Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another Day (or two)...

I have managed to get up and out to the park much earlier the last several days. I get a bit closer parking place so I only have to walk about a mile! When I checked in on Tuesday, I mentioned the mix up yesterday and asked specifically where I should meet my group for pre-shift orientation later and I was told to go directly to the Main Stadium at my designated time. Since I was already planning to be there I thought this was a great idea!

I got to the Main Stadium's warm up arena in time to watch Great Britain's Carl Hester on his horse, Liebling II. I did get a few photos & a video on the new phone but most of my photos are trapped in my camera since my lap top will not read my SD card for some reason. So these aren't the best but they do show just how close you can get!

Some last minute coaching.

I liked this shot of USA checking out the competition

Competition time!

I tried to purchase a ticket but was told my credentials would get me in for free and to sit anywhere that was open...hurray!!! So I rushed in to watch a few riders before my shift in the Program and information booth.

Of course the rides were spectacular but you could tell it was a very Dressage-savvy crowd as the whole place uttered a quiet "ohhh" when horse bobbled or something else went awry. It was fun to be be there, watching these world class riders and their ultra amazing horses.

The booth I was working at was both for Information and Program Sales. My job was basically to sell the Official Souvenir program for $15, a Discipline specific book for $5 or the daily ride order sheet for $2. It was pretty fun and I learned a bit too but I'd say the best part (besides being just around the corner from the Big Screen, a perfect shot for quick viewing) was that I was working with this team of Brits who work for the company who prints the programs. They were particularly entertaining as none of them seem to have any knowledge of horses. I got lots of horse questions but was amused by their observation of American culture. They love Lexington and feel it's a hidden treasure that we keep from them on purpose...they love the people who are very friendly (and the young men find the southern girls extremely beautiful!) but they were totally confused by our money and didn't understand why we preferred to give out paper bills as change and why the 10 cent piece was smaller than the 5 cent or even the 1 cent piece...and I failed to have an explanation for that as well! "Dime", "nickle" & "penny" was something else I had no intelligent explanation for either...Anyway, it was a good and fairly busy day and I enjoyed it quite a bit but discovered later in the day that I had FAILED again...the ladies at the check in booth had told me to head right over to the booth but I was supposed to go back to the volunteer check in before my shift for a briefing so they thought I was a no-show...again! is

I did get to watch a few fantastic rides...like Edward Gal from the Netherlands on Moorlands Totilas & Steffan Peters from the United States on his horse, Ravel. I have to say I think it's been quite an honor to be able to watch these Grand Prix level riders...and I was not alone...

On Wednesday, I pretty much showed up just in time to work and did everything I was supposed to...my duties for that day were to drive an ADA cart between designated pick-up/drop points for disabled guests. That was actually pretty fun too. I got to see parts of the park I would not have on foot and got to speed around (ok...as speedy as a golf cart for 6 can go!) and was a welcome sight for the passengers. I did have to collect one gentleman who I watched trip ahead of me, hitting his head on the pavement. He was already up by the time I reached him but he soon started bleeding quite a bit so I took him the medical team and they scooped him up from me. I think he was ok...he was more worried about how he was going to get back to where I kidnapped him from! I hear everything went fine :) But I felt a bit like I was in a Monty Python movie...I'm ok...it's just a flesh wound...

So I have other days to write about but I've been getting home late every night and add a bit to this post so for now I'm going to post this...sleep....work and then try the whole process again! Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How may I help you?

... I said many times today as I tended the WEG Information booth located in the Trade Show in-door tent today.

The day started out fine...Thanks to GPS I am able to locate my nearest Sugar-Free Iced Coffee anywhere. McDonald's, by the way, is sporting special World Equestrian Games hats on their crew...well...some of their crew. I wanted to ask the kids who weren't playing along nicely if I could have their hat (Black with the WEG Horse head logo in red and a set of yellow arches) that they obviously don't want....maybe tomorrow because I will be back! I'm sure that's why they call it an addiction, right?

