February 2nd

More excitement down here as Steffen Peters arrived a couple of days ago in preparation for the Five Star CDI this coming Weekend. I have had a great front row view of his morning's schooling sessions. Steffen has such an ability to make his horses look simultaneously powerful and yet very soft. It really looks effortless, the way we all want our rides to look. It is a great opportunity to watch these schooling rides because you can see so much more of the day-to-day training than you might in a show environment. As lovely as it is too see a performance where everything goes well, it is more instructive to watch problems being solved.

My own ride this morning was a bit fresh. Camillo was feeling a bit sassy today, and we had a few exuberant leaps as we worked. I guess he was feeling really good after his day off. I sometimes forget how fit the horses get down here. I usually remember once I get home to 30 degree weather and find that the horses just back from Florida come out like dragons each day.

Ruffino had today off so I will have another exciting day tomorrow.

February 5th

It was a blustery, wet day here in Wellington. Yesterday, the big CDI five star began and I was looking forward to spending part of the morning at the show. But the weather had other ideas and the lighting caused a delayed start for competition today. My mom had agreed to watch Kate for an hour or two this morning and I did not want to miss out on an opportunity for some free time so I took myself to a yoga class instead. Unfortunately, I stumbled into a much more advanced yoga class than I had any right to be in. I struggle as it is to achieve basic poses like Downward Facing Dog, but in this class people were doing movements which could have been called "Tied in a Knot" then they all ended up balancing on one hand. How embarrassing! I could ride 20 horses in a day and just barely break a sweat, and this yoga class had me sweating and all of my muscles shaking. I will be sore tomorrow.

My morning lesson with George was canceled because of the weather, but I got the horses ridden in the afternoon. We are so lucky at Betsy's to have a covered arena! It makes all the difference on hot and sunny days and is even more valuable on the rare rainy day down here. The Grand Prix for the five star competition was supposed to take place this afternoon, but was moved to the evening because of the weather. I knew that it was extremely unreasonable for me to try to take my three year old to an evening of Dressage, but then again I am a pretty unreasonable person. I tried to bill the whole thing as a picnic; we brought snacks and drinks and even my ipad for a little non-horse entertainment should it be needed. I thought that if I could just watch a few rides I would be happy. Kate was great and we watched the first 8 or so horses until there was another downpour. We saw Americans Heather Blitz, Devon Kane, and Michael Barrisone. We also saw Canadian and Swedish riders. As I write this the class is still going, but two Americans, Kathleen Raine and Shelly Francis are the top two. Some heavy hitters like Steffen Peters, Lisa Wilcox, Lars Peterson, and Mikala Gunderson are still to come so anything could happen.

It was a real pleasure to watch such great horses and riders tonight, and also yesterday in the very competitive PSG class. Between this show, the High Performance Clinic, and my mornings watching Steffen ride, I am at once very inspired and also somewhat defeated and considering taking up cross stitch or table tennis as my new passion. Hopefully inspiration wins and makes me a better rider.

February 7th

Living the very glamorous life that I do, it is now 8:45 on a Saturday evening and I am writing this from the comfort if my bed. I have already gone for night check, I am in my pjs, and wearing glasses I might add. Tomorrow night will be really wild because I have to stay awake until 10 to watch Dowton Abbey!

Even though I am really adamant about an early bedtime, last night I broke my own rules to watch the Grand Prix freestyles in the CDI five star. I took my parents and my three year old, because I am insane. Arriving only minutes before the first ride, we had to park in overflow parking and walk - also a fun activity with a small child and a mother with replaced knees and a fused ankle. Our trek led us to a stadium filled to standing room only. I love that a Dressage CAN draw a crowd. The atmosphere was very electric. The crowd was noisy, the flags were flapping, the lights were bright, and the music was booming. My horses might have been a bit tense. There were so many great rides. The passages were huge and expressive, the piaffe was on the spot and maintained through pirouettes, the canter pirouettes were doubles, and the changes were on challenging lines. The riders all took lots of risks and so there were mistakes and even a couple of spooks. Catherine Haddad-Staller's horse was pretty naughty for part of her program, seemingly overwhelmed by the stadium. Steffen Peters was a real crowd favorite and finished in second behind Lars Peterson who had a nearly flawless ride.

