Riding: New Directions

“It’s important to build off on what you accomplished.”

The experience in Guadalajara was an excellent one. “There are so few riders,” Trish noted, “who are able to do what you did.” They smiled in reply. “The riding was exceptional. Everyone knows it. Simply, it was strong riding.” The extra confidence from Trish was much appreciated.

practice course: Elizabeth setting part of the practice course (RRC, Mar 25 2018)

One final instruction from Trish before beginning the practice course. Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara listened intently. It wasn’t much different from their earlier days of listening to her every word, and watching her every motion.

With everyone in place, Trish signaled Deborah to begin her ride of the practice course. Quickly approaching the difficult weave section of the course (left-left-right-sweeping right), Trish yelled at Deborah to attack the course harder. Sitting back down, “The weave is a series of blind turns. It is pure instinct,” she explained. “It is total trust between horse and rider.” Deborah completed the course cleanly, saying the weave was a rush. Tara, then Elizabeth, followed, riding the course cleanly too. Their riding – fast, crisp, precise.

A quiet conversation among the four followed.

Candace (Happy Girl): ready to win in her West Coast debut (SJC, Apr 03 2018)

Today, my daughters will open their 2018 season in SoCal. They, and their horses, are ready.

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Happy Birthday Susie and Pinky!

They have grown up much too quickly. They are still very much the babies of our family.

Miss Pinky

Miss Susie

Today, they are seven. To celebrate their day on Easter Sunday makes it extra special. Ever so perfect in their loving.

Happy Birthday Susie and Pinky!

xoxo

Riding: Veterinary Certification

The final certification process for Secret Agent Man, Brie, Candace and Captain Andrew was performed in preparation for their season opener next week. It is the veterinary clearance for competition. The clearance affirms their overall fitness and vaccination records. Over the past several years, biosecurity requirements at shows have steadily tightened with more horses traveling from one portion of the country to another. Additionally, prescription and OTC medication lists have become an essential entry requirement to ensure compliance with anti-doping protocols.

adaptive technology: using a FLIR camera to check for lameness

The first half of the certification is an extensive physical, along with a retrieval of blood samples for analysis. The first sample is for a standard Chem 25 blood panel which measures a cross-section of major organ function values, CBC values and other biological values. The second sample is the annual Coggins test which evaluates for equine infectious anemia (EIA). And, the third sample is an anti-doping compliance test.

The second half of the certification is a thorough review of the vaccination records. The horses are kept on a separate calendar to avoid taking a vaccination prior to travel. They are commonly vaccinated for rabies, encephalitis (EEE, WEE, WNV), tetanus, influenza (twice a year for FEI compliance) and rhinopneumonitis/herpes (EHV-1). While a bad reaction from any given vaccine is very rare, they are given in two sessions to prevent vaccine interactions.

ready to vaccinate: Dr. Kennerly ready to vaccinate Captain Andrew for Rhinopneumonitis/Herpes-1 (Feb 2018),
she explains how the acupuncture needles relaxes the horse before the administration of the vaccine

With the horses passing their certifications, it is an easy schedule before the travel days. For SAM and Captain Andrew, it will be their first extended trip in three years while Candace (Happy Girl) will be making her west coast debut. Brie, she’ll be the most experienced one on this trip; she’s also become a fan favorite.

Notes

FLIR (forward-looking infrared) is a thermal imaging system with multiple applications. In equine veterinary medicine, it has been applied as a process to detect early lameness, hoof balance, saddle fit, back soreness and other lameness conditions involving joints and connective tissue.

Dr. Kennerly has become our primary horse physician with Dr. Burrell, our regular horse physician, on extended maternity leave. Having cared for horses in the sports field, Dr. Kennerly is very familiar with the special requirements from the various governing bodies.

Snow Day

A rare day off for the ‘rents.

playing in the snow: while Laurie blows a handful of snow, Andrea stands behind her, ready with a snowball

The snow came in the overnight hours. Not too much, about two inches. Amazingly, Laurie was able to blow the wet snow. Its consistency much better for making snowballs and snowmen and snowwomen.

We’ll grow up one day. May be tomorrow.

