Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Winter Rut

It is that time of year. The time of year when you see just how many layers of Under Armour you can ride in. The time of year when you pick apart every piece of your riding, trying to improve and fill in the holes. The time of year when I am ever so thankful to have an indoor.

This is my first winter as a professional, and it is a tough one. Already the interest in lessons has died down tremendously - the foxhunters are out hunting, my young kids are busy with school, and my adults busy with work! It is difficult to get all of the extra horses ridden as well because the ground is frozen! It is definitely a struggle to make ends meet right now, and it is only December! This is a tough business, and as Dhruva told me "life with horses is not easy. If it was, then everyone would do it." So true. It is a fabulous job - and I am very much blessed to be doing it, but not having a consistent paycheck is sure stressful! To offset expenses I am applying to jobs, both part and full time. Hopefully this will help cover the horse's expenses at least for the winter.

I have been taking the extra time in the morning (when I am waiting for the ground to thaw) and starting on the P90X program. It is incredibly important for my fitness to match that of my horses. I have been ridiculously sore for the past couple of days so I will keep you posted on my progress!

Willy and Deacon and I went to Scott Hassler's for dressage lessons today. They were fabulous! Deacon showed some very mature work, and I was really able to free-up his hind-end. Willy worked in the double bridle, and started to go over the Advanced test. The tough parts for us appear to be the extensions and flying changes. Surprisingly Scott was quite pleased with the progress I have made in my half-passes both at the trot and canter. I had the opportunity to ride in Scott's new ring...oh boy! It was absolutely beautiful! I will have to take some pictures next time I venture up there!

I have also been organizing lessons with Sally Cousins at AOPF. Oh boy were they fun! Deacon was PERFECT, Willy was so enthusiastic, Havannah was a super star in her first stadium jumping school, and a client's horse Ella was fabulous as well. I post another update shortly. I have three really great sale horses right now!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The End of Event Season

Hello everyone!

After the fabulous weekend that was Waredaca, I decided to run the horses at one last outing before retiring for the winter to jumper and dressage shows. I have not had the pleasure of competing at Rubicon for several years (4+), because normally November means things at Wake Forest were in full swing. However what I remember of Rubicon: dressage arenas (yay), a crazy difficult show jumping, and a really great XC track. My memory served me fairly well, because that was exactly what we got.

I entered the event late, so Zoe was the only horse to get in right off the bat. Her dressage has been getting consistent, which is a huge accomplishment for her. Because her flat work needed so much attention, I have not really gotten to address a great deal of her jumping problems. We had one jump school, gridwork, in-between Waredaca and Rubicon and it was not pretty. We had several "discussions" about how to properly jump, aka not launch ourselves over the fences. The problem with Zoe is that she is so athletic and intelligent, that once she goes through an exercise once or figures out a course, she becomes bored and unimpressed. While it would be great to raise the fences to training height, she does not use her hind-end well enough to warrant bigger fences. The problem with jumping green, talented horses too big is that they really don't comprehend how to use their body - and god forbid you get into a situation where you really need the horse to pull through for you (such as getting too close to a solid xc fence, or combination), they have to idea what to do and crash through the fence. So Zoe's jumping is in a bit of a catch-22 now, and unfortunately it showed at Rubicon. Her dressage, again, steadily improved. The ring was running a bit late - information I did not realize - so I was on her quite a bit longer than I would have liked. But Zoe held it together pretty well, and put in a steady test earning - another 36. While I would have liked better from her, the competition in that ring was ridiculous. Many of the novice horses I saw were steady in first level frames...i thought this was NOVICE! It just goes to show you how competitive our area is, and how imperative the dressage phase is these days. The show jumping was ridiculous. Rails were flying everywhere. It was really tough for the younger, inexperienced horses to deal with the hills that were in the middle of the course. In typical Zoe fashion, she started off quite alert and picking up her toes. When we got to fence four (a vertical set right at the edge of the downhill slope), she fumbled over that, then the next fence she didn't quite regain her balance in time. Two more rails came down after that - albeit these were not "green" mistakes, they were symptoms of her being completely unimpressed by the fences. That is one thing we need to work on - giving Zoe a conscience. She was completely unphased on her lackluster performance. After that dismal show jumping, I decided it would be a great learning experience if we went cross country in open fronts. A good wack on a solid fence is a great tool for the green-beans. As per usual, Zoe's cross country was spectacular. We had several not-so-pretty fences, where she deemed my half-halts not necessary. Her performance through the water was nothing less than spectacular. She had one of the best rides through there I had seem all day! After cooling out the little princess, it was time to run back home to see my best friend from elementary/middle school get married! The busy weekend was only getting started...

Thankfully, I received a phone call from the secretary on Friday that there was a spot for Deacon in the training horse division! I really wanted to get Deacon in for a second run since completing his treatment to show that he really is back to being his wonderful self. The bad news...dressage ride at 7:54 am, two hours away. Ick. After my alarm went off at 2:30 am for the second day in a row, I was so relieved this was the last event of the year. Imagine sleeping until 6 on weekends. How lovely! So Deacon warmed up great, a little testy (he does not approve of early mornings) but nevertheless he was steady and consistent as per usual. He went in the ring and put forth a really nice effort - a little rusty, but a good effort. He was 5th after dressage with a 34! Not too shabby! After the fiasco in show jumping the day before I was quite worried. Since Deacon is for sale there are always people watching, or looking at his record so it becomes essential that he put in solid performances. We went into the ring and he gave me a FABULOUS round. So much so that I thought we had done it - the only clean round of the division. But I just didn't get enough of a half-halt in on the last combination and he pulled the top rail of the last fence! Darn-it! Oh well, I couldn't have been happier with my horse, he really gave me everything and managed the terrain quite well! It is so nice to have him back and game for anything! Cross country was really challenging. The course started out nicely with two gallop fences, but it was difficult to get into a rhymn because right off the back you had a sharp right turn, and two fences within 8 strides. Deacon was a bit sticky to those, but with a little smack of encouragement, took off down the hill into the woods after fence 2. Fence three was a skinny right out of the woods that Deacon took in stride, much straighter than the first two. Then came what I thought was the hardest question on course. A sharp right turn to a skinny, open bottomed roll-top type fence, two strides down a large drop, sharp turn right up the hill. I saw my distance 5 strides out, sat up, leg on, and smack of encouragement -- over and down we went. Perfectly done by my baby horse! The rest of the course was beautiful, with the exception of a little bobble at the ditch...it is called steering Courtney!! He finished the event clean and fast, in a tie for 3rd. Because I didn't know I was tied, i lost the tie and was deemed a 4th place finisher. Regardless, I am so happy that I have my horse back! I wish the season was just getting started for him, he is ready to move back up to prelim tomorrow!

