him back so much for the turns, his attitude certainly was a "Whatever, I got it." I was thrilled that both water jumps went smoothly this time, the second water having a big skinny log on the way in, run up onto the island in the middle on a bending line and then bounce over a set of good sized whiskey barrels to land in the second pond. Morris was all over it! He finished strong and cooled off quickly and quietly, all great signs for Bromont.
This was also another great fact-finding weekend on an entirely different front....we finally found a treat that he just can't get enough of. After all the taste-testing and funny faces and spitting out treats, we finally have discovered his OBSESSION with baby carrots! Yes, he can't get enough. Mr. Tough Guy was reduced to begging through the stall bars all weekend and would have pounded a handful at a time if he had the chance. It really does feel good to give him something that you know makes him so happy. Kinda like my chance to return the favor!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Return to The Plains

It really is worth leaving the barn by 5, even if it means that Richard can't have his morning Starbuck's because they aren't open. Just some of the sacrifices that are made to be able to get to my morning lessons with Karen O'Connor at her lovely facility. Not anybody's fault that it is half way around the beltway and then out Route 66 during rush hour traffic!
She hadn't seen Morris in a lesson since January in Ocala, even though she had kept an eye on us at some of the spring competitions. Morris was happy to be there, warmed up great and had a thorough evaluation of the progress we have made in his flatwork over the 6 months that I have had him. Don't get me wrong, as is always the case there are always plenty of things to work on, and Karen pointed out several areas that need improving ha ha ha. After our flatwork session we started trotting some small fences and I was so happy, again they were far from perfect; but in his first lesson with Karen Morris wouldn't trot a fence. Another small victory! The jumps got bigger, taller, wider and we warmed up and then from there went through some exercises that we would be seeing on course at our next competition. Karen was immediately aware of our current weaknesses and had me making improvements in seconds. I took away a very important lesson, and that is that it's not good enough to change your plan after something veers from the original plan. Prepare harder and be more pro-active in the first place so that you can stick to your original plan. Yes, I am going to plan on that!
Here is the video of some of the last bit of coursework that we did. Day off today for Morris, he was tired and we want to save him for his big event down in Lexington next weekend!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Linda Lessons Again!

Home safely and settled in from Wellington, things are back in full swing at Idlewilde (Linda Zang's Davidsonville location) and that included hacking Morris over for his first lesson now that we are neighbors! (The route involves the hills and hayfields pictured above, absolutely gorgeous.) I am so thrilled to be working out of my new facility at Kaleidescape, my horses are so happy and my schedule is really coming together spending most of my day either at the barn up the hill or down the wallet is loving the savings on diesel ha ha ha. The day started as a fun Saturday with plenty of time to spend on the horses and I had invited some sponsors to come over and watch Morris in action and then head out to lunch. As the storm clouds and black skies rolled in, however, we switched gears and just started flying thru horses and the next thing I know I am on the cell phone trying to tack up Morris in 5 seconds and get back over to Linda's arena before Armageddon set in. Morris was absolutely disgustingly dirty and I am currently without a groom -so if you are reading this and seeking employment please inquire :) - and trying to give directions and it is a touch confusing and not exactly what I had imagined my lesson preparations to entail. The pressure was on a touch, after spending nearly 2 months with Linda in Wellington neither she nor my other coach, Jim Lewis, had seen him since early January and I wanted to make a good impression.
Morris is such a trooper, walks out a random gate and heads across country and arrives in Linda's beautiful arena acting as though he did it yesterday. At this point it looks like we might be spared the worst part of the storm, and plus now I was on and in lesson mode and that was the last thought I gave to my surroundings. Morris picked a really good day to behave well and remember all the things we had been working on for the past 3 months! He warmed up well and went through our normal walk/trot routine with Linda observing and the first medium trot that I did was actually above average, good boy! As always Linda was right on my case about my position, no matter how well you do something there is ALWAYS room for improvement. We then went right to work on the parts I feel are weak for us at the moment: my haunches in at the trot, my canter-walk transitions, and my rein-back. There were no more walk breaks for the rest of the time, we had some work to do and Linda was making real progress! She is so positive even though her expectations are high and you know me, I hate to disappoint. After all of the canter work we went back to a little sitting trot and Morris busted out with the best extended trot he has ever done in his life!
I was assigned a significant amount of homework. 50 canter walk transitions, every day, each direction (you think I'm kidding?!). Halting with out back up. Halting with backing up. Keeping a stronger, more correct position in my sitting trot is going to allow Morris to perform a better haunches in, and let me tell you that is a lot easier said than done. I started working on my assignments with the very next horse! The next victim was poor little Freddie, who had to rise to the occasion and pull off the 5 year old version of my lesson and serve as my guinea pig with my new and improved way of sitting. I don't think that Freddie really cared, actually, one way or the other. He is happy to have a job and is really getting in to his routine now that he has been with us for about 3 weeks now. He does win the bravery award for the day...all those black clouds that went through never produced more than a couple of splats of rain; however they were followed by 30 mile an hour winds at least! Not one, but 3 jumps blew down during the ride and Fred, although concerned in the moment, stayed focus on his ride and had a significant breakthrough on how to handle those lanky legs of his around tight turns. Good boy!
Looking forward to Monday when I can recreate everything on Morris, gave him the day off today since he had a big week last week, 2 jump sessions plus a cross country school plus a Linda lesson - which should really count as a conditioning day on the schedule for both Morris and I! Hoping that the winds will die down by then as well and Freddie can go out and actually jump some stuff, wouldn't be fair to aim the baby at moving targets!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shawan Downs XC School

