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River Glen Fall HT 2015 Recap

Dec 31 2015
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Wow!  I’m still in shock from this past weekend when Cullen and I competed at River Glen Fall Horse Trial and WON the event!  We have worked so hard this year and I think this was the perfect way to end the 2015 show season.

On Friday, Nathan and I packed the truck and trailer and headed to New Market, TN.   This was my second away show with Cullen (the first was Cobblestone HT).  Team CEO brought 12 horses to the event and we all got to stable together which was a lot of fun.  Four of us competed in the same division so we were able to tack up, warm up, and watch each other compete which was great!  There is nothing better than riding and showing with good friends.

A huge thanks to Howard Moore and Nathan Rover for all of the pictures and videos! 

Team CEO riders in Novice Division B
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Dressage: Cullen warmed up well and we performed a respectable test.  The comments I got from the judge are consistent with the comments from our last several shows – happy, submissive horse, accurate test, but lacking pizzazz.  We scored a 37 to sit in 9th place after dressage.  This winter I will continue to work with Cullen to get him stronger, moving over his back, more supple in the bridle, and more brilliant in his gaits.  I think that will help our scores improve next year.

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Show Jumping: Traditionally, River Glen show jumping is big and challenging.  This year, the Novice division competed in a separate arena set up in the grass which added the element of varying terrain to the complexity of the course.  This worked out well for Cullen and I because he LOVES jumping in the grass.  Cullen warmed up great and went in and did one of his smoothest rounds to date.  It was so much fun!  After show jumping, we moved up to 4th place.

Cross Country: The cross country course was also challenging – a real trakehner, a big table between 2 arenas, and a down bank at the bottom of a super steep hill.  Cullen and I flew around the course to have our most positive and confident round to date.  We were on the same page at every single fence.  I was grinning from ear to ear and had a wonderful time!  The 5 minute course ended way too soon.  It will be hard to wait 5 months until I get to event again in the Spring.

Cross Country Jumps 1-11   

Cross Country Jumps 9-16

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After cross country, we moved up to first place!  This is Cullen’s first USEA event win!!  I’m so excited to ride and own this exceptional horse.  He is definitely turning out to be my horse of a lifetime.

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What’s Next: Cullen and I will continue to train throughout the winter and will hopefully attend a couple of local schooling shows.  In March, we will head to Aiken, SC to attend the annual Team CEO training camp.  The 2016 competition season starts in April with the Spring Bay Horse Trial.

Midsouth Team Challenge HT 2015 Recap

Nov 06 2015
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For many eventers, Midsouth Team Challenge Horse Trial is the highlight of the competition year.  The event usually accepts 500-700 entries and fills on opening day with 200+ on the wait list.  The competition is tough – all divisions are “open” divisions with amateurs, juniors, and professionals all competing together and the show jumping and cross country courses are typically championship level.  The 2015 event did not disappoint and Cullen confidently stepped up to the plate and was phenomenal in all 3 phases.  Best of all, we had a blast being on the Team CEO Leprechaun team with fellow eventers Erika and Holly and their Irish Sport Horses Smartie and Reilly.

On Friday, I volunteered to be a jump judge for the CCI* cross country.  I saw numerous upper level event riders tactfully pilot their horses around the course.  I had a good view of jumps 7-9 including the second water, the angled brushes, and the hidden corner.  Watching these riders made me even more determined to improve my riding and continue to grow my partnership with Cullen so that we can move up the levels.

The Team CEO family was out in full force this weekend – volunteering, bringing food/drinks, helping to groom/tack, taking pictures/videos and cheering everyone on.  We had riders come who were not even entered in the event plus numerous family members (aunts, moms, husbands, etc.)  It was amazing to see everyone and to feel the love and support.  Team CEO is the best!

Wendy brought custom Coke bottles for us!  (PC: Wendy Long)
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Dressage: Our dressage time was scheduled for early Saturday afternoon.  We headed down to the dressage complex and had a good warm up.  Cullen and I had a great test overall, but we had a few small mistakes which left points on the table.  We scored a 36 to put us in 17th place in a tightly packed division.

Erika and I before we headed to dressage (PC: Elise Forrest)
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Our dressage test (PC: Megan Moore)
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Show Jumping: The incredibly talented Brody Robertson was the course designer and jump provider for show jumping.  He setup a beautiful course which was challenging but fair for each level.  Many of the jumps were considered spooky and I was relieved that I was riding Cullen who is reliably brave and confident over jumps.  Our show jumping time was late Saturday afternoon.  The warm up ring was absolutely crazy with tons of horses zooming around in every direction.  I am so thankful that the chaotic scene did not bother Cullen and he remained relaxed and focused throughout our warm up despite my fear of us being t-boned after landing from each jump.  Once we were done with warm up we headed to the competition ring and put in a beautiful clear round.  Cullen was forward and responsive and jumped around the course with ease.  It was so much fun!  Being one of the only double clear rounds, we moved up from 17th to 4th place!

Our team waiting to warm up for show jumping  (PC: Howard Moore)
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Our team waiting to warm up for show jumping (PC: Howard Moore)
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Show Jumping Round (PC: Howard Moore)

Cross Country: Sunday was cross country time!!  My teammates and I spent the morning dressing ourselves and our horses for the costume contest.  Riders were dressed in Leprechaun costumes over our usual riding equipment.  Horses had gold tape on their boots, gold bell boots, and rainbow ribbon in their manes, tails, bridles and breast collars.  We ended up winning the costume contest for the entire show!

Team CEO Leprechauns about to head to XC Warm Up  (PC: Howard Moore)
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We headed down to cross country warm up late Sunday morning.  The sun was shining and the air was crisp and cool.  The horses felt great and we all had successful rounds!  Cullen felt amazing as he conquered all of the challenging jumping efforts – big down bank to a spooky stone wall, the Rolex crater, double mounds, and the Rolex water.  Despite being one of the most difficult courses we have tackled this year, it was easily our smoothest and easiest round to date.  All while dressed in full costume!

Cullen over the open oxer (PC: Dustin Fichter)
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Cross Country Start and Finish (PC: Howard Moore)

Cross Country Middle of the Course (PC: Nathan Rover)

Cullen and I ended up the event as 1st place amateur in the division, 4th place overall in the division, 6th place Novice team, and 1st place in the costume contest.  The points from this show also moved me onto the USEA Area 8 Leaderboard as the 5th place Novice Adult Amateur Rider.  What a weekend!  I could not have done any of this without the support of my trainer, Megan Moore, and my husband, Nathan.

After the show (PC: Megan Moore)
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USEA Area 8 Novice Leader Board
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What’s Next: One more event for 2015!  Cullen and I will head south to Tennessee to compete at the River Glen HT in November as our last event of the year.

Octoberfest HT 2015 Recap

Oct 27 2015
10
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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)
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Fog, frost and sun (PC: Megan Moore)
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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)
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Saddle Rack Jump (PC: JJ Sillman)
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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! 

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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
21
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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!

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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! 

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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!

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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
36
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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)
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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)
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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)
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Cullen leaping off the bank (Photo by Micki)
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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)
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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)
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Jumping into the ditch (Photo by Micki M)
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Jumping over the ditch (Photo by Megan)
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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)
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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!

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