MARISSA'S GUEST BLOG
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!