OK, here is some more of the rest of the story.....
Sam did her Dressage phase of the CDE on Friday. It was not a good day. I thought she drove a pretty good test. It was honest, precise, by the letter, and on the money. Transitions were exact, AJ had pretty good extension (yes, it could have been better), and collection was his usual pretty good. There were bad points also. He broke (about 2 steps) one time, went flat one time, and he threw his head once before the rein back. I figured it was not a stellar performance, not their best dressage test but also not their worse. I was thinking 4th or 5th place....
Sterling thought it would be a 3rd or 4 th and most folks in the gallery were saying it was a good test, not flashy, but at least middle of the pack. Once again, I was reminded that the only opinion that counts is the judge's.... Sam earned a 70 and finished 9th out of 13. OK, it was a dissapointment but we can deal with it. It was still Live Oak and she was still competing against some very top drivers and very expensive ponies. There were still 2 more days and it was not over yet!
Today was the marathon. They finally had their chance to drive the Gulch, Eagles Nest, Millers Crossing, and all the rest for the very first time. They ended up driving a very nice marathon, finishing 3rd overall. They had a fast marathon, sailed through the Gulch like they had been there before, and had no problems with the course to speak of. There were 2 turnovers (I think) at the Gulch and another carriage went up on its side in Hazard 3 but was saved by a very good 'gator. One driver threw off her 'gator in hazard 3 and kept on going not knowing she had lost her gator. She finished the hazard and the 'gator finally caught up to her about 100 yds down the course (very out of breath). Once again the competition was the toughest Sam has come up against in her driving experience.
I'm not sure where Sam stands overall for the two days (dressage and marathon). Rose and I left before the final scores for the day were up. Rumors and general concensus placed her about 5th place but I won't know 'til the morning.
Tomorrow morning is the cones course. Cones are usually one of Sam and AJ's strong points. Who knows? Maybe she will pick up a place or two if she gets lucky. I'll bet the difference between 2nd place and 5th or 6th place isn't more than maybe 2 points. I hope she finishs in the ribbons just because it's Live Oak. We'll see what happens.....
I dont have pics of competition yet but I do have some more good pics of the Gulch and Millers Crossing (the water hazard) to share.
Sami and Team AJ sailed through the water hazard flawlessly and for a time had the fastest time.
The water hazard was a tough one to observe due to the bridge being in the middle. The competitors had to drop down into the water at least 4 times for intermediate and 5 times for FEI level. There were 3 of us observing --2 over on one side and myself on the other. Gates A and E were on one side, B, F and C on the other and gate D was sort of out of the path a little causing a couple of drivers to miss it.
The best time of the day was Intermediate single pony at 44.95 seconds. A very few single FEI/Advanced horses got to 46 something with 6 gates.
Boots Wright absolutely flew through the hazard with her 4 chestnuts ponies. Lisa Stroud had some bad luck and got hung up on the bridge but with some superb driving got her ponies backed and into the right slot!!!
Of course Chester Webber was impressive and had a bunch of groupies running from hazard to hazard. His horses have something extra that is hard to discribe. They are bold, forward, animated--all of which falls flat.
Many many fine drivers did a wonderful job. We had no serious incidents, only one hold and 2 eliminations.
I would love to land this job again. The hardest part was non-horse people meandering across the bridge (which they are allowed to do) between horses. Occasionally we had to get urgent with our requests to get off of the bridge because of a horse on course. ONe lady just stopped and looked at me when I (after asking her nicely and more urgently each time) told her to get off of the bridge in my best teacher voice. Actually it wasn;t too bad on crowd control--we had 2 teachers and a parole officer handling the croweds.
I saw drivers who have been prelim this year step up to Intermediate for this show. Maybe next year-----
It was a long long day but I would not have changed it for anything. WEather was beautiful if not a bit hot, nice shade and breeze down in our little pond.
The one thing that surprised me was the number of horses that were fatigued by time they got to us. We were hazard 5 of 7 on a section E of about 7.6 km. Section A was 6 km with a section D of 1 km. Hazard 3 was the Eagle's Nest-a pretty difficult one with the Gulch right before us. There was not a lot of cantering through the water--more walking or slugging through the water.
I too spent the day beebopping around as a "driving groupie photographer wanna be"... along with about a gazillion others. It was lots of fun for just that reason alone. Met some fun folk in the process and had a terrific time.
