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 :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rainy day blues

Well, it did the ol shake rattle and pour all last night and all of this morning, so it was back to painting duty.  I listened to a Mugglenet podcast and thought deep, deep thoughts about Harry Potter, the tradition of modern fantasy and what it all really means.  I also cleaned the kitchen and added splattered bleach to my paint-splattered six or so layers.  It was a highly uneventful day, really!  The forecast says sun for the next while though, so hoping that that comes through!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday again?? How did this happen

Busy day today! I'm getting to that point where I cannot seem to remember what happened just a few hours ago, never mind a day or so ago... I'm hoping this blog will help to jog the old memory so that I actually have a few tales to tell my grandchildren beyond "Yes, I went to Argentina for three months and rode horses..."

Katie was given the task of helping Rodrigo with the youngsters today, because with the four new young horses in he's got a lot on his plate what with lunging, backing and riding each of them.  That left Alice, Martin and myself to do the riding.  First off I got on Uxmal to warm him up for Martin.  I hadn't ridden him until today, and staring up at him I was pretty intimidated: he is one tall three year old! But he's also an incredibly well behaved and supple three year old, so warming him up was very enjoyable. 

My next horse was Pastrocito, and I had a little jump lesson on him.  Martin gave it to me for cutting off my turns and being in a constant hurry; and I have to admit, it was a struggle for me to just take a deep breath, push him into the corners and just ride a floaty course without careening everywhere.  But once I did it, I felt pretty darn good about it!

After the lesson I warmed up Luli and Benito for Martin so he could school them.  The wind had started picking up like crazy and was spewing sand everywhere; I've yet to excavate all of it from my ears and eyes.  The horses were well behaved despite this, though.  Since Martin knew the wind was a harbringer of the rain to come this afternoon, we lunged all the Series I horses so they could get a workout in before the ring got too wet.  I got to lunge Vitruoso, the four year old stallion.  He was such an incredible gentleman.  Not only was the wind howling and hurling sand all over him, but a truck had stopped by to drop off a load of rocks, and the men were hurriedly shoveling the rocks off the truck with much clattering.  The clattering was spooking the horse lunging next to Vitruoso, and he was capering around madly on the line.  What did Vitruoso do?  Why, trotted around in perfect balance, not only calmly but with energy and pricked ears!  He reminds me of one of those freshly scrubbed, all-American high school jocks that everybody loves, who is a fantastic student, an all-star football player, polite to his teachers and a real charmer with the ladies!

After lunch we rushed to ride one more horse before the rain started in earnest.  Then we groomed the horses, cleaned the tack, swept the aisles: all the usual tasks!  I have to admit, I am flat out exhausted and just about ready for bed... trying to make it to 8:30 for pride's sake!  Not sure whether we'll get to ride tomorrow due to the rain, but even if it's clear, tomorrow is my turn to help Rodrigo with the young ones, so lots of lunging on the schedule!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Muchos perros, muchos futbol, y muchas dulche de leche!

Lots to say today!  I want to do a rundown of yesterday, our day off.  Katie and I had big plans to finally find a bus pass and get our own way into town.  So we walked down to the bus stop and did our best to express our wishes to the lady at the kiosk... but they were sold out.  We went and asked at the gas station... they didnt sell them, and while we could manage to form the question of which place did sell them, understanding her rapid fire answer was next to impossible.  So we walked back over the bridge to another kiosk, where the patient clerk was willing to help out some clueless gringas.  She directed back to the first kiosk... where we knew they were sold out.  So... plan B.  Katie messaged Rodrigo and we had to meekly ask him for a ride into town, and like the good patient soul he is he decided to help us out.  While we waited for him to arrive, we got ice cream at the place near the kiosk... holyshitdelicious.  I may laugh at this Argentine obsession with dulche de leche, but add shredded coconut in a fresh waffle cone and you get HEAVEN.

So Rodrigo took us on a tour, starting off with an artistic district right off the port.  First sight of the day was of a rowdy soccer mob on their way to a match, chanting and arguing and drinking copious amounts of open liquor, all of them flanked by police with riot shields and bats.  All sensible precautions taken!  The cobblestone streets and vendors down the crooked alleys were amazing to look at it, and the outdoor restaurants and tango demonstrations all lent a very European feel to the place... it was gorgeous. 

