The East West Team - News and Updates
Woodside Summer Horse Trials, August 2013
While the horses that made the trek to Montana had a short rest, many of the horses and students that stayed home went out to the Summer event at Woodside. It was very strange for Matt and I to be at a show without horses to groom and ride, and I have to admit that I had a low level of panic nagging at me the entire weekend as I was sure there was some horse that I was supposed to be taking care of languishing in some tent stall somewhere. I don’t think either one of us has ever sat down at a horse show so much (or ever before!).
Though we may have been relaxing about, the East West students attending the show certainly were not, and their hard work paid off with some good results and great things accomplished!!
Mairin and Buddy were out for redemption after a confusing Pony Club rating the preceding weekend left all of us scratching our heads a bit at the feedback she received. They had a challenge ahead of them as they were attempting their first event at Training level. Ultimately Training level proved to be well within their abilities, putting in one solid round after another with only some geometry mistakes in dressage and an unlucky rail in show jumping to put on to the list for improvement next time. Cross-country was foot perfect and they came home with a pink ribbon in a big division. Mairin is far to mature to say it, so I will: Take that, Pony Club!!!
Kristen and Tiki had a rare weekend off from work to bring Tiki out to their second show together at Training level. Tiki listened quite well in the dressage for a very obedient and pleasant test, which put them in to 4th place going in to the cross-country. Unfortunately he did not listen quite as well on XC and thought that Kristen’s chosen pace was far too tame for his taste, and worked very hard to convince her that going faster would surely garner them extra points. Kristen did her best to contain him, which meant picking up some time penalties thanks to the multiple discussions that needed to be had. Tiki then had the first rail in show jumping down as he calibrated himself to the height of the fences and then went on to jump the rest of the course quite well with room to spare. Ultimately they ended the weekend in 5th place, bringing home another pink ribbon for the East West team!
Annie and Cru were also making a debut this weekend, for them at the Novice level. They put in what I thought was a very good dressage test with one small mistake when he got tired and swapped off his left lead behind. Annie corrected it well and finished up nicely, but the judge wanted less forward and more swing, scoring them a little harshly for a quality test, serving as a good reminder that what pleases one judge won’t necessarily please the next. They started the weekend off in a tie for 8th place in a division that was 22 strong, and ended up finishing there with a good 4-fault stadium round and an even better trip across the country.
Brianna and Hollywood, continuing the general theme of first times at this show, were out at their first Beginner Novice together. They’ve been working hard since Twin in April, and it showed when they rode a very good dressage test to start the weekend out in 2nd place in a big division. Brianna encouraged a lookey Hollywood around the show jumping course and they finished with added confidence and only 1 rail down to stay in 2nd going in to cross country. Unfortunately they moved down a bit in the standings when Hollywood took a hard look at the fourth fence after starting the course out very well. Brianna regrouped well and was not deterred to finish the course strong with no more issues and a more educated horse.
Nancy Benson and Rhys joined the team for the weekend, and they had a great start with a lovely dressage test to begin in 2nd place with a 31, a well-deserved personal best score for her and Rhys. Nancy then rode a show jump round that could not have been any more smooth, but unfortunately Rhys was not impressed enough to pick up his toes and he had two silly rails down. Cross country started quite well and never looked in doubt until halfway through the course when Nancy peaked at the bottom of the steeplechase fence and Rhys screeched to a halt to inquire about what Nancy was looking at. Quickly realizing the mistake, Nancy kicked on and finished the rest of the course with increased determination and focus.
Sara and Rush were the true debutantes for the weekend, as this was their first time out eventing! We were all glad to have coaxed them over from the dark side and trying to make a good impression on them, so imagine our disappointment when they put in a good dressage test and received a stingy score. A pep talk on Friday night about how eventing is the sport where the underdog always has another chance at glory ignited Sara’s fighting spirit, and she soldiered on to finish without fault in any of the jumping phases, moving up from 9th to finish in 5th. Hopefully we got her hooked!!!
The Event At Rebecca Farm – July 2013
We started the two day long trek to Montana early on Sunday morning with 3 rigs and a passenger truck. We saw many things along the way, beautiful scenery, a moose wading in a river, coyotes trotting along the highway, and the Weiner mobile – and no, we were not hallucinating!
We arrived road weary and tired on Monday night, but the horses traveled well, and we quickly walked them and settled them in for the night so that we could try to get some real rest to start the week refreshed and ready for the challenges that we knew would be coming our way.
We always look forward to our time in Montana as a respite from the dust that is usually part and parcel of California eventing. We were dreaming of the grassy aisles of Montana, but unfortunately, because of a record number of entries and some creative stabling set ups, we were put in the barns that were placed on top of the old footing, and we had a serious dust problem in the horses stalls when we arrived on Tuesday morning. The horses were covered in a thick film of fine sand, and there was a layer of sediment that had settled in the bottom of their water buckets. Realizing that if this was what was on their backs and in their buckets it was no doubt making its’ way in to their lungs as well (not to mention a grooms’ worst nightmare), we quickly made some calls and found a stable supply store with mats for sale. $170 per horse and 8 bags of wasted shavings later, we were able to breath a sigh of relief knowing the horses would be healthy, happy and comfortable throughout the weekend, and we could get down to business.
Matt was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ride again with David O’Connor, and he had a dressage lesson on Flaxen with him on Wednesday. We’ve been working to get Flaxen to carry a bit more weight behind while still really being through, and it was helpful to get David’s advice on how to keep working on that. He gave us some helpful new tools as well as confirmed that we’re on the right track with what we’ve been doing.
The weekend started off with the jogs for the CCI* for Holden and Ping, and the jog for the Classic Format events for Sophie and Jeanne, and I must say that Julie looked gorgeous in her blue dress in the jog, Matt looked quite hip in his vest and dubarry cap, Sophie looked super cute in her little dress and flats, and Jeanne brought out and oldie but a goody in her leopard print pants, which once again, drew appreciation from the ground jury.
Jeanne had an early dressage ride in the Novice 3 day, and though she was so focused on getting the best out of Slew that she forgot where she was going, she had a test to be proud of and started off a big division in 11th place.
Julie had the unfortunate luck to go second in the dressage order, and she certainly suffered because of it in my opinion, as they put in a steady and accurate test that was brilliant at the same time, and only received mediocre scores for their effort.
Matt and Holden went only a few horses after Julie, and also suffered a bit from the early ride time. Non-the-less, Holden and Matt put in a really beautiful test that was expressive and steady. The judges were somewhat split on him, with one of them giving him a 74% and another giving him a 67.5%, which is always a little confusing and frustrating as a rider to be able to decipher from that if you still have lots to work on or if you are doing really well. I guess you should just always assume that you have lots to work on no matter what!
Sophie closed the day out with her Training 3 day dressage test, and she had a tough warm up thanks to the fact that the ring crew forgot to change the short court in to a long court for the T3D, which meant that everyone had to ride their test that was designed for the long court in the short court. This really threw Sophie for a loop, and she and Matt spent most of the time in warm up going over the test rather than actually warming up. We were not particularly optimistic when Sophie was called over to do her test and she still couldn’t run through it with us one time without losing her place. Somehow, some way, the kid performed a miracle and not only did her test with out going off course, she did a really good test to boot! This put them in a tie for 6th place going in to Cross country, which was quite an impressive spot to be in given that the division was 29 strong!
The CCI* dressage ran from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, so Matt and Julie had to wait until the following morning to see how the division would finish up. They were glad to learn that despite going so early in the division, they still came out in 1st and 5th place heading in to cross country, though the scores were tightly packed, the course looked tough enough, and the weather wasn’t exactly cool. They got to obsess about all of that for a day while Ping and Holden rested. Bob, Valerie and Matt’s mom also arrived on Thursday, so we got to share in all of the excitement and anticipation with them as well.
Friday morning was endurance day for the T3D and the N3D. Jeanne and Slew were the first of our crew to go, and armed with her experience from her first N3D in April, Jeanne piloted Slew around double clear in all of the endurance phases and finished the day up a few spots in to 8th place.
Sophie was next to go and had a great run around steeplechase. Sophie was able to keep Cursive fairly well contained and had a blast around the track. They set off on XC with instructions to stay in control and not go too fast. They ended up finishing the course confidently, but with a few time penalties. Later on in the day we found out that they also gave Sophie 25 dangerous riding penalties for going inside of the ropes on steeplechase. We were really disappointed with the officials on this call as the track was not completely roped off or clearly marked, and multiple people made the same mistake. But no amount of protesting or asking for explanations changed their minds, so Sophie got to learn the unfortunate lesson that sometimes bad calls are made and there is nothing we can do about it except for accept it and move on. Sophie handled it with an incredible amount of grace and sportsmanship, and we couldn’t have been more proud of her riding or her attitude.
Aida and Flaxen had their Intermediate dressage tests on Friday afternoon, and Dexter had his Prelim test as well. Aida surprised us all by being utterly rideable, and put in a really lovely test for a 32 and a tie for 5th place. Flaxen did his best but was a bit tense and had a few little mistakes for a 37.2 and 11th place heading in to XC. Dexter was a good boy and put in another test that was improved in quality from the last one, despite a little mistake in the trot change. He started the weekend off in a tie for 8th place in a big Open prelim division heading in to XC.
Saturday morning started off for us with Intermediate cross country, and we were thankful that Derek had been able to fly in to coach Matt and a few other students for XC and SJ. Derek has a calm and confident presence that is helpful in warm up, not to mention he’s brilliant, and when he warms Matt up I just get to be the supportive wife instead of nervous coach.
Aida was first out on course, and this was going to be a real test of whether or not she was truly confident about water now, since there was a new water complex in the back of the course added to the other two existing complexes. She certainly took a good look at the new water, but there was no hesitation there, or anywhere around the course, and she came home with only a handful of time penalties to move up to 4th place.
Glad to have had the first ride out of the way, and a good one at that, Matt set out to keep the momentum going with Flaxen, who was next to go in the Intermediate. Flaxen flew around the course, feeling confident everywhere, and less strong in the bridle than in the last few outings, which allowed them to finish double clear and move up to 5th place going in to show jumping.
Julie and Ping were next up in the CCI*, and they flew around the course, easily answering all of the questions, save for one moment at the first water when Ping Pong took a hard look at the drop in, and got a few good love taps from her jockey. They came home clear with just 1.6 time to move up to 3rd place going in to show jumping.
Matt knew he had no breathing room if he wanted to stay in 1st, so he set out on Holden to go clear and fast. Holden certainly rose to the occasion, but they came in just a few seconds over for 1.6 time. Luckily, the pairs just below him in the standings also had time, which meant that he stayed in 1st place going in to show jumping.
The last of the horses to do XC on Saturday was Dexter, and he did not disappoint. He ran faster than he thought he could go and jumped over and in to things that he didn’t understand, but he did everything that was asked of him and came home double clear and very, very proud of himself. And we were proud of him, because he just tries and tries and tries.
Jeanne and Sophie did show jumping on Saturday afternoon. Sophie put in one of her best, most composed show jumping rounds to date, and though she had two unlucky rails and a good dose of hard luck the rest of the weekend, she could still see how much she had accomplished and overcome throughout, and had a lot to be proud of.
Jeanne was next up in show jumping, and she stuck to her plan and rode a sticky Slew with a lot of grit, piloting him around the course to finish double clear and move up in to 3rd place overall out of 19 starters. Slew got a well deserved rest for the next two days, and Jeanne started planning her move up to Training level after conquering the Novice 3 day!!!
Sunday was jog day for the CCI* horses, and both Holden and Ping Pong looked great after their hard run the day before. The judges also awarded Matt with a bucket of Mrs. Pasture’s cookies for being the best turned out, and it made ironing his sport coat at midnight totally worth it!
Matt show jumped Aida first in the Intermediate, and jumped around clear but with 3 time. I then gave him a leg up on to Flaxen, who took a step forward on to my foot as I settled Matt in the tack. I think Matt was a little flustered with worry over me, as he and Flaxen had a rail down in what was otherwise a really good ride. Ultimately Matt finished in 2nd place with Aida and 5th place with Flaxen, and he is in complete awe at how lucky he is to get to ride two such talented horses!
He then switched over to Dexter and had a great show jump round on him as well, though a touch slow. Time was an issue for pretty much all of the competitors in the division, so he was still able to move up to 2nd. I think Matt going slow was worth it just to get to hear Derek on the sidelines urging Matt on after every jump, telling him to “go, go now”. If only Matt could have heard him, I’m sure he would have followed orders!!
Matt then quickly handed Dexter off, hopped on to Holden and headed over to warm up to get Julie and Ping ready for their round. Ping was jumping better than ever in warm up, so we were hoping she would continue her good form in the ring. Julie rode with a cool head, and almost had a clear round if not for one soft rub in the middle of the triple. The round was still good enough to finish in the 3rd, and add one more incredible finish to Julie and Ping’s unmatchable FEI and Preliminary record.
Rails were coming down like mad, and by the time Matt and Holden entered the ring a horse after Julie, there had only been two double clear rounds out of 30 horses so far. Matt could afford a rail, but that was it. Thankfully he didn’t need that rail, and he hustled Holden on after every fence to finish up with a really classy double clear round, to win the division! When we began on this incredible journey to pick out a few promising prospects for Matt, everyone said “when you see your horse, you’ll know”, and Matt had a hard time trusting that feeling when he saw Holden. To win with that horse at Rebecca Farm, being able to share that journey and that success with Bob and Valerie, gives legitimacy to that feeling that he had back in England, and gives him the confidence to go on believing in his horses, himself, thanks to his amazing supporters. Thank You!!!!
Shepherd Ranch – June 2013
We made our first trip down to Santa Ynez for the Shepherd Ranch Horse Trials in June. We brought along Dexter to do his 2nd prelim, Hap in the prelim as well, Slew in the Open Training with Matt in the irons, Julie and Ping in their last prep run before Rebecca Farm, Kristen and Tiki in their first event together, Sophie and Cursive in their last prep run before the T3DE at Rebecca Farm, and Annie with Cru and Vickie with William for the Beginner Novice.
Hap started the weekend off feeling somewhat tense about life at Shepherd Ranch, but he was still able to put together a good test with really improved canter work. They started the weekend off in 5th place, and though Matt’s plan was to go slow on XC since the footing was quite rocky and hard in many places, he ended up being fairly close to time even though he was being very conservative, which moved them up to 2nd place over night. Despite a very odd show jumping course, Hap finished up with no rails and two time to end the weekend in 2nd place, his best result yet at the level!
Dexter put in a very correct test, obedient as the day is long and in our minds improved from his test at Woodside, but this judge didn’t see that test, and still wanted more. He started the weekend tied with Hap for fifth place, and went slow due to the footing on XC to stay in 5th. Two time penalties in a round that had a hard rub or two but luckily no dropped rails moved them up to finish in 3rd for the weekend.
Julie and Ping also rode in the Open Prelim and rode a lovely test for a stingy 34.1 to put them in 4th place going in to XC. She also rode carefully around the XC, not wanting to risk a stone bruise before Montana, picking up 18 time to drop down to 7th. A really pretty show jumping round around a course that was hard to make look easy should have been double clear, but somehow that bad luck found Julie and Ping again and made a rail drop from the softest of toe taps.
Overall the prelim ended up riding quite tough, with 7 of the 14 XC starters having stops or falls, so Matt and Julie were just pleased to finish up with sound, confident horses at the end of the weekend.
Matt rode Slew one more time at Training to be sure that Slew really understood the level. They put in a very nice and accurate dressage test for a 31.8. Though you could not fault them on any part of the test, the judge was rewarding gaits and flash so Slew was placed mid-way down the division. Matt went carefully on the footing for XC but was still able to make the time and added nothing to their score in the show jumping to finish the weekend in 6th place.
Kristen and Tiki made their debut together at training level, and Tiki surprised us by really staying focused and working well in the dressage court for a 36.4 and a tie for 9th place out of 17 starters. Kristen was pleased as he really could not have been any better for her, and they set out on XC feeling confident. They had an easy skip around the course, going slow, like everyone else due to the footing, and came home having moved up a spot. Kristen then piloted Tiki around with finesse for a clear show jump round with one time penalty to finish up in 6th place. After getting the best out of Cally at Training level, who was always a little disappointing on show jump day, it was very gratifying to see Kristen get rewarded for her sympathetic riding with a clear round on Tiki!
Sophie was also riding in the Senior Training division, and they lost a little bit of the focus and consistency that they had found at Woodside, but still put in a good dressage test to start the weekend off in 11th place. Since Cursive doesn’t have the thickest soles we decided to withdraw her from Cross country so that we could feel confident that we weren’t going to risk anything for Rebecca Farm coming up in a month. So they sat XC out and then put together a good show jump round to feel well prepared for Montana.
Annie rode Cru in the Open beginner novice division, and put in what we thought was a really steady and nice test. But the judge didn’t quite agree and so they scored much higher than we had anticipated, but put in a great XC round to move up a bit to 4th. Show jumping was going beautifully until Cru got surprised by a box after a tight turn across the ring so he had a little peak for 4 jump penalties and a few time as Annie got her wits back about her and re-approached the fence. They finished up in 6th place with a little homework to bring back with them.