So I got to the designated parking area and headed to the volunteer check-in area. I met up with a gal and we got to talking on the little trek over a few bridges and across a few fields. It turned out that she was also scheduled to be in the Trade Show Info booth so she told me just to come with her as we'd be working together. We checked in with the staff, got our "hero" cards punched and a cup of coffee and headed over into the park. Right about then the Ariat girls drove up and asked if we wanted a ride so that saved us a good portion of the fairly long walk. We got to the booth and introduced ourselves to the coordinators and other volunteers and I started getting to know where things were ...like "Where's the nearest bathroom?", "Where is the food?", "Where is the Friesians booth?" and "Where is Jane Heart?" OH hey....I already knew the answer to that one!

Jane Heart is an Equine Artist/Jewelry designer that I met online when we were planning the first HeART of the Horse Art Show/Auction last year. I went to do a search online for our event to see if it would come up and I got a hit on Jane Heart so I felt compelled to write to her when I discovered she'd done a tribute piece to Barbaro. Jane ended up donating a gift certificate as a silent auction item. Later, I was given a silver Barbaro pendant as a thank-you gift from the SAFE Board of directors and I wear Barbaro every day....he goes where I go! Anyway, twice I've tried to catch up to her at the Kentucky Derby but we've missed each other. Last week I got an email from her that she would be set up in the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) building at the WEG and to come by to see her, so I did take a break today and do just that! It was so great to finally meet her and she offered to polish up Barbaro for me. Meanwhile I was checking out her other pieces and discovered that she's now also done a Secretariat tribute piece, complete with checkered face mask and is currently waiting to find out if the Secretariat folks are going to license it. It's a great piece and now's a great time to pick one up as she thinks it will sell out. What fun! We took a walk over to the USDF hospitality room where they had several tables set up with samples and contests so I signed up for them all! Received yet another tote bag & tons of reading material. There was also a HUGE table of water and snacks so I was well cared for there...thanks USDF!! And it was lovely to meet you in person, Jane!!

But back at the Info booth...all hell was breaking loose. It seems we were more a contact point for the vendors and filled in with various small (and much easier questions from guests. I the turns out that the Internet was down for most of the vendors and so they were periodically checking in to see when it might be back up. Did I Mention that there are something like 300+ vendors there!? Ok, not all of them came up to the booth and I do understand why they'd be concerned but I did manage to repeat the answer so many times I could say it with firm authority! The 1.5 hours I was originally told turned into overnight, but I could tell folks with such conviction that they walked away...it might be the right answer to "How may I help you?" But it was one and it's all I knew so that was what the answer was....and *I* said so! (actually, I smiled a lot and nodded my head in sympathy!) ... no confrontations needed.

So it was getting to be close to the time I thought I was leaving (6:00pm) and the coordinator said she thought all the volunteers were staying til 8:00 pm. When she got a copy of the schedule, she said she could not locate me. I looked it up on email in my phone and it said 7:00pm so I showed it to her and told her I'd be happy to stay til 7...and 8 if they needed me to. That's when she said "OH! You're supposed to be at the other booth that sells programs!" Holy Cow....why did I listen to that woman who insisted I just "come with" her....something told me I should try to talk to someone about my first shift and where to go, but this woman seemed like she knew what she was doing so I followed her direction. While the two coordinators were gushing over the fact that they got me today and pleaded with me to please come back the rest of the week, I told them I had other venues to work at, not just the Trade Show...tomorrow is Main Stadium and Dressage. So I feel terrible that anyone at the other booth might be shorted but just about the time I wanted to call the coordinator of the other booth, my phone went dead AND everyone in our booth had to run off to do something to get ready for the internet connection fix so truly I was still needed but I would not be able to get free enough to go tell them in person how sorry I am if they were left stranded there. They were gone by the time we tied everything up at the other booth :(

So tomorrow sounds exciting. If I can get to bed early enough (like in a few minutes) I may try to get up in time to go see Dressage in the morning before my shift. We'll see...and we'll see if I actually get to work at the Main Stadium after my mix up yesterday.

Thanks today to my awesome "Home Team" ....Kelli who braved new duties to get over to my shop at 6am to rent kits (her first time) and to my husband who came after work to meet candidates after their last tests. And to Jean who's coming in tomorrow, hopefully to something resembling organization and will help get kits up to date.

So here's me in my Ariat Volunteer gear in a lovely light blue...two polos, a jacket and a hat! Love them all!!!! Thanks Ariat :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Free Day...and some of it actually was...

