Whitney Weston

Whitney Weston Eventing

Monday, March 26, 2012

March is "Mare Madness" at Poplar Place

A short week and a half after finishing Red Hills, Team Weston found ourselves back on the road, this time heading to Hamilton, Georgia to compete at Poplar Place. Once again we brought the mares Fizzy and Lusty for another practice at Prelim and Advanced. If it is possible to be more hilly and grassy than Red Hills, Poplar accomplished this! So beautiful, crazy hills with three water complexes, and the grounds absolutely gorgeous. We were settled in late Weds pm, ready for a good day of dressage and walking the courses on thursday.

The girls both did a beautiful dressage school in the warmup ring, then I went to begin my several hours of course walking. It was a very warm day, with all the hills I am starting to feel quite fit!
The "Drop of Doom" as my friend, Siobhain O'Conner and I aptly named 17b. This ABCD combo came off a tight turn after a long gallop, one stride over a log to this drop, three strides down a steep hill, over a coffin, then one stride up hill to a skinny chevron. Guess I better sit up and keep  my leg on, huh ;)

My mermaid jump has a tramp stamp???
This was a fun combo: big log, one stride, over the mermaid then out to the red bridge on right
Couldn't resist: Sio getting cozy with mermaid
Needless to say, the course was fantastic, challenging, and intense. I thought Red Hills was going to be the most intense advanced of the season....I was wrong! While the spectator presence was not as prevalent at Poplar, the course was certainly more technical. Well, after having this preview of the courses (AKA fright-fest), I returned my focus to the dressage I would be attempting the next day.

Lusty had a 9am dressage time, so I took her out for her hack and graze at 730. She was very relaxed despite the xc course being visible close to her ring. Around 8:58 I got on Lusty just as the rider in front of me was saluting at the end of their test. Lusty refused to trot toward the ring. When I asked, she stopped, did a little rear and shook her head. I was thinking "oh boy....we are in for an epic dressage test..." So I allowed her to wander towards the arena at the walk. As soon as we rode through the gates, she happily broke into a relaxed swinging trot. Such a silly girl! She did not want to be rushed ;) We got a nice canter around the ring before the judge blew the whistle. I am pleased to announce that Lusty did the best test we have ever done, and actually the best scoring advanced test of her career! Samantha Clark at Eventing Nation (www.eventingnation.com) is quite the fan of Lusty and has been posting coverage of us for almost a year now. She was kind enough to post all weekend about Lusty, this was my favorite!!!

"Rock on Rose and Whitney Weston did a very nice test this morning in the Advanced - so pretty and delicate it's funny to see this little chestnut mare daintily skipping around the dressage like a ballerina, and then watch her the next day devour the cross country courses like a monster! Let's hope she does the same tomorrow. "

Lusty was sitting pretty in 5th after her test, I was so proud!! Fizzy had a great test later on that put her in 11th. But saturday was the real question.....

After walking each course 4 times (uggghhh....again) I felt certain about my lines and distances, of which there were many. And did I mention it POURED most of friday? I was lucky not to have done dressage in the worst of it, but the stalls were all flooded, mud everywhere. We had to lay down straw in the aisles so there was a place to walk! This gave some concerns to the footing saturday, but the ground had been nicely aerated, and absorbed the rain well. Even so....we had maaaasssive studs in. 

Fizzy was early in the day, and only slipped around a turn once, foot perfect everywhere else! This was a real test in her ability to keep a technical line while still being bold and she passed with flying colors. This little mare feels ready for her one star in a few weeks!

Okay, deep breath, now on to advanced! Always intimidating to be in the middle of seasoned four star riders like Leslie Law. Lusty was "up" but jumping like a pro in warmup as we practiced some gallop oxars and angled verticals. She certainly didn't want to calmly walk around the start box, she was ready to go!!! And just as Samantha predicted, Lusty devoured the course like a monster! ( though I will argue, a really cute and adorable one) She felt effortless over the larger jumps, and really listened to me and came back for the technical obstacles. The "drop of doom" felt so easy, she sweetly jumped off it for me like it was nothing. I made a "green" mistake by having her too forward to a technical line, so we had a drive-by there, but circled right back around and did it perfectly. Even with a stop, we finished with only 11 time penalties. There were so many problems on the course with other riders (in fact, a riderless horse chased lusty and I after we crossed the finish line. I jumped off and hid her behind a truck so the horse wouldn't run into us!), we only dropped to 7th place! I'm not usually one to brag, but Buck said we were one of the best rides out there that day ;)

Lusty giving her input on stud choice for my friends in the intermediate
Show jumping began the next morning with Advanced. Lusty had her usual hack around 730, then we were on around 840 to warmup. It was tricky keeping her calm because the lower levels were finishing cross country literally right next the the warmup ring (yikes). Lusty stayed focused and calm and jumped like a pro both in the warmup and in the ring. We had one of the few double clear rounds in Advanced!

