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Aiken 2013: Long Road Home (Day 9)

Mar 25 2013
28
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On Day 9, we were supposed to spend the morning cross country schooling at Full Gallop Farm, the afternoon at the famous Aiken Steeplechase, then have a formal dinner at The Wilcox.  Unfortunately, it ended up raining in Aiken for 12 hours straight.  Add chilly weather  (30’s and 40’s) to the rain and we did not have weather conducive to a day of outdoor fun. 

In addition to the poor weather in Aiken, we were getting weather reports of a bad snow storm about to hit the Midwest.  So we all packed up our trucks and trailers and decided to cut our trip a day short and head home.

We left the Aiken Complex at 9:00 AM ET and arrived in Lexington, KY at 6:00 PM ET.  I spent 30 minutes moving my stuff from my friend’s rig to my rig while Owen relaxed in a stall and got some water.  Then I left Lexington at 6:40 PM ET and kept driving West to Millstadt, IL and arrived back at my barn at 12:00 AM CT.  That was a LONG day, but it was worth it.  By 10:00 AM the next morning, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were starting to get hit with a snow storm.  By Monday morning, the St. Louis metro area had 12.5 inches of snow accumulation!

Snow at my house (and my dog Abby playing with her Frisbee).

Snow at House

Snow at the barn (the horse is laying down to roll).

Snow at the Barn

Snow on the roads.

Snow on the Roads

I was very sad our Aiken trip had to end, but I am SO glad Owen and I got home before the snow storm hit. 

Will I go on the Aiken trip again? –  ABSOLUTELY!
Was it worth it? – YES! 
Do I feel more prepared for the 2013 show season? – DEFINITELY!

A huge THANKS to Megan Moore for making this all possible.  She is single-handedly making my dreams come true.  Her patience, generosity, and kindness are unparalleled.  She has spent many hours/months/years helping me to learn more about my horse and myself, break old habits, and become a better rider.   I am incredibly grateful.  To quote Megan, I am forever looking for “that positive, encouraging, non-desperate, confident, I want that-go get that-kind of ride.”

Aiken 2013: Hitchcock Woods (Day 8)

Mar 25 2013
19
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This morning we went on a shopping spree!  We started at the Boots, Bridles & Britches shop where they were having an anniversary sale and everything was 25% off.  Then we headed to the Aiken Saddlery & Supply where they had lots of good tack and barn equipment.  Finally we headed to the Oak Manor Saddlery to look through their consignment tack and wide assortment of show clothes.  It was a miracle I made it through the morning without spending too much money.  :-)

Next we went to lunch at Becky’s On The Corner.  Several people in our group didn’t get to go there on Day 6, so we went there for a second time, which I was more than happy to oblige.  This time I had a root beer, gyro sandwich, and sweet potato fries.

Similar to Day 3, we tacked up the horses and went to Hitchcock Woods to hack the horses.  This time we explored a different section of the 2,000 acre park.  This place is amazing!

Here is a video of Owen and I from our dressage lesson on Day 7 (0:00 – 0:41) and of us jumping a cross country fence at Jumping Branch Farm on Day 6 (0:42 – 0:50) and of Owen and I jumping in Hitchcock Woods on Day 8 (1:16 – 1:33).

Hitchcock Woods, Aiken, SC–March 2013

Jump 2

Jump

Bog downhill brush fence.  This picture doesn’t do the jump justice.  It was a ton of fun!

Large Bush

We also got to ride across the quick sand river twice.  Definitely not something I get to experience every day living in the Midwest.

For dinner we headed to West Side Bowery in downtown Aiken.  The restaurant décor was very pleasant.  I had the best tenderloin medallions topped with fresh crab meet, steamed vegetables, side salad, baked potato, and Riesling wine.  Yum!

