Last time, on Thoughtful Equestrian . . .
For those of you just joining us, this is a blog documenting a former hunter/jumper rider's foray into the worlds of eventing and dressage.
I've been riding since I was five and I've spent most of my thirty years of riding on the hunter circuit. After a break in riding for college, I decided to get back into the saddle. On discovering how much the hunter circuit costs as an adult, I shifted to the jumper ring. After trying out some other disciplines (namely dressage and hunter paces), I decided that I wanted to be an eventer so I could do a little bit of everything and moved to an eventing barn. I fell in with a trainer and started half leasing a packer that took me to my first sanctioned event. However, I'm not the type to settle in with a mellow packer and decided to go horse shopping when our personalities started to clash (aka I drove that poor horse nuts).
My trainer forwarded a listing on Cragislist for me to check out on a whim. It was a chestnut TB mare that needed a home ASAP. She was a pasture potato that used to be a broodmare, but her history was all very hazy. No papers and she was terribly out of shape with bad feet. She was pretty much a walk/trot/kinda canter horse that jumped like an exploding bomb but was very willing and sweet.
I bought Fiona (then Savanna) on August 13, 2010. The story of how that purchase worked out was written up as one of the very first entries to this blog and is an amusing read.
That started the great Project Fiona. The former pasture potato went into training to be an eventer and she took to it like a duck to water. Sometimes better than I did. Despite some major setbacks and proving to be a real challenge in some phases, Fiona made her sanctioned debut at Beginner Novice in July of 2011, earning a sixth place ribbon. In September of 2011 she went to her first sanctioned dressage show, earning two scores over 60% in Training. In October of 2011, she moved up to Novice. She spent the first three months of 2012 in Aiken with my trainer, working through some lingering issues with mixed results in the show ring. In May of 2012 she made her triumphant return to Area I with a second place ribbon in Beginner Novice. In June of 2012 I climbed back in the saddle as her rider in competition, winning a fifth place ribbon at beginner novice and then a fourth place ribbon at novice. Her junior rider took over for several novice outings, all in the ribbons.
In August of 2012, the princess was sick. It was suspected to be Ehrlichia, but the diagnosis was never certain. In September of 2012, she was eliminated at the Scarlet Hill schooling show when she refused to jump. She was withdrawn at GMHA after dressage when she didn't want to jump in the warm up, and the 2012 season ended there. Despite four months of work, it was clear that Fiona's issues with stadium jumping had come to a head and she was retired from eventing in January 2012 to focus on dressage and endurance. In April of 2013, we started the process of finding her a dressage home. In August of 2013, she was placed at UNH as a dressage schoolmaster. She's still there, being doted on by all of the students and showing them the ropes as a confirmed First Level dressage horse.
I took 1.5 years off from riding after the stress of managing Fiona, my temporary eventing partner Ben, and moving to New Hampshire. In April 2015 I landed at a new barn with a new trainer. I found a new partner named Theo (aka mi papi), a Percheron cross with a bit of an attitude problem but a lot of potential. I half-leased him for ten months, though it was more like a three-quarter lease with me showing up five days a week, then bought him on February 29, 2016.
In May 2016 Theo made his sanctioned dressage show debut with mixed (but memorable) results. In June 2016 he qualified for the Region 8 Championships in Training level dressage and moved up to First Level. In 2017 we received a lesson in humility when our scores bottomed out due to me missing some fundamentals in my training and the judges kind of . . . noticing that we didn't have a connection. I bought my first horse trailer, got some outside help, and spent a year completely tearing down the foundation of our riding and rebuilding it correctly. It was not fun.
In 2018 we tentatively returned to the competition ring. While not perfect (still get lousy scores when Theo is convinced he's going to be eaten by aliens), we had some shining moments in both standard dressage and western dressage, including being High Point Adult Amateur and Adult Amateur Level 1 Champion at the New England Western Dressage Championships. Turns out Theo has a niche and it includes a western saddle.
2019 brought us Trainer Z and a new focus. We debuted our First Level freestyle with excellent scores and moved up to Second Level (and survived!). We also moved up to Level 2 in the western dressage ring but health issues for the rider kept us out of the championships.
I'm mostly focused on my dressage (both standard and western) for the moment, but I've never been one to pass by a jump. We're currently showing at Second Level and working hard for our move to Third level. My end goal is to earn a Bronze Medal in dressage while keeping up with my jumping and trail riding along the way.
This blog is my documentation of my trip and the horses that I've met along the way. It includes a lot of photos and videos, goofy drawings from me, and rambling about dressage culture from someone that's still learning the ins and outs of a new discipline.