Highs and Very Low Lows

Sitting here on a hospital bed in my parents’ living room, I really can’t believe what’s transpired over the last four days.

I just got back from a great trip to Rolex on Sunday night and got a text from my dressage  trainer telling me she could make a rare trip to my barn to do lessons with both horses on Wednesday afternoon.

I finished work early and was super excited to have a lesson with Thomas, considering we’ve had one flat lesson since I bought him.

I decided to do him first, and did out usual routine tacking up and going out to the arena. I haven’t been lunging him a lot lately, and he’s been going well under saddle. We’ve had two outings, one more successful than the other, but that’s OK.

I went to get on, and he started moving off, so I stopped him, turned him around and walked him back up to the mounting block. Heidi stood by his head to distract him and I put my foot in the stirrup. No sooner was I on that he whipped backwards, half rearing, and then he took off crow hop bucking.

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I remember seeing the saddle below me and thinking I was coming off backwards, but somehow he got me off to the right. I heard some crunching, and knew I’d done at least one of my ankles, but Heidi and I weren’t sure how I fell. I must have landed on my feet and collapsed because nothing else hurt, and my helmet didn’t even have dirt on it. He continued around the arena bronc bucking until his hind ankle boots came off. WTF?

I thought my ankles were just sprained, but then I couldn’t get up, so we called the ambulance.

It was discovered that I have two broken ankles, and I underwent surgery on Thursday to put screws and plates in. I’ve never broken a bone in my life, let alone had surgery. Why did I have to do both?!

Of course, as it seems to be the case with my horses too, the doctor said my injuries were highly unusual.

So now I’m faced with a difficult few months. I have to be cared for completely by my parents, who thankfully don’t live too far away, but I’m essentially on bedrest for at least 2 weeks.

I’ve had to cancel my big European vacation later this month that I’ve been saving up for since last year, I’ve scratched Oh So from his dressage show this weekend and need to find someone to keep him going a little, and I’ve decided to send Thomas for training for two months. I’ll also be missing a few upcoming work trips in which I really needed the overtime pay.

I really have no idea what set Thomas off. I thought we had moved past the mounting issues, but if he’s going to react that violently, then I don’t think I want to deal with it. Hopefully we can get that sorted out while he’s away, but I’ve lost whatever fragile trust I had in him. He’s very sensitive, and I’m sure he didn’t mean to do what he did, but it happened, and I’ve been badly broken because of it.

Before all the drama, Oh So and I had a lovely ride at the Loch Moy Starter Trials. I was so excited to try for a full show season this year, now I likely won’t be getting back in the saddle for 12 weeks!

I’ve never been out of the tack that long, and this is by far the most serious injury I’ve ever had, and I am not looking forward to wasting half of my summer. So, I’ll be a little pouty and whiney for the next few weeks. I hope I’ll be able to see the silver lining in all of this, but right now it pretty much just sucks.

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GRC Photo

Product Review: Shires Stormbreaker Lite Sheet and Jersey Cooler

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Before I won a trip to the Longines Wellington Masters last year, I’d never won anything in my life!

Then one day this winter I randomly entered a contest again on Practical Horseman’s Facebook for a Shires blanket, and I won!

I’ve never tried a Shires brand blanket, having always been loyal to Weatherbeeta and Rambo’s various brands.

I was sent the Stormbreaker Lite Sheet in black/tan with a standard neck. It features 1200 denier waterproof material with shoulder gussets, adjustable chest clips, a wither relief pad, cross belly straps and cross leg straps.

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Front view of the light sheet.

I’ll admit I’ve gotten so used to the single tail strap on my Amigo blankets that cross leg straps were mildly annoying, but they’re certainly something I’m used to from Weatherbeeta blankets.

The front chest straps were a nice touch. I tend to adjust those on the buckle end to get the right fit and then only use the snaps end for quick on and off.

I only tried the blanket on Oh So, who’s a 78″, and it fit true to size. The shoulder gussets aren’t a necessity for him since he’s very narrow-chested, but they certainly didn’t hurt.