When I set my shift schedule I purposely left today open so I could get my barrings never thinking I'd have enough time yesterday to make a pass by the park and figure out parking and such on Saturday...which I did, so today I dedicated the day to getting to know the Trade Show area as that happens to be my first assignment post tomorrow.

Walking into the Trade Show area was amazing. There were things I didn't even know I wanted and things I had always thought would be cool if only someone would invent them...and it turns out someone has...and in every color you can think of!

So I tried to map out a route to hit each tent and I honestly never got to parts because there was just so much to see. Don't worry, it's now a personal mission to find everything there is to see but I can already tell that two weeks is not nearly enough to take in the entire WEG experience.

Walking the rows of tents was much like Trick or Treating for horse promo stuff, brochures and business cards. I hit a few tents before I was lured in by the big Isabell/Wintec/Bates signs. I got to sit on one of the new (not even released) Isabell Dressage Saddles. As I sat there discussing the features of this new saddle I pondered the necessity of purchasing a brand new saddle for The Nut as we were forging slowly into Intro Dressage. Part of me would like to outfit myself properly even if we never test above Intro B but somehow I just can't justify it...yet. The price you ask? Well....I'm told when they publically release it on 10/1 the price on the Wintec version will be $1299, but the WEG pre-sale price is $999 and they'll ship it home for me for free AND get a really nice, limited edition Saddlebag as well... temping....(note I wrote that in little letters) They gave me my first goodie bag, a tote with their logos on it and some toys & literature inside..fun & informative

That was just the beginning...I ended up with a couple more bags and lots of literature plus some free promotional goodies, like a hat from SmartPac, a pin from Ariat and a bale of hay...yes, you read that right, a bale of hay!

I stopped at the Standlee booth to tell them how much Coconut & I love their Timothy Pellets and told them the whole story about Coconut's delicate system. I learned the whole process about how they grow their own hay and can get consistent & quality product. That's always amazed me! He told me they go through the same process for their baled hay only it comes in 50 lb bales for a little bit less than the pellet and offered to arrange for a free bale at Dels so I could try it out. So I have in my hot little hands, a business card with his note for Dels to give me a bale when I get home. Furthermore, he was so touched by Coconut's story that he would like to have me write it out and send it to him for possible promotional use (good thing I wrote the Coconut Chronicles, eh?) Sending that to him right after this post!

I also had a great conversation with the folks at Back on Track. I'm extremely interested in their knee brace (in the $35 range I think) but I had recently read about these great blankets they make that help with pain relief for your horses. Their fabric is interwoven with polypropylene/polyester thread embedded with a fine ceramic powder. The blankets have shown to:

  • Keep muscles loose between & prior to competition
  • Assist tie-up problems, sore back shoulder & other muscular & circulatory problems
  • Provide a relaxing effect for nervous horses

They also carry wraps and boots for various leg issues as well....plus they carry a full line of human braces that help with similar issues. Again, all quite tempting. Their WEG special is to purchase a blanket at the normal cost of $269 and they'll give you your choice of $100 in other product. again...tempting...

Have you ever thought to yourself "wouldn't it be great to have a camera inside my trailer with a monitor in my vehicle?" well...ponder the question no more because I met the nicest couple who have such a thing! Trailer Eyes is a camera that mounts inside your trailer on a C-clamp so it's movable and then you get a screen that looks and is about the same size as a GPS. There are just so many cool features on this one and for $259 (which includes free shipping!), I have to say this one would move to the head of my list...and I think that's their every day price!!

The boot-a-holic in me was WOW'ed by Der Dau, a custom boot maker. There were so many boots in so many colors with so many options I practically had to run out of there...it was very scary for someone like me who L-O-V-E-S boots! You want pink leather tall riding boots....you can have them! You want red leather paddock boots with alligator toes, you can have those too! You think it, I bet they can make it. While I was nosing around their booth, TWO women (not even together) were placing their order and the woman I was covertly watching was trying to decide if she wanted the leather or alligator accents to her leopard print fur paddock boots. I am not kidding! I couldn't even ask how much they went for but I hope to learn before the games are over. I got a couple of brochures but did not even tempt fate by trying on boots! After an experience like that my husband would probably sign the bills himself for the Isabell Saddle, the Back on Track Blanket AND the Trailer Eyes before he'd even think about letting me have my way in a place like that! But that's the kind of stuff dreams are made of...come on, you know you're thinking about your fantasy boots right now!!!

