Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ice bucket challenge

Sam Cuomo nominated Alison, Andrea, Erin and Victoria to do the ice bucket challenge to help strike out ALS.

The rest of the Valinor team got nominated to the ice challenge. Joseph, you were nominated! You may not have a facebook account but that doesn't rule you out from this challenge!!

Good luck all!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's a Painting Party!!!

How to desperately scrape up volunteers to help beautify the boring white schooling jumps?  Bribe them with pizza and cater to their competitive nature!!!

So this was phase one:  Which jumps are the best???  Ready........  VOTE!

Remember, if you missed out on this Painting Party we will be having another, we have 10 more rails to paint!!!  Time to get your creative on!!!!

Which is your favorite set?

(PS...  I may be partial to the lovely black/red/white traditionally striped ones.....  no pressure.....)

April Showers Bring May Flowers!!! A guest blog by Marissa

Team Valinor is now all happily together again at our home base in Massachusetts (and it's freezing here!!!!)  On this rainy day I thought I'd catch up on some blog entries.  Here's a guest blog entry from Marissa summing up the Aiken 2014 season.


I thought I would reflect on the two months of Valinor South. I think its safe to say this year was probably the hardest Aiken trip for Erin. It seemed it was one bad thing after another for her. However, the good news is that all the negativity had nothing to do with the horses. In fact this year was an amazing one for the horse’s progress. I was of course excited for Erin to come however this year was different and more difficult for me as well. Usually I am only a working student for the two months out of the year Erin is down. However this year I was a working student for Doug Payne from mid October until the day Erin arrived. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was already pretty burnt out by the time Erin got here. The good thing was that I could muck stalls and care for horses in my sleep when she arrived…and the Valinor horses were angels compared to Doug’s massive incredibly fit upper level horses. It was nice to not have 18 hand beasts try to kill themselves or me every day. Haha! So first I want to say sorry to Erin for me not being 100% there this year. Between a full time course load, internship, running the eventing team and more I was kinda all over the place and fried! Enough of the negative side though! Here are the highlights of my 2014 Valinor South Season:
·         By far the biggest highlight for me was FINALLY going clear training level xc. It has been a long and rough past year and a half since my shoulder injury and getting mentally back proved to be more of a challenge than I thought. Thanks to Erin I have two fun and clear xc rounds under my belt. Now just to work on my time! But the biggest accomplishment is now having my confidence back and a xc machine for a horse.
·         Second was seeing Erin and Beacon really progress. It was awesome seeing Beacon put in a great dressage test at Pine Top with a great score! Even though the rails didn’t show a great SJ round at Pine Top, Beacon looked much more relaxed and easy to ride! He of course rocked the xc and seeing him ride the first water combination even better than the big pros was a pretty cool feeling. But the coolest thing was seeing the progress in his show jumping. It’s a slow process but it was rewarding to see the lessons with Allison Springer and especially the day Beacon was able to do grid and pole exercises perfectly with the least tension I have ever seen. This year was probably the best I have seen Beacon jump ever and super excited to see the progress continue.
·         Third was seeing Erin have two up and coming upper level horses. I remember when Erin first bought the mares during my first excursion to Aiken. To now see these horses rock around Prelim and talk of intermediate for Devon is amazing. Erin deserves to have multiple upper level horses and for her to finally have them makes me and I’m sure others proud.
·         The fourth most rewarding experience was seeing others fall in love with Aiken just like I did. Having Sam, Abby and Marissa come to Aiken was a lot of fun. It made me reflect back to when I fell in love with Aiken. Especially when Abby, Sam and I went to Pine Top. Pine Top was where I first was star struck by all the big riders and to see them have the exact same experience was pretty cool. I of course hope they come to college in Aiken as well. (sorry moms!)
·         The last memorable experience was seeing all the progress in the horses and riders. Beacons show jumping, the mares clear prelim xc rounds, Abby tackling the scary brush and training level questions, Pita growing up and LOVING the water and becoming a fancy cool mare, Emmit showing his mom he can rock the eventing world, Marissa and the pony rocking all three phases, Erin getting some real fancy dressage work out of Stewart and much much more. I love seeing the progress these horses and riders made and really cannot wait to see all the ribbons and success made by the pairs this show season.
Since the Valinor crew left…I have been sleeping in a lot! The weather has been in the 80s and beautiful! Carino and I moved back to our usual farm and I have gotten a few good rides in on him but giving him a bit of well-deserved down time. Carino is spending most of his time eating grass and checking out the mini donkey on the farm. I’m hoping to compete at sporting days this month if money allows but if not Paradise will be our next outing since we decided to skip out on the Area 3 championships we qualified for until next year. I am enjoying the non-working student life for a bit and focusing on finishing up school and finding an internship down here…however my search has extended to back home so who knows maybe I will see you all this summer!? Despite enjoying the lazy life I am already in the works of possibly another working student position with Kristen Schmolze who plans to stay in Aiken for the year right next door to where I board! I knew I would get bored of not taking care of horses quickly.
Thank you to the whole Valinor crew. This year reminded me how close and a great bunch we are. Thank you to Erin for getting my confidence back and the mass amounts of coffee we consumed. Thank you to Robin and Lisa for helping and keeping things going. Thank you to Abby and Sam for stepping in as working students when they were down. It allowed me to catch up on school or focus on getting ready for a show. Sorry if it felt like I was dumping work on you! Thank you to Carrie and Connor for all their help and keeping my dog entertained…and well fed ;). Thank you to Martha and Betsy for the amazing snack packages which came in handy for those many days where we didn’t get to stop to eat lunch. The list could go on and on! Despite the many crazy events this year brought one thing horses and Erin have always taught me… is to always look for the positive, and when I really look at it the positives of this year ultimately outweigh the negatives!
Hope to see you all next year!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On the road again

