Our first Intermediate

25 09 2018
Our first Intermediate!

Our first Intermediate! Over the triple brush/arrowhead

Well, we did it and it was glorious. Glorious with a hefty dose of terrifying and exhilarating all at once. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Fable and I finally moved up to Intermediate at the Seneca Valley Horse Trials. This move-up has been in the works for a couple of years now, but I never felt confident enough to officially go through with it until this fall. We’ve done about 10,294,850,393 Prelims over a span of 6 years or so, and yet, it wasn’t until now that I felt confident enough in myself as a rider to be able to pilot my horse around a course at the next level. But here we are, on the other side. We survived, we made it, and it was glorious.

Loudoun Fall Horse Trials

We began the fall season at Loudoun, which took place at the Oatlands Plantation. The course was nearly identical to last year’s course, and Fable ate it up with ease. I was able to ride really confidently and more forward to the fences, which is something I’ve been working on a lot. Dressage was decent as well; we scored a 32.8 despite an ERROR on my part- I halted at X instead of G! Idiot! Without the error we would’ve scored a 30.8. In stadium, Fable was sticking off the ground a bit (the course was on grass). She just seemed a little tired and flat.  I had to nurse her around somewhat, and we ended up with one rail to finish in 6th place overall. In hindsight, I could have prepared her more, fitness-wise, for the event; we had missed several gallops leading up to the event due to the footing not being to my liking. It is always a tricky balance trying to achieve the desired level of fitness and keeping the horse sound at the same time. It is hard to know what to prioritize sometimes; its like a Catch-22. Such is life.

Seneca Horse Trials- Our first Intermediate!

By the time the day came to ship up to Seneca, I felt completely 100% prepared. I had some excellent lessons with Kiki leading up to the event, both jumping and on the flat. I went and practiced my [very overwhelming and complicated] dressage test at Wavertree in their large dressage arena so that I could make sure I had all of the geometry right. I was in a really great headspace in general, which took me by surprise. I usually get quite nervous for events, and there was so much hype and planning and anticipation leading up to this move-up that I expected to be out-of-my-mind nervous. Such was not the case. I just felt AMPED. I had so much positive excitement and energy that I felt like I was on drugs. I also experienced this peculiar wave of calm, inner-confidence about the whole thing, like I just KNEW it was going to go well. Its hard to explain. Anyone who knows me knows that this sort of behavior prior to an event is HIGHLY unusual. Usually, people will ask me things such as, “Are you breathing? Have you taken a breath yet today? Deep breaths.” That afternoon, Pia and I loaded up, and off we went down the road to Maryland.

We arrived on the grounds on the eve of the event so that we could walk my course an extra time. Unfortunately, just as soon as we arrived, heavy thunderstorms started rolling in. Pia and I made it about halfway through the course before it started downpouring, accompanied by thunder and lightning, so we jogged/ran the second half of the course. The footing felt quite good at that time, and the course looked difficult, which I suppose it should, being an Intermediate course. The tables at that level are absolutely MASSIVE, especially in width. They are just so darned wide. The fences that have brush on top look even more enormous, because the brush can be up to a foot or so higher than maximum height. There were many turning combinations as well as a mix of boldness and accuracy questions. There were skinnies, a leaf pit, related distances, and some footwork stuff at the water combination. The main two combinations I was concerned about were: a massively wide table, with a 90-degree left handed turn to a two-stride combination of very large skinny brush tables. On the course map, they were actually referred to as “8-foot tables”, because they were literally 8 feet in width. One can not miss to such a combination. There is zero margin for error! Right after that combination was the other tricky question, which was a roll top on a bending 5-stride line to a skinny triple brush, or “arrowhead” at the bottom of a steep downhill. This was the utmost test of both boldness and accuracy. The water combination was big, but more straightforward; there was a large log, 3 strides downhill to a down bank into the water, and then a bending line to a large corner on the way out.

Pia and I quickly wrapped up our coursewalk and drove 2 miles down the road to drop Fable off at her digs for the night. We had to drive slowly, because by this point, the storm had turned into a full-blown monsoon, and there was flash flooding all over the roads. To our horror, the barn where we were stabling had a river running down the center aisle! It was mayhem. Luckily, the stalls were raised a couple of inches higher than the aisle, so the horses weren’t standing in water. We tucked Fable in to her watery accommodations, parked the trailer in the pitch dark and driving rain, and drove very slowly to our AirBnB. It was a white-nuckle sort of drive, just crazy amounts of flash flooding to the point where I had my hazards on the entire time, and had to stop in the middle of the road on numerous occasions. All I could think about was what this destructive storm was doing to the footing on cross-country.

The following morning, we picked Fable up (she didn’t float away in the storm!) and headed to the grounds to braid and get ready for dressage. Kiki and Andrea arrived soon thereafter to support us! We had an excellent warm-up; Fable came out ready to play right from the get go, totally supple with none of her usual stiffness. She just felt better than ever, totally responsive to my leg and swinging through her back. Unfortunately, as soon as we started heading down the centerline, I was shocked at how horrible the footing was in the ring. It was on grass, and was literally fetlock-deep mud. It was just deplorable. I had put in studs, of course, but they did nothing in that amount of mud. I realized at that moment, sadly, that I wouldn’t be able to really “go for it” and show off any of Fable’s dynamite lengthenings that she is so capable of executing. My focus became riding conservatively enough that my horse wouldn’t slip and fall around the turns, and being as accurate as possible in my test. That’s literally all I could manage to do under the circumstances. Nevertleless, I felt like the quality of the test overall was better than I have ever been able to achieve at a show. The quality of her connection, and her gaits in general were just superb. Our canter work felt especially great; the transitions and the counter canter work felt very balanced and connected. We slid through the mud in our halts, so not great marks there, and the turn-on-the-haunches and half pass were sticky. But other than that, I felt really great about the test, especially since it was by far the most difficult dressage test I have ever attempted. We ended up scoring a 38, which I was pleased with. I know that on acceptable footing, we could have improved that score by at least 5 points.

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Kiki and I on our coursewalk. Believe it or not, this was one of the smaller fences on course!

Kiki and I walked the courses one more time, and then it was time to go jump. Pia had Fable all tacked up, studded and sparkling clean for me, ready and waiting. What an amazing groom! As expected, the ground had turned very mushy from the flash flooding. The only saving grace was that my division was first to jump, so I knew it at least wouldn’t be torn up. Fable warmed up great for stadium. In the ring, I didn’t manage to get the right canter from the beginning, which is really key for me, so it was not the most rhythmic round, but Fable tried her guts out jumping in the mud and we had 2 rails down, which were my fault for getting her there a little deep. On to cross-country!

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Walking through the overflowing water complex. It was quite the challenge to try and walk my line without water spilling into my Wellies!

