Friday, October 22, 2010

Answered prayers

Schooling in Nashville
September 2010
I'm all about the power of prayer, and I feel that the Lord answers prayers in many different ways. Sometimes it's overt, sometimes it's subtle; sometimes it's in a way that is unexpected, and sometimes answers seem to never come at all. Yesterday, as I tacked up to ride for my second jump school of the week, I felt like it was a beautiful day and that -- inevitably -- I was due for a bouncing. I've been jumping in earnest again this week here at home and Eddie has been great. We've been getting back into our previous form, but I have a healthy skepticism for what looks like a winning's never good to get overly optimistic: pride comes before a fall. I've also changed Eddie's bit from the small, hollow-mouth Eggbutt snaffle I've been riding him in to no effect for the past 2 years. I've reinstated his old bit, a Happy Mouth Mullen-mouth loose ring snaffle. He has been much better about contact and responds immediately to my pleasant half-halts. I just don't think he liked the eggbutt snaffle. This "new" bit is hardly more severe. I guess it's just different. Whatever works, though, is fine with me!

As I tacked up, I was thinking about how I should be enthusiastic, yet still wary, regarding Eddie's recent attitude adjustment and "good," "willing" behavior (yes, it is time he lived up to his name again). I said a little prayer along the lines of "Dear God, if I do fall off today, just let me break my left arm....for at least the 4th time in my life...and not my right arm. I need to be able to continue to type, write, and teach to make money! So, please, if I'm due for an injury, just make it my left arm."

To make a long story short, I didn't fall and Eddie wasn't bad. BUT...we did get an awkward 1/2 stride into a vertical, whereby I jumped up Eddie's neck, and when he took off, his neck came back into my hands and hyperextended my left thumb so badly that I thought I heard the pop echo across the entire field! I was sure that when I took off my glove that my thumb would just be hanging there, completely out of the socket. I cantered away on landing and then pulled up and shook my hand for a few minutes until the pain subsided. Then, I turned around and jumped a few more times (much more successfully) and we finished up with a nice one-handed hack out through the back of the property for about 30 minutes while I regained the feeling in my hand.

My thumb is bruised, swollen, and definitely sprained. Good thing is, God granted my prayer and injured my left hand. Maybe I should pray for a new job while I'm on a roll. :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

"And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse."

Photo by Marc Manning

It has taken me a few days to sit down and write this post, but I'm finally getting the time to stop and reflect. The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ended this past weekend in Lexington and the news in the horse world has been shockingly quiet as the happenings and goings-on of these exciting 2 weeks start to evaporate into thin air. I had intended to go to WEG for several years leading up to the competition (I had a free place to stay with my college roommate and her husband and 2 wonderful kids), but as the time approached, other things took priority and the expense of the travel just didn't seem worth it, afterall. But, knowing that all of those riders, owners, competitors, horse lovers, and horse sport enthusiasts were gathered together in one place, at one time, for the first time in this country (and, only 2.5 hours from where I live), it is a bit exciting to think about.

Horses have been a part of my life from the time I could walk (even before I could walk!) and they will be a part of my life until the day I die. Horses are amazing, incredible animals, and I'm not just saying this because I love my guys so much. I was very moved by the inclusion of the Para-equestrian competition at the recent WEG. The disabled athletes should compete alongside the traditional disciplines and I hope that they enjoyed their experience in Kentucky and that the para-disciplines will always be a part of WEG from now on. I've included a link, here, to a photographer's online album that I saw that captures some of the most beautiful images of the entire games. What the traditional riders accomplish is astounding, but to see a person who cannot walk on her own, or who cannot stand without assistance, riding atop a horse to victory, satisfaction, and pure enjoyment is one of the most inspiring things a fellow rider can witness. The good Lord created the horse for many reasons, but the one I find to always be so special is the realization that a horse doesn't see people with disabilities. A horse will run, and jump, and fly even, no matter what the rider is capable of doing on his own. A horse alone is an animal standing in a field; a person is just a member of our human population. But together, they become something that is almost not even of this earth.

When God created the horse, he said to the magnificent creature: I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth shall lie between thy eyes. Thou shalt cast thy enemies between thy hooves, but thou shalt carry my friends upon they back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou shall fly without any wings, and conquer without any sword. ~ The Koran

Photo by Marc Manning

Friday, October 8, 2010

From A to Z

Here is a list of my favorite things about the 2010 World Equestrian Games (soon to be ending on Sunday, October 10).

