Victory Lap Tuesday, Oct 23 2012 

“Life is a dreary continuum made bearable by those moments of excitement. It’s called feeling alive.”  Lee Monroe

The Morgan Grand National & World Championship Horse Show was an adventure this year, that’s for sure.  My flight was super early Saturday morning and we arrived in Oklahoma City by late morning and drove around a little bit before heading to the show grounds to watch the show get started.

My lap of honor with JDS Paladin Pazazz – so exciting!

Upon arriving, I worked as a groom for the entire week.  I took care of the horses and got them “beautified” for their classes.  The only times this became tricky was when I was showing (the other groom – also named Sarah – really helped out during this!) and when we had multiple horses in classes that were close together.  Mostly, it just kept us on our toes.  As the show continued, our classes spread out and the level of business slowed down.

When it comes to showing, I love being in the ring.  It always gives me an adrenaline rush going down the chute and I fill with happiness when I’m in there – especially when I’m having a good drive/ride.

My first class was driving Argento and overall it was a good drive.  We came fourth out of six.  After that, I had a “day off” and then I showed JDS Paladin Pazazz in the Youth Park Saddle class, which was an amazing experience.  Trainers on the sideline – even ones with other horses in the class – were telling my trainer we had the horse to beat.  Unfortunately, horse shows are always subjected to the opinion(s) of the judge(s), so I placed fifth in my class.  (Of course this is frustrating, but after so many years of showing, you tend to get used to it and just vent with your trainers and other barn members about it when it’s all over.)

The next class I had was another driving class with Argento, which was rough.  Due to this and a couple other factors, we opted not to show him in the saddle class.  Again, this sort of thing happens at shows and you take it for what it is.

My final class of the show was the Youth Park Harness class with JDS Paladin Pazazz.  We had a good warm up and my trainer informed me there were four World Champion horses in my class (one of which happened to be my horse) of five participants.  My trainer also enlightened me that my class is the hardest youth class he’s ever seen.  (Thanks.  Let’s just add to the nerves a little.)

Here we are celebrating! L-R: Me, JDS Paladin Pazazz, and Tina Lessnau (his owner).

Before I knew it, the announcer was calling for my class and it was time to go in.  Like every other class, I went down the chute, hit the show ring, and gave it my all – and I’m 99.5% sure my horse did the same.  At the end of the class, in the line-up, my trainer and I were both happy with the way things had gone, so all we could do was wait for the placings to be called. 

As I had assumed, Merriehill Home Stretch took Grand National Champion – he was the Open Park Harness horse last year, so it was no surprised he placed well.  Then, to my surprise, JDS Paladin Pazazz’s number and name was announced for the Reserve Grand National Champion placing.  I started bouncing in the cart and grinning from ear to ear.  This was definitely the highlight of the show!

The rest of the week was pretty good by comparison; our barn faced some tough competition and held our own as best we could.  Four Points Farm took seven horses down to Oklahoma, but my Youth Park Harness class was the highest placing for my barn all week.  Then, on the last day, we tore everything down and packed it all up to come back next year.  Now we spend the winter season working the horses and ourselves to prepare for next year.

As for other things in my life, I now have a bit more time to focus on school and work.  I do have quite a few things I’ve been catching up on since being back, so that’s where most of my focus lies.  All I have now is finishing up my senior year at Albion College.

Progress! Tuesday, Oct 16 2012 

Project pony Nyk, the Arabian.

Where to start?  Hmmm…..

First off, my internship at Nottawa has been amazing!  I’ve been cleaning stalls, helping Denise with her bookkeeping, updating her filing system, doing lots of little odds and ends relating to the team, and training horses!  Even with eleven new riders on the team, things have been running very smoothly.  Everyone is doing great and Amanda (the other intern and our team co-captain) and I have made great progress with Nyk, Jessy, and Dazzle, the training horses.

Jessy, our youngest horse in training, is doing spectacular.  Almost anyone can ride him and, after only a few months, we’re already working on his headset.  Nyk and Dazzle are another story. They’ve come a long way, but Jessy is definitely our shining star.

Nyk has been my main project so far.  He is an 11 year old Arabian who is extremely green.  Denise had to start at square one with him over the summer and had just gotten him riding when the semester started.  Initially, he’d buck and twist and do everything except what you wanted, but now he’s cantering with just a little resistance and trail riding like a champ.  I’m not a huge fan of Arabs, but I’ll admit, he’s pretty cute.

High point team at the second half of our first show!

The western team had our first meet on the 6th, and we did extremely well!  We had a lot of firsts and even took high point team in the second meet.  Our new riders all had really great rides and we we’re extremely proud to see how far everyone had come!  Chelsea Utt, my best friend and roommate, even was reserved highpoint rider in the first show! 

