Sunday, October 9, 2011

Muddy Morven, Lovely Loch Moy

I don't know exactly how it goes from 40 and raining to 80 and sunny in just one week; but let me make it clear that I am not complaining! And I would love to know how I can place an order for this fabulous weather to stick around right thru Fair Hill this coming weekend! Oh I hope hope hope...

Quick recap of our past week starting with Morven Park. Poor Trisha, I would like to start with an apology to my groom....I left the dog at home knowing that he would be miserable. And there Trisha and I were, ready to stick it out for two days straight! We had 4 horses going and it was a fairly big competition for them all in a way. I was determined to have a good ride on Morris, aka get him in the ribbons, after my stupid mistake of jumping the wrong fence at Plantation and robbing him of his win. He so deserved that and I have yet to get over it! Luckily, he had more than a monkey on his back this time around and we finished 4th. He was a very, very good boy in awful conditions. We were the last to run cross country out of the entire preliminary division and we were basically taking out the flags on basically every fence to get him the best footing. Obviously I didn't have too many choices at some of the combinations; but he is so light and agile on his feet he never felt for a second like he was struggling. He is the fastest horse in the world, although today was not a day to prove that. He had some time faults that we credit to horsemanship and I have a happy and healthy pony ready to run another day! The pressure was on Smarty as this was his final run before Fair Hill and technically under USEF rules he had to have another qualifying score to get to the CCI**. A pretty huge accomplishment that he is there on the minimal qualifications and jumps just brilliantly. A collective sigh of relief I think from all of us when he get a qualifying score in the dressage, by next spring he will be in the Top 3 every competition and right now he just needs to get stronger. He tries so hard and I can't wait for him to start getting the top marks that I know he can get. Show jumping was just phenomenal as he was clearing the fences, out of deep footing and puddles, by at least a foot. He was quite proud of himself, I assure you lol. He came back on Sunday to cross country and although I took it slow, I rode all of the combinations forward and direct and he was right there to live it up. He even added his own degree of difficulty at the last very tough question on the course at the Quarry. He spooked at some beginner novice log that had been drug half way into the woods and on our approach to the very skinny skinny he was leaping and spinning in the other direction. Nice. I think I have him fit enough for Fair Hill......
The baby brigade made an appearance on Sunday in dismal conditions as well. They should consider themselves lucky that Richard and Gunsmoke were also in attendance to cheer them on. Don't tell them that they were actually there to watch the Advanced cross country.....Nonetheless they were pretty super. Lucky was the real star, putting in a great dressage test in a tough arena with a swamp for warm up and then added nothing to his dressage score to finish 3rd! He is such a super horse for the future. His new prospective owners were there watching and I think they really liked what they saw. Splash was perhaps the one with the most pressure, she has won EVERY event she has every attended other than one second place finish that tarnished her undefeated record! Splash was her usual winning after dressage and then disaster struck in show jumping. Apparently our little princess has never had to show jump in such conditions and she was so freaked out by the puddles at take off and landing! Poor little thing, so unfortunate that her show name is Splish Splash ha ha ha because she wanted to neither Splish nor Splash anywhere in that show jumping arena. I was ready for her out on cross country, where for whatever reason she wasn't phased one bit by the mud and cruised around double clear. That's horses for you.
And luckily Splash got another try not even a week later at Loch Moy, where the conditions couldn'tve been more perfect. She was great in the dressage, perhaps not as dazzling in her canter work as she could have been and that left us vulnerable. She was a jumping fool around both show jumping and cross country this time and finished in 2nd, just .9 behind the leader. Oh so close! She is off to the Novice Championships in Lexington, VA and I'm feeling pretty confident that we are gonna be in the money....Bijou Noir was our other novice horse at Loch Moy and she, too, finished on her dressage score. I think she had the unfortunate advantage of being the very first novice horse in the dressage because her test would be hard to improve and she was just a hair out of first point-wise. Placing wise, she ended up fourth. We still decided to love her and bring her home :)

Stay tuned for an action packed Fair Hill week, we are off on Tuesday and ready for an adventure!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clifton Jade Wins at Plantation!

Well, that's how it was supposed to read anyway. Sadly, Clifton Jade had the winning score at Plantation and then, when it was all said and done, got a big TE for Technically Eliminated, or, totally excellent as we told him. Morris didn't do a thing wrong to deserve the TE, it would be his rider (ahem) who completely messed up the CIC and CNC course and I had no idea I had done so. In fact, I was clean and fast and knew that we had won and was ready to fight when they told me I missed 16B. Morris deserved to win, he was just fantastic. Dressage was freezing, quite literally, it was 41 degrees and just surviving the warm-up was on everyone's mind as cold and tight horses were zinging and leaping all around the show grounds Friday morning. I did a pre-ride not to wear him out as much as I just wanted to literally warm us both up, and when I got on for the second time he was feeling really good. He stayed the same from warm up to around the ring, and then cruised on down the center line like he owned the place. I knew it was going to be a good day! Show jumping went well, I had a rail even though technically it was Morris' hoof that tapped it. Lots of horses were spooking at the in of the combination and even though Morris isn't spooky I didn't want to take any chances as I had seen numerous bad rides. Good news was, there was no spook. Bad news was I got his front legs right up to it and he just didn't have time to snap them cleanly out of the way. However, clean show jumping rounds were very few and far between. We went from winning the dressage to sitting second by barely a point. Cross country day on Saturday started out a little rough. I was walking the course while the riders in the early part of the division were out galloping around, and they were refusing and falling left and right! Not what you want to hear and see as you plan your last approaches and strategies. Morris was none too worried, that's for sure. It was dark and cold and blustery warming up on top of the hill and he was all business and had an excellent warm up in no time. Before I knew it we were flying out of the start box and covering ground like nobody's business. We made it through the coffin which had been - quite literally - a show stopper for most of the division. Morris was excellent, flew thru the bank, the water....and ultimately we flew right by stupid 16B and it cost us the blue! I really have no one to blame other than myself, that doesn't really make me feel any better. It did, however, motivate me to go walk Smarty's CIC** course twice more ha ha ha.
Smarty had a great weekend even if he didn't end up in the Top Ten (he was oh so close). This little Chubby pony was competing at Training Level this past February and now he's qualified for Fair Hill! The dressage is still tough for him, I thought it was one of the best starts we have had and he just got a little tired and I couldn't keep it all together by the end of the test. Had some really super moments, and even performing at less than half of what he is capable of, we were sitting 14th in a super competitive field after the dressage! The cross country course was tough. I had not been to Plantation in years, and the new layout with the arena (the footing is amazing) and the ability to see the entire cross country course from the ridge really makes it an impressive venue. I was a little disappointed in all of the twists and turns in the 2* track. It made some tough questions that much more intense and made you feel like you never had a moment to just let your horse swallow up the ground. That said, Smarty was brilliant. I thought that my round at Richland was like a hunter round at 550 mpm, and this didn't quite match that (I missed like none other to fence 15, the skinny ditch and brush I admit it!). All in all, however, he was a very, very good boy. Some of the biggest bravery questions he has ever faced were on the course, and he was so honest about the skinnies after the coffin (huge vertical log one stride ditch bounce ditch one angled stride skinny eek!). It was the fastest and most efficiently he has ever started a course and he ended with his ears pricked, looking for more fences! He is the only horse that I have ever had that went into the Vet Box and shortly after being assessed by vets was begging for cookies! He really is one of a kind and I really am so lucky to have a horse like that in my barn. Sunday he looked magnificent for the jog, thanks Trisha!, and he put in a lovely jumping round. Had not one but two really cheap rails. That was a really annoying way to end my weekend, knocked him out of a top ribbon. Next time. Well, next time will be Morven Park and maybe we should save it for Fair Hill? Sounds like a plan to me!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Richland Report

I know, I know Richland was FOREVER ago or so it seems. But what can I say, time flies when you are having fun. Or, I've been really busy with the earthquake, hurricane, and now flooding and the havoc that it is wreaking in my little daily life! More details, in chronological order:

