Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 in a Nutshell

Sunday at Fair Hill marked the end of the year for my string of horses and I. It is such a huge relief to turn out sound, happy horses at the finish of the last competition. We all have had a big year and deserve a little rest.

I began the year in a not so good place, dissapointed again by being left off the developing riders list and then to add insult to injury I fell off at Kentucky. Houdini was struggling to move up to Advanced, I was basically a homeless eventing gypsy and I felt like nothing in my life was going in the right direction. Not such a good start to 2012.

When I was little mama always told me never to cry over spilled milk. Get over it and get on with it. I found myself dwelling on the negatives and she quickly put the kabash on that. Listen to your mothers, people. Although being an eventing gypsy is good fun, I decided if I really wanted to make a go of this I needed a stable place to keep and train the horses (no pun intended). I purchsed a small farm in Ocala that has everything I need. The community down here is amazing and I am surrounded by wonderful, helpful, supportive people. A year ago they were strangers, now they are family.

I think that horses are much more intuative than they are given credit for. Once we settled into the new farm it was like they knew they were home. Even the barely broke babies were calm, cooperative and happy in their work. We worked hard over the summer and our efforts were rewarded, Don does what Don does best and finished top ten in both the Richland CIC3* and Fair Hill CCI3*. I had my doubts about Houdini, but he rose to the occasion by finishing his season with a win in the Advanced at Poplar Place. I have such high hopes for this horse.

It seems at the end of each year I keep finding myself in a better place. I have a wonderful new girl who works for me, she just finished 2nd in the Novice at Rocking Horse on her spooky young Dutch gelding. I am very, very proud of her and she works her tail off every day. She also has the added benefit of a wonderful family who is endlessly supportive of me. No matter what anyone says, this a team sport, and I am very lucky to have such a n incredible team behind me. I welcomed some great new sponsors, first and foremost Patty Merli saddle fitter extraordinaire and her awesome husband Rip. They have put me in some lovely Bliss saddles and I can't wait to try the Black Country line up. Revitavet is a wonderful product that we use on a daily basis, the owner Tom is a huge supporter and is always good for a congratulatory phone call after a big event. I appreciate that more than he knows! Still riding in my Heritage gloves, the best on earth and an amazing company staffed with awesome people.

I also welcome some new owners, Kate and Lee Robbins in Ocala who have lovely Dutch horses that I will be riding this spring. I can't possibly write a thank you post without mentioning the Hollings who are steadfast in their support of me and have gone outrageously above and beyond to help me. And of course my "Ocala Mom" Sharon Will who is all in, 24/7, between her and my own mother I have the two best cheerleaders in the world!

None of this would be possible without my incredible horses, Houdini and Sir Donovan. The trophies and ribbons are as much theirs as mine. As I sit on the deck listening to them meander around in their fields, I am so thankful that I have been privledged enough to spend another year in their company. To turn them out at the end of a long year, sound and happy, is bliss. I am already looking forward to next years' competitions, but I am pretty sure all they are looking forward to is more alfalfa.

Bring it, 2013!



Monday, October 1, 2012

Fair Hill

Here I am, sitting with a glass of wine not fully believing that I have just entered my third Fair Hill CCI3*. I am at the ripe old age of 25 and it is my last year for the National Under 25 Championships, with my “old” campaigner Sir Donovan who is nearing senior citizen status at the age of 10. Will have to remember to pack our walkers and hover-rounds. And umbrellas. And parkas… oh dear. 

Don took us both around our first Fair Hill when he was 7, I was too young and dumb to realize how exceptional a feat that was. It was also the monsoon year, Noah’s Ark could have gotten around faster than we did. I think Don loved it, being from Ireland, he probably felt right at home in the mud and muck. Nonetheless, we jumped an amazing clear round, and 3 years later I like to think I am less young and dumb and able to give it a better shot this time around.

Our second year we did Fair Hill, in 2010, again we jumped clear cross country and improved our effort by finishing 4th in the Under 25 Championship and 7th in the Owner/Rider Championship. That year the going was much better and I wasn’t soaked to the bone every day. 
Don and I took a year off from Fair Hill in 2011 and decided to try Galway CCI3* where we jumped double clear around
cross country and finished 12th. We had an amazing trip, it
was a fabulous event and being in wine country wasn’t too
shabby either.  

