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Bad Eventer’s Doug Payne Clinic Report

EN’s blogger friend Bad Eventer is still glowing from the Doug Payne clinic she rode in a couple weekends ago at Meadowcreek Park in Kosse, Texas. She chronicled the experience in her infamous blog, Bad Eventer, and kindly offered to share it with EN. Included below are excerpts from the dressage and show jumping days, edited down slightly on account of Bad Eventer’s tendency to go on wildly-entertaining tangents. For the complete report visit her blog — here are the links: intro, dressage, show jumpingcross-country.

BE DP dress 1 (2)

 

Day 1: DRESSAGE

As I watched the first few dressage lessons I immediately saw a common theme. Doug started right out with the basics.

1. Straightness

Doug showing what happens when you ask for forward without being straight.

2. Forward

Bad Eventer and Wonderpony.

3. Steady connection

Doug gave everyone hands-on demos on how the contact should feel. Probably one of the most useful things a top instructor can do for us mere mortals. This gives you a real feel of how it SHOULD feel.

He gave a fantastic demo on why your horse needs to be straight. Here it is again in case you missed Part 1. Doug is showing why your horse needs to be straight before it can be forward. He explained if they are crooked and you send them forward they are in a perpetual state of “falling,” which is where the running off/heavy on the forehand/rushing problems tend to stem from.

Straightness was also one of the first things he addressed with each horse. Most of the horses turned out to be quite one-sided and many riders ended up having to use the same set of aids in both directions to obtain straightness. (Example: right leg and right rein to push the shoulders left and straighten the neck while going right as well as left.)

I was excited because the main thing that I wanted to work on in my dressage lesson was straightness! My guy is pretty fancy and has so many buttons that he tends to spin around like a top. He LOVES the old intermediate test where you do haunches-in and then shoulder -in down the long side. He tends to OFFER haunches and then shoulders on any straight line……. which leads to some very “creative” movements.

Doug immediately recognized that my fancy pony had “trained me not to ride him.”

He gave me an exercise which started out with a leg yield at the canter asking for counter bend, then trot and continue the leg yield.

Here is where I get to admit that…….. apparently…….. I’ve never understood what counter bend was……..

With a riding career of more than a few <cough> decades, I have found that roughly every three to four years I come to realize…….. that I still have NO IDEA what I’m doing.

This was another one of those times.

Doug used a dressage whip to demonstrate bend and counter bend, and said to think about the head and tail staying in the same place and the rest of the body changing the bend between them.

That would be different than just bending the neck to the outside, because the horse can still keep the body bent the other way. Here’s my note!

Each lesson reinforced the theme of the day: straightness, forward and steady contact, with Doug hopping on several horses for a tuneup. The changes he made in the horses were amazing with the quality of their gaits immediately going up several notches. It was a fantastic example of how “when you ride them properly, they get more beautiful.”

Here’s my favorite quote of the day, “His head is bouncing around because his butt isn’t in gear. It’s like the speedometer in your car. If the needle is bouncing around you don’t fix it by moving the needle, you fix it by stepping on the accelerator.”

Day 2: SHOW JUMPING

On stadium jumping day the Prelim/Intermediate group turned out to be…….. well……..

the remedial class.

Somehow this didn’t really surprise me…….. and yes, Bad Eventer was one of the guilty parties.

I think the gutsier ammies can often be the least…….. prepared.

We spent the better part of our 90-minute session getting completely driven over by a handful of trot poles.

We started out with four poles in a circle. Two were set on a 20-meter circle and two on a 10-meter circle. The exercise was pretty simple: canter the 20 meter poles then spiral in over the 10-meter poles……..

It turned out to be harder than it sounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y96swpBsC8

If you listen, you’ll hear Doug say, “It looks like it would be stupid easy…….. but……..”

While cantering the poles on the circle he also did a fun exercise where he stood in the middle of the circle and held up different numbers of fingers. The point was that once you “see it” there is no point in continuing to look at the pole you’re going over. Instead you can be looking to the next pole/jump, which will save time and help you set up for it quicker. Here he had the rider set themselves up for the pole and call out how many fingers he was holding up.

The next TROT POLE exercise…….. pretty much whooped all of us.

Another seemingly simple exercise. Canter over three poles that are 66′ feet apart, and put in five strides between the first two poles and six strides between the second two.

NOT SO MUCH.

Rider after rider just didn’t get it done.

I couldn’t believe how hard this turned out to be. One horse was sooooo NOT interested in changing his pace that Doug got on him to sort it out.

Once we all had FINALLY gotten the five- and then six-stride pole exercise, he raised the middle pole about 18″…….. and that proved to make the exercise once again…….. impossible.

Here’s Bad Eventer giving it a try!! or TWO!!

I think all of us walked away with several pages of homework. And while our group hardly jumped anything besides trot poles, it was a pretty big eye opener on what everyone needed to get a solid handle on!

The other groups nailed the trot poles earlier on and moved on to course work incorporating the same adjustability exercises……..

When we spent time tackling a five- to six-stride cross country combination the next day……..

 ……..the METHOD TO THE MADNESS BECAME CRYSTAL CLEAR!!

Doug definitely knows his stuff and I finished the day with a long list of…….. must master this next……..

BE DP Book s

 

Many thanks to Bad Eventer for sharing! Have a clinic report to contribute? Send it to [email protected]

Go Eventing!

Rosie Napravnik Tackles Riga Meadow H.T.

Earlier this year jockey Rosie Napravnik expressed an interest in taking her horse, Sugar, eventing and last weekend she put her money where her mouth is. Kristen Kovatch reports.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Towery Roberts. Photo courtesy of Lynn Towery Roberts.

From Kristen:

We all know and love jockey Rosie Napravnik for breaking gender barriers in thoroughbred racing and championing OTTBs. Here’s yet another reason to love her.

Being the first female jockey ever to have ridden in all three Triple Crown races wasn’t enough. Being the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks (twice, in 2012 and 2014) wasn’t enough either.

Setting up a major donation drive to support off-track Thoroughbreds through Old Friends Retirement? Amazing. Inspiring. But Rosie’s taken it one step further, fresh off a weekend at Riga Meadow Horse Trials in Salisbury, Connecticut with her retired racer partner Old Ironsides, known to his friends as “Sugar.”

Photo via Rosie Napravnik's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Towery Roberts.

Rosie actually raced on the big gray gelding, bringing home two victories when the gelding was in his prime but long before Rosie’s rise to fame. But as her fortunes changed for the better, so Old Ironsides’ took a downward spiral.

Rosie had made it public that she would gladly give the gelding a home when his racing days were over, and in 2008, she got the opportunity to make good on her promise. Though Sugar was lame at the time, Rosie welcomed him with open arms, sending him to her mother’s eventing farm in Maryland. Between race meets Rosie rode the recuperating gray all over the Maryland farm, jumping cross-country.

Photo via Rosie Napravnik's Facebook page.

Photo of Lynn Towery Roberts.

Rosie and Sugar stepped into the spotlight in April of this year at the Thoroughbreds For All event in Lexington, Kentucky to help showcase the versatility and resilience of the breed and the opportunities that exist for taking ex-racers and developing them into sport horses.

Together the team displayed their aptitude over fences, the ex-racer and the jockey together. As described on Eventing Nation, Rosie expressed interest in trying eventing in the future.

Photo via Rosie Napravnik's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Towery Roberts.

And on Sunday in Connecticut, it looks like she decided to go for it, competing with her old partner Sugar in Novice. Results from Riga Meadow show Rosie placing fifth in Novice C, with a dressage score of 36.10 and clear rounds both in cross-country and stadium. Way to go, Rosie!

Go Rosie: jockey, advocate, eventer!

Thanks to Kait Schultz for the tip.

Happy Birthday, Jenni!

Jenni Autry, mustachioed madwoman Jenni Autry, mustachioed madwoman

Today, we celebrate the birthday and subsequent life achievements of EN’s fearless leader, Jenni Autry.

It is a time-honored Nation Media tradition to celebrate coworkers’ birthdays by (1) giving them the day off, then (2) Facebook stalking them in search of mortifying personal photos with which to share with thousands of readers. It’s a sick world, we’re sick people, what can you do.

Facebook stalking Jenni is neither an easy nor pleasant task. If you’re friends with her, you know that she mostly posts photos of her horses’ latest horrifying flesh wounds and her cats. Also, in case you haven’t picked up on this, Jenni is a workaholic who spends most of her time typing frantically into a computer, which makes finding photos of her engaging in “real people” activities especially difficult. Luckily, I’m an award-winning investigative journalist — here are the most scandalous photos I could dig up:

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Jenni Autry, international woman of mystery

Jenni Autry, chinchilla wrangler

Jenni Autry, chinchilla wrangler

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Jenni Autry, armed and dangerous

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Jenni Autry, compulsive gambler

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Jenni Autry, viking Vegas showgirl

OK, that was pretty tame. Maybe try harder to be scandalous next year, Jenni. As for today, all of us out here in the Eventing Nation are wishing you a very happy birthday!!!

