Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Blur That Was Aiken

An Obsessed Lercher

I have retyped the first sentence of this blog at least 27 times! I have yet to manage a single sentence that can really introduce or summarize Aiken 2013. So positive and so exciting in so many ways! The Lercher has never been happier having a golf cart to call his very own. And yet simultaneously we had so many disastrous things happen as Holly walking a young horse, it spooks, falls down and crushes her foot in the stirrup. Hence needing a golf cart in the first place. Or Stacy falling off in slow motion and trying to save herself in a way that snaps her wrist in half. Or having to talk to a really brave girl about doing the right thing for her horse. Little Bear still doesn't understand why he spent more time at the vet clinic than on a cross country course. We had ulcers, literally, mysteriously injured ankles, cops pulling over horse trailers at 4 in the morning, pretty sure we saw dead people, I mean I can't make this stuff up! I don't want to glance over all of our not so great moments,  it is because of those moments that we can appreciate and be grateful for every little amazing thing that happens! So I'm not going to dwell on them, either....
Really Warm Day at Paradise

And thus we begin the recap of what was two amazing months in South Carolina. I usually say warm and sunny South Carolina. This year, we had some warm days; but we were plagued with rain like it's never rained before! Luckily we have the most amazing facility in all of Aiken and it didn't slow us down one bit. Just kinda made us bitch and put our iPhones under 5 layers so they didn't drown :) I want to thank everyone that makes Aiken possible! First and foremost the generous owners of Shag Hill Farm, I aspire to be like Samantha Charles when I grow up! I think the world of her and Aiken wouldn't be the same without her, and I know I am not alone when I say that!! We are so fortunate to go back every year and pick up right where we left off, same great people and situations. Huge shout out to our vets and staff at Peformance Equine and our farrier Darren who for some reason keeps answering our texts and frantic voice messages! I also want to thank my girls Trisha and Stacy, who work their asses off quite literally we call it the Blue Clover Eventing weight loss program :) I depend on these girls and trust them to love and care for my ponies like they would their own children. Well, better than they would their own children lol. So bummed that Stacy broke, although it was literally the last week and she and her Magic Mike horse made super progress over the two months they were there. Look for him to move quickly up the levels, winning along the way! And Trisha I am happy to report looked like a pro cruising around the toughest Preliminary competitions on her main man Final Statement. There's a 1* in their very near future, and they deserve to come home with prizes!
Stacy smiling about having two functioning wrists

I also want to send out a huge thank you to the owners and clients that make this whole circus possible. This year, I was inspired by a bunch of Aiken rookies. And man did they hold their own! We had winners, too many ribbons to count, good times had by everyone and I mean it when I say everyone! We all know eventers aren't doing what we do for the money, and this year was a prime example of how fulfilling my life can be, inspiring and helping all of these amazing, talented people to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be. We are so fortunate to be a part of such a community, Holly's owners really rallied around what could have been a disastrous situation and instead I think we had one of our most fun years to date! I know Holly didn't have a ton of fun having to watch me ride and compete her favorite ponies, and believe me I wish the circumstances had been different; but at the end of the day I declare things a great success!  
  As usual, Aiken gives us a huge head start on the rest of the season. Already we have students schooling levels higher than they competed last fall, with several good runs early in the season. We have qualified for the American Eventing Championships, whether or not we choose to drive to Texas....Winston I am thrilled to say is like a completely different horse after a lot of hard work from a lot of different people. I am really looking forward to what the rest of the season may bring with him! He had super finishes at Pine Top and The Fork on our way home. Next up for him is the big Intermediate! Thanks to everyone who made that possible, especially his owners Greyside LLC. Haven't even had him a year yet and I can't believe the difference we have been able to make! Looking forward to June and the rest of 2013!
Aubrey wins the Sportsmanship Award!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

We're Baaaaaaack!

The lovely house and barn at Shag Hill.

