We had a great weekend at the Rocking Horse Winter II.
Bruce improved in his dressage, minus one baby moment, to score a 35.2 in the Training Horse division to put him in 5th. Dressage has never been my strong suit so placing 5th out of 21 after dressage was huge improvement for us.
Q1: How did you start riding? What was your first horse? What horse made you the rider you are today?
I started riding before I could walk. My grandmother was eventing when she was in her teens. She started at a parks and Rec center and got into riding there. My mother started riding when she was younger and grew up on the hunter jumper circuit. It’s easy to see that I grew up in a horsey family.
My mom held me on the back of a horse when I was only six months old and since then, i was hooked. I was riding independently by the time I was three and got my first pony for my 6th birthday. He was a little white plod-along welsh that packed me around. Known as Surprise, he was amazing, dealing with all my kid shenanigans without blinking an eye.
As perfect as Surprise was, the pony that taught me the most was my second one, named Society Girl. She was a real diva and this pony taught me everything. I got bucked off, reared, spun, thrown over (and through) fences, and so much more but she truly made me the rider I am today.
Q2: How did you first learn about the RRP and decided to become involved?
I learned about the RRP and the thoroughbred makeover from a lady I had been working with for a few months. We had missed the cut off with that horse, but after reading more into it, I was super interested and applied the next year. I got accepted in 2016 and have been attending it yearly. The RRP Makeover has truly been quite the experience.
To me, a training competition for thoroughbreds sounded really entertaining. I had just acquired two thoroughbreds for my 16th birthday and thought it would be fun to apply. My mom convinced me to try even though I was a junior and still green to retraining OTTBS!!
Q3: You entered the 2017 final in eventing - was it hard being a junior and competing against seasoned pros?
I entered the finale in 2017 in 2nd place. As a junior, going against a bunch of pros, it was slightly nerve wracking. However, I had a great support system behind me and a great horse underneath me. Unfortunately, Bruce had nicked himself on the up bank the day before and, being the big wuss that he is, wasn’t quite sound on the day of the finale. It was very upsetting, but he is back out and successfully completing all training events with his prelim move up in view. Bruce also managed to snatch the 6th place ribbon in Show Hunters that year to boost!
Q4: What are your goals for the RRP this year?
Ideally, this year I would like to be in the top 5. That’s wishful thinking for sure and who knows if it will actually happen. My main goal though, is to give whatever horse I end up taking to Kentucky a very good educational experience. I want to expose them to a big show atmosphere and prep them for their future careers in whatever direction they may go. At the end of the day, as trainers, it’s our job to make sure our pupils succeed in the long run.
Q5: Do you have any advice to give young riders or first-time RRP trainers that you wish you had known first time around?
Don’t stress!! Everyone keeps saying this and I can’t say it enough.
Don’t compare yourself or your progress to other people by what they post. Most people only post the good, few share their drawbacks and struggles. With Bruce (RRP 2017), I had a fall on cross country two days prior. I jammed my knee so badly I wasn’t sure I would be able to compete. Last year, I didn’t start my horse until August. He was lame May through July with reoccurring abscesses. My 2016 partner was the “most prepared”. I started in him in January but he was my biggest struggle. Every horse is different, so please don’t worry about where others are.
Make sure you thank everyone who volunteers and puts this event on. Kirsten is amazing and puts up with us year after year for whatever reason.
Finally, #makeoverfriendsarethebestfriends. I have met so many people through the makeover and I don’t know what I would do without them. Especially when they take your horse for a few weeks when your truck breaks down, trying to get a horse for them!
Let’s just forget about Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled”. I think we decided to take the path with all the Road Closed signs and Bridge washed out signs... A few months ago I had a goal of ribboning at the YEH 5 Year Old Championships. Now the goal is to just complete. Though a ribbon would be very nice as well!