A -- Australia's event team members, Peter Atkins and his wonderful horse, Henry Jota Hampton (known affectionately by all as "Henny")!


C -- Canadian eventers!!!

D -- Dressage drama


F -- Britain's tall, cool, calm, and collected eventer (and individual silver medalist): William Fox-Pitt

G -- Great Britain's gold medal-winning event team

H -- Helmets worn by the various competitors in warm-up or when otherwise not "required" in order to protect themselves against potential head injury. I would also like to mention the great news coverage and "helmet updates" given frequently by!

I -- The Italian event team who put in a good showing and has deepened the field for the various national teams in international competitions. I also want to mention that the Italian event horse, Iman du Golfe (who cut his shoulder at the corner fence #20 on cross-country) was stitched and treated at Rood & Riddle and is expected to make a full recovery.

J -- The Jump Jet and his rider, Capt. Geoff Curran, of the Irish eventing team. I loved watching them go this weekend and get their chance on the world stage! I hope to see more great outtings for this pair in the future.

K -- Kentucky Horse Park. I've been there numerous times, and I compete there myself, but I'm sure it was like nothing I've ever seen before these past two weeks. Way to go Bluegrass State!

L -- Laura Bechtolsheimer of Great Britain rode Mistral Horjis to 3 silver medals last week: one for team dressage, one for individual dressage, and one for the freestyle. This is the first time in 32 years that a British dressage rider has medaled in international competition....and she did it 3 times!

M -- Michael Jung of Germany who won the individual gold medal in eventing by being strong from wire-to-wire, showing his mastery of all 3 phases of the eventing competition. He and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW were outstanding on show jumping day, sealing the deal with a solid and unquestionably dominating double-clear round. It was beautiful to behold!

N -- Andrew Nicholson and the New Zealand event team! Great job by Andrew to move up the leader board and snag an individual bronze medal! Great job by New Zealand for taking the bronze team medal, as well. Those old guys (Andrew and Mark) still got it!!!

O -- The 2012 Olympics are now right around the corner and for the U.S. (particularly the show jumping and eventing teams) there needs to be some serious work and re-organizing going on before we are ready to present outstanding teams to the world in London. As John stated on Eventing Nation: "But perhaps the biggest frustration is the notion that our eventing team could potentially write the WEGs off as bad luck and head to London with a similar strategy." I, personally, do not think the U.S. fans, competitors, and the past and future team riders will let this happen. Everyone seems very disenchanted right now, so what better opportunity is there to bring about a revolution in our nation's approach to building an international team?

P -- Para-equestrians and the para-dressage competition. Competing the first time at a WEG and having a great time while in town. Congrats to Sophie Wells of Great Britain on her individual and team gold medals, proving yet again that the Brits know their way around international equestrian competitions.

Q -- Quarter horses everywhere in the reining competition!!!

R -- The U.S. reiners stole the show! Great job by all those guys on their home turf. I just wish Shawn Flarida and RC Fancy Step hadn't had the broken stirrup in the individual competition. But, they'll be back!

S -- Steffen Peters (U.S. dressage rider) who won bronze as an individual and bronze in the freestyle competition. He also repeatedly demonstrated tremendous class as he honored his friend Courtney King-Dye and dedicated his medal-winning freestyle performance to her as she continues to fight to recover from a devastating head injury incurred during a fall from a young horse this past spring. His helmet-wearing sparked nods and applause from riders and horse enthusiasts everywhere, and I can only hope his example will be followed by all (professionals, amateurs; competitors and joy-riders) in the days and weeks to follow. You're a class act, Steffen!

T -- Moorlands Totilas. Need I elaborate????

U -- Universal Sports and NBC for their great online and television coverage of all the action for those of us who couldn't be there in person!

V -- All the many, many volunteers who made the competition possible. As a competitor at equestrian competitions that could never be held without the help of volunteers, I know how important each and every one of them is. As a frequent volunteer myself, I know that it is hard work, yet rewarding, and thanks to all of the workers at WEG these past 2 weeks (not to mention the countless years/months/days of preparations leading up to and after the games, as well).

W -- Jimmy Wofford, for his involvement on every level in the games and, particularly, the eventing competition. "The Woff" as a legend in U.S. eventing provides great commentary on t.v., an entertaining and educational XC course walk the day before cross-country, and his online blog is funny, honest, and always. We're very lucky to have him as a leader and as a personality in our great sport!

