Sunday, April 30, 2006

More Upsets, and the Boys Strike Back

Wow--has this Rolex ever been an unpredictable ride! I was thrilled that so many women (and so many relatively new faces) were in the top 5....but the horses (and riders) were tired, the announcer was PILING on the pressure ("and for Polly, the first rail will be a $15,000 rail..."), and the huge crowd was enough to make anyone nervous. So yesterday's ranking looked quite different by the end of the day today.

Unlike last year, there were really no "bugaboo" fences (the liverpool claimed several victims last year). Instead, it was time faults and downed rails.

Becky Holder, who'd done such an incredible job to this point, simply had a rough course. Four rails down, plus 8 time penalties, and suddenly she went from first to not even in the top 10. That's really a shame--perhaps that's the experience that she needed to come back and win next year.

Heidi J. White, however, plugged on with only two rails down, and moved up to second place. Good for her!

But it was experience that won the day (and the event): Andrew Hoy, who'd already jumped the course once on Yeoman's Point (with two rails down), went double clear on Master Monarch to move up from sixth place to first. Well done, Andrew. You have to love a guy, too, who thanks his horse when accepting his rolex/award.

Another experienced trooper, Stephen Bradley, moved up from 12th to third with a double clean round. Similarly, Phillip Dutton moved from a tied 13th place to fourth in the same manner.

Amy Tryon, who I'd love to see win this thing, remained in fifth place with two rails down and one time penalty.

Ok, ladies--was it nerves? Being tired? Lack of experience? The horses? I know you are the best!! More of you went double clear yesterday than men--what did they have today that you didn't have??

Midland native Will Faudree moved up from 11th to 6th with no rails, but two time faults. I honestly think, too, that we had dinner right next to his table at Ted's Place. I wanted to tell him that I was terribly proud of him, but, uh, it MIGHT not have been him....

Bravo to Ursala Brush and Bru McGuire, who finished Rolex with a whopping 231.8 penalty points. That took courage; the more experienced folks simply dropped out. Good for you, Ursala!

The rain held off until the last three riders--the Rolex weather gods/goddesses were kind to us this year.

So until next year, goodbye to lush, green fields, to stately trees, neatly manicured fences, undulating landscapes, mares and foals in emerald pastures, and all the fecundity that is Kentucky. Congratulations to each and every one of the riders and horses, their grooms and support systems, and to all the people that make eventing such an incredible sport.

And congrats to the wee one back in TX, who's started to treat the nurse mare as his momma.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Upsets and Girl Power

Yesterday, I raved about a few dressage rides that I had seen and was impressed with--most notably, the presence exuded by a really magnificent horse (Windfall II), and a really magnificent rider (Kim Severson).

I still maintain that these individuals/horses are, in fact, magnificent.

But what today proved is that the riders are, after all, human, and the horses are, after all, horses. And humans and horses simply aren't perfect--even those at the top of their game/sport. As of today, the top two riders--who were, one could argue, the best in the sport--dropped out because of refusals/falls, and the new leaders are three women who have plugged on, doing a masterful job of pushing themselves and their horses.

Darren Chiacchia ended up retiring after three refusals. Kim Severson retired after a fall into the water at the head of the lake. The new leaders are Becky Holder, Polly Stockton, and Heidi J. White.

While my fence (Fence #2, the Woodsman's Cottage, 3'11", with a 6'6" spread) was a pretty straightforward fence, I nonetheless enjoyed watching how each rider took it. On the coursewalk yesterday, Corrine Ashton referred to these fences as "galloping fences". There are "horse fences" and "rider fences", and this one is a rider fence in that the horse will take it fine if you point and let him go; it's the rider that can mess it up if he/she thinks about it/worries about it. The ones who let their horses go were able to take it in stride; those that tried to check their horses too close to the fence were the ones who had troubles. A few riders "put the horse together" several strides out but let the horse maintain pace--and those riders did well, too.

Heidi White, who as of today moved up to third place, really impressed me. She was going at a very good clip, and I was pretty sure she WANTED to slow down--but she set her jaw, hunkered down, lowered her hands, and let her horse (Northern Spy) take it the way HE wanted to--and he literally took this massive fence in stride. It was lovely to watch.

Kristin Bond on Gryffindor also rode the fence boldly.

The new leader, Becky Holder and Courageous Comet (who is a beautiful big grey TB) slowed slightly, putting themselves together, then at pace took the fence nicely. her ride was similar to Kim Severson's, who put Royal Venture together well before the jump, then took it at speed.