I also had some great rides and was extremely happy with my draws, although I think I should have placed a little better in some of my classes.  My first open class, I drew Kenny, who actually is my trainer’s old horse.  I was very excited to ride him even though he had been a little naughty in previous classes and during our class he was very good.  However, the judge only placed us fourth.  Then, in reining, I rode Siego, who was a cute little palomino Arab.  We had a great pattern, and placed second!

Then for the second show, I drew Manny for reining and Kenny again for horsemanship!  Manny and I laid down a clean pattern and placed third and then it was my second chance at Kenny.  After another great ride, I placed first – finally!  It was a great end to the first show.

At home, Image and Tuffy are doing pretty well.  They’re both a little fat and enjoying this lovely fall weather.  I recently had my photo shoot that I won and I’m extremely happy with the pictures.  Both horses were hamming it up the whole time.  (Gotta love them.)

One of the shots from my photo shoot.  (Photo credit: Bliss Images.)

Next weekend is fall break, and then it’s our home show!  Image will be coming up and I also am borrowing a family friend’s horse, Lucy.  She such a cute little bay mare and I’m looking forward to having both girls up here at Albion for the weekend.

Lots to do before then, but first, fall break!

First Albion, then the Worlds Monday, Oct 1 2012 

“A lovely horse is always an experience … It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words.” ~Beryl Markham.

My life never seems to slow down.  I’m a senior now at Albion and I keep trying to figure out where the time has gone.  Since my last blog (which seems as if it was forever ago), I had an internship with Ernst & Young and studied abroad in Sydney, Australia.

Oklahoma, here we come!

The internship was a wonderful experience. n I learned more about the accounting field and what I want to do in my future while I spent 10 weeks working for one of the Big Four Accounting Firms (E&Y) and had the opportunity to work alongside fulltime accountants.  I loved it!

After my internship, I spent about seven weeks helping around my barn and riding a lot of horses.  My riding ability increased tremendously and I felt on top of the world.  Then, in late May, I hopped on a plane and flew to Sydney, Australia, which was another wonderful experience.  I spent eight weeks studying there, which was composed of taking a single class and participating in an internship, which exposed me to a completely different work environment and allowed me to learn how much I love doing auditing work.  After the eight weeks of my program, I spent two weeks travelling around the country to visit family that lives there and even did a three day boat trip off the Great Barrier Reef.

In summary, the start of 2012, for me, was full of life changing experiences.  It has shown me that I’m ready for the future and can’t wait to graduatem – which happens to be this coming May!

As for the horse world, back in April I made the decision to lease a three-year old Morgan to show at the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show (if I qualified).  Unfortunately, during my ten weeks in Australia, I didn’t ride at all, so when I came back I was quite rusty.  It took me a while to get back into the swing of things, but in late August I went to the Jubilee Regional Morgan Horse Show and successfully qualified myself and Argento for Worlds.

Since then, I’ve had only four weeks to prepare.  Along with showing Argento, I have also been given the amazing opportunity to show the stallion JDS Paladin Pazazz.  As such, every weekend, I’ve driven to and from school in order to keep on my a-game.  Now all the preparing is almost over – the horses leave today for Oklahoma and I join them on October 6.  Then the show begins!

Along with the craziness of Worlds, I’ve been managing five classes, the Senior Resident Assistant position in Wesley Hall, and being president of the equestrian club. As a senior, my schedule is very packed, but I’m enjoying being a very busy student. It keeps me on track and, for now, a majority of my focus is on the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show (and school, of course).  Once the show is finished, I will be able to open up my schedule a little bit to other senior year activities.

It’s been a pretty good year thus far and I just keep my fingers crossed it will continue this way!

The Start of Senior Year Wednesday, Sep 5 2012 

Howdy, readers!  I’m back at Albion for my senior year!  (How did that happen?  I swear I was just a freshman yesterday!)

Summer treated me fairly well.  I took a couple of classes at Washtenaw Community College for some extra credit hours, worked at the Portage Yacht Club, and – most importantly – I made it to a few horse shows.

Bridle-less western pleasure? No problem!

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a rough season for Image.  Between some pulled shoes, a farrier problem, a sore shoulder, a shoe boil, and dust allergies, there was barely any time to ride her (although I’m pretty sure she liked it better that way).  However, she performed extremely well at all of our shows and I was happy with almost every ride I got out of her – especially under the circumstances.

