Review of Arbian Nights Dinner show in Florida – DON’T GO!

So a few weeks ago I went down to Florida with two horse friends. When I saw the Ad for Arabian nights I thought it would be the perfect thing to do. I LOVE Medieval Times and the advertisements made it sound like something similar, so I got tickets. The first problem came with the fact that no show times were listed. So I called the morning of to see what was going on, and the ticket person yelled at me. Apparently my online reservation was not enough, I was supposed to call them. Yikes. That already made me not want to go, but the tickets were expensive so we gave our name to the mean ticket lady and hoped for the best.

The show was supposed to start at 6 and they told us that the doors opened at 4:30 and that there was a pre-show at 5 we should be there for. So we showed up at 5:15 to the shabby building where the show was and again had misgivings. Considering the building looked like it could use a good $20,000 in repairs my visions of a Mid Eastern Medieval times had vanished before my eyes. We walked in to the darkened building only to be greeted with a gift shop. After looking around for a few minutes to kill time we went in to the pre-show, which turned out to be one lone woman with a portable cd player trying to teach people how to belly dance. I am sure it would have been a lot more fun if we had some cocktails from the bar, but at about $10 a pop  I figured I would pass.

When the doors finally opened we were brought to our seats, which were really good considering we had just gotten them that morning. We were second row up right in the center. Already at our seats were packets of ranch dressing…getting nice and warm waiting for salad to come. The waiter came to take our order (he was the best part of the whole show). I had hopes for descent food since there were only a handful of things to choose from. Gordon Ramsey always says to do a few dishes well instead of a menu full of crap.  So we were served our salad (and I was a little worried about eating it because considering the lack of care in every other detail at the show so far I didn’t get the impression the veggies would be washed) and our drinks (the only good thing about the show was that you got all the bud light you could drink) and neither were great.

We got our dinners just as the show was starting and man, did dinner SUCK! We had all gotten different meals and not one of them was good. They couldn’t even reheat mixed veggies well! I am normally not one to complain about food, but this stuff was DISGUSTING! What else was disgusting was the way this one “rider” was treating the horses. This guy started the show with a liberty act, which normally is supposed to show the connection between horse and human. In this act the human was such a jerk that I was glad when the horse ignored him and went down for a nice roll! When I saw this person on the horses back I was praying he would get bucked off. He was a total jerk and spur rider and he was not even a results getting jerk and spur rider at that.

There were some good horse people working and riding in the show, but there was also a lot of crap. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the horses watching them try to go with their heads tied down with side reins. Not every act was horrible, but a lot were. There was not even a good story line to try and tie the acts together. By the time desert came (it was literally inedible…HOW DO YOU MAKE INEDIBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE!?!?!?!?!?!?!)  we were all feeling bad for the horses and just wanted out.

If you love horses, do not go to this show. Yes, there were a few horses who still had the spark left in their eye, but there were lots who did not. There were also some really nice riders, but the one jerk who tried to strong arm the horses just left a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was the ticket way over priced, the food disgusting, and the horse acts not so good, it was just cheesy and horrible. Luckily my friends and I laughed at how horrible it was so at least we were able to have some fun.

So my advice for Arabian Nights…DON’T GO!


Meet the 2010 American Dressage WEG Team – Katherine Bateson-Chandler

So I have decided to do a brief bio of the 4 dressage riders that are representing the United States at the WEG this year. For those of you who don’t care, don’t worry, there are only 4 riders and I will make sure to do plenty of posts in between about my handsome pony. I wanted to start with Katherine Bateson-Chandler because she is the rider that I don’t think a lot of people know about.


I think all of us that rode as teenagers dreamed of working for a famous rider. My all-star dream was Carol Lavell. What sets Katherine Bateson apart from the rest of us is the fact that she did something about it. She wanted to ride with Robert Dover, so she went to his barn. When no one was there she left her name. When no one called her she kept going back and going back until one day they were in a pinch and needed someone to do stalls on weekends. At 16 years old she found herself working for one of the top riders in the world and one step closer to her dream.

Eventually she worked her way up to being Dover’s personal groom. She stood on the sidelines of every major dressage competition in the world dreaming and learning all she could. She refined her eye under the tutelage of Dover and was able to help him warm up at the competitions. As often happens, Bateson got so good behind the scenes that the chances for her to reach her own showing potential were few and far between. After making her way all the way up to assistant trainer at Dover’s (which in itself is amazing. How many people do you know can work for the same person for over a decade?) she was given the opportunity to start showing herself when Robert Dover retired from competition. She of course has taken off like a shot for the top. In the past 5 years she has really made a name for herself.

