Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finally home!!

After a grueling 15 hour drive yesterday I'm finally home back in Boise (or more specifically, Eagle), Idaho.  Lana and I drove straight through; it is always a tough drive but it doesn't really matter if you lay over or not...its still tough!  We got into Eagle at about 1am, after having left W Farms at 7am.  The drive was relatively cool (although hot in the Mojave desert, which we thankfully traversed early in the morning). 
I made the difficult decision to leave Monkey at W Farms and put him up for sale.  I've been thinking about this for a while, so those of you who know me know that this isn't a new development.  He's 14 this year, and coming off of a successful showing at the Festival of Champions (FOC) means this is good timing to sell him.  I'd really rather not, as I'd love to do the GP on him, but in the end I think the timing to sell him is really good.  I was very impressed with David and Alisa Wilson and Amanda Barr-Olson and their facillity, and think they will do a good job finding him an excellent home where he can teach someone all that he knows and be spoiled rotten (certainly more than I spoil him!!). 
This certainly isn't the end of my high performance career.  I've got several superstars in the wings that will be competitive for next year's FOC.  Rumor has it FOC will be in CA next year, and I'll for sure be ready. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back in Chino Hills again!!

Today was another travel day for Monkey, Lana, and I as we made the long trek back across the country (made significantly shorter by flying rather than driving!).  The truck was scheduled to be in Gladstone at 5am to pick up Monkey and I, which meant we had to be at the grounds at 4:30am to finish getting everything organized and strip the stall (yes, at this show you have to strip your stall otherwise they keep your $125 deposit).  I didn't sleep at all last night, for some reason when I have to wake up super early I have a heck of a time sleeping the night before.  So I was pretty zombie-like in the morning! 
The truck was pretty much on time, and it was a BIG one.  It was an 18 wheeler, and the semi was huge!  I've never ridden in a rig like that before.  The hauler said he could put 15 horses on it if need be. 
Monk was going to be traveling with an elite group to the airport, as several of the other horses from Gladstone were flying back to California.  Breanna (Kathleen Raine's GP mare), Fandango (the GP horse Guenter rode), Sundance 8 (Steffen's short tour horse), Royal Prinz (the I-1 Reserve Champion with David Blake), and Pretty Lady (the YR Champion with Brandi Roenick) all traveled with Monk on the same truck to the airport.  The truck was packed to the gills with their equipment, it was a good thing I packed relatively light!  I couldn't believe how much stuff they had brought.  Luckily that truck was big!
This time we traveled to the Allentown airport in Pennsylvania, which was quite a bit closer and easier to get to than the Farmingdale airport (since we didn't have to go to Long Island, New York!).  There all the horses loaded up on the plane; it was the same plane we had flown over on with the same group of guys loading the horses and flying with them.  Monkey got to fly next to Breanna, I told him he needed to talk to her about piaffe and passage. :)
The flight was totally uneventful, this time I was so tired that I just slept pretty much the entire time.  I was prepared for the cold this time and brought one of Monk's coolers (which I never used, since it was never cold!) to use as a blanket.  We had a few bumps but mostly the ride was smooth.  We did have one horse in the very back (right in front of us, unfortunately), who would kick when he got stressed.  So every now and then if the ride got a little bumpy or the engines powered up he'd kick the back board and wake us up! 
Once again we landed for a short period of time in Kentucky (Louisville) to pick up a few more horses (racehorses), who were on their way to California and to fuel up the plane.  It was about 1 1/2 hours from Allentown to Louisville, and about a 4 hour flight from Louisville to Ontario.
We arrived in Ontario almost an hour early!  That was kind of a problem, as my ride for Monk wasn't going to be there until 1:30pm eastern time.  And of course the agent didn't call Amanda (from W Farms, who graciously offered to pick me up) and let her know the plane would be early.  There was enough to do with unloading the gear, and then unloading all the other horses, which took up enough time for Amanda to get there.  It was mildly stressful, as Monk was the only one hanging out on the plane, but he seemed relatively happy and not too stressed out about it.  Thankfully, the plane wasn't on a schedule, as their next flight isn't until tomorrow.  The ride from the airport to W Farms was short and uneventful, and Monk settled into his stall at W Farms pretty quickly. 
From there I had to go pick up Lana, who flew separately on a commercial flight out of Newark to LAX.  Her flight was scheduled to arrive in LAX at 4:15, and it is easily an hour drive from W Farms to LAX (in good traffic!).  After picking her up, we decided to have dinner nearby to wait for the traffic to clear up (traffic down here is insane!).  So we found a nice mexican place on the bay in Marina Del Ray and watched the pelicans and harbor seals and sailboats.  Every now and then a fishing boat would go by, and you could tell which ones had been successful, because they were followed by a swarm of birds trying to get at the fish guts being tossed into the water by the fishermen.
The drive back to Chino Hills was long, traffic had cleared up a little, but it was still pretty slow.  It took a good hour and 20 minutes or 1 1/2 hours to get back to W Farms.  My driving has gotten very solidly urban, I'm sure I'll quickly regress to driving like I live in Boise soon, but for now I do the two-blink signal and slam on the accelerator.  Between New Jersey and Los Angeles, I've had plenty of time getting acclimated to freeway driving in major metropolitan areas!
We did a quick evening check on Monk, who looked pretty happy and relatively settled, then off to the hotel.  Lana is already asleep, and its not even 9pm!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I-1 freestyle, and final wrap-up!!

