Monday, December 27, 2010

To Switzerland or Not to Switzerland?!

To Switzerland of course! Well, maybe. Thanks to Mother Nature, Jakob and I had a lovely stay in Cleveland Hopkins Airport today. We spent good quality time chatting it up and people watching, while waiting in line to confirm our rebooking at Continental. When we finally did get to the ticket counter to confirm our new flights to Chicago later this evening, I had the distinct pleasure of being told I needed to be confirming the ticket at United. What?! So, we "hurriedly" waited in line at United. When they called our flight number to the desk, the clerk informed me that I needed to be in the Continental line. Right...the one I just stood in for over 2 and a half hours only to be told I was supposed to be in this line. Hmmpf! In the meantime, our seats got given away, and they would not even allow us to fly stand by. So, after a fun six hours we went to dinner at Olive Garden, where Jake fell asleep on the couch waiting for our table. He was a real champ and I am truly blessed to have a great kid. Undaunted he informed me that we should try again tomorrow, so, here I sit on hold with Continental yet again waiting, waiting, waiting.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fun in Frigid Florida

Monday and Tuesday I had the pleasure of taking one of my clients from the cold North to sunny Florida to do a little horse shopping. We arrived at the Orlando airport to find that the temperature was a balmy 40 degrees, and the wind was blowing up a gale that would have sent Dorothy clicking her little red heels together for Kansas.

We arrived at Iron Spring Farm in Ocala and met up with Alex Robertson, who showed us a beautiful Friesian named Tsjesse. He was a real doll (Tsjesse of course!) and pet of a horse, but no slacker as he has shown successfully up to Intermediare I. Iron Spring is impeccably kept, with immaculate grounds, barns and buildings, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We both had a great ride on Tsjesse, saw a few younger horses, and then began the trip back south to Mt. Dora and Apopka to see our third horse.

In Apopka, we met our friend and trainer Nancy Smith, who was instrumental in setting up the remainder of our trip. She arranged for us to try Donatella, a stunning Westphalen mare that she competed to Grand Prix. Unfortunately, due to daylight we had to cut the riding short and decided to overnight in Mt. Dora instead of making the drive to Wellington, in order to give her a second try on Tuesday.

The day dawned clear and cold with temperatures hovering just above 25 degrees!!! Poor Dolly was shivering as I got on to warm her up even though she had a nice toasty quarter sheet on. I feel so priviliged to have had the opportunity to give Dolly a try...she is one special girl!

We continued on to Wellington, where it finally broke into the 50's by midafternoon, and saw several lovely horses. The best was waiting for last though and it showed up in a gorgeous chestnut Hanoverian mare named "Who's That Girl" aka "Gorgeous" to her friends around the barn. Gorgeous has the most amazing walk, a super trot and lovely canter. She is very kind and really tried her heart out for both me and my student.

Despite the cold weather and a misadventure or two, (WHERE's the tollbooth?!!) we had a great time and made it safely back to Cleveland around 10:30 pm Tuesday night. Now the real work begins, watching video and deciding which horse is the best match, and arranging second rides and vettings. Thanks to everyone who made this trip a success and everybody cross your fingers for "Gorgeous"!
I'll keep you posted. Literally.
Till then,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fasten your Seatbelts Gang!

Fall has come and well, gone, and its been a whirlwind! We started out by taking Angela Hambricks horse Buenos Noches to USDF Region 2 Championships, where he placed 7th in a very competitive 3rd level division. He did a great job, and Angela treated us like queens in Traverse City, MI, wining and dining us to our hearts content! We had a great time with my amazing super groom of a sister and her fiance keeping me (and Goodman) in line, and were very proud of our team!

We also hosted WEG Event rider Boyd Martin for a clinic over two days in October, and had a blast with our friend! He always brings so much enthusiasm, joy, and excellent info to the table. Everyone learned a lot, and thanks to everyone who attended! It was great to see some of the local event riders and trainers come audit and ride. Sarah and Chris had South Farm looking beautiful, and we could not have had a more picture perfect day for schooling cross country! Thanks so much to Boyd for making the time to come to Ohio and coach all of us! On a personal note I was able to ride Kathy Henry's horse Exklusive, and had a great time. Boyd hopped on to straighten out a few of the kinks and it was fun to watch the horse go around with a pro on his back.

We followed the clinic up by taking four horses to the Chagrin schooling dressage show. Tracy Baker, Tiffany George-Kete, Cindy Pordon, and Marian Shaughnessy competed and got some great experience and we all had a fun time. Thanks to Quinn (Tracy's daughter) for grooming, and Christy Maschke for making the all important Dunkin Donuts run!

Finally, we took Angela's horses DP Lidcombe and Buenos Noches (Goodman) to the LEC Dressage show this weekend. We couldn't have finished the horse show year off better if we had tried. Lidcombe led the way winning his first class on Friday, garnering another blue ribbon on Saturday with a whopping 70% and Second on Sunday, earning him a qualifying score for Regionals next year on his first show out with us. Goodman was no slouch either...he won his class Saturday with a personal best score at 3rd level of 67.4%, and was second on Sunday, also earning himself a qualifying score for Regionals. He was Champion at 3rd level for the weekend. This horse has really turned up a notch, and I am excited to take him to Aiken and bump him up to Fourth Level. Dare I hope for a Prix St. George by the end of the year? Only time will tell.

