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


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!