Monday, February 20, 2012

I Am A Travelin' Girl by Cat Hill

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a blog for PRO as a freelance groom in an Olympic year. I said sure, why not, thinking simply that I wrote a lot of long papers in college. There were 2 very important things I overlooked when I said sure. First, that I did not graduate yesterday (where HAS the time gone?), and second that I largely wrote history papers, not exactly interesting works that people read for enjoyment. I was told not to worry, just introduce myself in the first one. So I begin with an apology. Stick with me, maybe I’ll get better as we go!

            If you have been to an event on the East Coast that hosts Advanced, you probably know who I am. Not because I am myself remarkable; simply that I am the girl constantly whistling for her two giant hound dogs that seem to be permanently misplaced. My name is Cat Hill. I worked as Mara Depuy’s groom for several years, and in the past few years have freelanced from my hometown in the Finger Lakes region of New York. (Yes, near where Courageous Comet came from).  Last year, I meant to slow down, travel less so that I could focus on my own horse, as well as on the small lesson program I run. Somehow that turned into a year where the longest consecutive period of time I was home from Jan 1st to Dec 1st was 21 days. I started with Aiken and ended with the Pan Ams and Galway. So this year I decided that really, I would plan my life to be home a little more. I decided not to spend the winter in Aiken but “simply” to go down for the big shows. Well, as it turns out there’s a lot of shows happening in Aiken. I swear there are more now that I am 13.5 hours away than when I lived on Williamsburg St.!

            Here has been my slow year so far - January 13th to 27th in Aiken to work for the one and only Dr. Keane. February 6th drive spoiled-rotten-terrible-horse down and back to Virginia for his signature Crockers (meanwhile I’m wearing holey, falling apart Dansko’s, but I digress) February 8th drive to Aiken for little Pine Top with Jan Byyny and her fantastic team of ponies.  February 13th drive home. While home, I ride clients’ horses, teach lessons, try to run enough to pretend I will be fit enough to race this spring, and with the leftover time attempt to cook my way back into the good graces of my wonderful husband. Driving to South Carolina seemed so much better than flying when I looked at this plan on paper. Flying means lay-overs and limited bag space (how do I bring my black effol and coat-shiny-stuff not to mention braiding supplies?). Driving means I have my own car (grooms night at Maria’s for Margarita’s anyone?) and most importantly, I can bring at least one ridiculous hound dog.

            So here I am, getting ready to make that 13.5 hour down and back trip. Instead of dreading it, I am excited about seeing all the ponies start gearing up. I love the transition from winter-work to fired up 3 day work. I love getting to know my new charges, find out their quirks, help them navigate the pot holes that appear on every road to a 3-day. I’m looking forward to seeing all my old charges, watching some of them toodling around with working students or amateurs to teach, while others are all-systems go to Kentucky. I’m hoping that the traveling craziness earns a few international trips, maybe a chance to don some Nike gear again. The traveling coonhound and I will check in every few weeks or so, hopefully with lots of good news and great successes as we ramp up for the big stuff!

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