Vickie rode a good but slightly lackluster test in her Senior Beginner Novice division to start the weekend off in 7th place. She attacked the cross country to come home double clear, which was a real test for Vickie and William since they had never seen or schooled the course before. After seeing the usually bold Cru peak at the box in SJ, Vickie knew she would have her work cut out for her with William, and she rode with a vengeance to get the job done and finish on her dressage score and in 5th place!
Woodside Spring Horse Trials – May
If we thought we were busy at the last few shows, then we had a rude awakening in store for us at Woodside: Matt was riding 7 horses – Squishy and Hap in the Prelim Horse Challenge; Holden and Dexter in Open Prelim; Flaxen and Aida in the Open Intermediate; and Slew in the Open Training. That would keep anyone with plenty to do in itself, but to add to that we had Julie and Ping in the Prelim Horse Challenge; Sophie and Cursive in the Senior Training Amateur; Mairin in Junior Novice Rider; and Annie and Cru, Vickie and Sweet William, and Tory and Lilac in Senior Beginner Novice. Thank God we brought both Katie and Kristen to groom, as they kept all of the horses looking and feeling amazing, and things running like clockwork back at the barn.
Aida and Flaxen were both great in the Intermediate dressage, Aida was her overachieving know-it-all let me get this over with and run cross country self, and Flaxen was again, better than he should have been given where his strength is in the canter right now. He led the division from start to finish, adding nothing at all to his dressage score to win on a 30.8. He honestly could not have been better at any point in time all weekend, and he is a horse that you can depend on when it counts for sure.
Aida is still not as fit as we were hoping she would be since we are reluctant to really push the galloping with her as she comes back this season, so she picked up some time on XC, but she show jumped double clear to finish in 7th place, and we are so happy because she seems to have come back to work this season better than ever, and just a little machine on the XC!
Holden and Dexter were both in the Open Prelim, and this was Matt’s first show with Holden, since he was just brought to the US from England in April. Holden also led his division from start to finish, and I swear the dressage judge couldn’t wait until Matt did his final halt so that she could tell him just how nice of a horse she thought he was. Since Holden was Matt’s 6th horse of the day, he said he was just doing his best to hold on and not screw anything up! Holden also proved to be a machine on the XC, and Matt said he’s never been on a horse that gallops so uphill and so expressively that you can see his legs as he goes without looking down. It was great for Matt to have the win on Holden, as he was the horse that he picked out with only Leslie and without the input of the peanut gallery, so he was nervous and hopeful that he would live up to expectations, which he most certainly has so far!!
Dexter was also a super star in his first prelim, finishing in 7th place, and if his little legs could have just gone a little bit faster on the cross country he would have finished right up there in the top 3. Even so, we were so pleased with him as his dressage was right where it should be right now and will be great with more strength and understanding, all of the cross country questions were easy for him and his galloping and fitness should be there in a few more weeks, and even though he’s still green so he jumps each jump a bit differently than the last, he tries his heart out to jump clean and that is great to feel underneath you!
Squishy and Hap both contested the Prelim Horse Challenge with Matt, and though Squish was a little tighter than usual in the dressage, he still put in a clean test, and the cross country was a great follow up to the one star at Twin Rivers and cemented in Matt’s mind that he’s on the right track with him. With little rest, Squishy once again rose to the occasion and jumped double clear in the show jumping in front of the big crowd in the evening, having one of only four double clear rounds in the division, and bringing home the blue ribbon. We couldn’t be more proud of Squishy, the little horse with springs in his feet and the cheekiest glimmer in his eye. He and Chelsea deserved this win, and we are so glad that we were able to bring it home for them both!
Hap also rose to the occasion in the Prelim Challenge and had a good dressage test despite a mistake or two, and then had the disadvantage of being first out on XC of all of the prelim divisions, which meant that Matt had to learn the hard way on him that the time has gotten harder to make since Derek moved a corner to the gallop stretch in the last minute. This meant they came home with 2 time that they probably wouldn’t have gotten had he gone later in the division, but even so, Hap was perfect and easily skipped around the entire course. Though Hap is a fantastic jumper, up to this point he had yet to have a double clear show jump round at the prelim level, mostly just because he is such a big boy and tries so hard over everything that he can get himself in to trouble in the combinations especially. But, all of his hard work paid off on Saturday evening when he jumped a flawless double clear over a tough course, giving Matt two of only four double clear rounds in the division, and finishing them up in 4th place. We were so happy for Hap’s owners, Mary and Lance, who were in the crowd and were clearly Hap’s lucky charms.
And the last but not the least of Matt’s rides for the weekend was Jeanne Carley’s Slew of Diamonds. Matt was taking him out for his first Training level outing, and he certainly held his own among the other fancy and talented horses in the Open Training division. Slew put in such a cute dressage test, and he surprised us all by starting the weekend out in a tie for 3rd place. Amazingly, after a strong cross country round that saw them cross the flags 15 seconds under optimum time, they were still in a tie for 3rd place as the other competitor got the EXACT SAME TIME on XC! They then both finished double clear in show jumping to move up in to second and finish it what was a very rare but genuine tie for 2nd place.
Julie led the charge for the students competing over the weekend, and she and Ping started off strong in the Prelim Horse Challenge. After winning last years Prelim Rider Challenge, and just about every other Prelim level event, Julie didn’t want to risk having her tires slashed by entering the Rider Challenge again this year, and figured she would test herself against the pros. On Friday night I’m sure there were plenty of pros that wanted to slash her tires, as she was sitting in a familiar top spot going in to cross country after one of her usual flawless dressage tests. We knew, as did the rest of the competitors, that once Julie and Ping are in first, the only way they aren’t ending up there is by a stroke of bad luck, so you can imagine our surprise when, after a foot perfect cross country trip, Julie and Ping were in the middle of another perfect show jumping round when an unlucky rail hit the ground. This meant that she dropped to 2nd place, giving Squishy the win. We were struck with utter disbelief and disappointment for Julie, as she could not have ridden better all weekend and the rail dropped from sheer bad luck. Still an accomplishment to be very proud of, Julie and Ping were fierce competitors through and through.
The rest of the East West Team also accomplished great things over the weekend, with Sophie and Cursive channeling some relaxation for a much improved dressage test and show jumping round, with a score of 29.1 and only one dropped rail in show jumping in their Senior Training Amateur division. They of course cruised around the cross country with Sophie working hard to temper Cursive’s enthusiasm and finished a weekend of hard work and goals met in 3rd place!
Mairin and Buddy started off well in their Junior Novice Rider division, in a tie for 6th out of 18 starters, and she followed her dressage up by going from strength to strength in two more solid phases of jumping to move up in the standings to finish in 4th place.
Annie with Cru, Vickie with William and Tory with Lilac were all contesting the Senior Beginner Novice Rider division. Annie and Cru have been working hard all Spring on their dressage, and it showed with a really lovely test for a 26.5, which put them in to 2nd place after the first day of showing. Annie held on to that spot by riding with focus and accuracy the rest of the weekend, to finish on her dressage score and in 2nd place!
Vickie also demonstrated how hard she’s been working so far this season with a personal best dressage test that didn’t fizzle in the ring, and impressed the judge for a 29, slotting her in to 3rd place just behind Annie. Vickie held on strong all weekend to that spot, and continued to ride with energy and determination to finish in 3rd place on her dressage score!
Tory, being the lucky one to not only get to contend with Lilac’s lack of experience in eventing, but also some seriously raging hormones, did an admirable job of coaxing lilac in to staying focused and submissive in the dressage court, and ultimately had more really good moments than not. The judge recognized those moments and was ready to give Tory and Lilac all 7’s and place them near the top, but a few little moments of inconsistency crept in to keep them from ultimately scoring as well as we know they can – but they are knocking on the door for sure! Tory then rode one of the nicest show jump rounds of the day on Saturday, and followed that up with a good ride on XC which should have finished them in 6th place, but for an incorrect call from the jump judge at fence 4 when Lilac balked at going down the hill towards the water (and bad water bottle handing-off memories), many strides from the actual jump. Unfortunately, due to some confusion about when the official scores were posted, we missed our window to protest and she was given a stop. This was a real bummer, as Lilac and Tory really performed well all weekend and deserved a darn rooten tooten ribbon!!!!
Overall, the weekend was somewhat of a fairy tale for the East West crew. Matt had seven rides and not one XC jump penalty or rail between any of them. Out of 13 total East West rides, 10 of them finished in the top 4 of their division, and the other three finished in the top 7 (counting Tory as an honorary 6th place finish as technically that’s where she would have finished).
What’s more, we had an incredible support system, from all of the East West riders being there to support one another, cheer each other on and lift one another up, to the families and friends who came out to help out and be an amazing cheering section. It was so wonderful to be able to share these incredible achievements with the Bob and Valerie, Lance and Mary, Matt’s parents, and my own parents who were able to make it out to see the East West team in action.
Twin Rivers Spring 3-day event – April 10-14
We were incredibly busy at Twin Rivers this year, with Matt riding 2 horses in the CCI* and a 3rd horse in the horse trials as well as coaching 8 students. The CCI’s always keep you more busy than usual thanks to all of the beautification and extra hand wringing that goes in to the jogs, so we were glad to have Katie back at the barns keeping things running as smoothly as possible. Since I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I missed seeing some rides, so forgive me if I give less detail than usual for some of you.
Matt and Flaxen rode early in the CCI* (always the curse of having a few horses in a division, one of them always has to go early, often before the judges are really primed and ready to give out the best scores). Luckily, the judges seemed to like Flaxen very much, rewarding his very good test with a 46.6. Loris Henry even commented to Matt before he left the ring on how much she liked Flaxen!
Julie and Ping were also in the CCI*, and they, too, rode an active and flowing test, one that I thought would put her in the lead, but left us a bit perplexed when the score of 53.8 was announced.
Matt and Squishy went late in the division and also had a great test to score a few points behind Flaxen with a 48.9. When the big division of 28 starters had come to a close, Matt was in 2nd and 3rd with Flaxen and Squishy respectively, and Julie was a few points back in a tie for 9th.
Jeanne and Slew were at Twin for their inaugural Novice 3 day, and after getting on the ground jury’s good side with some leopard print pants in the jog that got their stamp of approval, she followed that up with a great dressage test, marred only by one ring of the bell for an error of course. Despite that, they still scored a 32.8 to head in to endurance day in 3rd place.
Matt rode Hap and Aida in the Open Prelim, and had what was beginning to be known as their trademark good test on Hap for a 32.7 to start the weekend in 5th place in a division of 18 starters. Aida was a complete handful in the dressage, scoring a 38.2 for 11th place and prompting me to remind myself that I didn’t have to be happy with her on Friday as long as by the end of the day on Saturday she had worked her way back in to my good graces.
Sophie and Cursive were back at it and ready to be competitive, but a good test was brought down by some tension and some questionable geometry for a 43.2 to start the weekend off in 14th place.
Mairin and Buddy made the best out of some windy conditions that get those nerves firing off in Buddy’s nose like a machine gun, still scoring a very respectable 33 and going in to the second day of competition in 12th place.
Vickie and William were back to redeem themselves after the seat saver debacle, and they started things off on the right foot when they put in a forward test for a 30.5 and 3rd place after the first day in the Senior Beginner Novice division. (Though I’m sure Vickie’s bum was missing that seat saver!).
Tory and Lilac were also competing in the Senior Beginner Novice division, and they put together a dressage test that is a work in progress with some very good moments for a 42.5 and a 14th place start to their weekend.
Brianna and Hollywood were entered in the Intro to Beginner Novice division, and despite a hairy moment when a horse in the next-door ring went flying across the warm up, Brianna was able to convince Hollywood to hold it together and scored a 34 for 2nd place heading in to Saturday’s show jumping.
Annie and Cru were also in the Intro to Beginner Novice division, and they put in a steady test that shows glimmers of what this handsome horse will be capable of for a 37.5 and a 5th place start.
Saturday was cross-country day for the CCI*, Prelim and the Novice 3 day, and show jumping for Training and below.
Flaxen went flawlessly around for Matt barring one hairy moment when he landed off a fence and took a hold of the bit and went for a run. Matt said he was about 3 seconds from circling him in order to get him back but thankfully Flaxen’s senses returned to him and he went right back to being the agreeable horse that he is for a double clear cross country round. What’s even more, he was the most gentlemanly horse that I have ever encountered in the vet box, standing like a compliant statue for Andrew and I to sponge down while Matt warmed Squishy up.
Julie and Ping also flew around the course like we knew they would to come in under the time with nothing to add to their score, staying in 9th place in a very competitive division.
Squishy was up next, and after Galway Matt decided to let him add at the base if he wanted to, but to make him gallop on after each fence, and Squishy could not have been happier or more confident. He came home in plenty of time, and with lots of pats all around.
In the Prelim horse trials division, Hap galloped around the course with complete ease and class and finished double clear, moving up to 3rd place. This being Aida’s first prelim back, Matt took it easy with her, and she came home full of confidence but with 6.4 time to drop down a few spots to 12th place.
Jeanne and Slew started off on roads and tracks with a mission, and though Slew was strong for steeplechase, which earned them a few time penalties, he galloped happily around the cross-country course and ended the day in 5th place.
Sophie and Cursive had show jumping, and you can bet that Sophie walked that course about a hundred times! Sophie struggled to keep Cursive under control with the cross-country horses galloping by, and though she made a valiant effort, Cursive’s nerves got the best of her and they dropped 3 rails and had a handful of time to drop down a few spots.
Mairin and Buddy were able to have a great round in the show jumping to go double clear and move up one spot to 11th.
Vickie and Tory both rode great double clear rounds to both move up, to 2nd and 11th respectively. Vickie was certainly hell bent on redemption and it showed in her riding!!
Annie and Brianna also both had stellar rounds in the Intro show jumping, adding nothing to their scores and holding strong to 2nd and 5th.
Sunday morning started early for jogs and Prelim Show jumping. With two in the division, Matt couldn’t waste any time, and he hopped on a fired up Aida and threw down a double clear round to finish with her in 9th place. He then quickly switched over to Hap for a lovely round with one super unlucky rail when Hap jumped in too big over an oxer in to a tight one stride, having the vertical out down. But double clear rounds were not super easy to come by for much of the rest of the division, so they were able to stay in 3rd place and bring home the yellow ribbon, with Hap, in his 2nd time out at the level proving to be quite a competitive force!
With no time to savor his accomplishments so far, Matt gave Hap a smooch and then rushed off to change to present Squishy and Flaxen for the CCI* jog. All three CCI* horses passed the jog without a second glance, as did Jeanne and Slew in the Novice 3 day.
It was now time for the CCI* show jumping, and Matt rode Squishy at the beginning of the division since he had Flaxen coming up as well, and they soared over everything to finish double clear and on their dressage score, guaranteed at least 3rd place.
Julie and Ping Pong went next and they had a near perfect round, with Ping jumping big over everything, until she pulled an uncharacteristic rail at the first fence of the triple combination.
Flaxen and Matt were second to last in, and they put in a beautiful round, with Flaxen jumping great for a double clear to finish up on their dressage score and in 2nd place over all!
Matt was very proud of his one star boys, never putting a foot wrong all weekend, with Flaxen missing the win by .3 penalty points. Flaxen was for sure ready for his upcoming move up to intermediate, and their partnership was definitely forged now. And Matt was confident that he had finally figured out what kind of ride Squishy wanted, and that he could give that to him, feeling good going in to the Prelim Horse Challenge in a few weeks.
Though Julie and Ping didn’t win, they once again showed how strong and consistent they are, finishing in the top ten of a hugely competitive one star division, and for sure making the competition in the upcoming Prelim Challenge groan when they spied her name on the entry list!
Jeanne and Slew did Show jumping once all of the FEI divisions finished, and had a weird and unexpected stop at the second fence, but quickly regrouped and finished up well to end the weekend in 7th place, and with a clear understanding of what they would need to work on in order to conquer their next challenge at Rebecca Farm in July.
Out on the cross country course, Sophie and Cursive flew around in their normal take no prisoners fashion and finished the weekend with a double clear cross country, in 13th place, and feeling ready to get down to work on a few details for the Training 3 day at Rebecca Farm.
Mairin and Buddy, also feeling very at home on the XC course, went around double clear to finish the event strong on their dressage score and in 9th place.
Vickie, knowing that she would have to ride like a demon in order to get her Sweet William to put his game face on, did just that and finished XC with just a smidge of time to finish up her weekend in 2nd place, savoring the sweet taste of redemption for sure!
Tory and Lilac certainly looked the part out on XC, but a green moment for Lilac in her first Beginner Novice meant one stop for them, but a good overall educational finish for them.
Brianna and Hollywood also had to contend with a green moment out on course when Hollywood seriously and passionately objected to the barrels surrounding one of the jumps out on course, and sadly meant they had a long walk home. But we reminded both Tory and Brianna that they got two of the three phases right and that the third one would come with just a bit more practice and experience.
Annie and Cru were one of the last rides of the show, and they closed things up in style with a smooth double clear round to finish the division in 2nd place, and a move up to Beginner Novice in their future!
Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials – March 1-3 2013
We headed next to the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials, which was Flaxen and Dexter’s first horse show in the US. Matt arrived at the show a bit jet lagged from taking the red eye to the UK to look at horses for a day and then flying right back. He didn’t let that slow him down, and he hit the ground running with 3 rides in the Prelim and one ride in the Training, and Julie, Jeanne and Vickie to coach as well. Thank God for Kristen keeping things together back at the barn or we certainly would have been without any hope!