I had not originally planned on entering Don in Fair Hill or
any fall 3* for that matter. After a long post-Olympics talk
with my coach, Jon Holling, we made the decision to put him
on the market so I can use the money to purchase some very
high quality young horses. It was a bit crushing, like when
I was a little kid and I thought my Shetland pony Woody was
going to be the next Winsome Adante. I am beyond fortunate
that I have another fantastic young Advanced horse waiting
in the wings, so it became a matter of which one do I need
to sell to further my riding career. I had figured I would
spend the late summer and fall at my farm in Ocala and just
keep on keeping on….


All it took was one crisp fall day. I think event riders can
measure their seasons by “Kentucky” and “Fair Hill”
and once the weather turns, you just feel it.. and that one
day it felt like Fair Hill. I could close my eyes and see
the red and yellow trees, the colors of autumn in Maryland.
Suddenly I had the taste of crab bisque in my mouth. I
immediately remembered where my sweaters were packed and my
internal GPS hit the coordinates for Elkton. It was all over
for me and before I knew it I had pressed the “send”
button with my entry. 

This year at Fair Hill is bittersweet for me, as it will
likely be my last major international event with Don. He is
an amazing cross country machine and I would like nothing
more than for him to do for someone else what he has done
for me, gave me confidence, gave me experience, gave me
everything. Here we are, Don and I, feeling old at 25 and
10, but so much has happened to us between our first Fair
Hill and now. We’ve hit every 3* in the country, conquered
the Wild West together, twice (we did go to Montana, too!).
We ate Poutine at Bromont and did the Dirty Jerz in style by
finishing 4th. We’ve been Forked 3 times and we’ve eaten
more corn cobs than I care to admit at Richland. That’s
just scratching the surface, Don and I have done it all, it
just seems fitting that we end up right back where we
started… Fair Hill. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gypsy road survival guide

We are finally back from our crazy gypsy adventure.. first traveling to one of my favorite towns, Aiken so both Don and Hewie could run the AI. Don was 3rd and Hewie 5th, both getting really prepared for Richland. They did not dissapoint me, Don finished a solid 10th in the tough CIC3* and Hewie completely took my breath away by being awesome in all 3 phases, despite me going irritatingly slow on XC. I have produced Hewie from a know-nothing baby, and for some reason, when you are leaving the start box heading towards blue flags all you can remember are the times when they didn't jump so well! It makes you not want to run so fast at stuff! Next time I will trust Screwy Hewie a bit more and hope for a better placing in the end, I am thrilled with him nonetheless.

I dragged my working student Alex along with me for the ride, and she learned just what gypsy life was all about. She took to it like a duck to water. For those who are just beginning their foray into gypsy horseshow life, I'd like to give you a few tips on how to ease the journey and keep your self occupied on the 20+ hour drives around the country.

1. Keep "fuel in the tank" and drink lots of caffeine.

Caffeine shakes and muffin top be damned, you definitely need that starbucks and breakfast burrito

2. Trash talking

Trash talking is a great way to pass the time early on in the trip. It not only gets your angry blood flowing, it keeps your mind nimble as you come up with better and more insulting insults. Trash talk other drivers, billboards, buildings, and eachother.

3. Take pictures of ridiculous road signs

What else do you have to do?

 Oh yea, take pictures of eachother if you're dumb enough to fall asleep.

4. Make the best of a bad situation
Oh jeez! You blew a tire? On the side of a mountain? And your spare has a big gash in it? And the highway patrol officer told you it's unlikley you'll be abducted?

Side of the highway balance beam Olympics, naturally. Highway Patrol gave us 10s on dismounts. Big shout out to US Rider who sent Angry Santa out to help us!  You guys are for real the best!
5. Make fun of cars
Now we're 13 hours into the trip and we're getting a bit tired. We're in the corn field lands of Ohio or Nebraska or Narnia wherever it is that we are. Really the only thing to look at is other cars, so obviously we make fun of them and try to guess what they resemble. These are our favorites
Ant. Congrats to Alex on the impressive and surprising use of "thorax" to describe this car

Big toe. Easy.