I arrived shortly after start time. Word of mouth later in the day said there was an upset in the gulch, noone hurt, just an overturn of a buggy I believe. That was the only negative incident I heard of. It was great fun, spectacular facilities, yummy tasty freebee food presented by the Tailgate Party folk which was another competition within itself... a delightful one at that. Categories for judging there included most creative, presentation and originality both in setup and menu and more...don't recall all but thought it was a great idea. Lots of other people who were there seemed to agree as they drew quite a crowd and kept the crowds content during the duration as the sun grew hotter.
I spent a good part of the middle portion of the day around the Eagle's nest as I was getting nice light and shots of the outside gates there and the exit gate when the teams really dug in to make it to the timer. When the FEI started, the exit gate was on the other side of the obstacle so I switched to the Gulch and shot approach and climbing shots onto the bridge. It was fun. It is not easy to do good driving shots as seeing person is one experience but in a still you have lumber everywhere and often blocking key areas which makes it a bit tougher to shoot. You have to choose your points of view wisely.
Wasn't working the job but I handed over shots to the official photographer in exchange for some prints which I will pick up later today. So I sort of helped out in his coverage yet in an unofficial capacity. I was also taken very much by the beauty of the actual grounds and shot some pictures of the teams travelling from obstacle to obstacle in the expansive Live Oak shady journey, a sight in itself of serenity and natural beauty.
Anyway for those of you who were more closely involved hope it was a fun day. I saw Sterling go twice and in impressive form. His first trip through the Eagle's nest blew me away as he did a short trip through that seemed to take half the time of anyone else. I even wondered if it were correct but it was and everyone was Wowed by it. Ran into a few friends here and there and all in all had a very nice day. The Budwiser team on display at the end of the day was also memorable. Lots of wonderful arts and crafts and driving stuff in vendor row.
This is my third year I have attended the event and each year seems to be a bit more. This being a selection year of course increased that yet again. Wonderful sunny day didn't hurt either. And yes the Weber groupies were aplenty as where we stood catching the approach to the bridge, few spectators were until Weber was to arrive, suddenly we were full up. His of course has a very active forward team who are very agile maneuvering through the obstacles. Always putting on a fine performance for all. When he completed the obstacle, the spectators who had so suddenly arrived were already in full flight for the fifth obstacle, the water.
Chester Weber is one of our very few 4-in-hand CDE drivers and is very competitive internationally. His family owns the land Live Oak is held on. The family horse interests range from racing Thorobreds (had a horse in the Derby last year) to drafts to Chester's CDE driving - hunting too, I think.
Chester started driving in Draft classes with the family Clydesdales. Met Jimmy Fairclough who coached him in driving light horses while he was at school in Newton, NJ. We saw his first competition with a single at Gladstone, back in the day. Quickly moved up to pairs and after a successful few years with pairs moved up again to fours. Left Jimmy's barn at some point and hooked up with Tucker Johnsons barn and is now back at the family property with his own set-up. He took himself on European tours for several years to hone his skills and he is a top international driver.
He has gone about the whole thing with dedication and was one of the first to really go out and get some corporate sponsorship. When Team Weber shows up - you know it - duded up trucks and trailers, whole team in team jackets, etc. More recently he and Tucker have been working with Michael Freund and Boyd Excell training here and going to Europe to compete internationally
At the bigger events the 4s drivers draw a crowd wherever they go. We don't have so many its still a thrill to see each and every one. Most of our 4s drivers in the US are and have always been involved in Coaching rather than CDE.
When Team Weber shows up - you know it - duded up trucks and trailers, whole team in team jackets, etc.
I admire him as a driver a lot, and yes, this is absolutely true. My introduction to combined driving was watching them arrive for Georgia one year... My jaw was on the FLOOR... And remember my background is H/J and Saddlebreds, neither of which disciplines are exactly unfamiliar with showmanship and bling!
I love the glamor they bring to the sport, I really do. It's very cool.
