Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is Luck the Sixth Leg? by Danny Warrington

How hard this game can be... both physically and mentally as well as the emotional roller coaster ride the sport and horses cause. Some people are not as lucky as we that do this for a living. This may also be lucky for them! With only one or two horses your odds of mishap maybe lessened. But by no means do I mean other people don't have the same problems, some just get the good luck if only by the odds.

This is the come back story of my good horse Will Smith which is still in progress. When Will came to me a few years ago, let's just say it took a few months just to be able to get him to the arena on a daily basis. Then the dressage was some what in the 50's and the topper to that was a 2 for my riding......a 2....... come on I stayed on! I thought an 8 even a 9 for the effort! Yet we managed to get better. Then the start box became the issue. At Waradaca a couple years ago he lost it, completely lost it. The quote was from Phillip Dutton who said as I was leaping through the air " I don't think he is coming back. Can I go? ". Back to the drawing board. I decided that it was the one day format the horse didn't like, it was too fast for his brain. You are done all 3 phases sometimes in 2 hours depending on how the divisions are organized. So we started to do only shows over 2 and 3 days and that seemed to work until they held me at the start box area because the judges weren't in place yet. @+(#@- ! So he got me off, got loose, got caught, ran cross country great and had a big leg sunday morning. @+)#@-! An ultrasound, 2 weeks at the fair hill therapy center, another ultrasound, months of hand walking and grazing, months of trotting and only flat work.

355 days from the "suspicious leg" we are doing a little cross country school the other day. I am having the time of my life THE BIG HORSE is back!!!!!! We jump 5 training level fences in a row ( so easy for an intermediate horse) then a prelim corner!!! Take a little breather, talk about how great he's being and off to the water! The training house in, around the corner ( the smile on my face just getting bigger!). A prelim house one stride into the water and in super slow motion he goes all the way down (and down goes Warrington as well). As I get to my feet watching him shake the water from the tack trotting away. I look for a hole (because of course my horse wouldn't just fall) hole! What could it be??? The 'in' was perfect, the 'down' was great, what happened!!! I am very self critical..... but I think the horse just fell. Like sometimes you just trip or stumble.

I feel like I have done everything right by the horse, by his owners and now we need LUCK! Mr. Jimmy Wofford talks about the fifth leg...... maybe luck is the sixth. Good luck to everyone!

Photo by Katherine Rizzo

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Luhmuhlen Wrap-Up by Kelley Merette

Jet lag strikes again! I just boarded the train I’m taking from New York down to Wilmington, where Jennie will pick me up and take me back to True Prospect. Ping and I landed at JFK last night and he traveled very well and is safely to Newburg for the next couple days, as is standard US entry quarantine procedures. There were so many fun, interesting, and positive parts of our trip but it’s always nice to be back home, and I’m definitely ready to see my dog and sleep where no one is yelling in German! The weekend definitely didn’t finish as planned for Team Cambalda (as Nina dubbed our group) but I think that there are also a lot of positives to take away from this trip (not least that Ping seems to be getting a little better about air travel!).

First of all, props to Will and his two lovely horses for stellar performances this weekend, they did the US proud and both of those horses have yet to show us their full potential. What an exciting thing for him heading into 2012! I’m so proud of Jennie and Ping’s performance on Friday in the dressage, scoring so well in their first 4 star is really commendable, especially considering the electric atmosphere and the fact that part of the dressage arena blew over while she was circling the ring waiting for the bell – thank goodness it didn’t happen 30 seconds later when she was in the middle of her test! Friday night, we learned that European eventers put the Americans to shame when it comes to evening festivities – I never realized Clayton was such a good singer!