Once again the competition showed me just were my horses are progressing, and where their weaknesses still remain. I can't be disappointed because both horses really gave me their all on XC, which gave me a great big smile for the long drive home. It was really great to get Zoe competitive at this level, because her flatwork and perspective on life have come so far! She still has ways to go, but in three short months, anyone can see the dramatic progress she has made. Just look at the difference in her hind-end!

Deacon was the most fun I have had on XC in a while. I was able to forget the pressures of having to have a clear round, and just enjoyed the experience with my horse, a horse I produced from his first competition. Having him be such an eager-beaver on XC and so honest in show jumping really emphasize to me how much this horse must have been hurting this past year. It was such a blow to my riding that I was not able to get Deacon around a course for so long, I was beginning to think there was some huge gap in my riding style. But the horse I had this past weekend showed me just what a great job I did bringing him along, correctly and slowly. There is a part of me that hopes he will not find a new home, so I can take him to a one-star this spring.

Anyway, Deacon and Zoe will be joining Willy in a semi-vacation for the week, then back to work. We will be at the Green Spring Hounds jumper show at Shawan Downs or some extra show jumping practice. Willy is coming back into work this week as well, because I was able to schedule a dressage lesson with Scott Hassler for Nov. 24th - and we have to start learning how to do changes on demand for the Advanced tests! I think Willy will be much happier to have a job again, maybe he will even let me catch him!

Until next post!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Raise Your Glass!

As the eventing season comes to a close and things are slowing down, I have precious moments of downtime where I can reflect on the past year. What I accomplished, and where I came up short. This year was a turning point for me, both riding wise and in my life out of the saddle.

My initial goals this year were to complete a CCI** and successfully complete some advanced level horse trials with Willy, while campaigning Deacon at the preliminary/CCI* level. Unfortunately with injuries and minor setbacks I was only able to achieve some of these tremendous feats, but I am still overflowing with pride for my boys.

Willy became a very competitive intermediate horse. Since I am no longer able to compete in young rider divisions, we really had to step up our game to be competitive in the open divisions against the country's best riders and horses. With the help of new trainers Scott Hassler (Hassler Dressage) and Colleen Rutledge we have produced scored consistently in the mid 30s. Another positive - intermediate doesn't look so big anymore! Even on a pony! Willy and I have consistently had very smooth cross country and show jumping rounds, and we are ready for more. While Fair Hill was a bust for the goal of completing a CCI**, we did cross the finish line on cross country day. And our mistakes were mine - which can be fixed! I let the words "Fair Hill" intimidate me along with the mental setback of hearing of my old coach Sharon White falling right as I entered warmup. Hearing of a horrible fall for a veteran rider such as Sharon, made me question my own qualifications. Thankfully it looks like Sharon is recovering well.

While Fair Hill did not end as I would have liked, I have to focus on the perfect weekend that was Plantation CIC** where Willy placed 5th! He had his best dressage score to date in an FEI competition, 58.4, jumped clean and fast cross country, and clean in show jumping on Sunday. It was quite a surreal weekend, I had several long-time friends come and watch Willy and I on cross country day which made the experience all that more enjoyable. So as Willy goes into his month of trail riding and hacking (until Thanksgiving) I am still in disbelief on how far this little pony has come. We had numerous top placings at Intermediate, a top 5 finish at an FEI competition, a 6-page article in Chronicle of the Horse, winning the 2009 USEF McKenna trophy, achieving my HA rating, and overcoming yet another injury.

The hopes for Willy over the winter are to continue working on his flatwork with Scott, getting him ready for his Advanced level debut at the Pine Top Advanced HT in February! We haven't solidified plans for which FEI events we will run, at this point it is one day at a time. We will also continue to take lessons with Jimmy Wofford, and hoping to add the likes of Kim Severson and Sally Cousins in that mix as well.

Poor Deacon. While I thought our problems would be solved with corrective shoeing, it turns out that Deacon tested off the charts positive for lymes! Poor thing! We finally began treating him in September, and just recently he competed in the Waredaca Horse Trials at Training Level and WON! We got to the event with very little warmup time - just enough to canter to warmup and trot around the dressage ring twice - and in we went! He gave me a workmanlike test, if not a WOW test - it was consistent, not fancy like he should be. Regardless he was 5th after dressage (can't complain there) in the open training division, and gave me a fabulous XC run. Sadly we were held for 35 minutes inbetween fences 5AB (the swale) and 6 (the drop). He was such a good boy, i just dropped my reins and kept walking him in a circle, and after our mini-break, he came right back to work over a very tough course! It was really really great to have my old horse back, I haven't had a XC run like that on Deacon since March! I don't think he will be able to get into Rubicon, so I think he will end on Waredaca and continue training through the winter (since he had so much time off during the summer). If he does not sell this winter, it is back up to prelim when the Aiken circuit comes around! And plans are to run a CIC* then a CCI*.

My horse in training, Zoe, has come such a long way in just two short months. She is one of the most difficult horses I have ever ridden, but she is also one of the most talented. She like to curl and brace her neck in a seahorse frame, instead of reaching down to the contact. With each day she is getting more and more consistent in her flatwork...but boy has it been a trying couple of months! Her jumping form is quite good, although she really did not understand how to use her hindend properly, and was just relying on her athletic ability to coast over fences. By making her slow things down to a trot, she has learned the invaluable lesson of rocking back and pushing at the base of fences. She will still have an awkward jump every now and again, but on the whole she really is coming around. But the best thing about this horse is taking her XC. She is fabulous and quite fearless, almost to a fault. She is ready for training level xc, but her flatwork and show jumping need to be solidifed so she will end the season at novice at Rubicon...but coming off of a 3rd place finish at Waredaca! Not too shabby! Her dressage scores have become consistently in the low to mid 30s! We are making progress!

Well it is getting on 10:30, and I haven't gotten on any horses yet...so more news will be coming soon!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Hey everyone! I hope you are managing to stay hydrated, it has been really hot and humid there.

