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September 15, 2010

Wearing My Coaching Hat At Morven

Photo by Sara Lieser.

Last weekend I was back at Morven Park, but wearing my trainer hat, instead of my riding helmet. I'm sure that keeping seven students cool, getting them all to the ring, prepared and on time, sounds like a lot of work, but I'll take it any day over showing myself. Juggling my own horses' temperaments, swapping coats and trying to keep a bunch of different tests straight? THAT'S work. But coaching, braiding and mucking stalls, especially with my great group of ladies? Easy-peasy.

Not that it was a drama-free weekend. Two of the seven keep their horses with me, so I decided to take my two-horse trailer instead of my giant four-horse. Nicole and I had everything all loaded, but when I lowered the ramp to pop the horses on, the ramp snapped right off and fell to the ground. YIKES. All I could think was, thank goodness we're in my driveway, stationary, instead of at 70 mph on the interstate!

Changing vehicles left us running later than expected, so we were a little frantic on Friday, but by Saturday everyone was organized and cool under fire. Virginia and her new gelding Roadie were great together, even when Roadie was a bit of a squirrel, and got good scores for their efforts. Francine and Cutter were super-steady, and took ribbons in both her classes, including a big 66 percent in training 4. Anna showed her Appy mare and made consistent improvements from test to test. She had a blast. Andi improved her Ali from first to second test, and while it was only his first show, Jessica's non-compete horse, Wicked, acted like he'd been doing it his whole life. Last but certainly not least, Kit and her delightful young sale horse Devlin got great scores and a blue ribbon. It doesn't get much better than that!

Naturally, my not being a participant meant the weather was pretty stellar, and even when it rained Sunday morning, it wasn't that bad. And even with students, students everywhere, I had a few hours of down time both days, so I got to do some spectating.

It was both encouraging and disheartening. The FEI classes were huge, and I saw some super horses and riders. A 7-year-old Holsteiner won both days of PSG, and you’d have never guessed his age: balanced, uphill, comfortable and confident in the work. Wowza.

A lovely junior rider I know did her first Prix St. Georges, and not only did she not throw up (a win in my book), but she also produced lovely, quiet work. And I saw one of the most wonderful professors I’ve ever seen, ridden by a very nice amateur rider at Intermediaire II; they had a clean test with some STUNNING passage-piaffe-passage transitions. They’d have been the envy of many on the team.

I also saw some pretty yucky stuff. Horses with gaping open mouths and tight curb reins. Riders for whom the sitting trot was still a challenge—at the FEI levels? Not OK. One rider held on to the front of her saddle in the medium and extended trot…which didn’t help. Of course that disappoints me, but I’m more disappointed in the trainers who let their students ride so far above where they should be. That benefits no one, not the trainers, nor the riders, and certainly not the horses.

The good outweighed the bad, both at the upper and lower levels. I saw some FABULOUS young horses ridden tactfully and politely and FORWARD (joy in my heart!), and the handful of junior riders I got to watch all clearly were getting good instruction on their positions. One little peanut on a teeny weenie pony showing intro could have been mistaken for a Bereiter—great posture, quiet hinds, long legs with heels down… and finished off with a BIG smile at the end of her test. Perfect!

I also challenged myself to a run on the cross-country course, which was hard but also great, and I’m very pleased. Still no regrets about not being an advanced eventer—that leaf pit jump could be a feature at a theme park on Halloween. EEK.

And now we’re home, back to work. I’m getting everybody up and running: Ella and Midge for our clinic with Michael Barisone September 25-26, Fender for Devon. They all feel GREAT, though Fender had hind shoes put on yesterday for the first time (the ground’s still like concrete, and I couldn’t wait any longer), and is pretty convinced that we lined them with concrete. All our progress towards a connection between hind legs and bridle? Hasta la vista. Crap. Hope it comes back in time for the Dixon Oval!

LaurenSprieser.com
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