Nearly unbelievable. William Shatner, Mohammed Ali, gaited horses that were so beautiful and happy in their work that they brought tears to my eyes (and I usually don’t get the gaited horse thing), a boy sitting next to me who asked if the lady with the white hair driving the hackney was Queen Elizabeth, western dressage, rope tricks, a full symphony, the UK basketball coach, the KY governor, Lexington Mayor, FEI President Princess Heya, 2 antique cars, a beautiful sunset, a packed house, bareback and bridleless reining, the fresian train, music from Carmen with full choir, Circus parade carriages, California cowgirls, some guy who rode two horses at a time while standing up, a man and andalusion who danced beautifully with a young ballarina, great weather, great sound, packed house.
Wow. Must sleep.
Next stop this afternoon was Reining Session II in the Alltech Indoor Arena. Whether it was coincidence I can’t say, but the quality of the horses and riders improved in the second session. The Polish rider chose some native music that was lyrical, and the way he and his horse flowed reminded me of a dressage freestyle. It didn’t surprise me when, at the end of the session the announcer shared that the rider also did a freestyle that could “make you both laugh and cry.” He had some technical difficulties, but I think his style is very attractive and could be the next generation in reining.
The radio commentary provided by the NRHA president was excellent. Just enough was said to be enlightening. He didn’t talk it to death and he didn’t leave major questions unanswered. I talked to him afterwards to tell him how well I thought he did and how I thought that their way of describing staying “between the reins” was something we talk about in eventing as “to keep the horse between the straight lines of the reins and the stirrup leathers”. And that his expression of the horse being “willingly guided” by the reins is analagous to one of my favored expressions of the horse “following the rein”. Very interesting.
I had wondered before the first session if I would be able to tell the difference between very good reining and not-so-much-good reining. It turns out, yes. The basics are always the same. Cool.
Jay and I toured (part of) the trade show for a few hours after that. Everything you want, and stuff you didn’t even know you wanted (but now you do) is there. More on that tonight.
Right now I have to catch a bite at the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Village (who wouldn’t love that name?) and go to opening ceremonies. Jay is catching OC at the hotel tonight, the local NBC affiliate is carrying it live. Just one more reason I love KY. That is sweet.
I am in the Microsoft Internet Cafe at the WEG, a fabulous medium-sized barn that MS will donate to the Lexington Humane Society when the are done. Yay Microsoft Word!
We took the shuttle over here from the hotel, which worked out fine, but it was vastly underused by people who would rather pay $20 per car and walk a mile than wait around a little bit for a bus that drops you at the front gate. I should note that the shuttle costs $15 per person, but all in all it was a pretty good experience over parking.
We went to the reining venue for session one. I bought the headset for $45. It provides expert commentary for all the indooor events throughout the week. Dressage, para, showjumping, everything. I learned a lot from the commentator, the current President of the Reining Association. He spoke in the interim between the arena announcer most of the time, so it was well-timed. I figure I can give the headset to my eventer friends when they get her and I leave in the mid-part of the week.
The event itself was very interesting. It had a rodeo feel with a lot of cowboy hats and loud music while the horses performed. Apparently the riders were able to choose their own music because the title of the song often matched the name of the horse or was connected. The audience was encouraged to whoop and holler and they did. The event was lightly attended and I will be interested to see how many more show up for the second session. Tonight I will have pictures of some beautiful reining horses, but I don’t have my upload cord here at the park, so you have something to look forward to tonight! Anky Van Grunsven rode a reining pattern and as you would guess, her accuracy was outstanding. The American, Tim MacQuay, leads after session I.
After the first reining session was over, we hiked up to the Maker’s Mark hospitality tent which is across the street from the Stadium, where eventing showjumping is held. The hospitality tent is nothing short of awesome. Not a tent, really, but a building. I had sushi and Maker’s for an early lunch. Crazy.
The we watched Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Boyd Martin, Buck Davidson and WFP school their horses dressage in the warmup. Everybody looks really good! More pictures tonight.
Then we went to the Bit o’ Britain tent (more pictures tonight) and did some shopping. The Hit Air and Point Two vests are coming in a shipment tomorrow. I don’t know how they will fit more merchandise in that tent! Again, more pictures tonight.
Got to go, reining session II starts soon. Great weather here, sunshine and light breeze. I can’t think of where I’d rather be.
