Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas is just days away and in a matter of weeks 2011 will end. It has been quite a year; surgery, therapy, graduation, vet bills, vet bills, and more vet bills. I think I will be happy to see it end. I decided that 2012 will be "The Year I Learned to Live". Getting back to the basics and foundations of personal happiness and not conforming to the expected progression of normality and routine that is your post-graduate career. It may not be conventional, but conventionality doesn't really provide happiness as much as it does security and protection in an ever conforming world. I am working 50+ hour weeks in a restaurant. Its exhausting. I don't want to be a career restaurant worker, but for the time being I am happy. I have horses, a way to support them, and I am not constantly saddled with anxiety regarding finances.

Looking back on the year I wanted to address and identify the improvements I wanted to see in the coming 12 months. In the end the answer was always better horsemanship. I don't have poor horsemanship,  I just want to have better horsemanship. I recently watched the documentary about Buck Brannaman and one theme held true throughout the entire movie, "One of the biggest challenges with being a horseman is being able to control your emotions". And in a recent lesson with Roddy Strang, the same principles were stressed again and again. Roddy said for years he never understood how the great clinicians of the horse world could get so much done in such a small amount of time. That was until he realized that they remained emotionally static. It is so easy to lose your temper. To become frustrated. Then you regress. All week since then I have been taking both Roddy and Bucks' words to heart. I won't lie, it can be so hard, but I have seen positive outcomes in just a few short rides.

Every night I work. I work towards Aiken. Towards hay. Towards farrier costs. Every dollar earned has a value for my necessities as a horse owner. It is so easy to become consumed in your finances when you own horses. Where can you be frugal with your own spending to provide the best for them. I think that is where the rut begins, because then everything we work for goes into this one goal. A goal that often times is set-back due to an injury or unforeseen change. Amidst financial planning for Aiken I decided I needed to do something for myself, free of the financial burdens of my horses. I bought a ticket to Puerto Rico. Now my work isn't just towards Aiken, but also toward a much anticipated week of beaches, rainforests, and hopefully a lot of beach volleyball.

The coming months will be filled with work. Long days and late nights. But I am ready. I am ready to begin finding out the things that make me happy. I think happiness and success are not without the other.

Roddy said to not get upset with day-to-day difficulties in riding, but to look as these moments as opportunities for improvement and clarity. Cheers to staying true to that logic.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family this season.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Year In Perspective

One Year. 52 Weeks. 365 Days.

This time last year I was in pieces, literally, having just found out that my ACL was essentially non-existent. Being seized with disappointment and the fear of impending surgery and recovery, I found myself in an ever deepening rut. Then came the anxiety of determining how care of my horses during my time of absence would progress. The drive home for Thanksgiving lended some time for some much needed consideration.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, feelings of anxiety, fear, and disappointment, began resurfacing. I was notified that I didn't win the Worth The Trust Scholarship, something I was sure I would be a contender for. Feeling financial constraints, I had to give Sally an exit date in order to begin a restaurant job. These financial constraints were further pressed when I arrived home to find my stud colt against the run-in shed, unable to walk. My vet came and immediately identified that he had Sweeny (the nerve that controls lateral movement in the shoulder was damaged, making for a constant look of dislocation in the shoulder). In addition, he was unable to muster up coordination in any of his remaining three limbs. We were referred to New Bolton, fearing he had frectured his vertebrate or shoulder. With a dead cell phone I made the drive to New Bolton. This was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and I was certain that that night I was coming home with an empty trailer. All of which I would be doing alone, able to contact my parents only by the landline in the front office. To everyone's relief the x-rays were good. There was presumed to be significant swelling around his spinal cord from flipping over the fence, an event that has yet to be explained.

It is easy to get consumed in the things we experience and find to be difficult in life. This time last year the I was consumed, unable to see the light that is our collection of blessings. The last few weeks have been defeating, but their have also been victories. I still have my colt and a decent outlook. I have three wonderfully-talented mares in training. I have a truck! I am employed within a event that is the essence of Christmas and Thanksgiving. And this winter I am moving to Aiken, my dream. There is no certainty that the finances for this trip will be existent, but dwelling on this will only hinder progress. I have faith. Faith that things will work out. Someway, somehow. So for the time being all I can do is work my hardest and continue Hopin' and Praying and maybe with a little Grace, things will become a little clearer.

