Saturday, April 30, 2016

a brief peek into Rolex shenanigans

Happy Saturday everyone! Hope you're all off to a great start to your weekend! As you might imagine, things are going pretty freaking swimmingly down here in Lexington (well, technically we're staying in Louisville but that's mostly besides the point, it's still pretty awesome).

Day one at Rolex was incredible - here are a couple snaps of how we've spent the time.

Obviously you can't come to Kentucky and not sample some bourbon, right? This stuff was fantastic too - you could smell it the moment it hit the table! 

And right off the bat we I hit up some of the shopping vendors, picking up this baseball cap by request for Brita. Also, eye spy with my little eye a particularly famous body of water in the background.... 

Another notable activity of the day was picking up another full set of tickets at the box office, given the fact that I forgot my originals at home... Whoopsies... Seriously, I don't recommend trying this yourself folks bc I just about gave myself a heart attack when I realized what had happened before boarding my plane. Ugh. Thank god tho, the powers that be at Rolex are very well organized and I was able to get in with practically no headache at all. Phew! 

Anyways, once on the ground it was smoooooooth sailing! Yesterday's weather was perfect - couldn't ask for anything better. Mid 70s and sunny with an occasional slight breeze. The perfect setting for interspersing walking around and browsing with watching the dressage tests. And among the spectacles we got to see while out exploring were these awesome Paso Finos on their way to a demonstration. These little horses are just soooo fun to watch!

And quite unexpectedly we also stumbled across this familiar looking mustang and his 4* rider/trainer. I'm personally a big fan of Elisa Wallace and really enjoy following along with her helmet camera footage and vlogs so it was pretty awesome to get to watch her work her mustangs up close and in person. We missed the demo, but just seeing her and Rune (maybe, not totally sure actually) go through their routine was pretty cool. And obvi she was bareback and basically bridleless (just a rope halter). #lifegoals y'all

Of course, the real show was going on in the big ring: Day 2 of the dressage tests. And the atmosphere was electric. I probably took about 18 thousand pictures of all the various tests we saw, but they more or less all look pretty much exactly like this shot of Alexandra Knowles and Sound Prospect. So I'm undecided on whether I'll even post them all or not... Maybe not, since there are so many other pictures to share. We will see.

Suffice it to say that there was some very impressive fancy prancing going on. I missed Michael Jung's test, as well as most of the top 10s, unfortunately. But I did get to see example after example of world class riders working through tension on very very FIT horses who wanted nothing more than to go gallop across country. More than a few erupted into rears or spooks upon hearing the applause following their final halt lol.

Other fun moments from the dressage rings included watching the riders warm up - including attending Allison Springer's seminar with the USEF's Event College. She told us a little bit about her own feelings going into the test, and described some of what we were seeing with Kim Severson's and Sinead Halpin's (pictured above) warm ups. Oh and we also got to see David O'Connor wandering around doing h is coaching thing. So many big names in such a small place - obvi I had to pull out my camera and be a total creeper fan girl haha.

Obviously there will be way more to write about cross country later (seeing as the day hasn't even started yet at the writing of this post) - but we took advantage of yesterday's pleasant weather to walk most of the course. It looks FUN. Maybe not as many super technical questions, but still a serious test of accuracy and maybe, beyond all else, fitness. We shall see how it all goes if the weather turns particularly nasty today. 

Anyway, after watching a few more dressage tests, we booked it over to Keeneland to catch the last few races - especially given that it was the last day of the meet until this fall. Guys. What a COOL place to be. It's unlike any racetrack I've ever been to (mostly bc I've only ever really been to Pimlico haha). The horses were all incredible (this guy above shares a sire with Bali - the late Arch, may he rest in peace) and the grounds were spectacular. 

We had a total blast running back and forth from the paddock to the betting windows to the track to take in as much as possible and watch it all. And actually all of us won at least something from at least one race!!! Predictably not as much won as was lost... but it was solid good fun all the same. Definitely worth the little side trip, even if it meant we missed Allison and Arthur's riveting test to finish off the day.

Anyways, that's just a brief little looksie into how our weekend has been going so far. Can't wait to see how the rest of the event unfolds!! Obvi I'll have plenty to share later - including tons more random photos (esp of stuff from sponsor village etc!) so stay tuned!!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Who's gonna win Rolex?

Today is DAY 1 of Rolex - with half the field working through their dressage tests. The other half will go tomorrow. Then Saturday is everyone's favorite: red on right, white on left, and insanity in between. Cross Country, folks.

And the forecast looks like conditions will make for a particularly influential cross country test. This won't be a dressage show, that's for sure! But we're gonna enjoy the tests all the same, obvi haha. (Or, at least I will, once I'm on the grounds tomorrow to watch the second half go!)

