Saturday was The Day, also known as Cross Country Day. I hooked up with Amanda and Michelle to venture up to Bartville for the morning where I bought… exactly nothing. Yeah, I don’t know who I am either. I think because I’m pretty well happy with all my tack (except bits, omg, don’t get me started….) so while it was fun to touch all the things, my wallet thought it was equally fun to walk out empty handed. We ventured into Oxford in search of rain jackets only to find the Durbarry outlet closed up despite my best tries to just… will myself through the glass front door. They might still have the imprint of my face.
Amanda’s friends took us through a back way on our way back to the stall area so we got to pass all the race barns and their really cool setups. Take horse girls anywhere, watch us plaster our faces to windows. We dropped off a few things at the stalls, said hi to La Russe and Mocha and headed out to the XC course by way of the vendors. I ended up with a single greeting card (SERIOUSLY WHO AM I) because it has a PARTY PONY on it, giggled over tiny baby pony-themed items and then we were off to the cross country course.
Our timing was spot on to see the last two 3* horses leave the startbox and we headed for the first water where there were some bleachers. Amanda attracted some more Presto/WTW fans and handed out swag (did I cut like 70 WTW decals on the Cricut the week before? Yes, yes I did. Glad they went to good use) and I stuffed myself with chocolate from Michelle’s bag o’ snacks. I also somehow talked the camera guy into letting Michelle use his little, uh, cord hut? to change her shirt because it was pretty warm at this point. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of us, but was nice enough more or less.
We watched the first few come through the first water, which rode much more backwards than I thought it was going to (my videos have some definite gasps) and then headed through the rest of the course – watched some at the owls, the coffin, the down bank, the rollercoaster, the vee and eventually up to the crab water. We found a good spot and pretty much parked it there for the second half of the starters. At this point, Amanda was getting antsy for MAAAAASON to start, but we had a lot of fun watching some really great rides. I know the online hullabaloo was over the crab, but honestly it rode lovely and the entire complex saw maybe a few stumbles total in the time we were there.
Near the last few horses the sky started to get ominously dark, but we weren’t about to go anywhere until Mason came through. Once he headed out onto course, I pulled up the livestream on my phone so we could watch him until he got to us. I’ll tell you what – the adoration for that horse is infectious. Sure, I thought he was cute before Amanda pulled me in deep, but I didn’t have the full fan club membership. Spend a weekend with Amanda and suddenly you’re as nervous watching him go around as she is. He’s really such a COOL COOL horse that you can’t help but kind of fall in love with him. One of Amanda’s friends took the hilarious time lapse of us watching him on the livestream and the neuroses are out in full bloom.
We watched him come through the water and then Lauren behind him and just like that, the sky opened up torrentially. We were about as far out on the course as you could be, so despite having rain jackets on and taking a sortof tree-covered path back, by the time we got to the barns, I was SOAKING wet. Like, rivulets of water running down my legs inside my jeans. Luckily Claire was ready to go too, so we headed back to our hotel where I took the longest, hottest shower before we headed to dinner. We were headed back, stuffed full and happy when I spotted an Insomnia Cookies… did we need a dozen warm cookies to take back to the hotel? UH YES.
Sunday we knew was supposed to be a little colder, but none of us really anticipated like… how much colder we were talking. Thank God I’d brought my good Patagonia jacket because I definitely needed it. I walked out to watch the jogs (and Mason stalk) and was surprised at how few horse kites were flying.
Claire and I acquired waffles and coffee and sat to watch the 3* stadium in one of the Tier 1 tents and tried to stay warm. At the conclusion of that, we wanted to wander back through some vendors, where I tried on a helmet and some boots and still… purchased nothing. I knew I wanted to head to Fair Hill Saddlery’s main store which is just a few miles down the road and Claire needed to go walk La Russe, so I took her truck and popped over to look at bits. They had a whole wall, but alas nothing that was promising for His Highness. They did, however, have an entire area of Breyer horses. Little known fact, my mother is a HUGE Breyer collector. Like, has an entire room for them. She really loves the old vintage and super limited edition runs, but anytime one of us runs across an estate sale/antique store/Breyer section, she has us very well trained to FaceTime her. We ended up looking via FT at every single Breyer in that store before she made her selections. Since she was buying, I decided as the seller’s commission I needed unicorn stickers and a finger unicorn puppet. Am I 5? Maybe.