An Eventer at USPC Dressage Festival: My 15 Moments of Fame/Shame

USPC Festival Dressage Queens, Class of 2001: I'm the third one from the left. Photo courtesy of Dalles Lee. USPC Festival Dressage Queens, Class of 2001: I'm the third one from the left. Photo courtesy of Dalles Lee.

If you put two Pony Club graduates in a crowded room together, they’ll recognize one another immediately. Not because they’ve necessarily met before — maybe they have, maybe they haven’t — but because, like Vietnam vets, they are forever bound together by a shared epochal experience.

They’ve seen the other side, man. And what has been seen can never be unseen. The neurosis is buried deep, and while Pony Club may have contributed to their development as the upstanding, high-functioning adults that they are today, it also, let’s be frank, probably traumatized them for life.

Forever, ex-Pony Clubbers are doomed to battle their obsessive-compulsive tendencies: scrubbing their tack raw, wrapping and unwrapping bandages until the overlap is precisely uniform, driving everyone around them crazy with random equine facts and figures that no sane human being should have rattling around their brain. Life is hard enough with the ghosts of horse management judges past picking through the tack trunk of your mind.

Every Pony Club chapter has one in the bunch: the type-A overachiever, the obnoxiously cheerful brown-noser, the kid who is hellbent on “exceeding standard” in every manner possible. In my pony club, Tennessee Valley, I was That Pony Clubber. I brattily clawed my way up the levels, eye on the prize and nose perpetually buried in a dog-eared manual.

I earned my H-A rating with flying colors and looked forward to attending Regional Rally and Championships East each year, my annual opportunity to pulverize the competition with my supreme riding and horse management skills. In 2001, at the ripe old age of 19, I had but one score left to settle: USPC Festival.

USPC Festival is intense. Most years the national championships are broken down into Championships East and Championships West, but every three years the whole country comes together for one  week-long monster event at the Kentucky Horse Park.

It’s the World Equestrian Games for book-smart barn rats. All the disciplines are represented — dressage, eventing, games, polocrosse, quiz, show jumping and tetrathlon — and it’s quite the sight to see: 4,000 Pony Clubbers on their best behavior running around in two-sizes-too-big polo shirts, khaki shorts and spit-shined paddock boots.

When not riding, they’re studying note cards or desperately cleaning everything in sight as they are scored not only on performance but on knowledge and horsemanship as well.

To get a feel for the amount of stress these kids are under, imagine going to an event and, in addition to the usual dressage/cross-country/show-jumping phases, you’re required to take a written test and are subject to accruing penalty points for dandruff in your horse’s tail or stray shavings in front of your stall. Oh, and you’re also competing as a team with three or four other riders plus a stable manager. No pressure!

Even though the whole affair seems insane to me now, at the crest of my youth, it was totally in my wheelhouse. 2001 was to be my final USPC Festival before I aged out and my destiny seemed clear: I would represent the MidSouth Pony Club Region as a member of the prelim eventing team, and we would win because, well, obviously. There was just one roadblock: I didn’t make the team.

Uh, probably because I fell off at Rally at the year before.

Uh, probably because this happened at Rally at the year before.

WHAT?!?!? I was devastated in the way that only a narcissistic teenager with a demented sense of reality could be. My identity was crumbling. My world was caving in. I called our District Commissioner in a panic to see what could be done. You don’t understand… this is my destiny!

Of course, since she’d had nothing to do with the team selection, it was out of her hands. She agreed to call the Regional Supervisor, and together they formulated a plan to get this whiny, sniveling, soul-crushed Pony Clubber off their backs. Their proposal: I could go to Festival… but in dressage instead of eventing. (Regional Supervisors could nominate riders to compete in the B/H-A/A dressage championship even if they didn’t have qualifying scores from Rally and USDF-sanctioned competitions.)

Like many eventers, dressage is NOT my favorite phase. Never has been, never will be. But I begrudgingly agreed and set to work under the guidance of a local dressage trainer, who psychologically beat our milquetoast flatwork into submission with his stern German accent and ice-dagger stare. We put together a Riverdance-inspired freestyle and had the music professionally edited, and ran through First Level tests 3 and 4 approximately 30,000 times. By the time July rolled around, I was as ready to go trick people into thinking I was a dressage rider as I’d ever be.

I won’t give you a play-by-play of the competition — it was not that exciting, I promise — but somehow we ended up winning the individual championship. It was a weird moment in my life, but also kind of cool: In addition to an over-sized trophy and ribbon, I received a $1,000 dressage scholarship from Iron Spring Farm and the USDF. And, most importantly, a tiara.

I’m wearing a big smile in the photo but inside I felt conflicted. To quote the Chronicle of the Horse‘s story: “Despite her new appreciation for dressage, this event competitor didn’t know how to feel when her fellow competitors presented her with a plastic tiara to signify her as a ‘dressage queen.’”

I remember acting like I was embarrassed about the win because it was “just” dressage. For weeks afterward if it came up I’d kind of roll my eyes, like, “oh yeah, whatever.” But 13 years later, I’ve still got that stupid tiara, and there’s a reason why it hasn’t ended up in a box in my parents’ garage with all of my other random horse memorabilia.

I’m more proud of it than my bratty teenage self would have ever been caught dead admitting. I think it embodies something that was, in the grand scheme of things, a much bigger takeaway from Pony Club than any ribbon or rating. It was an oh-so-gentle introduction to the real world.

Unlike Pony Club, outcomes in life aren’t merit-based. You can come at it with as much work ethic, discipline and ambition as you can muster, but things are still going to blow up in your face. On a regular basis.

You change your game plan and move on. You do the best you can and accept that sometimes it will pan out and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it pans out in ways you don’t expect, and in those instances gratitude is the appropriate response. When you’re 19 these sorts of lessons can feel like a punch in the face, but sometimes a black eye is exactly what you need.

Since graduating from Pony Club I’ve intermittently stayed involved with the organization, teaching clinics and conducting ratings, and I even put in a short stint as a DC. I always get a kick out of comparing notes with other Pony Club grads about their lingering neuroses.

Some Pony Club pathos has left me — I’ve chilled out about cleaning tack, for instance — while other stuff, like my fear of backwards bucket snaps, is still going strong. But the most meaningful Pony Club residue is much less tangible than that.

And how the tables turn! Here I am inspecting a stable bandage at a Pony Club rating a few years back. Photo courtesy of Lakeway Pony Club.

And how the tables turn! Here I am inspecting a stable bandage at a Pony Club rating a few years back. Photo courtesy of Lakeway Pony Club.

The 2014 USPC Festival is taking place as we speak throughout the week in Lexington — check out the website for details and keep an eye on EN as we’ve got riders blogging for us from the event. Here’s wishing that, win, lose or draw, all the competitors carry away with them a learning experience and a handful of happy memories. That’s the stuff that sticks. Go Pony Club!

Event Horse Names, Part 4: Monster Truck Edition

Many eventers have turned to the world of monster trucks for horse naming inspiration, for obvious reasons. I don’t care how big and scary that cross-country course is — if you’re riding a horse named Bulldozer, you’ve got the upper hand. (Maybe not so much in the dressage or show jumping.)

For our latest installation of the “Event Horse Names,” I combed the USEA Horse Registry Database for horses that share names with actual monster trucks:

monster1

Baller, I know. Our second grouping of USEA-registered event horse names aren’t real-life monster trucks, but they could be:

BeFunky_USAF_Afterburner_Monster_Jam.jpg

Skullbuster, Widow Maker, Assasin, Shattered Dreams … I know what you’re thinking: Man, some of these names are so perfect for MY horse, I can’t believe they’re already taken. No fear! There are still plenty of monster truck names up for grabs — check out this Wikipedia list. A few of my favorites (feel free to steal them): Grave Digger, Bucked Up, Rammunition, Smashosaurus and Dragon’s Breath.

Are you the proud owner of an event horse with a monster truck-esque name? Share it in the comments section below.

Until next time, Go Eventing!

Three Cross-Country Comics That Will Have You LOLing

Longtime Horse Nation illustrator Morgane Schmidt may be a dressage rider, but she seems to have a handle on the neuroses that make event riders tick.

Morgane, mad genius behind The Idea of Order, explains her transition to the fairer sport: “If you start off the cross-country phase trying to puke your Gatorade in such a manner as to not hit and spook your horse, all the while asking yourself what was so wrong with just doing plain old dressage, you might need to reassess some things. A moment similar to the above scenario may just have been when I realized that hurtling myself over fixed obstacles was not really my forte. Good thing I realized how wimpy I was early on, as it has given me plenty of time to throw my money and effort into an arguably even more expensive discipline: hello Dressage.”

