Sunday, May 29, 2011


Um, not quite true...  I really thought I would win.  On the ride home, sitting in the DWSB next to my bestest Eventing Buddy, we got to evaluating the day at Mystic Valley Hunt Club Horse Trials.  We drew one conclusion - I have to lower my expectations.  Maybe, an unremarkable dressage test set the bar too high.  Maybe, the next show should be just about completing one movement without a diva moment....  maybe....

Mystic Valley Hunt Club Horse Trials is a fabulous event for the Beginner Novice and Novice competitor.  I decided to enter because I needed a couple of events before my move to Novice Training at Groton House.  MVHC offers very serious professional/formal dressage rings and a stadium jumping course beautifully laid out with lovely, colorful and varied jumps.   It was exactly what I needed.

Sometimes preparing a show mare feels a bit like being Mariah Carey's agent on tour.  She doesn't really tell me what she needs, isn't quite satisfied with what she gets and is always looking for the thing to set her off.  I scurry about making sure everything is to her liking...  would her highness like Ulcerguard before her ride?  Is your stall bedded deeply enough?  If that horse is staring at you in the warm up, should I turn her away?  I'm sorry, was that mosquito bothering you?  Is the weather to your liking?  Please madam, would you allow me to serve you?  By the way, would you be willing to enter the dressage ring calmly, rhythmically and finish each movement with all four feet performing the same way?

We finished the most remarkable dressage test with a 54.  And, it wasn't the scoring and it wasn't that the judge didn't like my horse and it wasn't the babbling brook next to the ring.  No, it was because Mariah did not wanna...  not wanna at all.  And, I am not going to conduct Lyme tests, have her see a vet, talk to a communicator...  nope.  I just need to be a better rider and channel the diva energy  into  the performer she really, truly is....  That is my goal.

We are close!  That is why I really thought I would win!  We are just that close.  And, when it happens...  watch out...  it will be that good!

Stadium was all about riding a distracted horse.  I made the mistake of riding my way instead of the horse under me at fence three...  That got me a spook across the arena, one refusal and 14 time faults putting us back on track.

Happy Together Again
Photo by
Thank God for Cross Country.  We galloped off with a tap of the crop at the first jump (heeding my friend's advice) and from that point on I was riding a XC machine.  Gallop, jump, gallop, jump...  almost everything in stride.  And, I kicked the down bank in the buttocks ....  we cantered off.  It was my personal victory. 

At the finish...  every earlier faux pas, every minute of frustration and disappointment disappeared.  Sugar redeemed herself!  I bursting with joy and filled hope for the next one.  Sugar makes me a better rider and, it is my nature to find the solution...  so, if you are Mariah Carey's agent...  Let's talk!  I think we can do it!

Yeah...  Love is conditional!  Off to the barn to give her carrots....  thinking... NEXT TIME!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Courtesy of
I've started this post a thousand ways... one was esoteric, the other with a story and another with a metaphor...  none of them really worked.  So this Jersey Girl (born, bred, raised in NJ but housed now in MA) needs to be direct and succinct.  I really hate Cross Country Schooling.  Ok, that's not quite true...  I hate the thought of XC schooling.  And, as my bestest Eventing Buddy once said, "Sometimes the best part of eventing is the ride home!"

Running a XC course is a piece of cake.  The course is laid out and approved by the Technical Delegate.  It's just me and my horse galloping away on a path that I've walked three times.   I am, in fact, galloping over jumps set safely over someones manicured front lawn.  It is orderly and sequential...  I get to leave at a very designated time...  And, that makes a control freak so happy. 

Oh, I talk a great story... Yup, ready to move up! That Training course had my name on it. That looked easy! Which event makes the best move up? Hey, can't wait to move up! And really... did I have to put in my Eventing Nation profile that one of my goals this year is to move up? Sometimes and particularly early this morning as I was driving to King Oak Farm, I wished I could just keep my mouth shut!

The first person who greeted me at the clinic was an accomplished Training rider who was making her move up to Preliminary.  Ah, my first bit of panic.  She was enthusiastic...  our schooling group consisted of two other Training riders planning their Prelim debut and me, Novice thinking, no, glamorizing an eventual move up to Training... sometime in the future.  My panic grew.

My head burst with thought - I am not worthy to be in your company.  Here, Nikki, you ride Sug...  Hey, you guys go ahead, I'll ride with the next group. I never really wanted to move up...  just kidding!  The sun is in my eyes.

