Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cheeseburger in Paradise!

WOW! I want to start by saying a HUGE HUGE congratulations to everyone at Rolex 2010. I am honored to say that a few of good friends were competing at Rolex this year. Everyone looked amazing and there was allot of talent galloping around as well as leading the way. From an onlooker the weekend was a success. Oliver's fall was unfortunate and I know that we are all wishing him a speedy recovery. In allot of the reports about the course and the layout of said course, the general comment seemed to be that it was easier this year and more of a generous track. From a personal soap box I must reply with this, a four star is a freakin four star! I realize that to some extent the technical stuff may have been a little less than years past but the heights, widths, distance, and atmosphere is still that of a four star. After Vaunted and I jumped around Rolex in a confident, quick, and overall pleasant way, (in my personal opinion of course :) ) I was lucky enough to then travel over to Badminton with Bonnie. When I walked around that course I will say that it was a bit trickier with a few combinations and it never really let you take a breather. However, Badminton is known to have the reputation of being one of the hardest four stars in the world. Rolex, mind you, has the reputation of being the "largest stage" of the four stars. All that being said, when I heard people saying that Rolex in 2009 was like a 3.5* I must say it was a hit to the gut in some small way. The guts that it took for me to go out there on my little OTTB and jump around with all those people watching and warming up for the first time with the likes of Lucinda, William Fox-Pitt, Tim Lipps, and all the other big riders from all those other countries, was huge! To walk around the xc course Saturday morning with my number on and have people taking my picture, who mind you have no idea who I am, and then to walk up to the Normandy Bank and have Lucinda ask me what line I'm taking....almost made me vomit! The moral of this "rant" is that I want to give a MONUMENTAL high five to everyone that even entered that little event they call Rolex! I hope to cross that finish line a hundred more times in my life but I can only imagine that nothing can replace the feeling of crossing the finish line for the first time aboard my best friend. Non-the-less I will be sure and test that hypothesis out many times over and let you know my findings.

It was a bit hard to be at home this past weekend. I must give a big thanks to EventingNation. John did a great job covering the event and even though my internet at the farm is rather slow, we were still able to get his reports. Eventing is a much different sport than most and for that I know that we are all grateful! It is such a emotional and mental roller coaster. Which leads me into the title of this blog. You see I am a massive Jimmy Buffett fan. My parents are parrot heads and I guess I just grew up with it. I have a few major goals in life; aside from the glaring one, I want to live in a fancy hotel, and have the lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett. That means operating on island time! Oh, and get little umbrella drinks with every dinner, but that is just and insignificant detail. Not having Vaunted at Rolex this year and making the decision to let him do his thing for a bit has given me a bit of time to try and bring everything back to the big picture somehow....insert Jimmy. I must copy some of the lyrics from his song Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes;
I took off a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the places and all of the faces
Wonderin' where they all disappeared
I didn't ponder the question to long
I was hungry and went out for a bite
Changes in latitude changes in attitude
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn't laugh then we would all go insane
Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of places I've been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I've seen more than I can recall

Oh, yesterdays over my shoulders
So I cant look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just cant go wrong

I mean, if you are an eventer, you have to be able to relate to at least one line of this song! We change out "latitudes" just about every weekend, nothing remains the same with horses, and we are often times being asked to change our outlook on any given day! For goodness gracious everyone knows how much I love to laugh!! The louder the better. At the risk of over analyzing I really do think that we cant look back for too long, like good ole Jimmy said there is just too much to see! It is so easy to get caught up in the what's hot and what's not thing. It is so easy to see who likes who and who is the new kid in class. It is so easy to blame someone else or worse the horse your sitting on. Now I am not saying that I have a specific reference or anything at all with this, but it is for my own mental clarity that I say this. As in any profession, you have to "play the game" to an extent to roll with the big dogs. That being said the scoreboard and results don't lie and you know what...if something suddenly ended tomorrow, we could all adjust to the fall. Being apart of a couple upper level event teams, I know how easy it can be to get wrapped up in the right now, the visions of good times and how much you want something. However the thing that makes the good things so much better, the speed bumps along the way. Oh that Jimmy Buffett, he is such a wise sailor and a savvy business man! So the next time you are eating a cheeseburger at a horse show, holding your best steed, take a moment and try recall the whole year and all those faces...(insert umbrella drink)...then give a laugh

Here is a fun link to this song live in the 70's: Jimmy

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Horse is WILD and My Phone is QUIET!

