Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Buenos Noches SOLD!

Buenos Noches, better known as "Goodman", owned by Angela Hambrick has been sold to Michelle Moeller of Wisconsin!  We have had the most amazing journey with this horse, and I have learned so much from him and all the opportunities that have come my way from riding such a special guy.
Six years ago I would never have thought that we would be competing at Devon or starting his FEI career in the Prix St George, but this is the little horse that could.  Everytime we thought maybe "this was it" he proved us wrong and stepped up his game.   Goodman is a giver.  He tries and tries and was a joy to ride, even during his big "ta-da" moments.  His sweet character and funny personality will be greatly missed, and it will be a hard thing to go to the show without my stalwart friend.   He has been everywhere with us from Florida to Aiken to Traverse City, and we will have many fun memories to cherish.  I want to thank Angela for her constant support and belief in this horse, and trusting me with his care and training.  It has been an immeasurable gift that I will hold close to my heart always.
We wish Michelle and her trainer Megan much success and many more magical moments with Goodman.  We will surely miss him!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Eventing in Amish Country!

This weekend took us to the South Farm Horse Trial, where they were celebrating 19 years of hosting USEA rated events!  I must say that Chris Gable and Sarah Greer had the farm looking more beautiful than ever!  New split rail fence lined the field near the road, the stadium jumps were all freshly painted (my favorite was the yellow and blue striped one- I also need to find out the secret to their perfectly painted poles!) and many new cross country fences adorned the beautifully decorated and laid out course.  The organization of this event was flawless with close to 200 starters, right down to the efforts to keep the warm ups and footing safe for all the competitors.  The last two events here they have moved the stadium course to their newly improved ENORMOUS sand arena instead of jumping off the grass, and after such wet weather it was WONDERFUL to not be worried about the footing...what a difference!

Dressage was uneventful, with Captain and I scoring a 35.9 in Training A  to put us in 8th in a large and very competitive division that included some serious campaigners with upper level horses making comebacks (Catana Deskins and SkyWalker, Victoria Frey and After Midnight, Helen Rutter and Push the Light), as well as a few upper level riders with younger horses coming up the ranks like Kyle Smith, Marina Bortmas, Kara Andrew and Kelly Sult.  My student Jessica Hart and her awesome mare Zophie put in a great test to start them out on top of the leaderboard in the Training B division with a 33 at her first crack moving up to this level!  This was also a very competitive division of 14 starters consisting of Adult Amateurs and professionals. 
Cross country proved to ensure this was not a dressage competition, as the course had some excellent technical questions that required positive forward riding over the nicely flowing course.  Captain started well, settling into a fairly good rhythm and jumped the first four fences nicely out  of a steady gallop.  Approaching 5ab an offset rolltop to a skinny on two or three strides depending on how you rode the line, I had him compact and on a good direct line for two strides.  He jumped in beautifully, took a stride, and then uncharacteristically darted out to the left before the skinny.  I didn't have a prayer of saving it so we circled around and jumped the whole element again without a problem. What I was even more surprised to find out was how much it shook him up, as it took me until about fence 11 to get him settled and a bit more confident.  He did well through the coffin and through the back of the course until the new picnic table, which caused problems for more than a few riders and horses at the top of the hill on the stretch toward home, and thankfully his athleticism got us out of a bit of trouble, but rattled his confidence again.  I took the option to circle again before the corner to calm him down, and again before and after the water, to give him time and opportunity to feel positive as these were the last four jumps on course.  Afterwards,  I think it felt surreal as I was a bit shocked at how much he got shook up due to the fact that he is usually a very keen, brave, forward cross country horse, and was questioning myself as to if I did the right thing.  We racked up quite a few time penalties with the stop and added circles, but looking back, I feel good about trusting my instincts as this is a sensitive young horse, and making it a training opportunity seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately Jessica faired much better, and all her hard work paid off with no jump penalties and only 3 time penalties to make for a stellar first round at Training.
Sunday brought Stadium, and our horses jumped out of their fur, putting in two beautiful rounds, and giving Jessica the win at her first Training level event with Zophie!  She reminded me that she won her very first BN, her first N and now her first Training!  What an amazing accomplishment!  Jessica is a very dedicated student and has put a lot of time, training, sweat, and done ALOT of homework, to attain these results, and she really deserves it!  This is a fantastic partnership, and I can't wait to see what these two do the rest of the season!  Captain was outstanding, and I will post some pictures as soon as I can. 
All in all we had a great event, and it looks like its time for me to go cross country schooling!  Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again to Sarah, Chris, and all the volunteers for all their hard work and making South Farm our favorite event of the year!
Ta Ta for now!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The best job in the world...


Fourteen years ago, I could never have imagined how quickly the tiny newborn I held in my arms would become the most fascinating young man I have ever known.  I very clearly remember that day and evening prior where I spent the entire Saturday walking at the mall because I was two days overdue and felt huge.  That night when I went for a walk with my husband and we saw a doe and fawn on our evening sojourn we knew it was a sign of things to come, and come they did.  By eight o clock that night my contractions had started and around 11 pm we headed to the hospital as they were very close together.  We hung out for a little while to be monitored, and I'll never forget my husband reciting the entire Ghostbusters script as we walked around the Atrium of the hospital, talking me through my contractions. Ultimately we went home where I tried fruitlessly to sleep.  By 11:30 am we were back on our way to the hospital and Jake was born at 2:10pm on a Sunday...fittingly it was Father's Day that year. 
As each day goes by he changes so rapidly that its hard to see it happen, and I constantly feel like I am missing "it".  There are so many memories of him being a little kid up till now, but a favorite one of mine is Easter mornings.  When Jake was very little (3 or so) he LOVED finding the eggs the Easter Bunny would hide. It wasn't so much finding the eggs, as it was shaking them once he found them.  He would find a couple, and then shake them like maracas, not even opening them to see the M&Ms inside.  He just liked to hear the sound.  I recall him sitting in a rocker all by himself at my parents house, just shaking those eggs and BEAMING from ear to ear.  I have a picture of it on one of our end tables in the living room...Jake in his pjs, shaking those eggs and just grinning. 
Now that he is older, I just love listening to him talk; hearing his thought processes, sense of humor, and all the great little quips he comes up with like magic.  He is an amazingly kind young man, and I can't believe that this is the same little baby we brought home.  Time really does fly.  Jakob, you have brought so much joy, love, and laughter into our hearts. We love you dearly, and although I wish I could keep you forever, I look forward to seeing you grow for many years to come...just try not to do it too quickly. You gave ME the best present on your first birth day, the job of being your Mom. 
Happy Birthday to you, the greatest joy and gift of my life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dressage at Grand Haven

We spent the weekend at Grand Haven Stable in Jefferson, OH competing three of our dressage horses.  It was a touchy start as we had to scratch three before the show even started (we were originally taking 6) for various reasons, and Mary had some car trouble, but we made it and buckled down for some early mornings.

