Thursday, May 26, 2016

Show Season for the Non Rider

Ever since I got into eventing I've spent the summers competing. My very first event was a few weeks after I started my first lease. After that I crammed as many events as possible into my limited free time.

My second show season was just as busy. I started with a new ride that involved a lot of... lets say... relationship counseling. And ice. A lot of ice.

We're still suffering through #pinkygate2016 (this Sunday marks SEVEN WEEKS since I broke it). The pins are out and I'm going to physical therapy. Did you know there are special PTs that only do hands? Because hands are the most fidgety little shits ever. The extension exercises are hilarious; I'm concentrating so hard and my finger barely looks like it's moving at all.

The magic of modern medicine.
Hopefully though, I'll get to ride on SATURDAY! We'll see if I remember how to do it.

In the meantime, I jump judged for the first time. It was a blast! I loved being part of the group behind the scenes. I actually would love to be a TD. How do you even get into that? I should've sought her out after.

I was at Fair Hill's spring event, jump judging the Training and Intermediate riders. We had a great day, no falls or anything terrible which was a huge relief. It has been raining like billio up here in Area II and while the footing was holding up great it was definitely a little sloppy. My Intermediate jump was a bank with a huge ditch in front of it, up and down a mound and to a chevron. Most people coasted right through it, although I did have one person retire at the B element and see a couple of dicey rides through.

A video posted by megan (@kieshorse) on

After a quick change came the Training riders. The show was actually running ahead almost the whole day. My Training jump was a simple but large brush coop in the tree line and the ground kind of fell away on landing. Most horses galloped right up to it fine, although I had three or four slam on the breaks. I ended up spending most of my day hopping in and out of my car to stomp divots every four or five riders. I also became besties with the grounds person who had all the stone dust, as he frequently stopped by with buckets and the tractor to make sure it was holding up okay. Even through over sixty rides it was still very rideable as the last pair went by.

Get the stone dust out.
I thought I would take lots of pictures and video but jump judging is surprisingly busy especially when the weather is crap!

I will say I noticed, particularly with the training level riders, is how difficult it was to jump out of stride for some of the horses. So many people chipped, or got really long shots into it, or the horse was not listening and ran past the distance. Luckily I have a steeplechase horse. If he came to me knowing anything it was how to jump out of a gallop.

This weekend I'm not going to be jump judging but I'll still be at Flora Lea Farm helping out a fantastic photographer that I admire the absolute crap out of. Check out her work here, or go to her Facebook page. In my opinion she's the best horse show photographer I've ever seen. When I get married she needs to be the photographer. I'm really excited she's willing to let me tag along, I hope I do her clients justice!!

Some of her handiwork.

Finally (or maybe this should've come first?) I went to the Fair Hill starter trial in the beginning of the month to watch my barn compete. They totally kicked butt, I don't think anyone got worse than third with most people winning their class! Kickass. I may have ruined that with a bit of baby Runkle antics so maybe it's better I didn't go ;) And I met up with Emma from Fraidy Cat Eventing! I'm totally obsessed with her horse, you guys. She's flawless and she knows it and all I wanted to do was smush her little face. If you have the chance to meet her (both of them!) I definitely recommend it but don't expect a lot of fanfare from Isabelle as she's way too cool for that.

She totally hated me.
So  yes, I am still broken and grounded. But I'm having more fun than I thought I would!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Entry is Late...

...because nothing is happening.

Mad because I didn't let him play with the hose.
I'm still broken, and we were making stumbly progress on our ground/lunge work...

Artist's dramatization.
(note to self: maybe don't do it in a totally open area. Probably frowned upon to go skijoring with a broken pinky) Runkle apparently decided he was tired of me getting all the attention so he picked a fight in the field and is lame and has a big leg

One of these legs has a knee. The other does not.
(at least I don't feel guilty about not being able to ride him for a few days?)

So I'm just cold hosing, and lamenting the fact that its mid May and I haven't even been cross country schooling yet. Horses are the humbling equalizer as usual, and I need to seriously readjust my goals. I'm also taking more vitamins than I've ever taken in my life in the hopes that it will expedite bone growth.

I couldn't get a picture from the side. That's his nose.
So it's pretty much status quo for now. I am jump judging at Fair Hill this weekend, so that'll be fun!

I went to Boston to see my sister get her masters?
...yeah, I got nothin'. See you next week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It's been one month and one day since I made my unplanned dismount off Runkle, and an alleged jammed finger turned into weeks of pain and aggravation.

I'll freely admit I'm not dealing with it very well.

I still have three pins in it. My body decided Pin #4 no longer needed to hang around, and pushed it out so far that my doctor couldn't click it back into place (which absolutely killed). So he just took it out.

I also got cushier straps for my splint, since it seems we are going to be better friends for awhile longer.