Today was the last day of the competition!  It seems like it went really slow for the first week we were here, then all the sudden it's over.  It was quite the experience being here amongst the best Dressage riders and horses in the country. 
Monkey warmed up very well for the I-1 freestyle, much more uphill and active, but without being quite as tight in the neck and tense as he was yesterday in the warm-up.  I lost a little bit of that in the test, which was unfortunate but that's the way it goes.  Generally I was happy with the test, the tempi changes were again the highlight.  I think I got a few 7.5s for those on the bending line.  The pirouettes could have been better balanced.  I scored 68.8 and ended up in 13th place, which would also be my overall placing for the Intermediare championships.
By yesterday and today my nerves were pretty much under control.  I was pretty nervous for the PSG, but after getting that ride over with I realized that I was at (yet another) horse show and just needed to ride like that.  So the I-1 and I-1 freestyle were much better in that regard.  I drew first to go in the I-1 freestyle (again), which can be tough!  But the nice thing is that I got to watch pretty much all of the rest of the competitiors.  There were some really nice freestyles and some that were not so great.  But definitely the caliber of competition here is high! The riders are all pretty experienced, and the quality of horses here is really outstanding. It is an honor just to be here.

David Blake and Royal Prinz really pulled out all the stops in his freestyle with fantastic trot work (I didn't get to see the rest of it as I was running back to the barn to get my horse ready for the awards ceremony!) to clinch the reserve championship behind Caroline Roffman and Pie.  Steffen ended up fourth with the young horse Sundance, who is an absolute super-talent (but very green) and has a tremendous future ahead of him.
Tomorrow we fly back to California.  The truck is scheduled to pick Monk and I up in Gladstone at 5am (yuck!), from there we travel to Allentown, PA, then we fly to Ontario.  I'm going to spend a day in California, resting from the trip, then Wednesday travel back to Boise.  It'll be nice to get home and back to normalcy!  But I have another show coming up the last weekend in June, and so far I am scheduled to ride 4 or 5 horses in it.  As they say, no rest for the wicked!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Much improved ride in I-1

Today was the first full day at the show, starting with the GP special, then the first round of the Brentina Cup, and finishing with the I-1.  The GP special class was very good, although most of the horses and riders looked a little less inspired than yesterday.  Steffen managed to edge out Tina Konyot today with a beautiful piaffe/passage tour that made up for some small mistakes in the tempi changes.  Adrienne moved up in the standings with a very nice ride on Wizard, and Heather and Paragon also had a much improved ride.  Looks like the team is Steffen, Tina, Jan Ebeling, and Adrienne (the US gets to send one individual rider in addition to a team of 3 riders).  Todd and Otto look to be the alternates. 
I didn't get to watch the Brentina Cup rides, as I was getting ready for my I-1 test.  The scores were quite good, however, with a couple of riders breaking 70 and several others in the mid to high 60s. 
I was the first to go in the I-1 at 2:15pm.  I was a little more motivated and tough in the warm-up, to get Monk more active and uphill.  The warm-up felt a little rough, but I smoothed it out for the test.  The test itself was quite nice, everything looked more balanced and organized than the PSG, with the exception of my first pirouette which I bungled.  I ended up with a 67.816%, which I was very happy with.
The nice thing about going first in the class is that then you can watch the rest of the class.  There were a bunch of good horses in the class and several really super rides.  I was very impressed with David Blake and Royal Prinz and Mette Rosencranz and her horse (who's name I can't spell).  Both rides were very well balanced, active, uphill, and supple throughout (in addition to being mistake free).  Their scores were well deserved.  Some of the others I was a little less enthusiastic about, although they still scored relatively high.  But it wouldn't be a dressage show if you didn't disagree with the judging!
Tomorrow I'm first to go again in the I-1 freestyle at 10:30am.  It'll be fun to ride my freestyle in that arena, I think it will be great!  I plan to have a similar warm-up for tomorrow, and I'll have to deal with that left pirouette issue in the warm-up as well.  Monk's been a super star, so I just want to have another good, solid ride.  Then Lana and I will get everything packed up so we can leave bright and early Monday morning!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Riders set the bar high in today's GP

