Why do I do this to myself again? Oh right, cool people and fun freebies. That's why. Because I'm a sucker for free food.

I had a good time with Tara and Kim though.

Equine Affaire 2015 Equine Affaire 2015

Booth staffing is a glamorous job, let me tell you. It even comes with a break room.

Equine Affaire 2015

And I did get to pet some ponies, which is really the main reason one goes to Equine Affaire.

Equine Affaire 2015

That, and fair food. Including, this time, deep fried cookie dough.

Equine Affaire 2015

I couldn't help it. Tika made me do it. Because deep fried cookie dough. I mean, who comes up with that sort of thing?

Yes, I know. Americans. They'll try to deep fry anything. (I have to admit, deep fried buckeyes are kind of delicious. Deep fried cookie dough, not so much.)

And yes, the cardinal is still incredibly angry. I don't know why, but it amuses me every time.

Equine Affaire 2015
Sunday was HOT. And apparently I can't be taught to wear sunscreen unless I burn to the point of peeling two days later :-P It was still an interesting day though - despite the stupid college girls behind us who just couldn't shut up for five seconds, apparently. I think I lost neurons just from having to listen to them for 2 hours. I mean, seriously, you're watching someone who just rode that freakishly big cross country course yesterday, and her hairstyle makes you want to vomit?!?!?! I'm glad that's the biggest issue you've had in your life, but seriously? Shut the hell up, you're lowering the IQ of the whole arena.

In better news, nobody got seriously hurt (there was one scare at the end of cross country, but both horse and rider came out fine), despite one horse ending up stepping squarely on the bottom part of this jump seconds after the picture was taken.



I don't think anything happened, but I still disagree with the rider's decision to finish the course. It's not like she had a chance at this point, and it would have been better to gracefully retire. It's odd for an eventer to do that too - usually they're more concerned with the horse's health. But maybe she knew everything was fine; I'm sort of willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Despite some snags (apparently the bars were put on the jumps very loosely), nothing else serious happened. And as usual, the jumps were beautifully designed.

       

You have to admit, the Lexington Mounted Police knows how to pick pretty horses. These guys were gorgeous.



And then I died of cute :-D

I love cross country day. Even if every year, I feel almost as exhausted as the horses must feel. (I'm out of shape, ok?)

For reference: I'm 5'7". This is the jump over and into the water.



This is the drop on the other side.



And this is what they jump over right after hopping out of the water up a 3-foot bank similar to the dark one above.



Yeah, these people are crazy. Amazing... but crazy.

                   

We also had some visitors by the beginning of the course. Trying to raise the next generation of eventers :-P

We skipped Thursday's dressage day, since you can never tell in advance who's riding when and we're not the people to sit through every single test anyways (it's the exact same ride, so it gets boring even if you know what you're looking at). But we did spend some time by the ring Friday, and ended up watching some of the higher-ranking riders after all.

The eventual winners. William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk, warming up. I do love the top hat, even if the safety-conscious rider in me is cringing :-)



Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza. Beautiful horse, and they did pretty well by the time everything was over.

Floaty Pony :-)

Such a stereotypical dressage horse shot :-) I still think it's kind of pretty.



Alright, have a better picture. I think this is the second-place overall, Allison Springer. The horse's name is Arthur (which is a nice change from all the fancy show names you get at events like this).



And then there was this guy. We ran into the owners a couple of times, and every time my brain went "pony!" But how can you not adore that face?

So tired... kind of regretting the lack of free weekends until May :-P

But Equine Affaire was fun - I got to snuggle a Shire, look at baby Shires, and hang out with awesome people :-) This was my neighbor in the parking lot - obviously OU South knows how to advertise :-)



Helping Tara with her booth was fun. I love her stuff.

   

   

And there was loot too :-P A hat and mug for me, glasses for mum and my aunt. The hat is made by Tara's friend Kim, as part of her clothing line.



I also bought a neck thing that apparently has ceramic fiber in it, so it traps body heat and warms sore muscles and inflamed joints. I have no idea if it'll work on my shoulders, but it was cheaper than a massage, so it seems worth a try.