At this point, walking to the start box, the nerves finally hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “Holy crap, we’re really doing this. This is insanity.” But luckily by that point, there was no turning back. I vaguely heard a few snippets of last-minute advice through my nervous fog. I heard Kiki say, “If she starts ballooning up over the fences and being too careful, give her a good smack to make her jump across”. I heard Mimi say, “Stay in the backseat!”. I whispered to Fable, “I’ll take care of you, you take care of me”. Then I heard “3, 2, 1, Have a great ride…” And we were off!

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Over the “8-foot tables”

I rode the first 4 fences quite aggressively, according to plan, jumping them out of an attacking stride to get into our rhythm. The mud was especially deep in front of fence 3 and Fable sunk in on the takeoff, resulting in an awkward jump. I think at that point, she realized what we were getting ourselves into, because from then on, she started punching off the ground harder than ever, jumping SUPER hard. Fence 4 was most definitely the largest jump I have ever jumped in my entire life- a massive double brush. I gave her a little tap a few strides out, as if to say, “yes, really”, and she launched over it. We cruised around the next part of the course, over some footwork questions, and Fable kept her ears pricked, looking for the flags. She really dug deep and tried her heart out despite the mud, and did everything I asked of her willingly, even though it was by no means easy.  I felt her hover in the air for an extra second over every jump, more than I am accustomed to, and really crack her back. We jumped some of the big tables in the middle of the course out of a good galloping stride, and then we were galloping up to the “8-foot tables” turning combination. We got a great shot in over the big table, then made a tidy 90-degree turn left to the brush tables. Fable leapt over the in, locked right on to the out, and made it out in a perfect 2 strides. Next up was the rolltop to the skinny triple brush down the hill. I took a little tug to balance her coming in, and angled our approach as planned. As we landed and began to turn to the incredibly skinny triple brush/arrowhead, Fable’s ear swiveled back for an instant, as if to say, “Really?” and I put my leg on. She responded by locking on and put in a huge effort, launching right over the brush without touching it. I gave her a big pat and took a breath, because the trickiest combinations were behind us. Next up was the water. Fable jumped over the big log with ease, put in 3 strides to the down bank, through the water, up and out over the corner. I eased up on the gas a bit the last part of the course because I felt her tire a little. We cruised over the last several fences and through the finish flags with a clear round and some time.

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Up and over the C element of the water complex

I continue to be astounded by Fable. Despite being together for 11 years, she amazes me every day with her bravery, honesty, and how hard she tries for me every time out. She has made my wildest dreams come true. I trust her one hundred percent to take care of me, and I try my damndest to do the same for her. She does everything I ask without a moment’s hesitation, and takes us to the other side safe and sound. I am fully aware that there will never be another Fable; she’s my once in a lifetime. So I will cherish every moment with her and be eternally appreciative that she’s mine. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- there’s no feeling in the world that makes me feel more alive than galloping cross-country with my girl. She has given me wings and taught me how to fly.

Thank you to all of the people who have helped us get here. Thanks first and foremost to Pia, my little buddy (she’s not so little anymore, she’s taller than me and has become a young lady!) who is the most incredible groom and horsewoman. She is so organized and over-the-top helpful and knows exactly what to do at every turn. Thanks to my coach Kiki, who has helped me to improve my riding immensely over the past few years. I wouldn’t have made it to this point without her! She provides the most awesome lessons back at home, and has such a great eye for detail, so that no stone goes unturned and we always feel 110% prepared for competitions. I am so proud to represent Dappir Ridge Eventing! Andrea Cushing took time out of her busy schedule to spend her whole Saturday cheering us on in the mud and the rain, and for that I am so grateful. Anna White has listened to me hem and haw over this decision to move up for months, maybe even years, over countless daily phone conversations illustrating every trial and tribulation leading up to this event. She has been my trusted horsey friend for about 20 years now, and its amazing she hasn’t gone insane by now listening to all my talking! 😉 Back at home, Erica Caravaglia and Rebecca Barber treat Fable like the Queen that she is, giving her the royal treatment every day at the barn, even if they have to dodge the gnashing teeth! Stephie Baer, even from afar, is still Fable’s #1 fan, and has believed in her from the start. She is the one that gave me the confidence to believe that Intermediate was within our reach. All of these people and many more have been part of making Me and Fable’s journey possible. I appreciate all of you.

 

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Spring Recap and Fall Plans

23 08 2018

It has been a shamefully long time since I have updated this blog, but for that you should be glad, because now, instead of my usual long-winded diatribe of events, you will get a [relatively] brief recap of the past 5 months. It seems as though now is a better time than ever to write this, because we are gearing up for what is sure to be a very exciting fall season. I’ll explain why in a minute.

Loudoun Horse Trials

First, the recap of the late Spring events. After our win at Full Gallop, we headed to Loudoun at Morven Park in late April. We had a fantastic run there, and the improvements that Morven had made to the arenas and the footing were nothing short of impressive. Our dressage was not good; we scored a 40 due to not being “through” enough; something we had struggled with all spring. Cross-country was great; the footing was a bit muddy, so I didn’t run her for time, but Fable jumped around clear in true Fable fashion. The course was a lot beefier than I expected, but it rode superbly. Stadium was also fantastic; Fable jumped a double clear round in the brand new arena like a superstar.

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Big bad cross-country horse takes her signature nap before leaving the start box.

 

Stephie Comes to Town!

At the beginning of May, I helped organize a clinic with Stephie at our barn, Chapel Springs, all the way down here in Virginia! After many months of planning, Stephie arrived in the flesh and taught many groups of riders of all levels. I got to jump with her one day, and the following day, she flatted Fable for me, which was educational to watch. Stephie has been a mentor to me for a number of years, and has always been Fable’s #1 fan, so it was so nice to have her down here to hear her perspective on things.

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Stephie on Day 2 of the Clinic

 

Virginia Horse Trials

In May, we made the short trip over the mountain to Lexington for the Virginia Horse Trials. Fable and I have competed at this venue many, many times and I have always found the course to be on the softer side. Not this year! They changed up their course design, and while much of the course was more inviting, there were a couple of serious technical questions and, of course, being VAHT, lots of terrain. We continued to struggle with being “through” in the dressage, scoring a disappointing 38. It really is a tricky task to try and keep Fable relaxed and “through” at the same time; usually I get one or the other. Fable rocked around cross-country like a powerhouse and ate up every question, coming in with only 2.8 time penalties. Stadium was the following day, and when we warmed up, Fable was not jumping with her usual pizzaz. Kiki and I chocked it up to her being tired from galloping over all the steep hills on cross-country the day before, as well as the footing in warm up being rather deep- she just seemed to be lagging off the ground for a fraction of a second longer than usual. We entered the stadium arena, and Fable tried her guts out for me, jumping around double clear yet again. Usually, Fable cruises around effortlessly in showjumping, but she really had to try hard around that course, and try she did. She truly has a heart of gold.