I have been really fortunate to not be doing the summer circuit of events - not my favorite thing to do. Regardless of how much the organizer/crew works, footing is hard, the heat is brutal, and the humidity makes you want to take a dip into the water jump. I only entered one event this summer, and retired in the middle of show jumping. It just wasn't my day, and Deacon wasn't feeling too hot either. I think our new competition plan with Deacon is to leave him in the night before, lunge in the morning before shipping, then go to the event. I kept him out the night before, and I think it took too much of an edge off. While I like my horses quiet and respectful, event horses need that "sumthin sumthin" extra. Especially for horses like Deacon, who already like the slower, scenic route, that little extra piece can make you or break you. I am excited to see if I finally have this horse figured out!

I don't want to talk too soon, but it seems like the root of all my problems was in my horses' feet. Their shoes were put on too forward, toes too long, and poor Deacon actually only had the shoe touching his tippy toes and heel. No wonder the poor thing didn't want to jump! We got his feet done right before Maryland Horse Trials II, and since then he has been an absolute star, no more bucking, no more stopping. The big test will be XC schooling at Maryland this Saturday, and Olney on Sunday. His flat work has been absolutely fabulous as well, so I'm steering him full throttle toward the Training Three Day. Willy's tendonitis also stemmed from his poor shoeing - his feet were actually crooked, being shaved down tremendously on the inside, throwing his entire support system off. After his new pedicure, Willy has been a champ. It goes take him a while to get back into the swing of things, but he is finally (mentally) coming around (and doesn't always think in terms of SPEED).

Both horses jumped gymnastics today, and I was really pleased about their progress. Willy is working on his muscle/fitness. Plans are to start him out again at Loudoun at Intermediate, then head to the AECs. Deacon jumped better than ever. I have been really concentrating on allowing him to make some decisions. My problem has always been that I am a complete control freak - I LOVE to get the perfect spot every time. I have been establishing the correct balanced, forward canter - and allowing the horse to figure out footwork.

So all is well on that front, now exciting news! NEW HORSE! A friend of mine is doing a semester in DC, and will be dropping off her horse this Sunday for me to train and compete through the fall. I've had my eyes on this horse for a year now, having first seen her when I taught a clinic up in Ithaca, NY. Her name is Zoe (aka Cover Girl), and her daddy is the famous Windfall. She is quite uptight on the flat, but has tremendous jumping ability. Her owner has done a wonderful job getting her though novice, now it is my job to get her to take the next step up.

Until this weekend!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I believe I win the worst blogger award. After forgetting my password, it has been a long time since I have kept all of you updated on the happenings at DGEventing! I apologize in advance, this seems to be one of the most scattered blogs to date...

First off - the students
DGE students have done wonderfully over the past several months since I have returned home. The teaching/training portion of DGE has been in full swing since I moved back to Baltimore County. I had the privilege of teaching at the LHPC summer camp at Morvan Park (which was an absolute blast), the GSHPC camp (so much fun!), and next week I will be returning to Ithaca, NY to teach a two day clinic for Red jacket PC. Teaching clinics is really fun, but nothing beats having my students come over - there are about 20 students (adults, kids, and teenagers) who are taking regular lessons. In my next post I can give you more specifics as to their accomplishments!

Now to DGE Horse Happenings
Cody - Cody is progressing wonderfully after he re-injured his elbow. My mom has been taking regular lessons with me on him, and boy do they look great! It has been a long road for these two, but they really have formed a solid partnership. We have begun to jump him over little fences, and he seems to be holding up just fine! We are hoping to take him to some schooling shows in late August, and start back into competition mode this fall!
I have also been teaching a lot off of Cody, as he is such an accomplished veteran that he helps both beginners and advanced riders. He knows exactly when a 6 year old is on him, or when I throw the bigger kids on him (when we need to work on their position!). He is such a special pony!

Willy - After brining Willy back from Jersey, I noticed a slight swelling peak up behind both knees. An ultrasound showed that while all ligaments/tendons are fine, he has developed some tendonitis. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done for this except time off. Willy has had the past month off, and we are carefully brining him back to work. He is an incredibly fit pony with very strong opinions, and has been left on his own for a month - you can imagine what we are dealing with!

Deacon - Oh Deacon. We finally got his hip/back pain taken care of, but now we have to deal with the mental repercussions. I've dropped him down to training level to help boost his confidence - but I haven't quite gotten all of the pieces back together. I've taken him to several farms schooling, and he has been wonderful - but it does not seem to translate to the competition arena. Hopefully we can figure out exactly which button to push in the next couple of weeks!

- ok - so that was the recap of what everyone has been doing. Now to get my 2cents (for what it is worth).

This year has been a year of "almost". I "almost" finished Jersey Fresh. I "almost" took Deacon to a one star. I "almost" took Willy advanced. I "almost" made honors at Wake Forest (.01 away). I'm at a crossroads in my life, and these "almost" moments make it that much more uncertain. Right now I am sitting in the boarding station on my roller coaster ride. Do I risk everything, living penniless to follow my passion and pursue a career teaching/training/competing horses? Do I keep horses as a side hobby and follow a "real job"? If so what on earth should I do? Improve my arabic and work for the government? Follow journalism? Steer towards a law degree?

I've spent the past two months thinking about my next move, and still - nothing. Hopefully by the next post I will have at least some direction.

As for the horses, we are aiming Deacon at the Training Level 3-day at Waredaca this fall and Willy at the CCI** Fair Hill International in October. (oh, i hope they are not on the same weekend - reminder to check on that!). Pending Willy's prognosis, a trip down to Georgia for the AECs may be in order. Deacon is qualified for prelim, but I'm not sure he is ready for that challenging of a course. Until next time!

- Courtney

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spring Recap

Hello DGE followers!

And thus ends our spring eventing season. If nothing else, horses are humbling creatures. They let us know - despite all of our time, money, work, and sacrifice - things will never go as planned.

There were certainly highs and lows to our spring season. Willy is without a doubt a confirmed, competitive intermediate horse. He jumped around the hardest courses in the country with ease, and if we can just get his dressage consistent - he will be tough to beat! He jumped around the majority of Jersey Fresh with no difficulties whatsoever, and is looking to be in top shape for the summer season. His goals are to hit Stuart CIC** in July, then the Advanced at Millbrook in August. If we can raise enough funding we will travel to the AECs in Georgia in September, and finish with the Fair Hill CCI** in October. Big plans for a little pony!

