Year of New

We arrived safely in Maryland after 13 long hours and (I believe) 7 states! Val was a trooper and has settled in fabulously up in my new palace of Hassler Dressage. I definitely felt awkward for the first couple of days and settling in has been strange but I am thrilled how it is all going now.  I had my first lesson with Scott Hassler on Saturday and it was great. Scott really understood and nailed my horses problems right on the head. Everything he said I completely felt and was really pleased with how he understood our problems. He wants to take his time with understanding what our system is before he throws us into a brand new one which I appreciate a lot. I feel so good about the training and the program that I am in. I could not have asked for a more wonderful situation. However, I am exhausted so I am just going to type out my quick notes instead of a real post tonight. And then throw a few pictures of this place at the end!

Notes from 1/8:

  • work for honesty within the connection to achieve throughness instead of lightness – not only supple in jaw but through whole body and back
  • be a little sloppy in the suppling for right now
  • blend/flexion/contact -> release in jaw -> release in poll -> release in wither -> completely through the neck/neck control -> through the back = create activity, cadence, and collection
  • Important: only when he is through the neck do I have the right to ask for power behind
  • 2 ways to do this – 1. hold flexion until feel release then physically straight OR 2. quick bend to straight transitions
  • need a more active outside hand
  • because bend and flexion focus is hand riding it must always have a purpose/goal and be followed by a release and then leg – not leg first though otherwise he panics with the hand and the front door always being open
  • when he jumps around keep flexion on a single rein and let sideways or forwards – don’t give up the feel in that moment
  • in good moments create more and do changes of direction
  • holds right -> left in change of direction, half pass, and especially flying changes
  • ALWAYS go back to true collection as the middle and establish throughness there first
  • proactively ride and call the shots – ask questions

Notes from 1/10:

  • ask questions of the neck at all times – 3 stages of riding:
  • 1. Harmony – passive/connected feeling (where we want to ride most of the time)
  • 2. Coaching: work through; show and reminding *must have this step in between*
  • 3. Correcting: “hey bud listen” – clear expectation but hold no judge after the moment: stay until absolutely sure the aids are heard and understood
  • After we work through these stages then we can ask questions of the body and the back and hind legs -> 2 ways:
  • Is he tight in the back? (70%) OR is he slow in the hind leg? (30%)
  • tightness in the back translates into bracing of the neck which needs to be handled first
  • quick aids and response to collection: 1. establish neck througnesss 2. ask for collection QUICKLY 3. three steps of collection 4. ride out 5. re-establish connection with the neck and lightness/throughness
  • *really coach through the flying changes and keep more connected with both sides of the neck

And now for a few pictures!

 

Back of the barn from walking out to the turnouts

Pony on his first day of turnout

The tack room of gorgousness

The AMAZING arena

One of the many wings in the barn - we have a stallion wing, and a mare wing, and then our guest wing

Promise a real post later!

 

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I’ve Had the Time of My Life

Happy 2011 – we have officially made it through a whole year on this blog together and we are still going strong! It has been one heck of a life changing year complete with enough ups and downs to satisfy any soap opera watcher.

A year ago at this time I had just gone out and shown Third Level for the first time. A year ago I had never ridden my horse in a double bridle. A year ago I was terrified at the amount of time I had left to be able to pull of a season at FEI Juniors. A year ago I had just been accepted into my University and was still in high school.

I did have a blog malfunction when I was trying to be creative and give myself a new look a few months ago, but I managed to save most of my 2010 goals. I think it is time for a review of those:

2010 Goals –

1. Compete FEI Juniors with respectable scores – I would say that this one was successfully managed after ending qualifying season as third in the nation, gaining two bronze medals my debut at NAJYRC for Individual and Team tests, and coming in fourth my first time at the National Championship. I never thought it was possible but I guess this just shows what happens when you set your sights higher than logic tells you is possible! I am so proud of myself, my horse, and my amazing team!

2. Start Val in the double bridle – This was crossed off quite early but it preoccupied my mind at the start of the new year. It is such a pivotal thing and the moment that you really have entered the big time. And he took to it like a fish to water!

