Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Long Overdue Aiken Recap... Blue Numbers!

It seems that with the everyday struggles of building my business, getting all of the horses worked, working my second job to help pay for said horses, and possibly spending time with family/friends have tremendously interfered with my blogging. Never fear, I will update you all! I have such exciting news to share, but I think it is best to start right where I left off...Aiken, South Carolina. Three horses made the 10 hour trip down to our winter home at Jumping Branch Farm in Aiken this year. Woody "WoodView" owned by a friend/client was to make the trip to finish his rehab on a collateral ligament injury (since the sand in Aiken is quite a bit softer than the frozen tundra back home). My new partner, Adam, was the second 17+ hand horse to make the trip down after purchasing him just two weeks prior to leaving. Both of these wonderful giant horses were coming to get jump starts on being "big time" horses, schooling at different farms, lessons with top trainers, etc, etc. The star of the show (as always) was my partner of 13 years, the 14.3 hand superstar, Wil'Ya Love Me (aka Willy). Working with Sally Cousins, Colleen Rutledge, and Richard Lamb, we had big things planned for the pony this year. Last year, our fall season was cut short after a freak fall at Seneca Valley Horse Trials. To make sure all of our ducks were in a row, we were going to start off at a preliminary event, then one intermediate, and if all went PERFECTLY… an advanced. Beyond that no plans, just focusing on the here and now. Woody and Adam had a fabulous time in Aiken, becoming instant best friends forever. I took several lessons on them with Richard, getting fabulous results and even went to a couple of farms for XC schooling. Neither horse was confirmed enough on the flat to warrant competing against the best of the best in Aiken, so we continued to work, improve, and have fun! Willy on the other hand was all business. We found an absolutely wonderful dressage trainer, Canadian Jo Young, who was transforming our flatwork from "barely broke" to "competitive." Once a week I would head over to Sally's for a jump school, and Willy was jumping better than ever! We started off in the preliminary at Sporting Days, which while we had a fabulous result, was terrifying. Willy didn't look at a thing - rather he was SO SUPER FREAKING EXCITED TO SEE XC THAT WE MUST GALLOP AS FAST AS POSSIBLE OVER THE RIDICULOUSLY SMALL 3'6" FENCES. What I realized is, now that Willy was jumping 4'3" consistently... he thought 3'6" was pathetic and not worth his time. Not really fun for me, but we finished on a great score to place us in 3rd right behind Jan and Sally. So far - so good. The same was true for Pine Top. Cruised around the intermediate like the champion he is. Now a two week break before the big test. During our bootcamp weeks, several of my clients from back home came to enjoy some sunshine and sand. I think it is safe to say everyone worked hard but had a fabulous time. Then, before I knew it the weekend of the advanced Pine Top was here. Luckily Richard said he would help me with my jumping courses to decrease the likelihood of me riding like a monkey - since my pony would actually need me to help him around the fences that came up to his ears! Dressage was not our best effort, but it wasn't as catastrophic as I thought it would be. There were some nice moments and some moments where we became a bit air-bound (insert flying change NOW). But our score was under a 50, which was my goal for our first attempt. SUCCESS! Particularly in a division filled with the top contenders for the London Olympic Games. Tacking up for XC, some pretty scary dark clouds were looming over the parking area. As I put my foot in the stirrup (I was the 3rd horse on course) WHOOSH. Rain came pelting down so hard and fast. Everyone ran into the trailer and hid with Willy to wait for the worst of it to stop. Unfortunately the rain was so bad that the organizers deemed it unsafe to run and moved both jumping phases to Sunday morning.... just what i needed, more time to think about the HUGE jumps waiting for me. The show jumping course was quite tricky and HUGE. It was filled with max height and width oxers, and required several tight rollbacks. For the first time in what seems like a century, I left the ring with a huge grin on my face. Willy performed flawlessly, jumping the heck out of each and every large fence. I earned a gold star as well, maintaining an appropriate canter and seeing all of my distances at least 5 strides away. Phew. Now onto the fences that don’t fall down if you mess up. The cross country once again rewarded positive, forward riding over all of the large/wide tables. After walking the course four times, I was quite confident about the technical aspects of the course – with the exception of the large, downhill bounce at the tail end of the course. Willy came out of the box acting pretty cheeky. He was spooking at the flowers, photography (sorry Mark!), various blades of grass, etc until finally I decided to give him a motivational "whack" with my stick before the fourth fence - and that seemed to finally get his attention. The first combination was fabulous, two downhill rolltops, then a maxed out table and then onto a tough question - big table, up a mound to a log, down the hill to a right point corner. Willy made quick work of this element, the first water, quite a few more maxed out tables, the bounce combination that I was terrified of, and finally the second water. Before I knew it - we were home safe! Our first advanced - finished CLEAN! I could not have been happier. So finally we headed back to the land of the Mary - with a new advanced super pony!

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