Monday, December 16, 2013

New Kid On The Block

LOF Magical Mable

When opportunity knocks and you're half-asleep and still wearing pajamas, sometimes it's still in your best interest to invite him in to chat.

My dear friend, Trayce Dierks, at the Ilse Schwarz clinic earlier this month, said, "We have this great four year old prospect at the farm..." My response at the time, "Trayce, don't tempt me!" Resistance is futile, apparently.

After repeated sleepless nights where I was unable to get this gorgeous mare out of my head, I finally drove up to Tryon, just to sit on her and see what I thought. Imagine my surprise to find a four year old who can already walk/trot/canter, perform flawless flying lead changes, literally float across the ground at all gaits, and boldly approaches jumps. I thought to myself, but I'm not in the market for a horse right now, right? Wrong. One week after attempting to avoid Trayce's temptations, I found myself driving this mare home in the pouring rain.

Tristan took an immediate dislike to his new adopted sister, but the good news is, he doesn't have to like her. And I really, really, really do like her. She's not perfect; on the ground she's unaware that humans are not things to be bulldozed over (thankfully fixed with a nice rope halter), and she's definitely green as grass when it comes to a connection under saddle. Honestly, I think I would have still bought her simply to enjoy watching her prance elegantly in the pasture.

I'm excited at her potential. She's already so balanced and lovely at 4, I can't wait to see what she can do in consistent work. She has all the makings of an incredible competitor. To top it all off, she is just my size (a hair under 15.3) and a perfect temperament for me to feel comfortable working with such a young prospect. We have a long road ahead of us, but the opportunity of working with a horse of this caliber doesn't come around everyday. This is me, seizing the moment.


I made the extremely difficult decision to send this talented youngster back due to financial difficulties on my end. It was hard to say goodbye, but this will give me more time to focus on Tristan's career over the next couple years, as well as building a life for myself outside of riding.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For

Since I'm not home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner where I could bore my family by rattling off all the things I'm thankful for, time to share with the internet! Enjoy!

What I'm thankful for:

#1 - My Family

Seems like a no-brainer, but I wouldn't be where I am today without the love and support of my wonderful parents. My dad and mom worked their tushies off my entire life to make sure my sister and I were happy and educated. My mom works extra hours and weekends to help support my horse show addiction, and we would not have had a show season at all if it weren't for her bending over backwards to make my dreams a reality. My parents have also been very understanding with my transition from a student and living at home, to moving across the country to follow my dreams. Sometimes I run out of money, and while I'm waiting to be fully self-sufficient (it's very nearly on the horizon), mom and dad have helped me make my way to financial stability. They may have ulterior motives to make sure I take care of them when they're old and stinky,  but they're the best and I couldn't ask for anything more!

#2 - Nathan

In the search to find someone who I'd like to grow old with, I landed the jackpot with Nathan. He has quickly adapted to my horse-crazy lifestyle, and constantly understands my need to spend ungodly hours getting stinky and playing with ponies at random hours of the day and night. He laughs (or tolerates) all my bad jokes, and tells me every day how lucky he is to have me. To put it cornily, I've found "the one" and I'm ready for that ring any day now, no pressure!

#3 - Tristan

I got lucky with my first horse. This year I can honestly say we've done things I never imagined. To name a few: going to a show without a trainer giving us the thumbs up before each phase, winning an event on our dressage score (and 2nd on a dressage score), and making the move to Preliminary (regardless of results). Tristan gives me confidence that I never knew I had. We've been very lucky this past year to enjoy some great facilities for staying fit, opportunities to ride with great trainers, and a wonderful barn to call home. No matter the color of the ribbon when we compete, I still can't help grinning while cantering along bareback, or enjoying the quiet moments walking in the woods on the best horse I've ever met.

#4 - My Job

I was lucky to have my dream job fall into my lap just after I finished college. Working for an equine apparel company was a perfect meld of my passion for horses and my interest in business. However, life happens and sometimes the people you think you can trust have other motives. I lost that job and was worried about falling into the cynical place in my brain that likes to tell me that decent people don't exist. Lucky for me, the contrast between the liars and everyone else helped reveal true friends from the posers. I can't be more thankful for my wonderful ex-boss and now barn manager, Helen Elizabeth, for reminding me that true goodness still exists in the world and can only dream of attaining the strength of character that comes naturally to her every day.