Homeward Bound

Good morning Virginia!  I feel like I'm constantly driving in and out of this safe haven.  Thank you to Jan and Muffin for another great stay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Aiken Frame of Mind

This is what it's all about....   A pony, bareback with a halter and a lead, an open track, and the setting sun...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Valinor North (Lisa's POV)

So you've had lots of updates from the lucky few who were blessed to head south for the 2 coldest months of the year.   I was not one of them, so allow me to fill you in on what Valinor has been up to back in the deep freeze by summarizing the benefits of staying  North.

Ups of staying Up North

No Tan!! 
Erin, I saw your cute pictures showing off your horrific tan lines.  Up here, we are so bundled up we never have to worry about those pesky problems.  Also, not sure if you got the memo but pale white skin is waaay in right now.   Over tanning can be a health issue you know.  Better lather up or cover up!   You are going to have a bunch of ivory skinned beauties to compete against when you get back here.  

Remember all those beautiful jackets and sweaters you got during the holidays this year?    Why not show them off!!   No reason to plan what day to wear which outfit to the barn, because you can wear them all together and stay warm!!    You get to wear your entire wardrobe as layers, which is of course super stylish!  What could be more  sexy than waddling down the barn aisle like Ralph’s little brother in the Christmas story.  “Jericho, stop snorting at me!!!  What the heck is your problem????”     This goes for horses as well.   You spent hours tiredly looking through the sale bin finding the perfect medium blanket to fit your “difficult” sized beast only to send him south not to use it.  No worries,  at Valinor,  not only can your equine friend show off his new blanket BUT wear his old one with it as well as another layer.  Don’t  worry, just wait for the one day it gets a bit warm out (40s) and the mud will prevent anyone from realizing you have a purple plaid blanket on top of blue plaid.   You now just have …brown.     

No Sweaty horses!
After a hard ride, the last thing you want to deal with is washing your horse off and wiping all the sweat off of your tack.   Gross.   Hey, guess what? Not a problem.   When you’re riding in 20 degree weather, by the time you take the saddle off, your pal just needs a quick brush and soft hand to clean the icicles out of his whiskers….
Easy access to your horse!  
Why oh why would you want to walk all the way out to that 3 acre paddock to chase your horse around to ride?  No worries!!  He’s right in his stall because the weekly snowstorm has hit with wind gusts blowing 25mph  (refer back to no boring rides).