As Goodman's rides were all in the 8 o'clock hour, we enjoyed three beautiful sunrises hacking him before sunup so that he would be relaxed and loose for his classes.  It was all worth it when he scored a 67 the second day placing third, and a 67 and change on the last day winning the class in the FEI Prix St. George!  We were so excited because this little horse just continues to surprise and amaze us!  We have a lot to work on still and the test had several mistakes (we did a lead change into the halt when I tried to get straighter!) and mistakes in the threes, but he got "7's" on his canter pirouettes! The collection and engagement for that movement is very hard and nerve wracking for him, and he kept his cool and allowed me to ride one step at a time.  I took a picture of him in his stall sleeping the day before, and it looked like he was dreaming about the pirouettes. 
His owner Angela Hambrick was very excited to see him being competitive at this level.  She had fun reminiscing with me about when she first bought him as a hunter and he had been ridden in draw reins so much that you couldn't see his neck...she joked that it was like riding the headless horse!  We can definitely see Goodman's head now, and I am so thrilled to be a part of the journey of this horse with her.  The best part of my job is seeing an owner truly enjoy their horse's progression through the highs and lows of getting to the upper levels, and revel in their horse's accomplishments and new found confidence.
Speaking of enjoying new found confidence, Angela herself competed her own In a New York Minute this weekend at Training Level. She came in second the first day and then won her last two classes at Training level, one with a 73.57!  It's fun to have her on a horse competing and not just watching.  York is also a repurposed hunter, who at nearly 18h, is quite a presence in the ring!  She got her qualifiers for regionals, so it looks like we will be making a trip to Chicago with at least two horses!
I also had the opportunity to compete a mare named Panglossian for her owner Sanae Tanebe at 2nd and 3rd level this weekend.  "Leggs" has been with us for nearly five years, teaching her owners the finer points of dressage, and recently Sanae had made the difficult decision to sell her.  We thought it would be a good idea to get a few scores at a bit higher level than Training, and Leggs did not disappoint us!  At Second Level she came in second with a 64% and fourth on a 62%, and then won the Third level test 1 on a 66%!  She has not competed at this level for probably four years, and it was a joy to see her get better and better over the course of the weekend.  This little girl LOVES to horseshow, and really turns it on when she goes in the ring.  Sanae and her daughter Utako had never seen her compete at this level, so I think it was fun for them to see what their little horse could do!  Check out her winning ride below!  She is a 12 year old Rhinelander mare, that is truly a diamond in the rough, and some lucky person will be very successful competing her in the future!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fear Factor

Recently some of my clients and I have been discussing the "Fear Factor" that some of them have in their riding.  I find that adult amateurs have a way of putting ALOT of pressure on themselves to succeed or perform better than their current ability or that they believe their ability is less than what their actual performance indicates.  Enter Fear.  For some its Fear of Failure at a horse show or perhaps it is Fear of Spooking, Fear of getting the wrong canter lead, the list goes on and on.  As a coach I try to be the best mentor, cheerleader, and sometimes psychologist I can, but ultimately it is up to each rider to make the choice to overcome their fears or not.  Check out this outstanding article on how to overcome "problems" and emotions that hang over like a dark cloud paralyzing our progress, and then MAKE the CHOICE!

Originally published on USEA tip of the month
By, Daniel Stewart
"This is a wonderful question. Our horses mean the world to us so we need to make sure that the time we spend with them is as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. Regardless of whether you're competitive or recreational, this should be one of your most important goals because you can really only achieve true greatness doing things you love and enjoy. Sadly, if you're not enjoying yourself you'll probably struggle riding to your true potential.  
To create this kind of enjoyment it often helps to know the various mindsets that lead to it. If you know them - and can adopt them - the positive emotions you create (e.g. self-belief, confidence, enjoyment) will chase the black clouds away.
  • Abundance vs Scarcity Mindset- Instead of telling yourself what you don't have, or what you're not good at (what's scarce), tell yourself what you do have and what you are good at (what you have in abundance). Rather than always trying to get what you'd love, remind yourself to also love what you've already got.
  • Solution vs Problem Mindset- Instead of focusing on problems, teach yourself to find their solutions. It's true that problems can create black clouds, but finding their solutions is a sure way to clear them away. Teach yourself to see problems as learning opportunities (not missed opportunities) by focusing on the solutions rather than the problems.
  • Present vs Past/Future Mindsets- Instead of allowing your mind to focus on negative past experiences or the pressure of future outcomes (e.g. standings or placings) keep your mind locked in the present. One way to do this is to set performance show goals like "balance my corners and landings." If you focus on doing these things while showing you'll increase the chance of succeeding in the present rather than worrying about whether it'll happen in the future.
  • Belief vs Fear Driven Mindsets- Instead of focusing on what you're afraid of (e.g. losing, forgetting your test, pulling a rail), teach yourself to focus on what you believe you can make happen. Rather than being afraid of the kinds of things that might happen, become the kind of rider who goes out there and makes things happen!
Riding - like life - is all about making choices. When given the choice to choose who you'll become as a rider, always choose to focus on the great things you can do in the present, the many skills you have in abundancesolutions rather than their problems and the belief that you can make great things happen rather than simply being afraid of the kinds of things that might happen.
In the end, the love of the horse and of our sport, and the enjoyment we feel while riding comes down to always remembering that: 
Emotions Shouldn't Get The Best Of You...
They Should Get The Best Out Of You!"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

KDA Wrap up

Back in Cleveland, we have returned to humid rainy weather, after a fun weekend playing with a couple dressage horses in Kentucky.  The show finished on a great note with Angela scoring a 68.8%,  winning 3 of her five classes, and qualifying for Regionals!  She rode amazingly all weekend, and York was up to the task of showing off his big gaits.  Goodman, also owned by Angela, blew away our expectations (honestly we weren't sure what to expect!) and placed in the top 5 every day in the FEI Prix St. George.  I could not have been more proud of him! We still have ALOT to work on, but to be in the mid sixties everyday was more than I could have hoped for with this guy.  I think that we are slowly turning some big corners, and with a bit more collection we will be in the high sixties. Goodman is sometimes tight through his back, so I tried the Cavalor FreeBute Pro the second two days of the competition, instead of the typical therapy that we give him.  He was much looser in his topline, and felt generally more comfortable with less warm up time needed.  I was pretty impressed with how well this product worked, and I will be sure to use it again.   It has been such a joy working with this horse and bringing him up the levels; I just love seeing him having fun and being successful, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to ride him!  On Saturday night and Sunday morning we took some time to watch the CDI Freestyles, where we witnessed Anna Marek (Tsjesse's previous rider) WIN the Grand Prix freestyle with a 70%, and saw Silva ride a beautiful (and fun) freestyle with Rosa Cha to Alicia Keys Girl on Fire. 

We did some shopping in the wonderful trade fair, and bought some new jumps for Angela's new stable, River Edge Farm.  This is an exciting adventure as the property is adjacent to White North, and will boast two Attwood Equestrian Surfaces for her riding pleasure.  It is going to be such a gift to have an amazing arena with mirrors for dressage and good footing for the horses to jump on!  I can hardly wait! I also got to welcome back my little Sister Mary, and her family to the show scene! Its  so good to have our supergroom back, and she did a great job keeping us all at the ready.  Its special to have Mary back with us for the summer...I MISSED HER!  Probably my clients did too, because it takes a sister to keep the other one in line!

On Monday I was invited to judge the combined test at the Bath Pony Club, and had a blast!  This is the second show I've judged, and I really enjoy it.  Maybe this can be a second career??? I tried to give each rider positive feedback and offer a helpful tip that could help boost their scores in the future while giving them a good experience.  Personally I have been on the receiving end of some tough comments from judges, and I always appreciate when the official has some positive constructive suggestions to help improve myself and my horse.   This weekend we go back to South Farm for the Combined Test, and then Grand Haven the following week for a dressage show.  Hang onto your hats, June is going to fly by!

