Here there be dragons...

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

Been there. Done that. Got the hat.

They let me drive the boat today!  hahaha yeah - so much fun!  And just slightly terrifying.   A race, remember...  This means other boats.  Lots of them.  In the immediate vicinity.  And I have zero understanding of right-of-way rules between sailboats.  Oh dear.

So our race wasn't *exactly* a race.   In that no other boats in our class showed up!   Frig.  hahaha  But I figure this is why I got to drive so it was still fun.   And the other classes all still had lots of boats, so there was all kinds of chaos to dodge *g*

So we're sailing our way toward the first marker (think GIANT orange floating pillow) and I'm told to aim straight for it.  And then go "just" to the side of it - as close as possible.  So I do and the boat brushes it as we turn.  Perfect.  Ummmmm except evidently you're not actually allowed to *touch* the marker.  *sigh*  Perhaps knowing the rules would be good.  hahaha  Because you see, I can hold a line.  And unlike my horse who feels the need to negotiate every decision with me, when I told the boat "go there" - it went.  And giant floating orange pillow is significantly easier to get to than 3' skinny that my horse wants nothing to do with.   So next time around I knew how it should work and we were all good.

Had a good laugh though -- when you're driving, you're also calling out to the crew what's going on (ie - so they know when to duck!).  But I really have no idea what I'm doing.  So Joe, who was sitting nearby, would tell me what to say and I, feeling like a complete fool because of course they've already heard him say it, would repeat it.  hahaha the first time - omg so funny.  Little tiny mouse voice!   I felt like I was 14 and trying to teach for the first time :)   Should've seen the look Joe gave me - the only comment was "with some authority next time."  Just made me laugh because really - authority in presentation is a rather critical job skill and one I mastered years ago.  She who used to be painfully shy, really has no problem getting up in-front of a room of 200 professionals to give a presentation.  Or teaching a lesson in front of everybody and anybody.   But apparently when I have absolutely ZERO knowledge or confidence in what I'm saying, that ability disappears.  Even faking the ability -- which I tried the next couple times - vanishes.  hahaha ah well.   If I ever get to the point where I'm *actually* driving (as opposed to following instructions) I'm sure I'd be fine with it.

Only almost tipped the boat over once *g*   This is a massive boat.  Tipping it over would be bad.  hahahha but pretty sure since I was the only one panicking about that particular move that it wasn't nearly as severe as it felt to me -- like the "bucking bronco" who simply put his head down to eat some grass *g*    Realize here, the actual skilled helmsman was sitting less than 3' away the entire time -- if I'd been in actual trouble it would've taken about a heartbeat for him to take over.  Have to tell you though - I am having so. much. fun. being the greenbean.   Where *everything* is new and exciting and you can ask stupid questions and do silly things and everybody just smiles patiently.   One of the guys asked if I'd ever had the helm before...  ummmm pretty safe bet the answer to "have you ever?" on a sailboat is "no" *g*   Or better yet: "not yet!"

Greenbean learning moments from today (mostly because I know it amuses my friends who *actually* sail...)   Halyards (remember them from the first day?) are the lines that make the sails go up and down.  There are three of them (one for each sail -- although there should only be two sails going at any one time!)   And you can switch sails at the same time (two tracks - one goes up as the other comes down) so that you're never dead in the water.  Well - other people probably can anyways *g*   So halyards make sails go up and down, sheets go the other way to control the positioning  of the sail.  And there are a bunch of those.  Yes that is an accurate count *g*   Just don't ask me how one decides where to position said sail or which sheet to use.  hahaha I'm still at  the "pull the blue one" level!  Maybe next week *g*

So yeah - still *really* enjoying this game :)   And hey - we won!  hahahhaha

Oh - and back in the dock - somebody gave me a hat from the massively-intense race they actually won that I was NOT a part of last weekend.   Apparently the hat makes me a "real sailor" in the eyes of anybody who sails.  Of the "survived that, got the t-shirt" variety.  Well - until I open my mouth or set foot on a boat that is!  hahahah oh dear.

Only a couple weeks left till my Wed nights will be eaten by puppy school :(   Boooo.  But till then - so. much. fun.

GRS Prostars clean up at Equus!

I was SO proud of my girls today!

Chelsea and Rowan went to Equus HT today riding Lissy and Jack respectively.

The girls had times close enough together that we didn't have to be there all day, but far enough apart that I could work with each of them individually in warm-up.

Dressage went really well for both - we had more than enough time, and while the competition ring was quite a ways away from the warmup, both horses did really well at being alone.  I would say a personal best test for BOTH girls -- so I was pretty happy about that :)   Lissy was slightly tense, so not entirely competitive, but Jack was sitting in 2nd after dressage!  Woohoo!!!

We got to walk xc, but there wasn't a ton of time, so we didn't get to walk stadium at first.  Went back to find that our supergrooms Steph and Emily had tacked up the ponies for them, and then back to stadium warmup.  Got there just enough time for a quick course-walk before warmup.

And the course was so big and had so much filler I thought it was still set for Entry.  Except that nobody was changing it.  hmmmmm.  Yup, sure enough, it was pre-entry.  Oh dear.  But the girls stepped it up.  Fortunately there was some filler in the w/u fences, so they got to jump something "scary" before having to do it in competition.

Rowan and Jack were in first and she *rode*.   I was SO proud of her.  He looked at every fence investigating for the monsters.  Fence three in particular was *terrifying*.  Could hear the conversation between Rowan and Jack from the sidelines:  "Ok that one's next" ummm Rowan, that one has monsters under it.  Let's go left instead -- I see an easy way around.  "No, we should just go over.  Let's go straight."  Well, how about left?  Left could work!  "No, still want to go over."  I don't think that's a good idea at all.   How about if we stop and admire it?  "No Jack.  You have to jump it.  Now."  Well...  If you're sure... "Yes.  Go."   And he did :)   It wasn't necessarily pretty *g*  But they got over it on the first try.  Sweet.  The rest of the course included several more discussions but they all required less negotiation than that and Rowan did her job every. single. stride.   It was amazing to watch.  Especially from a green rider -- she behaved like a pro!

