2014 Recap – Some pretty high highs, but some pretty low lows

 

Oh So was looking good in his lesson this week.

When I decided to write a year-end recap, I had initially decided to title it something like, “2014–the year that never was” or, “2014 Sucked”, but once I started looking back, I realized that while 2014 was full of lots of lows, it was also full of plenty of highs.

I was feeling pretty good heading into the year–I spent New Years covering a George Morris clinic in Florida–five days of beautiful, sunny weather and lots of learning–but as I prepared to board my flight to go home, I found out my English Pointer Ramsey had died suddenly. My parents tried to keep him comfortable so I could say goodbye, but he just couldn’t hold on.

It was devastating to lose a member of our family and I still think about him everyday. This is the first Christmas in awhile where he won’t be there.

Most of January and February were spent surviving one of the coldest and most miserable winters we’ve had in awhile, all while trying to start Oh So’s rehab under saddle and transitioning him to some turnout after being on stall rest. It was odd not preparing for Southern Pines in March, but I did have something to look forward to with Bear, who turned four in February.

He made quite a bit of progress over the winter and we were finally able to get out and cross-country school in March, where he proved that he had the aptitude for eventing. We did several combined tests and he surprised me with his willing attitude. It was such a difference to Oh So–no drama!

We did out first real event in early September at Loch Moy, and save for a little drama in dressage, had a good time.

Over the summer, Oh So returned to full work and we had a few cross-country schools under our belts before deciding to try for a novice and a couple of trainings in the fall season. I was feeling a bit out of practice over the bigger fences but towards the end of the summer, I really felt like I was back in sync with him.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Unfortunately, he did something to his right hip/SI joint around the same time and it took awhile to figure that out. I was so close to being able to compete with him that I could taste it! We’re now starting to jump again and I’m hoping to compete again in the spring.

As a result of Oh So’s injury, Bear got to start his recognized eventing career sooner than I’d thought. I was pretty nervous but he did very well at his first beginner novice at Seneca Valley, save for being eliminated at the water!

We had a longer gap than I wanted between that and Waredaca, which was full of drama and ended in me falling off, but we rebounded for Virginia the next weekend and completed (and went through the water!).

AEC Texas-style!

This is the first year of my life since I started eventing where I really haven’t had a “season”. At times I felt lost, both in my training because I didn’t have a goal to work towards, but also with what to do when my whole life has revolved around the eventing season.

But as a result, I got to travel quite a bit and learn through osmosis. Watching the best horses and riders in the U.S. as part of my job is a treat, whether it’s eventing, dressage or show jumping.

Riding Bear has taught me a lot more about riding than I imagined. He might be mentally quieter than Oh So, but I have to sit tighter from time to time since he is still four!

I’ve also learned to savor every ride. Before Oh So’s injury, I got worked up about this or that as we prepared for an event, but to be honest, I’m lucky he came back from his injury and that I can still ride him. I’m looking forward to that moment as the starter counts us down in the box in our first event back.

The view from San Gimignano

Outside of horses, I got a sister-in-law when my brother got married in May and I learned I’m becoming an aunt next year to a little girl!

I also traveled to Italy for 10 days. I love traveling and find I always come back a much more educated person. I’m not sure where I’ll go in 2015, but I’m thinking maybe Germany later in the year.

On a sad note, we had to put down one of our cats, Winnie, who we inherited with our farm back in 2002. He was quite old and developed cancer cells on his lungs, so it was time, but sad none the less.

Professionally, I took a step up at COTH this year and really felt like I found my place and became a part of the team. I traveled A LOT, which is my favorite part of the job.

I met interesting people, saw cool places and took lots of photos.

Here’s a recap with links to my coverage-

George Morris clinic
Nations Cup Wellington
Global Dressage Forum North America
Carolina International
The Fork
Jersey Fresh
WEG Prep Trial
National Young Horse Championships
Plantation Field
AECs
Fair Hill
Mary King Clinic
USEA Convention

I’ve got a lot of cool things lined up for next year, including a trip to the Pan American Games in Toronto and a big life change that I’ll post about when it happens.

I’m looking forward to next year and I’m glad to say goodbye to 2014. Here’s to hoping for Oh So’s return to competition, finding Bear a good home and a little bit of luck.

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Three Shows, One Week

TexasRose

Whew! I’ve finally got some time to sit down and relax after traveling to three shows in a week.

It all started with the American Eventing Championships in Tyler, Texas. After some schedule shuffling, I made it down late Thursday, but ended up having to drive from Dallas to Tyler, which was about a two-hour drive in traffic. At least I got to see Dallas up close!

It wasn’t deathly hot, but still hotter then I’ve been used to after our cool late summer. The Texas Rose Horse Park was workmanlike and tidy, but not what I would call “stunningly beautiful.” It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, amongst cows and open fields, but apparently Tyler has a population of close to 100,000.