So after that I had to run to the comfort of Ariat. There were a couple of retailers carrying Ariat items. Ariat happens to be one of the main sponsors of the games (and supplier of the really cool volunteer wear!) so there is quite a selection of Offical WEG styles. What I was hearing today, however, is that there are limited quantities and the most popular items are selling fast and they WILL RUN OUT of certain items, like the polartec jacket (that I picked up today!). I saw a really beautiful reversible vest at the Dressage Championships last weekend, bit & leathers themed on one side and solid blue (but it also comes in red here) on the other with all of the Ariat and WEG logo info embroidered on. I came intending to purchase one but the jacket got me...as did a matching cap!

Ariat also had a really nice stand alone tent where they were not selling anything but were showing some of their most popular items and previewing items that are coming out soon. I'm loving the new look of a few of the collections they were showing, a plaid waterproof boot kept asking me to pick it up and there will be a matching line of clogs/mules and paddock boots as well. Then there is what I'll call a Euro-Inspired collection that has this very cool front zip in the tall boot style and interesting color accents! It's a whole new direction for Ariat and I think it will be a hit when it's released. Their tent sported some really comfy leather benches in front of two large flat screen TVs where they were showing the Endurance check in live. I sat and watched it awhile & thought of Monica who's here covering it. Check out her blog over at Horsebytes, by the way!

I stopped by the Breyer tent just in time to meet Shawn Flarida who had just won a gold medal in Reining. He was wearing his medal just until he sat down at the greeting table and then he took it off and laid it on the table. He was grinning from ear to ear the whole time. What timing that was for me! I did take a few photos but my lap top does not appear to be reading my SD card so that and others are stuck until I can get ahold of my SD reader at home.

Well, tomorrow is my first volunteer day so I probably need to get some sleep but I did want to share with you a couple of little tid-bits about the games: along with all the festivities at the Kentucky Horse Park there is a major city-wide party going on down town Lexington, The International Equestrian Festival with bands & food and other fun events. It looks like there will be something going on daily from 1pm to 9pm. I have driven by it twice now and it looks like I will need to PLAN to go there!

Also, I stopped at Walmart in Lexington (the one nearest the Horse Park) and ran into what appeared to be 4 different international teams. I don't know who's who, but they were together, dressed alike within each group, were wearing credentials and were not speaking english. I just thought it was kinda fun that EVERYONE shops at walmart!

OK, that's it for now. More WEG fun tomorrow!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Road To the Games

It was 2008& Les granted me the wish of going out the Kentucky Horse Park on the Sunday following the Derby. While there, in what I call Disneyland for horse people, we took a riding tour of the park and our guide pointed out the area they were about to start construction on new venues for the upcoming 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG...and no, not Wicked Evil Grin!).

When they explained what the WEG was, I was intrigued and wondered how I might finagle myself a way to get to come back to Lexington which was quickly becoming my new favorite place in my new favorite State!

In 2009, we returned to the Derbry and the Kentucky Horse Park with Jaime & Bonnie and the construction was well under way. We were told that they expected teams from more than 50 countries in eight events and that thousands of volunteers were going to be needed to make things run well. The light went off over my head and I knew at that moment I would like to come out and work as a volunteer. I promptly went home and signed myself up to be on the list to get updates about how to go about volunteering.

The process took pretty much the whole year when you include the sign up time and the checking back in and such. On my end, though, I had marked the entire two weeks off my calendar(s)...family, professional, social and otherwise. As we approached the volunteer processing point updates were coming out about lodging and the responsibilities of the volunteers to pay their own expenses. I'd counted on the latter but the notes circulating about volunteer lodging being available for $50 a day, bunk house style and hotels starting at $150 a night, I realized that I was going to have to come up with a better plan so I placed an ad on Craigs List in Lexington for affordable lodging during the games and introduced myself briefly.