Chelsea got to watch that and clearly learned from it.  She also knows her pony well enough to know that if Jack was nervous of a jump, Lissy would be terrified of it.  So she went into the ring prepared, but slightly concerned.  And she got a good start -- Lis wasn't even sure the first fence was a great idea, but they did it :)  That third one though she *almost* jumped it -- but then scattered all the poles everywhere in a super sliding stop...  The only down-side of the QH side of her!  *sigh*   The bell was rung, and even though Chelsea's never been in that situation before, she figured out enough to wait while they rebuilt the fence for her and then she re-presented calmly and quietly but with a strong ride and sure enough they hopped over it on the second try.  She had to really ride her way around the rest of her course - and she did it.  Every single fence she did her job and Lissy, who absolutely adores her, trusted her enough to jump all the scary fences :)   Again, so very proud of her.   Wow.
Has the rain stopped yet?
And then it was time for xc :)   And just as Rowan headed out to the w/u, the skies opened and we got soaked.  Short but torrential rain.  I know we needed rain, but did we really need it right that second?  *sigh*  Ah well - part of the game.  Fortunately it stopped before she had to actually run.

Equus being the way it is, with just a little bit of jogging we were able to watch almost the entire course.  Rowan was feeling more confident than her last round and they had a nice steady rhythm with a good combination of trotting and cantering.  She gave him an excellent ride and they jumped around clear, Rowan finishing with a huge grin on her face :)  They were unfortunately a little under time, but clear and safe and had fun -- so all good!

Chelsea headed out shortly after Rowan's return, and the grin was on her face from the first fence.  It made all the challenge of stadium worth while as she and her pony went for a good run around the course.   They were a little *faster* than technically required, but still within the time allowed.   Awesome job!

So in the final standings, this game being what it is, Rowan - despite a spectacular ride - dropped down a few places with the time faults to finish in fifth, while Chelsea jumped her way out of trouble to end in third.
Not sure which one is having more fun!
Awesome job ladies!

Time to cut the grass!

So with riding the tendency is to improve greatly, plateau for a bit - which is frustrating, and then go backwards - which is far worse.  The only plus side to this -- is when you leap OFF the plateau and start climbing your way back up again, it's pretty amazing :)

Athena and I have been on the plateau before.  I've been there in the past - I recognize it; I know it's normal;  that doesn't make it any easier.   And then we slid backwards.  Fast.   My "almost ready to upgrade" suddenly was barely even managing to trot fences safely *sigh*

But we got off the downhill slide and back to where we'd been before in time for Will O Wind last week. That experience has its own post :)  So after WoW we took it easy for a day or two and then started back to work.  And we were pretty much back on our frustrating plateau.

Then Friday rolled around...  And for a whole variety of reasons (not the least of which was our atrocious showing on Saturday) I deemed it dressage day and dressed accordingly.   Athena was exceptionally stressed while I was tacking up.  She's always a *little* high-anxiety, but this was way more than usual, so I figured I was in for a ride-and-a-half.  But when I got on, she settled right away.  Sweet.  So my coach arrived and I explained what had happened in dressage and talked for a bit about the jumping (he'd seen the video - yeah social media!).  And then we got to work.  

OMG was that lesson ever *intense*.  Seriously detail-oriented, every stride, and even some off-horse work.  The end result?  Dressage way beyond anything I'd ever thought Athena would be capable of.  The kinda stuff Zel could do in her sleep, but Athena struggles to even come close to.  And I felt I was riding *really* well.  So I was pretty stoked about that too :)  As my coach put it "just wanted to push you to the next level" - yeah.  I'm good with that.

And then today I took her to the Leslie Law clinic at Eventing Canada.  And really - horses don't care what a superstar rider you were the day before.  They want to know what you can do today.  For better or for worse :)  She warmed up acceptably; not brilliant but not horrible -- she was relaxed, but not really through or bending.  In the warm-up Leslie's focus was on accuracy of aids -- he reviewed the various rein aids and made sure all the horses were moving well off the leg.  Sound like dressage?  Yup, she was a little stiff after yesterday, but mostly all good.

And then we started canter poles.  And it fell apart.  As, let's be honest, it generally does when we try to do canter poles.  Soft and ok on the turn, good over the first one, grab bit and charge to the ground.  hmmmm  Ok try again.  This time break to trot.  *sigh*  Try again.  Grab bit earlier and charge.  Trip over pole.  Break to trot.  Lovely.  So finally I gave up and asked if there was anything I should try...  The response?  "I'm going to get on her."  Very kewl.  hahaha I love when clinicians get on my horse -- it never used to happen with Zel, but I've had a couple since then that they'd get on :)   Anyways - I have to admit I was glad to see her be a little snarky to him too :)  Even threw a couple bucks *g*  hahaha  But once they finished their discussion, he got her going nicely on the flat and then tried the poles...  And crashed into a tree afterwards.  Or two.  hahaha but eventually he had her cantering through the poles in a reasonable fashion -- not *good* yet, but reasonable.  He rode her for significantly longer than I would've expected.  And when I got on I had a MUCH softer horse.  Sweet.  He had me focus on a stronger hand with a softer elbow -- a good combination as it worked out brilliantly.   It took a few tries, but soon enough she was cantering through the poles and over the jumps like a pro-star.  We even managed to fit 9 strides in a 7 :)   I won't say it was 100% perfect -- there *might've* been a broken pole...  Oops :)  But other than that, she was a complete superstar.  I was pretty thrilled.  HUGE thanks to Kirby for grooming for me today and Arthur for hosting!