On a side note I am happy to report that Zigzag has made a full recovery and is back in full work. He is feeling better that ever, and I am looking forward to getting back on a regular competition schedule with him. While we have to re-qualify for Prelim, it will be great having him back on the horse show roster.

Best Wishes,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Onward and Upward. I hope...

After a tumultuous month of "stuff" we look to be slowly getting back on track. Due to several deaths in the family we unfortunately had to scratch the WPDA show in order to spend most of the week going to funerals. More on that later. Much to my behest, Goodman will have to man up and go to regionals without a "primer"...I know he is just the horse to do it. He is all tuned up and ready to show his stuff in Michigan next week. We are all very excited for him and his owner Angela Hambrick!

As for "Z" he thought it might be a good idea to kick out and get his leg caught in the stall at the Erie Pa Horse Trial, while I was walking Cross Country. He scraped himself up pretty good but appears to be sound. He really does not like being on stall rest though, and is starting to become a handful to hand graze. He is getting a 12 day check up from the vet tomorrow, so hopefully she will have good news, although I am not convinced. I had to scratch the rest of Erie after being in 2nd in my division, as well as not entering at South Farm.

I was thrilled to get a call from my old trainer and mentor Kathy Henry to see if I would like to catch ride a fantastic horse for her. We took him to Erie and he had a lovely dressage and stadium, but needs a little confidence in the cross country. As this is a new horse for me and I have only ridden him a handful of times, I am sure he will come along just fine. A neat side note is that I helped to break this one in with her and Alison Kroviak when he was just a baby, and he was always my favorite! I even had an email at one time that was his name! He unfortunately also decided to sabotage himself and cut his leg so had to also be scratched from the South Farm horse Trial. Unbelievable!

Before he so timely hurt himself however, we were able to participate in some PR for South Farm's Horse Trial this weekend. Kenny Crumpton from Fox 8 News came to South Farm and did an informational piece on three day eventing and what would be going on at the Horse Trial. Sarah and Chris had the place looking amazing, and gave a great interview! Holly Shine was the demo rider over fences and did a spectacular job over the Weldon's wall and Stadium, and I was the dressage demo rider. It aired Thurs 9/2 at 5pm and was a great piece! I hope that it generates some public interest for South Farm, the horse trial and eventing throughout our community, and I thank Sarah and Chris for letting me and Kathy be a part of it with such a wonderful horse.

Go check out the horse trial at South Farm this weekend beginning Saturday...they have picnic baskets pre-made, so take the family and have fun watching some real athletes at work!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Goodman Takes on NODA at Grand Haven!

This weekend I was fortunate to have three horses go to the NODA show at Grand Haven. Marian Shaughnessy went and took her horses Panglossian and Linguarde's Limbo and rode at Training Level and First. She persevered through the rain and not being able to ride Limbo the week before the show, and showed great fortitude and commitment throughout the weekend. She was Third with "Leggs" at First 1 on Sat., and rode a nicely forward test on Sun.

Goodman was second on Saturday at 3rd 3 with a 62, and 3rd on Sunday with a 65.8! He came home qualified for Regionals and Reserve Champion at Third Level! Congratulations to Angela Hambrick on the success of this horse, and thanks to Nancy Smith for the expert coaching, and Mary Anne Milleman for reading!

Onward to WPDA August 14 & 15th!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mini Trial at South Farm

Zigzag and I went to the South Farm Mini Event this past Sunday and competed in the Training Horse Division for the first time since last year. He posted a fabulous dressage score of 28.5 and was absolutely wonderful. Even the judge made a comment that he looked very happy to be back in the competition arena! We were second after dressage and he did a great job jumping right around the stadium. His canter and balance is so much improved, (thanks to all the hard work this spring at Boyd's) and he felt like he skated right around. I made a few mistakes that cost us some time, but I was really happy that we jumped around with no major glitches. Cross country was fabulous and he was so strong that I actually had to circle before going to the bank! He was very honest and definitely having lots of fun on course!

While doing all three phases in one day is alot, he handled it well and still had some gallop left at the end of cross country. We ended up fourth (due to our handful of time penalties) and I was very happy that we had a great first outing. It was a great confidence boost, and gage to where we need to go next. With a little more tuning up we should be fit to run Training at Erie and Richland Park at the end of August, and then make our Preliminary debut. Thanks to my lil' sis for coming along and being our cheerleader/groom and official photographer! Fingers Crossed!

Welcome back old friends!

I am pleased to say that an old friend and client Beth Lose has rejoined our ranks with her two lovely horses Haven and Westy. Haven is a beautiful Oldenburg mare that Beth bred herself out of a Tb mare by Bacardi. She sold her as a 4 year old to be a broodmare at a top notch breeding operation in the area several years ago, and has recently had the good fortune to have her back. We will be breaking her out this month and I look forward to starting this talented young horses's competitive career. Beth also has acquired a gorgeous Westphalian gelding that has retired from his career as a hunter, and will be lessoning in the hopes of doing some dressage. Welcome back!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Due to a change in Boyd's eventing schedule leading up to the WEG, we unfortunately had to postpone our Clinic. We are happy to announce the new date will be October 18th & 19th. Monday at White North and Tuesday XC schooling at South Farm, weather permitting. We will have a fun Q & A on Tuesday morning, as well as several vendors to check out. Don't miss out on some great training tips from one of eventing's finest!
See you there!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Four hooves forward…

