Artwork that makes my heart smile……

Mom, Kate, Wade, and Dad

The lesson scheduling board is a place for me to keep track of who rides when, who rides whom, and who teaches whom.  It is also a place for Wade to draw pictures and write fantastic notes to his mom , ME:)

Looking at these on my whiteboard just brightens my day.

Mom (the bigger one with a pony tail), Wade, and Kate (the little one with the pony tail)

Getting Ready (still) for IEA….

There is an amazing amount of packing and preparation that goes into getting ready for a 3 day event.  I have been packing and getting ready for the last week.  Not only do you have to pack the horse for 5 days, but you have to pack 4 jog outfits (dressy outfits for the daily vet inspections), normal show clothes, and casual outfits.  We are camping at the Hoosier Horse Park all weekend, so all the camping stuff will need packed too.  And then there’s hay, grain, bicycles, sawdust, and people food.  I’m overwhelmed just putting the words on the screen.  In fact, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just turn this thing off and get back to packing!

Gus has had an easy week this week.  Not because I wanted him to, but because he has had soft feet.  The last few months of non-stop rain has caused the ground to be constantly saturated which keeps his feet wet whenever he’s not in his stall.  Being that he already has bad thoroughbred feet, the added moisture hasn’t help at all.  So I have been wrapping his feet with Ichthamol wraps to dry them out, and he has been ridden very lightly.  He took 3 days off after Greater Dayton, so he has been ridden only 3 times since then.  I’m slightly concerned about the lack of rides I’ve had before IEA, but more concerned about keeping him sound and his feet hard. 

2 more days until the fun begins!

Gus---after bath #2 of the day (getting beautiful for IEA)

Summer is here!

Jeff and Wade---a memorial day bowl of cereal
Wade’s “knee slide”
Kate’s belly slide
Kate and Wade–filling up the pool

What a crazy week this has been……

Wade and Mom at the preschool program

This week has been filled with lots of “end of the year” activities with the kids.  On Monday night, Kate had her awards banquet for spring soccer.  On Thursday morning Wade had his preschool program and picnic.  And today Kate had her field day at school.  On Thursday, kate will have her last day of school and awards program.  Then it’s summer…………..

Lainey, Wade, and Maryn at school
Kate with her "game face" on
The black team doing tug of war

My first long format 3 Day Event

On Wednesday Gus, Erica, and I will be heading to Edinburgh, Indiana to compete in the Indiana Eventing Association’s Training Level 3 Day Event.   On Wednesday we’ll get Gus settled in, unpack the trailer, set up our campsite (yes….campsite), and get a ride in before dark. 

Thursday will be a day filled with rider meetings and a steeplechase lesson. 

On Friday morning we will do our first official jog ups for the vets, and will hopefully be cleared to do dressage.  

On Saturday we will do our second jog up for the vets, and hopefully be cleared to start phase A of cross country day—the first roads and track.  Phase B is steeplechase.  Phase C will be the second roads and tracks.  After Phase C, we will go into the “D” box to be checked out by vets and get Gus’s heart rate and respirations back to normal.  If we get the okay from the vets to continue, we will finish the day with a 5 minute gallop out on the cross country course. The rest of the day will be spent icing, wrapping legs, and getting ready for the final day of competition.

On Sunday, we will do our final jog up for the vets.  If Gus is sound and passes the jog up, we will continue on to stadium jumping.  If all goes well, we may even end up joining a group of riders in a victory gallop.

So that is where I am headed next week.  There is still a great deal of work to do before I leave, and a whole lot of dressage to do!

Rhyland’s first horse trial

Rhyland's dressage test

With all of the drama surrounding Gus, Rhyland was sort of put on the back burner this weekend.    I was so happy with the way Gus had gone all day Saturday, that I was in a really good mood when I started my dressage warm-up with Rhyland.  He warmed up pretty well.   It was a great 15 minute warm-up, but 20 minutes was too much.  He got fussy with his head, and started to shut down on me.   I got him back together in time to go in the arena.  He put in a decent test, for him.  He had one really obnoxious moment where he shut down and went sideways for a whole circle before picking up the left lead.  He may have been trying to take me out of the arena at “A”, but I’m not 100% sure.  We had some great moments and some really bad moments, and ended up with a 50 on our test.  I thought the judge was a bit harsh, but that’s how it goes sometimes. 

Stadium warm up was ok.  I tried to avoid the bird this time.  Rhyland was angry as usual about having to listen to me, but by the time I got him into the stadium, he was great.

We put in a really good stadium ride.  He rubbed one rail that ended up coming out of the cups.  We picked up 4 points, but I was really optomistic about him.