So yes, after a long while that's one show and two lessons that seem to imply things are finally going the direction they should be.   Yeah!!!!   Off to Equus tomorrow :)

Oh and the subject line?   See this post from my working student days :)

Here there be dragons 3 :)

So I've been waiting for blog books to go on sale and they finally did :)   Which means I've spent the last two hours going through 2011's blog to block the video posts (video's don't print well >;-)   They're still online, just removed from the print version.  BUT the flip side of that is, it's actually a lot of fun.  Reading about things as they were happening, knowing now how they'd work out.  Kinda cool :)

If anybody's interested, I printed the 2011 GRS blog book a while ago; it's at the barn with the magazines :)

Definitely makes me inclined to try to post more often.  Went sailing again tonight :)  That's worth mentioning!   Except sadly there was zero wind; making for a less-than-exciting sail.  *sigh*  Ah well - next week!

The one thing that'll be sad about next year's blog is the lack of comments -- starting about 1/2 way through 2011, all the comments started appearing on Facebook.  Which is still fun (any blogger loves ANY comments :) but it means they won't get published in the book.  hmmmm  ah well :)

And I think I need to include more photos.  Photos definitely make the book more fun :)

Story of my life

No need for any more blog...  All taken care of in this one text blurb Chris sent me...

Seem about right?

hahaha ah well - still way better than the other option:

sit in traffic
sit at desk
stare mindlessly at computer
drink copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake
stare mindlessly at computer
sit in traffic
stare mindlessly at computer


Alright dear reader -- grab some popcorn and settle in, as today's story - like all the best stories - actually starts several weeks ago.

That's right - today's story started the day after I sent in my entries to Will O Wind.   That was the day Athena's brain fell out her ear.  *sigh*   Athena had done Grandview and the Lucinda Green clinic and was jumping really well, so I figured we'd be good to go to upgrade.  And then all of a sudden we were completely out of control over fences.  And while eventers may have a bit of a reputation as, well...  Flat out yahoos :)

The truth of the matter is, most of us realize we actually need *more* control to jump solid obstacles safely at speed -- not less.  So when all-of-a-sudden my horse is grabbing the bit and CHARGING at fences and then throwing herself over them with, shall-we-say, less-than-traditional form, upgrading suddenly seems like an absolutely horrific idea *sigh*   So we spent a week on trot to the fence, jump, land, halt.  Sometimes even trot to the fence, halt, reinback, trot, jump, land, halt. (not my favourite exercise since I don't like to ever stop a horse in front of a fence, but at very least this horse is honest about jumping!)  Understand -- that halt at times was taking up to 10 strides!  That's very not acceptable.  

So after about a week of that she was starting to rebalance herself and charge a whole lot less, so we started adding in canter work -- which actually went remarkably well.  The constant halts after the fences made it so she'd land and listen -- so half-halts became a legitimate option.  Sweet.  So we spent a week mixing up land-halt with land-balance-canter away.  And it was almost getting civilized again.

BUT, now less than a week from the show.  We've never jumped a PT height course.  We've never jumped related distances without building them up slowly.  And our off-property experiences haven't been excellent. I was a little concerned.   Fortunately my coach found said concern to be valid and arranged for an off-property jump school at a place with a reasonable show-jump course.  Only down side?  The only time we could meet was for a 7am lesson.   You're not new here. 

However, such is life.  So we bring her out and he's set a course at PT height + a bit with an in-and-out, a triple (incl scary planks!), and a few random jumps.  There are two smaller, less-interesting ones, that are clearly meant to be warmup fences.  So we mimicked the show environment as best we could with one ring to work with -- she did get to see the fences as we warmed up, but she only got to jump the two uninteresting ones before doing the course.  Including both lines.   And you know what?  She was awesome.  High and looky, but tuned in and allowing me to make the executive decisions.  Even though I, I have to admit, was not riding my finest.  So that was a HUGE confidence boost, and suddenly I felt we might survive our upgrade.

High and looking, but still jumping!
Ok, so then we get to Thursday.  Which went just fine except right before I was going to go home my puppy and I collided.  End result -- a puffy eye I couldn't see out of :(   Booo on that.   Fortunately by Friday the swelling had gone down and I was just left looking like a make-up artist gone horribly wrong.  I also had a wicked head-ache.  Thanks to said headache, I did not sleep well Friday night and when my alarm went off at 5:30 I was already awake.  If you don't understand the significance of that, see above >;-P

So Saturday morning I was less than thrilled about this idea.   Temp supposed to be 30deg and sunny -- discounting the humidex.  Lovely, except for riding a black horse who's not uber-fit.  And my xc was scheduled for 3:46 -- right when it should be good and hot.  Still had said headache, so dealing with loading my horse was going to be less than fun.  AND, being an upgrade, I knew I'd have to make the ride -- which I simply didn't feel like doing *sigh*   I also knew there were almost 40 people in my class; most of whom are team-level pros mounted on very nice babies that they're bringing along.  And Athena simply doesn't have the movement to compete with that in dressage so we're already starting at a disadvantage.  And when you're tired and not feeling well and grumpy and hugely competitive -- that's enough to make it seem like you should go back to bed.   But I wasn't sleeping anyways, soooo....

