Monday, September 17, 2012

Fun Times for Team Lily at Fair Hill!!!

Braden Speck, Resident Rodeo Cowboy!
Photo Credit Gayle Hughes
I had a blast this weekend coaching six of our younger riders at the Fair Hill Starter Trials in Elkton, MD.  Most of these riders were having their first outing since the middle of the summer, as their competition plans had to be sidelined by my prep and travel to Burghley.  

Their weekly lessons have been sporadic, and they have had few chances to cross-country school.  On Saturday, these riders proved to me their ability to keep motoring on, despite my absence during my travels to Burghley.  Everyone was riding impressively, and it was a delight for me to watch!

Kaelen Speck started off our day riding in the Novice with Regal Dancer.  Dancer is a new mount for her, and is much more horse to ride than her previous pony mount.  She is rising to the the challenge well, finishing in fifth place on her dressage score of 38.  It should take her some time to develop a partnership in the dressage with Dancer, but when they do, they might be unstoppable!

We had three riders in the Beginner Novice, and all three impressively finished on great dressage scores!  Sarah Hughes was happy to be at her first competition of the year riding Deb's Delight.  The pair looked great in the jumping phases and finished fourth on their dressage score of 38.  Cassidy Heitzenrater had a great day as well on her pony Pudding's Proof.  They jumped double clear to finish on their dressage score of 31.  The stellar beginner novice performance was rounded out by Olivia Saber and her mount, Stonewall Winters.  They made the courses look too easy as they jumped around double clear to finish third on their dressage score of 34.  I think these BN girls might be trying to show me that they are ready for a move-up!

Newcomer to LBE, Melissa Carson had her first outing on her young Thoroughbred, Bo Brown, in the Intro level at Fair Hill.  This was a first event for both of them, which was in no way apparent by their performance!  Both horse and rider looked cool and composed through all three phases of the competition, and jumped around with ease to finish on their dressage score.  Since Bo is just four years old, Melissa has been very diligent about moving slowly with him.  This diligence has paid off, as they looked like seasoned pros on Saturday!  They will be moving up the levels in no time at all ...

Our rodeo cowboy star of the day was Braden Speck on his own (naughty pony) Rosenharley Romello.  The cool breeze had Weasel feeling a bit too fresh on Saturday, and he gave Braden a really tough ride around the jump courses.  He rode him so well through all of his leaps and bucks, but Braden didn't stand a chance towards the end of the cross-country when Weasel made a quick and naughty move for home.  Braden did a spectacular job riding Weasel as well as he did, and I am sure he will look forward to coming out another day.

Team Lily will be at Plantation Field this coming weekend, and it should be a great time!  Come out for some fun and an opportunity to watch the nation's best riders compete just a few miles down the road.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reflections on a Whirlwind Weekend at Burghley 2012

A tired and happy horse, rider, and groom upon completion of Burghley Horse Trials 2012!
I have just finished the biggest and arguably most important event of my career to date, with much to reflect upon from the events of the weekend.  Bucky has come out of the weekend safe, happy, and healthy, and I have come away with an enormous learning experience and a greater appreciation of a true international four-star track!

Our dressage test certainly did not go as planned, as I found myself in the ring trying to simply keep him from exploding rather than creating the great movements that I had been schooling at home.  He is much further along in his dressage training since Rolex, so I had expected a much better performance.  Unfortunately, he became extremely nervous once he took in the crowd,  which was very similar to his reaction at Rolex.  In retrospect I should have anticipated that behavior and planned a different warm-up routine, which I will do in the future to get him more adjusted to the large crowds.  Once we are able to keep that tension under control, I think he will be quite competitive.

The difficulty and size of the cross-country course came as no surprise to me,  as everyone knows that Burghley is meant to be one of the toughest tracks in the world.  What I did not appreciate before riding the course was the effect the terrain would have on the ride while on course.  Almost every fence was on an uphill, downhill or sharp turning approach, and this made developing a rhythm on cross-country very difficult.  This took a toll on Bucky, who felt backed off and green through some parts of the course.  Our run-out at the Rolex combination was a result of this, as he was unable to read the combination well since the distance came up so quickly.   He did not understand what was being asked of him, lacked confidence and ran out.

We had some other tough riding fences on the course, but Bucky kept pushing through and tried so hard to complete the course.  Around the ninth minute of the course, I found myself with an incredibly tired horse.  After a terrible jump and near fall on the landing at the Footbridge (Fence 22), I slowed our pace and tried to regain some strength and ride-ability.  His exhaustion was apparent when he jumped into the last water landing in a trot, but he managed to keep it together, jumping the last few combinations well and making it to the finish without another bad fence.  

I was so incredibly excited that we were able to finish such a tough course, given that there were so many tricky riding fences that rocked his confidence.  The cross-country was far more grueling than the breezy ride we had at Kentucky, but we are a better team for riding through the the challenging questions of the infamous Burghley course.  

Soon after the buzz of the cross-country wore off, we were faced with the reality of a very fatigued and sore horse on Saturday afternoon.  We quickly had him on fluids, and were icing intensively, but as the day wore on, a prominent swelling formed on the pastern of his right front leg.  He was extremely sore to palpation and showed a fair degree of lameness.  The location and degree of sensitivity in the swelling was very suggestive of a serious soft tissue injury, a harsh reality to confront following the completion of cross country.  On Saturday evening, it was looked quite certain that we would have to withdraw from show-jumping and head home to determine the seriousness of his injury.

Sunday morning brought a brighter horse with the leg looking better upon examination and palpation.  Dr. Griffin was able to scan his leg, and found significant bruising but no damage to the ligament structure.  I rode him, which seemed to help, so we decided to present at the final jog.  We were in good company with many horses looking sore and fatigued, but Bucky presented well and we passed the final jog.

He felt a bit sore and fatigued in the show-jumping warm-up, and unfortunately that was what we took into the arena.  Being just the second ride of the day, we added a few time faults being unaware of the inside turns needed to make the time.  He put in such a great effort, but was jumping very tired to have four rails down.  I am sad for Bucky that he was so uncomfortable and could not jump well, but given his state of soundness on Saturday afternoon, I am incredibly grateful and excited that we were able to complete!

The weekend was an incredible experience for me and I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to compete due to the overwhelming support from family, friends and supporters who helped us make our trip to Burghley!  It was very humbling being surrounded by so many incredible international riders,  and with every passing minute at Burghley, I learned something new.  I am looking forward to competing at Burghley in future years, and with the knowledge and education I will take away from this weekend, I can be better!

Bucky will leave shortly and will arrive home on Friday to a well deserved long break.   I think he will benefit from some easy intermediate tracks in the winter to get him thinking really positive again, as we look forward to planning our competitions next year.

Thank you to Jenn for doing an incredible job this weekend.......It was a crazy weekend and you kept right up with the pace!

Thank you to all who participated in the fundraising efforts, as you gave me such an incredible opportunity and I am forever thankful for that!

I am now looking forward to getting home to focus on all my awesome students who I have been neglecting during my lead-up to Burghley!  We have a busy fall schedule and I can't wait to get cracking this weekend at Bucks County!