So, something like this:

2012-4-17-Contents-Under-Pressure1

Morgane did event for long enough to digest a few unspoken laws of the sport, like this one: Never tempt the cross-country gods. You mustn’t take any cross-country jumps for granted — ESPECIALLY the ones that look like a piece of cake.

2013-2-20-Course-Walking-Karma

And she clearly developed an appreciation for eventing’s many ironies:

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For more comics from Morgane, check out her website at theideaoforder.com, like The Idea of Order on Facebook, and hit up Horse Nation each Wednesday to view her latest masterpiece.

Go Eventing!

Event Horse Names, Part 3: The Empire Business

There’s no better advertising for your eventer sourcing/breeding operation than attaching your name to as many winning horses as possible. Here are the stories behind five of the most dominant prefixes in the USEA Horse Registry Database.

The Fernhill prefix designates horses sold through Fernhill Sport Horse Centre in Kilkenny, Ireland. Founded by Carol Gee, a former member of the Irish Event Team, the first Fernhill horse entered the scene in 2005 and now, not quite a decade later, the name is all over the sport. There are currently 96 horses with the Fernhill prefix registered with the USEA, but even that is a misleading figure, as many Fernhill horses aren’t carrying the prefix.

Phillip Dutton’s WEG alternate Mighty Nice, for instance, was sourced through Fernhill, as was his 2008 Olympic mount and Rolex winner Connaught. Fernhill Fearless, named to the 2014 WEG squad with Kim Severson, is the first Fernhill prefix bearing horse to represent the U.S. in international team competition. Read more about the Fernhill empire via EN’s February 2014 interview with Carol Gee.

Fernhill.jpg

Founded in 1998 in New Zealand by Frances Stead, Clifton Eventers has established itself as a launchpad for internationally proven sport horses. The program pairs promising young horses with its team of experienced riders, led by principle rider Jock Padget. Superstars currently within the system currently include Clifton Promise, whose 2013 Burghley win with Paget in the irons was infamously clouded by a positive drug test, and four-star horses Clifton Lush and Clifton Pinot.

There are 69 horses with the Clifton prefix registered with the USEA, with many success stories among them, for instance, the prolific career of NAJYRC veteran Clifton Peekachu (pictured below) — you can read his story here.

clifton.jpg

Unlike Fernhill and Clifton, the prefix Flagmount’s is a nod to the Irish Sport Horse stallion Flagmount’s Freedom, sired by Flagmount King and grandsired by King of Diamonds. Owned by Janet Marden, Flagmount’s Freedom stands at stud at Leaning Oaks Farm in Bryon, Texas, and was competitive through the long-format two-star level. At age 17 he’s still out competing at the Prelim and Intermediate levels, a testament to his tough Irish breeding.

His progeny are known for being amateur friendly but talented — pictured below is Flagmount’s Sterling Prince, who has competed through the CIC3* level with Sara Kozumplik-Murphy. There are 34 Flagmount’s horses listed with the USEA, many of them coming up the levels. Janet Marden shared a history of the Flagmount prefix with EN here.

Flagmounts.jpg

Also ringing in at 34 horses in the USEA Registry is the prefix Sportsfield. It references Sportsfield Horses, a yard owned by Paul Donovan in County Tipperary, Ireland, that focuses on the procurement, producing and selling of Irish Sport Horses. Sportsfield horses have done well for themselves — on the international level, Andrew Tinkler’s Sportsfield Othello was named as a reserve for the 2014 Irish WEG event team, and several Sportsfield horses are out competing at the upper levels in the United States. Pictured below is Sportsfield One O Two, who has competed through the Intermediate level with Christine Duke.

sportsfield.jpg

The prefix Ringwood refers to Ringwood Stud, located near Newcastle West in Ireland. The stud dates back to 1860 and has been handed down the generations, most recently to Peter Leonard, a former director of the FEI and the SJAI and current HSI stallion inspector. The family has a rich tradition of horsemanship: Peter’s sister Ann O’ Grady and his brother Terrence produced Buck Davidson’s 2014 WEG mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, among other top eventers.

Ringwood’s most famous graduates include Bettina Hoy’s champion four-star horse Ringwood Cockatoo and, on the U.S. side, Tiana Coudray’s 2012 Olympic mount Ringwood Magister. There are 24 horses with the Ringwood prefix registered with the USEA.

ringwood.jpg

What are some other prefixes that are building an empire in the U.S. event world? Tell us in the comments section below!

Go Eventing.

Bad Eventer: Does Drinking Help You Event Less Badly?

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice cold beer during a late afternoon course walk … or more comforting than a Bloody Mary first thing in the morning after a rotten dressage test (when it’s the only phase I have to do that day, of course). But, as always when it comes to alcohol, there’s a fine line involved, and you never want to cross it. And, as always when it comes to alcohol, people occasionally do.

Bad Eventer tackled the topic head-on in a recent blog post. She presents some rather serious questions, padded in classic Bad Eventer humor, that I’ve never heard addressed before in the context of eventing. Read on, and let us know what you think in the comments section below!

From Bad Eventer:

BE bar DP

Did you know the United Nations used to have a bar IN the building? A New York Times article called it “the storied Delegate’s Lounge, where for decades the delicate work of diplomacy was aided by a good stiff drink.”

BE alcohol work DP

This bit about drunkenness at the UN was something I had no idea about.

From a CNN article: “The United States ambassador … issued a rare public scolding. … He warned the U.N.’s ‘fifth committee’ panel that negotiating rooms ‘should in the future be an inebriation-free zone.’”

BE no alcohol sign DP

Many cultures have a well entrenched consumption of alcohol as a standard component of business meetings. A close friend told me several personal stories about his near “drownings” in jizake during work meetings in Japan.

BE drunk man DP

I happen to work in a field where alcohol consumption during work is not only NOT OK … should I decide to give it a try it would easily endanger my ability to ever work again.

BE fired DP

Eventing Nation recently featured the ridiculous amount of eventers whose horses have an alcohol-themed name. I’m a big contributor with no less than three of my current ponies named after alcohol.

Tequila Persuasion

Tequila Persuasion

Eventers and alcohol seem to go hand in hand — not unusual for a bunch of thrill seekers.

I remember vividly my first recognized event after a 10-year break. I had just been eliminated at the first fence …

BE Bess fall 10

My coach gave me a pretty stern talking to: “You spent too much money and time to get here to get eliminated at the first fence because you’re bat$h!t crazy nervous. Before the next show I want you to go to your doctor and get a prescription for anxiety medication.”

BE frustrated face DP

I was crying to the eventer in the stall next to me when she pulled out a solo cup and said, “I always have two glasses of wine before my dressage test! Works great!”

While I was trying to decide how I felt about the prospect of taking either anxiety medication or drinking alcohol while eventing, I remembered that foxhunting has a STRONG tradition of drinking and riding. After my recent foxhunting fiasco, perhaps if I’d had a bit more PORT it might have ended a little differently.

BE foxhunt hounds 1 DP

So here’s the rub. We’ve got riders drinking before dressage … and the other phases. There have been some high profile crashes where the “word on the street” was the rider was “impaired” when it happened.

Do we need breathalyzers at the start box?

BE not time for risky moves DP

And what about drinking and coaching?

Go ahead, say it … coaching Bad Eventer would drive ANY coach to drink.

Many years ago, I was riding with an up-and-coming eventing star who had just qualified for his first Rolex. My horse at the time was a bit of a naughty knucklehead. We’d been eliminated several times in a row prior to riding with the young pro. He’d been getting us headed in the right direction, and I’d finally started making it around courses. After some serious badgering, this coach convinced me I needed to move the horse up a level.

BE hypnosis face DP

The morning of the move up, my coach had a bit of a meltdown about an issue with his upcoming Rolex ride. The next thing I knew, he was storming off at 9 a.m. saying, “I need a drink!”

While warming up for my dressage ride, I saw a beer in his hand. Later while walking stadium … another beer.

Late in the day came my cross-country walk. We were on the fourth fence and I was starting to get a bad feeling — I was getting instructions like, “Just kick him, it’ll be fine.”

BE question face DP

I asked him a pretty innocuous question, and he started screaming at me in a belligerent, incoherent rant.

That was when I realized that he’d been drinking since 9 a.m. and now MANY HOURS later he was WASTED. He was far too drunk to even try to fire, so instead I freaked out internally.

This was the most terrifying biggest course I’d ever seen, I knew I didn’t have the knowledge or skills to get it done without some help … and my coach had just completely let me down. I headed to the show office to withdraw. I had decided my life was in danger without qualified help and Bad Eventer was GOING HOME.