The first series of jumps humbled me...  I could've cried.  Sugar was spooky and did not want to leave her new herd and I was filled with wimpiness and negative self talk.  Folks, let me assure you...  not a great way to start.   And as we galloped to a feeder/roll top thingy out in the field, I felt Sug hesitate.   Instead of encouraging her confidently with my leg and maintaining my center over the jump, I softened and leaned and Sugar ran out.  And we did the same thing, exactly the same way and got the very same result.  I wanted to leave in complete defeat... I'll just hunt instead.

Thank God I stayed (well, actually, no one would have let me leave).  It got better and then that got even better and then I found myself saying to the clinician (Stephie Baer) that I could do that exercise just like the big girls.  The panic never quite leaves but its mark lightens and almost becomes transparent. 

I think, for me, it became fun when we worked at the water.  When I was told, "Gallop over the Training Table, then over the Training Corner, jump into the water, keep your leg on and gallop out and over the Training Bench, roll back through the water and do the Novice (log thingy)."

My mind went white...  "I HAVE NEVER RIDDEN A CORNER BEFORE!!!!" screamed in my head.  My body and horse said, "Ok, I'll go first!"  And off we went, as if this exercise was no different than a 20 meter circle.  We nailed it (with encouragement)!  The rest of the school just kept getting better... and, I had fun!  Really had fun!
Courtesy of

My ride home was glorious, not totally self congratulatory but also reflective.  Showing produces tension and anxiety and I have many techniques to relieve the stress.  XC Schooling is immediate and unpredictable.  Maybe I need to work earlier on my nerves using the techniques that work so well. 

And, maybe if I truly stayed in the moment, the "what ifs" would lie dormant shriveling into nothingness.  Maybe then, I would love the randomness of XC schooling right here and right now!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I so wanted this writing to be all about how much I hate XC schooling and the angst developing around the grand "move-up".  Don't worry, I'm sure sometime this summer I'll get to it 'cause there certainly will be so many more opportunities to...  um... whine.... 
Photo by

Riding alone in a big beautiful indoor is an amazing gift and priviledge - One I do not take for granted.  Many a night Sugar and I make magic doing the dance called dressage.  Now, to be fair, we have also ended our rides like an old crotchedy married couple...  running on about how the other was a disappointment or crabby or just not the same from one day to the next.  Yet, on nights where we are totally in love...  ahhhhh... priceless!

My friend invited me to a nearby barn to watch her ride a 4th level dressage horse.  Grab a Dunkin', sit back and take the opportunity to watch Dressage TV... real suspension, real engagement, half halts that adjust and extensions that are airbound. 

This channel had two riders...  the one I came to watch and another riding Prado, a horse born, bred and raised to dance with the stars.  The show was breathtaking.  Transitions up, transitions down...  sweeping lateral moves across the indoor, shoulder fore, shoulder in, canter pirouttes, lengthenings and then extensions across the diagonals.  I was mesmerized... unable to turn the channel.

Today, Dressage TV rocked and inspired!  Despite unloading and stacking 2 tons of hay, entertaining 2 dogs and keeping one horse clean, I could not wait to ride.  I wanted to be a part of Dressage TV. 

Poor Sugar.  I'm pretty sure she finishes a ride like this and sighs "I bet she was watching upper level dressage today".  I did not just ride...  I RODE!  I wanted more ...  more suspension, more swing, self carriage...  if it was good, I wanted better.  Time did not register on my tired body.  It was good...

Clearly what I have is good...  for that I am grateful.  And, with the right inspiration and guidance, it could be sooooo much better! 

Monday, May 16, 2011


The Family
Courtesy of the Photographer
My very bestest Eventing Buddy officially dubbed my new truck and trailer, the Double Wide Short Bus (DWSB).  You see, for me, the Road to the AECs is on a back road riding the Short Bus of Eventing... not always pretty, sometimes most humbling, sprinkled with tears, often chagrined but most likely, laughing with the eventing gods.  

The goal and drive to compete at the AECs started in 2006, just a year after I bought Fame and Frolic (aka Sugar).  A group of us made the trek to the Carolina Horse Park...  that year I was the owner/groom and my, then, trainer competed her. 

Picture for one moment, 500 entries from all over the US coming together to compete for the National Championships.  The energy was amazing.  So many winners, so many enthusiastic eventers coming together with family and friends.  It was like a burst of caffeine over and over again.  If there was some function, I was there - competitor parties, course walks, seminars...  I even jump judged. 

