Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twin Rivers Horse Trials - RAINMAGGEDON!!


Well. THAT wasn't really much fun at all! On Friday afternoon, as we had all feared, the skies opened up and dumped 3" of rain overnight on an already saturated Twin Rivers. After almost getting to go xc on Friday afternoon (but being ultimately thwarted by a late ambulance that pushed the start back an hour - since I was already scheduled to go at 5:32, an hour delay was not exactly possible!!), I watched with increasing disappointment as the cross country was cancelled first for saturday and then for sunday as well. Boo! For a while it looked like even the show jumping would have to be abandoned, as the show grounds took on much more the appearance of a water park (complete with rivers, lakes, and people wading around in snorkels!) and people were pulling out left and right, trying to escape before the river overtook the road (no dice - I definitely tested out the watercraft suitability of my truck several times!).


(Jenny Kan stands in the middle of "Lake Twin." Liz Hall photo)

(The road/ford getting back to the highway outside of Twin. Liz Hall photo)


We waited it out until this morning, listening as the show was off, then on, then off again, and finally on one more time. When I went up to the warmup to check out the conditions in the show jumping, however, I promptly saw a horse completely wipe out on the landing side of a cross rail, so I decided to scratch. What a bummer! I was definitely hoping improve on our 18th place dressage placing!! Oh well, next time... =)

Here's Ringo's AWESOME 45.9-scoring dressage test. But honestly, check out that trotwork! I still think we've come a long way (though Loris Henry CERTAINLY didn't seem to agree):



Friday, February 26, 2010

The Latest USEA Blog is Up

Twin Rivers Bound

In other news, dressage day at Twin was today, and Ringo definitely reminded me that I still haven't totally figured him out! After a STELLAR (like, awesome) warmup, Ringo and I went around the ring feeling like we could win this class. The opening trotwork was great, probably the best we've done so far. I was so pleased with him! Then, we went to walk, and out of blue Ringo bucked, spun, and reared. What a goof! The judge definitely didn't find it as amusing as I did. Bummer!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Up to Stanford!

These past few days have been a real treat for me and Ringo, as we've headed up to Stanford for a one night sleep over of good food, good instruction, and some much needed massage therapy for my perennially cricked up back and neck! So, after an AWESOME jumping lesson with Brian Sabo on Monday, we packed up the trailer and hit the road.

As soon as I arrived at Stanford, I dropped Ringo off in his overnight stall (thank you, Red Barn, for accommodating us!), gave him his lunch, and sped off downtown to get some lunch of my own. Now, don't get me wrong, the food in the greater Atascadero area is fine, and I'm hardly wasting away down there... but compared to my favorite haunts in Palo Alto, there's no comparison. Knowing for the past week that I was coming up for a brief 24 hour window, I had spent hours (literally) contemplating which of my favorite eateries were going to make the cut, and how many I could possibly fit in without inducing some sort of stomach explosion. First off for lunch? Sprouts, a salad place on University that makes really fresh and tasty design-it-yourself salads (as well as other things). I even called ahead, so when I got there all I had to do was get up to the counter and pick up my butter lettuce treasure. Awesome!! One thing I really haven't been good about at Gina's has been making salads (which were a twice daily staple at Stanny, loaded up with peas and edamame - my favorite!!), so this one definitely hit the spot. I ate it so fast I was a little green around the gills for my dressage lesson a half hour later, but it was totally worth it.

My dressage lesson was fabulous. Ringo was a little tense and spooky in the crowded indoor filled with jumps, but we exploited that as a perfect test for show atmosphere and spent most of the first part of the ride coming up with strategies for working through those nerves. By the end of our warmup, Ringo was loose and swinging, barely flicking an ear at the circus activity around us (and there were definitely some things going on that had even me having to remind myself to focus!). We then worked on my sitting trot (always) and improving Ringo's medium trot. We weren't totally successful in that last venture, but while trying to improve the medium we ended up improving the working 110% so we counted it as a success anyway. Good man, Ringo!