Jennie seemed to be in an excellent state of mind going into the cross country on Saturday – focused and confident that she and Ping were ready to tackle the course. Again, it was a cool, blustery day with periods of rain showers (the whole second part of our trip felt like English weather!) We were in good spirits from Will’s great ride with Missy (Andromaque) in the morning, so as Jennie’s start time approached I booted up Ping and checked his girth one more time and Jennie donned her helmet with Boyd’s helmet cover, a tribute to our family at home and the horses lost in the fire. Once Jennie was out of the start box, Lillian and I booked it over to the sunken road combination where we saw the second stop at the C element, then ran to the third water combination before heading back to the finish area where we heard of the third run-out. Let me make a point of this now, so there will not be an misunderstanding, conjecture, or speculation – Jennie rode like a champion, and gave Ping an extremely positive ride. He showed his youth and inexperience out on course, but the lessons to be taken from that ride have been well-learned. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the pair, they don’t make the same mistakes twice, and you can bet that the next time they come out, they will be twice as prepared and three times as tenacious. There should be no doubt that this pair is still destined for great success at the international level in the future.

From my perspective, obviously the most important thing is that the two of them return to the stable safe and sound, and that was thankfully true. Ping came home acting ready to go right back out there. It was also so eye-opening to be a part of the eventing scene outside of the USA. How strange to know hardly anyone at a competition, but so interesting to watch many of the top horse and rider combinations in the world. The level of rider skill and talent of the horses is incredible, and we definitely didn’t leave the event without making many new friends. Everyone we met, from riders, grooms, and event staff was so welcoming and gracious to us. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this experience, and hope I will get to someday return to Luhmuhlen, as it is a fantastic venue and should definitely remain one of the best courses in the world.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Official Day at Luhmuhlen by Kelley Merette

Good Evening America!

We have successfully completed our first official day of the 2011 Luhmuhlen Horse Trial. Since I last updated all my readers (and well done, all of you who have chosen to read my blog instead of Nat's, EXCELLENT decision……just kidding, the "blog wars" are all in good fun, and as Tim Gardner, Cambalda's owner, stated tonight, they are both equally informative and well-done, in different ways) we have settled ourselves into our home at the show grounds and the horses are all very happy. We elected to stay at the barn we had been living at up the road until Tuesday morning instead of Monday, as it was quiet (even despite the reining competition), and the stalls were large and we had ample privacy. Anyways, Tuesday morning, I drove our car over to the show grounds with the lorry full of all of our equipment following me, and then Jennie, Tiana, Will, and Nat hacked the 4 horses over via some trails. Ping is an extremely workmanlike and consistent horse to ride, but hacking out is his one major dislike. Therefore, by the time the group made it to our new stabling venue, Ping was acting as if he was about to enter the start box for cross country, not returning from a "relaxing" stroll through the woods.

It took him a few hours to get settled, mentally and emotionally, but by the time we had ourselves organized and then Jennie had a lesson in the Main Arena with the Captain (one advantage of brand new footing, it needs to be broken in by being ridden on!) Ping had decided that he could get used to his view of the field from his back window, and his view of Missy (Andromaque) from his front window. It is important to note here for anyone concerned about the health of our animals in this foreign land, that 3 WHOLE bags of shaving were set up in the aisle to "quarantine" us from all the other competition horses……nope, don't worry, we have learned that this happens to be a completely foolproof way of preventing contamination between the American horses and everyone else. Thank goodness someone figured that out…..

Jennie and Cambalda's lessons with the Captain yesterday and today have gone extremely well. Ping has been very relaxed and yet focused, much the same as he looked before he put in such a good test at the Galway Downs (CA) CCI*** last November, so hopefully this is a good sign. Everyone has remained in good spirits (this trip will be remembered for those of us here as a big sing-off and dance-off, with Will's new obsession with Walt Disney's "Spectrum Song" and Nat's dance routine to "She Got a 'Donk" ranking most popular on the list -- stay tuned to Eventing Nation, videos of these performances are coming soon!) I found out this morning that European events have AMAZING breakfasts……coffee, tea, juice, pastries, meat, cheese, fruit, etc all complimentary to us. The competition is definitely starting to seem more imminent and exciting now, partially thanks to the arrivals of more of our contingent. Tim and Nina Gardner, the wonderful owners of Cambalda, arrived today after just spending the past weekend in Canada, where their William Penn put in a fantastic performance in the Bromont 3-star with our boss, Phillip Dutton, in the irons. Hopefully Ping will keep the successful streak going! Also, yesterday afternoon, our good friend Shannon Kingsley arrived, ready to jump in and help wherever needed, even if just to put Ping's tail bandage on some of the time so I'm not dodging the hind legs as often.