With all that said, it should come as no surprise that I'm really excited. I have a LOT of favorites out in the field riding this weekend. Lots. SO MANY. Some have already withdrawn (Covert Rights, whyyyyy?)... but mostly I'm pumped to see my heroes - both two- and four-legged - make their way through this historic event.

But y'all maybe aren't here to read about me gushing like a 12yr ol (unless you totally are, which is also cool). You're here for something approaching compelling content, right? Haha, good luck with that suckers.... 

And so I present to you: My Rolex Prediction.

I predict that Phillip Dutton is going to win the Rolex Kentucky 4* with his partner Fernhill Cubalawn.

Cuba laughs in the faces of puny brush fences
Let's get to know them, shall we?

FERNHILL CUBALAWN (Con Capitol - Corse Lawn, Arkan)
Phillip Dutton

Dutton got the ride on "Cuba," a 2003 Holsteiner gelding, in June 2014 when he was acquired from Alexandra and Paul Green by new owners Tom Tierney and Simon Roosevelt. And the pair proceeded to their first win together at the Cosequin CIC** that July.

They finished 5th at Cuba's 4* debut at Rolex last April (Cuba was the highest placed American horse), then went on to jump clean in the Nations Cup at Aachen CIC*** (where the US team finished 3rd).

We're hoping for a strong finish from this team!

the mighty PDutty sits chilly into the water at the Fair Hill 3*

And of course, now that I've laid it down on the line like that, let's take it a step farther. I want to hear from you.

Specifically, my questions are: 

Who do YOU think is going to win? Who is your favorite? Why?

Do you love the dark horses who come in from behind to rise to glory? Or are you a stalwart believer in one of those perennial top-of-the-leader-board riders?

I wanna hear all about it!! Either in the comments or in a post of your own!

And why not, let's make it interesting: Should you accurately predict the winner, perhaps I'll throw in a little priiiiiize. Same story if there's multiple winners. Perhaps a little something something from Beka's shop Straight Shot Metal Smashing??

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

blaze faced chestnut celebrity meetup (incidentally including bloggers too)

(also winning for longest post title evar)

Ok. But seriously y'all. I had the incredible opportunity to meet Alli and Niamh at Carousel Park Equestrian Center for the cross country schooling blogger meet up of a life time. Perhaps you already read about it on Pony'Tude (and if not, go do it now!).

i like red rumps and i cannot lie
This outing has been in the works for the better part of a year, and I am so so SO tickled that it finally happened! And even more grateful that Austen and her goofball huskies could be present to document said adventures!

maybe the only actual picture of Austen from the whole day. and huskies. bc obviously huskies. always huskies. 
Really, tho, there isn't much more to write about it beyond what Allison has already shared. It was just awesome. These three horses are something special - and I'm not even trying to be biased here. Case in point - the picture below.

What isn't immediately obvious is the environment surrounding this photograph. Directly behind and adjacent to the photographer are: a peacock in full demonstration mode; alpacas; sheep & goats climbing playground equipment; lesson ponies doing what lesson ponies do; and countless family groups full of very small children - apparently none of whom have ever been in close proximity to a horse.

Days since Any Fucks Given? uncountably infinite
So it turns out Carousel Park is a bit of a zoo haha. Whatevskis, it was totally fine. Isabel, Austen, the huskies, and I arrived early, with Niamh and Alli hot on our heels.

emma: "Isabel don't you care?!?"
isabel: "no my life is meaningless we are all just chaos spiraling into nothingness"
Then it was simply a matter of getting everybody dressed and ready to go - sadly on a somewhat tight schedule bc work is a real thing and I had a plane to catch, womp.

isabel: "Unless we get to gallop go fast do the thing. In which case, GAME ON."
Obvi there was still plenty of time to ooooooh and aaaaaahhh over the ridiculously cute floofy Dino!!!

Over the past year I've gotten to "know" Dino so well via text and blog posts... but meeting him in person was something different altogether. Kinda like coming home to a warm fireplace and slipping on your favorite pair of sheepskin slippers. Is that weird? lol

Dino the wonderkind takes it all in
And Riley - what can one even say about this laid back guy? He is DARLING - while simultaneously maintaining that unexpected little spark (generally in the form of his Beyonce-like posterior haha). He acted like such the seasoned veteran - this quiet, confident 'been there, done that' attitude that must certainly mean Niamh's in for one hell of an excellent year!

Riley. Oh Riley. Such Majesty!
Anyway, we headed out to the field post haste to get in as much fun as possible before yours truly had to hit the road. Luckily, Carousel Park is arranged such that it's a series of fields, one after the other, all going uphill. We opted to start in the farthest field (home to the water complex) and trotted much of the way there as a warm up.

trit trot, jiggity jog
Alas, the water complex was dried up... Le sigh. It was a particular area I wanted to dig into schooling-wise... Oh well... The complex was still cool, and the basin was still reedy and mushy.

