Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the evening before our last lesson with Hubertus on this trip, I am reflecting on what has taken place over the last three months. What a roller coaster of emotions. I made the decision to come back to Germany and get the horses finished to Grand Prix and that is exactly what has transpired. It was not without good days and difficult days, one step forward and two steps back days, but experiencing all of that is what makes the end result so sweet. It is so important to work with a trainer that you have complete trust and faith in because sometimes, you have to go completely on faith that you are on the right path and it will take you to your goal. I am so proud of the horses because they really had to get out of their comfort zone to get into their achievement zone. They certainly did and came out on the other side healthy and confident in themselves and their new level of work. Now when I ask for the one time changes or the piaffe/passage, they know exactly what is expected. Over the next year, they will refine their skills at GP and we can work on the details of the level. The hardest part is past us now, they know how to do everything that they will ever have to learn, now we can work on expressing it more beautifully and with greater ease each day. That is the goal, it must become easy for the horse and the rider and be a pleasure to watch. We must create the desire in the spectator to want to ride such a horse. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with these horses and for the three of us to grow together to become the greatest version of the grandest vision that I have for us.
The horse transport will pick us up day after tomorrow at 4:30 a.m. and we will drive 5 hours to the Amsterdam airport. The flight leaves at 3:00 p.m. and arrives in Miami at 6:50 p.m. (your time is 6 hours behind ours so it will be 1:50 a.m. for us). Thank you for joining us on this leg of our journey. I hope you will continue to follow our progress as the Winter Show season begins in FL. Please check our website, www.equisentialinc.com for updates.

