My husband and I are a busy couple. Between our farm of 14-18 horses in work, 15 plus ship-in lessons per week, our clinics, his USEF job and our show schedule, add to that a son who goes to school on the far side of town, plays on a soccer team and is in a hip hop group, and you pretty much have a full plate. I am anal beyond description when it comes to lists, schedules and time frames and I know I often drive my husband and those around me to the point of desperation, but a life like ours, unfortunately, requires the dedication of Mussolini and the trains, otherwise chaos will win out every time.
A few weeks ago, we headed with 16 horses, ours and students’, up to Aiken for Stable View horse trials and, from there, Leslie left to go to Holland for Bokelo to coach our student Caroline Martin, and Chef the USA Nation’s Cup team. I came home to run our lives here, which is not always ‘cool,’ shall we say, when you add your normal everyday stuff to single parenthood. Leslie had to go direct from Holland to Fair Hill to continue on his coaching duties, so we had decided in advance that I would meet him up there on the Thursday night so that we could actually have a few nights together; Liam would stay home with friends so that he didn’t miss his Friday school tests. To be honest, the last thing on earth I want to do is fly up to Maryland for a few days when I have lovely horses at home to ride and our son to take to soccer games, however, marriage, like life, is work and I have to remind myself that and just like work, you get out what you put in so I was excited to spend some romantic nights with my husband and even remembered to pack some nice clothes and actual nightwear instead of the standard issue big t-shirt and cotton pants.
We had a whale of a time our first night there, I ate my weight in crab legs, which if you ask me IS the best part of Maryland, and Friday Leslie spent the day watching and coaching dressage while I spent my time on the other side of the property watching the Young Event Horse Championships, as I have a twofold interest in that as I sit on the American YEH committee and we had sourced three of the horses in the five-year-old finals.
Friday night we had dinner with a friend in probably the most expensive restaurant in town and having had such a lovely time I was in such a great mood and knew we were going to have a fabulous evening until…. Almost immediately upon entering our hotel room I felt something awry. My stomach was not happy. I put on my lovely nightwear and brushed my teeth, but despite my mind over matter mantra, I could not make my stomach unease go away. I expressed my fears to Leslie who looking a bit disappointed, but doing his best to hide it, informed me that it was OK as he was going to take a handful of Advil PM’s and go to bed early as he had been having trouble sleeping since coming back from Holland.
I got into bed and stared at the ceiling, as you do, and just kept willing my nausea to go away all the meantime starting to sweat and shiver on and off. Finally, about an hour later, it hit like a load of bricks. Sprinting for the bathroom my body turned on me and violently began ejecting everything I had eaten that evening. I will try not to gross everyone out but let’s face it, most reading this I am sure have experienced food poisoning at least once in their lifetime and we can probably all agree it is just about the worst when you have no clue which end of you should be pointed toward the toilet. As I leaned over the toilet, one hand clutching my hair back and the other holding my Tiffany’s necklace I had been sporting for my romantic dinner out of the spray of my sixty dollar salad and rack of lamb that I hadn’t even enjoyed for barely two hours, I couldn’t believe my luck.
On and on it went and you know when you get to that point all energy has left your body, you throat feels completely violated, your nose is full of unspeakable things, you can barely breath and you would murder anyone for a drink of something and a chaser of breath mint. I was screaming as best I could between retches for Leslie to come help me, but, of course, he was in bed sawing logs having successfully drugged himself into a very deep sleep. I kept trying to wake him and thought at any moment the lovely Phyllis Dawson, whom I knew was in the room next to us, may wake up and become totally alarmed and call either the front desk or perhaps even the police, but alas whomever showed up perhaps I could convince to nip out and get me a Ginger Ale. By the time my body decided it was finished, it was all I could do to crawl back to the bed, my hair in sweaty strings, my beautiful silk nightgown marred with you know what, dots under my eyes from straining so much… So much for my lovers’ weekend. I didn’t need to look in the mirror to know I had all the romance of a truck stop whore.
Leslie had to leave me in bed the entire next day. I spent all cross country day in bed going in and out of sleep and only getting up once to open my door a crack, flag the maids down and offer up a tenner to one who would go grab me a Ginger Ale out of the soda machine (which one did thank God, even if she did make out with an $8 profit. I was eternally grateful).
Luckily the next day I felt at least functional. I could get dressed and go to the show, albeit slowly, and thank god I did otherwise I would have missed a great day. I got to watch Selena win the three star.