Deacon also had an up and down spring season. After some super performances at the toughest events in Area II and III, we had a bit of a mishap over a gallop fence at Longleaf. Long story short Deacon really hurt his back and hip, although he was never lame. He continued to jump for me but something was definitely not right, and he began to stop at the last minute. After an uncharacteristic showing at MCTA, I called the vet out. After a couple of acupuncture/chiropractor treatments Deacon was night-and-day different! He even jumped out of his field (away from his BFF Willy) to visit the girls. He is back in full swing and will be competing at training level the next couple of times out before moving back up to preliminary. His big goal is the P3D at Midsouth in October!

I came home to all of my wonderful students who look better than ever! Lessons are underway and we've even had some great showings at pony club rallies, events, and horse shows! Look out for DGE students kicking some boot-tay at an event near you! So proud of all my kids. Specific updates will be posted soon!

The newest project for DGE is forming a syndicate to purchase Teddy O'Connor's full brother, Theodore Al Coda. Coda is a 5 year old stallion currently owned by Christan Trainor. Christan has done a wonderful job with Coda, but is leaving the country. So I now have this wonderful opportunity! I strongly encourage you to tell everyone you know, we have an affordable syndicate set up! And would like to bring Coda home in the next couple of weeks. Please contact me directly 443 610 7221 for more information.

Our next competition is Seneca! We are returning from some well deserved vacation time (well the boys are... I never get a vacation!) and look forward to a great weekend. Until then!

Courtney Sendak

<3 Yeardley Love

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Wow. If you have never been to Jersey Fresh (like myself), this is a destination event! Driving in you get a sneak peak of the cross country course (which I am dying to walk...but little blonde me is focusing on one discipline at a time), beautiful arenas, and stabling. Willy has thoroughly enjoyed the acres and acres of clover/grass/dandelions and has been gracious enough to drag me to each destination patch on our many hand walks thus far. I arrived at the park late Tuesday afternoon, settled in and went on a long graze/hand walk before helping my coach settle her two horses in. After organizing everything and them some, we went on another hand walk, got a bath, and then watched Willy as he sulked for two hours in the corner (how dare you bathe super ponies!). Driving to the hotel (30 minutes away) was an adventure in itself. Do you know that you cannot make left turns here? It is very bizarre. Anyway, settled into the hotel room and tried to finish up some final papers/articles (which need to be done asap for me to graduate next week)!

Wednesday = jog day.
We are stabled down the lane from some of the west coasters. Boy do they have this stabling business down. The horses have little welcome mats, tack stall has a carpet, they have music and beer. Now I know who to hang out with! Because I don't get to participate in the "big jogs" often, I wanted to go full out. After the riders meeting, I ran back to the barns to sew in braids on Willy. Now i remember why i use rubber bands most of the time! After frantically getting the pony all beautiful - which involved washing his tail not 3 or 4 times but 7 times (I am a wash rack whore!) I got to slip into my sister's beautiful sundress! A word to the wise - when there are tornado winds, do not wear light, flow-ey dresses! Anyway I survived the jog with my dress and heels, didn't expose myself to the ground jury and was accepted to continue the competition.

I must admit that so much of this competition for us is psychological. I know that I have a tremendous partner, I know that I am a capable rider... but darn if those horses and riders aren't intimidating! Riding around the ring with Doug Payne, Phillip, Jennie, etc, etc. it really does a number to my confidence. Coach is telling me over and over again that we deserve to be here... and we have nothing more to prove! Sigh. Enough with the negative nancy! Watching the *** riders were the inspiration i needed to get on the pony and have a dressage school. He wasn't fabulous, but we pushed his buttons today - with the hopes that tomorrow he will be in a much better mood and remember the lessons we stressed today.

All right, well I need to do some work for school. I will blog again tomorrow after dressage...hopefully with lots of praises for my little super pony!


After watching dressage all day yesterday (while pretending to finish final papers...hey at least I had my computer in front of me), I was beyond ready to try my hand at this ** dressage test. I had an intense dressage lesson in the morning with coach, working on Willy's responsiveness and relaxation. Our biggest challenge is relaxation - if I can get him to relax, he lifts his back, flexes at the base of his neck - and you would never know he is only 14.3 ish!

Our real warm-up was great. We tried to keep him very "Zen", focusing on my breathing and using his hind end. His warm up was perfect! As we trotted towards the main arena, WAM! SPOOK! SNORT! Sigh. Willy has always had a crowd-phobia. And of course there was a significant number of people in the stands. Needless to say, Willy was more concerned about the judge's stands, people moving under the pavilion, and scary flower holders than listening to my cues during the test. Despite a rather lack-luster test, we received decent dressage scores from both dressage judges - and quite a beating from the eventing judge. After watching the tape, the test wasn't awful - but definitely not our best (or half best) effort. He did some lovely canter-pirouettes during the turn on the haunches. hehe. Oh well, naughtiness can we improved upon. I can look back on it and smile, but at the time it was such a disappointment! We worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to this point, and I felt I let myself, my horse, and my supporters down. After a motivational speech from my coach, multiple head bumps from Willy (he thought he did brilliantly), and hugs from mom - the 5 minute dressage test was put into perspective. Anyway we still got to jump...which is the fun part!


And it was finally here. I walked the course 3 times, and knew where i wanted to be every step of the way. The course was big, but flowed well. John did a great job, making improvements everywhere. Willy was the 10th horse to tackle the course, and while no one problem fence, mistakes were being made and time was definitely becoming a factor. And before I knew it we were out of the box, surging towards the first fence. Before I knew it, we were at the first question on course, two tables set on an extremely acute angle. If a rider missed the line coming out of the woods or allowed his horse to drift ever so slightly, you would have a glance off. Coach had told me to hold my line, but go the long way if Willy was too strong this early in the course. We came out of the woods, I saw my line and held it beautifully. Willy didn't even bat an eye...he knew his job about 5 strides out. Perfect pony! One combination down! From this difficult series, we continued down to a HUGE drop (which I totally underestimated and almost popped right off..thank you pony for planting me back into the tack!), to a vertical cannon (which jumped like a corner), and then to the first water complex. Willy came around the turn full steam ahead...we have to work on our half halts. I managed to get Willy to the base of the "A" element (our plan), jumped up the bank, three strides across, jump off the bank, galloped through the water and out over an angled skinny triple-brush. Willy was unphased and unimpressed. We continued our uphill gallop to what was believed to be the hardest element on course - the ditch combination.

