Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finally in Holland!!

After an exceedingly long trip, I finally made it to my destination near Borculo this morning. I left Boise Monday afternoon at 2:30pm and flew 2 and 1/2 hours to Minneapolis. From there, I took a direct flight to Amsterdam, which was rerouted to New York City over Greenland after some mechanical problems with the plane. There was some sort of generator problem on the Airbus and we only had 2 engines. We landed in NYC at 4am on Tuesday, then I had to sit in the airport and wait for the new flight, which left at 4:30pm that afternoon. Thankfully that flight went smoothly, and we arrived in Amsterdam this morning at 6am.
From there I rented a car, and drove to the hotel, which was about 1 and 1/2 hours from the airport. That was a bit of a rough drive, since I was sleep deprived from the last couple days, driving a manual (which I very rarely drive), and in a country I haven't traveled in for several years. I had no trouble finding my destination however, thanks to all my preplanning and my helpful GPS.

I had forgotten how old Europe really is. For some reason this trip I more aware of the weight of history in this area, it is much more palpable to me this trip that it has been in the past. Amidst very modern automobiles and other technologies, you can drive by old churches that are probably hundreds of years old (some possibly older). I didn't get to do much sightseeing today, mostly because I am totally exhausted and having a hard time focusing on much at all, but I will definitely try to do some more after the auction tomorrow.

Today I met Dutch breeder Emmy de Jeu, who has had several horses with Edward Gal, including Sisther de Jeu. She showed me a local farm that specializes in raising young horses in case I decide to buy a foal and keep it here for a period of time to grow up. It was interesting how they raise them, they have large "stalls" (more like indoor paddocks) that house 5-10 babies all of the same age. They are fed much like cattle here in the United States, with the medal gates the horses can poke their heads through to eat hay, and the hay in put in a long heap out in front of the stall. In the winter they go outside for a short period of time in sand paddocks, and in the summer they go out on pasture. The weather in the winter is kind of nasty, and I think mostly they get a lot of rain and moisture so the horses don't stay out long.

As yearlings they are split by gender, so as an example they had a large group of yearling mares and a large group of yearling colts. The owner also foals out mares, and had a pasture full of about 10 mare/foal combinations. The babies grow up there and then move on to a training facility or sales or whatever when they are late 2 and 1/2 year olds. Some of the better colts are prepared for the stallion licensing which will take place this fall.
I did take a short nap in the late afternoon and then had dinner with some of the guests and committee members from the auction. Dutch people (at least this group) are a jovial and talkative bunch, and they were very interested to hear about me and my story.

Tomorrow is the auction. The foals will all arrive at the facility early in the morning, between 7:30 and 8:30, and I was advised to get there early to get extra time to see them arrive and see them in the stable (sage advice!). The foals are presented to everyone at 10am (which will likely take several hours, since there are 75 to go through), but the auction itself doesn't start until the early afternoon. I have a general idea of which foals I particularly like, what my budget is like, how much I would be willing to spend on certain horses, etc. I will nail that down tomorrow morning after I see them in person.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I-1 Freestyle at CDI Estes Park--last day of the show!!

Today was the last day of the CDI Estes Park here in Colorado. The Intermediare I freestyle was again very competitive, with riders vying for the Festival of Champions later this fall trying to get their freestyle qualifying scores. In order to qualify for Festival, riders only have to ride one I-1 freestyle at a CDI and score 62% or better. Even though it doesn't count towards your overall average, it is a good opportunity to show your freestyle to the tough CDI judges and see what they think!

This test was Victor's first-ever freestyle in competition, and he handled the music and the atmosphere like a champ. The freestyle itself went quite well, I rode pretty spot on to the music and the music itself was very well-received. The trot work is to a piece from the Sherlock Holmes movies and the canter work is to a familiar piece from Pirates of the Carribean, and both pieces go together very well. The music is very substantial and a little dark, and it fits Victor's gaits perfectly. Cindy Seburn did the music, and she did an excellent job putting it together and editing it.

Unfortunately we weren't on top form technically today and had several expensive mistakes, starting with a botched left canter pirouette which earned us 4s and mistakes in both lines of 2 tempis. We also didn't show enough collected walk in our freestyle (the rules specify a 20m minimum), so we earned straight 3s on our collected walk. That also pulled down our choreography score. Also the harmony score went down because of the mistakes. In spite of all that we were still able to score 65.8 from that tough panel because there were a lot of good things in the test. With some work on the walk section, and cleaning up the other technical issues, I think this freestyle could score over 70%. We finished 5th, but only 1 percent separated 3rd from 5th.

It was a little bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise good show. The horses have definitely improved their basic way of going, and I'm getting better about showing them to the best of their ability from the get-go. Certainly I rode the PSG with much more impulsion and flair than I ever do. I also have a very good sense of what needs to be done in the warm-up and how much time it will likely take.