Fizzy was a very good girl later on in the prelim. We had 2 down and dropped to 7th, but I am so happy with how she is coming along, such a fantastic girl.

When I checked the placings on my phone a few hours later, found out that Lusty and I moved up to 4th with that double clear! I must admit my eyes got a little misty. I feel truly honored and lucky to have such a wonderful partner and amazing people around me who have supported us to get to this level. We are competing with the best and being competitive. With more to learn and more to see, I know it won't be easy, but I am eager to continue on this grand adventure and can't wait to try the next advanced!!!

Jump like you mean it-

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sponsor Spotlight, Ice Horse!!

Thank you all for following the progress of Team Weston as we conquer the east coast!

Ice Horse is another of my amazing sponsors who support our season; we couldn't have healthy and sound horses without their products! Please support Ice Horse and let me know if you have any questions about
their wraps or cooling system. I am happy to give a first hand referral! Ice horse is so easy to use not only at competitions but for home use as well on injuries or just maintaining a cool healthy leg.


Ice Horse at Red Hills Advanced last weekend!!
"Our top-quality insulated cannon bone/tendon leg wraps stay cold for up to two hours of convenient and thorough cooling of the tendons, ligaments, muscles and connective tissue. The unique design both conforms to the horse's leg and provides optimum compression, assisting the cold penetration of inflamed soft tissue. After just three hours in the freezer, they're ready to use again.

Because there are also times when heat therapy is called for, our wraps can just as easily be used for targeted heat application. Ice Horse Tendon Wraps utilize a patented Propylene Glycol formula which is food grade for quality assurance and non-toxic properties."

Jump like you mean it!!!!

My First Advanced

My apologies for blog absence. It has been a few crazy weeks of training at BDJ! But I am happy to report that all that hard sweaty work paid off at Red Hills International Horse Trials last weekend. 
Took this pic driving in the front gates!

Red Hills is the talk of eventers every spring. It is renouned for its competitor parties, thousands of spectators, and crazy challenging courses. Check out the fantasticalness at: http://www.rhht.org/

The venue was beautiful, with security surrounding the horse barns (which had cool "circus-like" tents over top the stalls). Grooms had to wear gold admission bracelets and riders green ones. The staff was so friendly and were constantly driving around in golf carts offering competitors and grooms rides to their destinations! I was really happy about this since the xc course was 15 minutes of backroads away from the stables. I'm not joking: I made the decision to never try to find the course on my own because I got lost in the woods the first time. Luckily it was so easy to hail a "cab"! 

It seemed like every night there was a dinner or activity for the competitors. Thurs night we had Red Hills traditional "bang bang shrimp". Yum. I have never seen a competition with such involvement of the community. The police were there guiding traffic, security officers patrolling the grounds, mounted posse, buses bringing in spectators from the town center, and van shuttles taking spectators to the cross country and show jumping courses. There was a huge trade fair with shops, pony rides, fair food, and even a shark pet tank! This really pumped up the volume and atmosphere. When I rode to cross country, there was a white chain link and post lane parading us right through the trade fair where spectators clapped, wished us good luck and checked us out in the program. I felt like a celebrity! The same on course: so many people there (with security of course) cheering on after every fence!

Now on to the details. Even though this competition had so much atmosphere, it was still important to ride our very best and focus on every moment. Fizzy was first in the prelim on friday. Fizzy trotted out from the security area at stabling and saw the wall of spectators, stopped dead in her tracks.
Fizzy: "you want me to do WHAT?"