Bonnie told me 2 weeks ago that the next 3 weeks will suck for me. She was right. Last weekend the crew went to Fair Hill and I was at home by myself....I hate being by myself! I did have approx 6 horses to ride and chores to do so that was good fun.

However, any of you that know me know that I talk on the phone more than a Wall street stock broker...really I do. Not this week though. I want to wish all my friends at Rolex the very, very, BEST luck!! I also want to let them know that a phone call every now and again would not kill them! I love knowing whats going on from riders to grooms alike. On a side note, I am learning that this sport can be a funny scene as a profession. It is often times hard to describe the level at which you have to be dedicated in order to make a real go of it. Sometimes people get in and had no idea how tough it can be and decided that the upper level world is not for them. To each his own. For me, I love it, I thrive in it, the more I do the happier I am. That being said it makes it even harder when things don't go as planned.
I have said it time and time again, but it does take an army/village to get just one horse to the top. Therefore everyone invests their blood, sweat, and tears into that one thing. Everyone from the grooms, to the riders, to the owners, to the cheering squad, each have their own level of emotions involved. I have worked in several upper level barns when you have to go to plan B and it is amazing how everyone has to ban together. I must thank everyone for their support for Vaunted and I. Vaunted right now is such a pain in the butt!! He is wild...I have to graze him on a massive lunge line so when he tries to run away or leap, rear, buck, I can hang on. I am giving him all the time he needs right now. I am taking it rather slow and conservative. While he is sound, I just feel as though I need to let him tell me when he is fully recovered from the surgery.

Typically, I like to consider myself a bit of a realist. Meaning that I know horses get hurt sometimes and things don't always go according to plan. However allot of this sport is built on dreams. Isn't that odd, it is really a very odd profession, but we all love it. OK, so this is how I see it....please feel free to comment....but I've been doing allot of thinking and this is what I came up with; In order to be good at something, I mean really good, it seems to me that you have to devote 500% of yourself to said task. However, doing say may lead to some mild form of insanity and bad judgements and not doing the so called "right thing". Therefore how does one balance all of that while still being true to their beliefs and not getting sucked into the whole, "keeping up with the Jones' " thing. When I figure that one out I will be a freakin genius. I do think that it is different for each person. I believe that for me and only having one big horse, limited funds, and the strong desire to continue learning under someone, I have to keep moving forward. With that statement, it is important to me to make sure that I am true to my beliefs and what I know I am capable of. I know that I am capable of making the best out of what I have...I am going to hone in on those Mcgiver instincts. I am also going to take all the knowledge that came out of this and make sure I file it in the right place to one day pull it out again to help someone else. Not having Vaunted at Rolex this year does set me back a bit. However it has opened a few new doors that I might not have seen if I was at Rolex.

For example, a good friend of mine, Molly Bull is with child! Therefore she is wanting to send me her training/prelim youngster to ride and compete. Also we have been working on getting more sale horses in and riding and competing them. I have also been able to help a fellow competitor, Will Coleman, while he is healing from his fall at The Fork. All of this has been great. The bad part is that all of Will's stirrups are to freakin long and I have to roll them...all of embarrassing! He only kind of makes fun of me for that. I love opportunities like this. You get to see how someone else's thought process works and how their barn is run and it is just another bit of information for the future. It is amazing what you can learn by just being around. It is also a good time to really take a look at where I can make my role more present in Bonnie business. I do love riding and teaching the working students but I also know that I am able to take this very situation and use it to lead by somewhat of an example. Everyone jokes that I am just a bit neurotic when it comes to my horses and my stuff and that is just how I am. However that neurosis definitely paid off this spring, in the simple way that I will be able to have a fall season and more with my horse. I could go on about this for years, but you get the idea.

