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Guest Journal

Some of our Oakhurst Show Team use this page to share their Journal entries – check back to see more of their thoughts!

As some of you may have heard/read I was recently one of the 6 finalists for the Eventing Nation Blogger Contest. With hundreds of original applicants I was honoured to have made it as far as I did in this competitive contest. I was confident in the articles I had written and hoped that I could achieve the glamorous position of a paid blogger for my favorite eventing website. However, I did not achieve this goal. I like to humorously refer to this one month contest period as “The Rise and Fall of my Eventing Nation Career”.

The rise of my Eventing Nation career was super exciting and will forever be a cherished memory. Seeing my name and picture on the front page of the Eventing Nation website gave me goose bumps. However, I must admit the coolest thing that came from this contest was the fact that Ellen Doughty-Hume shared my article on her personal Facebook Page. I was so thrilled to see that a rider I had watched at Rolex this spring agreed with what I had written. I am an amateur adult rider writing about what I believe professional riders should do. It wasn’t exactly like I was speaking from experience!

Tatti & I, Devon Svoboda & Abbigael and Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon ready for the Prelim XC at Robinson HT! Photo by: Ruth Allum
Tatti & I, Devon Svoboda & Abbigael and Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon ready for the Prelim XC at Robinson HT! Photo by: Ruth Allum

The fall of my Eventing Nation career was a bit tough to swallow. When I received the email that I had not been accepted into the next round I was heartbroken. However, after I took a few minutes and a few deep breaths I went back to my computer and read the entire email. Shockingly, I had been asked to continue to send in the occasional blog for their “Bloggers Row” section of Eventing Nation. While I may not be a paid writer, nor will my blog reach thousands, I had still been given an excellent opportunity. I could still write about what I love for a platform that I deeply respected. That is the great thing about the Rise and Falls in life. It’s a continuous cycle. One moment you are falling, and the next? Well you are back on the rise again.

These continuous rise and falls are very well understood by us eventers. As we all know, eventing is an incredibly humbling sport. As one of my teammates told me a few weeks ago “One minute you are in the winner’s circle and the next you are in the water jump”. For example, at Oakhurst Horse Trials a few weekends ago I had a beautiful stadium and cross country round which landed me in 3rd place. This was my first time competing at the Prelim level so it felt as if this was a definite rise of my competitive season. I couldn’t have been happier with my day. The next weekend at Harmony Horse Trials I had a stop on cross country (darn that skinny caught us by surprise) and I had a pretty rough show jump round. Just like that I had another fall in life. This fall then turned into a literal fall at Robinson Horse Trials the next weekend. It was quite the disappointment since I was sitting in 3rd place after a picture perfect cross country. Thank goodness I only came home with a few bruises!

The Oakhurst Team discussing show jump at Robinson Horse Trials. Photo by: Janet van Weringh
The Oakhurst Team discussing show jump at Robinson Horse Trials. Photo by: Janet van Weringh

I feel so lucky that I have experienced so many rise and falls throughout my 22 years. Each rise and each fall has brought me so many new learning experiences. The rise of my Eventing Nation career drove me to improve my writing skills and draw on my passions. The fall of my Eventing Nation career allowed me to create this “Guest Journal” for the Oakhurst Farm website. I think both are pretty awesome!

I challenge you to look at the recent falls in your life and think of ways of turning them into stepping stones for your next rise. Coach Ruth and I began working on quick turns in my lesson leading up to Robinson Horse Trials and I can easily say this is one of the reasons I had such a confident cross country round. After having my real fall this past weekend I can’t wait to see what my next rise will be! Hopefully it comes just in time for the OHTA Championships that is being held at Oakhurst in two weekends! While I may not be riding in the champ division I am sooo ready to tackle another prelim and keep my butt in the tack!

Chelsea Arden, Laura Gravelle & Alexa Bresnahan helpng the ponies cool their heels after brilliant XC rides at Robinson HT. Photo by: Ruth Allum
Chelsea Arden, Laura Gravelle & Alexa Bresnahan helpng the ponies cool their heels after brilliant XC rides at Robinson HT. Photo by: Ruth Allum

Go Eventing….am I still allowed to sign off like this?!

*A huge thank you to Coach Ruth, Helen and Meg for allowing me to steal a week of “Coaches Journal” and another MASSIVE thank you to the entire Oakhurst team (riders, parents, and friends) for supporting me along my EN blogger journey!

This past month has challenged me to find the words to encompass the past 9 years spent at Oakhurst Farm. To be honest I really didnʼt know how I could put into writing what itʼs been like to be a part of this team. They have given me so much knowledge and experience throughout the years. Thank you just doesnʼt seem to be enough for all you have done!

If I could write a letter to myself at the age of 15 it would go something like this…

You will embark on a new adventure into the competitive sport of eventing. Taking your first steps towards your goals. You will be welcomed into Oakhurst Farm and are introduced to some of the most influential people you will have in your life. They will match and entrust you with a horse whom seems to hold other worldly powers. That first cross country lesson will be the start of something so dynamic and wonderful, make sure you take it all in! From that point on you will learn what it takes to win, develop horsemanship skills, enhance your knowledge and love of the sport but most of all it will show you that the partnership between you and your horse is truly a gift.

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There will be curve balls thrown at you even though you are not playing ball! Remember that you can be sure to expect some highs and lows and then when things go bad, you will really appreciate the good times. You will fight to qualify for your first CCI*, achieving the qualification with only a week or two to spare. But the adventure has only just begun as you get so close to achieving a team position at Young Riders only to have narrowly missed out at the second last fence to home. This will become the driving force and speed bump, that will serve to make you even more determined to turn everything in the right direction! Members of your Oakhurst team will fall ill during the summer, and you will realize the strength and purpose in being part of a TEAM. Every person stepped up and did something extra to make it all work until those that were sick were on the mend and life could get back to “normal” or at least as normal as it gets in the wonderful world of eventing!

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You and your fantastic partner “Dino”, will put down one of your best performances in the fall of 2009 at the Kentucky Horse Park, where you not only get to compete on sacred Rolex ground but compete and finish in 4th place, at the last long format CCI* in North America. You will also witness one of the best comebacks that year!

Just a warning to self – not all partnerships last, so it is extremely important to enjoy and appreciate what you have when it is going well and you will always carry these memories with you, but when the time to change your pony partner comes, then you need time to grieve and then pull yourself together so that you are in the right frame of mind to find your new partner. Itʼs not until you sit on a small bay horse named Top Gun that you will feel like you have found your new buddy, and what an interesting pony Ash can be. Challenging might be one of the adjectiveʼs used but for certain he will teach you a lot, some of which you may not be so keen to learn.

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For example how to run into a tree at our own Fall Oakhurst Show (side note- you will never live that down), how to pick yourself up after failing him, the team and yourself at Bromont only to return better than ever thanks to a new style and confidence instilled by Ruth. He will turn into an amazing partner, taking you around your first Intermediate and being such a good boy for putting up with your mistakes. While Ash will teach you a lot and put up with your short comings, you will decide to acquire another horse at the same time, enter stage left….Sonny. For those who may remember this bright chestnut horse that with another partner went on to do great things, he was not called Sonny for his disposition!! He would have been called something else. Perhaps it was because Sonny was as Ruth described him “difficult interspersed with moments of brilliance, that he made Ash appear to be a quiet manageable eventing pony! While Sonny will not be your long term partner he will make you learn how to hang on, so I guess thanks to Sonny, I learned how to be tenacious.

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When one door closes another opens and this door in particular will forever hold a special place in your journey. Baby Blythe as she will be called becomes one of your first successful projects as a trainer. She will give you her heart and all the talent she inhibits. From there you will begin to acquire some catch rides along with yours and feel so honoured that someone trusts you with the thing that matters most to them. Each one of these horses has something to share with you and with the help of Mark and Ruth and a few others in between you will realize each individual animals true potential!

As you continue to grow and develop you will start to realize there is more to offer in the realm of horses. The passion and confidence your mentors and coaches show you influence a decision to begin teaching. Being able to be a small part of someone elseʼs goals and watching them enter that start box for the first time is something that you never thought could be possible. But here you are watching student after student crossing through those finish flags or entering the scary sand box. Subsequently you will stand in the warm up ring along side your peers and role models and watch how they confidently pass along words of advice to their athletes and think how lucky you are to be surrounded by them. These people will become more than just your peers, professors, students and clients. They will make you a better competitor, trainer, student, coach and overall human being.