At only 34 years old she has been selected to represent the US in the WEGs, even more impressive because she was actually born over in Jolly Old England.  What makes this WEG dream even more special is the fact that Bateson just started riding her mount, Nartan, back in May. As in May 2010. As in just a few weeks ago! Nartan was competing over in the Netherlands with Jeanette Haazen when Jane Clark purchased her specifically as a mount for Bateson for this years WEGs. Katherine headed over to Belgium to work with Jeanette and learn Nartan as best she could in such a short time. As everyone knows, getting to know a horse takes time so it is amazing how far they have come already!

I have a feeling that this pair is one that we will be hearing a lot about in the future. I didn’t get to see many rides at the selection trials, but Bateson’s was one I wanted to watch, and I am glad I did. She is a beautiful rider. Some of the mistakes were miscommunications, which is good, because if they can clear that up they can really up their score at WEGs!

If horses could roll their eyes…

If horses could roll their eyes, the school master would be the king of that. I am admittedly still learning all the upper level movements, so of course I make mistakes…and LOTS of them.

Lucky for me the Schoolmaster is a pretty tolerant horse. He is also is a good horse to learn on because if I am close he will give it to me. This can also create lots of moments of hilarity.  For example, I am working on my sitting trot. This is especially hard to work on with the Schoolmaster because his normal trot has tons of suspension making it hard to ride. So there I am working on my sitting trot and he can feel my hips and back moving much smaller then his trot so he naturally starts to slow down. So I know what I am doing is wrong at this point so I try to move my hips bigger, which causes me to be bad and try to balance with my hand a little, thus upping the mouth pressure (Bad OntheBit) and the size of his trot. What I was unwilling doing was asking him to do half steps…so he obliged. So there I am alone in the ring and my horse is half stepping underneath me. I quickly got him forward and started posting again, but that was a pretty big oops!

So he is a very willing horse…most of the time.

Sometimes though he decides that he doesn’t want to do something. And he looks less like the big Hanoverian in my eyes and a lot more like this…

When the school master doesn’t want to do something, or thinks that something is beneath him he throws a FIT.

I have decided that the Schoolmaster would enjoy the great outdoors and that he needs to learn to walk around in the field. The Schoolmaster thinks that this is a terrible idea and thus tries to show me how dangerous the world is by spooking and carrying on at every noise and movement. Sometimes even without the noises or the movement. In his quest to show me that demons are everywhere sometimes he will spook at the same thing for 45 minutes! He cracks me up.

I also tried to make him do a little bit of the trail course at my trainers barn and the Schoolmaster was so upset. How dare I make him do something that was so beneath him! Hahahaha! My trainer was watching us and she almost died laughing!  The  Schoolmaster planted his feet, not because he was scared, but because he didn’t want to do it. He let me get more and more frustrated at each obstacle until I was about ready to kill him. Then every single time he would turn back to look at me give me a look, and then walked calmly forward to the obstacle like it was nothing. If you could have seen the look of “this is the stupidest thing ever and I don’t like you for making me do it.” in his eyes you would have burst out laughing too!

So as much as I am learning about being a fancy pants rider I feel like I am teaching the Schoolmaster how to be a bit more of a normal horse.

Dressage fan or not, check out today’s national championships!

So I spent my post yesterday complaining about how not spectator friendly the USEF Festival of champions is. Well today, I am telling you all a little something different. I think you all should check out the live streaming video today.

I was busy going from one barn to the next yesterday, but I did make time to come home for lunch. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but for some reason I went online to check out the live streaming video, and let me tell you. I was IMPRESSED!

I only watched a few of the Junior tests, but it was great! The commentators KNOW dressage! For example, they not only would talk about tempi changes, but they would give the live e-score and could add in comments such as “they got a 4 because the horse was carrying tension in its back, but see how quickly they recovered once they changed bend for the next movement”. This is a HUGE improvement from the 2008 Olympic games coverage where the online coverage with a pompous 3 day event rider who had no idea what to type.

So why do I think everyone should check out the coverage today? Two reasons. The first being that regardless of what you ride, it is a really good idea to show USEF that there is an audience out there for live online video of competitions. If no one checks it out, that does not give them a lot of incentive to keep doing it. The second reason is because this is a great educational opportunity. Steffen Peter’s is supposed to be doing commentary today! He is the best Grand Prix rider in America at the moment so to hear him talk about his peers and possible teammates is invaluable. It is amazing to listen in to any Grand Prix rider talk during a dressage ride, but to hear it from Steffen is going to be amazing!

