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I kept telling myself I’d get back to blogging and then… never did. And to say a few things have happened since, well, would be an understatement.

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Last we left off, I was finally back riding after blowing out my knee at the beginning of 2022. I ended up having a great season which was a pleasant surprise after thinking the year was gone. We ended up running a few Starters including finally finishing on our dressage score and coming home with a 4th out of a big division at Kentucky Classique.

A few weeks later, we dipped our toe into the BN waters where I promptly got ditched into the ditch at Jump Start. You’d think I’d have learned the ‘don’t lean’ lesson by now, but apparently not…

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No worse for wear, we went home, schooled, jumped all the ditches and regrouped for Hagyard Team Challenge at the end of October. You know, just the course known for being the hardest of the level all year. Our dressage rode far better than it scored, stadium was Archie’s strength per usual and then Sunday we headed out on cross country. Archie was an absolute STAR. I had so much fun and the photos still make me giddy smile a year later. On paper, we had two stops, but they didn’t matter the least to me. The first was at a jump right before the water and I didn’t set him up well enough to understand, but he jumped it perfectly the second time. The second was a fake half-coffin – a tiny log with a small drop on landing down to a fake ditch. He slowed down and peeked at the ditch and definitely went sideways, but I never felt a step back before he hopped right on over. But without video, that’s life and it wasn’t worth agonizing over with one stop already.

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Other parts of the course included getting to drop down into the crater in the back and up out then two strides to a rolltop, a fun gallop (DON’T @ ME IT FELT LIKE GALLOPING EMILY) up the track and a super fun ride to the open oxer second to last. The photos from the end of that course are some of my all-time favorites.

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We finished out 2022 investigating some Vitamin E stuff with Archie and ordering a brand new custom saddle to address a few fit issues we’d run into. Spoiler alert: 2023 had a few plot twists to come.

In March I went down to Ocala to visit Amanda and Hillary and do some move scouting and while I was there, pretty much got to ride all the horses. Like, just kept throwing them at me and there are worse things. Henry was obvs a king, Presto is just… a full body workout, but the most fun came when they said, “Hey, get on the pony!” The pony being Nunez, the 4 year old Willow Tree homebred who had gotten to Ocala a few months before.

Ever have those lightbulb-everything-clicks moments? Yeah. It was like being back on Iggy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next week or two became a whirlwind that suddenly culminated in Archie selling and buying this perfect little ponykins. I’ll get into it all in more detail some other time, but it was just one of those ‘everything falls into place and is meant to be’ situations. Archie’s new mom is a teenager in Ohio and he absolutely ADORES her. From the first time she got on him and he absolutely carefully and perfectly cantered her around over a tiny course, I knew this was his person. They’ve since shown at some local jumper shows and even did their first green as grass event. More than that, they’re trail riding, hacking out, going swimming and generally having a blast… all the perfect things a kiddo should be able to do with their horse. I’m so proud of the horse he’s become and truly, there’s no better feeling than knowing a horse you love found their perfect place.

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Nunez (also Nacho, Cheesy Chip, PonPon, Pony, Nachito…) meanwhile, went over to my trainer in Ocala’s in June to learn how to do Adult things. Like not turn 360 degrees in the crossties (I’m sorry do you have BONES). Or jump out of the pasture, just cause. Did I mention… pony? He’s been there all summer while I made some additional Big Life Changes.

Being the most adult with trainer’s assistant

Like.. selling my house. Moving home to my parent’s in New Mexico for four months. And as of next week, moving to my new house in Ocala!

Let’s see, in there I also bought a horse trailer, lost a fairly significant amount of weight, remodeled a house, got that custom saddle (remember that?), visited Nacho in Ocala a few times, housesat for my parents (aka Lucy my retired mare and Sancho her mini donkey), dyed the donkey blue and probably a few more things I’m forgetting about.

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We’re back!

Turns out it’s REALLY hard to stay motivated to write about riding when you’re… not riding. I finally had surgery on my knee on March 11th. In the end, they reconstructed my ACL, did a partial meniscectomy to my lateral meniscus, a lateral release of the retinaculum to reset my patella and repair/resurfacing of the chondral damage. I was back home the morning after surgery already partially weight bearing and have had a fairly uneventful recovery to date. Within three days I was in full on cabin fever and demanding someone drive me to the barn to see my horse and by day 8 I ditched the crutches I was supposed to be on another 6 days. I have lots of theories why I was able to bounce back relatively quickly, but I won’t bore anyone (unless you’re also finding yourself in this situation and in that case… happy to share any advice).

Most importantly, at week 6 I was cleared to sit on Archie and do some light walking around and at week 8 I was cleared to do flatwork, about 20 minutes at a time, building up frequency. It feels so amazing to be back on a horse, especially my horse. There’s something so comfortable about sitting on one you know so well – like putting on your favorite pair of broken in shoes. Walking was completely uneventful, so I quickly decided to add in some trot work and found myself having a rude awakening.