After the port we took off to see the city center, stopping on the way at this huge green park in the middle of city, all massive live oaks and frolicking children and fashionable old men in berets playing chess at park benches.  It was truly beautiful... and foreign... and exotic.

The city center was yet another sensation.  The widest avenue in the world (16 lanes of madcap hairpin traffic... I'm breathing a sigh of relief in that I will not actually need to drive here...), with boulevards of huge, gnarled mature trees and the streets flanked with cafes and theatres and grand hotels... it was incredibly urban and jam packed with people on a Sunday evening.  We went to one of the cafes and ate cheese, salami and nuts and had some Argentine wine on the second floor, overlooking the avenue.  The constant drum of Spanish everywhere is overwhelming but so intriguing... still, it was very useful having Rodrigo there to help us out, as I'm quickly discovering that while I can sometimes get my needs across, it's a miracle if I can understand any kind of response! I usually have to puzzle it out from the snatches of vocab I can understand, or just do my usual and stare blankly at them.

Oh, and I forgot to mention our purchases for the day: mate straws.  Yes, I am determined to drink (and enjoy, damn it!) this mate stuff before I leave.  I'll let you know how she goes...

All in all it was a really awesome day.  I'm so excited to see more of Buenos Aires and I had a great time with Rodrigo and Katie.  Monday back to work was a pretty great day too, actually... but that's for the next entry!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Electric fence shock quota: 7

Yesterday was a really fun day at Rancho Pampa.  We started off early so we could fit in an extra horse before a visiting group came to the farm to attend a class Martin periodically holds in stable management.  My first horse of the day was Nixon, and we had a flat lesson focusing on getting engagement and forwardness at the walk and trot right from the getgo.  Martin shifted my position back to encourage me to find balance with my hips, putting my legs in a more effective position.  I'm
Having to work hard to fix my bad habit of spreading and lowering my hands and concentrate hard on lifting and lightening.  It's amazing how quickly tangible results come when I manage to do it correctly!

Next Katie, Alice and I lightly hacked two more groups, again working on those same fundamentals. I was on Twilight and Benito.  After lunch (a delicious selection of empanadas) we hacked the remaining horses.  I rode Pastricito, who felt wonderfully forward now that I have learned to engage him better, and then Mauro and Pierrette, who were both fantastic.  Afterwards we helped Walter and Carlos around the barn, cleaned tack and enjoyed each others company.  It was a pretty fabulous Satueday all told, capped off by Skyping Davis and Canelo at home.  I'm definitely missing my family and horses, and still craving that pumpkin slice latte!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thursday, Sept 13

So a quick look back at Thursday... and yes, I realise I've gotten somewhat behind on the blog posts!  If I recall correctly, I had four jump lessons that day as well, mirroring the lessons the day before.  First up was Pastrocito-- and I had a fantastic time on him!  I managed to keep in mind what Martin had recommended the day before, get the pace, and he jumped like a star around the small course and through the combination.  Tons of fun and I had that good ol' warm fuzzy feeling of success (success feels warm and fuzzy, right?  Or is that affection?  Possibly heat stroke...)  Next up was Twilight, and we did a course much the same with him.  The importance of forward, with impulsion, with direction, with intention was always emphasized, and I'm amazed at how much of it is mental.  For instance, if I pick up the canter and look to a pole, or to a pattern I'd like to execute, my horse instantly feels more engaged, more attentive and more obedient.  If I slub along with no real plan, it gives him an excuse to amuse himself with a spook, a bulge, a buck or what else have you.

On my next horse, Silene, we moved to a different exercise: a canter-in one stride to a bounce to an even shorter bounce.  It was a difficult exercise calling for a lot of balance and cattiness on the part of the horses.  Silene nailed it the first time, and Martin told me to leave her there.  Felt great.

On Virtuoso, the cute, cocky, shiny stallion, we repeated the exercise, and once again I was very impressed by the boldness and real intelligence of these young horses.  The exercise was a real challenge, but Virtuoso clocked in on it and bounced through without a glitch.  Martin reminded me that in a combination involving that much power from the horse, it's very necessary to stay either with them or behind them, but never to get ahead.

