Sunday, February 26, 2012

Playtime at Pine Top

What a difference a year makes! At this time last year I can't describe to you the time and effort it would've taken me to get Smarty to jump straight over this little fella pictured above. And now, fast forward to Pine Top this past weekend. Smarty had a super jump up the bounce bank (and let me tell you it was even more of an effort than I was anticipating to get up there!) landed waiting for instructions, and absolutely straight on galloped to the skinny and split the uprights we did!

All sorts of stellar moments just like this helped us end a great week in Aiken. We've had a little excitement...some barn drama could have landed us on "Real Working Students of Aiken, SC" this past week. Really looking forward to the 1st when back-ups from home arrive!! Trisha had a great week, somehow in between making all of my horses, the barn, oh yeah and me look fantastic, she and her very own Final Statement won the Training Derby at Paradise on Wednesday! She and "Bailey" looked great out there, should be all primed for victory next weekend when they compete at Sporting Days. I am proud to have both of them as part of the program, well Trisha is an integral part as I can't imagine being here without her! We snuck out this morning to the Track Kitchen to celebrate surviving last week. It can't be all work and no play ;)

But, as I mentioned at the start of this blog, the real highlight of the week was getting to ride Playtime at the Advanced Pine Top this weekend. As most of you know, sadly he is for sale, and I consider every ride on him to be a bonus at this point. We worked incredibly hard all winter with Linda on his dressage and I was sorry that the conditions this weekend didn't allow us to showcase our new and improved flatwork! The thunderstorms were severe and scattered, and so after hours of delay we finally got word to tack up and get into the ring before the next round started. I thought Smarty handled this pretty well; but at the end of the day a huge squall interrupted our test and although he kept it together, a few mistakes here and there plagued our score. I rode in front of Charlie Musco, a judge whom I think very highly of and in fact I wish more venues would use him! I hope next time I see him the weather is a little kinder on us all, it is no fun to ride or judge or volunteer in weather like that - thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting our sport.

Saturday was a brand new day, with a new time schedule that the organizers somehow got to work out perfectly! I was thankful to get to show jump before cross country, actually, so I guess all the wet and disgusting tack and equipment was totally worth it?! Show jumping was actually quite tricky, lots of roll backs, use of terrain, a spooky skinny oxer, and my ultimate nemesis, a Swedish oxer to end the course on a bending line. I fell victim to the course designer's evil plan, Smarty was a little flat and stiff by the end of the course and I wasn't able to keep him straight enough...onto the high side we drifted and down went the very last rail on an otherwise well jumped course. He was even easily inside the time, in hindsight I would have insisted on adding up, getting him bending and supple again. Smarty does NOT like to touch rails, he apologized and swore it wouldn't happen again :) I promised him the same thing!

The brisk temperatures and wind helped ensure that I had plenty left in the tank that afternoon for cross country. I took advantage of all of the cross country fences in warm up (they even had a ditch flagged - amazing!) and angled a skinny or two just to make sure. I was a little worried about the out of the 2nd water. It was basically the same angled brush question that caught Smarty off guard at Fair Hill, and I didn't want to end up making the same mistake twice. Smarty has such a giant step, I found myself debating the numbers on a few of the other options. But by the time I left the box I had quite the plan in my head. And luckily, I was able to execute said plan out there! Smarty was so adjustable, the right amount of listening but still game to run and jump. He is such a powerful jumper, he makes my job easy most of the time. I took it easy galloping around; but you can just feel him learning each time he heads out on course. Very, very cool. The hardest and saddest thing is that I only get to ride him around the course once! I need 10 Smarty's, please, because it is really hard to think that I have to wait 3 weeks until Southern Pines to get to go run around another 6 minutes worth of Intermediate cross country! If only I had a barn full....and I know I'm the only person out there saying that, right?!

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Event of 2012!