3. Score a 70% and at least one 9 – A nine at the first show out on a flying change and a 70% at the last show of the qualifying season let me cross both of these big goals off my list. Now I am hungry for more!

4. Organize a clinic – This one didn’t happen but not for lack of trying. Honestly though it isn’t a bad thing. This is definitely on my bucket list but I am in no hurry to fulfill it!

5. Start the 4 and 3-tempi’s – Cannot remember exactly when we started these but we are more in the schooling/almost-ready-to-show stage at this point. Even last year I was hoping to begin work on the PSG before the season ended but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would be as far along as we are now. There are days where we school movements from the Intermediare and Grand Prix tests. I am not claiming we could go out and show them tomorrow, not by a long shot. But wow!

6. Earn a working student position over the summer – This past summer the Boss took me on and it was one learning experience after another! I am so thankful, I learned so much, and I look forward to continuing to learn. To top it all off I earned a working student position for all of 2011 as well! I would say achieved and exceeded!

7. Get fit and active outside riding (and try not to complain too much about it) – This is something I know that I will just have to continue to pursue in my adult life. Which sucks. Haha

8. Figure out college! (I am still trying to figure it all out!) – I successfully completed a whole semester with above a 3.5 grade point average and loved every moment of it. Some how a higher power took care of me and put me in exactly the major I needed to be in to allow me to go after this working student position! It’s still a work in progress but I think everyone’s college life is a little bit like this. I am not quitting – in fact I get to keep my enrollment and get credit for work next year – but University is just not the priority right now. One thing is for sure; I will be finishing for a degree at some point in my life!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The biggest reflection I can add that I learned is never underestimate the power of putting something in writing. Goals are so important and I am amazed how far I have come from what I even imagined was possible!

2011 is going to be a super year and I leave for Maryland and Hassler Dressage on the sixth. Before I post a few goals I have already, they will be expanded on over the next week most likely, I would just like to announce that I have been chosen as the Rider of the Month for January on dressageforjuniors.com – exciting and humbling news!

Goals for 2011:

1. Get my final two PSG scores for my silver medal

2. Compete Young Riders and try for a place in Top 12 for Festival of Champions 2011 as well as NAJYRC

3. More 70%’s and 9’s on movements

4. Regularly ride “project horses” and horses that aren’t my own

5. Make new friends in Region 1 and all over the country and get to hang out with all of the new Junior/Young Rider friends from last year again!

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Merry Late Christmas

Oh hey. It’s been a month since I last did a post; where did my month go too? I am a terrible, shameful blogger who is still getting hits even after I haven’t posted in over a month! Alright my loyal viewers, I am sure you want some sort of update on the exciting turn of events that are going to commence.

Val and I are currently back home at Applewood for the winter holidays and have been enjoying our stay. I have gotten two lessons since I have been home, one very productive and the other not so much. The productive one I actually took notes on but never wrote the intended blog post – go figure. I am the best procrastinater you will ever meet. If procrastination was a sport I would be at the Olympic level. For all of you to see that I am not a total shmuck though I will include the bullet point list on here. Maybe you will take an idea away – maybe not?