Since we skipped Of The Week Sunday, and I don't really have anything coherent to talk about... we continue a great Yarn Harlot Tradition :-)

I spent the weekend taking care of 30 horses and a very old but lovable dog, which most means getting up early to provide food and entertainment, staying around to make sure you're there when the horses want the entertainment to end, provide more food, and stay around in case someone decides to hurt themselves in the middle of the night. Nothing happened, even if some idiots must have thrown firecrackers onto the pasture... all I got is lights and noise, so I have no idea what it was, but the horses didn't like it. Except for the ones who were sleeping :-P

Ruben (one of the horses) sleeps with his eyes open and has very vivid dreams. It's a good thing I know this, because otherwise I'd have gone with either stroke or heart attack.

Also, apparently horses can get food stuck in their throats if they eat too quickly. Then they try to throw up, but can't. It's about the scariest thing I've ever see a horse do. Luckily things resolved themselves between calling the vet and the vet arriving, but dude, that was freaky.

Last night, Ming actually snuggled for about 10 minutes. These are rare moments. Then she goes off and hits Murdoch, given the noise I heard coming from the living room :-P He probably sat in her spot on the sofa or something.

I haven't turned on the TV for like 4 days. Obviously I don't have to worry about the expense of cable (or a TV for that matter) for a while.

The Department of Labor is ok with me working for Very Large University :-) Which completes step 1 of 3 of the visa process. Now we wait for Homeland Security (well, Citizenship & Immigration Services, but they're part of HS) to make sure I'm not a terrorist, and then I go to Berlin to tell an embassy employee that I'm planning neither a wedding nor a terrorist action once I get to the US. And then I frantically spend loads of money on a move :-) My biggest worry is getting a decent apartment in time; everything else is just going to be fine, dangit!

And with that random use of a semicolon, I'm off to do my French homework :-)
Things you need to know for this story to make sense :-)

  • I live on a horse farm.
  • Mum's on vacation, so I'm staying in her part of the apartment to make sure the cats don't go any more insane than they already are.
  • One side of the bedroom faces the pastures, along with a concrete paddock housing 6 retired horses, with a corridor-type thing that goes to the pasture. The horses can use it 24 hours a day.
  • The other side of the bedroom faces the parking lot.
Can you guess where this is going?

So I wake up. It's the middle of the night (about 1am), and I hear hoofbeats on concrete.

"Why does that wake me up? One side of the bedroom faces the paddock... oh. Except the sound isn't coming from that side."

Yup. I get up, I look out into the parking lot, and see a horse butt (plus attached horse). Get dressed, go downstairs where all the other horses are going "dude, what's this? You're going to let us out too?" Figure out where the horses got out (open stable door - I'm guessing someone didn't latch all the latches), close door, grab halters, grab horses who are probably more confused than I was, and shuttle them back to there they're supposed to be.

Of course, by that time I'm wide awake and the cats are totally confused by everything. It was a bit of a short night :-)
Podcast
I've been watching the TED Talks Video Podcast, partly to clean up my harddrive so I can download the rest of Supernatural on Tuesday, and partly because they're just plain cool :-) They do make me feel alternately dumb, like a failure, and very very inspired, so who knows what that's doing to my fragile psyche :-P But it's still fun to be introduced to all of these new concepts and ideas, or to new ways of thinking about stuff I already knew. Sure, some of it I really don't get, and some of it is just kind of "huh"-inducing, but at least it's a bit of brain candy without requiring actual effort.

Activity
Hunting mosquitoes. I knew there'd be a lot of them because there's a moor behind the house and a pond on the cow pasture next door, but sheesh... I have three bug bites on my arms just from today. I did also kill three mosquitoes, so revenge has been taken, but it's seriously irritating. I've even taken to killing every mosquito I see instead of just the ones inside the apartment - I try to take a "live and let live" about bugs that I hate as long as they aren't in my space, but these things are evil. And itchy. And I'm sleeping in mum's bedroom for the next three weeks because she's on vacation and the cats need the company, but this is where most of the mosquitoes go, apparently. At least so far I haven't had another set of bites on my freakin' Achilles heel - not only did it itch like crazy, it actually hurt when my shoes rubbed over that area. What are mosquitoes good for anyways? Wait... I heard something on the radio about that. Apparently they prevent reindeer from grazing on the tundra for longer than the tundra can take because the mosquitoes will get annoying and the reindeer will move on. Quite frankly, I think a five-year-old kid could come up with a better system than that.

