Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finishing the year strongly.

VA Horse Trials was my last for the year and I rode 5 horses in three divisions. Collection Pass showed his class by winning a big intermediate division, Sunset Hill farms Civil Liberty ended up 7th. This was his first intermediate and I was extremely happy with how he jumped. Both of my intermediate horses showjumped the only clear rounds in Open Intermediate, which I was super happy with! That trend continued with my next three horses, all five horses show jumped clear. Tracy Ryan's Fine Art continued his excellent run for the year by placing second in Training. This horse is new to this level and I am very impressed with how he has handled the step up. Beth Sokohl's Charmer made up for her rather tense dressage with two double clears in the Training. Sunset Hill Farms Tremendous finished with yet another ribbon in the Novice.

The last competition of the year is a bit like the last day of school: leaving the start box on your last horse of the day is like going into the last class of the term, a mixture of joy to be on a break and sadness that the year is over! This year I started 79 times on 12 different horses, some very successfully, some a little less successfully and the odd tumble to check whether or not my air vest was in working order. Regardless of the degree of success I tried my best each and every start and I am very lucky to have supportive owners and clients who allow me to train these wonderful horses. The biggest thanks though go to my support crew headed by barn manager Heather Pettit. It is Heather's job to look after 30 horses day in day out rain, hail or shine. This year I have had some wonderful working students without whom I would be no where near as productive . Now it is time to have a beer and start preparing for our open house next Saturday.
Liberty jumping out of the second water.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Each year with the end of the eventing season in sight I start to get quite excited, perhaps I can sleep in or have a day off! Then I realise the eventing season is coming to a close and I get quite sad, what am I supposed to do now until the end of January?! This year my last competition will be Virginia Horse Trials in Lexington at the beginning of November. Directly following this we will be conducting the first Open House of my home base, Sunset Hills Farm. Since first moving there three years ago it has grown into the biggest sales and competition barn in MD. It's also home to Canadian WEG silver medalist, Stehpanie Rhodes-Bosch. The Open House will give everyone a chance to tour the farm and view the operations. This time of the year is also quite exciting as I plan the horses winter campaigns. I'm actually quite excited for winter 2013 as I'm going into it with a really good advanced horse and another great intermediate horse. Plus some younger ones coming thru behind them.

Next for me is MD Horse Trials at Loch Moy where I have 5 horses competing thru several divisions.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Upper Marlborough

Cole, Trevor, Liberty, Fudge and I headed to Upper Marlborough Horse Trials on Saturday to excellent results. Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leonne's Collection Pass won for the second year in a row as the only horse to finish on his dressage score from a class of 20 horses. McCuan Farms Tremendous added another win to his growing collection of ribbons, beating his stablemate Fine Art (Tracy Ryan owned) into second place. Trevor has so far won or placed in every competition this year, making him a very very impressive young horse indeed. Liberty competed in the dressage and showjumping, without going cross country.
I've only been to Marlborough once or twice, this time was actually a last minute choice, but I'm impressed with the improvements they make and that they really seem to take feedback on board. In particular the showjumping was greatly improved on years passed with a nice flowing course that rewarded a good positive ride to the fence. With all 5 of my horses finished before 12.30, I was impressed with the efficiency of the volunteers also.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

AEC wrap up

I came to the AEC's with four horses , from novice to intermediate, with my goal being to finish each one on their dressage score. I came very close to achieving this with Fudge , Bucky , and Liberty finishing as they started and well up in the placings. A very unfortunate, and extremely bad timed, problem with my tack prevented me from doing the same on Cole. He is a very good jumping horse and came in on top of his form. It was Cole's type of course and should have been a piece of cake , but sometimes that is just the way the cookie crumbles. They all jumped very well, showing their experience on the championship courses. The prelim horses both ran very well finishing within a second of each other on cross country , which is very interesting as they both have very different styles of galloping and jumping. Whilst they are both OTTB's , Liberty is your small ,weedy ,and light long legged horse that could run all day where as Bucky is a little bigger and heavier , built for short bursts of great speed. Fudge once again displayed his consistency in all three phases and takes home more prizes than he knows what to do with. He's currently standing on the trailer asking the other horses what 'Point Two' means! This is a great group of horses and I am thankful to the owners who make it possible for me to compete so well on this stage! Each horse, with the exception of Liberty, will now return to their owners who will now hopefully have as much joy and success with them as I do.

This is my second AEC's since moving to America and I am as impressed now as I was 4 years ago at my first. The event is a massive undertaking by everyone involved from the event organizers and the USEA to the gracious hosts from Bouckaert Farms. Also a really big thank you to the sponsors of the event, including one of my own sponsors, CWD Saddles. I am fairly certain their saddles are the reason my horses jump so cleanly! Thank you as well to Point Two , Back on Track, Flair, SSG Gloves, VTO, OmegaAlpha , and "Chronicle of the Horse". And an even bigger thank you to the best tack store in the world, Bit of Britain !

I am currently looking to add some horses to our successful team. Please contact me if you have a horse you would either like to see me ride to similar success or if you would like to be a part in owning a current competition horse.

