Friday, December 30, 2011

Woodbine, next stop Aiken!

My favourite jeans are packed, Sunny's bed is packed and Digger's two favourite sticks are conveniently sitting on the backseat of the truck. So we are FINALLY ready to head south for the winter! Albeit a week late..... After such a mild winter I thought how could a few extra days hurt?! Save some money, earn some more money and sleep in my own bed a few more nights. A decision I seriously regretted the day after we were supposed to leave and it started SNOWING! So tomorrow we head off with two trailers, nine horses, six dogs (only 2 will stay) and five people. Everyone is excited, probably because we haven't had a show in about six weeks and we're all getting a bit of cabin fever. Just to give you a little insight into the life of a travelling competitive barn, this is how the morning will pan out:
Hour 1: Five people arrive at the barn and start wrapping nine horses. Same five people load nine horses onto two trailers. About three words are spoken the whole time.
Hour 2: First Red Bull and cool morning air start to take effect. Dogs sleep. Humans limit conversation to weather, 'how much further' and discussing the new Facebook.
Hour 3: Dogs sleep. No conversation since the MASSIVE Facebook argument. All humans asleep except drivers.
Hour 4: Stop for petrol. Dogs wake up, go for a run then back to sleep. Humans that were arguing switch trucks.
Hour 5: Start to see South Of The Border signs. Dogs sleep.
Hour 6: First 'are we there yet'. More South Of The Border signs.
Hour 7: Stop for more fuel and breakfast. Arguing parties make up agreeing that Facebook, in whatever form, is still pretty cool. Both of them update their statuses accordingly. Head count of horses to make sure we still have all of them.
Hour 8: South Of The Border theme park/rest area/restaurant/motel comes into view. We drive straight past. Dogs sleep.
Hour 9: Every topic expect, including Australia VS America, has been discussed. It's a tie.. Dogs sleep. 50th time someone asks 'are we there yet'.
Hour 10: Final fuel stop. Dogs wake up, then don't go back to sleep.
Hour 10 1/2: Arrive! Unload horses and settle them in for the night. About three words are spoken the whole time. Dogs run around in joy.
Hour 12: Dinner and quiet drink to ring in the NEW YEAR!

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year where ever you may be! I'm looking forward to a big one!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Update on the new Irish guys!

Ari with Tate Shaw.

Our two new Irish 3 year olds have had a busy couple of weeks, firstly travelling from Ireland to America. On one day they had their feet on the ground in three different countries, Ireland, England and America! They've now been with us for ten days and are coming along very well. Firstly we had to decide on names, Irish 1 and Irish 2 just didn't really sound personal enough.. The bigger one of the two has incredible charisma that would make him stand out in a herd of a hundred horses. He also has his own agenda and a lot of self confidence, he therefore became Ari Gold after one of my favourite TV characters. If you don't know who Ari Gold is, google 'Entourage, Ari Gold', you'll find out! The other one is super athletic and a fantastic mover that has EVENTER written all over him. Watching him trot around the field you can see every joint and muscle move and can imagine him jumping ANYTHING! And to ride he's already wanting to go on the bit better than a lot of 5 year olds! So he has become Lux Tremendous (Lux being his sire), Trevor for short. Both are green with Trevor being the more experienced of the two. Therefore Tate Shaw, local young jump jockey, has been helping out riding them. Both horses love him and he's doing a great job. Trevor will come to Wellington, FL, with me while Ari will stay in MD to get a few more rides with Tate before heading to Aiken, SC with me at the beginning of January.

Trevor's first time thru a gymnastic exercise. Tate Shaw in the saddle.

Trevor showing off his pretty face!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Instead of planning and packing for my annual trip back to my home land for Christmas under the sun and blazing hot temperatures, I'm planning and packing for my annual southern migration to the warmer (albeit not blazing hot) temperatures of Florida and South Carolina. This year I'm foregoing my trip home and instead investing that money on more dressage and showjumping training. My regular readers will know that back in May/June I drastically cut back on my teaching in order to focus more on my own training. By going to Wellington before Aiken I get in 10 days of focused, intensive training. This is something I do for myself but also greatly benefits group of students. I always do better when I'm in an intensive environment surrounded by other top level riders. So Cole, Liberty, Ari, Trevor, Ron and I will hit 95 south just as soon as I've eaten my Christmas dinner!
This is my second favourite time of the year: it's a time to reflect on the good, the bad and the unexpected from the year past and plan for the upcoming one. My favourite part is starting the new competition year! I plan on writing another blog to analyse this past year, so I won't go into that here. But I would really like to use this one to thank my supporters and team publicly. Each person, whether they take one lesson a month or own a few of my horses, plays a huge part in keeping this ship afloat!
Amy Gaynor: my manager. Thank you for being the organiser and glue that holds everything together. I'm excited for what you and Cindy will be able to do this spring.
Heather Pettit: our barn manager. Thank you for taking such great care of the horses and being so attentive and observant.
Kaden Weaver: Working student. Thank you for keeping everything running efficiently and getting on all the horses that buck!
Deborah Shuman: Thank you for keeping the financial wheels turning!
Hannah Firth: Working student. Thank you for keeping Kaden under control and laughing at my very funny jokes.
John Loosaririan: Working student. Thank you for your kindness to the horses.
Paula Bollinger: Sunset Hill manager. Thank you for keeping the McCuan horses organised and keeping the farm so well run.
Taylormade Stables: My teaching barn. Thank you to Robert and Kathy for taking care of and supporting our endeavours.
Sunset Hill Farms: My base for my horses: Thank you to the McCuan Family for providing such a lovely facility to train out of.
Rege Dvorksy and Jeanne Leone: owners of my best friend Cole!
Carla MacLeod: Lola's owner.
Pat and Jill McCuan: owners of the McCuan horses, most notably Mario and Liberty.
Amy and Alan Taggart: owners of Ti, Cowboy and Cindara.
Beth Sokohl: owner of Charmer (temporary ride) and at the top end of my favourite student list!
Thanks to my students and other supporters that make my job such a pleasurable one, and that help me get closer to my goals.
Thanks to the organisers and volunteers that enable me to compete week in, week out and provide the base of an industry I earn a living from.
Most of all tho, thank you very very much to the horses that give so willingly and generously each and every day. I may be the trainer, but you are the ultimate teachers and team mates.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I normally avoid clipping horses at all costs. For me it's in my top 3 most hated jobs, unpacking the trailer after winter being number one. Although I'm very competent (having clipped a lot of horses as a working student) I usually say that I don't know how to, that in Australia our horses don't grow winter coats and we don't even have clippers. This is a lie but again, in my top 3 hated jobs! Unfortunately for me tho one of my best horses is a little bit special in some ways (as all the good ones are!). He has tonnes of ability and along with that comes tonnes of attitude. He has an amazing extended trot, he bucks. He has a super jump, he bucks. He can score a 26 in the dressage without even trying, he also bucks! The attitude also comes out in the barn, most notably this summer by doing his level best to kill both himself and his handler. Both of them ended up in hospital! The horse required surgery and a long break. The handler with a concussion and almost severed finger! And what terrible, cruel, unusual punishment was she attempting on him at the time of the accident?! That's right, clipping him!!! So now heading into winter almost all of my horses have been clipped except this one. His coat has now grown to embarrassing lengths and the job of clipping has become unavoidable. So, given his last display, it's up to me to clip him myself. Put my body on the line. I have to say this horse and I have a very good relationship, he's one of my best friends (weird, yes). So to begin I enlisted the help of Uncle Sedative, just to take the edge off. And by edge I mean put the horse very much into a dreamlike state that he wouldn't even notice if we had another earthquake! I also had the kind and helpful assistance of Rachel Best to stand at his head and warn me if he so much as opened his eyes! Her assistance was involuntary, I just said can you hold this horse for 5 minutes.... So with extra sedative and Rachel in place, I set to work REALLY fast. It was going really well until I got to his stomach and I noticed a swish of his tail. I looked at his head and he seemed fine, his nose was fairly close to the ground. I went back to work thinking I'd imagined his tail swishing. I then got to his back legs and the tail swished again! This time the Rachel Alarm System went off alerting me to the fact that his head was way up in the air and he was very much awake! So a little more sedative and we were back on track. This time I got half way up his neck before the tail started swishing again. I tried to push on but visions of severed fingers and horse hospitals held me back a bit! So I gave him a pat (to tell him I love his fighting spirit) and put him away for the evening. Now I have a 2/3rds clipped horse and round two in the clipping ring facing me tomorrow..... Lucky he can jump!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ronnie and I taking in the sights of Autumn.

