Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tali's Saumur Helmet Cam is live...

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Tali finishes 6th at Saumur!

Tali on his early morning stretch before jogs at Saumur
Tali started off the day in great shape, no worse for the ware. We headed out for a light hack and stretch in the morning before the latest jogs I had ever seen. They started up at 10 am and being that just about half of the field remained, it was quite a bit quicker than Wednesday's inspection. Tali trotted up great and on to show jumping.

2nd horse inspection in front of main arena

The course didn't open for another hour so Jess, my Mom, David and I headed out on to cross country to watch the CIC** which was running all morning. We returned to the main arena at 11:30 for the course inspection.

My first impression of the jumping course was that it would reward confident, forward riding with just a few options in regards to variations in the lines and striding. It may have been a little less technical than some of the courses we've seen this spring, but the jump placement and crowds made it a challenge to say the least! When it was all said and done there were very few clear rounds.

As warm up can often be it was chaotic but this was a bit more than I've experienced. Not only due to the area's small size, the limited number of jumps, the pressure on the riders and crew but also the language barrier. We all used one oxer to get prepared, so as you can imagine there are people yelling in Itallian, French, English and Spanish...a proper cluster. Tali handled it all quite well, I'm very excited to see that when it comes down to working he's 100% in the game. Walking around warming up, hanging out etc is still another story, but when we're going he's been great!

I tried to be mindful of his energy and kept the warm up on the shorter side of things. When called, we headed up to the arena for our round, entering with just one rail in hand to remain in 6th place. Often times Tali is slow to start, but he was great this time from the very first jump. Unfortunately, there was a skinny jump at the far end of the arena that did fall. He twisted just a bit in the air, watching the video afterwards I might have been able to get him square to it earlier for a better jump. He finished up very strong, clear the remainder of the course.

When all was over we finished in 6th place. Always a good consolation, the rail wouldn't have changed the standings. To be honest, I'm very happy and relieved to have the weekend wrapped up. It's a funny thing, every day since the 1st of the year I knew this very well may be the focus of the spring season. Once I was notified that I had received the Land Rover/USEF grant the vague goal was solidified and the pressure was on. Everyday since, every ride you are thinking of how to make the most of the time you have to prepare. Of course anyone in my position wants to do well, but without a doubt you end up wanting to make the most of this rare opportunity and prove to those who have given you this chance that they were not wrong. At the same time, it's absolutely still a learning experience for Tali and me. We will be better still, next time from what was learned here.

There are countless people that I have to thank. First off Larry & Amelia Ross who have been partners of mine with Tali for years, I'd also like to thank Land Rover and the USEF for the grant opportunity and Joanie for her incredible management. Of course I have to thank David O'Connor for his massive help over the past years as well as Silvio Mazzoni, both have made a tremendous difference in my riding. Last but not least I have to thank my Family, friends and Michelle (Tali's second mother) whose unending support can never be repaid.

Tali is on his way not to Amsterdam for his return flight home, he should be back in NC by Friday. As soon as I get some reliable wifi I'll get both the show jumping and helmet cam videos of the weekend.

All the best,

Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Clear Cross Country at Saumur***!

Forgive the awkward angle, but this was taken in the vet box following Tali's great XC!

Tali was again exceptional on a very challenging course. Cross country for the 3* didn't start until 12:30 pm so it was a long day of waiting. There was a short delay on course which put my start time up to just around 4:30 pm. Tali warmed up great and headed out on course strong as ever. He improved as the course progressed and he finished up very strong. During the last few minutes on course he still had energy to spare, which was incredible considering the deep conditions in much of the course. I wore the helmet cam again today so a video should surface here as soon as I can find wifi that is fast enough.

I can't express how proud I am with Tali and how thankful I am to have the support of Larry & Amelia Ross, the entire Land Rover US Eventing Team and of course my family and wife Jessica. I wouldn't be here without all of their help.