We hit the "A" element perfectly, enough push enough power. Down a stride, angled ditch, out over the "C" vertical. PERFECT. God I love this pony! We galloped on over several more fences, then approached the other difficult combination...the corners. And these were not just corners, but CORNERS. WIDE CORNERS. REALLY WIDE CORNERS. We galloped up to them, kept the perfect powerful gallop, and there we were...soaring over the "A" three forward strides over the "B". We galloped onward through the 7-minute marker. We then galloped to the second water, drop down, gallop across, chevron out. Done. Now onto the final gallop up the hill... a new addition to the course. Right before we entered the woods, we had a wide hay table. Willy was definitely tired at this point, and I did not see any way/shape/form of a distance to this fence. I sat up and pushed him onward. Willy chipped in, and wasn't able to clear the fence. He slammed his stifles into the back of the table. I could tell things were not 100%, so i left him finish the gallop up the hill to see if he just stung himself. We got to the top of the hill at our 8 minute marker and Willy let me know that he was not feeling perfect. So I pulled up. 5 fences, 1 minute from the finish flag. Many people have asked if this was a hard decision. It wasn't. The decision to pull up was easy. It may have stunk, well it sucked - but it wasn't really a decision. If your horse is hurt, you stop. Simple enough.

So thus ends my quest for a Jersey finish, well until next year. The good news is, Willy jogged perfectly sound Sunday morning and is enjoying his short time off while I finish up exams and prepare Deacon for Virginia CCI*. Until then!

Side note about Jersey:

For those of you who have seen pictures or read about it on Eventing Nation, a dear friend from elementary/high school Yeardley Love was brutally murdered. I was called the morning they found her body, and I am still in a state of shock. Yeardley was not only physically beautiful, but she was truly a genuinely good person. She was an angel. I know it hasn't really sunk in yet that Yeardley was taken from us, my prayers are with her mother, sister, and best friend Catherine. Yeardley was a remarkable woman with a promising future, I just cannot believe she is gone.

Hearing this news right before Jersey was incredibly difficult. I chose to dedicate my weekend in mjavascript:void(0)emory of Yeardley, wearing an orange armband (UVA's colors are orange and blue). If you would please say a prayer for the Love family this evening, it would mean the world to us. Stop the violence.

<3 you Yards!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Fork...Playing with the Big Boys

What a weekend! The Fork always promises to be an exciting weekend, filled with top-notch competitors and freakishly amazing XC courses. For DGE the weekend started on Thursday, where I skipped classes (without an ounce of guilt), packed up, and drove an hour over to Norwood. Unfortunately my perfect planning was thwarted by the lack of grain in the barn's feed room, so I had to wait an extra couple of hours while the barn owner was out getting grain for the entire barn. So much for getting there early. I pulled into the Fork around 7 pm, threw tack on the boys and got quick mini-lessons on the boys (practically in the dark). Oh well, it was better than nothing.

Dressage day dawned bright, early, and HOT HOT HOT. And when I say HOT i mean 90 degrees in April hot. Deacon was up first with a dressage time around 1 pm. He warmed up GREAT...his trot work was really great and he was incredibly obedient. Unfortunately he was peaked to go into the ring about 15 minutes before our actual time...by the time i went down centerline Deacon was DONE. We went for our first halt at"x" and...hi-ho silver. "Quite an exciting entrance" was the judge's comment. Unfortunately the rest of the test was off-and-on amazing...moments of greatness around moments where I wanted to jump into a pool and hide. Sigh. Next time.

I was really excited for Willy's dressage test - he was been putting in some beautiful work lately and I couldn't wait to show it off. But there was a twist (like always). The intermediate dressage had the longest walk known to man - and it happens to be the same way as XC ( you actually walk past xc) and since we have been here before Willy was VERY excited about doing xc first - complete with nervous poops and lunges into the air. When i finally got down to the dressage arena, it took every second of warmup just to get Willy to half-way listen to my aids. Our test was only halfway decent, accurate but very tense...can you say tight pony back? We received a not-so-great score, leaving us in 12th place for the night.

Saturday was cross-country day for Willy. The course was BIG, technical, and looked to be a great prep for Jersey. Willy shot out of the box like a little fireball, and never looked back. We were the last combination on course so I had the advantage of seeing just where the trouble spots were. The first water combination was causing a lot of trouble, but the pony jumped it perfectly. The announcer, Brian O'Connor kept commenting how smooth our round was - and how "you can't help but feel sentiment for this pair" (commenting on his show name "Wil'Ya Love Me"). We have it all on camera... it was a run that was just perfect. Willy never put a foot wrong, was an eager beaver to every fence, and .... FAST! We acquired only 2.4 time penalties, jumping from 12th to 5th. Willy's show jumping round on Sunday was also phenomenal. He jumped absolutely beautifully, but we had an unlucky rail...which kept us from moving to 2nd place. With the rail we ended up in 4th...not too shabby, but we definitely have our work cut out for us.

Deacon show jumped on Saturday. He was jumping absolutely great in warm-up, so I was ready to attack the very technical course. Rails were flying everywhere, and the two riders before us went off course...not a good thing to have happen! We went in the ring, and I committed the cardinal sin...rode completely backwards to the 3rd fence..down. To the 7th fence...down. Finally i remembered to use my legs and relax my elbows...and he jumped the rest of the course beautifully, having a green-bean moment in the triple - another rail down. Certainly not our best performance, but it was a growing experience... changing the round midway is a difficult task, and we accomplished that. Now we need to practice our half-halts and go forward to the fences.

The cross country was really big and technical for preliminary. The course started with fence 2 and 3 as maxed out tables...not much time to get a good gallop established. Deacon really surprised me this weekend. He galloped out of the box and really attacked these fences. We missed our distance to both max tables, and i just looked up, kept my leg on, and baby Deacon made it work. Not beautiful, but successful. This great momentum continued until the first water. I was really concerned about the "B" element...a skinny turtle out of the water. I got all up in his business, trying to establish a forward, bouncy canter (as planned) but forgot to say "jump" over the "A" element. Deacon very nicely came to a stop, turned his head and looked at me saying, "I don't understand you mom, but I did what you asked me." Darn. We came around again and he jumped the combination with ease. The rest of the course was great! Corners, drops, ditches, no problem! I was most concerned with the second water...a big drop in, 7 strides to a goose...all right next to the spectator tent. Deacon didn't hesitate for a second...did a huge leap into the water, almost sent me flying, and stayed completely straight as I pulled myself back into the saddle, and popped right over the goose. He got lots of carrots and cookies for that save! Despite our "opps" moments, I really feel Deacon is ready to tackle the CCI* at Virginia. We will be working really hard to increase his level of fitness and earn that final qualifying score.