Club foot




Anything resembling this is what we refer to as a "geloppi"
6. Secret weapon.
You have now been driving 20 hours, it's 4AM, there is nothing to look at and no other cars on the road to make fun of. You have the caffeine shakes and you are completely delirious. Shadows become deer jumping out in front of you. Not even a stop at the Ag station energizes you. This is our secret weapon, it is only to be played through the truck speakers on high volume. It won't work if you just play it on your phone. And if you have dogs in the truck, you're in for a treat. It will buy you at least 30 minutes, 1-2 hours if you try your best impressions as it is playing. This will get you through the final push, I promise.
Until the next gypsy adventure!!!



Monday, July 16, 2012

Reality vs. Eventing

It's the middle of July and I am finally finding the time to sit down with a glass of wine and update y'all on the goings-on. To be perfectly honest, the majority of the spring would be one that I would love to forget and erase forever from my history of my life. My "Little Red" (Houdini) had an unsuccessful move up to Advaced after previously completing 3 CCI2*'s and "Big Red" or Don (Sir Donovan) dumped me at Kentucky. Not a great start to the year. That is the funny thing about horses, one moment you are on top of the world and the next moment you are at the bottom of the heap. If you are going to survive in this business, one must have the tenacity to keep chipping away at it day after day, no matter what.

At Kentucky, I was beyond thrilled that Don actually stayed in the ring this year, he dug deep and settled his nerves about the big arena and did a perfectly obediant dressage test. Not a class winner but we'll take it. I accredit it mostly to Jon Holling's consummate coaching, "Dont F--- Up" was basically the mantra for the week. I did manage to f--- it up on Saturday, but did I mention we finished the test?! Next year I suppose. The course at Kentucky ate a lot of people this year, I had a stupid bobble at a nothing fence because I rode hesitantly and I got what I deserved. There are no excuses other than I underrode and I will not make that mistake again. There is no one to blame but myself, I had the best support in my parents, Jon and his wife Jenn and my wonderful groom. I was well prepared but I neglected to execute. Next year is my year.

Saturday night in Kentucky, the question was, what next? A fit, sound horse that had an unfortunate error on XC.. what do you do? It is not like there is a 4* every weekend.. Oh Yea let me just go to the next one... In Germany... Easy right? I did not really want to pack up and go to Jersey again as Don was 4th in the CCI last year. I barely had the funds for a big trip, maybe Luhmuhlen? This is where it gets difficult, as you are getting older and Mommy and Daddy aren't paying all the bills anymore, you are finding yourself in a more precarious situation. Do I blow it all and run off to Europe for a competition I likely won't win, or spend the money on something that will benefit me, my business and my life in the long run? Such is the reality of life. Sometimes I liken the horse world to a fantasy land, it doesn't always feel like real life to me. I get to spend every day cavorting around with horses in the sunshine while most people my age are stuck in a cube on the 10th floor. Decisions, decisions.

The lease on my farm in Florida was up after Kentucky. I had been trying to find a way to buy the farm for a while but just couldn't make the numbers work. I started to look around at other places to lease, needless to say it was an unwelcome stressor in my life that couldn't have come at a worse time. I found a place on the other side of town, and after digging deeper, it looked like something I had the potential to buy. I couldn't believe it -- me, a farm owner? It was a hugely generous situation on the part of the owner but I ran with it. I used the "what next" money for the down payment and have been a blissful farm owner ever since -- and by blissful I mean tired, sunburnt, achey and crabby but nonetheless, I own a farm! My whole life has turned around. I feel stable, I feel secure, I feel the absolute opposite as I did 3 months ago. Although this summer I may not get to play the Traveling Gypsy role that I am so famous for, I am merrily slaving my days away on the farm, making it my own. I am also merrily digging myself out of debt that is also known as Farm Ownership, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

