Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

You should learn something new every day. I'm good for about a year now.

VERY long and exhausting day but I'm a little wired so figured I'd write, esp as the end of the day was So. Much. Fun!

So last year I was chatting with Amy and her parents and somehow the conversation revealed that her dad, Joe, has a sailboat - which he races.  And how very much I would love to try it :)  Which, kind people that they are, led to an invite to go sailing one night.  But my schedule being what it is coupled with Amy being away all summer nothing ever came of it.

The offer though was very sincere and made again this year.  And the very exciting part - the races are on Wednesday nights.  The one night I can actually play :)   Sweet.  And last week I actually had a Wednesday with nothing booked!  Woohoo!   Sadly though that didn't work with their schedule *sigh*   hahaha ah well, gamely try again and *this* week I got to go!  YEAH!

And then it was POURING rain *sigh*   The forecast of sun failed.  And I had no idea if they would even go in the rain, but would probably have gone anyways and then -- it cleared up!   Sweet :)   Amy told me later it's a rain or shine event, so would've been ok but likely not quite as much fun.   Sort of like eventing in the rain.

So I get there, super early and reasonably excited.  Call Joe and he tells me how to get to the right general area and meets me there.  And we get there and I'm thinking back to my high school days when all my friends had little sailboats and am expecting something like this:

Instead I see:

hahaha ok that might be a *slight* exaggeration *g*   But it sure seemed that way on first glance :)   I'm pretty sure the inside was bigger than my first apartment.   Admittedly that's not saying much, but a whole lot more than the "barely room to put a person in" I was expecting!

That one's more the general idea :)   Sadly did not have my camera for an actual photo, but it's the right general concept.  My apologies to anybody who actually *knows* anything about boats as it's probably horrifically inaccurate.  But it's hard to google accurate photos when you don't actually know what you're looking for *g*   I lurked Amy's pics to see if she had any I could steal, but no such luck :)   Like the non-horse-person describing the 19hh-fire-breathing-monster they rode on a trail ride:

Take it for what it's worth *g*

So I got introduced to the crew who were all awesome, welcoming, and incredibly patient with a *complete* newbie.  I learn fast, but I didn't even have time to google before I went so I literally knew nothing.  Put it this way -- I was moderately surprised by how many people were required (again, keep in mind the size of boat I was expecting!)  hahaha  so yeah, by this point I figure anything goes.  They were setting everything up so I mostly watched fascinated while trying to stay out of the way.  Not a lot of room for two-way traffic on one of these so that's more of a challenge than it sounds *g*

Now it turns out sailing's a lot like riding.   Rule # 1 - keep boat between sailor and water :)   Got it!

hahaha so knowing that important basic, we headed out.   A couple of the guys started trying to cram knowledge into my head as we were waiting for the race to start.   Some of it very useful - I would never have figured out what a halyard was in time if they hadn't told me :)   And some if it really interesting -- little details like the cheater-strings on the sails that let you know if they're doing what they should.  Very kewl.

Now waiting for the race to start sounds so quiet and peaceful... The perfect time to be learning random factoids.  Waiting for the race to start...  Ummmmm let's think this one through.  It's not like you can line these things up at the start line for an equal take-off.  Oh dear.   Picture xc without a start box.  A big warmup ring with all the warmup chaos and somebody fires a gun that means "5 minutes" and everybody tries to time it so their last jump and gallop puts them at the start line when the next shot goes.  Oh - and make that a novice warmup ring where you can't be certain the other guy knows the rules -- or has either breaks or steering installed.

Chaos.  Highly entertaining.  Slightly life-threatening.  Chaos.

And then have somebody put a hold on the course.   Seriously.   Just like riding *g*   Apparently the wind couldn't decide which way it wanted to blow *g*   Score one for Mother Nature.   But after only a short delay we were back on track.

Fortunately by this point I had complete confidence in our crew who, other than me, were all clearly very experienced and overly competent.  This was a non-issue for them as in-between intro-to-sailing lessons they got themselves sorted out in exactly the right place to be going the right direction at the right time and cross barely seconds after the "go" shot without even pretending to crash into anybody or be crashed into.

I was quite impressed by the communication between them and the timing.  Going out on XC it's only me and my horse -- I push my stopwatch at 10 seconds and away we go from a halt.  Running starts are decidedly frowned upon *g*   Here though, there is no halt option.  So they're timing their pace and distance from the start to match the 5 minute countdown so that they'll get there at exactly the right moment.  And of course you can't actually SEE where you're going from the steering wheel -- the sails are in the way.   So the helmsman has to rely on a navigator (and I'm totally making up titles here -- I have no idea what they actually call the person at the front of the boat, but it's not navigating gps/stars style...   One second....  Ok Google says that person is a tactician.  I have no idea if that's actually right or not, but sounds good to me :)   Anyways -- he was in charge of time and making sure we had enough space between other boats going various directions to make it without swimming.  Oh and while all this is going on - thirty other boats are doing exactly the same thing trying to be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time.   Tricky.

So my job for the day was grinding.  Lovely eh?   hahaha but I think it was a case of almost-idiot-proof combined with do-the-least-harm.  Basically whenever we were tacking or jibbing (HA - don't I sound like I know something?  That'd be turning to all you land-lover types.    hahaha just don't ask me to tell you the difference between them.  Suspect one goes into the wind and the other away from, but not actually %100 sure on that, nor do I know which one's which.  And Google's busy right now  >;-P)   Ok so back to my story -- whenever we were not on a straight course, I got to spin a crank as fast as I possibly could to help wheel in a rope.  Oops.  I mean a LINE.  Ropes are only ropes until they're attached to something.  Then they're lines.  Like dogs are only dogs until they're used to foxhunt -- then they're hounds.  hahaha so wheel in the line and get the sail to switch from one side of the boat to the other.  The pathetically sad part is, whoever was actually manning the line was, without fail, significantly faster at pulling it than I was cranking so I really wasn't helping much at all.   The only use seemed to be *after* it was pulled as much as possible, the crank added a lot more strength to get it pulled tighter.  Everybody pretended like I was doing something useful though -- really was a very supportive group and they answered every one of my million questions.  Those of you who've ever seen me try to learn something will know that part actually *isn't* hyperbole!

