Orintha Silva’s Florida Diary
(with the North American Dressage Trainers 2008 Symposium in Stuart, Florida)
February 23, 2008 was a very cold day in Pepperell, MA, having just had an overnight snowstorm. However, Mr. Bond Interagro, a 5-year-old Lusitano stallion owned by Tom Mikes, and Tirza, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Mr. & Mrs. David Clark, were loaded and on their way to Florida thanks to my husband, Phil Silva, and his Equine Valet Service. They were both going to be ridden with Christoph Hess, FEI “I” Judge and current Director of Education and Training for the German Olympic Committee.
This was the first time Phil had shipped horses for me to Florida. So, like all the other clients he has had, I was expecting my daily phone call or text messages and photos of my two horses. I was probably his worst client…guess it’s that husband/wife thing! But, most importantly, I knew they were in great hands!
I flew out of Boston’s Logan Airport and arrived in West Palm Beach in 3 short hours. Tom Mikes met me and housed Phil and me the entire time at his beautiful home in Palm City. Tom also let me use his hybrid car for the duration (got a little nervous when it shut off at a traffic light, but that is what it is supposed to do, so I later found out).
Tom had an amazing agenda for us while there. Tom had the Interagro Lusitanos at his barn while they prepared for their first auction here in the United States in Wellington.
So, we would attend the auction, the Challenge of America Breast Cancer Fundraiser, and also a polo game. When do people sleep?
Phil pulled in with my horses at 9 p.m, about 24 hours after I arrived. They were in good shape, of course! The horses were tucked in for the night and then so were we.
We took the next two days slowly as the horses were not used to the heat. It was about 80 degrees. Light lunging and light walks were taken around the farm. Forgot to pack bug spray, so off to the feed store I went. Thank goodness Tom has a GPS in his car as the very first day I got lost. Took a right off of the barn street instead of a left. Everything down there looks alike, all the palm trees, the homes…at least at first they do, so it was understandable why I was lost.
When I was ready to start with more work with the horses, I called my friend and trainer Lou Denizard, 2007 Pan Am Game rider for Puerto Rico. He was in Florida for his first winter as well. He came down in the evening and schooled me on James. James was a little excited about being back at his Florida farm, but then calmed down and went right to work for us. Lou rode Tirza. She was very tight. But, she never took a wrong step and worked hard for him. I was very appreciative to have his experience and guidance during that time. Both rides went successfully and smoothly. Thank you, Lou!
That weekend we went to the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI –W, which was a qualifier for the World Cup Finals in Hertogenbosch on March 27-30, 2008.
The horses and riders were amazing. I was able to watch Courtney King and Jane Hannigan and was very excited that they would be representing us at the end of March.
The next day we went to the Polo fields. It seemed like everyone in Wellington was there. We arrived in time for the traditional divot stomping (watch out for the steaming ones) and then were offered champagne on the field. That was fun!!
Back at the farm there were two gentlemen from Brazil and three women from Sweden who were riding and taking care of the 20 Lusitanos that were going to be in the auction. They worked so hard, and got along so well with each other and everyone else at the barn. During the week of the auction, there were many who came out to see the horses and try them to consider for purchase. Having been part of it for a while, it was going to be exciting to see them at this grand auction.
Off we went to the auction in our “Sunday best” to be greeted by valet parking, wine, and then the music started. A rhythm battery presentation began, and the drums sounded so amazingly beautiful. I have not been to Rio, but Rio seemed to come to us in Wellington that night! And the beautiful dancers, could they move! They could use a little more clothing on their costumes, but then again, Rio is home to the most beautiful women in the world. Soon after the music and dancers stopped, the auction began. There were approximately 30 horses, and I believe all of them met the reserves and found new homes, most here in the US, but some to Mexico and Canada. Dinner was served after the purchases and again, I was ready for bed! Not used to all the night life, but enjoyed every minute of it.
The next evening was the Challenge of America. It was a breast cancer fundraiser, and it consisted of three competing quadrille teams. My trainer, Pam Goodrich, was on the USA Team, competing against the International Team and Team Canada. All three were so much fun to watch, but Team USA stood out from the rest with many moves that were difficult for one horse, never mind six of them! Pam, we were all so proud of you and your team…congratulations!! Then we adjourned to dinner and dancing. All the beautiful people and outfits made the evening even more fun.
Even with all this night life, every day started at the barn at 7:30 to feed, clean and ride James and Tirza. Thank goodness it is a covered arena as I was not used to the temperatures and bright sun. I did ride one day out back in the second arena, but the covered one was my first choice. All around the covered arena is a race track. The track was so much fun and a great way to distract your horse from the ring work. But working on the track did not seem to interfere with anyone who was in the ring. Tally-ho!!
