Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The New Faces of Team Crow's Ear

     First and foremost, I owe all of you a heartfelt apology for not having updated my blog in practically eons!  Truth be told, my life has been nothing short of chaotic (in a good way) and has not allowed me the time to really sit down and reflect what has been taking place.  After Jersey Fresh, I was headed to Business School at the University of Richmond which was a tremendous learning experience and as time unfolds, it has proven to not only be educational, but potentially lucrative as well.  One of my classmates, Kyle Greenfield, and I had come up with an idea for a class presentation and let’s just say that this small class project has now transformed into our new business, BrushFire Media Group.  In addition to Kyle and I, my dad along with a few of his peers have delved into our online social network business plan and it’s really started to take shape.  How exciting!  We all need a way to pay for our expensive habits, be it gold clubs or shoes for our four legged friends!

     This brings me to my next point of interest:  the two newest additions to Crow’s Ear Farm.  The first is The Pilot (aka “Bob”) who is owned by myself, Carolyn Jolley, and Lady Anna Weir.  Carolyn and Lady Anna were generous enough to send Bob over to me from New Zealand (where my Fro came from) and since the beginning of July, a tremendous love has grown between the little chestnut and myself.  It was a big turning point for me because I refused to use any of Frodo’s bridles or gear until Bob came, and when I slipped the bridle over his ears, it fit eerily perfectly, without one hole needed to be adjusted!  I guess you can say that it was meant to be!  I am so thrilled to have Bob apart of my string and I thank Carolyn, Lady Anna Weir, and his previous rider, Natalie Page, a young up and coming advanced NZ rider, tremendously for allowing me the opportunity to sit on such a talented little kiwi!

     My next new mount is owned by a student of mine, Samantha Silver.  Verraux (sorry Sam, I always spell his name wrong), or “V” as I call him, is a young TB that Sam had took on as a reject from the KY race tracks.  She has done all the training on him and wanted to see what he could do as far as in the realms of eventing so we both decided that I would take on this wonderfully talented gelding.  So, as the fall unfolds, be ready to see me on some LOVELY horses!     

     Al and Seajack are coming back from some much needed long vacations (as well as myself, as my boyfriend and I spent most of July vacationing on both coasts) and we all are ready for the rigors and victories the fall season has to bring.  Additionally, mom and I are moving our other youngsters, Peewee and Guppy up to training level after having completed a few novices with ease this summer.  Needless to say, I am going to have a very busy and fulfilling fall season.  

     I am also extremely excited to announce a new sponsorship that will be supporting the Crow’s Ear horses. Triple Crown Feed in accordance with Southern States will now be supplying Team Crow’s Ear with all of our nutritional needs and I am so thankful to them for their support.  

      I also was very pleased to have been invited to teach at the Deep Run Hunt Pony Club Summer Camp a few weeks ago.  Before this clinic, my experience in teaching the youth had been meager.  However, I discovered that these kids were just as focused and gutsy as myself, and despite for a few less than ecstatic ponies (whose mind’s we changed at the end), the clinic turned out to be a success for both ends.  I really feel fulfilled when the education dynamic in a clinic is a symbiotic one: while I was teaching the kids how to drop down banks and gallop through water, I too was learning a different set of teaching skills that helps to shape only the best of clinicians!     

     So now with the fall season looming ahead, my focus is set on the fall three days for three of my mounts which will be a tremendous amount of work and time considering that I’ll be campaigning five to six horses.  Luckily, I will have help with the arrival of my new working student, Abbey Meyer.  Abbey is a young rider from Wisconsin who is seeking to move up to prelim with her horse Chaz.  Because of the location of her farm and lack of experience, she is finding the move up to the next level a little difficult and is seeking for some aid and in advice, in addition to learning the ropes of international eventing, which I am more than eager to give to her!  I hope that she returns back home with as big a smile as she has driving highway 64 in approach to Crow’s Ear Farm!

     Furthermore, I need to take time to address just how well my students are doing.  My mom and Jessica Bowen have successfully been competing their young mounts at novice level and they too, hope to move up to training come this fall.  A few new students, Bethany Astorino and Lauren Wilkins (now married) have come to me seeking help, and like sponges they've soaked up all my advice and taken into the ring and come out victorious!  Rachel Hinson, who bought Seajack’s full brother IBackJack (our second of our homebreds), has really skyrocketed up the levels in the jumper ring to consistently be clear and competitive in every class she enters!  My dressage queen, Celia Rafalko just recently won her Dover medal at her last show at Second Level which is a huge accolade.  My other, recently converted DQ, Carol Strauss has begun her First Level career with a bang as she has won all but two of her classes on her mount!  Needless to say, I am very proud of my girls!

