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Richland Park Horse Trial 2016 Recap

Sep 28 2016

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

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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. 

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