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Meagan DeLisle

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Best of JN: Bring Me Back to Miami Beach

It is no secret that we LOVE the Longines Global Champions Tour here at Jumper Nation. This week the tour ventures to US soil for the luxe Miami Beach stop and, despite cloudy skies, we are LOVING it. This beautiful beach side horse show brings the show jumping world straight to the community in a way like no other. Spectators can watch from their beach chairs surrounding the perimeter of the temporary arena set just along the water’s edge. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Instagram moments from this year so far and years past, thanks to some help from the team at Kentucky Performance Products.

View this post on Instagram

Take me back ❤ #lgctmiamibeach

A post shared by Lynne Blore (@looopylynne) on

Best of JN: 10 Stretches You and Your Horse Should Be Doing

In an effort to be the best rider I can be for myself and my horse this year, I have started working out in the gym each week. I have truly loved this process and have honestly felt an improvement in my strength and conditioning. When I started this process, I imagined that I would be running a lot and lifting weights (which I am), but I am also doing a lot of stretching.

I feel like stretching is an underutilized tool in an equestrian’s toolbox. We typically start and end each workout with quite a bit of stretching to optimize performance and prevent injury, and it got me to thinking: why don’t we stretch more before and after each ride? So I picked my trainer Lori Robinson’s brain as to what key stretches would be beneficial for riders, and then partnered up with Draper Therapies to investigate stretches we should incorporate into our horses’ routines as well!

Stretches for Riders

Lori Robinson of Forever Fit in Southeast Missouri is a certified personal trainer, nutrition specialist and yoga instructor! What I love most about working out with Lori is that she truly understands my body’s needs and has created a workout plan that will help me with my riding. One of the unique parts of Lori’s program is the routine yoga work that we blend into our strength training. I sat down with Lori to discuss a couple of stretches she felt equestrians could easily incorporate into their daily lives.

Single Leg Kneeling Groin Stretch

Photo courtesy of Lori Robinson

The first stretch that came to Lori’s mind was the single leg kneeling groin stretch. I LOVE this stretch as it really opens up and loosens up your hips and groin, which is so important when riding. Executing this stretch is simple: start by positioning yourself on your hands and knees. Extend one leg straight out to the side and let your hips sink just a hair. Once you have mastered this movement, you can open up the opposite leg a little wider to really open up your hip angle and get a good stretch! As with any stretch, take it slow and steady and never push yourself into an uncomfortable position.

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose looks simple, but it is, in my opinion, one of the most effective stretches when practicing yoga. It helps to stretch your hips, thighs and ankles without placing a lot of stress on the body. I find this position so relaxing and beneficial.

Photo courtesy of Lori Robinson

To execute position yourself on your hands and knees. For beginners, I recommend keeping your knees and thighs together, but as you acclimate to the practice of stretching you can perform this movement with your knees widened while keeping your big toes together. Next, you will lean forward, relaxing your upper body completely, and rest your forehead on the floor. Your upper body will be folded onto your upper thighs. Keep your arms fully extended, tucked in beside your body and take some long deep breaths. I always envision myself melting into the floor while in child’s pose. You can hold this position for up to a minute or longer. Don’t rush when coming out of this position! Slowly walk your torso into an upright position with your hands.

Stretches for Horses

Just as we need to stretch and warm ourselves up before and after we ride, so should our horses! I have always loved this video by professional eventers, Dom and Jimmie Schramm. Dom and Jimmie go into great detail when explaining the proper safety measures to keep you safe when stretching your horse and to keep your horse from sustaining an injury. As with humans, it is possible for a horse to become over-extended when stretching which could result in soreness or an injury, so take it slow!

I personally prefer the carrot stretches listed in this video as your horse is in control of their range of motion. Plus, these stretches are a great way for you to work with and bond with your horse when out of the saddle!

Go Jumping.

Best of JN: 10 Terrifying Texts Your Trainer Sends You

The invention of text messaging has definitely made communication a lot easier, but along with that came text-induced anxiety. Every time my trainer’s name pops up on my phone my heart stops for a fraction of a second as my finger slides across the screen. What will this text bring? Good news? Bad news? You never know, but there are a handful of terrifying texts sent by our trainers that can really put a damper in our day. What messages have you been on the receiving end of that have shot chills down your spine?

“See you in ten minutes. Go ahead and take your stirrups off for the day.”

 

“I think we should school the open water today.” 

How I imagine that working out for me…

 

“I’m sending you a new invoice. It’s a little more this month.” 

 

“I think he needs X, Y, and X injected.”

 

“Remember that wall he kept stopping at a few months ago? Yeah, I put that back up in the ring today.” 

I can see into the future…

 

“I feel like you don’t realize that you are doing that, but you definitely are.”

This text is usually accompanied by a video of me failing horribly.

 

“She went outside today and really enjoyed herself…”

 

“Someone forgot the latch the gate!!!”

 

“Just be warned, no one has had any turnout lately…”

 

And the absolute most terrifying text of all…

“So, I have an idea.”

Who knew three little gray dots could be so horrifying?

Go Jumping!

JN Reports: Barn Fire at Kelli Cruciotti’s Serenity Farm Claims Lives of 3 Horses

A firefighter has been hospitalized and three horses have perished after an early morning fire broke out at Kelli Cruciotti’s Wellington, Florida base, Serenity Farm. Calls were placed to local emergency response teams around 1 A.M. on Thursday, March 14th. Firefighters described the sight to local news sources as “a pretty bad scene.”

Cruciotti posted about the incident early Thursday morning on Facebook. She shared that while 18 horses were able to be removed from the facility safely, three horses unfortunately died as a result of the fire. There were no human fatalities.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

Tonight every horse owners worst nightmare came true at our farm in Wellington-A barn fire. My team did an amazing job…

Posted by Kelli Cruciotti on Thursday, March 14, 2019

The entire barn was lost in the blaze, in addition to all supplies in the tack and feed rooms. A Go Fund Me page was created to assist with expenses related to the fire. As of 10:00 A.M., over $9,750 of the $50,000 goal has been raised.

The whole Nation Media team wishes to share our condolences with the entire team at Serenity Farm and the families of those who lost their horses in the fire.

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Jumper Nation

Who Run the World: In Celebration of International Women’s Day

Reigning World Champion Ros Canter and Allstar B (GBR). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Happy International Women’s Day to all of you kick-butt equestrian ladies out there! We tip our helmet to you for going out there and pursuing your dreams. The beauty behind equestrian sports as a whole is that men and women get to compete on the same field, side-by-side as equals. So take a moment to cheer on your fellow lady riders today.

In addition to that moving tribute, the FEI also shared this video featuring the FEI Against All Odds award winner, Leila Malki from Palestine. Leila is a true example of women overcoming cultural stigmas to pursue their dreams and we think she is pretty darn cool.

Celebrate yourself today, ladies, and remember that there is no wrong way to be a woman!

Go Eventing.

Best of JN: Fiery Mare, Fiery Hair

Just in case you missed it, here’s Dani Goldstein’s winning round aboard Lizziemary during this weekend’s #SaturdayNightLights! 👀 This lightning-fast performance was definitely one to remember 🙌🏼 #WEF2019

Posted by WEF – Winter Equestrian Festival on Monday, February 25, 2019

We all know Danielle Goldstein for her trademark feathered locks and love of yoga pants, but her partnership with her spicy red-headed mare Lizziemary is even more special. For the second year in a row, this duo captured the win in the same CSI5* Grand Prix last weekend.

It was Goldstein’s immaculately executed inside turns and leave-out options that placed her in the leading position after her jump-off round. If you watch, you see that Goldstein comes in meaning business, taking the first inside turn after fence one to sneak up to fence two at an angle. “Wow,” both of the commentators said as she landed from fence two in spectacular form. Lizziemary showed off her huge stride between fences three and four, nailing the distance on seven strides. From that point on the round was neat and tidy, while still keeping the pace extremely competitive for those who would follow. And it proved to be a time that couldn’t be beat, sealing the victory for the second year running for this fiery pair.

