Not a lot to say about the Eventing Prix. It’s always REALLY fun no matter the outcome and great practice. It was super fun to cheer for my teammate Jessica Phoenix as she rocked around on her tiny but mighty mount A Little Romance (aka Blue eyes) owned by Don and Anita Leschied. They did a super clear round and were the fastest, I believe. She knows that mare so well and they were on fire that day! Sadly they had one down in the jump off but were still amazing to watch.

My riding was less then stellar, shall we say. I waited for too long going into the triple combination (oxer, one stride vertical, one stride vertical) and Woody had to make a serious effort to get across the oxer. We landed too close to the back of it and I knew we were way too far away from the next vertical. NEVER have I jumped into a combination and thought “This is too long for Woody” but I did that day😳. I pushed him to help him reach for it but I knew it was going to be a really flat jump and we hit the rail. He was amazing to recover and keep going never mind jump clear over the next fences. Near the end of the course there was a two stride combo then six strides to a narrow white gate. The six strides were a little bit tight (which is normal for Woody😆) and I think I used too much hand (which is normal for me) and he barely brushed the gate. Well low and behold it’s not an entire gate. The top bar of the gate is just resting there on top! So I’m not even counting that as a rail he barely breathed on it for goodness sake.

I didn’t get to see any of my other teammates rounds but I know they weren’t super happy with their performances. We didn’t win like we set out to do but we sure had fun. Huge thank you to Max and Scott for inviting us and hosting. Thank you to Matt Flynn for letting us use his ring to warm up. Mega thanks to Ocala Horse Properties and many other sponsors who make this event possible.

A familiar face on a billboard in Tallahassee.

A familiar face on a billboard in Tallahassee.

Now Red Hills is an adventure I have A LOT to say about. Holly received a text from Lindsay on Tuesday to say she was almost at Red Hills and that Woody and I were on a billboard at the side of I-10 West!

Anne Marie and I headed off to Red Hills on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. We decided to pick up shavings at TSC on the way and get cinnamon chip muffins from Winn Dixie (we’re slightly addicted, not gonna lie) so that took about 45 mins. Everything was going smoothly till right before the Agriculture station when I look in my mirror and see I have a burst tire on the trailer. So that takes at least an hour in the Ag station to get the spare put on. I’ve been going to Red Hills for years and only once have I managed to get off the I-10 and get to the event without at least one wrong turn. Needless to say it wasn’t this time. I never saw the sign for Live Oak Plantation road so ended up having to tour through a subdivision that had speed humps everywhere and a roundabout to get back to Thomasville Road. I knew I was low on fuel but the light hadn’t come on yet and when it comes on it says 80km to empty normally. Well not this time, this time it said you have 29km to empty. 😱

I really wanted to get the horses to the show but thought I better not risk it. Tried pulling into a Shell but of course the median was in my way so had to drive down and do a “u” turn in a shopping center. Went up back up to the Shell station got fuel and then of course could only turn right (away from the event) to get out. Finally got onto the last road to the show and it was now 5:30 p.m. with bumper to bumper traffic. What is normally a five minute drive turned into 10. Poor horses were on the trailer for five hours instead of three. Luckily most of it was stationary.

Riley in his stall at Red Hills.

Riley in his stall at Red Hills.

When we arrived at Red Hills, they had forgotten Riley’s stall (he was there as a non compete) so we stole Jane’s stall next to Woody for the night. We knew Jane wasn’t arriving till Thursday and she kindly let us. I also want to thank Alexa L (Cambalda’s rider) for being so kind as to move her horse so that we could keep Riley and Woody together. Eventers are THE BEST!

I got on Woody right away while AM unloaded the trailer or I would have been riding in the dark! Around 7:00 p.m. we were done with the horses and went to park the trailer and unhook. After an hour of struggling, repositioning, greasing, jumping up and down and swearing, we gave up. The jack was broken on my trailer and we took the trailer to the hotel with us. When I went to check in they said my reservation was made for Thursday not Wednesday. Luckily we got that sorted a little easier and had a place to rest our heads for the night.

Next day we got to the show early and it was freezing cold. AM went off to look after the horses and I decide to deal with the trailer. I talked to Brian and he said use the truck jack as a temporary solution. So I blocked the wheels, jacked it up (which took forever because I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s a wind up jack, not a pump up).

Then I’m putting away the pieces of the jack under the passenger seat of the truck and BANG, scared the life out of Bizzy and I. The trailer fell forward into the bed of the truck😵. Thankfully the truck has a bed liner so the hitch fell on that and no other part of the truck was touched. More importantly Bizzy and I weren’t underneath it when it happened. Well it was Nick, Stephen and Jimbo to the rescue. They work at Red Hills and saved the day. They came armed with a massive fork lift, jacks, blocks, trucks, you name it, and lifted the trailer off my truck and onto some blocks. They gave me their numbers so when I wanted to leave all I had to do was call them and they lowered it onto the ball hitch for me so I could head home on Saturday. Incredible staff, volunteers and organizers at Red Hills make it one of my all time favourite shows.

