Icelandic Triple Crown

Posted in California, Kentucky with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2012 by laura

Well, the Icelandic fall show season is over. This year was an exceptional success for Team Valkyrie. We had 3 shows, the first being At Mountain Icelandic Farm in September where we had the largest Youth participation on record in the USA. Stjarni and I had our best performance to date in 4-gait and tölt, and I am sure all the classical dressage work I have been doing with Carlos Carneiro has played a big part in that.

In early October, it was time for the CIA Open fall show. We had a nice sized group go down from our stables in Monte Sereno to participate. The kids and moms all did very well and had a lot of fun in their classes. Stjarni was feeling very grumpy and tired out, we did not have a very good ride in the preliminaries or the V1 Finals, but he rallied for the Tölt finals on Sunday and we had a wonderful ride in a very competitive and fun class! The biggest highlight of the event for me was my student, Madison and her stallion Straumur, who increases their scores with every ride and really showed their stuff. They won the V1 four gait finals and came in 2nd in T1. This was a very proud moment for me as a teacher and it was not easy hiding the tears in my eyes. They have worked so hard together, doing lessons on a regular basis and training with me long before the sun comes up in the mornings. They are definitely heading on the right path to try out for Berlin next year!

I arrived home from Santa Ynez late Sunday evening, just in time to throw my things from one suitcase to the next. On Monday morning I flew to Kentucky for the 10th Annual Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show. My niece, Ayla got to come along for the first time and without her, many things would not have been possible. She became the honorary barn manager for the week and took care of all the horses, made sure the trailers were loaded, and many other random jobs that helped things run smoothly. We arrived Monday evening and after staying up late into the night, catching up with Guðmar, we got up early Tuesday morning  and spent the day training horses (I rode Pegasus, Veigar, Fleygur and Sprettur. All my Kentucky stallions, they are such wonderful boys!), shoeing, and getting everything prepared. Wednesday began the teaching marathon! Coralie Denmeade arrived from Colorado to help us out. Over 3 days we taught over 70 lessons and somewhere in that time managed to train our own horses and help each other out. This would be a record breaking show with over 80 horses and participants!! My student, Colleen Monsef, even flew all the way out from California to ride in the show! Guðmar rode his stallion Veigar in T1 and V1 and Fleygur in F1. He won every class, of course, but I gave him a run for his money on the mare Glæta frá Brekku, who gave me a great performance. Ayla got a chance to practice her pace and rode the gelding Máni in Speedpass, Pace test and 5 gait. She proved to us all that she definitely has the need for speed! Colleen also rode the stallion, Fleygur in the Novice tölt and 4-gait and won both of her classes! We had such a wonderful time as always. The weather was cold throughout the week, but the sun decided to come out on Sunday for the finals and ended up being a beautiful day. It was a wonderful way to end the 2012 show season, seeing many friends from all over the country and the world and also making new ones. Thanks everyone for a spectacular year and keep up the good riding!!  You can check out show results at: http://www.icelandics.org/showresults.php and there are hundreds more photos floating around on facebook. Sorry I couldn´t lasso them all!! 

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Iceland vs. Portugal – A new adventure

Posted in California with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by laura

This post is about a classical dressage clinic that recently happened here in California. I am going to write a bit about how it all came to be, so if you are just interested in the photos and not my endless ramblings, you can skip to the end…:)

These past few months have been very exciting for me with the rise and fall of Apassionata  and all the encounters that came along with it. I have made many wonderful friends and connections and have been able to begin blazing a path into a world that I have long sought to be a part of: Portuguese riding and baroque dressage. Many aspects of this riding style were incorporated into my schooling at Hólar  and over the last few years it is not uncommon to see a riding clinic in Iceland or other parts of the world with Julio Borba, a Portuguese trainer who now often works with the Icelandic horse.

I also have a deep love for the Lusitano horse, who has the same spirit and fire as the Icelandics. When I graduated from my final year at  Hólar in 2010, I asked my teacher, Mette, if she knew of any trainers in Portugal that I could study with. I wanted to become more knowledgeable in this style of riding so that I could improve how I ride and train my Icelandics. She gave me the names of some trainers and places she had visited, unfortunately they did not take working students at the time. I let the dream fall to the back of my mind.