Today Angela and I took Goodman for a lesson with Nancy Smith. We have been working with her for over a year now, and always enjoy her expert advice. We began in trot and she was very pleased to see Goodman moving consistently to the bit, and having a stronger outline and greater self carriage. We worked the shoulder in to half-pass to haunches in, and got some better quality half pass. In the canter we also worked on the half pass and walk canter transitions. Its amazing how a simple walk canter walk can show you how lacking your horse’s hind leg is! Goodman was a real star though, and quickly upped his game and began doing lovely transitions. We finished with some double steps, and a renewed sense of where to focus in his daily work. I am so proud of this horse because he continues to get better every day. His focus and confidence are building all the time, and he is more and more dynamic (is that possible?!) the stronger he becomes. Thanks to Angela for giving me the ride on this awesome horse! What a gift!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Focus is a funny thing...its hard to get right and easy to lose. Even in cameras with an "auto focus" the picture can sometimes look blurry when our hand moves or if it thinks there is not an "appropriate" subject to focus on. As I am sure all of you have experienced, this can really be maddening, as you hold the button down and the camera will not take a picture.

I recently came to the realization that I have "lost focus" on my personal goals as a professional. Not purposely or intentionally, but because other goals seemingly got in the way or began taking up my time. Its not like they disappeared from view or I forgot about what I want to do and where I want to go, but they just faded out and got a little blurry. Time to press the "refocus" button and re-evaluate the goals I had put in place at the beginning of the year.

There are so many little goals and steps to the larger ones it seems easy to lose track of everything, so I have decided to make myself a roadmap of each smaller thing to lead to the end result. I actually had to start from my goal at the end of the year (running Z Prelim) and trace it backwards in order to make sure that I dont miss anything. This seems to be very beneficial and is keeping me from getting distracted by the small day to day occurances that take up so much time. I also have come to the realization that having several areas with goals for clients/horses/career makes this a bit more daunting! It is going to be quite the juggling act, but I know with all the awesome support from my family, friends, and clients that we will all get there.

Time is ticking......

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Busy Schedules & Birthday Wishes

What a busy couple of months we have had! After the fun at the Prix de Ville, we went on to two more dressage shows, a combined test, and lots of lessoning! Goodman and Leggs continued on to the Dressage at Grand Haven show as well as the Dressage Derby. Both horses are improving all the time and I am excited to say that they helped me earn my USDF Bronze Medal at the Dressage Derby. I am so grateful to all my clients for generously providing me with such lovely horses to ride. My medal scores were earned on Buenos Noches owned by Angela Hambrick, Legado de Rio owned by Angela Hambrick, Magion owned by Marian Shaughnessy, Panglossian owned by Marian Shaughnessy, and Riverdance owned by Betsy Daane. I could not have done it without them! I also want to thank Nancy Smith for all the excellent instruction and advice over the last year, fine tuning my dressage riding.

Zigzag went to the Combined Test at South Farm and went around his first Preliminary Stadium. He was a real trooper considering that he was a little (okay, alot!) foot sore behind. We ended up second and I was thrilled.

Jakob had his 11th birthday and we celebrated by having an outdoor campout with a few of his friends and then going to Geneva on the Lake with Aunt Minnie for some fun on the bumper boats and at the beach. All the boys had a great time, and my personal favorite was the campfire in our backyard and making smores. Thank goodness Ivor and Minnie were there or we may not have had a fire at all! My birthday was also this month, and I had a lovely couple evenings with Ivor and Jake, and then my parents at the Grand River Winery. My wonderful parents generously gave me a new top hat for dressage, and Mary, Tim & Jamie suprised me with the best showjumping boots you can buy for Z. Jake and Ivor gave me the coolest, tiniest, little pink ipod that is about the size of a stick of gum, and I promptly loaded it with freestyle music to ride Goodman by, and of course some U2 & DMB. I am so blessed and lucky to have such a supportive family. THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!!

While I haven't gotten Z to an event yet, we are having a good time working on getting legged up, polishing up our dressage, and getting more and more consistent at the 3'6" & 3'9".

Happy Birthday to all you June B Days!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Busy Busy Busy!

Well, its been awhile since I last posted, and so much has been going on. We had a great time at our first dressage show since last year, as well as taking a fun team to the Dressage Prix de Ville. Zigzag also completed the Combined Test at South Farm going around his first Preliminary Stadium course placing 2nd.

Angela Hambrick's Buenos Noches competed for the first time at Third level at both shows and was very relaxed. He got better and better as the weekends went along, and I am very excited for Angela and this horse's competition schedule this summer. Marian Shaughnessy's lovely mare Panglossian competed at 2nd and 3rd level at the first show and had respectable scores and went into the ring without missing a beat. At the Prix de Ville Marian competed for the first time at 1st level, and showed real class and composure throughout the weekend. Our Prix de Ville Team was also made up of some first timers to the rated dressage arena...Tracy Baker on Double Stuff, Cindy Pordon on Fahrenheit, and Clair Sulerzyski on Quintessential. They all worked very hard and had alot of fun. Tracy and Clair both scored in the 60s on their mounts and had very consistent tests. These horses had never been to a show of this nature, and both handled it very well. Cindy competed for the first time at 1st level and did an amazing job trying to get "Iz" to "play ball". Sadly, despite Cindy's hard work and good riding, Iz had other ideas. I am so proud of Cindy for her fortitude, perseverance and patience! She truly showed us what it means to be a good competitor!