I also learned that dreams are adaptive even if they don't always involve horses. I managed to fall into a wonderful company, located near our new home, and couldn't be happier with my new job. It's a role I never saw myself in previously, going from mucking stalls 24/7 to having a cubicle, but I'm mentally stimulated and challenged to think outside the box every single day I go into work.

#5 Greenville

 Moving across the country is a pure leap of faith. You could find yourself in a place where you feel like an outsider, or you just  might find the home you've always yearned for. Living in Chicago's shadow was never where I wanted to be. It made me hate cities and wish for the day that I could live deep in the countryside, undisturbed. Greenville is the best of both worlds; we have a thriving downtown (including multiple waterfalls within walking distance from Main Street), mountains within a five minute drive, and just a short drive to ride my horse around 40 acres of freedom.

#6 Lego

Because she's the cutest, half-nosed Schnauzer in the world!

How I spent my Thanksgiving!
Even though we've seen a lot of ups and downs this past year, these experiences have done a lot to confirm that I'm right where I'm supposed to be, as long as I can keep rolling with the punches. I'm thankful for everything that's happened, the good and the bad, because now I can only see sun on the horizon, and it's going to be a beautiful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No-Stirrup November, aka I Hate Myself and Want My Legs to Fall Off

This month, I decided to opt-in for a riding challenge: No-Stirrup November. The goal is for riders to increase their physical fitness during a month typically devoid of serious work. Now that show season is at an end and the days are much shorter and colder, sometimes it's hard to find inspiration
for riding goals. My goal is obviously to kill myself, starting with my thighs.

Who knew that calf-skin could be more painful than a medieval torture device?
I remember being a little kid, with endless amounts of energy, posting without stirrups until I was blue in the face. In fact, the riding camp where I spent most of my summers, required riders to be able to post without stirrups several times around the huge arena before we were allowed to canter. No way was I going to miss out on that! Thus, little-kid-me had awesome strength and stamina. Current-me, however, seems to have lost some of that vitality even though I now prep for competitions every year. Time to go back to the basics.

Since I'm too lazy to get my watch out of my trailer, I've been marking my progress in laps. Every day I ride, I've added an additional lap of no-stirrup posting. On day one, I thought I was going to have a heart attack (or massive charlie horse in my thighs, whichever came first) after one lap. Day two was excruciating, but I added another lap all the same. Day four, I didn't feel like putting Tristan's saddle on, so we did four laps of bareback posting. Yes, you read that correctly, four laps, bareback.

With lots of days off for rest and sore muscles, I've now progressed to day six. We start the ride with six laps of no-stirrup posting with Tristan stretching into a low head frame and swinging over his back. Then, once I'm sweaty and tired, we go back to sitting trot to work on lateral movements and more connection. I've also been schooling lots of transitions, trying to conquer our issues at the trot-canter or walk-canter transition with definite progress. Hopefully next year's dressage tests will show some improvement.

After exhausting myself from posting, I'm finally in a state of mind to work on a concept that Eric introduced to me in one of my last lessons: lighter leg-aids. He wants the horse to move off pressure the rider applies to the hair of the horse, less always being more. I worked on this at the walk, and later at the trot and canter, simply keeping a lighter lower leg and expecting a result immediately when any pressure is applied. I was really able to pinpoint weaknesses that Tristan has at the canter, with light lower legs from me he almost can't hold the gait at all, so that gives us some homework to practice. I'd like to get Tristan in some more self-carriage and impulsion by the time December rolls around.

The best part about my ride yesterday? Even after 6 laps of no-stirrup posting, I still managed to post a long-and-low trot at the end with minor muscle soreness. Ripped legs, here I come!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Perfect Practice Produces Perfect Performance

Tristan and I have been very fortunate over the past years to have access to some amazing trainers. One trainer I have mind-melded with to an almost eerie level has been the amazing, incredible Eric Dierks. I studied with him in 2012 for seven months at Renovatio Farms, the gorgeous facility he calls home with his equally gorgeous and talented wife, Trayce. Under Eric's tutelage, we transformed my cute, spunky pony cross into a lean, mean, eventing machine. This October, the Super-pony got to stretch his cross country legs at the incredible Gibbe's Farm in St. Matthews, SC. All I can say is that I thought I had died and gone to some cross country heaven, filled with great schooling questions and challenging fences alike. A clinic with Eric, and a trip to "Eventing Candyland" was exactly what the doctor ordered for the end of this show season!

