Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spruce Blog #3

Hickstead Memorial at Spruce

The headline of a New York Times article on the day we left for Spruce Meadows was “Drastic Flooding Causes Mass Evacuation of Calgary”.   Of course it didn’t occur to me that this could get in the way of horse showing; I just piled more coats in my suitcase. 

The flooding in the city has indeed been devastating, and many evacuees are staying in our hotel.  One older couple told me at breakfast they had not been able to return to their house yet and didn’t know what they would find. Yet the show does go on.  The grounds at Spruce are on a high plain so the water drains away from the property.  The stables are dry and the footing is good. 

Cielo got here after a 36-hour trip and the powers that be assigned her to be stabled by herself.  She wasn’t with the Northern California horses, or the horses on our Prix de Nations team, or the Mexican barn with whom we requested stabling.  When she couldn’t be found, Dusty’s friend Antonio went to the office to inquire about Cielo but the show uses her passport name, which is Sky Dancer, so they couldn’t tell him where she was.  By the time we got there his grooms had found her and were looking after her,and by the next day Antonio managed to move some horses around (strictly illegal) and get her into his barn. 

My bike suffered a similar fate.  The shipper didn’t know which horse went with which bikes.  Mine ended up being dropped off at an old, unused quarantine barn out back of the main stabling area.  We found it 24- hours later in tall weeds leaning against a tree, a little lonely but unharmed.  Dusty’s bike did not make the trip so Antonio gave her one of his groom’s bikes which is bright blue with a high seat and short little wheels so it looks like a circus clown bike. It only has three gears while mine has many, so needless to say I have the advantage on all these hills.  But she gamely agrees to go bike riding with me all over the grounds, even though I got out of control today and crashed into her.  The job of a riding teacher is not easy.    

The Mexican grooms don’t know what to make of us.  They live and breathe the horse business and the stable is their domain.  Mostly the Mexican owners and riders meet the grooms at the ring.  The grooms bring up the horse and all equipment, hand the rider their hard hat and perfectly polished boots, and give them a leg up.  After their jumping round the groom is waiting at the gate, the rider hops off, and the groom takes the horse away.  In the U.S. we are used to having more contact with our horses on a day-to-day basis and enjoy hanging around with our animals at the shows.  We are also accustomed to doing a lot for ourselves.  Antonio’s wife, Carla, told me most Mexican riders would not be able to tack up their own horse.  In one famous case a student threw a fit at the show because his horse wasn’t acting like himself, only to be told by Antonio that it was because the one he’d been riding around was not his horse!  The groom had brought it to the ring, the rider got on and never noticed.  It is a sad commentary that this rider was so angry and embarrassed that he fired the groom.

When I want to have time with Cielo I try to be respectful of customs.  So for example, if I want to take her out for a walk or to graze on all this green grass, I tell the grooms so they can put the halter and lead rope on for me and get her out of the stall.  It’s kind of embarrassing being so pampered and it’s awkward feeling we are treading on their territory, although they couldn’t be nicer.  Miguel, our groom, has been with Antonio for 19 years and knows his job as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.  They sleep in the stable on beds they make with bales of shavings and they have set up a kitchen in their grooms’ stall.  They make all their meals there, frying onions and cooking up things that smell so good that nothing we get in the Garden Court food tent can really measure up.  Dusty and I have begun stealing their Mexican cookies and I am afraid we will arrive one day and find the food stall padlocked. 

Spruce Meadows is preposterously big and gorgeous, with green green grass, rolling hilly rings with ditches and banks, and huge, English-looking grandstands around the arenas that make it feel like a combination of Stratford on Avon and Wimbledon.  You never know what you will see or experience on the grounds.  One day down the little street that curves through the heart of the show grounds and past our stables came grooms leading mares and little foals running loose by their sides.  They were bringing them in from the fields.  We think it happens at 4:30 so will make sure to be there tomorrow to watch.  Today we were bicycling and as we rounded a bend we came in sight of a troop of Royal Canadian Mounties on horseback framed against the blue sky with huge white clouds, and just behind the Mounties on a hill were the flags of all the countries that are competing. Yesterday I walked over to the “Meadows on the Green” to watch a show jumping class.  (In the U.S. we name our rings things like “Jumper Ring One” or “Bank of America Arena”, very un-picturesque.)  Anyway, as I got to the ring the announcer, who has an Irish accent so everything he says sounds charming, announced that four of the five class leaders were Olympians.  It really hit me how lucky I am to be here and see these magnificent horses and riders. 