After the lesson, I let Ringo chill out with his old buds in the Mare Motel while I caught up with friends from the Stanford Equestrian Team while picking up some Sprinkles cupcakes on the way (check!). It was so good to see them all again! Later that night we went out to a very yummy Indian place in Mountain View (which was probably a little too classy for our collective garb of horsey-smelling shirts, breeches, and muddy tall boots, but whatever) that had also been on my "must eat" list for the trip. It didn't disappoint!

After passing out on my friend's couch at 10:30 (literally, with head-bobbing and everything), I got up the next morning to feed Ringo and head over to San Marcos for the real purpose of the trip: to see Wazir!! Now, let me just say: Wazir is a genius. He is a massage therapist that I got connected with through Vanessa, the coach of the equestrian team, and I can't even begin to thank him for the change he's helped me make in my body. He was the person that urged me to go get my neck checked out again (where I found out it had in fact been broken all that time ago) and since then has been slowly breaking up scar tissue, opening up joints, and working out knots. I usually feel like about two inches taller after seeing Wazir, and today was no exception.

After that, it was a quick race back to the barn (with a stop at The Sugar Shack, my favorite candy store, on the way home - check check check!!) for another awesome dressage lesson. This time, the loosening up period was much shorter, and we got to do a bit more work. We really made some steps forward in the medium trot, and his leg yields and shoulder ins were feeling as good as they've ever felt. We practiced some movements of the test for this weekend, and then gave Ringo some serious good boy pats and put him away. What a star!! Then I raced off to pick up my friend for lunch at the Creamery (another check off the food list). Then, more goodbyes, a brief interlude into some University bureaucracy (lovely), and more goodbyes after that. At 4pm, Ringo and I were on the road again, heading home. What a fun trip!

This weekend is Ringo and my first horse trial of the year at Twin. It's supposed to rain all weekend, which should be... lovely. Wish us luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cross Country Schooling...

... Was awesome!!

This is very quick because I'm off to feed the horses, but Ringo and I had a blast at Ram Tap yesterday! The forecast of rain didn't come to pass and it was lovely and sunny (and green!!) out on the course. Besides seriously not liking the constant sound of gun shots from the firing range next door or the freight trains hauling by every few minutes (fortunately, he didn't care about the power station on the property!! Seriously, Ram Tap is ghetto), Ringo was super calm and well behaved from the start. He jumped really well, and I definitely could feel myself combining the things I was working on last fall (the "cruising position" with distinct rebalancing phases before each fence) with what I've been working on these past few weeks (carrying my hands and following with my arms to the fence and KEEPING THE LEG ON right down to the base) to great success. Good boy Ringo!!

Plus, I had a travel companion for the 5 hour round trip there and back, which made every thing much more pleasant! Now I just have to detox from the Burger King lunch AND In-N-Out dinner that I indulged in. . . yikes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Latest USEA Blog is Up!

Check it out!



Kiki Jumps!


I'm so in love with this horse =)

Yesterday, Kiki and I had our first real jump lesson in California with Bec Braitling. Bec has ridden her once over fences and I've done some little cavaletti and things on my own, but this was definitely our first concentrated effort together. She was great! We did just one exercise, a single trot fence, with placing rails on take off and landing, performed on a figure of eight. Simple as it sounds, this exercise definitely revealed Kiki's greenness right away! She was all over the place, legs a-scatter trying to get between those pesky rails and the fence. Bec really pushed me to let her figure it out herself, which meant sitting chilly and being prepared to slip the reins - not the most comfortable feeling in the world on a horse who you pretty much know is going to almost eat it every time!

What a difference, though, by the end of the lesson - Kiki was still making mistakes but many fewer of them, and she was really getting the hang of the soft, relaxed trot right down to the base that Bec taught me how to ask for at the beginning of the lesson (instead of taking a big circle to get it back, it would only take a few strides). She was cool, calm, and collected from start to finish, and actually relaxed more and more as the lesson went on: something I really wasn't expecting given some of the reports I had received from Jane when she handed over the reins to me in January.