Today's GP class was absolutely unbelievable, with every combination coming in and putting forth absolute top effort!  It was really interesting to watch the improvement from last weekend, where each competitor rode very conservative and looked slightly petrified to ride in their first GP in the Olympic trials.  They have steadily improved over the 3 tests, and today set a huge standard for GP in this country.  Many of the tests were not only clean, but the horses were so much more uphill, cadenced, and active throughout than they were last weekend.  It was very exciting to watch!  Tina and Calecto had a fantastic ride, starting with a gorgeous first halt that earned her multiple 9s and a 10.   The entire test showed suppleness, activity, lightness, and power.  Calecto really tries his heart out for her.  She deserved her 80% and the win!
I rode Monk, trying to channel the GP rider's power and verve, and he went very well.  Tomorrow I hope to ride with more power and expression, even if I make a mistake or two.  The weather has continued to be perfect, in the upper 70s to low 80s with some clouds and relatively low humidity.  We've been very lucky in the weather department!
I'm starting to put together my return trip (that wasn't high on the priority list until recently).  Looks like the truck comes to pick up Monk and I bright and early on Monday morning at 5am.  We travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where we get on the plane for Ontario.  We are scheduled to arrive in Ontario at 1:30pm, and I have arranged to have the very awesome Amanda Barr-Olson from W Farms come pick us up.  After getting Monk settled at W Farms, I have to pick up Lana at LAX (she arrives at the greatest time, 4:30pm, right during rush hour!).  Then I think we'll stay a day in Chino Hills before driving home to Boise.  I think I'm going to be exhausted Monday evening!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

First test at Gladstone...check!

The show finally got underway for Monk and I today, with the Prix St. Georges test.  The competition was tough, with 5 riders scoring above 70%.  We were one of the last combinations to go, and we had a solid, mistake-free ride to score 65.76% from the 5 judges and place 11th among some of the best Intermediare combinations in the country.  I was very happy with my ride!  I've had some issues with the PSG with Monkey recently, for some reason he likes to throw in one-time changes in various locations.  Plus I was a little nervous for this ride, being my first test at such a venue!  So I was relieved to ride the test mistake-free. 
The Intermediare I is on Saturday, and my goal for that test is to add more uphill expression and power to his overall way of going.  Everything worked today, but the comment from the judges was that I was too conservative and he needs more power/expression.  We have a schooling day tomorrow to address some of those issues.
The biggest problem with this show is how much down time there is!  I'm so used to riding a bunch of horses and having several clients to teach, that having a lot of time to sit around and hang out is hard to get used to.  It is a little harder to control your nerves too when you have that much time to think.  I did spend some time in the morning watching some of the GP horses school, which helped give me a good mental image for my ride.  Tomorrow I'll get to watch the GP (it starts at 9am), then ride Monk afterwards.  That will help too.
Weather was perfect today in Gladstone, maybe 80 degrees with some sun and some clouds!  We really lucked out with that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The FEI jog for Intermediare horses

First we showed up to Monk's flooded stall this morning.  It rained quite a bit last night, and the way the stalls are situated (on a hillside) and where Monk was located, meant that he was standing in a bunch of water.  Luckily he had enough shavings to keep him above the water (mostly, although he had charmingly dug a hole in one corner that was water-filled).  We were able to move him to the neighboring stall, which had formerly been the tack stall for a couple of the juniors.  The Juniors still hadn't left yet (they were waiting for some Paralympic riders who were sharing the same truck), but we managed to convince them to move their stuff and let us move Monkey. 
I rode later in the morning and got him in the main arena again today.  Much better weather today, dry and relatively cool (70s or so) with a light breeze.  He was very good again, trying to outdo those fancy GP horses warming up next to him LOL. 
The jog was at 3, and was relatively uneventful.  They held the jog in the main arena after they rolled the heck out of it with a roller (last weekend it was on the hard ground next to the indoor).  It was good to get in the arena with the huge scoreboard, which had spent the last few days at the Paralympics, so Monk hadn't seen it yet.  It is huge, and has large shifting lights on it (a score, a horse's name, the USEF logo, etc), and it makes a funny buzzing noise.  Monk seemed pretty uninterested in it.  He trotted just fine for the jog and passed with no trouble.  I think everyone passed without a problem.
I ride the PSG tomorrow at 12:23pm eastern time.  The class starts at 10am, and I'm the third to the last rider.  The PSG is actually the toughest test for the two of us, being on the cusp of GP I think it gives him a little too much time to think now.  My goal is mostly to get him a little more uphill in the trot work.  I also want to ride the changes clean, as that has been an issue lately (he loves to throw in one-times).  So we'll see how it goes.  It's an accomplishment just to be in the arena competing!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wet day today in Gladstone!

