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.
One of the impacts of the ice storm was the postponement of the Aiken Olympic Gala – an evening of fundraising for the USEF High Performance Eventing Team. Initially it was intended to be held at Stable View Farm, but was rescheduled for the following week at the beautiful Willcox Hotel in town.
It was a great excuse to get a bit dressed up and head out for a night of rubbing shoulders with all the big names in the business. Riders, owners, vets, coaches and team officials were just a few of the people on the guest list. I was quite mortified to realise at the last minute that I couldn’t find a dress in amongst all my breeches and thermals – a cocktail party benefiting the Olympic Team wasn’t quite what I’d imagined when I was packing my bags! I think the biggest challenge of the evening was us 5 girls trying to get ready in one small bathroom after a long day of riding – but somehow we were only just a little fashionably late.
It was a really fun night and the fundraising was a big success, with plenty of great items up for grabs in the silent auction. Riding lessons with Phillip and grooming lessons with Emma Ford were just a couple of examples, and I found myself thinking I was incredibly fortunate to have access to those opportunities every day!
With the free drinks flowing freely, it wasn’t long before the night got a bit fuzzy, and a few of us kept the party going and headed out into town. There were more than a couple of sore heads the next morning, but it was certainly one of the most memorable evenings of my trip.
I just have to share this beautiful sunrise photo from yesterday morning when I was heading out to the barn.
I’m living and working in such a gorgeous area with some really amazing people, doing something that I love every day… Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Last week I was contacted by Sally from Eventing Nation, asking if I was interested in being the first featured subject in their new series, Working Student Diaries. Of course I was thrilled to oblige!
Check out the article here:
I nearly died of excitement when it was published – I’ve gone from being a little old nobody from Australia to being featured on the front page of Eventing Nation… I really am living the dream!
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!
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.
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.
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!
The highlight of this week so far has definitely been the “snowpocalypse” that has sent the southern states of the US into a frenzy. While True Prospect Farm has received well over a foot of snow in the last day or two, down here at Red Oak we’re suffering under a WHOLE INCH of snow. That’s right folks… Restaurants and take out stores are closing for days at a time, grocery stores have been stripped bare of all necessities, and the good southern locals are all taking shelter in their homes to avoid this wild winter storm.
Eventers all around Aiken are complaining about the fact that they packed up and moved 12 hours south to get away from the snow, and have ended up right back in the middle of it. Horses who were freshly clipped upon arrival in sunny South Carolina are cursing their grooms and longingly wishing for their nice, thick winter coats back. Working students are slipping on their butts down their apartment stairs because they forgot to spread out salt to avoid the onset of ice.
…ok, maybe that last one was just me.
In all seriousness, it really isn’t that cold at all – it got down to about -10’C overnight, but sat just under freezing during the day today. The real issue is simply that the area isn’t as effectively equipped to deal with snow because it’s just not really a common occurrence. Back north, the roads are ploughed and salted almost immediately following a snowfall, allowing the roads to be far more safely navigated. I haven’t seen one single snow plough down here yet. The barns are also built a lot differently, with more open designs and higher ceilings, less insulation and no water heaters, so we are having to try to manage the colder air temperatures and frozen plumbing as best as we can.
It was business as usual today for us, with most of the horses doing jog and canter sets out on the trails. The sandy ground holds up exceptionally well even under a coating of snow – in fact, it had been getting pretty dusty over the past few days, so the snow has actually been quite positive for the footing.
The horses are all pretty unperturbed by the weather – they’re all dressed in quarter sheets when being ridden, they’ve been getting warm, wet feeds for every meal to ensure they’re keeping up their fluids, and they have plenty of hay and layers of blankets to keep them warm and comfortable. It just seems to be us humans who are getting our panties in a twist over this horrifying blizzard 😉
Check out Eventing Nation’s hilarious write up about the great South Carolina Snowpocalypse here:
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 🙂
Unfortunately my first couple of days at Red Oak Farm haven’t been all that pleasant. I wasn’t feeling entirely well on the first day here, but I just put it down to sleep deprivation and the long drive. We were heading out for dinner and drinks for Abigail’s 21st birthday on Saturday night which I hoped would perk me up a little, but I found myself with a splitting headache during dinner, and had to go home early.
I ended up having to take the next day off work because my headache was so bad. I slept for a solid 19 hours, waking up just to have some food in the evening, and went back to sleep for another 10. I was a bit concerned that it was the onset of some exotic American virus! However, lots of rest and bucketloads of ibuprofen seems to have sorted it out, and while I’m still wandering around like a bit of a zombie, I was at least able to go back to work today. I guess the last 6 weeks of hard work, late nights and early mornings have just caught up with me a bit. We take such impeccable care of the horses here, but sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves!
We’ve finally make it to Aiken! We left Pennsylvania much later than we’d hoped, and after being on the road for around 11 hours we made it to Red Oak Farm just before 2am on Saturday morning.
It was a little disappointing to do most of our travelling in the dark so I couldn’t really see any of the sights along the way, though the locals assure me that there really isn’t that much to see along 95 anyway.
Rolling out of bed on Saturday morning to get to work after just a couple of hours sleep was a challenge, but it was so nice to be out in the warmer weather, working out of such a beautiful barn. The 4 of us girls are living in the newly built apartment right above the stables which is very convenient… And it’s very pleasant to fall asleep to the sounds of the horses quietly munching away at their hay.
I’m super excited to start this new chapter of my trip – stay tuned for lots more news and photos from Bridle Creek, it is such an amazing place!
Rider. Writer. Runner.