Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day Eight, Honk Kong Beckons

Day eight

The time we woke up this morning and headed to the barn was so early that even the alarm clocks were sleeping in. By the time 7 am rolled around, the American team was in full swing . At 7:30 buck was the first to have a dressage lesson with mark. In just one day, both mom and I saw a vast improvement in reggies neck position and his overall demeanor. After an hour, it was als turn. What started off as a nice and easy calm session ended in a turbulent and hard working lesson.

Mark worked primarily on the canter work today, from extended to working, all within a few small steps. He changed my leg position which dramatically aided in my abilities to balance and maintain the collected canter. Overall, my lesson not only highlighted the mistakes in my riding, but more importantly, allowed me to fix them and feel exactly what mark was trying to express verbally.

Following the lessons, mark invited both buck and I, along with my mom and Jackie, to a cocktail party held at gatcombe. After we fed al his dinner, the girls and I hastily sped back to the cottage, and arranged our best outfits in hopes to be first hand witnesses to royalty.
While at the party, I was interrupted by an important conference call consisting of jim Wolfe, Sara ike, Christiana ober, buck, and myself.

The call was pertaining to hong kong and basically laid out the framework of what was to be expected. Probably the most memorable line in the whole 30 minute long conversation was eloquently delivered by Jim. When describing the weather in hong kong, Jim dramatically stated, that if I was to imagine the hottest day I've ever encountered, and multiplied it by two, then maybe, just maybe, it would be compatible to the weather we are about to experience first hand. He also added that it would rain to help cool us off, but the rain is so heavy its like someone "spraying you down with a garden hose."

This conversation made me ponder the fact that this test event isn't really testing which country is the most ready for the olympics but, rather, which country has the best type if horse that can handle such extreme situations. Personally, at the end of the day, I'm very content to be sitting on the back of a thoroughbred!

The party left a lot to be desired but u was happy to have made an appearance, and quite honestly, it was a grand excuse for us girls to get dressed up! We left the party after a short while and headed to a local restaurant, the Lodge, which was a delightful dining experience.
Tomorrow is another busy day planned with a jumping session followed by a gallop through the valley starting at 8:00 am. Tomorrow the US vet, Dr. Ober, is flying in to check on the horses and look after their overall health from now until the end of the test event. Now as I lay in bed writing my journal, next door fireworks are being fired off. To me, I see these fireworks as a premonition to what will take place next week in hong kong. Take cover other countries, for the Americans are on a mission to set the trend for what is to come in 2008!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Day Seven, A Day of Dressage

Day seven

Today went pretty well. Both buck and myself had dressage lessons with mark. Buck started the two of us off with a very informative lesson. I was next a boy did I have a lot to learn! Jackie dus a wonderful job getting al groomed and tacked up for me and even brought him out to where the lessons were taking place. She has really learned a lot just un this week and equally, she has taught me how to communicate in a manner that suits her best. The lesson started out a bit difficult for me as mark had to constantly stop me to correct small, rudimentary elements of my riding that many of us take for granted. After we smoothed out the rough edges, however, the rest of the lesson seemed to be part education part entertainment. Mark was really impressed with al's explosive medium and extended trot and was overall really happy to help the both if us. So all in all the day ran quite nicely.
On a more sad sidenote, one of the girls at marks barn who we befriended earlier this week has a terrible jumping accident which resulted into her having to be air lifted to the nearest hospital in Bristol. Last word I received was that she had a catscan and the results came back clean, so she was moved into the ICU where she will remain for another week to ensure her safety. Please keep margita in your prayers.

Tomorrow mark plans to work some more dressage. Additionally, we get a sneak peak at the advanced course at gatcombe tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes!

