November 5, 2013

Over and Out

When you work with horses you should always be prepared for the unexpected and never ever let your guard down. I was painfully reminded of this rule when I got a little casual while unloading the horses from the trailer after a lesson with George Williams on September 22nd. And as a result Hootie kicked me in the leg. It was a freak thing, but very painful and I'm lucky the injury wasn't worse. I did have to go to the ER for an x-ray and stitches. However, several weeks had passed and my knee wasn't functioning as well as it should. I finally had an MRI the day before leaving for regionals and learned that I had a partially torn PCL and a minor fracture. My doctor suggested that I stay off of the leg as much as possible...if by off the leg, you mean sit on a horse, then sure!

With my fancy knee brace on, Linda, Hootie, Audi, my mom and I closed out the 2013 show season by traveling to Lexington, VA for the GAIG Region 1 Championships the weekend of October 19th. Audi and I kicked off our show experience by bolting across the ENTIRE length of the coliseum while schooling the first day- I think I aged about twenty years when that happened! He was still feeling frisky, spooky and tight (great trio) the next day for our Second level warmup class and scored a not so awesome 62.02% for a fifth place. That afternoon I gave Audi a lunging session, or as Scott Hassler said, a chiropractic adjustment. Audi bucked and leaped, and bucked and leaped, and earned himself an impressive audience of onlookers. Not that I want to become popular for having the big rowdy horse, but I'll admit, he was impressive! On Saturday Audi warmed up great for our Second level championship class and had some super moments in the ring, but we had a costly mistake (ie a flying change) in the left lead canter work. Interestingly there was a big spread between our two scores- a 68.45% from E and 62.38% from C for a combined score of 65.41%. I watched the video and was pleased to see how the test looked and despite the one big bobble, it was a nice test. Audi and I closed out our show weekend with a fantastic lesson with Scott Hassler on Sunday. Even on the fourth day Audi was still full of energy and power, and proved he was very fit.

Now, I need to express my immense pride for my student Linda Wheeling and my boy Hootie. Not only was this their first regional championship together, but it was their best competition to date. Linda and Hootie were outstanding! I think they benefited from having a lot of time to adjust to the show environment since Linda's first test wasn't until Saturday. We stuck to our plan which was to ride Hootie very lightly every day, if he's good just do a little bit of schooling and lots of handwalking to keep him loose. Thankfully our plan worked and they put in two very very lovely tests. Linda scored a 67.58% and fourth place in her First level warmup test on Saturday. And then on Sunday afternoon they scored a 64.19% from E and a 70.00% from C for a combined score of 67.09% to earn eighth place and a big fancy ribbon in a BIG First level AA championship class. I'll admit that I was nervous as I coached Linda for this class. I knew what the two of them were capable of, but also that Hootie had the potential to be very difficult. I just wanted to see them go into that ring and put in a solid test; one that Linda would be proud of. And they did. As I stood on the sideline watching the test, riding every moment with Linda, I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. Here I was watching my feisty 22 year old OTTB at his umpteenth regional championship with my student on his back, and here they were looking fabulous together. It was also extra special to have my mom and Kathy Adams there with me- two people who were there at the very beginning of my relationship with Hootie, and provided us with unwavering support through the many ups and downs we encountered throughout our partnership together. I consider myself to be a competitive person and a competitor, but I also really love being a coach. Having the opportunity to share what you know with others, and support them in their journey is a feeling unlike any other.

Audi looking bright eyed. (Photo by Mark T. Donaldson)

Sharing a laugh with friends. (Photo by Mark T. Donaldson)

Do you think Audi's ears could get any straighter? (Photo by Mark T. Donaldson)
Fancy pants. (Photo by Pics Of You)

Audi Audi Audi, Oi Oi Oi (Photo by Mark T. Donaldson)

Go team!!!!! (Photo by Candace B. Craig)

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