Hap was the lucky horse that got to start the big Prelim division off, which was a little bit funny to us since this was his first crack at the level and only Matt’s second show with him. Hap started the weekend on the right foot with a lovely dressage test for a score of 27.3 and in fifth place overnight. Hap then proved to be a worthy trail blazer by cruising around the course with only .4 time penalties to take in to show jumping. Hap was jumping well up over all of the jumps on Sunday morning, but just ticked the front rail of a dark oxer on his way up and had one rail down to finish his first prelim in great form and in 5th place, giving us a taste of what a promising future this talented young horse has! We knew Mary and Lance would have plenty of well deserved cookies waiting for Hap when he got home!
Squishy (Che Landscape) put in a super solid test in the Open Prelim division with only one little joyous head flip in the right canter, though one can never predict how the judges will feel about Squishy, and so it was a bit of a disappointment but not a surprise when his score came up as a 31.4 for 11th place going in to cross country. Squishy then blazed around the cross-country, adding nothing to his score to go in to show jumping in 6th place. Knowing Squishy can almost always be counted on for a double clear show jump round, Matt went in to the ring with confidence, and they finished on their dressage score to take home the yellow ribbon.
Flaxen was Matt’s last ride in the Prelim division, and Matt rode him somewhat conservatively throughout since this was their first show together. We were thrilled that Flaxen was on his best behavior and put in a quiet test, given that when Matt brought him to Twin to school in January he was an absolute fire breathing dragon on the first day. They started cross-country on a 32.7, and added 7.6 time to that score. Matt started off pretty slowly, not totally ready to trust Flaxen yet, but by the time they came through the finish flags he had a new respect for and a stronger partnership with his new horse, and ready to tackle much more with him. Not sure what Flaxen would be like in the show jump ring, Matt took it easy with him and maybe ended up under riding a touch for one rail down and 3 time penalties to finish in 14th place in a very competitive division. Matt came home from the show feeling excited about Flaxen’s future after having felt how much heart and intelligence he showed throughout the weekend!
Julie and Ping were out for their second start of the year at Prelim. They worked hard over the winter at the dressage, and it showed for a score of 21.4 and first place going in to the cross country in a big division of 25 starters. In their usual form, Julie and Ping stormed around the cross country to stay in 1st, and then added nothing to their score with a great show jump round to be one of only two pairs out of 25 to finish on their dressage score. Needless to say, they won handily and were heading home feeling confident for the one star at Galway in a few weeks.
Dexter (Dassett Theme BCF) was also out for his first show on American soil, and he started his US career off well with a forward and steady test for a 31.4 and a tie for fifth heading in to show jumping in the Open Training division. Matt had been working so hard on his lengthenings and stressing over them that he ended up adding an extra one in to the test – I guess he was trying to get in all of the schooling he possibly could for his buck! Saturday’s show jumping was easy, moving them up in to a tie for 4th place. Cross country was a walk in the park for Dexter on Sunday, and his ground covering stride meant they came in quite fast, so even though they lost their tie and ended up in 4th place, Matt could not have been more pleased with how well Dexter performed throughout the weekend.
Jeanne and Slew were out in prep for the Novice 3 day in April, and they showed they were ready for the upcoming challenge when they rode a great dressage test for a 29.6 in the Senior Novice Amateur division. They followed that up with one of only two double clear show jumping rounds, and added 5.2 time on XC to finish the weekend up in 3rd place and loads of confidence heading in to the Novice 3 day in the spring.
Last but not least, Vickie and William were competing in the Senior Beginner Novice Rider division, and had an awesome dressage test that would have had them near the top of their division if it hadn’t been for the ILLEGAL seat saver that Vickie had on her saddle… After a few tears and a sympathetic explanation from the TD, Vickie got permission to finish out the event. She rode a great show jumping round, full of determination fueled by frustration. Cross-country proved to be more challenging, and William started out lookey and behind the leg for a stop at the first fence. Vickie kicked in to gear and rode like a demon the rest of the way around, only to pop off when they galloped up the hill to the last fence and William sat and spun at the sight of the fence judge. Thankfully he stood over her, deciding to be a trusty steed a moment too late, but giving her the opportunity to get thrown back in the tack and finish the course off with many lessons learned.
Galway Downs International – March 28-31
With Show season in full swing we loaded up in to the rigs for the long haul down to Galway Downs. Flaxen, Squishy and Ping were contesting the CIC*, Aida was back after her layup over the Fall and Winter to get her feet wet again at Training, and Dexter was coming along for the ride to get one last Training level event under his belt before moving up to Prelim.
With only 5 horses at a show it felt a little bit relaxing all weekend. Katie took fantastic care of all of the horses, and we were able to focus on getting the best out of each and every one of them.
Squishy was the first horse to go in the morning in the CIC*, and put in a really lovely test for a 49.2. He may have suffered a bit from being the first horse in the ring, but it put him in 6th place, so we weren’t too disappointed.
Julie and Ping were next and threw down the gauntlet with a foot perfect test for a 44, sliding her in to the coveted first placed spot heading in to show jumping.
Flaxen was next in the one star for Matt, and he seriously rose to the occasion and performed a test that was probably better than what his strength and understanding really should have allowed him to do, and I think we caught the first real glimpse of how much try this horse really has in him.
While the CIC* horses got to have a quick break before the show jumping started, Matt got his rides in on Aida and Dexter in the Open Training division. Aida put in a good test that was on the line between brilliance and explosive, scoring a 23.2 for a 3-way tie for 4th. Dexter looked great and had a fluid test for a 25.9 to put him in to 10th place. You know you have a competitive division when a 25.9 puts you almost halfway down the placings in the division!
Matt then rushed to walk the CIC SJ course with Julie and get back in to the tack as he and Squishy were early in the order. Squishy warmed up great but had an uncharacteristic rail down. You couldn’t even hear him touch the rail, it was painful to be sure! Julie then followed him in shortly after that with a round that left all of the rails in their cups and 2 time penalties. Those time penalties didn’t end up being costly at all for Julie, as the course was riding quite tough, with only three riders out of 28 going double clear, and multiple rails and time being the rule and not the exception for most pairs out.
Flaxen and Matt had a good round to keep all the rails up, but were painfully slow to watch, even trotting once to get their lead, and ended up with 10 time penalties. Matt was certainly kicking himself as he came out, saying it didn’t feel that slow to him. When the show jumping was all said and done, the standings had shuffled around quite a bit for the division, though Julie still ruled at the top, with Matt in 4th on Squish and 9th on Flaxen going in to Cross Country.
Saturday saw show jumping for Aida and Dexter in the morning, which went as it should have for both horses, which meant they added nothing to their dressage scores and kept their placings going in to cross-country. The CIC* horses had a long wait until later in the day to run cross-country. Squishy started the group off, and Matt was determined to get him going jumping out of stride to all of the fences instead of letting him add his beloved chip step at the base of the jumps. Squishy was not on board with this at all, and just got stickier and stickier until they finally were eliminated after 1 stop at a basic table at fence 8, and then two more stops at the angled trakehners at fence 11. It was a long walk home for sure, as Squishy had been feeling so good leading up to this event.
Julie was next and put in a text book double clear round, making it look easy and coming home with plenty of horse, clinching the win for her and Ping Pong, and adding a 3rd commanding FEI win to her and Ping Pong’s record!
Matt and Flaxen finished up the day, and after having a surprising ride on Squishy, he pulled all of his confidence together to give Flaxen a good ride around the course, coming in double clear and thrilled with the feeling Flaxen gave him over all of the tough questions. They finished up the division in 6th place in their first CIC* together.
While the one star horses rested up in their stalls after a weekend of hard work, Aida and Dexter closed out the weekend with Cross-country on Sunday morning. Matt’s plan for Aida was just to see how she felt after some time off, and to see if she was still as afraid of water as she was in 2012. Though Aida was so excited to be back at it that she could basically not contain herself in the warm up whatsoever, she was all business out on course, and seemed to being saying “thank you for letting me do my job again!” the whole way round the course. She even bounded right in to the water without a second thought, and finished double clean and too fast to break the tie for anything better than 5th. But we were thrilled to have the girl back at it again, and coming off XC sound as a pound and ready for more!
Dexter also strolled easily around the course, though a little more workmanlike and a little less exuberant than Aida, and Matt felt that he was definitely more than ready for his move up to Prelim.
We spent the ride home feeling satisfied that Julie and Ping showed their mettle and once again came out on top of a division full of pros and talented horses. We felt excited for the future for Flaxen and Dexter, and a tinge of relief that these horses that we picked out and hoped would fulfill their promise were starting to do just that. We felt relieved that Aida made a successful and sound return to competition, and anxious to get back on track with her. And, we felt disappointed with Squishy’s weekend, knowing that he is such a talented and special horse, and going back through to try to sort out where we went wrong so that we could fix it and get his confidence back to where we know it can, and should be. But mostly we felt tired, very tired, and eager to get back home and train for the next challenge on the horizon!
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write, somehow horse show season creeps back in with a vengeance and the time we’ve spent skipping from one show to the next and focusing at home in between hasn’t left much time for me to practice my typewriting skills. So forgive me if my memory is a little foggy going back to the first shows of the Spring, rest assured that even if I forget some important details, I can say for certain that the East West Team was full of energy, focus, support, and determination!
We started the season off at the Fresno county horse park in February. We brought a large group of horses and riders, as well as Flaxen and Dexter to tag along so that we could see what they were like in a horseshow environment before their debut at Twin Rivers in a few weeks time. This meant that Matt and I were busy as bees, as well as Katie back at the barns keeping everything in ship shape.
Matt rode Chelsea Clyde-Brockway’s Squishy (Che Landscape) in the Open Prelim division. Matt’s aim was to get him out for a confidence building first run, and he was happy to have started the weekend off with a good dressage test for a 31.4 and 2nd place. They went slow on the XC since Squishy had just started back to galloping, picking up 18.4 time penalties to move down one spot in to 3rd place. They finished the weekend there, picking up no additional penalties with a trademark double clear SJ round.
Matt also rode Mary McKee’s handsome horse, Happenstance, for their first show together and Hap’s first time out since being sidelined for most of 2012. They rode in the Open Training division, which was 19 horses strong, and started the weekend in 9th place with a 29.1 in the dressage. Matt was still getting to know Hap, and wasn’t sure how much he could push him through the little bit of tension that came up around the dressage court, so he played it safe and just went for a steady and consistent test. They followed that up with a double clear and beautiful XC round, and then added nothing more to their dressage score to finish in 5th place.
Matt’s third ride of the weekend was our own Odyssey (Homer around the barn) in the Open Novice division. Another big class, with 16 starters, Matt and Homer started well with a steady dressage test to start out in 9th place. Homer’s inexperience on the XC course came out when he had a stop at the down bank and the jump towards the water, which unfortunately moved them down in the rankings. Homer is such an honest guy, we felt a little bit responsible for not giving him the fairest of shakes by entering him at novice in only his 4th time on an XC course, his 3rd show ever, and first time at Novice. But he’s been so game and intelligent about sorting things out we gave it a go, and now we know that he needs a little more experience with the things that he doesn’t quite register as “jumps” like the down banks and water. He redeemed himself Sunday morning by jumping a lovely double clear in Show jumping.
Julie and Ping were with us to start their 2013 season off in the Prelim Rider division. They began the weekend with a good dressage test for a 29.5 and 2nd place. They held on to that spot with only a handful of time penalties on the XC, and then finished in style with a double clear show jumping round to hold on to 2nd place, proving that a few months off didn’t throw them off of their game, and that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Sophie and Cursive started the weekend off strong with a 37.7 and a tie for 2nd place in the Senior Training Rider division. They stormed around the cross country to add nothing to their score heading in to show jumping. Since Ram Tap became the Fresno County Horse Park, there have been a lot of positive and welcome changes, one of which was moving the SJ to the dressage court area to allow for XC schooling throughout the day on Sunday. This meant we had a slightly new schedule to adjust to, and we were surprised when the day ran faster than we had anticipated. This meant that Sophie missed getting to stroll around the SJ course on foot, and unfortunately resulted in a missed fence on course and a technical elimination… And a mistake that is best learned by doing, and will likely never be repeated!
Mairin and Pine Alley (Buddy) were riding in the Junior Novice division, and had quite a good dressage test to start the weekend in 2nd place out of 16 starters on a 31.7. They followed that up by riding two more flawless rounds to add nothing to their score, and moving them up to win a tough division! Congratulations to Mairin for putting together a perfect weekend!
Carol and Beau were out for their second time out at Novice in the Senior Novice Rider division. They started off in 6th place with a 38.7 after a steady test. Beau showed up for cross-country day with a touch too much enthusiasm, giving Carol an exhausting ride around the course. Thrilled to have finally gotten control of Beau at the up bank, Beau decided that if he couldn’t propel himself over the fences at a breakneck speed then maybe he didn’t want to do them at all, and took a moment too long to think about it coming down the bank for a refusal. Carol got him back in to gear and made it the rest of the way around with a bit more control, and crossed the finish flags asking for a brake inspection! Beau had settled quite a bit for show jumping, but Carol still expected the run away freight train that she had on Saturday, so a brief miscommunication resulted in a stop early on in the course, but they picked back up and finished quite well in 7th place overall.
Heidi pulled Mae out of the pasture and impressed us all by riding a lovely dressage test for a 36.5 and first place heading in to XC in the Senior Beginner Novice division. Heidi piloted Mae around the XC flawlessly and came in to show jumping still in 1st place. A bit of nerves crept in and Heidi was feeling the pressure of the top spot, letting herself get distracted for two rails down, but a beautiful round non-the-less, and a good lesson learned. They finished the weekend in 2nd place!
Vickie rode Sweet William in their second time out at Beginner Novice. They rode a solid but quiet dressage test to start out just behind Heidi in 2nd place on a 39. Vickie rode her heart out on XC and came home double clear. William took a peak at the spooky box at fence 2 in show jumping, adding some points to their score, but still finishing well in 3rd place.
Brianna and Hollywood rode in the Junior Intro to Beginner Novice division, and Hollywood was on his best behavior for the dressage, earning them a 38 and 1st place going in to cross-country on Saturday. Brianna found a lovely rhythm out on course and had a fluid and seemingly easy round, though they picked up just a handful of time penalties to drop them down to 3rd place. A hard peak by Hollywood at the bogey box at the second fence in show jumping meant a few more penalties added to finish a good, confidence building weekend in 4th place overall.
And last but not least, Tory and Lilac came out for the weekend in the Senior Intro to Beginner Novice division, and started out the weekend in 9th place. They added 2.4 time penalties on XC, and a picture perfect double clear show jump round meant they moved up to finish in 2nd place!!
Woodside turned out to be a better weekend than just about any of us could have hoped for… Other than the wind!!! But once again, Robert Kellerhouse and his team put on an amazing event despite the weather!
Julie and Ping started the weekend for the group off well with a fantastic dressage test in the Prelim Rider Challenge that must have felt like sweet redemption for Julie after Ram Tap’s frisky test! Ping Pong was all work as she entered the dressage court, and you could tell from the first step that she was going to be putting her best foot forward. The judges were clearly impressed, and rewarded them with a 27.9, good enough for a very close second place going in to cross-country, which is a lovely place to be, without the pressure of being in first! Julie rode determined on Saturday morning through a hard course, and, for the first time since starting out at Prelim together last season, made time! Not only that, but they made the course look like a master class in how to ride it, really showing that they belong at the top of the division, and moving up in to first place heading in to that evening’s Show jumping during the gala dinner. As the day wore on, the thrill of conquering a tough cross-country course gave way to nerves creeping in over the impending show jumping course and the growing crowds that were streaming in to cheer the riders on. The class was tight, and Julie had no room for error. Walking past the crowds as Julie headed to warm up, she admitted that she got a bit teary at all of the well wishes and signs of support from members of the barn that came down to watch, as well as strangers that were simply offering the riders their support. As Julie warmed up and Ping showed us that she was a bit tired but had plenty of gas in the tank, we watched the rest of the class show jump. By the time Julie entered the ring, the rest of the class had gone, and there had been only 4 double clear rounds out of 17 that started, making it clear that a double clear round would be tough to come by. Thankfully, Julie had a bit of a cushion as the 2nd placed rider had dropped one rail, giving Julie a rail in hand. Though Ping Pong had a slight rub or two, and Julie gave us all a scare when she added about 3 extra strides to the vertical before the turn to the triple combination (just to prove how adjustable Ping Pong has become!), they pulled off a beautiful double clear round, cementing their victory by 6 points! The crowd was amazing, falling quiet as the riders started out, groaning with disappointment as rails came down, gasping at the sound of a hoof ticking a rail, sighing with collective relief when those ticked rails stayed in their cups, and wildly cheering for each competitor as they finished, it was a truly amazing thing to be a part of. After the awards ceremony and the victory gallop, Julie went off to be interviewed and to collect her prizes, and after all that, you can be sure she was in Ping’s stall showering her with kisses and whispering well deserved praises in her big, floppy ears.
