December 1: It’s official! Nine horses will be going to Florida, to a brand-new barn that we’ll have all to ourselves. Awesome. I’ll bring down one working student—conveniently also named Lauren—and hire someone local to do stalls for us. It’ll be a lot of work, but it’ll be OK.
I’m sitting in my PJs recovering from a terrific trip to Kentucky for the U.S. Dressage Finals, sipping coffee, listening to my mountains of laundry churn away, packing up my show clothes for the trip to Florida in January, and looking back on a wonderful year.
I get asked some form of this question 50 times a year, in lessons, at clinics, via email or Facebook: how do I rise up the levels? What’s the best plan to get from being a lower-level rider to FEI? What path should I follow?
There are, for all intents and purposes, two options: to find a schoolmaster, a horse trained to the upper levels, from whom to learn; or to bring along a green horse, to teach him and yourself together along the way.
Between Michael giving a clinic at my place a few weeks ago, our Regional Finals two weeks after that, and Devon two weeks after that, I am really inspired right now. All the horses in my program are going to be FORWARD, they are going to be ELASTIC, they are going to be CONNECTED, they are going to go in SELF-CARRIAGE, and they are going to do all those things NOW!
We go back to 2005, where I did win the Young Rider freestyle on a very, very big score, after nearly getting my rear end dumped in the ring at least once in the Team and Individual Tests. Then there was 2006, when Billy ran backwards almost all the way from X to the ingate at A (comment at the end of the test from Anne Gribbons: that I was “tactful, brave, and not influential.” Love it.)
THREE MONTHS BEFORE: Natasha, one of your assistant trainers, asks if she can join her family on a vacation for a chunk of time that includes Dressage at Devon. It’s not great timing, but you’re well staffed at home, so missing one person won’t be a disaster.
We’d met in passing a few times, but never had more than a superficial "Hi, how are you, nice ride," conversation until I was at Gladstone a few years ago for one of the USEF Talent Search type things. I had Ella and Midgey, both on the brink of Grand Prix. I was 24 or 25, taking clinics here and there with whoever was around, all good people, but there was no single thread to my training, and I was deeply, terribly lost in the weeds.