Fast forward to 2012, I find myself performing in Apassionata, amongst some of the best trained riders in the world, from the riding school of Luis Valença on their magnificent Lusitanos. We became good friends and I was so lucky to spend time with them and their superb horses. Saying goodbye was not easy, but I know that Portugal is in my future and I will see them again!

So, I´m getting a bit off track, but I wanted to give you a background for all of this so you know why my interest runs so deep. It seems right now, the doors keep opening in the right places for me because upon my arrival home from the Apassionata tour, my best friend, Aníta, sent me a link on Facebook to a classical riding clinic in Petaluma, California with Portuguese trainer Carlos Carneiro. I jumped at the opportunity and drove north to audit the clinic. I talked for some time with Carlos and found out that he studied with Luis Valença and rode in Apassionata in Europe and knew many of the same people as me. What a small world!  I have since visited and ridden with Carlos at his farm in Napa and mentioned to him the idea of doing a clinic with Icelandic horses. Unlike some dressage trainers from other breeds, he said he would be delighted to! …And so comes the whole point of this post!!

The first Portuguese style Icelandic clinic with Carlos was held at Monte Sereno Stables in Los Gatos, CA. Thank you so much to Laurie Prestine and everyone else in the neighborhood for letting me put on this event. We had 7 different riders on Icelandic horses and 2 other riders on a Trakehner and a Warmblood. Carlos spent 2 wonderful days with us, working in depth on suppleness, balance, quiet hands and riding from the seat. I got to work with my horse, Stjarni on a lot of lateral work in trot (half-pass, shoulder-in), beginning work in counter canter and piaffe. These are exercises that I have often been told (Even recently by a renowned riding master of classical dressage!!) Icelandics are not capable of doing. Stjarni didn´t seem to have a problem with it at all! When I felt him take his first step of piaffe, his hindquarter bouncing upwards in one sequence of trot, it was a brief but unreal sensation. I knew that the impossible can be reached through practice and repetition. We have a ways to go, but it´s closer than I ever thought. The funny thing is that when I was on tour, my Portuguese friends Tiago and Flávio helped me teach Stjarni the Spanish walk, which apparently he likes to do when we ask him for piaffe. So I will have to set Spanish walk aside for now so that he is not confused. One thing at a time :) It´s amazing to see how hard this horse tries, who knows, maybe we can even master the capriole!! 

Ok, I really will stop the rambling now..I just want to say thank you to Laurie, Colleen, Kelly, Elise, Elizabeth, Jessica, Ayla  and Lucy  for daring to try something a bit different and improve yourself as riders and your relationship with your horses. It was a joy for me to watch you all working so hard at good riding. I am so proud of you!!  And of course, many, many thanks to my new friend Carlos! This is the beginning of something wonderful, I just know it. Here´s to Icelandic horses, Portugal, Classical riding and the endless path to harmonious riding! (Photos by Ayla Green and Kathy Sierra)

Apassionata: a very different story than the one I expected to tell..

Posted in Apassionata, Knights of Iceland with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2012 by laura

Équipe Iceland practicing in Baltimore

When I was asked to write about my travels with Apassionata, I never imagined I would be writing the things I have to say now. For those of you that are not aware, “Apassionata: The Beginning” was to be an 18 month, 66 city tour with 5 different teams of 45 horses and riders of different disciplines. It was a surreal show of the Equestrian Arts, with incredible choreography, music and lighting. I have never experienced a horse related production of this quality before and I have been to and participated in many horse performance shows. I can only pray that we will see it’s rebirth in this country again someday with better funding and planning.

So many things happened in such a short time. What we thought was the beginning of something grand would quickly be snuffed out due to lack of funds. It‘s been difficult to move on, almost like a parental divorce or a seperation of family. The friendships we made were strong and everlasting. The connections to other professionals in the horse business as well as the tour industry and media were priceless, so I cannot say it was all for nothing. I was looking forward to writing of our many adventures on the road, as I promised I would, but alas, the show was cancelled. The time we had will never be forgotten and I am so happy to have had this opportunity.

Pretty much all I have to give you are a few random thoughts I scribbled along the way, thinking I had much more time to tell stories. I also have a collection of photographs, t.v. interviews and links to some amazing photography of the show. So here it is, I hope one day we will have another tour to write about.