The weather here is just wacky!  A few days ago it was almost 90 and high humidity, Lana and I were laying around in our chairs dying in the heat.  Today it rained all day, poured at times, although it stayed relatively warm.  I really wanted to get Monk in the main arena again (as he was a little tense in there yesterday), luckily for me it coincided with one of our significant rainstorms!  Monk and I were totally soaked by the end.  He was a trouper though, and trucked right through it like it was no big deal.  I rode him bigger and more forward today, and it helped his activity level and engagement.  Now I just have to try and slow him down without losing that.  Always trying to make things better!
In the morning Lana and I watched fellow Northwesterner Erin Alberta ride her Paralympic Individual test.  Unfortunately Rocco was overly impressed by the environment and got behind the leg.  Erin worked through it. and has kept a super attitude about this setback.  The Paralympic riders were inspiring to watch!
Tomorrow is the jog (3pm).  So I have to ride in the morning, then get both of us ready for the jog.  There's also a rider meeting at 11am.  So getting busy!  No more laying around in our lounge chairs.  We'll know ride times for Thursday (psg) by tomorrow evening.

Monday, June 11, 2012

USEF High Performance meeting and other news...

Today was a transition day at the show facility, with the juniors and young riders leaving for home (or preparing to leave) and the I-1 and Brentina Cup riders arriving.  The usual travel woes ensued, one Junior left for her 13 hour drive home to Kentucky, only to have truck problems 20 minutes from the facility and turn around and come back.  They took the truck in to the shop and are hopeful it will be fixed tomorrow afternoon.  Another Junior has her horse leaving on a truck for California, which was supposed to leave at 6am, but has been significantly delayed (they were still at the barn when we left around 5pm).
I attended a USEF High Performance meeting this morning.  Most of the GP riders attended and a few I-1 riders.  It was pretty interesting, as it was basically exactly the same discussion that our Jr/YRs (and their parents) have on a regional level, only now on a much higher (national/international) level!  The discussion boiled down to: fundraising and selection competitions and the size of this country.  The meeting started with Debbie McDonald talking about wanting to clarify and/or specify the criteria for the Developing Rider program, as she feels the current criteria aren't picking out the caliber of riders/horses that have international potential.  The discussion moved to how to find talented younger riders/horses and how to get the help they need.  Then the discussion moved to financial issues.  The Developing Rider program has been largely funded by Akiko (Steffen's sponsor), as many USEF programs have been cut due to budget cuts.  Anne Gribbons talked about wanting to send some promising GP combinations to Europe next year, to get the US team European exposure, but several riders felt that those funds would be better spent developing combinations in our own country (which I tend to agree with). 
The discussion then turned to next year's CDI schedule, and the sad lack of CDIs in California next year.  It looks like we have about 5 or 6 in California next year (3 or 4 in So Cal).  The California riders bemoaned the fact that there are so few, but the response from the High Performance committee was that the show managers have a hard time to fill them.  According to the East coast riders, many riders on the East coast will enter them, just for the experience and to be part of the show.  Therefore the classes are pretty large and the CDI can actually pay for itself.  In fact, one GP rider complained about having too many CDIs in Florida!  However, on the West coast, many riders are intimidated or unwilling to enter CDIs, so only the elite riders end up in the classes.  As a result, the classes are small and the CDIs have a hard time making any money.  Therefore fewer CDIs.
I rode Monk for the first time in the Main Arena today.  He was a bit more tense and stiff today, I think both of us were intimidated by the atmosphere.  I didn't think I would be intimidated, but riding in that arena for the first time was a little difficult!  We'll ride in there the next couple days, so we can become comfortable with the atmosphere.  Additionally that arena stays very warm and stuffy, because it is surrounded by (quite tall) trees on all sides it doesn't get any breeze at all.  The outdoor arenas up by our tent stalls are on a hillside, and are much more open with better airflow.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Now I know what rain is!

Everyone had warned me about the crappy weather here in New Jersey today.  The morning was actually pretty nice, overcast and not too hot, but by the afternoon the humidity increased and it heated up significantly.  By 3 or 4 o'clock it was in the mid 80s and 53% humidity.  I'm told that it wasn't even that bad by NJ standards...I can't imagine what it would be like if it were 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity! 
By late afternoon storm clouds were forming, and then we had the heaviest downpour I've ever seen!  I'm from Portland, but I've never seen rain like that.  The weather instantly went from hot and humid to absolutely POURING down rain in huge drops.  Water was running down the streets in less than 5 minutes.  It was amazing!  I can't imagine riding a test in that kind of rain.  Holy cow!
We watched the GP special today.  All of the horses and riders were much better today, everyone looked like they had breathed a sigh of relief after getting through the GP and therefore rode their horses much more uphill, active, and forward today.  Several combinations looked like they were riding different horses!  Tina Konyot had an amazing ride on her own Calecto, she rode with tremendous power and expression while keeping the harmony and suppleness.  She scored 76+% and seriously challenged Steffen and Legalos (who nevertheless won with 77%).  3rd through 6th continues to be very tightly fought, with any of those combinations more than capable of filling a spot on the Team (Todd/Otto, Jan/Rafalca, Adrienne/Wizard, Guenter/Fandango).  Heather and Paragon were much improved today and broke 70 percent.  Both Pierre St. Jaques/Lucky Tiger and Shawna Harding/Come On III also had beautiful and much more expressive rides today, coming very close to the 70 percent barrier.
We also watched a few of the early Junior rides.  I was impressed by the seat and position on many of the riders, I think they must have come up through the Dressage Seat medal program.  They had textbook positions and rode very quietly.  Most of them didn't ride with enough half-halts, so their horses weren't as well balanced or prepared for the movements as they could have been.  But the riders generally looked like they were on a good way.
Monkey is doing great, his body feels better because he is drinking and eating normally again.  He doesn't feel like sitting on a stick horse anymore!  He was great to ride again today, once again getting inspiration from the GP horses I suppose.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

First Leg of the GP!

