Grand Prix Saturday: Semi-Live

Note: An experiment of sorts with a semi-live blog. Comments will be off until later tonight.

Updates are at the bottom of the post.

A warm week of riding, this morning begins on the cooler side. While the cooler conditions are much welcomed, thoughts turn on whether afternoon storms will be easy or severe. Last Saturday, thunderstorms sort of wrecked havoc with the schedule with many delays for strong rains and lightning, pushing the start of the GP into the evening hours. Hopefully, it won’t become a long day for everyone.

6:30 am

Arriving at the horse barn an hour earlier, time for a light workout. SAM and Captain Andrew have been having an outstanding two weeks. Candace (Happy Girl), still in recovery for lameness, has been doing well also. Tara wasn’t too sure in bringing Happy Girl but is glad she did. Happy Girl has shown no shyness with the taller fences (1.40 and 1.45 m) and jumps with the spring one expects. Also, she has shown no tenderness.

The easy workout ends. After a cool down, a supervised relax period in the paddock.

8:45 am

Walking the horses back to their stalls ahead of the 9:00 am GP riders meeting. Through last night, only 7 riders were listed for tonight’s GP. This morning, the list expanded to 32. Not uncommon for the list to expand. The meeting will be a breakdown of the day’s schedule – final vet check, handout of the course layout, ring walk-through, course walk-through – and the all-important blind draw on starting position.

9:30 am

Tara has drawn the best starting position, #32. She will have the opportunity to watch the entire field and know what she needs to do to get herself and Happy Girl into the jump-off. Deborah has drawn #18, Elizabeth #25. They’re not bad starting positions, though Deborah hoped for something in the 20’s also.

Update, 2:40 pm

If you’ve ever been to a horse show, as a competitor or attendee, the schedule ends up running late. Most times, it is a class that has become too large, or there is a technical issue. Though clouds are in the distance, you can’t call this one on the weather. The WiFi has been up-and-down since late this morning, which in turn delays so many other things, like scheduling, that has become part of the wired world. To be only 45 minutes behind schedule isn’t too bad.

Around 11:30, it was the ring walk-through. This is the chance for the riders to have a sense of the footing. With a GGT surface, the footing is very good. Rarely, rarely does one experience any soft or hard spots. It is also surface that doesn’t grab onto a hoof. Also, the amount of rain we’ve had this week hasn’t changed the footing dynamic. The horse park has one of the best drainage system.

In about 30 min, the vet checks will begin. It’s mostly a pro forma process with a focus on the legs, the hooves, and veterinary paperwork. For a horse, like Happy Girl, the vet will pay extra time checking her over.

Update, 4:56 pm

The gates to the Grand Prix ring opened at 4:00 pm. Unlike most other horse parks, the grandstand has limited seating. The remaining seating area is contoured like a gentle hill in a grassed park for the attendees to spread out their blanket or set-up their own lawn chairs. If they wish, they can picnic their dinner. It is also one of the few venues in which the GP is not a ticketed event. Though more relaxed, the electricity of a GP event can be felt.

Remarkably, the weather has stayed fairly nice. Though the afternoon clouds have built, they seem not to be the stormy kind – at least not yet. Temperature-wise, it is in the mid 80’s. Warm, but not the blast furnace kind of heat from Thursday and Friday. Eyes, though, remain focused on the sky as the cloud cover has come closer.

Around 5:40 pm, it is the course walk-through. The GP riders will get to walk the course, to gauge their sight lines, riding lines and footing. Most likely, the stadium lights will be on to minimize shadows. While it seems the GP may begin near its scheduled time of 6:30 pm, more likely it will begin between 7:45-8:00 pm.

Update, 11:39 pm

The horses are safely bedded down for the night in their stalls. Back at Bella’s home, my daughters continue to unwind. Each have a tiny sip of champagne, setting it aside for  tall sodas. Their minds and attention turn to Iowa, planning out a short week of practice.

The parents, and Bella, proud of our girls.

Comments are on.

Riding: The Home Ground

Over the past few years, it has been riding away from home. The level of competition is much greater and more varied. Riding at a higher level certainly warrants this kind of approach. It is important to measure individual progress and to improve riding skills. It also requires more selectivity while constructing the show schedule. Traveling a long distance for one show and back home, that show likely does not make the schedule – though we’ve done it a few times. Making all the pieces fit – shows, practice, downtime – on the calendar is the difficult part. It provides invaluable experience for the younger equestrian contemplating a professional career.

Walk of Champions (Colorado Horse Park, July 2016)

This week, and next, the riding will be closer to home. These two shows are part of a summer series, which begins in early June and ends in late July, or early August. It is a nice series drawing riders from the Four Corners zone, the larger Intermountain West and the Midwest. With the away schedule, my daughters have used the month of July as downtime while maintaining their in-season practice schedule. Last summer, they rode the last show of the series. This summer, it is the last two shows of the series.

