We started off 2009 being asked to be a demo rider for Steffen Peters at Equifest of KS in February. Gabel handled the crowds and vendors wonderfully and we had two great lessons working on canter pirouettes.
In April we traveled up to Jami Kment's barn for another opportunity to ride with Conrad Schumacher. Conrad has such a talent for keying in on a couple critical things that then impact many things. We focused on improving the half passes as well as my sitting trot. It was a great set-up for our first show of the year - William Woods in late April. Gabel and I both made our debut at Intermediare I and we were both quite proud of ourselves :) We earned a 61% and felt good about our first I-1 outing.
After a bout with cellulites in May that was brewing and thus impacted our performance at the Cornhusker Classic, Gabel came back strong at the St Louis show in early June. I was getting horribly sick but Gabel gave me an incredible warm-up and ride the first day of the show. With two judges, we scored a 61.9% and qualified for Regionals. As I was going down hill fast, we scratched the rest of the show and got ourselves home. I spent the next 5 days in bed and was on antibiotics for 3 weeks. I think Gabel knew he had to carry us that day and he did just that.
In July we had the opportunity to ride with Lilo Fore. Lilo was excellent and jumped up to one of my favorite clinicians. Quick to assess; Quick to focus exercises; Quick to gain improvements. I very much enjoyed my three rides with Lilo and hope to be able to do so again.
August was a treat!!! I was able to bring in Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel after a two year gap. Felicitas has been so good for me over the years and now with my third dressage partner, she just clicks for me. It is so comfortable for me and I get so much every time I work with Felicitas.
Gabel and I are now putting in our final preparation for Regionals where we will complete at both PSG and I-1. Some great competition and we will go down centerline as prepared as we can be.
Maggie & Gabel at the Regional Championships in Oct
When I started down the path of purchasing a schoolmaster to help me grow, I truly had no idea what a winding path it would be. Just the horse shopping experience was exhausting, emotional and expensive!
But buying a horse that knows so much more than I did was also exhausting and emotional. The first six months tested my confidence and determination. Gabel had primarily been ridden by one person, a trainer to boot, for more than 5 years and he wasn't real sure he wanted to have to change to accommodate my fumbling. He took great pleasure in making even the simple things complicated. And he was grumpy and frumpy and unhappy to be banished to Kansas :)
But Amy was ever-present and reassuring that I could do this and that I had bought a great horse. Others had their doubts but most were kind enough not to share them until G and I found that special partnership.
By early 2008 I was finding my confidence and G was letting me in. He was beginning to trust me as well as accept more shades of grey with my riding. And he was figuring out that life in Kansas was not all that bad.
Riding with Conrad Schumacher in March was a HUGE turning point - thanks Jami Kment and Rebecca Rigdon for allowing me this opportunity. Conrad had no idea of my confidence issues but he made me repeat many times "I WILL!" when helping me refine my aids. I think he did know :) I came away from riding with Conrad inspired and with a new confidence.
Our first show in May was the next major boost in our journey. Amy and I traveled to Nebraska and found out that G LOVES to show....and show-off. He knew exactly why he was there and behaved liked a perfect gentleman. I truly knew at that show just how much I could trust my boy.
Amy, Holly and I headed out to Parker, CO for the Dressage in the Rockies I II & III shows in August. I moved up to 4-3....what a HUUUGE jump from riding 3-3. The first day I don't think I a took a breath the entire test and I know I did not use a single half halt :) Not a good ride at all but just the kick I needed to understand just how much you have to RIDE every stride in these higher level tests. By our ride on Sunday I had resumed control of my breathing and my ability of effectively execute a half halt....even executing many of them. I felt like I had grown up so much in those three days at Parker. And my partnership with G grew by bounds as well.
The real highlight of Parker was finally getting to meet G's former owner, Lori. Selling G was a very tough and emotional thing for Lori so she turned it over to Sue Halasz and was not involved in the sale process. Even a year later Lori was just in tears seeing G and spending time with him. It brought her a lot of closure to meet me and see that G was safe and sound. And I made a new friend in the process :)
Entering the ring 'wearing my tails' was just a thrill and I knew we belonged there. But I never expected to earn my USDF Silver Medal with my first two PSG rides. My ability to do this is truly a direct reflection of the incredible partnership with Gabel and incredible support and training from my coach Amy Larson.
Amy always believed in me and she always believed in Gabel. She knew we would be able to come together and patiently let that happen in its own time. A very wise woman!