Tomorrow we make the long trek back home to Eagle, Idaho. It's been nice to be in a little bit cooler climate and only have two horses to deal with!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Intermediare I at the CDI Estes Park

Today went much better for both horses here in Estes Park. Majek drew the enviable (not) time of first to go at 8am. That made for an early morning. We've been pretty spoiled recently with late morning/early afternoon rides at the last couple shows. He warmed up very, very well, much better than yesterday although slightly on the edge of a meltdown. That is typical for Majek (at least recently), if you go for more power, expression, and uphill carriage, he gets dangerously close to throwing a fit.
Unfortunately he lost quite a bit of that expression in the test. I think I miscalculated my warm-up around the outside of the show arena, and rode walk-trot-walk transitions thinking that would help keep him on my aids and not too overpowered (and hence avoid meltdown-status). Instead it had the effect of putting him increasingly on the forehand and subsequently much of the test was relatively flat and uninspired compared to the warmup. That said, it was a clean, accurate go and was reflected in the improved marks of 64.5% and an overall 4th place finish. I wasn't happy with the test (relative to my goals for him), but I was happy with how it was scored. Although I did like the test on video, even though it was flat relative to the warmup he is much more up and expressive than he was at the last CDI.
Victor I warmed up similar to yesterday, and he felt a little better in the back than yesterday right from the get-go. I got him razor-sharp to the piaffe in the warmup (not that I need that for the I-1, but it is nice thinking forward to next year), super active and easy. Pirouettes felt safer too today, probably because he was more active and in front of the leg. He got a little tense in the test, but I was able to work through most of it. In general though he was very, very solid, and the canter work was much better today (pirouettes were active and small, better uphill carriage in half-passes, more expressive changes). I was happy with my score of 66.5 to place 3rd, although I would have liked to score higher it was definitely an improvement from yesterday.
We also watched the Dressage Seat Finals today for 13 and under. I was relieved to see the pattern was much more technical today and it showed a little more accurately how effective (or not) the riders were about planning their rides and balancing their horses.
Tomorrow Victor has the freestyle at 10:20. It will be our maiden voyage in the freestyle, should be interesting. I plan to warm up similar, although I think I will have to take into account that he's been getting a little tense in the show ring, perhaps ride him a little lower and longer in the canter particularly.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today's PSG at the CDI Estes Park

I was super happy with both horses today in their PSG tests. My main goal for today was to ride with more power and expression from the get-go, rather than starting conservatively (which is what I normally do). Both horses were much better, particularly Victor was really "on" and had a brilliant test despite a few bobbles. Majek is getting much more ridable on the double and less defensive about the contact, so I can push the envelope more. It wasn't long ago that trying to add power to the equation made him likely to have a meltdown!

I was a little disappointed to end up with only a 63 on Victor, although we did end up 3rd in that pretty competitive class. First and second were pretty close both with 66. The judges were mostly critical of the engagement problem in the trot particularly and the slight tension over the back. I also got killed on the little bobbles. Oh well. I was happy I met my goals for myself!

Majek was close behind Victor with a 62 (although 7th, so quite a few horses in that range). Generally needs more power and engagement.

Later that day, we watched the first group of the Dressage Seat medal finals, which I think is a great program to get junior riders focusing on improving their position and seat. It also gives them a big goal to work towards (competing at a national final). The riders definitely sit quietly and well, with suppleness, low quiet hands, and nice posture. That was one thing I was very impressed by the Junior riders in Gladstone last year, they all sat rather well.

That said, the program needs to improve the difficulty of the "test" the riders have to ride. The pattern should demonstrate the effectiveness of the rider, which is why it should be more complex and technical. In 4-H we always had a pretty difficult pattern, which typically included halts, reinback of prescribed number of steps, turn on the forehand and/or haunches, transitions between trot and canter, serpentines, etc. The pattern for the Dressage seat finals consisted of trotting down the centerline, riding a 10m circle right at X, followed by a 10m circle left at X, continuing down the centerline, turning left at C, then walking in the corner. That was it!! Particularly at a National Final, the expectations for degree of difficulty in the test need to be much, much higher.

Tomorrow we start early, Majek goes first in the I-1 at 8am and Victor follows at 9:37. I'm looking to improve Majek's uphill carriage for tomorrow, and clean up a few of the little bobbles with Victor. I also need to ride the transitions within the gait with Victor a little more clearly.

Good night all!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting ready for show day tomorrow!!

Today was the pre-show preparations for the CDI, starting with the in-barn inspection in the morning and finiahing with the FEI jog. The boys schooled well today, a little more settled in their work and ready to go. Majek was in a busy, pissy mood when we arrived in the morning so I got him out as soon as I could.

