Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Breather

I have been watching some minor puffiness on Brego's right hind fetlock, right at the base of the tendon for about a week. No heat, no visible lameness, bilateral, about the size of a quarter and negative to palpation. It seems like some stocking up, but Brego's other three legs are clean. I am thinking that the ride through the mud at the last show where we took out a coop or two might have strained him. Brego has perfect legs, knock on wood, so puffiness or swelling is a big deal.

He jumped around fine yesterday, I didn't notice anything about his movement. The swelling appeared a bit better today before the ride. I rode him in dressage today, and we just did a short session. I wanted to see if the swelling improved with work. He did not really want to engage and looking at the video, I think I can detect the slightest unevenness at the sitting trot. After the ride, the puffiness remained and he seemed to be more sensitive to palpation. So the big boy gets 5 days off and I gave him some bute tonight to see if it helps with the inflammation.

I can honestly say that this is the first time Brego has been lame since I owned him, but I am not going to push it at all. We have plenty of time before the show (insert minor gasping panic noise here), and the most important thing is that he holds up for the long haul.

Plus, it gives me more time to track down leads on that "other" dressage horse I am going to take lessons on.

So if you don't hear from me for a few days, don't panic. Brego is just getting some much needed rest.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Toes Forward!

Today I learned a new mantra. Taking a cue off the US Marine Corp's creed of Unit, Core, God, Country (as seen in a movie), I decided I needed to set some serious priorities. So here they are: Family, Horse, Health, Job. Not that my job is even that significant in my life, but it is LESS significant than the other three. So when my boss asked me to work late yet again tonight, I repeated my mantra in my head and discovered that no, I would not work, I was going riding.

And ride I did. Brego and I worked on our form over fences. Actually, Brego was a star over fences, as always. He really loves to jump and just pings around. We did a couple of passes through the triple and then a couple oxers. All the while, I took my mind off Brego and focused on my toes and my elbows. And I made some progress. I got the feel of holding with the side of my calf instead of the back and things started to click. I had raised my stirrups a hole and that helped me get out of the saddle. On a couple of jumps, where we blew the distance, I reverted to more squatty toes out as I focused on us not dying, but in general, if I could stay aware and relaxed, I felt much better.

I had a good spotter on the ground who noticed that I was raising my hands the stride before the fence and not following well, stiffening. When I focused on quieting my hands and relaxing, my upper body stayed more supple and I am sure Brego appreciated the room. I also did some no hands work and that really helped me feel my calf and lower thighs over fences.

So progress.

And of course, while we were cantering around the course, Brego's canter was so balanced and I can thank the dreaded Dressage for that. So I know we're making progress there as well. I just need to relax and stop worrying, progress is good.

I rode my bike home today from the barn and felt good, I am getting more fit.

Family. Horse. Health... Job.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Misery, Thy Name is Dressage

Dressage is, quite possibly, the hardest thing I have ever done, or attempted to do. I am not really the extreme thrill seeker, so I have not climbed mountains or hiked the Appalachian trail (yet!). So until now, my hardest achievement was winning a Marshall Scholarship to study in Oxford. The reason that was hard was because I am a shy, introverted engineer by vocation and I had to endure 6 months of interview training so I could speak with authority to the intelligentsia interviewing me about political, social, and economic topics. It was a total mind retraining.

Dressage is very much the same way.

It strips me down and exposes me and all my character flaws. I have poor body awareness. Ice hockey does not train the body as say, ballet or dance. My weight is definitely an issue, in more ways than one. With a 30 pound spare tire, I am less precise in my weight aids. Plus things jiggle... blech. I get easily frustrated and I am highly critical. Mediocrity does not sit well with me. It's fine when I am pushing myself to write the best spankin' code on the planet, but it's not fine when I am pushing another sentient being out of a level of mediocrity that he might really enjoy. Does Brego want to be a super dressage horse? How far can I push us without taking advantage of his nature to please and suffer in silence? *sigh*

It's been an insufferable week. A crushing project at work, the endless and disappointing farm hunt, spending $600 a month commuting between gas and tolls, rising health insurance costs, fear and loathing of the upcoming heating season in snowy New England have really frayed me. I was already feeling exposed, and then I tried to work on dressage.