Autumn for me is a two week period to catch up on everything that I have been putting off all year (eg my record keeping..) and to plan for winter. As winter approaches my barn grows from 20 horses in MD to 20 horses in MD AND 15 plus horses in SC. To SC I not only take the horses but obviously a couple of people (this year John and Chloe) plus a few dogs and a whole barn full of winter needs for horse and rider. And this year with my focus shifting from teaching back to my personal riding goals and sales, there are ever more horses to pack for! There's also the last couple of horses to sell that aren't moving south, Titanium and Raleigh this year. Add to this the preparations for the Irish horses and we keeping pretty busy!
This week I also upgraded my trusty old 4 horse trailer for a 6 horse one which should reduce the trips up and down highway 95 from 4 each way to 3 thereby saving about $2000 in diesel. So there is that to be washed and prepared for the winter also. Last but not least there's my wardrobe to consider. I need to make sure I have fleece lined breeches in the lastest colours!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jeanne, myself and Lillian. Not a great shot, but the only one we took on the whole trip!
Cole's year ended well with VA Horse Trials with a top ten finish in the intemediate. I was super happy with his showjumping: of the 35 horses who started, 2 showjumped clear and 4 had one rail down each. Our hard work and experience in the showjumping (it pays to go to a couple of indoor shows) paid off with just one rail down. 10 horses alone had 5 or more rails! So Cole now gets a short break then back into to get ready for winter. He just has a couple more boxes to check (changes!) before his first advanced mid Feb. Lightning had a great test with a 29! Not bad for his second event! Unfortunately he wasn't so keen on the cross country, he just didn't understand why he had to gallop AWAY from the safety of the trailers and the other horses! Ronnie did a combined test, I thought it would be better to wait until there wasn't snow on the ground to do his first training!
Then on to Ireland for a spot of horse shopping. It was my first time there and I'm well and truly impressed with the quality of horses! Jeanne Leone (Cole's co owner, with Rege Dvorsky) came to keep me company and make sure I didn't get carried away with eating sausage rolls! I did eat 6 within the first hour but I digress... We saw some super horses, didn't crash the hire car (I was thankful to be driving on the correct side of the road again, I'm much faster!) and got to see the famous Coolmore stud in the flesh. And now the wait begins as we prepare for the new arrivals at the beginning of December! We were also able to catch up with Lillian Heard (while trialing the wonderful Fernhill horses) and see how she's settled into Irish life. Apparently quite well judging by her new found driving skills and new lilt in her accent! From Potomac to Kilkenny via West Grove, she's gathering some awesome experiences and skills. Back on the home front I want to share this message (Rege's personal blog!) from Cole's owner, Rege. Cole is one of my best horses and I was well assured he was in good hands! I'm also glad to see that the eventing terminology is entering Rege's vocabulary! Hope you enjoy as much as I did:

Rege's Blog
Well, Cole is missing his rider,Kate, while she is in Ireland looking for his replacement.Today was my first ride on Cole, being Kate has left. I immediately noticed Cole hard on the bit with little flexion on his left side.On the flats, he needed some coaxing on the counter-canter and I found it tough to get him on the proper lead.I was hoping to have my helmet cam for this historic ride, but I left it in Jeanne's Jeep and did not have the keys to open the door.Oh, to be back in Pittsburgh.Back to the ride. Cole did well over a sequence of skinny's and corner jumps. But I was surprised to be launched in the air as he bucked me off before the liverpool !!!All this said, I believe I can make him the horse he can be. I will put him on a series of neutracueticals until Kate returns.Conclusion: Cole is like an old woman with a Virginia ham under her arm crying that she has no bread!!!He has the heart, but needs the Chadderton back in his life.The grass is always greener on the other side, NOT....he's allready here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

VA Horse Trials Day 1

You know it's going to be a rough day when then first item on the agenda is a riders meeting to determine wheter or not to move the cross country forward a day because of the impending snow! My vote obviously was a very definate YES! Let's not cross country in the snow please! Cole's dressage was a 39, not the best, not the worst. The cross country was challenging enough, not so much with the jumping efforts, but with the time. I wasn't able to get going in the first part of the course, however the second half rode a lot better and faster. I was happy that Cole jumped confidently into the water. After a 3am start and a non stop morning/afternoon (literally) I thought it would be beneficial for the younger guys to go in the showjumping competition in the Coluseum. This contest is (from what I could understand) based on Take Your Own Line rules with style points thrown in. So in preparation I put on my best (only) Kingsland jacket and headed to the Coleseum! Let me just point out that this structure is a little bit disappointingly named, there AREN'T any lions or gladiators. Ron and Lightning didn't actually get that memo, (I think Ronnie thought he saw a lion, lightning definitely thought he was a gladiator) so it was good to get them in there jumping around before they actually have to compete. Tomorrow is dressage for Ron, Lightning and sj for Lightning, xc for Ron. Cole has the day off before he has to sj on Sunday. . I'm hoping to wake up tomorrow to clear skies and 70 degrees. Judging by the falling snow outside the windows of my Days Inn hotel I don't like my chances....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Liberty is back!

Liberty. Le Cheval photo.

As you recall Liberty was injured (self inflicted after he picked a fight with the clippers, blades: 1, horseflesh 0) a couple of days before Bromont. Not one to do things by halves, he then proceeded to get sick and required a trip to the vet hospital. This part all happened while I was at Bromont with Cole. I was only gone for 6 days but when I left he was a happy, healthy (albiet with a limp), fit horse that was 3 day ready and rearing to go. I got back and he'd been so sick that he was almost unrecognisable. Even tho he'd had the best care imaginable, he's a bit of a worry wart when he doesn't know what's going on and the antibiotics he was prescribed where a bit strong for his stomach. He then proceeded to colic at which point I decided it was best if I stay with him in the barn for a couple of nights. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a HUGE deal because I'm afraid of the dark (only thing other than snakes and odd numbers that I'm afraid of) AND we have a couple of ghosts in the barn. At least that's what I'm told and the power of suggestion can be quite real, ask any psychologist.... Also a HUGE deal for Liberty because he has read 'Stranger Danger' and takes the idea VERY seriously! Or at least at that point he did. Therefore a stranger (me, even tho he's seen me everyday since we bought him) sleeping outside of his stall wasn't his idea of a relaxing night in full of colicing and other strategies to cost us more money or send himself to an early grave. He got over that then his original leg injury become complicated which set us back a bit further. All very frustrating for a horse we had just bought and I'd only had to chance to compete half a dozen times! And each time he showed me that he's an absolute superstar in the making. By the time he was over the complication to his leg it was still only a couple of weeks since his injury. So I had a horse that was stall bound dying to get out (almost literally), a bit highly strung and still basically 3 day fit! And our good friend Dr Williams tells me I have to hand walk him! Not a hope I'd be able to hang onto him without him leaping free of the constraining shackles (aka lead rope) that I'd insisted he wear (again, just a lead rope). I had a better chance of staying on his back. 8 weeks of walking with Liberty takes you thru many phases: Denial - I'm NOT injured, I WON'T walk. Only bucking. Anger - I'm injured, but I STILL WON'T walk. Only bucking. Bargaining - If you let me trot I'll stop bucking. Depression -If I'm only allowed walk, then what's the point bucking? O, that's right, it's fun! Acceptance -I must only be allowed walk for the rest of my life, but at least I can still buck!! I have to point out that the bucking wasn't a pain or anger type thing, more of an entertainment ploy for (for Liberty not me!). Some days he would come out bucking, others he'd leave it till he heard something distracting outside of the ring, other times he'd go for days on end without bucking leading me into a false sense of security. Then when I'd finally think it was safe to answer my phone while on him, the bucks would return! After a few weeks of trotting he was allowed to start cantering again.

