Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 6

Sorry this is so late; it’s been crazy coming home!
Wes got picked up at 3pm yesterday and we got home around 1am- but had to wait up for the shipper to bring Wes home which ended up being like 5am-ish. Sometime after that I slept for a little bit.
Yesterday morning wasn't any less crazy than any other part of the day. Karen and Amy were supposed to ride their test for Hong Kong at 7am. So everyone got to the horse center an hour early so we could all watch. Something came up and they didn't ride until almost 8.
It was really good to watch them basically have a lesson. It’s funny how they were being told to correct the same things that they were telling us to all week. We all went down and sat next to the truck and could hear everything they were being told- it was really cool. It’s good to know that even at the Olympic level it’s the same basic things that can go wrong when riding- obv on a different level, but still.
So after Karen and Amy rode some of us went over to the jumping ring and helped David and Cathy set up the course for later. Then those of us who were up there (there were more up by now) walked the course we were to do with David. He talked about how a two or three stride IS a two or a three stride where as when you get up to 4 and 5 strides your able to add a stride or even take one out. He explained how that if you do add a stride it’s important that you make up the few seconds else where in the course- which could be a simple as just changing a line between fences to shorten the distance. Most of us had never thought that much about a stadium course.
Then starting with the 4th group we all went up to ride the course. I stayed up to help with jumps. (I will forever be jump crew...) Karen, Cathy and Amy did a rotation on warming people up- the warm up ring was set up just like it would be at an event just with out the cross rail because David thinks its stupid. After you warmed up with someone you were sent up to the ring and rode over the course with David. Then you talked with who ever warmed you up and went back and did the course again with some revisions. As we worked from the fourth group up to the first the jumps went up.
I got up there and Karen warmed me up. Before hand- for some reason we had to make fun of the way Boston kids talk-- wicked pissa and all that fun stuff. Warm up was good and we agreed that the short spot was a much better decision than the long for Wesman. So we went up to do the course. It was alright until the 9th jump which we knocked down which wasn’t horrible but it was also the 12th jump. Karen and Amy were yelling at me to shorten and wait while David put the rail back-- I tried my best but I couldn't shorten that much! So I circled--and got yelled at for it-- so then Karen and Amy decided that I should just go and run David over who was still standing at the jump... So I rode forward 'cause I like to think I do what I'm told. And when I was ohhh about 2 strides away David kicked the rail down... I jumped it anyway- which I guess was good... So I got to go back and jump the last few again (I had a beautiful 4 1/2 strides in a line previous to hitting the rail.) This time I was allowed to jump the last jump for real!! It was great.
So when everyone was done riding we cooled out and went over to lunch- for the last time. We ate and then each group had to do a presentation on what they learned this week. Our group did Goldilocks and the Three Bears REMIX! It was wicked funny- and we got to make fun of everyone at the same time (only group that took at shot at Amy-- winners!) The other groups did funny stuff too- one did "O'Connor Idol", another made fun of their horses and all the crazy problems they came with- it was great.
After we all did our "presentations" Karen and David got up to talk for a little bit before everyone went their separate ways. They mentioned that pretty much everyone got so much better during the week as did their horses. Then Karen tried to drag Max up to do something but she refused. Sooo apparently Max won a butt load of stuff at like Jersey Fresh or something for being the best groom ever. Among all the stuff she won was this wheelie saddle grooming cart thinger that she named Hannibal ('cause it’s freaking huge). Since they all have more than enough stuff like that she decided to give it away. And in honor of Max and her amazingness it was to be given to the person who had the best "horse management" around the barn and kind of the best over all presentation (pretty much HM and tack and turnout- pony club yay!). So wicked cool- I won Hannibal. Then they did another award? for most improved. This one I think would be wicked hard to pick a winner since every horse and rider changed so much over the week. The winner of this one got a custom cross country vest from one of their sponsors-sweet! Aaaand this girl Carli- who was my best friend there- won it! Wicked cool.
Then we said our goodbyes and everyone was gone by 2pm. If it went on for another week... or month... or year... I would SO do it. It was great!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 5

