Sunday, February 25, 2018

Going South for the Winter: Not Just for the Birds!

Note: I'm struggling with Blogger's layout issues so adding lots of photos into a post is a bit clunky. There are so many good photos I want to share so just keep scrolling down to read more after the poorly laid out photo sections.

It has been almost three years since I wrote my first post about going south for the winter. Our family felt pretty strongly that part of the bargain in having a horse was that our daughter had to stay and suffer through winter. It was perfectly appropriate if annoying at times and even with last year's goal of Training Level eventing, staying in Massachusetts was workable.

After a reasonably successful year at Training, Elizabeth wanted to consider a move up to Preliminary. It's really tough to move up to Prelim in Area I (the geographic designation assigned to New England by the United States Eventing Association) in the middle of the season. Our mid-season events tend to be tougher courses so riders like to move up in the spring or fall. Elizabeth didn't want to have to wait for the fall but to be ready for spring, she would have to go south to start training in January. Prelim requires some real fitness and preparation. She can't just show up at the end of April and hope it works out. Even with this trip south, a move up is not necessarily going to happen but she will get a head start on the season and see where it takes her.

We spent the fall working on finding a new trainer and barn for both our horses. For the next step in Elizabeth's riding we wanted to find someone who was close enough to us in Massachusetts that Elizabeth could get to their barn everyday after school but who also went south for a significant amount of time and would be able to help Elizabeth prepare for the coming season. Living in Wellesley, there aren't a ton of eventing barns within an hour's drive. We chose to work with a wonderful trainer based in Concord, Massachusetts and Aiken, South Carolina. We shipped into Concord for a few lessons in the fall to make sure everyone got along and started to make plans for Aiken.

To be clear, I had no idea what I was doing. We started looking for places to stay, working on a plan for Elizabeth to continue school in Aiken, and I hardly knew our new trainer, Erin and really had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, Erin didn't have anywhere for Elizabeth to live and Elizabeth is too young to drive. My husband and I talked it over and decided that I would go too and we would bring both horses. Well, talk about a dream come true! But it was also really complicated.

Finding a place to stay was not easy. There are some apartment complexes but they charge a premium for short term stays and then you have to rent furniture and everything else. It didn't help that it was pretty late in the game by the time I decided to tag along. In the end we found an AirBNB in what I was told was a good part of town. I had to trust other people, and in some cases strangers, in making some of our decisions since we had never been to Aiken. Our AirBNB is very tiny and was quite pricey but it's super well located, close to all the shopping and conveniences and at the edge of the equestrian district.

What, you may ask, is the equestrian district? I know I asked that about a hundred times. You have to see it and walk through it to believe it. The equestrian district is right in Aiken, walkable to downtown shopping and eating. There are little farms with gorgeous old homes, three race tracks, polo fields, a little public jump field and all the roads are sand so when I'm walking my dog there I see horses trotting by and horse drawn carts going out for a drive.
There is a "Track Kitchen" which is great for breakfast. It's not really on the track and you can't watch the horses go from there but it's quaint and old and full of history.

One of my favorite things about the equestrian district is the signs.  This is an area that puts horses before people. When in doubt, horses have the right of way. I'll be out walking and suddenly there are 8 baby race horses crossing the road to the training track and we all stop to let them pass.

Entrance to the training track.
One of the polo fields.

Bruce's Field - track and show venue.

A jump in the Hitchcock Woods.
Our house is also close to the Hitchcock Woods which is the most amazing place ever. It is 2100 acres of woods and trails with some beautiful jumps. I've explored about 70% of the trails with Bridgit and every area is a little different. The hunt goes through twice a week but the rest of the time it's a great place to go for a walk or to take horses for a hack. The footing is mostly sand and it can get quite deep so you wouldn't want to trot or gallop through most of it but it is stunning and very special. We go there as often as possible. Hacking through the woods makes Elizabeth and Quizz very happy so I try to take them on Thursday afternoons after Elizabeth goes to school.

From the equestrian district, one can hack to the woods. There are special crossing signal buttons that are mounted up high so that one can press them from horse back. They really have thought of everything to make this place an equestrian paradise.

