Sunday, April 13, 2014

Collection Pass aka Little Cole

Rolex is fast approaching and I thought I would share the story of how I came across my 2014 entry, Collection Pass. It was actually the brilliant idea of Robert Taylor (Taylormade farm, Damascus) that I go and see a horse down the road. I was fairly new to the US, and Robert. Robert was fairly unclear on the details of the horse: he was either a good prospect, had done some eventing, or some fox hunting or something. He had actually mentioned him to me Several months earlier but at that point the owner was not ready to part with him. The horse sounded intriguing enough, so I waited for Robert to give me the okay to contact the owners. That call, came late one Halloween afternoon, as I had plans for the evening I almost did not go to see the horse. As with any professional rider, the lure of seeing a new horse always wins out. Robert had told me that I would have to take my own tack, as his owners ( Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leone) were not riders and would not have anything I could use. So it was with very low expectations (and several apologetic messages to the social side of my evening ) that I arrived to see this horse that "may or may not have evented". Happily the horse I found was a nice type and seemed very well taken care of, so I chucked my saddle and bridle on and looked for a place to try him. When I asked Rege where the best place to ride was, he indicated towards some trails. It seemed like a good idea so I pointed Cole's nose down one and cantered. He seemed to do that alright so I turned around and cantered back.  He seemed to do that alright too! So we raided Rege's garage for something to jump and all I could find were pet carriers . So I set them up on the trail. Without batting an eyelid Cole jumped them both ways. Good nature, good type, good canter, I was sold! Rege kindly agreed to my suggestion of a weeks trial to see how he was in an actual ring, which would also give me a chance to look up his record and get some history on him. During this week I came to know Rege and Jeanne and they made the decision to take him off the market and remain as the owners. Also during that week, I learned a lot more about Cole's history, he had in fact evented, he was sourced by Kelley Williams of A Bit Better Farm in Maryland who initially trained and evented him. She's since told me he was very nearly sold as a hunter in Canada, but that fell through thank goodness! Kelley then sold him to Rege for local event rider and owner of A Deck Above Farm, Kristin Parris.

As a race horse he was not particularly successful,  being given the sack after only 6 starts. When looking closely at his record its easy to see why, in 5 of the 6 starts he was last, in his 6th start he was second last, only beating home a horse that broke down half way around.

Cole is your quintessential American thoroughbred in that he's very athletic, sure footed, and most importantly comes to work every day giving his 110% effort. Where he differs from other thoroughbreds though is his laid back nature. On Sunday he can run around an advanced, and on Monday he can go trail riding with a 10 year old kid (which he has done!). He doesn't understand or think that he is particularly good, he is certainly not one of those bullet proof horses. For me this has taken some getting used to, as I have always ridden very bold and gregarious horses, Cole is certainly not gregarious! In the time I have known him now, I learnt that while he is honest and brave, I do have to hold his hand and he generally will take the lead from me. If he knew that he was an advanced horse about to take on a 4 star, he would probably go to the corner of his stall and cry, but I think the same would happen if we told him he was at training level and going to a training three day! I strongly believe he thinks he's still at novice level, so we keep telling him he's just going to a novice championship, " Don't worry boy,the jumps won't be any bigger than what your used to! There will just be more people watching!" If he were a guy he would be a valuable player on the football team, but not the star, and he would always be up for a drink at the pub!

Now with just over a week to go, we're taking it day by day with his training and fitness. Wish us luck, and give him a cheer as we go around! Just not too loud! This weekend, as he missed his run at The Fork, I ran him around the Intermediate at Plantation. Now to keep us both sound for another week and a half!

Cole's first comp with me was show jumping in Raleigh, NC.

Plantation Fields as a 1 star horse. Photo: Amy Dragoo.

Bromont as a 2 star horse. Photo: Lauren Sumner.

Winning Middleburg Intermediate 2013.

Southern Pines as a 3 star horse. Photo: Brant Gamma.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm so sorry and only sad.

Some weekends I'm just happy to get home. The Fork was one of those. On Wednesday, as I was supposed to leave, Cole suffered a bruise that left him 3 legged lame. To say I was I was upset was an understatement. To have your horse go lame 3 weeks out from the jog at Rolex is heart stopping. My immediate concern was for his welfare. Obviously I had to scratch him from The Fork. Then at night as I was laying in bed, I thought of the risks I'd taken this year to get Cole to Rolex and Liberty to Saumur, and wondered if I had just been foolhardy and over the top. Many of the risks had been of an extreme nature and everything had go to plan, no mistakes. Remember the polo helmet and competing with my broken jaw still wired shut?  And just as it seemed as tho we may pull it off, this happens. Bugger. So the next morning Bucky, Liberty and I head off to The Fork, already a little on the under excited side of things (well I was under excited, I can't say Libery was, he's ALWAYS excited!). Both horses tried very hard in the dressage and showjumping and it was Bucky who found himself in a position to win. But somehow for the whole weekend I was fixated with the idea of getting home to a sound Cole and being able to get in a vital gallop that he missed. By Sunday morning, as I was walking my courses for the final time, I was beside myself with a feeling that I just had to get home and do it myself. Rhiannon is more than capable of galloping (and often does) however my feelings were so strong that called Beth (owner of Bucky) and Adrienne (active owner in Liberty) to get their input. Of course they both said it was my call and to come home if that's what I was feeling. This was particularly great of Beth as we would have won even if we were a little over time cross country. So with a feeling of melancholy I packed my stuff and headed home only to find out 10 minutes down the road that fellow competitor Will Coleman had lost his World Games hopeful and great partner, Conair, following a fall on the cross country. I have seen Joey, as he was called in the barn, at all of the shows Will competed him at since he was imported from England last year. I can only describe their partnership as epic, poetic and inspirational. One only had to spend any time around them to see the mutual connection and love for each other they had. Not to mention the desire for thrill that both horse and rider possess must possess to compete at this level. This came after the loss of Powderhound the day before at the same show. 'Carlos' was imported from Australia and, at 15, I had known him since he was 3 or 4. His death came as a shock as he had made the same journey as me and was one of the kindest, sweetest horses you could imagine.

The loss of a (or several) horse/s to a professional is part of the business. However, as a professional, they are your life blood and hold the key to all your hopes and dreams. Plus they keep you safe in this fairly risky sport. And as a rider you think that you can always protect them and keep the out of harms way. You can't. And that hurts. A lot.

So this time I don't have any photos of my horses jumping incredible obstacles at high speed. I just have a heavy heart and sense of loss for the two great horses who left us not to mention my roommates boss, Dickie Small (legendary MD race trainer, google him). I am happy to have brought the horses under my charge home safe, sound and willing to fight another day. Even if they are mad that they were dragged all the way to Charlotte, NC and dragged all the way home, without getting to do the cross country. I'll take the angry and feisty horses over the coming home without one. They'll live. And I am sad. For a lot of people.

This weekend I feel only an emptiness and subdued fortune. And, yes, Cole is sound and galloped with me today. I would've given anything to know that on Wednesday. Today I was just happy to see his face, reagardless of how his legs where feeling.

To the organisers of The Fork: Thank you for making such an incredible event and being so amazing to the riders. It is one of my favourite events and I'll be back next year without a doubt. I know that you're feeing the same pain as the rest of us, and I also know that every rider there is totally behind you and will be back given the chance.

This weekend I was happy to be home.

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