Sunday, November 25, 2012

Closing 2012 with Success


Baby Geoni rocked his first training at the Maryland Starter Trials!!

          Hope everyone has had a good kick off to the holiday season! Although I was sad to withdraw Zara from Fair Hill this year, it opened another opportunity to get my other horses out and about before the end of the recognized season. Geoni started his recognized career at the Maryland Horse Trials, where he was quite mind-blown by the atmosphere, but managed to get around his first event with success. He was a star for his first true cross country run, and jumped clean in the stadium. Zoomer was on his best behavior, earning a good position from dressage and jumping clean in the stadium with just 2 seconds of time to earn 3rd in the preliminary. Since Geno was already signed up for the training level at CDCTA a few weeks later, I decided to compete him the next weekend at the unrecognized Maryland Horse Trials, where he got over his worries, and put in a stellar performance to lead his division from start to finish, ending on his dressage score. In November, Geno competed in the training at CDCTA, and was a little stressed in the dressage, but jumped well with one rail in the stadium and double clean cross country and end up 6th. I was thrilled to have followed through perfectly with my goals for Geno for this year; and excited to be back on Zoomer and competing.

          Now that we are coming into winter, we are planning lots of schooling shows, schoolings, and other opportunities to improve our weak spots to come out even stronger next year. Keep warm, and hope for a mild one up here in area two!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Summer has Flown by!! AEC's, and Plantation

Well I can't believe it is already September!! Now that the fall is upon us, my other horses who have been on vacation while I focused hard on these past few weeks with Zara will be coming out to play! But first, here is a recap of Zara's last few events.

After deciding at the last minute to re-route from doing our 6th advanced level competition at Richland in Michigan to competing in American Eventing Championships in Georgia, we prepared for a longgg trip! Luckily, Zara is a good traveler, and made the 15 hour trip without incident. She settled in wonderfully, and schooled great the next day. If you've never been to Chattahoochee Hills, it is worth the trip! The facility is incredible, and creates a top-notch atmosphere for this great competition.  On dressage day, I unfortunately did not give Zara the warm up she needed to excel in the busy atmosphere. She kept her composure and confidence well through the trot work, but became unsettled in the challenging canter work. We earned an appropriate, but disappointing score to set us up at the end of the group of incredible advanced horses. The cross country was quite complex, and faced us with not just a few, but many questions that we haven't faced before. The tactful use of the terrain became an important component of many of the twisty combinations. With Sally's expert advice, Zara and I took on the cross country on Saturday with impressive power. We worked hard through the combinations, and despite a few minor mistakes, made it around clean and fast to move a big jump up in the placings. On stadium day, Zara seemed in good energy and as it turns out, had a bit too much go remaining! She was a firecracker around the complex course, bringing down three rails on the way around. We decided after this ride it is time for a change in our stadium tack to get her a bit more focused on me in the ring. We ended up placed at 14th of over 20 incredible horse and rider combinations.

The next stop on Zara's schedule was the Plantation Field Horse Trials. We had hoped to enter the CIC3*, but because of our various dressage issues, we did not have the scores we needed. Instead, we ran the advanced, still hoping to get the scores needed. On dressage day, Zara was fairly well behaved up until the last few moments of the test. Now we all know that Zara can be quite an opinionated Big Red Mare, however, this was a bit unusual. After crossing the diagonal where we were supposed to do the left to right flying change, Zara decided that in fact, she would not be changing leads, and she WOULD be leaving the arena; right there at P. Whether it was forward, backwards, or sideways, she was going OUT!!  Of course, this idea didn't really fly with me, so we had a bit of a discussion there in that corner of the arena, followed by a quite disorganized extended canter, and a less than great collection, circle and halt. Luckily, her trot work was much improved, and we earned a 44.7 and were not in last, even with the poor scores from her escapade. Bad mare!!! Stadium was Friday in the hilly grass area near the stabling. The course was beautiful, but would prove challenging, as Zara tends to be stronger and a little less confident on her feet in the grass. In our new bridle setup, which I had schooled in less than I would have liked, Zara took on the course with more poise than ever before. She was very attentive and careful. We made it all the way to jump #10 before we had a rail! I didn't have her quite straight to the liverpool, leading to a slightly flat jump. My error there was also reflected in the triple combination, where we had 2 more rails, to keep us in the same standing. Saturday, the cross country footing was very well tended, and the course rode with great flow. Zara really stepped up to the plate and stayed with me the whole time around, taking every single jump in great form and distance! It was definitely one of my very best rides. We made it around with just a few time penalties to end up in 10th place.