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Double clear at Virginia Horse Trials!

Middleburg Horse Trials

Our original plan had us set to move up to Intermediate at Seneca in June, but unfortunately, Seneca canceled their upper level divisions due to excessive rains that had damaged the course. Instead, we got in a last minute entry to the Middleburg Horse Trials at Great Meadow International and ran the Prelim there. It was the first time the event had run at that venue, and it was just fantastic. In dressage, we continued to struggle with our same old “throughness” problem and scored a 38 yet again. I have learned to not let dressage scores bother me too much, because if I did, I would be perpetually disappointed and frustrated! Fable jumped clear again in stadium, but we took a few too many wide turns, picking up 4 time penalties there. Cross-country was a blast, and felt effortless for Fable. The course was not difficult; it was a nice confidence-building run with lots of open galloping lanes and gently rolling terrain. We had our fastest round yet, coming home with .4 time penalties! So close!

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The Queen Herself

Dressage Saddle (!!!!) and a few Combined Tests

We took the summer off from competing to rest Fable’s legs and save her for the fall season. In the meantime, Kiki and I sorted through some issues in the dressage and I managed to have a lightbulb moment where I figured some things out. In addition, I FINALLY, after many years of resisting, bit the bullet and bought a beautiful used dressage saddle from my dear old friends, the Maling Family. They were generous enough to send it to me on trial, and lo and behold, it fit Fable and me like a glove. It was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up!

After practicing in the dressage saddle several times, we competed in a combined test at the Virginia Horse Center in July and scored a 30.4 in dressage! A 10 point improvement from our scores all spring season! Fable jumped around stadium with ease for another clear round.

A couple of weeks later, we attended another combined test, this time at Intermediate level at Morningside. We attempted the Intermediate dressage test for the first time- which, by the way, is VERY complicated- and scored a 33! I was so pleasantly surprised! The test contains 3 halts, and 5 changes of lead, counter canter, rein back, shoulder-in and travers. There is a lot going on, but luckily there is a lot of canter work in the test, so it really suits Fable and shows off her best gait. In stadium, Fable jumped a clear round around the very large Intermediate height course!

Upcoming Fall Season

So. Here we are at a crossroads. I can’t say what it is (don’t want to jinx it), but anyone who knows me knows what it is. Let’s just say there are things upcoming this fall season that we’ve been working towards for a very long time. All I will say is that I am still in the mindset of having goals in mind, while still taking one event at a time and always having a “Plan B”. So we shall see how it all goes. That said, Fable feels fantastic. We have made a lot of improvements in our flatwork over the summer (thanks to Kiki’s much-needed guidance) and I’m excited to have a chance to perform the tests for real. Fable also feels better than ever over fences. I’m not one to be at a loss for words, but I simply can’t describe the feeling of jumping this mare. She just has this incredible snap over the jumps that gives me butterflies just thinking about it. God, this sport is so addicting. Alas. Until next time!





Southern Pines and Full Gallop

10 04 2018

Boy oh boy has 2018 started off with a bang!

Lots of changes and improvements have been happening here on the farm, with the one year anniversary of us being “farmowners” fast approaching. More updates on that to come. 🙂 Mainly, Jairus has let loose his inner pyromaniac, burning massive brush piles nearly every night until the wee hours of the morning.

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When it Rains it Pours!

Fable started off 2018 with a thumbs up from Dr. Cowles at her annual pre-season soundness checkup. After some diagnostics, we decided to inject her hocks this year for the first time. Everything was going quite swimmingly until, 10 days after the injections, Fable’s hocks swelled dramatically like watermelons. Needless to say, I was absolutely panicked. Luckily, the swelling was not the worst case scenario, but rather, a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to one of the chemicals in the injection site. After copious amounts of antibiotics, the swelling finally began to subside, followed soon thereafter by a respiratory infection! When it rains it pours! More antibiotics! By the time Fable finally recovered from all of her problems, there was barely enough time to get fit and ready for Southern Pines in March, and the weather was not cooperating. Snow, rain, mud, yuck! We managed to squeeze in just enough jump schools, trots and gallops, just in time to pack up and head down to Southern Pines. Also, the effectiveness of Fable’s hock injections kicked in just in the nick of time. She suddenly began to feel so soft and fluid in her body like she never has before. Impeccable timing!

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Fable and Wit: boyfriend and girlfriend/trailer buddies!

Southern Pines

We had a great crew that weekend, including Kelly, Gabby and her lovely entourage, and fun was had by all. We stayed at the COOLEST bed and breakfast not far from the Carolina Horse Park, and the horses stayed with us! They even had turnout, which was very beneficial for Fable, as she tends to get very stiff when confined to a stall. Mark and Mimi Combs coached Fable and I throughout the weekend and were incredibly helpful/insightful. On Saturday, our dressage test had some good moments in the canter work, but the trot work was rather stiff. Nevertheless, we still managed to squeeze a 34.0. Dressage was followed by cross-country shortly thereafter, and we had a FANTASTIC run. Thanks to absolutely perfect footing and a meticulous coursewalk with Mark, we were able to run fast, coming home with only 1 time penalty! Everybody finished up early in the day, so we all enjoyed a leisurely evening out on the town in Southern Pines. Sunday was showjumping day. The Carolina Horse Park just installed brand new state of the art footing in their main arena, which was just so cool to ride on. The course was one related distance after another, with many bending lines. Mark again provided us with an incredibly detailed coursewalk, and we were able to execute a forward, rhythmic round with one unlucky rail. We ultimately finished in 5th place.

Click here for a video of our stadium round!

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All smiles at Southern Pines

Full Gallop and the Great Aiken Pilgrimage

Being a teacher sometimes has its perks, one of which is a lovely thing called Spring Break. Each year, Me, Fable and Maggie embark on a girl’s road trip to Aiken to spend time with our High Meadow Family. I left Virginia at 4:30am on a Saturday morning in order to arrive in sunny Aiken by noontime. Upon arrival, Maggie and myself were whisked off for an afternoon of Polo with the Aiken crew.

On Sunday, Sarah, Lolo and Myself all competed at the Full Gallop Horse Trials, which is conveniently located just 10 minutes down the road from High Meadow! Sarah Morton worked her magic on us in dressage warmup, and I thought I managed to maintain a relaxed, soft, supple horse, which is something that is very hard for us! My goal was to manage to keep Fable loose and relaxed in the test, and we definitely achieved that. It was so pleasant, I was smiling the whole time! We scored a 33, which I felt was a bit high, but I think we sacrificed some accuracy in an effort to remain soft. Alas.

