Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back in the Good Life

I'm back!! Sorry I haven't written for a while; I've been totally overwhelmed with the excitement of getting back, de-jetlagging, and trying to get settled into my new summer schedule. It's going to be a crazy few months, with me going to school in Cambridge from 9 to 4 every day. I have to leave the house by 7:20 to get to the train on time, and don't get back until past 5. Then running, finishing up homework, and riding my two ponies makes for some very busy days! But I couldn't be happier to be back, so I'm not complaining =)

It's unbelievable to have the horses back in my life on a daily basis again. I've missed them so much! Ringo has been feeling magical, and when I rode him for the first time on Monday I got to canter him for the first time in eleven months and three weeks. He's been cantering for a over a month now, and is feeling wonderfully strong and happy. I'm thrilled!!

The first time I rode Kiki when I got back, she was... AWFUL. Like, one of worst rides Id ever had on her. She was ragingly in heat and so was a total idiot. Haha, way to keep me humble, Marebear. Fortunately, we've been getting more and more in sync again recently and she's been feeling better every day. We jumped a little bit today in preparation for the clinic and she was perfect! I on the other hand was not so hot, so it was especially good of her to be such a good sport putting up with me. We definitely won't be totally back totally back in top form by the clinic this weekend, but it's looking more and more like we won't be embarrassing at the very least. Here's hoping =)

Here are some photos of them from today. Eeee I love being back on the farm!


(Pretty girl with a dewy muzzle)

(Today's mission: safety)

(good girllll)

(I swear she's just yawning, not coughing up a lung)

(slick and damp after her shower)

(The best face)

(Über handsome)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Did It!!!!

I did it!! And it was so fun!! We had to wait around all day for my race (it didn't start until 10:30 at night!) but it was so worth it because the race was peaceful, enjoyable, and unspeakably beautiful. The course wrapped around the backside of the island and had these absolutely incredible views of the fjord, all lit by the soft light of the midnight sun. The water was glass smooth and reflected the mountains and the clouds, and everything was wrapped in a purplish-blue atmospheric haze. I wish the race could have gone on and on so I could have kept gawking!

(Caught mid-stretch)

In general I felt really good. Cardiovascularly, I felt super fit and wasn't winded even at the end. My legs did get pretty tired starting at around mile 7, which I think was a symptom of having to do so many pool workouts in the heaviest part of training (I could keep up my wind but it's really hard to work your legs in the way they'll be stressed for running in a pool), which limited my speed, but I finished feeling relatively fresh if a little stiff and dead-legged. I had a good kick at the end and finished strong, picking off about 15 people in the last kilometer. I came in just under 2 and a half hours, which was my goal time given the training I'd lost through the injury.

I'm so thrilled! This was something that I set my mind to and assiduously worked for four months to achieve. I had a few missteps along the way, and didn't make it to my ultimate goal of running a full marathon, but seeing as I hadn't actually run more than four miles outside in over five weeks as of my birthday at the beginning of June because of my foot problems, getting to the half-marathon still exceeded my expectations by a lot.

(Pa ran the 2.6 mile 'mini-marthon' - those little kids were his biggest competition)

I ran the entire way, only having to stop for a bathroom break and walking a few steps at each water station (because I'm way too spastic to drink and run at the same time!). So happy! Bring on the full marathon in September!

(The view out our hotel room at 2am - so crazy!)

Luhmuhlen Recap and Race Day!

Sorry for my extreme absence of late: the internet has been spotty or nonexistent for the past few days, and Pa and I have been way too busy to do much sitting around and updating. Luhmuhlen already feels a bit like old news, so I'll keep my update pretty brief. The big excitement is that today, after four months of training, is race day!! Pa and I are currently in beautiful Tromsø, Norway, land of the midnight sun (we're at 70ºN - the edge of the arctic circle is 66ºN, so we're well within it!), and I'm getting pumped for my race, which doesn't start until 10:30pm this evening. Today will be a lot of resting and carb loading - excited!

