Monday, August 11, 2008



I’m awakened by the 80’s sound of Huey Lewis and The News and my husband asking, snooze button? My answer is a emphatic yes! It’s early, too early but the next time the alarm goes off I pull myself from my toasty cocoon and stumble towards the bathroom. By the time I get out of the shower, make myself presentable and pack up the last few things, my phone rings. It’s our fearless leader, I’m late. How can this be, I’m never late and Michelle is never on time. I tell her I’m leaving in 5 and will be to her place in 15, and so it was and they journey began. Next stop is Camille’s who has literally been standing outside her home for a ½ hour, oops. So now the truck is fully loaded, Michelle, Camille, myself and of course the dogs, Oscar, Toast, and Mojito.

Team Katleman was headed straight to Woodside while we were going further north to look at a horse. The long trip is passing quickly as we talk about what else, horses. Not long after we get off the 5 Mojito gives us something that we’ll be talking about for the rest of the trip. Camille made mention that she thought that she smelled fertilizer. I was hoping she was right but my nose knew better. Instead the lovely unmistakable aroma we were all enjoying was anal glands. Windows down, heads out! We’re still not sure what Camille was doing to that dog but the end result was one very stinky fleece jacket that quickly found its way to the back of the truck. The horse was nice, but nothing special so we now reverse direction back to Woodside. Team Katleman has called to let us know they have arrived safely, although they nearly ran out of gas causing Nick a small panic attack, but all's well and the horses were settling in nicely. The trip down the coast proves to be quite picturesque as we travel over the Golden Gate Bridge and the outskirts of San Fran. We arrive at Woodside and it’s time to get to work.

Eddie had decided it was going to be a long day at the office. Sara did her best to not fight with him but when he kept on flipping his head we were all ready to change his name to Elmer. Sara struggled through and was able to end on a decent note and hope he got it out of his system. Nick and Buck had a lovely ride with no incident.

After dinner at Hobee’s we came away knowing a little more about Nick in particular. Apparently he’s accident prone and is also very good at inflicting pain on his loved ones. Did I mention he shut his mothers fingers in the truck door earlier in the day? Clearly we’ll have to keep an eye on him.

It’s D day -- what were you thinking? I’m talking about dressage. The horses look great scrubbed, brushed and braided and the kids don’t look half bad either. Sara is up first, warm-up was much better that the day before and Sara is well focused at not engaging with any of Eddie’s antics. If he wants to lift his head she’s going to push him forward into her hand. Sara succeeds with her plan and is able to measure her success with her own knowledge of just how hard he is to ride in dressage. Now Nick, one might think he could have easily been distracted because his girlfriend is warming up at the same time, but Nick has his game face on and I don’t even catch him give his girlfriend a quick smile. He’s hardcore! Success also finds Nick and Buck. When the standings are posted Nick is tied for 3rd and Sara is just outside the ribbons… for now. The rest of the day continues without incident until Michelle and Camille open a bottle of wine and realize they have no glasses. With the classic eventer ingenuity glasses are formed out of containers that previously contained cake and everyone is happy. Later in the evening we join Nick’s girlfriend Hanna and her mother and trainer for dinner. The subject of Janet’s bruised fingers come up in discussion and again in typical eventer style it’s decided that the cure is traumeel. You’ll have to ask Janet if it worked. Just as we pulled into the hotel parking lot Mojito reminded us just who’s in control. Yep, you guessed it that familiar smell filled the truck once more, it must be Camille’s doing because I know my driving was impeccable. Lucky for us he kept on getting it on clothing, things easily cleaned and not on the truck interior.

Time to jump! Camille and I find our seats and watch the open novice and it’s a train wreck. Not until the last rider and finally a double clean. By this time Camille and I have tried to get our timing down for pictures (tried). Sara is the first to go in junior novice and sets the standard with a double clean. WAHOOO!!! You should know there were very few double cleans. Nick was up next and rode a great round with just one rail. Thankfully those rounds go quickly because Janet was seriously going to need the paramedics with her show mom nerves. When the standings were posted Nick was in 3rd alone and Sara was now in 5th. The kids quickly walked there x-country course and Nick being a good brother said he would take care of Eddie for Sara so we could head out to Petaluma to continue horse shopping. Once again the truck was full with the five of us and yes three dogs. An hour and a half later we arrived to find some very nice horses. Prince (aka Bonehead) proved to be a real contender for Sara just as soon as Eddie is sold. After a few hours we were back in the truck headed back to Woodside. Later that night we ate dinner at the hotel and as we talked, to the dismay of the kids it was revealed that my family history includes some, I hate to say it, redneck stories. I would just like to remind them that I cannot be held responsible if my family members chose to eat road kill. After dinner Michelle decided it would be a good idea to bath her dogs in the hotel bathtub, by morning they smelled good but that evening as we drifted off to sleep eau d' wet dog is all I could smell.

