Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Royal Windsor Horse Show & Pageant (brought to you by Martin Collins Equine Surfaces)

Special thanks to PRO's Official Footing Sponsor Martin Collins Equine Surfaces for this special report from the Royal Windsor Horse Show!  Be sure to check out their Facebook Fan Page and Blog after reading this post.

Every year since 1943, for 1 week in May the Queen opens the private grounds at Windsor Castle for the Royal Windsor Horse Show  which features jumping, dressage and carriage driving, at international level with “grass roots” classes and showing, etc.   It is a fabulous event that attracts equestrian competitors and spectators in droves.    In the UK each year there are several "must see" sporting events:  Wimbledon, Badminton and The Royal Windsor Horse Show!

Alongside Land Rover, Alltech and Horse & Hound (among others), Martin Collins is proud to be a sponsor of  the Royal Windsor Horse Show and has been the "Official Footing Supplier" of this celebrated event since 2005!
Royal Windsor marks the kick-off to the equestrian showing season featuring 117 showing classes and 20 championships. Similar to the Devon Horse Show here in the US, several thousand horses compete at this event and it is quite prestigious.

An excerpt from the event website reports:
" The Royal Windsor Horse Show offers visitors a fantastic mix of Jumping, Showing and Carriage Driving competitions. These take place in four different arenas – The Castle Arena is the main arena and hosts the main jumping, displays and championship classes. The Frogmore Arena houses jumping as well as the AmTrust Equine RWHS British Riding Clubs Championships competitions, and some showing competitions. The Copper Horse Arena mainly houses showing competitions and the Driving Arena is host to the dressage and obstacle phase of the International Driving competitions."

This year was an exceptional year for the horse show, as it marked the celebration of her 60 year reign.  In the evening, they usually have a Military Tattoo, however for this Jubilee year, they held a pageant each night (Thurs – Sun), with the Queen in attendance on Sunday to celebrate her 60 year reign.

The theme was “around the world in 60 years”, with participants from Canada (Mounties), America (cowboys and Native Americans, both from California), Mexico, Cook Islands, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Oman, Africa (with performance from The Lion King stage show), India, Italy, Russia, Ireland, Scotland and England.  Each nation focused around the Queen’s love of horses.  Over 800 participants and nearly as many horses were in attendance!

Featured photographs show the 3 rings that Martin Collins maintains, including the warm up which is connected to the Castle Main and the Frogmore Arena.  This link details the programme of events by Ring.

UK celebrities entertained during the evening (2 each night), and singing sensations included The Tenors from Canada, Joss Stone and Susan Boyle!  Various Royals took the salute each night, with the Queen on Sunday.   The Sunday night performance was filmed and will be shown on ITV (commercial TV) on 3rd June to coincide with the main celebrations.

It was truly spectacular, and so wonderful to see traditional dress and activities in our own “back garden” so-to-speak.  For those seeking to read more history on this fantastic event.....please visit the official website of the British monarch or the official event website!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bromont Video Re-Cap

Brought to you by Martin Collins Equine Surfaces (Official PRO Footing Sponsor).