Day One - 

Sometimes Eric gets very animated while explaining and it leads to awesome hand gestures/facial expressions!

We started the Prelim/Training group with a solid focus on galloping position. Eric said many of the problems that occur out on course stem from a lack of stability in the gallop. The rider should be up over the hands, almost balanced on the balls of the feet, and ready for action. Then, when you go into the preparation phase before the jump, all you need to do is lift up through your collar bone, draw your elbows to your sides, and support with your legs to the fence. When our group all started out, we all had gallop positions too behind the motion, trying to dictate our horse's balance, instead of letting them find their own. Once we adjusted our positions over our hands and with the motion of the gallop, all of our horses started to find their own rhythms and become accountable for their own balance, allowing the riders to focus on more important things like track and engine.

We started off schooling a small oxer, working to establish our "stamp" over fences. Eric's goal at the beginning of a clinic is to examine the individual rider's perfect jump, and have them strive to repeat it over every fence. That "stamp" is different with each horse and rider combination, but it's great to start out with a base level of excellence to strive for.

Chelsea over a nice wide oxer establishing her "stamp."
Once our "stamps" were established, we traveled out into the main field to start with some of the jumps I had been drooling over since pulling into the facility; steeplechase fences. The steeplechase jumps were laid out in a big ring around the field and meant to be ridden at speed, something with which Tristan and I are only recently getting comfortable. We went from steeplechasing to up and downhill fences in small courses. One of the comments Eric made about uphill jumps really resonated with me. Eric said "9 out of 10 times, the horse will add a stride before an uphill fence." When I rode my uphill line, I kept that nugget in mind. While not necessarily planning for the add, I wasn't shocked when the add came and was able to ride positively from it instead of being taken by surprise.

Katellyn and Manderlay over a steeplechase fence

Superpony steeplechasing!

Katellyn and Manderlay


Eric on Manderlay

Oh yeah, and I jumped a duck. No big deal.

Day Two -

Since we had established the gallop the day before, Eric had us focus on letting our horses "play" over some smaller courses. We started out in a more forested area of the farm, playing pole bending with the trees and getting the horses to think on their feet, or as Eric put it, "cat-like." From there, we started a really fun exercise: using the smaller beginner novice/novice jumps, we created our own courses at the trot while jumping a fence at least every 15 seconds. This made all of us think on our feet about where our tracks went between the trees and which fences would be next, all while maintaining a comfortable pace at the trot. I, for one, loathe trotting jumps, but it is a vital skill to have when you find yourself in a sticky situation, like jumping up a bank to a skinny.

After we played over the jumps for a bit, Eric had us each create a 6 fence course, with only about 10 seconds between each fence. We could use any of the jumps we wanted, and were to make the course as winding as possible. I chose to create a course with lots of tight turns, highlighting Tristan's short-coupling allowing him to spin on dimes, including a rollback turn to the same fence within three strides, and finished with a sharp angle over a pipe. Tristan likes to put on a show, but was rather unimpressed by the baby jumps.

After playing with some more courses over larger fences, we moved back to the main infield to work on the coffin. Tristan is generally good over ditches, but due to the deep nature of this question, he took a hard look during the first attempt. We then circled to do a half coffin, ditch to roll-top, and circled again to do a full coffin. Whether it was the wind in my ears or I just felt extra gung-ho from all the great jumps before, I decided to interpret the "bending line" to the coffin as a straight line, angling the ditch to a much taller skinny. We jumped through it well, but it just wasn't what Eric had asked for. Oops.

During our first tour of the property, I had noticed a great big mound question with a log on top. I've jumped questions like that before and know they slightly terrify me. Unfortunately for me, I made the mistake to mention this fact to my boyfriend, who mentioned it to Eric, who then sent me over the jump. Oh, dear. First attempt resulted in a stop, not because Tristan didn't want to jump it, but he could feel that I really didn't want to jump it. Second attempt also had a stop. I still didn't want to jump it and my body language had convinced Tristan that there were indeed monsters hiding in the tiny log. Third try, Eric gave me a blow by blow approach. We started with a more collected gallop, and once we were about two strides away from the base of the mound, he had me wrap my legs around Tristan and kick it into full throttle. Since the hill was so steep, we needed the extra impulsion on the incline to allow enough power to actually jump the jump once we got there! This time we had success, and I really got to feel my position shift from a jumping 2-point, to a backseat drop. Not so scary after all!

