April 21, 2012 was the day I arrived in Middleburg, Virginia. It has been over a year since I have been a part of HSB Eventing and to say I am living the dream is an understatement. Watching Donnie grow into a full fledged event horse under Hannah's instruction has been inspiring. Being a part of Harbour Pilot's journey to Saumur, Danio's first advanced, Thompson's first jump, learning to event on Woodbury, everything I have had the blessing to be a part of has changed my life. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, these horses have all changed my life and continue to help me grow as a rider, groom, and a person.
Any one who has considered being a working student has heard the horror stories that travel through the grapevine. When you move across the country, it's hard to not second guess your decision. Thankfully, the horror stories didn't phase me. Even better, I have yet to be a part of any of those stories. Some days are long, some moments are stressful; every day is educational and worthwhile. I am happy to say, working for Hannah is far from any of form of horror story. When people ask me what I do, I say "I play with ponies." Even on my worst day, I wouldn't trade my job for any other one.
Learning from Hannah has been a wonderful experience. Last June I competed Donnie in his first event at Surefire Horse Trials. We were in the Open Beginner Novice and had a rail, below average dressage score, and two stops on cross country. Almost a year later, Donnie is running Training level; scoring in the mid 30s, always running clear in cross country (although I do admit we get speed faults more often than we should) and is becoming much more consistent in show jumping. Working with Hannah has taught me more about horse care, trailer packing, bringing up a young horse, and becoming a proper groom.
Last year I never thought I would be competing Training, let alone looking at a move up to Preliminary in August. This past month he competed at the Twilight Jumpers in The Plains, VA with no jumping penalties and .4 time penalties. Twilight Jumpers was a huge success for us, the jumps were big, it was in the evening under the lights, plus there was a decent sized crowd there. Donnie put on his big boy pants and didn't have a care in the world. He went in as calm as could be and was extremely ridable the entire course. Working with Donnie has been the highlight of my riding career. I have never worked with a young horse that has as much heart as he does. Every person says they find that once in a lifetime horse, when it happens, you know. Donnie is that once in a lifetime horse. My mom likes to call him the abnormally large family dog. Every step in my journey with Donnie is a blessing. I am excited to see what the future holds for us.
In the Fall of 2012 I was able to be a part of Danio and Harbour Pilot's trip to the Dansko Fair Hill International. Fair Hill was my first event of that caliber that I had attended. I was blown away by the courses, riders, and how surpassingly relaxed the atmosphere was. I was only there for cross country day, but my mind was blown. I kept tip toeing around as if I might do something wrong and get in someone's way, but Hannah and every rider there was happy, relaxed, and happy to give me tips for ways to make myself useful at the finish line, in the barn, and while wandering around trying to catch glimpses of cross country. Fair Hill was an incredible experience.
The following Spring was equally as exciting. Harbour Pilot was preparing for his run in Saumur. Danio ran his first advanced. Woodbury took me on my first Ocala eventing experience. Thompson was second place at his first horse trials. I had never been to Ocala before. I must admit, I can really get used to never having to endure Michigan snow again! Ocala was a wonderful experience. Donnie and I had an emergency dismount which resulted him in free jumping a 5' gate, which was terrifying. Thankfully Donnie made it over with no injuries and other than a bruised ego, I was fine. Being able to cross the street to go to OCET to use their incredible facility was a huge blessing. I was able to cross country school tons of challenging complexes with Hannah there to give me input. Florida was a great learning experience for me as a groom for upper level horses but also as a rider bringing along a young horse.
Every horse and person that contributes to HSB Eventing has changed my life. Hannah has taught me more than I could have imagined. I have been privileged to learn from the super groom "Irish" Sara, watch and learn from Hannah's lessons with David and Karen O' Connor, travel down to Wellington to groom while being able to watch many talented Grand Prix Show Jumpers and Dressage riders compete. The opportunities I have had thanks to Hannah, OCET, and the many others involved have been unbelievable. Working with Harbour Pilot has been a major highlight of my job. Every time I am with him, Hannah, and Sara I learn enough to make my head explode, which I love. I am that workaholic who is constantly asking every vet, farrier, rider, and groom more questions than they can handle.
This last year has been surreal. Every day I learn something new about horse care, riding, nutrition, and how to be a better groom. With Hannah's instruction I have grown as a rider, groom, and person. Donnie continues to develop into a true competitor with endless heart. I have been blessed to be a part of the journeys of Hannah's string of horses. My journey into eventing is still beginning, but every day is an adventure and learning experience.
