Monday Jan 07, 2008

Snow! Snow! Snow!

By the end of December, we had a record 54" of snow in New Hampshire!   Outrageous really!   And beautiful as well!

But this meant that what was supposed to be a quiet two weeks vacation from work turned into two weeks of plowing, shovelling, snowblowing, and doing all of the horse farm chores when our staff were simply unable to drive to the farm due to road conditions!

People have asked, "How do the horses like the snow?".   Great question.

Overall, I have to say, "The horses love it!"   When it's not -4 degrees Fahrenheit, which it was just last week, when the wind isn't whipping the snow into irregular drifts across the pastures and blowing away the afternoon hay, the horses really do make the most of the white stuff.

They roll.   They play.   They goof around.

Winter Wonderland has definitely come to New Hampshire!

Monday Sep 17, 2007

Fun

Since she was 2, I have had the pleasure of owning, training, riding, and competing Jeddien.   She started life on a sheep farm in Holland, lived in the UK with me for 12 years, and then made the move to New Hampshire with Georg and I two years ago.

After going through quarantine in the USA, we had Jeddien bred to a Dutch stallion standing at Cornell University, the late DaVinci, and she spent the last two years being a mom.

Going back into light work this summer, she and I swiftly qualified for the USDF Region 8 Open Championships at Third Level (UK Advanced Medium).   An impressive fluke in itself, really.   And so, since we qualified, we travelled to Saugerties NY last week, and competed in the finals...

... and came THIRD!   Wow.   Okay.   That's pretty fantastic really, considering.   As one friend pointed out, maybe I should try riding more than once a week and see what we can achieve next year.

But for now, while I sit here in California, on yet another business trip, having flashbacks of the most fabulous weekend at the biggest horse show of my life, Jeddien, my wonderful dressage partner, is happily grazing on early autumn grass with her buddies enjoying another well deserved vacation...

... doing what she loves most.

Saturday Aug 19, 2006

Dressage Instructor

In the 36 years that I have been riding horses, 23 of which have been focussed on the equestrian sport of Dressage, I've never had my skills or knowledge tested outside of riding competitions.   Last month, that changed.

During the 4th of July break, instead of basking outside in the glorious weather we had, spending time in my garden, playing with the horses, or just chilling out, I spent many long hours in our library or at the computer, reading, studying, writing essay answers to fixed questions, and working on two presentations, one of which was a 20 minute video.   All of this work was done in preparation for and as part of a series of American Riding Instructors Association exams I took at the end of the week.

My personal goal was to be recognised and certified by the American Riding Instructors Association as a qualified Dressage instructor.   While I had put myself forward for their highest level of stringent examinations, I was realistically prepared to be certified at the entry level, Level I.   Actually, it is more accurate to say I was hoping, at the minimum, to at least get certified at Level I.

This week, the exam results came in!   And I'm still blown away!   After decades of riding, competing, judging, and helping others, my skills were recognised and certified for the top certification qualification:   Level III Dressage.   Way cool!

Of course, with this certification, I now carry the new responsibility of constantly being a referencable & excellent example of the qualities & standards of safety, knowledge, and integrity for which the ARIA strives.   (That's not so different from being a good Sun employee!)

Upon hearing the news, my students, of course, were blase...   'Seems they expected nothing less from their favourite Dressage coach.   :-)

Sunday Jun 18, 2006

It's a Filly !

For several years, I had been threatening to breed my fabulous competition dressage mare, Jeddien.   And each year, my trainer convinced me to wait another year since we were doing soooo well.

However, last year, when we moved to the USA, and Jeddien had to go through quarantine, we took advantage of the fact that Cornell University (where Jeddien was quarantined) had some good stallions on site.   We bred her to DaVinci, a grey Dutch Warmblood.

The first pregancy did not last more than 2 months.   So we shipped her to a local equine hospital for a short stay where she was rebred to DaVinci... with help from FedEx.   This pregancy took.

Last night, around 12:30 am, Jeddien's foal arrived.   And what a surprise she is!   We were expecting a chestnut, hoping for a grey or a bay, but got a redhead with four white socks!