Reasons to eat crap!
Everyone loves to have a sweet treat once in a while.   I do love to indulge in a doughnut or 4 on occasion.   The great thing is you don’t need to feel shameful.   You have already burned the calories but shoveling snow, smashing ice from buckets or quite simply just shivering.   Any excess left over is just an added layer to survive the weekly deep freeze. 

Bipolar ponies
It’s that  time of year when you get to meet your pony’s twin.  Most of the horses I know only allow the twin to come out when they are overly excited.   “ YAY!!!!!!   OUTSIDE for the first time in three days!!!!!  Don’t worry about opening the gate I will just rear up and jump over it for you. “   Like I said, MOST of the horses I know.  Then there is Rocky….    Every summer I watch my students fall in love all over again with Rocky, Valinor’s steady beginner appaloosa pony.   He carries them around at a slow relaxed lope building their confidence.  Rocky will take a cross rail no matter how miserable a line he was set up to and completely throw himself and his happy little rider over it every time even if he is at a painfully slow western jig.   This is how Valinor and I, have come to love this spotted pony which is why we have nicknamed him,  “Rock Star Rocky”.     Well, that all changes come this time of year.  My beloved Rocky spurts horns and the white/red in his eye is ever present.  He takes every lesson as a challenge to completely do anything but what the student wants him to do.   This has included:  Rearing, taking off down the ring bucking, charging me,  and steering deliberately towards jumps to stress out his rider.   It would be an understatement to say he has helped many practice their gymnastic dismounts.   Hello twin Rocky aka “Rotten Rocky”   How is this a positive you ask?   It helps remind you how amazing your horse truly is, and able to hold off the evil twin 90% of the time(Rocky exception who seems to embrace it).  Truly amazing.  

Mythical creatures!
Sure Aiken you may have beautiful rolling fields, gorgeous soft cross country footing and tracks for canter sets BUT can you lay claim to having a mythical creature at your farm? Valinor North has its very own Jump Goblin!   He usually can be spotted under the jump wagon parked in the indoor but he does enjoy wandering the property and can pop up anywhere.  Not all at Valinor have been blessed with his manifestation but do not be fooled, he is there.    Horses have a sixth sense about these things and will definitely know he is there when you simply see/hear nothing.    There are even a couple horses at the farm who see him constantly, similar to the poor kid in the 6th sense.   Cozmo and Jericho are both very sensitive to his presence.  Age and experience has allowed Cozmo to eventually focus and get to work.   Jericho is still trying to cope and get on with his daily life without letting the Jump Goblin startle him, but it is a tough, long road ahead.

If you get down hearted there is always somebody to make you feel like you are complaining too much.
Conversation between Myself and my 5 year old student Kayla:

Lisa ‘Kayla,  it is pretty cold today, I don’t think it will be fun for you to ride.”
Kayla “No Lisa,  Brumby’s fur will keep her warm and I will let you hold the reins so I can keep my hands warm in my jacket.  LETS RIDE!!!”
Lisa ‘Ok Kay, that sounds good we can do some exercises like touching your toes.  Ready?  Reach for Brumby’s poll.”
Kayla “ No that’s boring I want to trot.  LOTS of trotting” (immediately starts kicking Brumby)
Lisa “Well, ok but let’s not do too much,  Brumby is out of shape. (aka Lisa)”

35 min later after trotting most of the time, being dragged around the ring by Brumby, and I am clearly out of breath

Kayla “Lisa, I did really good at trotting, Brumby is just so beautiful.  We are going to beat everyone in the competitions right??”
Lisa “Of course! You did so great today!!”
Nothing like a cute kid to make you smile and burn off some calories.  Now where are those doughnuts….

Being Part of History!
I made the mistake of watching “The Day After Tomorrow” the other day and became a little concerned.    Pretty sure we have experienced some of the most extreme weather this continent has seen in decades, possibly centuries.   The news stations even went far enough to call one of the deep freezes “The Polar Vortex”.  Hey wait a second , they called it that in the movie too.  Huh   Well, if you believe in climate change/global warming/freezing or not, either way we have almost survived this winter which will go down in record books for a list of things.  We can say we lived through it years from now.  This also makes me feel pretty confident we would be able to handle extreme weather change far better than our southern neighbors.   I mean a tiny little ice storm shut them down for how long??   Silly Aiken.

