Tuesday, December 22, 2009
2009 has been a year of incredible highs and lows...but as we all know, this is the way with horses! The year started out perfectly, in hindsight probably too perfectly. Willy qualified for the NAYRC** team with a flawless performance at both Poplar CIC** and Fair Hill CIC**, and Deacon was one of the top 10 USEA training level horses. Not too shabby for a Young Rider, who is also enrolled full-time at Wake Forest University, and working on the side!
The summer brought a near career ending injury for Willy, puncturing his knee at a local HT. Despite our best efforts, it was in Willy's interest to put our dreams of representing the U.S. again at Young Riders behind us. With wonderful help from our two vets, IRAP injections, and the aqua-tred facility at Normar Farm... Willy made a slow but stead recovery. After completing our rehab program, Willy felt better than ever.
Returning to North Carolina, I had two very fit, restless horses ready to make their mark on the eventing scene. We started off with both horses competing at Training level at Five Points Horse Trials... and to my surprise Willy and Deacon went into show jumping in 1st and 2nd place. An unlucky rail dropped Deacon to 4th... but a clear but exuberant round from Willy allowed him to lead the victory gallop! Next the boys were off to Paradise Farm where Deacon placed 3rd in the T/P division, and Willy was 7th in a very competitive preliminary division. Tryon was another big event for the boys, Willy repeated his win of the I/P division, and Deacon gave the prelim a good go! Both boys had disappointing dressage tests, but stellar show jumping rounds. Unfortunately with the incredibly difficult preliminary questions, Deacon was a little too overfaced and I pulled him up at the 2nd to last fence. Regardless he learned much at Tryon, and really showed how he has grownup in his last event at Virginia.
Halloween weekend was spent at Virginia Horse Center. Willy competed in his first intermediate post-accident, and what a performance indeed! We went into the dressage ring with a purpose, and came out in first place! Willy never looked back posting a clean and fast cross country, and a fabulous show jumping round. Brian O'Connor - the announcer at Virginia - said over the PA system "you show those bay TBs and Warmbloods who owns THIS arena." During Willy's victory gallop "I Believe I can Fly" was playing over the PA system... it was a moment which I will forever cherish. To have come this far and accomplish this much with Willy, despite all the odds against us, is a miracle. Willy has added so much to my life, he is such a blessing to be around...even in his grumpy pony moods.
Deacon was not to be outdone by his older brother. He was 7th out of all the starters in the preliminary division after dressage. The cross country was incredibly challenging, but Deacon showed his courage and jumped all the jumps and answered all of the technical questions right away! Since it was his second attempt at prelim, i did not ask him for a big gallop - instead we settled into a comfortable pace. Even with our time penalties, Deacon moved up to 6th place after XC. Another unfortunate rail at the last combination in show jumping dropped him to 7th place... but despite the groans from the crowd, i couldn't have been happier!
With Willy winning 3/4 of his event's after his injury, and Deacon completing his first preliminary horse trial the boys had some well-deserved let-down time. I will post another update soon as to our winter 'boot camp'!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Student Christine Lonsdale performed beautifully at the East Coast Pony Club Championships in the Beginner Novice division. Christine and her adorable pony Magic had a respectable dressage test, and finished the event on their dressage score! I've only been working with Christine for the month prior to championships, and it was incredibly rewarding to hear all of her hard work (both on jumping, conditioning, and on the flat) pay off. I have high aspirations for this pair, I can't wait to see just how far they will be able to go... both horse and rider have so much untapped potential. Hopefully I can get them to do some recognized novice and training events in 2010.
The clinic in Ithaca, NY was absolutely lovely. A friend of mine, Brittnie Chidsey organized the clinic as part of her pony club's summer camp (Red Jacket PC). I had actually met Brittnie last year when we were on the winning team for Show Jumping at the 2008 USPC Champs, and we have stayed in contact ever since (for further information about Champs, see the Chronicle of the Horse article which highlight's Willy's 5 perfect rounds). The days were long, but all of the students were wonderful, and everyone learned something that weekend - I know that I saw a HUGE improvement in everyone. The club was incredibly generous, even taking me out on my first tubing adventure... something I loved doing, but I'm not sure if I could ever do again. I'll stick to jumping 4' solid fences.
I also had the pleasure of teaching for my own club, Green Spring Hounds, all summer. We have such a phenomenal group of both kids, ponies, and parents that Tuesday morning lessons were very much anticipated. As a young instructor, it was incredibly rewarding to see the progress made by each and every student week to week, from the walk-trot-ers to the "big kids" doing double bounce gymnastics.
At the end of the summer, I was able to help long time friend Tammie Monaco with her adorable new pony. Though he has a bit of a lazy streak, with quite a few ground poles and some interesting jump designs, he really started looking like a top notch hunter pony! Can't wait to hear how he is doing!