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Note to self – nothing stays the same including people we meet. While pony partners changed during the last nine years, so did many faces that make up not only my Oakhurst family, but my own family. At 15 your list of accomplishments and resume fall short, but with much luck you will be hired on to work at the farm. Thinking you know how a farm runs, and being no stranger to barn life you quickly discover that statement should be retracted. You will be taught how to drive the orange tractor, work with tools you think are for decoration, paint many things like cross country jumps, stadium fences, dressage rings. Know how to start a whipper snipper? You will. Watch how a sand ring is built, how to put in fence posts and rails, stake, flag, number and decorate cross country jumps, bush hog, the list is endless. Just like the gratitude and appreciation you have for the people who enabled those skills! There will never be enough thank youʼs or coffee.

You will be offered an incredible opportunity within the farm to further yourself as a horsewomen..take it! It will change your life, make you grow, challenge you to work harder, and you will never look back.

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While your list of skills have sharpened so will the list of friends you meet along the way. Some will be working right alongside you day in and out others you may find out on course walks, in warm up rings, riding in lessons with you but they will all find their way into your life and create ever lasting friendships and memories. Always remember to treat others and you wish to be treated and usually it will come back to you, and again, remember to enjoy the time you spend with the people that you are with because someday they may not be around. Listen and learn from them, and you will become a more interesting person. Every person that ever arrived at Oakhurst has a different path that they are on and we each have different goals, but yet we all share the same “family” bond. Some are born into the family, and some are family by choice not by chance!

I will never forget anything about my time spent here. To everyone that has been apart of this journey, you know exactly how I feel in some form or another, these are the people who have celebrated with me, guided me, lifted me up off the ground (literally), laughed with me (well mostly at me), and will continue to be the most important influences that I will take with me as I continue ʻlivinʼ the dreamʼ!

Blair

Below are some more of Blair’s favourite memories from the Oakhurst Team. Click on the pics to see larger versions.

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Emma Richardson & Tatum Nelson- Decorating Leah Vrielings stall with a pic of her "boyfriend"

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“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”
~Maya Angelou

Iʼm the first to admit that itʼs no easy feat waking me up in the morning. Those that know me have been accustomed to my hit snooze and repeat cycle. However, since the days have been gradually getting warmer Iʼve noticed a change in this pattern. I no longer search for the alarm because I am up before it even goes off. Wait, what? Could this be my new normal routine?

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Watching lessons through those ears!

Iʼve heard quite a bit of discussion surrounding the topic of whats ʻnormalʼ. Weʼre all motivated in different ways as equestrians. We have different goals, ambitions, passions. Sometimes we do formulate similar patterns or seemingly feel like weʼre going down the same path but itʼs how we get there sets us apart from one another. Thereʻs more than one route to reach your goal.

Michaela Robinson and Autumn - Enjoying getting to know each other!
Michaela Robinson and Autumn – Enjoying getting to know each other! Photo by Alexa Bresnahan

When youʼre going after a big dream, the road will never be perfect. You will fall down many times, but donʼt let that deter you from going after what you want. Imagine what you could learn from your failures. Think of someone you know who is successful. They failed at one point, but you donʼt remember them for that because their attempt didnʼt end when they failed but when they succeeded!

Buttercup - checking out the world!
Buttercup – checking out the world!

I think there are important notes to take while riding and working with horses. Each horse will have their own idea about a normal routine, what they prefer and need from us.

Whatever their normal is we try and facilitate an environment that encourages them to reach their potential. Keeping in mind that the goal may be similar but how we arrive there will determine our own version of normal.

Jenna Mayhew & Taco enjoying the sun. Photo by Alexa Bresnahan
Jenna Mayhew & Taco enjoying the sun. Photo by Alexa Bresnahan

The normal routine each day has shifted slightly since the arrival of the newest Oakhurst addition ʻButtercupʼ! Potentially more time is spent looking at how cute she is but how could you blame us? She adds an extra bit of colour into our lives everyday.

The past week also witnessed a few bittersweet send offs and welcomed familiar faces back into the barn. I was able to watch countless horse and rider combinations train on home turf.

Whether it was schooling through a dressage test or taking a lesson from one of the coaches the farm seemed to come alive. It was so nice to see everyone out enjoying the rings and establishing their new routine outdoors, beyond the comfort of the four walls inside. Like Helen mentioned last week show season is just over a week away now!

Taya Davison and Kenzi Mitchell enjoying the sunny weekend.
Taya Davison and Kenzi Mitchell enjoying the sunny weekend.

The weekend also saw Mark and Ruth attend the Equine Canada Annual Convention and the Equine Canada 2016 Gala held in Montreal. From the look of things it seemed to go very well! Plenty of discussions within their own boards and committees surrounding equestrian sport and photo evidence of all the incredible moments shared.

Mark Nelson and Ruth Allum represented Ontario and Canadian Eventing at the Equine Canada Annual Convention.
Mark Nelson and Ruth Allum were part of the team awarded the Builder of the Year award for the 2015 Pan Am Games at the Equine Canada Annual Convention. Photo by Ontario Equestrian Federation.

Saturday night was a big deal for Oakhurst Show Team member Kieryn Davison and King Stag (owned by Robin Entwistle)! They took home both the Junior Competitor of the Year award as well as the Champion Event Horse award at the Eastern Canadian Thoroughbred Association annual awards dinner. Congratulations!

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Kieryn Davison and all of the award she and King were awarded at the 2015 Eastern Canadian Thoroughbred Association Annual Awards dinner.

All in all our routines and what we think as normal is so different from anyone else, but I think that’s a positive thing. The common goal may be the same, but how we get there may or may not involve a back road or two!

Thanks for reading,

Blair

Entertainment at the Equine Canada Annual Convention awards Gala.
Entertainment at the Equine Canada Annual Convention awards Gala.

Call me over-optimistic, but with the sun shining today it’s got me thinking – could spring really be here to stay? I anticipate it might be… and if you’re like the OF team, you’re ready to get moving.

Spring is a stimulating time of year. Life in general is really inspiring because the weather is picking up, those who are in school usually feel a bit more optimistic about the year ending in just a few months, and things are slightly more cheerful. It’s time to remember all the things you love about getting outside and being active. And what
better way to do that than by coming up with a list of things we can look forward to?

Here are some signs that I believe indicate spring is in the air:

1. Overnight turnout – guilt free
With the temperatures being more reliable, there is less guilt about turning my ponies out. Plus the added benefit of not having to muck those stalls in the morning allows extra time to clean dirty blankets.

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The sand ring at Oakhurst is visible!

2. Blanket confusion
Speaking of blankets, I can’t count the number of times I have asked someone what their horse is wearing in terms of blankets. Do I go with two layers or just turnout rug or maybe just the rain sheet? So many questions when it comes to horse clothing this time of year.

3. Outdoor rings/XC jumps are visible
No longer do you have to guess where the ring is and think are we ever going to be able to use it again? The sand box is still there awaiting warmer weather to dry up. Cross country jumps have emerged from their hibernation and awakens that pipe dream of endless schooling possibilities!

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4. Clean pony – please stay that way
Once you have cleaned the copious amounts of mud off your horse and realized they still had a sock after all, its only a matter of time before you find this…

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5. What time is it?
With daylight savings time happening a few weeks ago, I’ve recently overheard conversations about what time it was and confusion that it’s still light out. This is a great sign that longer amounts of daylight are coming this way!

6. Packing up
Hand warmers and extra layers are being stored away (fingers crossed). Although I may have missed 6 weeks of winter I can still appreciate the idea of feeling your toes after teaching a lesson or after a ride!

7. Shedding
I sometimes wonder who is covered in more hair after grooming! However, this sign certainly prompts us to think warmer days ahead. My truck on the other hand does not appreciate the extra layer of horse/panda hair.

Beautiful sunset over Oakhurst
Beautiful sunset over Oakhurst

8. Show season
No matter what discipline you participate in, it’s hard not to get excited about putting those first entries in and thinking we are only weeks away now!

9. Staying humble
As I’ve been gently reminded (a few times) since returning home, horses know its spring and are quite enthusiastic to work. They know how exciting life is/will be and I can’t take that for granted.

10. Easter
With the holiday being this past weekend, its a sure sign that spring is here and thankfully delivers us with chocolate, scavenger hunts, long weekends and family time!

