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By the Numbers: Stable View Oktoberfest CCI4*-S

Up next in our fall schedule is the final CCI4*-S on the east coast, held at Stable View. These folks have got their coronavirus protocols down to a science, with numerous documents online and plans for everything. Although this is only their third year hosting a 4*, this year will mark the fifth year the show has run. At 42 starters this will officially be the biggest field yet for the venue, which has made huge investments in improvement each year.

Captain Mark Phillips has been the course designed here since their inception. East coast favorite Chris Barnard will make his way to South Carolina to design the show jumping course.

Every prior Advanced or 4* division here (including the Advanced run this summer) has been won by either Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton or Buck Davidson. That streak will officially be over this year, as none of these three have entries in the 4* division. All but one winner was either the fastest round of the day or made the time on cross country.

DRESSAGE

Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Doug Payne‘s Pan American team horse Starr Witness recently re-iterated that yes, she is in fact talented on the flat. Although this mare has only two starts at this level, both have come in the sub-26 range. Only a few other pairs in the field even have the ability to catch her, but there are a couple.

One of those horses is Fernhill By Night, who broke the 75% mark at The Fork at Tryon in the spring of 2019. Although he has more recently been hovering in the 70% range, this horse is certainly one who has a record of scoring sub-25 multiple times in the past. His rider, Liz Halliday-Sharp, is on a hot streak herself, having won the only two 4*-S on this side of the country that have been held in the fall season thus far.

The experienced Covert Rights also comes forth for this division under Colleen Rutledge. Although their personal best of 22.2 is certainly eye catching, they more recently have averaged at a mark just over 70%. In their last six outings, they’ve scored sub-30 in five of them, floating slightly above only at Fair Hill last fall with a 30.7.

We can’t leave this conversation without mentioning another of Doug Payne’s rides, the experienced Vandiver. His recent score of 23.1 at Blue Ridge horse trials blasted his previous personal best out of the water by more than 4 points. It could be a case of Doug versus Doug at the end of the first phase.

SHOW JUMPING

Liz Halliday Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Shelby Allen.

There’s a serious set of good jumpers here this weekend. Nearly a third (27%) of the horses are expected to jump clear, with another 43% expected to have only one rail.

Fernhill By Night has really perfected his jumping technique as he’s gotten older, jumping clear in 11 of his last 13 rounds where show jumping was held prior to cross country. This dates back to the middle of 2017 and includes venues all over the U.S. and Europe. But Starr Witness is no slouch either, jumping clear in two for two of her rounds at this level. In fact, you have to go back to Starr Witness’ very first FEI in 2018 to find a rail on her international record … but it was at this very venue, in the CCI3*-S (then CIC2*).

Vandiver has the possibility of taking a rail, but mostly likely will jump clear; this horse had an excellent record of jumping clear at the short format level until he hit an odd patch at the beginning of 2019 where he pulled a single rail at three consecutive shows. That pattern was fixed by Kentucky that spring, and in four rounds that the 4/5* level, he hasn’t had a rail since.

Show jumping can be a difficult phase for Covert Rights, although a clear round at Fair Hill last fall, followed by a clear round recently at his first 2020 start at Great Meadow hopefully shows those demons have been laid to rest. A couple of rails for this pair would send them tumbling down the ranks after phase two in a field of good jumpers.

Meanwhile, Texas-based Dassett Choice under Rebecca Brown will be ready to capitalize on any mistakes the dressage leaders make. This horse jumped clear in three of his four rounds at this level so far.

The final horse to keep an eye on is Celien under Hallie Coon. She has fairly consistently been a one-or-none horse in the last two years and a clear round would put this pair right up in stalking range of the leaders.

A few horses will use the jumping phases to start creeping up the leaderboard; Quantum Leap (yet another Doug Payne ride) and Caeleste (under Will Faudree) are two of those to watch.

CROSS COUNTRY

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Starr Witness is green enough that it’s still difficult to tell what she’ll do at this level; although she went clear at her first Advanced at Pine Top earlier this year, she put in two green stops at a bank out of water in the middle of a combination at Blue Ridge. Doug Payne is likely to have sorted any issues between now and then but with a very important FEI qualifier needed, a clean round will likely be priority number one.

Instead, Vandiver will likely lead the way for the Payne group of horses, with Doug well able to push the pace easily on his experienced campaigner. These two might not be the very fastest pace in the field, but they’ll be within a few seconds of them.

Meanwhile Fernhill By Night is one that Liz Halliday-Sharp picks and chooses as to when to go for time; after a disappointing dressage score in his last outing, Liz chose not to press him. As a rider on a hot streak, it’s a good bet that she’ll choose to go for the time this weekend, now that the horse has had a chance to stretch his legs. While they are likely to add a few seconds onto their score, it should be enough to contest for the top position.

There are a good number of fast horses in this field who also have the chops in the dressage and show jumping phases; Covert Rights is one that we’ll see fly up the ranks again even if he’s incurred a rail or two. He and Colleen Rutledge have a good chance of setting the fastest pace of the day, so it’ll be to their advantage if the optimum proves hard to catch. If they can manage a good day in the stadium, they’ll be right there contesting for the win on the final day as well.

Dassett Choice will slip out of the top five based on time penalties — this pair will be looking for a qualifying round in order to head to the CCI4*-L at Galway, so will looking for a clear round above all. Meanwhile Celien and Waylon Roberts with Lancaster could both take a crack at the top five based on their cross country pace, asl long as their stadium rounds have gone their way.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography courtesy of TIEC.

Doug and Liz are both coming off recent wins, and it will ultimately come down to these two. Liz Halliday-Sharp has locked up two consecutive 4* though, against hugely competitive fields, and with Fernhill By Night having a dressage time near the end of they day (instead of first thing as he contended with at Great Meadow), this horse will ultimately edge out the win by the skin of his teeth.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Covert Rights is the fastest horse in the field at this level over the past two years. In six runs, they’ve made the time three times, been within five seconds of the optimum (or the fastest pace when optimum wasn’t obtained) another two times, and only on this horse’s return to level after a 12-month hiatus did they have close to ten seconds over the fastest pace … also on an occasion when optimum was not obtained.

LONGEST CLEAR JUMPING STREAK

Annie Goodwin and Fedarman B. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Ann Goodwin and Fedarman B are sitting tight with clear rounds in all six of their attempts at the level. The striking white-faced horse has added a few time penalties but hasn’t hit a single rail yet.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Zachary Brandt and Direct Advance. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

This spot would would ordinarily have been filled by Starr Witness, but it would have been neglectful to not mention her as a true contender. Instead, this section highlights Direct Advance, who made his first Advanced start with Zach Brandt at Chattahoochee Hills last month. A steady cross country pace kept them out of the ribbons there, but adding a clear round over a course that rode quite tough to a dressage score in the low 30s and a clear show jumping round is something worth keeping an eye on.

BIGGEST MOVER

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop are likely to make the biggest moves of the weekend, utilizing a swift cross country pace and a likely one rail show jumping round to climb the ladder in leaps and bounds.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • You’ll see a familiar face in Fernhill Fortitude with a new pilot. Rebecca Brown now has the ride on this experienced campaigner.
  • Former Tim and Jonelle Price ride (yes, both of them) Kindred Spirit II is entered in the CCI3*-S.
  • Starr Witness isn’t the only Pan Ams veteran out and about this weekend; Boyd Martin’s 2015 Pan American horse Pancho Villa will compete in the Open Training.

Dressage will begin on Thursday while show jumping for the 4*-S is to be held on Friday. On Saturday, the division will finish up with cross country.

Stable View International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

By the Numbers: Twin Rivers 4*-S

Beautiful Twin Rivers Ranch. Photo courtesy of Twin Rivers Ranch.

Out West we have our first FEI of the year, fittingly at Twin Rivers which was all set to host their inaugural 4*-L when things shut down. Shortly after that, everything shut down tight and while we won’t see the long track yet, we’re excited to preview what Twin has setup for the short!

Every winner of the FEI division over the last half decade has been in either first or second position after the flat, with the majority taking the win from beginning to end. It has been uncommon for anyone to make the time at this venue though, with only one pair doing it from 167 cross-country starters since 2015.

Since this event generally runs twice a year, we have a healthy number of previous winners here but only Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 return as a pair to contest for another win. Last year’s winning rider Tamie Smith composes a third of the field all by herself, with four horses ready to start while winning pair Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy have chosen to contest the Advanced division instead.

DRESSAGE

Tamie Smith & Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

 

The talented Danito has made quite a splash in the first phase after only four starts at the level. Under Tamie Smith, he made his first start with an auspicious 30.9 at last year’s event then came into 2020 rocking and rolling, with an average 2020 score of 21.7.

Erin Kellerhouse and her ride Woodford Reserve are another pair less experienced at the level, but in two starts they’ve put in two sub-thirty scores.

SHOW JUMPING

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Danito is precociously talented in the first phase but has a bit to learn in the stadium. He’s had one or two rails in three of his four outings, but the good news is that even with one rail he and Tamie should still be able to maintain their grip on the top spot following the second phase. With two clear rounds but neither inside the time, Woodford Reserve and Erin could certainly tighten the gap prior to cross-country.

Meanwhile, Emilee Libby and Jakobi will leverage a likely clear round as a way to edge upwards into the top three. With clear rounds in five of their seven starts at the 4* level, both long and short, these two should have a good level of confidence heading into the ring.

 

CROSS COUNTRY

Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

 

If you think we’ll see a lot of leaderboard movement this weekend, think again. Tamie is one of the fastest riders in the west and while Danito might not have the fastest time this weekend, he’ll be right up there with one of the faster paces. Erin will be chasing the clock with Woodford Reserve to catch a quick enough time to pass this pair and the difference might end up as just one or two seconds on the clock.

Emilee Libby is returning to the level for the first time after maternity leave while Tamie Smith‘s ride Fleeceworks Royal is back after a hiatus. These two pairs could battle it out for the third position and much will depend on their decisions on pace after extended time off. Meanwhile Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 have been extremely quiet and plugging away on the flat this year; with a quick turn of foot this power pair should easily finish in the top five and could pick off a couple more placings if their pace is right.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

It could be a nail-biter from wire to wire but in the end, Tamie Smith is likely to take the top honors aboard Danito.

FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUNDS

Madison Tempkin and Dr Hart. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Madison Tempkin and Dr. Hart have has a bit of a learning curve at this level but when they jump clear rounds, they do it quickly. If clear, this pair is likely to also pick up the fastest round of the day.

NOTABLE NEWBIES

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 A.M.. Photo by Kim Miller.

Charlotte Babbitt and 2 A.M. sparkled in their debut at the level at Copper Meadows, bringing home a win with a solid dressage and cross-country and a lovely clear stadium round. A similar performance this weekend could put them in the conversation for a top three position.

Twin Rivers International: WebsiteEntry Status/Ride Times/Live ScoresLive Stream 

By the Numbers: Chattahoochee Hills Advanced

While we may have lost the AECs, we nevertheless have quite the run of weekly Advanced and 4*-S divisions coming up across the country. With a more condensed schedule comes deeper fields in general. This year, Chatt Hills has attracted 30 starters (as of publication), which is a record number of starters for the venue’s Advanced division in the last half decade. In fact, the August edition of this division usually boasts of fewer than 10 pairs.

Hugh Lochore is the perennial course designer at this venue, and this year is no exception. Chris Barnard is hot off his work designing the stadium at Great Meadow, so we can see how this field holds up against his course design.

Chatt Hills is a course where the time on cross country day makes all the difference; only four pairs have made time in the last five years here, and all were at the spring event. Having said that, two of those pairs are competing this weekend; both Nilson Moreira da Silva with Magnum’s Martini and Jacob Fletcher with Van Gough have experience in catching that time here. Jacob Fletcher is the only rider to have done it twice, having done it also on board Atlantic Domino.

DRESSAGE

Rebecca Brown with Dassett Choice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Although green for the level with only three starts under their belt, Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice have a good shot at leading the field after the first phase. In their two Advanced starts (one of which was at this venue a year ago), this pair scored over 70% both times.

Jon Holling has been quietly putting in the work with Dushi Terma, who now has two starts under his belt at the level. These two quietly laid down two scores in the low 30s earlier this year to average 32.6 in this phase.