Richland Park is one of the best events of the year. The timing this year was incredible, how did they know that I would miss both an earthquake AND a hurricane while away competing? Thank you!! The organizers and volunteers are so insanely nice, (thank you Rick Dunkerton for working your scheduling magic), the courses and footing this year were great, the FREE competitors parties (yes, plural) and the fact that all of my favorite people and ponies were there just make it a destination event. I think that Richland should apply for the AECs, after all I think it is 12 hours from anywhere and they proved this weekend that they can run what seemed to be a thousand horses without a hitch. Job well done! And my horses and Trisha get a job well done as well! Morris was great in his advanced dressage test, it was that pesky test B and he was so much calmer and focused about his half pass and flying change routine. Someone is really growing up! Smarty won the warm up and then pretty much embarrassed and exhausted me in the arena if that is possible. Last I checked, however, the reinback does not call for flinging ones head into the air, and then staring eye to eye at the judge inside her box while we somehow leap backwards into the middle of the arena. All was forgiven, however, as soon as he started jumping. In only his second intermediate, he was clean and fast around a significant track, taking all of the direct routes, jumping everything with textbook form, and Chubbs even kicked it into a higher gear this time, finishing barely 10 seconds over the time. Yay! I'm afraid I can't say the same for Morris, he was his usual clean and fast self except for the fact that he took a great disliking to the combination involving the massive ditch and brush drop fence early on in the course. I think his confidence is still a little rattled in the ditch department from Stuart, as it took some serious convincing to get him to the other side. The rest of the course, however, he didn't let a single ditch get to him. There was a VERY tough line of skinny ditch and brushes, two strides apart, and Morris jumped through there beautifully. I took the option at the coffin having already had trouble early on in the course, looking back I think he would have been fine to go the direct route. Better safe than sorry, save it for next time! His show jumping was so much better than his last appearance at Richland. It is tricky out there on the hill and Marc's course really plays into the terrain. Morris fell victim to the downhill triple, getting the rail on "C" other than that it was a pleasant round. Smarty's past life as a show jumper came in handy, we jumped a smart fast round with just a single rail down early in the course...he apologized profusely afterwards and swore it would never happen again lol.
We were smart this year and made the drive home on Monday, Trisha did an incredible job all weekend keeping the horses, Gunsmoke, Richard and I all in line. And then it was a big week for her getting ready for Seneca Valley where she and Marian and a bunch of other students and young horses were set to compete. I declare it a successful trip, even if Saturday did take forever thanks to an over-hour-long rain delay for wicked downpours and lightning. It was well worth the wait, however, with Smarty putting in a lovely dressage test and double clear show jumping round in the pouring rain. (Did I mention that we went to Karen's and she kicked both of us into action, one doesn't go magically from last to first in one week at Intermediate lol?) Marian and Trisha each are officially preliminary riders!! and are looking forward to taking that experience with them to dominate the half-star at Waredaca in a few short weeks. Lucky was the best he has been since arriving in the USA in early June. His jumping is incredible and I can't wait until he is older and wiser and cruising around a 3* track. Splash continued her winning streak - yawn - this time with owner Sabrina Valente in the tack. Her sister Nikki was hot on her heels, finishing 3rd, and let me say how much these girls deserved the top spots, they rode like nobody's business!

And finally, here I get a chance to sit in front of my computer and type. Not much else to do, it has rained 10 inches in 2 days, or something close to that. I'm afraid gallop sets are taking place tomorrow in the indoor, at least we have the world's largest indoor :) Next stop for all of us, Plantation where we aim to get some horses qualified for Fair Hill. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Wacky Waredaca

When it rains it pours, I don't know really where that saying comes from; but seems very appropriate for our weekend last weekend at Waredaca. Not that I am complaining about rain - it has been the first time that Morris and Smarty could gallop out on a hill in months - I'm just saying that torrential downpours and delaying ride times were not what we had in mind when we signed up for an August competition at Waredaca!
Saturday started bright and early with Playtime making his Intermediate debut. He was such a good boy! Dressage is tough for him, he just isn't strong enough or broke enough yet to pull off the collection and fancy maneuvers all while flicking his white toes simultaneously. He had some lovely moments, and the rein back was much better than anticipated. I did enjoy getting to ride him in the large dressage ring and I know he found it much easier as well. Not that his opinion much counts :) Show jumping was lovely, he was still a little touch and go after some of the lines and combinations; but again so much improved from the horse we had in February! He was great for the skinny at the last, although he got a little confused as to where the last fence was....after the liverpool you cantered more than half way around the ring towards the in/out gate where a very vertical set you up 6 strides out from the triple. I went to put him together for the vertical and Chubbs that he is figured he must be done, so he trotted! I quick kicked and spurred and pulled him together and he jumped the 4' vertical perfectly out of a stride and a half of canter. Only Smarty! Cross country was really a highlight. Really from fence 6 on I don't have a single complaint about how anything rode. There were plenty of skinnies for him to feast his eyes upon, and he recognized them all as jumps, and jumped them straight and in great form all on the first try! He is so brave, down a massive drop, bounce off a bank into the second water, two massive trakehners, and he didn't hesitate for a second. I am really looking forward to his future. Short term, Seneca Valley. Then Plantation. CIC? Horse Trials? Who knows!
Smarty got the best weather of the day, and from here on it was kinda chaotic. Lucky was in the Young Event Horse, warmed up the best yet for dressage and sadly as he started to go around the outside of the dressage arena, gigantic rain drops, people scurrying all around from show jumping, and although he was pretty good it paled in comparison to what I had in warmup just two minutes earlier. The confirmation section he again fell victim to Mother Nature; it just started absolutely pouring right before he went and a mis-announcement over the loud speaker brought probably 30 horses and people all trying to get into the indoor. I can't blame them, it was miserable outside! But poor Lucky couldn't figured out why these people were swarming him and he didn't put his best foot forward to trot on the triangle. The jumping phase felt like it took place hours and hours later although it was worth the wait. He was great! Drop, ditch, water, and getting to show off his gallop were among the highlights of Lucky's whole day.
Highlights of working student Marian Herbick's day would be her 25 in dressage that had her over 5 points in the lead!! in the training rider division. She deserves it, been working so hard on Tanner and his circles and it is really paying off. Now, we need to start working on applying these dressage skills at a minimum of 470 meters per minute, because her time faults on cross country cost her the lead! Oh how sad; but I think she is going to be plenty fired-up for her next run at Seneca, which will also be her first preliminary.
And speaking of fired up, that would pretty much summarize Trisha's attitude I think after her competition on Sunday. It was her first ever Preliminary, and just like Marian, Trisha has really taken her horse and her riding to a whole other level since joining the team in June. Her dressage had some good moments and the mistakes that were made are easy to fix and will come with time. That, or else feel better soon because the Advanced dressage tests don't ask for counter canter, only the prelim tests lol. The courses were looking great for her horse, Bailey, and she was well on track 5 jumps into show jumping. And then annoying disaster. It was going to be a little long or a little short and Trisha just leaned a little too far forward while Bailey was finishing making up his mind. He rapped a rail and took it with him and had to twist in a very awkward manner to miss it on the landing side. I thought Trisha saved it, we all did, and then two three four strides later she is getting farther and farther away sideways from Bailey's neck. And then with the "POP" of an inflatable vest we knew it was over and Baiely's preliminary cross country debut was going to have to wait. It did wait, until Tuesday. We went back to school and Trisha did the entire course start to finish and we celebrated as she galloped across the no longer there finish line! You will see this pair in action also at Seneca. I think, actually, you are going to see pretty much every Blue Clover Eventing horse in action at Seneca! Except for the headliner, Clifton Jade himself. We are headed out to Richland, MI this coming Wednesday to go run around some blue squares. Haven't run advanced since May and boy oh boy are we both looking forward to it! I promise good pictures and good stories! Until then....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Millbrook Wrap Up