Since I got this late in the season, I was only able to test it out a few times in the pouring rain, and he was dry underneath after spending all day outside. I can’t speak to the wear and tear yet, but with about a month’s use it still looks good.

He was in need of a new sheet anyways, so we’ll see how long this one lasts! The sheet retails for $134.99 and comes in sizes 69″-84″.

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Shires Jersey Cooler

I also received a nice jersey cooler in my prize pack. I tend to use half fleece, half mesh coolers during the winter, spring and fall because Oh So runs hot, so I think Thomas will be using this the majority of the time.

It’s also came in black/tan, but is available in navy. It’s quite simple, with cross belly straps, a tail cord and a simple buckle front chest closure.

The outer jersey alter is quite smooth, so nothing stuck to it, and the underside was fleece to keep him warm. It was quite smart, and I think I’ll be using this a lot for trailering.

It comes in sixes 69″-84″ and retails for $62.99, making it a good value for a smart looking cooler.

Photo Apr 02, 10 43 53 AM
Front buckle of cooler

Product Review: Pre-Tied Stock Ties

I recently got the chance to try a bunch of pre-tied stock ties for the Chronicle’s Untacked magazine.

I’ve been really inspired to look into custom things for me and my horses since spending so much time at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and watching all of the dressage queens sparkle and shine, so searching for companies that did stock ties was a lot of fun.

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Bad Habit Pre-Tied Stock Tie

Started in 2014 by dressage rider Veronica Himmelberger in Schnecksville, Pa., Bad Habit Stock Ties’ slogan is, “Put the dress in dressage.”

When she started the company, Himmelberger had recently purchased a custom saddle pad and wanted a stock tie to match. She wasn’t finding what she wanted, so she made her own. After she ended up with a pile of stock ties, her husband suggested she sell them to pay for her “bad habit.” Combined with inspiration from the term “riding habit,” the company and its name were created.

Himmelberger is a one-woman operation and sells her ties to cover her horse expenses.

I had a hard time choosing one to try because of the endless different options. From fabric color and texture, to the size of the buttons, pins, ribbons or gems you can add, every stock tie is enviable.

As an eventer, I loved the colorblocked styles that use white and a custom color on the edges, with optional gems, but if you’re looking for something even fancier, some of the ties looked straight out of Downton Abbey—made of silk or lace with fancy brooches that look very Victorian chic.

Picking your cross-country or barn colors is fun, but if you need a more muted tie to follow Fédération Equestre Internationale rules, you can still dress it up by choosing a textured fabric and adding some bling. Collar extenders are also available for $1.50.

This one ended up being my favorite, and I chose one with blue and black trim and crystals that I’ve since worn at shows.

Learn more: etsy.com/shop/BadHabitStockTies
Cost: $60 for a handmade tie; $45-50 for pre-made ties.

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Ovation Dri-Tex Dressage Pre-Tied Stock Tie

Ovation’s budget-friendly Dri-Tex Dressage Stock Tie is no frills but all comfort. Available only in white and in sizes small through extra large, the tie is made from the brand’s moisture-wicking Dri-Tex fabric.

The tie was light as a feather when I wore it, and I hardly noticed it. It doesn’t come with a pin, so if you want to dress it up, it’s up to you. It looks a little limper compared to some of the fancier ties, but I’ll take that over feeling like I can’t bend my head and neck with too much fabric under my neck. It looks classic, despite fewer ruffles or a fancier “knot.”

Based on the feel of the fabric compared to some wicking shirts I own, I think it will work well on a summer day.

The tie features a hook-and-loop fastener, and the fabric’s treated with Scotchgard™ to help most stains come out in the wash. If you want easy and simple, this tie’s for you. There’s also an untied version.

