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Richland Park Horse Trial 2016 Recap

Sep 28 2016
21
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I’ve been procrastinating on writing this blog post because I don’t think I have the words to adequately describe what an incredible weekend this was for me.  Here goes my best shot…

Richland Park Horse Trial is known for being a destination event each year.  It is a world class event attended by world class riders.  With FEI levels including CIC one star, two star, and three star, there were plenty of top notch riders competing their Intermediate and Advanced level horses to watch and admire throughout the weekend.  The facility was gorgeous, the volunteers were numerous and friendly, the organization was flawless, and the courses were challenging.  If you ever have a chance to compete at Richland, do it.  You will not regret it.

After successfully running four Training Level events earlier this year, I asked Megan, my coach, what she thought I should do for the remainder of the show season.  She enthusiastically encouraged me to compete at Richland even though it is known for being a very challenging event.  She was confident that Cullen and I had developed the skills and partnership needed to be successful at a big event.  I must admit that I was very nervous from the moment I sent in my entry to the minute I crossed the finish line on Sunday.  But in the end, Cullen and I rose to the occasion and put in an incredible performance to WIN our Training Rider division.

Friday: We arrived at the event in Richland, MI on Thursday.  We unpacked and setup the stall.  Then I hopped on Cullen and got a quick flat lesson from Megan.  Cullen felt great and was really relaxed and happy throughout our ride, though as we flatted in an open field, he kept one eye glued to the nearby show jumping course.  He LOVES to jump!

Dressage: Friday we warmed up well for dressage and then headed to the ring.  After the judge blew the whistle, I directed Cullen down centerline and noticed a fly on his neck.  He proceeded to shake his head, bothered by the fly, through the first half of the test, but the judge graciously ignored the it and judged our ride.  With the extra energy and excitement in the air, Cullen was forward in our test and we ended up with a 31 which is our best score at Training level to date.

Professional video of all 3 phases

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Show Jumping: Saturday brought rain, rain, and more rain.  The show was put on hold several times as severe storms rolled through the area.  Cullen and I ended up competing about 2 hours after our scheduled ride time.  We headed to show jumping when the thunder and lightening stopped, but the rain continued.  Within minutes, I was soaking wet.  The show jumping ring was set in a large grassy area that was slightly sloped.  Several horses were slipping and sliding around the course and rails were coming down left and right.  I had put medium sized mud studs in Cullen’s shoes to help him out, but luckily, the rain and the slick footing didn’t bother him at all.  Despite how nervous I was, Cullen attacked the jumps in warm up like a pro.  I took a deep breath and went in to ride my course.  Cullen was amazing!  We jumped a clear round and he made it look effortless.  When we left the ring after our last jump, a group of people whom I didn’t know came up to me to congratulate us on our round and say how much they loved watching Cullen jump.  Its like I always say, Cullen’s enthusiasm is contagious!

Creative water management with the lack of gutters on the tent barns. 
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Green verticle

Black oxer

Cross Country: The rain stopped late in the day Saturday and the sun peaked out of the clouds in time for our cross country ride on Sunday.  Having a great show jumping round increased my confidence for cross country, but I still knew I had a tough job a head of me.  The footing was very challenging – slick and deep in the shade in the woods and tacky and holding in open fields where the sun had time to partially dry the surface.  The course was huge with almost every jump at max height or width for the level.  There were also technical jumps that Cullen and I had never seen at a show before – a real trakehner, a Normandy bank, water to water jump, and more.  To add even more to the challenge, the course was measured at 470 mpm which means that Cullen and I would have to go faster than we’ve ever gone before on course.  Yikes!!  All of this and I knew that Cullen and I were in 1st place at the start of cross country. Talk about pressure!  I came up with a plan, with Megan’s help, to ride each and every fence on course.  I went though the plan over and over again in my head.  To my immense delight, the course rode according to plan.  Talk about an adrenaline rush!  We finished the course double clear with 0.4 time penalties.  We finished the event in 1st place by more than 5 points!  This is one event that I will remember forever.

Richland Water

oxer

Cordwood

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GoPro Video of Cross Country.  I know Cullen had as much fun as I did. :-) 

What’s Next: Cullen and I will be attending several more events this Fall both in Kentucky and in Tennessee. 

Champagne Run HT 2016 Recap

Jul 27 2016
16
0

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!

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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
19
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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.

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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

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Picture by JJ Sillman

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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. 

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All smiles after the course!

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

Derbyshire Farms HT 2016 Recap

Jun 30 2016
14
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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.

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Cullen watching the turkeys.
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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.

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Spooky log drop into the water.
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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
4
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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.

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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! 

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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.

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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.

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