Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gymnastics day: Pat the head, rub the belly

by Nahmi Jones

"Going Training, schooling Prelim" was the chorus for our one sentence intros to Jimmy this morning. Whew, maybe I'm not the only rider who foolishly said "yes" when Karen Hisken asked if I of course wanted to be in the Prelim group for the 2011 Wofford clinic at Eventful Acres. It was a great comfort to be with many of the same horse and rider combos who joined me in the training group last year. Maybe I am in the right place...

Last year on day one of the clinic, the sea of white poles in Rod's huge stadium arena intimidated me. This year, I welcomed the challenge (er...the speed bumps). Simon, the veteran, had the gymnastics game figured out as soon as he set foot in the arena and was eager to show off. Clever with his foot work and able to lengthen and compress easily, he didn't start to settle in until the exercises got more complicated. Bring on those bounces please!
Sea Of Poles

Although Simon had his job figured out, Jimmy was quick to point out that I needed some reminders of where we left off last year. Let go of the reins, ease off on the heels, don't make him anxious and flat by kicking too much. Relaxing the tension in my body came a little quicker this year thanks to all those hours this winter of doing my homework with Susan and Brian's encouragement.

The rest of the day's lesson was about focus. Ironically, focusing on riding the whole course and holding off on celebrations until the whole exercise (or round) is complete is something we've been discussing at home this year.

Jimmy's advice today was about the opposite end of the party spectrum. Focus on setting the horse up straight, let him do him job through the gymnastic, and the focus on pulling up in a controlled fashion. Only after the round is complete should you let the hyper-critical internal dialog start. If you start thinking about what you've done wrong while the horse is still in motion, then he's going to start driving. And Simon definitely likes to drive.

We finished the day with a few encouraging words from Jimmy. "Give yourself permission to be better. You are better, but you don't believe it yet."

Focus the mind, relax the body. Pat the head, rub the belly. We know what this year's homework is gonna be.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Show Jump Day at Shepherd Ranch

Finally, the last day of our show at Shepherd Ranch.  The first thing that greeted us was the spectacular prank that someone (who shall remain nameless except I think they spelled Pepperwood out in the prank) pulled on the Mill Creek gang.  All their tack trunks were placed in a very festive pile in the middle of the barn aisle.  It was pretty funny, actually.  Too bad that most of the riders, including their trainer Joe, came down with what we’ve now dubbed The Mill Creek Crud.  Food poisoning, flu bug, or nefarious activity?  Hmmm.  I’m in the clear since all of Joe’s kids already handily beat me in our class.   Or am I?  :)

As with all shows, the big boys – Nahmi and Susan riding training – went at the a** crack of dawn while the rest of us went at the end of the day, right when the sun had melted both horse and rider into submission.  I’m looking forward to both Susan and Nahmi’s move up to Preliminary in the very near future, but dread the thought of how early we’ll have to be at the show for that!  My only hope is that Carolyn and I will continue to move up the ranks (and seriously folks, I can’t really move DOWN the ranks, can I?) so we can close the gap between the rounds to something short of mind-numbingly long. 

Simon ended up taking a rail, but Sparky – as usual – tied himself up in knots to keep mummy in the clear.  It may have been the masterful job that Carolyn did hand-walking Sparky around, lecturing him on distances and speed before his go, who can say for sure. 

And then came the wait.  Yee gods, it seemed like forever.  Let me insert right here before I forget a big thank you to all the folks who kept the show running fairly smooth all weekend long.  The crew at Shepherd Ranch did a great job of keeping it together when all of us competitors were losing it.  An event like this requires an immense amount of volunteers so be sure to at least try to volunteer at the next event you compete in. 

Finally, Carolyn was at bat.  After a looooonnnnnngggg walk warm up (note to self: have someone go down and check where the show stands before getting on the horse, no matter how the math works out) they got their shot in the arena.  Other than one fence that seemed to take Junior by surprise, it was an excellent effort. 