The cross-country featured a ton of brand new jumps and I thought the courses looked challenging and up to the standard that we’re used to in Area II, but with a little less terrain. It was quite dry, but they aerated.

I got to have some help from my former officemate and friend, Megan Brincks, who moved to Fort Worth to work for the American Paint Horse Association. We had a great time and I wish we’d had more time to just hang out and have dinner, but we were so busy. Here’s a link to all of our coverage.2013-09-27 09.15.58

It cooled down a bit on Sunday after some storms, so I was able to go to the tiny Tyler airport minimally sweaty and with only one fire ant bite! My flight to Dallas was all of 20 minutes in the air, which was pretty funny, but there were no direct flights from Tyler to D.C.

I wrote my story on Monday and Tuesday and headed up to the Prince Georges Equestrian Center on Wednesday to cover the WCHR Professional Challenge and WCHR Developing Professional Challenge.

I’m still learning about the hunters, but from what I could gather, the WCHR (World Champion Hunter Rider) program is kind of like the Adequan Gold Cup series in eventing. Certain shows are designated WCHR shows and riders can gain points for the final each year. I still don’t know how some riders could qualify to ride in both classes, but hey, what’s another ribbon?

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Greg Crolick won the Developing Pro class and he was a pleasure to talk to. I find that a lot of hunter riders are tough to talk to because they ride so many horses and compete in so many classes that they really don’t develop a relationship with the horses they ride. So when I ask, “What makes him so special?”, I don’t often get a good answer.

I also find it tough interviewing hunter and jumper riders because I don’t follow that scene as closely, so I don’t always know the background of the horse or rider before I interviewthem as they come out of the in gate.

The night ended pretty late, but I was happy with my photos and coverage.

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I’m not sure why I decided to go, but I dragged myself out of bed early on Saturday to drive up to Morven Park to take photos of the advanced cross-country. I was really tired and it was really hot, but Morven is one of my favorites and the advanced only runs once a year now.

As expected, several pairs withdrew due to the hard ground, but about 15 still went. I had planned to stay up and watch some of the intermediate too, but I was fading fast.

Check out a few more photos here.

Now I’ve had the rest of the weekend to recover and get ready for Harrisburg next week.

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Loudoun Hunt PC HT Recap

I was up bright and early at 4:30am on Sunday to compete at the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at Morven Park with Oh So. I wasn’t feeling too confident about my jumping because of our previous performance at Morningside and a mediocre jump lesson on Friday, but I had a nice, short flat school on Saturday. I decided to warm him up for

1C ECS13-0916221

dressage in mostly posting trot. He came out fairly relaxed and I didn’t make a lot of demands. We did touch base with the leg yields as they come in the test and some walk-trot transitions, as well as a little bit of sitting trot.

Once I started trotting around the ring, I sat the trot and he seemed to be focused. He made a really good effort in the lengthened trot (we got an 8!) and the leg yields were a little crooked, so we lost a couple of points there. I made a concerted effort to push out his free walk and he actually did stretch down consistently for a 7, and when I gathered him into medium walk, he was still a little tight, but held it together for the most part. He got a little unbalanced in the final halt, so he stepped backwards, which he’s never done. We ended up getting all 8’s on our collectives, which has never happened. We also got a nine on our half circle in canter going right and ended up with a 26.5 from a “purist” dressage judge. I was floored! We ended up in second place after

1C RJC13-0916892

dressage and the third place person had a 32, so that was neat to have such a lead.

The show jumping course was sort of weird, starting on a curve, then making a circle back towards the start again. We had the second fence down, I think because I tipped a little left in the air and he touched it with his front foot.

He waited in the combinations well, but we also had a second fence down, an oxer after a long gallop on the diagonal. I started looking for a spot and we got a little close to it, so he had trouble making the width and had it down his a hind foot.

That was slightly disappointing, and in the end, the second rail cost us the win. The cross-country course was almost exactly the same as Morven, which was also disappointing. I’m ready for the course to be reversed. It hasn’t changed much in a few years.

I was riding a little backwards for some reason, so the second fence didn’t make for the best photo. He backed off nicely to the picture frame at 3 and did his usual duck, which always makes me laugh. I rode a little tentatively to the log on a lump combination and then again to the elephant trap.

I practiced using my whip at the drop into water, but I still tipped forward on landing like I

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did last month. Luckily, we gathered our composure and got to the angled brushes better, but I feel like I could have slipped my reins more in the air.

One difference from last month was the bounce bank to the corner. I feel like I could have had a little more power to the up bank, because I got a little left behind the motion in the air, but I think it was also because I don’t ride a lot of questions like that, so I don’t have the feel for it.