I received approximately 25 responses to that ad and had some really incredible offers. A few empty-nesters & even an offer to stay at Thoroughbred Farm for $35 a night but two truly amazing offers came in....to stay as a guest...at no cost!! wow.....I was so encouraged by the warmth the community of Lexington and Kentucky in general had for this VERY HORSEY event. I'm sure it's part of what made it even more special for me and became more of an incentive to come out and participate.

I ended up hitting it off with one of the free room offers, Kitty. We immediately became Facebook friends and over the last year I have gotten to know her a little more by reading her updates ...and she mine. We had a much in common and it seemed like a good fit. When Les & I came out for the Derby this year we arranged to meet Kitty for lunch and I half wondered if she'd regret her decision but lunch was great and we seemed to have a friendship already. She was fun-loving & smart & that made me feel even better. what a very generous thing to do...and her reasoning was that it was like helping their local event by giving me a way to come and volunteer.

By early May, I'd had an obstacle laid before me that I hadn't expected. The company I sublease my shop from had lost their contract with the State of Washington and a new company was taking over Practical Testing for licensing and we had no idea what they were going to do or if my business (renting kits to individuals taking their Practical Cosmetology, Barber, Esthetics & Manicure licensing exams) would be viable any longer. In fact the original changeover date was set for September 1st and at that time I wondered how I would be able to leave with all that change. I let Kitty know there was an outside chance that I might not come if things took a more challenging turn but that I would do anything I could to be able to. I had little idea that the new company would eventually throw me a bigger curve ball and move the changeover date back one month to OCTOBER 1ST!!!!!!! Right in the middle of the games!!!!! There was very little interest flowing my way and I really thought my business was going to close at one point. I knew I had to find a way....any way....to be able to go to Lexington for the games and even made a contingency plan to move out of my shop on 9/16 and put everything in storage for a month & figure it all out when I got back. That's how badly I wanted to go!!!!!

In that week before my planned move-out the new company insisted they loved my business and wanted me to stay as a service to their new clients, but that only left me with less than 10 days to plan for coverage by my assistants. Some how, some way, I was going to make it work!!

By early summer, the selection process for volunteers was in full swing (kinda sounds like I was competing, eh!?) . There were applications to fill out now that registration was open online & interviews (a few of them, actually!) and a formal volunteer offer-letter that was sent to me. I had been recruited to the Promotions & Marketing team and would have activities that supported the sponsors by promoting their brand. Examples I was given was shooting tshirts into the crowds at events during down time or handing out give-aways at the venues. That seemed like a dream job to me! Meanwhile I still had to pass a background check & settle all those things at home. Then I got an email about 2 weeks ago that they had estimated that they'd need up to 7,000 volunteers and had run short so they were re-assigning me to a new team and a new offer would come in a few days. What if I was going to be in the parking lot? Was that the games experience I wanted? Not exactly, but I eventually convinced myself that it would get me there and I'd get to spend my off time at the games so it would certainly be worth it. The offer did eventually come and it was as an Operations Coordinator which meant I'd basically be set up in an information booth. I was sent to a fantastic website called Shift-boards where I was able to select not only my volunteer days but specific locales so I was able to get a nice mix of Main Arena, Equine Village & Trade Show shifts. Plus I scheduled an appointment to pick up my credentials and uniforms...wow, it seems they thought of everything!

It was about this time that my phone decided to die. Now I had been having issues with it for a few months but I knew that communicating with my shop, customers and perhaps the new testing company would be anything but smooth if I had an unreliable phone. To make that even worse, we were not due to get new phones until 10/1 and my scheduled departure date was 9/25 at the time. Les was able to get them to agree to give us an extra two weeks but not a day more and the Saturday before I left I actually got a new phone ... a Spiffy new phone that was going to allow me to talk to my customers, book their reservations online & stay connected better than I had been able to before....and take photos/videos and update my facebook...which could make for some fun while I was away! Thank you Les!!!!!

Another huge Thank You goes out to Allison from SAFE, who stepped up and offered to take over the chore volunteer schedule...not just while I'm gone but permanently!! That took a HUGE load of my plate and alleviated one of the worries about how things were going to get coordinated if I was away. Whew!!!!