The CDI short tour (Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I) is looking to be very competitive at this show, with 4 separate combinations currently in the top 15 in the National rankings. Victor and I are just outside the top 15 at 22nd. We are all separated by only a few percent. There aren't any real "big name riders" here (no one who has been to the Olympics or WEG), but several very talented younger professionals with nice quality horses and plenty of CDI experience. It will be an exciting show!!

My main goal for this show is to ride with more impulsion and "go for it" more in both tests, particularly in the Prix St. Georges. I tend to start a little conservative on the first day (which is always the PSG), and then the Intermediare I is always better because I'm more settled and comfortable with pushing more. But you can't get the really high marks doing that in this caliber of competition. Plus it sets a precedent I think for the second day and how the judges view you. I want to get out of that rut, so I am going to make more calculated risks. Majek is getting much, much better on the double, so he tolerates more pressure now. Victor is pretty solid, so I just have to have more confidence to really go for it.

The thunderstorms held off this afternoon for the jog, thankfully. We didn't need a light-show replay of yesterday!! Both horses passed with flying colors and are ready to go for tomorrow. Victor goes at 10:01am and Majek at 11:40. Perfect ride times, not too early, not too late. Relatively close together without being too close. Should be a great show tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the way to the CDI Estes Park

Lana and I left Idaho with the two monsters (Majek and Victor) yesterday morning at 6am for the long drive to Estes Park, Colorado. I have to say, I've never traveled through Wyoming and I was impressed with how desolate it is! The entire state is basically a large plateau of rolling hills in the Rockies. Hundreds of miles of not much at all. We went over one pass where the elevation topped 8600 feet and then went through a signicant thunderstorm where the temperature dropped to 50 degrees. In mid-August!! I can't imagine that place during the winter!

Unfortunately, not far outside of Rock Springs a tire blew out on my horse trailer. I was trying to pass a semi at the time, and heard this loud *bang* which I knew was a blow out. It bent the crap out of my fender and smacked the side of my trailer. Due to my super contientious dad, I found my jack and lugnut wrench and due to all my gym workouts with my personal trainer, I was able to loosen all the lugnuts on the tire. They put those things on tight!! Being young and female has its perks however, so pretty quick we had a highway worker stop to help us and soon afterwards a state patrolman. Watching the cop put the tire on made me think that he spends a signicant portion of his time helping people change flat tires. Wyoming patrolmen probably spend most of their time (1) changing flat tires (2) giving speeding tickets and (3) chasing cows off the freeway.

After stopping at the next town (200 miles later LOL) to get a new spare, we continued on the long drive. Finally we made it into Colorado. But the last 30 miles of the trip just drug on and was up a very winding canyon into the Rockies where I couldn't get my rig above 40 mph the entire way, and many of the turns were 25 or 30mph. Talk about a long ending to a long trip! We finally pulled into Estes Park about 9pm and got the horses all settled in their stalls.

The next day started pretty quietly, we recuperated well from trip and did a little exploring around Estes Park. It is very similar to Sun Valley, being a large mountain resort with tons of tourism, although not quite as upscale. We drove by the Stanley Park Hotel, which was the inspiration for Stephen King's "The Shining". It is an impressive place in person and definitely ominous.

I rode Majek and Victor in the main arena in the late afternoon. Majek was good although a little looky. As I got on Victor the weather was starting to look a little ominous, with some rain clouds rolling in around the mountains surrounding the valley. I had just started walking Victor around the outside of the show arena when I saw a huge lightning bolt touch down a few thousand feet in front of me and simultaneously a HUGE thunderclap cracked overhead!! I jumped about a foot out of the saddle! The other rider and several onlookers saw a bolt of lightning strike one of the lights surrounding the arena, about 20-30 feet behind me!!! I felt it crawl through my scalp and down my back, it was so bizarre. The management ran out and yelled at everyone to get off their horses and get back to the barn NOW!! I, of course, disobeyed by staying on my horse and we did medium trot back to the barn. Good thing, too, because in a minute or so the heavy rain and hail hit. It was deafening on the roof it was so loud. It only lasted a few minutes and then was sunny again.

What was so amazing was how quickly the storm came through. The storms were around the valley at that point, and it was sunny where we were, so I have no idea where the lightning bolts came from. I guess they can travel between thunderclouds? Or move diagonally? Those who were familiar with Colorado storms said that the thunderstorms can move in extremely fast. Evidently they have had riders struck by lightning while riding. Luckily for me Victor has no shoes so he's not a very good conductor of electricity LOL.

The day ended with a very large bug that took a joy ride on the hood of my truck. It had feelers about as long as it was (total length probably 2 inches). It hung on for the drive back to the hotel, so I took a picture (which turned out to be an extremely nice shot!) and posted it on facebook. It's been an eventful couple of days!! Hopefully the next few days are a little more boring. :)