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!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Human skin wallets, $14,000

I got my boots today!  I really really hope that they work out, they're beautiful and I love them.  If any of you are ever in Buenos Aires, I'd totally recommend this place.  Fully custom boots and they ended up less than $400.  I really appreciate Martin and Rachel's help in filling me in on this place and taking me down there!  After getting my new boots and lovingly spreading the first application of oil, Katie and I got to talking about the softest type of leather you can get, which resulted in us googling different types of leather-- specifically human leather-- which apparently does have a "small, discerning" market.  And is 100% legal (allegedly).  Yes.  Well, I'll stick with my boots...

So yesterday-- Katie and I saw our first match of the Abierto Argentino (Argentine Open).  When we arrived at the Palermo fields, we waited in line so I could pick up the tickets that I'd ordered online.  A man passing by stopped us in line and gave us a pair of tickets for free, despite us saying that we had some!  So I gave my tickets to another couple.  It turns out that the tickets he gave us were in the Top Box -- the best seats in the entire place.  It was an incredible act of generosity, and it made for a fantastic view of the second match, Aguadas versus La Natividad (Aguada winning 12 - 10).  Afterwards there's a big afterparty and a really cool vibe to the place -- looking forward to heading back next week.

Today was a typical Monday, except I woke up with a pretty voracious head cold, which is really jarring in this intense heat.  All of the horses were good today and i was on a few I don't ride very often, which was cool. 

Now off to bed, have some work to do breaking in those boots!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

End of a long week...

Alice left yesterday :(  It's weird how quickly this job can catapult you into closeness.  Three months aago I didn't know Alice at all, and suddenly we were living and working together and basically hanging out 24/7.  I'll really miss having her around Rancho Pampa, but wish her the best of luck with her pursuits in eventing... can't wait to see her and Classic Skyline at NAJYRC :)

Since it was Alice's last day yesterday we did a jump school in the morning on the young ones.  It was a big course with two related distances (one a bending line in six, the other a six or seven, vertical to BIG triple bar.  There were also two combinations, a two stride and a one stride.  It was really fun and Boss jumped super well-- I actually can barely stay with that horse's jump.  He's about fifteen hands and his hind end goes above my head over the fences.

After that we hacked some horses and I had a bit of a trick played on me by Martin.  He'd picked up a new horse a couple of days beforehand and we knew nothing about him.  He handed me the horse and asked me if I'd ever ridden a horse I knew nothing about before.  "No..."  He told me to lunge the horse and then see about getting on.  So I carefully led him out, cautiously tightened the girth, lunged him around-- he seemed to be familiar with it-- and when I finally decided to try mounting, Martin impassively watched as I patted him on either side, leaned my weight slowly across the saddle and carefully mounted.  He started instructing me to try all the gaits, and I'm sure my face was a mask of supreme focus and concentration as I tried to read how green the horse was and how he was reacting to everything I was asking (quite well, as it happens.)  Then Martin had me go over a cavelletti.  Then a small jump, then a bigger jump, and finally a small course... turns out he was an old schoolmaster.  I felt supremely foolish!

Saturday (first Aliceless day :( ) involved Katie heading off to the Allemande for a show with four horses and Carlos.  I stayed behind to ride the others and help Rodrigo with the youngsters.  I rode Picaro, Skyline, Puccini, Boss, Holendesa, Pastrocito and Jour.  It was HOT today and i must say I am thoroughly worn out from the sun all week, and more than ready for bed... but just waiting for a load of laundry to finish to up!  Tomorrow is our first day at the Argentine Open polo game and I am beyond excited.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Rancho Pampa Puissance Classic et al.

And how!

Sooo a big storm on Friday knocked out our internet until early this afternoon, and I must say, absence does make the heart grow fonder, because I was ever so happy to see that small pulsing signal on my phone!  I have a lot to update on...

Today was one of those days where you can almost feel yourself learning.  I had three jump lessons on three great horses this morning, and each one managed to teach me something different...

First off I was on a young gelding.  Our assignment for the day was a basic course with lots of changes of direction and smooth, flowy turns.  Key messages? Pace, straightness and consistency.  I started off my first round determined to nail the pace and not get caught with weak distances; this translated into me over riding all of the fences and sacrificing straightness.  Not so good... The fences went up and on my do-over I managed to find a happy medium, and suddenly the distances were there.  Over my time here I've started to realize how much "the perfect spot" is nothing more than a reflection of your pace and your horses adjustability. Yet despite my brain knowing this, I manage to forget or mess it up on a regular basis... It seems to always take me a try or two to really get the flow going, and as my coach, Martin, says, "In the competition ring you only get the first try." I need this revelations to become more ingrained and instantaneous!

My second jump lesson was on a sensitive mare who I had only jumped once before.  The focus of this lesson? Discipline in our figures.  We worked over a triple combination of oxers with two strides between each, the objective being to jump it off the left lead, go right and jump it off the right lead.  The angle of the turns and distance from the "center line" of the combination should be equal on either side.  Well, I managed to axe this one the first time too, choosing an extremely tight track when a wider, smoother option was available.  "The exercise is not about the jumps.  It's about being equal on either side.  How can you pinpoint stiffness or rigidity in a certain direction if your analysis is not equal in both directions?" Everything is training, and I'm starting to appreciate just how much simple figures can tell us about our horses' state of being.  Stiff, supple, fresh, lazy? It all becomes painfully obvious when you accurately call upon a horses ability to go forward, halt, back up and go left and right.  We start our work outs here with walk-halt transitions.  Are they stiff? Pulling? Resistant? Once you've decided, you have your assignment for the day!

My last jump lesson of the day was a blast.  I was aboard a more experienced gelding, who warmed up really well.  Martin set up the same oxer triple combination as the last lesson, calling it the puissance classic.  As the jumps got higher, the power and accuracy needed at the entry point increased, as well as the necessity of sitting tall between fences.  What was a comfortable distance at 3' became significantly tighter at 1.15m, and I needed to be careful not to override the two strides, as is my wont!  It was a blast though and my horse was excellent, and I can now add "winner of the Rancho Pampa Puissance Classic" to my resume, against a tough field of two competitors!

True to the forecast, shortly after finishing that ride the wind started picking up, and our last ride was hurried as we tried to beat the rain... Which came down in a torrent as we untacked.  The downpours here certainly take some getting used to!

Our day off was swapped this weekend, so Saturday involved sleeping in til nine, doing some cleaning and reading, and then heading off to the big FEI show at Capricho with Alice, Katie and Rodrigo.  Unfortunately we got lost en route and missed the Nation's Cup, but we were there in time to see the victory gallop!  And the Canadian team tied for second with the Argentine team, behind the Americans!  I was stoked to recognize some of the Canadian riders, namely Jenn Serek and Ben Asselin, and discovered that the remaining two were Tamie Philips and a French rider, Lamontage, whose first name has slipped my mind right now.  I felt so proud of my country to watch them, and had to suppress the urge to wave at them as though they might recognize me as a fellow Canadian. 

After the show we went out for dinner and it was relaxed and chill, a great day to spend with good friends.

We rode, just 15 minute trots in the damp ring!  Walked to the gas station after work to try and catch some Wifi.

Rode five in the morning, lunged three in the afternoon and the usual cleaning, etc.

Today I had a great jump lesson in the morning, over the (fabulous) course that we designed and set up yesterday.  Ten jumps with two combinations for the first round... had an unfortunate stop due to my inattention the first round, but everything else felt great, forward and gallopy and fun!  Martin deigned to let me ride the jump off despite not having a clean round, and that was completely awesome.  I really felt like I rocked a couple of the twisty turns, and feeling like I "rocked" something is not an emotion I'm all too familiarly acquainted with!  I definitely got rocketed out of the tack over the triple bar, but my horse came back nicely and I felt like the last turn was good too (and I know without context none of this description will make any sense, but it's for my own sake!)