Jogs are at 10 tomorrow morning with show jumping not until 4 in the afternoon.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

4th Place at Saumur after dressage! **Video included**

How cool is that?! Tali was excellent, not without room for improvement but he put in his best test to date!

I rode him earlier in the morning where we worked on basic suppling as well setting him up for the test. He was reasonably settled which had me hopeful for my 2:05 pm ride time. Just after we headed out to walk the first portion of the cross country putting us at the arena in time to watch Liz's tests. She did not disappoint...they put in a very solid test which placed them 8th at the end of the day!

We finished up walking, the footing continues to improve. The countless volunteers have been working non stop to improve the conditions. The depth of the water with the amount of rain we've had was a big concern, but it is improving my the minute.

Following our walk and lunch, Jess and I grabbed a power nap at the car. The alarm went off and it was show time! I got changed and hopped on. I had ridden a lot this week, more than ever before leading up the dressage, so I wanted to be mindful that I didn't do too much. I got on about 30 minutes prior and headed down to the warm up. He warmed up well and was just about as settled as he's been all week. Good timing!

As I entered the arena he did get worried, but right back to the same suppling exercise I went. He returned to earth pretty quickly and put in the best test he's had yet. Crazy to think that it could be a whole level more in time. I keep reminding myself to enjoy my time with him and of course I have to thank Larry & Amelia for their long time support. The day finished up and we're sitting in 4th place, just a few points from the lead!

Following dressage we headed out to walk the course again. I finished up in time to head over to the trade fair for a bit and catch the riders meeting. Nothing too terribly exciting was discussed aside from permissible route options on a few of the combinations.

I plan to head out to the event in the morning, walk the course once more and get ready! Luckily for me I head out just after 4 pm which gives me 3 hours of watching the course being ridden.

Fingers crossed!


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The day before Dressage at Saumur

We had a fairly light day today. I was very happy to report that the rain, for the most part, did stop today. We had a number of showers roll through, but luckily they would never last for more than 10 minutes then returned back to sunshine. The ground, being primarily sand for 95% of the course, adsorbed a massive amount of water. The footing is significantly better than it was yesterday. If the weather continues as it's predicted we should be in great shape come Saturday!

I rode twice again today just as in the previous days he was much better the second time out. I was struggling a bit initially not only with keeping his attention, but also figuring out how much support was needed through the deeper sections of mud. I felt much better in the afternoon's ride.

Uptown Eventing captured one of the brief showers perfectly!

Tomorrow my dressage is at 2:05. Being that Tali's been so much better the second time out each day, I plan to ride in the morning again. Following the first ride of the day, I'll head out on the cross country course again in what will probably be my second to last walk. Not to forget that Liz also does her dressage test tomorrow. Scheduled for just after 10 am, I think the US is in great shape to make a mark on this competition!

We were able to carve out a few hours in the mid-morning to head over to see the show at the Cadre Noir de Saumur. The production is held at the French national riding school and instruction center just a few minutes from where the event is being held. They did a great job showing the full range of what horses and riders are capable. As David explained to us, it's amazing to think that our foundation and style of modern riding in the US is rooted in the teachings developed right here. Saumur was where Jack Le Goff was taught, and master for more than a decade.

Cadre Noir de Saumur

I'll try to get an update following dressage posted as soon as possible.


PS Just in case you missed this on Eventing Nation earlier. Sally Spickard wrote a fabulous post about Tali's progression. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

And the rain as Saumur gets worse!

I hate to report that the skies opened up today...and really never closed!

Rain pours off the roof at the stables...

We did our best to hunker down for the day an avoid the rain, we failed. I rode with DOC first thing with in the morning, Tali and I were completely soaked. He was a little less settled than yesterday so we decided to ride again this afternoon following the first horse inspection.

Next up for the day was the briefing. Difficult to say exactly what was said, but I think we got the general gist of things. My french certainly hasn't improved enough to determine what was said aside from the English translation given by the show manager extraordinaire Joelle Stafford.

