Monday, September 19, 2011

Richland 2011 - From the Groom's Perspective

Richland 2011 - From the Groom's Perspective

Tuesday, August 23rd. 4:05 am. Loud chirps from my alarm wake me. I slowly slip out of bed and check my blinking phone: Missed text from Liz - we're leaving an hour later than planned. I happily crawl back under the covers for another hour of sleep.

After catching that much needed extra snooze, I hop out of bed at 5, get ready, and grab breakfast on my way out the door after sending Liz a quick text to let her know I'm on my way. I arrive shortly after 6, feed the ponies, and start loading hay, trunks, bedding, and the wheelbarrow while I wait for Liz to arrive. After she gets there, we finish loading the rest of the equipment and realize that Hannah's very necessary FEI passport is back at Liz's house, an hour north of Trophy and very much out of the way. After a few minutes of frantic texts and phone calls, a friend of Liz's kindly agrees to pick it up and we arrange to meet her at her work (the Capitol in St.Paul) to pick it up.

A few hours, much traffic, and many confusing GPS directions and detours later, we successfully picked up the passport and finally hit the road. We stopped at the Walmart in Menomonie to pick up entertainment for the road and upon returning to the car realized the rig had a very low tire. Luckily for civilization, Walmart offers literally everything these days, so we headed to the Walmart auto service (which I have to admit I did not know existed until this point) and waited for two hours to get the leak in the tire fixed - which the kindly repairmen insisted upon completion didn't cost us a thing! The rest of the drive passed fairly quickly but thanks to our not-so-timely departure, we didn't pull into the show grounds until well after 10pm. Uneventful minutes passed as we unloaded the horses and began to unpack. About halfway through the unpacking process, however, the first raindrops began to fall. The drizzle within minutes progressed to a downpour, and sheets of rain battered us as we moved trunks, bedding, hay, and equipment into the tack room. Thinking it would be better to set up the tent before too much rain had fallen, we attempted to begin putting the tent (we planned to camp for the duration of the event). Unfortunately, my tent-assembly skills are definitely sub-par and after several unsuccessful attempts Liz and I agreed that the soggy, half-assembled puddle of our tent wouldn't make for a very pleasant place to sleep.

Haven given up on the tent and now thoroughly soaked, we went back to the barn and finished unpacking and setting up the horses' stalls. Lucy's stall was on the end, and after 20 minutes of downpour her stall had transformed into her own personal water complex… Fortunately the pelleted bedding worked wonders and she was able to settle down in a relatively dry stall for the night - although it may do her some good to live in a water complex! Finally done at the barn, we climbed back into the truck and Liz set about trying to find us a hotel for the night (iPhone to the rescue!).

Within 15 minutes we had arrived at a lovely, warm, and dry Best Western, and after a quick warm shower and hanging up my soaking clothes to dry, I fell asleep shortly before 2 am - long first day!!

The next morning, we decided to extend our stay at the hotel for the next two nights (air conditioning and showers are so nice!) to allow ample time for the tent to dry out. After feeding the girls, cleaning stalls, and getting fresh water, I set about helping Liz finished unpacking and organizing the tackroom. Then we set out for another shopping adventure - this time to procure extension cords, more bedding, a feed scoop and other tack room odds and ends. When we left Walmart we had gotten everything on our list - and much more! We stumbled upon blue and yellow rope lights in the camping aisle when looking for the chairs, a customizable interlocking drawer system in the bin aisle while getting the garbage can, and by the time we left the store we had all the possible ingredients for an awesome LLE tackroom.

Back at the showgrounds, we set about connecting the extension cords and stringing up the lights (a process that had me at one point standing on top of a trunk that was balanced on top of another trunk, reaching up as far as I could to grab the one, very inaccessible but only functional outlet hanging from the roof). After both horses' fan were gently whirring and the tackroom lights were strung to satisfaction, I tacked up Hannah and then grabbed the dirtbike and the new camera and headed out to watch Liz ride and get comfortable with my never-before-used-brand-new Canon Rebel T2i and 75-300 mm IS EF-S telephoto lens. After a few too-early shots (the new camera's shutter delay is significantly shorter than the old) I was as comfortable with it as my old Rebel.

Back at the barn, I un-tacked Hannah and tacked up Lucy, then stayed and cleaned tack and boots in the tackroom while Liz rode. In the afternoon we took Hannah over for her first inspection and informal jog, which passed without excitement. Overall, a relaxing day and we headed back to the hotel early for a good night's sleep before the start of competition on Thursday.