So even with the media guide sitting in front of me I am not sure of what the competitions times are today, but considering there are only 2 classes going (one of which is the Grand Prix) I am thinking that the competition will be running from 10-3 and I am also guessing that the Grand Prix freestyle will be in the morning. So if you are around I know it is a worth while thing to check out! I bet you will learn something even by watching a single ride.

Click here to watch the live video

Volunteering at the 2010 Dressage WEG selection trials…

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I forgot the cord to connect my camera to my computer at home (I am pet sitting). I just wanted to do a relatively quick post about yesterday at the 2010 Festival of Champions before I forget anything! The only classes that took place were the Junior riders and the Grand Prix class. It was a short day (volunteers only had to be there from 9am-4pm) but overall it was pretty fun.

One thing I was super happy to find out about right off the top was the fact that now everyone can park on the USET grounds. In the past, on big days, they would make you park at a different location and take a bus up. Now they use their top field for parking making it easy to just walk over to the ring. Parking is still $20 per car, but if you get a car full of barn friends it is not too bad. Being a volunteer we parked for free which was nice.

Walking up to the ring I got to see how nicely they have redone the indoor. The footing looked great and it was much brighter! I checked in and was given a really nice polo shirt and a bag full of goodies so I was already pretty happy when they told me what my job was for the day…I was just supposed to post the scores. That would mean just getting them from the scoring room and walking 20 feet and writing it on a big sheet of paper for all to see. I was excited because that meant I would get to watch most of the rides!

Things didn’t exactly work out like that though and I ended up getting pulled into the scoring room and working as the score check person. All well. So much for seeing all of the show! It was a neat job anyway though because we had to get the final scores posted to the Internet before the end of the next ride so it was a good time. It was great to watch the Juniors who are all under 16 years old in their awards ceremony. A rider, Genay Vaughn, had a horse who was not being so good in the honor lap so she smartly leaned forward and grabbed the rosette off his face while he was leaping in the air! It was impressive.

At lunch time I found out that I had won a volunteer prize (as most of us volunteers did). I got lucky though because mine was a gift certificate for a free chiro appointment for Gen. The barn owner got a message from Gen’s message therapist so I am trying to get her to trade with me! After lunch it was time for the Grand Prix tests. I did not get to watch a lot of the tests, but from the little I did see I have the feeling that the US is going to get our butts kicked at WEGs in dressage.

It was announced that Steffen Peter’s had petitioned on the team and that he is taking the red eye out to New Jersey on Sat night so he could be there in order to commentate and join his teammates at the end of the show on Sunday. Tina Konyot and Calecto V ended up winning again so they are pretty much a lock for the second spot. The high score of the day was only a 71.319% by Tina so I don’t know if they judges were just tough or if people were having a rough day.

It was a fun day and I am glad I went. I think I will volunteer again next year. I don’t think I will go and be a spectator though because I still feel like a lot of the magic is gone from this show. Even seeing George Williams and Scott Hassler hanging out or watching some of the riders walking around their dogs or shopping at the stands just wasn’t the same.

Here are the results of the Grand Prix class for Friday, August 13th if anyone cares…

1) Tina Konyot on Calecto V with a 71.319%

2) Todd Flettrich on Otto with a 69.787%

3) Pierre St Jacques on Lucky Tiger with a 69.489%

4) Catherine Haddad on Winyamaro with a 69.149%

5) Katherine Bateson on Nartan with a 69.021%

6) Jan Ebeling on Rafalca with a 68.170%

7) Adrienne Lyle on Wizard with a 67.106%

8) Susan Blinks (who wore a helmet) on Robin Hood with a 66.809%

Tied 8) Leslie Morse on Tip Top 962 with a 66.809%

10) Shawna Harding on Come On III with a 66.766%

11) Jan Ebeling on Sandrina with a 64.213%


12) Lauren Sammis (who also wore a helmet!!) on Sagacious HF with a 62.170%

See…God wants Gen retired…

So it has not rained here for WEEKS. Weeks! So guess what is was doing at 4pm today (right when my lesson was supposed to happen)? It RAINED! Considering how naughty my boy has been in the heat we figured that colder and rainy was not the time to get on with the intention of deciding whether or not to re-retire him. I am leaning towards just making him a pasture pet again. Why? Because while I was getting dressed for my lesson I actually had the thought to get clean undies on in case the EMTs had to cut anything away. That is NOT the right attitude to have about riding your horse! Both my trainer and the barn owner have asked me to not make any decisions yet.

I know I could fix the naughty if I could ride ride Gen. With the medical restriction I can only walk. I just don’t know if I can figure out his brain with only being able to walk. It does not help that Gen has been in a totally bad mood for days now (including breaking a fence post). The barn owner thinks he is just mad at me because I am mad at him for being such a smuck when I ride him. He has been snuggling with her as of late since he is not getting his hour long admiration session with me as of late. Yet another reason I am thinking this riding thing is not going to work out.