Riding: 2018 Opener

The field of thirty riders was set. From the La Familia Cup (1.50m), 24 riders qualified. The remaining slots were filled by wild card entrants. Elizabeth, Deborah and Tara qualified with top ten finishes, 6th, 9th and 10th respectively. Both the team trainer and a team sponsor were very pleased. They called their riding “masterful”. Considering the girls had met their horses two days earlier, they described their riding as adequate.

The opportunity of riding in Guadalajara had presented itself weeks earlier as the Nationals in Las Vegas were drawing to a close. An equestrian group from Mexico had brought a pair of horses and one of their best riders. They were using their appearance as a dress rehearsal ahead of the World Cup show in Guadalajara. A pair of team officials had watched from the sidelines. Disappointed, they had hoped for a better outcome.

After a few inquiries, word began to spread of a late rider switch for their team. Soon, they found themselves speaking with my daughters. Acknowledging the possibility of a rider switch, they asked the girls of their thoughts regarding a switch. They suggested staying with their original plan. A switch does not guarantee a better result. Plus, finding and contracting riders at such a late stage could be difficult, and may come at a premium price. Besides, their young riders would gain more experience from riding than from watching. If they qualified, a World Cup start would be something to build on.

With a day and a half to prepare, plenty of riding remained. The entire field had events remaining on their individual schedules. My daughters had two events and a practice session on the board for the next day. On World Cup day, only a light morning workout was planned. The only amateurs in a diverse professional field, my girls knew they needed quality rides to be competitive. The masterful rides, for the moment, were a series of photos on display in the Guadalajara Country Club from past shows.

jump: Kent Farrington (USA) with Uceko at the Pan Am Games XVI (2011)
original photo: Al Bello/Getty Images*

A misty morning greeted all on World Cup day. The girls followed their usual routine, checking on the horses in the early morning. Their team of four grooms reported the horses had a good night despite the damp, chilly conditions. They added once the fog and mist lifts later in the morning, it would be a very good day for riding. Deep blue skies and a few, feathery clouds were revealed when the mist and fog burned off. It was indeed a perfect day for riding.

First, it was the morning riders’ meeting and the all-important, blind draw for starting positions. The girls had hoped to draw start positions in the middle of the field. They were very pleased with the positions they drew – Deborah 12th, Tara 15th, Elizabeth 16th – it had to be a good sign. Much of the day, though, would be a matter of staying loose, and managing the expectations like any other grand prix day. Wait for, then ride, their practice times, keeping it all very easy.

Tara: from cross trainers to English tall boots

The course build was going to be challenging for my daughters. They hadn’t jumped a full course at 1.60 m before. The Guilherme Jorge designed course featured a 13 fence/16 effort layout. Also designing courses for the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2016 Las Vegas Nationals, this course design had his trademark technical challenges while showcasing the athleticism and grace of the horse.

During the walkthrough, my daughters’ focus was on the coming ride. To ride the course cleanly, a good rhythm was needed: clear one fence, gather position and speed quickly for the next, stick the take-offs and landings. Turns needed to be precise and smooth. Technical demands aside, the difficulty of the course was its fence heights.

Coming into the event, most of the riders had fewer than five World Cup starts. The more experienced professionals were few in number. The most experienced professionals were the three other riders from the USA. While two entrants (Brazil and Sweden) withdrew due to injury, the tightening of the field to 28 didn’t alter the overall competitiveness. In another wrinkle, the FEI suspended the rule requiring amateur riders to have a top ten finish to appear in the official results. Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara would be eligible for ranking points.

With the first group of riders warming up, a sense of anticipation and excitement was beginning to build in the grandstand. A qualifier for both the World Cup Finals in Paris and the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, much seemed to be at stake. Many were hoping to see the road to both championships begin here. The girls checked their riggings one final time. Deborah and Tara were in the second warm-up group, Elizabeth in the third. Each with a few butterflies, it was fairly routine. My girls were ready.

Among the early starters, the riding was very rough. Pulled rails, time faults, tentative riding. Though one clear round was produced, the audience had grown quiet. Their optimism and excitement had faded. More rails were pulled, but times improved slightly into the low 80s. A pair of clear rounds followed. With pulled rails all over the course, no particular section was proving to be more difficult than another.