ANYHOW, long story short. Yesterday was Liberty's first full day of serious work (where he's considered to be a competition horse again) and today he will do a little jumping. Very exciting for me to be able to pick up where we left of in June again. I absolutley love this horse and am very excited about the winter season on him. Speaking of winter, I have several very nice horses that MUST be sold by the end of November, email me for more info.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good bye and good luck Mario

This post comes, not with sadness, but with the bittersweet feeling of losing something that was not quite mine in the first place. Everyone who follows my blog knows that recently I've branched off into the showjumping world in my spare time with a wonderful horse, McCuan Mario. Although I'm an experienced eventer, he has been my first grand prix showjumper, something I never thought I'd achieve, nor did I set out to do so. With every horse I'm lucky enough to ride and compete I'm always well aware that they ARE NOT MY HORSE! My job is to sell horses and I've sold more than I could recall. Therefore I am prepared at any time to lose one of my close partners, sometimes because they don't make the grade, sometimes because the owner has changed directions in their personal life. But after a certain time with a horse I do admit to developing a closeness that is hard to lose. Mario is obviously a super talented jumper and it's become time for him to persue that career. So he's off to a new owner to continue along that path. Pat and Jill McCuan are wonderful supporters of my career and goals, it was thru close communication and a mutual decision (and my absolute blessing) that we decided to let him go in his direction and I continue mine. The difficult thing for me is that I have only a handful of close friends, equine or human, and I've considered this horse one of my best friends. I've spoken openly about a select few horses that guide and support every rider and for me Mario is one of the most special horses I'll ever come across. He failed as an eventer and I've spent hours hitting my head against a wall (explains a lot of things, I know!) trying to make him into something he's not. Then with the guidance of Marilyn Little-Meredith and her husband Ben (he's also an Aussie!), we found his calling in life. Along the way he has given me some great owners, a super farm to be based at (along with Taylormade of course), improved my jumping skills, some wonderful new friends. And the benefits run down the line: Heather, my barn manager, has many horses now under her care. John, working student, is flat out. Kaden, now back in Australia but a very integral part of the group, had a job in a big active barn. Paula Bollinger (Sunset Hill Manager for the McCuan family) was responsible for choosing me as his rider and has been an integral part of his career. I know Mario can't be credited with all of this, I do have other wonderful horses and owners! But he's certainly been a special partner and his influence will be seen for many years to come. Always there's the 'what-ifs': yes I'd thought about pursuing the showjumping further to see what we could do. Instead I have to think about the 'have dones'! Thank you Pat and Jill, you gave me a great gift with your horse and I hope to repay your faith with Liberty and Ronnie!

Thank you Mario. Good luck. I'll miss you. So will your best buddy Cole.

Interesting Mario facts: Imported from Ireland by Jan Byyny. Lillian Heard's mum was also involved with him. Hans Gerling (P and J McCuan) bought him and campaigned him until he went back to uni. Kelley Williams (A Bit Better Farm) also has been a part of his career, riding him until I moved to Sunset. I'll leave you with my favourite video of us, our first Grand Prix where I fell off at the last jump! Of course I hung onto his neck until we crossed the finish line so we still got a ribbon!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First time helmet cam!

Loch Moy Horse Trials today and tomorrow. Today Pam Patton brought along her helmet cam for me to try out on Cole. I can't say I've been a fan of the old helmet cam, that is until today!! What a great way for everyone to see what it's like! I know everyone else has already figured that one out! Check it out and let me know what you think. It didn't fit well with the helmet I used and my helmet kept slipping over my eyes, hence the great views of horse neck! Click on the link below.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One big happy family!! Kaden centre back.

Kaden's first winter here was pretty hard work....!

My year began so grandly is coming to an anticlimatic close! A poorly timed allergy means Cole won't go to Fair Hill as he missed a couple of gallops and Morven which means his fitness is not where I want it to be. A bit of a bugger but in the scheme of things it's not life changing. He already has his qualifier from Bromont and we can finish the year with a few more intermediates. This weekend at Loch Moy I have Cole, Ronnie (Pat and Jill McCuan) and Lightning (Julie Scott) so I'll be busy enough. A couple of my students had successful weekends at Morven in the pouring rain; Gibby Booth and Laney 4th. Alex MacLeod and Jim were 3rd in the intermediate after taking it easy xc. She broke her jaw in multiple places only a few weeks ago so it was a good test as to whether or not she's fit enough to head to Fair Hill next week.

This week also saw the end of an era with my favourite working student, Kaden Weaver, heading back to the motherland, Australia. Almost with me in tow, such is the homesickness I often feel particularly for the Australian foods and scenery.. But I digress! After 2 years working with me here he takes back an American wealth of knowledge, experience and great stories! He leaves behind some good friends and great stories that we'll be telling for years to come! For example: the day he went to the feed store and came back with a ferral, all devouring ferret! Or the time I was followed home from dinner by an unwanted suitor and Kaden got out of the car at the first stop sign and told him kindly to go in the opposite direction. And kindly I mean there was a large amount of shouting and the odd fist thrown! Kaden also was the first to put his hand up to get on any horse the was giving anyone trouble. He had the odd nap in the aisle. He was Diggers best friend. He always had everyones best interests at heart. He was the best customer in our vending machines! The hunt will miss him, all of my students will miss him and of course I already do. I had to bed the stalls this morning myself....! Thank you Kaden for everything you have done!!! You left the barn a better place than you found it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Columbia Classic

Mario and I at the Columbia Classic. Photo courtesy of my wonderful, super duper, all round greatest groom/help/wonder Jenny Barnhard.

I love eventing with all of my heart but, if I were a man (one of those high profile Wallstreet types) and I had a mistress, it would be showjumping! This weekend I rode McCuan Mario in the Columbia Classic in MD. Patrick and Jill McCuan are fantastic owners and wonderful supporters of my riding and I was excited to show their wonderful horse off to a home town crowd. After torrential rain the day before, that had several high profile riders scratching their horses and the others losing sleep over the footing, the sun came out for 6 minutes and provided us with at least usable footing. These guys would dread to jump in eventing, I swear the mud wasn't that deep.... The reason I stopped eventing Mario (other than his amazing jumping talent) is that he doesn't particularly like when he's not certain of where his feet will be when he puts them down. We ended up mid field, which I'm a little disappointed with (I enjoy winning money!), however they were many more seasoned horses that didn't even make it around. He is the most wonderful horse and we've had some great results together at grand prix level some I'm excited to see where we go from here.

Thank you so much to everyone that came out to support us! I loved that we could show you what we're doing in my 'other' life! And I saw the carefully made signs with our names and that made my day! That's a vision that'll stay in my mind for a long long time. I feel very lucky and proud to have the support that I do on so many levels.

On the eventing front I'm heading to Morven Park this weekend as our last preparation for Fair Hill in two and a half weeks. Tomorrow I'm jumping with Phillip, I just hope it goes better than my horrible dream last night where I lost Cole at a show only to end up seeing him being taken away on the True Prospect trailer!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Upper Marlboro eventing: old school!

Cole and I at Plantation. Courtesy Tracy McKenna.

I must preface this with a huge thank you to the organisers and voulunteers who run this event, they did a great job. Eventing at Marlborough on the weekend made me feel as tho I was back in Australia! That is except for the fact that the ground was NOT as hard as a rock.... The similarity was that it was a contest of survival of the fittest! It definatley wasn't a dressage competition, some people didn't even make it thru that phase.. On to the showjumping, again claiming multiple riders, a number of whom simply went the wrong way after fence 2. Then the cross country where it was all happening! From the xc warmup and start box all I could hear was 'rider fall at 10', 'refusal at the water', 'runout at the corner', 'stop at fence 3'. Fortunatly for me the worse the course rides, the better I do. Doubly fortunately I was sitting on Cole and riding down a grade. So for us there were no problems of course and he won even with a few time faults. Out of 28 starters, there were only 11 clears and no one made time. I was really happy with how he felt in the dressage and he scored well. Next up for him is Morven Park then onto Fair Hill. Cole's dressage has improved a lot in the last few months to the point where he's now quite ridable in the test and I feel more confident of scoring on him.
With Mario I'm heading to the HCCC Grand Prix in Columbia, MD. This is the biggest grand prix in the state and conveniently located just down the road from my barn. And after jumping him in a lesson today at Raylyn Farms I'm feeling pretty good about how he's going so hopefully we can put up a good show for the one hundred million people who have said they're coming to watch! And to those one hundred million people: please DONT wear the shirts festooned with Mario's name! I'm starting to feel a bit more at home in the showjumping ring now rather than just an eventer getting lucky galloping into some big jumps. Check back on Sunday for a update.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Danny, the love of my life!!! Perhaps I shouldn't use this intro when I meet guys, in hindsight it may be slightly off putting.....

