As I trotted down centerline to halt at X, I exhaled a sigh of relief for at that moment, I was satisfied where I was and what I was doing in my life. I tipped my head and saluted-a deluge of rain poured into my lap from the spout of my helmet and I exited Solar on a long rein looking for my Thumb's Up validation, a sign from my daughter that met her approval with a beautiful smile. She always is close to me...and 30 feet from ringside is living proof of that. I could bet she learned that habit from her ole' lady!!!
WE WERE BACK!
As hurricane Hanna thrusted her might upon the East coast with a copious rainfall, we remaining riders equally rebounded back on our feet right back at her! EVENTING. The life blood of this sport. Those of us that remained had an unmeasurable amount of grit and determination to finish what we all started. It is so very obvious why Laine loves this sport......it is indeed a reflection of her own fortitude and stamina for Life. Men from the boys. This was certainly a horse trial without exception. By the time I rode following Laine.....it was a steady downpour that remained in that dismal state till just after dark. Only the 'die-hards' remained and the Seneca field of play was near empty in what would be the busiest time of the day for the organizers and judges. I rode my test almost 3 hours early because of the no shows and riders electing to call it quits. I walked back to the trailer looking at Laine saying to myself, "another fine mess kid"!!! I knew there was no way in Hell we would be loading our soaked ponies up and heading 95-South to the sheltering gate of Crow's Ear Farm! Not a chance. My daughter's conviction is the Rock of Gibraltar. It has given me strength to be a nurturing Mother when the most difficult of times came to cripple my life and hers on April 26th. I depend on Laine. As do the monkeys who thrive from that great rock they claimed home to. The two work together just as we both do. I am so incredibly fortunate to have the strongest influence remain in my life. I will forever be gracious to God for not robbing me of that bond.
We were greeted by so many fellow riders...."welcome back Lainey"!!! From our dear CA friend Stephanie Boyer to Boyd, Sharon, Tara, Matt, Jackie, Madness, and all our close comrades......both Laine and I found solstice in each person coming up in the terrible weather and making a point of Laine's first event back and congratulating her return . I Love all of You who gave a little bit of your time to make my daughter's struggle not go unnoticed and support her passion of this sport. There has been so much controversy and negativity associated with Rolex and pressure put on Laine's youthful shoulders. It is refreshing to know that our friends remain......Our Friends. I was tenderly reminded by Kathleen Flynn who read our daily hospital blogs that it was Time & Sunshine that mends most Everything. When she asked how Laine was really doing.....I responded but had a 'quiet' moment where emotions forbid me to speak further. She lovingly looked at me and said those very same words I advised readers. Now they were for me. And she was right. I walked away with a smile from ear to ear....and a tear or two that intersected that grin. I felt lighter in my steps as I made my way to the rig and homeward bound with my precious daughter beside me. Our horses were happy. We were happy. And Laine was in the omnibus looking for the next event! She felt so rewarded to be back in the loop from too long a hiatus.
I want to thank first and foremost, my Father and Mother for their loving and unconditional support through ALL of this year. And the many years before. The many years AHEAD. Laine said she is going to see her grandfather witness her in the next Olympic Games before time takes any of us.....for that smile from grandpa is what motivates her to rally onward. Laine is already an Olympic athlete in his mind.....but Laine wants the chance to prove it to him in all his and her glory. I feel she will get that chance indeed. Not only will the Ashker name be a recognized name, the Stephenson Shield of Arms will beam with pride and remain strong.
Which brings me to Ashker once more. Laine's father. Michael. I want to Thank You for your support in financially stretching to the outer limits in giving our kid the chance to live her dream as we did ours. From our 23 years of marriage and half of them struggling in the music business....we have gone through tumultuous ups and downs together in pursuit of 'making it' and now we follow our daughter's aspirations with the same zest for success. It is no surprise I call you when there is adversity in my life because we grew up together, won and lost together, and continue to support one another in our baby's struggle to be Happy and Fulfilled. You gave me my grandest gift. And only you. I thank you for understanding my idiosyncrasies and will take the gravy from our marriage to my grave. "If Almosts Counted".....no wonder I sang the hell outta your song....
My brother George and his wife Judy. I love you both so very, very much. The tough brother you were to me as your little sister carried me through this whole ordeal Georgie. You rescued me so many times growing up......and this would be no exception. And Judy. Your abundant prayers answered ALL. God could not walk away from all the prayer chains you started. I love you Jude.
Lynn Cruser, yo Baby! How in the world could I have got through each day without your silver Bug pulling up my drive at the close of each day to spin time talking over a good glass of wine??? I love you. When I move away....I will be lost without you.
I also know our 2 BELOVED boys Jamie & Frodo are looking down upon our convalescing souls and giving us strength to go forward in their absence. It has been an absolute struggle and immense heartbreak without them. It is a loss that painfully visits our hearts daily. I still have yet to change the feed schedules with their names on it. I probably never will. And Frodo's broom he chewed just the beginning of this year.....will be with me as a reminder of what happiness filled our barn of 11 years. I can say this. We always knew we had the barn of Kings.
Sunshine arrived to greet both Laine and I on Sunday morning with stadium first then finally cross country. We had a complete BLAST and Laine's ride was complete perfection aboard baby Seajack. That team will be a competitive duo next year. Hey, mom didn't do too bad either on Sucky Solar he's so 'affectionately' called! We got 2nd in our Training division. OK, OK.....out of 2!!! Looks like mom has more work to do. But then really, are Mom's 'work' ever truly done????
Time & Sunshine has brought me to this place in my life. And in this place are the friends and family I dearly love. And above that. The gift of Time and another chance I was blessed with to be with my daughter after April 26th. I see nothing greater than to maximize on that once in a lifetime Gift.
So look for me in my red boots and listen to the screaming send offs out of the box. That would be yours truly......doing what makes me most happy and proud......supporting the love and spirit of my extraordinary daughter Laine Evion Ashker.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
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!