Thursday, December 30, 2010

Horse Heaven

Photo by Misty McGinnis Bailey
This is a barn just outside of Knoxville in East Tennessee. One of my fellow grad students at UT snapped this picture on her way into work this week (she is a scientific writer/editor for the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, now) and she said it was so beautiful she just had to stop.

I'd like to imagine this is what horse heaven looks like. If I look really closely I can see Reece standing warm and happy, munching on hay in one of those spacious, weather-controlled stalls........with a steady supply of peppermint treats trickling into his bucket at 5-minute intervals. :-)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Elevation

I read a comment earlier this month that recapped an informational session from the 2010 USEA National Convention. One of the professionals (I believe it was Karen O'Connor...but don't hold me to that) had suggested that incorporating elevated ground poles -- or even cavaletti -- between efforts in a jumping grid would be even more helpful than just the poles flat on the ground. I need poles between jumps in a grid to keep Eddie "bunched" or else he will use the momentum of the gymnastic to get longer and more strung-out to each element and eventually just explode wildly over everything....making it impossible for me to ride correctly or to even stay in the saddle. The ground poles make him think about using his body BETWEEN the fences and to set himself up accurately before the next jump. If he doesn't have to think, he just barrels. NOT FUN.


Libby Henderson riding Buzz in a Jonathan Holling eventing clinic


I like this photo of Libby riding a gymnastic that Jon has set up for her and her horse. If there were a little block of wood under the end of each of those ground poles (to give them a tiny bit of height) then I think that's exactly what Karen was suggesting. I can visualize that here via the photo, so I think that next time I start working through some grids, I'm going to add height to my ground poles and see how that goes! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sit up!

A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on the COTH message boards about the things you can learn from watching professional eventers ride young or green horses cross-country at the lower levels of a horse trial. One of the writers mentioned how much she learned in just a few seconds by seeing Sharon White ride a squirrelly youngster down to a fence. She wrote that as the horse started to lose impulsion and back-off the jump, Sharon sat up very straight and tall and wrapped her legs around the horse and kept tight to the jump, with the horse looking but definitely not stopping.


I will NOT be riding like this in 2011!
This concept made an impression on me as I try to get Eddie back to good competition condition. His jumping this past year has been uninspired and erratic, with him either jumping quietly and obediently (making me ride more comfortably and confidently), or it has been spastic, wild, and completely uncontrollable. One thing that I KNOW about myself as a rider that I have been trying to change the past 10 or 12 months is that I will get lulled into the role of "passenger" if Eddie is going nicely and jumping everything I ask. That is fine and good, so long as Eddie always jumps "nicely," but Eddie doesn't always want to jump "nicely," so I need to be a more active player. I believe that Eddie is a good partner, but he needs me to tell him "yes" a lot. And, when I'm just being a passenger, that "yes" isn't always there, and sometimes it's more like, "Um...yes???" At times, that leads to a big, fat "NO" from Eddie. So, I am going to work on not approaching our fences by leaning forward and saying, "Yes....right???" Eddie tends to lay on his forehand as it is, so my leaning into our jumps can make for an awkward take-off (see my blog entry Answered Prayers for a detailed explanation of what happens when I jump up Eddie's neck). From now on, each time I come down to a fence, I'm going to channel Sharon and sit tall, wrap my legs around Eddie's barrel, and say "YES." If this becomes the norm, then there is no question that Eddie and I will be ready for the spring season without all of the anxiety that comes with early year jitters and rustiness. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear Diary.....

Well, it's almost the new year and it is cold, windy, and there is still some snow on the ground. Wait a minute....I live in the South!!! Are you kidding me??? This means that I will not be riding until 1) the temps are consistently above freezing, and 2) the mud dries to at least a depth of 2 inches...instead of the current 6 inches in my riding arena. Ughhhh. 
Since I have no pressing engagements, goals, or deadlines, it will give me lots of time to prepare (or, as Eddie would believe: "to plot") and look forward to a productive and exciting 2011. I laid the groundwork for some improvement this past year, so now it's time to take it to the next level, and then (hopefully) GET BACK TO COMPETING.


When I was in high school, I was given a pretty little "Riding Diary" that has about 3 sentences written in it. While I enjoy tradition and do occasionally get nostalgic, I'm going to leave that diary just the way I left it in 1993 and I'll use this blog space instead (on the whole) to log my riding plans, lessons learned, inspirations, and amazing revelations. I've done that a tiny bit this year, after various riding experiences, but I always tried to comment on what had happened or what I was working on and how I was progressing. I now want to also document things I read, hear, and discover that will (hopefully) contribute to me and Eddie's future successes this coming year. So, I will attempt to update this more often and I do intend to have more interesting and important things to say. Unless, of course, that rumor of an upcoming Family Guy theater movie proves true. Then, I'll probably get side-tracked....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -- Winston Churchill

Above photo of Colin Davidson and Draco from Eventing Nation
I wasn't sure I would post anything on Colin Davidson's passing, but he was such a remarkable person that it seems disrespectful not to acknowledge the pain and sorrow that is being felt by the number of special people he left behind. I didn't know Colin personally, but I had seen him ride and I have passed him casually in the commonplace goings-on that occur on grounds at your average horse trial. What I have heard and seen of him proved him to be gallant, intelligent, talented, loving, and brave. This particular web post (made by a friend of Colin's) speaks to the very subject that struck me when I heard the news that he had passed and that he would selflessly live on as an organ donor.