Being down here has been an amazing experience. Elizabeth is a working student so she works about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. My primary purpose is to drive her to work and feed her. On her day off she goes to school for 4 hours at the Visiting Equestrian Program which has worked out really well. She's down here for one school term and we've worked out a plan with her high school so that she can stay on track with all of her classes. She's working hard and taking a great deal of responsibility for her academic progress. She knows that she needs school to go well if she wants to come back next year.
E turning out horses.
When she's on the farm working, Elizabeth is most in her element. Having worked in a large boarding facility for a couple of years coupled with all of her Pony Club activities, Elizabeth was well prepared for life as a working student. She enjoys her co-worker and is lucky to have a great boss. She has plenty of work to keep her busy but is also fortunate to be riding at least 3 horses most days and sometimes more. She and Quizz are doing well and are preparing for their first show of the season. They plan to do two shows down here to be ready for the season up north.

E braiding at a show.
On reflection, I am glad we waited to do this. I am also glad we did this when we did. Elizabeth was very ready so that the experience has been a very positive one. She doesn't feel overwhelmed. She walked into work on the first day and hit the ground running. She knows how to make up grain, how to care for tack, how to pack the trailer, she's great at cleaning stalls, knows how to wrap (thank you Pony Club!), clip, braid, bathe, drive the gator and more. She is young at 15 but her experience having gone to a number of camps, competed for 3 seasons at overnight shows including 2 long formats and a Pony Club Championship prepared her for taking on a working student role.

And I'm having the time of my life! I'm building a relationship with my awesome horse and hanging out with my dog. Bridgit (my poodle) loves life on the farm and in the woods. I fear the return to suburban life in Wellesley will not meet with her approval. I'm able to do some sewing, writing, and complete some projects I never had time for at home. The time is passing too quickly. We are halfway through and I fear I will not want to leave.

As a sidenote, I finally found my horse. It took awhile and I had lots of help. In the end, this timid, beginner eventer found her perfect thoroughbred, chestnut mare. She is 14 years old and has done it all so now she will try to cart me around at the lower levels. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Long Distance Hauling: When an 18 hour drive is no longer a big deal...

When we bought our first trailer, I felt overwhelmed just taking our pony to a Pony Club meeting down the road. Over time I became more comfortable and began venturing further from home. Two hour drives became easy and three hours to Vermont a regular occurrence.  Last year we took a trip to Canada and thought six hours really wasn't a big deal.

Packing for a long haul requires a bit more thought!
Then came Maryland. The 2016 Long Format at Waredacca was my first venture into longer distance hauling. I had to really think about our route. Several trusted sources told us to go through NYC and take the GW Bridge. I couldn't even imagine it. So we set out at 2am because no way was I going to hit that bridge any later in the day than 6am. It was a good choice. We made fantastic time and got to Waredacca in about 8 hours having budgeted for 10 hours. Our return journey was more complicated. We hit construction, traffic from a Giant's game and other hindrances but it was a happy drive and we made it home in one piece.

I have since driven south two more times - once to Morven Park in Virginia and once to the Kentucky Horse Park via the Plains, Virginia going down and Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania coming back. I can now tell you I will never take a horse trailer through NYC and over the GW Bridge ever again (until I do because sometimes you just have to do these things). My biggest issue with that route isn't even the city. I hated, and I mean HATED, driving a horse trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike (95 South). The road is awful, bumpy and loud. There are a ton of rest stops but they're crowded. Driving that way was super stressful.

So my first piece of advice in planning a long distance haul is plan a good route. Ask EVERYONE who has ever hauled horses and give preference to good roads over shorter distances. The route I now take to Virginia is about an hour longer but so much more pleasant. It also skips all the cities on the Eastern seaboard so I'm not sure that it really does take any longer to go that way. I manage to stay on really nice roads the whole way - smooth surfaces, minimal traffic. Driving from Boston to Maryland/ Virginia we now take 90 (Mass Pike) to 84 South to either 81 South - this is definitely the longer route but if you don't have a navigator to help you it's simple to follow - or we take 84 to 87 to 287 to 78 to 81. Google maps doesn't really suggest this unless you force it but it is an excellent way to go.