Her riding was smooth, her turns were precise. The jumps were clean. Deborah was putting on a clinic. Fate intervened on fence 9C of the Longines Jump, a triple fence combination. Her Dutch warmblood barely tapped the top rail, but was enough to pull it. An audible “ohhh” could be heard throughout the grandstand. Deborah finished at 80.48 seconds/4 penalty points. She was warmly applauded for her effort. Following Deborah was last year’s champion, Francisco Pasquel. His ride was crisp, clean and precise. Posting the fastest time of 76.79 seconds, he was laying down a challenge for the remaining riders in this round and the jump-off – your best ride will be needed. After his ride into the lead, it was another rider unexpectedly pulling off rails on back-to-back fences. He shook his head in bitter disappointment coming off the course.

At the halfway point of the event, Tara was next. She rode a quickening lap around the ring before crossing the start timers to begin her run. With good speed and rhythm over the first third of the course, Tara’s time split was a half second ahead of Pasquel. She then heard a rail being struck while clearing fence 6. Tara kept her eyes focused heading into fences 7 and 8, before lining herself up for the Longines Jump at 9. Though Tara had good speed, she finished at 82.54 seconds/4 penalty points.

Immediately following Tara was Elizabeth. With four riders already claiming places in the jump-off, she wanted to be the fifth. Elizabeth cantered her Hanoverian at a deliberate pace, slowly stepping it up. Crossing the start timers, Elizabeth began her run. She was crisp, clean and precise. At the first time split, she was fractionally ahead of Tara, 0.60 seconds ahead of Pasquel. With Elizabeth riding extremely well, the audience had taken notice of her time and the remaining number of fences. It was going to be close. Slightly brushing the last fence, it was enough to pull down a rail. A nice pat for CM, Elizabeth gave herself a tap on the helmet. Elizabeth finished at 77.91 seconds/4 penalty points. Her time was the second fastest over the course.

curtain call: extra applause for Elizabeth and CM

The remaining portion of the field produced three more clear rides to advance them into a seven-horse jump-off. It ended with a 1-2-3 sweep for the host nation, Mexico. For Luis Alejandro Plascencia O, it was a qualifying win in his first World Cup start. Taking second was Gustavo Ramos with his longtime partner Izzy Miaki, with last year’s winner, Francisco Pasquel, finishing third. The highest USA finish was fifth place by Sarah Scheiring. Riding last in the jump-off, Sarah pulled a rail on the last fence. Her finish moved her higher in the east coast sub-league standings for the World Cup – North America branch. In the final standings, Elizabeth finished 8th, Deborah 11th and Tara 12th.

Their first international show, and riding well, my girls are not ready to concede they achieved. Quite to the contrary. They have learned how to be better riders from the experience, and had fun in the learning.

Note

* Photo of a gallery print. The Getty Image of Kent Farrington and Uceko at the Pan Am Games can be found here.

Clocking

Miss Calico’s clock says it’s 8:53.

The Tidy Cat clock says it’s 10:17.

Perhaps the musical question needs to be asked, like the band, Chicago, asked here.

Side Note

My sis, Ginny, won a pair of tickets to attend the informal show Chicago was taping at Caribou Ranch, near Nederland in 1973. The show was on her first day of class, at the start of her sophomore year in college. Ginny was wondering who she could give the tickets to. Though I raised my hand high, she thought about giving the tickets to her best friend. Her friend couldn’t take them because she had to work her shift. Ginny, reluctantly, let me have the tickets. Nancy and I skipped our first day of school (high school) to attend. We met the band during one of the taping breaks. Better yet, I got a kiss from Nancy for a great day.

Two

“Do not let these instances define, or govern, your life.”

Today marks the second anniversary of my mom’s passing. She, undoubtedly, would ask how the second year went. It went well. Many good memories abound. Mom would be pleased.

She knew about the ranch project – when it was an idea, then bringing forward the plan. Though we had wanted to bring her to North Ranch, mom passed on the idea several times. She was quite satisfied with the array of photos, with photos of the interior and the wildlife among the last batch three weeks before her passing. We are certain she would’ve loved the place. “Are you sure about living out there?” she’d probably ask with a smile.

On this second anniversary, mom would lend a piece of advice. “Do not grieve more than needed. Life is for living. Live it to your best.”

Love you,  miss you.

xo