Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pau Experience: A Groom's View by Nobie Cannon

I’ll start by apologizing for the tardiness of my blog, the last two days of competition got quite busy with the two horses going. Joe had good cross country times for both his horses, Don went in the morning and Cam went later on in the afternoon. After morning chores I set out all the necessary warm up/vet box gear (i.e. buckets, sponges, scrapers, coolers, halter/leadline, extra studs and tack, and the like) and made sure both the boys got their morning walks and magnetic blanket time (not to toot my own horn, but I’ve become quite an expert at the foreign magnetic blanket during my time here at Pau). Joe came back from walking his course again with a little change in stud plans, so we readjusted those and I tacked Don up, complete with his space cowboy cross country boots, and Joe came out in his red and white ready to go. My boss had a good reason to be quite “cross” with me, as I had put on the wrong jumping saddle (oops) but in typical Joe fashion he just calmly helped me switch and hopped on Don to tackle the course. While they warmed up I set out our space in the vetbox to ensure an organized cooling down situation. Luckily, the course finished in the main arena where a huge megatron showed most of the cross country, so I was able to see some of Don’s ride. Joe and Don both did a really great job and came back clear with Don looking ready to go again. After Don was settled I moved on to preparing Camie.

Same routine to get him ready, but I added the fern stencil for good luck. My ever calm, laid back boss waltzed in, did a quick mental run through of the course and hopped on Camie like he was going schooling. I prepared our little assembly line of buckets in the vet box again and was able to see Joe leave the start and jump the first fence before he disappeared onto the course. The Pau videographers obviously had a serious French bias and showed some French girl’s entire abysmal ride without showing one of Joe’s jumps. Almost hyperventilating at this point wondering how the two were going, I picked up a few bits and pieces of the French announcer saying something about Joe and Camie making the course look easy. Way to go boys! Joe galloped over the finish smiling so I knew that must have been a good sign, we grabbed Camie and cooled him down and he was released and back to the barn before we knew it.

The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent reorganizing equipment, icing, wrapping, braiding for jogs, and watching legs. Joe stayed at the barn with me until barns closed icing and checking the horses; considering most of the riders chucked their horses at their grooms and went off to party, it was really nice to work for someone with such concern for his horses.
At 11 pm we gave the horses their final checks and good luck pats before what was sure to be a very early, very busy morning.

Sunday morning came with a little disappointment, as Camie was a bit sore after the tough course the day before and Joe made the decision to withdraw, which he thought would be in Camie’s best interest. Don trotted at 7:45 am so I got him together rather early and after explaining to my boss that flashing judges is not proper etiquette here in France, I sent the two off to their jogs.

Show jumping was upon us before we knew it, so Joe hopped on and I followed him and Don down to the warmup to help set fences. Let me just say, if you thought an American warm up ring was a bit of a mess, just wait until you see a foreign one. A cacophony of foreign trainers’ shouting as well as a herd of cross country ponies circling around the warmup made for quite the stressful experience. To add to this, I basically had to yank rails out of several of the French trainers’ hands, as they obviously thought their silly French horses were superior. Narrowly escaping the warm up arena without starting World War III, we made our way to the main arena. The tense atmosphere in the arena didn’t do Don any favors and he tagged a few, but he and Joe still ended up in the top 20. After getting Don settled, we started the always annoying job of packing everything up and getting the ponies ready for travel. The fun was all over too soon!

Although we’ve had quite a bit of fun picking on each other all week, all joking aside Joe has been a pleasure to work with. His laid back attitude and obvious skill and experience do wonders for the horses and make for a great atmosphere around the barn. It really was an honor to get an inside look at such a great horseman’s routine and to get to know his sweet horses. Thanks for the patience and sense of humor, Joe, I really learned alot (including a whole new Kiwi vocabulary) and hope I was some help! Also a big thanks to my trainer at home, Ruthie, for setting this up for me! I owe you both!

Hope you guys enjoyed the blog and happy trails!


