Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I decided to go out a day earlier than planned to ride Bastian, I had intended to wait until Wednesday and give him a full week off, but I just couldn't resist, it is after all, summer break and while I've managed to keep my self busy with house things and working out my training plan for rest of the year, I was going through some serious equine withdrawal. We didn't do much, just a light 30 minute hack that started with some lovely walk work and ended with cantering some even more lovely cross rails.

Bastian and I haven't jumped in about 3 months, everytime we're schooling though, when we start on anywhere near a line to a jump, his little ears perk up and he's like "Are we going? Can we do it? Please? Please? Pleeeeeaaase? PLEASE!!!" and then's he's sad when we go past it. He loves to jump. So today he was feeling so great that I figured he deserved a treat. When I pointed him at the first one, he wasn't quite sure I was serious, but the next three after that were wonderful! He hit his spot and he was so adjustable! (Thank you dressage training!) I had loopy reins and he was listening to my seat and was really rocked back to each fence.

I need to start incorporating more jumping into our training program. The judge commented that he just didn't have enough strength and push from behind to preform the movements with power, which if we want to be competitive with all the lovelies out there in the Para-world, we need to develop. I'm going to start doing low grid work with him to get him to rock back on his hind end more and develop that pushing power. This kills two birds with one stone, not only will it make him more powerful, it will give him the chance to do something he loves-jump, which will help to keep him fresher in the dressage ring. Its a win-win all around. (and if I can sneak one in, we may go to a hunter show and do a 2 foot division, I think he would kick ass he's going so nicely!)

The rest of the plan includes developing both his and my own muscling to better handle the rigors of the upper level tests (and yes, to me 3rd level is upper level-I was a training and first level rider for the first 20 years of my riding career, it was only last fall that I moved up to 2nd and know I'm riding third....) I am excited to continue working towards my Bronze Medal through the USDF. I hope I can knock out my 2nd Level Scores this summer and then my Third Level Scores next year. Third level is looking more doable, I'm starting to understand the whole Flying change thing, we've had two very nice accidental lead changes in the past month.... Since I'm only riding one horse I have to really up my game fitness wise, I would love to ride several horses a day but its just not in the cards. Such is life, we'll find an alternate way to do it.

We're headed to the NODA Schooling Show on July 7th to ride through our 2nd Level 3 test before we perform it at a recognized show-I'm not a fan of not being prepared and not practicing things. Its not looking as intimidating as before (kinda like 2'-2'3" fences didn't look big to me after completing a BN event) and I have a good feeling about the show. I learned A LOT about Bastian and myself at the show in California. I've got a better warm up plan in mind and he really responded well to the extra special after-ride care my grooms gave him.

After the NODA schooling show, we'll be attending the NODA Dressage and Encore Show on the 20th and the 21st and then the WPDA Show in August. After that its a bit of break until Regionals in October. I'm hoping to be qualified in both First and Second Level. Our group is aiming for Region 1 Championships in Lexington, VA. I'm hoping that if we qualify, Bastian's breeder can make it out to the show to watch his classes, I try to write to her once or twice a year to keep her updated on what her lovely boy is up to and I think she would love to see him strut his stuff live and in person.

Onward and upward as they say. I feel like I've got a handle on what needs to happen, after Regionals I'm aiming at the show in Wellington in the spring as another CPEDI*** (I've saved my personal days this time so my boss can't tell me to shove off). I'm also very seriously considering moving to the Wellington area. I'm not a fan of the weather, I like the cold and I love PA, but if I want to compete with the big boys, I need to do so in as economical of a fashion as possible and I don't have the funds to take huge trips to CA and FL on a regular basis, so that is definitely an option, there has to be teaching jobs in the area and I could do tutoring part time for all you young'uns that show up for the season to ride and show your amazing ponies. The idea has merit.....we'll see where this year takes us. I'm not going to jump into anything just yet, but if you hear of an open teaching position in the Wellington, Florida area for a high school English teacher, let me know!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Would Brian Boitano Do?

Wow. What a crazy two weeks. I'm sorry I didn't manage to keep my blog more updated during the journey, but we managed to keep ourselves quite busy. We made it home safely on Tuesday night and spent pretty much all of Wednesday sleeping. Today has been spent doing laundry, mowing my jungle of a lawn and just getting back into the groove of EST and Pennsylvania. I'll try to cover all the important things here, but forgive me if I jump around a bit!

