so first, I think this blog is a GREAT idea, and thanks for starting it! It is really neat to take an idea from someone else and maybe tweak it and apply it to your own training and have some surprising results, like my ride today!
To preface, I have been working with a young morgan mare for the past year. She is hot, sensitive, inquisitive, lovely, a character, and always challenges me to be a better rider (also I adore her ;-). This mare's first challenge is being steady in the bridle, or in the bridle at all. You have to be very quiet and steady with your hands or she snatches the bit and up goes her head. After some bit changes, and a healthy dose of of "I'll let go when you let go" we have really made progress over the past month or so and she is moving forward into the contact better than ever. At the beginning of each ride, however, she starts out quite tense, and if you start right in with ANY contact and asking her to step up, she totally backs off and will kick out if pushed with your leg. For the past 2 months I have started each ride with several laps of a forward free walk, asking her to stretch (and for the first time she really follows the bit down and out. yay!) We then do several laps each way, again, stretching forward and down and working on being forward but with relaxation. Her trot has improved enormously! Then comes the first big challenge: getting into the canter. She used to stiffen up as soon as I'd put the inside leg on, throw her head up, and even kick out if I was more insistent. I have been trying to ask her to quietly go into the canter on a long stretching rain as well and have had some success but not 100%. Her tendency has still been to push into that inside leg (especially the right) rather than give to it and move forward. I have figured out that if I make my first few transitions at the end of a leg-yeild off the inside leg, and asking for just a touch of inside flection, I get a much better reaction. After we canter a few times each way she gets out a LOT of blows and relaxes much more.
This brings me to todays breakthrough. Now that I have her in the bridle and working relaxed and forward, she STILL loves to just lean on my inside leg (still worse to the right). We have been working a lot of shoulder in and she is comfortable with that in both directions, but when I ask for haunches in, especially of that right leg, I get either protest or no reaction. So I took my lead from one of Jamie's blog the other day about Wheels, working from leg yield to travers. At the walk, I would take her down the long side and ask first for a slight shoulder in, back to straight, and then slowly move her back the other way into a leg yield. When I would put my leg on, if I did not get a response, she got just a tickle with the whip, and then a big pat as soon as she would give to the pressure. She caught on quickly and I was able to take her 1 meter inside the track and continue in both directions, making sure to keep her in a straight line, not sucking back to the wall. She all of a sudden was MUCH more supple through her jaw, neck and rib cage, and I was able to keep asking her to shift her haunches back and forth down the long side in both directions. We were even able to do a little bit in trot! It was the first time I was really able to move her around off my leg without her protesting by grabbing the bit and stiffening against me. We finished with some lovely trot lengthening across the diagonal (her new favorite thing) just to make her feel special. Always a great feeling to have a ride like that :)
I didn't report yesterday because I did not want to distract from the dilemma that I posted. There were some very good answers and I eagerly await a response from the original poster to see what happens. Hopefully, I'll be able to send updates!
As for my horses, I made some interesting discoveries. I have mentioned many times that Junior needs to improve his balance, especially in canter. I've also reported about BooBoo being very wiggly. I think BooBoo's fundamental issue lies in balance rather than lacking throughness, which is what I've been attempting to work through from day one. I may not be able to describe what happened so that it makes sense, but I will try my best to be clear. After a normal warm-up routine, I stood quietly in halt. I asked BooBoo to "follow the bit" to the left. He would bend his neck left, just like I expected, but at the same time, he would push his shoulders to the right. His feet didn't move, but his weight would shift very obviously to the right. When I asked him to "follow the bit" to the right, he would shift his weight to the left. On any of my other horses, they would simply bend the neck and stand upright. Interesting!