Today was very interesting!
This morning we started with a lecture by Max. She talked about boots and wraps for cross country and it ventured into boots and wraps in general and then kind of into more of stable wraps and some how we got onto fly spray? Yeah, we're a terribly unfocused group of people. Then instead of the bull and that stool thing we played with the puppies. They're super cute.
Karen with the super distracting puppy Boston.
After all of us getting super distracted we went out to the cross country course. David took 4 or 5 horses and worked them over jumps and stuff outside. Wesman was one of the horses he took out. He started with a tiny log... moved to a coop... then up a bank... and down... then the ditch...and finally the water. Yeah and this one time Wes did everything. He really put his head down to check everything out- which I am told is good. David let him just walk into the water and hang out there for a minute or two and check everything out. He trotted a circle in the water and eventually had him jumping out over a log. It was pretty cool.
It took a while to get all the horses that were brought out over everything so we finished up just in time for lunch. At lunch I passed around a nice little thank you card for Jan- the woman who put together all of our food at the horse center. Then Max talked about all the crazy sponsors they have. It was pretty much "hey we get a lot of free stuff. be jealous".
After lunch we all went out to do cross country for real. We split up into our groups and headed out. My group had Karen again and we started at the banks. It was cool, everything we did mounted Wesman had already done without me- no excuses! We went down the bank, then up the bank, then down the bank 5 strides to a jump... then up the bank 1 stride down the bank over a log, then we put all of them together. Then we went over to the water. We all just walked in and wandered around first- and we did it. Next we trotted in and jumped a vertical out, then jumped in and jumped out, then a bounce in and 4 strides to a vertical out. Then we put an odd little course together going in and out of the water like 3 times. After that we went down to the ditches. We did it a few times- one time we were on the side of the ditch closest to home and Wes started doing his backwards thing up the hill towards home. But seriously we did like two seconds of moving his haunches to the right and we were over it. Next we were suppose to head over to the double bank but David said it wasn't worth it so we decided to put a small course together. We did a little cabin coop thing (novice-ish) to a like a bench thinger (training-ish), over to a two stride into the water, 3-4 strides out of the water, left turn over a log jumping into the water (training-ish) 3 stride bending line left to a vertical out of the water and then five strides bending to the right to a barrel jump (novice-ish)-- the last time we did it we turned right and jumped back over a log into the water.

HOLY CRAP WESMAN WAS SO GOOD! There was one little thing over at the ditch but we got over it really quick and life went on... aaaaaaand this other time doing that last course I mentioned coming to the water. Yeah I learned that when you ride your horse "backwards" he stops (cause ya tell him to) and when you decided "what the hell I'll lean into it and see if he jumps" that he doesn't jump and you fall off and its wicked stupid. I landed on my feet and was still holding the reins but Karen was crying she was laughing so hard at me. She made me get on from the ground- that's a long way up, and apparently I owe her a bottle of wine now- but I'm not old enough to buy wine so I don't get it. Yeah- the jump was like barely 2'6". It was wicked funny. (She told me some story about how she was at an Event- in warm up and fell off over a cross rail with Biko and everybody saw it- So I'm in good company with wicked stupid falls.) I got back on and did it all again and it was super. But seriously Wesman was SOOOO good!!
So tomorrow morning Amy and Karen and riding the Olympic Dressage Test. One of the judges from Sydney is coming to watch and give them feed back and all that stuff. Apparently he coached David when he was younger and years later judged him at the Olympics. David said he had tears streaming down his face the whole time he was judging. So that will be wicked cool to watch! A week sure goes by fast around here...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 4

