Hanging in there!

So it’s been over a week now since the announcement of the Team and a lot has happened since then. I know it is in these times that people want to hear from me the most and it takes a bit to want to get to that point. First off, thank you all for your amazing words of support! It goes without saying that I was very disappointed about not being named to the Team. I know that I come across very strong and that I deal with disappointment and setbacks well, but I will admit that I had a number of very good hard cries. I felt exhausted, emotionally wasted and very alone after the announcement. I have put so much dedication, passion, time and sacrifice into this goal and for the first time I felt defeated. The selection process will always be a heartbreaking thing — there will always be people that get to experience the elation and confirmation of their extreme efforts and others that are just simply left shattered. I think what makes me the person who “deals” with setback and disappointment well is because I know that tomorrow is not promised and that I can choose how I want to feel and live my life. I did not enjoy that deflated thing that I was feeling at all! I knew that I needed to snap out of it as quickly as possible, not only for my own sanity, but also because as I am still an alternate, I need to stay ready to compete. This is the most challenging thing for an alternate — to stay just as prepared for the Games as if you were named. Not an easy task. Fortunately, I was giving Arthur a second day off after Barbury so I knew I could have one day for Allison to get my booty back in gear. Despite my sorry state of feeling “alone”, I knew this couldn’t be further from the truth as I do have tremendous friends and family that are always there for me. And because of my friends, I had a just the day I needed! First stop was Wimbledon with Samantha Lendl! It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Wimbledon so it was pretty amazing to watch 3 incredible matches Andy Murray on Court 1 and then David Ferrer and finally Serena Williams on Center Court. Samantha’s husband coaches Andy Murray, so we had lunch in the players restaurant/lounge area. I really enjoy spending time with Samantha, she really has her head on her shoulders and is a great person to be round especially in the state I was in. No BS and no fluff, just a good friend to be around. That whole day was pretty amazing for me, thank you Samantha!!!!! I then headed further into London to spend the night with some of my very best friends, Samantha and Zolly Lehel. They live walking distance to Greenwich park (through the foot tunnel under the river), so after an awesome Thai dinner where we ate ENTIRELY too much and laughed just as much, we walked it off by checking out the Olympic Equestrian site. It is a really awesome setup. I soooo wish I was going! Fortunately for me, I have a great place to stay during the Olympics, now I just need tickets, does anyone have any extras for me to buy?!?!?

Wednesday morning sent me back to my Cottswold reality. It took a very long time to drive out of London and back to the farm, which gave me a long time to think about what next, both in the short term and in the long run.

In the short term I have to stay prepared for the Olympics and take advantage of every opportunity here. Burghley is the obvious plan B for most alternates, however, knowing that Burghley is the Mother God of all four stars, it seems really odd to think about it as a back up plan!!! We still have a lot of intense training and mandatory gallops left in the lead up to the Olympics, so I will just need to make sure Arthur is still in top form and health at the end of this month prior to really committing ourselves to the Mother God. As of now I am setting the wheels in motion for Burghley, but I am staying focused on the Olympics. Arthur is in terrific form right now. His weight looks great (thank you Buckeye for going through such extreme measures to make sure Arthur’s diet stayed consistent), we have had excellent lessons and he is super fit. Lauren Hough comes every week and she has been great to work with. This week she rode Arthur a bit for me and that was great to watch someone else on him. I wish I had video to share, sorry! I also took advantage of Boyd’s dressage instructor, Michael Barisone. I really enjoyed working with him, he certainly doesn’t seem like a fluffy dressage dude!! Yesterday we rode the Olympic test for Linda Zang and she gave some great feedback. Arthur was very good for the test, definitely in medal contention 😉 !!! I will try to post the video later if I can figure out how to do it! Today we galloped, a light day tomorrow, and then the same thing all over again next week.

For the long run plan, WEG 2014 is the next big thing to be thinking about. Arthur should be great for that as well and I will work to keep nailing down some big international results on him, first stop Hartpury CIC 3* and then Burghley CCI 4*. One of my very biggest long run (really short term) needs is horses! I have spent a bunch of time here looking at horses, everything from green to going. I’ve been up to Yorkshire, over to Ireland with Phillip (had a hilarious day looking at horses with Carol Gee… deadly), and am planning a trip to France with Sinead next week. Hopefully I can get it all sorted out!

For now I am still hanging in there!!!!!

Show Jumping at Barbury!

