Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Day Twenty-Two, Last Day in Hong Kong

It took a while to get up this morning....my head ached and i could feel the pains from being in a different country starting to wear on my body. if i was feeling this crummy, i wondered how poor al and reggie felt?

we headed out to the barn to jog the horses for christiana, they were both sound and happy. with that, buck and i hopped up and took them for a long hack to stretch their tired limbs in preparation for this evening's upcoming festivities in the grand show ring. buck and i then headed back to the hotel for some lunch and then showered and primped to get ready for the steadily approaching trot up. I came back to see Al all braided up adorned with hind quarter markers thanks to ms. fiona and jackie. everyone pitched in to show off how brilliant our american horses looked! buck and i both had successful jogs, thanks to the help of team USA. Following the jogs, we watched a few show jumping rounds of the local riders, then headed back to the barn to get dressed in our show jumping attire in time to meet mark outside the gate to walk the first of the show jumping courses. the course was as bright as times square, with lights as blinding as the sun that proved to be a little problematic for some, including my own. after a quick warm up, i was the first to show jump and left a little to be desired. my rythmn was all off, my horse felt either sluggish or quick, and after a few bobbles in the ring, i was relieved to be done with that course! after a few minutes of deliberation, mark told me that i needed to keep kicking and let go of al's mouth! so easier said than done, but nevertheless, quite correct! buck was a few after me in the ring to jump. reggie sailed over all of the fences making them seem like a beginning novice course and bringing home a double clear for team usa. buck rode him with suck fluidy and poise, one couldnt tell the seperation between the horse and his rider. Since Mark had to jet back to england, George Morris was the new coach for the second round of show jumping. George had watched my horse warm up and watched our performance in the ring and had very few words to say: "Let him go..." That was it, and boy did it make a difference! Alex and i once again entered the ring, this time with more confidence. We sailed around the course with almost a faultless round except for one stubborn second to last fence that al barely touched mostly because my shoulders came too forward. George was very happy with our performance as was my true coach buck, who's words before i entered the ring were, "gallop him like you're doing xc!" proved incredibly helpful for me, as always. After a high five and a hug, Buck hopped on Reggie, quickly warmed up, and had another splendid double clear round, accompanied with voicetrous "ooos" and "awwwws" of the crowd. Buck had jumped into seventh place from tenth from his two professionally ridden rounds. It was surely a job well done.

After the closing ceremonies, I looked into the olynpic grandstand and thought of a past time when i was a little girl, acting like a horse in my hometown of shingle springs california. little did i know that the one dream that remained true for my whole life, to be an equestrian olympian, would finally come true. although it isnt the exact olympics, to be given this opportunity to represent my country, to work with the honorable individuals that i did, to ride in the venue that will host the actual olympics in less than a year, and to do it all on the horse that i trained myself, made me swell with pride. certainly i wanted to perform better and bring home a gold medal. however, what i learned in the time of two weeks here in hong kong made up for two years of information i would have attained at home, which is worth more than any first place prize. there is truly no price for experience, something that people my age and position in this sport must pay dearly for. This has been the most momentous experience for me; an "experience of a lifetime" if you will, and I have grown not only as a rider, but as a person as has Alex. I want to thank my mother, Valerie, for her steadfast support of a sport that knows no limits. I want to thank my father, Michael, who's presence even from California feels as close as if he were in the stands watching me, as I know he wanted to. My grandparents, for following me and my horses creating a global trail full of hoofprints. To Jackie Jenkins, for striving for excellence, on a daily basis. To my coach Buck, who I look up to not only as a rider but as a big brother. To Mark Ivie, for keeping Crow's Ear Farm in full swing even when we are gone. To the USEF, for allowing me and my family, both human and equine, to be apart of the american olympic dream. I have learned that the bittersweet path to success in all things pursued takes both failure and fortune. Those who truly strive to be the best, never cease nor fade away. Like true champions, they keep pushing forward, no matter the setbacks. Like George Morris told me, "trust yourself," I will forever strive to be the best, to follow the path of my olympic dream, and NEVER look back. Hope you all enjoyed my blogs! Have a safe and fun fall season!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Day Twenty One, Beas River XC Comp

Day 21:

From the start today proved to be less than desired. When we arrived to the Beas river xc venue, we were informed that alex was a little colicy throughout the evening and needed fluids. However, he was fine following the fluid intake. Then the rain came and boy it came with a vengeance. The competition was numerously postponed because the ice van kept getting stuck from all the mud.