This week I've a lot to tell you about how which horse is going, where they've been and where they're going. But I won't! I want to tell you about my favourite horse ever, Danny! I had a message from Australia today from the rider who bought him when I moved to the US and that got me thinking. Every rider has a horse that made them. By that I mean a horse that gave them experience, confidence, knowledge and exposure. I first saw Danny when I was 15 years old at Pony Club. I was a hot shot (I thought!) instructor when this lady (Toni Cormie, later became a family friend and long term fan) brought this HUGE chestnut gelding to a lesson. She explained to me that he was freshly broken and experienced in trail riding. And that that experience was limited to the 1 hour she had just ridden him thru the bush to get to the PC grounds. He was 4 years old. I said 'Great! Let's teach him to jump!'. Let me explain at this point that pony club in country Australia is NOTHING like pony club here in the US! For starters here you have matching jumping rails and you teach dressage. Neither of the two were considered to be necessary at Woodford Pony Club! Your horse either had to be a camp drafter (google it if you don't know what it is. It involves cows) or a show jumper. Danny was afraid of cows so I picked the alternative. And boy am I glad I did! I skipped the trotting poles, because I hadn't yet figured out how to measure feet, and went straight to the cross rails. He took to it like a duck to water! Pretty quickly we had him jumping around a small course like he'd been doing it for years. Of course I thought I was pretty special teaching him this in such a short space of time, it wasn't until many years later that I realised he was the special one... Not long after this jumping lesson Toni came to me with the generous offer of a lease (I had no money, zilch, zippo, nada) at which I jumped at the chance. Little did I know where this wonderful horse would take me. We ended up in NSW where I got a job with this tall skinny guy called Boyd Martin (I think he went on later to do quite well in the eventing world....!) at Heath Ryan's place. Heath, as I've described before, was a childhood hero of mine (still is). It was Danny who gave me the ride to get in there. Whilst there he took me from prenovice (training level) to three star and competing in two world championship selection trials and one Olympic selection trail. My entire base of my profession is based on that horse. He taught me how to jump a ditch (gallop!), how to do dressage (keep as still as you can), how to jump the biggest ditch/brush in the world, located at Goulburn (gallop and close your eyes), how to steeplechase (gallop really fast, close your eyes and hold the mane). He also taught me horse management, ie if you do steeplechase really fast with your eyes closed holding onto the mane, you risk injury to your horse! Thru that injury I began my education on lameness diagnosis and rehabilitation and returning to the top level. Both topics I've learnt a LOT about since. Dan also gave me the basics fitness training of the event horse. He allowed me to make mistakes and get away with them. Then he taught me how to learn from them. Together we learnt more dressage than eventing calls for. As well as being an advanced eventer he also was advanced (4th level) dressage, as well as having a crack at prix st george. Together we learnt canter pirouettes, tempi changes. He was spot on every time at all his tempis including one time changes. Not bad for an eventer! When I left Australia he went to a wonderful Young Rider who continued to compete him. He's currently 19 and still going strong.. He also was a member of the Indian eventing team, ridden by a rider who told me his job back home was to KILL anyone who crossed the border! He was also a close confidant of the prince. You can bet I didn't offer him any riding advice!

I forgot to mention that Dan was as horse shy as a horse could get, bucked like a bronco and I fell off him WAY more times than I care to admit! I kept a monkey grip (bucking strap) on my dressage saddle for him. When someone commented on how it must be for young horses that I rode, I'd just smile and agree.....!
Anyhow, that's the horse that started me into this wonderful, enviable career!

Bluey, the second best horse in the world!! My first pony, she was so naughty (with her tendancy to bolt) I wasn't allowed off the lunge for the first year.....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

An earthquake, a hurricane and a tornado.

Either Voldemort is angry because Harry destroyed another Horcrux or this is what an approaching hurricane looks like.....

Each week is pretty well flat out here but this week there was even more going on than normal in the way of natural and unnatural phenomena! First the tornado, aka Heath Ryan. Being the highest level rider in my immediate area has it's obvious advantages, however one of the disadvantages is that it's quite lonely when it comes to bouncing riding ideas around. I've made no secret of the fact that my dressage skills have been on a confusing downturn since moving here which has been very frustrating. So I jumped at the chance to ride with my old trainer, Heath, at Phillip Duttons farm last week, then again for two days at my farm in MD. And worth the wait it was! In Australia I didn't remember any horse NOT being able to do dressage! Suddenly all mine can again, to my HUGE relief. I had been getting a little too clever with 'managing' my horses in front to create a frame, rather than riding them from behind. Heath soon fixed that with a series of encouraging (for want of a better word) terms and expressions! It felt so great to be back in the system I grew up in and rode under for such a long time.

Mother nature was also obviously VERY excited with my breakthrough providing us with an earthquake! So I'm sorry to all those who suffered damage, it was my fault... And now, just a couple of days later, I'm sitting here watching a hurricane build up and throw things around my house! My active imagination is has concluded there isn't one Mother Nature, rather a few, and right now they're in the equivalent of a WWF bout playing tag team wrestling!

On the competition front I kept my horses at home this weekend with only Alex MacLeod on Jimmy competing at Loudoun Horse Trials. She made worthwhile my trip to train her by winning the open prelim in fine style. In fact she showed her true Australian training by being the only person to finish clear and winning by 65 points!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jumperland or Hollywood?

I did get a bit confused myself yesterday at Culpeper when I found myself sitting in the bleachers next to Robert Duvall! I was there with Mc Cuan Mario (Pat and Jill Mc Cuan) in the grand prix and was waiting for the course to be set. Feeling a bit weary after a whole morning watching hunters and counting Ralph Lauren shirts (I can't count beyond 99 so stopped at that point), I took a seat on the bleachers to renew my conserves of energy. The guy I sat next to did look a bit familiar, I thought he might be a farrier I'd met somewhere or a groom. Then, as there was a storm coming, I was going to ask if he could check the weather on his phone (I'd lost mine) when I started having flashbacks to The Godfather! So in my confusion I figured out it was better to look at the sky instead and figure it out myself! So after a quick 'hi' I went back to studying the course. Mario and I have done a few grand prixs now and I've gotten over the fear of the size of the fences and now can make much more technical plans and ride a lot better lines. The bigger they are, the better he jumps which is pretty handy. The line I was most worried about was the last one. It was a liverpool oxer (which looks the size of the Great Wall of China), 5 short strides to a vertical (tallest on the course, maybe the whole world), one stride to an oxer (easily big enough to double as a garage if you put a tarp over it), one stride to another vertical. The liverpool really encourages you to gallop at it, the danger however is that you land a bit strung out and struggle to get the 5 strides in. Then finishing with the triple is always and bit tricky with the horse being tired (there were 16 jumping efforts). To make it even more challenging it was lined up directly in front of the out gate! Anyway, everything went to plan, ESPECIALLY the last line, and we jumped around clear to finish in 6th place. At the beginning of this year I wouldn't have thought I'd be jumping around Grand Prixs, let alone clear! But then that's one of lifes delights, not knowing what's around the corner! I swear the eventing is in the forefront of my mind and am very much looking forward to Seneca with Cole and Ti. That IS after another jumper show tho......

This week I'm hosting a clinic with my old trainer (and guy I most look up to in the world!), Heath Ryan. I actually went up to Phillip Duttons last week and rode with him there too. He will be at my place on Tuesday and Wednesday teaching my students and I. I look forward to updating you on how it went. Then it's back to Culpeper for some more showjumping!

Mario is not in the least bit impressed by the hunter jumps... They're too small AND rustic looking....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Leesa Miles

See the trademark smile?! Loved by many, never to be seen again.