Pau Weekend Wrap Up by Joe Meyer

Cams dressage text was scheduled for around noon Friday. I gave him his first ride at 9 am and he was feeling pretty good in his head, but still struggling in his lateral work. I know this anyway so I just needed to remind myself not to over do it and push him beyond what he is capable of right now. I put him away for an hour and a half to relax and for me to grab a coffee and look at the videos of last weeks dressage lessons to remind myself I was going in the right direction. I also rang my dressage trainer Richard for a little pep talk. Feeling much better I got changed and headed back out happy again to find that Nobie had indeed tacked up the right horse. We had our final short warm up and Cam went in and put in a smooth, nice test without any big mistakes and one slightly annoying late change on his best lead, which was my fault anyway for not positioning him correctly. We were 18th to go and as I looked at the scoreboard on the way out of the ring we had moved into first place with a score of 56. I knew there were lots of other good horses to come later in the afternoon, but I have to say it was great to get some congratulations from some of my friends - especially since it was right before the lunch break so my first place postition lasted for more than an hour! Overall he went about as good as he can go at this stage of his training and what is to come from him on the future will be amazing.

With the horses put away we headed off to the cantine for lunch for another meal of something avec frites. After Cam's good dressage test we decided we better wheel the CIC** course and with this done we sat down to watch my good friend Andrew Nicholson's dressage test on Mr. Cruise Control. 4 pm was course walking time with Andrew, this is something I have always done at big 3 star and 4 star events. I feel really lucky to have a guy like him to go around the course with, as no matter how experienced you are I glean something new and different off of him every time. It's not just because I am a New Zealander that he takes the time to walk it with me he is always happy to help people and there were several of us from all over on the walk with him giving some good ideas. After going through the tack for the next day we called it a night and had an early evening.

Saturday - What a day!!! fairly early morning with an 8:30 am start for the 2 star. I got up in time to walk most of it before it started as I always like to have a quick walk around my courses the morning before I ride them. Right before I got on I heard that someone had taken the long option at the last skinny combination that I was worried about with Don and still made it inside the tight time so I knew it could be done. Don started really well and found some nice, galloping forward distances to the first part of the course which I knew would help Don build his confidence. The first real test of bank drop, 3 strides to angled brush followed by 3 strides to another angled brush, Don popped through really well and focused and with a big pat from me we galloped on to the water. The water complex is brush ditch and wall with a curving line of 8 strides to a drop down to 2 strides to an angled skinny brush in the water. We knew this would be a test for Don. The 2 strides walked short, but as yet we had not seen a horse do it in 2 and many horses were having problems there getting a 2 and a half. Don remedied this by dropping to trot and popping nicely over the skinny. At 4 minutes through the course I was 8 seconds slow, but there was a good long gallop and I really opened him up and stuck to my plan of taking the long route at the last combination and came in just under the optimimum time of 5:36. Don cooled out great, was released quickly and we were really happy as he had never gone so fast before in his life but it seemed easy for him.

With a good ride on Don done I went off for a final walk by myself around the 4 star course and make my final plans. I got on Cam 45 minutes before my start time of 2:42. Cam warmed up great and felt good. We had a slight delay due to a hold for fence repair on course but that was no problem. It was great to have a giant screen TV in the warm up so the riders could watch how the course was riding. We started out nicely with the first question coming early at the angled brush turn to corner at 3/4. Cam had a slightly awkward jump over the angled brush as it was early on course and he was not in a rhythm yet. This caused me to lose my line to the corner and we had a brief moment of panic, but he stayed focused on the job and with a little kick from me we were over. As I galloped away I had a mental note that this has happened and that I had better take a little more time at the next few fences and combinations to make sure Cam understands the questions. The next mound, Trakehner to skinny and Cam does it really well and was very focused. First water combination came early with a huge house that has to be jumped slowly with a deep stride (which we got) with a curve to straightforward log in, and now it gets tricky with a sharp 90 degree turn which walks 4 strides. Cam went around in 5 strides so I gave him a kick on the last one up the bank and another push on top of the bank to the one stride to the angled brush. I never thought 5 strides was an option there and I had seen one person do it in 5 and have problems, but that's what I got so had to make the best of it. So we galloped off to a few nicer fences including the big brush oxer from the photo album. Everything rode beautifully. We got to the skinny chevrons on the mounds and this was the combination I was the most indecisive about as I really did not know which would be the best route for Cam. In the end I decided to take the straight route of left chevron on an angle to the other left chevron in 4 strides. Cam got it done no problem. I ended up having to take the long route at the second water after I had a not great ride over the first part, but we did that quickly and had a nice long gallop stretch after that. We got to the 3rd water and Cam had a big jump in over the boat and landed strongly on an increasing stride so I was headed at the bank out on a long, flat stride in the wrong place to take the fast route so I popped the option quickly which only took a few seconds of time. Cam was completely confident and came to the last combination on course strongly and showed some of his inexperience by jumping hugely over the A and B elements so I once again had to take the long option at C. With just a few fences to go he was a little tired but galloping strongly and came as I came into the last fence in the arena I was pleasantly surprised that we were only a little over 30 seconds over time. I saw myself on the big screen and realized somewhere along the way I had lost my hat cover which was quite embarrassing (the egghead look). I was just so amazingly pleased with Cam at the time but it didn't dawn on me until later when I saw far more experienced horses struggling a bit with the course that I realized just how well Cam had done at his first 4 star. I was just so proud of him especially since he was a homebred and I have known Cam all his life. Unfortunately, Cam had over reaches on both front feet and we knew that even though they were minor he was likely to get quite sore on them. We spent the night icing and treating him as best we could but we soon realized that it was not going to be in Cam's best interest to try and showjump him the next day on such sore feet. It was certainly heartbreaking having to withdraw him as he had done so well and was lying in 7th going into showjumping, but Cam is a special horse that has a big future and I was determined to keep sight of that and not push him when he was not quite right.

