Yes, I know I am behind with my blog…excuses, excuses.

The promise and expectation of the 2015 Wellington winter season for Vitall and I at the Grand Prix level did not, unfortunately, unfold as I had hoped. Our training program met and exceeded expectations and Vitall was, at all times, fit and healthy. Warm up prior to entering the competition ring also met and exceeded expectations. He was literally a star during the warm up with no resistance to any of the movements. However, on entering and moving around the Global Stadium, he became increasingly tense, obstinate and, consequently, a challenge.

The Global Stadium has a somewhat unique set up as there is an upper floor VIP area combined with a restaurant that overlooks the arena. Horses cannot see the VIP area, but the food service combined with guest conversations and people constantly walking within the area creates a lot of noise and is a cause of distraction. Vitall could obviously hear the constant background noise, which, at times, was quite loud, but as he could not process the source he would simply lose focus. Consequently, we fought our way around the ring, over compensated, which reflected in the marks. Some horses will take these types of distractions in their stride, but others will not. Vitall is very sensitive and wants to see what is around him in a tangible way.

I tried walking him around the ring on days when there were no competitions, on the familiarity theory. Although he has competed all over Europe in different stadiums, there was never the problem that was manifested at Global. People in grandstands, no problem, as he could see them.

I also shortened the warm up time and changed the warm up exercises in case Vitall thought that he had fully performed so that he did not think- Why am I being asked to do this all over again? It became a case of trial and error.

At the last CDI, I tried an ear bonnet that he has never had to wear before and this, finally, relaxed him so that he could begin to perform closer to his true potential and as he performed during the warm ups. Although we were more harmonious, I remained over anxious and I have to admit made mistakes, which again were reflected in the marks.

I have revamped the training schedule on the movements that I should not have missed so that I am confident along with Vitall. Repetition/repetition. I will be entering some national shows during the summer to bring the training movements into the competition ring as stepping stones to competing at Saugerties and Devon, as these environments should work for and complement Vitall. I am really looking forward to these shows so that the less than stellar winter competition results can become a very, very distant memory.

The Wellington winter season is a great people place and I met many riders from various parts of the world. In January, I moved all the horses to the Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, which is situated in the heart of Wellington. The show grounds are literally across the street so it is a short walk instead of trucking, which is truly convenient and a huge time saver.

The Sports Complex hosts dressage, hunter/jumpers and polo ponies, which makes it an interesting, if somewhat unusual, environment for the horses as well as the riders.

It has a beautiful half mile track with access to all the various bridle trails, which the horses all love, as it gives them variety with lots to see. There is a 20 x 60 covered arena, which was a god send this winter due to the endless rain storms, plus two outdoor rings and two hunter/jumper rings. Busy it is.

I am really enjoying the facility and having other supportive riders available to swap ideas and events with. As there were lots of fellow Canadians present I felt less home sick.

My young horses continue to progress and the winter months were very productive in bringing them forward. Faye is maturing and I plan to show her in May at First Level as well as Doe Maar, a six-year-old Jazz gelding. They will both participate in the young horse classes next season so still lots of work ahead.

Wellington is now my year round base, augmented by trips around the US and Canada, for clinics. I have a scheduled trip to Holland in May to see friends and to view some horses as prospects for Grand Prix. I do miss Holland, as it was home for several years. The lifestyle and culture is so different in Florida and the weather, summer heat and man-eating bugs all take adjustment. Vitall and I are still, perhaps, adjusting. Hopefully Vitall will indeed accept the stars and stripes.