I have commented before on this blog about the incredible world that we eventers live in. We eat with fellow eventers, we drink with them (a lot.....but, we'll talk about that another day), we ride with fellow eventers, we train, learn, listen, experience, argue, grow, mature, laugh, cry, fight, and soar with fellow eventers. Our world is small and we know almost all of its denizens (whether we have met them in person, or not).

Colin's death has caused a shockwave to ripple through our small community that has stopped us in our tracks, brought a furrow to our brows, sprung angry tears to our eyes, and has compelled us to question the influences of luck, fate, fairness, and grace. Like John mentions in his Eventing Nation post, I feel that Colin's passing will cause all of us to pause and think about what makes us tick; what makes us who we "are;" what makes us live; what makes us breathe. For Colin, that was eventing. And, for Colin, it was horses. As this post title so aptly imparts: no day spent with a horse, or another rider,  or another eventer is never, ever wasted. Let us be grateful for our sweet horses. Let us give thanks for our fellow riders (and our families who so lovingly and graciously understand our dedication and our desire), and let us hold dear that passion that ties the knots that bind us together: eventing.

Our community will mourn the seemingly senseless loss of one of our most promising, bright young stars....but our family will also grow stronger, knowing that we daily question our resolve and challenge our worth, and -- as always -- we find ourselves made better by that which does not take us away as well. It makes me think of a quote taken from the ever-popular YouTube video that inevitably makes its rounds every-so-often amongst my crowd: "There is nothing stronger than eventing, because there is nothing stronger than an eventer."

Rest in peace, Colin.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Pony Club FAIL

This is a picture of me circa my freshman year in college. That is my late horse, Awesome, back in the day when we were still running and jumping around together. Besides this being a sentimental photo of me and one of my sweet horses, it is a shocking example of how I let the Pony Club ethic slide drastically in the days when I wasn't actively competing. Note the "non-approved" hunt cap I'm wearing for jumping. Not only is it practically ornamental (certainly not protective), but it has slipped down over my eyes, so who knows what happened after we landed from this jump. Also note that I'm not using a breastplate with my saddle, I'm not wearing gloves while jumping, and I'm riding in a baggy sweatshirt, jeans, chaps, and -- most horrifying of all -- tennis socks and Sebago slip-on moccasins. Were it tennis socks and tennis shoes, it would be bad enough. But, Sebago's? It's like I just walked in off the street, got on my horse, and pointed him towards a jump (which, I may well have done just like that). Shame, shame!

With that being said, I do have to say I did a sweet job of wrapping those white polos, though. Bandaging is the one thing that I have always taken very seriously. So, pony club wasn't totally lost on me, after all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What the Deuce???

Now, I know that Becks has had a rough time lately with the press, his career, the various affair scandals, bidding for England as the host of the 2018 World Cup, and promoting his charitable interests all over the world, but that doesn't mean he has to let himself slide down that slippery slope of middle age. I mean....what is going on with the hair??? If lovely Becks gets to looking rough, then there is no hope for the rest of us!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Answered prayers

Schooling in Nashville
September 2010
I'm all about the power of prayer, and I feel that the Lord answers prayers in many different ways. Sometimes it's overt, sometimes it's subtle; sometimes it's in a way that is unexpected, and sometimes answers seem to never come at all. Yesterday, as I tacked up to ride for my second jump school of the week, I felt like it was a beautiful day and that -- inevitably -- I was due for a bouncing. I've been jumping in earnest again this week here at home and Eddie has been great. We've been getting back into our previous form, but I have a healthy skepticism for what looks like a winning streak....it's never good to get overly optimistic: pride comes before a fall. I've also changed Eddie's bit from the small, hollow-mouth Eggbutt snaffle I've been riding him in to no effect for the past 2 years. I've reinstated his old bit, a Happy Mouth Mullen-mouth loose ring snaffle. He has been much better about contact and responds immediately to my pleasant half-halts. I just don't think he liked the eggbutt snaffle. This "new" bit is hardly more severe. I guess it's just different. Whatever works, though, is fine with me!

As I tacked up, I was thinking about how I should be enthusiastic, yet still wary, regarding Eddie's recent attitude adjustment and "good," "willing" behavior (yes, it is time he lived up to his name again). I said a little prayer along the lines of "Dear God, if I do fall off today, just let me break my left arm....for at least the 4th time in my life...and not my right arm. I need to be able to continue to type, write, and teach to make money! So, please, if I'm due for an injury, just make it my left arm."

To make a long story short, I didn't fall and Eddie wasn't bad. BUT...we did get an awkward 1/2 stride into a vertical, whereby I jumped up Eddie's neck, and when he took off, his neck came back into my hands and hyperextended my left thumb so badly that I thought I heard the pop echo across the entire field! I was sure that when I took off my glove that my thumb would just be hanging there, completely out of the socket. I cantered away on landing and then pulled up and shook my hand for a few minutes until the pain subsided. Then, I turned around and jumped a few more times (much more successfully) and we finished up with a nice one-handed hack out through the back of the property for about 30 minutes while I regained the feeling in my hand.