Oh, AND I also had the VERY important job of being "extra weight" to go sit on whatever side of the boat was highest and keep it down.  Yeah.  Pretty sure I failed that one too >;-P   hahaha I'd get to the right place at the right time, but I'm not sure the boat knew it *g*

So very much fun.   The course was incredibly simple, but then - my comparison is stadium and dressage.  Methinks dozens of sailboats trying to do a 20m circle, or better yet - a rollback!, while highly entertaining might be less than a good idea.  And seemed VERY short, but that was potentially because I was still having tons of fun and trying to sort everything out rather than actually being short.

We ended up in second and floated our way back with some commentary between the boats as everybody clearly knows each other -- fairly entertaining to listen to.   Docked and put everything away and then some really civilized cheese, crackers and drinks.  Mostly of the grown-up version but somebody managed to find a pepsi floating around for me *g*   I told you they were very patient :)

So yeah - learned a TON, had a BLAST, and met some really great people.   Not a bad way to spend an evening :)

Oh and one very important lesson - don't offer a sailor ice tea.  Just trust me on this one *g*

Critter Tales

I was somewhat amused watching the cats at breakfast today.   My cat Sherlock is, and always has been, the boss.   When I lived in Brampton, Red came to live with us.  He learned to sneak a paw into Sherlock's food and take a mouthful at a time -- and Sherlock seems ok with this.  Fast forward a few years and introduce Rusty, who is potentially the stupidest cat I've ever seen.   I feed Rusty separately because otherwise he won't get any food, but sometimes he's too stupid to find his own bowl.   Today though he got ambitious and thought he'd try Red's trick.  Only instead of stealing a mouthful of Sherlock's food with his paw, he dragged the whole bowl away.

I wish I'd had it on video. Sherlock gave him a stunned look that clearly suggested he couldn't believe what Rusty had just done, then folded his paw the same way, swatted him across the head with it, took his bowl back, and resumed eating.  All in one totally smooth and quiet move.

Poor Rusty just sat watching Sherlock eat like he couldn't quite figure out what had gone wrong until I eventually took pity on him and redirected him to his own bowl.   Was pretty funny though.

And Sasha the super-puppy who passed grade two with flying colours last week went to agility fun day today.  OMG So. Much. Fun.  hahaha  We got in trouble a couple times for making things more interesting than they were actually supposed to be, but she was too good at the basic stuff.   Had it down solid.  And fast.  hahaha she starts actual agility classes in Aug - can't wait!

A year in a week

Wow.  What a week.  Pretty sure it lasted about a year.

Let's see... Monday?   I don't even remember Monday.   I vaguely recall Kennedy, Rowan and Chelsea doing some superstar dressage which pretty much made my day.  But that seems a LOT longer ago than Monday.

Tuesday I'm pretty sure didn't even happen.  Do you remember Tuesday last year?  Yeah, me either.

Wednesday is what made the week so long.  Wed am I woke up sick.  Very sick.  Food poisoning.  As unpleasant and uncomfortable as you can imagine it being.   Steph was doing the morning barn for me (never been SO very grateful for that!) and being the awesome woman she is took over the afternoon for me as well.   Now usually Wednesdays are my easy day because I don't teach in the evenings, so if I have to be sick, that's the day to do it.  The problem?  It was the day we had booked for the first xc school of the year. And usually feeling the way I was it would've been cancelled.  No question.  But did I mention it was the first?  And Saturday was the first HT.  First HT *ever* for two of my students.   XC school before that is important.  And they were really excited.  And I know how upset I would've been in the same circumstance if my coach had cancelled.  AND I know all of them would've been totally cool about it -- which made me that much more determined to try to help them.

So Stephy to the rescue again.  I showed up, but she managed the organizing and hung out for the loading since I couldn't've handled anything other than perfect equine behaviour the way I was feeling.   Fortunately my horses are saints and all loaded beautifully.

Got there and got organized - Rowan on Jack, Chelsea on Lissy, Kennedy on Nick, and Amy on Flora.  Flora, who's almost 5, was going for her first xc experience ever.  We started in stadium -- I was feeling almost alive then.   Warmed up and let the horses and riders relax a bit and then started very slowly over tiny fences.  Slowly we jumped bigger and more interesting jumps -- it was really cool to watch both horse and rider confidence growing!   Till at the end Rowan and Chelsea even jumped the castle :)  Woohoo!

Then it was time for XC.  All the girls navigated the PE course beautifully, while Chelsea and Rowan also tackled some of the Entry fences.   Flora was so much fun to watch -- you could see just when she got the hang of the game.  She went from never having jumped anything xc to being able to confidently do the bank combination on the first try!  Woohoo.  It's a shame she's destined to be a hunter >;-P    Jack, otoh, was having WAY too much fun.  Rowan's challenge isn't getting him over the jumps -- she's figured that out.  Her challenge now is keeping control *sigh*   Jack felt the need to go for a gallop and decided he could do it faster without his pilot.  He went left when she went right and then he continued to book it around the field for a few more laps -- even jumping a fence on the way!  Fortunately Rowan was fine and hopped back on. And since Jack had galloped himself out, the rest of their school was uneventful.  Chelsea and Lissy are on a serious ON streak.  They jumped everything beautifully on the first try, both clearly having TONS o fun.  Really good to watch.  And while Nick was being his usual lazy self, Kennedy did a good job with him getting him to jump the entire PE course -- coming from hunter world, Nick isn't nearly as easy to ride on xc as he is over sticks because he's not at all sure what he's supposed to do with these weird log-type things.   But Kennedy did a great job of convincing him to go over them all :)

Only issue is about half hour from the end of our xc school, my endurance ran out.  I started to feel horribly ill again and when I stood the world spun.   It got so that I was teaching sitting down in the middle of the field *sigh*   Ah well.   Steph managed the untacking and organizing again and Bryn very kindly drove the truck/trailer home for me.  I *almost* made it, but not quite.