It's such a fun challenge to work with her because I have to be much, much more aware of my body through the entire phase of the fence than I do with a more trained horse. Kiki is so sensitive that even a small change with my body makes a big difference to her; several times in the lesson I went to pinch with my knee when she went "all over the shop" (as Bec put it) and, as a result, I definitely almost ended up on the floor at least once! When I focused on reacting to her greenbean antics by staying strong in my lower leg and open in my knee, it was remarkable how much more securely we both got to the other side.

Bec was very complimentary how much Kiki has changed since the last time she saw her. We both agree that she's got a loooong way to go, but that she's a pretty good soul and seems to be taking the changes in stride. Good girl, Kiki!!


(Kiki back in Vermont - the cutest!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Photos from Rainbow

Here are some photos from this past weekend at Rainbow. Fun times!


(Danielle and Bec trotting up McKinlaigh's hill)


(After shutting the Man From Snowy River gate, heading down the arroyo)


(Ringo looking pumped and ready to go. Me looking... stupid)

(Reining it in after things got a little western on the ridgeline!)

(Kiki is off on her first Rainbow adventure)

(suspicious of her rider's behavior)

(Kiki's babysitter, Cedric, contemplates the gorgeous vista...)

(...and is an excellent gate closer!)

(Good girl Kiki! Putting up with even extremely questionable horsemanship at the end of the ride)

(YAY!)


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Surviving the Gallops!

The weather has gone from cold and rainy to bright and windy in the past few days, and the horses have definitely been feeling the change! Ringo and I joined a big group of folks heading up to Rainbow Ranch on Saturday to get in our first real gallop since well before Thermal (the rain having sabotaged several planned outings in the meantime); I was very excited to go because Rainbow is probably my favorite place in all of California. My spirits fell a little bit when I went out to catch Ringo and, even with a giant handful of sugar cubes, had no success at all!! After much bucking, rearing, charging, and racing around his paddock, I (with Bec's help) finally managed to get a hold of the dude and round him up. But I could quickly tell what kind of ride we were going to have out on the hills!

For the most part everyone was actually better behaved than I had expected (though my expectations had been very, very, VERY low). Everyone was peachy up and down the first big hill and up onto the ridge line. When we went to canter along the ridge, though, things got a little western! When I put my leg on Ringo to ask him to canter, he exploded into a series of highly athletic rodeo leaps, one of which very unfortunately made contact with another horse's gut! Luckily no one seemed worse for wear, though I was pretty mortified. Once we got going Ringo was very good, though he was pretty darn unhappy with being forced to the back of the group for the duration. It was great to get to practice my galloping position, which has to be so much stronger on Ringo than it did on Dually, and I was happy with my overall level of control. Everyone else had a good time, too, though I think everyone was also pretty happy to get back to the trailers in one piece given the level of excitement in the air!

Today I went back to Rainbow for a second day in a row, this time with Kiki!! I went with Laura Warner, who had agreed to help babysit Kiki on her first outing away from Rancho del Rio in California. The vibe was, right from the start, 100% calmer (Laura's horse Cedric was a great influence) and Kiki was absolutely PERFECT from start to finish. We took the same track as the day before but went at a slower pace (much more walking and trotting, with just a few cantering sections), and I was super pleased with every aspect of Kiki's performance: she was quiet, she was calm, she didn't mind being left behind when Laura had to push Cedric on a little bit (as this was their last gallop before going Training at Twin), she felt great, and she didn't come back as tired as I feared she might. YAY KIKI!!

I'm definitely feeling a little tight and stiff from my extended hours in galloping position over the past few days. I think, as much as I hate to say it, that it's time for my dressage saddle and I to get reacquainted.