Because we did not obtain the qualifier we hoped for at a CIC3* this year, Zara and I will be entering Fairhill at the CCI2* level again, hoping that our hard work on the dressage will shine through to improve upon our performance last year. In addition to Fairhill, I will be competing the other horses who have had some time off while Zara has been working hard. Brilliant Truth will do a training level before returning to do a couple preliminary level events before the close of the year, Aces Zoomin' Dude will be entering a few preliminary level events to determine what his plan will be for the next year. Geoni, now that he has healed from his various ottb ailments... such as getting stuck in a gate, fighting with Zoomer (poor choice) and giving himself an impressive new eyebrow on one side ... and will be beginning his recognized career at the novice level.
Baby and Zoomer will be going to Middleburg, VA this weekend to get started!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hot Jersey, Ups and Downs at Millbrook, and a Great Comeback for Zoomer at Waredaca!

Well, I got behind and skipped a few things.. but to recap, at the end of June Zara and I did the horse trials at the Horse Park of New Jersey. We had a decent dressage test for us, and geared up for the jumping with lots of ice and water on hand! Advanced in 100+ degrees is certainly a great test of my and Zara's stamina. With the help of Mark and a newer friend, Nicole, we warmed up and headed over to warm up. Zara was wonderful, and we headed in confidently after some brilliant rides before us by Buck Davidson and Jennie Brannigan. An interesting thing about this stadium course was that it was nearly identical to the intermediate stadium at Seneca a few weeks before. At Seneca, we had one rail at the vertical one-stride at the end of the arena, when I allowed a loss of balance through our turn. Needless to say, I was excited to ride the course again and hopefully leave that mistake out! Zara went around wonderfully, keeping all the rails up. I did have one mistake, where I added a stride in a bend, but luckily we kept it together enough to get to the base and get over it just fine. Our first clean advanced stadium! We went on to ride the cross country after a cooling session, and had a great time. Zara conquered all of the questions with confidence, and we came in just a little over the time to earn 3rd place.

Zara's next event was the Millbrook horse trials in New York. I was excited, as I had never traveled there for an event. We arrived an uneventful drive and Zara settled in nicely. She gave me her most relaxed test yet, and I was very happy that we have been improving every single outing so far this year. The cross country looked fair but had an element I wasn't used to -- hilly terrain. I walked the course with Sally Cousins and she assured me as long as we are fit, we will adapt fine to the hills. She was certainly right, and Zara and I pushed ourselves to have one of the best rides we've had to date. She was light on her feet, quick, and adaptable throughout the course, and to make things better, we managed to get in tight to the time with just 2 seconds to spare. The next day for stadium, Zara was in good spirits, though likely a bit tired... I however, was quite fatigued from the ride, and did not ride my best in the stadium. With my lack of support, we had 5 rails around the course to drop us from 5th to 10th. Our drive home went well, and Zara got a brief vacation before we went back to work. I did not take a vacation, and have been focusing on my fitness and as much riding as I can to avoid that problem again!
[Video Here: Millbrook Advanced Cross Country!! ]

On a bit of a whim last week, when I saw Waredaca was accepting post-entries, I decided to enter my wonderful old mount Zoomer in the training. With some luck, someone scratched the open training division on Saturday, so we geared up to head over Sunday! Our rides were in the late morning and afternoon which gave me plenty of time to walk and prepare. Zoomer warmed up very nice for the dressage, and gave me a lovely test. Unfortunately for him, he is scored a little tougher than fancy big red horses, and we were in poor standing after the dressage. Luckily, I was entering him for the fun of it, and was very excited to jump my old super horse. Zoomer tackled the stadium and cross country with ease, and we ended on his dressage score to earn 7th. Not too bad for a year apart, and then only a week together! We will see what Zoomer's future will hold this time around!

Next on our schedule is a busy fall season for all of my mounts. Zara and I will go to Chattahoochee Hills in Georgia to try our hand at the AEC's for advanced level, followed by Plantation Field and Fair Hill. Baby will continue competing at the preliminary level after her summer vacation until she is sold. Geoni will have his recognized event debut hopefully going training a time or two before the winter. Zoomer will be doing training or preliminary as his fitness and limitations allow until I decide whether we will try and bring him back up the levels for find a new place for him to live. Very excited to be busy busy eventing again!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Respect and Enjoy your Fellow Competitors... and LOVE AND CHERISH your volunteers!! An experienced eventer's adventure in volunteerland.