Aside from a longe lesson on Monday where I thought I had some real breakthroughs in my seat, he sat in a field for five days. And when that happens, the boy goes feral. He is rude, pushy, lazy, cranky... a lot like me with no exercise for five days. So on Friday evening, I gave the proverbial finger to work and I took off with enough time to ride. And it was terrible. Brego wouldn't move, then he moved to fast, head stuck straight into the air. Smells of an rider problem, eh? It was.

We fought for an hour and then I got one good downward transition and I forced myself to quit and pet and thank Brego for still loving me. I hate that feeling. Thank you, dear horse, for tolerating my shitty riding and trying to interpret my blast of ill-timed cues.

Saturday morning was "new horse-new rider". Start fresh. It didn't take long for us to start fighting again. Saturday's problem was that Brego stared out the indoor and would NOT PAY ATTENTION. And I took the bait and got increasingly stiff and frustrated. As I was turning him in circles, trying to get him to unlock his face and PAY ATTENTION TO ME DAMMIT, I had the mental thought that this is not dressage. This was not the point. And I got off.

So the plan... read some good Paul Belasik and find out how I got so terribly off track after a hellish week in my Other Life. And then... the best idea. I am going to take lessons from another barn on another horse, a made horse, to learn, myself, how to give aids. Then I can take that back to Brego and quiet the noise and show him how it works instead of screaming at him that he is not doing it right. He is a good horse. He can do it. WE can do it. I just need to let go and get some serious training.

I am completely exposed. It doesn't get much lower than this. So I need to find a way to rebuild constructively.

In the meantime, I am going to leave the dressage saddle on the rack. We're going to hack and work on my form over some grids, something Brego can do in his sleep and I will pick on myself instead of him. I am not worrying about the big show in four three weeks. We're safe enough to complete and that's exactly where we should be.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pictures From The Show

Hi all, just a quick update. I did not get pictures of Brego with his blue ribbon. Shame on me! I was busy coaching another when the placings were announced and by the time I got his ribbon, Brego was chillaxing at the trailer with his hay and water, quite nonplussed with the whole affair.

However! The show photographer got some great shots of our dressage test. I purchased three of them and I can't wait to frame them for my wall. Feel free to check them out. We were pair #4.

There's also one picture of us at the end of our album which was taken after our cross country ride. It's pretty clear from the picture which one of us was traumatized and it wasn't Brego. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Three Cheers for The Brego

The Brego was great today at our combined training schooling show at Echo Ridge Farms. This was a big test because it would be our first cross country round over a course he had not previously schooled. At all previous shows, I had been able to get to the course in advance and show him around. Another element of concern is that a lot of the cross country elements were brightly painted, which is not something we have schooled before. We tend to go au natural.

The morning was a little rushed because it took longer to walk the beginner novice course than expected (read: the course was LONG). The course consisted of 15 fences and it started, derby style, over fences in a field but then quickly wound its way through a forest. And thanks to buckets of rain the last two days, the forest trails were very wet and slick. The farm had tried their best to put down shavings and shore up the footing, but I knew it would be rough going. Since this was just a schooling show and the track was not timed, I decided to trot most of the forest work and only canter over the fences.

As I said, I did not have as much dressage warmup as I would like. Brego was very stiff and looky, taking in all the sights and sounds. I had a lot of trouble getting him to relax and soften, which is evident in the test. He would be working nicely and then suddenly stare off far into the distance and resist the bend. Such is a show atmosphere. I tried to stay calm and soft, but I did stiffen through warmup. About halfway through my test, we finally relaxed and we managed to get a really nice right canter. Overall, I am pretty pleased with the test. It was not as soft as our schooling at home, but much improved since the last show. The judge agreed, and awarded us with a 68% or 32 penalty points, which was the highest score at the entire show.

Then came cross country. The derby style course was very technical, not in fence height, but in terrain and footing. Everything was wet and slick and the hills were definitely a factor. It took awhile to get Brego warmed up to the course, but by fences 6A and 6B, we were cruising. It was around that time that I sat back and rested on my minor accomplishments and we promptly took a rail at fence 7. It was completely my fault. But then I shifted back into high gear for the rest of the course and we went around as well as could be expected. The footing was so bad up one hill that Brego was cantering in place, he could not get enough traction and slid with each step. The mud was the thick oozy kind where there is no purchase to be had. I trotted most of the forest trails but as I approached one coop, I knew I was in trouble. I could see the skid marks from the horses before me as they tried to jump the coop at the bottom of a steep hill. Since I kept Brego pretty slow down the hill, I thought he would be fine, but he still slid into the base as he tried to jump. He made it over, but took the coop with him. I checked him up to feel him out but he just wanted to power up the opposite hill. He felt really good so I let us continue and he jumped the nice maxed out flower box at the end.

