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Cobblestone Farms HT 2015 Recap

Aug 04 2015
19
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At the end of July, Cullen and I headed North to Dexter, Michigan for the Cobblestone Farms Horse Trial.  This was my first time at Cobblestone and I was very impressed!  The land and facilities were gorgeous, the courses were challenging, the community was very welcoming and the staff and volunteers were wonderful!  Most notably, this was our first DRY horse show of the season….no thunderstorms, rain, flooding, or monsoons.  We did however, have a lot of sweat as it was hot and sunny the entire weekend.  I’ll take it!

Thursday morning I had to work so we didn’t get to leave the farm until afternoon.  Luckily, everything was packed and loaded by the time I got to the farm.  My wonderful traveling companions (Tara, Gracie, and Hayden) were on top of things!  The roads through Ohio were filled with traffic, construction barrels, uneven pavement and potholes, but we made it to Cobblestone safe and sound just before 7 PM.  We unpacked the trailer and got the horses settled in their stalls for the night before heading out for dinner and the hotel. 

Friday morning we got up bright and early to watch our friends compete in Prelim dressage.  After that, I tacked up Cullen and rode him around the property to stretch his legs.  A little while later I gave him a bath and braided him so that he would be all ready to show the next day.  I also went out and walked our cross country course twice.  Once I saw how big and challenging the course was, I got really excited.  We started calling cross country the “Novice Olympics”.  I was excited to do our first legitimate half coffin, our first trakehner, our first maximum sized brush and more!

Dressage: Saturday morning we got up early and headed to Cobblestone ready for a full day at the show.  I tacked up Cullen and hacked out to dressage warm up where we walked around for a while.  The footing in warm up was a little deep and the weather was already starting to get hot, so I wanted to keep our warm up as brief as possible.  Cullen was very obedient and we went in and had a very respectable test.  Though I didn’t score as well as I had hoped, the judge wrote several nice comments on our test: “Attentive, nicely in hand”  and “Keep at it. Good, correct start.”  We scored a 38 to sit in 7th place in the Open Novice division.

Cross Country: Saturday afternoon I tacked up and headed out to cross country warm up with Andrea who came out to coach us.  Cobblestone had 3 nice cross country jumps that were flagged for warm up which was great!  We jumped each jump nicely and practiced our “coffin canter” and then we were ready.  Cullen and I headed to the start box and off we went!

What happened next was 5 minutes of pure heaven.  I talked to myself in my head the entire ride and rode exactly as planned.  Cullen cruised around effortlessly as if he were reading my mind.  We were in complete harmony!  This was the most fun I’ve ever had on cross country!   Cullen and I moved up to 4th place after going double clear on cross country.

Cross Country Photos by Nancy K. (Jumps #3 and #4)
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Show Jumping: By Sunday afternoon, the ground was hard and the grass was dry.  The course had very tight turns and several horses were slipping.  I decided to put small studs in Cullen’s shoes and that helped us tremendously.  He didn’t slip a single time.  I was thankful to have Andrea on hand to help us again in warm up.  We talked through my plan for the course: choose a good, quality canter and keep a consistent rhythm throughout the course.  Easy, right?  Our round went OK, but because Cullen doesn’t have flying lead changes (yet), and the course was too tight to trot the changes (in most places), I struggled mentally with keeping the balance and the rhythm when we were not always on the correct lead.  We ended up having 1 rail which dropped us from 4th to 5th. 

Despite the rail, I was super happy with our weekend!  This was the first time Cullen and I went to an away show together.  I was impressed with how he acted like a seasoned pro all weekend.  I definitely think there will be more away shows for us in the future.

Photo from video taken by Nathan
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What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at Kentucky Classique Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of August.

Champagne Run HT 2015 Recap

Jul 17 2015
27
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Cullen and I attended the Champagne Run Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park this past weekend.  It was a very challenging, drama filled weekend, but it turned out to be a great success thanks to all the help and support I received from my Team CEO family.

Leading up to the event, Kentucky had extremely wet weather.  I bet it rained at least part of every day for 15 days straight.  The good news is that the rain softened the ground nicely and kept it from being like concrete this summer.  Unfortunately, we think the wet ground played a part in Cullen developing a hoof abscess.  After over a week of soaking and wrapping his foot, we were able to get the abscess resolved in time for the show.  Friday I had to scramble to meet with a farrier to have his shoe put back on so that we could show, but we got it done thanks to a few phone calls by Megan.