Best of HN: Essentials for a Properly Packed Ring Bag

If I am not sitting on a horse at a horse show, I am sporting my husband’s Drago military backpack at all times.

People make fun of me, sure. I have been called Dora and I am used to people walking behind me singing, “Backpack Backpack,” but when things go south (and at horse shows they can go south rather quickly) I am the first person they come running to.

Why? Well, I am a bit over prepared for any and every situation. I can’t help myself, I adore organization and the files in my desk at my big girl job are all color coded and beautiful. With the unpredictability that comes in the horse world, a good ring bag is ESSENTIAL.

I typically don’t buy the standard ring bags at the tack store. Don’t get me wrong — they are so very nice, but I need lots of room for storage and optimal organization. My mom bought my husband a Drago backpack this past Christmas to use while hunting and I immediately stole it for my own purposes. It has multiple compartments and lots of loops and clasps that can house all the bits and bobs you need for ultimate organization.

Notice all the loops and Velcro patches that I can attach things too. And the pockets … sooooo many pockets! We even were able to attach the face of an old watch upside down to one of the straps so that while I am running around I can just look down at my strap to catch the time. Photo by Wayne DeLisle.

First things first — the essentials. My spurs are AT ALL TIMES hanging from one of the loops on the side of the bag. Easily accessible and ready to hand off to any rider whose first trip lacked a little life, keeping your spurs on you can make a quick difference in the way that the day goes for someone from your barn. And trust me, I am waiting by the gate when their class is over and taking them off their feet before they even dismount or else I would never get them back. I don’t carry a crop, but if you buy a bag similar to the one I have (er, borrowed) then you can easily secure it in one of the loops on the side as well.

Spare hairnets are a must: I do this mostly for myself because I am bad about thinking I stuck them in a pocket only to have them fall to the ground and never to be seen again. Chapstick, extra deodorant, gum, an extra pair of gloves and a fully charged juice pack for my phone are all stored in one of the smaller compartments.

Keep a class list on you at all times. If you are paranoid like me, you can print it out before the show and laminate it at home so it won’t get crumpled up at the bottom of your bag (yes, I told you I have a problem). I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone cry out in a panic, “wait, is my class next?” It is also nice to keep boot polish and leather cleaner, a few spare rags, and a hoof pick in a separate compartment so that the oils and dirt doesn’t get on your other items.

Now, the things that earn you bonus points. You can save some serious lives here, people. If you have an extra pair of nice quality reins, fold them up neatly and tuck them in the bottom of the bag. It won’t happen frequently enough to justify carrying them all the time, but it will happen one day and you will be glad you have them. Extra white rat catchers for show shirts (those things just waltz off), Neosporin and bandaids and an extra bottle of water that you haven’t already been drinking out of will be nice on a given day as well (super mega bonus points if you have a place to tuck away teeny little Dixie cups so that spare bottle of water goes a long way with more than one rider).

If you know how to braid, keeping rubber bands, a thread hook, and some yarn in your bag can help in the instance of a loose braid. Heck, even strap a bottle of show sheen in there (I have been known to pour some in a travel sized spray bottle). A notebook and pen can come in handy if you are obsessed with writing down class placings as announced to ensure everyone grabs the right ribbons. Extra feminine supplies are a nice addition as well.

I have an unhealthy attachment to this bag and I don’t care. I can fit SO MUCH STUFF in it. Photo by Maddy Gemison.

 

The stuff people will make fun of you for …. Snacks. Snacks of all kinds. Fruits, gummies, those little packets that go in your water. People will call you a walking pantry — THAT IS, until they get hungry and then suddenly you are besties. Extra number strings are easy to tie to the outside of your bag and trust me, at some point someone will lose theirs. Peppermints for all of the good ponies. A little nail kit because hang nails happen and hurt like heck. A spare set of keys to my vehicle if I am driving, because seriously, who wants to get stuck at 8 PM when the horse show finally ends and you lost your original set? Emergency contact list for myself and any of my riders who aren’t laughing so hard at me that they can choke out their answer. What can I say? I like to be prepared.

You can always carry one of those breakable ice packs that only get cold once broken and pray no one needs it. Baby powder and baby wipes are helpful for naughty horses who like to lay in poo for pre-ring touch ups. Disposable razors (stray hairs on a muzzle drive me nuts!) Scissors are the one thing I cannot ever find and always desperately need. But don’t be cheap, buy a little safety pouch for them to hide in so you don’t go stabbing yourself while digging around in your bag.

Yes. I fit all of these goodies and more in my ring bag, and YES I sound like a walking Christmas tree jingling and jangling about. In the case of an emergency, though, I am the girl to go to. And another thing — when I go to a horse show I never take a purse. Throw my wallet in the ring bag and I am good to go. That being said, if we happen to dine out at a fancy restaurant all that junk usually winds up going with me…

What’s in your ring bag? Share your tips in the comments section!

Best of JN: A Little Horsey Limbo?

Free jumping a horse is a great way to see what kind of scope they might be bringing to the table. Some thrive in this structured environment, others don’t know quite what to do with their feet yet. And then there is this horse …

10 points for creativity. -10 points for athletic ability. Hey, I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want to jump that either!

Go Jumping.

Best of JN: #AdultAmmyProbs Why This Jumper is Giving Eventing a Whirl

As we all know, showing hunter jumpers on the A-circuit isn’t exactly known for being budget-friendly, but lately Facebook has been full of turmoil as show fees seem to be rising across the country. USEF raised the fee for lifetime recording of a horse from $200 to $300 in one year. Meanwhile, class fees, stall fees and nomination fees are rising, while prize money is staying the same. Here I am, scrolling through my phone and thinking: how the heck am I supposed to get time off work and save up the funds to attend more than two shows this year?

A few weeks back, my trainer and I had a heart-to-heart about my riding goals versus my budget. It has always been my goal to be as successful as possible, all the while growing through the levels at a decent pace. I had big dreams of hauling to some of the most dreamy venues like WEF, Devon or Live Oak and showing against top amateurs across the country, but with each check I write it becomes increasingly obvious that I can’t keep up with the Joneses on the A-circuit. As I rattled off some ideas of ways I could cut costs or bring in supplemental income to afford my habit, my trainer piped up and said, “or you could try eventing.

Flash and I at our first eventing derby. Photo by Jen Robertson.

The unique thing about my barn, Altamonte Show Stables in St. Louis, Missouri, is that they focus on both jumpers and eventing. I have gone on a few cross-country schooling opportunities and competed in an eventing derby in the past, but have never been brave enough to make the switch. In truth, I am horribly stubborn and once I set my sights on one day competing in the upper echelons of show jumping, I didn’t want to defer from that dream.

Initially, I brushed the idea off. I wasn’t interested in a discipline switch. I could figure it out. And then one afternoon while I sat at home staring at my projected budget and realized I couldn’t force the numbers to add up, I did some research.

Costs related to showing in the hunter jumper ring on the A-circuit include (but are not limited too):

  • Membership for the USHJA is $85 for one year or $240 for three years.
  • Membership for US Equestrian is $80 yearly.
  • Stabling fees range from $75-1,000 a week depending on the show.
  • Class fees for one division will typically add up to be around $150-300, depending on the show.
    • Also keep in mind that jumpers have nomination fees of around $100+ per class.
  • Office fees, medic fees, zone fees, ticketed schooling, etc will add up to be another $150-300, depending on the show.

If you are calculating on the low-end, I have found that I need to save around $1,500 for each show, and that number does not count trainer fees, hauling fees, hotel or food. If I did one show at around $2,500 a month, every other month, I would spend $15,000 alone in show-related expenses. As supportive as my husband is, there is no way I can convince him to support that number on top of other horse related expenses.

