Monday, May 28, 2012

Delayed in Tennessee

My final day in Tennessee brought the possibility of catch riding at the WHOA show at Womack Stables for Bobby Richards.  I joined Carlan and The Colt Center crew at the show. It was hot, but great to spend some time with the ole gang from the barn Bourbon was at last year.  Darden and Dr John were there, and as delightful and charming as always, plus Bobby was in full form.  And while Stacy chose the poolside versus ringside today (a smarter choice to be sure), both of his boys were on hand.  But before we even got started, we were packing up, due to the heat and the fact that the generator was not working.  That meant the young herd of two year old would have been standing all day in the 95+ degree sun without the relief of fans....  Besides the air conditioned Mexican restaurant sounded better to all of us!  So we caught lunch together instead.

My flight was at 5pm.  So I headed for the airport by mid afternoon.  But this is where my wonderful weekend adventure took a turn for the worst.  In fact, as I am writing is now 9:30pm, I'm sitting on the floor propped against the wall in a corner of Gate A1 in Nashville.  I had boarded on time, to only be de-boarding minutes later.  And while the mechanic came within 30 minutes, the part they needed would take 3 hours to arrive.  And so I sit hoping that the new departure time of 10:30pm, that gets me home by midnight, happens.  Versus the alternative nightmare of trying to get home on Memorial  day. On the bright side, my plane had been filled with a youth singing choir.  And they sang and entertained us during the delay.  And they we're really good.  My girlfriends daughter, Kerya, would have loved them. It was like glee club....with a south African flair.

And, so I wait.  In the end it was 3:30am when I pulled in the driveway, and slipped under the covers.  A very long day, but I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.   It was good to be home.

Bourbon's mamma

Saturday was a "sleep in" day.  I finally arose about 8am and went down to join Jane for coffee out on the porch.  We chatted , checked on joy, the baby calf, and then I got ready to head out to ride Bourbon.  Since there was no more showing for me this weekend, I could put my mind to learning how to get a better feel for Bourbon.  I had reviewed my ride a thousand times in my mind since last night, and I felt I just basically needed saddle time.

B was in the cross ties when I arrived, and in short order I was scaling him to get myself into the saddle.  Hannah and I reviewed our thoughts and critiqued my ride and then we started applying lessons learned while I rode.  Without, the pressure of the show ring, and with the luxury of focused attention, I really got a good feel for bourbon.  It was good to make the errors and learn to correct in mid-stride and get the desired effect.  I tried a few things and made all kinds of wonderfully horrible mistakes....and learned.  I know that B is a much more challenging horse for me than others have been to ride, and I have to be thinking every second.  These together moments were powerful to helping make us a better team.

Afterwards I enjoyed giving him a shower and just spending time with him.  I know it'll be a few weeks before I'll see him again, so I soaked in the precious time.  I have to say that he is really a cute horse.  He's got a really sweet disposition, and just loves the attention.  Call me crazy but I think he misses home, and Diva, and the pasture.  I promised we'd get him back home come fall so he could enjoy some time off after the summer of work.

After saying my goodbyes, I was off to join Bobbikaye for lunch. She is the breeder who owns Bourbon's mamma.  We had salads at Chilis and then I got to visit her place and see B's mom, full brother and sister, and a half sister.  It's like the 'Carmel' factory at her place! Almost every horse is the color of B.  I laughed, cuz at my house they are all black.  Well, except until Bourbon arrived.  We led out the two yearlings and watched as they romped and played in the pasture.  They reminded me of Fashion and Tucker, when they would run and play together.  LOL.

It was really nice to get to know Bobbikaye better, and hear her walking horse stories and experiences....and to meet her horses, dogs, cats, and her very cool flock of exotic hens.  Every time I visit and meet someone else in the walking horse world, I am amazed at the history, the knowledge and the new information I learn.  I guess if you take the time...there is a wealth of knowledge in so many places.  And thankfully, so many who are willing to share.