After the jump lesson we did a hack set and then... three more jump lessons, on Geologo, Cor Lit and Puccini for me.  These were all the same exercise, a trot in cavelletti grid to a big vertical, focusing on rhythm, forwardness and letting the horse rock back and really bounce out.  I felt pretty pleased with most of the lessons, though definitely found some more things to work on.


My parents got a puppy!!!  I'm so excited to meet her.  She's a 10 week old English setter puppy and her name is Ruby.  Less than a month til I get to see her, and Haajes, and my family!  Hopefully I will have improved appreciably in my riding.  I definitely feel like I've gotten somewhere, but only the unbiased judges will be able to tell me for sure!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hace muy calor!

Okay, so I have to do a recap on yesterday.  I had three jump lessons after hacking Puccini in the morning.  The first was on Justinian, who is one of my favorite horses here.  I had never jumped him before and so was feeling pretty excited and nervous.  The exercise ended up being a short five stride, just cavalletti and crossrail, and then a right turn to a triple combination of Swedish oxers with two strides between each.  It felt fantastic, and I got to repeat the exercise on Herodes and Boss as well.  It's really cool to repeat the same exercise on multiple horses, because you start to feel exactly what sort of ride each of them needs.  They all have different issues: one might drift a little left, one might get a little strong, one might be a bit short strided.  Those lessons really helped me to realise just how much riding here has helped my adaptability.  Still have a long way to go, but the feeling was pretty righteous :)

After the lessons we went to Baral, a breeding farm about an hour and a half away.  We rode in the back of a pickup through their fields to sneak a peek at the newborn foals and their mommas-- and of course, Invasor's first two babies, two bright chestnuts!  Then we watched a bunch of Baral's young'uns going through the free jump.  Their free jump area was really beautiful, surrounded by thick foliage and deliciously shaded from that intense Argentine sun!  We ended up taking home five youngsters to break-- Rodrigo's project for the next little while.

Today was possibly even hotter than yesterday.  Since most of the horse jump schooled yesterday, it was a morning of hacking today.  I lunged some of the mares for Rodrigo in the morning, and then rode Boss, Herodes and Holendesa.  In the afternoon we did the usual barn chores, plus a photo shoot with the young mares.  It was truly sweltering in the sun today and I was pretty glad that we didn't have any left over to ride in the afternoon... looks like this heat will stick around through tomorrow, and then all the forecasts point to a bellyacher of a thunderstorm on Friday.  As long as the ring doesn't flood and we can get back to riding quickly, I'm not gonna complain about a reduction in this humidity!

Found out that the horses at home have left for California, which makes me simultaneously wish to be home and also wish to be heading down to Indio with them!  I hope all of our young horses do well and that the playing horses take to the climate change all right.

Missing the family and home as usual, but really diggin' Argentina right now, and savoring my last few weeks with Katie, Alice, Rodrigo and everyone else!

Monday, November 5, 2012


I'm sure Katie and Alice are completely sick of hearing me exclaim about how hot it is... but it is so. damn. hot and muggy.  Sitting in the kitchen, fan on, eight thirty at night and sweating.

Anyway, today was a good (and hot) day.  Rode six in the morning under a bright sun (I've been conscientiously slathering sunscreen on and hoping it'll do its job).  The afternoon was full of barn chores as the guys were sent out to whipper-snip (weed whack, weed eat, etc) the property, to snaz it up for clients that might be coming in this week.

Too hot to blog.  I'll say more tomorrow...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hot day at the Allemand

Martin, Katie and I headed to a show at the Allemand early this A.M. with six horses in tow.  It was a really beautiful, sunny, pretty spring day in Argentina (and yes, it's 27 degrees in spring here!!).  I warmed up Justinian, cooled out Mauro and then hopped on Benito and cooled down Nixon in the busy warm up ring at the schooling show.  All the horses jumped really well and I could tell by Martin's wide grin that he was pretty darn pleased with all the clear rounds.   By the time we headed back home it was past two, and we grabbed some sandwiches from a booth on the side of the road to munch on.  When we got back to the barn, Alice, Katie and I hopped on Geologo, Pastrocito and Herodes (respectively) for a jump lesson.  It was quite hot but all the horses were really good; we jumped through a crossrail-oxer grid, focussing a lot on a good, strong entrance and correct position through the grid. 

After the lesson I felt pretty bogged out; this heat is truly intense and I'm having to get used to it!  Luckily all we had left was tack cleaning, water-supplying, aisle-sweeping and wrap-rolling and applying. The vet was here checking the mares; breeding season is almost upon us.

Anyway, I'm so tired I'm kind of losing my train of thought... a great day all round and a perfect set up for an early night and a day off tomorrow!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Red letter day!

I`m pretty sure a red letter day is a good thing... which is why I called today that.  Not all of it was great-- Walter collapsed today and passed out in the morning and was rushed to the hospital by Carlos and Rodrigo.  It turns out it was nothing serious, dehydration and stress most likely, but it can`t have felt very good and we were all worried!  Hopefully Walter will be feeling better soon, love having him around the barn, even when he is making fun of me (okay, less so then.  It`s not much fun to have him rubbing his hands gleefully at the thought of you falling off... the tradition here is that you buy the barn guys pastries when you fall off, so they don`t see any harm in suggesting that you try it.  Funnily enough, there doesn`t seem to be a situation in which they buy us pastries... maybe passing out in the wash rack should be the new standard!)

The rest of the morning was great though!  Martin, Alice and Katie took six of the young horses to a schooling show off the property, and I stayed behind to help Rodrigo with the youngsters and start riding the other horses.  It was really hot and sunny and basically a perfect day weather-wise.  The young horses were all great, and I rode Pastrocito, Georgia and Herodes before the trailer got back, and then hopped on Holendesa and Jour to finish up the non-series horses before riding Mauro with Katie and Alice.  After lunch (which I must say, I was ravenous for!) we rode the last three left: Picaro, Benito and Justinian.  Martin gave us a flat lesson, which I really really enjoyed.  The focus was on discipline with figures in a dressage ring set up, and Justinian was perfect: forward, light and attentive the whole time, despite the now stifling heat!  I definitely sustained some sunburn despite copious amounts of sunscreen slathered all over myself.   The sun here is truly something else...

Well, up early tomorrow for another show!  I promise a blog post with some more meat in it sometime this weekend.  I`ll need to think about some kind of training philosophy to pontificate about, or something.

PS... I was super jealous of my ultimate team last night... not only did they hose the opposition at the Golf Dome, they had ex-Blue Bomber Milt Stegall sub on our team!! I may not be a football fan but I can still feel really jealous of that!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Long day!

Today was a long one! Good, though.  I hopped on Nacar for the first horse of the day and he was excellent.  I'm starting to feel like my blog is really boring because I mostly list the names of horses I've ridden, which probably means nothing to anyone reading this who hasn't met them... so I'll say the colors today.  I rode a gray one, lunged a bay one, rode a black one, rode a chestnut one, rode another chestnut one (bobbled around), rode yet another chestnut one, and then finished off with a bay. I only rode one bay today?!  That seems crazy.  Now that I'm thinking about it, there's barely any bays here!

Anyway, my lesson on Jour was good.  In the afternoon I cleaned some tack, groomed some horses and then jogged horses for the vet, which was a somewhat interesting experience.  I may have sworn a few times, which I'm embarrassed about now because the vet is really nice... and speaks English...

I'm tired and it's an early morn tomorrow so I'm off to read a bit and then zonk out.  I am getting lamer and lamer by the day with this whole going to bed at nine thing... but I can't help it!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mr Sun!!