Off we went.  Paula took care of the barn for me today so I could escape and Chelsea spent all day in the sun grooming for me.  I have the most awesome students :)  Got there with lots of time and there was a huge amount of parking, so that was excellent.  She was a little dancy while I tacked up for dressage, but not too horrid.  Got a little lost trying to figure out what path horses were supposed to take to get to dressage world (I knew how to get people there, but that path said no horses...) but eventually we got there, way earlier than I probably should have.   She warmed up super-well, but we had time and I didn't want to exhaust her (not as fit as I'd like and super hot remember?).  So I gave her a break for a bit, chatted with some people, watched some tests.  All good :)  And when it was really time, warmed her up again.  And she was great!  Forward and through and round and connected.  Sweet.
Pretty dressage warm-up
And then we went in the ring.  In my *entire* eventing career I have had exactly ONE test that was worse than what we did today.  Remember that whole grab-the-bit-and-charge thing?  Yeah, it suddenly made an appearance in dressage.  We trotted up the centre-line beautifully.  And left her brain at about G.  Tracked left and she grabbed the reins and tried to dive over the dressage ring.  Frig.  There will be NO getting eliminated in dressage.  They might not let us jump!  So forget nice quiet subtle aids, that was nearly a pully-rein you WILL stay in the ring.   Well that was the highlight.  *sigh*  Our circles were neither round nor the size they should be -- I swear one of them had a diagonal in it!  Seriously - try that on purpose some time -- it's an interesting challenge!  There was leaning and falling and pulling and at least once more we had another attempt at the interesting cavelletti exercise set up.  We did have the odd moment that was almost acceptable -- but if the judge blinked she would've missed it.  I actually apologized to her after the test.  It was *that* bad.  And remember -- the last horse I campaigned seriously would pull 9s on almost every test.  So after that, this was both embarrassing and appalling.  I had figured we wouldn't be seriously competitive in dressage just because of her movement limitations, but I HAD at least expected to put in a reasonable middle-of-the-pack test.  This...   Not so much :(
Our one acceptable moment in dressage
Alright well now we are out of the competition.  May as well have some fun.  Got Athena untacked and bathed and then went to walk the course.   Stadium was what I'd been concerned about, so went there first. It was in-progress, so no walking but I could watch it.  And I have to say -- if I could've set my absolutely IDEAL course for this horse, that's exactly what it would've been.  And all of a sudden, I was actually looking forward to stadium.  A combination of my stadium round at Grandview was fun (that never happens!) and that this was so perfect for what we needed to school (which, given our dressage, was all we were going to do today anyways).  My concern about related distances was negated by the fact that there weren't any *g*   And it was a super-twisty course.  Which means land-balance-turn.  Exactly what she needed.  But not ONLY was it super-twisty, the ring was HUGE.  So if you didn't want to turn tight (or, perchance, ended up going a little faster than technically ideal), you didn't have to.  I heard a lot of comments from other people about the turns -- esp 1-2 and 2-3, but really it was riding well for the lower levels and for almost every turn you could buy a ton of space if you wanted to. 

Ok, starting to feel a whole lot more confident about the whole upgrade thing.  Go walk cross and come back grinning :)   Fence one = log.  Not even a big log.  Absolutely perfect start to xc.  Fence 2 = slightly raised log.   Took me a little to find fence 3, esp as two riders doing PE came through back to back so I was trying to stay out of the way :)   Fence 3 was a lovely little stone wall in the tree-line that had the optical illusion of a scary drop after it, but it really was just an illusion and a couple strides to 3B - a little cabin on a slightly bending line.  Cool.  Get to think a bit, but nothing so big she couldn't easily trot it.   And the distance was text-book.  Then our first nice long gallop of the day, which I was mentally thinking Athena could trot if she needed to :)   Fence 4 was our first actually maxed fence, but it was an easy roll-top (and tbh, maxed PT is still trotable for Athena).  The trick here is that the next one is an open ditch.  Far enough away that they weren't actually related, but close enough that I'd really need that land-balance concept working.   Followed that by a decent sized bench in the treeline.   Then the second lovely gallop (aka trot) down the hill and back up the other side.  Here was a small and easy set of logs on top of the hill.  Only thing here is I once had a really nasty run-in with the T fence right next to it that even though it was several years ago, made me really consider this one.  But honestly, no matter how I evaluated it, stupid-history aside there was nothing scary about the fence.  Down the hill around a corner to a slightly raised log with some flowers under it.  Ok np.  Back up the hill to another slightly raised log.  Only thing... this one has a BFD under it...   (ummmm translation - Big ... Ditch; a takeoff on the ever-traditional BFJ that should be on every course :)   Uh oh.  So Athena's never jumped a trakehner before...  hmmmmm but it was carefully disguised -- she'd see the ditch only about one stride out.  For better or for worse :)  Ok, mental note made.   Next was a trip to the water -- the water itself was actually optional.  For the best line to fence 10, you had to go through it.  But you could skirt it and jump 10 on an angle...  11 was a tiny up-bank.  The only thing I wanted to consider there was that it was skinny with a spook factor on one side (the bigger bank :).  Bending line to a tiny cabin type thing (I think? -- memory's a little fuzzy here but it was a little jump that I knew would ride easily).   So I mentally decided that if my horse was feeling tired or lagging we would retire at this point.  By here she would've seen all of banks, ditches, related distances and water and finished on something easy.  Fair enough.  But on the off chance she was good to go, I continued my walk.  13 was a random log -- only thing there was it was about a stride after the tree-line, so a bit of a spook/add factor.  14 was a line of houses - again, text-book striding.  Another long gallop to 15 -- one of the few maxed fences, and 16 was just a quick curve away and also maxed -- both of these were  pointing directly towards home though so no real concern except for fitness.  But overall a super-inviting and fair course.  Perfect for an upgrade.  And suddenly I was really looking forward to the rest of my day :)