The jog didn't start until 5pm this afternoon, so there was plenty of time for the anticipation and excitement to build through the stables. I got him braided, beautified, and bridled in plenty of time to head down to the inspection, which was held right in front of the grandstand of the main arena (more than enough atmosphere!) Ping behaved himself very well even when things got a little electric and he and Jennie looked fantastic during their turn on the strip. A great start to the weekend, and hopefully a good sign for the next few days. Tomorrow will be the dressage for the CIC*** competition, which includes 2 of the 4 American horses, Will Faudree on Andromaque and Tiana Coudray on Ringwood Magister. It will be the final warm-up day for Jennie and Ping, as well as the arrival of the last member of our USA cheering squad, Lillian Heard. Cambalda will be doing his test Friday morning at 10:04 (4:04am EDT) so stay tuned! The photo is of me in our hotel room, wearing the new German glasses that Shannon picked up for me at the store today. These really helped me get my gameface on today, but I think I might have to draw little American flags to tape on the sides to complete the look. She also found Nat a lighter the size of an iPhone with a mini-flashlight on the bottom, so I think armed with our new gifts, there's nothing stopping us!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bromont Wrap Up by Nikki Lendl

The weekend was amazing! Kevin had the first double clear round of the two star and finished 6th! Phillip finished with multiple horses in the top ten and everyone was very happy with that. I have had the best time of my life being able to groom for Kevin and being able to help out Emma with Phillip's horses. It is not every day that people like myself get to do this and I am just so fortunate and grateful to Evie and Phillip for taking me on as a working student and asking me to come. My congratulations goes out to all of the riders that have come out to Bromont to compete. This was a really fantastic event in every way and the orgainzers do such a nice job at making everyone feel welcome.

Of course the weekend doesn’t just didn't end with the last show jump. I have to say something about the drive home! We made it to the border ok, but it took forever to fill out the paperwork and such. It seems a little ridiculous since they didn’t even check the horses or question us about why we were here! This time I drove back with the horses, Philliip his daughter Olivia. Olivia fell asleep after a short while, which left Phillip and myself feeling a little sleepy since our official keep awaker had gone to bed. I made it to about 2:15 am, when I started to see eight lanes in the road instead of only four! But I had to keep myself chugging along to help Phillip stay awake. So I kept on drinking soda and blasting music in our ears! We eventually made it back to True Prospect Farm at 4:30 am this morning. We unloaded the horses, got our clothes and the dogs into the car and drove to the house. It was 5:30 in the morning by the time we made it home and light outside. It's been 48 hours since I've slept and we have camp starting at 8;30 this morning at True Prospect Farm! I have enjoyed writing this blog so much and I hope to be able to write one again next year… possibley as a rider!

Final Day at Bromont by Lee Lee Jones

Yesterday was the final day of the Bromont CCI Three Day Event. I got to the barns fairly early this morning to braid and bathe Cadet. The jog was around 8:30 and everyone was going crazy in the barns getting ready. The jog went pretty well, it was my first jog ever. Cadet was a little fussy and kept throwing his head up in the air. After the jog I jumped on him and had a light jump school with Phillip. He felt pretty tired from the cross country yesterday but overall he was really good! Then I changed my tack pretty quickly and got ready for show jumping. I ended up having two rails in the show jumping but I was really happy with him. It turns out that there were only four clear rounds in the one star. But an interesting thing happened during my round, the back rail of the final oxer suddenly fell down without the jump judges realizing. So coming into the final line I noticed that the jump crew guy was standing in the middle of the oxer. I jumped A but then pulled out. I ended up having to wait for about a minute while the jump crew tried to get the rail up.