Through all that chaos, Les & Corey informed me that they were going to Chicago on Thursday 9/24 to watch the Seattle Sounders (Soccer) play the Chicago Fire and had added an extra day to fit in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Since I was going to have a lay-over in Chicago, they suggested I come a day early & at least go to the Cubs game. Somehow that turned into them leaving on Wednesday night and pushing me to leave on Thursday evening...which they decided I was better off to come on an earlier flight and on the day I was to leave. That made for some hurried packing the night before/morning of my new flight & yes, things didn't go exactly according to plan but I got to Chicago (well before my suitcase so I stopped at Target to pick up a few things on my way to the hotel Thursday night), saw the Cubs, hung out with Les, Corey, Barb & Phil plus the Emerald City Supporters (The support group for the Sounders) before I left for my flight to Louisville Saturday morning the 25th. I left the guys still sleeping and took off, navigated my way across town to Midway Airport thanks to the GPS function on my new phone (thanks again Les!), dropped off the rental car, located my missing bag & made the early flight!

On my drive to the airport, it kind of sunk in that I was really on my way to the World Equestrian Games (I tell everyone it's like the Olympics for Horses/Horse people!). I started to get all giddy!! As we approached Louisville I actually got a little emotional...kinda like I was coming to visit an old friend...or home!?!?!? I tease Les that we are practically residents here with the number of trips we've made during our marriage and strangely enough every single one of those trips was about horses. Even in the years before I returned to riding, Kentucky was pretty much my only horse adventures. This place is very special for me and here's the message I got when I got off the plane...that just pretty much sums it up....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Updates....before I start my WEG adventure!

I had to read back through my last few posts to come face to face with the fact that it's been almost 2 months since I last posted. It certainly isn't because I haven't been doing anything with horses...perhaps it's that I've been doing quite a lot. One thing I know for sure is that I've had so much on my plate lately that sitting down to write it all out seemed overwhelming. Not all of it was horse related, but some is/was.

So here are a few updates before I get to the current excitement....

July was spent getting ready for the SAFE Benefit Horse show. I had been practicing my Into-Level Dressage tests...ok, not really the tests, but the moves as Chrissy said NOT to practice it over and over since Coconut would memorize it and would rush it, we wanted her to respond, not think ahead. I think I was ready. Maybe not ready to win, but ready to see where we needed to improve and the relaxed setting of the SAFE show would be a good place to start.

The weekend before the show we set up our home arena as a mock trails course and all of the KCJ horses did a great job of going over faux bridges, through the scary plastic waterfall and standing still near the mail box (or sometimes getting the courage to even pass next to it!). This was our second "Play Day" and they always seem to be such fun. This year we even practiced having a pop-up tent & spectators nearby. After our ride we had a BBQ and celebrated a good day with our horses and friends.

Getting ready on an organizational basis for the SAFE show was also taking up quite a bit of my time but the work was well worth it in terms of success in getting arenas & classes sponsored. It's certainly encouraging that the community came together to support this amazing event.

Friday afternoon before the show (8/6) a very nice sized group of us reported to Donida to get things set up. We ended up working until late into the evening but (most) things seemed to be moving along well. Our fearless leader, Bonnie, was in a great mood at the turnout of volunteers and the way the show had shaped up. Having it at Donida was just a great change, not only in venue, but in the way we could add events to the show and attract the numbers we needed to make it a success.

The reason I say "most" everything was going well was because while things were getting accomplished at Donida, things back at KCJ had taken a very serious turn. Jan, one of the owners, had fallen seriously ill while out of town and had to be returned to Federal Way via medical transport and was admitted to the hospital that morning. Her family was understandably concerned and needed to be with her. Kelli, her daughter, was scheduled to haul a few horses from KCJ to the show. We'd had 6 horses slated to go to the show up until that week. Kelli's personal horse, Shasta, came up lame that week and would not be going to the show but Kelli was going to still haul 3 of them. As of the night before we had a ride for the remaining two but with Kelli needing to be with her family, there was lots of planning to going on so that we could take that burden off her plate. By 6pm on Friday, we had a rides arranged and since my phone was acting up, I shut it off content to press on with show-organizational duties. By the time we went to leave I turned the phone back on to discover a text that said "No one is going to the show now". I made a couple of phone calls and learned that a trailer had been delivered to KCJ but there was no one to haul it so Lynn (Fabulous Lynn who fixes my hand, volunteers for nearly EVERYTHING and is a wonderful friend!) offered to tow that trailer with her truck if I could meet her at 5am. We agreed and I went home to try to get some sleep before I set off to meet Lynn so that at least Coconut and Lola, our SAFE foster horse could get to the show.