Random photo of the day:

(Dually and I enjoying the gallops at Rainbow last May; things were much sunnier and greener these past few days!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Ring is Open, the Jumps are Out!

Well today was an exciting day! After spending the past week forlornly walking past the padlocked and sealed outdoor arena because of the rain we've been getting recently, today was the day the gates were finally thrown open again and we got to jump! I know I'm definitely one of the lucky ones at the barn, having just come back from Thermal, because plenty of other folks haven't jumped since mid-January at this point, but it still felt really really good to put on the jumping tack again and have a lesson.

I rode Kiki first on my own and she was so fabulous! She's come leaps and bounds since the last time I rode her in the jump ring, and trotted and cantered all the cavaletti like it was no big thing. She even, in a moment of possible insanity (and definite mane grabbing) on my part, trotted right up to and over a 2'6" vertical with no ground line - this from a horse that is notoriously bad at trotting fences! What a star!!

I then had a semi private with Gina on Ringo. Ringo was definitely noticing that the jumps had moved around since the last time he was in there, that the sun was shining after a good number of grey days, and that he was feeling FABULOUS. Perhaps a little too fabulous at moments! After spending the first part of the ride trying to regain my balance and simultaneously get the dude more under control, we finally started clicking and had a great finish to the ride. Good boy!

Hopefully we're going to Rainbow to gallop tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Very Exciting News!!

I've been asked to do a weekly blog for the USEA website! I'm SO EXCITED!! I can't thank Emily Daily enough for thinking of me and asking me to do it. I just sent in my first entry; I'll post the link here when it gets published (a word that sends a very happy shiver up my spine!!).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cross Country Schooling...

...Got rained out. Boo.

But I was very proactive and completely reorganized my truck and trailer in the meantime. It looks awesome!! I'm going to take a photo today so that in a few weeks when it looks like a nuclear bomb went off inside I can remember how beautiful it was (and maybe have an idea of where to put everything back... sigh).

I'm stuck at the house this morning doing endless loads of laundry from the horse show. Pretty. Darn. Exciting. To pass the time I've been updating my expense report files (a very depressing task, given the imbalance between the income and expense columns) and playing around with my photo portfolio. I've never mentioned it on here before, but I've got a photo blog over on Wordpress called With 10 Miles Behind Me that I'm getting pretty excited about as it progresses; it's a load of fun and definitely makes a nice break with the horse world I am otherwise completely ensconced in! I went up to Big Sur yesterday evening to take some photos with the blog in mind. It was insanely beautiful and I hope that some of the pictures I took (the joy of film - the element of surprise when it gets developed!!) capture at least a hint of that. We'll see.

Random photo of the day:

(Pa and I (with me behind the lens) feeding the horses on christmas morning at the farm. I've been feeling pretty homesick lately but photos like this one always make me smile)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thermal!

Well, I've officially survived the first big show of the year!!

I spent this past week out in the Mojave Desert with Bec and Gina to practice some show jumping at HITS Thermal. It was awesome! We had a very long drive down on Tuesday, which included some epic "I love America" moments, including some folks in Riverside dressed as the Statue of Liberty and selling... something?
(Ah America, how I love thee...)

We also managed to blow a tire in Summerland (at least it was pretty on the ocean while we were changing the tire) and get incredibly stuck in a tiny parking lot in SoCal. Thanks to Bec's excellent piloting, however, we made it out safely and even got a standing ovation from some nearby Liffy Lube attendants who had been observing our predicament with great enjoyment.
(Bec getting congratulated by some friendly Jiffy Lube employees after her masterful parking lot save)

The trip was made even longer by the side trip we took to Riverside to pick up a rental RV to stay in for the week.
(Waiting around in Riverside for Gina to pick up the Cruise America)

It was definitely worth the wait, though, as the RV ended up being super cute and convenient. We pulled into Thermal late on Tuesday night and spent what seemed like forever getting unpacked, but went to bed feeling good in that there would be no more to do in the morning.