Well this blog post will be unlike my others (Don't worry, I'll still blog about Jersey... sometime), as they always cover events from my point of view as a competitor.... This time, it is from behind the scenes of the volunteers. I decided to skip the MD Horse Trials this year, as my horses have worked pretty hard this Spring. But I couldn't possibly spend the weekend of such a wonderful event sitting around in the heat worrying about my own things. Instead, I chose to volunteer at the horse trials for the weekend. I had never volunteered before at a recognized event. Here is a recap of my fantastical, toasty, slightly soggy day!

I made the potentially poor decision to go out with a friend on Friday night, and stayed out a little later than I should have. But regardless, made it up to Loch Moy by about 8:00 after a very important trip to Starbucks. At the volunteer meeting where I met my comrades for the day, we got our orders by the various hard-working organizers and headed out on the course. Throughout the day, from 80-couple degree start around 9:00 until the 100-couple degree end, every single person involved in running this show was extremely dedicated, humble and hard-working. I never heard even a single complaint. Not about the heat.. or about the jobs.. or about anything. The event ran quite smoothly, calmly and successfully all day because of this wonderful group of people who decided to devote their precious time to our passion as competitors. At the end of the day, we all gathered under the tent with food and wine (and some other beverages too). This group of volunteers, that before this morning didn't know much about each other, buzzed about the happenings from the day. Sharing the happenings at each of the jumps, complimenting many of the riders who navigated the course today, everyone stayed cheery and positive.

I was so happy to meet all of these volunteers, and although I tried to be appreciative before, after this weekend, I understand how much they truly deserve our thanks!! I look forward to my adventures tomorrow!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Plantation Field & Seneca Valley Horse Trials

After our adventures with MCTA, moving to Worthmore Equestrian Center, and rushing through fairhill, I decided to take a short break with the onset of the Summer heat and the chaos of settling into my new location. The last weekend of May and first in June, I actually didn't compete and had a relaxing weekend. Of course, I still spent most of it at the barn. Our next event was at Plantation, an event which I hadn't been to since 2008!! I entered Baby at the preliminary on Saturday and Geoni in the unrecognized beginner novice on Sunday.
Saturday was quite warm, but we hid under the shady side of our trailer and had a pretty good day. In the dressage, I unfortunately didn't study my test well enough. It's always a disappointment to negatively impact your horses score in such a careless way. Regardless, we started around the middle of the group with a very obedient test. The stadium rode the best it ever has for her, and even though we had 2 rails, every ride this horse feels more and more confident in her jumping. The cross country went extremely well, with a very bold, confident round and just a second under the optimum time to end up in 6th in the division.
Sunday we had mid-day rides, but Geoni didn't seem to mind the heat. He warmed up very nicely, with none of the greenie behavior he showed at his first event in April. He earned a respectable 34.5 to start off in 5th. He was wonderful in the stadium for a clean round, and very brave on the cross country! He got his first yellow ribbon for 3rd.
This weekend Zara competed at the Seneca Valley horse trials in the intermediate, so we would have a good run before we do the advanced at the New Jersey horse park in 2 weeks. Zara and I have been working very hard on our dressage (which I'll post about another time) and it was very rewarding for it to show at this event!! Friday evening, I developed a migraine, which was not helpful in the 3 hour haul to Seneca to walk, then 1.5 hour haul to my Mom's house to stay for the night so we were a bit closer to the event for our morning times. It was also not helpful for sleeping, waking up, or the event day in general. Ugh! After a rough drive there, I forced myself to just get through dressage, and see how it goes, then plan to jump stadium and WD for cross country if I was still feeling so nauseous. Zara gave me a great first half of our test, with a much better feel than our previous attempts. Unfortunately, she threw a big red mare temper tantrum in the canter work..... complete with rearing, striking and lunging. I was just pleased when we made it to the final halt without getting the whistle blown on us! Lucky for me, the judge had a sense of humor about it, and I'm sure it helped that for the whole airs above the ground performance I was laughing and shaking my head. She said "Whew! Good Luck!!" out the window. While I was very annoyed that Zara decided it was a good day for a meltdown, we got through it, and the trot work felt better. Definitely planning to WD still at this point, as I still feel horrible, and have low expectations for our dressage score! After taking a moment to collect myself, we tacked up for stadium. It was riding a little rough, as it usually does there on the grass with some tough distance questions to keep riders on their toes. I warmed Zara up a little aggressively, hoping to avoid the submission issues we faced earlier. We went in and she and I both jumped brilliantly. We had 1 rail where we weren't perfectly balanced through the turn to a vertical, but it was one of those rounds where you finish and you think "Wow!" I headed back to my trailer and got her boots off and tack loosened up to decide if I would run or not... Then checked my phone to see that we got a 41.2 in dressage!! Ok, I guess well have to run now! So we geared up and headed out to have a nice easy ride around the intermediate, with a couple time faults to end up in 6th. Not too shabby after such a rough start to the day! I picked up my dressage test to be SO ecstatic that Zara earned 9's, 8's and 7's on much of the trot work. It was such a rewarding experience with the hard work we have done on fixing our fundamentals in the trot work over the past 2 weeks. Better watch out once we learn how to canter!!