As far as recovery time, despite persistent grilling my doctor won't give me a hard timeline anymore. Probably because he knows I'd throw eighteen hissy fits and cry in his office again if he told me what he really thought.  He does say its healing perfectly and I'm taking really good care of it and I said uh, yeah, I wanted this healed like yesterday. I don't know what I've been high on, but I finally (FINALLY) accepted that this is not going to be healed sooner rather than later.

You know, what's funny to me is I had so many emergency contingencies planned. I have enough roll cotton to run a Build a Bear, antibiotics to stock a Haiti emergency clinic and syringes for days. Runkle is part of the local vet's wellness program; he's privy to vaccines, checkups, included dental and a 5% discount on whatever else he gets into.

But not once did I consider a scenario where I would be the one injured.

So, soon Runkle and I will feel like a team again, and until then I guess I'll just keep muddling along. In the meantime, ground manners bootcamp it is!!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Badminton 2015 Part 2

If you miss cross country day, click here to read Badminton Part 1!

I woke up bright, early, and well rested on sunday. Several other people at the B&B were also heading out to the horse show. Helpfully, the couple at the table next to me said I could follow them back out to the grounds. I ate an enormous breakfast, including trying black pudding for the first time, before we all headed out. I had been too tired to worry about it the day before, but the trip back to the event was a half hour on a very narrow twisty English country roads. There had been so much traffic on cross country day that it limited how fast everyone went, but the speed limit for these nutjobs is 50 mph. I followed the nice couple from the B&B who became speed demons and rocketed off leaving me in the dust.

At one point we were on a tiny road that was barely two cars wide and someone was barreling down the opposite direction and I flinched - I SWEAR I only flinched! - and the  next thing I heard was a loud bang. A flat tire.

The couple I was following sped off into the distance as I went and looked at my left front tire which wasn't just flat but managed to look like it had exploded.

A photo posted by megan (@kieshorse) on

I stood there dumbfounded, mind blank for a second, and my first thought was "aw, I'm gonna miss the jog!! Poop." Priorities.

Luckily (?) since I was a woman, alone on a narrow road with a 50 mph speed limit, surrounded by 12ft hedges the situation was deemed 'dangerous' and I was rescued within 30 minutes. When I climbed into the tow truck with the driver I could see over the gigantic hedges and there was a castle on the other side!

I missed the jog but the tow truck drove me the one mile I had left to the fair grounds. I very nearly made it :/ He left my car in the grass near the parking entrance and said the tire repair/change person would call me when he was close so I shrugged and went into the show.

The shopping was phenomenal. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. I had decided to buy a horse at that point but I figured it wouldn't be smart to load up on a ton of things since I didn't know what I needed and I'd also have to somehow bring it back to the US.

Still, I did have some fun; I got a pinney holder from the BHS tent, a Joules Badminton baseball cap, and a sweet purple and leather belt from Tredstep. Lastly my favorite - a tweed hunting jacket. I freakin' love that thing. With my Dubarry's on a scale of one to British I look like I'm from Little Badminton. That's a real town and it has thatch cottages. STILL.

I digress.

I had time before stadium to walk most of the course. It was really fun to see those huge jumps up close and personal even though all the decorations were gone. The most shocking part to me is always the really narrow faces of the skinny jumps. The Mirage Pond short route was downright confounding. The jumps were ASKING to be run out on. And this was a soft version of the course?? WHAT?? After getting through about three quarters of the course I had to go back so I wouldn't miss any of the stadium rounds.

The stadium was fantastic. There was a demonstration of the hounds bred at Badminton by the Duchess of Badminton (we need more duchesses in American eventing). Apparently they are the most famous bitches in England and the best hound stock to breed from. That's a quote from the announcer, I would never say that.

This dog came pretty far up in the stands for some roast pork.

They also had the Parade of Champions in the jumping break where all the competitors did a lap around the arena. My favorites were WFP and Bettina Hoy - their horses were jumping in the top 20 so they borrowed Pony Club mounts from the foxhunting demo.

Pippa Funnel
WFP can make even a fat cob look good.

Then came the final twenty in jumping. By far my favorite rider at Badminton was Ingrid Klimke. I love her. A lot. I think she might be my favorite rider in general right now.

WFP was sitting in second when he went out for his round. Andrew Nicholson didn't even have a rail in hand above him. Chilli Morning looked wiggly as all get out but WFP rode him masterfully to a double clear round. Andrew and Nereo followed him and got the second jump down, which meant WFP and Chilli Morning had won!! The crowd barely contained itself with an outburst of applause which definitely threw poor Nereo off; he ended up with three rails total.

Not even holding the damn reins.

The top ten was a who's who of eventing greats. I feel so lucky that I got to see these people all compete against one another (and just outside the top 10, in 12th, was the indomitable Pippa Funnel who got the loudest cheer during the parade of champions).

My favorite picture I took the whole weekend was the one below though. The look on the grooms face makes me melt.

