Sunday, June 10, 2012

World Dressage Masters 2012 - long post beware!!

After the holidays, things got pretty busy pretty fast!

January was a busy month competition-wise. Not only were there two major CDIs being held back to back, but the Palm Beach leg of the World Dressage Masters (Jan 26th-29th 2012) was fast approaching. Tellin' yis... excitement overload!

The most anticipated dressage spectacle that I am sure I will ever see could not have come around any sooner.

5 CDIs were being incorporated into the The World Dressage Masters weekend, as well as separate day competitions (i.e. competitions not being run under CDI ruling). It was also a 2012 World Cup, 2012 Olympics and Paralympics qualifier! I was literally a walking sponge that whole weekend.

Pam was entered to compete in one of the CDIs, and I was her groom. So not only was I there all day, I also had a wristband to get me into the CDI barns were all the top horses were stabled!! Mint.

But wait!! There is more! Pam gave us tickets for Christmas to watch the entire World Dressage Masters. Again, I was at the show grounds all day AND I got to stay there for the night too??!! Epic. Dreams are never this good.

Between cheering on fellow barn and Paralympian hopefuls Dale Dedrick and Ellie Brimmer, grooming for Pam and watching all the top riders preparing and riding in the Masters, I was a made woman.

                                   Admiring my plaits on Pam's La Rusch (my favourite pony)
I do have to say something. Years ago in the North Munster Dressage region (my dressage region from back home), an Irish para rider named James Dwyer competed and trained with my trainer from back home. I used to plait (not braid-I refuse to succumb to such a term!) for James a lot and I had not seen him in the longest time. He moved here to the states. Well guess what!! I got to meet him at the Masters! He was stabled the block behind us. I bumped into him a ton over the weekend and it was so good to catch up with him and see him ride again. Seeing that green coat with the Irish flag made me smile. Talk about another great thing happening on such a great weekend. He pulled out all the stops in his tests. He won all around him. His freestyle gave me goosebumps, made me miss home. But in a good way, a proud way! Stupid of me not to have gotten a picture with him. :( Next season maybe? I hope to see you James in Florida this coming season! Be prepared for a photo session :D
                                                                    James Dwyer
                              (I stole this photo, but I do know it was taken Masters Weekend!!)

Being able to stalk all the top competitors became my forte over the weekend...

I got behind the scenes photos of Charlotte Dujardin working in Valegro on the thursday. Well, when I say behind the scenes I meant behind the barriers as my wristband was a great asset. I also tried to build up the courage to jump Carl Hester for an autograph or something but reckoned that him talking into Charlotte's ear piece was more important. Oh well. My quest to meet that man continued!

                                                          Charlotte and Valegro

                                                           Herself and himself again

I literally bumped into Anja Plonzke (Germany) after her Grand Prix on Friday evening. We were in the show office and I was trying to get the day sheets for the next day. That woman is a GIANT. Couldn't take a picture as that would be totally obvious and a bit creepy on my part. But seriously she was well over a foot taller than me.

Creeping on the famous also coincided with me actually watching some dressage. It was great to watch all the greats together working in on the thursday. It was nice to notice that each one of them rode differently than each other to match their horse-type. There were so many different types ranging from longer backed, to longer necked to longer limbed horses. Not forgetting different temperament types also. But the one simliarity between them all is the harmony each had with their horse.

                                                 Ashley Holzer (CAN) on Pop Art

Steffan Peters (USA) was mind blowing in the Saturday's freestyle. He went from extended canter to double canter pirouettes - flawless and harmonious. I read an article in Dressage Today (a US dressage magazine) that ultimate training and harmony is achieved between a horse and rider when they can go from extreme extension to extreme collection from movement to movement. Think of a pendulum of a metronome. Extension is on the far left, collection is on the far right. If you can glide from extension and collection without stopping along the metronome harmony, balance and confidence is achieved. I am trying to find that article as we speak... I am not so good at explaining it. Anyway, it was jaw dropping. Another rider that showed great harmony between collection was Anja Plonzke on Le Mont d'Or. She rode from piaffe straight to double canter pirouettes. Perfectly!

I guess my favourite riders that I followed throughout the Masters were of course Carl and Charlotte but also USA rider Adrienne Lyle on Wizard. Check these guys out on YouTube or something. She is THE most beautiful rider. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE) with Favourit was another favourite (haw haw excuse the pun!)

                                                             Tinne and Favourit

                                                                Tinne again

Now due to the ultimate kindness of Dale Dedrick, she put Shauna's, Ali's and my name down on the competitors party list that was being held on the first night of the Masters. Shauna and I were grooming all day and had ten minutes to change in the toilets while dousing ourselves in perfume and putting on some make up. Another competitors party, great. Tacky, awkward and probably the only good thing there would be the food.