Once back at the show grounds, I happened to run into Sally Spickard with EN and, potentially more importantly (sorry Sally!), Chinch! I’d been dying for a Chinch photo all week and FINALLY had my chance. We chatted for a moment until she put two and two together that I’m the one who is obsessed with jog outfit commentary and I may or may not have talked myself into a guest jog commentator role at Kentucky. DREAM JOB ACHIEVED.
Claire and I ended up in one of the VIP Chalets at the end of the ring (don’t ask, I don’t know how I did what I did all weekend, ok?) complete with full catered lunch and open bar. Uh, don’t mind if I do. I gorged on crab cakes and mimosas while we watched all the 5* stadium right in front of us. It was seriously incredible and really fun to see Boyd win (really an American win a 5*). There were some seriously cool and fun horses to watch and I loved seeing how everyone rode to the combinations, how they used their voice on course, who rode with a driving rein, the tack selections, etc.
At the conclusion, we hung in the box for a little longer, at which point I made friends with the bartender and acquired (another) bottle of prosecco. My talents may not lie in riding, but I do have some guys. We walked out of the box and… immediately ran into Boyd, Oliver and Tim walking back from some kind of press conference. In a split second of prosecco-fueled bravery I squealed asking if we could take a photo. The USEA official with them protested and tried to say no, but the guys were game and ignored her and pulled us in. (USEA lady did, however, remove my drink from the pic, whoops). We look like crazed people, but seriously ZERO REGRETS and that photo was pretty much the pinnacle of our weekend.
We hustled back to the barns where we packed up Claire and La Russe to get them on the road. I was originally supposed to fly back Monday afternoon, but ended up changing my flight to a late nonstop out of Baltimore which made it so she could drop me off at the airport on her way to Middleburg for the night. It broke her drive up and I ended up stuffing myself with nachos at an airport bar and got home late Sunday night.
I’m still pretty much squealing over the whole week since it was seriously a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, the way we had access and the things we got to do. I’d love to go again, but definitely needed some sleep to recover after that one. My suitcase uh, may or may not be still sitting half-unpacked in my room. Next adventure, I’m voting somewhere warm this winter… is that Ocala calling my name?
I’m finally home and have my life (mostly) back together (hah, there’s a joke, my life is never together). Still coming down from my horse show high after the Maryland 5* though.
I didn’t have any plans to even go to Maryland until about 6 weeks ago when one of my good friends from college (actually my sorority little sister of all things) texted me that she was going to take her 4 year old to do the YEH and would I want to come along since she had passes all week? Um, YES. Things kept falling into place and pretty soon I had a full week off on the calendar and flights booked. I was originally supposed to leave early Tuesday morning and get to Fair Hill around lunch, in time to meet my friend Claire and help her unload/get settled before she showed on Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately my flights were on Southwest and late Monday night I became one of the victims to their total meltdown. All hope was not lost and I ended up rebooked and getting in early Thursday morning. My trip also happened to coincide with most of the schools’ fall breaks here… meaning at 5’1″ I may or may not have gotten accidentally included in the headcount of an 8th grade trip headed to Washington DC. I (obviously) did not end up at a tour of the Washington Monument, but it was slightly touchy for a moment or two there as I wondered how I’d convince this chaperone I was, in fact, almost 30, not 13.
For anyone’s future planning, I flew directly into BWI, took their easy shuttle to the BWI MARC/Amtrak station and took the train (just over an hour) right into Newark, DE. Originally my friend would have picked me up, but since she was now preparing to show, I grabbed an Uber (super easy, college town) and was right at FHI within 15 minutes.
I got there just in time to help my friend tack up for her jumping round and grabbed all the assorted groom things (water bottles, rag, Jack Russell Terrier) and met her down at Saw Mill, where the Young Event Horse stuff was happening. Saw Mill was really nice, but… really far away from everything else. I hate that it was kind of secluded because it didn’t get a lot of spectators, despite there being some really lovely horses.
Claire and her sweet little mare La Russe jumped around lovely – per her words, it was a great course, that rode a little harder than she’d walked due to the terrain, but everything felt level appropriate. Once she finished up, we headed back up to the main area and caught the last group of dressage tests in the 5* that day – a great decision since we ended up getting to see Leslie Law on Voltaire de Tre and Oliver Townend on Cooley Master Class, two I could watch do dressage for basically ever.
