Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Masterson Station Park XC Schooling (April 2014)

Apr 18 2014

Life with horses is filled with incredible highs and devastating lows.  As with anything else, there are good days and bad days, but I am happy to report that April 13th was definitely a good day.  :-)

After 4 years and 9 months, I think I am finally figuring out how to ride Owen.  Yes, almost anyone can SIT on a horse, but it takes a special skill and ability to be able to RIDE a horse.  This is especially true with a horse like Owen.  He will never be a “packer”.  He is always aware of and cares about every little thing that he sees, hears, or feels.  That means I have to be aware of everything I do the entire time I am on his back, and be able to communicate in a way that results in the optimal response.

Group Shot

Last weekend, I was able to consistently communicate with Owen in a way that allowed us to step around the Training Level cross country course at Masterson Station Park as if had been doing it for years.  I must say that I was thrilled with the results.  Right now, it is taking an extreme amount of discipline and concentration on my part to create that kind of ride, but I’m hoping with practice that it will start to become second nature.

So what’s the secret sauce? 

Canter: Start with the perfect canter.  Owen has a million canters since he is so incredibly balanced and adjustable so it is tricky to pick the “right one”.  He has to be forward and in front of my leg, but not running on panic and fear.  The ex-steeplechaser in Owen tells him to run faster, but the super careful side of Owen tells him drop behind my leg and back off at the fences.  That’s a super tricky combination to ride.

Seat: Sit down and sit back. I learned to ride hunt seat equitation as an eleven year old in Northern Virginia. Since then my natural tendency is to sit on the front of my sit bones and perch in the saddle. This is a great seat for riding some horses in some situations, but I have found that it doesn’t work for Owen at all. He is most comfortable when I come down to a fence in a full seat, with my butt in the saddle, and my shoulders pulled back into a more vertical position. Again, this is not the best way to ride all horses, but I am finding that this gives Owen the confidence to tackle the bigger fences we are jumping now.

Hands: Be supportive with my hands.  I cannot abandon him and “drop him” before a fence.  On the other hand, I cannot “pick,” pull, or hold down to the fence either.  I also found that he doesn’t want me to lift my hands at the fence (which tends to look like I’m trying to throw him over the jump).  So I have to strive for that happy medium.

Leg: Add leg a few strides out before the jump.  This is still one of the hardest things for me to do consistently.  After years of Owen galloping away with me and dragging me around show jumping and cross country courses, it is hard for me to intentionally put my leg on and tell him to move forward.  (See ex-steeplechaser comment above.)  However, if I am in the appropriate canter to start with, it allows me to add leg and be supportive when Owen needs it most without adding speed.

Attitude: Keep a calm, positive, determined attitude and a clear head during the ride.  As Megan noticed in one of my lessons a few weeks ago, Owen can tell even the slightest change in my heart rate or breathing, and he tends to amplify the situation and mimic my reaction with his own.  This leads to us not being able to concentrate on the job at hand.  Owen can also tell when I am feeling afraid or uncertain about something we are about to do.  Even if I’m nervous about a jump, I need to learn to “fake it” so that Owen can get the confidence he needs from me.  The more often Owen and I jump and compete, the easier this is going to become; however, it is definitely not something that can be changed overnight. 

The end result…

Jumping the New Training Corner


Skinny Chevron


Training Oxer


Large Log at the Top of a Hill

Log at the Top of the Hill

Steep Downhill Approach to the Ramp


Drop Into the Water

Drop into water

Up Bank Two Strides to the Skinny Log

Bank to Log

What’s Next: I am signed up for additional lessons and cross country schoolings with Team CEO before tackling two horse trials in May – Greater Dayton HT in Ohio and May Daze HT at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Spring Bay Horse Trials 2014 Recap

Apr 08 2014

I was very excited to ride in my first horse trial of 2014.  After spending two weeks in Aiken, SC, I felt very prepared to tackle all three phases of the Novice division.