If this little girl grows up with her mother's high work ethics and talent in the dressage ring, her flashy good looks will make her a real head turner.

But for now, her job is to run circles around her mom, play, eat, sleep, and grow.   And at 12 hours old, she is doing all of this quite well.

Thursday Apr 27, 2006

The Colt

Life changed again when our newest addition to our farm arrived.   Ben, at 6 days old, is a bouncing ball of energy, curiousity, and playfulness.

Ben is for sale.   That was the plan all along and still is today.   However, already I am hearing voices (namely the spouse, friends, and clients) saying, "Oh, but he's your first on the farm...", "Oh, but he's so very nice quality", "Oh, how could you part with this one?".

With foals, it is often love at first sight.   At the sight of a cute newborn foal, mare owners gets a little bit broody...   searching the Internet and horse magazines for the perfect stud for their own horses...   comparing stats on stallion performances...   dreaming about their own little ball of fuzzy joy.

Less than a week into it, we can see we were very lucky with the excellent broodmare we bought from Frits Donderwinkel in Holland.   And even at this early day, we can see we were blessed with a lovely stud colt.

With the changes at work and the changes on the farm, it's certainly been a banner week....   anything but quiet and boring!

Saturday Apr 22, 2006

Big Ben

It's been a long day already, as we have gotten acquainted with the newest member of our family.   Big Ben, as he currently is being called, is strong, healthy, and friendly.   His mom is doing well.

All babies are cute, but I have to say, a precocious young foal is an absolute delight to behold.

Being at the birth and handling a foal from the start, desensitising it to things which may naturally worry it, a process called "imprint training", helps establish a stronger two way bond.   It is the basis for a good relationship and eases training in later months and years.   But even if imprint training was not on the agenda, just witnessing a start of a new life was well worth the wait.

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Monday Apr 17, 2006

Waiting for the Big Event

For the past couple weeks, we have been looking forward to the birth of the first Dutch Warmblood foal on our farm.   Not wanting to miss the big event, we have put modern technology to good use.

A remote controlled, wireless Panasonic WebCam sits above the feed bucket in the 20 x 12 foot foaling stable.

The Panasonic is one of several different makes & models of WebCams we have tried on the farm.   I think at this point, we have 3 different makes in use right now, allowing us to monitor the barn, the riding arenas, and the pastures.

The Panasonic is the only one we use which has directional controls.   It doesn't have the excellent optics that some of the others have, nor audio, but it is just fine what what we needed in the foaling stable.

Spying on the horse is quite easy now, and much better than trying to sleep in the barn.   Using the Ferrari labtop at my bedside at night and my SunBlade 150 workstation on my desk duing the day, I can adjust the camera to watch the mare move around the stable as she eats, sleeps, poos, and hopefully, one of these days, gives birth!

And, thanks to the Internet, our family, friends, boarders, staff, and colleagues can also keep an eye on things...

By the way, should the foal, who is technically now overdue, happen to make his or her appearance today, it would be arriving on a very special day indeed.   Today is the one year anniversary of Georg and I moving to our farm in New Hampshire, New England, USA.

Monday Feb 06, 2006

Super Bowl & Budweiser

Our first SuperBowl since moving to America...   SuperBowl XL.   No, not Extra Large.   SuperBowl 40.   Yes, we watched it.   Yes, we cheered on the East Coast team from Pittsburg.   Yes, I shed a few tears.

Eh?   Tears for the SeaHawks?   No way.   Tears of joy for the Steelers?   Nope.   (Although how great it was to see them win again!)   Then what, you might wonder....?

The little Clydesdale foal...   pulling the big wagon.   What a heart tugger!   Hallmark, McDonald's, and IBM ads are good, but Budweiser wins the big trophy!

Yes, Budweiser has done it again.   Catering to horse lovers, parents, fans of the 18 hand high Budweiser's mascots, and the soft hearted, they created yet another fantastic commerical featuring the wonderful Clydesdales.

If you missed it, go to the Budweiser website or Video Google to see it.

