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Monday, April 27, 2009

Andy's First time out at FEI: 69.6%! & wins jewelery to boot!

He doesn't care that we only just met, he likes being #1
In a whirl wind effort to still make it to Chicago, with barely a day to spare, we were able to get Steve and Nancy's Bareilles' horse Andaluz 2 (aka Andy) qualified for National Championships last Sunday. Our first time out together and we were able to secure a 69.6%. I rode Andy for the first time two weeks ago (see prior post) and put in all of 4 rides on him before we picked him up from Ellen's and drove up to Yarra Yarra for the show. You can view the video of the show here.

Andy says: "Will this trot do?"
About two weeks ago Eva and I decided that it was best not to take Final half-way across the country so we found ourselves back at square one for Chicago. Thats when a text message appeared from our sponsors Steve and Nancy suggesting that Andy become the Team MP reserve horse for the WEG and the horse to take to National Championships. That put Scott and I in the car driving 5 hours to Ellen's the next weekend to see if I was even able to ride the 18hh former Grand Prix jumping horse. Needless to say, we were able to get along and bada bing bada boom we needed to get Andy ready for Chicago.
Andy likes being a show horse
The process of getting a horse ready for National Championships is not an easy one. There is a tone of paperwork involved. The horse needs certain vaccinations, a passport, all kinds of memberships and registrations, not to mention the horse must have qualifying scores and we need to have a freestyle. One month to get this all done - no problem! With the team we have Andy was sure to go to Chicago. Between Nancy & Steve, Ellen, her working student Katey and her husband David-the-wonder-vet and his trusty sidekick Debbie, all documents have been shipped, faxed, overnighted, mailed, emailed, verified, stamped, signed and sealed. Of course my adorable, lovable hubby Scott also kept things cool, calm and collected on the home front while I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. The only thing left to do was learn how to ride the horse, show the horse and put together a freestyle. With two weeks left - no problem.
This trot cleared the arena
Katy P (MP's mom) had graciously agreed to show Andy to get his score while we were in Las Vegas at the World Cup (YAY Steffen & Ravel!!!) watching Steffen make history, but a farrierey malfunction caused Andy to be on stall rest for a few days so he was unable to show. We immediately called Yarra Yarra and they were able to squeeze us in at the last minute. So off we were on Saturday to drive down to Ellen's with the trailer, ride through the test and leave the next morning for the horse show. Still no problem.
It wasn't until Ellen's trusty sidekick and all around horse gal Katey had Andy braided and looking perfect that reality started to sink in. I had only ridden this horse 4 times. Three of those times were two weeks ago. He had 5 days of rest because of his feet. He had been shown a handful of times in a dressage arena. He had never been shown in a test with the movements we needed to do. We had only ridden through the test twice - one of those times was a disaster. He was not my horse, I had no bond with him he had no responsibility for me. He is 18hh tall, weights at least 1300 lbs and is a Holsteiner that used to jump over 5ft tall courses. Holy crap.
I barely remember Katey loading him in the trailer and driving out of Ellen's. In fact I left without saying goodbye to either Nancy or Ellen so that gives you an idea of my mindset. I think Ellen had a similar flashback because about halfway up to Yarra Yarra she called to remind me I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to. She was worried.

Talking to Ellen on the phone - its all good , we got this NO PROBLEM
And them we got to the show. And Andy came off the trailer like he was our horse. He was quiet and calm and took everything in stride. He warmed up like a champ and went in the arena like he had done this a thousand times. He was a little worried about the judge and I road VERY conservatively, but it was a good test with only two mistakes. He was happy, I was thrilled. My parents were there for moral support and they thought it was a good ride. And the judge thought so too. 69.6% which earned us the FEI highpoint for the day complete with a $250 gift certificate to a jewelery store. Only a Bareilles horse would win jewelery!
So now we have just over a week before Andy gets on the truck to Chicago. We still need a freestyle (we have music!) but like I said, no problem.
Can we go home now?

Introducing Andaluz 2: Team MP Reserve Horse

Meet Andy. Steve (and Nancy) Bareilles' 14 year old 18hh Holsteiner gelding. He's a former Grand Prix jumping horse and was shown successfully last year at first level by Katey Augsberger (Ellen's right had gal). He's a great guy and I will be posting a bunch about him in the next few weeks. We will be taking him to National Championships and then he will return to Ellen's where he will remain in full time training.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Final's debut as an FEI Para Dressage Horse!

I was extremely fortunate this weekend to ride my good friend Eva's horse Final at the Golden State Dressage CDI. This was a large show with many good judges so I was honored to be loaned such a wonderful horse to fill MP"s shoes.

This was an important show not only because of the caliber of judges and horses and riders, but because members of the Canadian Para Dressage team also came to compete. In fact, I ended up showing against one of the Canadian Paralympians.

The first test we rode Saturday was the grade IV team test. Not my favorite. I hate the med canter on the 20 meter circle and this test has two of them. Ick. The test went smoothly, but I got really nervous but Final was a good sport, he tried his hardest at we pulled off a 65% even with a few mistakes. It was good enough for first place, so we'll take it!

The second test was much smoother. No mistakes and I felt like we really clicked in the test. Plus I had two judges and that always creeps me out. Can't get away with much when they can see you from two sides. We were able to secure a 68% on that test and another first place. Luckily Final got to go home, sleep in his own bed and get ready for Sunday and the dreaded freestyle.....