At this point, Cullen had not been jumped since the Midsouth Horse Trial, he had not been ridden in 2 weeks, and he had no turnout for the past week.  Despite all of this, Cullen was the utmost professional the entire weekend, including 11 hours straight of horse show stuff on Saturday – bathing, braiding, tacking, riding, waiting, riding, wrapping, etc.  His positive attitude is contagious and you can’t help but smile when you are around him.

Dressage: Saturday morning I bathed Cullen and then loaded him up and drove him to the Horse Park.  Once there, I braided him while my friend Nicole did her dressage test.  After that, I tacked up and headed down to dressage myself.  Cullen was fairly stiff in warm up which I’m guessing is a result of being in his stall all week.  I also knew that he wasn’t super dressage-fit, so I kept his warm up brief.  We headed into the dressage ring and put in a very respectable test.  Cullen was very obedient and tried his best.  I think 6 months from now, after he gets stronger, he’s going to be phenomenal on the flat.  At this point, I am very happy with our 36 after dressage.

Canter circle (photo from Michelle)
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Trot circle (photo from Michelle)
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Dressage Test (video by Nathan):

Cross Country: Saturday afternoon it was time for cross country.  I tacked up and headed down to cross country warm up.  Cullen and I trotted and cantered briefly before heading to a little coop for our warm up fence.  After the jump, Cullen put his head down and kicked his heels to the side to celebrate.  He was SO excited to be out on cross country.  We warmed up over the larger stair step jump and he celebrated a little more.  Cullen’s enthusiasm was contagious and I was feeling super lucky to be going out on course with this exceptional horse. 

Once out on course, Cullen packed me around in his metronome rhythm and never changed.  We even had our most fluid jump over a ditch to date.  The most challenging combination on course involved a small cabin, over a water filled ditch, bending line to another small cabin where several riders had refusals, had rider falls, or got eliminated.  Cullen stepped over the first cabin, got his feet close to the edge of the water and jumped carefully over it, and then stepped over the second cabin.  His smooth, methodical approach to the combination showed wisdom beyond his years and was definitely something he must have learned while fox hunting in Ireland.  We finished the course double clear!   Unfortunately, while on course, Cullen lost a hind shoe (not the same shoe that was put on Friday).  Time for another visit from the farrier!

Combination 6A & B with water running through the middle (photo from Nicole)
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Steeplechase Jump (photo from Nathan’s video)
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All smiles! (photo by Howard)
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Cross County Round (video by Nathan): 

Show Jumping: Sunday morning we woke up to a strong line of severe thunderstorms.  I headed to the barn early to unwrap Cullen’s legs and hooves and head over to the Horse Park to meet the farrier (thanks to Megan for scheduling the appointment!).  Once we arrived, we learned that the show was going to be an hour delayed due to the weather, so we trailered back to the farm to meet the farrier there.  The farrier reset both of Cullen’s back shoes and then we headed back to the horse show very happy to find that most of the severe weather was past us for the day.  I stepped into my trailer to get my saddle to start to tack up.  When I stepped out of the trailer I found my friends scrambling to help Cullen – he had stepped on his new back shoe and twisted it and was stepping on the clip – ouch!  Luckily, “super MacGyver” Andrea showed up and was able to quickly pull off the offending shoe with a hammer, a hoof pick and a girth.  With no time to schedule a THIRD farrier appointment for the weekend, we decided it was OK to proceed to show jumping without one shoe.

I finished tacking up and headed down to the warm up area.  My plan was to pick up a canter, jump a single fence, and head to the show ring in order to be easy on Cullen’s feet.  Unfortunately, my first and second warm up fences didn’t go as planned.  I sent out the SOS signal for help, and Andrea arrived within minutes to help me with my warm up.  Megan also rode by on her young horse and helped coach me from the fence rail.  Between the two of them, I got back on track and headed to the show ring where we jumped around double clear!  Cullen never put a foot wrong (though I wasn’t much help in telling him which canter lead to be on) and happily cantered around the course in his usual enthusiastic manner.