All in all, he was awesome. The rail was my fault and Brego was a trooper on the rest of the course. Although I was pretty upset about the footing, Brego did not seem traumatized and finished strong. This is a real milestone for us because he had not schooled any part of the course before. He started pretty iffy, sucking back (although never looky), but as soon as he figured out we were "on course" he really rose to the challenge. I think he is starting to "get" cross country and how it's a big gallop and jumping fences even if they look strange. I mean, there was one fence painted like a cow!

Even with the rail, our dressage score kept us in first place. I am so proud of Brego. He performed so well, especially considering the heat and humidity.

Combined Training Schooling Show from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

I am excited to get back to some basics over the next few weeks in preparation for the big show on August 17th. I am going to continue with our dressage work, longe lessons, shorten my stirrups in jumping and get more training.

Many thanks to the two generous ladies who helped out at the showing. They were awesome groom/photographers/moral support/fan club members!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Triple Combination!

El Brego de Oro and I had a big day during our jumping lesson. We jumped our first triple! Brego was impressed, he catapulted me clean out of the saddle. The trainer set it up so the first element was an oxer, then 21' feet to a vertical, then 19' feet to the third vertical. It was a tough technical question for us: how to control the scope over the oxer to get enough impulsion to squeeze in the verticals. Since Brego is not the most careful jumper, it was an eye opening experience.

Riding our First Triple Combination! from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

In general, we had a great ride. Brego is such a jumper, he loves to get big air. Unfortunately, I do not love how I am riding big air. We focused on technical issues with Brego and not my position tonight, since my trainer deems me effective "enough". When I watch the video, I am still falling back in the air, so my position is going to be a factor when we start taking rails behind. But for now, Brego has the scope to compensate.

My trainer also focused on my upper body, asking me to stay more upright and control the ducking. He wanted a following release, not a crest release, to support Brego through the combinations. My hands did fine, but my elbows were in mid-flight as always.

We worked a lot on me supporting him off the ground at verticals. Since he is less impressed with them, I need to really get him off my leg and support him off the ground. If I drop my upper body and go too soft, he will take the rail.

I was very pleased with the rides in general. Brego was nicely self propelled. The canter work I had been doing all week showed through in his departures and balance on course. I felt like I had some horse under me, even when we weren't going mach 3 around the course. He was able to spring off the ground thanks to his nice canter. Until he got tired, he felt really good. If I could remember to ask for the lead in the air, he got it. Otherwise he threw in some nice swaps.

My trainer and I talked some more about taking Brego to some jumper shows in the fall. He said it was too bad we weren't in Ireland. In Ireland, they take cash bets at the ring and he said Brego would make some serious money. No one would bet him to go clear. It made me laugh, contemplating a future career on Brego's jumping ability. A scary thought.

All in all, I am pleased with our work. I tend to be critical of my riding (as if you hadn't noticed) so I am trying not to expect perfection, but just look at the overall picture. We're getting around the course in a smart manner, no more scrambling. We take some rails, but that's a lot of my fault. Sometimes I don't understand the questions being asked, like I moved Brego up in the triple when instead I should have half-halted.

As always, the lesson pushed me, but left me with a feeling of confidence. We worked on some tough stuff, way more than I can expect in my upcoming shows. So if I can keep my head and think through the course, we should do well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Making Time

It's been a busy week, and I am only half way through. This is the final week for a project at work and I have already logged 35 hours and it's only Wednesday. Additionally, I have a show this weekend and I am determined to learn from my past mistakes, so we're also getting some riding in.

Monday and Wednesday are dressage days. Brego had Tuesday off. We worked on the usual stuff, balance, softness, quieter hands, energy, pushing from behind. In the video, Brego looks more refreshed on Monday, a little more energy. But Wednesday, we both look softer. The downward transitions are coming along. Some are abrupt, but some are a lot nicer.

Dressage Practice from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

Going by feel, he was heavy on Monday and stiff. He tried a new evasion which is to power trot around at full speed and blow through my half halts. I ended up working on a figure eight and asking for the new canter lead out of the off turn, so he had to change his bend and his balance immediately to get the lead. That made him sit back and pay attention. I was more stiff and frustrated on Monday. The presence of the camera does affect my riding, as does the turmoil at work. I am also sitting forward too much and pinching through my thigh. It was causing some, er, uncomfortableness after the ride. I need to get more firmly planted on my seat bones.