Next, Baby will be doing the eventing qualifying rally for Pony Club at Waredaca, and Zara is set to do the advanced at the New Jersey horse park.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

MCTA and Fairhill Horse Trials

Zara started the weekend off with dressage in the evening on Saturday around 4pm. She warmed up wonderfully; I've found that she tends to be a bit less nervous and distracted when we ride in the afternoon. Just to keep things exciting as usual, just a few minutes before we are to enter the ring, Zara pulls a shoe. I got over to the check in station, and they said they couldn't fit me later, and the farrier would not be able to get it done in time (4 minutes to ride time). So, since Zara was very sound, and the ground was nice, we went on into the ring lacking the shoe and had a pretty good test! We scored a 45.6 to start the weekend at our 3rd advanced.
Sunday Baby was also at the horse trials to do her first recognized event of the year, running the training level. I was lucky to have the help of Dodon's wonderful Emily Hanna to help with the 2 mares for the day. We were the first trailer to arrive, and I managed to catch a walk around some of the advanced with Sally before Zara's rides. Zara was feeling very fresh in the stadium, and is usually a tougher ride in the grass. Being right next to the cross country didn't do us any favors either. Zara was less rideable than usual, and we had a disappointing 3 rails around the course. Lucky for me, excitable or not, Zara is a fantastic horse on the cross country. She went around the advanced easily, coming in with just a few time penalties to place us in 3rd.
After a long wait, Baby's dressage was around 3. Baby was well behaved in the test, and I didn't really understand the scoring. She scored in the 40s to start us in the lower end of the open training pack. Apparently it was not my best stadium riding day, as Baby was also a bit hot in the stadium and had 4 down, but was brilliant in the cross country. She showed me that she has the confidence to run preliminary at her next outing.

Zara started this weekend also, with her rides early Saturday. She was fairly relaxed in the dressage, but I made a slight test error to earn a 50 under Brian Ross, which was acceptable because I am happy we are improving from our last ride with him. We again had the stadium in the grass field by the cross country, but this time she was much better behaved. I feel that I was able to keep myself much more still and steady in the contact to have a better step to each fence. We had 2 down, one of which was my mistake of a slipped rein coming around to the 4th fence, and the second was at the last fence through a tough combination. Despite the rails, it was a far better round. The intermediate cross country rode easily for her, and we didn't rush the time to come in 2 seconds over. Zara finished in 8th.
Baby's rides were early Sunday morning, and she gave me a lovely test minus a few distractions in the ring by the grandstand. Emily Olcott from Worthmore Equestrian Center came along to help for the day.  She earned a 37.7 to start off in 9th in the open preliminary. After the previous weeks, I had been toying with changes in Baby's tack, as she had a few habits that were new and undesirable. I found that she is much steadier in the bridle when she is in a single jointed bit as oppose to the french link type I have had her in for a while. She warmed up for the stadium very nicely, and I rode a little bit sloppily in the ring, but Baby showed me her scope as she successfully fixed my occasional rider errors to have one rail. She ran the cross country boldly, having a bit of a look at the big trakehner at number 5, but didn't let it affect the rest of her ride like it has in the past. She navigated the rest of the questions like a pro and made me excited for her next preliminary at plantation in a few weeks. Baby also placed 8th.

