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!

Am I the only one who enjoys pulling manes?

I’ve pulled about 20 manes over the past couple of days, and everyone else in the barn seems to feel sorry for me. Truth be told, mane pulling is probably one of my favourite grooming jobs – I love the satisfaction you get from the instant improvement in the appearance of their necks. Plus, once you get into a rhythm, you can just zone out and ponder all those important things like the meaning of life, or which flavour Ben and Jerry’s to try next. Of course, it’s not quite as relaxing when the horse is trying to throw you into a wall or bite your arm off, but thankfully most of the horses here are pretty civilised.

One of the babies starting to look much more like a performance horse than a paddock pony.

Clipping, on the other hand, is a complete ass of a job. It requires far more concentration, not to mention the personal physical discomfort.. especially when you’re unprepared and not dressed appropriately. I washed my clothes twice and took two showers, yet I was still itchy when I got dressed again the next morning.

Another job which isn’t so fun is picking out feet each time you bring a horse in from the paddock. When I arrived, I wondered why there was a hammer stored with the hoof picks, which were all bent out of shape. Now that I have become well acquainted with the awful icy lumps that pack themselves into hooves and involve a military operation to remove, I understand why hoof picks need to be hammered back into order. Definitely one of the more dangerous and frustrating aspects of a snowy winter!

One nasty, icy hoof

One bent hoof pick – and handsome Casarino checking it out.


Ok so the title might be a little melodramatic, but I am pretty disappointed. One of the things I’d been most excited about ever since deciding to come to the US was the opportunity to take advantage of the online shopping, without the ridiculous international shipping rates ($75 shipping for a $25 polo? I don’t think so!!). I was most looking forward to being able to shop through SmartPak, who don’t ship to Australia at all.

I put in my first order earlier this week, excited to take advantage of True Prospect’s Barn Saver Shipping… Honestly, this is like all my shopaholic dreams come true. However, my order was declined because they won’t accept international credit cards 😦 I explained my situation to them and the answer was still no. So unfortunately I’ll be having to take my business elsewhere. I’m not sure they realised exactly how much money I’d saved to be able to spend with them… I have a pretty long list of wants and needs!!

The top of the list is a couple of good pairs of winter boots… Since the snow has melted a bit and frozen again, I’ve done a few extravagant Bambi-on-ice impressions today. I have to give credit to my trusty Ariat Bromonts, they’ve kept my feet entirely dry and surprisingly warm while spending hours up to my ankles in snow over the last few days. However, as riding boots they’re just not cut out for the slipperiness of the ice, so I need some more specific work boots that are more suitable for snowy conditions.


Hopefully I can make it to a tack store one afternoon this week if we manage to finish work early enough. Otherwise, it’s back to online shopping… Just anywhere but Smartpak!

Snow day!!

So I knew that snow was forecast for this weekend – but today certainly surpassed expectations! It began to snow at about 10:30 this morning, and it’s still falling now. While I’ve been to ski fields, and seen the occasional snow flurry at home on rare occasions, I haven’t seen snow fall this like before – everything looks like something off a postcard. I’ve been wandering around in awe all day, while everyone else is groaning… I’m sure I’ll be sick of having to work in the snow soon enough, but for now I’m just going to enjoy it!

We had a mad dash to bring in the morning turnout horses, and most of them were barn-bound for the rest of the day. I was surprised that we still turned out a few horses overnight – I guess they breed them a lot tougher over here! Everyone went out in a couple of extra rugs… argh, blankets, I’ll get it right one day… and they all seemed pretty happy to be out, with a couple dropping and rolling as soon as we let them go.

Amongst all the excitement, I had three horses to ride today. Definitely no jogging on the outside track in this weather, so we stuck to just trot schooling in the indoor. My favourite of the day was a gorgeous WB gelding named Bones – not only is he a big smoochy teddy bear, but seriously nice to ride. I’m currently plotting how to sneak him back home without anyone noticing.

Bones says nope… definitely not going out there!

I’ve actually noticed that in just two days of riding in front of mirrors, my position has already improved. It’s amazing what you can pick up on when you’re able to constantly monitor and adjust what you’re doing. A set of arena mirrors is definitely on the shopping list for when I get home!!

I met Phillip today, after he’d returned from the USEA convention. He is lovely and polite, and I’m so excited to be learning from him. He saw me ride, and didn’t drag me off the horse and send me back to the airport, so that’s positive.