Plans
FutureBoss let me know that I may be done with visa stuff by the middle of October, so I'll be packing boxes over the next three weeks. Frankly, middle of October seems a bit early for the actual flight, but the last week of October with a work start date of November 1 sounds reasonable if she thinks the government will work that quickly :-) I'm hoping to get an extra day or two in Berlin around the visa interview, both to visit my cousin and to do a little bit of touristy stuff that I should have done ages ago.

Ok, now I'm tired... I took care of three horses today (including letting two of them inhale sodium chloride solution for their coughs), and those guys have consistently increasing surface areas :-P Aramis was the most appreciative, but he's also the biggest, and he likes having his neck scratched with the brush. Vigorously. Which is hilarious because this 1300-pound-horse suddenly goes all relaxed and starts twitching his lips, but it's also a problem because he starts leaning. On me. Yeah, my arms hurt :-)
Podcast
Radiolab from WYNC/NPR. An awesome variety of science topics, really interesting ways of reporting, and two good hosts who have a way of explaining even astrophysics without being boring, lecturing or patronizing. Plus some fun videos that make you think about science in more of a philosophy way (without doing the permanent brain damage I'm sure my Philosophy of Science class did to me in college).

Book
The Quarters series by Tanya Huff. I'm on the third book in the series by now, but actually started reading in order, like you do with most series. As Huff stories go, it's actually relatively unimaginative, but it's still a good tale of empires, music and magic. Sing The Four Quarters is the first book in the series, followed by Fifth Quarter, No Quarter and The Quartered Sea. All of them tended to sit on the shelves at the Parkersburg Borders, so most non-bankrupt bookstores are likely to have them in stock.

Event
The wedding was overfilled, so I bowed out in favor of another friend's thirtieth birthday party. Big parties with loud music and lots of smokers aren't really my thing, but it was good people-watching and I did get to talk to some other friends who were also invited. Not much food selection, but the drinks were excellent :-P

TV
Equestrian sports, mostly. There's a huge international event in Aachen that ended today, so most afternoons were spent disagreeing with the sports commentators about which horse was most worthy of a win (I also disagreed with the judges, but such is life). My faves in dressage were a Spanish guy named Munoz-Diaz and his horse Fuego - they're just too much fun to watch together. However, Germany is obsessed with Totilas. Oh well, they'll get over it eventually :-)

Photo

My cousin's roommate's dog is totally adorable. Even if he doesn't seem to like having his picture taken.

Connor

It's cold and snowy outside, but at least they're the big fluffy flakes at this point instead of the small frozen ones we had yesterday afternoon. Another one of those days when staying inside, knitting and drinking tea sounds like a very good idea - however, there's ponies who want to be taken care of. In fact, we're currently taking care of a friend's horse (because she has to be on a boat in the North Sea for her job - brrrr), so there's three ponies wanting attention instead of just two. But yesterday, Aramis (the friend's horse) actually recognized me and seemed happy someone came to visit him, so it's all worth it :-)



Frestyle to music is kind of the holy grail of dressage riding - you create your own program based on required elements, scored by your own choice of music. It's a little more accessible to laypeople than other dressage styles, because even if you can't tell whether or not someone is doing well, at least you get to watch horses "dancing" to music. While I can watch other dressage competitions and converse intelligently about the results, freestyle is still the most fun :-)

For these World Games, everyone was talking about one of the Dutch entries: Edward Gal and Totilas. If you ask people in the equestrian world, they either hate these two, or they adore them and believe they're the end all be all of dressage. As with so many things, I'm kind of in the middle. I like the pairing a lot, the horse has flashy movements and is well ridden, especially given that he's pretty young for a high-level competition horse. Do I think he's worth the 15 million Euros he was just sold for? Nah. Still pretty to watch though. (YouTube hates me. I decided it would make more sense to steal other people's videos. We all know how to check YouTube for the credits, right?)



As pretty much everyone knew they would, Gal and Totilas came in first, with a high score of 91.8 out of 100 - in dressage, you basically lose points for not being perfect in every single step :-P Which I guess means the dressage officials of the world are currently fans of flashy stuff... as with gymnastics and figure skating, the pendulum is likely to swing back the other way in a couple of years.