Riding the home ground has given the girls the opportunity to renew their ties with riding friends who still make the trek, here, for two, three or four weeks. They’ll also be sharing some of their experience with the five junior riders from RRC. Trish will have them shadow Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara like she had them shadow Greg, Sarah and Megan. Trish, she’ll be watching everything from the sidelines.

end of the day: Trish and Perry head back to the barn (RRC, July 6 2017)

Mid-Season Break

It’s another day off from riding, before going back to work tomorrow. The day off from riding is good for both horse and rider. The horses, essentially, to be horses. My daughters, the riders, to be the young women they are.

Having their nails done, they enjoy.

Deborah & Elizabeth: matching multi-color glitter

Tara: classic red glitter

Their thoughts, though, are not far from riding. The off-saddle work of reviewing hours of video and sorting through a few hundred photos is exacting, ferreting out the good and the not-so-good.

Come tomorrow, they’ll be ready to get back to work – riders and horses.

Deborah and Comet: the end of a day off (JN Ranch, Jul 05 2016)

A Bit of Inspiration

My daughters have found some of their preferences match up with one of best riders in the world, Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden. The video featuring Beezie Madden talking about preferences can be seen here.

Riding: The Turnaround

This is when the riding schedule begins in earnest. A few days at home to recoup and prepare for four weeks away in SoCal. While it is demanding, the girls relish the challenge and the attention to detail.

For their light workout, Trish came down on Thursday to watch the girls from the sidelines. Though they rode very well in the first two shows of the season, they said it seemed like they were out-of-sync. The three said the flow could have been more smoother, a little more crisp.

their turn: Tara and Brie start a half-speed circle exercise with Deborah and Elizabeth waiting their turn
(JN Ranch, Jun 01 2017)

With Trish watching, the light workout session became more of a lesson. A half-speed exercise session in the morning. In the afternoon, an off-saddle classroom session. She determined the girls were riding more tightly than usual. The remedy – trust yourself, trust your horse.

While the girls were in class, the horses napped the warm afternoon away. A nice spray down followed when class let out.

the afternoon cool down: Tara spraying down Cameron (JN Ranch, Jun 01 2017)

“Ride now, ride forever”

The Season Begins

The weeks of practice have made them excited for the season to begin. They are ready. The riding has been fast, precise and crisp. It is disciplined. Trish has observed they are riding in mid-season form. “They are that good,” she has said.

saddle point-of-view: following Tara’s lead on Cameron, Deborah’s view onboard Comet (RRC, May 06 2017)
South Platte River on the left

The girls, along with Trish and Mark, are viewing this season as one of great challenge. Last season was a very good one, and resulted with an appearance at the Las Vegas National Horse Show. The expectations for them are likely greater this season if not higher.

My girls have said they are equal to the challenge for this season. There are no doubts, just riding. Everything else will follow.

pure love: Deborah and Captain Andrew (Jul 2016)

Beginning their 2017 season today, my daughters will once again start in Texas.

Photo credit – the saddle point-of-view is courtesy of Deborah.

“Ride now, ride forever”

 

Setting The Course

It is graduation day.

University of Colorado – Colorado Springs: Graduation Day, Class of 2002

Deborah, Elizabeth and Tara will be receiving their Bachelor of Science degrees, Deborah and Tara in Biology and Elizabeth in Chemistry. Instead of participating in the ceremony, it is a day of final preparations for the start of their riding season in a few days. It consists of the necessary certifications of health and vaccination by Dr. Burrell, our horse veterinarian.

Dr. Burrell conducting an oral exam while Dr. Diehl holds Brie’s tongue

It is a day of mixed emotions. There is a greater sense of excitement. It is also a recognition our daughters have taken another step forward in their personal journeys.

It is their day to be recognized and celebrated. While they have achieved much, so much lays ahead.

Ready

Warm, summery weather was the setting for the final, full weekend of practice. It was a much welcomed relief from the last 2-3 weekends of wintry, unsettled weather. Hot, sunny, dusty and sweaty – the way practice should be – at least to my girls.

taking a break: Deborah undoing her helmet (RRC, May 05 2017)

The riding – it is fast, crisp, precise and disciplined. Trish has said the girls are riding with a level of excitement that she has rarely seen. They are loving every second of it. They are riding with a purpose. The ribbons and success are of little importance.

Wistful as she may sound, Trish knows the horizon for her three best riders ever is wide open – inside and outside of riding. Stay, they will be among the best in 18-24 months riding a full schedule. Outside of riding, everything and anything will be possible. “They are that good,” she says beamingly.

Compliments aside, my girls would settle for one more practice session. And, one without snow.

was not forecasted: a snowy practice start for Elizabeth and SAM (RRC, Apr 29 2017)