One thing I must say about Owen is how relaxed he was the entire weekend.  He is usually a tense horse that grinds his teeth, spooks, and gets a little wild in warm up.  At this show however, he was super relaxed, quiet, and happy.  I take this to mean 1) I wasn’t nervous and tense and therefore Owen was getting positive instead of negative energy from me and 2) Owen is starting to trust me and become more confident in our relationship so he didn’t feel like he was dealing with the show environment alone.  Whatever the reason, I hope we can continue this theme throughout the rest of the year!

What I liked most about my riding this weekend is that I formulated a plan for all three phases, rode aggressively, stuck to my plan and never gave up. (Hint: Megan has been telling me to do this for years, but I think it finally sunk in to my thick skull.)  I kept my head clear of nerves and doubt which freed up much needed brain cells to be able to make decisions and react in a matter of milliseconds.  This helped tremendously in all three phases when Owen needed extra support and direction from me.  What a revelation!

Dressage: Saturday afternoon, I went down to the dressage warm up and learned that I was 4 riders out to go.  Perfect – I had 20 minutes to warm up before my test.  I warmed up Owen and was ready to go into the ring when the warm up steward told me that the rider a head of me wanted to wait an extra 15 minutes until her actual ride time.  Ugh – this is not what I wanted to hear.  I had to give Owen a 15 minute walk break, then warm up again for 5 minutes and head to the ring.  This would have unraveled tense-Owen, but relaxed-Owen took everything in stride.

Overall, my test was great.  I have been riding Owen in a more elevated frame and he was super steady in the bridle and round through his back which made his trot look super fancy for a thoroughbred.  I have been practicing the Training Level tests for the last 6 months, so riding the Novice test wasn’t as familiar to us.  During our first trot circle, Owen was convinced we needed to canter.  I told him no, but he took one canter step anyway before I could pull him back.  The judge gave us a 6 for “loss of balance” which was generous.  Owen also didn’t nail his halt for some reason.  We usually get a 8/9 on halt but instead earned a 6.  Despite those two mistakes, we still ended up with a 30 in dressage to sit in second place in a large division.




Show Jumping: A few hours later, I got down to the show jumping warm up and started to walk around to loosen up.  I heard a crash and looked over to see a girl falling off her horse at a warm up fence (she wasn’t hurt), and the horse getting loose and taking off towards me.  The horse ran right up to Owen and stuck his face in Owen’s flank.  As most of you know, Owen is not very friendly towards other horses.  I quickly reached over and grabbed the horse by the bridle to keep his head away from Owen’s rear until his rider and trainer could come get him.  Again, this is something that tense-Owen would have been very upset about, but relaxed-Owen stood there quietly and acted like nothing had happened. 

After jumping a few warm up fences, it was time to jump our course.  My plan for this round was to sit down, and sit back, on the approach to the jumps and to keep Owen slow and steady throughout the course.  Historically, this ex-steeplechaser likes to gain speed throughout the course, but I am working hard to produce a more polished round. It’s a work in progress, but we are definitely getting there!




Cross Country: Sunday was cross country day at nearby Masterson Station Park.  The 2014 Novice course was almost identical to the 2013 Novice course except for a few small differences.  My strategy for cross country was similar to show jumping – jump a steady and methodical round, ride to my plan and never give up.  Mission accomplished!

In this video, you can see us go through the water complex, jump the new corner behind the trees, go up and down the banks, and jump the cabin as the final fence on course.


Results: After jumping double clear show jumping and cross country, I finished the event on my dressage score of 30 to WIN the large Novice Rider C division!  2014 is my 10th season competing in the sport of eventing, and this is my first 1st place ribbon at a recognized USEA event.  I’m so proud of everything we have accomplished, especially of all the hard work we put into this over the last 6 months to prepare for the 2014 show season.  A special thanks to Megan Moore and my Team CEO family for all of the help and support and to my husband for coming with me to Kentucky to pursue my dreams.

Owen and Ribbon 2


Ballyhigh Schooling Jumper Show Recap

Apr 06 2014

I was super excited to ride the Training Combined Test at Paul Frazer Memorial show at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday, March 29th.  Unfortunately, the weather was horrible the day of the show – 38 degrees and pouring rain non-stop.  So I decided to withdrawal from the show and take Owen to the Ballyhigh Schooling Jumper Show the following day instead.

