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!

video

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."

Friday, September 10, 2010

AEC's Bound

This weekend, I'm heading to Chattahoochee Hills outside Atlanta, Georgia to cheer on everybody at the USEA 2010 American Eventing Championships! I'm not competing this year, but I'm none the less excited (maybe excited even moreso than if I were competing there myself!) as I'm getting to see some wonderful friends, watch some amazing riders, and spend time in the one place in the country this weekend where EVERYBODY speaks my language....the language of "eventing." Good luck everybody, travel safe, ride safe, and have the time of your life!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Manners, Part II

So, after posting about "thank you" notes, and considering good manners vs. bad manners, it makes me wonder sometimes about the sincerity of polite behavior. Is it better to behave mannerly when you don't really mean it, or to just go on about your day avoiding or ignoring others...when maybe that's just the way you are? Maybe I should give an example to clarify what I'm pondering here.

Ok, so a person walks into the post office, stops (does not turn around), and holds the door for the person coming in behind. The door-holder does not smile, does not acknowledge the other person, does not make eye contact, and does not respond to the offered "thank you." Is this better than someone who just walks on through the door and lets the follower open his/her own door? I guess I'm curious as to whether there are people who publicly display "good manners," yet seem to give the act of being proper more credence than the purpose of the action: interacting more graciously and kindly with the people around you. Does the forced act of holding a door (because your mama taught you to!) outweigh the effort when you really just don't feel like opening the door? Should good manners be second-nature, or should they be consciously adhered to for the sake of doing what one SHOULD DO?

Somehow, I feel more comfortable living side-by-side in this world with the person who just doesn't open the door at all (I can open my own door!) than the person who opens it, and when I smile and thank him/her, the door-holder just turns away as if I weren't even there. Hold the door for me if you want to hold the door for me....but don't JUST do it because you think that's what is right. False and insincere manners are worse than no manners at all.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Manners

One of the things that I have always done is write "thank you" cards. I'd be lying if I said I did it unfailingly, every single time one was required, but on the whole it is a consideration that I endeavor to not overlook. Most of my friends from graduate school will tell you that I would almost always send a "thank you" note to whomever had hosted a party or dinner that weekend.....and, let me tell you, some of those parties were not your high-brow, sophisticated, academic affair that one might imagine graduate students studying English literature would engage in. Most of them were downright raucous and wild, usually ending with at least one person taking off their clothes and streaking the neighborhood, and there was almost always somebody who managed to make his way onto the roof of whatever establishment was hosting the shin-dig.

With that being said, the next day, immediately after I regained consciousness, remembered how I'd gotten home, washed my face and hair, kept down solid foods, and found my glasses, I always sat down and wrote the host/hostess a nice "thank you" on my Neiman Marcus monogrammed stationary....usually expressing my sincerities with a fountain pen, no less. Betty Draper's got nothing on me! Just because you can't always behave in a refined, elegant, sober, and well-behaved manner in public doesn't mean you can't at least carry on with the attempt to maintain some sense of class thereafter.

And, just in case you need a little refresher on how to compose nice, handwritten "thank you" messages, Southern Living has given us a crash course on this small gesture, returning to a time when people only talked behind your back and at least pretended to be well-bred and polite.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Squeeeeeze

My sister and her boyfriend recently traveled to Michigan for the weekend and they took their two dogs, Pumpkin and Pancakes, with them. When Pumpkin took up too much of the backseat of the car, Pancakes had to find an alternative sleeping position. Hence the picture, to the left, that Melissa texted to me on Friday. That is just ridiculous!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Snap, Crackle, Pop!

This happened to me 0n Wednesday. I schooled my disobedient horse for over an hour in a lesson....and he was being difficult and contrary....yet, the act of controlling a 1200-pound animal was the least of my challenges that day. Come to find out, simply walking through my front yard in my boots and breeches (which I LIVE IN on a regular basis) was just too much for my very complex and advanced sense of balance and coordination. I, essentially, walked through the grass, stepped on a rock, and rolled my left ankle so badly I could almost see the bottom of my foot! I can strut my stuff all day long in precarious 6-inch heels, yet my riding boots seem to be my downfall. FAIL!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Yuck

I have lost the battle with poison ivy.....just on my right side. Can't figure that out. It's all up and down my right arm and leg. Not one spot on my left side. Of course, saying that out loud is just inviting disaster.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Basics

(pictured to the left: Eddie meditating on all the things he has learned so far this year.)

The title of this post (ab0ve) is, basically, what Eddie and I have been getting up to all year long. Back in 2005, I acquired a lovely, sweet, and "made-by-God-only-for-Holly" horse. He was 10-years-old and had a checkered past. Fortunately, for me and Eddie, my friend Kelly Wallace bought him a year or so before I got him, so he had a good start when he came to me. Unfortunately (for Kelly), I ended up on him as a result of a fall she had taken from him which broke her leg and left her looking for another mount.

In the time since Eddie and I were brought together, we had some good success at what we will tentatively call "eventing" (since we did compete in the equestrian discipline of eventing, we competed in USEA recognized events, we qualified for the USEA Area III championships - twice, we qualified for the USEA's AECs - twice, we are both registered competitors with the USEA, and we have lots of photographs and personal witnesses that can attest to the fact that we were, in fact, eventing....although I'm danged if I know how we could possibly be defined as eventers). Eddie and I miraculously completed and placed in a number of eventing competitions. Who'd of thought it? But, now that time and experience are on our side, I have decided that our backyard, unpolished, scrambling, and sometimes harrowing approach to the sport of eventing would temporarily stop on January 1, 2010. We have gone back and revisited the following aspects of our equestrianism and given them a long, hard, discerning (and disapproving) look: impulsion, collection, suppleness, ridability (hahaha!), correctness (at the walk, trot, canter, gallop, flatting, jumping, wearing a tutu...you name it), gymnastic exercises and balance over fences (big laugh, there), soft hands, soft back, strong legs, lightness, elasticity, a horse that moves into the bridle, a horse that is round and stretches over his topline, a horse that is willingly and capably engaging from the hindend. I could go on and on, but let's just stop there....for now. All of these things were seriously lacking and I cannot keep entering competitions, gassing up the truck, loading the trailer, and cleaning my tack (nevermind that final item) if we can't go back to the basics and start to fix some of the things that have been wrong in Eddie's training, my riding, and our partnership all these years.

So, things have been slow around here on the show front, but like the proverbial tortoise might have said (were he knowledgeable of our situation), "slow and steady-Eddie wins the race." We have many small victories that I will take as we build toward the grander victories that I believe we are destined for one day. Now, if I could just get him to trot through groundpoles without leaping over all 3 of them at once, we might get somewhere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summer 2010

In case you're wondering what I've been doing all this time while neglecting my blog, the picture to the left pretty much sums it up. When we're not eventing......this is what eventers do. Boat, beer, lake, best friends. Life is good!

Back from the Dead

No, I'm not talking about the Spinal Tap album of the same name. I'm talking about my absence from the blogging world. Facebook just keeps me way too entertained! Anyhoo, although my blog will be getting updated more frequently , that doesn't necessarily mean I'll have more important and compelling issues to discuss. But, at least I will have something to say. :-)