In second place, Laura Bechtolsheimer of Great Britain (she started out German, hence the name) with Mistral Hojris (obviously bred in the Netherlands or Scandinavia). Much less flash, but in their own way, just as good.



Third place to the US - Steffen Peters with Ravel. Yes, another German guy who ran away to greener pastures - if you're not trained by or working with one of a few coaches and other riders, you pretty much have no chance of ever riding in a competition like this. It's why I'm quite often very happy when no Germans place in large competitions like this; I'm not a fan of the riding style or the politics involved in decisionmaking.



And here's the guy who should have won - Juan Munoz Diaz and Fuego of Spain. Seriously, these were a blast to watch; you could tell just how much they were both enjoying the crowd, and Diaz pretty much only seemed to be there to show off how awesome the horse is. Flying lead changes with one hand off the reins were apparently too flashy for one of the judges (who placed him fifth when everyone else placed him in first), but dudes? He was awesome. And he had so much fun, I was kind of jealous :-) But anyways, just watch...



Right. Sorry. Can't appear too dignified or have an itchy face while we work, I guess :-P



Much better. I'm pretty sure the video description is wrong and they actually came in fourth, but either way, kind of sad they didn't place. Loads of fun to watch though, and I know I'll pay better attention to them if I see them ride in other competitions (now that I live in a country where you can actually watch dressage on network TV).

This concludes our coverage of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Next time, we have bourbon, then we go back to actually talking about Germany. Just in time for watching people get drunk on mulled wine :-P


Showjumping - sort of the introductory discipline of equestrian sports, in that everyone can understand showjumping after a two-minute introduction that reads something like this: "A horse/rider pair jumps each jump in the order in which they are numbered (red flags always go on the right, in case you wonder which way they have to go), they get four fault points for each jump where they drop a pole, three faults if the horse refuses to jump over a jump, and one fault for each second they go over the time limit. If more than one person is in first place after the first round, they go through a speed round over a shortened course, where the fastest time with the least faults wins." Of course there's nuances and special rules to scoring, and eventing showjumping scores slightly different from regular showjumping, but the basic idea of "go around as fast as you can without hitting any of the poles" just about sums it up.

This time around, many many people (and horses) seemed to have missed the part about the poles.

No squirrels this time. But there was water, which is hard to build into a showjumping arena, and therefore not done very often. (Carsten-Otto Nagel, Germany, Corradina. He remembered the part about the poles and ended up fifth.) No, there are no poles to drop with a water jump - instead you get four faults for each hoof your horse puts in the water (I think).



My favorite jump of the course. You could actually buy each jump after it was done being used for the competition - sadly I have nowhere to put a couple of meters of fancily painted wood. You have to admit, that would look pretty cool in someone's front yard though. (Eric Lamaze, Canada, Hickstead. One of my favorites, who came in first at the end of the day. Not technically the winner yet though - there's more to winning showjumping at World Equestrian Games.)



McLain Ward, USA, Sapphire. He was one of the favorites, but for some reason, things didn't work out very well in the second round. I think many of the horses were tired, as they'd gone through two (or possibly three) rounds of team competitions in the previous few days. Given that all of the jumps are around 5 or 6 feet tall, that's a lot of effort even for athletic animals. I do still love the horse though, she's a very pretty girl :-)



Rodrigo Pessoa, Brazil, HH Rebozo. Pessoa is sort of the Michael Jordan of showjumping - he's won the Games before, he has his own line of jumping saddles, Rolex made a watch just for him and he appears in the ads... pretty much everything a start athlete gets to do. He came in third at the end of the day, I believe because he had a time fault in the first round.



Who else ended up in the first couple of spots... right, Belgium. Philippe LeJeune, Vigo D'Arsouilles. For some reason, my camera hated these two, even though the horse was absolutely gorgeous.



And Abdullah Al Sharbatly from Saudi Arabia, riding a very temperamental but pretty mare named Seldana Di Campalto. I'm pretty sure nobody expected anyone from Saudi Arabia to be anywhere near the top of the rankings, but they surprised everyone :-)



In this particular competition, there were two rounds of riding, over two different courses. This meant that halfway through, the course had to be almost completely rebuilt (I was fascinated by how quickly that was done), and the riders had the chance to walk the second course to figure out distances and the best way to go around corners. (There's always someone who tries to take a shortcut in front of some flowers instead of going around the plants for a better line to the jump. It's a 50-50 chance as to whether or not that's a good idea.) Of course, when I say "riders" I really mean "the riders, the trainers, and loads of other people who only seemed to be there for company."



