Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wagener is the NEW Aiken!

Hmmm let's see here, where shall I begin? Between the haunted house, my mother's hospital visit, the fifteen hundred pound hogs and the endless sand roads, my perception of reality and a nightmarish fantasy somehow became intermixed...

Yes ladies and gentlemen the road to Aiken (ahem, Wagener to be exact) South Carolina originally started as a smooth one, for the horses that is. However, the human transport was the catalyst for the eruption of scary, slightly intrusive and extremely offensive situations of what lie ahead.

After spending over a day and a half hopping from airport to airport, Delilah finally landed in Richmond, Virginia; with mom in tow. Being that neither my mom or the dog had slept on any of the flights (yes, flights as in plural in FOUR flights to get from SAC to RIC, all accompanied with four hour plus layovers..thanks mother nature!), I decided to delay the trip a day, so that mom could get some much needed rest.

On early Thursday morning, mom, D and I were "up-and-adam," making the pilgrimage from north to south with four horses in tow, one too many luggage pieces, two cell phones, and plenty of sugar-free Red Bull! Like I said before, the road trip to Wagener couldn't have run smoother, and highway 95 couldn't have been more welcoming. After eight hours of singing, chatting, NOT texting while driving, and stopping to check where Al placed his grooming halter from time to time in the trailer, the Crow's Ear crew pulled into one of our final destinations: Shadow Lane Farm!

What a site for soar eyes! The glorious yellow courtyard-shaped barn overlooked an immaculate cross country course and beautiful rolling pastures. On the other side an all-weather sand footing dressage regulated arena just teased me as I stood gazing at it's buoyancy and proximity next to my four-stall shed row barn. As I turned the boys out for the night in their spacious pastures, I felt so relieved to have a place as wonderful as this to train and prepare for the upcoming spring season. After a couple hours of snorting and prancing, the boys began to settle into their new winter home. All was good. NOW for the fun part.

Next stop: my humble abode. Now I must make a side note that I never actually SAW this house in person nor did I take the words "slightly rustic," "a little out there," or "blood-stained couch" seriously as I meandered from one sand road onto another. My bursting excitement from seeing my horses' new digs suddenly began to wane (similar to the bars on my AT&T iPhone) as I drove down Bluffwood Rd. As the door creaked open sounding like a scene from a Freddie Kruger movie, I was happily welcomed by two smiling and familiar faces, Coren Morgan and Kate Samuels who would be my roommates for the rest of the winter, if we made it out of the house alive that is.

"There is going to be some serious character-building," said Coren as mom and I creeped across the peeling linoleum floors and hopped over the puddle of water coming from the base of the oven, which Delilah thirstily lapped. Being that no television existed, the internet connection on my Verizon Mi-Fi was spotty at best, the microwave was unresponsive and the shower was big enough to wash off just one of my legs, I'd have to agree with Coren that some sort of building, be it character or nervousness, was absolutely in store. Nevertheless, we were finally in Aiken, and we we there for one thing: to train, train, train.

Now, let's just take a step back for a moment. When I say I'm in "Aiken" I don't actually mean the small town in South Carolina which plays host to fine dining such as Golden Corral or Ryans. I don't actually mean the town that has paved roads and a Kroger, Starbucks, CVS and a Marble Slab. NO WAY! When I say "Aiken" I am referring to the town of Wagener, which is nearly thirty miles east of the real McCoy. And when I say "Wagener" I mean the town that has ONE Dollar General, ONE take-out Chinese food restaurant, ONE Piggly Wiggly grocery store. When I say "Wagener" I mean the town that has ONE street light and ONE random hardware shop in case you need to buy a rope to tie up your neighboring Big Foot. Yes, my friends, Wagener South Carolina is where my horses and I reside, probably the ONE place where my coveted iPhone 4.0 clearly reminds me of my social isolation when it reads "NO SERVICE" in white bold lettering. Character building, my friends....Sheer. Character. Building.

After about a week in Bluffwood Shack (although Kate has a much better name for it which will remain undisclosed on account of the children), Coren, Kate and I had enough character-building and opted for the two-story lake house securely nestled in the woods of a very GATED community just five miles away from Shadow Lane Farm. I don't know whether it was the incessant howling of the hellish hounds ALL NIGHT LONG, the fumes from the leaking propane tank outside, or the heaps of possum feces spread around the entire house that greeted us one morning, but it was either the shack or me...and the shack aint feeding the horses every day. In all of about five minutes, the girls and I were packed, and speeding down the highway to our new, more sophisticated digs in the Edisto Lake community.

So from the start, the road to Aiken (or Wagener) has been that of a hectic one. However, as I am now starting into week two and thus becoming far more settled, I am slowly discovering why it's worth braving the cold instead of basking in the glorious sun of Ocala (where I have spent the past seven winters!) Where the endless sandy roads come in handy is for the long, arduous trot sets that lie ahead as our spring three days grow closer. Three events at which I'll be competing are all within a five mile radius of one another, and less than ten miles from Shadow Lane Farm. The kind and laid-back nature of the locals add to the tranquil atmosphere of this humble, hospitable horse community. And although it is "really OUT there," I have the honor and opportunity to live with two other fabulous horse women, who are not only great roommates, but encouraging friends when times become tough. So all in all, I'd say this has been a change for the better. Heck, I'll even venture so far as to say I think Aiken, or Wagener is even growing on me. The final word will come when I begin my show season and training sessions, which begin in a little over two weeks. Until then folks, pull on those gloves, zip up those boots, and grab a horse...we've got a trot set to explore! Stay tuned for more from the Wagener saga!