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 🙂

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 😉

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

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!

My first competition – Sporting Days Farm Horse Trials

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!

Being mugged for carrots by Teddy and Bones

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.

The trailer, with 5 ponies hiding inside out of sight. It would surely be so much more efficient to have them tied up outside rather than dragging them on and off all day…

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.

XC warmup

Bones cruising on course

The ribbon haul!

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!

USEF High Performance Training Sessions

I was lucky enough to be invited along to some of the USEF High Performance Training Sessions this week. They’re held at Stable View Farm, which is an amazing facility on the other side of Aiken. It’s well worth having a look at their website, although the property really is much more impressive in person.

http://stableviewfarm.com

The Training Sessions are run by David O’Connor, and are used to assess how the squad members and their horses have progressed over the off season and where they’re up to in their training and fitness. Each horse also undergoes a thorough health assessment with the team vets, again just to see where they’re at, to investigate any issues that may have occurred in the past and to make plans on how to avoid any problems in the future.

Phillip took Mr Medicott, and it was really exciting and informative to be able to watch them have a jump lesson with David. The arena was packed with other people also watching, even though it was bitterly freezing – it seemed that no one wanted to miss out on seeing them jump. They really are a celebrity pair around here. I’m feeling very privileged to be so involved in all of this behind-the-scenes action!

Happy hacking

One of my favourite things about being here at Red Oak Farm is being able to ride outdoors again. While I was so in love with the luxury of the indoor arena at True Prospect, after 6 weeks of riding solely indoors, we were all getting a bit of cabin fever. 40 minute jog sets around and around an arena start to get pretty mindless after your 3rd or 4th horse for the day!

Passing through Boyd Martin’s cross country field on Mighty Nice

Mr Medicott enjoying a beautiful sunny morning

There are miles and miles of purpose made trails around Bridle Creek, which are regularly graded to keep them in top shape for hacking and fitness work.

Fernhill Fugitive obeying the road rules

Most days, my job is to either hack out the upper level horses to cool them down after they’ve done flatwork, or doing jog and canter sets on the horses’ fitness days. I’ve been riding out nearly every day and there are still plenty of trails that I haven’t had the chance to explore yet… And yes, I’ve managed to get myself lost a few times!

Icabad Crane – the sweetest little OTTB ever!

William Penn & Automagically

Good Enough, Yarrow & Vanderbilt

Atlas, shortly after being startled by a family of deer

Fernhill Fugitive

I have to admit to having a serious fangirl moment the first time I got to hack out on Mighty Nice and Mr Medicott… It’s not every day you get to go wandering in out such picturesque surroundings on seriously elite horses 🙂

Mighty Nice – and a mighty cheesy grin!