Throughout the summer I captured the ride on Betsy Hochstein's beautiful young Hanovarian mare, Callie, who has remarkable potential. She is a top-notch mare, and though green, shows much promise for great things. It was incredibly unfortunate that I had to give up the ride to come back down to North Carolina, but Callie is in great hands and I look forward to hearing lots of success stories!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Willy has been doing lots of trail riding, trotting, and dressage work, and we are awaiting the results of the 2nd IRAP injection, hoping that this is the golden ticket for getting him back up to the top levels. Until then, Willy's having a summer vacation - which he is not altogether happy about. He LOVES jumping, and he doesn't understand why - all of a sudden - he isn't allowed to do what he loves. Until then, I am trying to take him to the river once a week and let him paw/roll/swim - which he thinks is the greatest thing a pony can do b/c it gets his rider soaking wet (if nothing else, all that pawing in the water is a great way to open up his shoulders). But I can confidently say that his dressage is improving, and that he is finally beginning to use his back, and have "horse strides" as opposed to "pony strides". Hopefully he can continue this progress into the competition arena, whenever we get the "clear"
This summer Deacon has truly matured into a top-notch athlete... his flat work and jumping have improved tremendously. I am quite confident that he will be a force to be recon with at the Training 3-day this November, but in October I hope to compete him in two preliminary level horse trials. His flat work is really quite solid for the preliminary level, and with a few more schooling opportunities I believe he will be able to move up easily. I'm quite excited to see how far this horse will go! On a side note - I've discovered that not much fazes Deacon - every single time I take him out hacking or trotting we come across a HUGE black snake (I'm convinced that it is some mutated form of an anaconda) and - despite my shrieks of terror - he doesn't care... simply continues on his way. How often do you find that in any horse, let alone a young one! (Willy and I are more than willing to run away in the opposite direction)
I've been kept quite busy preparing for my pony club ratings, teaching, and training horses. In fact, I have just been flown up to Genoa, NY to teach a two day clinic ending Wednesday! I can't believe how fast this summer has flown by, but I am very excited for the upcoming fall season and my final year at Wake Forest.
Our first competition back will be Five Points at the Carolina Horse Park where Deacon will be competing at Training and *hopefully* Willy will be coming back at preliminary. Stay tuned for more updates!
Sunday, July 5, 2009
After the nightmare at Waredaca, we were on edge with Willy's recovery. I was incredible careful... making sure he received the aqua-therapy, 'Ok' from the vet every other day, new supplements, etc, etc and was ecstatic to receive the 'go-ahead' that I could continue intense training in preparation for the upcoming NAYRC ** championship in Kentucky. With the 10 day set-back, we were cutting it close (fitness wise) for the competition, but Willy was rearing (literally) to go and showed every sign of being up to the challenge.
I competed in the NAYRCs in 2006, and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of the area teams and competing against peers instead of well-seasoned veterans. For the past three years I have been chomping on the bit to compete again in this competition, though age restrictions and minor problems (aka COLLEGE!) kept holding us back. This year, my last year as a young rider, I was determined to qualify and compete to the best of my ability in the 2009 Young Rider Championships. Though it does not happen very often in the horse world, competitions this spring went to plan - the pony did not have a single XC jump penalty, pulled only 1 rail all spring, and was steadily improving in the dressage arena - he's only slightly convinced that dressage is all evil now :) . So for May-June we were scheduled to do smaller events, just to keep tuned up. So far, so good. Then Waredaca happened. And everything changed...
A setback, but a "full recovery" was the verdict from New Bolton... so it was crunch time for fitness, still not too much of a panic - just another twist to our story. However, after our first gallop post-accident the pony's knee filled. After a frantic call to the vet, the question became not 'When can I leave for training camp' but "Will Willy be able to jump again?". Willy has been my partner for 10 years. 10 years that I look back on with the fondest of memories (despite all the times when I couldn't get Willy past 'x' in the dressage because the judge's car doors were open!). He is a pony of a lifetime. And I consider myself blessed to have trained him.
After ultrasounds, sweat wraps, and cold hosing we had two options. A) Inject everything we had in the knee and take our chances ( of developing additional adhesions of the tendon to the tendon sheath) at the competition or B) Give the tendon/tendon sheath time to heal, inject, and slowly bring him back. While Young Riders meant the world to me, as the climax of our eventing career - this was not a question for me. I do not take chances with my horses, they come first and foremost to me... so now I play the waiting game. We are going to inject his knee with IRAP which we hope will prevent any further adhesions, and then slowly bring him back into work... seeing just how much work he will be able to do now. If all goes according to plan - vets are assuring me that he should make a full recovery by this fall, and we are very tentatively looking forward towards the Ocala CCI**/Training Level 3-day.