Plus it was surrounded by banks with some jumps on either side. So we trotted and cantered in and out and up and down some of the banks and over some of the jumps. Izzy was fine so that should count for something, maybe. lol

about 80% of the pictures look exactly like these
Mostly, tho, we kinda just bombed around trotting cantering and jumping with those handsome geldings. Or standing around spectating (and grazing, as the case may be).

except when they look like this. run mare RUN
Isabel loved galloping and jumping around too - obvi haha.

Wheeeeeeee jump the things!!!!!!
It's honestly kinda hard for me to go to a new place and formulate a plan. I dunno why, it just is. If a trainer tells me to do a thing, I'll do it. Or if any particular jump is assigned to my actual course, I'll jump it. But left to my own devices? Ehh... I'll kinda just bop around not doing much.

yasssss Dino loves to GALLOP!
Nbd tho - bc this particular ride wasn't really supposed to be about that. Rather it was about getting to know the friends I've made through this incredible blogging community. And their fantastic horses that are even better in real life than I could have possibly imagined.

Riley's got that BADONK
Seriously. It's one thing to see a picture of a friend's horse and think, "wow that's a nice horse!" And it's another thing altogether to actually get to see them go in the flesh, to actually gallop around with them. What fun!

wheee we jump the same jump the other way too. craaazy lol
So ya know. That was pretty cool. Tho, for whatever it's worth, Isabel did in fact jump wonderfully through the schooling.

and small green thing too!
The venue didn't have a huge variety of options to jump, mostly either very small or bigger but lookier. We stuck with the inviting stuff, as this was not an outing intended to push ourselves - but I made an exception for that N brown lattice thingy. Given our historical issues with lattice style jumps, it seemed like a ripe opportunity to test whether the problems were truly laid to rest or not. Verdict: lattice = nbd now. #goodtoknow

mare don't care tho - she likes it all :)
We also played with practicing out of the starter gate on the way back to the trailers. Bc why not, isn't that just plain fun? Standing around the lane watching your friends ZOOM out of the gate and over fence 1?!?

And obviously Isabel was more than happy to stand around and watch graze while the others took their turns.

chestnuts unite!
And of course she was more than happy to stand around for photo opps too... tho my enabling ways meant she was driving those poor better-behaved geldings mad. You can clearly see in Riley's expression above that he resents how Isabel blatantly flaunts the "no grazing" rule lol.

victory gallop!!!
Of course, last but not least, before we all headed back to the trailers - there had to be a final victory gallop. I mean, right?!? How can you not have a group of this many solid, obedient and well-behaved chestnuts without letting them go a little crazy?

So much fun - lemme tell ya! I've long heard from Alli about Dino's "after-burners" and initially thought that must all be a load of bunk when Isabel sprung off from the starting line leaving everyone in her dust... that is, right up until Dino zoomed past us haha.

isabel, dino + riley : "maybe we're born with it. maybe it's something terrifying in the woods"
Those ponies, guys. Apparently you gotta keep an eye on them!

But seriously tho - this was one of the most fun social outings I've had in a long time. What's not to love? Hopefully we can do it again sometime soon!!!! And who knows - maybe there are other local bloggers who wanna come play too?!?

Obvi our photographer extraordinaire Austen should have had Pig handy, and Carly clearly needs to get her ass back down here bc dammit she should be a part of this too! What about the rest of you - any interest in getting out and about for some galloping / jumping / extreme trail riding?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

doing all the things!!!

Ok bear with me folks. As previously mentioned, I'm on the road this entire week so things are slightly dicey with interacting real-time with this blog. EXCEPT. I gots some stuffff to share. Including a slight backlog right now, and some rich promises of things to come (*cough* ROLEX *cough*).

and mare ears. always mare ears (also spot the Tillie and the Krimpet photobombs!)
I've lately been sacrificing my sleep in exchange for lots of fun activities. Like, for instance, totally crashing Austen's visit with L Williams last week. Totally worth it tho - L is freakin hilarious and it was so great spending time with these ladies in our nation's capital eating excellent food and drinking excellent beer on not one, but TWO evenings.

Never mind that I passed out so hard on the train home that some good samaritan had to shake me awake at the final stop in Baltimore... Oops haha.

pictured: blogger meet ups FTW!
I've also managed to actually ride my horse as expected as well. You already read about our relaxing and idyllic hack out from last Friday. And Saturday was lesson day at OF as expected. What was unexpected was learning that the next couple weeks of lessons are cancelled or otherwise not in line with my schedule. Boo :(

triple bar! 
It doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzies knowing we'll be walking into our next event (at Fair Hill for those particularly curious readers) without another lesson with trainer P... But I just have to trust our training and trust the horse.