BE auf vedersehen DP

On the way I ran into a friend and told him my sad tale. He dragged me back to his stall where he asked his Olympian instructor if he could help me out. This super-qualified professional felt pretty sorry for me and quickly agreed to walk the course with me.

It was an “incognito” course walk …

BE mask DP
… where I changed my shirt, put on a hat and spent much of the in-between jumps rehearsing what I would tell my “soon-to-be-ex-coach” if he caught me walking the course with someone else.

It was a fantastic course walk; this guy was REALLY good … and sober. Bad Eventer was so terrified and pathetic he wouldn’t even let me pay him.

BE superman DP

Thanks to this hero, I was able to stay in the game and jumped around with confidence.

What do you think? Are you OK with a beer-in-hand course walk? Should riding instructors be allowed to consume alcohol while coaching?

Do you actually encourage your coach to “have another” before your ride?

Where do you draw the line?

To check out more from Bad Eventer (and you really should), click on over here.

From Slaughter Truck to Start Box: The Unlikely Story of a Draft-Cross Event Horse

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography. Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

The last horse you want to be at an auction with kill buyers in attendance is a draft horse, for obvious reasons. Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue understands this and strategically stakes out area auctions, ready to outbid them if necessary. Christine Hajek, president and founder of the Mount Airy, Md., rescue, vividly remembers the New Holland auction where she discovered Kadobi and Kanin, two full-brother draft crosses who were facing a dubious future at best.

“Kanin and Kadobi had actually already been sold to a meat buyer, and it is actually the only time I have bought a horse off a meat buyer,” Christine says. “I usually refuse to do that because I will not pay them a profit, but he had a full load so he sold them to me at his cost. … Had I not taken them, he would have fattened them some and sent them to slaughter. I paid $600 for the pair. They were both thin, had hoof neglect, lice, mange, worm infestations and were halter broke but terrified of people.”
Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.

Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.

The two intercepted horses — Kadobi, age 4, and Kanin, age 5 — went into quarantine at Gentle Giants and began the process of regaining their health. Both horses took to the gradual training program. Kadobi started out with some groundwork and very basic under-saddle work, then some trail riding, and finally some schooling with Jessica Millard of Union Bridge, Md., who recognized that he was a natural jumper and started him over fences.

Kadobi was adopted out to a new owner, but the green horse was a handful, and a full-bodied one at that, and she became a bit intimidated. She was about to send him back (Gentle Giants includes a first right of refusal in their adoption contract) when she made one last-ditch phone call to Golly Tabatabaie, 28, who runs a unique training program, Bad Monkey LLC, out of McLean, Va.

“I specialize in behavioral issues and use a comprehensive approach,” Golly explains. “I look at tack, teeth, toes, tummy (nutrition), as well as training and riding to figure out what is causing the issue. Once I have an idea, I ride the horse and work with the owner to find a solution that will keep them both happy, be it consistent training rides or a new feed plan or whatever combination.”

With Kadobi, it was a simple matter of a not-quite-right fit. “This woman had done her best with him, given him the very, very best care, but he had tossed her and her daughters too many times,” Golly says. “He was fat, round (maybe too round) and happy — as long as no one went near him. They were very timid riders, and he needs a very confident rider. He was still young and understandably green, but had regressed and was so uncertain and nervous that he was becoming a bit dangerous.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Kadobi and Golly, on the other hand, had immediate chemistry. “I started riding him, and I quickly realized how much I loved this horse,” Golly says. “It was clear that he was a one-person horse, and he had found his person. My client would comment that he was so relaxed when I was around, but was unmanageable when I wasn’t there. We, my client Christine and I, had many conversations about it, and we decided that my adopting Kadobi would be the best situation for both the horse and the people involved.”

The two gained an appreciation for one another, both in the saddle and out. Golly appreciates Kadobi’s easy-going, class-clown personality, and in return he is happy to provide a steady stream of entertainment. “He is very playful and curious and loves to stick his nose into trash cans and flip them over — even at horse shows,” Golly says. “He might do it just to hear me yell. He once grabbed an entire bag of carrots and ran away with it. He stuffed it all into his mouth, and as I grabbed my phone to call the vet because my horse was in the process of ingesting a plastic bag, he came trotting over to me and spat out the empty bag at my feet, fully devoid of carrots, but somehow amazingly intact.”

When Golly introduced Kadobi to the sport of eventing, he took to the new game with enthusiasm despite his slightly unorthodox build. “I wanted to introduce him properly and set him up for success,” Golly says. “Competition wise, we started with a jumper series and successfully competed up to 3’6″, and it was clear he still had a lot more to give. He loved the jumping; he got it. He knew ‘Hey, you put me in this ring, and I will give you speed, power and a clear round.’ He beat out fast ponies in many a jump-off by sitting on his bottom and making the tightest turn you will ever see a draft make, bringing home a lot of blues. And he is fast, so I knew we would have no problem making time in eventing.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly carted him to a local riding facility to introduce the concept: “As I schooled him, we literally checked items off the cross-country list: Bank? Check. Water? Check. Ditch? Check.” They went Beginner Novice at Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. the following week, going clear and finishing on their dressage score, and Golly knew she had an event horse on her hands. The next season, they did another Beginner Novice at CDCTA, then Novice at a Maryland H.T. Starter Trial, then Novice at Seneca and Surefire. Golly anticipates a move-up to Training soon — he’s already schooling Prelim fences with ease — but says she isn’t in a hurry. “We are just enjoying learning together,” Golly says.

“He is an awesome jumper, and he loves the cross-country — he eats it up,” Golly says. “His ears prick up, and he gets this look of determination on his face. He knows the jumps are his responsibility, and he takes it seriously. He is just a powerhouse. We still have the occasional spooky green baby moment, but we trust each other, so he doesn’t get shaken.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

One challenge the pair has faced was that Kadobi has a congenital genetic vision disorder, Equine Anterior Segment Dysgenesis, that is common to Rocky Mountain horses but rare in other breeds. Saddlebreds, which Golly thinks Kadobi has a splash of in his breeding, are one of the few other breeds it has ever been seen in.

“In his case Kadobi has cysts, sacs of clear fluid, that attach and detach and float around in front of his retina,” Golly says. “Sometimes they pop on their own, sometimes they are bad and sometimes he doesn’t notice them. He is not actually blind; it is not a disorder that will ever make him go blind. The best way to understand it is to put your hand on your face and spread your fingers — you can still see fine, but parts of your vision are blocked, and then imagine every so often your hand moves around, and now other parts are blocked. It is unpredictable, but we manage it. It matters because we jump, and we jump high, but the trick is that I listen to him. If something feels off or he is having a hard time of it, I pull him out. We don’t push it.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly and Kadobi are heading to Ocala in August to be a working student for Leslie Law and Lesley Grant-Law’s Law Eventing, where she hopes they will gain a little polish, particularly in the dressage: “He has the ability and is built so uphill but has had an immensely difficult time relaxing and not being tense in dressage. We are working on it, and I know it will take time, so in the meantime we are just learning as much as we can!”

Golly’s goal for Kadobi, now 7 years old, is for him to become a solid Training horse and someday, if he tells her he can do it, try the move up to Prelim. Again, Golly emphasizes, they’re in no rush — they’re just enjoying the journey and one another.

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

“He is happy that he has found his person,” Golly says. “He knows he will never be hungry again and is enjoying his new life as an eventer. He loves routine and will gladly stick to his end of the bargain as long as you give him his rub down, scratch, treats and grass time! We have an amazing connection; I truly believe this horse would take me through fire if I asked him to. He really is one of a kind.”

Go Golly and Kadobi, and Go Eventing!

Click here to learn more about Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue.

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The Real Problem with BE’s Social Media Rule

Here at EN we’ve been having a heyday with British Eventing’s new Social Media Rule. And by “we” I mean “the Chinch,” EN’s furry freedom fighter who sprang into action upon learning that BE’s members had been warned to watch what they post to social media… or else.

Sometimes you just have to fight ridiculousness with ridiculousness. You want to come after someone for speaking their mind on Twitter, BE? Fine. Come after the Chinch. Accuse him of sedition — he’s certainly guilty of it. We’d love to be a fly on the wall when you press charges AGAINST A STUFFED ANIMAL.

That’s right, lawsuits. Per BE Social Media Rule Section C:

Failure by a Member to comply with the provisions of this Rule may result in British Eventing taking disciplinary action against that Member in accordance with these Rules. Civil and/or criminal proceedings could also be brought against members for breach of this Rule where applicable.”