At least one rider--I THINK it was Jonathan Holling--tried to slow down, and ended up fighting with his horse, and as a result the team left a calling card on the fence: two large grease spots where the horse hit the fence. The pair retired a bit later on course.

Similarly, Darren Chiacchia and Windfall didn't take the jump particularly well--Darren leaned forward before the jump, and the pair hung over the jump--and Windfall ended up hitting it with both front and hind feet.

I got a special kick out of watching Will Faudree take my jump (cleanly and at speed). Will is a Texas rancher's kid from Midland, TX, who used to prowl cattle in his english saddle. It's nice to see someone from West/SW Texas make it to the big time and do so well. I know Will works w/ Phillip Dutton, and he's really made a good showing here; Will and Antigua moved up to 11th place, and were one of the few horse/rider teams who went double clean (and one of the few MEN who went double clean--I think only two men did, and something like eight women. Including Karen O'Conner, who once again was professional and amazing. As of today, 7 of the top 10 are women (Andrew Hoy has two horses in the top 10, and Buck Davidson has one--Will Faudree, btw, is 11th). GO GIRLS!

I met some really nice folks who were fence judges today as well. One, Nancy Thier, was especially delightful. I enjoyed sharing stories of Michigan with her, and her son, John, is working his way up in the eventing world--I'll be looking for him to make it to Rolex in the next few years.

Another couple I met, and I can't recall their names, were from Southern Pines, and the husband was a farrier, and the wife a rider who's doing CCI** now. Good for them! I look forward to seeing them as well.

As usual, the coordinating people were amazing; Carolyn Borger, the fence judge coordinator, does things no human should be able to do, and does it with humility, grace, and will. It's a real pleasure working for her.

The sport of eventing is filled with amazing people. Kind, driven, and centered around horses and those who love them. Once again, I'm honored to be a small part of such an incredible sport.

Friday, April 28, 2006


On what had to be one of the most incredible April mornings in history, I made my way to the Kentucky Horse Park to see the second day of dressage. I was able to situate myself on the corner of the volunteer area (which, btw, was WAAAAY too small for all the volunteers), and by zooming to the max, I got some good pictures (which I will post when I get home, I hope).

My first observation: Kim Severson is an incredible, consistet rider, and she gets incredible, consistent rides out of her horses. This time, she wasn't paired with "Dan" but with a relatively new mount, Royal Venture. Kim sits tall in the saddle, but she didn't hold her hands as wide as she did w/ "Dan". Just as with Winsome Adante, though, Kim and Royal Venture were workmanlike and consistent--which, in eventing dressage, means a whole lot. Many of the low scores today were because of loss of concentration (on the part of the horse or the rider), not preparing, missed cues, anticipation, or simple, tiny disobediences.

Kim must have concentration that I can't even begin to fathom--she never lost her focus, never got flustered, and she and her horse were "together" the whole time. Good transitions (esp. downward), very consistent, rhythmic gaits, nice bend in the corners (which she USED to get her horse "together")...the worse fault I could see was a bit of tail swishing at the second counter-canter lead change. Apparently, the judges agreed, for they led most of the day.

I'll describe some of the other tests I witnessed soon, but I want to talk about the ride that unseated the champions: Darren Chiachia and Windfall 2.

I was supposed to go on the coursewalk with Corinne Ashton at 2, but that's also when Windfall was scheduled to go--and so I figured I could catch up with the course walkers; after all, a dressage test is only about 4 minutes long (and I DID catch up, and I was one of the few who completed the coursewalk; the attrition was mighty).

Just like last year, Windfall trotted into the warm up area with more presence than any other horse I saw. The woman next to me gasped on multiple occasions, and I know she wasn't the only one (uh, a few of those gasps might have been mine). Lofty precision, controlled energy....this pair was "on" like they started to be last year, but they lost concentration in the counter canter and Windfall switched leads early.

Not this year, though. The pair was big, professional, and powerful--more than consistent, they were smooth, fluid. BIG airy gaits, really nice transitions, and an obedient partner...these two were incredible. What had been an imposing lead was crushed as Windfall and Darren scored more than five penalty points lower than Kim and Royal Venture.

Other observations: Gina Miles and McKinlaigh were also lofty and big, though they had some hiccups (a hesitant walk/stretch, changing in front during the first counter-canter change). Nonetheless, I really liked this pair, too.