Costs related to competing in a USEA sanctioned horse trial include (but are not limited to):

  • Membership for USEA is $95 for one year.
  • Membership for US Equestrian is $80 yearly but only required for Preliminary level and up.
  • Entry fees range from $150-400 per weekend.
  • Stabling ranges from $80-200 per weekend, but some venues that charge higher entry fees include the cost of stabling.
  • Some events have additional fees such as grounds fees, medic fees or office fees. Typically these fees are less than $100.

I did the research on the USEA sanctioned horse trials in my area and after paying my membership fees, I am only looking at around $600 a show INCLUDING my trainer fees and other expenses. And another perk? Most events are Saturday and Sunday, while some are stretched out over three days. One day of vacation every other month versus one week of vacation every other month is definitely more realistic for a working amateur rider. (Note: The cost of an FEI competition does go up in comparison to horse trials. My research placed an average FEI competition at around $1,200 a weekend in total for my expenses.)

Showing at the Kentucky Horse Park had always been a dream of mine. Thankfully, my participation in the Retired Racehorse Project made that dream come true! Who knows, maybe I will be able to return either as a jumper or an eventer. Photo by Meagan DeLisle.

In the long run, if I wanted to go back to the schooling show circuit I could definitely afford to show quite frequently in the jumper ring. There are many tiers to the hunter jumper circuit and it can be quite feasible to show at the lower levels. However, with the practical non-existence of B-Rated shows anymore, my only alternative would be the local schooling circuit. One of my life goals has been to qualify for some sort of final but, in reality, I cannot afford to compete enough to even qualify for finals like the North American League. I can, however, throw all of my funds into trying to qualify for the American Eventing Championships and have a much better shot, financially, at being able to show enough to qualify.

There is no doubt that the eventing community is doing something right. The affordability and flexibility of schedule is definitely attractive for this jumper lover potentially gone rogue. But what does this mean for the USHJA and the other riders who share my pain? When will enough be enough and the powers that be realize they are pricing the majority of their competitors out of the game?

I challenge the members of the USHJA committee to think about their stance on the “grassroots” of the organization a little differently. Think about your working amateurs who are maxing out the time clock to afford to show, your hungry junior riders who are working off the cost of their lessons, the professionals who are scraping up every penny just to get by and get their young horse seen. There is this awful saying that my parents recite to me every chance they get, “how do you make a million dollars in horses? Start with a billion.” But I challenge you to ask yourself: does it HAVE to be that way? Or have we just made it that way? How are we impacting our industry by doing that? Are we killing it?

I have to think that in some way, we might be.

So what do we do? We make our voices heard. We remind the governing bodies of our sport that affordability and accessibility is key. We remind them that, for the majority of us, this is a hobby and if it becomes a hobby we can’t afford, we may have to turn elsewhere thus resulting in a decline of membership numbers. We remind the leaders of our industry that we are present and that our concerns should mean something to them.

For now, I am going to don a cross country vest, grab a little mane and give a few horse trials a go. I won’t give up on the jumper ring completely, but I definitely aim to supplement my show schedule with eventing throughout the year. Who knows, maybe along the way I will find that my wallet and I love it and that my riding benefits from crossing disciplines.

Best of JN: Behind the Scenes at the HITS Ocala Pony Ring

When we think of large horse show venues such as HITS Ocala, we often think of International Hunter Derbies and large, Saturday night Grand Prix classes. Some of our favorite classes here at JN, however, are the always adorable pony classes! From big bows to tiny braids, these ponies and their jockeys always seem to make us say “awwwww.” Check out some behind the scenes shots taken by Jumper Nation’s talented Dominique Gonzalez!

Horse showing= a lot of hurry up and waiting. Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

We are a sucker for a cute grey.  Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

At the in-gate. Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

Show ring preperation. Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

Best friends. Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

This pony made us all go “squeeee!” Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

Pats for the best pony. Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

Those knees! Photo by Dominique Gonzalez

Go ponies and Go Jumping!

Best of JN: Why This Jumper is Giving Eventing a Whirl

Flash and I at our first eventing derby, Photo by Jen Robertson.

As we all know, showing hunter jumpers on the A-circuit isn’t exactly known for being budget-friendly, but lately Facebook has been full of turmoil as show fees seem to be rising across the country. Just yesterday I saw where USEF had raised the fee for lifetime recording of a horse from $200 to $300 in one year. Meanwhile, class fees, stall fees and nomination fees are rising, while prize money is staying the same. Here I am, scrolling through my phone and thinking: how the heck am I supposed to get time off work and save up the funds to attend more than two shows this year?

A few weeks back, my trainer and I had a heart-to-heart about my riding goals versus my budget. It has always been my goal to be as successful as possible, all the while growing through the levels at a decent pace. I had big dreams of hauling to some of the most dreamy venues like WEF, Devon or Live Oak and showing against top amateurs across the country, but with each check I write it becomes increasingly obvious that I can’t keep up with the Joneses on the A-circuit. As I rattled off some ideas of ways I could cut costs or bring in supplemental income to afford my habit, my trainer piped up and said, “or you could try eventing.”

The unique thing about my barn, Altamonte Show Stables, is that they focus on both jumpers and eventing. I have gone on a few cross-country schooling opportunities and competed in an eventing derby in the past, but have never been brave enough to make the switch. In truth, I am horribly stubborn and once I set my sights on one day competing in the upper echelons of show jumping, I didn’t want to defer from that dream.

Initially, I brushed the idea off. I wasn’t interested in a discipline switch. I could figure it out. And then one afternoon while I sat at home staring at my projected budget and realized I couldn’t force the numbers to add up, I did some research.

Costs related to showing in the hunter jumper ring on the A-circuit include (but are not limited too):

  • Membership for the USHJA is $85 for one year, $240 for three years or $1,500 for lifetime membership.
  • Membership for US Equestrian is $80 yearly or $2,500 for a lifetime membership.
  • Stabling fees range from $75-1,000 a week depending on the show.
  • Class fees for one division will typically add up to be around $150-300, depending on the show.
    • Also keep in mind that jumpers have nomination fees of around $100+ per class.
  • Office fees, medic fees, zone fees, ticketed schooling, etc will add up to be another $150-300, depending on the show.

If you are calculating on the low-end, I have found that I need to save around $1,500 for each show and that number does not count trainer fees, hauling fees, hotel or food. If I did one show at around $2,500 a month, every other month, I would spend $15,000 alone in show-related expenses. As supportive as my husband is, there is no way I can convince him to support that number on top of other horse related expenses.

Costs related to attending a USEA sanctioned horse trial include (but are not limited too):

  • Membership for USEA is $95 for one year, $1,500 for lifetime.
  • Membership for US Equestrian is $80 yearly or $2,500 for a lifetime membership (it is important to note that this is only required for preliminary and up).
  • Class fees range from $150-400 per weekend.
  • Stabling ranges from $80-200 per weekend, but it is important to note that many shows that charge higher class fees include the cost of stabling in that fee.
  • Some shows have additional fees such as grounds fees, medic fees or office fees. Typically these fees are less than $100.

I did the research on the USEA sanctioned horse trials in my area and after paying my membership fees, I am only looking at around $600 a show INCLUDING my trainer fees and other expenses. And another perk? Most events are Saturday and Sunday, while some are stretched out over three days. One day of vacation every other month versus one week of vacation every other month is definitely more realistic for a working amateur rider. (Note: the cost of an FEI Three-Day event does go up some in comparison to horse trials. My research placed an average weekend at around $1,200 a weekend in total for my expenses.)

Showing at the Kentucky Horse Park had always been a dream of mine. Thankfully, my participation in the Retired Racehorse Project made that dream come true! Who knows, maybe I will be able to return either as a jumper or an eventer. Photo by Meagan Delisle.

