Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Off Season

As we dropped to below freezing temperatures today (it was 10 degrees out when I went down to the barn at 8) the 2009 season has officially come to a close.

Since Championships at the end of September, I have kept the horses in full training/intensity with the plan of tapering down the training for 3-4 weeks beginning next week. It looks like by the weather reports that we'll start this week.

I kept the training intensity up after the shows ended, as I wanted to continue the positive/productive training for a little bit longer. Additionally, I wanted to train in warmer temperatures and knew we'd have some cold temperatures about mid-December and full training would be near impossible during that time.

The plan worked out great. Since the Henrik clinic the main show horses have taken huge leaps in their training (actually all of the horses and riders have).

With Neo (owner, Rebecca Chatfield), his baseline for engagement and being uphill is at another level. We now have a back that is engaged and much more through. His expression in the trot is its best yet. It can only get better, as I get him to step under more and get his neck more relaxed. The canter work is much expressive with more jump and sit. The pirouettes will be pretty darn good next season as we are showing true sit and smaller strides. This will be an exciting late winter/early spring with Neo. Next step is to get the canter zigzags schooling solidly.

For Falcon (owner, Alanna Danna), each day he is looking more and more like a potential FEI horse. He is a hot horse and now we are able to channel that energy into some really positive work. His canter has been the biggest challenge and now we have a canter that is much straighter and with more jump. The next step is to make the counter canter less stressful for him. We have done some single flying changes and they will be no problem down the road for us. In the trot if he engages his hindquarters and releases his back it is easily an 8. I don't know where we'll be come March or April but I won't be surprised by anything.

Claudius(owner, Cindy Bucceri) is starting to take his overall strength to another level. With him being stronger and more fit, he now has more confidence and therefore is schooling really well. He is using his hindend better and better and is accepting the increase in work like a work horse instead of a prima donna. When we come off our off-season break, the focus for Claudius will be on working in a relaxed and focused manner all of the time and to be able to handle a greater collection in the canter. If we get those things, Claudius will be a force to beat next season.

As of right now I have one more show horse for 2010. That is Romany owned by Krista Hawes. I have been working with Romany once or twice a week for about 5 or 6 weeks now. We need to bring Romany into shape and once we do, this horse will be a big surprise. If all goes well, we should have a hidden gem on our hands for the lower levels next year.

To everyone, thank you for reading the blog. All of you in some manner support me in my journey. Without your support and help I would not be where I am at now and without a positive outlook for the future!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't Let A Horse Step On Your Foot..........

Because this will happen:

I am able to ride, so it is all good. Walking is at a slow limp :(.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Henrik Johansen November Clinic

The past two days we had the pleasure of having Henrik Johansen teach us at River Run and Simpatico.

I was able to ride Neo, Claudius and Falcon.

I'll start off with Falcon. I continue to say this over and over, "I am continually amazed by the progress of this horse". And I really don't know why I continue to say this because after this journey so far, I shouldn't be surprised that we are able to school this horse with no problems; and that having him move up the levels over the next couple of years is to be expected-not a surprise.

What I was really happy with the lessons was that the approach I had been taking with Falcon was right on track with what Henrik wanted. We continued to work on what we have been prior to these lessons: lateral suppleness and engagement of the hindquarters. The highlight of the two days was on the 2nd day doing in-hand work with Falcon. I was just able to start riding with a whip and not have Falcon freak out. Falcon took the in-hand whip like a pro and gave us some really good half steps.

With Neo, we continued working on getting Neo to come up in the back more and really reach out in the neck. On the first day we had some really good piaffe and canter pirouettes. On the second day we spent all of the lesson on straightness, engagement, and throughness. We ended up with by far the canter we've had.

With Claudius we started off the first lesson not well. I couldn't get him engaged and listening too me. By the end of the lesson we were starting to get what we wanted. In the second lesson we started off with how we started the day before and within 5 minutes started getting the responses we wanted. The biggest being Claudius released in the base of the neck. Once we get that, we have a solid horse.

The last 15 minutes were probably some of our best schooling and our best trot. The question with Claudius is how far can we take him? Are we going to be stuck at 4th and Prix St Georges? Or can we make the next steps up the ladder? Well, after these past couple of days I have full confidence we can take Claudius up. In fact, during our second lesson, Henrik said that I will take Claudius up to Grand Prix. I am not expecting this to be a quick or easy process getting to GP. But I tell you it's gratifying to get to this point to at least talkabout getting to the Grand Prix with Claudius.

So, I feel very good about these three horses after the past couple of days. Once again Henrik has proved to be one of the best teachers I have ever worked with or seen. His approach gets me thinking about the process and then Henrik gives me the options to use to get to reach the objectives laid out.

Thank you Rebecca Chatfield, Cindy Bucceri and Alanna Danna for the opportunity to ride their respective horses in the clinics.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2009 Regional Championships

Before I begin, I just want to start off by saying I couldn't be prouder of Neo. When we got him back in March he was a skinny, out of shape horse. The horse I showed at Regionals was a completely different horse that had about 75lbs more muscle on him and was starting to show his true potential. At the show, he gave me his best and while we didn't do as well as I would have liked, the effort he showed and the gaits he displayed made me not only proud but very excited for the 2010 season. I left the show grounds with the confidence that we will be very competitive next year.

Ok, now to the fun details........

