Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Settling in at the show

Pau is certainly in full swing. After relocating all of our gear to the event and then literally hacking over, the ponies are all settled in.  A big thank you to Emilie for being a fantastic host all week! We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and our ponies loved it too!!!

First I will get a few boring facts out of the way, Colleen is number 18 in the draw and Buck is number 52.  The jog is at 1130 tomorrow, (we will try to keep you updated), and Luke does circles around 430.  Reggie goes on Friday afternoon. And Jules rocked it with an amazing test in the CIC** today to start things off for the American’s.  She was in 2nd behind Jung when we left… not to shabby I would say.

Yesterday Colleen had a light jump school on Luke and he looked fantastic. There was only a minimal amount of bucking and almost no squealing!!! Probably because he was so furry! Since we had not clipped him as luke does not grow a massive winter coat.  Well I am going to blame the massive amount of rain… for the sudden poof of fur that has appeared since we have arrived.  We decided that even though the temperature is going to be 50* and rain for Saturday, for the sake of Luke not dragging me around while I am hot walking for hours and hours to clip him… Hilarity ensued. I think that at some point Colleen was eye rolling at me, as I demanded what parts be clipped, and then stole said clippers to make a few changes.  Needless to say I will not be taking credit for that clip job!  (he still looks awesome!!)) Though I am not sure he has forgiven us yet. Yesterday post clip he spit out his mint, I am beginning to feel the wrath I think. 

Colleen’s mom Sallie arrived today, and Luke was excited to see her. (I am pretty sure the feeling was mutual).  Colleen worked Luke on the flat after hacking around the arena.  Luke started out being a bit fussy not that I can blame him.  A certain German horse wheeled into him… Poor Luke.  He handled the whole situation quite well and went to work, fantastically I might add!  (He is still holding it against me for clipping him!) Well I think I made some progress with a fresh bag of carrots, a steady stream of mints, and minimal amounts of currying.  

I have lots of funny stories and some embarrassing pictures, but sadly I need to be up way to early and its already way past my bed time…

More after the jogs. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Exploration or the great flood...

Sorry about the long gap between blogs, my rider recently informed me that people were counting on my Luke updates!! I will attempt to be better about updating, but I am going to blame it on some of the flooding that has been happening around here, because the internet has not been very reliable and has eaten more than one of my attempts. 

Most of the days have been pretty much the same here, get up, complain about getting up, eat some more French pastries I don’t need, feed Luke, play with Luke (he gets mad if his treat quota is not met for the day), work pony, clean him up, turn him out, explore France, catch pony, dodge grumpy pony face while tacking, hack pony (to grow the fan club of course), clean up pony, tuck him in, explore Pau, Bed….

Some of that might need a break down, so when I was chatting up Emilie at the barn one morning she told me about many awesome places that we should check out, and seeming as how I don’t make many trips overseas (I miss my ponies too much) I certainly wanted to take full advantage.  We decided to explore the Pyrenees first, and we asked Emilie for directions.  At which point we were kindly gifted an English speaking TomTom… (best thing ever!!!!) that was programmed for a town with fantastic views, and some great hikes. The drive there was hilarious once we made it up onto the Mountain roads; Andrea started stressing out about the lack of guardrails… “OMG what if another car comes, I mean it’s only wire” Kathleen was stressing out about stop signs and stalling on the grade, me… well I was all about the views. I am fairly certain Andrea and possibly Kathleen wanted to punch me because in between Andreas panicking, I kept going “WOW look at THAT!!!”  After arriving we had a fantastic time wandering around town and went on a short hike to get some better views.  I wish we could have spent more time there, but we didn’t plan well and were starving, and needed to get back to wrangle the ponies… On the drive back through Lordes we discovered some places we wanted to explore more and made a mental note to spend another day there.

Not wanting to be boring we spent Thursday exploring wine country.  We found a few fantastic vineyards, and did some tasting.  It was quite entertaining because they did not speak very good English, and well only Andrea speaks not so good French.  So I was trying to understand (mostly remember what I had learned in Culinary School) but was having a hard time communicating anything, but I can say the wine was AMAZING.  Most of the vineyards were starting to close their tasting rooms, because it is the beginning of the harvest, so there weren’t to many cafes open.  We were recommended a place a few miles a way, we headed over, and it was literally a ghost town.  We sat down inside, and a few minutes later out came soup.  Being slightly confused, we thought we had seen some sort of menu… not realizing that it was an all-inclusive deal, the meal was literally never ending. (I should explain at this point that Andrea only eats fish or chicken, no beef) so the next course was beef and a vegetable.  We saw one more plate and figured dessert was next, nope out comes a plate with legs on it.  We all assumed they were chicken, and we all started eating.  After I cut into mine I realized it was duck (see culinary school above)… and since Andrea was eating thought it best not to say. SO when we were done I mention that I am pretty sure we just ate duck. Andrea looked as if she were going to puke, and to make matters worse. The man that sent us there walked in for lunch, came straight to our table, and says “O you ate the duck, best in all the area” Andrea was practically green. Kathleen and I were in stitches, and I may or may not have been getting the death stare across the table. 

