Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time flies!

I can't believe that it's December and almost Christmas already!!  Wow!  I haven't blogged in forever.  I am finding that life is getting in the way of my updates.  :)

Let's see...

1.  Bug is back in action and BETTER THAN EVER!  I can't believe how good he looks and feels.  He looks better than he's ever looked, I believe.  The change in supplements and feed has really made him bloom.  I can't wait to get back to competition with him!  

2.  Renn has continued in his superstar ways!  He did his first schooling horse trial at the Training level this fall.  It was a bit chilly for the dressage, and he was freshly body clipped, so that didn't go quite as well as expected.  However, he jumped a bold XC round and a great SJ round to end up 2nd.  I am thrilled with his progress, and he will come out in the spring doing Training.  He is also making leaps and bounds of progress in our dressage lessons.  He's turning out to be quite the baby stallion. 

3.  Duncan C's Waterford, aka Newton, my Conn/TB cross did his 2nd schooling horse trial this fall as well.  He was in a large 2' division and ended up 4th!  He was a super boy.  He put in a very workmanlike test for a baby, and he went on to jump 2 double clear rounds.  I was thrilled with my little man.  Newton had some visitors this past weekend to try him, and he passed his vetting yesterday, so he should be moving to his new home in MD within the next week!  What a good boy!
4.  Rocky Start now has Rocky Start Stables gear!  We have polos, sweatshirts, and jackets.  I'll post pics when I get the first shipment!  I'm really excited about it.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  I hope to be better about keeping the updates coming next year. :) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's been a long time......

Wow, I can't believe it's about 3 months since I've posted!  The time has flown by.  There is a lot to cover, so I'll try to remember it all and keep things as concise as I can!

1.  Most of you probably already know that my Bugger had to have emergency colic surgery the end of August.  This was heartbreaking to me, as this is the second time we have completely lost our fall season and plans.  HOWEVER, I am THRILLED that Bug made it through the surgery and is doing great.  He is counting down until November 1st when he gets to return to work.  I'm going to take things SUPER slow, however, and have decided not to shoot to do any shows until May of next year.  I want to make sure he's well rested and brought back slowly and correctly.

2.  My student, Catherine, and her pony, Dreamin' Up a Thunderstorm, made their way to the American Eventing Championships in September.  They competed in the Junior Beginner Novice Division and brought home 8th out of over 60 starters!  I'm so proud of them!  Catherine has worked very hard with her pony.  Thunder is a super fancy pony that now has another little girl to teach.  Catherine will now begin competing her newest horse, Mr. Secret Agentman, at the Novice level, with the hopes of competing at the Training Level 3-Day next fall.  

3.  Renn has finally made his appearance back to the competition world!  He is going great, and I am very impressed with how he is maturing and changing.  I took him to a schooling dressage show the first weekend in October with great results.  We did Novice Test B and Training Test A.  He received seven "8's" throughout both tests.  I was thrilled with him.  We then set off to Why Not An American Ark on October 10th for his first recognized event since March and only his second recognized Novice ever.  He was a superstar!  He had a great dressage test filled with "7's" and only one "5" giving us a 34.8.  He jumped a great show jumping round and a brave XC round for two double clears!  He ended up coming home with a pretty red 2nd place ribbon!  I could not be prouder of him.

4.  Newton, a 5 year old Connemara/TB cross, did his first ever event with me at Hillcrest Farm in September.  He did the 2' division, and he was such a star.  For a boy that had never been to a show, he handled it all with greatness.  I am very excited about his future!

5.  My husband, Father, and Uncle put in 2 days of hard work to get my barn looking fabulous.  It's not done yet, but it's starting to look more and more like the real thing!  I'm super excited.

Well, I guess that the condensed version as best I could do it.  I hope all is well with everyone, and I'll try to be better about keeping up!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More pics!

I finally got the pics I ordered from the MDHTII!  

 Bug wanted to jump Advanced instead...
 Bug didn't think the 5'(ish) drop wasn't big enough...he wanted
The Head of the Lake! haha

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where have we come from?