Since I wasn’t able to work her like usual, we spent a lot of time riding bareback and bridle-less and also working showmanship at home.  As a result, I got brave and started entering us into the LMHA jackpot classes.  They offer hands-free showmanship and bridle-less western pleasure – which played right into what Image and I were working on!  By our last show, we won hands-free showmanship and we even placed second over some really nice western horses in the bridle-less class.  (I think it’s safe to say that we had a great season and that we went out with a bang!)  It was great to be back on my little wonder mare!

And speaking of wonder mares named Image, I also entered her in a photo contest – and she promptly won us a free one-hour photo shoot.  Talk about a cool contest to win!  Our shoot is the end of September, so I’ll make sure to share a few of the best with you!

So, as I said, I’m back at Albion again.  Classes are going well and the western team just held their tryouts last night.  Our new crop of riders looks promising!

And now, for the best news ever – I officially start my internship at Nottawa Paint Horses tomorrow!  That’s right; I have an internship at the barn!  It’s in barn management and I am going to be learning all about the horse business and a little about horse training too.  This is the first time that Denise has done this, so it should be quite an adventure for both of us.

Now it’s back to studying.  I’ll update you more as the internship and the semester progresses.

Go Brits!

Back in the Swing of Things Monday, Aug 27 2012 

It’s hard to believe another summer has already come and gone, but it sure was another great one!

I finished this particular summer off with a week of showing at Horse Shows by the Bay, where Jelli was wonderful.  There was a lot for her to take in, but I thought she handled it all quite well.  We walked away with fourth place in a hack, fifth place in equitation over fences, and a few other placings over fences.  All in all, I was very proud of Jelli and happy with our performance – even in adverse conditions.

This is Jelli and I after our muddy trips at Horse Shows by the Bay. All of our hard work to make us look “show ready” went to waste!

On Friday it rained all day and (of course!) Jelli and I showed in the heaviest of that rain.  By the next morning, there were two inches of standing water over the whole ring so that, when we entered, the sun was reflecting off the water.  The entire ring was just one big reflection and it was so shiny that I could hardly see the jumps!  During our trips, mud was flying everywhere and, by the end, Jelli and I were covered.  I even had mud on my eyelids and in my mouth!

Ironically, however, these muddy trips were the best of the week.  My horse is apparently a mudder!

On Sunday, there was a hunter classic and we entered that as well.  I thought my first round of the classic was decent and we earned a score of 78.  The classic didn’t finish its run until the end of the day so we waited around.  There were probably about 60-70 riders in it and they only called back the top 12.  I tacked up to head out for my second round because Jelli and I were still in contention and then the very last rider in the first round kicked my score out.  The cutoff was 78.5 and I had a 78!  I was still very happy to be thirteenth out of 60 in the end – and after such a long week, Jelli and I were ready for a break, but we sure had a lot of fun.

Just this weekend, I moved back to Albion and I am really excited for the year to come.  Fellow summer blogger Sarah and I are living in an apartment together – we even have air conditioning, a dishwasher, and a shower that you can turn around in, so we have really moved up in the world!

Classes started today – wish me luck!

The End of Summer Thursday, Aug 23 2012 

Wow – where did summer go?!

It was a tremendous stress-reliever to have leased Sara for the summer. (Photo credit: Jordan Tieche)

I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been insanely busy and, unfortunately, it hasn’t been with horses, but rather work.  I just finished the last day of my internship with Pfizer Animal Health last Friday and the last few weeks were hectic to say the least!  I was given the opportunity to give several large presentations on my summer’s worth of work and that was a great experience.  When George Jessel said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public,” he was definitely talking about me – but it was worth the nerves to present to some upper-management.   Overall, I really enjoyed my internship, not only the work but also the people!  I made some great connections and friends during my time there.

The main downside of spending so much time at work the last few weeks was that I couldn’t take days off to any horse shows with Sara.  Just having her around was a great escape for me though – even if I only had time to see her for half an hour on my lunch break.  It was great stress relief!  She settled in really nicely at Todds’s and has definitely come a long way just in these past few months.  It has been great to work with her and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to take her home for the summer.

As all good things have to come to an end, however, this summer does too.  I can’t believe that school is starting again in a few short days – I have so much left to do!  I’ll be moving into an apartment with my fellow blogger and hunt seat teammate Heather Waldron on Sunday and I haven’t even started packing, so I’m sure this weekend will be just as busy as the rest of the summer was!  I am ready to go back, though, to see all of my friends and all of the girls on the hunt seat team.

Let the apartment shopping and packing begin!

Life After Albion Tuesday, Jul 31 2012 

They say that college is the best four years of your life. It has now been a year since I graduated from Albion College and began my time in the “real world,” and I’m afraid I have to disagree with that statement.  College is great – but the best part is that it gives you a taste of what’s to come.

