Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Come Early!

I was in need of some second wind between working 60 hours a week in a restaurant and my days off at Dover Saddlery and I recieved one in the form of a phone call from Nancy Knight at the USEA informing me that I had been chosen as the 2013 Worth the Trust Scholarship recipient. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement for this wonderful opportunity to become more educated in my riding and a better contributing member to the sport. Cheers to Year of Progress (and no more vet bills please!)!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

DayLight-Hearted Time

As quickly as the fall season arrived it seems to have ended. It seems like this time each year is met with a general slowing of life processes. The irony of the situation being that it lends the opportunity to catch-up. As patron numbers decreased at the restaurant I started a part-time job teaching middle school students at a nature preserve. Between work (50 hrs.), teaching (25 hrs.), and my mares (the rest), I believe I have approached my threshold. Exhaustion would be an understatement.

Hope completed three final outings at Training level: Loch Moy, Middleburg, and Horse Park of NJ. Although each outing had brilliant moments, the not-so-brilliant moments have been humbling as my SJ confidence seems to be in disrepair.

Rose is back to full-time flat work and as awful as it sounds, at times I believe her injury was the best thing to happen to our partnership. She seems to have returned at her best as I have taken new approaches to addressing training deficits.

Grace completed her first Beginner Novice at Fair Hill and moved up to Novice at Plantation Field. Although she felt overwhelmed with a full SJ experience, she demonstrated bravery beyond her years on XC. It is an unexplainable feeling of accomplishment to have been the sole owner of this horse from start to finish. Her mom was a rescue. I worked my days off at a breeding farm to the stallion of my choice. She was our first foal to breed. We raised her. I started her and I have now completed an event at novice.
Amy Dragoo Photo - Free picture to any Plantation competitor in costume!
Our Sales Gelding in his 1st Beginner Novice with Rider Kelsey Hamilton (also in costume)

I enter the winter with some uncertainty and no long-term plan. In a perfect world I would only have one horse and be a working student, but I need to be realistic. I have a string of talented prospects that unfortunately require more resources as I try to progress. My progress however, is hindered by my lack of education. I need more lessons. I have been spending a significant amount of time watching and learning from youtube ad videos posted on the internet. I recently watched the George Morris Horsemanship Series on the USEFnetwork. One thing you hear over and over is "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.". So for the time being I am trying to make every ride a perfect practice ride which for me focus on not using my hands to make adjustments, heels down for a solid support, and belly button forward.

So for the time being I will continue to practice and work more to make lesson opportunities possible, though I question how much longer I can continue this routine. It is getting quite exhuasting. In the meantime I will cross my fingers on my 2nd attempt with the Worth the Trust Scholarship. On that note, cheers to a hopeful congratulatory email in the near future!

Grace and I taking in the salt air in mid-November in my hometown of Lewes, Delaware.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Final qualifying score at Training; check. Although I am technically qualified to move up, I realize I have a bit more work to do before I can tackle my first Prelim. Dressage went well with a resulting 38 at Fair Hill. SJ left room for improvement with a refusal and two subsequent rails. XC was brilliant (#neverwalkedmycourse). I finally feel confident about larger and more technical XC, just need to work out some confidence issues in SJ.

Each day I am realizing more and more that at some point I want to run my own event. At the beach. In Delaware. I have even began drafting possible sponsors, xc fences, and stakeholders for land acquisition. A boy can dream.

Pround of our Americans competing at Burghley! Excited to see top ten finishes from Sinead, Allison, and Kristi!

Planning on another positive outing at Loch Moy next weekend following 9 days at the restaurant. Ah!

Cheers and may the games . . .  BEGIN!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rosin-Schmolze-Tini . . . Dirty.

Redemption at the Jersey Shore. Hope and I made the trip to the Horse Park of New Jersey for a second attempt at securing my final qualifying score at training level. Molly wasn't attending HPNJ that weekend so Kristin gave me some much needed guidance in the warm-up. We schooled two things in the warm-up; softening and then asking for more forwardness. Our test was improved from my our previous outing, but it left not just room, but hallways, closets, and basements for improvement. Torrential rain and severe lightning delayed the event. SJ rewarded a forward ride, which was both difficult and intimidating in the wet footing. The course was diagonal line, bending line, diagonal line, combination, and final oxer. The combination consisted of a fence angled into the fence line and then a bend to a one-one-four. Of course she jumped me out of the tack on the first and the combination became a 2-2-4. How we jumped through the combination clean I can't explain. We finished with a rail and some time. First fence on cross country was uber-soft. The second fence was a massive ramp on a down-hill. A combination of slick footing and not enough impulsion and pace produced a 'stop'. Second attempt was golden and the rest of the course only got better. Everything comes down to speed. I am not fully aware of Training speed, but feeling a little more educated following this run.