I hope that I make a blanket statement for Blue Clover Eventing when I say that a good time was had by all last weekend at Millbrook. The Hudson Valley I think is one of the prettiest areas and this year we managed not to get the rig stuck on those bright green hills surrounding the stabling :) The weather was quite nice, the footing great for galloping, and we even had a little celebrating to get done as Richard's birthday fell on that Friday!
Our week started off with a little bit of excitement, after scratching Morris from the advanced I assumed that I would start on Friday. Surprise, when we got times, I had two dressage tests to do on Thursday! Kudos to Trisha and Marian for packing like lightning and not forgetting a single item. They continue to be great girls to have around and I know the ponies and Gunsmoke feel the same way. Although I am certainly much improved from my stupid fall at Stuart, I am still essentially useless around the barn, so they have been picking up my slack as well and I know I owe them!
It was Lucky's Big Top adventure...the baby's first time in tent stabling, no turn out, and 300 or so horses going every which direction. He was excellent! He stayed focused during warm up as well as during his actual performances. He didn't come home with a ribbon, although he felt like every bit of a big horse galloping around cross country. To say that the competition was tough is an understatement! Lucky and Smarty both fell victim to 4 faults, and with that they plummeted down the standings. Smarty's preliminary was extremely ridiculous....I was sitting 4th out of 30 or so on a 24, and 4 faults later I went down to 15th on a 29!!!!! Craziness I tell you. I am actually quite proud of Smarty and his 4 faults. I have been dreading Millbrook's world famous slide for oh say 3 maybe 4 weeks. Mind you, I've gone down it plenty of times; but never on Smarty. Much to my shock and relief he actually TROTTED! Like a sane, self-preserving animal! So when we got to the bottom I kept trotting, then slowly picked up a canter, then got him back up to cruising speed in time to take a lovely jump at the skinny 3 from home. It cost me about 10 seconds and I couldn't be happier!
Also getting some costly time faults were Morris and I, although again premeditated. He felt good in the dressage, although sneaking in a beautiful flying change in the Intermediate test doesn't get you bonus points, Morris. It kills you on your submission score lol. Anyway, he was feeling very good, and there were quite a few daunting things on the course. Everybody was talking about the water, and I of course was counting the number of ditches or ditch-type fences. Morris really was good, jumped great and had what must've been one of the best rides thru the water all day. Made it look like a gymnastic and was full of running at the end. Lots of fun to watch the video at the competitors party and I'm glad that I was a trip we were applauding :) I just never let him really get into flying between the fences, wanted to make sure that I had his brain and his undivided attention at each and every fence. Mission accomplished! He even showed up the next day for show jumping and really jumped up and around the combinations, something that we have really been working on and I'm glad that it paid off. You had to jump a big old triple bar and gallop down to the in and out in 4 strides; a year ago we would have gone bowling and this time at Millbrook there wasn't even a touch of paint on his toes!
What's next, you may ask? Well, what an excellent question. I am crossing my fingers and toes that I get at least Morris into Richland. It must be the first and only event in 3 years to fill before the closing date! We are waitlisted and that would be a terrible blow to my fall schedule. I will remain optimistic, however, aiming Morris for a trip to Michigan and the rest of the crew will be headed out to Seneca in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for the Waredaca results this coming weekend....Playtime is making his Intermediate debut and Trisha is going to give Preliminary a crack, it will be a first for both she and Bailey. Exciting stuff!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And the Wins Just Keep on Coming!

The photo above includes some of my favorite owners, students, and the most loyal Blue Clover Eventing supporters. Unfortunately, not a single one of them came to Olney Farm HT this past Sunday, and why they didn't want to spend the 100 degree Sunday outside with us in a field, I can't possible imagine :) In fact, not even our token Lercher went with us to the show! I knew it was going to be hot hot hot - and turns out so were our results! Speaking of the heat, I want to thank the entire crew at Olney, to volunteer is a thankless job and to volunteer on such a miserably hot and humid day, bravo. I also can't imagine what it was like setting up for the HT Thursday-Saturday where I think nearly every day broke a record for heat index in MD.
Luckily our times had us in and out, and Trisha did a great job of keeping everyone on track. We did have several visitors that lent a helping hand (and brought us an amazing peach cake - thank you!!) and it is always fun to share all the gory details with anyone that is willing to listen. Marian didn't have too many gory details, she won on her dressage score in the Training Rider division woop woop! I was quite proud of her as she can be very hard on herself and the past two weeks has made a choice to focus on positive instead of negative, and I say she did a great job and she got ribbons and loot to prove it! The courses at Olney are not the biggest and toughest for their respective levels; but they have a lot of tricky places here and there and Marian and Tanner rose to the occasion and won a nail-biting tie for first that came down to closest to optimum time on cross country.
Our other superstar of the day was my favorite little grey mare, Splish Splash. After a nearly perfect record at Beginner Novice (she was only second ONCE by .5) it really was time for her to make the move up to the big Novice. I thought we were sunk as soon as we started. She grinds on the bit just out of habit, she is a lovely mover and scores in the 20s and she just does it without even thinking. In the indoor at Olney, it was deafeningly silent and with no doors windows nothing I swear I couldn't even hear myself think over the crunch crunch crunch noise of her loose ring double jointed snaffle. If I were the judge I know I would have just fixated on it. But, the streak continues, she was winning after dressage on a 20-something and never looked back! She did look down, and tried to put her feet down, while half way over the log on the lump out on cross country. I had never seen this at novice, it was legitimate! and Splash had certainly never seen anything like it. From up on top of the mound you see the ramp into the water, and ironic as it is Splish Splash didn't care much for water when she first started her eventing career. I was one step ahead of her luckily and through all the flags we went on the first try. (Sabrina, if you are reading this, we will definitely have me school this again once or twice before you and Splash attempt this together lol.)
Lucky did the same thing in his novice division, although unfortunately his day was ruined as soon as he went into the indoor. Apparently Lucky has never seen a mirror and didn't know just how good looking he is, and couldn't get enough of himself anytime we attempted to go down a longside or into a corner. Sadly, Novice Test B calls for you to go both down the long side and into a corner lol. He jumped really really well and was very relaxed in warm up, so we considered that a success.
Next week we are off to Millbrook. There will be some good cross country schooling to be done here in the meantime. Smarty needs some skinnies, Morris needs a bunker-style ditch and a 4x4, and Marian and Trisha are both looking to move up to the big P. So they just need to jump anything and everything that they think looks big and scary!! Oh the fun we will have!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

CIC* Win for Playtime at Cosequin Stuart HT

I am not going to sit here and lecture; but in life you have two choices. You can focus on the positive or you can focus on the negative. I think I speak for my entire Blue Clover Eventing crew when I say that we had a great time at Stuart! Stuart is one of my favorite events of all time, and I was lucky enough to get interviewed by a TV station up there and tell them the same thing. It has the most supportive, cooperative, and accommodating volunteers and organizers out of any competition I think we attend. The venue is great, the cross country always challenging but in a good kind of way. I was happy to be back this year and you can count of me for 2012!
Playtime aka Smarty convincingly won the CIC* division and I am so thrilled for his owner Chris Ellis who is one of the most enthusiastic owners an eventer could ask for. We have had Smarty in the barn since February and this weekend was a personal best for the chubby little chestnut. He has all the talent in the world and all the ego and attitude that you would expect for a horse named Playtime and nicknamed Smarty. I guess he likes Stuart, however, because he was excellent. We got there on Thursday with quite the truckful, Morris Smarty Richard Jackson Trisha and I. Marian and Gunsmoke were I think quite possibly the only things left behind! We had jog-ups Thursday evening and both boys jogged great, and Trisha had them looking great. He got a little stiff and tense in the dressage; but still moves like a million bucks and is getting quite rideable in there and we were sitting 4th Friday night. The 1* cross country was really an intermediate with green squares! Smarty really rose to the occasion, it was the first time where I had a track to really gallop and get him to focus, have time to set up for the combinations....I think he is going to be quite a 3 day horse. He jumped really well, had a lot of fun galloping, and actually did come back on command! He finished cross country looking for his next fence, just a couple of seconds over the time and there were plenty of places where I could have saved seconds here and there. There was a lot of talk about footing, many people scratched, I chose to be a bit conservative. I had a good looking, good feeling horse Saturday night and he was the same way Sunday morning when it was time to jog. Thanks to Matt Flynn for prancing him down the pavement for me, he was accepted with no hesitations and on to the jumping we went. I was so sore from my fall on Morris (more to follow) that I didn't do too much in warm up. The warmblood in Smarty appreciated that as well and the next thing you knew we were in the ring. He was a little tired and tapped a couple of rails, taking two down actually; but I had them in hand and still won by over 9 points! How lucky is that! It was the smoothest, most consistent show jumping round we have had to date and as soon as he is a little stronger I am going to have quite the horse. I am really looking forward to his future!
Plenty of other things to recap from the weekend. Trisha did a super job grooming at her first FEI competition, there is really only one way to learn a lot of the rules and that is to get thrown right into them, and she was there with a smile on her face! She has been a super addition to the Blue Clover Eventing team and I hope to have her for a long, long time! A couple of other unsung heroes from the weekend would be Richard and Jackson. I got so beat up from falling on Morris that I was quite worthless from about noon on Saturday until now. They were able to do everything, including changing our flat trailer tire Sunday night on the side of 15 while tractor trailers were flying by eek! And now I guess I will quickly recap Morris' weekend. I was so looking forward to competing him again, he hasn't run since VA HT, and his dressage was really good! He stayed very relaxed and got 7s and 8s on his walk hooray! Cross country was going to be a great track, the 2* asked a lot of great questions and he came out of the start box with his ears pricked. His confidence in his new jumping form has really been growing and I was thrilled to be on him after having such a good go on Smarty. The first two combinations went well, and we galloped out to the back field, got a good jump at the corn feeder at 9 and set up for the coffin. Great stride, good line, felt like a good jump and instead of landing on the way to the ditch we were skidding sideways across the ground. Turns out, Morris made a mistake, I guess he is allowed from time to time; but there is really no good time for things like this. When you look at the pictures, his right front leg never left the ground. Perfect form with 3 out of 4 and unfortunately that just isn't going to work at a vertical set of airy rails on the lip of a hill one stride before a ditch! Luckily he was up and moving right away, more so than his rider. When you fall together like that the air vest doesn't blow up because you aren't far enough away from the horse and I am still some kind of sore. Nothing wrong with anything important just seriously sore everywhere. I am going to be just fine by tomorrow, have a truck load of babies heading to Olney HT this weekend, and it just makes for that much better of a story when describing Smarty's victory!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MD HT I - All Done!