I promised I would not jump to any conclusions so I wont. Time will tell. But I do think the fact that it has not rained for weeks only to rain for the hour of my lesson speaks volumes!

Maybe retirement is not so bad after all…

So a few weeks ago I was floating on air after I rode my horse for the first time in three and a half years. Gen was perfect that ride back. Clearly he was in total shock. The second ride he was good, but not perfect. The third ride? He was okay, but not such a good boy. The fourth ride was a little scary. Are you seeing a trend? My sweet angle is behaving more and more dangerously with each and every ride. Last weekend, after being away for a week and having a FANTASTIC lesson on the School Master I got super excited to get on my boy.

I figured that the week off would do us good and I would get back on and he would behave himself. I even made sure to ride at 1pm on a hot day. Well, my Gennyral was bad. It was good in the fact it gave me a chance to notice a lot of things about him. One thing was the fact that my horse did not buck. Not once. That is important to note because it means Gen knows he can’t put a ton of weight on his front legs. Gen, back before he was hurt, could throw a buck like no other. On more than one occasion he would buck so high that as I leaned back to ride it out the wind from his buck would whistle in my ears.

The second thing that I noticed is that when Gen rears these days he only goes up a foot or two. That again makes me worried about his bad leg. Clearly he knows that he cannot support the two of us if he goes up too high. I am taking the fact that he knows his limits as a good thing. He is still more than happy to rear and he still loves to leap and try and bolt, but at least I don’t have to worry about him flipping over on top of me because he just isn’t going up that high.

The third thing is the fact is that I have created a monster. Back in the day when he would rear I would make him go forward. I essentially taught my horse to bolt when he gets stressed. Not such a good thing when all we are allowed to do is walk. If I ever train another horse I am going to keep this situation in mind and not trade out one bad behavior I am scared of with another bad behavior I am not scared of.

The four thing I learned is that I am terrified that his naughtiness is going to kill him. As soon as he starts jumping sideways my back locks up and I start to hyperventilate, making Gen more nervous and more tense, which makes him start rearing and jumping around even more.

So I am really questioning right now if pulling Gen out of retirement was a good idea or not. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions so I am trying to be logical about this. To try and help me I have my trainer coming out on Thursday. I need a voice of reason and there is no person better on this earth to make an honest evaluation than her. She knows both me and Gennyral very well and can tell me if I am creating the issues or if Gen is just better off being retired. I am not sure which way I am pulling for right now. I worry so much about Gen, but I also loved riding him again…

Gennyral! Bad Pony!

So last week my sweet sweet horse clearly missed me. How do I know? Here is a little story from last Wednesday…

So they were predicting really bad thunderstorms to come through that morning so the Barn Owner got up early to go get the ponies in from night turnout. It was already starting to rain by the time she got outside. She decided to go get Gennyral first because his field is closest to the barn. She walked out to get him and saw him standing in his dirt spot.

Gennyral does not appreciate having a green, grassy field so my little monster digs himself a hole to roll in so he can get maximum mud impact to camo himself into that chestnut that he really is.

Anyway, so she calls to him to come over. Normally Gen walks right over the mornings eager to get his breakfast. That day though he just wasn’t ready to come in yet. He looked at her and started to paw at the ground as though he was about to roll. Knowing how nice and wet my horse was the Barn Owner yelled at him that he was not allowed to roll because it would cake and his Mommy was away so she would have to clean  him.

Not breaking eye contact, my horse kept pawing. The Barn Owner started to walk over. Gen started to go down so the Barn Owner picked up the pace and yelled at him again, swinging his lead rope around. Well, Gen stopped going down and gave the Barn Owner a look that clearly said he wanted to roll. She told him no. So what did my horse do?

Gennyral, still not breaking eye contact, started to RUN AFTER THE BARN OWNER!!! She, of course, high tailed it back to the gate. Seeing her retreat my boy cantered back to the dirt spot, looked over at the Barn Owner to make sure she was watching, and went down for a nice long roll.

He rolled, and rolled, and rolled while the Barn Owner laughed at my bull like pony. Once the mud was nice and paste like all over his coat, He got up, looked over at her and walked right over to the gate to come in. Still laughing the barn owner told him that now he would be last to come in because she was hoping the rain would wash some of the goo away! I don’t think Gen minded being last. I tease my horse that he is a pig, but maybe he is really just a bull trapped in a horses body! Who knew my horse would chase someone…even in good fun Gen can be a naughty pony!