You never take Spring or summer for granted!  
No description needed for this other than a simple warm day (50’s) puts you in the best mood while your Aiken friends come back grumbling. 

Stuff it Valinor South!   -  Love Lisa & Jericho

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Very quick non Aiken post

Quick non Aiken blog post. Today when I went to the barn I was expecting to just have a nice quite lesson with Lisa, but that didn’t happen. The second I walked into the barn I was greeted by Robyn, Linda, and Chis singing happy birthday. I didn’t even know what to say, I was totally shocked, and semi embarrassed. It was a nice jester nonetheless.
While I was tacking up Robyn came up to me and said she might have another surprise for me. I had many thoughts running through my head trying to figure out what it was, Robyn would not budge and give me any hints even when I tried to guess multiple times. I forgot about this possible surprise that might be coming so I got on Mason and started to warm up while talking to Lisa as I usually do. All of a sudden Lisa tells me to get off Mason with a stern voice and serious look on her face. I look over and Jack is at the window so I start thinking something was wrong, so I walk over to the window to see Jack and all of a sudden he pulls out a mini cake! Then for a second time this morning I had someone sing happy birthday to me. I didn’t even know what to say! I just started laughing! Too bad no one took a video of this! Or maybe it was a good thing no one took any video ;)
This was the best birthday ever! I owe a huge thank you to Robyn, Jack, and Lisa for such a wonderful surprise!!! This will be a birthday I will never forget! Thank you Valinor Farm for being my second family!

More Northern Visitors, and Seeplechase!!!!

Betsy and Alison arrived Monday for their Aiken Adventure, and Brittany and Abby flew in Friday evening.  Alison and Betsy had a dressage and a show jump school earlier in the week and then we went XC schooling at Full Gallop Friday afternoon.  Saturday was Steeplechase and it dawned on me Wednesday evening that I've only worn polo shirts the whole time I've been down here (translation = wicked bad farmer's tan, aka = how the heck am I supposed to wear a dress for Steeplechase???)  So I decided Thursday would be a good day to try and get some sun-blending done...

Betsy happily took this picture of my horrific tan, and then proceeded to take one of my back....

Holy crap!!!!  Whoever thinks that riding horses is a prissy sport should look at this picture, I'm down right scary looking!!!!  Time to lay off the roids!!!!  (aka, lifting water buckets and throwing hay)

The weather for Steeplechase was perfect, and after some early morning hacks on the horses we all went home to clean up and look like real people for a change.  I think we clean up alright......

A lovely group of ladies in the sun!!!  (Not bad on the tan line removal either!)  We followed up the races with a lovely early dinner at The Willcox, how very posh of us!!!

Well posh except perhaps for the random and rather not quite proper hygiene habits of washing one's feet in an upscale inn's bathroom....

And yes, that really happened!!!

Aiken Updates

Life in Aiken has been pretty busy since Full Gallop.  We had more northern visitors as Patti, Carrie, and Conor made the trek south and luckily, this time, the weather cooperated and they got some gorgeous days!

Carrie and Emmett were reacquainted after a six week boot camp and Carrie was able to enjoy some lovely dressage schools, a jump set, and even a gallop on the track.  I have been tremendously pleased with the progress that Emmett has made down here this year.  He is developing into a lovely horse with a great work ethic and talent to boot!  Lucky Carrie!  I'm looking forward to see what the season has in store for these two!

Scorpita's growth also really impressed me this season. In the beginning she was very difficult under saddle, but by then end of her program she was happy to hack out across the countryside and also got right down to work in the arena.  Patti had some wonderful lessons on her and the two looked super.  She is a lovely sweet mare with a lot of ring presence; I'm so proud that she has shown such a jump in maturity in such a short period of time!