Really nice today :)  The sun came out and while the ring was still, er, squelchy, it was certainly good enough to walk through, so that is what we did!  Rodrigo, Katie, Martin, Alice and I took it in sets to walk all the horses smartly round the ring, working on bending, transitions, lengthening, shortening and halting.  I was on Puccini, Benito, Pastrocito and Herodes.  By the time we'd finished lunch the glorious sun had dried the ring quite well, so we hopped back on to take out the ones who'd walked in the morning for trot sets.  I was on Justinian, Uxmal and Herodes again for the afternoon. 

There's some new faces in the barn recently, and I think the guys are having a ball lying to me about what their names are.  I was pretty sure that the new guy was named Marco, but when I asked him for a hand with one of the horses today he responded to (what I thought was) his name with, "No es martes, es miercoles," which Walter thought was hysterical.  Confused, I asked him what his name was, and with a smile he told me it was Javier.  So I called him Javier and Walter laughed every time.  Turns out his name is Marco.  Apparently leading me wrong has become a game even more amusing than bleating my name at increasingly frequent intervals whenever I walk by.  But in the end I got the fly treatment applied to every horse without much fanfare, which, of course, was the goal.

It's Halloween at home but there's really no sign of it here, unless you count the paltry pumpkin stickers that decorated the door of the gas station we visited yesterday.  I do kinda miss the parties and I definitely miss raiding Davis' loot for Rockets and Reese's peanut butter cups, but I'm not gonna lie, I had no complaints about my sunny, 23 degrees Celsius Halloween here in Arg...

By the way, I purchased tickets to the Argentine Open this December, and I am so stoked to see some more of the polo down here!  My trip has been extended eight days so that my Dad can come down and join me to see some of the horses down here, and of course some of the polo!  I am beyond excited.  Sometimes it feels like I've been down here forever, and other times I can't believe how fast the time has whizzed by. 

I'm really excited that I think I've found a place for my horse when I get home.  I've learned so much here and I already feel like a different rider.  There's something to be said for riding upwards of five horses a day; you learn more than you ever could with just one or two.  I'm not ready to give up this hardwon knowledge, and talking with Katie and Alice had really helped me to become resolved in setting my goals for the future.  I know what I want to do, and I am going to make sure that I do it.  Sometimes I get in my own way with doubts and second guessing, but not anymore!  I miss Haajes a lot and often wish I could have him here.  I'm excited to go home and try applying some of what I have learned here with him.

Oh, and it's quite far off still so not a sure thing, but weather app predicts 34 degrees Celsius and sunny on Monday!! Good Lord!  I hope it happens so I can say it did! 

Having the Internet back is truly blissful :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Well, we're at the end of a looooong week.  It has been hot with a few early days and long afternoons thrown in, so it's seemed longer than average... today was an excellent day, however.  I had a really great lesson on Herodes to start the day off.  He's one of my favorite horses by far.  Today the focus was on letting the fence come to me with a soft hand instead of rushing to change the pace in front of the fence... the end result was me cantering to a vertical a little over a meter in height with one hand out in front of me!  I definitely didn't feel too secure at first, but it was amazing how much it illustrated that I rely too much on my hand.  Herodes was great.

After Herodes I got to hack Justinian, who I have waxed poetic about as being one of my favorite horses here.  He's not very big and reminds me a little of a polo horse, compact and powerful.  He's really fun to hack because doing things right gets you the right reaction, and yet he's patient when you do things wrong.

I had a second jump lesson on Mauro; this one ended up being trotting down to a tight bounce of verticals set at about a meter by the end; shoulders back!  When I managed to keep myself light and back and waiting, the feeling of Mauro rocking back on his haunches and clearing the second fence was amazing.  Getting myself into that back, patient position also made transitions after the bounce extremely easy; I could have him walking within a couple of strides, whereas before I always struggled to get transitions done before the end of the ring came up.

After hacking Nixon I had another jump lesson on Pastrocito.  This time we did a little course; a six stride diagonal line with a reverse roll back to a seven stride outside line, another reverse roll back to a five stride diagonal line and another reverse roll back to a vertical.  It was definitely a case of turning a hunter course into quite the jumper question!  Initially my roll backs were dreadful, but once I tried employing a bit more foresight and balance into the equation it got quite nice.  It was fun to see Katie on Nacar, the little three year old stallion, galloping around the course in stride, as it was one of the longest courses he has done yet.  He was excellent.

In the afternoon some clients from the States came, which is something I've been looking forward to since I got here.  Martin got a lesson on Luli from an American grand prix rider, and then they watched as Martin presented Benito and Vitruoso, who both looked great.  It was pretty rad to meet some more English speakers!

Anyway, I'm thoroughly exhausted and dirty and more than ready for a good long sleep and my day off tomorrow...

Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm getting bad about these three day recaps...

Heyo.  So once again I managed to leave this whole blog post-ery til the last minuto.  I'm gonna do a quick run through of the week:  On Wednesday Twilight and Silene sold and we dropped them off at the Hipico to move into their new lives... so weird not to see their familiar names on the riding board... I rode them both my first day here, which is now over seven weeks ago.  Seven weeks ago! How come I'm still bobbling around like a fool on horseback?  I'm not sure... I was telling Katie that I'm really hoping part of it is my newfound awareness for how useless I am, and not an actual lack of improvement!  But on the lack of improvement note,  I also bit the dust on Wednesday afternoon... well, bit the hard-packed damp ring!  Not fun, not fun... something to be avoided in future, methinks.

Yesterday Martin and Alice went to the San Diego show grounds with Geologo, Benito, Puccini and Justinian in tow for a show, so I had nine horses to work my way through.  Highlights of the day:  Herodes and Nacar, who were both really well behaved and yet encouraged me to work on some things.  I love the feeling of focus I get when I recognize and hone in on an issue, like sluggish transitions or stiffness in one direction.  And when the problem improves it's incredibly rewarding.  In the afternoon I had a flat lesson on Vitruoso, the fancy chestnut stallion.  Watching Martin ride this horse is something else; he just exudes presence and he and Martin are a perfect match.  I'm not sure I quite lived up to that standard, but I got to feel the sensation of his smokin' medium trot and back to a short, lively, bouncy trot and forward again into that medium trot... and then a repetition of that exercise at the canter.  He was fantastic.  A friend of Rachel's also arrived yesterday from the States, so it's a full house here.  I love having visitors and I love meeting people.  I guess I'm somewhat dog-like in that way.

This morning I was on Rodrigo duty (as it is affectionately called) so I spent most of the morning lunging the babies, which gave me a great vantage point to watch all the horses being ridden. I must say, they all looked fantastic today.  The babies jumped around some cavalletti with Rodrigo and Martin and they all looked pretty darn capable.  Afterwards I had a lesson on Herodes, working on my turns after fences mainly, balancing and pushing into the corners so that I don't need to run out of the corner to get the pace.  It was a blast and Herodes was fantastic.  If I was told I could never ride again but could keep one horse as a pet, I would want Herodes.  He's so much fun to groom.  He's literally in ecstasy when you curry him.

After Herodes I had another jumping lesson on Pastrocito.  I definitely struggled a bit at the begining, but had a nice successful last run through which made me feel good.  All the horses were done before lunch so this afternoon we did the usual tack cleaning, barn sweeping, horse brushing, med administering duties.  I am thoroughly knackered I must say!  It's been a long week of early mornings and bright sunshine (NOT that I am complaining, in fact I am loving it, and cultivating quite a beauty of a farmer's tan!)