In the words of my should-be-wife Carrie Underwood, "Play on".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And the Party Ends

Exhausted is an understatement. Burnt out is closer. Fair Hill International ended on Sunday with some significant changes on the leaderboard. I would be lying if I didn't say I wanted Jan to win. I was front and center for stadium on Sunday as jump crew. Nice horses is an understatement. Incredible is closer. A few that stuck out: Marilyn Little-Meredith , Valerie Vizcarrondo, and Colleen Rutledge.

Throughout the weeks before and the week of the event I was the worker and volunteer of many hats. I set up fencing, unloaded competitor trailers for move-in, delivered shavings, painting, mulching for cross country, working with course builder Eric Bull, answering questions in the information booth, unloading stadium, set-up for stadium, jump crew for stadium, loading stadium, and a few other odds-and-ends. Was it exhausting? Yes. Was it worth it? You betcha! The blog I started was a huge success and received over 10,000 visits during the International! And several EventingNation shout outs.

Life is slowly returning to normalcy. I started the girls back after 9 days off because of Fair Hill. So far so good. Hope is prepping for Plantation Fields starter Novice next week, Rose is adjusting to Fall weather and rideability, and Grace is cantering jumps!

I love my stud colt. I love walking him. and the expression on his face at feeding time. and his eager to learn and please personality. and his giant and shiny body. and his steadily improving manners. and his start to lunging . . .

The most exciting news is that I somehow managed to get all necessary materials in on time for the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarship. I found out about the opportunity the week of Fair Hill and managed to start it Sunday night and mail it Monday. There was a volunteer section that needed signatures and who did I see on Saturday? Why no other than Lucinda Green herself. So she provided her signature for the hours I gave at her clinic in August. Too cool! I will be praying with every ounce of my being that I am chosen as the recipient for this award. It would be such a life-changing opportunity.

Well the rain is falling, along with temperatures, and I am still trying to catch up on sleep. On that note, good night and cheers!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkins, Paint, and Cedar Sunburns

It has been some time since my last post, but with fall around the corner, and more importantly the Dansko Fair Hill International, there isn't much time to be wasted. Preparations are well underway as the start of the event nears. For the last month I have spent a majority of my evenings relentlessly working on a blog for Fair Hill International that could rival the website. The feedback has been great. More importantly it was mentioned on EventingNation twice!

I currently have four horses in work and the past few weeks have yielded some positive results. Hope finished second at Novice behind a professional on a horse with Rec. Training mileage. We finished on our best dressage test today. A 33 including errors (oh right you salute at the end. nuts.). I am still waiting to find the forward rhythm in stadium but in the words of Sally, "People have won and lost the Olympics with that same problem!". Since the event I had a nice outing at a local jumper show and a lesson with Sally. I am aiming for the Novice at Plantations Halloween weekend.

Rose has been inconsistent which has been a bit defeating after a productive Summer. I am beginning to wonder if she has a legitimate seasonal disorder. This is the exact week that things began regressing last year. She had an incredible cross country school in early September and the following week a not-so-great one. The Chronicles of MyLittleRedRidingHorse . .. sigh . . .

Grace is mastering her flatwork and started cantering fences. Very well.

My stud colt moved up. There are a lot of naysayers that feel the need to discourage individuals from owning colts. "It's so much work" and "You have no idea what your getting into" and my personal favorite "Are you sure your capable?". True story. Well he is fine. Easier to work with than the mares and eager to please. He is learning what behavior is acceptable behavior in my presence and what is not. Short and simple. The only hard part is the musical paddocks I play to when it comes time to turn the girls out and bring him in. Other than that it's really no different in my opinion.Then again I am not capable . . .

I have spent time painting at Fair Hill and today I worked with Course Designer Eric Bull filling fences with cedar branches. 10 to 6. Long day. Sunny and hot day. Disclaimer: Cedar pokes. A lot. I decided to switch to short sleeves because I was sweating. That decision, however, left my forearms exposed to the branches. Ouch. Sunburn or Cedarburn? In the end its all the same. Cheers!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


It has been a long time since my last entry, but this one is worth the wait. Where to start?

