Saturday, October 25, 2014

What a wonderful day!

Spent a fantastic night at WIHS last night and had a ball with my barn girls!  Thanks everyone for coming!  :)  Three cheers for my college buddy who was kind enough to take our photo in front of the Puissance wall!

Kevin Babington over the Puissance wall early on

I went to the barn this morning to tape a friend riding in a dressage clinic.  It was a real pleasure to watch and so nice to spend most of the day in the barn.  After her ride, I brought Soonie in from the field (I felt badly because it was a beautiful day, it was only lunch time, and he was actually grazing instead of cribbing), and we went outside to the jump field for a light jump school.  I had my fingers crossed that he would not be a lunatic like last time I attempted to jump him outside.  I had set out a single pole to walk, trot, and canter over in a figure 8, and wanted to use that as a gauge.  If he was not rideable over that, I'd skip the actual jumping and just stick with the pole exercise instead.

HE. WAS. AWESOME.  For the first time in awhile, he was a push ride to the jumps today.  We had schooled trot poles on Tuesday, canter poles on Thursday (which he was trying to jump those, so...I wasn't expecting greatness today), and he was dead-head hunter quiet the whole ride.  Since the figure 8 pole exercise went well at the canter, we moved on to some trot fences, which were very quiet, and then cantered a couple small gates off each lead a couple of times.  We ended with one jump over the triple bar and called it a day.  Every jump was in rhythm, every effort was consistent and soft, every distance was there, and it was lovely.  I was so happy with him!  Hunter Soonie has returned for at least a short time!

Very pleased with himself after the ride

So. Good.

And adorable

I'll just have to keep putting him over poles regularly and jumping at least once a week to keep the rhythm, hopefully that will help reduce the number of Batshit Crazy experiences we have in the future.  He also got a warm bath and his first clip of the season today.  I got tired of the "Let's stay at the barn an extra hour and dry out sweaty horsey with the winter coat and not eat dinner until 9:30pm" game.

So this happened after I finished and everyone else was getting fed dinner.  His flappy lips are pretty much my kryptonite.  :)

"I want my dinner"

Derp.  Dinner.

Soonie with his special trace clip

I modified his trace clip this year, taking a little more off now that we're not going to be hanging out in -30 degree temps on a regular basis, and I also extended a section on his barrel that will hopefully help protect him from getting leg/spur rubs like he did last year.  Looks goofy, but practical!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horse Therapy

This horse made my day today.

Handsome man

My grandmother passed away this afternoon.  It was not unexpected, but it's still painful, especially being away from family and alone.  I spent all day waiting - it was one of those days where you just don't smile, the hours pass numbly...word came as soon as I got home from work.  I went to the barn thinking I'd just hop on and take a quiet walk (in the indoor, since it was pouring outside), just talk to the horse and mostly avoid conversation with people.  Cuddly time with Soonie was badly needed, my motivation came to me and we had a nice, relaxed little flat school and popped over a vertical.  We are redeemed!  He was forward, yet soft, patient, and relaxed today about the jumping - definitely foot perfect.  We did straight approaches, even some angled jumps to make figure eights, and he was great through all of it.  It was nice to do something simple to build confidence and have a great ride.  I think we both needed that.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I am....Scary Jumper Lady

After two disappointing jump schools two days in a row, I feel like I'm officially the farm's Scary Jumper Lady.  :-(

You know, the lady who's horse runs around the jump field like a maniac, completely ignoring all input from the rider?  Or the lady whose horse just refuses all the jumps and you're just standing there trying not to be judgey, but inside you're like:


Yep, I feel like I'm that lady that other people feel that (^) way about.  I came out on Sunday and set up a small jumping exercise in the indoor, but then discovered the footing in the jump field was dry and firm despite the rain the day before, so I said "Yay let's go jump outside!"  And because my horse had spend two of the previous three days inside, and we haven't jumped outside in probably three weeks...HE WAS BATSHIT CRAZY.  Like, trying to leave eight feet from a trot fence crazy.  Way too strong, picking his distance five strides out and trying to run to the jump, etc.  So I decided to move it indoors to our little jump exercise, and he was totally different inside.  Soft, quiet, rideable, patient...perfect.  It was a complete 180.  I have three witnesses that can attest to him jumping around like a perfect little hunter gentleman after the extreme shenanigans outside, which I unfortunately also have witnesses for.
He really was jumping the snot out of everything today