Today Lana and I watched the best Grand Prix combinations in the nation compete for a spot on this year's Olympic team.  It was inspiring, to say the least!  Each combination absolutely deserved to be there.  Steffen expertly guided his newest ride Legolas through a beautiful test and was far and away the winner with 76 percent.  The piaffe/passage tour on that horse is unbelievable and I'm sure easily earns him 8s and 9s.  Tina Konyot had a beautiful ride as well on her stallion Calecto to slot in 2nd with 72.7.  The next 4 riders were all incredibly close, all within 1 percent.  It is going to be a very close fight for the 2nd and 3rd spots on the Olympic team!  It was nice to see some of the riders make mistakes, not because I wish them ill, but because it helps me see that even at the best riders in the country are human too!  Even at the highest level it is still a sport and everyone still has something to work on and improve.
I rode Monk after the GP, he was super. I think we got some inspiration from the GP class!  Today I worked him a bit harder, predominantly on getting more activity and expression in the trot.  I also worked some on the half pirouettes from the PSG, which are harder for me than the full pirouettes in the I-1.  I find riding them out of half-pass helps to keep the bend, but eventually I have to ride them off of a straight line.
It looks like pretty much everyone is warming up in the indoor, then moving to the main arena.  Monkey and I haven't been in either of those arenas yet, that will be next week's project. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

First day riding

I rode Monk for the first time since arriving in Gladstone today.  He was pretty good.  He's lost some weight (and those of you who know him, know he isn't heavy to begin with), so right now he's kind of like riding a cross between a giraffe, a racehorse, and a greyhound.  I didn't want to work him too hard, just did some basic suppleness and activating work and some changes on the diagonal.  I don't want to overdo the piaffe/passage work, but it helps to activate and loosen him if I do it right.  He also loves to throw in one-times (mostly in the PSG), so I've decided to spend some time the next week riding lots of diagonals with single changes or 3 changes every 5 or 6 strides, to keep him with me. 
Afterwards we went for a "trail ride", also known as the trek from the warm-up arena to the show arena, over the bridge and through the woods.  Monk's not much of a trail horse but he decided it was fine after I insisted that he needed to do it.  It looks like the indoor arena next to the show arena is closed to members of the "Gold medal club", whatever that means (probably means you have to spend a bunch of $$$ to be able to warm up there).  So one of my projects this week will be clocking the time from the warm-up arena to the show ring.  It shouldn't be a problem, it isn't that far.  I had to face a similar issue a number of years ago at one of the Arabian Regional Championships at the Puyallup, WA, fairgrounds...the warm-up arena was easily 5 minutes from the show arena, and you couldn't see the horse in the show arena so you had to really watch the time to make sure you'd get over there when you were supposed to.
We spent much of the day resting in our new lounge chairs.  I decided after getting here that we needed some chairs (since I hadn't brought any, being paranoid about how much stuff I could or couldn't bring on the plane) so we went to Target and bought a couple.  Those of you who know me are familiar with my fantastic and much coveted horse show chair.  Well now I have another one!!  The juniors and young riders (and especially their mothers) were running around frantically getting ready for the jog and vet inspection, and Lana and I spent the time reclining in our chairs.  We got several comments.  LOL
We ended up missing much of the jog; all the GP horses had gone by the time we got there.  We did see some of the Juniors and YRs.  Luckily we did get to see Steffen schooling Legolas in the indoor, which was amazing and beautiful to watch.  That combination is currently in #1 position going into this weekend (since Ravel isn't here) and I think they are the combination to beat.  He didn't do a whole lot with him today, but lots of basic work on suppleness and ridability.  In San Juan they were unbelievable.  Can't wait to see his tests over the next 2 weeks!
The GP starts tomorrow at 8am.  Lana and I are going to be sure to get over there early and take care of Monk beforehand, so we can watch the class.  Should be awesome!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beer situation resolved, and in other news...