We had a better, forward ride over the trekhener and the next couple of gallop fences and had a nice ride through the quarry at the top of the hill. We ended up finishing exactly on the optimum time. We’ve never made time before at prelim, so that was exciting. Had I not ridden backwards to a few fences, we would have had a little more breathing room.

We ended up in fourth place and got a nice set of polo wraps and a gift certificate from GRC for a farm call photo shoot. Maybe we’ll get some glamour shots done!

I’m not happy with the way I rode on cross-country, and I know part of it is my balance in my saddle. I’ve realized this spring that I’m going to have to start a quest for a new one, but the thought of it is daunting and I’m broke!

Next up for us is Fair Hill in three weeks. I’m excited to ride a course I’ve never done before, but slightly nervous because my trainer won’t be able to be there.

I’m also heading to Jersey Fresh next weekend to cover it for COTH, so it will be exciting to go for the first time in a few years.

Morningside Combined Test

I finally got out and about this past weekend after Oh So came up with a terrible skin allergy after I got back from The Fork. It took a week for his legs to go down and be less sensitive and I feel like I could have gotten more on top of it sooner and made it to the original CT I was entered in on April 13.

So after a missed lesson and gallop, we were back in business last week. I decided to give him a longer warmup for dressage at Morningside because he hadn’t been out in awhile. He was actually very spooky, which is not usual for him. In general, he was tense and I think this week at Loudoun I’ll try posting the trot for most of the warmup to see if I can keep his back relaxed.

I thought he held it together for the canter work in the test, but the trot work wasn’t the best. We ended up with a 35.5, which is not what we’re capable of, so that was frustrating. He could be scoring in the 20s if he just let go mentally a little bit. I’m not sure what else I can do on my part at this point. We’ve only been doing this for 5 years.

The jumping warmup at Morningside is pretty far away from the ring and it’s on grass. Because of the large amount of rain we had the day before, I decided to warmup on the track, which is actually worse. There’s only room for a cross rail and a vertical and you can’t really come off a turn to them.

As a result, our actual round was pretty inconsistent. I rode slightly backwards to a couple of the fences, but he kept jumping and trying and we actually had a clear round. I think I’m letting the fact that I don’t have another horse to practice on get to me. I need a way to strengthen my lower leg out of the saddle too and I’m finding it hard to do.

So, not the show that I wanted, but onwards to Loudoun this weekend. I’m bummed to be missing Rolex when it seems like everyone but me is there, but I’ve got an awesome horse and I get to go cross-country this weekend, so I can’t complain!

Motoring At Morven Park

Despite the crummy weather, I had a pretty good time at Morven Park this weekend. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could in dressage warmup, but he was holding in himself a little bit and once I started trotting around the ring, he tightened up. So much for that awesome, relaxed ride at the combined test. His trot work was tight, but we managed to get a couple A PMB13-0829607of eights in the canter work for a 34 and second place after dressage.

I was surprisingly not that nervous for show jumping, and it helped that I was at the end of the prelim division, so the warmup calmed down considerably by the time I went in the ring. We actually only jumped a few fences in the warmup, including a tall vertical and a lower oxer, and we were good to go.

I didn’t get a chance to walk the course, so I watched a few and went in. We ended up with one rail, fence 3. We stepped over fence 2 quietly, then went for what looked to be  a forward five strides, but he ended up getting there pretty quickly, and we had the front rail of the oxer down. There was a tight turn to fence 4, then five strides to set you up to an in and out that he ticked, but waited for the B element.

I got him a bit close to the next oxer, but we got that line better and he actually tried pretty hard in the triple too.

After greasing him up and checking our tack, we were off to cross-country. It had started raining again, but it wasn’t a heavy rain. After the first fence, he was off, and I pretty much had no control for the rest of the ride. I’m guessing it was because I didn’t take off the padded cover I had on the curb chain. He’d had a rub leftover from Southern Pines, and 1C JAC13-0833467I’d been riding with it on, but I think he really needed it on Sunday!

We had our usual funny jump over fence 3, a picture frame, where he always ducks. There was a new combination at 5ab, which was a log on a mound, four strides to a big table. He popped over that nicely and made the four easily, then he was off again across the field. My reins had started to get slippery and I barely got him back for the elephant trap at 6. That’s a fence that I remember seeing when I was younger and thinking it was huge. It’s a big slanted open timber fence with a ditch on the backside; very old school. We took it on a bit of an angle to get to the next fence, and he jumped it well, but pecked a bit on landing and I’m almost certain he pulled his left front shoe there.

Again, I had no control to the keyhole, but he jumped it efficiently and was off for another long gallop before a new, very wide table. He did that well, but I fell forward on landing. Luckily, I got situated in time for a turn to a drop into water. He jumped that confidently, but again, I was pitched forward a bit on landing. I had started to tire some by that point from fighting him and my slippery reins, which I knew was a bad sign.