Our first Championship class was the Prix St Georges Northwest Dressage Championship. In that ride, Neo performed the best movements/gaits in the show ring to date. He was up and engaged and it really felt good to ride. Unfortunately, I made 4 huge mistakes which cost us dearly. The first being we swapped leads coming up the initial center line. When that occurred I thought to myself, "no biggie, nail the rest of the test". The trot work went well and I finally got good medium and extended trots; where I didn't loose the hindend the last 1/4 of the diagonal. Pirouettes have been a work in progress and while they weren't perfect, they were our best to yet. Then the tempi's came. I hadn't missed a line of tempi's on Neo in the show ring, or in practice, since late July. Well, I blew both the 4's and the 3's. And the last mistake was a very abrupt, and early final halt.

I left the ring fairly emotional. I was so excited about how Neo went. We saw from start to finish what this horse can really do. While we still could use some more strength to get better gaits, he did not fade during the entire test. On the other hand, I was extremely frustrated with myself for the errors I had made. It was a tough couple of hours for me as I sorted through everything.

We ended up 6th overall (out of 19) with a high 61%. Without the mistakes I figured around a 64% which would have put us solidly in 3rd place.

On Saturday was the Prix St Georges USDF Regional Championship. In this test, we did not quite have the engagement of the previous day, but with less errors. My two mistakes were having a flying change coming out of the left pirouette and a flying change coming into the right pirouette. Leaving the ring I was happy, but was curious to see what the judges thought because we didn't quite have that sparkle from the day before. I figured a low 60's score. Well, that wasn't to be. We received a high 58%.

I honestly felt like I got punched in the stomach. The score didn't make sense. And not that this means anything, but everyone who watched that ride, they were shocked too. I can't explain it but it was tough to swallow. We ended up 8th overall for the class.

Like I stated at the beginning of this entry, overall I am excited and encouraged by Neo's progress over the past 6 months with me. The first show of next year is about 7 months away. I have the utmost confidence that over the winter we can elevate ourselves to another level. And I'll be using that little bit of disappointment I had from the show as motivation to make ourselves even better during the winter training.

Finally, a big "shout out" to everyone who helped me:

Rebecca Chatfield: thank you for the opportunity to ride your wonderful horse and giving me your full backing in getting to this show.
Rachel Robison: thank you for the grooming you provided at the shows. The last two shows you were absolutely perfect in what you did.
Wendy Meyers: thank you for the "eye" and guidance over the season; especially over the past 5 weeks leading up to the Championships. You had me (us) ready!
Everyone who traveled down to Devonwood to come watch up and support.

August Schooling Show

On the last Sunday of August, I took Falcon, and Rachel with Gitano, to the last EI Schooling Show of the season.

The primary purpose for taking Falcon was to see if doing a full show campaign next season would be in the cards. Falcon has been doing solid work in his training the past couple of months where he began to get over his spookiness/nervousness and really started to show off. He's gone from a horse I knew I could get around at walk/trot/canter with no problems for me, and his owner Alanna Danna, to a horse that I know will be competitive at the lower levels. If I can put changes on him, then maybe even the upper levels.

I took him out at First Level for the first time. Minus being a little "nervous" getting off the trailer, he settled down once I started our warm up. I just kept it simple and it paid off. He went into both classes, minus a minor spook here or there and a pretty funny whinny, like a seasoned pro. He scored 70% and 68% for his tests. I figured if it were a rated show, the scores probably would have been in the mid 60's.

How far this horse has come over the past year or so is truly remarkable (from a completely petrified horse who was scared of any work under saddle to a horse that is beginning to trust himself and really show off some solid gaits).

So, we have the winter to polish things up with him. Look for us to be showing at First Level and Second Level next season. A big thanks to Alanna Danna for her patience with her horse and letting me work with both of them!

My groom Rachel, went into the show ring after some time off from showing and put in a solid 2-4 test on Julie Bennett's schoolmaster Gitano. The little guy, at 19, showed he still can put on a game face and was happy to strut his stuff. They both looked sharp! We are still looking for a care lease situation for Rachel in her pursuit of making a Young Riders team in the near future.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2 Weeks Out

I'm 2 weeks out from Championships and Neo is going great!

That's all-check back in 2 weeks to see the full show report.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Whidbey Island Summer Show

Going into the Whidbey Summer Show I was extremely motivated to show well with having the disappointment of the Devonwood Show in the back of my mind.

I was able to make some small adjustments in my riding and in my general health. Following the Devonwood Show I enlisted the help of a chiropractor, Dr Mitresh Parmar, who began some intense sessions with me not only to get my body back in alignment, but also to get my body functioning better. Specifically my adrenal glands were extremely fatigued.

The week of the show I noticed a remarkable difference in my energy levels, my stress levels, and most importantly my confidence. I felt calm and collected and I really started riding like that more and more.

With the horses, we were starting to see some mini breakthroughs occurring. Most specifically with Claudius. With Claudius, his major disobedience is having a slight head tilt to the left. Occasionally I would be able to get him straight but not consistently. Well, after spending the most of 2 weeks riding with my left hand higher than my right hand (all of the time and in all gaits) we started to get good results. Not only did he look straighter I could feel his back round up into my seat more than it ever had. With that, he lost a lot of the tension in the base of his neck and began to truly come through.

With Neo it was still a matter of getting him more fit/stronger and to be able to round his back even more. In practice we started showing loftier gaits and were really having true sit in the pirouette work.