(Click on photo to view larger.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Day Six, Riding in the Shadow of a Palace

Day six

Today we started the day off early with buck and I riding reggie and alex some dressage in the indoor arena. After about thirty minutes of splendid work, I decided to call it a day on Al. We waited for buck to finish up with reggie, cooled the horses down, and then eagerly waited to hear the schedule captain mark Phillips had planned for us. After watching two jumping lessons of some local Brits preparing for next weeks infamous gatcombe course, mark took mom, buck and I to the gatcombe event site to check out the footing to make sure the footing was safe for our horses to school the water fence. This year is especially important for gatcombe as it is the 25th anniversary. Mark and his ex wife, the royal princess ann, heir to the throne and mother of the world eventing champion, Zara Phillips, began the show twenty five years ago which takes place in rural minchinhampton, accompanied with rolling hills and rich, succulant pasture land. The backdrop is of course, the royal estate where her majesty, the princess royal, resides. Buck and I hacked the horses over to gatcombe and met mark, mom, and kathleen at the water fence. After trotting a few circles in the water, mark prompted buck to jump into the prelim side of the water complex. After a quick gallop, buck coaxed the hesitant reggie into the water which deserved a pat on the neck. Next up, was al and I. Always a bold water horse, al seemed a little surprised about jumping into the water without any warm up, he didn't disappoint a a bounded into the water. After a few more jumps on the water, mark, buck and I were satisfied with our ponies' performances and decided to hack home. We put the boys to bed, fitted with bandages and blankets, fed them their dinner and kissed them goodnight. They will be needing as much rest as they can get with the rather ominous schedule that lay ahead. From the barn, Jackie, mom and I headed to dinner at the alliston home where we dined with john and peter, their friend and fellow four star rider emily, dan, buck and kathleen.
Jokes, both bad and good, were passed around the table accompanied by mouthfuls of cake and laughter. The night commenced with a pictionary game between the old people and the young ( pardon my generalizations). Needless to say, being older doesn't necessarily make you wiser as the youth trampled over their opponent. I, personally think it was luck and vision that was on our side ( I was really lacking in the artistry department)!
Tomorrow is another fun day planned as both buck and myself will be receiving private dressage lessons from the captain himself. As I look back on the day, I can't help but think how cool it is that just a few hours ago, I was galloping through one of the worlds most prestigious event sites, with a royal palace in my eyesight. What's more, all of this is accompanied with those who are most dear to me, and of course my equine partner, Anthony patch! See you tomorrow!!!

(As always, click on any photo to view larger.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day Five, Sunshine!

Day five

It wasn't the sound of rain falling from the roof, nor the noisy wind crashing against the cottage that woke me up. Along with my alarm clock it was the all-to-mysterious sun who decided to greet England with her pretty smile this morning. As always graeme made us a wonderful English breakfast. Recharged and eager to start the day, mom, Jackie and I drove to the barn at an unusual rate of speed: for today was the day of our last member of the US team to arrive, my coach buck davidson. When buck arrived, we immediatley tacked the ponies up and made our way to the jump ring. Kathleen, Jackie, and mom were the jump crew, but with these two talented beasts, their job would be easy. As I was warming up for my lesson, I looked down at my horse and thought of how long he's come from that momentous day we first brought him home. I looked over at my mom, the girls, and buck and thought how cool it was to all be together in a country as beautiful as this and how thankful I am to be involved with people and animals like these. The jumping lesson was as entertaining as it was difficult. The fences were massive, but as the lesson proceeded, my pride and smile followed suit. The horses jumped with such heart I imagined there to be wings growing from their hooves. Following the amazing jump off between al and reggie, they were cooled down and fed their dinners, and the US crew went to dinner. We ate at a local pub called " the ragged cot." although the food left something to be desired, I couldnt have asked for better company. Tomorrow will be another important day, with the highly anticipated arrival of our team coach, captain mark Phillips. With als fantastic performance today, I look forward to showing England that America knows how to breed 'em best! Stay tuned!!!

Click on picture to view larger. (This goes for any picture on this blog.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day Four, Rain Day

Day four

The forecasted rains and winds certainly didn't disappoint today. It was coming down hard as we headed for the barn. We were met by a sad discovery; our little pigeon friend had passed away overnight. We were glad that he could spend his final moments somewhere dry and warm rather than out in the wet rain. Kathleen was sopping wet as she returned to the stables with reggie after their 40 minute troy set.

