Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ari takes a break, Toga steps up, and I go to France

So right after Seneca....

Ari banged his leg, got cellulitis and blew a GIANT hole out of the side of his leg.  It was a chain of events that just snowballed into a huge infection that had nowhere to go but OUT.  So for the past month and a half I have been wrapping and treating the hole that has now filled in and the skin is beginning to come across the wound.  Panalog is expensive, but it's a miracle.  The sample bandage things Dana and I scooped up at the Carolina International came in very handy, and all the crazy colored polo wraps Susan gave to Jenny because they were single colors, have been used on a daily basis.  It pays to never throw anything away sometimes!

I went to the New Jersey Horse Park (my first time there ever) for the summer horse trials with was fun, we were second, but the venue wasn't what I expected.  I thought it was going to be this fabulous facility but it was just OK. It was crazy expensive to get there - $58 just in tolls! But I got to visit with Elinor, who may or may not have been prepared to be head groom for the day, but was awesomely helpful, just like old times.  Toga and I had a horrible stadium warmup that included me hitting the ground, but once we got in the ring by ourselves he was great.  Since then I have concluded that the busy warm up rings are the one thing that T doesn't deal well with, with only one eye.  I think it's too random, too much coming from all sides for him. 

Toga and I continued on to Fair Hill, where we finished third and had the BEST show jump round in a long, long time.  Nobody else in warmup was the first plus, then the course on the hill is always open and rolling - just what my XC machine loves.  He jumped boldly and so steady I was thrilled.  Cross country after that was just icing on the cake.  My boy is back! I thought I had time penalties but realized later in the day that I hadn't set my watch to one minute before I asked for the one minute warning...very funny I was a minute faster than I thought I was but luckily did not get speed faults.  Toga wondered why I kicked him on at fence 14, but was more than happy to oblige.  Erika Jenkins, aka Zoom Groom, was my help extraordinaire for the weekend - I felt spoiled!  I got to wear my new Charles Owen helmet, my new super comfortable Ovation britches,  and use my Heritage XC gloves finally (didn't want to ruin all my new stuff in the rain at NJ) many thanks to The Surrey Saddlery!   I LOVE the gloves I can actually feel the button on my cross country watch and they are so light and perfectly sticky. The only thing missing was Ari, who was still home nursing the gaping hole in his leg and some lingering swelling up by his hock.  At this point I realized getting to the AECs would be way too stressful and way too lonely since none of the "usual" bunch of us was going.  Maybe next year.

My next big adventure was France.  My friend Amy and I have traveled around the world since 2001 and have always been drawn back to Kenya.  But this year we tried something a little more cultural and civilized.  And as luck would have it, the trip ended a few days before the beginning of the World Equestrian Games eventing, so we stayed for it! The tour began in the Loire Valley, where we rode from chateau to chateau, eating gourmet meals, drinking local wines, and learning about early French royal life.  I was happy to soak up the fascinating history lesson and thoroughly enjoyed my French Trotter "Upercut" who was a perfect gentleman once the bug got out of his ear bonnet....yes the week started with an exciting bucking fit that ended with an emergency dismount.  But once we figured out what was wrong he settled and was a real blast to ride.  A very well run and fun trip for sure.  Didn't get chased by a lioness, but oh well, maybe next time :))