Friday, September 7, 2012

AEC's Day 2

Today was a mix of fortunes with both Liberty and Bucky breezing around the xc clear and inside the time. Liberty was first to go and had the added challenge of competing in a thick fog! I could barely see where we were going, lucky Liberty just jumps whatever is in his way, so provided I kept him going in the right direction the course posed no problems. I did feel as tho we needed some fog lights! Bucky was his normal speedy and clear self. I don't have to press him to go very fast in order to make the time as he naturally doesn't waste time at the fences. Fudge is sitting pretty in the top ten after a lovely test. He goes xc tomorrow. I had a very frustrating ride with Cole with some equipment issues forcing us to walk home. This is wildly annoying as he is jumping super at the moment and a fast round would have had him in the top 10. Show jumping starts tomorrow so I had better go and make sure the horses have their jumping shoes on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

AEC's Day 1

Bucky, Cole and Liberty all completed their dressage tests and will move onto the cross country tomorrow. Cole was first to go this morning to put in a personal best test scoring a 38. Interestingly one judge had him on a 35 which would have had him up quite a lot higher in the placings. Bucky also did a personal best by scoring a 33.7, with Liberty just ahead of him on 33.3. The cross country is beautifully built and will be fun to ride in the morning. Time will probably prove to be quite tough to get, so I'll be putting on my skates and doing my best to get all three home inside the optimum! Fudge begins his competition in the morning with his dressage.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Steph Rhodes-Bosch

I'm very excited to announce the addition of Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch to our Sunset Hill family! Stephanie's impressive list of accomplishments include top Rolex placings and a team silver medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. She brings her team of event horses and will be working out of the upper barn. Steph will be available for lessons and training and is contactable on 571 420 3351.

Steph at the 2010 WEG.

Sunset is now the home of two elite international riders and is the premier competition and sales barn in Maryland. Take the time to check out and of course! Kate is available for her regular lessons and clinics. Due to a brisk market of sales, she now has several openings for sales horses. Contact: 240 750 5737.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A successful weekend at Waredaca with Trev adding to his impressive resume with a win! This one impressive 4 year old! I also had Tracey Ryans Fine Art competing with a 4th. This guy has been Mr Consistent by winning a ribbon at every outing we've had! He feels great and on form heading into the AEC's in a few weeks. Beth Sokohl had a great run today in the prelim/training with clear sj and xc with her best prelim score to date. Darcy Swain also won her division, and Lisa Haviland moved up to training. They made the xc look like piece of cake, not a bad effort on a horse she trained herself.

Last week I rode Beth's Bucky at Fair Hill. I'm taking him to the AEC's, along with Cole, Liberty (and Fudge), and hadn't competed him so I took him for a quick spin around the prelim. Even tho I've trained he and Beth for a while now, it was good to feel what he actually feels like on course. He was originally trained by Lindsay Kelley of Phase Two Performance horses and I have to say she was very thorough teaching him the ins and outs of the sport. Basically he sees the red and white flags and heads for the middle! He may be spooky but he knows his job!

This week we're headed to HITS Culpepper showjumping.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Liberty wins the OTTB award at Loch Moy!

At Loch Moy I added to my very impressive pile of red ribbons from this year! Both Liberty and Cole were 2nd in their respective prelim divisions. Both of these horses have been on breaks from competing, Liberty taking some R and R after Bromont. Cole's break wasn't as pleasant for him, he's been doing so much dressage that he feared he had been turned into a dressage horse! For him that's his worst nightmare! Fortunately for him (and me) he's still an eventer and all the practice paid off with a very good test, scoring his best score of a 33.5. Next for him is Millbrook Advanced. I'm so happy the his owner Rege Dvorsky and partner Jeanne Leone were able to make it out to see him go. And for the ice and drinks they brought us! Liberty was back on form, hugely enjoying himself in all three phases! Next time I hope to make the dressage a little less exciting tho... He's also headed to Millbrook. Fudge had a rail, which actually cost me my third second for the day. He had to settle with a 5th place ribbon, his owner Tracey did point out that that was one of the ribbons missing from her kids 'Fudge Ribbon Collection', so I'm glad to get them one step closer to the complete set! All that's missing now is a blue one.
By far the best part of the day went to Liberty. Rebecca Greene and Christopher Morris sponsored an award for the highest placed/lowest score Off The Track Thoroughbred. There are so many horrible stories in the horse world of barn fires, barn accidents, trailer accidents, falls and just plain bad luck. One could wonder why anyone would want to do this sport at all. Earlier this year Rebecca lost her two competition horses in a barn fire, both of whom she had trained from the track and into eventing. Absolutely heartbreaking. In remembrance of these two horses she created this award and I'm extremely honoured to have won it with Liberty. It actually came down to Cole and Liberty battling it out as they were first and second. Cole's dressage was better (amazing, has NEVER happened before!) but Liberty was a bit faster cross country. As they are pasture mates, I can only imagine their conversations in the field this week. Liberty will probably think the award is something else we're using to plot his downfall. He thinks everything we do is an attempt to harm him! Cole will spend the whole week exploiting this train of thought. He'll tell him that the plaque we've put on his stall door has listening devices and cameras in it and that we're watching his every move! Anyhow I'm very proud of the two of them, I'm a huge advocate of the off the track horses and I'm lucky to have several really nice ones. Thank you to Rebecca and Christopher from both myself and the owners of Liberty, Jill and Patrick McCuan. I hope to see Rebecca out competing with her new horse soon. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I must be getting old when people start asking advice for the younger kids!

