Thursday, May 31, 2012

Flo-rida life

As promised I am going to get a load of posts organised. I will try to keep them short and sweet and readable ;)

Well now! Lads, if you are complete dressage and show-jumping fanatics you NEED to visit Wellington, FL. over the winter season. Not only will the brilliant weather tickle your fancy but also the huge concentration of horses, top riders and competition will too.

Every saturday night there is Grand Prix show-jumping held in the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Every weekend there are CDIs in numerous locations, in particular the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Here the Palm Beach leg of the Exquis World Dressage Masters was held in conjunction with two other competitions including a CPEDI. (this will be a separate post as lads...that weekend was the highlight of my 2011/2012 Florida season)

Wellington is also HUGE for polo playing, polo loving and polo poshness. Every where you drive in Wellington you see polo fields, polo clubs and polo ponies. I also have a quick video of polo ponies getting fit in our neighbouring field in the 6am fog. Beautiful. Needless to say, money and status makes Wellington. I must figure out how to upload it... :/

But all this delightment comes with a price.

In the center where the show-jumping is held each weekend, there is a Hermes shop. A pure white leather saddle was being advertised for sale on a maniquin horse. It was worth $30,000. Horses are worth their weight in gold here.

                                            A really bad picture of the show-jumping arena at PBIEC

My Petrie Anky boots cost me about 600e in Ireland (which for me was crazy dosh at the time but figured that I need to look the part), with currency conversion they are approx. $800. The same boots sell here through a normal seller for over $1200. I don't regret getting the boots now as I am in LOVE with them and are gorgeous to ride in (AND I didn't have to pay $1200 for them!) 

It can cost over $300 dollars to shoe your horse. Thats up to every four weeks as the heat in FL makes the hoof grow at an excellerated rate.

Bags of good hard feed (or grain as the 'mericans say) can cost over $25 PER BAG!! Imagine having to pay these prices at home?! I for sure would not be in this game.

But hey, horses are a pure luxury here and are treated like kings. So each to their own I say. I just got to make sure that all clients horses are kept well and happy and safe and sound. After all they cost a fortune.

After a rush to get on a plane to the US, get a vehicle, get a bank account and get down to Florida to see all this ,was mind blowing. But for only a short time, I soon learned to embrace it and get myself acting and looking like I belonged there ;)

Where to start!

                                                       Moi - posing

So I decided to start this blog to share all the craziness that a 3 year American work visa can bring to a Whest of Ireland gill.

The brilliance about this visa is that I and fellow westie Shauna Finneran get to train and work for Pam Goodrich, a much sought after dressage clinician here in the US!

Acquiring the visa took a good few months, plenty of tears, many a late night filling out forms and searching for the valid visa document requirements.  I am here on an athlete visa sponsored by Pam to stay and work here for the next three years. While the visa process was tedious, drawn out and seriously upsetting at times it was undeniably worth it. It has always been my lifelong dream to be able to at least try and be the best dressage rider that I can be, and this was my once in a lifetime opportunity.

So I have been here in the US hitting on 6 months now and all the while I avoided writing a blog for the fear of actually having to start one! So I am going to give it a lash and I hope it will be easy enough reading.

First stop on our dressage journey was meeting the Foster Meadow team down in Wellington, FL. to spend the winter season. We landed in Boston, acquired a car with the extreme help from Shauna's uncle and we pegged it down I-95. Mind you pegging it still took us over 25 hrs driving :/ But the upside is... we are the proud owners of a Mini Cooper S Series!!! (Costs enough a month but hey, at least we look the part!)


With excitement and stiff behinds from the journey down, we hit Wellington with a bang and started work ASAP. Have not looked back since.

                                     View from mirrored arena of Florida barn and apartments

                                                         Mirrored arena

                                                          Mirrored arena

                                                          The oval arena


Here at Foster Meadow the winter season (Dec to Apr) is relocated to a base just outside Wellington, FL. in an exclusive equestrian community called White Fences. The rest is spent on Pam's Foster Meadow farm in Boscawen, NH. The two are just over 1500 miles apart!

                                                         Our apartment for the FL season

Pam describes us as 'Assistant Trainers'. It is a very loose term as we also do all the daily barn chores and all else required in the running of the barn. However under her constant intruction we ride and train clients horses.

Pam teaches lessons daily, as well as training her staff and her client's horses. She herself rides and competes regularly. I groomed for her in numerous CDIs in Florida, which was just jaw dropping. I was in the thick of FEI rulings, great chances to spectate the top US and internatioanl dressage riders and the list just goes on!  Plus spending the winter in above 20 degree celsius weather was bliss. To think I spent Christmas day sunning myself on the beach in West Palm Beach. So many stories to tell!

So therefore, I am going to enter separate entries to all the stuff we got up to in FL as it may just get too monotonous in the one entry. Plus I have to figure out someway to separate all the memories and events for myself! I am truly a disaster when organising all my photos etc. New laptop to help and I am still the biggest procrastinator