Second Wind is officially mobile with the addition of a truck! Unfortunately I yet to have possession of it as my Dad's truck and trailer are stranded in Conn. since his transmission blew last week while moving some friends to Maine. So until that is resolved the truck will remain with them.

Rose is stealing the show! Three weeks ago she went to a jumper schooling show (first event experience) at St. Augustine Pony Club. The venue was great, the help was so accommodating, and the entries were minimum; which all made for a great outing for green horses. She refused every fence in the 18 inch class once, just to see it. However, the course remained the same and only increased in height throughout the day which was great for her confidence as well as mine. She had one rail in the 2'3" and 2'6" divisions. She ended the day with a win in the 2'9"-2'11" division! Knowing few would believe this I came armed with proof. Check out fence five in this video. (accidentally realized I inserted the Stevie Wonder "Happy Birthday to You" song . . . two months later). This is the video.

In case you needed a close up. Photo by Kate Vosbury

Last week she also went to her first unrecognized horse trials at Carousel Farms, hosted by DVCTA. The event was delayed because of serious thunderstorms which gave way to miserably humid afternoon rides. Two things made this outing invaluable as a whole; her dressage warm-up was the best flat work yet and she was so relaxed the entire day. That being said, there is plenty of room for improvement. She was unsettled in dressage, but the test as a whole improved to the end resulting in a score of 41 (I was expecting a 60!). In stadium she had a run out early on course and was apprehensive approaching the fences. Impulsion plummeted, however, again she improved and once I really got after her a pushed her she ended well. Cross country never felt settled at any point. We were rushing to beat the next set of storms, I was tired, she was tired, and frustrated with the event in general. She thought about refusing several fences but I had her covering ground to get it over with. Six hours is not a fair first outing for a horse, even though she handled it well. She finished in 8th o/o 10.

I am so pleased with where I currently am with Rose. Words cannot convey how frustrating, difficult, and at times defeating my past with this horse has been. To see such improvement is proof that my own horsemanship is maturing.

Lastly, I just finished my third week working for Sally. My first day there a parrot landed on Nat's head. From nowhere. You just can't make up this stuff. Sally is a passionate business woman and brutally honest. All things we like. Lessons have been infrequent as usual because of my lack of transportation, so I spend a majority of my time absorbing through watching and listening.

Hope is scheduled to go Novice at Fair Hill's Unrecognized in Two weeks. Lot's of work in the meantime! Planning on campaigning both Rose and Hope through a series of unrecognized through the fall in preperation for wintering down South.

Loving every day of life. Cheers!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Going Green Eventing

Day One with Lucinda
Last week I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer as jump crew for a Luncida Green clinic thanks to the event organizer Pam Wiedemann. The event took place on the Fair Hill International grounds on June 8th and 9th. In an attempt to avoid the heat the clinic start time was moved ahead several hours to 6 a.m. Lucinda's footwork on Day One laid the foundation for Day Two. My favorite moments were the discussions at days end with the group, between Lucinda and I in the ring, and even during a rare opportunity over lunch! There were conversations on how Eventing has changed since it's infancy as a sport. Many comparisons between American and European riding styles. Course Design. Breeding. Nutrition. Tack. Current riders and their mounts. What I will take away from the experience is as follows:
  1. Lucinda made a point about riders, especially Americans, being pampered in their training in that they seem to rely on instruction at every step of the way. She stressed the unique quality of cross country being independent; just you and your horse on course. The idea sat with me the days following the clinic's end because I have been so frustrated about not having a rig to get off my farm for lessons for almost two years now. The few lessons I have been able to take have been by the grace of someone willing to pick me up or when my Dad lends me his truck for a few days at a time (but this is neither convenient nor frequent because he lives 90 miles away). So I have to depend on what I can do alone. I spend hours upon hours watching youtube videos, observing stadium at Fair Hill, and recently started reading some instructional literature. The rest pulls off the experiences I already have. I had to step back and realize that although I really need help with Rose, I have accomplished so much in just 6 weeks back in the tack. Point being; sometimes being independent has it's benefits.
  2. Another point centered on event formatting (the death of long format), course design (that saturation of open faced/soft fences on courses), and qualifications (too easy to get to a 2**). These points occurred simultaneously within one discussion. Her point was courses use to be longer, much longer and that the fact that actual fitness is usually not well respresented or practice. Example being that years ago courses were 14 or so miles long, so maybe riders were training for fitness at a distance equivalent of 12 miles. As courses are shortened, so are the fitness equivalents. Makes you wonder how much preperation goes into courses that are now in the 5 mile range. Next was course design. Lucinda seemed to be adimantly opposed of ground lines on every fence because they compensate for experience and training. And also that most fences now are soft in that they don't require the rider to sit back and ride (roll tops/ramps/ect). The last point pulled of the previosuly mentioned two. If courses are being made shorter and 'safer', then riders are reaching levels that they may not be entirely qualified to do. She mentioned the two star level in particular and why there have been so many injuries at that level. From what I understand, she sees the number of injuries increasing over the years as courses have been made 'safer'. All in all, it was an insightful conversation.
  3. Lastly she discussed cross country riding and striding. Don't always hold a line to it strides. Sometimes you get there in more, sometimes in less. If you have trained your horse to think on it's feet, you should be successful in either scenario. Very interesting.
Some Pictures from the Clinic