  • Make sure to ride changes in frame more. Don’t be afraid to take him a little lower/deeper/rounder in the connection to make him loosen at the area right in front of the withers. When in canter make sure he keeps jumping through with little tap of the whip to activate hind leg.
  • No more tempis on diagonal – ride changes on straight lines and really make sure he is connected in the neck so he doesn’t come above bit through the change itself
  • When changes go to hell go back to simple changes to re-establish the “woah” aid and the speed control aspect; get’s too rushed and then either runs away above bit or stops when panicked
  • When he gets running away feeling in any gait do a halt or walk transition, reestablish contact with both sides of his body; maybe even throw in a reinback for good measure
  • Rushed in right rein trot – same rhythm and same trot in both directions
  • Not swinging through the changes as badly as he feels (this is a plus!)
  • Work on getting him to step higher and together in walk. Piaffe feel building him towards the hands in front so he lowers and becomes less croup high. Poll highest point but soft and supple. More uphill and connected in walk = better transition up to trot.
  • Don’t stay in bad walk. Get moving out of it if feeling crappy.
  • Best compliment EVER by trainer: You are finally sitting like you are supposed to – you are sitting into the horse and into the saddle rather than on top if it. SUCCESSSSSSS!
  • 10 meter circles in trot are your friend – do more of them!
  • Ride a little half-pass in the canter to help push into right rein a little more.
  • Coming out of corner in trot and onto diagonal feel a moment of leg yielding into new outside to really maintain straightness through the body
  • transitions transitions transitions! with more throughness in the neck so that the body itself is rounder.
  • More bend through ribs in the shoulder-in by activating the outside hind to really step under. Catch it with the outside leg and rein creating a wall so he doesn’t fall out and brush against the track. Don’t think neck in – make him bend through his ribs and his body more
  • Passage half-pass good idea to improve rhythm and cadence through the normal trot half-pass. SPEED CONTROL. Be able to work on forward and back while in movements all the time
  • Canter pirouette collection is good
  • First stride in the canter pirouette needs to be more in place. Val still swing too much to the side in the first stride and then falls off the line a little too much; 2-4 strides are much better
  • Count the half pirouette strides
  • Don’t be afraid to ride him a little deep in the neck into the canter pirouette or counter flex him to maintain connection with the outside rein so he can turn
  • More inside leg in turn for activity but manage energy through outside rein
  • If first half of pirouette stinks go ahead for the second half of it and keep going – not a problem
  • Don’t get after him too much in the left pirouette, can make it a little bit bigger so he stays more active and does not get stuck and panicking which results in the swapping leads mess
  • Be quicker with the corrections and get a result quicker so there is more “gi ve” time
  • The better the self carriage comes the easier everything will be
  • Don’t always have to ride for the huge gaits right now – better to stick on improving the basics and alternating between ‘show’ and ‘working’ frame right now
  • Sit very quiet in the pirouette – so sensitive – and wait for the right moment to apply the ‘out’ aid
  • Ride forward to the flying change at C

Biggest thing I got out of that lesson was our new exercise, which we did in the following lesson two days later. Ride square with the quarter pirouettes on the end of every line – somewhere in the middle of the arena. Will improve speed control as well as adjustability of the pirouette turn itself. That way it is not always a “half” or “full” feeling but I really can start to ride every single stride and monitor them better. For kicks throw in pirouettes when crossing the center-line and such.

For my Christmas Eve lesson it was one of those nothing-feels-right rides. We worked on the canter pirouettes and did the canter half-pass zig-zag from the Intermediare but it all still felt pretty crappy. The best moment in the entire lesson riding wise had to be the passage half-passes which were phenomenal the very first time! He is getting so much more fluid and they are becoming much easier to regulate the tempo and the ‘play’ in his carriage and way of going while in the movement itself. I was just in a funk and felt just an overall sense of “blah” from the ride even though nothing really went wrong. Oh well, sometimes we have those rides! My day was made better by a big Christmas hug from my amazing trainer. I am going to miss him so much! Thankfully, I do get to see him at least once more before I leave.

Christmas was a white one – the first white Christmas in something like 150 years! And the snow was still on the ground three days later.

 

From December 28th, 2010

 

I figure living in Georgia we would be safe from most of this – but that was not quite the case!

The New Year is just around the corner which means that the blog gets an overhaul with new goals and new everything! I will be sure to do a big post before I head up to Maryland as well. I am not gone quite yet Georgia.

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A Multitude of Hats

And no, I am not talking about my vast collection of ball caps of which my mother will no longer let me buy any more.

I am talking about the fact that this week I have been very blessed to pull on not only my dressage diva’s hat, but both my trainer and exercise rider’s hats as well. One of the things I love to do almost as much as riding myself is teaching. I have a passion for theory and knowledge. For me it isn’t enough to be able to get on the back of a horse and ride well, doing exactly what your trainer says. It has been a blessing in disguise not being able to afford weekly lessons, not having my trainer ride my horse three or more times a week. This inability to be lazy has forced me to take responsibility for my own progress and understand how to become a trainer myself.