When I was a kid, like 16, anytime I wasn’t in school I was pretty much attached to Garry Roque and a working student for him every chance I could. My first memories of the O’Hanlons were when for some reason, I think we were going to a show near their home, Garry and myself and a few other kids showed up at night on Morag’s doorstep and in we all went crowding this tiny place. It was so long ago now I can’t remember the circumstances or all the people that were there, but what I remember was that it was Morag and Selena’s home and a rough and ready group of us showed up with clothes and sleeping bags and no doubt a few dogs and I remember sitting on the floor listening and watching while the older group chatted away, laughed a lot, drank a bit, played music, had a lot of fun, were clearly great friends and enjoying the simple things that are life at its best. This was Morag and Selena. If you needed a place you were welcome to a patch on their floor and all the friendship and best wishes that came with it. That was my first memory of them, but then, of course, there has been years and years since then but I won’t go on but what my point is that they are good ‘people’ if you see what I mean.
Morag has been blessed with Selena and likewise the reverse applies. When I watched Selena win I watched Morag win just the same, and I couldn’t be happier for either of them. Perhaps people don’t know, but Morag was one heck of a rider in her own right. When I was that little brat sleeping on her floor, she had two horses at the upper levels; one was Sail on Something or another and the other had a name to do with music.. Although I can’t remember the names perfectly, I do remember her flying around some impressive xc with them. The apple has not fallen too far from the tree, and so am I really that surprised Selena pulled off a big win? Not really…
Selena has had two good horses, Colombo and Woody. Now, of course, I am sure she would tell you she has had more than two good ones, but for the sake of this, I am talking about the two the public would generally remember. When I look at Selena, I think what she has done very well is that she made those two horses ‘hers.’ She took her time, she did things right, and she became a proper partner with both those horses. Colombo had been ridden by good riders before, but never enjoyed the success he had with Selena, and Woody would not be everyone’s first pick. My claim to fame in this story is that, funnily enough, my backside was the first one to ever touch Woody’s back, as I broke him for his breeders, but that aside, he is a good horse in his own right. But Selena has made him a great horse, because no matter what happens next, it takes a pretty great horse to win a three star.
When you watched Selena with either Colombo or Woody on their good events, it was clear there was a real relationship there. A majority of riders these days dwell on two aspects of horses: the training (i.e. the lessons, the everyday teaching of dressage movements or jumping) and the vetting (the injections, the chiropractors, the massage therapists). Indeed the above are critical, but they very much forget the third aspect of horsemanship – confidence and mental stability. In our high tech, fast paced modern world we, have supplements for this, injections for that, carrot sticks for this problem and clinicians for that problem. Let’s have as many lessons as our parents will pay for and as many vets to cure our lack of ribbons. But they forget to look after the horse’s brain. They drill until they suck every bit of joy out of their horse, and then pay the vet to come when their horse won’t go forward or stops jumping for them. Horses, and for sure some more than others, require mental development too.
I have one mare that I called the Dreidel for the first six weeks she was here as all she would do was spin, bolt and occasionally fall down. As talented as the day is long, I had to really watch my moves around her and it took me two months before I could do anything remotely decent on her back. I told her owners that she was like an exotic orchid and if I played my cards right she could blossom into something fabulous, but if not, too much water, too much sunlight, too much training, and boom.. she’d be done, probably turn into a spinning raving lunatic. Anyways, I digress, but that is what I think emotes from Selena if you watched her on those two horses. She not only trained them and looked after their bodies, she looked after their heart and souls as well. She made them into horses that wanted to work for her. I think that is a very critical part of success and one too often overlooked due to the nature of the ‘immediate gratification’ society we now live in. Too many horses are getting ruined before they even have the chance to show their potential.
What a step in the right direction Selena has given to Canada leading up to the WEGs next year. We all have to be thankful to her for giving Canada a very good win. I hope the two or three owners in Canada all look to Selena and decide to support her with their horses, as Woody isn’t going to last forever, but if we make sure she gets some good young ones now and the financial support she needs to get them to blossom, I have no doubt she could do it again and for the others out there dreaming of making it to the upper levels one day, have a look at Selena and see what time and patience and confidence building can do.
And for those of you asking? Yes, I’m fine thank you after my bout of near death and fabulously my dressage boots now zip up like butter without even the slightest need to hold my socks in while I do them up…lol.