Friday we stayed in Pau, and explored more of downtown, as the marathon few days of rain started…. In my original blog that got eaten I was going to comment on how we had nothing on Fair Hill, but we did.  The rain here flooded the river and water was everywhere, it kind of deterred Saturday’s exploration, which was actually hilarious.  So Kathleen is driving and we start seeing these road-closed signs, not thinking anything of it we reroute to try and get to theses caves.  We drove around a corner and down a hill and see that A) the river is flooded B) the road we were trying to turn on was under water and C) well it might possibly have been the craziest thing any of us had seen. So for all of you that were at Fair hill and believe me I have been there in the rain, you haven’t seen anything like it.  The pictures just don’t do it justice. After getting turned around a few times, we finally made it to the caverns only to discover they were closed due to flooding, so on to Lordes we went.  After only a few moments of turn here, no that’s a one way, park there, no wait, we arrived at the amazing chateau we had driven past before.  I think that was easily the coolest thing we have seen thus far.  It dated back to the Romans, and was rebuilt many times over, the views were stunning, it is literally built on the only high ground around.  From the top of the tower there were incredible 360* views.  We had also spotted a church on our drive, and so from the top of the chateau we plotted a route, sadly we were informed that it was likely closed due to flooding (by another group of tourists) but we were still determined to try it.  We made it all the way to the front gates, but they had an underground basilica and chapels that had all been flooded, so sadly they had shut the whole thing down. The water was running on some of the city streets, shops were closing, and police were directing people, pretty crazy to see, and we were certainly glad to be safely back on the road to Pau.

We had hoped that by delaying our trip to the beach, that the rain would clear up, but sadly it was still coming down… I was starting to feel like chicken little with the falling sky. Emilie recommended the town of Biarritz, and she did not disappoint.  It was stunning, even in the pouring rain, getting drenched. (something about looking like drowned rats in most of those pictures!) We walked along the boardwalk, and then drove up to the light house and wandered around.  I was surprised by the number of surfers out and about, given the weather.  We ended up finding a few paths that lead down the sides of the cliffs, the views were stunning, and we were all cursing the shear number of stairs… There was a moment of possible concern for Kathleen’s safety while taking pictures on one of the over looks (Do not fear Kathleen was not harmed) and we all enjoyed a good giggle.  Andrea would make a great personal trainer as she was shouting “you can make it”, as we attempted to run up the last few flights… I think my calves still hate me… On the drive back we stopped in a town to see a gothic church.  We found it of course by making a visual and shouting mismatched directions, (this seems to be a theme) we arrived in the front and there was a little parking lot, so naturally we parked got out wandered around. Stunning. Wandered back, and discovered that we had been chained in… Literally. (we were sadly not the only ones stuck in this predicament.) I stayed with the car, another French lady was trying to sort out how to get the chain down (to no avail) and Kathleen and Andrea were off with the rest of the bunch to find someone to help.  A few minutes later a very grumpy French men followed by a small group came out the front of the church and let us out. Whew! That was only slightly stressful.We happily awaited the arrival of our riders today! We couldn’t wait it be caught up on all things Fair hill and start to get excited about Pau. (well let’s be honest I have been for months..)

Don’t worry Luke has a blog dedicated to him in the works… There was something about more grouchy faces if I did not agree too his terms.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Adjustment Period

Waking up Monday morning might have been the worst form of jet lag I have ever experienced. I think I thought it was about 5 am instead of normal time. At the point where I was pulling the covers over my head pretending not to be alive, Colleen popped in and ripped open the curtains (way to full of energy, in my opinion) and said check out the view, just after be careful its bright. So pretty much hating her at this point I half stumbled over and realized we have an amazing view of the pyrenees mountains. (and made a mental note to take an afternoon to check them out). We quickly headed out to pick up the rental car from the airport, which is where the real adventure begins.

