Monday, March 28, 2011

A SmartPak Cooler and A Blue Ribbon to Ring in the Month of March!

OK, I officially receive an “F” for updating my blog as promised. Truth be told, this past month has gone by with epic speed therefore rendering me useless when it comes to spending time alongside my laptop (unless it involves logging onto FaceBook of course!)

So, let’s see...where to start? In order to avoid a drab and tedious account of the past month’s happenings, I’ll provide a quick update on each horse and then jump to the most recent of shows, Southern Pines II.

Lyle has been improving his flat work and jumping skills tremendously. However, I must keep reminding myself that he is only five years old, as his aptitude for learning towers over most OTTBs that both mom and I have had the opportunity to train. He is a serious horse for the future, without a doubt!

Two weekends prior from now, Diego finally had his long-awaited opportunity to strut his stuff in DQ land! At his first recognized show, he took home the blue for his superb test in Second Level Test One and fourth place in First Level Test Four. Always a perfectionist, I still would like to get him in the seventy percentile range as opposed to the upper sixties but strength training and conditioning are always done over a long period of I am very confident that they too will come.

As many of you know I recently was given the ride aboard Rising Spirit and since I have had the opportunity to ride this amazing mare to sell for Sarah Heffron, my confidence has paralleled that of her “Breyer Horse-like” name. She has now competed successfully at her first two intermediates, placing third in the first and fifth in the second. On the off chance that she doesn't sell immediately, I really am hoping that I will somehow stumble upon a patron who is willing to purchase the mare for me to ride...that can catapult us to international stardom!

Now, onto the champ himself. What I love about that little horse is his ability to make things look so seemingly easy! From the countless shoulder ins down center line that Mark makes us perform to an Advanced cross country course in the pouring down rain, Al always seems to handle the pressure with ease, despite his pilot’s decisions, or lack thereof. I was very pleased this past weekend to have led from start to finish with Al. I believe that finally, our hard work and beloved grant money (which is rapidly disappearing from my bank account) is beginning to pay off!

One of the biggest changes in my dressage has been my attention to detail, which both Mark and Kim have really helped me to identify. At Southern Pines, my primary goal was to perform an accurate dressage test and try to leave no stone unturned, and no corner untouched. Although my changes still need some honing, I am quite pleased with the lateral and extension work aboard my wonder boy.

Cross country at SoPo was a whole other scene from the sunny day of geometry tests prior. I was lucky enough to stay relatively dry on May’s spectacular intermediate XC round which I was happy about considering I was wearing white britches! However, as I began to put in Al’s studs for XC, my original small grass tips were suddenly replaced with mediums as the rain began to pour down with conviction! Soon enough, Al and I sucked it up, tightened our belt (and girth), and headed out for the start box in the midst of a deluge. After about fifteen minutes of warming up (which was really quite an oxymoron at this point), our number was called and we began to circle the start box with anticipation and excitement of what was to come. Although I knew I was lying in first place before XC, I did not plan on going for the optimum time as it was both Al’s and my first advanced back of the year, and I was wanting to provide a confidence instilling round, rather than just a fast paced one!

As we set out on course, my original plan to start off slowly was somewhat amped up due to the inclement weather. Being that the rain was pelleting in both Al’s and my eyes in the approach to our fences, I found that Al was a bit stickier in the beginning of the course than usual. I therefore started riding him a bit firmer after the first couple fences, to ensure he wouldn't lose confidence despite the angry weather. After fence four, we were well on our way and I was able to scale back and allow Al to settle with plenty of pats in between the jumps throughout our gallop lanes. The advanced track at SoPo was a bit “twistier” than previous years, with many opportunities to interrupt the XC flow if the rider began to ride too backwards! Being that this is one of my weak points with Al (because quite frankly, he listens to me way too intently) I am very happy to report that I am greatly improving in this area as Kentucky begins to creep closer.

As we crossed the finish line, I was met with a boisterously cheerful greeting squad of my mother and Sophia Zeier, who flew all the way across the country to enjoy the downpour on the east coast, as if the California rain wasn't enough! Both Al and May spent the next two hours swapping positions in the Whirlpool boots and we ended the cold and wet day with an hour or two of hand walking and grazing, much to the horses’ delight!

However, Saturday wasn't a great day for all...quite the contrary actually. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Arden, Michael and Nat with the loss of their spectacular mounts. Losing a horse is never easy; losing one that you share each day along side and on top is demoralizing. However, Mandar and Dekorum are in greener pastures now running and jumping with the likes of Frodo, Jamie, Peewee, and of course my beloved Guppy. What a sad, sad day for eventing.

The weather didn't help the already melancholy atmosphere at Southern Pines on Day Three. Although it was immensely colder, I think we were all relieved to finally be dry and kept our fingers crossed that Mother Nature would find it in her heart to fend off the Rain Gods for the time being. I was worried that the new SJ venue comprised of grass footing would be torn up after one prelim, two intermediate and two advanced divisions had a go of it before Al had his chance. However, when I set out over the first obstacle in Sally Ike’s tricky show jumping course, I was reminded that the Southern Pines sand is no stranger to rain and soaks it all up making the footing quite cushy without being slippery! Al jumped like his normal freak self with a classically clear round to hold onto our three day lead in the Advanced B class! My, that boy has wings!!!

This week will be one of the busiest as May and Al and I not only have multiple lessons with the show jumping legend herself, Katie Prudant, but we are also packing our life up to head north back to VA, by way of the infamous Fork! We will be arriving at the Fork early where we will have the opportunity to ride under the watchful eye of CMP before competition commences on Thursday. In the meantime, to avoid boredom and over grooming my horses, I will set out a plan to find Kellie Pickler and educate her on the dynamics of C-A-L-A-M-A-R-I! Until then folks, shoulders back, eyes forward, and keep your eyes on the prize!