Gallops & Garlands

Gallops & Garlands is my favourite blog and online resource, written by a special friend of mine.

The blog follows her horse show adventures, and I’m excited to see her embarking on a new dressage career with her very talented horses! She has impeccable taste and I love reading about all her new matchy-matchy finds, and she was my inspiration for starting this blog.

Check out the Gallops & Garlands blog here – http://www.gallopsandgarlands.com

…and the Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/GallopsandGarlands

No rest for the wicked

Or so they say!

I hit the ground running as soon as I returned to Australia – I missed the first week of the university semester so was launched back into study mode immediately. It’s now the last week of semester, and with exams looming in the next 2 weeks, I still feel like I’ve barely caught up!

When I arrived back home, I decided I was ready to start looking for my next horse. With my last few horses coming to me through word-of-mouth or just sheer luck, the prospect of heading out to shop for a new superstar was a bit daunting! I found a few promising leads, some of which didn’t turn out to be suitable for one reason or another, and a couple who didn’t pass a vet check well enough. I’m still hoping that the perfect horse will come along, though I’m no longer actively searching – if it happens, it happens šŸ™‚

In the meantime, I’ve been getting plenty of my horsey fix through volunteering at events, riding horses for friends when they’ve been busy, and starting my own little part-time grooming business. What started out as just plaiting a couple of horses for friends at competitions has turned into quite a fun little venture – I now offer plaiting, mane pulling, show prep and other miscellaneous grooming tasks in my local area. I spent a week grooming four show horses at Sydney Royal, which was loads of fun. While my heart will always belong to eventing, I won’t deny that I enjoy all the fussing and preening that goes into preparing horses for the hack ring.

With mid-year university holidays coming up at the end of June, I’m hoping to be able to spend a lot more time in the saddle. I do have some exciting news to share over the next couple of days, so watch this space šŸ˜‰

Playing with show ponies at Sydney Royal

More fun at Sydney – trendsetting with new quartermarks

Enjoying the perks of dressage judging!

First person to step foot in the stables at SIEC at 5:30am – the joys of plaiting for early dressage classes!

Nothing beats a bit of no-stirrup work!

One of my “before-and-after” grooming transformations

Flashback – George Morris at Bridle Creek Farm

I know this is months overdue – but better late than never!

Originally I had planned to spend my final week in the US exploring Los Angeles, but when I heard that George Morris would be teaching a clinic next door at Boyd’s, I knew that was something I didn’t want to miss. I postponed my flight out of South Carolina for a few days so that I could stay and attend, and volunteered to spend the two days picking up poles so I could be right amongst the action. Plenty of people warned me to be quick on my feet and race to any dislodged jumps, but I still managed to take a few photos and record some of his best quotes on my ipad throughout the day.

George is such a stickler for correct and solid basics and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him emphasising the importance of soft and light riding, and functionally correct position. It’s quite humbling to know that even Olympians can struggle with the basics – Phillip’s heels became a bit of a running joke over the two days! It was really interesting watching George actually get on and ride a few of the horses throughout the clinic… while he may be getting on in years, his riding ability definitely hasn’t diminished!

There was lots of good-hearted humour interspersed with George’s quick and dry wit. George seems to divide people’s opinions quite strongly, with some criticising his teaching style and mannerisms, but I felt that all his comments and instructions were very fair and constructive. I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to ride in front of him, but I certainly enjoyed my very close-up learning experience!

“Basic principles of horsemanship and riding never change. Fashions and fads change, and that’s what’s damaging our sport.”

“If any of the basics are compromised, there will always be consequences.”

“Position equals function.”

ā€œContact is straight, steady, definite and supple.ā€

“I don’t care how much you win, I want soft and light riding.”

“This is a sport of precision – every inch counts.”

Pine Top Eventing photos

A few miscellaneous photos from the weekend at Pine Top Farm.