Green Oxer (photo from Nathan’s video)
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Black Oxer (photo from Nathan’s video)
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Show Jumping (video by Nathan): 

We finished the event on our dressage score of 36 in 3rd place!  Better yet, I finished with a happy, healthy horse who is loving his job as an amateur eventer’s trusty steed.

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What’s Next: Cullen and I will head to Northern Michigan to compete Novice at the Cobblestone Horse Trial in 2 weeks.  It will be my first time at Cobblestone so I’m excited to try out a new event.

Midsouth Ponyclub HT 2015 Recap

Jul 09 2015
14
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In late June, Cullen and I attended the Midsouth Ponyclub Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park.  This was our 3rd horse trial and I was excited to build on the positive experiences we had at our last 2 outings.

In the days leading up to the show, a tropical depression (hurricane?) brought lots of heavy rain to the Lexington area.  This left the weather radar looking like this…
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And the cross country footing looking like this… (deep mud and standing water)
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Luckily, I was riding an Irish horse who is very used to rain and mud.  :-)  Cullen was a complete professional the entire weekend despite the challenging weather and footing.

Dressage: It was a complete torrential downpour one hour before my dressage ride time.  The horses were quietly munching hay in the trailer and my friend Nicole and I were hiding out in the truck.  I picked up the phone and called the show office to ask if the show was still running on schedule.  A very polite and cheerful voice confirmed that the show was in fact running on schedule since there was no lightening in the area.  I sucked it up and left the dry truck to unload, tack up, and hack down to the dressage.  About half way between the trailer and the dressage rings, I realized that every inch of my clothes were soaking wet and there was a steady stream of water trickling into my tall boots.  I plastered a smile to my face and kept going.

Once down at dressage, I found out that all of the volunteers were sent home.  We did not have a “bit check” or ring stewards.  That was a first!  I did, however, find my husband Nathan and my coach Megan.  Now THAT’S dedication!  They were standing sideways while talking to me to keep the strong rain from pelting them in the face.  Now I really had to smile.  They were there for me and I had to put on my game face and do my best for them.  Cullen and I warmed up in less than 10 minutes and headed straight to the show ring. 

Cullen and I had a very respectable test.  He had a couple of baby moments (swerving down centerline) and I had a couple of mistakes (running him into the rail) but we made it through with a 34.  We headed back to the trailer and learned that cross country was postponed for Novice and would be run Sunday after Show Jumping.  I happily headed home for a hot shower and dry clothes.

Show Jumping: Luckily, we didn’t have any more rain on Sunday – the weather remained calm and clear.  Sunday morning we headed back to the Horse Park for show jumping feeling more enthusiastic than the day before. 

For some reason, I was super nervous in show jumping warm up.  Panic washed over me and my arms and legs went numb.  I talked to Megan and we developed a game plan to keep me clam and focused on the task at hand.  After jumping the warm up vertical 2-3 times I was feeling more at ease.  I remembered that Cullen was a superstar, that he loved to jump, and that he would have my back even if I made a mistake.  Cullen and I headed down to the show ring and had a brilliant round!  Cullen was very enthusiastic and full of run.  I think he is getting very cocky at Novice!  I used my time between the fences to settle the canter and remind Cullen to be patient.  Unfortunately, I pulled on the reins a few too many times approaching jump 7 and we had the rail down, but otherwise I was happy with our round. 

Warm Up (picture by Howard)
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Show Time (picture by Howard)
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Last Fence (picture by Jj Sillman Photography)
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Video of Show Jumping (video by Nathan): https://youtu.be/9_bUyKSFHt4

Cross Country: Several hours after show jumping, it was time to head to cross country.  The cross country warm up area had very deep and sticky footing from all the rain the day before so I knew I needed to limit my warm up or risk Cullen losing a shoe.  I cantered a circle, hopped over 2 warm up fences, and headed over to the start box.  As soon as Cullen and I left the start box and headed to the first jump, I could tell it was going to be an amazing round.  From start to finish, the entire ride was foot perfect and followed the rhythm of a metronome. 

This was the best cross country round of my career, and this was only Cullen’s 3rd event ever!  I’m so thrilled with the partnership we are developing and the future for us!

