It’s fall, and it’s time for me to ride. I enjoy the weather and the footing and try, even with fading light, to keep the training going. Today, I got up early to feed, bring horses in, hook up the truck, load, change into hunting clothes. Then hit the road to meet friends at a local fixture to hunt with Wicomico at 9:00 a.m….got home about 1:00 p.m., promptly gave Hamish the Hunt mount a bath, put him away, got out No. 2 – Lucky. Jump schooled him. Then cleaned last of the stalls, dumped the tractor, got Hamish put back out and brought in Rugby for a quick 30-minute hack (he is still barefoot, awaiting shoes). Finished barn work, unhooked the truck, ran in the house, changed, zipped to Tractor Supply for shavings. Got home, still light, fed the horses, brought in the ones who eat in, put out the ones who go out. Handwalked Indy, unloaded shavings, picked up the barn and….done….and it wasn’t dark yet! Amazing!
AFH….after Fair Hill. Wow. While it is amazing fun to be a part of a great three day event at the beautiful Fair Hill in Maryland, it’s time consuming and exhausting. My whole farm has been totally neglected for an entire week. I haven’t ridden anything for over 7 days. My back is telling me this pretty loudly. It’s like the world stops while you take part in a wild and crazy and exciting thing, but at home, they are just waiting for you until the thing is over. And I only work for a couple of days, there are many who work the entire week and even longer and put in hundreds of hours. My little volunteer contributions pale beside their commitment and dedication. All hail to FHI volunteers!
I started back with Hamish, Lucky, and George yesterday. They all lunged on Sunday, then depending on how that went, I got on and hacked a little. Monday, they jumped only four or five jumps plus hacked, except Hamish who did the big field canters and trots. He gets more fitness work do to his fine stature and the way he generously fills out the weight tape. Rugby is awaiting shoes. But appears to be sound. He will need a quick prep for hunting. Not sure when that is starting, but I do have some work to do with him first anyhow.
Indy is healing and the rest of the pasture ponies are hairing up. We will have a warm day today and that is it — winter comes in so time to unpack the jackets and turtlenecks. I can’t say I’m totally thrilled about winter but I am glad for fall, which is my favorite time of year. More pictures coming.
Prayers for my neighbor who is fighting cancer! I wish I could do more to help. I am sure many feel that way who are touched by this bad, bad disease. I am grateful for my health every day. As they say, “If I can wake up and get dressed, it’s a good day.”
This year is the 25th anniversary of the Fair Hill International three-day event. I have been volunteering for over 14 years, the first as an area steward and backup jump judge, once a steeplechase timer for the long format, and the last ten years (I think) as the warmup coordinator for cross-country day. The warmup field is just a big ol’ Fair Hill expanse of grass, but it has a little history. Once upon a time, they staged a concert – bluegrass, one person said but another one said it rock — an outdoor music festival. The stage was somewhere over in the cross-country side, I think where the Halloween fence might be or near there. They bused in hundreds of concert-goers, and parked them in the warmup field – this may have been 30 or 40 years ago when gravel was cheap. They loaded in and spread out a lot of gravel for a parking lot, and that’s where we hold the cross-country warmup today. There is no mud or slippery stuff where we park and no one has been stuck in years. Not even the monsoon year. This field has to be 40 acres or so, maybe more. It is a beautiful place when it is quiet and serene, where there is just a rider or two going for a trail ride, and when it lights up with the Fair Hill International energy — the feeling is wonderful. We have only a few hours on Saturday to enjoy that energy, with the top riders and horses in the country a few feet from us galloping around and jumping but we enjoy every second. I’m too busy to write more tonight – still stuff to do for a 5am out the door time – more later.
No folks it is not wet at Fair Hill. The galloping lanes are perfect. I mean freakin’ perfect. Looking forward to a wonderful competition. While I cannot post photos of the jumps until the course has been officially approved for consumption (Wednesday), I can show you the general grounds and beauty of Fair Hill International.
Yeah, yeah, life is one test after another. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You can survive this. Those mantras run through my head after I walk down my barn aisleway each time this week and look at the various heads of my little herd poking over the stall gates. My Hospital Stable.
A thrush infection. An infected cut and an abscess. Lost shoes. Continuing heel abscess. Continuing scratches infection. I think all of this is related to having the horses out on the lush pasture we’ve had this summer and fall – and subsequent moist conditions. Heavy dew in the mornings and the rain have made for wet ground. Horses react the the environment around them, so I’ve got the consequences standing in the barn eating up winter hay, pooping in $5.59-bag shavings and generally making me get up at 5:30 a.m. to finish medicating, treating, soaking, and cleaning in time for work.