It was an amazing experience.  As I said good bye to our local hostess I told her that I would see her again.  Next time, I'll be the rider...  next time I will be there...  it will be me!

Traveling in the DWSB has been interesting to say the least.  Each season, better than the last...  but never quite good enough to qualify for the AECs.  Seriously, if this blog is truly meant to be and is entitled Confessions then I must tell the story of my most awesome winning ride last Fall at Stoneleigh Burnham Horse Trials.  Before I proceed, if you talk to my trainers, they will assure you that I am a safe, competent rider...  just takin' a back road here and there... you know, a scenic ride on the DWSB!

Courtesy of

We were third after dressage...  finally, a lovely test that did not reflect our hi jinx in the warm up.  It was unremarkable and sometimes for Sugar and I, unremarkable can be great!  Our Stadium Jumping felt awesome...  powerful, forward and well executed.  There were tons of things to spook at but we were both on our A game - double clear and feeling good...  now in second place (my qualifying score for the AECs)

And  before I go on, here's another secret, I HATE down banks.   Oh, I'm not afraid of them or of getting hurt.  I'm afraid of embarrassing myself immensely...  you see, in learning to navigate banks, I've screeched like a hyena, lost my stirrups and bounced off like a sack of potatoes and even once uttered a guttural sound that scared the dog.  Not a pretty sight and probably magnified in my head a thousand times more...
Courtesy of

This course had two.  Well, you could take a ramp down which put you dead on for an easy run out past  the second bank...  hmm, the down banks were right at the place where everyone watches... hmmm, I did not want to humilate myself.  And, Sugar is adjustable...  OK, ramp, leg yield over, just one down bank..

5...4...3...2...1....  Have a great ride!

Gone away... Sugar is an amazing Cross Country horse.  Oh, she is a spooky girl and the first two seasons, my record is a shambles.  I lacked the confidence and support she needed... which allowed the spooks to happen.  When my trainers told me that I had to learn to ride her, accept her for what she is or sell her.  I worked on my riding.

At this trial, she rocked and rolled...  we were a team...  she went where she was pointed and jumped.  When I realized that I was going for the Training coop rather than Novice she did the roll back I asked for and went on.  Sugar and I were also fox hunting between events ... loving every minute of it and really learning to love the run.  Here it made us fast and confident...

The bank complex ...  well, the plan went...  just not the way I had hoped.  I did the ramp, leg yielded her over but my heel came up and off the bank we went and I lost my stirrups.  I did not release any sound (well, maybe a small sharp word for poo)....  So, in front of many spectators, including friends, I tried to maintain my speed and regain my stirrups.  I cantered and wiggled my foot, dropped to a trot and wiggled my foot, dropped to a walk and wiggled my foot finally stopping and leaning over and put my foot into the stirrup by hand.  Off we went...

We completed the course and I was sure I blew it.  I don't wear a watch. It isn't a moral issue... I can be a bit of a klutz at multi-tasking riding a horse, over jumps at speed. And if you could see me at my job rushing from appointment to appointment, you would know that I get just a bit crazy when I'm running late.  I was sure we lost time...
Courtesy of

Ah, but did it really matter?  I still had a two more events and a season next year to qualify.  My friends teased me about my graceful recovery.  And we laughed.  Other than that, it was a good ride. 

When I went to get my test and check the scores...  my name was in First Place.  I was floored!  Who'd thunk...  that lil' mistake and embarrassing moment ate up enough time that I came in very close to optimum speed.  So sometimes good things come from humbling situations...

I'M GOING TO THE AECs!!!!  Now to cheer on my friends...  the more the merrier.  Oh... I have so much more work to do...  qualifying is the first step...  Winning is the last!  (kind of kidding but not really)

Enjoying the journey... right here, right now...

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Used with Photographer's Permission
 As a kid I used to dream about winged horses...  to be able to go wherever I wanted to go ...  to be free of the pressures of a normal teenage girl.  You know -- Who liked who, what were they laughing about, do I fit in, what will I be when I grow up?  After a tough day, with the lights off and my eyes closed tight against my angst,  I would fly...  just me and my pony... totally and completely free!