Lancaster is one of the more experienced horses in the field at this point, and under Waylon Roberts has been putting in solid scores that range from 30 to 35 in the past two years. A score around their two year average of 32.4 would put them right up near the top after day one.

Only around 18% of the field is expected to put in scores over 65%, but this is not an event that will be won on a couple of points on the flat.

SHOW JUMPING

Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Photo by Lisa Madren.

The field at hand does not consist of the most careful jumpers based in North America; many of those took a crack at Great Meadow last week. A full 50% of the field is expected to have a rail, with another 25% of the field expected to have more than one. Three horses are making their first start for the level while another pair will contest the level for the first time as a pair; none of these have known stadium records for the Advanced height.

Dassett Choice and Rebecca Brown should be able to maintain a top placing based off their sparse record; two clear rounds out of three for the level with a single rail in the third round indicate a good possibility of jumping clear.

Horses like Lancaster, Dushi Terma,Voltaire de Tre (Leslie Law), Van Gough (Jacob Fletcher) and FE Mississippi (Dana Cooke) should be able to take advantage even at just one rail apiece and move up the ranks to within striking distance.

CROSS COUNTRY

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With time being so critical, Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice will almost certainly accumulate enough time penalties on cross country day to leave the door open for a quick pair to take over the lead, if only just. After winning at this venue last summer, these two did face significant trouble on their first 4*-S course at Ocala Jockey Club in November, but bounced back into form at Rocking Horse before the break.

However, that door will be cracked and experienced pair Waylon Roberts and Lancaster will be looking to take full advantage. These two have the fastest speed rating in the field over the last two years, averaging only 8.2 seconds over either the fastest time or within the optimum time. Solid performances will have put them within striking range of the leaders on the final day. Dushi Terma and Jon Holling could maintain a top position as well if they can match their average pace at prior events in relation to the speedsters.

Voltaire de Tre and Leslie Law, as well as Joe Meyer with Johnny Royale, will be looking to capitalize on the final day as well, without stretching themselves too far. An average pace for either of these pairs would put them within 20 seconds of the fastest times, good enough to pop up into the top five.

Van Gough and Jacob Fletcher cannot be forgotten either; although they typically are 30 seconds and more behind the speedsters, this pair has an affinity for this venue and experience making the time. They could be wild card if they go for broke and even matching their typical pace would likely yield a top five placing.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. Photo by Abby Powell.

So much depends on who decides it’s their day to go for a faster pace and who is using this for a prep event for the next one, but the opportunity to best a field this big doesn’t always come along. It will be close, but Waylon Roberts and Lancaster can use their experience to edge out a win without over-extending themselves.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini (BRA).

We’ve already discussed Lancaster, but Nilson Moreira da Silva is known for his speed and paired with Magnum’s Martini, has made optimum or achieved the fastest time in four of their outings together at this level. That includes one of the four clean runs inside the time here, although that run did occur in 2015.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Abby Powell.

Cornelia Dorr brings forward the mare Daytona Beach 8, a former ride of 2014 World Champion Sandra Auffarth. This horse started her first 4*-S in 2018 at Luhmuhlen, but withdrew after dressage. With a strong jumping record and flashes of promise in the flat in their time as a partnership, Cornelia and Daytona Beach 8 could be a bit of a wild card this weekend.

BIGGEST MOVER

Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Dressage may not be his forte, but a single rail in the jumping phase and one of the faster rounds on cross country would propel Johnny Royale with Joe Meyer from the bottom third of the field after dressage way up as high as the top five.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Top five Fair Hill 4*-L finisher QC Diamantaire is contesting a Prelim division to start off his 2020 season.
  • Jacob Fletcher doesn’t just have his 2019 Chatt Hills 4*-S winner here, he’s also brought out his 2018 Chatt Hill 4*-S winner (and 2015 AEC Advanced Champion) Atlantic Domino out to play in the Preliminary.
  • Keep an eye on Leslie Law‘s ride Tout de Suite in the Prelim as well; Leslie won back to back 4*-S on this horse in his first two starts at the level back in 2015. Leslie is back in the irons after a prolonged hiatus, but this is a pair to keep an eye on.
  • Five-star favorite Clip Clop is stretching his legs in the 3*-S under Joe Meyer.
  • E25 rider Megan Sykes is back in the irons after an accident last winter. She and Classic’s Mojah will be testing out the competition scene on the east coast in the Intermediate division.
  • Kurt Martin‘s ride Delux Z will be competing in the Intermediate after taking 2019 off from competition.

Dressage and show jumping take place on Friday, cross country on Saturday. Shelby Allen will be our boots on the ground, so keep it locked on EN for all the latest!

Chattahoochee Hills International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

By the Numbers: Great Meadow 4*-S

It’s been a crazy five months since our last By the Numbers, which shockingly enough was for the opening 4*-S of the North American season. Shortly after that, everything shut down tight and while we’ve had the odd Advanced run here and there, this weekend marks the first 4*-S in North America since Red Hills. It’s been a wild ride, folks, but we’re tentatively back in business … for now.

Great Meadow is now entering its sixth year, long enough to have hammered out the nitty gritty and really focus on bringing a premier event to the East Coast. This year will mark the second time David O’Connor comes forward as the cross country course designer after putting a strong mark on the course last year. Chris Barnard will also be marking his second year doing the show jumping, and as a perennial favorite for eastern venues, many pairs will be familiar with his courses. Show jumping will be held prior to cross country.

Photo courtesy of Great Meadow.

Of the five previous winners at this venue, three were in the lead following dressage. Interestingly enough, the other two winners were both in sixth place after the first phase. Four of the five winners jumped a clear round, and the fifth horse made up for it by finishing as the fastest time of the day on cross country.

Will Coleman and Off the Record are the only previously winning pair in the 4*-S field this week (they won in 2018), but Jennie Brannigan, who won the event twice on Cambalda, brings forth four competitive horses.

DRESSAGE

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

It’s hard to argue against looking to Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous to lead the way after the first phase. They own the best 4* average in the field and have broken the 75% mark in their last five consecutive A/4/5* outings. This pair has broken 80% in two of their last three A/4* starts. Are they beatable? Yes, especially with some of the other dressage powerhouses in the field. But they’ll need to have a bad day while someone else has a good one.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and her stalwart Fernhill By Night who could step up to the plate and have a very good day. This pair is fairly well-known for their consistency in the first phase, with a whopping 68% of their 45 career A/4* tests breaking the 70% mark. Breaking the 75% mark has come on fewer occasions, with six sub-25 scores on their long record, and one of those is sub-20. It’s impossible not to think these two will be giving strong challenge to the lightly competed RF Scandalous.

Meanwhile we can’t forget the indomitable Kim Severson and her partner Cooley Cross Border, who is back in business after a hiatus. It’s been a hot second, but last time we were watching them strut their stuff, they’d broken the 70% mark in eight consecutive A/4* starts. That includes a flirtation with the teens in early 2018, laying down a 20.8 at Carolina for a then-NA record at the 4* level. Guess who broke that record a few months later? (Yes, it was RF Scandalous.)

Quite honestly this field has been so condensed thanks to the cancellation of just about everything else that it’s impossible to talk about every horse who has a chance for a top five slot after the dressage phase. Liz Halliday-Sharp is full of ammunition with her experienced ride Deniro Z who fired off a quick 23.6 in the Advanced at Stable View two months ago and also brings forth the precocious Flash Cooley who has already broken 70% in just two starts.

You can’t leave Buck Davidson out of the conversation with either Carlevo or Copper Beach. Carlevo has been more on fire than his stablemate, breaking 70% in all but two of his sixteen A/4* starts since 2018. Copper Beach can occasionally catch fire and lay down a test in the vicinity of 73-75% but is equally likely to just miss the 70% mark.

Harbour Pilot and Hannah Sue Burnett regularly lead the field after day one when this pair is on a roll, and while they haven’t competed this year, a 26.9 in their last top level start at Burghley last fall might indicate all cylinders are firing. Another fan-favorite pair is Colleen Rutledge and her own Covert Rights, who can regularly eclipse the 70% mark during one of their hot streaks and who on their very best day clocked in a 22.2 on a hot August day in Michigan back in 2017. Meanwhile Phillip Dutton and Lauren Nicholson have brought Z and Vermiculus out to play, both of whom can be right up with the top players on a particularly good day.

The biggest wild card factor would be the time slots, with Fernhill By Night, Copper Beach, and Harbour Pilot all slotted into the first session on Thursday morning with RF Scandalous and Covert Rights going back to back in the second Thursday morning session. Cooley Cross Border and Vermiculus have more neutral Friday morning slots while Z and Carlevo sneak into early afternoon sessions. Deniro Z might end up with the edge as the very last ride of the day on Friday.

On Thursday, the only way to follow the actions is through live scoring but make sure to tune in Friday to the live stream to catch at least a few of the top rides.

SHOW JUMPING

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Shelby Allen.

If you’re looking for a huge shake-up on show jumping day, keep looking. Most aforementioned horses happen to be pretty good jumpers as well. It’s unlikely we’ll see too many changes from the top five, with RF Scandalous, Carlevo, Fernhill By Night, Cooley Cross Border, and Deniro Z are all more likely to jump a clear round than not. Of these horses, Liz’s pair are the two most likely of the bunch to take a rail, but even so they both have a clear rate of at least 75% over the last two years at this level.

Slightly further down the leaderboard is where things could get more interesting. Harbour Pilot hasn’t jumped a clean round at the A/4*S level since 2017, and while his last two outings produced only one rail, he has had three rails in three of his last seven outings overall. Covert Rights did jump a clear round at this venue last time but overall struggles to leave all the sticks up in this phase. The adorable Vermiculus has had two rails down in each of his three outings at this level in 2019 and 2020. These three horses will likely drop in the rankings after incurring penalties in this phase.

Meanwhile pairs who had been sitting just outside the top 10 like Phillip Dutton and ZEmily Beshear and Olney Uncle Sam, and Liz Halliday-Sharp with yet another mount Cooley Quicksilver will capitalize on strong jumping phases to inch up the leaderboard into the top 10.

Another set of horses to watch will be Will Coleman and Off the RecordErin Kanara (nee Sylvester) and Paddy the CaddyPhillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore, and Will Faudree and Pfun. These pairs are all tend to score solidly in the low 30s on day one, which in a field this deep will be enough to push them down further than they’d normally be. But all of these horses have extremely solid jumping records paired with a strong turn-of-foot for the final day.

Others that might crop up but stay just outside the top 10 could include Hannah Sue Burnett on her other ride Lukeswell, and Jennie Brannigan on Stella Artois.

CROSS COUNTRY

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shelby Allen.

On Sunday, we should finally see a little movement amongst the top five. One weakness for Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous is the mare’s pace across the country; this horse has never made the time or been fastest across the country. An average pace that is just over 18 seconds slower than the fastest would open the door for another pair to snatch a victory.

Fernhill By Night may not seem like the fastest horse just by looking at him, but Liz Halliday-Sharp is pretty forthcoming about her intent to compete him only when and where he can win. That means their pace has sharpened up since 2019, finishing an average of 8.33 seconds over optimum or of the fastest pace of the day if optimum wasn’t achieved. A pace like that could enable these two to give the leaders a serious run for their money.

Cooley Cross Border is making his first start at the level since 2018, so while he and Kim Severson could match their previous pace and maintain a possible top three placing, it’s more likely we will see them take their time today and drop down a few places.

Carlevo and Deniro Z are both horses who could slip down the leaderboard a bit if they stick to their average pace, leaving an opening to compete for a top five spot. Phillip Dutton and Z and Emily Beshear and Olney Uncle Sam are two pairs who will take advantage of that opening.

Meanwhile, a horse who could benefit immensely from a fast pace is previous GM winner Off the Record, who will be steadily climbing the leaderboard all weekend with Will Coleman and should sneak into the top 10 even if time proves doable. If the time proves tough to make, look for this pair to contest for a top rank.

Will Faudree with Pfun and Tim Bourke with Quality Time will both be making advances up the leaderboard based on their horses’ show jumping skills and cross country speed, but unless they have a particularly good day in dressage or the time on cross country is particularly difficult to make (or both), they’ll end up sitting just outside the top 10 looking in.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It’ll be a nail-biter but in the end the time penalties on cross country will neutralize any day one advantage and Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night will do what they set out to do: win.

FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUNDS

Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It’s easy to look for perennial speedsters like Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights or Will Coleman and Off the Record for this superlative, but actually Whitney Mahloch and her Thoroughbred Military Mind are most likely to set the pace for the day, so long as they clock in a clear round. In nine clear starts at this level, this pair has put in the fastest time at seven of them, which is quite mind-boggling compared to the record of most others.

NOTABLE NEWBIES

Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Abby Powell.

There are a pair of newbies to keep your eye on this weekend. Will Faudree is bringing out the delightfully-named Mama’s Magic Way for the horse’s second start after moving up to the Advanced level at Pine Top this winter. This pair put in a 29.8 on the flat, jumped a clear show jumping round, and finished only 11 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day on cross country. Meanwhile, Phillip Dutton spent the spring helping out his buddy Boyd Martin, who had just moved Luke 140 up to Advanced at Pine Top. Phillip improved on Boyd’s finish at Pine Top by only half a point, but it was enough to take home the win at the Advanced at Horse Park of New Jersey in June.

EXTENDING CLEAR JUMPING STREAKS

Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy. Photo by Abby Powell.

Erin Kanara (nee Sylvester) seems like she can do no wrong in the show jumping phase with her experienced Thoroughbred Paddy the Caddy. These two haven’t had a rail since the fall of 2018, including jumping clear at two 4*-L and one 5*L. That’s seven consecutive clears at A/4/5* level, something few can duplicate.

Coming close to duplicating though is Kate Brown and the gray Victor Z, who have a perfect show jumping round thus far at the A/4* level. Although they haven’t yet put a long format round on their record, they’ve jumped clear (with no time penalties!) in all seven of their A/4* starts.

BIGGEST MOVER

Ema Klugman and Bendigo. Photo by Valerie Durbon Photography.

Ema Klugman and Bendigo won’t catch your eye on the leaderboard after day one, but will likely garner a second look after very strong show jumping. While they can vary from a fast pace to a slower one, even a solid round would bump them from near the bottom on day one up to solidly inside the top half of the field by the final day.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • The biggest news of the day is that Blackfoot Mystery will be returning to the 4* level for the first time since competing here in his final prep for the 2016 Olympics at Rio. Also interesting is that Phillip Dutton will be in the irons instead of Boyd Martin, which means you should keep an eye out for this pair to spoil everything.
  • Previous double 4* winner here at GMI (2015 and 2017) Cambalda is also competing … in the CCI2*-S. He’s currently paired up with rider Maddie McElduff, so keep an eye out if he can become the first horse to win three times at this venue.
  • Lynn Symansky is bringing out Pan American team horse RF Cool Play to dabble in the CCI3*-S.

Dressage starts today and you’ll be able to catch all the action starting tomorrow on the live stream. Unfortunately the live stream will not cover the pairs who go today, but keep an eye on EN as we bring you all the action!

Great Meadow International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores, Live Stream (Starting Friday)

A Season of Change: Could COVID-19 Help Build a Better North American Eventing Calendar?

It has been less than a week since the eventing seasons of riders came to a screeching halt, and we have no true idea of how long this social distancing will last. Between the fact that many of us are goal-driven and all of us are bored, I know that I am not alone in already wondering what the season might look like once normal times return.

Let’s face it; the schedule of 2020 as we knew and planned for is going to change significantly. There’s so much we don’t know, and won’t know for weeks, about how much impact this will be to events and riders all over the world.

However, for fun, let’s pretend that at least in North America, we see things return to business as usual, as much as it can be, by the end of May. Lots of the events have already cancelled outright but other events have stated their desire to postpone, perhaps seek another date later in the season with the approval of USEF and FEI.

What if that happens?

There are undoubtedly challenges that will occur; the footing can be touch and go depending on if we have a monsoon summer or a drought summer. Lots of summer dates are already held by smaller venues and organizers, who might not be best pleased to find a full-blown destination event dropping right on their weekend. And realistically, this is a purely hypothetical exercise.

Ultimately, it may be more realistic to see the events who end up running adding the divisions they are capable of running; Bromont could add a 4*-S to their June event and a 4*-L to their August event and both would likely be well attended. HP of NJ has two different HT dates…might we see them add their Jersey Fresh divisions to one of them? Stable View and Chatt Hills both have summer dates as well, and adding FEI divisions to them isn’t a huge stretch of the imagination.

Essex once ran 3*-L divisions, back in the ’90s? Could events and riders help them do one this year? Area I was the place to be for Olympic-bound riders in the summer back in the day; could any of their legendary venues function again, at least for a year?

The system was broken this spring, not by human hands. If we have to rebuild it, why not rebuild it better?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what we can accomplish if we break the rules, become more flexible, more willing to share in the success of the sport, more willing to transform the misfortunes of the spring venues into something long-lasting and better?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see North America’s calendar transform into something that more resembles that of Western Europe?

This is the shape of Western Europe’s 4/5* calendar, not including Advanced divisions:

This is the shape of the calendar for the eastern portion of the U.S. for the same year, which would have comparable driving distances to competitions. It does include Advanced runs.

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As you can see, the North American calendar is divided into two distinctly different seasons, with a significant break from competitions in the summer, while the Western Europe model has more of a rolling competition schedule that starts later and provides more opportunities for riders to target the CCI-L events at the best timing for their horses.

Our season basically forces any who want to try for a spring CCI-L to spend the winter in the south. While that is sometimes a blessing (Polar Vortex of 2014, I’m talking to you), it can also exclude many from the spring season due to finances or time constraints. The talented young rider who is in public school and can’t get out of attendance requirements. The young professionals who can’t afford to leave a barn full of clients for two months without the lesson income. The working amateur who has a full time job that doesn’t offer working remotely.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a winter season, but it would be nice to see a system like the Europeans, that allows you to put your horse on the shelf all winter if you need or want to and not be excluded from every fun destination event. Something more inclusive, even if smaller divisions are offered, to recognize that finances and trailering time are both huge barriers to success at the upper levels for varying demographics.

Could the postponement and changes from COVID result in seeing a 2020 NA calendar that ultimately brings us closer to the Europeans? You cannot discount the challenges of rescheduling, but the reality is that the dates are there for events to fill the gap in the middle of the summer, climate depending.

Will we see a resurgence in the more compact calendar schedule? If we do, will it last beyond this year?

Or will we rebuild exactly the same as before, satisfied with our two-season system? Or will we rebuild it better?

Wednesday News & Notes

Funny thing happened to me last month, Greta and I drove 960 miles one way to South Carolina for the weekend to event…

Posted by Tedd Goth on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

It can be difficult, even heartbreaking, to drive a long distance to compete and have to withdraw before the really good stuff. That said, it should be carefully considered as a responsibility not only to our horse but to ourselves. If it’s not right, it’s not right.

National Holiday: Ash Wednesday

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Ocala Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Copper Meadows H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]

Pine Top Spring H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

MeadowCreek Park H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

It’s incredible to think that one of the earliest YEH classes has now hit the age of 20. The ’05 edition of YEH five year olds featured Ballylaffin Bracken, who would go on to compete at many 5* events, along with several future Intermediate horses. [Horse Heroes]

Our sport of eventing will be on the silver screen soon as Hope’s Legacy comes to theaters. Partially filmed at Full Moon Farm in Maryland, Hope’s Legacy is a sequel to A Christmas Ranch, and follows the main character on her forays into eventing. [Eventing to the Silver Screen]

Several five-star horses were spotted knocking the winter dust off in the Open Intermediate sections at Great Britain’s Oasby Horse Trials last Friday, March 6. Among them: Last year’s Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, as well as Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, who has won Kentucky twice and was a team silver medallist at last year’s European Championships. [A Badminton winner, a world champion and two more medallists: 11 top horses enjoying a run at Oasby]

Wednesday Social Media:

There's nothing your secretary appreciates more than an entry sent in early!Loudoun Hunt Pony ClubMorven Park…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Featured Video: It’s fun to follow “EN’s Got Talent” alumni as they make their way in the world! Bossinova, a Hanoverian gelding (Bonifatius X Dawina, by Der Lord) bred in Scotland and imported by Andrew McConnon, is one that caught our eye back in 2018. Andrew competed “Hugo” very successfully through the two-star and Intermediate levels, winning at Carolina International in 2019 and placing second at Hagyard Midsouth in 2018. Now the horse is continuing his winning ways with 15-year-old Bruce Hill, who acquired the horse last year. Most recently, they won the JR/YR Preliminary division at Twin Rivers Winter H.T. last weekend on their dressage score of 28.5.

By the Numbers: Red Hills CCI4*-S

The stage is set for Red Hills! Photo by Shems Hamilton/Red Hills.

Red Hills marks the official 4* start to the North American calendar every year, featuring a star-studded line-up and a notoriously tight cross-country track. 2020 marks the fifth year that the course will be designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who has surely but slowly put his stamp on the course. East coast favorite Chris Barnard designs the show jumping, which will return this year to the final phase for both the Advanced and CCI4*-S divisions.

The general rule at this event is that time is king at Red Hills, and it is true that getting close to the time here will make or break your chances. However, the dressage has historically played a huge part as well; every winner save one of both the Advanced and CCI4*-S divisions since 2015 have been in the top two after dressage. Only Lauren Kieffer and Veronica have bucked this trend … they were third after dressage in the 2016 Advanced before taking the win.

Despite that, this year may be the year the streak is broken; the top contenders are all tightly clustered together and much will ultimately depend on how difficult the time actually is to make.

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

DRESSAGE

Look for Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti to lead the way after dressage. This pair is the only pair in the field to clock in an expected score over 70%. They’ve scored over 70% in seven of eight outings at this level over the last two years and while they don’t tend to flirt with the low twenties, they do have an extremely consistent record between 27 and 30 penalties.

QC Diamantaire moved up to the level in 2018 and really started showing promise on the flat last year under rider Sydney Elliott. Although he lacks consistency in scoring range, he broke the 70% mark twice in 2019 and kept his average for the year at a promising 31.3 penalties.

Jessica Phoenix will be back in the top five with Bentley’s Best as well, a horse who has an extensive A/4* career but was focused on Pan Am selection last year. This pair shows strong consistency, scoring between 29.3 and 33.8 in two thirds of their career starts at the level.

A full 35% of the field could put in expected scores over 65%, but spectators should make time to watch the flashy Hallie Coon and Celien and the reliable Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CROSS COUNTRY

Despite leading dressage, Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti are fairly likely to accumulate a moderate number of time penalties, enough to drop them out of the top five. Another pair likely to drop from the top five down a few places is Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes, who are more likely to put in a steadier round.

Meanwhile, two pairs that are likely to score well inside the top 10 on the flat will be propelled to the top two positions. Both Hallie Coon with Celien and Sharon White with Cooley On Show will be hot on the heels of the leaders after day one with scores expected of less than 34 penalties each. These two pairs won’t have the fastest runs of the day but a minimum of time penalties combined with solid day one scores will put them into a head to head battle for first on the final day.

Meanwhile, Sydney Conley-Elliott and QC Diamantaire has the ability to maintain a top placing; last year this pair picked up the pace in their last two outings, finishing within 15 seconds of optimum at Stable View 4*-S and Fair Hill 4*-L. This was the first time this young horse had been asked for speed, and he rose to the occasion nicely.

With dressage averages at sub-35, look for Brandon McMechan with Oscar’s Wild and Leslie Law with Voltaire de Tre on cross-country day to rocket up the ranks to inside the top five. Pairs like Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack and Charlotte Collier with Clifford M will use their pace to creep up into the top ten as well after being mid-pack after the flat.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Jenni Autry.

SHOW JUMPING

Some of the better jumpers will be able to make some progress on the final day, with about 20% of the field expected to jump clear. Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack should make their way up into the top ten with a clear round; this horse hasn’t had a single rail in nine rounds at the A/4*-S level.

