Millbrook Marvelous

Waiting to start dressage. All photos courtesy of Lisa Ambrose Cook. Waiting to start dressage. All photos courtesy of Lisa Ambrose Cook.

Last night, Roger and I returned home from the Millbrook Horse Trials. We rode Thursday through Saturday at the Training and Novice levels.

Competing  Deszi at Millbrook was not in our original plans for the season. Garth was originally supposed to run there, and as ARP coordinator for our area, I felt it was necessary that I be present. So, for her 2nd Training level competition, Deszi was asked to step it up. I adore this horse.

Honestly, at the beginning of our partnership I wasn’t so sure about her. Had it not been for my dressage instructor, I would have never looked at her. But I am thrilled that I did. Her dressage continues to improve, and her canter just gets better and better.

She is developing a lovely cadence and suspension, though it is not yet consistent. And, her mind is so clear – she is a kind, non-reactive mare who wants to please and impress. She is truly lovely.

Her dressage test was pinned where I expected it to be. My favorite comment and score? The left lead canter departure: “4. Fresh.” Yes, but isn’t she pretty? And yes, she was fresh!

Our lengthening was conservative. Her canter continues to strengthen, evidenced in her adjustability and jumping. She just keeps getting better. She scored a 33.6, to place 7th out of 25.

Preparing for the drop into the water complex.

Preparing for the drop into the water complex.

True to Millbrook style, the cross-country course was big and bold, with questions that truly tested the horse and rider’s ability for the level. This was not a casual course. As we calmly left the start box, I was fully prepared to pull up after a few fences. As a 5 year old with six months of training, my last intention is to rock her confidence. She loved it – and carried me to each fence with a smile.

Deszi's power booty into the water.

Deszi’s power booty into the water.

She was smart, confident, and ready for more. The jump efforts seemed to entertain her, and she was keen to work to the next. She jumped around with little concern to finish on her dressage score, moving up to 5th. What a cool horse!

Stadium was a fun course – lots to work around, beautiful in design, and a great forward flow. She was a star! Had it not been for loosing some of her power behind, we would have jumped double clear. We had a rail, caught by her hind hoof, over an oxer. We ended in sixth.

Tight knees and keen attention.

Tight knees and keen attention.

When Slick’s owners asked if I could run him at one more competition, I mentioned Millbrook. Excitement grew, and Gracious Plenty (all 17.1 hands of Irish beefcake) was entered in Open Novice. What a gem of a horse.

He is an absolute professional, keen to his job quick to focus, and a sweet soul. This boy also loves to eat, which makes me wonder if there is part Murphy in him. He was lovely in the dressage, though our dressage score did not reflect in our favor.

Slick putting in a lovely dressage test in a BIG environment.

Slick putting in a lovely dressage test in a BIG environment.

The following afternoon, hacking down to the start box I asked him to trust me. I could ask for nothing more as we had known each other for less then two months. He was an absolute pleasure to gallop and jump: honest, keen, and trusting.

Slick super toward the end of cross country, landing downhill on a turn.

Slick super toward the end of cross country, landing downhill on a turn.

Slick covered the ground and worked over the fences with eager confidence. Show jumping was perhaps the best ride of the weekend, offering me a clearer view of what makes this horse tick. Forward and working to keep him light in the front end, Slick needs a lot of power – as we worked through the course, I employed many of the lessons I’ve had this season.

Kim 7

Though he is 11 years old, he was pulled out of a field by his owners at age 9, where he was baby sitting young colts and eating to his heart’s content. His owners and rider have done a beautiful job transforming him from butterball to eventer.

We are all very proud of Slick!

We are all very proud of Slick!

He is a very competent horse, with a wonderful heart and attitude. I am so proud of this horse. This competition was a big step for his competitive career, and he handled everything as a true gentleman.

This weekend was also an opportunity to catch up with a friend from my childhood. KC and I met as juniors, competed in the Young Riders together, and now compete in the Adult Riders Program together. More then 20 years of friendship! We had the most delightful evening at their home with their lovely daughter Lyra, her husband Matt, and friend Linda. This is what these programs are about: camaraderie, community, and friendship. An absolute highlight to the weekend.

Friends of decades! Matt wearing the best T-shirt ever. Roger is getting one…

Friends of decades!
Matt wearing the best T-shirt ever. Roger is getting one…

Although this season has not transpired the way I intended, I think there may have been a greater plan in order. As Garth’s season was put on hold, I was able to focus on Deszi’s training and growing Murphy Eventing. Since that time, we have welcomed many great horses in training and students to our farm.

Despite the upset of Garth’s injury, this year has been the best so far. Each day, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to live this life, to consider clients and friends one in the same, and have a husband that supports me unconditionally. Blessed, lucky, whatever you choose to call it – I am humbled but this life of opportunity.

The Area 1 Adult Rider Program Team Challenge was also held at the event. We had  eight teams competing together for nearly $5,000 worth of prizes – made possible by our members and Smartpak. Check the Area 1 website for results, coming soon. There will be another Area 1 ARP Team Challenge at GMHA in September – come join us!

Thank you for riding along with us!

Katie Murphy

[email protected]

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