Thursday, 27 November 2014

Changing gears for 2015 - please read!!

But in a good way!!

I will still be posting regular updates, I will still be heading to Florida for the winter, I am still aiming for the Pan American Games in 2015!
However I've moved my blog over to my main website just to streamline everything and to allow me to provide the most accurate and up to date information as possible!

My website is and the BLOG tab is all the way on the right on your computer screen and at the bottom of the menu for mobile users. As well I've updated my website to reflect some of the changes coming up for 2015! Please visit the Sponsors page for information! I'm so happy to be bringing so many of the brands I love and trust with me to Florida through sponsorship - please help me to support them by choosing these businesses for your Christmas and other shopping needs - I am going to also be posting discount codes and contests on my new blog and Facebook page :-)
Thank you so much for you ongoing support and I look forward to bringing you a taste of Florida this winter!! We'd also love to see you at GDF for a holiday!! What better way to spend a week than at a horse show in sunny Florida :-D

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Journey Begins!

The past few weeks have been absolutely flat out and of course, after returning home from Anderson's the stress of travel, competition and everything else caught up to me in a bad way and I was very sick. 
The CAADA Gold II and Provincials show was overall fantastic and I was really able to take the 5 days there to learn, develop and grow. I also had a really excellent personal victory while in Calgary! Many of you who know me are aware of just how sick I have been for the past year to two years (closer to two now!) and how I have been searching to find an explanation since my extreme fatigue initially took me to my family doctor in late 2012. After more than a year of going through doctor after doctor I found my current doc in Calgary this spring! After the initial consult and some serious lifestyle changes I was finally healthy enough to get off all my symptom managing prescription drugs and we were able to do some serious blood work. I found out on Wednesday, September 2, 2014 that I have been battling the crippling effects of Lymes disease and many associated co-infections!! What a huge relief for me to finally have an answer and a diagnosis to months on end of illness, exhaustion, pain, weakness and hopelessness. Now to head through the long journey of treatment and recovery. Unfortunately due to the nature of my treatment and Health Canada's refusal to acknowledge the existence of Lymes in Canada I will be bearing the brunt of the cost for thousands of dollars in doctors visits, exams, blood work, supportive therapies and medications over the next several years. However - I am happy that I now have a light at the end of my tunnel and an explanation for my "bad days". Here is to health in 2015 (or 2016..? Eventually??!) :-)
After this news and a renewed vigor I was ready to start out the competition :-) Pete was the first horse for me on Thursday and we rode in the Pan Am Declaration Qualifier PSG class! Of course he was quite nervous but considering this horse two months ago was not able to keep himself under wraps in a fourth level test I was super happy with the result! A 64.8% good for third place!! He is slowly starting to calm down in the ring (I thought) :-P Rowan and I headed for our first I-2 and a 61.9% with pi-pa to be more confirmed.
Friday was slightly more exciting with Pete coming out tense, fresh and not super submissive. We still came out of the test with another score good for declaration (just over 62%) but I was not happy with the feeling he gave me for the ride - but this is why we have 2 more days!! Rowan another steady I-2 for a 61.8% from the FEI judge.
Then Lindsey left us to fend for ourselves!! Saturday Rowan got to have a nice hack and relax, watch some tests and bask in the glorious sunshine! I love just hanging around on him and getting to relax a bit :-) Pete was again a little tense (but much better than Friday) and was first in his fourth test 2 open for the provincials with mid sixties - including a few boo-boos.
Sunday I did NOT realize just how built up and nervous I was for Rowan and I doing our first ever Grand Prix!! The U25 Grand Prix test - while not the same at the GP - has the same expectations and difficult pi-pa transitions - and GOSH is it ever hard!! I was so happy to get through it with his best ever pi-pa in the ring and only some mistakes in the tempis (which are usually solid and something that can definitely be fixed - mostly my inexperience and the test coming up FAST). I rode it as slowly as I could manage with our best marks in the most difficult pi-pa tour and a score over 60% from an FEI judge!! After the test I finally relaxed and had an emotional hug with my ever supportive mum and then off to ride Mr. Pete!! Pete was golden!! I was air-headed!! With so little time between horses to review tests I ended up riding my 8m voltes as 10m circles (duuur) and took a big ding :-( Pete however was super fantastically ridable! And probably my release of tension after being done that GP was also very helpful to him. One mistake in the last changes but overall his best test and I was so happy he was so relaxed in the ring (finally!) - and the score was good for fourth level provincial champion open! I got to go down and collect my ribbon with Agnes who had her best score at fourth level and a great show! She was fourth level reserve champ AA. And she also rode first level, as well as Nicole! Both first level horses had their ups and downs and some unfortunate tension caused difficult tests for both on Sunday so no provincials ribbons :-( But some seriously awesome riding and all that much more determination for winter training!!

