Millbrook H.T. Hangover

“Horse show hangover.” For those of us who have experienced it, there is a level of pride and joy that accompanies a “horse show hangover” that does not normally accompany the regret, memory loss, or looming feeling of poor decisions of the traditional hangover.

I am hungover. Still. It’s Wednesday, three days since the Millbrook Horse Trials, and I am still hungover. I’ve never been hungover quite like this. Not during that college quad party, the night I deserted my ex-boyfriend outside a club (trust me, he deserved it), or that night that, honestly — I can’t recall. But this hangover is so much better.

Every day I am thankful for my horses, my life, and my insanely gracious support system of clients, family and friends. This weekend proved how lucky I am. Both horses shined. Garth and Deszi are different in so many ways, yet they have the same heart, eager attitude, and level of trust in my partnership with them that allows us to cruise the finish flags with huge smiles.

Garth’s dressage was lovely, but his warm-up was fabulous. That was thrilling. After our walk across the street to the rings, and waiting for our time to enter the space, we lost some of our engagement and lightness in front. But it is in there – and what a feeling. Deszi’s dressage followed, and she once again proved to be the softer, more pleasant ride. Her medium canters were sedated due to deep footing, but she had some brilliant moments to place in the ribbons.

This was our second Intermediate together, and though I was eager to cruise around with Garth, I have developed an immense respect for this level. Was I nervous? To a point, but it was more awareness of the minute amount of room of error at the Intermediate level.

With the helpful guidance of trainer Ashley MacVaugh, Garth and I had another incredible run at the level. Due to poor planning on my part, Garth had a “drive-by” in a combination and picked up his first cross country jump faults on his record. A real shame. But had that happened at two separate fences, it would have been a beautiful ride: jump the first straight, 15 meter circle right, and over an impressively wide but narrow table. His gallop has really improved this season, and even with that 15 meter circle, he was still one of the most consistent rides throughout the course, nearly making time.

Now that Deszi is for sale, I never know what ride will be our last. It is a sad thought, yet incredibly exciting once I find the right match for her. As we left the start box, her ears pricked up and she cruised into that effortless gallop stride that cruises across the terrain. She is so intuitive cross country — she just gets it, and then gets it done in style.

She was so much fun, and so easy to navigate to the fences and between combinations. What a fantastic ride. It was easy for her, and with every stride she was prepping for the next: next hill, next jump, next halt halt. She was right there with me. She made that course easy and natural. Deszi went double clear.

Show jumping for each horse was big, bold, and included a four-stride line angling two liverpools. In typical Garth style, he went in confident, spooked hard, and then catapulted over the remainder of the course. He pulled a rail at the first liverpool, as he was so concerned about what was beneath the rails that he forgot to pick up his front feet. This really caught me off guard, and had I ridden more aggressively through the turn to the fence, we wouldn’t have had the rail. He felt fantastic over the jumps, and clearly was not worn down by the cross country.

Sweet Deszi, on the other hand, did feel tired. To accommodate buyers, Deszi has missed two gallops.

Sadly, stadium was proof that I can not allow buyer interest to distract from her fitness program. Stadium is my weakest phase, and it is our weakest phase as a partnership. I over rode to an oxer and caused a rail, however the others were taken by the slightest rub on flat cups. She pulled four rails — a disappointing end to the weekend, but her dressage and cross country more than made up for it.

Aside from my wonderful horses and great rides, the weekend was filled with the exceptional people that make the eventing community so wonderful. I was there by myself, and was incredibly touched by everyone’s support, interest and assistance. Friends I hadn’t seen in years came to cheer us on, others came to help with whatever need to be done, and the cheers and videos continue to touch me days after the competition. Thank you, to all of you!

A HUGE thank you to Andrea Manley for her wonderful videos and her help cooling out the horses, and to horsepesterer David Frechette and Cortney Tetrault for their videos.