As the sun started to cast longer shadows, I realized it was getting close to show time...and Saturday night should prove a good night for great horses.  So off to Shelbyville I went.   I must say that it was quite the eventful night...horses casting shoes, a little boy rider losing his stirrups and causing the crowd to gasp and one onlooker to dive into the ring from the stands to help, a few excused horses and tickets....and of course controversial placements.  But the highlight was Carlan's inaugural ride on Lil Wayne this season!  He won a World Grand Championship last year with Carlan in the amazing feat for a 2-year old against aged horses.  So she was anxious for his classes.  Both Bobby and Carlan would show him tonight.  And when Lil Wayne came in the crowd went wild.  It's obvious that this Lil horse has earned quite the following and fan base!   Most notably Carlan's daughters who cheered the entire time mom was riding.
Jane and I give Carlan a good luck kiss for
 her ride on Lil Wayne tonight!

The classes were tough, the competition ferocious, and in the end, LW earned reserve awards in both his classes.  While it would have been nicer to have blues...this still is a testament to his outstanding talent.  And it's early in the season.  This Lil guy's got it and the walking horse world better continue to beware of this 3 year old.  Besides Carlan fits him perfectly, and he her.  So it's a match made in heaven, for sure.

The finale stake class brought a blue for Copperfield, and the possibility that I just witnessed a perfect ride by the next world grand champion for 2012.  We'll see come this Fall.  But he certainly was spectacular.  And a great ending to a spectacular day in Tennessee.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fun show ribbon

So the Fun Show day has arrived! I'm anxious, but excited. This is a big show of the season, and many of the top horses will be competing. I got up early, got ready, ran to the closest Starbucks (of course!) and off to see Bourbon. All I could think of was seeing him. It's been 2 months, so I wonder if he'll remember me? And more importantly, would I remember how to ride him? Well the answer to the first question was a resounding YES! His ears perked right up and he bent down as if to say, "Hey where you been for so long...oh I don't care, you're here now, pet me!"

Then he was off to get saddled and into the arena we went. Hannah warmed him up, and he looked good. He had a little accident two weeks prior, and cut himself on a cribbing strip that had come loose. So 6" of stitches later he had been enjoying a week off on the mend. So he had only been back to work since Monday....but looked to be almost where he left off. Plus Hannah is a great rider! I hope to learn learn learn from her.

Next it was my turn. Oh he is getting SO tall! I keep calling him Cifford, as in the big red dog who kept growing! His personality is like his too! LOL. But really, the step up into the saddle is a challenge. We rode so I could get a feel for him, and Hannah provided a lesson. He is alot of fun to ride. His stride is huge and so he covers tons of ground quickly. So I have to learn that feel to gauge myself. It feels so much faster, but Hannah says its a good tempo for my flat walk. I get some more pointers...learn how to feel him drop in the shoulder and how to correct that as necessary, etc. whew, my head is spinning. He's much different to ride than Diva, and somewhat feels like I'm in England driving on the wrong side of the road. Everything seems the opposite of what I do with her. But that's what will give me variety, and hopefully I'll learn to be a better rider overall. My main goal this year.

After my ride I spend more time with B, while Hannah works other horses. She has 6 going tonight, with 5 of them, including B, in my class. So lots of work. We run out to have lunch, and then I ran to do a little shopping! I return to find the HP team loading saddles, tack and eventually horses. As the team pulls out for the show early, I went into the customer lounge to get myself cleaned up and hair done. Then off to the Celebration grounds.

The warm up area is a commotion of activity. It's a huge arena, with all the horses, riders, trainers and tack dotted along the wall area, with the center filled with riders warming up. I have to say it reminds me a little like the traffic in China, where there are no real driving rules, and everyone is just doing what they please in whatever direction. So it does seems surprising that more collisions of horses don't happen. I watch and hold Bourbon while his saddle and blanket are put on. This will be the very first time I ride in my new show saddle i got for Christmas, and brand new custom made show bridle that just arrived this week. He looks sparkly, that's all I have to say! Hannah warms him up, I take a few rides around in the danger zone....and then they call for my class.
B and me, just before our class in the warm up area.

I'm in the 4 and under Trail Ametuer class. It's a large class of about a dozen horses. And some of these horses are already world champions or world grand champions! Plus B and me. (LOL). So....HAVE FUN! Hannah has just sent in one of her 5 horses, and she's standing at the top of the ramp at the ring entry gate and turns to me, smiles and waves me in. Up the ramp I go, she wishes me luck provides a few last instructions, ans I'm in. I ask him to pick up and we're off. I must say We had moments of brilliance, mixed with a few rough moments keeping young Bourbon where I needed him to be, and doing what hannah instructed from ringside, but all in all a fairly good ride. Not perfect, but what I thought as I pulled into the line up at the end of the class.