Showjumping was on grass, and was a very unconventional course with rollback turns and S turns and square turns and just overall lots of turning. Fable skipped around easily and jumped clear. Cross-country was also a very interesting course. The first half was soft, in my opinion, and rather gallopy, which lured you into coasting along and letting your guard down. However, at that halfway mark, technical questions started cropping up. There was a sunken road, two waters, a keyhole and a BOUNCE BANK! WHAT?! On the coursewalk, I looked at it and said, “Sarah, what the heck is this?!” As the second to last effort on course, the bounce bank was a formidable up bank with a bounce on top, over a skinny rolltop. Sarah said I should approach it in a powerful coffin canter and predicted that it would ride really well. She is usually right about these things.

On course, I put the pedal to the metal and was hell bent on making time, since we had come so close at Southern Pines. I had all my minute markers wheeled out and all of my turns planned to a T. We booked it around and there was only one instance where I rode rather conservatively, which was at 16AB. It was a very large down bank that you had to jump on a bit of an angle, then 3 strides to a skinny. I had to approach the down bank in a more collected fashion in order to make the 3 strides happen, to avoid risking landing in a flat heap and then the distance not being there. It rode especially well. Both waters rode quite “swimmingly” ;). And lastly, the bounce bank rode the best of all. We got a great shot at it, and Fable skipped up and over easily. We came home with 2.4 time penalties. Time ended up being a crucial factor in the division- we ended up being the fastest pair, which earned us our first Preliminary win!

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Fable enjoying her first win at Preliminary!

Sarah, Lolo and I celebrated a successful, yet exhausting day with copious amounts of cheese and tequila at our favorite Mexican spot, Mi Rancho. The whole following week was a horse, hound and sunshine-filled whirlwind, including quality time with my lovely wife (see below):

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Horses, Hounds, Wine and Wife. What more could one want? 

The week included riding lots of fun ponies, visits to some of my old favorite haunts such as Takosushi, New Moon Cafe, The Wilcox for cocktail hour, a Keith Urban Concert in Augusta and just absorbing the heaven that is High Meadow. No matter how much time has passed since my working student days, that place still always feels like home.

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Fable enjoying the sunshine at High Meadow

Upon arrival home after our lovely Aiken trip, it was a nice surprise to discover that it is full blown Spring in Virginia. All of the flowers are in bloom and the pastures are turning lush green. Fable is feeling better than ever this season- she’s like a fine wine and keeps on getting better with age.  I think 13 is her year! 🙂 Until next time!

 

 





Once Upon A Time…

11 10 2017

Once Upon a Time there was a 19 year old college student who had big dreams but her riding skills (or lack thereof) left much to be desired. She had only ever competed through Novice level eventing, and not very successfully. She tried really hard, though. She learned how to equitate a bit on her college IHSA team from Virginia horseman Bobby Jones. That helped a little. Her best friends were Gwynn Dent and Holly Martin, who were very polished hunter/equitation riders, and she watched them every day wishing she could ride like that!

One day, after searching all over tarnation for the horse of her dreams, with a very meager budget scraped together from years of babysitting money and restaurant tips, she found “her”. The girl fell in love instantly, took her home, and named her “Fable”.  This is what she looked like on that first day:

Fable the day I brought her home

Fable the day I brought her home, age 2.

 

The girl had no idea what she was doing. She had no business starting a baby Thoroughbred under saddle. It seemed like a recipe for disaster. Her trusted friends were understandably concerned for her well-being and lack of better judgement.


Fast forward 10 years. Our first CIC*. It has been a crazy journey together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Every step of the way, Fable and I were the blind leading the blind, but she was always willing to try and always forgiving of my rookie mistakes. We’ve had our fair share of bumps in the road, but let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing in this world like the feeling of galloping through the finish flags at your first FEI event on a horse you started from scratch.

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Our first CIC*

Every step of the way, there were milestones that seemed equally as monumental, though. I remember the first time I ever sat on her back. I thought to myself, “Holy CRAP this trot is bouncy. How am I ever going to sit this?” To the first time she ever jumped a crossrail- super awkwardly, I might add. I remember jumping her over her very first cross-country fence, too- a tiny log:

Fable at age 3. First time cross-country schooling

Fable’s first time cross-country schooling

And our first event, BN at the Virginia Horse Trials, I got dragged around cross-country with my little spaghetti arms on my 4 year old with very little steering or brakes. But let me tell you, it was GLORIOUS. You could not peel the smile from my face, I was so proud.

Fable's first event: Virginia Horse Trials 2009

Fable’s first event: Virginia Horse Trials 2009

Thats the thing about starting a baby horse from scratch. Every milestone feels like a triumphant achievement. It is incredibly rewarding. Every time you move up a level, every time you have a breakthrough in your training, it feels like a win. On the other hand, when things don’t go right, you have nobody to blame but yourself. When your horse feels super crooked and dead to the leg, guess what? Its probably your fault. When you have a crash landing on top of a cross-country fence and your horse’s confidence is shattered and takes 6 months to rebuild, guess what? That’s your fault, too. But you know what the best part of it all is? That rock solid relationship you build over a long period of time as a result of all the ups and downs. That’s something no amount of money can buy. When you’ve built a foundation of mutual trust and respect over a span of a decade and it all finally comes together in one very special weekend? Its priceless.


 

Prepping for the “Big Event”

We had a great run in the OP at Loudoun Horse Trials as our last event before the Morven CIC*, adding just a little time cross-country to our dressage score.

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Fable and her lovely groom, Pia

We scratched from CDCTA 2 weeks later to save Fable’s legs for the one star. Instead, we participated in a very educational clinic with Bonnie Mosser. She made us jump big scary jumps, and had lots of fun exercises for us to try. Thanks, Bonnie!

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Bonnie Mosser Clinic

We trailered to a nearby facility a couple of times to practice our dressage test in the standard size arena. We went cross-country schooling at Win Green. We had lots of lessons with Kiki to fine tune our skills. By the time the day came to ship up to Morven, I finally felt like we had covered all our bases and were 100% ready.

Day 1: The Jog

There are many reasons an FEI event is much more nerve-wracking than a regular horse trials. Firstly, the jog. Our extremely mature and precocious 13 year old groom, Pia, knew far more about what to expect at the jog than I did, as she had groomed at an FEI event before. The head vet, Dr. Kent Allen, was really kind and patient with me. I must have looked clueless, because he asked, “Is this your first one star?” He then explained the whole process to me and watched me jog Fable. He and his team of vets examined Fable all over and measured her breathing and heart rate. They took her passport, gave us the thumbs up and sent us on our way.

Pia and I walked cross-country once before the sun went down, then gobbled down some Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant and headed off to bed.

Day 2: Dressage/Endless Coursewalks

The following morning, Kiki and Andrea arrived bright and early to help beautify The Queen! Kiki adorned Fable with extra special braids for her big debut.

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A true team effort! 

