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Last weekend saw the sad end of our short but sweet eventing season here in Alberta. Alhambra Stables in Red Deer hosted the final event of the season and also the provincial championships; we had a great turnout with over 150 horse and rider pairs attending.
While the weather was gorgeous for the event on the weekend, the couple weeks leading up were a bit of a nightmare as mother nature surprised us with cold temperatures and a large dump of snow, putting a damper on the event preparation. Cross country course designer Barry Tyerman had a bit of an adventure trying to build the cross country courses in the snow, bundled up in long johns and a toque — frozen hands be damned!
After the competitor’s supper on Saturday night, Alhambra Stables sponsored a bareback competition under the lights. Essentially a “Ride-A-Buck” class, riders entered were given a ribbon they placed between themselves and the horse, and the announcer called out instructions that gradually got more difficult until only one rider remained with a ribbon in place. The winner was Kayla Noble riding She’s A Diva, who received a free entry to a 2015 Alhambra event!
Sunny and I had a great weekend overall. Our dressage warm up was lovely, and our test was decent, but Sunny was just a little bit fussy in the ring and not as connected as we were in the warm up, so we didn’t quite get the scores I had hoped for.
Stadium went very well, except for the one fence I always seem to mess up! The first six fences I rode perfectly, and Sunny was jumping out of her skin over every fence with tons of room to spare. Then coming around to the triple combination, I lost my focus for a few seconds, and we had the first fence of the combination down. Right after I kicked myself for screwing up, and the rest of the course was beautiful. A single rail down in an otherwise perfect round is light years from where we were a year or two ago, so I was very happy with our round overall.
The cross county course looked insanely fun with lots of combinations and excellent questions for the championships. While many of the fences weren’t necessarily big, everything demanded very accurate riding, and I was confident that Sunny and I could rock it out.
I basically had the cross country round of my life that day. Instead of the tiny red freight train I usually find myself on, I suddenly had a soft, rideable, listening partner that I felt was almost reading my mind! Usually Sunny is so strong and gung ho that I have to start half halting to set her up 100 to 150 feet before a fence. Well on Sunday I was absolutely shocked that she was coming right back to me in four or five strides with just my voice and a couple small half halts. I honestly couldn’t believe it.
Sunny flew over everything easily, and we absolutely rocked the bank complex with a tight jump off turn back to the corner. She was so on and with me every step of the way. I was absolutely THRILLED when I crossed the finish line, and I definitely may have had a huge lump in my throat and a few tears sneak out when I hugged her after I dismounted.
Because of our new found efficiency on course, we ended up coming into the last couple fences nearly a minute and a half under time. I slowed down as much as I possibly could but we still ended coming in seven seconds too fast. Those seven speeding tickets cost us the win in both the open division and the championships, but it’s just a ribbon anyways, and with the ride I had just had, there was no way I could be upset or disappointed.
Everything up to this point has been just a stepping stone on the way to something bigger; this event was not our Rolex. Winning is nice for sure, but instead, Sunny gave me a greater gift with the ride I have been working so hard for and exactly the ride I needed to know that when we move up to Intermediate next year, we are going to freaking ROCK IT. With that ride, we can conquer anything.
Sadly I am not able to make the trek south this fall, so this was the end of our eventing season for 2014. It has been an incredible year though, with lots of firsts and milestones for us. We have a few clinics planned for the fall, and Sunny will get some much deserved time off, and then we will start prepping for 2015.
Huge thanks to Ulrika Wikner of Alhambra Stables and all of the volunteers for all their hard work putting on a fabulous event, and to Sarah at Victory Tack for providing her sponsorship and great prizes yet again.
A few weekends ago the eventing community in Alberta was out in full force for the Alhambra Victory Tack Summer Event. The three day competition hosted 170 horse and rider combinations, a slight decline in number from the record breaking 190 entries the event attracted last year.
All divisions were well represented, from Starter to Preliminary. Mother Nature cooperated for most of the weekend, with just some fog first thing for preliminary cross country, and some showers during the afternoon during the Pre-Training and Entry cross country.
Cross country course designer Barry Tyerman created fun tracks for each level that asked the appropriate questions of horse and rider. Some new jumps were added to the courses, as well as a brand new ditch brush, which rode very well for all of the Preliminary riders.
The ditch brush is a memorial jump that was sponsored by Sandridge Stables in memory of Tricia Dahms’ upper level partner, Calling All Cars, aka “Carson”. In a touching ceremony at the competitor’s supper, a plaque was presented which will be mounted on the jump. “He taught me how to fly…” Tricia said fondly as she spoke of her horse who had recently passed. The jump built in his honor will help teach up and coming Alberta event riders how to fly as well, for years to come.
