Finn, Whistler, my fiance Joe, and I arrived in Florida safe and sound on Friday morning, January 18. Our trip went smoothly and was pretty much uneventful, but we just missed the fast and furious snowstorm in Tennessee that really affected travelers passing through soon after us. It slowed us down for just a little while.
We turned the boys out in the pasture as soon as we got to Longwood so they could move around and stretch their legs after being in the trailer for so many hours; then we started the process of unpacking and organizing. This year I’m in a different barn; right next to one of the XC fields and in view of the little house I’ve been staying in here for the last several years. Here’s a quick pan of the view of the one XC field near the barn (our little house in the distance).
The next few days started with hacks and light flat work for Finny and Whistler to get ourselves back in work mode again. I also tried to walk or trot both boys through the XC water every day so they’d remember what that was all about.
Some of Michael Pollard’s horses are in the barn right next to us and Fiona made friends with one of their workers dogs, Argo. They’ve been having a great time wrestling and Fiona will miss Argo when the Pollard horses move to their new farm in Ocala shortly. Fi has quickly settled in to her routine of running and playing all day long and falling in bed exhausted at night–and not wanting to get up in the morning.
Joe had to fly back home to Ohio on Tuesday, but my mom and dad were down for their annual Ocala vacation so we also did a lot of eating out that first week, enjoying some of our favorite Ocala spots. We also got away from the horses on the Sunday at the end of our first week there and visited St. Augustine. Fiona had her first experience getting her feet wet in the ocean. She was a little scared at first of the waves (and the water was COLD) but she learned it wasn’t going to swallow her up so she started to romp a little–until she bit at the water and realized it tasted bad! Then we wandered around old St. Augustine a bit where Fiona found her true love!! She’s quite jealous of the goggles too.
During my second week, I was a demo rider for an eventing judge’s workshop/training program put on at Longwood. It was very educational, getting to hear comments from those participating and the facilitators of the program. Really helps you understand what judges are looking for and why and how they score. Whistler participated in the part where the judges evaluated gaits. He got lots of good comments on his lovely movement. Finn participated the second day when they worked on selected movements from each level. For Finn’s part, the facilitators picked three parts of Prelim tests and had Finn and two other horses take turns doing each movement. Then the participants had to discuss what they would score each movement and defend their scores. Again, a great learning experience.
Thursday afternoon of the second week, Megan, my friend and client, arrived with her horse, Sinny, for their first visit to Ocala. Megan is staying for the month and is very excited to be here. Late that week, I had a jump lesson with Bruce Davidson. It’s great to have so many super instructors available in Ocala and take lessons from some of them. Each instructor has different perspectives and can learn so much from all of them. I hope to get a few more from Bruce, as well as getting back with Leslie Law before I have to head for home. Bruce really like Finny and feels he has great potential. And I learned some really great tips that have helped both in jumping and on the flat.
Saturday we headed over to the Florida Horse Park to watch marathon day of a combined driving event. A friend from back home came down to navigate for someone in the Prelim Pony Pair division. It was great to cheer them on; I believe they finished 2nd in their division! Sunday was a Super Bowl party at Longwood. Lots of fun with a huge group of eventers!
The following week both Megan and I concentrated on preparing for our first competition of the season, Ocala Winter II at the Florida Horse Park. Finny ran Intermediate, Whistler was starting at Training, and Megan and Sinny ran Prelim. I was pleased with the entirety of Finn’s run. It was run as a one-day, so we did all three phases on Friday. His dressage test went very well; it’s always a tough division when you’re running trials in Ocala with so many professionals entered, so I was happy with our standings. We got ready for showjumping/cross country next. Generally you go straight from SJ to XC in a one day, but ended up being a hold on course before we went off on XC, so I had quite a bit of time between the two. (My heart and prayers go out to Andrea, who lost her horse and was injured on course.) Finn had just one rail in showjumping; I was satisfied with that as there were lots of rails coming down and it was a tough but fun course. Our cross country run was great. Jumped clean; I didn’t even bother setting my watch. Just wanted a good run for the first of the year. We ended up with some time penalties, but I was thrilled with his performance nonetheless.
All in all, I think Megan was pleased with her run. She also had her division run as a one-day, so we were both busy and kept moving all day long. Ocala is a tough course, both showjumping and XC; much tougher than your average Area VIII course. So she did quite well for her first go of the season.
Whistler ran his training division over Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was his dressage test and showjumping. Sunday was XC. He has been a little reluctant to put his focus into his flatwork lately. So Friday at the farm when we worked before the show, I pushed him and really was strict about keeping his attention on what he was being asked to do. All of a sudden, he became a different horse. He started to focus; his back came up, he was light in the hands. He was incredible; his trot was tremendous, his counter canter was there (he kept swapping leads previous rides). It was quite amazing. I think he just really needs to be challenged in his work to help him stay focused.
So that work paid off. He had a great dressage test; jumped double clean both Saturday and on XC on Sunday. He started in first place and finished in FIRST place! Good boy. Now we know you can do it!!
Now it’s back to work around the farm preparing for our next competitions. Sinny and Whistler will both run Prelim at Rocking Horse next weekend. It will be Whistler’s move-up. Finny has the weekend off from competition, as he’ll head to Pine Top for his first Advanced the following weekend.
Joe comes back this coming weekend for a visit. It will be great to see him and I’m looking forward to a little time away from the horses doing something else fun.
We’ll try to get some more photos and/or video posted soon.