Since Colleen was only here until Tuesday morning and I am not 25 (so I can't drive said rental car in France) Kathleen (BDJ groom extraordinaire) kindly agreed to be my driver while Colleen was back state side at Fair Hill.  So we all piled into the rental car, and attempted to make it back to the farm with no GPS or real map to speak of (we had an iPad that had most major roads). This was quite hilarious as Kathleen tried not to stall (I swear she really is getting quite good), I was attempting to find the magical disappearing road signs, and Colleen was trying to find out where we were.  On the first trip in the foreign rental, I think I we only made one wrong turn. Which considering the rest of day one the word victory comes to mind.  We got the ponies settled into their paddocks, cleaned stalls (maybe this story will come out later, but the required pictures are MIA), and all the other normal barn stuff, and decided that since it was only early afternoon food, and the acquiring of a foreign cell might be in order.

So off we headed to find lunch, we ended up at McDonald's, which might sound odd, but the free wifi sounded like a good idea so that we could attempt to map out future plans, and was actually a good choice. French McD's has nothing on the American Style.  There are these potato wedge things that are amazing, and after checking emails and the like we ventured out into Pau.

I think that was out first mistake, McDonald's soon became a landmark that we passed a few times, and there may or may not have been yelling. If there had been a recording it might have sounded something like... Kathleen "now which exit do I take off the circle??" Colleen "Umm... What road is that...Lara is there a sign??" "I got nothing"..."I think that one" "O there's (insert landmark here) again" "LEFT..LEFT" (french road signs are tiny, in various colors depending on location, and frequently do not exist, and the roads change names every third block or so)... The good news is after about 30 wrong turns we managed to get it right and ended up at Kathleen's hotel and an orange wireless store.  Pretty impressive considering none of us speak french.  After converting my iPhone (so I apologize to anyone attempting to call my American number) and getting Kathleen a phone, back to the barn we attempted.

Literally if there were 30 wrong turns we were doing good, and upon arrival it was almost tears of joy to be someplace we knew. Colleen got on Luke for a light flat to stretch out his muscles after the trip. Luke was perfect, so we tucked the ponies in and headed back to town. Kathleen dropped us off at our hotel after only one wrong turn. (maybe we were starting to get this whole France thing down). Colleen and I walked to a Tex-Mex place right down the street and while Fajitas are certainly better stateside, it was still pretty good. We called it an early night and after what seemed about 2 hours (8 is more likely) we were headed back to the barn (with no wrong turns) for Colleen to have a quick ride before she headed to the airport to fly back state side.

Kathleen dropped off Colleen and picked up Andrea, while I kept an eye on the ponies, and chatted with the barn owner, who is amazing, I learned many useful things French coffee is way better than American, the Mts, beach, and Spain are all short drives, and French people (the ones I have met) are nice. Kathleen came back with a new partner in crime, complete with a real map, but only of Pau, which while helpful doesn't lead to much exploring...The new trio headed into Pau to grab lunch and look around.  Andrea came prepared and recommended a few places, but somehow I was elected navigator, and managed to find a parking spot right across the street from the Chateau de Pau.  We ended up having lunch right down the road, and exploring the Chateau.  The historic part of Pau is breathtaking, I think I could have spent all day wandering around playing tourist, but there were horses to attend to!! The rest of the afternoon was full of normal horse stuff, and I took Luke out on a nice quiet hack in the national forest that borders the farm.  Luke has a fan club in France now (well atleast I think), since we passed a few families with small children pointing, smiling, and saying something about horses in French.

The next adventure was the grocery and since our map didn't have those sorts of things listed, we played the I think I have driven past 5 or so, hopefully we can remember where game, and managed to make it there without too many wrong turns.  Colleen got a room with a kitchenette, and naturally being a foodie, I stocked up on cheese, wine, bread, and a few things to cook.  Everything here is amazingly fresh, and pretty cheap. I will eat for a week on 40Euros.  However trying to shop was slightly more complex as everything was in French and there were about 3 isles of cheese... Kathleen actually came and found me in the cheese isle to the effect of "wow you haven't made it past here yet... that's shocking"

After what seemed like a marathon day of trying not to get squashed on way to many multi lane circles, luke bonding, laughing till I was in stitches, and enjoying the ride honestly a glass of French wine never tasted so good.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Destination Pau!

So for those of you that didn't already know, I received a once in a lifetime opportunity this fall when Colleen asked me to come to Pau and groom. I am fairly certain that it only took me 2.3 seconds to answer, YES!!!! So here I am instead of packing my bags to head to Fair Hill, I am sitting in France still not believing that I am here.

While the two weeks leading up to my departure were a whirlwind that went something like I really need to start packing now.... when I get home... wow it's already after 10 and I'm exhausted.. guess I will pack tomorrow. right up until Friday. So Friday I packed headed off to see Zac Brown Band (best early xmas present ever!!!) and then drive though the night to meet up with Colleen at Buck's. I pulled in around 230 took an hour power nap and met up with Kathleen and Colleen a little before 4am at the barn.