It’s time for x-country, what’s there to say, it’s the day we all wait for. Nick and Sara both did fantastic and stayed in the same place. With another long drive ahead of us the horses were taken care of and the things were loaded up quickly. We decided not to caravan seeing how we were not hauling and left around 11:00, contrary to the ride up, the ride home was quiet evidence of a long successful show. Even Mojito made it home with no more incidents. So congratulations to team Katleman on a job well done and hopefully we’ll see everyone at the barn cookout.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


The first time I rode cross country was on a trip to Ireland. (The picture to the right is NOT me, by the way, it's our fearless leader Michelle.) I went with group from my riding school where we were all working on being very serious hunt seat riders and rarely ever left the ring. Jet-lagged and cranky that first morning, the last thing I really wanted to do was go on a glorified trail ride.

The horse I was assigned, Dearag, apparently liked to be in the front of the pack so would I mind going first down the wooded lane? Stop when you come to a crossroads were my only instructions. And with that we were off. Dearag took me over logs, through box jumps, and flew over anything else in our way. I was having so much fun I didn’t even see the crossroads much less stop there. The wind was whistling in my ears and the blood was pounding in my head so hard I never heard the cries of “whoa” from behind me. I drug the entire group after me until we literally hit the end of the road. After just that one ride, I was hooked.

When I came home and told friends how much fun I had, a friend suggested, “We should try eventing.” Yeah, sure, I thought, that would be great. Um... what is it?

The easiest way to think of eventing is to think of it as a triathlon consisting of dressage, cross country and show jumping phases. Eventing began as a military exercise back in the day when mounted units decided borders of countries and was considered the ultimate test of horse and rider. There’ve been a few changes in the sport, particularly some controversial ones in recent years but the intent remains the same. The goal of eventing remains to test the horse’s endurance, speed, stamina, and obedience under pressure as well as the rider’s nerves and wits. No offense, hunters, but for me it’s a lot more fun and challenging than standing at the in-gate waiting for your turn to go.

A good thing to keep in mind as you watch an event is that the score is translated into penalty points. In other words it’s like golf - lower is better. So if you’re used to dressage riders longing for a 72 on their test don’t be mystified when an eventer is ecstatic at a 28. Dressage is always ridden first (to get the worst part over if you ask me) and then either show jumping or cross country, depending on the way the event is run. In a true, classic test cross country is run next on the second day and then show jumping is ridden on the third day largely as a test of the horse’s soundness and fitness after cross country.

Events can take place in just one day (typically referred to as a derby for those of us on the West coast), two days (usually called a horse trial) or the full three days. Eventers compete at certain levels, starting with Beginner Novice and going all the way up to Intermediate. Levels are set by the difficulty of the dressage test, the height of the fences and the speed you are required/allowed to complete the jump courses in. An event will allow a set number of riders in each level that they choose to run – for instance, some shows later in the year don’t include a Beginner Novice level in order to allow more riders at the higher levels. Also, some facilities only run levels up to a certain height because they don’t have the space or terrain to run the higher, more difficult levels. If you’re just starting out, most cities will have at least one facility that will run the un-recognized Intro to Beginner Novice or even lower so that you can safely give eventing a try without getting in over your head.

But eventing isn’t just about shows. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities to go schooling just for fun you’re missing out a huge part of the sport. Schooling allows you and your horse to go over obstacles that you wouldn’t normally meet, like water and ditches, and let you confront them without the added baggage of show nerves. You can have all the do-overs you need until you feel comfortable that you and your horse have got it down pat. You also get to do crazy fun stuff like going swimming with your horse - check out "Whoopali's Swimming Lesson" on the video bar to the right to see what I mean. (And yes, that is me getting a dunking...)

Eventing is mostly a state of mind. A fellow competitor will loan you a piece of missing equipment if need be to keep you from being eliminated from the show without hesitation. Thankfully there are specific ride times for both dressage and cross country as well as a fairly sure window for show jumping, allowing you the rest of the day to relax, socialize or work on your show nerves. After the rides are over, there is almost always a formal competitors party at least one evening of the event where everyone can hang out and catch up on the latest news. The other nights there are usually impromptu gatherings traveling from one group’s mini-campsite of tables and chairs to the next. Almost without exception, eventers prefer to care for their own horses rather than having grooms do it for them. Feeding, watering and cleaning out stalls are chores you do yourself or trade off with other people in your barn. It’s really the overall friendly atmosphere of competitors cheering for one another and always being willing to lend a helpful hand that converted me to eventing for good.

Best of all, eventing is a sport for riders of all ages and riding skill levels. So if you know which end of the horse to saddle and like to color a little bit outside of the box give eventing a try – you won’t be disappointed!