Sunday started early with a 7:45 am jog for Don who looked great and fresh and ready to showjump. Unfortunately he was a bit too fresh and came into showjumping warmup a bit looky. The shetland ponies galloping around the xc in the shetland grand prix did not help his mental state at the time! He went into showjumping like a deer in headlights and showed his inexperience by becoming overwhelmed by the atmosphere and being a bit unfocused on the actual height of the fences. Jumping down the line directly towards the big screen proved to be his undoing and he pulled some rails. I had to remind myself that I had said in the beginning that whatever happened would be a good experience for him and although he dropped from 5th to 16th he is a better horse now from having had this experience. This sort of atmosphere was what he is lacking in his education at this point and something that just cannot be recreated at home or at one day events. So we loaded up for the long trip home a little disappointed in the results, but happy to have 2 good horses that overall tried their best. It is now Tuesday morning and between the rough ferry crossing and the heavy rains and traffic we still have not managed to make it home but are finally getting close. I hope everyone has enjoyed my insights into the highs and lows of my Pau experience and if anyone has any questions please post them here and I will be happy to answer them.

See you had Badminton in the spring!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Cambalda is the Bomb in SoCal by Jennie Brannigan

Well as I sit here on Hawley Bennett's couch a lot is rolling on through my mind about how the last few days has gone here at Galway Downs in Temecula, CA. Ping jumped his heart out for me the past two days and I cannot say enough brilliant and amazing things about this horse.

My xc round I felt Iike was fairly smooth and of course there was a few things I would have sharpened up on if I could go back over and redo it again but on a whole I feel as though it was a fairly solid round. Ping came back well on Saturday and I was able to take a few short cuts on the track which made it a bit easier to make time around Ian Stark's track which I thought was very well presented. After giving him fluids and giving him a good check on his soundness we tucked him in for the night. We did have a little problem getting Ping to settle when some late night farrier work was going on. Poor Ping had himself so wound up in the stall throughout the weekend that he was pretty exhausted by the end of it all! He did come out and jog well the next morning, which was a relief. Unfortunatly my good friend Tamie Smith had to withdraw her horse, Corner Street, from the competition who was sitting second barely behind me.... I can say honestly that it was very sad and my heart goes out to her.

Next came these golf cart races, which to be honest was probably one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life! Some highlights of this include Nick Cwick hitting Ian Stark with an orange cone in the head, Casey McKissock getting run down by Hawley Bennett, and Gina Miles and I getting in a serious water fight in Galway's new water jump.

Next game - Ping's show jumping and to be honest I was very nervous when Allie Slusher, whose a friend of mine, jumped a clear round. Ping was pretty darn tired, but jumped his heart out exspecially when I got in seriously wrong to a large oxer on the track. He jumped like crazy after that and was pretty bound and determined to jump a clear round. What a great horse is all I really have to say.... I'm still in shock that he won. Getting to put Cooper's cooler on him was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I think Hawley Bennett and I were extremely emotional when we got interviewed.

One year ago I was in one of the biggest lows in my life and it's crazy to think how much things have changed. Thank you to everyone at PRO, Galway Downs, and everyone who has helped me get this far. A big thank you to the Gardners and my family for really supporting me this weekend. Phillip and Evie Dutton, Kelley Merrette, Emma Ford, Lillian Heard, Nick Cwick and every sponsor and owner I have. I can say, without question, I have two homes now and have the best people in my life. I wish I could name everyone.... Doctor Bogenrief thank you for believing in me when all the chips were down.... Thank you for being there for Kozmo, Cooper, and now Ping.... And of course thank you and joy for owning Walkabout. Words cannot do justice to what you've given me and taught me.