Learn more: ovationriding.com
Cost: $22.95

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Style Stock Pre-Tied Stock Tie

Adored by top eventers, including Tamra Smith and Lauren Billys, West Coast-based Style Stock makes stocks in a variety of fabrics, selling untied and pre-tied versions of designs created in 2014 by eventer Hannah Childs of Santa Barbara, Calif.

From ruffles to rhinestones and knots to more simple pieces, Childs’ designs aren’t over the top. The colors and patterns are great for someone just stepping out of the comfort zone of a traditional white tie.

Light pinks, blues, lavender, silver, gold and cream shades give these stock ties an elegant look. The tie I tried included a pin you insert after crossing the two pieces of fabric.

The tie, which fastens with two snaps, was a bit tight, and although they’re only available in one size, extenders are available. Many designs are machine washable.

Learn more: Stylestock.co
Cost: $59-$69

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Salute Stock Ties Pre-Tied Stock Tie

Founded in 2014 in Princeton, N.J., by U.S. Dressage Federation S judge Kem Barbosa and FEI dressage rider Lisa Stockman, Salute Stock Ties offers conservative-looking pieces with a bit of flare.

Barbosa and Stockman were inspired to create a well-fitting stock tie that didn’t sag, was flattering to the neck and easy to put on.

The ties are designed to come high up the neck, and the knot is placed high as well, so the tie stays full and sits securely under the chin. They’re wide enough to sit securely under a jacket, and the hook-and-loop enclosure was generous and comfortable.

Blue or black polka dots, gingham and checkered patters are different, but not too crazy for competition. In addition, foxhunters should like how similar this tie looks to a traditional untied stock, and many of the colors and patterns are subtle enough for the hunt field.

A fun feature with these ties is that they’re reversible. You can wear them four different ways by flipping the collar and the tie piece. My favorite was a blue-checkered collar with a white tie. The fit was unobtrusive and comfortable and just required a pin to secure the tie in the right place.

The ties are manufactured in the United States by members of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana.

Learn more: salutestockties.com
Cost: $60

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Equi-Logic Stock Tie

Created by equestrian entrepreneur Julie Lackey, Equi-Logic pre-tied stock ties come in several different styles.

Lackey started making stock ties in the 1990s, and her original, the “Tie One On,” is still available today. A dressage rider sick of choking on the traditional stock tie, Lackey, of Las Vegas, tries to emulate the traditional knot in some of her designs, but she also has bib and ruffle collar versions.

The Tie One On comes in a textured pique fabric or a cotton poplin, both of which are designed to hold their shapes without ironing. It comes in plain white with a simple pin or with colored trim. A unique feature is the removable fabric that turns the stock into a ratcatcher.

My favorite of Lackey’s ties was the colorblock tie (pictured), which comes in satin or poplin and a choice of black, blue, purple or red for the collar. It was not bulky and laid nicely under my coat. It’s machine washable too, making it easy care.

Learn more: equi-logic.net

Cost: $28-$36

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Fancy Pants 2-Color Pre-Tied Stock Tie

The eventer in me silently squealed when I saw the Fancy Pants 2-Color pre-tied stock tie. I love color coordination, and Amanda Ruane, of Sarver, Pa., who started her company in 2016, had a beautiful red, white and black tie that was calling my name.

Made of polyester taffeta and polyester satin, there is a lot of fabric, but it laid flat and didn’t feel bulky around my neck. The tie had a generously sized hook-and-loop fastener.

If it’s too much color for you, the blouse is interchangeable by reaching under the tie and undoing the fastener. I changed it from black to white, and it looked just as nice. There is also a permanent blouse option.

Ruane offers different brooches and one-color ties and sells ties with crystal embellishment.

The general style and pattern of the ties are the same, but custom color options make these really fun. Ruane said she invites creativity and will work with a rider to make her vision a reality as she continues to grow her business.

Learn more: fancypantsstockties.com
Cost: $60 and above

Out And About (And An Abscess)

Spring has finally spring in Virginia, and I’m ready to start competing and getting Thomas out and about!