The Mounties!

The first day we went to a jumping clinic given by Katie Monahan Prudent, a legendary horsewoman.  It was offered free to all competitors and I not only learned a lot but I was grateful for the training we get at Full Circle Farm because all the challenges she put to the four riders in the clinic were things we work on regularly at home.  One other nice memory from today.  We bicycled over to see the International Stadium, which is saved for only the highest level competitions and can seat 10,000 or so people.  In a hidden corner of the building Dusty showed me a window display with all the famous, historic trophies that have been given out year after year.  If you win, you don’t get to keep them, but instead your name is engraved on the trophy with the year you won.  Some were new and shiny with only one name plate, and others went back decades and were covered with names.  It gave a sense of the pageantry and drama that goes into our sport, and a sense of wonder for the horses that give us so much. 
Some of the many Spruce Trophies

More on the competition with the next blog.  I just needed to write about the marvels of this place and this experience first. 

XO Lynne      

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sonoma June Classic

Oh yeah, it was a good one.

This was maybe Team FCF's best show to date.  We sure haven't had any bad ones, but that's how good this one was.  Seeing how successful it was, I'm going back to original format and going through each horse/rider combination so as not to miss a thing!  Ok, let's get it started:

Remonta Galeon and Brittany Shehi:  This was an exciting week for these two.  Not only was it the first horse show for this new pair, it was also Brittany's return to the show ring after 7 long years.  Brittany showed no sign of ring rust, however, when her and the showman that is Remonta Galeon won both their classes thursday in the 0.80m jumpers, making them division Champion, then went on to win both their classes friday and were Reserve Champions in the Child/Adult Training Jumpers and the Pre-Adult Amateur Jumpers.  Wow, if this is the result at their first show, imagine what the future holds for this team?!?
Remonta Galeon and Brittany Shehi

Manicero: Our little grey speed demon showed that even after a year absence from the show ring, he was a force in the 1.20m.  Him and FCF Pro Chelsea had top ribbons in the division, including a blazing fast win on thursday, which helped them to the division Reserve Championship.

Nikkita D'Hautboisand Zoe Fuchs:  This was also Nikkita's first show in almost a year (owner Zoe Fuchs busy with that whole college thing).  Again, Nikkita showed no signs of missing a beat, winning 2 of the 0.85m Jumper classes and the division Championship.  Zoe herself managed to make it from Santa Barbara late friday night, in the nick of time to compete saturday.  After very minimal riding all school year, Zoe swung a leg and guided Nikkita to a 3rd and 6th place in the Child/Adult Training and Pre-Adult Amateur Jumpers. Nice!

Boardwalk and Cheryl Daniels-Grey: So this was Boardwalk's second time showing in the hunter ring, and he made it look as if he'd been at it for years.  With Chelsea, he had beautiful rounds in the Training Hunters, including 2 wins (scores of 82 and 84!) and the division Reserve Championship.  The weekend brought him and owner Cheryl Daniels-Grey to the show ring for the first time ever!  As was the theme of the week, the 2 looked to be a seasoned team, winning the Reserve Championship in the Pre-Adult Hunters, and the Championship in the Pre-Adult Equitation.  Congrats Cheryl and Boardwalk!

Beach Boy and Claire Daniels:  Not to be outdone by her mother, Claire Daniels showed she was a rising star in her own right.  Riding the incredible Beach Boy, a seasoned veteran of the show ring, Claire won 2 of the Pre-Childrens Equitaton classes, and was 2nd in the other, making her division Champion.  Well done Claire!
Claire Daniels and Beach Boy in the Winners Circle!

Lynne Lancaster and Cielo:  Spruce Meadows is on the horizon for this pair, and they used this as their last week of prep.  Starting with a bang, Cielo and Chelsea posted a fast, double clean effort for 3rd in the 1.15m and Lynne took over from there.  With beautiful rounds, top ribbons, and a 9th place finish in the $1,500 Child/AA Classic, these girls are ready to conquer Canada!  We're all wishing you the best of luck, Lynne!