Wednesday, he was more mentally soft, and bent better, but was still tired behind. This trot was not quiet as big, the canter not quite as "up". I did not intend to film on Wednesday, so my ride started more relaxed, less urgent and insistent. Brego and I spent more time talking to each other at the walk, feeling out the tiredness. He was definitely stiffer to the right. After I first got on, I pulled my legs away from the saddle and found my seat. I then draped my legs down and tried to keep them long the entire ride. I definitely need more longe lessons without stirrups to learn to sit the canter better.

Overall, two good solid rides. Everyday is so different, I think that's part of being both so green. Inconsistent performances as we try to figure it all out.

Tomorrow I have a jumping lesson which I am very much looking forward to. My jumping trainer is a big fan of Brego so I always get a confidence boost. I am also hoping to focus on my position.

I am knackered trying to fit it all in. This crazy full time job is really getting in the way of my riding. But I've been able to make time for the important things and I think it's starting to show.

In other news, one of the young girls who rides at the barn has a younger brother who is, I am guessing, seven or so. Maybe younger. This boy is totally into drag racing and cars, but for once he drew a picture of a horse. It was Brego! His grandmother presented me with the drawing and said it was the first horse he'd ever drawn. So cute, I just had to share.

Brego in Art!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Better Horse or a Better Rider?

I really appreciate everyone's kind remarks after last week's show. They helped me to stay focused on the positive and stay inspired.

Brego had most of the week off because of, what I like to call, my Other Life. Work, the farm search, various sundry nuances of everyday life crept in and by the time it came to ride, I had little emotional stamina left. Also, watching the videos 100s of times (you know, 'cause that's what I do), I started to agree with my Texas trainer: Brego was hind end tired.

So lots of time out for Brego, lots of time for me to reflect, in the few quiet moments, on my riding and my goals. A good friend is going through a personal crisis where she is considering selling her non-conventional eventer for a made pony. I see a lot of myself in her frustration and decision. It IS harder to bring Brego along than a Thoroughbred. I am as big a fan of drafts as anyone, but I will readily admit it is difficult. The big difference between Brego and my friend's mare, though, is that he is a good sport about the whole thing. He tries, and even when not spectacular, he's game and a good boy. My friend's mare doesn't want to play, she doesn't like the game, and she doesn't want to try anymore. I feel deeply for my friend who has stuck with her mare for seven years, but now it looks like they both need a change. It's hard.

All these ramblings and many others went through my head after our first show. I was surprised not only in how the judge received us, but how other competitors did as well. I think I just ran into a rough bunch, but I very much felt like maybe Brego and I weren't cut out for this. Maybe I needed to think about getting a more appropriate, made horse. Maybe I was working too hard to bring along a horse who would always score last in dressage, no matter how much we worked, who would always take rails because of fatigue.

Too much thinking, too little riding.

Today I went out and decided to work on just moving forward off my leg. I also wanted to focus on body awareness. A couple of very helpful readers suggested I think about what my body is doing and how I am reacting. So as I worked Brego out of his week-of-rest-induced stiffness, I thought "thumbs on top", "soft elbows", "toes in". I focused on my abs during transitions, I tried to grow 2 inches taller. I thought about opening my thigh and letting my leg grow long.

Suddenly, it wasn't so hard to get Brego moving forward. His bend came easier off my leg, he felt more elastic, more fluid. We had some mentally distracting moments with horses coming in and out of the arena, and I just stayed quiet and soft and asked for more bend, or more lateral, or more anything to get him back on me. No matter how much he wandered or tuned me out, he could not make me react by stiffening.

His canter to the right was elevated and balanced. His left was flat and stiff. It took a lot of transitions and work to get him to start reaching under with the inside hind and carry some weight. Then he got lovely. His left has always been his stickier, but it has largely equalized in the trot, not so in the canter.

Finally, I knew our downward transitions needed help. He broke from the canter to the trot so hard during our test at the show that he nearly bounced me out of the saddle. All stiff stifles and braced legs. So we worked on him coming forward into the downward transition and still powering through. I realized that his downward transitions to this point were exactly as I had trained them. When we were done cantering, we were done and I just dropped myself on his back and he dropped himself into the trot. But if I could stay tall and use my abs and my thighs down to the trot, he would stay up and come through his hind end. And then, just like that, in the huge trot inherited from a balanced canter, I asked him to come down and stretch and he did. I kept calf and an open hip to stay up with him and he floated along with the best nuchal ligament stretch he has ever done. So light in front, but there, in my hand and under me, like an ocean swell.

