Pin Oak Wrap-up

The first jump in the Classic at Pin Oak.

The first jump in the Classic at Pin Oak.

After our thrills of last week, this second week of Pin Oak brought some adjustments and lessons to my daughter and her silver streak of a horse.

Lauren in her show whites with her number and Irish Sport Horse emblem pad with Feather's name.

Lauren in her show whites with her number and Irish Sport Horse emblem pad with Feather’s name.

Wednesday found Lauren and Feather back in the ring trying out some new heights for them, jumping 1.05 and 1.10 meters.  It was the first time for Lauren and Feather to tackle the 1.10 meters in competition.  It was pretty amazing.  Feather went in the ring like it was nothing new and jumped around clean and fast.  In fact, she was in first place until the second to last rider who beat her by less than one second out of a large field.

Friday found the team learning some lessons about how tight is too tight to make a turn and how best the mare approaches a jump.  There were no ribbons Friday or Saturday.  But there was a time, just recently, that we would have never expected to get a ribbon at Pin Oak so maybe we got a little spoiled with our riches in Week 1.

Both Lauren and young Feather are new to competitions of this size and working against horses of this stature.  They needed to pay some dues and learn from their mistakes.  Sunday they went back in the ring for a pretty solid ride to a seventh place finish in the Low Adults.  They were invited, based upon their previous week’s performance, to the $10,000 Classic.  That is a lot of money.  But Lauren pulled the first position in the go and headed out first to conquer a new ring and huge, solid jumps.  Feather stopped at the very first jump.  Lauren brought her around and she jumped everything from there with a final downed rail on the last jump.  Her share of the $10,000 was as the 12th place finisher not as the winner (AJ de Leyer was second).

Feather galloping off

Feather galloping off

But it was a wonderful couple weeks for duo and I know it will be fond memories for us for some time.  What we know for sure is that we have a mare that can take on the best and hold her own.  She definitely is part of the league of winners now.

The scoreboard with Flagmount's Irish Freedom (or as much of it as would fit)  and a look at Pin Oak arena filled with jumps.  It was not for the faint of heart.

The scoreboard with Flagmount’s Irish Freedom (or as much of it as would fit) and a look at Pin Oak arena filled with jumps. It was not for the faint of heart.

Thanks for riding along!

Glad Tidings

Waiting for results after the third class in Lauren's jumper division.

Waiting for results after the third class in Lauren’s jumper division.

You can go back in my blog to March of any year and there will be a discussion about the big Texas Charity Horse Show called Pin Oak that takes place each as a benefit for Texas Children’s Hospital.  In the blog I may talk about Jordyn riding Leadline (a pretty exciting time), or Mickey competing over fences but except for Jordyn (and honestly that is pretty much a gimme, as my dad would have said), none of my family or my horses have ever won a ribbon at this big show.

Certainly, this was the year to try as Lauren came back from her fractured arm to win the USEF Zone Finals in November.  Feather was jumping well and this would be our last time to compete at this height (1.00 and 1.05 meters) before moving up to bigger jumps.  Lauren was still suffering the ill effects of her injury with only partial use of her hand.  But she had learned to compensate pretty well.

The major division for them was the Adult Amateur Low Jumpers.  It consisted of a class Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Friday Lauren had been jumping well prior to this class but Feather was jumping hard and Lauren lost her reins over one of the big oxers.  For some reason, Lauren did not want to trust Feather to make it through the triple line of jumps with no guidance from her.  I know, you would have done it!

The placings of the classes are cumulative and it is hard to be competitive if you do not place at all on one of three days.  Satuday amidst horrendous rain showers I got to watch Lauren and Feather smoothly, quietly and without fuss burn their opponents to win that round.  But one thing was missing.  You may have heard my appreciation of the de Leyer family starting way back with Harry and his national champion Snowman (there is a Breyer of this) to his current family here in Houston that brings the horse and rider to beat to any competition they join.  AJ de Leyer was absent from the ring on Saturday.  He had won the round on Friday where Lauren had not placed.  We knew he was the man to beat if Lauren wanted to walk away with the Grand Championship.

