Hi again. Since our last blog entry we have been very busy logging air miles and accumulating dirty clothes. After Edmonton we headed to Blainville, Quebec for a great week of jumping. It is great to work in Quebec because they have a unique tradition of holding what I like to call traditional hunter classics. The two round variety - with a course that encompasses all the characteristics of a traditional hunter classic. What is exciting is for Sunday they combine the two hunter rings to make one big ring to build the Jump Canada Medal course and set your classic course. A traditional hunter classic should be a course that allows the horse and riders to showcase their athleticism and "scopeyness" - this is facilitated by long galloping lines - most unrelated with a one stride and a two stride combination. Evie and I collaborated on the course and we both agreed the first round was great. The course was judged by the wonderful mother and daughter team of Lisa Ciepulcha and Marg Dennis, two members of one of the leading equestrian families in the country - both their support and dedication to the sport of show jumping and hunters over the years have helped to make it the strong, vibrant sport it is today, it was a pleasure and an honour to work with them during the week.
While we loved our first round - the second round was an unqualified disaster. We failed to follow one of the fundamental rules of course building we stress time after time at our clinics - we started the second round on a bending line of eight strides - now you might think eight strides is a long way and more than enough time to adjust your stride to find the second jump - but it is not! The smart thing would have been to give them a single to single start or a single to a straight related line - I am to blame for this - Evie had reservations but I said it would be okay - it was not - needless to say it was not pretty - but it does emphasize that you always go with your gut feelings and the fundamentals are fundamentals for a reason - we all need to be humbled every now and then. And when you are wrong - admit it and never do it again - at least not for the next five years!
After Blainville I left for Spruce and the National. It was a good week of show jumping
. I designed and built in the North American Ring. It is great to build course and watch the likes of Leslie Howard, Beezie Madden, Eric Lamaze, Mario Delaurier, Mac Cone, Ian Miller and family, Jill Henselwood, Jen Serek, Rich Fellers, Katie Monahan and a group of some of the best junior riders in North America riding your courses. The week went very well as I slowly brought them along. The approach you take is you want to ease them into the Spruce experience, realizing they will be jumping almost every day for the next five weeks - so you do not want to jump their legs off in the first week. But at Spruce Meadows you treat every competition as if it is a grand prix or a classic - and the competitors know this coming in. Case in point on Sunday I had the 1.20m Junior/Amateur Classic. The night before Maurico, my excellent builder and assistant and I discussed the course we would be setting for Sunday - we had thought the 1.20m Junior/Amateur had already been in the ring on Wednesday the first day - so we built accordingly. Early Sunday morning one of the trainers approached me and said he thought the course was too tough for the group because they had not been in the ring before now - I went and checked and sure enough he was right - so we went around and softened up the course - I changed a couple of the distances so they were not as technical and lowered a few of the jumps. The difficulty or danger of doing this is it can be a fine line between having a suitable course with the correct number of clears and one that is too easy and you have too many clears. It is very easy to make the course too tough - it is much tougher with these type of divisions to make them ridable and safe for young riders, experienced horses, green horses etc.
As the first eight horses of the fifty horses starting the course went I thought it was going to be a blood bath - I had set a very tough line early in the course a triple bar to triple combination - thinking the horses are more ridable early in the course -early in the course young horses tend to grab the bite and pull their riders along - little hard to control - the course was not pretty in the early going. Others must of thought the same because they called Leopoldo our Course Co-ordinater to come down fearing the course was unridable - too difficult. But after the first ten went they started to figure it out. In the end I had seven clear, 1 clear with time, 14 with four faults, 7 with five faults and 3 eliminations. A course I think that while tough, was more than ridable - every fence on course came down. Leo who was called down to "straighten me out" watched 15 horses go and thought the course was appropriate and that I would have 8 clear, 4 clear with time and 4 eliminations - pretty close. This shows how tough our job can be and what we must endure - competitors will say it is to big, to small, to wide, not wide enough, to tough, to easy and that is all in the same course.
The next week Evie and I designed at Palgrave for the Summer Classic. The theme of the show was rain and mud. But through it all we stayed positive and happy. Evie had a great week as her her sin the Annex jumper ring were very well received. She does such a great job and she really cares. On a couple of evenings we stayed a little longer because she did not like this or that - so we stayed and changed it - just the two of us - we did this because we care and want the competitors to get the best experience possible. But in regards to the horse show what makes the experience at Palgrave so tolerable when it seems the "sky is falling" - is that the show is so well run - decisions are made, schedules are changed, classes are moved when they should be and every body is kept in the loop - so many times we work at shows or tournaments where we are the last to know and it is frustrating - but EMG has worked hard to come up with the best schedule possible and they keep you in the loop and at EMG you feel like you are part of a team of like minded individuals all good at what they do, helping each other out to get through the day as fast as possible, as safe as possible - feels great to be part of something like that.
Now we move on again. We spent Monday doing laundry and running numerous errands - having a nap in the afternoon, then repacking. Evie heads to Cornerstone while I am sitting here in Calgary doing paperwork for the first day of the Canada One Tournament at Spruce. This week I will be designing and building in the All Alberta Ring. A nice ring to work in that makes use of a old CN or CP rail caboose for a judges booth and I work out of the old dining car - pretty cool. But so much is cool at Spruce. Until next time - ride well and have fun.