Friday, May 24, 2013

KDA part 1

Today was the second day at KDA in Lexington KY, and our horses were amazing today. Angela rode a brilliant test with York to garner a 68.8 at Training level test 3, and I could not have been more excited for her! She was tactful while really being brave and riding bigger gaits and a more uphill horse.
Goodman was absolutely outstanding getting a 64.3 in the Rolex arena today in the FEI Prix St George, coming in 3rd out of 12!!!! We all got a little emotional about this because it has been quite a journey for Angela (and me) with this horse. We had one bobble in the changes but otherwise rode a fairly clean test. He was less than a point from the leader, and I know I can ride a better test, so cross your fingers for tomorrow. It's going to be very fun!!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Epic" weekend with Boyd Martin

This weekend we had not only amazing weather here in Cleveland, but we also had Boyd Martin one of the top Event trainers and riders in the country grace our town for two days.  Boyd is on the injured reserve list as he rehabs his ankle, and he graciously came in short notice to teach us all a thing or two about jumping, and a lot about what it means to be good horsemen and women.

Friday night the crew from White North and South Farm were treated to an Indians game with Boyd courtesy of Jessica Hart and Matt Dolan.  They made our evening very special by generously giving us each a ticket to sit in their season seats which are right in the front row behind the dugout on the third base line.  Jessica and Matt also gave Boyd a grand tour of the field, and made sure he had an amazing experience at a classic American Baseball game, with Matt giving him the play by play and strategy commentary while discussing the differences between cricket and baseball.  The Indians put on an outstanding show coming away with a win against the Mariners in an exciting home run finish in the last inning, and topped it off with a stellar fireworks show set to Beatles music to kick off the summer season. 

Saturday, we got down to business with  Jessica and I each taking a private dressage lesson.  The lesson I had was hugely beneficial, as Captain is difficult to ride on the flat, and we worked ALOT on his lateral suppleness especially on the right side.  Boyd helped me find better "gears" in both the trot and canter, and reminded me to use transitions ("5000 times") to make my horse "great".
 I was extremely pleased with how rideable Captain was, and we have lots of good homework.  As a side note, one of my clients had asked me why I, an upper level dressage rider, was taking a flat lesson.  My response in a nutshell...there is ALWAYS more to learn, and the moment you think you know everything is the moment that you never really got it in the first place.

As we transitioned into the jumping portion of the clinic, it was apparent that Boyd wanted to drive home some specific points.  He prefaced each group with a chat about why you come to a clinic and what you hope to achieve and take away.  He also stressed that WATCHING the OTHER riders and deciding what you could add or not may be very beneficial.  Here is a basic diagram of the course:

We started out jumping the vertical in the diagonal treble away and figure eighting back to the oxer in the middle and halting in a straight line to get the horses jumping.  We then progressed to the grid of oxers, which had a balancing pole 3yds before each jump to help the horses make a better shape and work on our positions.  We proceeded to work through the course addressing proper rhythm, and the five phases of the jump as it pertained to each rider.  For me, the landing and departure phases were what was stressed, and that I stay in my two point just a bit longer on landing, as well as riding MUCH straighter away from every fence.  We had a wonderful BBQ at White North afterwards organized by Jami and her husband Rick that was a great opportunity to socialize and recap the day.

Sunday took us to South Farm, where Boyd and Chris Gable devised a fantastic course that was very different from anything we have done there before.  Chris moved over a dozen portables, and utilizing the field behind the dressage rings they set a variety of questions for all levels.  They made some interesting exercises at the bank and water complexes that tested horse and rider commitment and ability to maintain a line.  For the seasoned group he stressed adjustability to the coffin and riding a VERY accurate close distance to the "A" portion of the combination.  I have to say that on a personal level, I found out just how special a horse I have, and I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Courtney Cooper for finding this horse for me in Ireland.  He makes everything feel easy and fun, and handles everything in style.  I had a great time watching all my friends and clients jump around, and have to give a shout out to Sarah Greer and Sara Welsh who dusted off the old XC vest and looked amazing on their new horses after a several year hiatus!

Looking back, I think this was one of our best clinics ever, and I appreciate everyone's hard work for making this such a successful event.  I had the fortunate circumstance to develop a solid competition plan for Captain with Boyd, as well as a stricter conditioning program.  We will compete at Training until Richland, and then hopefully (fingers crossed) move him to Preliminary by the end of the year.  I feel very blessed to have this horse to ride and am so grateful for the people that continue to sponsor and believe in me to ride him.  Thank you Boyd for taking the time to come out and coach all of was invaluable!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Boyd Martin Clinic this weekend!

XC from 2012
We are welcoming Boyd back for a clinic this weekend May 18-19th for our 5th year in a row!  Its hard to believe that he has been coming to our community for 5 years! We are truly blessed to have such an accomplished rider and superior clinician continue to come to Ohio, and we can't thank Boyd enough for the opportunity and sharing his time and expertise with us! 
 Below you will find the schedule.  Auditors are welcome Saturday at White North Stable, 3160 Chagrin River Rd, Chagrin Falls Ohio, and Sunday at South Farm on Bundysburg Rd, Middlefield Ohio.  Thank you to Cavalor Feed for supplying our goody bags for the participants!
 Hope to see you all there!

Boyd Martin Clinic Ride Times

Monday, May 13, 2013

Winona Horse Trial

We had a fun weekend Eventing (finally!) at Stonegate Farm in Hanoverton Ohio.  It rained just enough on Friday and a little on Saturday to make the footing very good, and although there was a little *snow* on Sunday as I tacked up for cross country, it was perfect weather for eventing.  Cool, breezy, and mostly sunny.  This was Captain's first time out since last year before his vaccination episode, and I was very excited to get him back out competing. 