I am so enjoying this horse show. With so many top riders in one place each day is a treat for spectators-even those who bring cranky children with them.  :)

February 10th

What a busy week it has been so far!! Sunday Bev and I went to the last day of the CDI and watched some of the rides from the I1 freestyle. I love getting freestyle choreography and music ideas from these rides. The musical choices were all different and it was good to see what worked and what the judges seemed to like. Canadian rider Chris Von Martels and his lovely horse Zilverstar won, dancing to a medley of U2 songs.

Yesterday, I volunteered, or rather I was volunteered, to be a rider in an FEI trainer's certification program. Essentially I was given a lesson by a candidate in the program while she was evaluated by the program leaders. My job was very easy, I just had to do what she told me. However, her job was very difficult, having to teach a lesson under such intense scrutiny! I was proud of how well Camillo did. He had to get out of a trailer at a strange place and work in an arena where he could see lots of horses playing in turnout. He did very well and was a really good boy.

Today, Lauren Tisdale and Baby Calvin arrived. Kate and I had a fantastic day playing with them. Calvin was a trooper and stayed at the barn all afternoon. He even watched the quadrille practice and he and Kate danced along with the music.

February 17th

Today was a lesson day! Camillo and I hacked over to Blue Marlin on a hot, windy morning to work with George. Windy hacks are always exciting, but Camillo was a very good boy.

We continued our work on half steps and on building a more powerful and uphill trot. We also worked a bit on the pirouettes which are always in need of improvement.

My husband is in town and agreed to video my ride. Though I have good intentions about studying the film, I always find it painful in the extreme to watch my own riding. I am pretty sure that if I ever need to be interrogated, my captors will force me to watch videos of my own bad riding day and night until I confess to whatever they like.

While I was waiting to start my lesson I walked past another instructor who was working with his student. He was telling her that her saddle was pulling to the left. He suggested that she concentrate on making sure that she kept her right seat bone more in the center of her saddle. That was really a good suggestion. Last week I heard Debbie McDonald telling one of riders to bring the horse up by using collection, rather than lifting her hands to bring him up. I have used that thought in my own riding since I heard that. I love being here surrounded by all of these clever riders and trainers from whom I can glean little pieces of knowledge.

While I was hacking home I met a woman who was using the shadows created by the overhead power-lines to make sure that her horse remained straight while working him in a big open field. Whatever will I learn tomorrow!

February 21st

The big cold snap we were having down here seems to be over. We actually had a morning with near freezing temperatures. The horses were bundled up and the people looked like they were dressed for a day on a glacier. Sadly, it was 40 degrees colder at home.

One day I found a tiny lizard hiding in one of Camillo's turn out boots trying to stay warm. I needed the boot, so I relocated him to the feed room and covered him with a towel. He was not very impressed and didn't move at all. When it got warmer I took him out into the sun and he came back to life and ran off. I know how he feels! The horses also thought the weather was intolerable and all acted like goof-balls. Now we can get back to normal Florida weather and hopefully better horse behavior!

There are always fabulous horses and riders at the barn down here. For the past couple of days Laura Graves has been here with the horse that she took to the WEG last summer. They have been working with Debbie McDonald and it has been really fun to watch. Today I rode in the arena during their lesson. Maybe some of their talent will rub off on me.

February 22nd

The glorious warm weather has returned, and I for one am loving it. After a busy morning doing stalls, I rode Ruffino up in the front ring. He hates this arena because the palm trees and plants are right up against the arena and each time they sway in the breeze, he is sure that a very large predator is about to leap out and eat him. In addition to the horse-eating plants, today he was also terrorized by a horse who was turned out in the front field all dressed up in his fly sheet, complete with neck cover, and fly mask. Ruffino did not think that this creature was of the same species. I noticed that many of the other horses who hacked past agreed with him.

Despite the terrifying environment, we had a great ride. I tried to focus on rebalancing him with my weight (not as much with the reins) before every corner, and making sure that the throughness remained steady within each exercise. He is a horse who can subtly disconnect while still looking fancy.