The day started out like this: feed the horses, dawgs and cats, then get in the car, start it up, drive out the driveway and turn west. Even though we are going to the Kentucky Horse Park for the World Equestrian Games, a destination decidedly east of our home in central Iowa, we turn west because the interstate is just a bit west of our house. After that little jog, it is east and south, then east and south again, all day long until we arrive at our hotel, the Lexington Hilton Green. Pretty fancy stuff and I am very grateful to Purina for providing our hotel and my tickets for this grand outing to the World Equestrian Games. I am in the land of glass elevators and horse art on every wall. Yeeha.
We are going to be at the park Saturday through Tuesday. We will see the Opening ceremonies, 4 sessions of reining, 4 sessions of team dressage, and endurance day. Any way you cut it, this is going to be fun. I don’t know an actual thing about reining. For endurance, I spent a summer conditioning a string of arabs for endurance, so I have a small clue about that. For dressage I have a moderate clue, but when people who ride Grand Prix talk, I listen. Looking forward to some huge brain-expanding spectating.
This is going to be an adventure in a lot of ways! First off, the drive out here is 10 hours. Hubby Jay and I are traveling light in the Honda Camry – no truck, no trailer, no horses, no dogs, no ride times, no students, no tack, no worries! I love every last one of the afore-mentioned things, but they also each have a responsibility attached to them that, for the next 5 days, I won’t be carrying. The caveat to that is that a few of my students are competing this weekend at the Otter Creeek Horse Trial in Wheeler Wisconsin. I was supposed to be there to coach them, but the WEG tickets became available, and, well, the WEG won, though northern Wisconsin in the autumn is gorgeous. However, the Kentucky Horse Park pretty much is the US Horse Mecca and this is the first time the WEG has been in our country, so, um, it wins. My students are going to be coached by another very competent trainer colleague, so everything is set. But I will be following their scores on the internet, checking for text updates on my phone and cheering them on from here. We did some texting this afternoon and they made it through dressage just fine and are looking forward to xc tomorrow. Rained a lot up there, but the sandy footing should hold up quite well.
Now back to Lexington. Purina is a company that does things right (for instance, they do feeding trials and long-term research at their St Louis Research Facility that no other feed company even dreams of committing to. That is one reason why their feeds perform so well in practice.) So, in the spirit of doing it right, my tickets are pretty snazzy, with VIP hospitality and don’t forget the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Village. Yessir. I’m looking giddily forward to that and I am going to thoroughly enjoy it. Meanwhile, I bought tickets for Jay from an internet list. Somebody’s plans to go to the WEG were dashed for whatever reason, so I swooped in like any shameless carpet-bagger and bought dressage tickets for Monday and Tuesday from her. Sure I’m an opportunist vulture, but hey, at least she made some dough off something that next Tuesday night would be useless rectangles of paper. Instead, a check is speeding her way from me this morning via our friends at the USPS and Jay is on his way to watching some serious dressage fabulousness.
For Saturday and Sunday, we are going to either purchase Jay’s reining tickets online and print them out at the hotel tonight or buy them at the gate tomorrow morning. Lots of people wonder about the self-printed tickets, but I’m a technology believer. In any event, I have three event tickets for tomorrow, (sessions I and II for Reining and Opening Ceremonies) and each ticket includes a grounds pass which gets both of us into everything else in the park, so we are good to go even if we do nothing.
So Jay and I will be having different spectating experiences at the WEG. I’ll be in the rare air with the VIPs and Jay will be in with the Great Horse-loving Unwashed (GHU) up where the air gets thin. My theory is that, for the most part, I will be among people who like horses, but don’t do the daily feeding and stall cleaning. If they ride, they ride in an indoor arena that never has cobwebs or dust. They hire people to haul their horses to shows and may compete, or may sip mint juleps in the shade while the pro competes their horses. Everything’s alright with all that.
Jay’s people may board their horses or may feed and clean up after their horses themselves. If their horses can be seen out their kitchen window, they hired or traded favors with a neighbor or friend to feed their horses while they went to the WEG. They will vary from complete wanna-bes to very advanced riders, tending more to the very knowledgeable, and for the most part they will have a high fun factor. Everything’s alright with that, too. We’ll see how my theory holds up.
More adventure will be had in the shopping department. There is a vendor village at the park that is pretty much a horsebabe’s fantasy. Everything from tack and apparel to cupolas and Big Ass Fans. (I kid you not, it’s real company) The mission so far includes a Hit Air or Point Two Air vest (like car air bags for riders) for me, stadium jump flag holders for Susan, cool rain helmet cover for Sarah and I’m waiting for direction from Vikki regarding her list. Gotta get some souvenirs of course too. If you’ve got a shopping wish list item or two, let me know. If it is horsey and it exists, it can be found at the WEG.
