Newly married and fresh off a three month extended 'vacation' working in Wellington for the winter, I arrived back in Ireland eager to get back to my own horses and put to use a few new tools I had hopefully learned watching some of the best in the world. Working in Wellington even for a short time was an opportunity to venture into a different world no matter how temporarily. Just being at the shows and watching idols off the television like Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden and Nick Skelton warm up in the practice ring just like every other person was a lesson in itself.
In Florida I had plenty of time in the evenings to daydream about the coming season for my own horse, and the others I had left behind on holiday. Donnacha kept my own six year old, Rio, going over the winter, and he really benefited from a small amount of consistent work and piles of food. I bought him last year as a weak, green five year old and still can't believe the horse he's turned into with time. Sacramento, who did his first preliminary events at the end of last year, benefited from a couple months out in the field with the young horses. He came in a happy fur-ball and unlike Rio, needed a diet and came back healthy but a bit more svelte! The other horses spent their holidays living out on the land, and enjoyed a well-deserved break.
Rio was the first out to compete this season at Monart. He had been to a few shows last year jumping but it was the first event of his career. He put in a steady and consistent first test and show jumped clear around a straightforward but decent sized track. The rotten winter left us short on cross-country schooling, and although he was quite green on cross country he definitely left the event a different horse with plenty learned.
Next up was Lisgarvan and I had three horses for their first event of the year, and Rio for his second outing where he went out on cross country a new horse and much more sure of his job. He was not the least bit tired however and there was plenty of snorting in the dressage warm up!
The format here at events is entirely different and maybe simpler in the long run, but takes a little getting used too, especially with multiple rides. All events are run as one-days, and each horse is given a time for dressage, but no times for show jumping or cross country. After your test you switch tack and head off to show jump, and then the cross-country follows starting mid-day in numerical order. The day is fairly fast paced with horses out of the box nearly every minute. It's not uncommon to see some of the green horses that had an issue at a tricky fence grabbing a lead from the horse coming up behind them and nearly running as a pair! The days seem to run amazingly smooth and orderly all the same, and many of the events have close to 300 entries and rarely a dressage test before 9 am. Not so bad!
Sacramento, who belongs to Siliva Hoffstetter, started the season at Lisgarvan, finishing second on his dressage score in the Novice (Preliminary) division. He won his last outing in 2012 and has been one of those absolute gentleman you can always count on, he's also a freak that has no idea he just started eventing last year. Unfortunately (for me) he's offered for sale, and I imagine he won't be around long if he keeps going in the same form. He now has six events under his belt and all without a show jumping or cross country fault.
After our local event at Lisgarvan Sacramento and I headed to Ballendenisk in Co. Cork for his first CIC* where he again showed what a consistent horse he is, placing 5th in a field of nearly fifty horses, with a dressage score of 48 and one of a handful of clear show jumping rounds around a tough track. He had a quick trip around the cross-country in the mud and again was a straightforward gentleman at all the questions, though not a huge fan of the ground! It was my first FEI event here in Ireland and there were a few differences in the format but it was one of the most relaxed and fun events I have been to. There was no trot up for the CIC horses, and they also did not have to be stabled on grounds which obviously saves on expense and a huge convenience. Beyond that, it was also only two days with the dressage and show jumping on the first day and cross country on the last. There were a few top riders over from England for the CIC*** and other CIC/CCI classes so there was plenty to watch.
Also starting the year in good order is Barbara Hatton's Slyguff Golden Ambition, or Marty. He also is seven this year, with even less mileage than Sacramento had last year without even show jumping experience before last year and now has three Novices (Preliminaries) under his belt. His dressage has been steady progress from last year, he has all the movement and ability, he just needs time and is improving with every event. He is also a very careful horse in the show jumping and has learned to jump more within himself, last year he had the most incredible hind end that was quite the jump to stay with at times! As he's less experienced in the ways of the world I held off on taking him to Ballendenisk as we had to enter so early. He instead went last weekend to another one day event in Cork. He had an even better test though still not quite competitive enough yet. He had a clear show jumping round over a course that caused more than it's share of trouble, and flew around the cross-country without any hassle. He had finished 8th at his first event at Lisgarvan with a bit of time, and then was 11th in a field of 40 last weekend on his dressage score.
This Sunday will be a week off from eventing, and tomorrow I head off show jumping with Donnacha. Next Sunday will be another local event in Gowran in Co. Kilkenny, only 20 minutes away and one I really enjoyed last fall. Starting last week I have begun teaching the Co. Carlow Pony Clubbers on Tuesday nights which was another fun time and nice change of pace. For other new adventures this week, last night I made my first drive to the absolute west of Ireland to Kilkee in Co. Clare. Donnacha delivered two mares to a new stallion and I look forward to going to collect them in the daylight so I can see more of the country than just pitch black roadway. We left home at 7 pm after feeding, arrived in Kilkee at 11 pm, unloaded the mares, had tea with the wonderful stallion owner, and hit the road to arrive home at 3 am, only in Ireland!