Well I guess 2010 is over.....
What an end!


Photo by Kat Netzler www.chronofthehorse.com

Galway Weekend Wrap Up by Alexandra Slusher

What a day!! Starting off the morning with a double clean two star xc ride with Juicy Couture was a huge confidence boost. She was absolutely fantastic and it was our best xc to date. Following that was an amazing three star ride on Last Call. I was only two seconds slow and for Fergie and I that means we were really movin!! She really stepped up to the plate today! I couldn't be more thrilled with my day and to top it off my student won her very first preliminary.

After a long afternoon of cleaning up, icing and walking I am pleased to say that both Ellie and Fergie looked great when we trotted them this evening. It was a long hard day but the best xc I have ever ridden. The courses rode very tough but I am pleased to say I am in the lead in the two star and third in the three star. There was many other fabulous rides but Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda really stuck in my brain as a beautiful round. James Alliston also stuck out and having not one but two amazing clear xc rounds in the three star. I think the West Coast proved a point today that we can do it too!! I'm off to bed now because it will be a very early morning starting with the jogs as 8:30.

So I just got in the truck for the long nine hour drive home. As I reflect on yesterday I still can't believe what a success it truly was to be second in the first CCI three-star on the West Coast and first in the two-star. The day couldn't have been better for me. Starting with a smooth morning beginning at 5 AM preparing for he final horse inspection. After both horses were passed I had a chance to watch some sj and really start to get nervous.

Luckily PRO put on the hilarious golf cart races to break the tension right before I got on Juicy Couture. The races were fun and scary at the same time. Having blind folded drivers doing obstacle course wih a co-pilot giving directions got out of hand very quickly!! Every one got very competitive so there was serious sabotage going on. Casey McKissock got hit with the golf cart, but laughed it off and a few flower pots got smashed.

Quickly, after I jumped off the golf cart I jumped on my horse and began my warm up. Hawley and I kept it short and sweet knowing Ellie is a good jumper. Ellie tried her heart out for me and was shaping up to be a perfect round. Knowing I had two rails in hand I did exactly what I shouldn't have done and got too relaxed at the last fence and had the last rail down. I kicked myself in the butt for that!

After I received the blue ribbon I turned my focus to my three star mount. Fergie warmed up beautifully and went in for a double clean round! Jennie proceeded to also go in a have a beautiful double clean round. Jennie and I didn't stop smiling for he rest of the night. After an emotional press conference it was off to dinner at La Cocina for some margaritas and Mexican food!! After some drinking and the hot tub at Hawleys house I was off to bed for some much needed sleep. I can confidently say that was the most fun and best show I have ever had. Going home today with two sound horses for a much deserved break after a very successful close to the season is everything I could ask for.

Thank you to my husband for being my best supporter, my parents for supporting me and my dreams from the start, Hawley Bennett Awad for being the best coach and friend I could ask for and Maralee, Paul and Faves for for being there unequivocally for me and a special thank you to Bre Hall for being a great groom for me! I will check back in next spring!! Have a great winter!!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dressage Day 2 by Nobie Cannon

Day two of dressage here at Pau. I finished morning chores as quickly as possible to get Cam ready for his 11:50 test. Joe (on time today thank goodness) took Cam out for an early morning ride while I finished up stalls and tack. Unfortunately, Camie came back a little grumpy and was a bit of a pain to get together for his test. But the show must go on so we got Cam all groomed and ready to go, complete with the super chic New Zealand “Silver Fern” stencil on his rump. I must say, Camie looked quite dazzling going around the arena and Joe did a really nice job getting him through the test. Way to go guys.

After lunch, I took Don for a long hack, as he didn’t have any competition rides today. Why yes, I have ridden at Pau :) The hacking track goes around the perimeter of part of the cross country course so I could see some of the jumps we walked yesterday. They still look really frightening. I took the rest of the afternoon to lay out all the tack and equipment the boys will need for cross country tomorrow. I admit I did have to get a tutorial on how to put on the space cowboy cross country boots that Cam and Don will be sporting tomorrow.

