Monday, 5 a.m.: I’m up, and I’m making eggs, because I’ve got quite a day ahead of me. Allison is already downstairs feeding and braiding Midgey and Tres, who we are taking to a schooling show at the beautiful Morningside Training Farm, home to my friend Skyeler Voss’ eventing stable, and a series of terrific little combined tests. She and manager Kristin have graciously allowed us to ride our dressage tests before the event starts. I’m trying to get in as many shots at the Grand Prix as possible before I head to Florida in January; Allison is one third level test away from her USDF bronze medal and wanted a chance to get in the ring before she rides at our last recognized show of the year next week.
6:30 a.m.: Well, we’re here. In the dark and in the cold. It’s dark because it’s early, but it’s also dark because the sun is coming up on the other side of the mountain. And we can’t figure out how to get from the parking area to the arenas. So we’re walking through the fields, fully dressed in our white breeches and jackets (trying to psych ourselves into the frame of mind we have at a “real” show; alas, unsuccessful), at 39 degrees, trying to find the gap in the woods. And all I can think is, “Thank GOD we’re the first ones here,” because that’s my name as big as anything on the side of the trailer; there’s no hiding your own stupidity with marketing like that.
7:30 a.m.: Mom to the rescue. Because we took so long finding the path to the rings, we’re running a little late. But Mama Sprieser has grabbed our numbers for us, so we’re on our horses and off to the ring. Allison has a good test, some feeling-each-other-out mistakes, and she learns a TON about how to ride Tres to maximum efficiency for next week.
Midge is super. He warms up terrific and stays in front of me through all the piaffe/passage, and while I totally drop the ball in the canter and make my usual dumbass mistakes (15 ONES, LAUREN! DON’T STOP RIDING AT 13!!), I learn something: When I take a deep breath and wait, Midge shows up. When I clamp my leg on and panic, Midge does not show up. Next time, I’m going to (try to) remember this in the canter as well as the pi-pa tour. He still gets a 66 percent with lots of mistakes, and I’m very chuffed with him.
8:15 a.m.: The boys are back in the trailer, and we’re flying home to a little Chinese fire drill: Midge and Tres out, Ella and Fender in. The latter and I are going to Michael’s for two days of lessons.
8:45 a.m.: And we pull in the driveway to the sight of working student Molly limping up the hill from turnout. Oh, grand.
One of the horses stomped her foot pretty good as she turned him out, and it’s already turning colors. I banish her to the couch with some anti-inflammatories and an icepack, corral some stall-cleaning help from one of the farmhands, help Allison get the rest of the horses out, and throw a sandwich in a cooler in time to get Ella and Fender on the trailer and on the road by 9:30. Nice.
2:30 p.m.: We’re here, and as I listen to the screaming, it occurs to me that I’ve not taken just Ella and Fender together anywhere, just them, that I can recall. Ella bonds with whoever I throw her in a trailer with, but Fender. When Fender and Midge have travelled together, there’s a little silly hollering to each other, but this is excruciating. Fender is standing in his stall, bucking and wheeling about, and screeching like he’s being tortured. It is ABSURD.
Fortunately, Ella is reasonably focused and works great. She is getting better and better every day, and the trot sets have paid off—some things, like the strength of her back overall, are even better than before the wound on her leg got away from me. Some things, naturally, aren’t there yet, and we pick on those: the piaffe and passage, the uphill self-carriage instead of the work I’ve been doing in a little lower neck, the canter pirouettes. She works hard and is still full of joie de vivre at the end, even when her muscles have pooped out. I’m thrilled.
Fender, however, is not so charming. He is WIRED FOR SOUND. I’ve never had him be this tight and hot to my leg, which is sort of fun, mostly because I’m nuts and a sucker for the crazy ones. If I’m really honest with myself, Fender’s been finding opportunities to push my buttons for the last couple of weeks, and this conversation about The Rules Of The World was probably going to happen anyway, but this is clearly the time to get it started. We work on FORWARD, no matter what, and ACCEPTING THE LEG, no matter what. Fender thinks this is animal cruelty but eventually settles in and works fairly well.
After an hour, Michael says, “Good, now he’s finally tired.” Yeah. Not so much. He’s still dancing around on the crossties, calling to Ella. Good grief.
Tuesday, 7 a.m.: After a wonderful dinner and a great night’s sleep (I always sleep well at the Barisones'; it feels like vacation, not work!), I’m back in the ring with Ella, who feels terrific, like yesterday didn’t make her tired or sore in the least. I’m SO proud of her and how far she’s come! I even make some super half-steps without a whip, and the first decent canter pirouettes we’ve been able to produce since her injury. MY GIRL IS BACK!!
Fender is just as big a loon on Day 2 as Day 1, but he has a little less fight in him, thank GOD. In the end, we’re making some fantastic quick, energetic trot and canter on a circle, moving off my leg without kvetching, including some pretty steep-angled shoulder-in that would normally have had him tangled up behind, with or without his travel-induced excitement. At one point, I put my leg on, and Fender puts one ear back like he’s thinking but doesn’t answer right away, and Michael bursts out laughing.
“It’s like there’s a little Fender Angel on one shoulder and a little Fender Devil on the other, and he’s debating which one to listen to.”
He wisely listens to the Fender Angel, produces some super work, and loads up into the trailer with his sister (with much hollering) still not remotely tired. Swell.
4 p.m.: My acupuncturist and chiropractor both independently give me good news: The stretching regime I’ve been religiously following has left me in GREAT shape. I hardly need anything put back into place. This is a BIG DEAL: I see them both every two weeks like clockwork to keep me going, and a good report from them means I’m doing something really right. Hoorah!
And more medical good news: Molly’s foot is not broken, merely bruised to high heaven. So she’s going to be right as rain soon, as will Fender, who upon returning home immediately forgets about his love affair with Ella and returns to his normal self. Ella is being upgraded to Midgey’s trot set level. I have a normal day of lessons Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a clinic I’m teaching Friday-Saturday, with a clinic with my wonderful friend and sports psychologist Jenny Susser happening at home Saturday-Sunday (thank goodness for my amazing team who’s making THAT possible), and then a day of seeing sale horses with a client Monday, a normal day of lessons on Tuesday, and then we take 15 horses and riders to the BLM Finals, our last recognized show of the year.
So yeah, no big deal. Just another week at home.