     With that said, I must bid you adieu as I am at Panera about to school in one of my students at their dressage show.  However, I promise to be more vigilant when it comes to keeping you guys updated and like always, I appreciate all of your support and time when reading my highly detailed blogs!  Until next time, shoulders back, chin up, and kick on!  See ya in the start box!

Monday, June 8, 2009

     I must admit that in between showing in Ocala, packing for the long trek home to my beloved Crow's Ear, cheering Buck and Bobby (and Reggie) on at Rolex in a remote coffee shop, and prepping for my own spring three day at Jersey Fresh, writing a blog had been demoted to the least of my priorities.   To add insult to injury,  the increasingly sluggish pace of our computer’s internet connection here at the homestead certainly does not add any incentive.  So let’s see, so much to cover in so little time as I sit here in the overly air conditioned Apple Store in my work-out ensemble...where shall I begin?

     I think I will start by congratulating my coach and friend, Buck Davidson with one of the most inspirational and emotional weekends of riding and horsemanship I have ever witnessed in my twenty five years of living.  Needless to say, I was pretty anxious to drive up to his farm in Reigalsville, PA, to train a week prior to Alex and my CCI***, which would not only be Alex’s first CCI*** in his career, but my first three day outing since my accident, over a year later.  This blog is especially paramount because I feel the need to address to my audience the importance of my taking a lengthy time to come back to full speed at the upper levels.  Allow me to elaborate:  last year after my accident, I was so focused on recovering and hopping back into the saddle that the idea of coming back at Fairhill in the fall of 2008 seemed an impeccable one.  I would hear my mom and my coach tell me to take things slow and steady but I was so set on proving to everyone (including myself) that I come back quickly, that I lost sight of the present and ignored the past.  However, after taking a few months longer to heal and pondering the reasoning behind this surge to get to a fall CCI***, I realized that the reason why I was pushing myself was the only reason why I SHOULDN'T.  The person I should be proving anything to is myself, and that is probably the largest lesson I have learned in a long time.  Interestingly enough, as the fall shows commenced, and the winter circuit in Ocala began to transpire, that overwhelming feeling of having to prove myself to everyone dissipated, and what replaced it was a feeling of self doubt and insecurity.  How was I going to give my young mounts, Alex and Seajack the confidence they needed to step up to the higher levels if I myself couldn’t conjure up even an ounce mentally or physically?  Let me tell you, the drive down to Ocala was a somber one as I hoped this move wouldn't be a waste of my or my family’s money, time, or faith.  

     However, the nearly three months spent down south proved to be a worthy venture as I was able to successfully navigate my three competition horses around many horse trials, all with competitive results.  I think the largest confidence boost for me came in the form of the completion of my first advanced back at the Fork with Alex.  Although self-doubt weighed heavily on my shoulders, which is a feeling I have seldom had on the back of my horses, I was able to push through it’s barriers and increase both my and Alex’s confidence.  

     Now, back to the week spent in Reigalsville PA with Buck, Hawley Bennett, and Kerry Blackmer.  Both Kerry and I carpooled our way to Buck’s farm only to be informed by a shocked yet awkwardly lucid Hawley that Buck cheated death by five seconds as his camper that he had owned for less than two weeks literally blew up!  Of course because of the competitive drive that makes him a winner on so many accounts, Buck encouraged both Kerry and I to continue our pilgrimage up I-95 towards his farm and be ready for an afternoon gallop. Both Kerry and I thought, well if we are still going to gallop, then it shouldn't be that bad right?  Oh, quite the contrary! As we pulled up to the back side of the farm’s entrance (had to take an alternate route to get there as the main road was closed due to a “fire”) we were immediately greeted by Mackenzie Booth (Buck’s head groom) and company on motor bikes all simultaneously explaining how the debacle at the farm took place.  After everyone settled down, both Kerry and I escorted our trusty steeds to the nearest paddocks where we allowed them to graze while we took a gander at what was to be a skeleton of an RV surrounded by no less than twenty fire trucks and fifty fire fighters.  Leave it to Buck to make an entrance such as this!!!!

