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!!