In dressage warm up, Fable felt extremely stiff, as she often does at multi-day shows where she is stabled overnight and doesn’t get the benefit of being turned out. I did hand-walk her earlier in the morning for quite a long time to try and loosen her up, but it wasn’t enough. I tried everything to try and supple her in warm-up; lateral work, transitions, stretching, everything I could think of. At a certain point, I just knew it just wasn’t going to happen and had to make the best of what I had. By the time they called our name, Fable still felt as stiff as a wooden board. We went down the centerline and completed the test as accurately as possible, with a little bobble in the second counter canter at the end. Overall, it was a stiff test, resulting in a less than desirable score and landing us two thirds of the way down the leaderboard. Although disappointing, everyone reminded me it was our first one star and there were still two phases to prepare for. A couple of people suggested that next time, I try lunging her first thing in the morning before dressage, or get on and practice stretchy trot for a long while before warm-up. Lots to work on! More differences between an FEI event and a horse trials: there are TWO dressage judges, one at C and one at E! And the dressage test is multiple pages long!

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Our first FEI dressage test

We spent the remainder of the day walking courses. Kiki walked the course with me not once, but TWICE and I think in total I walked it about 4-5 times. There were some challenging questions that concerned me a bit, especially 5ab, which involved two tables set on a very steep slicing angle with 2 long strides in between. The angle was SUPER steep and left a huge opportunity for a run-out to the left. There were 3 waters on course, and the first water was the most significant- it was an abc combination with a pretty big jump into the water, 6 attacking strides up a steep mound with a skinny brush on top, then down the other side of the mound to a big brush on a 90 degree right hand turn. It was a serious boldness/accuracy question. 10abc was really interesting; it was a log in the woods, down into a gully sort of thing, then up a bank made out of stone, then downhill 5-6 strides to a big upright corner. All of the single fences on course were BIG and WIDE and SOLID. The course was really beautiful and used the natural terrain in a really thoughtful way. It had a great flow to it and the crew there made a huge effort to aerovate the galloping lanes.

The showjumping course was twisty-turny and had many big square oxers off a short turn. I made a mental note of how the CIC* course was significantly more massive than your typical Preliminary stadium course. Kiki instructed me to be sure to get my powerful, attacking canter from the very beginning and to keep kicking around the turns.

Saturday night I slept for maybe 2 hours. I was super nervous, as usual, and kept replaying the course over and over in my head on repeat.

Day 3: The Fun Part

Sunday morning came early, and we all busily prepared for the task ahead. Pia organized/packed all of the supplies we would need for the vet box after cross-country (yet another thing that is different about FEI events) and I walked my courses one more time. Kiki, Andrea and Pia all helped get Fable ready and before I knew it, it was time to head down to warm-up. We had to hold off on putting Fable’s boots on until we were down at the ring, as the FEI steward has to inspect all the boots and watch the groom put the boots on the horse.

I started cantering around warm up and plopped over the crossrail a couple of times when Kiki called me over in a very serious voice. She said something on the lines of, “That canter was terrible. I want you to breathe and get going and start RIDING and I don’t ever want to see that pukey canter again!” I took a deep breath amidst the complete chaos that was the warmup ring, put my leg on and started warming up with that “German-style” canter that we had been working towards in my lessons with lots and lots of POWER! Then, it was our turn. Kiki led us into the arena, I picked up that attacking canter, and rode the most consistent, rhythmic stadium round of my life. It felt awesome. I kicked around all the turns, rode positively and kept a really consistent rhythm, all things we had been working really hard on leading up to the event. Fable barely touched two of the rails and they came down, but I didn’t care in the slightest. It just felt so awesome, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my horse. She was such a champ.

Cross-country was the ride of my life. We came out of the start box with guns blazing and jumped the first four fly fences out of stride. We galloped up to 5ab, the slicing combination, and I set her up for it really deliberately. She jumped A and I had to really ride forward to get the 2 strides in between, but she responded like the crafty little thing that she is, locked on to B, and jumped out in two. The first water rode flawlessly. She dove in and jumped through A, B and C like it was nothing- bing, bang, boom! I felt really confident the whole ride, and that confidence grew stronger and stronger with each fence. Fable attacked every fence in stride and flew over all the big tables effortlessly. I have never felt more in sync with my horse than that cross-country run. We galloped through the finish flags with gas still left in the tank, and just a handful of time penalties.

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Teamwork

In the vet box, the whole Dappir Ridge team was there to help- strip all her tack off, sponge, scrape, walk, repeat. Fable recovered rather easily and Dr. Allen came and inspected her, measuring her heart rate and breathing again and making sure she looked happy and unscathed from her run.

Let it be known that there is absolutely no possible way we could have completed this event without the help and dedication from everyone on the Dappir Ridge team. Kiki Osbourne is just the most invested coach ever. She went out of her way to make sure we were 100% prepared for our big day, even going as far as to braid Fable for me, walk courses multiple times to ease my nerves and was the first one waiting for us at the cross-country finish to help cool Fable out. Over the past two years, she has helped to reinvent my riding a bit to better suit my horse (“German style!” “More power!”) and made me feel so much more confident jumping the big jumps. Without her, I would not have had the confidence in myself to even enter a CIC*.

Pia Zuffoletti is the best, most professional groom I have ever met, and she is only 13 years old! She was the “boss lady” the whole weekend, scheduling timelines for every step of the way, making sure everything was sparkling clean and in perfect order, and ensuring that Fable looked like a true FEI horse all weekend. She kept track of minute markers, heart and respiration rates, striding in related distances on course, and ride times. She is a true numbers lady and organization queen! Most of all, she kept reminding me to smile and have fun the whole time when I was so nervous. One day, when she trots down the centerline at Rolex, I will be her biggest fan!

Andrea Cushing took time off from work to come cheer us on and help out. How amazing is that? She came to coursewalks, in gates, rider meetings and took the most amazing videos of every phase! She was the best cheerleader and was always right there to lend a helping hand! Thanks Andrea!

Let us not forget the people behind the scenes that helped to make it all happen. Erica Caravaglia ensures that The Queen receives the royal treatment on a daily basis. She puts up with Fable’s quirks, idiosyncrasies and mood swings. Under Erica’s watchful eye, I never have to worry about Fable when I’m not there. Rebecca Barber lent her expert advice, motivational pep talks, and her lovely dressage saddle so that I wouldn’t have to wear my shadbelly with my cross-country monoflap! Jairus McQuaid Hunt put up with me being an absentee fiancee for months leading up to the event so that I could make preparing for the CIC* my top priority. He is always supportive and understanding of this crazy life I lead, never questioning or scrutinizing the insane amount of time, energy and money it requires. He and my houndy babies were right there on Sunday to cheer us on as well.

