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!!!