Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Yesterday Charly and I arrived home from the long journey to the lovely Lamplight Equestrian center in Wayne, Illinois. This is the site of the 2007 AEC's, and for anyone thinking of going, spectator or rider, I highly suggest it. Fabulous footing, excellent show management and beautiful fences on both the cross country and show jump courses.

This show was Charly's second Intermediate run and it was held under international guidelines (therefore called a CIC **); here are some of the differences...

*In barn inspection on Wed or Thursday to check the horses passports and make sure that we brought the correct horse
*Internationally designed dressage test, mandatorily held in a large dressage court and top hat and tails required. (Double bridle still optional)
*Longer cross country course and generally more difficult questions asked than a regular horse trials Intermediate
*Veterinary inspection after cross country to check TPR (temperature, pulse and respiration)
*Trot ups in front of a ground jury on Sunday morning to check for soundness

Charly's two star division consisted of 26 competitors; competing against the master himself Mr. Bruce Davidson (on two horses), Sara Dierks (a top US competitor), Heather Morris, Allison Springer and many other "big" names.

Just as I was about to get on Charly for his dressage warm-up I heard that there was a long hold in my dressage arena. Word got to me that a horse from my good friends barn (Gold Chip Stables) had an aneurism in the court (apparently reared up backed over the railing and died instantly upon landing). This may be the most horrific news, the only good part of the story is that the girl riding (even though pinned under the horse) was able to walk away physically un-hurt. Although I'm sure mentally devastated. The delay ended up not being all that long and Charly's warm-up went really well. However things were a bit confusing for the gate steward and I got sent over a whole horse ahead of my time, therefore having to walk Charly back and forth in between hundreds of spectators for a whole 7 minutes! Charly doesn't get nervous like you would see of that of a TB BUT he really likes to compete and he gets all puffed up like a stallion and very light on his toes, I definitely could not get him to stand for the seven minutes but he was a decently good boy walking back and forth! Then I entered the white fenced arena with the big grandstand on one side and flowers laid out everywhere and he (on his own) threw out the biggest extended trot I have ever sat on, I luckily got him back before the corner where he proceeded to spook at the flowers (becoming his signature mark before going into the dressage ring); after that he was all business. Charly performed very well; this test called for shoulders in, travers in, medium trot, collected canter, counter canter, simple change of lead (through walk), rein-back, extended walk, and a canter halt. For his level of training, he was great; I made the mistake of practicing the counter canter to a simple change in the warm-up and he anticipated them in the ring on both sides (coming down to the walk a few letters early on both leads); this was obviously given a very low mark by both judges. It was still a test that had me smiling the whole time and we walked out to a loud section of cheering...Charly and I were both very proud. The test put us in seventh place 3 points away from second.

The cross country course was fabulous. It gave you four big good gallop fences to start with before asking any questions (this is a plus for Charly as he has lately been leaving the box on a mission of going somewhere in a big hurry!) The path was often marked with white ropes as there were so many spectators that they needed to be kept off of the galloping lanes. Charly was absolutely phenomenal, the bigger fences and all the spectators didn't cause him any stress, it was a truely exciting ride. Him and I have one problem area, turning questions that start with a big table. He jumps so big over the table and lands ready for a gallop...this was our jump 4AB, a maximum sized square table 4 turning strides to a corner. Let's just say I had to represent to the corner of which he jumped great, and that we'll be doing some practice with this at home! After this Charly and I were completely together as a team; the water jump was a highlight of the course, it had a log max drop into the water to an up bank with a bounce to a jump out...it jumped so perfectly it felt like a gymnastic grid. We also had two bounce up-banks that jumped great which was a huge relief to me as up-banks were our other nemesis. Luckily that one seems to be behind us now :) Just before the last water complex Charly and I were flagged to a stop, I have never been held on course before but I was assuming that this must be what was happening as all my jumps seemed to have been going great...So thus the bittersweet story of Charly's weekend . After the bounce banks we turned to the left and jumped a hedge immediately followed by a "blind" turn to a corner, there was also the Intermediate hedge (which was the exact same fence but just placed to the left of ours; I landed from the up banks saw my line to the hedge and corner and never thought twice, the line jumped perfectly... problem is I looked too soon and saw the first hedge, the Intermediate hedge NOT the two star hedge so therefore I had jumped the wrong fence.