I am really excited that my trip will be extended by a week... my Dad and possibly my Mom are coming down for a week to explore Argentina with me :)  Can't wait until they get an eyeful of Vitruoso, Luli, Justinian and the other gorgeous horses here, not to mention all the amazing sights I've seen :)  My mood definitely fluctuates here and I definitely have doubts sometimes about my capabilities, but I'm determined to improve as much as I can and drink in as much as this opportunity gives me.  I already feel sad to think about leaving everyone here... even Carlos, who has gotten into a most annoying habit of bleating my name everytime I walk by...

Well, it's nearly eight so I best be off to bed!! Adios

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guess what happened today?

If you guessed that it rained (all day) then you are correct, sir!  It was still an interesting day though; we trailered Twilight, Vitruoso, Benito, Puccini and Justinian to the covered ring at San Martin so that Martin could school them.  While there, the heavens decided to open and bless us with at least a centimeter's worth of the wet stuff.  Bully.  The horses worked well, however (perhaps with a slight 'Oh Lord let's get this over with' mentality) and we were back at Rancho Pampa before lunch (ravioli and meat sauce, for the curious.)  In the afternoon we shampooed some manes and tails and then it was back to painting duty.  I feel like I am starting to develop some real skill in the painting arena.

Whilst rolling paint onto bars, I listened intently to a selection of nerdish podcasts, specifically a Mugglenet Academia lecture on psychology and an incredibly long-winded analysis of possible portrayals of specific events in the upcoming The Hobbit film.  The depth of knowledge of these presenters is quite impressive at times, I must say.  If I were Peter Jackson I'd feel more than a little apprehensive at the idea that people are so keen to micro-analyse and obsessively predict every choice he makes in his rendering of the book.

I don't want to be overly optimistic, but I am cautiously hopeful that it may have rained itself out for the rest of the week.  The ring will take some time to recover, so another trip to San Martin is probably in the cards tomorrow so that the horses with a show this week can be worked.  Other than that, fingers crossed...

Would it be completely crass to say that after all this rain, I'm actually slightly missing snow??

By the way, missing Ultimate as well right now-- winter season apparently started last night, which is crazy to think on.  Go Team Top Gun :)  Let's continue what we had rolling at the beginning of summer season!  *(When I say let's, I guess I mean 'you should'... :( )

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rain puts a damper on things

I'm getting quite thoroughly irritated with this damn rain.  It might not be quite so annoying if my weather app seemed to have a hot clue about what was going on, but nine times out of ten I'm led astray by its stupid predictions. 

Anyway, it's Mother's Day here in Arg today, so Martin was headed into town to spend some time with his momma, and Katie, Alice, and I hitched a ride to Puerto Madera to wander around a cool artisan market and take in some of the sights of the swankier part of town.  It was really neat and the walk along the water was pleasant and sunny-- and some of the architecture is breathtaking.  It's a much more touristy neighbourhood than our area, so we heard snippets of English and German being spoken here and there, which was cool. 

After we'd wandered past some boats (ships) [some built as long ago as 1874!] we headed towards Avenida Santa Fe to eventually make our way back to the bus stop at Plaza Italia.  Well, it started to rain... and then it started to RAIN.  A chivalrous type let us huddle under his sweater for a while at the bus stop, but once we got to Paso del Rey we were on our own, slipping and sliding through the muddy deluge back to Rancho Pampa.  Just looking at the ring is making me sad right now... rain, please go away!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why fix mistakes when you can just never make them instead?

So, an interesting week to recap!  Unfortunately, most of the past week was taken up by rain.  The earlier days have melded together into a blur of taking horses to and off the hot walker, wiping down tack, and of course painting.  The nice thing about painting is that it gets me caught up on listening to my favorite podcasts; the less nice thing is that it thoroughly coats me in a particularly stubborn type of oil based paint, which I seem completely incapable of removing!  Anyway, by Thursday the rain seemed to have abated, and the Friday forecast was for sun so we were all cautiously hopeful that we'd be back in the saddle.  Martin set a 6 AM start time for Friday, in hopes that we could finish up the riding by noon and head off to a breeding farm to look at some young horses in the afternoon.

Well, Alice, Katie and I rose at 5:00 AM to get ready to ride and were greeted by a thunderstorm.  Nonetheless, we prepared the first horses (Boss, Nacar and Skyline) and by the time they were finished walking, the thunderstorm had abated to a mere rainshower.  We trooped around and got on the next set to hack them through the rain as well.  By this time Rodrigo had shown up, so Katie was relegated to young-horse duty.  I rode Cor Lit and Alice rode Jour before we switched to the Series horses.  I was on Justinian next, followed by Puccini, and then I got a lesson on Nixon.  Martin said something very interesting while zeroing in on my tendency to miss my posting diagonal to the right and automatically sit to fix it:  "Why are you fixing this mistake every time, when you could work so that the mistake would never be made?"  He added that when you trot into the ring at a show or event, you are automatically being judged on your riding, and not just by the set judge, but by spectators and potential clients.  Polishing the little details can get you a better ride and maybe more business.

After we were finished the last few horses, we cleaned up the tack and had lunch and then Martin offered to drive us into town to visit a big city mall.  We heartily agreed and soon we were headed to the Unicenter Mall in Buenos Aires.  It dwarves any of the malls in Winnipeg, that's for sure, and has enough designer stores to make any pocketbook cringe: North Face, Columbia, Kensington, Tiffany, L. L. Bean, Levi's, Bowen, Adidas... and the list goes on.  It was a blast puttering around, though, and I ended up buying a book from the enticingly named "English books for everyone" store.  At about 8:00 we meant Martin at a restaurant in the mall for a celebratory dinner:  Alice just finalized her purchase of Skyline!  The Argentine saddle horse is about to become an American citizen and eventer.  It was a really nice dinner, and Martin told us a bit about his time as a working student for Karen and David O'Connor, who are just about the biggest names in American eventing, I'd say.

This morning we started at the usual time (7:30) and got all the horses done despite looming clouds and constant drizzle.  I helped out Rodrigo for the morning but had a chance to hop on Holendesa and Herodes later.  Holendesa is a really cool horse and right now is the perfect level of challenge for me.  I had a fantastic lesson on her a few weeks ago and was working today to try and reproduce what I'd felt then; initially I couldn't get it at all!  I realised later in the day what I was doing wrong, after Katie mentioned something that had been going on in one of her rides:  I kept trying something, not getting the result I wanted, and switching instantly to a different method of asking.  All this seems to produce is a confused and resistant horse.  I need to work on chosing my method and sticking with it.  There may be many methods that will achieve a certain end, but shuffling through all possible methods isn't going to result in a concrete response from the horse.  If I chose a certain way of doing something, I'd sure as hell better stick with it!  The end of my ride with Holendesa was a lot better, and I hope to be able to improve upon it further in the future. 

Herodes was great, despite the fact that the sun had now come out in full force and you could feel the water evaporating from the surface of the ring, like trotting around in a giant sauna.  After the rides were done we finished up barn chores and now here I sit, kind of wishing I was at home and missing my friends.  It's hard to believe that it's fall at home and that winter will be coming soon... I feel like I'm missing out on so much, even though I'm sure that if I was at home I'd be feeling as blase and bored with everything as I did before!  Still, though, I have to admit... being away from my friends and family makes me realise just how much I love them.  I'm having a great time learning and riding and exploring here, and I love meeting new people and new horses, but I will always miss home!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Riding, polo games, adventures in the city and an auction!

Now to catch up on the past few busy days!
Saturday - I helped out Rodrigo in the morning and had a quick ride on Jour.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I watched the other girls and one of Martin's clients ride around the new course in the ring.  Since the Series horses had been schooled over fences the day before, they had the day off, so the morning finished up quickly.  Brian offered to drive us into town, so Katie and I grabbed the chance to walk down the riverside in Buenos Aires.  Rio de la Plata is the largest river in the world apparently, and at some points is 21 miles wide!  It was like walking along the ocean, breeze and all!  Katie said parts of it reminded her of her home coastline in Charleston, South Carolina.  Once we reached the airport we got on to Avenida Sanmiento and walked all the way down to Plaza Italia, through a BUSTLING crowd.  I have never seen such a crowd in a city.  People were playing soccer, running, roller blading, playing street hockey, skate boarding-- in every nook and cranny!  It was incredibly lively and invigorating. 