After a great fall season in 2012, the horses and myself have had a really nice break and vacation. Thanks to Ashley Harvey for looking after the ponies and Jackson while I was traveling and enjoying my time off. In 2011, after the Pan American games I went out on my own to and started my own Eventing business. The first thing I did was take my horse's shoes off and let them have a 2 month vacation. This also allowed me to take time off, reorganize and recharge for the upcoming year. This is something that a lot of eventers don't really do anymore, because of the luxury of being down south in the winter time and events continuing into December. I was really happy with how my horses came back into work recharged and with a better work ethic so I decided to make it an annual plan. I was reassured after hearing that Mary King does the same thing every year with her horses!!
Once again, I'm thrilled with how my horses have come back into work this year. I let them winter in Ocala as opposed to freezing up north like we did last year and they are even more relaxed and ready for the big year ahead.
I have some exciting sale horses added to the team this year and I'm also looking forward to continuing competing my horses from last year.
Harbour Pilot, owned by Jacqueline Mars, had a great vacation and is heading toward Ocala II for his first event in 2013. I really feel like a lot of the exercises I struggled with last year are so much easier for us after our time off. We're hoping to aim him at Saumur in France later in the spring.
Danio, owned by Neapolitan Holding Co., is much quieter after his time off and is going to start at Ocala II also. I plan to keep him at the Intermediate level until he can progress in the dressage and relax into his job. He is a bit of an over-achiever and takes his job VERY seriously! I'd love for him to flow and enjoy his work rather than be nervous about making mistakes.
Woodbury, owned by Jannice Aaron, had a great 2012, going to the AEC's with OCET family member Calvin Ramsay in the Training division and finishing on his dressage score. This little horse is truly remarkable and although not having the best start in his sporting career, has become so confident and a real teacher to younger riders. My working student, Ashley, has also moved up to Training on him and is going to compete later this month at Rocking Horse I. Woody is now for sale and would be wonderful to have a career with a young rider looking to move up the levels. This horse has unlimited athletic ability, the key with him is having a solid relationship with his rider. Videos to come.
Mainstay is a new addition to HSB Eventing. This is a lovely OTTB, 6 yrs old, 16.2hh gelding. He is beautiful and equally talented. He's going Training at Longwood HT this weekend and Rocking Horse I. Here is the link to some videos of him on YouTube:
Just Bailey is the newest addition to our crew. He is an adorable and talented TB, 12 yrs old, 15.2hh gelding. He has competed very successfully at the Training level with a young rider and has plenty of scope for preliminary. He would also excel in pure show jumping and schools 3'6"-3'9" easily. Bailey has lots of personality and really wants to please. Here is a link to his video on YouTube:
I'd like to thank all of my owners and everyone who makes my career possible. I'm excited and look forward to a productive and successful year. I'm also looking for anyone who would be interested in owning an event horse and going on the exciting journey of competing abroad and hopefully representing the USA. Please email me with any interest in this and/or the horses I have for sale at HSBurnett@gmail.com
Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing everyone out competing and supporting our wonderful sport and horses in 2013!
We made the 10 1/2 hour drive up on Monday night and arrived safe and sound to Richland, Michigan, home of one of my favorite events: Richland Park Horse Trials. Ashley, Jackson and I were a bit tired from the overnight drive but happy to arrive early and have time to settle in. The horses shipped well and as usual, Danio was exhausted from standing up for so long (he's a big fan of naps!) and had to be fed his dinner while laying down!
I am competing Danio in the CIC**, Harbour Pilot in the Advanced, and Ashley is riding her mom's horse, Donatello in the Novice. Jackson is busy chasing other dogs around and trying to ride golf carts with complete strangers.
William and Danio competed in dressage yesterday and I was pretty pleased with the day. Danio was a lot more ridable and quiet than he's ever been and although his score doesn't reflect it, his test was a big improvement. William was his usual steady self and put in a nice test. I could've ridden for more expressiveness and been a bit more precise with the last two flying changes but there can always be improvement!
Ashley does dressage this afternoon and since she is from Michigan, her family will be out to support her. I went around the courses yesterday and they look really fun. Plenty of ditches under fences and forward riding techincal combinations that will prepare the horses nicely for the fall 3-days.
I'd like to thank the Vitkus' for letting me use their amazing truck for this trip because mine is wanting to break down on us! Also a big thanks to my amazing sponsors and owners. I wouldn't be here without your support!
I'll be checking back in soon!! (Aren't you proud I've been blogging so much?!?!)
While David O'Connor has been off to the Olympics, I have continued to work on my show jumping with all of my horses. I have been taking lessons with Scott Keech on Harbour Pilot and Danio and I'm thrilled with the progress. Here's a video of the Twilight Jumper's Mini Prix a few weeks ago.
