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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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!!
Rider. Writer. Runner.