We had planned on going out for dinner and drinks tonight, but even though the roads had been ploughed, we didn’t really have a suitable car available for getting off the farm and driving into town. There’s always another night – and secretly I didn’t mind just heading inside to warm up and let my poor muscles relax a bit. They’re not quite used to this kind of workload anymore! I’ll definitely need to get myself to a tack store to buy some more suitable winter work boots.. I ended up on my butt after slipping down a snowy ramp today. But a few good old-fashioned shopping trips have been planned ever since the day I decided to head over here 😉

I’m starting to get to know the barn routine a bit better now, it certainly helps that the place is so well organised. While most things are pretty similar to back home, there are always the subtle differences that are required in any barn. It’ll take a while to learn the preferred ways of doing things – but hey, learning is what I’m here for! Tomorrow is my day off for this week, and I’m looking forward to having the chance to just sit and watch some of the horses being ridden… Hopefully some of those good riding skills will rub off on me 🙂

True Prospect Farm – I’ve arrived!

Yesterday was my last morning in New York, and I had planned to get up early and go out for one final run around Central Park. The weather didn’t agree with my plans though, and I woke up to find that it was freezing cold and raining outside. Good excuse to sleep in for an extra hour 😉

My next move was to head down to Pennsylvania to begin my stint as a working student at True Prospect Farm with Phillip Dutton. Battling public transport with three big bags in the rain wasn’t a fun experience, but I eventually made it onto my bus to Delaware. Phillip’s wife, Evie, met me at the bus station at Wilmington. She is absolutely lovely – I’d been pretty nervous about flying across the world to work with people I’d never met before, but I needn’t have worried, everyone I’ve met so far has been so nice.

The farm is located in some really beautiful countryside – even though it’s wintry and muddy at the moment, it’s still really picturesque. I’m staying in the annexe, and my room overlooks the gorgeous big indoor arena… Such an awesome view! I had the afternoon off to get unpacked and settle in, and explored the barn area a little. The highlight so far was definitely meeting Cave – better known as Mr Medicott.


The beautiful indoor! Complete with mirrors.. Let’s see if I can fix my bad-habit-hands.

One of the other riders, who also lives in the annexe, took me out for dinner at Applebee’s… another piece of American pop culture I can tick off the list. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to how sweet and sugary all the food is here! They seem to add some kind of sugary sauce to everything. Next stop was Walmart… Unfortunately I didn’t witness any People-of-Walmart classics, but I’m sure that’s just a matter of time 😉

Up early this morning for my first day of working. Mornings start with feeding, mucking out, turning out certain horses and sweeping up, before getting started on the riding. I rode two lovely young horses this morning – one very cute little mare and a big gelding who I’ve totally fallen in love with – any volunteers to help fund my import bill to bring him home? He’s totally my type – tall, dark and handsome, and very forward with a lovely trot. I’m on the roster to ride three different horses tomorrow. I’m really pleased to be getting the chance to ride so many different horses… After becoming so used to Freddy over the past 5 years, I’ve become pretty set in my ways, so it’s great to be learning new things from new horses.

The rest of the day was spent grooming and cleaning tack – this is where I’m totally in my element. It’s interesting that grooming is such a big deal here, as in specifically getting horses out of their boxes (sorry, stalls… got to keep up with the local lingo) purely for the purpose of grooming. Quite different to the quick dust-off prior to riding that many horses seem to get back home.

Another big difference is the rugging.. nope, sorry, blanketing! It’s basically freezing here, and most horses are turned out with just one winter rug on. Quite a far cry from the layers upon layers that are piled on Australian horses in much milder conditions.

The view of the arena from our living area

I really like the set-up here, it’s well organised, professional and no fuss. There’s a place for everything, and everything is in it’s place – just the way I like to operate. I know it’s early days and I’m all starry-eyed, but I really feel like I’ve found the right place to be. I’m really enjoying just being in an environment where the care of horses is paramount – working with horses is certainly good for the soul.

I’d better wrap this up now because I’m rambling on, and it’s getting late… Need to get my beauty sleep to look good for the horses tomorrow – haha. Apparently snow is forecast for tomorrow. I’m excited to see it, but I’m sure the novelty will wear off very quickly once my extremities start to freeze and fall off!