Last week I was invited to talk at Full Moon Farm's Long Format three day event ( . This is such a wonderful event where Karen and Stephen Fulton go to great lengths to educate the riders on the horsemanship and skills needed for three day eventing and they get quite a good turnout. Anyhow one of the questions was: What advice would I give to an aspiring young professional rider? I thought about it for a minute or two and answered with 'always wear sunscreen and moisturiser, don't date guys based on looks alone and don't mix your liquors. After an awkward silence the question was clarified: What advice would I give to an aspiring young professional rider about becoming a professional rider..... This required a bit more thought. Over the years my answer to this question has changed. In the beginning it was 'work hard on your riding and take care of your horses'. This is still true but the single most important piece of advice I can give is to take a business course. There are plenty of hard workers and excellent riders out there who don't make it as riders, and not for lack of trying. The truth of running a business is that you need money. Without money you can't pay for your entries. Without money you can't pay for your horse feed. No money, no rent. No money, no fuel for the truck. I come from a background where money was non existent and have made my own way along financially. My mum has always helped in every possible way she could, but money doesn't grow on trees in Queensland so, despite the abundance of trees, there was NO cash. From the age of 13 I've had to buy my own horses, tack etc. I got lucky more than once with good horses to teach me and great guidance from older riders on how to make money. Some of those riders led by example of what not to do, others by what to do. I've also been a keen observer of successful businessmen who turn a seemingly unprofitable venture into something that draws an impressive income. So thru these mentors I've slowly developed skills to not only grow my business, but keep it financially viable. Along the way I've made some horrible, horrible mistakes (some of which I'm still paying for now) but I've been able to make my way thru and each time learn and use the experience to build a durable, well rounded business. There have definitely been plenty of times where dinner was two minute noodles and I had holes in my boots. Unless you have unlimited family money behind you, this can happen. The trick is to know how to get out and to learn from these mistakes. The other thing business teaches you is strategy. Long term planning. How to get from point A to Z by progressing in achievable steps. Going to the Olympics requires a strategy. Most trainers can't offer that advice because it's not something in their resume of experience. However in the business world the only way to measure success is growth. Growth is often directly related to placement or 'being in the right place at the right time prepared the right way'. Also known by the average Joe as luck. And successful businesses actually test their plans, not just theoretically running thru them and getting distracted when they see that imaginary gold medal hung around their neck and watching their horse eat his celebratory carrots. So this is another skill easily learnt from the business sector.
Having taken the time to provide myself with a secure financial base, it allows me to concentrate on my riding and personal goals. It's taken longer than I ever thought but I'm now in a position with some good horses and great riding skills to have a real crack at it. So my advice to those kids was: stay at school, get business training. If only for an extra couple of years. Riding skills are easy to improve but there's no point if you find yourself in a position where you can't afford to do it. And there are plenty of hours before and after school to ride.
The other advice I also have to offer is: Learn to live without sleep. Or food. And get an iPhone, it keeps you organised and from forgetting lessons!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cole warming up for a lesson.
I love Olympic years and this is probably the most exciting one for me yet with so many friends in contention. As well as exciting it’s also super motivating, making it very easy to get up with my alarm at 5 am each day! In order to get the most effective ride on each horse, I try to get them ridden before it gets too hot. This week I took Cole to a clinic with Irish eventing hero Eric Smiley. Waredaca Farm hosts him each year, however this was my first time riding with him. I’m never quite sure what to expect when I go to a clinic, it’s hard to change your riding (nor do I want to) in one go. I really hope to get one or two pointers that I haven’t thought of and a tune up of ideas I may have been working on. Eric did just that, making our lesson well worthwhile.
Back on the home front in Australia mum has been making up for the loss of our wonderful mare Fifi in a big way! She got news thru the grapevine of a group of young warmbloods who had found themselves in the local slaughter pen. As foals and yearlings it seemed a little unfair and that their lives would be wasted so prematurely that she brought home the ones that look as tho the will grow into performance horses. So now she has her hands well and truly full! It's quite amazing to think of what their fate would have otherwise been....

One of the lucky, unnamed, youngsters.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I don’t have any eventing competitions until mid July. Which means my days are filled with teaching, training, teaching, sales, teaching and showjumping! Two of my favourite horses at the moment are the Irish guys we imported in November. Both have started competing and, as you can see from the photos, they are real jumpers! Keeping that in mind my next few competitions involve entering Culpepper HITS Showjumping into my GPS and driving to VA! I always feel at home there, perhaps because it’s called the Commonwealth Park, or perhaps because my horses always seem jump well! Both of them are for sale so I’m enjoying the last rides I have on each before they are snapped up by their new owners. 
 VS McCuan Tremendous
VS McCuan Ari Gold
On the home front in Australia, we had to say good bye to my best brood mare Fifi which was unfortunate. Fifi produced some lovely foals for us, including a stunning Regardez Moi that I imported last year. She was a 3/4 sister to dressage star Centaur so I hope we can keep her bloodlines going.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bromont 2012

Bromont has come and gone for another year and my French STILL hasn't improved.. Perhaps next year! This year I ended up only taking Liberty in the 1 star, leaving Cole at home to work on his eating and relaxing skills. There's nothing like a three day event to mature a young horse and get him to understand his job and Bromont is the best venue I've ever been to for this purpose. It's a three day obviously, the horse has to learn how to trot up (jog), learn to be in a stall,  all the vet checks and compete on three separate days. Somehow Bromont manages to have all these requirements and still have a relaxing feel to it. The surroundings may help, Bromont is a tourist town surrounded by beautiful mountains. However I think it's more the organising committee that gives it that feel. This year both the Canadian and American teams used this event as the Olympic tryouts: the Canadian team was finalised there and the American team shortlist was selected. I was very happy to see Boyd on the shortlist with two horses, I've known him and his riding for over 12 years and have to say he is at his absolute best. His dressage is looking incredible and he showjumping like he should be on the showjumping team, his xc is as good as always. Phillip is also on the shortlist with Heath's Mystery Whisper. VERY exciting, I've seen this horse grow up from a yearling and have competed against him in two different countries. He proudly represents Heath's awesome breeding and training program, and Phillip has gelled with him in such a way that the entire eventing world ought to be very very nervous at the Olympics. Another person I was happy to see on the list is Marilyn Little-Meredith. I did make an ill advised bet with her last year on whether or not she'd make it to Rolex this year given that she had at the time been eventing for only a year. Not only did she make it to Rolex, she made the Olympic shortlist! So I lost my $10.. The only bad thing about this list is that the two people I train with will now be away all summer.
Back to Liberty's Bromont. He's been going so well all season that I thought he'd be in with a great chance to win. As he has become fitter tho, his body shape has changed and his dressage saddle started to pinch him while we were at the event. This led to a more tense than normal test, but a clear and fast xc moved him well up in the standings finishing well within the top 20 at his first international event! Not bad considering his test was not at his competitive best. This is a seriously good horse and I'm so lucky to be involved with training him to reach his fullest potential. He'll now have a break before coming back at the end of the summer where he'll aim for another international competition in the fall.
Thank you to everyone for your kind words and support about Ronnie. He really is missed both on a personal and professional level. Good horses are difficult to find!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ron Jeremy

