Last weekend was a big weekend for “the village”. We packed up and headed back east to Williamston for the Autumn Leaves Dressage Show and Col. Bengt Lundquist Memorial Championships. As awesome as the show was it was a bit sad to not have everyone with us. We all have so much fun when we are together so needless to say when someone is not at a show with us we really miss them.  Popstarr, Cosmo, Bogie and Boomer all showed this weekend.

Lysa and Bogie had a huge show together for a number of reasons. They have been working so hard all year to overcome some show anxieties and this weekend really showed how far they have come. Lysa was able to warm Bogie up herself all weekend, I did not have to get on him at all and she obviously was doing something right because not only did she have scores over 73+% at training level but she finished 10th in her gigantically huge championship class, got to attend her first awards ceremony and then on Sunday successfully made the jump to first level putting in a very respectable test. Ellen and Boomer had a great show to finish out the year at training level putting in 5 clean tests all scoring in the mid 60’s. Boomer is such a neat little guy; you would never expect this little quarter horse gelding to move the way he does. Let me tell you, Boomer is a HUGE mover. Honestly he is the most exhausting horse I have in training to ride, his trot is massive. Ellen really deserves some credit for doing as well as she does with him. While he is certainly capable and deserving of some large scores he is also very tiring to ride and you definitely feel it when you finish your test on him. She has worked really hard this year with him and it showed in a big way this weekend in both him and her. I was one proud trainer of both of these ladies all weekend just as I have been all year. It was really great to see their hard work paying off at a show as big as this one.

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Lysa, Bogie and I after her CBLM awards ceremony

I showed Cosmo, Popstarr, and Boomer over the course of three days. Cosmo made the huge move up to PSG this weekend, which I was so incredibly excited about. He is such a special horse that I am so lucky to get to ride everyday but this past year has certainly been a rough year for us having to over come our fair share of issues. This time last year (heck, even a few months ago really) we were literally running backwards under saddle. I’m not talking backing up a little here and there; I’m talking bolting backwards with all he had. He was clearly in some sort of pain but was not lame at all and we were having the hardest time figuring out what was going on with the princess and the pea. We ultimately got everything solved and finally got his confidence in himself built back up (this was the most important and time consuming part). To watch Cosmo go you would think that he is the most confident horse in the world. On the surface he seems so full of himself and such a major show off but once you actually get to know the real him it becomes very clear that he is actually not confident at all and really relies on his relationship with his rider (which of course he and I were still developing when everything fell apart with him) for his confidence. He has seriously almost shown PSG for several years now even back when Becca was still living here and riding him but one thing or another always happened that would prevent it; so to FINALLY get to canter down the centerline at PSG with him was such a long time coming and he SO deserved to have a hugely successful weekend. Heaven knows he and I have certainly put in our fare share of hard work. His first test on Friday was a really solid showing, finishing 5th in a large division full of much more experienced horses. It felt so wonderful to finally be able to call him an FEI horse, a title he has worked so hard for and certainly earned. His test on Sunday was tons better than Friday’s and thankfully the judges agreed, scoring him several points higher than his previous test. The parts that were better were much much better even though he did have a couple of “explosive” moments; mostly in his first canter pirouette and the extended canter. That being said he came right back to me after his “explosion” to score an 8 on the following movement, which I was super pleased with. The more time he spends in the ring the more confident he will become and will be able to hold himself together easier so I have no doubt those moments will become fewer and fewer. The PSG is a rather long and unrelenting test with tough movements stacked right on top of each other and no real “breathers” so to speak. I was a bit concerned about how his fitness level was going to hold up over a long weekend doing a test this hard. He is such a big mover and horse in general that he really has to be extra fit in order to really succeed at this level. I cantered down the centerline for my final halt on Sunday with TONS of horse left underneath me and he jigged and jogged all the way back to the barn so pleased with himself. Talk about a great feeling. Over all we were all incredibly proud of the little guy, especially himself ;-).