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~Thomas Edison

I know, I know, it's been way too long since I've posted.  I was hoping to have Bug's new pictures from the MDHTII, but they haven't come yet.  I'll have to post them next time!  
Hmmm...where to begin?  Well, let's go way back.  The way life works, sometimes, we've come such a long way in a short time, but we never really realize it until we turn around and look back.  
Yes, I've been riding since the ripe young age of 6 months.  (Yes, I count being held on horseback!)  However, if I'm honest with myself, I didn't start down the path to eventing until January of 2003.  I set off to Wilson College with my crazy OTTB and big hopes of someday doing big things.  I started in the Novice II class at Wilson.  I'd never jumped, and I barely knew a thing about dressage.  I could stick a lot of things, but I didn't have much finesse.  
Cut to May 2006...  Three and a half years have gone by. I am graduating with honors and the recipient of the Equestrienne Award for Dressage & Jumping.  I went from the Novice II riding class to having my very own Eventing riding class in such a short time.  I am thrilled, but I know I still have a long way to go.
Cut to July 2010....  Who would believe it??  I just started jumping a mere 7 years ago, and I'm competing my self started OTTB, Win the War, at the Intermediate level!  Yes, I still have a very long way to go, but I just have to look at where I've been to remind myself that it can be done!  
I think that a lot of us focus so much on where we have to go, that we forget where we've been.  Yes, there is always much to learn, but you have to remember to pat yourself on the back now and then for all of the things you've accomplished!!
Okay, enough of the reminiscing.  Now for the updates!
Let's see....
I left July 8th with Bug and Renn and headed to Charlottesville, VA for 2 days of butt kicking by my coach, Kim Severson.  She worked us hard, and I learned a lot.  I always come away with plenty of homework to keep me busy!  From there, I headed to Taneytown, MD to settle the boys into their home for a week at my friend, Elaine's.  It was to be a week full of shows, friends, family, and horses.  It was nice to be back home in "The North" for awhile.  I got to see a lot of people that I haven't seen for awhile.
On July 10th, I got up early, bathed and braided Bug, and we headed for Adamstown, MD and the Maryland Horse Trials I.  Bug was competing in a rather large division of professionals in an Open Preliminary division.  After his awesome Intermediate run in Erie, we wanted to be sure he had his confidence up by dropping him back to Prelim before his next Intermediate.  Of course, I'm not sure that Bug ever needs a confidence booster!  His head barely fits into his halter some days as it is! haha
Bug and I put in the best test we've ever had!  He was quiet, obedient, and quite round.  We ended up with a 35.9, which definitely can be improved upon, but I was thrilled.  Unfortunately, I was so happy with my newfound show jumping skills, I forgot to hold my shoulders in the triple, and we had an uncharacteristic rail.  If one thing's for sure, if we have a rail, it's ALL MY FAULT.  Bug does not like to touch the jumps!  He went on to run a pretty difficult XC run with no jump penalties and 8 time penalties.  I was thrilled with him, as there were quite a few problems on course with other riders.  We ended up 6th, which I was very happy with.
I spent the next week working the boys and enjoying my "vacation."  The following weekend, Bug was to run the Intermediate on Saturday, and Renn was running Novice on Sunday.  
I have to say, I truly believe that Bug is my once in a lifetime horse.  He has so much athleticism and intelligence, it's insane.  He LOVES his job, and he is pretty sure that he's running Rolex every time he goes out.  haha
It was sooooooooooooooooooo hot on Saturday.  I must say, I suffered a mild run-in with dehydration.  It was super hot and humid before the day even began!  Bug and I put in a good dressage test.  He was super obedient with lovely medium trots (which both scored 8's!).  Unfortunately, we're still not quite up to snuff with everyone else, so we scored a 40.  However, this is 4 points better than we did at Erie, so I was happy.  Yet again, I messed up in show jumping, costing us a rail.  I came out of a very squared turn and never put my leg on to a very upright vertical.  He got way to close and took the rail.  GRR!  I'm still beating myself up over those rails!  Anyway, besides that, it was a good round.  I have a lot of work to do, but we're getting there.  On to XC!  Bug was stellar!  I knew that I was going to have to ride very accurately and keep myself in very good balance.  Kim walked the course with me, so I knew how to ride every single thing, and I was determined to get it all right.  The course rode sooo well.  Bug was a superstar.   He is glad that I finally got the hint that he wanted to jump bigger and more difficult things! :)  I didn't push for time, as the heat was ridiculous, so we ended up with 20 time penalties, but he jumped clear!  We ended up 7th out of another big division!!  I was thrilled.
Unfortunately, after hauling Renn to the event that Sunday, he ended up being extremely lame in the dressage warm-up.  He seems to be lame on his LF again, which is quite depressing, as we couldn't figure it out last time.  It just got better.  It seems to be a mystery going on.  
Anyway, Bug's next stop is the Fairhill Horse Trials the first weekend in August.  We'll be running Intermediate again.  I have been doing my homework from Kim, and I'm working very hard on our dressage as well.  
I hope all is well with everyone else.
Kick on!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Green is a lucky color!

There are times in your eventing career, where you stop and take a look back at all that you've done.  You remember all of the horses that you've had, all of the heartbreaks you've endured, and all of the highlights.  It has been a long up and down road for me, just as it's been for most riders!  There are a lot of heartbreaks, but I must say that the highlights stand out the brightest.  I have been BLESSED with truly amazing horses, and Bug definately tops that list.  He's truly a once in a lifetime horse!  
This past Friday, my husband, Jeremiah, and I woke up around 3 am, loaded up Bug, and we headed up North to Erie, Pennsylvania.  It was a long, boring drive, but I was very excited.  We were heading to the Lost Hounds Horse Trials, and Bug and I were going to compete in our very first Intermediate.  Lost Hounds is held at the Erie Hunt and Saddle Club, which is a lovely little place with a very laid back atmosphere.  
I walked the course on Friday for the first time.  The optimum time on course was 4:45 which included 31 jumping efforts!  It was a very windy course, as they had to make a lot of loops to make the distance.  I was pretty sure that making time was not going to be an option. There were a lot of good questions, though it wasn't a HUGE course by any means.  I definately thought it was doeable, but I was going to have to be good about keeping my eye and my shoulders.  I was also giving myself "the talk" constantly that I was going to have to set him up and then leave him alone.  I couldn't be picking at him to the fences.  There were two different corner combinations, a bounce into the water with a one stride on the way out, an interesting pimple jump with a huge downside into the water and bending line over two skinnies on a one stride, another log with a huge drop hill straight to a bank up one stride down then skinny, coffin on an angle, etc.  I knew there would be plenty to keep Mr. Smarty Pants interested.  
We have been working very hard on our dressage.  Bug is not the most uphill of horses, and he has always struggled with his roundness and rideability in dressage.  However, I can confidently say that we have been making leaps and bounds in his work.  Granted, we still have a lot to do, but he has been soooo much rounder and more rideable.  He struggles to hold the roundness during his lateral work, etc, but he's getting there.  He was very rideable in our test.  It was definately the best test we've had at a recognized event.  We had two bobbles, but he came right back to being good.  There wasn't any spooking or acting silly.  He was great. We ended up with a 44.8, which was a bit disappointing, but this put us 13th out of 22, so I don't think the judge was giving away many scores that day.  I was still very happy with how my boy went, and I was looking forward to jumping on Sunday.
Bug has really started to know his job.  He's always been a pretty cool cucumber in warm-up for XC, but he has started getting a bit excited.  He was jigging in the walk, trying to veer toward the start box, and getting worked up when other horses would gallop past.  All I could do was laugh.  He wasn't bad about it, he was just showing me that he was ready.  When we left that start box, he shot out of it like he was shooting out of the starting gate!  He was ready!  My horse was AMAZING!  He jumped everything out of stride and was perfectly rideable!  There was no time on course where I felt like he wasn't listening to me.  It felt like the best ride.  I had one moment at a super skinny between trees where I got ahead, but he saved my butt.  The rest of the course rode great!  I didn't push for time, but I let him go at a pace that he felt comfortable and safe.  He was such a star.  A lot of the horses had trouble at both waters, but Bug handled everything like a champ.  I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face!!  He jumped around clear with only 8 time penalties!!  There was only one horse that made time, and that was a horse that had just run Rolex this spring.  haha  I was more than happy with him.  This moved us up to 9th.
I walked the show jumping course with the realization that it was very big, and it was going to be tough to make time, as it was outside in the grass in a big area.  I knew that I needed to ride forward and in balance to everything.  The SJ courses are known to be tough there.  I had my plan, and Bug and I went into the arena.  He was such a star again!  There were two places where I needed to push him a bit more to the base, but in true Bug style, he jumped way up over everything.  I was more than thrilled.  He was one of only 4 double clear rounds!!  
All of this hard work placed us 6th out of 22 in our very first Intermediate!!  I am sooooo happy with my superstar boy.  He is such a blessing and an amazing horse.  I am so happy and thankful!!

