Saturday, February 23, 2008

Renoir's Class Results

Renoir’s class was this morning (Arabian Breeding/Halter 6 & 7 yr old Stallions) with our trainer Jerry Schall. It was a tough class and Renoir came in third behind two US National Champions (MPA Giovanni and Major Jamaal). He was awarded two Scottsdale Top Tens (the first with Ian), which is nothing to sneeze at. Scottsdale is an excellent indicator of how a horse will be able to compete nationally. Both Jerry and his brother Jeff said for us to keep in mind that this show is especially political – with back scratching and other conflict of interests sometimes adding to the competition. Regardless, we are pleased with the outcomes from both Renoir’s showings. Ian and I are very proud of our boy!

I’m hoping his 2008 show debut gets more people interested in breeding to him, which is where the money is really made in owning a stallion. Of course, his first foals begin arriving in April and it will be fun to see what he sires.

We met some nice horse people here, including the couple who bred Renoir. They were very pleased with his development and how we are bringing him along on the show circuit. That’s quite a compliment for us – we’ve only been doing this for two years and with Renoir, only since last summer.

We’re packing up the trailer to get it itched to the truck and will begin heading home this afternoon. It is bright sunshine, blue skies and 70+ degrees. We plan to drive as far as Albuquerque and then we’ll stop for the night. Ian expects – weather permitting – we’ll get home late Sunday/early Monday morning.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ian & Renoir

Yesterday was a LONG day waiting for Ian and Renoir to show. Ian was dressed in his suit and ready to show by 1 p.m. but because of the large classes that ran before, the pouring rain, unseasonable cold and eventual venue change, he didn't show until 5 p.m. We made ourselves comfortable at the Shada Arabian stalls, where we waited in its living room area. Finally, just after 4 p.m. classes were moved from the outdoor Wendell Arena to covered Arena 5a, and this patient duo showed in a class of nine. The two moved beautifully together and Ian always had him under control -- no small feat with a stallion. I was proud of both and so was our trainer Jerry. In fact, Jerry was SO sure Ian had nailed the first place that when the second place horse was named he said, "Come on, Janet, let's go and get his [Renoir's] ribbons so Ian can take him back in a show him in the Championship class." BUT as we walked to the arena gate another horse was named in first place. Renoir DID get a Scottsdale Top 10 ribbon and plaque - which is a great honor too.

Today, we will be able to review the judging cards and learn where each of the three judges placed Renoir in the final class standings.

All of the supportive, good wishes were really appreciated.

Now, Renoir shows with Jerry in a tough open stallion class on Saturday morning the 23rd! They will show before a different judging panel.

Sure, it would have great for Ian to win with Renoir in the AOTH class, but neither of us are disappointed with our efforts. Ian had FUN and that's a big part of why we are doing this.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day from Scottsdale

This morning on the radio, NPR's Morning Edition did a segment with one of my favorite chefs, Nigella Lawson! To listen to her talk with the host about chocolate was a treat in itself.

Listening to chefs inspires me, so for breakfast, I baked blueberry/cornbread muffins and made cheesy scrambled eggs using black pepper-laced cream cheese. We bought cards for one another – Ian’ a very good card-picker-outer. He also reminded me that our first Valentine's Day together (2002) was spent amongst boxes in our rooftop apartment on Padilla in Barcelona - we had moved in days earlier. This afternoon he brought me three delicious chocolate truffles, which I shared, and a bottle of Spanish cava, which is chilling for a Valentine's dinner toast.

Here in Scottsdale it’s a day of waiting. All of the barns and vendors have finished putting their storefronts together and are ready for tomorrow’s show opening. We’ve listened to saws, hammers and staple guns for several days as things come together in the stall areas. Now all the draped fronts with farm logos are up – kind of like booths at a trade show – and we’re ready to begin. We joined in by putting up a 48-inch high, twinkling lighted horse at the front of our living quarter’s trailer.

Lady, Ian and I have walked the West World grounds watching horses being exercised. We noted how many riders multitask talking to clients or staffs back at home while either atop steeds or standing point as a horse lunges around them.

Tomorrow the vendor areas will open! There are hundreds of square feet of everything equine related that you can imagine. I rarely buy, but it is fun to shop. These tents are also dog friendly, so Lady comes along on her leash.

I trimmed Ian’s hair and beard, so like Renoir, he’s “show clipped” and ready to perform. He’s decided to wear a charcoal grey suit with a pale pink shirt and a two-tone purple tie. His class is number 50 in Wendell Arena tomorrow afternoon. The afternoon sessions begin at noon, and since his is the tenth in it could be around 2 p.m. MT. If he and Renoir place first or second in class 50, they return immediately and compete for the championship in class 51, which is composed of first and second place winners from classes 50 (Arabian Breeding /Halter 5 year & older Stallions Amateur Owner To Handle) and 49, (Arabian Breeding /Halter 3 & 4 year old Stallions Amateur Owner To Handle). The winner of class 51 will be named Scottsdale Senior Champion Stallion AOTH (amateur owner to handle).

If you’re into watching some classes live, you can do this online at Arab Horse.

