Photography Friday: AEC Show Pictures

This week has been… busy. So while I want to get started on the next show recap, I’d much rather share a bunch of pretty [ish] photos with you all.

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With over 1,000 riders at the AECs, it was no small wonder that it took so long to deliver all the images, but they are finally here!

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These are just my favorites, since thankfully the photographer (Shannon Brinkman) was able to capture everything, which was phenomenal and will make for such wonderful memories that I am beyond grateful.

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Happy Friday y’all!

Trailering to Kentucky: What Worked and What Didn’t

Probably the thing that stressed me out the most about my trip to Kentucky was the trailer ride. It was 8.5 hours through lots of twisty mountain highways, and I was worried about both my ability to stay awake/focused and poor Jack standing in the trailer for that long without incident. You guys were super helpful in giving me lots of tips and tricks, so I want to share how the ride actually went.

These were the biggest winner of the day. I downloaded a whole bunch of them, and loved listening to the Schramm fam’s interview with Practical Horseman and Lynn Symansky’s chat with Major League Eventing, but then had to switch to something more distracting. The Shrink Next Door ended up being what hooked me for the majority of the ride there, and it helped me out on the way back as well. Highly recommend.

Horse Quencher
I asked the barn staff to put Horse Quencher in one of Jack’s buckets 2 days before we left, so he could get used to it and hopefully figure out how tasty it was before seeing it on the trailer. And while he absolutely sucked it down (like really- licked his bucket dry) in the stall, this ended up being a failed experiment in the trailer. Sadly, he didn’t touch it during the entire drive to KY. But, when I transferred the contents into a bucket in his stall, he immediately drank half the bucket. Going forward I will be giving him horse quencher the night before we drive a long way and hope that at least gets him moderately hydrated.

My trailer comes with removable canvas mangers, but in order to accommodate the water bucket so Jack could reach it, I took those out and used a hanging hay net instead. This also ended up being somewhat useless. Jack doesn’t normally eat hay on the trailer, but I had hoped that with the many hours of staring face to face with munchies would tempt him. Nope, apparently not. I know that I can get him to eat with fancy hay (aka alfalfa, either straight or chopped/mixed) but that doesn’t do well in a hay net (read: it falls out/goes everywhere), so on my trip to Tryon last weekend I opted to go back to mangers with a chopped Alfalfa mix in them- sure enough, Jack ate a good bit of it. So I’ll be going back to the bucketless manger set up with his favorite treats for long trips.

Fescue is so beneath him

To break up the drive I made sure to stop every 2 hours at a gas station, so I could top off the gas and give him a short break from the rumbling effects of travel. Despite unloading in a hurry, he seemed to handle the long trip rather well, but I definitely learned a bit more about my horse and his preferences as a result of our adventure!

Show Recap: AEC Conclusion

I know this post has taken me a while to write. As most of you know, moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone so I’ve already even competed again, but that’s a post (or several) for another day.

There were both a lot of emotions at the end of my showjumping round, and few. I honestly think I was just so personally overwhelmed and not sure of how to feel now that it was over. I’d been thinking and planning and fretting about getting to Kentucky for so long, and had basically convinced myself that it wasn’t going to happen, so having completed it was… a shock.

It took me some time then, standing outside the stadium, to process all these things in my head. I was thrilled to have completed, annoyed about that darn rail, even slightly embarrassed by it given that my teammates all went double clear, but still proud of how Jack handled the big arena and sort of just amazed by the fact that I had actually ridden at in the Rolex stadium.

I don’t think life is like a Disney movie, even if I wish it was

So given that, I realize it is ridiculous to lament a rail, though I do… along with that darn break in the free walk in dressage, or my over enthusiasm that resulted in the speed faults XC. My friends are quick to put things in perspective for me though, which I am so appreciative of…

…and they threw me a welcome back party when I arrived, which was pretty freaking awesome.

One of the absolute best things about the AECs was the friends I made through the various teams, and I think it was especially the team experience that made this not-just-another-horse-show. My fellow members of #teamadultbeverages were amazing, including the member from another state who helped me when Jack knocked water all over me before the awards ceremony. Seeing everyone in their #TeamAB gear at home and at the park honestly made my heart swell with happiness, and I’ve even gotten to catch up with everyone after the fact- something that I’m positive will continue for years.