My thumb is bruised, swollen, and definitely sprained. Good thing is, God granted my prayer and injured my left hand. Maybe I should pray for a new job while I'm on a roll. :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

"And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse."


Photo by Marc Manning

It has taken me a few days to sit down and write this post, but I'm finally getting the time to stop and reflect. The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ended this past weekend in Lexington and the news in the horse world has been shockingly quiet as the happenings and goings-on of these exciting 2 weeks start to evaporate into thin air. I had intended to go to WEG for several years leading up to the competition (I had a free place to stay with my college roommate and her husband and 2 wonderful kids), but as the time approached, other things took priority and the expense of the travel just didn't seem worth it, afterall. But, knowing that all of those riders, owners, competitors, horse lovers, and horse sport enthusiasts were gathered together in one place, at one time, for the first time in this country (and, only 2.5 hours from where I live), it is a bit exciting to think about.

Horses have been a part of my life from the time I could walk (even before I could walk!) and they will be a part of my life until the day I die. Horses are amazing, incredible animals, and I'm not just saying this because I love my guys so much. I was very moved by the inclusion of the Para-equestrian competition at the recent WEG. The disabled athletes should compete alongside the traditional disciplines and I hope that they enjoyed their experience in Kentucky and that the para-disciplines will always be a part of WEG from now on. I've included a link, here, to a photographer's online album that I saw that captures some of the most beautiful images of the entire games. What the traditional riders accomplish is astounding, but to see a person who cannot walk on her own, or who cannot stand without assistance, riding atop a horse to victory, satisfaction, and pure enjoyment is one of the most inspiring things a fellow rider can witness. The good Lord created the horse for many reasons, but the one I find to always be so special is the realization that a horse doesn't see people with disabilities. A horse will run, and jump, and fly even, no matter what the rider is capable of doing on his own. A horse alone is an animal standing in a field; a person is just a member of our human population. But together, they become something that is almost not even of this earth.

When God created the horse, he said to the magnificent creature: I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth shall lie between thy eyes. Thou shalt cast thy enemies between thy hooves, but thou shalt carry my friends upon they back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou shall fly without any wings, and conquer without any sword. ~ The Koran

Photo by Marc Manning

Friday, October 8, 2010

From A to Z


Here is a list of my favorite things about the 2010 World Equestrian Games (soon to be ending on Sunday, October 10).

A -- Australia's event team members, Peter Atkins and his wonderful horse, Henry Jota Hampton (known affectionately by all as "Henny")!

B -- BOYD

C -- Canadian eventers!!!

D -- Dressage drama

E -- EVENTING!

F -- Britain's tall, cool, calm, and collected eventer (and individual silver medalist): William Fox-Pitt

G -- Great Britain's gold medal-winning event team

H -- Helmets worn by the various competitors in warm-up or when otherwise not "required" in order to protect themselves against potential head injury. I would also like to mention the great news coverage and "helmet updates" given frequently by http://www.riders4helmets.com/!

I -- The Italian event team who put in a good showing and has deepened the field for the various national teams in international competitions. I also want to mention that the Italian event horse, Iman du Golfe (who cut his shoulder at the corner fence #20 on cross-country) was stitched and treated at Rood & Riddle and is expected to make a full recovery.

J -- The Jump Jet and his rider, Capt. Geoff Curran, of the Irish eventing team. I loved watching them go this weekend and get their chance on the world stage! I hope to see more great outtings for this pair in the future.

K -- Kentucky Horse Park. I've been there numerous times, and I compete there myself, but I'm sure it was like nothing I've ever seen before these past two weeks. Way to go Bluegrass State!

L -- Laura Bechtolsheimer of Great Britain rode Mistral Horjis to 3 silver medals last week: one for team dressage, one for individual dressage, and one for the freestyle. This is the first time in 32 years that a British dressage rider has medaled in international competition....and she did it 3 times!

M -- Michael Jung of Germany who won the individual gold medal in eventing by being strong from wire-to-wire, showing his mastery of all 3 phases of the eventing competition. He and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW were outstanding on show jumping day, sealing the deal with a solid and unquestionably dominating double-clear round. It was beautiful to behold!

N -- Andrew Nicholson and the New Zealand event team! Great job by Andrew to move up the leader board and snag an individual bronze medal! Great job by New Zealand for taking the bronze team medal, as well. Those old guys (Andrew and Mark) still got it!!!

O -- The 2012 Olympics are now right around the corner and for the U.S. (particularly the show jumping and eventing teams) there needs to be some serious work and re-organizing going on before we are ready to present outstanding teams to the world in London. As John stated on Eventing Nation: "But perhaps the biggest frustration is the notion that our eventing team could potentially write the WEGs off as bad luck and head to London with a similar strategy." I, personally, do not think the U.S. fans, competitors, and the past and future team riders will let this happen. Everyone seems very disenchanted right now, so what better opportunity is there to bring about a revolution in our nation's approach to building an international team?

P -- Para-equestrians and the para-dressage competition. Competing the first time at a WEG and having a great time while in town. Congrats to Sophie Wells of Great Britain on her individual and team gold medals, proving yet again that the Brits know their way around international equestrian competitions.