Here are the You Tube links to the video that I have now:

Thanks for reading our story!  Kick on!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

*Insert Creative Title Here*

I'm just dropping in for a quick update.  
 (pic is Bug showjumping at The Fork)

Bug and I have been working very hard and gearing up for the Lost Hounds HT and our first Intermediate!  Our dressage has gotten pretty amazing for home.  Can we repeat it at a show?!?!  That is the question!  I'm sure going to try to keep it all together.  It's amazing what this little horse has in him.  I ride around with a big grin on my face, as he's definately the coolest horse in the world!  Not that I'm biased...  We have also been working on our straightness and accuracy while jumping.  I don't have a very big arena yet, but I figure that if we can make turns to jumps in my little space, we can make any turn!  I'm so proud of my boy.  
In the fitness area of things, I have been trying to do some different things with Bug to keep things fresh.  It gets a big boring trotting around in circles, so I've started taking him to Stone Mountain State Park to do his trots.  They have lovely manicured trails and the shade of the forests eases the heat a bit.  They also have a huge creek that runs through the park as well, and Bug LOVES to trot and play in the water.  He thinks of it as a play date rather than fitness work!  We have also started going to the Yadkin Valley Hounds ( Timed Trail Rides (they're basically Hunter Paces) for our gallops.  Bug LOVES these.  I think he will be plenty fit and ready for Lost Hounds.  
We will be hitting up Hillcrest Farms Schooling Combined Test ( next Wednesday to do an Intermediate Combined Test and run through our dressage test an extra time.  We will be leaving Friday for Erie, PA!
                                         (Bug up the bounce bank in the rain at the Virginia HT)
As for my other boy, Renn, I took him to the vet today for an ultrasound of his leg.  He has no tears or lesions on the suspensory or the suspensory branches!  He can go back to light work starting Friday.  The vet said that he must have just had a strain, but we're going to be very careful and start him back slowly.  I'm sooooo happy!  I've been praying that he would be okay.  Thank God!  I was prepared to hear bad news, but I got the  news that I wanted.  I'm very excited to get back on my boy.
That's all of the news for now.  I hope all is well with everyone.  Heels down and kick on! 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Plan changes can mean more open doors...

I feel like this year has been a lot of ups and downs and changes in plans.  Either I'm sick or hurt or something's going on with my horses.  That said, I'm still very happy with it all.  The bad things have ended up leading to something good.  I have great faith that things happen for a reason, and God somehow makes it all work out.
Last week, after finding out about Renn's injury, I was all geared up to try to make the most of things and head to VA with Bug to do the CCI*.  However, last weekend, we had about 4 days of horrendous storms with pouring rain and hail.   Monday morning, Bug seemed to have a bit of a belly ache and didn't want to eat his breakfast.  He wasn't in any distress, just not interested in eating.  For everyone that knows Bug, this is definately not like him. To make a long story short, I gave him Banamine, not really thinking about anything except making him better.  He was fine about 10 minutes after I gave him his meds, but I then realized that I'd probably just messed up my chances at going to the CCI*.  The FEI is very particular about drug testing, and Banamine stays in the horse's system for 6 days minimum.  
Once again, another change in plans.  However, I could still switch him over to do just a horse trial at the Preliminary level.  I took that option.  Renn went along for the ride, as Jeremiah is not good with leg wrapping and medicine giving.  He was a perfect gentleman stallion all weekend, though, even after all of that stall rest.  I was very proud of him.  
I learned yet another lesson with Bug...  He warmed up beautifully for dressage on Saturday morning.  As soon as I went into the dressage arena and put my leg on to trot, he squealed.  I knew I was in for it.  However, instead of being patient and just pushing him through, I got frustrated.  This is something I need to work on.  I need to just push him forward instead of getting frustrated and making him more tense.  Lesson learned.  We ended up with a 45.2.  Not impressive, knowing what this horse COULD be getting. 
After walking the XC course, I knew that it had a lot of really good questions.  The jumps weren't huge, but I felt like it was a decent Prelim course.  I told myself that I wasn't going to take anything for granted.
Of course, just as I went out to warm up for XC, the rain started coming down.  I had a hard time seeing through the rain, and the ground was pretty mucky in places, so I decided not to push too hard for time.  Bug jumped like a champ!!  I was thrilled with him.  We ended up with 7.2 time penalties which was pretty average for our division.  
Show jumping was a very cool course with a lot of turns and interesting lines.  I walked the course with Kim, and I was determined to try to ride the lines just as she explained them.  I made the mistake of using Bug's KK bit for show jumping, as he was feeling a bit wild.  I thought that I would take it easy on his mouth after XC the day before.  Apparently, Bug wasn't tired at all!  We jumped around double clear and way up over everything, but he was definately not in as much control as I would have liked!  However, I was very happy with myself that I stayed on the lines Kim wanted us to take, and I stayed with him in his exuberance.  We were one of only two double clears in our division.
Thanks to Bug's phenomenal jumping, we ended up with a pretty yellow 3rd place ribbon!  I'm very happy with my boy, even though we definatley have more work to do.  :)
The next big stop is the Lost Hounds Horse Trials in Erie, PA, June 19-20.  Bug's going to be making the big move up to Intermediate!!  The plan is to spend the next month getting lessons and competing in some schooling combined test and dressage shows at the Intermediate level to get ready!!  
Renn seems to be doing a lot better so far, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it was just a minor strain, and he'll be back to work soon.
Hope all is well with everyone!  Kick on!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rolling with the punches

