Tonight I was sitting on the couch watching some TV while my two angels got themselves ready for bed upstairs. I love to listen to them while they bicker and torment each other. Kate was supposed to help Wade by putting toothpaste on his toothbrush for him. All of the sudden there was some commotion coming from upstairs. Wade was crying, and Kate was saying something like ” You’re fine. There’s enough on there!” Wade continued crying like a maniac and whined “But, there isn’t enough! I don’t have enough to brush my molders!!” I could hear Kate giggling and then she said ” You have enough for your molders” Chuckle, Chuckle.
I just sat there smiling. “Molders”, what could be better than that?
Early this morning, Jeff and I loaded up our 2 kids and a disgustingly filthy grey horse and headed to West Virginia. We drove there to meet David Stackhouse and his assistant at a random show grounds to get Gus fitted for his new cross country saddle. David and Lesley picked that location because it was close to the halfway point between their North Carolina shop and us. It was really pretty fascinating to watch them work. They tried a bunch of trees on him, and luckily had a couple different ones in stock that would work. I’m really excited about the new saddle, and it should be here before Christmas. I will then have only about 3 weeks to get used to riding in it before I head to Florida.
As I wrote the title to today’s blog, the meaning of it hit me with full force. “Gus is home.” After a year or so of being in limbo, fretting over his future, questioning his ability to do this sport at the upper levels, wondering when or if he was “the one”……. Gus is home. He is home in the figurative as well as the literal sense of the word. I have downright ignored him all summer, distancing myself from him to make the decision to sell him easier. I had myself convinced that Dorothy would feel as frustrated with him as I have been and tell me to get rid of him. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that a saddle would change everything. Today I rode him in a jumping lesson, and I found out just how much a saddle could affect him. I sat in Dorothy’s Stackhouse saddle and was immediately aware of how off balance I had been. He is such a sensitive horse that any little bit of imbalance in me would change his balance and create chaos for both of us. Not today. Today I felt like I was riding Gus the dressage horse, not Gus the jumper. It’s a brand new day. I have a great deal to learn about how to ride him more correctly now that his issues have been discovered, but I can handle that. My leg has never been better. My horse was fantastic.
On my way home I made a phone call to David Stackhouse. They are arranging to come up to fit my horse for a new saddle. Dorothy spoke to them on Wednesday about Gus and told them it would need to be a rush job so that I could have it before I leave for Florida. Yes….I am headed to Florida. It couldn’t come at a worse time financially for us, but I am trusting God that it will all be okay. Jeff and the kids will hold down the fort while I go back and forth from Florida to home. I know that the time for Gus to make it to the upper levels is running out. It’s now or never. I choose now.
I plan to make the most of what I have been given. My mind is focused. Things couldn’t be more clear—–finally.
And my Gus is home.
I didn’t talk to Dorothy on Friday evening. I had the DLSC awards banquet all night, and I knew that she was planning on just taking it easy on him Friday due to the difficult jumping school they did on Thursday. I also knew that she was planning on a hard jumping school again on Saturday, so I called her last night after the Meredith clan’s Thanksgiving was over. The news I got made me smile from ear to ear.
Dorothy proceeded to tell me all about her rides. Friday was just a light flatwork day. She told me that his dressage was farther along than most horses she has ridden at the Preliminary-looking to go intermediate level. She feels that I have done a great job with the dressage (with a LOT of help from Sue Black) and thinks he is ready to go out and do it. I am going to have to get back into the sitting trot really quickly though. I haven’t been working on it for awhile, and I’m going to need it.
On Saturday, Gus did a jumping school with BIG fences. He did his technical footwork on Thursday (and did it with flying colors), so Dorothy said she just wanted to build them big and see what he did. They started out at 2’6″ and did that once. After a time or two of raising the fences, he was jumping preliminary level fences. After a time or two, she raised the fences to Intermediate level (for stadium), and made it a big spread. She said he was perfect. He was getting to the base of the fence, holding his rhythm, jumping well, and did it without having to do a whole lot to help him. Dorothy also said that he was an absolute pleasure to ride. I had asked her earlier in the month about paying her to ride him in his first intermediate when he got to that point. She told me over the phone that she thought I needed to pay her to ride him for a whole season of prelim. (and chuckled about it because she just wanted to ride him more) and then his intermediate. We spoke for about 45 minutes, and covered all of the “what if”s” about Florida. I told her that I was definitely going to get the saddle, and that I would have to bring Gus home on Monday. I told her that I would bring him down for a jumping lesson once a week until Florida. I figured that if could walk the hills at the reserve to get him in shape myself I could save some money and maybe make it to Florida. We talked about the boarding costs in Florida, and all of the things I needed to consider. My mind was spinning by the time I got off of the phone. I could actually do this thing for not a great deal of money if I share an apartment with Dorothy and the rest of the working students etc. There are sooooooooo many details to think about, and my head already hurts. All I know is that my horse has come through his “assessment” with Dorothy Crowell like a champ. She loves my horse. She thinks I am a good enough rider to take this horse to Intermediate myself. She has a 2 year plan for us. She has been fantastic and accessible through this whole thing, and I have learned a great deal about my horse and myself through the process. I think that I might just be in Florida very soon. Almost scary to think about—-But very, very exciting!
