Author Archives: Jennie

Sometimes, you get to smile so much your face feels tired

The past month has been busy, stressful, fun, and (thank goodness) sporadically sunny. In getting ready for a talk at a conference in Antwerp, I was really having to work closely with the themes that we have drawn from our study. Every once in awhile, I feel like I gain greater insights while trying to figure out a way to communicate with others than when I purposefully analyse and focus on the data. I’m sure it is a consequence of really having to understand the topic before trying to teach others, but it felt like a real breakthrough to me. The themes (and the metaphors we are using to explain them) are fairly complex and really, really, interwoven, so separating them out in a way that makes sense outside of my own head and instincts has been more difficult than I expected. That said, I feel much better about the presentation, and hopefully most of the bugs will be worked out this week during our practice meeting.

So, yeah, that’s one reason for the happy picture in this post. Another reason, of course, is the horse himself. The barn I ride at has been hosting some fun summer dressage shows. I’ve been entering them as much to force myself to focus on goals as to actually compete. Moss really deserves a rider who is always trying to improve. He’s such a talented guy, and he really enjoys working (and, of course, hacking and galloping), but it is waaaaayyy too easy to just enjoy riding around and around on such a nice horse without really focusing on improving, so hopefully these little shows will help me up my game a bit.  They’ve already convinced me that I should start trying to do more complicated dressage–Moss has really gotten a lot stronger over the past few months, and he feels ready to really start working on more demanding work. My big goals, I guess, are to get us “off campus” for a few tiny (low key!) shows and to work on more collected work (the extended work, we like, but the stuff that requires us to slow down? not so much).  I’ve also signed myself up for the Stage 1 exam for the BHS. Hopefully, I’ll get that, my riding and road safety, and my Stage 2 done this year and then start prepping for my Stage 3 (which I can use to get jobs teaching riding!).

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Badminton, year two. It only gets better.

This is Mark Todd, before his Badminton-winning show jumping round. The grin you see is in response to someone yelling out “Woooo Toddy” as he went by. That pretty much encapsulated the weekend right there, that “Wooo!”.  Between the weather (unbelievably sunny), the cross-country course (absolutely cool), and Mark Todd, Piggy French, Mary King and the rest of the eventing world, it was probably the most fun I’ve had yet in the UK. I was lucky enough to hang out (and camp out!) with a good friend for the weekend as well, nothing beats having someone to encourage you to buy those all-essential Badminton souvenirs. This year a new winter coat and hat were on the list; well, a dressage whip was on the list (mine had walked away already–I’d only had it for a few months!), and a new winter hat and coat ended up sneaking on at the very last minute, when they were amazing and therefore totally worth it.

We spent the first day circling the cross-country course.  There is the all important lap-to-check-out-all-the-fences and then the lap-to-pick-your-favourites, and then, finally, the following-the-course-backwards-to-avoid-the-crowds when the riders start. It worked especially well last year, when the wet and chilly conditions made bits of the course a mudslide. This year, with all of the sun, that was a total-non-issue, but we still got to get right up to the ropes at most of the fences. It’s amazing how walking 6+ miles for 6+ hours can feel like nothing when you’re totally distracted by great riders on amazing horses absolutely flying over these jumps. Some of the best bits came from watching the younger riders really shine on course. We got to see Rayef and Laura Collett just bound over the course, and I especially enjoyed some of the super-colourful cross-country outfits a couple of the riders were sporting. The atmosphere in show jumping the next day was absolutely unbelievable.  There was absolutely no room for error, or hesitation, or bad luck. Mary King’s double clear was met with stadium-shaking applause, but Mark Todd’s winning round was watched in absolutely breathless silence. And then the stands just…exploded into applause. It was the sort of weekend that made you want to rush out and go for a ride, especially if that ride could include some galloping about and possible over fences.  Just, utterly fun and inspiring. Luckily, we’re already planning to go again next year!

California and back again…

This is definitely not a picture of me. It’s Sarah VandenBerg of Briarwood Riding School riding her horse Pacific in the Prelim division at Galway Downs.  My trip luckily coincided with Galway’s April Horse Trials, so I got to hang out, help out, and try out taking pictures.  This one is one of my favourites, mostly because Pacific looks so chilled out; duck? no problem. water? no problem. jump about a foot over the log? no problem. What a great horse.

The rest of the holiday was equally fun.  The first week, we stayed up north in San Francisco and hung out with friends up there.  It included a memorable trip to Bodega Bay and Valley Ford, where it turns out there is a tiny bed and breakfast with an amazing bar/restaurant attached. The first night jet-lag sent us to bed around 8pm, but not until we had eaten some amazing food (most of which is lost to memory in a blur of exhaustion, but I think some of it involved oysters, fried chicken, and possibly amazing fish tacos). We spent the next two days eating and wandering about the area, mostly eating. We had originally planned to go to Yosemite that weekend, but a late snowstorm (that knocked out power and the roads in and out!), made this trip “plan b”.  It worked out extremely well, all things considered, *and* the keen-eyes of our driver spotted a great mexican restaurant on our way back into the City, which just made the weekend perfect, really. We finished up our time in San Francisco with dinner at a friend’s house and then headed down to LA for a filming of “The Big Bang Theory”. Which was awesome. Continue reading