I mentioned before that during my international classification I was re-classified as a Grade IV from a Grade III para-equestrian. I've had a lot of people ask me "how could they do that??" Welllll.... how could they not? I needed be classified internationally, when they went through the same process that they went through three or four years ago when I was nationally classified, the only difference being that now I am stronger, I've found different ways to compensate for the muscles and bits that don't work, I've developed more core strength. Which of course leads to my mixed feelings, on one hand I'm very excited about being reclassified and knowing that I have improved physically. Of course, receiving this news the evening before you are about to compete and you've spent every penny you had and didn't have to get your horse across the country in your one shot at earning a qualifying score was NOT what I wanted to hear.

The grade IV test is more like a third level test. The differences from the Grade III test include: Extended trot, Extended Canter, Simple Changes, Walk Piorettes, trot half pass, canter half pass, canter-halt, and extended walk. Easy-peasy right? All I can say is that I have an amazing horse and an amazing trainer. We had never done over half of those things, I've played a bit with half-pass, but mostly a the walk in an effort to teach Bastian how to do our turns on the haunches..... Becaus Kristin has trained both Bastian and I correctly, we were able to do some semblence of the all those new movements, although not nearly as good as they should be and for a few, the first time I did them was in the show ring.....

So the theme of the weekend became "What would Brian Boitano do?" We all know of course, that he would make a plan and he'd follow through, that's what Brian Boitano do. So Team Bastian regrouped, I studied the Grade IV Test Team for Friday, watched a few youtube videos on walk piorettes and extended walks and got ready to give it my best shot. On Friday, we misse our qualifying score by 1/6 of a point. We scored a 59.4%, we needed a 60 :( The test itself went pretty well (my video camera is in a bag that was unpacked at the barn, I will post videos once I get it back!) I missed a lead in one of my simple changes, had we gotten that we might have eeked out our 60%.

Saturday was the Grade IV Individual Test, which was more technically difficult, it had more simple changes and the test was actually doing pretty well until we missed our right lead in a simple change at P, then missed it twice more and didn't get it until we were in the corner before K, obliterating any chance at a decent mark for either the simple change or the collected canter between P and K.... We end up with a 53% for that test, moving even farther away from the desired 60%. After we got Bastian put away, we sat down and started working on my Freestyle. I had a freestyle for Grade III, in order to ride it for Grade IV, I had to re-write the choreography, we had to include all those elements I mentioned above except for the walk-piorettes.

We tweeked it a bit, then I saddled B back up and we rode through it once in the practice arena. I switched to the double bridle, I figured it couldn't make it any worse! LOL, it was just what we needed, he rocked back, was more collected and our transitions became much better.

Sunday came and we tacked Bastian up one more time...our freestyle rode SURPISINGLY well given that we changed it to fit the music I had and be Grade IV compatible and that I had only ever ridden it through once. I only had to improvise one movement-we threw in an extra 10 meter circle in extended walk and believe it or not, we managed to get our 60%, just by the hairs of our chinny chin chins. During the awards ceremony, when the judge was handing me my ribbon, she complemented me on taking on the Grade IV test and dealing with the difficulties of the test without any preparation. So, long story short, we earned our Certificate of Capability and we are now eligible to be selected for the WEG team.

Its of course, much more complicated than that, but this step of the process is done. I have until Wellington next spring to work on the Grade IV test and actually learn how to do all those things I was doing...lol. The location of the Para-Nationals is still up in the air. Apparently show management thinks paras make things too difficult? I don't really know, but that is the blunt answer-I'm not one to mince words. If its someplace we can make it to, then we'll be there. Right now our show plans include the NODA shows at Grand Haven in July and the WPDA show in August. Then, Regionals in October and Wellington for a CPEDI*** in the spring.

I have to give a huge thank you to Team Bastian. They were amazing in keeping him happy. Between stall cleaning, 3 hand walks a day, icing, poulticing, grooming, bathing, and tack cleaning they more than earned their keep. Also, a huge thank you to my sponsor, Hastilow Competiton Saddles. I love love love my Hastilow Concept Saddle and obviously Bastian loves it too or else he would not be able to utilize his back and rock back onto his hocks as well as he does.