Once we reached Plaza Italia we snagged some ice cream and wandered round the shops for a bit before catching the "good ol'" 57 and making our way back to Moreno.    Bus success!  (Although it was due mostly to the kindness of strangers who let us use their Sube card... one of these days we'll get it right...)

This was a red letter day for me.  I watched a 24 goal polo match at the beautiful Argentine polo field in Palermo.  Rodrigo, Katie, Alice, Javier and I all trooped on down and first watched a match, La Dolfina vs. Ellerstina-- and on Ellerstina?  Gonzales and Facuno Pieres... two ten goal players!  I think my jaw was dropped the entire time, and apparently this is nothing for the area.  My fingers are crossed that I will get a chance to watch some of the qualifiers for the Argentine Open that is coming up. Both games that we watched were incredibly close, neck and neck right down to the last chukker. 

After the polo matches we headed up to La Tigre, a destination that Rodrigo chose that was kind of a touristy market with shops and a casino and amusement park.  It was absolutely packed, and like the park the day before, super vibrant and a fantastic spot to people watch.   We ate some pizza and wandered around joking and teasing each other for a while, taking in the sights.  It really was "que linda dia!"

Ah, today.  Early start!  Up at 4:45 to start riding at 6:00 AM.  Since the forecast is for rain (goody) we needed to give all the Series horses a good workout.  We were derailed once slightly by Nixon lipping open the walker door and giving every horse in the carousel an opportunity to escape and cavort about the property for a while.  Once they were all rounded up we continued with the plan so that we could head to the Haras Windcrest auction in the afternoon.  It was my first auction and very cool to see.  The highest selling horse went for about 62,000 USD!  It's also catered, which was a cool treat.  Have I mentioned that for some reason the coffee here is extremely good?  As in, I actually quite enjoy the taste of a small black coffee.  More than I can say for Starbucks! (Though I do enjoy the hipster atmosphere.)

Anyway, I'm zonked now so off to bed... the rain is coming down...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two Days Adrift

So the Wifi here at the Ranch is still down, and i gotta say, I’m feeling mighty adrift!  Starting to realise just how attached I am to, well, being connected.  And Reddit, of course.  But the past couple of days have also been pretty busy, so that’s kept me interested!  Yesterday the ring more closely resembled a shallow lake, so riding was a no-go.  We rotated the youngsters (and oldsters) on the walker, groomed them all, and cleaned up the barn.  By 12:30 everything was done and we joined Martin, Rachel and a good friend and client of theirs upstairs for a great lunch.  In fact, the lunch just about sated the hankering for a Thanksgiving dinner I’d been experiencing, and I have to admit that I liked the chicken we had even more than I like turkey!  The only thing missing was my family, of course.  Missing them tons. 

It was really fun to swap horsey tales with everyone.  It truly is a really small world—the world in general, certainly, but the horse world in particular!  I feel really lucky that I’ve gotten the chance in my life to enjoy and pursue this incredible, all-consuming passion.  Horses have led me to friendships in my life that I never would have experienced otherwise; they’ve opened up avenues of travel that I might never have considered; and they give me something to dream about every night before I go to sleep.  Meeting other people that feel the same way?  It’s pretty damn exciting.  And I guess the greatest part of this is that it’s not only limited to the horse world.  In any shared passion, shared pursuit, you can find likeminded people that really understand what it is you’re so fussed up about, be it sport or academics or music or anything else.  There’s nothing better than conversation with people who are passionate about the same thing. J

After lunch we watched the video replays of the Olympic show jumping final.  Martin also assigned us some take-home reading for the week!  I’m now reading Centred Riding by Sally Swift, which I had heard of but never had the opportunity to read.  I had a chance to try applying some of her imagery and tips this morning; we walked the horses (forward) on a stretchy rein for twenty minutes in the ring to get them out and help air out the wet footing.  The walking gave me a chance to really focus on my position and how exactly I move with the horse, and to try some of the exercises the book recommends on how you use your eyes when riding.  I was on Benito, Geologo, Cor Lit, Herodes and Boss.  After lunch we cleaned tack, groomed and cleaned up the horses and finished up the chores before making a quick dash to Petrobras before dark so that we could snag some Wifi.  This may become a bit of a tradition for the next while, and I’m not complaining because I had some killer orange juice while I was there!  Sayonara folks.

Sunday, October 7

Well, today was what I’d like to call a success!!  It was raining when I woke up and I felt strangely restless.  Martin and Rachel were headed to the Hipico with Twilight and Silene so they could be tried by the clients again.  Katie and I decided to try and make it into town, while Alice (wisely) opted to stay out of the rain.  Katie and I walked down to the bus stop by the Petrobras and tried to work out which bus might take us to Plaza Italia in downtown Buenos Aires... we ended up waiting, and watching, and guessing, for about two hours, and then finally decided to just hop on one that said “Palermo”, because after consulting Katie’s map it was discovered that Palermo lay along the same major route as the Plaza Italia.  From Palermo, perhaps we could take the subway down to the main square.

Of course, we didn’t know the amount of fare needed, and we also did not have transit card (“Sube” cards) which are, of course, required.  A nice guy on the bus used his Sube to buy our tickets and we paid him back with our handfuls of carefully scavenged peso coins.  Everyone was looking at us curiously as we attempted to make our wishes clear with some butchered Spanish.  We still weren’t entirely sure where the bus was headed... by pure chance we decided to can it and get off just as the bus driver called “Plaza Italia”.  We’d completely lucked out and ended up where we wanted to be!  Whew, is all I can say... our first mission was to try and buy ourselves Sube cards, but alas, we were foiled yet again.  The ticket centers that sell them (apparently the only place to get them in the city) are closed on Sundays.  Instead we shopped a little bit, stopped at a bakery to pick up some pastries, and then took advantage of Wifi and French fries at a McDonald’s kiosk.  Since we were a little wary about our ability to make it back to Moreno, we decided to try and tackle that early so we wouldn’t be left blundering around in the dark in Paso del Rey!  Approaching a few bus drivers and making sense out of their replies and hand gestures, we managed to find the stop that the bus to Moreno came to.  This driver patiently accepted our coins.  And we managed to make it back to the Gnecco stop in Moreno and walk back to the Ranch!  I was quite giddy with accomplishment.  Now that we know how it’s done, plans for next Sunday can be more fully fleshed out!  I can’t wait to explore more of the city.

The Wifi is down tonight due to a power outage earlier.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Awesome day at the CHA

So I woke up this morning and discovered that overnight we'd experienced quite the downpour... disappointment central.  But the day still proved to be really fun and interesting!  We took Vitruoso, Silene, Twilight and Cor Lit to the Hippico (Center Hippico de Argentina) to be tried by a client looking for a dressage horse.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I absolutely love the Hippico.  It's completely gorgeous and exactly how'd I envision my ideal sort of barn: all ivy and groomed grass and tidy stable blocks, and then a huge airy indoor filled with gorgeous horses cantering this way and that.  So I was pretty excited to be getting the chance to go back there.