This morning started like every morning- the bull, the stool and a lecture.
Today Amy talked with us about CPR and First Aid. She said it was something like the 8 hour class required by the ICP in about 20mins. During her lecture David got to die- the dogs were terribly concerned. She taught us the ABC's, all about choking, and bleeding. Kind of the basics but we got to practice on each other so it was really good. (We all got to die.)
Then we moved to more of the the ground work on the line. We ran through the yields pretty quick and then worked over a ground rail. It was really cool to see the "line of pressure" and how slight a movement can change it. Some of us got the opportunity to move to the next exercise and have our horses stop half way over the rail (front legs in front of the rail, back legs in back of the rail). Wesman did it. With some help... from Karen.
Then we broke up into our groups and went off to do some more SJ work. My group rode with David. The tennis balls were back out and like magic we all could ride a circle- so then one set was substituted for a ground pole. After we all could handle it we moved on to a jump. Figure eight over a vertical in the center of the ring. Most everyone was allowed to canter though the whole exercise- but I had to trot immediately after the jump for like 5 seconds then canter on. It made such a difference!! We went on to do a 5 stride line- vertical in, oxer out- I had to trot in the middle. Fun times. Wesman was so much better at paying attention when we had to trot and canter on- we eventually got to canter through the exercises and eventually put 6 jumps together on a number of different bending lines. Wesman was so good!
After we rode we cooled out and went to lunch. There were keishes? I don't know they were eggy and gross and Karen made me eat PB&J. But more importantly we talked about cross country. We went over the 4 different positions and the different variables that matter when jumping cross country. Karen got wicked excited during all of this and made us all watch that scene from Man from Snowy River like 8 times. Amy fell asleep and it was great.
So after talking all about cross country we went out there. We moved from our four groups down to two and went out to the cross country course. Our super huge group got Karen and Cathy and at first we worked on galloping position. Wes was good, I was good. Then we went to see how fast we were actually going. They had measured off 450m and put people at 350m and 400m. We went out on the track and they told us when we hit a minute and thus how fast we were going. Wes went a lovely 400mpm and was very good about the whole thing. After all the position timing stuff we went up to the top of a super huge hill and got to play Man from Snowy River. We walked it, then trotted it, then cantered it. It was wicked fun. THEN WE GOT TO JUMP!! It was only a tiny little coop. We were suppose to show the three main positions and that was it. Tomorrow we do real cross country. And I would like my horse to be bad. He has been so good this whole time- one tiny little something yesterday that didn't even count. Seriously, slam on the breaks and flip it in reverse! I want them to see it! Never thought I would be upset with my horse for being good but its driving me crazy!
Cross country took forever so we didn't get an afternoon lecture. However we did have a cook out at the top of the hill. The cookout was fun- Karen's mom and dad came and they were super adorable as always. After eating we played Jeopardy. I guess the groups we were put in were unfair so they had North vs. South. (Apparently we're in some big deal civil war area where they went up one mountain and then up the other in this valley or something and hey look civil war- Stonewall Jackson the whole deal- David gave us a history lesson... it was like school.) And for the record the North won... again. We won by I think 600 points... Karen GAVE the South 500 to make it seem even, but seriously.
Then there was a little bit of wine, some IPOD-- Dancing. OHBOY. The party was cut short when Cathy's IPOD froze...

(Sorry I don't have pictures for today, dad fell asleep and I don't know where the camera is...)


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 3

Today we started again with the bull... which has been officially named "rooster on a rope"- but today Karen was really trying to see if we could end up riding bulls- one hand in the air, moving the bull all over- left and right up and down- CRAZY BIZ. David also brought out this stool thing that helps strengthen your core muscles. It was kinda like a hula hoop but sitting down and super awkward.
After the bull and the stool we went on to do some of the natural horsemanship stuff from yesterday. David said tomorrow we were going to try and put the front and back yields together at the same time. He took one girls horse and showed us what he meant:
Pretty much a leg yield thinger.