      The days working up to Jersey Fresh were nothing short of miserable, bringing with them torrential rain and bone-chilling temperatures.  In fact, there was not one day the week before the three star that wasn't downtrodden with rain.  Luckily for us at the new BDJ stables, we spent most of our time in the indoor arena practicing our flat work or performing ornate grid work under the watchful eye of “Coach.”  Even though the weather was certainly not willing to participate, Alex put in great work and effort leading up to the pinnacle of our spring season.  

     The weather in Allentown NJ was less than desirable which seemed to cause people’s morale to follow suit.  Every time I exercised Alex in the warm up ring, I would have to take him back to the wash stall for a full bathing in order to get the mud and blue stone grime that covered his legs, belly, and tail.  Let me tell you, there was certainly a large scramble to get to those coveted wash stalls right before the jog which made for an interesting and increasingly entertaining scene as I watched the grooms, horse in one hand and hose in another, dance around in circles in preparation for the upcoming jogs.  

     Alex performed his trot up like a rock star, and might I add, certainly looked the part of one too.  Until this time, my cheering squad and closest friends, Mom, Yvette Joyce, and Jess Bowen hadn’t arrived to the show so I was eager to see their smiling faces accompanied with their boisterous laughter.  Following the jogs, we headed out to walk the course, ate a quick dinner, and headed back to the warmth of the hotel in anticipation for the next day’s festivities in the dressage court.  

     In the morning I took Al out for a quick hack and canter in order to get him in front of my leg for his upcoming performance.  I then gave him another bath, with Jess’s help, and then proceeded to put my infamous “Rolex” braids into his mane and forelock.  Before I knew it, I was mounted and warming up for our test.  Because the weather never subsided, the ground jury made the decision to move the final test into the indoor arena, which is something we at Jersey have never experienced before.  The indoor is rather vast and obtrusive, with birds flying in the rafts and an abundance of noisy garage doors being opened and closed depending on the weather.  I was a little perplexed as to how Al would react to such a monstrosity, being the spooky horse that he characteristically is.  However, as we trotted around the perimeter of the arena, my apprehension quickly dissipated as Al was on his game and ready to perform a great test.  And what a great test it was!  Even though a thunderous rain beat down on the roof as we circled in our canter counter accompanied by a few lightening strikes, nothing seemed to bother Al.  In fact, he was even a bit lazy to my surprise.  However as we halted at L and exited the arena, I felt a surge of pride just thinking how far both this little horse and myself have come, and in such little time.  I couldnt wait for what lie ahead, even though as I type about it now, it gives me the jitters.

    The cross country course was, as expected, a formidable and daunting one, and accompanied with the soggy footing, made it all the more difficult.  My whole mindset about the day was to take things slow in the beginning of the course, allow both Al and I to settle in, and slowly build in the latter.  The overarching theme of my ride was to come home safely, soundly, and with ears pricked and smiles.  After a long hold on the course, causing our times to be delayed around thirty five minutes, Al and I were set to head out on course.  As my mother walked us to the start box, muttering helpful words of wisdom, I carefully plotted in my head the way I was going to jump every fence.  I also had second and third plans in case the first didn't go the way I hoped.  Al and I were ready.  Finally, we were off.  With valiant cheers from the crowd and my mother (she’s really the only one I seem to hear when on course) Al and I navigated through the first half of the course with ease, taking one option early on due to his greenness and my wanting to “play it safe.”  As we jumped through the first water we were greeted by hundreds of people’s overwhelming applause which seemed to catalyze Alex’s energy exponentially.  However, our momentum would soon be disrupted as a red flag was hastily waiving us down to stop as we began to accelerate in the gallop lane after the bounce combination in the woods.  Across the way, I could see an ambulance speed out on the course and I immediately felt a surge of anxiety knowing that my dear friend and fellow stable mate, Hawley Bennett, was the only other person sharing the course with both Alex and I.  As we circled around, trying to cool Alex off, I was soon approached by my mom, outwardly enthusiastic, and my coach, both assuring me that both Hawley and Ginny were totally fine all the while reminding me to keep my focus and and our confidence on course.  After receiving the two minute call to restart, I immediately put back on my game face, cantered a now rejuvenated Alex in a circle, and set off for the second half of my course.  Alex was just as positive and attentive as he was before the hold and galloped around the course with exuberance, taking one option at the end of the course at the last water to ensure a clean and safe round.  I galloped through the finish lines both fists in the air followed by a well deserved hug and pats on the neck for Al.  Yvette, Jess, and mom aided me in cooling Alex off, and didn't stop until our hands were numb from the ice water.  Finally, with the acceptance from the vets, I hand walked Alex back to his stall where we iced and polticed his legs, took him on many hand walks, and alloted him ample grazing time which Alex truly appreciated.  After our duties at the barn were finished, we headed for a late and filling dinner at Longhorn where we celebrated both Alex and my qualifying cross country round and of course, Mother’s Day.  Followed by a hearty dinner, we headed to bed, and I replayed the vision of cantering through the finish lines repeatedly in my mind.  In Mind Gym, a sports psychology book that I follow intently, Gary Mack says to think of a moment in your mind that you hope to pursue one day, and play it over and over every night before bed, and your mind will grow accustomed to positive thinking.  Since January, while laying in my bed at night, I’d been dreaming of the moment when I would cross that finish line feeling as confident as when I left the start box!  “Mind over matter;” I am now a true believer! 