My second piece of advice is to pay attention to where you can stop for gas and food. Going the roundabout way with no cities can mean good stopping points are hard to come by. We like to stop about every 3 - 4 hours. You have to be careful not to drive into a long stretch of desolation without a plan and more than once we've gotten off to get gas only to find that the gas station is not really horse trailer friendly. So if you can plan ahead, do.

The third piece of advice is to plan ahead for a layover if you drive is going to be more than 10 hours. Ask around. Your friends probably know of a place that will work for your route. There is a phone book of places that provide layover stabling. I saw it somewhere once but I can't remember what it was called.  There is a great website called Horse Motel. I've now used 3 places on that website and they have all been wonderful.  I encourage you to find something in the general vicinity of where you need to be and then call and ask lots of questions about the stalls, if they can give you an hour of turnout, if you need to clean the stall before you leave, if they have water buckets or you need yours, etc.  The timing of arrival at your layover may not be ideal but choosing the good layover is more important than your drive time. For instance, if my drive is 18 hours and my layover isn't exactly half way, I prefer to drive further on the first day but that isn't always possible.

As far as the horses are concerned, it actually isn't that big of a deal. My daughter's horse is a really
On our way to cross the Canadian border!
good traveler but I think in general the idea is to just keep driving and get through it as quickly as possible. When we drove to Kentucky for Pony Club Championships we had some friends who drove straight through for 18 hours with two drivers. We went on our own so I stopped half way for the night. Either is fine, just different.

Many horses don't eat or drink on the trailer and many don't like to pee in the trailer so the longer the haul, the longer such horses go without these things. Other horses relish the chance to chow down for a long road trip. My limited experience has taught me not to worry too much. I like cutting up the drive to 10 hours at a time because it makes me feel better that after 10 hours our horse will get to eat and drink and move around.

Which reminds me, you do not stop and take the horses off the trailer! The horses are fine. When we stop for gas we open the door to check on them, offer them some water, change blankets if necessary and then we close the door and hit the road again.

On our first long haul we hung a water bucket for Quizz.
Regarding water, we have tried lots of different things and they really don't work for us but you should definitely try them. We tried apples but Quizz will only eat one per journey. Water is of no interest. She will eat soaked Alfalfa Cubes so we soak them with lots of water and offer them to her at each stop which gets some water into her. We do the same with beet pulp. If you have a horse that just won't drink on the journey, it's ok. It's not ideal but it is ok. Just make sure you are heading to your destination with a horse who had been well hydrated prior to getting on the trailer and that you will arrive with enough time to rehydrate your horse before he has to do much of anything. I know some people do IV fluids prophylactically and I think that's a good idea if you have a bad drinker and it's hot. We really haven't had an issue but we do keep a close eye on the horses before, during and after travel so that we can act quickly if things take a bad turn.

Food is about the same as water. Make sure they have plenty of nice hay, offer something yummy
We offer very wet alfalfa cubes each stop.
when you stop for food and gas. If they don't eat, there isn't a great deal you can do about it other than get to your destination as fast as you can so they can settle in and get back to eating and drinking. The more fit your horse when you put them on the trailer, the better able they are to withstand the stress of travel coupled with lack of food and water.

And speaking of stress, we do give our horses UlcerGard before, during and after travel. Consult your vet for the best treatment for your horse. We start at least one to three days ahead, depending on the level of stress we anticipate, and continue through the first full day at home. It has worked extremely well for Quizz.

I hope you have a good co-pilot. It's nice to have someone to talk to and someone to search for a good stopping point while your driving not to mention having someone to look at the written directions you brought along since you can't trust your navigation system. I also like to get a few books on CD from the library. I get a few because some of them are terrible but if you hit on a good one it definitely helps keep you awake. We also found some good podcasts. Most recently we discovered Heels Down Happy Hour. I highly recommend it to get you through a long drive.

Another note on long hauls - be prepared for issues with your car or trailer. We take extremely good care of our rig but things happen. While heading to Kentucky for Pony Club Championships our car just stopped. Thank God we were in the right lane on a straight stretch of highway and the breaks were still working. We pulled over and called AAA. I learned several things that day and immediately joined US Rider which is like AAA for non-commercial people hauling a horse trailer. AAA happened to be close by with a spare truck and I had options for places within 100 miles I could take the horses but we were worried about getting to Kentucky. In the end, it was an easy fix on the road. A hose had come loose and the guy from AAA reattached and tightened it. I yelled at my Ford dealer when I got back. And I really am lucky it happened where it did rather than the next day as we drove through the mountains.