During the briefing was the all important draw. Each nation, 20+ of them, was asked to come down an pick a bottle of sparkling wine with a number on the bottom. This indicated the order in which we would jog. We ended up with number 14, placing us just about an hour into the inspection.

Our view of the briefing and draw
 Following the briefing Michelle and I headed out on the cross country course. I've complied the course below in a collage with the size of the picture roughly indicating the importance/difficulty of each jump or combination. A quick run through with regards to striding etc.

Fence 5: There is basically has no good approach to the first element due to trees and an unjumpable fence. Once at it, the combination is a 2 stride line. The challenge is really getting the first element done, once over the A portion B shouldn't be too much trouble.

Fence 8: You just don't want to miss, it's not terribly tall but the ditch is massive.

Fence 9: This combination should ideally ride in a 3 stride to 3 stride line. Left side of the first, again your approach is restricted, bending then right to the second skinny and more or less straight to the last.

Fence 11: This is off quite a tight turn and again on 3 strides (although my memory might not serve me well, if not 3 then 4 strides, but a decent distance regardless).

Fence 12: Triple brush in the water....this should ride well as long as they see it early enough and you get there with enough energy. It's certainly not one you can just gallop on down to.

Fence 14: I don't remember the striding, but probably 4. The hill is steeper than it looks, it's a blind approach. Luckily for Tali he saw this identical combination 2 weeks ago at Jersey.

Fence 16: 4 strides on a bending line.

Fence 18: The direct line, which is my intention is the corner of the boat bending 4 strides to the corner of the second boat in the water. The A element is quite vertical, so make sure it gets done well! The option is the white to the second boat backwards.

Fence 21: This is a slightly long 3 stride, but should ride normal after a long gallop around the track.

Fences 23 and 24: The hill after 23 is significant again the photos don't do it justice. It's a bending line to 24 AB which is a bounce then 3 strides to the C element. I expect this should ride well, but will require you're still on your A game.

Fences 25-27: With all of the rain this was nearly a water to water, with a bounce in the middle. I'm glad I practiced some bounces last week!

Fence 29: Possibly the most important fence of all!

I'm very happy with the course. I think it suits Tali well, again not to minimize it's difficulty. If you're off your line at any of these combinations or fail to get their eye on the next element soon enough you'll absolutely have trouble! 

Click on the image below to enlarge, or right click to save and view on your desktop.

The day continued with the horse inspection. The rain continued to fall with some intermittent lightning. After our first time up and back on the strip I was asked to represent, but alas all was clear and we've officially begun!

My dressage test will be at roughly 2:30 on Friday, which is just about ideal for us. I can't wait! Tomorrow we plan to start with a lesson at 8:30. We're going to make a quick trip over to the Cadre Noir de Saumur at 10:30 then back to the show grounds to walk the cross country again!

More details tomorrow.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A rainy first day at Saumur with some diplomatic rays of light

Well unfortunately I have to report the rain arrived today...

The rainy view from our tack stall towards the main ring

It had been spoken of for a few days now, but it arrived with vengeance. After feeding in the morning I took Tali out for our typical morning time ride. Funny enough I think he feels at home in the tent stabling. As I had mentioned yesterday, he just seems much more settled and comfortable. He was very good in the practice arena as well as on our leisurely walk around the property.

Tali checking out the main arena at Saumur

Tali hoping that he hears some good scores coming from these come dressage day.

Tali checking out his new neighbors
After getting Tali cooled and dried off, our American neighbors arrived! Liz Halliday-Sharp and 'Blackie' were a very welcome English speaking addition to our barn. After catching up for a few minutes Michelle and I again headed into town for lunch and a little tourism. We ventured up the the Château de Saumur which is the castle in direct view from our hotel. Again another beautiful example of architecture and history, and the view from the top of the hill was stunning! It's staggering to think all of this was constructed by hand....amazing. Due to renovations we were unable to go inside, but the trip was well worth it regardless.