Q -- Quarter horses everywhere in the reining competition!!!

R -- The U.S. reiners stole the show! Great job by all those guys on their home turf. I just wish Shawn Flarida and RC Fancy Step hadn't had the broken stirrup in the individual competition. But, they'll be back!

S -- Steffen Peters (U.S. dressage rider) who won bronze as an individual and bronze in the freestyle competition. He also repeatedly demonstrated tremendous class as he honored his friend Courtney King-Dye and dedicated his medal-winning freestyle performance to her as she continues to fight to recover from a devastating head injury incurred during a fall from a young horse this past spring. His helmet-wearing sparked nods and applause from riders and horse enthusiasts everywhere, and I can only hope his example will be followed by all (professionals, amateurs; competitors and joy-riders) in the days and weeks to follow. You're a class act, Steffen!

T -- Moorlands Totilas. Need I elaborate????

U -- Universal Sports and NBC for their great online and television coverage of all the action for those of us who couldn't be there in person!

V -- All the many, many volunteers who made the competition possible. As a competitor at equestrian competitions that could never be held without the help of volunteers, I know how important each and every one of them is. As a frequent volunteer myself, I know that it is hard work, yet rewarding, and thanks to all of the workers at WEG these past 2 weeks (not to mention the countless years/months/days of preparations leading up to and after the games, as well).

W -- Jimmy Wofford, for his involvement on every level in the games and, particularly, the eventing competition. "The Woff" as a legend in U.S. eventing provides great commentary on t.v., an entertaining and educational XC course walk the day before cross-country, and his online blog is funny, honest, and endearing....as always. We're very lucky to have him as a leader and as a personality in our great sport!

X -- XC!!! Congratulations to Michael Ethrington-Smith and Mick Costello and his team for such a truly beautiful and challenging (yet fair and appropriate) XC course. It will be sad to see ME-S retire, but he has provided a legacy that will be put to good use as courses are designed, built, and developed for years and years to come.

Y -- Kyle Carter. Yes, I know this is a stretch, but we all love Kyle and his infectious good humor, as well as his total dedication to the sport. We also love that Kyle leads and guides the USEA Area III Young Riders every year....so, there is your "Y," folks!

Z -- Zeal! That sums up the amazing rides of the Canadian eventers on cross-country day. And, to prove that point, I present this video in total and perfect evidence of this concept: Jessica Phoenix and Exponential at the "Land Between the Lakes" water complex. This is how you do NOT want your horse to jump a blind drop into the water, but if you have a horse with the zeal and courage of Exponential (and you can ride like Jessica) then it's a fitting display of enthusiasm, horsemanship, and the determination it takes to be an eventer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Friend Therapy, Part II

(Photo by Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com)
Straight from the source: Courtney King-Dye relates how special the WEG dressage week was for her and how happy she was to be there. I can only imagine how much she has improved through all of the energy and enthusiasm she has experienced the past few weeks. Keep going, Courtney!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inspiring

U.S. national para-dressage champions,
Rebecca Hart and Kazan.
(Photo by Linda Slade on The Chronicle of the Horse)
Today, the para-equestrian dressage (Para-dressage) kicks off at WEG! This is the first time that the para-equestrian competition has been held concurrent with the other 7 FEI disciplines at a World Equestrian Games.

I think it is amazing to see athletes who might not otherwise have the physical strength to compete in a sport be able to enjoy the special experience of being an equestrian. Horses don't ask how many arms you have, or how many legs, or how well you hear, or see; they love everybody equally. The para-equestrian riders are incredible and I can't wait to watch some of this online! Life is too short to not spend the majority of it....on the back of a horse. :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sweet Silver!!!

Canadian eventers on the silver medal podium.
(Photo by Lisa Slade
on The Chronicle of the Horse)
For the Canadian eventing team, winning the silver medal at the World Equestrian Games this weekend wasn't coming in second place....it was an all-out invasion!!! Amazing job for those horses and riders. They showed how well they have been coached, prepared, and trained for years leading up to this competition. They have been honed and groomed as a team for a while, and the U.S. should take note. You can't make a team out of a last minute collection of eligible riders. You need to "know" who your team members are going to be years in advance, and foster them over a period of time so that in selection situations, they are choosing from a ready pool of combinations, and not just whoever is left standing.


Andrew Nicholson putting in a great
show jumping round.
(Photo by Lisa Slade
on The Chronicle of the Horse)

 And what about New Zealand? Quiet and sneaky, they moved up the standings on cross-country day and did what Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd do best....ride solid and accurate to the very end. Congrats to Andrew for his bronze medal finish as an individual, and a bronze medal winner as part of the NZ team.


British rider, William Fox-Pitt, and his horse Cool
Mountain on cross-country.
(Photo by Lisa Slade on The Chronicle of the Horse)
 Do I even need to say that the Brits won team gold and individual silver? They are outstanding, as ususal, and will be celebrating tonight!






Here is a video that shows a few highlights at the big water complex from cross-country yesterday. It features two of the wonderful Canadians, as well as my personal favorites, Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet. Yay, eventing!!!

And....shoes.

Because this blog is also, sometimes, about shoes: I give you my much coveted Baker-plaid Ariat tall boots (top left of this photo) I WANT, I WANT, I WANT!!!!!!!!