When I arrived at the show, I entered two 3’3'” jumper classes.  Both classes had jump off rounds in addition to the normal round.  I had a lot of courses to memorize in a short amount of time! 

For our first round, I had problems getting Owen in front of my leg and I was riding in a very perched position.  Not a combination for success.  Luckily, with a little help from Megan and Andrea, I was able to jump around successfully for our second class.

Click on the link below to watch a video of our second show jumping round.  A big thanks to my friend Suzie for the video!

Kelly & Owen - Ballyhigh Jumper Show - March 2014

Aiken 2014: The Season Finale (Day 12)

Apr 01 2014

Wednesday was my twelfth and final day in Aiken.  I got up early to check out of the hotel and head to the barn.  When I arrived at the barn, I noticed a friend’s horse was in distress.  His hoof was caught in the fencing of his paddock.  Nothing like a mini-horse-emergency to get your blood pumping first thing in the morning!  Once the horse was free, I brought Owen into the barn to feed him breakfast and dressed him in a sheet for the ride home.  I then proceeded to pick out his paddock, trailer, and stall and clean up around the barn.

Finally, it was time to load the horses and hit the road.  About 6 hours into our 9 hour journey, we pulled over on the side of the road to check on the horses.  I got in my friend’s trailer and helped her reload a couple of hay nets.  About 10 minutes past before we were back on the road driving again.  All of a sudden, anaphylactic shock set in – my nose clogged up, my throat began to close, my chest felt tight, and my lungs began to fill with fluid.  It happened very quickly and it was very scary.  I knew that if I stopped breathing, I would only have a few seconds to pull the truck and trailer off the road safely before I might pass out.  Luckily, I was able to take short, shallow breathes and stay calm.  The allergic reaction lasted about 90 minutes before I started to slowly feel better. 

Thankfully, we made it back to Team CEO safely without any other incidents!  Owen was super happy to be turned out in a paddock to stretch his legs and roll. 

All in all, the Aiken 2014 trip was an incredible experience.  I felt the 12 day trip was a more ideal duration than the 8 days I spent last year.  I am in debt to Megan Moore for the MONTHS of planning and coordination that goes into making every Aiken trip a success.  And for her patience, encouragement, and guidance for 10 straight days of lessons.

Click on the link below to see the “week in review” Megan made for us at the end of the trip!  The video includes clips from: cross country schooling at Paradise Farm and Gibbes Farm, jumping in Hitchcock Woods, and a dressage lesson.

Kelly at Team CEO Training Camp 2014

I can’t wait until Aiken 2015!  I am already counting down the days and planning my packing list for next year.  :-)  Until then, I am going to thoroughly enjoy the April-October 2014 show season now that I have completed our “spring training” trip.

Aiken 2014: Full Gallop Farm XC (Day 11)

Mar 31 2014

Tuesday, March 18th in Aiken was cold (think upper 30’s) and damp.  We slept in late at the hotel and then visited a handful of tack shops in the morning with the hopes that the sun would shine for our rides in the afternoon.  At the tack shops I bought three new riding shirts with the advanced technology fabric that is light weight, breathable, stretchy, and provides UVA protection.  I have worn one of the shirts twice so far and I love it!

For lunch we headed to downtown Aiken and visited the New Moon Cafe.  I love this place!  Everything from the drinks, to the sandwiches, to the desserts are to die for!  I had the Garcia sandwich – turkey, tomato, honey-dijon and brie cheese on a grilled panini with a cup of their crab bisque soup.  Delightful!

After lunch we grabbed the horses and headed to Full Gallop Farm.  Due to all the rain over the last 2 days, we decided to put studs in the horses schooling Training level and above.  This was the first time I used studs on cross country in Aiken, but I was thankful to have them.

Training Level Ramp


Roll Top at the Water Complex

Roll Top



For dinner, we headed back to Takosushi (the same restaurant we ate at on Day 5).  This time I ordered the miso soup, tempura asparagus, and “Cary’s Roll.”  The roll had tuna, salmon, white tuna, tilapia, cream cheese.  Then it was flash fried then drizzled with Taskosushi sauce and teriyaki sauce.  It was amazing!

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