Another #TeamAdultBeverages member and I enjoying the competitors party

Besides that there was the fabulous support of the Area 2 Adult Rider program, including sweet swag that I look forward to repping. You inevitably make friends with your neighbors in the barns as well, and it was great exchanging advice regarding the course, or lending one another a hand or heart congrats when each of us completed another milestone. These are the things that make me love eventing so much.

Hands down, if I were to qualify again, I would go [if I can afford it]. The camaraderie of the people, the beautiful grounds and the chance to experience a competition of that caliber absolutely made the AECs a week I will never forget. And if I had to sum up my feelings now that I’m on the other side of it all, I would say I most identify with this:

Don’t be sad that it’s over. Smile because it happened.




Show Recap: AECs Showjumping

Ah, the epic conclusion.

After coming down from the high that was XC at the Kentucky Horse Park, it was time to focus on the end game. Showjumping in the stunning Rolex Stadium was honestly one of the major reasons I signed up for the AECs in the first place. And it didn’t disappoint.

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Despite the fact that the ring was chock full of fences, only 11 of them were ours to jump. And they were beautifully decorated, as you can see above. But beautiful or not, fence two in particular was causing issues. Even as I was waiting my turn to enter the ring I was hearing stories of people having stops and even getting eliminated by horses not wanting to get near it, which could be understood by the bright blue water, horse-eating wheel at the left standard, and max-height and width of the thing. My own plan was to give Jack a tap with the bat to let him know stopping was not an option, and back up that assertion by keeping him between my hands and legs. The rest of the course, though big and spooky, I felt mostly OK about- Jack was either going to be with it or he wasn’t.

To say I’m proud of how this horse handled the atmosphere would be an understatement. Though (because of my bat) we got a really hollow jump at fence 2, he still went over it, and I was pleased as punch about that. The rail at 6B was frustrating, and still haunts me a bit, but take a second to appreciate how shallow the cups are and how unforgivingly placed (which is fair for a championship, but still):

He probably could have been a bit more careful about his back feet and we would have gone clean, but I’m doing my best to avoid the coulda-woulda-shoulda game. For a spooky horse who couldn’t handle ground poles two years ago, this was absolutely a milestone for us.


That rail dropped us to 7th, which I found out in true nail-biting fashion as they tried to determine if the rider in 6th got time (which would have bumped me up into the cash prizes). So we ended our AECs journey with the biggest most purplest ribbon there ever was. And you know what? Purple and yellow are complimentary colors, so I’m cool with it.

More on the lap of honor, details on how it was run, and more to come!

Show Recap: AEC Cross Country

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I know so many of you have been waiting for this. The AEC XC recap!

Let me start by just saying how in awe of that course I was. It was simply incredible to walk around the grounds, getting up close and personal with the giant log fence, the head of the lake, and the other LRKY features that I see on live stream every year. But despite the excitement, I was also slightly nervous- this was a championship of course, and I think the only fence that wasn’t maxed out was the very last fence (which I didn’t even get a picture of- a small cabin).

My biggest concern, however, was the pathfinding from fence 4 through 7.

After fences 3-4 (a bending line of solid, wide blue roll tops), I had a wide drift left to a max table. Then riders could choose left (long route) or right (short route) to a tall coop that required a hard 90* approach, lest you could somehow ride through a hundred year old oak on the direct line. Fence 7 I expected a strong peak at as well, since 2 strides out from the coop, you turned right through some trees and 7 was right on top of you- a large table with cut outs. This definitely did catch us out a bit, but I rode really positively to it and he jumped it fine.


Then it was a fun gallop up and over fence 8, a maxed out 3’6″ brush fence, up the bank and a bend left to 10, focus on getting the line to 11 which was another spooky cut out fence, through the water and up to the faux ditch. Fitch?

I won’t lie, whatever you want to call it- it was weird.


