Preparing for the Trials

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The big moment is about to arrive for Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games team candidate Adrienne Lyle. This week, she will be competing at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation Headquarters in the Dressage Festival of Champions, presented by the Dutta Corp, which is also the national championships and the selection trials. The top eight riders from the competition in Gladstone, N.J., will go to Europe, where they will be competing as the list is narrowed to four team members and one alternate. Adrienne, who rode Wizard as an individual at the 2012 Olympics, is hoping to be part of the team effort this time.

I said farewell to Florida (for now), in mid-May and we headed to Kentucky. My working student, Taylor Yamamoto, competed in the CDI Young Rider division there, and did a great job, winning the Team and Individual tests.

Working student Taylor Yamamoto and her horse, Domino, after their winning ride in the CDI Young Rider PSG.

Working student Taylor Yamamoto and her horse, Domino, after their winning ride in the CDI Young Rider PSG.

Wizard and I schooled there and took advantage of the gorgeous rolling fields for some conditioning work. I would school him in the morning, with Debbie McDonald coaching us, and then in the evenings, I would take him out for a long trail ride around the Rolex cross-country course or trot some laps on the steeplechase course.

Wizard and I hacking out through the cross country jumps at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Wizard and I hacking out through the cross country jumps at the Kentucky Horse Park.

I am a big believer in cross-training. I think it is imperative for dressage horses, to keep them physically and mentally in a good state.

After a lovely week in Kentucky, we loaded the horses up again and drove 13 hours to New Jersey. Kim Herslow was kind enough to open up her lovely Upper Creek Farm in Stockton to Taylor and me, as well as fellow Grand Prix competitors Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Laura Graves.

Wizard and his stuffed animal at Kim Herslow's farm.

Wizard and his stuffed animal at Kim Herslow's farm.

We are all training with Debbie in preparation for the WEG selection trials in Gladstone. After the hustle and bustle of a busy Florida season with a lot of horses, it is a nice change of pace to be able to focus solely on Wizard and to be able to sit and watch the other lessons as well.

I have my lesson in the morning, then sit and watch Debbie teach some more. After that, I would head out to nearby farms and teach some lessons myself each afternoon. I am fully submerged in dressage training and having a great time!

As the days until show time click down, it's time to put on the finishing touches. I am a stickler for well-polished tack and an impeccably turned-out horse. Here are a few of my favorite pre-show touches:

1. I go over spurs and the outside of bits with metal polish, using a toothbrush. I buff the items with a towel, and repeat several times, then wash well and dry. When you are polishing bits, be sure to only do the curb shank and snaffle ring, never the mouthpiece of the bit, and be sure to thoroughly rinse it off so no bad taste is left on the bit.

Polishing bits

Polishing bits

Boots in the sunshine, letting the polish soak in.

Boots in the sunshine, letting the polish soak in.

2. For shiny boots, I use the good old fashioned Kiwi shoe polish, rub it on and then put my boots in the hot sun for 10 minutes. This makes the shoe polish soak deep into boot leather. Then I take the boots out of the sun and allow them to cool before buffing with a clean towel. If there is no sun, you can use a hair dryer instead. Hold it a few inches from the boot and move it around until the polish melts in. (Take care not to hold it in one spot too long and overheat it, as this can cause the polish to get too soft and run down the boot).

3. Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to trimming the top of a horse's tail. Personally I like to use scissors or clippers to trim just enough off the bottom side of the top of the tail to produce a smooth profile. Before I mount up on show day, I dampen the top of the tail slightly and put a neoprene tail wrap on for a half-hour. This further smooths the hair and gives the tail a tidy and sleek shape.

Tail wrap to tame the top of the tail before going in the ring.

Tail wrap to tame the top of the tail before going in the ring.

4. For horses with white legs, I dust little baby powder on the white, rub it in, then brush off the excess.

5. For beautiful hooves, I use Fiebing's hoof dressing. It soaks in to give a rich, gleaming look without looking fake, like a hoof polish.

6. For beautifully polished tack, I rub a layer of Albion Leather Balm or Cavalor Leather Shine across the noseband and browband of the bridle and across the back of the saddle and down along front of saddle knee blocks. (Be sure to never put anything like this where the rider sits, or they will be slipping around!)

Leather shine, for a beautiful polish right before you go in the ring.

Leather shine, for a beautiful polish right before you go in the ring.

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