Several horses--Edward 16, Mahogany Chief, and others--"jumped" into the lead change. I know it's a really hard thing for some horses to do. How do you teach a smooth lead change? A couple of the horses--not many--had trouble with counter-canter, too, and I think that more people work on counter-canter than on smooth lead changes--yet I'll wager that judges put a lot of store in a good, obedient, smooth change.

Several of the horses broke stride, either trotting in the walk, or cantering in the trot. It has to be hard to communicate "slow down" or "speed up" but don't change gaits. But almost all of the horses have a really nice control of their gaits in terms of speeding up or slowing down in the trot or canter. I guess that's something that the riders do both in and out of the ring--thus it's reinforced. In a recent Practical Horseman, there's an article about doing dressage in the field/on the trail. Perhaps that's what eventers should do!

A side note: I met two of the people from Matt's Mindless group: Deb, who was working the Trakhener booth (go Traks!), and Matt himself. It was a real pleasure to meet two of the folks who seem to be as nuts for this event/sport as I am.

A second side note: there were some really, really good deals in the trade fair. Honey, don't worry about Christmas this year; I've already taken care of my gifts.....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Trek to Kentucky

Good news--the baby is nursing while someone holds the mare, and the vet tech thinks they will bond in about three days. I'm sooooo thrilled!

I felt good enough about the future of the baby to travel to Kentucky, the land of the thoroughbred and bluegrass (and hills and trees, something I sorely miss in Lubbock--which is why I now live in a pecan grove...I have trees in a land where they don't grow naturally). I didn't expect to have trouble--I had a pretty long layover in Dallas, so even if I were delayed (which isn't unusual when travelling from LBB to DFW), I was covered.

Or so I thought.

I made it to the airport in Lubbock with lots of time to spare (enough for a fine shoe shine and then some), and we arrived in Dallas on time. I spent the layover eating lunch (loaded spud) and re-reading Nina Lowe's book on Fence Judging. The plane was slightly delayed in Dallas, but we boarded and, I thought, were on our way. Not so. The pilot announced the the plane had experienced some mechanical difficulties, and that they turned out to be too much to take care of at the gate--so we had to de-plane and start over again while they "looked for a plane".

Minutes later, the loudspeaker announced that our flight was cancelled, and we would have to re-book w/ a ticket agent.

Talk about a mad scramble! And, of course, MY line was the slowest one. Why is that always the case?

I ended up getting booked on a Delta flight into Cincinnati, which arrived about two plus hours later. My bags, however, came in on American, so I had to juggle terminals to find them. I was soon in my little neon rental and on my way. And this time, I drove in 68 degrees and sunny conditions--I'll bet dressage today was breathtaking.

I got to my brother and sister-in-law's house w/out a hitch (ok, I DID take a wrong turn on 62. I keep forgetting that you have to go west to get east....Kentucky is weird like that). We went to a wonderful Mexican restaurant for dinner, and had a good chat (congrats, Rachel and JR, and Kate, let's talk about law school...). I'm SO looking forward to tomorrow when I take that incredible drive down Paris Pike and Iron Works road to the Kentucky Horse Park and the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. Until tomorrow, then.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Life and Death, Take Two

Sleep deprivation isn't a pretty thing when you're over 40. And menopausal.

This morning, I got a call from the vet (that's what my caller ID said, anyway)--could it be bad news? Yes and no. Ruth, a vet tech, said that this weekend a mare lost her baby (foaled Friday, died Sunday). She said she'd get the mare, and if I could bring the orphaned foal, she would work with them to see if they would accept one another. She'd done this several times before, so I was eager to see if it would work. First, I want the baby to learn to be a horse, not a human; second, I NEED TO SLEEP! And third, how could I go to Rolex if the baby was still needing to eat every 2 hours?!

I took the baby to the mare this afternoon, and she was VERY eager to see him. He didn't quite smell right (and the baby decided that this big thing was weird--he wanted to be with people). But Ruth put a halter on her, and she let the baby suckle--his first "mare" meal ever! He ate enough so that he promptly fell asleep.

It'll be three days, she says, before they've bonded enough for them to be turned out together--but they're next door to one another right now, and seem very happy.