Dressage was interesting, with very tough judging and some interesting comments all around.  Captain garnered a 37.8 putting us in a three way tie for second, while Jessica and Zophie earned a 41.3 putting them in fourth in their AA Novice division.  The stadium course was nicely flowing and good forward riding allowed us to get around within the time and leaving all the rails in the cups.  Sunday was cross country, and with a mix of sun, hail, and a little snow, it was VERY blustery and made for some completely wild pretty fresh horses. Zophie and Jessica had a good run around, and came in within the time to finish up Third in her division, after a little drama when they misrecorded her time on course as 9.05 minutes and gave her 88 time penalties!  It was pretty funny, but they had it sorted out in no time.
 Captain just could not hold it together and walk down the hill to the warm up so I had to hop off and hand walk him to the lower drive.  I was laughing the whole way because he was REALLY UP!  In the warm up he was spooking and snorting and while he warmed up well over the fences, he was struggling to keep a lid on.  I have to say its actually fun for me to have a tough horse like this because, I really needed a challenge to up my riding level, and he is like a hot little Ferrari when he gets amped up.  I can't imagine what he would have been like if I had not switched him to the Cavalor Pianissimo!  Anyways, off we went and by the second jump he was locked in hunting down all the jumps, and never looked at a thing.  Captain is very bold and probably the best cross country horse I have ever sat on. He just loves it and it is such a cool feeling when he locks onto the fence from so many strides out. Its funny because obviously people breed horses specifically for dressage or showjumping or whatever discipline, but for some reason it never occurred to me that you could do the same for making a good cross country horse.  I can tell you the Irish have this one down, and as a rider it sure is FUN to sit on one!  After the nonsense in the warm up, I just wanted to let him cruise around at a speed comfortable for him, so I didn't concern myself with riding to Optimum Time for the tie break, and just focused on a consistent positive rhythm throughout the course.  We finished well within the time, and he barely broke a sweat.  We ended up second due to the leader of our division having a time penalty, and being second closest to OT, so not bad for our first event out!  It really would not have been possible without our team of amazing vets, acupuncturists, trainers, sponsors, clients and friends who have all helped or given support (especially a hug when I really needed it!)in some way to get this horse back to normal. 
Aside from having a blast riding Captain, I GREATLY enjoyed watching two ladies compete horses that I helped them find to excellent placings this weekend.  The first being Jessica of course, but the second was Myra Chudakoff Buczek and Mikey...she has worked her tail off to train this green little guy, and mostly on her own.  It was wonderful to see how the partnership has developed over the last few months, and she finished fourth in a VERY competitive starter division that consisted mostly of pros who have ridden at Training or above on their talented up and comers.  What an accomplishment!   Myra and Ted have been big supporters of mine, and it was awesome to see her having fun and being successful. 
This week we have Boyd Martin coming in for a clinic, so I will keep you updated on everything as we go! Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I had the occasion earlier this spring while sitting in a hotel in West Virginia to reflect on what I need to work on to be a better rider. It was a long list starting with, 1. consume fewer donuts,(Dunkin Donuts how do I love thee let me count the ways) but also allowed me to identify showjumping as a phase in which i would like to become much better. I was able to take ALOT of jump lessons in Aiken and made the commitment to myself that once I was home I would MAKE TIME to continue this endeavor as well as go to a couple jumper shows to check our progress.

Progress as measured at the two schooling shows I've done has been good, and I felt like it was time to sharpen up with some fresh eyes on the ground. Today took me to Jeff and Holly Taylor's beautiful Blue Ridge farm for a jump school. Jeff has helped me in the past with a few horses and I knew he would impart some great advice. We worked over one fence doing walk canter transitions, 10 meter circles, and a figure eight exercise that all drove home Captain carrying himself, and me being more quiet, light in the rein, and pATIENT! I am still getting used to how well Captain jumps and how soft and slow he can come into the jump... I have to do a lot less! It was a great lesson, and fun to see Jamie, Holly, and Jeff on their home turf.

I really do love taking lessons, and there are so many pearls to add to the necklace of learning. For me, one of the most important things I can do for myself and for my students is advancing my knowledge base, and constantly seek out fresh perspectives. So be the little grasshopper. Go take lessons!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Goodbye Rolex!

Who knew Tsjesse was such a good blogger? He kept us, and alot of other people, entertained this weekend, and really hammed it up every time he was out.  If we weren't sure before, we are certain now that this sweet guy LOVES to show off.  The last exhibition was right at the lunch break on XC Saturday, and by the time we all went back in the arena for the "victory lap" the ring was lined all the way around with people.  Thankfully, Tsjesse had gotton over playing with the carraige in the ring, and had some great lengthenings, lead changes, and really got into it!  It was wonderful to show the versatility of these spectacular horses with Barb Renico and Lena, the Steenbeeks and Stone Creek Friesians, and Stacy Posthumus and Alert.  We had TONS of fun chatting with the crowd, taking pictures, and being ambassadors for the breed.  I think my favorite moment was when a young girl in a wheel chair asked if she could pet Tsjesse.  Her mom helped her up, and he bent down and stood very still so she could pet his nose and take a picture.  It was really neat.  There were lots of fun conversations, making new friends, catching up with old ones; we met SO MANY people!  I cannot thank the Shaughnessys enough for the wonderful opportunity to ride this special horse, and for supporting our trip to this event.
 It is a real gift to ride this amazing horse, and be able to share his talents.

Speaking of talent.... 

There are so many things I took away from watching all the outstanding riding this weekend by the most talented, gifted riders and horses in the sport of eventing.  From watching Erin Sylvester masterfully try to ease her horse (who was melting down) through the dressage, to watching Andrew Nicholson ride cross country like it was a Sunday hack, I was awestruck.  Having never been to Rolex before, it was so amazing to stand next to the jumps and watch these amazing athletes jump right out of stride and tackle some serious questions.  I think my favorite was the double brush and the coffin...watching the look in the horse's face as they read the question was so cool.  On Sunday we got VERY lucky and stood up against the exit gate under the scoreboard in the Rolex Arena, smack dab in front of fence one.  We couldn't have been any closer unless we were in the ring!  I was most impressed with the quality of Buck Davidson's horses...they all looked amazing, and I felt so bad for him to have rails at the end of what was looking like a masterful round on Ballynoe Castle. My friend Mary and I also took an opportunity to stand at the warm-up and watch a few riders prepare to go to the ring; I found this to be VERY interesting, and also enjoyed hearing commentary from several riders' entourages as they warmed up.  We left a bit early so that we could get Tsjesse on the trailer, and beat the throng of spectators out of the park to get home, luckily dodging the deluge of rain for the most part. 

After seeing all the sights, sounds, and unbelievable riding, Rolex has made me resolve to ride better, be more determined, and seek out the BEST training possible.  I hope that someday I will be blogging about not only having ridden a Friesian at Rolex, but with a little Irish luck, and alignment of stars, starting a special Irish Sport horse too.
 We have goals.  We have to have dreams.  We have ALOT of work to do.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Xc day!

Today is my last performance and the biggest day for the four star horses. Cross country day is HUGE because the horses will be galloping full tilt for 11 and a half minutes and jump 28 obstacles some with combinations of fences. Therese and Mary are so excited that they got here early and left to go watch. I hope they get back in time to get me ready for my ride at 1145! I will update you throughout the day as to how it all shakes out!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friesians can gallop!

Dear Captain,
As promised, I was able to watch a bit more today and have much to tell you! Some of the four star horses did their dressage test today, and I can't believe that they have to gallop and jump cross country and then do stadium jumping too. Captain, good luck buddy because I get tired just doing a dressage test!
There are tents flags and people everywhere- it's very exciting! Therese took me for a lot of walks and I even got to ride in the performance arena before our musical ride. It was fun because lots of people came to watch me practice. Our ride was at 1 and I was lucky enough to be the first one in. As soon as my music started I got very excited and wanted to do lots of flying lead changes. I had a lot of fun dancing around and everyone was cheering and taking lots of pictures! I wish my Mom, Marian had seen me because she would have been very proud of me! At the end all of my new Friesian friends and I went in together and did a victory lap to a traditional Dutch song. My friends that do the four in hand carriage driving were right behind me, and I did not want them to catch up so I told Therese to hold on because I wanted to gallop! I know how much she likes to gallop and jump so I decided to run AS FAST AS I COULD and jump over the cones that were set up in the arena. Therese did not seem to think this was a could idea even though she was laughing because she kept trying to make me go in a circle. When it was all over, I got to stand and take many pictures and meet a lot of people.
This morning Therese and her friend Mary got to the barn very early and I got to go for a long walk. They told me they were going to go watch the four star horses do dressage and I kept telling them I wanted to go to, but they said I would have to wait my turn and go at 3 o'clock. It's very hard for me to be patient! I will post more later....
Ta ta for now,

