Today I am writing you all to update you on how my first event back transpired over a tumultuous weekend. As always, Seneca proved to be once again a well-organized and well-prepared horse trials...that is, until Hurricane Hannah showed her ugly face. As mom and I watched the television the night before we were to leave for Seneca, we watched a swirling red cloud cross over directly where we were supposed to ride: Poolesville, MD. However, being that we ARE event riders, the show must go on. The ground jury hastily decided to run the training level over two days, much to my mother's and my dismay since that meant we needed to find stabling for our horses, and a hotel room for ourselves which equal one thing: more money! Both mom and I forwent braiding our horses since we honestly thought that the whole gig might even be cancelled. We woke to our blaring alarm clocks at the bright and shiny hour of four o'clock (in the morning) and made our way to the barn where we very rudely woke up Solar and Seajack and loaded them up in the trailer. At this point, none of the rain or high winds had appeared and we were beginning to think that our weather reporters should find another job. Perhaps we spoke too soon? The further north I drove, the heavier the rain poured. When we arrived at Seneca, both mom and I checked in, retrieved our packets, and I began to tack Seajack up for his dressage. As I was tacking him up, the announcer informed us that all dressage would run early and they would take people in a "first come, first serve" manner in order to get as many people through their tests as possible. After about a five minute warm up, Seajack was more than happy to enter at A. Even with the absence of much needed caulks, Seajack performed his test superbly and I really noticed a change in his frame from his first one star in April to now. He really seems to be growing up and understanding what it means to be a "big boy" (for those of you who know me, you know what this term means). I can honestly say that as I rode my test, I had a tranquil sobriety about me; simply stated, it sure felt good to be back in competition. I exited the ring and was embraced by a smiling and completely drenched mother who then went and got her horse tacked up to perform her dressage. Both Solar and Seajack were stars. Rain, snow, sleet, or sun...our boys never seem to disappoint.
I remember in February this year, at Rocking Horse, Frodo and I were in the lead by three points after dressage from Stephen Bradley and From. I was preparing Frodo for our show jumping round when a storm accompanied with torrential downpours and excessive winds flew overhead. As our division came to an end, Stephen and I saw the worst of the storm before the ground jury decided to cancel the rest of the days' events. I remember my coach Buck warming me up with Frodo, donning his rain gear he bought when we were in Hong Kong the previous year (that should tell you how hard it was raining) and yelling to me instructions as to how to jump a clean round in such impossible weather, only half of which I could hear. Stephen went before me and as the rain beat down on us, I saw he had a rail with From which gave me a little breathing room for the lead. As I entered the ring with Frodo, the rain and wind increasingly grew stronger and more perilous. I recall thinking to myself as I cantered toward my first fence that if we could jump a clean round in these conditions, Rolex would be a piece of cake. Again, my Frodo failed to disappoint...with knees jerked high and amazingly keen eyesight, Frodo navigated around the course like it was beginner novice level. Most of the fences I could only see through small squints of my eyes since the rain was hammering down so hard...I really had to leave the rest up to Frodo, and as always, he came through for me.
Seajack did the same as his older brother by jumping a beautifully clean show jump round the next, and way more enjoyable, day. Because it was his first show since the one star, I went quite slow across the country but I was thrilled with how confidently he answered every question asked of him. Mom also did a great job on Solar having only one rail in SJ, which is a remarkable improvement for them, and a confidence building cross country. Although the weather proved to be less than desired, the show as a whole was a major success for Team Ashker and Crow's Ear Farm. I must say that as I watched my fellow comrades traipsing through the mud and sideways rain, I came to the conclusion that event riders are not only crazy, moreover, they are the most compassionate people that I know. It was such a joy to see good friends like Boyd Martin ("Boydy"), Ryan Wood ("Woodsy"), Sharon White, Stephanie Boyer, and Jennie Brannigan, and Leslie Law all with perennial smiles on their faces even when uncomfortably drenched...one thing is for sure, eventers sure love what they do. It feels great to be back, and even greater to be back riding against and with my eventing family. Thank you all for your support through this time...as promised, I am back...eventing just wasn't the same without the Ashker girls...until next time, heels down, thumbs up, elbows in, and kick on!
PS. I want to wish the BEST of luck to my coach, Buck Davidson, who is riding his short listed mount, Ballynoe Castle RM ("reggie") at Blenheim CCI*** in England next weekend. To see results, go to www.blenheim-horse.co.uk. Good luck COACH!