Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Red Hills Recap by Whitney Weston

Hello PRO fans! I continue to tell my story of traveling East for the winter from rainey Oregon to the sunny Ocala, FL. This past month has been full of events, training, and competition. 

It has been wonderful to absorb so much knowledge not only from riding and competing,
but by living and breathing horses. I have had the opportunity to watch several Grand Prix 
show jumpers at HITS, the High Performance training sessions with the Captain, 
and compete all over Florida. In this post I would like to focus on the most recent event
at Red Hills.

Red Hills is the talk of eventers every spring. It is renouned for its competitor parties, thousands of spectators, and crazy challenging courses. Check out the fantasticalness at: http://www.rhht.org/

The venue is beautiful, with security surrounding the horse barns (which had cool "circus-like" tents over top the stalls). Grooms had to wear gold admission bracelets and riders green ones. The staff was so friendly and were constantly driving around in golf carts offering competitors and grooms rides to their destinations! I was really happy about this since the xc course was 15 minutes of backroads away from the stables. I'm not joking: I made the decision to never try to find the course on my own because I got lost in the woods the first time. Luckily it was so easy to hail a "cab"! 

I have never seen a competition with such involvement of the community. The police were there guiding traffic, security officers patrolling the grounds, mounted posse, buses bringing in spectators from the town center, and van shuttles taking spectators to the cross country and show jumping courses. There was a huge trade fair with shops, pony rides, fair food, and even a shark pet tank! This really pumped up the volume and atmosphere. When I rode to cross country, there was a white chain link and post lane parading us right through the trade fair where spectators clapped, wished us good luck and checked us out in the program. I felt like a celebrity! The same on course: so many people there (with security of course) cheering on after every fence!

This weekend I had only my two top horses (mare extravaganza): "Fizzy", Gin Fizz in Prelim and "Lusty", Rock-On Rose, in Advanced

Dressage day was a very busy experience. Fizzy trotted out from the security area at stabling and saw the wall of spectators, stopped dead in her tracks.
Fizzy: "you want me to do WHAT?"
Fizzy was definitely "high", but was focusing well on the task at hand despite the crowds.
I was so proud of her!! She had a great test putting her in 6th place on a score of 33.
Lusty had the same reaction as Fizzy with the crowds: "!!!!", but I just kept relaxed myself and lusty went right to work. We had the best test to date, 41 in advanced, I was so pleased!
I had my work cut out for me in cross country. Not only was I unfamiliar with the course (my first time there), but every jump was hidden and sneaky around a turn, which you couldn't see because of the thick forest. I walked both the prelim and the advanced track 4 times. Thats a lota miles......but well worth it. I made "friends" with the courses and felt ready about every line, every turn, every jump. I was so fortunate to have Fizzy at Red Hills so I could test out and feel the terrain before taking lusty out advanced. Fizzy was AMAZING. Never putting a foot wrong, I never took a tug, and she just ate up that course like it was sunday brunch. Fizzy had the fastest time out of all the prelim horses. 

Lusty and I taking a nap before XC
A great start to the day, I knew I had to ride Lusty just like that and really go for it. I was able to watch some three star horses go (our courses were very similar with only a few different combinations). Buck was great and walked around the course with me commenting on what riders did right and what I should not duplicate! 

After watching a few combinations I felt calm and ready to go. This course had everything: maxed out galloping fences, skinny combinations up and down steep hills, corners, the biggest trakhener I have ever seen, and my favorite: a steep gallop down hill to a big drop into water, three strides, up bank bounce to a vertical hedge. It was a challenge for sure, but everything rode beautifully.
I was so ecstatic with the day, very proud of my girls! 
After a long afternoon of icing walking and poulticing, a nice dinner was well deserved, great BBQ, Red Hills!

Sunday left show jumping. Fizzy was at the end of division B (3rd place good girl!), so I was able to watch a few rides in A. This was Fizzy's type of course; it was set on a steep hill with rolling terrain and thick grass. The ring was surrounded on two sides with high bleachers filled to the brim with spectators, the third side a huge tent with people at tables eating brunch, and the last side with banners and flags as tall as the trees. To say the least there was a bit of atmosphere ;) Even so Fizzy jumped amazing and smooth, zooming around the turns and staying so focused! She ended in her 3rd place and we had a nice interview with Samantha Clark at EN, see below:

Fizzy show jump
Fizzy victory gallop!
Lusty's course was the same as the three star, so I was able to walk a little early and watch some of the three star ride before I got on. As always, it's a little daunting riding right after Phillip, but ride we did! Lusty was great, and we finished with a few rails, but overall I am so proud of the weekend. Fizzy has really stepped up to the plate this winter and I finished my first advanced!!! And what an advanced it was, I now feel ready for whatever the season will throw at us. Keep  posted for next month's follow up, Thank you PRO!!!!
Jump like you mean it!!!
-Whitney Weston

Me sitting on a large advanced table, wider than I am tall!!
Whitney Weston hails from Roseburg, Oregon where she runs Westwood Stables. She has been spending the winter and part of the spring training in Ocala, Florida and competing in east coast events.

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