Coppacabana and Shallin Ris:  This was a relatively short week for this duo.  Sadly, Shallin left us this weekend to head off for a graduate program in Israel (good luck and we'll miss you!!), but before she left, she hit the show ring!  Coppacabana started the week with a beautiful clear and 4th place finish in the 1.30m with FCF Pro Chelsea.  She continued producing the clears with Shallin, placing 3rd against the Pro's in the 1.15m and 4th in the Modified Jr/Am.  What a great note to hang up your hard hat on!
We'll miss you Shallin!

Bonjour and Lila Gamble:  These two continued on their learning curve, posting beautifully executed round after beautifully executed round in the Short Stirrup 10 and Under.  With lead changes well in hand and now doing the correct strides in the lines, do I smell Rated Pony Hunters around the corner???

Shamus and Annmarie Mede:  With college on the horizon (Tennessee anyone?), Annmarie is making the most of her summer.  Her and Shamus blazed around the Modified Child/Adults and Low Childrens Jumpers, making all the tight inside turns and galloping to the last fences in Jump-Offs.  Her competitive rides paid off, giving them top ribbons in every class and the Reserve Championship in the Modified Child/Adult Jumpers.  Go Annie and Shamus!

My Diamonds and Hannah Cooper:  A new addition to the barn, My Diamonds showed she belongs here.  Hannah, fresh back from college, took the ride on My Diamonds, and sticking with the theme, looked like they belonged together.  With top ribbons in all their divisions, the new team walked away with a Reserve Championship in the 0.95m Jumpers against all the Pros.  Very excited to see what the summer holds for these two!

Dusty Z and Giana Roberge:  Another newcomer, Dusty Z walked in to the Wells Fargo Grand Prix Arena looking as if he owned the place.  Showing beautiful technique, style and scope, he gave us gorgeous rounds in the  1.20m and 1.30m's.  And yes, this amazing horse is part of our sales program, email for more info!

Nickel, Peter and Chelsea Jones:  At this point, how can we talk about one chestnut horse without mentioning the other?  The brothers, as they have been dubbed, proved yet again how unbelievable they are.  Starting with the 1.40m, the brothers posted the only 2 clear rounds of the class, with Peter taking home the win and Nickel in 2nd.  Saturday brought the Stubben Grand Prix, and the boys decided on a swap in order, with Nickel taking home the win, and Peter 2nd in an incredible jump-off. Not only that, but Chelsea walked away with the SSG Glove Bonus, and finished 3rd in the GGT/Paddock Cakes Leading Jumper Rider Series.  Words cannot express how honoured we are to have these two amazing boys in our barn.  Check out this great article about the Stubben Grand Prix:
The winning FCF Team!

Don't forget to go check out our youtube channel for videos of all our sales horses currently offered, as well as the winning Grand Prix rides from Nickel and Peter!

Ok, thats probably good for now, if I'm forgetting anything, let me know!!!  Congrats to all our horses and riders, and a huge thank to our whole team.  On to the next!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lynne's Spruce Blog #2

Hi everyone, here is our wonderful client, Lynne Lancaster's 2nd entry in her "Spruce Blog."  We love how Lynne is keeping us posted not just on the show itself, but the the whole process.  Not only is it fun and interesting, but very educational for those thinking of trying for the Spruce teams in the future!  Coming up tomorrow: full June Sonoma update!

Lynne’s Spruce Meadows Blog #2
June 17, 2013

As experienced by horse-loving females of all ages, I woke up this morning thinking about horses, and specifically Spruce Meadows.  It was 5:00 a.m.  I tried making an arbitrary rule that I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed until 5:30, hoping I might trick myself into falling back to sleep.  This failed.  I have spent a lifetime cajoling, bribing, encouraging, and guilting myself into doing what needs to be done, but sometimes I ignore myself completely (who wouldn’t, with all the nagging?).  It is now 5:15 a.m. and I am in my office preparing for Spruce. 

Dusty emailed last night that the weather was looking promising for next week so I pulled up the extended forecast for Calgary.  This is the headline at  Severe Thunderstorms, Flooding Rainfall and Landslide Potential.”  I am packing two raincoats, a rain hat, a poncho, rain boots, riding boot rubbers, and a rain sheet for Cielo.  The waterproof riding britches arrived in the mail and are basically like thick, rubbery riding pants cut off below the knee with drawstrings so you can tighten the leg hole around your riding boots. (So I am covered for severe rainfall and flood, but have nothing for landslides.)  For an unknown reason the butt pooches out in the back.  I look like a short, big-bottomed Cossack when wearing them, and will look like a shivering, drenched Hobbit if I don’t wear them.  Fashion choices can be so hard!