Matt and Aida followed Julie and Ping in the Prelim Horse Challenge, which was the division open to pros or people that have competed above the Prelim level recently. A bit worried about the wind and the atmosphere of the main dressage court for our spooky little Aida, we would be lying if we said that she didn’t go out for multiple rides and spent some time on the line before her test. By the time Matt climbed in to the saddle for their test, Aida seemed perfectly civilized. What’s more, she stayed civilized throughout her warm up AND her test, showing us how much upside she is going to have once we get her brain in reliable, working order. The judges seemed to like her and they scored a 28.5, which put them in to 4th place going in to cross-country on Saturday morning. Matt felt confident as he headed to the start box, Aida warmed up feeling cocky, and the course presented some good challenges. Aida delivered on her promise, eating the course up and coming in exactly on optimum time, which moved them up to 3rd place heading in to the evening’s show jumping. She spent the rest of the afternoon being treated like a queen and spilling her ice boots, and came out for the show jumping looking as gorgeous as she can look. As Matt and Aida walked past the tent along the berm of the show jumping ring, I couldn’t help but look back on her first ever event exactly two years before at the Woodside Spring Horse Trials 2010. Some of you may recall that at this event Aida was so overwhelmed by the very same tent she and Matt were now walking by on their way to the final phase of the prelim challenge, that we had to station Michelle by the tent with treats so that Matt could repeatedly jump a jump, hurry over to Michelle under the tent for a treat, and then go jump a jump again. Her very first Beginner Novice show jumping round saw her jumping jumps at precarious angles and scooting sideways away from the tent, though she jumped clear!!! We were certainly hoping that history would not repeat itself in every way on this night, and we were keeping our fingers crossed that she would be able to handle not only the tent, but the buzzing atmosphere that the crowd jammed up to the ringside created. Well, as Matt jumped his first jump I knew that the mare was going to give the round all that she had. Aida’s encouraging form in the warm up and Derek DiGrazia’s calm and measured instructions to Matt in the warm up had us both feeling as confident as possible, despite the fact that they headed in to the ring with no breathing room from the excellent horses and riders that had gone just before. Even though Matt swears that he heard Aida rub every jump, I can serve as a witness that the mare jumped damn well and gave all of the jumps a healthy respect (except for the middle jump in the triple that she did tick a little). Matt gave her a truly excellent and beautiful ride, and exited the ring with a double clear round, and all of the pressure on the second and first placed riders. After two more rounds to watch, Matt found himself climbing up one more spot to finish in second place, bringing home some amazing prizes and a check for $1800 (which we have promptly spent on Dust Off for the arenas at home)! It was a great feeling to have worked so hard on this horse, believed in her, even on those days when she’s spooking at liverpools and throwing tantrums in the dressage court, to have figured out a few pieces of the puzzle and to begin to see some of her future take shape! Many thanks to Michelle for giving us the opportunity to work with the horse, for believing in Matt’s connection with her, and being there around every turn with unwavering support!
Shannon and Alex were the next to go in their Senior Training division. They put in a relaxed and steady dressage test, and even though it lacked a touch of energy, Shannon was very understandably pleased with the test. They headed to the cross-country start box in the middle of the pack, and helped themselves to move up a few spots by putting in a super confident cross country round. They looked to be well on their way to moving up a few more spots until very late in the show jumping round when a funky line to a vertical brought down that rail and saw them almost run into another jump before they reorganized and headed to the triple. The leftover dsicombobulation brought down one more rail, as well as a few good-natured laughs had by Shannon as they exited the ring. They finished just outside of the top ten, which isn’t quite reflective of the weekend that they had; one with many more highs than lows, with just a few “oops’s” in there to keep them from placing where they surely will the next time out!
As Shannon and Alex were entering the dressage court on the top of the hill, Matt and Nanook were entering the court down below in the Open Preliminary division. Matt rode Nanook to an absolutely lovely test, prompting the judge to reward him with a 28.2 and second place in the division. Many exclamations of disbelief over being beaten by a PONY could be heard through the thin barn walls back at the stables. If only Nanook could talk, he would remind all of those naysayers that he is, in fact, not a pony, but a HORSE… a large, majestic, powerful HORSE!!! As it turns out, Nanook may have needed to remind Matt that he was a horse as well, because Matt forced him to go slow and careful on cross country on Saturday, in an effort to make sure that he had a confidence building round after his little mis-step in the water at Ram Tap. After a really nice clear but slow round which incurred quite a few time penalties moving them down in to 9th place, Matt admitted that he probably could have pushed him a bit more, that he had plenty of gas left in the tank. I think I caught Nanook giving Matt the evil eye a few times after that…. But not all was lost, Nanook showed up to show jumping bright eyed and bushy tailed, and despite using the first fence to measure the height of the rest of the course and thus dropping the first rail, jumped well after that and moved back up a few more spots to finish the weekend in 7th place. Nanook is truly an amazing little HORSE, with his own fan club at the events of little girls and grown ups alike, who admire his cuteness, his athleticism, and I think some of those other riders out there admire the bravery that it takes Nanook’s rider to gallop up to a max prelim table that must look to be at eye level, trust in the pony power, and kick on! As another rider asked Matt in the awards ceremony, “aren’t you afraid when you’re on him?” By the end of the weekend, I think that Matt could honestly answer “Not at all!”. Thanks to Anna and Mary for handing the reins over to Matt for the weekend while Anna was out of town. Lookout for Anna back in the saddle at Rebecca Farms, and then back again at Woodside in the Autumn to tackle the prelim course!
Matt and Squish were next to go in their Open Training division, and Squish showed us just how fit he has become by being something of a wiseguy in his dressage test. He wasn’t so naughty that the test was bad, he, in true Squish fashion, was only naughty enough to mar each movement with one little head toss or display of exuberance… The judge was clearly not thrilled with Squish’s joyful antics, which put them in to an unfamiliar position down at the bottom of the pack going in to cross country. Sensing that he was in need of some serious redemption, Squish galloped around the XC course well, even resisting the urge to peak down in to the gremlin filled ditches, and they finished up double clear and moved up two spots in to 10th. Squish further redeemed himself by putting in a stellar show jumping round on Sunday, jumping double clear and moving up to 8th place overall, and finished on his dressage score (somewhat fitting for him to have earned the brown ribbon this time out, which I named as a kid “the turd award”). One cannot stay mad at that cute face for too long, and overall, the weekend was helpful in figuring out how to manage a more fit Squish, and we are looking forward to the Training level 3 day at Rebecca Farms, and then hopefully a move up to Prelim in August!
Anne and Tiki were next, tackling their second event out together, and Anne’s first event at the Novice level since she was a kid. Though, prospects were looking grim that Anne would make it to the show at all when we got a text early Thursday morning saying “call me, I have a problem”. Come to find out that Anne had two bruised and swollen feet from Tiki jumping on them when he spooked the night before. The last minute decision to come to the event and tough it out was made later Thursday afternoon, when, after a trip to the doctor determined that her feet were not broken, the rest of the doctor’s advice was heeded when he told her to stay off her feet (you don’t have to walk to ride, now do you?!). So, Anne made it to the event, and what’s more, she was able to shove her sausage feet in to her boots. What’s even more, she was able to pull off the most relaxed dressage test that Tiki has performed to date (may have had something to do with the feet being immobilized?). Their test was good enough to put them in the top 10 going in to show jumping, and though Anne and Tiki moved down a few spots with a rail and time penalties, the improved control and relaxation that she had from Tiki was a huge step forward for them. Cross country morning dawned (Tiki’s favorite day), and he and Anne attacked the cross country course. Since he was a bit strong and took a little “convincing” to come back after each jump, they ended up incurring a touch of time penalties, but finished a weekend that almost didn’t happen very well, both having improved on many things, and both having learned a lot. It was a great way for Anne and Tiki to conclude their time together as Anne hands Tiki’s reins over to Kristen, his proud new mama!!
Carol and Beau were the next to go in their Senior Beginner Novice division, and they started the weekend off well, with what has become their “signature” relaxed, accurate and smooth test. They earned a 29 for fourth place going in to show jumping. Nerves have been plaguing Carol a bit in the show jumping phase, and a momentary blip at one of the oxers early on course left Carol with a refusal. Not wanting to waste any time (and, ever the rule follower, thinking that circling to reapproach the fence would be counted as a second refusal), Carol created what is now known as the “slingshot”. That is, if you have incurred a refusal on course, in order to save time, one simply backs their horse up 6-7 steps in a rapid fashion while staying straight to the jump, then kicks with all their might until they get to the other side of that jump! This technique, along with an improved round over the rest of the course, meant Carol finished with only four jumping penalties, and was able to keep her fourth placed position going in to XC on Sunday. With the slingshot in her back pocket in case of emergencies, Carol stormed around cross country like a pro, finishing double clear, and moving up two spots to finish the weekend in 2nd place! So, just to recap Carol’s season, we’ve seen her start the year in February with a 3rd place, win the next event out at Ram Tap, and finish 2nd here at Woodside. Do I smell the possibility of crowning the next Area VI Beginner Novice Amateur champion some time in the fall????
Matt was a busy boy with Tory handing him Lilac’s reins for the weekend, and Lilac’s second ever event (and first event at Beginner Novice). Matt worked some voodoo magic and coaxed the best behavior and a gorgeous test out of Lilac for a 28.5 and second place to start the weekend. The showjumping is definitely Lilac’s strong suit, and Saturday was no exception, with Matt and Lilac putting in an absolutely lovely and rhythmic double clear round. Sunday’s XC was a bit green, and there may have been talk about a few extra whacks over the ditch after she took a hard look at it, but they were able to pull out a double clear round and move up to win the division! This horse has serious promise, and we are so excited to see Tory take the reins back and see what the future holds!!
Thanks go to everyone for their hard work all weekend. Once again, Kristen basically made the weekend possible by working tirelessly braiding, cleaning, and somehow being everywhere at once. It’s always gratifying when things seem to come together after so many hours spent working, planning, hoping, dreaming, trying, failing, and doing it all over again, and this weekend sure tasted awfully sweet!!!
Since I stayed back at the ranch filling up bleach baths and making every effort to wrap each and every horse and person on the facility in a haz-mat suit and disinfectant thanks to the little upper respiratory virus we had come through the barn, I had to rely on the internet and Matt and Kristen to fill me in on the nitty gritty details of the weekend. As most of you know, neither Matt or Kristen are exactly chatter boxes, so most of the information about the show will be from the score pages and my own imaginings of how things must have gone….
Julie and Ping got a late start to Ram Tap since the weather was so poor. This meant no initial warm up on Friday for our dear, sweet Ping Pong. That, coupled with tales of a loose stallion in the barn area just prior to their test and mucky footing, meant that the test didn’t quite rise to the high standards that Julie and Ping have set for themselves. They began the weekend in 10th place in the Preliminary rider division, but were ready to claw their way back up in the jumping phases. Thanks to the aforementioned footing issue, the usual massacre that is Ram Tap show jumping was exponentially multiplied, and it was truly carnage out there (at least according to the results page!). There was not ONE singular double clear show jumping round, and in general the faults were 20 points and MORE… So you can imagine that Julie was quite pleased with Ping Pong’s one rail and 7 time faults, a performance that moved them in to 4th place overnight heading in to Cross-country on Sunday. It’s amazing how having a naughty mare in dressage can motivate Julie to ride fast, and that she did, having the fastest time of both Prelim divisions, coming in just a few seconds over optimum time to move up and finish the weekend in 3rd place!
Anna and Nanook were also competing in the Preliminary rider division, in this, Anna’s first attempt at Preliminary and Nanook’s second. They started the weekend off quite strong in 5th place, especially considering the dismal footing conditions. A minor miscommunication in show jumping was amplified due to the muck and meant that they had a very uncharacteristic stop and a handful of time penalties, which moved them down a bit in the placings going in to cross-country. Anna’s plan for Sunday was simply to get around safe and clean in her first Prelim start, and it was looking like the day was going to finish just as they had hoped as they galloped smoothly and easily around the course, until just a couple of jumps from home, Nanook popped down the bank in to the last water complex and went ass over tea-kettle thanks to what must have been a hole on the landing of the water. Thankfully, both Anna and Nanook jumped to their feet quickly, a little stunned on how a foot perfect round could be over so quickly, but no worse for the wear. Back at home, I got a text of a soggy Anna and Nanook hoofing it back to the barn with a caption saying “they fell at the water but they’re both ok”. There were definitely some choice expletives that found their way out of my mouth in that empty house when that news came through!
Matt and Squish were competing in the Open training division, and Squish finally realized all of his promise by putting in a great dressage test for a 27.3 and the lead. Knowing that Squish hates nothing more than jumping in bad, squishy footing, Matt was waiting to see how Squish felt in the warm up ring before he decided whether or not he would actually show jump, not wanting to risk any of Squish’s new found confidence. Matt reported that the warm up felt great (I’m sure the massive studs that he put in helped!), so he went in and laid down a clear round with one time penalty. He was very proud of Squish, as you can imagine! Their great show jumping round helped them hold on to the lead going in to cross country, and they didn’t let go of it, blazing around double clear and finishing the weekend over 6 points ahead of the 2nd placed horse. Though I wasn’t there to see it, I know Matt must have been grinning ear to ear as he dismounted from Squish. He enjoys that horse so much, and feeling him grow in experience and confidence each time out is what Matt lives for. Not enough Thanks can be said to Chelsea and her Grandma, Jean, for allowing Matt to ride Squish while Chelsea is away getting edumacated!
Carol and Beau were out for their second start of the season at Beginner Novice, and Carol must have come determined, because they started off the weekend in 1st place with a 27.6. I can see their test very clearly in my head, because they are going so consistently now that they are sure to lay down an awesome ride each and every time. Not bad for a lady that tries to convince that dressage is the bane of her existence…. In true Ram Tap fashion, despite the fact that Carol had one rail and 2 time penalties, she was still able to have one of the lowest scoring SJ rounds, which helped her hold on to the top spot overnight. On Sunday, Carol and Beau finally got to do what they come to events for: Cross-country! They went around double clear, never putting their win in doubt, and came home with a wire-to-wire victory!
Anne and Tiki were at Ram Tap competing together for the first time. Though Tiki is a pretty quiet soul at home, Anne got to experience first hand how Tiki can get a little undone at shows, and thanks to the less than ideal footing, Tiki was not permitted his usual galloptilyoustoprunningawaywithme warm up. Anne still managed to keep the lid on Tiki quite well all things considered, starting the weekend in 10th place. They then went on to have only one rail in show jumping (remember, this is Ram Tap people, if you can make it out of the ring with only one rail, you are sitting pretty!), which moved them up in to 8th place. Sunday’s XC gave Anne a glimpse of what kind of horse Tiki really is (that would be a cross country machine), and they blazed around the course double clear, moving up one more spot to finish the weekend in 7th place. Not bad for a brand new partnership at all!
Matt was doing double duty with Squish and Hollywood. Hollywood was entered in his second show, and he certainly showed some improvement in the keeping the marbles INSIDE of his head department. He had clearly grown up since the last time out a few months earlier, scoring a 31.4 in the dressage, which was good enough for 2nd place going in to show jumping in the Open Intro Beginner Novice division. Knowing that Hollywood can still take a hard look at different jumps, Matt elected to take it slow with him and trot most of the fences, which meant that they had no jumping penalties but quite a few time penalties, moving them down one spot to 3rd place. Matt then expertly guided Hollywood around the cross country course on Sunday, finishing double clear, in 3rd place, and with a much more confident and experienced young horse underneath him. We expect pretty great things from this young guy, and we cannot wait to see Brianna in the tack out on XC very soon!
Annie was also out with Cru for his second event, also in the Open Intro Beginner Novice division. Though I’m short on details about their dressage test, I can guess that Annie gave Cru an educational ride that had some moments of brilliance with some green moments peppered in as well, which meant that they started the weekend off in the middle of the pack in 5th place. Also taking the slow approach to the show jumping in an effort to build Cru’s confidence, Annie also picked up a chunk of time penalties in the SJ, which moved them down a few spots to 8th place overnight. A solid XC round on Sunday meant that they were able to hold on to that spot and finish the weekend in 8th, with an exciting eye towards the future with this promising guy!
Also out for their second event were Vickie and William. Showing off the hard work that they have been putting in to their dressage, they started the weekend off in the Senior Intro Beginner Novice division in 1st place! A clear but slightly slow show jumping round (why they meter Intro Beginner Novice so tight is BEYOND me – not ONE of the riders in the division made it around without time - but that is a discussion for another place and time….) moved them down a few spots in to 3rd. Vickie, out to be the boss of William, must have ridden like a demon out there on XC because they came in double clear and held on to their 3rd place spot for the weekend!
Tory and Lilac followed Vickie in the Senior Intro Beginner Novice division in this, their FIRST EVENT EVER!!!!! (One more convert for the dark side!). Lilac, being Lilac, was not as focused as she could have been for the dressage test, which meant that they started the weekend off in 5th (but, just ask Carol, dressage is certainly not the reason eventers event!). Showjumping gave Tory and Lilac a chance to showcase their lovely, rhythmic style over fences, but of course, this IS Ram Tap, so they had a few time penalties, but were still able to stay in 5th place going in to Sunday’s XC. I’m told that despite a green moment which resulted in a stop, Tory and Lilac had an awesome XC round and that Tory rode fantastically, and finished their first event in 5th place. Knowing the determination that Tory is famous for (look her up, I think she’s actually famous for it!!!), I know that she and Lilac will soon be the one’s that everyone is looking over their shoulders for!Thanks to everyone for such a great weekend! Special thanks go to Kristen for putting Matt on the right horse at the right time, making his horses look beautiful as ever, keeping the barn in line, and sending Matt home with both of his boots, his helmet, and his crop, take it from me, that is no small feat!!!