When you get back from a long haul you really should pull the mats out of your trailer and clean it
properly. When the horses are on that long they will, inevitably, pee on the trailer. In fact we would worry if they didn't. So it's important to wash the trailer floor with bleach and water so that it doesn't rot. This is even more important if your trailer has a wood floor. The mats are heavy and extremely awkward to clean and dry. We hang them over saw horses. My daughter has gotten amazingly good at moving them around.

Soon we are heading off on another adventure! Elizabeth and I are taking both our horses to Aiken, South Carolina, for ten weeks for winter training. Other than concern that winter weather could prevent our departure, we feel pretty well equipped to handle the task. This will be our first long haul with two horses so I'm a little concerned about weight and hope the girls can tolerate each other for 18 hours.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Canadian Adventure: As you're planning your schedule for 2017, consider doing an event in Canada!

When planning our eventing calendar for 2016 we decided to get a little creative. We needed another event in early July and Area I didn't have exactly what we wanted. We saw a listing for Napierville Horse Trials and decided to become international eventers!

Napierville is just over the boarder in Quebec. The first order of business was to acquire health certificates, hotel reservations and plan our route for getting there.

The health certificate didn't seem to be a big deal but I think we might have a better relationship with our vet than some other people. I have since had people ask me about the cost of the health certificates. We paid $50 per horse. I have heard vets quote $350 for the health certificate which is absurd. The health certificate has to be stamped by a federally designated vet. From what I gather there is one per state. Our vet pulled together the paperwork, sent it off to the vet for Massachusetts who stamped it and sent it back; then we went to pick it up. The certificate is proof of negative coggins, rabies vaccine and more all in one document. You may need to designate which border crossing you plan to use when you file the health certificate paperwork.

Finding information about the horse trials was not easy. Eventing Canada's website was very confusing and the omnibus was not thorough. Much of the information out there was in French which added an exciting layer of challenge. The venue is called La Criniere. We found the event on the USEA Area I page. It was listed with the schooling shows and has a website, email and phone number listed. The website is not great and much of it is in French so email worked best.

We booked a motel very close to the venue. No one there spoke any English and we had to book the old fashioned way - by phone. I ended up having a French friend call back to make sure we had actually booked three rooms and that dogs were allowed. With that all set, it was time to travel!

We decided to take 87 north through Vermont. The drive was beautiful on great, new pavement and with no traffic. The border crossing was interesting. There was a line of traffic at the border and an option to go off to the right where trucks and livestock were sent. Apparently we could go either way and had we known, we likely would have pulled off to the right. Instead, we waited. Our crossing was totally uneventful and the agents just asked what we were up to and how long we planned to stay and waved us through.

Our friends traveling in another rig had a more difficult time. They were sent over to the livestock area and questioned a bit more. They were also chastised for not providing extra copies of their health certificate and coggins. So one piece of advice, in addition to bringing your passports, bring copies of all your documentation, just in case.

We got lost after crossing the border. The road signs were a bit strange and our directions weren't great. We did eventually find our way to the venue, just in time to unload in a down pour!

Stabling was in the indoor and the temporary stalls were wooden. They did not have gates/doors so we were glad we had a good supply of stall guards! Actually they had wooden doors but they were piled in a dark corner on the other side of the indoor and we didn't find them until it was time to leave. By the time we were unloading it was pouring rain and we had to drag our gear a really long way. There is room on the road to park after you drop the trailer but it would be difficult to unload closer with the trailer still attached. So it was a bit of a slog but totally worth it!

That night everyone set out to walk their XC courses. We had three people going three levels. The XC start is about a mile from stabling. Not kidding. All of them got lost. It was dark and raining. We wished we had gotten there earlier in the day so that would be my advice. Be sure to arrive by noon so you have time to set up and find your XC course. They have a crazy amount of space and so many beautiful trails. The footing is phenomenal everywhere. But it is extremely confusing out there!