Tonight we celebrated another great year with the Dayton Local Show Circuit at our annual awards banquet. The banquet was held again this year at the Beavercreek Golf Club. We had 3 riders from our farm get awards in several different divisions.
Michelle Richardson and “America’s Favorite Cookie” received Reserve Champion in Novice Hunter and 4th place in Low Hunter.
Elizabeth Montgomery and “McCrae” received 5th place in Baby Hunter and 4th place in Novice Hunter.
Adria Wenning and “Lucky” received Reserve Champion in Baby Hunter
Elizabeth Montgomery and “McCrae” also received 4th place in Intro. Senior and Champion in the USEA dressage test division.
Congratulations to all of you! We look forward to another great season next year.
Okay….so I got another call from Dorothy this afternoon. Let me just tell you that it is really cool to be getting phone calls from Dorothy Crowell on a daily basis to discuss MY horse. It’s so much fun to hear someone like her describe the rides she is having on my horse. The news, she said, was very good. I listened as she told me about the gymnastic she set up to test his footwork. It was very low at first, but very technically challenging. Gus did everything perfectly. His footwork was great, and they proceeded to raise the fences and add more to the exercise. He had no problems with any of it. Dorothy had Michelle (her working student) set up a difficult single fence on a difficult line, and Gus had to jump it from a very hard angle. She said he locked on and never made a false move. She and Michelle both agreed that Gus would have no problem doing Prelim. and probably Intermediate as well.
Dorothy rode Gus in her saddle today. She said it completely changed how he felt on the approach to the fence. His canter stayed even and rhythmic. He didn’t scoot through the gymnastic and get quick and flat. She actually said that “he was a pleasure to ride”. She will do one more day of jumping, and then just flat work and hacking on the weekend. On Monday I will go down to take a lesson…. and pick up my “future intermediate” horse.
I told Dorothy that I called David Stackhouse yesterday about getting a saddle made for Gus soon. We discussed the “next steps” for Gus and me. This was Dorothy’s plan….
1. Leave Gus down at her farm for the next 6 weeks to get fat and strong (going up and down her crazy hills!)
2. I would come down regularly for lessons.
3. Gus would go to Florida with her (and hopefully I could go for at least a month)
4. I would show Gus in one Training Level event and then hopefully move up to Prelim. in Florida
5. I would stay at Prelim through next year—all of 2011—and try to move up to intermediate after the 2nd full year of Prelim. (unless for some reason he could go sooner)
6. Somewhere in there she mentioned doing a couple of 3 days
It all seems so easy to do…..it is starting to seem possible to ride at the upper levels. The only thing I am missing is a pot of gold.
Today I had a great run. I ended up running about 3 1/2 miles (or maybe a bit more). It was raining just a little when I dropped Wade off at Preschool this morning, but by the time I got to the reserve it had stopped. The temperature was absolutely perfect for running. As usual, I had trouble regulating my breathing over the first 1/2 mile-1 mile, but by the time I got over the first hill I was feeling really good. I ran the hills much easier than ever, and I even had enough left in me to run a short loop when the 3 mile loop was finished. My race is just around the corner,and I am in much better running shape this year than I have ever been for the “Trot”. Maybe this year it will actually be a “Canter”.
On November 17, 2004 my dad died from brain cancer. He was just 61. Surprisingly enough, today has been a very peaceful one. I spent most of the day with my mom– both of us sort of stearing away from the subject of my dad. It wasn’t that I didn’t really want to talk about my dad, I just didn’t want to cause my mom more pain than I knew she was already feeling. I can’t even imagine what days like this must be like for her. Sometimes I mentally superimpose Jeff into my dad’s place and myself into my mom’s place just to try to see what it must feel like. I barely get the thoughts into my head before I force them out again. The pain of it becomes all too real and truly unbearable. That’s how my mom must feel. I wonder if you ever really get to the point where the thoughts become welcome, and not try to force them out. I hope for her sake ( and ours too) that that day comes.