Reppin WTW

Back in 2018, when I broke my back, once I was cleared I was back on and other than being out of shape, was able to jump right back into riding. Granted, I was only off for three months give or take as opposed to five here, but I naively assumed this would be much of the same. Let me tell you: it is not.

Archie snoot

Quickly I’ve realized I feel like a lopsided bowl of jello – not only is my left leg weak, but it’s also… less responsive? The tiny minute adjustments we make almost subconsciously – add a little inside calf here to push them into an outside rein, a little bump to move haunches over, a quick pulse to extend a gait – are nearly impossible. My balance is a mess and that doesn’t begin to touch on my overall weakness in my body/core. Thank god for neck straps and ponies who are more interested in stopping than losing their rider.

Also interested in mulberry snacking

Over the last few weeks it’s all getting easier though and I had my first jump lessons back this past week. I can’t say enough good things about Archie – the six months I was off and he was being catch ridden by friends and barnmates gave him this newfound confidence that I’ve never felt before.

My trainer even looked at my at the start of my jump lesson and said, “this is not the same horse you had six months ago” and it’s completely (ish) true. He’s still the safe, goofy, opinionated Archie I adore, but he’s also more forward, hunts the fences, goes with far less rider input (or what he’d call ‘interference’) and most amazingly… now takes the long spot?

Yeah wasn’t ready for that spot

I feel better than I would have guessed, in part because I know Archie so well that it’s like slipping on a pair of favorite shoes when I sit on him.

Love him

The hardest parts right now are the fact that I can’t get comfortable in a true jump length stirrup (and definitely not a XC length), so it’s a trade off between knee doesn’t hurt with longer, but leg less stable and swings and how much discomfort I want to ride through. I’m stuck on that one, to the point I may just haul my entire saddle into PT this week and see if they have any ideas.

Mostly he’s just unimpressed by these fences after 6 months jumping Novice

Showing is still very much up in the air – I think it’s more of a possibility, but I don’t want to spend the money and time unless I know I can give my horse the ride he needs and deserves. That being said, I think there’s a lot of benefit in just getting out and doing the damn thing so we’ll see.

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WEC February 2022: Archie’s Catch Ride

Tomorrow marks two months since I unceremoniously yeeted off my horse and wrecked my knee. I’ve been in weekly PT since it happened and up and mobile by day 5 or 6. Surgery is scheduled for Friday, March 11th, so knowing I’ll be out for a few months minimum, my PT actually let me get on this past weekend and hack around as long as I didn’t do anything “stupid”.

Luckily Archie has been in close to full work with two friends since I got hurt and will continue to through the spring and summer. One of my best friends Paige ended up filling in for me at WEC last month so we still got to go and Archie was fabulous with her.

We hauled out Wednesday and eventually made it, despite having our truck literally DIE on the side of the road at one point. That was… not fun. Thank God we have great ponies who hung out on the side of a highway in 30 degree weather and just grazed without a care in the world. We finally made it that evening and got everyone settled in before passing out late.

Thursday, she showed her mare in a schooling round, then had Archie in the 0.80 and 0.70m schooling rounds. In ‘things that don’t make sense’, the .80s went first, so Archie’s first round was the bigger of his two. He’d shown inside before, although never with me, but never at that height. They had a great round until the very last fence where he just didn’t quite focus and it snuck up on him, causing a stop. They jumped it nicely the second time and I was super happy with him no matter. His 0.70 class went a little while later and now he thought he knew exactly what was going on and jumped everything like it was 6″ bigger and easily. Show off. It was a great first day and I was thrilled with the great experience he got in a busy new environment.

Friday they moved to the bigger arena this day and I was a little nervous how he’d do in the much busier setting with lots of fill and decor. His first round, he had a stop at 2 where I think he just got a little overwhelmed and pulled the back rail the second time, then jumped around really nicely until the last combination. It was a one stride, away from home, right along the rail with a vertical to an oxer and he jumped in to a slightly long distance and backed off and they had a second stop. I wasn’t (and still am not!) upset by it at all – this was still completely new to him and on top of that, Paige had jumped him once before showing him.

My new favorite pic

Later that day, they had their first division round in the Intermediate Child/Adult Jumpers. She really rode the hell out of him here and gave him lots of time to see things. Three to four was a really tight rollback on the right lead (his weaker side) and he didn’t get his eye on it early enough and they had the rail, but otherwise jumped a lovely forward round.

Even with the rail and a (planned) slow round, the round was enough for 7th out of a class of 20+. I was giddy – to come home with any satin at all was more than I could have expected.

