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Hannah Burnett


About Hannah Burnett

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Jersey report

Perspective is not what I was looking for when I went into the start box at Jersey Fresh on Saturday. I was shooting for the clear round. I was determined to reach my goal and my final qualification to get me to Bromont 3-star, but perspective is what I found. I had another bitting “situation” that resulted in a run-out at the skinny toothbrush out of the water because Nike would throw his head when I tried to steer or hold him to a line, resulting in him not seeing or locking onto the fence. Luckily, Nike understands and enjoys his job so the rest of the combinations I could keep a loose contact and he drew to the skinnys and corners. 

Until this year, I never realized that being successful brought so much more intense pressure than just getting around or being mediocre. I always thought that as soon as you figure out how to win or be successful that you get more comfortable, more confident. Once I realized that I had a phenomenal horse with potential to be extremely successful and it was completely up to me to show everyone who he is and who he can be, I was a bit overwhelmed with a sense of apprehension that I wouldn’t/couldn’t give him the ride he deserved. This weekend I realized that this was something I really needed to work through. Although I would MUCH rather be heading to Bromont next month, I realize that this “break” in Nike’s schedule will give me the time to sort through my competitive toughness, mental and emotional. I have no doubt that if Nike had a different bit that didn’t irritate him, he would have jumped around clear and at least close to the time. I have no doubt in his ability and can’t wait to get to another CIC and prove it. 
To everyone who has supported me and Nike and my other wonderful horses: I can’t thank you enough and I’m excited to encourage and cheer you on in the way you have for me. Good luck and keep checkin out the coolest site in Eventing. -Hannah Sue

Jersey Fresh 3* Cross-Country Preview

Hey Eventing Nation, this is Hannah Burnett and I’m riding Nike (St. Barths) in the CIC3* XC tomorrow.  Here’s a quick preview of the three-star courses.  The course for the CIC*** and the CCI*** at Jersey this year are pretty similar other than a couple combinations and length for the CCI. 
Number 2 for the CIC is a pretty airy trakener with a bit of a drop on the backside which is a bit unusual for that early in the course. #4 is a table with a bit slope on the landing and then uphill to two smallish but pretty strong angled roll-tops
Next is a big drop–but nothing before or close after. A big log oxer proceeds the first water that has a skinny brush on top of a mound, land on grass, canter in about 4-5 strides to a large solid table, 4 strong strides to an angled roll-top uphill. 
A few more galloping fences follow and then a steep hill with a table on top, 3 strides to a right-handed corner. This is tough because the hill before is so steep that you can’t see the corner until you’re in the air over the table. 
The 2nd water is some barrels on the edge of the water (pictured below), then 7-8 strides to a right handed corner… 
…then a right hand turn up a mound to a skinny toothbrush landing downhill.
Next, a large airy trakener is before a forward 5-stride to a narrow-faced but really wide table. A few more galloping jumps to an extremely steep gallop uphill, left turn to a vertical down the steep hill, 5 strides bending right to a skinny that’s hidden by some trees. 
The in to the coffin is a steeplechase type brush fence on a right-to-left angle, one stride to a wide ditch angled and a bit of a left curve 2 strides to a skinny brush fence. This is difficult because the horses probably will not draw to the last brush fence until you’re in the air over the ditch–only giving you a second or two to get their eye on it and keep them straight. The last brush fence is numbered separately so you can circle to avoid the 20 penalties if your horse isn’t up for the challenge or gets wiggly on course. 
The last difficult question for the CIC is a sharp turn in the woods to an angled vertical, 2 strides to a very large and upright stump. The CCI has double corners at the end of their course: a left handed, 2 strides to a right handed. This will be especially difficult because it’s so late in the course and the horses will be tired. 
Overall, the course is twisty and John Williams really uses the mounds and hills to try to sort out the men from the boys. The CIC is 7 minutes and the CCI is 10.  Wish me luck!

My First Rolex

Hey Eventing Nation, John asked me to write about my first Rolex, in 2007 when I rode Keep The Faith.  Enjoy!

Rolex actually is as overwhelming and exciting as everyone imagines it to be. I told myself over and over that it was just another 3-day, just like another horse trial, to try to convince myself that I would be able to get through it. I can’t even count how many times I told myself that I had done this all before, this is nothing new. Despite the continual struggle to control my mind and keep focused, the voice inside me was screaming, “This is ROLEX! This is your childhood dream come to life!! Don’t screw it up!” 

