Saturday, November 19, 2011

Equine Affaire November 12-13, 2011

Where do I start?  It was such an amazing weekend, with an array of experiences and emotions, and I’ve been walking on clouds for almost a month now.

The first new experience was trying to load G into the trailer in the dark.  It was a first for us both.  Seems I remember thinking it sure would be nice to install an interior light in the back where those two wires are sitting, but somehow we just haven’t gotten around to it.  After the fourth failed attempt, I tried putting on my headlamp to shine some light on the dark box I was trying to get him into.  Well, that was great as long as I was standing still - now there was a dancing spotlight inside, and G said “heck no, I’m not going in there, that light beam eats horses you know”.  It finally clicked in my brain to put the headlamp on the divider against the wall so the light would be still.  After three more attempts G finally relented and got in.

Now I’m certain that 45 minutes later he regretted his decision to get into the dark box.  He was being off-loaded onto pavement, walked into a dimly lit, strange barn and put into a simple 8’x8’ stall with bars all the way across the front.  “Whoa, what happened to my spacious 12‘x12’ room with a window and open door front?”  He whinnied several times and got no answer.  I could see the panic setting into his eyes.  You could see the lid above actually twitching with tension.  I knew he was in for a long night.

We set him all up with enough hay to last the night, a full bucket of his own water, and sat with him awhile talking quietly in reassuring tones.   One horse whinnied three aisles over and the chorus ensued.  It was like listening to an echo rolling through a canyon.

The Canadian Cowgirls were in the next aisle behind G and there was a lot of activity as they got ready for their Pfizer Fantasia performance.  Of course we had to stop and let them know how much we’ve enjoyed their performances over the years and wished them luck.  After an hour or two we decided we needed to get home to get some sleep, as 5 am would come pretty quickly.  As we were leaving, I stopped and asked the Cowgirls if they could do me a huge favor.  I explained that this was G’s first time at such a large event, and if they heard a ruckus after their show, if they could just take a peek and make sure he was okay.  They said “you bet, we’ll even stop and talk to him”.  I left my boy, and I had a better understanding of how mom’s feel when they leave their child at summer camp for the first time.  Here's G with some of his new girlfriends:

When we got home, I knew I needed to shut down my brain or other I would never be able to sleep (yes, I am an overthinker) so I took two Tylenol PM caplets and headed to bed.  They worked their magic.

As I thought, 5 am came real quickly.  We arrived at the Exposition grounds at 6:30 and began our barn chores.  When G heard my voice he responded with a nice big nicker.  When he got his morning grain, he was even happier to see mom.  G was fed, groomed, and ready to ride by 7:30.  I called Steve Lunoi and we agreed to ride in the Coliseum.   
Riding inside the coliseum was probably another thrill for me.  Although G wasn't so crazy about it when the other three horses left.  He went from relaxed and walking, to stressed and side passing.  But hubby caught a cool shot of us that gives you a great perspective on how big an arena it is:

We ended up side passing all the way over the the exit lol.

What an incredible weekend!  I'm not sure I can truly put into words how proud I am of G, or the feelings of pride that I have for how he performed for me in each of the three clinics, and handled the whole circus atmosphere of EA.  I'm still walking on clouds and have so many emotions that I can't sort them all out to put them down in words.  I've just been smiling and yes, bursting with pride.  I think it gave me a slight inkling of the high that people get when they show a horse and are awarded a ribbon.  When a stranger walks up to you and tells you that you have a wonderfully gaited horse, and you later find out that he's a reputable gaited horse trainer, well it is such a high. 

One of the things that I loved about Liz and her presentation is that she includes a little bit of each horse's story, so the audience has an understanding that not one of us got where we are today without a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  This weekend wiped out all the nights that I sat on the couch in tears, telling hubby I had to sell G cause we just weren't connecting or I just wanted to give up cause I didn't think I was the person that he needed.  I told hubby that I thought I would keep him    Hubby was awesome, took lots of pics and video.  And he was even taking photos with Liz's camera for her...he was a busy guy this weekend, and I have thanked him a hundred times for supporting us the way he did this weekend.  Not every woman, or their horse, have a groom boy :)  Heck, I have to thank him for supporting us the past 9 years.  Without him and his encouragement, I'm not sure I would've experienced the kind of high I've been on the past two days.  Beyond the fun, I felt rewarded for all the hard work the pst 9 years.  It goes to show you that sometimes there really is a diamond under that black rock.  You just have to keep chiseling away until you start to find the small glints of light that keep you looking closer and chipping away at it.  I know I still have some shaping and polishing to do, but the diamond is finally in my sights.  Here's a couple of short videos of two of my favorite moments.  Like Liz, I love the big ole' head on my boy and I almost got a trot out of G yesterday afternoon.  When Liz asked me to try and get him to do it again, I couldn't repeat it.  But that's okay, I like his gait just fine!   Liz is just so awesome, and she truly makes you feel like a part of something special that's for sure.



I hope I don't bore you with all the videos (see below) but the fact that it wasn't just a few steps, or a few passes of wonderfulness, is still blowing my mind!!  I only wish we could've been in a larger arena to not have to deal with the tight corners.  But the GFS footing was to die for!  I have to send the video links to David & Lisa Taylor, as I know they will be pleased as punch to see the beautiful horse that G has turned into.  I knew back then that this horse was special, and can now thumb my nose at the 5 people before me that passed on him saying he wasn't worth a damn. Another example of why one should always trust their gut and stick to their guns.