I have had Val now for almost four years. We brought him home near Thanksgiving in 2006 when he was a still an awkward three-and-a-half year old boy. We went to look at him on a complete whim – I wasn’t ready to give up my thoroughbred mare however realistically the prospect of that future loomed. My trainer, at that time, told me that this horse was nicer than anything I had ever seen before. I was thirteen and the prospect of owning the nicest horse in the barn grabbed me like nothing else could. All of us barn girls weren’t very nice at that age and it was always a contest of who could be better than the others. My mother and I met my trainer where the then “he doesn’t have a name; we call him the Chestnut” was being broken. And he wasn’t lying; Val was the nicest thing I had ever seen, let alone sat on. He was also a greener-than-grass, couldn’t canter, antisocial, and three-years old. We looked at him a total of one time wherein my mother set up a vet check to bring him home within weeks. It wasn’t because I liked him; I couldn’t even ride him when we bought him. I wanted him because the green-eyed monster in me screamed “mine”. My mom swears to this day it was because a higher power spoke to her. Whatever the reason, he became our second horse.

Val bit me within the first week of owning him. It is not a moment I will ever forget. He was not, and still isn’t, a cuddly and in your pocket horse. To this day he is very particular about his space when you are in a stall with him. Four years ago I did two stalls everyday before being able to ride – my Tango’s and Val’s. I was cleaning his stall with him in it, his ears laid back as he stood flush up against the far wall with his hip cocked at me. I went over, reached out to pet his shoulder, when he whipped around faster than I could breathe and nailed me with his teeth on the tender flesh of my inside, upper arm. I was so shocked all I could do was blink in surprise before it registered that my arm was throbbing and he had bit me! I left pitchfork marks in him that day as I clambered out of his stall and rushed to my mother on the other side of the barn. I was in cold shock until I got to her and tried to explain what had just happened. It was only then that I started to cry. I think that was the day that I decided I hated him – that I wanted nothing to do with the nasty animal we had just purchased. I would ride him because, in my mind, he was nicer than the other horses. But I wanted nothing more to do with him.

I don’t remember the moment I fell in love with him, only that first moment when I made up my mind that I hated him. He and I have been through four of the hardest years of my life together. I am no longer that girl who first saw him, and he is no longer that horse I first sat on. Along the way I have learned more about the world than I could have thought possible. I have learned that struggle is never a bad thing, that personal responsibility is number one, that knowledge is power, that the right coach can be so much more than just a trainer, that your family extends beyond those who share your blood, and that there is only one constant and that is change.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Now let’s go eat some turkey!

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Too School for Cool

Who is that handsome man?

I don’t even know where to begin with this blog post except to say that Thanksgiving Break is less than a week away which means I get to go back home to my barn-family and my A-Wood girls! I am so excited to have the week off and get to spend it at home riding with all my favorite family of dressage riders. There is really nothing like being at home which is what Applewood has become to me. My lesson two weekends ago (this post is late, like normal!) was amazing as well. I had such a good time seeing the Boss and Julia and everyone! We worked on all the Prix St. George work and I am happy to report we are not going backwards even without lessoning since August at Gladstone in New Jersey for Festival of Champions.

A summary of the lesson would be that I just need to keep riding for more, especially in the trot work. The half-passes are in a pretty good place but to improve them I could start doing more zigzag work. This helps to keep Val supple and thinking otherwise he has too much time to be against the leg and slow down behind. The shoulder-ins are solid but I need to keep working towards more cadence within them. As for the canter work we schooled our first true half pirouettes, and the Boss agreed with all the exercises I have done which was good to note. To develop strength I try to school transitions in and out of pirouette canter on the straight lines in our arena. Doing this improve my tempo and speed control as well as strengthening his hind end and teaching him how to always think forward and be ready for the aids. We have now moved on from schooling pirouettes on a circle to riding them down the diagonal like in the real FEI test. To help make sure I get the correct feeling I need to focus more on riding forward into the pirouette and turning my head and body to shift my weight and help him around the turn. There should be six strides exactly in a half pirouette, and counting out loud also is a big training tool I use. As for the canter half-pass I need to keep on working those in zigzags as well, but try to do them a little quicker. Jason even got on him and schooled the Intermediare 5-10 pattern and the Grand Prix 3-6 one! Now I just need to become quicker in my timing to be able to pull that off! We got clean fours, which can be improved by checking on the overall connection to the bit.  Best part of my ride had to be getting back on after Jason and schooling the passage/piaffe/passage transitions. What a feeling!

