Saturday, January 12, 2013

JF Justinian

So I intended to stop writing this blog when I returned home from Argentina, but I felt like I needed to wrap 'er up, so to say. Especially because my latest bit of news involves Argentina in a big way. Earlier this week I completed a wire transfer (my first wire transfer, I felt very 1960's) to buy Justinian from Rancho Pampa... and when I write it out it sounds even crazier than it feels! But my main emotion is one of pretty intense excitement (touch of nervousness, apprehension, eagerness...)
I need to thank everyone down in Argentina, particularly Martin and Rachel for all the training, all the teaching, and all the time that was invested into me over my time there. I had opportunities to ride horses that I would never have found elsewhere, and an opportunity to really push the boundaries of my knowledge and skill-- and what I felt I could do. I thank them too for their openness and honesty and help with Justinian, and of course for Martin's excellent training of him.
I gotta thank the other working students too, especially Katie who is sating my thirst for photo updates on a regular basis! And Gala & Camilla for hacking him regularly :) Since it's pretty dang cold up here, he won't be coming up til about March or April, and I love the fact that the girls down there are riding him and that I can pester Katie regularly for updates (sorry Katie :P). And thanks to Garrett, who completely supported me in deciding to buy him just because he knows how much it means to me, even if it does mean a lot of cheap dates for the foreseeable future! His amazing Christmas gift of a whole set of jumps will certainly aid me in training in the future, too. :D

I feel like this is starting to sound like an Academy Awards speech, but I suppose it's good practice for my inevitable future Oscar... I really want to thank my parents. I could not believe it when Dad suggested this idea, and their support is above and beyond the call of duty (to a few orders of magnitude). I am incredibly lucky to have parents that love horses and that share and support my passion, which, objectively, is a pretty crazy and all-consuming passion, especially for a student. It's kind of nice to have an outlet to talk nonstop about horses to, conformation and training and breeding, and have my parents show real interest. I don't think I ever showed any particular aptitude in show jumping or horse showing, despite bumbling along pretty keenly for a long time and having some pretty castle-in-the-sky dreams... and despite this, my parents never stopped encouraging me, and this is the ultimate gesture of support. I honestly don't know how to thank them enough.

And some details on Justinian... he just turned five and up until today was a stallion... but as of today, is a gelding! He has shown in the Series I Young Horse Series.

Well, that's basically it for now... I just felt like I needed this last post to sum up what has now become probably the biggest adventure of my life... I have no idea what this year will bring, but with grad school and a new job and a new horse coming, I know it's gonna be quite the experience! Definitely interested to see how Haajes takes to a new pal, too. Now I have a lot to think about and some big decisions to make, but y'know, I'm kinda excited about that too. Onward and upward?

Friday, December 14, 2012

The End of the Adventure...

So I’m en route to Chicago from Houston now, after an overnight flight from EZE in Capital. I don’t even know how to properly sum up the last three and a half months. It’s been a wild ride and I feel like a different person. My last week in Argentina was fantastic. It was so awesome to have my Dad come down. I’m sure he was a little tired of hearing me speak about the horses at Rancho Pampa (ad nauseum) but he was a good sport! We explored the city, watched the amazing final game of the Argentine Open, went to the Henry Jota auction, and had a really nice last dinner with Rachel and Martin on Monday evening. The polo final was a great sight—some epic playing para suerte. I don’t think the atmosphere can quite be matched anywhere in the world. On Saturday night, Katie and Rodrigo joined us at the hotel for dinner and a last hurrah. The next day we went to the antiques market at San Telmo and spent some time wandering the streets and rehashing tales from Rancho Pampa (but of course.) I will miss Katie and Rodrigo more than I can say, and Camilla too. It’s been a hectic three months but I truly felt like I made some lifelong friends, and I hope they feel the same way. If you’re reading this, Katie, just know how much I appreciated your friendship and how much I admire you as a rider! And that goes for Rodrigo too. I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I’ll soon be in snowy Winnipeg. I know that my fat, hairy Thoroughbred is eagerly awaiting getting whipped into shape... ahah. It’s funny. I thought that this trip would sate my desire to travel and my thirst for learning more about foreign countries and especially about riding—but it hasn’t. If anything, it’s intensified it! Not that everything was perfect. There were times I missed home so badly it was like an ache! But I wouldn’t give it up, that’s for sure. I hope that everything I learned stays with me—about riding, about horses, about culture, about Spanish, and about people and interacting with them. So while I’m determined to start my graduate program at the U of M in a few weeks, I’m also keeping my ears pricked for further opportunities to meld riding and travel. And my heart open to other possible academic paths for my future. It won’t be long before I will see my excellent friends again, and I sense a lot of skiing, Christmas baking and movie watching in my near future :) No complaints there! But I hope Katie and Camilla and Rodrigo don’t expect me to drop off the map, because I plan to pester them with questions and stories on a regular basis! And on top of everything else, I also have something to feel pretty darn excited and hopeful about... but more on that later, when it’s (hopefully!) a little more tangible!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last day at Rancho Pampa...