The show ran over two days and we really loved the format with Dressage in the morning on Saturday followed by Cross Country and Show Jumping on Sunday Morning.

Dressage was pretty typical, grass warm-up, sand ring. The scoring was on an FEI scale which was
confusing at first but kind of cool to experience something new an different.

Cross country was a whole new adventure. It was BIG. It was LONG. And it had some crazy questions. Novice had a legitimate and intimidating full coffin where you needed to jump a roll top from the sun into the dark and go right down a steep hill, over a little brook, up a steep hill and then another roll top.
Training had two coffins back to back. This is a good place to go test your skills before a move up! Our poor Beginner Novice rider ran into a herd of cows on her course. Her horse took issue.

I did find a video on YouTube of someone running Novice (Pre-Training) there a few years ago which is worth watching. The footing was much better when we went. The year this video was made they had a ton of rain. The Novice gained a couple jumps by the time my daughter did it, including the coffin, but it gives you and idea of what's out there including an upside down canoe, an amazing water jump with banks, trakehners at most level and more.

Probably the coolest thing about the place, and a bit off-putting for the horses at times, is the carvings.  The people who own this place are amazing. They are warm, hospitable and clearly passionate about horses and eventing. Yves Landry competed on the Canadian team. Watch this awesome YouTube interview with him. His wife is equally wonderful. Years ago Yves gave his wife a mini chain saw as a gift and voila! She populated the cross country course with her wonderful carvings. They make this place truly unique and really a beautiful work of art.

After walking some courses post cross country we all agreed this would be an amazing place to come visit for schooling. They have some permanent temporary stalls and welcome visitors. They have SO MANY JUMPS through all levels. I definitely saw some things out there that have to be advanced but they have a ton of stuff for Novice through Intermediate.

That night we went out to dinner in St. Jean Sur Richelieu. It was the most wonderful place!! Right on the Richelieu River, as the name would suggest. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but the food was amazing and there were tons of restaurants on the waterfront which all looked worth a visit. It isn't too far from the show venue so a great option with the more relaxed schedule of a two day show.

Sunday morning we had show jumping. They have a beautiful derby type field with built in hedges and banks and really nice jumps as well as a tent for viewing. Again, this phase pushed the levels. Everything was maxed out and there were more jumps than we see here in the US. But it was awesome!

One thing I tell people when I talk about this show is that it is not a dressage show. So often these days, especially at the lower levels, it seems like eventing is only about the dressage. Well, in Naperville, dressage had little to do with it. There were very few clean rounds in either cross country or show jumping. One could certainly argue that it isn't very confidence building for the horse or the rider but from where I stood, it felt how I always thought eventing would feel. It felt intense, like you were going into battle. Area I is especially guilty of having cross country courses that don't challenge the lower levels and they're really inconsistent. This place threw everything at the rider. I wouldn't want to go there without being really well prepared but what an awesome place to ride if you are ready for it! I loved everything about it.

Perhaps my favorite part was after show jumping, as we packed up, we could see later rounds. As the day wore on, more and more cars arrived and the jumps got smaller and smaller. The cheering grew louder as the jumps grew smaller. By the time we left there was a good size crowd enjoying a gorgeous day, sitting outside cheering on little kids and their ponies going over tiny jumps. It was inspiring. I loved it. Everything about this place made us feel like we had stepped into another world, a fairy tale type place. Life is a little better knowing it's out there.

I was recently attempting to find some information for this year and found the website, which wasn't very helpful, has disappeared. They do have a Facebook page so if you want to contact them, that seems to be the best way!

Training jumped into the water over this crocodile!

Pre-Training (Novice) jumped next to, rather than through, the water jump.

Panoramic photo of the water jump.  It distorts the jump a little but it was SO COOL!!!

Seated on the Pre-Training "Canot" - French for canoe!

They have an amazing gallup track out in the main field. The field has a crazy number of jumps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Riding in a Classic Long Format Event Part 2: Being There

I almost don't know where to begin. Waredaca and the long format lived up to all our expectations and then some. We rarely pay for an extra tack stall at events but for a long format, you absolutely must have one. We shared a tack stall with a friend from Course Brook so the first order of business was setting up. It was great that we arrived so early in the day on Wednesday. We were able to get Quizz settled, set up our tack room, do a little volunteering and Elizabeth was able to ride.

