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!