Show Jumping!
Arthur was a really good boy today. 1 down at the last fence. We did the same routine for my morning ride and warmup that we have done all year and it was great to have Capt Mark 100% on board with my program. Arthur is certainly trying his heart out to be careful and I was real proud of him for that. We did rattle 2 jumps — the first and the last — I was a bit lucky at the first! That being said those were the only two fences that he touched and I’m thrilled with how well he cleared the big square oxers and the combinations. He was a good boy and I thought I did a good job today. It made for an interesting warmup and show jump rounds for many 3 * horses today having the 2* cross country running right by the show jumping. Kinda felt a bit bad for our horses watching the fun out there! There were certainly a few American horses that knew today was supposed to be xc day!! The xc course does look like fun — hard work in areas, but fun! We all have a big day tomorrow! Fingers crossed!

Day 2 Dressage!

Barbury is also running a 4* combined test with the dressage test being the Olympic 4* test. Many other countries have their Olympic horses entered in this class and many are double entered in the CIC 3* class. I enquired about entering the class, but they had a wait list, so I didn’t find out that I had a spot in the class until only a couple of hours prior to my ride time. I thought it was a great opportunity to ride the Olympic test against the other Olympic horses, despite the fact that I wouldn’t have the best preparation for the test due to the timing, so I entered! It was great practice to have to ride next to the white flags snapping loudly in the wind all along the shortened at A as it was the undoing of quite a few good horses in the ring there. Arthur was very good. Our quality was better yesterday, but he was very on the job and tried very hard. Our walk was not super — he is a bit of a “mall walker” in the whipping cold wind. I also felt like I was trying to remember the newly memorized test as I was riding so I didn’t exactly feel like I was owning every next movement, but it was really nice to ride a new test. Trot directly into extended walk is not anything that I have ever thought about or practiced prior to riding it in the test today and that will definitely be something I put more thought into. It was a very big division with very good horses and we ended tied 3rd (I think that was the final — I’ll check tomorrow and let you know) ahead of the Brits 😉

The rest of the Americans finished their dressage tests in fine form. Boyd was really super today!!!
Early jog and then show jumping tomorrow!!

Dressage at Barbury!

Dressage was today! The quality of Arthur’s work is far improved from Rolex, he definitely had the best connection, balance and presence of all the horses today, however, a couple of spooks cost us some valuable points. I was very pleased with with him in that despite his spooks he was immediately back to work, he wasn’t messing around and being inattentive or on the muscle. I definitely did not feel like I had to “keep a lid on him”; I could continue to ride him positively. We didn’t get to familiarize in the main arena and the judges blew the whistle right away on me so I didn’t even make it a third of the way around the arena before entering, so today was today, it is what it is! I feel very strongly that we would have smashed my Rolex score had I taken the quality I had today to Kentucky. I definitely prepared him as well as I could have and I am disappointed we didn’t win the dressage but I am not moping around unhappy either.
I have only walked the course once, but it looks great! Definitely some good questions and it will be an excellent test of fitness! I am excited to jump!!!!

Greetings from England!

The last couple weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind, but we seem to have settled into the groove of things here just in time to pick up and leave for Barbury on Tuesday! The time here started for me with a massively uncomfortable stomach ache that I had never experienced before and Arthur sleeping like a dog (obviously tired from his travels). I was in a lot of pain, but Arthur fortunately was perfectly comfortable in his new digs here in the heart of the Cotswolds. Luckily for me I was correctly diagnosed by Dr Karen O’Connor (confirmed by the new team doc, Mark Hart via telephone) with some sort of acid issue most likely caused by stress. STRESS?!?!? Hmmmmm…. well, yes, the week prior to this trip was incredibly stressful! I was pretty anxious all day on the Monday after Bromont waiting for the call about the Short List. I didn’t really want to jinx myself by planning that I would be on the plane prior to getting the call, which meant once I got the call it was full speed ahead with packing and planning for being away from home for a really long time. I was incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of things I needed to accomplish in less than a week. A huge fundraiser was successfully pulled off in just a few days (huge thanks to my amazing friends: John, Patricia and Shawna Staut, Tom Gorman, Jessica Rich, Kristane Kristiensen, Liz Billings, Geraldine Peace, Todd Lodge and Andrew Chippendale). The party was not only a huge success from a fundraising point of view, but it was also just a really beautiful and fun party!!! I didn’t go to bed until 2:30 in the morning — not too bad for a party that was supposed to end at 10:oo pm! Packing for a horse and a girl who both like to dress up and look good for a long trip to Europe in as few “suitcases” as possible is never an easy chore! I think my biggest worry was making arrangements for the horses, girls and my son (Bodie the dog) being left at home. So by the time I actually landed in England I had a really bad pain going on just below my ribs. I was not a happy camper, however, a couple of days of Ranitidine and Omeperozole made me as good as new (yes, the same drugs we give the horses for ulcers — don’t worry I wasn’t stealing from Arthur’s supply, I had the human variety from the pharmacy)!