--> Try telling the pony that he is not fully recovered now.... (he is most disgusted by my attempts of walking him around the property)
Deacon has had to step up to #1 horse for the finale of the spring season. Unfortunately Seneca was a bit of a disappointment. I thought I was quite smart to leave him out the night before competing - hoping to take the edge off of him - but to my dismay, I was riding the grumpiest of horses! Someone desperately needed a nap! After an under-par dressage (he was til top 5 though!), I was popped out of the tack at the last show jumping fence.
I wanted to quickly redeem ourselves, so off Deacon and I went to the Maryland Region eventing rally at Difficult Run. He had a lovely dressage of 28, which put him far in the lead, clean show jumping, and clean cross country. Unfortunately a small child (spectator) was standing in front of a cross country fence - so I circled to avoid a collision and incurred time penalties. No harm done, I was incredibly pleased with his performance and manners the entire weekend! Then it was off to Surefire, where Deacon put in an obedient dressage, lovely show jumping, and flawless XC to finish in 6th.... in a division filled with past and present Olympians! Not bad for baby Deacon!
As things die down now for Defying Gravity Eventing (no events are scheduled for July) I can start studying for my HA and A pony club ratings (YIKES are they really only 3 weeks away!), enjoying the weather, teaching, and get several young horses going.
Monday, June 8, 2009
This past weekend at Waredaca the boys were super! Willy is steadily improving in the dressage department- this time putting in some lovely canter work earning a score of 39! Hopefully scores in the 30s at the upper levels will become the norm, it's something I can definitely get used to! His jumping, like always, is impeccable. I recently began taking lessons with Gayle Molander, who is fine tuning Willy's amazing ability, making sure that he is even more careful and precise. Cross country was quite effortless as well. In an effort to be careful (we've got to keep a sound, healthy horse for Young Riders) I took it rather slow and was very deliberate to each and every fence - which paid off with a clear round (though we added some time faults). Willy finished in 14th place (though he was 8th after show jumping..and would have been 4th if not for the time faults!), in a division filled with top-dollar horses and riders. Not too shabby!
Deacon was not to be outdone by his brother! Though keeping his attention in warm-ups seems to be the hardest part for this youngster - especially when cross country is close by! He put in an excellent dressage test despite the icky footing and scored a 30.0. I was even more pleased with his performance over fences! Deacon is just beginning to understand how to use his whole body over fences.... and man can he jump! For the first time Deacon was quite bold towards all his fences, never missing a single beat.... finishing in 2nd!!!! It was a very tough, large division filled with former Olympians and baby Deacon is proving to be quite the competitor.
Now for the difficult news.
Willy came off xc with a very small scrape right above his knee. We have no idea how he received such a scrape (though we have our own theories), but were very careful to clean it off and even had the on-site vet throw in a couple of stitches. Everything was fine until Willy stepped off the trailer at home, he was incredibly lame on the leg (right front). After we unpacked we took Willy out of his stall 30 minutes later to check him over again and reevaluate the situation. Willy was practically falling over, and was not able to put any weight on his leg. Fortunately our vet came out immediately and it was determined that something had punctured the joint. Willy was immediately on his way to New Bolton where he stayed for exactly a week. Thanks to our early diagnosis, Willy appears to be making a full recovery... and has only 10 more days of stall rest/hand walking. After the 10 days, if Willy is sound, he can start aqua-therapy and dressage training. Because Young Riders is at the end of July, we will be cutting it very close for getting Willy back up to his peak fitness level... but the dream is still alive.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Now on to a busy Saturday at Waredaca Horse Trials... Willy will be competing in Intermediate and Deacon will be going training. Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
A huge thank you to all of the Team's supporters! Without your help, this spring would not have been such a complete success! Unfortunately things have been so crazy that I have not been able to keep an updated blog... believe it or not it is quite difficult keeping up 2 horses (in 100% competition mode), starting a training business, and going to a university with the academic prestige as Wake Forest (to which my professors must be thanked since they were very understanding of my countless 'horse show' absences). Thankfully I only have one more year to balance the horses and grades. Now on to the recap :)
This is my last year as a young rider. Competing on the 2006 NAYRC CCI* team was a huge opportunity for Willy and I, a perfect way for us to mature in our riding and improve our performance in the competition arena. Needless to say our silver medal was a great confidence booster as well. Not many ponies have competed at the Intermediate level, so I was very careful with our training and preparations before actual competing at the level. Though Willy and I made several mistakes (it is both of our first times as this level) it has been an incredible journey, and the 2009 season has been our greatest yet...though I'm beginning to think that this super pony will go all the way.
