Getting The Ball Rolling

Finally we’re into our eventing season! We’ve done three events since my last update, so here’s a recap:

We started off with the starter trial at Loch Moy on Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t too hot, but definitely humid, and we just dodged thunderstorms in the afternoon.

He was a little bit dry-mouthed in the warmup, which wasn’t a terrible thing, just not usual for him. He was perhaps slightly holding his neck, so I worked on some suppling exercises like leg yielding in trot and canter to get him a bit softer. He ended up with a 23.8, but I took that with a grain of salt considering it was a schooling show.

Our show jumping round was probably one of the best we’ve ever done. It was soft and fluid, I kept the rhythm, and he was jumping in good form with a lot of freedom in his shoulders. It was definitely one I’m going to try to emulate and remember that feeling.

Cross-country was on the softer side, but it was a good real first run of the year, just nice and open and gallopy, but with a few things in the woods, which is good practice for the recognized event in July.

All photos by GRC Photography.

The next weekend was Waredaca. I hadn’t been back in awhile, and honestly probably won’t go back anytime soon. I scratched last fall after so much rain. They were pulling people in and out of the parking lot and still didn’t cancel, so I lost my money and wasn’t happy. Surefire and Seneca canceled and offered free schooling and/or money off a future entry, which I thought was a nice gesture.

This time around it was dry as a bone. The dressage warmup is in a horse field, so it was rutty with tall grass. We kept our warmup to a minimum and luckily had some time to finish on the surface right before our test.

I thought it was one of the best ones he’s done–very relaxed and fluid, but the judge had some puzzling comments about how his stride looked like it belonged on a smaller horse. WTF? If anything, he was slightly behind the vertical, which I can have a hard time feeling from on top sometimes, but she didn’t say a word about that. Our score was a 29, with lots of 6s and 7s. It was frustrating, but whatever! Lisa and I knew it was a good test.

Show jumping is tough there in a narrow ring, and I just wasn’t seeing anything in the warm up. I took that plus a lack of impulsion into the ring, and it wasn’t the smoothest round we’ve ever had. The first jump was lovely, but after that I got a bit picky, unfortunately.

Cross-county was a unique new challenge. Since the last time I competed at Waredaca they’ve opened a brewery, and it was right on the edge of the course. There were kids running and screaming, music playing and lots of drunk people watching! It was puzzling that they put the first fence on an angle heading straight into the fence and the crowd, and that actually caught out quite a few horses. I just made sure to ride a bit stronger to the first fence, then we were on our way.

Again, not the smoothest round we’ve ever done, but it was nice and gallopy in between fences, which was a welcome relief after Loch Moy’s twisty course. There was a tough combination with open rails to a mound to a log on the other side that was about four strides. We rode the open rails well, but the mound was so steep it nearly stopped him in his tracks, then we kind of flubbed over the log. I’m pretty sure that’s how it rode for most people! Definitely a weird question for novice. We ended up in second place and won the TIP award for novice!

GRC Photography Photos

Last weekend we went to Seneca. It was the first time ever that I’d gone without a groom/parent and my dad was unable to come, which was sad since we’ve spent a lot of Father’s Days sweating it out there!

Dressage was pretty steady, not much else to say about two trot circles and two canter circles! I thought we were scored more fair this time and ended up with a 26.7 for third place. The novice senior division was definitely the most competitive!

I was kind of nervous for show jumping for some reason. Maybe it was because I was watching terrible ride after terrible ride while I had some time in between. It’s a very open grass field, which I knew would help me ride better, but for some reason the course was catching a lot of people out.

In the end, I’d say it wasn’t our best round, but it wasn’t too bad. I only got a bit deep to one fence off a long approach, but an oxer, left bend to an in and out rode really well. We’d been practicing that at home after we had a similar question at Waredaca that I rode terribly.

He was quite feisty in the box and was raring to go on cross-country. As a result, for the first six fences or so I think my half halts were a bit strong about five strides off the jumps, and he came back a lot more than I expected, but my leg wasn’t there to back it up. They weren’t ugly jumps, just not as smooth as I’d like. He had a bit of a look at the half coffin, which was a ramp to a ditch, which was funny because most of the time he’ll step in the ditch if I don’t make him pay attention.