We're coming down to the wire for the CCI* at Virginia next week.  Bug and I have been doing dressage boot camp hardcore, and he is feeling very fit and ready to go.  His jumping has been great and spot on, if a bit exuberant.  I am using this last week or so to really nail down our test and make sure our jumping is accurate and straight.  

Of course, there has to be some punches thrown at me...that's life with horses, eh?  Renn was all signed up for the Novice Horse division at Virginia.  He's been going really well and starting to really get his transitions down, and he's getting much better at staying relaxed and lovely in his flatwork and jumping.  Enter mysterious lameness....  No heat, no swelling.  VERY lame on his left front.  The farrier tried to find an abscess with no luck.  Off to Davie County Animal Hospital to see Dr. James Meeker we go!  To make a long story short, we're dealing with some level of suspensory branch strain or pull or worse.  Due to the nerve blocking that we did on his leg today, we could not do an ultrasound (the fluid from the block will show up as fluid on an US, and you can't tell if it's from the tendon or from the blocking).  The X-rays showed no bony problems, but you could see some abnormalities around the suspensory branch insertion (attachment).  

What does all of this mumbo-jumbo mean?  Renn will be on stall rest with hand walking for the next 2 weeks.  Intensive wrapping, sweating, poulticing, and medicine for the next 2 weeks.  If all of this helps? Just a strain.  If he's still lame after 2 weeks?  Back to the vet for an ultrasound.  

Renn will still make the trip to VA with me, as I have no one to care for him while I'm gone.  It'll be good for him to get more exposure, even if he doesn't have to compete.  He will go along and route his brother on!

Countdown until VA is on!  I will be saying big prayers that it goes well , and Renn heals quickly! 

Thanks for reading.  Hope all is well.  Kick on!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wake up and smell the reflexes!

This past weekend was full of learning experiences!  It's rather a long 7 hour drive through Atlanta, GA to get to Poplar Place Farm in Hamilton, GA.  (  However, upon arriving, I realized that it is a pretty snazzy place.  For those who have never competed there, it's GORGEOUS.  The show is really well run, the people are really nice, and facility is top notch.  
Bug and I were going to be doing the Preliminary division with the hopes of having a great run up to the CCI* at VA in a few weeks.  My student, Catherine Schumack and her wonder pony, Dreamin' Up a Thunderstorm (affectionately known as Thunder) was competing in the Junior Beginner Novice.

Bug and I have been working very hard on our dressage, and it definately paid off at Poplar.  Our score didn't necessarily reflect how well I believe he went, but sometimes that's the case.  He was consistent in the connection, balanced, and listening to really well without all of the extra movements and spooking he sometimes likes to add to our tests.  We got a 37.3.  The judge really liked us, however, she said the Bug is "A very elegant horse that just needs to relax more over his topline."  Well, at least there weren't any comments about how inconsistent he is in the connection!  That's a first!  He got a 7 on his "Gaits," and I got a 7 on "Rider."  I was thrilled.  There was even an 8 on our first centerline!  We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we are definately on our way. This put us tied for 8th in our division.

The show jumping course was quite big and twisty.  It was a very forward riding course.  I watched a lot of the rounds, and I knew EVERYONE was having time penalties.  Anywhere from 5-10, depending on the round.  I had decided coming into this show, that I really wanted to have a nice controlled ride with Bug.  He can tend to really be over exuberant in his jumping.  We have had plenty of double clear rounds, but thinking ahead to the CCI*, I wanted to be sure that I was setting him up for a controlled, spot on ride at VA.  I didn't push for time in the show jumping, and it cost us 4 time penalties, but I was THRILLED with his round.  We hit every spot perfectly.  He didn't overjump and hang in the air forever.  He was just lovely.  I was very happy with my riding as well.  I've been working very hard to keep my upper body quieter and staying with him in the air (which isn't always easy!).  Even with our 4 time, we moved up to 6th place.   