Now it was our turn, the first show jump round Reese and I have ever done.  Would I be as slow as the day before?  By God, not if I had anything to say about it!  And considering my performance the day before, I probably don’t have as much say about it as I think I do… I have to confess to getting a little bit impatient for our round, which probably was for the best.  By the time I got in the arena I didn’t care what happened, I just wanted to be done.  After a tiny little spook at the crowd, I kicked Reese up into a canter and we were in 3rd gear (for better or worse) the rest of the way.  After a gasp (or laugh if you’re Nahmi) inducing leap over the same fence the Junior was shocked at, we had a relatively good run for a double clear round.  Take that little children who have yet to experience puberty!  I leapt over um… one kid who was sick as a dog to raise my standings.  Doesn’t feel as satisfying when I put it that way…

The show was a terrific experience for one and all, showing us what we need to work on while letting us bask in the glow of our successes for an hour or two at least. 

Next:  The Wofford Experience!

Chip's Blog - Day One Eventful Acres

Chip & The Tres Guuiness
Hello, Chip here again. Thursday was Travel Day to Eventful Acres for the Jimmy Wofford clinic. Its was a good day. No one slept through their alarms. Like a well oiled machine, the tres hermanas rolled out of Goldspirit at 10 min till 4am, long before any sane cock would be crowing.

We flew over the grapevine, ducked the heat and landed at Eventful Acres before lunchtime.

Simon and Junior were settled into their corrals, bedrolls unfurled for the girls. Now what's for lunch? Why Guinness please...its a drink and a meal rolled into one! A great start to the summer getaway!

Simon The Likeable's likeables

After a short siesta, a light hack was in order to stretch the ponies' legs and backs after the long trailer ride. Simon and Junior got a look around the property to familiarize them with the playground at Eventful Acres. Creeks, ditches and lots of inviting green grass...pony heaven. Everyone now relaxed and ready for whatever Jimmy had in store for us.

We enjoyed a great dinner served up by Carol and whoopee (cushions :-O) rootbeer floats for dessert! Yum, but at what age does lactose intolerance set in?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shepherd Ranch Horse Trials Part 3: Reese's "Top Gear" is Apparently 2nd...

... ok, to be fair that's probably more about his Mummy being a chicken s@#t - could we have gone slower without going backwards???

Warning – spoiler alert!  All 4 ponies were cross country superstars today, gaining no jump faults and a few time faults spread amongst a few of us.  So very, very proud especially of Nahmi to run two nearly back to back training courses on both of her boys and do them like a champ (wheezing and all). 

Nahmi was up first on Simon, who like a grey ghost was a bit hard to follow in the early morning fog.  They energetically attacked each fence, getting lots of hoots and hollers from Bill and Maureen who came up to watch as a pre-wine tasting warm up.  It was awesome to see them finish the course.  From where I was standing I couldn’t see it, but I can only imagine the beaming smile on Nahmi’s face. 

After Susan turned in her second great ride of the day, it was Nahmi’s turn again, this time on Sparky.  Like an old pro, he just slipped back in to his job like he’s been doing this every weekend while Nahmi wasn’t looking.  Nahmi did have the cruel revelation that she is indeed NOT a 12-year-old little girl and had to pull up for a moment to get her air, but all around it was another super effort.  Again, pretty sure that her grin was from ear to ear when all was said and done.

There was a long, LONG break in the day until we baby eventers got our turn on the course.  Barn mate Lena went first and put in a respectable round with that was terrific save for one unfortunate course error near the end. 

Carolyn and Junior came out of the start box looking bold and confident.  Watching from the warm up arena, they were an inspiring sight as they smoothly sailed over every fence. 

Reese and I... Wow, were we slow.  Ouch.  Still, we got over everything and that’s what was important, right?  