The rest of the day was filled with the usual barn duties, cleaning tack and watering horses and the like!  It's getting a lot warmer here and as per usual I've managed to burn a very attractive pattern on myself...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My birthday

So yesterday was my birthday!  The day started out with lessons aboard Pastrocito, Twilight, Silene and Vitroso.  I had some difficulties intially with Pastrocito-- I have trouble finding and setting a good pace on the horses, and like Martin (and my coaches at home, Mike & Charlene) always say... you often have to do the opposite of what the horse wants.  So Pastrocito wanted to slug back and mess around crowhopping and going slow... once Martin got on and showed me what he did with a lot more pace, I realised that my method of trying to fix the problem (ie, clamping on his mouth and pumping with my seat) was only exacerbating the problem.  "When they mess around and play behind your leg, you are going too slow... when they scramble to make the fence and try to slow themselves down, you're going too fast!" I didn't have that problem, at least!

The problem was really similar with the next horse, Twilight.  Finding the right pace has always been an issue for me-- it's so elusive!  It appears to be the pace just a notch above the one I'm comfortable on...  However, once I managed to relax and allow the horse forward, the short course we were working over was very good. 

With Silene my issue was different.  She's a large, big-strided mare, and very sweet.  With her I had to practice the sitting back, hands up, balancing type of ride.

Vitroso is a drop dead gorgeous four year old stallion-- and he knows it!  He struts around the whole time, but is also an attentive and fun ride.  His big stride let the fences come easily, and his jump?  Like nothing I've ever felt before!  (No offense to Zulu or Vinny!)

Somehow (and I have a sneaking suspicion it was via Facebook!) Martin and Rachel found out it was my birthday, and they very kindly took us all out for dinner in Buenos Aires!  The restaurant, La Portena, was absolutely beautiful.  We had to wait outside for them to open their doors for us at eight-- people around here eat a lot later than at home (and most people don't snug down into bed by nine like I do :P).  The food was delicious and it was a lot of fun swapping tales with Rachel, Martin, Katie and Alice.  Grilled meat is huge here, and it is GOOD.  They also make a dang good sausage and a type of grilled cheese that, just thinking about, I am now craving...

All in all, not much can be improved upon my birthday this year-- my first one away from Manitoba!  I gotta admit though, I'm starting to feel kinda old.... and my sore, sore muscles this morning only confirmed it!  More on today's lessons tomorrow, as I'm already overdue for bed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


So today marked the first day that Katie and Alice say is really typical.  I rode six horses over the course of the day: Herodes, Pastrocito, Twilight, Silene, Mauro and Luli.  Martin has us all work over a pole exercise with all of the horses, which was really cool because it let the different challenges with each particular horse come to light.  After the morning of riding, the client came for the final day to try Herodes and Pierrette one more time, and then the day finished up with the usual grooming of horses and cleaning of tack.  I've always really enjoyed the last bit of time at the barn, when all the main things are done and everyone is relaxed and chatting.

I'm really enjoying my lessons with Martin.  The same thing is always emphasized: rhythm and feel.  The first lesson of the day was a bit different than the rest: we rode a combination and had to stretch one hand above our heads on the approach and look up at it.  This set us in a good position, though it definitely felt awkward at times! 

I have a ton to learn here and the horses are all giving me an education too.  It's truly amazing how much there is to learn and know.  Not only about riding (though in that sphere my eyes have been opened, and I've come to realise just how inexperienced I really am), but also about the Argentine culture and the Spanish language.  I'm really enjoying getting the chance to bumble along in Spanish with the stablehands, who are pretty patient and polite enough to correct me when I make a stupid mistake-- though Katie promises that won't last long!  They tease me a lot for having a "Mexican" accent, which I suppose I picked up through my proximity to dear old Canelo, Cesar, Isaias and the rest of the guys!