Otherwise the rest of the course rode well, and we ended up winning! We also won the TIP award which came with some cash.

Now we’re having a quiet week until Oatlands. I’m volunteering at Surefire this weekend and hope to school the course next week since we’re not allowed to ride over there anymore 😦 I’d love to compete, but there’s so many events in a row from June through July that we need to keep in the every other week schedule.

Mike McNally Photos


Back On Track And Looking Ahead


Life is finally starting to feel a little more normal as the weather’s been getting warmer. Oh So and I are about six weeks behind in our competition season due to the strangles, but we were able to get out to a combined test and Twilight Eventing at Loch Moy, both of which we won!

The dressage test at the combined test felt a bit tight, although it scored well, but I was fine with it since it was the first show of the season. He was much better for Twilight–very relaxed and supple and loose in his body.

Novice CT at Loch Moy. GRC Photography Photos

My show jumping round at Twilight wasn’t the smoothest since I’d had two rides on him after being gone for a week at Kentucky, but we were there for the cross-country anyways!

It was a pretty simple course, but it was open and gallopy, which is what he needed for his first run of the year. Now we’re looking ahead to the starter trial and some recognized events in June and July.


Twilight Eventing!

He’s been looking really good lately and feeling even better. I decided to keep him on stall board through the summer to help put some weight back on after he lost about 50 pounds due to the winter and his illness. He’s happy to be inside eating all day and away from the bugs I think. I’ve changed up my routine so I go for a 20-minute hack before we work in case he’s a little stiff from being in. He’s also been extremely spooky, which is kind of funny!

I think his neck injection is really kicking in because he’s been very supple and working really well on the flat. We’ve had a few lessons with my dressage trainer Heidi, and we’ve been working towards improving his changes. He’s accepting leg yielding away from the wall and back for the most part, although this week every time I leg yielded off the wall on the left lead he gave me very lovely changes back right! It’s kind of funny because you could tell he thought he was doing the right thing. I just stayed calm and got the correct lead back and continued to leg yield until he listened to my aids. We also played with some canter/walk and walk/canter transitions and haunches in which will all help improve those changes.

We’ve been working on gymnastics with Lisa since he’s been getting pretty excited jumping lately, so we’re just dialing it back a bit to make him sit and wait.

Photographing at Kentucky.


I’ve been on a couple of work trips since my last update, including The Fork and Kentucky. The Fork was a bit underwhelming as far as entries go, but Boyd Martin won, and it was kind of a cute story.

Kentucky was a lot of fun, but a very long time to be gone. In the end, Oliver Townend won, which was a bit of a bummer since everyone was rooting for Boyd to be the first U.S. rider since 2008 to win it. Maybe next year!

Now I’m off to Jersey Fresh for the weekend. Looks like it might be a bit wet!


Oh So Update

I’ve been waiting to write an update on Oh So until after what turned out to be a nightmare dealing with strangles was over.

His gutteral pouch pain got better after we switched him to SMZs, and he was seemingly on the mend after a month off. Then he started swelling in his throatlatch area and abscessed out of his lymph nodes, which the vet thought might happen.

She took a sample of some of the pus before it was ready to burst during his follow up appointment in February, and we thought all was fine from Thursday through the weekend. Then the following Tuesday, after the abscess had burst, she called to say he tested positive for strangles. WTF?!

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Saying Goodbye To Toppers + Winter Update

After my super positive year-end post, I guess it was inevitable that 2019 would start out terribly, right?

A couple of days before I headed to Temecula, California, for my first assignment of the year, Oh So started to seem not like himself. I had only been able to hack because of snow, and he just seemed pretty slow. I actually had to kick him along, which is not like him.

I decided to call the vet on the day I left for California because he was sitting listlessly in the stall, and he ended up having a fever and couldn’t lower his head and neck, which was quite scary.

Since I had to get on a plane, we decided to treat him with Banamine and doxycycline because the vet could only assume tick fever. I found that to be a little strange considering it was January, but she said they see spikes in it this time of year. There have been a few horses in the barn who’ve had vague symptoms like his, and that seems to be the go-to diagnosis, but I wasn’t going to accept that as an answer.

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A Look Back At 2018

Better late than never I guess!