So here is where we get to plans for the horses! I am double lucky, not only do I own a farm but I STILL own TWO sound upper level horses! Knock wood..!! Hewie has done a couple of Intermediate this summer including a 3rd place finish at Full Gallop. I think he is almost ready to try another Advanced horse trial. For some unknown reason we developed a LCRF (Left-Corner-Runout/Freakout) issue but I think I pretty much have it solved. He is entered at Richland Park's Advanced and Big Red is entered in the CIC3*. I feel Hewie needs to do one more Intermediate in August to prepare so we will run up to River Glen with some students and canter around the OI there. Both Little and Big Reds will do the Full Gallop AI to prepare for Richland although I haven't decided if I will run them XC or not. At home I am chipping away on my exciting home breds, Pickle is becoming an expert trail horse. He is by Silvio I out of my 2* mare Rosetta Stone. I nearly cry every time he stands for me at the mounting block and I swing a leg over him. People who have not produced a horse from a single cell would not understand the amount of time and patience it takes to get one to the point where you can actually sit on its' back. I fondly remember when he was just a black dot on a computer screen, and later, a velociraptor yearling.. He has totally shaped up and he is everything I could have hoped for and more. Cooper, at 2.5 years old, is now longing a little in the round pen and getting a saddle put on him. He is almost ready to be backed. Cooper is out of an eventing TB mare and by a Han/Welsh pony dressage stallion named Hot Shot. He is a fabulous young horse who has been a pleasure for me to produce.

Well, to be honest I really only have plans through Richland. I will keep chipping away at the babies here and my awesome sale horses. I imagine Don and I will return to Fair Hill this fall for the 3rd time to hopefully win the Under 25 Championships. We have been 3rd in 2009 and 4th in 2010 and I intend to bring home the cooler this year. It is my last year, I am getting old. I can almsot taste the crab bisque. Hewie will let me know his schedule after Richland. I will perhaps take him to another Advanced horse trial or maybe try for a CIC 3* this fall. At 8 years old, I am just allowing him to tell me what he is ready for and what he wants to do. \

LIKE the Yellow Rose Eventing page on facebook for pictures of the farm, I promise to take and post them this week!

Until next time,

Katie, Big Red, Little Red and Pickle the Trail Horse

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Days 1 & 2 of Amazing Multi Horse Show Gypsy Adventure

....but I really haven't slept, so I will just count all of these occurances as just a single day.

No grass grows under the gypsy wagon's wheels, so Lindsay and I found ourselves packing for another adventure. We decided to go to another horse show on the way to Kentucky and take Hewie along... and by on the way I mean completely out of the way and totally out of my budget. Plus, that show is Fair Hill, which is always certain to be cold and rainy. Case in point, today, and the forecast for every day this week. Whose bright idea was this? Jon Holling's, of course.

At least I have Wesley's all you can eat seafood buffet to look forward to!

We got here late last night after being on the road since 4:30am. I had planned to leave at 3 or 3:30 but Adrian needed to fix something on the big LQ trailer. OK, that was fine and Lindsay and I just took our time packing the odds and ends. About 4:00 rolls around and he is still twiddling with things, must be a man thing. We load up the horses and he is still fussing with switches and knobs. I give him the 15 minute warning which went in one ear and out the other. I truly believe he loves this LQ trailer more than me. Finally I made an executive decision and just started driving, with Adrian attatched to the side, it was like I was taking a baby from its' mothers' arms. He may have started crying... for the trailer... not for me. I am sure he is counting the minutes until he meets me in Kentucky so he can see his baby (the trailer) again.. silly man.

The morning didn't get much better for me. At about 7 am I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so Lindsay and I decided to stop for coffee. After browsing in the aisles of the gas station a younger sort of cute man came up to me and asked me how I was doing. Okay, all right, a little tired I guess. Then he announced to the world that I had my pants on inside out. And he called me "ma'am". Double crap. I had gone all morning with my pants on inside out (THANKS Lindsay and Adrian... good looking out) and I apparently look old enough now to be called "ma'am". Awesome just... awesome.