We are going to walk the eventing xc course at some point in our 4 days in the park. It is a 4* course, like Rolex, so I know there will be some wow moments there.
Tonight after we checked in and found a Verizon shop to buy me a phone charger (whoops, left it in Cambridge), we ate at Panda Cuisine here in Lexington which is a trip of an asian restaurant. The food was spectacular, but it is home to a phone with the longest ring I have ever heard (and it was a traditional ring) and to add to the auditory extravaganza, the background music included John Denver and Greensleaves in the same set. I really wanted to stay to see what they would play next, but then there’s the WEG thing to rest up for…
So here’s the plan for the next four days:
Saturday: Reining Session I and II and Opening Ceremonies
Sunday: Reining Session I and II
Monday: Dressage Sessions I and II and Endurance
Tuesday: Dressage Sessions I and II
And somewhere around all that we’ll fit in shopping and course walking and catching some clinicians and whatever other shiny object catches the light. Come back tomorrow when there will be pictures from WEG ground zero and plenty of horsie adventures at the WEG. Besides the fabulosity of the horses, we’ll have adventures including riding the shuttle to the park (when was the last time you were on a bus?) and counting how many times I get called “Honey” very sweetly and endearingly by complete strangers (today’s number was 4, by the way).
So I lost my sitting trot. I lost it honestly, by, as my niece would say, “being chucked from a horse” when he rapidly decelerated in front of a jump. I injured my sacroilliac joint which, frankly, is literally a pain in the a$$. Until you injure your SI joint, you won’t fully appreciate its role in your happiness and comfort. A pair of happy SI joints makes for a happy girl, ok, that’s just me lately, but I’m just sayin’, be happy if yours work right.
Now that I am mostly recovered, thanks to rest, chiropractic and a very understanding massage therapist, I am back in the saddle.
The difficulty in riding again when I was first back in the saddle was what you would expect – a very strong feeling that I did not want to be jostled or fall off. But that passed in time and then I started getting back to the more technical challenges of riding. The most distressing thing was that I’d lost my sitting trot. Rats. Sitting trot is one of my favorite things about riding. Oh, wait, everything is my favorite thing about riding. Well, you get the idea. Sitting trot was easy and fun. The first part of the video below is a good example of fun in sitting trot with Eddie the Wonderful.
Let it be noted here that I am a bit of a details person about my riding technique. The more I learn about what works and what doesn’t, the more I realize that riding is a game of centimeters, not even inches. Probably, for those folks who ride at a very high level, it is a game of millimeters. The angle of the thigh, the use of the abdomen, everything, all very precise without tightness. The difference between what a horse responds to and what he interprets as physical chatter is very subtle indeed.
So, when I say I lost my sitting trot this means that it simply wasn’t as connected as it was before. There wasn’t flopping about or major tension, but the connection I had with my seat before the SI injury was far superior to what I was producing after the injury.
I decided not to get emotional about it (because I sure was tempted to go down that path. You know the one, the hairy gnome in your brain says things like, “Oh, you’re just getting older and it may not come back” and icky things like that) and just go the scientific exploration route. Dr. Spock goes riding. So I started to explore what I was doing differently to make the seatbone connection be intermittent rather than full-time. The first thing that caught my attention was that my legs were not as long, I was pulling up from my hips a bit. Focusing on stretching through my leg was helpful, but even after a day or two of attention to that, it was clear that was not the entire answer.
So I took some more time to really notice what my body was doing that might be getting in the way of real seat connection. Not surprisingly, I was holding in my lower back. Duh, I know, I should have figured that out right away, but I was a little too close to the problem to see it. Since the SI joint hurt so much less, I hadn’t really entertained the thought that it still hurt some and I was protecting it.
When I asked my kind horses to slow down their trots until I could learn to relax and follow again, things became easier. I did a lot of short periods of sitting trot, interspersed with walk and canter breaks, including 2 point in all gaits. I was as kind to my body as I would be to a horse I was rehabilitating. Lots of breaks, exercising only to slight fatigue of the injured area and taking every other or third day off. And whaddya know, it works. Tonight I trotted around on the wonder warmblood in all his fabulousness in lengthening and we were connected again. It just fell into my lap.
And once again I realized that when I pay attention to the details and get them right, big good things come in their natural course.