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As spring officially strikes here in Ontario I hope everyone can rest easy knowing the best is yet to come. Keep posting those photos on a hack with your horse, your first time riding in the outdoor sand ring or the overall happiness you feel about being back outside!

Until next time,

Blair

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P.S Just in case you were busy with the Easter Bunny over the weekend, here’s a quick summary of the exciting things taking place here at Oakhurst, over the next few weeks.

April 3 – EC Rider Level Clinic (written tests & practical evaluations)
April 10 – English IOB and Comp. Coach Mentoring Clinic

How incredible are friends who make their vacation into a visit to Williston to help groom, play with panda and supply us with endless laughs and support! Thank you Leah & Matt
How incredible are friends who make their vacation into a visit to Williston to help groom, play with panda and supply us with endless laughs and support! Thank you Leah & Matt

The company you keep says a lot about what kind of person you want to be. These people mould you into the person you hope to become and are usually ones whom you look up to. This speaks volumes to me as the people and animals I surround myself with have my upmost respect and admiration.

Monday Lessons
Monday Lessons

Itʼs unbelievable to think that these people in my life, even 2,000 km away can still play such a vital role in shaping my character. I can still hear Ruth asking about how my horses and I are, making sure weʼre okay, Mark asking me if I want coffee in the morning-still a no thanks, Meg laughing about one of us almost slipping on the ice, Helen making sure everything is up to date and excited about a new clinic or theory course, Joan staying on top of things happening around the farm, students and parents always coming into the barn with a smile (and sometimes treats) saying hello! Its safe to say Iʼve made more than just friends at the farm, I consider everyone family.

Welcome!
Welcome!

From North to South Iʼve made the realization its equally as important to find people down here whom I can look up to and push me to be better. Everyday thereʼs an opportunity to watch and compete against some of greatest athletes and horsemen in our sport in North America. Iʼve had the opportunity to travel to HITS and watch the Grand Prix on Sundayʼs, watch some of the training camps, school cross country almost every week, watch and learn how to handle the daily task of showing sales horses and enjoy being  part of this diverse world. Iʼve learned a lot so far this trip and have worked through MANY post performance analysis sheets but Iʼm super proud of these horses and look forward to the last few weeks!

Tig & Africa after schooling at Longwood.
Tig & Africa after schooling at Longwood.

Much has happened since the start of my trip including; cross country schooling and show jump class at Longwood, lessons, Ocala HT, visits from friends back home, babysitting, more xc schooling, Rocking Horse Winter II, Longwood again, and most recently Three Lakes HT.

Stadium at Three Lakes HT.
Stadium at Three Lakes HT.

Three Lakes Horse Trials was held this past weekend at Caudle Ranch, just over an hour drive from home base here in Williston. The event ran beginner novice up to the preliminary level, having different divisions competing in a one day horse show either Saturday or Sunday. I competed on the Sunday, which gave me plenty of time to prepare. Itʼs a beautiful location, 3 dressage rings with ample space to warm up.

Three Lakes HT, fence number 1
Three Lakes HT, fence number 1

Stadium is nestled in these beautiful big trees, and the cross country course had you galloping beside these impressive large bodies of water with well constructed fences that incorporated the use of many natural logs. Then winded you through a forest with trees much like youʼd see at Southern Pines all while managing some terrain! I was super impressed with the event and will definitely have it on my radar for years to come.

Fence 6 on beginner novice course at Three Lakes HT.
Fence 6 on beginner novice course at Three Lakes HT.

When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it was me with a dream of having horses and a barn. However, as an adult I understand being an equestrian is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have achieved the goals you set by yourself.

Three Lakes HT - Fence 7
Three Lakes HT – Fence 7

See yʼall soon,

Blair

Three Lakes galloping view.
Three Lakes galloping view.

PS. I look forward to seeing videos and pictures of the drill team performances this weekend! Good luck!

Visited Manatee Springs!
Visited Manatee Springs!
HITS Grand Prix ring
HITS Grand Prix ring

Two drivers, two horses, one dog and a GPS, left Oakhurst Farm Friday January 29th at 6:15am. After loading the horses (huge thanks to Megan who helped load) we were on our way to the border. Arrived at 7:50am and cleared through in less than an hour. I find this one of the bigger stresses of the trip but once we made it through, I took a deep breath and buckled down for the remaining 23 hours-give or take.

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Oakhurst treats come in handy at 3:00AM!

Weather in New York state was inconsistent with blowing snow and wind but we really had great weather heading down! A couple of things happen and are necessary on long drives – XM radio has our favourite pre sets-I love the disney channel while others may find Howard Stern, Dr. Jen or the 70ʼs a better option, plenty of snacks and drinks, pillow/blanket, and plenty of conversations about what I hope to accomplish and goals for both horses while Iʼm down here.

Half way there!
Half way there!

Florida Ag Station meant only 2 more hours but every stop we made included; watering ponies, restocking hay nets, diesel, bathroom break and coffee for the adult (mom). I canʼt say thank you enough to my mom who took time off work to help with the drive but I was lucky to have her there!

Georgia on my mind...
Georgia on my mind…

I arrived at Keith Robinsonʼs farm in Williston at 7:15am with two tired but healthy horses.  After 25 hours total driving the horses were very happy to get off the trailer and into a lovely box stall to have a roll and relax after the long trip. While the horses settled in we unpacked the trailer. Once things were organized we headed out for some breakfast and run a few errands including picking up our camper/mansion. Only need one new tire on the camper and had a good clean out but happy to have a home for the next 6 weeks!

Main barn and camper life.
Main barn and camper life.

Both horses were quite enthusiastic the first couple days but weʼve ALL started to find our groove again. Working on having both of them relaxed and rideable as we look ahead to some lessons and xc/jump schooling before Africa and I compete at Ocala HT Feb 12-14th!

Unpacked!
Unpacked!

As I sit here looking out my camper window watching the impressive sun set over Keithʼs farm in Williston, Iʼm feeling very appreciative that I just spent the day riding horses and caring for them. I feel very fortunate to consider this my work.

Africa & Tig - Happy to be here!
Africa & Tig – Happy to be here!

I feel very excited for the next 6 weeks, to focus on my riding and training of these horses. It was so nice to bathe both horses today and spend a little extra time with them. This is a wonderful opportunity to further my knowledge, sharpen skills, and learn more about the business.

View from my camper/bedroom window! Hello ponies!
View from my camper/bedroom window! Hello ponies!

That being said its a very big change for me to be in Florida without the physical presence of Oakhurst. Missing everyone and ponies back home, I feel the support here, thank you for that! I have left three of my horses behind but appreciate everyone who is looking after their well being.

Florida Sunset!
Florida Sunset!

Hope everyone is ready for the show team meeting February 14th! Its the first show meeting I have missed since becoming a team member in 2007.

All the best,

Blair

PS. I have yet to have a blooming onion but Iʼm working on it!

Welcome to 2016 everyone! Itʼs finally upon us once again, a new year full of new beginnings. I am so excited about all the wonderful and exciting opportunities this leap year might bring. I was thankfully reminded by my grandma that 2016 is in fact a leap year. That means we technically have one extra day to do good things, to follow through on something we promised ourselves we’d accomplish, but most importantly, it’s one extra day to be with the people and animals we care about!

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Oakhurst Show Team 2015

Saturday January 2nd marked my eighth consecutive Oakhurst team awards party. Thinking back to my very first experience attending the awards party in 2007, I can vividly remember how incredibly included I felt and how welcoming everyone was. Being the ʻnewbyʼ I was taken back with how much detail and creativeness was present throughout the evening. From our custom year end awards, to the endless amounts of Oakhurst original take home gifts, to the extremely thoughtful and unique year end video! I left feeling so fortunate to be part of this team. Inspired by the horses, riders and coaches whom I had watched on the video, I could only have imagined working towards the dedication and standard they set. They became my examples of success, horsemanship and passion.

The Oakhurst Drill Team 2015
The Oakhurst Drill Team 2015

As I leap forward to 2016, viewing the ever growing team of blue and yellow sitting in front of me at the Glen Mar, I have a whole new appreciation and humbleness. The success I achieved this season individually seems so small in comparison to seeing the overall achievements we accomplished as a team. Comprised of equestrians of all ages and disciplines, competitive or non-competitive, coaches, parents, officials, volunteers and support squad. Most of which I barely recognized out of barn/riding attire 🙂

The Oakhurst Family Gift - Custom made Oakhurst Jump Standards made by Dylan Barry.
The Oakhurst Family Gift – Custom made Oakhurst Jump Standards made by Dylan Barry.