Next on the schedule for Zara is the intermediate at Seneca before the advanced at the New Jersey horse park. Baby is planned to run preliminary at Plantation, then either Surefire or New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Solidifying our Confidence at Advanced - 5th at Fairhill!

GRC photos from Morven Intermediate

 GRC photos from Fairhill Advanced

After returning home from Aiken, with the consult of Sally, I decided that it would be best for Zara to assure her confidence before continuing at the advanced level. We went to the Horse Trials at Morven park and had a great ride around the intermediate.
We then moved on to do the Fairhill Advanced, where I also got to scope out the CIC*** course. In the dressage Zara was certainly having a grumpy day, as despite having a very nice, relaxed warm up, she choked a bit on the canter entrance, making our trot work have more tension than we have in schooling. The canter work was improved, despite her attitude about the flying changes. The judge was kind enough to consider each movement separately, awarding Zara good marks on her walk work which we have been schooling a lot.
I walked cross country with Sally, and felt confident about the course. The ground was quite hard, but we decided to run and it rode softer than it walked the day before. Zara had a pretty great ride around the course, with only a few small areas that could have been improved. The main issue we had was a misunderstanding about the skinny cabin, through steep downhill road crossing, up to a longer cabin. We went in slow and smooth to the skinny cabin, but Zara decided that the very steep hill was a bank and leaped down into the road, unsettling me a bit. Luckily for me, she was already locked on and going to the cabin at the top of the next hill, so I set my hands wide, sat back and let her take me to it. What a smart mare! The next 2 jumps suffered from the bit of confusion, as we trotted the hanging log and then I pushed her back up into a strong step for the 2 roll tops through the water and out over the skinny. We took a straighter line than I had walked, but with the step and power I had at the time, it was a better choice for her to have a big confident step through them than a more collected bending line we had planned. Our neighbor in the barns, Susan Beebee commented, "you rode her socks off at that water!" The very next jump was the fish tank table, which was the cause of our troublesome experience in the CCI** last fall, and we conquered it perfectly. We finished with a clean round and about 5 time penalties.
Stadium the next day was a bit tough, especially with the hard ground in the warmup and in the ring. Many people were having rails, in fact, Sally was the only clean ride in my division. Zara warmed up well, but felt a little sticky in the ring. We had the first rail but went clean the rest of the way around to place us 5th in the division.

Next we will do MCTA Advanced.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Big Move: Pine Top ADVANCED!!

(photo by Ginny Nayden)