So today I decided to do a little refresher and repeat the same stuff in the indoor.  Just a single vertical in the middle, about 2'3", and another single vertical on the quarterline, with canter poles on either side.  Soon figured that out yesterday, and I thought it should be pretty straight forward today.  Everything was lovely warming up, once again the perfect hunter canter, perfect distances, he jumped very nicely and soft and quiet.  We went through the little mini-grid and the first two were fine, the third time he took out the top rail, and the next time through he was good through it.  I should have stopped there and called it a day.  I will kick myself for the next week for not stopping then.  The rest is entirely my fault.

I raised the rail 2 holds to make it 2'9" (3'?) and it blew Bubba's mind.  We had a series of stops even after putting it back down, and I was officially Scary Jumper Lady again, only now with a horse that wouldn't jump at all.  Poor guy had just shut down mentally and lost confidence.  And yes, of course there was an audience and of course they had to see us in a really shitty moment.  I had to put the rail all the way to the ground on one side and rode him through at a walk to get him through the grid.  So to get the confidence and understanding back, we walked through it a couple times, trotted through the half cross rail a couple of times, trotted it as a vertical twice, and then cantered it once all successfully.  I called it a day then.  So we got to a good place at the end with a horse that was forward and willing to figure it out, but holy shit I was embarrassed and felt bad that his confidence got trashed for a bit.

I mean he was seriously awesome early on
So hopefully anyone watching yesterday/today that is reading this doesn't think I'm that Scary Jumper Lady that just yeehaws around and doesn't give a shit about her horse.  He got his confidence rattled and I should have put it all the way down to the ground after the first stop.  And no, running around the jump field is not normal or acceptable either, he can be every bit as soft and quiet out there as in the indoor.  Oh well.  We'll take it easy the next couple of days, with some light flat schools and hacks.  I will probably put that little vertical back up in the middle and do a couple of figure eights over it in conjunction with the flat school, just to keep his confidence up.  We'll see.  Can't wait for Awesome Trainer Lady to get back so we can do some real jump lessons.  Got some good screenshots from the video, he can really jump when he wants to.

My barn buddy was absolutely right:  it was a bad day today, he's a pretty green jumping horse and we're still figuring each other out.  Chock it up to another learning experience.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thank You Mom and Dad!

First ride on Triple, 1997!
This time of year being the season of Indoors and Finals, I know it can be easy for kids (and some adults) to be a bit jealous of those riding in the big leagues.  I know as a teenager, the only thing that existed for me was Big Equitation.  And it's a little embarrassing now looking back, realizing how much I had and didn't appreciate as much as I could have.  Being an adult and paying for the horse habit myself (and taking two years away from horses completely) has made me even more appreciative of the sacrifices that my parents made over the years to support my riding. 

We weren't rich - not poor either, but a five or six-figure horse was always unrealistic.  I had two older brothers and my parents made sure that we each had the opportunity to pursue our interests.  I was very fortunate to get riding lessons (after years and years of begging) at the age of seven.  I grew up on school ponies and horses, leased some, and got my own horse when I turned 12 because my parents relented when they were told it was time.

I learned so much more at the barn than just how to ride and win ribbons.  I'm sure the board, showing, and vet bills were excessive at times and I know you guys stretched to make it all work.  You did so much to support me and my riding goals.  You encouraged me to be at the barn a lot.  To spend time with my horse, other horses, to learn about horsemanship.  To do more than just be a rider.  You had me get a job, because the horse habit is expensive and doesn't pay for itself.  I did everything from scrubbing and hauling buckets as an 11 year old barn rat to managing barns on the weekends in high school.  The more I showed, the more I had to work it all off to make it affordable.

There were some key lessons I learned growing up in the barn.  Lessons that I think some kids these days (does every generation say this?) don't always get the chance to learn.

