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!).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ocala Field Trip

As much as I love Aiken, I did sneak away to Ocala for a couple of days of lessons and will be the first to admit that I had a great time! I know that the eventing world is pretty much split down the middle between Ocala and Aiken and I wouldn't be telling you anything that you didn't already know. I swear it is NOT that much warmer in Ocala although the grass was an electric green, I didn't realize how much Aiken is still in winter mode until I was terrified to even let Gunsmoke run free over the grass at OCET south. It looked fake and had obviously taken a lot of effort because there were "Keep Off the Grass" signs EVERYWHERE, and I found myself using the roads to get Morris all over Karen's beautiful Ocala facility. The farms in Ocala I think are in general much larger than Aiken, although there are still more than a fair share of trailers and white electric fence tape. That said, you better be on a very nice farm in Ocala because it takes a year and a day to get anywhere. Good thing you can buy alcohol at the gas stations on the corner! I am going to give Aiken a better rating for footing as well (after all, it is about the horses and not about town....) based solely on the fact that I didn't have in studs on my Thursday morning cross country school and my Morris pony slipped pretty good upon spooking at the trakehner. Serves him right for spooking at it! Hope he learned his lesson. Speaking of lesson...
That would be why I left my lovely winter facility in Aiken in the first place. I was so excited, I hadn't had a lesson with Karen since the week before Fair Hill. The pressure was on! I got there late in the day on Tuesday and went ahead and took over the very official looking dressage arena. It was complete with gazebo, letters, and white sides courtesy of the USEF High Performance training sessions that took place there the week prior. I thought it was great practice for Morris, stepping out there in a place fairly unfamiliar and having to get straight to his dressaging. I ran through parts of my Intermediate Test A that I would be riding at the weekend's horse trials. Some parts I had to run thru twice :) Wednesday Morris got a little turn out which he really enjoyed, and then up to the top barns we went to see our best friend Randy. He has done an amazing job on Morris' feet, and trust me Morris has made him really have to rise to the challenge! They were looking absolutely spectacular an hour and a half later, and we all threatened Morris that he better leave those shoes on until he sees his Uncle Randy next month. We put those shoes right to the test in a jumping lesson with Karen. I was afraid there was the potential for some fireworks as it was Morris' first show jump school outside of the indoor. Perfect Morris, however, was a total professional and even managed to trot the warm up fence multiple times. My how we have learned! Karen had a very difficult turning exercise there to slap us in the face a couple of times, and once we got that worked out we jumped some courses. We have made some major improvements over the winter, a time to go back to the basics, and of course there is always something to work on. Or more than one something in my case ha ha ha. In general, however, I thought it was a very positive jump school and I was looking forward to a cross country school Thursday morning.
While in Ocala I get to stay at Damian Guthrie's lovely farm. Damian is a Grand Prix show jumper and current member of the Australian Nation's Cup team. Very inspirational looking out across his arena and jump field at the seriously massive and simultaneously fragile jumping obstacles he has out there! He has a lovely barn apartment, and unfortunately I was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of rain absolutely pouring down onto the roof. Oh well, better to do cross country in the rain than dressage. I think Morris felt the same way, he barely wanted to walk out of the barn once I had him tacked, and I swear if he had been wearing dressage tack there would have been an all out sit down protest. There were 4 of us out there, pretty much a workmanlike free for all trying to get our schooling done before we were soaked and freezing. Fun getting to watch Karen school Quinn and see how far he has come in such a short time! I hope Morris was paying attention! I don't think he was, however, because he was far too intent on sizing up every possible obstacle and combination out there in the field. He got to jump all sorts of fun things, most notable being anything and everything with a ditch under or beside it. Jumped a bunch of corners and skinnies, a really fun bounce bank exercise (I am still bitter about my bounce bank incident at the AECs last fall), and of course the water. Very proud of Morris at the water, actually, as he really skipped through it like a champ. He was no worse for wear afterward, we conveniently had an appointment with Dr. Ober to run her expert eyes all over him. I am so lucky to have such a great crew looking after Morris and I, and you just can't help but feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing people. We plotted and planned for the spring season, and then back on the road we were to Aiken. It was fun seeing the whole crew, can't wait to do it all over again come March!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What a view Morris and the crew have at their lovely farm down in Aiken! The majority of the critters pulled into Hatchaway Bridge Farms Monday afternoon and we've gotten right into the swing of things. Pretty easy to do since we left behind snow, ice, and mud and are down here enjoying hacking for the first time in months! What a joy to not be scanning the ground for shiny icy spots lol. Our barn is absolutely lovely with lots of turn out, and yes the ponies did some kicking up of their heels Monday afternoon when they got turned out for the first time. Even Morris seems content - he has managed three days in a row to stay out past noon. I think that must set a record. I guess he really loves his winter residence! The unpacking process was pretty quick and luckily uneventful due to the expertise of Lara. She really did a fantastic job getting 2 trailers, 7 horses, and 1 rider Aiken ready! All I had to do was remember Gunsmoke. And he makes that easy because as soon as he sees even 1 suitcase he is plastered to my side, or stands directly in front of the driver-side door of the truck. Smart boy!
The riding at Hatchaway Bridge Farms is equally as nice as our barn. We have brand new jumps getting delivered tomorrow which will be fun. Holly and I enjoy changing our course every 3 or 4 days and we have lots of different needs - from horses going to Rolex (knock on wood) to hunter and dressage converts that have rarely been outside of the indoor. We have a fun little track in the woods, lots of beginner-friendly cross country jumps, and of course cleared land good for lots of circles and dressaging. Morris and I today explored a great dirt road that is about a 5 minute walk from the barn, in 10 minutes of trotting we were up and down 3 good hills and I hope he could really feel the burn! I gave myself the challenge of going into 2 point position for every incline. I dare you to try it at home. After 30 minutes of 2 point I think I got my point across to my legs and core that eventing season is back!
Looking forward to a busy week. All of the horses should be here by Sunday, so no more lazy afternoons for Lara and the crew ha ha ha. Heard rumors around the barn that we are taking some horses to Gibbes on Monday, yippee! The best playground in the whole world. Also doing a picture shoot for some horses for sale, make sure to check the Blue Clover Eventing for sale page soon for updates! Wednesday and Thursday are going to find us in Ocala with Karen whipping us into shape before our first event of the season. Next Saturday and Sunday Morris and I ship to Pine Top to run in the Intermediate division and I'm looking forward to Karen getting us tuned up to start 2011 with some good dressage and clean jumping rounds! Check back soon, with the season getting back into full swing there will be lots to keep up with!