After a truly disastrous 2017 in which I broke both my ankles and ended up selling Thomas and working through a lot of physical and mental pain, 2018 was one of the best years of my life.

Even though Oh So had a couple of minor injuries that caused some sleepless nights and one missed event, and despite tons and rain and event cancellations, it was the first full competition season I’ve had with him in a long time. Thing actually went to plan 90 percent of the time, which is a hard thing to do with horses! I almost had to pinch myself with each event and show we finished. Looking at the wall of blue ribbons from this season, I can hardly believe it.

Our bronze medal!

I’ve written a lot about accepting that novice is where we’ll stay for the remainder of his career, and I’ve had to adjust my expectations and goals with him, but this year I was able to reach my goal of getting my USDF bronze medal. It felt pretty amazing to set my sights on something and actually achieve it. I’ve had to force myself to not have big goals with him anymore because of his age, but that was one that we actually pulled off!

Winning nearly event, even if it was just at novice level, was a huge deal, and we were recently awarded the inaugural Maryland TB/STB Eventing Series, which came with a huge check and lots of prizes!

I just had a flat lesson with Heidi for the first time since October, and she asked what my goals were for this year. I was hesitant again to name specific things, but if I could improve our third level scores that would be amazing. The good news is that she noticed we’ve been doing our homework, so we’re on our way to getting a bit more collection and throughness in the lateral work, which will hopefully translate to better flying changes.

As far as eventing, I’d love to do the Area 2 Championships, and the American Eventing Championships are really tempting, but I don’t know if I can justify the entry cost.


2018 was a pretty amazing year of travel for me. I went on 16 assignments for COTH and got to discover amazing new places like Badminton and New Orleans, and saw the world’s best horses and riders at the World Equestrian Games. Personally, my trip to Scotland was one of the most amazing vacations I’ve ever done, and it inspired me to look ahead to new discoveries this year. I’m thinking Iceland perhaps and definitely Burghley on the fall.

2019 is going to be a stressful and emotional one since my parents are putting our farm up for sale and moving to Kentucky. There’s no detailed timeline yet, but I’m bracing myself for some strife as my entire life is about to change. We’re a close family and have lived in the same area my whole life, so it will be a seismic shift.

For now though, I’m looking forward to my first trip of the year back to San Diego and Temecula for the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival and then to Palm Beach in February, while praying for as little snow and rain as possible!

Winding Down The Season

The 2018 season’s gone out with a bit of a whimper and not a bang for me unfortunately. With Seneca being canceled and now Waredaca getting a few inches of rain, I decided to scratch today.

I knew at the beginning of the week that I likely wouldn’t be running cross-country because of the wet weather forecasted, but with reports and photos coming in yesterday of trucks being towed in and out and knowing that the dressage and show jumping warm up are on grass, plus having to get up at 4:30 a.m., I decided not to risk it for a combined test that wouldn’t count for anything.

2018-10-14 13.24.08.jpg
Hanging out at Loch Moy.

My trainer asked me to consider what I would get out of it, and honestly, probably not much. We’re both bored with the novice test and don’t *need* to do it, and we’re looking ahead to some local winter jumper shows for practice. I hate to throw another $200 down the toilet, but that seems to be the nature of this year for everyone. I just wish Waredaca would have made that call for me. I was still undecided right up until I went to bed last night, and really could have gone either way, but I also think I needed a quiet day where I can get some stuff done around my apartment, have a nice ride and probably clip him again since he grew his hair back so fast!

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Soggy September

Well, things didn’t go according to plan at Seneca. It was pouring rain on Saturday when I went up to walk my course, and Lisa and I pretty much knew we wouldn’t be running the next day.

Fortunately they made the decision a little easier for me when they cancelled all competition on Sunday, but it was a real bummer for me and for the event!

I had to head to WEG the next day with my co-worker and friend Kimberly. We arrived late afternoon to check out the venue and get our credentials, which went pretty seamlessly.

The venue was a complete mess, but the two main stadiums and the footing were great. I keep telling everyone who asks how WEG was that I went in not expecting a lot of polish, and we definitely didn’t get that. The media center was not ready for us on Monday, but by Tuesday it was functional. There was air conditioning, power and WiFi, which was about all we really needed. They fed us two meals a day plus a generous afternoon snack, which is more than we could have asked for and very much appreciated.

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