Because of late ride times both Friday (4:20pm and 5:30pm) and Saturday (5:30pm and 6:30pm) I did a light schooling session in the mornings on both guys to loosen them up. Mostly it was at the walk and working them deep and through. Each day I rode Claudius first in the Prix St Georges.

The warm up on Friday with Claudius was going along fine and then when schooling a walk pirouette to the right he had a "minor" hissy fit and jumped and twisted in the air. This was unlike any disobedience he had ever given me because his back was fully engaged and he felt through. This proceeded a few more times in the warm up. In my mind I was thinking this could be bad because he is engaged enough to launch me good if he wanted to. I attributed this nonsense to the fact that Claudius was truly straight and engaged; and that after years of riding tense/stiff/crooked he had no idea what to do with his body and this was his expression of trying to figure it out. Writing this now, it's great that he was feeling like that (straight) but at the time while on him I wasn't exactly thinking "whoo hoo!".

Going around the ring prior to being rung in by the judge Claudius was tense. Claudius' M.O. for shows is to have a "goofy" first test and then settle into the show routine. Now with the added bonus of him leaping around I was wondering what was going to happen.

Well.....as we passed the judge's box for the first time, Claudius leapt hard to the left and then to the right, throwing me out of position. I immediately got my seat back and continued on. On the long side we did some rears and leaps; all of which we would be no big deal but with his back really round and engaged I was starting to get a little nervous. The second time by the judge's box he lowered himself and did a "juke" move like you would see an NFL running back do to avoid a defender. At this point, the bell has been rung and I'm thinking to myself, "Should I even try to enter the ring?". I picked up the canter and after one more hijinx we were able to settle in.

Once we entered the ring I knew I could put together a good test. Minus two small bobbles and one big explosion in the left lead canter depart, Claudius put together some of his best movements. The medium trot was the best we ever have had. Claudius' shoulders were up and engaged, he was powering strong from behind and he wasn't braced in the base of the neck.

I was very pleased that Claudius was able to come back to me and work, unlike his first test in May where he blew me off the entire ride. We ended up with a 59.2% and 5th place; which considering all the "diva moments" we had I was very pleased with. It was really gratifying having people come up to me afterwards saying that was by far the best they had ever seen Claudius go before.

Afer getting off Claudius, I had a few minutes before I needed to get on Neo and I took that time to get my nerves back under control.

On Friday, Neo put in a solid ride. I changed my tactic for riding him for this show: instead of trying to go for the biggest, most spectacular movements, I dialed it down and rode safe. I still was lacking (sadly) a score to qualifying for Regional Championships at PSG. I knew if I rode safe and clean we could get it. Well, that's what happened. I rode an error free test (minus the priouettes being a little big) and we scored a 61%, placing 2nd.

On Saturday's rides, Claudius was still a little hyped but did not pull any stunts in the show ring. I made a couple of mistakes (a miscount on the 3's) and had a couple of steps of trot into the final halt. Additionally, I didn't have him as straight as I would have like. We scored a 59.4% which was 2pts away from a qualifying score. Without the mistakes in the 3's we had the score.

Claudius was the first horse to go in the class and maintained the 1st place position till the last ride of the class; which was Neo.

In that warm up, Neo gave me a spectaular first 10 minutes where he was engaged and fluid. Then he started running out of gas. While the test was not bad, again a clean test, we lacked some of the pizazz that we could have shown. Regardless, in front of a tough judge, we score a 60.4% and won the class. Giving me both 1st and 2nd in the Saturday Prix St Georges.

Needless to say I had a very estatic owner in Rebecca as this was Neo's first win for her.

On Sunday, I elected to scratch Neo as we had fullfilled our goals for the weekend (qualifying score and a win) and I didn't want to stress him even further.

Claudius was a full go. Claudius gave me a good warm up. He was now relaxed and fluid. Knowing I had this, I played a conservative test and just wanted to go clean. This cost me a little bit as I left the haunches trailing just a little in all of the half passes. However, Claudius was relaxed and fluid the entire time. I was so proud of him. I did make a mistake in the 4's and the pirouettes were a little big, but I truely thought I had made the qualifying score. Big mistake on my part for assuming that. The judge gave us a 58% and what really hurt was she gave me a 5 for rider. I cannot for the life of me remember receiveing a 5 for rider.

Everyone was terribly surprised by the score but I guess that's the fun of being at someone else's mercy. I of course say that to be PC, but 4 days later I'm still fuming. Partly because this judge, judged us at Devonwood in July, where we went much worse and I received a 6 for rider from her.

So, I will be taking Neo to the Regional Championships to show the PSG for the USDF Region 6 Championships and for the Northwest Dressage Championship. Claudius is not qualified for the USDF but is for the NW Championships and therefore I will wait till next year to take Claudius to Championships. I know having another year with Claudius will make us more competitive and be one of the horses to beat in 2010.

We have 5 weeks from today till Championships. I am giving Neo a very easy week to recover and in the meantime I am mapping out his training to allow him to train optimally and get in the rest that he needs to be in tiptop shape come the end of September.

My groom Rachel Robison did a knock out job grooming for me. Not once during the entire weekend did I have to worry about the horses and for every class they were turned out to the 9's. Thanks!

Once again it was great to have the support: my friend Lara who came up from Boulder, Julie, Lynn, Mom, Julia, Xander, Norma, Nancy, Roxanne and Bonnie. Your support and cheerleading is always appreciated!