The week starts as magically as it finishes. From the requests for interviews from local newspapers and worldwide websites to the showering of sponsored gifts for riders, grooms and horses; as soon as I arrived I felt like a celebrity. The hospitality tent is always stocked with different types of sustenance, although I can only remember eating once the whole time I was there! The barns are booming with energy and everyone is happy to finally be there. 
The first jog is electrifying. Everyone is a bit tense until their horse jogs up and is “accepted.” Other than getting my horse through the jog, I was pretty determined to win the Dubarry boots that they give to the best dressed rider. I didn’t win even though I had worn a darn cute outfit (in my personal opinion) and curled my hair…not that I’m bitter about it at all! 
I expected to have trouble getting over my nerves in dressage, looking around at the grand stands and large crowds, but as I finished my warm-up and headed into the ring, the nerves slowly subsided. At one point during the walk I did feel the slightest bit nauseated, but quickly got back to work! Upon finishing my test, I was whisked away in a golf cart and bombarded by reporters. This unexpected press exposure only added to the nerve-racking atmosphere. 
While walking cross-country riders have to wear their pinnies and people are asking for autographs even if they don’t necessarily know who you are. Saturday morning is unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had a good night’s sleep (thank you John for providing the Nyquill) and felt ready and focused. Even though I knew my horse and I could conquer the course, I could only think of each individual combination and succession of the course separately. It was too long and difficult for me to comprehend all at once. So I focused on the first fence as I was led into the start box by Clark Montgomery, who must have seen my face and told me that I was going to be fine and that I’d feel better once I got on course. Only once on course did I notice the crowds, when my horse took a look right before the head of the lake. After I jumped the creek oxer (the jump I was the most scared of) I remember taking a deep breath and smiling. The finish was no let down of exhilaration. So many friends and family were gathered outside the fencing and Lindsey Pearce and I jumped up and down and screamed. My mom shook me and said, “Way to go girl. You did it!” There was lots of ice and fluids for the horses that night and I was so relieved it was over but also wishing I could do it all over again. 
I remember being pretty sad when Sunday came and the weekend was coming to an end. Show jumping was the quickest day of all and its funny how I started to get used to the crowds by the time I went in for my round. I didn’t want it to ever end, but it came and went like the best things in life often do. I hope every event rider gets to experience Rolex at some point in their life, whether it be riding or spectating–it truly is unforgettable.

Spring Blog Chapter 5

Mr. Thompson (Nike’s owner) and Karen

We eventers never expect things to work out the way we hope they might. It’s just not realistic in our sport because it is unpredictable and there are too many factors for everything to be perfect. That is one of the reasons why I love eventing. You always have to be thinking quickly and responding instinctively when your “plan A” doesn’t work out. Karen always says “sometimes you’re on ‘plan M’ by the time you make it through a difficult question”– but it’s making it to the other side with your adrenaline pumping and horse running for the next difficult challenge that drives us on. 

    That being said–Nike and I had a very ideal event last weekend at the Fork. Not everything was perfect, obviously, but we both really enjoyed the whole weekend. He was fantastic on the flat and I couldn’t be happier with his test. There are always things to improve on but he tried his heart out and gave it his best. I absolutely love a horse that gets competitive in the dressage arena. Nothing makes me more content and confident than trotting around the ring and knowing my horse is right where I need him and completely listening and understanding that this ride counts. Nike is turning into one of these horses 🙂

    He was quite strong again on cross-country. I had backed him down to a plastic straight-bar Pelham with a cover on the chain because I was worried that the jointed would be too much. I was wrong. He was very strong! I was planning on not going for speed but he needed to gallop between the fences so he could listen for the combinations so I was quicker than expected. He was straight and understood all of the difficult questions and I was thrilled with him. 

    Show jumping was pretty twisty and looked big because of the small area they were using in the sand arena but it was a great course for us because we had to stay forward around turns and keep steady in down the lines. He jumped clear and ended up winning because a lot of people had rails down. We used the same bit as the day before and it was perfect. We’ll be bumping up the brakes for xc but I’m happy with the show jumping.

    As for the next couple of weeks Nike will be having a really easy workout schedule. He’s completely off until Thursday and then he’ll be hacking out and walking/trotting on the pavement to build up his soft tissue through the weekend. He’s been working very hard lately and I don’t want him to peak too soon. Just like with any human athletes, you have to time everything right so your horse is peaking physically, mentally and emotionally for the event/3-day your shooting for. It’s a delicate balance and takes a while to figure out because it’s so specific to the horse/person. I read a lot of sports psychology books and try to relate them to my horse. Training is equally as important as recovery, so that’s what I’m focusing on for Nike in the next two weeks to try to keep him enjoying his work and want to get back to the daily grind. I also get to compete Ms. Mars’ Harbor Pilot that David has trained and competed in the CCI* at Ocala next weekend and have some young ones there as well so I’ll stay good and busy even if Nike’s having a bit of R&R!