Hanging out with Charlie in between classes

Mr Medicott in the dressage warm up

William Penn cruising around the SJ

Handsome Mr Medicott!

Not-so-handsome Mr Medicott….

William Penn & Fernhill Fugitive

Charlie cuddles on the way home after a very big weekend

Flashback – Pine Top Eventing

Pine Top Farm ran their Spring Advanced Horse Trials over my last weekend in the US. The Friday was actually my day off but I didn’t want to miss out on the action, so I was up at 4am to get the Big 5 – Mr Medicott, Mighty Nice, Atlas, Fernhill Fugitive and William Penn – loaded and on their way over to Georgia.

Mr Medicott and William Penn eating their breakfast in the dark

The weather that morning was pretty miserable, and the start of classes was delayed for an hour by an electrical storm that hit just as Phillip was getting on his first horse of the day. The rain didn’t really let up, but the show must go on, and as such a lot of horses did their dressage tests in some fairly wet and muddy conditions.

Poor Atlas making his best attempts at mud-dancing

Fortunately by mid-morning the rain seemed to have passed, and the rest of the day ran quite smoothly, if not a bit muddily. Mighty Nice posted one of the only clear SJ rounds of the day on quite a slippery course, and Phillip elected to finish the day on a good note and not run him XC. Atlas posted a decent dressage score, but had a couple of uncharacteristic rails and some disagreements on the XC course led to him dropping down the leaderboard.

Mighty Nice getting some air in the very boggy SJ warmup

Pine Top’s picturesque XC warm up area

Atlas clearing the final XC fence

Mr Medicott, Fernhill Fugitive and William all produced some lovely dressage work, and were due to complete their SJ and XC over the next two days, which luckily were much sunnier than the Friday. I had a blast over the weekend grooming the horses and helping out in the warm-ups – it was very interesting to see the different warm up plans that Phillip had for each horse, according to their individual personalities and behaviours. Mr Medicott most certainly loves his job and gets pretty excited heading to the start-box – that in itself is a multiple person task!

Amy-Ruth & Casarino and Phillip & Fernhill Fugitive discussing XC game plans

While there was plenty of rushing around to make sure every horse was spotless and ready to be in the right place at the right time, there was also a lot of nice downtime that I got to spend with the boys that I’d grown so fond of over the past 3 months.

“Chilling” with William Penn

The highlight of the weekend was Jack (Fernhill Fugitive) taking out first place in the Intermediate – he was very consistent over the entire weekend and showing plenty of promise for a successful season ahead.

Jack showing off his blue ribbon back at Red Oak Farm.
This ribbon now takes pride of place above my bed at home!

Flashback – Aiken Olympic Gala

One of the impacts of the ice storm was the postponement of the Aiken Olympic Gala – an evening of fundraising for the USEF High Performance Eventing Team. Initially it was intended to be held at Stable View Farm, but was rescheduled for the following week at the beautiful Willcox Hotel in town.

The Willcox

It was a great excuse to get a bit dressed up and head out for a night of rubbing shoulders with all the big names in the business. Riders, owners, vets, coaches and team officials were just a few of the people on the guest list. I was quite mortified to realise at the last minute that I couldn’t find a dress in amongst all my breeches and thermals – a cocktail party benefiting the Olympic Team wasn’t quite what I’d imagined when I was packing my bags! I think the biggest challenge of the evening was us 5 girls trying to get ready in one small bathroom after a long day of riding – but somehow we were only just a little fashionably late.

The silent auction table – just a small selection of what was on offer

It was a really fun night and the fundraising was a big success, with plenty of great items up for grabs in the silent auction. Riding lessons with Phillip and grooming lessons with Emma Ford were just a couple of examples, and I found myself thinking I was incredibly fortunate to have access to those opportunities every day!

With the free drinks flowing freely, it wasn’t long before the night got a bit fuzzy, and a few of us kept the party going and headed out into town. There were more than a couple of sore heads the next morning, but it was certainly one of the most memorable evenings of my trip.