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(Cosmo in his PSG debut)

Popstarr and I have also been working really hard preparing for this weekend. To watch Pop in the show arena you would never know that I pulled him out of a field (where he had been for over a year totally out of work) a mere 5 months ago. This boy is in dang good shape and he is full of himself. I showed him in the PSG on Saturday, mostly as a warm up for our championship class on Sunday. To say he was on his toes would be quite the understatement. He put in a solid, clean and accurate test that was shall we say “expressive.” I showed him in the snaffle all weekend and it was pretty darn impressive that I got him through the test on Saturday as well as I did in it if I do say so myself. I don’t know too many people who would have braved that one. Thankfully he was a bit more chill on Sunday although still not quite as much as I would have liked. He spent the entire test trying to do more every chance he got; clearly he needed more of a challenge than 4-2. However, while not our personal best performance it was still good enough to earn us reserve champion at 4th level in the CBLM Championships, which is really rather impressive considering how long he has been in work and how long we have been partnered together. I can’t wait to see what 2014 is going to bring for this incredible horse.

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(Popstarr and I after his 4th Level CBLM Awards Ceremony!)

On Sunday I showed Boomer in his first attempt at first level. I know I said it earlier but I really adore this little horse. He is so cool and such a little powerhouse. The first level tests are considerably longer and more difficult than the training level ones and he could certainly tell a difference, but he hung in there like a trooper never giving up on me. This was obviously the hardest test of the weekend for him and his 6th test in 3 days but he still managed a gorgeous and fluid test that was good enough for a 67+%. He also easily earned me the final score I needed for my bronze medal as well as the open high score quarter horse award for the entire show, so now Ellen has a matching set of directors chairs since she won this award at the last show.

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(Boomer and I in his first level debut and on the way to winning the AQHA Open High Score Award)

Overall I had a weekend full of incredible rides on incredible horses. Some days my life doesn’t even seem real and I have to pinch myself. I am beyond lucky and grateful to not only get to ride these incredible horses but to have the amazing clients, students and sponsors that I have. None of this would be possible without all of them and I can’t thank everyone enough for believing in and supporting my dreams and me. It truly does take a village to make this happen and although I might be a bit partial I certainly think we have the most incredible village there is and each and every one of you plays an integral and irreplaceable role in this adventure.

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Unfortunately I have a bit of bad news to end with. I am heartbroken to share that I very suddenly had to say goodbye to my old horse Sutter. Apparently the effects of old age caught up with my special boy much sooner than any of us would have liked. He has been such an integral part of the farm and my life not just as a rider but as a person as well and to not have him here anymore is devastating. It isn’t the same going outside and him not being there. He has truly been my best friend and partner for over 13 years and was hands down the horse of a lifetime than will never be replaced. With him I was able to accomplish things people can only dream of, not only did we compete through the international FEI levels in three-day eventing but also in dressage. There aren’t too many horses that hold the credit of competing through FEI levels as an event horse and then successfully transitioning to succeed as an FEI dressage horse all with a then teenage rider no less. I literally trusted him with my life and he saved my tail on more than one occasion out on cross country when I would mess up and he would always get me out of trouble and home safe. In all of our events we never had a single cross country jumping penalty from training level through intermediate and we only pulled a rail once maybe twice in stadium. After he retired from the upper levels he went on to teach numerous people the ropes including my timid beginner mom and starting my daughter out the right way from before she could even sit herself up. Even though he had a knack for making them work really hard and never gave them an ounce they didn’t earn he ALWAYS took amazing care of everyone who rode him keeping them safe no matter what they did and I trusted him explicitly with anyone and everyone, always. To see peoples faces light up with joy from experiencing their first flying change, half pass, piaffe or passage or feeling what it really meant to soar effortlessly over their first giant oxer with the greatest of ease was truly one of the greatest gifts he could have ever given me. Sutter was there for me through some of the best moments of my life as well as some of my darkest days; he always had a way of making me feel so much better no matter how bad of a day I was having. It was amazing how he could put his head in my lap and his soft warm muzzle against my face and all of my problems would just melt away even if just temporarily. To think that I will never have those special moments with him again is just more than I can put into words. He certainly did things his own way and had a special way about him right up until the very end there was nothing “normal” about him and everything he did was his own degree of special. Needless to say there is a huge void here on the farm that will never be filled and we are all broken hearted with him gone. He truly was the horse of a lifetime and there will never be another horse as special as him. Godspeed my special boy, I know there was an extra special place in heaven waiting just for you. ❤

Briana and Sutterby Good, prelim at the 2002 Virginia Horse Trails

Briana and Sutterby Good, prelim at the 2002 Virginia Horse Trails