Regular Pre-Training B: Marlene Bieri & Buenos Aires
Open Pre-Entry: Suzanne Hanley-Hawkins & Smokey
Sunny and I were competing in the preliminary division, and I was pretty happy with the weekend overall! In dressage we had a great test with only a few minor bobbles, improving on our score from Rebecca Farm, so I was very happy with that.
On cross country, Sunny was an absolute rock star, we went double clear and she totally saved my butt when I didn’t see any distance to a few straightforward galloping fences. I apologize to the jump judge at fence three, as they probably had to go change their underwear after witnessing the horribly scary flyer we took there! Our stadium was great except for a silly mistake on my part which cost us a rail. So we finished up in 4th place just adding one rail to our dressage score!
Here is my cross country helmet cam:
Following the delicious competitor’s supper on Saturday night, the second annual Spartan Race took place, sponsored by Sandridge Stables. 8 teams entered, each with 4 human and 1 canine member.
Hilarity ensued as each team was timed as they raced to negotiate a number of obstacles, such as a mud crawl, rope climb, balance beam, etc. It was a great turnout and great entertainment as the spectators laughed and cheered on their favorite teams, who were competing for cash prizes.
2014 marked the fifth year of the Leslie Law clinic here in Alberta, and also my fifth year riding with him. Needless to say, he has seen Sunny and I through most of the tough times and struggles we’ve had together, and has helped us so much. Since he only sees us once a year, I use his clinic as sort of a gauge to see where we are and what we need to work on.
This year, I lucked out a bit; in addition to the usual two day clinic, which consists of flat/stadium on day one, and cross country on day two, I got the opportunity to ride again the day after and have a private dressage lesson with Leslie as well, so I was very excited about that!
A common theme in Leslie’s teaching for both dressage and jumping is the training scale. You can’t accomplish much without first having relaxation and a rhythm, and with Sunny lacking in that department, I have found out first hand exactly just how important both of things are. He starts with the basics and then works up from there with each horse and rider.
We came in just four seconds over optimum time, it was so hot I didn’t want to push too much, and I was having so much fun I forgot to check my watch until the end of the course anyways. So we added just 1.6 penalties to our dressage score, and I was positively shocked and over the moon to see that after cross country we had rocketed all the way up into fifth place!
I definitely had a lump in my throat during the presentations, and during the victory gallop, hearing my friends that had driven down from Alberta to watch, cheering for me. I was so proud of Sunny, she was an absolute rock star and always tries her heart out for me. And proud of myself, for riding like I know I can and finally having all 3 phases come together. I was even more thrilled to learn later that we had placed first in prelim for the team competition, and Sunny also received the TIP award for the highest placing OTTB in the preliminary divisions!
Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice went clear cross country with just some time yesterday, and they also managed to make this amazing save at the very last water complex. Kudos to Hawley for her stickability and Ginny for her incredible athleticism, and best of luck in show jumping today. Click here for the full report on cross country at Rebecca Farm.
Sunny and I arrived in Montana on Saturday and spent an amazing few days at Herron Park near Kalispell. What a beautiful facility, and Sunny and I couldn’t get enough of the trail system there. We pulled into Rebecca Farm yesterday afternoon, and I cannot get over how gorgeous this facility is. I have waited a long time to come here, and it is definitely everything I thought it would be — and more!
Yesterday afternoon, I got the chance to tag along with Ian Stark on a course walk of the Rebecca Farms CIC3* cross-country course. It was very cool and incredibly educational to hear things from the course designer’s point of view. Ian Stark says this year’s course is definitely a notch above from the previous years’ courses.
Ian introduced some exciting new changes to the track. Some of the crops that have been present in the previous years have been removed, allowing more bend and flow to the course instead of lines cut straight through. According to Ian, this will make the course more rideable, especially for the lower levels, allowing horse and rider to balance better on the approach and find a better distance through the turns versus a straight approach to the fences.
More terrain is featured on the course this year. Ian has used every hill and dip he could to make the course more demanding. He says this use of terrain will test the riders as they progress through the course; the riders will have to make sure they save some horse for the end of the course.
Some of the cross country takes on a new theme this year. Named after Bayou Teche, where organizer Sarah Broussard’s parents grew up in Louisiana, this large water complex was revamped and features new questions for the levels. Also new are more amazing carvings by Bert Wood.
The Young Event Horse competitions got underway yesterday, and I am very excited for everything else to get going today. My dressage isn’t until Friday, so Sunny and I get one more day of hacking and schooling before getting to work.
I also took some video of the course walk; I apologize for the sound quality and shakiness.
Go Rebecca Farm. Go Eventing.