3 months ago I moved to Aiken, South Carolina for an amazing opportunity. I had the chance to train many nice young horses and bring both Bruce and Buzz along on the trip. But I can’t go anywhere without having some sort of issue. 24 hours prior to leaving my vet came out to do the health certificate for the boys. Both boys were in perfect health and ready to make the move. I was somewhat packed and the next day we were getting ready to head out. Until I heard that questioning sound that you can just hear and be concerned about in moms voice. Bruce had managed, in 24 hours, to develop a MASSIVE eye ulcer. We were encouraged when the vet checked on him and it didn’t hold any dye, so we were cautiously optimistic that it would clear pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be improving. So while my boss had the vet out, I went ahead and got his eye checked again. Unfortunately we got some pretty bad news.. His eye took up a lot of dye, she had debried the eye, and his cornea was starting to melt. Banamine twice a day, 4 different types of drugs in his eye about 8 times during the day and another 4 or so times during the night if at all possible. At that point we were at risk of losing the eye and I was just convinced that all our goals were shot. I remember just sitting in his stall and bawling my eyes out.
By the next check up, our vet was cautiously optimistic about it picking up a little less dye and looking slightly better. Still the same amount of eye meds, cut back the banamine, and he could start hacking. So towards the end of August we started hacking.
His eye continued to get better, we cut back drastically on the meds, and he was finally approved to come off the atropine and go back outside. That also meant he could go back into full work. We had been lightly flatting by this point, but we got cleared to do jumping, gallops, and everything else needed to be ready for Fair Hill. It was looking super promising that we would still be heading to Fair Hill and even with the extra time off we were going to go for the ribbons.
I turned Bruce out in the field and I took a quick trip back to Florida to visit my family and friends. About a day into the trip I get a call that Bruce sliced his leg open. I started freaking out because I’m 4 hours away and I have no clue what’s really going on. The Barn Owner is doing her best to keep me updated but I’m still paranoid. We brought him in and wrapped it so it didn’t get infected and I got home on Thursday night. On Friday the vet came out to check his eye again and thankfully by this time the swelling in his leg had gone down enough so that we could actually stitch his leg up. He was back on complete stall rest for 10 days until the stitches came out.
The stitches were the only chance at even having a chance of him being ready for Fair Hill. But after the stitches came off he still had to be off until after the TB Makeover, which was the first weekend of October. 2 weeks to prep for the 5 year old championships is not a lot of time... I got back late Sunday, rode him early Monday morning and he felt super. Flatted again on Tuesday and popped him over some small fences Wednesday. He still felt super so we flatted again on Thursday and Friday and I gave him a bigger jump school on Saturday. After 6 days of work he got Sunday off and we flatted on Monday. Yesterday we took him for a cross country school off property to make sure he was set and would jump bigger things when asked and he didn’t put a foot wrong. (Aside from the water jump, but that’s always been an issue..)
So here I am, blogging on my way to Fair Hill, just feeling lucky to be on my way up here, because two weeks ago we weren’t sure this would even be happening... Fingers crossed for a good experience if nothing else.
Thrilled to announce that KH Eventing is now partnered with Millbrook Leathers. The stability and support of the wider leather keeps my foot in a much better position, which in turn puts my entire body in a better position. I have been riding in the same pair for several years and I am still able to use them as they barely stretch! When you order, make sure you use the code kheventing for 10% off your purchase!! These stirrups barely even twist due to the width, which means no rubbing!! www.millbrookleathers.com
Let me start this out by saying I am probably the worst blogger ever... I try to keep up to date with this, but we can all see that I have not blogged since February... A lot has seemed to happen since then.
Charlie, a young horse I had in training and on consignment, sold two weeks into his training. He and his new owner and are doing absolutely amazing. They went to their first show in April and won 2 1st's, 2 5th's, and a 6th. I am really enjoying the videos I get from her consistently!
Niall also got his new home with one of my very own students, who plans on doing the Thoroughbred Makeover with him next week.
We took Wendy and Bruce to the Equiventures YEH/FEH show. Bruce had some baby moments, but overall he was great and finished 4th. Wendy finished 1st and scored a 77% to qualify for the FEH 4 Championships.
We got a new thoroughbred in and sold another one! Bazillion Bells (Buzz), is the newest part of KH Eventing. Canary Green (Ziva), found a new home with a 14 year old girl and will be at the TB Makeover as well.