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of Argentina and seeing Martin ride more-- watching him school Herodes today was an education in and of itself.  If I can be half that good at some point in my life, I think I will be happy!  I can't wait to go back to the Hippico and take some pictures if I can.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"You create the lesson"

Well, today was a long and productive day! I find the day goes by really quickly when there’s lots of tasks to do, and so far I’m really enjoying it.  None of the work has been back breaking, which is good—that sort of work can really sap any enthusiasm... but I am enjoying the consistent schedule and the fact that when we’re done, we’re done.
This morning started with riding—I rode Herodes, Mauro, Justinian, Pastrocito and Puccini—and had my first lesson with Martin on Herodes.  It was great, just trotting and cantering over a vertical and correcting my (very pronounced) position flaws.  When I brought out Mauro to lightly hack him, I walked beside Martin as he rode Virtuoso and he told me that when he worked with David O’Connor, they’d start out at a walk together and within ten minutes, David would be twisted in the saddle to talk to Martin over his shoulder, because that’s how efficiently David made his horses march in comparison to Martin’s.  “By the end, I could stay with him the whole time,” Martin finished.  As he said this I realised that Martin was now twisted in the saddle to talk to me—so I urged Mauro’s walk on!
In the afternoon the client from the weekend came to try Herodes, Pierrette and Lion again.  Watching her coach, Tito, get on and school the horses and then proceed to give her a short jump lesson on each horse was an education in itself.  For one thing, I’m getting a better and better impression of how people ride and train here and what they expect from their horses; for another, I’m starting to catch on to some of the Spanish down here, and can loosely follow a conversation! (I think!)  At least, I know the words for the gaits and for lead changes now... a good start?  Watching Martin school Lion over some bigger fences for the clients was also fun.  After the clients left, we finished up the riding (I trotted Benito around) and did the wrapping-up tasks: cleaning tack, watering, sweeping aisles and wrapping the horses that need to be wrapped.
I can’t get over how different the Spanish is here; I suppose it’s somewhat akin to the difference between American English and British English.  The accent is especially different.  Canelo is going to make so much fun of me when I get home and start speaking Spanish like an Argentine...
I'm definitely pretty tired though and looking forward to bed.  Looks like tomorrow should be more of the same, hoping I can step up to the plate!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day at the shows

Just got back from a day in Buenos Aires showing horses to clients and competing at the Allemand (CAE).  First we took Herodes, Pierette and Lion (with competition horses Puccini and Benito along for the ride) to the Hippico to prep them for the clients.  The Hippico is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.  Long cobblestone aisles of red brick barns with green-painted stall gates and leafy trees hanging over everything.  The arena is huge and has a vaulted ceiling, and through the foliage on one side you can see a huge swimming pool with a vine-covered diving board and bright blue water.  All the horses are shiny and gorgeous and I watched a beginner lesson of tiny kids on big Argentine horses hopping over crossrails. 

After prepping the horses we went back to the Allemand, where the parking is insanity! Right next door to the show grounds is a beautiful soccer facility -- I'm talking perfectly manicured fields and tons of boisterous boys of all ages playing some pretty darn good soccer (to my eye) all swanked out in neon cleats and fancy jerseys.  I got a few earfuls from some Spanish soccer parents because our truck and trailer had clearly boxed in their cars... had to just shrug my shoulders and say "No entiendo... no tengo los llaves...".  While tacking up Benito he was pretty impressed by the soccer game going on and a little snorty, I tried joking with a nearby player that he didn't like soccer but apparently my Spanish wasn't good enough for that....

After Benito went double-clear in the 1.20 m Martin let me cool him out, and I walked him up and down this crazy alleyway full of way more trailers than could logically fit in there, as well as tons of honking Volkswagens and Peugeots and riders on horseback... and along all the ends, the horses tied to anything solid... It was amazing and I wish I'd had a camera!  A camera couldn't quite do it justice, though.  Lots of out-of-the-window cursing at people blocking their path and cars parked over curbs right next to horses.  I tied Benito to a fence and was untacking him when a boy in soccer uniform came up and starting going on in Spanish... I just stared at  him blankly and kind of shook my head... don't know if he wanted a pat or a ride or what... whatever it was, he didn't get it!

Then it was back to the Hippico to show the horses to the client, a lady from Peru.  The horses went well.  I really enjoy it at that show grounds, since it was late afternoon all the horses were being wrapped and groomed for the day and it was just. so. beautiful. 