Here are my thoughts. This horse has been through many owners and has a completely unknown history other than being spooky and a bit unpredictable. I feel we've worked through a lot of those issues and are getting into real training. We know nothing about the previous owners other than one who dabbled in dressage. I'm sure you've all seen this happen before...the rider wants the horse to flex to the right. She (or he) pulls on the right rein and cocks her own head down and to the right. In turn, this drops weight into the right seat making the rider sit quite crookedly on the horse as the horse bends it's neck to the right. She then does the opposite side, cocking her own head to the left, dropping her left shoulder and sitting more on the left seat bone. I'm curious if BooBoo has had this done to him so much that he adjusts his balance assuming he's going to need support more weight in the opposite direction? Funny thing is, I experimented with it enough that I could actually cause him to almost stumble in the halt by not moving and just increasing or decreasing the flexion. Obviously, I didn't do anything that frightened him or made him tense. He would lose his balance, however, which I found quite interesting. I was finally able to have him stand with weight evenly balanced left to right but could only flex as far as the poll. I hope that by doing these micro changes at halt, he'll understand that I'm not going to throw him off balance and he'll be able to keep his legs equally loaded depending on the exercise.
We did more of this today. Many would find this really boring...but it fascinates me to no end. Baby steps!
Please remember that I ride many horses and teach many lessons each day. I'm going to try to keep things simple and encourage people to participate by only talking about a couple of horses each day. It doesn't mean other horses are forgotten or ignored. I love each and every one and enjoy every moment in the saddle
I received this email last night:
Jaime, my horse has turned into a different "person." We can't ride him. He is bolting at every little thing, really galloping across the arena. I was in tears the other day I just had to get off. My trainer got on him and made him behave. I got back on. I am no longer scared of falling off, I have stuck to him like glue, ridden him round and round. Today, he was really naughty and the other rider commented on what a great extended trot he has....ironic, his trot is amazing when he is about to bolt. Ii think the issue is adjustment and that indoor is one of those white canvas things. Bums me out because everyone just thinks he is a naughty horse. One of the working students is going to be riding him in lessons for jumping and that should help. My horse is out almost every day but the fields are so muddy and now icey that they cant move around much. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks!
I did contact this person last night to get some background and permission to post the email. She was all for it and hopes people will chime in with answers or suggestions. Basically, this person was at a boarding stable for a couple years and the horse was doing really well. The family was able to ride around, the kids could get on bareback and have fun, they had even gone to some schooling shows and would travel to the location they are now at for lessons. They moved the horse and it was fine for a couple weeks. This has been going on ever since.
My feeling is that a horse that was behaving normally for a long time that is now spooking and bolting is trying to express pain or discomfort. I suggested she rule out ulcers and back pain. I questioned the food and it sounds similar to what he was eating at the original facility. Turnout is similar, just different horses. The horse was already familiar with the facility so it was not a completely new change. She also says the horse is on "high alert" all the time, whether in the stall, cross-ties or trying to work. I also suggested trying to ride the horse at the old place to see if he settles down and is comfortable enough to work. If he's good, then consider other housing options. Anyone have thoughts? Please share!!
The weather was lovely again, so that made things quite pleasant at the barn today. There are some new staffing changes, and more to come, so I'm spending many long days at the farm and not getting to do all the things I want to do. Today, I made certain my boys came first!
Poor Wheels hasn't been ridden since last Tuesday, and although he was very happy and playful on the crossties, his lack of exercise certainly was evident during his ride. I assumed he would not feel great, so I opted to longe him first. He walked for quite a while before he even felt like he could trot, and even then, he worked himself very slowly with short, stiff strides. It did not take very long, however, for him to feel ready to yee-haw, so I was happy to mount up. Most people like to longe so the horses can get their yee-haws out...not for me and Wheels...we go right to that point and then save the good stuff for the training.
He's sluggish to my leg and I want him to learn to move sideways more quickly when I ask. I walked for a while, working on leg-yields along the wall and then changing the bend to travers. We did this in both directions and then changed it to diagonal lines across the arena with changes of bend and steepness of angle. He thought it was fun to keep changing his body this way and began moving more fluidly through his entire body and the movements themselves came easier and more quickly. We repeated these same exercises in trot with much success! We finished the ride with a brisk canter. Although it doesn't sound like we did much, the total work time was close to an hour. Tomorrow should be much better, however, I just brought in some glorious second cut hay that might be far too high in sugar. He might end up feeling like poo, in which case, we'll have to find some yucky hay for him to eat. Poor Wheels!
Junior felt like a million bucks. I decided to ride him in the double for a change. He's been going nicely in the snaffle, so I thought I'd treat him to his oral jungle gym. His warm-up trot felt great; very forward and moving through his whole topline. He also felt very even right from the start. Most days, he feels "dropped" on his right side through his back and I have to keep him in a slight haunches-in to when tracking left and shoulder-fore when tracking right. His right hind has always been weak and it has the tendency to get sore. Not today.