Up and at the barn bright and early on Thursday, I set to work feeding, cleaning stalls, and getting fresh water for the two girls. Next, I carefully groomed, studded, and braided Hannah, making sure she was spotless, shiny, and ready for her test. Usually I manage to forget something when getting either of the horses ready, and this weekend the theme seemed to be bridle numbers - luckily Liz managed to catch them and by the end of the weekend I just started putting the numbers on the bridles right after I was done cleaning them so I wouldn't forget!! I followed Liz to warm-up with my usual grooming bucket with a brush, damp rag, hoofpick, and fly spray in one hand and the camera around my neck. After watching what was a bit of an exuberant warmup for Hannah, I wished Liz good luck and trekked around the outside of all the arenas (through much dew and many prickly pants) to the spot I had chosen to take pictures from. Watching through my viewfinder, I was pleased to see what I thought looked like a good test for Hannah. As usual, her walk was a bit tense and anticipatory, but her canter work and trot work looked solid and from Liz's expression I judged she was fairly happy with it. Livescoring quickly affirmed my thoughts - a 58.3 put her just inside the middle of the pack in the competitive 2* division.

The stressful part of the day over with, I untacked and washed Hannah off, then tacked up Lucy. This time I followed her to watch and get more practice with the camera:

After more tack cleaning, I walked the 2* course with Liz - yikes!! Attempting to conceal my amazement at how giant they looked (not very well, I think) I followed her though tricky combinations, around giant tables, and by busy water complexes. As we walked I took a look at the Prelim course, which unlike the 2* looked feasible and fun! Maybe next year as a last show before I head off to college!

After a nice dinner out with the Schweiss family and Isabel Holden, we went back to the hotel for our last night of air conditioning, real beds, and showers.

Friday morning I woke up early and slipped out of the hotel room so I could take care of the ponies and catch the morning rides. After almost getting lost on my way from the hotel to the showgrounds (I have a bad habit of not paying any attention to where I am unless I'm the one driving), I arrived around 8 am. After feeding and cleaning stalls, I headed to the dressage rings to watch and take pictures of Isabel and Ashley Keller, who both looked like they had good tests. I took both horses for nice long walks, then headed back to the hotel to pick up Liz. On our way back we picked up food and drinks to stock the tackroom cooler - yum!

Back at the barn I bathed and braided Lucy, tacked her up, and we headed out to dressage warmup. After a very enthusiastic warmup, Lucy seemed to settle down and I was again very happy with what I saw through the viewfinder. After untacking and bathing Lucy we checked scores - a 24 put the Goose in second, behind an even 23.

In the afternoon Liz took Hannah for a walk hack, in which she reported Hannah did mostly jigging and not very much walking - I think she knows the day after dressage is supposed to be XC! We made sure she was happily settled down with extra bedding, wraps, and her new Back-On-Track blanket to ensure a good night's sleep before XC the next morning. A quick search for sushi restaurants on Liz's iPhone led us to Kalamazoo for an amazing sushi dinner, and full and happy we headed back to the showgrounds for our first night of camping. Thanks to an airmatress and tons of blankets and pillows the camping proved quite comfortable and I fell asleep almost immediately.

Saturday morning - the big day! After cleaning stalls and feeding in my PJs, I headed back to the tent to change into appropriate grooming attire, forgoing the flip-flops for the more vetbox-safe closed toed boots. As I stepped out of the tent I looked down to put my boot on and saw, staring up at me, a perfect, beautiful, four-leaf clover! I'm not overly superstitious but I'd never found a 4-leaf clover before in my entire life (despite looking for them often in clover patches) and thought that picking it and giving it to Liz couldn't hurt her chances of having a successful XC ride. Seeming to agree with my logic, she tucked it into her armband.

Trying to calm my increasingly jittery nerves (I think I get more nervous when Liz rides than when I do) I slowly and deliberately got Hannah ready. Studs, boots, saddle, bridle, breastplate, martingale, Flair strip, NUMBER! Ready just in time, I handed her off to Liz, then quickly grabbed the partial stud kit, halter, lead rope, buckets, sponges, scrapers, and towels, tucked a rag and Liz's Gatorade into my camera bag, and buzzed down to XC warmup on the dirtbike. After setting up our area of the vet box, I headed over to watch Hannah's warmup and to practice using the camera over fences for the first time.