The XC course was big and gallopy.  There were a few good combinations, including a bounce bank, a tough turn to a corner leading to another combination, and some great combos in the water.  It was also a very long course, at 6+ minutes.  I thought it would be a great chance to see how Bug faired on a longer course.  Once again, the course was riding BEAUTIFULLY.  He was getting every spot, making every minute marker, and I was really happy with my body control.   However, we came up to fence #15, the corner off of a turn with a very narrow place to jump. There were burlap bags filled with sand stacked on the corner.  We were on the perfect stride, and I took for granted that he was going to leave the ground, instead of keeping my left leg on.  IN that split second, Bug spooked, and we had a run-out.  My reflexes weren't quick enough.  If I hadn't taken for granted that he would jump, my left leg would have been on, and it never would have been an issue.  He came right back and jumped it perfectly.  
I'm a bit disappointed with myself, as this is going to eat at me until VA.  The good thing is, I will be practicing corners, skinnies, etc like mad until then!  It was my wake up call, and I plan on not repeating it.  Life is full of lessons, and I'd rather I be taught this one at the horse trial rather than the CCI*.  Disappointments are the fuel that make you work that much harder.  

As for Catherine and Thunder, they had a decent dressage, but it wasn't quite up to their normal standards.  They are usually putting in low-30's to high-20's and this test was a 36, putting them in 6th.  She was a bit disappointed.  We made a plan for her show jumping to make sure her little pony made the time.  She took all of the super inside turns that no one else was taking, and she pulled off a double clear!  I was very proud of them.  Their handy little ride moved them up to 3rd.  Catherine also rode a very lovely XC round with another double clear that gave them a pretty 2nd place ribbon!  I'm very proud of them.  When I started with Catherine, she hadn't done much jumping or dressage with her pony.  Thunder has been great with picking up the dressage, but he hasn't always been very brave with the jumping, even though he can jump very well.  They have just started recognized events within the past year, they have a pretty good BN record!  Two thirds and a second!  They are planning to head to the AEC's this fall.
Well, I'm going to be hitting the training schedule hard in the next few weeks.  Bug has a CCI* to prepare for, and Renn is going to VA to do Novice!
Hope everyone is doing well!!  Kick on!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flying through the air with the greatest of ease!

It's been awhile since I posted...  Things have been a bit crazy for me lately!  After my week+ of illness, I got back to work with the boys.  I have been getting some dressage help from my friend, Hillary (, who always seems to have lovely tests on her horses.  She lives close, and she has a great eye, so she's been my drill instructor for dressage bootcamp!  Bug has really been making leaps and bounds in his dressage work, and I feel like I'm FINALLY starting to get it.  

Renn and I have been working on relaxation in the jumping and the flatwork.  He's really starting to come along as well.  

Of course, when all is going well, another wrench must fall into the gears.  To make a long and gory story short, I got double barrel kicked in my upper thighs, sending me flying about 10-15 feet into an old barrel which decided my left arm looked mighty tasty.  The result, two very badly bruised thighs and thirty stitches in my arm.  That happened Sunday, April 18th.  Luckily, I was able to keep Bug going with lunging and hacking one armed.  Hillary, from earlier, was also kind enough to jump him for me last
week.   I was able to do some dressage work last Thursday as well, just to test out the arm.  Fortunately, it hurts to do just about everything with it, except hold the reins.  I am getting my stitches out on Thursday, so Thursday evening, I'll be jumping Bug.  This week will be filled with a lot of dressage work, which is just what we need, anyway.  
We leave Friday morning for a 7 hour trek to Hamilton, GA for the Poplar Place Horse Trials.  Bug is competing in the Preliminary division, and Catherine and Thunder are taking on the Beginner Novice division!
I am hoping that myself and my horses can manage to stay healthy for the rest of the season!  haha We'll see.
Hope all is well with everyone!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes you have to make the big girl decisions....

I am the typical horsewoman...  I push myself to the limits, even when I'm feeling crappy or under 100%.  I always try to push through the pain.  haha  Well, sometimes, that's not always the thing to do....

After my return from The Fork with Bug, I came down with the flu from the darkside.  Coughing, sore throat, congestion, body aches, fevers....  I felt like death.  I kept thinking that I would feel better the next day, but I kept feeling worse.  Unfortunately, Jeremiah was busy with his two jobs all week, so that meant that I had to do all of the daily work around the farm.  There was no rest for the weary.  I was supposed to be taking Renn to The Fork II that approaching weekend, so I kept riding the boys every day as well.  You wouldn't catch this eventer wimping out!  

By Thursday night, I had myself so sick, I had a high fever, night sweats, and was generally looking like death.  I had also had a call from the doctor that my white count was low, probably due to my sickness.  Jeremiah put his foot down....Friday was a rest day, whether I liked it or not.  Bless his heart, he got up at 5 on Friday and fed everyone before he had to leave for the day.  I was determined to rest all day, so that I could take Renn to the show on Saturday.

One thing resting gives you time to think.  I was thinking about all of the hard work that I've been doing with my boys.  Renn has been getting quieter and going so wonderfully, and Bug, well, we have big plans for him.  The more I thought, the more I realized that going to the show and making myself worse was probably not the option I should choose.  I would never feel well enough to give Renn a good ride.  I would hate to give him a bad experience after all of the work I've been doing.  I would also hate to make myself so sick that I mess up my health for the season.

I made the big girl decision, and I stayed home.  I'm very happy that I did, because I wasn't feeling very well by Saturday.  

However, I do need to congratulate Catherine and Thunder for going to The Fork and coming home with a 3rd place ribbon from their Beginner Novice division!  That makes two 3rds at BN, so they are not qualified for the 2010 American Eventing Championships!  I know Catherine is very excited.  It's been a very long road with that pony of hers, but she's stuck with him!

