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Year In Review: 2016 Recap

Jan 02 2017
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As 2016 comes to an end, I look back and I am very thankful for the amazing year and the abundance of opportunities.

I spent most of the year working in Hartford, CT, but I also went on business trips to Atlanta, GA, Philadelphia, PA, Nashville, TN, Orlando, FL, and Houston, TX.  I stayed over 110 nights in a hotel and flew on over 65 airline segments.  In May, I completed a Harvard Business School course and in December I was promoted to Managing Director.

Even with a busy life at work, I was able to ride over 150 days this year including 10 horse trials and 1 combined test.

In between working and riding, Nathan and I added a new addition to our family – a German Shepherd Dog named Charlie!  We also spent a lot of time doing home repair projects including remodeling our upstairs bathroom.  In January, we took a vacation to an all inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and in July we spent a long weekend at Kentucky Lake with the Reiter family.

Charlie, the newest family member.  Nathan and I in Punta Cana.
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New bathroom post-remodel.
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The riding season kicked off with our annual training trip to Aiken, SC.  Cullen had an abundance of confidence and enthusiasm!  He easily jumped through Training and Preliminary cross country questions as well as jumping around our first Training/Prelim sized show jumping course.  What an adrenaline rush!

Prelim roll top and Prelim oxer in Aiken, SC.
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When we got back to Kentucky, Cullen dragged me around the Novice cross country course at Spring Bay Horse Trial and we quickly determined that I needed a slightly stronger bit so that I can participate in the conversation.  Switching from a loose ring snaffle to a 2 ring snaffle helped tremendously.

In May, Cullen and I tackled our first Training Level combined test and Training Level horse trial.  What an exceptional experience!  Once I got through the butterflies (aka sheer terror) I was able to relax and enjoy the ride.  As Megan pointed out, I would approach the first fence with a look on my face as if I was marching towards my death, but I would end the course with a huge smile on my face. 

May Daze Horse Trial – our first Training!
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Cullen and I continued to gain experience at Training Level throughout the summer.  The highlight was our big WIN at Richland Park Horse Trial in August.  It was our 5th event at Training Level and by far the most challenging cross country course I’ve ever ridden.  Cullen and I stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park adding just 0.4 time penalties to our dressage score.

Richland Park Horse Trial – our first Training win!
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Another highlight of the summer was scoring a 29 in dressage at Jump Start Horse Trial!  This was the first time I scored in the 20’s at a USEA recognized event with any horse.  It is an extra special achievement with Cullen since he did his first dressage test only 18 months prior.

Scoring a 29 in dressage at Jump Start HT!
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At this time, Megan and I were spending a lot of time discussing how to best keep Cullen happy and healthy as an athlete.  How often does he get ridden? Is he staying fit enough?  Does he need chiropractor or acupuncture treatments?  Is his shoeing sufficient?  Are his feet getting sore from the hard ground during the summer months?  After consulting several professional vets and farriers, we chose a plan that we felt was best for Cullen. 

Though we finished the year strong with 3rd place finishes at Jump Start HT and Middle Tennessee HT, Cullen made it clear at Midsouth Team Challenge HT that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  We had uncharacteristic stops during cross country and show jumping.  After the event, an adjustment in veterinary care and farrier care got him back to his happy, healthy self.  We will continue to watch Cullen closely in 2017 to ensure that he stays that way.

My goal for 2016 was to be able to confidently compete at Training.  When I look at the year overall, I can see that I definitely accomplished that goal!

- Ranked 7th Training Rider in Area 8
- Ranked 3rd Adult Amateur Rider in Area 8
- Ranked 8th Training Horse in Area 8
- USEA Blue Ribbon Award
- USEA Silver Medal Award at Training
- Possible CT and HT awards for MSEDA

Thank you to all of my friends and family for your love and support in 2016.  Here’s to 2017 being the best year yet!

Middle Tennessee HT 2016 Recap

Nov 27 2016
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It has always been a goal of mine to attend the Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trial.  It is known as the longest running horse trial in the country.  I’m glad I got to attend this year to help them celebrate their 64th year!  The event took place at the Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. The gorgeous facility included a permanent barn, tent stabling, large warm up areas, and a cross country course with the mountains in the background. 