Cheers to having th spirit of Lucinda during our cross country runs!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Big Move

Grace and Hope arrived yesterday courtesy of my Dad. In the near future I will have three mares in training. How did I arrive at this point (all mares)?

I have actually experienced a recurring dream involving Rose and Jimmy Wofford, which I find odd because I don't even know what he looks like, just that in my dream he is Jimmy Wofford. The dream always starts with me drinking scotch with Jimmy at some swank bar. Everyone is dressed up. Our discussion turns to Rose and problems I have been experiencing. I explain what methods I have been implementing to approach said problems (each dream they change just as the lessons do). Eventually I ask "What is the secret to a horse like this?" and he says "I'll tell you. The secret is . . . " and then my alarm goes off! Frustrating! By the time I find out the imaginary answer Rose will be competing. Wishful thinking at least. I had it for the third time a few days ago.

The many posts on EventingNation recently regarding the True Prospect Tragedy evoke emotions of every aspect, but Abbie's piece takes things to a whole other level. In every sense, it is a beautiful piece and one that I will encourage other's to read as it puts things into perspective.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter Inspiration

Eventing Nation recently posted this video and I'm addicted. I watch it daily. I usually work Fair Hill International horse trials and the Fall CCI*** (p.s. they are hosting an inaugural CIC*** this spring!) and am excited to watch as this pair works to accomplish this incredible feat and make equestrian history! Until next time, cheers!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Cornerstone of Every Program - Your Mares

Russian Stage (Stage Door Johnny line)
Mama's is the cornerstone of our simple-family run breeding program. Upon completion of the American Hanoverian Society's Summer Inspection at High Point Hanoverians, Mama's reigned supreme. Not only was she the Top Scoring Non-Hanoverian mare, she eventually ended up in the top twenty inspected mares (all accepted into the books, imported warmbloods included) of the year with a score of 7.69! Her scores is amongst of the top scores on record with the AHS for thoroughbred mares. We bought her in foal with Rose. The following years were fruitless in efforts to re-breed her which eventually was connected to a severe uterine infection. After countless treatments the result was still the same. In desperation I ordered a final round of treatments with one difference; sugar manose instead of antibiotics (something I had read about). No longer an in vogue treatment, it took some convincing. Whallah! She caught on the next breeding and delivered the bundle of joy with 'marbles' that was Rooster. I am looking forward to breeding her again, but if not she has a retirement home at the farm. Fingers crossed. Until then, cheers!

1 for 6

Rooster (By Sinatra Song) at High Point Hanoverians American Hanoverian Inspection weekend
The purchases of our first mares marked the beginning of a quest to breed quality horses with great attitudes, yet one thing eluded us for many breeding seasons; a colt. We had five fillies before we were blessed with Rooster (Rose's little brother). That was all I wanted. My own stud colt (again I was young).