     Al was true to form over the show jumping course leaving every rail in it’s cup and me with a perennial smile on my face.  I was so ecstatic to have not only achieved my goal of receiving a qualifying score for next year’s Rolex but also to have done so in style and with a surplus of confidence to spare finishing the show in 9th place in addition to taking home the much-coveted Eight Saint James Place Trophy!  Following SJ, the Crow’s Ear crew packed our things, loaded our star, and set out for the trip home.  As Jess and I rocked out in the truck on 95, I couldn't help but swell with pride for my pony Al, and be thankful for all the help from my coach, my friends (Jess, Yvette, and Lynn) and of course, my mom!  

     So now what’s in store for me you ask?  I am currently looking towards my upcoming Business Class Accelerated Program at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond.  With this new chapter in my life coming to fruition, I will be looking “upward and onward” to what life’s new experiences have to teach me.   See you out in the galloping lanes!  

Monday, April 13, 2009

Next Stop...FLORIDA HORSE PARK! All aboard!!!

This winter spent in Florida was one of rebuilding, restructuring, reformatting, readjusting.  Although at times my goals seemed unattainable, they were all met.  All three of my horses will be returning to VA fitter, stronger, more experienced, and in Seajack's case, a lot thinner.  My last outing at the Fork was one that challenged not only my riding skills physically, moreover it challenged my mental abilities.  As many of you know, this was my first advanced run since my catastrophic fall at Rolex, nearly a year previous.  Although it seemed like a millenium in passing, as I entered the main arena on Al to halt at "I," many thoughts ran through my head.  I thought of how almost a year ago, my life changed drastically, how I myself almost lost my life, and how I did indeed lose the LOVE of my life and the one thing that constantly reminded me that life was worth living.  I thought about my walks up and down Cardwell Rd. with my mom and grandmother to rebuild my strength in my lungs and ribs as I was eagerly rehabiliting;  how much I WANTED to be back in key form, and how much I wanted things to be back to normal again.  What I learned from the event is that things will never be back to normal, for I am constantly reminded of past mistakes made whenever I peer into the mirror.  However, as depressing as this may seem, in knowing that things will never be the same, I learned to move on and use past experiences to my advantage as a means of becoming a better horseman and person.  Throughout my dressage test I thought about how much this moment meant to me, that I had finally come back to the level where I left off, and how long and tedious a road it was to arrive here.  As I finished my final halt and salute, I thought of all my past horses, how much I loved them, and how much they have given and taught  to make me the rider I am up until this point. The Fork, for Alex and I, was a tremendous success.  My dressage test was in the pouring rain, but with the help of my coach and Al's amazing participation, we scored a respectful 30.8, which was good enough to place second on day one of dressage (overall 4th in the Advanced division).  Cross country was the next task for us to undertake.  There were many times I questioned my ability and constantly sought affirmation from my coach and my mother.  I second guessed myself, over analyzed lines on the cross country, walked the course one time too many times; the truth is, I didnt believe that I could do it.  Alex is so green at the level having only run three advanced in 2007, and although he finished third in the CIC*** at the Fork in 2007, that was when I was in my peak form in riding; what a difference a year can make!  The only thing that made me carry on was that I knew deep down that we were ready to attack the course.  