PRO Tour Series 2012: Bromont CCI3* Day One

PRO Tour Series: Volvo Bromont Day Two

PRO Tour Series: Bromont CCI3* Final Day

Friday, June 15, 2012

Big Fish, Little Fish Ups & Downs by Danielle Dichting

The famed Bromont sign

Sometimes you just end up being the little fish in the big pond. Other times you throw yourself in there and you have no one to blame but yourself. After twenty hours in the car I could blame my fellow car driver for convincing me that this trip was a good idea, but I do think at the end of the day it is still very much my own fault.
With that being said- I was born as the small fish (being 5’1 and having the look of a ‘yes I am 22 but I look 12’ young girl…I mean woman) so I’ve gotten used to this small fish thing and I’m happy to say so far it hasn’t been too hard on me. The trip to Bromont was long but worth it! When you pull into the park (in my case even around 4:30am it still looks beautiful) you can’t help but try to wipe the droll off your chin from the beautiful terrain and killer mountain view. Georgia’s red clay just does not stand a chance. After the horses were settled, the jogs were upon us before we really had a chance to catch up on some rest. I would like to say they were uneventful but a better response would be that they seemed uneventful. If you would have wandered away from the main jog lane and looked over towards were the waiting ‘joggers’ were clustered, you might have had a good laugh or a heart attack. Needless to say, the horses that are not acclimated to the cold weather really were feeling good. We caught a glimpse of more than a few flying feet in the air as horses pranced and danced, all full of energy and frisk.
Dressage seemed to be a lot less eventful but all the same still entertaining. After all, we are talking about event horses. Dressage always seems to be quite a challenge. My guardian angel must have been sitting at A the last couple of days because my horses came down centerline ready to halt at I, L and X with a purpose. They both put in some really quality tests and kept their wits about them, something we all can be proud of at the end of the day. The night draws on and I think I have looked over this course map enough times to admit to my vision going blurry. I wish everyone the best of luck and I hope that my guardian angel doesn’t mind going on a good gallop tomorrow!
The thing about horses is they can bring you to your highest highs and your lowest lows. Today was one of those days for me.
We all woke up to a beautiful day and a beautiful cross country course. Derek Di Grazia designed a course that asked great questions for all divisions to tackle. Looking back at the score board at the end of the day, the courses got the better of a pretty equal amount of competitors in each division.
The CCI** started off the cool morning and, minus a short hold, ran smoothly. I was sitting in a good position after dressage and was anxious to get on course. My mount, The Graduate, is a newer ride for me and we are still trying to figure each other out. Since my spring events leading up to our trip were a little inconsistent, I decided to wait to just ride the horse underneath me on the day and not make up my mind as to whether or not to take the slow, confidence building round, or go for time, until I was out on course. After the first few fences and the first combination my mind was made up. Now or never. I kicked on and the rest of the course rode like a dream. We finished the course with just a few time penalties to secure a good placing going into the last day of competition.
The next division was the CCI*** and my heartbreaking round. Tops and I have been together for six years and in every event he has ever run, beginner novice to advanced, I have been in the saddle. This is now our second year at the level and the season has been going great. With top three placings at our last two events, I was confident to come ready to compete. Today proved to me that no matter how prepared you are for the course in front of you, you can never foresee the unexpected. We had gotten through the first third of the course and we were feeling up to the challenge until a strap on my breastplate snapped leaving what remained to  flap and dangle somewhere around his knees. I was oblivious to this and continued several fences along the course to a hanging log set downhill. As he tried to leave the ground, the dangling leather restricted his shoulder causing him to twist pretty fiercely and dive me to the ground. Fortunately he did not fall and seemed to be just fine to continue the course and take himself down to the next set of fences.
At the end of the day, it is easy to look back and ask yourself what may have happened if you had made a different decision or ridden a little differently. This sport is so humbling in every way. We do not choose to event because it is easy. We choose it for the love of the sport and the love of our horses. Congratulations to everyone today and good luck tomorrow.
As the sun rose over the horse park Sunday morning, there was the usual hustle of the last day of competition of a 3 day. Horses were being bathed, ridden, braided and iced in preparation for the final horse inspection starting at 8:00. The only positive to my grey horse not being involved in these preparations, due to our misfortune on cross country, was that the time I would have otherwise spent giving him a full bath to remove the manure stains he is so talented in attaining overnight was spent preparing myself for the day ahead (and maybe an extra 15 minutes sleep).
The Graduate
Although there was not the same dancing atmosphere as the Wednesday inspection, all the horses were turned out beautifully and looked ready for show jumping. The jog was uneventful for me so there was a long day of waiting ahead. The CCI* was the first to jump, so my division didn’t start until around 12:00. I walked the course a couple times, probably over thinking how to ride each fence and turn and recounting each distance. When the division started, I was able to watch the first few rounds before going to get on.
Show jumping used to scare the life out of me. Not because I was actually scared of the fences, it was more that I had never been very good at it. Give me a cross country course any day of the week over a show jumping round! While gearing up for the start of the season the last two years, I have spent several weeks in Wellington, FL, with some of the best show jumpers in the world, learning all the tools I need to gain confidence in the ring. I was very grateful for all those tools as I circled outside waiting to jump. The bell rang, I took a deep breath, and I cantered to fence one. After crossing the finish flags, I probably could not have had a bigger smile on my face. We had jumped a clean round and put some pressure on the top two.
Jumping to a 2nd place finish with The Graduate
Standing in the ring among the best riders of our sport was a surreal feeling. As I received the second place ribbon, this whole journey flashed quickly through my mind. Everyone in the sport works so hard day in and day out, travels hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to compete in events like this one. The struggles that this horse and I have overcome in the last nine months only make the victory a little sweeter. I could name one hundred people who have made this dream possible for me and I cannot thank any of them enough for the support they have given. This trip was an amazing opportunity for me and I hope to be back next year.
Photo credit: The Professional Riders Organization

