Category Archives: three day eventing

Gary Mittleider Clinic

While his name may not be familiar with many of you outside of Idaho, Gary has been training and riding event horses for many years. His daughter, Sara Mittleider, has competed at Rolex and has found success with multiple horses that she rides and trains at her family’s farm.

But the reason I know the name, is that Gary is my trainer’s trainer.

And for some reason I eagerly signed up to take a jump lesson on my trainer’s horse with her trainer. Oh, and when the group list came out I realized I would be riding my trainer’s horse, with her trainer and she’d also be riding in the lesson. Just the 3 of us.

Recipe for disaster.

I decided to make it even more fun by riding another horse- a lesson horse the barn had just purchased who I had ridden about 4 times and jumped once. He’s probably jumped a handful of times in his life. I had no idea how he would be in the lesson.

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Deputy the adorable QH

Well, let me recap for you.

Gary set up a grid. Three poles set 9ft apart followed by a 2 stride gap, followed by 4 more poles set 9ft apart. The 4th pole would eventually become a jump. It was a canter cadence and balance exercise. The gap in between poles would encourage horses to get quick and on the forehand, the poles afterwards would remind you of the cadence you needed before the jump, and hopefully you hadn’t changed anything just because there were some poles missing… After the grid developed you would make a sweeping left hand turn to a skinny cross rail -riding as if there were still poles on the ground encouraging you to have an uphill, balanced ride.

It was a great exercise.

Deputy, the solid as a rock QH  did not disappoint. Once I gave him the support he needed he handled each question easily. Man is he fun. He’s forward but responsive. He did not want to pick up his left lead, so we worked on that. I mean me, we worked on me, and how I can help him with that. (Note to self, looking down and leaning inward does NOT help). He handled the grid so well, and while it took some effort on my part, I was really surprised it wasn’t more difficult.

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whee!

I’d happily ride him again and even entertained the idea of half leasing him. Then I remembered I am short on both time and money.

I hopped off Deputy and onto Macy.

Warm up was tense and reactive. Sarah and Gary eyed me from the middle of the arena and I was like “this is going to be bad”.

After warm up Gary mentioned that I just seemed to be making too much effort. It shouldn’t be this tough. He knows Macy well, and told me he knows she “likes to argue,” so we have to keep from having arguments with her.

We went through the grid a couple of times and he called me over. He changed my leg position. Less heel, more thigh. What? Sarah and I had been working so hard on me having an effective lower leg! What?? Why would I take it off now? He could sense my confusion and said “Don’t take it off, just test the temperature with it. Don’t use it as a brace.”

Huh. ok.

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My toe could be more forward here, but mare is looking pretty happy.

It was kind of like magic.  I had the best ride on Macy I have ever had. At one point I even said out loud that I was having fun.

No head tossing, no arguing, it was like I was riding a super capable horse without all the baggage.

Like magic.

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This is her usual tail position on the backside

I’m not sure if she was having a good day, or missed Gary, or was happy to be riding with her BFF Rapid, but the entire ride was great. Huh. Maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to ride this mare.

Here’s a short video of the grid:

While it has been more about Macy than June lately, that’s about to change. Baby has been settling in SO well and there’s lots to report. So, be prepared for baby horse spam soon.

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Our First Show Together

In the week leading up to the schooling show I was going to with Macy there was a big part of me that was nervous about how it was going to go. But there was also a smaller part of me that was like “eh, just stay on and try to have fun.” As the week wore on, I concentrated more on that smaller feeling until it basically took over my thoughts.

Our trip over was uneventful and Macy settled into her stall and was pretty well-behaved except when I was wrapping her for the night and she refused to stand still. There was a lot of cursing going on. Macy just isn’t the type of horse who is at all concerned about you and what you’re doing. If she wants to move she is going to move.

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Checking things out.

Dressage warm up was in a large grassy field which gave us plenty of space to stay away from other horses. She was mostly calm and relaxed and I felt like we would have a pretty good test. She stood still while we took video of Sarah’s ride and meandered over to the arena. I was like “Oh we’ve got this. This is the new Macy!”

We literally turned to enter the arena at A and Macy turned into a fire-breathing dragon. She cantered up centerline. She was so tense and was taking these teensy tiny trot steps as we approached our first 15 meter circle. I was completely caught off guard and was thinking “Wait, what is going on??” At about our first lengthen (we did the Training A test) I was like ” So THIS is what Sarah was talking about.”

I spent the rest of the test smiling and laughing while trying to get Macy to listen to me a little. Her head was above my shoulders during any transition and for the entire canter lengthen. Yeah, it was a shit show. But, whatever.