Thursday morning began with a briefing. We met the organizers, the veterinarian and the clinician, Eric Smiley, who would be teaching us about the four phases of cross country day.

Eric Smiley discussing  how to jog a horse.
After the briefing, riders who had not yet had an in barn check with the veterinarian got that done.  Chad Davis was the vet for the weekend. At the "in barn" the vet looks over the horse and takes the temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR) so that he has a baseline to work from for the weekend.
At Elizabeth's in barn she talked to Dr. Chad about Quizz's atrial fibrillation. He taught her about the various types of irregular heartbeat and what the concerns could be with Quizz's condition. He also recommended the use of a heart rate monitor since tracking any kind of change in her heartbeat is key. Dr. Chad is awesome. He was great to have around all weekend.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Next came jogs. Each rider jogs his horse in front of the vet and the ground jury before competition begins and again after cross country, before show jumping. The jog is more complicated than I imagined. The first order of business is to get the horse and the rider cleaned up and turned out beautifully. We had nice, hot weather so were able to get Quizz pretty shiny. Elizabeth chose to wear white and managed to stay white!

When the rider is called, they proceed to the jog strip, greet the vet and ground jury and SMILE! The purpose is to let them see the horse move and make sure it's sound enough to enter the competition. They will also remember each horse so they can compare the first and second jogs to assure soundness. It's important to look confident. They will tell the rider to proceed and the rider jogs the horse to the end of the strip, walks to turn around and jogs back down the strip. It is important to get your horse to move forward nicely and to jog straight. You don't want to give the officials any reason to reject your horse. Elizabeth practiced quite a bit an definitely put her whip to good use as they warmed up.

It was pretty exciting to hear over the loudspeaker, "Quizz D'Organge, accepted!"

Next up, Eric Smiley took each group - Training, then Novice - out in pick up trucks to drive over the cross country roads and tracks sections - phases A and C for endurance day. Roads and tracks cover about 2 - 3 miles each at the Training and Novice levels. A is faster than C. Generally the rider trots A with a bit of canter to get warmed up for steeple chase and a bit of walk depending on terrain. On C you walk a bit to recover from steeple chase then trot and canter to make up time, being mindful of getting to the end of C and the start of the vet box in good condition.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Friday was more action packed. The day started with dressage, the primary excitement being that there were two judges - one at C and one at E. It's interesting to see the scores from the different vantage points. The judge at E can't see a really crooked horse going down the long side the way the judge at C does. The tests for the 3-day tend to be a little more complex than the tests used in regular horse trials. But otherwise, it was a fairly typical dressage test.

The long format 3-days of today are conducted as a hybrid between a clinic and a recognized horse trials so following dressage, everyone had the opportunity to prepare for endurance day (cross country day) by hacking the two roads and tracks sections to be ridden and attending a brief steeple chase clinic with Eric Smiley.

Up to this point the weather had been HOT. Unseasonably hot. So hot. But as everyone tacked up to head out on phase A - the first section of roads and tracks - the sky began to darken. Everyone had a time slot for their steeplechase practice so they headed out on A so that they would be at steeplechase (phase B) at the right time, allowing about half an hour to walk and trot all of A. As Elizabeth practiced her steeplechase, the sky darkened.
Elizabeth got lucky. In fact, I think only one group had to go in the monsoon that followed. Eric had each rider gallop until they had the correct speed and rhythm and then sent them over the steeplechase fence. Steeplechase is different from regular cross country. It is run at a much higher speed and the horses jump flat and out of stride. The idea is to let the horse figure it out and take the jumps without a bunch of interference from the rider. It's pretty cool to watch.

After steeplechase practice the riders headed out to hack phase C - the second section of roads and tracks. Elizabeth came back soaking wet having cantered through a field with hail pelting her. Her friend was out there for what felt like a really long time and just as I was really beginning to worry, she came in so cold and wet having walked the long section of roads and tracks since the visibility was so bad. Everyone made it in and as luck would have it, the rain stopped and we had a gorgeous afternoon in which to walk phase D - what we all know as cross country.