Both Hallie Coon with Celien and Sharon White with Cooley On Show will continue to duke it out for the top spot; less than a rail will likely separate this pair after cross-country. These two are almost evenly matched in this phase, with Cooley On Show jumping clear in 69% of his rounds at this level while Celien jumped clear in four of her six outings at this level last year.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

It’s a bit of a coin toss between the top two pairs but ultimately I think the dust will settle with Sharon White and Cooley On Show taking home the win. While both good jumpers, Celien has consistently pulled a rail when cross-country is the last phase, including both of her rails in 2019. A clear round will clinch the top spot for fan favorite Cooley On Show.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini have the best speed rating in the field, finishing as either the fastest time of the day or within fifteen seconds of optimum in each of their last four outings at this level. If anyone makes the time this weekend, it will be them.

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini (BRA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Keep an eye out for Maya Black and Miks Master C, who finished fifth at Pine Top in the horse’s first Advanced start last month. Matching their scores across the board there consistently put them inside the top ten in my calculations. While it’s difficult to compare the two venues off one run, their dressage score of over 65%, cross-country pace that would put them in single digit penalties, and clear round in the stadium would propel them to a solid finish.

Maya Black and Miks Master C. Photo by Abby Powell.

EXTENDING CLEAR JUMPING STREAKS

Only two horses in the field have never had a rail in their A/4*-S career, aside from the newcomer Miks Master C. Islandwood Captain Jack, ridden by Caroline Martin, has jumped clear in five A/4*-S starts and added another three clears in three 4*-L starts. Sydney Solomon and Early Review CBF have jumped clear in their four A/4*-S starts.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Jenni Autry.

BIGGEST MOVER

Sydney Solomon and Early Review CBF won’t catch your eye on the leaderboard after day one, but a solid record across the country and their excellent stadium record should help catapult them to a spot inside the top half of the field by Sunday.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Hannah Sue Burnett is making her comeback one step at a time after injuring her pelvis in the fall. She and the 2017 Red Hills CCI4*-S winner Harbour Pilot will be testing the waters in the CCI3*-S division.
  • Marilyn Little will bring RF Scandalous forward to contest the Advanced, likely looking for a solid cross country round to re-establish confidence and communication after a few hiccups in their win at the Wellington Eventing Showcase.
  • Will Coleman has been quietly bringing back the talented Off the Record after his 3rd place finish at Tattersalls CCI4*-L last May and will also be contesting the Advanced division with him this weekend.
  • The winner of last year’s CCI3*-L in Ocala, Flash Cooley, will be making his first Advanced start under Liz Halliday-Sharp.
  • Lauren Nicholson (nee Kieffer) has her trio of 5* horses competing; Landmark’s Monte Carlo and Vermiculus will contest the 3*-S while Paramount Importance competes in the Intermediate.
  • Kurt Martin‘s ride Delux Z will be competing in the Intermediate after taking 2019 off from competition.

Dressage takes place on Friday. Shelby Allen will be EN’s boots on the ground, bringing us all the action!

Red Hills International: WebsiteEntry Status, Ride TimesLive Scores

A Plea For Transparency

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Villers-Amatt, Melanie Tallent, Ashley Stout, Katharine Morel, Philippa Humphreys, Jeffie Chapin.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel. She was based in western Canada. I live in the eastern United States. She wintered in Florida while my horse is based out of Aiken. Our paths were unlikely to cross anytime soon.

And now they never will.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel but demographically, I am Katharine Morel.

Katharine Morel was 33 when she died yesterday.

She was born almost exactly a month earlier than I was. Katharine Morel just moved her Thoroughbred up to Intermediate this season. I’m moving my horse up to Intermediate later this year if things go to plan.

I am also Jeffie Chapin, who died at the age of 32 last summer warming up for her Prelim cross country round. I am Philippa Humphreys, who died at age 33 at Jersey Fresh in 2016.

I am all of these women.

I didn’t know Ashley Stout but I have known many young women like her, talented and precocious beyond their years and aiming for the stars. I didn’t know Melanie Tallent or Nicole Villers-Amatt but I know many women like both of them, competent riders for the levels they are at, trying to juggle life and riding.

I know all of these women. I have been or will be all of these women.

And I am terrified.

It is not the riding itself that scares me. I will continue to head out on cross country with a clear mind and full heart. My biggest fear as I head out of the start box is that of failure, of a stop at most. I am nervous, not scared, and I don’t believe that this death will change that feeling anymore than any of the previous deaths have, not at the actual moment of competition.

In the days and weeks between the events, I am terrified. I don’t know why these women have died. Tragic accident is the official story, and so often is all the information that we as the public receive. But every accident occurs due to the decisions leading up to it. Short term decisions, like choice of pace and balance, medium term decisions like choice of level or year-long goals, and long term decisions like horse suitability and choice of trainer. Every decision leading back, not just by the rider, but also by those surrounding them, is a potential factor leading up to the fatal moment.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel, or Jeffie Chapin, or Philippa Humphreys and more importantly, I don’t know why they died.

I’m not asking out of morbid curiosity. I don’t want to know the details of the fall itself, I don’t need the medical records or rotation angles. I’m asking for a dispassionate, non-judgmental safety investigation with a publicly released report. I’m asking for trained safety experts to investigate and for recommendations for improving safety in the sport. I’m asking for dispassionate conclusions, more nuanced than ‘sometimes riders miss’. I want trained investigators to talk to family, friends, and trainers about decisions that were made, where the rider’s mind was at, what her plan was for the cross-country round. I want top level riders and trainers to look at any video, not just of the accident but also any available from previous shows, and provide dispassionate critique on factors leading to the fall. I want these reports regardless of whether the fatality occurred in competition or at home, training for the sport.

I’m asking because I want to make sure that the decisions I am making now are not leading to a fatal moment.

I don’t want to judge anyone involved. But I don’t want to be told it’s none of my business, or that it is disrespectful to circulate this information. I’m not blaming anyone. It was an accident. But something or multiple things went wrong.

I need to know what they were.

We have lost five women in in eight months in cross-country related accidents in North America alone. I don’t know anything about their accidents except that they died at ‘fence 8’ or ‘in warmup’. I don’t know if investigations were done in any of them. If they were, nothing has ever been released.

In 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr. died publicly and tragically on the last lap of the Dayton 500. Although 27 others had died in NASCAR races over the prior fifty years, Earnhardt’s death became a catalyst for change due to the publicity it received. Both police and NASCAR undertook safety investigations, which were released to the public in full. NASCAR underwent a serious safety overhaul, both in terms of equipment and policy.

No one has died in NASCAR racing since.

USEF, USEA, can you hear us? Are you investigating? Are you looking into these deaths behind closed doors? Is our sport learning anything from these deaths? And if we are, will you please let us also learn?

I know nothing about what led to the deaths of these women. I cannot learn from their tragedies and cannot take measures to ensure that I do not share their fate for the same reasons. I do not know if there is a common thread or if each died due to different factors.

I might be making the same mistakes. I might die because of them.

Please let me learn, so that I might not become one of these women.

Wednesday News & Notes

That feeling when you find out you have the honor and the opportunity to do the test ride Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Never been more pumped to do dressage in my life!#roguewonsyndicate

Posted by Meg Kep on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event entries opened yesterday, Meg Kep is officially doing the 5* test ride, and brand new this year, EEI is hosting an Advanced CT alongside of the 5* to give our U.S. based horses another opportunity to get in the electric atmosphere of the Rolex Stadium. Are we pumped or are we pumped?

National Holiday: Ash Wednesday

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Twin River Winter H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]

Rocking Horse III H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Chattahoochee Hills H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Sporting Days Farm March H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Despite being a notoriously difficult horse to stay on, Jimmie Schramm fell in love with the quirky Bellamy. After traveling all over the country and competing at the top of the sport, Jimmie was lucky enough to be able to transition Bellamy down to the lower levels. He spent a year competing under our very own Eventing Nation alumni Jenni Autry before fully retiring. [Horse Heroes]

Bids have opened for the 2021/22 NAJYC eventing venues. Rebecca Farm has been a legendary host for the last three years and will host again in 2020, but bids have officially opened to see where it moves to next. [NAYC Venues Bids Open]

Cooley On Show has been part of Sharon White’s barn for a good while now. Despite having a laid-back, ‘quarterback’ type personality, Cooley On Show has an emotionless killer side that pops out when his space is invaded. [Behind the Stall Door]

Wednesday Social Media:

It's time to send in your entries!Fair Hill InternationalThe Maryland Horse Trials @ Loch Moy FarmTwin Rivers Ranch,…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Wednesday News & Notes

Madison ❤️

Posted by Mclain Ward on Monday, February 17, 2020

Maybe not a future eventer here but I’m thinking this little girl might have stars and stripes in her future with McClain Ward as a papa. Apparently the equestrians know how to time their babies….just before the spring season of an Olympic year!

National Holiday: National Puzzle Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Farm Adanced H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Full Gallop February II [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Tim Bourke is one of those riders who is mesmerizing to watch across the country. No matter the horse, he makes it look effortless and without looking fast he clocks in the fastest ride of the day. He’s teamed up with the USEA to offer his tips for introducing young horses to cross country. [Top 10 Tips]

The Irish are everywhere while their season hasn’t yet started up. Padraig McCarthy, reigning WEG individual and team silver medalist, was over here on U.S. soil recently giving a clinic in South Carolina. Check out this clinic report from Athena Demas. [Know Your Track and Canter]

Apparently authoritarian leaders have a penchant for photoshoots on horseback. Vladimir Putin of Russia may have posed shirtless on a horse, but Kim Jong Un has his own affinity for equines. This last autumn, he imported 12 ‘purebred’ horses (all greys) for the cost of $75k into North Korea, so he could go on a snowy ride with his entourage. [North Korea Imports Horses From Russia]

Wednesday Social Media:

Make things easy for your secretary by sending your entries in early!The Fork Farm and Stables at Tryon International…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Wednesday News & Notes

When you rush out after work to ride the world's best 4yr old & realize you forgot some important pieces of equipment….

Posted by BadEventer on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

I live in perpetual fear of forgetting something I need for the barn….like pants. Luckily the most I’ve forgotten was a proper polo shirt thus far. Improvisation is not my strongest trait sometimes.

National Holiday: National Puzzle Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Galway Downs Winter H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Sporting Days Farm H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Three Lakes H.T. at Caudle Ranch [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

A heavy topic at the FEI Eventing Risk Management Seminar was rider responsibility. So often, riders have confused the MER requirements with competency. If riders cannot as a whole begin to ride and enter events more responsibly, it may be time for national federations or even the FEI to step in. [Don’t Wait on the FEI]

German team rider Andreas Dibowski will be the headline clinician for the USEA Educational Symposium. Maren Engelhardt, and Marilyn Payne will join him for the YEH seminar while Susan Graham White and Robin Walker will lead the FEH seminar. [USEA Educational Symposium Schedule]

EN’s sister site, Jumper Nation, is on the hunt for a new part-time editor. We are going to miss Meagan DeLisle, who has taken a position with Phelps Media — best of luck, Meagan! The ideal candidate has excellent writing/editing skills and is plugged in to the hunter/jumper community. Email us at [email protected]. [Jumper Nation]

Wednesday Social Media:

Get those entries in early – your secretary will thank you for it!Florida Horse ParkPine Top EventingMeadowCreek ParkCopper Meadows EventingRocking Horse StablesParadise FarmFresno County Horse Park

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Wednesday News & Notes

@olivia.quill and I are in Wellington today at Kulak Equestrian with Equinew and Dr Sheila Schils for an FES Advanced…

Posted by Will Coleman Equestrian on Monday, January 20, 2020

I discovered FES last year by vet recommendation and had my horse start on it in September. By November, I couldn’t believe the different in my horse….he filled out and grew a top line, had no problem tucking his hind end and pushing on the flat and no longer curled behind the bit. I couldn’t quite translate the work we had at home to a show thanks to a bit of an attention deficit on my horse’s part but I have every confidence that the FES was a huge part in the improvement in quality of work.