I stayed at intermediate longer than expected so that I could settle in easier and everything Al had done leading up to that point was giving me the thumbs up to move up to advanced.  He was telling me that he was ready...it was my end, however, that was in question.  After heading out of the start box, planning to take it slow and steady, my whole mind set changed, and changed quick! After every fence and combinatinon was  completed, my confidence level soared, as did my trusty partner Alex.  Everything I asked of him, he delivered with ease.  I was somewhat surprised as to how well he conquered such a daunting and rigorous course.  I was particularly nervous about the abundant amount of corners that were placed on different angles and open striding combinations which have always been a trying concept for Al and I to understand.  However, Al quickly tried to mirror his big brother's cross country skills as he cantered around the championship Advanced course confidently and flawlessly.  Needless to say, as we crossed the finish flags, with ears pricked incurring only a handful of time penalties, I was all smiles!  I will never forget the deafening cheers from a supportive crowd at the water fence in addition to the few people who introduced themselves to me to show their support...I was so very proud of our achievements we made right then and there, I could have retired on that high of a note!  Not to mention that the elevated pitch of my proud mother's screams and cheers made it all the more bountiful a success.  Show jumping day did not disappoint with only two rails down in a tremendously challenging course that kept the jump crew on their feet!  Al felt a little tired from the previous day's abundant efforts, and accompanied with his jockey's excess of nerves, we had two unfortunate rails.  I was very proud of his efforts and because Al hasn't had a rail in over two years,  I chalked the extra eight penalties up to "rusty riding" and "frayed nerves!"  With the commencement of the weekend, I was extremely relieved and confident, feeling that my horse and I are ready for the upcoming three star held at Jersey Fresh.  I was also extremely proud of my coach who won the CIC*** aboard My Boy Bobby and was third in the Advanced with Ballynoe Castle RM, both of his Rolex horses.  Buck has worked harder than anyone I know and for him to be riding so well, on such endlessly talented mounts (both owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal) is a feat that all of us aspiring riders dream to emulate!  So, my next goal to look to is located in Allentown, NJ.  My original plan of riding in the Ocala CCI** with Seajack is being re scheduled for a later date as I need to rebuild Seaj's confidence into water, since it has been a little shaken since his move up to intermediate.  Oh well, as mom always reminds me, "Always have plans A, B, C, D, and E handy."  I am working on Plan B I guess.  Seaj will move back down to prelim for this weekend's show.  Fancy will add another training level to her repertoire of experiences while Al will compete in the Advanced combined test, which will enable us to practice our three star test and allow me to get back into the show jump ring!  I will update you as soon as I can before the long yet highly anticipated trek back home to Crow's Ear.  I certainly am missing my bird Milly, my 5 year olds Peewee and Guppy, Banjo Bunny, and my Jess, but for now I am keeping my eye on the prize with three great outings at the Florida Horse Park.  And I cannot forget my tough job of being coach to my mom and Sucky Solar (now termed as "Superstar Solar" by my optimistic mother) at their training level three day event!  I also want to wish all of the Rolex competitors good luck and warn you all to watch out for Bobby, Reggie, and Buck!  Im keeping my fingers crossed to see a shiny new watch on Buck's wrist at Jersey!  Until then, sit back, heels down, and kick on!!!  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nearing the Bend