So Thurs I was supposed to have MY xc school.  Which I @ least had enough sense to cancel.  I was feeling much better, but still pretty dopey and a long way from ready to eat anything.  Took me forever to get stalls done -- and even that only happened because my amazing dad helped me out.  Thurs eve before teaching I decided to ride.  Yes it was stupid, but you're not surprised are you?   Now I *did* at least consider that it wasn't a great idea, so I went out with the hill-work idea.  Ie, walk-trot only.  Perfect.  And the walk went well enough - she was through and marching well enough.  I was a little dizzy and my reflexes were down -- it'd been almost 48h since I'd eaten anything by this point.  And then I tried the trot, and it was a horrible fail.  After about 10 strides I had to admit defeat :(   But it was sunny, with just the right breeze...  Perfect riding weather.  And I was feeling like crap and grumpy and tired and really just wanted to ride my pony.  There are times when it takes a four-legged being to make you feel human.

So do I acknowledge this is a bad idea and go back?  Of course not.  Can't trot, may as well go for a walk hack.  She needs lots of lsms and I never have time to give them to her...  We get out about as far from home as we can go without leaving the property when the world starts to spin.  Less good.  So I get that I have to go home -- but the question is how?  Do I dismount and walk or try to ride?  The issue of course being that Athena doesn't lead particularly well.  hmmm ok try riding.   Heading back on no contact.  Athena's power walking but maintaining her walk.  All good.   And then a rabbit jumps out in front of us.  Time froze for a moment as my barely-functioning brain processed "rabbit = scary monster = horse spin and bolt = too tired to stay on = this will hurt.  *#$*"

And then... "Wait, why am I still on the horse?"   Yup, my saint of a pony took care of me.  Didn't move a muscle.  No spin.  No bolt. No nothing.  Just stood very still and grew for a second.  BIG pats for pony.  Walked home uneventfully and I fed her an extra couple carrots before putting her outside.  Then I just went and curled up in a ball till it was time to teach *sigh*   Lessons actually ended up going well, but omg I felt horrid.

So the debate that night was, do I cancel my Friday lesson?   You know the answer to that :)   Now I *did* actually manage to eat half a piece of toast on Friday am, so that was progress.  And my coach knew I wasn't well since I'd cancelled xc the day before.  So we did a lesson with a focus on slow and details rather than speed and strength.  Probably smart.  I was frustrated with my riding, but we did manage to get Athena working well so at least partially effective.   The rest of the day I was feeling almost human.  Tired and slow but not ill any longer.  Sweet.  Even managed to have a sandwich mid-afternoon.  Lessons went really well -- Rowan and Jack came to an understanding and went off adventuring with no excitement, so good to go for Saturday.

And then Saturday hit and I felt sick again.  Booo.  But got out to the barn and got to the show and after a little while felt normal again.  Phew!  We had an AWESOME day at the show.  That story is on the GRS blog :)   Jack wore his big-boy clothes, Lissy was an all round superstar.  Both girls rode like pros and jumped double clear.  Woohoo!   Sat eve I was still pretty exhausted.  I hate that being sick on Wed still knocks me out on Sat :(   Also forgot my book at the barn so that pretty well destroyed my evening relaxing on the couch with a book plans.  Searched for a movie but couldn't find anything.  All-round fail.  So spent forever writing a blog post or two and then actually went to bed at a reasonable hour.  Imagine that.

Got to SLEEP IN this am.  You have no idea how amazing that was.  Rebecca did the barn for me and I didn't have to teach till 11.  Sweet.   Taught a couple lessons - both of which I was really happy with.  My last lesson got cancelled so I decided I had time to ride.  Was a little bit of brilliance or disaster there.  Oh dear.  From "can't keep the horse in the dressage ring at the canter" to some of the best movement I've ever had from her.  Swung back and forth between the two several times, ended with something reasonable and went out for a hack :)   Figured that was a good compromise.  Afternoon stalls took next to no time since the horses had only been in about half an hour *g*   Fed my ponies and went home for Father's Day family dinner :)

Happy Father's Day Dad!!!!

So apparently it's not just me...


3 strikes! Oh wait - wrong sport.

So we've been doing some chatting about fun ways to eliminate yourself at horse trials.  With riders brand-new to the sport, it sometimes seems like an unending and rather unbelievable list of randomness.  But I think I've now topped them all.  After however many years eventing, for the first time ever I managed to kick myself out before ever even being in!   How?  Yeah I switched the mailing addresses on two of my entry forms -- so the one for next weekend went to the one for next month (and presumably vice versa).  The one for next weekend was handed to me today by the organizer of the one for next month who very kindly brought it to me at the show.  *sigh*   She managed to avoid rolling her eyes at me *g*   I'm really not sure how :)   Only issue about that being, the closing date for that show was yesterday.  :(   Ah well.  Won't likely make that mistake again -- there are too many new ones out there to make!

But while we're at it...  Maybe run through some others:

- an old favourite was carrying your whip into dressage, but they've backed that off now so it's not actually elimination, just a penalty :)   Progress?   Unless you're in the States of course where it's actually legal.

- leaving the dressage ring is often a fun and entertaining way of ending your day *really* early.  It also gives you a good excuse to go make friends with the TD and convince him/her you really do steer well enough to be allowed to jump!

- wearing boots in dressage is even worse -- that falls under the category of ways to eliminate yourself without even realizing you've done it!

- another one in that category is forgetting your tack check.   Some tack-checkers will actively search for riders to make sure everyone is good to go, but others are too busy for that and if you forget...  Well that's your loss.   Imagine putting in brilliant dressage, jumping double clear, and returning to find an E next to your name...  So not fun at all.