May 28, 2012

I arrived in Kentucky on Monday to begin practice with my team. My first priority,was of course to see Stjarni, who came out a few weeks before me to get trained with the lights and fire that we use in the show (He was apparently not phased by any of it from day one..). I also got a chance to say hello and hang out with my filly, Lolíta and took a ride on Nett, who I trained at Hólar in Iceland. It was so good to see her again.

Lólíta

Reunited with Nett

During the day, my team mates, Caeli, Leó and Aníta taught me our drill pattern. First on foot and then on horseback. It was pretty easy to get the hang of, I just have to get used to riding it with the sparklers.

After a full day at the barn we went home to eat some dinner and then headed back to practice with the sparklers in the dark around 10 at night. When we pulled up to the barn there was a thin layer of mist covering the fields and the fireflies were blinking in full force. It was a very dramatic setting for the practice session. As Leó put Stjarni´s sparkler boots on, Stjarni was not in the least bit tense, but seemed really excited to get the ball rolling. He really loves the fire!  He was perfectly calm underneath me, with ears pricked forward and jaw relaxed. We walked around the arena first, the sparklers crackling beneath us and then quickly moved into tölt. He glided along like we were just out for a normal trail ride, not paying attention to anything going on around his feet. We rode amidst the fireflies and the fog for about 4 minutes until the sparklers fizzled out. Stjarni seemed disappointed when it was all done with, I swear he´s a pyromaniac!

We practiced again on Tuesday night with Stjarni and Pegasus who are the two new additions to the show and then on Wednesday it was time to hit the road. One of the 4 giant trucks that hauls all 45 horses around for Apassionata came to pick us up at the farm and take us to Ohio where we would meet up with the rest of the crew and then depart for our first show in New Jersey the following day.

The Sallee trucks coming to pick us up

TRAVEL to NJ

On the tour, each Équipe or team has a mini van with a GPS to travel between shows and also to use in our down time at the hub in Ohio. Our GPS decided not to work on the way to Jersey, and when it did, it spoke in French. Thank God my phone has a good GPS in it. I had a mild panic attack in downtown New Jersey with the vans’ GPS yelling at me in French!

So here is how the weekly schedule works: Our shows are generally Friday-Sunday with 2 performances on Saturday. We usually leave for a venue on Thursday morning around 6 am. We first have to load up all 45 horses on 4 different semi´s as well as a semi for all of our tack and horse gear. Then we caravan to the venue. On this particular trip, our destination is East Rutherford, NJ. It´s about a 10-11 hour drive. Leó and I tend to do the majority of the driving and have a lot of fun being silly to keep each other awake. The trick rider´s are definitely the fastest van (Big surprise there!!) and like to try and race most of the way. We had some pretty epic roadway battles. I will miss this part of the tour so much. It seems like a silly thing, but we make the hours pass by very quickly, goofing around with the other teams in our caravan. Upon arrival we must make sure all the temporary stables for the weekend are set up and ready to go for the horses with hay, bedding and water. In NJ, the horses were stabled underground in the backstage of the IZOD center. Offloading the horses from the trailers down the long concrete ramp underground was definitely an experience!

Taking the horses underground in New Jersey

Once the horses are settled in and all the gear offloaded, we head to catering for some much needed food. This is 5 star catering we are talking about, an endless variety of food for every meal, complete with dessert and cappucino machine. Even apples and carrots for the horses (They give us bread for the Icelandics)!  We get to decompress a bit and then it´s back to the hotel to try and get a bit of sleep. Of course we end up in the bar for a bit beforehand and relax, have a beer or two. Usually  someone from every team is there, the crew members, even the truck drivers. This is always a nice time to get to know people. Even though we are tired from our journey, it´s a good way to unwind and open up to other members of the tour.

Friday morning, we are usually up early and doing t.v. interviews (sometimes at 5 am!) and then each of the 5 teams have a practice time if they desire, and then a dress rehearsal usually around 3 or 4. In between, it´s make-up and warddrobe, whenever Cathy Ratcliffe, our extraordinary make-up artiste, can fit us in. We also have to prepare the sparklers (Well, Leó prepares them mostly and we try to help but mostly we  just get in his way!) and eat  and have lots of time to make cappucino´s throughout the day(Leó is also the cappucino man! I don´t know what I would do without him!).  Saturday We have 2 shows, a matinee and an evening show. So it gets a bit tiring, but we still make it fun. Sunday we have a matinee and then it´s tear down and load up all the equipment, leaving only the horses to load onto the trailer´s on Monday morning. Sunday night, we generally all try and go out and do something fun if we have the energy (Which we always muster up, you sleep when you´re dead, right?).