The view from Château de Saumur
We headed back to the show grounds and met up with a jet-lag weary David O'Connor as well as our neighbors to the 'left'. I'm happy to report that we've resolved our international differences at least for the weekend. In all seriousness Alex Hua Tian finished out our barn. Coming from the UK Alex et al arrived just a few minutes after Liz. 

US - China...well played Saumur

Tomorrow I have a lesson planned for 8 with David. 9 am in the main stands will be the briefing and draw. Just following will be my much anticipated first cross country course walk. Pictures to follow, from what I can see from outside the roping it looks great. 

Until tomorrow....Feel free to post questions below that you might have, I'd be more than happy to answer whatever is on your mind.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Moving day...

We started the day off with another ride in Fursan's indoor. I wanted to make good use of the mirrors while they were available. Tali was quite good, I'm hopefully this trend will continue. At 10 am our transport arrived. It didn't take too long to get the truck packed, you're probably not surprised based on it's size! I think poor Tali was thinking the same; however, Roger was nice enough to set the truck up as a box stall for him. Reports from Roger and Michelle said he was much more comfortable as long as they were at highway speeds. Tali wasn't all that patient in the Paris traffic!

Tali loading up at Fursan in Chantilly

Spoiled much?! As Michelle picks some grass for an onlooking Tali at a rest stop.
I followed the truck from the farm in Chantilly to Saumur. The trip took us just over 4 hours. Not a bad drive. The only hitch came when I got stuck at the toll booth for 20 mins or so. Apparently the machine doesn't like US credit cards. I figured, no worries, just hit the help button. Not only is the launguage barrier an issue, but the drive through speaker system. I'm not exactly sure where I finished up, I have some sort of reciept that I'm nearly certain is to be handed over to the rental car company. I guess we'll see!

I arrived just a bit after the truck to the show grounds. The management couldn't have been nicer. It was great to finally arrive, and funny enough Tali hasn't been this settled since our departure. Something homey about tent stabling I guess! I took him for a walk around the grounds, below is the dressage arena which also serves as a portion of the cross country as well was being set up. The soil is comprised of a sandy base with pine tress everywhere, a very similar feel to our new home in New Hill. I could only scope out a few of the cross country jumps. I can't wait to get out to walk. Unfortunately, that won't happen until after the briefing on Wednesday.

 The Dressage Arena still being set up

We returned to the town of Saumur to find our hotel. That is always a challenge without a map or GPS. Luckily we found an Englishman on a bike who's phone data was working well and was able to point us in the right direction. After just one wrong turn down the wrong way of a one way street we arrived.

The first challenge entering the hotel room was figuring out how to turn on the lights. After killing 10 minutes hitting every switch in the place I called the front desk. If you find yourself in this predicament, your door key also functions as a means to power up the entire room by sticking it in the wall receptacle. Once the lights were on I found another great surprise. Direct from the UK was my new helmet from Charles Owen complete with red stripes and a yellow logo!

Brand new Charles Owen waiting my my hotel room!

In looking out the window I was again shocked at the beauty that abounds all around France. Roger actually told Michelle on the way to the event that they hold a dressage show up at the castle at some point during the year. Pretty incredible.

How about that for a view from your hotel window - Saumur
Post by DPEquestrian Sports.

Until tomorrow....Feel free to post questions below that you might have, I'd be more than happy to answer whatever is on your mind.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tali, Mansions and more - Day #2 in Chantilly

Tali enjoying the view from the barn
The weather for day two in France was again absolutely perfect, hardly a cloud in the sky and just around 80 degrees. Trying to get back to normal I rode around 8:30 am, this is such an incredible facility! I decided to take advantage of the indoor's mirrors. I've got to figure out a way to build them at our place in NC, it was incredibly helpful to say the least. Tali was wild...but that is completely normal for him. He's an odd horse, every time he's in a new location he is on edge and marginally unridable for the first 45 minutes, luckily he's near enough normal by the second day. With a little luck we can get even more accomplished during tomorrow morning's ride. I'm still trying to perfect the small tweaks made a few days ago at my mom's place. Following tomorrow's ride we're scheduled to load up and head to the show grounds at Saumur. I can't wait!