Way to go, Budweiser!   Thanks!

Thursday Feb 02, 2006

Snow Foal

Growing up in New England, winter was about coasters, toboggans, snowball fights, snowmen, and, for little girls who loved horses, snow horses.

After 22 years away, I have returned to New England.   Already, in our first winter here, we have been tobogganing down the hills, including standing up (of course), falling off (of course), having snowball fights, and building our first snowmen.

But it wasn't until late last Sunday that we had truly perfect snowman snow.   With the temptation simply too strong, late after dinner, I was outside in the dark, building a snow horse.   (Actually, it's a little snow foal, but any horsey person can see that.)

The next day, at lunchtime, I went out to see if the foal had survived the night.   I'm delighted to say it not only survived the night, it has been at the end of the driveway all week!

Yup.... 40 something....   going on 13.

Thursday Feb 10, 2005

It's Like Busses

After years of competing in Dressage in the UK, I've had the pleasure of seeing my own and Jeddien's name in print in Horse & Hound, yes, the magazine for which Hugh Grant's character quickly claims to be a reporter in the 1999 British movie Notting Hill.

Our successful scores have been listed in the "Results" section of H&H several times.   On a few occasions, after wins, I was interviewed by a reporter!   Seeing our names in articles a couple weeks later has always been a big thrill!

Two years ago, one article was acccompanied by a closeup photo of Jeddien with her head sticking out the window of the posh Whittaker horsebox I owned at the time.   The article explained how I had made a very last minute entry into the competition, and that my boss, who is based in California, did not yet know that I had taken the day off as vacation.   "Playing Hookey" was the tagline used in the article.   My boss enjoyed the article and has that issue of Horse & Hound hanging up on the team bulletin board in the Sun Menlo Park office!

But for years, I've waited for a photo of me and Jeddien together.   Out of all of the successful horse & rider combinations in the UK, would we ever be one of the selected 3 or 4 to get a photo published in an issue of H&H?   Odds were against us....

Today, AMAZINGLY!!! and much to my surprise, my photo finally appeared in Horse & Hound.   Not once, not twice, but three times!

First, there's a photo of Jeddien and I which accompanies the article about our recent double win at Merrist Wood and qualification for the regional championships.   The photo itself, taken by professional photographer Kevin Sparrow, is over a year old, but looks nice.   H&H must have had it on file!   I'm sure Kevin is pleased to see it get used, but not nearly as pleased and surprised as myself!

Next, and this is the one I was expecting to see today, is a photo in the adverts section showing me riding a Grand Prix horse who is for sale.   But, comically enough and only due to a processing mistake, another photo of me on the GP horse is attached to an advert for a showjumping pony!

In England, there's an expression "it's like busses"...   You can wait ages for 1 bus, and then suddenly 3 arrive!

Getting our photo in Horse & Hound...     it's like busses.

Thursday Jan 13, 2005

Overdue for an Adrenaline Rush !

In 2003, one of my two Dutch horses, Jeddien, and I competed at 16 competitions, including 2 Regional Championships.   We competing primarily at Medium Level Dressage and won 13 classes.   I had my own 7.5 tonnes of "wheels", enjoyed driving to competitions, got an adrenaline rush out of competing, and a kick out of winning.

In 2004, we only went to 6 competitions, half of which were Championships.   However, part way through the year, I sold my gorgeous lorry and competing quickly lost its charm.   Begging, hiring, and borrowing equine transportation made competing less fun.   I basically stopped competing altogether.

Training continued, however...   But to what end?   Who would critique our progress?   Aside from my trainer, there were no truly critical eyes monitoring our work.   And where did we stand in comparison to our peers?   The desire to compete soon crept back.

So, next weekend, after a long hiatus, we compete once again.   The winter competitive season comes to an end this month ! and we must win 2 classes with scores of 63%+ if we are to qualify for the Winter Regional Championships.   We have only 2 opportunities to pull this off.   The pressure is on and I love it!