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I brought Stella and she and Smokey could have taught Macy a thing or two about relaxation

When I got over to Sarah she said “You stayed in the arena!” Which is what every instructor says when they have absolutely nothing else positive to say. We laughed about it and she gave me some advice and we have some things to work on (get her DEEP so she can’t pull that shit with her head!!) I feel like I got the true Macy dressage experience and I am going to be far better prepared for it next time.

My jump time was soon after dressage- I was doing 3′ since Macy hadn’t been jumping much. Warm up went ok… There was WAY more head tossing than there had been at home and I felt like Macy would suck back at the corner and then take off when we landed.

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But I wore my new lucky socks L gave me for secret Santa!! I love them!!

Luckily Sarah came over before I had to go over to the course and I asked her for pointers. Keep my elbows moving and have a plan for when I land. Don’t just do nothing. Great tips, and they helped. We had one final lovely jump before I headed over to the course.

So, no one I know actually watched my ride, but in my head, here’s how it went: Macy was ready to JUMP. She listened to my aids, I don’t remember a lot of head tossing, I let her go as fast as she wanted, I was uncomfortable with how fast we were going but didn’t feel unsafe, I dropped my hands a couple of times when we got in a little short to the jumps, but basically she was a rockstar and I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun. I need to get more comfortable with her speed and power, but the nice thing about Macy is she knows her job and takes it seriously so I know she is going to take care of herself and since I’m on her back, will take care of me, too. Mare loves to jump. No jump faults but I forgot to wear my number so our time wasn’t recorded. I like to think we were in the ribbons 😉

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Some kind stranger snapped this photo of us!

So, it was fun. I had fun with Macy. We have a LOT to work on. Especially since Sarah and I agree that we can compete at a recognized show together. So, I got my entry in today, and hopefully we will be doing our first three day event together! This mare has already taught me so much, and I think that if I just keep an attitude that is laid back and eager to have fun, we should have a great season together.

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Saying Goodbye

When I originally started this blog it was to chronicle my adventures as I looked for a new horse. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep leasing Georgie and thought I would purchase a horse instead.

At this moment in time I have no idea why I would ever have thought I didn’t want to keep Georgie.

This past Friday the vet came out to ultrasound her suspensory. Georgie has a tear in her suspensory ligament. The vet checked and rechecked, not understanding how a hole of this size could be in a horse with such minor lameness. She mentioned that Georgie must be a super tough mare.

Yeah. She is. She also has a heart of gold.

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I’ve obviously shed a lot of tears over this new-found information. I spoke with her owner and we both agreed. Georgie shouldn’t compete at the upper levels again, even if in 6 months or a year she appears sound. She’s given me everything. Why would I ask her to do it again and possibly reinjure herself?

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I feel like I’ll still be seeing this view from between her ears

So, come May, when the snow has hopefully melted, Georgie will be rehabbing in a lovely privately owned stable. I’ll be giving up the lease as is, and creating a new lease on her. One where I am responsible for checking in on her, getting her out for walks and making sure she is doing well. While I can’t continue the financial aspect of keeping Georgie during rehab, I didn’t want to say goodbye completely, and happily agreed to continue being her primary caretaker.  My hope is that one day she can show someone wanting to go BN what an incredible thrill it can be to ride a safe and honest horse cross country.

I have so many “I wish we could haves” but I’m not going to dwell on them. Our partnership was clearly not long enough, but man it was super fantastic while we had it. I never fell off of Georgie. She never, ever, refused a fence. What horse in 3+ years never stops at a fence??? She never scared me and she never hurt me. She didn’t mind that I dressed her in purple from head to toe. She let me learn so much, and kept saying yes when I asked for more.

I am so incredibly lucky to have had Georgie in my life as a competition horse. My dream when I started eventing to was to maybe, one day, go Training. Not only did we accomplish that goal but we became a competitive Training pair and were ready to tackle Prelim, despite the fact that I was initially told Georgie would never be a Prelim worthy horse. With Georgie as my partner, I never feared a thing while on her back. That mare took care of me and saved my butt more times than I can count.

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Mare tackled this ditch wall like it was nothing. Just like I knew she would

So, yes, I’m devastated. And yes, the crying and lamenting will continue for a bit longer. But here’s the thing. Georgie will still be a part of my life. And who knows, perhaps if she is sound I’ll get to rehab her and take her to her first BN event post injury. I’m lucky that this is not a final goodbye.