No night out is complete without some bathroom photos…

….and selfies!

Apologies and post-adventure depression

I really have to apologise for not staying on top of my writing – I still have the last few weeks of my USA trip to write about! I’ve been so strongly in denial about my adventures being over that writing about them felt far too final… but I really need to record them so I don’t forget about how much fun I had, so I promise that the last few installments will be posted in the next couple of days!

And once I’m up to date with all that, it will be time to start filling you all in on my new horsey endeavours now that I’m back in Oz… and possibly with a new pony for myself on the horizon!

Back in Australia

I know I’ve been terribly slack in keeping my blog updated, due to the unreliable availability of internet access during and after the ice storm.

I flew back into Sydney yesterday, and now that I’ve nearly shaken off the jetlag, I’ll start to fill in the blanks of everything that happened in the last couple of weeks of my trip.

I’m missing the USA already!!

The Icepocalypse continued

We ended up surviving another 4 days without power. Although farms closer to town got theirs back within a couple of days, we’re quite a way out and so we were one of the last places to get reconnected. Us girls actually became quite proficient at existing in the dark… Even though we’ve had electricity back for a few days now, I’ve found myself still wandering around the apartment and using the bathroom with no lighting on more than one occasion.

On a wider scale, Paradise Horse Trials was delayed by a day, and the USEA Aiken Eventing Gala at Stable View Farm was postponed – I was quite grateful for this, I couldn’t imagine us trying to get ourselves looking presentable without decent lighting and our hairdryers!

As if the ice storm wasn’t enough, Aiken even experienced an earthquake one evening. I have to admit I was keeping an eye out for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse – it’s hard to ignore so many warning signs for the end of the world!

Our farm became pretty popular with neighbouring farms because we were one of the few places with running water, thanks to our big propane generator. Lots of people dropped by to fill up water containers to cart back to their barns, or to borrow the wash bay to prepare for Paradise.

I must say a huge thanks to everyone who kindly offered up their couches, floors, beds and showers so that we could retain some sense of civilisation throughout the week. All in all we were very lucky to escape relatively unscathed – aside from the inconvenience of no electricity and the big clean up job ahead of us, there was no major damage to the property and all of the horses remained happy, safe and sound.

Riding in the aftermath of the storm – there is a hell of a clean up job ahead of us!

Aiken Icepocalypse – Day 2

By the second day, we began to realise that we may be without power for longer than expected, so we were just going to have to try and manage as best as we could. With Paradise Horse Trials coming up on the weekend, the horses couldn’t afford to have another day off. The ice had stopped falling and one of the guys managed to use the tractor to drag a basic track around one of the paddocks, so by midday when it was starting to warm up and thaw out a little, the competition horses were able to be given a basic workout.

The rest of the horses were given some time out in the paddocks, which was pretty exciting for them after being cooped up inside for much longer than they’re used to. It’s always nerve-wracking watching them being a bit wild outside, and even worse when they’re galloping around on ice! Luckily they were all pretty sensible after their initial hijinks and everyone came back in safe and sound.

We were still without power for the second night, but a few places in town had regained theirs and Phillip kindly offered to put us up in a hotel so we wouldn’t have to endure another freezing, showerless night. This however turned into a huge ordeal – we tried a number of times to check in but kept being told our room wasn’t ready, and by nearly 9pm they finally admitted they had overbooked and we didn’t actually have a room. We were cold, smelly and hungry and had been so excited by the idea of a hot shower and a big warm bed, so we were on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown. Fortunately, the power had just come back on at our barn manager’s place and we were able to take showers and crash on her floor and couches – that shower genuinely felt like the greatest moment of my life!

This hilarious post from Eventing Nation perfectly sums up how all us Aiken eventers were beginning to feel…

http://eventingnation.com/home/8-gifs-that-perfectly-articulate-how-aiken-smells/