We spent another hot weekend down in the South Bay at the Woodside Summer Horse trials. This was Aida’s first attempt and Intermediate, and though we were feeling confident after her great weekend at the CCI* in Montana, Intermediate is a whole new ball of wax and we were full of nerves and anticipation as we arrived Wednesday evening. Knowing that she is not yet completely confirmed in many of the dressage movements required in the test, Matt’s hope for the weekend was to have her be rideable in the dressage, which has been a struggle for her in the past. We were more than pleased when Aida came out on Friday morning and was listening well in the warm up. There was one hairy moment when a paint pony in a fireworks sleazy walked past warm up and blew Aida’s mind, but she regained her composure quickly as Matt guided her around the ring and entered the court for her first Intermediate. Their test was steady, though showed that her strength and understanding is still lacking a bit at this level. Despite that, they earned a good score of 35.2, and stood in 8th place going in to cross country in a big enough division. By the time Aida went on Saturday the fog had burned off and the temperatures were starting to rise. Matt was hoping to find an easy pace early on in the course, and guide her to a confident round. Aida surprised us all when she came out attacking the course and looking for the red and white flags around each turn. What surprised us even more is that she settled comfortably in to a good pace, and came home without any jump penalties, taking everything in stride, and only 3.2 time penalties added to their score. Their fast and clear round moved them up in to a position that none of us had even considered… First place, at her first Intermediate! We tried not to get too caught up in the spot on the leaderboard, waking up Sunday morning happy to have a sound horse and ready to tackle a solid stadium course. Aida came out pretty tired and jumping a bit flat after the huge effort the day before and the heat over the weekend. Matt rode her beautifully, but she just ticked 3 rails, which moved them down to 6th place to finish. Though it’s certainly a disappointment to lose first place, we cannot be discouraged at all. We now have a super confident intermediate horse who could not have given us any more all weekend. We can count the show jump rails that she has had in her career up to this point on one hand, and know we have a careful horse on our hands that is capable of jumping clear rounds. We feel like we did not quite prepare her well enough for the 3’11” course, thinking that it would be 3’9” instead, and rarely even jumping her at that height at home. We have plenty to work on, but even more to be proud of and look forward to!!! We could not be any more proud of this silly little mare, at 7 years old finishing very competitively in her first intermediate is more than we could have even dreamed of!!
Julie and Ping Pong were also with us, contesting their first event back after their triumph at the Prelim challenge in the spring. Dressage day was spent praying to the counter canter gods and hoping that Ping would relent and stay on the counter canter lead through the short sides of the ring. Thanks to the counter canter gods (and more than a little help from Julie’s good riding), Ping managed to not only stay on the counter lead, but to also put in a lovely, smooth test with some great improvements in the medium gaits. They earned a score of 31.3, which was good enough for 3rd place in a tough division. Saturday’s cross country course was a good blend of a course that they knew and felt confident about, with a few new challenging questions added in. Julie and Ping rode their signature strong and smooth round, easily answering all of the questions, and blazing around, putting any question of a fast and clear round to rest, coming in a few seconds under optimum time, and holding on to their third place spot overnight. Julie rode great on Sunday afternoon, with Ping jumping huge over most of the jumps. But, one unlucky light tick of the toe brought down one rail, though thankfully they had one rail in hand and were able to keep their third place and collect the yellow ribbon, which also means that their amazing record of top 3 finishes or better at Prelim is still intact (and enviable!!!). Congratulations to Julie and Ping Pong!!
Squishy, like Aida, was also moving up this weekend, contesting his first Prelim. Matt’s goals for Squish were also similar to Aida, in that he was hoping to just give him a good confidence building experience, and help to set him up well for the future. Squish, like Ping, felt very strongly that he should try to use his flying lead change skills during the counter canter that is called for in the prelim test. Matt was able to coax him in to staying on the counter canter throughout the test, but felt that it added a bit of tension to the test and felt that it was not quite the quality that he was aiming for. Even so, they found themselves in a tie for first place going in to cross country! Knowing that the cross country would be a tough test for Squish, Matt planned on letting him pick the pace that he was most comfortable jumping out of. Thanks to some recent beach gallops, Squish came out of the box like a demon and blazed around the course, picking a perfect pace, jumping out of stride, and conquering those scary ditches that Squish dislikes so much. They crossed the finish flags 4 seconds under optimum time, and moved in to the individual lead for the division. Squish got many pats and cookies throughout the night, and Matt was so pleasantly surprised by the confident horse that he had underneath him on that course, so when Squish pulled one super unlucky rail in an otherwise lovely round, Matt couldn’t be disappointed at all. Ultimately, they took home second place in a big division, and Matt could not be happier with Squish’s performance over the weekend! Thanks so much to Chelsea for all of the support and for letting Matt ride her amazing horse!! What a gift!!
Annie and Cru joined us as well to compete in their first Beginner Novice together. Cru arrived at the horsepark as agreeable as he could possibly be, and seemed right at home all weekend. Annie piloted him through a beautiful test, with buttery transitions and a general easy and appealing way of going. They happily found themselves in second place out of a big division going in to Saturday’s show jumping. Expecting Cru to give many things in the show jump ring a justifiable hairy eyeball, Annie was again pleasantly surprised that Cru put his nose to the grindstone and went to work in their, performing a lovely double clear round, holding on to their second placed position going in to Sunday’s cross country. After a long hold on course and waiting around in a hot warm up ring, Annie and Cru finally got to tackle their first Beginner Novice Cross country, and they did it in style! Cru loped around the course easily, with Annie expertly presenting him to each question and jump with tact and skill, coming home confidently, and moving up to take home the blue ribbon! Cru is quickly shaping up to be a confident competitor, and Annie should be so proud of the partnership she is building with him!!
Starr Vaughn was an uncomfortably hot July weekend in the Sacramento Valley; thankfully we had a lovely indoor arena to warm up in. Vickie and William and Debra and Kitty both ventured out to contest the Northern CDS Regional Adult Amateur Championships. Galaxy and I tagged along for the open show on Saturday and Sunday.
Galaxy and I started the weekend off on Saturday morning, which meant we got to ride before the heat really set in. We did fourth level tests 2 and 3, and while the tests were clean, I could have put more on the line in the ring, and came out feeling like everything was fine, but could have been a bit better overall. Even so, we won both of our classes scoring around 64% for both tests. Sunday I only had one test, and was hoping to go for it a bit more in the ring. Unfortunately, that meant I had some uncharacteristic mistakes in the test, though we still won on another 64%. Overall I felt proud that we put in some good tests, but a little deflated because I felt that I could have done better, and that maybe I didn’t do my sweet little horse that tries so hard for me justice…. Now I’m excited to work on lots of homework and come back out in a few weeks to try again!
Debra and Kitty spent Saturday and the first test on Sunday doing warm up classes in prep for the RAAC. Despite the sweltering heat and a long week of work, Debra dug deep and put in an active, energetic and smooth first test of the weekend at Training level test 2, impressing the judge and winning easily and earning the high amateur score for the day with a 75.3%! They followed up that test with training level test 3 later in the day, putting in a great test, though less fluid and confident as the first test, and a few small mistakes which brought their score down a bit. Not to be deterred, Debra rode her training level test 3 warm up class on Sunday morning with determination, and despite thinking the judge’s bell from the ring next door was signaling that she was off course, Debra recovered well and rode a great test for another blue ribbon and a 74.4%, which was a great confidence booster before the Championship test. They were competing in the Elite level of the Training Level championships, and they rode a very accurate test that was unfortunately marred a little bit by a pesky bug that was buzzing around that ring, so kitty had a few moments of flipping her nose up. Even so, the judge was appreciative of Kitty and Debra’s fluid and relaxed way of going, and awarded them with the Reserve Championship for the division! We were so proud and thrilled for Debra as she and Kitty went for their victory trot with their beautiful neck ribbon!! Congratulations to Debra and Kitty!!!Vickie and William also did warm up tests on Saturday and Sunday in prep for their Championship class on Sunday afternoon. They were working on going forward in the ring and laying it all out there, and William could not have been better thanks to Vickie’s commanding riding. Vickie rode a strong training level test 2 on Saturday for a 66.9% and a fourth place. Vickie was not riding for ribbons or scores, and it showed, as each test that she rode was a personal best, and each one better than the one before it. Saturday afternoon they went through training level test 3, which was forward and correct. They took another 4th placed ribbon with some slightly harsh scoring, but rode a test that put tears in Marybeth’s eyes and made us all so proud! Sunday morning they rode training level test 3 again to practice one more time, and once again they put in a test that was even bolder and more powerful than the day before. She came in to a close third place with their best score with William to date, a 68.4%! Next up was their RAAC Novice Championship test, and though Vickie felt that maybe she had already ridden her best test earlier in the day, their championship test was still one to be very proud of. The judge agreed, bewitched by William’s hard working attitude, awarding them the championship ribbon on a score of 68.4%. We were all cheering loudly as Vickie and William made their victory lap, and couldn’t be more proud of Vickie for reaching towards this goal and ultimately exceeding her own expectations!!!
Last weekend Matt and I made the quick trip up the hill to Fairwind for a leisurely morning of dressage. Both Matt and I took the plunge and decided to see if we could count by entering 4th level test 3 for the first time with Fausto and Galaxy.
Familiar by now with the pathfinder position, Galaxy and I led the way and warmed up with 4th level test 2. Having gotten him a bit more fit since Shelly Siegel, I still found myself in the position of wishing I had about two more weeks of prep before this show, but I made the best of it and rode Galaxy like I had nothing to lose (because, really, it’s just dressage, what is there to lose? A score? I’d rather risk disappointment by trying too hard and crossing over the line than playing it safe and being boring). So, we took that attitude in to the test with us, and had a clean ride with no mistakes and some improved expression. I left the ring feeling like maybe I could have reached a bit deeper but happy and determined for the next test.
Matt then followed on Fausto at their attempt at 4th test 2, and also had a fantastic ride with super trot work and lot’s of their signature power and expression. Matt left the ring happy.
As we headed back to the warm up ring to tune a few things up, unbeknownst to me, Kristen had collected tests and scores. Matt asked me if I would like to see the test and I said opted not to, knowing that I can only fix what I can and wanting to stay focused. It remained a mystery to me that I had won the class on a score of 69.459%! I guess I should have been a little suspicious when I saw Matt warming fausto up with a little bit more gusto, since, though they scored just barely below us with a 69.054%, we had broken their winning streak, and that brought out the viciously competitive underdog in Matt!!
I headed back in to the ring for our first attempt at 4th test 3, and I was honestly just hoping to get through the test, not make a fool of myself, and not score in the 50%’s… And something amazing happened – As I rode the you-know-what out of my little horse, he began listening more and more and more, to the point that I was somewhere in the middle of the massive amount of canter work and II said to myself “wow, this is easier than I thought it would be!” We finished up the test, and I was so proud of my little horse! At that point the ladies outside of the ring could no longer keep their excitement to themselves, and shared with me my score and that I had won the class. I was thrilled, to be sure, but after a lifetime with this horse of doing fine but never pulling the crazy scores, I was just happy to have performed two tests that I could be proud of, and to be able to have left the ring with our heads held high, with our eyes towards the future. If the judge ended up liking what they saw, then that’s just icing on the cake!
As we exited the ring, Matt entered ready to throw down the gauntlet, and I think he certainly had me beat as they finished their trot work. But a few little mistakes and a tired Fausto meant that their average was brought down, and it would be a battle to the finish.
We both walked back to the trailer completely satisfied with our horses and how they performed. They got well deserved scratches, treats, and even enjoyed a lady and the tramp moment when they drank from the same bucket, nose to nose, looking starry eyed at one another as they gulped the water down. Matt and I then walked over to the office to pick up the scores, and much to my surprise, they handed the blue ribbon to me!! We scored a 70.375%, I think the first score in the 70%’s for Galaxy! Matt and Fausto also scored great at 67.250%, though you can bet he’s going to be working even harder than usual to be certain I never beat him again. I feel for poor Fausto, I fear he’s going to boot camp. Cue the theme song to Rocky…..
WAIT!!!! Before you get swept up in the musical montage of Fausto and Matt training hard with sweat bands around their foreheads, gym shorts and old school sneakers, doing push ups and squirting Gatorade in each others mouths, we MUST thank Kristen for her expert test reading. We seriously would have been doing random circles in the sand if it had not been for Kristen – though, I do think she tried to sabotage me at least once when she told me to enter the ring in trot instead of the canter… You’ve got to keep an eye on that one, she’s sneaky!
OK, let the musical montage resume!
Having local dressage shows is such a convenient and easy way to show, and we are so lucky that Santa Rosa Equestrian Center hosts many schooling shows and the rated Shelly Siegel show each year! What’s even better is that it means the horses get to sleep in their own beds each night, not miss out on too much turnout out time, and get braided in the cross ties!!!
We took advantage of the close proximity and brought a few horses out for the weekend.
Galaxy started the weekend off with an early morning ride in his first test back since having almost two months off due to a stubborn upper respiratory bug. I was a touch worried about his fitness level so we only did one day of showing, and my expectations were not very high since he had only been back to hard work for a few weeks. He was true to his trooper status and did everything that I asked of him. Our first ride (4th test 1) was fine: we did everything we were supposed to do, went all the right places, but maybe it lacked a little pizazz. But, I was still thrilled with him for getting back in to the swing of things so easily after so much time off. The judge agreed and gave us an average score of 63.875%, which I was still happy with considering the scores posted on the scoreboard for the day before reflected some tough judging. In our next test (4th test 2), I went for it a bit more, and was super pleased with our trot work. Our canter work had a few unfortunate little mistakes, plus I tried to canter down the center line for my last halt a movement too early, so we saw a lower score than what I think the overall quality was (a 61.622%). We were awarded two red ribbons for our efforts, and I was just happy to be back in the ring with Galaxy!
Matt and Fausto also came along, and we were so excited to have Sara come by with Nolan, Max and Finn to watch and cheer for Fausto! Fausto’s first test was about as foot perfect as it could have been, and it was exciting to watch. Fausto combines power and elegance so well, and Matt rides him with tact and precision. The judge was clearly impressed, scoring them a 69.429% at 4th level test 1. The next test (4th test 2) was on track to be another great one, though Fausto ran out of gas a bit in the canter work and ended up breaking to the trot a few times, bringing down their score (62.703%). This, however, was still good enough to earn Matt and Fausto two blue ribbons on Saturday, and continued them on their winning streak that they have been enjoying for the past season.
The winning streak wasn’t in danger on Sunday, with Matt and Fausto returning for one last test (a second chance at 4th test 2). Matt was certainly riding with a clear head and an eye on redemption, keeping Fausto engaged and in front of his leg for a brilliant test, a 68.649%, and another blue ribbon to add to the collection!
Debra and Vickie joined us later in the day on Saturday, starting off with Training level test 2. Debra and Kitty knocked the dust off of their show clothes and rode like they haven’t missed a beat! Their first test (T2) was rhythmic, relaxed and just lovely, showing off their new, more balanced and collected canter, which didn’t go unnoticed by the judge for a 70.714%, a first placed ribbon, and the high score for the day!!! Their second test was just as good but had a few bobbles to bring down the score for a 65.4% and a yellow ribbon. Keep in mind though, that this class had pros in it (ahem, Willy Arts on one of his many fancy schmancy things), so the competition was fierce!
Debra also returned on Sunday with a clear focus and fewer nerves (nothing like chasing your loose, gallivanting horse around the parking lot for 15 minutes to make the rest of the day feel like a breeze!). Kitty’s little pre-test liberty gallop must have been exactly what she needed, because despite the fact that she was wearing a pieced together bridle thanks to her romp, their tests were certainly not pieced together, and they came away with two more blue ribbons, and incredible scores of 72.857% and 75.2%. I also think I heard the judge mutter something about wanting Kitty for herself!
Vickie and William were next in the ring, and despite the fact that her evil twin, Mickie, had been the one riding William to the left all week, Vickie showed up to ride and kicked Mickie off of William. Once in the saddle, Vickie put together two lovely and steady tests, with great canter transitions (61.607% & 64.4%). Their scores weren’t quite what they could have been because William was lacking a little bit of that get up and go, but the improvements in the consistency and geometry from the last show were quite apparent!
Vickie also came out Sunday with more determination and focus, and kicked that boy in to gear! Again riding training level tests 2 and 3, they put together two tests that were steady and consistent, with a huge improvement in the energy level for a 66.429% and a devilish score of 66.6% for T3. Vickie has now easily earned the necessary scores to compete at the Regional Adult Amateur Championships in a few months’ time, reaching and surpassing one of her goals for the early season!
Annie and Cru also rode two training level tests on Sunday, and Cru brought his most gentlemanly behavior with him. Showcasing how much progress they have made, Annie piloted Cru through two super tests, with a soft and relaxed feel, creating a very lovely picture. The increased strength and education that Cru showed in these two tests was a convincing testament to the hard work that Annie has been putting in over the last few months! They pulled great scores of a 68.929% in T2 and a 67% in T3, and bringing home 2nd and 3rd placed ribbons for their efforts!
The drive to Montana was smooth but long. The horses traveled great, despite the fact that we took a bit of a detour when we missed the exit for 97 in Shasta, and made our way in to Oregon the wrong way. Little did we know that this little theme would rear its ugly head later on in the weekend....