When you get to help yourself to the whole bag

Saturday’s round was definitely the biggest course he’d ever jumped to date, but he’d already proved scope was not going to be an issue. I told Paige to take the longest, widest turns to let him see stuff and just keep him moving and they’d be fine. Sure enough, he turned on his afterburners and jumped the hell out of everything. They had a perfect double clear round until the he got a little deep to the last fence and had the smallest tap on the front rail that came down. Honestly, I could not have cared any less. The round was absolutely everything I wanted from this horse, he was confident and you could tell having a blast out there.

The classic was Sunday and we debated if we even wanted to take him in it or just end on a great note from the day before, but ultimately opted to go ahead and show. Archie left no doubt in anyone’s mind if he understood the assignment by now, because Paige had essentially no brakes, whoops. He was straight up taking her on a one way trip to every single fence and Archie was sure she was there just to be a passenger. Um, okay dude. No lack of confidence here. He jumped into the line from 6 to 7 long and they cut the turn after 7 a little tight, causing him to bring a hind foot down on the vertical, but even with the single rail they ended up with a 10th out of 21.

A rail, a stop, whatever – none of it bothered me at ALL. The entire point of going was to get good confident miles at a new height for Archie and holy cow was that successful. For a horse who hadn’t shown indoors in over 2 years, never shown in the jumpers and never shown anywhere close to that height, I was (and am) absolutely thrilled with him.

“Dis dumb feed me cookies”

Not to mention, he showed us the height was downright boring for him. Paige said it was apparent how much fun he was having once it clicked and he could have gone around four more times. WEC is no small atmosphere and he handled it all like an old pro, demonstrating why I absolutely adore this horse’s brain.

Since then, he’s done a clinic with Sharon White, given me a handful of pony rides and tolerated a spa day from me last weekend.

“Iz not amused mahm”

I’m so excited to see what they do this summer while I’m off, although I’m still super sad to not be riding and showing myself. At this point, I’m ready for surgery to be done so I can get to rehabbing and get back to riding.

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Damaged Goods

Annddd… suddenly it had been two months since I blogged. I’d apologize, but… for what? December was busy with two fun clinics at the beginning of the month, then I left for Christmas. January was low key, but ramping back up and then two weekends ago I came off and tore my ACL and lateral meniscus.

December was spent doing fun things like this

Cue rewind. We had a Sunday morning gridwork lesson planned and setup – I hadn’t jumped in a few weeks, but Archie has become pretty damn reliable and we were keeping things small so I wasn’t worried. We warmed up and he felt awesome – forward, but adjustable, tuned in and fun. Into our warmup we added the grid through the middle as ground poles – pole, one stride, pole, one stride, pole. Trotted in, no problem, added in cantering through without issues. We went to canter through and turn right (still ground poles), I made a bad turn and to keep us from falling, Archie kinda.. zigged to the right away from the wall and I zagged left. I just got tossed slightly forward, but it resulted in me essentially “dismounting” at the canter – my right leg swung behind and over and I was literally giggling in midair thinking I was going to “stick” my landing. And then I felt my knee pop.

I’d dismounted in air alright… but my left foot stayed firmly heel down, planted into my stirrup. Meaning the rest of my body twisted to the right and my foot stayed straight. I came free and didn’t get drug or anything, but the damage was done by the time I hit the ground a split second later. Archie pretty much just stood there like “WTF MOM Y U DOWN THERE,” but I was alternating yelling/cursing and trying not to throw up or pass out. The adrenaline hit hard there and I got wildly hot and then crazy cold and was pretty much a mess for a few minutes. Once the initial hit wore off, I was able to look down and see my kneecap was… not located where it was supposed to be and I knew I was going to the ER. I had someone grab my phone while they went to put Archie away and get a vehicle to get me out of the arena (luckily I was in our softest footing – the actual impact didn’t so much as leave a bruise!) and started calling the doctors I work with. My poor lesson partner, this was the first time we’d met, and here I was laying with my leg at a strange angle, unable to move, calling people. Talking to a few of my docs, we picked where I was going and my trainer and friend helped get me into her car.

Yes, still wearing my helmet. My head was cold and sweaty.

By some miracle, I ended up only in the ER for a few hours total (largely because I, um, relocated my own kneecap while on the ground), but it was clear I needed a specialist referral that week. Monday, I saw a great sports medicine doctor here and by Tuesday night had an MRI. The results showed I had deep bone bruising, effusion, a torn ACL and a torn lateral meniscus – all signs that meant I was going to have to have surgery.

From there, I’ve started PT (or “prehab”) to get my leg as strong as possible before surgery and we’re tentatively scheduling surgery for late February. Post-surgery, I’m looking at 4-5 months to be back on a horse so I have a great barn friend who is essentially “leasing” Archie for the year (also spoiling him rotten).