The week prior, I rode Final to MP's freestyle - twice. Now, granted, I had only shown this freestyle once, so riding it with another horse who is good at different things, no easy feat. For either of us. In the warm up, Final was exceptional. Doing everything I willed him to. But he was tired. We had asked a lot of him the past week and he needed a day off. So when we got into the ring, it kind of hit him like a ton of bricks. He got backed off and went into shut down mode. So the freestyle was a little bit of a mess, BUT we managed to pull off all of the required movements without mistakes, but our collective marks suffered because the freestyle was difficult and we didn't quite have it together. So our score ended up being not bad - a 67%. Could have been much worse and I think Both Final and me deserve huge kudos for being ballsy enough to even go in there a wing it. A little practice and he'd be a freestyle fiend. If we could only get a tu tu on him.....

For the second test, I knew he was done so I made a game plan to just monitor his strides and steps, but not push him at all. I would be an active passenger, but I would let him decide how much or how little. The result - a near flawless test. Sure it could have had some pizazz - but if I were at the world cup I would have been beside myself to have a test that nice. And the judges thought so too - they gave him a 69%!!! You can view the test here.

So turns out Final has just been dying to become an FEI Para dressage horse - who knew!! Eva was so generous to let me ride him, and I feel so lucky to be ABLE to show a horse like him. He's a blast to ride, and he is such a go getter. I hope I'll get to show him more often until Eva's back in the saddle!!

Day two - looking good

Bad news, good news, more bad news and maybe light at the end of the tunnel.....

It's been an interesting couple of weeks in the world of Team MP. I've been dreading this post, but now I have some really good news to report so it will be easier than I thought. I'll start with the bad news and work up to the good news.

Two weeks ago MP had a minor colic scare. It turns out it was ulcers so we are treating her for the next month and are very confident she'll be back to normal soon. At the same time she went lame. This horse has not taken a lame step since we got her last Jan, so this was very out of character. Because of the ulcers, we gave her the benefit of the doubt and figured she wasn't feeling well and needed a few days off. We were wrong.

After a lameness exam that suggested she had either pulled a check or suspendory ligament, I took her into UC Davis for an ultra sound. Low and behold she had a check ligament injury. So this means 3 months of walking only as well as icing, poulticing and careful management. She will fully recover and be ready for competition this summer, but Chicago is not possible for her.

This realization has been pretty devastating, and I've been trying to stay upbeat, but its hard when your partner that you know so well and love so much is not going to be your partner for one of the most important competitions in your career. To ease my guilt and depression I have been spending a lot of quiet time with her. I have taken to reading her books while I ice her, letting her "groom" me and play with my hair and we we have moved her up to the barn so she literally lives underneath us. I think she likes seeing us all the time too. Seeing her big brown eyes every morning gives me the most wonderful warm feeling to start my day.

With all of this going on with MP, we have had to concentrate on the rider side of this equation. Three months off would not be good for my riding skills and condition. Plus, if I do not show in Chicago, the WEG dream may be through. But as soon as I started to think my hopes and dreams were crushed (not to mention thinking I might just sell the horses, but an Aston Martin and travel for the next few months) a glimmer of hope sparked onto the scene.

My friend Eva - you know THE Eva from all the posts last year - is very pregnant and has gotten to the stage where riding is a bit difficult. We all know that she'll probably still ride anyway, but she really shouldn't be on a horse and I think her husband would agree. So she had asked me if I would help her keep her horse in shape while she takes it easy until after her little girl is born. But with no horse to ride with Ellen or show, she offered her horse Final first for my lessons last weekend with Ellen, then for the Rancho Murietta show this past weekend.

My first ride with Ellen on Final was shaky. OK, it wasn't just shaky it was a disaster. He wanted his mom, I wanted my Moneypenny and neither of us were on the same page. We worked through some of it, but we needed more time to see if we could communicate. Luckily his mom was standing nearby so as soon as he was done he could go running back to her arms! The second ride with Ellen was better. It was like we both had the night to digest reality and both came back ready to work with each other. He was very willing and I tried to be as respectful of his feelings as possible. Plus his mom was still there in case he needed saving.

After this second ride, we decided that he could fill in for MP at the upcoming Rancho Murietta show. This was on a Sunday, so we only had three more rides to get to know each other AND pull together a freestyle. Yeah, sure piece of cake.

Our rides through the week went great. Each ride getting a little better and easier. Each day both of us becoming more attune and more willing for the other. And his mom was very happy and proud of him. It was really fun to see his confidence change within the week, and nice to know that he was starting to trust me. Showing was going to be fun....

I'll do a separate post on the show that is only about the show because he was so fantastic he deserves his own post. We also have video and pictures. He was such a trooper and even though he was exhausted from the week of riding (he's been on paternity leave for a few months now) he tried and tried and tried and exceeded all of our expectations. We got the feeling he was pleased to fill in for MP and show everyone what he was made of. And he qualified himself for Chicago.

So now there may be a glimmer of hope for Chicago, but its not a light decision that Eva has to make. It is no small thing to send your horse half-way across the country even with a friend you trust. I would be honored to ride a horse like Final in Chicago, but not unless his mom was fully comfortable with him going that far. He's a special horse and Eva is a dear friend of mine and one of my strongest supporters. She will do what is best for her horse, as she should. If it doesn't work out for Final to go, I am now confident that I will get another opportunity to get my WEG qualifying scores even if that means going to Europe. I have learned from this experience: "Don't give up, just roll with what comes at you and stay focused. The rest will fall into place" No matter how pretty those Aston Martin are.