We layed-over at my childhood trainers beautiful ranch in Sister, Oregon. We were lucky to be greeted by Audrey and Diana and huge grass fields for the horses to graze in for a few hours until thunder started rumbling and we tucked them in to their cozy stalls just in time for marble sized hail to begin pelting us as we scurried in to the house. We woke up bright and early (actually, dark and early) for the second leg of the journey, which was a beautiful drive through Washington, Idaho and montana. Despite killing a deer in the early morning (thanks to audrey's words the night before for reminding us not to swerve and risk a huge wreck if we happened upon a deer along the drive), the trip was smooth and we arrived at rebecca farms in the early evening on Tuesday and the horses, once again, found themselves with lots of grazing to do, with amazing views of glacier national park and the wheat and canola fields surrounding the farm.
Wednesday morning we had the In barn exams for all three horses, and Anna and Mary arrived in the early afternoon. All of the horses went for a light hack in the morning and a ride in the afternoon, and all were well behaved and had traveled really well. Somehow, despite the fact that we had five people for three horses, we seemed to be rushing from one moment to the next with lots of chores to do!
Thursday morning we had the first formal jog for all three horses, and squish and Nanook were jogging for the training level three day. Squish looked great and was clearly showing off down the jog lane, but unfortunately, Nanook showed a bit of a reoccurrence of the sore foot he had a few weeks ago down the unforgiving pavement jog lane. So, we decided to withdraw him from the competition and save him for another day, which was not an easy decision given how slight the lameness was and how far he had traveled to only sit around and graze on the Montana grass. Anna, impressively, let the change in plans and the disappointment gracefully roll off her back and made the best of the situation, spending lots of quality time with Nanook, lending a helping hand all around, and river rafting one hot afternoon.
Aida jogged next and looked great, passing the first of many tests that the weekend had in store for her.
Thursday afternoon also brought Chelsea to the show, and we were glad to catch up with her and add one more to the weekend clan!
Friday early morning brought some impressive weather, with loud rumbling thunder storms and hard showers, but by the time we woke up the sun was out and the temperatures were climbing.
Aida was Matt's first ride of the day, and they entered the main ring for the CCI* while preliminary cross country was galloping by every few minutes. Aida wanted to be tense, but she allowed Matt to manage her well, and they put in by far one of their best tests, and she was able to show off the increased strength and suppleness that she has developed over the past few months. Unfortunately, their score suffered and they almost got eliminated due to two errors of course and one low scored transition thanks to a few memory lapses on Matt's part. Thanks to the judges, they only counted three errors (instead of the actual three errors that they had) and kept matt and Aida in the class. Despite these mistakes and the costly points they took off their score, they started the weekend in fourth place in a division that was 24 strong.
Squish was next to go for Matt, in the training level three day. They put in a brilliant test that was swingy and accurate (you can bet that Matt was being quizzed by all of us on the test as he was getting ready to ride). Their ride was good enough to put them in to first place out of 19 rides.
The rest of Friday saw us sweating it out as we walked both cross country course and the roads and tracks in the heat of the day.
Saturday morning Matt and squish started out on roads and tracks and steeplechase for the training level three day, and the day went between hot, humid temps and showers. Squish was a bit sticky with the steeplechase, but came away clear, and we met Matt back at the 10 minute box in about 20 minutes for the start of phase D (or cross country). The track was big and technical, making it look like what most other venues would call a preliminary course. Matt rode squish strongly throughout the course, but squish stayed pretty backed off throughout. They ended up having a stop at a big ditch and brush, which we knew would be one of the biggest questions for squish since he is notoriously "ditchy". They quickly recovered, cleared the fence and carried on, and even though they finished up the rest of the tough course without any other problems, squish still seemed a bit overwhelmed. It was interesting to compare the feeling that Matt had underneath him after the classic format jump warm up (which is only steeplechase, no other warm up jumps), to a traditional horse trials warm up, which allows you to jump varying sizes and types of jumps as little or a much as you'd like. Ultimately, Matt felt that the traditional warm up that is done at a regular horse trials fits squish better since he can start him out small, build his confidence, and school the things that he needs to in order to get him to the start box feeling like a lion. Non the less, squish had conquered a tough, tough course, and we were really proud of him!
We then had a little bit of a break, which Matt used to walk his CCI* course again, which helped since the massive jumps certainly looked more doable upon second look.
Soon after he finished walking, it was time to climb up on Aida and head out to the warm up. As they headed out, the distant sky darkened and by the time they made it to warm up the skies opened up and we were drenched in a hot, humid, soaking rain. Unphased, Matt and Aida set out on course with one purpose, and they answered each question easily, and Aida showed us how far she has come by jumping in to 3 separate waters, jumping towards more crowds than shes seen before, and taking everything in stride. Thanks to a blocked route to one of the jumps by a steward in a golf cart and the fact that Aida started the course out wet from the rain and therefore trapping heat in and hot to start the course, they came in a bit slow, moving down two spots, but Matt could not have been happier with her!
The rest of the day was spent icing and tending to Aida and squish in order to ensure that they recovered as well as possible from the tough day, and after a long day, we all slumped in to bed around midnight and slept well but briefly since we had to wake up in time to have the horses walked, fed, loosened up and braided by 7:30 for the final horse inspection.
Matt and both horses looked quite dapper as they jogged down the lane, and both passed looking quite good!
We, once again had to contend with the rain throughout the day, but the show jump courses looked beautiful, with impressively decorated jumps and jacked up fence heights, with crowds lining the berms and tents around the rings.
Aida was the first to go for Matt, and she warmed up great. They left all of the rails in their cups but had two time penalties since Aida was a touch backed off by all of the crowds. Still, they moved up one place with one of only 4 rounds without any jumping penalties and finished the weekend in 5th place, and we are just so incredibly proud of her! She has majorly stepped up and answered every question posed of her throughout the weekend, and just really grew up!
Squish followed up Aida pretty quickly, and he also put in a truly beautiful double clear round, despite the fact that they had a dog run in to the ring and almost get tanged up in their feet twice throughout the course! They finished the weekend that was almost foot prefect for squish in a bittersweet 11th place, almost having brought home the win if not for one little misstep. We still are so proud of squish and so happy with the progress he has made, and know that his future is looking quite bright with just a little bit more work and experience!
Sunday night saw us saying goodbye to Anna, Mary, and Chelsea and us heading back to the stables to walk the ponies and prep for the first leg of journey back home. Unfortunate, I woke up in the middle of the night pondering if the manure pile or the porta potty would be the best place to throw up my dinner, which meant that Matt had to drive most of the way back to Oregon the next day (it was the manure pile, for those of you who were wondering!).
Last night we pulled in to Audrey and Diana's in the dark after driving through a smoldering lightning fire about 50 miles away from sister, and we tucked the ponies in for the night.
Now we are driving back, a few hours from home, and ready for sleep!!!
Thanks to Sophie for the help and for providing much comic relief for the weekend, thanks also to Chelsea for all of the extra help and of course Mary and Anna for all of the support and fun throughout the weekend, as well as coming through with the awesome pink Wellies when my tennis shoes were fully soaked through on Sunday. Hopefully we can have a do over next year, and hopefully we will get to bring more of you along with us to what is surely the most beautiful, well run event in the country!
It’s been a little while since we told of the trials and tribulations of the East West Team, so we thought we would get you all updated with the events of the last few months! In September we packed Squishy, Ping, Buddy, Beau. Hollywood, Homer, Miel and Slew in their respective trailers to make the trek down to Paso Robles for the Twin Rivers HT. We were readying ourselves for the typical sauna-like conditions that is Paso Robles in late Summer, and while it certainly wasn’t jacket weather, it could have been much worse, and we were thankful for the relatively mild temperatures that greeted us when we arrived. (Though, we arrived at midnight on Wednesday night, and lord help us if the weather isn’t mild at midnight, but I digress…)
Friday morning began with Julie and Ping starting things off for the team in the prelim rider division. This was to be their final prep before tackling their first one star together, so Julie was hoping for a good, solid showing. Despite a few hairy moments in warm up, when a head flinging Ping must have given the competition some glimmer of hope that they may have a chance at beating the seemingly unbeatable duo, Julie and Ping were able to smooth things out for the test and turn in another fantastic round for a score of 24.8, and the second placed position heading in to Cross country on Saturday. In an effort to push herself with the upcoming one star in mind, Julie set out to find a quick and easy pace on Cross country. Julie found a great rhythm and posted a very efficient and smooth double clear round, which moved them up to the first place spot overnight. Not one to let the pressure get to her (and having the comfort of a few rails in hand), Julie and Ping turned in a clutch performance with one of only two double clear show jumping rounds in a division that was 18 strong, winning on her dressage score by a whopping 14 points!
Matt and Squishy were the next to go for the group, and Matt was looking to give Squish another confidence building round at this, his second start at Prelim. They started the weekend off well with a 31.3 and a test that could have been better, but could also have been much worse given that right as the judge’s bell rung Squish threw in a massive spin inspired by the horse in the ring next door doing his extended canter directly towards him. Matt was able to reel Squish back in and keep his nerves in check, and score well enough to start the weekend out in 3rd place going in to cross country. Matt’s goal for Squish cross-country was to find a good pace and build his confidence, without an eye on time or placing. This strategy turned out to work in his favor, and they put in a lovely round that was 2 seconds under optimum time, which moved them up to 1st place. They went on to have a super round on Sunday morning, finishing on their dressage score to win the division by 5 points at his second time out at the level! Squish truly did look like he belonged at the head of the victory gallop, and we just could not be any more proud of him and the progress he has made!!
We were so glad to have Jeanne and Slew from down in Woodside join us for the weekend, and they sure did the group proud by putting in an absolutely gorgeous and well prepared dressage test to score a 31.5, placing them in 2nd out of 12 in their Senior Novice division. They followed dressage up with another solid ride across country, galloping through the finish flags with big pats for Slew and no penalties added to their score. Sunday afternoon the novice division show jumped, and Jeanne showed some nerves of steel by riding another double clear round, with Slew jumping with his knees at his eyeballs. They both beamed as they took a victory lap around the ring with a red ribbon hanging from Slew’s bridle. Congratulations Jeanne and Slew!!
Carol and Beau were also competing in the Senior Novice division, with this being Carol’s first time out at the level she swore up, down, left and right she would never even consider!! Thanks to the powers of persuasion, a few idle threats, and one amazing horse, Carol arrived at Twin Rivers as confident as one could expect, and fully prepared. They put in a trademark pleasing and steady dressage test for a 35, and a 5th placed position heading in to cross country. Despite the fact that Carol nicknamed her most dreaded jumps on course things like “blue death” and “man from snowy river”, she set out to conquer the course and that she did, coming home with only 2 time penalties, maintaining her 5th placed spot. Sunday’s show jumping saw Carol and Beau deliver one of their most polished and rhythmic rounds to date, which was only slightly marred by a bonus circle that Carol added when she questioned whether fence 3 was in fact her jump since the number had blown down in the wind. She quickly regained her composure and finished the course as well as she had started it, and still came home with a pink ribbon and a fantastic start to her Novice career!!
Homer was out for his first event, and though the warm up must have resembled the track to him, bringing out a few exciting moments, he put it all together in the dressage court and earned a score that was better than we expected, and headed in to show jumping in 6th place in Open Beginner Novice. The atmosphere around the show jump ring also overwhelmed him a bit, and he was very distracted on course until a jump would come in to view, which he would proceed to jump in beautiful form until landing, when the next distraction would set in. This made for an entertaining round for the spectators, but Thanks to Matt’s skilled piloting, he was able to get him around with no jump penalties and only 1 time penalty. Homer’s greenness finally caught up with him on Sunday’s cross country where he jumped all of the jumps beautifully, but took one moment too long and one backwards step at the entrance to the water to pick up a stop and move down to 12th place. Though the weekend didn’t go perfectly, Homer gave us a lot to be excited about and we have high hopes and expectations for him once he figures this whole thing out!
Brianna played groom for Hollywood this weekend so that Matt could take him around the Beginner Novice course. Things were looking quite promising in the dressage warm up, and we were all very optimistic about the test that was about to be performed, until Matt went to turn in to the dressage court only to have Hollywood get distracted and worried about a horse that was rearing and carrying on next to warm up. Making good use of the 45 seconds around the dressage court, Matt settled Hollywood as best he could and entered the ring. Hollywood was tense and had one little moment that gave away his worry, but was able to recover quickly and become more and more relaxed to finish the test well and start the weekend off in 8th place out of 17 starters. Beginner Novice Show jumped on Saturday, and Hollywood showed how far he has come and how much bravery he has gained over the past few months by jumping a beautiful double clear round, showcasing his gorgeous style over fences. Sunday’s XC was a walk in the park for him, and he finished on his dressage score, moving up to 6th place for the weekend.
Molly brought Miel out for his first eventing experience, and due to her show experience at Training level, was forced in to the big leagues with the pros in Open Beginner Novice. Not to be deterred, Molly gave Miel an incredibly tactful and mature introduction to the sport, and it was very gratifying to watch them both grow in confidence as they added to their partnership over the weekend. Miel began his dressage test a little tense and uncertain, but with Molly’s cool head, he finished the test looking like a real contender, with a relaxed frame, big swingy step, and lovely transitions. A lovely double clear show jump round helped them move up the rankings in the highly competitive Open division. Miel came out eager to please and enjoying himself on Sunay morning for cross country, and truly seemed to have a smile on his face as he galloped around the course. Molly, too, couldn’t hide the grin that she had on her face, and I hope it was a reflection of the pride that she should be feeling in herself and in Miel for the hard work, patience, and dedication that she has put in to him over these past few months. I hope she feels as proud of herself as we do of her for her 11th placed finish in a large and tough division!
Mairin and Buddy rounded out the group, and they were also competing in their first Novice together. Though Buddy had some pesky and distracting nerves firing in the sunny afternoon, Mairin was able to guide him through a very smooth test, scoring a 32.5 which put them in to 10th place in a tightly packed and competitive Junior Novice division. They ran cross country on Saturday, and Mairin showed a great deal of composure and helped Buddy grow in bravery around the course, bringing him home double clear and moving up a few places in the standings. On Sunday, Mairin was able to, once again, pilot Buddy masterfully around the twisting and turning show jump course for a double clear round, finishing on their dressage score and in 7th place in their first Novice together!!
The weekend turned out to be more successful than we could have hoped or planned for, and we are so thankful to be surrounded by such amazing horses, and such a dedicated group of students and family members. And of course, we have to Thank Kristen for helping to make the laps to and from the barns and arenas fewer, the horses shiny and beautiful, the work less overwhelming, and the days a little shorter!
Woodside International Horse Trials – October 2012
We arrived at the Woodside International Horse Trials this last week with a great group of horses and riders and plenty of anticipation. We were ready to stack ourselves up against the other competitors and see if our hard work was going to pay off.
Julie and Ping, who were there to contest their first CIC* together, had a busy day on Thursday with In-barn exams, and the ever-exciting jog in the afternoon. Julie and Ping looked like winners as they strutted down the jog lane, and though there was a hairy moment when Ping was held and asked to jog again, they passed the second trot up and could begin focusing on the next hurdle: calming the fit beast enough for dressage! A successful warm up and a lunge or two later, Ping and Julie entered the International arena, complete with waving flags, a billowy VIP tent ringside, and most of the show jump course built alongside the dressage court. Our hearts were pounding a little as we watched, wondering which Ping Pong would show up to play today, the one that thinks flying changes are preferred over counter canter, and that a little buck and fart never hurt anyone (Mrs. Pong), or the one that usually shows up for dressage, which is the perfect picture of relaxation and submission (Dr. Ping). We were hoping for the latter, and were lucky enough to get most of Dr. Ping and very little of Mrs. Pong, though she did come out twice briefly during the canter work. Thankfully the judges were impressed enough with the test to award Julie and Ping 54.7 penalties, which put them in 4th place among a tightly packed group going in to show jumping later that afternoon. As Julie got ready to warm up for SJ, we watched first placed rider’s lovely mare slip in the turn in the warm up arena, which gave her a good knock to her head, and rattled us all as we wringed our hands hoping she would be ok to compete. Unfortunately, she knocked her head hard enough that she had to withdraw. A little rattled by the whole thing, Julie rode carefully around the course, not quite trusting the footing after watching a horse slip for no good reason. Julie gave Ping a good ride, and Ping jumped well, which meant that they finished with a clear jumping round and 2 time penalties, which moved them up to 3rd overnight. Sunday morning’s XC proved to be very influential, with only 6 of the 9 starters finishing the course, and of those 6, only 3 finished without jumping penalties. No one made the time in the one star, but Julie came the closest with 0.8 time penalties, which moved her all the way up to the top of the leaderboard! You can bet we all cheered a little obnoxiously loud for Julie as she accepted her ribbon, and yes, her 3rd saddle won in less than a year!!! Congratulations to Julie on a very well deserved win, you and Ping have worked so hard and methodically towards this goal, and you are both very worthy champions!!!
