Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tis The Season

Dad, Blazer and I at the 2010 NAJYRC
I want to start by saying a big happy birthday to my Dad!!!! My Dad is by far one of my biggest supports for everything that I do. Although he doesn't know much about horses he is always the familiar face reminding me to have fun. In typical Dad fashion, he worries and questions everything that I do, but at the same time supports me to make my own choices. He is my first call when anything goes wrong and the first call when I have exciting news to share. He is my number one fan and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Dad's birthday always marks the beginning of my holiday season. With the holiday season comes the eventing world "down time". I think it's fairly common with us eventers that down time is actually down time. For the majority of us we find it hard to sit still and need to occupy our time in other ways. Give your horse a break and try something new on your own. This winter I've taken up spinning and yoga. I find both of these to be very helpful in my balance and posture. I've always known people to use these things to help their riding but this year is the first time I've really given them a try. I have to say, I think there's a lot of truth to what people are saying. Come the spring season I hope I can find time to keep these things as part of my regular routine.
Winter is often a time to set new goals. What do you want to accomplish next year? Where do you want to be a year from now? A year from now I'd like to have at least one horse (preferably two or three) competing through the fall season. I'd also like to try and expand my client base and bring in some new business members to the team. I see 2012 as being a real growing year for me. I will be finishing my associates degree at NVCC and hopefully transferring to GMU to finish my bachelors. I've also got some exciting new plans to find a barn to base out of (more on that later). Whatever happens in 2012, I'm ready and exciting. Until then I'm going to enjoy this month "off" and enjoy some family time before I head south and the real work begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Putting My Head Down and Going to Work

Since my last post I've been cleared to start strengthening my shoulder. In the next 6 weeks I should be back on a horse and getting ready for the spring season. That being said, I've been seeing a lot of gym time over the last couple weeks. Since most of my strength has come from riding my whole life I decided to start seeing a personal trainer. Theory being to have a set of eyes to tell me when I'm compensating for my shoulder and to get tools that I will be able to use from here on out. Well you know what they say, things are always better in theory. What I wasn't prepared for was how difficult a good old fashioned work out really is.
Through my years of lesson I've had trainers tell me "put that horses head down and get to work".
With the release of the 2012 training lists I have done my share of reading and stalking. While I will keep all opinions to myself on the contents of the lists. The talk has given me more motivation. Motivation to do better this year in hopes of one day being at that level. I know that I have been very fortunate to accomplish the things that I have thus far in my life but I haven't even scratched the surface of my goals. I could not have done any of this without a support system. A system that I only hope to expand on in this coming year. I've been lucky to have ridden some pretty cool horses the past few years and I hope to keep that going. I'm brain storming better ways to expand my education and team for the future (suggestions welcome!). I hope to one day be one of those riders that I look up to today. I hope to be someone's role model and help give them a chance that I've had.
Pushing myself and working through the weakness of my shoulder put it into perspective. It's always clear on a horse which side is their weak side, which hind leg has to work harder, which shoulder drifts, and we as riders are constantly pushing them through the weak moments. For Blazer it was his left hind, I was constantly asking him to try harder, to be even, to stay straight and soft through both hands and legs. He never gave me less than 100%. So as I try for one more push up or one more rep of some weight contraption I just figured out how to work, I think about my horses and all the times I've asked for one more shoulder-in or one more transition. I've found myself saying "Laura, just put your head down and get to work!" Well, it must be working because all the doctors and therapists say that I'm weeks ahead of schedule in recovery. The search for new horses is starting and I'm excited to get down south and get going with the spring season, just have to keep working on getting those shoulders square!