Beyond the amazing food, M&Mʼs and coasters, watching everyone collect their individual, team/group and outstanding achievement awards was a true highlight of the night. But we canʼt forget about the butterfly feeling we have in our stomachs in anticipation before watching the year end video and trying to guess which amazing, hilarious, or embarrassing (I had so many to choose from) photos Ruth will use-makes it the pinnacle of my year!

The Oakhurst Dressage Team 2015
The Oakhurst Dressage Team 2015

Thank you Oakhurst for continuing to be make each year unforgettable, Helen and Emma for creating a book of all our 2015 journal entries and to everyone for their generous contributions towards the Oakhurst gift! Congratulations to everyone on all your hard work this past year! Letʼs make 2016 even better #goals.

Whether your leaping, galloping, prancing, or simply trying to stay on I wish you all the best for the new year!

Blair

5,4,3,2,1… Counting those numbers down out loud still gives me chills/anticipation/excitement! The start box has the ability to create magic moments and help us push our individual boundaries. As eventers we hear that countdown entering the start box but what about countdowns in life? Here are some incredible moments Iʼm ready to start counting down to.

5 has become one of my favourite and cherished memories so far this year! 05.05.15 was the day I was introduced to Alice (my foal). The countdown to her arrival was anticipated for many months. As I look her progression from one month to the next it amazes me how quickly time goes by. I hold on to that feeling excitement and relief knowing she made her arrival into this world so smoothly. I countdown to the day when I get to finally add her to my string of competitive ponies!

High Five (Alice) born on May 05, 2015 (05/05/15)
High Five (Alice) born on May 05, 2015 (05/05/15)

4 exciting things happening around the farm over the next little while. Beginning with the Mental Training Workshops, followed by the Oakhurst Dueling Drill Team Performance, Oakhurst awards party (woohoo) and finally the EC Rider Level Education Sessions. When people ask me what I do during the ʻoff seasonʼ I tell them at the farm we are really never turned off! Organized fun, as Ruth would say it keeps us athletes motivated during the months of mandatory pants on pants and giant snowball filled hooves.

3 degrees celsius on December eighth, who would have guessed that we would be counting up the thermometer instead of watching that red line drop below freezing? I can only hope for continued mild temperatures as we countdown the remaining days of winter. Thank you El Nino! Three also becomes the number of weeks until one of our most cherished countdowns, Christmas! Who doesnʼt love those chocolate advent calendars, marking each day with a delicious treat. It also reminds us of all the pony things and people we have our on list to buy for.

Coach Ruth Allum, Jenna Mayhew, Kristin McLaren, Megan Jenner and Zoe Richardson proudly displaying their awards from the OADG Dressage Banquet!
Coach Ruth Allum, Jenna Mayhew, Kristin McLaren, Megan Jenner and Zoe Richardson proudly displaying their awards from the OADG Dressage Banquet!

2 more banquets left for team Oakhurst after the dressage team attended the OADG (Ottawa Area Dressage Group) annual awards banquet held at the Hellenic Centre this past weekend. They brought home some serious hardware to encompass all their hard work and dedication throughout the 2015 season. Awards received by Oakhurst team members included:

  • OADG Special Cash award for highest 3 scores overall – Silver AA : Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale
  • Walk/Trot Horse Open – 3rd: Megan Jenner & Malibu Barbie
  • Walk/Trot Rider PW/JR – 3rd: Zoe Richardson & Nike
  • Silver First Level AA – Champion: Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale
  • Silver Second Level AA – Champion: Kristin McLaren & Panamerra
  • Silver Third Level AA – Champion: Kristin McLaren & Panamerra
  • OADG Award of Merit for Silver Dressage: Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale
  • And coach Ruth Allum emceed the Silver awards!
Coach Ruth Allum and her doorprize - a basket full of Avon creams and lotions!
Coach Ruth Allum and her doorprize – a basket full of Avon creams and lotions!

Congratulations to all members of the Oakhurst team who represented themselves and the farm so graciously. Although I did not attend myself I was happy to receive many photos and updates from the girls!

Jenna Mayhew and her doorprize - a gigantic christmas ornament!
Jenna Mayhew and her doorprize – a gigantic Christmas ornament!

1 last blog post for 2015 and in some ways a little nostalgic looking back at what the year has brought me. When the idea of blogging was first presented, I was a little intimidated to say the least. However, looking back Iʼm glad we were encouraged to do so because it has allowed us to reflect on so many fond memories shared between all of us this year.

Countdowns in life, much like in the start box, are equally as compelling and wonderful. Whether your countdown is number of days left before Christmas vacation, number of days left before a trip to a warmer climate (Florida), or simply the number of sleeps left before Santaʼs big day, enjoy the countdown!

Until next time,

Blair

The off season gives us equestrians the chance to partake in activities outside the realm of our everyday horsey chores and routines. This past weekend I travelled to Toronto for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair! I know, I know this off season adventure still involved horses (goats, cows, pigs, etc.) but I have a hard time completely getting away from anything to do with animals.

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The Royal is nothing short of a mini ʻDisneyʼ experience for animal lovers. Itʼs personally one of my favourite autumn traditions, which I was introduced to as a 12 year old 4H member showing in the dairy cattle ring. Since then, Iʼve been almost every year and have worked out a system that involves eating an infamous Rosti Potato (maybe two), followed by a trip to see the livestock exhibits, buying a ticket to watch the indoor horse shows and enjoying the endless amounts of shopping available.

Cute animal photo ops. Cheryl Denault and Turbo the subway riding, stock exchange opening goat was trying to eat her fudge!
Cute animal photo ops. Cheryl Denault and Turbo the subway riding,
stock exchange opening goat was trying to eat her fudge!

With a large trade fair expanding the entirety of the exhibition hall, thereʼs no shortage of booths to catch your attention. These booths not only have that must buy item for your horse but includes many outside vendors supplying shoppers with plenty of Ontario goodness. You may even bump into some celebrities-enter Amber Marshall from Heartland! The OEF booth offered this exclusive opportunity to meet Amber, which drew in many kids and adults (no names mentioned).

Rosti Potato
Rosti Potato

The agricultural fair also offers programs with a focus on local food, agri-education and competitions. You could take in a show at the Animal Theatre featuring more than just Super Dogs. The mini arena offers equestrian demos and clinics with well known Canadian riders from different disciplines rotating throughout the fairʼs two week duration. I think its a great oppourtunity for people who live in the city to experience the country. The amount of agricultural education and exposure is huge. It welcomes the next generation to participate in all things animal, farm, and country.

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I was able to attend the horse show both Friday and Saturday night in the Ricoh Coliseum. Friday night included two hackney single lady driver classes, all breed four horse hitch of mares, Canadian Show Jump Championship, mini chuckwagon races-so cute, and round one of the Indoor Eventing class. Saturday night was an extension of Friday starting with the conclusion of the Indoor eventing class won by 8 time winner Waylon Roberts. Followed by the mini chuckwagon races, and the final Canadian Championship won by Jill Henselwood. It was fun to be there and watch as a spectator.

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Not just at the show each night but we also ventured through the horse barn and into one of the warm up rings. The chance to watch some of our countries best equestrian athletes ride up close was incredible.

nov10pic8I would have to say the mini chuckwagon races stole the show both nights. I think everything mini is just cuter, but exciting to watch nonetheless! We definitely were placing our bets as to who we thought would take home the win, partly based on which ponies we thought looked more competitive. Who’s up for some mini racing this winter?

Phil better start prepping now.

nov10pic9Whether you attended the Royal, spent time in meetings held at the Royal York or attended Jump Canadaʼs Hall of Fame gala, Toronto became the hub of equestrian activity this past weekend! I had so much fun and it was in large part because of the people I travelled with and friends I was able to catch up with while in Toronto. It was an adventure Iʼll be sure to remember. Canʼt wait till next year!

nov10pic11Thanks for reading,

Blair

PS. Happy Birthday shout out to Eric (Carlos) Nelson who turns 14 today!

