Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cross-Country Schooling at Twin Rivers Ranch

Thank God the Starbucks in Moorpark opens at 5am so we could get caffeinated up to get our horses ready in the pitch black for a 6am departure. Still, there isn’t enough Toffee Nut Latte in the world to make the frigid temperatures pleasant (and for future reference, Nahmi doesn’t get any latte at all – don’t ask). Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we got the ponies loaded up and only left twenty minutes late for the four and a half hour drive up to Twin Rivers in Paso Robles.

The drive up went smoothly (except for Nahmi’s issues with coffee – ha ha) but we were stunned when we pulled into Twin Rivers – there were so many trailers it looked like there was a show going on! It’s a tribute to how well Connie Baxter and her daughter, three-star eventer Andrea, run the place that the big crowd was no problem for them. It also shows how popular the events up at Twin Rivers are since it seemed like every eventing barn in So Cal was trying to squeeze in a schooling before they shut the course down for the show at the end of February.

The excitement level was running pretty high as we unloaded the horses and settled them in. The only veterans of the group were Nahmi on Simon, who used to live at Twin Rivers, and Nick on Buck. Midnight, Vinnie and Reese were all newbies, facing cross-country for the first time. Oddly, it was Simon who bellowed his head off the entire afternoon as everyone else settle in just fine.

It goes without saying that Buck was his usually show-stopping, spectacular self (ok, Nick was pretty good too) and the Nahmi/Simon combo offered a few hair-raising moments but other than that were stellar. But how did the “virgins” do? Here’s the shakedown:
  • Reese -- SUPERSTAR! Ok, maybe being the mummy I tend to exaggerate but I couldn’t be happier. He even took me over a couple of fences on the second day and seemed much more in tune with the job now that he’s getting a handle on it.
  • Vinnie – All things considered Vinnie held it together extremely well. His leap into the water is something that only Michelle, his mummy, could ride but other than that he seemed to learn quite a lot from his field trip as well.
  • Midnight – John and Cathy have had this mare for a long time but have never asked her to do cross-country before. She seemed to take to her new job really well and quickly learned that jumping natural objects was a lot of fun.
  • John – That’s right, John bravely went out on Angelino, his 20 plus Grand Prix dressage schoolmaster who’s been there, done that on elementary level cross-country jumps. On day two, John even abandoned his western saddle and tried out Cathy’s Antares. Hate to say it, but I think he’s hooked.

At the end of day one, we were all relaxing with gin & tonics and various snacks when there was a call for help. One of the horses who live on the property got cast but in a most unusual way; basically, the horse’s rump was sitting up on the top of the fence that divides the two stalls. John gave a mighty heave, with the rest of us basically serving as back up, and freed the stuck horse without any further ado.

Day Two was noticeably lower key. Maybe it was the early mornings catching up, adrenaline burn-out, or the disappointment of knowing that we’d be packing it up at the end of the day and returning to “real life” but even the other groups seemed quieter. Everything went really well and other than a couple of tough moments trying to get the horses loading back up (either Reese didn’t want to leave or he REALLY didn’t think he’d fit his bulky mass in the last stall of the trailer) the day couldn’t have been better. In fact, the whole weekend was about as perfect as it could possibly be. Thanks to one and all who made it such a memorable weekend.

Pictures and video montage to follow!