In the long run, if I wanted to go back to the schooling show circuit I could definitely afford to show quite frequently in the jumper ring. There are many tiers to the hunter jumper circuit and it can be quite feasible to show at the lower levels. However, with the practical non-existence of B-Rated shows anymore, my only alternative would be the local schooling circuit. One of my life goals has been to qualify for some sort of final but, in reality, I cannot afford to compete enough to even qualify for finals like the North American League. I can, however, throw all of my funds into trying to qualify for the American Eventing Championships and have a much better shot, financially, at being able to show enough to qualify.

There is no doubt that the eventing community is doing something right. The affordability and flexibility of schedule is definitely attractive for this jumper lover potentially gone rogue. But what does this mean for the USHJA and the other riders who share my pain? When will enough be enough and the powers that be realize they are pricing the majority of their competitors out of the game?

I challenge the members of the USHJA committee to think about their stance on the “grassroots” of the organization a little differently. Think about your working amateurs who are maxing out the time clock to afford to show, your hungry junior riders who are working off the cost of their lessons, the professionals who are scraping up every penny just to get by and get their young horse seen. There is this awful saying that my parents recite to me every chance they get, “how do you make a million dollars in horses? Start with a billion.” But I challenge you to ask yourself: does it HAVE to be that way? Or have we just made it that way? How are we impacting our industry by doing that? Are we killing it?

I have to think that in some way, we might be.

So what do we do? We make our voices heard. We remind the governing bodies of our sport that affordability and accessibility is key. We remind them that, for the majority of us, this is a hobby and if it becomes a hobby we can’t afford, we may have to turn elsewhere thus resulting in a decline of membership numbers. We remind the leaders of our industry that we are present and that our concerns should mean something to them.

For now, I am going to don a cross-country vest, grab a little mane and give a few horse trials a go. I won’t give up on the jumper ring completely, but I definitely aim to supplement my show schedule with eventing throughout the year. Who knows, maybe along the way I will find that my wallet and I love it and that my riding benefits from crossing disciplines.

Best of JN: Olympic & WEG Jumpers to Be Auctioned Online Following FBI Seizure

Photo by Alissa King / JN.

After being sentenced to ten years in prison for money laundering this past November, Alejandro Andrade’s string of top showjumpers are set to be sold via online auction. The horses were seized by US authorities on November 17th after Alejandro plead guilty to money laundering. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit $1 billion and any assets related to the corruption. Those assets included real estate, vehicles, watches, aircraft and fourteen top-notch performance horses.

The horses, previously ridden by Alejandro’s son, Olympic showjumper Emanuel Andrade, will be sold February 19th-26th through CWS Asset Management and Sales.

Before you get too excited thinking you might get the deal of a lifetime on some exceptional horses, there is a catch. According to an article by Horse & Hound, interested buyers must submit a deposit of $50,000 to participate in the eight-day long auction.

That makes sense when you recognize that one of the horses listed for sale is Emanuel’s 2016 Olympic mount, Hardrock Z. Another interesting listing is Clouwni, whose resume boasts several Nations Cups performances and the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Rounding out the list of available horses are Ricore Courcelle, Reus De La Nutria, Anastasia Du Park, Boy IV, Bon Jovi, Cortina 186, Dipssy, Jenni’s Chance, Joli Jumper, Leonardo RGS, Quilina VD Laarseheide Z and Tupac Van De Vrombautshoeve Z.

Registered bidders may preview the horses at the Delray Equestrian Center in Florida January 28th-February 4th. CWS Asset Management released a statement that the horses are currently being brought back into work by a professional and are receiving first class care.

Best of JN: #AdultAmmyProbs: New Year, New Me? Maybe Not…

Sitting on the sidelines rather than showing definitely hurt. Photo courtesy of Meagan DeLisle

2018 was supposed to be my year, so forgive me if I sound a little callous when I say that this year wasn’t exactly all I had hoped it would be. Several dreams backfired in my face throughout the course of my year. I had all of these plans, items I would tick off of a checklist, and goals I would push myself to accomplish. While there is no doubt that I am closing out this year a better rider than I was in 2017, I failed to reach many of the goals I had set for myself. And, to be blunt, that totally sucks.

There are so many moving parts to make horse showing a reality, especially when you’re an adult amateur. We invest so much of our time, money and heart into fitting all of the pieces together that it is easy to get burned out when things go awry. It can be a hard pill to swallow when you look at your yearly expense sheet and realize how much you have put into something, only to feel like you invested in oil wells that were dry. That is exactly where I found myself earlier this month.

I was sitting at the bar in my kitchen, icing my aching knee and staring at a vet bill that needed to be paid, when it hit me: I didn’t do a dang thing I wanted to do this year. I spent the next week in a state of mental turmoil as I tried to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Would I continue tossing almost everything I had at a teeny bud of a dream with the great possibility that next year would mirror this year? Or would I take some time off to enjoy my life, be a normal person, travel, spend money on myself for a change and not have to spend every waking moment of my life thinking about horses?

I have to tell you, after the year I have had, the alternative sounded so enticing.

If there is one thing I did learn this year, however, it is that throwing yourself an elaborate pity-party never really gets you anywhere. So I took a step back to re-evaluate my situation, and it dawned on me… this state of self-destruction was entirely self-inflicted. 

Sure, a couple of things went to crap throughout 2018, but had I not set the bar so high for myself, I wouldn’t be feeling like such a failure. In all reality, I had accomplished a lot over the past twelve months. They didn’t exactly meet the high standards I had hoped to have met, but whose fault was that? In trying to set milestones for myself to accomplish throughout the year, I had actually set myself up for failure. Now, rather than seeing all the good things I had achieved, I was only seeing the fact that I didn’t tick a box on a list of things my fellow competitors were doing.

So I took the month of December off to refresh my mental state and give my body (and mind) some time to rest and do you know what I found?

I missed riding. 

Photo courtesy of Meagan DeLisle.

So here I am, ready to take on 2019 with a fresh state of mind. And as we approach that time of year where every Instagram post bears the caption, “new year, new me,” I am instead focusing on “new year, improved me.” You see, sometimes setting goals (when not set the right way) can be toxic to your mental health. Sometimes, in setting goals, you are actually setting yourself up for failure. So rather than create a list of things I want to do this year, I am going to set my focus on one big goal: improving myself.

No lists of shows I want to attend. No set fence height I want to conquer. Just me, myself and I, making positive strides towards being a better rider. If in my quest for growth I make my way to a show venue I have always wanted to compete at, fantastic. If I somehow manage to survive bumping the fences up to the next level, consider it a bonus. My primary goal is going to be focusing on bettering myself in 2019.

Of course, you have to find some way to measure a goal, and I intend to do so by speaking closely with my coach about my desire to be better without the pressure of an ever-looming deadline. That is the beauty of being an adult amateur, we aren’t working against a clock! We don’t age out like juniors do. The majority of us aren’t hustling to win the U25 championships before we reach 26. We all do this because it is fun! And why suck the fun out of it by setting goals that a variety of outside circumstances can impact, leaving you feeling like you somehow failed?

So here is to 2019 and here is to the rest of you out there who are going to focus on “new year, improved me.” You got this.

Go Jumping.

Best of JN: Is Your Horse On the Naughty List? Presented by Draper Therapies

Will your pony be getting carrots or coal in their stocking this year? EN’s sister site Jumper Nation paired up with the team at Draper Therapies to ask readers where they thought their horse would fall, and the responses left us in stitches. Check out what the horses of Jumper Nation have been up to this year and thank the horse gods that your pony hasn’t picked up one of these habits. I think it’s safe to say Santa may be flying right on past these barns this year…

Leslie: “My pony Princess has been a naughty, naughty girl this year when it comes to eating healthy. From fast food (AKA stuffing her face when she’s SUPPOSED to be exercising) to taking off her muzzle at every opportunity (then throwing it in the woods or sinking it to the bottom of the pond unless I intercept her first), she considers life to be her own personal all-you-can-eat buffet.”