Hubby and a friend of hers (Sue I think) took pictures with Liz's camera and Liz put a slide show on her website.  Some really nice pics which brought back lots of memories.  If you look closely in one of the early arena shots where we're all lined up, you may see some snowballs near Liz's feet.  Liz was razzing Steve about New Jersey getting snow before her in MN, so he made some snowballs from the October storm and put them in the freezer to bring to EA.  While Liz was talking, Steve took one snowball at a time out of a bag and gave them to each rider.  When Liz came to a pause, Steve said "hey Liz, remember you were making fun on me getting snow before you?" She turned with a smile on her face, and we all threw the snowballs at her feet!  Totally shocked her, she laughed and said something to the effect of "see this, this is how great gaited horse people are".
Here's the link to Liz's slide show (ignore the opening shot - hubby needs to learn when not to take close up shots lol): 

The following morning I took G back to the coliseum to ride (you can ride between 6:00-8:00 a.m) and as we turned to go in the entry, here comes a drill team of 6-8 riders with flags all waving straight for us.  Up Periscope went G's head and he took two steps back.  I decided today wasn't the day I wanted to desensitize him to flags, so we went around the corner to the covered arena at C barn.  Steve was there warming up Pavo and DJ.  I told him about G and the flags and he gave me some advice on how to go about it at home.  So a little while later Steve comes over to G's stall and asked me if I was ready to desensitize G to flags.  I'm like really now?  He said no, for our afternoon session I'm like what?!? Well. apparently the announcer for our sessions was referring to us riders as "Liz's Calvary" (as we know how she likes to reference the Calvary training manual). Since Steve had his flag shirt and American flag with him, he thought it would be fun to ride into the arena in formation.  And so we did.  G walked right up to Steve with his flag, and once under saddle never gave it a second look.  Goes to show you that following the spooky item is never an issue.  Again, Liz's smile said it all when she saw us coming in.  Good stuff, the whole weekend.

It was short, but I got to ride with Liz, woohoo - boy would it be fun to trail ride with her.  I think she wanted to make sure this horse really could hold a gait, as Bob couldn't keep him up beside G at a medium walk.  Amazing how "intent" alone can change a horse's motivation.  She may have been talking about using her pinkies on the reins here, not sure, but I'm paying attention to her hands (box what box?)


Saturday night we got together with the other riders and Liz at Storrotown Tavern, which is one of our most favorite restaurants.  Old world charm, New England stick to your ribs cooking, great service.  What a fun evening enjoying conversation with old and new friends.  Each time we go here we have another wonderful memory of our visit:

 What an incredible experience, G not only met, but far exceeded my expectations. My not so solid trail horse, is in reality one heck of a show pony!  Put him in an arena with other horses and it's like he's a super star.  I've never ever experienced a ride like what I experienced.  Not once, but all three clinics.  I do attribute some of his shine to the incredible GFS footing they had in the arena.  So level and cushioned.  I think G felt very confident about where he was putting his feet.  There were a lot of wonderful moments, and so much to digest.  A month later and I'm still trying to write it down and its turning into a novel.  G worked harder on gait these two days then he has in awhile. 

Links to YouTube Videos:

Video 6

And I think my most favorite picture of the weekend, which Liz was gracious enough to send to me.  Me & G with Liz sharing a laugh before our first clinic.  This summed up the weekend, yep, we were relaxed and happy!
I think I have an inkling of what it feels like to win a Grand Prix or Freestyle dressage competition.  When you're in that zone with your horse, there is nothing that breaks the magical connection that you have.  I have G to thank for that, as he has made me step up and become a better horsewoman for him.  I know I still have so much to learn, so much to work on, but boy does it feel grand to be in such a wonderful place.

I walked away from this weekend with such a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment, and just when I did't think I can burst with any more pride or emotion, the one horsewoman I admire more than any other horse person who has walked this earth, paid me what I feel is one the highest compliments I could ever receive on Facebook this evening.  Words that brought me to tears. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing them, but it's the equivalent to a blue ribbon from the weekend to me!!
Elizabeth Graves-Kate Taylor
I'm home Kate although a long day traveling but I did want to share one thing I feel it important you know. You and G did a national title performance this weekend! I knew you would even though you you questioned your self at times in getting there I never, ever doubted you for a minute over the years. Thank you for being the student you are and share your journey in hopes others will grow also and follow you in theirs.
These words alone, are as big a reward as the magical connection that I felt with G this weekend.  I don't know if we'll ever be in the same magical place in the same way, but I think I got an inkling of what an Olympian must feel when their horse runs the perfect course, or performs the most magnificent freestyle dressage performance.  These words from Liz are like having a trainer patting me on the back and hugging me with joy.  The pride that one feels in their accomplishments with their horse in these moments is just surreal. 

The past couple of years I've talked a little about how much I would love to work with Liz out in Minnesota as she does apprentice/internship week long programs, but knowing it would more than likely never happen.  As we were trailering G back home from the expo grounds Sunday night and we're talking about how great a weekend it was, hubby said "I think you should work with Liz".  Huh?  He said "I know you've dreamt about going to Minnesota and working with Liz, I really think you need to go, you deserve to take it to the next level in your journey".  I was floored.  So, if we did it right and Uncle Sam gives us enough money back next spring, I will be making plans to fly out to Shades of Oak Ranch to continue the journey.