This winter spent in Florida was one of rebuilding, restructuring, reformatting, readjusting. Although at times my goals seemed unattainable, they were all met. All three of my horses will be returning to VA fitter, stronger, more experienced, and in Seajack's case, a lot thinner. My last outing at the Fork was one that challenged not only my riding skills physically, moreover it challenged my mental abilities. As many of you know, this was my first advanced run since my catastrophic fall at Rolex, nearly a year previous. Although it seemed like a millenium in passing, as I entered the main arena on Al to halt at "I," many thoughts ran through my head. I thought of how almost a year ago, my life changed drastically, how I myself almost lost my life, and how I did indeed lose the LOVE of my life and the one thing that constantly reminded me that life was worth living. I thought about my walks up and down Cardwell Rd. with my mom and grandmother to rebuild my strength in my lungs and ribs as I was eagerly rehabiliting; how much I WANTED to be back in key form, and how much I wanted things to be back to normal again. What I learned from the event is that things will never be back to normal, for I am constantly reminded of past mistakes made whenever I peer into the mirror. However, as depressing as this may seem, in knowing that things will never be the same, I learned to move on and use past experiences to my advantage as a means of becoming a better horseman and person. Throughout my dressage test I thought about how much this moment meant to me, that I had finally come back to the level where I left off, and how long and tedious a road it was to arrive here. As I finished my final halt and salute, I thought of all my past horses, how much I loved them, and how much they have given and taught to make me the rider I am up until this point. The Fork, for Alex and I, was a tremendous success. My dressage test was in the pouring rain, but with the help of my coach and Al's amazing participation, we scored a respectful 30.8, which was good enough to place second on day one of dressage (overall 4th in the Advanced division). Cross country was the next task for us to undertake. There were many times I questioned my ability and constantly sought affirmation from my coach and my mother. I second guessed myself, over analyzed lines on the cross country, walked the course one time too many times; the truth is, I didnt believe that I could do it. Alex is so green at the level having only run three advanced in 2007, and although he finished third in the CIC*** at the Fork in 2007, that was when I was in my peak form in riding; what a difference a year can make! The only thing that made me carry on was that I knew deep down that we were ready to attack the course. I stayed at intermediate longer than expected so that I could settle in easier and everything Al had done leading up to that point was giving me the thumbs up to move up to advanced. He was telling me that he was ready...it was my end, however, that was in question. After heading out of the start box, planning to take it slow and steady, my whole mind set changed, and changed quick! After every fence and combinatinon was completed, my confidence level soared, as did my trusty partner Alex. Everything I asked of him, he delivered with ease. I was somewhat surprised as to how well he conquered such a daunting and rigorous course. I was particularly nervous about the abundant amount of corners that were placed on different angles and open striding combinations which have always been a trying concept for Al and I to understand. However, Al quickly tried to mirror his big brother's cross country skills as he cantered around the championship Advanced course confidently and flawlessly. Needless to say, as we crossed the finish flags, with ears pricked incurring only a handful of time penalties, I was all smiles! I will never forget the deafening cheers from a supportive crowd at the water fence in addition to the few people who introduced themselves to me to show their support...I was so very proud of our achievements we made right then and there, I could have retired on that high of a note! Not to mention that the elevated pitch of my proud mother's screams and cheers made it all the more bountiful a success. Show jumping day did not disappoint with only two rails down in a tremendously challenging course that kept the jump crew on their feet! Al felt a little tired from the previous day's abundant efforts, and accompanied with his jockey's excess of nerves, we had two unfortunate rails. I was very proud of his efforts and because Al hasn't had a rail in over two years, I chalked the extra eight penalties up to "rusty riding" and "frayed nerves!" With the commencement of the weekend, I was extremely relieved and confident, feeling that my horse and I are ready for the upcoming three star held at Jersey Fresh. I was also extremely proud of my coach who won the CIC*** aboard My Boy Bobby and was third in the Advanced with Ballynoe Castle RM, both of his Rolex horses. Buck has worked harder than anyone I know and for him to be riding so well, on such endlessly talented mounts (both owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal) is a feat that all of us aspiring riders dream to emulate! So, my next goal to look to is located in Allentown, NJ. My original plan of riding in the Ocala CCI** with Seajack is being re scheduled for a later date as I need to rebuild Seaj's confidence into water, since it has been a little shaken since his move up to intermediate. Oh well, as mom always reminds me, "Always have plans A, B, C, D, and E handy." I am working on Plan B I guess. Seaj will move back down to prelim for this weekend's show. Fancy will add another training level to her repertoire of experiences while Al will compete in the Advanced combined test, which will enable us to practice our three star test and allow me to get back into the show jump ring! I will update you as soon as I can before the long yet highly anticipated trek back home to Crow's Ear. I certainly am missing my bird Milly, my 5 year olds Peewee and Guppy, Banjo Bunny, and my Jess, but for now I am keeping my eye on the prize with three great outings at the Florida Horse Park. And I cannot forget my tough job of being coach to my mom and Sucky Solar (now termed as "Superstar Solar" by my optimistic mother) at their training level three day event! I also want to wish all of the Rolex competitors good luck and warn you all to watch out for Bobby, Reggie, and Buck! Im keeping my fingers crossed to see a shiny new watch on Buck's wrist at Jersey! Until then, sit back, heels down, and kick on!!!