Don’t stop believing

Aiken in April.
Aiken in April.

My journey south this year has been such a growing experience in so many ways. We Canadian snowbird eventers are truly a band of gypsies. We travel from one show to the next, tend to create strong bonds of loyalty and, above else, help each other out. However, it’s not just the Canadians. American Eventers are also some of the most generous people. But before I go into detail about that story, I’ll bring you up to date with some of my horses.

Indigo aka Indiglow, has come away from the winter season a hugely improved horse. Our score card may not look as impressive as I’d like it to and we might not have achieved the qualifying results we wanted this winter, but I know I have a fantastic horse for the future. Indigo has dramatically improved in his Show Jumping. Lots of homework in Aiken, combined with lessons with my coach Buck Davidson, and  a partnership with Stubben NA that led to a new saddle, have had a huge impact. His gallop has greatly improved, he feels so much stronger and fitter. Dressage has always been his strong suit, even though he hates it, but now he really feels like he can carry himself more. Nothing beats the partnership that is created when you develop a horse from the beginning.

Miss Fancy learning how to jump.
Miss Fancy learning how to jump.

I have been so impressed with how the young horses have been developing. You most take as much joy from the journey as you do in the destination. Sometimes it’s the smallest moments that can bring you the most joy. Avalon’s Miss Fancy blossomed down here in Aiken. The first time she went Cross-Country schooling she was very confused about the logs. She just wasn’t sure about how to do it. Now she is cruising over whatever is in front of her. She came down to Buck’s farm at the beginning of April and he was quite impressed with her jump. Buck was also really impressed by Vesta, a very promising young horse owned by Conny Sonke and spotted and sent to me by Jennifer Irwin. Nothing feels better than when your coach and  his dad, horse guru, Bruce Davidson, tells you have a serious horse. We are also very excited about the syndicated Tucker. His show name is still being tossed around. Tucker is just a handsome boy with the right mind and heart. I can’t wait to get him out showing back home in Ontario…if we ever get home.

That brings me back to how I’ve come to learn just how amazing my fellow Eventers really are.

It all starts with my 2001 Ford 350 dually truck…

It’s has had a minor leak in the oil pan. This leak was significantly worse after our last major event at Poplar Place. In a proactive move not to get stranded on the side of the road when I moved the team

The view at Buck Davidson's farm in Ocala.
The view at Buck Davidson’s farm in Ocala.

south to Ocala, I decided to get it fixed. I knew it was a big job when I started asking around for a good honest mechanic. The big problem with the simple oil pan replacement is that you basically have to take the whole engine out to get at the oil pan. An engine that has seen 14 years of Canadian winters, 14 years of road dirt and salt and four years of oil mixing into it all. You can only imagine how seized most of the engine parts were.

Hacking around Jumping Branch Farm.
Hacking around Jumping Branch Farm.

So, even though I had over a week to get down to Ocala, my truck still wasn’t ready. This is where I feel so blessed by amazing friends. My friend Fred loaned me his truck so that I could get down to Ocala and work with my coach, Buck, before our big CCI*. The plan was that I would rent him a car until my truck was done and then he would use my truck to get to his show that weekend. Seemed easy enough. However, it was Masters week in Augusta and not a single rental car was available.

Luckily, another friend lets us borrow their BMW. With that taken care of, I was off to Ocala for the CCI 1*. Now I wish I could say everything went smoothly and Fred was able to use my truck to get to his event. However, my truck died 24 hrs after Fred got it back. It went back to the shop and we were again so fortunate for our fantastic friends. Fred’s client and friend loaned him a truck and he made it to his event 🙂

I made it back from Ocala to take up residence at the beautiful Jumping Branch Farm. When you’re given lemons, make lemonade. Jumping Branch, owned by Julie Zapas, is a wonderfully Eventing facility. We have been hacking, Cross-Country schooling and trotting on the beautiful red-sand roads. Aiken in April is just stunning. Normally I would be long gone in April, but I am very grateful for the time I have been able to spend down here during their glorious spring. I’ve never seen so many flowering bushes and trees. It has been spectacular.

So, I’m taking advantage of my Aiken captivity by getting my hair done and waiting to hear about my truck. Hopefully this week we leave and get back home –without any excitement.