Seriously could NOT have gotten through this competition without Nicole grooming for me!! She did a fantastic job taking care of my horses and keeping them happy with lots of walkies :-) Honestly I just can't do this all without help - thank you so much!! Also part of "the team" Dr. Jack, Ryan Besler, Maria McDowell (Muscle Matters), Donna Bassett (Precision Saddlery) keeping the horses happy, healthy and strong, and Dr. Risk, Brandy Buchanan and Dirk Stroda ( keeping me happy, healthy and strong! And of course my mum, Connie Varnhagen, Lindsey Stroh and basically everyone else in the Alberta Dressage community for the wonderful atmosphere and support :-) It takes a village!
Now with my score for Pan Ams I am just working on sending in all the forms (uughh) and the Journey to the Pan Am Games begins!! Very exciting!!
Thanks for reading :-)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

WEG Grand Prix Freestyle and Farewell France

After a lovely day shopping and watching the reining finals qualifier it is time to get back to watching dressage!!
The line up to get into the stadium was slightly ridiculous despite showing up nearly 2 hours before the start of the first freestyle - but that gave us a chance to get coffee and meet more cool people from other countries!
We did eventually get into the stadium and into our seats ready for the first rider! Painted Black is such a fun horse and the music for the freestyle was great! However the choreography was very simple. Next is one of the most difficult freestyles - Hans Peter and Glock's Johnson - however there are some submission problems but Hans Peter rides expertly. Then is Nip Tuck with Carl Hester in a well ridden freestyle, however the music is not very cohesive and does not suit the horse.
Princess Natalie is next for Denmark with Digby and some very bold choreography! Then my favorite from the first section - Half Moon Delphi has a great freestyle with some risky choreography that pays off :-) Anna Kasprzak has a super freestyle too! I think Stephen has the most interesting choreography of the day for sure, and I love his music! Finally is my favorite little dutch horse Arlando :-)
Then is the break for the endurance medals - the Gold medalist is TINY!! On the podium there were still people a little taller than him - so I guess there is hope for me hahaha :-P And after the break are all my favorite horses - we still have not seen a ride over 80%.
Victoria Max-Theurer fixes that in the first ride after the break with an 81%! Not to be upstaged, Laura Graves from the USA has a very steady, mistake free freestyle for an 82% I think at this point she has a chance to be in the top 5! Desperados has some unfortunate rhythm mistakes and earns an 83%, Don Auriello has a clean test but the hind legs trail and that is penalized so he only earns an 80% (which means Laura Graves is definitely top 5!!).
Next are the 3 medal deciding rides! Damon Hill has a fantastic test with by far the best technical work of the day! WOW the lightness in him is amazing and he absolutely dances to the music for an 88% :-) LOVE this horse and rider. Then is Valegro who looks to have a little better connection compared to the first two days and earns a 92% (although I don't see the 4% difference between him and Damon Hill) and a 95% for artistic which is well earned with the new music! Finally is Adelinde and Parzival who go mistake free and a beautiful test but the connection issues, short neck and open mouth are all penalized for an 85%.
Medals are Valegro, Damon Hill and Parzival and Laura Graves is 5th!!
WOW such a cool event to see these top top horses and I am definitely able to better visualize my Grand Prix work after watching over 130 Grand Prix rides in the span of a week (watch out Rowan!!). I am so lucky to have been able to experience this event :-) And especially with awesome friends Iris, Lynn and Kate who dropped us off at the train for our journey home to Canada!
We met up that night for dinner with the representatives from the Calgary show committee and talked about how great the WEG was. Saturday morning we were on the plane home.
I was lucky enough to sit beside Tour de France photographer and retired cyclist John Pierce so we got to chat about sport and conditioning and coaching and diet and that was totally cool!! He is in Alberta for the Tour of Alberta race which is unfortunately going the complete opposite way of us! They race Calgary to Edmonton this week and I will be off to Calgary tomorrow morning to RMSJ for provincials. It will be a great show!