Legacys Renoir will also show in class number 386 on Saturday morning, February 26. The classes begin at 8 a.m. (Arizona is in Mountain Time) in Wendell Arena and Renoir shows with Jerry Schall in the second class of the morning. We will be packed and ready to head home soon after that class runs. It’s a long way home and I am scheduled to work Tuesday morning.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Scottsdale Roadtrip

Here’s the first installment from Scottsdale. We are here attending the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. Ian will be showing our six-year-old purebred Arabian breeding stallion, Legacys Renoir, in a halter class for amateur owners this Friday and Renoir will also show with our trainer Jerry Schall in the open stallion class on Saturday, February 23. We bought Renoir in December 2006, and have spent the last year getting him ready for this campaign of national-level shows. He will show here, in Las Vegas in April, at Canadian Nationals in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in August and, finally, in Tulsa, Oklahoma at US Nationals in October. As a yearling, Renoir blew everyone away here at Scottsdale when he unexpectedly won. Horse shows, like many other things in life, have their political aspects so an unknown horse and handler winning is really big and says a lot of the quality of the horse.

Now that you know why we’re here, let me tell you about our road trip from Minnesota to Arizona. We left as planned on Saturday morning, February 9, just after 10 when my shift ended at the post office. Ian and Lady picked me up in our one-ton Chevrolet dually pulling our living quarters trailer. (We have an RV spot reserved in Scottsdale on the West World exhibition lot.) It was snowing as we headed south. We decided to try an alternate route around the Cities and learned that highway 65 to highway 100 to 494 to 35W is NOT the way to go. It looks shorter, but it has its various forms of delays. Next time, we’ll just go 95 east to 35 and go south.

The weather turned a bit scary south of Lakeville when the sun that shone in the Cities was blocked by fog and blowing snow. The drifts in the ditches were high and allowed the accumulated wind blown snow to snake across 35’s blacktop. We drove slowly, following the center line, as the roadway edges were blurred. Why people do not understand that this is a time to slow their speed and put more space between vehicles is beyond me. I knew sooner or later we’d see cars in the ditch and sure enough the numbers began to mount near Owatonna. In fact, we sat stopped just past there and waited for 30 minutes as a bad accident was cleared. A one-ton truck hauling a six-horse trailer was nearly involved in that pile up, but rather than hit a car, this driver had made the good sense move toward the snow-filled ditch rather than hit his brakes, possibly jackknifing or tipping the load. The truck and trailer were buried in snow midway up the door, but all were safe an unharmed. We saw the driver patiently reading the paper waiting for his turn to be pulled out. The going was slow from there pretty much to the Iowa border where the weather improved.

That first day we drove the 700+ miles to Wichita, Kansas, arriving at 1 a.m., where we spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Ian fired up the generator, turned on the furnace and the bed’s electric blanket so we were quite cozy.

We were up just before 6, and after a McDonald’s breakfast, were on the road by 6:30. Here we left I-35 and took US 54, heading southwest. We saw green grass beginning to grow and saw the occasional oil derricks with their rocking hammerheads kissing the ground. Ian tells me that in the UK they’re called nodding donkeys. There was not a lot of snow, which left the palette mostly shades of brown, yellow and dirt white. The prairie stretched out before us and it was rare to see a mailbox, let alone a town. Here, I think route inspection must be done with crop duster using binoculars to spot mailboxes rather than by car!

At 8:30, we passed through Greensburg, Kansas, which was leveled by a killer tornado in May of this year. The devastation was almost complete, with its post office, and maybe two other businesses, looking untouched or maybe they were rebuilt already. What had been mature trees were nothing more than twisted, dead and dying trunks. It was very sad – a true testament to the power of such storms.

We crossed onto the Oklahoma panhandle at 10:30, where the air coated everything with a layer of frost, and a red clay color was added to the winter weary landscape. When we did pass through small towns I saw food chains I thought were long dead, like Long John Silver’s. The stretches of road were so long between towns and houses that a sign reading, “USPS rural carrier roadside stop,” just past Hooker, Oklahoma, seemed very appropriate. Surely, one must need a break from all that driving.

For many miles our road ran adjacent to a busy train track. All were running opposite us, headed northeast, all filled, often with more than two engines, but none with a caboose. I can’t remember the last time I saw train with a caboose.

At 11:30, we entered what is surely the most uninteresting part of the great State of Texas. That said, just outside of Dalheart Ian and I saw what must have been nearly 100 acres of penned beef cattle. There must have been thousands in large lots on both sides of the road. It was feeding time and grain was being delivered using a 12-ton dump truck, the same type used to haul gravel! Each pen had jet sprayers mounted at the corners and I think they’re to either cool the cattle or keep the bugs at bay – maybe both?

At 1:15, on Sunday, we crossed into New Mexico and lost an hour as we went to Mountain Time. From here it was 52 miles to Tucumcari, where we would join I-40 west. The weather was warmer and we stopped at a wide spot in the road called Nasa Visa, which is about the same size as Stanchfield, where we stood in the sunshine and ate cold, baked Cornish game hens we’d packed, while Lady sniffed and stretched her legs. The nicest building in this otherwise ghost town was its brick-red post office.

