Sunday, April 28, 2013


I wasn't able to make it up for the jog this morning.....just too many late nights (but it was WORTH it!).  However, I got to spend some wonderful time with my brother, and that was worth it.

We got to the park just before the Stadium Jumping began.  The sky looked threatening, but once again we dodged a bullet with the weather:  it spat a bit, but the rain only came after the event was finished.

It was obvious that several of the horses, while fit, were tired, as evidenced by the HUGE number of rails that rained down around the jumps.  I think there were only three or four clear rounds all day.

Both William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson went clean, leaving them one and two.  These men rode quiet, so supple, and WITH  their horses that they couldn't help but leave the rails up.

I got a text from Peter Atkins' groom after stadium asking if I wanted to come meet Henny--who wouldn't?  So I "walked in like I owned the place" (I did have a special "friend of the competitor" pass), and by golly, I was able to go right to Henny's stall.  I got to see Peter, meet his wife, get to know the groom's son, and--get this--she didn't want to take Henny's braids out, so I offered to.  I got to take Henry Jota Hampton's braids out!

Had a lovely evening with my family again, at the Gray Goose in Paris.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

From Rags to Riches....and back

Fence Six, the curved brushes, were the first real question on the Rolex XC course.  Before it, after a long gallop, is the stone walls, and after it comes the first water on the course.  It involves coming in fast to a narrow brush, landing down hill, two/three strides UP hill to another narrow brush.  If you don't have the correct pace and/or line, it could be dangerous.

There was an S-curve option, but surprisingly, none of the horses took it.  I thought for sure some of the first timers would, but I was wrong.

That doesn't mean that everyone took it well, however.

The first rider on course, William Fox-Pitt, would, I thought, set the bar for subsequent riders.  I was surprised, then, when he shortened his horse to the point where he almost didn't make it over the first brush, then had to gun Seacookie to make the second brush.  His second go on Chilli Morning, the leader after dressage, was nearly perfect, but he retired the horse after a refusal at the next jump.

Buck Davidson rode both of his horses fast, not spending much time setting up (that I could see), and almost left a stride out!  Same fro Phillip Dutton and the Irish rider, Austin O'Connor. Mary Kind, too, but she was more consistent.

Calico Joe and Andrew Nicholson left most of their grease on the first jump.  His ride on Quimbo was much different--very nice, very measured, and very consistent.

Poor Kendal Lehari from Canada nearly came off when her VERY scopey horse took off a stride early on the first jump.  She hung on and let him figure the second one out!

Several riders were "passengers" on the brush out.

Becky Holder had a strong ride, deer jumping the first then taking off long to the second, and her horse left a shoe at our fence.  I wonder if that's why her horse ended up having trouble later in the course??

Boyd Martin used a LOT of body language (flapping his arms) on this fence.  Peter Atkins came in at an off stride, and Henny (who's as scopey as they come) jumped BIG over both fences.

Gin and Juice and R-Star and Pawlow and Tivoli and several others had picture perfect rides.  Here's what I learned from watching this fence:

  • Knowing how much your horse is "taking you" is vital.  Those who didn't slowed down too much or allowed an almost unsafe pace.
  • I saw several tugs that weren't half halts--they slowed the impulsion--rather than compacting the horse and raising his front end.  A half-halt should bring the horse UP.
  • The riders who were quiet and balanced and WITH their horses ended up doing well EVEN when their horses had issues. 
  • The most fluid, successful riders half-halted well before the fence, then "pushed" to it in regular rhythm.

After XC, the standings changed quite a bit--William Fox-Pitt is no longer in the lead.  Now it's Andrew Nicholson's competition to lose!

We were lucky with the weather.  It was overcast the whole day, but it only spit rain a few times, and then not much.  The footing was nigh to perfect, and it never got too hot or cold.