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

WEG Grand Prix Special

Wednesday started at a leisurely 9:30AM as compared to the previous 8AM start times! The "free parking" is still a figment of the imagination so after being ejected from the vehicle in front of the stadium so Iris could find parking I made my way in to reserve our seats (the best seats!) and to chat with our dressage watching friends new and old. The Americans with the big flag beside us have totally inspired us to bring a big Canada flag "next time"!
The first few rides are awesome! And then we in our Canadian section held our breath for Belinda's ride which was even MORE fantastic!!!! So excited she rode beautifully for a 72.4% and first place!! Unfortunately her time at the top of the podium was short-lived but it looked awesome to see Belinda and a Canadian flag beside the #1 position!
Next rider of note is Adrienne Lyle and Wizard who had a wonderful first trot, but unfortunate mistakes. Then is Edward Gal who has a difficult ride on a vey inexperienced Voice :-( You can tell the absolute talent of Edward but Voice was not with him and Edward was sweating riding every single moment of the test. Next is my favorite PRE (other than Pete) Norte Lovera who has one mistake in the 2s but an awesome "Chess piece" test :-) Princess Nathalie and Digby another great GPS! Then more riders, leading to a great, great little horse for Netherlands - Armando, who is only 9 and is fantastic!
After the break Grandioso is awesome! Then an unfortunate test for Valentino Truppa as Castegno was in front of her for the changes and there were quite a few mistakes. Barney was very hot for Carl Hester!! But a nice, nice test. Johnson wow!! Hans Peter keeps that horse together like no one else and you can tell the absolute connection and relationship between the horse and rider in this pair. Patrik Kittel has a good ride but a very distracting coat - he just simply does not have the stature to pull off the big, big, square, big tails and Scandic is too small as well for it but a great test! Laura Graves was AMAZING!! SO proud for the USA and this amazing homegrown rider and horse. She must have ice in her veins as there are absolutely no mistakes. WOW.
Now for the top rides of the day. Desperados and Kristina Sprehe are amazing. Valegro has 3 mistakes which are costly but you cannot argue the precision of the riding of Charlotte Dujardin. A rider score of 9.6 is slightly excessive given the mistakes in my opinion. Then is Damon Hill!! Seeing Damon Hill right after Valegro and the quality of the horse, the riding and the training is absolutely indisputable. Helen does not ride just as perfectly accurately and so does not get the highest possible scores but the connection of the horse, the lightness, etc.. is just of a class all in its own. I love to enjoy the lightness of the connection, the length of the frame, the lengthening of the frame (!!!) and the lightness of the motion of the horse of Damon Hill that is so, so evident. Then is Victoria Max-Theurer and her fantastic horse who totally deserve every score and I am so happy for her to be among the top in the world! Finally is the last rider and the only one who can disrupt the medal ranking.
Leading into the collected walk, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival are in an easy Silver medal position. Then right after H - the tension created in the connection in picking up the reins causes Parzival to piaffe too early and the scores absolutely plummet. Really unfortunate mistake that costs Adelinde her medal - but it is a product of the training in my opinion. You can tell the amazing strength of the horse and rider and they are definitely capable but the art of the training and the connection is missing too much and the living breathing horse then makes mistakes when Adelinde cannot be in absolute control. Unfortunate but I think Adelinde can definitely recover tomorrow!
Overall the biggest amazement for me is the strength of the German team to have two individual medals without their two top horses!! Totilas scratched from the whole WEG and Bella Rose had an injury after the Grand Prix - just wow! Also to see the USA having a top top rider and horse finish top 6!!! But the most amazing is to see such a wonderful athlete and person finish in 22nd place with a very respectable score at an amazing venue - congratulations Belinda Trussell!!
To top off the special tonight we headed to the Team Canada party to see and congratulate the athletes and I was very happy to be able to shake Belinda's hand and tell her congratulations - I will love to be declared for the Pan Ams with her!! So exciting for Canada :-)

Thanks for reading and sorry for any spelling mistakes - I am on a tablet with very frustrating auto correct so Valero and Tortillas and Adelaide come out instead... :-P Freestyle tomorrow!!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

WEG Team Grand Prix Competition


The last three days have been a whirlwind and I am absolutely exhausted! Mum and I woke up early on Saturday, organized all our animals and ourselves and ended up at the airport on the plane for 11:50AM. It took almost 24 hours of planes, trains and automobiles and we ended up in Caen, France on Sunday afternoon where we met up with friends Lynn, Iris and Kate and headed off to the WEG village.
Unfortunately the best word to describe the shopping is disappointing. Barely a pair of full seat breeches to be scoured out after a full day of looking in seriously every shop!! We did find Breyers, crepes and beautiful hand made Argentinian dressage whips. And also had to show our tickets on the way out of the village? We still haven't figured that one out... Then we headed out into the tranquil French countryside to the beautiful house we are staying in and got settled, fed and to sleep!
Monday morning we thought the dressage started at the time indicated on our tickets - wrong. And that there would be parking and shuttle busses as advertised - also not a correct assumption. So an hour of attempting to park and ride the shuttle bus meant we completely missed Karen Pavicic's ride :-( But we did make it for Calecto V and Tina and some more great dressage all day. Highlights were the Spanish team (with the excellent "grey Pete" PRE!), David Marcus conquering the rain, Nip Tuck, Hans Peter and Desperados :-) At home we made sure to check the times for Tuesday!! And good thing as Bella Rose was first thing at 8AM.
Today was an early, early morning as we were out the door at 6:45AM - this however meant we found premium parking about a block from the Stadium! We got settled in the best seats possible about 20 minutes before Bella Rose with our coffee (with cream today!) and pastries. Isabelle was absolutely incredibly fantastically wonderful and I actually cried after her test for an 81%, incredible. It was cool to see at every point in the day at least 2 Germans on the leaderboard (top 3), Painted Black for Spain and especially the great rides for Canada and the USA!! GO BELINDA! Oh my goodness congrats for getting to the Special :-) And Laura Graves and Steffen did an amazing job for team USA who finished in fourth. I'm secretly also super happy that I made the correct predictions for the top 5 teams. Canada finished 9th out of lots of teams - super big congrats Canada :-) A super consistent finish from the whole team :-)
And an amazing end for the day to see Valegro and we now know why he is #1 in the world wow wow wow!!