    Nike’s headed to Jersey Fresh CIC*** next Hope to see you there! -HSB
PS: Thanks for all of the facebook posts, texts and messages of encouragement and congratulations. Y’all are the best!

Spring Blog Chapter 4

Picture this: Nike and I are out in the jump field this morning, we jump 6-7 jumps, turning either direction on landing and gallop a few strides then halt quickly and rein-back. Hop off, change bridles/bits and get back on to do the exact same thing. Rewind and play again and that was our workout today. Horses, like people, are constantly changing. Last fall, Nike was light as a feather in the bridle in cross-country and show jumping, all I had to do was change my center of gravity and he would balance; add a bit of weight to the reins and he would change his length of stride and slow down. Since his recent success (he’s starting to let it go to his head), Nike is starting to question whether I am always right about how fast/slow we should be going. Hence, the switching and experimenting with bits. Part of this change in my horse is encouraged. He is confident and wants to do his job. He is brave and bold and not a lot backs him off. I am not a big fan of “bitting-up” my horses because it often means there is a lack in training. But given my size and strength, sometimes it is unavoidable. Its always a good idea to keep your trainer informed when you feel like your horse is getting too strong or maybe the opposite, losing confidence and backing off because of too much bit.    I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that Nike was strong last weekend at Southern Pines, and that once again I have work to do to regain communication with him. His first advanced went almost to plan: he was good on the flat, scored a 31.9 and his more difficult flying change was clean and quiet (which I was so excited about that I leaned down and patted him during the test lol) and he jumped around clean xc. We had 20 time penalties but I wasn’t trying to go fast and he was pretty strong so it took a while to get him back in front of the more technical fences. 
    Show jumping was pretty interesting. He was very wound up on Sunday and I was trying a leverage bit with a running martingale to keep him rounder in front of the fences. He got a bit behind the vertical and didn’t see an upright until the last stride and then put his head up and the running martingale put a lot of pressure on the bit and plowed we through it fence. Then he was pretty upset and hit the martingale at the next fence (the in of a double) and slid into that one too. Not a picture-perfect round to be sure. I rode a lot more forward after that and got out of his face and he jumped the rest of the round rub-free. 
    Were calling that round a “wardrobe-malfunction,” but I know that I need to ride more forward and get his eye on the fences. For now, we’ve dropped the running martingale for the show-jumping and the winner is a jointed Pelham with double reins so I can change how much curb he needs for how he’s feeling on the day. He’s a red-head so he changes his mind a lot!! 
Hope to see you at the Fork at Nike’s first CIC***  -HSB

Spring Blog Chapter 3


This is Hannah Burnett coming to you poolside from David and Karen’s house–Lauren and I are having a little after work snack O’Connor style (cheese and crackers) and stealing some internet. Just don’t tell them cause they’re out golfing 😉 

    The past couple weeks have been a very good prep for the CIC** at Red Hills. We had a flat and jumping lesson Captain Phillips last weekend and he seemed happy with our progress on the flat. We worked on Nike’s flying changes, which are difficult for him, and Mark was a great help. He told me that I have to get enough collection with uphill balance before I can have good, clean changes. The first day was a bit dicey because Nike got a bit hot with so much pressure on the collected canter but the following day it seemed that he had been practicing all night in his field or something! His changes were much better and he wasn’t rattled by all of the intense collection. We also jumped a bit the second day–which went pretty well. Mark had me keeping his canter energized and uphill around turns where I tend get slow to try to see a distance and then fire at the fence instead of keeping a steady rhythm. All in all, a very good couple of days. 

    Max, Karen, David and I headed off to Red Hills with only 3 horses on Thursday after having help on the flat with David. Friday started out with a very “energized” ride around the trade fair and the dressage arenas, trying to settle Nike and get him used to all of the commotion so he could focus on his work. That ride was followed by 3 other rides that eventually settled him. Our test was at 11:50 so I was pretty busy getting all of his “energy” out!! Nike was a very good boy in his test and put him in the lead after the dressage. Its very nice when your horse pulls it together in front of a big crowd and Nike loves showing off for his dad–Dick Thompson :). 

    The cross country was more open and gallopy than usual for Red Hills, but it was still very turny and there was alot to do. Nike was very good and pretty fast, but the last minute or two I was making him listen a bit more and add a stride instead of going for the direct quick route. It’s more important to me to have my horse listening to me on the landing and looking at the angles/skinnies/corners rather than being quick and just getting it done–especially when he’s moving up to advanced at the next event. There’s a time to “just get it done” but I want to make sure he’s prepared for the move-up. We were around 30 seconds slow but that kept us in the lead since no one made time. I did have Michael Pollard breathing down my neck going into the show jumping–less than 4 points behind me. 