Going down!
The last part of our schooling took place in the water. I generally have a fear of dropping in to water, after a previously soggy schooling, but this past show season has helped Tristan and I grow lots of confidence over drops. Before, I would ride in going, "I sure hope this works out!" Now, I say instead, "OK, we've done this before." We put together a small course jumping in and out of the water complex, ending with a large drop with a scary pipe! Tristan jumped like the champion that he is, and made me a sincerely proud momma!

It would probably help if I could keep my eyes up.
I am so glad I went to this clinic. Lessons with Eric help me take an honest look at my riding, and keep me from being too hard on myself. Our last show this season didn't go as planned, as falling in stadium rarely does, but from looking honestly at that attempt, and saying, "It's not that we don't have the capability to show at that level, only that weekend wasn't 'it' for us." Tristan still clearly loves his job, and I can't help but be filled with joy when working with such an incredible partner. Adding Eric's expertise to our chemistry gives us great long-term goals and keeps me looking forwards for the future. With hard work and dedication, we will be successful at Prelim!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Horse Life in 5 Photos

My horse life began at the age of six, when I asked for riding lessons entirely unprovoked by recent pony rides/marry-go-rounds/toy horses. I started out taking western lessons and attended my first horse show only a couple weeks after; one lead-line class and one halter class. Shortly thereafter, I moved to a Hunter/Jumper barn, taking lessons on a very ill-mannered Shetland pony named Shamrock. Jumping was very scary for me at the time, so I eventually moved to a Dressage barn instead, where there was more interaction between child and horse, something I desperately craved. In the summers, my family would travel to our vacation cottage, where my mom found a fabulous day camp I could attend called Great Northern Riding Club. Not only did we ride every day, five days a week, we also were responsible for most of the work around the barn. I loved every second of caring for all the horses, scooping poop, throwing hay, and cleaning tack! My first photo here is one of the camp horses, Show-Me, a quarter pony that I rode in my first couple jump courses (I was still pretty nervous about jumping).

Photo 1 - Show-Me!

 After riding lesson horses for 9 years, I finally convinced my parents that I needed a horse of my own when I was 15. I had an opportunity to work 6 days a week at a boarding barn, and fully cover all main expenses myself. Lucky for me, the barn I was taking lessons at just had a horse shipped in from Colorado. I was in the market for something big, black, and preferably a draft cross. The horse from Colorado was named Tristan, a 15.3 hh buckskin Connemara/Trakehner cross (a what?). Something about his personality clicked with me, and the second time I ever rode him, we did a little jumping. I circled him around to a barely 2 foot vertical and he, being very very green, took off at least 10 feet in front of the jump and landed about 10 feet on the other side. Somehow I instantaneously transformed from a kid afraid of jumping crossrails, to a jumping maverick while a huge grin spread across my face. I remember turning to my mom and saying, "We have to buy this one!"

Photo 2 - Tristan's first clinic!
Astride my little buckskin, anything was possible. Even though our first time out schooling cross country made me very nervous (it was only a second time cross country for either of us), Tristan consistently proved to me that he had my best interests at heart. He loved jumping, was terribly brave, and was willing to try anything I wanted to do. My confidence quickly grew and we started tackling more difficult obstacles every day! Finally, we had enough practice to try our first show. I had never Evented before, but Tristan made me feel like I could do anything, so we gave it a shot. At our first mini-event at Novice level, we were both very nervous and ended up putting in one of the fastest dressage tests of the day. We completed our very first cross country course together, and as I crossed the finish line, hyperventilating and crying, the only words I could get out were, "THAT *wheeze* WAS *wheeze* AWESOME!"

Photo 3 - How not to do Dressage
 Showing definitely wasn't easy, especially dressage. Tristan and I struggled to communicate a lot, and it took a really long time to build that bond and trust. Giraffe-like transitions were the norm for quite some time until we started working the kinks out. Soon enough, Novice level felt way to simple for Tristan; he was ready for the big jumps. Our move up to Training was unfortunately rocky, and we had some very bad shows followed by some pretty amazing shows. One thing was for sure, at the end of the day Tristan wanted to jump and I wanted to fly with him!