- there are, of course, boring ways to eliminate yourself:  unintentionally dismounting or stopping too many times in either jumping phase are the most common.  But really, are they even worth mentioning?   Well apparently >;-P  But not by much.

- oh - more for the "don't even realize you've done it" category - jumping the wrong fence on xc.  3 fences all side-by-side.  You jump the one that looks ok but slightly-scary.   When the scores are posted you see a letter instead of a number and go to question it.   Turns out you went one level higher than you should've.  Oops.   Lower has the same result, but somehow all the riders but one that I know who've done this have gone up a level.  The one was running advanced - there was nowhere to go but down :)   And it shows that riders of ALL levels do this occasionally *g*

- jumping a warm-up fence backwards is one we often see in the lower levels.   Remember:  Red on Right.  White on Left.  Insanity in the Middle.  >;-P

hmmmmm those are the classic ones that come to mind off the top of my head.   Any others you know of?

Chelsea and Rowan's 1st HT

So much fun today.

Took two girls and their ponies to their first EVER horse trial.   Which is, pretty much, my favourite part of coaching :)

So we had a very civilized load time of 7am.  The girls were both over Friday night to ride and prep their horses and so at 7 they were *almost* ready to go.  hahaha Both horses loaded perfectly and we were off.

The weather was perfect and we snagged parking under the treeline -- shade.  Sweet.  DJ and Bryn had to go park the cars a million miles away *g*   Laura and I went and got packages while Kirby helped get the girls tacked up.  Soon enough everybody was in dressage warm-up, tack-checked, and ready to go!

Jack had been an absolute superstar the night before and seemed to be still in that mindset as he handled the busy warm-up like an old pro.  Then into the ring they went...  And STAYED IN!  Woohoo!  hahaha it was a really civilized test.  He was high at times - the ring was the farthest from the warm-up which is always exciting but Rowan kept him calm and kept him going and the world was good :)

Chelsea and Lissy were next.  They warmed up well and she was less-stressed about being away from the rest of the world.  Chelsea rode a really nice, relaxed test.  Alas, it was not actually the test as written on the paper and sadly creativity is frowned upon in dressage.  hahaha ah well - the judge was awesome and very politely redirected her :)  Ah well - if you're going to go off-course, dressage is definitely the place to do it!

After dressage the ponies were untacked and left in the shade while the girls, Sasha and I went to walk the courses.  Luckily stadium hadn't started yet so we were able to walk that course; when the girls were confident with that we headed out to walk xc.  The course looked like a lot of fun and they had at least *some* idea where they were going :)  Having never done it before, I'm sure the girls would've liked to walk the course again on their own, but times were tight so that wasn't an option so we headed back to tack up for stadium.

Now I'm sure the girls were at least a little nervous *g* -- but they totally rode like pros!  Warm-ups were beautiful and BOTH riders jumped clear!  Woohoo!   Jack got a little strong towards home and Rowan steadied him easily.  Lissy took her confidence from Chelsea who got out there and said "Let's go!" and they went :)    We could've gone home then and I still would've been SO proud of both girls.  Beautiful.

But it wasn't time to go home yet.  Still one phase to go :)   And let's be honest - xc is WHY we event.   Anybody who prefers stadium or dressage -- those are sports on their own that they can go compete in.  Eventers are there for the challenge of 3 in 1 and, most importantly, cross-country!   We were actually quite early for xc, so the girls had a change to relax for a bit before heading out.  Didn't need a long warm-up; I just had the girls get their horses going a little more forward again and jumping and then into their first start box they went.  Rowan was first; Chelsea a few riders later.

And I'll tell ya - the high that comes off the end of a cross-country run is directly proportional to the drama of the butterflies fighting it out in your stomach during that 15 seconds in the start box.  Longest. 15. Seconds. Ever.   And your FIRST time in the start box?  An hour in a second.

Now people new to eventing or observing it from the outside think of an insane mad gallop over MASSIVE obstacles.  What they don't realize is that done right, you don't jump big or fast until you can first do small and under control.  Rowan was a total pro about this and left the start box at mad... walk :)   And got him through the scary trees and pointed at the first fence before she asked him to trot.  Then when he looked at the tiny pile of logs and said "Really?   Wouldn't you rather just go around and head back to the trailer?"  She rode determinedly and hopped over on the first try and under control.

And I couldn't see the rest -- my job was to go back and get Chelsea ready although I admit I listened to the announcer for the "177 clear over fence 2."   And a little while later: "177 clear over fence 3."  77 being Rowan's lucky number, was not a bad one for her to ride under :)   Chelsea's warm-up went as smoothly as Rowan's and it was soon her chance to whip those butterflies into formation.

And just as she was heading out for fence one, Rowan and Jack crested the hill coming back for fence nine! hahaha I'll admit I held my breath for a second that the two horses wouldn't decide they needed to be together, but the girls had them totally focused on their own jobs and the world was good :)   So, knowing I couldn't see the rest of Chelsea's course from where I was, I booked it to the end to see Rowan finish!

She came through the finish line beaming.  I'm still grinning from the grin on her face :)   And knowing the answer already but wanting to hear it from her - the all important end of xc question: "how'd it go?"   Ever run xc?   The next best thing is reliving the run thirty seconds after you finish it :)   So she gave me the play by play as she hopped off and loosened Jack's girth.  He was quite hot so she left to take care of her boy while I waited for Chelsea to come across the line.   Sadly the finish-line timer's radio wasn't working so I couldn't even eavesdrop on how she was doing.

For the record - it is WAY harder waiting for the rider than *being* the rider!  hahaha especially when they're MY kids *g*  (and yes, I realize their parents may officially have first dibs, but in this world - for a few hours a week - they're mine :)  And even more when they're riding my horses.