I am almost there, a sweet spot. My lessons with Molly have been incredibly constructive and are paying off in dividends. I am just waiting for that outing where everything comes together. My catch-up with Kristin gave me more homework in the mean time. Great combination of education and experience.

Worked two doubles before HPNJ and two after. Its been exhausting, but worthwhile. Back to cleaning and drying out tack and equipment. Dirty.

Fair Hill in two weeks. Cheers!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer, Set, Go

Catch up. Moved home to lower Delaware for the summer to work. I try to get to Molly's for a lesson at least once every two weeks when I can afford the 6 hours of driving and have the time. Molly has been so accommodating with my schedule which has been unreliable and often unpredictable. So goes the restaurant business. As always I am still finding the balance in our quality of canter. I have been disciplined in my position as I fight bad habits from breaking babies and it has been paying off, especially not leaning forward and dropping my inside shoulder in canter transitions.

Hope and I went to HPNJ I with the hope of prepping for a run over the challenging MDHT I course. Long story short, I have minimal time management skills. I got there late, rushed to dressage warm-up and produced my worst score yet. In SJ the rails we coming down everywhere. Hope would have gone clean in our best trip yet except she had two very unexpected refusals at the last two combinations. They were completely unexpected and I think it was experience on my part and confidence on hers. Despite the harder of dressage tests and a very tight and difficult SJ, the organizers produced what felt like a soft xc course. The drive home lent time to make a plan for the following weeks. Pull the MDHT entry for sure. Can't get off for the MDHT II. Fitch's Corner? If it was a two day yes, but missing a friday-sunday work schedule at the beach; not finacially viable. So that leaves HPNJ II followed by Fair Hill. I am finally understanding what it takes to have a prelim horse and more so, I am seeing that I am not there yet. Canter, canter, canter.

Following a shift that ended at midnight, I loaded Hope at 530 after I did morning chores and shipped three hours to Unionville for a Jimmy Wofford clinic. The ring was small and there were six riders total. Although the lesson as a whole was productive, Hope threw in two stops. Throughout the lesson Jimmy drilled one idea; We can't be perfect unless they do their job. Progressing won't be easy unless the horse knows that jumping is much more convenient than not jumping. The other lesson was that it's not about how you come to the jump, its the reaction you having on the landing and following one of three plans; add, wait, or reduce. The same ideas Molly has been drilling me on in recent lessons. I had to leave the lesson early to make it home on time to work my dinner shift. So for the time being I have more homework before a redemption round at HPNJ II.

Until then, Cheers!

P.s. - Look forward to some big updates in September!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Green Flags!

Photo GRC Photography
We have had a successful last three weeks here at Second Wind Equestrian. Hope and I have been attending Molly Rosin School of Rock. Two show jump lessons, two cross country schools, and one dressage lesson. Good stuff. Molly has been drilling me on 1.) More leg, less hands, 2.) Not making moves at fences, and 3.) consistency. MCTA was a great learning experience. In dressage we scored well enough to tie for 9th o/o 30. Showjumping we dropped three rails. Cross country was a blast and I appreciated that the technical combinations were smaller while the gallop fences were large. She was brave. We had a run-out at a narrow planter. I think at about the same time we both realized we didn't have enough gumption to jump successfully and Hope promptly stopped with her front feet on the second step. Re-approach, golden. Huge thanks to my friends Julia Beamish and Esther Gu of Mayadinya Farm for all their help.

Photo GRC Photography
Fair Hill was another positive experience. My dressage warm-up was brilliant and Hope felt game on, but my confidence got the best of us and we scored poorly. I think my lack of time spent working in a dressage size space makes my test feel rushed because everything arrives much quicker than you anticipate, which inevitably stresses me, which causes me to use my hands more, which ruins everything. I am going to set up markers this week for a 15 meter circle, a 20 meter circle, and a small dressage ring. Stadium was great because it was consistent. One rail and a mess of time. I need to stop riding conservatively and ride more competively. I am finally at a point where I can ride her to the fence. Cross country was fun and progressively got better.

I am finally feeling like I could actually have a prelim. horse in the near future. We just need a few more runs to bring it all together.

I went to Rolex for my first time with Julia and Esther. The experience was so inspiring. Being able to see each movement and reaction is invalueble. Seeing Allison and Arthur defining uphill. William Fox-Pitt so balanced. Coming home to Rose still on stall rest was disappointing because I know this mare has star quality when her head is in the game. 8 more weeks.