I have to apologize for not blogging in a while! I am going to start to keep everyone up to date on how the horses are going and upcoming schedule.
We've been pretty busy around HSB Eventing lately. There's a new exciting member on the team--Ashley Harvey, from Michigan. She's a working student and also lives with me in Middleburg, VA. She has brought her mom's horse, Donatello, with her to train and compete. Ashley used to do Hunters and Jumpers and is excited about her future in Eventing. She recently completed her and Donnie's first Novice at Stuart Horse Trials and we have some fun events planned for the rest of the summer and fall!
Stuart is one of my favorite events. From the wonderful volunteers greeting you from the moment you pull into the venue to the fantastic cross-country courses at all levels. The show jumping gives you a real "big-time" feel and the whole event runs like clockwork.
I ran Danio in the CIC** and also had another student, Sara Vitkus there riding Galactic (whom I used to campaign at Preliminary last winter.) Sara had a great weekend, finishing 3rd in a very competitive Junior Training division. Sara will take Galactic and her preliminary horse, Season O' Reason, to Millbrook in August.
Danio had a pretty good weekend. I am still trying to figure out his ideal warm-up to produce a good test with him. He can get hot as he goes but also needs enough work to let go in his body and work over his back. I didn't get the warm-up quite right at Stuart, and the dressage arena can have a bit of an electric feel there, so we didn't have a very good test. After I decided that our chance of getting a good score was pretty much shot (at the 4th movement!), I rode the rest like a schooling test and he actually got much better. He was relieved when dressage was over and the fun began with cross-country the next day. I have been trying different bits with him as he can be quite strong but also very sensitive mouthed. I recently got a hackamore/happy mouth and that has been working great! He ran around really well and although the rainfall has been slim to none in West New York, the work they have done on the footing paid off and all the horses looked happy and sound on Sunday morning. I love show jumping anyways, but show jumping Danio is really a blast. He has such a powerful jump and tries so hard to leave every rail rub-free. He put in one of his quieter rounds for a double clear. Overall, I am happy with his progress and will continue to work on his dressage and getting rideability in higher-stress situations.
Here's the link to Danio's Show Jumping round:
William has been doing really well lately. He had a bit of a break after Bromont and we have been focusing on our show jumping as our round at Bromont was less than stellar. The biggest change we have been working on with David is changing my position in between the fences from our of the saddle to sitting and using my seat and body to control the length of stride and pace. One of the best things about William is his bravery. One of the most difficult things about William is his bravery!! Nothing backs him off, no matter the size of difficulty of a fence or combination. The way I used to ride him was to try to let him make mistakes in front of the fences to try to make him back off a bit so I could then ride him forward. We had to re-evaluate this method when it stopped working at the Advanced level and David showed me that he needed to listen to me instead of responding to the fence. We worked on going really forward and using my new seated position and then halting and reining back. It sounds simple and it really is--and it's made a massive difference in my show jumping. After establishing that he must really respond when I ask him to slow down, we incorporated that into jumping. We only jumped 3' the first couple weeks until it was really solid in both mine and William's mind.
I had the opportunity to ride William in the Mini-Prix at Twilight Jumpers a few weeks ago and we had a very good round with one down. David and Ms. Mars were able to come and it was really fun to see the progress we made with our new plan. I will jump him again in the Mini-Prix next Friday and then we will compete in the Advanced at Millbrook the following week.
Woodbury has had an interesting early summer with a difficult Surefire, where we had trouble in cross-country and I opted to retire him. He wasn't feeling himself and really didn't want to play. I backed him down to the training at MDHT 1 and he had a great weekend and won. Afterwards I had him looked over by our vet Dr. Ober and we decided to test him for EPM and he came back positive. Thankfully, we have great treatment for EPM now and he will be back competing in a month or so. I'm so happy we found the reason for his strange behavior because he wasn't showing the normal signs.
We have 2 new additions to the barn! One is a beautiful TB mare, named Wellesley, who has played Polo for a year after being a racehorse. She just arrived on Tuesday and is starting her new career as an Event Horse. The other newbie is a 3 year old, unraced TB that Ashley and her mother adopted from New Vocations in Lexington, KY. He is adorable and quiet and is related to Ashley's horse Donnie! Kendyl Tracey is shipping him to Middleburg for us on her way home from Young Riders.
Phew! I think that covers everyone! Hope to see you at upcoming events! I'm taking horses in for training and open for taking on more students if you're in the area. Shoot me an email if you're interested! HSBurnett@gmail.com