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Dominique: “Most horses don’t mind having their legs wrapped after a hard days work. But, of course, my horse Monami is one of the few that hate them. He’ll get bored and start chewing on them trying to find any possible way to take off this trapping monster. Once he unwraps most of it he’ll fling his leg around till it’s completely gone. He hates them so much he’ll dig a hole like a dog and bury them. The next day we’ll either have to dig through shavings or dirt from his run to find the remains of the once pristine white wraps. “

Jayme: “Turns out it’s hard to keep a 17hh horse wrapped… But he sure deserves to be on the nice list, except on days when he refuses to be caught.”

Photo courtesy of Jayme Rogers

Carrie: “My three-year-old won the hold my hay and watch this/who can get the most burrs in their mane’ contest the other day.”

Photo courtesy of Carrie Dobrin

Meagan: “Flash is the best horse in the entire world 99% of the time. The other 1% he is rolling in whatever he sets his sights on, making it extremely difficult to keep him clean for shows…”

Kate: “Kieran decided to go rogue in the night when he realized that his stall guard was ‘optional.’ Here is the little brat caught red-handed the next morning, looks like he did some re-decorating.”

Photo courtesy of Kate Stephenson.

Has your horse been naughty? Share your horses shenanigans in the comments below!

Go Jumping!

Best of JN: What to Buy Your Trainer for Christmas

Photo via Jumper Nation.

With every passing day, a new present joins the growing pile beneath my tree, but one person who is stumping me completely when it comes to gift-giving is my trainer. Shopping for horse-people is supposed to be easy for me. After all, I write countless gift-guides each week giving other people suggestions on what gifts equestrians would love. But what do you buy someone who literally has everything? What material object will truly portray my gratitude to her?

My trainer Jen picked me up a little under a year ago after my great epiphany during my first clinic with George Morris. I wanted to attend a rated show, a lifelong dream of mine that many people tick off before they even graduate from leadline. Jen adopted me for a week-long adventure at the World Equestrian Center. When things took an unexpected turn leaving me horseless for the week, Jen went above and beyond to find me a horse to ride so my trip to Ohio wasn’t a “waste.”

While we were unable to secure a mount last minute, I would call that trip anything but a waste. That trip was the start of a great partnership and friendship. Jen included me on every course walk, guided me to better stable management practices and taught me more than I could ever imagine throughout the duration of our trip. I will never forget sitting squished between her two young sons in their car seats, laughing and talking about all of our favorite memories on the way up to Ohio and back home.

Since then, our relationship has only grown stronger. We went from texting here and there to texting every day. From discussions about horse shopping to sharing silly memes, Jen became a staple in my daily life. I began making the three-hour, one-way trek to her stable every weekend just to soak up every ounce of her knowledge that I could and to enjoy her company. Since my riding has grown immensely and, in return, so has my confidence.

The hardest part about being an adult amateur is trying to make everything balance. Work, relationships, family, horses, money, it all gets jumbled up and can sometimes make this horse showing thing pretty tough. The best part about my relationship with Jen is that she goes out of her way to make it all easy. She wants me to succeed. She wants me to love this. She wants me to meet my goals. She wants me to be happy. When life gives me lemons, she chucks those bad boys right back at life and finds a way to solve every problem. Jen has gone above and beyond to help me, in more ways than many trainers would and she does it because she cares. 

So what do you buy someone as influential as Jen? What do you buy for someone that says, “hey, thanks for not giving up on me when I forgot to ride straight after the fence for the fourth time in a row?” How do you thank someone for tolerating countless texts about horses for sale… or a saddle for sale… or a trailer for sale? How do you tell someone who has let you cry when you need to and has shut you down when you don’t, just how much they mean to you?

How can I ever tell Jen how confident each “good job” or “niiiiice” made me feel? I am not sure how I am supposed to buy a present that perfectly sums up my thoughts on our late-night chats about horses, kids and everything in between. Jen has literally housed me, fed me and, to her delight, clothed me (in outfits that consist of navy and white rather than pink sparkles, of course). Jen is like a mom, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a coach and a counselor all wrapped up into one. I haven’t seen a gift section for people of that category on Etsy.

I’m not sure that there is any material possession that could truly express the impact that Jen has made on my life, but I sure am going to try. I think the greatest gift I could give her is to be the best student I can be and to show her just how much her hard work means to me. After all, the greatest gift of all is the gift of not having to yell, “balance up” five-thousand times in one day, right Jen?

Go Jumping.

 

Best of JN: When the Budget Says No, #AdultAmmyProbs

Photo by Joanna Russell.

Life has been pretty good to me lately. I got a new show horse earlier this year, I was able to upgrade my trailer, I saved up and competed at the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover and participated in a George Morris clinic all in the same month. Everything was looking good.

And then I needed new tires on my truck. And then I had to buy one last load of hay to get me through winter. And then it was injection time for one of my horses.

And suddenly, it wasn’t all looking so good anymore.

I pride myself on my ability to budget responsibly and not allow this horse passion of mine to put my family in a bad way, but sometimes that means I have to say no. After several months of nothing but yes, no doesn’t feel so great. In fact, if I am being honest, it feels pretty crappy.

There are two different types of adult amateur riders. There are what I consider the “professional” adult amateurs who have the means to show every weekend and keep their horse in full training. I will admit, I envy these people. They are living the life I want to live, but I, unfortunately, don’t fall into that category. And I think if you were to look at the population of adult amateur riders as a whole, I think you would find that the greater majority of us do not fall into that category.

Most of us ride on the side, juggling demanding careers and families at home in between horse shows. Our tack isn’t always the newest, our cars are a perpetual mess and our budgets are definitely not limitless. But for a few short months, I got to live as if I were a part of the “other side.” I could afford to keep my horse in training and didn’t have to feel guilty when I was just too exhausted to ride after a long day at work. I got to enjoy dinner with my husband, for once, and when I did ride my horse, he was a perfect angel because someone more experienced than I am was tuning him up for me every day.

Photo by Joanna Russell.

So as I looked at my bank account and tried to blink more money into the ever-dwindling number, I felt a little piece of my heart sink. Those blissful few months were coming to an end. My horse was going to have to come home for a bit while we saved up for Christmas and so my husband could have some spending money for the hobbies he has been putting off so I could ride.

And that rated show I wanted to go to in November? Yeah… I was going to have to say no to that.

In moments like this, we have two options: we can pout and be sad that this good run has come to an end or we can regroup and sort out how we can get back to that point. I allowed myself five minutes of pouting because it’s okay to be sad, but after those five minutes were up, I realigned my perspective.

Sometimes the budget says no. That’s part of life. Horse people experience it, non-horse people experience it. Like many adult amateur riders, I have to put in extra hours to afford the horse habit, and sometimes the budget says yes, while others the budget says no. The reality of my situation is that I just do this for fun. Yes, I love it. Yes, it is what brings me happiness. Yes, if I had the means to show every weekend, I would.

But, I don’t.

I am just thankful that I am young and healthy, that I have family who supports me, that I have the ability to work for what I love and that the opportunities have presented themselves to me to compete at the rate that I do. I know I am very lucky to have what I do have and I am eternally grateful for that. And I know that if the budget says no and I want it to say yes, all that is stopping me is me.

I get to share the stories of adult ammy riders just like me every single day, and I am always inspired by the extra efforts we go to in order to pursue our passion. Many of you balance side-jobs, many of you log extra hours on the clock, many of you make sacrifices in other areas of your life just to allocate extra funds to your horse budgets. So when life gets tough and the budget gets tight, I just think about all of you out there kicking butt and taking names, and I know that I too can overcome my current financial limitations and get back on track.