Because al has been having some troubles getting settled in, I decided to walk up some hills and finish off with some dressage and stretching to help him relax a bit. He was every bit a gentleman throughout his hour long work today so I was really pleased. However, because it was growing colder and wetter, and because of my lack of attention to englands extraordinary weather, i decided to go out and buy him a rug, since j mostly packed for the second part of our trip that takes place in hong kong. On the midst of driving to the tack shop, I was sent an email from the uset, which informed me that I was now not going to be able to wear my pinque coat, and that they would be needing back the one they gave me. I was overwhelmed and deeply upset by this e mail and called sarah, the usef eventing high performance coordinator to see what was going on. She informed me that she had made a mistake and gave me a pinque coat without asking permission. She was greatly apologetic to me, and although I was gravely disappointed, I managed to plaster a fake smile on my face, suck it up, and tell her everything was totally fine. Regardless, what I have to remember is this opportunity will be the experience of a lifetime and no pinque coat, shadbelly, or USA shields can take that away. After all, "the show must go on!"

The day ended brighter both literally and figuratively. After dinner, the wind picked up yet again, blowing the clouds away and clearing room for multiple rainbows and sunshine. I must say that England is the most magnificent land right after a great rainfall. After we dropped kathleen off, we saw a cow that looked as if she had given birth but there was no calf to be seen. Now we had already lost pit feathered freind this morning and aren't about to lose another so we jumped put of the car and ran over to the cow. The baby was in a small ditch, covered with trees and mud, and was unable to get to its mother. Some more people noticed us and pulled over and soon enough, a man and I were guiding the calf out of the hole and alongside its mother. Mommy cow was very appreciative as she took junior to a more private setting away from the humans for its first suckle. So as we say in America, "mission accomplished!"

Tomorrow buck arrives in the afternoon. The plan is that we are to jump but there is always a plan b to horses, as most of us horsepeople all-to-often end up taking. Stay tuned to see how tomorrow turns out!

Click on picture to view larger. (This goes for any picture on this blog.)

USEF Press Release

USEF Release: July 26 2007
Lexington, KY – The United States Equestrian Federation announced a change to the horse-and-rider combinations it will be sending to Hong Kong for the test event at the Sha Tin race course in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. The test event will be held at the CCI** level August 11-13, 2007.

Buck Davidson, 30, from Ocala, FL, will ride Cassandra Segal’s 7-year-old Irish Thoroughbred Ballynoe Castle RM. This combination was second at the Jersey Fresh CCI** in June and were the winners of the Red Hills CIC** in March.

Four-star rider, Laine Ashker, 23, of Crozier, VA will replace Kim Severson, who withdrew her horse, Tsunami, for a minor veterinary reason.

Ashker will ride Anthony Patch, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. Anthony Patch has been consistent at the Intermediate level over the past two seasons, including winning the Open Intermediate at the Ocala Horse Trials this spring.

Running a test event before an Olympic Games has become common, especially in places that are unaccustomed to running a CCI. The venue for the Olympics is being built at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong and multiple countries from around the world have been invited to send horses.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day Three, Adapting to England

Day three

This morning we woke up to a wonderful breakfast in " the common" as the locals call it. With full stomachs we headed to the barn where kathleen and I went on a 30 minute trot set around the glider feilds that encircles the yard. After their workouts, mom and I headed out for a run around the villages only to be stopped by a wounded pigeon
at the side of the road. Needless to say, crows ear farm has moved eastward and transformed into yet another species. The bird is alive and well thus far, however with birds, their health os increasingly capricious. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a healthy revival of our new feathered friend. Following our eventful run, we headed out to a town called tetsbury, where we were guided by a friend, mrs. Alliston through the various antique shops. When we headed back to the barn, I decided to turn alex out in our pasture. However, he only decided to stay in their for about 10 minutes. After some horses passed by, alex got the bright idea to join them. He simply took a nice trot circle, picked up a few strides of canter, and delivered the most beautiful jump I've ever seen. Up and over the wall alex went, and wider and wider my eyes grew. Fortunatley, alex found them uninteresting and allowed himself to be caught by a very worried mother. Needless to say, we decided to go hand grazing instead. Following the eye popping action at the yard, the girls and i headed out for dinner at the crown inn, a local pub in Minchinhampton. Thus, the day ended well, and was plenty action packed! Tomorrow is expected to bring more rain. Thank goodness we packed our raincoats!!! Talk to you all tomorrow!!!