And then I got back just in time to get to actually WALK stadium.  What a luxury!   Went back -- poor Chelsea had been hanging out with Athena all this time!   It's boring being the only extra person at a show!  But she was still smiling :)
Chelsea and Athena
Had a bit of time to chill and then tack up for stadium.  She was a little sticky in the warm-up, hesitating and then over-jumping, but it got better as we went...
Stadium w/u - over jumping just a little :)
Then in we went.  I was SO proud of her.  We had a bit of a discussion to fence three, and on landing from fence three.  So I opted to trot fence four -- partially so we could make the turn and partially to make a point.  Schooling after all :)  She also really didn't want to give me the right lead -- that I didn't pick on at all; I know the left hind is weak so I didn't stress about it.  She was balanced and maintained a rhythm and that's what counted.  Mostly she was just backed off enough to be rideable.  What really impressed me was the one fence she did lock-in on (after 6 we were supposed to jump and bend left, but she locked in on the fence to the right) she let me renegotiate a change of direction.  HUGE improvement from the disaster that was a couple weeks ago.  I was pretty happy after that round :)  Not yet pretty by any means, but under control and safe -- and jumping clear!  A reasonable start.   On a minor note -- they have to start making armbands that go smaller!  Mine was on the tightest setting and fell off >;-P  And there are a lot of riders out there smaller than I (like my entire competitive team :).  hahaha -- I tied it in knots before going xc cause it was a *slight* distraction *g*

Amazingly Athena wasn't terribly stressed by stadium -- we took her back and bathed her, but it wasn't totally necessary; not nearly as hot as after dressage.  PE XC had had some challenges, and as a result XC was starting half an hour after the posted time.  While I usually prefer tight times, since I was still pretty concerned about her fitness level, the extra half hour was good recovery time for her.  And I was thrilled that she was drinking all day.  

So I deemed XC warm-up less necessary.  I didn't want to waste what jumps we had left.  We cantered around a bit and hopped the vertical a few times -- again, very sticky at first but gaining confidence each time.  Never did do the oxer *g*  Fortunately we had two good ones in a row just after the 2-minute warning and got to the start box confident and ready to go.
XC warm-up
The first two fences on XC were very sticky.  They were super-inviting but I still needed a seriously defensive "this is NOT optional" type ride.  Got over them though and landing from two she booked it *g*  Sadly I had to bring her back to trot fairly quickly as the 3AB combination had earned my respect.  But after that I let her have the run to four.   I started to bring her back ridiculously early though -- and glad of it since it took probably 15 strides to get her to rebalance and listen.  Ditch was a non-issue.  We trotted it, but I'm not even sure that was necessary.  Bench was little more than a speedbump *g*   I DID get all responsible and make her trot down the next hill, we then had a very reasonable canter to the one at the top.  Fence 8 I rode really defensively as though it had a giant ditch under it.  Sitting in the back seat, kept her head up, serious leg on, etc.  And she jumped it and I could just feel her roll her eyes like "what was that all about?"  But it meant when we went to 9, which looked very similar to 8 at first, and I gave the SAME ride -- she didn't question it.  Until she took off.  hahaha then we kinda defied the laws of physics.  In the air she saw the GIANT-HORSE-EATING-PIT underneath her and I swear she levitated.  We somehow got higher than her initial propulsion would've allowed.  And she landed and booked it.  We were getting away from those monsters as fast as possible!  hahaha but that's ok -- I let her run till the end of the field then brought her back to the trot for the water.   She really had NO interest in getting her toes wet -- methinks we need to do some water schooling.   But was all-for jumping the bench out on a random angle with a one-stride approach. hahaha All good.  She actually did consider shying at the tiny bank, but being as it was a tiny bank and we were trotting, and I was expecting it -- it didn't take much to redirect her up instead of around.  Jumped 12 and then we were at the decision point.  She *felt* awesome -- it was only really in my head that she wasn't fit enough.  But I decided I'd let her make the choice -- allowed her to go but didn't make her...  And we were OFF.  hahaha flew across that field in an awesome rhythmical, albeit way-too-fast-for-PT pace.   Had to fight to get her back for the next jump, but she DID listen.  Woohoo!  I did ask her to trot for a bit after the 14 combo (which I *really* had to ride), partially cause I was worried about her and partially cause I was pretty sure even with the trots we were too fast -- turns out that last part wasn't quite right, we ended up 2 seconds slow :(  Bad rider.  Regardless, we flew over the last two fences, locked on and taking me to them :)  Got to the vet -- she was hot yes, but her respiration and heartrate dropped almost right away.  And the awesome people at Will O Wind had water troughs at the end of the finish line, so I'd asked Chelsea to bring our buckets over so I untacked Athena there and we gave her a few quick baths till I was sure she was cool.    Only down side to that was the very LONG walk back carrying all the gear!  hahaha
Athena on XC
But yes, overall I was absolutely thrilled.  Our dressage... UGH.   But admittedly even on her best day she wouldn't've been entirely competitive in that group, so if we're going to screw it up - that's the day to do it.  But I couldn't've been happier with the way she jumped.  Even now, hours later, I'm still grinning :)
When all was said and done...

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Sooo... it's been an entertaining few days...

Let's see.  Chelsea was an absolute superstar at Glenarden on Sat, so that was TONS o fun (story on GRS blog :). Made even better by bringing home second!  Woohoo :)

Then Sunday was Ride for Riders -- a clinic benefiting riders who've been seriously injured.  I was one of the clinicians and Brena took Bella to ride.  I had a ton of fun teaching dressage and xc.  I had a break right at the beginning so I got to watch Brena's stadium which was brilliant!  Sadly though on xc she jumped ahead of Bella into the ditch *sigh* -- leading to an early end :(  She was having a great ride till then though!  We'll have to go back out again and reintroduce ditches *g*  On XC I had a group of greenbeans and had SO MUCH FUN with them :)  By the end they were doing ditches, banks, water - everything.  The water was definitely the biggest challenge but we got the PT group to come give some leads and soon enough we had everybody in :)  Was so much fun!