A late Sunday night out in Times Square, Manhattan

Monday morning, it´s time to load up horses and drive home on very little sleep, if any. Leó generally takes the first leg, and I dose in and out while making sure he stays awake. We get home somehow, unload the horses and then back to our hub, maybe get a bite to eat with everyone. We have Tuesday and Wednesday „off“ but this is spent taking care of horses, doing laundry, cleaning tack and training.  Wednesday night we load everything up and prepare for early am departure onto the next hub. This is the life of the road and I love every minute of it.

Backstage the ‘Black box’ and The Show

Sylvie longeing her horses in the warm-up arena. Beyond the curtain is ‘The black box’ and then the stage.

The backstage area of this show is a site to be seen. We have approximately a 20-25 meter circle of sand that is brought in and we use as a ‘warm-up’ area. Now, imagine at any given time, sometimes all at once, 8 Lusitanos  doing canter pirouettes and passage and spanish walk, another in hand practicing his piaffe and levade, 6 horses being longed at once (by the same person!!), 4 Icelandics racing around, possibly a giant Breton trotting in and out of this chaos with a crazy French man playing practical jokes on everyone, a Friesian Quadrille thundering around in trot and trick riders standing in a pyramid on two horses!  This is all happening on that circle! The truly unbelievable part is that it´s all done without any collisions. This dance is harmonious in all it´s chaos and it will forever be a mystery to me how it all just seems to work. We also have people changing in and out of costumes, crew people running around like mad, dancer´s warming up and miscellaneous riders who aren´t currently occupied holding horses for someone else. The excitement backstage is always an exhilarating high. The horses know the music well and begin to anticipate their act. We play lots of practical jokes and laugh with each other, encourage each other for our performances, console each other when things don´t go well. It is filled with energy, nerves, pride and passion for the show we put on. Because we only have 1 act, Team Iceland helps out quite a bit. Aníta, Caeli and I are the ‘Pony wranglers’ for Laurent, who has 3 miniature horses in his act. My pony is a little black 2 year old stallion with a punk rock mane that stands straight up named ‘Hokus Pocus’.  Now you would think that handling these little guys would be an easy job, but these 3 little stallions are terrors!! They bite, kick, spin, scream, rear and try to challenge the large horses. We definitely have our hands full. I love Hokey P. because whenever I take him out of his stall, he collects himself up and literally trots in passage beside me as if he were a high school dressage horse.  Leó is in charge of handling Naer, the giant Breton and Basile the donkey for Laurent since all his acts are so close together. We also help Team Valença from Portugal hold their Lusitano´s during costume and horse changes.

Beyond the ‘warm up ring’ is a curtain and a small area behind the main backdrop known as ‘The Blackbox’. This is where we prepare to enter the stage. There is an atomic clock that counts us down for when the doors will open. When we enter here, we have already rigged the protective boots and sparklers on the horses legs and warmed up. We are now ready to be lit on fire!! We usually have about 4 people that light us up, it has to be done very quickly and at the same time so that our sparklers last the entirety of our act. Nazari, the Ukrainian trick rider is the best at lighting us up. He never misses a show, even though he has his own acts to think about, and he can light two horses at once!  The horses dance with anticipation, ears pricked and nostrils aflare. They are not scared. They are excited. The difference is clear. The clock counts down, the music cues up, I look at my teammates, we all nod in agreement, we are ready! The doors slide open. A bed of fog covers the ground with thousands of shining lights reflecting across it´s billowing momentum. As we enter,  the crowd always gasps. I don´t think they ever expect to see horses with fire attached to their legs, ridden so slow and calmly. The setting really is ethereal. The music, the lights, the fire, the fog and amidst it all, 4 little viking horses rhythmically tölting in unison as if it were any other day on the job. They are excited, just as we are, but they are calm. Unfortunately, 4 minutes goes by very quickly and it is over too soon. But there will be another show and another chance to show our wonderful horses to the world. We come out of  the black box quickly to make room for the next act, remove our horses boots and put them to relax in their stalls before the grand finale and curtain call. In the Finale each team takes one introduction lap around the arena with their name up on the big screen and then we all parade in together, circling around each other and finally lining up to face the audience. We usually make lots of faces at each other. Every time I ride in, Gary, who is head crew and in charge of my door, pretends to conduct the final orchestral music for me which I personally am not a fan of because it sounds like the end of a Disney movie. He of course, decided to name it ‘Laura´s Song’ since I ‘love’ it so much. Haha. Every show he says ‘Get ready for Laura´s Song everyone’ and begins to swing his arms like a conductor. And every show I flip him off as I ride into the arena. :) As we all ride out, the crew is usually lined up and high fives us all.  These guys are so incredible. They really bust their asses to make the show run smoothly.