Hello all!
Judging from the black circles around my eyes, various empty energy drinks stashed in the garbage, and course calluses building on the tips of my fingers, one could easy come to the conclusion that these past two weeks have been spent mostly on the road.  In all seriousness, the drive to Southern Pines for the horse show was a lot easier than expected.  When we left at two in the morning, both Jen and I were ready for the long trek ahead, well equipped with cases of Red Bulls and my favorite, Snickers Protein/Energy Bars.  However, because of the God-awful time we departed, and because no one else is crazy enough to be driving at the wee hours of the morning, we found out trip took a shorter time than anticipated.  We were very happy to arrive in sunny, yet quite brisk, North Carolina.  With that, we quickly unpacked and settled the horses in, while I lightly dressaged everyone as Jen washed.  Finally, we ended the day with my braiding everyone so that we were all prepared for the next day's activities of geometry (what I like to term as "dressage").  Friday was a day filled with highs and lows.  Seajack performed one of his personal best tests, although still was scored rough as I am constantly working on bringing his frame higher.  He is so willing to put his nose on the ground and after years of stretch work, I think he is a little confused and none too happy with this new "bringing the head and shoulders up" advanced frame.  However, I felt a vast amount of improvement this weekend in the dressage ring.  Alex however, was on his worst behavior for the first time this year, which I will say, is my fault.  As we entered the ring after having had the winning warm up, I halted and saluted to the judge eagerly, knowing my horse was really the one to beat in the class.  I suddenly became disoriented after I was never given a head-shake or nod or flick of the hand as a gesture to "carry on" with the test.  As I sat there, repetitivelysaluting the judge (still to no avail), Alex finally had HAD it and reared straight up in the air.  You must keep in mind that although he is an advanced level horse capable of beating any warmblood in the dressage ring, he still is a Thoroughbred who ABHORS standing still, especially in a dressage ring.  So, after circling him a few times to get his head put back on, we re-started our test, which surprisingly turned out quite well, and headed back to the barn.  You would think that after having ridden at three four stars, and multiple advanced level tests, that I would know that it is NOT a rule that the judge has to salute you back to proceed into your test.  This goes to show you that everyday we are learning and constantly being humbled.  I was especially proud of myself, given the situation, that I really rode Alex through his meltdown.  A few years prior to this, I would have taken my leg off and just hoped for the best.  This day, I thought to myself "OK well now we are just practicing so ride him like I would at home, really schooling him so he knows he cannot get away with being naughty in the ring." Although my scores with my first two rides were less than desirable, my last ride, Little Sorrow was the one I was most looking forward to.  Fancy is a cool mare, and those who know me also know that I have not had great experiences with mares and prefer to ride geldings.  However, whenever I hop into the saddle aboard Fancy, my face is illuminated with a smile.  I love her work ethic and her eagerness to please.  She is so happy to be given the chance to be a "show horse" and it is portrayed in her soft, kind eyes, and pointed forward ears.  She, of all, gave the best performance of the day in her second training level to place 9th out of an extremely competitive thirty horses in her division.  XC day was to follow.  Seajack went out of the box really well, and although gave me the same cautiousness into both waters I have come to expect, performed quite well given that it is his third time at the level and how much more difficult a course that Southern Pines is over Rocking Horse.  You have to remember that in Ocala, the terrain is primarily flat, so theXC questions can sometimes be easier because you don't have to worry about them falling on their forehand down a hill to coffin, etc.  Southern Pines is extremely mountainous and the course is extremely well built and inviting, and I am glad all of my horses agreed with me.  Alex performed his XC like the seasoned campaigner he is, which made me very happy and confident, especially following our disappointing round at the Ocala Derby the week prior.  Fancy did a superb double clean XC and I was greeted with wild cheers from my number one fan (mom) and Fancy's owner Yvette Joyce (my number two fan)!  The final day of show jumping was even better than the day before with all three of my horses adding zero penalties to their previous scores.  How the tables have turned! SJ used to be by far my hardest phase and now,because my horses help me so much, it has become one of the phases I look most forward to riding.  Go figure!
     When we finally returned home from NC, the horses were given a few days to relax and enjoy the sunshine.  Meanwhile, both Jen and I caught up on some much needed sleep and enjoyed one too many burritos at Taco Pepes (my favorite Mexican restaurant in Ocala).  This week, we are now preparing for the Fork, where I will be competing Alex in his first advanced this year and Seajack intermediate.  Fancy is opting to stay home as training level is not being offered at this week's horse trials.  Because Buck has been away at other shows, I have had the privilege of riding with dressage instructor, Gerd Zuther, who has been extremely beneficial in our dressage training this weekend!  So, with that, we have our eyes set on the familiar state of North Carolina, and the pedal is to the medal.  Keep your fingers crossed that everyone has a safe and steady ride!  Until then, see ya on Highway 95!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preparation is Paramount