Finished night chores and came back to the lorry to get stud instructions from Joe, put ice boots in the freezer, and make a list of things to remember tomorrow morning. Don goes first at 10:30 tomorrow morning; I gave him a little pep talk/bedtime story at late checks tonight, let’s hope he remembers for tomorrow. Now we’re all back at the lorry while our very own Kiwi Emeril cooks for us again to his super fantastic New Zealand music. The fern was cool, the tunes, not so much.

Wish us luck tomorrow, we’ll be sporting our red and white “jumpers” so cheer Joe and the boys on from afar if you’re watching the live coverage!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Dressage Day at Galway by Jennie Brannigan

Well today was quite the day at Galway Downs with dressage and show jumping in full swing. I started off my day hacking Ping out and watching Livingston show jump with his new rider doing her first preliminary. I would be pretty pumped if I was her! After my warm up hack I jumped on the Ian Stark course walk which was wonderful and very informative. He also gave me some new insight to some of the xc efforts and how to ride them. Next I sat and watched about 7 episodes of Entourage in an attempt to chill out and be mellow for my dressage, which must have worked because Ping got a 46 with the help of my good friend and coach for the weekend, Nick Cwick, helping me in the warm up! I'm thrilled with Pinger and look forward to tomorrow. My teammate on my Calcutta team Allie Slusher was awesome in the three star and is sitting fourth as well. It looks like Nina Gardner has made a good investment, in our Calcutta team, at least in the dressage phase of this competition! I ended the day with a course walk with former coach, Hawley Bennett Awad, who knows my horse and myself quite well so a big thanks to her for that. Well tomorrow is a big day - I'm going to get some sleep!


A Busy Galway Weekend by Allie Slusher

The weekend has begun and things are off to a great start with every horse passing the first trot up. My two mares are feeling great and were very fresh at the jog! I also rode a prelim horse that was fantastic in his dressage test. My student Breann Hall is in second place at her first prelim riding the famous Livingstone owned by Hawley Bennett-Awad. This evening we went to the annual Calcutta where we bid on three star teams. Jennie Brannigan, Imtiaz Anees and I are on a team together so I'm feeling really confident that our team will win! Today I would say was great start to finish! The weather has been ideal except for some Santa Ana winds. The show is running exceptionally smoothly. Robert Kellerhouse has put on another great show. This may be his most exciting show yet with it being the first CCI*** on the West Coast. I am so glad the East Coasters are here to see what we are all about over on this side of the country. The courses looks beautiful, and I know how hard everyone has worked to pull everything together. A huge thank you to everyone working this show!!! I feel like Hawley Bennett, my coach, has prepared me well and I am very excited for the rest of the weekend!

Dressage day was a success! My two star horse, Juicy Couture, is sitting first at the end of the first day! She was fantastic in her first two star test. Last Call is sitting fourth in the three star and for the first time broke into the forties! There were some other fantastic rides in the three star including Allison Springer on Arthur, Tamie Smith on her catch ride Corner Street and Jennie Brannigan on Cambalda. Since Jennie is on my Calcutta team, I am thrilled she is sitting in second place!!!! My prelim horse was great in the show jumping and my student Bre is in first riding Livingston!!

Hawley and I walked the xc tracks this afternoon. They look fantastic!! Ian Stark and Robert Kellerhouse have put on a truly fantastic show. The quality of the courses are every bit as great as anything I have seen on the East Coast. Today was another great day at Galway Downs! Tomorrow will be an early morning!! Talk to you all tomorrow!!


Dressage and a XC Preview by Joe Meyer

Competition day is upon us at Pau with Don doing his CIC** dressage test at 11:30. I took him for his first ride at 9 am. This pre warm-up ride took longet than I expected as he never really got to the place I wanted and Don was starting to feel the atmposphere of the other horses and big arenas. His walk pirouettes, which lately have been a bit hit or miss, were exactly that this morning - well actually verging a bit more on the miss than hit!. The experienced bird on my shoulder chirped at me to say - Joe it is time to just ride this horse long and low and try to make him happy and put him away before you have done too much. So I took him back to the stables and presented him to Nobie nice and hot and sweaty with not much time left to be braided before the test.

Went back to the lorry to have a coffee and polish my boots and a quick look over the test. Back down to the stables half an hour before my ride time to get on and I was relieved to find that Nobie had tacked up the right horse for the competition at hand. So with things looking up we headed to the warm up. A downsize in spurs and leaving the whip at the barn to make sure I didn't wind Don up seemed the right plan of action. A couple of pointers from Andrew Nicholson on the way to the ring and a final polish from Nobie before heading in to do my test. Don went in and excelled himself with a really smooth and regular test and there were smiles all around for his strong performance. Don scored a 49.4 and was 4th after 42 at the lunch break and finished the day in 8th place in a field of over 60. His owner Ann Black said he was actually in the lead because the French riders don't count!