Since we’ve been here we have had a short time to get settled in, rested and start looking ahead to Barbury. Our accommodations here are amazing. The horses are based at Eddie Stibbe’s Lavender Hill Stud where they want for pretty much nothing! Beautiful indoor with mirrors, outdoor dressage and jump ring, gallop and beautiful turnout fields. The home I am staying in is about a 20 minute beautiful drive (10 minutes if O’Connor is driving).

Our days here so far:

Tuesday – Arthur sleep all day day; Wednesday – the first day I rode Arthur – a long walk hack and light stretchy flat; Thursday – long walk hack and a good flat school; Friday – Boyd, Phillip and I went cross country schooling. Just a short and sweet one in a beautiful place. I hadn’t jumped a xc fence since Rolex and he was so happy to be out there. Very focused and totally on it! Saturday – the whole group went to Jack Dawes for a fitness day. This was absolutely beautiful! Definitely one of the nicest gallops I have been to. When I say gallops there were multiple different gallops up the hill. We used the two all weather gallops, the longer one was over a mile long up the hill. My horse felt great, plenty fit, and the only exciting moment was my first time up the gallop there was a family of backpackers with huge packs and a couple of dogs that almost walked onto the gallop in front of me! I was teasing Capt Mark that he sent them out there on purpose to test if Arthur would spook at them or not! Ha! and Sunday (today) – We all jogged our horses up in the morning and then I got to spend the day with my dear friend Sam (O’Connell) Lehel and her husband Zolly. They live in London now and came out for the day. I am now waiting for Bettina Hoy to show up for a dressage lesson with her.

I made a huge mistake with Bromont that I didn’t have Arthur back into really full work before arriving there and my result showed it. I was definitely more concerned that he didn’t get to have a very long break after Rolex where he gave me such a focused and beautiful effort. Ordinarily he would have had at least a month off and a slow return to work after that. With Bromont being so close the Rolex, Burbury at the end of June and then the Olympics being at the end of July, I was concerned about the length of time he would need to stay at the top of his game. This has made me really focussed on what I need to accomplish at Barbury next week. I know the only way I can accomplish that result is by having the same attitude I had for Rolex. I know I need to focus on what will make me my best and Bettina is a part of that plan! Fortunately, she will be here tonight! A late lesson, but worth it! I am hopefully going to shenaggle a way to get her to Barbury for Thursday! More on that tomorrow!

Congrats!!

Congrats to Lisa Brewer on the purchase of Clifton Housemaster and to Sara Kliguss on the purchase of Quite Endeavor. I am so excited for both of these horses to find such wonderful homes. I look forward to following and helping these pairs into the future!

It’s Been A Long Time!

So much has happened since I last blogged. I really can’t include everything that we have been up to or everything that’s been running through my mind (yes, Rolex did get me thinking about a lot of things). I do apologize for not being as resilient as I generally am, but I have really enjoyed the quiet time I have spent here at the beautiful Foxlease Farm (our home base in Upperville, Virginia) working with my horses. I really enjoy the day to day training of the horses and connection I feel to them. A good time to think.

First off, I cannot begin to find the right words to express my great sadness in hearing about the fire at TPF. A tragedy like that really puts everything into perspective. And in this time that I have spent thinking and training my horses, it really just made me feel that much more grateful for these wonderful animals that I get to spend everyday with. They are truly my best friends. All of my thoughts and prayers have been going out to the horses and people involved in that tragic night.