B GFC13-0832715Immediately after the water was a set of new jumps on an angle. We got a little close to the first one, but he popped out over the second one well and then really took off. I regained control enough to have a nice jump over the mushrooms before heading to the canyon.

I’d ridden the canyon combination terribly in the spring and he had backed off it due to his greeness, so I was determined to get a better ride. It kind of sucks you in with the giant boulders on either side that form a path, then up a hill and up a bank where you can’t see anything but sky.

He jumped big in, then we jumped up the bank well and popped over a skinny three strides later. The last major combination was at the quarry. We stepped in over a new log, then did four strides like a roller coaster to another log. I’ve never felt him power over a fence as much as I did over the B element. It felt like we were flying!

We ended up about 13 seconds over the time and slotted into third place. Had we been a little bit faster, we could have won since we were only 3 points off the leader. I’ve never been so exhausted after a course before, so I think we’ll be making sure the curb chain is ON next time.

I was really pleased though with both of us. For the first time, I’m really thinking that the C AST13-0834128one-star at Virginia this fall wouldn’t be such a stretch. We’ve come out this year more confident in each other in both jumping phases and I know he can do the dressage, it just depends on if he wants to let the tension go that day or not.

I’m headed off to cover the The Fork CIC for The Chronicle this weekend in North Carolina, then the weekend after I’m planning on doing a CT at Morningside, then back to Morven for Loudoun Hunt Horse Trials.

Consistency at CDCTA

I took Oh So up to the CDCTA combined test at Morven Park on Saturday for a little extra practice before Morven’s event in two weeks. The forecast was quite dire, calling for rain and temperatures in the 40’s, but we lucked out for most of the day. I had very late times (dressage at 1:54 and jumping at 4:15), which will probably be the only time this season I’ll have ride times in the afternoon, so it was nice to not have to rush in the morning.

I don’t say this often (or ever), but his dressage warmup was amazing. He was calm, quiet, A ECS13-0807482supple, and stretching, and I felt like I could have gone in and done my test with 20 minutes of warmup. Who is this horse and what has he done with my OTTB? We’d had a very good flat lesson on Thursday, and this was actually even better than that.

Unfortunately they were running a little behind, so I was probably on for 45 minutes, but he didn’t seem to mind. We trotted right in and the test itself was pretty good. Just from watching my video I could see a difference i his whole way of going. He had a lot more freedom in his shoulders and was just generally smooth. He did start to get a little low in his poll as we started going around the outside of the ring and I think it was just because he 429748_10100902399780557_1999114969_nwas maybe a little bit tired. He tends to get that way sometimes if we’ve had too long a warmup.

I had to work pretty hard during the test to keep his poll up, and we did score a couple of 6s due to that, but overall, he was very obedient. We got an 8 on our medium canter circle, our left leg yield, and my position (!), and even got a 7 on the weird ‘give the reins away at X’ that I hate in prelim test A. We ended up with a 31.8 and the judge seemed to love him when we chatted after the test.

A weather front came in as I was tacking up for show jumping and it suddenly went from about 50 to 40 and spitting rain, so that was unpleasant, but he didn’t seem to mind. The course was not huge, which can be expected at a schooling show, but it was still challenging enough. There were a couple of long canters to single fences, which tends to get me picking his stride down to nothing, so that was my big thing. But we both went in, I was pretty relaxed, and he was totally listening, and had a clear round! That kind of feels good. 🙂

He ticked a few, but the fact that he was waiting in between the lines and my position wasn’t horrible made it a good round. I had signed up for a second round, but decided I didn’t need it. We ended up second.

B JAC13-0809247Now we’ll have a couple of quiet weeks before Morven at the end of the month. We’re currently getting more snow, so I’m hoping that will end soon and that maybe we’ll have a dry day for Morven. I can hope, right?

Weekend

So, this weekend I went to DC to see comedian Christian Finnegan with my brother. I bought the tickets in December, and the show was rescheduled twice, so it was nice to finely get there. He did a lot of new material, which was nice.

On Sunday, my mom and I went up to Morven Park for a historic trail ride with Sam and her horse Lad. I took my camera along and got some photos, but they are not perfectly composed because I was holding it one-handed while riding! Here are some photos.

Sam and Lad freaked out at a donkey that was being ridden by a lady. Sam wanted to jump the cross country fences we passed, and it was so tempting! The ride went all around the property through the cross country courses and ended in front of the mansion. We got to stare down into the famous Leaf Pit on the advanced course. It doesn’t look so bad when you’re on a horse. There were also Civil War re-enactors lecturing about the significance of the property during the 1860’s.