This morning I took Athena to another farm to school stadium w/ my coach.  I'm upgrading her this weekend and was a little concerned about jumping a maxed combination cold; especially with our recent lack of control -- so he set a course that included a triple and an in-and-out and had us warm up over a couple random little fences.  Not *quite* show atmosphere, but closer than schooling at home where she's seen everything dozens of times.  She was definitely looky, but did WAY better than I'd anticipated so I'm a lot happier about the upgrade idea :) Height is a non-issue at this point, but related distances are sometimes...  Interesting :)

hahaha so while I'm typing this Sasha's whining and attacking the couch.  None of her toys have gone under there today so no idea what's up.  Finally give in and move the couch so she can look -- and sure enough, one of her bones is under.  No idea how long it's been there, but she was right.  hahaha she grabs it and books it to her blanket.  I have an awesome puppy :)

So after my school, my coach was riding a young horse -- having never actually seen my coach ride before, I asked if I could stick around and watch :)  Really - when do I ever have time to do that?  But since I had such an early start (7am lesson off-site!) I had asked Rebecca to come do the barn in the am, so by 9am I was essentially done for the day.  A couple stalls to muck when I got home, but not much.  So with permission we stuck around -- Chelsea had my pony, so I was watching my coach ride and playing with my camera.  All good.  And then the dreaded question "so, what should I be doing differently?"  uh oh...

hahaha why dreaded?  Well let's see...  Three times in my life my coaches have asked me that.  The first one I had *just* started teaching beginners and she was a solid rider.  I legitimately couldn't see anything to tell her.  She was happy with me :)  The second one, I was still a very novice coach -- a couple years of teaching beginners by this point, but still at the w/t/c x-rail stage.  However -- she hadn't ridden in years and was *very* rusty.  So I veerrryyy hesitantly picked a really beginner mistake and she laughed and laughed.  We're still friends a decade and half a country later and she still occasionally reminds me of that one *g*  But the last one - by then I *had* developed a reasonable eye.  I really respected this particular coach and when she asked me, I hesitated.  The PC side of me thought I should go with what worked with the first coach "it's perfect, I don't see anything" :)  Even if it wasn't true any longer *g*  But the ego side of me which doesn't want to fail in front of somebody I respect said to tell the truth.  I knew enough not to say anything unless asked, but I was asked, soooo...  I was very diplomatic about it, but suffice to say it did not go over particularly well.  *sigh*  

So now several years later, faced with the same discussion, from somebody I respect, who's pop quizzes I very rarely get 100% on *g*  Which is the main reason I really enjoy riding with him -- he pushes me to be a better coach and trainer as well as "just" riding.  Sooo - do I answer the question?  Well first, CAN I answer it?  hahaha there's a moment where I'm right back to being 15 and having no idea what to say.  Fortunately that didn't last long and I had an answer or two.  Then whether to vocalize them?  So I test the waters a bit, telling him that critiquing my coaches has not worked out entirely well in the past...  Figure I'll leave it at that.  After all, there're only so many coaches in this area that I'm interested in working with -- annoying *another* one is probably not a good idea *g*  And the one coach I ever rode with who really got it and is as much a smart ass as I am, sadly is too far away for me to ride with regularly.  I only get to spar with him at shows now  hahaha So anyways, alienating the one that's currently helping me seems like a poor life decision.  But there's that ego again...  Presented with just the right tone of challenge, part of me feels the need to answer. So then he tells me that his asking is a sign of respect for my knowledge and he's not going to be annoyed with any useful advice.  ohhhh there's that challenge again.  Now I pretty much HAVE to say something useful.  So I start with what worked with the second coach -- the blatantly obvious.  This time it didn't go over so well -- he mostly rolled his eyes at me (or whatever the dignified version of that is; I'd clearly failed the pop quiz.  Not so useful.  Ok then fine, throw out the real answer which got a surprised look and careful consideration.  Wow.  Kewl :)  And then the horse's owner appeared so end of conversation *g*  But I definitely got the impression I'm not in trouble for it this time. And I think I passed >;-P  Yeah me :)  Now we see what happens in next week's lesson *g*  But I suspect it'll be all good.

Ok get Athena home and unloaded and go to teach Chelsea (who got up super-early to come help me with Athena) and Rebecca (who did all the am chores so I could go play :)   Both girls I quite enjoy teaching so that's always fun.  But what made it entertaining is they both switched horses for today -- Rebecca on Nick and Chelsea on Bella.  And in the last 5 mins, I decided we'd do "really big jump day" :)  Well Rebecca matched her height record and Chelsea surpassed hers -- she and Bella got to 3'9".  And I have to say, I LOVE watching that pony jump :)  And fortunately at the last second I thought to pull my camera out, so we even got a picture of it!  Sweet.

Then got to go home early since thanks to Rebecca, I only had five stalls and pm feed to do.  Tried for a nap -- my dream afternoon really.  But Sasha wasn't having any of that *sigh*  Oh well.  Dinner out with family was super nice and my evening was mostly veged in front of computer and tv.  Not terribly productive admittedly, but still at least relaxing :)

And now it's very late again.  And Sasha starts grade 3 tomorrow :)   So I'm off!

Superstars at Glenarden HT!!!

Saw some superstar riding from Miss Chelsea today :)

We went to Glenarden HT today.  Steph the supergroom helping Chelsea with Lissy while DJ was show-mom extraordinaire -- kept Chelsea organized and provided all of us with tons o food and drinks :)   Day started with a very civilized load time of 7am and a heads up that "when the road says 'local traffic only' you *are* local traffic" :)  hahaha

Got there with lots of time to get unloaded and organized.  Chelsea and Lissy warmed up really well for dressage.  They were riding in the ring farthest from the warm-up area, but Chels did a great job of keeping Lissy fully focused on her.  Their dressage was their best yet -- and entirely boring.  As it should be :)
Perfectly boring, uninventive dressage
We had about an hour before stadium with lots of time to walk the course.  It was tight but fair and not maxed.  In stadium warm-up I came to the conclusion that Chelsea is just too polite!  hahaha I predict by the end of the season she'll be over that.  Sorry DJ :)  Every time she'd start to go to a fence, somebody else would be there.   Convincing her to call the fence -- loud enough to be heard -- and then go for it was quite the challenge.  hahaha I always hated calling fences too, so I get that.  Still do actually -- but sometimes getting the job done makes me suck it up :)   N Chels'll get there too :)
Stadium warm-up