We didn't work for very long since he'd worked quite hard the last 2 days. After our warm-up, we worked on tempo changes in the trot and canter to get his hind legs really pumping. We finished with medium canter on a half twenty meter circle to pirouette canter back to collected canter. He needs to learn to sit better and remain balanced over his hind legs in the pirouettes and this exercise really aids in the transition and keeps his hind legs active.
One things I've discovered is that I believe I'll be able to improve the piaffe from the ground with Liz on top. I've tried having ground people before and it has always been unsuccessful. I'm not talking about people at the barn just trying to help me, but big name trainers. Junior simply doesn't tolerate having someone work from the ground and becomes terrified very quickly. However, with Liz on top and me on the ground with a handful of peppermints, I think we'll be able to make some
Today was very busy, but I managed to get lots of things accomplished, so feel quite enthusiastic about what tomorrow will bring. Liz and I started by helping with chores and then Liz taught one of my young students for me so I could keep chores moving along rather quickly. I taught my lessons and was able to fit BooBoo in between, right after lunch. In the beginning, he was very strong and not supple on the left rein at all. I tried leg-yields, various size circles, leg-yields on the circle, etc, but he was strong and unyielding on that side. Finally, I just picked up both reins and pushed him forward. I had to really drive with my leg to the hand, otherwise he swung his hips from back and forth and jumped around in place. I was not going to give up before he did, however, and with quiet, but strong insistence, he finally let go! I don't like to be strong with my hand, but sometimes I feel the horse needs to release first, and then my hand. The other wasn't working, so I resorted to "if you let go, I'll let go." The tricky part is to not pull. That concept is very hard for people to understand. You have to keep your hand very still and your core rock solid. The horse can pull on you all it wants, but you can't pull back...just don't let go. After our minor confrontation, he was forward, energetic and engaged. He was tense, but I was able to reward him afterward with a nice canter and very lovely stretching forward and downward.
Boo was very nice today. She worked mainly on even contact into the bridle without blocking the energy to her hind legs. We could go straight and on various size circles and she maintained a lovely forward gait with a nice feel in the hand. I kept things simple with her today.
Liz was given the opportunity to school Junior. She's doing a lovely job riding him when I am not able and can go through his entire routine with little assistance from me. She did play with the one tempis today...but that turned into quite the show. Junior decided that was all he wanted to do and skipped joyfully along with Liz squealing, "June, stop, June, no no, June, stop skipping...Mom! What do I do??" It was very funny to watch especially since you could watch Junior's face laughing happily as he played around. Oh well! Happy horses...that's what it's about, isn't it?
Things are going to be a bit hit or miss. Yesterday, I lost a staff member, so I'm having to do chores for a while. If anyone is interested in working at Fell-Vallee, I'm hiring!
Yesterday was bitter cold and we were very late getting chores done. I also received the news that Anya's broken leg wasn't healing at all and would need to be amputated. I was heartsick and tired and not in the mood to ride. When I feel that way, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. Or...sometimes the best thing to do is just RIDE! I figured at the very least, I had to ride Junior since he couldn't go out with his missing shoe. We bundled up and headed to work.
Junior's biggest issues are balance and throughness, especially in the canter. I've been riding him for some time in the snaffle and am happy to continue for a while. He prefers the double, but I prefer the snaffle for the time being. After warm-up, I focused on transitions within the gaits to establish the sit and the forward. He's working on one tempis, but has the tendency to lose forward momentum to the point where we've done 10 or so and have barely gotten to X. He needs to keep forward with the changes. I turned the ones into a game and did them everywhere in sets of 3 or 4, but no more...in "big" collected canter. He thought that was great fun and wanted to keep playing the game, but the farrier arrived. Junior needed a new shoe, so that was that.
Today, I decided to have a good workout since he was with all 4 shoes in place and got to spend the morning outside. We worked on straightness by riding many lines of renvers in counter canter. I love that exercise and will often combine half-pass with the renvers. By the end of the ride, he was very much into the bridle and active behind. We did several huge, jumping lines of tempis (which are his favorite) just to prove he can maintain the frame and jump even in the movements. We finished with a lovely collected trot with nicely moving freedom in the shoulders and nice connection to the bridle. He was very proud of himself!