After putting on my pants like a big girl we hit the road again. The rest of the trip was totally uneventful. Lindsay and I both noted how much faster we were at our stops now that we didn't have the resident Trailer Freak with us. Faster, yes... but I do still miss the Trailer Freak very much even if he adds at least 2 hours on to my trip time just by being there.

Linsday and I took the boys on a trail ride around Fair Hill in what seemed like a frigid blizzard.. but in reality it was just 55 and drizzle. I have gone soft from living in Florida. Spoiled. Even the dogs have been shivering all day. I rode them both again on the flat this afternoon and had a lesson on Don with Jon which went really well. He is going amazing and everybody around has noticed a huge change in his attitude this year. I am optimistic about our chances at Kentucky but really, after what happened last year, if I can just have a happy horse in the sandbox I will be thrilled. Everything else will be icing on the cake. We drew # 20 so we will go Thursday afternoon, exactly what I wanted. I can't believe a week from today we will be in Kentucky. It seems like yesterday I was crying in my trailer and wondering how in the world I was going to sell all my stuff. Not this year!! Jon has been beyond awesome at helping me, and not just with my horses but my whole attitude and mental focus about riding and competing.

On that note... I'm off to eat pounds and pounds of crab!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I have learned in a year

Well, here we are. Opening day for Kentucky was yesterday. That means it is almost 365 days since the buck heard round the world. I ran the gamut emotionally last year during my competitions, hitting every notch on the spectrum along the way. From being dinged out of the arena at my first 4*, to being top 5 at Jersey Fresh CCI3*, to recieving a grant to go to Montana, to yet another top 5 at Poplar CIC3*, to trekking all the way out to California for a great finish at Galway CCI3*. Aside from my competitions, my whole life in 2011 was unstable at best. Leaving my home in Maryland for 4 months in Florida, moving my business in June, saying goodbye to clients and friends and starting over... 2011 kicked my ass. I've managed to learn a thing or two along the way. Not just about how to be a better rider and competitor, but about life -- about how to be successful in any realm. I am learning what it takes, and there is no other way to learn what it takes besides to try, fail and try again.

1: Be fastidious about your goals.
I made some major life changes in 2011. I quit my successful teaching and training business in Maryland to pursue my riding endeavors. I found myself teaching so much that I was not able to train and compete my own horses. I have two very good horses right now and I credit Buck for being the one to tell me, what are you waiting for, go for it. It was hard to say goodbye to my clients as I love them very much, but this decision was made for me. I learned that is OK to be selfish sometimes. I needed to afford myself the best opportunities to become a better rider and competitor. Success doesn't come to you, you go to it.

At the end of 2011, I was sure that my two top 5 placings at the 3* level were going to be enough to "put me on the map", so to speak. I was really hoping for a spot on the Developing Riders list and lord knows I could use the extra coaching. When that did not pan out for me, I was really down. I mean, really down. I found myself questioning if this was what I wanted to do with my life. Was I happy with the direction I was heading? Was I ever going to get ahead? I ticked along with the belief that there were so many people that I couldn't let down. My owners, sponsors, my parents and friends. As the closet genius Bill Cosby once said, the key to failure is trying to please everybody. I contemplated what I really wanted for myself. Thankfully Donald and Hewie got a relaxing 6 weeks off after our cross-country Galway trip. It was a good time for me to refocus. My mom told me that the only person I needed to answer to was myself and she is right. This IS what I want to do and I will do it for myself only.

2: Surround yourself with the right people
"Success is a science. If you have the conditions, you get the result" - Oscar Wilde

Equally as important as it is to having the right training conditions, one must have the right people. People who support you. People who push you. People who want the best for you. People who are truly and genuinely invested in you. I am sad to say that I left a lot of the people at my home in Maryland, but have not struggled to find an additional team here in Ocala. This summer I started riding with Jon Holling and have been blown away at the compassion and interest from both Jon and his wife Jenn. They have been amazing to me. It is a good feeling to have that your coach has a genuine, vested interest in your endeavors. Jenn and Jon are always a phone call away and I know they truly want for my success just as I want it for myself. Peter Gray has been helping me with all of my dressage as he is very good at those circles and such. He has a calm, quiet way of teaching that my horses appreciate. He also taught Jon so the three of us can stay in agreeance and on the same page. It makes me feel good that Jon, Jenn and Peter are so interested in how my horses are going. I know they are all very busy, but to know that they believe in me and keep me in their thoughts makes me believe in myself even more.