Back at the barn, everyone has been working hard and riding lots of horses. We welcomed an old friend back to the farm in Sue Luria and her horse Cali, who came for a little tune up. Its great to have another prospective eventer in the barn! This past month I also had the pleasure of teaching the Barett Clan and doing some fun trail rides with Kim McConnell, Tom Barett, and his kids that were in from Europe. Its great having some new faces!

Speaking of new faces, the farm is really beginning to look like a five star facility, as renovations are in full tilt. The aisleways, washracks and atrium are almost done, and the new roof for the arena will begin this coming week. Be sure to check out the website ( in the coming days for pictures of all the construction.

That's all for now...I have a date with Mom and the nursery to pick out more perennials!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dressage Prix de Ville Udpdate

Well, its two days and counting, and everyone has been working really hard to get ready and put in good rides for the team. I am so proud of our riders and horses who are giving 110 percent to fine tune all the details. It has been alot of fun having so many dressage lessons all day long!

Marian and Leggs are really working like a team and showing some great trot work and transitions. Tracy and Stuffer have been refining their tests, and learning all the little details that help to make a good ride. Cindy an Iz have been working very hard on their lengthenings and I am so proud of their progress! They have really transformed the quality of the trot and canter over the last two weeks! Clair is pulling out all the stops with Quinn and has done a great job improving his canter and consistency. I am thrilled with everyone's dedication and hard work, and feel very privileged to be coaching our team. No matter what happens I hope everyone has fun and makes it a positive experience!

I also have Angela Hambrick's Hanoverian gelding Buenos Noches going to the show competing in the Third Level open classes. This horse is getting stronger and stronger everyday, and is finally showing some true half pass and pirouettes. He has begun to let me ride him a little more, and wait for me to tell him what is next instead of anticipating and taking over. I can't thank Angela enough for giving me the room to work with this horse on a consistent basis, as well as the opportunity to show him and try to get him going in the upper levels. He is extremely talented and I know she is as excited as I am to see what he can accomplish.

Good Luck to everyone competing this is sure to be lots of fun!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prix de Ville here we come!

White North is proud to announce that we will be bringing our very first team to the Dressage Prix de Ville! Our team consists of four riders who are feverishly preparing to go take all the DQ's by storm! Check out the team below!

Cindy Pordon & "Fahrenheit" (a.k.a. Isabella)- Cindy and Iz have been together for six years. They have enjoyed a partnership filled with doing the hunters, dressage, and riding the trails throughout Hunting Valley. Cindy has been focusing on her dressage, and she and Isabella had a great showing at the last Chagrin Valley Schooling show. Cindy and Isabella are a lovely pair, & will be making their debut at 1st level during the Prix. I am sure they will more than rise to the occasion, so come cheer them on!

Marian Shaughnessy & "Panglossian" (a.k.a. Leggs)- Marian and Leggs have been fervently working on moving up and are proud to be competing at 1st Level for the first time at the Prix. They have been forging their partnership for a little over a year, and have quickly become a wonderful team. Marian and Leggs also enjoy going for hacks with Marian's husband and his horse Seamus through the Metropark in Chagrin. They are sure to impress in a few weeks!

Clair Sulerzyski & "Quintessential" (a.k.a. Quinn)- Clair and Quinn came to White North a few years ago from New Jersey and Doug & Marilyn Payne's barn. They were aspiring eventers when a pasture accident sidelined Quinn unexpectedly. He has recovered in fine form and they have competed in the hunters, as well as a dressage schooling show this past fall. I am excited for them to make a comeback at the Prix, and show us how its done!

Tracy Baker & "Double Stuff" (a.k.a. Stuffer)- Tracy is a real competitor who has delved into a little bit of everything from running barrels and team penning, to competing at the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic in the Jumper divisions. Stuffer is owned by Sunnie Hellman, and she works cows and trail rides him on a regular basis. Tracy and Stuffer have been working together for the last year, having fun and working his Western Pleasure gaits and sliding stops. They are a great team and I can't wait to see this cowgirl channel her inner dressage diva, & Stuffer show us what cow horses are really made of!

The team will be showing on Saturday 4/10 and Sunday 4/11 at Lake Erie College. I will be posting times here and on the White North website. Please come support our riders and let them know how special they are, and how proud we are that they are representing our farm!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Soapbox Time, Kids

In the past few days I have been inundated with people firing off opinions and "critiquing" other people's riding abilities, or lack thereof. I thought I would take a moment to illustrate a few facts for those who feel the need to spread negative energy into the horse riding universe.

First, no one and I say this firmly, goes around trying to ride badly. If you feel that you need to talk to your pal next to you while you stand watching the adult amateurs warm up at the Training level dressage class and discuss how effectively or ineffectively they ride, maybe you should be thinking this:
a. How brave that person is for putting themselves out there to go to the show in the first place.
b. How hard they are trying to get the horse round and through the best way that they know how.
c. That possibly this horse and rider combination has been through alot, and its a victory to just have the horse be relaxed and calm in the ring.

I could go on and on with examples like this, but I think we all need to remember that everyone comes to the show to ride their best, and just because its not up to your personal standard it is not for you to judge. The show already hired someone to do that.