Coop (picture by Jj Sillman Photography) 
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Water Jump (picture by Jj Sillman Photography)
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Video of Cross Country Part 1 (video by Howard): https://youtu.be/a9EldG50IIw

Video of Cross Country Part 2 (video by Howard): https://youtu.be/n3Mol4K7ee4 

Smiles After the Course (picture by Howard)
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We finished the event on a score of 38 in 8th place in a big Novice division.  But better than any ribbon is the experience of putting three great phases together with my handsome and talented horse.

What’s Next: Cullen and I will continue to compete at Novice to get more experience at this level.  Our next show is Champagne Run Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park in July.

May Daze HT 2015 Recap

May 29 2015
15
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This past weekend Cullen and I attended the May Daze Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park.  This was Cullen’s second recognized event and his first at the Novice level.  I can sum up the weekend in two words: easy and fun!  That is not to say that the actual event was easy, but that Cullen and I are really starting to click and riding him around Novice was so easy that it felt like we had been doing it for years.  Getting the opportunity to ride such a wonderful horse, get coaching from such a talented trainer, and be surrounded by such great riders and friends is truly a blessing.  Finishing on our dressage score of 32 was icing on the cake!

Dressage: Cullen was great in warm up!  He felt supple, relaxed and forward.  I tried timed our warm up perfectly so that I would get the best possible work out of Cullen in front of the judge.  Unfortunately, the rider in front of me had several errors while on course and ended up taking longer than expected.  Cullen tried to hold it together, but by this time he was getting fussy in the bridle and was lacking impulsion in his gaits as he was starting to get tired.  Alas, the show must go on!  We still put in a decent test to score a 32 which left us in 9th place in a very competitive division. 

Photo Credit: Lara Nickles
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Cross Country: After riding dressage at 9:20 AM, we had to wait until 5:02 PM to go out on cross country.  Being at the trailer for 7 hours definitely tested the limits of Cullen’s patience!  Luckily, the weather was nice and he got to spend the day in the shade, enjoying the breeze and a pile of hay.  When it was time to go out on cross country, Cullen was his usual enthusiastic self.  Did I mention…he LOVES to jump!  As soon as we left the start box, Cullen was all business.  He was adjustable, responsive, and incredibly focused on his job.  I was pleased with the Novice course as it offered several combinations of jumps that required tactful riding – 2 jumps set as a 90 degree turning question, a 3-stride half coffin on a slight bending line, a down bank with a bending line to a skinny brush, and a roll top one stride before the water.  Cullen needed a little extra encouragement at the big ditch, but jumped everything else out of stride and in a great rhythm.  We had so much fun!

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Photo Credit: Jj Sillman Photography
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Show Jumping: When we returned to the Kentucky Horse Park Sunday morning, Cullen was raring to go.  I think he thought we were going to run cross country again.  Fortunately, this was another jumping phase, so Cullen was happy.  Cullen warmed up well and then we went in and had a fabulous show jumping round.  I could not be happier with how our round went. 

Photo Credit: Howard Moore
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Photo Credit: Jj Sillman Photography
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We finished the weekend on our dressage score of 32 in 7th place.  
Photo Credit: Lara Nickles
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What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at Midsouth Pony Club Horse Trial at the Novice level in June.

Wilderness Trace CT Recap

May 22 2015
10
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I went to the Wilderness Trace Pony Club Combined Test last weekend where Cullen and I got to compete at the Novice level.  This was my first time at this local schooling show and I really enjoyed it.  Both the dressage and show jumping competition rings had good footing, the volunteers were nice, and the show was well run.  I definitely would go back to this venue again in the future. 

Dressage: Cullen warmed up well for dressage, then we headed up to the show ring.  Cullen went in and performed a very respectable test scoring a 30.  Our transitions from April were much improved, but I know we can do even better once Cullen gets stronger and more consistent in dressage and we continue to build our partnership.

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Show Jumping: Cullen warmed up well for show jumping and was very excited to get to do his favorite thing – jump!  The show jumping ring was very spooky with several large shiny panels, large plastic filler boxes, and colorful gates.  Cullen never looked at a single thing.  He marched down to every single fence and jumped it with style.  Jumping the Novice sized jumps was really fun, but I think he’s telling me he’s ready to go higher!

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Cullen and I went double clean show jumping to finish on our dressage score of 30 in 1st place!  Our first blue ribbon together!

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What’s Next:Cullen and I will compete at the May Daze Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park in the Novice Division.

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