Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Final Thoughts

I’ve been back from Aiken for a couple days now, and have been mulling over my time there.  First, I made the drive back with no issues, thank goodness!  My 14 year old truck made the over one thousand mile roundtrip like a trooper.  One of my biggest concerns when planning this trip was the drive down and back, so I was quite happy that went ok.   
Highlights from Aiken:
-           A fantastic jumping lesson with Olympian Boyd Martin
-          Educational and exciting cross-country school on both Catty and Ianto at a remarkable venue
-          Successful and fun first event of the year on Catty, Sporting Days photos
-          Ianto gaining confidence, and being much bolder about jumping
-          Chatting in the evenings with International riders and top-level grooms, very cool
-          Getting to ride different horses, which was educational, and allowed me to really work on my position
-          Hacking out when the weather was warm and sunny, it was lovely riding out in the quiet countryside surrounded by pine trees
-          The footing, seriously, this was a major highlight after dealing with so much mud in Virginia this winter, the nice sandy soil was a huge benefit
Surprises from Aiken:
-          I learned that the fulltime horse life is definitely not for me, while it’s wonderful as a hobby, I don’t ever want it to be my job
-          The slower pace of the south, being from the DC area I kind of live on fast forward, and it sure took some adjustment getting used to everything moving at an unhurried pace
-          The temperatures really aren’t that warm, while the afternoons could warm-up nicely, I was quite shocked how cold the mornings were
-          Hay prices, yikes, I realized how lucky I am to get alfalfa for $5.50 a bale here, the cost of hay there is truly shocking
-          Cell phone signal, I could not believe how poor the cellphone service was there, it was very aggravating constantly having no signal
-          What passes for driveways, basically sand paths with horrid gullies, I was shocked my trailer didn’t bottom out on some of them 
Overall, my time in Aiken was certainly an adventure and really got me prepped for the spring season.  I sure hope I can keep the momentum going, and look forward to tackling the Prelim course at Morven Park at the end of this month.  I will miss the lovely, serene farm where I was lucky enough to keep my horses, and the camaraderie of being surrounded by eventers every day.  It was definitely a trip I won’t forget anytime soon.   
My horses’ home while in Aiken

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sporting Days Horse Trials

I'm a day behind updating this as things got crazy getting ready for the Sporting Days horse trials.  On Friday I worked on flat work with both horses, did tons of barn chores, including mucking paddocks and prepared everything for the event.  I also went over and checked out the stadium and XC courses on Friday afternoon.  What is cool about this venue is that it is literally only a 1/2 mile from the farm where my horses are staying.  This was the Training level XC.

Saturday was an early start as I had dressage at 8:12am.  I was not too pleased that the temps were in the low 30's as I was getting ready, but if I kept moving it wasn't too bad.  I actually tacked Catty up before heading to the event, and after the long 1/2 mile journey, I unloaded and got on.  She warmed up well for dressage, staying fairly relaxed.  She put in what I thought was a nice, workmanlike, accurate test, with just a bit of tension.  However, the judge felt we had lots to work on, oh well.  An hour after dressage I was scheduled for Show Jumping, so I did a quick tack change and headed over.

Catty had been quiet and relaxed up until this point, but once we got to the jumping area she really perked up.  She warmed up well, though was quite strong and was showing her usual tendency to be trailer bound.  Going in the direction of the trailer parking she tries to takeover, and going away from them she is nice and rideable.  In the ring she jumped well, especially at one jump where I completely rode to a terrible distance.  I was thrilled to finish with a clear round and headed to XC.

The course had a couple questions on it, but everything looked very doable.  I had a great time out on course, and Catty was incredibly bold. She was very forward, especially in the direction of the trailers, but was ratable when I needed her to be.  She jumped through the water and coffin especially well.  We came home well under the time, and I think we both had big smiles on our faces.  The jumping phases felt easy for her, and hopefully our next outing will be at Prelim.  Overall it was a great day, and I really didn't feel like we had rust to knock off even though our last event was almost 4 months ago.  I'm happy to bring home a brown ribbon to remember my first time competing in Aiken.

Since I was done competing before 10am I managed to get in a nice jump school on Ianto.  He was jumping out of his skin, and being very bold.  I'm really looking forward to continuing working with him back in Virginia.  After riding him, I went back to the event in the afternoon to help my trainer with his two horses.  It was exciting to be in the warm-up and seeing so many International event riders, this is definitely an eventing mecca.

My time in Aiken is now coming to a close, and my fingers are crossed that the long journey home goes smoothly.  I will miss this eventing haven, but I'm ready to get back to my normal routine.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 5 - XC School

I had a terrific horsey time yesterday.  I rode a fun mare in the morning, and practiced my dressage test for the event on her.  It was great to work on my riding, and also to work on how best to ride the test.  Hopefully this flat work pays off on Saturday!  The highlight though was making the trek to the Gibbes Farm for an XC school with Catty and Ianto.  At first I was wondering why we were driving an hour when there are so many places to school right in Aiken.  After riding at the Gibbes I completely understand why it's worth the drive.

The venue is literally an eventers playground, with nearly every type of jump you can imagine, and it seems to go on forever.  I was shocked to see just how big the place was, and how many different obstacles there were.  I had a terrific outing with both Catty and Ianto, though they were again way too worried about where the other one was.  I was able to work on many trickier combinations with Catty.  These included bounce banks, one stride sunken road one stride to a jump, a jump on a big bump, one stride to a drop into the water, ditch and walls, 3 strides down a hill to a chevron, corner to a skinny duck, etc.  I was really thrilled with how she handled the bounce bank in both directions, the first time for both of us jumping that.  It left me quite excited for this season.

Ianto was also terrific, and I still can't believe how much bolder he is.  While he is still spooky, he is really trying and often takes me to the jumps now.  He was great through the water, even going over a small jump on an island.  He also handled the bank well, especially the down banks, and was great about the ditches.  We jumped a couple of training level fences, and he was wonderful.  I was quite proud of him, and had a lot of fun taking him around.

Today will be all about flatwork, and then first thing tomorrow in the cold temps Catty and I will start our season.  I think it should go well, knock on wood.

Gibbes Farm