Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mountain Sojourn

Ahh, what a wonderful past few days it's been! Papa and I have been up at GMHA in South Woodstock, VT, for the Training and Novice Three Day. Papa and Dually were competing in the Novice Three Day, and I was along side as his trusty groom and demi-coach. In an added last minute bonus, Kiki got to come along too as a non-competing horse, and spend a wonderful few days hacking around GMHA's gorgeous facilities.

(My favorite shot of the weekend)

It was also an exciting few days for me because I got to play cub reporter for the USEA! A few days before we left, Leslie Mintz from the USEA asked me to take pictures and do a write up of the event for the USEA website; of course I was thrilled and agreed immediately! It was a fun excuse to take lots and lots of photos, and I even tackled my fear of talking to strangers and got interviews with all the winners for a final day press release. It was really exciting to get to see a photograph that I took on the front page of a website that I visit almost every day - very very cool! My photo gallery of the T3D can be found here and my final press release can be found here. Check it out!

(This photo was on the USEA homepage!)

(This horse was so photogenic... every picture I got of it looked like this one: knees square, ears forward, with that lovely soft eye.)


(My friend Emily on her TB Doug, who was a NATURAL on steeplechase - good boy Dougie!)

Papa and Dually were amazing. It's so fun to see how they've really become a partnership over the last year. They had a personal best dressage test (though an unfortunate error of course inflated the score slightly!) and Papa got a "7" on rider from both judges. Then, they were both awesome on Endurance day; I got to watch their steeplechase, which was smooth and easy, and then help them in the C and D boxes. We got some great help from the Merrills, as well as Asheley Ireland, Babette Lenna, and Jane Hamlin in the 10-minute box, which was much needed as Dually came in quite warm! This is not at all unusual for him so I wasn't worried, but it does mean that we always have our work cut out for us in the box! Fortunately, after a few minutes of hard work he had cooled out admirably, and they went on to have one of their best cross country rounds together to date. Awesome! They passed the final jog on Sunday morning (though not without some butterflies on my part!) and then jumped a lovely clear round in the show jumping: their best yet. They ended up finishing on their dressage score for 4th place! I was so proud of both of them. Good boys!! Because Papa goes back to school in September, this was their last show of the season, which means Dually will now wind down for a much-deserved vacation. =)



(Happy boys!)

(After a perfect show jumping round)


(Dually gets tons of candy for his awesome weekend)

In between helping Pa and Dually and doing stuff for the USEA, I had a total blast on my rides on Kiki over the three days. We kept the ringwork to a minimum and mostly took advantage of the miles (and miles, and miles, and miles!) of trails surrounding GMHA, working up and down the hills to work on Kiki's strength and balance. The first day we kept it long and slow, going out for over an hour at walk and trot; we went further than I'd ever gone before, and went all the way up the mountain and down the other side again! It was seriously beautiful and I could have stayed out there all day, but grudgingly turned back when I started to realize that I was losing track of the forks I'd taken in all the various trails to get where I'd gotten. Then, that evening we went out again, with Papa and Dually this time, and hacked Phase A. Phase A went right past the Birch Grove, my favorite part of GMHA and the site of one of my most cherished riding memories to date: probably ten years ago (I was still riding Pinky, my very first pony, so actually it was probably even more than that!) we went on a fast and furious ride up the mountain that shot us out into this indescribably beautiful stand of birch trees on the crest of the mountain. It was the first time in my life where a horse had brought me to a place, and given me an experience, that I could never have dreamed of having without it, and I've never forgotten that feeling. This was my first trip back to the birches since that day, and it was just as beautiful as before. We detoured off of Phase A to ride all the way up to the top, and enjoy the gorgeous view.

(Kiki checking out the beauty)

(What a view!)


(Heading home)

The next day, I decided to explore a new trail, and with the aid of one of the indestructible plastic/paper (plaper) GMHA trail maps, set out in completely unfamiliar territory. Unfortunately, the trail I'd been hoping to take ended up being closed, so I had to detour off onto a gravel road that took me up past some of the nicest farms I've ever seen! Kiki and I were trotting and I'm pretty sure both of us were trying hard to keep our jaws from hitting the floor. Big airy indoors with massive paneled windows, perfectly green pastures that went on for miles, huge arenas with immaculate jumps surrounded by privet hedges and flower gardens, private ponds with diving platforms, vistas of untouched pine-covered mountains... it was unreal. I started to get worried that I was going to end up in someone's driveway, as the road we were on was getting progressively narrower and the "NO TRESPASSING" signs on the side of it were getting more frequent (whoops), so I eventually chickened out and turned around, but not until after a very smart little trot up a very long and steep hill for Kiki! When we got back to GMHA proper, we went for a canter around Phase A, which was a good test because it required good strength to canter up and great balance to canter down! I would never normally canter down a hill like that for fear of excessive stress on her legs, but the footing was so perfect that I decided it was worth the training benefit. She was awesome! I was surprised at how easily she handled the downhill part, and it was cool to really feel her rocking back and balancing onto her hind in for the steeper parts.


The last day was our shortest but most intense workout. We walked out for a bit, then trotted Phase C (which was out in a big grass field with LOVELY footing), then headed back and cantered Phase A going backwards; about halfway down the hill there was a loop that connected back to the uphill section, so we completed that to do probably 1.5 total laps, which translated to about 3k of tough canter work! She was amazing!! The second time we went up the hill she was a bit tired and I was worried she would suck back and drop out of the bridle, but instead she just dug in and tried harder. What a cool horse! We walked down the hill to finish and by the time we got back to the barn she was warm and sweaty but had already stopped blowing, and with a quick hose off she was completely ready to go. Awesome!

Her leg is also looking great. I stood her in the river for 15-20 minutes every day at GMHA, which I think helped a lot, and the hill workouts, while intense, are actually very low impact for the resulting cardiovascular workout they provide, so I was happy I got to take advantage of them. The footing at GMHA was also completely heavenly, which was such a nice change from the iron ground we have at home right now. I wish we could have stayed longer! Hopefully though these workouts will be a good boost for her fitness before Huntington, so all I have to focus on between now and then is making her feel loose, supple, and obedient. Here we go!


Megan said...

I can't help but smile at those pictures of your dad! He looks like he was having a total blast! What a great partner for Dually

Jo said...

Katie, Thanks so much for the wonderful coverage of the three-days. Congratulations to your father and Dually. The pictures on your blog bring back happy memories of my times at GMHA grooming for my daughter. Thanks again and I hope you continue to report for the USEA, you were fantastic. Jo Whitehouse

Katherine Erickson said...

Wow, thank you so much, Jo!

And Megan, I couldn't agree more =) - they're wonderful together, and seeing them both so happy really makes me smile.

Val said...

Your Dad is smiling in just about every picture! Priceless.

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