On the way there though I got some even more exciting news: Martin dropped me off at an intersection with directions on how to get to the boot shop!  I ordered my custom boots today :)  Hopefully the Spanglish in which I communicated will serve me well and I'll end up with what I'm picturing.  I order chocolate brown boots with a narrow black patent leather Spanish top, square toe and, yes, a zipper up the back :)  After finishing up the order and picking up a dressage whip that Martin needed, I headed back out into the city for the walk back to the Hippico.  I walked down this absolutely stunning boulevard on the way back, all leafy trees and this neat houses with granite and marble steps leading up to narrow wooden doors stained beautiful colors, with brass doorknobs in the exact center of each one, like a hobbit hole!  The garages were extremely narrow and attractive wooden gates that tended to match each front door.  There were no yards but the houses were a few floors high, and flowers and vegetation were everywhere.  All the houses were different but beautiful, and the materials were unbelievable... chalky red brick, swirly marble steps, stone friezes on the front step... in the middle of one of the roundabouts was a small garden with cobblestone paths, an infinity pool and a children's playground, just completely picturesque.

Once I got back to the Hippico Katie and Martin were just finishing up preparing the horses to be shown, so I quickly helped to groom up the last couple and then we headed for lunch while waiting for the clients to arrive.  I got to see a bit more the Hippico, and it didn't fail to impress me: lush green grass ring, ivy covered buildings and flowering trees.  Lunch was really fun and relaxed and we heard some tales from Martin's days as a working student for David O'Connor in Virginia.

After lunch we headed back to get the first horse ready, and then the afternoon went along smoothly.  Cor Lit was tried first, followed by Twilight and Silene.  All of the horses were fantastic and I have to admit I felt somewhat tearily proud watching them strut their stuff in the Hippico indoor.  Man, there are some nice horses there-- and some nice tall boots, too, I've noticed, now that my eyes have been opened to such things!  The clients seemed to really like the horses so they may be heading back out for another try tomorrow!  It's our day off so I'm hoping to make it into town for some more exploring.

Center of a roundabout en route from Walton's Boots to the Hippico

Friday, October 5, 2012

A "Ten-Horse" Day :)

So today was a busy day -- and a scorcher, too!  Muy humido.  In the morning I hopped on Vitruoso for a quick hack while Martin coached Rodrigo over the young horses' first few jumps.  I was amazed at how bold and clever Quantum and Invasor were.  They jumped a little oxer with absolutely no fanfare, just good form and a calm canter away. 

After Vitruoso I got to ride Justinian, who is definitely one of my favorites.  I like riding all the horses, but I definitely have a few favorites, like chocolate chips in a cookie.  The whole cookie is good but hitting a chocolate chip is a special treat!  Justinian was really good and we did lots of canter work and bending.  Next up was Mauro, who felt really good.  I'm starting to get more used to his way of going.  After Mauro I rode Nixon and Puccini and then Luli to finish up the Series horses.  By this point Alice and Martin had taken Benito into town for the last round of the Breeder's Cup style class.  After Luli it was Pastrocito and then Jour followed by Herodes right before lunch.  At this point Katie had finished up helping Rodrigo with the youngsters, so she got on Rodrigo's horse Georgia and then on Holendesa to ride with me.

After lunch Martin and Alice came home.  Benito jumped clear around the 1.20m again! :)  We still had a lot of horses to go, so it was onto Boss for a jumping school.  Boss was initially kind of tense, because a horse was playing up on the lunge line in the ring, so we had a few explosive spooks in a row before Martin told me to send him cantering.  It's a tactic that reminds me a lot of Canelo and it works like a charm... the first few canter circles he still wants to shy away, but once you get motoring a bit his attention turns to, "Hey, I'm getting kinda tired now... sort of want to stop... can't stop?  All right..." and the desire to play up kinda fades away!  One thing I need to work on is how to achieve this without riding really aggressively and getting tense through my shoulders and arms.  Afterwards I took Boss through the five stride line, and then Martin got on him and schooled him around.  I really like this horse and am keen to start working with him on the flat a bit.  Fingers crossed that the rain stays away... though sadly that doesn't seem likely.

Once a sweaty Boss had been thoroughly walked out, I got on Vitruoso for a quick walk around before Martin lightly hacked him in his second ride of the day.  After that all that was left to do was lunge Cor Lit, who will be shown to a client tomorrow along with Silene and Twilight.  All three are going very nicely, and I'm hoping the weather cooperates so that the showing can take place! 

After work Katie, Alice and I walked down to the store.  It's a short, neat trek through the neighborhood.  There's a real mixed bag of properties around here, from neatly groomed, hacienda-style houses with tidy green yards and Spanish tiling to really dilapilated shacks built from scraps of just about anything.  The main strip comprising the shops always seems really active, with cars and pedestrians and horse-drawn carts passing back and forth, generally tailed by one or two feral dogs.  I picked up some yogurt and Copos de Maiz for a breakfast bonanza tomorrow!

Definitely missing my friends back home a bit, and thinking longingly of Thanksgiving dinner with the fam... though I gotta say this 20+ degree weather is plenty nice...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day at the CAE

We could ride today! This morning I hopped on Silene for a quick ride before getting Benito braided and all the tack ready to go to the C.A.E (the "Allemande") show grounds.  He was competing in the 1.20m style class, which is a judged jumper round that focuses on how a  horse goes, how he's presented, and how he jumps.  The horses competing in the class were truly gorgeous, and Benito jumped around like a champ both rounds, going double clear.  The third round is tomorrow and will determine which horses make it into the finals in December.

I still can't get over how beautiful the showgrounds are here.  The trees lining the ring at the CAE are all gnarled and many-boughed and twisty, like something off the cover of a fantasy DVD.  Or, like, Pan's Labyrinth or something.  That sort of tree.  I felt quite glaringly inadequate in my dusty boots and sweater next to all the spit-and-polished men in their breeches and shiny tall boots.  Which reminds me... I should really look into buying some boots while I'm down here.  I've seen some absolutely gorgeous tall boots on people and apparently they're quite a steal!

Anyway, the hot spring sun should have baked out the ring nice and thoroughly, so it looks like tomorrow I'll be back in the saddle!  Excited :)  And can I say that seeing all the "it's snowing" posts in Winnipeg is making me mightly appreciative of this Argentine sunshine ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slip inside the eye of your mind

Another rainy day!  We spent the morning tacking up some of the horses and rotating them through the walker in half hour segments, then grooming them as they came off.  Cleaned the tack, had some lunch, and got back into painting the stalls.  I've definitely improved in painting accuracy since yesterday.  My hands were significantly less black today despite having painted a greater number of doors!  Carlos helped me out and then Oscar and Martin joined in as well.  We finished five stalls and they are looking mighty fly.  After painting, Martin drove Katie, Alice and myself into town to the feed and seed, where we picked up some alpargatas-- and of course, some ice cream.  Flavor of the week?  "Lemon Pie" and granizado.  Some of the food here is pretty baffling but the ice cream is positively heavenly, I must say.  I won't argue with making the trek up to the ice cream shop a weekly deal!

I'm really hoping that the ring has dried out enough to ride tomorrow!  We shall see.  We're going to be hosting a schooling show on Sunday, which should be really cool!  Our fancy new jumps  are gonna get their turn in the spotlight!  By the way, here's a jump designed and painted by Katie that coincidentally is exactly like the Hudson's Bay Logo:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Postcard from Pasadena

I had a bit of wishful thinking this morning and pulled on my breeches, even though I could see and hear the rain coming down outside my window.  Unfortunately riding was not in the cards today, so we spent the morning grooming the horses and rotating them around the walker.  Martin cooked us lunch and then afterwards I got down and dirty with painting some of the stall bars.  Gave me a lot of time for thinkin'!

