Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can you remember back to a time when Sunday was a day reserved for resting and family visits? That is what Sundays still are in Etteln. I just finished a wonderful Sunday dinner with the family that I live with. We had a beef roast with mushroom gravy, potatoes, and red cabbage. For dessert, we had kiwi fruit, pineapples and the most delicious vanilla joghurt. Hildegard, my mother thanks you for taking such good care of me! Sundays are a day off for the horses and unfortunately it is raining here this morning so no turn out, just hand walking. On the way to the barn I stop at the backeri and get fresh brotchen, my special Sunday treat. The horses are enjoying their 40 pound bag of carrots each week, and I am sure a quiet day is appreciated by them after such a busy week. Although this morning wasn't so quiet at the stable. There were 2 cows that got loose last night and were running around the barn area and Donneur found that quite stimulating. I was in cleaning his stall when the cows showed up and I had all the shavings pulled back to clean the wet spot when he decided to do 180's. Sparks were flying from his shoes on the concrete and I was impressed that he could stay on his feet in light of the fact that he was doing the splits behind. I was just trying to stay out of the way! Speaking of cows, a farmer had an interesting way of moving his cow. He had a corral on wheels that was just big enough to go around one cow and hook to his tractor. As the tractor moved along, so did the cow on foot inside the corral. The cow had no choice but to keep up with the tractor.

Yesterday when I came home for lunch, Josef asked if I wanted my car washed. Of course with the language barrier it took me a while to realize that he was offering to do it for me. His wife said,"My man always has to have the cars clean, a dirty car doesn't bother me so much" of course as she is washing the windows! After lunch, I was going back to clean my horses and my stalls so everyone was happy doing their favorite kind of cleaning.

The last couple of days were interesting for Donneur. We have been working on the one time changes with mixed success, some days ok and some days difficult and Hubertus hasn't been able to ride for the last week because he hurt his back. He suggested that his head bereiter, Hubsie, ride him and work on the ones. Hubertus said to me"99% of the time it is technique but sometimes it is just strength. Since Hubsie rides with his stirrups 5 holes longer than mine and he is probably 5 times more powerful than me, it is not so easy for Donneur to veto his suggestions. It is working beautifully, yesterday Hubsie did as many as 8 ones that were beautiful and straight. The great thing is, he is very judicious with his strength, makes a quick correction and then rides the horse normally. Even a small person can ride a horse with strength on every stride and cause a lot of damage to the horse's training. Dolly continues to excel in her half pass work and passage and is now doing better transitions from passage to piaffe and back to passage. Her ones are easier for me to work on because she doesn't get away from me as easily as Mighty Mouse does. We are on the count down now, 2 weeks until the show, things ought to get pretty interesting. I also had an opportunity to ride a really nice 3 year old they have here for training. Wonderful mind, good natural balance and easy in the hand. Nice ladies horse, perfect temperament for an amateur. Any takers?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today was an exciting day for me. Sometimes it seems that you wait all day to ride and then it happens so fast, it's over before you know it. True to form, I seldom know when my lessons will be ahead of time, but I am there for most of the day taking care of my horses. Today my lessons were in the afternoon which always makes for a long evening because it takes so long to cool them out and clean them up. Definitely time to clip. Even that is an adventure because our clippers don't work over here so I will have to borrow some.
I rode Donneur first and we had a wonderful ride. His pirouettes are becoming so steady and reliable, the passage is getting stronger every day and his piaffe is beautiful. The one time changes are the last piece of the puzzle for both horses and we will have those before we come back to the States. Dolly has turned out to be quite the Passage Queen. It's her favorite thing to do now. She also excels at the half pass and the zig zag. I also got to ride one of Hubertus' horses today to work on the one time changes on a horse that is confirmed. What a pleasure and how easy it is on a horse that knows it. So I am going to take that feeling back to my horses and they will be doing them that effortlessly before long. Had a nice phone call from Michael Poulin today, just checking in with me to see how the training is progressing. Very nice of him to keep up with our progress. I told him we will be ready to go Grand Prix when I get home! Off to dinner tonight with Todd and his groom, great to have another American here so cheer each other on!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It was nice to have some company from home this week. Andrea and Marco drove down from Hamburg for the day to watch my lesson with Hubertus. Andrea had not seen Donneur go since he was at Third Level and she was really amazed at how much he has learned. Since the drive was so long(3 hours each way) they didn't get to stay and watch Dolly. We had a nice lunch together at the local Gasthof in our village. I must say, anywhere I have gone for a meal here in Germany, it has been very good. I have had dinner with friends from the stable in the nearby town of Paderborn several times and it is always very tasty.