I have to write up a document that says Morada Farms has permission to transport my horse across the border into Canada.  One realizes how much trust we put in others.  The document basically says Cielo is a small bay mare with white on three legs and a little white mark on her forehead.  Since that description matches approximately two million horses in the U.S. it’s a wonder more aren’t stolen or missing.  The last time she took a trip this long she was sold from Mexico City, driven to the border, kept in quarantine for well over a week (they had a backlog at immigration), then shipped to Del Mar, then finally to Northern CA.  I wonder if she will think she has been sold again?

This past weekend was our final, preparatory horse show at Sonoma Horse Park.  Dusty has been taking the process apart, focusing on each piece bit by bit.  The time allowed on course will be tight at Spruce, for example, so we’ve been practicing being efficient in the ring, riding the inside tracks, galloping where possible, and saving seconds without (ideally) being crazy.  Chelsea has talked to me about conditions at Spruce and what it’s like to ride in those rings.  (She also modeled the correct behavior Saturday night by being both smart and fast coming in 1st and 2nd in the Grand Prix on with two of Dusty’s amazing sale horses.)  But above all, both trainers have encouraged me to go to Canada and enjoy the experience.

My goal at this last show was to be inspired by their excellent coaching, ride like a champion, and leave town on a high note.  This did not happen so instead I switched to a different strategy which was:  make each mistake you can feasibly make on course at home so you don’t have to make them in Canada. Excellent!  So, I managed to lose a stirrup and get it back, dropped my reins entirely at a dead gallop and get them back, cross through the timers at the wrong moment and almost get eliminated, and more techniques I won’t go into here in case any of my international competitors are reading this. All I can say regarding my show performance are the following:  1) DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, 2) our horses are truly angels and Cielo is very game, 2) there are many paths to success, and 4) sometimes all you can do is your best. 

Sunday was the last day of the show and also the last day of the U.S. Open golf tournament. I turned on TV to watch the coverage while eating breakfast.  Two wise older golf pros were being interviewed about the stresses of the final day of the Open.  They basically said this:  There are millions of golfers all over the world who would give everything they have for an opportunity to be in the lead at the US Open on the final day.  Regardless of pressure or challenges, if you don’t have fun and enjoy every minute of it you are missing one of life’s great moments. 

I am taking that to heart. 
Lynne and her beautiful girl Cielo

Monday, June 17, 2013

Horses and Flamingos? Must be Beach Party time!

It was a hot one.. but a good one.  The other weekend, FCF pros Chelsea Jones and Giana Roberge, along with our fearless leader Dusty battled the heat in Sacramento for a day of competition.  It was the infamous Beach Party Horse Show, where flamingos and Hawaiian shirts stretched as far as the eye could see.  Horse show manager, Peggy Fackrell has a penchant for themed horse shows, that while being a little “out of the box” are also very entertaining for exhibitors and spectators alike.  The $10,000 Flamingo Jumper Classic is what brought FCF horses Peter, Coppacabana, and Dusty Z to the blistering heat.  With temperatures topping 110 degrees, it was going to be a tough day for horses and riders.  We arrived early in the day to allow our horses to acclimate to the heat, as we definitely did not want to end up with sick or dehydrated horses.  After a morning stretch of the legs and a cool bath, all that was left to do was wait for the 7:00 pm start time of the class.  Finally, it was time to walk and mount up.  With the help of our wonderful working student, Shallin Ris, we had all 3 horses looking good and ready for action.  The class was set at an inviting 1.25m (perfect for newcomers Coppacabana and Dusty Z, who have only been with us a short time) and with a field of 17 horses, it was shaping up to be a fun class.  First to go for our group, Coppacabana and Chelsea cantered around in fine fashion, posting a lovely clean. Yay!  Next up, Giana and Dusty Z headed in for their round.  This was Giana and Dusty Z’s very first class ever together and the 2 looked like they’d been at it for years.  With one rail coming down inside the very tight 3 stride to 1 stride combination, the 2 finished just out of the ribbons.  What a bright future for this pair!  Now it was down to Peter, who showed us yet again how great he is by flying around and leaving all the rails in the cups.  Ok, jump-off time!!  Seeing as we didn’t know Coppacabana very well, Dusty and Chelsea made the decision to be efficient, but not go crazy in the jump-off.  Which is exactly what they did, throwing up a beautiful, quick clean round to put them on top of the leaderboard.  Unfortunately, their lead didn’t last for long, and were soon beat out by a very fast ride.  Hmm.  It was looking like Peter, last to go, had some work to do.  Now Peter has had some experience over bigger courses, so Dusty and Chelsea knew Peter could pull off a wild ride.  Chelsea dug her spurs in and off they galloped, flying around the shortened course to win by a full second.  Way to go Peter!  Final results were Peter with the win, and Coppacabana with a fantastic 3rd.  Thankfully it had cooled off a bunch by this point, but our horses still worked up quite a sweat, so it was off to the washracks for our winning group.  After a cold shower and many treats, our horses were tucked in and ready for a nice sleep!  Like I said: a hot one, but a good one :)
Peter for the win!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spruce Blog #1