I got little sleep that night and even when I laid in bed, my feet tapped out every walk, trot and halt of the Intro A & B test. I probably got a total of 3 hours sleep before the alarm went off and I bolted out the door to go meet Lynn. We both arrived at the same time & discovered that the trailer that I had been told was dropped off the night before...wasn't there!!!

It was far too early in the morning to start calling people and Lynn needed to be at Donida by 6am so I made the decision to get myself over to the show because, quite frankly, the show itself was more important than the time I was going to spend trying to find another way to get Coconut & Lola there. Even though I KNEW it was the right choice, it didn't make it any easier and I truly cried the whole drive from KCJ to Donida.

Once there, I had plenty to do to keep myself busy but I must have had to answer the horrified question "Where's Coconut???" and many times, fighting back my deep sadness, I explained what had happened. I do have to say that there were many offers to borrow a trailer to go get her but the truth was that I had never driven a trailer and under stressful circumstances like that seemed like the least ideal circumstances in which to test myself. So...Coconut did not make it...nor did Lola who had also worked hard to get ready for Halter & Showmanship.

The show, however, was amazing....truly heartwarming and just a pleasure to help and spectate at. Bonnie reported 102 Horse/Rider pairs and by the size of some of the classes, I'd say we had a better turn-out than ever before.

We battled the rain and competed with a couple other schooling shows but for those who came, I know that everyone was pleased with the event and had a good time. It's hard not to smile with pride in what we did as an organization but the biggest lump in my throat was in seeing horses we had previously seen in dire situations...like Ready Say Go, who had been an auction rescue last October, wining ribbons and getting adopted AT THE SHOW!!! There were many stories of glory for rescued horses and in fact, the rescue classes were among the largest. That in itself is a celebration of the horses and the people who care for them.

The show went on until past 8:00pm that night when we finally wrapped up the last classes. Many of the folks had gone home but there was still quite a crowd for the traditional "Bribe Your Horse" finale. Most of us were drenched and tired but closed the evening with a laugh before awarding the High Point prizes and drawing the SAFE rider Campaign winner.

In the end, Bonnie & the clean up crew were tying up the last few items so that we could leave the show-grounds. Gwen Blake came into the show office and gave us (and mostly Bonnie) the ultimate complement....that our show had been one of the best run shows ever held there. She went on to suggest that next year we consider a two day event because of the size of our show and the number of entrants. We all agreed that is worth looking into & there are already some exciting ideas floating around on how to make that successful.

My next update is revisit to the Great Paint Project...

Where I left off, Chrissy had come out and worked with Sugar a bit, Basil was recovering from getting gelded and Maeve and I were immersed in getting these two in good condition before we offered them up for adoption.

John warned me when Basil turned One that the next year was going to be difficult but to stick with him as he'd get over it and would end up being a great horse. Sugar, however, was coming along nicely. She had proven to be a sweetheart under saddle. While she was out of condition, she just has a really nice heart and tries very hard. As our three-month project deadline approached, Maeve informed me that she wanted to keep Sugar as her family horse. I was delighted because that meant that she'd stay at KCJ and I'd get to see her all the time. Eventually, Sugar ended up moving into the stall & pasture next to us. Sugar & Coconut became great friends, in fact I call them BFF's. I do believe they actually LOVE each other. Sugar's certainly the Alpha but they really enjoy each other's company and get turned out together often. I really love one of the posts that Maeve shared about how initially not being very moved by Paints (ok, I think she actually said "I don't really like Paints"!) she admitted how this misfit horse seemed to blossom with love & care and just captured her heart. Here's one of her updates on the SAFE Message Board:
"Sugar is continuing to bloom in her new life as a riding horse. She is responding beautifully on the ground and under the saddle in walk trot and canter and even did some cavaetti work today. Even more, I am responding beautifully to being an owner of a horse- I have just gained so much from this experience. I just can't get enough from all the natural horsmanship training- I really enjoyed the Clinton Anderson clinic recently (and yet I somehow managed to get out of there without one of his pretty pink sticks!), and I look forward to every minute I get to spend at the barn. As much as Sugar needed a "rescue" I feel like she has rescued me- this last year has just been so difficult financially and just all around depressing. In my line of work, success and prosperity is so dependant on an good frame of mind and outlook on life, and some how this little mare has brought an endless supply of that for me. Life has been better with a little Sugar in it."