Saturday's hunt was up in the hills and fields of Westminster just beyond a maximum security prison.  I've been told that it was a beautiful place - wide open and overlooking the valley.  You know, as much as I want to be a fancy-dancy writer, I don't think I can quite describe its Spring beauty.  (Of course, I'll try)

We were surrounded by the sweet scent of apple blossoms, the fields were a rich green, dotted with yellow dandelions.  The trees were like a reverse fall...  muted and soft tones of green, yellow, orange and red.  God's country, no doubt!

Funny thing, this was our first hunt of the season and I was kind of nervous.  Looking at the vastness of the territory gave me just a hint of worry.  It was Sugar, me, miles of fields and a pelham bit for good luck!  And Sug was full of herself...  strutting and ready to roll.  She knew what we were about to do... 

Once the hounds were cast, every worry I had, every ounce of nerves, every plan I brought, every negative bit of energy that threatened to overtake me, left with the running pack.  I let go!   I truly let go!  And we began to fly!  In one breathe, Sugar and I were alone and airborne...  me and the pony of my dreams.

If you've ever ridden a galloping horse and you reach that moment where time stands still and for that moment  your body has melded into hers, you know you reached heaven.  For that moment, you thank God for all that you have and you forgive her for being a wretch in the dressage ring at UNH.

I left the Tea feeling a million pounds lighter.  And as I drove past the prison the second time, I sent the inmates a prayer that maybe they will find their peace some day soon.

Life is indeed good!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


All the right Jump Judging
 Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been 5 days since my last posting.  The puppy and convict are fast asleep and I am left with a few minutes...  to... uh... ok, yup... a kind of rant.  Well, not exactly a real passionate rant...  but a kind of one... 

You see, I feel that every single eventer competing should volunteer.  Yup, let me repeat... every single eventer should volunteer!  And, you know...  if you actually read this and you're not a horse peep...  I actually think volunteering is an important part of giving back to your community... whatever that community is. 

Ahhh... I jump judged last weekend at King Oak Horse Trials.   The volunteer coordinator called and left a message.   I called her back immediately.  Have you ever dated a person that you really wanted to be with and, they never called back?  You check your answering machine a thousand times hoping for just a hint of interest... anything.  

I've been a volunteer coordinator desperate to fill spots... hoping that you would call me.  That return call, whatever the answer, made that list just a bit shorter and helped me move on...

Jonah confirming that the water is safe
VA Horse Trials 2010
Jump judging, for me, is great TV.  I set up my chair next to my newest friend and enjoy the show.  There can be thrills, excitement, intrigue... beautiful horses and the weather...  sun and no bugs.  Old eventing friends stopped by to chat as they walked their courses...  it was a great garden party complete with entertainment.

This weekend, it was the Training water and the Beginner Novice mandatory water crossing to a roll top.  Exciting?  Well, it wasn't quite Rolex but it was exhilarating.  My fellow judge was 16 and a delightful addition to my day.  If this was her post, she may have wished for a bit of quiet...  We did laugh and we did have fun!  Thanks Jennifer!

Maybe the exhaustion of having a puppy leaves this rant kind of mellow... Find a way to give back, find a way to help out, find a way to enjoy the many great things about belonging to and supporting your community.  It is a gift that will keep giving!

Friday, May 6, 2011


A good friend once told me that "LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE".  If I strive to be a kind, generous person and if I maintain a positive outlook on life and, well, laugh alot, then I will be surrounded by like people.   Then I wonder, are we drawn to our mates, animals, friends because they are like us?  Or do they become like us through the time spent with us?  Hmmmm...

Sugar is a lovely horse for 89% of the time, challenging about 7% and  that remaining 4% is a powerful  Angry Mare.  She loves order...  her staff is expected to show up at the barn close to 6am.  She waits patiently as her barnmates recieve their breakfast in the prescribed rythym.  She enjoys the spa facilities regularly ...  daily grooming, regular massage and pedicures.  Her friends entertain her and she is happy with the flow of her day.

Change that and let the games begin.  Fretting and worrying...  amazing athletic antics and if are a new addition to the barn...  watch out!  This Angry Mare will take her Alpha-ness to new heights.  A poor horse came in on trial for two weeks...  and, wow...  she managed to threaten that poor thing everyday, everytime he looked at her for every minute of the two weeks...  Nope, my girl likes things orderly.

