Yesterday Oh So and I finally got to leave the start box for the first time in nearly a year. I really can’t believe it’s been that long, but with my injury and then the fall and winter weather, the timing was bad, and it just didn’t happen.
I’ve been dying to get out all winter, but we had a very cold and then wet winter, so we haven’t been able to cross-country school much.
We went to Loch May last week before I went down to The Fork and had an easy school just getting us both used to cantering and jumping up and down hills. When you’ve been on a flat surface all winter it takes a little while to get that feel back!
Long time no update! There really hasn’t been much to talk about as far as my riding since my last update, but I did have a really good lesson with Heidi before I left for two COTH trips, and I’ve been hanging on that feeling ever since.
I’ve just gotten back from two back-to-back trips, first to the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival in Del, Mar, California, and then to Wellington for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Two weeks of fancy prancing, and I’m inspired to put on my fun-colored breeches and make Oh So wear his blingy browband, but I’m ready to jump!
Before my whirlwind trips I was finally able to connect with Heidi for a flat lesson. I haven’t been able to see her since late November because of the weather on the weekends, so I’ve felt a little lost working on my own, knowing that I’d really like to get the right to left flying change this year.
We had a very good lesson where we touched base with some shoulder-in and haunches-in on the long side to supple him, then went on to work on the changes.
We started just asking for them on the diagonal, but then we played with keeping the counter canter and making him bend his head and neck left and right, listening to me and not trying to change. Once he was supple that way, I asked for the change on the long side.
We mostly did it in right lead counter canter, and he did a couple of clean but ugly changes left. He still thinks it’s OK to slip in a trot step, so we’ve got a lot of work to do yet. I think a lot of it has to do with me just not being educated enough to have the feel and timing right, so we figure it out together! I’ve been playing around with the changes at home on my own, and found that if I just shift my seat bones and try not to swing my legs too much he’ll often have a quieter response, so we’ll keep working on that too.
I was kind of inspired watching Laura Graves and Verdades do their changes this weekend. Rider after rider in the CDI would swing their legs wildly in the changes, and her legs didn’t even move! That’s really what it’s all about, the invisible aids.
Heidi has confidence we can get our scores for our bronze medal this year, so I’m keeping that as a soft goal in my head. He feels better than ever, but I don’t want to get my hopes up and be disappointed if we don’t reach a goal. The only thing besides the changes that’s holding us back is my inability to sit the medium trot, so I’m forcing myself to keep working through it and working on some flexibility and strengthening exercises at home.
Oh So is celebrating his 18th birthday today. How time flies! He doesn’t think he’s a day over 5!
My trip to California was pretty amazing, and I wish I’d had more time to explore San Diego. I had a couple of hours before the jog on Wednesday when I arrived, so I drove 5 minutes from the airport to Balboa Park and wandered around. There were a ton of museums that seemed fun, but they were all randomly closed on Wednesdays!
The CDI was quite small with only three rings. The international covered ring was lovely, and I spent most of my time there. My hotel and the horse show was very close to the beach, and I had some time in the mornings to go have my bagel and hot chocolate on the beach, which was lovely.
I flew home Sunday and had two days to hack Oh So before heading off to Wellington for the CDI*****. My parents wanted a beach vacation so they came down with my aunt to visit Palm Beach, and they came to the both AGDF and WEF. It was fun to show them what I do, even if I didn’t have a ton of time to hang out.
I flew back Sunday and had enough time to hack Oh So before it got dark. We had tons of rain while I was gone, so everything is a muddy mess, but hey, we’re in mid-February, so we’re almost getting to the start of show season! I’m hoping to get Oh So out this weekend for a jump lesson, but Heidi’s out of town the next two weekends so we’ll continue to go it alone.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Botanical Building in Balboa Park.
Botanical Building in Balboa Park.
Botanical Building in Balboa Park.
Del Mar Arena
Del mar Arena
Ready for the Helen Langehanenberg Masterclass and freestyles!
Adequan Global Dressage Festival
Daniel Bluman won the big CSI***** Grand Prix.
I visited the African American History Museum in DC with my parents in January
Despite being injured and off my feet for several months this year, I still had the chance to go to a ton of amazing competitions for my job in 2017.
As always, I feel incredibly fortunate to do what I love for a living, and this year I got to check off a couple of bucket list events, as well as go to some longtime favorites. I attended 18 competitions this year for COTH (14 actual trips total, counting the USEA Convention).
A photographer friend generously gifted me some Lightroom classes to work on while I was laid up, and I think my editing skills have gotten a little better this year! I’m always in search of the perfect jumping shot, but I’ve been trying my best to be aware of my surroundings and capture quiet, candid moments as well. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and play with different perspectives as I continue to capture some of the country’s best horses and riders.
Here are some of my favorite photos from my coverage this year.
Cambalda splashed through the brush jump at the Carolina International with Jennie Brannigan.
Ballynoe Castle RM retired at Rolex this year, and Buck Davidson showed him some love.
The trees at Red Hills in Tallahassee, Fla., are gorgeous!