Sadly, there are no pictures of the second round... my camera hates artificial light in combination with fast-moving anythings, so all of those pictures were blurry. Yes, all of them :-) It was slightly irritating.


Stadium jumping or showjumping is probably the most well-known equestrian sport, along with horseracing, I would guess. With eventing, it's the last of three phases of competition, and is supposed to show that the horse is not only in good shape, but is still willing to focus and listen after two previous days of hard work. The courses supposedly are a bit easier than those built for actual showjumping competitions, but I'm pretty sure that's a lie :-)

Told you there was a squirrel theme :-) (Geoff Curran, Ireland, The Jump Jet - he's wearing that outfit because he's in the military in real life)



Ingrid Klimke, Germany, Abraxxas. I love the horse's name.



Karen O'Connor, USA, Mandiba. She was supposed to be one of the favorites, but something went terribly wrong about halfway through and she dropped about ten places from where she was after the cross country day. Still, fun to watch because I like the way she rides. The jump in the picture is called a Liverpool - it's a pretty difficult one because the horse doesn't see the water until it's over the jump, and then some of them freak, drop their legs too early and take down that back pole on the way down. It's why most riders will let the horse look at that particular jump before they start the clock. Of course, it doesn't make a difference 90% of the time :-P



Michael Jung, Germany, Sam (the eventual winner). The horse actually had some longer name based on a cosmetics label or something, but it was mispronounced so often by the announcers that I removed that memory from my brain.



Pippa Funnell, Great Britain, Redesigned. I saw her win the Rolex Three-Day Event a few years ago with a different horse, and she's doing really well with the new horse too.



And the silver medalist: William Fox-Pitt, Great Britain, Cool Mountain. I usually like watching him ride, but I also saw him be nice to people who interrupted him when he was walking the cross country course the day before, which of course helps his image immensely :-P



In the end, the Brits won the team competition, while a German rider won the individual medal. Good results all around from my end :-)


Going completely out of order of events... but that's ok. Our first weekend at the Games, Saturday was all about eventing, specifically cross country. Eventing is sort of like the triathlon of the equestrian world; you start with a relatively high-level dressage test one day, followed by cross country jumping the next day, and then stadium showjumping on the last day. Of course, cross country is always the showpiece for this discipline, as it's simply the most spectacular to watch (and easiest to understand for people who have no idea about equestrian sports).

The course at the Kentucky Horse Park is always a combination of stationary jumps (those that always stay in that same spot because they involve built hills, ditches, and water elements) and built jumps that can be moved around based on the course designer's specifications. The jumps always look huge (because they are), and the designers usually try to make them look like things you might encounter while riding cross country and through the woods. Of course, that definition is up to interpretation (I'd never jump over a haywagon, I'd try to find a way around it), but generally it works pretty well :-)

Because the course is always a couple of miles long, watching cross country involves a whole lot of walking. Luckily, we had perfect weather for it, as it barely clouded up for most of the day. The water jumps are always the most crowded area of the course, so it's pretty hard to see what actually happens if you're close by. From far away, we at least had a good view of the last drop bank of the set-up - three feet up out of the water, over a jump another three feet tall, dropping six feet into the water below. Or something like that. Did I mention these people are crazy?

    

A giant table-like thing - might have been called something like the Horse Park Steps or something, but it looked like an overgrown picnic table. The cool thing about many of the new jumps, especially big ones like this one, is that they're actually built to collapse if a horse gets stuck on them. I'm glad I've never seen that happen though, because I can't imagine it looking any less scary than seeing a horse kind of fall on top of it and then crawl backwards back to the ground. As scary as some of these look though, I don't think any of these riders would go onto the course if they thought the horse couldn't do it. Which speaks volumes about both the horses and the relative sanity of the riders, I think.

    

The Sunken Road is one of the obstacles that can't be moved, since there's a pretty big ditch involved :-) From this first jump, the horse drops into the ditch, then back out again, and over another jump a few steps after the ditch. And yes, it's a relatively deep drop, probably three feet or so.



Crazy Squirrel Tree (no, I have no idea what the actual name of the jump was). They had a thing for squirrels with these Games - there was one in the stadium course as well.