We went up to Paradise Farm in Aiken the last weekend of May for the YEH show. Bruce scored an impressive 78% to finish 3rd and achieve his qualification for the YEH Championships in Fair Hill in October. Wendy was super for her first event, didn't score real great but finished 3rd!
Very sadly, we lost Wendy to what was confirmed as EEE. All symptoms presented as this, she was UTD on her vaccines, but the blood tests came back positive. Very saddening loss of a horse with a promising future...
We show again in August, up at Full Gallop in Aiken as we prep to run the 5 year old championships in Maryland. Buzz will be going on his first outing this weekend and is beginning to prepare for the TB Makeover in KY in October.
Bruce returned for the YEH judging portion of the USEA Educational Symposium and was ridden by British Olympian Leslie Law. It was a great experience, because not only did I get to hear Leslie's opinion on him, I got to hear what the YEH judges thought and what I needed to work on. Leslie warmed him up and then proceeded to take him over a mock YEH course, so that the judges could really work on the new scoring system.
The first fence, Bruce scored a 2.5. The highest possible score over each fence was a 3. The second one he became a little unfocused, pulled a rail, and scored a 1. The next fence in the line scored a 2.5, and the following two show jumps (shown in the video above) scored between a 2.5 and 3. As did the first cross country fence. The second fence scored a 2 as he landed flat and on the forehand. The third cross country fence, a little coop, scored a 2.5-3 and he galloped onto to the trakhaner. He scored a 2-2.5 there, not for lack of jump but he switched his lead right before the fence. He turned and hopped over a coop, scored a 2.5-3, and through the water, out over the bank where he scored a 2-2.5 because he lacked impulsion. Over a small log galloping away, scoring a 3, and over a roll top to a ditch. Scored a 2.5 there because he just skimmed over the ditch and they would like to see a slight notice of the ditch, not just skimming over it. The final part was the gallop where he scored a 7.5 out of 10, as he started to gallop on the forehand.
Moving on with rideability, he scored a 7-7.5 out of 10. Just with him being slightly on the forehand, I have to work on that before he achieves the gallop he truly needs. General presence scored a 7.5. They then put Leslie on the mic for him to talk a little bit on his opinion after riding him. He discussed working on his rideability, getting him lighter off his forehand but really complimented his jump, and how it is rather effortless and he comes right up to your chest. He proceeded to say that while this horse will never be a winner after dressage, but said cross country is going to be his strongest phase. After I get him muscled properly he is going to be a completely different horse. Leslie gave him a huge compliment that made me incredibly happy. He said after a few years this you will not recognize this horse. He is going to be a great horse for a young rider to take up the levels. If he was a professionals horse in a big barn he would be passed over because he is going to take time. But taking that time, I wouldn't be surprised to see a young rider take him through the advanced/3* level. That was one of the biggest votes of encouragement I could receive, and I plan on taking some lessons with Leslie now in the future, and really working to obtain the best from him that I can.
Overall he was phenomenal and after a hard day yesterday too I am not surprised he is slightly tired. He gets to take the day off tomorrow before a light flat school on Friday and then off to Three Lakes HT on Saturday.
I had the amazing opportunity, yet again, to be a demo rider in the USEA ICP Symposium. The focus this year was teaching how to teach riders and young event horses. I rode with Leslie Law in the symposium today, riding alongside Maya Black, Caroline Martin, and Amy Moreshead. It is one of the best experiences and I would highly recommend it.
Bruce was the youngest and greenest horse in the group I was riding in but that didn't stop us from learning a ton. We started over a small course, because Leslie wanted all the horses minds thinking forward. He said "One of the worst things about cross country schooling in groups is it is just stand still and then go and stand still then go." So he fixed that issue. I had a little problem with getting Bruce, whom is notoriously lazy, in front of my leg which resulted in a stop. So we really worked on getting him to gallop and move forward. We moved onto jumping a roll top, looping back around and jumping a narrow wedge fence. The wedge had rails on it to help guide young horses in. Bruce didn't completely understand it so it took him a few tries to figure it out. Something to definitely work on at home. One of my biggest faults there was that I would collapse my defensive position in anticipation of the jump, instead of waiting for him to come to me.