Today is a sad day as we lost one of my favourite up and coming youngsters. Ron was a training level horse that was an event horse thru and thru. I picked him up out of a paddock in the middle of nowhere as a 3yo, so scrawny that even his mother would've struggled to love him. When I got him back home he did, however, show enough promise for my working student Kaden to buy him. Kaden trained him and rode him until he left to return to Australia at which point we purchased him and I started competing him. The first thing we had to do when we got him was to name him. I wanted something like Gambler (his previous owners' occupation) or Champion (his intended occupation) or Genius Extraordinaire (my occupation). I left this process up to Kaden assuming he'd follow this line of thought. But you know what happens when you assume.... He came up with Ron Jeremy, Ron for short. I liked it. I thought it was a strong, solid citizen sounding name. It had integrity. It's none of these things. If you know what I'm talking about, shame on you. If not, Google it. It wasn't until weeks later that I found out who his namesake was. Fortunately he hadn't been registered yet so Ron stayed and the Jeremy was dropped. Ron was the perfect event type: brave, careful, nice movement. Although  he had quite a buck in him, he was very gentle and always tried his absolute hardest.
Last Tuesday he developed an aggressive form of cellulitis in his right hind. With the aid of our wonderful vet we treated him with antibiotics, hitting it as hard as we could. As Ron was in a great deal of pain and  because of his exceptionally high fever, we stayed with him around the clock. Heather (my barn manager), Chloe (working student), Paula (farm manager) and I took turns keeping him on his feet and making sure he stayed with us and checking his temperature as well as administering drugs as he needed them. His hock joint became infected and he developed vasculitis In spite of our efforts his condition continued to deteriorate to the point where he was hospitalised. They were unable to get him stable so he did not return.
Ron was an important part of my team, and more than that, he was very well loved. I just hope he knew that.
Thank you Ronnie for all that you were, and sorry for all that you could have been.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bromont preparation

Liberty and I earlier this year at Pine Top, GA.
Bromont is a little over a week away and I've well and truly entered the scary end of a three day preparation. This year I've decided to leave Cole at home (we're making some great progress with his dressage and will continue that focus) and I am riding Liberty. In his preparation last year he was injured in an unfortunate clipping accident that left him out of action for the rest of the year. He's come back super strong and has performed very well at his lead up events with some top results. Tomorrow he will gallop for his second last time, then on Thursday a jump lesson followed by a final gallop on Sunday. I'm very fortunate to have access to a state of the art gallop track which takes some of the stress out of the gallops. Some, but not all! This final 10 days before any three day is highly nerve wracking with no time to really change anything in your prep, you can merely put the final touches on! Most of my dreams are filled withs images of enlarged tendons, foot abscesses and runaway horses. Not good for ones sleep patterns!! This weekend I have Wonderful Waredaca with Hot Reels, Fine Art and Lightning. Hot Reels is a really nice young horse who I've very much enjoyed competing, his owner will take over the reins from next week. Fine Art is with me as his regular jockey recovers from a very broken arm. And Lightning is with me to gain some experience before his owner jumps back on. I love being involved with this horse as I originally bought him out of a field in WV where he his life definitely wasn't on the improve. After we produced him, Julie then bought him and has kept me involved with his career. She won a showjumping competition on him last weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Fair Hill