I spent most of my time during the two star helping in the warmup, but I was able to watch a few rounds. I saw Kevin Keane's beautiful round on Fernhill Flutter, who by the way ended on his dressage score! I also watched Phillip on Ben, Young Man, and Mighty Nice. Unfortunately I left before the three star got underway.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

XC At Bromont by Lee Lee Jones

Today was the cross country day at the Bromont CCI Three Day Event. My cross country ride didn't go quite as planned. Cadet and I had a "drive by" at 5b. Jump number four on the CCI 1* course was a hanging log on top of a hill and at the bottom of the hill were two narrow houses on a turn. I put Cadet nice and deep into #4 hoping I would be able to get him back nicely for 5 a&b but he sort of grabbed the bit and ran down the hill. Anyway I was able to get him back in time to get over 5a, but I wasn't able to make the turn to 5b. So we circled around and jumped it fine. The rest of the course went really well. We jumped just about everything right out of stride and he cooled out really quickly in the ten minute box. The rest of my day was spent icing and helping out with Phillip's horses. Overall today was a great day with only four falls on course. Tomorrow morning is the jog. Phillip has been making fun of me for putting too much work into my first jog outfit ever. I told him I couldn't help it. After all I have been waiting for this day since I was like six!

Photos: My horse Model Cadet and Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day Two at Bromont by Lee Lee Jones

Today was the second day of dressage here at Bromont and leading the CCI 3* is Clark Montgomery, who had a beautiful test. Today Cadet and I had a pretty easy day since we were not competing. When I got to the barns I took him out for some grass and then at around eleven I walked my course with Phillip. He gave me a lot of helpful advice. Then at around one I watched him go on his new horse William Penn owned by Nina Gardner, who by the way has become my second mother, making sure that I eat this weekend. Thank you Nina! Then after Phillip's test I had a bit of a jump school. Phillip and I jogged for a couple of minutes and gave our horses a quick sprint to get there legs moving. After that we popped over a few jumps. Cadet was feeling pretty fresh! He doesn't like the bit that I use on the cross country very much so he kept chucking his head up into the air and trying to take off with me, but by the end of the jump he was behaving himself. Towards the end of the day I walked around my course for the last time. I went by myself this time so that I could really concentrate on my plans for tomorrow, I can't wait. I am also very excited that Jennie Brannigan gave me her cross country shirt for tomorrow! Thank you Jennie (: Hopefully tomorrow will go as well as it did yesterday!

Guten Tag from Luhmuhlen by Kelley Merette

Just to make all you Entemann's eating Americans jealous, I'm sitting at the computer eating something called a schnitzelbomber from the local bakery, so if this blog ends abruptly, it's because I went into a sugar coma. Besides the stellar baked goods, we have also found some pretty amazing Chinese food (seems ironic, I know, but somehow that is better here as well), and have had our share of adventures with the local customs. Apparently it is NOT acceptable to check into a hotel at 10pm (not that we had much choice), and when Nat brought her 32-oz travel mug into the breakfast room in the morning to fill up, a very large man mildly reminiscent of Pavarotti (with a voice to match) starting yelling that that was not acceptable and that she would be charged extra for taking that much coffee. Clearly, he was the one in need of more caffeine.