Tomorrow is our official day off, so it looks like we're going to explore in Buenos Aires proper.  Looking forward to it!  Sayonara peeps!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First two days recap

Well, I've finished my first two days at Rancho Pampa.  It's been a whirlwind of new things to learn and people to meet.  The other working students, Alice and Katie, are great and excellent riders, and have been helping me a lot as I bumble my way through the schedule!  It's cooler here than I anticipated so I've been very grateful for my jacket and am not at all regretting bringing 20 pairs of socks!

The barn is really nice and the horses are too.  Today we were up at four and Katie and I rode in the morning.  I rode 6 of the horses and they were all great.  I have lots to work on to get my riding up to snuff so that I can see what they can really do.  It's exciting to think about working with them every day, and hopefully being able to see improvement!  In the afternoon we went to the showgrounds where Alice had worked all morning.  Martin was showing four of the Series 2 (1.20 m) youngsters.  The course was set big and looked pretty intimidating!  The horses did well.  Then we headed back to the barn to unload, wrap for the night and wipe down the tack that had been used throughout the day.  The fellows that work in the barn seem friendly and helpful, though for all the Spanish I know they might be laughing their heads off at me and I'd be none the wiser!  It'll definitely take me a few days to get a handle on all these bridles!

Missing my fam, friends, Garrett and of course my horses.  Fingers crossed the rain that just started up abates soon so that we can ride in the morning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Blegh, I've got this long layover in T dot.  I've never been really patient and I'm already bored out of my skull.  There's only so many miles of airport hallway you can walk and only so many identical newstands you can peruse before you're actually keen to get on board the next flight-- mine will be to Houston, Texas.

Had a fantastic week last week, which I think I shall recap since I have oodles of time to kill yet.  My friend Skye dropped into Winnipeg for an impromptu visit from Toronto, where she is a jockey at the Thoroughbred racetrack Woodbine.  It was amazing to see her-- Skye and I basically grew up as sisters, trail riding around Birds Hill Park, playing polo, going to horse shows and basically living the life of Riley.  I've missed her a ton since she moved away, but she's been doing amazingly in her new career and has already won 6 races since getting her license in June-- the most recent win was a fantastic ride on a 46-to-1 shot last Friday.

I had a really fun practice last week, too.  Due to some neighbourhood hooligan vandalizing our truck (in a cinder-block-through-windshield manner), we were truck and trailer-less for polo practice on Thursday night.  Canelo and I decided to pony the horses the three miles to the field so we could practice anyway.  I'm sure I looked somewhat hilarious trying to juggle three horses, two polo mallets and a juice-box whilst cantering down the side of North Drive-- I don't know how Canelo makes it look so easy-- but it was a blast nonetheless, and the chukkers were smoking fast.  I can barely keep up with the play, I always feel like I'm a few steps behind now.  After realizing over the first two chukkers that I was pretty much aimless out there, I decided that if I couldn't figure out where the play was headed, I'd stick with someone who could-- so I glued myself to Isaias' side.  He, of course, thought this was hilarious-- but when a sudden back by the other team made him whip his horse around, I managed to be right there with him and get to the ball first! [I missed it, of course.  One step at a time!]  Now, I won't discount the possibility that Isaias was going easy on me-- he was giggling a suspicious amount-- but I felt pleased as punch nonetheless.

Had a really nice time at Robyn's cabin last weekend with Robyn and Steph.  It was a little chilly and windy so our venture into the lake was short-lived, but it was still a blast.  Really nice to just relax and hang out with the gang.

Yesterday was a little tough for me-- my last day of polo, last day with my parents and last day with Garrett before heading to Argentina.  On the plus side, it was a singularly beautiful early fall day, so I couldn't feel too down.  Had a couple of okay chukkers on Galleta and Borbuja and then a fantastic chukker on Zulu (who else?)  Then Davis, Garrett and I trail rode back to the pasture, which was really nice-- they're both getting so good we can just canter around everywhere and have a good time.

I'll be arriving in Buenos Aires around 9:30 AM tomorrow their time-- 7:30 Winnipeg time.  Betting I'll look quite the mess when I get in, but feeling excited!