Yesterday morning, I got up at 3:30 to take care of my horses and we left at 4:30 to drive 3 hours to Bremen to watch the Grand Prix. It was an International show in a large coliseum so the atmosphere was quite exciting. Hubertus rode Santos, an 8 year old horse in his first Grand Prix and was 4th with a 68.8%. Debbie McDonald was 3rd on Felix with a 69+% and a woman from Mexico won with a 73%. It was so nice because the scoreboard was computerized so that you could see the marks from all 5 judges immediately for each movement. To be successful, you have to have a horse that can score a 7 on everything. There were actually only a handful of 8's and the judging was very strict about mistakes, for instance a mistake in the counting of the tempi changes was automatically a 4. One thing that was different than I have experienced in the States is the piaffe scoring. At home, if the horse moves forward during the piaffe, frequently you are penalized heavily, even if the piaffe was ok. I never understood this. Yesterday, the quality of the piaffe was the most important issue and if the horse moved a bit forward, it was not automatically insufficient like at home. That is how it should be to promote the future training of the horse. Debbie McDonald is a great technical test rider, very accurate. There were a couple other Americans there, Heather Blitz being one of them and I was very proud that they held their own, scoring from 67 to 69%. The riding of the Americans is truly getting more respected over here. When Hubertus came into the arena, the announcer said"And here comes Hubertus Schmidt with yet another young GP horse". He seems to produce GP horses so easily and even with having a bad back pain from the day before, he rode a test without mistakes on a very green horse. We then drove 3 hours back home and I had 3 horses to ride so it was a late night at the stable but well worth the trip. I have been riding a 5 year old by Davingon, who is Donneur's grandfather, that belongs to Hubertus.
Today is the horses' day off so I went to the stable early and turned them out and they were quite fresh since we had our first frost last night. On the way back, I stopped at the backeri and bought some fresh whole grain brotchen for breakfast. When I got home, Hildegard asked if I wanted to have coffee with she and her grand daughter, Paula, who is 5. Pretty sad to say, Paula can speak German better than I can. She was working on some workbooks that teach children how to count, etc. and they were just my speed. I think I will have to get some of those to improve my German. So many of the young children do vaulting on horseback even at 5 years old! No wonder these kids grow up to be fearless on horses!
Michelle Gibson was supposed to come over but I heard that her horse had to have a month off so her trip is delayed. Meanwhile, Todd Flettrich, who has been here since the summer, went to a show this weekend in East Germany. It is about an 8 hour drive, thank goodness for a GPS in your car! It is very difficult to find your way around since the signs on the Autobahn don't designate which direction you are travelling, only the names of the towns. So if you don't know which towns are in which direction, you are in big trouble. Not to mention that he speaks ZERO German and in East Germany, they speak NO English. So I am sure he will find the weekend quite stressful. The other night, I found it quite challenging to drive on the Autobahn while my friend was talking to me in German. Too much to concentrate on at once. But then again, I don't get in the left lane too often in my Ford Fiesta. Do you know that you can lose you license here for 4 weeks for following too closely on the Autobahn? And passing someone on the right hand side is just as serious an offense as drinking and driving! No wonder even though they drive very fast, they don't have as many accidents as we do with people weaving in and out of traffic and tailgaiting.
So back to work with my horses tomorrow and I am greatly inspired after watching the horses at the Bremen show. We have alot of work to do. We are shooting for riding in a National show in Paderborn Nov. 3 and 4. It is taking almost one month to get through the paperwork to get my guest license so that I can show over here. The USEF has to send a letter to the German Federation giving you permission to compete and then you have to apply for a Guest License from Germany that is good for three or four shows, then you have to reapply for doing more than that. If you want to compete in an International show, it is even more complicated.