Oh yes. With some coaxing she walked past all the spectators flashing cameras at her into the warmup area.      Fizzy was definitely "high", but was focusing well on the task at hand. Buck said that TB's were bred to canter and felt more comfortable in the canter. So I picked up steady rhythm, did counter changes of rein just allowing her to flow off each leg, relaxing in the counter canter. Amy, my fantastic groom, cleared a pathway so we could do a gentle canter through the crowd and around the ring. Fizzy really relaxed well and focused despite the crowds. I was so proud of her!! She had a great test putting her in 6th place on a score of 33.

Lusty and I had had a fantastic dressage school on-grounds the day before. We were all "schooled up" as Buck said and just needed to keep her relaxed throughout the day. This made me a bit nervous because there are so many technical movements in the advanced test: half passes at trot and canter, flying changes, pirouettes, made me think I should practice as much as possible!  Even so, I gave lusty a relaxed ride very early in the day. Then Amy gave Lusty plenty of hand walks so she could graze and be relaxed outside her stall. Then I got on Lusty just a rider or so before her dressage time. Lusty had the same reaction as Fizzy with the crowds: "!!!!", but I just kept relaxed myself and lusty went right to work. We had the best test to date, 41 in advanced, I was so pleased!

I had my work cut out for me in cross country. Not only was I unfamiliar with the course, but every jump was hidden and sneaky around a turn, which you couldn't see because of the thick forest. I walked both the prelim and the advanced track 4 times. Thats a lota miles......but well worth it. I made "friends" with the courses and felt ready about every line, every turn, every jump. I was so fortunate to have Fizzy at Red Hills so I could test out and feel the terrain before taking lusty out advanced. Fizzy was AMAZING. Never putting a foot wrong, I never took a tug, and she just ate up that course like it was sunday brunch. Fizzy had the fastest time out of all the prelim horses. 

Lusty and I taking a nap before XC
A great start to the day, I knew I had to ride Lusty just like that and really go for it. I was able to watch some three star horses go (our courses were very similar with only a few different combinations). Buck was great and walked around the course with me commenting on what riders did right and what I should not duplicate! 

After watching a few combinations I felt calm and ready to go. This course had everything: maxed out galloping fences, (some around blind turns), skinny combinations up and down steep hills, corners, the biggest trakhener I have ever seen, and my favorite: a steep gallop down hill to a big drop into water, three strides, up bank bounce to a vertical hedge. It was a challenge for sure, but everything rode beautifully. It was an amazing feeling, like winning a huge battle. And really it was a huge battle, all the mental and physical training in these past few weeks really came together and gave us the confidence and skills to tackle these obstacles smoothly.

Amy shouted "breathe!" at me as I walked to the start box. Lusty left the box very relaxed almost asking me if we could really go for it. I told her yes by closing my legs and we were off! The course was amazing and more challenging than anything I had ridden before. The jumps just kept coming! Everything rode just as planned, except for the last water combo: Lusty tripped into the drop and almost fell! I circled in between A and B, not sure if I could get her safely back on her line without flipping her at the B element. In the moment I was protecting her, hopefully in the future with some experience I will know if we could still have gone for the B element. But you can't look back all you have on course is your experience and your instinct, and I followed both of those the best I could. I was so ecstatic with the day, very proud of my girls! 

After a long afternoon of icing walking and poulticing, a nice dinner was well deserved, great BBQ Red Hills!

Sunday left show jumping. Fizzy was at the end of division B (3rd place good girl!), so I was able to watch a few rides in A. This was Fizzy's type of course; it was set on a steep hill with rolling terrain and thick grass. The ring was surrounded on two sides with high bleachers filled to the brim with spectators, the third side a huge tent with people a table eating brunch, and the last side with banners and flags as tall as the trees. To say the least there was a bit of atmosphere ;) Even so Fizzy jumped amazing and smooth, zooming around the turns and staying so focused! She ended in her 3rd place and we had a nice interview with Samantha Clark at EN, see below:

Fizzy show jump
Fizzy victory gallop!
Lusty's course was the same as the three star, so I was able to walk a little early and watch some of the three star ride before I got on. As always, it's a little daunting riding right after Phillip, but ride we did! Lusty was great, and we finished with a few rails, but overall I am so proud of the weekend. Fizzy has really stepped up to the plate this winter and I finished my first advanced!!! And what an advanced it was, I now feel ready for whatever the season will throw at us, pics of the weekend coming soon, Thank you all for your support!!!!
Jump like you mean it!!!

Me sitting on a large advanced table, wider than I am tall!!