Monday, October 21, 2013

Is autumn here to stay? Spending the day at Fair Hill

Michael and I used to attend the Radnor Hunt 3 Day event every fall for years, and looked forward to raising Isaiah with this tradition.  Alas, we only managed to go in 2006, because the event was discontinued after that.  Sponsorship was down and there were apparently other issues regarding the planning, preparation and running of this event.  Having volunteered on several occasions we experienced every weather condition imaginable for mid October in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Too hot, too cold, torrential rain and even the ever elusive "perfect conditions". But we enjoyed every moment of the atmosphere, the scenery, the tradition and of course the horses.  Most years we attended Friday for dressage (and one of my favorites, the fashion show!).  On Saturday for cross country we arrived in time for the start of the first rider then walked the course backwards and forwards until the last horse out of the start box.  One year we were timers for steeplechase, which was great fun!  On that occasion the day was cold, damp and cloudy.  But we were kept pumped full of hot chocolate and had the best time!  When our Doberman was alive and we brought him along on cross country day.  Spock loved to walk the course and be admired by other spectators!  The year of the monsoon we came in from Cincinnati where I had been working for P & G Pharmaceuticals.  Dressage day was fine but on cross country day the rain poured down hard for the entire day.  Undeterred, we joined other diehards and walked the course all day long.  That night at the hotel we blow dried our shoes with a hair dryer, ordered room service and laughed about the day.  The heavy rain caused the water jump to be deeper than normal, so when one rider came off she was completely submerged!  When she emerged from the murky pond she shook her head and said "blaacchhh!"  For stadium day the side of the hill above the arena offered the perfect picnic spot with a view of the entire ring.  Each year we packed a superb spread and often invited friends to join us.

In 2006 we packed up 7 month old Isaiah dressed in a barn jacket, khakis and paddock boots and off we went.  Strapped to me in a Baby Bjorn sling and leading Ripley our Weimaraner we walked the course.  Isaiah went on a pony ride and we looked forward to future years of fun....Needless to say we were greatly saddened by the end of that event.

Plantation Field in Unionville has since grown to a larger 3-day but we have yet to have the timing work for us (fall baseball game for Isaiah prevented us from attending this year).  So we set our sights on the Fair Hill International this year.

Saturday started with a chill in the air and bright sunshine.  Perfect for tromping around a cross country course.  Isaiah was excited as we boarded the shuttle bus from the parking area bound for the event grounds.  Almost immediately he saw a horse gallop past on course elevating his excitement.  The CCI** was underway with the first horse for the *** set to go at 1:10.  We watched a falcon demonstration, dog agility and played some games before heading out on course.  Isaiah was amazed at the size of the obstacles and the horses' ability to jump them.
Sharing popcorn on course
We had loads of fun, eating yummy crab cakes and boardwalk fries, chatting with fellow spectators and admiring the ability of horse and riders.

Sunday, October 20, 2013
A cold start to the day!  I think that autumn might actually be here to stay.  My first thought when I stepped outside to fill the bird feeders was "okay, this is why people take their horses to Florida in the winter".  Yeah, I know, 40F is hardly the Arctic.  But after several days of near 70F temperatures it felt pretty cold!

Opening the barn door Suki and Nikki were calling their good mornings to me, making me smile.  I immediately began to warm up as I assembled Nikki's equipment, keeping Nikki under a cooler as I went along.  The crisp air and blue skies added a little spring to Nikki's step walking out to the arena, so expected her to be a little "up".  But she lunged well as I let her stretch at first then added side reins.  We worked on sharpening transitions on the lunge as she has occasions of being heavy in the hand on down transitions.  Trot to halt, halt to trot made her lift a bit in her carriage so I was pleased.  Peeling off my top layer I got on and walked around.  The cool air felt wonderful on my face.  That really healthy, being outside sort of feeling.  Not that mid winter nip that bites your nose and ears.  Just enough to feel good....and no gnats!!!  Nikki had good energy for work so after some basic figures I tried to replicate the transition work from the lunge.  She started slightly heavy in the hand then lightened and gave me some really lovely work.  At the finish she offered a nice deep stretch.

Suki was anxious to get out of her stall, so while Nikki stood in her stall wearing a cooler I put Suki on cross ties.  I think she actually wanted to go out in her field, but was fairly patient while I groomed her. I put the saddle pad and surcingle on her and walked her up and down the aisle.  She seemed a little goosey so I decided to remove it for lunging this time.  Airs above the ground out to the arena were not what I had in mind!  Although the ground behind the barn is not level I will walk her around out there with the surcingle and add a little trot to it next time.

With Suki I also worked on transitions with periods of very forward movement.  She seemed a little more tired than usual at the end so I walked her for a bit longer than usual at the finish.  I was worried that I had over done, but when I turned her out into her pasture she cantered away immediately to Nikki who was already half way across the field.  When she approached Nikki, the two of them gave out a buck and cantered away together.

It's nice to see the spark in Suki's eye knowing that she is enjoying life beyond the tragedy that she endured.   We make decisions for our 4-legged friends because they cannot do it themselves, so it is heartwarming to witness the validity of those decisions.  Watching my two beautiful girls playing in the field I felt extremely fortunate to have them in my life.

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