That little bit of rain that we had Monday made the going absolutely perfect for today's cross country school at Shawan Downs, venue for the MCTA Horse Trials. The HT took place over the weekend, and today for $50 a horse you could come back and practice the courses as they were set for the weekend's competition. Morris and I took advantage of this, and had such a great time. Perfect weather, 80 or so with a slight breeze, great turf (no time wasted taking in or out studs, oh hooray!). Actually there were gnats like crazy, annoyingly persisten ones, so he wore ears for the first time and I declare those a giant success, be on the look out for them at our next competition (if nothing else, I think Morris looked grand wearing them and he deserves to look that part!). I think Richard and Gunsmoke were ready to steal them right off of Morris' head and wear them themselves...the two "boys" were my groundspeople and rode the minibike as fast as it would go sometimes to get away from the swarm over their heads!
I started Morris' session basically recreating my lesson with Jimmy at Gordonsdale last week. Morris basically picked up right where we left off, and so I headed right for the tricky stuff: water ditches and banks. There are two water jumps at MCTA, I schooled at least 3 ditches and 2 trakehners (ditches with logs on top), the preliminary "coffin", and cruised up and down a bank question where Morris couldn't see where he was landing until he was already committed to a take-off spot. Here is the video to watch us in action, he was brilliant! A big thanks to Richard and his i-phone which takes incredible video. You can see how Morris ,makes all the appropriate decisions at the water jump, including a clean but conservative jump over the hanging log in the middle.

And here he is zipping up and down the exercise with the drop/surprise landings:

I am so lucky to get to start my day like this! Very motivational for the rest of the horses and Freddie was no exception. He is still recovering from his trip (and still really furry) and so he lasts for about 15 minutes per ride. I set up a course of poles and flower boxes and he was so perfect! Stayed round, never touched a thing but never leapt over them like an idiot, either. Made all of his turns and tried very hard to stay straight over all of his obstacles, did start to wiggle and swerve in his last canter but that was because his legs were turning into jelly. Very excited for when he gets a little stronger and we can go play over some real stuff (not to undermine what he did today, to Freddie it was quite an adventure). Will be sure to post the video of that, don't worry. Could be entertaining ahem I mean educational. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Apprentice Judging

Even though I wasn't competing this weekend , I end up spending my entire Sunday at a competition! (The photo on left is from the Fair Hill CIC2*, however I just got it today thank you GRC Photography.) This morning I fulfilled more of my co-judging requirements so that I can take the final exam this November and officially receive my 'r' judging license. The entire crew at the MCTA Horse Trials (Cockeysville, MD) were so helpful and accommodating. I judged 2 divisions of Training and then had to compare my tests with that of judge Cathy Tucker-Slaterbeck. She was very helpful, lots of constructive criticism and lots of positive remarks were made as well. It was a good day of competition, lots of nice rides and pleasant horses. To all of my horses and students flatting tomorrow....beware! I am inspired and now determined to not let my horses and students make the mistakes that I saw over and over again today!
On the way home I did stop by the barn and check on all the boys. They were standing in their stalls under their fans, I think a little nervous for a moment that I was heading for the tack! Then I think they saw the nice dress up clothes and cute shoes (I may not be an official official yet; however determined to look the part) and they visibly breathed collective sighs of relief that yes, today was Sunday and yes, they really did score the day off. Morris should have a pretty big week this week, his first lesson with Linda since Wellington, actually the first time that she will have seen him at all since the middle of January. Also today at MCTA I walked the Intermediate cross country course and am considering going back this week to school. They had a pretty good sized hanging log in the middle of the water....very tempting to go recreate my school with Jimmy from last week.
And for Freddie, a big week because he has to get a hair cut. He is putting on his winter coat, because when he left New Zealand 3 weeks ago it was winter! No one told him that he was heading half way across the world where he gets to relive summer two seasons in a row (lucky Freddie, we all know how I feel about winter and snow, yuck). Until he gets his new do he is just going to do some easy flat work, don't want to roast the new guy. We want him to like it here at Blue Clover Eventing, we sure do like him!