Wednesday was my last day as a working student at Rancho Pampa. It seems surreal. I can't seem to keep the last three months straight in my head... it's all a blur of riding and grooming and feeling flashes of joy, confusion, apprehension, happiness, hilarity, focus, discouragement, fear... I would not give it up for anything. I've been a hotel with my Dad for the past two days enjoying a sight seeing vacation before heading home... and all I can think about is, I wonder if the ring has dried up enough to ride yet? I wonder how the horses are going? I wonder if the clients called back about Herodes, or if the new clients liked Vitruoso and Cor Lit? I can't seem to extricate myself from feeling like part of the "team" just yet!
But anyway... my last day. Amazingly, my praying that the rain would hold off for my Dad's arrival... came true! On Wednesday I started off the day riding Altanero, a big, rangy gelding that has apparently jumped Grand Prixs-- what a sensation! Huge strided and tons of power, it was a lot of fun. Next up was Skyline for a hack-- he's heading out soon to his new home in the US of A with Alice! After that I rode my little favorite Justinian in a short lesson with Katie & Picaro. I might have teared up a little bit as I hosed him down after. Then I rode Holendesa in a lesson, working on striding between poles-- I have to say, I remember an identical lesson just when I'd arrived at the farm-- not nearly as successful, not by a long shot! I enjoyed feeling my labours over the past few months come to fruition. Eight, nine, ten, eleven in a line-- what a mare she is!
After that it was a rush to tack up some, get organized, and cram all my belongings into suitcases in a semblance of "packing." My Dad arrived -- I gave him the Grand Tour and we all settled down to an asado. Then I got to ride for him :) I felt so nervous-- really wanted to show my Dad that these three months had a payoff and a visible return! I jumped Justinian over a little line at around 3'6 and the horse was as perfect as you could ask for. Honestly, it was a beautiful day and I don't like to think about the fact that I may never ride some of the horses again (and in fact most likely won't.)
While I miss everyone at home, I do feel like I'm in for some reverse culture shock. I've gotten so used to my routine here and I think I've been well suited here. Not that it was all sunshine and daisies, and many days I was cranky and tired (as Katie can surely attest!) But nonetheless I felt, generally, pretty content. Working towards something. I will miss it!
Oh, and my elbow is broken. After an altercation with a stallion last weekend I ended up with a really sore elbow and, after trying to ride Monday afternoon and again Tuesday morning with some painful consequences, I decided to pony up and visit the doctor to make sure I wasn't doing any real damage. the first doctor said it was broken, the second said it wasn't, so I figured I'd do no more harm by riding. My Dad looked at the x-ray himself and says there is an evulsion fracture there... so perhaps I'll splint it when I get back to Canada. Right now I'm a bit more excited about the Henry Jota auction tonight and the Argentine Open final tomorrow!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 3: Ups & Downs