     The week long break between Rocking Horse III and Rocking Horse Spring horse trials seemed to come and go with the blink of an eye.  It also turned out to be one of the most informative weeks of lessons I will ever have and never forget.  I had all three ponies entered in the spring horse trials at Rocking Horse and because they had a long relaxation period, I decided that the idea to go XC schooling a few times would be a smart one to get their feet wet...in every sense of the phrase.  XC schooling is one of my favorite pastimes as Buck usually takes a large group consisting of all levels, and everyone doing their own course makes for an extremely exciting time.  However, this time was different.  Instead of the large group, it was only my three horses, my amazing groom and friend, Jennifer Curley, and myself.  I should say that it is awesome to get all of Buck's undivided attention, however, with this prize comes the consequences because he was able to find small yet important flaws in my riding.  In just two days, Buck had to teach me how to ride my advanced mount, Anthony Patch, in a much softer way than I had before.  Alex is such a careful and sensitive horse, sometimes my driving and more defensive xc seat becomes more of a hindrance than a helpful one.  In addition, we changed Alex over into a new, slightly easier bit for xc to encourage him to gallop rounder which would allow me to have more connection and control in between the obstacles.  Needless to say, I was a bit nervous before the horseshow that weekend as my style of riding had been drastically changed to suit one horse.  This means that I would have to reformat my riding for Al, and then go back to the defensive riding for my young, more green horses Seajack and Fancy.  
     The two days of practice certainly worked out well for the show on the weekend.  Al took home the blue again with a fantastic run around the intermediate course.  I truly feel that after this run, he is prepared and eager for his progression to Advanced next weekend at Southern Pines.  Seajack jumped superbly in the show jumping and although showed some greenish tendencies around the xc with a stop at the water, I feel that he is more than ready for what Intermediate questions throw at him and just needs some more practice at "diving into" them with more tenacity.  Fancy was a star as she put in a lovely dressage test and had a beautiful double clean xc.  In just three shows and about a month down in Ocala, this little mare is really showing that she is enjoying her job because of her astounding progression in both the dressage and jumping rings.  
     So, although we all learned a ton from the previous week, it was a necessary evil to change my format for Alex in order to improve myself as a horseman and rider.  Not all horses go the same way nor should they have to.  In the past I have been accustomed to riding keen and courageous horses across the country and now I am learning how to ride a careful horse positively without scaring him.  I guess I can say with the more horses I ride, my learning curve will forever endure...which to me is a good thing.  Anyhow, this week I am preparing for our pilgrimage up north to the Carolina Horse Park where all three will be showing off their stuff! In the meantime, I will be playing host as my amazing mother and grandparents are enjoying a week in the sun in addition to competing in a $5,000 Derby held at Overlook Farm with my boys.  Hey, we could all use some of that purse in these tough times!!!  Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes as planned...and if it doesn't, that we have our Plans B, C, and D carefully mapped out!!!  Take care and until next time, heels down, shoulders back, and kick on!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let the games begin!!!