This weekend I had six horses at Fair Hill's end of Spring event. Having been here only five weeks ago, I was expecting basically the same courses. I couldn't have been more wrong! Each level was well and truly at the toughest end of the spectrum and beautifully dressed up. EG the novice had to jump a cabin landing with one stride into water then a bank out! I had horses at each level so I got to see each first hand. Cole jumped very well around the cross country to end up 4th. Liberty did an uncharacteristically poor dressage but then jumped two super double clears. He's feeling very good and I'm looking forward to Bromont with him, he'll be very competitive. The three novice horses were good: Smokey scored a 28 in the dressage. Lightning showjumped like a star and Fudge finished on a 30. The scores haven't been posted so I can't see where he ended up.... Unfortunately Ron and I had a tumble in the water after he overreached on landing. Both of us are fine, just quite annoyed as he was jumping really well up to that point. I have posted a video of Liberty cross country below.
Thank you to the organisers of the event for running it so smoothly and thank you to my owners who keep me in the game!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Lessons are a vital part of any riders life. This applies to everyone regardless of level, from beginners to Olympic riders. This is a truth I've been aware of since my first trainer had me on the lunge line  at 5 years of age on my first pony, Bluey. Since then I've had many lessons varying in consistency and quality. Initially the goal was to keep me from falling off my pony. That achieved, we moved onto rising trot. At this point my ultimate goal was to be able to canter and perhaps compete in the Grand National just like in National Velvet. So I started cantering. Bluey then understood my Grand National goals and took it into her owns hands/hooves to teach me the gallop we would need if I were to win whilst competing against the 17hh monster thoroughbreds on my little 12.2hh Welsh Pony mare. She did this by bolting from the bottom of the paddock back to the house. I thought this was wonderful, the adults did not. SO annoying. Back on the lunge we went, for what seemed like ETERNITY. It was probably only a few weeks or a few days, but when you're five that amount of time is actually quite long in relation to the amount of time you've been alive!  I think it was at this point I started to see lessons as a necessary evil, something that must be done in order to improve but not to be enjoyed. Now, 20 something years later, I'm just starting to see differently.
Even through Pony Club I saw my lessons as the evil one must do in order to prove you have enough control of your pony to be allowed to jump or do games. It didn't help that my second pony, Princess, was very inappropriately named. She-Devil or Killer would have been more suitable names. The pony club trainers viewed us as a lost cause and often treated us as such, basically if I didn't fall off I was allowed to go and jump with the other kids. I was even allowed on the odd occasion to go thru the 'jump lane'! This involved taking away our stirrups and reins, lining our ponies up in chute, smacking them on the bottom and yelling 'heels down', 'eyes up' while we galloped uncontrollably thru a line of jumps. This is actually one of my favourite memories! A little while later I graduated to a bigger, faster horse called Apollo. With him I developed a love for going even faster, now adding in cows (we loved campdrafting) and xc jumps. All of my training at this point had been thru the pony club. By now my parents saw I wasn't going to stop riding so they got me some lessons privately. Money was in VERY short supply in my house so I'm eternally grateful to them for doing this. I like to think they did it to give me some education, however I think they actually did it as a form of health insurance. Particularly after I built a xc course in the paddock and timed myself to see how fast I could do it. Then devoted several weeks to beating each 'record' I set.
By now I had given up on my Grand National aspirations, who was I kidding that I would be able to do that? Plus the movie International Velvet had just made it to TV and I'd decided on a different career path, international eventer! I renamed Apollo, he became Pie (anyone who's seen the movie will understand) and we practiced our winning xc round over and over and over again. At some point I realised dressage was a part of eventing, I also realised I wasn't very good at xc and realised the showjump rails weren't going to keep themselves up. So I got a job (I was 13 now, perfectly legal in Australia) and started investing in more lessons.
This brings me back to the point of the story: I've had many lessons from many trainers. Some great eg: Heath Ryan (inspiration, builder of careers), Rozzie Ryan (dressage extraordinaire and most patient woman in the world), Vicki Roycroft (just the one but boy did it stick!), Wayne Roycroft (I've never felt so small and big at the same time), Prue Barrett (just the one but genius), Craig Barrett (genius also), Martina Hannover-Sternberg (o to ride like her), Boyd Martin (whom I worked for, learnt a lot about riding and a LOT about life!), Phillip Dutton (still working with as often as money allows), Marilyn Meredith-Little (taught me how to jump BIG jumps). There are other trainers who I learnt good and bad things from but the thing that I had never acheived in a lesson was enjoyment or pleasure. Not once was I happy with a lesson, not once have I looked forward to one, not once did I look back on one thinking it was successful. I saw them as a time where I was being judged and told what I was bad at. I know that's the point of a lesson but I saw that as failing. And each time I went to a lesson I would be failing at something. Just recently something weird happened. I was on my way to a lesson with Phillip (it's a two hour drive, great thinking time) and found myself looking forward to it. So I went with it and told myself how much fun it would be. Lo and behold I've never learnt so much in one go! And afterwards more of the lesson sank in. On the way home I made a mental note to myself to remember that. Then at my next lesson I went in with the same view. I think I've now started to enjoy learning and am not ashamed that I don't have ALL the answers. One small step for me, one giant leap for learning!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

MCTA Advanced

MCTA is on of my favourite events: great organisers, super course and close to my barn! I had 6 horses competing from novice thru to advanced. Smokey was super coming second. Ron jumped beautifully finish third. Cole was 6th in the advanced. I took it easy on both Liberty and Charmer. Liberty as he's already had a super season, they can't run for time at every event. And Charmer as it's her first time at this level since Millbrook last year. She felt as tho she would have happily jumped the intermediate!

I was VERY happy with the way Cole jumped around. One of only three clears in the showjumping, he really showed the benefit of the jumper shows and lessons. On the cross country he again jumped really well. The scoreboard will show two runouts at the second last combination on course. But I really don't feel as tho that was an accurate picture of how he actually jumped. He read the tough double corners very well. He jumped thru the water extremely well (you'll see in the video below, a little unnecessary encouragement from me), the bounce upbank super. The coffin felt like a schooling exercise. The only problem occured at the fence line, back into the main field, which was then two strides to a brush skinny. The placement of the skinny meant jumping the fenceline at an acute angle. In my efforts to jump the skinny well I think I under rode the fenceline in and had a very cheap runout. The same thing happened on the second approach. I then realised I was too focussed on the skinny and just rode the first fence. He then jumped super. That's the hard thing with riding at this level, it only takes one small mistake. He finished feeling a lot more grown up and full of confidence. And I finished slightly kicking myself but also really happy that he definitely feels as tho he belongs at advanced, he loves his job. I'm the first person to be tough on myself and I'm terrified of failure, but I couldn't help but be happy with him! I've had rides (on other horses) where I really thought I would end up with a visit to the hospital but managed to get around clear and claim ribbons. Then there are rides like Cole's today where the scoreboard doesn't look as good but it was a really beneficial round that rode really well. So I'm kicking myself a little bit but am not going to lose any sleep over it. In every horses career there are ups and downs, sometimes the downs actually turn out to be ups!

Thank you to my owners who entrust me with their wonderful horses. To Chloe for making sure the horses are prepared. Heather for running the barn. And my students who provide me with an income to keep pursuing my dreams.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fair Hill

I think I may have jinxed the competition at Fair Hill this weekend when I said 'Rain? What rain? These weather forecasts are ALWAYS wrong! They exaggerate SO much!'..... This I said on Saturday afternoon, so of course I woke up to pouring rain on Sunday! And as the day went on it got heavier and heavier. So to everyone who had to compete in the rain, I'm sorry and I accept full responsibility. It did however work out well for me tho with Liberty jumping a super clean round to finish second. This is the second event in a row that we've been runner up. And both times to a boy... Quite unchivalrous of them, they could have had the decency to have a rail! I don't think that's unreasonable, it's not like I wanted them to fall off. Any way I'm super happy with how this little horse is coming along. Cole was back on form this week and ended up 5th in a very big division. Again it was his dressage that kept him from the top position. Normally I understand that, I've made no secret that his flatwork is a work in progress, but this time he did a very consistent and accurate test. All the movements were performed clearly and well. He just lacked the expression on Tortilas. So I was a bit disappointed to see him scored so far down the list. But that's why we love this sport isn't it! And there's always another chance. Ron was great. He was quite feisty in the dressage but then jumped his way back into favour with a super xc round. So I was happy with them all. I have to say Chloe did a great job this weekend, while I was checking out who likes my status' on Facebook and checking my messages, she was working away ensuring the horses were happy and ready on time looking beautiful. You know a person has worked hard when they're asleep driving home. And you haven't even driven out of the competition yet! So thanks Chloe. Next up is Loudoun HT.