Secondly, if you feel the need to make a comment regarding how someone looks in their riding attire, perhaps you should think again about how courageous they are for trying to look the part and have a clean, neat presentation. It takes a considerable amount of guts to put on a pair of skin tight white breeches and button up a dark coat that shows every donut and cheeseburger you've eaten in the past month. I commend anybody for going the extra mile to look dapper for the show, no matter your size and shape.

Lastly, I'd like to clear up a myth. Trainers enjoy riding horses to see the horses learn and have light bulb moments as much as they enjoy teaching their human students. They show your horse so that you can be proud of it and say to somebody, " Gosh that's my horse!" Great trainers ride the horses for the pure enjoyment of the success of the horse, not because they are "trying to take your horse away" or want the horse all to themselves. We are all privileged to ride these amazing animals and forge relationships with them to the extent that they will literally skip across the ring and trot in place to please us. What a gift!

So I will step off my soap box for now in the hopes that we can all appreciate that everyone is riding their best at every given moment, and that trainers are out there to help, not hinder. We must remember that we ride these beautiful animals only because they allow us to, and put up with all of our mistakes in our effort to "make them better". We need to be grateful of the owners that give us the opportunity and the horses that generously give all they have when we ask it of them. If only we humans could learn a lesson from them, to be a bit kinder and gentler with each other, we might have a much more positive outlook on what's happening in our horsey universe. In other words, shut up and ride!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Aiken Wrap up

I thought I would take some time after being home before writing a summary of my time in Aiken, in order to process everything I learned. First of all I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Boyd Martin for allowing me to come work and train at his facility. He was generous with his time and effort, making it a really great learning opportunity for the horses and I. Secondly, I need to thank the girls at Boyd's (Shannon, Lillian, & Sarah) with whom I had alot of fun and learned something from each one. Also, Bubba Forester was a real gem always willing to lend a helping hand (he owned Sandy Hills where the horses were boarded) and make fun conversation ( and let's not forget the yummy donuts that give Krispy Kreme a run for their money on Sunday mornings!) Lastly, my hosts Shari and "D" made me feel right at home in my little apartment, and set me up with all kinds of appliances so that I could make some good stuff to eat. They took great care of me, even allowing me to use their washer and dryer for laundry. You guys are great!

So on to what I learned. I think that this is a discussion to be had on several levels. First, there is of course, what i learned about my riding. There is nothing like immersing yourself in your craft for a long period of time without any distractions or stresses from "the real world." It showed me that I need to be more motivated and disciplined in my riding. I found that the fitter I got, the better I rode. I enjoyed taking care of the horses myself, and it was wonderful getting to know each one of the horses better. As far as techniques, this is where the "You just have to go do it" applies. The thing that really resonated with me was during a lesson Boyd said, "There is no secret recipe or exercise I can give you to figure this out. You just have to go do it and not be afraid to make some mistakes." As soon as I stopped worrying about the mistakes, I started riding better and better. Our confidence over bigger jumps increased, and culminated with a great cross country school the last day of the trip. As for the dressage horses, Silva helped me to be more specific, ride in a quiet slow manner, feeling where each leg of the horse is at all times. With Goodman she really figured him out quickly and got me to ride him slower and smaller to organize his body and give him confidence. She worked the half pass and changes and was able to show me how to "put the pressure on" without pushing him over the edge. She worked on my seat which helped me to ride Leggs more effectively and be strong in my core. I also was able to watch some of the Team training sessions with Capt Mark Phillips and Oded Shimoni, giving great insight into what they are looking for from the people at the top of the sport. I think I have come away with alot of great ideas, and a game plan for the next year to bump my riding up to the next level.

Being away from your family also allows you the time to redefine yourself and discover some things about yourself that you may have forgotten, or never knew in the first place. It reminded me of my strength and enthusiasm, as well as how we can let "life" get in the way of things that really matter. It is a great time to evaluate who you are as a person, remind yourself who you are without the labels of being a wife/mom/daughter/sister/co-worker...the list goes on and on. I hope I have come back a better wife and mom to my boys; I know I am much calmer in my heart.

Its great to be home, and I am excited and optimistic for the year ahead with all of our wonderful horses, students, and of course family.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trailer Woes, Elvis impersonators, & Angels

My last day in Aiken SC was filled with an interesting assortment of joy, drama, and strange coincidences.
It all began at about 6am when I tried to hook up the trailer to leave and none of the electrical seemed to be working. Of course, I had just used the trailer the day before and everything was working just fine. Typical. Chris Stachiw of Stretch Equine Transport (friend and commercial shipper that was taking the horses back) spent nearly 2 hrs trying to get the blinkers and brake lights working so we could get on the road. At about 8:30 we were finally loaded and ready to go. As we began to pull out the driveway, I noticed that the electric trailer brake was not functioning. I called Chris and we stopped, unloaded my trailer into his (we didn't want to have a full trailer with no brakes!) and decided to stop at the truck stop to see if we could get it working. With no luck at the truck stop (note to self: do not go into future truck stops) I called my Dad to see what he thought about driving home without a trailer brake. We agreed that driving through the mountains of West Virginia would not be very safe and he promptly began Googling for trailer repair places near Columbia SC. He found and called a place called Frank's Discount Tires, and the person he spoke to said they could guide me in if I called them. Amazingly it was the next exit down, and I arrived at Frank's no worse for the wear.