Successfully riding a FEI level test is just a dream come true for me. Like many AAs, I work full time and have to save my pennies to make this all work. I was only able to buy G due to an unexpected bonus...otherwise all of this would have just remained a dream.
But being able to have a horse like Gabel is just part of the equation. It has been a heck of a lot of work....hours in the saddle (thanks Klass for being a major part of that time in the saddle!) and hours in the pilates studio and hours working at a great job so I can pay for all of this! Even a more talented rider does not just sit up there and look pretty. I probably underestimated just how much harder it truly gets to effectively move up the levels.
So many many thanks to all that have supported me in my journey...
To Michael - I could not do this without your love and support. You may not always understand but you always stand by me. And thanks for the popcorn balls :)
To Amy - your quiet patience and wisdom makes me even more determined to learn. I absolutely could not be where I am at if you were not guiding me in this journey.
To Holly - my friend, cheerleader and travel partner
To Mary, Mary Beth and Margene - my friends who put up with my driven personality and love me anyway
To Klass - even though you were not the focus this year you patiently let me spend hours and hours working on my sitting trot with your ears happily forward and your tail high. You'll be out there with me next year too!
To Gabel -for deciding to trust me and letting me be your "person". You are my magnificent red-headed boy!
Stoney Meadow Welcomes Gabel!!
Gabel 1994 Oldenburg Chestnut Gelding 17 Hands
With refocusing on my goals and committing to a healthier lifestyle, I also made the decision to start looking for a FEI schoolmaster to help teach me beyond 3rd level. Mike slowly come to support my search and even ended up watching sale videos with me! When I started my search, I tried to tell myself I was in no hurry and to take my time.....this was going to be fun!! NOT!!!
Horse shopping is neither fun or relaxing. With Amy's help I developed a pretty extensive list of questions. Many sellers were happy to take the time to answer my questions where some were obviously annoyed and others just never responded. I quickly learned to qualify myself as an active buyer, not a tire kicker. I also had to really learn how to watch the sale videos and not be afraid to ask follow-up questions.
And with each round of questions, each video and each trip, I learned so much about horses and dressage. And price is not an indicator of a horse's talent, training, suitability, or health!!!
Our first two trips resulted in horses that were stiff and incorrectly trained. I was so disappointed as I was so excited to find that perfect horse. The third trip was wonderful! The horse was lovely, correctly trained, right age, right height albeit with a huge trot that was going to take a lot of work to sit. I flew back out for the prepurchase - the shortest prepurchase in history! 10 mintues into it, the vet tells me he can't go any further until the horse is seen and cleared by a cardiologist as he suspects a significant heart condition. A trip the next day to vet school and the horse was diagnoised with an atrial fibrilation! The fourth trip was to see a lovely Dutch Gelding. I have never gotten on a horse and felt so comfortable. Great training with a schoolmaster personality. I was so excited that I really felt this horse would be even better than the other horse. Prepurchase was done at Purdue and the vet called after each step - clinical good, flexions great, x-rays not so great. Significant changes that made him too much of a risk.
So very disappointed and dejected, I went back to my search. Over 40 videos, 4 trips, 2 prepurchase exams and I was no closer. And I was finding out that what I really wanted meant I would have to spend more than I had planned. So I bumped up my price range a little and Gabel popped on my radar scope.
Gabel was in Denver CO so I emailed Rhonda Fogel to see if she knew anything about him. Not only did she know about him, he was in the same barn as her gelding Xavi and being trained by her trainer. But Gabel was being shipped to Sue Halasz in California for training and sale, literally that day! So we find out more about Gabel, the most important thing being that he had already had a prepurchase and x-rays as part of the preperation for putting him up for sale. Dr Frees was able to review the x-rays before we ever got on the plane to go see him....what a comfort!
So Amy, Rhonda and I headed out to California. I lined up a total six horses for us to see. But is was very clear that Gabel was the horse for me! We rode Gabel the first day and then again the second day. Every other horse just paled in comparison. Kind, expressive, correctly trained, and personable! The deal was made the next day with a prepurchase just a few days later. So after another long trip, Gabel arrived at Stoney Meadow on July 4th, a little road weary having traveled from Denver to Los Angeles to Kansas City (via Ft Worth) all in less than 4 weeks.
Gabel has shown PSG very successfully and is ready to show I-1 also schooling most of the GP work. He was much loved by his owner and trainer with this no doubt contributing to his great personality and attitude.
We plan to just get to know each other over the next few months and then spend the winter getting ready for 2008!! I hope to do this wonderful boy justice and look forward to a long partnership with both Gabel and Klass :)