Involving kids in sports and activities can teach them a lot.  Probably the most important lesson I learned from horses is responsibility.  Horses don't care if you've had a long day, or you are tired, or have other plans.  They depend on us for everything: food, exercise, water, shelter, safety.  You have to show up and take care of them no matter what.  I learned that I couldn't go running around after school and goofing off, getting into trouble because it would cost me my horse and my riding.  I learned that good grades and education were important, because that's what kept me riding in those pre-employment days.  It was A's and B's, or no horses, and that was a great way to approach it because it instilled a work ethic in me that lasts to this day regarding academics and their importance.  I learned that showing up on time (and by that I mean early) and putting in an honest effort was what really mattered.  I learned that hard work will get you where you want to go, eventually.  I learned that responsibility itself, and caring for another, is a huge committment, and perhaps if more people truly understood that concept, perhaps we'd have fewer issues as a society.  My current (awesome!) barn owner has a wonderful quote on Facebook that I feel summarizes her and any good horseman's creed:  you become responsible, forever, for that which you have tamed

King!  This pony made me extremely humble :)

Horses will make you humble.  They don't care if you're the reigning champion - you can still fall off and eat dirt as easily as anyone else.  Horses don't care that you just put in a 14 or 16 hour day at the horse show and that you're tired, or you won a big class.  They still need you to get up early the next morning and feed them, turn them out, clean their stalls.  I learned that you can have a perfect ride, do everything right, and still lose.  That hard work and correct preparation goes a long way, but if it's not your day, accept it and move on to try again later.  You can't and won't win all the time.  

My trainers were the end-all, be-all of my existence growing up.  No attitude, no talking back, yes we can laugh and have fun, but the moment you don't want to show up and work hard, then get out of the ring.  I remember dreading No Stirrups Month leading up to the state finals, but doing it because it was what was expected and we all knew our trainer would make us better for it.  Don't come in to the ring with shavings or dirt in your horse's tail and disrespect the trainer and your horse.  I learned to respect the horse above all and to listen to them when they spoke.  And they all speak.
Lulu, Vermont Summer Festival 2002

The horse is your partner.  Nothing builds an appreciation of team faster than learning to dance with an animal ten times your size that speaks another language.  But it wasn't just the partnership and team of horse and rider, it was the teams we formed within the barn.  I remember a lot of fun with my barnmates at horse shows and Finals, acting as grooms for one another, cheering each other on or consoling each other when things didn't pan out the way we had hoped.  The long days at the show and short nights at the hotels.  Catchriding at 11:30pm because the show was running that late.  Sleeping in the feed room on a pile of haybales because I couldn't be bothered to drive back to the hotel, and laughing about it the next day as the girls picked the remaining hay particles out of my hair.  My college teammates and I collectively freezing our asses off together as we sat there and rooted everyone from the team on. 

One memory in particular comes to mind when I think of devotion and how I learned what that meant.  In 1999, my mare, Triple, colicked and required surgery for nephrosplenic entrapment.  My parents could have easily said no to the impending massive vet bill (despite insurance), but they immediately agreed to the surgery.  After the relatively uneventful surgery, she caught an infection (we were told it was Salmonella) that several other horses had contracted.  For the next three weeks she fought for her life, dropping over 300 pounds.  She had no appetite, was depressed, and alone in quarantine.   The three other horses that had contracted it had all died, she was the only one left.  My parents and I made the 1.5 hour round trip EVERY day after school and on the weekends to visit with her.  When she refused to eat and the vets were going through the motions, my instructor at the time said to pick her some grass.  So there we were, my mom and I, outside of the quarantine barn picking handfuls of grass to bring inside to her to see if it would spark an interest.  It did.  So every day for the next three weeks we drove out there, picked grass and brought it into the barn for her to nibble.  We spent time grooming her and talking to her, checking her wraps and trying to make things interesting.  She started to come around.  And after those three weeks when she had finally regained her appetite and was cleared to leave, I remember bringing a dear barn friend out to the hospital to visit her.  Triple had lost so much weight that she was probably a 2.5 on the equine body condition score chart.  My friend cried when she saw her that way, but I tried to tell her it was okay because she was out of the danger zone.  We hand walked Triple that day outside, and once home, spent the next several months gradually increasing her caloric intake, hand walking, turnout, and after five months of putting weight back on, finally got to riding her lightly again.  She would be the state Junior Hunter year end champion the following year, as well as having championships and reserve championships in the equitation.