The hazy, far distance "stretchy trot" in Training Level Test 3 and 4 suddenly came into sharp focus.

So, you see, Brego is the most appropriate horse for me. He is my best friend and safe and a good sport. And he teaches me about myself, when I take the time to listen. He is sensitive enough to reward me when I get it "right", or closer to "right", or at least encourage me to try. At the same time, he is honest enough to not perform when I am not doing it right. It doesn't get much more appropriate than that.

(Talk is cheap. I will get video of us, closer to "right", soon :) )

Monday, July 7, 2008

First Three Phase

Today was a big day for The Brego and I. We headed over to New Hampshire to participate in our first real three phase schooling event. We had been to a schooling event last year, but we were decidedly non competitive, trotting the entire xc course.

Today we were actually going to compete, or at least complete the event. Things didn't go as well as hoped, but they certainly went fair enough with Brego and I winning a fifth place ribbon and earning reasonable scores.

In dressage we scored 42 penalty points which amounts to a 58%, our lowest score ever. The test was not really that bad, it was accurate and obedient, but Brego was definitely hot and completely over the whole dressage thing and so we both performed poorly. The more I tried to push him forward, the worse my position got, and the worse he did as well. The judge, to say the least, was unimpressed. In fact, she couldn't manage to find a single positive thing to say about us, either verbally after the test or on the score sheet. Other horses, in inverted frames, who broke from the canter during the test scored higher than us. Such is life in the dressage world, but it definitely set the tone for the rest of the day.

Cross country was the phase I was most concerned about, since Brego tends to be very looky and slow. By the time we were set to enter the start box, it was very hot and humid. I knew I would have trouble getting Brego going, so I wore my nubbin spurs. Boy, did he listen to those! We came out of the start box with his usual lethargy but after a few good kicks, he was off to the races and stayed in front of my leg the rest of the ride. He jumped everything very well, in stride and without hesitation. He was a complete machine on course. I was so proud of him.

Last fence on cross country

Stadium jumping was 15 minutes after cross country. I made the mistake of dismounting and loosening his girth to let him recover from cross country while my wonderful family sponged him off. Usually the loosening of the girth is his sign that his job is done. And that's pretty much how he acted during stadium: What, I have to work again?? He knocked down all three of his warm up jumps and the round itself was sticky and ugly. To add insult to injury, there was a rolltop on course, which we have not schooled since the ill-fated refusal at the hunter trials, so I over rode it and we got a rotten distance. The good news is that he jumped it fine, but then proceeded to knock down fence 6 off a bad turn. We made it through the rest of the course without too much trouble, but it was not a great round.

The distance to the rolltop was my fault, and the subsequent falling back was not fun

So we ended the show with 4 jumping faults in stadium for a total penalty of 46 points, which was good enough for 5th (out of 12, four horses were eliminated).

The good:
Brego got all his leads, both on cross country and in stadium. As the first show where we had to do all three phases in one day, it was a pretty big success. We did not get eliminated, and even though he was tired and fell asleep at the wheel during stadium, he jumped well. We were well prepared, neither one of us was overfaced. In fact, I thought cross country was a little ho hum, even though he rode very well. In fact, Brego was a little too relaxed at the show, and needed a LOT of work to get him going.

Which leads me to... The bad:
Man, Brego was very nonplussed about the whole thing and used the dressage test (and hence my inability to beat the crap out of him) to just drift farther behind my leg. I did pop him a couple of times during the test, but the damage was done. The judge was very unkind about our performance.

Watching the videos, my riding is pretty poor. My leg is vertical (mostly), but I am so toed out that sometimes my toes rotate past 90 degrees, if that's possible. I don't actually realize I am doing it over the jump, so I don't even know how I can bend that way. Also, my hands were pretty bad, lots of elbows out. And of course, driving Brego around makes my position all squatty and gross. It's a total bummer because I want to be proud of us, but I just expect more from us. Brego can definitely perform a better dressage test, he does it most days of the week at home. And all the work I have been doing on my position jumping was seemingly forgotten when I needed it most. It's pretty frustrating. I want to ride better so badly, and I take lessons and practice all the time. But somehow, I can never put it together when I need it.