Due to USEF rules, it had been a while since AJ and Lauren had competed against one another.  AJ, younger than Lauren by a few years, had not moved up to the adult division.  But he was here now and with a horse that had won multiple Pin Oak and Zone Final championships.  If Feather was going to win Grand she was going to have to be moving and jumping fast!

As I sat with a friend, as rider after rider went through the course, she asked where Lauren was in the rotation.  I knew she was close to the end.  “Where is AJ?”  After Lauren I answered.  That would give the benefit to AJ as he would already know if Lauren had gone clean and what her time was.  If AJ went before Lauren, if he knocked poles, Lauren could just take it easy and go clean and still win-not having to push the speed.

My friend figured that AJ and Lauren were tied going into this final round.  The only rider that could beat them for grand champ had a disappointing ride and the tie held as Lauren and Feather headed boldly in ring.  In this particular round, the rider had one course of 12 jumps which they needed to jump clean and within the time limit to head into the jump off.  Lauren went blazing past the timer and I held my breath.  Leap, turn, run, leap, turn, run, they took on the course aggressively.  A little too agressively I thought as I prayed they did not pull any rails.  But they came clear through the round and onto the jump off intact.

As a frame of reference, Mickey and Alex competing in the children’s division over the same course, finished in 60 seconds, Feather and Lauren tagged in at 63 seconds and some change.  I told you Mickey was faster!

It was on to the jump off which was a maybe seven jumps and meant to be all holds bared.  The tighter the turns, the faster the recovery onto the next jump and the faster the speed between jumps would lead to the winner.  And also to the almost winner, if they pulled down any rails in their hurry to win.

Lauren was disappointed that she missed one turn that she had planned but still came in with the second fastest time.  And NO rails down at all!

AJ and his horse Skylark came blazing into the ring.  AJ is the son of a son of a top horseman.  He and his dad had every inch of the course planned.  As AJ flew over the fences in front of us, he was talking out loud to his horse, “get the six, get the six” (as in six strides) then as he hit the tight in-and-out we could him say “whoa, here,whoa, here”. He rode it beautifully.  I don’t remember looking at his time.  All that mattered was he was clean and off to the jump off.

Skylark gave AJ all he had as AJ urged him faster and faster with tighter and tighter turns.  Unfortunately, they pulled a couple of rails.  This left Lauren in second place for the class with AJ pulling a fourth place finish.

Suddenly, I looked at my friend, tears were streaming from her eyes.  “Lauren just won Grand Champion! No one deserves it more!”  Well, I don’t know about that, I am sure there are others that deserve a big day in their life but Lauren has had a long career with rescue horses, the horses people just were not sure what to do with and she has worked hard to make her way.  Especially this last year has been a tough one.  But Pin Oak Grand Champion-yes, it was something sweet enough to bring tears to your eyes.  We couldn’t even win a ribbon before and now  Feather had ribbons, and plates, and platers and pictures in the winner’s circle.

It was sweet, indeed.  Thank you to all of you who have ridden along with us!

I am holding the Tiffany winner's plater, trainer Dev is next and Lauren with mighty Feather.

I am holding the Tiffany winner’s plater, trainer Dev is next and Lauren with mighty Feather.

The final chapter

From the court house steps on a gloomy March day as the case was closed.

From the court-house steps on another dreary March day as the case was closed. The trees behind the flags were covered in brilliant white blossoms but I guess the gloom covered up their beauty  as well.

I had my long-awaited court date to send my mother’s will to Probate.  Apparently the calendar is full and it takes months to get your case heard by the judge.  My mother died the sixth of August and her court case took place in March.  A long time passed as I waited for this day to come.

I don’t know what it is about my life that invites complexity.  I plan well.  I am good at organization.  I make my bed each day and have a closet that is divided by color and type of garment.  You would think these traits would lead to my life going more smoothly.  Perhaps as I plan and organize, I do so to rebel against the chaos that surrounds my life.  I guess the good news is that I organize as well as I do, because if I did not, my life would simply crumble around me.