Baltimore show, June 08

We arrived in Baltimore at 530pm yesterday, and the 1stMariner Arena where we will perform is right in the heart of downtown. There is absolutely NO parking, so it was really interesting getting 45 horses unloaded off of 4 semi trucks! The horses arrived around 730pm and by that time we had gotten 40 stalls set up in the Arena’s tiny parking lot and 5 stalls for our Icelandics….wait for it…Backstage in the kitchen! We are literally inside between the production office and catering, right next to the kitchen! It’s pretty funny. The Icelandics enjoy all the attention from the staff and we are close to the food and out of the heat so it is kind of nice. The best part was that Leó had to do an emergency shoeing job on Stjarni upon arrival so we just whipped out the farriers kit right there and Leó shod both his front feet. Everyone got a kick out of it.

Team Iceland shoeing in the kitchen stables

The Hotel is about a 2 block walk from the arena which is a good thing because this morning we had to be there for 3 different t.v. interviews at 6.30 am!! They all went pretty well, aside from one live feed interview where I couldn´t here the news casters questions through my earpiece. I ended up just making up answers to what I thought he was saying and it was fine. Way to wing it!! The last interview I had Leó and Caeli riding Stjarni and Glaeta in the background while I talked with Pegasus beside me. At the end they asked if I would get on and do some riding with my team. I didn´t have a saddle, but I know Pegasus well, so I just went for it bareback! Pegasus was so good and it was really fun and impromptu.

One of 3 early morning interviews in Baltimore

…This was the last thing that I wrote while on the tour. Baltimore ended up being the craziest and best weekend I have ever had. Our performances were very tight, the crowds were good and the practical jokes were wild and out of control! If we had only known it would be our last performance. But maybe it´s good we didn´t… Sunday night we went out in downtown Baltimore and I think I maybe got 30 minutes of sleep before we got up to load the horses for the drive home. EVERYONE went out that night. Cast and crew. It was a night to remember. The next day upon arrival at our hub in Blue Diamond Stables in Ohio, after our horses were put away and cared for, we were rounded up on the front porch for a meeting. We were exhausted from travel and sleeplessness from the night before. The words that we heard fell heavy upon our hearts. The tour would no longer go on. The company lost funding and was bankrupt. Blurred eyes tried to hide the shock, maybe we were just exhausted and hearing things. How could this be true? The family that had grown so close over the last weeks would now be dispersed and sent their separate ways. As tired as we were, we had a party late into the night in the hotel courtyard. Laughing with each other all together one last time. Some would leave the next morning, some would leave in a few days, others with their horses in a few weeks.  I had the opportunity to stay on for a while with my horse and some of the other riders who had to wait with their horses before they could be shipped home. These days we spent trail riding, trying out each others horses, learning from each other, having water fights, BBQ´s  and really just hanging around the farm together (Blue Diamond is the most beautiful and fully equipped facility I have ever seen, it was not a bad place to be!) finding any way we could to ease the pain and mental blow of what had happened. In this time also, Sylvie Willms, the amazing liberty trainer and Nazari, the trick rider were married at the farm on their Friesians. It was a beautiful and simple wedding that we were very lucky to be a part of.