    We waited all day to show jump and I was really feeling the pressure. I wanted to jump clear–even if I hadn’t been in first. I needed to school my horse in an electric atmosphere and try to keep him listening and rideable under pressure. I also had my infamous crashing through the last fence at Fair Hill running through the back of my mind–something that wasn’t very helpful or positive. Nike was pretty wound up and we ended up having a vertical on the out of a 5 stride down because he inverted when I went to steady him. We finished in 2nd and I’m very happy with the result. The next two weeks I will work on all of my horses jumping smaller fences quitely, landing and turning or halting etc. I learned that my horses must be available to me on the take-off landing and everywhere in-between. It’s the simple training that I sometimes glance over and I had a nice wake-up-call to that last weekend.

   Nike, 2 training horses and I are headed to Southern Pines II for Nike’s advanced debut. Until then I’ll be working on the basics!! I’ll check in with ya after that 🙂 -HSB

Spring Blog Chapter 2

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Nike and I have had a very busy couple of weeks since our last post. He has continued to get fitter and we are both working on our flatwork, which is really getting fun (hard to believe I’m saying this…) and he’s really jumping great. 

Last week was busy to say the least…Karen had signed us up for a ICP symposium with Lauren Huff but she got injured and couldn’t teach so Lauren Kieffer and I were surprised to meet the Captain (Mark Phillips) in the arena for our jumping lesson. I was sweating a bit because I was expecting him to see me jump for the first time (officially) at our training sesh on Friday…and I wasn’t feeling quite prepared mentally. Luckily, Nike’s a pretty freakin’ good jumper and Captain Phillips was pretty impressed with him. Lauren rode Allstar for Karen in the lesson and rocked it (on a horse she hasn’t sat on in about 4 months!!) 
The next day on Tuesday, we did the ICP Intermediate dressage test for Linda Zang and it wasn’t really up to our potential but it was my fault because I didn’t get Nike enough warm-up before the test. Still figuring out how much warm-up is enough and not too much to produce a solid test. 
Wednesday I rode in the Spalding Lab’s Young Event Horse competition on Ms. Mars 5 year old mare Landmark’s Miss Liberty and she won! She had a very classy jumping round and the judges loved her. It’s great to start the youngsters and have them rewarded for stepping up and trying so hard. 
Thursday was my training session with Capt. Phillips on the flat. We did a lot of trot-canter-trot transitions and he really drilled me on my basics. Wow, wasn’t expecting that at all! It was a really good lesson, even though I was pretty humbled and reminded to take things back to a simple level and make sure I don’t accept mediocrity. Since the Captain had already seen us jump on Monday, we had to do another dressage lesson on Friday. We had worked out a lot of our transition issues from the day before and got to work on more upper-level movements. Mark really improved my half-halts in the canter work and counter-canter. Overall my first experience with training sessions was a very good one. Hopefully I will be picked to keep working with the High Performance Team throughout the year. 
The weather for the Ocala II event started out pretty crappy on Friday (especially for Florida!) with lots of rain and temps in the low 40s. Nike was pretty fresh with this being our first outing since Fair Hill and also quite cold. Our dressage test had some good moments but overall not good enough to get a good score. I was feeling a lot of pressure to have a good test and I rode a bit negatively. On Saturday, it had stopped raining but was bitterly cold and windy, and Nike and I were literally shaking before our round. I felt so badly for him! He jumped around with one rail down. I talked to Karen and decided that Nike wasn’t up for the run on Sunday so we scratched him from the cross-country and are entering him in the OI next weekend at Rocking Horse III. Huge thanks to Annie Yager for all her help last weekend–she’s an amazing worker and great rider–I wouldn’t have gotten through the weekend without her help. Also props to Shauna Riley for holding down the fort at home and taking great care of the horses all by herself. Awesome people make all the stress and pressure of eventing so much easier! 
Horses are constantly teaching us to listen to them. To feel what they’re feeling, whether it be that they’re in pain somewhere or just not confident in some part of their work. It’s so easy to miss one of the intricate details that keep our horses comfortable and self- assured. I’m so blessed to be apart of a program that has such amazing teamwork and really cares about each other’s progress and success. From Dr. Ober and Randy Pawlak discussing shoeing and overall soundness to Karen and David working out the best show schedule and training and Max Corcoran keeping an eye on Nike and all my horses’ physical fitness and overall wellbeing; it’s hard to miss anything. I’m still learning to always spend extra time with my horse, getting to know him and take in things that aren’t quite right that no one else will notice. That is the real teamwork–the core of Eventing and what makes such a cool bond between horse and rider. Anyways…I should stop rambling and get back to work. Until next time–keep checking out the sweetest site in Eventing 🙂