My, oh my, oh Canada!

Hawley Bennett-Awad giving Gin & Juice
a pat. They were just one of the six clear rides
for the Canadians today.
After an incredible day of the best riders in the world tackling an outstanding cross-country track, it's Great Britain in 1st, the U.S. in 2nd (!!!!!!), and Canada in 3rd (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). There were teams falling down the leaderboard after stops, falls, and retirings on course. There were teams soaring up the leaderboard as clear rounds and amazing horse/rider combinations rose to the occasion and rode their hearts out. Riders went way down in the rankings after stellar dressage rides yesterday (only to have problems on cross-country today), and there are riders who shot up in the standings after superb goes today, following "ho hum" dressage tests on the previous day. As others have said, "this ain't no dressage test." This is eventing as it should be! For Canada to turn in 6-out-of-6 clear rounds.....only adding 7.4 time penalties across the performances of all SIX riders.....is astounding. I believed a few weeks ago that they would come to Lexington with victory on their minds, and boy was I right! You can't fake that kind of talent, preparation, and training. Good for them!

I love how Andrew Nicholson looks like he's sitting
at home in an easy chair, instead of contesting one of
the toughest tests a man and horse can face. This
is why he's one of the best in the world.
There were some new faces making a well-deserved name for themselves on the world stage, and there were some tried-and-true veterans who came out and shone when they were needed. Mark Todd, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Karen O'Connor, Phillip Dutton, Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell, Kyle Carter, and Ingrid Klimke (just to name a few) all had outstanding rides today. Where will we be when these greats decide to hang up their Charles Owen's and call it a day? Fabulous performances all around.

One of the greats who is still out there, pointing his horse
at these incredible courses, and galloping
home effortlessly at the end of the day.
Mark Todd: eventing god. :-)
I cannot wait to see the show jumping finale tomorrow. This whole weekend just epitomizes what is so great, so unique, and so inspiring about the sport of eventing. Anyone can go from 1st to last and last to 1st in the span of 3 days, over the course of 3 tests. This is what we were born to do. Go Eventing!!!

Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet having a
fabulous ride through the Head of the Lake this time around!



SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: to Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet (from Ireland). I posted about these two on this very blog back in April after their stop at the water at Rolex, resulting in the frangible log fence that was newly in place there to break and give way. They circled and re-presented and finished fine. It might not have been so pretty if that log had not broken upon their impact. Today they rode around in Kentucky again, as part of the Irish national team, and they were wonderful! Especially considering the fact they were held for about 20 minutes on course while a horse that had hit a jump in front of them was treated for a shoulder laceration and transported to a nearby veterinary hospital for more stitches. Geoff and The Jump Jet collected themselves, continued on, and finished out the day after a great round. Not an easy thing to do at all....mentally or physically. Just try running a marathon and having to stop at mile 22 for 20 minutes to wait for a passing train, then try to regain your momentum, your passion, and your drive to finish. That's damned hard, but good for Geoff and The Jump Jet for doing just that this afternoon, on a world stage. They were my personal success story for today!

(All photos here by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

5...4...3...2...1...Have a Great Ride!!!

It's cross-country day at the World Equestrian Games! Please, please, PLEASE let everybody and their horses finish safe and sound. I hope all my friends up there in Lexington are having a wonderful time. Take lots of pictures and send me frequent texts! I'll be watching online....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friend Therapy

  
Steffen Peters shares his bronze
medal with Courtney King-Dye
I'm really loving Steffen Peters lately. I'm not a big follower of Grand Prix dressage, but I do know who our top riders are and I have been paying attention to the competition this week in Lexington (for better or for worse). And, speaking of loving Steffen Peters, I don't think I gave him his proper due for winning individual bronze on Wednesday! It was good to see someone who works so hard be rewarded. The Americans are sometimes left off the podium in international dressage competition, so everytime I see them medal, I think it's quite an accomplishment.


Steffen getting a well-deserved "thank you"
kiss from Courtney for his friendship and
his kindness. I'm sure his wife didn't mind,
in this particular case!

Now, back to my original purpose with this post. I just saw the article on Dressage Daily about the private party for the USEF dressage team members and I couldn't help tearing up a little bit seeing the photos of how happy Courtney King-Dye looked there with her husband and all of her friends. I'm sure that this time at WEG has been bittersweet for her, but I bet she has cherished every second of it and has progressed more in one week of "friend therapy" than she has in any other week of her courageous comeback. And, how lovely of Steffen to "share" his medal with her! Good people are everywhere.

Oldies, but Goodies. :-)

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
It's awesome to see this guy at WEG, still competing for the Kiwi's. Makes it feel like everything is right with the world!

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
Almost didn't recognize her on a chestnut horse!

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
We don't even have to see his face to a). know EXACTLY who this is, and b). know that he's "Cool" as a cucumber -- hint hint -- and that he's laying down a nice ride. They've been here already this year and dominated last time they were in town!

Reality....somebody's gotta do it!

Peter Atkins, of Australia, sewing his own flag onto his shadbelly dressage coat
before his ride in Lexington today. Photo by RunHennyRun on Facebook
Eventers are real people every day, all the time. Even the ones who ride on t.v., at the Olympics, and this week at WEG!