(Pa looking out over the beautiful city of Tromsø)

(Jokin' around on the snow mass up on the mountain)

I know that, because of my injury, I probably won't be breaking any land speed records today (let's face it, even without the injury that wouldn't have been happening!) and I might have to walk a bit, but I'm feeling very confident that I'm going to be able to do it. We took a cable car up onto a mountain overlooking the city yesterday and I could see the entire race route, and while it looks a little daunting, it also looks very beautiful and doable. Bring it on! =)

Anyway, back to Luhmuhlen. It's pretty hard to sum up the event in just a few words or sentences. On one hand, it was AWESOME. I love Germany (and will be starting summer classes in German the day I get back to America - excited!) and so to experience the German countryside AND German horse culture was pretty incredible. The competition was great: exciting, exhilarating, and best of all safe (there were no serious falls or injuries all weekend). The calibre of competition was, as I've come to expect from these European shows, incredibly incredibly high, and it was a treat to get to watch so many great horses and riders, and try to take just a sliver of their talent home with me.

(Jennie Brannigan put in a dressage test to make everyone proud)

(Mirage D'Elle had to be one of my favorite horses of the competition, despite some naughty moments!!)

Luhmuhlen was also an interesting change from all the British shows I've been to of late. In many ways, it was quite similar to the events I'd been to, but in other ways the Germans found unique ways of doing things. The food was different (and some of the weirdest show food I've ever seen), the announcing was different, even the crowds seemed a little different (though of course there were still more than a few tweed-clad British type stalwarts - would it be an event without them?).

(I don't think I'd ever actually seen Will Faudree compete - he is a seriously impressive competitor)

(The dressage leader, Frank Ostholt)

The best part, though, was getting to share the weekend with my dad. Pa has been my go-to horse show parent for years now (though Mom does a great job when she does step in), and so it was really cool to get to spend the weekend enjoying the show with him. He loves Germany also, so we had a lot of fun toodling around with our German-English dictionary, trying to learn new vocab words and master German pronunciation (I've still got a ways to go on that one!).

(William looking super professional, as always)

(The UK-based American, Julian Stiller, on the absolutely, unbelievably adorable mare Chapel Amble)

Of course, the big disappointment was the American performances. I was almost more excited for Luhmuhlen than Badminton in terms of getting to watch Americans, because while the US Badminton competitors were more the 'usual suspects' (Karen O'Connor, Buck Davidson, etc), the Americans at Luhmuhlen were some of our country's mot exciting up and coming riders. I was really, really excited for them to show off their talents to the world, and felt quietly confident that it was going to be a good showing for the homeland in Europe.

(Will looking like the cross country genius he is with Andromaque)

(Frank Ostholt into the water in the CIC***)

Alas, it didn't quite work out that way. I don't want to take away from any of the riding from our American riders, because everywhere I saw them they looked great and looked every bit the part of the competition. Obviously everyone (except Will Faudree on his CIC*** horse) ran into some trouble in places we didn't get to see, but they were clearly small mistakes and not gross incompetence or indicators that they didn't deserve to be there. I'm sure they will all be back stronger and better as a result of this experience, but of course was also quite sad that they didn't get to shine that weekend.

(A German rider looking a bit shocked and awed)

(Tiana and Finian - Tiana has always been so nice to me every time we've met, even though she doesn't know me from Adam, and so I really respect her and want her to do well - plus she's a seriously impressive rider!)


(Ringwood Magister has to be one of the most strikingly beautiful horses on the international circuit today)

The competition itself rounded out on Sunday afternoon, in rather poisonous weather conditions that made me very happy to have a seat in the new covered stadium they had just built for the upcoming European Championships. It was a show of German domination, with the home team taking home the top spot in both the CIC*** and the CCI****. Pa and I were trying to quantify what makes the Europeans so much more successful than the Americans at the moment, and it was really hard to describe. They just are better right now. They sit better in the dressage, are more tactful in the show jumping, and more accurate on the cross country. They have incredible depth, and everyone is mounted on a horse that would make any top eventer swoon with envy. It's unbelievable.

(Pa took this photo and I think it's one of my favorites from the whole weekend - I might have some competition!)

(It randomly pissed down rain about midway through the afternoon, then cleared up again - but when it rained, it really rained!)

(No thank you!)