So Sugar found a home in Maeve's heart but Basil seemed to attract the wrong kind of interest and I got very discouraged in the beginning of my search for the perfect home for him. At some point over the summer of 2009, I decided that he would stay with me until I found a better home than I could provide...admitting that I was probably not the best home, but better than most that had expressed an interest in him...and so he stayed with me.

John, our farrier, continued to sing the praises of Basil each time he came out. I had to trust because in my eyes, he was nippy and somewhat awkward in his growth patterns but John has a reputation for having a good eye for horses and so I trusted him. Early on he told me that this horse would take me to the "Big Show" but when I told him all I really wanted was a good trail horse, he said this would be the best darn trail horse out there if that's all I wanted to do with him (ya' know...if I was going to keep him or something!) And that awkward year passed and this handsome horse emerged on the other end. A horse that kind of takes your breath away when you see him ... or when you get those glimpses of the Horse he's becoming because that second year is still full of changes.

In that year I was up and down on the subject of keeping Basil and at some point early in the summer I had to make a decision and that was that he'd be better off in a situation that would be able to turn him into the stellar horse I felt he could be. Maeve and I decided to put him into training to give him 30 days of solid ground work and then get him out there and get him exposed to new situations and hopefully new interested people.

I missed an opening to send him to a trainer I respected a great deal but a fateful conversation in Maeve's studio one day with Kelli opened us all up to a project in which Kelli would become his ground trainer and then we'd get him out to a few schooling shows.

The first day of training went really well, I'm told. I wasn't able to make it but Basil was a champ and did everything Kelli asked and looked great doing it. His movements were solid and his brain was engaged. By his second session, he began to draw a crowd and at the end of the first week, folks at the barn were asking what his training schedule was so they could watch. Kelli had really connected with him we were witnessing something really special. By the end of the first week, he had taken to saddling up and even accepted weight in the saddle. He quickly understood giving to pressure and seemed to already have the knowledge filed away in that beautiful head of his.

After a few weeks, Kelli admitted that she was afraid to go any further with him...not because he couldn't handle it, but because it would mean that their work together would come to an end and I'd get him out to the shows and I'd get MORE than I was asking for him. What it came down to is that she had bonded with him deeply and didn't want him to go. In an unexpected show of support, her family actually came to her and made it possible for her to keep him at KCJ and so she made me an offer and I didn't even have to think twice. SOLD!!! I can't think of a better outcome for him than to be with her AND...I get to see him because he won't move anywhere. It's like it was meant to be.

Now he lives like a King...Kelli's built him his own stall & remodeled a shed as his tack room. He's got a whole new (to him) wardrobe of colorful, quality blankets and lots & lots of love from his new Momma!! She has plans to show him eventually but for now, he's still growing and working on her lessons with him. I'm so happy for both of them!!

...and NOW....I'm on my way to the World Equestrian Games (WEG)....I'm actually sitting in a hotel in Chicago after spending the day with my husband, Les & my son, Corey. I tagged along with them to a baseball game at Wrigley Field followed by pizza at Gino's East (YUM!) and tomorrow I leave them to their Seattle Sounders soccer adventure here in Chicago while I head down to Louisville where I'll pick up a rental car and head out to Lexington where I'll be a volunteer at the WEG. I have lots to tell about that process...because it didn't just happen overnight by any means, but hopefully, I'll have lots of time over the next two weeks in the evenings to write updates....whew....so it's after 1am and my best standby flight will be at 9:45am so time to end this update.

Thanks to everyone who's been on me to get back on the "Hoofprints Across My Heart" project. I appreciate the support and that you enjoy it. I really like it too, but as I said up top, it can be overwhelming at times when there's so much to write about. Hang in there...I am!!!!

PS: I'll try to post photos. The computer was not liking my SD card and I have one back up so we'll see if that works better tomorrow!