I fully expected a half coffin on course. In fact, in stalking Novice courses there just months before the AECs I saw half coffins on course- with actual ditches. But at the AEC’s, BN through Training all had these- basically wooden trays filled with gravel, maybe 7″ deep. Surprising, if not strange. In any case, I ended up not giving it much thought because I was having so much fun galloping away from the water. Like, that was a blast and I have no regrets, y’all.

Anyways- from there it was across the road, over a bench and up to the head of the lake- where there was a slatted log thing leading downhill to the water. Jack peeked hard at the water, which is not normal for him but likely a result of the light changing so abruptly from light to dark, coupled with the descent to the water.

At this point in the course, I looked at my watch again. I knew I was ahead of the clock at the ditch, but after going through the water I was WAY ahead of it- like 3 fences to go and 90 seconds to optimum time. So I came back to a showjumping canter as much as possible (the open oxer needed a forward ride, as did the giant fiesta table), but I’d already done the damage by having too much fun out there. We conquered the last max jump out there and then petered in to the finish.

Though I should have slowed up a bit, that course will forever stand out as an absolute blast. Jack was solid in almost every regard, and was running ears pricked around the whole thing. I loved riding knowing I was on a team that was so supportive (woot woot #teamadultbeverages) and was lucky enough that they even got most of the course on video!

Therefore, I leave you with this. Enjoy the commentary and maybe turn the volume down 🙂

Show Recap: AEC Dressage

Holy moly, I have so much to share with you guys!

But first, let me first shout out to the awesome people I have met so far because of this blog- from Hannah the Bates rep, to Hillary and Emily! Hearing that my voice [any voice] is relevant is so uplifting and I love love love the experience of meeting people irl that I know from the inter webs.


Jack was a freaking STAR. With the exception of the night before dressage, in which he was a total idiot, planting his feet and snorting at the horse-eating-hoomans and flipping out about his tail (why is this a thing?), but since his brain was fully in its box when it mattered, I will forgive him these things.

Overall he was much more chill about the whole KY Horse Park atmosphere than I expected, though the hack out to the rings did get increasingly tense as the days passed. But in general, Jack really settled every time I put him to work, even if it was just a long and low walk to stretch his legs- if I asked something of him, his mind was so much more at ease.

So we arrived Monday evening, and by the time we has somewhat unpacked it was too late to do more than a cursory walk around the barns. Therefore Tuesday and Wednesday were our days for exploring, gaining confidence, and trying to navigate the huge horse park. This all well swimmingly until we got to our dressage warm up ring, which was not only somewhat remote and required crossing a very busy street (within the horse park, but still overrun with bikes, golf carts, and people in a hurry), but it was also adjacent to the Egyptian Arabian show that was going on. Jack would start to relax and then we would hear whooping and hollering from inside the indoor ring, or a hotter-than-hell Arab would pop out of the entrance with its tail flagged and screaming its tiny head off. This caused Jack to go into the afore mentioned melt down- not a great premonition for the actual test the next morning.

And yet somehow the eventing gods smiled down on us, and our start time of 9:24am was minutes before the Arabian show started (9:30) so we got to warm up in relative peace and quiet compared to the days before. The other ~4-5 riders in the warm up were polite and everyone was communicating well, basically a rare delight at any show, let alone a championship competition. I went through Jack’s warm up routine as planned- lots and lots of walk, asking him to go forward and back in that gait and adding in halts, then picking up to trot and a little canter before giving him another 5 min walk break. When we had about 5 minutes left, I picked him up and started asking for suppling and forward in the trot, and threw in a couple canter transitions to make sure they were crisp, and we headed up.

Immediately some of the tension returned when Jack saw the cameras, the volunteers, test runners, and what not that hadn’t been there the day before. So I gave him tons of pats and walked him over to the judge, said our hello’s, and got him cantering to loosen his back. Then away we went.

My first centerline isn’t captured in this video, but I did fill out the paperwork to get the official RNS copy. Overall I was trying to go for forward and relaxed, which I think we mostly achieved. Nerves got the better of me with some of our geometry, and then there’s the free walk. The simple truth is, Jack got behind my leg, and when I squeezed with both legs he took it as a cue to trot. Luckily he was obedient in coming back, which one judge gave us kudos for, but that particular part of the test may or may not haunt me from that day.