Tomorrow, eventing showjumping. Or possibly bourbon. Not sure yet :-)


Otherwise known as WEG. Yes, they actually pronounced it that way too... made for some interestingly confusing conversations in the first few days.

Everything around the Games was pretty well organized, with shuttles from different hotels (though those were more expensive than car parking around the Horse Park), shuttles from different parking lots, and parking directly at the Horse Park campgrounds, which simply required a bit of walking, but saved us $40 each day we attended. Food buying was weird - you had to stand in line for the kind of food you wanted, then again for the drinks/cold sandwiches/salads coolers, and then a third time to pay for your food - but miraculously, once you figured out how everything worked, it really worked as well as getting food to hundreds of people simultaneously can work. Choices were limited, but the burgers were decent, and it wasn't like we wanted to eat every meal there every day. For drinks, we mostly had really good lemonade from different little booths, so most of the time we didn't actually have to deal with the food lines anyways.

The sales show going on around the actual event was surprisingly small, but once we realized that Quarter Horse Congress was going on at the same time, it made sense, since QHC was likely to be much cheaper to attend than WEG. We still got to flirt with the smarmy French guy selling really expensive (but excellent) saddles, and found out that the next Games will be in Normandy, which is pretty much driving distance from here. Also talked to an artist selling beautiful drawings and paintings about exhibiting at a yearly equestrian tradeshow in the area next year, and offered to help out if she needed any help with translating before or during the show. We'll see how that works out, but she offered we could trade time for a painting, so that's pretty exciting :-)

But really, we're all here for the pictures, right?

Alltech was the main sponsor of the Games (hence the "Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games" thing), and they had a huge pavilion showing off what they do. Which was way more than I thought, since I ony know them as animal feed people. In fact, I kind of want to work for them now :-) They had awesome art in the pavilion lobby



and one of the Painted Ponies dedicated to their nutrigenomics work (basically nutrigenomics means that, based on your genetic makeup, there's foods that are good or bad for you, and could even help you deal with illness better).



The ponies were pretty cool - they were spread out all around Lexington, with themes ranging from Kentucky architecture to Van Gogh's Starry Night (sadly, I didn't have my camera for the ones I saw in town). The ones at the Alltech pavilion were pretty snazzy themselves, though.

    

 I'm never quite sure how I feel about The Pink Thing, but this was a pretty cool way to do it.

 And one just for Jess :-)

The other cool thing about the setup was that visitors were easily able to watch the warmup and training areas, including a couple of the famous riders that were going to compete later on.

 Anabel Balkenhol being way too tense about practicing. Of course, she was kind of the long shot for the German dressage team and apparently messed up severely in the team competition, but the horse was working just fine, from what we could tell. I think her dad (who coaches the team and was talking to her through the headset she's wearing) was telling her about the same thing though, because things got a bit more relaxed afterwards :-)

We also saw the German para-equestrian dressage team practice a bit (we weren't looking for the Germans, they just stuck around longer than the Spanish girl). How gorgeous is the grey horse? I kind of want one. Though I'd probably be happier with the Irish Draught Horses we saw later... a little less demanding, I'd think. And still gorgeous.

    

    



This area is to Germany what Kentucky is to the US: horse country central. Which means it's really easy to drive past a farm or riding stable and stop to watch a local competition, or to see the signs during the week and plan to visit later. I did the same thing this weekend, and stopped by the local driving competition, which was going on maybe a mile down the road from mum's apartment.

I've never seen a driving competition. I know, gasp. So basically, I had no idea what was going on. And because I was by myself, I didn't have anyone to ask about it. But I think I figured some of it up as it went on... it's really remarkably similar to riding competitions.

There's dressage, where the horse is supposed to perform pre-designed patterns and movements in a certain way. I have no idea what that certain way is, so I really didn't know who was doing well and who wasn't, but it was interesting to see nonetheless.

    

Yes, there's a dress code. This is equestrian sports, of course there's a dress code. But it's definitely possible to be a little less... traditional about it. Though that makes it less entertaining :-)

The really interesting part was today though - cross-country driving. It was really muddy, so going across the obstacles was kind of difficult for the lower classes.