BooBoo was excellent today as well. He is developing much more self-confidence and even had a major spook while heading to the show barn that did not end up in my lap. For those of you who know BooBoo, that is a major accomplishment! He jumped straight forward, but stopped himself before his ribcage was next to me. There was a kerfuffle to the right of him in the field that surprised me as well, so this is a big step for him. I was very proud, indeed!
BooBoo and I worked primarily on the leg yield movement for in First 3. It's very tricky and he is very wiggly, so a good exercise for him to master. I have to constantly repeat to myself "my legs keep the hips behind the shoulders and my hands keep the shoulders in front of the hips. Leg to hand and back again. Forward and round and side to side. It's like a song.
He likes to be croup high in canter, so we did lots of big canter and back again. Each time his croup would come off, we'd hustle off again. I could get longer and longer periods of collection in between.
Time to finish, lessons starting. No time to ride anyone else afterward
Brrrr.....COLD outside today! Boo was first on the agenda today. Boo is working only on the basics. I always examine the training scale each time I ride, but she spends a lot of time working on rhythm. She has the tendency to change her tempo and it is very easy to block the energy to her hind legs. I have to be very conscientious about what the reins and seat are saying to her, because it's very easy for me to disrupt her. She is also crooked, like everyone, so I'm constantly looking for ways to keep her hind legs moving straight underneath her without her fishtailing through corners and during changes of direction. Of course, that is also a condition of being on the forehand and allowing the croup to bounce high behind me! Pay attention to the hind legs!!
Wheels was super today. The cold weather did not do him any favors and it took a long time to warm up his stiff muscles. Once he got going, however, we were able to work on throughness by leg-yielding from the centerline to the wall to a canter transition, then back to trot and begin again. Sometimes we would add circles or medium gaits within the exercise. He progressed nicely with prompt transitions and suppleness through his rib cage. This was an easy exercise, but I insisted on quick answers to my leg at every step of the game.
Junior, too, felt great. I didn't do much, however, since he was sans left shoe! He must have pulled it yesterday afternoon after he went out, but we couldn't find it anywhere. I wanted to work him a bit, since I didn't want to turn him out on the frozen ground without his shoe. We worked quietly in the beginning, just long and low with lots of changes in tempo, trot and canter. He felt really nice, so we worked harder, but in the same general direction. His pirouette canter was really nice so I decided to try the turns. The pirouette right was lovely; the left a bit sticky, but rideable. Maybe he's figuring this out?? It's all about the quality of the gaits, so that's what we'll continue to focus on.
BooBoo was last but not least. We worked mostly on smooth circles and "forward" down transitions. I recently read JJ Tate's article about reward during training and thought I'd use her recommendation for improving reactions to half-halts. Use a ten or twelve meter circle to guide the horse toward the rail. As he approaches, use the wall to ask for the walk transition and allow the half-halts to build the "sit" for a good transition. BooBoo likes to stop with his shoulders and pull downwards with an open mouth. He walks very abruptly. This exercise allowed me to keep my leg on quite strongly so I could push a forward transition through to the hind leg without everything stopping in front.
As part of the new year, I'm going to start keeping a training journal for everyone to follow. I can't guarantee I'll write every day or about every little thing, but I'll give it a college try. I hope we can make this an active participation with others sharing their training stories for the day. Everyone can participate, not just Fell-Vallee peeps, so please, join in.
The weather was very mild for January. It's nice to be able to ride in a sweatshirt without the slightest chill. The forecast for tomorrow, however, is single digits, so I took full advantage. Too bad the outdoor was slightly icy or I would have been outside. I began the day with lunging Wheels. I often choose to longe him first thing to get him out of his stall and moving. He is on half day turnout (not enough space for everyone and my horses can rotate rather than clients' horses having to share time) so he doesn't go out in the morning. It's hard on him since he has EPSM and needs to move. He's not usually naughty on the longe, so I can start him quietly and let him work out his kinks with walk and trot. Once his muscles are working properly, he can work in a forward manner with side reins. I find it beneficial to work him in side reins a bit shorter than I would normally work a horse so that he will take a contact. He's very light in the bridle and goes a bit high in the neck. He's better with the reins short and working quite forward. i've found, too, that his canter is improving tremendously by working without a rider as he is finding his balance and becoming stronger. Lots of transitions, especially trot-canter/canter-trot. We walk without side reins, so I may remove them several times during a session.