Sunday, I decided to keep the x-c warm-up really short. I came out of the start box not having a clue if he was going to jump everything or not.  He had never seen jump judges sitting by the jumps or cars parked on course.  He never batted an eyelash at anything on course.  I could barely get him straight enough to jump fence #1 and #2, but once he figured out what we were doing he got a little easier to steer.  He almost got away from me a few times on course, but miraculously came back to me when I needed him to.  It was like riding a snake, but we managed to make it across the finish flags with no time or jumping penalties.  He ended up in 13th out of 19 with a score of 54.  We still have a lot to figure out as a team, but I’m really excited about how bold he was all weekend.

Gus—— a perfect cross country ride on his 14th birthday

Gus jumping fence #4 of the Preliminary X-C course
There are not enough words to describe this past weekend.  I showed up with my two horses on Friday expecting to have a  leisurely ride on both, a few baths, and some course walks.  What I got instead was a two hour long battle with Gus, a short and miraculously quiet ride on rhyland, and a discouraging evening.  Gus came to his bath that night with a hot, swollen hamstring.  At first he was trotting up fine, but as the evening progressed, he became nearly 3-legged lame.

It may have been one of the most discouraging moments in my riding career.  All of the time, money, effort, lessons, and work that had gone into getting him to that moment went down the drain.  After cold hosing him several times, Erica and I left for the night.  I cried my way home from Twin Towers, talked to my mom on the phone for moral support, and went straight to bed when I got home.  There was no way in the world I would be riding Gus unless God decided to perform a miracle.

The next morning I arrived at the barn at 7:30am.  My dressage ride time was 8:30.   If I had planned on riding that morning, I would have been there at 6am.  Little did I know……

I met Erica at the wash area.  She was cold hosing Gus’s leg.  I asked her how he was doing and she proceeded to tell me that she had already trotted him up sound in front of a friend.  WHAT??? I asked.  He was half braided, and he had been spot bathed.  I asked her to trot him up for me after I inspected his leg (which was less swollen and less hot).  He trotted out completely sound.   I guess I had a dressage test to ride.  It was now 7:45.

Erica rushed the rest of the braiding.  I ran like an idiot to my trailer to get dressed and get my tack.  I managed to get on my horse exactly 15 minutes before my test started.  No problem…..except for the fact that I couldn’t remember my test!  I hadn’t even bothered looking at it since I knew I wouldn’t be riding Gus.  And, although I had the whistle blown on me once for forgetting where I was going during my test, I ended up with a score of 35 (65%)…….not too shabby considering the way the morning began.  It tied me for 11th place after dressage.  It didn’t really matter—–I knew that there was no way I would get a vet to clear me for the jumping phases…….oh me of little faith.

After the dressage phase, I called on the show vet to come inspect Gus’s leg.  I was supposed to ride stadium at 10:20, and Dr. Nenni was nowhere to be found.  It was about 9:45 when he arrived at my stall to inspect Gus’s leg.  Much to my surprise, he told me that I could ride.  WHAT!!!?????  You have got to be kidding me!!!  I hadn’t really even walked the prelim stadium course.  I ran like an idiot—which sort of seemed like it was becoming the norm—–to the stadium to walk my course twice while Erica put Gus’s jumping tack on.

I got on Gus about 20 minutes before my ride.  He warmed up sound, but was WAY too excited.  After walking some fences and doing some torture circling, he was calm.   And then we got attacked by a bird……yeah, a bird.  It was a red winged black bird to be exact.  Gus may have cantered just a little too close to a nest.  At first the bird was just chasing us….then he was trying to land on Gus’s butt…..then he was flapping about my head and pecking at my helmet…….I screamed like a little girl, and glanced up just in time to avoid a head on collision with another grey horse.   Okay, now we’re ready for a great stadium round.

Somehow, by the time we entered the arena we were together.  I nodded at the judge as she signalled for me to start my course.  I took a deep breath and threw up one last prayer for Gus to stay sound and jump well.  We went double clear.  Unreal.

So I took Gus back to his stall.  The vet told me that if he felt Okay in the stadium, that I should prepare to ride x-c on Sunday.  Prepare I did.  I was going to ride, and this time I had faith.

I walked my prelim course twice and wheeled the distance to find my half way mark.  I had lost sleep on more than one occasion over a few of the combinations on this course.  I analyzed it as best I could, and went back to cold hose Gus one more time before I went home to bed.

Sunday was here.  Wade’s 5th birthday and Gus’s 14th birthday.  It was about to be a fantastic day……I just didn’t know it yet.

Gus warmed up for x-c with Dr. Nenni watching.  He made me do some tight turns, and watched Gus react to different fences.  He was pushing off well, and although he took down a few rails in the warm-up, I knew he was ready for this.

I said my usual prayer in the start box….thanking God for the day, for the ability to be riding this great horse on a day when I didn’t think it possible, and for Gus to jump with wings as eagles.  I asked God for safety for both of us, and that we would return having had a wonderful time.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1……Have a great ride!

