Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012: A Year of New Adventures and Fond Reunions

Wow it’s finally here: 2012! The year of the XXX Olympiad in addition to the foreshadowed Apocalypse. Needless to say, we all have A LOT to look forward to in the next twelve months.

This year I am planning to spend the winter primarily in Aiken, sprinkled with a few quick trips down to Ocala for some challenging and highly educational jump lessons from the one and only BDJ. I am very fortunate to have a wide array of competition and training horses in my barn this year which always makes me step up my game and improve my skills. Like I always tell my students, “the more horses you get on the better.” After all, experience yields wins.

Which brings me to my next topic of conversation: my students. As my time in Virginia begins to slowly wind down my students’ apprehension and anxiety about my three-month absence exponentially skyrockets! I must admit that I am extremely spoiled and lucky to have such supportive and attentive students and plan on changing my AT&T wireless plan to “unlimited” talk and data while I am down south in case of emergency (ie: when a shoulder in becomes a leg yield or a two stride becomes one). However, I am sure they will have no problem hearing my annoyingly cheery voice yell in their head to “pick his belly up with your lower legs” or “shorten your reins” or “ride the hind end forward” or my personal favorite (also stolen from the great Kimberly Severson), “c’mon...KICK him!”

It is vital that my students and I sit down and outline a plan for their winter/spring show season so that when I return to Virginia in mid-April, we can keep the ball rolling. I continue to encourage my students to clinic with other trainers that are both local or visiting the area. Who knows? Perhaps another clinician may have a different way of explaining a turn-on-the-haunches that is easier to envision and understand and at the end of the day, my ONLY goal when it comes to my students and their horses is for PROGRESS!

In addition to training in the saddle, I would like to express the importance of improvement outside of the barn. Being that the winter can be brutal up north, I want my student’s to focus on personal fitness before his/her equine’s. Come mid-March the footing will begin to dry which allots plenty of time to work on the horse’s fitness regimen so why not use this time to really focus on yourself? Go ahead, log onto Groupon and Living Social and buy a package of classes at your local CrossFit Gym. Kickboxing is pretty awesome and a insanely intensive workout. I mean, who WOULDN’T want to take out their day’s aggressions on an unsuspecting punching bag...or innocent kickboxing partner (ahem...Beth)? For my more sultry diva-like students I would highly recommend Pole Dancing classes. Since I started attending these rigorous upper-body workouts, I have a developed a newfound respect for strippers after just one hour of twirling, whirling AND trying to point my toes simultaneously (which always ends in EPIC failure for me).

Regardless whether it takes place in a gym or in the barn, I feel more comfortable when I have a plan outlined and goals drawn out and knowing that I will be absent for a large amount of time, I feel as if providing my students with a consistent program from which they can base their training always lightens the pressure that the winter so easily bestows.

On a more personal note, I am beyond thrilled to once again be united with my dear friend and former Rolex mount, Mazetto. As many of you know, I obtained the ride on “Ewics” in January of 2008 after the horrific and untimely death of my dear friend Eleanor Brennan the year prior. Although no goals for the spring of 2008 were initially set, Ewics and my relationship bloomed overnight and he carried me into the winner’s circle at the advanced level shortly thereafter. Being that it was always Eleanor’s dream to ride at Kentucky (keep in mind she did compete in four star events in the UK on her other mount Bailey Zwei as the youngest competitor), Christine Brennan, Buck and I made the decision to enter Mazetto and I at Rolex. Still to this day, I cannot even begin to tell you the emotion that encapsulated me as I sped through the gallop lanes adorned in green and gold in honor of my late friend. Ever since I met Eric I was immediately drawn to him, which I truly believe is in due part to my feeling closer to Eleanor by having this regal animal in my barn. Even after my accident I made many trips to Charlottesville to visit the big bay gelding, because he brought to me a sense of peace, which I so longingly yearned for after the loss of my Frodo. Eric was then sold to another friend of mine, Ashley Kehoe who enjoyed tons of success with him placing in the top at a CCI*** and prepping for her first four star. Being that Eric had already competed in five four stars and carried multiple wide-eyed riders through the toughest advanced level tracks world wide, Ashley decided that he had nothing else to prove and called me up to ask if I would be interested in “taking over the reins” and providing this cherubic animal with a home where he would remain for the rest of his life. I cannot even begin to thank Ashley and her family enough for I am reminded on a daily basis why it is we do this sport when I am greeted with a nicker and a paw from that roman-nosed beast. It is to have a taste of immortality, to fly with the eagles. It is to feel limitless and all-powerful, yet light as a feather and vulnerable. Eric made me feel all of these things, and if I am able to return an ounce of the happiness in which he gave me, well my friends, I will have done my job. This horse owes me absolutely nothing (although I plan on stealing tons of hugs and kisses). So Eric is moving onto his next chapter in life: from galloping across the world’s top tracks to teaching others the feeling of a big, beautiful gallop. His life has certainly come full circle.

So it is with great anticipation and excitement that I make my pilgrimage south to Aiken with my gypsy van full of eager and talented horses and endless hope. My show season begins on Feburary 1st, with Full Gallop starting off the new year. Until then you can find me either in a truck, on a horse, or on highway 95 headed south toward the warmth! Keep cluckin’ my friends!