Next we switched to the down banks, where we had to collect, but then push forward again. We started small, made the bank bigger, and then incorporated a jump before the bank, but slowly built up, and didn't immediately send the horse at a jump to a bank. My biggest problem was landing and staying straight, so Leslie had me do it again, aiming straight at him over the fence and down the bank. That helped a lot, but I know what needs to be done there as well. I have a bad habit of not having an independent upper body and lower leg, separated from each other, so that is another key thing for me to work on to help Bruce be the best he can be. We switched to a ditch, which Bruce skipped right over and Leslie had us gallop away from the ditch so that even though we collected before he was moving forward and not falling behind my leg.
The final exercise we did was dropping into water. First we trotted up a small bank out of the water, after we introduced the horses to the water. We trotted up and then turned around and cantered down the same bank. We then made a bending line over a small roll top out of the water. Bruce fell behind my leg so got a little sticky the first time to the bank and we used an opening between two small logs to encourage him down it. The second time, he jumped over the log into the water, which I ended up falling forward again so we will definitely be working on upper body control!
A great experience for Bruce today and tomorrow Leslie will ride him the YEH Demo so I am super excited for that. Then onto Three Lakes HT this weekend.
While I may not be the most amazing, or most experienced rider applying to be Bit of Britain's next top rider, in the grand scheme of a partnership, that isn't necessarily the most important factor in helping promote a company- no matter if it is a big or small one.
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to learn about the importance of supporting a brand at the shows, on my social media, and in real life. Three years ago, I was selected to be one of the ambassadors for C4 belts. Both that year, and the following year I was able to use my time at shows, my social media, my website, and face to face interactions to help increase awareness of the C4 brand, and both years was the top selling ambassador. While that was exciting for me to know I helped increase their sales as well as helped promote their company, my dedication and determination also led to me being offered the job of "ambassador coordinator". Through this job, I have definitely seen some amazing ambassadors who work HARD in order to help promote a brand they, and I, love, but I have also seen some that are definitely just wanting to "get free stuff"!
To me, I want to support and promote a brand that I would be willing to buy from even without the promise of something free or for receiving any recognition. More and more, lately, I am seeing the importance of supporting a company as a partnership through loyalty, hard work, and by being creative in finding new ways to promote!
Whether I am showing my Intermediate Event Horse, or retraining one of my OTTB's next year again at the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover, Bit of Britain is a team that I would love to be a part of, a team I would love to support, and be a part of a marketing partnership that would fully support Bit of Britain and do all I possibly can to help the team grow.
Last year was the first year I had done the thoroughbred makeover put on by the Retired Racehorse Project. I had a couple options. A 7 year old mare by Deputy Commander out of Safe Harbor named Harborton, also known as Evie, was my first choice. Unfortunately she did not pan out. At the end of January, January 29th to be exact, Evie passed away from a sand colic that wasn't fixable. Another option was a 4 yr old named Hope at Last by Partners Hero out of Last Puff, whom was nicknamed Gaston. He was to immature for what I wanted to do so I made the decision to find a place where he could mature a bit more and then start really working. My last option was a 9 yr old thoroughbred by Repriced out of Deep Discount named Family Foundation. I nicknamed him Sven and we got started. I got him in November of 2015 and we started training January 1st when the 15 ride ban was lifted.
In December of 2016 I picked up a filly from Gulfstream Park by Concord Point out of Lady Madonna. Her name is Lady is Privat and she is nicknamed Wendy around the barn. The other horse came to the farm in April. He was from Dodon Training Farm in Maryland. He is by Court Vision out of Full Circle. His name is First Around and he is known as Bruce around the barn. I got Bruce four months after we were allowed to start riding our horses.
