Okay, so first let me admit that Web MD does not *actually* recognize this disease. But doubt not, it exists. And it is highly contagious.
*When* Web MD or Webster does decide to recognize this regional illness, it will look something like this…
A highly contagious disease found in the Aiken region of South Carolina, causing those infected in northern states to flock to this region year after year. The disease causes this annual migration of infected persons from January through March each year, then becomes apparently dormant. Symptoms include:
- The sudden desire to go cross country in February.
- The need to gallop for miles with no end in sight.
- The thought that getting lost in the woods, on a horse, in a 2,000 acre park, on hundreds of miles of trails, with darkness approaching… Sounds like a LOT of fun!
- The desire to jump hundreds of fences that appear around each bend.
- The need to hack young horses on endless trails until they learn to “chill” and act like they’re older… Or hack them endlessly until they are actually OLDER, one way or another!
Well, I’ve caught the disease. Year after year, we bring clients to Aiken for a week in March, and introducing everyone to Hitchcock Woods is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Hitchcock Woods (hereinafter referred to as HW) is an incredible 2100 acre preserve, the largest privately owned forest preserve in the US. They have dozens and dozens of trails, all scattered with jumps ranging from logs to hunt brush to big steeplechase fences. I’ve been to HW many, many times, and I’ve still only been on a third of it!
So in our first week in Aiken, all I’ve wanted to do is going to HW! Some days once a day, some days three times a day. The young horses have been learning to hack out quietly, jump friendly foxhunting style fences, save their energy, and enjoy the surroundings. The older horses have been using it for trot sets and fitness up and down the hills that abound in Aiken. Every single horse has gained something from it so far, and we’ve only been here for 5 days.
I’m really happy with the progress each horse is making. Nemo and Hopper have been doing conditioning work in HW, and Hopper loves it! He wants to gallop endlessly, and thus far has been very disappointed by my limiting his fitness work. It’s only February big guy! (Have I ever mentioned how much I love that horse?)The 4yo and 5yo’s have been learning to walk quietly and not try to jump out of their skin at every dinosaur-sized carnivorous squirrel that might run by. What could be better than taking a fractious 4yo out on the trails, and having the opportunity to ride for *hours* until he decides to calm down, behave, and conserve his energy?! As long as the rider can stay on, it’s the perfect plan! J The young horses have also been using the brush fences there to practice being bold and brave, and to feel good about themselves. They are all brimming with confidence, and are oh-so-excited to show their mums at home all they’ve learned.
Today, after going to HW *JUST* in the morning, we diverted to Sporting Days in the afternoon to the cross country schooling they had open. I rode a client’s prelim horse, and Andrea (our working student/groom/barn manager extraordinaire) rode CEO’s TB mare Vie. Together this pair moved up very successfully to the training level last year. It absolutely made my day to see Andrea and Vie, our little silver spitfire pop around their training course (still flagged from yesterday’s HT they held) easy breezy. In fact, far too easily! They ended the day by adding in some prelim stuff, including a very max prelim table. In typical fashion, Vie was unconcerned and they conquered it with style. So proud of how far they’ve come!!!!
I’ve now contracted the first sunburn of 2012… Off to find some aloe vera! Here’s hoping everyone at home is enjoying the KY sunshine (in February??? How did that happen?) and working on their homework…
Till next time…