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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Jun 01 2014
33
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As I mentioned in previous blog posts, “Life with horses is filled with incredible highs and devastating lows.”  I got Owen almost 5 years ago and have been eventing him for the last 4 years.  We have trotted down centerline in 25 recognized horse trials in 6 different states.  We have experienced injuries, falls, frustrations and setbacks in the past, and it is inevitable that we will do so again in the future, but for right now, I’m enjoying the incredible high.  I am feeling on top of the world having just won my THIRD horse trial of the season. 

1st at Spring Bay HT Novice
1st at Greater Dayton HT Novice
1st at May Daze HT Novice

IMG_1972

I received lots of kind words of congratulations on Facebook.  After seeing one such post by Megan, a writer at Eventing Nation decided to interview me and write a really nice article about Owen and I and our adventures with Team CEO.  You can read more about our journey here:

http://eventingnation.com/home/how-kelly-rover-learned-to-drive-her-ferrari/

 

EN Front Page

Once the horse trial scores were posted on the USEA website, I realized that I currently sit tied as the 2nd Novice Adult Rider in the country and the #1 Novice Adult Amateur Rider in Area VIII.

image

I am also now qualified to win the following awards:

  • 2014 Blue Ribbon Award (by earning a top 3 placing in 3 horse trials)
  • Novice Eventing Gold Medal (by earning a 35 or less at 3 horse trials)
  • Bit of Britain’s Chase the Challenge Award (by winning 2 horse trials in a row)

I have to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame because I have decided to try my hand at Training Level.  This means that I will quickly fall off the Novice Leaderboard as other riders continue to gain points at that level.  That is entirely OK with me. The partnership I am building with my horse, and the experience I am gaining by being a part of Team CEO are far more valuable than any award or accolade.

Thanks again to Megan for her all her help and support over the last few years.  I can not tell you how vital it is to have a coach that you trust and can motivate and prepare you mentally and physically to perform at your absolute best. Some people are good horsemen, others are good riders, and still others are good coaches. Fortunately, Megan has the gift of being brilliant on all accounts.

May Daze Horse Trials 2014 Recap

May 31 2014
25
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Owen and I just finished our 3rd horse trial of the season and it could not have gone more perfectly.  We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate.  I can’t wait for the rest of the show season!

Dressage: The dressage rings were setup in the same spot where we usually do show jumping at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Since the warm up rings were so small, they had you warm up in one ring, then move to another ring to warm up, then move to the show ring to warm up at the end of the ring, and then finally go into the show ring to compete.  Luckily, none of this phased Owen and he took everything in stride.  We stuck to our usual warm up plan as far as the exercises and movements that we did and ignored the distraction of the three different warm up locations.  When it was time, Owen and I went in and performed a steady test.  When we left the ring, the volunteer ring steward looked me straight in the eye and said “Wow, GREAT test!”  Apparently, the judge agreed!  We scored a 35.5 to end up tied for first in a very competitive division.

 Dressage Warmup

Cross Country: Later that afternoon, Owen and I headed out to cross country warm up.  I must admit that I had butterflies in my stomach.  No matter how many times I got out on cross country, and no matter at what level, I think I will always be nervous right before the start.  Luckily, when I got in the start box, all the nerves disappeared and were replaced with concentration and determination.  The unique thing about this cross country course is that there were two low areas of the course that were filled with standing water.  Megan warned her riders to stay focused and ride those areas aggressively to keep our horses focused on the job.  I took her advice and it worked!  Owen and I clocked around the course with no problems at all, jumping every single fence out of stride.  I strategically crossed the finish line 12 seconds under optimum time which helped to break my dressage tie and put us in the lead after cross country!

Gallop

Log out of Water

 

Show Jumping: Going into show jumping, I think everyone at Team CEO was super nervous and excited to see if Owen and I could pull off a double clear round to win the event.  Oddly enough, I was super calm as I knew I needed to keep a clear head and Owen relaxed if I wanted to do well.  I went into the show jumping ring with a plan, rode a confident and steady round, and finished double clear!

Approach

Red Oxer

Yellow Flower Jump

Blue Verticle 

Black and White Oxer

I ended up winning the event by finishing on my dressage score of 35.5.  This win was special because it completed my “hat trick” by being my third win in a row.  Owen and I are definitely becoming a force to be reckoned with! 

Victory Gallop

Blue Ribbon

Awards 

What’s Next: Owen and I will get a weekend off before heading North to Michigan to compete in the Derbyshire Horse Trial at Training Level.

Greater Dayton Horse Trials 2014 Recap

May 23 2014
38
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The weekend of May 16-18, I packed the truck and trailer and headed North to Ohio with Owen to compete in the Greater Dayton Horse Trials.  I attended this event in 2013 and loved it, so I was very excited to go back again this year.