The shipper was surprisingly on time, and we managed to load up all of our stuff, 2 amazing ponies and climb into the horse compartment by 430 to head to JFK. We made surprisingly good time and arrived at the Vetport early.  After unloading the ponies, then all of our stuff, then reloading stuff (the vetport guy  forgot to tell us that part had changed, whoops!!). The beginning of hurry up and wait started. Claire (the amazing agent from Dutta) took us out for some amazing food at a local diner, and hooked us up with some awesome Dutta logo wear, before taking care of the rest of our paperwork, and we continued to wait... wait... wait.. until a little after 3, when we hurried up and loaded the horses and headed over to the cargo terminal.

I was a bit unsure about the whole cargo thing, as this was a new experience for the 3 of us.  So we got checked in and waited for the lorry to be driven around to the tarmac.  So then the waiting continued, we hung out on the tarmac watching the cargo being loaded, then we did the magic dance of getting the horses into their pallet without touching the tarmac, Kathleen joined them as they were weighed and then loaded into the plane.  Colleen and I boarded up what seemed to be a never ending staircase, and once we were up realized that we had hit the jackpot!! There was only room for four passengers and the crew, so we had business class seats, complete with outlets all to ourselves. WINNING!!!

As we were waiting to take off when the copilot came out and asked us if we wanted to sit in the jump seats in the cockpit and watch the take off, most amazing view ever!!! (This experience was repeated when we landed in Belgium) but then we all got some much needed sleep and the flight seemed to pass fairly quick.  After we landed in Belgium we headed through the airport which was basically closed and headed over to the Flyin Farm to meet the pallet with 2 perfect ponies on it. After the ponies were unloaded and checked by the vet we met up with our lorry to load up everything and head south to Pau. This part is a little fuzzy. Luckily enough the lorry had living quarters, so the 3 of us all sat down at the table, and proceeded to pass out about 5 minutes after we pulled out of the airport. I think it took about an hour for use to smarten up and spread out to the various beds.  I think at this point Colleen informed me I looked like a shrimp (atleast she didn't get a picture of that). We finally stopped a few hours later and ate our first meal since the diner. (I don't think food has ever tasted so good). and then headed back on the road.  It was a long drive somewhere around 13 hours, but around 2am we finally pulled into the farm in Pau, unloaded everything, tucked the ponies in and finally made it to our hotel around 3 am. I think we were all asleep before our heads hit the various pillows, but I can safely say after 43 hours of traveling 3 people and 2 horses made it safely to Pau.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Morven park adventures

Entering morven was a pretty last minute decision, since originally I was not going to even be in the country. After I found out I quickly entered the super pony in the training championships and called to set up some much needed lessons! Lena and I had two weeks to knock the dust off, and as per Lena she did not disappoint.

Lena was the last horse I rode on Friday around 7 and then got all dressed for the show so that I could swing by, grab her, gallop a few and still make it to morven on time (gotta love the 4am wake up call!).

I made it to morven and quickly switched outfits, I was slightly nervous as I planned on a very short warmup, she seems to stay more relaxed, but I was nervous about not doing enough. I shouldn't have been Lena was perfect. She was soft quiet and relaxed! Win!! I however had a bit of a moment, when I came down center line and turned someone started screaming stop, so I did, and as it turns out it wasn't the judge, so there was a moment of panic but then I pulled back out my game face... 2 movements later!! Poor Lena....

After walking around the course there was certainly plenty too do, and with it being our first run back since the one star I was curious to see how she would be. I think someone told her what was happening because there was an extra spring in her step.  Lena went out of the box on fire and literally was foot perfect the entire way, adding another double clear xc round.(that pony really knows how to put a smile on my face!)

After a quick turn around we were off to show jumping, and Jenn had a few minutes to watch us.  A big thank you as I was feeling quite nervous about the whole thing.  I'm not sure why since Lena was perfect.  I had one moment I would like to do over, I went a bit too much to the last line, Lena had it sorted though and I was proud of myself for not panicking!!

Overall Lena finished 10th out  of 30 in an extremely competitive division and I couldn't be more pleased!!! Letting Lena stretch her legs was just what I needed to refocus. I must admit I would not have survived the day without help from Angie (thanks a million times, you were a life saver!!) apparently one should find all of their show stuff before arriving, lesson learned.

Now the ponies are enjoying a quiet few weeks and I am headed to JFK to head to France!!! I promise to update while I'm there, and try not to hate me too much if I don't text back (those international texts are expensive after all.)