This Snow White pas de deux was really fun at Dressage at Devon!
My first trip to Rebecca Farm didn’t disappoint!
I captured this shot of Laura Graves’ Verdades at AGDF in February.
Jan Ebeling patted FRH Rassolini at the AGDF. Check out that crest!
The light hit Foxwood High’s eye just right at Great Meadow.
Will Coleman and Gideon made a lovely picture under the willows at Red Hills.
Just some lovely fall colors at Devon
This shot of Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow became a cover shot for COTH!
#eqgoals. Mavis Spencer at the Palm Beach Masters.
Clark Montgomery and my favorite, Loughan Glen, at Pine Top.
Jacquie Brooks always has a good time on D Niro at Devon.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines were stick straight at Great Meadow.
Reggie being cute!
Costume hi jinx at the Great Charity Challenge in Wellington.
Braids at Fair Hill.
Hunter knees for Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras at Ocala.
All cleaned up for the Fair Hill jog.
I was a little downhill to capture this shot of Will Faudree and Pfun at Rolex.
This table shot beautifully at The Fork. Here’s Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott.
I thought this was a unique angle as I was walking towards another fence at Carolina. Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless power up the hill.
#knees. Laura Kraut and Confu at the Palm Beach Masters.
I love going to new event. It was amazing to be at the christening of the new advanced course (and future WEG course) at The Fork at Tryon. This is Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude.
D.A. Duras and his groom Shannon Kinsley at Ocala.
Just a nice shot of Joe Meyer and the best named horse ever, Clip Clop, at Rolex.
Tim Bourke and his son Senan at Fair Hill.
Knowing what Will Faudree has been through in the last two years after breaking his neck gives this image from Rolex special meaning.
Beauty in the background at Rebecca Farm.
The water shot beautifully at Carolina International this year. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z tackled this huge drop with style.
Just a nice shot of the Fair Hill CCI*** winner Seleno O’Hanlon on Foxwood High.
#eqgoals. Emily Beshear at Great Meadow.
Sharon White’s Cooley On Show hammed it up at the Rolex jog.
Jennie Brannigan’s I Bella gave this table at the Wellington Eventing Showcase plenty of air.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were mobbed at Red Hills.
I didn’t shoot much show jumping this year, but I got this nice photo of Kent Farrington and Gazelle in Wellington.
Three masters of eventing in one place! Boyd Martin, William Fox-Pitt and Mark Todd at the Wellington Eventing Showcase.
Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C at Fair Hill.
Whenever I’m struggling on the flat, I think of this photo of Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST at Rolex and sit up just a little bit taller.
It always takes me forever to write about my big vacations, mostly because when I get back it’s usually straight back to my normal, busy life, and I’m left with little time to absorb my experiences.
But taking a few weeks to do so actually helps, I think, so here goes!
I had been waiting for months to take this vacation. I had to reschedule it after my accident, and the dates at the beginning of November were just about the last ones available for the year and before the weather turned.
I’ve done several COSMOS trips of single countries, but this year I decided to try a multi-country one.
I had a lovely visit to the USEA Annual Meeting And Convention in Long Beach, Calif., but before I did that I took a day to explore Los Angeles.
I did just about every touristy thing in L.A. back in 2004 with my family, but I wanted to visit now that I’ve had so many more years of travel experience and perspective.
Unfortunately the city is so huge and traffic is so bad that a day is just not enough time to see everything!
I decided on the Hop On Hop Off bus, but it had 4 routes, and the two I chose were slow, so I ended up using an Uber too.
I decided last minute to take a studio tour of Warner Brothers, so I only had until about 2 p.m. to see other sights.
I started my day by walking from my hotel to the Farmer’s Market. I loved wandering through the narrow aisles past foods from different parts of the world, exquisite desserts and shops full of trinkets and souvenirs. It felt a bit like being in Europe.
About 10 days ago I decided to get back on Oh So, and so far it’s been going better than I expected. The surgeon didn’t exactly say no, he just wanted me walking 100% first and asked if I could wait until the end of August. I stifled a laugh. If I wait any longer I won’t be able to get to any shows this season, so the sooner I can start the better!
I’d say I’m about 85% back to normal and I just tend to get stiff walking if I’ve been sitting. My range of motion and strength is not quite there yet, but I feel fairly normal when walking once I’m loosened up. Going down stairs is a bit of a challenge, mostly due to calf pain and some pain/stiffness on the inside of my right foot, and that’s been manifesting itself when I ride too.
There were no fireworks or fanfare on the day I got on. In fact, no one was around but the barn owner’s son, who was working on his car. But at about 12 weeks since my accident I wanted to at least try to get on and see what happened.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
I’ve traveled a lot this year, and photography is my favorite part of my job, so it was hard to narrow down my favorite photos, but I chose the following for two reasons. First, I love a classically perfect jumping photo, so I’ve included a few. Second, I’ve worked really hard this year on seeking out more candid moments. Sure, I can get a hundred shots of horses with perfect knees over a big oxer, but in the end, I think it’s the more emotional moments that really resonate with people.