Liberty showjumping.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Home sweet home!

Spring each year is hectic and just getting more so! Between Poplar, moving back to MD, Morven and Easter, there's a lot going on. The move back in itself is time consuming and a logistical nightmare. 10 horses with only 9 spots on the trailer? Sometimes there isn't always room for one more.... Thanks to Rege Dvorsky (Cole) and his granddaughter Addison for helping with the move back. Firstly to Poplar: I had Cole in the advanced. His dressage was quite good, just the trot half pass lacking expression and we missed on of the changes. The cross country looked tough enough but definatley doable. The warmup was in one of the beautiful sand rings at the wonderful facility and over only showjumps. It didn't click with Cole that he was going xc until we went to the start box AFTER we'd warmed up. He got quite 'up' at that point and left the start box like a bat out of hell! NOT his normal style! The combination that was causing most of the trouble for the class was a vertical, 4/5 strides left to a corner, 4/5 strides right to a skinny. Every other horse seemed to misread the corner and glance of it. There were even some elimantions there. Cole jumped thru that part like a little rubber ball. I was a bit surprised how well he read it and I lost my line to the skinny. So 20 penalties there and I decided to save his legs and walk home. Obviously I needed to be better organised. He'll next go to Plantation (easy run around the intermediate) the to Fair Hill (back in the advanced. I have to say the orgainsers at Poplar couldn't have been better at helping the riders and accomodating their requests. Particularly after a torrential storm flooded the stalls: Poplar made sure we had plenty of fresh shavings to mop up as best we could.
Morven was lot of fun as it always is. I had three horses there, all of whom finished on their dressage scores. The two VS McCuan horses both did very well coming home with a red ribbon each. Liberty and Ronnie are both VERY different horses in a lot of ways. The only way they are similar is they both enjoy bucking and the both are never give up thoroughbreds! Liberty is lining up for his first one star at Fair Hill so I took it easy on him. He still made the time without any trouble and was a blast around the course. Even thru the quarry which wasn't really set on a particular distance, unless you count two and a half strides a distance....
Back at home it's teaching and training for me and a full schedule thru Spring heading into summer. Plantation this weekend with Cole, Charmer (preparing for her debut with Beth) and Ron. Followed by Fair Hill CIC the Loudoun, MCTA.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hi. Cole here again! Apparently Kate has lost her creative inspiration and now I'm the one in charge of keeping everyone up to date with the goings on around here. Let's start with me! Whilst I would consider myself a smart, nay, clever horse, I'm still trying to get a grasp on the English language. For example 'gallop day' doesn't always mean gallop. There is actually quite of lot of cantering involved. Nowhere near as exciting as galloping. Here we see the English language being misused. Going for a 'quiet hack out with Liberty': again English language misrepresented. There is NOTHING 'quiet' about a hack out with Liberty. All it takes is one squirrel running up a tree or one Llama charging towards the fence by the road and he jumps on top of me like a koala scaling a eucalyptus! And then there's the 'mini' prix. Mario told me a lot about the Grand Prix's he would do with Kate. Most of his stories involved Kate shaking like a leaf in a cyclone in fear at the size of the jumps. And how he would sail over them with the ease of Bionic Man leaping over Empire State in spite of what she was doing on his back. He would also explain how the jumps were above his head and wider than our stalls. So you can easily see how I would be mislead into thinking that a MINI prix would be a very small version of what he was talking about.Perhaps the jumps would be like the dog ones you see at Plantation, ie thin rails, about the height of a human waist. Easily jumpable! So when Kate told me we were doing a Mini Prix at Highfields I was pretty excited. I mean, I DID win the last time I was there! How hard could it be? Let me answer that question in plain simple English: REALLY REALLY REALLY hard! Apparently the only time 'mini' means small is in reference to mini Snickers bars! These jumps were HUGE! Not sure what Kate was trying to accomplish but I don't think I'll ever complain about eventing show jumping again! If I must say, I did rally to the effort and had just the first down, which I think was Kat's fault anyhow. So this brings me to this coming weekend.
Liberty's is the only one with an iPhone in the barn so I asked him to check my ride times for this weekend. He told me I was entered in the advanced! The pre Mini Prix me wouldn't have thought anything of it, just another word for intermediate (perhaps for the horses with an advanced intelligence). But now I'm getting quite apprehensive. Particularly when Liberty said I'm the only one from our barn going to the event! Always a bad sign! So I asked my room mate Arrow what he thought. He's 22 and seen EVERYTHING there is. He went into a LONG explanation about the technicalities of speed, heights, lengths, dimensions of the cross country course. He talked about advanced's. 3 stars, 4 stars, Bruce Davidson this, Bruce Davidson that. He talked about how it felt galloping into the Head of the Lake at Rolex. How the crowd clapped and cheered for him. All this sounded fun and interesting UNTIL he backtracked to the dressage. At the advanced level I'm expected to do flying changes! On command! How do I do that?! I still trot through my changes when I'm galloping out in the field during the day! So now I'm standing here in my stall hoping like anything Arrow is wrong and that Advanced actually means Novice with an IQ test at the end. But given how many changes I've had to practice recently, and the fact Kate lies to me on a regular basis, I don't like my chances! Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Collection Pass, aka Cole, has been bugging me for quite some time to let him update my blog. He's VERY persistent and persuasive so, just this once, I'm letting him do one. I may regret it! Also please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors, he's a horse and struggles with the touch typing..