The following week was a whirlwind for me as I flew home to work a shift at the firehouse.  Mom and Lisa flew in Wednesday night to learn the ropes Thursday and then take over the farm for me Friday and Saturday under Marissa's exacting schedule and watchful eye.  Lisa got some great jump schools in on both my mares Thursday.  She did a superb job show jumping Ari over some technical grids and large fences, and an amazing job XC schooling Devi over some Intermediate questions!  Patti headed north Thursday morning, I flew out Thursday night, Carrie and Conor shipped Pita and Emmett home Friday, Lisa did a series of dressage/jump/conditioning sets on all the horses Friday, Mom and Lisa flew out Saturday midday, and I flew back in Saturday evening.  What a whirlwind!!  Through all of this organized chaos, super groom and barn sitter Marissa kept things flowing smoothly and cleaned the place up so that all was back to normal Sunday, just in time for more northern visitors Monday (Betsy and Alison with Keno and Grace)!  I am so lucky to have such an amazing support group throughout the Valinor Family, thanks so much for all the help guys!!!!

Cleaning up the tack aisle!

.....and the main aisle....

...and buckets and feed tubs galore!!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Aiken Life Through Lula's Eyes

Not Good, or Freezing Cold and Miserable

                     Perfection, or Delightfully Warm and Sunny

Aiken Life

Uh oh!  Sorry Mom!!!!

Hmmm...  Should I be concerned about my new Duct Tape fashion statement???


Full Gallop Recap

Emmett, McGee, and Cobbles have been working hard to prep for their first outing of the season (and Mcgee and Emmett’s first ever sanctioned competition!).  There have been lots of dressage schools, jump sessions, gallops/ track work for conditioning, and XC outings to get all these guys prepped properly, and we were rewarded with a great day!
Cobbles competed in the open novice division and put in a very obedient and workmanlike test that I was happy with, but unfortunately it didn't score as well as it should have.  He did itch his nose a couple of times (as Abby knows, it is really hard to get him NOT to when he has an itch) and the judge made a couple of references to it on the test sheet; I think this particular judge must have been especially bothered by it.  Ahh, the subjectivity of judging….  He jumped like a superstar though!  He’s been working very hard in the showjumping to keep a good steady and soft rhythm and to not make a bid for that dreaded long weak distance that he loves.  His show jump round was lovely, rhythmic, soft, and proper distances!  Good boy!!!  His best phase of the day was cross country.  He stepped into a wonderfully relaxed and steady rhythm right out of the box and kept it around the whole track.  There were lots of happy gallop fences as well as some pretty technical elements.  He sailed around the half coffin, up and down different bank questions, and through two big water complexes with ease.  It was very close to a footwork perfect go, and he rolled over the ground so easily that I went faster than I had intended and got time faults for going TOO fast!!!  He was also a perfect gentleman in and around the trailer and a proper role model for the younger boys throughout the day.  Good Boy Cobbles!!!

                Cobbles finished in 7th!  His pictures:  http://4141sailing.exposuremanager.com/p/full_gallop_3_8_2014129_erin_risso_cobble_creek/_dsc2828_1_112_128

McGee's first ever sanctioned was a great success!  He is behaving himself better and better on the trailer every time, and he was excellent in all three warm up rings!  I was pretty happy with his dressage test, but he did show some disconnects in his attention which hindered him from getting a really great score.  The atmosphere at this venue was much bigger and more electric than anything he has been to before, and I thought he did a very good job coping with it all.  He show jumped really well which isn't surprising because that is where he has the most mileage and the most confidence.  He was excellent cross country, and very brave. There were some big and tricky things for a BN course, and although he jumped REALLY big over one scary rolltop, he ate the whole course up and gained confidence throughout the track.  There was an early bank followed by a half coffin and a very spooky water complex which he sailed right through.  He was attacking everything and I AGAIN came in too fast,whoops!
                     McGee finished in 8th! (would have been 6th without the speed faults!)  His pictures:  http://4141sailing.exposuremanager.com/p/full_gallop_3_8_2014152_erin_risso_just_let_me_be_mcgee/_dsc3095_1_112_129 