National Holiday: National Blonde Brownie Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse Winter I H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Full Gallop Farm H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Thoroughbred fans will mourn the loss of one of the most prominent modern day sires. Empire Maker has sadly passed away at the age of 20, due to complications from disease. This horse lives on as a prominent sire of sires, having been the tail male grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. [Empire Maker Dies at 20]

Kentucky tickets are on sale, Badminton tickets are on sale… Unsurprisingly you can save a small chunk of change if you buy tickets early, including car parking. If you want stadium seats for either event, you must buy early! [The Ultimate Guide to Badminton Tickets]

I’m making an effort to tell my story so that others might not feel alone. It’s easy to think everything is fine, but you might be surprised what a mental health check-up might reveal. You might find some benefits of finding an issue early. [A Little Help Goes a Long Way]

Wednesday Social Media:

Your secretary will smile because you sent your entries in early!Carolina Horse ParkRed Hills Horse TrialsFull Gallop FarmFlorida Horse ParkPine Top Eventing

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Little Help Goes a Long Way

Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

We’ve heard a lot about mental health lately and in light of a couple of people I greatly admire going public with their story, I felt I could do no less.

My story doesn’t have a lot of angst or long-term mental struggles. I’m not a horse professional who has to constantly worry about making ends meet, managing the ups and downs of running my own business, walking the fine line with owners, or living and dying by the success of my horses.

I’ve got my own burdens of course, but I specifically chose to take the amateur path to avoid the aforementioned pressures, and thus far have been happy with my choice. I’ve been well aware that burdens like these could lead to a lot of heartache and questioning and mental wear and tear. I’ve admired people who have chosen to tackle these hardships head on and have always thought that those who sought help with their mental burden were smart, not weak.

I never realized that I too might benefit by seeking help.

Up until 2019, I felt like a pretty optimistic person and certainly didn’t consider myself a candidate for depression, or anxiety, or anything of that nature. I had a bit of a short temper and low threshold for frustration and thought it might be a problem eventually, but I thought I just needed to learn some self control.

Overall my life was going pretty well; happily married to a wonderful man, both of us had good jobs and I really liked my employer. My young horse was finally starting to roll through the levels, my older horse was thoroughly happy being retired in a field for the time being and really things were pretty peachy. I had no reason to suspect that I might benefit from any kind of mental therapy.

Then last winter turned into a pressure cooker. In December of 2018, I signed up for the biggest professional exam of my life, an eight-hour test held in April that I’d need to fly to my home state for. It was a big deal and I knew I’d have to put some serious studying in over the winter.

Just before Christmas, I took a look at my workload projections and realized I had been put on a few too many projects at once. Even though I could see the train wreck coming, I couldn’t change it. By February I was hip deep in every project and couldn’t extract myself. My employers threw as much help at me as they could, enough to get the projects done, but I was putting in a lot of overtime. I’d go home late every night and force myself to study while the weekends were entirely spent trying to catch up on what I’d fallen behind on that week, either studying or work. I knew the help I had been given was struggling and needed more supervision and support but I couldn’t give it, which was leading to multiple mistakes going out for submission. I felt like a failure at work and a failure at studying.

It was a lot, and suddenly my frustration was on display every day instead of just once in a while. I tried to hold it in, which just put me more on edge and I ended up totally overwhelmed and fighting back tears on a daily basis.

Meanwhile the deadlines loomed, both for work and the test. I was three weeks out to the exam, multi-tasking like crazy, and feeling like I didn’t have anything under control. My back somehow got tweaked and every morning I woke up the pain was worse. But I couldn’t stop to go to the doctor, I had too much on my plate.

Then my retired horse, who took me through Advanced and was my horse of a lifetime, picked up something neurological. It took only 10 days but despite veterinary intervention, I had to euthanize him. At noon on a Wednesday, I stood in the breakroom at work, crying brokenly into the phone as I made the call. I was three states away and I’d never see him again.

I went home sick that afternoon and did nothing. I sat on the couch and cried on and off. I didn’t make an effort to study or work. I just did nothing.

I was 10 days away from my exam. I’d invested an incredible amount of time and money into taking and passing this exam. I couldn’t pull out … I couldn’t get distracted. I knew I’d need some help to get through it.

In the end, an anti-anxiety medication was the solution. I no longer felt that agonizing grief wrapping around my spine, sitting hard in my gut. I still cried if I let myself think about my horse but I could easily direct my thoughts elsewhere.

And surprisingly, my temper and frustration vanished.

I got through my test and through my back pain. My younger horse came back from Aiken which helped me cope with my grief. My deadlines passed which eased my workload. Things returned to normal, and yet I stayed on the medication because I felt a huge difference.

I didn’t have a short fuse … I had anxiety, which manifested itself in a rising temper. Suddenly I was able to shrug when things unexpectedly came up at work and look for ways to mitigate the damage instead of just angrily saying it couldn’t be done. Suddenly I was able to just ask my trainer what to try next when something I was doing wasn’t working, instead of being frustrated at an animal who was doing his best to understand how I wanted him to respond to my cues.

It’s been almost a year since I started receiving some chemical aid. My brain needed to be re-wired and a new pathway had to be formed. For the first six months, I noticed a big difference the next day if I forgot to take my prescription at night. Recently, I have noticed that at work I don’t have the same gut check reaction of anger if something unexpected happens, even if I have forgotten to take my prescription. I suspect the pathways are starting to reform.

I’ve been surprised at how others have reacted when I shared my news. I’ve been pretty forthcoming about it with people close to me. A few people, usually older, have reacted tentatively, making me think they don’t entirely understand or approve. However, most have simply responded like it makes sense to them. Several have actually shared their own story of how they have received some help too.

I don’t see shame in the fact that a little chemical help made a big difference in my health; in my view it’s no different than taking a daily medication to help with heart disease, or diabetes, or any other chronic condition in the human body. I’ve made an effort to be matter of fact and open about receiving help, although I’ll admit that I had a bit of a pause when I thought about writing this, letting myself open for judgement from any stranger.

But being open about it helps reduce the stigma and if I can do my part to help make mental health less of a taboo subject, I will.

As awful as last winter was, I could have just struggled through the rough patch and returned to the previous status quo and that is probably exactly what I would have done had the issue not been forced. If my horse hadn’t passed when he did, 10 days before my exam, I would have tried to cope. And I wouldn’t be as happy today as I am.

Talk about your experiences with your friends, with your family. In all likelihood you’ll hear some stories that surprise you. And we can all reassure each other that we don’t see seeking help to be a weakness, but rather the smart thing to do.

Wednesday News & Notes

Photo by Cecily Brown.

In the winter, I send my horse south. It sucks to not see him every day and sucks to not ride but it’s also nice to have a break. My trainer kindly sends me cute photos and mini-updates and it rather makes me think that this must be what it’s like to send a kid off to summer camp.

National Holiday: National Bagel Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Grand Oaks H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Stable View H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

If you do nothing else today, check out the Chronicle’s feature on mental health. Eventing’s own Matt Brown is heavily featured, revealing the mental road he has traveled down. Other equestrian stars like Steffen Peters chime in as well; mental health is as equally important as anything else we do and there’s no shame in seeking help. [COTH]

Lauren Sprieser is also ready to talk about her own mental health. Being a horse professional is no easy task…well who am I kidding, sometimes just being an adult is no easy task. When the bad things keep coming, it’s ok to seek a little help to keep your head above water. [Winter Isn’t About Pottering Around]

The beloved Pavarotti is featured this week. Known in the barn as Rotti Boy, Pavarotti has a pint-sized best friend, a gray pony mare named CowDog purchased for $40 at a local auction. [Behind the Stall Door]

Wednesday Social Media:

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Eventing Analytics: The Math of Moving Up, West Coast Edition

Last week, I introduced you to the data behind the decision to move up to Advanced. Originally I had planned to condense both coasts into one article but the reality was that the West Coast deserves to be more than just a footnote in this series. Some information will be re-hashed here at the beginning, so if you’re only interested in the meat of the conversation, skip down to where I profile the West Coast shows.

After five years of data collection for North American events, I’m finally seeing enough data to provide a deeper dive into the decision-making process in a sport where safety is paramount. What I ultimately found may or not be of use to you; at the very least, it will leave you informed, one way or another.

What Factors Should I Consider in a Move-Up?

Moving up is often a big question mark for a pair, particularly for riders trying their mettle at a new level. You’ve practiced at home but until you actually are out riding the course, you can’t know for sure that your skill level can handle the competition level. Once you have that first one under your belt, you can have some confidence leaving the start box that if you’ve tackled it once you can tackle it again. But the first time is a bit like jumping out of a plane, hoping that your parachute opens like you’ve practiced on the ground.

To that end, the most important factor in choosing a move-up is picking a course that is safe. Horse falls are obviously the most dangerous scenario, but rider falls should be avoided as well. Riders should first and foremost pick shows where ideally the fall rates of horses and riders are below average.

The second factor riders should look at is Non-Completion Rate. Shows whose Non-Completion Rate are high often equate to high rider and horse fall rates. And of course, the old adage holds true: better always to complete with a number than a letter.

Less important, but still pertinent, is the Refusal Rate, minorly discounted because above all, both rider and horse must come home safely in their first attempt at the level. But of course a clear round is the ultimate goal of the sport, so we take a look at this as well.

Using these four factors, I’ve created what I refer to as the Show Profile (SP). This consists of the following percentages: Horse Fall Rate, Rider Fall Rate, Non-Completion Rate, and Refusal Rate.

It’s also a good idea to see where each show ranks with other shows in the same region for each of the four components of the Show Profile. The following chart shows which percentages are good to look for in each category.

The final thing to look at is the comparison of the Show Profile of all pairs who have started cross-country at the event to the Show Profile of riders who have made their first A/4*-S start at the same event. Additionally helpful is the comparison of the Show Profile of all pairs who have started to the Show Profile of horses who made their first A/4*-S start at the event but under experienced riders. Experienced riders are, in this case, defined as riders who have at least one start at the level on another horse. In the future, this may be broken down further by categories of riders.

Therefore, the SP will be broken down in this column primarily to the following: Overall Show Profile (SP-O) and First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR). First Time Horse/Experienced Rider Show Profile (SP-1xH/ExR) and Second Time Rider (SP-2xR) may also make an appearance when data is insufficient with the first two profiles to make a judgement.

Finally, this column makes no differentiation between an Advanced horse trials and a CCI4*-S competition; the rules allow either to be attempted first, and a CCI4*-S is simply the internationally recognized level of Advanced. Therefore, these levels are considered equitable to one another.

Where Do Others Typically Move Up?

This column will focus primarily on rider move-ups, without taking into account the previous experience of the horse they are mounted on. A future column may be dedicated to addressing move-ups for horses under riders who have previously run Advanced or 4*-S.

From 2015 to 2019, 156 North American-based riders attempted their first Advanced or 4*-S. Of those, 117 riders moved up at East Coast events, while 39 of them made their first attempt at West Coast events. This column addresses each region separately, as ultimately the distance between them is large enough to keep riders generally concentrated in one region or the other.

WEST COAST POPULAR MOVE-UPS

Despite representing only 13.2% of cross-country starts in North America, 25.0% of first-time riders take their first crack at A/4*-S at a West Coast event. This over-representation of first-time riders on the West Coast deserves a further look, but one thing is certain: the West Coast is a popular destination for moving up.

From 2015 to 2019, 90% of the 39 riders chose to move up at one of four events: Aspen Farms, Copper Meadows, Twin Rivers, and Woodside. Each of these venues offers multiple opportunities each year to compete at the top level, except for Aspen Farms. Let’s address each one individually.

ASPEN FARMS

Aspen Farms Horse Trials. Photo by Chesna Klimek.

Aspen Farms, whose Advanced runs only in September of each year, is a prime competition venue for the remotely located Area VII. Perhaps because of the remote location, it is the second most popular move-up on the West Coast despite seeing the second-lowest number of cross-country starters. In fact, 34.4% of their cross-country starters over the last decade have been first-timers, a drastically higher proportion than any other show in North America.

Let’s look at their Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus their First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

Despite the popularity, riders thinking of moving up to the big A should really reconsider trying for it at Aspen based on these numbers. The first alarming number is the Horse Fall rate, which shows that 6.3% of the overall population of starters at Aspen have had a fall. That is the worst Horse Fall Rate in North America, trailed by Bromont (short format) at 3.8%. The overall Horse Fall Rate for North America sits at 1.9%, which means that you are 3.3 times more likely to have a horse fall at Aspen than the North American population. When you narrow it down even further, first-time riders are again 1.5 times more likely to have a horse fall at Aspen than the general population of Aspen competitors.

