Friday, January 25, 2008

Ocala, Part I

Wow! Just writing about the speedy manner in which these last few weeks have passed makes me tired. Where shall I begin? The trip down to sunny Florida went smooth as silk and all of the boys walked onto the sandy footing both healthy and hydrated. As soon as we unpacked the trailer, the work began. Because I only had a week to prepare Frodo for the upcoming Winter Training List Sessions I guess you could say our regimen of fitness was “fast-forwarded” a few weeks. With an exciting cross country school, a few jumps lessons, and some schooling on the flat, the boys were now in full work in preparation for the upcoming show season. After a week of being in Ocala, another addition to the string of horses arrived to Buck Davidson Stables in the form of a chestnut mare named Corona owned by my dear friend and coach, Marcia Carabell. She will be a great addition to the string of Crow’s Ear Farm horses.
Frodo was the first to experience any kind of pressure from the rigors of traveling. The training sessions were held at the Florida Horse Park, in Ocala from January 21-23. The first two days would be show jumping with the amazing Laura Kraut, show jumper extraordinaire, and the always critical Captain Mark Phillips would help on the flat work for the final day. To my surprise, Frodo stepped his game up. He jumped so well that Laura commented on how “careful” he was over fences, which, if anyone knows Frodo’s and my jumping rounds in the past, was an extraordinary compliment. The first day of show jumping with Laura consisted of grid work and bending lines, to improve the arch of the horse’s jump and to hone in on the rider’s positions. Frodo jumped with ease and incredibly, no tension whatsoever, which made my job a lot easier. The second day would prove to be more difficult but all the more informative. Laura had set up an intermediate level course for all of us to perform in order to work on our horse’s canters in between the obstacles. She also set up tricky lines and distances to ensure that we rider’s were making the correct decisions about speed at the approach and departure in combinations. Because Frodo has always been a bit difficult as the number of fences increases, I was little nervous about losing that relaxation that I had been able to establish the day before. To make matters worse, Captain Mark Phillips surprised all of us by being present and watching all of the horse and rider combinations in their jump schools with Laura. I knew that I would have my hands full when Mark stopped me in the middle of my warm up to inform me that my position was all wrong. For show jumping, I needed to be more forward in the saddle, and extend my arms even more to allow Frodo his neck and freedom in his back. A year ago, had someone drastically changed my position at a prestigious clinic in front of the most important horse people I have met, I would have probably made a complete fool out of myself. However, during the lesson, as Mark came up to me to comment on my position, I became a sponge, soaking up any information he and Laura had to offer. When my turn finally came around to jump my course, Frodo and I do so flawlessly, much to both Laura’s and Mark’s surprise! In fact, because it was so good in their eyes, I only had to do it once! Needless to say, I was very proud of my Frody and myself for not buckling under pressure. The final day was a dressage lesson with Mark. Having had the opportunity to work with him in England with Alex before Hong Kong, I was greatly looking forward to the chance to work on some difficulties that I had with Frodo. Right away, Mark sent me into the canter where we would stay for most of the lesson. We worked on flying changes, doing four loop serpentines with flying changes on the center line. I can’t tell you how much I felt like a dressage queen leaving that lesson! My smile must have been visible from here to the other end of the ring. Overall, Frodo and I did a great job for our first time being apart of the USEF Winter Training List. I cannot tell you how much of an honor it was to be along side people like Amy Tryon, Karen O’Connor, Stephen Bradley, and Darren Chiacchia to name a few. I even got the chance to see the infamous Theodore O’Connor and Poggio jump together around a few courses. The whole experience was simply amazing.
With all the training sessions over and finished, the show season will begin with the first outing at Rocking Horse in Altoona, FL. I will be riding both Seajack in the training and Corona in the beginning novice. Still have had a hard time finding help which always takes a toll on not only my physical strength but even more that of the mental. Please keep your fingers crossed on finding an adequate groom to suit my horses and my needs. I will be in touch in a few weeks. Make sure to check out the Rolex website ( and read up on Frodo’s and my progress towards the coveted four star title. From down south in Ocala, Frodo, Alex, Eric, Baby Seajack and Coronita all send their regards!!! Stay tuned!