We did “in barns” on Thursday after the trailer fiasco which took from 7:00-10:30 a.m. Then I rode Woody on the flat, mostly long and low stretching and then some movements from the test. During the riders’ briefing on Thursday afternoon they asked if anyone wanted to do the 2* test ride at 7:40 a.m. on Friday. I volunteered Anne Marie and Riley the officials said great thank you very much. So AM braided him Thursday night and set her alarm for an ungodly hour on Friday.

Friday morning we crawled out of bed, headed out to the truck and AM read a text she received at 11:30 p.m. Thursday that says “Sorry for the confusion but someone had prearranged a test rider for the 2* and they wouldn’t need her after all”☹️ A lot of braiding and test learning for nothing.

Friday we put in a good test. I expected a score in the high 20s but it wasn’t to be. When I watched the video of my test I realized the canter didn’t have enough jump and therefore our first flying change was late behind. We scored a 4 for that movement from both judges and that really hurt our score. It’s disappointing because Woody’s changes are perfect now and I didn’t realize the canter wasn’t enough until I saw the video. Felt great, should have known, it felt too easy. I thought his trot work was pretty damn good for Woody. Overall I was super happy with him he tried his best and that’s all I can ask of him. So we finished up fifth after dressage with a 31.2

Here’s a video of our dressage:

I walked the xc course twice that afternoon. It looked impressive and made good use of the hills to test their fitness. The first time I walked the course I went down a path after fence #21B and when I got to the bottom of it I saw the back of a prelim fence and what looked like ropes between me and my fence #22 so I hiked back up the path and took the next path to the left. Walked down to fence #22 and carried on. When I walked the course the second time I almost forgot and went down the path to the right again. I gave myself a mental slap and said “Don’t forget to go left after fence #21!”

Saturday I walked the show jumping course quite a few times. I like walking courses lots it makes me feel prepared and gives me something to do besides fret. It’s a huge arena so different from rocking horse. The first three horses went and they changed the time to 81 from 82 seconds and then tones of horses had time faults by the end of the day.

When it was our turn, Woody was a bit strong so I circled and he spooked violently at a volunteer with a rake (for the footing) before heading to fence #1. He was jumping super and between fences 4 & 5 he started shaking his head and tilting his right ear down. He continued to do this throughout the course. I tried desperately to stay focused and managed to until the last line. It was a triple combo (exact same as the Eventing Prix) oxer one stride, vertical one stride, vertical then seven strides (forward) to the last fence an oxer in front of the VIP tent/stage. I ended up a little too deep and backwards to the first part of the triple (again) but this time I knew the fences were smaller and I stayed dead still so Woody could do his job. He saved my butt and cleared them all. Then I totally lost count and my focus and galloped steeplechase style to the last oxer in six strides! Thank goodness it’s Woody and he cleared it without any trouble. Needless to say I will be doing lots of courses till I’m much improved. I was sorry to read later that I had two time faults in SJ. He has done this ear shaking before only at shows and it doesn’t make a difference what phase we’re doing. We’ve looked into it and he has a lot of wax build up. I think it’s just bad timing and the wax falls in his ear when we take the bonnets on and off a lot at shows a lot.

I walked the Red Hills xc course for one last time after my SJ round. This time I remembered to turn left after fence #21B so I was more confident and settled in my mind. Woody was phenomenal on course. I barely had to touch the reins we galloped all the galloping fences and balanced quickly for all the combinations. We were going to make the time my watch beeps for 30 seconds left as I finished fence #21 and turned left. I almost ran over Eric (the chef d’equipe for USA) who seemed to be in my way but thought nothing of it as I pressed Woody on full tilt down the hill to the second last fence. I was looking but couldn’t believe my eyes when I started screaming at the top of my voice “Get out the way get out the way” because the crossing guards have the ropes up for the people crossing and there are strollers, dogs, people, wheelchairs crossing my path. Poor Woody! I’m pulling back as I’m screaming but he couldn’t have stopped if he tried we were going so fast. Bless his heart he tried to jump the ropes and broke through them flying down the hill. I had sat back with long reins not knowing if the ropes would break or what would happen to us. We turned a little wider to fence #22 then I had planned due to the chaos we had just endured and then booted it to the last fence in stride. When I pulled him up I felt faint and had to get off and sit with my head between my knees. I was explaining to the stewards what had just happened. It was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me xc. I knew I didn’t hit anyone but was worried about Woody and worried one of the ropes might have hit someone? I calmed down and AM assured me Woody was totally fine, In fact he was very fit and it took nothing to recover.

David O’Connor came on a golf cart with my owners John and Judy to tell me it was “their fault” no one expected any of us to go down that path but that there was no reason why we couldn’t. Apparently that path I went down on my first course walk (when I thought I had gone the wrong way) was the path everyone took. I never walked the course with anyone else and I never saw anyone go because I was already on Woody warming up when the 3* started. Little did I know I was the only person to take that left path. Well it cost me the win. Had the path been clear I wouldn’t have pulled back on Woody and he wouldn’t have had to jump ropes or go a little wider on the turn to fence #22 after the chaos. All that matters is nobody was hurt and I told Woody he won so he’s happy and so are we. ❤🏆

Canada did a fantastic job at Red Hills. Woody and I finished fourth, Waylon seventh, Holly sixth, Jessica fifth and that’s just the 3*!

I love Red Hills and can’t wait to go back next year !

Here is a video of the Red Hills course walk: