A few miscellaneous photos from the weekend at Pine Top Farm.
A few miscellaneous photos from the weekend at Pine Top Farm.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I had my first experience with American one day eventing over the past weekend – and what an experience it was! While most horse trials back in Australia run over an entire weekend, genuine one day events are far more common over here in the US. I’m very used to having the three disciplines spread out over two days with plenty of time in between, so getting it all over and done with in a matter of hours is a bit of a foreign concept to me!
I was grooming for Waylon, one of Phillip’s riders, who was competing on four Training level horses – Vanderbilt (Vandy), Winter Colony (Teddy), Good Enough (Goody), and my super special favourite, Automagically (Bones).
We were up bright and early on Saturday morning to get the horses all fed before hauling across town to Sporting Days Farm, with our first dressage test at 8am. I had a very busy morning getting the 4 horses through dressage, show jumping (called stadium over here) and cross country in a 3 and a half hour time period. That’s a lot of grooming, tacking, untacking, unbraiding and cooling out to get done, while making sure the next horse was always ready to go!
I did struggle with the concept of leaving the horses on the trailer all day except for when they were competing – very different to having them all tied to the sides all day like we do at home. It’s apparently quite easy to play Spot the Aussie at competitions over here – they’re the only ones who have all their horses off the trailer and tied up! It felt a bit inefficient having to get each of them on and off multiple times to get them ready, but admittedly it was more pleasant for them to be inside when the rain began midway through the morning.
It was a very successful day for Team PDE, with Goody finishing 2nd, Bones and Vandy 3rd in their respective divisions, and Teddy ending up 4th, losing his hold on the first place ribbon after a couple of unfortunate rails.
It was quite a novelty being finished and heading out the gate just after lunchtime – going back home and leisurely taking an entire weekend to compete on one horse will be a total breeze!
We’re all pretty well settled in now at Red Oak Farm in Bridle Creek. The weather is much more mild than it was back in Pennsylvania which is a nice change!
Bridle Creek is one of many gorgeous equestrian communities here in Aiken. It’s pretty amazing to have so many dedicated horse properties within the one development – I certainly haven’t seen anything like it back home. Not only am I based here with Phillip Dutton, but our closest neighbours include Boyd Martin, Ryan Wood and Dr Kevin Keane. It’s quite surreal to be surrounded by so much knowledge and expertise within a 200m radius!
Not only are there a number of very impressive private properties within Bridle Creek, but there are also some great shared facilities. There is a communal dressage arena, showjumping course and cross country field, as well as miles of wooded bridle paths and trails.
The barn and other facilities here at Red Oak are just beautiful. We’ve currently got stabling for 23 horses, though we still try to turn the horses in the paddocks as much as possible. It’s much more pleasant and definitely a lot safer for them to be on the nice sandy soil here, compared to the frozen ground back at True Prospect.
While the basics are obviously still all the same, there is a whole new routine to learn here to go along with the different climate and facilities. We’re very lucky that Emma Ford, Phillip’s long-time head groom, has returned to the team after a brief hiatus last year. She has us all working very efficiently and understands how to make the place run at it’s full potential. I love working alongside Emma and being able to pick her brain about all the varying details of horsemanship required to maintain horses at an elite – she is another wonderful source of knowledge.
I’ve been here for nearly 2 months now and I still have to stop and pinch myself sometimes. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be here, learning from some of the absolute best in the industry – I really don’t want to have to go home!!
Being my last weekend in Australia, I was relieved of volunteer duties at Berrima so I could get myself organised for my big trip. Of course, that meant socialising all day,and waiting til midnight before panicking and packing my suitcase.
The weather was absolutely beautiful and I got to catch up with lots of good friends – the perfect way to spend my last day here.
A few happy snaps from yesterday –
I just want to say a big thank you to all those who have supported me over the past 12 months. It’s been a bit of a rough year, but I’m so excited for the things to come.
I board my plane to LA in just over 6 hours – and on that note, I had better finish packing!
A number of my friends recently got together and gathered donations to put towards the construction of a new cross country jump at Berrima Horse Trials, in memory of my darling Freddy.
The first phase of the jump was completed earlier this week, in time for the Spring event this weekend. It is currently a 1* and 2* complex, but eventually it will be furthered developed to include all the grades.
We had a dedication ceremony last night to celebrate the completion of the jump, and to remember Freddy. There was plenty of wine, a few tears and lots of laughs – it such a lovely evening spent with some wonderful friends, and I’m so touched by their generosity and support!
A few photos from the evening:
I’ve done a lot of volunteering at events over the years, either before or after my own ride times, or on those disappointing weekends where you’re not in the saddle for one reason or another… you know the ones, where Darling Horse has managed to appear slightly off-colour or sore in the lead-up, just enough to make you question their health and withdraw from the event. Of course, they then end up 110% sound and happy on dressage morning after you’ve scratched. Sigh.
This year though, I’ve tried to fit in a lot more so that I can keep up with all the eventing news and give back to the sport a bit whilst I don’t have a horse to ride. I really miss being out there riding, but helping out is definitely the next best thing. I spent this past weekend jump-judging at Eventing Equestriad in Camden – one of my favourite events on the calendar. The courses are always beautifully built and a bit challenging, and even though they receive masses of entries, they manage to fit everyone in and keep the weekend running with military precision. The VIP tent is always well patronised at Camden – it’s great to see Australian eventing trying to encourage more spectators and supporter involvement. I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who is thinking about volunteering to check out this event, because you are always very well looked after… I think I needed to run the cross country course myself to burn off all the snacks and food that was provided to the jump judges!
Cross country jump judging is my favourite volunteering past-time – I certainly can’t complain about soaking up some sunshine and watching all my friends gallop round! You get to see the best and the worst of eventing, from the perfectly ridden lines where horse and rider don’t seem to exert any extra effort at all, to the near misses and catastrophes from those less-than-stellar approaches, horse & rider arguments, or just plain bad luck. You can definitely learn a lot about what not to do!
I was fortunate enough to only have to deal with a couple of minor falls this weekend, with both riders up on their feet immediately and needing no assistance. The serious crashes are certainly the worst part of the job. There’s nothing more chilling than trying to keep a rider conscious while waiting for the ambulance… the dangerous nature of our sport really hits home at times like that. Fortunately, those moments are few and far between, and every event committee does their best to get riders home as safely as possible.
All in all, it was a great weekend, with a number of my friends bringing home ribbons. Huge props must go to Shane Rose who flew back in from England in time to win the 3* and both 1* classes, as well as being an instrumental part of the organising committee!
Check out the wrap-up from An Eventful Life here – http://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/eventing-news/eventing-equestriad-camden-nsw/shane-rose-human-dynamo …
…and the full results here – http://www.nominate.com.au/equest/results/Equestriad_Sept.html .
Unfortunately only a couple of photos from this event – I managed to leave the camera battery sitting on its charger at home, so had to make do with crummy phone photos.