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Successful Start to Summer Season by Lauren Lambert

Honour Mission at May Daze- finishing 2nd
As the temperature and humidity begin to rise here in Louisville, the season has picked up as well.  While we have been going at it all year in the Florida circuit, many of our clients have just begun.  There is a group here at Lands End Farm which remind me this is one of the greatest careers in the world.  These people went to college to get a good paying job, then work all day in an office or hospital so they can support their ‘horse habit’; they work hard and our farm is their sanctuary.  Coming out after work is their therapy.  They are the roots of the amazing eventing community and they inspire me to never take a day around horses for granted.  It is really a blessing to have a job helping people do something they love.   

The season has started off well in Kentucky.  Our first outing was May Daze at theKentucky Horse Park.  Honour Mission skipped around our first preliminary, he put in 110% effort and felt like a true eventer.  This horse has been a challenge, but we really bonded over that weekend and our partnership is flourishing.  He finished the weekend on his dressage score, good enough for second place.  It was a great weekend for this horse and his owner.  Sally is my first real ‘owner’ and I couldn’t ask for a better one.  I am so thrilled she is giving me the oportunity to take this horse along, her support means the world.  Lil’ Birnie did his first novice and was very full of run on his big novice xc debut. He finished with some speeding faults for 5th place.  I am very much a purest and do not like to put on more than a snaffle at this level, but we will be doing some bit experimenting to get his racetrack training days re-trained, then hopefully he can go back to a snaffle once he understands and can relax into an easy gallop.  Hickory Smoke is a horse I trained up and competed at May Daze for Callie Linden.  Callie had a very rocky training level season last year not getting him around xc clean, so it was a real education for both her and her horse to learn how to get through the stopping issue.  Hickorystormed around the xc like a professional and finished 4th on his dressage score.  Callie took back over the ride for Spring Run Horse Trials two weeks later, and not only dominated a course she didn’t get around last year, but she won!  She is riding with confidence and poise and I couldn’t be more proud.  My Aunt Margie took back the reins on Fine With Me after a very successful season with me in Florida at the Preliminary level.  She ran training at May Daze and won her division from start to finish- I always expect this pair to finish on their dressage score, but a winning dressage score is a big accomplishment for Margie, who is a little bit rough and ready.  She will be tackling her first prelim the end of this month at the age of 53.  Last but not least, big congratulations to Dieke, who has been working very hard all spring to prepare for the Training level three day in Indiana, where she won!