On the way to Vet after
Cliff  Diving
Chandler Bing is coming home with me.  OMG!  A 5 month old Foxhound puppy who has been raised in a kennel.  OMG!  I wonder about the house and I look at everything that will be destroyed.  I need to go to the pet store and buy gallons of cleaning stuff.  I have new furniture and rugs!  He'll be peeing, chewing and barking!  The money!  The time!  Puppies are cute but god awful!  No one wants a visitor with two dogs.  Foxhound bark and run!  We're going to be miserable!  OMG!  What was I thinking?  Why am I destroying the calm, orderly life I have now!  What was I thinking?

{{{{Sigh}}}}  I luf me a Chandler Bing!  He had an accident last week and broke his elbow taking a dive off a 20 foot wall.  He may rehab ok, but, it will be awhile.  So Chandler will not run with the foxhound pack.  He will live to destroy our orderly world...  And I am "happy"! 

I luf me a Chandler Bing!

Monday, May 2, 2011


So, fellow Area 1 Eventer (and possibly the most quotable one in our shed row) Judi Rossi had some serious advice to give while waiting those 2 hours til show time...  Let see, ah yes:

Four Rules of Eventing
  1. Leave together and come back together
  2. Don't scare the spectators
  3. No crying in Eventing (unless its with sheer joy in the moment)
  4. Nobody cares on Monday
I can add but I can not perfect that list. 

Well, it is Monday and here at work... rule # 4 persists....  Nobody cares.  I am still dancing and cheering, cherishing every bit of the weekend and, nobody cares.  Ha!    I do!  I hope I continue the happy dance well into next week.

We were competing at the University of New Hampshire on a gorgeous Saturday.  The campus was in full swing.  And today was going to be our day.  Sugar and I were awesome in the warmup... light forward, round and powerful.  And, as we circled the ring, I still had my light and fluffy girl.  I saw stars, fame and fortune...  this was going to be the tests of all tests.  Oh, and it was. 

Used with photographer's permission
Well, as we passed by the judges box, someone scored a goal...  the crowd cheered and whistles blew.  Sugar jumped for joy...  oh no, that would have been fun.  She did leap and then decided that it would be better to wait until later to do our test.  So, she cleverly reconstructed the movements to better aid her attempts to finish on her time. 

Unfortunately for her, I really wanted to continue to the jumping phases so I gently encouraged her to go on.  I had the best scribe in the world...  she captured every extra movement that Sug added to impress everyone...  Yet, we did not scare the spectators (Rule #2).

And, we did win the Post-Dressage-Test-"I hate my Naughty Mare"- workout.  Oh, we excelled at that one...  and, I felt good. 

Stadium Jumping was a blast!  I know, I should be saying that after XC.  Well, my trainer felt that Sugar was behind my leg in the warm-up and I was holding her just a bit.  She said we needed to ramp it up a bit... get going.  And that is what we did...  (We did not scare the spectators (Rule #2))

I walked that course 5 times.  My bestest Eventing Buddy texted me before my ride advising me to ride sober...  straight lines...  ride sober.  I knew exactly where we were going, where to put my eye, how we would make the turns and we would ramp it up a bit. 

We made it to fence 5 perfectly and we were on fire.  Fence six required a wide turn between Fences 8a and b and then a sweeping turn to Fence 7 - the dreaded Lattice jump.  Did I mention "ON FIRE"?  We made a snappy turn inside Fence 8a and b...  Have you ever had the Rut Ro moment on course?  Thank god for Sug's talent, power and grace...  She jumped the big oxer on an angle...  awesome.  Well, at that point, I rode backwards...  a spook at the dreaded lattice and with my encouragement... over and away! 

I began cheering myself on...  Wait, here's 8a and B...  darn too fast and strong... darn missed the turn to 9...  spin and...  oh sh-t, the angle...  one rail.  We finished on a big jump over the final jump but missed the turn to cross the finish line.  Thank god I had my brain back...  we circled and finished.  Rule # 2 "Don't scare the spectators".

My trainer?  "Well you got that out of your system.  Remember, when you miss the finish and circle and are still under the allowed time...  you have have a few extra seconds or so to breathe and settle.  Forward and frantic are two different goals..."  (Later she did say that we looked very much in control.)

And, if God were an eventer, I think he would say...  "XC is a gift...  enjoy it to the fullest - no matter what!"  And we did... god we did!  I believe I had to take the exception to rule #3...  You can cry when you are that happy about your XC run... 

And the best rule...  #1 Leave together and come back together....  And afterwards together is deeper than when you left.  So Rule #4 Nobody cares on Monday...  Ok, but I'm still smiling...