The best part of the event was that Team CEO brought 5 riders, 6 horses, and a handful of other family members and friends to support us.  Horse shows are always more fun with friends!

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Dressage: Dressage was held in a large, flat grass field.  This is the first time that Cullen has competed in dressage on the grass.  I put small grass tip studs in his shoes to keep him from slipping during transitions, but I think I had a little too much stud as he felt a little stiff during the test.  Other than the studding challenge, and our free walk which needs work, I was super happy with our test.

Cross Country: Cross country took place on Saturday after dressage.  I was super nervous about the course as there were several obstacles that I had never jumped before in a competition, but I had no need to worry.  Cullen ran around the course like a pro and we easily finished more than 10 seconds under optimum time.

Jump #3: My first picture frame jump in competition.
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Jump #10: This trakehner had a really pronounced ditch.
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Jump #16: Full coffin – Hanging log, straight down hill to this open ended ditch, then over the second hanging log.  This is the first time we have jumped a coffin with terrain changes in competition.
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Show Jumping:  Show jumping took place with lots of jumps packed into a small arena.  I knew I was going to have to keep Cullen focused and cantering in an active stride to make it around the course.  The course rode to plan with only 1 rail down.  

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Cullen and I finished the event in 3rd place!  So exciting!  Hopefully we can make it back to compete at this event again in the future.

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What’s Next: Cullen and I have one horse trial left for 2016!  We will compete at the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of October.

Jump Start HT 2016 Recap

Nov 01 2016
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Cullen and I had a lot of fun competing at the Jump Start Horse Trial.  The weather was gorgeous and there were a ton of Team CEO riders to hang out with and cheer on.

Thanks to Jj Sillman, Howard Moore, and Rachael Sowinski for all the pictures!

Dressage: Cullen and I put in a beautiful dressage test to score a 29!  This is the first time I have ever scored in the 20’s at a USEA recognized event (with any horse)!  Hopefully I can repeat this many more times in the future.  :-) 

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Show Jumping: Cullen and were a little out of sync and had an uncharacteristic 2 rails down, but overall, I was very happy with our round.

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Cross Country: Cullen and I had a great time around the cross country course.  We had a fast, clear round to finish the event in 3rd place.

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I am so excited with how well Cullen is jumping coffins (jump combinations with a ditch).  We spent most of 2015 trotting ditches to teach him how to figure them out while still moving forward.  In 2016, he’s handling the combinations smoothly.  What a huge improvement!

What’s Next: Cullen and I have 2 more horse trials in 2016!

Kentucky Classique HT 2016 Recap

Nov 01 2016
6
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I apologize, but I am very behind in writing my blog posts.  So much so, that I do not remember all of the details of the next few events.  Oh well, better late than never, right?  Though my posts will be short on words, hopefully you will enjoy the pictures and videos. 

Cullen and I had an extremely busy Fall eventing season which started off with the Kentucky Classique Horse Trial held over Labor Day weekend.  The weather was great and the Kentucky Horse Park venue was beautiful as always.

Dressage: Cullen and I put in a solid dressage test to score a 34.

Cross Country: Cullen and I ran around the cross country course without any issues.  There were lots of challenging questions – trakehner, full coffin, angled brush combination out of water – but Cullen handled everything like a pro.  We have been working on making time on cross country.  I’ve been practicing taking jumps out of stride and saving ground between jumps. A big thanks to Rachel Sowinski for the pictures and my husband Nathan for the videos.

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Show Jumping: Cullen and I had a beautiful show jumping round that rode according to plan.  Unfortunately, another horse and rider came in the ring before I finished my round and started trotting straight towards Cullen.  Because of this, Cullen took his focus off the last jump and ended up dropping a rail.  The rail dropped us to finish the event in 5th place.

What’s Next: Cullen and I have 3 more horse trials left to go in 2016!