Tatanka was so excited to go to Paradise Farm Horse Trials this
past weekend! Smarty, although excited, was the recipient of a pep talk from Trisha before dressage as it appears he had put himself to sleep!
Luckily, both put in quite the performance as we got our 2012 recognized eventing season under way. We are so lucky to be based out of Hatchaway Bridge Farms, an unbelievable place just minutes from the Paradise venue. It made traveling and scheduling easy, and with two great horses, Trisha and I had quite an easy time if I dare say so! Smarty started things Friday morning with a super dressage test. Even though he scored a '9' on gaits, I felt like the judge was a bit hard on him and he was siting 5th after 30 horses went in the open preliminary division. Tatanka scored in the cute department and ended up tied for 4th in a very competitive beginner novice division. It was a real pleasure competing in the sun and warmth, which I think has eluded Paradise for the past several competitions!
Saturday was a fun day with Smarty going early out on the cross country. I had a new plan for him this year, running the prelim here at Paradise and then back again next weekend intermediate at Pine Top. I think I like it! The rolling hills, and the use of that terrain, made for a great first outing back for him. I love the new flow of the course and there were some very good questions. Early on some angled downhill houses, and he was taking it easy and listening good boy! The bounce bank to the skinny, and the new coffin made of single chevrons was certainly a tough preliminary question. The new sunken road complex rode great, and Smarty was so very smart there jumping quietly down the drop - I dare say he is starting to learn! I ended up well over the time although that was my plan, starting very easy and just cruising around the course, by the end he was up in full galloping mode taking everything beautifully out of stride and coming right back when he felt me just sit up and stretch open my shoulders as I have practiced a gazillion times in my lessons with Karen! Tatanka had a busy day on Saturday as well, shortly after show jumping a clear round he went home and pulled triple lesson duty as his owner was in town! Because of a yucky Sunday forecast, Tatanka and Nicholas went through their dressage test, jumped a show jumping course, and went out to the woods and had a cross country school all in several hours Saturday afternoon. And then Nicholas came back first thing Sunday morning to practice more dressage in the rain! If that is not the spirit of a future eventing superstar, I don't know what is!
Sunday we were very good with scheduling and luckily the weather wasn't nearly as awful as the worthless news people made it sound. The footing on cross country held up just fine for Tatanka's round, although I think the warm up really took a beating. It was a great confidence building beginner novice track with the exceptions of having to navigate around a bunch of preliminary jumps to get up and down the banks. That was the most wiggly part of my weekend! Luckily he didn't wiggle around anything out on course and he finished in 3rd place yay! Show jumping was clocking right along and I hopped on Smarty, jumped a few oxers, and into the arena we went. The footing in warm up there, too, was a bit trashed and I wasn't sure how he would jump in the heavy footing in the ring. I love him so, he was foot perfect! Smarty cruised around the jumping track effortlessly and jumped everything with his million dollar style. Hard to believe it was just a year ago that we started working together, he is a completely different animal now and he is just the highlight of my day. I get to go in and ride my plan and even when it doesn't quite work out he makes it look beautiful.
Many thanks to the owners of Paradise Farm for hosting so many horses and people! We look forward to going back on Wednesday with Trisha and Bailey for the jumping derby. And then it is off to the Advanced Pine Top at the end of the week. Get the party started!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We're Back!

I know, I know, it has been a really long time. Way too long, in fact. Since the last blog we have had a lot of great and a lot of really not great things happen. I apologize for not keeping everyone up to date; but I got a touch overwhelmed. Suffice is to say, we are going to pretend that I blogged just last week, and now here we are again!

We are so so happy to be back in Aiken!!! Trisha, Gunsmoke and I got all of the ponies settled in to our amazing facility in Hatchaway Bridge Farms. If I could own a place in Aiken, it would be here! It is like coming home again! And I know the horses feel the same way. Some had been here before, and I guess they told the others what to expect because they have all been on their best behavior! We got straight to work, lots of sales horses and the competitions always seem to start sooner than anticipated.

I was scheduled to be the President of the Ground Jury the first weekend at Sporting Days, and that was a lot of fun. What a great venue to have and such an enthusiastic and supportive group of volunteers - and I was surrounded by a crew of outstanding officials and organizers that made my job super easy. Thank you all! I also got the opportunity to judge the show jumping at Full Gallop and what a bunch of great jumping horses there were. I think that my own competition string has their work cut out for them to hang with this crowd! I think, however, that they are ready to meet my challenge. They have been schooling great, we had a stellar time at Gibbs last week, and we did the schooling show at Sporting Days to get everything fine tuned. Feeling confident that tomorrow (Paradise Farm Horse Trials) is going to be a great start to 2012!

When I get a moment, I hope to get more pictures uploaded to the Blue Clover Eventing page on Facebook, check them out. Photo credits to Richard Gamble, who captured this amazing shot of our barn on his phone! Imagine what it looks like in real life! Our new schooling field is incredible. If I have learned nothing else in the past few months, it is to keep finding something to be grateful for, and as I look around where I am right now, I can hardly keep track of them all!