And I’m lucky for incredible friends. People who have been offering me horses to ride and buy since they’ve heard the news. This certainly isn’t the end of Georgie, and it isn’t the end for me either. Sure, moving forward every horse will have to live up to Georgie and I’ll always compare them to the mare that did no wrong. But it’s ok. I am ready to start falling off, and refusing fences, and I am more than ready to continue the 3Day adventures with horses.

rebecca

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Riding Miss Rapid

Our barn is full of OTTBs, Quarter Horses, Quarter Horse crosses, more Thoroughbreds, and an Oldenburg. But there’s one horse that’s not quite like the other ones. Sure she’s a mutt, being 1/2 Holsteiner 3/8 Connemara and 1/8 TB but really, she’s the fanciest horse we’ve got among us. (Plus, she’s 3/8 Irish, so I naturally love her.) Sarah’s mare, Rapid, is turning 6 this June, and she is Sarah’s first departure from Thoroughbreds in quite some time.

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Her brain. Her brain is GREAT

It was a rocky start. Sarah wasn’t sure she liked her, despite having been obsessed with her since the day she was born at a friend’s farm. Having recently been told her 2* mare would no longer compete at the upper levels, Sarah had a tough time reconciling the idea that she might have to bring another horse up the levels. Top that with the fact that this horse was a behind the leg warmblood mutt and Sarah wasn’t exactly gung ho to get her going.

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It was about a year ago that Sarah put Rapid into consistent training and they kinda haven’t looked back since. Sarah found the joy (and pain) in bringing along a youngster and it was amazing to see the bond they formed. It was great seeing Sarah happy on the back of one of her horses again. Rapid hasn’t been an angel, but she’s coming along nicely and it’s pretty evident when she moves that she got some of her daddy Riverman’s talent. Mare can JUMP. And is so naturally balanced and uphill. Rapid naturally has a canter that it has taken me YEARS to get with Georgie. And Georgie isn’t ever going to move like Rapid. But that’s ok. Still love my mare.

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Sarah’s ❤ horse Macy with Rapid

ANYWAY, Sarah just got back from an event in California where she and Rapid came in 3rd in BN and they’ve been trucking along, hoping to go Novice in the near future. Never in a million years did I think I would hear the words “Do you want to ride Rapid in a lesson?” But that’s exactly what she asked me last week.

I obviously said yes. And then texted to say I was prepared for Sarah to scream at me that I was riding her horse wrong. But Sarah promised she wouldn’t scream and that the great thing about having an Irish (or partially Irish) horse, is that they’re forgiving and easygoing. Keep in mind, no one has ridden this horse other than Sarah. She is used to being ridden the same way, every day.

Um ok.

The lesson didn’t start out great. As I took Georgie back out to her paddock I saw Rapid, who was tied up, throw a mini hissy fit. Then, when I got on her, the only other horse in the arena left. And Rapid threw a rearing, balking fit. All I could think was, “can’t mess up an Irish horse, huh?” I figured lesson was over.

Sarah had me get her moving and then allowed me to hop off- so that we could run mare around the arena. Wanna be brat? Well you can do it at a gallop. I got some great photos of this, but they’ll be revealed in Equestrian Bingo…

After about 10 minutes of galloping around, I got back on the mare and she was a perfect angel. Greenies. They’re fun.

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I mean, the CUTEST

Rapid is a really fun horse to ride. But maybe I forgot to mention that she is only 15hh? Despite parents that were at 16hh or more, she got dwarfed. Is that a word? So, I spent a few minutes just finding my balance on her for transitions etc. When you’re on her she doesn’t feel small. Her canter, when I put her together, which took little effort, is LOVELY. I can now understand why people buy fancy movers. Having a horse be naturally uphill and carry itself is a lovely thing.

We did some warm up and then got to jumping. Rapid is FUN to jump. If I worked a little bit through the corners, it paid off. She had a rhythmical, balanced canter to the jump and it was awesome to ride.

At one point I said to Sarah that I  thought that having a forgiving horse was one of the most important traits in a horse. If I screwed up my distance once, Rapid didn’t hold it against me. She went like I rode her. Ride her well, she goes well. Ride her poorly, she doesn’t go as well, but is still going to make the effort to get over the jump. It’s a lovely trait.

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Seriously love her. How can I steal her?

I coud gush about Rapid a lot more, but I think you all get the point. I was so honored to ride her, and get to see just why Sarah is so smitten with her. While of course I want my mare to be sound, riding all these different horses has been so amazing for me. I’ve learned so much from each and every one, and it has definitely been a silver lining to a less than ideal situation.