And a BIG thank you to Rebecca Chatfield and Cindy Bucceri for the opportunity to show their great horses.

Finally and big thanks to Wendy Meyers for the feedback she gave me in the weeks leading up to the show and in the warm ups for each test. Great, great advice on getting the horses ready!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Devonwood Dressage Show

Devonwood was one of the big shows for me this season. Next to Championships this is the second "biggest" show in the region.

I took down Claudius and Neo to show at the Prix St Georges.

The short story, and that's all you are going to get, is that while we didn't have a bad show, we didn't ride as well as we could. I wasn't looking to win the classes (Claudius did win his 4th level warm up class), but go into the classes and feel really good with how we did. That never happened. A big part was I couldn't find my mental focus and didn't ride with the sharpness that I would have liked too.

I took the week after the show fairly easy and now this week I'm back on track. I feel my confidence back and am getting both Neo and Claudius riding well.

We have the Whidbey Summer Show show 2 week from tomorrow. I have the utmost confidence that I will be able to not only get the horses going better before the show, but will be able to find my "zone" in the show ring.

In the meantime, it's lot's of practice both on and off the horse.

The one great thing about the show, besides showing at a fantastic venue, is the help and support I received. Owners Cindy and Rebecca, and groom Rachel, worked tireless for me throughout the entire weekend, and in very hot weather too. A big thanks to some of the fan club who made the drive down (Mom, Wendy, Julie, Norma, Roxanne, Joan).

Thanks for reading and I'll put an update in before we leave for the next show.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Show Week For Devonwood

Next weekend I have the 2nd biggest show of the season (Championships being the biggest) at the Devonwood Dressage Show. Devonwood is hands down the best facility in the region. The biggest reason why I'm taking my guys down to this show is the fabulous footing in all the arenas (show rings and warm up rings). Some of the other venues in the area should take note on the footing. Additionally, a top notch judging panel will be on hand.

The team that is going down is Neo (with owner Rebecca Chatfield), Claudius (with owner Cindy Bucceri), Sharon Hummel and Sabu, and Deborah Hauck and Nick. Today is only Sunday and I'm feeling very motivated for the show.

I'll be showing Neo at Prix St Georges and making our debut at Intermediate I. Neo's training lately has been solid. I'm very confident in our trot work and hope to pull 8's (maybe even a 9) on our all of the extended trots. In the canter work our changes are good and I just need to get a better sit in the pirouettes. If I can keep my mind in check during the rides we should be near or at the top in all of our classes.

Claudius will be going Prix St Georges and if I can keep him relaxed we should be able to wow the crowd. The last two days of training have shown me I can go into the ring with the utmost confidence. I ran through the PSG today and it was heads and shoulders above what we showed last month. While the half pirouettes where still "a little" large we had better sitting than previously. If I can keep the engagement in both the trot and canter half passes we'll be pushing 8's and 9's!

My goals for Neo and Claudius are pretty simple: go through each ride error free, have a clear and positive mindset during the rides and get qualifying scores at PSG. Anything else that we get (i.e. blue ribbons) will be icing on the cake.

Sharon and Sabu have been displaying great work in their lessons and I expect them to continue their great riding like they did at the Whidbey Island Show. Deborah and Nick have also been doing well and should produce qualifying scores at Training Level.

I'll post an updated blog about the Devonwood Show next Monday.

A couple of pics from the Henrik Johansen clinic last week. I got some really good work from the four horses I rode (Neo, Claudius, Nick and Sabu) and found this to be one of the best clinics he has given me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Whidbey Island June Dressage Show

Over Father's Day weekend I took the Sabu and Sharon, and Nick and Deborah up to Whidbey Island for the June Dressage Show.

I rode/showed on Friday and then Sharon and Deborah showed their respective horses on Saturday and Sunday.

I rode both Nick and Sabu at 3-3. Going into each ride I knew the flying changes would be a little tricky as Nick is late on the changes a lot, and Sabu prefers to do flying leaps rather than flying changes. In training with each horse we were more on the side of getting consistent, good changes rather than bad changes, but the changes were definitely not 100% confirmed.

On the warm up day, both horses rode beautifully. Both were a little excited about being on the show grounds and I rode them enough to be calm, yet keep them energetic for Friday. Sabu can become a little too excited/nervous but for the most part he keep his emotions in check and really showed off his movement. Nick, who at home can be a little lazy, used his energy to show off a little too.

On Friday morning, I showed Nick first. He gave me a great warm up, and was light and responsive to the aids. Overall, we had a solid test, received four 8's. Our only problems were in both flying changes (both changes were late) and in the turn on the haunches (I goofed in my aids). We scored a 64.8% and 2nd overall in the class. Without the mistakes we would have won. What I'm really proud with Nick is, I only ride him twice a week, and we beat riders who work with their respective horses every day of the week.

Sabu also rode well in the warm up, but was a little more tense than he was the day before. For the most part he kept his nerves in check during the test, but showed tension in some key moments. Specifically, in both medium and extended trots, where we broke gait; in the medium canter where we showed a beautiful medium canter until he became distracted and threw his head, and finally in the second flying change where he got so nervous we trotted through the change. For my first time showing Sabu, I was pleased.