My mother’s will was written in 2002.  I had recently been divorced and lived with the girls here in Texas.  My mother did her will in Colorado with her longtime attorney, Bill Kemp.  He was to be the executor of her estate, and if he could not be then my former brother-in-law, Sean, was named as an alternate.

Of course, my mother never dreamed she would die in Texas or in the tiny county of Wharton.  But things change.  By the time my momma got here it was too late to change her will to the laws of the state of Texas, as she was not of sound mind as the lawyers say.

After my mother’s death, I had the will but was not in any particular hurry to settle things.  I just really couldn’t deal with much else and thought it would be very straightforward and quick.  It might have been in the fall when I started to hunt down the phone number for the Denver lawyer my mother had used for her will.  As my mother’s only surviving child, there was not anyone else to be effected by this will.  I thought I would call the attorney, there would be some court thing and I would get a check for the assets left in my mother’s estate.  It works like that on television.

I guess my television show would have been characterized as a legal drama with death (and not just my mom’s), inter-state judicial wars, and unscrupulous attorneys.

I quickly got the phone number of the attorney and waited until 9:00 am Mountain time when they opened to call.  A very pleasant women named Rose answered the phone.  I asked to speak to Mr. Kemp.  Her voice got guarded as she proceeded to quiz me on who I was and what I wanted with her attorney.

Turns out that tragically that week, Mr. Kemp had been diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer.  The office was closing and all the files were being transferred out. I was stunned.  Bill Kemp, always referred to as my mother’s attorney Bill Kemp, had been a regular feature in our conversations for years. I could not believe that his office was closing and his health so critical.

Mr. Kemp called me shortly thereafter.  He told me he could not serve as executor and it would be preferable to have an executor in Texas, such as myself to handle this with a Texas attorney.  Okay, I was very sorry but totally understood.  I went on an internet search for a Probate attorney.  That may not have been my smartest approach to finding someone to handle such an important issue.  I read online reviews and chose a female Probate attorney with an office nearby.  I was told she would call me.  She did not.  After several follow-ups with her office, I finally reached her and explained the Colorado will with the dying executor problem.  She quoted me a fee of $10,000 and told me to get Mr. Kemp and my brother-in-law to sign away their executor rights.

I called my now best friend Rose at Mr. Kemp’s office and she assured me that was a ridiculous amount to handle this will.  The Texas attorney wanted $9000 upfront and the balance before the court date.

What finally settled the issue of this being the wrong attorney for me was when Mr. Kemp called after his session of chemo to tell me another attorney from Texas had called him asking him for all the documents on the case.

I had never even met the female attorney in person nor agreed that she represent me but she had asked an attorney friend to take over the case and sent my mother’s will to him.  Mr. Kemp told me if I had not released those files to this new attorney that it was a breach of confidentiality at best.  He advised I find another attorney.

This time I chose another method to pick a good attorney.  I drove around my little town and looked at their offices.  Pretty Scientific.  But this new attorney was a winner.  He represented me for a fraction of the cost and worked to get all the paperwork in order.  He established a March court date.

In the meantime, Mr. Kemp passed away as did my step-father Jim.  So much change.  I met my new attorney at the courthouse Monday on yet another dreary, rainy, south Texas winter day.  It fit my mood exactly.  Of course, I was last on the docket but found the process to be quite straightforward.  I was asked some questions, the judge told me he was sorry for my loss and good luck.  I was officially appointed “Administratrix” of the will.  I guess that word is the feminine version of the word administrator, but it scared me so I did not ask.

The next day at the post office, I sent off the paperwork to Wells Fargo and hoped to God that I was done with all of this.  I asked for a book of stamps and was given the ones below.  My mom was an avid rose gardener in both Chicago and Denver.  She always said that the white rose called the John F. Kennedy was my dad’s all time favorite.  It was a fitting close and reminder of the fragile beauty of life.  Thank you for riding along and being part of my journey.

The stamps I bought as I sent my mother's stock certificate away. My father's favorite rose was the John F. Kennedy rose and this is it. Wierd.