I have also kept in good company here at my farm. My good friend Jill Mooney is here from Michigan for the winter, I am hoping she never leaves! She pushes me every day to be better. My Area 8 young riders Mackenzie and Andrea came for a month, and their enthusiasm for the sport really helped recharge my own desire to succeed. Lastly but certainly not least, my working student Lindsay who works tirelessly for these horses. She's up first and in bed last. She is dedication at its' finest. She loves all my horses as they were her own. There is no doubt in my mind who I want at the in gate, finish line, D box, etc... It is Lindsay. She knows these horses inside and out and there is never a second thought in my mind -- She will get the job done. Period.

3: Trust yourself

I certainly don't know it all, but I do know my horses. I live with them. I see them first in the morning and last at night. I have learned from my mistakes last year -- not every program works for every horse or rider. Sometimes it is "square peg round hole". I know what I feel and although I have oodles left to learn, I know enough to tell if it is right or wrong. I will trust my instincts and be a better advocate for my horses. I will continue to do things that will work for them as individuals. I think back to Kentucky last year and all the things I did wrong. I did not trust myself and I paid the price. I condsider myself extremely lucky to have Jon, Jenn and Peter in my life where it is all a conversation. They will take my thoughts and feelings about the horses into consideration when advising me. It is just... so pleasant.

So there we go. That is what I have learned in a year. I'm hoping all my experiences will yield a much more positive result at this years' Rolex Kentucky CCI4*. If not... I'm going to bring the moonshine. And to the lovely people to bought me drinks at Jalapenos' in Lexington last year... can you plan to be there again? Just in case?

Cheers, kisses from Donald and Hewie.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's The Little Things

I'll admit, I had a pretty hard time getting pumped up this winter for the upcoming Eventing year.

I was bummed about my performances at Galway, not seeing my name on the Developing Riders list and also about the Rebecca Farm Grant, although Sharon certainly deserved to win it. No sour grapes here, just reaching the point that I am sure every top level rider has been in, hell, every rider in general. Like you are beating your head against a wall, doing everything you can to be as successful as you can, only to be overlooked. All of this coupled with the stress of the holidays, well, I was in a pretty dark place.

I took it day by day and realized that if you focus on the big picture too long it's easy to get discouraged. I really needed to get back to what has made me successful in the first place, focusing on the resources I have and making them work for me. It's easy to get caught up in what you don't have, when instead you should be focusing on what you do have. Focus on the little things that make a big impact. I have a great team here that works so hard for me. My groom Lindsay is the best around, she works tirelessly and loves my horses. She takes care of them like her own. Now my friends are down here for the winter, Jill Mooney is here at my place with her lovely horses. She doesn't know it, but she pushes me every day to keep going. My vets and farrier are all looking forward to making sure Donald and Hewie stay in fine form for their big goals this spring. My friends in Maryland are constantly sending love and cheers which makes me want to keep pushing. My family was here over the holidays, they're convinced this will be my best year ever, I will do my best not to dissapoint them. Most importantly, I have two wonderful, sound upper level horses that love their jobs.

Donald and Hewie started back into work after Christmas, and now I'm pumped. They picked up right where they left off last year. They're going so well. They feel fit, strong and ready for action. Okay, Hewie looks a bit fat. So far they have had 2 light jump schools. They've been spot on. I will try to set up a lesson wiht Jon next week so he can point me in the right direction before their first horse trials. Hewie will run the OI at Rocking Horse and and the OI at Ocala before contesting his first Advanced at Rocking Horse II. Donald will keep training at home until he has a canter around Ocala OI, then he will join his little brother in the Advanced at Rocking Horse. From there Donald will go to Red Hills. I will see how Hewie handles his first Advanced and he will let me know what he is ready to do.

See you out there!

Katie, Donald and Hewie