 February 1 is a day much anticipated at Blue Clover's the day that we officially roll out of Davidsonville MD at some ungodly hour of the morning with a flotilla of trailers to relocate to the eventing mecca that is Aiken! I won't even try to pretend that the days leading up to February 1 are fun or painless; but at the end of the day I think everyone agrees all of the freaking out and running around is completely justified and in fact, we have already signed ourselves back up for Aiken 2014.
Nothing like a truck stop sunrise
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. We just barely unpacked the 13 horses and 2 dogs that we brought with us to join my dogless twin Holly Payne and forever Aiken accomplice. For whatever reason, Samantha keeps inviting us back to her amazing Shag Hill Farm located in Hatchaway Bridge Farms. Trisha and Kathy, head grooms and lifelines for Holly and I, picked up the routine as though we had never left last April! Horses were turned out frolicking in the sand and sun, well some were frolicking some knew they were being watched like hawks and frolicking would result in a loss of turn out privileges! In all seriousness, however, my horses are soooo happy in Aiken, which makes me very happy! And why would they not be? We have literally hundreds of acres to ride on, including our amazing field of dreams which Winston thoroughly enjoyed jumping on this afternoon. Our barn is over the top in creature comforts, and we have outside stalls so our ponies can have fun in the sun all day every day.
Winston's first jump school in Aiken.

 I've already done my most favorite trot down Fox Pond Road, I survived passing the miniature burros and spotted ponies and enjoyed the company of a fox hunter in town from Millbrook and we spent the entire time talking about my best friends chasing coyote in Arizona - proving the point that it is a small world after all! I've been cross country schooling - twice in fact - and had a whirlwind show for sales (which reminds me to put in a plug for all of our cool sales horses, check them out here). And it's been how many days since we got into town?! Just a few more days until we compete for the first time at Paradise, let the games begin!

 It is a lot of fun having new horses and people with us this year. Stacy has heard all about Aiken and we are really excited to get her new Magic Mike horse out into the real world while down here. And she deserves to have the time of her life, she and Trisha are amazing and had all of Blue Clover Eventing organized and packed for our most seamless mass exodus ever! Trisha will be making her 2013 debut at Sporting Days, then it is full speed ahead to the 1* at Virginia come May stay tuned for that adventure! Winston is already busy training for the 2* at Fair Hill this fall, he promises to turn right by then hahahaa. I have my fleet of beginner novice super stars ready and waiting to clean up at Paradise and Sporting Days, let me just warn the competition now! They are piloted by some ace students of mine, and we had a really positive cross country school at Sporting Days just yesterday. Each and every one of the exceed my expectations, and it is just too much fun when we have days like that! And you gotta have fun when you work as hard as we do. We do our best, you know pizza parties and wine while waiting for shippers at midnight; but at the end of the day we are some pretty lucky people and we know it. Can't wait for all of our other people to get down here and join in on the festivities!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Horse Holiday!

Hunting with The Tedworth
Hello All, and yes, I am still alive, thriving even, after my fantastic trip to England! I know, I know, it is hard to believe that I chose to spend Christmas and New Years on a horse rather than on a beach somewhere. Though I did have a fantastic time at Danny Warrington's house in the Keys in the beginning of December you should ask him about it next time you see him. But, I digress. 

All That Jazz barely visible for our ride!
I got to spend 10 fabulous days in England doing all things horses. I now understand what Linda and the others were talking about with all of the rain leading up to the Olympics. I wore my signature sunglasses twice, for a total of 15 minutes, during my entire stay lol. I am sorry that I didn't get a picture for the girls, I seem to repel dirt in the US (now that I have completely jinxed myself the next time I put on my best white show britches) and I guarantee you that my riding clothes have never seen that kind of mud in their lifetime. I was unrecognizable! That being said, it was much warmer there than in Davidsonville MD, which upon my return reminded me exactly why I pack for Aiken earlier and earlier every year! I stayed with good friends at Biddesden, and while I didn't know exactly what I was in for, I was willing and able! They didn't disappoint, I got to the house at 1130 Sunday morning, in time for a 12 o'clock drinks party, a 1 o'clock luncheon, and then I was on my first horse, a lovely type named All That Jazz, and rode until dark! A girl could really get used to this. In fact, a girl really DID get used to this!

The eventer, and well really horseman, in me idolizes everything England. Yards and stables (never managed to get the lingo down my apologies as an ethnocentric American) are quaint and workmanlike, all tucked into the landscape. In fact I rode for hours and hours and never saw the uninterrupted countryside scarred with McMansions! Everyone has a walker and a gallop; but not an indoor which I think speaks volumes. Horses were rugged with 8 blankets and outside being horses. It was a little shocking at first all of the riding on the roads, during my days as a whipper-in I used to hold my breath any time I had to cross asphalt especially that shiny slipper kind. Yet, on Christmas day I took part in the traditional ride into the village. How fun! We decorated horses and rode, some humans in costume, into town and all around - I will be prepared next time and pack accordingly! One of my favorite rides of the trip was on a 3 year old named Sorbet. We weren't five minutes away from the yard, on the road, when all of these loose sheep start leaping down the banks and crossing the road and scurrying up the other side as though they were fabled Irish fox hunters. Finn, head honcho of Biddesden and one of my most favorite people in the whole world, continues riding on his lovely hunter and carrying the conversation. Meanwhile, I'm trying to gather handfuls of breastplate AND neck strap with my left hand, bracing for impact, not sure if I'm going to use my dressage whip on my horse or the sheep. I think Sorbet was too shocked to react hahaha, actually he's just a really nice horse like all of them at Biddesden.

