Thursday, September 6, 2012

Living the Dream

While I am not serving as personal assistant to the great Wil'Ya Love Me, my teaching and training business is steadily expanding! And by steadily I mean that I really don't have time to sleep, take a vacation, do laundry, or visit that mythical place called the beach?? This summer has been non-stop between traveling to shows, teaching camps, house-sitting, riding all of the horses in training, riding my own horses, and teaching upwards of 37 consistent students. PHEW! (yes I had to do a headcount to order DGE logowear... coming soon!).

Have any of you noticed my SUPER FREAKING AMAZING NEW SADDLE THAT ACTUALLY FITS MY HORSE AND I????? Well please keep your drooling away from my beautiful new piece of equipment that is currently covered in bubble-wrap. I am so excited to announce that my 2G CWD saddle has arrived! I am so lucky to be in CWD's program... the saddle speaks for itself. For the two shows I have used it... Willy has not touched a show jumping rail! This saddle keeps my lower leg right where it is supposed to be, and I feel so secure! This is no easy feat with my long thigh, ghetto-fabulous rump, and the fact that I need to jack my stirrups up so high because I am on a pony! Oh wait, the saddle also can't go over his shoulder or be too large in the seat. Somehow CWD did it! I cannot say enough good things about the equipment itself and the wonderful service! Ugh I am in love! I was a very proud professional to sport the CWD logo on my saddle pad! Several of my students have already converted and boy everyone's position is much improved... and their horses are going like a million bucks! Willy loves it. I love it. What more could I ask for?

Unfortunately the young horse I was super excited about, Adam, has degenerative navicular disease. Nothing I did or didn't do could have prevented this. My vet, who ALWAYS recommends some cutting edge treatment or very expensive plan A/B/C/D/E/F, said to throw him out in a field and cut my losses. I was completely devastated. It's interesting how he passed the vetting with flying colors and a month later he was dead lame. Oh well, live and learn. Luckily I was able to find him a new home via Thoroughbred Retirement Program, and he is living in Indiana trail riding in a western saddle!

My "dangerous" little red mare, Whynn, is progressing quite well. I say"dangerous" because her former owner was quite certain that this mare was beyond all hope and had even scheduled a date for the vet to put her down! While Whynn is definitely a sensitive red-head mare who has her own opinion on just about everything, she is such a sweetheart on the ground and is quite athletic! Most of her attitude comes from things she doesn't understand. So I basically started with her from the ground-up. Most days we are now able to walk, trot, canter, jump, and even hack outside! Recently she has been more "opinionated" than normal, and it turns out she tested positive for lymes. UGH! Oh well, hopefully she will be feeling better shortly and we will be hitting some schooling shows this fall!

So I find myself horse shopping again. Joy. Most people (when you are looking at inexpensive 'eventing' prospects) characterize event prospect horses as "hunters that were too hot", "Jumpers that were not tidy enough", "Dressage horses not fancy enough", "Foxhunters that bolt and cannot under any circumstance stand still", or "horses who are generally too dangerous". While I have no problem working with difficult horses... I need to purchase horses that could be easy to resell in case they decide upper level eventing isn't their cup of tea. I can't wait to see what I end up getting this time! (I'm slipping on my air vest now)

All of my students are doing great! Morgan and Kelsey A achieved the D2 USPC rating. DGE has had so many successful outings at events all over area 2... and I know that trend will continue through the fall! Hopefully in the next couple of days I can find some additional pictures and put them on the new and improved website!

More to come later!

Advanced... Accomplished!

This past season has been surreal to say the least... and we are only half way done!

I no longer question if my super pony can handle the height, width, and technicality of the advanced courses. He has attacked each and every course, with a level of cockiness that can be obtained when you are the only pony in the USA jumping 4'3" in three-day eventing. While we continue to be amazed by Willy's jumping prowess, his growing affinity towards the dressage phase is perhaps the most remarkable development over the past six months. Much of that is due to Jo Young, who began the transformation in Aiken, and Donna Ruth who has the distinct pleasure of seeing my smiling face every week as I attempt to do "gymnastics" in dressage (yes it is just as painful as it sounds).

Historically Willy and I play the "catch-up" game - posting a dressage score that warrants judge's comments "interesting interpretation of the halt" or "horse was rather distracted while rearing." The reality of the situation is - Willy will never be top 5 in the advanced divisions after dressage. The horses at this level don't trot, they float. And while it is sometimes frustrating watching these 5/6 figure horses warm-up, I am satisfied knowing that my beloved pony is giving every ounce of what he has. He has surpassed any and every goal we could ever have imagined for him. And surprisingly enough, he has become competitive on the flat! When Willy is on his game, he can produce a steady, consistent, accurate test. Nothing flashy, but filled with workmanlike obedience. And judges are rewarding this with somewhat competitive scores (typically mid to high 30s).

This past year, Willy and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. Talk about an old, married couple. I am incredibly spoiled with this athlete - he knows what I want practically before I do! We read the subtle changes in each other's demeanor, detect the slightest shift in weight coming towards a fence, and (most importantly) we know when to ignore each other.

I have become incredibly aware of what is going on underneath me, particularly while we are at competitions. I tend to be VERY careful with all of my horses - opting to pull up or scratch rather than risking anything. Much of my excessive diligence comes from my background in pony club (read HORSEMANSHIP). Most of my "mother hen"(also called neurotic obsessive over the smallest things) nature stems from the fact that... this is it. These select few horses are all I have. I don't have a string of horses ready to replace whichever horse broke this time out. So, I exercise extreme caution. Regardless if they are going elementary or advanced, they are each treated like the spoiled rotten ponies they are!

Anyway, I digress. Over the course of the spring I knew something just wasn't 100% with Willy. He was flatting GREAT, jumping GREAT, galloping OK. I was hitting a bit of a wall in his conditioning... around 5/6 minutes on course, Willy would really struggle to give me his second wind. I talked to several top trainers, discussed diet change, tweaked his training regiment, gave him "energy boosts", ran his bloodwork, and did a lameness evaluation. Nothing. Everything pointed that, yet again, i was being overly paranoid. Months later, after a dressage lesson Willy endured a pretty bad colic. We rushed him up to New Bolton in PA and kept him there overnight. Long story short, it turns out he has right dorsal colitis.... or a colon 3 times the size of normal. Lots of kisses and a diet change later.... I have my rotten pony back! AND..... HE WON HIS LATEST OUTING. We ran the intermediate at Loudoun to make sure he was feeling great and well... he galloped beautifully! I know it was a shorter course, but I had a lot of horse left... which felt great!

Onward to Plantation, Morven, then Fair Hill CCI** (qualifications for a spring ***).