Friday, February 11, 2011

Ocala Field Trip

As much as I love Aiken, I did sneak away to Ocala for a couple of days of lessons and will be the first to admit that I had a great time! I know that the eventing world is pretty much split down the middle between Ocala and Aiken and I wouldn't be telling you anything that you didn't already know. I swear it is NOT that much warmer in Ocala although the grass was an electric green, I didn't realize how much Aiken is still in winter mode until I was terrified to even let Gunsmoke run free over the grass at OCET south. It looked fake and had obviously taken a lot of effort because there were "Keep Off the Grass" signs EVERYWHERE, and I found myself using the roads to get Morris all over Karen's beautiful Ocala facility. The farms in Ocala I think are in general much larger than Aiken, although there are still more than a fair share of trailers and white electric fence tape. That said, you better be on a very nice farm in Ocala because it takes a year and a day to get anywhere. Good thing you can buy alcohol at the gas stations on the corner! I am going to give Aiken a better rating for footing as well (after all, it is about the horses and not about town....) based solely on the fact that I didn't have in studs on my Thursday morning cross country school and my Morris pony slipped pretty good upon spooking at the trakehner. Serves him right for spooking at it! Hope he learned his lesson. Speaking of lesson...
That would be why I left my lovely winter facility in Aiken in the first place. I was so excited, I hadn't had a lesson with Karen since the week before Fair Hill. The pressure was on! I got there late in the day on Tuesday and went ahead and took over the very official looking dressage arena. It was complete with gazebo, letters, and white sides courtesy of the USEF High Performance training sessions that took place there the week prior. I thought it was great practice for Morris, stepping out there in a place fairly unfamiliar and having to get straight to his dressaging. I ran through parts of my Intermediate Test A that I would be riding at the weekend's horse trials. Some parts I had to run thru twice :) Wednesday Morris got a little turn out which he really enjoyed, and then up to the top barns we went to see our best friend Randy. He has done an amazing job on Morris' feet, and trust me Morris has made him really have to rise to the challenge! They were looking absolutely spectacular an hour and a half later, and we all threatened Morris that he better leave those shoes on until he sees his Uncle Randy next month. We put those shoes right to the test in a jumping lesson with Karen. I was afraid there was the potential for some fireworks as it was Morris' first show jump school outside of the indoor. Perfect Morris, however, was a total professional and even managed to trot the warm up fence multiple times. My how we have learned! Karen had a very difficult turning exercise there to slap us in the face a couple of times, and once we got that worked out we jumped some courses. We have made some major improvements over the winter, a time to go back to the basics, and of course there is always something to work on. Or more than one something in my case ha ha ha. In general, however, I thought it was a very positive jump school and I was looking forward to a cross country school Thursday morning.
While in Ocala I get to stay at Damian Guthrie's lovely farm. Damian is a Grand Prix show jumper and current member of the Australian Nation's Cup team. Very inspirational looking out across his arena and jump field at the seriously massive and simultaneously fragile jumping obstacles he has out there! He has a lovely barn apartment, and unfortunately I was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of rain absolutely pouring down onto the roof. Oh well, better to do cross country in the rain than dressage. I think Morris felt the same way, he barely wanted to walk out of the barn once I had him tacked, and I swear if he had been wearing dressage tack there would have been an all out sit down protest. There were 4 of us out there, pretty much a workmanlike free for all trying to get our schooling done before we were soaked and freezing. Fun getting to watch Karen school Quinn and see how far he has come in such a short time! I hope Morris was paying attention! I don't think he was, however, because he was far too intent on sizing up every possible obstacle and combination out there in the field. He got to jump all sorts of fun things, most notable being anything and everything with a ditch under or beside it. Jumped a bunch of corners and skinnies, a really fun bounce bank exercise (I am still bitter about my bounce bank incident at the AECs last fall), and of course the water. Very proud of Morris at the water, actually, as he really skipped through it like a champ. He was no worse for wear afterward, we conveniently had an appointment with Dr. Ober to run her expert eyes all over him. I am so lucky to have such a great crew looking after Morris and I, and you just can't help but feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing people. We plotted and planned for the spring season, and then back on the road we were to Aiken. It was fun seeing the whole crew, can't wait to do it all over again come March!

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