After that we went into our groups to ride on the flat. I was put in group two- of four. Not quite sure what that means but hey there you go. We had to name our groups so given that we have a 13.2hh palomino pony and then a bunch of big brown horses we named ours "Goldilocks and the four bays". So my group rode with Karen first. We did a quick review of the yields while mounted. Wes finally had a tiny bit of an issue when asking for the "head down" yield. A small kick out and a tiny buck with a tad of backing up left and right- but unfortunately he got over it on his own. I would super love Wesman to freak out like he does at home and everyone to see it and FIX IT! But he is more or less being good so I guess that's a good thing? Anyway- after all the yield reviews we went to work on direction! They had us on a 20m-ish circle and they set up a pair of tennis balls about two feet apart at four points on the circle. We were to ride though the tennis balls without touching them. After a few times of all of us hitting the balls Karen decided that anytime we hit one we were punished. I hit one and had to dismount and mount from the ground- but only once. After we all had some form of punishment for hitting the balls once or twice we shaped up and did it quite well from there on out. One of the horses was being pretty resistant to the yields when we were working on the circle so Karen decided to hope on and assess the situation. After that the rider and the horse really had a better understanding of what they were to do-wasn't prefect, not magic, but it was clearly better.-- We still didn't get to canter.

After the first riding session of the day we ate some lunch and talking about jumping. It was really focused on what changes from flat work and what doesn't. A really hard concept for a lot of people to understand was that the amount and type of contact really doesn't change from flat to jumping.

We then moved on to another riding session where we would get to jump! Our group with Amy this time and again began the lesson with a review of the yields. We talking a lot about position- esp the lower leg. She stressed that even though your jumping now the line from shoulder to hip to ankle shouldn't change. The only real difference is that your shoulders can be in front. She talked about how often people will put their lower leg out in front of them but that in fact this only gives you a false sense of security because when your leg is out in front of you your body goes back leaving you behind the motion when you jump. Amy talked about jumping position and how your lower leg position shouldn't change when your out of the tack. Also, specific to our group (we all had trouble with that keeping the same contact thing) she talked about releases. Apparently we were all super fans of planting our hands on the neck and forgetting about riding our horses. After a bunch of talking and a whole lot of walk trot and canter in jumping position (one of those if you cant feel it yet, you cant stop-feel the burn kinda deals: awesome!) we actually jumped. We started with ground poles and worked up to some little oxers. We were to trot one fence, halt, then go on to trot the next. (They were on like a 5 or 6 stride line.) The little pony in our group was having an awesome time being a poky little booger heading away from the barn and a bat out of hell heading to the barn-- sooo Amy asked Karen to hop on and see what she could do about the issue. After Karen rode the pony the little girl got back on and OMG it was so much better.

After we were done riding for the day we cooled out our horses and went to have another lecture given by Max. This time she taught us about braiding and then it kind of turned into some more generalized grooming topics. She taught us how she braids all of the horses- needle and thread- interesting. After we learned how Max braids Karen decided that Friday we all have to go to our riding session braided. Heythanks.

Then there was a surprise visit from David's horse- Walk on the Moon aka Dan aka Prozac. David had no idea he was coming and when he saw him immediately decided to do a demo of his whole tackless riding gig. He also showed us some of the longeing-ish stuff over a vertical- seriously that horse can jump. -- I guess Dan is going to Hong Kong for the para-olympics in Dressage- super cool!
So tomorrow I would like to assume that my group is riding with David and Cathy--but around here you never know!...

Monday, June 9, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 2

We started off the day today with the bull.... which I like to call Big Red. It was very, very interesting! David and Cathy worked the back of Big Red and Amy was up front... It stimulated the horse's movements to the extreme. It was kind of like buck, rear, buck, rear, buck, rear...
Here's Karen on Big Red.
After the bull biz David did a small lecture pretty much on Rider Responsibility. He went through his 5 communication responsibilities: Direction, Speed, Rhythm, Balance, Timing. Then he went to talk about pressure and his idea of the "bucket" horse. (Put 4 horses in a field and 1 bucket with food.- 1 horse will be eating out of the bucket, 2 will be whining because they aren't eating out of the bucket, and the last will be off to the side waiting for everyone else to finish eating then go see whats left.) He explained how we as riders should be the "bucket" person and not our horses. He went through a list of tools and aids to be used to help establish the leadership over the horse followed by a demo on all of the natural horsemanship stuff they do. He made it very clear that rope is not magic!