At home this past week I had been really trying to recreate the feeling of power and brilliance I have in my rides with Jason. That is still a hard thing for me, to get everything and then some out of the Red head. Sometimes I still do not understand how to power him up all the way and I catch myself not riding for a 9 every time. The only way to stop myself is constant vigilance!

*note: Harry Potter is coming out this week; Can you tell I am excited?*

To do this I am really honing in on speed control in all the work. Warm-up is now all about transitions within the gaits at any moment. We ride forward one letter, back one letter, and so on. This carries over into work on circles of all sizes, bending lines, leg yielding, and basic lateral work. His left half-pass is the weaker side and has been since before NAJYRC. To focus on the throughness I am powering him down before riding it these days and then powering him back up once in the movement. Val tends to shift his weight onto the right side of his body too much, counter balancing away from the bend and the leading foreleg. This results in him dropping the true connection with the inside rein which is a major point of contention between us. He has to be soft and light, but present in the hands as well. Whenever I lose the feeling I take him back to a slow walk where he is deep within the connection and truly on the bit. Then I re-establish the connection of looseness within the bend as well as crossing and activity behind. He has had a hard time with the movement from the beginning and over this last year we definitely pushed him forwards and gave him an “immersion” course in the subject. Now I am going back to the beginning and smoothing over any training cracks before we go further. They aren’t holes yet – but left unattended they could be! We are also doing transitions within the gaits in the half-pass; someday I hope to be able to ride forward and back with the same light supple connection for every stride. All of the tedious and repetitive work is going to pay off this season – it has already allowed me greater control of the crossing and steepness of the exercise as well as making him swing more through his body.

I love my pony!

This weekend was another exciting one as I purchased my shadbelly! What an amazing moment that I have dreamed about since starting on this dressage journey – and even better to spend it with my tremendously supportive mother! I could not do anything without her and I am so blessed to have an expansive support system full of relatives and friends alike. Pulling on that perfect black coat, sitting in a saddle, and seeing myself for the first time was a moment I will never forget. It took me back a moment realizing how far we have come in a year – from the pipe dream of competing for the FEI Juniors, to mine and Val’s first ride in the double, to purchasing a top hat and showing in it for the very first time, to riding my first freestyle, to riding down the chute at the Kentucky Horse Park, to winning two FEI medals on a horse I have brought up from not being able to canter, to standing in the United States’ training facility in awe, to watching Totilas compete in the same arena I have, to trying on my very own shadbelly. It has been one amazing year.

And now for the most exciting adventure yet – I have been offered and accepted a working student position with Hassler Dressage for the 2011 year! Excitement, relief, and anxiety are just a few of the emotions I have wavered between these past few weeks as we have finalized details. I don’t know what to say other than I promise to keep this blog going, and post more frequently. I finish my semester at the University of Georgia and then head up to Maryland to get settled in their beautiful new facility of Riveredge. I am so thrilled to be part of their team and have another wonderful support system. I believe there are five of us trying for the Junior/Young Rider tract as well which will make this season that much more special.

Hassler Dressage at Riveredge

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We Will Never Be Anything But Loud

(c) Stephanie Bedford 2010

This weekend was fall break at the University of Georgia and instead of going home like the majority of students I decided to stay here and hang out with the pony. I haven’t had a real weekend with him in a long time and with our fall weather finally deciding to make an appearance I just couldn’t make myself go home to not ride!