Fear the turtles! And many poor little Beginner Novice horses did. But not our Splish Splash super star, she flew over them and into the water she went. Next stop, novice! She has her game face in in the picture above. Don't let the halter fuzzies fool you. She is fierce!

The intense July sun wasn't the only thing that was hot this weekend, the Blue Clover Eventing Team was on a roll both days at the first MD HT at Loch Moy! We absolutely lucked out the first day, crack of dawn dressage times ended up getting us a great parking spot right in front of the secretary, and more importantly the food booth next to the secretary, and more importantly the smoothie people inside that food booth :) We had a really fun guest with us, one of my dear friends
Amanda who sadly lives across the whole country in AZ; but fun for us to get to entertain her for a day. She is the one responsible for my owning Gunsmoke, so I know many of you love her even though you have never met her! She got to see the Smokes in all of his glory, passed out under the truck and trailer for the entire day. Anyway, it was fun for her to get to be back at an event in Area II, especially one as nice as Loch Moy. I am continually impressed by the reinvestment that Carolyn and her crew put into the facility and it really has become a destination event for a lot of reasons. Sadly however they fill a void in the middle of July when it is blazing hot!

I brought a fleet of ponies all set to move up to the next level and I am happy to say I have a fleet of ponies all set to move up to the next level! Smarty put in yet another (yawn) boringly beautiful dressage test. As he gets stronger, the scores keep going up and up. Hooray! He had another fantastic moment in show jumping - please sense the sarcasm - he was having his best round yet and he went over the liverpool and snap he went into jumper mode. The triple was next and he wanted to make this ridiculous jump off type bid and while I didn't let that happen, it wasn't a distance I would pick on my own, either. He left all of the rails up and finished with a clean round inside the time. It was also the fastest he had been on cross country, double hooray. There were several tricky questions that made you feel like you were on an Int horse. He did both really, really well. I think this track set him up well for the CIC1* at Stuart, and who knows, hopefully an Int shortly hereafter?! He just needs to get a little stronger and then we can go even faster, even with our time faults this weekend we finished 3rd!
The newbie of the crew, Portman aka Lucky, also competed on Saturday and finished 4th in his US eventing debut! This little 4 year old should be a future star for Blue Clover Eventing once he learns that horse shows and horse races are two entirely different things. Horse racing, he was no good at, so he may as well give all that behavior the 'adios' and learn how to be a show horse :) His dressage got better and better especially once we got away from all of the pinto horses in warm up, which he really didn't care for at all and what were the odds that there would be like 10 in the novice warm-up?? On a serious note, he is a ridiculously good jumper, the right balance of forward and careful, and quite a natural athlete. Really works against you when he is leaping and spinning away from cantering horses in warm-up; but I was really thrilled to tool him around the cross country. Look for this guy at Olney and Millbrook.
I guess the star of the show for us was Splash, one of my favorites even though I'm not supposed to have favorites ha ha ha. She went late in the day on Sunday, stepped off of the trailer bright white, not a hair out of place, and bopped herself down to the dressage ring where we got compliment after compliment about how fancy she is. She just does everything with flair, puts in 110% and you know I love horses like that. She was winning handily after the dressage, and then put in a super show jumping round. She isn't a very big horse, probably sticks right at 15.2, and so I have really had to work on her making the horse distances in the jumping lines. She got them this weekend easy easy and what a huge difference that makes, letting our show jumping round now look like a hunter round over jumper jumps. I made the executive decision that we would do the ditch option at fence 6, I figured she would see them next time at novice so she better go ahead and see it this time around. She just flew right over it without thinking twice. I deem her ready for novice at Olney, hope to see you all there!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Small and Mighty!

The lercher was completely wiped out after a hectic yet successful weekend at Seneca Valley's Horse Trials. We had an action packed two days, Smarty and Trisha's horse Bailey competed on Saturday in the PH and TR respectively. Sunday we had a pretty fun group, 17.2h Freddie Mac competing in the NH, and then a fleet of BN horses and ponies! Marian's horse Tanner also competed in the ON on Saturday; but sadly Marian got kicked out of camp and was forced to park with the bumper pull trailers on the other side of the show grounds. She was closer to the Smoothie Lady, however, so perhaps that was a good call after all...
Things were exciting early with us trying to figure out how exactly we were going to get to Seneca with the US Open in town and road blocks everywhere along our normal route. Luckily golfers don't get up at the crazy hours that we do, well maybe they do but their fans don't so smooth sailing on the way to the competition. Smarty put in an excellent dressage, winning on a 24. He can actually canter now! Unfortunately, however, had a major hiccup in that canter at fence 3 in the show jumping. He cantered himself right into the middle of an oxer and that was really fun and if you want more fun look up the pictures from GRC and be as amazed as I was that I stayed on! Cross country he totally redeemed himself and it was probably his best round yet, quite rideable and there were lots of skinny questions. Trisha did an awesome job with Bailey, coming in 7th in her debut competition in Area II! Very proud of her, we turned her flatwork upside down in the two weeks that she has had Bailey here and it paid off immediately, was sitting 4th after the dressage. We will work on in and outs until her next competition at Loch Moy :) Seriously though, she busted her tail all weekend long and I am so thankful to have her on the team.
Good hustle by Trisha and Marian to turn us around Saturday evening, and thanks to Richard for the pizza and beer needed to do so!
We were off again Sunday with two full trailers and man did all my youngsters show up to play! Marian finished 4th in her novice, a really great way to start Tanner's comeback after a nasty injury that had him sitting out for a year. He proved he's ready for Training and beyond and that's what he's going to get! Freddie Mac was back in action after some time off from eventing this winter, and he proved to the world that some time off was just what he needed as he won on a 27 or something fantastic like that. Now 7 years old, he grew more than a hand since we imported him last April and that poor boy just couldn't keep up with his legs or anything else for that matter. He was brilliant in all 3 phases and clocked around like he had competed the day before. Looking forward to moving him up to training soon. My 3 little ones were super stars, with Bijou setting a high standard as our first out and finished 5th. Splish Splash gets our most improved award and you can bet she's going up to novice and I expect her to continue her winning ways, she finished second .5 behind the leader! Bling got more attention than I think any horse I have ever sat on at a competition. We had a flock of people surrounding her at the trailers, and I got stopped walking from trailer parking to dressage at least 5 times by people asking me who I was riding. She didn't let her admirers down, winning on her dressage score. In fact, I didn't add a single jumping fault to my dressage scores on Sunday, that's something that I am very proud of and I know their owners are pleased with that as well. We work circles in the ring tirelessly so that one day we get a good dressage mark, and then you just don't add anything to it. It's that easy, right?! Hmm, we will see if we can pull it off next time, to Loch Moy and the Maryland Horse Trials I we go!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Welcome Trisha and Marian!

I am very excited to get to introduce you to the two new working student extraordinaires here at Blue Clover Eventing- Marian and Trisha! Both girls nailed their interviews, have great competitive goals, and so far have survived their trial periods lol. In all seriousness, however, we are already working together as a great team. Marian (first picture) just graduated from UVM and was looking to fulfill her goals of riding at preliminary on her very nice Argentinian horse, Tanner, purchased several years ago from Sinead and Rebecca. He's been a great college horse, going to and from school and at the same time that made serious competition difficult. At the end of the fall season Marian is hoping to go to grad school and so we are making the most of her time with us! She is bringing back her good old pony club skills and her laid back attitude is appreciated by the horses and I alike! We are extra impressed by her driving skills, she's a "Beltway Bandit" as we call them around here, choosing to stay at home and commute to the barn and her horse daily. I don't know how much coffee it takes her in the morning; but she's at the barn every day by 7 and I've seen that traffic first hand.....