Matt rode Squishy in the Open Prelim division, in a quest to get one of Squish’s last two scores in order to qualify for the CCI* at Galway later this fall. Matt and Squishy have done a lot of work in the dressage and were able to put in a solid test that was almost good enough… Squishy, being Squishy, found the one moment when Matt maybe relaxed just a smidge in the lengthened canter, and took that opportunity to teach Matt a lesson by leaping and playing a bit. They still did well enough to score a 28.7 and sit in 6th place out of 18 heading in to Cross Country. Squishy, having figured this eventing game out by now, was quite exuberant in the warm up ring for XC, shaking his head, spinning and striking as he landed off of warm up jumps. Circling the start box before they set out he had the starters and the President of the Ground Jury chuckling as he squealed and tossed his head. Unsure of whether or not this meant Squish would get down to business once on course, Matt was soon pleasantly surprised by Squish’s focus on the job at hand, and they coasted around, finishing right on optimum time, moving up two spots to 4th going in to Sunday’s show jumping. Once again, Squish did not disappoint, seeming no worse for the wear on Sunday morning, celebrating after the fences in warm up, and posting a double clear round to hold on to 4th place in a super competitive and tough division! Now Squish goes to Ram Tap to try to get that last qualifying score for the one star, so wish him luck!!!
Wasting no time after their successful first outing at Novice, Carol and Beau returned to the show ring to contest their second event at the level. Though I only got to see the tail end of Carol’s test since the one star showjumping and Novice dressage were happening simultaneously, I could tell by their final few movements and Matt’s approving nod that the test had been good, and was able to see that for myself when the scores came in and she was placed 3rd out of 10 starters with a 35. Though they had one silly rail early in showjumping, carol rode better and better as she settled in to a rhythm, and despite the rail, stayed in 3rd place going in to cross-country on Sunday. Though Carol came off of the cross country course with a wild look in her eye, she slowly allowed us to think that we had convinced her that she was not, in fact, going out of control at advanced speed as it felt to her, and that she was, actually, going at a lovely novice pace. The scoreboard backed up our argument when it showed she was just 10 seconds under optimum time, which moved her up one place, coming in second only to Sophie and Cursive! Not bad at all for someone who swore novice would never happen in her lifetime!!
Sophie and Cursive were the next of the group to go, and it was so incredibly nice to have this pair (and Rebecca) back in action after Cursive’s scary bout of colitis and long hospitalization this Spring. Wanting to take it easy in her return to competition, Sophie entered Cursive at Novice. Cursive was clearly excited to be back, and it showed as she circled the dressage court. She was all flinging legs and rapid snorts, but Sophie quickly composed herself and rode Cursive as if she was schooling at home and not at a show, which helped to relax Cursive, and by the time they turned off of the centerline at C they were well on their way to putting in a smooth and pretty test. Heading in to Saturday’s show jumping they were 5th out of ten, and after a round that sounded like it had plenty of faults, they crossed the finish flags to loud applause and the exclamation of a double clear round. Obviously, in all of that time off, Cursive had plenty of time to ponder exactly how she might be able to tick the rails without having them topple out of their cups, and clearly her technique was perfected here this weekend. Their clear SJ round helped them move up to sit in 2nd place as they exploded out on to the cross-country course. Their round looked easy and never in doubt, and they came home double clear, which moved them up to win the division on their dressage score. It was a sweet, sweet feeling to have that mare back in action. She is such an amazing partner to Sophie, and they showed this weekend how the strong bond that they had before has become even stronger, and how ready they are to continue to overcome tough challenges together.
Mairin and Buddy were also competing in the Novice division this weekend, and like Carol, it was their second time out at the level. They rode a lovely test that was highlighted by really rhythmic trot work and some textbook canter transitions. A tiny bobble or two made it in to their otherwise seamless test, but it was still good enough to score a 34.5, which was good enough for 5th place out of 14 starters and only 2.5 points out of 1st place. They had the same silly rail that Carol had in show jumping, but Buddy jumped the rest of the course very tidily and they finished with only the one rail to move them up in to 4th place. Mairin and Buddy came out ready to attack the cross country course on Sunday, and that they did, with a smooth and confident round, coming home double clear, moving them up one more spot in to 3rd place for the weekend!
Homer came back out for a second try at Beginner Novice, and this time he was more prepared and we had a better sense of what he would be like away from home. He was able to put in a good dressage test, once again, better than we expected given where his training is at right now, which put him in to 5th place out of 22 going in to show jumping, and only 2 points out of the lead. Show jumping was a bit dicey as he was very reactive to the sound of applause at the end of each round, so Matt had to keep him down in the lower warm up until it was their turn, but once he got in the ring he was 100% focused and put in a really lovely double clear round that was almost suited for the hunter ring. Armed with a better plan for showing Homer the water before he had to go through the flags, he was able to come home double clear cross-country and jumped a beautiful round to move up to finish the weekend in 3rd place on his dressage score!
And last but not least, we were lucky enough to have Sherry Harvey and her horse Harley, one of Matt’s students from his monthly Woodside clinics, join us for the weekend. They were such a lovely addition to the group, and it was such a pleasure to help guide them through their first horse trials together. Sherry was so enthusiastic about the experience, and Harley was such a big-hearted guy throughout the whole weekend, they showed that they have an enviable partnership together! Sherry smiled her way through her Beginner Novice dressage test, with lovely trot work and balanced canter work. They were able to move up quite a few places after a single rail show jump round ended up being one of the best in the division. Their clean and quick cross country round propelled them up the standings even more to land them firmly in the second placed spot, bringing home an engraved halter and more awesome loot to remember their first event together. Congratulations to Sherry and Harley on a very promising beginning to what will undoubtedly be a great career together!
To say we went home feeling satisfied and proud of our horses and students would be an understatement. You never know what each show will bring, where you will measure up amongst your piers and what lessons you will learn, and it is always a wonderful feeling when you can leave a show feeling confident in your program and where you are at in your learning and development. One can never know what is in store at the next show or around the next turn, and horses and horse showing sure do have a way of humbling us at seemingly wrong (and right) times. Because of that, it is never a mistake to enjoy, just for a moment, that feeling when everything seems to have come together. Hard work and disappointment are never very far removed from success, and in truth, always seem to be necessary in order to achieve success, so we will revel in this moment that these amazing horses and students have given to us, and we will come home and work harder to create more of these moments. Thanks to all, you are amazing!
We had quite a group with us for the October 2012 Ram Tap. This was a bittersweet show as it was supposed to be our last time at Ram Tap since at that time the plans were to close the venue down for good. Though Ram Tap is rough around the edges, with many demons to be found lurking in the ill-timed train whizzing past, the hectic shooting range across the street, the highway alongside the xc course, and the high voltage power lines draped overhead and buzzing underfoot. Even so, it has been the first event for many generations of California eventers, and a staple in Matt’s eventing Calendar since he was a boy. So, it was fitting that we brought a group of students and horses that represented some first timers, and some seasoned competitors to East West’s last trip to Ram Tap.
Starting the weekend off were Matt and Squishy in the Open Prelim division. Squish was at Ram Tap to pick up his last necessary qualification for the CCI* at Galway in a few weeks time, so we were hoping for a clutch performance from him. He put in a nice, obedient dressage test, though the judge was not especially enthused and awarded them with a mediocre score, putting them in 5th place out of 11 horses heading in to XC. Since Matt was simply going for a confidence building round in prep for the one star, he didn’t put the pedal to the metal on XC, and came home with a clean jumping round but 14 time to stay in 5th place overnight. Sunday’s showjumping was riding as one always expects at Ram Tap: with lots of rails and time. Matt and Squish defied the odds and put in the only double clear round of the division, which moved them up to finish in 2nd place, and feeling confident for the upcoming one star at Galway!
Jeanne Carley and Slew joined us down in Fresno, competing in the Senior Novice division. Though I missed their dressage test while I was back at the barn braiding, all reports were that it was a solid performance, though maybe not as brilliant as they can be. Even so, they started the weekend off in 5th place out of 16 riders. The cross country proved to ride tough for many in all of the divisions, and Slew and Jeanne weren’t lucky enough this weekend to be the exception. They had a super round until Slew took a peek at the water, giving them an unfortunate 20, but a good reminder for Jeanne to ride a bit stronger for Galway. Their blip at the water moved them down a few spots in to 11th place. As usual, the SJ was riding tough on Sunday, and Slew just ticked two rails, which usually one would think would spell trouble, but at Ram Tap two rails is not a bad tally to exit the arena with, helping Jeanne to climb back up one spot to finish a good prep weekend in 10th place.
Molly and Miel tackled his first Novice and second-ever event. Molly used all of her patience and poise to coax a flustered Miel through the dressage, and though they started the weekend out in 14th place, we could not have been more proud of Molly for keeping her cool while Miel fretted about the electric Ram Tap atmosphere and the nearby chugging train. Miel and Molly blazed around the XC, but his inexperience caught up with them at the water where he hesitated for a moment too long. Miel still crossed the finish flags having gained in confidence, which showed on Sunday when they put in a strong double clear, one of only a few in the division, to climb their way up to finish in 10th place.
East West had quite the presence in the Senior Beginner Novice division, with Annie, Vickie, Tory and Heidi all competing.
Annie and Cru conquered a fairly exciting warm up to put in a lovely test that wowed the judge for a 24.5 and the first placed position heading in to XC on Saturday. Vickie and William came to play as well, showing some pizazz in the dressage court to garner a 27 and a tie for 2nd place. Heidi and Mae were competing in their first event together, and put in a forward and relaxed test that we thought couldn’t have been any better, but was underscored with a 32.5 for 6th place. Tory and Lilac put in one of their best tests, with Lilac staying obedient throughout, though they too were a touch shorted for a 34.5 and 7th place. Matt was busy in the warm up with all 4 ladies going in rapid succession on Saturday. Annie and Cru had a super ride across the country, adding nothing to their score and holding on to 1st place going in to SJ. Vickie and William followed suit and came home beaming and double clear. Heidi and Mae looked great but lost focus for one moment for one silly little stop at the water out on course, moving down a few spots. Tory and Lilac made the course look easy, so we were very surprised to get the report back from Tory that they had a stop towards the end of the course when Lilac spooked at a jump decoration. Tory admitted that she was finally starting to relax, and even thought to herself that the course was easier than she had anticipated, learning the valuable lesson that it ain’t over til you cross the finish flags, no matter how well it’s going! Their stop moved them down in the division to enter the show jump ring on Sunday in 17th place. But a truly beautiful double clear round moved them up to finish an educational weekend in 16th place. Heidi and Mae followed Tory and also performed a lovely round with one time penalty to move up in to 14th place overall! Vickie kept the pressure on Annie by riding a bold and forward double clear round to finish her first beginner novice in 2nd place. Annie and Cru rose to the challenge and also rode a double clear round for the win, making them two for two so far in Cru’s first season eventing!
Heidi had a busy weekend, also riding Wesley in his first eventing start in the Senior Intro Beginner Novice division. Though Heidi had a shortened warm up on Wesley thanks to being outnumbered by her horses and their needs, Heidi took everything in stride and managed to ride a very nice test to earn a 35 and the 2nd placed position heading in to XC on Saturday. Wesley rode great for Heidi on cross-country, and they held on to their spot overnight. Heidi had a great round in SJ on Sunday, keeping Wesley balanced and well under control, which, frustratingly meant that they picked up 8 time penalties, dropping them down to finish in 3rd place. Not discouraged at all, Heidi had much to be proud of!
Rounding out the group, Brianna and Hollywood made their debut together in the Junior Intro Beginner Novice division. They somehow found themselves in a warm up surrounded by little white ponies, bringing what must be one of Hollywood’s worst fears to fruition. Brianna kept her composure well and helped Hollywood relax as much as he could, putting in a respectable test with glimmers of what a great partnership they have developed over this, their first year together. They started the weekend out in 11th place, and a steady XC round with 1.2 time penalties kept them there. On Sunday they had a faultless SJ round to move up two spots to finish the weekend in 9th place.
The weekend turned out to be one of new beginnings all around, as many of our students kicked off their careers with their young or new horses, and Ram Tap found a second lease on life with a generous eventer stepping in to run it in the future as the Fresno County Horse Park. So, we drove out of there saying Goodbye to Ram Tap not forever, but just until next time…
Most eventers think of November as the time of year to take a well deserved break, and give the horses a little bit of time off. While many horses in the rest of the country have started their off-season rest, we in sunny California head out to one last show, arguably one of the most important shows on the west coast calendar: Galway Downs. We worked hard all season to peak the horses in time to perform their best down in Temecula.
Squishy and Ping Pong were entered in the CCI*, meaning that the first hurdle didn’t start with dressage, rather, it began with getting all gussied up for the jogs. After what is now known as “Woodside-gate”, we all had our fingers crossed that Ping would look as good to the ground jury as she does to us, though to say we weren’t all feeling a little tense when we heard over the loudspeaker that horse after horse was being held by the ground jury for a second look would be a lie. There was surely a large collective sigh of relief when she trotted down that jog lane looking like a million bucks, and thankfully the announcer wasted no time uttering those delicious words “Accepted” before Julie and Ping even exited the jog strip. Squish and Matt jogged after Julie, and though Squish has never taken a lame step, there’s nothing like 4 pairs of scrutinizing FEI ground jury eyes boring holes in to your horse’s backside to make you doubt yourself. Squish also passed without a moment’s hesitation, and our attention quickly shifted to the dressage tests that both Julie and Matt would perform later that day. Little did we know that there was a controversy brewing between the officials about Matt’s jog outfit. Two factions emerged, one that thought Matt’s fedora hat was dapper, and another that thought he looked like, in Ian’s Stark’s words, a “pimp”. When Matt was left off of the list of people in contention for the Best Dressed contest, we knew that something was afoot. By Saturday night, Katie (event secretary extraordinaire) let us know that there were still heated arguments taking place between the two factions. We were contemplating having Matt arrive to Sunday morning’s jog with an ankle length fur coat, a feather in said fedora and two bikini clad ladies on his arms, but we thought better of it and dressed him in a dashing dubarry cap instead. We did, however, convince Julie to embrace her inner pimp, and she donned the fedora proudly for Sunday’s jog.
But I digress; this is an event recap and not a fashion blog…. Julie and Ping were in the first CCI* group to ride dressage on Thursday afternoon, and they put any fears of an early-ride disadvantage to rest by leading the division after the first day on a 42.5. They almost held on to that lead until the end of the second day of dressage when Erin Kellerhouse and her lovely mare put in a brilliant test to take over the lead, which meant Julie headed in to XC in 2nd place out of 48 starters.
Matt and Squish rode towards the end of the Thursday afternoon group, and also put in career best test for Squish, which much like the fedora, had the judges divided. One judge placed Squish in the top 3 of the division, and the other placed him out of the top ten, so they averaged to put Matt and Squish in 7th after dressage on a 45.6.
Friday was a day of hacking for Squish and Ping, but it was dressage and stadium day for Sophie and Jeanne. Sophie rode her Training level dressage test in the morning, and though the test highlighted a much more uphill frame for Cursive, some geometry issues kept them from scoring proportionately to the quality of their ride. So they went in to show jumping in 15th place. Cursive was certainly excited to be back to showing, and her exuberance showed in SJ where Sophie had her hands full containing the fiery grey mare. They pulled a few rails, though still managed to move up a place in to 14th.
Jeanne and Slew performed their Senior Novice dressage test later that morning, and put in a super steady and nicely forward test to earn a 32.5 and 4th place after dressage. An equally brilliant SJ round that left all of the rails in their cups moved them up to 3rd place heading in to XC on Sunday.
Jeanne and Sophie took Saturday off while Matt and Julie got themselves pumped up for their XC rounds. It was a good day for cross-country, and Julie and Ping started off on course. Though Ping took a few hard looks at some of the questions early on course, they were in their groove by the time they reached the massive down bank in to the lower field, and they finished the course clear and inside the time, still in 2nd place. Matt and Squish followed Julie, and Squish surprised us by happily leaping over the multiple ditches on course (his previous nemesis), but balking at the pro-log drop in to the first water. They picked up an annoying 20 there, and Matt eased up on him a bit around the rest of the course, letting Squish cruise around to gain confidence. They finished the day with 20 jump penalties and some time, but Matt was proud of Squish non-the-less, having known that this would be a challenge for him, being only his 5th start at the level.
Both Ping and Squish recovered well over night, and looked fresh as daisies on Sunday morning. Matt went early on in the division, and put in a great double clear round that was even called “perfect” by Bea when Matt exited the ring. Matt gave Squish a big appreciative pat and smooch and handed his reins off to me so that he could start warming Julie up.
Always one to thrive under pressure, Julie was riding great, and we all felt confident as she entered the ring. Well, we felt as confident as one can feel when you also feel so nervous that you might wet your pants…. Julie did not have a rail in hand and the 3rd placed rider was less than one point behind her, but Julie and Ping put in a flawless performance to finish on their dressage score. 2nd place would have been a massive achievement, but when the first placed rider struggled a bit, it meant Julie and Ping moved up in to first place, and capped off an incredible year of many victories with one final and important win! Matt’s beaming and cheering during Julie’s victory gallop was only eclipsed by Julie’s husband Andrew’s proud grin and hoots. Julie and Ping’s win at Galway also catapulted them up the USEA’s leaderboard, where Julie finished 2012 as the 5th placed Adult Amateur at the Preliminary level for the country, and Ping Pong finished as the 3rd placed Preliminary horse!!
