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.