X -- XC!!! Congratulations to Michael Ethrington-Smith and Mick Costello and his team for such a truly beautiful and challenging (yet fair and appropriate) XC course. It will be sad to see ME-S retire, but he has provided a legacy that will be put to good use as courses are designed, built, and developed for years and years to come.

Y -- Kyle Carter. Yes, I know this is a stretch, but we all love Kyle and his infectious good humor, as well as his total dedication to the sport. We also love that Kyle leads and guides the USEA Area III Young Riders every, there is your "Y," folks!

Z -- Zeal! That sums up the amazing rides of the Canadian eventers on cross-country day. And, to prove that point, I present this video in total and perfect evidence of this concept: Jessica Phoenix and Exponential at the "Land Between the Lakes" water complex. This is how you do NOT want your horse to jump a blind drop into the water, but if you have a horse with the zeal and courage of Exponential (and you can ride like Jessica) then it's a fitting display of enthusiasm, horsemanship, and the determination it takes to be an eventer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Friend Therapy, Part II

(Photo by Ilse Schwarz/
Straight from the source: Courtney King-Dye relates how special the WEG dressage week was for her and how happy she was to be there. I can only imagine how much she has improved through all of the energy and enthusiasm she has experienced the past few weeks. Keep going, Courtney!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


U.S. national para-dressage champions,
Rebecca Hart and Kazan.
(Photo by Linda Slade on The Chronicle of the Horse)
Today, the para-equestrian dressage (Para-dressage) kicks off at WEG! This is the first time that the para-equestrian competition has been held concurrent with the other 7 FEI disciplines at a World Equestrian Games.

I think it is amazing to see athletes who might not otherwise have the physical strength to compete in a sport be able to enjoy the special experience of being an equestrian. Horses don't ask how many arms you have, or how many legs, or how well you hear, or see; they love everybody equally. The para-equestrian riders are incredible and I can't wait to watch some of this online! Life is too short to not spend the majority of it....on the back of a horse. :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sweet Silver!!!

Canadian eventers on the silver medal podium.
(Photo by Lisa Slade
on The Chronicle of the Horse)
For the Canadian eventing team, winning the silver medal at the World Equestrian Games this weekend wasn't coming in second was an all-out invasion!!! Amazing job for those horses and riders. They showed how well they have been coached, prepared, and trained for years leading up to this competition. They have been honed and groomed as a team for a while, and the U.S. should take note. You can't make a team out of a last minute collection of eligible riders. You need to "know" who your team members are going to be years in advance, and foster them over a period of time so that in selection situations, they are choosing from a ready pool of combinations, and not just whoever is left standing.

Andrew Nicholson putting in a great
show jumping round.
(Photo by Lisa Slade
on The Chronicle of the Horse)

 And what about New Zealand? Quiet and sneaky, they moved up the standings on cross-country day and did what Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd do best....ride solid and accurate to the very end. Congrats to Andrew for his bronze medal finish as an individual, and a bronze medal winner as part of the NZ team.

British rider, William Fox-Pitt, and his horse Cool
Mountain on cross-country.
(Photo by Lisa Slade on The Chronicle of the Horse)
 Do I even need to say that the Brits won team gold and individual silver? They are outstanding, as ususal, and will be celebrating tonight!

Here is a video that shows a few highlights at the big water complex from cross-country yesterday. It features two of the wonderful Canadians, as well as my personal favorites, Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet. Yay, eventing!!!

Because this blog is also, sometimes, about shoes: I give you my much coveted Baker-plaid Ariat tall boots (top left of this photo) I WANT, I WANT, I WANT!!!!!!!!

My, oh my, oh Canada!

Hawley Bennett-Awad giving Gin & Juice
a pat. They were just one of the six clear rides
for the Canadians today.
After an incredible day of the best riders in the world tackling an outstanding cross-country track, it's Great Britain in 1st, the U.S. in 2nd (!!!!!!), and Canada in 3rd (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). There were teams falling down the leaderboard after stops, falls, and retirings on course. There were teams soaring up the leaderboard as clear rounds and amazing horse/rider combinations rose to the occasion and rode their hearts out. Riders went way down in the rankings after stellar dressage rides yesterday (only to have problems on cross-country today), and there are riders who shot up in the standings after superb goes today, following "ho hum" dressage tests on the previous day. As others have said, "this ain't no dressage test." This is eventing as it should be! For Canada to turn in 6-out-of-6 clear rounds.....only adding 7.4 time penalties across the performances of all SIX astounding. I believed a few weeks ago that they would come to Lexington with victory on their minds, and boy was I right! You can't fake that kind of talent, preparation, and training. Good for them!

