Monday, June 3, 2013

"Go Billy Go": FEI Diary For High Times

Looking back at how quickly this Spring has gone by, I can easily say, "What a whirlwind season it has been!".  But in another light I can also say, "What a journey I have embarked on!", when reflecting on the past four years I've spent competing with Billy. Time is funny that way, with calculated steps that have been thought over and over again in your mind turning into flashes gone by in a blink of an eye. Certainly, whether the moments you experience are mundane or thrilling, they are the moments that you have created for yourself.  Things don't accidentally happen to you in this life, and when it comes to Eventing, that is especially true! Having a dream, and then having the fortitude to execute the steps towards achieving that dream, might be the most heartbreaking and disappointing thing that a person can do. That's right, I said disappointing. It is so much harder to try something that you know you very well may fail at, than to just stand by and pretend like you never wanted to do it at all. It's making the steps towards your dream despite the failure, that takes everything you've got, not the actual moment of the dream being realized. So as I celebrate a very successful trip to Jersey Fresh for Billy and I, I also see what a struggle that this sport is, and that the journey truly is the dream.

Our journey to Jersey started with the CIC*** at Galway Downs in March. With minimal qualification, Billy had to really step up to plate and want to perform, which he most certainly showed me that he did.  The course was very challenging, especially for us, since it was chock full of ditches...big and scary ditches! But Billy was amazing through the near seven minute ditch-a-thon, and completed his ditch therapy class with a gold star and a sixth place finish.

Billy had a very stylish round in the show jumping with one rail down

second ditch encountered on course

downhill oxer with a ditch

Billy stays well clear of the downhill oxer!

the third in a row of three ditches at the moat

With a solid CIC*** under our belt and a gulp, the final decision to head all the way back East to the Jersey Fresh CCI*** was made.

To make the trip really worth while (and to ease the pressure of going across the country just to do one show), we made a family trip of it and spent a few extra weeks to get to Jersey. Our first stop was a week spent cheering on Hawley and Ginny as they competed at the Rolex Three Day Event, in Kentucky. Hawley was truly inspiring for all of us to watch as she ultimately placed seventh and Ginny was the highest placed mare at the event. Billy got to take in the Rolex atmosphere as well. He was stabled with all of the 4**** big kids, and rode around the park all puffed up and dreaming about competing there next year. I am forever grateful to Hawley for encouraging me to add this leg to our journey. With the 2014 Rolex as my goal, it was extremely beneficial to look at the event this year thru the eyes of a potential exhibitor and not just as a fan.

Dylan photo bombing Billy at Rolex

Cigar photo bombing Dylan at Rolex

Billy and I hacking with Hawley and Buck at Rolex. Reggie and Ginny were both top ten!
Taylor and the dogs full of energy at the beginning of our course walk at Rolex. It only took us two hours and one hot dog break to make it all the way around. I hope Billy does it a little faster than we did next year! 
We surprised Hawley with Gin N' Juice Cheer Gear. Not sure the rope lady was a fan of the cowbell. But who doesn't need more cowbell?? 
The second leg of our trip was spent at the Martin's beautiful Buckwampum Farm in Pennsylvania. Filled with green hills, flowering Dogwoods, and fun history, the farm is a stunning backdrop to Buck Davidson's training center. Taylor spent her time there riding Caroline Martin's pony, Puff N Stuff, and Ballynoe Castle RM, Billy and I spent our time in painful Dressage lessons, and Earl spent his time driving to Ohio to pick up our new Pegasus Horse Van. We also made a quick trip to Maryland to do a little tune up at the MCTA Advanced, which gave Billy and I a chance to practice some of our new chops in the Dressage and to jump a few fences in preparation for Jersey the following week.

Buckwampum Farm
Taylor getting some Puff love
Taylor riding a 4**** horse before I ever will
Billy getting well deserved time out after a Dressage lesson
Earl's new pride and joy
Monty and Dylan hold down Buck's golf cart  at MCTA
A familiar face at MCTA to share my Go Girl with. It's a West Coast thing!

Once arrived at The Horse Park of New Jersey, we quickly settled in and readied ourselves for the first jogs the next day. Because of our long preparation for the show, neither of us felt much nerves. Billy was pure business and all grown up starting with his very first workout there, and I just tried to stay focused on the task at hand.