I also have to give super thanks for all of the words of encouragement from the other para-riders, the Classifiers, the Stewards and the USPEA representatives. It was a tough weekend for us, Bastian and I definitely gave it our all and well I of course would have loved to have done better, I feel that we did pretty damn good given the situation that we faced.

So. Take that Bembridge Scholars!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Right Place, Wrong Time

Things have been going well overall here in sunny California. We've been having a great time and Bastian has been behaving like the best lil' dragon in the world. He's been a bit tense and after some keen coaching advice from afar, Kristin got us thinking forward and through again.

Bastian likes the weather, its cool overnight (in the 50s) and the mornings are in the 60s (just cool enough you want long sleeves) and by the afternoon its in the 80s. No humidity, so its really quite nice. The B-man has been taking little siestas in the afternoon.

Today was the jog, I'm going to admit I was super nervous about this part, having never gone through it and not knowing how picky the judges were going to be I was scared that they would not pass him and I would have driven all this way for nadda, but he was looking fine and Samantha did a great job jogging him despite his lovely trip on his way back towards the judges. Yes, only my horse would trip. But he passed, greatest words I have heard in a while "Number 153, Accepted." Here is the video from the jog: They never announced the results for best dressed or best turnout, but I think Samantha and Bastian looked awesome.

Here is the tricky part, I was originally classified as a Grade III Para-Equestrian four-ish years ago. Since then I have gotten much stronger, especially in the last few months as I've been doing more core exercises and whatnot. I had to be internationally classified today (I only had my national classification before) and because I've become stronger, I was re-classified as a Grade IV Para-Equestrian. :-/

Don't get me wrong, overall, I'm actually quite excited about the change, there are a lot of fun things that I get to do in my dressage tests (more third-level-ly [is that a word??]}, but that is not what I wanted to hear today at the end of my classification. I am currently prepared to ride a Grade III test, I've practiced it and that is what we came to do, but in order for us to get our certificate of capability in order to be considered for selection, we need to ride the Grade IV test tomorrow. There are a few parts that might be sketchy, but we are going to give it a go, keep our mind on the task at hand and *hopefully* rise to the challenge. We ride at 8:40 in the morning (around 11:40 for all-y'all Pennsylvanians and Ohio-ans out there) and of course we are the first Grade IV ride so I don't get to even watch another rider go through the test (there is only one other Grade IV here).

So tomorrow I ride the team test, I feel good about most of it, it is what it is and hopefully, with luck, we'll manage to pull off a viable score. Its been great to meet the other para-riders, check out Lara Oles website.

I'll be sure to update after we ride our test tomorrow, if you want to creep on scores, you can go here:Fox Village Dressage Scores

Thank you again to everyone who has helped to support and sponsor me, especially Hastilow Competition Saddles my amazing family and friends. This would not be possible without all of you!! THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

California Dreamin

Bastian has settled in quite nicely to his temporary home at the Mureita Equestrian Center. Aside from wondering why in the heck he is in solitary confinement, he seems right at home. I'm anxious for other horses to start arriving so he has somebody else to talk to being the social butterfly that he is. He is enjoying his spacious 10x13 stall and was pretty darn happy when we hung his fan up yesterday. He has been eating and drinking like its going out of style and with the high being 106 degrees yesterday, I had no problems filling up his waterbuckets multiple times. He even had 3 buckets of water overnight, of which he drank the majority of it. He looks as fat as ever and is very relaxed.

We spent yesterday getting my tack stall set up and finding a car to rent. My amazing dad was great in that regard and having an entire tack stall to myself is definitely spoiling me! I spent today feng shui-ing my tack stall and making minor adjustments. It was also nice getting all that done before the show-we didn't have to fight with a line of traffic, throw things unceremoniously off of the trailer and get out of the way.

After we got everything unloaded I lunged the B-man without side reins for about 15 minutes just to get him out of his stall and moving. He looked great, there was a bounce in his step, but he wasn't nearly as crazy as I was expecting having been cooped up in a stall of some sort for the past week. I'm sure the heat had something to do with it, but I was able to work him in one of the covered outdoor arenas so it wasn't too bad once you were in shade, but there wasn't much of a breeze to speak of. After his lunge, I gave him a bath because he looked downright chompy :-/

I dropped the second half of T-Squared off at the airport last night, so I had all morning to spend bonding with my handsome chestnut guy. After feng shui-ing my tack stall I saddled him up, lunged for about 10 minutes and then hopped on. He felt great, forward and steady in the contact. I just wanted him relaxed and forward today, we played a little with shoulder in and leg yield and did a few lengthens for 3-5 strides. The arena was huge and we had it all to ourselves, which was very nice. I was proud of his focus, it was getting pretty windy so there were some terrifying squeaky noises but he kept it together. I'm looking forward to riding him again tomorrow, we can focus a bit more on the elements of the test and I'll have Samantha (only 3 more hours until she is here!) there to video.