So the rain returned on Friday... which meant a morning of taking the horses on and off the walker, and whats more than that, doing a complete barn overhaul trimming noses and ears. When it comes to trimming ears with a sheep shearer, lets just say some horses are happier customers than others! But the Ace Team of Rodrigo and Katie got even the most reluctant of the bunch all spiffed up. The power crapped out around 10 for a few hours (grr) so walker activities were halted until it came back on...
Saturday dawned bright and early with a photo shoot: 20 horses to snap for the auction catalog. Wheedling and pleading tactics were employed to get some of their ears pricked! Once this was successfully done we started rotating horses on the walker. Unfortunately for me, on the last rotation I was leading one of the young studs and got myself entangled on his advance to a nearby mare. Anyway, long and short of it is, I apparently broke my elbow... didnt find that out til Wednesday though! The rest of the day I spent uselessly wiping tack and grooming while Camilla and Katie powered through riding 7.
That night Rodrigo had invited us to his family's house for an asado. My arm was quite sore but Katie wrapped it for me and away we went. Not only was the food delicious, but Rodrigo's family is so nice. They gave me some ice to rest my elbow in and we had a great conversation about Argentina, Canada and the US (in Castellano! Getting there!) Afterwards we went out with Rodrigos cousin for some dancing... maybe not advisable with my arm, but memorable and fun para suerte!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Oooh I know I've been slack on the blog front, but I'm going to make a dedicated effort to brush up my act... especially considering I now have only 13 days left in Argentina.  How did three months in Argentina turn into 13 days?

So today was a rapid-pace day, the kind of morning where you can't even find time to nip to the bathroom!  I was on Skyline first for a hack, followed by Justinian.  Katie was on Picaro and Martin guided us through a small jumping exercise, a grid with a little oxer on the out jump.  It was really fun, I do love jumping Justinian.  Next up with Vitruoso, and I actually got to jump him a bit, too, just over a small vertical focusing on how he felt: strong and keen at the beginning of the ride, and after some flat schooling, relaxed and confident.  Very cool.  After that I flatted Cor Lit, and then Camilla, Katie and I hopped on Holendesa, Nacar and Boss respectively for a flat workout.  The sun (which had been in hiding all morning) came out in all its glory and my skin feels quite hot and stiff... forgot the sunscreen today!  Still, I'll take it over rain, that's for sure.  After hacking those three we repeated the exercise with Pastrocito, Jour and Herodes.  I rode in my new boots again, still trying to break those babies in!

It's funny, because the closer I get to going home the more conflicted I feel about it.  I really miss my family and there's lots of things about my country I miss too: feeling confident to travel around the neighbourhood, understanding the money, the food, having my own mode of transportation and being confident on public transit as well... but I still don't quite feel like I've totally experienced living here yet.  I feel like there's so much more to learn and discover about the city and the country itself.  While I'm eager to get home to my friends, I'm afraid that my old routine is going to seem a little cramped after this routine...  but still, change is good, and I'm happy to be taking home what I've learned.

I will really, however, miss Katie.  I now count her among my closest friends, and I hope she feels the same way.  I think we can both agree that we've seen each other over such a range of emotion: from elated and giggly to tired and cranky to frustrated and angry to sad and discouraged to driven and hopeful.  It's really going to be weird to not have her there every morning and every evening, and the thought that I might never see her and Alice again makes me really sad... so I'm going to do my darndest to make sure that's not the case.  I have to be realistic about seeing the barn guys and Rodrigo again... though I'm crossing my fingers that I find my way back here in the not too distant future, it's a lot less of a certainty than travelling to the continental US is.

By the way, the new working student, Camilla, seems to be settling in and is a lot of fun.  We walked down to the store yesterday and she told us stories of settling into life in Buenos Aires when she moved here from Brazil.  Her tales of tropical fruit made me quite jealous, I must say-- I wouldn't mind a mango right now!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On the first day of Christmas...

I have literally had this song in my head all. day. long.  (Thanks Katie!)  I'm sure the horses are being driven bonkers by my incessant humming, and I feel especially bad for Vitruoso, because while I was warming him up today I was stuck on six geese a-laying but trying very hard to work out the others, so it was a very halty and repetitive tune...

Anyway, lots has gone on since last I updated! (Ooops... it's funny how easy it is for this to get away from me!)  I went to a horse show with Martin last Friday.  We took along Justinian and Puccini for the Series final.  Justinian jumped great and was clear the first round at 3'6 with a couple of rails in the 3'9 second round.  There are some great photos of him by a local photographer on Facebook.

The next day I stayed back at Rancho Pampa to work the horses at home while Katie took Benito, Quantum and Garufa back to the Hippico for a show.  I ended up on 12 horses, including preparing, tacking and untacking all of them-- it took all day!  And I was quite ready for bed by the end, I must say...  the trailer didn't get back from the show until nearly nine, but it was with good news:  Quantum was Champion in the free jumping competition for four year olds, and Garufa was 3rd in the three year old division!  Quantum is truly such a sweetheart: not only a flashy and scopey jumper, but a pleasure to work with, and a four year old stud at that!  I'm gonna try and hunt down a photo of him for the blog if I can.