DGE will be heading to Longleaf with one horse (Deacon) in the preliminary, then both horses will be running at MCTA. After MCTA, Willy and I head up to Jersey Fresh! Until then, I have a LOT of homework to catch up with!

Keep Kicking!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blonde Moments

Southern Pines II

Southern Pines is undoubtedly a destination event in North Carolina. The courses have always been very demanding, the competition fierce, and the hospitality very much representing southern comfort. My original plan was to arrive Thursday afternoon and have two flat lessons from coach. Of course homework/class obligations prevented this from happening so I arrived at the horse park in the early afternoon on Friday.

Deacon was the first to go of the day. We are really working on improving our collection, steadiness, and obedience. Like many warmbloods, Deacon likes to have several seconds to contemplate the correct response to my aids...which can make transitions late and 10-meter circles egg-shaped. At home his work is steadily improving (without any outside help), but it is always a challenge to duplicate this work in the arena. I was very pleased with his performance, his trot work was excellent. Very smooth and supple, a vast improvement from Full Gallop. The canter work was obedient though not as remarkable as it could be...especially when compared to the other horses in open preliminary. Regardless I was incredibly pleased with his work! :) For Deacon, show jumping was on Saturday. It was a really tough course... BIG fences and interesting distances. The course required a positive, forward ride...and we delivered! Deacon jumped a beautiful clean round. We definitely have the "forward" part, now we have to conquer the forward with balance/half halting/finesse. Details, right? The cross country course was not up to the typical "Southern Pines" standards...attributed to the change in course designers. It was a great course and rode very smooth, but not many technical elements or max tables. Despite the lack of max fences, there were several "potential problems" on course. The first was a downhill turn to a sunken road, the second a turning combination through the barn, and finally the water combination. The pressure has been on Deacon and I as we need one more qualification to officially enter the CCI* at Virginia. Of course we had no problems at preliminary until i noticed we needed four not three clean runs. Anyway, the pressure was on for a clean clean clean clean round. We started the course great, Deacon was jumping boldly and confidently over everything...so much so that I took what I shall call a "blonde moment" at the sunken road... I mean, the horse was going great..no reason to ride all-out towards it? WRONG. Deacon very nicely came to a halt in front of the combination, wondering what on earth I was doing up there. Pilot error to the maximum! I came around again, somewhat bewildered that i had a spot, upset at myself that I allowed this to happen...all the while not thinking about the combination --- so we had a second stop. I decided to attempt the fence a third time, figuring that the rest of the course would be a great growing experience for us - if I could just ride over this small jump. With a cowboy-type method, we finished the combination and flew over the rest of the course, answering all the questions with ease and experience well beyond my baby horse's resume. Despite my pilot errors, I could not help but smile as we crossed the finish line. Sometimes half the battle is changing things mid-way. If you have a not-so-wonderful round, or a problem... the hardest part (in my opinion) is to change the momentum. Well, we managed to do that! It is too bad that the end result is on Deacon's resume...too bad we cannot put an asterisk saying "rider locked hands, spaced out, and took leg off so the horse listened and stopped very gentlemanly."

Willy started out the weekend with a respectable dressage test. Nothing fancy, nothing horrible. We had a bit of a panic moment, when we realized that I had memorized the wrong intermediate test... two rides out. So scratch warming up, I stood next to the ring and memorized the test patterns, and somehow pulled it off! I have been getting steadily closer to relaxation in Willy's back...and it was noticeable in his canter work. Now to just translate that into his trot work...one day! Cross country was just odd. The course was very straight forward filled with gallop fences and one incredibly technical turning combination - the first question of the course. I saw the direct route immediately, confident that the pony and I could easily pull off the technical turn. To validate my decision I asked both Sharon White and Holly Hepp how they were jumping the combination...both were taking the direct route. As Willy and I galloped confidently to the combination, we took a huge jump over the A element, and both of us focused in on the advanced corner straight ahead rather than the intermediate "B" and "C" elements 90 degrees to our right. 20 penalty points right there. A reality check. The rest of the course rode smoothly and fairly easily, although I was kicking myself (again) for my blunder. A BEAUTIFUL, nearly perfect (and coach doesn't say that often) show jumping round on Sunday placed us in 13th.

While Southern Pines was not the ideal event, it really was a learning experience. Coach reminded me of several key habits I need to break: (1) Blonde moments... I need to walk XC courses at least twice, really walking myself through each and every stride. Knowing exactly what I should be doing (2) Micro-Managing. I like to be in charge of everything - from bathing to braiding to tacking up. The same is true for my riding. I like to find all the distances and determine everything. This control freak syndrome needs to stop. I have to allow my horses to think for themselves and answer the course's questions with my supportive aids (3) Elastic elbows. I have a tendency to lock my elbows in place, which in turn locks my horse's shoulders and back. DUH! These three elements are so easily correctable on paper, and even in reviewing my rider... but darn are they hard to fix when remembering everything else in the middle of a course! It gives me plenty to practice before the Fork....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Full Gallop Fiasco

Oh my goodness, where do I start. The boys have had a super season thus far! It seemed like everyone was on top of their game, and we had hardly any cobwebs to dust off! Deacon achieved his CCI* qualifications easily (3 competitions in a row), and Willy started off with a 2nd place (followed by a brief injury). We had a three week hiatus since the last competition... and my goodness we were all covered in cobwebs!

The weekend started with an impromptu trip to Southern Pines. I left the boys at home and had to drive to meet Cherie Gaebel to retake two sections of my USPC HA Test. I've been trying to retake this test since last July, so it was imperative that I get it done NOW! Luckily Cherie was able to squeeze me in on Friday afternoon, so i dropped everything and headed down! Thankfully I was very much prepared for the sections this time, and passed. Yay, finally an HA! Now we have to look forward to the A Testing this summer.

While it was awesome to finally achieve my rating, I stayed up all night studying and didn't have anything ready for the competition! Instead of driving down Thursday night with nothing ready, I opted to get everything done and leave at *gasp* 2 am from Lewisville, NC to Aiken, SC. It made sense at the time, but now I have to question the blonde-logic that went into such a decision.