As soon as I picked up my phone he started posing

It’s been supremely shitty to accept I’m losing an entire spring (my favorite time of year to ride) and most of summer – and more than likely, my entire show season. I know it’s important not to rush rehab or healing, but acceptance doesn’t take the sting away. I have a great barn family I know will welcome me to watch all the lessons and clinics I want, but damn it still sucks.

Snuggling with me still at least?

That’s where things stand for now. I’ll continue to know more in the coming weeks I’m sure, but I already know it’s a recovery I’m not looking forward to. Hopefully with PT and all the free time I’ll have, I’ll be able to come back stronger than I was before the fall, but I’m sure my ‘sea legs’ will take some time to get back too. I’m hoping to plan some kind of fun Aiken/Ocala trip for early 2023 as motivation and a reward to myself, so until then I’ll just be living the owner life and living vicariously through friends.

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The Lull

The end of the season always leaves me a little tired and ready for a break. Add on some job stress and changing (colder) weather and this year’s motivation has been… lacking. I’ve kept up with my weekly dressage lessons, but otherwise we’ve just done a lot of hacking and some lunging. I used to beat myself up over this, but a few years ago I realized it happens every year and every year, after some time off, my motivation comes back and it’s all good. Reason #297 to own an amateur-friendly horse who doesn’t care how many times he’s ridden.

Not impressed by clipping though

We had Sharon White at the farm for a clinic two weekends ago so I went and audited a good number of lessons, made easier by the fact that we had a gorgeous 60 degree weekend. One of my best friends has been riding a horse for another boarder and she rode in the clinic so I wanted to grab photos and video for her, plus I always love watching Sharon and learning from her.

Party clip for a party pony

In my dressage lessons, we’ve been working on changing some of my biomechanics which has left me sore AF multiple weeks in a row. We’re also doing bit experimenting, which might be up there with saddle and swimsuit shopping in my least favorite things. Could (and probably will) write an entire post about that… I think we’ve found a good option for now, knock on wood. I’ve also got a review to write on a new bridle I picked up about a month ago, some breeches to review and maybe a general update on what we’re wearing (me and Archie) because obviously, that’s the important content here.

Not impressed when I took his BOT off to ride

This upcoming weekend I’m riding in a clinic with Shannon Lilley, so I figured I should prrrrobbbably jump my horse before that… showing up to a clinic having not jumped in 7 weeks isn’t the greatest look. I rode Tuesday, then the weather got gross, work got hectic and I ended up not riding again until my lesson on Saturday. Oops. Add in a 30 degree morning and the fact it decided to snow during my (outdoor) lesson, it could have been a recipe for disaster.

So cute tho

Instead Archie totally stepped up to the plate and said, “got this mom” and jumped around like a perfect little schoolmaster. The jumps were small, but he was adjustable, honest (even when I buried him into an oxer, oops) and downright happy to jump around. It was a great knock the dust off lesson before we ride with Shannon this weekend (8:45 am lesson on Saturday, OMG hope we don’t freeze to death).

How we feel about the temperatures

There’s a lot of exciting stuff keeping me busy in the background that isn’t quite ready to be talked about publicly yet that’s dominating my brain cells, so things here are kind of boring, but… fun things coming soon!

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Maryland 5* Recap: Part 2

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.

Also watched Ollie literally pick up his horse and put him between the flags

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.

Huckle was also sleepy

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.

Will was easy to spot all weekend because he wore NEON everywhere

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.

Literally. It looks like this on both sides.

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.

Photos made it appear you were in jail if you were short

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.

We also got to go in the ring and take pics

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?

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Maryland 5* Recap: Part 1

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.

Airport selfie trying not to end up repeating the 8th grade

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.

Felt very fancy

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.

Claire and La Russe and her JRT Huckle

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.

Looking like pros (Photo from Shannon Brinkman)

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.

I found one of the YEH horse’s emotional support pony and wanted to steal him, like, A LOT

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.

Amanda at her Mason-creeping-best

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.

Don’t know if anyone caught this on the live stream but some course decorator had JOKES and I cackled about this wayyyy too long

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).

Mocha! (Photo from Hannah Fitch)

We ended up back at our hotel and passed out hard – because Saturday was XC day!

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Jump Start HT, Oct 2021: Cross Country

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.

Heading off!

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.

Xpress Foto

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)

The expressions here crack me up

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…

All good, we’ll just jump it angled

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.

Three from home!

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?

Is that… Archie… with his ears up?!

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!”

“I GO FAST” – Archie (Photo @skipperdoodlefritz)

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.

New favorite pic thanks to JJ

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?

He’s so proud of himself

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.

Don’t ask me why he looks 16.2 here

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!

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Jump Start HT, Oct 2021: Dressage and SJ

Love this pic from Xpress Foto

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.

Photo @skipperdoodlefritz

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.

Red pony don’t care bout these

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.

Cute tho

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.

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