Post XC I went to see my old OSU friends, Roxanne and Bill, and their horses.  They have two, both rescued OTTBs:  Star, a gorgeous dark bay (almost black) gelding, and Sedona, a lovely young liver chestnut mare.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them--and it made me miss my ponies.

We met Stacy at Rodney's, a fantastic restaurant in Georgetown, KY, and we shared two bottles of wine and a fabulous dinner.  We traded life stories, work stories, and horse stories.  Does it get any better?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Contemplating Dressage

Another fantastic day, weather-wise (even though it was a bit chilly in the morning and clouded up late in the day).  We arrived at the Horse Park a bit later than we wanted to, entering the arena to a huge roar:  the local Paris, KY rider, Allie Knowles, had just put in a fantastic dressage test to move into second place.  I'm really sorry that I missed it!

Several of the horses were quite fresh-poor Erin Sylvester's horse barely stayed in the ring--her horse, No Boundaries, wanted the boundaries of the dressage ring removed!

Several of the riders put in fantastic tests:  Marilyn Little's test was very accurate and consistent; Boyd Martin's Trading Aces was a lovely mover, and he rode the test well, showing the horse off; James Alliston and Tivoli were super to watch--very light and obedient, if slightly crooked a few times.  Mary King's test was fantastic as well--the woman was PLUGGED IN to her saddle, and she and and her horse were in tune.  He had some pretty movement, but she USED it in good ways.

And then there was William Fox Pitt.

The man was relaxation in motion.  His horse, a youngish stallion who's relatively inexperienced compared to his other horses, had one of the most lilting, lovely tests I've seen.  Every movement planned and executed carefully--but not so carefully that the horse couldn't shine!  I think even William was surprised that the test went so well, as he shrugged at the judges in the E box as he left the arena.

I missed the last two riders in an effort to make a course walk with Ralph Hill, but it looks as though Andrew Nicholson had a fantastic test, being the only rider other than WFP to break the 40 barrier for a 38 (Fox-Pitt scored a 33.3).

WHY is it that the Brits (and NZL riders) are doing so much better than we are?  They are systematic, careful, and relaxed--yet demanding.  What is it we're not doing right??  Not taking anything from the fantastic riders from USA who are in the top 10--but William Fox-Pitt's horse WASN'T the best mover of the bunch--but he WAS the most relaxed and obedient.  What gives?

I only got to do part of the coursewalk with Ralph Hill and Eric Dierks (who are a brilliant team--they play off each other well, and they both are witty and knowledgeable) because I had to go to the Fence Judge briefing.  It looks like a fun course, and I'll be at Fence 6, the curved brushes.

The day was eventful for a couple more reasons:  First, I ran into God (aka Jimmy Wofford) in front of the Dressage arena....and he remembered me!  He asked me if I was going to be there in June (he's doing a clinic in OK then).  I told him I'd try--that my wonderful Irish horse tore his high rear suspensory, but that he was coming back and that I had a couple new horses I might be able to bring.  I was walking on air for a while after than encounter.  :)

Then I got a blast from the past:  during the lunch break, I wandered into Bit of Britain to try on some helmets (and, as it turned out, a Kan-Teq vest, which I really liked).  While walking back, I stopped to enter the Smart Pak contest, and one of the nice ladies encouraged me to "ask the expert farrier a question" (poor guy was standing next to a sign all by himself).  You know me:  I can never pass up an opportunity to pick an expert's brain, so I asked this guy, Danvers Child, about dry feet.  We traded small talk--turns out he's from West TX, but now lives in IN.  I used to live in IN, and now am in West TX--I told him I got my PhD at Ball State, and he told me he got his at Purdue.  When I told him what my degree was in--Rhetoric--he gaped and said his was in Rhetoric and Composition.  I told him I knew a Purdue guy who fit his description, but his name was Bob--and it turns out Robert Danvers Child used to go by Bob.  I have been out drinking and conferencing with this man, who stopped practicing Rhetoric and Composition and now is a full time farrier (who is an expert, giving clinics and representing Smart Pak).