When I got Sven and the ride "ban" had been lifted I was putting him in full work. He had hit the cross country course in just a couple months. Within two months of being under saddle we were at our first schooling show. We continued cross country schooling once a week. We had issues at sharks teeth and anything where the footing changed colors. So we started taking lessons with Tik Maynard several months before the makeover. I was consistently taking lessons and riding with people to help improve the horses ability. We ended up placing 30th in Eventing and the third place junior! In the freestyle I did I was 15th and the top placing junior rider.
This year is a bit different. I started working with Wendy in December when I was able to start working with her. We took it super slowly. We worked on slowly building her up and because she is young, only three years old, I didn't want to push her. In February we headed out to a local hunter show to do some flat classes to see what we were working with. We ended up coming home with a few ribbons which wasn't the main goal.we popped over some teeny tiny cross rails to see if she was ready to head to the march schooling show in cross rails. The show went really well and we ended up coming home with the a reserve champion in the cross rails! (Such a big accomplishment for my baby horse!!).
In April Bruce came and he got straight into work. We ended up taking them both to a local schooling show at the beginning of May. Unfortunately after that we had the bad wildfires all around me so the horses were out of work for two weeks. As soon as the wildfires chilled I got them back into work. At this point I did not know who would be going to the makeover, so I had both of them in training, but I hadn't taken a lesson with anyone on either of them. The week I got them back into work it decided to start pouring. It was raining so badly that I didn't work for another two weeks. So now we are almost through June. There was a local schooling show that had cross country schooling the day before and I took Bruce so that he would be able to see a cross country course as I was beginning to look towards him being my makeover mount. Bruce is older and more mature. Since I was moving to Pennsylvania I had to make my pick and I chose Bruce.
That first picture of the orange and red jump is his first time jumping. The other jumping picture of him is his fifth time jumping. He improved over just a few times. Bruce hasn't hit a single show since that one hunter show just a few weeks after I first got him. I currently work for Waylon Roberts so it is a huge help constantly having eyes on the ground helping me out. When I first got up to Waylon, we discussed my horses and he asked about RRP when I was out to dinner with him and Jenny Caras. It was a fun experience and they were very interested in it and talked about doing it in the future. I then realized he was at True Prospect Farm which is home of TB Makeover Winner in 2014 Icabad Crane. It is pretty neat to train at a farm which has a horse who won the Americas Most Wanted Thoroughbred award. Maybe I could do the same here.
A few days ago I had a cross country lesson with Waylon. All was going well as we jumped around the smaller course. Then Waylon said, "Okay, go jump that". As that was said Waylon pointed to a log and to a small up bank, one stride, to a down bank. This horse had jumped a few houses, roll tops, and small things like that but we hadn't approached a bank. So we trotted over the log, cantered towards the banked. He dramatically stopped and then stepped up the bank. Trotted across the bank and launched down. We did it back and then this time we actually trotted up and down.
Finally we cantered up and down the bank. He is so smart and learns so quickly. So we headed over to the water jump. Bruce can still be iffy about water so when Waylon told me to do the up bank out of the water I just had to be confident. That is what we did.. Then he said what I hoped he wouldn't say. "Now jump down the bank into the water." We trotted up, he stopped, and then launched. We did it again and Bruce went right down the bank this time. While I am not where I was last year for the makeover, I am in a pretty good place I like to think! Even if we don't do to hot at the makeover, we will have valuable experience.
We would love to have your vote as the RRP TB Ambassador award. Click the link below and vote today. It would mean the world to me. I believe in these animals. Thoroughbreds have the heart of ten of any other horse. I highly encourage finding your OTTB today. You won't regret joining and getting an RRP membership as well!!
Growing up I have had a total of one horse who was push button. He told me what he needed to do and that is what we did. But I find that riding the tougher horses and creating your own horses helps further your ability as a trainer.
Surprise was my push button pony. And since then I don't even know if I have sat on a horse that I can just think do this and it happens. But I am not complaining about that in the slightest. The next horse after Surprise. A 12.3 welsh/tb cross bought to be a hunter pony. Anyone who knows her is probably laughing right now at the fact that we bought her to be a hunter pony. Two years of falling off of her and I finally figured it out. But we switched to the jumpers. Even at 11 years old I knew what was best for my horse. I am eternally grateful as I have grown up in a family that helps me learn from an early age what to do in situations like that.