Frank's Discount Tire is a brand new shop (they have four locations) and decorated like your 1950's soda fountain joint. The register area is set up like a diner, complete with red leather stools around it. Prints and life size statues of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and the like adorn the walls, and the place abounds in neat antiques from the era, like the old fashioned barber chairs in the waiting room in which you can sit and watch the huge plasma screen TV.

Walking in, I explained that I was the girl whose Dad from Ohio had called, and that the electric brake box was not even lighting up. The man waiting on me was probably in his late twenties or early thirties, with a buzz cut and neatly dressed. Everyone was smiling and making light conversation with me asking me where I was coming from, where I was going to, what I did, etcetra. As I explained what had transpired through the morning, the man said, " Oh, I thought you had a brake problem. My guys here aren't trained to really deal with electrical problems like that, but the place down the road is, I'll give them a call." I literally leaned on the counter completely defeated, and said, "You must be kidding...." He began to reassure me that it was only a few miles away, but then interrupted himself, and said, " You know, just hold on a minute." He went in the back and reappeared a few moments later with a big grin, and said, "We can take care of this...let me get your information." Relieved, I gave him my name, address, and phone number. When he asked for the keys I realized that I had Rose in the truck, and explained that I needed to get my little dog out of the car. As I warily asked if I could bring her into the waiting area, explaining that she is just a little dog, can sit on my lap, he stopped me mid sentence, and said "of Course you can! Normally, we have a bulldog, hanging out in the office!" I was stunned. I couldn't believe that these people were so accommodating, friendly, and willing to let me bring my little dog into the lobby. I collected Rose, handed them the keys, and promptly seated myself, dog, purse and computer down in the waiting area.

If you have ever been to the south, you would know that everybody there treats you like you have been friends for a hundred years. Perfect strangers strike up engaging conversations, and this place was no different. I seated myself a few places away from a middle aged lady, who of course was enamoured with Rose. Soon after, another lady walked in and sat right next to me. She reminded me so much of my sister in law's mother... quite the gentile, southern belle. She was probably somewhere in her late fifties, with salon perfect curls that fell just above her shoulders, and a sweet way about her. I told her all about Rose and my exciting morning, and she related to it by telling me all about how she was dog sitting for her neighbor. We were having a lovely chat when the most unlikely thing happened, in walked an Elvis impersonator.

Elvis impersonators are always so interesting to me.... I once dated a guy whose Dad was in an Elvis impersontor's band, and all the people take this stuff very seriously. This guy was no different. He stayed in character the whole time as he made rounds talking with the employees, and customers. He was dressed all in black with shades, rings, and cologne. He came over and started talking to Rose (she was sitting on my lap), petting her on the head, and then he began to sing to her. He cupped her tiny head in his hands and she started licking his wrist as he sang to her, and she closed her eyes. She was in seventh heaven. It was so bizarre. I thought, " When I tell people this story, no one is ever going to believe that this happened." When he was done singing he took his shades off and asked if he could give her a kiss! He smooched Rose on the nose, and in his best Elvis drawl, told me, " Ma'am, you have a nice day." I was smiling so big with astonishment at the entire scene that by this point my cheeks were hurting and my eyes were watering. Incredulous, I looked at the sweet lady next to me, speechless, and she said, " They just have the nicest people here. You sure found the best place to be honey."

Several other people stopped to talk to Rose and I, and one nice man who raised Boston's and reminded me of my Dad offeredto buy me lunch at the place next door. I declined and a real southern gal (think Kathy Bates in a mumu) sat down and was talking a blue streak. Shortly thereafter the technician came out to say he was done, and explained that the auxiliary brake box either needed a new battery or had a short on the trailer, and kept shorting out all the electric. He left it disconnected and told me he had to replace a circuit breaker and some other thing. He showed me that all the lights were working as well as the regular trailer brake, and I was ready to get under way. I went back inside to pay, and the man that had been helping me was on the phone. The guy next to him said, " Ok...that's going to be $300." I smiled and started to hand him my credit card, and he said, " Oh no! I'm kidding! Jeremy will take care of you in a minute." He came around from behind the counter and started telling me how he liked Boston Terriers, that his bull dog was usually hanging out, and how it was too bad he wasn't here today to meet Rose. Clearly, Rose was a real celebrity. Jeremy finished up his call, and was ready to ring me out. I said, " I can't thank you guys enough. There is no place in Ohio where I would have been able to bring my dog in, and everyone here is so nice. How much do I owe you?" Jeremy leaned across the counter, arms folded, and said, " You don't owe me a thing." I said, " Oh no, seriously you can't do that! What about the guy out there," He interrupted me and said, "Don't you worry, I will take care of him. You are fine. You just get home safe." I started thanking him profusely, and he handed me his card and said, " If you ever need anything again, don't hesitate to give us a call." Without looking at the card I stuffed it in my purse, said thank you for probably the hundredth time, and walked out to the car.