What do you do when all of your dreams have come true? What’s next? Well, for starters, Fable is finished for the year so that I can save her legs for next season. We will aim for a CCI* in the Spring. After that, who knows? She has never felt sounder, stronger or braver. If she comes out next season feeling as good as she does now, maybe there is another move up in our future. We will play it by ear. I will always try my best to always do right by her and enjoy the journey, wherever it takes us. 🙂

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The Little Horse with the Big Heart

20 08 2017

Oh my goodness has 2017 been a crazy year so far! Life is always changing, yet there is one constant for me, and that is Fable. We have been together for about 10 years at this point and I never tire of being greeted by those big donkey ears every day. I’ve always been a long-term relationship kind of girl and my relationship with Fable is by far the longest relationship I’ve ever had!

Life Milestones and Loudoun

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Home Sweet Home

Everything happened all at once last spring. First, Jairus and I got engaged at the end of February. Then, in April, we bought a farm! We named it Tall Tale Farm after you know who. It is on 11 acres with a 100 year old post civil war era farmhouse and a few outbuildings. It has two ample pastures and will one day be Fable’s home once we get around to replacing all of the fencing. We spent every waking moment renovating that place and making it livable before moving in, which was quite the task because of the age of the house and also because it had been uninhabited for a number of years prior to us buying it. Luckily, Jairus is a handyman extraordinaire and somehow knows how to do literally EVERYTHING. He replaced all of the plumbing in the house by himself. He single-handedly gutted and remodeled the bathroom including replacing the floor, all of the sheetrock and insulation, laying tile and everything in between. We had to replace the doors and have the crawl space insulated and vapor sealed. We had the hardwood floors refinished and repainted just about every wall in the house. There was a lot of scrubbing, sanding and mudding of walls. We built an enormous garden (about 40 x 50 ft), which we tilled and planted. Jairus built me a beautiful chicken coop for my chickens, because of course I decided to buy 8 baby chicks the moment we closed on the farm. What an adventure!

I planned for Loudoun to be our first horse trials of the season, back in April. Of course, as luck would have it, the event happened to land right on our move-in weekend! Amidst all the chaos of packing and moving, we ended up having a fabulous run at Loudoun. Fable won the Open Training, finishing on her dressage score of 28! What an awesome pony!

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A great way to start the season!

Waredaca

Next up was Waredaca in May, where we ran the Prelim. Fable felt quite stiff for our dressage test and I couldn’t work her out of it. I have learned with this horse that sometimes you just have to go down the centerline and make the best with what you have, and that’s what I did. I tried to squeeze the best test I could out of her even though she was not as supple as usual, and we received a 34.3, good enough to put us in the running.

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Our dressage test was tense but we made the best of it

In stadium warm-up, we were loping around and jumping out of a big long stride and I thought everything was going quite swimmingly until Kiki called us over in her angry voice. Uh-oh. She said, “You look like you are about to go in the hunter ring at the Keswick horse show! What are you doing?!” She told me to put a fire under it and get going. So I did. We went into stadium in attack mode and jumped double clear.

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Double clear stadium

I was super nervous for cross-country. In fact, I didn’t sleep for a single minute the night before because I got myself all worked up about the course and couldn’t stop thinking about it all night long. My heart was beating so loud I could hear it. Why do I worry so much, you ask? Why do I lose sleep over coursewalks when it is a known fact that Fable is a dynamite cross-country horse? I suppose it is because I put a lot of pressure on myself to give her the best ride possible and I really, really don’t like making mistakes. And I guess I’m a nervous nell. Regardless, the course was really quite difficult in my opinion. It was big, technical, and had some footwork and terrain questions. It had two waters with the second including a pretty big jump in. Fable rocked around superbly. All that worrying for nothing! We came home with just 9.6 time penalties, good enough for 4th place!

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Second water at Waredaca

Surefire

Following Waredaca, we headed up to Surefire in Purcellville, Virginia. I brought a delightful young horseman-in-training with me named Pia! She was a superb groom for us and if you met her you wouldn’t believe she is only 12 years old. She is very mature for her age and did such an excellent job of tending to miss Fable all weekend. The night before the show we stayed at Kiki’s friend Martha’s house, who was very hospitable and also allowed me to stable Fable overnight in her barn.

For dressage, I was committed to replicating that winning test we had at Loudoun, Especially since Fable was tight and tense at Waredaca, I wanted to make sure to avoid that happening again. Our test was very smooth, loose and consistent. Fable was soft and light and supple. She felt great and our test felt accurate. I came out of the ring feeling great about it. Unfortunately it was one of those situations where the judge did not agree. She commented that Fable was not “connected” enough. Frustrating, but you know the saying “there’s no use crying over spilled milk”? I have hereforth changed the words to: “theres no use crying over a dressage test”. I will leave it at that.

Stadium was on grass and Fable jumped great, except we had one rail. Still not exactly sure why it came down because we got a great distance to it and she was jumping really well, but the rail was coming down all day across the divisions. Alas. Here the same saying could apply: “There’s no use crying over a rail”!

Fable charged around cross-country like the rocket ship that she is. The course was on the softer side, I would say, compared to Waredaca, but had some decent questions and some terrain. We came home with 9.6 time penalties. EXACTLY the same number of time penalties we had at Waredaca. Go figure. At least we’re consistent! We finished the weekend in 6th place.

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Pia babysat us in the start box. There she is on the left with the ponytail and the white hat!

Fair Hill International

Next up was a fix-a-test that we did at the Plain Dealing Farm Schooling HT, where we got to run through our CIC* dressage test and then the judge provided comments and helpful tips for a few minutes afterwards. It was a great learning experience for me and made me realize that we have a lot of fine-tuning to do before going down the centerline at our first CIC* this fall!

The following weekend, we headed up to Fair Hill International, which is a 5+ hour haul through some of the most miserable traffic areas- straight through D.C. and Baltimore! We went alone, as Kiki was busy that weekend as were all potential grooms. Luckily, we were able to arrange for some help ahead of time, as I refuse to compete at Preliminary without a trainer anymore. Those days are over! Upon arrival, Mark Combs walked courses with me and provided some really helpful tips on how to make time. He used a meter wheel and then identified where each of the minute markers were located around course so I could keep the pace better. He showed me areas where I could cut corners and save time there. He also suggested that I count up on my watch instead of counting down, which I had never tried before! After cross-country, we walked stadium, which was SO twisty turny! There were so many 90-degree turns. Usually stadium courses are pretty predictable across the board, but this one had me downright confused.

Mimi Combs was kind enough to help us in dressage. We were having a great test until we started our first counter canter. Counter canter is one of Fable’s best movements, and I took that for granted a little bit. As we were coming around the turn, I sort of relaxed for a second and thought, “phew, here comes the easy part”, and took my leg off. And Fable thought, “Oh, you want me to trot!” So that movement was totally botched. We received a 2 on it. Ouch. Luckily, the remainder of the test was great, and we finished with a 34.1. Had we not broke to the trot in that one movement, we would have scored in the twenties!

