Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Champagne Run HT 2016 Recap

Jul 27 2016

Eventing is a team sport – one horse and one rider make a competitive team.  If one member of the team makes a mistake, it can impact the outcome of the entire weekend.  Unfortunately, this was my weekend to make a mistake.  I failed to add leg before the first show jumping jump, asking my horse to jump it, and it caused us to drop from 4th to 15th place for the show.  As I walked out of the ring, Megan smiled and shook her head and said “you’ll never make that mistake again!”  I hope she’s right!  The good news is that except for that 3 second lapse in judgment, Cullen and I had a great, confidence building weekend!

Dressage was good.  Cullen is consistently scoring a 35 at almost every event.  To score better, he will need to carry himself in a more advanced level of frame which will also help him improve his gaits.

Show jumping was good.  After our stop at the first fence (due to my lack of communication), we circled around and jumped a beautiful clear round.  I love how easy Training level is starting to feel.  It was only 2 months ago that we jumped our first Training Level show jumping course, and now it feels like we’ve been doing it forever.

Cross Country was great.  The Champagne Run course wasn’t as technical as the Midsouth course I rode a few weeks ago, so I was feeling pretty confident.  My biggest focus was to have a good smooth round without any time penalties.  I ended up riding to plan and we came in double clear!  The down bank into water saw the most problems of the day, but Cullen and I rode it perfectly without any issues.

Thanks Rachel S for the pictures and Howard for the video!




Here is the Go Pro video of our cross country ride.  So much fun to watch!

What’s Next: Cullen and I will head to Michigan in August to compete at Richland Horse Trials.  This is my big destination event for the year.  I am so excited that I get to go! 

Midsouth Pony Club HT 2016 Recap

Jul 05 2016

Last weekend, Cullen and I headed to the Kentucky Horse Park for the Midsouth Pony Club Horse Trial.  This was our 3rd time competing at Training level and I knew this was going to be the most challenging show for us to date.  I was nervous about whether Cullen would understand the questions asked on the cross country course and whether he would handle the heat well.  It turns out, I had no need to be worried.  Cullen rose to the occasion and excelled at all three phases of the event.  Though we did not end the show in the ribbons, I learned a lot about Cullen and we strengthened our relationship throughout the weekend.  The benefits of that far outweigh a ribbon!

Dressage:  I had to be out of town for most of the month of June due to work commitments.  Megan was kind enough to ride Cullen for me a couple of times before the show.  She worked her dressage magic and I could tell that Cullen’s trot work had improved.  I was very excited that we lowered our dressage score by 2 points at this level.

Dressage pictures by JJ Sillman.  All videos by Nathan Rover.




Show Jumping: Cullen and I had a very forward, confident show jumping round.  I was having so much fun that I neglected to sit up and balance Cullen before one of the oxers which caused him to have a rail down.  I think this was Cullen’s first rail of the entire 2016 season.  Despite the rail, I was very happy with our round.

Picture by Howard Moore


Picture by JJ Sillman


Cross Country:  This was by far the most challenging cross country course I’ve ridden to date, but I had a plan on how to ride it and was able to stick to my plan.  I learned a lot about Cullen in the 5-6 minutes it took us to navigate the course.  He was calm and focused the entire course and understood all of the combinations.  I was thrilled!  Since it was so hot, I didn’t push Cullen for speed and we added 10 time penalties to our score which kept us out of the ribbons, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  We both finished the course confident and happy.  I was on top of the world!

Nathan bought me a Go Pro camera for my birthday.  This show was the first chance I got to use it.  Now you can follow along with the action as if you were riding the course yourself!  Before watching this video, I didn’t think I talked much on cross country.  Apparently, I say “good boy” a lot.  Twenty times to be exact.  You have been warned.  :-)  My friend also pointed out that the amount of clucking I do before the jump and the enthusiasm of my praise after the jump is directly related to the difficulty of the obstacle. 

Cross country pictures by Howard Moore. 


All smiles after the course!


What’s Next: Cullen and I will head to Champagne Run Horse Trial in July.

Derbyshire Farms HT 2016 Recap

Jun 30 2016

In early June, Cullen and I headed north to Stevensville, MI to compete at the Derbyshire Horse Trial.  I competed there two years ago with Owen (post here), so I knew what to expect going into the weekend.  I was ready for a fun and relaxing time at a recognized horse trial that has the look and feel of a local schooling show.

Friday we arrived at the event and immediately setup our stalls and unloaded the horses.  It was HOT.  The truck thermometer said it got well into the 90’s during the drive so we were eager to get the horses unloaded.  After walking our cross country course, I planned to braid Cullen’s mane, but when I got back to the stalls, I learned we had unexpected guests!  The neighbor’s pet turkeys got lose and decided to visit the horse show!  The strange visitors greatly excited the horses, so we had to shoo them away before I could start braiding.


Cullen watching the turkeys.

Dressage: Saturday morning we got to the show bright and early ready to do dressage.  Cullen was great as usual.  It was very hot and humid out and the arena footing was really deep, but Cullen stepped up to the plate and put in a very respectable test. 