Hi! Cole here! Kate said I can start adding my own updates to her blog on a regular basis! For my first one I'll give you a rundown of my last week or so starting with last weekend at Pine Top. Kate told me that she requested an afternoon ride time for my dressage so that I could have a sleep in a rest well in preparation for my test. She's so nice! Personally I'm not sure of the point of dressage, I OBVIOUSLY know how to turn and go and slow down and speed up judging by my cross country. And my judging by my showjumping I'm OBVIOUSLY good at collection and I'm obedient. Kate tells me these are the things they look for in a dressage test, why can't we skip the sandpit ring work and head straight to the jumping? The judges can see all they need there! Anyhow, truth be told, I'm a little claustrophobic and those little white fences around the ring freak me out a bit. Why are they so small? Why are they white? And what are the letters for? And why o why does the judge have to sit right next to the ring and rate my every movement?! I CAN HEAR YOU Mr Judge! I can hear you say that I need more suppleness, that I need more reach in my mediums, that my halt wasn't quite square. I know it's your job to rate us. But to be quite honest, it hurts my feelings to hear you talk like that. I WANT to be more supple (I've started yoga), I WANT to reach more in my mediums and I'm not sure what a 'square' halt means. I stopped didn't I! How about a little 'way to go Cole, you stayed in the ring!' or 'good try ol boy, I'm giving you a 10 for effort!'. Perhaps THAT would encourage me a bit more! ANYWAY back to Pine Top. After my sleep in we headed to the event. Kate had said there was a chance of rain in the afternoon, how wrong she was! On our way there it started POURING with rain! And then Liberty texted me to tell me there had been a tornado warning issued! Needless to say I started to get VERY excited that the dressage may be cancelled and we could head straight to the cross country. Alas this was not the case. But I didn't want to let go of my dream that easily. As we headed down the centreline toward 'I' for our first halt, I thought I saw a tornado off in the distance! So I put my head up to check it out (I could've been a hero and sounded the alert that saved everyone!), as I put my head up I sensed Kate's displeasure (she's so annoying sometimes). Let's just say that if a real tornado had lifted up a house and blown it in between 'I' and the judge, I believe it would've greatly helped our score. Anyhow, I think I did really well and my mum (in the brief 3 months I knew her) told me that's all that matters! The cross country and showjumping was a piece of cake and I'm pretty sure I was the best one out there. Which is why I think we have started our lessons with Phillip again, to showcase my talents. I'm pretty sure I'm the best jumper he's ever seen. And I'm pretty sure I'm there to teach him. I know I'm definitely teaching Kate. So in our lesson yesterday I tested both of their skills and threw in a couple of missteps and a little hiccup to keep them on the top of their game. I added a link to one of the exercises.
Back on the home front Lola told me that Trevor told her that Ari overhead Kate telling Chloe that we are heading home to MD a little earlier this year. Apparently the ground in MD isn't frozen and everyone misses me. I also thought I overheard a rumour that Liberty, Ron and I are going to Florida next week. If it's true then this is great news! I really need a holiday! And I love FL in the winter! Thanks for reading, I've got to go now. Kate's on her phone and distracted so if I hit the 'publish post' button now, she won't get a chance to proofread it! BTW, I now have a Facebook page (so passe I know, but apparently if you don't have one these days you're a nobody!). Search 'Collection Pass' or just go to Kate's and search the pages she likes, it'll come up.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pine Top

I had three horses this weekend at Pine Top and they all jumped great! After entering Cole (Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leone) in the advanced (his first) I moved him back down to intermediate after he missed his run at the Pine Top held two weeks ago. He's such a great cross country horse and this weekend was no different! He's really feeling his experience now and is super fun cross country. Basically I just tell him which direction to go in and he does the rest! He moved up 10 places to finish in the top ten. Liberty (McCuan) was also great xc. This horse is such an athlete and will take on anything I point him at! He's starting to feel very comfortable, even a little cocky. I don't mind as long as that means he keeps jumping the way he does! Raleigh jumped a super jump, really confident and bold until the coffin. Unfortuantley I just tipped off him. He was VERY surprised to see me on the ground and a little apologetic too! It wasn't his fault I told him, I just needed to put more SaddleTite on!
This weekend I'll be back in MD teaching, then heading to FL next week for some training.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chloe with her two favourite charges, Cole and Liberty!

Another busy week here in Aiken with apparently the entire eventing population of America in town to buy horses! No complaints here, it certainly keeps us out of trouble! All of the horses are going well, in particular Cole and Liberty. Both are such different horses: Cole is such an honest and hard worker that gives 110% each day and really draws support and confidence from his rider, and Liberty is so athletic up for any challenge IF he respects his rider. Unfortunately his idea of testing that respect involves a series of well thought out, complicated routines encompassing all his skills including (but not limited to) spooking (forwards, sideways and backwards), bucking and turning around really fast. He has a surprisingly large variation in the combination of these skills. He also perform them at random times, although I would have to say the spooking occurs most often when the Llamas next door are standing at the fence and staring at us. The good news is that all I have to do to get his respect is not fall off! And I pat him on the neck for good measure! His dressage is going very well, his cross country is great and his showjumping is definitely improving. Cole's jumping impresses me so much, he really learns well and doesn't forget his lessons. He's easily becoming one of my favourite horses ever

I'm very lucky to be supported by a wonderful group of owners with the MacLeod, Taggart and McCuan families along with Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leone. My students and boarders also give the income and inspiration to chase my dreams, so thank you! Coming up I have Pine Top Advanced and Southern Pines II, with a trip to FL for training and a trip to MD to teach a clinic all mixed in!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ice Road Truckers Pine Top style!