It seems as tho I've had some pretty sad blogs this year amongst all the wonderful goings on in the barn. This one will be no different unfortunately. But no matter how bad it gets (floods, fires, family deaths and sicknesses in my own and friends, lost horses etc) the prevailing lesson is: when the going gets tougher, the tough gets going. That and the horse community pulling together. Some people are in your life for a short period, others long but everyone is there for a reason. Leesa Miles presence in everyones life was to somehow better it and support one in only the way a mother/sister/aunt could. And she played that roll to so many people, whether she was giving someone a thoughtful card at their first 3 star or teaching the Korean team how to keep their horses on the bit (VERY difficult!) or to just listen to a youngster who just realised being a working student isn't all cheese and crackers. It's mostly full of crackers... Not that she was all nice and friendly, goodness help you if you didn't take care of your horse! I've never had such a bollocking then when I didn't wash my horse off properly one day, I learnt that day to wash ALL the sweat off! That is, until the water runs clear! There may have been the odd cuss word.... Don't ask who's side from tho! Cancer took Leesa too early from all of her dear friends, as they say 'heaven needed another angel'. Back to the 'tough get going' bit. Please allow me to introduce Paul Pudner. There are two things you need to know about Paul: should you ever need advice on the quality and properties of wine, he's your man. The other is that if you need a guy in your corner, he's there. I know this because I lived with him in semi third world conditions aka The Bunkhouse! Those who knew the bunkhouse would know what I mean.. Anyhow I digress, cancer is one of those things that anyone except science can help with. Paul couldn't save Leesa alone however he's doing everything in his power to ensure as few people as possible feel the heartache and devastation of the loss of a loved one to cancer. I'll let you read his story in the link below. Please please please take the time to do that and pass my blog and link onto anyone you think would be interested in his cause. Imagine being ONE person starting out with an idea. Just run to raise money. I'm a fairly brave person when it comes to backing myself with ambitious ideas but I couldn't imagine doing this. Not to mention all the RUNNING! Read his story. Tell your friends. Oh, that it's a great chance to check out a hot guy in running gear. AND for all the non Australians, he has an accent..

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Congratulations Julie Scott!

Julie and Lightning testing the waters at their first ever show together..

Congratulations to Julie with the purchase of her wonderful new gelding, Lightning!! I purchased and started Lightning from the track and look forward to continuing to work with him and Julie. He is a beautiful chestnut gelding with all the athletisism of a gazelle leaping thru the grasslands of Kenya! AND the wisdom and thoughtfulness of an owl planning his dinner!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I love my sport

I love horses that stand for ridiculous photos. This was back in Australia. photo bellaphotoart.

I also love that I can earn a living from my passion. That is eventing, not watching episodes of Entourage and the Simpsons! Although if I thought it were financially viable I would..... I'm home from a weekend competing at Millbrook with Ti, Charmer and Cole. Ti continues his successful run with another ribbon and Charmer felt great, for the most part, around her first xc in quite a few months. Both are classy horses and I'm super happy to be riding them. I was very disappointed with my ride on Cole to the water jump, I got caught pulling when I should have been kicking. This horse is generally super reliable cross country and I was caught a little off guard at the water jump. It comes up quite quickly off a blind turn and I think a combination of me still trying to balance him, the crowd and seeing the water made him rethink his honest nature.. In the past I would have had a bit of a tantrum and it would have ruined my next week, but in light of some of the horrible things that have happened to my friends recently, it's not the last chance I have with him and we sure as hell won't repeat that mistake... Anyway, I digress! What I love about my sport is the home away from home atmosphere, and the friendly rivalry between mates of all levels. I spend a third of my life at one show or another and it doesn't matter where we are, it's still the same. The same friendly faces, the same happy horses and the same crazy dogs running around with their owners (predominantly riders) swearing that that particular dog doesn't belong to them and that theirs is DEFINITELY on a leash...... I love the commentary on cross country, whoever happens to be doing it that weekend. It has such a relaxing feeling that I'm contemplating taping the xc commentary at Waredaca this weekend to use as a sleeping aid should I become an insomniac! I love that if you get bogged there's always a tractor to pull you out. I love dodgy hotels I have to sneak my dog into. I love the new pinney system. I love being able to confidently converse with the truckers at the petrol station about the power in my truck engine. I love the joy on my owners faces when they see their horses do well. I by far and above all, tho, love the horses. Week in and week out they try their best to do the job I give them. They rarely complain, they are brave and look after their riders. At the end of the day they are a riders best friend and the only one who can really understand just how LOOONG that long spot was and how they got their rider out of trouble!

I also love the Smoothie Lady, but that's a different story altogether....

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saugreties update

After a midnight dash to get back home last night and a full day of teaching and riding today, I can finally give you my Saugreties update! Firstly to Cole, he was a bit of a superstar by jumping a double clear on Friday and picking himself up a HITS on The Hudson ribbon to add to his fairly extensive collection. As I mentioned, it was his first time back in the ring since Bromont and it was a super experience before we head to Millbrook Eventing this weekend. He was careful and jumped a pretty good round. As an eventer it's invaluable experience to be able to get in big rings and jump around. We really only see them when it comes to CIC's or CCI's. Not to mention the courses are a heck of a lot more technical.
Mario was super as always. The ring at Saugreties is huge and it's only the second time he's been in one that big. For him that's a challenge at the moment as it gives him a bit too much of a chance to look around. I had a disappointing rail on Friday that he barely touched and on Saturday he jumped a super round, spoilt only by his first experience with an open water. He remembered back to his eventing days and calmly popped in and bounced out! The amazing thing about that is that when he was eventing I could NEVER get him to calmly jump into water! He's a super jumper and I'm pretty lucky to be along for the ride.
I may have spent too much time in the sun or my glass of wine is potent but I have to say that I really do feel lucky to ride all the horses I do and have the students I have.
Culpepper is Grand Prix is next for Mario and in the mean time I'm taking Ti, Charmer and Cole to Millbrook.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mario, Cole and I getting ready to leave. It's impossible to get all three of us to look at the camera at the same time...

Now that the so called 'deadly heat wave', all two days of it, has finished it's the perfect time to get back into full steam ahead again! Today after a full day of teaching and riding (we start early) I headed to Saugreties in New York where I'll spend the next two days competing Mario and Cole. It's a 7/8 hour drive but from what I've heard it's one of the best jumping shows around making it worth the effort. For Mario obviously this is now his career. I'm not doing the grand prix on him tomorrow, not because he's not jumping well (he is, he's jumping out of his skin!), but because I want to consolidate what we've been working on in the 1.40m. And from the research I've done the course designers ask some pretty complicated questions here. We'll be back at the grand prix in Culpepper in two weeks so it's only a brief respite from having to jump that big! I'm also being very careful about using his legs wisely and not just jumping him for the sake of it.

Cole is here to do the 1.20m. For him these shows are all about getting exposure in a high atmosphere ring, something very difficult to get in the eventing until you get to a CCI. After Bromont two star he had some time off (as it was a CCI and he had been competing since January) and I've only jumped him a couple of times since he's been back in work. I have to digress here and tell you about his first jump session after his break! Most horses will give you some type of 'fun' ride jumping after a break,whether it be a playful buck, cheeky spook or other high jinks designed to test the security of your seat! This time Cole's game plan (I could tell he was plotting something as soon as he saw the jump saddle) was to jump his first fence beautifully without changing his rhythm or balance. At this point I was pretty happy with myself for a job well done when he landed and cantered around the ring. This may seem pretty normal to you, but when I say cantered around the ring I mean he put his head down like a Thelwell pony and just cantered. I couldn't stop him! Fortunatley he decided he'd better start working after he'd shown everyone where I stood and proceeded to jump really well. I took him for a lesson with Phillip yesterday and again he jumped super. He just gets better and better with his showjumping. His xc is great, the dressage is coming. So back to the show here, the experience he gains at this shows directly relates to how he showjumps in the eventing. I'll just do two classes on him here as he's doing Millbrook intermediate next weekend.

Please check back again tomorrow for more updates!

This video is from my last show with Mario a few weeks ago.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The 'Team Chadderton' Synchronised Swimming Team. Pool time occurs only if we start really early and once all of the horses have been ridden. Note the very brown arms and very white bodies...

Summer for my horses is easy, mostly taking a break or learning newer movements (Cole learning changes? A cruel and unusual torture according to him!!) but for Mario and Ti it's a bit more full on. Ti had another great result at Loch Moy and is looking good for the AEC's. With Mario I'm breaking new ground for myself, an eventer competing in the grand prix jumping ring! To be honest this is the most challenging and fun thing I've done for quite a long time, it reminds me of my first advanced season eventing 10 or so years ago. Except if I miss at these jumps they're way scarier because they are HUGE! So aside from tuning up my eye and seeing my distances, I've been working with my students helping them upgrade. So, whilst I'm busy, I'm not quite as busy as normal which gives me a chance to take a breather and prepare for the rest of the show year which kicks off with Saugreties (show jumping) in NY this week then back eventing again at Millbrook, also in NY. This spare time has also allowed me to check out my suggestion box (first time in 2 years, actually first time ever) and it turns out there have been a couple of requests from my working students. Some of them mundane; 'please may we have more food', 'please may we have a heater', 'please may we have an air conditioner' (not sure how tough this crew is...!). Another popular request is that I stop my obsession with watching Entourage. The note reads 'YOU ARE NOT ARI GOLD! You don't run a talent agency in LA, you run a show barn, we don't like when you walk and talk Ari Gold. Plus you're a girl, he's a guy'.