 

I think its safe to say most of us have gotten over our inevitable ʻturkey comasʼ from this past weekend. Or maybe weʼre still feeling the lingering effects of that extra piece of pie (guilty)? Either way Thanksgiving is a holiday intended for family, food and to give thanks.

Here are thirteen fundamental things (not necessarily in order) that I feel grateful for not only at Thanksgiving but everyday!

1. My family- Its made up of so many different groups of people who also support and encourage us! I have family in my relatives, my barn family, my horse family, my close friends, and I am thankful for each one of those families. For in the safety, acceptance and loyalty of my family I am inspired to follow my dreams and goals as an equestrian.

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2. Horses- Letʼs be honest –is there anything about horses that we arenʼt thankful for? My horses are my family as well. They teach me about patience and consistency and never pass judgment. For most of us its that connection we make when we see our horse. They are who I see everyday and spend the most time with. I know they are always there to offer what ever is needed in that moment.

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3. Panda (most days)- Theres an unwritten law that horse people love dogs! From ʻhelpingʼ me teach to entertaining us on the 24hour drive to florida, I can confidently say that everyday with Panda is an adventure! Always so happy to be there he loves to greet you outside, in the barn, in a car and occasionally in your locker.

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4. Coaching- I have had the privilege over the past eight years to not only be taught by but also work with one of Canadaʼs top Eventing Coaches. From day one Ruth has been a constant pillar of confidence and support. Her coaching ability and passion inspired me to become a certified coach, which has led me to even more opportunities within this industry. I am so fortunate to have three certified coaches (Ruth, Helen & Meg) who empower and share knowledge with me everyday. Coaches who explain and teach in such a way that every one of their students can go home and recreate it-AWESOME.

5. Hot Chocolate- Yes that’s right, I am still a child at heart! Who needs coffee when you can get warmed up with some hot coco? All that sugar can get me out of bed on a cold day and realize it increases my production at work 🙂 I look forward to the colder days knowing that some of our barn fairies deliver and spoil us with some hot chocolate!

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6. Pony Pals- We share that common thread, passion, and excitement for all things horsey. They are the friends weʼve laughed with, shared experiences that no one would believe, memories that can never be forgotten and friendships that will last a lifetime. These are the people who will understand and accept that your vehicle has that eau dʼhorse smell or that new winter blanket purchase. I canʼt imagine not sharing these pony adventures without you.

7. Goals- As a coach, trainer and athlete I have only benefitted from having goals. Goals and goal setting has been built into the foundation here at Oakhurst. Our SMART goals allow us to push our own boundaries and achieve what we may feel is impossible.

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8. Turkey- On my plate! It was bound to appear sooner than later. As many of you know I am terrified by birds, however when it comes to turkey time I am more than happy to partake in the festivities. In all seriousness, turkey is great and so are my family members who organize, cook, bake and host for Thanksgiving.

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9. Eventing- Although I started my career in the hunter ring, it was eventing that stole my heart. Collectively between the adrenaline of cross country, horsemanship, highs and lows, partnership of horse & rider and friendships made along the way I canʼt think of a better sport. I have learned a lot about myself through my participation in eventing and am thankful to be a part of it.

10. Horse coolers- Not only are they helpful in the aid of drying our horses after a workout but they also double as a blanket for those cold horse show days, clinic watching or extra throw on our bed!

11. Training- I have been very lucky over the past years to work and learn from many equine athletes. All of which have taught me invaluable lessons in the arena and in life. There is nothing quite like starting a young/green horse from the beginning and being a part of their journey as they develop and watching them turn into the athlete and competitor you knew they could be.

12. Fall XC Schooling- We were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to cross country school at Harmony (Beaulieu Farm) this past Saturday. Ruth and Mark drove the 5 horse trailer with Jag (Tate), Abigail (Devon), Sox (Emma), Kip (Jenna) and Africa (myself) to explore and school one last time this season. We also had Elyse Howat and Janan Steward join us, to take part in all the fun. The weather turned out great for us and the footing felt great. It was great to have the atmosphere of being off property, new terrain, new partnerships to test the water (sort of speak) and the chance for some to redeem ourselves. Thank you to Ruth, Mark, Helen and the organizers for allowing us to have this opportunity!

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13. Oakhurst- Last but not least thank you to Oakhurst Farm. For giving so many of us a positive start in equestrian sport, for leading by example and working under your tutelage has given many (including myself) the foundation to start their own business. Having the opportunity to learn and work in a facility like Oakhurst has furthered our long term equestrian development. As I continue to work towards my own dreams and endeavors I know I can rely on my mentors for support and guidance (as Iʼve always come to know).

What are you thankful for?

Blair

 

Today was another early morning for all of us dressage riders at CIEC, and I swear there was frost on the ground when I took Kip out for a walk to stretch his legs. I had to break out my down vest in addition to my sweater and jacket; people who know me will understand that I am rarely cold, so this morning was definitely chilly! The sun eventually warmed things up, although many riders started out their warmups with coolers or quarter sheets. Once again, I was the third rider within Team Ontario’s rotation so I was able to take advantage of the (slightly) warmer weather. It turned into a nice afternoon for the jumpers and reiners, and tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather than we’ve had over the past few days; anyone who attended the Ottawa Horse Trials earlier this month can attest to that!
Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale on their way to earning a 68% in their First Level Test 3 on Day 2 of Competition at the CIEC's.
Jenna Mayhew and Kinsale on their way to earning a 68% in their First Level Test 3 on Day 2 of Competition at the CIEC’s. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Team Ontario had another fantastic day in dressage to take over second place heading into the final day of competition tomorrow. Kendra and Sasha took the early lead after the first rotation and ended up earning another third place ribbon for their consistency. Next up was Devlin and Cinnabun, who put in a great test to improve on their score from yesterday by almost 5% – good enough for fifth place at the conclusion of today’s session. Our final pair, Morgan and Raindancer, put in a solid performance for fifteenth place out of 24 riders.
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Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale under the watchful eye of the judge at “C” Anne Galt in their test at CIEC’s today. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
I was very happy with how Kip performed today in our first attempt at First Level Test 3 at CIEC. He was comfortable in the ring and because of that I was able to show off his gaits a little bit more than yesterday. We have a couple specific movements to practice tomorrow in warmup in hopes of an even better score, but overall he was very rideable and focused today. I’m riding in the anchor position tomorrow so I would really like to do my absolute best for the team!
Our jumpers and reiners had a good day in their classes today, with Cydney Pavan placing 3rd on her mare Gabrielle in the jumper speed class and Gail Gimpelj placing 5th on Boomin Whiz in Pattern #6. Combined results at the end of the day put our Jumpers in 4th place and our Reiners in 3rd place, and Ontario is in second place with all three disciplines combined.
Jenna Mayhew and Coach Ruth Allum - Teamwork making the Dream Work. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Jenna Mayhew and Coach Ruth Allum – Teamwork making the Dream Work.
Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Tomorrow will be an action packed day with the schedule tightened up to allow time in the afternoon for mounted awards and photo ops. Ontario drew the number 6 position for dressage; as the final rider, my ride time will likely be around 11:15am. Come out and cheer for Team Ontario!
Until next time,
Jenna & Kip
Alarm goes off at 5am – must be a show day! Day 3 of CIEC was the first of three days of competition for all disciplines. Dressage kicked things off from 8am-11am, followed by show jumping from 12pm-1pm, and finally reining from 1:30pm-4pm. It was an action-packed day right from the start as Ontario drew the number 2 position for Dressage, meaning that our first rider was in the ring at 8:08am. Kendra Wheeler and her Gypsy Vanner mare, Sasha, rode a very professional test to earn a great score of 65.625% for Team Ontario! Our second rider, Devlin Abergel-Preston on the adorable roan pony Cinnabun, followed up with a score of 61.875%.
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC's. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC’s.
Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Kip and I were the third pair for Ontario with a ride time of 10:07am. We gave ourselves enough time to have a 30-35 minute warmup as it was quite chilly this morning. I think we’ll be using a quarter sheet tomorrow if this weather keeps up! I was very happy with how Kip warmed up and how he performed during the test. He can get tense and distracted so it is sometimes a struggle to manage him in a new environment, especially with the cooler weather making all the horses feel fresher than normal. He was certainly aware that he was in the show ring, but it worked to our advantage for the most part. There are a couple movements that I would like to smooth out for tomorrow, but I think today’s test was a very good starting point.
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC's.  Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC’s.
Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Our final rider was Morgan Bordillon on Raindancer, a lovely palomino mare who has the same sire as Daisy! She rode a very nice test for a score of 63.828% and was our top placed junior rider. Her score combined with Kendra’s (our highest placed senior rider of the day) propelled Team Ontario into 3rd place, five points behind New Brunswick and Quebec (who are tied for 1st place).
Tomorrow and Sunday we ride through First Level Test 3 which is considered the more difficult of the two tests because of a couple different movements that are designed to gently prepare riders and horses for the expectations of Second Level. I’m hoping that Kip will feel comfortable in the environment so that I am able to iron out the little kinks and ride a very forward and accurate test.
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale after performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC's.  Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale after performing their first Dressage Test at CIEC’s.
Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography
This afternoon I was able to watch our jumpers and reiners earn some pretty spectacular results! Junior jumper Faith Bell jumped clear in the Welcome Class to proceed to the immediate jump-off and came away with 2nd place overall, and Senior rider Nikki Snazel on Askari were close behind in 4th place. High placings for those two riders enabled Team Ontario’s jumpers to sit in first place at the end of the first day of competition!
Jenna Mayhew and Kip celebrating their 4th place (out of 24 competitors) finish after their first Dressage Test at CIEC's!
Jenna Mayhew and Kip celebrating their 4th place (out of 24 competitors) finish after their first Dressage Test at CIEC’s!
The reiners closed out the day in the indoor arena with some very boisterous crowds! Unlike dressage, fans are encouraged to cheer loudly for their favourites in reining. The number of times I heard people shout “Oh Yeah!” is too many to count. It kept reminding me of the Kool-Aid commercials! I did clap and cheer for our Ontario riders, especially Jorie Prow who scored a 135.500 for 3rd place in a field full of talented riders.
With all disciplines combined, Team Ontario is sitting in second place at the end of the first day of competition. We’re all looking forward to getting back in the ring tomorrow to chase down first placed Team Quebec!
Until next time,
Jenna & Kip
Our second official day on site at Wesley Clover Parks began bright and early (actually it was so early that it wasn’t even bright out!) because Team Ontario’s dressage ring familiarization began at 7am. Team member Morgan Bordillon and I had to sneak through the fence at 6am because the gates were padlocked shut! It certainly made for an interesting way to start the day, but the horses were happy to see us no matter how we got there!