Peter, Henry, and the finished shadbelly headed to the
dressage arena for their test. Photo by RunHennyRun on Facebook

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally....Eventing!

The eventing competition at WEG starts today with the first section of the dressage rides. And, because we all know that we event so we can gallop cross-country, here is a link to Horse and Hound's photo gallery of the cross-country course. Wow...they have gone big for the world! Lots of good, sane alternate routes, as well, for any countries that may have riders who don't see this caliber of 4-star course frequently. I'll be excited to see how it rides on Saturday. Just wish I could be there in person with all my friends....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good for you, Steffen Peters!

Photo by 2010 Radio Show
Steffen Peters of the U.S. wore his official WEG team helmet in the warm-up for the Grand Prix dressage competition today. He did remove it and don his top hat as he went to the show ring, but he wore it every other second that he was mounted. He has also been seen wearing one numerous times in schooling pictures since Courtney Dye's fall this past spring. Way to set a good example, Steffen! And, good for you deciding to protect yourself from a head injury should you have an unfortunate accident. No matter who you are, you can fall and you can get hurt. Upper-level eventers take note.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WEG dramz, already!!!

Adelinde Cornelissen and her horse, Jerich Parzival,
earlier this week in Kentucky. Photo by Eventing Nation
Two Grand Prix dressage riders have already been dismissed from the ring (disqualified from the competition) for health or soundness issues of their horses. Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and her horse, Jerich Parzival, were dinged for having blood in the horse's mouth. This is a picture of her warming up earlier this week in Kentucky, prompting many interested parties to jump on the abuse bandwagon and disagree with her riding/control methods. What do I think? I think it's unfortunate that it happened, as it seems to have occured between the mouth check at the entrance to the ring and the moment she was rung out for it. Could have been a bite on the tongue, which is not abuse in-and-of-itself. But, it does make me wonder -- in this particular situation -- what condition the horse's mouth/tongue was in for it to be so worked up it nicks the tongue or even bites the cheek. If this is what it takes to control and aid a GP level horse, I'm not sure I would or could do this. But, it's all conjecture at this point. Assumed abuse and horse injury is something eventers have to cringe over every day ("they don't want to jump those jumps....you FORCE them to, and then they break their necks and their legs....etc, etc."). I won't pass judgement on Adelinde's riding or style, but I am grateful to the British judge who removed them from the competition.

The second rider to be eliminated was Australian rider Hayley Beresford, who was rung out for her horse displaying irregular movement during the extended trot (which, to the non-horsey folks, means that he was showing lameness). Let's hope the Americans are ready and healthy and are keeping it together. I'd love to see them show well in honor of Courtney!

Monday, September 27, 2010

These Boots Were Made For....


.....feeding my horses in the rain! It has been soggy here, now, for almost 24-hours. I'm not complaining. It's been so dry lately and if the temps are going to stay mild, then the grass and my flowers might as well keep growing. So, the rain is much appreciated. It just makes it a bit messier when out feeding, so the rubber boots my mom bought me this summer are finally getting put to good use!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Done and Done

(Photo by Sara Lieser)
Great job by the U.S. Reining team at WEG to win the gold medal (with Shawn Flarida and RC Fancy Step getting the job done by finishing FIRST). Way to start off the games, U.S.A!!! I hope this is a sign of success for the Americans in all 8 disciplines!

(Photo by Shannon Brinkman)

Cowboy Up!

The U.S. reiners are currently in first place at WEG!!! An Italian rider on a gorgeous Palomino are in the top spot, but Shawn Flarida and his beautiful RC Fancy Step (pictured to the left) are yet to go in the competition (they ride Sunday). Let's go U.S.A.!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Today's the Day!!!

The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games starts today in Lexington, KY. Good luck to all the competitors and their horses, and safe, fun trips to everybody who will be spectating!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Creeps

Against my better judgement, I am unhealthily attached to this show. I am scared of the dark, so it's just not smart for me to watch this on a regular basis....but I do. Every week. Unfailingly. And, believe me, I pay for it in unexpected startles in the yard after nightfall when I'm calling in the dogs or checking on the horses. Likewise,  I am frequently forced to sleep with the duvet pulled tight up to my chin and the lights on in my bedroom. Yet, I can't resist. I watch it EVERY.TIME.IT'S.ON. I love these guys!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wordy Wise

I am addicted to crosswords. I think about all things in terms of  letter numbers, directions, intersections, and clever clue arrangements. Is this a bad thing???

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up


This past weekend, Eddie and I went to Nashville to visit with some of our horsey friends and to take a lesson with Amy Wise. She is great and the lesson (as well as the companionship of our sweet friends and their horses) were such a help to us. We had a very successful 2 days!

After dealing with a return to the ground-level basics of our training this past year, I finally saw some great improvements in me and Eddie! We jumped (calmly) a gymnastic of a crossrail, to an oxer, to a vertical. After we jumped through this a few times and turned right after the final element, we were cantering along on the left lead and after a few seconds I felt a little "bump" and a few seconds later I looked down and realized that Eddie had automatically swapped his lead! He doesn't do flying changes, we haven't been working on them, I certainly didn't ask him to, but he did it because the way we were cantering was unbalanced (going to the right on the left lead) and he decided FOR HIMSELF that "hey, this isn't right, so let me do something about it." Yayyyyy, Eddie! If that was all we had accomplished this weekend, I'd have been happy. But, it didn't stop there!