I got up on Wednesday to one major realization: Thermal is gorgeous!! It had been hard to tell in the dark, but by daylight Thermal revealed itself to be a play park for the rich and fabulous: over the top barn set-ups, golf carts and six figure horses everywhere, dozens (literally) of rings outfitted with top of the line eurofelt footing, palm-lined drives, Mercedes and Bentleys parked barnside, and everything bathed in sunlight and set against a backdrop of painfully beautiful snow-dusted mountains. It was unreal. We definitely weren't at your average three day event!

(Beautiful horses, beautiful footing, beautiful setting... couldn't ask for much more!)

(Just one of the many gorgeous barn set-ups)

We spent most of Wednesday getting checked in a settled. I took Ringo for a hack around and flat in the morning and was really pleasantly surprised at how well in stride he took the five ring circus-like atmosphere. Things were going well, so I entered a level 3 (1.10m) class on Wednesday afternoon. Gina suggested I try a new bit for the class, so I pulled out Dually's old copper waterford and decided to give it a go. Even though I managed to show up to the warmup with no front boots and no number, we eventually got everything sorted and actually had a much better round than I was expecting! Since my confidence coming into the week was pretty low, the jumps, though only 3'6", were looking pretty darn big. Ringo was an absolute superstar though and I was really pleased with how the new bit worked out. We had one silly rail that was all my fault but other than that he jumped pretty effortlessly. It was so much fun.


(Pumped for our first class at Thermal... Black and White looks really into it, clearly)

(Did I mention Thermal is gorgeous?)

Thursday we really got down to showing, with Bec and Gina both having a full morning of jumping. I tried to help out as best as I could, though I proved a less than speedy jump setter at moments (those fancy cups were just too much for me! haha).

(Bec on Hank, the biggest ribbon winner of the weekend - two blues for clear rounds in the Level 1s!)

I showed Ringo in another 1.10m class in the afternoon. I had been experimenting with sitting a little bit deeper in the saddle, and on Thursday I overdid it a bit and ended up getting the dude pretty far behind my leg and off the aids. It definitely wasn't one of our prettiest rounds but I still came out of it feeling like it was a worthwhile exercise because I had something very concrete to improve on for the next day. Also, on an intellectual level, it was satisfying to realize that I had not only made a change (something I often feel like I struggle with), I had in fact been able to make one so drastic as to hit the other end of the spectrum of results!

(Ringo and his bud, Archie)

(The bosses)

Friday I went out with a plan and was super pleased when I was actually able to execute it! I found a nice balance in terms of sitting yet still staying light and Ringo responded beautifully, jumping enthusiastically without being for a moment out of control. I messed up a little at the end of the round but Ringo saved my bacon and then some and we ended up clear and pretty fast! Excellent! It was a speed class so there was no jump off, but our first round time was good enough for 7th place in a field of 20 or so. What a good boy!!!

(Bec holding Ringo while I walked my course on Friday... obviously I was paying really close attention as I had enough time to stop and take this photo haha)

Saturday was the same routine, another morning 1.10m class. I was a little more nervous because the day before had gone so well and I'm pretty darn good at sabotaging myself when I start getting things right, so I was double thrilled when we had another awesome round, even better than the day before! This class had a jump off, which we were clean in as well - I even had some fun trying to put the gas on a little bit and trying some tougher inside turns. Ringo was such a superstar! We put in a pretty good round and ended up 6th in a larger class than the day before - what a good boy =).

(The black and white after another awesome round!!)

The week only had two downsides: first, I tweaked my shoulder on Friday and it is still bothering me today. It was hurting so badly after Saturday that I decided to scratch from my Sunday class and focus on packing up and trying to get home before midnight (success!). Second, I didn't get any pictures of me riding! The professional photographer didn't shoot my class once - bummer.