So excited for the special tomorrow and so inspired to ride - I wish I could have packed Rowan and Pete but they are probably happier at home out of the pouring French rain :-)
I am hoping to update after the special a little bit more detailed on each ride but basically one needed to be over 71% to make it to the special so it should be fantastic!!! Exciting!!!

Thanks for reading :-)

Sunday, 10 August 2014

For the Ride not the Ribbon

Unfortunately we got rained out of the Extreme Stables show :-( I was really looking forward to riding there and practicing my tests for the first time away from home!
However, luckily Vickie Argals at Flying Colours ( let us stop by and ride through tests in their indoor arena! It was almost a horse show environment as neither horse had been there before. Both kids were very good and Vickie gave some great words of encouragement when I was worrying about whether or not I had made the right decision scratching both FEI tests from the pouring rain - "Do you go for the ride or the ribbon?"
This brings about an important discussion I think about knowing our horses and when it is too much or knowing that the experience will not be a good one. My goals for Friday were not to ride tests come hell or high water - but to take both horses out to a welcoming environment for their first PSG and I2 to build confidence - not take it away. So I think I made the right decision, however unfortunate it was as the Extreme shows are always super well run and fun to boot!! Thanks so much to the Extreme team who had great weather for the Saturday and Sunday of their show at least!  Hope to see you next year :-) And thanks so much to FC and Vickie for having us!

And without further ado here are the videos!

Thanks for reading!! The next updates will probably be from the WEG in Normandy, France!! I am going to try to do a blog post every day :-)

Friday, 1 August 2014

A Mid-Summer Daydream

Today we are officially half way through summer! I hope everyone is able to be outside for this glorious weather and are using it as a great opportunity to ride and train outside as much as is possible!
With the release of the 2015 Pan American Games criteria my timeline was moved up considerably for getting Pete to a successful FEI Prix St. Georges in time for declaration. There are 2 shows out west with the panel classes needed for a declaration score. The first is the CAADA Reach For The Stars II show ( for info) and the second will be Ali's show at Thunderbird in October (and the dates have also moved for this show as well - please keep your eyes peeled on the T-Bird website
The team will be headed to the CAADA show at the beautiful Anderson Ranch in September where Pete and I will have two chances to achieve our declaration score of 62% - which may not seem like much but I always need to keep in the back of my mind that this very special little horse has only been under saddle for 2 years and is just 7 years old. At this same show I plan on competing Rowan at FEI Intermediate II and the U25 Grand Prix. I have really taken some time since the CDI to take him back to the basics and build up his musculature with a lot of cross training over caveletti and small fences to prepare him for the demands of the Grand Prix! I am also very excited about how the preparations are coming for my students who will be competing at the Reach For The Stars II show and also competing in Provincial Championships :-)
This summer I have also been lucky to attend the 2014 EC Judges upgrading clinic to complete my criteria for EC "r" judging status and am working already on my criteria for EC "B" status application in 2015. For this I need to judge a number of EC sanctioned shows and will be contacting organizers shortly but I would like to offer my services to any shows which follow this criteria for a very discounted rate (in many cases for free). Please contact me!
As well I have a few more events I will be attending before the CAADA show in Spetember. Unfortunately Christine Traurig was unable to make it in August due to commitments around WEG! But I am working with her to establish a time that will work for another clinic :-) So I will be at the Extreme Stables Summer show on August 8 and then to the High Thorn Summer Finale August 17th. After that I will be headed for a week to the WEG in Caen!! I am very excited to watch the best riders in the world and to network while I am there in preparation for the 2015 PAGs.

Stay busy and keep working towards your goals!! My favorite tool in busy times is to journal and goal set every night before I go to bed :-)
Thanks for reading!!