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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.....

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