Emmett also had a super first sanctioned outing, which is even more impressive because he doesn't have much mileage in any type of competition.  The atmosphere did get to him a little bit in the beginning and we danced from the trailer to the dressage warm up, but he put on his big boy pants and pulled himself together for a very lovely test; he was fourth after dressage!  The show jump arena was very spooky, and I wondered if he would keep his game face on.  He was excellent, very honest and brave, even over the giant train and railway crossing jump!  I was very proud of his double clear in the spooky show jumping, and he acknowledged this by strutting out of the arena.  He carried this boldness throughout cross country and was excellent through all the questions, but had an unfortunate green moment when we got to the big water complex.  The water is shared with all divisions, up to Intermediate, and is very busy with jumps in/out/ and around it.  There's even a giant pirate ship!  This was all a bit too much for little Em to take in on his first approach and we had a little sideways dance as he as he studied the complex.  After a breath he happily trotted into the water and picked the good rhythm right back up as if it had never been interrupted and carried us through the finish strong.  He has a natural, easy, ground covering stride that is going to develop into a killer gallop.  I love the relaxed gallopers!
                     Emmett finished in 8th!  His pictures:  http://4141sailing.exposuremanager.com/p/full_gallop_3_8_2014179_erin_risso_general_em/_dsc3283_1_112_130 

All in all, a super successful outing for the youngsters and an excellent start for Cobble's season!  One thing I learned, Novice and Beginner Novice is S L O W.....  I need to wear a watch in the lower divisions so I can make sure to NOT get time faults for going to fast!  Excellent job to the three boys, I can't express how happy I was with all of them!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Guest Blog from Robyn and Lisa

Guest Blog:  Robyn and Lisa just returned from a whirlwind 3 day trip to Aiken covering Erin so she could come home to do a Training Shift at the Fire Department.  With Marissa's help, Lisa did a lot of riding while I tried to take care of the routine stable chores.  We were busy! 
We flew in Wednesday evening in time to help dress the ponies for the night followed by a delicious dinner at Tako-Sushi with Erin, Patti, Carrie and Conner even though Lisa was skeptical of eating at a restaurant with such a name. Thursday we woke up to the cold and the wind.  What happened to the sunny and warm temps Erin had promised us?  We should have known we were conned the night before when she asked if she should put the heat on.  WHAT?!?!?!? Oh well, we were getting reports of 17 degrees in Boston so I guess we will take it.  Patti had a lesson on Pita, then started her trip back north.  Lisa and Erin rode all the ponies. Lisa had a blast riding Devi X-Cty and Ari in Stadium.   There were some great points to the day like watching Alison Springer ride Beacon!  By the time we drove Erin to catch her flight and raced back to the barn to dress the ponies we were beat.  While debating just going home to crash, a missed turn landed us in front of Maria's!  A bit sheepish walking in covered in dust, mud and most likely horse poop, Lisa was happy to see other riders in breeches. We did yell at each other to at least go to the girls room to brush our hair and wash ourselves up a bit.   After a super yummy dinner and Lisa discretely reaching across the table to remove hay from my hair we were happy to head back to the house.  
 Friday, the weather was a bit nicer and we helped Carrie and Connor load up Pita and Emmitt for the long ride home.  Lisa did more riding with Marissa as super groom and I did more chores. By Friday night, Lisa couldn't walk and I was wondering why I wasn't vacationing on a tropical island.  Tired, we had a late lunch with Marissa and checked out a couple local tack shops in search of "vacation" souvenirs.  I found some comfy gloves while Lisa cursed at the extra skinny big footed person who left their gorgeous boots on consignment for a steal as she and Marissa tried desperately to zip them up to no avail.  
Saturday we ran around getting chores done and rushing to the airport just to learn our flight had been delayed.  And then it was delayed again!  Lisa managed to schmooze the guy at the ticket counter and got us on a different plane. This turned out to be a really good thing, because the original flight was still 'delayed' when we finally said goodbye to Aiken.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Guest Blog!