Feeling a little bit of a high after my good performance on Don I went for a ride on Cam who is still improving all the time but struggling a bit still with his lateral work. He had a physio session this morning which seemed to help him a bit.

Time for course wallking. My longtime Spanish friend Sebas set out with Nobie as our 'wheel girl'. This course is technical, not massively tall (please see photo of fence where humans cannot be seen on the backside at all in album) with a few real live wide spreads - and maybe a couple of big drops too. There is a difficult corner early at fence 4, a narrow soon after followed by the first water which consists of a huge table to a nice big drop into water with a sharp turn to the right up a bank with one stride to angled brush. For Cam's first four star this is going to be a real test it is technical and narrow at places. Cam is very, very brave and I just need to make sure I aim him between the flags and not get too carried away with his massive, bottomless gallop. There are some quite forward distances on the course which we all know should suit him, but this is a comment I will reserve for after I finish. Looks like Nobie wheeled it a bit tight which suits me and Sebas just fine and meant we didn't have to send her out again to wheel it to more suit our liking.

After a refreshing cup of tea I ran around Don's 2 star course that is half the distance of the four star and only 18 fences with some combinations. It has one very narrow skinny near the end. This is nothing Don can't handle, but to be in the money here it will be a sprint. Arena reconnaisance at 5 pm for Cam. Cam seemed to go alseep walking around the arena so lets hope tomorrow he is just as relaxed.

Great day here at Pau! Will let you know how Cam's test goes tomorrow.


Intrepid's Dressage Day at Pau by Nobie Cannon

Another busy day here at Pau for Joe and I. Joe decided last night to ride Intrepid (Don) a bit before his 11:30 test, so we agreed that an 8:30 ride would be perfect to get him going and would still give me plenty of time to have him glamorous for his dressage ride. Eight thirty comes and goes, as does 8:45, and finally at around 9 Joe saunters into the barn, tea in hand, ready to ride. So off he goes to ride, comes back about forty minutes before he needs to be on again, and hands me the horse like neither of us have a care in the world. Meanwhile, I’m spinning like a top trying to figure out how to break land speed records to get this horse braided and halfway clean in a seriously short amount of time. Miraculously, we managed to pull Don together and he put in a lovely test for Joe. Joe attributes his nice ride to the Starbuck’s coffee he had this morning, I think it was most definitely Don’s supplements that did it.

After Don’s test, I took a quick lunch break at the competitor/groom’s cafeteria tent while Joe rode Cam. Note to American horse show organizers: delicious free food keeps riders and their grooms VERY happy which always makes for a better show.
This afternoon I wheeled the four star course while enjoying Joe’s commentary about the fences. In particular, I remember a gigantic brush fence that is literally as tall as Joe and his comment “Well, you’ve just kind of got to get them to it.” Nothing to it, obviously. Meanwhile I’m grinding my teeth and trying to figure out how to get my hands on some anti-anxiety meds and I don’t even have to ride it!

The rest of the evening was spent getting the horses comfortable and situated and getting everything set out for tomorrow morning. Let’s hope we can keep things running on time tomorrow, so as to avoid any grooming catastrophes. Keeping my fingers crossed that Camie will put in a good test for Joe tomorrow!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

SoCal is the Bomb by Jennie Brannigan

Greetings everyone from sunny SoCal as the competition really started today with the jog for the CCI*** all the horses were truly in good form as all the horses passed the first hurdle in a long weekend. The weather has been fairly unreal except for a fair bit of Santa Ana wind.

It's been pretty neat to be back home for the first ever CCI *** on the West Coast and I would lying say I'm not loving being back home. Nina Gardner flew in last night and she is very excited about the weekend. We ended the evening with the Calcutta party in which the three star riders were grouped in teams and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Allie Slusher, Imtiaz Anees and I were all on the same team and it was pretty awesome because we had a lot of people betting on us! Ultimately Nina Gardner won our team in battle between Galway Downs' brand new owners and her! Well Kelley Merrette, Nick Cwick and I are all getting sleepy here at Hawley Bennett's house. She is putting up a whole lot of people this weekend so a big thank you to her for that! I'll check in tomorrow!