I decided it would be smart to top off the gas tank before getting back on the highway so that I could just drive for awhile, as by now it was 12:30, and I still had a good 12 hr drive ahead of me. As I was filling the gas tank, I thought, "Boy, I don't even know that guy's name." When the other cashier had said that "Jeremy will help you in a minute," I hadn't clearly understood if he said Jeremy, or Jaime. I pulled the card out of my purse to see, and read, "Jeremy Angel." I read it again, hardly believing my eyes. "Jeremy ANGEL?" I sat down in the driver's seat and tears started to well up in my eyes. I was stunned. I immediately said, "Thank you God for taking care of me." After taking another minute to process what had transpired over the last few hours, I picked up the cell phone and called my Dad. When he answered I said, " Well, I am back on the road, and you are never going to believe the story I am about to tell you." As I told him the events of Frank's Discount Tires, he started laughing that laugh that only knowing fathers can do. When I was done and had told him Jeremy's name, he said through a teary voice, "God is good. God is so Goood!"

I wonder now if I went back to exit 58 in Lexington SC, if Frank's would still be there with a guy named Jeremy ANGEL at the cash wrap, or if I have been in a strange stream of consciousness like the movie, "Its a Wonderful Life!"
I would like to think that it really is there, and that Angels come into our lives when we least expect it.

Side note: I made it to the barn at 12:30 to check the horses, and home at 2am, thanking God for the most inspiring & amazing journey.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunny Days

Aiken is truly a lovely place to be as spring comes upon us. The sun is out almost everyday, and all the little birds, squirrels and other assorted creatures are bustling about. I saw a huge flock of wild turkeys, a fox, and some beautiful ducks with coloring like I have never seen.

The horses are loving it too, as evidenced by the photos of Leggs and Goodman basking in the sun. They have become fast friends as they share their fence line, and hang out together all day in one corner of the pasture, making Z very jealous. This was an unusual sight, to see both horses laying down in the middle of the day for a little nap.

As things begin to wind down, it is hard to reconcile going back to snow and cold. This week will bring one more cross country school and then we are homeward bound on Thursday. It is amazing how fast a month can just fly by. Where does the time go?

On a side note, thank you to all of our friends who have shown soooo much support and love in the last few days as we await word from my sister Mary who was in Chile during the earthquake. She is suppposedly safe, far south from the epicenter, but we cant wait to actualy hear her voice to know that she is alright. Best wishes to all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

7 days and counting!

Hard to believe that my trip is almost over! I feel like I am finally getting settled in, and now I have to get organized to leave. The horses have all come along quite nicely in the three weeks I have been here. Leggs' half pass is confirmed, as well as her change. I have been working alot on the the counter canter with her, as well as making the trot more dynamic. Goodman has grown by leaps and bounds. His counter canter has come a long way...he can hold it on a gently bending line as well as around the ring. I started playing with the 3s and 4 time changes which he loves, and the half pass is getting better, though he is still somewhat emotional about it. The weather here really suits him, and it make me want to stay until its nice back home! Zigzag has had the opportunity to go cross country schooling, and it brought out all the little holes that we need to fix in our jumping. He is progressing well, and hopefully this last week will finish on a good note with him.

Everyone here has been so fun to get to know, and I must say that one of my favorite past times is going to the Waffle House in the AM and getting breakfast to go. YUM!

Tomorrow I get to go watch Boyd have his team training sessions, and then have a jumping lesson with Z. Lets see how much I can cram into the next few days!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rose has a new BFF!

Rose has become a real celebrity around here in Aiken. Everywhere she goes people fawn all over her and want to steal her away. She is making friends faster than I am at this point. She not only has humans swooning over her, but has also amassed a large canine following as well. While she has many new pals, no one can compare to her new BFF "Chloe", a cute little dog owned by Shannon Kinsley, Boyd Martin's head groom/farm manager/ do it all girl. These two (Rose and Chloe) are inseparable...they go everywhere together, including trail rides & trying to drive the golf cart....envision Rose on the seat, paws on the wheel, and Chloe on the floor trying to do something-you would have thought Rose was telling her to step on the gas! WHat a sight! They even shared Rose's bed one day when we were at the barn late getting ready for a horseshow. Its not to say that they have their share of "lovers tiffs" but they are quite the pair.

Everything else is going well. The weather has finally started feeling like SC...65 and sunny! Yippee! The horses are being good and Goodman finally had to get body clipped. His hairy legs were starting to embarrass him! (and me. :) ) I have done two XC schools with Z and had some other great lessons on the other horses. I cant believe there is only one more week. I must admit it is going to be really hard to leave this beautiful farm and good weather to return to the snowy north.

This week should be very fun with Silva coming back for lessons (cross your fingers I get to ride Goodman with her) and training sessions for the team at a farm nearby that I will hopefully get to watch. Until next time....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pics of record snow in SC

Not a snowballs chance in h... err South Carolina

Well, the last couple days have surely been unlikely ones, with assorted adventures/misadventures!
Who would have thought that 6 days after arriving in sunny, warm, South Carolina, that there would be a snowstorm? Not just any snow storm, but one that dropped about 4 inches of heavy wet snow and shut down the city? For us Clevelander's this is really no big deal, but most people down here have never seen this much snow in their life. It was pretty neat to see all the snow men making appearances in the most unlikely places....Waffle House, Gas Station.... I have to say that it truly was a beautiful sight as it coated the long leaf evergreens, making the boughs heavy and hang over the roadways.