Anyways, down to the nitty-gritty of the trip, which I'm sure very few of you actually care much about. We all arrived to the barn we will be at through Sunday in one piece, but we calculated out that the poor horses were on some sort of mobile equipment for 24 hours straight! After we kissed their noses goodbye at the JFK Vetport (in reality, Ping just gave me a really good nip on the forearm), we took ourselves to the human terminal and got a little duty-free shopping in before taking off. Ping does not enjoy airplane travel, and has to travel in a double sized stall so that he can brace his legs. He still tries to body-slam the walls during take-off and landing, but he was a pretty good boy overall. Once we landed in Amsterdam, we met the horses at their livestock cargo bay where we quickly found out that we were far from the top priority that day. Thousands of day-old chicks in cardboard boxes were being loaded up for export to the Phillippines, some strange looking pigeons were headed out on another truck, and probably the largest English bulldog I've ever seen (aptly named dog) was on a journey somewhere as well. Once we finally got the four horses loaded onto our lorry, we still had the final 7 hour leg of our trip in front of us. Undeterred by a flat tire on the equipment trailer and stand-still traffic on the Audubon near Hamburg, our fearless driver delivered us to the tiny town of Luhmuhlen after 8pm, our home for the next two weeks. Thankfully, all four horses are healthy, happy, and even acted a little fresh today during their hacks after a well-deserved day of rest yesterday.

We have filled our time so far with LOTS of hand-grazing, and for Ping this includes lots of rolling in the grass at the end of the lead rope (pony clubbers, don't try this at home!) as well as shopping at the conveniently located tack shops (one is literally 100 yards from our barn and another is 150). These "reitsport" shops are not comparable to any found in the US, at least that I've seen. They have the look and feel of a musty antique store, with every nook and cranny being stuffed with goods. Around every bend and down every hallway is another hidden wing of the store. However, there is nothing sub-par about the goods. When Jennie went in there for the first time this morning, she was actually speechless (for those of you who don't know her, this is a rarity). The Pikeur clothing and Sergio Grasso boots line the walls like bulk food in a Sam's Club. It is ridiculous. And after the ladies at the store realized we were in town for the competition, they handed Will and Jennie thin, hard-cover picture books…….from the 1982 World Championships that took place there. These books are fascinating and gave us a little glimpse into the past of some of the legends of our sport. And since Nat thinks she has the one up on me in the picture department of this blog war, I'm throwing in a curveball. Who can identify the two people in these pictures, taken during that competition:

Time to go feed Ping his dinner!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A First CCI* by Lee Lee Jones

Hi my name is Lee Lee Jones and this weekend I am riding my horse, Model Cadet in the CCI1* at Bromont! Last night my Mom, my two sisters and I had a very interesting trip up. We some how ended up on some pretty sketchy back roads in Canada, but anyway we made it! We arrived fashionably late because I had to finish up my last exam in school back in PA. Today went really well! I did some light flat on him this morning and then we got ready to do our first one star ever. Cadet was pretty naughty in the warmup; he kept throwing his head up in the air, but Phillip helped me work through it. Once we got down into the main warmup arena he started going really well. Overall the test went really well. Our trot work was definitely better than our canter work. We scored a 53.7 and we are tied for 10th. I was really happy with him considering how big the division is. Later in the day I walked around the course for the first time. It looks pretty big, but I can't wait!!

Bromont Dressage Day 1 by Nikki Lendl

Today was the first day of dressage at Bromont and it went great! All the CCI1* and CCI2* horses competed. Kevin’s horse, Fernhill Flutter (Butterfly), was really good and Kevin was very pleased with the result of his test. Phillip had some excellent tests as well. Mighty Nice, whose barn name is Happy, scored a 49.5 putting them in third and Ben scored a 50.3 putting them in fourth in the CCI2*. While standing by the dressage rings waiting for Kevin to come out, I thought about how cool it was to be able to stand here as a groom and wait for my rider to come out. Kevin dismounted and patted Butterfly, clearly thrilled with his test. We walked back to the barn and I undid Butterfly’s braids - I was sorry to see my braids go because they were the nicest braids I have ever done! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to come to Bromont and be able to work for the people that I do. The work can be hard and the hours can be long, but at the end of the day you are doing what you love and nothing is better than that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bromont Adventures by Nikki Lendl

Bromont… WOW! Whenever I thought about going to Bromont I never believed that I would be lucky enough to actually go and watch, let alone be able to groom for someone who is competing here.