Their warmup improved as it went along and after about 15 minutes they were calling her number at the start box. Offering her the Gatorade on the walk over, I wished her luck and then watched as the timer counted her down and she and Hannah took off for the fence. Unlike Otter Creek, at Richland it is almost impossible to see anything except the first and last fences, and I didn't want to risk trekking out across the field for fear of not getting back to the vet box in time. So I waited and listened for the announcer's comments after she was lost from view. "Liz Lund, clear fence 5, galloping on to fence 6… Liz Lund and Lady Hannah B clear the first water complex… Liz and Hannah clear at 16 (the infamous double corners) and 17…" I sighed with relief as each clear jump was announced. Before long I saw a blue and yellow dot come around the corner and watched as they cleared the second to last and last fences. After snapping a picture over the last fence, I threw the camera back into its bag and ran to the vet box, where I was assisted by friends of Phillipa Humphreys and other helpful pairs of hands to cool Hannah down and pull her studs and boots.

She recovered quite well and was released at the second re-check, after which she dragged me (loaded down with helmet, gloves, vest, saddle, saddle pads, etc. and thus unable to resist) back to the barn, where she got a nice, long, cool bath. Before Lucy's ride we were able to get through several rounds of icing (she even stood with her hind feet in the bucket!) and then wrapped her. Livescoring reported a clear round with only 12 time penalties - one of Hannah's best and fastest XC rounds at the CIC2* level.

Now it was Lucy's turn! Thoroughly groomed and with sparkling tack, she headed out to stadium. After a solid warmup she jumped a double clear round, moving her up into first!

After much tack cleaning, organizing, and more icing for Hannah, we headed off to the competitors' party! The food was awesome - corn on the cob, chicken, hamburgers, brownies, and cookies :) After the delicious meal and chatting with friends from MN, I headed back to the tent to upload and edit pictures - my memory cards were almost completely full! Exhausted, I fell asleep as soon as I put the computer down.

At 6 am I woke up freezing and crawled out of the tent to feed and take care of the horses and get Hannah ready for her jog. Although the night before we had been told it would be an informal jog, I saw too many braided horses being walked around on Sunday morning and decided to braid Hannah just in case. Clean, braided, and taken for a lengthy walk, Hannah was ready for her jog. Once we arrived I was glad I had decided to braid - the majority of the horses were braided and I saw many riders in suits and other formal-looking attire. After the first jog Hannah was held, but passed quickly on the second presentation. Phew.

Stadium for Hannah we predicted would start much later in the day, as all of the Prelim, 3*, Advanced & Pan Am horses had to go before the 2* division even started. Horses happy and taken care of, I dragged myself back to the tent for a few more hours of sleep. At around 11 I finally emerged and we began packing up our elaborate stall set-up. Stadium was moving slowly and the 2* was projected to start at 2:40, a slight problem when Lucy's XC time was 3:22. Fortunately, they agreed to let Liz ride second in the 2* so she would have enough time to switch horses before Lucy's XC. In preparation for this I studded and booted both horses, then finished tacking up Hannah and brought her to stadium warmup where Liz had just finished walking her course. After a brief warmup, it was Hannah's turn in the ring. Although she carelessly knocked the first rail, the rest of the round looked effortless and they both looked like they were having a good time. I zoomed back down to the barn, quickly switched tack, and sent Liz off on Lucy.

I put away Hannah's tack and gave her a bath as quickly as I could, then rushed off to XC warmup to watch Lucy. I arrived just a few minutes before her ride, in time to give her a drink and wish her good luck before watching her gallop away out of the start box. Worried about what Lucy would do at the water (her hesitation at the last show cost Liz expensive time penalties), I hopped on the dirtbike and drove as fast as it would go (much to the dismay of the parking staff and general spectators) to the second water complex, where the question was a jump two strides before the flagged water entrance. From my experience eventing with a horse that dislikes water, these questions can be some of the hardest for horses that like to give the water a good long look before going in. Holding my breath, I skidded around the corner on the dirtbike just in time to see Lucy and Liz emerge from the woods, leap over the jump and canter into the water without hesitation. I was so happy I'm pretty sure all the other people watching were wondering what was wrong with this crazy emotional girl who speeds around on a dirtbike - but I ignored them and zoomed off to make sure I would catch Lucy's finish. I got back just in time to see Lucy and Liz bound over the final fence and gallop across the finish line. A double clear round! Good girl Lucy!

Back at the barn, I packed up, wrapped the ponies, and loaded the equipment in a happy daze. What a long, exhausting, but amazing week! Hannah ran around the 2* clean to finish in the top half of her division and Lucy won the NH division - not bad for her second Novice!

As we pulled out of the showgrounds I felt amazingly lucky to have been able to be a part of that week and experience such a beautiful and well-run event. Thanks to everyone who made the show possible, and especially to Liz for letting me tag along and help out - I had a blast!

-Maria Filsinger
photo credit: MF Photography

I would like to thank Maria for grooming for me, not only at Richland, but all of my other shows as well. She is a very organized hard worker. Thanks for everything!!!

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