    

    

Like I said, all of this was really interesting and cool to watch, but I didn't stay very long anyways, because one thing bugged me about the whole thing. It's really what bugs me at every competition I've attended in Germany, but it was especially obvious here because the overall atmosphere was a bit dreary due to the weather.

Nobody claps at local horse shows.

Ok, so there's always some people who know the riders personally, and who'll clap and cheer when their friends/family members finish a run. But the audience at large? Nope. No applause. At all. Now, I'm not expecting them to hoot and holler for every single horse in a showjumping class. But some polite cheering or clapping in the vein of "well done, you didn't embarrass yourself or get your horse injured" shouldn't be too hard, should it?

I'm finally getting to post about this, because for some reason I haven't felt like putting things together... but it's better now, so here we go :)

As usual, Sunday was a gorgeous day - I'm kind of ocnvinced that someone in charge of this thing has made a deal with the devil. When I left around 10, it was cloudy and sort of cold, and all I could think was "please don't let it rain, please don't let it rain..." Driving to Columbus wasn't bad, it only sprinkled, so that was a good sign, and about an hour before the actual show was supposed to start, the sky started to clear up. By the time the bagpipers played the national anthem, it was sunny with a few fluffy clouds, and by the time the first horse came on course, we had bright blue skies with not a cloud to see. Spooky, eh?

I think I love this event so much because for $15 (plus Ticketmaster charges - bastards), you get to see people who just came back from the Olympics. In Columbus. At an event that benefits a domestic violence prevention organization. Yeah, I need to move closer to that :)

This is Todd Minikus, who ended up winning, with Pavarotti. Gorgeous horse, and a really entertaining ride. He's fast, but controlled... just a real pleasure to watch.



Beezie Madden is one of those Olympics people - I forget what she won, but she won something. This horse is a younger horse called Danny Boy, another beautiful horse, if a bit green - he got very excited at some points. I love watching this woman ride though, she's so calm and supportive, a really good example of the right way to do things :)



Margie Engle, another Olympic team member, with Hidden Creek's Pamina. I saw them last year too, I believe, and they were fun to watch, but something was off. Maybe just tired from other events, but they didn't make the jumpoff. Still great to watch though - the woman is pretty short to begin with, and looks even smalle on a large warmblood.



McClain Ward, another huge name in showjumping, with another mare by the name of Goldika. Have I mentioned that I love the fact that this is one of the few sports where men and women compete together? And usually the results are pretty evenly split. Also, on a random side note: there were three stallions in the field, all ridden by women. There's a bad joke in there somewhere, but I'll let y'all leave it in the comments for me ;) Anyways, back to ponies!



Laura Chapot with Church Road. I love this horse. I want to take him home with me - even though he'd probably kill me. He was just absolutely gorgeous.



And last, but not least, Hot Irish Guy. Otherwise known as Darragh Kerins, winner of last year's show, with Night Train. These two are crazy. Crazy wild, crazy fast, and incredibly entertaining to watch :) They made the jumpoff too, but got too slow all of a sudden... no idea what happened, but it looked like the horse was sick and tired of working and got a little obnoxious towards the end. Still a great ride though.



Why did I take pictures of everyone over the same jump? Because it was the one right in front of me, and it gave me the best pictures. The course is always really pretty though, and from a different seat, I could probably have taken good pictures of another jump. I just love going to this show.

Also saw Terri, who just got kicked off Project Runway last week or so. She got a little bit snotty at the end, but nowhere as bad as she-who-must-not-be-named, so I was glad to see that a couple of people came up to her and had her picture taken. Oh, and I admit this was more fun: Armadillo! So cute. I want one :)



By the way, does it annoy anyone that I don't cut pictures? Cause I could, I just like it better when I can see them without having to click through a cut :)

Wouldn't it be nice to live in that house back there? Well, until the storms and such move in :)



Pretty beach... really cold water though.



We climbed a mountain! That line of rocks is the path we took up (taken from the top looking down)...



... this is how high up we went...



... and down there by that lake is where we started climbing.



I'm convinced this thing was possessed. Also, it was ginormous :)



Then we drove from Maine to New York to see Niagara Falls









It was very pretty, but had too much stuff built around it to be really gorgeous. Impressive though!

The rest of the week was spent in Cleveland with friends, shopping at the outlet mall, and visiting our old barn. I miss having horses around... horses are pretty :)

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