Really, guys? But this is my favorite part:

British Eventing will fully comply with any: 1. Law; 2. Request by any governmental or other regulatory authority; or 3. Order by a court or other authority of competent jurisdiction that requires British Eventing to disclose the identity or location of any Member posting any material in breach of the requirements of this Rule. British Eventing may share a Member’s personal information with the police or any other governmental authority if it is asked to do so in connection with the investigation of suspected illegal activities.

Who did the BE hire to write that? BetterCallSaul.com? Because it sure doesn’t sound like it was written by an organization that is in touch with or has much faith in its membership.

Let’s talk to one another like adults, not jargon-spewing lawyers vs. malicious Internet trolls, for a minute here. Better yet, let’s talk to one another like what we are: people who love the sport of eventing.

BE is raising a really good point — we all need to be mindful about what the information we share on social media — they just went about it the wrong way. Instead of conveying something to the effect of “Hey, being mean/insensitive/dishonest on social media isn’t doing anyone any favors, we’re all in this thing together, here are some things to keep in mind for the future” they got all militant about it: “If you post something we disapprove of, we will take you AND the post down.”

So unnecessary.

Of course there was a backlash. You can’t bully people, or chinchillas, into keeping their traps shut.

BE acknowledged it yesterday via this so-called rule clarification:   ‘

For the avoidance of doubt, BE is not wishing, or trying, to curtail free speech or prevent anyone sharing their thoughts on any issue that they may wish to do so. Social media is a great channel for people to share their thoughts and experiences, discuss topical issues, ask questions, and so on.

There are occasions though when the line is crossed whether inadvertently or deliberately and unfair, defamatory, derogatory, or simply misleading comments are posted and this is what we don’t feel is appropriate because of the consequences of inappropriate postings.

Welcome to the 21st century, BE! You’re going to love it here. There’s this thing called the Internet — it’s pretty cool. The bad news: It is also totally out of your control. And like a horse that doesn’t want to be caught, the harder you swing your lead rope around and try to chase it, the faster it’s going to run.

The good news: We aren’t dummies. We’ve been living in the Internet long enough to know that not everything we encounter in this lawless jungle is true. Keyboard Cat isn’t actually playing the piano. That Nigerian prince isn’t actually going to transfer a large sum of money into our bank account.

Don’t feel like you have to protect us from all that is, as you state in BE Social Media Rule Section 6 Article A, “threatening, derogatory, obscene, indecent, seditious, offensive, pornographic, abusive, disparaging, racist, discriminatory, menacing, inflammatory, blasphemous or defamatory.” These adjectives basically describe about 90% of cyberspace, so calm down: We’re better at filtering information than you think.

There are always going to be terrible people out there shouting terrible things into the Internet wind, and no so-called “Social Media Rule” is going to stop them. The only thing it’s going to do is irritate the rest of us. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go peel some duct tape off a chinchilla’s face.

 

Rebekah Bond’s Epic Journey to USPC Festival 2014

Rebekah Bond and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond. Rebekah Bond and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

It’s a long way from California to the Kentucky Horse Park. From Goldspirit Farm in Los Angeles, where 15-year-old Rebekah Bond boards her horse, it’s 2,169 miles exactly — a 31-hour haul. But Rebekah, along with around 30 other Camino Real Region Pony Clubbers, are preparing to make the trip this July. Their destination: Pony Club Festival, a championship event held every three years that brings together more than 4,000 USPC members from across the country.

This will be Rebekah’s second festival but her first with a horse. In 2011, the C-1 Pony Clubber from Portuguese Bend Pony Club competed in Quiz, a horsey knowledge bowl. At the time, Kentucky felt to her like an entirely different world. “The weather — hot and raining at the same time — was a novelty, but what was really special about the Kentucky Horse Park, at least for someone who is used to dead grass and tumble weeds or at most the pale green of cacti, was how vibrant green it was, and that everywhere you turned you would see a horse,” Rebekah. “It was so amazing. The thought that it is the place that hosts Rolex is also special.”

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Rebekah set a goal for herself to compete in the next Festival in Eventing. “It was a far-fetched dream,” Rebekah explains. “My mount was a lazy pony who was rapidly being outgrown, and I’d never even ridden on a real cross-country course.”

Rebekah started looking for a new mount and in June 2012 found Sailor, an athletic but excitable OTTB that was the complete opposite of her pony. “He’ll jump just about anything you point him at, just not in the way most people prefer, unless most people prefer charging a fence, taking off two strides out and landing in a fast, flat canter.

“Since he is a sensitive Thoroughbred and gets strong when jumping or out in the open, the driving seat I had developed from riding a lazy pony didn’t exactly suit him. Over time, Sailor really lost confidence in me as a rider because I would drive him forward and then try to slow him down in the only way I knew how — pulling on his face. As you can imagine, that didn’t go very well.”

Their jumping trainer encouraged Rebekah to find a more suitable mount, but Rebekah was determined to figure out Sailor’s buttons. They buckled down on their flatwork but, “Neither Sailor nor I were happy with that; we wanted to jump,” Rebekah said.

Rebekah Bond and and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

Rebekah Bond and and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

Rebekah met an upper-level Pony Clubber, Kelly Artz, while attending her dressage rally as a stable manager because she “didn’t trust Sailor enough to bring him.” Kelly told Rebekah about Goldspirit Farm, where she works as assistant trainer, and a month later, Sailor went into training there with owner/trainer/ICP instructor Susan Friend and Kelly, who helped school him.

“Two months after that, we were jumping 3-foot fences and having fun!,” Rebekah said. “It was no longer a question of sanity to mount Sailor. Susan had given me tools other than the reins — which were never really a tool in the first place — to slow down and balance my Sailor. Never before had I realized that balance was more important than slowing down. Now that my horse had something to trust, he did.

“He forgave me for all of that pulling on his face and driving my seat into his back. He took care of me over the fences as I learned to jump again. He still and will always get strong over fences and especially cross country, but now he will come back when I ask him correctly. Sometimes I forget — pulling on the reins and leaning back, sending him forward — old habits die hard, but we’re getting better.”

Rebekah Bond and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

Rebekah Bond and Sailor. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

They began eventing just six months ago and earned two festival qualifying scores this spring at Galway Downs and Copper Meadows. Rebekah still can’t believe she and Sailor will be making the trip to Kentucky. “I’m really excited for Nationals! It’s so hard to believe that less than a year ago jumping a crossrail was scary. I can’t wait to let Sailor have fun on that cross-country course.”

Twenty-two horses from the Camino Real Pony Club Region will be making the trip to this year’s festival, which takes place July 14-21, traveling by commercial trailer. Incredibly, travel expenses and entry fees are covered thanks to the region’s giant fundraising effort, spearheaded by Regional Supervisor Lynn Fischer.

Rebekah knows that it has taken a village to turn her festival dream into reality. “I’d like to thank my parents for agreeing to pay for this and for letting me ride,” she said. “I’d like to thank Susan Friend for training my horse and myself and getting us to where we are. I’d like to thank Kelly Artz as well for helping me get there. I’d also like to thank the Camino Real Region, especially Lynn Fisher, for fundraising enough to send Sailor, among other horses, to Kentucky and for paying the entry fee.

“And I’d like to thank my sponsor, HorsebackRidingVests.com, for an air vest that could potentially save my life and without doubt will help my mom feel better knowing that I am safer in doing the sport that I so love.” (HorsebackRidingVests.com is offering a 10 percent off promo code, “sailor,” to Rebekah’s friends and followers.)

Rebekah Bond and friends. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

Rebekah Bond and friends. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Bond.

With less than a month to go before Festival, Rebekah is excited for what lies ahead but also appreciative of the road it took to get here. “My goals for festival are to have fun and come back knowing more and being a better rider and horse person than when I left,” she says. “My horse and I have had a difficult journey … I’m quite glad my family had faith in us as a horse and rider team and did not sell him, and I’m on the way to do one of the coolest things I will ever get to do in my life!”

Go Rebekah and Sailor, Go Pony Club, and Go Eventing!

Event Horse Names Part II: Battle of the Booze

Probably because they drive us to drink, it is a common practice among eventers to name their horses after adult beverages. For part two of EN’s “Event Horse Names” series, I combed the USEA Horse Registry for alcohol-inspired names, from wine to whiskey, Guinness to PBR, drinks with little umbrellas to high-end cocktail concoctions. Here is what I discovered, with some analysis thrown in for good measure.

(If you missed part one of the series, “Authors, Books & Characters,” you can check it out here).