Wake up calls at 1 am are no fun. Especially when you are running on no sleep from studying the night before! Well i managed to wake the poor ponies up and get everyone on the road by 2:30, which put us at the competition at roughly 6:30 am. Not bad - especially when i had a 7:30 dressage ride. With a quick pit stop and some road work, i pulled into Full Gallop at 7:10. YIKES! Poor Deacon, I literally drove in threw tack on, cantered to the show office, got my number and cantered into the ring. No warmup, nothing. Poor Deacon tried very hard to give me a good test, but with my blood pressure sky-rocketing and him wondering what on earth was going on, we were given a less than desirable score in the low 40s (42 or 41 i think). Willy warmed up great. His trot work was average, his canter work was light and balanced. He was very responsive and right on the aides. I put in, what I thought was one of his best tests. At the end of my test the judge came out of her car and lectured me on how i made her entire ring late and how at this level i should know my times! YIKES. I checked my watch, went over to the ring steward - both of which assured me that I actually went into the ring 3 minutes before my posted time. I guess the judge was having a rotten day! It turns out that the girl in front of me went in the wrong ring, and was the culprit.. but I suffered from her mistake. The judge's score reflected her animosity towards me, giving Willy a 39, a score much higher than what he should have earned. Oh well. Some things are beyond a rider's control.

Show Jumping, usually my best phase, was another disaster. Willy was a wild man, so excited to see big fences at a show, and wasn't very excited to listen to my half-halts. His over-exuberance led me to grip with my hands, forgetting the "release" of the half-halt. This made for an "interesting" first 5 fences. Thankfully I decided to ride and fix our course mid-way through, and the second half of our round was beautiful. Unfortunately the miscommunication on our first five fences cost us 2 rails...something we have not had for several years! While this stunk... the good news is we improved half way through, and seemed to be jumping in harmony yet again. Willy's cross country the next day was textbook. After he managed to get away from me in XC warm-up (I was greasing his hind-legs and he decided it was more productive to keep warming up), he went out of the box like a champ. He jumped fabulously, answered all the questions and had the fastest intermediate XC round of the day! This was a surprise as I still have never pushed for time! With his great xc round, Willy moved up to 4th place! Not bad considering our lackluster dressage and show jumping rounds!

Poor Deacon didn't fare as well in the jumping phases. While he was very well behaved in both warm-ups, we had several miscommunications.. most of which were my fault. I started to pull backwards to the first show jumping fence... and he pulled the rail. I immediately corrected my error and we put forth a beautiful round, which a minor green pony moment at the triple. Not too shabby for this young horse! The prelim XC was technical but fair. The fourth fence was in a fence line, and poor Deacon galloped up to the fence and just stopped. I knew immediately he was confused. "Mom I am not supposed to jump the fence...are you crazy!?". I approached the fence again, and with a little encouragement from my whip, Deacon decided that jumping the fence may not be such a bad thing! Our next two problems came at turning combinations... where i decided to make rookie mistakes... trying to turn a horse using inside rein only instead of outside aides. DUH!!!! To two separate combinations i committed a cardinal sin, and poor Deacon's score and record suffered because of it. I have already set up the same question in our jumping ring at home.. we are going to practice it today!

While our scores and individual performances were not up to par this weekend, it was a fabulous learning experience. As any event rider will tell you, our horse's mistakes reflect the mistakes his rider makes. Obviously I have some homework! The boys and I will be leaving for Southern Pines a day early (thursday) to get in a flat lesson with coach Colleen Rutledge. Hopefully Full Gallop dusted off all our cobwebs and we can put some great phases in this weekend at the Horse Park! It looks to be a very challenging weekend... Wish us luck!


Friday, March 5, 2010

What's Happening with DGE?

Photo by HoofClix!
Hello all!

You all may be wondering why the pony has been MIA from events this month? Well, after running beautifully at Full Gallop he came home with a stump leg! His left front was swollen, extremely sensitive, and very hot! I was at a complete loss because he jogged sound after his great XC run... so I called the vet immediately. The diagnosis: severe rubs from his brand new Tri Zone XC boots (the no-rub ones!). Similar to a girth gull, the boots killed/rubbed off almost all layers of skin protecting his tendons. Luckily no tendons or ligaments were effected, but the skin was in such bad shape that poor pony had to stay in his stall with Surpass ointment everyday. No water, dirt, sand, soap, etc was to touch the skin. So after two weeks post- Full Gallop the pony is finally back in work. Needless to say this put a huge damper on our competition schedule. We were supposed to run Intermediate at Pine Top II, then advanced at Pine Top HT. Since we had to scratch from Pine Top II, our advanced debut needed to be pushed back... now it looks like we will wait until after Jersey Fresh CCI** for the big move up. Sigh.

Anyway, the pony is feeling much better now! He is back in full training and being his naughty self. We were all set to go to Pine Top HT, but unfortunately i had three flat tires on the trailer... meaning its time to tighten my belt and get 5 new tires for our rig. So the pony missed his outing, yet again. Not to worry we have my favorite events coming up.. another run at Full Gallop, Southern Pines II, The Fork, then an advanced CT at Longleaf.

Deacon and I braved the winter weather yet again for pine Top II. Georgia received over 4 inches of snow... and I almost decided to stay home! The Pine Top crew worked overtime to make the facility competition-ready and worked very hard to accommodate all of the competitors! Due to the storm and delayed ride times, Deacon and I had all three phases pushed back to Sunday. Deacon was PERFECT in dressage warm-up, really soft, supple, and obedient... ready to WIN! But other things were in store for us... Deacon reminded me that he is still a baby and will go silly baby things. Dressage was in a grass area...which was horribly deep and uneven, but worse... show jumping was on one side of the arena, and xc was just across the pond. Poor Deacon just froze, and wasn't sure which way to look. The good thing is... he is starting to understand his job! He say the horses running and jumping, and knew it was time to GO... unfortunately it made for a very tense, distracted, and B-A-D test. oh well, i guess I will allow the baby horse to have one bad test every two years. Despite our interesting version of prelim Test A, we managed to obtain a qualifying score from Brain Ross. Show Jumping was BIG and quite technical for Prelim, riders had to find the perfect canter and perfect spot or rails would fly! Deacon was jumping great in warm-up and posted another DOUBLE CLEAR round. YAY! XC was even more intimidating, especially for this early in the season... questions like a bounce bank (with a huge off), corners, offset lines, BIG gallop fences, Bounce bank water fence, jumps in the water, etc. Deacon had never seen half of these questions before so I wanted to go a bit slower to really give him the opportunity to understand the course. My plan paid off. Deacon grew more confident as the course went along, and was an absolute super star, with plenty of gas left in the tank! He moved all the way up to 6th. Not too bad for his 4th prelim, in a division filled with Intermediate Horses and Riders (who were using Pine Top as a 'dust the cobwebs off' event). All in all, I was very pleased with Deacon - he is now qualified for the Virginia CCI*!