The weekend was over before we knew it, and with it my European horse show experience. It's been so incredible that I can barely even describe how lucky and grateful I feel. I've gotten to take thousands of pictures, have been featured on Eventing Nation, the USEA website, and Eventing Magazine, and have gotten to experience my favorite sport at the very highest levels of competition. I'm coming back to America feeling fresh, hungry, and eager to start improving again. Here's to a good race tonight, and a great summer ahead! =)

(Mirage D'Elle 'declines' the corner at 8 rather dramatically!)

(Peter Thomson goes nice and neat into the first water)

(Will and Pawlow looking classy in the CCI****)

(Frank Ostholt looking super dramatic coming into the first water)

(Pa took this great shot of William almost coming a cropper! He saved it though (of course))

(Aww Chapel Amble, too cute for words)

(Will and Andromaque finished on their dressage score - very impressive!)

(Chapel Amble looking cute as usual - besides one stop on XC they had a very respectable weekend)

(Will on Pawlow, who very randomly stopped at the next fence - it was totally out of the blue and mystifying, as they looked lovely otherwise)

(William with coat tails a-flying)

(CCI**** winner Andreas Dibowski)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Germany Bound!

I don't have much meaningful to say; I'm sitting here with my room all packed up, about to say goodbye to Oxford for the last time and start off on the next adventure. I just thought I'd share this awesome video I found, which has me absolutely hypnotized. As someone who is terribly afraid of heights AND has terrible balance, I'm blown away by the mental (and physical) control this requires:

Also, I'm rounding off my British experience with this GEM - possibly the best photo of the Queen I've EVER SEEN from Horse and Hound, watching her Derby chances being scuppered two weekends ago:

(They say 'pensive,' I say 'pissed')

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Last Long Run: Complete!

Well, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, my marathon goals didn't go quite according plan. I've been pretty bummed about it but have been trying to stay positive, even though up until fairly recently the possibility of even doing the half-marathon that I've bumped down to has seemed like a bit of a stretch.

(Perfect evening for a jog!)

Up until a week ago, I hadn't run outside further than 4 miles in nearly a month; I'd tried as hard as I could to keep up with my fitness at the pool, but it's just not the same and I was getting seriously worried.


Then, last Monday on my birthday, I set out on a run and it ended up feeling so fabulous that I extended it nearly 40 minutes longer than I had originally planned. I cruised for 7 miles along the river, and it was one of the best runs I'd had all quarter, let alone since my injury. Suddenly the half-marathon seemed doable again!

(Cows in Christchurch Meadow - swoon!)

(Oh Christchurch, you so beautiful)

This past week has been crazy and I've gotten quite sick, which has been a downer for training but I haven't let it knock me out yet. I went for a short real run and two swims last week, and then ran 10 miles yesterday - I had to walk probably 3/4 of a mile at mile 8, but other than that ran the whole way and felt pretty good about it.

(Sweet new bridges I found the further I ran down the river)

(Awesome graffiti!)

Unfortunately, I didn't do a good enough job hydrating myself (I hydrated for regular levels, not sickness levels) and I got some pretty terrible stomach cramps as I was walking back to the house that I just wasn't able to shake for the rest of the night. It was pretty crappy, but didn't take away from how happy I was to have gotten the run done. My foot hurt a little bit, but not unbearably and it never changed or got worse as the run went on, so I'm taking that as a win.

(Christchurch looking especially artZy in my unplanned, cramp-induced break I had to take on the way home)

I'm hoping to get out to the pool again tonight and tomorrow to try to take advantage of it before I head off to Germany and Finland in the last 10 days before the race. I'm in taper mode now, so hopefully in twelve days I'll be feeling fit, fresh, and ready to go! First step: I'd love to start feeling less sick. . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Planning for Summer: Fitness Plan and July+ Goals

Well, it's official: in exactly two weeks time, I will be home (starting my first day of summer school -- woooooo), ready to have my first ride back and start heading into summer! Pa and I will technically get back Sunday night, but Ringo and Kiki will be up in Vermont with Suzi and so I won't get to see them until we go up to get them on Monday afternoon. Fourteen days. I've waited over two months... I can make it two more weeks, right?