CATEGORY 1: THE WINOS

People who name their eventers after wine and champagne are going for an air of sophistication, which is especially helpful in the dressage ring. Let me put it this way: If you’re entering at “A” on a horse named Pinot Grigio or Veuve Clicquot, it’s probably not going to be some big clunker with cinder blocks for hooves and the turning radius of a semi truck. Nah. It’s going to a supple, light-bodied ballerina of a horse, with gaits like silk bedsheets and an elegant finish. Or at least that’s what you want the dressage judge to think. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include …

Wine

CATEGORY 2: Hard Liquor

These are the cross-country horses, the ones who live for the burn, who march into the start box with the swagger of a businessman bellying up to the bar: “I’ll take mine straight up, no ice.” Scotch, bourbon, whiskey — picking your horse’s namesake poison is a matter of personal preference. The important thing is that your horse be able to “hold its liquor” out on course. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include …

whiskey.jpg

CATEGORY 3: Gin and Vodka

If a wine name feels too frou-frou but a hard liquor name feels too hardcore, this category might be right for your horse. Hawley Bennett’s four-star mare Gin & Juice is a good example: She’s got just the right blend of class and pizazz in the dressage ring, but when you see her tomboyish cross-country style, you know that a watered-down girly girl drink name just wouldn’t do. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include …

martini

CATEGORY 4: Beach Drinks

If your horse’s life soundtrack is a Jimmy Buffet album, this is the category for you. Some eventers get their knickers in a twist over the silliest things — a late transition in the dressage ring, a few time cross-country time penalties, a knocked-down rail — but not your horse. He/she is just in it for a good time, and so are you. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include …

rum

CATEGORY 5: Irish Imports

If your horse is from Ireland or just needs a little luck, look no further than an Irish pub for inspiration. The USEA Horse Registry includes a whopping 33 horses named Guinness and several other variations on the theme. These horses are stout; they’re fighters; and when it comes to cross country, they’ll drink you under the table any day of the week. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include …

Ireland.jpg

CATEGORY 6: Beer

First things first, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the fact that somewhere out there, there are horses named “Free Beer Tomorrow,” “Bar Tab” and “Miller Genuine Draft” (if it’s a draft horse, I can’t even handle it). These are the horses you can count on to show up at an event, red go cup in hand hoof, looking for a party. Domestic or import, doesn’t matter — these horses make friends wherever they go. Names in the USEA Horse Registry include…

beer.jpg

Are you the owner of an event horse with a boozy namesake? Share your horse’s name (and story/photo if you like!) in the comments section below.

Go Eventing.

Tuesday Video from SpectraVet: The Fast and the Furious, Eventer Edition

Photo courtesy of StockImageServices.com. Photo courtesy of StockImageServices.com.

Driving a sportscar isn’t as fun as galloping an event horse, but it’s got to be a close second. Riders and spectators alike had the opportunity to take one for a spin last week at the Jaguar Land Rover Bromont CCI.

Of course, when you put a bunch of competitive people like eventers together, everything has to turn into a contest — in this case, the Jaguar Land Rover Bromont CCI Canada vs. US Team Challenge. There were two challenges and two teams per challenge: Jaguar Team Canada (Jessica Phoenix and Diana Burnett) vs. Jaguar Team USA (Buck Davidson and Will Faudree) and Land Rover Team Canada (Kendyl Lehari and Karl Slezak) vs. Land Rover Team USA (Lynn Symansky and Lauren Kieffer).

Basically, the challenge rewarded the teams that drove the cars best in terms of accuracy and smoothness. The Jaguar/Land Rover drivers were the judges.

After a great deal of shaking, baking, turning and burning, Team Canada won both sections. Each of the riders received a certificate for a Land Rover Driving Experience at an Official Land Rover Driving Experience School in North America.

Some highlights from the Challenge and Jaguar Land Rover’s sponsorship of the event:

[PRO4Riders]

Many thanks to PRO for sharing and to Jaguar Land Rover for their support of our sport. Go Eventing!

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Ryan Wood’s ‘Dry Spell’ Is Officially Over

Ryan Wood and Fernhill Classic at the Bromont CCI2*, where they finished 5th. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Ryan Wood and Fernhill Classic at the Bromont CCI2*, where they finished 5th. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Not long after Ryan Wood moved to the States from Australia six years ago, the then 25-year-old four-star rider basically had to start again from scratch. “I went through a bit of a dry spell when I came over here,” Ryan says, explaining that one of his Advanced horses sold and the other got injured.

Riding around at the lower levels is fine, but for a hungry young rider who’d already had a taste of the big leagues and moved to the other side of the world to chase them, it wasn’t enough: “I said to myself, ‘I’m never going to be in this position again.’”

Ryan, who runs Woodstock Eventing out of a barn adjacent to True Prospect Farm in Pennsylvania and trains alongside his Aussie mates Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin, got to work developing his business and building connections. Three years ago, with a support system finally in place, he went to Ireland in search of some “keepers,” horses he felt had the talent and drive to accompany him back to the top of the sport.

After looking at dozens of horses, Ryan settled on three. He explains that when evaluating event prospects, he looks at disposition and trainability first, with jumping ability running a close second. Of the three horses he singled out, Ryan says, “These guys checked all the boxes.”

Two were 4-year-olds. Wallaby, a grey Irish Sport Horse from Ireland’s Ringwood Stud, was a gamble as he’d never even been ridden. “I was the first person to sit on him,” Ryan says. “They got a bit funny with me when I asked to jump the horse because he’d never been sat on, and I said, ‘Well, it’s up to you. If I can’t jump him, I’m not going to buy him.’ They set out a chute and basically I jut ran down the chute — I wanted to see if he was as good jumping with a rider on his back, and he may have been even a bit better than he was free-jumping.”

The other 4-year-old, Bennett, got his ticket to the U.S. when Ryan showed an iPhone video clip of him to Bennett’s now-owners, Curran and Margie Simpson. “I sent it to him and (Curran) said, ‘Looks good enough, let’s bring him over.” Their leap of faith has since paid off, as the horse has already accumulated a mountain of blue ribbons, including a first place in his first CCI* at Virginia last fall.

Wallaby and Bennett have been neck-and-neck coming coming up through the levels, and they packed a double-punch last weekend at Bromont as well, finishing second and third respectively in the CCI* with a single point separating them.

When Bennett, who tends to be the quicker of the two horses, finished cross-country just a second under the time, Ryan assumed he would have to hurry Wallaby around the course a bit. But both horses ended up clocking the exact same time, 7:05. “Wallaby, he’s like a diesel engine — once you get him up to speed, he can hold it, and he did,” Ryan says. “He stepped up. I was very proud of him.”

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby, 2nd place in the Bromont CCI1*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby, 2nd place in the Bromont CCI1*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The third horse Ryan brought over from Ireland, Fernhill Classic, also made the trip to Bromont, finishing fifth in the Bromont CCI2*.

Ryan Wood and Fernhill Classic at the Bromont CCI2*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryan Wood and Fernhill Classic at the Bromont CCI2*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryan says of the horse, “He’s probably the most talented horse I have and probably the most difficult horse at the same time. He’s got an opinion about things.”

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And a delightfully opinionated tail-flip to match! Ryan Wood and Fernhill Classic. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryan and Classic have been all over the map with regard to results, but the horse’s potential is obvious — when his head is in the game, he’s unstoppable. They placed second last fall in the CCI2* at Fair Hill and have been getting their feet wet at the Advanced level this spring. And “talented but tricky” doesn’t seem to bother Ryan, who always seems to land on his feet when faced with a challenge. (And even when he doesn’t land on his feet — Ryan’s roster of injuries sustained over the past five years is a story in and of itself — he always bounces back.)

Luckily, Classic seemed willing to negotiate with Ryan at Bromont, where they laid down one of only five clear stadium rounds. “I was happy that he was listening and rideable and he put in a fantastic show jumping round,” Ryan says. “It’s good to go clear cross cross country, but there’s nothing like a clear show jumping at the end of it.”

Congratulations to Ryan on his successful weekend at Bromont, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on Ryan and his first crop of “keepers” for the future!

Le Chinch’s Bromont Instagram Diary

Chinchillin' with Bromont CCI3* winner Jessica Phoenix. Chinchillin' with Bromont CCI3* winner Jessica Phoenix.

The EN Chinchilla is becoming quite the international traveler. In the past month and a half he’s been to Rolex, Badminton and now Bromont, where as usual he chinchbombed everything and everyone in sight. We posted a highlight reel of his Canadian adventures to Eventing Nation’s Instagram — check it out:

Keep up with the chinch’s eventing adventures by following EN on Instagram. The handle is “goeventing” — run a search or click here!

Who Jumped It Best? Bromont Jaguar Edition

Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Have you ever seen a car used as an obstacle on a show jumping course? Me neither. But if you use your imagination and snap photos from precisely the right angle, anything is possible. Check out these photos of horses “jumping a jaguar” and tell us who you thought did it best in the survey below!

