Monday, April 11, 2011

The Fork

Yep, that's it. That is officially, "The Fork." Little known fact of how one of the best events in the world came by its name. These are the things I learn when on a course walk with Karen. Okay, so there was a tip or two there about how to jump around the advanced track as well ha ha ha. Seriously, though, it is a pretty stellar view out at the far point where two rivers come together far beyond the cross country course. Lucky for me, Richard had recruited Jimmy earlier in the day to go on this adventure with us. Not only did we want Jimmy along for his expert opinion and nature know-how...he brought his own serious off-road vehicle to get around and from what we were told the rental golf carts weren't going to make it! The next time you see Jimmy, you'll have to ask about his up close and personal encounter with the spot, and how he and his faithful lab almost went swimming unwittingly......
And, might I mention, while all of this was going on there was this little horse show going on as well. And what a great weekend it was! You get the feeling from everyone at the Fork about how thrilled they are to host all of us, and we are so lucky that they feel that way. Although the schedule got a little out of control on Sunday (pulling into my barn at a solid 1:30 am with the entire barn coming home from Aiken was not my idea of a fun way to end the weekend) in general it really is a top notch competition. The footing on cross country was just unbelievable, my horses galloped silently both Saturday and Sunday and were full of run and jump the next day. Although quite challenging, the courses were so inviting and so well designed and constructed, it just made for such a positive experience. This was Smarty's first preliminary in the States, and Morris' second advanced. Quite proud of both of them. Dressage was the lowlight for both for entirely different reasons. Smarty decided in the ring that he knew way, way more than I did and he bought himself a trip to a dressage show at Morven Park this coming Saturday. Take that, Smarty Pants! Morris was really relaxed and settled in warm up, and then I made a mistake in my final warm up and put a little too much pressure on him. He tries so hard, he didn't go into the ring and relax. He went into the ring with his little brain spinning wondering what I was going to ask him to do next, and he was afraid he wasn't going to do it correctly. Poor Morris! I hope he forgives me. He, too, is going to the dressage show at Morven Park this coming Saturday and we are going to do a little psychological warfare.
As disappointed as I was after dressage, you can believe it was the complete opposite after cross country. The advanced pony was awesome! One hairy moment at the first water, after watching the CIC3* puke over the house at 7A, I figured I had a great plan. Smack went Morris' stifles, however, and I fell victim to a scrappy ride just like everybody else. I was proud of my recovery, however, and the massive table to itty bitty chevron at 8AB went super well. Morris was really jumping up and over his oxers this round, much more so than at Southern Pines. I think we both knew a little bit more what to expect this time! He was super at the Turtles, the sunken road. I road the ditch and brush like I was being chased by a pack of hyenas and that seemed to work well. The little rascal still barely slithered over the trakehner after the water. Rumor has it this is the last year for those god awful things, and I will be the first to throw a going away party! Very difficult to get up and running after all the S turns at the big water. I know, that's the point. Nonetheless, bon voyage. Morris absolutely swallowed up the ground galloping up the big hill, and was extra speedy on his way back down. The brush to the double corners went surprisingly well, Morris lives for that stuff. He spends his entire time on course just trying to find the next set of flags. He needs to talk to Smarty about that. Smarty was very honest about all the skinnies on a tough preliminary track, and he is such a ridiculously good jumper I think the only time I had to kick him was for my own good to the trakehner at 8. He just needs to keep developing his flatwork and adjustability so that he can fly like his older brother in between fences. Don't get me wrong, he would have no problem flying at the present moment. And then I would just fly by the next several fences lol.
Show jumping for Morris this weekend actually makes it onto the highlight reel as well. I learned a very valuable lesson I think about Morris. I punched out a rail pretty good over the giant airy yellow oxer in warm up (2 rails set at four foot whatever are always more intimidating than the lovely decorated ones out on course) and I usually would end on that note. However, I was still too many out and I had only jumped one "big" fence. So I went back to it. And Morris was actually a little rattled. I think this actually explains several of my round when Morris went in there after a rub or a rail as my last fence in warm up and got a little fired up once I picked up my canter in the competition arena. I had to jump it 4 or 5 more times until he was settled and moving up appropriately to the deep spot. As much as I hate to waste that many jumping efforts in warm up, I think that was a great lesson learned and I am going to remember that for many jumping warm-ups to come. He went in there and really listened well, I got him settled but yet kept him forward, and we ended up having just barely 1 rail. He jumped well and I feel like I was staying up out of his way long enough to let him finish his jump. Maybe, just maybe, I'm learning something......
Looking forward to settling back in at home and then off in 2 weeks to Fair Hill. Lots to talk about before then. I do, however, need to do 2 months worth of unpacking and laundry so that's all I got for now!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ta Ta for Now!

Morris was so happy today! This photo captures his excitement about walking out to our jumping field. And because he had the stud girth on, he knew he was in for a real jump school. Sadly, it was our last time jumping down in Aiken for the 2011 season. We tried to end it on such a positive note, however! Smarty and Morris went to Gibbs yesterday to conquer any and all last minute combinations that we haven't done in the 2 months we've been south. They were both brilliant. Poor Smarty got double a workout, according to his clock it is the beginning of winter and apparently he thought it was going to be a fancy Selle Francais looks more like a Shetland Pony at the moment! He was huffing and puffing galloping all around Gibbs. Honestly, I didn't feel too bad for him...good to wear that one out from time to time lol. He was great about the coffin set up on the bunker, it actually slowed him down for a second. And he has gotten so much better about the skinnies. I think he has done every skinny and downhill combination on the entire property! He had his first encounter with the duck as well. I think 3 out of his 4 legs cleared it on the first attempt, and by the end he was doing the duck to the corner in 6 or 7 strides, and vice versa. Thought we would have him all prepped for the geese at The Fork, and then I hear that the big water has turtles. Looked high and low and found no turtles at Gibbs. Drats!
Morris had a great time as well. After our little incident at Southern Pines II, I made sure that Morris saw every ditch on the property, ditch and walls, ditch and bank, ditch between the bank, ditch and skinnies, coffins, trakehners, ditch liverpool thing in front of hanging log. Hmm. I don't think I missed any. Sunken road, I guess that is like a giant ditch?! We will see if all this work pays off. you-know-what is going to be waiting for me after the first water at The Fork. I have a plan that involves a tap and a spur and a couple of bad words!
Today we finished an action packed week (and it's only Tuesday!) with a jump school at the farm. We had canter poles strewn across the entire derby field, that and skinnies. Skinny to canter poles, canter poles to skinny. Every now and then I buried him under a big oxer, and then he got to do more canter poles. I think, however, that he had a good time. Got to buck during a couple of flying changes and that always makes his day. I do love that cheeky little monkey! Morris was, of course, Mr. Professional as soon as he entered the jump field. We had a couple of specific exercises set up that made Mr. M do some serious thinking and it was good for him! I had stiff bounce set up out of planks, and he did come home with red paint on I think all 4 toes. Hope he remembers that! Also tried to recreate some of our show jumping from Southern Pines II, well it was a slightly different interpretation as I don't recall take off rails and V-rails at Southern Pines. But today, highly effective! I hope he remembers that as well come the weekend!
We are set to leave lovely Shag Hill Farm at 0900. Sounds so doable on paper. I did at least do laundry and pack this evening. Gunsmoke took note of the bags piled up by the door, and as I type he is at my feet making sure that he isn't forgotten. As much as we love Aiken, it's time to get this show on the road. Next stop, The Fork!