So HOURS later (and by hours I mean like three minutes -- I'd only just started to make friends with the finish-line timer) Chelsea crossed the finish line.  And I could tell from the moment she came into sight how it had gone.  She and Lis FLEW over the last fence like it wasn't even there -- both super happy and super proud of themselves.  And rightfully so!  So she told me about her awesome round while we led Lissy back.

Then I was very impressed by our excellent horsewomen who were soooo excited and really wanted to compare notes, but put it on hold till they were done taking care of their horses.  Which should be a given, but often at a rider's first show they need to be reminded through the excitement and the adrenaline, but these girls were awesome.   I was as proud of that as the double-clear round :)

So yeah, it was an *amazing* first horse trial.  The girls have worked so hard to get here and it totally showed today.  Huge thanks to friends and family who came out to support us (and the food and waters!  Oh so spoiled! :) and to Kirby who was our supergroom and photographer of the day :)

Can't wait for the next one!

1st show of the season!

A great day all-round at Foxcroft CT today!

In the novice division we had Caelan and Olivia -- both riding Nick :)    In PE we had Chelsea on Lissy, Emily on Bella, and Rowan on Jack.

Chelsea and Lissy
The excitement level was super high and all the girls were at the barn and ready to go for our 6:30 load.  All the ponies loaded like superstars and we got there with lots of time to spare.  Perfect sunny weather.  All good!
Caelan and Nick
Caelan was first up with Nick -- we started in the indoor ring where Nick was totally relaxed and happy.  And then we went outside where he came to life :)  Very excited and a little concerned to be alone, he was bouncier than Caelan is used to but she did an *amazing* job dealing with it.  Bella and Jack came over to keep him company and he settled just in time for her to go into the ring.  The test was nice and quiet and Caelan did a great job remembering where to go and what to do even while very nervous!  Woohoo.

Next was Olivia's turn -- Nick was totally relaxed and just energetic enough to be about perfect for her :)  She rode a very accurate test -- yeah for March Break camp :)   Best corners of the day!

Olivia and Nick
Following that we had a chance to walk stadium while Chelsea and Emily were tacking up.  I started helping them warm-up for dressage but fairly quickly had to leave to go warm Caelan up over fences.  So she and I went to stadium w/u while Steph stayed to help the girls in dressage (yeah Stephy!!! :)   Got back in time to watch Chelsea do a super job in dressage while we waited for Caelan's first round.
Chelsea and Lissy
Nick stayed his normal relaxed self so she was good to go.  She rode her practice round really well.  It was a little overly quiet, so she picked up the pace in her official round to jump clear.  Woohoo!   Well done Caelan.

Caelan and Nick
While she was on course, Emily was in dressage doing an excellent job with Bella who had been super excited in warmup but behaved herself nicely in the ring.

Emily and Bella
So Stephy and I changed places -- Olivia knew what she needed to do to jump her round with Nick, so I left her in Steph's capable hands and went over to help Rowan warmup for dressage.  And of course as with Emily and Caelan, both Rowan and Olivia ended up in their respective rings at exactly the same time.  hahaha and while I was proud of myself for being able to *watch* both riders at once, Stephy showed me up in a big way managing to photograph both rings at once!  Very impressive :)

Olivia and Nick
So while Olivia was busy putting in an excellent stadium round with a nice steady canter to jump clear, Rowan was putting in a winning dressage test.  Absolutely brilliant.

Rowan and Jack
So, how long have you been reading this blog?  Those who aim for brilliance sometimes end with disaster...  In an attempt for a truly impressive corner at the canter, Jack thought she wanted to jump the little white fence.  Oops.  He very quietly jumped out of the ring, and just as calmly jumped back in.  Huge credit to Rowan for staying in the game and just quietly putting him back in the ring and continuing with her test.  If I hadn't known better I would've thought it was on purpose -- Jack certainly thought so :)   Sadly, despite the brilliance of the rest of the test, leaving the ring before the salute is technically illegal.  Oops.  She was, however, permitted to continue HC.

Emily and Bella
Next up were the girls jumping -- Lissy and Bella warmed up nicely, the only two of the day to actually have to share the warmup ring *g*   Chelsea went in and did her practice round beautifully.  Lissy looked at a couple but Chelsea rode like a pro and they jumped clear.  Then Emily and Bella went in and did both their practice and competition ring back to back.  Both rounds were excellent, although Bella wasn't sure she wanted to halt to salute the judge inbetween!   She jumped double clear with both horse and rider gaining confidence as they went.  Then Chelsea went back in for her second round -- also clear and much smoother on round two.  Awesome job girls!

Chelsea and Lissy
Rowan finally got her turn to jump -- a quick warmup indoors went well then she got to do her two rounds back to back.  Jack stopped to take a second look at one fence on the practice round and then jumped like a prostar in round two!  Woohoo!

Rowan and Jack
So in the end -- Rowan's interpretive dressage lead to a letter rather than a number; Emily did a great job but unfortunately wasn't *quite* competitive in dressage yet.  The other girls and their ponies all brought home colourful ribbons!  Olivia ended up in 4th with Nick - woohoo!   Chelsea came home with 6th and Caelan 7th.  Not bad for the first show of the season!  You girls are awesome!

Also awesome is Steph!  Makes it so much easier knowing that I can be in two places at once with her help :)   And thanks to all the parents, siblings, and friends who came out to support :)

Cheer on our show team at Foxcroft CT this Sunday!

Come out this Sunday to support our riders competing in the combined test at Foxcroft (directions below).   A CT involves show jumping and dressage -- the winner has the best overall score.  This'll be the first show of the season for all our girls, and the first off-property show ever for most of them!

Riders -- you can come up after 3:00 on Saturday to clean your tack, your horse, braid and pack.  The horse should be braided but please do not bobble the braids till am and do not braid the forelock till am.   Tack should be spotless.