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the Mend

As I'm sure many of you have gathered, I had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum 5 weeks ago. After selling Blazer to a fantastic new home I decided it was time to do something about my shoulder. Over the past five years I have dislocated it three times and put off surgery to continue with Blazer. Surgery went well and I started physical therapy 7 days later. It is still at least another month before I'm totally back at it riding. However, I've started the search for new prospects.
The plan as of now is to head down to Aiken for the winter again so I am hoping to have a new young horse starting down there. This winter will be a focus on rebuilding, my shoulder, and my team of horses. Ideally I'd like to find a couple nice horses to be competing this season. For now I just have to keep pushing through the physical therapy so I'm back better than ever this spring!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Wind Down

I can't believe summer is almost over! Well, I'm sure the heat will stick around a bit longer (I hope), but classes start on Monday so for me summer is winding down. This summer has been full of last minute, should-i-do-this?, amazing experiences. I've groomed for Stephen Bradley at Jersey Fresh and Bromont, I've ridden greenies, I've ridden hunters, jumpers, eventers, foxhunters, you name it and I tried riding it. This was the summer of "yes". With the end of my career with Blazer I found myself saying yes to anything and everything presented. Like the old saying goes, "experience is something you get right after you need it". This summer I've gained more experience than I ever thought. I learned my strengths, my weaknesses, and my breaking point. For me this summer was about finding out if this was all worth it. 
With one more year left to finish my Associates degree it is time for me to start applying to transfer and finish my Bachelors. George Mason has always been an obvious choice because it is right down the road from Middleburg and would cause the least disturbance in my routine. I've been fortunate enough to have full days of riding and teaching, even without owning any of my own horses. Now that summer is winding down and things will soon start settling back into routines it's time to get serious about my own horses. This break from competing has been a blessing and a curse. I've been lucky to take advantage of opportunities that were given to me, without my own competition conflicts. However, it has been really hard to sit on the sidelines and watch at events!! This summer made me realize that eventing is something I cannot live without and something that I'm willing to put the hours and days of hard work into making happen. That being said it is time to start searching for my next partners. Over the next few weeks I am hoping to expand my own team of horses and get back to a regular routine of competing. I'll be sure to update again soon, hopefully with some exciting new updates!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Excitement

This past weekend pharaoh and I were off to surefire for the novice. Of course since I'm now the magic 19 everything is entered in open divisions so that is a bit intimidating. Pharaoh rose to the occasion brilliantly with a 33 on the flat to put him in third. I was fairly confident going in to the jump phases and he proved me right with two easy double clear rounds. I must say he is a blast on the cross country! And I guess I've failed to mention his 1st place finish at the Maryland starter trials a few weeks before! I'm very excited about this guy and know he will make someone a great packer. He's off to loch moy next for the Maryland HT I then I predict some black flags in his near future!!
Summer has seemed to be flying by with lots of horses to ride, lessons to teach, riders to groom for (did i mention bromont is my new goal for my next horse?? Its gorgeous!) and farms to sit. I have been enjoying every second of it and will have even more time to enjoy it now that I finished my last summer class last night! So to answer a few questions I get regularly, yes I do sleep (not saying how long), yes I love what I do (who wouldn't?) and no I wouldn't trade it for anything!!
Although I'm having a blast with every opportunity given to me I must say I of course miss Blazer. I know he will have a great career with his next rider but it's a bittersweet feeling to know I soon won't see those perked ears every morning. I'm excited for the prospect of a new partner of my own though. He/she has big shoes to fill! (maybe that's why I haven't found one yet...)
Summer is in full swing and I'm excited for the next steps to come, hopefully new horses and more successful events! Next big trip is to kentucky to groom for my area II team at the NAJYRC and until then keep kicking on!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something