 

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Georgie Jumps the Jumps

As you may remember, Georgie’s first attempt at Prelim didn’t go quite as planned. Fortunately, the event she was running at wasn’t very far away (by Idaho standards) and when Sarah had a group of students going back down this fall to school at the facility, she asked if I wanted to go. I did. But having just come back from Ireland, taking more time off of work wasn’t really an option. So, Sarah kindly offered to take Georgie down and hopefully school her over all the jumps she didn’t get to do at the event.

I was super sad I would miss the action but asked everyone to provide lots and lots of video. While I wasn’t exactly fretting all day yesterday, I was super anxious to see video and hear how it went. When I finally heard from Sarah, her text said ” Do you want the good news or bad news first?”

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This doesn’t look like bad news…

I opted for bad. And then heard nothing from her for 20 minutes. As images of Georgie refusing jumps, falling into the water, dumping Sarah or coming up lame ran through my mind, I tried calling and texting again.

Apparently Sarah was busy. Taking care of horses. Lame.

Anyway, the bad news was, that the dreaded jump #3, the one that Sarah fell at, had been put away for the season. So they didn’t get to jump it. My initial reaction?  “Thats the best bad news ever!! We can jump it in the spring!”

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Jump 3. We will conquer you come spring!

The good news: Georgie was amazing. She jumped all the jumps and was basically an amazing rockstar unicorn.

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Bank complex. Out of view is a corner 4 strides away 

Other than Jump 3, they jumped all the jumps on the course. And they JUMPED them. At speed, galloping around like they were in an event. Georgie didn’t put a foot out of place, and she had zero difficulty. Even with big ass tables that scare me. But not anymore!

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Mare’s got hops.

From what I saw on the videos and what Sarah told me, Georgie thinks prelim is pretty cool. And not that tough. When she is ridden well, at least.

Here’s some video of the prelim water complex and Jump 4 on course:

Sarah asked if she should ride Georgie again today, and I said no. The day had gone exactly as I had hoped. I have more confidence, Georgie can rock Prelim jumps, and Sarah had a lot of fun. Georgie can have the day off so she can come back and we can try out some dressage saddles!

Love this mare so much!!

 

 

 

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Compare and Contrast

I’ll start with a little history.

When I first took the lease on Georgie I was told by her owner that she was not a Prelim horse, nor would she ever be. My trainer agreed. Georgie would be safe and fun to take Training, but that would be her max. And I was happy with that! I wasn’t looking to go Prelim. At the time, Training seemed scary and challenging enough.

Georgie has been well cared for her entire life. She was bought at an auction for PMU foals. I think she cost her owner $800. Her owner brought her along nicely, never pushing her, and always having fun with her. She was elated to take the mare that she had raised since a 4 month old filly to the Novice level.

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Straight.. when it had wings…

When I took the lease, I immediately put Georgie into a lesson program and got to work with her. She’s as honest a horse as you could hope for, but no one had ever asked her to get out of her comfort zone before. Shortening before the jump, or leaving long was completely acceptable, as was careening around corners. So, it was a lot of work. But amazingly, for a horse that hadn’t been asked to work really hard before, she seemed to be completely willing to try. Sure, we had moments of “I DONT WANT TO” but they were fleeting and fairly easy to work through (all things considered).

And as Georgie and I continued our training, she changed as a horse. She got stronger, and things got easier for her. She began to listen to what I wanted, and jumping 3’3 got easier and easier. With her strength and newfound scope, getting a long distance to a 3’3 jump was no longer scary. Sure, it’s not something we strove for, but I knew she’d have no problem jumping from an awkward distance at that height.

Even 6 months ago though, my trainer and I had the “she’s not a prelim horse” conversation once again. She can jump 3’6. But can she get out of a sticky situation at 3’6? Probably not.

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No sticky situation here

So, what changed? Why am I suddenly eyeing Prelim with a mare that previously was maxed at Training.

I think 2 things happened.

For some reason, about 3  months ago, I decided to actually ride. And no longer let her bail me out of situations, or take over on our rides. I credit a lot of this to my back having healed, and my ability to become a stronger rider. I could feel so much more when I started sitting deeply in the saddle. My core became strong enough to keep her uphill to the jumps. It’s a marked difference in how I feel, and therefore how I ride.

So, being able to ride better, I was able to ask more of Georgie. To expect more. Time and time again. And she began to change as a horse. She could stay in an uphill frame. She could engage her hind end way more effectively. She could stay balanced and forward. And I could now help her do all of these things.

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She is built like a gymnast. Stocky and muscular.

The Training 3 Day was kind of a test. And while neither of us said anything, or thought anything at the time, after it was all said and done, when Sarah and I looked back at the ease at which we rode the courses, we kinda knew Georgie was ready for the next step. Notice I said Georgie. I’m not sure I am ready to take a horse that has never gone Prelim and give her a safe and confidence building ride. I want to ride our first Prelim and not have anyone think it’s our first go at the level. Georgie deserves that. So, I’ve asked Sarah to ride her at her first Prelim, and after a winter of homework, I’ll take her in the spring. By then I think Georgie and I both will be ready to be successful at the level.

