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Octoberfest HT 2015 Recap

Oct 27 2015

I am sure I sound like a broken record, but this was my best horse trial with Cullen to date.  He was absolutely wonderful the entire weekend putting in three solid phases and proving that we are becoming a confident team.

Dressage: Cullen and I didn’t have dressage until late in the day Saturday.  The weather was sunny and beautiful as we walked down to the dressage complex to warm up.  Our warm up was good and brief and we were ready to compete.  When we headed down centerline to start our test, I must admit that I was distracted and wasn’t fully concentrating on my riding.  I definitely think I could have ridden better, but Cullen stepped up to the plate and put in a very professional test to earn us my all time best score of 29.0!  (Maybe I should pay less attention more often!)  I hope to continue to build on our dressage experience this year and put a little more pizzazz into our tests next year, but I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.

Show Jumping:  About an hour after dressage, we were tacked up and heading towards show jumping.  In our lessons over the last few weeks, Megan has had us jumping 3’3”-4’ regularly, so I was a bit underwhelmed when I saw our 2’11” Novice level course.  Needless to say, I had no nerves in show jumping warm up for one of the first times ever!  We went into the show ring and had one of our smoothest show jumping rounds to date.  A clean round left us with a score of 29 and tied for first.

Cross Country: Sunday morning it was cold and sunny at the Horse Park with frost on the grass and fog in the air.  It was so cold that I put studs in Cullen’s shoes while he was still wearing his winter blanket.  I tacked up quickly and we headed to warm up.  In the warm up area, I was warned that many horses and riders were having problems out on cross country due to low visibility on the course.  The combination of frost, fog, and sun was making the course a spooky and unpredictable.  My plan was to ride every fence and be prepared to support Cullen with extra leg when needed. 

Fog, frost and sun (PC: Megan Moore)

Fog, frost and sun (PC: Megan Moore)

Cullen and I left the start box in good form and continued around all 20 jump efforts with no problems at all.  Our round was smooth and confident and easy!!  It is so much fun to ride around a 5 minute cross country course knowing that you and your horse are completely on the same page.  Cullen is turning into quite an amazing Eventing partner!

Water Jump (PC: JJ Sillman)

Saddle Rack Jump (PC: JJ Sillman)

Cullen and I finished in 2nd place (the other rider finished closer to optimum time without going over), but I am totally thrilled with our entire weekend! 


What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at Haygard Midsouth Team Challenge HT next weekend and River Glen HT in November.

Jump Start HT 2015 Recap

Oct 03 2015

I can’t say enough great things about my amazing horse, Cullen.  Every time I ask more of him, he steps up to the plate and gives 110%.  Jump Start Horse Trial last weekend was no exception.  We have been working incredibly hard on dressage over the last several weeks; specifically, getting Cullen stronger, more supple and more balanced in all of his movements.  After this last show, I would say that all of our hard work is starting to pay off!

A huge Thank You to Howard for all the pictures, Nathan and Cindy for all the videos, and Megan for her coaching and support!  It takes a village, and Team CEO has the best people ever!

Dressage: It rained all of Friday night, so the dressage rings were fairly sloppy by Saturday.  Cullen seemed to love the wet footing and the cooler air.  He warmed up really well and stayed focused and relaxed.  Then we headed over to the show ring and put in our best test to date scoring a 30.3 in dressage!  We had our best canter transitions ever in a test as well as our best free walk.  It was magical to feel our connection and know that we were totally in sync.  This is the first USEA test where Cullen has been truly competitive in dressage, and I’m so excited to see where the future takes us!

The dressage judge wrote “Happy Horse” on my test.  It is always nice to get conformation that our horses love this as much as we do.  Thought, ff she thinks he’s happy doing dressage, she should come out and see him jump!  His enthusiasm for jumping is absolutely contagious!