Moving home to lower Delaware tomorrow to work for the summer at the beach. Cheers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Highly Anticipated Northern Exposure

Hello long, lost Blog. It has been a while and much, too much for my liking, has occurred since my last post. I returned to Fair Hill from Aiken a month ago. I don't think I have ever been so happy to not be somewhere, but thats another road and story. In a few weeks I will move home to Milton, Delaware onto the family farm. I am looking forward to spending time with family and friends since the last eight months were filled with work and little time to be social.

Hope tackled a very difficult Full Gallop Training course. She dropped three rails, but I finally had the adjustment I had been working so hard to achieve. Next was Pine Top. Dressage warm-up, incredible. Begin to go around ring and horse starts chasing cow in field next to ring. Hope is a star and we held it together. Not. Talk about a melt down. When the situation was finally addressed we began our test and finished on our worst score to date. One of the few double clears in stadium  moved us from 21st to 11th. The XC was, um, large. The week before I was told "Its hard to do a Training course at Novice speed". The result was Hope and I having several discussions as to what was appropriate for speed throughout the entire course. Finished with time penalties. I guess she was right. I ended my stay in Aiken with a trip to Gibbs Farm with Kristin Schmolze. It was incredible and I got to watch Allison get a lesson on Arthur!

Rose was going well in Aiken. Then Hope kicked her and fractured her tibia. X-rays confirmed the fracture as being non-displaced and the resulting prognosis was stall rest and the potential to avoid surgery. She has since been re-filmed and the fracture is healing. In three months we may be able to start again. Bummed is a complete understatement. I know, and others have confirmed it, this mare has star quality.

Grace. Not much changes in this category ever. I think conditioning will forever be this ones weakness. With Rose out of commission, Grace stepped up her game the last few weeks in Aiken. I started more technical grid work with Kristin and Grace demonstrated some serious scope. I mean serious. The decision now comes to selling her, which everyone has told me to do since I am pressed for finances. But this mare is a blast to ride and I always dismount with an ear-to-ear grin. She has been schooling Novice XC fences and even some softer Training ones.

Proof Numero Uno
Proof Numero Dos

I returned from Aiken with mixed emotions. I don't regret the trip, but there are some things I would have done differently. In the end I just felt completely unappreciated in the position I was brought in for. I, in no way, claim to know everything, but was consistantly addressed as if I know nothing. I came back from Aiken financially ruined (Thank you Mom and Dad for helping me out. Again). I count my blessings everyday for Kristin and her groom Vanessa because I am sure I would have self-destructed without their company and guidance. Since returning home my riding has been steadily improving. I know this is because I have been a much happier and stress-free person.

This weekend Hope and I will tackle MCTA, followed by Fair Hill in two weeks. Cheers to a happy report back.

P.S. - Just finished some great books. I believe we just discovered a new name for Rose upon returning to work and her debut to competing; Divergent.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Southern Decomposure

For the first time since arriving in Aiken, I found myself wanting to head home. In the two weeks leading up to Sporting Days the work load was full throttle. Painting, brush stuffing, raking, flagging, decorating, etc. In the end a lack of detailed planning and organization created an incredibly stressful environment that I am certain triggered what became a five day stomach virus. I considered pulling my entry not because I didn't feel prepared or ready or concerned over weather worries. I considered scratching because I just wasn't excited. All I wanted at that point (Thurs) was for the event to be over. That should have been the red flag. I woke Saturday and rode my dressage in the pouring rain. Owning horses is all about decisions and I made the decision to sacrifice points in order to give Hope the quietest ride possible. The ring was under water so our lengthenings became stretch work. The result was a score that landed us dead last. The stadium warm-up was experiencing similar conditions and there were horses sliding through the footing. I opted for a hack around and decided my first fence that day would be the first fence on our course. The first fence was great. Hope was giving me some adjust ability, something I have been attempting to accomplish for several months. The next fence came and I saw the long spot. I thought she did too. Instead I jumped ahead, she couldn't get up because of it, and we both went through the fence before I went ass over end in front of her. Elimination. The breaking point. Utter fatigue, distress, and frustration.

I came to Aiken to enjoy my horses yet I find that I am constantly working because someone else has a job that is more important than my time to ride. In the weeks before the event I lost a significant amount of riding time due to these circumstances. I wouldn't mind except I am broke from this venture and everyday I pay for a stall and don't ride seems like a waste. I can be happy living minimally if I am at least able to enjoy my horses. I learned a lot that day; who are the people you consider friends, who are the people concerned only about themselves, and understanding how you manage in between.