Well I'm finally writing about this, I'm not exactly sure what took me so long! Maybe just making sure I wouldn't wake up and find this all to be a dream. Anyways, as planned from last fall, Zara and I signed up for Pine Top as both of our first advanced horse trials! The excitement and nerves in the few days before quickly vanished as I focused on getting everything right getting ready for dressage. Unfortunately, some poor luck stepped in as about 5 minutes before I was supposed to "enter at A" Zara pulled a shoe, followed quickly by a lot of rain. Despite this, we held it together, were luckily skipped and then allowed to enter the ring after our time by judge Brian Ross and got our test done. Unfortunately with the heavy rains that persisted, the cross country and stadium would both be the following day. Now that the really stressful part of the event was over, Saturday was beautiful and kept me beaming all day that I would be riding the big blue numbers that day. After a decent stadium round, pulling one rail, I got one more course walk in before getting on for cross country. The course was big but quite inviting and presented a nice balance of large tables and complex questions, and rode very well for us! Here are some of the combinations that presented challenges: The first decent question was a large table, slightly long strided up a hill to a hanging log, and down the hill with a left bend to a right tipped corner. This question seemed to ride very well as long as the horses maintained their impulsion through the hill. The next big challenge was the first water jump. A large ramp with a short 6 stride bend right to a large log and drop into the water, with a forward step out and over a skinny. This question asked riders to recollect themselves after taking on the very forward thinking beginning of the course. The next big question, besides the GIANT table in between these two, was the coffin. It was a good size grouping of logs, with a long 1 stride to a wide but shallow ditch, followed by the short 2-strided option of either a left or right skinny angled brush fence. When I walked this, it was a bit worrying, as Zara and I have some work to do yet on getting really well collected in the cross country, but we worked well together and got through it with ease. The next combination, after another table, was the bounce. This question had 2 substantial log groupings spaced about 10 feet apart, into a hollow and a hard left bend 6 strides to a right tipped corner as the "C" element. I felt this was the best combination Zara and I handled that day. It felt smooth and easy for the smart horse. Another table in between, and on to the second water jump. This water was fairly straight forward, but presented many more obstacles than the other, and than any water jump I've done before. The gator jump in, 19, was followed by a drifting turn to get straight to the next 4 elements. "20AB" was a bank up, short 1 stride to a hedge jump back into the water, slightly collected 5 strides to an up bank, "C," and another 5 strides to a left point corner. Unfortunately, I should have checked my equipment better, and failed to replace my stirrup pads which are highly worn, and slippery once wet(from the first water). As we jumped in, I lost my footing and landed in a bit of a heap with no stirrups. Luckily, I learned that I CAN think fast while I'm competing, and realized the fences were numbered separate, so I made about a 10 meter circle to the right (which would have made a dressage judge proud!) and got straight to the following elements. With the disorganization that occurred and the extra leg I put on to make sure Zara's confidence stayed up through the questions, we came back into the water off the hedge bank a bit too strong, getting a comfortable 4 in the 5, and with a big jump out, got a slightly long but not extravagant 4 to the corner. I even heard the bystanders applaud my efforts, which got me going to get through the last 2 fences. After... yes, a table, and another giant table, we had finished our first advanced! AND we got through it following one of the most important things Sally Cousins has worked with me on down here for moving up: "Don't run at the tables!" Thank goodness for great advice, as getting the perfect spot to each of those tables was not only a small victory for me, but also proved how much BETTER it felt to feel your horse cover a large obstacle with no troubles.I certainly have an incredible horse to make that course feel so great! Zara was as foot perfect as she could be, and I think we handled the questions like a great team. The dressage may be tough for this horse, but to jump her is a huge joy and honor. Although we have plenty to work on before the next one, I am still beaming at such an incredible first advanced experience. We look on to plan out intermediate at Morven Park before another advanced at Fairhill in April. Home from Aiken on the 21st =]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pine Top Intermediate - First Event of 2012!

So last Friday, after over a month of preparation down here in Aiken with Sally Cousins, Zara and I went to our first event of the season! It was a super early morning, pulling out around 5:00 to head over to Thomson, GA. Zara was braided and bundled up ready to go after feeding around 4:15. Having never been to Pine Top, I did pass the entrance once, but then parked and got situated, as only the 2nd trailer there, in the dark. Unfortunately despite my early arrival, I still managed to run a little late in getting everything including myself prepared for our dressage test at about 8:25. I lunged Zara, but not quite as long as she really needs to be relaxed. Then, upon stopping at my trailer to put my spurs on and get on, my dress boot (which has been worn a grand total of about 6 times and shown in only once at dressage at fairhill) BROKE!! The zipper broke right off.... So in a slight panic, I scrambled to find my other field boots and got them cleaned up enough to be acceptable. I got on, and after going about 50 feet realized I forgot my bridle number. Went back and got off to get it on her, got back on, and headed over to warm up. Zara was fairly well behaved in the warm up, and we went into the ring more tense than I would have liked, but did quite a decent, consistent test right up until the final canter work where we had a little tiff over the tight turn to the center line on the right lead. We scored a 44, putting us at the end of the pack, but not last. Happy to have that over with, I went on to walk some of my xc and look at the stadium course. Unfortunately I just missed the walking time. We geared up and headed over to stadium, where Zara was a bit hectic and piggish in the warm up. Our round was similar, with 2 rails due mostly to her unsteadiness -- and normally I blame the rails on myself!! We went on to walk the xc with Sally and some other students of hers to find a long, bold and big but fair course for a solid intermediate. After waiting a while for my 3:30ish ride time to come near, we tacked up and headed over. I was sure to not overdo it for Zara in the warm up, as lots of canter or gallop before her ride can make her a bit fussy with me. Unfortunately, maybe she could have used up a little more energy on warm up, as she went out to fence one VERY strong. I love having a horse that loves to take me to the fences, but not when it messes with my eye for my distance. We had a few ugly jumps over the first few and smaller of the course as she got settled into the routine. It took a lot more time to settle her into the combinations after her wild beginning of the course, so in order to be safe (and keep her sound, as the footing was a bit harder than I would have liked) we took our time. I didn't really allow her to get into a big good gallop between fences and over the big tables because I was worried I would not have her back enough to have a say in the approach. Despite a bit of a trip step into the first water, most of the remaining jumps rode very well for us. The big tables that looked a bit intimidating to walk rode like they were just another jump, and the combinations backed Zara off enough that we didn't have to go into anything complicated with a ton of pulling. I was especially pleased with her through the first water after her trip step on the entrance, as she pulled herself up, and payed attention to me to get her to the next 3 elements of the course - out of the water over a big triple log jump, one stride back into the water over another triple log jump, and out through a beach up to a skinny near the fence line. She also held herself together well to figure out the second water, which came after a big table off a right turn, with a drop in and a right turn around to a good sized bounce-out element. We crossed the finish line with a fair amount of time added to the optimum, but I wasn't too worried since Zara and I have almost always made time at the level. We certainly have a few things to sort out before the next pine top in 2 weeks, but it was not too bad of a start!! The most important thing will be getting a change to her bridle situation to make sure that I will be as safe as possible in the jumping phases. Until next time, stay warm wherever you are and hope the fantastic weather returns to Aiken very soon!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How it All Began: Finding Zara