We went from the last chateau to the hotel that the USEF had reserved for owners, family of riders, and spectators for the eventing portion of the WEGs. Our room was pretty awful - I couldn't wash my hair in the shower without bumping the curtain in any direction it was so tiny.  It was in a pretty little town called Alencon, but it was hours from the venues.  So we spent a ton of money on transportation until the USEF contingency got there and we could ride the buses.  I got to go to the cocktail party the night before the dressage, where everybody who is anybody was there, plus me. The weather had ceased to be pleasant, so dressing up wasn't the option we had planned on.  But it was fun, and we got to enjoy some more of the great local wines, cheeses, and bread that we'd come to love. We were out early for the jogs at Haras du Pin, a national stud farm which was as beautiful as any of the chateaus we had visited.  I stood next to WFP's father and family and listened to him talk about all the other riders that he'd trained.  Dressage Day 1 was cold and wet, but the USEF was thinking ahead when they planned the "goody bags" because they gave us stadium seats with ball caps and rain ponchos...JUST what we needed that day.  It was a pleasure watching the horses go, even though the judging was confusing at best.  It was hard for me to try to recognize what was a good movement when the three judges would score a 4, 5, and 6 for the same move.  Over and over.  Oh well, it was fun and there were many great rides.  The first day was pretty crappy to look around as they didn't have many vendors there, or food trucks as I'm sure you've heard.  But there weren't that many spectators there either, and if you went to get food at an hour other than 12 noon, there weren't any lines.  But both days it seemed that EVERYONE went for food at the exact same time.  Not me, I never waited in line for anything including the potties, which contrary to popular belief, were quite civilized at the Eventing venue.  The second day of Dressage there were many more vendors, and more food as well.

We didn't get rained on any more after Thursday, but the mud continued to build up on the bottom of our shoes as we tromped around the grounds.  I got to walk the XC course with Coach O'Connor and it was a great opportunity to listen to him and look at the course from his perspective.  The ground looked deep but pretty solid since nobody had been walking on the track except the riders.  It was a very hilly course, and they ended up taking a big hill and two jumps off the course because of the deep footing.  We all had high hopes for the team but when Buck and many of the first horses out on course struggled to get past the last water, it didn't look good for anyone.  But as the day went on it seemed that the riders must have adjusted their strategies because more and more got around.  Many had problems, but the ones that didn't made it look easy.   I met a fascinating older gentleman from Belgium that sat next to me and critiqued the riders as they went through the big water. He was a fountain of information I could have listened to him all day. But at the end of cross country day, only four of our riders made it over the finish line, and our team was out of contention.

Oddly, the jogs the next morning were at Haras du Pin, and then right away the horses were shipped an hour north to the stadium at Caen. It was like being at a soccer game complete with the crazed announcer shouting in French.  The horses seemed pretty cool and collected though and there were a lot of nice rounds.  Kim Severson got a huge ovation when she rode clear she was one of the first of the day.  All our riders did a great job.  I had to run out to catch a train to Paris so missed Boyd's ride but it was the only way we were going to make our flight the next morning.  So we caught the train from Caen to Le Mans, then on to Paris where we stepped off the elevator into the Sheraton (THANK GOODNESS because we had NO plan at that point) and passed out for the night. Long trip home the next day I watched the movies Maleficent (awesome) , Godzilla (awful), and Noah (REALLY bad) in an effort to make time go by I was so happy to get home.

As I turned my phone on when we landed in Philadelphia I got a text that my three month old colt, Cody, was on the way to the hospital with a badly scratched eye.  Sheeeeeesh it never ends.  He had to have surgery to repair the hole before it ruptured, but is home and doing really well.  Back on Monday for the sutures in his eyelids out and hopefully the go ahead to be a normal boy again.  He's a big personality but he's been a great patient, letting us put meds in his eye six times a day through a catheter.  We've had to rig it a couple times, but in the big picture it's lasted WAY longer than I thought it would.  Carolyn and Carol have been HUGE help as well, besides taking Cody to New Bolton Center, they help with shifts doing the meds throughout the day.  Couldn't do it without them! The past week and a half has pretty much revolved around eye medicine time.

This weekend both Ari and Toga go to Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials.  After that we do Marlborough, Morven, Kelly's Ford, and probably Virginia Horse Trials.  In retrospect I am extra glad I'm not going to the AECs since Cody's little eye adventure was pretty darn expensive.  So staying local this fall but still doing a fair number of events.  Looks like I've cracked onto the Fossils division of the USEA Leaderboard, which I haven't been on since 2003, SOOOOOOOo I'm going to have to resist the urge to chase points :() Having two horses at the same level is helpful......

Good to be home.