Thursday, February 17, 2011

How much is an extra axel really worth

When deciding to go to Aiken or Florida, Florida's final winning point was due to its close proximity to Wellington. Wellington is where the best of the best show jumpers, dressage riders,polo players and sometimes the odd lucky Eventer spend the winter. This town leaves nothing to the imagination. As I drove down Appaloosa trail to have 3 lessons with renown show jumper Katie Prudant I realized I was in the Hollywood of Equestrians. I have to admit the barns that look like magnificent houses, the horses grazing on manicured front lawns, arenas dripping with the latest felt, rubber,silk and probably cashmere left me short of breath and a desperate for an open field. But none the less it is a breathtaking sight.

This year USET granted several listed riders with a $2000 grant for training. You basically need to spend it with a specialized approved instructor ( like Katie or Oded). Fortunately this year the grants were allocated to just the rider not horse and rider combination. I decided to spend my grant in one trip getting multiple lessons of different horses, so I could get more bang for my buck ( and there was some bucking!) This also kept me from over focusing on Tate. Tate had 3 rails down in Holland so obviously he needs some attention but looking at his over all performances he is quite a good show jumper. I want to make sure I keep that in mind so I don't go overboard in his show jump training. Over correcting can sometimes be as bad as no training at all, it can easily scare or make horses nervous leading to stops or other disobedience's (which we saw a bit of this year at WEG).

My lessons with Katie were great. She is a technician who analyzes and notices the smallest details. After my lessons I came back to Katie and asked her for her overall impression and what I need to work on in all my horses. She said Im to nice to my horses on the flat. This comment in itself proves the depth of her knowledge that not a comment was made on my jumping but my flat work. She said I need to put my horses in difficult places, work through the "tough times" with them to build a stronger relationship and make the job at the competition almost a relief. This brings me back to a comment David said to me several years ago..he said" Sinead I train hard enough that I can win on 75%. So if my horse is not perfect I still beat everyone in the class and when you have the rare day of 100% you win a gold medal".. thats pretty cool.

The next day I headed over to Anne Kurskinski's farm to have a lesson and show her a lovely show jumper I have for sale. As I trotted around on her manicured grass show jump field that backs on to the multi million dollar WEF show grounds and this 5 time Olympian walked out and said " Hey Sinead how is your season going" I though the $32 dollars I spent on having two extra axles on the highway was worth this. I struggled to find something witty and brilliant to say and wow her with my intellect and horsemanship but I just said " great how has your season been? " The cool thing is she then spent the next 10 min actually telling me how her season was going in detail.

Anne has no problem putting the jumps up which is great! Sometimes your flaws are easy to mask over an average size fence but when you are cantering down to 4 and 1/2 feet it highlights the slightest lean or shift in your position. I felt a bit green at the heights in the beginning but by the end of the lesson both Wizzard and I had improved immensely. I always love it at the end of the lesson when the instructor says "great that was fun" and that is what Anne gave me at the end of our ride.

Today I have training sessions with Mark Philips which I am excited about. Tate has improved quite a bit from our last sessions so im looking forward to the next step. Then we are headed to Rocking horse this weekend, Pine Top next weekend ( tates debut yay), DerbyCross the next weekend (, Back to New Jersey with everyone for two weeks after that, down to Southern Pines and the Fork for two weeks, Fairhill the next week, Then Rolex for the week.. and then and then and then... Katie said to me " you eventers work very well at speed you need to work on slowing down" so I guess Ill plan on working on slowing down sometime in May :) !


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