We worked on lateral bend (spiral in/spiral out) and after Amy got on Eddie and bossed him around for a few minutes (he didn't like that, for the record) he was much more responsive once his mommy got back on and he decided he'd rather have me "bossing him around" than Amy! We also worked on me shortening my reins for a better contact on the approach to fences, half-halting to get him bouncy and energetic (not sluggish and strung out), and I worked on shoulders up/chest up over fences (rather than collapsing in the air on his neck and making his forehand heavier). Lots of good work this weekend, but more than anything, we came home with some great assignments and a plan for how to recreate our lesson work in our daily training routine. I had a lot of fun riding and learning with my friends this weekend and I can't wait to pick up where we left off back here at home!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dream

"Long walks in the dark,
Through woods grown behind the park,
I asked God who I'm supposed to be.

The stars smiled down at me,
God answered in silent reverie,
I said a prayer and fell asleep.

I had a dream
That I could fly..."


Priscilla Ahn, "Dream"


Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy eventers are better than....not happy eventers.

(photo by Nico Morgan)

It was nice to see this picture of Oliver Townend having a laugh at Burghley a few weeks ago. Sure beats the pictures captured during his horrific fall back in April at Rolex.
 

 Glad to see Ollie alive and well, smiling, and still beating the pants off most the international-level riders out there. I'm disappointed he didn't make the British WEG team, but he'll have his day!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's all about the shoes, baby!



As a post script to yesterday's rant, which included a reference to the fun and quirky John Galliano, here are a pair of shoes from his fall 2009 collection. Me likey! I wonder if those are hard to walk in???

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vanity Fug


Ok, this is now officially out-of-control. I have, as of today, seen THREE major errors in the past two issues of Vanity Fair (one of my favorite magazines on the planet). I read each issue, cover to cover, so perhaps I'm a more discerning and nit-picky reader than your average subscriber. But, please.....these mishaps are about as disappointing as a Don Draper sad and pitiful drunken jag (resulting in a skeezy hook-up with some skanky, second-rate, bit player). U-N-A-C-C-E-P-T-A-B-L-E.

So, I was upset at the Lady Gaga picture (with her real fingernail clearly visible beneath her acrylic tip as she made a "Peace" sign) on the September cover. I might have given them the benefit of the doubt that it was an "artistic" decision to show the real Gaga and not compromise the integrity of her appearance by Photoshopping the image, but you cannot tell me that her perfectly applied, smokey dark eye make-up wasn't air brushed. So, I don't consider the faux pas to be an artistic statement at all. It's just an oversight! Tsk, Tsk.

You can, then, imagine how very annoyed I was when, in that same September issue, John Galliano was defined as attired in a "ringmaster's" outfit.....when he is cuh-LEAR-ly channeling Robert Dover. No, he is NOT going for the ringmaster look....thank you very much Vanity Fair. He is so Grand Prix-level dressage it isn't funny! That is called a shadbelly, people, and with the top hat, white breeches, canary vest points, and the tall boots with Spanish-cut tops....he is definitely going for the hip, dressage queen look. He is ready to leap on to a fancy warmblood and passage down the longside. Please, Vanity Fair, get your horsey references correct, since you claim that the equestrian trend is all the shiz again this fall. John would not appreciate being mis-labeled, that is for sure!

And finally, today, I see that in James Wolcott's October article on New Jersey as pop culture t.v. fodder, he mentions something about a character in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire bearing a striking resemblence to "Leo DiCaprio's Irish lad in Titanic." Say what??? He wasn't Irish in Titanic. He was American. From Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. It's understandable that Wolcott doesn't remember correctly, but shouldn't the freaking features editor or, if nothing else, the fact-checkers catch this crap? I know that resources are thin at magazines world wide right now, but come on....you can't keep sacrificing quality. They could hire me for a fraction of what the big editors get paid and I'd be more than happy to tell them what is wrong and how they need to fix it. I mean, really, a RINGMASTER???? I am appalled.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

[G]O Canada!

Yesterday, the Canadians announced their eventing team members for the World Equestrian Games which start later this month in Lexington, KY. I have been very impressed with the Canadian eventers for the past year or so, and even moreso since attending the Kyle Carter clinic in Alabama earlier this year. The Canadians are on-the-scene, strong and talented, and ready to BRING IT in Kentucky. For a while now, American eventers have been....how should I say this....."disenchanted" with the Chef D'Equip of the U.S. eventing team. It is a long-suffering relationship with CMP that has really, in my opinion, spiraled out of control and -- unfortunately -- it has taken the international team aspect of American eventing downward. Whereas the Canadians have been building, dreaming, training, growing, and (recently) exploding onto the international radar, the Americans have fizzled, dried-up, faltered, stumbled, and all but dissolved as a world 3-day team power. We joked this past weekend that we really wish our "team" could consist simply of Philip Dutton and 4 of his horses. Philip Dutton on 4 horses is the best chance the U.S. has to go neck-and-neck with the Europeans in a team competition. And, sadly, we are only lucky enough to count Philip as an "American" rider due to his defection from Australia (an eventing team powerhouse) to the U.S. and his switch to American citizenship in just the past 3 years. Lucky us....thank goodness! Same thing goes for former Australian eventer, Boyd Martin. Thank God he decided to take U.S. citizenship! Our strongest chance for a true American is Buck Davidson.