Trisha is our other newbie that we have welcomed with open arms. She better not be leaving in November lol! Trisha is with us as Valerie's long term right hand and she has all the skills and experience to do the job well. Her super people skills have allowed her to fit right in to the program and she really already owns the job. In fact, I saw her sprinting out to Morris' field last week at the sight of the first fly so the big horse would agree that she's a keeper :) Trisha is new to Area II, she finally got smart and left freezing RI and is looking forward to winter this year - in Florida and Aiken! Her partner in crime is Bailey, her own 16.2h OTTB that we are moving up to prelim soon.

The girls have their work cut out for them next weekend, each riding her own horse and I'm riding 5....let's put those skills to the ultimate test! If you are at Seneca, come stop in and say hello and maybe bring us something to eat?! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?!

I hope that I can speak for everyone when I say that a good time was had by all this past weekend while I judged the Combined Test at Hidden Hollow in Gladstone, NJ! I was very excited to judge my first competition as a licensed 'r' and I was fortunate enough to work with a great group of people (pictured above scribe and show manager Holly Payne and winner of First Level Test 2 and 3 Kathy Hall aboard Sullivan). The show was a great mix of people ready to move up to the next level, as well as those who were just starting out with competitions. I do hope that I helped all of them!
I got a little help myself....I coordinated my trip to judge with lessons from expert judge Marilyn Payne. I took Morris and Smarty, Morris had to dressage every day and Smarty got lucky his last day and was able to show jump and then play around over some of the new cross country fences at Marilyn's lovely Applewood Farm. It was a great tune up on my position and Marilyn was really on my case all 3 days, with both horses. I have enjoyed working on all of my exercises since I've returned, not sure if Morris and Smarty feel the same way?! Smarty was moving like a million bucks by the time that I left, and that is really saying something because he nailed the dressage at Fair Hill on Memorial Day, scoring a 25 in the Preliminary Horse division!! Morris had some beautiful canterwork and Marilyn helped us gain a couple of extra points here and there with some tips on the Advanced tests.

There was no rest for the weary, as the very next day we loaded up the mother ship and went cross country schooling at Waredaca. They had the courses open from the weekend and we took advantage of it all, I think I schooled from Beginner Novice thru Intermediate! Smarty was jumping brilliantly and I really appreciated getting to school a lot of skinnies, and more specifically a lot of downhill skinnies. Splash gets the gold star for the day, I really love that little horse and she does everything with 200% effort. The Freddie Mac is back and started up right where he left off, schooling a majority of the novice and training. We plan on schooling again next week at Rubicon and bringing the masses (so if you are reading this and need to sign up for a group get in touch with me now so we can get times coordinated!). Our next competition is Seneca Valley in 2 weeks, looking forward to 2 action packed days with 6 horses going whew I hope the weather breaks by then!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

MCTA - Glad I Went!

What can I say, looks like a typical picture of Morris and Valerie. Valerie busy thinking, plotting, planning, studying. And Morris, staring at cross country, hoping that he gets to run and jump!

Run and jump we did for the past several days at the beautiful MCTA at Shawan Downs. Lucky for me, this event is only an hour away from the barn and the weather for the past several days has been pretty perfecto for eventing. I think this has been, by farm, my most positive experience at this horse trials. In fact, I haven't competed at MCTA for probably 2 or 3 years. I know last year I went to work on my judge's license and thought for a fleeting moment or two that maybe I would be willing to give it a try again. The weather is usually rainy, the footing wet and deep, and the courses notoriously more difficult than you think they should be. They offer schooling after the event, and previously charged an arm and a leg to attend. I must say that this year things were really on the up and up! All of the courses seemed to have better flow, even though the advanced still wiped out half the division and it more or less rode like the hardest course I have ever ridden. Coming off of an elimination thanks to the skinnies at the Fair Hill CIC3* (and yes I still have a very painful and broken right thumb) I wasn't the happiest of campers walking around the advanced. However, by the end of the weekend, and even after schooling a bunch of critters today, I give the whole experience two thumbs up.
The headliner, perhaps, for the weekend was an oldie but a goodie...Private Buck. He was an old prelim horse of mine that went on with his owner to do all sorts of unrecognized things like fox hunting, hunter pacing, and being a guest horse extraordinaire. We decided to go ahead and sell him and to do so wanted to get a current record. So after a week of eventing bootcamp, off to MCTA we went. I entered him in the ON, and after an early morning on Saturday (Morris started the day with an 8 o'clock dressage test) poor Private Buck didn't get to do his test until 2. He didn't get to jump until 5:30! But let me tell you, it was worth the wait. He was soooo happy getting to strut his stuff again. He really turned it on in the dressage arena and was sitting second on a 27.5. He show jumped like he had just been around a highly decorated arena yesterday, not even getting close to the rails. And then he bombed around cross country clean and easily within the time, ears pricked looking for his fence the whole way. We ended up moving into the lead with all of our double clears and taking the top spot by quite the margin of victory for novice. Way to go Buck!
Playtime had a little too much playtime this weekend. His dressage was good, unfortunately he wasn't capable of counter cantering down the hill in the corner of the dressage arena and broke to the trot. You know what that means, if you said more canter poles you were absolutely correct!! Show jumping was frustrating, actually. He jumped the first fence and landed kind of dead, distracted, uninterested in the fact that he was on course. It was a bit of a forward bending line and so I kicked him into gear; but Mr. Warmblood had a bit of a delayed response and we got to 2 unorganized, on a half stride, and he kinda stopped and ducked out all at the same time. Instantly following that was a huge leap and buck because he knew he was about to get a beating. Brat! He then proceeded to put in an absolutely perfect round, I think I barely had to touch a rein or add my leg for the rest of the course and he was sailing a foot over all of the fences. Cross country was a bit the same story. He needs to get a little better still about organizing before his fences so that we can find a nice forward move up stride. This is especially important when you are facing related distances with skinnies and chevrons, like the water jump. We had a cheap run out at the third element. Good news is, 2 months ago I probably would've had a cheap run out at the second element :) So we are making progress.
Speaking of progress, Morris made some serious progress this weekend. I ran him in the advanced and was hoping to prove our performance at Fair Hill was a fluke due to soggy boggy conditions. Morris finished the advanced in third place! By far our best finish yet, and more like his usual form we posted the fastest time on cross country. You have to have a real cross country horse to get around clean and fast and without terrifying spectators at MCTA and I feel like we delivered. Okay, so our bounce probably would've gotten a good gasp or two out of the crowd; but I promise that was probably it. We were straight up and over every skinny out there, and he was surprisingly game for the new intimidating bounce bank. The water was pretty action packed, and the world famous coffin rode much better now that it was at the end of the course and not feeling like such a steep effort in and out. If I could redo anything from the weekend with Morris, I would love another crack at show jumping. He was a little slow off the ground here and there and I should have thrown careful out the window a bit and gotten after him a little more. I know, even perfect Morris needs a little(big) tap(whack) every now and then lol.
Today I drove to Shawan Downs yet again to go cross country schooling. I took my fleet of beginner novice horses. Laugh all you want, they are the cutest, most athletic and fun things I have had in my barn in a long time! Every single one can win the dressage, and they jump and bounce and bop around in their little snaffles and they point their little toes and I cannot wait to compete them all at Seneca mid-June! Need to go schooling once or twice more, not going to lie, but you just wait......!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Fork