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dear Clover Joe

Dear Captain-
Greetings from the Kentucky Horse Park! Your Mom told me that I have to take good notes about all the goings on here because she wants me to give you advice for when you come in five years.
First of all, I think your Mom drove too fast because we made it in under 6 hours, but she is a very good driver, so my trip was very smooth. Unfortunately I had to wait on the trailer for some time in front of our stalls because they were late delivering my fluffy bedding. I tried to tell her I wanted out by stomping my foot, but she just told me to stop and made me wait for the shavings. It seems like there are less horses here than when we usually come. Some of them must be very important because their stalls are sectioned off by tall metal fencing, and you have to have a special pass to see them. I got to be one of those important horses in the fence when I went to Dressage at Devon and maybe someday you will be too. However, I am very excited to say that there are four other Friesians in my row! I haven't seen this many Friesians in one place since I lived in Holland! There are lots of people bustling around and they all look very serious and important. I got to go out and graze for awhile-the grass here is much higher than at home and much more lush! I tried to see the important horses from afar between mouthfuls, but there was only one gray one out. Your Mom had to go talk to the people from Cavalor about your new grain, and they gave her lots of cool stuff that I get to wear this weekend. They even gave her a banner just like the one she has for County. I am going to talk to my Mom about getting some Cavalor for me too because it smells amazing!
Tomorrow we are going to go check out the ring in the morning, and then our ride is at 1pm. I can't wait to show everyone how much I like dancing to our music! I will try and watch more of what's going in with the important horses and report back.
Your Friend,
Tsjesse fan it Beielan

Monday, April 15, 2013

You win some, you lose some, and sometimes you just need smelling salts!

Yesterday we went to the Chagrin Valley Farm Schooling dressage show for some practice with the alphabet in the white rectangle.  I was very excited because four of the five horses were horses that I purchased with the owners, and it was either the combinations first dressage show or the first show back after a long break.  The only thing I was a little nervous about was hauling four horses with the truck for the first time since it broke down, and getting up the hill out of the valley.  "Big Momma"  was a champ and she hauled like a dream; especially since on the way to the barn I drove her like a bat out of hell trying to "tune up" the tranny!   Cindy and Bill brought Promise in their own rig for the first time too, and safely there, we started preparing all the horses.

Cindy and Promise
I had Promise up first as I was riding him in a test before Cindy.  Cindy and I found Promise last year while we were in Aiken at Silva Martin's farm.  He is a home bred Thoroughbred that was owned by Nina Fout, who competed him in the eventing world up to the two star level. She had hoped him to be her next Olympic star as he is the brother to her famous partner Three Magic Beans, but decided to send him to the dressage world as he has very special talent for dressage.  This was Cindy and Promise's first competition, and they didn't disappoint!  Cindy rode him to a 60 and 63% , and we were all very excited!!! I personally can't wait to take these two to a rated dressage show!

Margot and Toro
Margot Luria and her lovely Welsh Cob TB cross "Toro" were next, competing in the dressage arena for the first time. Margot was previously a hunter pony rider, and she and her Mom thought they would like to take a stab at some eventing this year. We searched high and low for a suitable mount for Margot, and came home with Toro aka "Hastening Patriot" a talented little guy we bought out of Virginia.  After working out a few kinks in the first test, Margot rode Toro to a 38.5 in Beginner Novice test B!  I was so proud of her; did I mention she is only 11 years old?! If this is our starting point, then these two are going to be very competitive out eventing this year! 

I took the schooling opportunity to take Captain out for a spin, and we did the eventing test Training A...he was a bit spunky in the warm up, but the test rode very well.  This is a bit of a stretch for him still because I am just starting to get him loose over his back and swinging, so the trot lengthenings are still a work in progress.  He enjoyed the canter lengthening though, and was a good boy coming back to me in the working canter.  I am still figuring out his "formula"... how much warm up...what kind of warm up... so this was a great way to try and work some of that out.  I have no idea what our score was, but I was VERY happy with how he performed and handled the scary window in the indoor.

Our next combos were Sanae and her beautiful mare Leggs, and Stephanie and sweet Miss Killian.  I hopped off Captain and started warming the ladies up.  Leggs was her usual horse show self, showing off her fancy gaits and being much easier to ride than at home! Killian was also working well for Stephanie, and we took a break to discuss how we would go in the ring as they were riding two tests each back to back.  Sanae and I proceeded to the ring and she had a good trot around past the judges stand and went down the center line.  In her excitement, Sanae forgot to salute, and cruised right past "X" turning left at "C" and then the unthinkable happened.  Something startled Leggs, and she bolted out of the corner between C and H.  Sanae did her best to stay on, but unfortunately fell and smacked her head pretty hard on landing.  For those of you that know Sanae, she is probably the sweetest lady I have ever met, and really tries hard everyday to be a better rider.  She has had much success with Leggs, with the high point being Training Level Reserve Champion at last year's Prix de Ville at Lake Erie College.  Stunned, I quickly realized that Sanae had been knocked out and we called for the ambulance.  She woke up before the medics got there, but we took the ambulance ride and spent some time in the ER getting her checked out.  She kept telling me she was so sorry,(obviously this was NOT her fault) and I told her I always wanted to ride in an ambulance, just not like this! I'm not much for telling jokes, but I managed to keep her smiling through it all.  Sanae's husband was travelling from Japan to Cleveland, so we were able to get in touch with him at a layover,(orchestrated by her daughter Utako who is in Toronto and her son Yu in NY city)  and had a car waiting at the airport to bring him to the hospital (THANK YOU CLEVELAND LIVERY!).  Believe me, that is one of the worst calls you have to make.  Luckily, Sanae is no worse for wear, although I'm sure she will have a monster headache this morning.  Instead of earning a 70% in a dressage test, she got a night in the hospital and some one on one time with me, which I would have much rather spent with her some other way!  I am so thankful she is going to be fine, and it just goes to show you can be on the most quiet horse at a dressage schooling show and the unexpected can happen!

I owe a huge thanks to Cindy and her husband Bill, Stephanie and Al, Javier, Liz, Jami, Sara Welsh, and all who mobilized and got the horses home, dropped off Sanae's car, and picked me up at the hospital.  We have an awesome team at White North!  As for Stephanie, she and Killian called it a day and we will just have to go the next time. 

Horse training has always taught me to be prepared.  It teaches you to be calm, patient, and quick thinking in the most trying circumstances, but I never thought it would have prepared me for this.  As a trainer, you hope that nothing will ever happen, but at some point you know that there is a chance a student can get hurt, and you just hope that you will have the wherewithal to deal with the situation with a quiet sense of urgency, fast response, and a little grace.  As for me, I think I will be adding smelling salts to my horse show med kit!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rolex here we come?!

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I was taking a lesson for the first time with an "Eventing" trainer named Elspeth Kick. At the beginning of the lesson she asked us what our goals were. I responded enthusiastically, "I'm going to ride at Rolex!" She smiled and said, "well then we have a lot of work to do!" It was a great first lesson, and I rode with Elspeth for sometime after that while she was a professor at Lake Erie College. I dreamed for a long time ( and still do) about riding in the only four star in the US.