Cross Country: A few hours after dressage, it was time for cross country.  After picking up a few time penalties at my last horse trial, I was eager to let Cullen gallop a little more forward this time out.  Cullen responded enthusiastically and we easily jumped around the course clear and 20 seconds under optimum time.



Spooky log drop into the water.

Saturday night we drove to one of the neighboring towns and stopped to have a look at the beach area surrounding Lake Michigan and then headed to a relaxing dinner.  It was a lot of fun.

Show Jumping: My show jumping time was scheduled for early Sunday morning.  Cullen warmed up really well and we had a smooth, fault-free round.  It is exciting how quickly Cullen has picked up Eventing as his new “job”.  He loves it and his enthusiasm is contagious. 

Jump 5y

Jump 8ay

Cullen and I finished the weekend on our dressage score as the 3rd placed amateur and 5th place overall in the division.

What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at the Midsouth Pony Club Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of June.

May Daze HT 2016 Recap

Jun 08 2016

I am having a hard time writing this blog entry because I am almost speechless.  Words are inadequate to describe the joy and excitement I feel from having completed my first Training Level horse trial with Cullen.  It was a very successful move-up in multiple ways, but the most important being that I wasn’t nervous for any of the three phases.  Confidently competing at Training Level is something I’ve been working towards for 12 years and trained with 4 different horses to achieve.  Under the diligent coaching of Megan, Cullen and I were well prepared for the weekend.

Dressage: The temperature had risen from 59 degrees the weekend before to 89 degrees at the time of my dressage ride.  I was worried that Cullen would be lethargic in the heat, but he stepped up to the plate and performed his best test to date.  I love his great work ethic and his pleasant attitude in everything he does.  Even though Cullen would rather be running and jumping, he put in a steady dressage test to score a 35 and sit in 4th place in our Training Rider division.



Show Jumping: After dressage, I had about 3 hours to wait until show jumping and then show jumping ended up running 20 minutes late Friday evening.  Megan had been competing and coaching for 12 hours straight, but her and Howard showed up to meet me in warm up with a smile on their face and encouraging words and advice.  Cullen warm up well, though with the small, narrow warm up space and the handful of other horses around, it was hard to get the pace and rhythm that I wanted.  Nevertheless, Cullen and I went into the show ring, established our canter, and cruised around the course in style.  I think Cullen appreciated the larger jumps that better complimented his large frame and helped him balance and jump athletically at the fences.  We jumped around double clean and I was thrilled! 



Cross Country: Saturday afternoon I tacked up Cullen for cross country and headed to warm up.  When I picked up the reins, my eager partner took off at the canter ready to run and jump!  It took me a few minutes to convince him that we needed to trot and canter to warm up his muscles before heading out on course.  :-)  After jumping a few of the warm up fences, Megan show up to give me some final words of encouragement and advice.  I headed into the start box with a smile on my face, gave Cullen a final pat on the neck, and off we went!  We jumped around the entire course with ease.  I let Cullen pick his pace and made sure to slow him up before all of the combinations so that he had time to understand and navigate the questions.  With laser-like focus, he picked off the jumps one by one, jumping everything in stride.  We had SO MUCH FUN!  We jumped around clear with just 1.4 time penalties.  Cullen and I maintained our ranking to finish 4th in the Training division.


Photo courtesy of Xpress Foto
© Xpress Foto 920-619-8765

What’s Next: In 2 weeks, we will head North to Michigan to compete at the Derbyshire Horse Trial.

Wilderness Trace PC CT 2016 Recap

May 23 2016

Last weekend, Cullen and I attended the Wilderness Trace Pony Club Combined Test schooling show.  Wilderness Trace is a great local show put on by some really nice folks and we enjoy attending this show every year.  Last year, Cullen and I ran Novice as our move up and finished in 1st place!  This year, Cullen and I made our big move up to Training and finished in 2nd place.  I guess that means we will have to attend in 2017 to try the Preliminary division.  :-)

Dressage: It was cool and damp on Saturday – perfect Irish weather.  Cullen had an extra spring in his step as we warmed up for dressage.  As always, he was very obedient and tried his hardest in our test, thought we did have a couple of green moments.  This was Cullen’s first time competing the Training level test so he wasn’t quite sure what was going on.  This was not Novice Test B which he had performed in our last ~10 shows.  Nevertheless, he was a good sport and followed my lead and continued to improve.  We got an 8 on his trot-to-canter transition that we have been working very hard on over the last 2 months so I was thrilled!



Show Jumping: After a quick tack change, it was time for show jumping.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t any more nervous than usual for show jumping despite the fact that we were jumping a course 4” bigger than our usual Novice courses.  The course had tons of difficult turns and big oxers, but I knew that Cullen and I were well prepared to handle it.  In fact, Cullen seemed to go even better with the faster speed and bigger jump effort that was required for the Training course.  He was focused and responsive our entire round.  He loved it out there and I was super happy with how effortless everything felt.  We have definitely formed a great partnership. 

We jumped a clear round which left us finishing on our dressage score of 35 and in 2nd place.  Less than 1 point away from 1st place.  :-) 



What’s Next: Cullen and I will compete at May Daze Horse Trial at the Kentucky Horse Park next week at Training Level.  I am excited about our big move up!

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