We will be loading at 6:30 am.  You must arrive early enough to:
- get your horse from the field
- feed your horse (the grain will be in a bucket with their name on it in the feed room)
- leave your horse alone to eat; pack your gear, fill a haynet, fill a water jug (this is easiest done using the hose near Apollo's stall -- then you don't have to carry the full jug very far!)
- when done eating, repair any braids that didn't survive the night, bobble, braid the forelock, groom, put shipping boots on, and return your horse to his stall.
- we'll load at or just before 6:30

Note that since I have yet to master the "being in two places at once" thing, Steph is going to come help out again!  Yeah Stephy!  Particularly she'll be helping the first two PE riders get ready for dressage while I'm warming up the novice riders for jumping.

Ride times are as follows:

8:42 Caelan - Dressage
9:18 Olivia - Dressage

10:02 Caelan - Stadium
10:03 Chelsea - Dressage
10:09 Emily - Dressage
10:14 Olivia - Stadium
10:45 Rowan - Dressage

11:04 Chelsea - Stadium
11:06 Emily - Stadium
11:18 Rowan - Stadium

Note the stadium times might be a little off as they have a jump w/u at this show that doesn't exist at any other CT/HT so I'm not entirely certain how to calculate that.   But they won't be any *earlier* than listed!


From 403: Go north on Hwy 6 for 10 km.  Turn right (east) on Flamborough Concession 7 East.  Foxcroft is 0.5 km on the right hand side.

From 401: Go south on Hwy 6 for 18 km.  Turn left (east) on Flamborough Concession 7 East.  Foxcroft is 0.5 km on the right hand side.

HUGE Thanks!!!

7 new xc jumps.  1 sign out front.  Several fences fixed.  Many blankets rolled.  A small mountain of food.  One day.  No problem!

At least, no problem when you have the amazing community of riders, family and friends that GRS has :)

So I would like to say a HUGE thanks to all who participated!  You guys are AWESOME!!!   I am soooo excited about our new course :)

Our self-volunteered project manager Bryn was the first to arrive in the am and the last to leave at night :)  His efforts made everything flow smoothly from suggesting what materials it'd be good to have on hand, to providing plans for our talented builders to build, to supervising everything, helping everybody, and manning the chainsaw and various other power tools!  I seriously doubt we'd have even gotten half as much done without his help.  SOOOO much thanks!

One of the lessons learned is that tools are only as useful as the people working them; we discovered that when Steve came and took over the tractor!  He got logs moved and a ditch dug in a phenomenally quick amount of time :)  Seriously impressive!  Similarly - Frank and Mike left alone with power tools made us an awesome coup!  Thanks :)

My very dedicated working students whose lesson got put off for another day still came and took care of the barn and joined in when they were done!  Thanks Rebecca and Brena!

Aileen and DJ saved me tons of frustration by taking on various fence repairs around the property!  While Paula, on the injured list, managed to sort through the mountain of blankets for the blanket lady.  Thanks tons!

The bank was one of the biggest challenges of the day -- Chelsea, Rowan, Steph, Dauphnee (sp?), and Kerri spent pretty much all day digging.  Definitely not the workout they usually get at the barn :)    Chels and Rowan became experts at the drill and hammering the stakes :)

While they were digging, Leslie and my dad were drilling -- mastering the art of the post-hole digger!  This made it so Bryn, Steve, Brena and Rebecca (the last two who learned how to tie the jumps) could make my triple bar PT fence :)  My dad and Steph later took the digging skill to the road, to raise our sign :)

While all this was going on Caelan and Olivia were helping with all sorts of jobs.  They, along with Leslie and the guys, pulled mountains of hardware off railway ties.  Then they unloaded a truckload of wood before going to help put together the tire jumps and dig the ditch!  Just kept working all day at whatever needed to be done.  Awesome girls!

Meanwhile my mum took over setting up and manning the BBQ -- muchly appreciated!  Thanks to all who contributed -- made a great break to the day :)

After the bank and ditch were built, Chelsea and Rowan kept running and helped load and unload stadium jumps and then created their own course.  Great job :)

HUGE thanks to all who helped out.  You're helping make this a fantastic place to ride :)

Lucinda Green Clinic - Day 2

So. Much. Fun.

Very tempted to just leave the post at that line.  Summarizes fairly well I think :)   But I suspect people might be less-than-thrilled with me for it.  But that being said, I'm known for only writing about day 1 of clinics so even just three words is improvement right?

hahaha ok so on with it.  XC am dawned cold but, thankfully, dry!  Got to the farm with lots of time to feed and water Athena and let her digest before her ride.  She was clearly tired after yesterday given that my somewhat psyc weaver was standing quietly.  Looked good on her *g*

Went to the indoor to w/u.  Knowing that she was tired and had 2-hours of xc ahead of her, our w/u consisted of a reasonable length walk, lots of leg yields, and a fairly short trot set which showed me that she was moving remarkably well and not stiff or sore at all from yesterday.  Sweet!   The other riders seemed much of the same mind as only one was really working in the w/u -- the rest were more wandering...  Fair enough :)

Followed Lucinda out to xc.  She had us do a quick w/u on our own over fences again with instructions to jump some little fences until we felt our horses were leaving the ground and then come back.  No ditches or banks.  No more than 5 mins.  So we all went our own ways -- there were only a handful of jumps that met that criteria, but everybody was sharing nicely *g*  And soon we were all ready to play.

We were originally going to start with some ditch work, but the ditch on that side of the property ended up being a little too intense, so we switched gears and went to play on the bank instead.  We walked up and down, stopping on a straight line as per yesterday.  And then the skinnies came out.  hahaha  bending lines of course with three-foot skinnies balanced on caveletti blocks.  All sorts of combos: log, skinny, bank, skinny and back again.  And every variation you can think of.   Athena tried her little heart out.   You could see she was a little overwhelmed by the idea, but she held her line and figured out what to do with her feet.  It occasionally took us a bit to get the halt at the end, but she did manage to navigate all the questions.   For a horse who really started experiencing skinnies yesterday, I was pretty impressed!