Friday was a super ride in our double bridle, schooled the trot half-pass and four tempi changes – one of these days the counting will be easier for us. This weekend our arena underwent renovations for a change in the footing, not that the current footing was bad at all. Instead it was a preventive measure to insure that the footing never reaches the point where it is bad. That meant that the arena was closed all weekend and is going to be off-limits until Wednesday this week. Honestly it was a nice thing that the arena was not ridable because it forced me to go out into the field and enjoy the glorious fall weather while it is still here. Winter is just around the corner, but I am determined to enjoy the cool and sunny autumn.

Another boarder and I ride together and so on Saturday we decided to go play in our cross-country field together. Val was fantastic out there, considering I haven’t had my jump saddle on him since lord knows when! We jumped a few of the solid logs out there before I decided to introduce him to his first water complex. Val was more than a little baffled about trotting and cantering through the water but after he decided he could do it he was so proud of himself! Cedar Ridge has a super training field for eventers and we are so lucky to have these facilities even not competing in that discipline. There is a coop that sits at one edge of the water and so we jumped both in and out of the water as well without any hesitation on the red heads part. Then Stephanie pulled up her big girl shorts and decided to brave the down bank into the water. And what do you know? Val could not have cared less! The first time he came trotting up to it he stopped and peered down, not afraid just curious. I let him look, turned around and came right at it and down he popped without any fuss, over-jump, or commotion! I love my horse! We finished off our day with a true gallop around the outer track of the field which is a half-mile circuit and walked back through the trails.

Today there was still no riding in the ring so I decided to actually get some real work done out in the field, but not before I whipped out my camera to show all of you the awesome facility I am so lucky to ride at!

The inside of the main barn

I am so blessed to have found a really super barn that is literally minutes off campus! Although not strictly a dressage barn, I have less than nothing to complain about. The care is super, the price is affordable, the drive is twenty minutes, and the facilities are fantastic. Crazy enough their arena is based on Brad Thatcher’s designs for the Applewood arena – it is like being back home honestly! And I am a big fan of the permaflex footing (rubber tires), and so is Val.

The beautiful pastures

Val goes out in a pasture with one other horse who belongs to the young lady I ride with, Jessica. They have a huge turn out that still has grass in it.Let me tell you, he loves it!

Pony says, "Oh hai. You heer fur me?"

Although I love riding out in the field I cannot wait until our arena is all finished. We are going to put the dressage court back up this week as well which will help so much with our accuracy. Sometimes in a big, unmarked space it is hard to judge angle and distance especially on the lateral work. The mirrors, which are a recent addition by Mrs. Carolyn Cadier, are so helpful though even when we don’t have the actual dressage arena up to work in.

Val approves of this arena ;D

Out in the back field today (which I will get pictures of I promise!) we worked mostly on connection while doing some light hill work. His trot was really super out there. Val was connected from the leg to the bit instead of from my hands and had a pretty easy time staying soft and supple even while on uneven footing and lots of changes of directions. Cross-training is a big part of my philosophy of riding and hill work is so great for building muscles and strengthening the overall carriage. I also find that being out of the arena really makes me focus more on correct, honest riding because Val is less willing to compensate when outside the safety net that an arena builds. It is a good test of how true my aids are, and how well he is listening. When working on the canter today my focus was on keeping him a little deeper and rounder in the connection while going up and down the slopes and inclines that exist. Horses are naturally built on their forehand – they carry 2/3 of the weight on the forelegs and 1/3 of the weight on the hind – and dressage is the process of bio-mechanically shifting that weight by asking the hind quarters to lower and engage so that self carriage and ‘lightness’ occurs. In and out of the arena his tendency is to get a little croup high in the canter. He has an immense talent for sitting but there is still a disconnect that when he sits to bear more weight behind the hind legs have to keep jumping through. Schooling up and down hills are perfect to combat this because while going up he wants to pull himself up and get quick and by keeping him connected that energy is used positively. Going down hills, horses in general rush and so he is already thinking “go”. Using the “go” and balancing him he stays quick and jumping behind even when we flatten back out. We schooled some really nice collected canter and some forward thinking changes as well.