It probably helped that I had a borrowed Nikon D5 and 200-400 lens to play with at the Olympics, which was amazing, but many of these were taken with our trusty D3 or D4S and a fixed 300m or 70-200mm lens.
Click on a photo to view the gallery in higher res.
I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by! I’m ending it in a very different place than I expected to, but a better place for sure! It was a year of travel and new discoveries, but also a little sadness and less competing than I’d hoped.
It was the first full year I’ve been living in Leesburg and the first year of being a boarder. While I do enjoy living on my own, being a boarder is still a difficult adjustment. I miss having having my horses in my backyard and being able to see them multiple times a day. I miss seeing them first thing when I wake up and even the late night checks when it’s freezing outside!
I’ve never done field board in my life, so I was pretty nervous the first month, but he’s taken to it well and enjoys being dirty all the time! The good news is he’s moving around a lot more so his front legs look very good.
I’m slowly learning to let go of some of my more “type A” tendencies when it comes to horse care, and it hasn’t backfired yet, so fingers crossed!
I always knew Bear would have to be sold so I could replenish my savings account as I adjusted to living on my own, but it didn’t make it any less painful to say goodbye to him in April when I finally sold him.
I thought I would be able to focus my time and money on Oh So this year and at least do some novices, but after we did two events, he had a minor injury, and the vet advised us to take it easy over the summer, so there went my fall plans.
But, I’ve been learning to find silver linings in life, and while it sucked to not be able to compete, I met some great friends over the summer, and it allowed me to ride Harley for a few months. I even got to compete him on my birthday, which gave me such joy to be back out on course again. Working with him gave me more confidence bringing along a baby, and I was able to use what I learned from Bear to get him to his first event. I’m happy I was able to show his owner Meghan what he’s capable of, and now she’s ready to have some fun and come to the dark side!
After I competed him in November and moved to my new barn, I had planned to stick to my idea of maybe getting a baby in the spring and seeing how Oh So felt to compete, but of course my trainer Lisa had her eye out and found Forward Thinking in December. It was a whirlwind, but now I have a new horse to work with and goals to start thinking about.
I have no idea if Thomas will become my next “horse of a lifetime” like Oh So is, but so far he seems like a willing partner, and I’m excited to start jumping him soon.
As for the rest of my life, I’ve become an aunt for the second time this year, but I haven’t been able to meet my new niece yet since my brother and sister in law moved to Ohio. I’ve never been more than a few hours from my brother, so it’s been hard, but probably harder on my parents who are enjoying being grandparents.
I traveled more than ever this year, and to be honest, I felt a little burned out by the end of the year, but more creatively than physically. I love my job, and I’ve been covering mostly eventing over the last few years, but sometimes it gets hard to think of new and different ways to write about the same people that keep winning. I find that the few months I don’t travel from November until January usually help me recover and refresh a bit, so by February, I think I’ll be ready to tackle another year!
Here’s where I’ve been this year for work:
Global Dressage Festival CDI*****/WEF CSI***** (Fla.)
Red Hills CIC*** (Fla.)
Carolina International CIC*** (N.C.)
The Fork CIC*** (N.C.)
Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (Ky.)
Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.)
Bromont CCI*** (Quebec)
Great Meadow International CICO*** (Va.)
Plantation Field CIC*** (Pa.)
Dressage At Devon (Pa.)
Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.)
Ocala Jockey Club CIC*** (Fla.)
USEA Convention (Fla.)
Most of what I wrote for the web can be seen here. These are only stories with just my byline though. I did a lot of writing with co-workers as well.
Obviously the most amazing trip was to Rio for the Olympics. I never imagined I would cover an Olympic Games, and it’s still sinking in that I was there. I went to the Newseum this week with my dad for the first time in many years, and in one display case they had examples of photographer credentials over the years. They had one from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and it was cool to think that I have one too now!
It was also refreshing to talk to new and different people, especially since I enjoy covering dressage and show jumping, but don’t get to do it that often.
My travel wasn’t all fun and games though. There was tragedy at Jersey Fresh when a horse and human died on cross-country day. I had never interviewed Philippa Humphreys, but her death still hurt just as much. It was a somber, eerie feel on show jumping day, and it’s something I’ll never forget.
I was excited to go to Rolex and Dressage At Devon for the first time as a member of the media. I’ve been going to both for a long time as a spectator, but to be able to take photos was the best feeling.
I love exploring other cultures and their history, but I decided with a big trip to Rio this year that I wouldn’t go to Europe. But since I turned 3o in November, I gave myself a gift, and I’ll be going on a 10-day trip in May with stops in London, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Paris.
Looking ahead to 2017, I’m hoping it will be my year to get back out there and compete regularly and grow more both professionally and personally.
My first trip is to Florida for the Wellington Eventing Showcase and GDF CDI*****, then possibly Pine Top CIC***, and the usual suspects of Red Hills, Carolina International and The Fork. We had a very exciting planning meeting this month with the whole staff, and I think we’re all excited to tackle the next year.