Liz rode Junior Saturday and Sunday, so I wasn't sure how he would feel. I've been riding him in the snaffle lately so as to really work on throughness. His left jaw has felt sticky lately, so I can confidently bend and supple him with the snaffle. He goes better in the double, so it's good to work him without it sometimes. He felt really nice, working on lots of forward transitions in the beginning and checking the changes. I knew he was late to Liz's aids, but I had no difficulty. He felt straight through the body and was nice in the hand. I worked on transitions to pirouette canter both on the long sides and diagonal lines without turning, but requiring him to stay very straight. He came too slowly with the hind leg now and then, so we worked through that by going from medium canter on a circle to pirouette canter to medium. If he came crooked, I did a few super collected steps in counter canter. We finished by working on the "piaffe." That's a serious work in progress, but he seems to be finally understanding what it's all about. I have discovered that I need to keep my hands very low and steady and not allow him to move me. I used to always try to stay soft and collect only with my seat, but he'd come above the bit, go backwards, launch forward, etc. If I make myself a human side rein, he seems to understand that he can balance on me a little and then move his legs better underneath. Maybe this isn't "classical," but it's working for him.
Wheels came out under saddle after I was finished with Junior. He was splendid, but the work was easy. Very forward in trot and canter to begin and then lots of 10 meter circles to 1 step of walk and back to trot. He needs to build strength and self carriage, so we spend lots of time with transitions between gaits and within gaits. Very boring for most, but very rewarding!!
The rest of my day was spent teaching lessons. Maybe CeCe, Katie and Michelle would like to discuss their rides?
What a whirlwind year this has been, with so many ups and downs and stories to tell, I'm not sure where to begin! I know, lets start with last winter and try to work our way through the entire year. This might take a while to get through, but I'm sure you'll enjoy the travel through 2011. Please be sure to ad highlights from your year that I may have forgotten, since twelve months is a long time and my brain can be a sieve!
The winter was spent in full training force at Fell-Vallee. Harry installed our fantastic new mirrors and away we went. Everyone enjoyed the indoor as the snow fell in amazing quantities. The snow was so deep and packed so much that Denis was able to plow our outdoor and we rode outside in the packed snow. It was great fun and everyone enjoyed the snowy fields. It did, however, get to a point the snow was so deep, you couldn't even ride out! Crazy! Our barn stayed safe, despite the heavy conditions.
As spring approached, we started as usual with some early clinics. Jeanie Hahn and Sharon McCusker are frequent clinicians at FVEC. We always look forward to their lessons and feel pumped and ready to train after they work their magic. Unfortunately, I should have known that my lesson with Sharon was going to be a prelude to Junior's summer. He spent the majority of his training session in reverse. He can be like that at times, often worse than the moment before, and sometimes takes several weeks to recuperate mentally after a breakdown.
Fortunately, we were able to put the cork back in the bottle and proceed to Westbrook without problems. Actually, we walked away with scores well into the 60's at PSG and I-1. I always love judge's comments such as "lovely collecting hands" and "beautifully ridden test."
Katie also came to Westbrook and competed her self-trained lovely mare, Holly, at third level. She walked away with a great sense of accomplishment since she would have received her bronze medal (but she already has a sparkly bronze from her former mount, Duncan). It's still nice to know she could have done it with her own horse. Isabel also showed Basil at Training and First and had fun, as always. This was Isabel's first competitive year at First Level, other than schooling shows, and they did a great job, bringing home a few ribbons to add to her collection.
Rachael was also supposed to compete Corey at Westbrook, but she was not sound. After many days of not feeling as she should, the vet recommended Corey have an MRI to assess the damage in her foot. Unfortunately, results were as expected and Rachael prepared herself for a year like 2009 when Corey broke her leg and was down for the summer. Once again, Corey was placed on strict stall rest along with other very expensive therapies. Darn it!