Summer weeks at High Point Hanoverians and working Foxglen and Western Sun set in motion the dream of our own stallion. Stallions have presence and something geldings dont; a natural and inherent drive to compete and impress.

Rooster was born months following my Aunt's passing, which was a difficult time for me. I often wonder if the colt of my dreams was her final gift.

He suffered a hoof injury in the field that eventually resulted in a serious crack that went all the way to his cornet band. This lead to a Keratoma, which we opted to wait out instead of immediately going the surgical route. The stud colt was the dream. Should we have to geld him because it's too much to handle or sell him for whatever reason, we got the experience of finally having and raising a stud colt. I hope to have great things to report back on with Rooster in the coming year so keep posted! Until next time, cheers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chestnut Thoroughbred Mare - Yes. She lives up to every expectation of the label.

Rose as a 3-year old in training (Epic Fail)
Her registered name is Rose Campbell, but I am leaning towards Rookie of the Year or Roll Call. Rose was our firstborn. My Aunt used to say Rose was too pretty to be a racehorse, which is why I like to think she had an anything but stellar race career. To say my past with this mare has been difficult is an understatement. There was rearing, bolting, spooking, pacing, spooking, bucking, and spooking. I finally broke down a put her in training for two months with a cowboy friend. The results were incredible; good weight, quiet, and obedient. I brought her back to school and within two weeks she began regressing into her primitive ways and I subsequently tore my ACL. She is difficult, but this I know; she can do it. I am just not going about it the right way. Eventually I want to Mare Performance Test her. All in time I guess. Let's hope for some celebratory posts in the near future. Cheers!

"Beauty without grace is the hook without bait." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gracelyn at two after my first time body clipping!

Grace is an Irish Draught (Foxglen Himself RID)/Throughbred cross. I purchased her mother, who I no longer own, from a boss I worked for in 8th Grade. The mare had severely deformed knees that the vet believed would limit her from any riding career. Eventually the mare became my reserve hunt horse. We have had a several set backs that can only be described as a series of unfortunate events. Her mother seriously foundered around 5 months and we were sure she had terminated pregnancy. 6 months later baby Grace was born. At three months she underwent general anesthesia to remove a seed husk from her eye. Around 14 months she had an extended stay at New Bolton Center for the same thing that resulted in a corneal ulceration and fat vet bill. However, knock on wood, the past few years have been low maintenance. I am not quite sure what Grace's future will entail, she isn't particularly motivated or fast. I like to think she is just deliberate in her steps. Regardless of her future with me, she makes me very happy in the meantime. I hope to have great updates regarding Grace. Until then, Cheers!
Schooling Foxglen Himself RID
(later we moved this fence towards the rail and draped a coat over it. Next thing I know my outside foot was grazing the top rail of ring! Definitely a memorable experience.)

One Swell Girl

Well this is my "event horse", a term I use lightly considering she has only done a few unrecognized and one recognized. Hope was bred by Marcella Smith of Elk Run Stables, a farm I worked on during my time at James Madison University.

Hope is 3/4 TB and 1/4 Selle Francaise. I went and saw Fair Hill International for my first time a few weeks after my Aunt died. I was hooked. Went back and sold the hunt horse and with some extensive bargaining and payment plans, acquired Hope.

My goal has remained unchanged since I bought Hope. I want to go Training. She is capable of so much more, but at this point in time her rider is not. On a regular occasion she exits her field. Fully blanketed. I have heart palpitations. The last few years have been a series of set-backs and imperfect timing; inability to take lessons regularly because I don't have a rig, finances, injuries (horse and rider), and college, college, college.

Cheers to future updates towards the goal!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Everyday you are one choice away from a new beginning

Good evening and welcome to Second Wind Equestrian! Formal introductions of the horses and myself are in order and will occur in succeeding posts in the following days. I am currently recovering from an ACL reconstruction, which is resulting is some serious free time. I imagine the posts will be numerous in the next few weeks because of this. However, the intended purpose of the blog is to keep motivating me to continue learning and excelling in all aspects of the sport from breeding to competing. The blog will also serve as a bulletin board for short term goal reminders to myself. The inception of Second Wind Equestrian now becomes reality with this initial entry! Rightous!  Until next time, cheers!