That is SOLID ice that the tractor is driving thru!!

Today at Pine Top was more like an episode of Ice Road Truckers! ALL THREE water jumps were frozen over! The organisers did an awesome job of breaking it up with tractors, trucks and any available vehicle! By the time we went cross country there was only the odd fragment floating around the edge.

This ten day period in February is always a busy one, with 4 shows. It's also the most popular for travellers searching for horses to buy and students to visit! All my horses have now done at least one event, most of them two. And the good news is they've all won ribbons! Both Full Gallops were true to level and tough as normal. I love these events and always seem to have a good go of it there. So far this year I've jumped approx 230 showjumps in a competition arena with just 3 rails! All the horses are jumping very well, particularly Cole and Liberty.

Raleigh at Full Gallop. Photo courtesty

For anyone interested, my schedule for the last 10 days:

Last Wednesday: Full Gallop, 5 horses plus 3 students

Saturday: Sporting Days, coaching students

Wednesday: Full Gallop, 5 horses

Friday: Pine Top Intermediate

Saturday: Pine Top 4 horses

Sunday: Pine Top 4 horses.

Now I'm sitting in an airport waiting for a connecting flight back to MD to teach for the next two days. Good luck to whomever has the first lesson tomorrow!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Liberty and I at the brush.

My great start to the winter season continues this week with all 5 horses competing at Full Gallop winning ribbons! Cole made a very solid return to eventing for the year by finishing 4th in the prelim. His dressage continues to improve, he was in the top 6 going into the jumping, which is fantastic! Liberty's first event since May last year was also a success, very close 2nd after the dressage on a 26. Clear sj then cruised around the xc. Trevor finished 6th in his debut and Ti and Ron put in very solid performances.

I have some great supporters between my owners and students, thanks for providing me with such nice horses and helping me achieve my goals!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cross country schooling fun!

Trev loves cross country!

Full steam ahead here in Aiken with the Aiken Horse Sale, first cross country school and a visit back to MD to teach all in the past week! I always find the first cross country schooling session in a while a bit intimidating, not sure why but perhaps it has something to with all the horses VERY happy to be galloping around and VERY happy not to be left in cold MD! Combined with Liberty's eclectic mix of being incredibly brave at jumping anything and being incredibly afraid of pretty well everything else, it's no wonder I put it off a day or two! All jokes aside we headed over to Full Gallop Farm with Trevor, Cole, Liberty, Maverick (Jenny), Raleigh and Chloe's own Mystica. It was Trevor's first time cross country and, as with any 3yo horse that's had only six weeks work, I wasn't sure what to expect. He was super! One would think he was an experienced campaigner! He jumped each ditch without hesitation, trotted straight into the water without a lead and negotiated the down bank in fine style! This guy is a born eventer!

I also attended the Aiken Horse Sale with two of my training level horses. I loved the concept of the sale, not an auction but a great way to show off your horses to a group of buyers all in one place. Both of my horses are top class and they'll be trailed tomorrow. We actually have a great group of sales horses at the moment to keep us busy.

I look forward to starting the eventing season next week and can't wait to see where our winter training has left us!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And so it begins!

Cole's winning round.

Civil Liberty back doing what he does best!

Finally the competitions have started! We kicked the year off with the PSJ Shows Aiken Winter Classic at Highfields in Aiken. And what a great way to start with a win on Collection Pass (Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leone)! And Pat McCuan and my own Civil Liberty was second! This is the third year that I've used this showjumping competition to start back and it's a great indicator of where the horses are in their training and frame of mind. It's quite an intimidating ring for the event horses who aren't accustomed to that type of atmosphere and I find it very useful throughout the year that my horses know how to deal with the pressure. Also, since it's the first show back, it can get a little wild at times! Obviously my horses are ready for the cross country and get excited, while the pure jump riders aren't so excited to share the warm up with us.... And, as my horses mostly look the same, I think they think that I'm jumping 10 rounds on the same horse! Cole jumped extremely well and feels fit and really ready for the year, this was his first win at a AA rated show. Liberty has grown stronger in his hiatus and feels like an even better horse this year.

So with the beginning of the show season, we are officially on the roller coaster that is the show year for 2012! From here on in each weekend, and quite a few weeks, are now taken up with competition and clinics. And 3 weeks ago I was complaining about being bored..... After this weeks show I've headed back to MD where I'm teaching a clinic to my regular students, then it's back first thing Monday morning.

Monday, January 2, 2012

After traveling down to Aiken on the 31st we're finally settled in! It was a largely uneventful trip until the last hour of our trip when I casually mentioned how smoothly the trip was going and what good time we were making. BIG mistake! Within 20 minutes the rear drivers side tyre on the trailer had blown with an explosion to rival that of a sonic boom. We limped to the nearest petrol station and begged the 6 horses to stand still while Rege did his best NASCAR pit crew impression and changed switched what was left of the tyre for the spare. By the time all was fixed, we arrived about an hour later than planned, but with all 9 horses in one piece. The only stress was whether or not my favourite Mexican restaurant would still be open.... Chloe, Jenny, Rege, Jeanne and I all saw in the New Year together before Rege and Jeanne headed back to MD.
Today was the first day of work, with all the horses schooling on the flat. After an initial minute or two, they all got down to work, picking up where we left off last week. I can't say how excited I am by the coming season. Cole's changes are getting better and better, Liberty's looking super strong, Ronnie's jumping great, Lola's feeling great (ready for her new home) and the two Irish guys are getting better and better. Ti will be down shortly. We kick off the competitive year with a show jumping competition in Aiken next week. I'll have Ron, Cole, Liberty, Trevor and Raleigh.

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