You can view a short clip of my class on Youtube:

When the winners were called and ribbons distributed, I did place, although 8th. However, that I was is the ribbons at all is a score for us, as we have not placed in a big show like this one before. We're typically one of the horses left on the Tarmac after the ribbons are gone. So a good step forward. Plus I was beat by some world champions. So i like to think we were in good company. ;). Plus and We LOOKED good doin it!

Carlen and I enjoy the show.
My class was early in the evening, which was a bonus. I got to relax, have some dinner and enjoy the rest of the show from fabulous box seats ringside with Carlan. Tomorrow I'll ride B again for practice, and get started on improvement for next just a few weeks. I'm determined to now stay in the ribbons and move up the pecking order. Bourbon is a really nice horse, so we just need the time to get working as a team even better.
So Hannah has her work cut out with the two of us.

Thanks to all my family and friends for the well wishes and support! I'm amazed and appreciative of the messages, texts and emails. Keep them is unbelievable how much they matter when I'm here alone and long distance.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A new year

As some of you know, Bourbon has been back in training in Tennessee since January 1, 2012. He is now at Main Gait Farm under the hand of Hannah Pulvers. It's been a really hard decision to have him away from home again, but Hannah has done an amazing job.....and I just know this is the right decision for him. So Scott and I keep him close through pictures, videos and constantly talking about him. And we've even hung pictures in the barn so that Diva can see him from the cross-ties each day too. However today, I am in Tennessee, so I get to dole out real hugs and kisses this weekend.

It's the Fun Show. The big spring coming out party for this season's contenders. And tonight bourbon and I will show for the first time this year. This should prove I haven't ridden him for two months. Gosh willing, my saddle time on Diva and Fash can be translated quickly this morning so that we have a solid inaugural ride tonight. Nothing like a little pressure to get the blood pumping. Oh why couldn't it have been a smaller weekend show to ease into the year? But then again, what would have been the surprise in that? LOL.

Bourbon in his sunny stall at Main Gate.
Main Gait is just a wonderful place. Its located back in a beautiful, tranquil setting, with long tree lined drive, a gazebo at the center of the riding ring outside and a bright sunny indoor arena. My jaw had dropped the evening I had first arrived with B way back on December 30th. B's stall is on the end, where he gets to watch out the door to get constant natural sunlight and catch a good breeze. Plus he has a direct view into the arena, so he is captain of all that transpires every day. Of course, this all eases the mind to know he's got great digs. Not to mention the kind companionship and tutelage by Hannah and Bub. (aka he's got it GOOD!)

Joy the 4-day old calf...and her splints.
So, I'm off shortly to see B and ride him this morning. I'm staying with Jane again....which gives me a friend and my support structure as I inflict this crazy nerve racking pressure on myself. Unfortunately she is about 40 miles from Hannah's place, but every drive mile is worth it, to be here with her. She is the ever eloquent hostess with the mostess. And of course Scott appreciates it that I'm not alone while I'm here. Plus, it gives me special experiences, like meeting the 4-day old calf that Jane is currently caring for. A cute little girl who has front splint legs to correct a birth defect. It was endearing to watch her bottle feed the lil buggar last night. And awesome to see how she got around despite her two front legs in full casts. Only Jane would be the kind soul to take over as mamma! And now she's got me to care for too this weekend. Minus the splints, and I hope to keep it that way!

Now, my story begins again. This year to be focused on learning to conquer western pleasure riding, and bringing B along even further in his three year old season. He's striding well, timed up, and shaking hard. Hannah has him muscled and strong. And she's transformed him way beyond anything I could ever have dreamed of doing on my own. But he's up against the best young walking horses around. So the goal is on learning, having fun, and once again making new friends at this new barn. And inspirational hopes that the judges see potential in this young colt....and that my riding doesn't get in his way of a ribbon. ;)

Wish me well tonight. May the hooves stay on the bottom, and my bottom in the saddle!