I ended the weekend feeling completely without spirit. I didn't spend months working doubles to support a trip here for this. I didn't drain my entire savings for this. I am not even working currently for this. The work was to ride and enjoy my horses and I can't help but feel I have lost sight of that purpose in attempting to accommodate the needs of others. I am better than this and so is my horse.

I started the week with a few changes to my schedule and approach to riding. Trying to remain emotionally static and making sure my horses have specific aids for individual commands. And that they are crystal clear. I had a lesson with Molly Rosin that was extremely productive. Molly gave me some homework until the next time I see her and I will give nothing but my best.

Tomorrow is Full Gallop. Depending on the outcome there will determine whether we travel to Pine Top. My goals for Full Gallop are <40 in dressage, clear xc, and a stadium round with adjust ability (regardless of how many rails come down). My first two outings @ Training level have resulting in a TE and E. Looking forward to my first completed event. Cheers!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Counting Sheep. Over-rated.

Another week in Aiken. Where to start?

Hope and I are prepping for a busy month. Sporting Days this weekend, Full Gallop next weekend, and then Pine Top. I was advised that I shouldn't do Paradise Farm's Training two weeks ago for several reasons; too big, too technical, and tough terrain. More of a "last training before Prelim." than a 2nd Training.  After serious consideration I decided not to enter. So torn. Then I went to the event and walked the course. Yes the terrain created cause for concern, but as a whole the course seemed fair and doable. Just ride smart and know your horse and in my case, the course (I will never live that down). I knew Hope could do this. The following Monday I had a lesson at Paradise with Kristin Schmolze and we schooled the entire Training course. Like. A. Boss. Since then we have addressed adjustability in the canter, which has become the single greatest deterant in consistant over-fences work.

Rose is going through an adjustment period. I started her on Omeprazole, rice bran, and beet pulp. I am focusing a majority of my efforts with her on relaxed and independent rides out alone. This mare has some serious attachment disorders, so I am hoping to help her find some security with alone time.

Grace is Grace. Food is always on her mind. They say horses are a reflection of their riders and I do admit, and those who know me know this, food is always on my mind. The last two weeks have been centered on conditioning. Trot the trails, canter the uphills. Always squeeze in a ditch. Looking forward to a jump lesson with her in the near future.

Outside of riding I have been working relentlessly. First thing in the morning I clean Kristin's stalls, then do my own morning chores, then work here at Sporting Days until late afternoon, and then ride. If I am lucky I usually am only riding one of my three rides in the dark. Then feed and pick/clean stalls. Sometimes clean tack. Not always though. Then dinner and bed. Is the work exhausting? Yes. But those moments at Paradise make it all worth the while.

Off to bed. I am hoping to wake and find Hope in the field I turned her out in. For the third time since New Years and the 6th time since last Spring, she has exited her quarters. Fully blanketed. Eye-carumba . . . . Cheers to only counting sheep jumping fences!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Carpe Diem

I know. Another cliche phrase, but for the moment I am filled with it. In two days I will be touching down in the new Motherland of Lauren Billys for a much needed and well deserved vacation. Then less than 24 hours after arrival home I will be departing for an extended stay in Aiken, SC. I will be bringing my three mares Hope, Rose, and Grace. I really wanted to bring two, but this might be my only opportunity to spend time in Aiken and I am going to be at the amazing Sporting Days Farm facility. So I need to bite the bullet. And apply for a new credit card tomorrow.

My stud colt has now been recovering for nearly 2.5 months. His final checkup before returning to my parent's farm for the winter went well, but my vet still thinks it will be another 4-6 months before we see full improvement. Silver lining; I will be in Aiken for 3 or those months.

This week has been stressful. I have been working ridiculous hours the last three weeks and now I am planning the biggest move of my life on an shoe-string and essentially non-existant budget. In earlier posts I mentioned how easy it is to lose sight of our blessings. Recent events around me last week have been a constant reminder that Carpe Diem shouldn't be a phrase, but a practice. A co-workers son died from a completely unexpected heart-attack. My best friends Aunt died from a completely unexpected siezure. Another co-worker just lost a brother.

I am stressed and feeling financial constraints, but this job gave me the ability to pay off large portions of my personal debt (much of which amassed during my own recovery), take more lessons in 6 months (11) than I have in the last four years (7), and finally almost finish paying off Hope. It gave me a trip to Puerto Rico and enough savings to get started in Aiken.

So I am currently trying with great determination to not stress and let things happen and keep faith that things will work out because I have some very wonderful people pulling for me. So go on! Carpe Diem! I'll Cheers to that!