Well as I approach my first advanced horse trials this February, I thought I would share with all of you the details of my journey with Zara to where we are now. So first of course, is how I came by such an incredible partner for eventing.

Many people have asked me how I chose Zara, or what I would look for as a horse for the upper levels. To be honest, the first time I ever went looking for an eventing prospect was this Winter when I bought Geno, my new baby thoroughbred off the track. So far, for the most part, my eventing partners have "found me" in a way.
As for Zara, well everyone knows that Steuart Pittman bred, broke, and worked with her as a young horse. I had been a student of Steuarts since I was about 10 or 11 in pony club. I continued lessons throughout college when I could, and in the Summer of 2009, I decided to take on a job as a working student to continue working on moving up with Zoomer. Over this Summer, I met Zara. There were many wonderful horses at Dodon that I enjoyed watching, but none that got my attention more than this stunning mare. I didn't often ride her in the beginning, because as she still is, she was BIG, strong, tense and opinionated. I watched as Steuart worked her, or while I rode on hacks with Steuart or Emily on her, and was repeatedly impressed by the mare's boldness, scope, and movement. Despite her alpha mare attitude and belligerence in the barn, there was just something about her that caught my eye. I was finally given the opportunity to ride her, starting on trail rides and working up to more. As my interest grew, I despised every time (and it was very frequent!!) someone came out to look at her and try her. Most people couldn't really ride her well enough to consider buying her, as while very talented, she was far from simple or trainable.
I knew I couldn't keep another horse at my house, and I didn't need another horse to compete, and I knew it was a bit crazy to invest in a tough, big, red, hot headed mare. Despite these things, Steuart came to me one day and pretty much said, Look, if you think you would really want to buy her, I need to know, and I suggest you work on it. I caved and said yes, I would like to try and buy her. So, first thing to do was sell a horse, since I can only keep 3 at my house. My older pony, Joker, was sold quickly to a lovely family where he would be loved and pampered by 2 lovely little girls. Ok. Now I needed to find the money. While Joker was wonderful, he was not a high dollar horse, so I resorted to taking money out of other sources to gather what I needed. With the help of MANY, I managed to buy her by the beginning of my school year at Washington College that Fall, and took her to her 2nd and 3rd novice level events in October. So this was the strange and simple start of my now incredible upper level horse -- It might be cheesy, but this horse truly did find me and stir up a spark the inspired me to be where I am with her today.

Maybe some day I'll have the resources to actually buy an upper level horse, or shop for another young one like Zara and then I can answer when people ask me how to shop for one!! Because for now, my answer would be to look for one like her =] (but less hot, just maybe?)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy New Years, From Aiken SC!!

Hello everyone and happy 2012!! I obviously meant to post something like this actually around new years time.. But I have been in Aiken since coming down to meet Sally upon her arrival on the 29th of December and been very busy! I am a lucky happy rider to be a working student with Sally Cousins for the Winter!!

As far as the big plans, I will be working closely with Sally aiming for a few combined tests at the intermediate and advanced level, the intermediate at Pine Top Farm in mid February, and our first advanced at the Pine Top end of February event! We are very excited and a little nervous =] Look for the next few posts before we embark on the "big A" adventure all about Zara and how we became an awesome pair.