We worked hard, day after day, year after year, practicing in the freezing cold and blistering heat alike. I took lessons from many different trainers, read countless books, and watched many old dressage VHS tapes (old-school!) in order to improve. Tristan ended up traveling with me to Ohio, where I attended Lake Erie College and obtained a Bachelors of Science in Equine Entrepreneurship. After graduation, I traveled to North Carolina to work for Eric Dierks, previous Rolex competitor and incredible coach, at the beautiful farm he keeps with his lovely wife, Trayce. I ended up staying there with Tristan for seven months, training literally every day. Tristan and I were in the best shape of our lives. Alas, all good things must come to an end and it was time to enter the real working world, thus we moved again, this time to South Carolina. I started working full-time, but prepared for my upcoming show season with sheer determination.

Photo 4 - Clinic with Ralph Hill
Even while working, I took every opportunity I possibly could to take lessons, ride in clinics, and compete. This meant a lot of late nights after work, feeding at the barn and riding late in the dark to keep in shape. Thankfully, hard work pays off. This past show season, Tristan and I competed in five Training level events, earned four ribbons: our first-ever first place, a second place, a seventh, and an eighth. We completed our four qualifying rounds to move up to Preliminary, and this October we entered our first Prelim event. Unfortunately, we parted company in stadium due to a miscommunication between horse and rider. However, Tristan and I are both ready, yet again, to tackle bigger and better obstacles.

Photo 5 - The final jump of our First place stadium round (if you look closely, I'm already starting to cry!)
My life with horses has taught me that anything you love is worth working your butt off for. Tristan has given me more confidence in myself than I know what to do with. It's hard keeping up with being an Amateur competitor, with real life and work constantly getting in the way, but it's worth every moment of blood sweat and tears. Tristan, this is for you!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Letter to Nathan


You know I'm not generally the super romantic type, but I feel in this case, there should be an exception. This time, last year, I remember the slightly awkward phone call with the question raised, "Well, what are we?" The best answer we could come up with was dating, even though I worked 25 hours a day 8 days a week and you were across the country, sometimes with little to no cell service. The first couple months were hard with the long distance, but I could tell right away that we had something special.

We moved in together and I quickly decided that we desperately needed further companionship (not saying that you weren't adequate), and shortly after, Lego joined our little family. We shared many smiles and laughs before, but adding her crazy little furriness to our lives just enhanced it further.

We've settled into our own quiet little routine, but while the butterflies may be nearly gone, I'm still grateful for everyday I get to spend with you.

When I said, "Let's go to a horseshow!" something you knew little to nothing about, you jumped so wholeheartedly into my equine world that, in addition to my mom of course, you have become an integral part of Tristan's and my show experience. When things go great you are there to revel in victory, and when things go poorly you are quick to offer condolences or a shoulder to cry on.

You are terribly supportive of my horse addiction, no matter how late I leave the barn every night, never asking me to change my routine so we can eat dinner at a more appropriate time.

Every single day we are together, you find a new way to say three things:

1. You're beautiful
2. I'm so lucky to be with you
3. I love you

You are a perfect gentleman, rarely letting me pay for food or open my own doors (even though I try to protest at times) and make me generally feel loved and appreciated every single day. I hope I make you feel even a fraction as great as you make me feel.

I don't know how I ever lived without you before, and I sure as hell don't want to try it again.

To many more loving years.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Inspiration in Defeat - A Recap of the 2013 Windridge Farm Horse Trials

Tristan and I had our first Preliminary level event this weekend. I'd like to report that "we came, we saw, we conquered," but that was hardly the case. I came into this show with incredibly low expectations. Not that I didn't think we were capable of doing well, just that I understand that at times like these it is very likely that the universe will conspire against you.

Day One

Firstly, I recommend not starting the show day off with nausea and puking. 

Dressage - All-in-all, we put in a tense but respectable dressage test. Our score wasn't turning any heads (a hefty 47.0) but the training and strength are there. Unfortunately, I underestimated how difficult a counter canter can be to hold when you have a tense horse in the show ring.