My handsome boy
As Left Coasters, we suffered through the daily rain, and Dressage day was no different. Luckily, it didn't pour through my test, but I did have to pilot Billy through the slop in the Dressage court. We also had the unfortunate draw in the line up of being the third to go and right after Mensa no less. We still placed well, and I was encouraged with our progress. Although I had a disappointing few mistakes in the Dressage, with me forgetting a halt and Billy struggling through the second counter canter, I felt we showcased well our new and improved connection.

Dressage in the mud: Welcome to the East Coast!
Billy looking pleased with himself after a good effort, even if Earl is laughing at me for forgetting my halt, AGAIN!
Dressage made worthwhile with a little breakfast in bed post test
My groom needed a nap too
The CCI*** competitors had Friday off, so we had plenty of time to go over (and over) our course. Luckily, Monty and Dylan are officially 4**** course walkers after Rolex, so they didn't mind the four separate course walks I felt that I needed to really get to know Jersey Fresh. My brother also arrived from Florida on Friday, so it was a real treat to take Jon around the course and show him the jumps up close and personal before I tackled them the next day.

West Coast merriment at the 2013 Jersey Fresh
Who wants to be in Manhattan the night before a maiden CCI*** run until the wee hours? WEST SIIIIDE!
Saturday arrived, and with it, more rain of course. Buck suggested some very large studs to help us stay upright through the daunting near ten minute course, which we bought immediately from the mobile tack shop. I had a last minute check of the course with a few friends and fellow competitors while our grooms set up the vet box, and just like that it was time to get on for warm up. Billy was assuredly eager in the warm up, which always makes me feel good that he is up to the challenge. I think that Earl is less inclined to rejoice in Billy's enthusiasm, as he is the poor soul who has to dodge Billy's back hooves when trying to apply the grease.

It was so fun being in the start box waiting for the countdown at our first CCI***. I was so focused and excited, and felt so ready for that moment. Billy was oddly manageable as we were counted down, as if he knew he shouldn't be acting a fool before this endeavour. It did not slip away unnoticed, I will always remember it.

The course itself was also a blast, as you can imagine. Billy felt a little tired running on the large studs and lost a front shoe early on, so I knew that going for time was not in the cards for us at this show. But he jumped the massive course like an old pro and we came home clean with no jump penalties. We were both riding on cloud nine.

Fence 3: a giant brush table
Hello enormous water drop at fence 9
Log drop before a mushroom with a ditch around it
a streak of warmblood blazing by as Earl watches
Billy's ditch training continues
Waaaa Hooooo!

A big thank you goes out to Jon for sacrificing his shoes to help Billy cool down in the vet box
Click here for a link to Billy's cross country round!

After coaxing my body out of bed the next morning, I could only image how Billy felt. Luckily, all was in order and he felt great for Sunday. In fact, maybe a little too great. In my mind, I was so positive on how it would feel to ride a stadium round after a CCI*** run. I just knew that my horse would be exhausted with zero motivation, and would need tons of help getting off the ground. So, when the exact opposite happened, and I was riding a twenty-foot-tall-jump-devouring-beast, I froze. We got away with the bold and then even bolder step until the end when he saw a line of four fences. That's where he really galloped and I just sat there like a kid at the gates of Disneyland.... wide-eyed and in shock.  Oh well. Live and learn! Who knew I would need to PULL?! Obviously not me!

Bold... but looking pretty good
Getting bolder....
Time to go back to Math Class and learn how to add again
In the end, Billy was named the highest placed West Coast horse at the 2013 Jersey Fresh CCI*** in ninth place. He not only completed, but he finished in the top ten and sound and obviously confident for more.  The dream continues!!! Thank you to all of our friends that cheered us on and waited patiently for us to return, and thank you to my wonderful sponsors CWD Saddles, Nupafeed USA, KEP Helmets, Frilly Fillies Bonnets, The Soaker, The Saddle Network, LMF Feeds, HPF Designs, Heritage Gloves and Bardsley Grooming Products for being part of Team Billy!

2013 Jersey Fresh comes to an end
A sight for sore eyes

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Wilton, CA
A full service equestrian facility offering lessons for all ages, training, showing, breeding and sales.

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