But there was one request that I thought had some legitimacy. It was written in Kaden's handwriting and appeared to have been done in a famished frame of mind and a weakened body. It read: PLEASE CAN YOU BE ON TIME? WHY O WHY MUST YOU BE SO CONSISTENTLY LATE? YOU MAY NOT HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE BUT I DO, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THAT WE ARE STILL HERE AT 7PM? My first response is to answer that latter question; working, Kaden, working! Then I thought about it and saw his point, so I thought I'd use this blog to offer him (and Hannah and whomever else is in my barn) a small glossary of terms that are essential in the barn.

5 minutes away: more like 10

Please can you sweep the aisle: should have been done half an hour ago...

Leave the barn (for a show) at 4:20am: we'll leave at 4:38am

10 minutes away: probably going to be at least 15, closer to 20

Please can you clean the tack: why hasn't the tack been cleaned yet

Just ducking home to send an email: I'm going home to have an Icy Pole

I'm going to the bank: I'm going to Burger King

I'll be back in 30 mins: I'll be back in an hour

Change the radio station, the horses don't like it: I don't like it

30 mins away: haven't even left where I am yet. Don't expect to see me for an hour

Good job: well done

Well done: bloody well done

Bloody well done: great job

Great job: sarcasm, means bad job..

Thank you: Thank you very much, you run my barn and business with such efficiency and smoothness that allows me to do my job of riding and teaching!

Now that should clear things up a bit!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer eventing!

For me this summer is all about training my students and helping them move up, and personally all about show jumping with gaining experience at the grand prix level. My upper level horses are either in light work or out with Titanium the only regular ride of mine in work. And also at this time of the year I have a lot of sales horses to market and find good homes for. This weekend I competed at MD horse trials at Loch Moy on the Saturday with Ti who finished in 3rd place on his dressage score. He's really going well at the moment and he will probably be aimed at the American Eventing Championships in GA in September. Mario and I were due to compete at Culpeper, we didn't go but are looking forward to heading north to New York to compete in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rosco - Australian Champion

Everyone, Australian, American (and the rest of the eventing world) knows Boyd Martin. Everyone knows his strength of character, his competitiveness and his 'never say never' attitude. At the moment that strength of character and attitude are being tested by the death of one of the driving forces behind these traits, his father Ross Martin. In Australia the term champion isn't thrown around willy nilly, it's reserved for those who prove they have beyond normal reserves of energy and strength. Ross was just such a man. From competing in the Olympics to running a thriving business, to competing in road races, to competing in open ocean swims, to learning how to ride, to raising a strong, loving family; he was a true champion in every sense of the word. His athletic achievements are many and varied and all awesome but I wanted to use this blog to remember the man I've known for well over a third of my life. The time from his accident to his passing were blessedly short but the shock that such a man could actually leave us will stay around for a long time. The pain was so unexpected and real it took my breath away, and I like to think that I've seen enough by this stage to not be shaken easily. I can't remember the actual day I met Ross because as soon as I did I felt as though I'd know him from day dot. I know it would have been when I first started working for Boyd and it would have been in Lochinvar. One of my earlier memories that stands out clear as it had happened yesterday was stacking hay with Ross. As a working student I can tell you this is one of the most dreaded tasks and one to be avoided at all costs. It's hot, the hay is itchy and after the 200th bale your arms hurt. After the 300th bale you beg for mercy! This particular day Boyd was somewhere else (teaching or otherwise working) so it was left to Rosco and I to unload the trailer of hay that we'd baled the night before. Ross was more inclined to talk about his children than his own achievements but as we unloaded the hay I learnt about his Olympic career, his bike riding, his horse riding and his world travels. To begin with I thought he may be exaggerating, how could one person do so many things? So I did some background research (asked Toy, Boyd's mum) and confirmed it was all true and more! Therefore I developed a strong respect right from the beginning.

As I said, Ross was more about his kids than himself. He was always the guy at the events taking photos of everyone he knew. He was the guy standing by the side of the ring watching his kids proudly claiming them as his own whether they were first, second, last or fell off at the 12th fence. I remember my first CCI 3 star, he was there as always armed with his camera. After I fell off in the water and Danny ran away, he was there to pat me on the back and tell me well done for getting as far as the water! He was also the one to, for the next 10 years, tell everyone he introduced me to, the story of my terrible language sitting in the water in front of the crowd! And that my poor mum had driven 14 hours to see such a display! I can't believe I've heard his retelling of that story for the last time.

It's hard to regret the loss of a life so well lived, but the suddenness of his death and the energy he still had every day make it seriously painful for anyone who knew him. Knowing that the normal 'well done, Katie' or 'your name will be in lights soon' won't follow him reading this blog, is more upsetting than I thought it could be. And that there won't be anymore Ross Martin emails turning up in my inbox makes me not even want to check my emails. From stacking hay back in that boiling hot barn in Lochinvar to randomly running into him at an airport in America, I will cherish every moment and everything I learnt from Ross Martin. It's also important to remember Kevin Bloody Wilson (Australian comedian) also lost his biggest fan. Who will buy his cd's now?

To Toy, Boyd and Brooke. I'm so sorry. You are lucky to have each other. And your husband and dad meant so much to so many people, yet you were always his focus.

Bye Ross. (If you happen to run into my Nanna, can you tell her that I'm sorry I forgot her birthday so many times.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

This week was super hectic with horses from my barn representing us at SIX shows from Thursday thru Sunday! This included the biggest recognised Horse Trials within an 8 hour drive (Surefire), the biggest dressage show within an 8 hour drive (Ride For Life) and the biggest show jumping show within an 8 hour drive (Swan Lake).Not a bad effort when most of my horses are on a summer break with only Titanium, Lola, Mario and Jerry in full work. We brought home all colored ribbons from blue and downwards. Kaden did a super job on his own Ronnie to convincingly win the local jumper show at Pleasant Prospect. The same day I took Mario to Swan Lake in PA to do a warm up class for the Lightfoot Grand Prix on Sunday. He was great and brought home a ribbon. Saturday was Surefire with Ti. I really enjoyed having him as my only horse at the show, something that hasn't happened before. He relished being the focus and did a good test to score a 36 followed by a great cross country and just tapping down a couple of rails. The rails I was a bit sad about but he just tapped them and they came down, could have just as easily stayed up... This is a quality horse that is using his time well to learn the levels.

Sunday for me found us back at Swan Lake for the Grand Prix. Let me remind you I'm an eventer through and through even tho I can be quite good at the showjumping, I can just as easily make a mistake. Just ask Cole what happens when I try to put 5 strides in a 6 stride line to a double of verticals ala Bromont! So to say I was a little apprehensive sitting by the ring to walk my course may be an understatement. I was relieved to see the jumps weren't as big as I thought a breathed a sigh of relief and started to tell Ben (Meredith, Marilyn Little's husband and my sj trainer in her absence) they weren't as big as I'd anticipated. He looked at me a bit weirdly and went on talking to someone else so I looked back to the ring to see the ring guys raising each fence at least another foot! So much for that! By the time it came to walking the course Ben seemed to find some amusement in my abject terror and the fact I could almost walk under each fence without ducking (if you ever do a grand prix, don't walk under the fences, it's frowned upon..). But his advice and plan of how to ride each stride (the showjumpers count any line 10 strides and under, basically the WHOLE course) made sense and I put together a strategy. After warming up over about 6 fences we went into the ring to do both mine and his first Grand Prix. I thought I would be a lot more nervous about the course but I actually felt quite confident given that I'd done my homework, done my schooling and most importantly of all trust my horse and know he's a super jumper. And jump he did! I had a straight forward vertical down coming into a line that I can easily correct and other than that he didn't even go close to another rail as you can see from the photo above! That's the great news! If you ask the people who know me I think you'd find that I'm pretty easy going but do enjoy crowds and being the centre of attention. It's not a conscious action but just seems to happen. So no one who knows me would find it too hard to believe that after jumping a really really good round that I fell off at the last jump. Yes, I'm serious! Initially I thought I'd just been jumped out of the tack but on further inspection and recollection I figured that my left stirrup leather got stuck behind the knee block of my saddle catapulting me heaven bound. Thankfully I do have a guardian angel up there who advised me strongly to hang onto Mario's neck for all I was worth, telling me the finish line was very close and I wouldn't be eliminatied if I could make it over that line. So hang on I did and make it over the line we did! Thereby completing our first grand prix with a very respectable 1 rail. So the biggest lesson I learnt is why the show jumpers DON'T use cross country saddles and why they DON'T have back knee blocks! Beyond that we had a super experience beating far more seasoned competitors and proving that both Mario and I deserve to be and belong in the Grand Prixs. So now we look forward to Culpepper and New York.

