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Miracle of miracles…I got to Jersey today! It was exactly an eight-hour round trip. And if I ramble here, it’s ’cause I’m damn tired.

One of the best moments of the trip was arriving at the barn and finding Rafi drying off on the cross-ties. She heard my voice, the head popped up and she watched me cross the yard and she actually nickered softly to me. I got the nuzzling….it was a great reunion! Then hugs from Jen and Cathy…we really missed each other.

As pre-planned last night, Cathy saved her ride on BeSe until I got there. She really wanted me to see the great progress she made with him this summer. BeSe looked the fabulous dressage machine that he is. He’s 18 now and shows no sign of retiring any time soon! After a short warm-up, she schooled piaffe, passage and the tempi changes before riding through the Grand Prix Special.

I’ve never seen him so consistently up and fluid in the bridle. It’s quite exciting. She has entered him in the Saugerties show in two weeks. I hope I can get there for at least one day. Can’t believe how much she is still getting out of him! That horse hasn’t peaked yet!

We pulled Rafi out next. Her weight is good, and given how long she has been out of work, the muscling and topline are not bad at all. She is just walking under tack with 4 straight lines of trot dropped in through our the 25 minute ride. Since I haven’t seen her since June, I had Jen start her, so I could see for myself how ouchy or unsound she looked.

In the walk she is so much better. The ouchy, snatching that she exhibited in April is gone. She’s walking out purposefully and looks good. When Jen started the trot, she really supported and balanced her “up” in the shoulders. The worst thing for Rafi is going around in the forehand. With the vet’s blessing, she’s trotting on the bit, with a bit of collection.

I could see the unsoundness in the first steps in each direction at they began the trot….but it went away almost right away. I felt that was promising.

My turn. Asking for the same engagement as Jen,and encouraging her forward, I was very relieved to feel a good, clean, even walk. Took my time and enjoyed the pleasure of just being on her. We had two long sides of trot to do. She felt sound to me. No head bobbing! I kept her forward but not fast….feel-wise, I’m very happy!

A few more minutes of walk and I hopped off to allow Jen to jog her, so we could see her trot naturally in the balance she chooses on her own. The head bob was there but so much improved from the last time I saw her go.

As we hosed her off, the three of us talked about her future. We all think she will be serviceably sound at some point. Her competition days are done. Cathy has some concerns about how much canter we’ll be able to get out of her down the road. We’ll have to conserve it very carefully.

As far as what I can gain from her aside from actual saddle time {Which believe me, I would keep her going for that alone…that is no small item in my life!}, collection exercises will always be good for her…so I will be able to work on the feel for that. Because her balance in the trot has always been lovely, I may be able to school piaffe and passage. That’s a plus. Rafi is a piaffe/ passage machine. It’s so easy for her, it’s ridiculous!

What’s probably not going to be there: The harder canter work. I’ll probably be able to do the odd, well-balanced change…but learning and schooling the tempi changes will have to happen on Callista. This will be no easy task for me.  The pirouettes may be compromised and most certainly, the extended gaits. Naturally, these are the very areas I need the MOST work as a rider!

All this is just an educated guess! She’s not even allowed to trot around a big bend yet. I don’t expect her back to whatever she is going to be until the spring. I think I’m going to keep window shopping for another horse…

Callista! WOW!!! This has been her year. Even with the setback of last November’s surgery, she is advancing like crazy. And she has mentally matured and she is such a powerful athlete. Extremely impressive! Jen still has “conversations” early in the schooling about submission, but once they’re on the same page? OMG, I cannot belive I own this horse!

That said, I admit that I had some real moments of insecurity about getting up on this powerhouse. I stood watching their first trot extension of the school and actually thought, “They’ve left me in the dust. I am never going to be able to keep with this mare…” I wasn’t even upset, although I’ll confess to some jealousy of Jen’s talent!

Jen put Callista through her paces and then it was my turn. I climbed aboard, trying to absorb quickly the way Jen schooled her and Cathy’s recommendations of keep her up and out, on the bit, not letting her drop the contact or get bullish and run through my hands.

She felt fabulous!!! A couple of times, she did try to run through me but she took the half halts beautifully, calmly….she accepted all my aids without any sign of irritation. Jen and Cathy have done wonders with her. She still wants to be in charge. But she no longer “cops an attitude” about being ask to respond correctly.

Super ride…and extremely good for my battered ego!

After we got the barn work done, the three us went for lunch. We gossiped, laughed, got all caught up on the events of the summer.

We talked about Florida. The horses are going down right after Devon this year! Cathy has sold the farm in Jersey and will stay in Florida 9-10 months of the year. The other two will be spent in Georgia with her grandchildren. Jen and her boyfriend will move to Florida and stay year round. This will certainly impact next summer for me. Hopefully, I will have broken ground on my own barn. So we will see how this all plays out.

Then it was four hours in the car. Thank the gods for audiobooks! But it was worth it. I’m going to try to go out there again one day next week.

Now, how to convince my sweet husband that it is time to shop for another horse?