My little barn at Greenhill Farm is bustling with horses as Ghost has returned home from his stay in Lexington and a new horse, Rock, came along for some adventures as a eventing hopeful!  Rock is a big and beautiful TB and eventing will be his third career after some time as a racehorse, then steeplechaser.  Big thanks are in order to some great people- Alex Gerding, Ann Banks, Sally Abell, Drew, Mom and Dad, and the great team of riders and horses at Lands End who make my job so amazing.
Photo credit: XPRESS FOTO

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jacqueline Larouche: PRO JYR Scholarship Award Winner's Week With Jan Byyny

Saturday, May 19, 2012
This morning, Allen, my horse, and I arrived at Surefire at ten. I unloaded a few things, including saddles, a bridle and feed for Allen, and Allen himself, and started working right after. Kendyl, Jan's working student who's from my USEA Area and was on the NAJYRC team for my area last year, helped show me how Jan likes things done. It's all considerably different than where I worked last summer. Basically all of the tack is shared, they just change the bits and use clean pads and boots. Generally, most things are communal, which seems to be necessary considering the number of horses that need to be ridden in fairly limited time periods. Here, if the horse gets sweaty from being ridden, Adolfo, who is from Guatemala and works for Jan, gives them a bath as opposed to just rinsing them off. It makes all the horses really soft. The first thing Jan asked me to do was to drive her car to Middleburg for some veggie oil, dish detergent and needles, with a hundred dollar bill and her credit card. Talk about trusting someone that you met 5 minutes ago…I then tacked up a few horses before my jump lesson. I've had one lesson with Jan Byyny before, in CO for a Young Riders camp last May, and I don't remember much except for being extremely confused and overwhelmed, mostly because of moving back from North Carolina to Colorado and training with so many different people in a short period of time. But this lesson was very clear and successful. Mostly, we worked on establishing and maintaining a good canter around the course. We started with two skinny walls 6 strides apart, cantering them in first six, then five, then seven strides to work on adjustability without losing impulsion or balance. It was really hard for me to stay relaxed in my arms when we did the 7, and I just tense up and hold. The five was easier, but we got flat, so I needed to remember to really make it come from my legs. We then moved on to two slightly larger brick walls, which we cantered first in one stride, then as a bounce. Again, the bounce was fairly easy, but I really had to concentrate on not taking and holding and becoming tense when I wanted the one. I also had to think about not adding a stride that wasn't there if it came up long, but rather just staying soft and using the fact that the horse lands closer to the fence on the other side when they jump long to my advantage. Still, it was all about balance, and you had to maintain enough impulsion and softness in order to be successful. We did a few courses, next, both starting and ending with that same combination in one stride. The first course wasn't that successful because I tried to maintain the canter that I had for the boxes over the duration of the course, but it wasn't enough. We did it again though, and I added a little more pace, but kept the same balance, and the course improved a lot. It was really helpful and interesting to have the super short one at the beginning and end of the course because it got me in a good balance to start, and forced me to regain that balance, if I Lost it at all, at the end. We finished up on a larger course where I practiced establishing and maintaining the appropriate canter. It was a fabulous lesson and I feel more confident going into the cci* than I have in a while. Even just working on that helped so much. I'm excited for the rest of the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012
I had to be at the barn at 5:45 this morning for feeding. It was hard getting out of bed that early. Jan and Kendyl had a dressage show that they had to leave early for, so we had to feed before that. Tomorrow Jan is taking JR (Inmidair) and Wyatt (Why Not) over to Phillip Dutton's farm to school cross country, so I have to be up even earlier. When they left Adolfo and I had chores, such as walk hacking horses and taking down and then resetting a new show jump course, then I did tons of laundry, and dead-headed flowers, which Jan has a lot of. This took us to about noon, when Kendyl and Jan returned, and I cleaned the trailer and bathed the horses. Later in the afternoon I had a flat lesson. It wasn't as productive as the jump lesson, but Allen was being unusually heavy on the forehand. Jan had undo some short mediums in the trot, to tight circles in order to force him to rebalance himself without laying on my hand. We also did lots of shortening and lengthening of the canter stride on a twenty meter circle to get his hind legs more underneath him and quick. I did some halts and leg yields, and we finished up by running through the one star A test that I ride this weekend. It was ok, and definitely an improvement from where we started today, but we certainly have a better test in us.