Because of a prior commitment, Deborah was unable to show on Saturday, so I just had Sharon to coach (I schooled Nick later in the afternoon). Over the past couple of weeks, Sharon had put in some very solid rides in her lessons and she started to show off he new found riding. She had strong rides in 1-1 and T-4.

On Sunday, Sharon took her riding up another notch and posted her best ever ride in a show. She scored a 62.8% at T-4; 1pt off a qualifying score. What I am most impressed/happy with is she scored ~10% higher at T-4 from the show in May.

Deborah come through with 2 good rides at 1-1, 61%; and T-4, 62.4% (2pts off a qualifying score). This was Deborah's 2nd show and her first "travel/overnight show".

I am extremely pleased with both my students. It was a great drive back home because in the truck both riders had big smiles still on their respective faces.

Both Deborah and Sharon are in full gear preparing for the Devonwood Show in 3 weeks. I will be taking them, plus riding Neo (PSG and I1) and Claudius (4th Level and PSG).

Later this week on Thursday and Friday, I'll be riding with Henrik Johansen. I'll be riding all 4 show horses (Neo, Claudius, Nick and Sabu) with him. I'll have the clinic report up over the weekend.

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beaujolais Show

This past weekend (6/13-14) was the Beaujolais Show. This marked a big event for me as I was returning to the FEI show ring. This happened a lot quicker than I expected when I created a list of goals over a year ago. What was exciting was, I was able to show two horses (Neo and Claudius) at Prix St Georges.

When I began working with Claudius this past September I put out the goal of riding him at PSG at some point during the 2009 season. At that time, and through most of the winter, I was thinking I could have him ready in August or September. Things started to come together well after I began riding again after the rib injury. Honestly, there were times I thought I was crazy, but kept at it. With Claudius this was his first time at the FEI level.

With Neo, I knew I would be showing him PSG (and Intermediate I next month) when Rebecca purchased him in March.

I won't bore you with too long of a blog post so here's the short and skinny:

I rode Neo first and the warm up went well. I was a "tad" nervous in the warm up and throughout the test. I made some small mistakes in both the pirouttes (walk and canter). I also missed a change in the 3 tempi changes. When I made the final halt/salute I was content. I knew I had put in a solid ride and that while it wasn't perfect it was very respectable. I/we were a little shocked at the score we received: 61.8%. I/we felt it was more in the 63-64% range. We ended up 2nd overall.

For Claudius we had been dealing with a sore back issue. The week before I switched saddles on him (that's a whole different story), and thankfully it worked well. I went into show week with a horse a little less conditioned then I would have liked. We had a good warm up, but I knew I wouldn't be able to collect him as much as I would like. In the test Claudius threw his usual first test of the show spooks, but I was able to put in some descent parts. Compared to the first test at Devonwood last month this was a big improvement. With Claudius it is all about "baby steps". Leaving the arena with Claudius I felt we scored a 56-57%. Surprisingly, and I'll take the score any day of the week, we scored a 60.4% (5th overall).

I was able to accomplish a goal of getting a qualifying ride for Championships on the first day with both horses.

Going into Sunday, I knew I could win the class and really put in a showing with Neo if I put together a good warm up. And I did do that. I had Neo working very well, moving great, working for me, and I also had my mental focus exactly where I wanted. Then in the test, I blew it. I over rode/tried too hard in a lot of sections (most of the canter work). The moment we finished the test I was fuming at myself for riding like I did. I had the horse to do it, and all I needed to do was let him do it. BUMMER!!!!!! We scored a 58.8%. A week later, I'm still a little mad at myself, but will use this as motivation to knock 'em dead a Devonwood next month.

Because of scheduling, I immediately got on Claudius after Neo's ride. It took me about 10 minutes to regain my composure and once I did we put together a good warm up. This ride was much better than the day before as Claudius gave me more of an honest effort (minus blowing me off in the 3's). I was happy with this ride. The judging was a little more realistic with a 58.4%.

Overall I'm happy, but very hungry for the next couple of shows, especially Championships. I have no doubt I'll have Neo ready to be extremely competitive by Championships for the PSG and maybe I1. I know with more time Claudius will be a more solid small tour FEI horse and that we'll be right in the thick of things come September.

It was nice to have a lot of support including some old riding friends come out (Amanda Olson and Laura Journey), plus clients and friends from River Run and Simpatico.

Finally, A heartfelt thank you to Rebecca Chatfield and Cindy Bucceri for the opportunity to show their respective horses. Without you two I wouldn't be here. Also, thank you to Wendy Meyers, Karla Spirtus, and Henrik Johansen for their instruction, guidance, and motivation. And finally to my family for their support.

Friday, May 22, 2009

L'Apertif Show

This past weekend we took some of the horses to the L'Apertif Dressage Show at Bridle Trails. What's nice about this show is, it is a 20 minute drive from the barn and has a very low key demeanor (think a dressed up schooling show).

This was very good as I took Falcon out for his first ever show. We had ridden in a schooling show at Bridle Trails the month prior with him to prepare for the show.

Falcon has been in my program for a little less than a year. Prior to me he had been with an abusive trainer and Falcon lost all sense of confidence and was/is very nervous. Falcon could barely walk or trot without having a massive meltdown. At that time, last June, cantering was completely out of the question. With a training program that emphasized the positive and without any rushing I have been able to bring Falcon around to being close to a "normal" horse. He still has his moments but the last two weeks of training have been absolutely solid.