I'm finally feeling pretty close to 100%, and I've ridden the past 2 days.  Bug will be going to the Yadkin Valley Hounds Hunter Pace this Saturday for some fitness work, which I'm sure he will enjoy! 

Hope all is well with everyone!  Kick on!

Monday, April 5, 2010


Last Thursday, Bug and I embarked on a long weekend to The Fork CIC3* and Horse Trials in Norwood, NC.  It was my first time attending this particular show at The Fork, and I was very excited for the big weekend.
Our dressage was Thursday afternoon, and I was hoping that all of my hard work would finally pay off in a great dressage score.  However, Bug had other ideas.  He warmed up great, just as he had at Southern Pines, however, when we entered the arena to do our test, he livened up again.  He was very difficult to ride in the test, and I tried very hard to push him through it.  We ended up with a 40.4 which is not great, and it's definately not competitive at a show that size.  I was bummed.  However, after watching Kim Severson ride her tests and listening and watching while she coached others, I definately learned a lot more about test riding.  I got some great advice from her, that I am putting in my toolbox, and I'm taking it with me.  Ride. Every. Step.  Don't let it get to the point that you can't fix it.  Dressage has never been my strong point, but I have come a long way from where I used to be.  I am confident that with a lot more hard work, I can get to the point where I can ride Bug through a great test.  He has the capability of bringing in great scores, I just need to learn to ride him to them.  I let go of the disappointment and vowed to have a great rest of the weekend.  I'll have plenty of time to work on the dressage before the next one!
Friday was a free day.  I spent it watching Kim ride and coach and walking my XC with she and her other students.  The course wasn't as big as I had expected it would be, but I thought it was one of the more technical Preliminarys that we had done.  I was very excited about jumping the Canadian goose in the water!  I just hoped that I could keep my position the way I had been working on, and I really wanted to be able to make time safetly.  Bug and I have come close many times, but we had yet to make time at Prelim.  With all of Kim's comments tucked away in my toolbox, I went into Saturday mulling over my plans.
Saturday was show jumping day for me, while the rest of the levels were doing XC.  Luckily, I had show jumping early in the morning, so I would be able to see the best of the best doing their XC rounds later in the day.  I walked the course with Kim, and once again, I tucked away all of her comments, with the hopes that I could ride it just like she said.  My main goal was to ride the whole course each jump at a time, without getting overwhelmed.  I wanted to see every distance and not throw my shoulders.  I had been working hard at home.  The course was decently tough with a lot of turns and a lot of thinking involved.  Bug jumped well, as usual, putting in a double clear round.  I was so thrilled with him!!  However, I was very happy with myself too!  I felt like there were only two distinct fences where I threw my shoulders.  Now, my goal is to make it none on the next course!  Bug's jump is so big, it's not always easy to stay with, but I am working hard to try to pull it all together.  Here is the link to the video:
After giving Bug lots of cookies following his stellar show jumping round, I headed out to XC to watch the best of the best go XC.  I mostly watched the big water, as their approach to the second portion of the water was similar to ours, but with narrower fences and shorter distances.  I took in the good and the bad, and I tried to make a plan for myself.  I got to watch Kim and Paddy do their Advanced XC, and their ride was foot perfect!  If only I could ride like her!  I tucked away more information to add to my plan for Sunday's ride.
Our cross country round on Sunday was so great.  Bug was ready to go, so much so, he was trying to take me to the start box while we were warming up!  He jumped everything like a pro.  I felt like I rode the course as closely as I could to all of Kim's suggestions.  He was such a star!  I tried very hard to balance him correctly before each fence without slowing him down too much.  We had one bobble at the next to last fence, where he didn't quite balance enough, and I should have balanced more.  However, I got him back after, and told him that wasn't acceptable and went on to the last quite nicely.  I believe it was the BEST round we've ever had.  We came in 10 seconds under time, and Bug was still ready for more!!  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.  Here are the links to two short clips:

Our double clear jumping rounds moved us up from 22nd to 12th out of 30.  Bug is jumping so well, now, we just need to buckle down and ride each step!! 

**Special Thanks to Elaine Ohler, one of my besties from college!!  She came down and helped me at The Fork this weekend, and it was soooo nice to have someone with me at the show!!**

Next stop, The Fork Horse Trials this coming Saturday, where Renn will do Novice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” -Gail Devers

Ever since Southern Pines, I have decided that I need to go back to the basics with my boys.  I have a lot of position problems to fix with Bug, as his jump is so huge, I find myself throwing my upper body all over the place.  I also needed to work on slowing my brain down and focusing on one jump at a time.  With Renn, I have been trying to learn to "let go."  He goes so much better in as relaxed a rein as I can give him.  I have been working on jumping fences from the trot, to help me get my position and riding where it needs to be.  I have also been working very hard to get Bug to be softer and more through in his dressage.  This has always been a struggle.  

I took the boys down to Aiken this week for lessons with Kim Severson.  I've been riding with her  for about a year now, and she has helped me improve a lot in the lessons I've been able to get.  I would recommend her to anyone.  She's got an incredible eye, and she pushes you to get it perfect.  I always come away with a wealth of knowledge.  

Anyway, I had jump lessons on both boys the first day.  She had me working on the same things that I've been doing at home, which really made me happy that we were on the same page, even if there was still work to do!  Bug's jump lesson really had me grinning.  I made some mistakes, and she helped me to fix it.  The last course I did with him was super.  He's jumping soooo well.  Renn is really coming along.  99% of his problems just stem from me not letting go enough.  I ended up jumping him both days, just so I could really get it through my head what I needed to do.  I think he and I learned a lot.  My dressage lesson with Bug was a big frustration for me.  Kim really wants me to push for that softness and rideability with Bug, and I have such a hard time getting all of my parts to work together.  It's so frustrating feeling like I just can't get it done.  However, I was pleased by the end, that I was *starting* to make it happen faster.  We still have miles and miles to go, but I feel like we're definately making baby steps.  I returned from Aiken with a lot to work on but feeling like I had made a lot of progress as well.