Monday, May 21, 2012
Well, it was yet another LONG day today as I had to be at the barn and ready to work at 5:30 this morning. Jan went with Wyatt and JR (Why Not and Inmidair) to school cross country at Phillip Dutton’s, and had to be pulling out with the horses loaded at 6:15. They got back around 3:15 this afternoon, and in the meantime I walk hacked a few more horses and did much of the same chores as yesterday...only in the rain. I guess it started raining at some time last night, and hasn't totally quit since. It varies between pouring and sprinkling, but it hasn't been dry for even a few minutes today, and this is supposed to continue the rest of the week. Muddy! Even walking the short distance from the barn to paddocks to bring horses in got me soaking wet. I think the horses and I all resembled drowned rats at multiple points of the day. Allen must have had fun in the rain at night because he was filthy when I brought him in this morning, so he got his first of three soapy baths of the day. At home I would never bathe more than once in a week, and usually just once every month before a show, but here the horses get at least one bath every day, with soap and everything. Jan likes to make sure the sweat gets washed off really well, and if they come in form pasture dirty they get a bath also. When Jan got back I studded Allen and we had a second amazing jump lesson. The arena had about three inches of water in it at some places, and at others only 1/2 of an inch, but that just made for really sandy boots, girth, my legs and horse. We worked again on the quality and impulsion of the canter around relatively short courses, set at height. Jan likes setting both short and long distances rather than those adjusted correctly to the horses stride length, so that was very good for balance and control. Again, she had me keep in mind using a shorter rein, starting the course with ten percent more canter than I think then settling a bit, and looking at the front rail of the fences for my distances. It was really hard to keep my canter the same when I saw something really long or short rather than moving up to it, but it makes him too flat and can get us into trouble because then we lose the quality of the canter. We finished up over a course of 5 cross country obstacles in a section of the Surefire cross country course, which is great to get back into the hang of jumping out of stride and carrying a fast pace. It was very valuable prep for my CCI* this weekend! Shortly after my lesson Dr. Johns came out to watch a few of Jan's horses jog before this weekend, and she took a look at Allen as well to make sure we are sound enough for this weekend and there isn't a huge soundness issue that well have to combat before NAJYRCs this summer. He jogged well, and even flexed well up front, which is impressive considering he was positive flexing during our pre-vet almost two years ago. As expected, his back was pretty sore, so we did a shockwave treatment, and hopefully that will allow him to use his back better on the flat and be more comfortable in general. I didn't finish turning out horses until eight tonight, so it was a LONG day. Thankfully I get to sleep in until 6:15 tomorrow morning!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It has been soooooo busy the last few days that I haven't had any time to write about them. On Thursday we left for the horse show, then between riding and grooming, and packing and unpacking, I was working six to midnight and too exhausted at that point to do anything other than shower and sleep. Jan didn't drive with us on because she had a few more lessons, so Meghan drove both JR and Wyatt down, and I took Allen. We left at around eleven, after doing morning chores and hacking a few horses for Jan at Surefire. Thanks to a well taken care of truck, I made the journey to Lexington without hitch, though the trailer Meghan was using broke down about an hour into it. They transferred the horses into the trailer of someone else that works with Jan and was a few minutes behind us, and after taking the truck to a ford dealer, finished the drive. In barn inspections that afternoon went well, and I braided in preparation for 7:30 jogs Friday morning. 15 put of 19 horses passed the initial formal inspection, thankfully including Allen without being held. Dressage was ok, as he was very stiff to the left, and over bent to the right. It got a little better after Jan telling me to think about not having any bend, because while he still had it, it was less severe. I also had to remember to keep my reins short. Though it was not our best test by far, we got a 51.2, which landed us in fourth out of fifteen. Our comments were mostly stiff to the left, which I definitely felt. On the other hand, we had great halts, and even scored some eights. Before Dressage, Jan walked the cross country course with me and two other CCI* students. Similar to my trainer in Colorado, she walked very direct lines between fences that were really spread out, so sometimes you were only straight for a stride or two before the fence. This cut off about two