Then it *was* time to go to the ditch.  We had already discovered that two of the more experienced horses really weren't feeling ditches today, so Lucinda asked if any of us could get our horses over.  The other two riders seemed pretty hesitant to commit to it, so I told her I thought we probably could :)   The only ditches she's ever done were at Grandview and they were super-inviting which this one was not entirely, but she's tried everything I've ever asked her so I had high hopes.  One of the other riders threw in his vote for "the little black mare" being the one most likely to succeed, so away we went.  Nice forward walk.  Slip the reins and stay back.  Athena's head goes all the way down INTO the ditch.  And then...  she gamely hopped over it!  hahaha I was so proud of her!   And then we did it a couple dozen more times giving leads to everybody else till she was bored :)   Woohoo!

The ditch got built up into a coffin (using show-jump fences) which she was a little stickier at, but she did it.  Then we worked on a half-coffin by angling fence A and then jumping the wider half of the ditch on an angle.  That she did quite well, but admittedly because she was last to go and was rather frantic to catch the other horses galloping up the hill away from her towards home!   But hey, whatever works right? :) We also got to do it the other way with the ditch first to the vert which she found comparitively easy.

Next step was to move to the *actual* coffin which was far more substantial than anything I've jumped with her xc yet.  Admittedly not saying much since she's only really jumped entry fences and the occasional pt jump, but still.  Walked her over the ditch and cantered out over B.  A little iffy because she's still *really* unsure about jumping out of the walk, so turned around and went the other way at a trot to far more success.  Then Lucinda offered us the chance to school the full coffin.  I was the only one who hesitated a second which drew a puzzled look -- understandably since my super-pony clearly has a good heart and no ditch issues -- so I felt the need to clarify it wasn't the jumps that concerned me -- it was cantering down the hill!  Coordination and balance in the canter aren't our strong suit :(   And really most of what we'd done both yesterday and today so far had been out of a trot.

So Lucinda suggested just cantering down the hill since clearly she needed practice and either skipping the jumps all together or if I felt things were going well to take the B and C elements.

How long have you been reading my blog?  I'm guessing most of you will know exactly what ended up happening *g*  We cantered down the hill, me fighting her all the way for some semblance of balance and rhythm, and... well...  the A element was in the way of B and C...  So of course we jumped all three.   I'm only wimpy till we start moving :)  Once we start going, my brain switches into xc mode and we're good to go.  Pretty it was not.  Effective it was.  There was no way I was going over that ditch without her *g*  She jumped A long and then got frazzled but thanks to the "emergency rein contact" from yesterday when I had to slip the reins over A we were still good to go for old-school pony-club "just keep kicking" methodology which got us over the ditch.   But of course she way over-jumped it giving a wicked chip to C.  *sigh*  Ugly.  Lucinda seemed fairly amused by the whole thing "you know I only *said* do B and C" and just as I was about to apologize for adding in w/o permission she follows up with "but I LOVE that you did all three."  And as I'm all happy with that "very brave of you to attempt that with that canter!   It's a good thing you can keep your balance in the middle of your horse."  hahaha yeah ok -- methinks that was a not-so-subtle hint I'd crossed the line from bravery to stupidity there.  *sigh*  But despite its ugliness I was still super proud not only that she got through it, but that she jumped out confidently even from a tricky spot.  And she landed *really* proud of herself.  So pretty stoked about that.

Next step - Weldon's Wall.  That's right -- a vertical fence with a ditch in front of it.  A ditch they generally don't see till the last stride.  Oh good.  So we all did the little one -- Athena hesitated slightly but jumped it cleanly on the first try :)  Then we were given the option of the little one again or the big one.  Funny how this time the option wasn't really directed at me.   If you're not sure which one we picked, read the above paragraph.  She FLEW over it.  Only thing is, she was once again *very* much focused on catching the horse in front of her, *not* on what she was doing.  A little terrifying as that is not the type of fence you want an out-of-control pace to.  *sigh*  She did clear it beautifully and in stride.  I'm not convinced she even saw the ditch though so less-useful as a schooling exercise.  After that it was determined that she should not follow anybody   Not that it mattered as the rest of the exercises we ended up doing all involved turns so it was never again a case of catch-me-if-you-can.

We moved on from ditches at this point to the fairly steep up-down bank.  If you go up the lesser-slope it's two steps, but we were going up the side which is basically a climb.   Did it once or twice and then skinnies appeared on either side of it.  Who's surprised by that?  Yeah I wasn't either *g*   "But don't worry," Lucinda assured us, "these are wide skinnies.  Five feet!"  Right.  Wide skinnies.  About that.  hahaha but to be honest, after the skinnies we'd been doing earlier, five feet did indeed seem wide and neither fence was an issue for anybody.  My biggest issue was keeping Athena's hocks under her on the down and not leaping off the bank (which would've WAY overshot the skinny).  But she really tried and pulled it off.  Then a little coup-type thing got added in; this one we were given permission to skip.  I'm not entirely sure why - size maybe?  But she landed in balance from the skinny and focused really happily on the coup that we jumped it anyways.  She definitely really enjoys those types of fences.  Big, wide and nicely curved are exactly her thing :)   She's seriously uncertain about anything technical, but just plain solid is np.

Then we got to play in the water.  Walk in, trot out.  Trot in, trot out.  Trot in, trot out over barrels.  Trot in, trot out up a bank.  All no problem.  The first couple walk/trot in she wanted to have a VERY careful look and seemed to have some trouble keeping her feet under her.  I seriously thought we were going swimming.  But she figured it out and was soon gamely trotting through.

Jumping out was np.  BUT then we were to drop off the bank in.  That was more of a challenge for her -- she hesitated and danced around on the bank for a good long while.  But just as Lucinda was starting to ask one of the other riders to give her a lead, Athena gathered up her courage and took a great leap in :)  Woohoo!
Ok...  If you *really* want to!
Such a good heart that one.   We landed with a slightly less-graceful splash but good to go and continued out over our barrels.  After that she quickly gained confidence and by about the 3rd time was stepping off quietly.   After the years of wild launches with Si, it was such a relief to have a horse who figured it out and chilled out about the whole situation.  She's going to make such an awesome school horse next year!