I was thinking today how cool it is to get the chance to experience riding lots of different types of horses.  Someone told me once that before I buy a horse, I should know for sure exactly what type of horse suits me best.  Although I've ridden quite a few horses in my life, the vast majority have been smaller, relatively sensitive but even-keeled Thoroughbreds.  So my preference tends to run towards horses that are in that same sort of mold: I like horses very light off the leg and sensitive to the hand.  The cool thing about riding horses down here is I'm getting to experience riding tons of different types, and not just riding but jumping them.  While it's definitely a challenge for me sometimes, it makes me happy to think that every type I ride is adding to my toolbox that I can refer to when riding horses in the future.  Because just like people, there's a finite number of types, with small twists and duifferences in each.  The more tools I have, the better I will be able to ride different horses that I come across in my life.

On an un-horse-related topic, I got JK Rowling's new book (in eBook form, of course) last week and I'm quite enjoying it!  I'm loving my morning ritual of feeding hay and reading JK whilst munching on cornflakes.  Have I mentioned that the cornflakes here are absolutely delicious?  I don't know why, but they put Kellogg's to shame.  I think it's in the more potent crunch factor.

Monday, October 1, 2012

No matter where you go... there you are

It was my turn to help Rodrigo with the babies today.  I was lunging Lady D in a corner of the ring when a ray of sun hit me just so, and something about it reminded me vividly of a day last summer when I was working at the Health Sciences Center, and Eric, Ian and I walked down to the $1-a-slice pizza place at lunch.  That's it.  Not in any way a significant memory, but it made me reflect on how much has changed since then.  Every now and then I have to stop and realize that I'm in Buenos Aires, thousands of miles away from where I grew up.  Who would have thought that I'd end up riding horses like Herodes and Boss, born and bred here, when I was born and bred a continent apart!  It feels crazy and surreal at times.  I'm pretty damn lucky!

Today wasn't too crazy, but since the forecast is calling for rain tomorrow (drat), the horses had to be given a good workout.  While I helped Rodrigo in the morning, Alice, Katie and Martin rode the horses and then gave them a good lunging.  Once I'd finished with Rodrigo I hopped on Puccini and Cor Lit and did the same, and repeated the scenario with Boss after lunch.  It's getting hotter here and sadly I can see that one hell of a farmer's tan is in the works...  and I avoided it so well at home!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Updated Electric Fence Shock Quota: 12

Mmm, today was a long yet satisfying day of work.  It was Alice's turn to help Rodrigo with the young horses, so Martin and I partnered up to get the horses ridden.  The horses who competed yesterday had the day off, so that lightened the load!  I started off having a jumping lesson on Boss, who is just so cute.  He felt a little tired after the long week but jumped really well-- he's a bold little bugger!  I discovered that I really need to work on completing my turns... as in, riding through the turn and not cutting off my approach prematurely.  When I managed this, he jumped really well; when I didn't, he tended to drift right.  All in all though he jumped very well.

Next I quickly warmed up Uxmal for Martin, who then schooled him over fences while I got on Geologo.  Geologo is a stallion who competed in the 1.30m jumpers and is just getting back into work following an injury.  Martin got me really moving him out and coming back in equal measure so that I could start to feel the power he has.  We cantered up a line of poles in seven strides, again working on straightness and directness, and then Martin had me jump a vertical off either lead, one with a tight approach and the other with a more gradual approach, so that I could feel how the quality of my turn affected my distance at the fence.  On one approach, we got a long but powerful distance and Martin laughed and said, "You see?  Your mind may have been saying 'Uhhh I don't know' to that distance, but your body was saying it was all right, and Geologo listens to your body."  I really need to work on the body/mind disconnect.  That's one thing that I'm finding very philosophical about riding.  I can be thinking whatever I want: this horse is too fast, I won't find my distance, I'm nervous that people are watching, I can't do this-- but as long as my body is relaxed, in the middle of the horse with my leg on-- things work out.  The trick is to, well, trick your body into not reacting to any wild thoughts or worries!

Next up was Nacar, a three year old stallion who's very cute.  We did the same seven stride line of poles that I'd worked on with Geologo, plus a left turn to a five-stride vertical to oxer.  Initially I had a lot of trouble keeping balance and rhythm coming out of the turn, resulting in drifting and awkward fences galore.  But once I stopped fussing and let myself relax into a wider turn, the jumps came up on their own.  Very cool.

After Nacar I warmed up Cor Lit and Twilight so that Martin could school them over fences.  They were both excellent.  After that I hopped on Holendesa, a big bay mare, and Martin gave me an impromptu lesson on her: how to engage and really harness the incredible power she has, and how with my legs I can create a canter that is more powerful without being in a longer frame.  We did a figure eight of sorts over a vertical, and Martin stressed the importance of not interfering with my horse once I came out of the turn, but leading with my leg and letting the fence come.  If the power is there on the approach, your horse can take any distance.  And if it's not there, it's too late, and chasing them down doesn't help! 

Once Martin had schooled Holendesa more seriously over a course, Alice and I hopped on Pastrocito and Herodes for a quick lesson (balancing in the turn over a low vertical) before a client came to try out Luli.  Then it was lunch and the afternoon was filled with tack cleaning, horse grooming, and watching Alice work Skyline over a big course with Martin.  Oh, and I managed to zap myself with the electric fence yet again.  Twice.  Or was it three times?  I don't know, but I do that I'm pretty dang wary of that thing at this point.  It takes me about five minutes to steel up the courage to touch the handle.  I'm pretty sure the mares watching me thought I was nuts... but c'est la vie!

Missing home a bit tonight, with my friends' talk of pumpkin spice lattes and schooling shows.  Wonder how my boy Haajes is doing in the middle of his three months off.  He'll be a little shell shocked when I come home and decide it's time for a training overhaul ;)  Also missing my friends and family a lot!  But hey, can't complain-- summer is on its way :P

Friday, September 28, 2012

I guess this is a three day recap!

Well, I got quite behind on this blog... Wednesday, was it, that we left off?  I'm not sure... anyway, the week has gone by in a flash despite being quite busy!  Yesterday it was up before the sun at 4:30 AM so that I could go to help out Martin and Walter at a horse show at the Buenos Aires showgrounds.  I had never been there, but it is beautiful!  We took along Luli, Puccini, Silene, Mauro, Georgia, Nixon, Justinian and Benito.  Thursday was schooling rounds only but a great prep for the Series classes that ran today.  I warmed the horses up lightly and then set fences as Martin schooled and took them into the ring.  Interestingly, at the beginning of every class I was allowed to go into the ring and present the horse to  the fences.  I don't know of any schooling show in Canada that allows this, but I thought it was very cool.  The horses were all excellent, and Nixon and Luli finished off the day in the 1.20m classes.  The warmup ring was a bit crowded, but had nothing on the hunter warmups at Brandon Winter Fair ;).

When we returned home from the show I had a lesson on Boss, one of the new horses.  He is so cute and we took him over some fences.  He jumps like a little rocket considering he only stands about 15 hands!  It was really quite a blast getting to know him.

Today was back up at 4:15 to get the competition horses ready.  Alice and Katie went to help out at the show while I remained behind on the farm to ride the remaining horses.  I ended up on Geologo, Jour, Cor Lit, Pastrocito, Nacar, Twilight, Herodes and Boss in the morning, though I only got in a very brief ride on Boss before Rodrigo arrived to work with the young ones.  I lunged them and then he got on and rode; today we worked with Oregon, Casia, Kir Royal, Bellini, Montana, Ghandi, Ojiva, Invasor and Kennedy.  All of the youngsters were really well behaved and some were quite frankly lazy after a few days of consistent hard work! 

After lunch it was back out to the ring to lunge Sintonia, Uxmal and Holendesa before getting on Skyline and back on Boss to give him a bit more of a ride.  Now that seven o'clock has rolled around I must say... I am feeling quite thoroughly knackered!  Also very dusty.   I think a shower and a read of The Casual Vacancy is in order before I totally zonk out... how exciting that tomorrow I can sleep in til 6:30 ;)  Over and out gang!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

My new crush...