This past few weeks I have been suddenly allot more laid back! It is funny how once you make a decision and remove the stress you are able to eat, sleep, and laugh allot more! As many of you can attest to...I laugh often and loud! Conor and Liz, our working students, have been loving the "skip the 4*" Ashley. We suddenly go out for lunch a little more and I am not having a panic attack over every little scrape or bump. Liz is on track to make the big move up to prelim in a couple weeks and Conor is on his way the the CCI** at Jersey Fresh. They both make me laugh NON STOP!! My good friend and fellow "Team Vaunted" member, Betsy Harrison, just sent me single handedly the most amazing gift I have ever gotten. She sent me this picture of a T-shirt that she made for Vaunted and I. It is amazing. I laughed so hard, I scared the working students. Lainey Ashker has always called my horse "Deer Head", she thinks that he has a deer shaped head. It has just stuck with everyone. So Betsy put, "Got Deer Head", on the front of the shirt...glorious!

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that I will be writing you next week about how wonderful all the training horses that I have are. I hopefully will not be telling you that Vaunted got loose and ran down highway 15. He might though, he is really out of control. I am looking forward to see what other doors are available and ready to prove that a little hard work will go a long way. Until next time GOOD LUCK TO ALL AT ROLEX!!! Vaunted and I are ready to hear all the details when all you guys get home!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Everything Happens for a Reason...It still Sucks!

First I must start by apologizing for the tardiness of this blog. I have spent the last week putting allot of information together.

Allow me to digress for a moment or two. When I purchased Vaunted as a 4 y.o. OTTB, he had a few chips in his ankle as most race horses do. He then went on to compete at the CCI**** level with these chips and proved to be the machine that I only dreamed about. After much deliberation with my vet, farrier, and coach I made the decision last fall to skip the Fair Hill CCI*** and have Vautned's chips taken out to only aid in his future career. All went very, very well and he was back in action and looking better than ever this spring. I followed all the recommendation and did everything that the vet's and farrier suggested. Anyone who knows me, knows that when it comes to this horse, I would rather skip meals then let him go a day without what he needs.

After he got a few good runs in this spring he came up a bit foot sore and through some diagnostic work I found that the shoes that I had him in were affecting a few of his angles which in turn could make his ankle sore. Therefore I allowed him the time to cool everything down while still doing his conditioning work as I knew from chatting with my team I was not facing any possible long term damage. I knew this because of all the diagnostic work that I had done just to make sure that everything was in top shape structurally. I changed his shoeing and made the decision not to run him at 2 events. Well on Thursday just 2 weeks before Rolex, Vaunted came up a bit sore again. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, I first thank you, and second I am sure that you are aware of the uncanny relationship that Vautned and I have. That being said, on Thursday I made the decision not to take my wonderful horse to Rolex this year. He just needs a bit more time to let that ankle calm down after surgery.

This is the first season that this horse will miss in the nearly 8 years of competition. After talking to Dr. Brady, I could run him and see what happened and have some amount of confidence that nothing serious would happen. For me that was, in no way an option. I was joking with Bonnie that she should really be paying Vaunted for me to work for her and not me. He is the reason that I am where I am and he is, as corny as it is, my best friend. It was not even a question for me when I found out that after his next to last "hard" gallop, he was not 100% happy, to take him or not. This horse is an athlete and a competitor just like us riders. Therefore I knew that if I placed those jumps in front of him he would do everything in his power to make that a good run. I also knew that I may be compromising something else in him by placing those jumps in front of him. There is just no need for that.