The Rider Fall Rate at Aspen sees a similar scenario, although perhaps a touch less drastically. Aspen again sees the highest Rider Fall Rate in North America, followed by Woodside at 8.4% and then Carolina at 6.4%. However, a first-time rider is 1.9 times more likely to fall at Aspen than the general competitor. These safety statistics alone should give riders considerable pause when considering a move-up.

The Non-Completion Rate and Refusal Rates also sit in the very high category for first-time competitors. All in all, the course at Aspen should primarily be undertaken by more experienced competitors.

COPPER MEADOWS

Welcome to Copper Meadows. Photo courtesy of Copper Meadows.

Copper Meadows offers Advanced/4*-S divisions at three events throughout the year, giving ample opportunity for West Coast riders to step up. Despite that, only four riders have chosen to use this event as a move-up, despite solid overall numbers for safety.

The following shows the Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus the First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR) for Copper Meadows.

One strong point in Copper Meadows’ favor is the fact that the Overall Horse Fall and Rider Fall Rates do not edge into the moderately or very high ranges. Copper Meadows is one of only two West Coast events to have both safety numbers fall in ranges of average or below, making it a more attractive spot for moving up safely.

Although the Non-Completion Rate for both overall population of Copper Meadows competitors and for first-timers hovers in the moderately high range, this is fairly typical for West Coast events, with only two of the standard venues having rates average or better. The fact that first time riders are actually less likely to have a stop should be encouraging as well.

TWIN RIVERS

Twin Rivers H.T. Photo by Captured Moment Photography.

This event by far has the most cross-country starters on the West Coast, with more than 50 more starts than their nearest competitor in Woodside, who had 95 starters in the last half decade. As such, it has also been the most popular location for move-ups in that time period.

Here’s a review of Twin Rivers’ Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus their First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

Perhaps the most concerning number here is that of the Horse Fall Rate. A first-timer at Twin Rivers is 5.7 times more likely to incur a horse fall than the overall population who competes here. The reward is also a bit elusive, with first-timers 1.4 times more likely to incur a refusal than the overall population, which already hits the moderately high range for refusals when compared to other shows. The bright spot is that Twin River has a low rate of Rider Falls, and no rider attempting their first has fallen here in the last five years.

Based on the Horse Fall numbers, riders should reconsider coming to Twin Rivers for a first crack at Advanced. Additionally, this venue will host a CCI4*-L for the first time this spring, so their courses are liable to be particularly up to standard in order to achieve the 4*-L requirements.

WOODSIDE

Rainbows over the Horse Park at Woodside. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Woodside follows Twin Rivers as the most popular West Coast event, with offerings twice per year. Seven riders have chosen to move up at this event in the last half-decade.

Let’s review the Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus the First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR) for Woodside.

Although the Horse Fall Rate for Woodside is average for a typical Woodside competitor and very low for a first-timer, the Rider Fall Rate holds significant concern. Woodside already holds the second-highest Rider Fall Rate in the country, behind only Aspen Farms and a first-timer is 1.7 times more likely to fall than the typical Woodside competitor. For first-timers who do finish, they are 1.4 times more likely to have a refusal.

The bright side for moving up at Woodside is that the Non-Completion Rate for first-timers at this event is lowest of all of the previous four events, meaning first-timers have a strong chance of completion. Still, the Rider Fall Rate should give first-timers something to consider when determining the best move-up.

Are There Other Places to Move Up?

Of course there are no restrictions as to which event you should enter to make your first try for a level; any Advanced or 4*-S is allowable per the rules. In 2015 to 2020, 10.2% (4 riders total) moved up at West Coast events other than the four mentioned above. However, no venue other than those saw more than one or two first-time riders, which means the data is difficult to read. In order to determine whether or not a venue is potentially a good move-up, I’ve taken addition Show Profiles into account: that of the first-time horse with experienced rider (SP-1xH/ExR) and that of the rider making their second start at Advanced (SP-2xR).

WEST COAST POSSIBILITIES

FRESNO COUNTY HORSE PARK

As early in the year as it is, the Advanced division at Fresno County tends to be sparsely populated. Started in 2016, the Fresno County Horse Park simply hasn’t had a chance to get sufficient data to determine if it is a move-up, and no one has yet used it as a move-up for a first-time Advanced horse or as their second try at the level.

Based on the overall numbers from the general competition population, Fresno may be a good venue for first-timers to have a go. No horses have yet fallen and the Non-Completion Rate is one of only two venues on the West Coast to sit in the moderately low range. The numbers for the two riders who have done this event as a first time indicate that Fresno might be a good possibility for a positive first run, and at minimum there are strong indications that it will be a safe first run.

GALWAY DOWNS

Galway Downs runs twice a year but only offers the A/4*-S divisions in the spring. Held in late March, this is often used as a prep event for Kentucky for those headed there from the West Coast, sometimes used as a move-up events for horses under experienced riders, and almost never utilized a move-up for first-time riders.

However, looking at the show profile it’s clear that while this might be a tough event, with green riders in particular having trouble running clear cross-country, it’s also a safe event. There are no horse or rider falls in the three looked-at categories, and the completion rate appears to be strong for the small population of riders who have tested the waters at Galway Downs. While it might not be the easiest to get a clean round, it should be considered as a good possibility with regards to safety.

Where Should I Move Up?

Only you can take all the factors and make an informed decision. Where will your coach be headed to and when will they have the opportunity to focus on you versus achieving their own goals? Which venues have you previously had success at … and more importantly, which venues have you struggled with? Are you the type who starts the year off sharply or do you need more competition time to get rolling? Do you have a high ability to stick on no matter what, or is the occasional fall a more common result of your mistakes?

Take this information and use it to make an educated decision, keeping safety in the forefront of your mind.

Wednesday News & Notes

Grays for days in Lauren Kieffer’s barn. Photo via Lauren Kieffer Eventing FB page.

I try not to go horse shopping with too many stipulations, but one of them is no grays. Like many people, I love the way they look but I simply don’t have the energy or time to get them clean enough to present in public. And if I don’t want one, I can’t imagine being in Lauren Kieffer’s barn and having to take care of her gaggle of grays!

National Holiday: National Take the Stairs Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Majestic Oaks H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Whether you spell it spell it Beach (FEI) or Beech (USEF), there’s no denying Sean is a star. Buck Davidson’s chestnut stalwart might be the laidback horse in the barn. As a result, Buck didn’t always believe in him but after years together he’s starting to come around. [Behind the Stall Door]

Coral Keen has a novel idea about winter improvement. Usually we try to focus on positive thinking, trying to make our visualizations become reality. Coral wants you to think about the activities that make you feel not so great; imagine the lead change or the left handed corner that makes you squirm. Now work on that this winter. [Winter Isn’t About Pottering Around]

So a horse walks into a bar … no, really. JB, a local hunt horse, got to hang out with a few patrons in a local bar as part of a tradition. He got the part based on his height, after last year’s Shetland pony was determined to be too short. [Festive Bar Tradition]

Wednesday Social Media:

Training Tip Tuesday: 🎉👩🏼‍🏫: ⁣⁣Break it down. Whatever you’re working on, take it down into little bites. For example,…

Posted by Lauren Sprieser on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Eventing Analytics: The Math of Moving Up, East Coast Edition

It’s a new year, and with the advent of the new calendar gazes suddenly turn towards the possibilities of what a new season holds. Pencils are sharpened, horses are clipped, and suddenly the promise of a move-up seems more real than it did two weeks ago.

Where to move up is often a bit of an agonizing decision. Theoretically all events are up to the standard of their level, but let’s face it — there’s always that one event that everyone says is just a bigger version of the lower level. Word of mouth has been the traditional method for sniffing out these ‘move-up’ events, while move-up riders often steer away from so-called ‘stiff for the level’ events.

This year I got curious. A dear friend of mine is looking for the blue flag move-up and suddenly I found my data is useful on a personal level. Almost eight years ago, I made my own move-up to the blue flags, as blind as everyone else. That was two years prior to the inception of my work with Eventing Nation and the beginning of my data collection.

Today, I’m armed with five full years of data collection for North America and I wanted to give her the ability to make informed decisions. I’ve done a deep dive into the concept of moving up to Advanced, both for horses and riders, and found some interesting statistics. What I ultimately found may or not be of use to you; at the very least, it will leave you informed, one way or another.

What Factors Should I Consider in a Move-Up?

Moving up is often a big question mark for a pair, particularly for riders trying their mettle at a new level. You’ve practiced at home but until you actually are out riding the course, you can’t know for sure that your skill level can handle the competition level. Once you have that first one under your belt, you can have some confidence leaving the start box knowing that if you’ve tackled it once you can tackle it again. But the first time is a bit like jumping out of a plane, hoping that your parachute opens like you’ve practiced on the ground.

To that end, the most important factor in choosing a move-up is picking a course that is safe. Horse falls are obviously the most dangerous scenario, but rider falls should be avoided as well. Riders should ideally pick shows where the fall rates of horses and riders are below average.

The second factor riders should look at is the Non-Completion Rate. Shows whose Non-Completion Rate is high often also have high Rider and Horse Fall Rates. And of course, the old adage holds true: better  to complete with a number than a letter.

Less important but still pertinent is the Refusal Rate, minorly discounted because above all, both rider and horse must come home safely in their first attempt at the level. But of course a clear round is the ultimate goal of the sport, so we take a look at this as well.

Using these four factors, I’ve created what I refer to as the Show Profile (SP). This consists of the following percentages: Horse Fall Rate, Rider Fall Rate, Non-Completion Rate, and Refusal Rate.

It’s also a good idea to see where each show ranks with other shows, both overall and in the same region, for each of the four components of the Show Profile. The following chart shows how the percentages of each category fares world-wide.

The final thing to look at is the comparison of the Show Profile of all pairs who have started cross-country at the event to the Show Profile of riders who have made their first A/4*-S start at the same event. Additionally helpful is the comparison of the Show Profile of all pairs who have started to the Show Profile of horses who made their first A/4*-S start at the event but under experienced riders. Experienced riders are, in this case, defined as riders who have at least one start at the level on another horse. In the future, this may be broken down further by categories of riders.

Therefore, the SP will be  broken down in this column primarily to the following: Overall Show Profile (SP-O) and First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR). First Time Horse/Experienced Rider Show Profile (SP-1xH/ExR) and Second Time Rider (SP-2xR) may also make an appearance when data is insufficient with the first two profiles to make a judgement.

Finally, this column makes no differentiation between an Advanced horse trials and a CCI4*-S competition; the rules allow either to be attempted first, and a CCI4*-S is simply the internationally recognized level of Advanced. Therefore, these levels are considered equitable to one another.

Where Do Others Typically Move Up?

This column will focus primarily on rider move-ups, without taking into account the previous experience of the horse they are mounted on. A future column may be dedicated to addressing move-ups for horses under riders who have previously run Advanced or 4*-S.

From 2015 through 2019, 156 North American-based riders attempted their first Advanced or 4*-S. Of those, 117 riders moved up at East Coast events, while 39 of them made their first attempt at West Coast events. This column will address each region separately, as ultimately the distance between them is large enough to keep riders generally concentrated in one region or the other. The East Coast is the focus of today’s column, with West Coast to follow shortly.

EAST COAST POPULAR MOVE-UPS

On the East Coast, 82% of the 117 riders chose to move up at one of seven events: Chattahoochee Hills, Horse Park of New Jersey, Millbrook, Pine Top, Poplar Place, Richland Park, and Rocking Horse. Richland Park is now defunct and Poplar Place has reduced their offerings to Intermediate and below, so are no longer options for moving up. Horse Park of New Jersey took a hiatus from offering an Advanced level in 2019, but appears on the calendar again for 2020 with no obvious schedule conflicts from other events.

So riders are left with five primary options for moving up on the East Coast, comprising what I’ll refer to as the Big Five Move-Ups. Let’s address each one individually.

CHATTAHOOCHEE HILLS

Chattahoochee Hills. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Between the semi-central location in North Georgia and opportunities to run Advanced/4*-S multiple times a year, Chattahoochee Hills has the largest number of total runs sampled in their Overall Show Profile, with 226 pairs making starts at the venue in 2015-2019. This venue has gone from running twice a year to four times a year in the last half decade, making it an attractive option to those who need more flexible timing for their move-up event.