It was such an incredible weekend and I'm beyond thankful I could go. One down, five to go :D

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Badminton 2015 Part 1

If you read my 2015 year in review post you saw I had the opportunity to work abroad for the first part of the year. The very first thing I did when I found out I got the job was buy tickets to Badminton. It's my goal to go to every four star in the world, and being in England already seriously cut down the cost of the trip.

I spent money on really good stadium tickets in the grand stand and booked a hotel room over Saturday night in a local (ish) B&B. I had a Zipcar account for years and there are tons of Zipcars in London (that are automatics, even) so I got one of those. It didn't bother me that I had to go alone. My plan was to drive out early Saturday morning in time for the start of cross country, get in to the B&B that night, and then early start to see the final jog, show jumping, and be back in London by dinner.

This sounds really good on paper. I know it does.

I can drive 200 miles round trip for one weekend. Right?

I got in the car at quarter to seven on Saturday morning. On the wrong side. Driving on the wrong side. I drove for about 20 minutes before I realized I had left my tickets pinned to my fridge. Good start...

The entire drive I just kept saying to myself "This is SO weird". The street just looks REALLY different on the other side of the road. And it wasn't physically driving on the other side so much as sitting in the passenger seat and driving. I kept drifting to the left because I felt like everyone was coming quite close on the right. Once I hit the highway it got much easier. Also people in England drive so bloody fast. I was doing 75mph or so, minimum, and people were absolutely blowing past me in the right lane.

Once I got off the highway and I was within range of Badminton Radio I listened to that. The show sold earpieces for 9GBP that tuned into the radio all weekend which was awesome. Every time I saw a sign for the horse trials I got more and more excited. Even sitting in traffic was stupidly exciting. I parked next to a landing strip for private aircraft that was about a forty mile walk away from the grounds but I bounced the whole way there.

Once inside I stopped by the grandstand to watch the cutest thing ever: Shetland pony races.

After watching several heats I started the trek out to cross country. I decided to start near the end of the course and walk closer to start. I had several places circled on the map I wanted to see; the main water, the mirage pond, huntsmans close, and the coffin complex. It was a gorgeous day, totally atypical for England. Bright sun, cloudless blue sky, warm but not too hot and lots of wind. Everyone was wearing tweed, Dubarry's and Hunter rain boots.

Two years ago the course was quite notoriously difficult. A new course designer really upped the ante, and there was a much lower completion rate in 2014. In the face of that, the 2015 course was quite a bit softer. The other slight disappointment was there wasn't a single US rider in attendance. Ironically they were all at Jersey Fresh, which is about forty minutes from where I live in the US. Initially I was upset about this but at the end of the day I loved it. It almost felt like I had no pressure; and it wasn't like there weren't dozens of the best riders in the world competing. I could guiltlessly root for whoever I wanted regardless of the flag on their saddle pad. It was kind of awesome!

Paul Tapner, first out on course

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo

This girl's brilliant save

Paul Tapner on his second, who banked the corner

The man himself, Chilli Morning and William Fox Pitt

Leaving one out...

I've watched many events, plenty of them 3*'s, but this was beyond anything I had seen. All the jumps were so big. The letup fences were positively enormous. The accuracy required by the skinny jumps seemed impossible. From the first fence to the last it demanded the very best of each combination and getting to watch people compete at that level blew my mind. I ended up spending quite a bit of time at the Mirage Pond and also the faux coffin complex. Big brush jumps begging a glance off and jumps that were so awkwardly placed that my usual "leg on and sit back and it'll all be okay" would not fly at all.

My favorites to watch were Pippa Funnel, Ingrid Klimke and of course William Fox Pitt. I saw WFP at the Huntsman's Close on Chilli Morning and I took a couple pictures but mostly I just watched. That horse is incredibly athletic and looks very challenging to ride. He's quite wiggly looking! And if he's like that with one of the best riders in the world on him then he'd probably be 70% sideways if a mortal rode him.

I loved being at the coffin complex the most on course (especially because I became buddies with the photographer there) but when I wandered over to the cool down area after the course it unexpectedly became my favorite part. Horses I had seen larger than life out over the jumps suddenly looked smaller. It was actually hard not to hop the fence and start helping when a new horse came in. Unless the rider was extremely famous, necessitating an interview, they helped in the cooling out process. I loved seeing the back door displays of horsemanship and teamwork.

Finally cross country was over. I wandered through the massive trade village with a cider in one hand and a meat pie in the other. At the end of the day I headed out to the parking field and stood there as I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was parked. Every field looked the same and they stretched as far as I could see. The saving grace was after about twenty minutes of wandering I remembered I was near the private air strip!

The B&B I stayed at was so cute. The room was comfortable and had a view of fields full of horses. The proprietor greeted me by name and took me up to my room where I took the best shower ever, uploaded about a billion pictures and slept the dead sleep of someone who wandered in a giant field all day watching gorgeous horses gallop and jump.

You know, with a castle in the background.