Georgie had an awesome jump school with Sarah this week. While I don’t think the change in Georgie is obvious and huge I think there are some subtletys which are lovely. Length of stride, rideability and adjustabilty are all largely improved. And yes, Sarah gives her a far better ride than I do. But she still wasn’t able to get this ride out of Georgie 6 months ago. And hopefully I can get it out of her in 6 months, lol.

So feel free to compare and contrast our rides. The first from March of this year, and the second from earlier this week.

 

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Brian Sabo Clinic Recap

So much to say.

So, for those of you interested in what Brian’s like as a clinician, lets start there. I think he is a great clinician. He has been involved in the sport in so many different ways, that his knowledge base is vast, and he has so much current information that he is happy to share. If I were to summarize his teaching style I would say he is friendly and helpful, but not afraid to call you out on stuff. But he does it in a not unkind, funny way. What I liked best was how he had a reason for everything he asked you to do. I would definitely take another clinic with him. I thought he was helpful and approachable and very fair. I will say be prepared for the following: some off color jokes and lots and lots of stories. I did not mind either, but some people might.

Ok, so how did it go? Some of you may remember I was pretty nervous I would ride like crap, or be the rider that gets called out for everything, since I was in a group with two pros.Well, it went pretty well.

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I love how calm she looks here. And that I am looking for my next fence!

Here are the highlights:

  1. Brian liked Georgie. He said there wasn’t much difference in the way she cantered compared to the fancy mover in our group. I think what he meant was that I was able to keep her in a similar frame to that horse so we approached the jump in a similar fashion.

  1.  Georgie was great for show jumping. She was totally game, responsive to my leg and nothing was particularly challenging/out of our league.
  2. Brian called me on the fact that I wasn’t picking up the correct lead. But he approached it in such a kind, helpful, manner that it was actually a highlight. He said something like “I don’t mean to embarass you, but I notice you haven’t gotten the right lead a couple times. I know you know your leads. And I think what is happening is you get so nervous/antsy/distracted by the jumps, that when you land, or when you approach a jump, you don’t think to check your lead.” I totally agreed. And while it was embarrassing, we worked on an exercise to slow my brain down and get the correct lead. So, that was cool.

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But Day 2 was really the best day. I forget how amped Georgie gets for xc. We did a couple of warm up jumps. And then he had us put three jumps together. Two were galloping fences and one, the second jump, required some adjusting and a more uphill, balanced canter.  Georgie and I were last to go and the approach to the second fence had proven to be a bit more challenging for the other two riders (and I should probably mention here.. my trainer Sarah was on a horse she hadn’t ever ridden xc, and the other pro was on a greener horse who was just coming off an injury. They are both better riders than me, just didn’t have their solid/years together horse..) Anyway, Georgie and I did the course and on the second jump we nailed it. She adjusted when I asked, kept going forward and I heard him say “excellent” when we landed. And then I got an awkward distance to the last jump so it didn’t get an “excellent,” but it was fine.

Here is the video so you can judge for yourself:

Oh man, we’ve been working on adjustability for a while. So the fact that we were praised for it was a huge moment for me. And while I roll my eyes when I hear people say “Jumping is just dressage over fences,” I have to say that our dressage work has really helped in this regard.

We had some other nice lines and fences and I did my best not to lose focus or get complacent. (Until the end. I totally got complacent at one jump at the end and Brian totally called me out on it, which was kinda awesome too.) One thing I did which really helped and made me look more seasoned, was I would watch my instructor’s approach to the jumps and the line she took. And then I would emulate it, because I know she is a perfectionist when it came to things like this. So, basically I made myself look good by having her go before me. Thanks Sarah!

We had a ditch wall and Georgie didn’t look twice and sailed right over it. The day before I had mentioned what a solid horse Georgie was and that she had no issues and was never the problem. After the ditch wall he called me over and said ” When people tell me their horse is solid with no problems I think they are full of shit. But not this horse. You were right. This is a great horse. You’ve got lots of years left with her.”

Here she is at the Ditch Wall:

 

Um, thank you. That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me about Georgie.

We did a corner to corner line, a two stride on some angled fences and our last jump was a drop into water. Georgie was awesome and as we came around to see what he thought he just said “So, when are you going Prelim?” I think I beamed from ear to ear.

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So… Prelim…well that’s a post for another time.

 

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