It's the weekend of the ISSO clinic and awards banquet, and I'm already exhausted even tho' it's not even Saturday afternoon.
Wednesday afternoon Michelle came out to Woodwind for a few days before heading up to the meeting. She'd been down in Virginia hunt country for the previous few days, riding aside and soaking up the atmosphere of the hunt country. She had a side saddle lesson or two from Devon, plus went out hacking with her as well as being whisked off for an afternoon of hunt races and tail gating with the hoy paloy. She had a whirlwind trip through Northern Virginia and Annapolis before arriving at our place, still energetic and ready for further sidesaddle adventures. We had a brief hour before dark, so we threw saddles on Owen and Cressie and headed out for a quick loop on the trail.
Michelle never runs out of energy or enthusiasm so on Thursday we were joined by Bruce to head into downtown Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor. After a late lunch she was still keen to see more (we had to squash her request to rent a dragon shaped paddle boat and splash around the harbor), so Bruce and I took her for a drive through the Worthington Valley...we wanted her to see that Maryland has its own tradition of horses and hunting. Once back at Woodwind we had 45 minutes to catch our breaths and imbibe some much needed caffeine prior to battling our way through rush hour traffic to get to the airport to pick up Michelle's friend, Lee who was also coming to town for ISSO.
The airport trip was an adventure all itself since the airport is good sized and we were searching for one single lady from Canada...we did manage to miss each other and after an 90 minutes of wandering around the terminal we were finally united by a helpful baggage handler who loaned Lee his cell phone. I'd been battling a migraine all day and was definitely ready to drop, but dinner was in order so we headed to downtown Westminster for a meal at O'Lourdan's, and a quick bite turned into a 2 hour meal and hen fest that eventually resulted with the waitresses dropping hints that it was time for us to leave. We finally reached Woodwind around 10:30 PM where we all tumbled into bed.
We spent Friday morning poking around Cold Saturday, exploring the grounds and barns and speeding up and down the carriage road in the mule. Had I know of their interest in old architecture I'd have arranged for a tour of the house itself, but we were running short of time and I'd promised Michelle a dressage lesson on Owen. So we returned to the farm, tacked up, and headed down to the arena. My Manorgrove, of course, was too big for Michelle, but she managed quite well and she and Owen got on suitably. They were able to do some basic lateral work (shoulder in, travers, halfpass) as well as some of the advanced FEI stuff like piaffe and passage. Michelle wanted to try a canter pirouette and that turned out to be the most challenging movement. Owen wasn't quite sure what she wanted, so I hopped on, quickly rode a pirouette, and then handed Owen back to Michelle. Once Owen realized what Michelle was asking for, he obligingly sat down on his haunches and hopped around at the canter...it was very neat to see how well the two of them did together, and I was glad she got the chance to ride the tricky stuff...I'd have felt terrible if Owen had been a pill and just shuffled around the ring at a lazy trot or canter, refusing to cooperate.
Lee it turns out has ridden aside for many many years, and my impression was that her primary interest was western sidesaddles, tho' she is also interested in learning to flock english sidesaddles. Because of their location, it is very difficult for them to get any sidesaddle fitting done competently. But I also discovered that Lee is a consummate sidesaddle enabler, playing the part of that little guiltless shopping conscious that sits on her companion's left shoulder whispering all sorts of aside temptations. Michelle had already done a fair bit of shopping on her trip and arrived at my place with a new vintage Roberts & Carroll purchased from Devon as well as some odds'n'ends from a trip to Dover Saddlery. While helping her pack I found wither tracings for all three of her horses surreptitiously packed into her boot bag! But I have a feeling that Lee will have Michelle sitting in any and all sidesaddles for sale this coming weekend, not to mention trying on habits, etc...they were both extremely keen to experience all things sidesaddle and were mentioning purchasing some additional luggage to tote their acquisitions home to Canada! Friday afternoon I sent them off in Michelle's rental car, more or less pointed NE toward the meeting site with a Maryland map and some freshly baked brownies before dragging my own weary carcass home for some much needed rest. I was still battling my migranine, now persisting into its third day of life.
Tonight is the awards banquet, in which Michelle will figure prominently so I will catch up with her and Lee there. I did get a brief email from Michelle stating that they had found the hotel, along with two additional habits that fit her as well as a fascinating supply of sidesaddles...I despair for her credit card!
No doubt Michelle will have lots of things to post about her trip on her own blog, not to mention several hundred photos. Whenever we were driving she'd call out, "stop, stop, I need to take a picture!" I think Lee even got some video of her performing piaffe on Owen aside, so stay tuned into Millésimé Equestrienne for some fascinating reading.
So far we've had a wonderful time and we'd like to tempt both Michelle and Lee back to the US for more sidesaddle activity...hopefully we can get them to make the trip for Camp Leaping Horn and Sidesaddle at USET.
So, when are the rest of you going to come for a sidesaddle sightseeing tour?