The trip home was supremely uneventful, save the beyond gorgeous sunset on 101 along the beach and the Chinese Fire Drill Gina and I pulled off to change seats at a stop light in Ventura. I drove the big rig the last 3 hours home and was very, very happy to pull into Rancho del Rio safe and sound.
(So lovely)

Tomorrow we're going cross country schooling one time before the course closes before the event at the end of the month. We're all doing anti-rain dances in the hope that we won't get rained out!

Monday, February 1, 2010

End of January Wrap Up and February Goals

Well, January has officially come to an end, and it seems like already everyone at the barn (myself definitely included) is scrambling to get everything in before the show season begins in earnest. Having grown up in Massachusetts where January is a time for putting along and certainly not even really hoping to prepare for a show, it's so strange for me to be sitting here on January 31st contemplating whether I'm ready to leave for my first big show of the year (in less than 48 hours!!). I definitely find it a little tougher to be riding and thinking my best this time of year (see my post of a few days ago), and so it's a it of a shame that the season here basically ends at the end of May, right when I normally start to get cooking and really enjoying myself. But, what are you going to do? I'm still SO EXCITED to be showing, especially after a good jump school with Bec yesterday. I may not be showing at the height I'd initially hoped, but I think there will be a class offered at the height I'm comfortable at (a real fear a few days earlier, when I was barely jumping a 2' box on the ground). No matter how big or small the jumps, it's going to be an invaluable experience to get out in the ring five days in a row and ride some courses. I can't wait!

Now, to goals. I really wanted to be better with my goal-setting and achieving this year, so I'm trying to do monthly goals. Here's what I had for January:

- Get back in the saddle

check! And then some!

- start learning Intermediate test

Check! I've even ridden it in front of a judge once

- start jumping again

Check!

- feel confident jumping 3'6" on any given day

Nope - when I first got back I was, but then I hit a slump. I've got to get more consistent.

- whip my own ass into gear

Check - but there's always more to do!

- resolve bitting issue for sj and xc

Check? I do have a new jumping bit for the dude that works great for sj, but I haven't gotten to test it yet xc

- kick my own position, on flat and over fences, into gear

Not yet - but the 30+ minutes of sitting trot without stirrups I've been doing over the past four days haven't hurt! Fences position is feeling pretty good when I concentrate on it; my flat position still leaves a lot to be desired on any horse other than Jenny, who has the most lovely comfortable gaits.

- get out cross country schooling

Nope - got rained out (would have gone on the 30th).

- sort out living arrangements

Check - I'm living with Gina until the 15th or so and then move into the house at Rancho. No furniture but very pleased.

- sort out work arrangements

Not really - I'm working for my Mom's company doing online research for one of her books, and have the prospect of getting hired as her more full-time research assistant, but that's dependent on some factors that are out of my control. I'd like to get a real day job, at least part time.


Well, all in all not bad. I think I set myself pretty softball goals for January, but at the time I didn't know how much my back injury was going to hamper my return to riding. For February, I'm hoping to get a little more specific:


-feel confident jumping 3'6" - 3'9" on Ringo on any given day

-practice the "light three point" seat on both Ringo and Kiki

-survive Thermal with a smile!

-feel confident in Intermediate coursework on Ringo

-get out cross-country schooling on Ringo

-have a good sitting trot by the end of the month!!

-ride as many horses as they'll let me get on at Rancho

-practice Intermediate Test A until I could do it in my sleep

-start working on Intermediate B

-sort out work arrangements

-get out to, and have a blast at, my first event of the season on Ringo at Twin Rivers! =)

-stay positive

-go out and do at least one "me" thing a week

-work on improving Kiki's balance at the canter

-get confident over small fences at home with Kiki

-take Kiki off the property at least once

-get at least one flat lesson a week on Kiki

-take either Ringo or Kiki to the beach!!! (Ok this one is not so serious, but it would be totally awesome!)


It's a lot to do! But I think we can get it done.


Today's random photo:


(Riding Iceman for SET)

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