I evented Joules until I was to tall for her and she was never push button. She is 16 and still lives with me. She did her fair share in my life. After Joules I rode my grandmothers thoroughbred Fly By. While Fly isn't push button and you do have to work to ride him he was still a great ride to have as I learned a lot in the 6 months that I ended up riding him.
After riding him I got the ride on my current mount, EZ. EZ was a special case. While I am riding a made horse, he is by far the least push button horse I have ever ridden. He has buttons but I have to ask precisely or I am totally wrong and he lets everyone know I screwed up. This ex 3* horse whom I aquired for free (It is possible!) has taught me so much! I have gone from being nervous about anything over 3'3 to confidently competing 3'11 eventing. We had a set back this past weekend but we are working over that now.When we had a stop on cross country, which is abnormal of him, my hand went up and we retired. I don't need to push him around a course. He has nothing left to prove to me or to anyone else. When he decides he wants to retire, he will retire happily on my place because without him and Joules, I would never be the rider I am today. He has taught me to be a better rider. Because I have grown up creating horses and riding tough horses, I have fantastic young horses to ride while I create them.
I got three OTTB's for my 16th birthday. All free. One older, one gorgeous chestnut filly, and a 4 yr old with a knee chip. I entered the Retired Racehorse Project TB Makeover and was ready to sell two and take the filly. Sadly my filly passed away from colic at the end of January in 2016. At that point I hadn't realized that the older horse, Sven, was eligible. So I got to work with the 4 yr old who just was not mentally mature enough. So we sold him and he is happy with a lady doing lower level dressage.
Sven taught me so much and I like to think I taught him a good bit as well. He did like to remind me what the ground felt like. I guess I wasn't reminded enough... But through that all I stuck it out with him. I got to learn how to give a horse a solid flat foundation, learned to keep my body back going to a fence, and learn how to really begin restarting OTTB's. We made it to Kentucky and conquered the Makeover. We came back home and he never felt comfortable on a cross country course. So I made a tough decision to sell him to a jumper home where he would be more comfortable. Tough decisions, but what the horse wants is most important. He is happy, safe, with a good person, and enjoying life!
Now I have two young horses. I have a 3 yr old filly "Lady is Privat" who is by Concord Point out of Lady Madonna. Her pedigree is fabulous for sport and she has a phenomenal mind. While I am away in Pennsylvania she is getting ridden a few times a week by my mother, and she will gradually start working into eventing next year. Initially she was supposed to be the horse I took to the Makeover this year, until I bought First Around. First Around (Bruce) by Court Vision out of First Circle is a phenomenal 4 year old whom I bought a few months ago. I decided letting Wendy mature and waiting until next year is what was best for her to have her move far in life. In these few months I have realized the phenomenal brain this horse has. As I say I am to create my own horse for the top, just like Jennie Brannigan and Lainey Ashker, I feel like these two horses could be the key. They are not made horses right now that I can hop on and win. But in time I will work with them to the point where we can go and win. Bruce and I head to the RRP TB Makeover in just over 30 days. While we are not specifically focusing on having him ready for this specific show, it is more of a stepping stone into the future of this horse. Wendy will just be a horse for right now.
So while I may not be winning I will definitely be advocating my thoroughbreds! I will be creating my two young horses and bringing them to the best they can possibly be. It might be a few years, but one day these horses could be the next Anthony Patch, Donner, Captain Jack, or Blackfoot Mystery. All these fantastic thoroughbreds that I strive to be half as much as. Right now I am on a journey. I don't know where it will lead. But I know I am enjoying it and learning just as much as my horses.
I would love to have your help in this. At 17 years old I am really striving to show what great horses these make. I would love to have your vote for the 2017 TB Ambassador award! I will continue to work with these young horses and this is how I look to start my professional career. Restarting and retraining OTTB's. This is the start of a long, fun journey!