At the same time we were away at Westbrook, Katie Butland organized a clinic with Larry Poulin. Several people from FVEC rode in the clinic and others filled the open stalls available from the horses away at Westbrook. I heard nothing but praise for the clinic and Larry was very thankful for the opportunity to teach at the farm. He looks forward to returning in 2012 and I assume Katie will organize the lessons once again.
The following week was off to New Jersey with Junior, Harry and the dogs. This was my first CDI in over twenty years and I was really looking forward to it! Unfortunately, we arrived in 90 degree heat and the horses were sweltering. The stabling was very warm and the sun was roasting. Ugh! We had to look presentable for the jog and it was all I could do to keep my clothes from sticking to every inch of my body. Gross! I didn't even dare to ride since it was so hot and I wanted to save Junior's energy.
The jog went without a hitch and my ride time was drawn for very late in the afternoon the following day. That was good, since it was a bit more comfortable by then. Junior had a bit of a rough night and cribbed his water buckets off his wall. Chris Hickey noticed he dumped all his water and gave him fresh. Junior promptly emptied his buckets by dumping them out so he could crib on them without splashing his face, so Chris opted to leave him alone. That's my boy for you! We took care of Junior and then Harry left to bring the dogs back to the hotel where it would be more comfortable for them. Unfortunately, the truck broke down and Harry was forced to spend the rest of the day trying to get he truck fixed! He was so upset that he missed my ride. I didn't mind too much, since it was only fair...lack luster and boring. We had finished in the middle of the pack, which I was please with since there was a daunting list of competitors!
The I-1 felt a bit better the next day. It was a little cooler (low 80's), so there was a bit more energy, but after reviewing the video, I didn't like Junior's frame one bit. I decided we needed to work on getting his poll up more and get the hind legs moving quicker. But isn't that what we're all after all the time??? Home we went to train.
While we were in New Jersey, several others were in Saratoga. I can't say that anyone had any really good experiences, but the biggest complaint was with the judging. This is something I generally do not like to hear or talk about, but it sounded as though people had legitimate reasons to be disappointed with their tests. There were wide fluctuations and people came home not really understanding what the judges wanted. Unfortunately, I wasn't there to witness, but I heard from many people not even affiliated with FVEC that the judging was all over the map. With that said, I'll just chalk it up to another adventure and leave it at that.
Things continued on with much more success. GMHA in June was a highlight for many of FVEC's clients. There were several champion and reserves won; Allison, Michelle and Katie B. all got to bring home multi-colored ribbons. Plus, Katie Butland earned one of 2 final scores for her Bronze. That's always a fulfilling experience. It also adds a bit more stress to the rest of the year because achieving your medals is such an important step in every dressage rider's career. I won't keep you in suspense...Katie did earn her Bronze this season!! WOW!!
It was also fun to watch a couple of catch riders win classes at GMHA. Kate Marsi showed Basil for Jeanette and walked away with a few blues and a qualifying score she wasn't even trying for. She even rode through a First Level 2 Test she was determined not to ride with brilliant results. Liz rode Boo for Jeanette and had a clean sweep in all her Intro Tests. I have GMHA stemless wine glasses coming out my ears! At least they're useful and pretty.
Shortly after, Liz left for her working student position at Riverhouse Hanoverians. She brought with her, her lovely Regazzoni X Wembley gelding, Reverend Flagg. She learned a tremendous amount while she was away...everything from cleaning stalls, proper stable management, tack cleaning, mare servicing and riding pirouettes and one tempis. She'll remember her weeks with Jeanie for the rest of her life and build on the experiences she received while working and living there. I appreciate everything Jeanie did for Liz and look forward to future business and friendship with her, Verne and Nora.
Speaking of breeding, not to change the subject, we took 2 mares to Riverhouse for breeding with Bretone. Megara, who was given to us by a friend of a friend, would not "take." She ended up with an infection that neither my Mom nor I were willing to deal with. That was unfortunate; however, our beloved school pony, Peka, took in great form and we're eagerly waiting to see what Tony will produce with an old, gray pony!! So exciting! Bella was leasing Peka at the time and made the trip with me to drop her off. She was worried about leaving Peka with a stranger, but once she met Peka's beau, she wasn't worried in the least. Luckily, Bella had already met Jeanie during our clinic, so she trusted she would be well taken care of.