Anyway, it's good to get the first show out of the way and I feel like neither one of us are a danger to ourselves on course. But I also realize I have a tremendous amount of work to do before the big show August 17th if I don't want to be wasting my efforts. A 42 in dressage is not great and at my level, everyone goes double clear so I can't get rails in stadium. Not that I am out to win, but I feel some level of pressure to perform well to prove Brego and I can be eventers. Sure there were Thoroughbreds flipping out and getting eliminated, but that's expected. Show up with a draft and you better have done your homework to be taken seriously. Or maybe that's just all my perception...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Today is a national holiday in the ol' US of A. Brego and I celebrated by participating in a small town parade in Maine. It was Brego's first parade, complete with balloons, streamers, horns and firetrucks. I am a big fan of parade safety, so I had a header with us through most of the parade. Brego did fine, but when the crowd pressed in halfway through, he got nervous. There was also some weird guy in a little mini car that kept circling behind us, getting closer and closer. We eventually asked him to move to another spot in the parade. Some people are so amazingly clueless about horses.

Anyway, Brego seemed to like the crowd and during the breaks when people approached he hammed it up as only he knows how to do, snuggling and kissing the ladies and gently nudging the tops of little boys' heads. What can I say? Brego likes his public.

Since the parade was on a paved road, and we have a show in two days, Brego was sporting his sneakers, complete with foam pads for shock dissipation. Not the most styling look in the world, but ya gotta protect those bare feet on uncertain terrain.

It was a lot of fun and I am really proud of Brego for doing so well. Our barn won first place in the "Horse and Wagon" division. A great start to a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Show Prep - Dressage

Brego and I have a three-phase schooling show this weekend, so I spent this evening learning my Beginner Novice Dressage Test A. Brego has been doing really well at softening down without falling on his forehand. Nothing too earth-shattering happened tonight, just some good solid work and test memorization.

Dressage aficionados out there will appreciate my improvements in upper body balance and length. My hands are still not close to "thumbs on top", but my elbows feel more supple and my hands are softer. You can see Brego's reaction is to reach into the contact, even if he drops too low at times.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures! I apologize for the quality. The little point-and-shoot camera does not work very well in the indoor.

Sitting Trot Up The Center Line

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flying Changes

Sorry for the flurry of posts, but I had to add this one as well.

Today was a great day! I sent off my big entry, I may have found a farm to purchase, my company (finally) paid me my token signing bonus. But most importantly of all, Brego and I performed our first flying change tonight... on purpose!

From left to right, not the prettiest thing in the world, but oh! the boy is smart. Tons of praise and pets and we quit immediately for the night. We'll get them smoothed out in no time. In other news, Brego can also counter canter with incredible balance three times around the indoor. Who knew?

Now I need to stop playing and start practicing my Training level tests for the schooling show this weekend. More supple, more bend, sayeth the last judge.

Speaking of flying changes, another great blog that I can't live without.


Today is July 1. Not only is it the beginning of another fabulous month in New England, it just so happens that it is also the opening date for our First Ever Recognized Event.

The entry form has been filled out for a month. If you think I didn't drop that puppy off at the post office at 6 am this morning, then you are just plan silly.

The event in question is the August 17th Horse Trials at Kingsbury Hill. There's still plenty of time to add some polish before then, otherwise I just might throw up from nerves.

Here's a little poem I like to read to get inspired to go do crazy things:

George Gray

By Edgar Lee Masters

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me-
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is torture
Of restlessness and vague desire-
It is a boat longing for the sea, and yet afraid.

Now that is a little melodramatic for a horse event, no? But in a way, this horse eventing thing has changed my life. I decided to try to event my Percheron in March of 2007. That was 16 months ago. Sixteen months of work to get to this point, our first beginner novice recognized event. Two date, that is 8 dressage lessons, 4 jumping lessons, 4 cross country schoolings, 3 clinics, 2 hunter trials, 1 hunter show, and approximately 256 different rides. Plus, I moved halfway across the country to pursue a better (eventing) horse scene, uprooting my family, selling my home, changing jobs.

As an aside, that may sound like few lessons, but I had already been riding all my life. Even the lowest levels of eventing are not an entry-level sport, as I have learned.

Through it all, the only constant was my horse. My big, silly horse. These experiences are precious to me.

(Gosh, after that build up, cross your fingers that I get in!!)