Sometimes the budget says no, and you have to put in a little extra work to make things happen, but let me tell you this: it means so much more when your goals become a reality because of the fruits of your labor. So get out there and keep killing it. Adult amateurs unite!

From the hunter ring to the jump-off, keep up to speed on the latest news, commentary and h/j insanity at EN’s sister site Jumper Nation!

Best of JN: #NoStirrupNovember Thoughts According to Twitter

No stirrup November, a phrase that strikes the hearts of equestrians with fear worldwide. We have survived 10 days so far and the Twitter-sphere is abuzz with thoughts around the subject. Do we love it? Do we hate it? Can we get out of bed in the morning? So far the general consensus is no, we cannot. But with 20 more days to go we have to stick together and tough it out! So take a look at what your fellow equestrians are saying as you ice your aching thighs. You are not alone!

Go Jumping!

This originally appeared on EN’s sister site Jumper Nation.

Best of JN: 8 Times Kent Farrington Stole Our Hearts

Kent Farrington: the man, the myth, the legend. A phenomenal rider, he held the world number one spot for what seemed like forever prior to having to take some downtime as he recovered from an injury. Kent seems to win all the things (like this week’s $135,000 Jumper Classic at the National Horse Show), not excluding the hearts of his fans. Check out eight of our favorite Kent moments on Instagram from our sister site, Jumper Nation!

1) Every time he makes challenging horses look easy…

2) When he takes time to acknowledge his youngest fans. 

3) That one time Kent and the Queen became besties.

4) When Kent wins all the things and celebrates like a boss.

5) When the sass is strong, but Kent doesn’t care. 

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Mood 💃🏼 Brought to you by Kent & Dublin

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6) Baby Kent, enough said. 

7)  When he handles bloopers with grace and poise. 

8) Does this one really need a caption? 

Go Kent and Go Jumping!

This originally appeared on EN’s sister site Jumper Nation.

 

Best of JN: I Survived George Morris … the Return

After a year of preparation, JN editor Meagan DeLisle got her second chance to ride in a George Morris clinic. Would her luck turn around in 2018? If you missed last year’s accounts, catch up HERE.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on our hotel window. Despite my thousands of prayers for good weather this weekend, Missouri had neglected to oblige. Today was the first day of my redemption rides throughout the three-day George Morris clinic at Altamontè Show Stable. And, as if I didn’t have enough to worry about, the temperatures had plummeted to below 50 degrees and we were guaranteed on again, off again showers throughout the weekend.

Oh joy.

Early morning alarms have become my jam lately, so I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning when we arrived at the barn. In the back of my head, there was a growing sense of dread. The weather was definitely going to impact the jump field and my horse, plus I knew eyes were going to be on me. After last year’s entertaining clinic outcome I have had countless people reach out to me with words of encouragement and in anticipation of reading this year’s recap. No pressure or anything.

So Ty and I made our way down the field on this misty morning with our game faces on. There was nothing I could do about the weather, so I just had to make the best with what I had and show George how hard I had been working.

The clinic started off with getting our horses prepared on the flat. We worked on lateral movements and collecting versus lengthening depending on the landscape of where we were. The beautiful thing about riding at Altamontè is getting to use their gorgeous jump field. The rolling terrain and wide open space give you plenty of opportunities to shine … or maybe not so much. Ty was very good on the flat, so much so that George opted to make him his first ride of the clinic which was very exciting. George’s big emphasis for our group was the way in which we carry our hands and how we should lift them to get the horse to come back to us.

Photo by Morgan McAllister.

And then it was time to jump. The courses for today were very fair, in my opinion. We started out jumping up a bank, one stride to a small vertical at the crest of the hill, followed by a two stride down the hill to another small vertical. George asked for Ty and me to go first, so I rode up a little on the assertive side to start the day off right. Thankfully, Ty had no qualms with the questions I asked of him today and took to the exercise beautifully. We have some homework to polish up on in regards to coming to a halt after a fence, but all-in-all he was a good boy.

As the ride continued, the rain morphed from a sprinkle to a noticeable drizzle. It was cold, we were wet and there was still work to be done. After conquering the bank, we moved on to jumping another exercise made up of a vertical down to a ditch in a grob and then back up to an oxer. Several horses were concerned by the bank earlier in the morning and George really laid into our group to let us know that it was our job to use our sticks and build confidence in our horses.

So as we made our way to the grob I reached back with my stick and gave Ty a little tap to encourage him forward and he went on with no hesitation. “THERE!,” George boasted behind me. “Watch her! Watch her! She’s got it!”

I waited until George looked away to break out into a huge grin. That was all I needed to get me through the rest of the day.

We continued to jump around over natural obstacles such as a hogsback and other man-made fences like an in-and-out and the infamous ASPCA Maclay wall. Ty jumped quite nicely around the course as I figured out how I wanted to navigate each jump. I am still perfecting my eye to find the best distance, but I was very proud that I wasn’t rushing to the base of each fence in a desperate attempt to find it (a horrible habit that took a while for me to break).

Photo by Morgan McAllister.

Our last exercise was a simple vertical with a grassy-topped stone wall as filler placed right in the middle of a long decline. The goal was to gallop down to the fence, find the distance and stay forward, off of the horses back. He did not want to see anyone making contact with their seat, so I stretched up and tall and let Ty stretch his legs a bit. Once the group had galloped down to it, we made our way back one-at-a-time galloping up to it. Our rides had to change based on if we were going up or down, which I found really entertaining. Not every one of my distances was perfect, but I was so pleased that the day had gone on and I was still in the saddle.

At the end of the day, we were all soaked to the bone, but I was elated with how my ride had gone. I approached George with my little buddy Ainsleigh (a super ten-year-old who idolizes George) to introduce the two. As I was getting ready to walk away, George said to me, “what was your name again? I forget when you are not on the horses.”

“Meagan, sir. I rode the big bay. I rode with you last year. I kinda sorta fell off and wound up with stitches,” I replied.

George looked at me for a second before saying in shock, “Wait … YOU are Meagan from last year?”

I nodded my head, unsure of how this conversation was going to turn out.

“I didn’t even recognize you!” he exclaimed. “You are so much better this year! I would’ve never guessed you were the same person.”

At that moment, lightning could have struck me and I would have died a happy girl. I thanked him endlessly for the feedback and told him how I turned his 50-hour assignment into more of a 500 hour ongoing project in hopes of getting better. George just smiled at me and repeated, “I didn’t even recognize you.”

That comment made all of the early mornings, the late nights, the long hours, the miles on the road and countless bottles of Aleve worth it.

Want to read how the rest of the clinic finished out for Meagan? Her recaps on day 2 and day 3 are live on our sister site, Jumper Nation!

Makeover Moments with Flashback Justice: Sleep Deprived and Satisfied, Day Three

The Kentucky Horse Park is filling up with talented ex-racehorses and the trainers who have devoted the past 10 months to bringing them along — Jumper Nation editor Meagan DeLisle reports with her project Flashback Justice. If you missed part 1, read it here

The days go by a lot faster when you are on Makeover time and before I knew it, day two was just a memory. We spent the majority of our Thursday hacking around the property and helping Flash adjust to the commotion of the now busy showgrounds, but Thursday night was the start of a marathon like no other.

Like many of my fellow competitors, the financial burden of traveling for the Makeover required me to get creative with my budget. In an attempt to offset some of my expenses, I booked several clients for braiding prior to the release of the competition schedule and low and behold, all 10 of my clients were slated to show on Friday. So what did that mean for poor Meagan? It meant I was up at the barn at 10 p.m. Friday night to begin a long night of braiding.

Next thing I knew I was trimming off the excess yarn off of my last horse at 6:45 a.m. on Friday morning. I had officially been awake for a full 24 hours and still had to braid my own horse, tack up, put on my official dress and make it out to the Stirrup Cup at 7:30 a.m.

Basically, I was in deep trouble.