After my last post, I took Oh So to Morven Park to see Dr. Adams assuming we’d get his hock or stifles done.

Upon flexions though, he was very good from behind and mildly positive on his right front ankle. He had some mild inflammation there that Dr. Adams thought was some minor arthritis, so we injected that and a few areas in his back behind the saddle where he palpated a bit sore.

The good news is his left front ankle and the areas around his windpuff and deep digital flexor tendon sheath flexed 100 percent negative! Dr. Adams admitted he was a little nervous to see him considering our last appointment he was not feeling positive about his overall soundness and ability to continue competing, but he said he looked better than ever. He’s gained 100 pounds since August too thanks to a good feeding program from my barn owner.

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Valerie Durbon Photo.

I entered Morven Park with the assumption that it would be wet and we might not be able to run cross-country, and unfortunately a ton of rain on the Friday before meant the footing wasn’t going to be ideal for him. Any other year I would say the footing was pretty darn good for Morven, especially by the time I would have gone on Sunday, but there were too many spots of concern on course for Lisa to want to risk him.

I’m bummed it became an expensive combined test, especially considering we were leading after show jumping!

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GRC Photo.

He was a little up as we headed down to the dressage warmup with atmosphere, but as soon as I picked up the reins he went to work. He was a little tight as we got to the main arena and started trotting around, but I tried to stay as relaxed as I could. He can be forgiven for being a bit tense for our first outing of the year! Unfortunately he got me again in our free walk and anticipated the medium walk and jigged, so there will be some dressage schooling shows in our future to get that under control again.

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GRC Photo.

I was remarkably relaxed for show jumping, and we warmed up quite well actually. He was jumping big and I wasn’t picking! The round was quite good–no picking, no rails and he got all his leads because I wasn’t ducking. I was really pleased considering we’d had a bit of a tough lesson the week before. Not bad, just the fact that he didn’t want to sit and rock back over the jumps. We ended up putting some ground rails in front of a few of them to make him wait, but I counted on him backing off the jumps at the show.

I decided against entering MCTA in May because everything is on grass and it can often be wet. Such is life these days for us. Instead, I’m going back to Morven to try my hand at a recognized dressage show.

The last time I did a recognized dressage show I had Palais and was in the junior division, so it will be interesting to see how we stack up. I’m expecting it to be tougher for sure, but maybe we can win a TIP Award?

We’re doing First 2 and 3. I’m hoping two tests in a day will get him a little more rideable in the ring. If that goes well there’s a recognized show at Loch Moy in June that would be fun to try.

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Not sure what’s going on with my leg here, but it’s not slipped back, so that’s good! GRC Photo.

Next up for us though is the CDCTA schooling day on Saturday and the Loch Moy starter trials next week.

Thomas has been going well, but unfortunately at the end of March I felt some funny steps from behind. I did a couple of days of bute thinking it was because he had run around a lot one day when I was there, and then he came sound and had a great lesson with Lisa that weekend.

My farrier came on the 29th and he was sore on his left hind foot and heel in particular, but the farrier thought it was the way his alignment and gait was as he’s been working to correct it.

He was still sound until last week when he was not wanting to walk on it. While I was away at The Fork my barn manager’s farrier came out and found an abscess. I’ve been soaking it this week, and my farrier comes tomorrow, so fingers crossed we can put a shoe back on because I’m home for two weekends in a row, and it’s time to get him off property! He’s also bored and ready to get back to work so I’ve been trying to mess with him in one way or anther every night. We’ve groomed, hand grazed he’s helped me set up jumps in the ring!

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Tiny jumps! GRC Photo.

As far as travel, I’ve since been to the Carolina International and The Fork since my last update. Carolina is always lovely, and the weather was perfect. I got some great photos too, but I was really envious of those who got to ride the training course. The Carolina Horse Park is one of my favorite venues, and I really want to go back and compete.

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The Fork derby field.

The Fork was held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and it was my first time there. Let’s just say it was definitely better than driving to podunk Norwood, N.C.!

