So I spent the weekend in Aiken and had a blast! I really like Aiken, much more than Southern Pines. While Southern Pines is very nice, Aiken is much bigger and seems to have more to offer away from the horses.
Charlie and I drove down on Friday afternoon, arriving around 5 PM. We stayed with Shelley, a student of Cherie's who comes to Aiken for about 6 months/yr (although she's contemplating staying year round...). She's currently renting a polo barn in a gated community (crazy, right?) - all the polo folks are down in FL right now. It was really nice and very quiet. I got Charlie settled and chatted with Shelley for a bit - the last time I saw her was Mar 2010. Cherie and Bev (Justin's owner) got there about 6 and I tacked Charlie up for a quick ride in the twilight. The point of the ride was to get some pointers on how to handle Charlie when he's in a new environment. Basically, I need to keep his life more interesting than what's going on around him. I untacked, fed Charlie, and we went out for Mexican! I had the best margarita and the food was really good too. You can see where my priorities are! :)
Saturday we woke up to rain, rain and more rain! I really thought we would get rained out of schooling but it stopped raining around noon and Lellie Ward was kind enough to let us come schooling at her place, Paradise Farm. Cherie had shown Alex there 2 weeks ago and wanted to jump him over some of the prelim stuff to get him ready for Southern Pines I which is next weekend. My goal was to jump a few warm-up fences then go jump a course of about 6-10 jumps cold turkey. Mission accomplished!
We got there, tacked up and trotted out on the cross country course to find a course for Charlie and me then headed back to the warm-up area. We jumped the warm-up fences a few times then headed out on our made-up course. Charlie was brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!! He just loped around like an old pro. Lucky for me, Bev and Shelley were kind enough to take video. Here's the video of our first course. He was pretty heavy so I spent a lot of time trying to pick his head up (he wasted a lot of nervous energy when we first got there) but other than that it was pretty awesome.
After we completed the course, we schooled the water. I HATE jumping out of water! I'm always scared they're going to trip up the bank and fall down. Cherie knows this so she told me to keep my eyes up no matter what and to not look for a spot period. And it really worked. Charlie is very bold in the water so he's really good about maintaining the rhythm which made it easier for me to focus on keeping my eyes up and staying back - no collapsing allowed! It went really well. Here's the video of the water.
Next we moved onto the ditch. We did ok here - he peaked and I wasn't in the backseat like I should have been so it wasn't very pretty. He's not ditchy so it's really my responsibility to make sure I don't make him that way. I need to be better about connecting him in front of the ditch so he's balanced and has time to understand the question. Bev and Shelley were a ways away so the video isn't very good but I'll try and remember to upload it to YouTube.
Finally we move to the banks. Again this was great practice for me! My job was to connect Charlie into a short stride, keep my eye and body up and wait. Charlie took care of the rest - smart pony! I think this is where I had to most fun. I just felt like I really got it. Charlie always gets it so it really felt like we were a team. Here's the video.
Here's a video of Alex and Cherie - Alex is such an amazing jumper! And Cherie's no slouch either! They're going to be great next weekend.
Sunday was the jumper show (the whole reason Cherie came to Aiken was to show Justin in the mini prix) but first Cherie and Alex had a dressage lesson with Silva Martin. It was really interesting to watch - Silva gets on first and rides for about 20 - 25 minutes then Cherie got on for the last 20 - 25 minutes. All I have to say is Silva was amazing! I wish I'd taped it. She really focused on getting Alex to be straight in his neck and lower in croup. I remember what Alex looked like this time last year and the change in him is amazing! Cherie credits Silva with a lot of his transformation. After the dressage lesson (which was held at what looked like a castle - I should have taken a picture!!!), we went back Shelley's packed everyone up and headed for the show grounds.
We got there about 1PM and there were literally gale force winds. Or at least that's what it felt like. Jumps were blowing over, awnings were blowing off, it was crazy! Cherie's class started at about 3 and there were 15 horses competing. Will Coleman was there representing the evener's as well (he came in second on one of his 2 horses). Cherie rode 2 clear rounds coming in 6th. Her goal was just to go clear and save him for some smaller grand prixs this summer. Justin was jumping very well so hopefully this is the start of a very successful and competitive season for them.
I left the show grounds around 4:30 PM and got home about 6:45 PM. I got Charlie and Sadie fed and beat feet home. I was able to score a KK Ultra bit from Shelley for less than half price - I tried it on Charlie today and he loved it. He was so soft in his mouth - maybe it really is worth the money.
Charlie gets new kicks tomorrow and boy does he need them! I have to trailer to Janna's for the farrier so I'll probably ride him there - yay flat ground!