Equitation champs, 2000
Still continuing on the devotion bit, I remember two years later Triple required colic surgery again for the same issue.  At the time, as a 16 year old kid I didn't realize that horses could have multiple colic surgeries.  After a whole night on colic watch (which my Dad graciously spent the night at the farm to watch her for me since I had school, thank you Dad!), we took her to the hospital the following day when the traveling vet finally said she was surgical.  The hospital staff tried a couple of additional non-surgical techniques which unfortunately failed.  I remember sitting with her in her stall afterward, she was laying down and exhausted.  I cradled her head in my arms and was coming to grips with reaching the end of the road.  I cried, thinking that it was the last day with my wonder mare.  Then I heard outside the surgeon say "Of course we can do the surgery, she'll be fine," and my Mom saying yes.  Again, parents could have said no, knowing then how much surgery itself costs, that we'd be on our own this time without the insurance, and risking another costly infection on the other side.  No hesitation, they knew what that mare meant to me and that she was my whole world, and they didn't waste a second to try to save her.  Again.  Thankfully, Triple's second surgery was text book, as was her recovery. 

My last visit with Triple, Christmas 2006
It was pretty evident though that with her getting into her teens that her showing days were over, she didn't have the scope or the step to do the 3'6" despite her enormous heart and work ethic.  We found her a great eventing trainer, Kathy, that used her as her daughter's horse for a bit, then as a lesson horse.  And despite Kathy's inquiries, we never sold Triple.  We talked in 2006 about her retiring as a lesson horse and that I would be happy to take her back and retire her in Virginia with me.  That was the plan for the following year, until I got a phone call on August 6, 2007.  I never got calls, it was "no news is good news," so I knew something was wrong.  Triple had another round of nephrosplenic entrapment, her third, and after talking to the vet it was surgical.  I authorized him over the phone to put her down, something Kathy knew was the right thing and was pushing for.  I was in VA, was supposed to visit Triple the following week... I called my parents immediately afterward, and had to talk Mom down from rushing out to hook up the trailer to go get her and take her to the surgical center.  It wasn't realistic to put a 20 year old horse through a third surgery.  She had given us so much and was so good, truly a horse of a lifetime, so we ended her suffering as soon as possible.  Still, I will never forget my Mom and Dad leaping into action and being willing to drop everything they were doing and going to get her if that is what I asked.  That mare was, and still is family.  Devotion is being willing to drop everything and do surgery if that's what is needed.  Devotion is also recognizing what the right thing to do is, being brave enough to make that call in the best interest of the horse, even if it means you never get to tell them goodbye.

Appreciate the Little Things
After years of showing on the state and regional level, dabbling in some A-circuit shows, I've learned to appreciate the little things.  It's not the ribbons or the trophies, it's the memories.  Some of my favorite memories from my time with horses involve my parents.  I remember Mom taking me to the tack shop after my first riding lesson and buying me an entire riding outfit so I could be ready for my second lesson (hot pink helmet cover and fluorescent riding tights and all!).  I remember Dad suffering through weekly winter riding lessons in an unheated, dusty indoor.  He could have sat in the car or dropped me off, but he always helped tack up when I was little and always watched those first few years!  I remember both Mom and Dad becoming semi-expert horse loaders because Triple was a horrible loader that first year (she would learn to self-load, trust me!).  I remember them coming to so many horse shows and taking pictures for me.  I remember Dad getting really good at taking out braids, and running the grill and the concession stand with some of the other barn dads at home shows.  I remember Dad helping me clean stalls on Sundays for awhile, and Mom always coming to Finals.  I remember coming back into the barn at a home show to put Triple away for the day, only to find her missing from her stall.  Ummm...where did my horse go?  A slight panic was quickly relieved when I saw that Mom had actually put Triple's halter on and taken her out herself for a hand graze.  I thought that was incredibly cute and endearing, given that neither of my parents were horsey.

