"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aiken 2012 - Part 1

It's a big relief that February is over.  Losing Fred has made my equine life very sad.  I was fortunate that only days after his death, I was able to make the trip to Aiken, South Carolina and spend a week with people who truly understand what I'm feeling.  I'll try over the next few days to recap the week I had in Aiken.  It was good for my riding and my life.

Laurie McDowell, of McDowell Racing Stables, is an extraordinary woman I have never met.  She has trusted the HVS family to care for her mare, Jess.  I happen to be the primary person with Jess right now. Jess is a lovely 14 year old TB mare who raced very successfully and produced four amazing foals.

Poor Jess showed up the night before Fred's death and I didn't spend more than a few minutes with her until the day before we left for Aiken.  The good girl let me flat her in the indoor before our giant adventure began.  We experimented with shipping boots and she took to them in seconds.  By 5:30am on Saturday she was wrapped up, on the trailer, and escaping the snow for a week in Aiken.

Jess is good on the flat but green when it comes to jumping.  She may be green, but oh my is she sane and brave!  Her footwork is still a work in progress but she'll jump what you put in front of her.  We had four jump lessons that were simple, short, and straightforward.  I was majorly impressed with her.  I'm not one to get on a horse I don't know and ride it around much less jump a green one.  Jess was relaxed and then so was I.

 Lesson 1 - starting with trot poles.
  Lesson 1 - ending over the flower cross rail.
Lesson 2 - Jess jumped a little vertical, the white gate, the barrels, and the yellow and blue gate WITH a rail! Now to fix my hands and chicken wings.
 Lesson 3 - Gymnastics! Cross rail, stride, vertical, stride, vertical.  We started out small and simple and built up.  Jess was very smart through the grid. We finished with a one time try at 2'6 on the end and she looks great!
 Lesson 4 - We attempted the green box at the end of lesson once and Jess was great so we called it quits. 

Jess behaved perfectly the entire time we were there.  Oh wait, ok, she wasn't 100% perfect.  Two different nights I didn't pay attention to where I left the hay bales and she helped herself to them!   At least she never escaped like Tyler did.  

I'm looking forward to working with Jess when I get home.  She's been a very pleasant surprise!

Here's my draft plan for the rest of the Aiken blog:
Part 2 - Lauren and Alexa and Laura
Part 3 - Gwen & LClark
Part 4 - Kelsea & Antoinette
Part 5 - Annemarie
Part 6 - horse shopping (that's right, I'm in the market!) and everything else I've missed