Monday, December 26, 2011

2011, A Year in Review

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I find myself in a period of reflection. 2011 was a year of changes for Sam and I, some better than others.

One of the major worries was moving Sam from Knoxville, TN to Alpharetta, GA to be closer to me while I'm in law school. Having always kept my horses at home on a large acreage in the country, I really had no idea what I was getting into before I started looking for suitable boarding facilities. The facilities closest to my apartment were beautiful, but most didn't offer a pasture board option and were anywhere between $800-1200 a month... not exactly suitable for a horse who hates stalls and a rider on a full-time student's budget. The most affordable barns were usually lacking in amenities and would require a good 50+ mile commute. Instantly, I knew that finding "home sweet home" for Sam was going to be a nightmare.

When I got the call that a friend would be able to bring Sam down when she hit up a hunter-jumper show at Wills Park, I was elated. Unfortunately, that only gave me a week's time to find a place for him to go. Although the hastily selected barn-of-choice seemed quaint and charming during my farm tour, I quickly discovered that was quite far from the truth. Many of my grooming supplies went missing, tack got used without permission, and Sam didn't get fed on a few occasions, but the real kicker came when the barn manager went out of town for summer vacation and the pastured horses weren't given any hay for nearly two weeks. On a nearly barren pasture? Unacceptable. (Oh, and being accused of stealing feed for which I had purchase receipts on file wasn't very endearing, either.)

Triple S Eventing at Lakeview Farm
After some searching and more thorough investigation of several barns, I found myself boarding with Triple S Eventing at Lakeview Farm.We immediately set to work putting on the weight and muscle that Sam lost in the month he spent at the other barn, doing a little work with the chiropractor and massage therapist to get him feeling tip-top, and slowly began incorporating weekly dressage lessons as he showed improvement.

Before I knew it, we had our eyes set on a schooling show in September hosted by Bigtime Eventing at Wilson Farms. Since it was my first dressage show ever and Sam's first in several years, we opted to play it safe and ride only Intro Test A. I had very simple goals set for myself: 1) keep Sam forward, but calm; 2) don't get nervous; and 3) for the love of God, don't forget the test! We managed to meet all three goals and took home a 4th place finish with a score of 56%. Not bad, considering the first place score was 60% (awarded to a barnmate, no less!). The judge was positive about Sam, but suggested that he might need a little "encouragement" to keep him coming through and focused on me.

Sam and I, coming across the diagonal from K to M.

After the show, I incorporated a teensy 1/8th inch Prince of Wales spur into my riding gear and immediately noticed a major difference in his willingness to respond to the leg. Although I hardly ever need to touch Sam with the spur, he definitely knows the difference when I wear them and when I don't. Goofy boy!

The fall saw a great deal of progress in what we like to call the "stretchy walk" and "stretchy trot," in which Sam is asked to reach down into a long, low frame to build the muscles along his topline. For a horse who naturally likes to carry himself in a more collected frame, finding the contact on a loose rein has proven to be somewhat challenging. That will probably be the focus of most of my work this winter.

All in all, I think Sam and I had a good year. I'll have to think about my plans for the 2012 show season, where I would like to be in our lessons at home, and my personal fitness goals. When I do, you can bet you'll be the first to know!

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