Buck was the first out on reggie and, despite feeling under the weather, had a brilliant go around adding on thirty seconds worth of time penalties onto his dressage score. After his feedback and marks advice, I was ready to go. I headed out of the box with confidence in my horse and myself but soon thereafter, my confidence plummetted when he stopped at the first real tough angled brushes on the beginning of the course. My main objective was to get his confidence following the bobble and the rest of the loop was successful with alex galloping in relaxed, steady strides. however, the second lap around, at the same exact fence, I approached it more cautiously causing him to get in too deep and stop. I was so bummed out by this but still had a job to do.
I quickly got an over the course and neatly cantered around the remainder and came home with a healthy, sound horse. ALS temp cane down the fastest of all the horses so that was nice to know.

I was very disappointed with my round. I wanted so much to prove myself on this international turf but it proved to be not so. I got myself together and met with the press, who of course poked and prodded the mistakes that occurred earlier. All I could reply was that it just wasn't our day, as I know from experience on this horses back that he and I are more than capable for the task. Chalk it up to experience. I'll be the first to show jump tomorrow so hopefully I will be able to show how its done.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day Twenty, Dressage Competition

I could hardly wake up when the alarm sounded at 4:30 this morning. My bones ached, my head hurt, and overall I felt quite crummy. Soon enough, I found out that I wasnt the only one feeling a little shaky. I could hear Buck arrive to the shuttle from his incessant coughing. I think being in a different country is finally starting to take its toll. Nevertheless, we arrived to the barn, hopped on the horses, hopped off the horses, and prepared them for the 7:30 am trot up. Despite some last minute changes and set backs, everyone was ready and surprisingly prepared enough to have successful jogs. Following the jogs, both Buck and I went to our allotted corners in the tack room to focus on our upcoming dressage rides. Buck listened to his Ipod while I read my mind gym while the hustle and bustle going on around us seemed to dissapear into thin air. Finally, Buck was ready to get on Reggie to start his dressage warm up. After about thirty five minutes, he was ready to head into the main ring to perform his test. A little aprehensive about going into the ring, Reggie turned out a splendid test that surprisingly didnt get the scores that it deserved. However, Buck was happy with Reggie's performance and being that he is so young, moved on with a bright grin on his face despite not feeling all that well. With a score of 58.0, he will surely be in the running on the final day. After Buck's test it was my que to hop on Al and begin my preparations for the dressage test. After a good half hour warm up with Mark, Al was ready to head into the ring. While I was heading around the massive olympic venue, Al seemed relaxed, which in turn made me follow suit. My nerves settled down as I entered the ring and zeroed in on my test. Despite being quite behind my leg, Al was a rock star, scoring a 53.4 which grasped second place which only three more riders to go. The next rider, a Brit riding a four star horse Don Giovanni, had a wonderful test which came less than a point below mine, squeezing me out of the second place position and into the third. I ended the day in fourth place, which is strategically a good place for me to be, being inexperienced at the international level. Despite this, I was happy to have been in second for at least six minutes with people like Nicolaus Tuissant (Olympic Gold medalist), Shane Phillips (Australian olympian), my coach Buck Davidson, and other highly accredited international riders in my class. After getting tons of carrots and pets, Al was left alone while Jackie and Kathleen packed the horses' things for their ride to Beas river, where the xc course is held. Buck and I headed earlier to the venue to walk the course and then head back to the hotel for an early dinner and an early bedtime. So, with this day finally done, the competition feels like it's really underway. I am very pleased with Al's professionalism and maturity in the ring, which is something I was apprehensive about in the beginning. Tomorrow is another day, and I will ride the horse I have on that day. Although I have a Plan A, as every rider knows, sometimes plan b, c, and d become the new plans of attack. I am eager to attack the course tomorrow with Al, but as Buck reminded me, I have to ride smartly. That is, I cant come out of the gate bursting with enthusiasm that would essentially scare Al. I plan to come out quite relaxed and let the course carry us around. At the end of the day, he will tell me the speed and endurance he has in store for me tomorrow. Stay tuned for an excited xc report! Keep your fingers crossed that the Americans kick some butt like we did in Rio. We sure have some big shoes to fill (or small if you're alluding to "The Pony"). See you tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Day Nineteen, The Rains Came