As with most eventers i am always looking for something new and something more to try. Since returning from aiken I have been getting the chance to ride a number of horses. This has been great for me because you can learn so much from each horse. There is nothing better for a rider than being adaptable to situations. When you head out on cross country you never know what might happen and you have to be ready to change your plan. I am very grateful for the opportunities given to me and hope to continue finding them.
Lately my plan has changed a lot and still is. With the end of my partnership with Blazer I've taken a step back and am focusing on the younger/greener horses while I finish school. I've always been the type of person to try my best at absolutely everything that I do. The balance between riding and school is one that I like to think I've got down by now.
The first question everyone asks me seems to be "what next?" or "what are you doing with Blazer?" Well I've had a hard time answering that. I have a tough time talking about finding Blazer a new home and I'm sort of stuck in the, trying to finish school but would rather be on a horse, rut. I got the chance to groom for Stephen Bradley at Jersey Fresh last weekend which was a great experience. It was there that I figured out what I'm doing. I might not know what's next but I know where I am. I'm learning. Taking everything in and keeping myself involved even if it's not on a horse. I love to have the chance to watch anything and everything that I can because I think that you can learn something from everything you watch and experience.
Everyone has their own technique and routine and the more you see the more ways you can adapt and build your own techniques. While I may not be out there riding at the two star level right now and I do miss it I'm having a blast just learning. I'm excited to be looking at young horses and trying the things I see and learn out on them. Ive also had the chance to get Pharaoh's Tale back in action and he is coming back better than I left him!! He starts back at the Maryland Starter Trial the first weekend in June then has some Training level events planned after that.
So as far as the rarely answered questioned "what are you up to now that your not competing Blazer?" question goes. The answer is: I'm learning, finishing school, riding as much as possible and loving every minute of it. I am lucky to have had all the opportunities that I have and I'm excited to see what is ahead for me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

I want to start this by extending my deepest condolences to everyone close to Mandar and Dekorum, eventing lost two great horses this weekend...
This weekend Blazer and I went to one of my all time favorite events, Southern Pines. Mondays after an event normally bring reflection for me. Reflection of the good and the bad and the looking forward to what is next. This week I had a six hour drive home to Virginia from Southern Pines to reflect on more than just a weekend but the last four years.

This winter Blazer has felt sounder and fitter than ever before. He had two confident outings at Prelim and I thought that our problems at Young Riders had been summed up to an unfortunate bad weekend. We entered the Intermediate at Southern Pines with a strong partnership and great confidence. On Saturday we warmed up great for cross country and then set off on course. When we reached the sunken road at fence 7 Blazer made it clear to me that his heart is just not in it enough for the Intermediate level anymore. I made the tough decision to retire and walk home from there.

I'm pretty sure every rider has taken the long walk home before. Whether it be from an elimination, a fall, a retirement, or a finished upsetting round. We've all been there and probably shed a few tears along the way, even if we make sure they're out of sight from everyone around. This weekend my long walk home didn't bring me tears of disappointment or anger. My long walk home brought the end of a chapter and tears for the great partner I will miss. I have a great relationship and trust in my horse and I have to trust my feeling of what Blazer is trying to tell me.
While I drove home Sunday I thought back to four years ago when I tried Blazer in Courtney Cooper's ring in Pennsylvania. I remember the smile I couldn't keep off my face when I asked for the canter or first jumped him. I knew that day there was no question about it I had to have that horse. Over the past four years he has taught me more than I could ever imagine. He taught me how to ride, how to handle stress, how to handle upsets, how to be gracious for good times, he taught me to be who I am now.
Five years ago if you told me I would have won the CCI* at Young Riders and placed 6th at the Jersey Fresh CCI** I would have laughed and not thought any more of it. Blazer has given me more than I could have ever imagined I would accomplish in life. Like the title of this post, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” This weekend brought the end of my story with Blazer. While we didn't come off the course crossing the finish line we came off the course with a happy ending. I could not have asked for a better partner to have over the last four years and I know he will be happy with a lower level retirement.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pine Top