This past Saturday, I took one of my students, Catherine, to the Thoroughbred Training Center in Mocksville, NC ( for their Spring Schooling Horse Trials.  Catherine took her pony, Dreamin' Up a Thunderstorm, to have a confidence building BN run, and she took her horse, Mr. Secret Agent Man, to do their first Novice together.  She did an awesome job with them both and ended up 2nd in the Novice division and 3rd in the BN division!!!  I am very proud of her and all of her work.  TTC ran a GREAT show with a lot of new jumps and changes in courses.  

This week, Bug and I head to The Fork CIC3* and Horse Trials to compete in the Preliminary division.   I'll check back in after that!!

Enjoy the warm spring weather!  Happy Riding! 


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Expanding our horizons....

I recently sold a great young horse, Solid Gold Coin, to a wonderful woman near Charlottesville, VA.  She bought him to be her next foxhunter.  Due to life circumstances, I took the horse to her to try, so I got to hang out with her and talk to her a lot.  To make a long story short, she suggested that I contact my local foxhunting club to meet new people and try new things in the horse world.

Our local hunt is the Yadkin Valley Hounds.  I contacted their secretary, who happens to be a sortof neighbor, and got all of the logistics of joining.  She invited me to come out to the "trail ride" they were having this past Saturday.  I thought, well, it will be a good long walk for Bug to get his fitness day in.

Saturday morning arrived, and I loaded Bugger up and headed out.  Bug was very confused when he stepped off the trailer to find lots of other horses and trailers, but he couldn't seem to locate the arenas and XC course.  

We rode for just under 2 hours!!  And boy, this wasn't like any trail ride I've ever been on!!  We were on trails, but we were not just walking along.  Bug got some serious fitness work in!!  He had a blast!  He wasn't sure why we were going XC with a group of horses, or why we were changing gaits so much, but he was SURE he was winning whatever we were doing! haha  If you've ever met Bug, you understand.  :)  We went through creeks, over real ditches, up and down real banks, up HUGE inclines.  Honestly, there were times where I was terrified, but Bug never thought twice about trailblazing.  I have some face scratches to prove it! haha  I wasn't getting out of the way of the branches fast enough.  

All in all, Bug and I had the BEST time.  I met a lot of really great people.  We are definately planning to become more involved with the group and trying our hands at Timed Trail Rides (basically Hunter Paces) and Foxhunting when the season begins again.  I think the horses will really enjoy this new work.  I like to keep it interesting for them, especially because Bug is so intelligent.  He gets bored rather easily.  I think making his fitness work exciting will really keep him happy.

I was also very glad to see how fit he really is!  After almost 2 hours of galavanting around the countryside, he was still fit and ready to go!  He barely broke a sweat on the 70+ degree day!  

I'm glad that I decided to take a chance and try new things!  I learned a lot about myself and my horse.

I hope all is well with everyone else!  We'll check in again soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A weekend full of learning experiences...

I hope this blog finds everyone well!  The sun is shining, and it's a beautiful day here in NC.  The ponies are enjoying a lovely day off after our show weekend.

 On Friday, March 12th, we packed up Bug, Renn, and Thunder (Catherine's pony) on the beast of a trailer and headed to Southern Pines.  Bug was competing in Prelim, and Renn was doing his first Novice!

 Renn was the first star up for Rocky Start.  We have been doing a lot of work on relaxation in our dressage and jumping.  I have been trying very hard to keep him calm and relaxed on a loose rein.  I think all of my hard work is starting to pay off!  Renn had the best test that he's had yet!  He went into the arena very relaxed and calm.  Yes, we still have a lot of work to do, but I definately think we are on the right road.  He scored a 38, which was the best score of the weekend for us.  He warmed up very well for show jumping with only a few spooks at on-coming horses.  He's afraid someone might take him out!  He went into the arena and jumped like a pro.  We had some moments where I flubbed the distance (he and Bug are soooo different, I'm still working on getting the distances correct on both of them), and he handled it like a champ!  The majority of the course was very in sync and lovely, though, with only one miscommunication on a bending line where he wasn't quite paying attention!  We got it back together, though, without mishap!  We had a double clear round!  This moved us to 16th out of a division of 32 professionals!  I was thrilled with my baby stallion.

This brings us to Bug...  Bug had the best dressage warm-up that he's ever had.  He was soft, connected, light, and lovely.  I was sure we were finally going to break 35!  However, Bug had different ideas.  As soon as we started our test, he got very full of himself, and he decided to add movements where he thought they might fit in nicely.  Needless to say, we didn't break 35....  We landed a 41.1.  I was very disappointed.  Lesson learned....more dressage work, and more relaxation in the test....   Preliminary did XC on Saturday, so we geared up to go jump 'round the lovely new gallopy course at CHP.  Tremaine Cooper did a great job with the courses, making them all very gallopy, yet still asking the horses questions without trapping them.   Unfortunately, Bug was very happy to gallop and not quite so happy to come back to me for the first combination.  Of course, I completely blame myself for the run-out that happened, as anyone that knows Bug can tell you...if you get his eye on the fence, even if you're way off line, he'll jump it.  I never hit the line in my attempt to get him a bit more in hand.  Lesson learned....never take your superstar horse for granted.  He came around and jumped the corner beautifully, and he finished the course like a champ.  We only had a handful of time penalties.  I have been working hard at getting better at making time, so I knew I would have been close without the refusal.  