The fact that I felt confident enough to take Falcon to a show is the biggest success of all. Our goal was simple, go out and have a positive day with no catastrophes.

Mission accomplished and then some. Falcon put in a very solid test (T-3) for his first ride. We inevitably had some tense moments and he sucked behind me a couple of times. Overall, it was a good picture and something even 3 or 4 months ago was almost impossible. We scored at 64.8%, winning the class.

The second ride (T-4) didn't go as smoothly. Mostly because Falcon was a little tired; more mentally than physically. He got behind my leg and then curled up on me during some sections of the test. We scored a 58.9%, but I feel that I was a little to low. After the final halt salute I felt we were more in the 60-62% range. Regardless, it doesn't matter Falcon went well.

I'm very proud of Falcon and look forward to making him into more of a dressage horse! A thank you to his owner, Alanna Danna for allowing me to show him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May Devonwood

This past weekend I traveled down to Devonwood for the Heart of the Valley Show. I went with Claudius, his owner Cindy, Julie and Piero, and Wendy.

The previous weekend I had worked with Karla Spiritus and we had some really good work with Claudius (Neo too) where we got Claudius to lift his back up and come through. This of course has been what the emphasis of the training has been.

I have been battling a nasty head cold for the past week and while I was overall feeling better my energy levels were quite low and I would say my mind was cloudy at best.

The warm up on Friday went alright. We had some decent moments, but I was late or forgetting my aids and didn't get him where I wanted. I wasn't too concerned as I knew I could focus for an hour on Saturday.

On Saturday we rode Fourth Level Test 1. I was pleased with our warm up as I was able to get Claudius through and deep in the work. A lot of emphasis was placed on getting him to stand up on the outside in the canter. I put my coat and top hat on about 15 minutes prior to the start of the test. The top hat is brand new and I had tried it on and thought I had a good fit. BUT I had not tried riding with it prior to the show (a dumb ass move on my part). Immediately, it was shifting on my head. I handed it back to Wendy to stuff some tissue in the hat to get it to fit more snug. After about 4 or 5 adjustments I thought I had a fit that would at least get me through the test.

We rode in the indoor arena and Claudius immediately became pumped but still rideable. I thought to myself, "Take advantage of this and get some spectacular gaits". Well, that didn't last because as we made the corner to enter the arena Claudius began bouncing around in the canter. I walked him for a moment and then re-entered the arena. Upon entering the ring, Claudius became extremely tense and nervous, and began doing one time changes up the center line. Impressive yes, but not the entrance I wanted.

After the first medium trot across the diagonal my top hat began lifting off my head. In each subsequent corner I tried to push it down on my head to keep it from falling off. Well, on the extended trot we had lift off. It wasn't a big deal, but looked a little amateurish having my top hat come flying off and then riding the rest of the test without it.

The rest of the test we had some descent moments, but I couldn't get him to relax. We had another series of 1's on a single change. I kept trying to get the next movement better.

We scored a 62%. I was disappointed because the horse I presented looked like the Claudius of old and not the Claudius I have spent the past 8 months getting better.

My plan for the test on Sunday was to find a way to show Claudius that we are here to work/show and that there was no reason to be nervous.

Our ride on Sunday was Fourth Level Test 2. The first 15 minutes of the warm up was filled with stiffness and tension. I continued to work on getting him deep and through. Then finally we had a break, and he relaxed and came through. He wasn't as deep as the previous weekend with Karla, but I had a better horse than I did the day before.

The test was better in quality as I was able to ride him without much muscle. However, we made some huge mistakes that cost us dearly. On the diagonal lines in the canter work, Claudius immediately became stiff and running (something must have happened in his past as this is his normal reaction). In the working pirouette movements I wasn't able to get the half halts to last and either had a very big pirouette with no sitting or bend, or we had steps of walk. Also in a flying change Claudius took the half halt and trotted instead of balancing up and then changing. We scored a 61%.

While the scores on some of the movements don't reflect us, we did have a strong start to the year. Our mission is still the same and that is to get Claudius in better shape and more confident. I know if I can get him deeper and through in the work at home, I'll present a better package at the Beaujolais in June when we show Prix St Georges.

A big thanks to Claudius' owner Cindy Bucceri for allowing me to show her horse; plus she did a fantastic job grooming. Another thanks to Wendy Meyers for coaching during the show and to Julie Bennett who did a fabulous job with her horse Piero. They destroyed the classes on Saturday and Sunday with 68%'s at Second Level Test 4. I'm very proud of her!

Next show in the L'Apertif this Sunday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

2009 Show Season

The 2009 show season is just upon us and here's where I'll be this summer:

May 9-10: Heart of the Valley Dressage Show, Devonwood Equestrian Center . I will be showing Claudius 4-1 and 4-2.

May 17: L'Apertif Dressage Show, Bridle Trails. I will be showing Falcon T-3 and T-4, and coaching Sharon and Sabu, and Anne and Fox.

May 23-24: Clinic at Mandolin Dressage, Gardnerville NV. I will be traveling to my friend's farm to conduct a two day clinic.

June 12-14: Beaujolais Dressage Show, Donida Farm. I will be showing Neo PSG, Claudius PSG and coaching Cindy and Claudius at 3-1.

June 19-21: June Whidbey Show, Whidbey Equestrian Center. I will be showing Sabu and Nick at 3-3 on Friday and then coaching Sharon and Sabu; and Deborah and Nick the rest of the weekend.