Monday, December 10, 2007

For those of you that are wondering, I am still among the living. I have had trouble accessing my blog site to post a new one, but at last, I am online. Mary Anne made the trip over without a hitch and from the time I picked her up at the airport until the time I dropped her off to go home, we moved at a fast pace. It was much easier getting ready for the second horse show with her help. The show was in Appelhulsen, which is normally a one and 1/2 hour drive. We schooled at home on Friday morning and did not get to leave for the show until 4:30 that afternoon which made the drive take three hours between the traffic, darkness, rain and a 10k traffic jam. We had a pleasant surprise when we finally did arrive at the show, we were in huge permanent stalls in the same building as the warm up and competition arena. By the time we got unloaded and the horses settled in, it was 10:00p.m. The secretary's office was still open so we went in to get our ride times (they are never available until after 6:00p.m. the night before you ride) and wouldn't you know, there were 53 horses in the PSG and the class started at 6:15 A.M.!!!!!! Of course, my ride time on Dolly was 6:40A.M. It is now 10:00P.M. the night before, we have had no dinner and have no idea where the hotel is. The secretary was kind enough to give us directions in GERMAN!!!!! I certainly am glad this wasn't my first week in Germany. I smiled and told Mary Anne with all confidence, No Problem. Miraculously, we found the hotel and were looking forward to a quick meal and some sleep. We got the sleep, but not the meal, there was nothing open in the village and the hotel restaurant was closed. At least the beds were clean and comfortable but Mary Anne could not get over the governor on the hot water that didn't allow it to get warmer than 75 degrees. We slept fast and were back at the showgrounds at 5:00 on Sat. morning. Hubertus was going to come to the show to school us but even he declined the 6:40 ride time. He did come for Donneur at 1:30. In spite of the unusual conditions, both horses performed better than at the Paderborn show and scored 61 for Dolly and 64 for Donneur. Dolly had a couple of mistakes and Donneur was spooky at the 3 judges boxes on the C end of the arena, but both horses performed with more expression than the first show and Hubertus was pleased. It is really interesting to note that our horses and 5 others were the only ones to stay on the grounds. Everyone else trailered in and out. They arrive in the trailer tacked up, breeze in and do the test and go home tacked up. These horses do this weekend after weekend and have developed a tolerance for almost anything. It was also fun to see the FEI ponies, of which there were 35. They looked like miniature Dressage horses doing half passes and changes. I did get chosen with Donneur for a random vet inspection. After my class the vet had me take the saddle off and he walked around the horse, felt his back, made a cursory inspection of his legs and said OK. No blood samples or urine samples. When you go to these shows, you really need an advocate. There is no ring steward, the numbers are written on a blackboard for the order of go and you have to figure the rest out yourself. You are allowed to carry a whip of 120cm for national competitions(longer than we allow in the US) but I never had anyone check that or my bits. Mary Anne was particularly fascinated by the person using a can of spray foam to make the horses mouth look wet....... We did not make the top 12 cut to go on to the Intermediare 1 the next day with the likes of Michael and Ingrid Klimke. Klaus Balkenhol's daughter won the class. We packed up and drove back home that night. By the time we got back to our house at 9:00P.M. on Saturday night, we felt like we had run a marathon. But what a great surprise was waiting for us. Josef and Hildegard had put up a Christmas tree with lights on my terrace and made cookies for us. We fell into bed and slept hard and I am sure the horses did as well. Sunday we did all the horse laundry and got everything organized again for the coming week. Did I mention to you that we have an industrial size washer at the barn this year and a dryer? The dryer is more like a de-humidifier with a bigger motor. It extracts the water out of the laundry and you have to empty the water container afterwards. Mary Anne did get to see Hubertus ride the last day she was here. He has been off a horse for 5 weeks because of 2 cracked vertebrae, but after watching all the horses in the barn the week before with their normal riders and then seeing Hubertus on them, you thought it was a different horse! One last thing to add, on one of our trips into Paderborn, the road crew was washing the guardrails! Only in Germany!!!! We are starting the process for coming home, we fly on the 20th to Miami. The horses and I will stay in Wellington until the second week of Jan. while Dolly completes her CEM quarantine. The good news is that both horses are coming home with a good working understanding of everything from the Grand Prix. Mission Accomplished!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I won't be having a Thanksgiving dinner this year but I will be giving thanks that Donneur has had an epiphany about how to do the one tempi changes! Once he figured out how to manage that big canter of his in this new situation, he has never looked back. In fact, the miraculous thing is that he does the ones easier than the twos and threes. What a thrill to have been there every step of the way of his journey from a five year old to a Grand Prix horse. Mary Anne will tell you that I lamented over every new movement worrying that it would be possible from leg yields to piaffe. But one thing I have to say for Donneur, even though it has been a big job for him to get control over his big gaits, once he understands what to do, he owns it for life.
It is a long and difficult journey from the lower levels to Grand Prix and it is different for each horse. It is important to remember that all the 90% of perspiration and 10% inspiration that it takes to get to Grand Prix with a horse makes it oh so sweet in the end. I am so looking forward to making it official by riding him down the centerline in his first Grand Prix test. I had hoped to be able to do that next week at the show we are going to, but the Grand Prix test for young horses is not being offered at that show. So, we will go PSG and INT 1 for the last time.
My horses get a gold star for being able to function in a 20 x 50 arena with 8 other horses. There are 3 tracks happening at any one time. The track closest to the middle is for handwalking horses, the 2nd track is for riders that are only walking and the rail is for horses moving at a faster pace. It requires as much attention as driving on the Autobahn, if fact, I could have used a rear view mirror on the pommel on more than one occasion. When you are in a lesson with Hubertus and he tells you to do a pirouette on the diagonal, it doesn't matter if you are within inches of another horse, you go on about your business. And just because there might be someone bearing down on you from the opposite direction on the diagonal, don't leave your line when you are doing the tempi changes. I have to say when we were at the show in Paderborn, being in a 20 x 60 arena for my test felt like I had a whole football field. I think it is much easier to go from a small ring to a larger one instead of the other way around.
Next weekend we get to try our hand in the competition arena again and we are looking forward to another successful show. Stay tuned for the results!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

After having a couple of days off, we are back to work after the horse show. We have our sights set on another show Dec. 1,2 and will be very happy to have Mary Anne here visiting at the time and helping us out. This week of training we have gotten back to working on piaffe, passage and one time changes since we had put these things on the back burner 10 days before the last show. Both horses are doing well on the piaffe and passage, starting to make transitions between the two. The highlight of the week was on Saturday for me when I made 8 beautiful ones on Donneur. How sweet it is!
We are going to have to get the ark out soon, we have had rain every day and night for about a week now, with only short periods of sunshine. The horses have not been able to get outside since the horse show and I am sure they are missing their turnout time.
It is so nice to be at a stable where no matter what country you are from, we are all there for the same reason. My Japanese friend, Mieko, gave my horses an interesting compliment. She said that she likes the way they trot, they have a lot of expression, like Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk. Could that be a new way to describe horses that move with more cadence?
It must be Saturday morning because there is a man that comes to the barn each weekend in his motorized wheel chair, even on rainy days, he gets suited up in rain gear. He must be really a dedicated dressage enthusiast. NOT!!! He is coming to get a beer out of the vending machine. I wonder if his wife knows what he is up to? With all of this wet weather, it is hard to get the horses cooled off and their coats dried after work. Even after being clipped 3 weeks ago, they have grown back quite a bit of hair. I have been changing their coolers for a few hours afterwards trying to get them dry but now I have discovered the wonders of the Solarium. The only problem is that my horses are a little afraid of it because they have to stand in a very narrow space and it makes quite a bit of noise blowing warm air on them. Dolly took to it faster than Donneur because I told her it was a beauty treatment and we all know how women like to go to the spa. Next, she'll be asking to get her feet done while she is in the Solarium. Donneur on the other hand, has different ideas. I turned the Solarium on first and tried to back him in, to no avail. He came out rather forcefully and of course hit the Emergency Off Switch with his nose in the process. Are we surprised by that? But you know what? Now that he is doing his one time changes, he can have anything he wants! I feel a Grand Prix test just around the corner. Hopefully, we can do our first one soon. They have a wonderful Grand Prix test for 8,9 and 10 year old horses here in Germany that is very user friendly that we hope to try soon. The only bad news is that Hubertus cracked a vertebrae in his back and is not allowed on a horse for 8 weeks. His wife, Doris, has a big job ahead of her keeping him under wraps until he gets the all clear from his doctor.......