hundred meters cumulatively, which is significant. I was definitely worried about the c element of the coffin, which was a chevron with steps, and the first step was the side of the wooden number. But Jan reminded us to keep out eye on the back rail since the front didn't have any height, and that made it more visually approachable. Other than that, most of the other fences were to be jumped out of stride, and the combinations in a forward show jumping canter with quick hind legs and his poll up. Allen and I ran clean clear, as did the two other students. The drop complex, which was a log going downhill to a fairly large drop with a log on top, again on a slight downhill was my favorite question. Because of the terrain, the drops felt much bigger, but I really liked that. And though I had to really ride the skinnies and corner, Allen was very honest even when it wasn't perfect striding. Today we had second inspections, and they held Allen out of concern that his back or hind end was sore, though. It's just how he moves. So the vet checked him out and we passed upon representing. Since Jan left Saturday, I walked the show jump course with one of her one star students, Victoria Jessop, who obviously is experienced and has competed above one star, and she was super helpful. The course was similar to the course for the regular horse trials, and causing some major carnage. There were a number of eliminations at prelim, and even more rails and refusals, and between both one star divisions of around fifteen people, three more clean and clear rounds. Considering Allen's usual nonchalance about knocking rails, I was expecting a number of faults, however I really got to see all the work that we put in with Jan pay off as we only had one rail. It was by far the most confident and comfortable I have felt in the show jumping arena, and the one rail we did have was going into the triple because I didn't have his pole up enough, so I can fix that pretty easily next time. I am beyond amazed at how far Allen's and my show jumping has come in just one week training with Jan. It's unbelievable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Today I had my final jump lesson before leaving for Virginia tomorrow. Again, we improved soooooo much, just in the one lesson. A lot of it was the same stuff that we've been working on--the quality of the canter, balance, short reins, impulsion, not running at a long spot--but to put those points in practice is harder than it seems, so it was great to have another lesson to practice. We had a few bad jumps, mostly because I would see a spot and slow him down, so we would lose the quality of the canter and he couldn't really jump it, or I would run him at a long spot, but then he just got flat, but by our course at the end we were much, much better. I need to remember to balance as soon as I land from every jump, rather than continuing for a few strides, because then it becomes really challenging. I also need to remember that the quality of the canter is the most important thing, then the distances, because he can jump it from anywhere as long as he has a good canter, but if he doesn't have a good canter, then he can't jump it from anywhere well. Unfortunately Jan said she won't be there on Sunday to school me, but she'll either get Will Coleman or someone else to help. Work seemed extra hard today, but I think I was just extra tired. We had to do stalls because Adolfo had a day off, and I have a really hard time cleaning stalls, but I just generally felt like I was treading through muddy water. And it was another 13.5 hour day, which didn't help much. There weren't many extra chores, though there wasn't really any time for them either. We loaded straw and hay, and tack trucks onto the trailer, along with everything else Jan needs for this weekend, because she'll be going to VAHT also. While we were doing that, because it was later when we were working on it, the power cut off from some thunderstorms or something, so we don't have any running water or lights. It's amazing how much you can take power for granted and realize it when it's gone. After a hard thirteen-hour day, with hay and dirt and sweat because it got really hot, I can't take a shower. Yuck. Hopefully it'll come back in the morning. I think that's about it. A number of us, well, Jan and her working student/groom Meghan, Jess (who is short listed for the Olympics on the Canadian team) and I, plan on leaving for the horse park at around eleven-tomorrow morning. I'll work up until that point, and I bet they'll want me to work some when we get there, though I also have my own horse to compete and groom for a CCI, so I won't have too much extra time.

Jacqueline Larouche, is one of the winners of the PRO Junior Young Rider Training Level Scholarship Award in 2011. Jan Byyny hosted Jacqueline and her horse, Allen, at Surefire Farm for a week of training and exposure to the routine of a high performance training program. 2012 scholarship winners will be hosted by Marica Kulak and Will Faudree on the east coast and Shannon Lilley and Tamra Smith on the west coast.