The warmer sun found us as we headed west along I-40. The prairie gave way to red rock outcropping and billboards touting jewelry, pottery and other goods made by Ute and Navajo. It was still on the coolish side and some snow was still evident at the higher elevations. We climbed to Albuquerque and stopped for dinner at the Route 66 Casino, just as the sun set. After dinner I dozed in the front seat and Ian woke me as we crossed into Arizona at 10 p.m. (CT). I took heart thinking our trip was near its end – HA! It was another six hours until we arrived in Scottsdale.

We left I-40 at Holbrook and took what amounts to the back roads. The decent from 6000 feet went well, but it was tiring as we slowed to 30 mph every time we came to a steep grade that lasted for several miles at a time. Last year, we’d gone to Flagstaff before descending into the Phoenix Valley, and that was harrowing with cars zipping around us at breakneck speeds while our truck and trailer with a combined (empty) weight of 26,000 pounds needed to be kept under some degree of control.

When the mountain road emptied into a sleeping Scottsdale, Ian pointed us across the city and found West World and our designated RV parking spot easily. Not wishing to wake our neighbors, we whispered directions to one another as the trailer was parked and we settled in for what was left of the night.

Yesterday, after a few hours needed sleep, we arose later to sunshine and temperatures that climbed into the 70s. A nice remedy for the weary.

The truck and trailer were both caked in salt and other winter road dirt. We found a Laundromat for our own wash, which was conveniently located next to a coin-operated car wash. I pumped quarters into a slot while Ian manned the high pressure spray gun and soap wand that eventually revealed the truck’s true color.

We ran other errands around the city with our windows down and we dressed short sleeved shirts and packed our winter wear in the trailer for return trip use.

Also on Monday we rendezvoused with Jerry Schall and Ian had a lesson with Renoir. Renoir has been here in Scottsdale since the end of January and seems to really enjoy his sun-filled stall and the warmer temps. Ian and Renoir looked very good together and we’re looking for a very good result on Friday. Wish us luck.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Happy February!

Tomorrow, in the United States and Canada, it’s Groundhog Day. In weather lore, if a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, marmot or ground squirrel, emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If the groundhog sees its shadow, it will return into its burrow, and the winter will continue for six more weeks. Well, it’s cloudy today in Minnesota, but regardless of what the furry rodent sees or doesn’t see, there will be another six weeks of winter here! Maybe even another 10!

The weather in January was really deep freeze cold with actual temperatures at 10 and 20 below zero and with wind chills that dipped and stayed at -30. The corn stove did the best it could, but there were days it was just miserable and even being indoors was best spent bundled in layers, which sometimes included ski pants, gloves and winter hat. Today, we are at 10 degrees Fahrenheit and with no wind it feels quite nice when doing chores outside.

Ian fixed three burst pipes in the crawlspace area of the basement. These old copper pipes were not insulated and of course the basement itself is not heated. Ian replaced the lengths of pipe with a plastic pipe product called Pex. He’s also placed an electric space heater facing into the crawlspace and this has done the trick to keep our water from freezing. Ian also built a hutch around the water pump in the basement because its switches, which are mounted on an outside, un-insulated wall, kept freezing open and stopping the flow of water into the tank, which meant we didn’t have water then either – in the house or the barn. This hutch is also warmed with a small heater, and we have had no problems in recent days. I can’t imagine what a plumber’s bill would have been!

For the last two full weeks in January, I worked at the post office for
Helen while she was in Mexico on vacation. It was fun and I learned a
lot. Now I am back to my usual Saturday and Monday morning shift. I am called in once in a while when Helen has an appointment or just wants a day off. She’s been working with the postal service for decades – four, I think – so she’s got plenty of vacation time she can use.

The horses we have here at the farm did very well during the cold
weather. They are quite fuzzy and well nourished. They have places to
get in out of the wind and they have access to 800 pound round bales of
hay and warmed 100-gallon tanks of water. With their shelter, food and
water needs being met, they’re quite hearty creatures.

Our stallion Legacys Renoir is in the southwestern United States in Scottsdale, Arizona acclimatizing to the warmer, drier weather that he will show in on the 15 and 23 of this month. Ian will show Renoir on the 15th in an amateur-owner-to-handle class (AOTH) and one week later our trainer Jerry Schall will show Renoir in the senior stallions open class. Ian, Lady and I are leaving for Scottsdale on Saturday, February 9. It’s 30+ hours of driving and we’ll stay on the show grounds in our trailer. Tina will take care of the horses, barn cats and chickens while we’re away. We will board our housecat Tiger at a local kennel. We plan to begin heading back to Minnesota on Sunday morning.

We’re starting to hear percolations of interest from real estate agents
in Spain regarding chalet number 11. For the English version, click on "English" in the top right-hand corner of the page, then click on the second hand listings and scrolled through to page 9 to Chalet Riofaro. We continue to pray this gets sold soon at its asking price.

I’d love to be going to Europe soon! We’ll see what the future holds!