During this morning’s session we were coached by Team Ontario’s dressage coaches, Tom Dvorak and Simone Williams. To receive coaching from individuals who have competed at the highest levels of the sport is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and one that I have been looking forward to ever since it was announced that I had been selected for the team. Tom and Simone both have a wealth of knowledge from years spent perfecting their technique on young horses through to Grand Prix. I am eager to learn as much as possible from them over the next few days, and I am sure that Ruth would agree!

Jenna and Kip having an early morning lesson from Tom Dvorak and Simone Williams.
Jenna and Kip having an early morning lesson from Tom Dvorak and Simone Williams.
After the dressage and jumping riders finished up with their schooling, Team Ontario had a quick morning meeting to discuss the day’s upcoming events. While I attended the meeting, Kip was braided by super groom Cheryl Denault – something that would come in handy later on! A huge part of the competition revolves around the care and presentation of your horse and I am so lucky to have a team of experienced professionals assisting with all aspects of our preparation.

Because the horse inspection wasn’t scheduled to start until 1:30pm, a group of us went to support our Reining contingent while they did their ring familiarization. I was hoping to be able to watch one of the full patterns, but suddenly I received notification that the horse inspection had been moved up to 11am! At this point it was already past 10am so we raced back to stabling to put the finishing touches on Kip (and to get myself looking halfway decent). Many people were frantically throwing some braids into their horses’ manes and scrubbing white patches and socks as quickly as possible. Ontario was the first province to present their horses to the veterinarian so we really had to hustle to get everyone ready. With all hands on deck we even managed to squeeze in a quick practice jog before heading over to do the real thing. Kip was very well behaved and we passed without any issues! He seems very comfortable with the venue; fingers crossed he keeps this kind of attitude when the competition starts tomorrow!
Jenna presenting Kip at the first Horse Inspection at CIEC's today.
Jenna presenting Kip at the first Horse Inspection at CIEC’s today.
We had a couple of hours to relax in the afternoon before we needed to get organized for the Opening Ceremonies. Our team colour is red so we definitely stood out in the crowd! After some team photos, we began the procession into the Grand Prix ring. As Ontario is hosting CIEC this year we were also responsible for carrying the Canadian flag in addition to our Ontario flag. After a welcome address by the President of Equine Canada, Al Patterson, and a very motivational speech by Jason Surnoski, a Long-Listed Canadian Para-Dressage rider, the 2015 Canadian Interprovincial Equestrian Championships were officially declared open!

A dinner/reception followed the Opening Ceremonies, but with another early morning ahead we didn’t stay too long. Kip got tucked in for the night with strict instructions to review all of his prancing moves in preparation for our test tomorrow. Team Ontario drew the number 2 position for Friday morning’s session, and I was selected as our third rider of the day. Our test is scheduled for 10:07am; if you can’t watch it live, there will be livestreaming of both dressage and show jumping on the CIEC website  (http://www.cec-en.ca) with dressage starting at 8am and show jumping at 11am.

Until next time,

Jenna & Kip
Today, September 23rd, marks the first of five days I will spend at Wesley Clover Parks along with the rest of Team Ontario for the 2015 Canadian Interprovincial Equestrian Championships (CIEC). Ontario has a full squad of 12 rider/horse combinations – teams of four riders for each of the three CIEC disciplines of Dressage, Show Jumping and Reining. We are led by Chef d’Equipe Mark Nelson, the OEF’s Brandon Hall and Angelique Homan, and our wonderful Team Coaches – Tom Dvorak and Simone Williams (Dressage), Rick Bishop and Andrea Bellamy (Show Jumping), and Joanne Milton (Reining). Many individual athlete coaches are attending as well, and I am so extremely fortunate to have Ruth Allum guiding me through this journey. My partnership with Kip would not have come this far without Ruth’s unwavering support, and I hope that we can do her proud this week!
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Coach Ruth Allum, Jenna Mayhew and the OEF’s Angelique Homan setting up the Team Ontario meeting space at CIEC’s.
The official competition does not begin until Friday, but there is plenty to do beforehand! Today was all about getting the horses settled and setting up our various tack rooms/meeting places. I’m definitely biased, but I think our display is going to be hard to beat! Brandon and Angelique brought OEF stall curtains to decorate our stalls and our meeting room (which also doubles as the coffee room – I know where to look for Ruth in the morning!). We also put together a rustic fall display at the end of our shedrow with flowers, pumpkins, oak barrels, a bench, and even a cedar fence! I have to say that initially I had no idea why Mark wanted to go out and cut down a bunch of cedar planks to bring with us, but I think we can all agree that it really sets the tone of the display.
Kip and I had a brief ride in the dressage warm-up ring this afternoon just to stretch his legs and get him exposed to one of the rings we’ll be using for the rest of the week. He was very good, especially considering that we had reining horses practicing right across from us! I don’t think he noticed, but I definitely did. I was able to see a couple of sliding stops and even a spin! I’m looking forward to learning more about the discipline later this week when the competition kicks off.
Jenna & Kip schooling in the practice ring at Wesley Clover Park - Day 1 of CIEC's.
Jenna & Kip schooling in the practice ring at Wesley Clover Park – Day 1 of CIEC’s.
Tomorrow will start bright and early for the dressage riders as our ring familiarization runs from 7-8:30am. Then it’s time to get our horses looking their best for the horse inspection in the afternoon, followed by the Opening Ceremonies and Reception in the evening.
Until next time,
Jenna & Kip

It’s that time of year again! Big yellow buses (and some mini vans) are heading down the road to pick up many anxious and excited students. Back to school ads are all over the radio and the tv, the mornings are noticeably cooler, and our last entries for the 2015 show season are being mailed.. I’m always amazed at how fast the time goes by.

In looking back, I realize that this was a summer of assessment and sharing our individual experiences as equestrians. Stories of our experiences are how we pass on the wisdom, life lessons, and compassion we have gained in our lifetime working with horses to the next generation of equine enthusiasts. They inspire us, connect us to something bigger than ourselves, give meaning to the twist and turns of life, and encourage our passion.