Today I figured out the beer situation here in New Jersey.  Not only do they not have hefeweizen in this state (which was bad enough, I have to drink Blue Moon instead), but they don't sell beer or wine at all in grocery stores!  You have to go to a liquor store to buy it.  Keep in mind that I'm coming from California, where you can buy 80 proof vodka at Albertson's!  It never ceases to amaze me how different the liquor laws are between the different states.  I'll never forget my trip to Texas when I discovered what a "dry county" is, now that was wierd.
Monkey looked super today, much fresher and rested from traveling.  He's very perky!  Lana handwalked him a couple times and he was feeling a bit frisky.  According to her, he tried to show off his "fancy moves".  I asked if that meant passage and she said yes, he does it quite well.  Now he just has to do it when I tell him!  He's been drinking a ton of water and eating well, thankfully. 
So far the weather here has been very pleasant, much cooler than California and Idaho.  It's been in the mid-70s during the day and mid-50s at night.  Skies have been overcast and we've had some afternoon thunderstorms and rain showers.  The humidity is definitely higher here than in Boise (surprise, surprise) but not unbearable.  Yesterday the forecast read that it would heat up to around 90 over the weekend, but today it looks like its supposed to stay in the upper 70s, maybe low 80s.  I told Lana the weather seems like a cross between Portland and Boise weather...overcast and slightly humid all the time like PDX, but with afternoon thunderstorms like we get in Boise sometimes.
I have to say I rather like the New York/New Jersey accents.  The accent gives the person a certain edge and makes them sound cooler and tougher than they probably are (at least in some cases).  That said, so far the East coasters have all been relatively friendly (as opposed to what I expected).  They are curt and blunt but not unfriendly.  The driver of the truck yesterday was the first genuine New Yorker that I've met, and his first conversation with me was complaining (loudly) about how the Mexicans on the plane wouldn't help us load our gear onto the truck.  "They just stood around!!  Unbelievable!!" 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Travel day to Gladstone

My morning started at 1:30am with my alarm clock going off.  Then packing, driving to the hotel, and getting all my stuff ready to travel.  Hubbards showed up around 2:30am to pick up Monk and Rocco, and after some discussion we got Monkey to back into the straight load stall.  Luckily for me, the driver had no room in the cab so I got to ride to the airport in the back of the horse trailer.  I have to say I have a newfound respect for the noise and discomfort those horses endure in the trailer, particularly when careening down a Southern California freeway!  It was bouncy and extremely noisy.
We arrived around 3am, and after a short wait we were able to get into the airport.  The horses are loaded directly from their truck onto the plane (ramp to ramp, so they don't touch the tarmac).  So each truck pulls up to the plane, unloads the horse(s), then drives off, then the next truck pulls up.  The horses are led up the ramp into the plane, and once up there the tie-stalls are built around them.  The horses haul three across in small tie stalls.  The stalls consist of interlocking panels that are easily assembled or disassembled.  There is a small section in the very back of the plane for passengers (people), there were only 16 seats back there.
The wierdest thing about riding in a cargo plane is that there are no windows on the sides, so you have no visual orientation for where the plane is in space.  You go by feel and by the sound of the engines, as to whether you're acending, descending, cruising, or what-have-you.  I could tell when we were going down to land, but didn't know if we were actually landing until the plane hit the runway.  The flight was generally very smooth, as the pilots make sure not to make any sudden turns or steep inclines/declines.
The horses were a little more nervous and active on take-off and landing, and also if we hit any turbulence.  I think it was partially how wierd it must feel to them, when the plane moves around, but I also think it is the noise.  When the plane lands and the pilot reverses the engines to slow it down, the sound is deafening and the horses all react to it!
After a short layover in Kentucky to fuel up and pick up more horses, we landed in Farmingdale, NY, and got on a truck for Gladstone.  It was unfortunately early afternoon, so rush hour was just starting.  The trip was fairly long (probably 1.5 to 2 hours), and I got into Gladstone about 5:30pm (eastern time).
Lana had no trouble on her flight from LAX to Newark, and was able to get a rental car and made it to Gladstone just 10-15 minutes before we arrived.  I had a last minute panic about hay yesterday, but it turned out to be no big deal as I had no problem ordering some and Monk rather liked their timothy.  I also brought along a bale of compressed alfalfa for him, to try and keep his calorie intake up.  Right now he looks like one of those racehorses that was on the plane with him!
All of us are exhausted.  Off to bed!  Quite the day of travel.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Trip to Gladstone tomorrow!!