When I graduated from Albion, I left behind many things: friends, memories, my horse, familiarity with what I had called home for the past four years.  But what I took with me was a feeling of preparedness for the real world and enthusiasm, knowing that I was taking another step in my life.

That “next step” was law school.  This past May, I successfully completed my 1L year at Michigan State University College of Law.  The changes were huge – I moved from a tiny town (my hometown of Washburn, WI, and Albion are both small) to what I consider to be the bustling metropolis of East Lansing.  I went from an average class size of 18 to an average of 74 for all of us first years (the whole class is divided into four relatively equal sections).  I used to be able to walk to class in three minutes, but now I take the bus 15 minutes just to get to campus.

Jumping Koby into the water at a clinic with Robin Walker last spring.

In the midst of all these changes, however, the one constant was riding.

Let’s backtrack a few years…

When I studied abroad in Grenoble, France, I lasted about two weeks before finding a barn so I could take lessons.  When I started law school, I researched barns in the area at the same time I was looking for an apartment.  When I first emailed Ruth, owner and trainer at Stapleton Farm, all I was looking for was somewhere to take one lesson a week so that I could get my horse fix during school.  What came of it was so much more.

I knew Ruth from IDA – she coached the MSU dressage team.  Her farm web site offered a few lesson horses and when I emailed asking about lessons, she responded that we could probably work something out with a horse that knew second level movements.  So we began with one lesson a week on a sweet Arabian mare named Lark.  When Ruth left to train out east for a few days, I asked to ride Lark while she was gone…and pretty soon I was riding more horses in the barn.  A few days each week, I got out of class and headed to the barn, the one place where I could think about something other than contracts and torts and how exactly one goes about filing a civil lawsuit.

In October, I started riding Koby.  Bought as a project and school horse, he wasn’t quite fitting in with Ruth’s school program.  He had a sassy attitude and cute face, but he really didn’t know much.  I started working with him, introduced him to jumping, and we took off – literally and figuratively!  By the end of the semester, I had learned where and how to sue people, what to sue them for (everything, according to my torts professor), what makes up a contract, and how to be an ethical lawyer.  Meanwhile Koby had learned how jump a 2’6” course and that balance is a good thing.  Both of our educations continued after Christmas, as I entered the world of criminal law and property rights and Koby was introduced to barrels under jumps, leg-yields, lengthenings, and (finally!) cross-country.

I put in long hours studying and a few “study break” hours at the barn, working with Koby along with a few others.  (Fergie was my other main horse, a wonderful chestnut mare with whome I scored a 70.0% with at Training Level at Waterloo in June.)  We started thinking about summer employment at school and I knew I wanted to try to find something local so that I could keep riding.

I took Koby to a schooling show last weekend at we were champions at Training Level with a median score of 65%.

In April, I took on a training horse at the farm that was in for some jumping work.  That month, I also interviewed at the Department of Human Services in Lansing for an externship position.  By the time final exams rolled around, I had secured three training horses and an externship with the Office of Legislative Services at DHS for the summer.  Classes finally gave way to summer and my days have been filled with the law and horses ever since.  I work at DHS three days a week and am at the barn riding seven days a week.

At work I research law and policy and go to meetings.  Then I trade my business casual for barn clothes and head out for a few hours with the horses.  The relationships that are cultivated through horses are, I think, some of the strongest bonds we ever create.  Between horse and rider is a partnership, but there are also the people at the barn.  Whether it’s the equestrian center at Albion or Stapleton Farm in Leslie, the barn has always been a place to find laughter, support, and sometimes, if you need it, a shoulder to cry on.

So enjoy college, my fellow Britons – but remember that it’s just a taste of what’s to come.  The best advice I can give you is that, no matter what, if you are a horse person, find time for the horses.  Make time for the horses because barn time is so much more than just riding.

Preview of Coming Attractions Wednesday, Jul 18 2012 

Jelli has come a long way since we snapped this photo of her last summer!

I can’t believe how quickly summer always seems to fly by!

Here we are already, just one week away from our trip over to Horse Shows by the Bay.  Jelli has been doing wonderfully, but going to such a big show will be a whole new experience for her.  Thankfully, Carl arrived mid-June and we have been spending a lot of time schooling her to prepare.  My little sister, Ally, and her horse, Red, have also been working on some final touch-ups for next week.  We are all very excited and eager to go.