I am thrilled. The baby will learn to be a horse. He will have a nurse momma. I can have a blessed night of uninterrupted sleep. And I can go to Rolex without feeling guilty about leaving an orphaned baby in the hands of my good-intentioned but not horse-crazy family.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Life and Death

This is a tremendously sad and yet joyful day.

This morning at 12:30 am, I checked on Dark baby.

At 2:14, I checked again, and a beautiful colt was on the ground, still wet. A bay with a tiny star and a white off hind sock, he whinnied his way into the world and got up less than 15 minutes after I got there.

Dark Corsage, however, was down--which was odd, I thought. She immediately got up again, licked her baby, and then went down, almost on top of him. Where her placenta should have been was a huge, white/red round thing--her uterus, I found out later, had prolapsed, and she had torn an artery. She whinnied for her baby as she went down, and as he wobbled to his feet, I thought I'd better get him away from her. Good move-because soon she tried to stand again, this time unsuccessfully, and she literally flopped down where the baby had been laying.

I had called the vet as soon as Dark Corsage stood up the first time, but he wasn't there yet. Weak from internal bleeding, she whinnied desperately for her foal, and he whinnied in return, but neither one could get to the other.

Dark Corsage was obviously in pain, and getting weaker by the minute. She would try desperately to get up (always unsuccessfully) until all she could do was to hit her head on the ground. She tried to roll, but that, too, was too difficult a task, leaving her thrashing around (again, good thing the baby wasn't close). Once the vet arrived, he gave her something for pain, and she was able to relax, and breathe her last. It was heartbreaking; the colt was still whinnying, and the two mares in the next pasture were, too...but the one who mattered couldn't answer.

Knowing that the baby's chances of survival weren't going to amount to much if he didn't get some colostrum, we milked the recently deceased mare for the precious fluid. Using a syringe, we were able to get almost all of it down him--a messy, sticky process.

We took the baby to the barn in the pasture next door--quite a walk for one not quite even two hours old. There, we gave him the rest of the colostrum, and I stayed with him while he explored his new world.

Alas, I think he's bonded with me; he follows me, calls for me when I come every two hours for a feeding (it's the foal lac, not me). Chris' former broodmare, Molly, is vitally interested in the foal, and lets him come up to her--and she's even expressing some kind of milk! We've been reading about barren mares who are able to lactate and serve as nurse mares, so we're going to see if we can't get her to lactate by giving her domperidone. If so, perhaps the young man will actually get to learn how to be a horse, rather than a person.

He is beautiful, strong, eager and joyful. Losing Dark Corsage was a horrible blow, and I cry whenever I think of her--but her baby alive and life-giving

Monday, April 24, 2006

Counting Down (In oh, so many ways)

I can't believe it's only a few days before I leave for ROLEX!

I've been interacting on the Internet with a really wonderful group of Rolex nuts that I stumbled upon looking for my own Rolex report (NOT vanity--this time--but I couldn't remember the URL for the first Rolex report!). This crew is from all over, but they have one thing in common: they are NUTS for Rolex--the horses, the sport, the riders....everything. The Rolex Report that Matt does is a subset of his regular blog, "Matt's Mindless Musings". Nice to see that there are other Rolex bloggers (who've been doing it a lot longer than I have) who have a opinions about all sorts of things, and who aren't afraid to write them down. Let Big Brother watch!

I hope to meet up with some of these folks (who are coming from CA, VA, MI, IN, TX...basically, all over), but their annual course walk (they call it the "course stumble"--I believe there might be some alcohol involved, but I wouldn't know about such things) is right after the last dressage ride on Friday....and that's when the volunteer briefing is to take place. Did I mention that I get to be a fence judge again? Cell phone numbers have been exchanged, however, so I'm hoping to meet up with some of them, anyway.

As to the other count down...dear Dark Corsage was due April 17th, as just like last year, she's ignoring the due date. TWICE last week I went out to find her laying down (I know, I know, only hens lay--but she was prone in the staw, how's that?) and groaning loudly and regularly, only to sense my presence, jump up, and begin eating hay. I know she'd have the dang thing if I'd just ignore her, but all these "what ifs?" keep circling in my head. And they should--last year, she had a beautiful, beautiful baby who had a short life and a borrible, violent I'm perhaps a bit more over-protective this time. You want to know more? Click here, but be's gruesome.

I fear she'll wait until I leave for Rolex, then have it while only Locke is here. His philosophy: Horses have been having babies for years. Stay out of it.

Somehow, I don't think he'll be giving the fleet enema.....