I think my scores from the 2 judges had the largest spread of the division- a 71.9 and a 65.2. The closest spread between scores was 4 points… so apparently the big yellow pony was somewhat controversial between the judges, and their vantage points.

Still, we were tied for 4th after dressage- but this was no dressage show!

Road to the AECs: Adult Team Challenge

OK, so I’ve done a lot of whining about all my various anxieties around the AECs. But obviously there are things to look forward to- else, why go?

So today starts a new series about why, despite my fears, that I am excited about the chance to go to Kentucky. Let’s start with one of the reasons: the Adult Team Challenge.

Every USEA region has its own Adult Rider group, which generally just means you paid a little more with your US Eventing membership to enroll, and in return you get included in lots of fun programs, swag, and of course, the opportunity to participate in the ATC.

My new team mate making it look easy at the Dutton clinic

At the Eventing Championships, each area gets a certain number of teams per level (I believe it’s 2), and each team consists of 4 riders. Initially, we set up our team to include another of my trainer’s students, plus a participant from the Phillip Dutton clinic some months ago, and the last was randomly assigned to us.

Surely the loudest team in terms of color – where’s the award for that?

Not knowing who our 4th member would be, we joked that as long as they enjoyed adult beverages, they were in. Eventers- we like our wine (and beer, and mimosas, and you get the picture). So, when we started talking about team names, #TeamAdultBeverages was thrown out as an option. Also considered were Simply Southern and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. But being as boozy as we apparently are, Adult Beverages won the day.

After designing the logo, a friend suggested we make t-shirts- because hell yeah we wanted to represent our AAness (uh, that’s Adult Amateur to you!)!

My friends are the best

If you want to support #adultteambeverages in our quest to dominate the Novice level of the Adult Team Champs, buy your swag here!

I’m excited to be on a team with other Adult riders, who all share the love of the sport but also understand that as amateurs, we are always balancing the call of riding with the need to make a living, and the challenges that come with that. I can’t wait to share in the joy of just being at KHP with those people and know that there are so many back home (and all over) who are cheering us on, ideally wearing a cute shirt or at the least, enjoying an adult beverage themselves!

Here’s hoping for lots of memories made and if we’re lucky, a victory lap for #teamadultbeverages- surely the most fun team at the AECs!



Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 3

First of all, let me just say that watching multiple episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale does nothing positive for the mood.

I make dumb mistakes. Mistakes I will regret for the rest of my life. The biggest one that comes to mind is my last cross country run on Foster. I was having the time of my life, flying (for Foster at least) across the country, when I was pulled up 4 fences from home- I had missed an insignificant fence on the course. The fact that I never got to feel that sense of completion on what was to be his last run makes me sad.

I’m worried that I will make this investment- time, money, emotion, and I will do something classically dumb to mess it all up.

still the best gif ever

I’m very good at that, after all. Remember when I forgot where to go and jumped a BN fence from a standstill? Here’s the video to jog your memory.

I hope I don’t disappoint myself. Disappoint all the people supporting me. The people that plan on watching the live stream. My coach traveling to KY. My dressage coach here in NC. I want to make them proud.

If it comes to laughing or crying, I’ll pick laughing every time. But I am desperately hoping that this will not be that time!

But first, we gotta get there.



Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 2

My absolute greatest fear in signing Jack and I up for the AECs has been the challenge of keeping us both healthy until we get there.

My vet and farrier both agree- Jack could be the world world bubble boy

It’s no secret that Jack is accident prone.  But more on that in a moment. As you all know, my first steps in getting us (him) prepared for even the idea of the AECs included getting my saddles re-fitted to him (after 2 years that seemed prudent anyways) and had him adjusted by a chiropractor. Since the chiropractor, I have noticed some changes- notably with how easily he bends right now (and also how he struggles a little more to the left), so I’m glad I did it so far out from the big event to allow us both to settle into those adjustments.

I also started Jack on an electrolyte to help him deal with workouts in the heat of summer. He’s definitely drinking more (and peeing more- sorry to the folks who clean his stall!) as a result. Ideally I would add Horse Quencher to his water a day or 2 before we travel so it’s not foreign to him and he will drink on the long trailer ride.