One of Claire’s sponsors was there as both a sponsor of the YEH and a vendor and things got a little hectic and we ended up enlisted to go pick a few people up from the airport in Philly. Which would have been no big deal at all… except there was an Eagles game going on. Which happens to be basically next to the football stadium. By the time we made it back to where our hotel was, it was Five Guys and milkshakes for dinner and bedtime.
Friday, I headed down to Saw Mill to hang out with Amanda and Michelle to watch the YEH 5 year olds jump while Claire hacked La Russe and helped her sponsors out. This proved to be a great decision since due to aforementioned secluded location, the spread of mimosas and food for the owners and volunteers became also open to… me (I had groom credentials for the whole week because of Claire and nobody looked very close to see what credentials you were actually wearing). A day spent looking at really lovely horses, consuming an entire bottle of prosecco (at some point I ditched the orange juice) and hanging out with Amanda, Michelle and Sarah (who is just as sweet and lovely in person!) is pretty damn good to me.
At some point they hauled my tipsy ass back up to the main area so we could watch Mason (or as I refer to him MAAAAAAYYYson) warm up and do his dressage test. We caught a handful of others and then walked over to the XC course to walk with Jimmy Wofford. We stayed with that group for the start before peeling off to do our own thing and eventually heading back to the barn to take care of La Russe and go to dinner. Walking that course, you KNEW those hills were going to be brutal the next day. My legs were screaming at me that I should try some workouts and fewer tacos before the next time I go on a 5* coursewalk, but whatever.
We ended up going to dinner with some of the girls Claire knows from back home to celebrate one’s 21st birthday (she was showing in the 5 year olds on her really cute gelding Mocha).
We ended up back at our hotel and passed out hard – because Saturday was XC day!
It’s no secret that turning Archie into a XC horse has been the biggest challenge for me. It’s not really him, it’s just us together. Even when I don’t think I’m nervous, surprise, I’m really good at getting nervous. Archie feels that and goes, “Well shit. If she’s nervous, I think I should go very very slow and not jump things so she stays on.” Kind, but not really… what we want.
Our last three fences at Cobblestone, I finally felt “it” – where it clicked for him and he really took me to the jumps and I rode forward and it was all just wonderful, so I knew coming into XC here I needed to get that feeling right off the bat. He’d been schooling amazing at home (and much bigger) so if we got it, we shouldn’t have any issues with the course.
Of course I decided to start the morning off absolutely nauseous with nerves because.. I don’t know. My friend at one point looked at me and asked if I’d eaten anything and apparently the response, “caffeine and prescription pharmaceuticals” was not an appropriate one, so I was drug off to the concession stand and forced to consume a smoothie and half a grilled cheese. It’s funny – I never got nervous to show growing up, but it’s like I become an adult and suddenly a 2’3″ XC course makes me want to barf. We were also trying my new XC prep routine here – headphones in when I start tacking up, put myself in a corner at some point and visualize my ride a few times, get into a ‘zone’. I’m sure I looked crazy sitting in a chair, fully dressed, facing a corner, but whatever works right?
Finally, it was go time. Archie, normally lazy and chill, tried to jig his way the whole way up the horse path to XC warmup, so I finally told him to just GO and thought we’d just use it as a warm up. He cantered off about 10 strides and then thought better of it and came back to his normal, easygoing walk. At least he’s not particularly dedicated to being spicy? We also discovered at Cobblestone that some solid pump-up music on the walk over helps keep me in that ‘go, focus, ride your ass off’ zone, so I was also jamming the whole way over. (Side note, is this a playlist anyone else wants lol? I have spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting it)
My coach met us in warmup and Archie was immediately awake and ready to go – we ended up just jumping our vertical, oxer and coop twice and being so happy with it, just going on that. Big difference than our warmups earlier this year where I had to jump over and over because I wouldn’t go forward enough and kept pulling. Nothing like nailing your warmup to make you confident leaving the startbox.
I haven’t worn a watch all year because that’s not my focus at all right now so I didn’t even know what speed/time fault times were. My only focus was each fence as it came and going an appropriate pace. I also tried keeping him moving and busy versus standing in the box (thanks Ride iQ office hours) to keep his brain engaged. He left the box hunting down the first fence and popped over easily.