We have a short break before we head to Aiken for Full Gallop. See you all there!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Running in the RED!

Photo by HoofClix
Wow 23 blog followers... the pressure is on to keep these posts up-to-date. I want to let everyone know that this weekend the website will be updated. I apologize for the delay, horses and school have taken precedence!

On to Sporting Days...
North Carolina is being hit by a never-ending series of snow storms. The weekend of Sporting Days was no exception. The predicted storm was so severe that I decided to go down to Aiken for the full weekend, instead of making the trip and competition in one day (oh darn, another day in Aiken). Deacon was a bit full of himself Sunday morning, whether it was the chilly morning weather, or lack of riding since Wednesday's full gallop (the ring in NC is frozen) I will never know. But boy was he naughty! However, in true Deacon style he collected himself around the ring and put in a MARVELOUS test. He was soft, supple, and very ride-able, which made the new test much easier! Show Jumping was quite big and was a long, twisty course - not the best thing for a baby horse's first prelim! Deacon, once again, proved me wrong and jumped a splendid round. His jumping style was a little flat, something I believe is attributed to running him Wednesday-Sunday. I am very much against running horses this frequently, but the scheduling really left me with no choice! I needed a solid training followed by a soft prelim...and Sporting Days is the only one around! (usually people use the spring as a warm-up, and then move up to the level they competed at the prior fall). Deacon's clear show jumping round led right into his clean xc round! I was very excited about this round - not because we could use it as a qualifying round for a spring *, but because his confidence level grew after each fence and he really is understanding the preliminary questions!

With Deacon's wonderful performance he finished in 2nd place! in his 3rd prelim! Wow! The great performances the past week from my two horses has landed me in the 22nd spot on the USEA Top 50 rider leaderboard! This is a fabulous accomplishment, especially considering I only have two horses (which i started myself), and am a full time student in school, and have been battling this crazy winter weather! I am so proud of my boys, and look forward towards a great 2010!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beginning with a BANG!

Hello everyone! I hope that this post finds everyone warm and well! Thankfully the boys and I managed to miss the historical 3+ feet of snow that hit the Mid-Atlantic this past week.. though North Carolina did see its fair share of nasty weather!

DGE spent this winter tine-tuning everything. We took advantage of the beautiful indoor at An Otherwise Perfect Farm in Upperco, MD and really worked on finessing the new USEF dressage tests, building insane amounts of grids, and of course the endless/tedious trot sets around and around the indoor. While I was only able to squeeze in a couple of lessons with Colleen right before I left for NC, it was very helpful for pushing our work even further towards the edge. Colleen and I were also able to fine tune DGE's competition plans for this year - highlights of which include Jersey Fresh CCI**, Virginia CCI*, Fair Hill CCI**, Advanced at Millbrook, and taking the entire team down to the AECs. I am incredibly excited to see how the year pans out...

I decided to start the year a bit earlier this season, beginning with the Wednesday event at Full Gallop. It is customary for most riders to enter their horses a level lower than they normally compete - this gives the horses a chance to re-acclimate to the competition environment and to shed all the winter cobwebs! Since the boys had an early winter vacation, I felt that they were ready to go back full force. My instincts were enforced with two perfect jump schools with Holly Hudspeth the Thursday before our first event. The horses were jumping great, looked happy, and were incredibly fit for the end of January. Willy was to begin the season running at Intermediate, while Deacon would begin at Training...though would run his first preliminary the following weekend.

The boys and I shipped down to Aiken around 1 pm Tuesday morning, arriving just in time for me to run over to Full Gallop and walk the intermediate course. After a late night of bathing/braiding/cleaning tack/organizing the trailer/spoiling the ponies, everyone was tucked in for the chilly night. Thankfully, Wednesday promised to be in the 60s and sunny... a welcome change to the dismal, dreary weather we have seen all winter.

Willy's dressage was first. I have not decided on my feelings towards the new tests, they will definitely take some getting used to! I am excited to perform in the large area, for it eliminates the claustrophobic feeling that can be associated with medium canters down the long sides (in a small arena). Despite two small errors, Willy performed a very nice test...and was rewarded by a high - but competitive score from Brian Ross. His comments were very spot-on, rewarding our obedient and work-man-like test, but suggesting that the envelope should be pushed more. This was an exciting change for Willy - He is finally relaxing in the ring, and I look forward towards really pushing ourselves in the area... hopefully our explosive moments are a thing of the past. Deacon's dressage was quite similar to that of his brother. Very correct, and obedient - although the judge challenged us for more. He received a 35 and was in 10th, although fractions of points separated the top 10 places.

Show Jumping was scheduled before XC, which is both a blessing and a curse. Show Jumping before the XC gives the horse's a little more spunk and jump over the fences, which hopefully translates to a clean round. On the other hand - the horses are very excited and somewhat more difficult to ride b/c they know what comes next! But DGE proved that we were ready for the game! Willy really WOW-ed the crowd with his ridiculously athletic jumping style... I swear this horse is allergic to paint! He jumped a brilliant course to finish in 2nd. While Deacon performed his "bad-boy act" once again near the in-gate, once he got on course he jumped better than ever! He did not touch a rail and really rounded his back over every fence! I am very excited for this horse as he is developing into a real athlete!

I was very excited to get back out on the cross-country, although I did not have an opportunity to school before the event... anyone on the East Coast could tell you why! Willy went out of the box like the true champion he is, and was a star from start to finish. He was a little over-zealous the entire day, and cross country was no exception. It always takes him several events before he realizes that jumping his mother out of the tack over every fence really isn't necessary. While I did not push Willy for time, he was eager through the finish flags - a tribute to our new trot-based conditioning program. Deacon was the real superstar of cross country. I was expecting at least a little rustiness on his part, as he is still new to the game, but I was quickly proven wrong! Deacon was bold and brilliant, finishing with a double clear round!

The end result was Willy finishing in 2nd, and Deacon in 5th. Not too bad for our first time out! We look forward to Sporting Days, where Deacon will be competing at the preliminary level. Willy's next outing will be the big Pine Top, competing at Intermediate.