He taught us all about the four yields- hind end yield, front end yield, back up, and head down. Then we all went into the ring with our horses- and all of our new sick nasty western horse gear- and practiced the yields from the ground. We finished the work with everyone lined up on the center line back to back- we had to back our horses up away from us and keep them out on the rope-- all of us at the same time.
And we did it!
After we did some ground work we ate some lunch... Then got to ride for the first time!

We broke up into 4 random groups of about 5 and worked with all of the yields we did on the ground but from the saddle this time. I rode with Karen and Wes was pretty good with all of the yields. Our group was one lucky enough to make it up to the trot! (Trust me, this was way cool... trotting=awesome). He did all of the yields pretty well... but apparently I'm still wicked crooked when I ride! (Something to work on...) From this riding session the four instructors will break everyone up in to groups based on our levels- which we find out tomorrow morning when we ride "for real".

After we cooled our horses and cleaned up a bit we sat down with Max for another lecture. She taught us about studs. And having been to events all over the world with Karen, I think she knows what she's talking about. Max taught us the basic types of studs and when to use what. Then she went into some specifics just for fun. She showed us this one pair of studs that Amy used at WEG in Germany last year- HOLY CRAP. She had 3 of these things in each back shoe. They seriously were an inch long. Then Max had this pair that a farrier made special for Karen and David before some championship, they looked like arrow heads. Crazy stuff...

So tomorrow morning we all get back on Big Red- this time with a saddle. Then we do some flat work in the morning and finish the afternoon with some stadium jumping.
This place is awesome!

p.s. Wesman loves his stall!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

O'Connor Camp Day 1 (post showers)

So David was running late coming back from the Safety Summit in Kentucky and Karen was behind in going back to get the sleeper so we are all doing the official welcoming meeting tomorrow morning... at 7am.
Cathy Wieschhoff began the "fake" welcome meeting... She told everyone that basically David should be doing the whole introduction biz but gave us a run down on what is going on this week. We start tomorrow morning with the Bull! (Which doesn't have a name apparently, but that will be taken care of!). Following that we will be working with our horses "on lines" and doing all of the natural horsemanship stuff on the ground. Then we will ride after lunch tomorrow and pretty much go from there for the rest of the week. She really stress that everyone is here for us!
So apparently Karen and David will be teaching, obv. but so will Cathy and Amy... and we should all have a chance to work with each of them at least once during the week. Cathy also mentioned that there would be lectures happening throughout the week about everything from saddle fitting to CPR/first aid- all to be taught by Max Corcoran (Karen's right hand-apparently), Amy Tryon, AND a bunch of other really cool people.

Rumor has it Wed. there's jeopardy?!... and volleyball...

O'Connor Camp Day 1

Wesman got picked up by the shipper around midnight and was off and on his way. (The same shipper that takes all the horses to camp!) We ended up leaving a few hours later around 3am but we all ended up at the VA Horse Center around 1pm and settled Wesman in. He got a nice fan on his stall door- its about 95 degrees here.
Karen and her head groom Max are here already with two horses and some dogs- David will be coming in later as he is still at the Safety Summit in KY. Tons of other horses are pouring in-two or three of which belong to Amy Tryon!!…not intimidating at all.
We just left to check into the hotel and are heading a back to the horse center in a minute. Everyone is suppose to be in by 4pm and I'm thinking we are going to have a meeting of some sort then.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Welcome One and All

Upon graduation from the reality-show worthy Belchertown High School, I was lucky enough to be presented with the opportunity to go to Virginia and ride for a week with the O'Connor Event Team and co.
The apparent epic followings of Cold Hill Farm made me think to just blog about the experience... and well why stop there...
The happenings of Cold Hill Farm and it's dutiful and comical caretakers are often sudden and unexplained-- and I wish to share them with the world!