     And thus, the event season has started: the hustle and bustle of packing and unpacking and braiding and washing and loading and unloading...it seems endless and tiresome and yet, we eventers LIVE for it!  Buck was right after all when he told me that as soon as I arrived in Florida, the show season would help jump start my drive to compete once more!  He couldn't have been more right; perhaps that's the reason I am paying him the big bucks (no pun intended)!!!
     Although my horses and I have had a late start in arriving to Ocala in mid February, their performances in the past two shows demonstrated otherwise.  I had a week to prepare for our first show, Ocala Horse Trials, where both Alex and Seajack would be competing at Preliminary, and Fancy would do her first recognized event at the Beginning Novice level.  All three showed to be old pros in the game by placing in each of their classes.  Alex was 2nd, Seaj 3rd, and Fancy a respectable 6th in her BN division, which seems to be the most competitive and populated of the divisions.  Everyone performed impeccably, especially for only having been granted a week for preparation.  I was extremely proud to say the least.
     The next show on the schedule was the Advanced One Day held at Rocking Horse.  Although I would not be competing there this year (as I have the past five years in a row), I wanted to go to show support for my coach, Buck Davidson, who was riding six horses, which I believe should be officially added to the Guinness Book of World Records!!!  I was happy to lend a helping hand and once again be in a "grooming" position which were reminiscent of the days when I tirelessly worked for Stephen Bradley and Phillip Dutton.  There is something about caring for those horses that give their heart to you that I cherish most;  it's a feeling unsurmountable in comparison in my opinion.  
     The same weekend was the last leg of the Florida circuit marathon of events which would again be concluded at Rocking Horse Stables.  I had Alex entered in the Intermediate in addition to Seajack, which would be a first for him at the level.  Fancy also moved up to Novice level following her superb performance at Ocala.  I was also pleased to have the support from not only my steadfast groom, Jennifer Curley, but a surprise visit and lengthy drive by my mom and Yvette (Fancy's owner) definitely were what the doctor ordered.  With the horses and crew in tow, we were poised for a fantastic weekend!  And what a weekend it was!  Alex was his normal self and proved to be a gentleman in the dressage ring, and although a bit sluggish, pinned second in the class.  He is a constant project for me as his capricious attitude sometimes makes my decision whether to wear small or large spurs a difficult one.  Seajack was also a star!  After much thought about his lower frame, Buck and I decided that I should try and ride him in the double bridle to see if it aided me in teaching Seaj more self-carriage.  Indeed it was a success, as he scored a 39 in his first intermediate test!  Fancy was also lovely as she performed a spot-on test which placed her 6th out of twenty nine in the large and extremely competitive Novice Horse class.  Next up was the show jumping:  All three were fantastic adding zero penalties to their dressage scores and boosting their placements in their class to first, seventh, and fifth.  Cross country was equally educational as it was entertaining.  Alex proved to be an old shoe at the sport as he carried me around the course to win his class.  Seajack was very behaved and although had one refusal at the first water, he came away with a vast amount of experience as well as our first qualification towards our spring two star endeavour.  Fancy was also very good and although she was green at a few elements on the course, I was very proud in how far she has come so fast.  
     With that, the never-ending week of shows has come to a screeching halt.  The horses are back to relaxing in their stalls, enjoying endless hay and multiple bouts of grain and their riders and grooms soaking up the Florida sun and sleeping in thirty minutes later.  However, next week will be a different scene as the barn will back to the chaotic order in which we have all come to love and expect.  Next week I will be preparing for Rocking Horse Spring Horse Trials, where Alex and Seajack will once again tackle the intermediate course and Fancy the training level.  And now, as I finish writing this blog, all I can do is think, "Let the games begin!" Until next time, heels down, shoulders back, and HAVE FUN!!!  See ya!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009...A New Beginning...in more ways than one...

     Wow, it has certainly been a while since I have last posted a blog and I certainly have a vast amount of experiences and surprises in which to pass onto my audience.  First and foremost, I want to wish all of you a happy new year.  My new year started off great as Crow's Ear Farm was blessed with the arrival of "Calling All Comets," born on January 21, 2009.  Although he is quite small and cuddly, Comet has an endless amount of energy and can be quite a handful for his "surrogate" parents, both mom and myself.  Despite his haughty demeanor and lack of manners in the barnyard, I cant help but daydream about what this little colt will grow up to be.  All I can do is think about the future that lay in store for him as he blazes around the fields with his beautiful mother, Paula's Accolades, alongside.

     When the year began, my plans for Florida were a bit hazy as my finances were still in question.  However, always looking on the bright side, I began to leg my boys up with slow (and sometimes tedious) trot sets, which occurred as frequently as the weather allowed.  At the end of January, the funds were raised and the boys and I were poised to head down south to the sunshine state.  In addition, a dear friend of my mother's and myself, Yvette Shrewsbury, decided that she would like for me to ride her mare, Little Sorrow (aka "Fancy") for the winter to see if she has a career in becoming an event horse.  After a long day of packing with one of my best friend's and student, Jessica Bowen, and the rest of the Crow's Ear gang, both mom and I were set and eager to shove off to the warm weather.  On February 6, we did just that.  With mom heading up the caravan with three horses in tow, and me following closely behind in my car, we made great time in arriving to Buck Davidson Stables in just under fourteen hours.  The horses were ecstatic to see solid ground and gleefully cantered around in their pastures and rolled in the sand to celebrate their arrival to their new winter home.  Everyone settled in beautifully and within two days, jumping lessons were underway with my coach Buck, as my mom joyously clapped after each of my rounds.  I can't tell you how great it feels to be back down here in Ocala, to be doing what I love most, and to be alongside the people I respect most and who share the my same passion for riding and horses.  

     Tomorrow is the first show of the season for me and boy is it a packed one for the Crow's Ear team.  This weekend I will ride all three of the horses at the Ocala Horse Trials:  Alex is doing prelim, Seajack is doing prelim, and Fancy is doing her first recognized show ever at the beginning novice level.  I am quite excited and will be sure to update you guys as the weekend closes.  Until then, heels down, shoulders back, and kick on!!!