Cross Country: A few hours after dressage, it was time for cross country.  Cullen was full of it in warm up and was goofing around a little bit.  He was enjoying the cooler weather and knew it was time to JUMP!   I wasn’t too worried because I knew he would settle in and do his job once we got out on course.  We headed towards the start box and off we went!  I let Cullen pick the pace and settled in to steer and enjoy the ride.  We were quite sticky to jumps 2, 3, 4 and 5.  I sat up and balanced for jump 6 which was a angled combination with a set of rails.  After that, we seemed to get a rhythm and take everything else in stride.  In hind sight, I probably shouldn’t have let Cullen start out at the quick pace in the beginning.  He is a careful horse and at this point still needs time to read and adjust at each obstacle to get us to the other side in an organized manner.  Nevertheless, we had a great time on course and finished double clear to move up to 2nd place in the large Novice division! 




Show Jumping: Show jumping was held Sunday morning.  My plan for this phase was to pick a canter, find a rhythm and make the round as smooth and seamless as possible.  On a good note, I was able to ride according to plan and had a very smooth round on Cullen.  Unfortunately, we had 2 rails down which dropped us from 2nd place to 10th place.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled with the weekend that Cullen and I put together – 3 great phases and a healthy, happy horse!





What’s Next: I have a couple of exciting training opportunities next weekend, followed by Octoberfest Mini Event, and Team Challenge Horse Trial.  October is a great time to be outside and riding your hose!

Chris Ryan Clinic Recap

Sep 11 2015

When I heard that the Woodford Hounds Educational Foundation would be hosting a clinic with Chris Ryan in Central Kentucky, I was very curious and interested in going.  I knew that this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to learn more about foxhunting and horses trained in Ireland.

Chris Ryan is not only the Master and Huntsman of Scarteen Black and Tans in Ireland, an international eventer, coach, and developer of world-class horses, but he also played a key role in helping us find Cullen.  From what I understand, Cullen (known as Coolnaboy Rubens) fox hunted in Ireland with the Scarteen Black and Tans during his 4 year old year.  Just as he turned 5, Chris introduced Megan to Cullen and Megan feel in love – she knew this would be the perfect horse for me! 

Day 1: We drove about an hour and 15 minutes to Shaker Village in Versailles, KY.  Once there, we tacked up and met some of the other riders in our group.  One of the women was nice enough to lead us on a 30 minute trail ride from the West Lot to the Kennels.  The ride across Shaker Village was almost more challenging than the clinic itself.  We had to ride up and down steep hills with sharp rocks and tight turns.  At one point we got to cross a shallow creek bed which was fun.  Once we arrived at the Kennels, we were greeted by many friendly faces, some of which were handing out cold cups of water.  Much appreciated as it was 95+ degrees and sunny at this point! 

Trail riding to the clinic location (Photo by Megan)

We met Chris and I quickly learned that he was going to be a great instructor.  He had a gift to provide the right amount of theory and instruction for the activities he had planned for us.  We started by walking over telephone poles and small cross rails to get the horses legs active.  Then we started trotting small fences.  Chris threw a coat onto one of the jumps in an effort to get the horses sharper with their front ends.

Jumping the cross rail with a coat on it (Photo by Megan)

After a couple of jumping exercises, Chris moved us over to the Irish Bank.  First he had us walk up and down the bank length wise.  Then he had us jump up and down from both sides.  One of the sides even had a ditch at the bottom!  The horses were all good sports as they learned to navigate this new obstacle.  Several of the horses would walk calmly up and down the bank’s steep edges.  Cullen, however, being the “master bank horse” (as Chris liked to call him), would leap to the top of the bank in a single bound and bounce down the other side in a single leap.  It was so much fun!!

Walking across the top of the bank (Photo by Megan)

Cullen leaping off the bank (Photo by Micki)

Day 2: Luckily our ride time for day 2 was in the morning, so it was about 10 degrees cooler (still around 85 degrees) which offered some relief from the day before.  The trail ride out to the clinic site was less dramatic because we knew what to expect this time.  We started off our session with some of the same exercises we worked on the day before – walking over poles and trotting fences to get the horses warmed up. 

