Aiken Client Trip—Holly’s Wrapup

ImageWe just took 19 horses to Aiken for a week of client lessons and pampering. What an amazing week with an amazing group of ladies!  Rather than hear from boring-old-me about all that we did, I’ve challenged the clients to share their favorite moments with their horses… So here’s the first installment from Holly Caccamise!  (And when she mentions her first show on Thursday, she fails to mention that they WON!!)  So congrats to Holly, and without further adieu, here’s Holly’s take on her first Aiken week with Team CEO.   –Megan

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I’ve known about-slash-wanted to go on the Team CEO Aiken trip since 2008. So after four long years, I finally got to go! The final straw was last year when I was tortured by looking at all the photos and recaps of the fun they were having! So I decided it was “Aiken or bust in 2012.”

And I can honestly say it was the trip of a lifetime. Hopefully the first of many!

But it was not without some rather interesting lead-up. I’d planned to take my horse Dexter, even though he was for sale. I just assumed he wouldn’t sell over the winter. I’d get him going in Aiken and do Spring Bay and maybe May Daze before he found a new home. But he went out on trial in mid-January, and suddenly it was looking like I had very little time to find and start up a new project horse before leaving for Aiken on March 10th!

Long story short, I purchased my 4-year-old essentially unbroke Appaloosa, Jester, and had just 40 days to get him as ready as possible for the trip. (Shameless plug if you want to read the long version of how Megan helped me find Jester, a full brother to her App, Jerry: http://www.horsechannel.com/the-near-side-blog/2012/0305-spotted-new-horse.aspx)

Thanks to the very kind help of Howard Moore while Megan as away in February, we got past by far the most difficult hump in our training: learning to steer! Howard showed me some good techniques as well as how to be firm enough to get the results I was looking for. Suddenly we were riding in straight lines and going forward in the desired gait all the way around the ring. YAY! Our rides went from frustrating to positively blissful.

There was time for one lesson to learn cross-rails with Megan before we left, and the next thing I knew we were on the trailer!

OK, so this recap is already getting too long. But I am just SO excited about my horse. Our first full day we went for a ride in the highly anticipated Hitchcock Woods, where Jester handled the trail riding with ease and learned how to jump his first log. After that, he was clicking along! The next day at Jumping Branch XC schooling, he jump his first ditch easily and got in his first water complex. Tuesday we had our first real dressage lesson and I already felt tremendous improvement to his gaits. Wednesday we schooled XC at Full Gallop farm, and had numerous banks, ditches and water complexes to play with. He did everything without hesitation!

Thursday was our C.T. show at Apple Tree Farm, where we did a walk-trot test and cross-rail course. I thought he would surely lose his marbles somewhere in there between the totally new venue, dressage ring, judge in a car, stadium course, tying to the trailer, etc. But he was cool as a cucumber all day and did everything absolutely perfectly. I LOVE THIS HORSE! Of course we have lots more to learn, but the fact that he isn’t getting stressed out or jangled about new things makes me so happy. He even scored a 33.7 in dressage–one of my best scores ever! He’d never jumped flower boxes, and there was one at almost every cross-rail, but he wasn’t fazed by those either.

Friday we did another ride at Hitchcock Woods, and this time Jester learned to canter behind other horses and pop over his first steeplechase brush fence! He was THRILLED by the galloping, and took jumps right out of stride. On Saturday when we did our final XC at Sporting Days Farm, he remembered his lesson in galloping and was super excited to try it out all over the place. Woo hoo! He plunged right into the water, even picking up a canter on his own going in, and cantered over some of the smallest Beginner Novice jumps. He is SO MUCH FUN to ride.

In addition to the bonding time with my horse–I was happy even cleaning his stall–I got to spend lots of quality time with the other ladies on the trip, all of us away from work, families and other responsibilities. It was so good to get to know everyone better, and let me tell you–I could not have imagined a more quality group of people. Everyone was so sweet and positive and fun to be around. We also had some Earth-shatteringly good food at many cool restaurants that Megan picked out that were also amazingly budget-friendly. Every day I fell asleep exhausted but happy and full of yummy food.

I could never thank Megan enough for organizing this trip and giving us the experience of a lifetime. Anyone who is thinking about going should start up their savings jar now for 2013–you will not regret it!

Holly Caccamise

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About widespreadpanic

Advanced level event rider and instructor at Team CEO Eventing in Lexington KY.
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