I got pretty nervous after walking this course with my daughter. She had been competing at Novice events all season and had tackled the toughest events in Area I but nothing came close to this course. She would have 22 jumping efforts including a ditch and wall, a half coffin, a corner and a jump into water as well as an enormous drop and a really tough table combination. It was long at 2500 meters. This would be a real test of both her and her horse.

Friday evening we had a team meeting. We divided up all the jobs for the next day - who would be at steeplechase to make sure our horses had shoes after A and B, who would be in the 10 minute box and who would be at the vet box at the finish. We discussed studs, put studs in all the spare shoes and checked through all the equipment. This was the best part of the 3-day for me. I felt like a real part of the team. We had 4 riders with us and 4 support crew including our trainer, Stephie Baer. Stephie loves the old format and had a blast helping everyone achieve this goal. There is so much to know when you do a 3-day. Having someone along who has done so many is a huge bonus.

And along the way, Elizabeth managed to do her homework. The reality is that she skipped three days of school to do this. She was exhausted but squeezed in some math and history where she could. I'm proud of her for working so hard and doing it all.

Saturday morning was exciting. It had gotten seriously cold overnight. We got up crazy early and got to the farm before 6am. The first order of business was to set up our area in the 10-minute box and the vet box. The ten minute box is between phases C and D - the second roads and tracks and the cross country test. The rider comes into the box, dismounts and the veterinary team immediately takes the horse's TPR (temp, pulse and respiration). From the minute they enter the box, they have ten minutes before heading out on phase D but they can only go out on D after being cleared by the vet team who will take the TPR again about 5 - 6 minutes later. During that time the rider sits, the horse is sponged and walked in intervals and hopefully all the numbers come down sufficiently.
View of both the vet box and, on the other side of the black fencing, the 10-minute box.

The vet box comes at the end of phase D. The rider dismounts, TPR is taken, the horse is sponged and walked and monitored until the vet team deems the horse sufficiently recovered to head back to the barn.

Our buckets and extra equipment.
Extra equipment for 3 riders.

We set up an area of buckets in both boxes and an area of extra equipment in the 10-minute box, making sure all the riders knew where we would be and all the grooms knew where each rider's equipment was stashed.

Soon enough it was time for our first rider to head out on phase A. My job was to be at the
steeplechase (phase B) to make sure that all our riders had 4 shoes both before and after running the steeplechase. We had arranged the night before what people wanted me to do if they had a shoe missing.  Most of them wanted some vet wrap or duct tape put on the hoof but fortunately all our riders had four shoes all the way through so my job was easy. We had spare shoes for all the horses in the 10 minute box where a farrier would be available.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
The best part about being at steeplechase was watching the horses change with every lap. The two horses in our group who had been tough to ride and strong became carefree, happy and in sync with their riders. It was super cool to watch. These partnerships changed that day and are better for it every day since. The riders had a blast and just want to do it again. It looked like so much fun!

Once our last rider cleared phase B I headed over to the 10-minute box to support Elizabeth. I can't begin to tell you how exciting this day was for me as a mother. Seeing her arrive after A was exciting. Watching her finish B with no issues was thrilling. Being there with Quizz's halter when she finished C was amazing. She was in such high spirits and Quizz was barely puffing and recovered perfectly and all of it was just so awesome. They had worked so hard for this for so long and the day was going extremely well. The cool weather was great so we didn't need ice in our water buckets and we were able to get the horse's temps down nicely with sponging and walking. Before you know it she was back in the tack and headed out on phase D and I was crying and ready to burst with nerves, joy, the thrill of being a part of something so big and the pride of seeing my daughter taking on the world. I was jumping out of my skin.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.

I was able to see Elizabeth get over a few jumps from the vet box. When she made it up a ridiculous knoll and over the log at the top I started dancing. I knew that question had concerned her. The hill was big and steep and Quizz took it like it was nothing. They made it all the way around. No faults. They did it! They went double clear on endurance day. We had only hoped they would finish and here they were killing it. In fact, all our riders made it around. It was SUCH a great day!!