But competing again at Medium Level, where we are well established in the work, is not enough to get the full adrenaline rush of our earlier competitions.   Nope.   So, just to add more pressure, I'm going to do an Advanced Level competition on a friend's horse.   We're talking top hat and tailcoat.   Flying changes every four strides.   Competing up against the big boys.

Yup...   This weekend, the adrenaline will truly be flowing once again!

PS:   Once again, we managed to qualify for the Regional Championships!

Tuesday Nov 16, 2004

One of the Things I Live For...

Motorcyclists love to say, "Put something exciting between your legs! Ride a motorcycle".   For me, I'd rather have a fuzzy, 4 legged, warmblooded equine instead of a hunk of metal.   But, to each his own...

A friend of ours owns a Grand Prix dressage horse.   Fully trained for International level competition, the horse knows all the moves performed in Olympic level dressage.   If a rider can climb into the saddle and ask politely and correctly, amazing things happen.   Canter pirouettes (as I'm demonstrating here), flying changes every stride, half-pass zig-zags, piaffe, and passage.

This mare is going on the market soon...   But, hopefully I'll have a few more rides with her before she goes off to a new home!

Yup, it is these moments that make dressage riding great fun!

And, yup, this is why I work for a living...   To afford the horsey lifestyle!

Wednesday Oct 13, 2004

Foxhounds

Hundreds of people within Sun know I'm a horse owner, rider, competitor, slave, and so on.   In fact, it's safe to say I work to support my horsey habit.   In the UK, they also know I have my own opinions about Foxhunting which is one of the more critical issues the UK government is dealing with these days.   (Go figure.)

Now, I'm not writing to take a stance or make a political statement.   Nor am I writing to make an appeal for countryside livelihoods nor the lives of foxes, horses, or hounds.   I'm just writing with a suggestion....

...It appears that in America, foxhounds are seeking new ways to keep busy and well fed.

Simply file this one under:   Sometimes you just have to laugh!   :-)

Wednesday Sep 08, 2004

Deadly Sport

This past weekend, at least two equestrians lost their lives   (condolences)   while doing something they loved:   Riding horses.   One was at the televised Burghley event, the other at a horse show.   Once again, safety in equestrian sport is the topic on the table.

My guess is that most sports are dangerous in one way or another, whether it's tiddlywinks or skydiving.   It's the intensity of the potential injuries which vary, from broken nails to shattered bodies.

In sport with horses, the list of risky ingredients includes speed, power, and the equine athlete himself.   It's not just the human who is competing.   The horse brings his own personality, intelligence, desires, fears, and opinions.

Whether involved in horseracing, jumping, eventing, polo, endurance, dressage, reining, driving, trekking, hunting, or simply "happy hacking", the daily work with these big, intelligent, prey animals brings its own risks.   We can get stepped on, kicked, bitten, barged, bucked off, and bullied by our horses.   All of which I've experienced...

But when it's all going to plan, horses are amazingly good fun with whom we can spend time, play, ride, and do sport.

Equestrians know the risks.   Tonight, I might get hurt (or worse) riding my opinionated, talented, feisty mare.   Or I might just have a lot of fun.   I'll take that gamble.

Friday Aug 20, 2004

Root Cause Analysis : A Horsey Tale

When people talk about solving technical problems, the clever (and patient!) aim to identify and resolve the root cause instead of simply fixing or reducing the symptoms.

This past week, in my other world, the world of horses & dressage, I encountered a really good example of the latter!   A top level, well-established, competition dressage horse recently purchased by a friend was obviously unhappy in her work. The horse was not standing still to allow a rider to get on, she was bucking people off, and she was generally grumpy.   Investigation identified back problems and these, of course, were immediately addressed.   However, the horse continued to show signs of being unhappy.

Shifting tactics, root cause analysis found that the problems were being caused by her ill-fitting saddle.   Since addressing the root cause (getting her a nice new well fitting saddle) the horse has been very happy and working with a horsey smile.

Addressing the symptoms instead of the root cause happens in computer rooms all too often....   but it also happens in our regular lives and apparently horses' lives as well.

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Kimberley

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