On the plus side, Tristan was moving like a true superstar in the warm-up. I finally have found a warm-up routine that produces a very powerful, yet still rideable mount. The feeling of an extended trot, truly through the back, when his toes flick with every stride, makes me grin from ear to ear like a fool. However, all of that homework changes when heading down the centerline in a spooky ring. We have yet to find balance between the truly straight, powerful dressage horse and the tense nervous show horse. The work continues.

Stadium - We warmed up with a forward, powerful medium canter in mind to accommodate for the wide oxers and big uphill strides. I knew we were prepared for the height and width, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terribly nervous.

We went in the ring, took a nice forward stride off to the first fence and jumped our first oxer. I wasn't terribly happy with our power away from the first jump so with a quick pop with my crop, I kicked him on to jump number two. Two jumped well even though my turn bowed way too far out, but then we ran under three.
Jump 3
Four went alright, but we got sticky again at five.

Jump 5
The combination at six jumped well, but Tristan was starting to lose confidence.

Jump 6-A

Jump 6-B
Seven gave us a horrible distance, with Tristan adding a stride I never saw coming.

Jump 7 - You can see we are in trouble here and the rail is already going down. Tristan put in a huge effort to try to get us out safely, but it was too late.
I knew to make the striding from seven to eight, I was going to have to land and GO, so I landed and asked Tristan to give me all he had. He tried, he really did, but at that last moment of "will it happen" before the triple bar at eight, Tristan told me it wasn't going to work. He stopped. I had a very quick, easy dismount over his shoulder, landing on my feet. We left the ring with me crying and Tristan wondering why we weren't finishing the course.

Nothing bruised but our pride.

Disappointment hit me in the face like a sack of bricks. I blame most of it on myself, but the rest I can chalk up to our collective inexperience at that level. We can jump the jumps, no problem, but when it comes down to the moment and you have to make a decision in a split second, those extra couple of inches count.

Disappointed, but not discouraged.

Do I feel now that we weren't yet ready to compete at that level? Absolutely not. This just wasn't our weekend.

I had a lot of people ask me if I'm going to add another show in this year to get a complete event before the season is over. Here's my thought process, Tristan has given me a wonderful five shows at training level, with four beautiful qualifiers, four ribbons, only one jump penalty in cross country and one rail in stadium. He's incredibly fit right now, ready to gallop and jump until I go blue in the face. Tristan's dressage has improved 100 fold, just in the last couple months. He has given me his everything, and now it's time for him to have a vacation. There will always be more shows next year.

Day Two

Cross Country - I decided to not even ask about running the course for experience. After the previous day, it is time to take a few steps back, go take some more lessons, go school, and then come back with a more confident mindset, ready to dominate. Even though it sucked for a bit, I decided to watch the rest of the competition tackle the course. I studied the prelim horses and riders going through tricky combinations and taking them beautifully in stride. I cheered my friends on with their horses, living vicariously through their individual victories. In the end, through support of my family and friends, we made a potentially depressing weekend, fun and exciting.

My trainer, Eric Dierks, and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
At the end of the day, it could have always been worse. Yes, it absolutely sucks to fall off in front of a crowd of people, knowing both you and your horse are capable of completing the event. We have to keep looking to the positives; Tristan was entirely unscathed, and I walked away without even a bruise to show for my efforts. This was simply not our weekend, and that's ok. Time to take a break.

You win some, you lose some.

*A special thanks to my boyfriend, Nathan Stancliff, for providing me with these incredible photos.*

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Next Step - A Recap of the TR&HC Horse Trials

Risk is inherent in my sport. Eventing is a dangerous mix of athleticism, skill and sheer bravery. It is with great thought and preparation that we should consider moving up the levels to achieve greater and greater feats. We risk bodily harm and even death of both rider and mount every time we leave the start box. Thus we owe it to ourselves and our horses to put great thought into wanting more challenge. Am I physically and mentally prepared? Is my horse physically and mentally prepared? Are we setting ourselves up for success or failure?

I've been told on multiple occasions that both myself and my horse have been ready to go Preliminary for several years now. However, I believe that up until this point in our partnership, we have not. There was always some tiny element missing from our recipe for success. One small edge that other competitors held over us. This season has done a lot to overcome my suspicions. We started this year with a win at Training level at the F.E.N.C.E. Horse Trials, had only one stop on cross country and only one rail this entire season, and finished our last show in 2nd place only 0.3 points behind the leader. The element we were missing was boredom.