Lynette and Little Marissa made their first trek to Aiken this year!  Unfortunately for them they came in the middle of the ice storm, but we were still able to fit in some sunshine and fun.  Here is Riss's recap:


This was my first time in Aiken, and I can’t wait to go back. I was able to be working student, help the vet; I got to see some really cool things, Giving injection and drawing blood.
As most of you have heard, or seen we flew into and snow storm in NC, and drove to an Ice storm in Aiken.  For a couple of days at the farm we lost electricity. This meant that chores that we as easy as giving 20 gallons of water to one horse were chores. Some days we would drive to the farm down the street with the 100 gallon gray tub, fill it with water and then hand bucket it out to the horses. (Otherwise we could never get it out of Erin’s truck). We would also fill large muck bucket style tubs just to get the horse clean afternoon or AM water... Then as the ice melted from the roof I had a good idea, we used melting ice from the roof, we did not have to luge the water back and forth for one afternoon. The weather in Aiken was very unpredictable, Am the horses all had their nice medium weight blankets on, mid-morning, they may need there light weights, then in  afternoon the sun would be shining, and they would have nothing on. There was a lot of blanket changing going on.  Who would have been so happy to have electricity, it would not have been bad, if there was working water. But we made great use of Erin’s headlamp flashlight.

At home, the house Erin stayed at, it was freezing. There were no hotel left in town, the closest was Augusta Ga. (we were not that desperate yet) Mike was, he didn’t come home that night. But we had fun. Erin an Mom drag a mattress from upstairs, (Erin was the lucky one who go to mattress surf down the stairs) and we all slept in the living room, the neighbor brought us a propane heater that we could warm up the room, and stay warm.

One morning, I skipped out on AM chores at the barn, and went to see the race horse’s breeze. It was very cool. I think my mom parked in the wrong spot because we got to stand right next to the track. After a little while of watching we went to The Track Kitchen. This is a very small place that you walk right in the kitchen, get coffee, and tell them what you want for breakfast. The history of the track kitchen is all over the walls, in newspaper articles, pictures etc. There are some great old pictures of the local are race horses, driving horses, and family pictures that made Aiken what it is today. One funning thing I learned is that there really is no racing in Aiken, there’s the Steeple Chase and the Triple Crown, but really horse racing, Aiken is more about training races horses. When you sit down in this little restaurant no one seats you, it was sit where ever you want. So we joined a table with some local people. It was really good; I meet a local equine surgical vet (who knows when you will need one of these), a local photographer who also owed a few race horses, and an older man. This older gentlemen was a grandfather, who’s picture were on the wall of him and his wife driving their horses. The photographer Barry Bornstein had taken. , this man drove horse, he still owned a few. He asked if “he could take me home to go for a ride. The one thing I didn’t get to see is Hitchcock gardens. Big Marissa says this is why she fell in love with Aiken; unfortunately due to the weather it was too dangerous. (Shhh don’t tell my dad but looks like we will have to plan another trip)

The next day we went to a museum in Aiken, it was pretty cool. There were stories about the hope diamond and how the Evenly Mclean, would summer in Aiken in the summers. Evelyn would wear the diamond while looking for art, digging in the garden. Evalyn would frequently misplace her diamond. Evalyn said that she was always misplacing it, only to recruit the help of friends and family into a “game” of finding it again. Even at times she wound adore it as a collar for her dogs. Evalyn eventually sold it to Harry Winston who donated it to the Smithsonian.

The best thing was taking a ride down one of the oldest streets in Aiken; Erin told us how this banker planted the trees so that he would have a beautiful ride to work each day. This was one of my favorite streets. I think even with the ice storm it was beautiful.  

When it was time for dinner I did not no what kind of food they had, Erin took me to a restaurant called Maria’s. Erin loved there cheese dip, .and so did we. We loved this place so much we ate it 3 times while I was there. Oh but there was a ton of restaurants on whiskey road. Thank you Erin for all the fun like mattress surfing,  hacking on the track, explaining concentric circles, helping me buy my new saddles, and walking Paradise. The list of things I learned out there would continue for days. I had a blast thank u again.

Oh I can’t forget to mention hanging out with your friends Teresa and Gina. They were very nice. They both had their own horses and customers horses , but nothing compared to what Erin had.  I have to say, I never minded going to bed at night. It was a long day. I can’t believe how much Erin does, and how lucky big Marissa is to be out there with her.

While Erin was preparing for paradise, Big Marissa kept me busy but helping her get the horses ready, and showing me who all the name riders were. IT was super cool.

                            Little Marissa