Since we're on the breeding note, I'd also like to mention that Bolly Swag, a.k.a Buzzy, was born this summer. She is a glorious red chestnut mare out of my Mom's Davignon x Matcho mare, Daydream. She is the picture of her daddy and is as sweet and smart as they get. Daydream was taken to Dr. Hunt's for breeding (she's now in foal to Rotspon for 2012) where she was the clinic's "favorite foal of the year." I don't think they were just saying it to be nice, either, because they continue to ask about her whenever I see them.
During the summer, my second FEI horse returned from Five Stars Farm where he was living for the last 18 months with Jess Donovan, Mary's working student at the time. She did a fabulous job with him and earned her USDF Silver Medal. She was also qualified to ride him at PSG in the Region 8 Championships, but opted to end her lease short for an opportunity to work at New England Equine.
At this point, Liz was still away, so I rode Doc in order to get him into his new routine. Once Liz came back from Jeanie's she began riding him full time and is going gang busters! 2012 is sure to be a big year for Doc and Liz. They have their minds set on qualifying to go to Kentucky for the NAJYRC in July. That means lots of shows in the beginning of the season, but we'll figure it out.
The end of June and into July was very quiet. The weather was very wet and it was tricky getting hay in. Our fields took forever to dry and once they did, it was hard to track those useful stretches for haying. It came in slowly and the quality was very good, but we'll be buying hay by the first of the year.
July GMHA was a low point for us. The horses were a bit blah. It's hard to say why, other than the temperatures were still very warm and we were in a different barn than usual. Maybe we were jinxed right from the start?? Michelle finished all her qualifying requirements and Katie got her Bronze score at this show, but those were the highlights.
There was a major accident that involved one of our riders. I won't discuss it here on this blog, but if the person involved wants to share, she's welcome to write a story about her accident and recovery. It is very enlightening since the final outcome is very good! Junior was affected by this accident in a very emotional way and lost the confidence we'd spent years building. He was once again afraid of other horses and would whirl and bolt at anyone within 15 feet of him. That makes warming up for a class impossible and we went in to all our following classes cold, requiring a leader to get in and out of the rings. Ugh! The rest of Junior's competitive season was spent trying to overcome these redeveloped issues and so we ended with a very disappointing year.
Vermont Dressage Days was next on the list. Prior to the competition, tons of money was put into the show grounds for a new sand arena and new warm-up. We were all very excited about the new footing but were cautious since it was so new. Unfortunately, it became quite deep and people were getting cranky. I hope it doesn't keep people from attending this great show in 2012 since it should be perfect for the new year! Please come, everyone!!
Nonetheless, FVEC clients kept showing and had little trouble getting their last qualifying scores and plenty of blue ribbons. It was especially fun to watch Andrea and Isabel duke it out in their classes. They were constantly coming back with reds and blues in the same class and growling about "I'll get you next time." Jen won a class at her first Recognized show which was super cool and Katie pulled down a high 60 at Third Level.
Junior was able to wander around in the warm-up area with other horses around, so I figured it was safe enough to go Centerline at HITS for the CDI I was entered in. Katie brought Holly along for the open show and we had a fabulous time. Holly was great and Katie was thrilled with her scores and tests. Pam helped me get through my tests with Junior, but I think he needs a psychologist more than a trainer at this point. He was definitely improved from GMHA, but still had the creepy crawlies every time a horse was near him. He was especially afraid of gray horses and would launch back into Vermont if they came near. Great fun!
I absolutely loved the Centerline at HITS show and can't wait for next year. The show was super, the food was super, the footing was super, the people were super....super, super,super!! So much fun!!
In between these shows, I also was fortunate enough to bring Bolly Swag and Daydream to the Hanoverian Inspection at Riverhouse Hanoverians. There were several beautiful babies, especially Lilly's colt, bred by Eliza from Foxwood Hanoverians. It will be a joy to watch him grow and develop into a top dressage mount. Well done, ladies! It was a long day for Buzzy and her mom, but they were very well behaved and everything went off without a hitch.
