January 6th

I made it out of Ohio without a moment to spare, fleeing south with the polar vortex hot on my heels. The drive was not exactly what it used to be. Several years ago I would get a Couple of audio books together and settle in for a long, quiet drive. Times have changed.

With my truck and trailer loaded to the gills with toddler praraphanalia-books, toys, snack, movies, odds and ends that flash and beep - I set off with my parents following in their car. 1,200 miles in two days with a three year old I leave to your imagination.

Arriving in Wellington was as magical as ever - horses, horses everywhere. Horse crossing signs, cross walk signals at equestrian height, duallies with trailers at every intersection. This early in January the palm trees are still decorated with Christmas lights and big red bows. For someone like me who thinks that snow and cold weather for Christmas is highly overrated, Christmas lights on a tropical palm tree seems just right.

While we made it out before the vortex, the horses were not quite so lucky. Poor Camillo and Ruffino departed on Tuesday, loading up in a frigid 12 degrees. As they made their way south, I set up our house and prepared their stalls, a process that always takes more time and more trips to the tack store than it should.

Camillo and Ruffino have a couple of stalls in a 12 stall barn otherwise populated with the Olympians from Idaho. Debbie McDonald and Adrienne Lyle's horses are our stable mates. I do hope that the boys and I manage not to embarrass ourselves in such company! And I am sure that they won't mind my toddler running up and down the aisle carrying a whip and pretending to be a horse. Oh dear, I hope it will be fine.

January 9th

The horses arrived on Wednesday afternoon and have been trying to adjust to a totally different climate. Despite it being about 70 degrees warmer when they got off the van as when they got on, they were very excited to arrive. Neither horse agreed to just walk on the way to his stall. After 24 hours together in transit they were completely attached at the hip and could not stand to be separated. Taking one horse for a walk meant that the other horse screamed and spun in his stall until his BFF returned. I just kept hoping that theses antics would not disturb the other horses in our barn. Fortunately, seasoned Olympians like Wizard were not too interested in the goings on from the two yahoos from Ohio.

Since they arrived the boys have spent time out grazing in the sun and had a couple of really good baths to wash off the winter and travel funk. Their blankets have been washed and stored in the trailer in the hopes of not being needed down here. And today I took advantage of a lull in the action take them for short hacks and a little work in the fancy covered arena. It will feel good to get back in a routine!

In my other job as Kate's mom I have now been to one of the really great community parks here in Wellington a couple of times already. Not surprisingly, even at the park everything has an equestrian theme. There are horse statues and horse styled equipment all over the park. I love that both my horses and my child can spend most of the day outside here. I am able to write this entry because Kate is so exhausted from all her running at the park today. I just hope that my pipes are not freezing at home!

January 10th

This morning Kate and I went to watch the show at Global. We were only there for the hour that a 3 year old can survive a Dressage show, but it was great while it lasted. There was a Grand Prix going on for the National show and we saw some nice rides, including Ashley Holzer from Canada who always puts in clean, polished performances. We saw a couple of fourth level rides and it was my first chance to see the new USDF tests in action. Chris Hickey on Betsy Juliano's Riccidof had a great 4th 2.

Kate was very excited to see her babysitter from last year, McKenzie, riding her horse Hershey. While watching warm up we were able to hear both Debbie McDonald and Todd Fletrich coaching. That is what I love about the shows here, everywhere you stand you learn something.

After catching up with some more old friends at the show I left to ride. My horses had spent a couple of hours out in the sun earlier in the morning and they were both like over-cooked noodles to ride. What a radical change from the cold backed fire breathing dragons they had been up north!

Although I am just getting the horses going and not working very hard yet I must comment on the corners. Each and every time I get down here I feel like I must rediscover how to ride a corner. They are just so inviting, un-cluttered, and well groomed that it is like finding new real estate four times each trip around. My horses seem unfamiliar with these strange new spaces too. " ----- what? You want me all the way in there? Shouldn't I just sort of turn up the quarter line and gradually drift back to the rail as I go?" And then there are the mirrors. They are continuous on one short wall and you can see everything from the top of your head to the bottom of their hooves and all the crooked, unbalanced things in-between. This is too disturbing to go into. I will take away my stirrups for a month or so and maybe the picture will improve!