I’m not sure I totally agree with the main venue’s courses. Many of the lower level jumps were set in the arenas and in a derby field, although I found myself thinking it would be the perfect place for Oh So because you can guarantee the footing will be good! But it just didn’t feel like eventing to me.

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Carolina International.

The brand new three-star course was pretty cool though. It was open and gallopy and the footing felt like carpet. They’ve barely scratched the surface of what the World Equestrian Games’ course will be, and it was exciting to be there to watch it christened. I loved my photos too!

Now I’ve got a couple of weeks until the big one…Rolex!

Here’s a few photos I took of the boys with my nice camera recently. Oh So’s in his ugly phase right now, but once his summer coat comes in, he’ll look great!

Product Review: Kerrits Stretch Panel Riding Jacket

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I’d been eyeing the Kerrits Stretch Panel Riding Jacket all winter because of my love of lightweight jackets, the color blue and color blocking, so when it went on steep discount recently, I picked one up in the Night Shade color.

The blue parts of the jacket have a really cool horse design if you look closely, and the black soft-shell points are slimming and stretchy.

I recently wore it on assignment when the mornings were chilly in the 40s and the afternoons were comfortable in the 70s, and it was a good choice. It’s slightly filled for warmth, almost puffy, with the effect of a fleece jacket, but the lining is smooth. The outer soft-shell fabric made it easy for hay and horse hair to come off, but I’m kind of wanting to keep this one out of the barn. Oh So tends to like to put his drippy nose on everything, especially when I come wearing something new!

This jacket is the perfect length for riding, but it’s also stylish enough to wear out and about. Love it!

Slow and Steady

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Thomas and Oh So hanging.

I’ve had Thomas for just about three months now, and we’re slowly making progress in his re-training.

He’s proven to be very willing, but also a little weary of new things, so we’ve had to be creative in introducing him to jumping and just going slow. I feel like we should be further along at times, but then I have to remind myself I’ve only had him for three months. We’re still learning to trust each other, but we had a good breakthrough in my lesson last Thursday.

After initially teaching him to pick up his feet and actually jump (where he was a little oblivious to the whole thing and happy to do it) he’s now realized that it can sometimes be hard and scary, so I’ve been working on keeping him straight to canter and trot poles first, then just trotting to small verticals with a ground pole or cantering tiny cross rails.

I’m still trying to decide whether he’s spooky or just scared of/inexperienced towards random objects like the flower boxes or blocks in the ring, so I try to move stuff around a few times a week. Sometimes even just trotting between two sets of standards that have boxes can cause him to spook or fall in on a circle if he thinks he’s being aimed at something, so before we pointed him at a jump with something under it, Lisa suggested we try lunging him over things.

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Oh So schooling a few weeks ago. 70 degrees in February!

I have plenty of practice with that since I used to jump my minis in hand all the time! We set up a few things, and I led him over them for a couple of days, then she came for a lesson, and when we aimed him at things, he went! We ended up doing a little course of trot jumps with blocks under them, and he was very good.

I’ve never used that type of training technique, but I’m thinking it’s going to be useful when we start to introduce cross-country jumps.

I’m just still learning to trust him and be firm enough with him, but also sympathetic. I’m a little frustrated that I can’t afford as many flat lessons as I want because most of my budget is going towards jumping lessons with him and Oh So as I took towards trying to compete a bit this spring. I haven’t taken him off property yet, which is making it difficult to get a flat lesson.

I had Heidi come out once, but she doesn’t travel much, so I feel a little aimless, and I just don’t want to mess him up or slow our progress. The most important thing she said is that we insist on bend now, so I’ve been working with that, and it almost immediately improved his right lead canter departure. He gets it on the first try almost every time now. But now going left he sometimes gets the wrong lead, which Lisa says is a common thing while training an OTTB.

The left side is obviously the most difficult right now, and he seems to breathe a little heavier or hold his breath going that way, either because it’s hard or because he’s focusing.