Willy cleaned up in the IP and Preliminary events he entered, I couldn't have asked for better performances. Unfortunately Mother Nature had some input on our competition schedule, and because several events were canceled I had to enter Willy in several additional competitions because I wanted to make sure he was prepared for the challenges of our first CIC** event in late March. After great performances at Pine Top (finishing 5th) and Southern Pines (finishing 8th) we made the journey down to Hamilton, GA for our first CIC**. Again, we were met with a complete downpour... so much so that the organizers were forced to reschedule an entire day of competition. Unfortunately some difficulties in scheduling I was on Willy for far too long in the dressage warm-up, and the test was rather tense. However this 14.3 hand pony put all the horses to shame with a clean show jumping and cross country round, adding only time faults due to my caution with the wet ground finishing in 11th place. After a short vacation, Willy placed 2nd in the Fork Preliminary competition, and then went on to complete the Fair Hill CIC**… again finishing only with a couple time penalties. With these two completions Willy and I are qualified for the Area II NAYRC CCI** team for 2009…. Our last opportunity to compete in what is regarded as the Junior Olympics.
For the summer, our goal is to keep Willy happy and healthy. His schedule will be filled with conditioning trot sets, gallops, lots of dressage, and a gymnastics school once a week. You can come watch him compete in Maryland this summer at Waredaca (May), Seneca (June), and Surefire (July) before leaving for the Junior Olympic training camp in Southern Pines, NC!
My other horse, Deacon is using this year as a learning experience. Initially I thought he would be ready to compete at the preliminary level by the summer, but upon re-evaluation I think Deacon has much to learn about the sport at the lower levels (since he moved up to training so quickly). He continues to blow the competition away in the dressage, always placing in the top 4 after this first phase. The jumping phases are coming slowly but surely for him, though unfortunately brief ‘green’ moments continue to hamper what should be a stellar record. This year I will be working on instilling a solid foundation for this horse… making sure the basics are there, and working on his jumping style. He will also be making his Pony Club debut, competing in the Maryland Region Show Jumping Rally. I have high hopes for this horse, but like most things, he needs time to fully mature. I hope to end his year with the Training level 3-day at the Florida Horse Park in November.
Team plans for the summer include testing for both the HA and A in Pony Club (the two highest ratings), creating a syndicate for Willy (in hopes of funding his journey towards Advanced), and last but surely not least YOUNG RIDERS in Lexington, KY.
I am qualified and on the team, with Willy - but I need your help!!!! Please help me raise enough funds for this competition ($1500) …. PAYPAL is on the website… and checks made out to Area II Young Riders are tax-deductable! Just put my name (Courtney Sendak) somewhere on the check! It’s time to bring home the GOLD MEDAL !
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
*Above (3) photos taken by Hoofclix
Sunday, February 8, 2009
What a way to start the competition season! We made the 3.5 hour trek to Aiken, SC hoping to find the warmer weather... and oh boy did we! Finally I could pull off heavy blankets and give the horses a decent bath. I love competing at Sporting Days, not only is it a wonderful farm, but the courses are always fair, beautiful, and maintain the 'traditional' eventing questions.... its not so much a technical or big course, but asks the necessary questions in a safe and confidence building manner... perfect for a first time out. A huge thank you to Carol Kozlowski who acted as both my trainer and groom for dressage and Jessica Miller who was the most wonderful groom! It was so nice having two knowledgeable sets of hands, especially since my times were so close!
Thanks to Carol and Jessica, the weekend was a huge success. Willy started off being quite a little handful in the dressage... unfortunately all of the hard work done on this phase did not quite show through his lovely 'pony moments.' But what Willy lacked in dressage, he most certainly made up for in the jumping phases. Running the IP means Willy performs an intermediate dressage and show jumping tests, and a preliminary cross-country course. The show jumping was a piece of cake for the pony, completing it very cleanly.. oftentimes jumping me out of the tack ( I think he was just so happy to jump). Cross country was perfect. He was so forward and eager, pulling me to every fence ... which for him is great! We even managed to make time (something we were not trying for... i didn't even wear a watch!). Willy finished on his dressage score of 41... landing him in 2nd place! Very exciting for his first time out!
Deacon also earned a gold star this weekend, minus jumping out of the trailer AGAIN! His dressage was very obedient... though he reached the end of his limit half way through the test and became rather unhappy about the work he was supposed to be doing. Jumping was really great... warming up with Carol was incredibly helpful! Deacon jumped around the show jumping course, not his most brilliant phase, beautifully AND cleanly. Cross country was extremely educational for this young horse. He started off somewhat hesitant, then by fence 3 extremely cocky, then after a near miss at fence 5 (apparently Deacon did not feel it was neccessary to listen to any of my aids) he decided to be a good boy and was an angel for the rest of the course. Like Willy, Deacon was full of running, showing his level of fitness. Deacon finished cross county double clean, ending in 5th! .... So finishing 2nd and 5th... not too shabby for the boys... hopefully everything goes just as smoothly at Paradise in two weeks!