July 10-12: Champagne Classic, Donida Farm. TBA

July 17-19: Devonwood Summer Show, Devonwood Equestrian Center. I will be showing Neo at PSG and I-1, Claudius at PSG and coaching Sharon and Sabu and Deborah and Nick.

August 14-16: Whidbey August Show, Whidbey Equestrian Center. I will be shoiwng Neo at PSG and I-1, Claudius at PSG (maybe I-1) and the rest of the lineup to be determined.

September 25-27. USDF Region 6 Championships, Devonwood Equestrian Center.

This schedule of course will probably be changed as things progress.

Last month I took Falcon and Cinzano to a schooling show for their first show experiences at Bridle Trails. For their first "show" I couldn't be happier. Falcon was able to check his nerves for each test and put together two tests that were quite respectable and Cinzano also overcame some nerves and put in a solid test.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 30, 2009

March Henrik Clinic

The past week and a half I spent 4 days clinicing with one of my instructors, Henrik Johansen. I was able to clinic 4 different horses.

I was able to take Claudius in two lessons. Henrik knows Claudius quite well and Claudius has a reputation of not fulfilling his potential. I have been working with Claudius for about 6 months and working very hard to get Claudius to want to work. We have come a long way and it showed immediately when Henrik didn't recognize Claudius as I warmed Claudius up.

The emphasis in the trot work was to bring the shoulders up and get the hindend quicker. We spent a lot of time in the lateral movements working on increasing the impulsion by riding out to near a medium gait halfway through the movement. In addition we spent time in half steps and then going into quarter turns on the haunches.

The canter has been our weakest link and Henrik put a lot of emphasis on making sure the outside was engaged and straight. We spent a lot of work leg yielding off the outside seat and leg and then in a renver (haunches out) on a 20m circle. That was by far one of the most challenging things I've done. All of this work paid off as we were able to start some solid schooling pirouette work.

I have had a goal of showing Claudius at least Prix St Georges this season and after these sessions I feel confident to have Claudius ready for the PSG by June.

I had a very solid session with Nick and Henrik continued the theme I had been working on with Claudius of having a straight horse in the canter. We spent a lot of time in the renvers, especially on the right lead canter. Once I had Nick listening to me I could produce a flying change with no effort and the half passes just sailed across the diagonal.
The one thing Henrik emphasized was to ride Nick more like an FEI horse even though I'll be showing him 3rd and 4th this season.

Sabu is also another horse Henrik knows quite well and this was the first time Henrik saw me on Nick. Once again Henrik was quite happy in how the horse is going. The big thing with Sabu that we worked on was being able to have Sabu transition within each gait without bracing in the base of the neck. In the first lesson we spent a fair amount of time at the walk to get this. By the second lesson I had the walk down within the first couple of minutes.

The big thing we worked on in the second lesson were flying changes. I have "settled" Sabu's changes down to what they used to be, but still needed some help refining. The left to right change has been our achilles (mostly a late change) and Henrik gave me a good exercise to work on it, which I hadn't thought of.

At the very end of the second lesson we had a trot that, for Sabu, was engaged, uphill and expression-it felt great!

Neo is the new guy and I only had 5 rides on him before our two lessons. Neo's two limiters are strength and straigtness. Henrik gave me a couple of different approaches to getting him straighter. Neo is fairly stiff on the left rein and Henrik had me not even focus on that and instead get the left shoulder up and the right hind engaged and then eventually I'll have what I'm looking for.

The second ride went well and Henrik immediately commented what a difference from the first day. We spent about 1/4 of the lesson on canter pirouettes. It was evident strength is what we are working against; but I was able to get some steps from time to time that showed what Neo can do.

We had a good audience for the second ride and everyone was open with the praise for Neo. Henrik saw no reason why I wouldn't have a strong season with Neo at PSG and I1

The big picture items I was reinforced with and it's so hard to skip this, but keep at the basics: the trasnitions, the straigtness, and having the horse respond to me. With all of that, everything is easy! Thanks Henrik!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weather Gods

The past two Sundays I've attempted to take three of my young horses to the EI March Schooling Show and each Sunday we have been met with uncompromising weather. Last Sunday we had snow on Saturday night and today we had snow, wind and rain. We actually made it to Bride Trails today and when we were within a mile of the show grounds, the snow really started to come down and stick to the road. In a situation when you're not pulling a load, the roads weren't bad-but I'm not going to risk the horses' safety and therefore we promptly turned around and schooled at home instead.

I'm guess the weather gods are saying, "We don't want you to show the young horses". All I want is to get them in a show like atmoshpere before the big shows this summer. Hopefully we can pull that off in April!!

Upcoming this week (Wednesday and Thursday) is the Heinrik Johansen clinice at River Run and Simpatico. I will be riding Claudius, Cinzano, Nick and Sabu in the clinic. The following week I'll be taking Neo to another location to take two lessons from Heinrik.

Neo is due to arrive Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, for which Rebecca and I are very excited about.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 6, 2009


Congratulations to Rebecca Chatfield on the purchase of her new horse Neo! Neo is a 16.1h, chestnut, 13 yro Rhineland Warmblood. Rebecca and I have been looking for a horse for about 8 months and I think we have the horse we both want.