Trail riding on Lusitanos

Last day with the team

Wedding of Sylvie and Nazari

Leó tries a Lusitano

Aníta trail rides Naer, the Breton

Lala tries a Friesian

Going home was bittersweet. I was very happy to see my loved ones, but knowing and accepting that this truly was the end was a bitter pill to swallow. Knowing that some of us might never see each other again. Still I go through moments of grief over what was, but I try and focus on the fact that I was lucky to do it at all. I still dream one day we can ride together again. Who knows, maybe we will..

Gudmar Clinic

Posted in California with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by laura

Well, we had a great start to 2012 with our first big clinic of the year. I got to host my “big brother” and business partner, Guðmar Pétursson, for a 3-day clinic at Coast Road Stables. This year he also taught a full clinic for all of the gang in Los Gatos. We had over 30 riders all together and it was by far the most successful clinic yet. We had a light threat of bad weather on the first day of teaching in Los Gatos, but after the drizzling cold, the days got sunnier and warmer, ending in the high 70´s on Saturday and Sunday. Considering we have had nothing but rain EVERY TIME Guðmar has come to Northern California to teach, this was a wonderful blessing. He never believed me that Northern California could be sunny until now. I even got to take him to the tide pools on the beach for lunch one day!

The days were long but the sunshine made it very pleasant. Guðmar taught 13 lessons per day from dawn til dusk and we all had so much fun watching, learning and just hanging out together. Thank you to everyone for participating and I am hoping to bring Guðmar back possibly in September.

I´m posting some photos from the clinics below. If anyone else has photos, please do share them! You can also see some beautiful photos that Eleanor Anderson took of the clinic on her flickr site: ihatefog.  She really captured some great moments!

Looking forward to more great events this year and a never ending adventure with these wonderful beasts that we share our lives with..

2012 FEIF Youth Cup team announced!

Posted in California with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by laura

Congratulations to Ayla Green and Madison Prestine for making the 2012 FEIF Youth Cup team. I am so proud of you, young valkyries.      You´ve come a long way!

Another day, Another year!

Posted in California with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2012 by laura

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope that January has been treating you well so far. It has been ridiculously good weather here, full of sunshine and mild temperatures. I´m waiting for the monsoon to hit any second, it has just been to good to be true!

2011 became such a busy year for us, I definitely slacked on my blogging duties. But highlights were of course the Winterhorse breeding evaluations in May, where Rimma received highest evaluated imported mare and 2nd highest evaluated horse in the show!

June and July were very special for me as well. I got to travel to Iceland with my long time student, Madison Prestine. We had a wonderful adventure and she ended up coming home with the man of her dreams (a stallion of course, the four-legged kind), Straumur frá Enni. After 2 weeks in Iceland Madison went home and I stayed for Landsmót which was a great treat for me after the industry stopping horse sickness in Iceland, 2010. I stayed with my dearest friends, Sigvaldi and Marta and of course their daughter, Elisabet Líf. my little rebel.

End of July and all of August were very busy. My sister Heidi and I held 6 kids camps, each one of them full. So many promising young riders in the Icelandic community! These camps are long and stressful, but so rewarding and fun at the same time.

In September, Annette Coulon and Laurie Prestine hosted a very special day at Mountain Icelandic Farm. An all day video clinic. Everyone got 30-40 minutes to practice on the track and have a video taken for feedback. I ended up coaching 17 lessons!! I was exhausted, but again, it was so much fun, I really hope that we can do it again. What a great way to improve your riding, maybe next time I can take a spin as well! Here is a video that Kathy Sierra put together. Very cute. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJpA4fsLwuI

In October, I of course flew to Kentucky to teach and compete at the 9th annual Kentucky show, my favourite event of the year! This year was particularly special for me for 2 reasons. #1,since it was Keith´s birthday, I convinced him to fly out with me and also DJ the show. We had such amazing music and he and Kathy Love doing the announcing together was one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Non-stop entertainment! Not to mention he got to meet so many members of my horse ‘family’ that I have grown up with over the years. Reason #2, Kathy offered me the chance of a lifetime to compete on her absolutely brilliant stallion, Pegasus frá Skyggni. I was timid at first, but I just could not turn it down. I had so much fun riding him. He taught me so much and I was quite nervous with Kathy watching me, but I think we did her proud. It also gave me the opportunity to beat Guðmar in 4 gait and tölt. HA! But like he said, it doesn´t matter, he owns me anyways. :) It really was an exceptional competition this year. Very talented horses and riders and some very intense finals!