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What a horse show it was! First I would like to thank all of you that sent e-mails to cheer us on, it was greatly appreciated. The horse show was located in Paderborn, only about 30 minutes away, so that meant that we trailered the horses back and forth each day. It was a good size show, with participants from 9 countries and 48 horses entered in my first class. We trailered over on Thursday to school and imagine my surprise to be stabled next to 2 other Americans that were showing there, Sue Blinks and Jan Ebeling. It was really nice to have other American riders there and I must say everyone was very good about supporting each other.
The competition was indoors with the arena beautifully decorated with plants, flowers and many banners. My class had 3 judges sitting at H, C and M. Dolly was my first ride and she put in a good solid test with no mistakes and handled the 20 x 40 warm up area with no problem. We just put our elbows out and went for it. Donneur was also quite comfortable in the warm up, we even had our best pirouettes since we have been in Germany, according to Hubertus. I had a head set on which made the warm up alot easier. Donneur also put in a good solid test, no major mistakes. Over all, I was well pleased with the horses. Hubertus was also complimentary and said that the tests were well ridden technically and that the horses did a good job. Klaus Balkenhol was also there and watched both horses perform and spoke to me afterwards about the rides. Here comes the reality check. Dolly scored a 60% and Donneur 61% which placed them in the middle of the pack. Hubertus and Klaus thought that the judges were too tough on us and that each horse should have been 4 or 5 % higher. But here is the thing: 1) I am an auslander (foreign rider) that they do not know and 2) the Germans have an incredibly high standard for what they want to see. It is assumed that you will do a clean test and then the marks go up from there. They are judging on all of the fine points, is the neck too short, the walk active enough, was the horse crooked. In America, if the horse does the flying change we give a 7, here it would be a 5 for doing it and it would have to be big, expressive and straight to get a 7. But after all, that is why we are here! I want to be measured by the strictest standard and I am willing to knock on the door until they know who I am!
Since I was one of the top 20 riders in the S3 test( equivilent to PSG), I qualified for the Prix St. George Special the next day and had to choose which horse to ride. I rode Donneur and again, he had a good test, very consistent, no major mistakes, and placed 10th, tying with Jan Ebeling. So, we did get to participate in the prize giving and the victory gallop and will bring back a ribbon from Germany!
I was really impressed that my horses could trailer back and forth each day in a van that was a slant load and the spot where Donneur had to ride was about the size of the back seat of a VW. We didn't get back to our stable until 10:00 Friday night and had to leave early the next morning to go back over for our other class. They did tests that they have never ridden before( I only got a copy 4 days before the show) and they had to warm up in a small area. The horse shows here are so different, you don't know until 6:30 the night before you ride what time your test will be the following day. No one checks your tack or the length of your whip, etc. It was kind of like going to a horse show for the first time because you don't know the protocol and it is hard to find out when you aren't fluent in German! I almost missed the prize giving because the class before they placed to 8th but for some reason that I still don't know, the Prix St. George Special placed to 10th. Thank you Sue Blinks for tacking Donneur up while I quickly changed back into my show clothes. We made it with not a moment to spare! The good news is we won a little cash to help cover the entries and now I know that if you can survive a show in Germany, you can do anything! Other results from Americans, Sue Blinks 63% in GP, Jan Ebeling 57 and 59% in S3, Todd Flettrich 60% at GP. It was a great experience and I look forward to uping my game to be able to score the way I know my horses are capable of in the future.

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!