A Kiwi Groom's Tale by Nobie Cannon

It’s jog (“trot up” according to the New Zealanders) day here at Pau! Despite some complications in the beginning, Joe and I are getting along quite well and most of the time I can even understand what he’s telling me to do.

After breakfast and morning chores, Joe took both of his horses out for some work while I sorted out supplies necessary to make Cam presentable for the inspection. Lacking some braiding supplies, we roared off in one of the Hot Wheels-sized cars they drive here in Europe in search of the nearest supermarket. We grabbed a needle, some thread, and a baguette (when in France...) and headed back to the show grounds to get Cam ready.

After some heavy scrubbing, polishing, brushing etc. and the loss of a few pints of my blood (ridiculously sharp braiding needle) Cam was ready to roll and had a nice, sound jog. Joe gave the two another workout and I’ve spent the rest of the evening cleaning tack, reorganizing, and finishing night chores. Don goes tomorrow late morning, let’s hope I can figure out which horse is which and have him ready to go by then :)


Onto the Jog at Pau by Joe Meyer

Got up to another nice morning her at Pau and decided to give both the horses a flat school before the briefing. Don is still feeling a little hot and excited but hopefully by tomorrow he will have settled down but for me whatever happens with him this week will be a good learning experience for him as it is big atmosphere here. Cam is starting to feel good, but from experience with him if I try and do all the all of the hard movements early in the week it can make him a little bit tight. As much as I want to ride him more I know that by Friday things should be fine.

There are many more people here now and the lorry park is very full. It is starting to feel much more like a real competition. The briefing at noon was uneventful. The jog here at Pau isn't until 4:30 which gave me a little time between rides for a quick walk around the back loop of the 4 star cross country course. The fences all look jumpable - which is a good sign as sometimes on the first course walk some fences look impossible.

The jog was uneventful for Cam who jogged up quite nicely aside from the sideways spook at the flowers on the way down. I am not quite sure why the photo looks like I am flashing the ground jury as I wasn't - I'm saving that move for the Sunday morning jog if need be.

Tomorrow will be busier day. Don does his dressage test at 11:29 am and I will walk both courses as well as getting in some stronger work on Cam. Should be a busy day with lots of good news to report I hope.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Settling in at Pau by Joe Meyer

I went out this morning to find the weather was not quite as warm as I had hoped, but I was close to a t-shirt so not complaining too much. The horses seem to be pretty settled in to their stables. The stables here at Pau are nice permanent stables with very large areas for tack, which makes everything pretty easy especially when it rains which sometimes it can do here - with a vengeance.

I went through some of the tack, feed and bits and pieces with Nobie this morning and she is starting to understand some of the subtle differences of the feeding regime in the UK as opposed to the US. We tacked up the horses and took them for a nice long walk around the gallop track and onto parts of the cross country course that you are allowed to hack on and had a sneak peak at some of the jumps. Apologies for some of these pictures of Nobie and I, but we had to persuade a very large, dodgy looking security man to take the photos. I don't think he even spoke French let alone English, but once the camera was pointed the right way he managed to take this very bad photo that you can see in the album. We do think it is of us.

The rest of the day was spent sorting out the last bits of the lorry and going through lists of items that Nobie may need. I rode Don again in the afternoon as he was quite fresh in the morning - in a nervous, young horse sort of way. Cam felt good this morning so he was just allowed to have a session of my simple and user friendly magnetic blanket! With the horses put away for the night I called over to Andrew Nicholson for a visit and catch up. He, as normal, was a bit tired after driving all night on his own so left him to go to bed and headed to a well reviewed small Brasserie in downtown Pau which turned out to be a real find (see photo of amazing dinner)... we are loving Pau so far.

Tomorrow the competitor briefing is at 12 and the jog is at 4:30 and hopefully the course might be open for a quick walk in between (we are on French time down here).

First Day at Work at Pau by Nobie Cannon

Hi I’m Nobie. I’m an American rider based in Florida going to the University of Florida in Gainesville. I have been a working student for PRO rider Ruthie Harbison for several years now, but recently traded in my riding boots and baseball caps for stilettos and berets to study in Paris for the semester.

When the opportunity came about to groom for Joe Meyer at Pau for the week, I jumped at the chance and it being my fall break from school made it a convenient mini vacation. So after a long journey, we arrived at Pau on Monday evening around 7. After getting the horses settled in for the night, Joe was nice enough to cook for us! This was a welcome treat compared to the usual fare of midnight McDonald’s at the shows back home. Got to bed early, excited for the opportunity to be here at Pau as an insider.