Garrett, if you're reading this, I'm sorry... but I think I may have found love in Argentina.  It's early days yet, but I'm optimistic.  He's muscular, compact and has a bit of that "bad boy" attitude that's just so enticing... he's a bit younger than me (18 years or so) but it doesn't seem to matter...  his name is Justinian and he's a four year old chestnut stallion.  I had a fantastic lesson on him today and I actually felt my lateral work CLICKING for once!  At the beginning I was frustrated because I couldn't get the right bend, but Martin quickly zeroed in on what I was doing wrong, and it's a big one for me: too much rein and not enough leg.  Left to my own devices, I was trying to compensate for not enough leg by racing him forward at a running trot, instead of getting him engaged and then asking for the bend.  It's really exciting for me to realise that I'm starting to feel true engagement: I'm not quite at the point where I can instantly achieve it when I want it... but at least I'm at the point where after doing something without it, I get that Uh oh feeling!  Anyway, Justinian was great and by the end I felt so happy.  Later in the day I tried reiterating the same things with Herodes and was delighted to discover that they worked. 

Another thing I tried to remind myself about today was tensing my feet.  I have this really odd habit (and speak up if you do it too) of curling my toes when I concentrate... but it seems to stiffen and tense my whole leg, and it's not something that an instructor or eye on the ground could see.  I  had to continually remind myself to stop doing it... I will break this habit, dangnambit!

Other than my lesson on Justinian, I also rode Pastrocito in the morning, lunged Skyline and hacked Lion, Jour and Herodes.  It was a cool, blustery day but the guys managed to get all the jumps set up in the ring in preparation for schooling with Mono tomorrow.  And I gotta say, they look dang sharp!  Pictures soon. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

With the young'uns

Whew, a long and full day today!  So today was the day that I was enlisted to help Rodrigo with the young horses.  These are two year old fillies and three year old studs that have just recently been started -- eleven young horses all together that Rodrigo has to lunge and ride in a morning, as well as find time to ride his own mare!  It's clear why some help is needed.  My basic duty was to fetch a horse, lunge him or her, and Rodrigo would meet me in the ring to back and then ride the horse while I lunged it.  Once the horse was going nicely and had settled, I unclipped the line so he could ride on his own and went to fetch the next horse.  By the time he was done riding the first, I'd have the second going on the lunge... and so on, and so on.  It was a really interesting-- and I'll admit, somewhat intimidating-- day.  There is literally so much to learn about handling very young horses.  Some of them were very tractable and reacted to my bumbles sensibly, whereas others were more nervous and things had to be done just so-- but in a confident, relaxed manner.  Rodrigo helped a lot by directing me in the routine that the young horses had become accustomed to-- and inasfar as I could understand his Spanish instructions, I did my best to follow them!  All of the babies were quite well behaved today, especially considering that they'd just had four days off in cool weather and it was their first day back to work.  I came away with a real appreciation for people who work with young horses, and a greater sense of how to carry myself and anticipate how youngsters will react.  Confidence is key, but not roughness or brashness; things that older horses are nonchalant about, like tugging forward on a line or approaching a head, will spook and frighten a nervous baby.  The answer to all things seemed to be a strong voice, direct guidance and a send-them-forward attitude.

After the morning with the young horses I quickly rode Justinian before lunch.  The whole afternoon til about seven PM was filled with jump painting, since the course needs to dry and set up for Tuesday, when Martin plans to school his Series horses over it with Mono before the show.  I must say, these fences are looking mighty sharp!  To fill the lulls during painting, we discussed the difference between Mexican Spanish and Argentine Spanish, with questions confirmed by Walter.  I was surprised to hear that the choice Mexican Spanish swear words I've become accustomed to don't exist down here!  But not to worry, I've quickly learned some suitable substitutes.  While we did this, Martin schooled some of the horses while Alice filmed them for sales videos. 

It looks like I'll be back in the saddle tomorrow morning, as it's Alice's turn to work with the babies.  Signing off now for a highly anticipated snuggle into bed!  Adios!
Luli and Silene :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First night out!

Well, I can officially say that I got in the latest I've ever come back from clubbing this morning -- around 6:30 AM!  And amazingly, this was still early by the club standards, as in the club was still bopping in full force when we left!  I'm amazed by how late everything gets going here.  We had dinner at 11:00 PM and no one was there, hardly anyone was on the streets... gradually over the next couple of hours things started to pick up, and by 2:00 AM the streets were thronged with people and the club was packed.  Actually, the atmosphere of the club was surprisingly similar to every other club I've ever been to-- I guess there's a universal appeal to hot, sweaty, loud and crowded.  They played some American top 40 stuff and lots of upbeat Spanish numbers, and more than once I was suddenly and unexpectedly jostled all over the place when a popular Spanish song came on and the, er, crowd went wild singing along and jumping everywhere.  It was definitely akin to where Journey comes on at the end of the night at a social back home!

One thing I did notice was that people didn't seem to be drinking that much!  At home, everyone on the dance floor has a drink in their hand at every moment; here, it was quite rare to see, and we were spared that early-in-the-morning atmosphere of vomit, discarded bottles and glasses and incoherent, stumbling drunkards trying to find their way to the door (or maybe we just left too early?)  It was nice because it kept the vibe of the place a little more civilized and a lot less gross. 

The people are all dressed quite nicely at the club, especially the girls; I did feel quite conspicious in my loafers (although, in my defence, they are very nice loafers!)  However, people are short here.  It's a pretty rare day when I can walk through a crowd that size and feel tall, but last night I did.  Navigating the language barrier when the bass is thumping made for some pretty interesting conversations.  Guys would come up and start yabbering away, "Blah blah blah-o?"  "No hablo espanol."  "No?? Hablas ingles?"  "Si, solo ingles..."  "Blah blah blah blah!" and leave me staring blankly at them and backing away.  I quickly learned not to respond to everything with "Si.." as well.

All in all, it was a really fun night and a super interesting experience.  Today is looking like a nice day for lazing around, recovering some energy, maybe eating some ice cream and reading some Harry P... heaven!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trot sets

Today was a nice day, sunny and bright.  The ring was still quite wet so we stuck to trot sets.  I rode Pastrocito, Herodes, Lion, Justinian, and Silene.  Silene was especially nice.  I'm really enjoying her gaits.  After the riding we did the usual barn cleanup and painting of jump-er-roos.  Tomorrow is our day off this week so Katie and I are going out tonight with Rodrigo.  Pretty stoked for my first "night on the town" in Buenos Aires!  Other than that not feeling super inspired to pen anything epic tonight... maybe tomorrow! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the road again

The ring was still too wet to ride in today, but the sun was a-shining so Martin, Katie, Rodrigo, Alice and myself took the horses out in sets on the roads for a leg stretcher.  Now, the roads here aren't exactly smooth and manicured; they have their fair share of potholes, mud and feral dog packs to contend with.  It was a bit of a mind-blower for a polo kid like me, used to smooth fields where the biggest obstacle in your path is a divot.  And even then, the reaction is usually along the lines of "Good Lord, look at that divot! Somebody stomp it, quick!"  Luckily for me, the Rancho Pampa horses were much more accustomed to the neighborhood roads and clambered round the puddles and up the side trails with much agility.  I rode Silene, Mauro and Herodes. 

After the horses had been hacked, we did the usual dusting-up, rotating round the walker and wipe-down of the used tack.  Alice made a great ravioli lunch and the afternoon was filled with painting some more jump fill.  I feel that I am starting to show true promise as a painter, so I'll add that to my list of backup plans should Electrical Engineering prove not quite my thing...

A pic from the artistic port we visited last Sunday :)