Fate is interesting... This year I will be going to Rolex for the first time AND taking a horse-just not quite what I planned for my first ride at Rolex. I am honored to be helping to represent the Friesian breed in a demo Thursday Friday and Saturday riding Marian Shaughnessy's wonderful horse Tsjesse to a funky retro freestyle. Tsjesse has been working on his piaffe, and 1 tempis jamming out to our music, and we can't wait to bring some Friesian funk to the party! Thank you to Marian for giving me the opportunity to ride this very special horse, and to Barb Renico, Jason Tice, and FHANA for inviting us to their special demonstration at the Rolex Kentucky 3day Event!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The glint in the eye...

Well, that far off look can only mean one thing...
This Irish lass and her lad would really like to be eventing at Morven this weekend. Alas Easter.  For fear of jinxing myself let it remain unsaid that we have the proverbial glint in our eye and can't wait to eat up a cross country course, hopefully sooner rather than later.  I am finally starting to see glimpses of what a neat guy this is and its really exciting.  Let us not forget our stalwart Zigzag, who is finally healed from his fractured cannon bone, and will be starting back to work next week. 
Two weekends ago we had the occasion to show Tsjesse and Goodman at the first show of the year, and after knocking some rust off the first day, I am proud to say that Tsjesse did a solid I1 on Sunday, and Goodman made his FEI debut at Prix St. George. Anyone that knows Angela Hambrick and this horse's story, know what an accomplishment this is, and I am so excited that she is finally reaping the rewards of all her patient commitment to this horse's training!   It was a very fun show, and now we can really buckle down and work on Tsjesse's demo ride for Rolex.  I think I have some fun music; yes its classical, but COOL classical, and we are going to get Charlotte's seal of approval tomorrow. Tsjesse is combating a bit of a sore back, so he gets to see the chiropractor tomorrow along with some of our other competition horses. 

I am hoping to get Captain started on his new Cavalor feed this coming week, and maybe weather permitting ride OUTSIDE.  I think we have all had enough of the rain/sleet/snow dance...lets do a sunshine dance.  I'll be looking for that little glint.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I learned in Aiken...

Okay, I know I know, I left everyone hanging...

Rose and I did indeed make it to Aiken, without our truck.  It arrived a week later when I rode back with Amy to Beckley on the following Monday and drove it back to SC.  Our truck trouble didn't  end there though, as I knew it still wasn't "right" the first time I hauled with it to a lesson. What to do?  I took the advice of my Dad and "drove it like I stole it" until on our way home from a lesson with Boyd, the check engine light FINALLY came on.  I never thought I would be so glad to see a check engine light, and we seriously had a party in the truck!  We have a great Ford dealer in Aiken (Satcher Ford and Lincoln) and they determined that it was the fuel injection control modulator or in shop lingo, the FICM. SO as not to bore you with a long tedious explanation of truck repairs, it got fixed, but accidentally reprogrammed something else, and now my truck has less grit.  Hmpf. Moving on.

Rose and Veggiemite Schramm
Despite the record rain and COLD there were several themes to take from this trip.  The first one is about friends.  Rose made lots of new friends and so did I.  Her new biggest fan might be Kyle Smith, but her favorite canine to play "keep away" from was definitely Veggie, who came over most mornings to have some play/run as fast as we can time.  I also had the occasion to make some great new friends like Erin Risso, foster old friendships, (I finally went to the Wilcox's happy hour) which brought me to a place of feeling more community.  I really enjoy being immersed in "horsey culture" and hanging out with people that have no agenda, are relaxed, and just really value the whole training process.  I wish Cleveland was more like this... its truly Refreshing.
Nicholas Fyffe Clinic
Theme number two? LEARNING.  If it wasn't obvious from the beginning of the trip, (I probably know more than I ever wanted to about F 350s) this trip was HUGELY about education.  I had amazing lessons with coaches Charlotte Bayley Schindleholz,  and  Silva & Boyd Martin, where whether it was teaching Goodman and Tsjesse piaffe with Charlotte, or jumping/flatting Lidcombe and Captain with Boyd & Silva, many nuances were discovered.  I also worked with some new trainers, and had two pivotal lessons.  The first was with Nadeem Noon on Captain, where I was reminded to be more disciplined, learned how to work through his pulling running hindlegs out behind me freshness, and to "ride him like my other dressage horses"!  This was a huge turning point in our partnership, and I cannot thank Nad enough for his thoughtful and pointed instruction.  The second lightbulb lesson was with Nicholas Fyffe on Tsjesse.  He had remembered us from Devon (I'm not sure if that's good or bad) and focused on making Tsjesse more rideable in all aspects. (Read OWNING his neck DOWN and out) We also worked alot on the left half pass and piaffe, after which we found a whole new amazing collected trot.  We did not do any horseshows for the first time ever, and it was a breath of fresh air to just work on training and not preparing for a show~the horses came back fitter and progressed more quickly in their training!
Eric showing coffin joint with markers
 I also had the opportunity to meet a fantastic farrier named Eric Fox, (recommended to me by Charlotte) who got Goodman the most comfortable on his feet that I have ever seen him.  He gave a great lesson on pressure to the coffin joint relating to the length of toe and shoe placement. He ended up shoeing all of our horses while we were there, and I saw marked differences in all of them. There is so much to learn all the time if you just pay attention to everyone and everything around you, but one of the most educational experiences was watching David O'Connor teach our High Performance Riders during the training sessions at Stable View.  I had the luxury of doing this twice, and observed him teach several dressage lessons and a few jump lessons.  The two biggest points for me were his basic approach to GOOD riding every step, accuracy of movements, and his use of unconventional tools (tennis balls, iPad) to get his points across to riders.  He is an excellent TEACHER, and not afraid to bring it to the basics with the most seasoned of riders.  I was lucky to watch a flat lesson Boyd had on Master Frisky who is very similar to Captain in his way of going on the flat.  It was very interesting to watch how they handled the same issues I find with Captain, and David's advice on the canter that recurred throughout the ride. 

David and Boyd with Master Frisky

Lastly, I was reminded of how many amazing people I have around me.  A huge thanks goes out to Kyle Smith who did an amazing job with few days off, never complaining when we had a few (ok, more than a few) long days, and worked hard to keep everything tip top.  I even got one day off when Angela came to town and got to go shopping! Speaking of Angela, I am very blessed to have AMAZING owners.  Angela owns Goodman and Lidcombe, and continues to support my endeavors to ride at the top of the sport.  It was wonderful to finally have her come to Aiken and spend some time enjoying her horses and the town together.  I was very excited to have her attend the training sessions with me, and here's hoping in a few years she will be coming as the owner of one of those horses!  Thanks also goes out to Marian and Michael Shaughnessy for sending Tsjesse with me, and giving me the gift of riding such a spectacular horse that teaches me so much.  He is a special soul who can teach both Marian and I, and I am truly lucky to ride him.  I also have an incredible set of coworkers in Liz Porter, Mandy Williams, and Jami Lieberman, who kept me up to date on the goings on at White North, and took care of all my students, human & horse, while I was gone.  Finally, my family is just...well, what can I say?  They support me in countless ways.  There are not many guys out there that would take on a 13 year old son, border collie and all household responsibilities for nearly five weeks...parents who trek from Mentor to Madison on a weekly sometimes daily basis, and help with insurmountable truck repairs...brothers and sisters who are superb sounding boards... and all of them who keep me lifted up and putting one foot in front of the other.  I could not possibly do anything without them. 