We had yet another coach helping us warm up for jumping, Kurt Martin. He was very kind, helpful, and offered some great last minute tips. The stadium course was total carnage across divisions with anywhere from 2-6 rails coming down in any given round. I got to riding a bit backwards in stadium, but Fable jumped out of her skin for me like the saint that she is, and we landed a double clear. She was one of only two horses in our division to jump around clear. That horse is so forgiving; if I ride poorly to a fence, she doesn’t get offended and doesn’t hold a grudge. She will continue on as though nothing has happened. It is the most wonderful quality in a horse and let it be known that I am thankful every day for the privilege of having a partner like that!

The footing was absolutely perfect for cross-country. I took all of the inside turns that Mark had suggested, counted up on my watch, and paid attention to the minute markers. I did take one too many tugs before a few of the fences, which cost us precious seconds, but we were really moving otherwise. The course had lots of up-bank combinations (three!!!), a big trakehner, a significant ABC water combination and two corners. We came through the finish flags with only 4.8 time penalties, which is the fastest we have ever gone! I really tried to make the time, and I think the places where I could have put the pedal to the metal more were right of of the start box, and the last few strides in front of the fences. I need to learn to jump out of a big gallop stride more and not micro-manage. Mark and Mimi reminded me that each tug costs 1 second. If I tug once in front of each fence, that would add up to 18 seconds. It is amazing that after 10 years of riding Fable, there is still so much to learn. Regardless, we ended up moving several places up the leaderboard after cross-country and finished in second place!

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“The Queen” after cross-country at FHI.

Looking Forward

It is crazy to think that after all of the events we have done over the past 2 seasons, I am still taking them one at a time. Do we have goals? Absolutely. But Fable’s soundness and well being is paramount, so I still treat her like a china doll. I still jog her after each jump school, holding my breath all the while. Each time we come through the finish flags cross-country, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. There is only one Fable, and somehow I get to be the one to have her.

We have a couple more runs before a “BIG thing” at the end of the September [that I shall not mention by name] that we have been working towards for many years now. Hopefully the stars will align and everything will go according to plan. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy every ride on my little horse with the big heart.





Maryland, Waredaca and Season’s End

20 11 2016

Now that the 2016 season is over, I am finally able to reflect on what was perhaps the most rewarding year Fable and I have ever had together. The end of the eventing season is always bittersweet- I always miss the incomparable rush of galloping cross-country, the adrenaline and nerves when entering the start box, that incredible feeling of landing from the last stadium fence knowing your horse just laid down a double clear. Things I don’t miss quite as much: waking up for horse shows at 3:30am, hauling a horse trailer through stop-and-go traffic, dressage in general, and feeling so unreasonably nervous before cross-country that I want to vomit. Like I said, bittersweet. Fable’s Air Jordans have been pulled and she’s looking more like a mule than a finely tuned eventing machine as of late. But that’s ok because in a few months time, she will head back down to Sarah Morton boot camp for the winter to be reformed. 🙂

Maryland Horse Trials

Maryland was supposed to be our first Prelim back since Fable’s injury but things didn’t go the way I envisioned. Fable and I stayed with our other family, the Wiggins’, who always make us feel so welcome. The day started off with me nearly missing my dressage time because I had memorized the wrong time. I was nonchalantly tacking up, taking my sweet time, thinking I had about 45 minutes to spare when Kiki informed me that I was supposed to do my test in 10 minutes. What a wake-up call! I threw Fable’s tack on as fast as possible, swung into the saddle and trotted into warm-up with only 6 minutes before I had to trot down the centerline. Basically just enough time to canter and leg yield once in each direction. Considering the circumstances, I thought we put in a decent test. It felt accurate and consistent, albeit not particularly supple. The judge roasted us for Fable not being “through” enough. You know what they say about the best laid plans!

Next, it was time to walk cross-country. Last time we had run the OP at Maryland was two years prior. I remember the course being quite challenging, but NOTHING like the course we walked this year. My god, it was monstrous. Absolutely maxed out. Not to mention it was pouring rain. My confidence dwindled throughout the coursewalk as I began to think that this was a terrible idea. There was absolutely zero margin for error. By the time we reached fence 18, I turned to Kiki and said, “I’m not doing this.” She agreed with my decision and said that the course looked more like a one star course, definitely not a good move back up to Prelim like we had hoped. I was really bummed about the decision but knew that it was in our best interest not to run cross-country and save Fable for another day. It was really disappointing to spend all of that time, money and energy and not even get to complete the event. Come to find out later that the new course designer beefed the course up to be a last prep event for the horses headed to the Virginia CCI*. It was especially frustrating because the event was not advertised as such. I’m sure Fable could have jumped around fine, but the thought of galloping around a one star course in the rain and mud and knowing that if I made a mistake, it could end really, really badly was enough to solidify my decision. Horsemanship, man. Gets me every time.

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Fable jumping around clear at MDHT in the rain

The day ended on a positive note, thankfully. Fable laid down a clear round in stadium in the pouring rain. She jumped around like a rocket ship. I hauled the 3 1/2 hours home with a lot on my mind. Firstly, I was thankful to have my beautiful, honest mare in tow, safe and sound. Secondly, I knew that we had to do just one more before throwing in the towel on 2016.

Waredaca

After much deliberation, I chose Waredaca as our last event of the season. Kiki wasn’t able to come, but thankfully Stephie had made the trip down and was able to help us. By the time Fable and I arrived at the show grounds the night prior after battling through traffic on the beltway, it was twilight and the light was fading fast. Stephie and I walked the course and finished in the pitch dark. I was able to get an overall impression though, despite hardly being able to see, and the course was exactly as described: a proper Preliminary with some serious questions, but also fair, over gently rolling terrain. Stephie gave us a very specific plan of attack, which helped ease my nerves.

Saturday morning came, bringing with it a wave of freezing cold. Fable felt like a “giraffe pogo stick made of solid wood” in dressage warm-up, she was just so stiff. I took my time trying all the tricks in the book trying to supple her. By the time we trotted down the centerline, I had accepted the fact that I was going to have to squeeze as much as I could out of “Wooden Fable” and make the best of it. Like Maryland, the test was fairly accurate and consistent with a couple of really nice lengthenings, but lacking the suppleness we had achieved at the beginning of the season. We were dealt an appropriate, middle-of-the-road score. I have learned that no matter how much time I put into our flatwork at home, it all comes down to the horse I have in warmup on the day of the show. Some days she comes out feeling like a million bucks. Sometimes she comes out feeling like a giraffe pogo stick made of solid wood. Mares!