Fortunately in the show ring, she has all the jumps to herself!  She did a great job getting Lissy over everything and under control :)  Sweet!
In stadium

We had a couple hours between stadium and xc, so we walked the course together and then I had her go walk it again on her own.  XC was pretty maxed and fairly twisty as it serpentined back and forth across one big field.  Definitely a "towards home, away from home" challenge there.
XC warm-up

Chelsea and Lissy had a couple sticky jumps in warm-up but soon enough it began to flow and by the time they were called to the start box they were having fun and jumping like pros.  Sweet.   And then they were off!   That third fence Lissy wanted *nothing* to do with -- and she told Chelsea that about 20m out.  "Ummmm Chelsea?  I don't think we should go there." As she comes back to a slow trot...   Yes, we are.   "No....  No, I don't think you understand.  There are definitely monsters under that jump."   No monsters - we got rid of them when we walked the course.  "I'm pretty sure you missed one.   I can SEE it."   Walking now with serious hesitation.  Lissy, we're going. "But..."  Now.
The monsters hide in the brush

So it turns out when Chelsea actually needs to make her point to get the job done, she does.   It was out of a walk, and a swerving walk at that, but Chelsea never gave up and Lissy jumped it on the first try.  And on the approach to fence four, Lissy clued into the game.   "Oh, we're going to run and jump stuff.  Ok!"  And then they were off.  The rest of the course was absolutely brilliant!  AND - on time :)
I got it now!

I was seriously impressed.

And after all was said and done, they finished in second place.

Not half bad for Chelsea's second ever HT!   

Blogging's cheaper than therapy

Consider yourself forewarned.

Wow.  Another crazy week.  Have to admit to feeling slightly frazzled and going into an insane weekend.  Oh dear.  The good, the bad and the ugly this week.  I don't get down very often, but this week... :(

So Sunday was hay day -- which went remarkably well :)   In huge thanks to our awesome hay supplier, we managed to get an excessive amount of hay in without an excessive amount of stacking.  And with Rebecca, Brena, Chelsea and my parents there -- all in all it was a reasonably harmless activity.  And it was followed by a fun afternoon at the barn involving slushies, overtired people, and horses -- what more do you need?

Unfortunately though, while we were doing said hay, one of the support beams in the barn broke.  O.M.G.  When it seemed the barn was not going to fall down, we continued our haying and life went on.  But serious stress.

So Wednesday was Equus CT -- and talk about emotional swings there.  It was HOT -- which I absolutely *love* but which makes me worry about my horses.  And then the girls -- on their second outting ever.  Also something I find a TON of fun, but I usually bring an experienced person along to help, but that day, while I had Chelsea's help and she was AMAZING -- she doesn't actually have any more show experience than the other girls *g*  When you think of the HUGE learning curve when you first start travelling with your horse, it means every step has to be watched, especially the safety aspects...  Everything from how to load and unload (who gets on/off first?  Which side of the trailer? Do you undo the cross-tie or the chest bar first?   How DO you undo the chest bar?  How do you tie up a hay net?....) to the million and one details about travelling:  What should we bring?  How much water?  Do I need... X, Y, Z?  Then there's the general horse knowledge -- don't wrap the leadline around your hand.  Offer him water.  Again.  Untack and bath *quickly* when they're hot.  Make sure you pack your truck in a way you get stuff out.  When should you tack up?  How/where do you warm up?  And on and on all day.   And you know what?  I love it.  I love watching the girls grow and develop as horsewomen.  I love seeing the difference at the end of the season as they earn confidence and knowledge and independence.  But the first couple are a little exhausting!   And then this one became uber emotionally stressful with the highs and lows.  The extreme high of Olivia doing solid dressage, jumping clear, and placing second!!!  And the super upset of Caelan breaking her wrist :(   I HATE seeing my kids fall, and far worse seeing them get hurt.  Especially when they were clearly trying so hard.  It's heartbreaking :(   I know, logically, that it's a part of the sport.  Everybody falls - even at they Olympics.  And a broken bone isn't the end of the world.  And I'm certain she'll be back at it and showing again -- maybe even this fall.  But I feel so horrid that it happened and now she's out for the best part of the year :(  Esp as it was an "easy" fall as such things go.  Watching it you'd expect her to brush herself off, maybe be upset - as people will be - that it happened in competition, but that's about it.   But landing just a bit wrong changed the outcome entirely :(  Poor girl.  No fun :(

We've also been doing some analysis of the numbers -- and if I don't start making some more money in the next few months, I'm going to be in pretty serious trouble :(  And I'll tell you -- nothing puts a pit in my stomach faster than the thought of giving this up to go back to the office.  Even the worst day at the barn is still better than the best day at the office!  Scary.  Very scary.  And what do I do with nine horses at that point?  Literally the thought of it is enough to make me cry - and I don't cry easily.

Then with the heat I've been super concerned about the horses -- as are the other horse owners I know.  And with all the horses in my care, I make the decisions I feel will be best for them.  Based on years of experience and what reading and training I've had.  But other people don't always agree, and sometimes it seems like I can never choose right...  If I bring them in, they should stay out.  If I leave them out, they should stay in *sigh*.  But unless I'm specifically asked, all I can do is go with what I genuinely feel is best for them.  But with everybody being overheated and stressed, this makes it all that much harder.  Boooo.   Ever have that kind of week?  Where it seems you can't get anything right? The only plus to that is that I try *really* hard never to do it to my staff.  I'm sure I do at times -- sadly human here.  But I try if they make an executive decision when I'm not there that I disagree with to at least acknowledge it and appreciate that they were thinking and trying to solve whatever issue.  Then maybe explain what I might've done instead *g*

In the midst of this heatwave, some lovely Amish gentlemen came and repaired the barn, so while financially still stressful - they did an awesome job, super-fast, and for a reasonable price.  They also confirmed that it was a rotten beam rather than anything we did that caused the collapse, so that was a HUGE relief.

