A frustrating and surprising 2009

In true “Equi-Nerd”* fashion, I actually have written “horse” goals each year. (I might be making more money if I wrote down “career” goals each year.)

The #1 goal for 2009 was to earn my Bronze medal on Fling. It actually has been a goal for many, many years – but never before has it actually seemed attainable in a specific year. But between my trainer being out of the country for several months last year, incredibly hot weather, trouble with confirming the flying changes, and having two 4-year-olds to acclimate to life as show horses, that did not happen. It was especially bittersweet since the USDF Convention was in Austin this year – easily driveable – and I always said if I ever earned the stinking thing, I would go to the Awards Banquet and pick it up in person. Missed the ‘window of opportunity’ on that one, too. Another goal on my list, and not attained, was for Faxx to win a Championship under saddle in dressage at the Arab/Half Arab Sporthorse Regional show in July. He had a disappointing (for him) show, earning only Top 5s in-hand (he’s been Champion two years in a row), underperforming in the first two dressage classes, and only finally pulling off a good ride in the last one, earning a Reserve Championship with a 67. He is a horse that even the judge said should be scoring 70s consistently. He did pleasantly surprise me in the Sporthorse Under Saddle classes, earning a Top 5 and a Reserve Championship in fairly large classes.

So, I was feeling a bit like a ‘failure’ this year until I thought about the good things that happened that were NOT on my “goals” list.

In June I took Faxx to the June HDS Recognized Dressage show – his first recognized, Open dressage show. Some friends and I had signed up for the USDF Adult Team Championships, with our team name, the “Alvin Chipmunks.” (We all live in Alvin, TX!)  Faxx turned in a 71% in one class to help our team WIN the team championship, and Faxx wound up the CHAMPION of the entire team tests! He got a huge ribbon, and we had to go in the big arena at Great SW Equestrian Center and do a ‘victory lap.”  Despite having NEVER been in there before, he handled it like a pro!

Faxx also earned the last of the points he needed toward his AHA Legion of Merit (+), then with his titles from Regionals, also earned his Legion of Honor (++) – an incredible feat for a four-year-old! Plus, he is just a few points away from his Legion of Supreme Honor (+/), a title that took Lisa almost a decade to earn.

He was high score and champion of several schooling shows during the year, and last week I found out he is the USEF Region 9 Horse of the Year Champion, Half Arabian Training Level Amateur!

Even more than the ribbons and titles, though, is the progress he’s made in a year of riding him. When I first started riding him, he was very reluctant to even take contact, and when he did, it was tenuous and inconsistent. It was difficult to get him ‘through’ enough to sit his trot – and his trot is so big, he HAS to be through or it’s completely impossible!

The last time I rode him – despite minimal riding the last two months – he was immediately taking soft, steady contact, I could sit his trot and he responded immediately to subtle aids just from my seat!

I had no goals with Faeryn listed for 2009. I had really no idea what to expect of her. Overshadowed by her more flamboyant (in looks and movement) half-sibling, Faxx, I really tend to underestimate her.

I should have known, being Lisa’s daughter, not to underestimate her.

In only her second outing at Training Level in April, she was the Training Level Champion, and high score amateur. In her next two outings, she was also high score of the show. In September, I took her to the ISR/Oldenburg inspection and did the Mare Performance Test with her. With just 5 practice sessions learning how to jump, she scored an 8 for jumping ability and was the Mare Performance Test Champion, with a premium score of 72. She was also the high score mare in-hand, and is now entered into the Oldenburg Main Mare book! I was moved to tears to see my little bay horse, who I literally pulled into the world, with an $800 half Arabian mother, compete and win against horses with much grander pedigrees. As I wrote in an article about the inspection for the ISR/Oldenburg newsletter – Never underestimate that most important quality that the inspectors cannot possibly see or score – heart!

And then, of course, the Schooling Show Championships yesterday – I was very proud how Faeryn got over her ‘spooks’ and just went in and did her job. Again, the ribbons/titles mean less than what we’ve accomplished together. I am especially proud of the fact that I started Faeryn under saddle myself, and have had much less coaching on her than I have with either Faxx or Fling. She is very uncomplicated to ride and train, and I think she is just going to get better as she moves up the levels – much like her big sister Fling.

And that brings me to Fling. It has been too easy this past year to be distracted by the “new” toys (Faxx and Faeryn) and neglect Fling.  But every time I ride her, she makes me smile. She tries so hard, and in her own way she is very athletic. She is not as impressive a mover as either Faxx or Faeryn, but she makes up for it in her love of her work and the way she is so focused on what I am asking her to do.Not only that, her trot has gotten so light and airy, she is in complete and total self-carriage. It is like driving a high powered sports car! Now, the challenge for 2010 is to get her stronger in the canter so she can achieve the same sort of self-carriage there.

I have to remind myself that Faxx and Faeryn have years ahead of them – Fling is 10, and if I’ve learned anything from horses, it’s that you can not count on anything. 2010 will be Fling’s year. My one and only goal will be to show Fling and earn the Bronze – and have FEI in our sights for 2011. I know she has the work ethic and the athletic ability to get to Grand Prix, as long as we can continue to have access to good training.

And last, but certainly not least, I applied for, and received, the “Gifted” Scholarship from the Dressage Foundation. Named for Carol Lavell’s great Olympic partner, the Hanoverian gelding, Gifted, it is a $900 training grant given to one adult amateur per year per each USDF Region. (Sometimes when I tell younger dressage people, or non-dressage people I got the Gifted Scholarship, they think I got it because _I_ am gifted. LOL! Nothing could be further from the truth!)  The fund’s purpose is to allow amateurs to take a ‘training sabbatical’ away from the daily pressures of work, and life, and be able to completely focus on furthering their dressage training.

I will take a week and haul the horses to Marta’s and stay up there. The plan is for Fling to stay all week, each youngster to stay part of a week. I will also ride horses Marta has in training, who are doing higher level work than I am. I really need to ride a horse that’s really trained to do flying changes! I also would like to ride one that can piaffe and passage. I originally planned to do this in January if I got the grant, but I’ve had so much time off riding, I need to spend at least a solid month riding them before I do my training week.
And now, if it would just quit raining, so I can start working on making it happen!

*I admit, I stole the term Equi-Nerd from my junior high school best friend, DeLinda. We recently got reacquainted and that’s how she described us as 13-year-old horse crazy girls – and the label still fits!

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