Kristen with daughters Taylor and Talia.
One of the best parts of that day was sharing it with another horse mom. We usually travel with adult riders who don't have kids. We love them and we are a great team. But I am so grateful to have been standing by my friend Kristen the whole time Elizabeth was out on phase D. She has two daughters who have been eventing for a long time. She knew exactly what I was feeling (her own daughter having finished cross country a couple of hours earlier). We were lucky to not only experience this awesome event but to do it with amazing friends. Sharing this day and this week with all of them was a huge part of the experience.

After everyone had rested and changed and walked the stadium course, we jogged our horses to make sure they had been walked enough and weren't getting too stiff. Exhausted and exuberant we headed back to our hotel, ate, did some homework, went back for night check and then we slept. Sunday morning rolled around very quickly. Again we were up before dawn. It was time for the second jog. Quizz had recovered extremely well. It was like the prior day had never happened. She passed and Elizabeth got ready for show jumping.

As a side note, choosing jog clothing is a big deal. Some are anti-dress. Some make better shoe choices than others. Then there is the weather to consider. Elizabeth, who generally wears any t-shirt and jeans to school, put a great deal of thought into what she wanted to wear and ended up bringing three or four options. If it is hot you want a different option than if the temperature is in the 40's. She went more casual for the second jog as did many of the riders. She looked great and so did Quizz.

Which reminds me, we braided 3 times over the course of the week. We braided for the first jog on Thursday, then removed the braids. We braided for dressage on Friday, then removed the braids. Sunday morning we braided before the second jog and kept those braids for show jumping, taking them out before we packed up to head home.

Photo courtesy of  GRCPHOTO.COM all rights reserved.
Show jumping was awesome. Elizabeth went double clear again. All 4 riders we travelled with finished, Elizabeth and one friend finishing on their dressage scores. In a division of over 40 riders, including some professionals, Elizabeth finished 20th. Among the young riders, she finished 6th. This event restored some confidence she had lost over the course of the season. She and Quizz had had a stop at each of her last 3 events. Elizabeth worked extremely hard to correct her mistakes and all her work paid off at Waredacca.

I'm amazed we were able to get this team photo. Our friend, a professional and fellow Pony Club mom lives in Area II and came by to watch some show jumping. She happened to be there and we miraculously had all 4 horses in one place, tacked up AND all the grooms. So thank you to Adrienne Iorio for taking this awesome photo to commemorate our victory!

Then it was time to pack and go home. Our adrenaline rush carried us for the full ten hour drive. Eventers never stop helping each other and two groups texted us from up the road warning to stay away from the George Washington Bridge. We rerouted to the Tappan Zee and saved hours on our drive.

Some shows leave us exhausted in a way that means we can't imagine doing it again any time soon. This show left us wanting more. We were ready to sign up for next year. It was the coolest experience ever for both of us. Everyone should do a 3-day. I watched my daughter transform over the course of a month as she executed her conditioning plan and invested herself completely in this event. She rode every minute and it paid off.

I also need to add that this venue is amazing. They clearly love what they do. The physical space is phenomenal. The clinicians were fun and happy and full of encouragement. Dr. Chad has so much energy it is infectious. I can't say enough good things about Waredaca. The three day is a bit more expensive than a regular horse trails but in my opinion it was a bargain. We stabled 4 nights, had a tack stall and the TD, vet, and other officials had to be there for three full days. They were actually there for four because they all came for the clinic as well. GRC Photo captured all three days of competition and had superb photos for sale at a reasonable price for every rider. I am so grateful for the photos they took.

The long format is important. It is where the sport of eventing started. It is a different test than a horse trial and different from a CCI. We planned Elizabeth's entire season around this event. She made the right choices for her horse so that they could do this. They didn't go to camp with friends and they didn't move up to Training even though they were ready to do so. It took discipline and maturity to prioritize this goal and make each choice each day based on that goal. I could not be more proud of my daughter and her horse. And I am grateful to all the organizers out there who are keeping the long format alive. We need to support them as riders, volunteers, spectators.

Elizabeth has her eyes set on a different goal for 2017 but I have no doubt we will be back at Waredaca in 2018 to tackle the Training 3-Day and I can't wait.