I remember my first trip south like it was yesterday when actually it was about 10 years ago!!( that just shocked me hang on need a second.... ok) This was when I was 19 and was a working student for Stuart Black. I stayed in a luxurious RV with 3 other workers. Maya slept on the couch, Erika slept on the hanging bed over the drivers seat, Mel had an actual bed in the back and I slept on the table that turned into a bed fit for a midget. After the first week we stopped apologizing to each other for running into one another bc it was just a given if ya move your gonna hit someone. It became completely normal to be brushing your teeth in your flip flops bc "something" was leaking causing there to be an inch of water on the shag carpeted floor and it was easy to ignore what ever the "prehistoric teradactyl skeeter" was that was buzzing around your head. We were all troopers and laughed more than we cried, rode a lot of horses and lived on laffy taffys, little debbie cakes and coffee( maybe that was just me living on the gas station diet ... o'well!).. That was my first Florida experience and I find my self here 10 years later (Whoa need another second...... ok ) in the role of Professional Rider trying to organize the trip south for my horses, my students, my employees, my dog and whatever animals decide to make the trip with us ( I have had a few strays show up in the tack room of the trailer a few hours down the road!)
The hardest thing about the move south is first finding a barn that you can rent for 2-3 months, this is not an ideal situation for anyone who is leasing the property. Then to find housing for not only yourself but your help and your dogs, your helps dogs , working students, students coming for a week, someone willing to rent you a place knowing you are a horse person( we don't have the cleanest reputation) and that you will only be there a few months. Next is transporting all the beast and everything that goes with them .... a lot of times including jumps. Unless your lucky enough to own two of everything, there is only so much packing that can happen before the last moment. So christmas cheer easily turn's into packing fear! With all this being said I will say these are good stesses to have in tough times like these. Whenever I feel like I just cant get things in order I just look at my horses, my black and white dog, all the people in my life and the holiday cheer comes right back and I proceed to stress about christmas shopping, like a normal person!
I have gone to Aiken for the past two years and before that I was in England. First I do not recommend going to England for the winter ;) But Aiken I do really like. It is a charming town, the events are plentiful and very close to most horse farms and its fairly affordable.
The winter is a time that I like to sharpen up my tools. For a few months I can be competing, watching and talking on a day to day basis with other Professionals. At home in NJ I love being a bit secluded from mainstream Eventing but I do crave knowledge on how everyone else is "doing it". Going south is a bit of "me" time where I can take lessons and observe the rest of the eventing world. This year I find myself wanting to go back to my "roots" with some of my nice young horses and also fine tune my top horse Tate. This leads me back to Florida. I have rented a barn bordering David and Karen O'Connors facility and that feels like home to me. I have some very nice young horses I feel could really benefit from the solid foundation work the O'Connors put on there youngsters. I also am a short drive from Wellington where I plan on making several trips to work with Katie Prudant for Tate and my show jumping.
There was once a wealthy buisness man who was asked what would you do if you lost all your money? He responded " I would borrow $1000 and hang out with millionairs for a month and then I would be a millionair again" Surround yourself with people you admire and aspire to be and you will be. For me this winter being with OCET again will be my loaned $1000.
I have put a lot of thought into doing what is best for the horses, my buisness and myself this winter. It is hard when having a horse like Tate not to just leave all the others behind and take him to wellington to train with the top dressage and jumper trainers 24/7. When you have a nice horse people have opinions and I have been told on more than one occation Wellington would be the route to go. Its also hard not to go to Aiken where the training sessions will be and I can compete every other day for 4 weeks straight. But I truly think it is all a balance.
I think working with the tops in all the disciplines is very important.. in moderation. I think competing at many events is important.. in moderation. I also think putting a focus on my program as a whole keeping all of my horses and students in sight is important for keeping the balance needed to be successful for more than just a moment. I also think that balance will complement and help Tate so much more than being too intense, then I lose my perspective. So for me this year Ocala seems to be the center of balance for the needs of my horses this winter. I also plan on only being gone for around 6 weeks due to many of my students who can not head south for the winter and need a consistent coach in the picture. I am very fortunate to be in the situation I am in with all of these wonderful things to manage. Now I look very fondly back on the RV days and I realize how all the funny and less than spoiled moments are helping keep things on track.. in 10 years from now ( whoaa......) who knows what ill be writting about!