Aiken 2013: Dressage Boot Camp (Day 7)

Mar 23 2013
22
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Today it was very cold and windy in Aiken.  It was 34 degrees in the morning, and only warmed up to the mid-40’s during the day.  I must say that this did not feel like vacation weather, but I was still more than happy to spend the day with my horse.

Each rider got a private dressage lesson with Megan in the morning.  During my dressage lesson, we worked on keeping Owen in a lower, rounder frame.  Owen is naturally built very uphill.  He is also athletic and can “fake” a dressage frame which is what I am trying to avoid.  We also worked on keeping Owen’s hips swinging and his hocks active in all three gaits.  Megan gave me some great ideas on things I can keep working on once I get home.

Trot 3

Trot 4

We spent the afternoon shopping and hanging out before heading to Aiken Brewing Company for dinner.  Everyone showed up at the restaurant a few minutes apart.  As we trickled in to take a seat at our table, over half of us would look at the waiter and ask for a glass of wine.  He kept giving us a look to say “this is a brewery, not a winery!”  Oops.  I had a glass of Pinot Grigio, crab cakes, sautéed vegetables, and side salad.

Aiken 2013: Jumping Branch XC (Day 6)

Mar 22 2013
29
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Today we woke up bright and early and headed to the farm to get our horses ready to cross country school at Jumping Branch Farm.  To warm up, I took Owen over one Novice coop, one Training coop, and one Prelim roll top.  After that, we were ready to tackle all of the Training (and some Prelim) questions with ease. 

Novice Ramp

Training Rails

It is so exciting to experience the bond that Owen and I now share.  I purchased Owen 3 1/2 years ago, but it took until the end of last summer to really start working together as a team.  I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for us. 

Training water….and Prelim water.

Training Water 2  Prelim Water

Going down!

Log Drop 3

Up and over the Lady Bug combination.

Lady Bug

My first Trakehner!

Trakehaner

After getting the horses settled back in the barn, we headed to downtown Aiken for lunch at Betsy’s On The Corner.  I had a root beer, chicken wrap, and sweet potato fries.

Later that evening, we had dinner at Takosushi.  They boast that they have the best sushi and Southwest cuisine in Aiken.  I must agree!  I had the most amazing Mexican and Japanese cuisine you can image – all under the same roof. 

Aiken 2013: Dressage Boot Camp (Day 5)

Mar 21 2013
25
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Monday night, Aiken had several severe thunderstorms which brought colder weather for our Tuesday morning.  40s and 50s feels cold in Aiken, but I’m sure it would seem warm compared to the wintery weather my friends in St. Louis and Lexington are experiencing. 

After checking on the horses in the barn, we headed to Stable View Farm to watch David O’Connor give private lessons to members of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) High Performance Team.  The High Performance Team targets talented horse and rider combinations who could represent the United States in future championship teams. 

I watched Becky Holder and her horse Can’t Fire Me (grey horse in picture) and Erin Sylvester and her horse No Boundaries (bay horse in pictures) jump through several gymnastic exercises to work on rider position.

Becky Holder  Erin Sylvester

I also saw Jennie Brannigan and her horse Cambalda in their dressage lesson.

Jennie Brannigan

It was inspiring to watch such talented horses and riders.

Next we visited the Aiken Saddlery & Supply to do some tack shopping.  Then we headed back to the barn to get our horses ready for dressage lessons.  Megan taught us in groups of 3 and had us go through a drill team like exercise.  It taught us how to pay attention and ride every stride to get the most out of our horses during our dressage rides. 

Towards the end of the lesson, Megan spent a few minutes helping Owen and I with our canter.  It has improved a lot over the last several months!  I guess all of that time doing flat work in the indoor arena has paid off.  (And of course I couldn’t do any of this without the knowledge I learned last summer during my time as a working student).

Trot 2

Canter 2

Canter 3

After our dressage lessons, we headed to Café Rio Blanco for a wonderful Cuban feast.  I had grilled shrimp, black beans, sweet plantains and yucca with a side of chimichurri sauce.  Yum!

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