Richland Park Horse Trial 2016 Recap

Sep 28 2016
19
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I’ve been procrastinating on writing this blog post because I don’t think I have the words to adequately describe what an incredible weekend this was for me.  Here goes my best shot…

Richland Park Horse Trial is known for being a destination event each year.  It is a world class event attended by world class riders.  With FEI levels including CIC one star, two star, and three star, there were plenty of top notch riders competing their Intermediate and Advanced level horses to watch and admire throughout the weekend.  The facility was gorgeous, the volunteers were numerous and friendly, the organization was flawless, and the courses were challenging.  If you ever have a chance to compete at Richland, do it.  You will not regret it.

After successfully running four Training Level events earlier this year, I asked Megan, my coach, what she thought I should do for the remainder of the show season.  She enthusiastically encouraged me to compete at Richland even though it is known for being a very challenging event.  She was confident that Cullen and I had developed the skills and partnership needed to be successful at a big event.  I must admit that I was very nervous from the moment I sent in my entry to the minute I crossed the finish line on Sunday.  But in the end, Cullen and I rose to the occasion and put in an incredible performance to WIN our Training Rider division.

Friday: We arrived at the event in Richland, MI on Thursday.  We unpacked and setup the stall.  Then I hopped on Cullen and got a quick flat lesson from Megan.  Cullen felt great and was really relaxed and happy throughout our ride, though as we flatted in an open field, he kept one eye glued to the nearby show jumping course.  He LOVES to jump!

Dressage: Friday we warmed up well for dressage and then headed to the ring.  After the judge blew the whistle, I directed Cullen down centerline and noticed a fly on his neck.  He proceeded to shake his head, bothered by the fly, through the first half of the test, but the judge graciously ignored the it and judged our ride.  With the extra energy and excitement in the air, Cullen was forward in our test and we ended up with a 31 which is our best score at Training level to date.

Professional video of all 3 phases

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Show Jumping: Saturday brought rain, rain, and more rain.  The show was put on hold several times as severe storms rolled through the area.  Cullen and I ended up competing about 2 hours after our scheduled ride time.  We headed to show jumping when the thunder and lightening stopped, but the rain continued.  Within minutes, I was soaking wet.  The show jumping ring was set in a large grassy area that was slightly sloped.  Several horses were slipping and sliding around the course and rails were coming down left and right.  I had put medium sized mud studs in Cullen’s shoes to help him out, but luckily, the rain and the slick footing didn’t bother him at all.  Despite how nervous I was, Cullen attacked the jumps in warm up like a pro.  I took a deep breath and went in to ride my course.  Cullen was amazing!  We jumped a clear round and he made it look effortless.  When we left the ring after our last jump, a group of people whom I didn’t know came up to me to congratulate us on our round and say how much they loved watching Cullen jump.  Its like I always say, Cullen’s enthusiasm is contagious!

Creative water management with the lack of gutters on the tent barns. 
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Green verticle

Black oxer

Cross Country: The rain stopped late in the day Saturday and the sun peaked out of the clouds in time for our cross country ride on Sunday.  Having a great show jumping round increased my confidence for cross country, but I still knew I had a tough job a head of me.  The footing was very challenging – slick and deep in the shade in the woods and tacky and holding in open fields where the sun had time to partially dry the surface.  The course was huge with almost every jump at max height or width for the level.  There were also technical jumps that Cullen and I had never seen at a show before – a real trakehner, a Normandy bank, water to water jump, and more.  To add even more to the challenge, the course was measured at 470 mpm which means that Cullen and I would have to go faster than we’ve ever gone before on course.  Yikes!!  All of this and I knew that Cullen and I were in 1st place at the start of cross country. Talk about pressure!  I came up with a plan, with Megan’s help, to ride each and every fence on course.  I went though the plan over and over again in my head.  To my immense delight, the course rode according to plan.  Talk about an adrenaline rush!  We finished the course double clear with 0.4 time penalties.  We finished the event in 1st place by more than 5 points!  This is one event that I will remember forever.

Richland Water

oxer

Cordwood

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GoPro Video of Cross Country.  I know Cullen had as much fun as I did. :-) 

What’s Next: Cullen and I will be attending several more events this Fall both in Kentucky and in Tennessee. 

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