Chi-Chi and I at Finals, 1999.  Love her!
It goes without saying that having a horse crazy kid and encouraging them to pursue horses is probably one of the highest demonstrations of generosity there is.  I also remember my parents willing not only to help me sustain my recovering colic-surgery addict, but also encouraging me to still go to Finals that year with a pony I had qualified that summer.  The owner was also generous in free leasing her to me for the fall; their nice pony gets some Finals experience, I get to still go to Finals, everybody wins! 

I just want you two to know that while I hope I said thank you then, years later those things still mean the world to me.  You were so unbelievably generous in so many ways.

My parents encouraged me not just as a kid in this sport, but also when I decided I wanted to try to make it a career.  If part of them was thinking "Please grow up and get a real job," they didn't express it.  They encouraged me to pursue riding/training professionally and emphasized that education was still important.  Get a business degree.  When I wavered part way through and got burned out on horses, they supported my decision to look into equine journalism as a career path.  And when I graduated and turned pro anyway, moved away to Virginia and played with ponies all day, they were equally supportive and knew I was living the dream.  And when I got burned out again and realized that I needed a change, they still supported me.  Here I am, years later, in a completely different career and happily back into horses again, enjoying the little moments and appreciating what I have.

Dad, Mom, I just want you to know that you did parenting right.  It wasn't always easy and I'm sure there were times where you wanted to kill each of us, but it's because you allowed us to be individuals, and because you encouraged us to follow our dreams and try new things that we're all successful, independent adults today.

I realized that none of these photos have my parents in them; truth be told, I don't think I have any horse pictures with my folks, at least none loaded on my computer, and I don't know if they'd want to be plastered all over an internet blog anyway.  I guess perhaps in a way that's a testament to them always being behind the scenes and letting the horses and me shine to the best of our ability.  Thank you for all your love and support over the years.  It still means everything to me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What I Learned From: Rave

Flashback about 10 years...Rave was a horse donated to my college equine program.  He was an 11 year old, 16.3/17h Trakehner gelding.  Story goes that he was a failed dressage horse; immature, spooky, possibly not worth on the sale market what they could get for him in tax write offs as a donation...Allegedly.  He spent his first year bouncing between the dressage program and the hunter program.  He was too spooky for the dressage shows, but didn't know anything about jumping, so he was marginally useful and the school needed to figure out where his place would be.  I was asked to take him for the summer, so we loaded him up and drove the 7 hours home to see what I could do with a horse who didn't seem to have a role in life.

Ravenous enjoying down time at home
He taught me how to have a plan.  I planned everything with this horse - he worked four days in a row with two days off.  We had cavaletti days, two days of dressage schooling, and a hill work/trail ride day.  I learned to slow things down and listen better to what the horse was telling me.  I learned that the planning and slow, systematic approach can result in massive gains.  Patience was the most important thing.  No emotion in the saddle.  That some horses just need their "one person" to bring out great things.

Our breakthrough moment was when we were riding down in the big outdoor ring for the first time.  It was well removed from the barn and it was "fun" getting him to walk down there by himself.  We spent the first 25 minutes of that ride spinning, popping up/rearing, more spinning and just bullshit shenanigans.  I suspect he played this game with previous owners, and that's how he ended up donated.  I just sat there, repeatedly told him that forward was the only correct answer, that backwards/spinning/rearing would not be tolerated and it was just wearing him out, and eventually he caught the drift.  He was a horse with a poor work ethic and the mind of a bad three or four year old - he would quit and throw a fit. Didn't want to ride in the outdoor?  Big fit.  Didn't want to horse show?  Bigger fit.  Riding him through his little temper tantrum early on in the summer actually paved the way to some great development.  He learned forward.  He learned that just doing what I asked was way easier and faster than throwing hissy fits.  That hissy fits didn't get him anywhere, because I didn't get off and I didn't give up.  And he came around very quickly after that.