While Matt and Squish were warming up for showjumping, Sophie and Cursive were blazing around the cross-country course. Cursive finally got to put all of that exuberance to good use, and Sophie couldn’t have ridden any better. Their double clear round helped them to move up a few more spots to finish the division in 12th place. Though it wasn’t quite the result that Sophie was hoping for, it was a positive end to a year that saw Cursive fighting for her life at the beginning of it. We were all so happy to see Cursive out there with her girl, looking strong (maybe too strong!) as ever!
Jeanne and Slew rounded out the weekend and the year by besting their 2011 result here at Galway and putting in a solid double clear XC round that was never in doubt. Slew was perky the whole way around course, and Jeanne gave him a determined ride, which helped them move up and finish the weekend in 2nd place!
Now we are home, with the horses finally in their fields, enjoying their well deserved rest. Congratulations to all on a brilliant 2012. Hard work and dedication certainly paid off, and we know we will continue to see amazing things from all of you in 2013. We are endlessly thankful to spend our days with such a supportive and enthusiastic group of students, and we are looking forward to continuing to grow with you all in the New Year!
Greetings from sunny (what?!) Ireland!
Somehow we seemed to have brought autumn in California with us to Ireland. Though we don't expect it to last, it sure made looking at 12 (yes, that’s right, I said 12) horses today way more pleasant!
If anyone was wondering, the Irish people must truly be the kindest, most friendly and disarming group of people we've ever met, and we could not feel anymore welcome.
What's more important is that the horses may even be nicer than the people. We would happily come home with any one of the horses we saw today and feel like lucky people. Martin, of Goresbridge horse sales, was so charming and knowledgeable, and we were at a beautiful facility called Barnadown owned by Maurice Cousins (the Irish pronounce Maurice like Morris, and makes the name sound so charming!).
For those of you who want to take a look online at the Goresbridge Go for Gold auction site, you can see some of the horses we saw today. At dinner we came up with our list of top 4, which we were hard pressed to do and it turned in to a list of top 4 with alternates....
So, our top so far are:
1. Mousa Kousa (lot 4)
2. Barnadown who's who (lot 30)
3. Oistin (lot 49)
4. She's a tomboy (lot 51)
5. Bondi beach (lot 7)
6. SRS equality (lot 37).
Mousa Kousa is a lovely 5 year old, big and tall with the most amazing tail there possibly could be. He has a very sweet and intelligent eye with a placid sensitivity to him that gives him a special edge. His jump is smooth and easy, but he seems to be super careful and scopey. He is a horse that would be impossible not to get noticed on.
Barnadown who's who is also a big boy, 4 years old with a super lofty trot that you could ride all day. His walk is swanky and his canter is huge. He has a great jump with lots of scope, and also that je ne sais quois about him. He's workmanlike and mentally engaged in his work.
Oistin is a 4 year old that's got super gaits and a jump that is just begging for something bigger. He's quite careful and bold and makes everything look easy. He also has a trot you could ride for days and a gorgeous face.
She's a tomboy is a 4 year old that is a powerhouse. Her jump is unreal, and she has that X factor that can't be explained or pinpointed, but it's undeniable. Only problem with her is that she stuck her tongue out some. She's evented a bit already and done well with no tongue issues then, but she seems like a bit of a gamble given that we saw quite a bit of her tongue today. If not for that she would be our hands down top pick.
Bondi beach is a teensy little five year old chestnut gelding that is a super compact Ferrari of a horse. His jump was out of this world, with scope, adjustability and carefulness in spades. He had a snarky moment on the flat, and he's not that big swingy type that we were picturing, so in some ways he tops the list and in others he seems a touch risky.
SRS equality is another four year old gelding with an awesome trot and a great walk and canter. His jump is incredible, and he just missed making our top four.
And last but not least we got to see an unnamed (how could anyone have an unnamed horse?!) three year old grey gelding that has the same sire and damsire as galaxy. I was hoping he would look like a mule and move like a camel so that I could forget him forever, seeing as buying a horse for me is not in the plan or the budget, but unfortunately he is fancier than galaxy and seems super level headed and absolutely lovely. Crap!!!
It was an incredible experience today looking at nice horse after nice horse. We probably could close our eyes and say eenie meenie miny mo and come home with a top class horse, so we find ourselves in the enviable position right now of having too many nice horses to consider.
Tomorrow we will meet up with Derek and Bea to see more horses, some that are a bit older and more experienced. We will update you all on those tomorrow night if we can!
We hope you all are doing well, we wish we could share this experience with all of you, it is truly once in a lifetime and we can't wait until we decide who we will bring home!!!
Cheers from Ireland!
Cecily and Matt
East West Training Stables
We a writing to you from London. We landed here on Thursday at Paddington station from Swindon (in the country). After getting our massive bags stuck in the turnstiles leaving the train station and looking very much like the less traveled Americans, we found respite in the nearest hotel (literally at the train station because we couldn't figure out how to get out of the train station!). Having grand ideas of taking the train to Paris for a few days, we quickly realized how tired we were, and more importantly, how ridiculously big are bags were, and abandoned the plan to leave Paddington station.
From here we have slept in, visited the Mayfair district and Hyde park, had great dinners nearby and have plans to walk down to Harrods to see what all the fuss is about and hopefully we will still have the energy to walk down to the Thames and see some more sights. We fly home on Monday and feel truly inspired to get back down to business after being at the incredible yards of the likes of legends like Rodney Powell, Mark Todd, and up and coming under 25 rider Gemma Tattersall, to name a few. Oh, and we also met Michael Jackson. He's a really nice blonde guy with some really nice horses. Go figure. Sadly, we failed to come up with any jokes that he hasn't heard a thousand times before.
We ultimately decided not to bid on any horses in the auction, though there were many that we were interested in. After spending a few days in Ireland trying horses, and then heading to England, it seemed that, though the horses in the auction were lovely, well presented and had loads of potential, we were probably going to pay more for the ones we liked and we had seen enough very nice, more experienced horses by Wednesday afternoon that we were fairly certain we weren't going to want to take a risk on a four year old. It was sure hard to let those auction horses go, and Wednesday night was agonizing, watching some of our top picks get sold for both surprisingly high, and surprisingly low prices. We truly do hope that we can come back again next year and for many years to come, as there is no experience like it in the states that can even compare to the experience of having so many high quality horses in one spot, as well as the hospitality and kindness of the hosts of the sale.
Ultimately, our three days spent in Ireland trying horses was a marathon of rising early and going to bed late, long dinners in the pub sorting out the day's events, and hair raising drives through just about the whole of Ireland, squeezing in to tight streets and whizzing through quaint old towns and hedge lined roads, slowing down for the occasional horse and rider ambling along the roads. We spent some time at Fernhill Sporthorses, having nice horse after nice horse paraded out in front of us for a few hours. Many of the horses had just been bought from another sale, and we part pitied, part revered the brave rider that had to be the first one on the three and four year olds that had just arrived only hours before. That is quite an operation that they have there, and there was something impressive about so many sales horses coming and going, eagerly looking for their own people to hopefully make their way through the yard. We did like one horse there very much, named Fernhill Flaxen. He's a six year old tb/Irish sporthorse gelding that has shown up to CIC* and national Intermediate. Though you can tell that he's not had the advantage of being ridden and developed by just one rider, he has a very sweet and generous attitude, and may just be a bit of a sleeper in what he truly has underneath his quiet exterior. Both Bea and Derek liked him, which, as we quickly discovered in the first few hours of the first day that we had them with us, would be a challenge to find a horse that pleased their seasoned and finely tuned eyes. After seeing so many nice horses on our first day of looking before Bea and Derek arrived, we were so excited about the quality of horse that we were seeing that we were not being nearly discerning enough to be able to pick out the good athlete from the exceptional, one in a million athlete. I have to admit, we were a bit brought down at first, feeling like we couldn't completely trust ourselves as we were getting too caught up with the excitement. We were a little subdued, confused, and sad to have Bea and Derek leave us as we finished up our trip in Ireland and made our way to England, struggling to sift our way through the forty or so horses that we had seen over the past four days. Each night we worked to come up with a list of top contenders, reluctantly dropping the last night's top picks as we replaced them with new ones, re-sorting the deck, second guessing ourselves, trying to stay pragmatic while still wondering if we were ever going to get that magical feeling deep down in our bones that everyone told us we would feel when we finally saw "the right one".
As we pushed our baggage through the crowded and slow as molasses security line at the Dublin airport, we rallied ourselves for the next three days of horses shopping that was to come in England.
Leslie Law picked us up from Heathrow airport, and we were instantly buoyed by his upbeat and lighthearted attitude, despite the late hour and the drive that we had ahead of us to Swindon. With every seat of the car filled, and bags on the laps of everyone but Leslie, our driver, we made our way through the English countryside to the royal oak bed and breakfast which is nestled in the many acres of Helen Browning's organic pig, dairy and vegetable farm. Though it certainly was not the Hilton, we all had the best sleep of the trip in those beds, and woke early on Monday morning feeling somewhat refreshed and ready for the second leg of the marathon.
We had been lucky, so far, to only have one morning of rain, but it was certainly coming down on Monday as we drove up to Leicester to see a horse that Angus Smales had. We then made our way to Mark Kyle’s place where we saw four horses, and stopped in an amazing pub on the way back for more great pub food at the royal oak. As we discussed the day's events in the pub, we decided that, though we had really liked Angus Smales' horse, Jim, a closer look at his show record showed that he was not the most careful show jumper and probably not the best pick. So, we returned to the drawing board on Tuesday morning, with crisp and dry fall weather, we visited the yards of Aussie Bill Levett, Michael Jackson, Rodney Powell, Mark Todd and Vicky Brake. The day was exciting as we saw some very nice horses, and we were sensing that our list was swelling with contenders. It was amazing to get to watch Rodney Powell ride, which was still a masterclass despite the fact that he was still recovering from an ACL transplant in his knee. Mark Todd was surprisingly welcoming and normal, and Matt got a huge boost to his ego when he rode Toddy's horse to perfect distances after Toddy himself kept seeing flyer after flyer! It was fun to watch the camaraderie of three of eventings greatest riders joke with one another as Leslie and Rodney gave Mark Todd one hell of a time for missing a few distances!
Back at the pub we sorted through the horses, and narrowed the field down to Mark Todd's massive 6 year old grey horse, who had one of the best jumps we had seen so far, but was at least 17 hands, which gave us some pause. The next horse on the list was Rodney's horse, a 7 year old tb/Irish horse that seemed to have the heart for eventing, but a bit of a crabby side, and a trot that would surely take some time to develop. Michael Jackson had three horses that were also on the radar, the first was a five year old french/Irish horse named Mr. Harley Quinn, that seemed to have loads of potential, though a slightly slow front end. The second horse was a nine year old warmblood/tb gelding that had a pretty good record at CCI* and CIC** levels, but his age was giving us pause. The third one was a super flashy grey homebred that wowed us on the flat but disappointed us over fences. He was so dang fancy, though, that we almost forgave his lackluster jump, until we heard his price of 60,000 pounds, which helped us to quickly erase him from our minds and move on. Still on the list, though growing foggy in our memory, was Fernhill Flaxen, who was still measuring up well to the horses we had seen so far.
That night, we felt a little down again, feeling like we had gotten a bit too in our own heads and over critical of the horses, over analyzing each thing and losing perspective on what our mission was and how to sort through everyone. We had a long talk and decided that we needed to go back to trusting our gut a bit, feeling confident that we had now gotten over the initial "beer goggles" effect that arriving in Ireland and seeing so many lovely horses had induced. We felt we now had a proper balance of a more educated, critical eye, and it was time to allow some of our feeling and intuition to enter back in to the picture. We found Leslie to help with this as well, as his experiences seemed to have honed his abilities to see scope or faults in a horse's technique, but his gut instincts still seemed to be well nurtured and guiding him to success in his horse buying. So, we let go a little bit, and tried to trust ourselves a bit more.
Wednesday morning was another early morning, and we started it off at Dassett Eventing north of Oxford (all of the locations of places are based off of best guesses and street signs seen from the middle of the back seat, so may be a bit off the mark!). We were greeted at Dassett by one of Leslie's old stall muckers, Sue, who clearly had worked hard for herself and done well to land at Kate Rocher’s Dassett and running a tight ship with good riders and well produced horses. There we saw Dassett Theme, a five year old chestnut Irish gelding that had finished his season off with the five year old eventing championships. He was a lovely workmanlike horse, with a good gaits, a great jump and we were excited about the potential that he showed us. Next up was Dassett Cool Touch, who is a six year old chestnut tb/Irish cross gelding that had a pretty good year with a young rider at prelim (same as novice over here) and the CIC* level. He was a bit ho-hum in the barn, with a slightly butt-high build, but under tack we liked his swingy trot, powerful canter, and careful, smart jump. We left Dassett feeling very positive about the two chestnuts. We then headed over to see five more horses nearby, and Matt got a lesson in self control when he fell in love with an 8 year old grey warmblood gelding that was for sale because he is too strong for his rider. Never one to back down from a challenge, Matt hopped on and gave the horse a great ride, and was impressed by his amazingly powerful and scopey jump, and super gaits. Leslie quickly put Matt in his place when he told Matt that was a horse he would have bought when he was 20 and cocky, and reminded Matt that if he brought him home and couldn't rehab him, then he would be stuck with him because if Matt couldn't ride it, then no one could! The rest of the horses we saw at the facility were certainly nice, but didn't quite seem to measure up to the rest that we had seen over the past 6 days, so we moved on down the road to south of London to Gemma Tattersalls yard. There we met Gemma's head girl, Elodie, who, aside from having a beautiful name, has become my new heroine in how to run a yard. The place was spic and span, the horses looked happy and healthy, things were organized and clean, and she clearly had a calm and purposeful grasp on everything around her. We had met Gemma back in Ireland at the Goresbridge auction, to which she had brought three horses to sell. While we were trying her three in Ireland she told us about two of her horses at home, that in her words are "proper" horses, and should be seen. Gemma wasn't kidding, as her two mares, Chequila and Dinky Inky, a six year old chestnut prelim mare and a seven year old black two star mare were in fact the real deal. Matt rode Dinky Inky first, and as he put her through her paces, I for one, started to get "the feeling". Trying to hide what I have to assume now was a giddy smile that kept creeping onto my face and surely broadcasting my thoughts, I dutifully operated the camera and set jumps. Maybe it was because the sun was threatening to go down, maybe it was because I wanted to get on with it and find out if this was, in fact, THE horse, but I now see the err of my ways when I hastily raised the oxer four holes to 1.35 meters. Matt pointed Dinky Inky towards the jump and she happily jumped it, confident in her job. Surprised by the added height of the jump, she whacked the front of the oxer, and the rail went flying out in front of her at an odd angle. In an effort to avoid the rail she struck out with her front legs in the air, and stumbled a bit on landing. Matt's heart sunk as he thought he broke her, but she recovered fine and went on to jump the oxer in impressive style and literally with feet to spare. Going in to the house with Elodie to look at Dinky Inky's record only confirmed what we were all feeling about the horse, that she was in fact the real deal, with no xc jump faults to her name over the past three years, and only a handful of four fault SJ rounds out of 30 total rounds, never with more than one rail in a round.
Chequila was next to come out, and though her gaits were lovely and she looked every part of an elegant event horse, she lacked the power and raw scope that Dinky Inky had, and couldn't quite measure up completely. Probably had we seen her long before Dinky Inky, she would have been near the top of the list, but now Dinky set the standard for all others to measure up to.
These were the last two horses of the trip, and as the sun set we headed back to Swindon, all feeling a little giddy and overwhelmed about the final decision making that was waiting for us back at the pub. We notified Clare, our Irish tour guide and selector for the goresbridge sale, that we would not be having her bid on any of the horses for us that evening, which was a sad phone call to make after she took such amazing care of us. We watched the sale prices come in on our phones during dinner, and I'd be lying if I said that we didn't kick ourselves when She's a Tomboy went for a low price. I'd also be lying if I told you I didn't shed a tear (or many... How many tears come out at a time in uncontrollable, can't catch your breath, feel like you're going to vomit sobbing?) when it was reported the next morning that Will Coleman bought my little grey Galaxy brother.
Never the less, through the distractions on Wednesday night we were able to all talk through it, with Leslie's expert advice, and come to a decision to do pre purchase exams on the two Dassett chestnuts and Dinky Inky. We emailed Derek and Bea videos of all of the horses, and they liked our choices, which comes as a massive relief! We still have Fernhill Flaxen on our radar, and will have him as a back up if something comes up in any of the vettings.
We feel relieved that the first hurdle is behind us, having made a decision that feels good, knowing everyone is on board, feeling confident that we picked the best horses out of the 60 +/- that we saw from Thursday to Wednesday. Now we wait, exhausted, for the next roller coaster: the pre purchase exams!
We are so unbelievably, incredibly Thankful to Bob and Valerie for believing in Matt and his dream to make an opportunity like this possible. The trip in itself has been such an education and once in a lifetime experience, never mind the whole other part of bringing some amazing horses home to start this journey with. It almost feels silly to try to find the words to express the gratitude that we feel, as these feelings are bigger than ourselves and far bigger than words. We hope that in our riding, our actions, and our care for all of our horses and students, that we can show how thankful we are to be on this road with all of you, spending our lives with amazing horses, supporters and students. Thanks to all of you for being patient with us while we have been at the shows and jet setting, know that this trip has served to re inspire us and will land us back at home jet lagged to be certain, but also re invigorated to take what we've learned and the perspective that we've gained over the last few weeks and make our learning, our training and our horse care second to none!