From here we crossed the road and turned right to a rolltop set on a slight hill. I figured if anything would be a little sketchy early on it might be this – leaving warm up, the downhill side was towards warmup and open, but to my (happy) surprise, he absolutely took me to it – to the point I was trying to remind him he DID know what a half halt was and if he could listen, that would be great. After two we were supposed to go through the fenceline and swing a right to a coop. No problem… except I was already so in the zone I went through the first fence opening… not the marked second one. Oops. I realized my error when I emerged between the two Hagyard vet trailers (and probably gave the poor girl climbing out of the truck a heart attack). I had a split second of ‘fuckfuckfuck’ before I saw the ropes end and figured out how to get back to my fence from there. It gave us a less than ideal approach, but I just sat up, put Archie on the fence and rode and he was like “gotta slice across this? SURE MOM!” Here is where I went, HOT DAMN I HAVE A XC HORSE. It’s also where I realized I might need a different XC bit…
Four was downhill to a little fan palisade. We’d jumped a bigger one at Cobblestone without problems, so I wasn’t worried about the fence, but I could have done without the “I DONT HALF HALT I FLY FAST I AM ARCHIE” attitude we had going. Needless to say, it was not an issue and we cruised from there to a little bench. Six was a really fun steeplechase brush. I didn’t think it would be an issue by this point, but he hadn’t seen brush before, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. He got a little tap one or two out and barely flicked an ear back at me like, “Oh that? Whatever!” I’m pretty sure I let out a huge whoop here and it might have included a “FUCK YEAH” oops.
Seven was a rolltop up the hill to eight – a water option. The water entrance was a little sketchy so we picked the option. This was the only place on the entire course I felt him back off even the smallest amount. The fence was a raised log stack downhill in the trees jumping into a narrow path and he questioned me for a half-second, I clucked him forward and he proceeded to jump the hell out of it. We’ll take it. At this point we were three from home and I was psyched.
I chatter incessantly through my courses – partly to keep myself breathing, partly just… because? Well, apparently on XC I YELL. One of our barn mates was actually announcing and he said they could hear me essentially through the entire course. Which I mostly find hilarious, but uh, sorry for anyone I yelled at?
The last three fences were all uphill – a cute table to a grey box and finish over a brown stepped table/fandango. At this point, Archie was picking his own speed and I was basically just there to point him at the right fence. It felt awesome though; I could have picked any fence out there and he would have jumped it. It’s really the first time I felt him absolutely lock into fences and take me there for a full course. He did it a little at our home schooling HT this summer on the back half, but here he was like “I KNOW THIS GAME!”
We jumped the last three clear and immediately after finishing I was just an absolute emotional mess. The joy from finally, FINALLY making it happen and it all coming together, knowing I did this, the horse who got eliminated on XC just a few months ago going clear with total confidence. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t have wanted to deal with Archie, but I always (well, almost, when I wasn’t cursing him out HAH) thought if we could just channel that attitude in the right direction he was going to be awesome. I’m so proud of him, he is not the same horse he was when he arrived a year ago and I know we’re just getting started.
When results went up, I originally had almost 8 speed faults – which would have meant I did almost 425mpm the entire course. I mean, we were fast but… surely not THAT fast. About 15 minutes later, they changed my time to a much more realistic 3:48 – only one second under speed fault time, but not 425mpm fast. I guess I have to be grateful for my little ‘getting lost’ detour from 2 to 3?
When all was said and done, we ended up 9th out of 16 and I couldn’t be happier. We brought home a big beautiful silver ribbon (which Archie had 0 interest in posing with) and the most perfect end to our season.
He’ll get some time off while I go to the Maryland 5 Star this week and then winter dressage boot camp starts! Here we come BN!
This past weekend we went down to the Kentucky Horse Park (aka my Disney World) for Jump Start Horse Trial. By the time all was said and done, we had 13 with my barn there showing in everything from Intermediate to Starter. Needless to say, it was a full weekend and thank god for golf carts.
My friend picked up Archie and I on Friday afternoon and we were on the road by 2:15pm. With traffic and construction, we got there a little after 6pm and the unpacking/getting our lives together started. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what we did all evening, but I know suddenly it was almost 10pm, dark and we were starving. What happened in all that time? Literally no idea. One of the ladies from the barn ran out and picked up dinner and we ended up eating a pizza in the barn aisle by headlamp and stall light. Typical horse show night to say the least.