Then today's heat was enough that I actually cancelled lessons -- those who know me know how unheardof that is!   But I rode at 9am and even then my very fit horse was having trouble with the heat, so executive decision made.  Fortunately for me though I do have truly awesome students and they all got it.  I know some were disappointed, but they're compassionate enough to understand the care of the horses comes first.  AND since Chelsea is up braiding for the show tomorrow, she did night check for me.  Have I mentioned lately how awesome she is?  Which gave me a night off. VERY appreciated.

So then I had plans to work on my next marketing campaign, but honestly just couldn't bring myself to be productive *sigh*  Hot and exhausted and crashed on the couch with my book.  And when that finished email, facebook, blogger and a chick flick on tv.  And I'm just having a sucky enough week that in my little pity party for myself I got all bumed between the book and the chick flick when I realized that my birthday's coming...  And I'm a little old to still be single. My best friends are all married with kids and I can't remember the last time I went on a 3rd date.  Tricky with my schedule and complete lack of meeting new people.  And my exciting Friday night involves me at home on a couch.  *sniff sniff*   And I can just see Jen reading this and getting REALLY annoyed at me right now for not calling her for an instant girls' night.  Which we definitely need to do soon.  But I'm still theoretically working on the business tonight.  Can't you tell? *sigh*

Ugh.  I have to roll my eyes even reading that.  But hey - blogging's cheaper than therapy right?   On the plus side, my horse has been going *really* well this week.  Still a big psyc over fences, but we're starting to get some semblance of control back.  Not even slightly convinced she's actually ready for our upgrade next week -- hoping to take her out schooling on Wed and find out.  But we'll see.  Is that a plus side?  hahaha really did have good rides all week :)

And, despite being a touch overtired and stressed right now, I do have the best job in the world and am exceptionally grateful for every day of it -- especially every SUMMER day :)  Had SO much fun teaching last night.  Watching Brena and Bella flying around the course would make anybody smile :)  And of course, the one who's making me smile right this second - Miss Sasha.  Who, to escape the heat, dug a pit in the shade and promptly lay down and had a nap in it.  Very smart puppy.   Superpuppy always makes me smile.

My next goal - to be in bed by 10pm.  Or maybe 11.  Because tomorrow we're off to Glenarden and Sunday's Ride 4 Riders :)  Both of which I'm quite looking forward to.


GRS goes to Equus CT

The girls today learned all about taking care of event horses in the heat -- dismount, water, untack, water, soak, sweat-scrape, water, soak, sweat-scrape, repeat...  Because it was *hot*.  Very hot.  And very little shade. But hey - WAY better than snow!  hahaha

We had a very civilized load time of 8:45, and the girls were there shortly after 7 to feed their horses and get them ready.   I took the time to snag a quick dressage ride before leaving -- and my horse was an absolute superstar.  Excellent start to the day :)

Horses loaded well and we were off!  A minor detail in that Trafalgar was closed, but fortunately they signed it well so I knew early enough that I could take an alternate route that I was *almost* as familiar with :)   My co-pilot Chelsea a quick internet check and soon we had a confirmation about where we were going.

Got there on time and good to go.  The girls unloaded their horses and got tacked up -- all very organized and well done.  I was pretty impressed given that it was their second show :)
Caelan and Nick in dressage

Off to dressage-world.  Both girls warmed up really well.  Caelan actually got in ahead of time -- she had one interpretive moment in dressage (see fun, but not highly recommended, things to do in eventing) but after that was good to go and finished in good form.  Olivia and Lissy's test was really solid.  I was quite impressed :)
Olivia and Lissy in dressage

Then we had a couple hour break before jumping so soak the horses, take a look at the show jump course, and mostly veg for a bit.  Made for a nice, relaxed day.
Caelan and Nick in stadium
Stad w/u went really well -- the fences were more like PE height (the girls were riding in intro division, so this served to make their competition course look nice and unintimidating :)   Caelan was the first of our riders in stadium, and while she started out really well, unfortunately she forgot that all-important rule #1.  She was so focused on the course and the jumping that when he surprised her by putting his head down *between* the fences, she ended up on the ground.  It happens to everybody -- I vividly recall coming off on xc one time, running training level (so I'd had at least a couple years in at this point :) -- and way far away from any jump, me focused on what's coming up next and my horse focused on the VERY SCARY patch of dirt right in front of us.  He went around; I went over.  *sigh*   hahaha at least then the rules were such that I could hop back on and keep going -- ended up being a great round if I recall :)   The rules aren't that way any more though, so sadly Caelan was grounded.   She *did* get to meet Woody though -- by far the best medic at any of the horse trials :)   He's been at them for years.  She had landed pretty hard on her wrist, and while she was being particularly stoic and eventer-like about it, he thought it best to splint her up.  While obviously pretty sore, she seemed more frustrated her day ended early and without xc than upset about her injury.  Sounds very familiar some how.  We'll have to go school another day when she's all fixed up :)   *edited to add -- looks like it'll be about 6 weeks.  Booo!   Goes to show just how strong she is!*

Olivia and Lissy in stadium
While all this was going on, Olivia was busy putting in a clear round on Lissy.  Sweet.  Caelan, being super selfless, was ok with hanging out so Olivia could still school, so we took Lissy on a quick trip around the PE round.  Olivia jumped almost all the PE course, including the bank.   She also took Lissy through the water AND did a couple E fences.  Awesome job :)

Playing in the water
Took care of the horses and packed up.  A quick check of the ribbons showed that Olivia finished in second!  Woohoo!   Not bad for her first try with Lissy and second time out :)

HUGE thanks to Chelsea for all your help today!