In daylight, I was able to appreciate the beauty and variety of the cross-country course. There were two waters, the first one being quite early on course at fence 5abc. It was a technical gymnastic exercise: a boathouse, one stride to a drop in, four attacking strides on a bending line to a boathouse out. The second water was a turning exercise: a big, skinny log in, then a 90-degree turn to a rolltop in the middle of the water, then a few strides to an up bank. Also on course were a couple of jumps into space, an up-down bank to a skinny chevron, and a triple up bank to a table on top on a bending 4 stride, and two brushes on a related distance that you had to jump on a steep angle.  The terrain was beautiful, rolling hills. The course designer did an incredible job of creating variety on the course; no two jumps looked the same. There was a great balance of bold, attacking-type fences and technical footwork questions. One question, about mid-course, worried me quite a bit. I walked the line that Stephie had planned for us about 100 times. It was an AB combination that involved slicing a large bench on a very steep angle, then 3 attacking strides to a big, solid, skinny corner. The line that we walked was really the only option, but it left a big opportunity for a run-out. It required a really good shot in, and accuate, bold riding.

On cross-country, Fable attacked everything effortlessly. She was her usual honest self, hunting for the flags as we galloped around. She skipped through both waters with ease:

Video of Second Water

On our approach to the AB combination that I was all worried about, as we were making our turn to approach the A on a very specific line, Fable slipped really hard and nearly fell down. She hates to be over-studded so its always a gamble of having too little or too much stud in with her. In this case, it was too little and her hind end slipped right out from underneath her on the turn. She righted herself in a stride like the crafty little thing she is, but by that time we were about 2 strides out from the A. I had to make a split-second decision: if I circled to re-group, we would almost certainly be penalized with a run-out. So I thought, “ok, Fable, lets go!” and kicked on. Fable locked on instantly and rocket-shipped over A, put in 3 attacking strides and skipped over B with not so much as a second thought. THIS is why we keep her around! 🙂 We finished with a clear round and some time.

Video of Last Fence 

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Through the second water

Fable was quite tired warming up for stadium. When usually she jumps me out of the tack in showjumping, this time she wasn’t jumping with as much spring as she usually does. I warmed up over just a couple of fences, as not to over-tire her, then rode the course according to the plan that Stephie had laid out for us. Fable tried her little heart out, despite being tired, and finished with a double clear round. She has a heart of gold! We finished in 4th place, to end the season on a very high note. Jairus was incredibly helpful in his role as super groom and has learned how to clean tack, change studs, hand-walk, pick stalls, stuff ice boots and re-set jumps in warm-up like a pro. I don’t know what Fable and I would do without him!

Video of Showjumping

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Now, having a bit of down time to reflect on this past year, I realize how very fortunate I am to be able to compete this magnificent animal. She’s quirky and high maintenance and opinionated. She’s tricky on the flat and has to be led into showjumping like a racehorse and will not hack out alone. But when push comes to shove, she loves her job and is damn good at it. She tries her heart out for me. What did I ever do to deserve such a thing?

Last year around this time, Fable was relegated to stall rest and 20 minutes of tack walking per day under heavy sedation. She was so unpredictable and questionably sound that I was just about ready to give her away. Now, one year later, she’s sounder and stronger than ever. She finished in the top 5 every time out, including a win, and didn’t have a single rail all season. Of course there is always room for improvement, like the whole dressage situation and the fact that we have yet to make the time at Preliminary, but there’s plenty of time for that. At the end of the season, most of all, I look forward to many more seasons with the horse of my dreams.

RBPC Combined Test

Our little family





Eggs in a Basket

28 09 2016

 

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My super groom (boyfriend) got Fable to stand in a bucket! Hell has frozen over!

Growing up, I was always told “don’t put your eggs all in one basket!” I’ve mostly lived by that in an effort to avoid disappointment. Like applying to 17 colleges. That was pretty awful, but my parents REALLY didn’t want me putting my eggs in one basket, so I put them in 17 different baskets! Or applying to jobs as a teacher upon completing grad school. I applied to 70 or 80 jobs in an effort to not end up disappointed. WELL-one thing that I’ve learned about horses over the years is that disappointment is inevitable no matter what, so you’d better mentally prepare yourself! Especially when you have only one horse, 100% of your free time, expandable income, energy and sanity is hedged on one four-legged creature. I have one event horse. She’s all I’ve got. And she’s a special one, so in that aspect of my life, I am putting ALL of my eggs in the Fable basket, hell or high water!

CDCTA Horse Trials

We entered CDCTA last minute, after having to scratch from Loudoun HT the previous weekend because Fable was sore on the hard-as-cement ground. We had weeks and weeks of drought in central Virginia without a drop of rain, and the ground really suffered because of it. CDCTA was no exception, although Fable had recovered from her soreness so off we went. We had a very pleasant dressage test:

Video of dressage test 

Which put us in the lead on a 30! I have NEVER, I mean NEVER been first after dressage and luckily did not find this out until I was done jumping because I’m sure it would have gone to my head and affected my riding!

Fable jumped around double clear in showjumping: video of stadium round

And clocked around cross-country with time to spare. She was incredibly rideable and was light as a feather in the bridle the whole way round. The whole round felt smooth and fast. My friend Anna, who was also competing there, told me her trick to making time, which is to determine the halfway point of the course and determine what half of the optimum time is, then write that on your arm. At that point on course, you then make sure that you are at or under that time to gauge whether you need to keep on rolling or put the pedal to the metal! It really worked and I have been using that trick ever since!

Upon completion of the event, we found out that we had won, and also won the Thoroughbred Incentive Program high point award! I am still on cloud nine from that day.

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Surefire Horse Trials 

I had wanted to enter a difficult Training before we move back up to the big P, so we headed up to Purcellville for the Surefire Horse Trials. Dressage had some bobbles and was not our best, but good enough for a 33. I had warmed her up for 5 minutes too long, and with Fable there is about a 5 minute window between being not warmed up enough and warmed up TOO MUCH!

Stadium was great, Fable jumped around double clear as she usually does. Cross-country was quite a tough Training with some big fences and interesting combinations, as expected. There was also lots of terrain, so I knew I would have to make an extra effort to keep attacking and stay in that rhythm the whole course in order to make time. Surefire did an amazing job of aerating the footing, as it still had not rained at this point. It was evident to me that they had put a lot of effort into preparing the footing for the event, which I really appreciated!

When it came time for us to leave the start box, I made up my mind to attack right from the start and out we went. Fable gave me that same smooth, fast ride as she had at CDCTA, just dead honest and rideable the entire way. She never put a foot wrong. We came through the finish flags with time to spare (thanks to Anna’s trick!).

Video of Cross-Country 1

Video of Cross Country 2

As we were icing Fable back at the trailer a little while later, the girl parked next to us asked me how my ride went. I smiled and told her that it was amazing, and that Fable was my old Preliminary horse that had suffered a major soft tissue injury last year, spent 9 months locked in a stall, and I had thought I might never get to ride her again. I told her that we were competing at the Training level and I was just enjoying every minute, regardless of the level. I’ve put all my eggs in the Fable basket, because she’s worth it. We’ve had our share of extreme lows, but the high of being able to gallop this amazing creature cross country far outweighs everything else. I feel privileged to be able to ride this horse every day and to be able to call her mine.

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