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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sit Mp, sit. Good girl.

Remember the ending to the 80's sit coms where the guy would say, "sit Ubu, sit. Good Dog?" Well, we said that to MP over and over this weekend and she got it! I just returned from an exciting weekend in Carmel for lessons with Ellen at Los Suenos. The "Carmel Ladies" were out in full force: Nancy Bareilles, Susan Baxter & her sister Kathy, Julie Culver, Erin Bransan, Erin O'Connor, Katy Peterson, and Elizabeth whom I just met this weekend.

The lessons with Ellen went great, and included Ellen riding MP for about 40 mins on Sunday. Our new project is to develop FEI gaits, and being this as a completely new project to me, it works best to have the expert show MP the way. It was pretty amazing to watch and there were several jaw dropping moments and "holy crap, I had no idea she could move like that," comments coming from the peanut gallery. I was able to then get back on and feel the difference, and realize how much stamina and strength it takes to actually ride and keep the FEI gaits. I was wiped out when we were through! It just solidified the need for strength training (which I will talk about in a later post). My lesson on Saturday was spent perfecting the shoulder in, which I was riding completely wrong. I was riding it more like a leg yield rather than the preparation for half pass. Whoops! I think I got it now.

Saturday night we went to one of the cutest homes I have ever been to. It was straight out of a movie. I'll take pictures the next time I go. It is owned by Julie Culver and includes big old trees that take up the entire front yard, a sliding barn door between the kitchen and living space, and a guest room that looks like an old west cabin from the 1800's (but more stylish). Julie cooked us a fantastic dinner and we had great conversations about horses and politics. What else would you expect!

I had a great conversation with Erin O'Connor about her background in dance and how you present yourself through your body. It was a very helpful conversation when considering how to present yourself on the horse through your head and shoulders. I kept this thought in the front of my mind when I rode on Sunday and I felt taller and more confident on the horse. It was a great feeling and one that I will probably carry on as I continue to train.

Dinner was followed by a peaceful rest at Nancy's house in one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. And was definitely in order for the big day on Sunday.

Thank you Camel Ladies! You guys are a great group and it is always so fun to come visit!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Team Member: Steffen Peters

ST & MP: are we worthy?
This weekend may have been THE most important weekend to date since the inception of Team MP. It started with a leisurely trailer drive to Livermore Saturday morning and ended with a stellar freestyle performance at Yarra Yarra dressage show. Oh yeah, and somewhere in between we had a lesson with Steffen Peters! I'm not much of a name dropper, but here's what that means for all you non horsey friends: if you were in the cycling world you would be working with Lance Armstrong; if you were in the soccer world you'd be playing with David Beckham. So the prospect of Steffen Peters working with Team MP now and in the future is MUY IMPORTANTE for our ability to be competitive in the WEG.

My lesson went very well. And I had my support system: Ellen, Nancy, Katy and Scott were all there. I was so nervous about not being good enough that I kind of forgot how to ride, but I started to relax about half way through. Hopefully stella will have her groove back the next time I work with him so he can see the confident side of our abilities. He worked with me on the basics like when you use leg, your horse should go forward. It was kind of a duh moment but sometimes you forget about the basics when things get more complicated.

He also stressed the importance of keeping the horse supple and loose, especially while asking for collection. It all made so much sense and I was amazed what I was able to take away with just one lesson, especially the first lesson: it takes time to understand a persons lingo and intentions behind the words they use. The more you work with someone the better it gets. These were all things that Ellen has stressed with me before so I am fortunate that the lesson was compatible with my regular training at home.

The most important take away was the fact that he was willing to come on board and work with us. I will have the opportunity to go into training with him in San Diego and have the opportunity to ride with him when he comes to northern California. He was very kind and seemed very willing to be involved, even with his complicated schedule and own personal quest.

And I have to take this moment to recognize that NONE of this would be happening without the one and only Ellen Eckstein. Many of you already know that Ellen has been my long time trainer and mentor. At times she has been my idol, at other times she has been like a mother. I'm so blessed to have her by my side and she really went the extra mile and drove all the way from Paso Robles for my lesson and to coach me at the show the next day. Thank you for everything Ellen!!

Now onto the show.....

The show at Yarra Yarra was a big success. I must plug Yarra Yarra and provide you with the link to their website. Carolyn and Patrick Adams run the best shows, and it is such a pleasure to ride at their facility. Patrick is always Mr. Congeniality and until this weekend I never knew Carolyn had such a talent for the Can Can!

I had three firsts at this show: I rode the Team Test for the first time: I rode my freestyle for the first time: and I rode my socks off in the show ring for the first time. All good things! The Team test came first and I rode way too conservatively, but I pulled off a 68.8%, so I know the 70's are right around the corner. It was a clean ride, with no mistakes, but it definitely lacked pizazz.

Coach Ellen watching the warm up with Nancy and Katy strategizing - always trouble

For my freestyle, I got a very good piece of advice from Diane, the freestyle coordinator, "you are now an FEI rider so I expect you to ride like one. No pussy footing around the arena." So I warmed up like I was serious, being driven and advised by none other than Coach Ellen and MP responded perfectly. She got hot, she went up and I had the best ride in a show so far. There is room for improvement (I still need to work on my technical execution), but I think that ride will become the new baseline for which I improve. The score was a 71.8% and had my technical been on the mark it would have been in the high 70's. Now we are talking. You can view the video by clicking here.

Team MP: Nancy, Ellen, ST & MP, Mom, Diane, Dad, Katy

And I was so honored to have the whole team there, Nancy flew home from Sun Valley, Ellen drove from Paso Robles to coach, Katy P came and gave up her weekend just to be there and my parents drove down from Tahoe. Diane came too, and our thoughts are with her as she is going through some difficult times with her mothers health. Thank you Team MP for EVERYTHING! You guys are the best and made this past weekend our most successful yet!

Horse show husband at his finest!