I expected today to be an extremely emotional one. Because of that, I have not allowed my mind to be quiet. I have not allowed myself the time to think. I have purposefully stayed very busy.
But the night is not over. Tonight I will lay awake in my bed for what will seem like hours. My mind will be at rest, and then the thoughts of my dad will flood my head like waves on the ocean. And my brain will finally be allowed to think of him. His laugh…his mannerisms….his political commentary…. sports….coke…..his love of teaching…..his grey-blue eyes…..
I will think about how sad it is that my Wade will never get to meet him, and that Kate has little more than a fading memory of him from when she was 4. She was the apple of his eye, and I hope she will never forget that.
I still think about him each day. Time doesn’t really heal all wounds……it just dulls the pain for awhile.
Dorothy called today after her first jump school with Gus. Though she doesn’t usually jump her horses more than twice a week, she was going to do one easy one today and 2 harder jump schools before Monday so that she could get a better assessment for me. She told me that Gus had been really well behaved today and settled in nicely during their flat work. As soon as she got up in her 2 point (jumping position),however, she felt him “scoot” and break his canter rhythm. Dorothy said that my saddle caused her to be unable to balance above her feet and above his center of balance. He is such a sensitive horse that any shift in movement causes major changes to his rhythm. Dorothy also told me that she thought the reasons for his inconsistancy in rhythm before a fence were directly saddle related. After today’s ride, she had no reason to think that I should sell him. She said she would let me know if she experiences anything that causes her to change her mind. In the next couple of jump schools she will try to put a little bit of pressure on him to see how he reacts. I am anxious to see how the rest of the week plays out. She went on to tell me that I need to buy a saddle that would fit him more correctly and allow me to achieve a perfect balance in the saddle while I jump. She confirmed all of the same things that I had been feeling while I jump, and I was relieved to find out it wasn’t just a lack of ability on the part of me or my horse. The saddle she recommended was a custom made “David Stackhouse” saddle. They run about $5,000.00 (yes, thousands). The saddle maker and his assistant fly to the airport nearest you, drive a car to your farm, make tracings of your horse, fit the rider, and then fly home to the Carolinas to make your new saddle. After a few months, it shows up at your doorstep. I spoke on the phone to the saddle makers today. They are checking their schedules to see if they are flying into Ohio anytime in the next month or so. It costs more money if you are the only client they are flying in to see.
I have officially entered a new world today. I have decided to keep Gus, and just buy a new saddle. I have gained a great deal of confidence in myself and my horse just from listening to Dorothy’s comments. I have decided that now is the time to go out on a limb and “do this thing”. I don’t quite know where all that will take me…..but I know that it will be an exciting journey.
The horse that puts the “gus” in “DISGUSTING” is here to stay. Those of you that know and love my manure stained wonder will know just what strings come attached to that comment. I am feeling less in limbo as the evening wears on.
Yesterday at noon, I dropped Gus off at Dorothy Crowell’s farm. As of today, my horse has been ridden by 2 Olympians (Leslie Law and Dorothy). It’s waaaay better than having an autograph! Anyway, yesterday Dorothy took him on a long hack just to get to know him a bit, and today they did flat work. I just got off the phone with her, and she said she was really happy with his flat work today. She said he was a gentleman and behaved extremely well considering the sharp wind and rain that was coming down. I have always known that his dressage would be good enough to go Intermediate, but tomorrow we will find out what she thinks about the jumping.
I have loved this horse since the day I saw his ad on “dreamhorse.com” and have spent the last 4 years thinking that he may be the horse to take me to my first Intermediate Horse Trial. He has plenty enough “jump”, but I am waiting to see if Dorothy thinks he has the confidence to go to that next level. If so, I will have my work cut out for me. It will probably mean boarding him with her for the next few months (or sending him to Florida with her) so that she can ride him in the first one for me. I am just looking for an answer. He is at the age where he needs to move up or move on. I am not getting any younger either. I am ready to do this next level, and according to Dorothy, the only things holding me back are MONEY (it is quite expensive to compete at the upper levels) and the right HORSE (which I may or not already have). She really likes Rhyland, and has already given me the goal to have him doing Preliminary in 2 years, Advanced in 4. We will find out as we go if he has what it takes to get that far. His brain is fantastic. I am coming to find out that the brain sometimes means more than pure athletic ability—-if you can get both at the same time, you’re golden.