Tacked up and ready to go thanks to a little help from our friends. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Thankfully, Kristen came to the rescue and helped me get ready in record time. As the sun rose in the distance, Flash and I made our way through the dark and sleepy horse park on our way to the Sunken Road field for our first competition of the Makeover. Flash let out a giant sigh as we cut our way through the dense fog that covered the landscape. I don’t think there could ever have been a more perfect way to start a hunt morning.

To my surprise, Flash was unalarmed by the growing number of horses around us. He sat happily, half asleep, in the middle of the field as I enjoyed a traditional cup of port courtesy of the local hunt chapter. “Today is going to be a great day,” I thought to myself.

We started off with our flat phase of the hunt test. Flash was in spectacular form and went around like a pro, so much so that we had a flat score of 33. The highest score on the flat was 38, so I was very proud of my baby horse.

Flash trying to sneak a snack before our flat class on this foggy Friday morning. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Then it was time to move onto the mock hunt. The hounds ran around with glee, happy to be enjoying the beautiful countryside at the Kentucky Horse Park. I was thrilled to see Flash was unphased by the commotion around us. A handful of our competitors were struggling with the overwhelming nature of the hunt. We trotted off at a great pace and set our sights on the first jump: a log that was welcoming in height, but a bit intimidating in width. I could feel Flash focusing on the fence and was excited to show off his scope over fences, but as we approached I could see the footing on the take-off was pretty dicey.

Flash was going to jump, I could feel himself coiling up and ready to go, but as he prepared to take off I felt his back end slide and he planted his front feet firmly as if to say, “Mom … I just can’t.” I can’t fault a horse for his own self-preservation, so rather than get upset I just gave him a pat and we went on our merry way. My goal for the rest of the course was to have fun and to let Flash keep his confidence up. Some fences we skipped, some fences he popped over in his typical exuberant fashion. We galloped in the beautiful open field and I smiled. It was a beautiful day for a hunt.

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

All in all, I knew our scores were in the gutter and I didn’t care. My horse trotted through the knee-deep water with zero hesitation and a happy expression. We went around the final fence on course with lots of pats when a Steward caught my attention. I was afraid we were somehow in trouble, but instead she said to me, “You do such a good job with him. Way to go!”

And that is when I started crying … again … for like the fifth time on this trip.

We opted to scratch the individual final and just make our way to the schooling ring to pop over some fences on better footing. After sailing over them, we made our way back to the barn for a little rest break before our competitive trail class.

In trail, I just wanted to have fun. I could feel Flash was a bit frustrated from the morning’s activities and I just wanted him to be happy. The first obstacle was navigating the famous head of the lake and many of the horses were hesitating at the entrance because of the muddy down-ramp, but baby Flash sauntered right in without a care. “Excellent water!” Called the judge as made our way to the next challenge. Like the field hunters, some of the obstacles were too much for Flash today and that was okay. We gave everything a shot and then rather than let him work himself up, we would move on to the next task at hand. All in all, Flash completed the majority of the class beautifully and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with him.

As the day wore on, my sleep deprived state got the best of me. Kristen stacked a few bags of shavings together so I could curl up and take a much-needed nap before the potluck dinner, where several of our friends joined us for an evening filled with tacos and laughter. As the sun dropped below the skyline, Kristen and I hopped on for a late-night, bareback ride out in the field behind the barns. Just the fact that I could do that made me happier than any ribbon ever would. Here I was watching the lightning bugs light up the field, listening to the sound of my best pal softly munching on grass with no tack aside from a halter. That is when I knew that no matter what the scores said, I had won.

Makeover Moments with Flashback Justice: Day 1 and I’m Already Crying

The Kentucky Horse Park is filling up with talented ex-racehorses and the trainers who have devoted the past 10 months to bringing them along — Jumper Nation editor Meagan DeLisle reports with her project Flashback Justice. 

After what seemed like a never-ending six hours on the road, Flashback Justice and I made it to the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park late Tuesday evening. For the most part, the barn aisles were desolate with just a few stragglers here and there unloading the last bits of their tack and hay. Flash traveled quite nicely and was eager to settle into his new abode. Thanks to the help of my friend (and Horse Nation editor) Kristen, we unpacked in record time. I took a few brief moments to soak up the quiet atmosphere before making my way out for the night. With around 5oo horses projected to compete this week, I knew that the quiet moments would probably be few and far between from this point on.

Wednesday was our first official day at the KHP. I arrived bright and early for my favorite part of horse ownership, barn chores. Flash was happy to see me (or happy to see that I was bringing him breakfast… ehh, either way I will take it) and happily munched on his morning hay while I picked his stall. Slowly but surely, trucks and trailers began to fill the barn aisles and the environment transformed to that of a busy horse show.

Kristen was set up to volunteer for the majority of the day, so I opted to go on a mid-morning trail ride and check out our surroundings. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Flash as we embarked on our big adventure. All around us the commotion was growing. The arenas were full of schooling horses, tractors and golf carts were whizzing by, but Flash plodded along on the buckle more interested in trying to grab a snack here and there than the world around us.

We made our way to the covered arena where a handful of horses were acclimating to the show ring and I decided to have a light flatwork session and assess Flash’s mental state. Normally he is very chill and I often forget that he is a green five-year-old who has only been off the track for a year, but every now and then he humbles me. Today was not one of those days, however. After we flatted on the buckle in a nice frame walk, trot and canter, I decided not to get too greedy and to just allow him to relax and enjoy a quiet ride for the remainder of the morning.

So around the park we went. We went everywhere without a care in the world. We ventured down horse paths, we plodded down roads, we even made our way up to the legendary Rolex arena, all on a loose rein. As we hacked alongside the cross country course on our way back to the barn, I felt tears spring into my eyes.

Entering the Rolex arena. Photo by Meagan DeLisle.

Just a year ago, this horse was tripping over crossrails and pulling back when tied. I was combatting some confidence issues myself at the time and never imagined that a year from that point I would be enjoying a leisurely ride on my OTTB without having to worry about what he might do next. All of those emotions paired with the beauty of the horse park definitely got me in my feels.

The day drifted on at a peaceful pace. While everyone around me seemed to be rushing to cram as much schooling in as possible, I was enjoying hanging out by Flash’s stall and knocking some work out. All day long beautiful horses passed by me, horses that in no way looked like they have only been off the track just a short year. I give mad props to all of my fellow competitors. I have yet to see a horse who looks under-conditioned at this year’s Makeover.

A fellow writer from our Eventing Nation side of the family, Kate Samuels, is also here competing this week so Kristen and I made plans to meet up later in the afternoon for a trail ride. As all of us work remotely this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a representative from all three branches of the Nation Media family has been at the same event together. I quickly coined our group as the “United Nations,” (my best wordsmithing to date). We had a blast hacking all around the property with one another, laughing and joking about our horses and the many adventures we have gotten ourselves into.

The United Nations! Photo by Eileen Cody.

After tending to Flash for the night, I rolled out of the horse park and made my way a Waffle House for a late night smorgasbord of breakfast food. As I sat in the back of the restaurant in a booth all by myself with a warm cup of coffee, I was able to decompress from the day while reflecting on our first day at the KHP.

Today was pretty much perfect. I met new friends, reconnected with old friends, had two great rides and enjoyed a day full of ponies. Who knows what else this week has in store, but one thing is for sure. I am so proud of my little horse. The ribbons don’t matter, just the fact that he has come so far and brought me so much happiness is all I need.

Go Jumping.

Meagan’s RRP Diary: Who is Training Who?

Photo by Jesse Franks Photography. Photo by Jesse Franks Photography.

The Kentucky Horse Park is filling up with talented ex-racehorses and the trainers who have devoted the past 10 months to bringing them along — Jumper Nation editor Meagan DeLisle reports with her project Flashback Justice. 

