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 :)