Let’s look at their Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus their First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

As you can see, the risk is considerably higher in each category for a first time rider at Chattahoochee Hills versus the overall show population. A rider making their first attempt at Advanced at this venue is 5 times more likely to incur a horse fall, 2.5 times more likely to incur a rider fall, 2.1 times more likely to not complete the course, and 1.5 times more likely to have a refusal on course. In particular, the horse fall statistic is notable and should be taken seriously. With an already high Non-Completion Rate and Refusal Rate when compared to other East Coast venues, Chattahoochee Hills is best left for challenging the more experienced riders, while first-timers would be safer served turning their eyes elsewhere.

HORSE PARK OF NEW JERSEY

The water complex at the Horse Park of New Jersey, set for Jersey Fresh. Photo by Jenni Autry.

This event, offered once a year in late June and not to be mistaken for Jersey Fresh International, is an extremely popular choice for first-time riders; 23% of all starters here are riders trying the level for the first time. The timing may have something to do with it- held after all of the East Coast 5*/4*-L events are complete, coaches have time to concentrate on their students ready to move up. Meanwhile, riders have had a full spring and possibly even the winter as well to get all cylinders firing before contemplating the blue flags.

Here’s the Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus their First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

The Horse Park of New Jersey actually is a prime move-up target in all areas but one. Only one horse in 69 cross-country starts has fallen, and that horse was not ridden by a first-timer, so the risk of horse falls is much reduced at this event. Not only are the Non-Completion and Refusal Rates low, those of the first-timers is actually even reduced below that of the overall population, a positive oddity in the typical statistical profiles of the the Big Five Move-Ups. This actually moves HP of NJ into the moderately low and very low ranges of three of the four categories. The only caution for riders is that a first-timer is still 2.2 times more likely to have a rider fall than the general population at this show.

MILLBROOK

The Millbrook water complex. Photo by Kate Samuels.

This venue has always been an extremely popular move-up for riders who can travel to the remote Area I, and the timing of the event in early August has often provided a springboard to a first fall season. Despite it being reachable primarily by riders based in Area I, II, and Canada, it still has attracted a strong 209 Advanced starters over the last half-decade. Riders who target spring 3*-L events are often ready to get back out after a summer break and test their mettle at the next level.

Millbrook has the following Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

This comparison shows that Millbrook is ideal for move-ups in almost every way, especially when looking at safety factors. Millbrook’s overall population already has low Horse Fall and Rider Fall Rates compared to other venues; first-time riders have notably not had any falls at all at this venue in the last five years. The Non-Completion Rate of first-time riders is within 1% of the overall population, which indicates that the course is not significantly more difficult for those attempting the level for the first time than for those with more experience, the ideal scenario for a move-up. Despite having an equal chance of completing, the course does ride slightly more difficult for first-timers, while still remaining with a very low chance; they are 1.3 times more likely to incur a stop while completing than the typical Millbrook competitor.

PINE TOP

Pine Top. Photos by Leslie Threlkeld.

At last we reach the first of the winter season move-ups. Situated in North Georgia within a stone’s throw of Aiken, Pine Top is more popular for horse move-ups than rider move-ups. In fact, it boasts the lowest number of first-time riders of the Big Five Move-Ups, with only 11 making the attempt, despite the second highest number of starts (218) in the same half decade. That’s only 5% of the population, but some key safety statistics might see this number grow.

The following represents Pine Top’s Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).

The best case for moving up at Pine Top is that there have been zero horse falls, period, in the last half decade. They have this despite having the fourth highest number of cross-country starters of any venue, topped only by Chattahoochee Hills, Plantation Field, and Carolina. Pine Top also boasts a significantly low number of rider falls, with only 1.4% of riders falling from their mounts, none of them first-time riders. This show boasts the best safety ratings of any of the Big Five Move-Ups.

Pine Top also boasts the lowest Refusal Rate of any East Coast venue and the third-lowest Non-Completion Rate among all East Coast shows. A first-timer here doesn’t have the same advantages as a typical competitor though; the Non-Completion Rate for first-timers falls into the average range for the overall level, instead of the very low range for the more experienced riders.

ROCKING HORSE

Rocking Horse. Photo by Ivegotyourpicture.

The final of the Big Five Move-Ups is Rocking Horse, the location of my own move-up back in 2012. Located in central Florida, this is the first Advanced of the year on the East Coast, which means it ends up heavily targeted as a first Advanced for both horses and riders. Back in the day, we felt that the difficulty of this course was halfway between Intermediate and Advanced, but the numbers show a different story.

Below is Rocking Horse’s Overall Show Profile (SP-O) versus First Time Rider Show Profile (SP-1xR).


Rocking Horse has a moderately high Horse Fall Rate when compared to other shows, but the good news is that first-time riders appear to avoid falling into that category. Rider falls at Rocking Horse are average when compared to other shows, but first-timers at Rocking Horse are 1.6 times more likely to part from their horse than the overall population, moving them into the moderately high Rider Fall Rate. Rocking Horse is the most difficult of the Big Five Move-Ups for first-timers to complete clear, with more than half of first-timers incurring a refusal.

Are There Other Places to Move Up?

There are no restrictions as to which event you should enter to make your first try for a level; any Advanced or 4*-S is allowable per the rules. In 2015 to 2019, 17.1% (20 riders total) move up at East Coast events other than the seven mentioned above. However, no venue other than those seven saw more than four first-time riders, which means the data is difficult to read. In order to determine whether or not a venue is potentially a good move-up, I’ve taken addition Show Profiles into account: that of the first-time horse with experienced rider (SP-1xH/ExR) and that of the rider making their second start at Advanced (SP-2xR).

EAST COAST POSSIBILITIES

JERSEY FRESH

In the last five years, only one rider chose to make the move up at this high profile 4*-S, and not a single horse was moved up to the level here in that time frame. With limited numbers, it can be difficult to draw any sort of conclusion.

However, the various Show Profiles of Jersey Fresh surprisingly all indicate that this event in May is one of the safer venues at the A/4*-S levels. In a solid population size of 113 cross-country starters, not one horse has fallen. Additionally, the Non-Completion Rate is very low despite some rough weather during those years, the Refusal Rate is moderately low and the Rider Fall rate manages to maintain at an average level compared to other venues.

The Show Profile of second-time A/4*-S riders reinforces the idea that this might be a potentially good spot to move up. Six riders have made this venue their second stop at the level and six have completed, with only one rider incurring a refusal.

TRYON

Between The Fork and the Blue Ridge Horse Trials, held in April and September respectively, Tryon International Equestrian Center now offers two opportunities a year to test their course. Having only hosted The Fork since 2017, data continues to be limited but will grow in time. Only two riders have made their first start at this venue, both at Blue Ridge.

Based on the various Show Profiles, this venue is fairly easy for the more experienced horses and riders, but the course is a bit stiffer for less experienced pairs, either horse or rider. However, there have been no falls among green riders or horses thus far, either rider or horse. And Tryon itself has moderately low rates for both horse falls and riders falls.

Tryon may not be the easiest move up event, but a high safety rating makes it attractive as one of the safer options.

RED HILLS

This north Florida venue has had a fearsome reputation in the past, memories from the days of high-profile incidents more than a decade ago. The last five years of competition have shown that falls can still be an issue at this event, but pockets of success among certain profiles indicate that a careful run could be productive for a first-time rider.

The success rate of first time riders and first time horses is very good, with eleven pairs all completing between those two profiles and only two refusals between them. But second time riders surprisingly show considerable struggles, with three falls, a high Non-Completion Rate and even higher Refusal Rate. A further dive would be needed into why those second-time riders have such a difficult time with the venue, but Red Hills might potentially be a good place to move-up … if you are careful about it.

Where Should I Move Up?

Only you can take all the factors and make an informed decision. Where will your coach be headed to and when will they have the opportunity to focus on you versus achieving their own goals? Which venues have you previously had success at … and more importantly, which venues have you struggled with? Are you the type who starts the year off sharply or do you need more competition time to get rolling? Do you have a high ability to stick on no matter what, or is the occasional fall a more common result of your mistakes?

Take this information and use it to make an educated decision, keeping safety in the forefront of your mind.

 

Wednesday News & Notes

Beauty in New Mexico. Photo by Maggie Deatrick.

Beauty comes in unexpected places, and I’m finishing out 2019 by discovering this gem on my phone, from a trip to New Mexico that was in no way related to horses. Of course, the bride and all of the women in the bridal party were horsewomen, so of course we couldn’t keep ourselves from chatting about our favorite subject. But this is a pleasant reminder that even though our lives revolve around these amazing, incredible animals, there’s beauty all around and we should look for it wherever we go.

National Holiday: HAPPY NEW YEAR

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Reviewing my #topnine it certainly wasn’t a year of “winning” for me. Rather, 2019 was a year of giving back,…

Posted by Laine Ashker Eventing and Dressage on Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wednesday News & Notes

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Unique Festivus to all! ‘Tis the season to dress ourselves, our pets, and our kids in the most ridiculous festive gear imaginable and take cheesy photos. And I am here for it!

National Holiday: CHRISTMAS

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Pardon the brevity of today’s N&N, but I’m in charge of Christmas Dinner today and let’s be honest. No one is reading this today anyways!

Top 10 Tips for Fighting the Winter Blues with Carol Kozlowski 

A Ghost -and Gift- of Christmas Past

Equine Mary and Joseph Join Canine Angel Gabriel in Horsey Nativity 

Wednesday Social Media: 

C'était un peu Noël en avance ce week-end ! J'ai en effet pu monter mon fidèle Siniani et c'est mon plus beau cadeau de…

Posted by Thibault Fournier Eventing on Monday, December 23, 2019

Wednesday News & Notes

The first Intermediate entry of 2020.

One thing I absolutely love about this time of years is scoping out the entry lists that are popping up for the first events in January; while the first events of the year usually only run up through Prelim, it’s often a good spot to spy out horses who are returning to the scene after some time off. As of now, it looks like the formidable Veronica and fan-favorite Clip Clop will both be running at Majestic Oaks in the Prelim, after taking 2019 off from competition.

National Holiday: Maple Syrup Day

Your Wednesday News & Notes

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m sure everyone is spending lots of time decorating, cleaning and organizing their houses to welcome guests, and of course packing up the barns in preparation for the imminent migration south. If you’re like me, you find these activities go by a lot faster when you have something to listen to, so why not turn on a few of the videos made available from the USEA and listen in on some of the best topics at the USEA Convention? Here’s three of my favorite listens from this past weekend:

Why Aren’t U.S. Event Horses Lasting Longer? [Video]

The New FEI Dressage Tests Demystified.  [Video]

Practical Advice to Optimize Horse Training. [Video]

Wednesday Social Media: 

A Portrait of the 9 to 5 Amateur

It’s a Sunday in October. The high is 52 degrees and the forecast projects rain from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. I could be home on the couch, watching some hundred-odd horses Fair Hill show jump.

Instead I’m at Windurra, doing fitness work with my horse who is headed to Ocala Jockey Club in four weeks. I’ve hooked up my trailer, with the brand new truck I hadn’t budgeted for this year but suddenly had no choice about, in the rain. I’ve loaded my horse and hauled thirty minutes in the rain. And now I’m doing trots and gallops in the rain.

I’m the only one out here for a while, unsurprisingly. Eventually a pair of Windurra riders come along on a trot set, one of them calling me a ‘lone brave soldier.’

Indeed. 

The reality is that I’m out here because I have no flexibility in my riding schedule. The weather yesterday was beautiful and the weather tomorrow will be beautiful, but I need to do fitness today. This time of year, I’ve got to get the most of my weekend rides, so I can’t gallop on Saturday and give him Sunday off. I can’t gallop tomorrow because it’s Monday and I have to work. I can’t gallop at home because until today, the ground was hard as cement even after a deluge four days ago. It’s raining again today, but the rain hasn’t soaked in past the first inch of the ground, leaving a greasy layer with a firm base. I can’t even take him to the Aquatred because their hours are 9 to 5 on weekdays…and I work.