Special thanks to Shepherd Ranch for putting on such a great course at every level.  Although to the pros, the intro course SEEMED small, to me and the other 9 little girls on ponies, our “table” seemed like the real deal.  Ok, maybe it was only me, but still…. And a BIG THANK YOU to the volunteers - no event could go on without you!

Can’t wait for the next one… hoping our horses feel the same. 

Our reward... turned sideways! Thanks Bill & Mo!
Tomorrow, show jump.  Fingers crossed everyone is sound and willing. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chip's First Blog

Hello world, things are all aflutter at the Jones household this week so I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself...since the bird brains here don't seem to have the time to.

My name is Chip. I'm the official mascot for the next eTwist adventure and self appointed guest blogger. I'm going to give you a bird's eye view of clinicing with Jimmy Wofford.

Since birds of a feather flock together, the tres hermanas are gathering for a road trip to Oregon House. Yes, this summer time migration pattern is becoming an annual ritual. The eTwisters along with a gaggle of fledgling eventers are once again participating in the Wofford Clinic at Eventful Acres.

The etwist chicks have been hatching their plans for summer vacation, gathering camping gear, road food for the 8+ hr trip, bathing suits with at least a shred or two of elastic still intact, a fully stocked trailer bar and of course single malt for Mr. Wofford. Ponies on their best behavior clipped, cleaned and tack organized.

Eventful Acres, here we come.

Although the early bird gets the...well you get the picture...this sparrow's opinion is that the departure time of truly obscene o'clock is for the birds.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Shepherd Ranch - LIVE!

Coming your way soon, on a screen near you - live on tape - Shepherd Ranch June 2011.  The videos of Training Level, Beginner Novice, and Intro Beginner Novice of our eTwisters are now available for viewing.  Check us out!

Shepherd Ranch Horse Trials Part 2: Dressage is hard

No one took pics of dressage so I just threw this in.  Isn't Sparky cute?
 So we all survived the first day of the show (the second day at Shepherd for us since we got here on Thursday and took the practice dressage test) and like any show there have been a lot of up and downs.  First up was Nahmi on Simon, who turned in such a great performance that someone asked how much she’s willing to sell him for.  And still she ended up with a less than stellar score.  Watching the test now on tape and it still looks great to me.  I didn’t get to see much as I was warming up but what I saw was awesome. 

Then it was me on Reese.  Ok, since no one else said it, I thought we did awesome.  Apparently I’m a fan club of one. :D Watching it now on video… nope, still think it was our best test yet.  Thank you Susan, for all your help getting us there.  I had a couple of light bulb moments in the warm up that I felt like I really learned something at a show other than dealing with the splashback effect from the porto-potties (beware of the blue sanitizer while wearing tan pants, that’s all I’m saying…).  And we were rewarded for our efforts with… yep, a less than stellar score.  Oh well, it’s all about the educational experience, right?  (In hindsight, I confess I felt like in the intro to beginner novice division, the judge should just be happy I achieved the right gait at the right time.  Apparently the judge was holding us to a bit higher standard – hence the reason I got my ass handed to me by a bunch of kids on ponies!)

Next came Nahmi again on Sparky.  OMG Sparky is so adorable with his floppy ears!!  Beautiful test, a lengthening to die for and…. Another lower than expected score.  Bummer.

And then came that ray of sunshine, miracle of miracles, Junior.  Junior, who spent the night apparently tearing up his stall and was a bit of a crazed maniac during the day showed up at the show ring ready to show his stuff.  After an accidentally long warm up, Junior was STELLAR!!  And by that I mean freakin’ amazing.  Beyond just the “no bucks, no running backwards, no balking” relatively low bar – it really was awesome!  And the score… well, it kind of reflected it.  She beat me anyway.  :)

At the end of the day, we all walked our cross-country courses and are looking forward to/terrified of tomorrow.  Gad, when did INTRO to beginner novice get so BIG?  It’ll be fun… and if I keep telling myself that, will it make it true?  You’ll find out tomorrow.