I dropped Lana off at LAX this afternoon, as she was unable to get a spot on the charter flight with Monkey and I.  Almost 2 hours later, I was back at the barn (you've gotta love LA traffic).  Monk was definitely more settled today, I rode him this morning which seemed to help him calm down some and feel more at home.  I finalized my packing for the trip; I tried to condense everything down to bare essentials, to minimize the amount of stuff I have to tote across the country. 
The flight leaves tomorrow at 5am, which means we have to be at the airport in Ontario with horses at 3:30am.  Which means Hubbard horse transport is going to be at W Farms to pick up Monk and Rocco (the horse Erin is riding) at 2:30am.  Which means I have to be awake to pack and get going at 1:30 or so.  I set my alarm for 1:15am.  Ick!!
The flight is to arrive in Farmingdale, NY, at some cargo/military airport around 3pm (eastern time) or so.  From there, Monk and Rocco will be trucked to Gladstone (Monk going directly to the show grounds, Rocco going to a nearby farm for a few days).  ETA for arrival at Gladstone is around 5, depending on traffic, which can be hideous on Long Island.
I had a last minute panic about food, I realized that this is a charter flight for horses, not a commercial flight for people, so I figured they probably wouldn't have any kind of food or beverage service on the plane.  Combine that with the two trucking trips (somehow I think they won't stop at Subway for me), and I ran to Albertson's this evening and picked up a bunch of snacks and a couple bottles of water. 
I also proceeded to panic about hay, as I don't know if they'll provide hay on the trucks and plane or if I should.  Or if Monk will like the hay they have.  I am bringing one of my bales of pressed alfalfa (it fit very neatly into one of my rubbermaid containers), so at least I'll have some of that for him.  Alfalfa is evidently hard to come by in New Jersey.   I'll probably end up bringing some of my grass hay in the morning for him.  Although he probably won't eat that either.
He's still a little dehydrated, so I'm worried about what he's going to look like when he gets to Gladstone.  I did give him a senior/beet pulp mash this afternoon/evening, which he ate pretty well, but I can't make it very watery or he won't eat it at all.  He's very picky about that.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rest day in Chino Hills

Today was a nice rest day here in Chino Hills for all of us.  After yesterday a rest day or two is necessary!  We slept very well, of course after a 15-16 hour drive you generally sleep pretty well.  Normally I feel like I have a major hangover after such a long drive, but thankfully not so much this time. 
We took Monk out a couple of times during the day and hand-walked him around to stretch his legs and get him moving.  He looked good, pretty settled in and not too anxious.  He is a little dehydrated, which is unsurprising given the long drive and hot temperatures yesterday.  He's eating hay and his grain pretty well (although he didn't eat much of his beet pulp).  Tomorrow I think I will ride him lightly in the morning to get him out and stretch his legs.  I will probably also give him a mash of equine senior to try and get some more water into him.  He's a little finicky about what he'll eat (can't put too much water in it or he won't touch it), so I have to find the magic mixture of enough senior with enough additional water.
We spent some time this morning watching the training sessions with David and Alisa Wilson at W Farms, which were very nice to watch.  Good riding and nice horses!  Additionally I met up with a horse I've known from years ago at Sonnenberg Farm, the Dutch mare Sarrington whom Brooke Voldbaek showed for several years.  She's currently boarding at W Farms with her amateur owner.  It was fun to see a horse from the past; I'm continually amazed at how small the horse world is.
We spent the early afternoon relaxing at the hotel, then ran a few errands later in the day.  At this point it looks like Lana is flying separate from me and the horses (unfortunately), so I will drive her to LAX tomorrow evening so she can catch an early flight on Wednesday from LAX to Newark.  I also have a call into Hubbard Horse Transport to figure out the situation for Wednesday morning...would be nice to know when the truck is going to be at W Farms??  I know they're coming to pick up Erin's horse Rocco, and I know we have to be at the Ontario Airport with horses at 3:30am...
This whole adventure has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of deal, and continues to be one.  We shall see what tomorrow brings!

Drive from Eagle, ID, to Chino Hills, CA...done! Check!

Yesterday Lana and I made the long and exhausting drive from Eagle, Idaho, to Chino Hills, California, in preparation for our flight from Ontario to the east coast (which leaves on Wednesday morning).  We left the barn at right about 4 am (mountain time) on the nose and arrived at W Farms in Chino Hills at about 8:30pm (pacific time).  That's a long day. 
This time I took the route east to Twin Falls, Idaho, then dropped south through eastern Nevada (Wells, Ely, then down into Vegas).  From there we went west on I-15 through the Mojave Desert and over the San Bernadino mountains, dropping down into the east side of the LA "area" (the sprawling metropolis that it is, with all of its huge suburbs).
The drive was long and HOT.  I wasn't anticipating the heat to be as bad as it was, although I knew that Vegas was forecast to be over 100.  Much of eastern Nevada was in the mid to upper 90s, and my truck clocked 108 when we were driving through Vegas!  You could barely see the strip when we first started heading into Vegas because of the heavy smog and heat layer sitting over the city. 
From Vegas the drive towards LA wasn't much better.  The temperature was consistently above 103, sometimes 104 or 105.  It is the Mojave Desert, afterall.  Surprisingly, we ran into some traffic problems in the middle of the desert...who'd have thought you'd be out in the middle of nowhere in a long line of traffic??!  It was Sunday evening, and all the partiers who went from the LA area to Vegas or so for the weekend were driving back home.  We were going 5-10 mph at times, if you can believe that.  The entire expansive desert, and this long line of cars creeping along at a snail's pace! 
Of course I worry about my horse (and my truck) in that kind of heat, and kept trying to coax Monkey to drink some water everytime we stopped.  He mostly kind of played in it and tried to throw it on me, so I was pretty unsuccessful.  However it is not at all unusual for him to not drink on a long drive like this one; he pretty much never does.  He did eat some hay and was generally very quiet the entire trip.  That has improved a lot since he was younger, as he used to never eat anything and spend much of his time pawing.
Thankfully, the interior of the trailer stayed surprisingly cool.  I stepped in it a couple times to get hay (I keep the hay in the first stall, which has a lower partition), and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it felt in there.  Of course, he had the entire 5 horse trailer to himself, so there was alot of space, good airflow, and no additional heat being generated by other horses.  My truck pulled like an absolute champ, even with the heavy trailer in that heat.  It only had one horse to contend with, but still, that was a huge relief.
Now we layover at W Farms for a couple of days.  I'm so thankful W Farms was able to accomodate Monk for a few days, it is such a relief that he has this time to rest from the long drive!  The plane leaves from the nearby Ontario airport Wednesday morning bright and early at 5am.  That means we have to be at the airport with horses at 3:30am.  I told Lana we were going to be on east coast time before we even get there!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ready for leave for CA...

