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!

Three cheers for Dover!

With the risk of a broken ankle increasing every time I stepped foot outside the barn in my riding boots, I was getting a bit desperate for some real winter work boots. I’ve developed some serious pain in my Achilles’ tendons, assumedly from trudging through the snow in unsuitable footwear all week. Ironically, I’m sitting in my room icing my ankles right now… I may as well just go outside and stick my feet in the snow!

The benefits of working in a barn… There’s always a spare ice boot lying around!

Luckily for me, the girls from the barn decided it was time for a shopping trip. We headed down to Delaware last night to check out a couple of tack stores. After all those years of online shopping, being in an actual Dover store was pretty exciting. Got myself some Ariat Brossard boots, lots of winter gloves and socks, winter breeches, fleece tops, vests and a really nice Joules 3-in-1 jacket. The girls even talked me into buying hairnets so I can really fit in with the Americans and wear my hair up under my helmet. I did manage to pull off the hair-over-the-ears thing when I rode today… And I have to admit, it actually serves a purpose in keeping your ears warm! They might make a hunter princess out of me yet.

All the strenuous shopping left us pretty hungry, so we headed to a cute little restaurant we’d passed earlier to get some dinner. Unfortunately it was quite a bit nicer than we had anticipated, and our breeches, boots and barn jackets earnt us some pretty dirty looks. The poor hostess very carefully avoided offering to take our coats for us, haha. Even though we were probably sending off an interesting aroma around the restaurant, the food and the service was fantastic. Definitely a place to go back to… Though a shower and a change of clothes will be on the cards for next time.

All is going well at the barn, I’m settling in well to the pattern of riding and working. We’re still stuck indoors because of all the snow and ice, with even more snow predicted tomorrow. True Prospect Farm has become incredibly popular over the last few days, with dozens of people either riding over from neighbouring properties or trailering in to use the indoor arena. It can get a bit wild with so many horses in the arena at once – especially when you’re on young horses! It’s certainly a good learning experience for them though.

Trailering in to use the indoor… Not a bad view from our living area!

The view from my room… Visitors getting in some late afternoon riding

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for a week… Part of me feels like I only arrived a day or two ago, but then I’m also feeling pretty well at home, as though I’ve been here for much longer. I’m missing my friends and family back home, but I am certainly in a happy place here right now 🙂

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!