To end the clinic Lucinda gave everybody the opportunity to play and school over whatever they wished.  Athena though was clearly done so I left her on that.  She was still high -- I didn't dismount and walk her as I usually would as I knew I'd have more control on top and she was still bouncing.  But I could feel the high was adrenaline not strength.  She was really tired.  So we watched the others for a few moments and then walked her back.

So end result: I have a horse who feels ready to take on the world, Lucinda remains one of my favourite clinicians, and I had a TON of fun :)   All good really.   She expects her riders to smarten up and pay attention, but if you're on the ball and make an effort you'll get a ton out of it.

Line of the day from Day 1:  "You make ugly look beautiful"
Line of the day from Day 2:  "Wow.  You're *really* brave."

hahaha didn't know exactly how to take either, but both made me laugh :)   And as we all know, that's a great thing to do while riding :)   Can't wait till the next clinic!

Lucinda Green Clinic - Day 1

Fun. Focus. Footwork.  Those were the key words of day one at the Lucinda Green clinic at Eventing Canada.

The weather was cold, windy, rainy, and generally miserable, but being eventers we sucked it up and rode outdoors anyways.  You don't have to be crazy to participate in this sport -- but it definitely helps!

Today's focus was on using stadium exercises to improve and train for xc.  All the jumps were set super-low, and we were told they would remain that way with a focus on accuracy and complexity rather than height. After all, height is easy; technical separates the riders from the passengers.

There were skinny fences scattered all around the ring as well as two arrowhead jumps with the points directed at each other several strides apart.  We started with a free-for-all warmup with the instructions to jump anything we wanted, with no concern to equitation.  The only rules were "no runouts and no cantering".  Everything was to be under complete control -- tricky with several OTTBs in the group!  And the jumps were low enough that should they need to, the horses could walk over them.  A stop is acceptable and can be dealt with; a runout is rider error.  You keep them straight and they jump - that's the deal.  If you don't hold your end, why should they hold theirs?

After we'd all jumped around a bit there was a discussion about the key requirements for jumping skinnies -- or jumping at all really.  Basically it came down to leg, hand and eye.  Simple right?  And that was the point -- it's *not* complicated, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy.   Hold them with your leg, fine tune with your hand and make sure you're looking where you're going (Lucinda borrowed Pat's "beaming" energy analogy).

We did some practice over the arrowheads -- something Athena's certainly never seen before!  But she figured it out and by then end was jumping it confidently.  Then onto course work -- with instructions including what gait to be in at each fence.  Cantering a trot fence or vise-versa was unacceptable and would result in repeating the exercise.  Got horses AND riders sharpened up pretty quickly!

After that it was all about turns and skinnies.  Lucinda was quick to correct any rider's position that was unsafe (ie jumping ahead) but otherwise the focus was entirely on effectiveness.  Gait was open to choice at this point and the courses included lots of bending lines with very skinny fences and fun combinations.  Athena was VERY confused at first but she kept trying and eventually got a really lovely course and was even calmly cantering it.  I was pretty thrilled with her.

Then the focus changed and we started working on walk-fences.  Walking up to a barrel jump and hopping over it.  I think I only *truly* kept her in a walk twice; every other time we got at least one jog step *sigh*  But it was a HUGE difference from the first time we jumped in in w/u and cleared it by about 3' :)   The walk jump exercise led to practice with the "emergency contact" -- which I suspect will come into play in tomorrow's xc adventures.  This is basically after you've slipped the reins for some reason, holding your hands wide and your body back to maintain the contact over the next obstacle.  This exercise very quickly differentiated between those with event experience and those without *g*  "Make it ugly!" was the quote of the day.  Which of course raises the question - if it's ugly and it's supposed to be, is it beautiful?  hahaha oh dear - the 4h of sleep is starting to show through :)   Since after too many years of riding babies, my number 1 bad habit is slipping my reins, this was one exercise I could do in my sleep *g*  Athena was a little puzzled, but we got it done :)

Throughout this adventure there were a few random theoretical discussions (cause we were all just enjoying the weather so much!).  Appropriate tack -- the softest bit that enables control (Lucinda changed a couple of them with the rider's permission to softer ones).  A crop is obligatory.  Martingales should be properly fit pony-club style.  That is, when the horse's head is raised it should come about to where the jaw meets the neck.  Most were far too short.  Gloves should not be leather as leather slips.

There was some discussion about the use of studs -- whether or not there should be one on the inside; tradition says yes, but Lucinda presented several reasons why that may not be truly the best situation.  Risk of inside stud hitting the opposite leg and disabling the hoof's ability to turn as it should being the top two.

Let's see...  Also discussion about how to retrain a horse who runs out (one of the more challenging issues -- better to just never let them learn it in the first place!), discussion about jumping form and how the horse has to move its head to view and evaluate the fence and how that can or should be a consideration in your riding.

Basically it was an awesome clinic -- both from a riding and a theory point of view.  I unfortunately only got to watch one other class as we had to get back so I could teach tonight!   But tomorrow I'll get to see most of the day, so quite looking forward to that.

HUGE thanks to Stephy for coming as groom/ring-crew and surviving the brutal weather.  Poor Steph always seems to be with me on the particularly horrific days!   And to Rebecca who took care of everything at home so I could go play :)  AND on top of that to Jamie and Arthur who fed and checked on Athena this evening so I could go teach and not have to drive an extra 3h to feed my horse.   Having horses in two locations an hour and a half apart is tricky!

There's a ton of other stuff I'd love to write, but the alarm's going to go off again in about 6h, so I think I'd best be off.  More tomorrow.  Hopefully!