He was a really super guy today and is totally getting the day off tomorrow! I promise to keep you all updated as we get closer to Thanksgiving – hoping for a real lesson possibly next weekend. There is also some super exciting future news looming on the horizon that will be breaking in (hopefully) a few days – life changing news! Stay tuned… ;D

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You say goodbye, but I say hello

These past few weeks have been extremely busy for the horse world in general! If you are even remotely interested in horses at an international level then you are sure to have heard of the World Equestrian Games. The 2010 Games were held in our very own Lexington, Kentucky at the very same venue that Young Riders was only months before! I think that, for me personally, that was the most exciting moment; to see all the big names riding in the same sand Val and I stood in the very last week of July. Unfortunately due to all the expenses of Young Riders and Gladstone I knew that I was giving up the chance to go watch the Games. The medals went much in the way I had expected them to go, although I was devastated for Adelinde Cornelissen and her super mount Jerich Parzival when she was eliminated from the competition due to medical reasons. However with the events of today perhaps she was the lucky one for Team Netherlands after all.

My heart is breaking today for Edward Gal. There are not the proper words to describe how I feel when I watch Moorlands Totilas and him go. Totilas is one of the few horses in the world that I can look at and say with pride that he belongs to my sport; it is an honor to have shared a ring with him. All I know is that there are heavy hearts all over the world as we are witness to the end of a special journey. Totilas revitalized our sport. He was more than just a horse; he was a rock star. In the words of Edward Gal:Totilas is a very special horse.  He has an incredible amount of talent; it’s simply a pleasure to ride him.  Totilas is everything a rider could want!” I am not sure that anyone else in the world could have brought out the talent and love this horse shows for every moment he is under saddle. Perhaps my favorite moment watching these two at WEG was that of their victory laps where Toto would canter around confident and happy in front of thousands of screaming fans and then walk out of the arena on the buckle. No one can say if they would have gone on to continuing winning, medals at the 2012 Olympics and so on because even horses not nearly as talented or willing are hard enough to keep sound. I do know that it brings me comfort to see that they are not trying to replace Edward as his rider and keep pushing him onwards with someone new. That kind of partnership is not something that is replaceable – and I have a lot of respect that they aren’t going to try. I hope that the Moorlands Stable holds to their promise to Edward to keep sending horses his way, and although no one will ever replace Totilas there is another horse out there who wants to have his own place in the sun.

And because transition in the sport is never easy I don’t have only one horse family in my prayers today, but two. Leslie Morse’s beautiful stallion Kingston lost his life on Monday. My heart is also with the army that kept this top horse going as well. Her story is so touching, beautiful, and sad that I could not do it justice.

The eighteen year old stallion had an acute attack of colic which was determined to be a twisted colon shortly after his daily morning trail ride, an activity he loved. In an attempt to get him in the trailer to the hospital he lied down in the driveway and could not be revived. “He only suffered one hour and as unbearable as it was I was so thankful I was here to be with him like always sharing everything together.” a heartbroken Leslie More told DressageDaily. “We put a pillow under him and hugged him and told as many stories as could as we sat with him. He passed away at his home “Kings Court” right next to his shoes that we had inlaid in the drive when we were building the property.”

There are so many things I can say about my very best friend.” Morse added. “I am so amazed about our years together. Kingston brought me dreams and introduced me to a new world, and filled my world with abundance.”

– Dressage Daily; Written by Mary Phelps Hathaway

It has been an extremely tough couple of months with the loss of so many greats but as always the world presses on. It is perhaps a time to look to the future and celebrate every moment that we have with our always-willing equine friends.

Today I took Val out for a gallop this morning. It was still early and shady as we walked out onto our hilly gallop track; that perfect time where the day is just starting to wake up and a chill is still in the air. Fall is my favorite time of the year to ride – there is just something perfect about it. I was filled with so much love for my animal and the world around me today as we just ran and I let the ground fly by beneath me. I could spend every morning like this one: just a girl and her horse enjoying being alive.

You never know how far you can go unless you run

– Penny Chenery

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