Bright and early this morning, I set out for morning chores. After dumping approximately 100 pounds of supplements into each of Joe’s horse’s feed, I came to the conclusion that this man may quite possibly have more supplements than the entire Smartpak catalog stocks. I took the two horses for a nice long walk, all the while trying to find any distinguishing characteristics between the two identical horses-same color, same height, same age, same breeding. Oh boy.

When Joe came out, we took the two for a hack around the grounds and he worked in the dressage arena for a bit with Cam and then Don. Cam was treated to the magnetic blanket after his workout, and as a sidenote, I would like to point out that European magnetic blankets might possibly be even more complicated than American ones due to poorly translated instructions. The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning tack and feverishly trying to find some sort of brass polish to take care of the years of dirt and rust that had accumulated on every inch of metal that Joe owns. Either my former boss Ruthie is relatively obsessive about her brass or Joe is just really laid back. Or perhaps a little of both :) With that taken care of, I got the boys fed and settled into their pajamas for the evening and came back to the lorry to brush up on my less than stellar Kiwi English skills.

Note to PRO, please send a translator to Pau at your earliest convenience. What does “getting stuck in” mean?! A bientot!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Last Minute Preparations and The Trip to Pau by Joe Meyer

Sanskrit (Cam)- 11yr old NZ homebred by Silent Hunter. He has completed Blenheim CCI*** and Luhmuhlen CIC***, Aachen CIC*** and was 2nd in British Open Championships at Gatcombe this year. Cam is competing in his first CCI****
Intrepid (Don) -9yr old NZ homebred by Steal the Show. He was 11th at Hartpury CCI** in August and is fairly new ride to me having only returned to my yard in June. He has been gaining continued confidence all season and 'Don' will be competing in the CIC** at Pau.

Saturday morning brought me to Kate Lukas' for final gallops at LMEQ - a place I use often. It has a great 7 furlong uphill gallop and xc schooloing area. Don can be a little bit looking at water so need to get his feet wet while Cam is very confident so just went on gallops. Both horses did 3 times up the gallops as they were about to get on truck the next day and I always cut off a little bit of last gallop before they ship long distance.

Sunday morning was spent running around doing last minute jobs and packing truck while organizing yard for girls while I am away for the week at Pau. All was smooth so jumped in truck and headed off to my dressage trainer Richard Barret for a little bit of last minute tune up for Cams 4 star test and a little bit of last minute wind up for me from Richard (which Richard is very good at doing i.e. hands down, shoulders back and stop nodding your head!!!) Got back in truck and headed to Portsmouth to take the ferry to Le Havre. There are 3 different routes to France that we can use and they are Dover/Calais, Portsmouth/Le Havre and Portsmouth/Caen. When I am the only driver, as in this occasion, I would normally take the overnight boat which is an 8 hour sail from Portsmouth to either location in France. Its slightly more expensive, but cuts out a lot of driving time and you get to have a nice sleep in the boat in the cabin. Arrived at Portsmouth had some dinner (to avoid the marginal food on the ferry) and glass of wine in the lorry (in England we drive lorries, which are large trucks with living quarters and the horses all in one) while waiting on the docks.. We boarded the ferry and headed to the sleeping cabin.

Monday brought sunshine on arrival to France after a great sleep and smooth crossing. Had a great wonderful complimentary cappucino to help start the drive and we disembarked after giving the horses some water and breakfast. Managed to skip through customs and passport control (just luck!) and its been smooth driving ever since. A diesel and late breakfast (consisting of freshbaked chocolate croissants, ham and cheese baguettes and a plate of cheese and meats) stop earned me an extra 10 Euros for selling a half bottle of crusty looking licorish vodka that had been lying around in the back of the lorry for a couple years to some desperate Polish truck drivers who were stuck in the parking lot due to being unable to drive today, which was a bank holiday It was the sort of bottle that you would only offer to someone you didn't like, but they were very pleased for it (see photo of happy Polish truckers).

Horses have been traveling and drinking really well and we survived the Bordeaux ring road (which has been my nemesis for being in the wrong lane and receiving some serious fines in the past) we are now in the final 100 miles of journey to Pau. Arrival time should be 7 pm France time. Fingers crossed for continued easy journey through this last windy bit!

Until tomorrow,