Aiken.  You brought me down and made me stop and think.  You TAUGHT me many many lessons.  You made me a better person, rider, trainer, and horsewoman.  I come home with a renewed sense of self, direction, focus, and PEACE.  This was a cathartic and inspirational trip, from which I see new value everyday.
Thank You.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three days to Aiken.

All trips are a journey.  Most times you are going from point A to point B and rarely take time to see what's in the middle.  Well, our trip to Aiken ended up being a journey, and its not done yet.  As I pulled out of the farm on a crisp (read 2 degree) Sunday morning I recall saying to our farm manager Jami, "You know, there is something about this year that is making me feel like I shouldn't be going..." It was strange. I was the most organized, planned out, packed up that I have ever been, and yet, something was holding me back from being excited and "ready" to go.  If only I could have known what was ahead.

The drive was beautiful and sunny, and the mountains through West Virginia gleamed with snow, sparkling in the sunlight.  I saw two rainbows at different times and thought, "huh...its not even raining! How strange!".  I called and told my Mom how weird it was to see the rainbows circling the sun, and even managed to snap a picture of one.  About an hour later, those rainbows would be far from my mind.  As I began ascending the hill into Beckley WV, my truck suddenly started decreasing in power. The cruise control shut off, the tacometer went crazy, and I was now limping up the hill at 30 mph praying to God that I would make it to the top.  By the grace of God I got to the top where my truck completely lost power and shut off.  I COASTED the entire rig into the Beckley service plaza and came to rest directly in front of the gas station.  I think I must have had an angel on each corner of the rig flapping their wings to get me in there!   The ordeal I went through to finally get the rig towed to a garage would take another blog post, so I will leave it at the fact that five hours later, everything was safe and secure, and Rose and I were at a hotel. 

Sadly, the garage I was towed to was a bit back yardish, and after wasting a better part of the next day, I finally found a Ford dealer about 20 miles away and had it towed there.  They were able to look at it, but couldn't get it fixed in time, so Rose and I spent another night in Beckley.  Now it was Tuesday, and Ramey Ford in Beckley had figured out the the oil pump had broken, and had our truck ready to roll by 3pm.  I hooked up and started out of Beckley, finally.

 Unfortunately, Beckley wasn't ready to say goodbye to us.  Fifteen miles into the trip, the truck was struggling again, and I turned around and limped back to Beckley, saying my Hail Mary's the whole time.  We made it to the dealership by 6, got a rental car this time, and went back to the hotel, where the staff watched me walk in slack jawed with disbelief.  They must have felt really bad for me because they gave me a huge suite with a wet bar and sitting room this time!  Rose and I licked our wounds, ordered a pizza, and bedded down for the night.

So, now its Wednesday, and I have been in Beckley WV since Sunday afternoon.  Our wonderful shipper Marvin from Ridgewood Transportation was on a time schedule, so the horses had to leave today or wait until next Tuesday.  I decided last night to ship the horses and have them leave at noon, to give us a chance to get the truck rolling.  At 10 am, when they were still deconstructing the truck I came to the conclusion that I needed to call in the cavalry.  A friend of mine, Amy Hoffield, had offered to help out should I need anything, so I called her up and she is presently on her way with her truck to pick up me, Rose, and the horse trailer, putting us about an hour or two ahead of the horses.  I cannot even begin to think of how I can repay or thank her, but suffice to say she is a SAINT for coming to my rescue. 

Rose and I are patiently waiting, and optimistic that we and the horses are going to get to Aiken today, and we will just take it one day at a time.  I keep looking for the reason why God choose to plunk me down on my butt here in Beckley, and I am keeping an open heart so that I can do whatever it is I am supposed to do here.  Hopefully, my work will be done by the time Amy gets here, and we can continue our journey.  While it wasn't my plan to stop here, it was somebody's and all I can do is take it all in and keep going.  Maybe, I'm supposed to remember that its not about point A to point B, but instead the inbetween part of getting there.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

T Minus 17 hrs!

Well, we are one day from departure for Aiken, and I sure am glad that we waited until Sunday and Monday to leave!  The northeast and down into the mid south has been covered in a blanket of cold and snow, and I for one can't wait to get to SC and be able to actually get some riding done.  This cold spell has allowed me to get really organized before my hiatus from home, and by the time night falls tonight, I think I will be leaving my boys fairly well prepared.  I think the hardest part of the trip is not being with Jake and struck me last night as I tucked in Jake that I would miss out on that goodnight snuggle for the next four weeks.  What a great family I have to make it possible for me to do this!

Speaking of boys being ready, Captain has been steadily improving, and Dr. Miller came out and did a final acupuncture session with him so that he would be ready to travel.  I am hopeful that I will be able to start jumping him again when we arrive in Aiken.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about how the stress of travel will affect his condition, but our shipper Ridgewood Horse Transportation is making every effort to ease his stress level by giving him his own personal box stall!  The other dressage boys Tsjesse and Goodman are ready to rock and I am excited to be bringing Angela Hambricks other two horses Lidcombe and York with us as well.  York will be hanging out with Angela in Brays Island SC and hopefully joining us for some intermittent training in Aiken as time permits.  We already have a few lessons scheduled with Silva before she leaves for Wellington, and I am hoping that she has a few cancellations so she can put me in for a few more.  I will also be working with Charlotte on Tsjesse and Goodman, trying to up their game and prepare Goodman for the PSG and Marian Shaughnessy's Tsjesse for the I2, something I'm really looking forward to.

 I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to give Lidcombe some professional training for a full 30 days and see where he would like to take his career.  Angela purchased Lidcombe from Janet Mudge through Boyd and Silva Martin a few years ago as a dressage prospect, and he has been slightly plagued with injury after injury since then.  We finally have him very sound and in great condition and while he has already told us he doesn't LOVE the flat work, I am interested to see if he would like to get back to eventing or perhaps do a little jumpers.  I can't thank Angela enough for entrusting me with the sole training of this horse for the full 30 days, and I am excited to see the results.

I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome Kyle Smith to our team this year.  He will be travelling with his horse Jack, and helping me keep all our ponies clean, beautifully turned out, and ready for exciting adventures.  I am delighted to have such a knowledgeable and hard working individual as part of the staff this year, and look forward to a fun month.

Lastly, I couldn't go without the support of  our farm manager Jami, and the other trainers at White North Liz and Mandy.  Mandy will be making sure that our dressage ladies are ready to rock and roll for the Lake Erie Dressage show in March, as well as teaching all my lessons on Wed and Sundays.  I'm excited for her to have the opportunity to do a bit more, and I know Liz will keep all our jump riders and horses tuned up and ready to go for the March schooling show. 

The next time you hear from me will be from beautiful Sandy Hills Farm in Aiken, SC. Until then I'm looking forward and kicking on to tomorrow's gifts.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An exercise in patience.

Recently, I have had the feeling that I am continually being taught patience and tolerance.  Just when I thought that I had really mastered this skill, (and yes, I am proud of it) I was given yet ANOTHER exercise in patience.  This is what happens when you get cocky.