All packed and ready for the long drive to California tomorrow.  I decided to do it in one fell swoop, 15 hours or so to Chino Hills (W Farms, who have so graciously agreed to house Monk for a couple days until the flight!).  I thought about overnighting somewhere, but decided it would be better to just get there so we could rest for a couple days before the flight.  It's not like I've never driven 15 hours before, it just sucks every time.  We're planning on leaving the barn with horse at 4am, so hopefully arriving in Chino Hills around 8 or so.
I think we've got Lana's (my co-pilot/groom/substitute coach/substitute mom) flight arrangements worked out as well.  It is still up the air as to whether she can go on the charter flight with Monk and I (still???  The flippin' flight leaves in four days!!), so she has made alternative flight arrangements which are cancellable within 3 days (full refund).  We will hear from the agent Monday morning about whether she can go on the charter flight or not.  So either way we can get Lana there...just having to jump through a few hoops to do so.
I ran through my freestyle one last time this AM with Ernie.  Monk has been going fantastic, he's probably happy to be on the reduced stress program (focusing on the PSG/I-1 rather than the GP work).  I ran through the PSG a couple of times earlier this week, as that is always our weakest test.  We like to showcase our one-time changes in that test (although they aren't required!!).  I feel very comfortable with the I-1 and our I-1 freestyle.
One of my clients ran into me this afternoon at Albertson's when I was buying a few last-minute necessities and beer.  I wasn't there just for the beer, but of course that is what she zeroed in on!  She laughed and laughed again..."now you're ready for Gladstone!!!"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Transportation woes!!

Nothing like the challenge of putting together a trip for two people and one horse from Eagle, Idaho, to Gladstone, NJ, via Ontario, California.  First challenge is finding out how others are getting to the show from the west coast...thanks to Erin Alberta for helping me with that!  Second challenge is getting a spot on a charter flight that leaves from Ontario, California, with under a week's notice.  Third challenge is getting the horse to the airport in Ontario, CA, from Idaho.  Not many horse haulers willing or able to make the trip from Eagle to Ontario on such short notice.  Decide to screw them all...I've driven to So Cal on numerous occasions so I'll do it myself! 
Fourth challenge: getting two people to NJ.  One person is fine to accompany the horse on the flight to the East coast, two people...not sure.  Still not sure, according to the agent, although the flight leaves in 5 days and I leave to drive to So Cal in 2.  So of course, we're looking at flying the other person on a commercial flight...oh yeah, how much is that going to cost on such short notice?  Plus there are no flights out of Ontario, you have to go to LAX or one of the other commercial flight centers (since she's driving down with me).  Add in additional driving time (heck, after 15 hours what's another hour???), plus the uncertainty of how it'll work on the other end.  I arrive with horse in NY (charter flight arrives into Farmingdale, NY, or something like that), commercial flight with Lana arrives into Newark, NJ.  Timing?  Rental car?  Aaack!!
Oh yeah, we haven't talked about the return flight yet.  Not going there until we figure out how to get there.  Oh, and did I mention when the flight leaves on June 6th?  Yes, 5am.  We have to be at the airport in Ontario with horse at 3:30am.  I suppose I won't be sleeping anyway, so that will fit quite nicely into my insomnia pattern.
Today I rode outside in 95+% degree heat in a black jacket (not my show coat), just to get acclimated to it.  Maybe tomorrow we'll turn on the industrial-sized sprinklers and I'll ride a test through that, to simulate the other NJ possibility, torrential downpours.  Wait, is this supposed to be fun???
On the plus side, my FEI passports arrived today.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that after I decided, yes!!  I'm going to do it!!  I realized that I couldn't find Monk's FEI passport.  Oops.  After tearing apart my house, and then my horse trailer, I realized where I had left the last CDI I attended.  So I call up show secretary extraordinare Connie Davenport and *thank god* discover that she's had it (them, I left all 3) all along.  Connie agrees to overnight them to me, and thankfully they arrive at my house today.  Did I mention I leave for So Cal on Sunday???