Cruising in style in a lorry.
My hosts did look kindly upon me for my hunting mounts, for which I am grateful. The entire experience was so shockingly different from the US in the best of ways. I freaked out for a week about what attire to pack - and at the end of the day who the hell cared you were muddy and bloody and smiling and that's all that really counts! Just getting to the meet was half the battle. Riding in the lorry was much different than rolling in with the dually and a 6 horse, though I suppose the lorry is much easier to fit in the pub parking lot? 
I was absolutely spoiled the last time I went, sitting on none other than Tamarillo's full sister and an Intermediate horse in her own right. Hunting was really a humbling experience. A rude awakening for me - galloping thru this muck that I wouldn't even WALK an Intermediate horse thru hahahah and I am focusing in this completely Jedi mindset that I will stay upright winging around thru the woods. I'm giving myself a pep talk - like I'm an advanced level eventer and I could be teaching all of these other riders and I'm on this awesome horse, I got this - and my thoughts are completely interrupted by this 10 year old kid on a pony that goes zinging by me thinking 'piss off lady you are going too slow.' Awesome. There was a bit of pressure, I feel, as though I was representing my country or something. Too bad I didn't get that chance in London just a few months earlier; but hey I'll take what I can get. I jumped everything, even complete and utter larking at times, because everyone was watching to see if the American would do it. So thank you lovely chestnut mare for packing my ass around and making me look like I knew what I was doing somehow jumping these massive hedge things out of bottomless muck. 
Our ride to the village Christmas morning.

There were some casualties to keep all of you entertained, no worries. So we went on this fabulous hunt Saturday, New Years on Monday. The horses at the beginning are a little amped, as you can imagine, and my dear friend Rebecca rides up after being MIA for a bit. I'm distracted by all of the blood on her stock tie. And then I'm noticing it on her gloves and then I'm freaking out looking at it all over her face courtesy of a busted nose. Once she convinced me she was as okay as one could be at this point, I found myself sitting even more in the backseat and grateful that my horse was equipped with a martingale. Well, fast forward to a little later during the ride when we negotiate what I can best describe as a sunken road exercise with low hanging branches. My feisty lady did not appreciate the traffic jam, and in a way that I can only appreciate decided to take matters into her own hands (yes, we got along fabulously as I knew exactly where she was coming from). Unfortunately I was required to make a split second decision to avoid decapitation that resulted in my face mashing into her poll at an alarming rate of speed. I was certain I was spitting teeth into my gloves, so when that didn't happen I was momentarily relieved. The damage was done, however, and adding insult to injury it is extremely painful and awkward to nip off of a flask with a busted lip! And let me tell you, I was H.O.T. for New Years amongst the fashion elite of London! A heartfelt thank you to everyone who talked to me and talked yourselves out of staring uncontrollably at my lip wondering what kind of disease I had lol.

He's sexy and he knows it!
Being with the cool kids, I got to meet some fabulous people, see some pretty A OK things, though perhaps one of the highlight introductions was when I got to rub elbows with Tamarillo! By far the most famous Biddesden horse and to which all others will be forever compared I'm certain. He is a total mint-monger, as you can see him still begging and licking his lips in the picture above. He is as cool as you would expect him to be, like every other multiple 4* winner who deserves to spend his life eating grass and mints and hazing the newbies. Now 20 or 21 I can't remember, we pulled him out of the field where he's retired at WFPs and he still looks better than horses that I see running around at Prelim! Tam confirmed everything classy about eventing and the amazing horses that we are lucky enough to have in our lives. I could have stared at his eye for an hour, sounds kinda creepy as I reread that; but I know all of you know exactly what I'm talking about. Who woulda thought that I would take a vacation from horses by going and spending time with more horses. Hell, I rode horses without pay for 10 days!!!!! and I'd do it all over again. I didn't come home and ride on the road, I mean let's not be crazy; but I did jump yesterday outside in the rain just on principle :)