As Aiken drew near, I was very excited to have my long time partner "Z" back to fighting form.  He had been jumping great, flatting great, and having fun teaching his "leasers" Ellen and Katherine the finer points of riding.  I decided to show him for sale before leaving to some people coming in from out of town on the off chance they might like him.  When he came in from the pasture, he had a kick on his leg that was swollen and definitely sore.  I showed him and he looked a bit off, so we gave him a bute and a few days rest, and he seemed to be a little better.  On Sunday, he looked a bit off again, so I thought it would be smart to pop an xray just to be sure that he was ok, and as luck would have it, he has a small stress fracture in his cannon bone.  Now, I know there are alot worse things, and he will be fine after 6 weeks of stall rest, but all I could say was "REALLY???"  Here is this horse that I couldn't wait to campaign down south and FINALLY run a preliminary at Sporting Days, and now he is not even making the trip.  My Mom says that means "someone is being protected", and I say its causing my hair to fall out, and that OBVIOUSLY this horse is never going to get sold.  The last time I thought about selling him he colicked for three days and had to have IV fluids.  So, "Z" stays home for the first time EVER.

Captain on the other hand, is going to make the trip south, and his condition has been interesting.  After an initial improvement, we had a tough setback last week, where his symptoms were so significant that I couldn't even ride him.  Dr. Miller came out and we did more acupuncture as well as some work on his facial nerves.  He showed immediate relief, and for the first time in months I have been able to do several training rides in a row!  This has been a huge ray of light in our journey!  Today I was able to work on suppleness and rode him for a half an hour with very little itching, nose blowing, and almost no head tossing. Its been so long since this horse felt like himself that it feels like a miracle.  We are also partnering with Dr. Mary Brennan D.V.M, a well known holistic vet, who sent us some new therapy that we started today.  It is my hope that this is a real light at the end of the tunnel, and that we are getting somewhere.

I am committed to not getting ahead of myself, and not excited at all about Captain's progress. Its not for lack of gratefulness, or optimism.  I refuse to have any emotion at all about it because I wouldn't want God to say, "hmpf... guess I need to send her another exercise in patience" and force an instant relapse.   Instead, I am being patient, and taking one day at a time. I think I am going to have the patience of Job by the time this is all said and done!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looking forward.

Happy New Year! As promised, I present the 2012 recap!

  In our sport coaches are constantly telling us to "go forward", and "look up!" to improve various things with our position and horses. Whether its jumping, dressage, or just plain trail riding if you are looking down and "behind the leg" progress is very slow and often unbalanced.  Such is it with life.  Taking a glimpse back at 2012 is for me, in part, to thank all the amazing people who have done things I have only dreamt of, and secondly, to count the many blessing in my life this past year.  So forgive my overuse of the words, amazing, outstanding, awesome, Thesaurus is worn out!

In January I was fortunate to have an unlikely surprise as I prepared to leave for Aiken.  After looking for a long time to purchase a new truck, I found a used F350 (or rather it found me as I had gone to look at a different vehicle, and the sales lady at Junction  Auto Ann Cotrill~she is awesome go see her~ mentioned she had a truck that would be perfect) in like new condition with only 62k miles on it!  Excited beyond belief I traded in the Mitsubishi and drove off in the too big for the garage, to wide in the driveway, dually pickup!  I raced to find a suitable trailer, but couldn't quite get it all tied up before I left.

Aiken was a hectic time with many clients coming in to ride, buy horses, and train. I could have never made it through without the help of Mary Mckeon, Haley Goodwill, and Di and Steve Toth.  It was a crazy time.  It was during my time in Aiken that a couple of clients proposed to help me get the trailer I really wanted by sponsoring it for me.  I truly could not believe it.  After running the proposal past a few trusted advisors (DAD!) I took them up on their offer.  I would never have dreamed of such an amazing offer, and I truly would not have been able to pull off the trailer without them.  It has opened many doors, and I still cannot believe how amazing it is; thank you from the bottom of my heart for making it happen.  They wish to remain anonymous, so names will not be mentioned.  But it taught me two important things. One, help can come from the places you would have never expected, and two, people really enjoy being "a part of something" and its important to never take that away from them.

I also had been rallying some people to syndicate a competition horse for the eventing world that would take me to the upper levels.  I had several people say they were interested, so we began looking for a suitable mount.  Horse after horse we looked, but never found the right match.  I did find a horse in Aiken that I loved represented by Charlotte Bayley, however, when I finally got everything together he had been sold the day before.  Enter Courtney Cooper from C Square farm.  Most of you know the story of Captain, so I will not reiterate it here, but again some amazing people stepped forward, and we purchased our upper level prospect from Ireland, and he arrived fittingly on my birthday.

Over the summer I had many people sponsor so many things.  I was sponsored to ride "Z" in the Jimmy Wofford Clinic at South Farm, which was so inspiring and a real gift.  We competed lots of horses in dressage and eventing, and I had a client sponsor Captain's registrations and several horse shows after his arrival~something that was truly amazing.  As I began competing him, his illness set in and our real journey began.  I will update you on that later.

The summer also brought some milestones for me as a coach when I had three horses qualify for USDF region finals (Buenos Noches 4th level owned by Angela Hambrick- Tsjesse fan it Beielan owned by Marian Shaughnessy- In a New York Minute owned by Angela Hambrick, and two students (Tiffany George-Kete and Jessica Hart) qualify for the AEC's, with one (Jessica) topping the national leader board for several months.  Tiffany did compete at the AEC's and was 4th going into showjumping but her horse lost his footing jumping a warm up jump and it was not to be.  Buenos Noches finished 7th at 4th level  and Tsjesse took 5th in the PSG at Regionals.  They also were accepted to compete at Dressage at Devon~ another event that I never could never have dreamed of.  It was my first CDI and the boys were marvelous.  Many thanks to their owners and a special thanks to our  County Saddlery rep Katie Gussenhoffen who kept checking on Goodman's saddle and for making my first trip to Devon memorable.  Lastly, a huge thank you to Charlotte Bayley Schindelholz for her beautiful coaching, exquisite preparation, and friendship throughout Devon and Regionals! We couldn't have done it without her!

There are so many "gifts" this year that I could probably type for hours, but the biggest for me is the people.  From my family's support and enthusiasm, to the inspiring words of friends and their gracious gifts, coworkers and peers who gave immense support, there are not enough thank yous to go around.  People constantly amaze me and it is the many people in my life who made this year special.  While on a personal level there has been sadness, loss, joy, and new life, I love my family and am so lucky to have them!

So,  that brings us to Captain's progress.  He was rechecked on Friday and his Herpes points were much quieter.  His symptoms are changing and becoming less severe. He has less body sensitivity and I have been able to actually do a few training rides on him. He seems brighter and has more energy.  His progress is painfully slow, but it is progress, and I am optimistic that we will keep moving forward.  I also need to make a point to thank a stalwart sponsor who has sponsored Captain's farrier work since his arrival, and continues to do so despite his current medical condition, as well as the generosity of several people in regards to his stall at  White North Stable.  This has been so important since we have not been able to syndicate him yet due to this problem, and bearing the expenses myself has been daunting.    It is inspiring that people continue to have faith in us despite this setback!

In the spirit of good riding I plan to "look up", "go forward", and stay balanced this year.  Each obstacle brings us a chance to jump instead of step to the other side, and I can't wait to see where this wild ride takes us next! Heels down, keep those eyes up and thank God for the gift of another year to honor his mysterious working in our lives!

Happy New Year!