The next day was especially hard when I walked to 2 star show jumping course to see what we would have been doing. Words can't describe how amazing that arena was; it gave you the feeling of walking into a big grand prix ring each fence was completely decorated with it's own theme and I KNOW that Charly would have just done a great job in there! Errrrrr.

Looking ahead I know what we need to improve upon in each of the phases and I have 3 weeks to work on all of that before our next competition. Charly jogged up sound and happy on Sunday morning and shipped home safely. Next destination... Millbrook, New York August 9-12th...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Groton House II

Going into this last competition I realized I was going to have some extremely good horses and riders in my class because the Advanced/Intermediate division had been cancelled and all those horses were moved into the Open Intermediate class. In all honesty this aspect really didn't phase me very much, BUT the fact that it's been 6 years since I've ridden an Intermediate track and that Charly has NEVER run an Intermediate of any kind (let a lone one of the magnitude of that of Groton House) this all had me a little on edge!

Charly performed like never before in the dressage ring, going across the long diagonal in the "big" court, on turf, in his medium trot was quite possibly the most enchanting feeling I've ever had. I exited with the announcer commenting on what a lovely test Charly had, and the crowd (which was very large) all commenting on how great we looked, it was a great feeling. The judge gave us some very good homework and although fair was VERY tough. At the end of the day Charly was in 10th place out of the 29 in his class.

The cross country course was very well designed and very difficult. As you can see in the results it retired or eliminated about a third of the division. Lots of forest with steep gullies with BIG drops and banks, just by walking the course you could tell that time would be almost impossible to make. One of the best lessons I've learned from being out on the east coast is that each competition truly has it's own importance, and that often means chosing to get a certain goal attained other than taking home a blue ribbon. I knew that if I was one of the fastest times I was sure to be in the top of the division; however I also knew that I needed a very confident run to qualify for the CIC ** that Charly and I would be running just two weeks after this show. I knew that Danny Warrington, my coach and former international steeplechase rider, would be running for time on his big fast TB who is well seasoned at Advanced; I also knew that "Dobbin" is an Advanced horse that has blown the socks off of his competition for the last few years. I also know that running fast and jumping down multiple BIG drops is really tough on their feet...all things considered I decided that this event was there for me and Charly to become confident at the Intermediate level. Charly completely impressed me with his braveness, never questioning a single fence; he also thought he was impressive by thinking he was cute and jumping me out of the tack in one of the big narrows at the top of a steep downhill...after that I learned to sit a bit tighter coming into the next drop! This was lucky as the water was tough; a big hedge at the top of a hill brought you down to a ramp into the first level of water, two strides across to another ramp (drop) into another level of water 3 or 4 strides across that to an up-bank out left handed turn to a huge table with a large drop on landing...then one fence to the finish.
At the end of XC I knew I had gone slow, and totally did not care as just jumped better and better as the course went. That day moved us up one placing to 9th.

As if the cross country didn't involve enough terrain that show jumping brought more! It was held on a large grass field, all jumps set going either up or down hill and most off of a small turn. Charly walked in very professionally and as soon as I saluted he was off and on a mission :) That horse can jump, I really think that is the best way to describe it! Before we went, rails were coming down left and right and I never once worried about him taking a rail, he just flew. I love going into show jumping with him, because you really feel like he understands how important it is to keep up the rails and he tries his heart out every course. After our round the rails kept coming down and allowed us to move into 5th place. I honestly couldn't be happier with our horse, one of the girls in the barn kindly named him the "Eventing King".