Again the rains were coming down on us which made it hard to get motivated to get the day started so early. Mark had planned for us to be on at 8 and 8:30 so Buck and I could get the lessons out of the way and spend another hour walking around the main arena during our alotted time to do so. After going back and forth deciding whether to ride in the rain or the indoor, we decided to "weather" the rain...that is, as buck put it, " it felt like we had ridden xc, fell in the water fence, then slapped a dressage saddle on, and rode around a bit." He wasnt over exaggerating. I watched buck's lesson for about 20 minutes and was completely drenched. I went back to get on al to have my lesson with mark only to find that my pants had turned from sticky to slippery. I felt like I was literally sliding all over the saddle. Needless to say, between the wind and the rain and trying to hear what the heck the captain was telling me to do, my ears, legs and mind got a good work out today!!! Al was very behaved and after about 30 minutes of good work, mark called it a day and I headed to the main ring to walk around a bit to familiarize al to his new surrounding where he will be asked to perform magic! He was surprsingly behaved in the beginning so after a half hour on a long rein, while in the pouring rain, both Al and I simultaneously decided we had had enough with the weather. After both Al and I had dried off, it was time for Buck, Mark, David (O'Connor) and I to head to Beas river to walk and navigate the xc course. Fiona and her boss, president of the IOC (international olympic committee) who overseas every olympic venue and sport, Doug, decided to join us in our wet expedition as well. With that, we were off for another soppy adventure. At least I was dry for five minutes!!! When we finished with a very wet yet adventurous and informative course walk, our driver took all of us back to the hotel where we had lunch and prepared to get ready for the 5:00 trot up. As I was just getting out of the show, Sara knocked on my door to tell me that the typhoon had stalled while it was passing over us and was heading back our direction at a level 8 meaning that almost the eye would pass directly through sha tin, where we are located. This meant that basically everything (transportation, malls, restaurants) shut down to take cover for the storm to come. However, the jog was still on so we decided to hurry up and hop in the car and head to the barn. After a life-threatening car ride over to the venue by our crazy driver, we arrived only to find out that the jogs were cancelled because whenever the typhoon hits level 8, it automatically means that people can leave their jobs without asking to go directly home; so there were no volunteers to help out with the jog. Additionally, we had to hurry to find a ride home as the transportation would be shutting down momentarily. After braiding the horses beautifully, the girls took the braids out, and prepared the horses for bed only to find out that they would be staying overnight with the horses in the case that the "roof should fly off the barn during the storm," as the Hong Kong jockey club stable manager warned us. With that, our girls, along with every other countrie's grooms volunteered to stay with the horses overnight should the roof fly off? Are they serious? While waiting for our bus, the winds did pick up and the rains grew heavier...although nothing too momentous that would be worth shutting down Hong Kong. Unfortunatley, the forecast for the next 5 days took a turn for the worse and looks terrible, full of raining and thunderstorms. The ground jury will have to decide whether to run the event as a horse trials, or just have the international horses trot up before dressage tomorrow. One thing's for sure...we're gonna get wet! Either way, we are ready and will perform with class and style. The horses seem happy and healthy as do us riders. All we want it to let this show begin as we are getting a little agitated with waiting for it to start. Oh well, I guess I will have to remind myself that, "good things come to those who wait." So, now Im headed up to grandparents room to play some cards and wait this storm out...will let you know the outcome asap! Stay tuned for more excitement and WEATHER!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day Eighteen: Welcoming Ceremonies

Day 18:

The rains could hold back no more. With momentous force, they came down like no tomorrow. Bucks flat lesson was delayed a half hour to let the rains sweep through. After they slowed down, buck immediatley hopped up on reggie and proceeded to his lesson with mark. A half hour later, al and I made our way out to the arena for our lesson. I could tell buck was happy with the results he achieved because his smile said it all. Reggie also seemed pleased with himself. My lesson was very educational as well. Alex worked very hard and by the end of our time with mark, we both exited the arena beaming.

After, came the briefing. After about an hour of the norm (discussions of time tables, upcoming weather, and proper horse care) we were more than ready to head to Beas river to see the xc course. The course looked challenging. With twists abd turns at every angle one could assume that finding a rythmn may be difficult. The turns seemed similar to that of red hills although somewhat harder in the fact that the terrain plays such a paramount role in each of the combinations.

Additionally, mikey e (the course designer) placed small animal statues to cover the sprinklers which may be spooky for the horses that buck and I are riding. After the walk, buck, mom and I headed for the hotel while the girls went to the barn to feed the ponies. By 5:30, the whole American crew (most of whom I didn't know) was on its way to the hong kong expo center for the Olympic welcome party. In the bus I looked around and was floored by the legendary faced that accompanied me. We sat with the likes of George Morris, claus balkenhol, David o Connor, and of course mark Phillips to name a few.

The whole ride seemed surreal. At the party, we saw all kinds of amazing shows with dragons, dancing, music and a wide array of colors that refreshed the Human eye. Following the festivities, we headed to the food table where we feasted on all kinds of delicious finger foods. The whole party was a success! We ended the day with a cab ride home and a few card games, both of which were unsuccessful on my part, with my loving grandfather. Tomorrow is the official start of the test event commencing with the first trot up at 5:00 pm. Stay tuned!!!