Eventing wise I'm back with my students at Loch Moy I and Ti at Loch Moy II. Ti gets a great chance to show us what he can do this summer. Congratulations to all my students who competed this weekend and thank you to the Taggart family (Ti) and the McCuan family (Mario) for the rides on their wonderful horses. Please take the time to watch the video, link below, of the GP. I'd love to hear your feedback!

Link to video :

Also if you add Kate Chadderton and Victory Sport Horses on Facebook there are more photos.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bromont cross country

After a last minute walk of the course this morning (to check if the worlds biggest 2 star skinny was still in place, it was), a Red Bull and a bacon, egg and ketchup sandwich (try saying that in French) I was ready to make up for the lost ground at Jersey Fresh. And after a brief chat with Cole, in which he told me not to miss coming out of the water (and I told him he's my idol), we set off for cross country. I don't always go fast at the horse trials for two reasons 1, I'm pretty well always on green horses and 2, I like to look after their legs. But a CCI is the time where one should go fast and that was my plan today. We were up on our minute markers and doing great till we got to the first water. At this point we were held for a fall on course, in fact I could see the poor girl laying in the water jump. Now I've been stopped on course more than once in the past for a variety of reasons from the obvious rider falls and fence fixing, to the more obscure waiting for a plane to land on course (the course was partially airstrip, that's how we do things in Australia, versatility!). I've also been the cause of several course hold ups, the odd one involving a trip to the local health facility. But I would have to say this was the biggest fence/line I've been held in front of. In all it was about 10 minutes of walking around, which is quite a while when you're trying to stay in the moment with your horse. As we walked around I tried to keep Cole's attention settled but ready to roll as soon as we needed to. It worked. After jumping a training level fence to warm up we hit our stride and cantered through the water no problem. We even received a huge cheer from the crowd! I like to think it's because he jumped thru there so well, but it may easily have been because the previous rider failed to stay between the red and white flags and left in a beautiful red French Canadian ambulance! It took us a few fences to get back in our rythym. We ended up 11 seconds over time which I know we lost in the mid part of the course. I guess if there's a time to not get the time it's when you're not winning the dressage! We were still on the faster side of things and he jumped like the cross country machine he is. I know he can make time so I'm no too worried. By all accounts the fallen rider is ok too. I do owe her a thanks tho, walking around in front of the water allowed me to sus the crowd out for hot guys whom I may want to impress! Allas they all looked Canadian, and I need an American one... And thanks for the concern, yes I found my missing credit and debit cards. They were in my jacket pocket.

Friday, June 10, 2011

5B, previously known as the Corner Of Death, now known as the Beautifully Made, Very Jumpable Corner at 5 Right Before the Second Minute Marker!!!

Well our dressage on Thursday was somewhat improved but still off the pace. There were a couple of places that could have been better (ie Cole could have NOT put his head in the air!), but his placings are improving and he's definitely getting better. And frustratingly the horse I know would have put in a super test, Liberty, I had to leave at home... But he won't suffer from his break and will still progress at the same pace with or without this event. And Cole is slowly but surely improving thanks largely to the opportunities his owner provides me with. Today for me was all about course walking. I tend to walk a CCI course 4/5 times (compared to 1/2 times at a horse trials) which is bad for me because I'm quite physically lazy, but also good because I can eat a LOT more M & M's! The two star course is quite big with several related lines that will be influential. I was particularly worried about 5B, the biggest corner ever seen in a 2 star! That was until I walked the course with Phillip and he helped me realise that is in fact well within the height and width regulations for the level. So now of course it'll be no problem! However, I'm now afraid of 13B, a VERY tall skinny which follows a VERY big table! All jokes aside, I'm quite confident. I have a plan for each fence, I know my horse is fit and well schooled, and I know I can ride the lines easily. So, to borrow a line from my 2nd favourite movie Dodgeball, I'm fully pumped and super physched!

Honestly, this does look more jumpable in real life..

Certainly the feel is different to Jersey. I have the same horse, the same training, the same skills, same fitness but this just feels right. Something at Jersey was off. So tomorrow I'll be the only one holding up this Australian flag at this very international event, 6 nations represented (I think). And trying to ignore the fact that the organisers didn't mention Australia (best country in the world) in their promo material about the diversity of this event! This is actually my favourite event and will be back next year and every one after that I'm fortunate enough to earn a living from my passion.

On a side note, if anyone has seen my credit card or debit card please let me know, I've managed to lose both in one day. Also if anyone has any ideas of how to get from Canada to Maryland without having to pay for fuel should I not find said cards, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I guess this is how they roll in Canadian Eventing.... My active imagination likes to think that someone evaded Border Control at the border and the local constabulary are on the job!

Today was the trot up (US speak, jog) and Cole obviously passed quite well. Almost equally importantly I thought I would be a leader in the fashion stakes. And although I'm sure I was right up there, I don't think I was the best dressed. That honour would have to go to Christian Landholt, who is a member of the ground jury. Hopefully he reads my blog and is sufficiently impressed by my shout out that he gives me an 80 percent tomorrow.... I'm quite excited for my test actually, this is unusual, I normally look forward the jumping more! We ride at 1057 which is the perfect time as far as I'm concerned. The course looks great and has obviously been prepared well. I can't say enough how much I love this event. They really go out of the way to make sure everything works for the riders. This event is obviously the focus, the baby, of the organisers and it shows. Check back tomorrow for more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


LOVING the Bromont quarter sheets!!!!

Yesterday we began our trip to Bromont CCI by driving the short distance to Phillip Duttons farm for a jump lesson which went really well. I was really happy to see a couple of my friends, who were involved in the fire, getting about their business as normal, albeit subdued. And that one of my students, Alex MacLeod, seems to be fitting in quite well. I unfortunately had to leave Liberty (Civil Liberty) at home due to a minor cut that will heal very quickly, just bad timing. I thought it would be counter productive for him to stand on the trailer for 12 hours trying to heal! Disappointing, but in light of the last weeks tragedies, I'm just glad I have a horse that is going to be fine in a few days, it could be much worse.

I know I'm like everyone else and finding it difficult to move on from the fire, even tho I wasn't personally involved. I have competed against each of the lost horses on many occasions and know Nev and Finn quite well from Australia. Plus the thought of what could of happened to my friends, and knowing they are in a place I can't imagine at the moment, just makes it still a topic close to heart. I can tell you I've taken extra time to enjoy each of the horses in my barn this week...

And therefore Bromont creates a welcome and exciting distraction, and proves life goes on! From TPF it's an 11 hour drive for me, which I have to say I started out in winning form by leaving the farm first this morning! AND arriving at Bromont first! So I already feel like a winner (no need to go into the fact that no one else was aware there was a race...!). Bromont 2010 was my first year here and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even tho pretty well everything is in French. I was a little apprehensive that the French I learnt last year would have escaped me, but my fears were unfounded! Arret still means STOP! Thank you to the stop/go sign guy for refreshing my memory... Anyhow, Cole has settled in well and I'm currently deciding which outfit to wear for the trot up tomorrow. I've decided that I need to be a little more proactive in my fashion sense if I'm to make any 'best dressed' list! I'll keep you updated through out the week.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to help the victims of the barn fire.