So here I am, spending most of my Sunday trailering to the track. In the rain.


It’s 4:30 in the morning as I stumble out of bed. Daylight Savings Time is over, which means it is dark by 5 p.m. We have no lights to ride under and our ring is a ten minute hack near the woods from the barn. My horse is spooky enough that a ride in the dark would be unproductive even if we got to the ring in one piece.

So it’s imperative that I be at the barn by 6 a.m. to ride. The sun rises at 6:30 a.m. so it’s the best I can do; otherwise I’d be here even earlier.

It’s cold, by the way. It’ll be much warmer in a few hours. But I have to ride now.

Even doing this, I’ll be late enough to work that I’ve had to hedge a little, but I can work late and make up the time. But since I’m still not arriving at work at a normal hour, it’s something I can only do twice this week … and thank goodness it’s only for one week.

I’m the last one at work that night; even the cleaning staff has gone for the day. Tomorrow will be the same.


It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m standing next to my trailer with an abundance of stuff surrounding me, staring at my phone. It might look like I’m procrastinating but I’m not; I’m referencing my packing list.

It’s the weekend before the horses leave for the event. My trainer will be taking my horse and all my gear down along with his; even though I have a truck and trailer, I can’t take the extra days off to trailer two days down to Florida and two days back. Instead I’m swallowing the extra expense of trailering, flights, and a rental car. It’s the only way I can go.

But it’s eight days away and I have to accomplish much of my packing now. There’s no light after work, so nothing will happen on the weekdays. I’ve spent considerable time putting together not only a list of what I need, but also listing the container into which each thing should be packed. Now I’m working on getting things sorted.

Four hours later, I have things organized. People often think I’m organized because I like organizing, and they are right, to an extent. But it’s also out of necessity. 

I’ve got five weekdays to track down items in my house, replace things I’ve used up, pack up the suitcase I need that will have my wardrobe for the entire event. I’m sending my suitcase down with the horse so I don’t have to pay for a checked bag on the flight, or wait for it after a long day. But I have to have it packed four days before I actually leave.

If I wait until next weekend to pack, it will be too late. Things will be missed because I can’t find them or don’t have a chance to get them from my house. And I won’t have the time to fix that.

It’s cold out here; next weekend should be warmer. But I have to pack now.


It’s 2 a.m. in Orlando as I’m checking into a hotel. It’s Tuesday night — well, Wednesday morning now. My flight landed at a quarter to one, nearly thirty minutes late and the mid-size car I’d reserved turned out to be a minivan that I really didn’t want to drive for five days. After waiting a quarter of an hour for an SUV to be available, and driving twenty minutes to a hotel well-priced for the six hours I expected to spend in it, I’m finally done for the night.

I’m checking into the hotel now because I had to reserve a flight that took off well after the workday ended. Jogs are tomorrow (today, now) at 1 p.m. which already means three days off from work. I didn’t have enough PTO days to take a fourth and arrive at a reasonable hour. 

I still have to shower before getting some sleep; I’ll spend a grand total of four hours in this bed before getting up to drive to Ocala. I need the sleep desperately … I worked all day. Originally I had planned to sleep on the plane, but a young child a few rows up from me was out of sorts between the excitement of heading to Disney and being up way past her bedtime. I can relate to her. I too am excited and also up way past my bedtime.

Tomorrow I need to be at Ocala Jockey Club by 8 a.m. My horse needs a bath, a leg stretch ride, and to be braided before the jogs. I’d wanted to dye his tail but hadn’t had the time. My stall isn’t set up beyond the basics, I have no idea how far the trailers are from the stabling, and I am absolutely going to need some coffee first thing.

The show still hasn’t announced order of draw, so even with 75 horses in my division, I could be jogging first at 1 p.m. for all I know. I have to plan with that in mind. 

So after four hours of sleep, I’m up again, heading north on I-75.


I’m sitting in front of a plate of fettuccine alfredo and red wine, dining by myself at the Romano’s Macaroni Grill in the Orlando airport. I’m a jumble of emotions and yet none of them are really getting through the exhaustion at this point.

I’ve spent two hours at the car rental counter dealing with the odd situation of a rental car that was dead since Wednesday, the day I rented it. I didn’t have time to deal with it until today, when I thought a jump start would get me on the way. It didn’t.

I left it sitting in the parking field at the venue after the tow truck promised by roadside assistance didn’t show. I’m not entirely sure I won’t have to fight paying for the whole car despite the customer service manager’s reassurances. I know it’s a major headache that I’ll have to deal with in the next few days.

On the other hand, I’ve finished my young horse in the top half of the field at a huge event. A horse I primarily made myself, and the second horse I’ve done this with. I’m pleased but also disappointed. I thought we would do better, but with my horse suffering a sudden loss of self-confidence in dressage and an overabundance of it on cross-country, top fifty percent was the best we could do on this occasion.

I’m trying to rebound a bit from the anticlimactic end of the show. I’m not sure what I was expecting after stadium, but I don’t think I was expecting nothing. I thought perhaps a completion ribbon, or maybe I had a shot at best conditioned horse, or even perhaps a Thoroughbred award. But not every long format has completion ribbons, TPR is no longer required to be taken in the vet box, and we were in too deep a hole after dressage to hope for a good result even in the Thoroughbred category.

My flight boards at 9:45 p.m. I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. for jogs. I could have easily taken an earlier flight but since I have to buy flights before the show schedule is published, I booked a late flight to be safe. 

Tomorrow I’ll be back to work, bright and early. I wonder how functional I’ll be.


It’s lunch time at work and I’m looking at the Omnibus for next year. I often have a tentative show plan mapped out a year or two in advance and I’m trying to modify it now based on what I learned of my horse at OJC.

The schedules for the shows aren’t up yet, so I’m referencing last year’s schedules to get an idea of what they will probably be. Most of the one days have similar schedules from year to year; the big destination shows can sometimes change things up.

It might be early to think about this but I’m trying to buy plane tickets for a vacation next spring and I need to know how many vacation days I can spare for an actual vacation. I’m limited to a certain number of paid time off days every year and since I’m on salary, there’s no taking unpaid days off. It’s not a thing we can do, not in my industry anyways.

So to figure out how long my vacation can be, I need to have a game plan for next year. And next year, things get tricky for me.

I am tentatively thinking that I’d like to move up to Intermediate sometime next year, but that poses an issue with one days. I like one days because I don’t need vacation time but Intermediate usually goes first thing on Saturday morning with no guarantee that there will be time enough to walk the jump courses between dressage and stadium. 

Intermediate is not something that I’d take casually; I prefer to walk those courses at least twice. So one days are suddenly not a great option for me at that level unless I can walk the course the night before. And unless they are very close by, it’s not terribly realistic for me to get there to walk on a Friday evening while dealing with traffic.

I used to think I would just get up earlier in the day to walk before dressage but I’ve learned that because I do everything myself at one days, it’s not the safest option to be sleep deprived. I drive to the barn, hook-up and drive the trailer, I tack and un-tack, stud and un-stud, groom and wash and ice. I trailer back to the barn, clean the trailer, unhook and clean tack. 

I worry about the lack of sleep combined with overheating for the summer temperatures impacting my reflexes or judgment either on cross-country or on the road. Someone younger might have the stamina to safely do all of that on five hours of sleep after a long week of working, but I am no longer as young as I was. 

So I’m targeting events that run their Intermediates and 3*-S over two days; of course Friday and Saturday usually, not Saturday and Sunday. That means a day off work for each show, at least.

I also have to cross my fingers and hope that these shows don’t change their schedules up after I enter. Sometimes entries get too numerous and events stretch their events to an extra day; other times the young riders get lumped in one division that goes Friday while I get placed with the other adults (mostly professionals) in a Thursday division. That causes problems, so I try to pick shows that are consistent from year to year.

I want to do two long formats next year, but unless I forgo a real vacation, it’s not in the cards. I’ve got to keep the days off to a minimum and long formats ask for too many. If I skip the vacation, my husband will be disappointed; I already missed his birthday to be at Ocala Jockey Club.

I may be a bit obsessive about planning, but it was born out of necessity. Otherwise, there’s no way I can manage to do the sport at the upper levels.


It’s finally the weekend again and I get to see my horse for the first time since I left him in his competition stall in Florida. I miss him dearly already but need to get used to it; in a few months he will leave for Aiken and I won’t see him again until April.

I’m glad to have a break. I was starting to feel run down and burnt out. 

I also feel guilty. I’m relieved for having a break from riding? Am I truly dedicated to this if I’m happy to not ride for a while? Shouldn’t I want to ride no matter the weather, the darkness or light, the icy cold or mounds of snow? Shouldn’t I want to try to keep my horse north and ride him instead of paying for others to ride him?

These thoughts have no basis in reality, I know. But they circle around in my mind anyways.

It will be four months before I swing my leg over a horse again. It’s tough to stop cold when things are going well. I’m finally sitting the trot really well, finally achieving some push from behind. My eye is on point when jumping and I feel as natural on this horse as I did on my last, for the first time since I’ve had him.

But I need a break and I’ll be better for it next spring. He’ll be better for it after a winter of working on some fundamentals with my trainer; he needs some brakes installed at fifth gear, a flying lead change, and to solidify that push from behind to start working on shoulder-in, haunches-in, and half-passes.

I need to cook some real meals, travel a little, maybe try some dancing lessons with my oft-neglected husband. I’ll try to put some extra time and effort in at work to advance my career. I’ll think about exercising and maybe even exercise.

I’ll be ready again next April.

Wednesday News & Notes

Cold, wet nose. Photo by Maggie Deatrick.

‘Tis the season to say screw it, not going to ride today. Welcome to not-quite-winter where we will look out the window and see snow or rain or both and realize that it’s ok to maybe have a couple weeks off to digest our turkey and potatoes lingering in our bellies.

National Holiday: Santa’s List Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Sporting Days Farm H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Sooner or later, most horse people make a trip to the emergency room. It’s important to be financially prepared if at all possible, and one you can do that is with a Health Savings Account. This money not only earns interest but also is pre-tax money that can be utilized for everything from surgery to joint injections (the human kind!). [A PSA: Get an HSA]

Matthew Heath opens up about the mental hurdles he’s overcome and still works to keep ahead of. After the tremendous success of his early twenties dried up as he entered his thirties, Matthew struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. He eventually worked through it but is upfront about the mental costs that this sport can take. [I’d Lost My Love for the Sport]

I have a side hobby of checking out nearby farmettes for sale and rent. When the yards of various top eventers get profiled, I leap at the chance to take a peek at the facilities used to prep top level eventers. [Lucy Jackson’s New Yard]

Wednesday Social Media: 

Look what arrived in the post today 🤩#christmasarrivedearly

Posted by Lainey Ashker on Friday, November 29, 2019

Wednesday News & Notes

Six off the floor. Photo by Amanda Tamminga.

Ten years ago I did my first long format CCI with my first horse, who I lost earlier this year. It’s hard for me to believe that the last time I ran down an FEI jog strip was five years ago, at Fair Hill in 2014 with that fantastic beast of a horse. But this month, a decade after I brought my first horse to complete our first long format FEI, I did the same thing with my second horse.

National Holiday: National Tie One On Day (An apron, if you’re wondering.)

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Thanksgiving H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

There’s a perpetual tug of war between barns and boarders. It can be difficult to entrust your friends (and most expensive piece of riding equipment!) to others who might not always make the choices you would, but make sure you don’t make their lives harder. They are making the decisions with the wellbeing of your horse in mind. [Avoid Becoming a PIA Boarder]

Every time I get my show photos back, I think about how I really need to improve my jump position. Try as I can, I can’t seem to open my hip angle or not make ridiculous faces. Georgie Strang has some tips to help achieve that ‘pro’ position. [8 Top Tips to Improve Position]

Just in time for Turkey Day, the USEF has updated the Training Lists. With two pairs listed on the Elite List and another fourteen pairs on the Pre-Elite List, there will be plenty of competition for teams in the next few years. Another eleven riders are slated for the Development Training List this winter. [USEF Updates Training Lists]

If you are aiming for the E25 program, make sure to submit your applications by this Friday, November 29th!

Wednesday Social Media: 

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#squidspeed Videography courtesy of @amandaofthefields

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