Thursday, April 15, 2010

California! Part One - The Horse Show

Too excited to sleep the night before my big trip south, I gave up, got up, and left at 2 Thursday morning, arriving in Sacramento 12 hours later in time for Lily's first class. Here she is in the warm-up arena with Nicki riding.
Thus commenced a learning experience for all of us. For me: learning the route between Ruth's house in Folsom, where I was staying, the hotel in Sacramento where Kevin and Jessica and Ian were staying, and the Rancho Murietta show grounds where Jessica's horses were staying. (Wandering around lost one late evening, before I learned the route well enough, my little Honda Civic Hybrid was hit, fortunately gently, by a big Ford Explorer. My car now has a dented side.)

K and J learned the routes to Emergency Rooms as one health crisis after another befell their family. They now know where to go and not to go for ER treatment in the Sacramento area. J turned out to have a painful allergic reaction "like hives in the eye" said the doc, and Ian likely a 24 hour flu bug -- although they never had a diagnosis or any help from that ER - definitely the one *not* to go to. Fortunately (at least from my point of view), I had two fun afternoons with Ian before his bug caught him. Here he is hamming it up at the show with Doug, Nicki's mascot rubber ducky.

The show itself was a five ring circus -- literally: there were five show rings. Huge water trucks and tractors groomed one ring while horses performed their dressage tests in a neighboring ring. Dogs of every breed on leashes accompanied owners everywhere: I hadn't seen some of those breeds since the last Westminster Dog Show I watched on television. Only one of the five arenas was indoors and that one had five judges' stands blocking the view and two hard metal bleachers, making the show not terribly spectator friendly. Thank goodness the weather was good the days we were there: I cannot imagine riding in one of those outdoor arenas in the driving rain and ferocious wind that hit on the last day of the show... thankfully after our horses and people had left. This show was about serious competition, not about coddling riders or spectators.

Jessica's horses performed well considering their lack of big show experience. This was only Rudi's second show anywhere and Lily's first CDI (international dressage competition). Lily performed her freestyle for the very first time at this show. They will soon have more experience as they and Nicki left on Sunday for San Diego to train with Steffen Peters (!) before the even bigger Del Mar show at the end of April. (For those who don't know, Steffen is about the biggest name there is right now in dressage.)

Pictured is Rudi, just after finishing his 2nd level test and Lily, leaving the arena with her first ribbon earned in international competition. She's on her way now!

Back at K&J&I's home, Traumhof, in Washington, Jessica's mare Wirago foaled the day they arrived in Sacramento. At first the baby was fine, but then had a bit of a set back and was taken, at Jessica's direction, to a vet hospital. Thankfully, the foal was soon well again and was back home at Traumhof before K&J&I arrived on Sunday evening.

The worries about the foal added to J & I's health crises and the show commotion made for a stressful few days for all of us. I was glad to retreat in the evenings to friend Ruth's quiet home nestled in the woods close to the Sacramento river. Two mornings we walked along the trail that runs for miles through the state park that borders the river on both sides. Birds were everywhere. The Red-shouldered Hawks were again nesting in the same tree, same nest, where I saw them last year when I visited Ruth. And a Black Phoebe was flycatching in the same area of the riverside. A White-tailed Kite flew over as we walked. Many warblers were singing, along with other identified and unidentified birds. I had my first view of what I presume must be a Nuttall's Woodpecker... too bad it didn't stick around long enough for me to get a photo.

The drive from Ruth's house in Folsom to the Rancho Murietta show grounds was through miles of oak savannah pastures, green this time of year, dotted with granite outcroppings, the air filled with the liquid song of Western Meadowlarks. It was a lovely drive with little traffic.

Sunday mid-day, I left Ruth's house for the second leg of my trip... San Carlos and son Steve and family. That story I'll tell next time.

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