About a week and a half ago I came to True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pennsylvania to help Evie and Phillip Dutton and their amazing crew. When Evie asked me if I would like to come to Bromont to groom for Dr. Kevin Keane and help Emma out with the rest of the horses, I don’t think that I could have said yes any faster - I was so excited to go! I have always heard amazing things about Bromont from friends and my sister who have competed here and I have always wanted to go. Although this past week has been tough for everyone at True Prospect Farm we are all very excited to come to Bromont and be able to do what we all do best.

The trip up started out normal, but as with any trip there are a few unplanned adventures along the way. Right before we pulled out of the farm at 4:30am on Tuesday morning, I realized that I had forgotten my passport at the house. I expected to get a real dressing down from Phillip, but he kept his cool and asked Emma to take me to get my passport. We set off, but when I jumped out of the RV to run up the driveway I landed in a water filled ditch and face-planted into the ground! Trying to make it seem graceful was hard since my shirt got wet. We finally got on the road with a ten-hour drive ahead of us. Our caravan headed to Bromont consisted of Emma and myself in the RV. Phillip driving the big rig, Amy Ruth Borun driving another trailer of horses and Dr. Keane bringing up the rear with a rig filled with straw for bedding, hay, feed and tack.

At the Canadian border Emma and I got into a bit of trouble. The immigration officer was a little suspicious about me traveling to Canada without a parent. She asked me if I had a note from either one of my parents saying that I had permission to go “camping” in Bromont with Emma. No note meant that we had to go inside to verify that I was not being kidnapped. At that point I just though to myself, “Well great! My one shot to go and groom at Bromont and there it goes right out the window!” Of course, my mom was on the way up to Bromont too and phone service is pretty shaky in the mountains. When they couldn’t reach my parents the immigration officer decided that since I wasn’t kicking and screaming, Emma probably wasn’t kidnapping me so we were ok to go! The highlight of the day was seeing the big Bromont sign on the top of the hill and the amazing cross-country course right there in front of me.

Today was the first horse inspection. We have spent the whole day preparing our horses for the jog up and it really did it pay off. All of our horses passed the jog and none were held! I started to get a little emotional; as I was just so happy that everyone could go on and compete. I never realized how hard it is to get three horses ready to jog up back to back. Everyone makes it seem to graceful and easy. To be truthful it is pretty hard coordinating the hand offs and pick ups and making sure that each horse gets there final prep all at the same time. It definitely can be a bit crazy when presenting multiple horses. There is a very large field of competitors at Bromont and everyone is looking forward to the start of dressage tomorrow.

Nikki Lendl

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First Blog by Kelley Merette

Kelley in the barns at the Kentucky Horse Park.

 I'm sitting here in the quarantine barn at JFK waiting to get on a flight with Cambalda ("Ping") bound for Germany, and thinking about how much life has changed in the past week. It almost seems impossible that only a week has passed since the fire, in many ways it feels like an eternity. However, finally beginning this trip has already had a positive effect on me. A change in scenery, spending time with my friends Nat, Tiana, and Will, and the upcoming two weeks in Europe with Ping and Jennie has renewed my energy. As long as I can avoid being contaminated with e.coli this trip is going to be fantastic!
I will be blogging about our adventures in Germany but I do want to send out a quick thank you to our eventing family in the US and abroad. I have realized in this past week how amazingly unique our sport is, because very few industries can call themselves a community, and even fewer can call themselves a family. However, that is exactly what the eventing world has proven itself to be this week. I am so grateful to be a part of our sport, and please know that the support from each and every person, no matter what it consisted of, was what got us through these days. You all are amazing. 
On a brighter note, Ping is looking cool as a cucumber, he has his gameface on, he is maybe slightly rounder than a 4* bound horse should be but he is happy as a clam, which is all I care about....... I hope we can stay on task because Nat and I have already begun the blogging wars, and the warnings about the veggies in Germany don't leave many dietary options besides beer. Oh well, sacrifices must be made...... 
This will have to be the end of must first blog as we will be loading the horses in about half an hour onto the trailer to take us to the plane, and it might take me that long to get Ping's shipping halter onto his head.