The Long Awaited Aiken Update!

    When I was little, I used to try to keep a diary. About every six months, I would be able to write consistently for a week, maybe two, and then I would give up. Then, in six months, I would be renewed in my interest in chronically my own life, and start again for a week. Needless to say, I am not the best person alive at consistently blogging. Bear with me, as I know you have all been positively on the edges of your seats wondering what in the world I've been getting up to down here in Aiken! 


Barn Aisle

   I'll start from the beginning. This year, I am spoiled enough to be living in the above barn, due to the kind generosity and hospitality of Jess Hampf and her mother, Joan Hampf. I cannot begin to explain how amazing it is to be stationed here for the winter! I live in a luxurious apartment above the barn, and my horses live in a palace. They have certainly settled right in and accepted the digs as their righteous due, but I am still in awe every single day. 


Huge Turnout!

   I spent my first ten days here putting the finishing touches on Nyls for his first event of 2012. Since his knee injury in the fall of 2010, Nyls only ran the Intermediate last year at Pine Top, and the Intermediate at Morven last fall. He has basically been on a little hiatus. He came out this year feeling better than ever, but a touch spooky, pretending that he has never seen liverpools and such. Pretty standard for Nyls. 

   I've been able to get some really great help from both Jess (very convenient!) and Sally Cousins thus far, and I really feel like my riding, as well as my overall understanding of the underlying issues has really improved. My year of galloping racehorses has REALLY helped my lower leg, and I don't feel like I'm in danger of popping straight off every time my horse goes over a jump! Don't get me wrong, I still jump with a grab strap.


  So Pine Top was slated to involve Dressage and Cross Country both on Friday, and then Show Jumping on Saturday. Not my favorite schedule in the world....but what are you gonna do? I showed up a few hours early to let Nyls have a chance to hang out, walk around, and eat and drink a little before our ride time at 1:53. The whole drive there, the radio was blaring reports about tornado warnings and hurricane weather. At noon, the predictions came true. I was out walking my cross country course, and I got ABSOLUTELY drenched. It was raining so hard, I literally couldn't see where I was going! Luckily, Nyls was tucked away in his trailer, but he wasn't happy about the noise the thunderstorm made. The entire show huddled in trucks and trailers for an hour, waiting out the lightening and torrential downpour. The cross country was called off for the day, and the remaining dressage riders (myself included) were slowly brought back to the rings to do our soggy tests.

   Nyls was good, and fairly obedient in his test, but to be honest, I think he was kindof over the whole day. We ended up not riding until 4:30, and since he had been hiding in his trailer since 11, he was not very enthusiastic. I really can't fault him, but I will definitely bring a little more oomph to our next test! I am really excited that he feels more grown-up these days in the dressage, I feel like I can really ride him into the movements, and he isn't quite as squirelly or spooky about the letters. 

   We came back the next morning to do our show jumping, and man was he fantastic! We all know he's a freaky phenomenal jumper, but he really puts on a show for the ring. He always feels like he jumps at least an extra two feet over the colored poles, and he tries so hard to be responsive and absolutely hates to touch a thing! He was a touch spooky, but really tried to listen when I needed him to, and was very good through both of the triple combinations, which were a bit tight. It's amazing to ride a horse that can be so adjustable and quick with his legs! Unfortunately, we had the last jump down. It was a swedish oxer, and for some reason, he spooked right really hard about two strides out, and I had to kindof jump the right side, which was the higher side. Unlucky, but I was very happy with him. It was an incredibly twisty course with lots of roll-back turns and spooky jumps to canter past! 


   Cross country was three hours later, which gave me a chance to watch a lot of the Advanced, which is always super fun. Michael Pollard absolutely dominated on his horses (seen right on Jos Calfun) taking top spots in every division. 

   Nyls came out to the warm up and was absolutely wild! He loves cross country so much, and you could really tell he was pumped up.

   He jumped the first half of the course beautifully. He answered all of the questions I sent his way, and really was seeking jumps on the way out of combinations. There was a saloon four strides to a corner, and he sailed over it. Next was a bounce bank up and about seven strides downhill to a tiny skinny, which he completely locked onto and popped over. He went through the first water, and out over a massive red corner like it was nothing. Next, there was a ditch and wall, which was positioned such that you couldn't really tell there was a ditch involved until you were in the air. Which is precisely what Nyls did. I have some witnesses that back up my story, and then say that it was basically a miracle that I stayed on at all. He took off dead center, and then while in mid-air, he looked down, realized there was a ditch, and corkscrewed his body and flung himself to the right. If you want to see some funny pictures, look here at what the photographer captured! RIDICULOUS PHOTOS.

   Somehow, I stayed on. However, the next jump was a coffin combination, where you really couldn't see the ditch until you were over the first skinny. Nyls was still freaking out about the ditch and wall, and he simply jumped the first element and stopped dead, and let out one of those super loud honking snorts and I'm pretty sure his eyes bugged OUT of his head. I could tell he was like, " ARE YOU SERIOUS??? ANOTHER SURPRISE DITCH???" Poor guy, he got rattled. I simply gave him a pat, about 5 seconds to have a look, and we circled and he went right over it and over the next skinny.  He purred around the rest of the course, but I could tell he was still a bit unsettled, as he spooked really hard at a puddle on the walk back to the barn and almost ran another horse over. I've always known that this tendency is a part of him, and I've been able to manage it. He never stops at jumps, he is the bravest horse ever, but he is not good with surprises on the ground. If there is one thing that he cannot get over, it is scary things at his feet. I think that this unfortunate stop was just a fluke, and partially due to the fact that we really haven't been out in a while. 

   For now, we will be jumping ditches every single day, just in case, and training extra hard to do the Advanced at Southern Pines II. I feel confident that this minor setback will not impact our move up to Advanced, and I know the horse I have underneath me is one of the best in our sport. 


PS. I have really great high speed internet finally, so I hopefully will be updating you all more often! Fingers crossed I can stick with it!

© Kate Samuels Eventing 2011