Hi guys, so this blog is a little different from the last few.  As you all hopefully know, our client Lynne Lancaster has qualified to go to the world-renowned Spruce Meadows and compete on the Norcal 1.10m Prix de Nations team.  Since this was such a special and incredible moment for Lynne, I asked her to write some blogs for us and share her experiences on this amazing journey.  So without further ado, here is Lynne's first entry on the subject!! (Oh P.S. Beach Party Blog coming soon and good luck to everyone showing at the Sonoma June Classic!)

Spruce Meadows Journal June 10, 2013 – Entry #1

Dusty and I leave for Spruce Meadows two weeks from today.  Chelsea asked me to blog about the experience, and I think she may have meant to write something brief after it’s all over.  As you can imagine, being brief is hard, and there is already too much to say…    

There will be twelve of us representing Norcal, competing against amateur teams from around the U.S. and the world.  Teams compete at the 1.00, 1.10 (my division), 1.20, and 1.30 meter heights.  Meredith Herman is the Chef D’Equipe for the 1.10s, so I already know her and several of the other competitors.  That makes it seem less foreign. 

Dusty has made arrangements for Cielo to ship to Calgary for our designated week.  “Canada One” is the third of five solid weeks of horse shows at this premier international venue ( ).  I had to turn in my entries a couple months ago, so that’s all set.  I did web searches to figure out where to stay, and I’ve got the flights and rental car reserved.   Cielo will be stabled with Morada Farms (associates of Dusty’s from Mexico) so rather than being  with folks we already know we will get a more international experience.  

Now it’s down to the packing.  We have to be ready for jumping on grass (meaning caulks), and jumping in rain (meaning a rain sheet for her and rain hats, coats, and even jumper-style rain pants for me).  I asked Chelsea about the black plastic cover to protect my helmet but she was horrified, so I guess that would be a “no”.  We have to wear white breeches, white shirt, and a hunt coat every day, so my wardrobe is going to be very challenged.  Allan already asked how I am going to get things washed (he didn’t even consider that I might be able to stay clean), and I have no idea.  I am taking Cielo’s two passports (International and F.E.I.) but Dusty said never send them with the horse, just hang onto them (for what reason, I don’t know, perhaps if she is stolen?).  I have to send along a typed inventory of everything in my trunk for customs (for what reason, I don’t know, perhaps in case of drug smuggling?).  I am sending the padlock to lock the trunk, but not locking it, and texting my combination to Morada Farms.  They will unload her when she gets there, make her comfortable, and hack her the next day.  She ships well, but it’s nerve-wracking to send her so far.

I bought a new pair of white breeches on Saturday at EQ.  Spending all that money for something so special should be fun, right?  If you recall, it was 100 degrees Saturday and I was sweaty and hot after riding and it was like wrestling a rubbery octopus to get those things on, then I had a hot flash and I’m not sure but I may have passed out. I later found myself in the car clutching a VISA receipt and new white pants that are not returnable.  So there you go—the glamour of horse showing! 

I just looked up the extended forecast but it only goes until next week.  The authorities in Alberta do not like to scare people.  I gather some of their income derives from tourism.  Here is the forecast:  Tomorrow--“Not available” (How can this be?).  Wednesday--Sunny (excellent).  Thursday--Showers (hmm).  Friday--Rain (not good). Saturday--Showery (a subtle distinction with a breath of hope).  Sunday--Rain and showers (?).  The high will be around 16° with a low of 9°.  I do not know what this means.  I asked Allan, who is an actuary. He said something like multiply by 13 and divide it by 11/9ths and subtract 32.  The mind boggles.  I have to go try on those white pants.