Yep, that's it. That is officially, "The Fork." Little known fact of how one of the best events in the world came by its name. These are the things I learn when on a course walk with Karen. Okay, so there was a tip or two there about how to jump around the advanced track as well ha ha ha. Seriously, though, it is a pretty stellar view out at the far point where two rivers come together far beyond the cross country course. Lucky for me, Richard had recruited Jimmy earlier in the day to go on this adventure with us. Not only did we want Jimmy along for his expert opinion and nature know-how...he brought his own serious off-road vehicle to get around and from what we were told the rental golf carts weren't going to make it! The next time you see Jimmy, you'll have to ask about his up close and personal encounter with the spot, and how he and his faithful lab almost went swimming unwittingly......
And, might I mention, while all of this was going on there was this little horse show going on as well. And what a great weekend it was! You get the feeling from everyone at the Fork about how thrilled they are to host all of us, and we are so lucky that they feel that way. Although the schedule got a little out of control on Sunday (pulling into my barn at a solid 1:30 am with the entire barn coming home from Aiken was not my idea of a fun way to end the weekend) in general it really is a top notch competition. The footing on cross country was just unbelievable, my horses galloped silently both Saturday and Sunday and were full of run and jump the next day. Although quite challenging, the courses were so inviting and so well designed and constructed, it just made for such a positive experience. This was Smarty's first preliminary in the States, and Morris' second advanced. Quite proud of both of them. Dressage was the lowlight for both for entirely different reasons. Smarty decided in the ring that he knew way, way more than I did and he bought himself a trip to a dressage show at Morven Park this coming Saturday. Take that, Smarty Pants! Morris was really relaxed and settled in warm up, and then I made a mistake in my final warm up and put a little too much pressure on him. He tries so hard, he didn't go into the ring and relax. He went into the ring with his little brain spinning wondering what I was going to ask him to do next, and he was afraid he wasn't going to do it correctly. Poor Morris! I hope he forgives me. He, too, is going to the dressage show at Morven Park this coming Saturday and we are going to do a little psychological warfare.
As disappointed as I was after dressage, you can believe it was the complete opposite after cross country. The advanced pony was awesome! One hairy moment at the first water, after watching the CIC3* puke over the house at 7A, I figured I had a great plan. Smack went Morris' stifles, however, and I fell victim to a scrappy ride just like everybody else. I was proud of my recovery, however, and the massive table to itty bitty chevron at 8AB went super well. Morris was really jumping up and over his oxers this round, much more so than at Southern Pines. I think we both knew a little bit more what to expect this time! He was super at the Turtles, the sunken road. I road the ditch and brush like I was being chased by a pack of hyenas and that seemed to work well. The little rascal still barely slithered over the trakehner after the water. Rumor has it this is the last year for those god awful things, and I will be the first to throw a going away party! Very difficult to get up and running after all the S turns at the big water. I know, that's the point. Nonetheless, bon voyage. Morris absolutely swallowed up the ground galloping up the big hill, and was extra speedy on his way back down. The brush to the double corners went surprisingly well, Morris lives for that stuff. He spends his entire time on course just trying to find the next set of flags. He needs to talk to Smarty about that. Smarty was very honest about all the skinnies on a tough preliminary track, and he is such a ridiculously good jumper I think the only time I had to kick him was for my own good to the trakehner at 8. He just needs to keep developing his flatwork and adjustability so that he can fly like his older brother in between fences. Don't get me wrong, he would have no problem flying at the present moment. And then I would just fly by the next several fences lol.
Show jumping for Morris this weekend actually makes it onto the highlight reel as well. I learned a very valuable lesson I think about Morris. I punched out a rail pretty good over the giant airy yellow oxer in warm up (2 rails set at four foot whatever are always more intimidating than the lovely decorated ones out on course) and I usually would end on that note. However, I was still too many out and I had only jumped one "big" fence. So I went back to it. And Morris was actually a little rattled. I think this actually explains several of my round when Morris went in there after a rub or a rail as my last fence in warm up and got a little fired up once I picked up my canter in the competition arena. I had to jump it 4 or 5 more times until he was settled and moving up appropriately to the deep spot. As much as I hate to waste that many jumping efforts in warm up, I think that was a great lesson learned and I am going to remember that for many jumping warm-ups to come. He went in there and really listened well, I got him settled but yet kept him forward, and we ended up having just barely 1 rail. He jumped well and I feel like I was staying up out of his way long enough to let him finish his jump. Maybe, just maybe, I'm learning something......
Looking forward to settling back in at home and then off in 2 weeks to Fair Hill. Lots to talk about before then. I do, however, need to do 2 months worth of unpacking and laundry so that's all I got for now!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ta Ta for Now!

Morris was so happy today! This photo captures his excitement about walking out to our jumping field. And because he had the stud girth on, he knew he was in for a real jump school. Sadly, it was our last time jumping down in Aiken for the 2011 season. We tried to end it on such a positive note, however! Smarty and Morris went to Gibbs yesterday to conquer any and all last minute combinations that we haven't done in the 2 months we've been south. They were both brilliant. Poor Smarty got double a workout, according to his clock it is the beginning of winter and apparently he thought it was going to be a fancy Selle Francais looks more like a Shetland Pony at the moment! He was huffing and puffing galloping all around Gibbs. Honestly, I didn't feel too bad for him...good to wear that one out from time to time lol. He was great about the coffin set up on the bunker, it actually slowed him down for a second. And he has gotten so much better about the skinnies. I think he has done every skinny and downhill combination on the entire property! He had his first encounter with the duck as well. I think 3 out of his 4 legs cleared it on the first attempt, and by the end he was doing the duck to the corner in 6 or 7 strides, and vice versa. Thought we would have him all prepped for the geese at The Fork, and then I hear that the big water has turtles. Looked high and low and found no turtles at Gibbs. Drats!
Morris had a great time as well. After our little incident at Southern Pines II, I made sure that Morris saw every ditch on the property, ditch and walls, ditch and bank, ditch between the bank, ditch and skinnies, coffins, trakehners, ditch liverpool thing in front of hanging log. Hmm. I don't think I missed any. Sunken road, I guess that is like a giant ditch?! We will see if all this work pays off. you-know-what is going to be waiting for me after the first water at The Fork. I have a plan that involves a tap and a spur and a couple of bad words!
Today we finished an action packed week (and it's only Tuesday!) with a jump school at the farm. We had canter poles strewn across the entire derby field, that and skinnies. Skinny to canter poles, canter poles to skinny. Every now and then I buried him under a big oxer, and then he got to do more canter poles. I think, however, that he had a good time. Got to buck during a couple of flying changes and that always makes his day. I do love that cheeky little monkey! Morris was, of course, Mr. Professional as soon as he entered the jump field. We had a couple of specific exercises set up that made Mr. M do some serious thinking and it was good for him! I had stiff bounce set up out of planks, and he did come home with red paint on I think all 4 toes. Hope he remembers that! Also tried to recreate some of our show jumping from Southern Pines II, well it was a slightly different interpretation as I don't recall take off rails and V-rails at Southern Pines. But today, highly effective! I hope he remembers that as well come the weekend!
We are set to leave lovely Shag Hill Farm at 0900. Sounds so doable on paper. I did at least do laundry and pack this evening. Gunsmoke took note of the bags piled up by the door, and as I type he is at my feet making sure that he isn't forgotten. As much as we love Aiken, it's time to get this show on the road. Next stop, The Fork!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Southern Pines II

I admit that Lara and I packed as fast as possible to leave Southern Pines II and we couldn't wait to hop in the truck and drive the 4 hours back to Aiken. Not because we didn't have a good time; but because it was absolutely dark and freezing! The weather, however, couldn't really dampen our spirits about a good weekend overall. Great job to the CHP and the the Southern Pines II crew who really put on a top notch event. The vendor village on the lane of cross country was a great addition, and I am sorry that the weather didn't cooperate more to bring in more spectators. Hopefully next year!
We brought Morris and Smarty, and I was feeling like both were well prepared for this first event on the PRO Tour. Morris and I were making our advanced debut together, hooray, and that certainly made the weekend meaningful and luckily memorable for most of the right reasons! Smarty was there as well and handled that atmosphere like a big horse. The bucking in the canter during his dressage happens all the time, don't think it had much to do with 6 rings running simultaneously lol. We are working on that, and he still scored great. Better yet, he finished on his dressage score. The cross country he was focused and rideable the entire way around. He needs to continue to get more adjustable especially to be ready for the preliminary combinations and skinnies, although I felt like we are really on the right track. His huge stride just swallows up the ground and he is so brave about the ditches banks and water. He did, actually, trot a few steps up to the ditch at the sunken road complex; but I think it had more to do with him needing a moment to understand the whole area. Once he realized I was riding him towards a ditch he locked right on and still made an easy 2 strides to the house on the way out. Good boy! His show jumping was pretty perfect, if I don't say so myself! Did a clean flying change it like was part of the course not part of a disobedience, made all the inside turns and kept a pretty regular and round stride. Lara had him looking like a winner, and he almost was! Even busted out the quarter marks for the first time this year. Stood proudly with his parents for a picture after a fairly exciting victory gallop. He wanted to make it very exciting, and I had to keep that a little bit more under the controlled/boring side of things.....
Morris was far from boring the entire weekend. He had some super moments in the dressage and some moments when the judge was pretty hard on him. He did score an 8 x2 on his extended walk go Morris go! Maybe he thought/hoped he was done? lol. The half pass still needs some work. Well, a lot of work, and 50% of our changes were stellar. In general, however, he is such a stronger, more supple horse than a year ago. Hell, than a week ago! Cross country, it was really his day to shine. He was fantastic at the combinations, my ride through the big water still gets me all giddy just thinking about it. I had a great forward ride to the bounce and it gave me all the time in the world to get a safe jump up the bank and over the corner in a neat and tidy 2 strides. At the turning skinny brush question Morris proved he was a game advanced horse cross country, because he got the job done which is about what you could hope for there. He had a couple of beautiful galloping fences with some serious air time (I could really feel a difference on the width sometimes versus intermediate that is for sure!) and he finished strong, full of gallop, and looking for more fences! Unfortunately, he did a little fancy footwork at the first trakehner on the course, before the pond water. It looked better to me in years past, still though he is a touch ditchy and I thought I had him outsmarted by jumping far left where the angled log was hiding the ditch for the most part. I didn't have the best move up spot to it, should have held his head up a little bit more, and he kinda snuck/glanced off to the left. Jumped it the second time still not so thrilled, and you better believe I gave him a huge ride to the mammoth sized new trakehner at fence 20. This one's neighbor had wiped out the Intermediate earlier in the day and it was probably the most worrisome jump on the course for me. And that was before I had a stop! A couple of good cracks on the way up to it and some good old fashioned cross country get the job done riding and I found a perfect forward distance (aka I kinda flew over it) and I hope that the photographers were there because that was really something. I have a new plan for the trakehner after the water at The Fork if the course runs like it usually does there....
Show jumping was an improvement over last year because Morris was far more focused and relaxed jumping out on the grass in the cross country field. The course was beautiful and asked a lot of tough questions. Unfortunately Morris and I each had a rail, I will work on my turns and Morris will work on being more careful behind in combinations, we each promised one another ha ha ha. Sorry to Lara in advanced for the jump crewing and pole placement she will have to help me with for the next two weeks!
Everybody looks great today, they have a good day off in the rain getting dirty and doing absolutely nothing productive. Looking forward to The Fork where Morris is back again at the Big A and Smarty makes his move up to Prelim. Can't wait!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ocala Boot Camp