The stamps I bought as I sent my mother’s stock certificate away. My father’s favorite rose was the John F. Kennedy rose and this is it. Wierd.

Cody reenacts Mother Goose Tale

A gate does not do well when sat upon by a horse.

A gate does not do well when sat upon by a horse.

As I came down the drive last night, I spotted the horses from pasture-one talking to the horses from pasture-two.  Then as I looked closer, I realized they were really gathered around the gate like a bunch of rubber-neckers watching a car wreck.  This particular car wreck involved Quarter horse Cody and he was literally sitting on the gate.

So, picture this-the gate above bent forward into the pasture with the 1,000 pound Cody, sitting on his butt, body upright on the gate.  He looked a great deal like Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall (before his great fall). Especially with all the horses gathered around like excited town folk.

Cody's big torso and proportionately spindly legs, looked just like this as he sat wedged in the gate.

Cody’s big torso and proportionately spindly legs, looked just like this as he sat wedged in the gate.

I apologize for not getting a picture of that striking pose but I ripped on up the drive to the house, where Lauren was just sauntering out to make night feed.  I whipped out of the car (to the extent my body enhanced with metal parts can whip out of my tiny clown car) and yelled that Cody was stuck in the fence!  Lauren did not really get concerned until she rounded the corner and saw the spectacle herself.  She screamed for me to get Blake and started running to the pasture.

I rushed in the house, yelled at Blake, “a horse is stuck in the gate” , shoved my rubber boots on and headed back out.  All the time I was reviewing my tool options for something that would cut the horse out of the fence.  I wasn’t coming up with anything.

In Wharton, when our filly Mariah was two, she got her hoof stuck in the wire of the fence.  The slender wire caught between her horse shoe and her foot.  It was a dreadful time as Lauren and I screamed at passersby on the road to stop and help.  I vowed to always have good wire cutters in the future.  And I did but no wire cutters were going to cut through a metal pipe gate.  I looked at the saw in the garage and then ran for my phone.

I called our dressage trainer neighbor as I thought perhaps she might have something to help us out.  I left quite an impassioned message as I got her voice mail.  “Help, we have a horse stuck in the metal gate! Please call me right back!”

As I haphazardly trotted over to the fence, I saw the situation had already changed.  Perhaps Cody had been content to sit on the gate and Lord over the minions in the pastures around him but when Lauren and Blake got down there, he just hopped off on his own.  He trotted off to the bottom of the pasture and returned to look at the gate in surprise, as if saying, “Whoa, did I do that?”

Cody is the one in the middle looking directly at the gate.

Cody is the one in the middle looking directly at the gate.

Amazingly Cody only had a small, narrow two-inch scratch on his hind leg and trotted off sound after his amazing adventure.  In thinking about how this occurred in the first place, I believe that Cody and giant horse Kinny were playing over the top of the gate.  They seem to be a little obsessed with one another and spend hours together walking the fence line from their opposite sides of the pasture.  I think they got to wrestling and Cody turned his hind end to buck out at Kinny.  Those of you that have seen Cody jump know he is famous for his mighty kicks after a jump (not that it deters him from winning!).  Anyway, I think he bucked up and out and came down on top of the gate, folding it like an accordion underneath him.  I think he was lodged in the fence.  I give him props for not panicking and struggling to get loose.

I took Cody up to the barn (after I chased him around for 20 minutes trying to catch him, he was clearly invigorated by his narrow escape from certain death).  I hosed down his legs.  Jo Ann and I inspected them for damage. You could tell he was getting a little stiff as the evening set in.

All and all, he looked pretty great, no swelling, no cuts except the small scratch, and no serious injury from his sit on the wall.  I didn’t realize until later that I never called my neighbor back, I kept expecting her to race down the drive with a giant blow torch to get the horse out of the gate.

The big heroes of the night were Luke and Ally who came after work to replace the gate with a new one before today when the horses went out to pasture again.  Lauren had been off to the Rodeo to celebrate her birthday.   She was pretty surprised this morning to find a brand new gate installed and the old one creating a metal sculpture along the road.

Thanks for riding along.