Throughout all of this craziness at shows, there was also summer camp going on. Bella gets the super camper award since she was there almost every week, except for the Tiny Tikes and July 4th week. Andrea and Jessica did a wonderful job with all the kids and horses. It's an exhausting schedule and it's hard to keep all the children interested and learning, but they did it with grace, kindness and fun. We will be offering similar weeks in 2012 with 2 new councilors. I hope they know what's in store for them!
The Regionals were quite an event, that's for sure. We loaded up the trailer and headed off for several days. Like always, the weather can be really miserable and we were not let down. It was miserable on Thursday and it took Liz 3 days to warm up! Luckily, we had our new barn jackets to help us brave the cold and let everyone know who we were. Everyone was complemented on how lovely our matching jackets and vests were.
We were also blessed to have a hotel room with vomit on the walls and greasy stains on the mirrors. This was only a small step up from the hotel the year prior that had a blood streak on the door. One year, we stayed at a different hotel in Kingston and the sewers backed up. They had to close the restaurant and the stench outside was wretched. None of these stories include the infamous Friar Tuck! That place is an adventure in and of itself but unfortunately was closed down in 2011. We would have stayed there again, just for the experience.
FVEC horses got to strut their stuff in awards presentations. Allison went home with the most big ribbons, placing in both her First Level and Second Level Adult Amateur Finals classes. Isabel rode through her Jr/Yr Training Level Final gallop. Michelle was so close, she had to get dressed and wait to see where she ended up, finding out she was barely out of the ribbons, but so close she could taste it. Next year, we plan to rain down a hail storm on the competition!! Get ready Region 8, we're going to bring 'em home!
One would think that after all this, we could just sit back and relax for a little while. That's not the case, of course. We had our CDSS show in October (there was a very small show in July as well, but it was done by noon, so I tend to ignore it). Shea decided to ride Nemo in one last show and won one of her classes. She couldn't believe her eyes when I showed her the test. The best part of all this was that she also placed in the CDSS Year End Awards and had just bought her new horse, Coby.
Michelle was fortunate enough to also find a new partner. Britta found a new home in New Hampshire and Jack came from Pam's to Fell-Vallee. What a hoot her new horse is. He's a 16-yr old going on 4. He's taught so many people how to ride, and now it's Michelle's turn...do we see a set of tails in her future? Maybe!
I'm having so much fun watching these new teams develop. Michelle and Jack, Shea and Coby and Liz and Doc are going to keep me on my toes this winter. It's one thing to coach an established pair, but to help strangers become team mates is another story and takes a lot of time and patience.
Liz and Kelly had the opportunity to ride with Lendon Gray at Imajica just before Thanksgiving. Her lessons were fantastic and hope she will be willing and able to come to Fell-Vallee for clinics in the spring and summer months. Maybe we'll get to ride with her a bit this winter, weather permitting, by traveling to her place. It would be great for everyone to add her experiences into the training tool chest.
Finally, things slowed down a bit for the holidays. With everything over with, now it's time to get to business with training. My days will be full of riding. BooBoo will remain through Feb. Wheels and Junior are a full time job; especially Wheels, since sometimes he needs to be worked twice per day. Boo is for sale and continues with training. Tilly and Spider need to be started and Flagg may want to develop into an FEI 4-Yr old. Thankfully, I have a great staff that allows me to get all this done!
So, who are the players in 2012? Let's see... I'm hoping to show Junior at Grand Prix, but I've been saying that for 2 seasons now. I'll just shrug my shoulders and see what happens. I will likely show Liz's young horse, Flagg. He's a good guy and I need something different to play with. Wheels may or may not come out to play. He has nothing to prove and I'm enjoying the ride with him. Liz will be showing Doc at Third and Fourth and will show the Junior Tests, hoping for a place on the Region 8 Juniors Team. Katie S. will show Holly at Third Level. Katie B. will show Rocky at Third Level. Isabel will show Basil at First Level. Shea will show Coby at Training and First Level. Allison will show Hwin at Second and maybe Third Levels. Andrea M. will show Wriggley at First Level. CeCe will show at First with BooBoo and Training with Calcado. Andrea B. will show Shannon at First and Second Levels or maybe Rachael will have the opportunity for the same. Bella will show Goldie at Training Level.
Bye Bye 2011!