It was in that moment that I felt completely at peace, and for the next 4 minutes and 45 seconds, I was flying.  If you have never ridden a horse at 520 Meters per minute, you are missing out.  It is a thrill like no other.  Gus never took a wrong step.  He jumped every fence out of stride.  The only times I slowed him down were when I headed into a tight turn or a combination.   As we crossed the finish line I was screaming and “woo hooing” like an idiot.  The smile that was plastered on my face would remain for hours (and days, if you want to know the truth). 

God’s timing is perfect.  I don’t understand it, and I never will.  Things happen when you least expect it, just when you think hope is gone. 

Gus ended up in fourth place on his dressage score of 35.  There were only 4 horse and rider combinations that went double clear in the cross country phase.   My prizes included a pretty 4 th place ribbon, a water bottle, and some dog treats.  —–none of which  hold a candle to the memories I will take away from the weekend.   Happy Birthday, Gus!

Dorothy Crowell Clinic——a huge success for both Wetherbrooke boys

Yesterday was a big day for Team Wetherbrooke!  Gus, Rhyland, Erica, and I headed to Fairwind Stables for a clinic with Dorothy Crowell.  Gus and I rode in the Preliminary group with Amanda and Podge.  It was really nice having a lesson with just the two of us.  Gus never took a wrong step.  Dorothy was really pleased with how we did, and Gus felt like a superstar.  I couldn’t have asked for him to be any better.

Rhyland was in the Novice group.  We did the same excercise that we did in the prelim group only with lower fences.  Tight turns don’t always go so well for him, but he did really well after we got going.  The height of the fences was no problem for him, and once we figured out some tools to keep him straighter between fences, he did fantastic.  I have a lot of things to work on with him this summer, but he is going to be a lot of fun.

Thanks, Erica for helping me out at the clinic!

Tomorrow we load up the boys (along with McCrae and Oreo) and head up to Twin Towers.  I am really excited to get this Prelim season started and to see what Rhyland has to offer.

Greater Dayton—-just around the corner

Greater Dayton Horse Trials is coming up this weekend at Twin Towers Park in Fairborn,  Ohio.  This will be Gus’s first preliminary of the season.  Rhyland will be competing in his first sanctioned show ever.  He will be in the Open BN division.  I have worked really hard to get two horses prepared for the show.  I’m not really sure how people get more than 2 horses ready for competitions, but my guess would be that it doesn’t involve kids, soccer, multiple birthday parties, school functions, or other such activities. 

Anyway, they are both about as ready as they are going to get, considering the rain and lack of schooling that is taking place here in Ohio.  Luckily I have been able to do my gallop sets with Gus in my outdoor arena.  He is galloping well, and we both seem to be in much better shape going into this show season.  We did our last gallop on Friday.  This week I will do a light jump on Monday, dressage on Tuesday, a jumping clinic with Dorothy on Wednesday, and a dresssage lesson with Sue on Thursday.  Friday I will ride him up at the show.  I am really looking forward to the show, and hopefully all of our hard work will pay off.

Rhyland, now that he is no longer “hopped up” on grain, has been jumping like a superstar.  He is jumping 2’9″ fences in the stadium and jumped around all of my cross-country fences in my jump field on Thursday.  I was really relieved to have him back to normal.   I don’t really know what to expect from him at the show this weekend, but I am really happy with how he has been training this past week.  He should be a lot of fun…..and he is looking super cute these days.  

It’s going to be a busy one this week.  I am hoping to have a lot of great things to write about soon!  

And then it’s off to the Hoosier Horse Park for my Training Level 3  Day!!!!

Birthday party #2—–

2 kids----gotta have at least 2 different cakes
Kate and Wade with all of their loot

Yesterday we celebrated both Kate and Wade’s birthdays with our family.  All of the Von Handorf and Meredith clans got together at our house for a cookout.  There were 9 children and 15 adults in my house all at the same time.  That’s a lot of people and not a lot of house.  Our farm is a great place for outdoor parties, but when we saw rain (hard to believe, I know) in the forecast for yesterday, I wanted to cry.  It ended up going really well though.  We had tables on the front porch, tables on the side porch, and people all over the house.   The kids had fun running around outside in the rain, playing in the playhouse, and feeding the fish in the pond.  Blackie (our beloved cat) was right in the midst of it all —-as usual.  This morning I just so happen to find him locked in the playhouse AGAIN!!!  If it hadn’t been for him meowing through the wall as I walked up my sidewalk, he may have just spent a second night in there.   The kids had a great time, got lots of cool gifts, and enjoyed being the center of attention.   Birthday party #2 was a huge success.   Wade turns 5 on Sunday the 22nd.  He’ll have his little friends get together sometime in the next couple of weeks, and then the birthday month will be over………