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Katherine Groesbeck and Oz The Tin Man. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Katherine Groesbeck and Oz The Tin Man. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Colleen Loach and Freespirit. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Colleen Loach and Freespirit. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

We’ve also got to give props to Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek for jumping a Range Rover. That takes serious scope!

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Many thanks to Land Rover/Jaguar for their generous support of the 2014 event. Competitors and spectators alike had a blast test-driving the vehicles, and it was fun to have them staged throughout the event. Allez Concours Complet!

A Few Parting Thoughts from Bromont

Photo by Leslie Wylie. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

After the swell of Sunday show jumping excitement at a three-day event, things tend to quiet down quickly. Riders load up their horses and head home, spectators head out and vendors pack it in, leaving just a few folks from the show office and maybe a lone journalist sipping on a bottle of leftover wine she found in the VIP tent.

A few words of closure before I go pass out completely:

- Bromont is an amazing event. This was my first foray into Canadian eventing and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Especially when I got to test-drive this sweet Jaguar.

Especially test-driving this sweet Jaguar convertible.

The venue is beautiful, the hospitality is unmatched and, this week at least, the weather couldn’t have been more cooperative. It has all the trappings of becoming a destination event for riders and spectators alike.

Bromont has been working hard to attract and keep support — this year Jaguar/Land Rover signed on as the presenting sponsor — and they’re doing it right, giving them high visibility and loads of love in return. I was talking to the Jaguar rep at the end of the day (while we were speeding-racing out on the back roads) and he was over the moon about the response they’ve gotten at Bromont this week. We need to keep that ball rolling.

Definitely one of the most expensive judge's boxes I've ever seen. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

That’s one expensive judge’s box. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

- Being a championship year, Bromont 2014 was a relatively quiet event. Some heavy-hitters are off pursuing other agendas, like Luhmuhlen next weekend, but that just means the field was wide-open for some lesser-known horses and riders to show us what they’ve got. It was awesome to see Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance, a horse that EN talent-spotted a year ago, win the CCI3*, and Buck Davidson, Lauren Kieffer and Ryan Wood put their up-and-coming horses on the map with top-three placings in the CCI1* and CCI2* divisions. To me, watching talented but less experienced horses prove their mettle is much more exciting than watching horses that we already knew could perform dominate the field. It’s like seeing into the future.

When Buck starts calling a horse "Little Reggie," you know it's serious. Buck Davidson and Be Mine. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

When Buck starts calling a horse “Little Reggie” you know it’s serious. Buck Davidson and Be Mine. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

- I feel like I’ve rambled on a lot this week about “fighting for it.” And I don’t just mean kicking like hell before a scary cross-country fence — I’m talking about the instinct that keeps you going when you have a bad fence, or a bad dressage test, or a bad event or even a bad year.

Take Lynn Symansky, for example, who won the small CIC3* division on Donner. She had to fight just to get here, and then fight for it in the saddle as well, this being her first event back after her fall at Jersey Fresh. “I usually think I’m good with my mental game and nerves, but it definitely tested it a lot,” Symansky said when she stopped by the media tent after her ride. “There was a lot of pressure. My horse is a good cross-country horse and I know that, but still, after you have something happen it kind of dries the ice in your veins.”

We were all glad to see Lynn push through it, and her show jumping round was one of the loveliest of the day. There’s “tough,” and then there’s “eventer tough,” and Lynn certainly qualifies as the latter.

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

I’ve still got a few Bromont odds ‘n’ ends to roll out in the next couple days but, for now, I’m signing out. Thanks for sticking with us all weekend — it’s been real. Allez Concours Complet!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

 

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance Score a Win on Canadian Soil in the Bromont CCI3*

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance win the CCI3* at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance win the CCI3* at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jessica Phoenix couldn’t stop giggling when she stopped by the media tent after winning the Bromont CCI3*. “I can’t believe it,” she says with the giddiness of someone who just won the lottery — which is probably what it feels like when you’ve just realized you’ve got a future four-star horse on your hands. Bromont was A Little Romance’s first CCI3*, but Jessica has a hunch that it’s just the beginning.

When asked what’s in the 9-year-old mare’s future, Jessica gets a funny look on her face, like the words she’s saying have a surprising but pleasant taste. “You know what? I think I’d like to take her to Rolex next spring,” she says. “What she did this weekend, it felt very easy for her.”

Jessica and “Blue” — they call her Blue Eyes around the barn because her eyes had a blueish tint as a foal — were a fun pair to watch on the show jumping course today. At a slight 16 hands the horse has a bit of a short step so Jessica had to step into the role of cheerleader, clucking and squeezing between the fences. She’s clearly made a believer out of the mare, who responded to Jessica’s urging with a gleam of determination in her eye.

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“She’s incredibly obedient to ride and she’s got so much heart,” Jessica says. “I can’t say that I’ve sat on horses that have so much heart other than Exponential and Pavarotti — I think you come across those horses not every day of the week. And as we saw this weekend, heart can carry them a long way.”

Indeed, the pair jumped their way to the top of the scoreboard, moving from eighth after dressage to second after cross-country and finally into first when overnight leader Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries pulled three rails. Jessica called Blue’s owners, Anita and Don Leschied of Ontario, immediately to tearfully share the good news.

The win was made even sweeter because it took place in her home country. Jessica couldn’t resist singing along when they played the national anthem during the awards ceremony. “It feels amazing,” Jessica says. “That’s what I said to Blue this morning. I’m like, ‘You are a Canadian-born girl. Let’s do this on Canadian soil.”

Mission accomplished.

Jessica Phoenix, all smiles! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jessica Phoenix, all smiles! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lisa Barry and F.I.S. Prince Charming made a big jump up the scoreboard as well, moving from 13th to eighth to second over the course of the event. It wasn’t what Lisa was expecting, but she’ll take it. “I came into the weekend just wanting to finish and be happy with each individual aspect,” Lisa says.

They ran into bad luck yesterday when the horse lost his left front shoe on the way to the startbox and got it tacked back on, only to pull both hind shoes on course — she thinks around fence #5. She went to make an adjustment and felt like he didn’t quite have his feet underneath him.

“I assumed that it was because of the mud — he’s never had to go in mud like that –  until I finished the track and realized he had no hind shoes on,” she says. “I think it’s a pretty good testament to what an amazing horse he is to jump around a tough 3* in the mud with no shoes on and come out sound today.”

Lisa Barry and F.I.S. Prince Charming. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lisa Barry and F.I.S. Prince Charming finished second in the Bromont CCI3*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Rounding out the top three finishers was Lizzie Snow on Coal Creek, who started the day in fifth. Rails were flying in the CCI3*, and even four jumping and a couple time faults couldn’t keep Lizzie from moving up. Overnight leaders Erin Sylvester/No Boundaries wound up in fourth and Maya Black/Doesn’t Play Fair finished fifth.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek finished second in the Bromont CCI3*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Job well-done to all of today’s competitors. Allez Concours Complet!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

 Final CCI3* Scores:

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Lauren Kieffer Steals All the Best Ribbons for Herself in the Bromont CCI2*

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kinda selfish, Lauren. But she couldn’t help herself, I’m sure — Lauren’s a terrific competitor and she was riding a couple of star-in-the-making horses today in Meadowbrook’s Scarlett and Landmark’s Monte Carlo.

Lauren and Buck Davidson, who pulled a rail to finish in third on Captain Jack, just stopped by the tent to tell us about their day. Lauren was pleased with both of her horses, obviously, and said that coming in she really didn’t know which one would end up on top as they’ve been on different competition schedules. Of Scarlett, Lauren said that she’s the kind of mare that is all business when she enters the ring: “She just went in and did her job like she usually does.”

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook's Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The Bromont CCI2* Perpetual Trophy features -- wait for it -- a bear eating a salmon. How Canadian is that? Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The Bromont CCI2* Perpetual Trophy features — wait for it — a bear eating a salmon. How Canadian is that? Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Despite a small mistake in the double, Buck said he couldn’t have been happier with the Captain Jack. As I mentioned earlier today, Buck sat on this horse for the first time two weeks ago and has spent most of his time since then working on the dressage and cross-country exercises. Show jumping was a bit of a blind spot, but they made it work.

“He really jumped great — he really tried,” Buck says. “The thoroughbred really comes out on the third day with these things.” Running a long cross-country course, Buck says, actually took the edge off and made him more rideable.

Whether Captain Jack goes back to his owner Lucy Diston or moves on to a new rider, Buck says the horse has all the right stuff to do the big-time. “I’m really excited for his future. That’s a Kentucky horse in two years,” he says, then slightly revises his statement, “or next year.”