The clinic was approaching and Tom wanted to add rubber to his footing for that extra cushion. The rubber arrived and within 2-3 hours we had even better footing. It had a little extra bounce that my horses are used to from our arena back home in Massachusetts. Now the clinic horses started arriving. It was so amazing to see the farm change from all the Lusitanos to mostly very large Warmbloods. However, a few Lusitanos were still present.
The clinic was three days with Christoff Hess and then two days of the symposium with Stephen Clark and Linda Zang and one closed day of testing for the Judges taking the FEI Young Horse Testing Exam. The judges symposium is usually held in Europe, making this the first time here in the United States.
I started on James for my first ride with Christoff Hess on Wednesday. He looked really good as Colleen O’Connor-Dzik had arrived from Majestic Gaits Farm (Brookline, NH) and helped me out by braiding both James and Tirza. Colleen came down with Kathy Hickerson to audit the entire week and was kind enough to help me with my horses. James loved the audience and did not ever take a wrong step and was very confident through the entire lesson. We just worked on sending him forward; because he’s a young stallion, James is a little behind the leg, so all work was forward and even into the bridle.
When I entered with Tirza, I told Christoff that we needed to work on not riding her with my hands. She is very forward and needs to be more sensitive to my aids. So, off we went, and he worked specifically on my request. By the end of the lesson, we were doing shoulder-in, half pass and she stayed on my aids and forward into my reins and hands.
Thursday the horses had the day off from the clinic, but I still took them around the farm for some work. Because Tirza is for sale, we had visitors from Barbados scheduled to see her.
Friday's lesson with James was a little different. We worked with two other horses at the same time. James loved it. Of course the first horse was a very big Warmblood, so we had to canter to keep up, but that was okay as he is forward. Then we ended with galloping around the arena (by ourselves) to just keep him in front of my leg. He did splendidly.
My last ride with Tirza went well. She was on my aids, forward, but needed to work on our uphill position. At the end of the lesson, Christoff said, “On Wednesday when you said this horse was for sale, I believed you, but today I think you should keep this horse!” And then he said, “ Michael Poulin and I were talking about you and your horse at dinner last night, and we would like it if you joined us this weekend to ride for the judges.” What did he say? Did I hear him correctly? Yes, we were invited to ride for the weekend. How could I say no? Of course we would…anything to help the judging system internationally. So we were not done riding yet.
Mr. Poulin pulled me aside and asked for information on me and Tirza. I was scheduled to ride the 5-year-old Test on Sunday morning. Yikes! I did not know it, so I had to skip dinner that night with my friends Kathy and Colleen in order to study. My plan was to ride it for the first time on Saturday, and the difficult parts I would pull apart and practice. It was not going to be pretty, but that was okay, as it was good for the judges to see “bobbles” and to react to them.
Saturday arrived and now we had a whole new audience with 70 judges and more auditors. I planned on listening to everything and would practice that evening as the ring was neatly groomed when I arrived that morning (I did not want to disturb it for the symposium). Early in the afternoon, Mr. Poulin tapped me on my shoulder, calling me to the side. He asked if I could put Tirza together to ride for the judges to show them her gaits. “Of course,” I replied and asked when? “In 20 minutes.” Gasping for air, Colleen and I ran to get her ready.
Tirza was a little tired that day, but did a nice job with many compliments about her gaits.
So now…being so tired, I was not able to practice the test! She was just too tired and it was very warm. So, we would do the test “cold”. Not our usual practice, but after all, I was helping the judges.
Sunday was a beautiful day. I wore my show whites as I thought that was appropriate, and so did Mr. Poulin. (Of course I was the only one…ugh!!) Colleen braided Tirza. Her energy level was very high! She was back!! We were the first ride, so everyone was very excited. The first part of the test went smoothly, but we had some bobbles in the counter canter work. When we were done, Stephen Clark split all the judges and auditors into groups and they were asked to score me. I felt like I was an ice skater waiting for all the scores. I thought it would be very hard to hear what they had to say, but I felt they were right on and again, I was there to help them with their testing. Due to the bobbles in the canter work, Stephen Clark gave us about a 15 minute lesson to show everyone that Tirza has a great canter and just needed to work out some wrinkles. He was so kind to help us, as that was not what this part of the symposium was about. Everyone was so appreciative, and I am so glad I decided to ride for the judges. Besides, after having 70 of them staring at you, it would be a breeze to come back home and have far fewer judging you for the show season.
My time in Florida was an amazing opportunity for me. I could not have done it if it weren’t for the support of everyone at Ten Broeck Farm. Thank you all for being patient while I was away. I have learned so much and have so much to share with everyone. So, let’s go riding!!
Also, check out our other recent activities!