But, this isn't about the woes of the Americans...sorry for the digression. This is about the Canadians. I think they have an excellent chance at a medal in Lexington. And, I'm pulling for them, no doubt. Officially, their team consists of Hawley Bennett-Awad with Gin & Juice; Kyle Carter with Madison Park; Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master; Selena O’Hanlon with Colombo; Jessica Phoenix with Exponential; Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch and Port Authority. Alternates include (in alphabetical order): Diana Burnett with Manny, and Ian Roberts with Napalm.

I saw all of those team riders and their horses compete this weekend at AECs and they look ready and capable. Plus, I've got to give props to Rebecca Howard for making such an inspiring comeback to not just competition form, but international competition form (making the team for WEG!), after her terrible fall at Pine Top earlier this year. Good for Rebecca, her horse, her owners, her sponsors, and her friends for not giving up. I'll be keeping an eye on her in Lexington and cheering her to a safe and successful WEG appearance!

Whether they have high hopes of winning a gold or not, I think the Canadians have a great chance at a medal...any medal....and I'll be rooting for them. It is now officially football season (both college and pro) and upsets have been running rife the past 2 weeks. I say that we keep the trend alive and that the Canadians show up, surprise everybody, and kick some butt that first weekend of October. Go Canada! "With glowing hearts we see thee rise...."

Monday, September 13, 2010

In the company of eventers

(Pictured left: Jodie Stowell and Comet headed for cross-country!)

My trip to the American Eventing Championships this past weekend was really wonderful! Yes, it would have been more exhilerating, challenging, and rewarding had I been competing as well, but just getting to spend time at the gorgeous new Chattahoochee Hills/Bouckaert Farms was amazing, and the quality companionship of my friends was fabulous. I really thought it was a super event and I think everybody was happy. Lots of smiling faces and very content horses and ponies everywhere! Congratulations to my friend, Jodie Stowell, and her sweet horse, Comet, who finished 6th in their Preliminary Amateur division. They were the only pair to show jump clean (with only 1 time fault). Way to go, Jodie!!!

I have been reading Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants, and it is a wonderful book (and, not just because it's about animals). There is a line in the book that talks about the main character and his desire to be "in the company of animals" and -- besides my contentment in the self-same situation -- it makes me think of the safety, satisfaction, and comfort being in the company of anything a person really loves. That's what prompted the title of this blog entry today.

Regarding my comment from last week about being in a place where everybody "speaks the same language," it is so true, particularly of eventers. There are less than 20,000 eventers in the U.S. registered with the USEA (this doesn't account for a certain number of eventers out there who are no longer actively competing, have let their registration lapse, or are competing at a level low enough that they aren't required to be active members of the USEA). That's a tiny, tiny number of participants in a world-class, Olympic sport. It makes for a small world, a tight concentration of fellow riders and competitors, and a limited circle of others out there who understand what we all do everyday and on a regular basis. When walking to/from cross-country at any given event, two riders may pass one another: one on the way to the start box, and one on the way back to the barns after completing the course -- and the universe of meaning that can pass between two "strangers" in just one meeting of the eyes, nod of the head, and softly whispered "good luck" is almost impossible to describe to a non-eventer. Eventers do not compete against one another. Perhaps that is what makes it such a special sport. We all train together, compare notes, advise one another, encourage one another, lend/borrow equipment, give one another rides to lessons/shows/clinics, etc., in a spirit of comaraderie. What is transmitted between two riders passing on the hack to cross-country is simply the concept that "You and I are two very lucky people to be sitting here on these horses, on this day, getting to do this activity. Good luck to you, because I want you to do well, have fun, conquor your fears, excel in your partnership, rise higher and accomplish more than you ever have before. And -- more than anything -- I want you and your horse to finish that course safe and sound." Just a passing glance in the world of an eventer can say volumes that are never, ever truly spoken. Because, only another eventer can understand what goes on in the hearts and minds of all the eventers out there.

 I had such a great time this weekend at AECs, and even though I wasn't riding, I really was. I "jumped" every obstacle with each rider out there, I "galloped" each stride, and I "saw" every spot, "checked" at each turn and drop, and "kicked on" as each rider aimed for the finish flags. I think eventing is such a special sport, because there are so few of us out there. In some respects, I would love for our sport to be well-known, popular, with heavy involvement from people all over the world, so that random strangers I might pass on the street would know exactly what I do and how that shapes me and makes me special. But, that's just not the way it is. Very few people even know what "eventing" is, as opposed to something mainstream like football, baseball, basketball, golf, tennis, or hockey. We are like the residents of a miniscule country that are surrounded on all sides by the inhabitants of a large nation that lets us pass into its borders, and vice versa, seemlessly and wordlessly, yet at the end of the day, the "Eventing Nation" goes back home and sleeps soundly in the knowledge that no matter who they are, where they go, what their accomplishments are, or how they succeed (and sometimes fail), that they are happily and forever "in the company of eventers."