Recently a photo of Flash from the day I purchased him sight unseen popped up in my Facebook memories. It doesn’t feel like a whole year has passed since I jumped on the Thoroughbred Makeover bandwagon and joined the RRP family, but here we are. I have sat down at my computer several times over the last few days and tried to sum up just what this experience has been like for me and how it has impacted my life, but the words just haven’t felt right. And then, after having to leave Flash at my trainer’s barn for a week due to work issues, I got a text message that read, “Meagan… Flashy is the best horsey ever.”

I have always thought Flash was something worth fighting for. My experience training horses is frighteningly limited which should have been a big red flag when I woke up one day and said, “I want to do the Thoroughbred Makeover.” In true Meagan fashion, however, I just decided to dive in head-first and figure out how to swim later. In order for me to survive this endeavor with all of my limbs attached, it was going to take a pretty special horse to tolerate my amateur mistakes as I learned along the way.

Photo by Jesse Franks Photography.

Flash was a cute little four-year-old Thoroughbred, smaller than what most shoppers are looking for, with a big blue spot in one eye and osselets from his racing days. Like me, he was a bit of a mixed bag. Certain parts about him you loved and others made you think, “is this such a good idea?” But I took one look at his photo and somehow just knew. Within a few hours, my funds were transferred and the deal was done. I had my first restart.

From the get-go, I loved my baby horse, and I wasn’t the only one. Everyone who met him fell in love with his charming demeanor. Despite a few bumps in the road thanks to his accident-prone nature, he took every bit of his retraining process in stride. When we reached a roadblock, he challenged me to find a new way to communicate what I wanted. When I wasn’t feeling confident, he put on his big boy pants and helped his mother out. He adapted to the Meagan that I was each day and pushed me to be a better horse person.

With each ouchie he came in from the field with, I became better at dressing wounds.

With each mild tantrum he threw leaving his friends at the barn, I became more patient and assertive (NOT aggressive).

With each clear round he put in, I became more grateful.

With each thing he questioned due only in part to his greenness, I became more humble.

We have eight months to transform these horses in preparation for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Most of us spend our time focusing on what we can do to make our horses better, but today it hit me:

In our eight months together, Flash has changed me more than I have changed him.

He is still the same silly, willing and lovable horse that came off the trailer this time last year. I, on the other hand, am a much different person than I was then and I have Flash to thank for that. He pushed me out of my comfort zone and then later became my comfort zone. His being in my life introduced me to new experiences and new people who have helped me mature as a horseman. Without Flash, I may have never ridden with Buck Brannaman or been brave enough to sign up for my first horse trials (which sadly got rained out, but I have no doubt that Flashy would have given me his all despite my fear of riding cross-country).

Flash has been such a phenomenal influence on my life. My only goal when I started this journey was to train a horse that a mother would love to have for her kids. And now here I am eight months later selfishly clinging onto him for myself so that my future (very far future) children will have such a special horse to ride. Flash has given me a whole new level of confidence in myself as a rider that I have always lacked. While I struggled through lesson after lesson of getting my job done right, he just toted me around as if that was his calling. When I wasn’t the most fair to him, he never held it against me. He allowed me the chance to learn that I haven’t always had before on more challenging horses.

Photo courtesy of Meagan DeLisle.

My trainer has always wanted to hop on Flash just for giggles to see how he would react to some bigger fences. Up until now I have done 100% of his retraining all by myself, so I was thrilled to see someone more skilled than I am hop on and do something more challenging with him. Imagine my surprise when my tiny 2’6″ packer sailed over 1.0m fences without hesitation and with room to spare. I nearly cried as my trainer went on and on about what a nice horse he was. I was just so proud of him.

These horses, whether they are our forever friends or projects for resale, they change our lives. I could have picked any horse on the internet, but something told me I needed Flash and Flash needed me. I think it was kismet, our coming together. We all have that horse that impacts our careers as riders and I think Flash is mine.

Who knows how we will do next weekend? We might get there and it may be cold as can be and we might lose our minds or he might jump his way to first place. Either way, one thing will remain the same: I am so thankful for this little horse and all the joy he has brought to my life.

Thank you, Flash. Thank you for making me love riding again.

2028 Olympic Talent Watch: Claire and Morgan Gestes, Age 9

The 2028 U.S. Eventing Team is already out there somewhere, and it’s up to us all to nurture their talent and their big dreams. “2028 Olympic Talent Watch” is an (adorable) series in which we identify junior eventers who are already exhibiting the heart and the guts to lead American eventing to glory in the (distant) future. Any short-stirrup riders you know come to mind? Email us their story at [email protected] Today, let’s meet Claire and Morgan Gestes! 

Morgan and Claire with trainer Jen Robertson. Photo by Darah Gestes.

Super twins Claire and Morgan Gestes were born to love horses. Their father, Terry, spent a good chunk of his life exercising and training racehorses, so it just seemed natural that his nine-year-old twin daughters would follow suit. Even with just a few years in the saddle, these pony-loving kiddos already have their sights set on some big dreams.

The dynamic duo has been riding in some shape or fashion since the tender age of three. After several years of leadline and flatwork lessons, the Gestes family decided to invest in a pony for the kids to have of their own. Morgan fell in love with Jet, a spunky POA/Quarter Horse cross, and while there they got to meet his mother, Cocoa, whom Claire also fell head over heels for.

Claire and Jet competing at Champagne Run. Photo by Xpress Foto.

“We went there with the intention of buying one pony for them to share,” mother Darah recalls. “But Claire was in love with Cocoa and it worked out where we could surprise Claire with her on their birthday.” The duo has since switched mounts, but they both can be seen leaning across their pony’s neck to huge and kiss the other pony after a successful jumping round.

The twins only recently began jumping heavily around eight months ago when they began training with Jen Robertson of Altamonte Show Stable in St. Louis, Missouri.

“They are delightfully arrogant,” jokes Jen. “If I have a 4’6″ oxer set in the ring, they immediately ask if they can jump it on their medium ponies. When I put it down, they always say ‘awww man!’ They are super fun to coach and it is unique since their parents were involved in the horse world in a different fashion.”

“One time Morgan’s pony spooked and bolted across the field. Most parents would be mortified, but they were there clapping their hands and yelling, ‘Good job Morgan! You look awesome with those bridged reins!’ I fell in love with that family right then and there.”

Since upping their training regime they have participated in a few local mini-events and completed their first ever Starter horse trial at Champagne Run. Their trailer is packed and loaded to head out to Heritage Park next weekend for their second Starter premiere.

While most people believe twins are identical in everything they do, these sisters are very different in the saddle. “Claire is very go with the flow. She loves dressage and the technicality of the flatwork,” Darah says. “Now Morgan, on the other hand, has a need for speed. She is always ready for bigger, higher and faster!”

But both of the girls have a dare-devilish streak in them. “At Champagne Run Claire asked me, ‘What if my pony runs away with me and just DOES the water complex?'” Jen recalls. “I told her she would be in trouble, but I had a sinking feeling it didn’t stick. So I had to stand at the water complex with my arms crossed to make sure she didn’t attempt it. She later admitted she was going to do it until she saw me standing there!”

Morgan and Jet at Champagne Run. Photo by Xpress Foto.

Inspired by their first ever trip to the Kentucky 3-Day Event this year, Claire and Morgan are ready to kick things up a notch. Darah recently shared this adorable photo on Facebook showing off Claire’s list of goals she dreamed up on her own and hung up in her room.

Photo by Darah Gestes.

“I feel like as a family this is our thing,” Darah says proudly. “Ever since the girls laid eyes on their first horse, they have always lit up around horses. We spend our weekends with the trailer in tow heading off to horse shows. It is truly what we love to do!”

And now that family affair is growing even more. Parker, the twins’ seven-year-old brother, has also began taking riding lessons and is proving to be quite the natural in the saddle.

One thing is for sure: There is greatness in these girls’ future if they keep it up at this rate!