The next day there was so much snow, it rendered us unable to ride. Boyd took all us girls (Silva his wife, Shannon, Lillian, Sarah,& myself) to a "fancy" breakfast at the Waffle House. It was great fun and we all had lots of laughs. He also tried to take us bowling, but the alley was closed. I had the privilige of spending some time with Silva as her flight was delayed. We both had Valentine's Day shopping to do, so she and I went to the mall before I took her to the airport. We had fun checking out all the cheezy stuff, and found some great gifts. When we arrived at the airport, I opened the back of the SUV to let Silva get her suitcase, when like a bullet out of a gun, Rose shot out the back and went running into the airport terminal! I felt like "the man in the Yellow Hat" out of a Curious George book, chasing after her. I had my Wellies on (rubber rain boots) and as I made a grab for her, slipped on the marble floor (because of course my boots were wet from the snow) and fell completely down onto the ground. FINALLY, some nice people in one of the ticket lines grabbed her and I was able to scoop her up and carry her away. Silva and I were laughing pretty hard, and the security people were very good natured about the whole thing. I seriously could not get out of there fast enough.
Here are some pictures of our snow day...the snow was melted by the end of the following day, and today it was 50 and sunny again. All the horses are acting silly ( except for Goodman who is being a perfect angel) and making chore time very interesting. Otherwise, all is well, and looking forward to a great week of lessons!

Till next time,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I think I have a schedule....

The horses finally arrived on Sunday, thanks to the winter storm. They are so happy to be in the warm weather. They have all been enjoying extended turn out at the beautiful "Sandy Hills Farm" owned and operated by Bubba Forester. Bubba is the epitome of southern gent...always lending a hand to anyone in need. He is also a wealth of "Aiken" information and very good at giving directions to get you where you need to go fast.

I think I finally have a system nailed down to accomplish all the daily tasks and also work at Boyd Martin's. Its a bit grueling, but worth it to be in the midst learning and getting lessons from the best people around. My day starts at 5:15 with getting over to feed, clean, and ride our horses. Then its outside for them, and I am off to Boyd's. The neat thing about Boyd's is that everybody does everything from cleaning stalls, to riding. It is a very interesting system. I am generally there until 5 or 5:30, and then its back to the other barn to bring everyone in, feed and try to figure out what blankets to have them wear. I get back to my room between 7 & 8:30pm, just enough time to grab a bite to eat, take a shower, and go to bed.

I have to keep this one a bit short as its late, but check back for updates on my lesson from yesterday, and cross country schooling day tomorrow!

Friday, February 5, 2010


As a kid you always dream about going places like Wellington or Ocala Fla, or Aiken SC to train with the best the Equestrian world has to offer. It always seems like a pipe dream, and one never expects for it to happen in "real life". Thanks to many, many people, I am actually here and keep pinching myself. I cant thank my husband and son enough for allowing me to go and train for a whole month! They are amazing, as are all the family who is helping out...thanks guys! Of course, without my wonderful clients Angela and Marian I might not be here at all; thank you so much for sending your horses. And we cant forget those girls at White North...Liz, Tracy, and are the best for supporting me and picking up the extra load while I'm gone.

The horses have yet to arrive due to our friend mother nature and her beautiful winter snow storm, but I was able to unpack, organize, and even get a few groceries today, despite the rain. I drove around and started to figure out how to get places...its really great having a computer so that I can Google map and see the best way to get where I am going. Thanks Angela! :) The GPS is great at sending me the long way around the block! (Grrrr) The farm where the horses are staying is beautiful. It is called Sandy Hills Farm, and there is pasture everywhere! The stalls are huge 14x14 and have dutch doors and huge windows for the horses to hang their heads out. Its is set up like a shed row with awnings on both sides and a courtyard in the middle. The cross country course looks fun and should be a great for tuning the horses back up. There is an excellent bank complex, corner, water, skinny etc etc etc. I will get pics soon.

I have also been privileged to stay with Shari Dale and her boyfriend "D" in a lovely one room apartment with one of the biggest bathrooms I have ever seen. Their farm is located at the end of a development, and is in the beautiful European style. It is kept immaculately clean (who would have thought I could ever walk down a barn aisle in slippers!) and Rose is getting along great with their dogs Ruby and Luna. Speaking of Rose...she has been a great travel partner and is loving her new digs. I am enjoying the quietude, and cant wait to start at Boyd's tomorrow. I will hopefully be doing some riding for him as well as watching the training sessions with our "A" list Team riders.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Aiken Or Bust!

IN the words of my pal Laura, its "Aiken or Bust" everybody! I have been given an exciting opportunity to work and train for Boyd Martin in Aiken SC for the month of February. I am very fortunate (and thankful!) that he is considering taking on this "oldster" for a few weeks! I have an excellent support system at the farm that is covering for me while I am gone (thanks Laura, Liz and Tracy!) and more importantly at boys, Ivor and Jake are amazing and I cant thank them enough for all the hard work they are going to do so that I can go to SC for such an extended period of time. To all the family members who are helping them, Moms, Dads, Sisters and friends THANK YOU!!!!
A big thank you also goes to Angela Hambrick, and Marian Shaughnessy who are sending their lovely and talented horses with me, making it possible for me to go and take Z for training as well. Also, a big hug goes to Kathy Goss for providing a trailer while we are there to move the horses around. I am truly blessed to have so many generous clients to support my endeavors and invest in my ability and future as a professional. I could never express my gratitude fully to show how appreciative and touched I am by their constant generosity.
There is so much to do....packing, making lists, checking supplies...packing.....the countdown is on!