I think this picture pretty much sums up the way that things went in Ocala this past weekend. I took Smarty and Morris (and Richard and Gunsmoke, sorry to have to leave Lara behind but there was a whole herd to train back there in Aiken!!) and off we went fully expecting for Karen to whip us into shape in a matter of days. And that is exactly what happened!
We got to spend the weekend stabled at Longwood, which in itself is an amazing experience. I just would like to tell Smarty that he has some serious 'earning' to do, landing in the US, and then residing at places like Shag Hill in Aiken and Longwood in Ocala. Smarty - you owe me lol! Actually, I think he started to earn it a little, such a smart horse. He got better and better every day. Karen had him figured out pretty quickly and he spent the rest of his lessons cantering over ten thousand poles on the ground. Yes, you must steer. No, you may not buck with every flying change. There is always one more stride. Always. It was great for Karen to give me so many things to work on, I have a whole new plan for the jumping arena when we set it this week. She also stressed time and again not to be too hard on him. Yes, he needs very strict perimeters! But he needs lots of walk breaks, lots of pats, and lots of encouragement. We want him to work hard because he loves his job. I do believe that keeping that spunky little part of him alive is what is going to help separate him from the rest of the pack at the upper levels. He is set to run another training level at Southern Pines this coming weekend, and then we are going to determine what April is looking like for Playtime.
For Morris, well he wishes he got to do poles and jumps every day like Smarty did! Sadly, however, Mr. M spent most of his time in Ocala in the sandbox. Karen had me working on a variety of different exercises set to help Morris get more supple, which in turn is going to help pump up the volume in the dressage arena. It is always a fine line between pumping up the volume and still having him under control. He tries so hard that at times he is his own worst enemy. Already by my last lesson we were really getting the hang of how the new and improved Morris feels. We had some great flying changes and also some really good, relaxed work after doing said flying changes. We spent one lesson working entirely on Advanced Test A, and I feel like I really have a good plan of attack for how to use the arena and get the most out of my horse come Friday at Southern Pines. Don't worry, Morris got to jump a little. Actually, what he jumped was quite big lol. And then we mixed it up with a lot of cavaletti type exercises to keep the brain and the feet sharp. We need brain and feet of everybody working together this weekend as we make our Advanced debut at Southern Pines. Wish us luck!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Full Report from Full Gallop

Just want to make this point clear from the beginning - the lercher was the only one just lounging around at Full Gallop Farm this past weekend here in Aiken! And in my opinion, he looks quite guilty about it from this photo, taken at the top water. This weekend started as a fact-finding mission, we had 3 horses going (Smarty, Splash and Buttons), none of which I had evented before. 2 of which had never evented before. 1 of which just came from the hunters and hadn't jumped out of the indoor until coming down here in February.
Even though I had been to FGF several times this season to school, I hadn't competed there since last year. I was pleased with the new area for dressage, a huge improvement from having to squish into the paddocks in front of the barn. I was very appreciative of the spacious warm-up, even though some very upset grey horse still got close and attempted to double barrel my poor little first time starter. Show jumping, too, was in a new and improved area. Cross country, jury is still out. While great for schooling, I have found it difficult to get a good galloping rhythm at FGF. I will only speak for the training and beginner novice since that is what I walked and rode; but I found it to be inconsistent. Parts were trappy and non-confidence boosting. I feel like I can say that because I had horses finish all over the map! I guess we should get into that...
Playtime wanted to have a little playtime in the canter work of his dressage test. Last I checked flying changes weren't required in Training test A and my submission score let me know that the judge, too, didn't find flying changes in the list of required movements. The good news is, he was no different than he was at home so we can keep working on the same old stuff! Jumping, he was even better than he had been schooling or jumping at home in the short month I have had him. His show jumping round was easy peasy, I hope I can say that when they are a foot taller :) Cross country we had a run out, although I consider myself lucky. Smarty didn't know he ran out, he just knows he bounded down the steps in the back field without having to take any shuffle steps like some of those sissy-horses did. Unfortunately for Smarty Pants, those little shuffle steps were critical in getting the distance correct to the skinny chevron at the base. Drats! We circled around, he jumped it as though he saw it for the first time - because he was noticing it for the first time ! - and then boogied on off to the water and had a fabulous jump in over the roll top and out over the log on the mound. Schooling and hill work for Smarty and then it is off to Southern Pines in 2 weeks!
Buttons and Splash set the bar high with some great dressaging. So happy to have their owners in town to see them really shine (and I mean REALLY shine Lara worked over time on that grey knowing that her owners were going to be in town lol) and they did, Splash was commandingly in the lead after her test and Buttons was sitting 4th in his. Show jumping went well, a little spooky but we left the rails up with a little bit of flair here and there. On to cross country it was, a little nervous because with a beginner novice first timer you really could have a stop or a run out at ANY of the 14 fences on your course! To me, the second fence was the first obvious place for a stop (on a dime) drop (your inside shoulder) and roll (your rider onto the ground). Luckily Splash was as brave as she has ever been and jumped everything on the first try, regardless of whether or not she really knew what she had gotten herself into! Just kidding, this cute little horse does everything with such style and grace, she is a real keeper, and coincidentally a winner! Buttons, sadly, went from 3rd to 8th after deciding that the sharks teeth in the woods really might bite, and I have a jammed left pinky finger to prove it (he only managed the stop and drop). We trotted it the second time; and he finished strong still under the optimum time. Not too shabby for a hunter pony that is Cute as a Button ha ha ha.
Upon checking in at the barn this morning, Splash was as dirty as she had ever been, Smarty was refusing to get caught in his paddock, and Buttons was flat on his side taking a sun nap. All signs of a good weekend :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aiken in Full Swing