How cool is that?

Spent a lovely evening with the extended Rickly clan:  nieces, grand nephews, the works.  I have a fine family.

Looking forward to an exciting (and perhaps soggy) XC tomorrow!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beautiful Dressage Day

Once again, the KY weather is manic depressive....yesterday, it rained and was dreary most of the day, and today it was bright, blue skies, and beautiful.  I had to teach my grad class this morning, so I took a quick trip to Quillins Leather and Tack beforehand so that all my new ponies (and one old one) will have new halters.  :)

After a great Skyped class (I have THE BEST students ever), I was off to the Kentucky Horse Park to watch what was left of dressage.

Yet again, I was struck by how excited...ready to go...these horses were while they tried (and they REALLY tried) to do their dressage tests.  Several of them (like Jessica Phoenix's Exponential and Daniel Clasing's Houston) looked as though they might jump out of the arena!  Both put in a respectable test nonetheless.  I'm so thorougly impressed by these riders.  Even when the horses were excited and even tending towards naughty, they kept on riding the horse they had...I could learn a thing or two from these folks.  Consistency.

I noticed that the very fit horses had a tendency towards what I would call being tense--and the tenseness created less straightness, as well as some inconsistency in gaits (for instance, while they were doing counter canter).  The horses who scored well were straight with good transitions and consistent gaits--not necessarily the "flashy" movers, but the ones who were connected and forward.

I got to spend a tiny bit of time with Peter Atkins' groom, Amanda, one of the nicest folks in the world.  We both commiserated that Peter, who had a lovely ride, didn't score better.  Sigh.  I wish I were more educated so that I could understand what happened.  I would love to read the comments on each of the tests!

I sat in another Stackhouse saddle, and I'm wondering if that's not my answer for Bart.

Saw Catherine from Area V, and enjoyed sitting with Cynthia and Jon.  Karen and I hit the trade fair, and we might have some 'splainin' to do at home.

We ended the evening with Composition friends Jeff and Jenny Rice, along with Vered and Judah at a restaurant called Alfalfa.  I had a super meal, and got to chat with some smart colleagues (and some fun/smart kids, too)--then Karen and I came back to my brother's house and enjoyed some bourbon and Dark Horse Chocolates.  Life is good!  Let's hope the weather holds.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gearing Up!

Once again, it's time to visit my wonderful brother and his family in Paris, KY.  This visit seems to always fall on the last weekend of April....amazing how that happens.  Of course, I felt the need to visit him in December last year, too, which coincided with me trying out my new "Mini-Paddy", Irish Tom.  My brother lives close to ALL the cool things!  Perhaps one day I'll stay an extra week to the first Saturday in May and then watch the Kentucky Derby, too.

Cheering for several people this year.  First, Peter Atkins and Henny--because he's been so kind (as has his groom) to me.  He seems to embody the true spirit of eventing:  work hard, and be generous.

Gotta cheer for Jessica Phoenix and Exponential.  I got to meet Jessica when I went to Ocala to try out horses (I even petted her Rolex pony!).  She sold me Windsor High, aka Bart (well, she was the agent for her young rider).  What a kind, wonderful person.   I really enjoyed meeting her.

I'm also cheering for Heather Gillette and Questy, since I think she's another person who fits into the "kind, generous, hard worker" camp.  She helped me look for my new Pony, and even though I ended up going with yet another Irish boy, I was sorely tempted by her former campaigner.

As always, I'll stand in awe of folks like William Fox Pitt, Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Andrew Nicholson, Mary King...heck, everyone who's there.  And once again, I'll be fence judging on Saturday.  I'll find out which fence on Friday pm.

This year, my NM buddy Cynthia is coming, but with her hubby, so they're staying at a local B&B.  My old partner in crime from Midland, Karen, will be staying at my brother's house, and so will Stacy of Team Taco fame.

Here's to the best Rolex yet!