Bridle Creek & Red Oak Farm

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!

The entrance to Bridle Creek

The gorgeous scenery within the community

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 communal cross country field

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.

Red Oak Farm’s new dressage arena under construction

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.

A famous face – Mr Medicott lounging in his stall

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!!

A smoochy moment with my precious Bones

Stories from the saddle

All rugged up on a cold morning riding William Penn

Good Enough – one of my absolute favourites… He’s a lot more special than his name suggests!

Amongst all the craziness of preparing to move south, we’ve still been getting in plenty of riding. I had my first jump lesson with Phillip last week, on a sweet gelding named Vandy. I was super rusty and a bit nervous riding under scrutiny after not having jumped in over a year!
We worked on some basics and some more challenging grids, and even though I made my fair share of mistakes, I learnt lots of things that I’ll be able to take away and work on. Hopefully I’ll have another lesson soon, and might be able to redeem myself a bit now that I’ve got my starstruck nerves out of the way.

One of the more challenging grids from my lesson

The weather has been much more mild in the past few days, and we’ve actually been able to head outside and use the gallop track to do our hacking and jogging. As much as I love the amazing indoor here, it was so nice to get outside and ride in the fresh air! The indoor has been really busy again with people trying to cram in last minute lessons with Phillip before we all leave, so being able to escape peak hour in the arena has been great.

One of the “quieter” moments in the arena, with only 4 other horses – Fernhill Fugitive checking out the action

The horses certainly enjoy it too, and it’s much easier to get those lazier ones moving actively forward during their trot sets out on the track rather than just going round and round in circles.

Penn checking out the scenery

Hacking out with Vandy and Fernhill Fugitive

One of the great things about being here is the opportunity to just observe so many great riders and great horses working together. I love the chances I get to set poles for jump schooling or lessons, because you can learn so much from watching how each person handles each exercise on different horses, and from the feedback they get from Phillip. There is definitely just as much knowledge to be gained from the ground as from the saddle.

Fernhill Flag during a lesson – too speedy for my poor little phone camera!

New Years update

Firstly I have to apologise for the complete lack of posts lately. The days have been so busy, and on the nights where we haven’t been out dining and drinking, all I’ve wanted to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep watching movies.

Christmas and New Years came and went in a haze of parties. These nights were followed by some very subdued days in the barn while we all tried to deal with our hangovers. You do not know the true meaning of hell until you have to muck a barn whilst severely hungover and listening to horrendous Mexican polka music that the grooms insist on playing so loudly.

After all my dreams of a white Christmas, we didn’t actually get any snow in the days leading up to it, so that was a little disappointing. It did snow on Boxing Day though – better late than never I suppose! All the horses had the day off for Christmas, so all we had to do was the basic daily care and take it easy for the rest of the day which was nice. Right back into it the next day though – this industry certainly isn’t one that slows down for the holiday season! I couldn’t think of anything nicer than spending the day in a warm barn sharing carrots with so many lovely horses though.

A little Christmas spirit at the barn

Boxing Day snowfall

Christmas morning cuddles with Fernhill Ultimate

I’ve been doing a lot of riding lately, up to 6 a day, which has been great. I’m feeling stronger and more balanced, and starting to redevelop that sense of feel that only comes from hours in the saddle. Riding so many different horses all the time is such a great experience – you really have to be constantly thinking and adapting to each horse’s individual quirks and characteristics. Trying to remember what each horse likes and dislikes can be challenging though – you definitely don’t want to mix up the horse who has to be chased with spurs and a whip for every stride of his canter sets with the one who will buck if you use just a fraction too much leg!

William Penn & Fernhill Fugitive on a rainy Sunday morning

Our preparations are well underway for our upcoming move to Aiken, South Carolina. The first couple of truckloads of infrastructure have already headed down – things like tractors, portable roundyards, cross country jumps etc. We’ve been very busy in the barn getting the horses fit and tidying them up into show condition. Over the next week we’ll begin the epic job of packing up all the tack, rugs, feed, grooming equipment and all the other barn supplies we’ll need to spend a few months in the south.

The first truckload being packed for the trip to Aiken

As always, there’s plenty of tack to be cleaned. I got the job of cleaning all the show halters that have been sitting in the loft getting mouldy since the end of the competition season… They were in need of some pretty serious TLC!

The obligatory before shot..

And after!

There’s a real sense of excitement about the move – I think we are all pretty keen to escape the freezing weather we’ve been having lately… And I’m pretty excited to experience the Aiken party scene that I’ve been hearing so much about lately!

Dressage Skillz

I nearly forgot, I absolutely can’t go any further without posting this video… I think this is going to become the theme song of my trip over here. Everyone back home is sharing it on Facebook, and everyone here is talking about it – it was played a number of times in the barn aisle today. It’s lighthearted, hilarious, and something that most of us can relate to. A very fun song to have stuck in your head while mucking out 😉

Dom and Jimmie Schramm, the masterminds behind EventionTV, are only a short drive up the road from here, so I’m hoping I’ll get to meet them while I’m here.

If you haven’t come across them before, you absolutely need to check them out on facebook and youtube. They’ve got some fantastic, informative videos, as well as lots of fun ones like this.

Berrima Spring ODE – My last Australian Event

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 –

Being a backseat dressage judge with a couple of good friends

Showjumping about to get underway

Our recently renovated water jump ready for action

Freddy’s Fence – dressed and ready for its debut in the 1*

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!

x

The Final Countdown!

Apologies for the complete lack of updates lately – life has just been soo busy.

I’ve finished uni for the year, made it through exams, and have been flat out packing and planning for my USA trip. I’ve also been doing as much riding as possible on a few lovely horses belonging to friends.. I’m a bit rusty after so much time out of the saddle!

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Riding my friend’s lovely WB gelding, Luke

 

I fly to LA this Sunday, and then onto New York, where I’m planning on spending a few touristy days before heading down to True Prospect Farm in PA. After the beautiful early summer weather we’ve been having, the snow is going to come as a bit of a shock! Looking forward to doing some serious shopping in NYC, it’s been pretty tricky trying to find decent winter clothes here.

 

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The packing begins!

 

The rest of this week will be spent trying to catch up with as many friends as possible before I leave. It’s all getting very exciting!

The Joys of Jump Judging

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.

My friend Ali, jumping her way to 1st in her Pre-Novice class with Throsby Park Sonnet

And my friend Bella flying around the 3* on Star Vision