(Me and the ponies a year ago today in Salt Lake City, UT, coming home for the summer - I can't wait to see them again!!)

Ever since my birthday last week, I've been trying to formulate goals, both big (where do I want to see myself in a year's time? Attending my college commencement, still competing, hopefully fresh off a trip to IDA Nationals (fingers crossed! We're going to do it this year!), but most importantly I want to be healthy, fit, and happy and have healthy, fit and happy horses) and small. I stopped doing month by month goals last fall, when it became obvious that any schedule had been thrown out the window. I enjoyed that time, but am also eager to try to get back to some more structured training and improvement. So, it's goal time!

I think my primary goal for my first month + week (I'm counting the tail of June into July just for simplicity's sake, and will refer to the whole as "July+") will be around personal fitness. I know I ride best when I'm in better shape than I am now (because despite the running, going out four times a week just isn't the same as a few hours of physical activity every single day), so to be fair to my horses and myself and give ourselves the best shot of succeeding, I know I need to make that top priority. So my goals are:

July+ 2011:
Personal Fitness Goals

-Continue with marathon training, now aiming for the Top of Utah Marathon (17 Sept)-

-Ride without stirrups for at least 30 minutes, twice a week-

-Ride in two point for ALL conditioning work, including trot warmups (at least once a week)-

-Continue with plank exercises, getting to 1:45 by end of July-

-Start doing morning/evening feeding again-

-Help David and Gallagher out in the garden at least once a week-

Phew! I think if I get all that done, I may be fitter by summer's end than I ever have been! The goals above mention two things I've neglected to bring up before. First, that I've found a new marathon to aim for! I'd love to complete the marathon before school begins just because I know realistically how difficult it will be to keep training with a full course load, extracurriculars, senior year shenanigans (I finally got assigned to a great house with my good friend, and we're making the most of it!), two horses, polo, and dressage team. So, I'm hoping to utilize the three weeks that I'll be in California before school begins to finish up training and make the dream a reality! I've chosen the Top of Utah marathon, which is supposed to be both incredibly beautiful and almost entirely downhill. I can get behind both of those things!

Second is my brother and his girlfriend's gardening/farming project. They both recently moved home from Brooklyn and have decided to give organic farming a try. They have chickens (both meat and egg), piggies, and ducks, as well as several big fields of produce. They're also blogging, and their exploits can be found here. I hate pigs and am deathly afraid of ducks, but I'm excited to do some help in the gardening area. Looks like it's going to be hard work, but a lot of fun.

Now, on to the horses. They're a bit tougher because since I haven't been riding them I don't really know what they need, so I'll focus on what I think I need to do as a rider to get back to piloting them as best as I can.

July+ 2011:
Piggy Goals

-Stay calm, steady, and relaxed in both flat and jumping-

-Bring out the dressage saddle again (Suzi doesn't use one) and start getting reacquainted-

-Take a lesson a week, either jumping or flat, to help guide progress-

-Work trot/canter and walk/canter transitions to improve strength-

-hack out every day on hills in addition to ride to improve strength-

-Do conditioning work 1x/week-

-Practice drops into water, ditches, etc-

-Feel comfortable jumping 3'3" courses by end of July-

-Having good competitive outings at Huntington and GMHA, meaning obedient on the flat and polite and rideable in the jumping, with me riding appropriately-

Ringo Goals

-Stay calm and steady as well-

-Practice sitting trot as much as possible without driving him nuts-

-Get 1st level fit by GMHA-

-Practice tests 1x/week-

-Have a happy, calm, fun return to competition after 13 months off at GMHA!!-

-Start jumping again??-

-Take out hacking every day on hills to improve strength-

-Check legs daily to monitor soundness (I do this anyway, but why not make it official)-

Given that I'm going to be in the city from 8 to 2 every day with school, it's going to be a very busy month! Fortunately my summer class only goes until second week August, so by the time I get to the end of July the end will be in sight. I've made it through producing 6000+ words a week of originally researched material in two completely different subjects for six months now, so I'm hoping/thinking I can handle the seven weeks of interdisciplinary craziness that's about to unfold. Bring it on!!!

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