I think I’m going to have to start doing some reading to remind myself of the basic training scale and come up with some exercises, but it really helps to have eyes on the ground to give me something to work on and look forward to and to come up with a program. I also hate doing flatwork in my jump saddle, but a dressage saddle is not in the budget right now. I know I need to trust that I can do this, but being the perfectionist that I am, it’s really hard to do that.

On the ground he’s starting to trust me a little more, and now walks up to me most times when I go to get him in the field instead of running away. He’s very food motivated and has expensive taste, so it’s carrots only right now!

We just had a moderate snow storm, so we’ll have to keep waiting to get him off property until I can ride a few days in a row and it’s not crazy windy and cold. Timing is everything!

Oh So has been feeling a little stiff from behind, so I’m going to have him injected next week. My guess would be stifles, but we’ll see. Don’t tell him, but he’s entered at Morven in the novice the first week of April! Unfortunately I decided not to enter Morningside this week for a combined test because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to ride again, but we’re hoping to get to an indoor this weekend if the snow hasn’t melted.

Since my last post I’ve been to Red Hills, which was a lovely warm weekend in Tallahassee, Fla. It’s such a different vibe there because the local community is so involved, so there are  a lot of clueless spectators, but it’s great to give the sport more exposure.

I’m off to one of my favorites next weekend, Carolina International, then The Fork.

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Beauty at Red Hills.

 

Paradise at Pine Top

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I’m knee-deep in my busy spring travel season, but I just wanted to write a quick update about my trips so far.

My most recent trip was to Pine Top in Thomson, Ga. I’d never been, and since they added a CIC*** last year that was well attended, I thought it might make sense to go this year.

Unfortunately entries were way down, and only 13 started in the three-star, but I’m still happy I went.

The trip there was not super fun, as I got to ride on a tiny propeller plane to the Augusta regional airport, which was loud and scary!

The event was kind of in the middle of nowhere, but the historic farm was really beautiful.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and walked the cross-country course. I was immediately overcome with this feeling of, “ah…” It was such a beautiful day, everything was really green and pristine, and it just seemed like a really nice, no frills kind of event. It really made my heart pang a little, wishing I was riding myself.

I sat down with the owner of the farm, who couldn’t have been nicer. He even invited me to an anniversary dinner with his wife and 20-plus other people at the local Mexican restaurant!

Friday was fast and furious, and Clark Montgomery was the eventual winner–always a favorite of mine!

The lack of media attention was kind of refreshing to be honest. I love all of my regular media friends, and while I had to round up the people I needed to talk to myself, it just made the day feel a little more casual and a little more down-to-earth after spending so much time immersed in Wellington with sponsors and VIPs and wealth.

I wish there had been more riders so I could have wandered around a bit, but I found a good spot and was pretty happy with my photos, and I only came home with one fire ant bite!

I got an email from the farm owners on the Monday after the event thanking me for coming, which was so nice.

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Loughan Glen. Love that eye!

Earlier in the month I had an insane two weekends in Wellington covering the $100,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase, the Great Charity Challenge, the Palm Beach Masters and a CSI**** Grand Prix, then I went back down three days later for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI***** and the WEF CSI***** Grand Prix. Whew!

I love jumpers but don’t get to cover them often, so that was exciting. The WEF showgrounds just come alive at night with the crowds and literal-circus atmosphere.

The Showcase was so fun to have pretty much all of my media and photographer friends in one place, and I love being immersed in the dressage world too, mostly because the fashion inspires me! I got to interview Mark Todd at the Showcase, which I was slightly nervous for, but I had my friend Shelby from USEA there to keep me calm!

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On the job! Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Photography photo.

Red Hills is up next, another favorite because of the natural beauty of the park it’s held at, and the Carolina International at the Carolina Horse Park, which holds a lot of happy memories of my own riding.

I’ll be at The Fork in early April on my first trip to Tryon, then on to Rolex!

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I got another cover shot out of the Showcase!