Plus we're sticking with BN for at least this next go round. Bc why not. I'm busy and traveling and the horse is verging on not fitting into her girth any more (#springgrassproblems). We're also going to this show alone. Except my parents will be there (show is on Mother's Day and they live close to Fair Hill) and I would rather really savor the whole day with them instead of worrying about Fair Hill's novice xc oxer.

fence so skinny you can't even see it!
While our most recent lesson at OF with trainer P wasn't without issue (both comedic and intensely annoying) - it was still plenty good enough to reaffirm that N is well within our stadium wheelhouse. The mare is just good, guys. I can ride her to shitty distances. I can ride her to a stop. Sure. But I can also lay down some really nice fences with her. We just have to get back to a better ratio of good to meh.

Right now we're at a place where the forward stride is getting easier and easier. But it MUST be ridden with commitment. However, that does not mean "chase the mare past her distance" - my current foible du jour.

Isabel will jump from a gappy distance sometimes. There is actually some solid video evidence of her doing so from some of our first jump lessons after I returned from the broken leg. But right now? If I ride her to the gap, she will stop. I don't like it. But that's just where things are right now, and I need to focus on our canter to avoid that altogether.

mare can't believe we're still going in the #longestcourseever
I'm optimistic about getting some lessons with our favorite technician Dan in the next couple weeks tho, so that ought to help us feel as prepared as possible for our next event. And maybe if the stars align we'll fit in a dressage lesson with trainer C too...

Ooh but we did manage to go cross country schooling this weekend tho. With some of the freaking cutest blaze-faced chestnut geldings I've ever met. OMG. Oh, and their riders were prettttttty cool too!

warning: equine internet celebrity sighting!!!! 
Details to come!!!!!!! :D

Monday, April 25, 2016

menacing monday monster

We got a new lesson pony recently. Guys. He is TERRIFYING.

Seriously. BEWARE.

 This is Rocky. He is taking no prisoners.

I'm honestly not sure what to do about this problem. And so I'm farming it out to you on this dreary foggy nasty morning (I'm currently on the road in the midwest... so at least there's some distance between me and this monster. I'm safe... for NOW).

But seriously you guys. I'm actually a little scared to go back to the barn. What should I do? How would you handle something as dangerous and terrifying as this..... creature?!?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

just what the doctor ordered

Brace yourself guys - because here comes another photo-spammy post. What better way to ease into the weekend, right?

Tossing on the snackamore and a new-to-us fly bonnet (thanks Austen!) and hitting the trails sounded like the perfect antidote to a long week.

And don't let Isabel's seemingly miserable, tragic expression fool you - she was into it too. Mare came in from the field very quiet and easy going - and more or less indulged me as I dressed her all up in our favorite circus bridle. 

Then we were off!!

We've been hacking out often since Loch Moy in the name of conditioning. Mostly just along the fence lines and through the small field. Sometimes in the hackamore, and sometimes in a snaffle with the objective of actually going to work. 

But for this ride? We just wanted to take it easy and enjoy spring time in the woods. 

We went up and down and all around - over the hills and through most of the water. 

And Isabel honestly seemed to really enjoy it. 

The nicest part about hacking her out (esp when she's in this kind of mood) is that she can more or less be left entirely to her own devices. 

I actually specifically always put the running on her for trail rides just for the sake of the neck strap. She will stop and steer off just the neck strap, and I can leave her face entirely alone. 

Tho out in a large open area next to a development and electrical grid, she volunteered a trot, and then a rolling ambling canter. Sure, mare. Sounds good. Have at it!

While I've thought often of using that field for some speed work on the gently rolling hills, I've never actually attempted it. Mostly bc there's a good stretch of trail between the field and our barn. And I've figured that if she got all amped and snorty and fired up, it could potentially be a somewhat unpleasant hack home. 

On this day tho, it was perfect. She happily cantered up and down the hills, and whoa-ed very pleasantly to get back into the woods. 

And then, bc who can really resist, we had another little canter through our field next to the barn after making it back. Well, more like a hand gallop. So fun!

Isabel was just in the best possible mood. She felt good through her back, was calm and easy going, and generally just very pleasant to be around.

Plus she actually left the fly bonnet on for the entire ride - a first!!

And it was a perfect ride for me too. I felt like we accomplished some actual stuff - which pleases me bc I'm trying to make the rides count given my tricksy schedule. 

But it was also just one of those fun rides where you can just sit back and enjoy the horse and the experience. 

And it definitely left me feeling refreshed and ready for a busy busy weekend full of lots of fun stuff. What a perfect way to unwind!!