And then, because I felt like his topline/muscle tone wasn’t where it should be given the amount of work he’s in, I also added in an amino acid supplement for muscle support and to help him recover from the conditioning sets that I’ve introduced recently.

Speaking of conditioning sets, that’s also part of my plan to help keep him healthy, as well as prepare for the physical taxation caused by the long trailer ride and 3 days of competition. Our last set looked like this, with 2 min breaks between each burst, and I was really encouraged to see him recover in less than 10 min- a new record for him.

  • 3 x 5min trot sets
  • 2 x 5min slow canters

Because Jack has some respiratory complaints, the conditioning sets are meant to get him extra fit- with the theory being that a fit horse with a breathing issue should handle the summer temps much better than an only-somewhat fit horse. We’re using his inhaler before every ride right now, but soon I’ll start introducing small amounts of Dex (I’ve already called the USEF to find out legal parameters to be safe), and the steroid should help calm some of the inflammation in his lungs and help him stay comfortable since his inhaler (Albuterol) isn’t legal at recognized competition. I also plan on stocking up on Flair nose strips since that seemed to help at our last horse trial, and hell- it can’t hurt!

Then, in terms of just monitoring him at home, I am so lucky to have excellent barn staff that appreciate how important a goal this is for me. They are very kindly wetting his feed so he gets all those expensive supplements (otherwise he picks through them), putting on stable wraps on his back legs (which tend to get stocked up in the heat while standing), and best of all, not judging me for the amount of crazy I must seem these days.

And to top it all off, after every big workout (mostly considering this to be jumping or a conditioning day), Jack gets to wear his ice boots for a minimum of 20 minutes. I’m lucky that he’s used to them and will happily free graze with them on while I finish other chores (or have a glass of wine) as we both decompress from the ride. Helping us both recover from workouts (me mentally, him physically) has been key for keeping his fugly legs from getting any fuglier.

There you have it. My OCD/Type A personality bringing all the crazy to the barn. And even still, I’m scared to say I’m going to Kentucky- just hoping that we’ll have the option at this point.

Road to the AECs- A Review of my Worries: Part 1

If horses have taught me anything in life, it’s to take nothing for granted. So despite the fact that I have worked very hard, put lots of hours and certainly lots of dollars towards the goal that is the AECS, I’m all too aware of the fact that Jack could get an abscess at the last minute and all of my planning could go up in smoke. I realize that’s a bit of a cup half empty sort of approach, but that’s my current mindset.

There’s lot of little things that need to add up and go well to get to Kentucky and be able to participate, so I figured I would share a little bit of where my brain is / aka ask you to join in the anxiety that is my reality these days.


One of my main concerns, if indeed we make it to the point of actually traveling to Kentucky, is the trailer ride there. I’ve never [by myself] hauled a horse more than a few hours, and currently I am positioned to drive the better part of a day to another state.

Jack is an excellent loader, but not the world’s most casual rider. He doesn’t tend to eat in the trailer (in fact very rarely does he take a few bites even) and his typical MO includes peeing as soon as he gets on board. So, dehydration is an issues as well as keeping his stomach filled.

Not on the menu: Hands

I intend to load him up on omeprazole to keep his tummy happy, but I’m worried about how I’m going to get him to drink in the trailer. I was thinking I would have water in a large gas can (never used for gas of course) so that I could offer him water in a small bucket at stops, but I’m doubtful that he would actually accept such an offer.

I also am just straight up worried about him standing on a trailer for so many hours. I was thinking of investing in trailer eyes, but given the many costs of getting to this point, I’m having a hard time justifying it. To those who have trailer cameras- do you find it gives you peace of mind? Is it possible to find such things second hand?

And then, there’s the fact that I’ll more than likely be in the cab by myself, focusing on staying focused (a conundrum) and trying to keep myself from going insane. My truck doesn’t have bluetooth, but I’ll be looking into podcasts or audio books that I can download to my phone. I really enjoyed the Root of Evil podcasts, which was fascinating and macabre, and would love suggestions on your most entertaining ways to pass the time in the car.

Please, tell me your best practices for trailering such long distances! I hate driving, and all this is freaking me out!