This post is for my regular readers and supporters. As you will be aware now Boyd Martin suffered the incomprehensible and senseless tragedy of a barn fire on Monday night resulting in the death of six of his horses. Boyd absolutely adores and is in love with each of his horses so is obviously devastated. And also by now you'll also be aware that two of Boyd's workers (Lillian Heard and Caitlin Silliman) and his best friend (Ryan Wood) were also living in the apartment above the barn. They lost everything they owned and the roof over their head. It was these three who were first on scene and literally leapt into the fire to save as many lives as possible. Boyd was shortly on the scene dragging his World Games mount to safety with the help of Phillip Dutton. They all went against the laws of nature and self preservation and the orders of the firemen to rescue who they could. Unfortunately six beautiful horses (including Lillian's own wonderful mare) lost their lives, fortunately five survived and fortunately their were no human fatalities. For the last few days I've done what every other horse owner/rider/trainer/lover has done and recreated the scenario in my head. Going over everything from the first smell of smoke (Lillian, thank God for her or no one may have made it) to the ensuing minutes of utter chaos and terror. Waking up to the smell of smoke not knowing that your heart and soul are about to be ripped apart with no hope of repair. I couldn't bear it and know these guys are feeling a pain that hopefully none of us will ever experience. As a bystander our first reaction is to want to help, to give, to soften the pain. We can't do that. Time and life will. But I know that many of my regular readers want to help and below I've listed SOME of the ways you can. Also be aware NONE of them have put their hand out and asked for help. Right now all they need is each other and time to comprehend what happened. The other thing we can do is make our own barns as fire proof as possible. Fire extinguishers, sledge hammers, crow bars, escape plans. Have them ALL, KNOW how to use them. Above all thank god for your own good fortune and precious horses, and pray he helps our friends.

Ryan Wood and Caitlin Silliman scroll down to Ryan Wood. This is tax deductible.
Lillian Heard
Boyd Martin

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My heart goes out to Boyd.

Homebred and imported Australian warmblood Jerry at his first ever competition!

This weekend was quite a busy one with 3 horses competing dressage in MD and another 3 competing at Fair Hill eventing. Cole and Liberty were both placed fifth in the prelim and intermediate, both scoring very well on the flat. Lois Lane and Jerry also won ribbons at the dressage show as did Kaden on his new horse Ronnie.

As a professional rider you tend to be quite tough when things don't go quite right, and growing up on the farm there's a saying 'where there's livestock, there's deadstock'. Still nothing prepared me for the absolutely devastating news this morning that Boyd Martins barn had burnt down with several horses unable to escape. The heroic efforts of two of his workers, Lillian Heard and Caitlin Silliman, and his best friend Ryan Wood, enable four horses to make it out. They had to be restrained by the firefighters to stop them going back in for more. For those of you who don't know Boyd, he is in love with each and every one of his horses and right now is still at the hospital with the ones who did make it but are in need of treatment. I can't even begin to feel what he must be going thru. I think of what it would be like if my horses were in that situation, I couldn't bear it. Every horse, whether he's not careful and has rails or doesn't understand shoulder in, tries his/her absolute hardest for me and I would be inconsolable in the same situation. So today, instead of worrying about the couple of rails I had at Fair Hill or the test that wasn't so good on Saturday, I'm going to thank and appreciate my four legged partners and perhaps even give them a carrot of two. Whether you know Boyd or Silva or not, keep them in your thoughts. And pockets when it comes to rebuilding.

A big thank you to my owners for entrusting me with your horses, I know you love them as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whomever said Jersy's fun, is WRONG!

I'm the type of person who likes to give things names. For example when jumping there Long Spots, Deep Spots, Close Your Eyes/Pray To God Spots, Training Distances (which incorporate the afore mentioned, and most often used when I'm attempting to look good even tho I missed!). And of course there's the Perfect Distance, which obviously I see a lot (I wish!). Then there are Hot Attached Guys (the bane of my existence), Hot Gay Guys (loads of fun and super trendy) and Hot Available/Interested Guys (a VERY rare species!). Then there are drives. Just Up The Road to PA to compete. Just Down The Road to a jumper show in NC. Floating Home On Air when I've won. Finally there's the Long Drive Home. The most dreaded of all and the absolutely demoralising. Unfortunately I'm had to experience this one quite a few times, fortunately I've experienced the opposite WAY more times! And although over time my good:bad ratio has improved considerably (as it should), the bad ones are still there... And let me tell you, the pain certainly does not diminish with time and experience. Of course this is a LONG story to update you on my latest show, Jersey Fresh CCI with Cole. From the beginning it didn't go well. The dressage test was one best left in the past. I made a couple of mistakes for which I won't forgive myself, as my horse did try quite hard. If you're a regular reader you will understand the challenges and improvements we've made in the short time we've been together. His owner/s are super supportive and have enabled me to seek further help in this area, for which I'm immensely grateful. However it was seriously depressing none the less, just ask the couple of unfortunate recipients of my distressed calls immediately after I got off! I decided to run cross country as it would still be a qualifier and this horse has far bigger fish to fry at a higher level to get too worked up. He is super solid cross country and seems to just read my mind on course. Either that or he's been checking out the course map while I'm not looking and already knows what to do before hand! So I was mindful that to finish on our dressage score, very likely given his record and current fitness, would at least put us in the top ten and also give us the qualifier. So with that in mind we headed off to cross country. As always, no matter how straight forward a course seems, I gave it my utmost attention (given that it's possible to trip over even a 2 foot fence, and that's embarrassing). There were definately plenty of questions, but none that Cole wasn't prepared for. So it came as a bit of a shock to come out of the first water (ominously named the Jersey Shore) on a half stride and have a run out at the skinny. In the midst of the utter disappointment I at least still retained some common sense. Let's leave it for another day, Bromont is in a month, he can go there and we get a second chance. So back to the barn we went (certainly not something I thought I'd be doing 3 mins earlier, I'd pictured myself at that point jumping up the banks), me incredibly disappointed with myself but still very happy to have a healthy, sound horse underneath me. Always it's onwards and upwards to the next show (Liberty and Ti at VA Horse Trials this weekend), but still very depressing indeed. No amount of consoling myself with 'at least it wasn't at Rolex', or 'at least I'm not starving in Africa', or 'at least there weren't any hot guys in the crowd' helped. I know I lead a very charmed existence but it's all relative, I didn't smile all week.

I probably should have seen this coming tho, Cole has very definatley made it clear in the past that he can't stand the Jersey Shore (he's scared of Snooki, as am I), and he's very much more interested in the class and fevour of the French (even if it's French-Canadian) so Bromont it is! Plus he gets to hang out with Liberty (who's also going) for a week. . The next few weeks for us will see us jumping with Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Marilyn Meredith-Little and dressaging a LOT. It is fair to mention that the same jump caught out an Olympic gold medalist, a 3 time Rolex winner and several other very good riders. Not an excuse in any way, but a tiny tiny comfort. Every tunnel has it's end and eventingnation posted a clip of Cole and I jumping clear at Fair Hill CIC 2 star (thanks Julie Scott for alerting me!) and I was smiling ear to ear and ready for our next challenge!

O, I nearly forgot, it was a Long Drive Home from Jersey.......

Monday, May 2, 2011

This weekend I didn't compete any of my horses, I'm still taking care of an annoying head injury that's taking a little while longer than expected to dissipate.... Therefore I'm only doing the shows I really need to in order to qualify each horse. Riding at home is all back to normal, just making sure I'm healthy again before starting to compete full on again. That doesn't mean it was a quiet weekend with my students tho! At Loudoun Darcy Swain attempted to continue her unbeaten winning streak, which looked positive after the dressage, however a rail relegated them to 4 th place.. Still a ribbon's a ribbon! Beth Sokohl made her first outing since last year a successful one with a close 2nd. A costly mistake in the canter in the dressage cost them a higher place but it was definitely a great start to the season! Amy Gaynor riding her own Cindy finished on her dressage score to end up 2nd at Potomac. This is great as her dressage continues to improve. Meghan Avella convincingly won her division which was great to see. Sometime student but always Australian, Ema Klugman also won her division! She's worked very very hard with her mare and deserved her blue ribbon!

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this weekend is that I don't actually need to be competing in order for my team to be bringing home the ribbons! Just the excuse I needed to escape to the Bahamas for a week.... I wish!

I think there was some other show on this weekend too. Rolex something? May have been in Kentucky.... And it may have led to me being a VERY distracted trainer obsessed with checking my phone for scores every two minutes... Thanks Julie, Beth and Jenny for pretending to not notice! Congratulations to Mary King for dominating the weekend finishing 1st and 2nd.

This blog is about my (owners) horses, career and the show results of my students. It's a personal collection of results, thoughts and updates, therefore I don't normally talk about anything outside of that (noone wants to hear the inner workings of my brain aside from the horsey bits!). However Lisa Kurr is one of my favourite and most committed students (I have a few) as well as team supporter. She had a very routine operation to repair her meniscus (skiing injury) that unfortunately turned bad. She developed a horrible infection that's left her in a lot of pain and laid up for 3 weeks and counting. My point is GET BETTER LISA! I know there are far worse problems to have in the world (like who ran into the side of my new truck...) but I'm sure you understand her despair of not being able to ride her horse.

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