Friday: We left the farm around 10:30 and arrived at the show grounds around 1:00 without issue.  I setup my stall, unloaded Owen, and grabbed my packet from the show secretary.  This is about the time that I realized that I forgot to bring my dressage saddle!  Oops!  Luckily, Megan graciously let me borrow her saddle for the weekend.  Friday evening we headed out to walk our cross country courses and noticed that the ground was covered with standing water in several areas.  Apparently, Ohio had a lot of rain the week before.  We were in for a wet, muddy weekend!

Dressage: Saturday was very cold, windy, and rainy.  I got Owen tacked up and headed to dressage warm up.  Owen was focused, supple, and relaxed despite the sloppy footing in the warm up areas.  I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my legs and my nose wouldn’t stop running.  When the rider in the dressage ring before me finished her test, I headed over to the show ring.  As I was trotting around the outside of the dressage ring, Owen and I started getting pelted with bits of ice.  Was it hailing?  Sleeting?  Who knows, but Owen was a complete trooper.  He pinned his ears back against his head to show his displeasure at the weather, but proceeded to execute a very lovely dressage test.  We ended up winning the dressage phase with a score of 32.  What a good boy!

Show Jumping: Next up was show jumping.  Due to the rapidly deteriorating footing, I decided to use mud bullets instead of grass tip studs on Owen.  Owen is very light on his feet, so I was afraid of holding him back with a more significant stud, but he seemed to love the added security and was very bold and confident in show jumping.  We ended up with a steady clean round!

Red Oxer

White Oxer

Green Verticle

Thumbs Up 

Cross Country: The weather on Sunday was much nicer, however, the ground never had a chance to dry out after all the rain.  The footing was very sloppy but Owen did great with the help of his studs.  We didn’t slip once and ended up having a very smooth confident round to finish double clean! 

Owen and I ended up finishing on our dressage score of 32 and winning the event!  This is our second horse trial of the year and our second win!  I’m so proud of how far we have come!

Owen 1 

What’s Next: Owen and I are competing in the May Daze Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park the weekend of May 23-25.

Flying Cross Farm XC Schooling (April 2014)

May 03 2014
18
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I had a great birthday weekend this year!  The weekend was filled with gorgeous weather, wonderful friends, and beautiful horses and ended with a successful cross country school at Flying Cross Farm.

Group Shot

Friday: I started out with a full day of work – OK, that wasn’t great, but it gets better.  :-)  Friday evening I had two of my closest friends visiting from St. Louis.  We met at the barn and I gave them a tour of Team CEO including the gorgeous indoor, my cool new trailer, and my super handsome horse.  Then we headed to a local Mexican restaurant to feast on chips and cheese dip, enchiladas, and strawberry margaritas.

Saturday: My husband and I got up bright and early to head out to the Kentucky Horse Park to watch 60 top level horse and rider combinations tackle the challenging Four Star cross country course.  This was my 4th time attending the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.  It was definitely very cool and inspiring to watch the world’s best horses and riders compete mere feet from where I stood, but I was also aware of how much I had learned about riding and the sport of eventing since my first, second, and even third trip to Rolex.  I knew more about what the riders were doing and why, what equipment they used on the horses, and what they were feeling as they galloped 570 mpm over 4’ solid objects.  I can’t wait to go back again next year!

 photo 2 photo 1

After walking over 8 miles at Rolex, we were tired and ready for hot food and cold drinks.  We headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant for more chips and cheese dip, enchiladas, and multiple pitchers of sangria!

Sunday: On Sunday, Megan trailered a group of us to Flying Cross Farm to school cross country.  Though we were all exhausted from being at Rolex, the adrenaline and excitement of going cross country kept us going.

I think Flying Cross Farm has more bank complexes than any place else I’ve ever been.  We jumped…Up bank, 3 strides, down bank.  Down bank into the sunken road, 3 strides up bank.  Up bank, 1 stride, up bank (double bank!).  Down bank into water.  Up bank, 2 strides, large brush jump (we did this backwards too).  It was so much fun!  After learning how to SIT before jumping the fences over the last few months, I had to remember to STAND and land in my stirrups off of the banks so that I don’t hit Owen on the landing.  Luckily Megan was there to remind me.

Also, after several months of learning how to keep Owen at a slower pace going cross country, I had to remember to add leg and let him more up confidently to the jumps.  We had a few sticky spots, but after galloping him off my leg a few times between jumps, we started to get our rhythm.  Check out the video and pictures to see the final result.

Video: Owen and Kelly at FC, April 2014 - YouTube

Up Bank Two Strides to Brush

Brush

Training Corner

Corner 2

Down Bank 3 Strides to Skinny Barrel

Down Bank 2

Down Bank 3 Strides to Skinny Barrel

Skinny Barrel

Large One Stride Rails Combination

Log In to Double 2

Masterson Station Park XC Schooling (April 2014)

Apr 18 2014
46
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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

Corner

Skinny Chevron

Chevron

Training Oxer

Oxer 

Large Log at the Top of a Hill

Log at the Top of the Hill

Steep Downhill Approach to the Ramp

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.

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