"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief
Well, Live Oak is over and it was great. On Fri. Rylee was very relaxed and had a pretty good test, for her. She actually walked both times. Her score was a 71, sitting 10th. Our first CDE at Blackprong was a 78 and the second was a 73 and those were preliminary tests. So she is improving in dressage. Sat. we were the third one to go in the morning. Perfect! Sec. A was a cruise in the park. My energetic mare was extremely relaxed. We did the walk beautifully, cruising along, Rylee looking at the scenery but walking. I thought we were too slow till the 500 meter mark and I checked the time. We were fine. We finished the 1 K in 9 minutes 24 seconds, I think. (I forgot to pick up my packet today) The head judge who was waiting at the vet check and was also at the last Blackprong as a judge commented to me that the mare was so much better in dressage. I told her I was ecstatic with her. The hazards were just as I planned except for the water. Rylee objected a little to going into the water at an angle. But she eventually went. I believe we were 9th in marathon. Cones were at 8:12 this morning. She was very good but we did have 2 balls down and a few time penalties. Afterwards I parked her near the fence where I could watch other goes and this mare fell asleep and did not move for over an hour. Miracle! This mare has done a lot of growing up this weekend. It will be interesting to see where she is at in 2 weeks at Sunshine State and then she will be done competing till next fall.
There were several double clean cones goes in the IP, not so many in the IH. Advanced had it really tough and I think the only double clean might have been Keady Cadwell. Olof Larson and Bill Peacock came into cones very close in scores. Olof was a little behind and had 2 balls down. I thought he had lost it, but then Bill Peacock with Beau had 4 balls. It was very exciting.
As we were leaving the Budweiser horses were being hitched. That was really interesting watching and asking questions. Several of them are still very young and for 2 it is their first road trip. Their liability insurance must be humongous. Pat Parelli had his round pen and bleachers set up in the middle of the infield of hazards and had a large crowd around watching his show. Seemed to be more people today than yesterday, but probably not.
Evidently I missed a lot of the free food at the tail gate parties yesterday. Bridletrace had wonderful ribs and somebody had a fruit cup to die for. And I did not even know about it till today.
I did not attend the activities today but at the end of the day, I dropped by to find Joan and Bob hard at work in the trailer. With that I selected from my shots and ran a few prints, then we went out and had dinner together, and talked about the event. It really was quite a lovely affair, very interesting, very well run and yes the tailgate parties were well worth knowing about and I am glad to say I was right in the middle of them yesterday...Yummmm!!! And yes I did do my share of sampling!!!
Thanks for the photos and naratives. Some year I'll get to see it.
This year was not possible. Mom's memorial service last Wed. Followed immediately by the Kanapaha Spring Garden Festival. The festival was intense. We were short staffed yet exceeded all previous sales records by 50%. Got in from that at 10:00 pm last night.
Sat was intensified by Mary getting Bucked off her horse HARD right at the start of the Fox Hunt. The meant my cell was ringing constantly as the plant sale was opening. Of course I couldn't get out of the sale to be with her but it was gratifying she wanted me there when the chips were down. Got her to our freindly doctor and got her all X rayed. Nothing broken. Just sore all over. Little Annie went on and rode the hunt well.
Then it was the HUnt Ball at Jumbolair (John travolta lives there woo hoo) Little Annie had her heart set on that so I took her. Black tie is not my style but it was a great party all the same. I swear the ladies of the hunt had more beautiful gowns than last year. Annie recieved a pin and a plaque for her work with the hounds. Pretty good for the littlest kid in the deal. Got home from that a 1:00 AM
Heck of a weekend!
Gotta go. Well over 100,000 little plants shipping today and Son-In-Law has jury duty!!!
I know I'm a day late with our final update but here it is. Sam and I took yesterday off (she is on Spring Break) and went fishing on the Gulf Of Mexico for the day. No ponies, carriages, shows, paperwork, tests, or any of the other stuff (including my cell phone) that usually dominates our world. We caught a bunch of fish (Red Fish, Speckled Sea Trout, Pompano, and Jack Cravelle to name just a few), got a little sunburned, drank a lot of soda pop, and just had a great day.
Sam and AJ have taken the whole week off and I even cancelled Sam's Tuesday and Thursday driving lessons. She has two training horses she has been working with (one she is conditioning for the owner and the other she worked on loading onto the trailer, standing to hitch, and walking instead of going fast while being driven) and they are both going home tomorrow. It will be an easy going week.
As has already been posted (thanks Guys) Sam finished Live Oak with a 5th place ribbon and she won Intermediate Single Pony Cones. Personally, I am very happy with the weekend. We learned a few things, we had some fun, Sam rode the Mechanical Bull , and at 16 years old she took home a ribbon from one of the top shows in the country.
I think we proved once again that a CDE is won or lost in the Dressage Arena. I would like to say a bit about this if I may. My first impression after her Dressage Test was that she had been judged a bit harshly. There were a number of folks in attendance that agreed with my thoughts. There was even mention that Sam had just had her first taste of the infamous "Haflinger Bias" in the Dressage Ring. After much thought I have to say I disagree.