 We got proficient at first level, schooled some second level, and got him more confident in his jumping.  At home we went bush wacking in the woods, hacked out in the field, jumped up and down banks, and got him to think more for himself and trust what the rider was asking.  Probably the coolest moment was one of our lessons at my trainer's farm - we were jumping a solid wall for the first time, and despite his being very backed off to it, he jumped it.  I remember my trainer saying "He did that because you asked him to, not because he wanted to!"  I think that was a big thing for him.  He thrived in a regular routine, I enjoyed my time with him very much, and when it came time to bring him back to school, he had finally found his place.  I remember several of the riding instructors coming up to me and saying thank you, that he was a totally different horse and they trusted him more.  He became a more valuable member of the college's string, and even participated in the dressage shows for the first time.

I don't think I'll ever forget that following school year either, I was extremely fortunate to have the ride on him regularly, working under an amazing dressage instructor who also was an accomplished eventer an fox hunter.  I was very honored to be asked by the dressage team to be his warm up rider in the intercollegiate dressage shows. 

I learned that sometimes a favorite horse's place isn't with you.  He needed to be a part of that program for his own sake, and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to help him grow into that role.  He was still there years and years later, working hard helping to teach others. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Soon Beats Fancy Warmbloods at First Dressage Show!!

I kind of don't have sufficient words for how proud, excited, and just completely happy I am with Soonie right now (more than usual!).  He did his first dressage show today, just a little schooling show at our barn, and did Training Level 1 and Training Level 2.  This whole thing was a last second decision for me; I decided that despite my current aversion to showing, that it would be a shame to waste a good opportunity for Soon to get some more experience.  So I said "screw it," signed up, and decided that maybe I should go learn the tests.  Because I haven't ridden a proper dressage test at a show in about 8 years?  And goodness knows I don't flat school using dressage tests, so...Soonie and I had never done a dressage test before last Wednesday.  The tests we rode in the show were his fifth and sixth time doing a test, ever.

 Basically, I tried to remember my professional days and not embrace the age-old Amateur approach to horse showing:  Blind Panic.

...and for the most part, it seemed to have worked.

He was great schooling on Saturday, if anything was maybe a little too quiet, but he walked in the ring Sunday when it mattered and went to work.  Test 1 went very smoothly, but the judge commented afterward that he was a bit low, bordering on the forehand, and needed to come up.  That didn't surprise me, since we're still working on that "up and out" part in our riding now.  I felt the test was good and was completely thrilled with how Soonie went, but I was shocked to find out afterward that we had won!  The class was mostly warmbloods, some very experienced, some others extremely fancy (one young mare in particular is lovely in every way, true quality horse!), and this little Thoroughbred with about five minutes of dressage test experience beat them all.  We scored a 69.375% and just edged out that gorgeous, fancy mare who had a 68+%.

Soon got to hang out in his stall during lunch break, then we went back in for Training 2.  I took the judge's comments from the first test and sought to improve his way of going for the next test, so I tried to get him shorter, higher, and more energy.  I feel like this was the better ridden test, and definitely the test that he looked better in, but that gorgeous mare settled and knocked this class out of the park (rightfully so, they had a good ride).  Soonie and I scored a 69.64% and the judge stated he had improved since the first test.  Improvement, yay (and in one test no less)!  We came in second, and just missed out on Reserve Champion for the day.  We'll take our first and second place ribbons and be extremely happy with those!  :)

Something neat happened after Soonie and I finished.  A woman caught me in the parking lot and said, "Thank you!  That was a pleasure to watch."  I thought she was talking to someone else, but nope, she was looking directly at me.  I thanked her profusely.  It was just Training level, but what a lovely thing to hear.  Ribbons are one thing, but there's something about feedback that just feels good.  Goodness knows between his greenness and my lack of understanding of a 20-meter circle, it could have been way uglier....