Other than horses, I have spent a lot of time this summer campaigning.  You see, my dad is up for re-election as a township official and I volunteered to be his campaign manager.  Little did I know that there was controversy surrounding this election and somehow I went from being just his campaign manager to now serving as a member of the “Re-elect Our Board” Committee, which meets weekly.  It has been a very fun and educational experience, but it’s also been a lot of work.  Our group walked in the local Fourth of July parade, hosted a campaign fundraiser party at my house, and made signs and postcards to distribute.  I have also helped to draft letters addressed to all of the voters in this township and, with the primary coming up on August 7th, it is definitely crunch time!

I hope everyone is enjoying their summers as much as I am.  I will have a lot to write about after the show and election – can’t wait to tell you all about it!

My Ride with Charles de Kunffy Wednesday, Jun 13 2012 

Hello everyone!  It’s been a while since my last entry, so I have a lot to talk about.

Riding for Charles.

I’m in my fourth week of chemistry research and it’s going very well.  The first couple of weeks were really hectic; I was so overwhelmed by the workload and concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish the project by the deadline.  The hard work seems to have paid off, though, since now I’m actually a week ahead in my schedule.  After making and purifying the starting materials needed, I’m now synthesizing six vanadium complexes that I hope to begin applying to cancer cells by next week.

But enough with the “boring” chemistry stuff – the horse stuff is going great too!  Romulus and I have already come a long way and I’m excited to see where we are at the end of the summer.  But what’s really special is what we did this last weekend: we rode in the dressage clinic with Charles de Kunffy!  The three-hour theory sessions each morning (the clinic was three days) were wonderful and extremely informative.   Charles has a lifetime of horse/dressage knowledge and is a great speaker.   The auditors asked plenty of questions and the atmosphere was very relaxed.    
Even though I learned a lot in the theory sessions, being able to ride for a half hour each day with Charles was incredible.  I have to admit that the first day was pretty nerve-racking – it was my first clinic and the idea of riding in front of 40 or so people (watching me very closely) was intimidating!  But once I entered the ring, I wasn’t thinking about the audience anymore.  It was just Romulus, Charles, and I.  Charles zeroed in on our problems in about 30 seconds (seriously!) and we got started.  The ride went well and when I got off I said to my Mom, “Hey, that was fun!”

During our second ride, Charles made me keep my right hand on my thigh for the entire lesson – it really helped me sit better on the third day!

The second ride was a bit rough, since Charles had me hold my right hand completely steady on my thigh the entire ride.  Every time it moved he would say in his Hungarian accent, “Is your right hand on your thigh?” or “I saw that!” and I would have to fix my hand again.  I felt bummed after that ride, but I’m really glad he pushed me because my third and last ride went really well.  Things just clicked. I was able to sit much deeper into the saddle and move with Romulus.  My back wasn’t hollow and my elbows and hands were much steadier.  According to everyone watching and from what I could feel, Romulus was moving beautifully.   To my surprise, when I got off several auditors congratulated me on my progress over the weekend.  Everyone had seen a big change and I sure had felt one!  That made it all worth it. 
Unfortunately, I had to jump right back into work on Monday without any time to just rest, so I’ve been really tired.  I think I’m catching up though.  The next step is to sign up for the June 30 dressage show at Copper Creek Farm, so I need to pick which two First Level tests I’m going to do.  More in the next blog!

Number Crunching Tuesday, Jun 12 2012 

It’s Friday and I just logged my hours for my first week at the internship with Pfizer Animal Health!

All decked out for my first day as an intern – including my ID badge!

It’s crazy to think that I only work a 40 hour work week, yet I have already done so much!  I finished my orientation on the first day and then got right into the swing of things.  So far, I’ve completed a metric data analysis project and have sat in on some really interesting meetings.  (For those that don’t know, metrics are taken to help provide insight into staff efficiency.  One example could be the number of hours worked on a project.  As a math student, that one was right up my alley!)

One thing that I really appreciate about my internship is the optional summer hours that Pfizer offers.  The option means that, rather than working five eight-hour days (a normal work week), we have the option of working four nine-hour days and then we get to leave by noon on Friday.  Even with that flexible schedule, though, I haven’t been able to go ride at all now that I’m interning.  The commute to Albion is about one hour each direction so I just haven’t been able to make the time.  (Talk about analyzing efficiency!)

Once I realized my schedule would be this hectic for the rest of the summer, I decided that it would be best for both Sara and I if she were closer to me.  With that, I worked with the staff at the Held Center and arranged for Sara to move over to Todd Neumann’s barn just as soon as all of the necessary paperwork goes through.  Todd’s barn is about five minutes from my house, so it’s perfect for my circumstances and crazy internship schedule.  Once Sara gets all settled in and we get into regular training and a routine, we’ll be able to think about horse shows again!

Needless to say, the summer is off to a fantastic start – and I can’t wait to see what it brings!

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