I think that, for me, the hardest thing about missing Rolex this year is that Vautned will be missing it. That horse deserves to be out there on that course getting the recognition that he deserves. It also makes me a bit mad at myself for putting a bit more thought into his recovery back in Sept/Oct. The standard protocol for this fairly common surgery is a month stall rest. Vaunted has never been on stall rest in his life with me. For that I am lucky, one, and two, should have put that into consideration. His body is not used to being in a stall for that long. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, Dr. Brady says that maybe he should have started being ridden sooner and had more turnout a bit quicker. Well you live and learn right...and then get Loves...what a great commercial.
Vaunted is just going to have a couple weeks off and then start up again (without the 8 min. gallops) and he will be back this fall. It is very upsetting to me as this is my only horse and he is my world. However I must say that I am so lucky to have gone this far without a glitch in the time table. Not to mention that this is really very fixable and very much so just bad timing. Everyone says that the key to a good relationship is communication and well here you go! I am lucky to have several other horses to ride and compete and with Bonnie getting ready for Rolex I have been working with her as well as helping all of the working students get ready for there three days. Vaunted is a bit confused and now kind of a pain in the you know what. As he is rather fit and does not really understand why he is not getting messed with 24/7. That is kind of my thing, to bother him all the time. :)
I find myself suddenly able to eat large quantities and I have also become rather laid back...ha go figure, the Rolex diet is over and the stress level just plummeted. I however am fumbling with a few questions. We all have seen the change in the sport and it goes without saying that there are allot more competitors of my generation that find themselves in perhaps another tax bracket than the rest of us. Ok fine, that saying "keeping up with the Jones' " had to come from somewhere right. So the game is how does someone that has limited funds, a couple horses to compete, and a smaller resource pool to pull from, play this game now. Well this is what I have come up with. You put your head down, work harder, market, and sell the knowledge that you have that those others will never have. They will never have that knowledge because somethings you just cant buy. Again with the corny saying but I swear it's true! I have got some wonderful sale horses that are going to be going training/prelim this spring and summer and you never know what tomorrow will bring. In my case last week, it brought some bad news, but this is a new week and that is horses! Vaunted has given me allot of his time to work on furthering my knowledge and skills, and now I am going to give him, in comparison, a small amount of my time so he can get back to 200%. In the meantime I am going to pick up all the extra work I can find in order to get these pesky three day bills paid for!

My next competition is going to be Plantation Field with a 2 training horses that are for sale. "Isbond", who is another OTTB and Bonnie owns, and "Vinny", who is a new sale addition to our farm and is proving to be a very fancy high jumper! I added a picture of Isbond from CDCTA that Brant Gamma took. Vinny is also pictured with his owner. I am also hoping to get my little "Pixie" to here first show this summer. It's funny how when I cant make Vaunted work hard these other guys get to step up to the plate! We do have several openings for sales horses or training horses right now and welcome any inquires.

I would like to close this rather long thought process with a few very, very, very, large THANK YOUS. First to you the reader, second to FITS and Sheryl Rudolph, thank you so much for your support and great product. Third to Beyond Indigo Equine. Kelly and her team and Beyond Indigo have been generous enough to sponsor a web site for me that you will be seeing soon. Check them out at I would also like to send a big thank you to Mike J. Mcnally. You can find him at He has some the of the best photos that you can ever hope for! Also to all my friends that have listen to me, supported me, and understand how important this great horse is to me. I know that everyone will be cheering him on in a few months time.

There is going to be allot "going down" here at Point Above Farm in the next couple of weeks. Bonnie told me that now that I will be the calm one for the next few weeks, I get to keep everyone on the right track...oh great....cause I am so good at not getting distracted by shinny things. Just kidding, I only get distracted by things that spin.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Get In the Game

I am three weeks out from KY. I have been working hard on getting Vaunted where he needs to be at this point and I got the go ahead from Dr. Brady and from Bonnie to continue on with my plan. If I were to sit here and tell you that I am cool, calm, and collected, I would be lying so much that my nose would grow long enough that I could build a bridge to Australia.

Vaunted is looking good. He is at a good weight, well muscled, on schedule for his gallops, and has getting those half passes down. However I have got more things going through my head than a I-95 toll booth. It is now when I am so thankful to have such a great coach behind me. While Bonnie is also competing at KY and has her own demons to worry about she is so supportive of Vaunted and I. She just keeps telling me to be patient and to remember that I am on a horse that I have been doing advanced on for 4 years now and have a partnership that is iron clad. At the end of the day he knows how to jump, knows how to answer all the questions out on course, and knows how to do the movements in the dressage. My goal now is to put the polish on that and make sure that I don't let my insecurities transfer over to him. She just keeps telling me that Vaunted will tell me what he needs from me and what is right for that day.