Warm up Day 2 (Photo by Micki M)

After our warm up, Chris walked us over to a big rugged ditch that was dug out in the middle of the field.  He had our horses walk into the ditch and jump out, then jump in the ditch and trot out, and finally jump over the ditch.  It was impressive to see Cullen’s brain work as he tried to figure out exactly what we wanted.  After all, his entire life in Ireland was trying to avoid falling into ditches, and now we were telling him to jump down into one!  Cullen was a good sport and answered every question we asked of him.

Jumping out of the ditch (Photo by Micki M)

Jumping into the ditch (Photo by Micki M)

Jumping over the ditch (Photo by Megan)

The grand finale of the clinic was jumping the big steeplechase brush jump two at a time.  Chris explained that horses are herd animals and that getting to gallop and jump together is a lot of fun for them.  This concept made sense but was a little foreign to me since we spend a lot of time keeping the off the track thoroughbreds we ride from racing each other.  The Irish horses seemed to have a great time riding in groups without becoming overly competitive.

Jumping the steeplechase hedge (photo by Micki M)

Wrap Up: What I learned at this clinic over the 2 days has allowed me to see things from Cullen’s point of view.  Being a “master bank and ditch horse” raised and started in Ireland, Cullen has learned to square up his hind legs and push over the jumps to allow him to be more secure on take off and landing.  In the US, this might look a little exaggerated and awkward, but in Ireland, it kept him and his rider safe even in the questionable footing.  Not only do I have a better understanding of Cullen’s background, but I also gained a lot of trust in my partner.  I am excited to go back and build on this trust as we continue training for eventing.

A huge thank you to the Woodford Hounds Educational Foundation for hosting such a great clinic and for bringing this opportunity to us.  And thank you to Chris Ryan for flying over to the US and sharing his knowledge with us!

Kentucky Classique HT 2015 Recap

Sep 08 2015

I was excited to compete at the Kentucky Classique Horse Trials at the end of August. The courses are usually challenging but fair and this year was no exception. As always, Cullen showed up to the event with his game face on and handled himself like a seasoned pro in all three phases.

Dressage: Cullen was wonderful in dressage warmup Saturday morning. He was light and responsive and has really learned how to stretch into the contact of the bridle. I am so pleased with how far he’s come this year. I really felt like this was our best test at a horse trial to date.

Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to be having a good weekend as well, with the top 10 riders all piled together with scores from 29-35. Cullen was sitting at a 35.3 which put us tied for 11th.

Photos by the wonderful Liz Moyer



I have a couple of homework items I’m going to work on over the next few weeks: 1) getting Cullen more active in the walk and trot and 2) getting his frame a bit higher so he doesn’t give the impression of being on the forehand.

Show Jumping: Saturday afternoon we headed to show jumping warmup. I have been working really hard on being calm and relaxed in warm up and clearing my head of all negative thoughts prior to entering the show ring. I think it is starting to work because I was only marginally nervous as Cullen and I popped over a few warm up fences and headed down to the show ring.

Cullen had a great show jumping round and easily left up all the rails (despite my panic moment in the double combination) which moved us up to 9th place.



My homework for show jumping includes: 1) working on flying lead changes and 2) gaining confidence while riding double and triple combinations.

Cross Country: On Sunday it was time for Cullen’s favorite phase – cross country! The ground was hard and slick, so I made sure to put studs in all of Cullen’s shoes before heading to warm up. In warm up, I jumped a few fences and walked around waiting for our turn to leave the start box. I thought about my course and realized that there wasn’t a single fence or combination out there that worried me. I had complete faith in the relationship that Cullen and I have formed this year and I knew it would a work out. Luckily, I was right. Cullen and I loped around the cross country course and through the finish flags. When we pulled up to meet my friends, we noticed that Cullen didn’t have a single drop of sweat on his neck even after running a 5 minute cross country course in 80+ degree weather. Apparently the course didn’t stress him out either!



Cullen and I finished the event on our dressage score in 8th place. I am super proud of how we did this weekend, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds for us.

What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at Novice in the Jump Start Horse Trials at the end of September.

Cobblestone Farms HT 2015 Recap

Aug 04 2015

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)


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
pink oxer

What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at Kentucky Classique Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of August.

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