November and December have been very busy with teaching and training, and also juggling family in between.

I am proud to announce I will be launching the new Valkyrie Icelandic website in the next few weeks, I have been working hard on this with my friend, Maggi Trymbill. He is very patient with me and my artistic perfectionism. If anyone needs any web work done, this guys is exceptional!

Also, we have some great sales horses right now. You will be able to check them out when the website is up.

Gudmar will be here to do a clinic and schooling show with me the 1st weekend in March. I am really hoping to get Mette here in August for a clinic and of course I am really looking forward to the big show  at Flying C Ranch in May. I will also be hosting clinics and kids camps in California and around the US. Schedules are in the works.

I want to thank you all for your support through another year and am looking forward to 2012. It already is shining with possibilities!

P.S. Excuse the typos. I am flying high from some very strong espresso and my hands are shaking!

Hærra ég og þú

Posted in hólar with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by laura

Well, my adventures with my silver lightning are coming to a close. Rimma is headed back to Kentucky to be bred to the stallion Týr frá Árbakka and hopefully will give me a filly with the ability to travel at speeds of light just like her mother (AND father too!).

It´s been a fascinating 3 years of tests and triumphs. Our entrance exam to the 3rd year at Hólar, a turbulent school year that started with a broken leg, a pesty coughing virus and ended with a miraculous passing of our exams after two weeks training. Then it was on to America! An unforgettable performance, pacing through fire at the Equine Affaire in Massachussetts, competing in 5 gait and pace in Kentucky, California and Wisconsin and of course last weekend was our final act, the ultimate test for any horse and trainer. The breeding evaluations.

I met up with Rimma in Kentucky at Gudmar´s and after a few days practice there, we drove 9 hours to Winterhorse Park in Wisconsin where the evaluations would be held. There where 21 horses being shown all together, 1 of them would be Rimma and another mare I would ride for Dan and Barb named ‘Flís’ who was a daughter of Baldur frá Bakka.

We had a wonderful 10 days in Wisconsin and what a team! Gudmar, Carrie and Terral, Dink, Coralie, Bill, Kathy and me all worked together day in and day out to take care of our 15 horses that we had on the grounds and when it came time for the actual event things ran smoother than we could ever hope for. Gudmar was riding every other horse in the evals so that meant that as soon as he was done with one horse, another had to be tacked, warmed-up and ready to go straight to the track. We never missed a beat and we had so much fun doing it.

In the days leading up to the evaluations I had a few moments of doubt and asked Gudmar to show Rimma for me instead, but he wouldn´t hear of it. He knew that Rimma and I were perfectly capable of doing it on our own and he encouraged us day in and out. I don´t know what I would have done without him. On our last day of practice on the track he just kept telling me to breathe deep. Forget the world around you. There could be 10,000 people watching and waiting but you don´t even notice. It´s just you and your horse out there, doing what you do best. Keep breathing and just ride. This stuck with me the whole time. He was right. I know Rimma inside and out. We are one. There should be no pressure or fear. Only joy. 10 laps of showing the world how she is the most brilliant mare in the world and I am luckiest one alive to be allowed to float astride her silvery back.

As we were warming up to go on, a song by my favourite Icelandic band named ‘Hjálmar’ came on. It´s words enveloped us and I knew we would be just fine. The song basically says ‘no going left or right, the only way for you and me is up’. ‘Hærra ég og þú’. Rimma and I marched onto the battlefield (or 300 meter track as it were) with this cry ringing in our ears and we showed the masses that the only way for us to go was up. She performed perfectly and we received all the scores that we had hoped for, improving her trot, canter, slow tolt, walk, spirit, general impression and of course her pace. On the second day I paced her 3 times in a row and improved her pace score even higher to a 9.o. She flew with all her heart, my silvery blue streak of lightning, her hooves barely dusting the ground. Rimma received highest scored imported mare in show! There couldn´t be a better ending to this journey that we began what seems ages ago.

So now Rimma will meet her stallion Týr, and with her foal will spend the next year on the green pastures of Kentucky and then she will go to her owner, Lee Ann in Utah, where hopefully they too will learn to fly together, higher and higher.

Here are some pictures of us over the past few weeks. I am still awaiting photos of the actual evaluations and will post them when I get them.