Sunday made for a beautiful day.  Bug started out the day with show jumping.  We warmed up great and felt very in sync.  He jumped a lovely double clear round.  He is still not as adjustable as I'd like.....another lesson learned...more adjustability between fences work needs to be done.  However, I was very pleased with our round.  We ended up 16th out of 27. 

Renn and I geared up for our first Novice XC ride together.  He warmed up great, and he felt like he was ready to roll.  We had the BEST TIME together on XC.  I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face!  He jumped everything like a champ.  He has the greatest gallop, and he's so light off the ground.  He was such a star!  We did have a pause at the water before we went through, but it was just to double check that the murky water was, in fact, water.  Even though his score shows a stop, I am still really really pleased with him.  He has come so far!!  He was a joy to ride!!

Unfortunately, sometimes the scores don't reflect how our horses did.  However, they reflect that I have a lot of work to do before the boys go to their next competitions.  We will, hopefully, be headed down for more lessons with Kim Severson in the next week or two.  She can whip us into shape!  She's amazing!

Well, thanks for reading!!  I hope everyone is getting the chance to enjoy the lovely weather.  I think spring has arrived!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Welcome to the world of Jessica Bortner-Harris and Rocky Start Stables. I thought I'd use this first blog to introduce Rocky Start to those who aren't informed.  For those that can skip this one and wait for the next blog.  :)

Rocky Start Stables is an up and coming eventing farm in Thurmond, NC.  We are nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our farm has been in my husband's family for years, so there was and is a lot of work to be done.  The atmosphere is laid back and the scenery is beautiful.  We are not an upscale facility, but that doesn't mean we don't have good things going on here!! 

I (Jessica Bortner-Harris) am originally from Dallastown, PA.  I have my B.S. in Equestrian Studies from Wilson College.  I have been riding all of my life, but I didn't start eventing until I went to college.  I immediately fell in love with the sport, and I have been doing it ever since.  I have a passion for the off the track thoroughbreds, and I have owned quite a few so far.  They are such tremendous athletes with so much to offer.  

And now to introduce the stars of the show:

Win the War, aka Jitterbug, is the superstar of the farm.  He is a 2001 TB gelding by Entropy, out of Jitterbug Mary.  He had a brief race career before I found him at the Charles Town racetrack.  He's been the horse of a lifetime ever since!  He never ceases to amaze me with his athleticism and love of eventing.  Not only that, but he has way more personality than any one horse should ever have! He's always playing practical jokes and antagonizing the other horses.  He did his first season of Preliminary in 2009, and he has a very successful year.  He had a first at the Lost Hounds HT in Erie, PA and two 3rds, one at the Virginia HT in the spring and another at the Full Gallop HT in August.  He competed in his first CIC* at Plantation in the fall, and he was in 9th after XC.  Unfortunately, he had to be taken to New Bolton for colic surgery that afternoon, thus putting his '09 season to an end.  He is now back and better than ever!  I thank God every day for his quick recovery.  He came back in 2010 to do Prelimiary at the Pine Top Advanced HT the end of Feb and came home with a 2nd place ribbon!  Not too shabby for his first event back in action.  

Fuerst Rendition, aka Renn,  is a 2004 Hanoverian stallion by Fuerst Heinrich, out of Gueldenstandt.  He is a gorgeous mover and loves to jump.  He is making his debut in the eventing world this year, and I hope that he will do as well as I know he can!  I started Renn myself, and it has been a joy to bring him along.  He's such a cool horse with a lot of personality as well.  He and Bug can be seen playing over the fence every morning before breakfast.  Renn has 3 foals on the ground thus far from 2009, and I am hoping that he will have many more beautiful babies in the future!  So far, he has proven to stamp his babies.  They are all a little bit different, but you can see him in every one.  

Mr. Lincoln, aka Abe, is a 1992 off the track TB by Blue Quadrant out of Always Out Front.  He is the old man of the farm, and he loves being retired.  I rescued Abe in 1999 from Lost and Found Horse Rescue in PA.  I went on to do lot of rehab work with him, and eventually, he made it through Training level in eventing.  He even qualified for the American Eventing Championships at Novice in 2007.  However, Abe's personality is not well suited to a high stress show career, so I made the decision to retire him to schoolie.  He loves his job of toting around little kids, teenagers, and adults.  He has a lot of personality as well, and he makes sure everyone that is near him is used as his personal scratching post.

Me Fuerst, aka Mia, is a 2009 1/4 Hanoverian, 3/4 TB filly by Fuerst Rendition, out of Jet to Party.  She was orphaned at 24 hours old, and it has been a whirlwind ever since!  Her name could not suit her more!  She has an incredible internal clock, and she can tell you when you're late with her food by more than 5 minutes!  She can be heard yelling across the farm trying to remind you to hurry it up!  She loves to be scratched and petted.  Mia also seems to have gotten her daddy's lovely movement and super laid back personality.  I am hoping for great things from her!

Fuerst Love, aka Amore', is a 2009 1/4 Hanoverian, 3/4 TB colt by Fuerst Rendition, out of Raja.  He was born late last year, but he keeps up with his sister pretty well.  Unfortunately for him, we plan to have him gelded within the next month or so.  He is super smart, and he has also acquired his daddy's lovely movement.   I believe he's going to make a lovely hunter/jumper in his future life.  

I know, I know, that was a lot of horses!  We also have 3 dogs and a cat too.  They're all our children, and we have a lot of fun here at Rocky Start.  

I'm sure I've bored you all enough for now.  Check back in later!!