I have learned these lessons from watching Ruth, Mark, Helen, Joan and Meg. They have all had an impact on how OUR summer season ran. We have been fortunate to experience many levels of our sport. From the local Silver/ESD Dressage shows, to Upper Canada Derby’s, Pan Am games, and horse trials all over Ontario and Quebec. We can reflect on many positive and fundamental experiences thanks to them.

Sept8Pic3With that being said, a large majority of the success we witnessed this summer was in large part a reflection of how YOU the competitors, volunteers, parents, and support team mirrored the nuggets of wisdom and advice shared by your coaches and one another. We had many new faces (both human and horse) join our team this summer and familiarized ourselves with those partnerships that far surpassed the initial goal of surviving!

It has often been said that ‘the horse is a mirror to oneself, a reflection of who we truly are’. There is much truth to this simple statement. Horses are very sensitive, intuitive, and instinctive beings who communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly through body language.

Would that mean our own thoughts and feelings are reflected equally in the way we carry ourselves?

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I think most of us can relate to a time in which we had a great day, and had the ride where we add 🙂 to our daily training log! Or, we may have had a bad day and conversely, had a ride that left us feeling a little deflated. Sometimes unintentionally, our personal dilemmas are mirrored into our ride as soon as we enter the arena!

However, what I’ve always loved about riding is that no matter what has happened during that day I can always leave it at the mounting block before I get on. As soon as I’m in the saddle I’m in the present, thinking about nothing aside from how my ride is going (for better or worse)- except on those rare occasions when your dog decides to make himself known ‘Oh Panda’..

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So the summer is over, I will look back on the times spent learning, memories made, stories that will make me laugh (mostly at myself) and sharing this passion with friends, mentors, peers and family.

Here’s to the remainder of the 2015 season!

What is your greatest memory of the summer?

Blair

 

It wasnʼt that long ago.. almost two years to be exact that I began looking for a new project. Her name was Africa, a small chestnut filly with a lot of personality. We have only just begun to fill the introductory pages of our adventure together I thought I would share how our journey first began. What is it they say about chestnut mares again?

I first caught a glimpse of the three year old mare in mid July of 2013, my initial response was, to be honest, sheʼs a chestnut mare. As a resale project not necessarily the easiest to market. Like most humans we all have our superstitions, like Friday the 13th or wearing a certain pair of socks during playoff season. In the horse world some may think of beware of the chestnut mare.

Aug11Pic6After a couple months of unsuccessful searching I found myself making the 4.5 hour drive back to Sutton, Quebec. This time I was able to watch the horse under saddle and was able to sit on her. Most people will tell you that you canʼt tell right away that this horse will work but after three minutes of walk and trot I knew deep down that this was a horse I wanted to work with and learn from. What an incredible athlete, she had a presence about her, strong, athletic, and elegant.

She left me feeling excited and after making the purchase I came to realize how much work and training was going to be involved. I knew that I had an amazing athlete in my string of horses but like most athletes she was an individual.

She is an embryo foal, out of Colleen Loachʼs 3* mount ʻFreespiritʼ owned by the Barry family and sired by Charleston Liberator. With all the potential comes attitude and power. We are always in need of balance, in need of things to go not so perfect so we can truly appreciate the good days. After my first jumping lesson with Africa, I knew I had never sat on something as athletic and talented. But there was going to be a long road ahead.

Horses are amazing athletes!

Kristin McLaren and her little red mare Panamerra on the Cross Country course at Harmony HT.
Kristin McLaren and her little red mare Panamerra on the Cross Country course at Harmony HT.

Within our sport of three day eventing the Triathlon of equestrian sports its important that we look at our partners as athletes. Take opportunities to learn from one another. She began her eventing career at the Entry level in July 2014 and has recently moved up to the Training level this July. As I continue to learn and understand what makes her tick, here are some things (so far) that Iʼm grateful to her for teaching me:

  1. How to warm up on any terrain that doesnʼt involve other oncoming horses
  2. Although she may not be the most friendly with other horses she loves any human affection and attention
  3. NOT all hacks are for relaxing, sometimes theyʼre meant to sharpen my stickability skills
  4. Your fears (birds) can be passed on to your equine partner unintentionally
  5. Butterflies can spark temper tantrums
  6. Giving me my confidence back in the show jump ring
  7. Just because we have seen this fence before doesnʼt mean I can sit back and wait, keep kicking!
  8. Never underestimate how comfy a grass field looks to your tired pony after a 24 hour drive to Florida
  9. The lighter coloured the horse is the scarier it is
  10. Horses are humbling creatures, enough said!
  11. Thankful for my horses, some of the best teachers Iʼve ever had.
The Oakhurst Show Team at Harmony HT.
The Oakhurst Show Team at Harmony HT.

When it all comes together she is a forced to be reckoned with, and I think this can be said for most equine partners. I have been blessed with the most amazing athletes and teachers (Dino, Ash, Blythe, Jake, Sonny, Que, Africa…just to name a few and the list continues to grow). Each of them have taught me something so uniquely different that I will forever cherish. Some days may not always go to plan but working with horses and the team at Oakhurst ensures that no day goes by without having a little fun. No matter what has happened the day before or even minutes before you find that spark when you see their face staring back at you down the barn aisle.

Iʼm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and after discussing this topic outside of stabling at Harmony Horse Trials this past weekend with parents and riders its amazing how many of us can agree on this statement.

The Oakhurst Show Team dinner - Saturday night at Harmony HT.
The Oakhurst Show Team dinner – Saturday night at Harmony HT.

Harmony had the largest group of students and supporters we have taken to an away show this year. With some new additions it took 4 trucks and trailers to make the trip possible. This weekend was not all about the beautiful ribbons won that are now mounted outside our horses stalls or hanging from a string attached from one corner of our bedroom to the next. It was sharing that time with our family (horse & human) gaining insight into where our training needs to be directed or re-directed.

Coach Ruth Allum waiting with Alexa Bresnahan and Aragon at Harmony HT.
Coach Ruth Allum waiting with Alexa Bresnahan and Aragon at Harmony HT.

Taking care of our athletes, giving us optimal experience and knowledge that will only strengthen our depth of skills moving forward to our long term goal or year end goal. Congrats to all the competitors, coaches, horses, family, grooms and spectators for supporting this sport and having fun! I am very appreciative of the team that surrounds me.

Coach Helen Richardson and Taya Davison on Nike going over her dressage test before Taya goes in the ring at Harmony HT.
Coach Helen Richardson and Taya Davison on Nike going over her dressage test before Taya goes in the ring at Harmony HT.

Canʼt wait to see where our journey takes us!

Until next time,

Blair

Results from Harmony Horse Trials:

Pre-Entry

Jenna Mayhew & Kinsale 2nd place

Kristin McLaren & Panamerra 7th place

Miranda Lepore & The Duke 8th Place

Andrew Morris & Mr. Titan 10th Place

Taya Davison & Nike 11th Place

Janan Steward & Mowgli

Pre-Training

Kieryn Davison & King Stag 2nd Place

Kenzi Mitchell & Topgun 8th Place

Rebecca Walker & Rookie 10th Place

Laura Gravelle & Yarraman 5th Place

Training

Alexa Bresnahan & Aragon 4th Place

Darby Delle Donne & Silver Lining 6th Place

Devon Svoboda & Abbigael

Blair Nicol & Chasing Liberty

For more photos of this past weekend check out Emma Richardson Photography!

I grew up on a Dairy farm (Cavencrest Farm) in Kinburn and spent my childhood outdoors learning about what it takes to run a farm. At the age of seven I was introduced to the 4H program, thanks to my encouraging uncle. At the time I had only been surrounded by cattle and crops but was eager to learn more about all things agriculture. I had five older cousins already enrolled in the program, whose enthusiasm and dedication positively influenced my experience. I would have never imagined that the experiences I had being a part of that program would serve a purpose in my chosen career, until now!

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“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Aristotle

4H was a positive youth development program that gave me the ability to understand the fundamentals of working with large animals, strength in speaking in front of large audiences, discipline, and goal setting. It was the confidence boost I needed to work/train hard as an athlete and follow my dream as an professional equestrian. Our motto “learn to do by doing” is something that I can put into perspective and constantly reference working with horses.

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Importance of loving what you do

We talk quite frequently about long term equestrian development in our blogs, but what about long term athlete development?