January 13th

The horses are all settled in and we are getting a routine. The boys love going out to bask in the Florida sunshine each morning. Ruffino worries if the wind starts rustling through the palm trees-undoubtedly the predators could sneak up more easily with the noise for cover.

We are all enjoying working under the covered arena. It is so pleasant and always just the right temperature under there. I do miss sitting to watch lessons all day, but I know that my new career watching Sesame Street and going to the park is important too. Nevertheless, while I was riding I was able to listen to two lessons given by Adrianne Lyle. She was helping her students with walk pirouettes, canter pirouettes, and passage. I think that I learned a lot just being there!

January 16th

Hooray the first lesson of the season! Now I feel like I have a bit if a purpose here. Everyone at the barn was buzzing off to horse shows and clinics and I was feeling left out. Camillo and I had to hack to our lesson. Hacking out always adds a little excitement to the day. Our short walk involved opening an electric gate, passing lots of garbage and recycling cans, crossing a street on a busy curve and passing a bus stop. Neither Camillo nor I are eventers so this was not our idea of a relaxing trail ride, but we made it.

Our lesson with George was lots of fun (probably fun for me and taxing for a Camillo). We did lots of work on making the hind leg quicker. We also worked on the half passes and pirouettes. We will have another lesson in a few days. Now to do our homework.

January 19th

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This past weekend I spent a little time at the horse show. There was a national show and a CDI running concurrently. I wanted to watch the I1 for the CDI and got there in time to see most of a large class. I had Kate with me so I was trying to watch and entertain a three year old at the same time but it was still great! The horses had so much suspension and were so active behind! The rides were all very good - precise, steady, energetic. And the horses and riders looked so correct. In a way I felt that it was inspiring and discouraging all at once. I watched one beautiful ride that scored a 67 and did not even place in the class!

Since I needed to keep the toddler engaged, we walked around a bit and watched warm-up. As most riders and trainers use the headsets to communicate, I couldn't hear much. But fortunately there is always Michael Barrisone whose sonorous voice could be heard from miles away. After the I1 was over I watched a bit of the national show and felt more like I was watching something attainable.

This morning I am enjoying seeing the horses basking in the warm sunshine in turnout. What happy boys they are!

January 20th

I had a nice opportunity to watch my friend Julie take a lesson with Kathy Connelly today. Julie's horse is Grand Prix and they schooled ones and passage, but they also worked on transitions and corners. Kathy insisted that Julie ride "Klimke Corners". She explained that Klimke said that corners should consist of 5 strides - two coming in, the apex at the third stride, and two going out. Kathy warned Julie not to let her mare anticipate a corner by slowing down and banking the turn, but rather making sure that the horse moved actively forward and into the corner. The better executed corners really helped Julie and her mare prepare for the next movement. I am anxious to practice this technique with my own horses.

January 23rd

There is a huge CDI here this weekend and I have been able to watch only a small number of rides, but those have been really great. Yesterday, Kate and I went to the show in the morning and watched some of the Grand Prix for the CDI. All the horses and riders were impressive but that test is hard even for the best of the best. We got there just in time to see Tinne Vilhelmson of Sweden on one of her two horses in this class, Benetton Dream. They had a great ride, scoring a 67, but it was not without mistakes, demonstrating just how difficult the test really is.

We walked back and forth watching warm-up and then a test here and there. Warm-up is always fun and did not disappoint this time. Tuni Page on Alina was getting help from Oded - a very intimidating group! Tuni ended up with a 67.8 where she finished in 11th place. Todd Fletrich was helping his rider and trying hard to keep her focused as she was very nervous. Robert Dover, looking official in his tie and sports coat, was overseeing the whole scene. His role must include keeping an eye on all available USA talent both established and up and coming.

After an hour or so Kate needed a change of scenery so we watched a few of the PSG rides from the National show. They were all very nice and generally clean, but there seemed to be a bit less pressure on this side of the show.

I had a lesson today, and Camillo and I worked really hard and hopefully learned a lot. We worked on making him a bit quicker behind through all the work by utilizing half steps periodically to give him the right idea. We tried to get him quicker behind with the half steps and then take that concept right into the pirouette work. I have been watching some really great horses down here and they all seem to stay quick behind in all of their work. Some of them seem to offer it, but I see all of the riders working on it with all of their horses all of the time. More things to improve upon and work on!