I thought Sam had a good test except for a couple things. Of course I did, I'm her father. In reality he broke once (regardless of how many steps), he threw his head, and he went flat in a transition. This was not the local show at the feed lot or a 4-H show at the fairgrounds. It was Live Oak, one of the toughest competitions in North America. You don't come to a show like this looking for a break or to try something new. It doesn't make any difference how old you are, how long you have been driving, or any other extenuating circumstance involved. You offer up your performance to be judged and held to the highest standards and let the chips fall where they may.
It brings to mind what Hardy Zanke told me when we were considering a Haffie for Sam. I asked him about the "Haffie Bias". Long story short he said "If a Haflinger earns the points, he gets the points" and I believe that's what happened at Live Oak. Given the level of judging and competition and trying to be as realistic as I can I believe Sam and AJ got the score they earned.
Now, back to the show..... I am posting pictures here but only Dressage and Cones. The photographer apparently got NO pics of Sam in the hazards. Needless to say, if anyone there got any hazard pics of competitor #3, a Haflinger pony pulling a red and black WCC 140 Batmobile with the driver and gator in black with solid red helmets I would love to get copies.....
I have to take the time to tell y'all about the presentation carriage she was driving. It was a Doe Run 3 phase vehicle. This means you can run the marathon, pull off the gator step and fenders, and do the cones and dressage as a presentation vehicle. Great idea but in reality an example of "Jack of all trades, master of none". With the gator step off the vehicle is unbalanced and to light in the rear end causing the brakes to lock up whenever they are applied. Through experimentation (thanks Sterling) I realized if I added weight (a 50 pound bag of horse feed) to the rear of the vehicle the brakes worked fine. Problem was, a 50 pound bag of feed looks bad strapped on the vehicle in front of the judge.
We put Sam's wicker basket on the back of the Doe Run and I had a friend cut a piece of steel the same size as the interior of the basket and 1 and 1/2 inches thick. The piece of steel weighes 72 pounds. Now the brakes worked great but the steel kept wanting to slide around and come loose. At the end of her dressage test it had almost come off the carriage. Here is a picture of the basket with the steel inside....
I knew she would be driving much faster in cones so I had to find a better way to hold the basket down. We wrapped the steel in towels so we actually had to wedge it inside the basket. Then I found some of the rubber no slip that keeps things from sliding in cabinets and such. We put that on the carriage and used duct tape to hold it down on the carriage. Then we made loops of duct tape and put them on the bottom of the basket so sticky side was out. When we put the basket with the tape on the bottom on the no slip it felt pretty secure. Using 2 brown stirrup leathers together I made a strap that went all the way around the basket and the carriage and we were good to go I hoped.
As Sam gets older she is starting to try things her way. This time it was her turnout. In dressage she wore a blue plaid jacket with a black scarf held by a Lapis pin. She had a custom wool apron in black with a navy piping and monogram and she finished the look with a blue flower arrangement by Sherri Lower on her helmet. She wore black flat shoes. I wasn't sure about the whole look but more and more she has her own ideas of what is a "cool" look. She got 3 eights and 2 sevens for her presentation scores so I'm thinking it wasn't to shabby.
For cones she wore a dark green jacket with a gold, white, and green silk scarf. She used a plain black wool apron, flat black shoes, and an arrangement of green peacock feathers on her helmet. I have to admit, it looked pretty good.
In cones she had a great run. She won cones for her class. The maximum time for Intermediate was 3:00 and the maximum for Advanced was 2:49. Sam and AJ did their cones in 2:40 double clean. They were moving. Live Oak had the drive off cones. That is to say if a driver ran the first 16 gates double clean he/she then ran the second 5 gates for a time considered a run off. I know this is not the traditional cones method but I believe it is the way it will be in the future.
Sam ran double clean and if you look closely at the pictures you can see they were moving right along. Yes, the basket stayed on !
Live Oak was an incredible experience. We look forward to doing it again next year. It is a beautiful venue, great competition, and a ton of friendly volunteers. We will be back next year looking for bigger and better things .
Thanks to Sherri Lower of Hats Off Boutique for her help designing Sam's turnout and photo credits to Branam Photography....
*Charter Member-Blue Tarp State Driving Clique* "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find you get what you need" Mick Jagger