Click on picture to view larger. (This goes for any picture on this blog.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day Two, Exploring England

Day Two

No time wasted today. We all woke up early this morning and headed off to the barn to see how al and reggie were. When we entered the yard we were met with pricked ears and abundant nickers from the boys, who were moretl than ready for their breakfasts. As the horses chomped down their food, we headed back to the cottage for a splendid English breakfast made by our host, Gram. Following breakfast we drove back to the barn where kathleen and I decided to go on an hour long hack with the boys to stretch their legs. We walked along the roads, with mom in her jogging shoes at our side, and experienced some of the most exquisite scenery ever sewn to the naked eye. We passed through small villages featuring quaint homes and lavish gardens. When we returned to the barn we left the horses to their lunch and shoved off to discover our new surroundings. We ended up in Cirencester, about 9 miles from marks. We walked around the town admiring the archaic churches and crowded streets filled with small cafes and vintage shops. After while, we sat down for a small lunch, which was an English staple, fish and chips. We went back to the barn, turned the horses out in their own pastures for a bit, then fed them dinner. With all this under out belts, it was time to get some sleep. Tomorrow hopefully shall be another bright sunny day, although the forecasts don't sound so optimistic. Whatever weather we receive, we will embrace it and enjoy it, for we are on a gorgeous country, accompanied with great horses and friends, and all with one goal in mind: to kick butt in hong kong!!! Stay tuned!

Click on picture to view larger. (This goes for any picture on this blog.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Day One, Trip to England

Day one

We left Newark at the crack of dawn at 8 am. The ride went really smoothly as we were able to have free range of movies to view on our personal momiters in the plane. I kept hearing mom laugh out loud at some scene in wild hogs. When we landed our baggage was waiting for us outside of customs and our next focus turned to retrieving our rental car. Everything went as planned but as mom sat down in the drivers side (which is now on the right hand side) she realized that she hasn't ever driven in England!!!! After a few close calls and two dark hours later, miraculously we found our bed and breakfast, haleaze cottage. Gram, the gregarious host, settled us into our lovely room and now here I am, writing you in a new time zone, new continent, and a new opportunity to grasp. Stay tuned for more!

Ps. I hear there are many cattle around these parts, much to ALS dismay

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hong Kong Bound

Hey guys!
I am leaving with my horse Alex, aka Anthony Patch, to Hong Kong for the test Olympic trials. Of course I will do my best to keep you all in touch as far as how my progress is going over in China. Here is the low down of what's going on. On Fri I am leaving for Buck's (my coach) farm in New Jersey. What makes this trip so cool is that both Buck and I were selected to represent the US in Hong Kong so I am looking forward to riding alongside my mentor. On Sunday the horses literally get "Fed Ex-ed" to Heathrow airport in England where we will spend a week at our country's Olympic coach's(Captain Mark Phillips) farm, where we will receive instruction and do some gallops. After a week there the horses will fly out of Heathrow into Hong Kong for the test event, which will be another week long. There we will receive instruction from the likes of the best horseman in show jumpers such as George Morris and Laura Kraut and dressage riders such as the infamous German trainer Claus. Basically the test event is held exactly a year before the real olympics and takes on a "mock olympic" feel. Every country qualified will send two riders from every discipline over where they will all compete in a two star level event, and then relay information back to their federations regarding weather, venue, organization, food, difficulty of the course, etc. Following the event in Hong Kong, the horses will fly back to Heathrow, spend a few days there, and then head back to JFK, where they will be quarantined for two days....so there you have it! The coolest thing of it all is that we receive RED COATS (which is a marker for those who have represented the US) Totally Cool!