So far so good! I still can't believe that I've managed to pull this off so far, this has been a huge undertaking and we're moving into phase two (the show!) Thank you again to everyone who has contributed! Here is the link to where ride times and scores will be posted . As of right now, nothing is posted, but it should be up shortly.

Well, its time to go feed the B-man his supper then its off to the airport to pick up Samantha! I can't wait until she's here, I'm pretty excited that she was able to come out here, she's going to look amazing jogging Bastian on Thursday!

Monday, June 3, 2013

2T + B = CA

Today is (was) the day! Bastian is headed west with T-Squared (my dad and my brother have the same name and it was suggested that I refer to them as T-Squared. I think its funny…) Anyway, up at 4:30 AM then off to the barn to do one more poultice, put him in his fluffy travelling halter and load him on the trailer. I think he’s going to enjoy traveling loose in his spacious box stall ;)

I’m glad he is the only horse going, since there is pretty much no way we could have fit more stuff on the trailer. I’ve got 24 bales of hay (did I mention the outrageous price of hay in CA??? ($25 a bale…sheesh!) 20 bags of shavings, my tack trunk, saddle, buckets, vet kit, grain, fans, my personal luggage, a mounting block, two coolers, lots of food and drink and of course, the B-Monster. It took me about 5 hours to pack and prep the trailer all said and done. I remembered how much I disliked doing hay when I was still able bodied enough to chuck 100 or more bales a day. Here is the section of the trailer (I really should say Rig-its beyond just a trailer) stacked with hay:

I also sent 3 pages worth of instructions with him. I’ve never not traveled with him so I’m totally freaking out here, but I also know that T-Squared will take care of him, I mean I wouldn’t send him if I didn’t have a good feeling about this overall. I know that I have over-packed, but I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it and it can always travel back with us.

A last minute addition to Team Bastian is one of the most spectacular young ladies I have ever known: Samantha “Diego”. When I got her text a week ago saying she could go with me I was ecstatic! I booked her flight before she could change her mind (not that she would…). Samantha is such a steady-eddy and I will need much steady-eddying during the week. She will keep me level headed and on the right track as well as providing excellent grooming services. Making all this happen requires a phenomenal support team and I am lucky to have such awesome people helping me out.

Bastian has been great these past few weeks and we’ve had some great lessons with Tawny Williamson. As long as I keep my core engaged and keep myself focused I think that we’ll do just fine. I’m hoping that I get to hob-knob with some big-time celebrities. (both horse and Hollywood-I know I’m like a ga-zillion miles from the actual Hollywood, but I am going to be in CA!) I’m sad that Bodega Bay is like 3 ½ hours from Rancho Murieta. I, being the geek that I am, wanted to go and get my picture take there since I teach the short story “The Birds” to my 9th graders and then we watch the Hitchcock Movie, which was filmed there. Oh well, I’m looking forward to lounging by the pool when not doing Bastian things and I have a list of novels to work on. Best vacation I’ll have been on in a long time!

I spent most of Saturday at the Erie Hunt and Saddle Club scribing for Kristin Stein. It was great to be reminded of the judge’s perspective and just how much they DO see. Either way, it was a blast and highly educational. Good luck to everyone showing at the WPDA/Grand Haven Show this coming weekend, I’m bummed that (yet again!) I’m missing out on this show. Next year maybe I’ll finally get to show. Special good luck to one very adorable Chloe and Angel as they make their Training Level debut; Bastian sends his best to Shannon and Leo as they make their First Level debut; and fingers, legs, eyes, and toes crossed for Tawny and Gem who have missed out on the past two show seasons-get out there and kick some butt ladies!

My plane leaves at 5:15 on Friday and I arrive at the Sacramento Airport at 8:30ish their time. Until then, I’ll be freaking out and doing lots of ab/core work to make up for not riding for four days….