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!