I love how Andrew Nicholson looks like he's sitting
at home in an easy chair, instead of contesting one of
the toughest tests a man and horse can face. This
is why he's one of the best in the world.
There were some new faces making a well-deserved name for themselves on the world stage, and there were some tried-and-true veterans who came out and shone when they were needed. Mark Todd, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Karen O'Connor, Phillip Dutton, Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell, Kyle Carter, and Ingrid Klimke (just to name a few) all had outstanding rides today. Where will we be when these greats decide to hang up their Charles Owen's and call it a day? Fabulous performances all around.

One of the greats who is still out there, pointing his horse
at these incredible courses, and galloping
home effortlessly at the end of the day.
Mark Todd: eventing god. :-)
I cannot wait to see the show jumping finale tomorrow. This whole weekend just epitomizes what is so great, so unique, and so inspiring about the sport of eventing. Anyone can go from 1st to last and last to 1st in the span of 3 days, over the course of 3 tests. This is what we were born to do. Go Eventing!!!

Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet having a
fabulous ride through the Head of the Lake this time around!

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: to Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet (from Ireland). I posted about these two on this very blog back in April after their stop at the water at Rolex, resulting in the frangible log fence that was newly in place there to break and give way. They circled and re-presented and finished fine. It might not have been so pretty if that log had not broken upon their impact. Today they rode around in Kentucky again, as part of the Irish national team, and they were wonderful! Especially considering the fact they were held for about 20 minutes on course while a horse that had hit a jump in front of them was treated for a shoulder laceration and transported to a nearby veterinary hospital for more stitches. Geoff and The Jump Jet collected themselves, continued on, and finished out the day after a great round. Not an easy thing to do at all....mentally or physically. Just try running a marathon and having to stop at mile 22 for 20 minutes to wait for a passing train, then try to regain your momentum, your passion, and your drive to finish. That's damned hard, but good for Geoff and The Jump Jet for doing just that this afternoon, on a world stage. They were my personal success story for today!

(All photos here by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

5...4...3...2...1...Have a Great Ride!!!

It's cross-country day at the World Equestrian Games! Please, please, PLEASE let everybody and their horses finish safe and sound. I hope all my friends up there in Lexington are having a wonderful time. Take lots of pictures and send me frequent texts! I'll be watching online....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friend Therapy

Steffen Peters shares his bronze
medal with Courtney King-Dye
I'm really loving Steffen Peters lately. I'm not a big follower of Grand Prix dressage, but I do know who our top riders are and I have been paying attention to the competition this week in Lexington (for better or for worse). And, speaking of loving Steffen Peters, I don't think I gave him his proper due for winning individual bronze on Wednesday! It was good to see someone who works so hard be rewarded. The Americans are sometimes left off the podium in international dressage competition, so everytime I see them medal, I think it's quite an accomplishment.

Steffen getting a well-deserved "thank you"
kiss from Courtney for his friendship and
his kindness. I'm sure his wife didn't mind,
in this particular case!

Now, back to my original purpose with this post. I just saw the article on Dressage Daily about the private party for the USEF dressage team members and I couldn't help tearing up a little bit seeing the photos of how happy Courtney King-Dye looked there with her husband and all of her friends. I'm sure that this time at WEG has been bittersweet for her, but I bet she has cherished every second of it and has progressed more in one week of "friend therapy" than she has in any other week of her courageous comeback. And, how lovely of Steffen to "share" his medal with her! Good people are everywhere.

Oldies, but Goodies. :-)

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
It's awesome to see this guy at WEG, still competing for the Kiwi's. Makes it feel like everything is right with the world!

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
Almost didn't recognize her on a chestnut horse!

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld on Eventing Nation
We don't even have to see his face to a). know EXACTLY who this is, and b). know that he's "Cool" as a cucumber -- hint hint -- and that he's laying down a nice ride. They've been here already this year and dominated last time they were in town!

Reality....somebody's gotta do it!

Peter Atkins, of Australia, sewing his own flag onto his shadbelly dressage coat
before his ride in Lexington today. Photo by RunHennyRun on Facebook
Eventers are real people every day, all the time. Even the ones who ride on t.v., at the Olympics, and this week at WEG!

Peter, Henry, and the finished shadbelly headed to the
dressage arena for their test. Photo by RunHennyRun on Facebook