I know I'm a bit delayed but better late than never, right?
Pine Top was a great weekend all around.  I haven't seen my parents in over two months now and my dad drove down for the weekend. Saturday we loaded up and headed to Georgia for my dressage and show jumping. 
My dressage test wasn't until 3:15 so we had all the time in the world to get prepped. Blazer's warm up went well and he seemed to peak right where I wanted him about 10 minutes before I went to the ring. Unfortunately once I have him where I want him it's hard to get that back if I let him take a break so we had to keep ourselves busy for that time. When it was finally our turn to go in the ring he seemed a little tired (it was about 10 degrees warmer than it had been lately and Blazer is not a fan of warm weather). Going around the ring I kept thinking to myself, ok whatever you do remember stretch your leg down and don't let your reins get long!!! (These are two things that I have been working very hard to improve). I came out of the ring feeling I had a relaxed and consistent test. However, I know that there could have been a little more energy and ease in our movements. I guess the judge didn't agree with me because we received a 25.2! After watching my videos and looking at the pictures I was proud that I kept my reins a consistent length throughout the test, I just wish they had been about 4 inches shorter so my hands weren't in my lap, but one thing at a time and for now we've accomplished a consistent connection.
Show jumping was next and after a very long wait (due to some very poor organizing and communication on ride times). All prelim riders were given a show jump time of 3:00 which led to many horses having to wait for an unreasonable amount of time tacked up (because you couldn't put your number in if they didn't see the horse and tack). But anyway once I was on Blazer and warmed up he felt great. The weather had cooled down as the sun started to set so the wait worked in our favor. Blazer went in the ring and put in a great round. Things are really starting to come back together for us and things really fell into place on the cross country course Sunday. We came in one second under optimum and finished in first.
It's a great feeling to have my horse back. I think the best advice that Jenn has given me through this whole thing is to just go back to what I know and go back to having fun with my horse. Blazer has had all the work he needs done and I feel like he's feeling happier and fitter than ever. So far this season is looking good. Next up in Southern Pines, where we'll move back up to Intermediate and then it's back to Virginia!

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Kickoff: Full Gallop

I've been in Aiken for three weeks now and so far the routine is ride in the morning, get all the work around the barn done, do some homework, catch up with old friends for dinner, and Wednesday night watch American Idol. It has been a lot of fun staying in Aiken and getting to see everyone that is either here for the winter or coming for short times for events or lessons. The barn we are at is awesome and the people of course are great. Jenn and I are sharing the barn with Mara DePuy and a couple of her students.

Wednesday was the kickoff to my season with Full Gallop. Blazer and I were entered Prelim and started off with an 8:20 dressage ride. I think my truck read 27 degrees when I finished tying my stock tie and left to get on. The cold weather is actually a good thing for Blazer and makes him show more "perkiness and pizzaz" (quoted from the bottom of my dressage test). He put in a great test, I know that there is still more horse in there that I didn't quite tap into during my warm up but I can't complain with a score of 28.2. We sat in second by 6 points going into the jumping phases and he put in a clean show jump round. The goal for cross country however, was to go for a clean and confident round rather than fast. Blazer and I set out and did just that and he put in a great effort all the way around but our time faults dropped us to third. All in all I was very happy with the day and think that it was a great positive note to start the season on. Next we are headed to Pine Top at the end of the month and then Southern Pines II a few weeks after before heading back to Virginia.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Year

Hello from Palm City, Florida!!
I am so happy to be able to say that! Blazer and I are down in Florida now working with Natalia Martin on our dressage. The farm is beautiful and it's definitely different seeing how the dressage riders do things and hearing their stories (totally different world from eventing). We have been here for about a week now and Blazer is really getting into a routine and has been improving everyday. We weren't able to do much jumping since Rubicon at home with the frozen ground and everything. I took Blazer to a farm down the street yesterday to jump some little things and get back into it and let me tell you, we had some cobwebs to knock off! I'm planning on taking him back over next week and letting him jump a little more and hopefully improving on yesterdays performance.
I've got about 10 days left here before starting my journey to Aiken. This is my first winter getting to go south and it is definitely an amazing experience! I'm super excited to start working with Jenn again in Aiken. Hopefully she'll help Blazer and I get back into our old rhythm so we can have a good season. So far our schedule is looking like Full Gallop II, Pine Top Advanced, and Southern Pines II on the way home. I'd love to be able to get a better go at Young Riders for Blazer and I but we will have to see how the seasons works out for us before we make any big plans. For now school has started and my textbooks found me in Florida so I should start on that....