Don't be fooled by the picture, neither Gunsmoke, Lara, nor Smarty have much time to stand around and enjoy the scenery down here lately! I think that's a good thing, well at least I know that Lara and I are at our best when the schedule is action packed, we kinda thrive on the excitement and challenges of a seemingly overwhelming schedule. With another horse arriving down here in Aiken this week, well things at times were certainly very exciting!
Pine Top parte dos happened Saturday and Sunday. Morris was a mere 5 points off the lead in his Intermediate division, in part thanks to dressage lessons from Marilyn and a massage from Katie Lou (for Morris, that is. Remember, I've been too busy running around Samantha Charles' lovely Shag Hill Farm for such selfish indulgences!). Lara had him looking like a million bucks, and he acted for his entire pre-ride and warm-up, and for moments during his actual test as well! The show jumping course was fairly straight forward, although the terrain definitely came into play a few times. Morris and I fell victim to jumping the oxer at fence 2 a little too quietly, and got to the very vertical at fence 3 on a lovely strung-out not quite 5 strides. Oopsie. Down she went. More canter poles and grid work for homework for us! I enjoyed my course walk with DOC, although I use the term 'walk' very loosely as we biked around and gave Gunsmoke a good work out. In fact, that's a great picture of the lercher trying to swim in the trough at fence 6. Watching him crawl between the rail and the lip of the trough was priceless! As usual, David gave great advice (can we say, New Chef?!?) and pretty much predicted exactly how it was going to ride for Morris and I. On Sunday, we didn't disappoint! Although it nearly started with disaster, we ship in to Pine Top and didn't get the memo that there was a giant move up on times and the entire day was running early. Major props to Lara who got my pony ready in record breaking time, and acted calm, cool, and collected about hitting fast forward on her morning. Well done! Morris did our part to return the favor. Clean and fast and it was the best that Morris has ever jumped a coffin, I dare say in his entire life. Finished a strong 6th, would've been 3rd without our show jumping rail!
No rest for the weary, however, with the rest of our week. Farriers, dentists, shows for sales, more farriers, lessons, and cross country schoolings. Whew! Today was a lot of fun schooling at Full Gallop. Took the beginner novice fleet, about to make their recognized debut next weekend. As long as the grey/white chevrons were not on our course, we would have been spectacular. Not one of my little darlings, however, wanted to jump that on the first try. Poor little Buttons in fact was trying to dart away from it at least 8 strides out. I see more cross country schooling in his future! Also had fun with Playtime, schooled a good bit of the training, or preliminary. That's the bad thing about schooling. Sometimes it is nice to have the map and the colored flags so you know exactly what you have gotten yourself into lol. He is certainly up for the challenge, however, the bigger the better for that cheeky little fellow! Big weekend ahead, in fact I guess I had better get to bed 5 minutes ago, my last Key Equestrian Team competition and we have the Champion title clenched, or so it appears. Still hoping for a very strong finish for a talented group of riders that I have had the absolute pleasure to work with this season. Wish us luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


We have a VERY exciting announcement to make....we want you to meet Playtime! Affectionately referred to as "Smarty," (and sometimes not so affectionately as he is circling around us in the paddock not getting caught), this handsome guy just got down to Aiken after taking a world tour from his native land of New Zealand! Smarty is an officially 9 year old Selle Francais, sticks about 16.1, and has all the flash and bling a girl could ask for. Congratulations to the Ellis family on purchasing such an amazing creature. He was the 6 year old show jumper of the year down in NZL, and did a jumping tour in Australia as well, when Ross Smith from found him and sold him to 3* event rider Lizzie Brown. Needless to say, he is an incredible jumper and has the most powerful jump that just feels effortless at the same time. Eventing since last April, Smarty took to his new career like he had been born for it. Let's just say, he certainly deserves his barn name. If anything, I think he feels that this eventing thing so far has been too easy and too much fun, completing a CCI* in December and taking home a ribbon to boot. A million "thank you's" to Joanne Bridgeman of Quality NZ Horses for making this whole thing happen. Lizzie is off to England with her 3* horses and Smarty is in Aiken getting ready for a fun spring season here with us!
I don't want to do too much with the little darling after such a trip, but there have been a few rides and some good fact finding missions. He moves with such expression off of the ground, I want him to have a chat with Morris about how easy and elegant this dressage stuff can be lol. I haven't done too much in the way of lateral work yet, but yesterday was playing around with some counter canter and I had a whole new gear when I went back across the diagonal. What fun! We are going to do some show jumping today, actually, to get me warmed up before taking Morris over to jump at Paradise (he is currently sitting 7th, by the way, and a clean jumping round today should solidify a ribbon for us). Paradise has their cross country open tomorrow, and since it is just 5 minutes down the street from our winter facility at Hatchaway Bridge Farms, I think Mr. Smarty Pants is on the trailer tomorrow and we will have a little cross country school. Lara is going armed with all of our cameras, so stay tuned! I hope to get his official page up soon on the website, and we are looking for some mid-late March shows for a United States debut for Smarty. Probably the March Full Gallop and then Southern Pines II. The CCI* at Bromont I think is the spring goal, and the CCI2* at Fair Hill sure is looking good on the calendar! There, I said it out loud!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pine Top

Well I guess you could say the 2011 eventing season really started off with a BANG for the Blue Clover Eventing Team - because BANG would be the noise you heard upon my air vest blowing up on cross country. Not really how one intends to start a season. I guess enough time has passed now, however, that I can sometimes laugh about it. No, that is a lie. Thinking about it is still infuriating and embarrassing although I think at this point others are laughing about it.
Things started off great on Saturday. It was very cold, so much so in fact that my arena was frozen for dressage! Morris really was a champ in there, we have his warm up routine for Intermediate at least down to a science and I had the same horse in my test as I did going around the arena, very exciting. Winter drilling in the indoor certainly paid off. Unfortunately for The Morris, the lack of floaty gaits combined with a rock hard surface didn't do much to help him look like a ballerina. I think the judge was kind in some places, and a little stingy in others. Regardless, we were sitting in 8th after dressage and not even a rail out of 3rd, the scores were very closely bunched together. The real feat of dressage was keeping a counter canter, we have been practicing so many changes for our advanced debut that I thought it would be a little hit or miss about whether or not I could successfully execute the lack of a flying change lol.
Show jumping was pretty good as well, for his first time out that season I should say it was very good. It was by far the most consistent round I think we have ever had at Intermediate, and again he stayed focused and rideable leaving the warm up and getting into the main arena. Just coming back from my Karen lessons, I had a lot of feel and advice floating around in my head and I could really apply what we had worked on the prior week to the course at Pine Top. Morris still needs to get a little stronger, and my timing could be a little sharper, but surely on the right track. He jumped really well through both the triple and the in and out, and I will consider that a victory.
Cross country on Sunday I'm afraid is another story. Beautiful morning, beautiful course and very appropriate for the beginning of the season. Morris knew exactly what the taped boots and studs meant while getting tacked at the trailer, and Lara had him looking the part most certainly. We cruised through warm up and he just felt awesome, maybe a touch strong in an excited sort of way as it had been since Fair Hill in October that he got to go run around a course! I met a couple of the oxers on super move up galloping distances, and then ended with some angles and quietly cantering the oxer as though it was the log at the beginning of the coffin, or the water. From this point on, wish I could hit the rewind or do-over button. There was some sort of a problem with time, and so as I am walking up to the box the started was kinda frantic and asked if I could go in 20 seconds. Sounded fine to me I thought, Morris and I certainly know what we are doing when it comes to a cross country course! So I kinda trotted helter skelter up the hill to the start box and as she was saying "2....1...go" we zipped in and out. Problem is, I think, Morris and I have this routine where he likes to get to the box about 1 minute before we actually go. He stands beside it absolutely motionless and just stares down the start of the track. He won't move a muscle until I hear the starter say "Go!" and then I nudge him and boom we are off and running. I didn't think it was that big of a deal; but I'm thinking now that Morris, who makes very few requests, would really like to start things his way. So he spends the entire gallop to the first fence not really galloping but cantering with a drifting left shoulder back towards warm up. It was a little awkward up and down a hill and I thought I had it fixed just kind of casually as we kept going. I guess I should have nailed him with a stick or spur or both and roughed him up a little bit! 5 strides out or so I'm finally straight, and while Morris was looking at the fence he wasn't really taking me to it. I see a stride or so later that it is going to be long. I add leg. No real response. I then really dig in to tell him to now take off long as there's a good half stride of a gap. He delayed and kind of went to tag his feet down and then take off again, or so I think. I don't really recall. I heard a whack, or multiples. I had mane in my face, I hear my air vest blowing up, I know I say a bad word and I slip my reins. I'm then over his left shoulder which at the time seemed way too close to the ground and I'm rolling because I can't prove or disprove that Morris has his feet on the ground. I finish rolling back up to my feet, still holding my stick (how does that happen??) and watch my cross country machine absolutely flying back towards warm up. Then he goes right through the middle of the warm up, terrorizing everyone I'm sure, and proceeds to fly down the dam where I was told later they stopped him at the double gates. Lara had Foxy going as fast as she would go. Too bad she didn't take up the offer to track him down in the Ferrari!
No one from my crew witnessed this, because who is really watching the first fence? Lara had the video camera and was sprinting towards the water to catch me there. Richard was on his bike and kinda saw it from behind. Bad words. Lots of bad words. Bad words because I am okay, and my horse was just fine. If that hadn't been the case, well we don't want to think about that. I went home and jumped every horse in the barn to prove that I could see a spot and to make sure that I didn't get too mental. Makes you so happy to have such a great team, and that they were all on their 'A' game on a day when Morris and I obviously were not. What I can say now, other than lessons learned, out of our system, and behind us (hopefully forever!).