January 26th

Yesterday after a quiet morning at the barn and a lovely hack on Camillo, Kate and I went to the horse show. We were able to get there for the second half of the I1 freestyles for the CDI. They were so much fun to watch - well choreographed with engaging music. One of the riders from Germany had an exciting program utilizing music from Cold Play.

We also watched rides from the PSG in the National show and a few rides in the Developing PSG. Devon Kane and Jennifer Baumert had nice young developing horses.

By this time Kate had had enough horse show. She had her shoes off and part of a candy cane - kindly given to her by one of the vendors -stuck in her hair. We looked a bit rough around the edges but it was well worth it to see so many great horses.

Today the horses had the day off and enjoyed a leisurely morning in the pasture while I replenished their shavings and grain at the local feed store. Tomorrow a lesson!

January 27th

January 27 Today started a little chilly and breezy - cool for Florida that is. It was in the 50's so the horses kept there sheets in for turnout.

I had a lesson at 11 and I anticipated that I might have an exciting hack over with the wind and cooler weather. It is always garbage day when I have a lesson so that I must deal with garbage cans, trucks, recycling, and errant bits of trash in my hack! We made it though and had a very good lesson. We continued with our theme of quickening half steps to make all of the work more active. To improve the canter zig-zag we coupled short half passes with a change and an immediate volte to soften Camillo before heading back for a half pass back the other way.

We had a nice hack back to our barn. The sun was out and all of the colors seemed very saturated. The grass and trees were a rich green and the water and sky a beautiful bright blue.

Back at the barn, the High Performance clinic is in full swing. All the top US riders are invited to work with team coach Robert Dover. Each year I lament the fact that I do not find myself invited to a medium performance clinic! The clinic is closed to auditors, but my stalls are just feet from the arena so I can absorb a lot. Robert is nothing if not enthusiastic. He is extremely animated and seems quite invested in each ride. These horses and riders are very talented and there is always a lot of GP work, but in almost every ride there is still time to focus in the basics of straightness and contact. Corners are often addressed as the best opportunity to collect and find harmony with the horse.

January 30th

We had such lovely weather today that it really made me appreciate spending the winter here. It was warm and sunny, and there was a fabulous breeze especially under the covered arena. Since my phone tells me that it is cold and snowy at home, I feel all the more fortunate to be enjoying the breezy sunshine.

The High Performance clinic is over and everything is quiet at the barn. I loved watching a bit of the clinic and seeing how well talented horses and riders can really perform. Robert Dover pushed all of the horses and riders, but he was also very enthusiastic about the progress that each pair made. I can still hear Dover telling one rider to make the outline more heart shaped - rounder at the top and narrower at the base. He also emphasized being in charge of when and how every movement starts and finishes. "When he wants to leave the piaffe, stay 2 or 3 or 4 more steps until YOU want to leave." Hopefully, watching all of this will make me a High Performance rider! In the meantime, I am working on making Camillo's changes completely straight and getting much more jump and overall suppleness in his right canter pirouette.

January 31st

This morning Kate and I were able to watch lessons given by both Adrianne Lyle and Debbie McDonald. I rode in the afternoon and had the ring to myself. Chris Hickey had kindly left out the cavalettis he used earlier out and I worked both horses through them a bit. I must admit that there was a considerable amount of banging and stumbling at first, but I do think that they were helpful.

I try to take the horses for hacks around the property before and after each ride. They generally love these walks but Ruffino in particular objects on windy days like today. He is extremely suspicious of the palm fronds blowing in the breeze. He seems to dislike both the loud rustling sound they make, and he also suspects that the plants are harboring predators. Ruffino also objects to the tyranny of the white birds. The local egrets cluster around in the afternoons and terrorize some of the horses with there creepy, stalking movements. As if the way they walk wasn't bothersome enough, they tend to take flight rather suddenly at moments that are most alarming to a horse. Ruffino believes that they are carnivorous, insatiably hungry pterodactyls on the prowl for their next equine meal. But we persevere and hack on.

Stay tuned.........more to come!