My horses have all been fantastic. Arthur has a grass belly and beautiful dapples. Burger is his fantabulous self. He is 13 now and has years of good upper level miles ahead of him. I have very painfully decided that it is now time for him to show someone else the ropes of upper level eventing (check out my sales page). I own him and at this time in my life it seems like the right thing to do — I am gutted by this decision and will probably cry for days when he leaves. Gus, my OTTB, continues to win the award for hardest trying horse of all time. He is rocking at the prelim level, thinking about a move up to Intermediate this year. Jack has been his wonderful self, although we have decided it is time for him to be someones prelim packer (check out the sales page). I have so enjoyed working with Sarah Hughes’s three lovely dutch horses. I felt from the first time that I sat on Murray (Alcatraz) that I was meant to find this horse. He is a bit of a “Cheekey Monkey” at times but I adore him and I feel like he has found a good connection with me. Zeizos, the stunning big Chestnut, has so much heart and try in him. I was so impressed by the effort he made at the Fairhill CIC 2* this spring; he went at the end of the division in the heavy mud and gave a phenomenal effort (Murray was at the beginning of the division, by the time Zeizos went the jumps felt 4 inches higher). Cobra, the 4 yr old, is extraordinary. I love love love producing young horses, especially when I have a blank pallet to work with. He is so athletic and smart — I am beyond excited to see where he ends up. We recently went to the Waredaca YEH competition where he bested the 4 year old class by 5 points! The ponies (Dusty, Ebony and Conor) continue to be the rock of our program. I get such joy from riding and competing these guys. It’s pretty awesome to gallop cross country on a 4 star horse like Arthur, it is equally as fun on a wonderful connemara!

Other exciting things… definitely the girls that work for me! They never allow for a dull moment. They are all fantastic riders and workers, and are great fun to be around. It’s so nice to have such good atmosphere in the barn. Grace Quinn is my head groom. I call her Gracie Lou. Kelly Pugh, my working student, is “California”. Collectively they are Grace Kelly. They are always up to something! My dog, Bodie, now has a Facebook page and seems to be channeling a lot of Grace Kally’s thoughts! They are also trying to complete their much anticipated Smartpak/Haygain rap… I think they are trying to work in more companies but got distracted by how they want the music video produced. Any day now girls! We also have Claire Kelley back for the summer — Claire Bear — another source of endless entertainment!

The biggest summer plans include Rebecca Farms (Arthur in the CIC 3*, Murray and Zeizos in the CCI 2*), GMHA Training & Novice Three Days with the Ponies, and I’m leaning towards Burghley with Arthur. Of Course there are a number of other competitions mixed in there.

Until the next time!!! xx Allison

Burger Doing His Favorite thing at Red Hills

These beautiful photos were just sent to me by Samantha Clark. Also…. thanks, Samantha, for the extra hand at the jog!!

Red Hills!

Yes, the car is great! I’m really excited about that, but what I’m most excited about is how I felt throughout the competition. It was very interesting to read through the USOC sports psychologist’s article on Achieving Execution Mode (which I read after Red Hills) and know that what he describes was exactly how I felt throughout the competition. It is so wonderful to have the partnership that I have with Arthur, to know our strengths and weaknesses, to truly know what I need to do to prepare for our best performance and then go out and do it. I think where I fell short and continually seem to fall short in my performance, I think this might be surprising to most people, is in the dressage. I have the ability with Arthur to blow everyone out of the water in the dressage phase and this is something that I have not done yet. Yes, I do very well in Dressage on this horse, but I haven’t been entering the ring with the same confidence and clarity of thought that I have been in the show jumping on him. He is still probably not as good a show jumper as he is a dressage horse, but I have complete confidence in my system and preparation with him to achieve my best performance in the show jump ring. This is something Katie Prudent has helped me to achieve and I cannot thank her enough for that. I do remember a time when I felt totally lost in the show jump warm up and relied on someone else to guide me through this important stage, I also remember praying on hopefully getting lucky in the ring. Now I know what I need to to to get my best possible performance, and that is all I need to do. I felt no pressure when Boyd jumped clean ahead of me, not because I was certain I was going to jump clean but I was certain that I knew what I needed to do to achieve my best performance. I have only achieved this same feeling in dressage a few times…. these times were EVERYTIME that I have worked with Bettina Hoy at a competition. She is amazing at competitions in recognizing what you have and then getting you to Execution Mode. What I haven’t found with Capt. Markand I definitely need to work on is that key stage of recognizing “the point where an athlete may have to admit their limits,… but still find a way to get the best possible result.” I have a nervous horse, yes I must continue to make him listen to my half halt better and use my half halt more often, but I need to feel totally ready to nail the test and look my very best when I enter the ring. I feel very confident about what I need to do with Arthur in the jumping phases and now have to accomplish this in the dressage phase as well. I also have to get there in all the phases on Burger and the rest of my horses; it sort of happened through my years of hard work with Arthur, I now need to put more effort into thinking about the system I need for my other horses and getting to that execution mode every time.

My Sweet Rides!