I traveled to Denver this past weekend to try out Neo and have him vetted. Neo is a great ride and will be a fun partner to work with. Fortunately, I was able to have my old friend Dr Page, perform the vet check. Neo did pass the vet check and to help him out we are going to change his shoeing a little bit to help him land more heel to toe.

Neo will be shipped out next week and we should have him in the barn hopefully at the end of next week.

I will be showing Neo this year at Prix St Georges and Intermidaire I. Look for us at our first show in June.

I'll be posting pics in a couple of weeks once we are settled.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Over the last weekend of January I traveled down to Wellington, FL to go watch the Exquis World Masters Dressage Masters CDI 5*. It was held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The start list was filled with world class Grand Prix riders: Steffen Peters, Anky Van Grunsven, Edward Gal, Hans-Peter Minderhound, and Lars Peterson to name a few.

It was a great to watch with the Grand Prix on Friday, and then the Grand Prix Special and Kur on Saturday night. Steffen had a tremendous Grand Prix and it was quite remarkable to watch a Grand Prix with only a couple of minor errors. He ended up scoring a 75.5%. The freestyles were just as good. Anky had a horrible Grand Prix and while I'm not her biggest fan, it was fun to watch a big turnaround. From the moment they entered the stadium for the Kur you could tell she was "on" and that there was no way any of the mistakes from Friday were going to happen.

I ended up staying with a very old friend of mine Ana Gilmour. I knew Ana way back when, during my Keenridge days. Ana came out in January of 1997 from Wisconsin for a few weeks. A couple of years after I left Hilda's Ana came over and worked for Hilda for a few years.

Through Facebook, Ana and I reconnected only a couple of months ago. I hadn't spoken to her since that time back in '97. To be quite honest, I was a little nervous about spending a couple of days with her as I hadn't seen/talked to her in ages.

Well, that nervousness was all for not, as it was like we had been friends the entire time. I attribute this to the connection we have of working for Hilda. Having that same bond of common suffering means that we related to each other right away.

I have a very similiar relationship with my friend Amanda Olson. I knew Amanda as a teenager in Washington, and then we worked at Hilda's together. Since that time, Amanada and I have also had a close bond. I mostly attributed that to us knowing each other as kids, but after hanging out with Ana, I'm thinking the bond of common suffering is more of a reason why.

I can go into details of how that is, but really it is one of those things you need to experience to understand. It is really cool (as stupid as that sounds) to know I have two close friends for life through my time at Keenridge.

Friday, January 30, 2009


With sad news to report, Vienna will be out for the 2009 season. At the end of November, Vienna's left fore began showing swelling after two rides. We immediately stopped riding and had a the vet out. An ultrasound showed there may be a small tear somewhere around the fetlock, but nothing specific. We decided to stall rest her and ice.

With no improvement, Vienna last week went in for an MRI. The MRI showed two tears in her lateral sesmoid tendons. The bad news is we do loose her for this season. The good news is we can probably expect a full recovery if all goes well.

She will be laid up for the next 9 months. While I am sad that I am unable to continue the training I had with her at the end of last season, I am very happy that the mare should be back at the end of 2009 and will hopefully be back in full for 2010.

She is only five and a half and if we loose one season at this age, it really doesn't make a difference in the long run. We can still expect a lot from her over the years!

Here's to a healthy recovery to Miss V!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm Back.....Back In The Saddle Again

So today is the third straight day that I've ridden since the injury; and so far, so good. I wasn't planning on beginning any sort of riding until next week, but it started feeling good enough to try. I've done limited riding, only 2-3 horses a day, and not doing full work (20-30 minutes in duration).

I'm very happy to report that I have experienced absolutely no pain; as there was one ride where I was stressed and I had no response! If anything, I'm more stiff than anything else. It feels like I've done a couple heavy days of weight lifting.

I can tell my timing is slightly off during the rides since it has been over 3.5 weeks since the injury. I'm pleased where I am at, and I can start back up where I left off fairly quickly.

I'm going to take it easy through the weekend if the response is good, then full bore next week!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

One Hell of A Winter

The title says it all. We have finally got out of the deep freeze that sabotaged the last two weeks of December. However with the warmer weather and heavy rains we now have a new monumental issue on our hands: floods!!

As of today (1/8) River Run is completely flooded. The Snoqualmie River reached 8 ft above flood level about 10am this morning. This meant there was 2 feet of water in both the barn and arena. The horses were moved last night to the critter pad (an elevated section of land with portable stalls). The horses are completely safe and sound!!!

I feel completely fortunate to have such wonder owners in Julie and John Bennett, and barn manager Ramon Their care has been absolutely tremendous. I have not been to the barn since Tuesday and not once have I had to worry about the safety of the horses.

I was unable to get to Storybook Farm today because all roads to it where washed out or under water. The farm itself, minus the lower pastures, is completely fine.

So......a reevaluation is now in order. Between the deep freeze/snow, my broken ribs, and now the flood, the horses are now a little bit behind in terms of their fitness. BUT it is only the beginning of January so I'm not stressing at all. I'm hoping to be back riding full time by the beginning of February and will now push back the goals a little bit. First show isn't until the beginning of May.

In regards to the ribs, they are better but I am no where close to feeling pain free. I got on Sabu for a couple of minutes on Tuesday and cantered him for a short time. There was no pain at all during the ride!! However, I've been pretty stiff since. I'm getting massage work done tomorrow and hopefully acupuncture in the next few days.

Let's already write January off and look forward to February and beyond!