This last show was the most relaxed showing experience I've had since my last run at Novice in 2012. I felt as if I had almost wasted my money competing at Training level instead of Prelim. I was hungry for the challenge and ready to show all my homework. Our dressage has improved hundreds of times over in the past year, we have become increasingly bold in cross country, and it's been awhile since any stadium jump has concerned us. In fact, once our cross country courses reaches a basic point-and-shoot mentality, it's time to find new challenge.

The Superpony is hungry for more and for the first time in several years, so am I.


A recap of our last show - Tryon Riding and Hunt Club Horse Trials


As I said before, our dressage had improved immensely. We nevertheless have our homework cut out for us. Our overall consistency has greatly improved, but we are now lacking in the power department. This lowers our points for lengthened gaits. From recent lessons, we have ascertained that Tristan is perfectly capable of powering from his hind end, it is now up to me to figure out the best way to access that power without making him angry. With the hot Trakehner side and stubborn Connemara, sometimes it becomes almost impossible for Tristan to remain cool while I light the giant rocket in his rear.

I am most impressed by Tristan's overall frame and willingness while in the show ring. I think the days of explosions and bird-flipping are behind us. I can't help but smile now as I come down the centerline, confident knowing that we've done all our homework and have shown up at the event ready to perform.

Our score was 32.3 putting us in second place.


The rain was threatening all through our warm up with mist falling throughout our ride. Luckily we missed all of the massive downpours that occurred later in the day. Even with wet conditions, Tristan warm up splendidly, keeping a very cool head in the warm up. We entered the ring with confidence to spare, even though where I had originally thought there would be two in-and-out complexes, there was now only one triple complex in their place. With no time to walk the course again, I simply told myself that we had done our homework and would adjust in the moment. My trainers, Eric and Trayce Dierks advised me to ride the course at a very bright medium canter as some of the earlier riders had issues due to lack of pace.

We had a beautifully bold round, finishing double clear, still in second place but now by only 0.3 points.

Cross Country

The warm up for cross country was definitely the most confident I have felt before leaving the start box. We knew our course back to front, it was the same one we had won on earlier this spring, the only difficulty was the time. Since I've been preparing for Preliminary all season, I had decided to just ride my Prelim gallop. I did some light trot work to warm up Tristan's muscles, light gallop to get the lungs going, and jumped about 5 jumps (only cross country obstacles, we find the stadium jumps in warm-up a waste of effort). Eric told us to simply put some extra RPMs to the base of the jumps, and after two jumps in that style, we were raring to go. Off to the start box we went.

5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Have a great ride, we'll leave the light on.

Tristan jumped like he could have done the course in his sleep. His gallop was tremendous, eating up the course stride by stride. I used my crop before the water to get his attention. He didn't need me to tell him he was going to get wet.

Fabulously up the bank, up the hill to an upright coop, a hidden ditch, big bench, and then our biggest issue, the big drop. A light wack and down the bank we went, me screaming "Good Boy!" All downhill from there.

The rest of the course went by in a blur. Jump by jump, Tristan ate the rest of the course for breakfast. He felt barely impressed by the obstacles at hand, clearing them like they were Beginner Novice height. We crossed the finish line with a double clear, well within the time. After hyperventilating for half a minute, I realized how easily we had just cleared the entire course. Besides a light overall sweat, Tristan recovered quickly on the walk back to the trailer.

We finished the show, still in second place, still behind the leader by 0.3 points. With a field that close, you can't help but be impressed by your competition. Congratulations to all.

Thus we completed our 4th and final qualifier for Preliminary. I now have no excuse to keep me from competing at the Windridge Fall Horse Trials in October. We are more than ready to move up. We have proved ourselves time and time again. Here's to hoping my stomach realizes this as well.

After such a great season already, no matter what happens next weekend at Prelim, I am unbelievably proud of Tristan. I am also proud of myself, for planning to conquer new challenges. By nature, I am an extremely cautious person and I don't take this next step lightly. It is time for us to see what we are made of.

This goes out to all the people that told me that my horse can't jump, I can't ride, and we'd never amount to much. Watch us go now!