In the meantime, Michelle and I visited the Musee Conde in the neighboring town to Chantilly. Having not been to France, aside from a train ride some years back, I really didn't expect this magnitude of extravagance in such a small town. Naive am I to think that palatial estates didn't exist much beyond the major cities. I've posted a bunch of photos on my personal Facebook page, click here to view. On the same property was a beautiful race course as well as the Domaine de Chantilly which houses a massive stable which runs exhibitions, races as well as a CSI** which is held next month. Check back tomorrow for updates on the show grounds!

Feel free to post questions below that you might have, I'd be more than happy to answer whatever is on your mind.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Success Day #1 in France

Tali's accommodations heading on the Plane to Liege with Michelle
This has been a wild week. Following Tali's win at the Jersey Fresh CIC*** which wrapped up Saturday we've been going non stop...

This trip to Saumur had it's origins at Fair Hill CCI*** last fall. Both Kim Severson and David O'Connor independently pulled me aside and asked me to consider trying to attend an European 3* in the spring. To be honest I really hadn't considered it, I was too busy trying to get prepared enough for Fair Hill. Fast forward 6 months, Tali has had a great spring season. I decided to both enter Rolex as well as submit an application for a Land Rover/USEF Grant to Saumur. Following the Fork CIC*** I was notified that our grant application had been approved! (Click to read blog entry)

After Rolex's dressage, the final push to Saumur was on! Jersey Fresh's CIC*** was targeted as Tali's final run. The event went exceptionally well, we finished with the win by 8 points! Following the competition Dr. Susan Johns preformed the final detailed veterinary inspection. Tali looked fabulous and we got the green light to go, contingent on one last trot up the day before departure by Dr Brendon Furlong.

Saturday evening Tali and Michelle headed north to my parents place for the week, while I headed south to Raleigh to help Jess and Katie at the Cabin Branch Schooling Event at the Carolina Horse Park Sunday morning. I remained in NC to ride through Tuesday morning. My sister Holly was nice enough to take Tali for a long walk Monday.

I returned the 8 hours to NJ Tuesday afternoon to ride the dressage test for my Mom and long time mentor Irma Hotz. It was incredibly helpful, and with some luck I can put their advice into action here in France. Wednesday morning I headed out for our final Gallop, as soon as we finished up I hopped back in the car to return south to Raleigh.

A lot of driving you say...yeah no kidding! Better off me than Tali though, he's had enough traveling this spring for most of the barn. I figured it was best to minimize his travel, so that he could be in top shape come Saumur. 

Wednesday afternoon Michelle met Dr. Furlong to get the final ok to proceed. She and Tali headed out to JFK on the other side of NYC to prepare for their flight. I flew out from Raleigh on Friday mid-day. Following the first of many misunderstandings my rental car sans GPS managed to make our way north putting Michelle, Tali and I here in Chantilly just hours apart this morning. This afternoon, which still felt very much like morning, I took Tali for a long hack around the Fursam Equestrian Center.

All I can say is that this place is beautiful! It will serve as our home through Monday am as well as the staging facility for the US team prior to the World Equestrian Games this summer. Below you'll find a link to my Facebook album. I'll do my best to continue to update with photos through the week. The only catch is finding reliable WiFi in order to upload them in a timely manor.

Click the link above for updates through the week, and of course check back on this blog for detailed accounts!

Feel free to post questions below that you might have, I'd be more than happy to answer whatever is on your mind.


Don't forget to get your copy of 'The Riding Horse Repair Manual' by clicking the cover image below!