Saturday morning, our barn’s rides started at 8:30 and I rode dressage at 9:30am. I managed to stay clean (a true miracle) and we started the walk down to the rings. If you’re not familiar with KHP, it’s about a solid 10 minute walk down, depending on how pumped your horse is to go do dressage. Archie was pretty chill, all things considered. He had one moment of ‘I’d like to jig in place’ but settled right down. We walked in the warmup for a bit to make sure all the brain parts were installed and got to warming up. He felt absolutely incredible in warmup – his trot was totally on it and we had some of the best canter work we’ve had. I headed over to ride my test and for whatever reason, as soon as he got near the arena, all his nice relaxed flow just evaporated. I tried to trot around and get him re-settled in the time I had before going down centerline, but it never really happened. He went in tight and tense and all I could do was try to coax the best out of him. Ironically, he settled in the first canter circle and we ended up with two nice canters in the test, along with some lovely free walk work (we’ve been working on it!) In the end, it was a 40.3, which put us in 13th of 17 after dressage. I wasn’t thrilled, but I know if we can put the walk and canter from this test with the trot from our recent work, there might just be a fancy little dressage horse in there.
We show jumped early Saturday afternoon, leaving me with only a small bit of time to change and try to eat something. Luckily that ring was closer so I was able to watch some higher rounds ride the course, walk and still have plenty of time to warm up. As soon as we went into warm up (it was fairly empty, I wouldn’t do this in a crowded ring) and walked around, I went for a short forward gallop around. When my trainer got there, we did each fence once off each lead and he was so on it and ready, that was all he needed.
As soon as we went into the ring, I felt him really light up (in a good-Archie-way, not a wild-gonna-die way). I’m telling you, that horse LOVES an audience. Showoff. He felt absolutely fantastic the entire way around and it was a bold, forward course. We had a rail at 4, which was a left turn off the back rail, from a lazy hind foot. It was probably the one fence set a little soft and he just got lazy and didn’t care. Even with the rail, I was thrilled with the round. It was one of the best we’ve had, in a big ring with a lot of atmosphere and a tight course. Even with the rail we moved up to 12th going into XC the next morning.
One of my favorite blogs (non-horsey) does a post of her favorite things at the end of each month and I always love reading it so I decided I’m copying and doing it here too!
It’s not like I’m the first person to rave about their mesh show jacket but… damn, I love mine. They are just so much more comfortable in the heat, still look good and are so easy to care for. Mine gets shoved into my tack trunk after my rounds and I just shake it out and it’s good to go. Mine is a large and aside from the sleeves being a little long, honestly fits me great. No show coat is particularly flattering on me (hi boobs), but I think this is one of the best out there. Except now I want another one (if they ever come out with an olive green, I’m done for)
Ego7 Show Shirts
The first one of these I picked up on a whim off Facebook for an insane deal. Once I wore it a few times, I realized I never wanted to wear another show shirt again. Their fabric is this awesome stretchy athletic tech fabric that still looks nice and washes up well. Again, tight white shirts aren’t really my favorite thing to wear for my body type, but if you’re also well-endowed I can’t recommend these enough. I searched and ended up finding two more, one long sleeve and one short, both with navy accents and I love them even more. 10/10 would totally recommend these.
I wanted a bridle bag for going to shows, but specifically wanted one with hooks inside, not loops. I hate doing and undoing the loops and wanted to be able to easily hang it on a stall front or in a tack stall. This one was met all my criteria so I bought it. I’ve now taken it a few places and can say it’s worth every penny. It’s less expensive than comparable ones, but I find it to be just as nice. It has three hooks inside (it comes with the hooks!), two to hang it on a stall front and a carrying strap. The zipper isn’t anything special, but I haven’t had any issues with it. It’s not huge, but it’s more than sufficient for my two bridles, breastcollar, neckstrap and crops. In a blonde moment, I actually packed my jump girth in it this past weekend too and then panicked when I couldn’t find it in my trunk. I added an iron on monogram with my Cricut, but any decent embroidery shop could also add to it. It also has a front velcro pocket for storage, although I’ll admit I haven’t used that. It would be perfect for little things like extra bits or spurs though.
This honestly deserves it’s own post and it will probably get one, but I can’t NOT mention it here. I signed up the day they released it publicly and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I use the lessons all the time between in person lessons with my trainer and I can absolutely say it has improved my riding. I’m prone to either do the same thing in my rides every time, not do enough or get frustrated when I can’t get the same feel I get in my lessons. These days, I pop in an earbud, cue a lesson up and all three of the aforementioned issues don’t occur. I even used it to help with some of my dressage warmup before my coach got there this last weekend.