Athlete development focuses on the developmental age of athletes as opposed to chronological age. Young athletes develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, neurologically at different rates. Want to learn more? On Monday August 3rd we are holding an athlete development clinic here at Oakhurst. With guest speakers and a catered breakfast, I can’t imagine a better way to spend your holiday Monday!

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The Oakhurst icing crew with Candy ‘Black Magic’

As an athlete, it goes without saying that lifelong drive and determination have been more influential in forecasting long term success. Unless you are working on something you love, it is hard to find the discipline to demonstrate drive and perseverance with confidence. To be a great athlete, you truly have to love what you’re doing!

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Eric Nelson watching Chasing Liberty (Africa) after XC

With that being said I was privileged to bear witness to an unbelievably passionate group of competitors, grooms and spectators who traveled to Tandalee Horse Trials in Knowlton, QC this past weekend. Led by Coach Ruth, we had 10 different horse & rider combinations ranging in levels from entry through to training. The show ran over two days, with dressage and cross country on the Saturday and show jump following on Sunday. This gave us a perfect opportunity to put our ICING skills to the test!

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Coach Ruth leading the way!

Similar to our traditional three day event, after finishing what is regarded as the most demanding phase (cross country) on Saturday, we were left with the task of managing our equine partners cool out and recovery. Every member of our large team contributed to how our horses recovered. When horses and riders finished their cross country round they returned to stabling where it was all hands on deck at the cool out station. Our goal is to bring the horses temperature down by sponging water on-and in the next stroke taking it off.

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Yarraman (Yogi) enjoying Tandalee

Hence the term: Wax on, Wax off! Thanks to Eric Nelson for the reference! From filling water buckets/ice boots, holding horses, untacking and getting soaked our crew made sure every horse was cooled out and comfortable.

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Chelsea Arden enjoying Tandalee HT!

‘It takes a village’ and a ‘whiteboard’ so I’ve learned, and I couldn’t thank everyone enough for everything you did to help! You truly made it a positive experience and ultimately ensured our horses felt great going into show jump on Sunday!

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Pre- Training Junior riders, left to right, Alexa Bresnahan on Aragon, Rebecca Walker on Rookie and Kieryn Davison riding King Stag.

So go out there and do it, maybe it will work and maybe it won’t but most of all, understand that the little things can build the path to success. You become more aware of the value and significance of details and understand that the little and seemingly insignificant things are the building blocks to success!

All the best,

Blair

“Life is like a never-ending highway embedded with speed bumps and stop signs.”

June16pic1Have you ever been driving down the road and you see a sign that says “Bump Ahead” and then shortly after “Bump”? You may think to yourself “why on earth would you need to be told about a bump when you can clearly see it, however sometimes it really does need to be spelled out for us. Whether it is driving or riding, speed bumps do impact us.

Speed bumps can serve as a valuable metaphor in teaching riders about sound decision making. It’s sometimes important to slow down and consider any “signs” indicating the need to alter one’s training. Sometimes our goals don’t go according to plan and we are forced to analyze and adjust.

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“Success is not measured by the heights one attains, but by the obstacles one overcomes in their attainment”. Leah Vrieling & Gandalf galloping on the Training Cross Country at Little Bromont. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography

After each competition I fill out a post performance work sheet. This work sheet encourages me to be up front about my performance (where I had success and areas that need improvement). Are there things I can alter or influence to improve my performance? I believe that this has a positive impact on how I perform, coach and train.

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Kenzi Mitchell & Top Gun in the Entry Division Show Jumping at Little Bromont HT. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography

While I can’t speak for all riders, I definitely know when I’m approaching a speed bump with my training. Rather than deny it and stick to a predetermined training program, I make the necessary adjustments to carefully and cautiously negotiate the situation. Before too long, I’m back on track with my SMART goals, but with a greater understanding of how to avoid a similar situation moving forward.

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Laura Gravelle & Yarraman finished 4th in the Entry division at Little Bromont HT. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography

Am I going to let those speed bumps deter me from my goal? Or might I consider whether those speed bumps might serve some greater purpose?

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Devon Svoboda & Abbigael on the Pre-Training Cross Country at Little Bromont HT. Photo by: E.M.Richardson Photography

Self reflection, while it can be challenging, ultimately allows us to move forward. I am constantly reviewing and referencing my yearly training plan (made at the beginning of the year – I have already made multiple copies!) and adjusting accordingly to each horse. While most speed bumps that we encounter are clearly visible, there are, on occasion, some that we don’t see. Having a plan A, B, C,…Z will better prepare us for things that are unforeseen.

On Friday, June 12th, six horse and rider combinations (and a support team like no other) travelled to Bromont, Quebec to compete at Little Bromont Horse Trials. All eager to compete and cheer each other on, from Entry to Training level. While everything may not have gone according to plan, I was amazed and proud of how everyone came together. It was a real TEAM effort, from our coaching staff, parents, grooms, riders and photographers. We can’t thank you enough for all you did!

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Speed bumps, while they make you slow down, they also make you appreciate when you get to a smooth patch of road.

All in all, working within our resources, building trusting relationships and learning to work with a team helps us map the road ahead so we can start to predict speed bumps, slow down and jump over what could have been a barrier.

I leave you with this….

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This car rolled from the upper parking lot, down several hills to come to a stop in the side of the barn all of the event horses were stabled in. No one was injured. Except the car. Photo by: Cheryl Denault Photography.

Too bad the driver of this car at Little Bromont did not see the “Speed Bump” sign.

Blair

New foals are so exciting! There’s nothing quite like the anticipation and the guessing game that comes with a pregnant mare. Plenty of long conversations in the barn aisle with everyone sharing their two cents to whether you’ll be getting a colt or a filly and what kind of color and markings the foal will have. I’ve always admired the breeders who have the knowledge to put quality horses on the ground and the strength to send them out in the world and on to new adventures.

May19pic1 One year ago I began plotting and asking myself where will my next horse come from? How will I prepare for the future? After much deliberation and discussion I put my hopes of breeding a mare – Jasmine who was owned by Ruth and campaigned by Mark to the Preliminary level – into a reality.

Fast forward to May 5, 2015 where I was introduced to Alice – ‘High Five’ – an impossibly long legged filly with one white sock. I can’t express to you the surprise and excitement I felt when I first saw HER.

Its hard to say what the most special part of this memory has been so far when every moment has been captured so perfectly. Almost like its been etched in my mind to last me a lifetime.
Its hard to say what the most special part of this memory has been so far when every moment has been captured so perfectly. Almost like its been etched in my mind to last me a lifetime.

A day that began like any other shortly turned into a day I’ll never forget. You plan for months (11 to be exact) in advance but the initial shock of seeing your dream turn into reality really takes some time to sink in. We seldom have moments in life that are truly surprising in the best way imaginable.

The advent of new life always brings new hope. As with any new offspring/baby it brings along responsibility and the challenge that it provides me with, to set her long term development goals. Looking forward to the future I can’t begin to express how fortunate I am to be surrounded by a team of people whose knowledge and guidance has directed me to this wonderful opportunity.

“Alice” has got in touch with her Disney side and is full of curiosity! Much to Jasmine’s dismay, she is quick to wander off on her own to investigate every thing that moves.
“Alice” has got in touch with her Disney side and is full of curiosity! Much to Jasmine’s dismay, she is quick to wander off on her own to investigate every thing that moves. Photo by Cheryl Denault Photography

These opportunities to learn and develop continue here at Oakhurst with Equine Canada Rider level evaluations taking place on Monday May18th. Congratulations to Tatum, Zoe, Ania, Emma, Kenzi, Kieryn and Taya, who successfully achieved their rider levels! The rider levels are important to long term equestrian development (LTED) as they encourage us to pursue our passion with knowledge and inspire others to follow suit. Leading by example and an excellent example at that! Thanks to Ruth, Helen and Meg for evaluating, it was a successful day for all. High fives all around!

May19pic4I can only hope for continued success as we prepare for our first event of the 2015 Canadian season at Grandview Horse Trials (May 23, 24) in Orillia, the general buzz around the barn has been exciting knowing that the next 20 weeks are what we thrive and live for!

Its a new beginning, new foal, new season and new set of challenges! I can only hope that with these new beginnings we can put into motion what we’ve all learned and move forward with each new day.

I am reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am to be doing what I love. Photo by Emma Richardson.
I am reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am to be doing what I love. Photo by Emma Richardson.

Until next time,

Blair