In a way it’s sort of a good thing, and a bit of payback for bragging that they were all so sound about a month ago. I don’t need to ride every horse every day, they can have a break and it’s not going to kill anyone. But I want them to be healed up and stop hurting.
I have begun the final countdown to Fair Hill and we have this rainy weather that will make the fence decor a bit difficult. Hopefully there won’t be much wind or rain between Sunday, and Tuesday, when the course is officially opened for the approval of the Ground Jury and then for the competitors. We sweat this Sunday night, when we take stock of all we have done, and what is left to do — it is a big undertaking, a lot of jumps, and a lot of physical work. But I enjoy it a lot.
I have a friend who loves to tell a story about how she had to move up because I kept winning all the Novice horse trials around the area about 10 years ago in Rugby’s beginning. Well, I am afraid she is going to add on to her story because now, Hamish is the new winner, winner, chicken dinner. He notched his second Novice win at Olde Hope’s delightful Oktoberfest horse trials today in a pretty good division, judged by excellent Jeanne Davis. The dressage was in the high 20’s, I can’t remember right now. He got mostly 7’s and 8’s and I think I did improve the forward and the free walk from Fair Hill. I need to be sure he’s not running in the trot, and he could have done better canter transitions. He slipped on the first turn and true to his draft-cross nature, took it easy the rest of the test. The footing was hard but not slick. I brought my jacket and white shirt and stock tie, but failed to summon the courage to wear it and just threw on my old blue polo, and said the hell with it. I practically was the only one without a jacket. Well, this is supposed to be fun. I’ll wear it when I have to!
Stadium was not as hard as Fair Hill, with only one spread fence, but Hamish touched three fences, two pretty hard — if they were on flatter competition cups, we’d have rails. The sun finally broke out about 11 a.m., and it instantly heated up. He and I both were tired by cross-country. He stood quietly in warmup, so before I started I galloped a circle, which worked to wake him up. The course was long and had nice gallopy spots and also went into the woods and round the back pond for interest. The biggest fence on the course was practically straight into one of the smaller divisions’s stadium fencelines, which walked as a pretty forward fence. I knew even though the two fences preceeding it were smaller, I had to gallop at this despite all the very distracting flags, string fence, other jumps, people on the road, etc. Thank goodness I was on Hamish! He focused like a champ. We had a long one somewhere – not sure which one, I remember him tapping his toes on it going over, I think the big ramp into the woods, which was not my idea. I trotted the embankment by the pond. I know it’s wet there and didn’t want him to slip up there, as the fence off the embankment was awkward and in a dip with a lot of run-out space to the left. His hunting experience did him very well and he finished up nicely for a double clear.
While I did not put pedal to medal, I do think he could make the time at Novice without too much trouble, provided I give him some conditioning work. Hopefully this will not make him too snotty. Speaking of snotty, while Hamish was star quality under saddle today, his manners at the trailer are going to be worked on. He got tangled in his tie rope, broke yet another trailer tie trying to stick his head out the window, pawed when the hay bag wasn’t presented quickly enough for his Highness’ eating pleasure, and stuck his head in MY lunch bucket and took a bite of my potato chip bag and water bottle, making a nice mess. I ended up untying him after he pulled yet again on that tie, and just held him while he grazed, so I could eat and drink something before I fainted. His problem is appetite. He wants to reach grass or eat hay and doesn’t pay attention to his halter and tie while he tries to get food, and then looks about, and the tie is over his ear or something. I will see about getting some sturdy outside ties on the trailer and as far as being IN the trailer and ripping the screen, that’s going to change, too. He gets the door shut, tough, sorry about your luck. My only complaint, and if I had someone to help me I am sure it would not be a problem. Everyone had such fun today, they all picnic and enjoy the day at Miss Jane’s…..I wish I had more people around to have fun! It would have been great. I miss our old Adult Ammy crowd a bit, I guess. Well, that’s the day. It has been a busy week. It will be even busier coming up in the next three weeks. I have cross-country schoolings, cub hunting, dressage schooling shows and I’d like to fit in some jump lessons while some three-star riders are up for the International in two weeks! I’d better work on getting rid of this headache in time to get up AGAIN at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow…..