Top 15 finishers in the CCI2*:

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Back soon with an update… Allez Concours Complet!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

 

Buck Davidson and Be Mine Make the CCI1* Theirs at Bromont

Buck Davidson and Be Mine take their victory gallop. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Buck Davidson and Be Mine take their victory gallop. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Watching Be Mine tackle a fence or two on the cross-country course yesterday, I thought the horse looked really nice. Watching him jump an entire show jumping course today, however, my reaction was something closer to “holy crap, that horse can JUMP.”

Buck Davidson and Be Mine. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson and Be Mine. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

As I mentioned this morning, Buck seems to think the world of this horse, who has earned the affectionate nickname of “Little Reggie” around the barn. His win in the Bromont CCI1* today will surely further bolster Buck’s confidence in the horse’s future. Be Mine’s owners seem absolutely super and clearly love him, which always helps when a top rider finds a special horse. It’s hard to believe that this horse did its very first event in January of this year – he’s certainly a superstar in the making.

Be Mine checks the winner's cup for grain. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Be Mine checks the winner’s cup for grain. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The top 11 placings didn’t budge thanks to a steady stream of double-clear rounds. Ryan Wood took the #2 and #3 spots on Woodstock Wallaby and Woodstock Bennett respectively, both of whom looked fantastic around the course. Woodstock Wallaby in particular is a very cool horse who has way too many 2nd and 3rd place finishes on his USEA record… I expect that Ryan will be helping him shed that bridesmaid dress soon.

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There was an awful lot of good riding in the ring today — the quality of the competition here this weekend is through the roof, which is exciting because a lot of the horses and riders are newcomers to the sport.

When you finish sixth in your first CCI1*, you get to eat grass with your bridle on. Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

When you finish sixth in your first CCI1*, you get to eat grass with your bridle on. Will Faudree and Pfun. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The CCI2* show jumping is starting so I’m going to get back to it. Back soon with an update… Allez Concours Complet!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

CCI1* Top 15 – Final Scores:

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The Final Countdown a.k.a. It’s Show Jumping Time at Bromont

Photo by Leslie Wylie. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Everybody knows that anything can happen on Sunday morning at a three-day event and Bromont is no exception, although I’m predicting that today’s leaders will be hanging on for dear life. A few thoughts as we head into the final phase of this week’s competition:

CCI1*: Buck Davidson has a pretty high opinion of the horse he’ll be vying for a win on in the CCI1* show jumping today. Its name is Be Mine, but around the barn he’s earned the affectionate nickname of “Little Reggie,” a nod to Buck’s veteran four-star partner Ballynoe Castle. The nickname is about as high a compliment as Buck could possibly bestow upon an equine, but the horse is living up to it so far.

“He’s got a great jump, he’s a beautiful mover, he’s got a great brain… he just turned into a super little horse,” Buck says. “He’s green but every time you ask him to do something he seems to do it, and as long as you give him hay at the end of it he’s happy.” There’s a bit of atmosphere in the show jumping ring here at Bromont, but with Buck whispering in his ear, my money is on this pair to take the win — especially since they have a rail in hand going in.

CCI2*: If Lauren could manage in the pressure-cooker that was her show jumping round at Rolex, today should be a piece of cake. She has two horses in the top three, Meadowbrook’s Scarlett and Landmark’s Monte Carlo, and I expect her to keep them there.

Buck just got the ride on his second place horse Captain Jack two weeks ago and since then he’s been focusing on the flat and jumping skinnies in preparation for the cross-country — a strategy that has obviously paid off thus far. Show jumping is their wild card, but if anyone can get the job done, it’s Buck.

CCI3*: Division leaders Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries are two-tenths of a point away from having a rail in hand going into show jumping, so the pressure is on. They jumped a double clear around the CIC3* at Jersey Fresh a few weeks ago, though, and they’ll be looking for a repeat performance today.

Jessica Phoenix on A Little Romance and Mackenna Shea are close on Erin’s heels in 2nd and 3rd. I haven’t seen A Little Romance go and am looking forward to it — Jessica thinks a lot of the horse and they’ve been laying it on thick so far this weekend.

Mackenna Shea’s Landioso has all the jump in the world and Mackenna is riding like the most poised 21 year old on earth this weekend. They’re on a roll, and I’m rooting for them to put it all together for a top three finish.

I’m heading out to watch the CCI1*, which is already underway. I’ll be back soon to announce the CCI1*’s big winner… here’s some ’80s hair metal to get you pumped up:

Allez Concours Complet!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

Several Held But All Eventually Pass Sunday Morning Jog at Bromont

Mackenna Shea and Landioso, who sit in 3rd position heading into show jumping, were held but passed upon re-inspection in the CCI3* jog. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Mackenna Shea and Landioso, who sit in 3rd position heading into show jumping, were held but passed upon re-inspection in the CCI3* jog. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There were a few tense moments at the inspection this morning — we were all holding our breath when Mackenna Shea’s Landioso, currently in 3rd place in the CCI3*, came out looking a bit stiff. Mackenna probably has still has some PTSD from the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh last year, when she was in the lead going into show jumping but got spun due to a pesky old splint. Today, fortunately, Landioso passed upon re-inspection.

Also in the CCI3* Kendal Lehari’s Totally Frank, who sits in 10th place, got held but was green-lighted on the second go.

Kendal Lehari and Totally Frank. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kendal Lehari and Totally Frank. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Only one horse got held in the CCI2*, Natasha Keill’s Naughty by Nature, but the horse also got a pass upon re-inspection. The CCI* division had several holds as well, all with happy endings.

Show jumping starts at 10 a.m. with the CCI1* division, followed by the CCI2* and CCI3*/CIC3*. More to come!

[Website] [Entry List] [Timetable] [Live Scoring]

I’ll add more photos this afternoon — check back! –but to tide you over here are a couple from the CCI3*:

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries lead the CCI3* division heading into show jumping here at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries lead the CCI3* division heading into show jumping here at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Second placed Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Second placed Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

4th place Katherine Groesbeck and Oz The Tin Man. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Fourth placed Katherine Groesbeck and Oz The Tin Man. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

 

End-of-the-Day Thoughts on Bromont XC

Elisa Wallace jumped clear around her first CCI3* course in seven years today at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Elisa Wallace jumped clear around her first CCI3* course in seven years today at Bromont. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The sun was shining and the birds were singing and the horses were doing what they were supposed to today at Bromont. A few parting thoughts:

- It was fantastic to see so many horses and riders stepping up to the plate. To less experienced pairs, today’s startbox must have felt like one of those butterfly conservatories, filled with the bright, fluttery magic of possibility. Others came in with more of an axe to grind, seeking retribution for a season that veered off course somewhere along the way. As I talked about in yesterday’s course preview, Bromont favors competitors are mentally and physically prepared to fight all the way to the finish. There were a lot of fighters out there today.

Jimmie Schramm and Bellamy got revenge on Fair Hill last fall, producing a clear if conservatively paced trip around the CCI13* track. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Jimmie Schramm and Bellamy got revenge on a less-than-happy result at Fair Hill in the fall, producing a clear if conservatively paced trip around the CCI3* track. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

-Derek di Grazia is steering modern course design in the right direction. Looking at today’s scoreboard, one might assume that the course was a bit soft — in the CCI1* and CCI3* divisions, particularly, there were an abundance of clear roads. Allow me to assure you: It was NOT an easy course. It was plenty big and there was plenty to do out there, and it’s a testament to the competitors that they got it done. The quality of Derek’s tough-yet-fair course helped. Let’s not be afraid to ask hard questions of our horses, but let’s frame them in a way that makes sense. Safety will follow close behind.

Video: The second CCI3* water rode extremely well for most competitors. Courtesy of RNS Video Media.

Of course, there is one in every bunch. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lots of clean rounds, but of course there is one in every crowd. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

- Three riders are dominating the top three spots in the CCI1* and CCI2* divisions: Buck Davidson (1st in the 1*, 2nd in the 2*), Ryan Wood (2nd and 3rd in the 1*) and Lauren Kieffer (1st and 3rd in the 2*). Why the monopoly on blue, red and yellow ribbons? There’s a reason, and it has nothing to do with luck.

OK, it might have a LITTLE to do with luck. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

OK, it might have a tiny bit to do with luck. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

But mostly, it’s because they’re GOOD.

-Also deserving of a shout-out at the end of cross-country day is the CCI3* west coast contingent. Three out of the top-placed seven riders (Mackenna Shea, Katy Groesbeck and Maya Black) are from the west coast — four out of seven if you count Lizzie Snow, an Oregon native who is now based in Southern Pines. There is a perceived disconnect between the two sides of the country, but this weekend is proof that the playing field is more level than ever.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek sit in 5th place after CCI3* XC this weekend. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Can’t wait to see how everything shakes out in the show jumping! The jog starts at 8 a.m. and we’ll be back on the grounds bringing you all the latest. Until then, Allez Concours Complet!!!

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.