This afternoon Kate and I had a real treat. We went to the show to watch the I1 freestyles for the CDI and found ourselves in the VIP tent. Betsy had a couple of extra tickets for the afternoon and was kind enough to invite us. Kate loved that she could eat cheese, fruit, and cookies, run around, climb on chairs, and pet dogs without having me constantly shush her or tell her not to run and scare the horses in the ring. I loved watching freestyles while eating a salad and having a waiter bring me a mimosa! This is the way to really enjoy a day at the show. The rides were really good. The winning rider, an American named Kim Herslow, had a really clean and fun program. She used "Move like Jagger" for her trot music and it really suited her horse. I am working hard to get good freestyle ideas for this coming season. .

February 23rd

Mondays are almost everyone's day off here in Welly World. My horses had the day off today too so my day was pretty quiet. I went to yoga this morning and found that almost all the other riders in town decided to do the same thing. We all have a certain look around here with our polo shirt tan lines and blindingly white legs. It turns out that most of us are also rather inflexible. Both Hunter/Jumper and Dressage riders alike seem to be strong but a little stiff. Nevertheless, it was a lovely morning for Yoga. The big garage door at the studio was open and we could hear birds singing as we attempted to contort ourselves into "Downward Dog" and "Dolphin Pose". There was also a bit of nonsense bout doing some sort of a contortions into an arm balance, but most people with the polo shirt tan lines didn't try it.

February 24th

Today was a lesson day. Camillo and I almost did not make it to the lesson because we had to pass a pack of dogs who had treed a racoon and Camillo did not think that this was a good idea at all. In fact, Camillo thought that it was best to flee the scene at high speed. We eventually did make it past and I must say that I couldn't really blame him for not wanting to go. The dogs were a bit wild and the racoon was making hissing noises and probably threatening to slash the dogs with his claws.

Once we got there we had a really nice lesson. In each lesson we try to work a little on the half steps and I think that we are starting to make some headway. Doing the half-steps does make Camillo a little hot, but he seems to keep it together and it usually just makes the rest of the work a little more energetic. We checked in with the pirouettes and plugged along at the half-passes which are not the easiest for Camillo.

Later in the afternoon I rode Ruffino. Then, Kate and I watched a bit of the quadrille practice. Missy let Kate do the sound check and she sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to a rather large audience. Everyone clapped and then Kate was a bit shy, but I think that she was proud of herself.

Finally, we went to our friend Sue's house for a lovely swim in her heated salt water pool. It was a great way to end a hot day and it helps Kate to keep up with the swimming class that she is missing at home. I must say that swimming just sounds a lot more appealing when it is in the 80s and the sun is out.

February 24th -
March 1st

What a weekend to choose to show down here! The weather at this time of year is usually lovely, but not this weekend. We had pretty much non-stop rain and I was at a show so that I could enjoy being wet all day every day. The schooling day was fine, just hot and humid. However, by the first morning of competition the rain was in full swing. By the time I arrived at the show it had been raining for hours and everything was already soaked. I took the horses out for brief walks in the rain so that they could at least stretch their legs. They were not impressed with the weather and they did not think that the grass at the show grounds tasted good at all, so our walks were more like unsettled drags around the grounds. Camillo was first up at 11. We warmed up in pretty good footing, but could have used a snorkel to get through our test. The competition rings were much sloppier than the warm up and Camillo was un-impressed. Pirouettes? He thought perhaps not in these conditions. However, I was still pretty happy with his test. Friday was just a schooling day for Ruffino. Suffice it to say that we walked, rode, lunged, rode and walked. I was exhausted and he was still unsettled. We were both soaked and covered in wet sand, but what else are horse shows for.

Day two of the show started sunny and hot and Camillo, at least, got a ride in before the rain. Ruffino was scheduled to show about 4:30, but after several delays because of distant lightning, they re-started the show just in time for a deluge of rain. Though he was braided and polished, Ruffino did not get into the show ring that day. On the way home I stopped at the grocery store and found that the parking lot and the entrance to the store were both submerged in a foot in a half of water. I didn't realize this until I got out of my truck and found that the water was half-way up my leg.

The final day of the show was much drier, but the show rings were still half-submerged. I was really proud of the boys who both did well in their tests despite the footing. We were all really happy to get back to the farm that night. The horses were very pleased to spend time in their large dry stalls. Tent stabling during a monsoon is not for the faint of heart. I so often ride in inclement weather while showing up north that I have begun to think that I might have brought bad weather upon the whole show. I will try to sign up for another one down here and hope for some sunnier days, or at least some drier footing!

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