Wow, what a way to end 2018! There is so much to be thankful for and this was certainly a year of many firsts for me and my home-bred horses. Faolan and I showed for the first time at Intermediate 2 and in the Developing Grand Prix. We even did two Grands Prix. Fauna moved up to the FEI levels. At only age seven, she did her first CDI in the Small Tour at Dressage at Devon.
As I’ve done for the past five years, we ended the show season competing in Kentucky at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. It was exceptionally cold at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, so it was fortunate that I got my entry in early, which enabled my horses to be stabled in the heated barns.
We were lucky that Faolan only showed in the heated Alltech Arena, so that meant that I never really had to ride him outside in the cold. Fauna was scheduled to have one class inside the Alltech on Saturday, but her Prix St. Georges Finals class was going to be outside on Sunday morning, in the freezing cold. Every morning, the Alltech was open for schooling between 6 and 7:30 a.m., so I made a point to be up early every day. That meant I could ride inside where it was warm when I wasn’t competing.
We started off the show in the best way I could have hoped, with Faolan winning his Intermediate 2 Open Finals class. He put in a solid test, though there was room for improvement for sure. But what a rush to win it in Kentucky. Not only that, but my close friend, Alice Tarjan, also won that same day in the Intermediate 2 AA Finals. This also was the first time that my good friend and Faolan’s longtime veterinarian, Rachel Gardener, was there competing her own horse at the Finals. She has been his only vet. She’s known him since he was a baby and she was there supporting us. She and Alice were both there for our ride and it was so special to have them celebrating with us while they watched us in the awards. Rachel was as excited as I was. It takes a village to get there, and she has been with us since day one! It was a very happy day all around.
The next day, I didn’t have any classes, so I schooled both horses early in the Alltech for warmth and to enable Fauna to get used to the arena. Saturday was the day of Fauna’s I-1 Freestyle. I was hoping to match her fantastic ride in Saugerties, New York, at Regionals. Unfortunately, she was just a little bit more tense and spooky than I expected when she was alone in the Alltech Arena. It’s a big atmosphere for some horses, and as I pointed out, she’s only seven. Her test was okay, but not our best because when she’s tight, we sometimes have mistakes in the changes. Even so, she still was able to place in the middle of the huge class.
On the last day of the show, it was 22 degrees. We had to show outside in the Prix St Georges. It was so cold that the rings were partially frozen. Fauna felt absolutely super in the warmup, much to my surprise, considering how cold it was. Her test was alright, but we, once again, had little mistakes due to tension and lookiness—all just young horse stuff that will improve with time. She finished in the middle of her class again with very respectable scores. I was quite happy with her.
The show definitely has become an annual trip for us. I’m still on a high after Faolan’s win. The horses had a little bit of light work after Finals, and now we are gearing up for Florida in late January. Last weekend, I went to the U.S. Dressage Federation Convention in Salt Lake City to receive Faolan’s award as the Intermediate 2 Horse of the Year. I still can’t believe he won it, especially since it was his first time showing that level this year. I’m so proud of that boy. It’s really been quite a year.