                                          Dale Dedrick, her mount Erik and friend Meagan

                                                     Dale after kicking some serious bum


Could we have been anymore oblivious??!! First of all the address for this party did not click with us. The International Polo Club in Palm Beach. Second of all we completely misunderstood the whole affair. Pictures can only describe:

                                                       We were greeted by these ladies

                                                           Polo Club Poshness

                                          THEY HIRED MERMAIDS TO SWIM AROUND!!!!

                                                   Ice Sculptures and Shrimp Table

                                                                    Take a seat!

                                                           Polo Mallets above the bar
FINALLY!! The celeb stalking finally paid off.....

Carl Hester himself!! (He smelt amazing and he called us lucky ducks for being here to train :D )

 Charlotte Dujardin. Wowsers, what a lovely person. She was shocked that we asked for a photo with her!

Note to self:
  1. Next year have the decency to at least shower before meeting some of the world's greatest dressage riders - baby wipes just don't cut it
  2. Find a designated driver - the alcohol was FREE
  3. Consider my outfit - stretchy trousers need to be worn, the food was never ending
All smartness aside, that weekend was a big learning aspect for me. I figured out why and how much I love this can never stop learning and you can never stop trying to be a better horse person. Plus, the tailcoat and shiny boots get me every time ;)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Christmas Flo-rida schtyle!

This post is mainly pictures, I promise!

It was tough stuff leaving home less than two weeks before Santa was due to arrive. I was going to miss the big dinner, the family gatherings and the best nights out with my friends. :'(

Trying to be positive, a Christmas in the sun was something I was willing to try. My visa was granted on December 7th. My flight was booked for December 13th. Talk about a rush to get packed and mentally prepared to leave for three years! Biggest devastation...the zipper breaking on my boot bag. However, things fell into place. Said my emotional goodbyes (not thinking about it, it still twinges a bit)

All the sadness of leaving was eased a lot as I was travelling with such a great friend... Miss Shauna Finneran! We have been friends for so long and I could not be travelling and working with a better person. We have competed together as U21s, we have partied together and we share the same views and beliefs regarding ourselves being dressage riders. Plus, this girl is ACE at doing make-up ;) All in all a great choice methinks!

                                                                Partners in crime

We started work in Florida Christmas week. We had little time to think about the holidays as we had to get up to speed on how the barn worked as Pam was going home for the holidays.

Christmas Day itself was very easy-going mainly due to the hospitality and generosity of the Potasky family (Ali the barn manager's family). Ali herself is a really cool person and so easy to work with. We mainly spend the days laughing and joking between ourselves! Too many funny photos I could post... but maybe another time!

                                                             Myself, Ali and Shauna 

So Ali Potasky... that money you paid me to say that about you has gone towards a new pair of breeches. Thanks!! ;)

Joke! Ali's family had included us in their Christmas plans before we had even arrived which to be fair is pretty nice and kind of them. So here is a shout out to Todd, Kris and Taylor Potasky who even gave us gifts! It was more than we had ever hoped for. They filled a huge hole, that is for sure.

                                            Pancake, fruit and coconut brekkie

We had to work Christmas day, which was no craziness to be fair! The normal routine had to be kept.
  • 6.30 am - Hay, clean water buckets and fill them
  • 7.00 am - Grain to be fed
  • Sweep barn, make rest of day's grain
  • BREAKFAST TIME!!! ( I am starting a pancake Christmas brekkie from now on...highly recommend it)
  • Start to turn out some of the horses for a while, lunge a few and hand-graze a few.
  • 11.00 am - Hay and sweep
  • 11.30 am - Lunch grain
Then.... BEACH TIME!!!

                                                                   Kris and Todd

We were brought to West Palm Beach to swim and sunbathe and chill out for a few hours. Shauna and I were literally the same colour of the sand. We were the palest people on the entire beach!
The afternoon barn chores were easy going. We feed hay again at 4.00 pm and grain at 4.30pm.

The farm that Pam works from in Florida is called Double Bridle. A german couple own it and live on the property. As they were spending the day alone by themselves, Ali's parents suggested us all eating together. We had dinner in their covered garden and pool area (swit-swoo I hear ye say! And ye gods it is).

                                                                Nom nom nom
My first Christmas away from home was quite different, but was made a thousand times easier due to the kindness of the Potasky family. So Potasky's, here is your second shout-out!

Oh yes! New Years! The night was spent out in Clematis St, West Palm Beach. Ali, Shauna and I hit the town as best we can with our neighbouring Korean grooms who did not speak one word of english. Thanks to our new nifty iPhones, the Google Translate app was our ONLY communication tool.

                                                                 Ali and Cho!

By the way, it is not very accurate at stringing sentences together. We got many strange looks from Cho and Jin. But we partied on and saw some great fireworks at the end of the night.


First Christmas away from home - check

New Years Eve in strange place with foreign non-english speakers - check
What next?!