Yes, it's just a little schooling show, but I'm just over the moon with how he was today.  It was like just any other day on the farm, nothing bothered or impressed him, he was very relaxed and happy to work.  He played horse show like a true veteran, handling the multiple rides like a champ.  It was a great day, a wonderful show put on by our barn owner, and it was such a fun time.  Many thanks to my amazing barnmates who came out to help groom and do video, I love you girls!  Everyone is unbelievably supportive of one another here. I love this place and I love my horse so, so much!

Back on Track sheet and braiding!  Pampered!

Down the center line in Training 2

Good job, Soonie!

So proud of him

Best horse ever <3

Happily cribbing away to celebrate

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dressage at Devon Recap

A couple of my wonderful barnmates and I took a "bucket list" trip up to Dressage at Devon last weekend and had an absolute blast.  We enjoyed wonderful horses, good food, and shopping (so much shopping).  I also met my best friend and her family up there, which is always a blessing because I love love love her and we always have the best times. 

The first thing we saw!  Fall! Dressage! Cute horses and barns!

The iconic Devon Horse Show sign

Our view for Friday night GP action

We arrived a little later than expected on Friday, so we took a quick spin around and got settled in to watch the Grand Prix from the main grandstand.  It would have been truly perfect except for the ridiculous commentary from the folks behind us.  I never understand why people have to be so critical and outright NEGATIVE about someone else's performance.  Let's be real here:  the riders in the GP at Devon are probably more accomplished than about 99% of the people in the stands.  Agreed?  Good.  So while it's fine to discuss with others and question the execution, there is no need to be nasty and rude about someone who you don't know and have never ridden with, no matter how much you want all the people around you to think  you know the horse and rider....Good for you, you fed the horse a treat at a Meet & Greet once, that doesn't qualify you to blatantly spat on and on about things you probably have no first had knowledge about.  Don't even get me started on her critique of a rider who came down the centerline, saluted, and tracked right at the trot to start her test, and the woman's critique of the ride was "Hmph.  Slightly above average."  Really?  You got "slightly above average" from the first 10 seconds of someone's ride?   

The utter negativity and bad attitude from this one woman was almost enough to make me turn around and tell her to STFU.  Talk about ruining everyone else's evening.  She criticized Guy McLean's horsemanship act, ranting on and on about how the horses were intimidated and beaten into submission, how terrified they were because she "looked into their eyes and saw fear" in the warm up area....ok, Lady.  The horses in the ring with no halters or restraints of any kind are standing there yawning, having a nap in the middle of the performance, and I've never seen a frightened horse yawn. At the end of the day, it's another barn biddie complaining about someone who has more skills than she does, and can do things with horses she can only dream of.  This is the same type of person who "rail birds" the rides of her barnmates and criticizes them behind their backs.  I strongly dislike those types of people.  Just enjoy the horsemanship demo for what it is already!

Yep they look scared shitless don't they?  [/sarcasm]

We had a great time on Friday despite her obnoxious ranting.  Saturday started with a yummy hotel breakfast, chocolate ice cream at the show grounds at 10am (WHY NOT IT'S DEVON!), and time for Making Really Bad Decisions With Credit Cards.  I went into it thinking "Hey, I'm a jumper rider, I shouldn't do too much damage since all the stuff will be Dressage related, no way I buy a lot here."  Good one, me.  Let's say I walked into one of the vendors empty handed and walked out with this:

It wasn't supposed to fit!!

And these...

One fleece jacket and the fleece vest I got for a combined $32, so those were bargain deals and had to be made.  And all this happened BEFORE the mimosas...

Thus I have no excuse.  I spend the rest of the day trying to convince my travel companions to "buy more things" to little success.  Oh well.  The shit I bought is pretty fantastic and I legitimately needed new barn coats anyway.

Photos from Saturday action:

The amazing farm stand on the way to the show grounds!

The Saturday night GP Freestyle was very, very fun.  There were a couple of routines I didn't like, but there were a couple that really moved me.  It was a long day of food, fun, friends, freestyles, and great memories, and thus our first trip to Dressage at Devon came to an end.  It was the most fun 36 hours I've had in a long, long time, and we all never stopped smiling and laughing.

It was "slightly above average."  ;)