Horses are horses. Each day is a bit different than before. Therefore each day has a new question to ask. I think that is really why we all love doing it so much, right? If they were the same everyday then we would all be on the Olympic team! That leads me into my next thought, "the team". I have been lucky enough to be approached a couple of times by either Mark or one of his group members about my horse and I. However there have been a few things that I still need to improve on before I go down that avenue. I admire so much those that are able to keep their composure while having the team and the thoughts of the team breathing down their necks. While I do want to be apart of that atmosphere and that intensity, I always think of what Kim once said to me. She told me that she thinks it is a blessing that she was not able to go to ride for the team in Atlanta. (I think that was when it was) At any rate, she was in her mid 20's and while she was very disappointed at that time she said it was in the long run maybe a good thing. She was young and she said she had allot to learn before she was able to go out and show everyone what she was made of. I must say, from what I have seen this sport is one that longevity is only going to help you. It is amazing to listen to stories of the true greats in the sport due to the fact that they have so much first hand experience with everything and their reasons for doing something is not just because they read it out of a book.

I take great pride in the fact that I am able to work for someone else and still compete at the upper levels. While it is with great thanks to Bonnie for allowing my to keep my horse as first priority, as she does with Murry, it is a learning experience everyday. I know that while I have been lucky enough to do all that I have at such an early part of my career, there is still so much to do and so much to observe. This game is very much mental as it is physical. That being said I think that for where I am at in this juncture, I have to work on my mental conditioning as well as my physical conditioning. Easier said than done but I will give it a go for the sanity of my horse and everyone around me! :) Without those people, I would not be here.

Having missed both Southern Pines and The Fork, I question myself and if I will be ready. Not my horse, me. I spoke with Bonnie about this and she said, "Ashley, how many horses did you jump today, 4, OK well you only have to jump 1 at KY and that one knows how to jump and knows your thoughts before you have them!" She is (as usual) right. I am lucky right now to be able to jump everything from Vaunted, to a training horse, to the little baby Pixie! Although these horses are at very different levels I have been able to work on myself and my position which will allow me to be better on Vaunted. So while I did steal a few of those "air sick" bags from the plane on the way back from teaching in KY, I will put them away for now and focus on today. Focus on what I can change and not what I can't. I know Vaughn, I know my coach's cell number,(and where she lives!) and I know how to ride my horse.

While all of that is rather heavy, I wanted to mention the clinic that I taught in Lexington KY this past weekend. I was lucky enough to be asked to teach the UKY Event Team. What a great group of "Kids". (seeing as how most of them are rather close to my age!) We had a wonderful facility, to which I must thank Marty Whitehouse for the use of her farm Red Gate. When I was flying into KY it was amazingly beautiful. What a wonderful place. However I got off the plane and saw a million and one signs for the WEG's. While I do not plan on attending as a rider, I still got nervous!! There were even coasters at the airport bar that were adverts for the WEG's. The clinic was a great success and it was fun chatting with everyone Sat. night. Unfortunately the UK game was on at the same time and there was a little sadness in the air when they lost...I am not a sports fan but I felt their pain. Also, as a funny side note, the guy on the tarmak kind of looked like Charlie I took a picture, then I got yelled at by the airline attendant to turn off my cell phone. I have this secret plan in life to be an airline stewardess so I obeyed the rules. Thanks you guys so much for a great weekend and can't wait to come back!!!

I am only sure about the inner working of a few of the upper level riders but I know that for myself, at 3 weeks out from a huge event....I am going to STOP second guessing myself and ride. I am going to listen to Vaunted and trust my coach and my plan. Oh, I will also probably start packing...Bonnie gets so mad at me because I am such an over packer....I'm like a boy scout, always prepared!