Sunday was a fabulous day that almost wasn't.  After taking a Nyquil the night before, I legitimately slept in til 10:30 without stirring!  It felt amazing and I was quite game to continue sleeping, but Katie and I had promised Rodrigo an outing to the Abierto Argentino (Argentine Open) polo game at Palermo... so off we went, and it was honestly a blast.  Nice weather, great company, FANTASTIC polo (Ellerstina won again!) and afterwards a cool afterparty at one of the promotional tents, having some beers and snacks and chatting with people.  It really was great, and relaxing, and a fantastic change of pace.

On Monday we awoke to rain, which was depressing.  It hadn't been in the forecast and I was looking forward to getting back to consistent riding.  However, we also got some exciting news: a new working student was arriving that day.  Camilla is from Brazil (though has lived in Argentina for two years now) and a dressage rider.  She was tossed right into the excitement, since we had clients coming to see Holendesa, Herodes and San Jorge that afternoon and had to get them prepared.

Now that the reality that I only have eight days left here is sinking in, I'm starting to reflect on how I've improved... and I really feel I have.  I recently jumped a course on Herodes at a meter and slightly over, with liverpool and a few sharper turns, and I really do feel like a more confident and accurate jockey in the saddle-- still tons of work to do, but a very different rider than I was three months ago.  Finding the pace used to trip me up constantly and I'm pleased that it hasn't been an issue the past few times.  There's still tons I need to work on, and habits that I can't seem to kick-- but I'm aware of them now and working on them every ride, so I'm hoping that carries over when i return home.  And I really, really hope that the dream doesn't die here.  I want to ride the 1.20m jumpers, and I really do think I can do it if I can be methodical about approaching the whole "finding a horse" issue.  The great thing about this time in Argentina is it has given me such a sense of what type of horse I like to ride, and what type I don't.  Now my plan to enjoy my last week, work hard, and keep riding the momentum I have gained from this experience!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Okay, today kinda sucked.  I've managed to contract some kind of voracious headcold-from-hell and was hacking and sniffling all over the place.  I'm lucky that Martin and Katie took pity on me, so while Mono came this morning for lessons my duties were to tack up and prepare instead of warm up (I'm sure the Series horses appreciated me not hacking phlegm all over them).  I also helped Martin and Mono put Garufa and Quantum through the chute -- man can those horses jump!  It's absolutely incredible.  I can't help thinking that we're lucky they don't ever decide to jump out of the ring, because they could do it with ease!  But they seem to know and enjoy the drill.

After Mono left I helped Rodrigo with some of the young fillies and then, at 11, went up to take a nap with some Tylenol, which helped take the edge off my fever.  After lunch I decided that I should probably make myself useful, since Katie had already sat on eight horses that day and six more were left to be ridden.  I rode Boss, Pastrocito and Holendesa, using my new boots to help facilitate the break in process.  They actually already feel like they're working in a bit.

Man, though, it is SO HOT here.  Hot enough that the thought of going outside is enough to make me hesitate, not unlike a Manitoba winter!  However, we're due for a huge thunderstorm tomorrow so more likely than not the heat will break-- that seems to be the trend, gradually increasing temperatures until it reaches unbearable, then huge downpour restoring the scale back to the beginning (though the start point is incrementally increasing, I've noticed.)

Anyway, I want to talk about yesterday's lesson on Herodes.  It was really cool-- we got to jump big fences again!  Martin set up an exercise, cavaletti, three strides to a crossrail, five strides to an oxer.  At 3' the five strides felt fine, but by the time he'd gotten the oxer up to over 3'9 I kept getting deeper and deeper distances.  The five strides that had required an "up" ride on Boss earlier in the day now required a hefty "whoa" on Herodes to give him a fair takeoff spot.  When I finally achieved that, it felt pretty freaking amazing.

Anyway, I'm feeling kinda congested and blurry right now, and I think Katie would appreciate if I stop coughing all over the place in her vicinity, so off to bed it is!  I leave you with a photo of Herodes and I a couple of weeks ago, after the "Puissance" ;)

Aaaaannnd my new boots!