This time the Aiken wrap-up comes to us from Micki, who had a fairytale return to competition with her horse Playful. Together the pair have come back out on the eventing scene after a hiatus, 2012 marking the first time she’s been training with us. She certainly made a huge splash by winning their first show together this year in very good company. Well done Micki—we’re so proud!
Going to Aiken for a week to ride was high on my bucket list – and now I can’t wait until next year’s trip. I think the big word for the week was CONFIDENCE. Every horse and rider combination on the Team CEO Aiken Excursion improved so much – beyond what most of us could have expected!
First of all, Aiken is an amazing place if you are an eventer, love eventing or just love horses. Almost everywhere you go, you see horse people – it is not uncommon, or even frowned upon, to head straight to dinner from the barn – still in breeches and boots. The many facilities are great too – and we have Masterson and the Horse Park! We attended a USEF training session at Boyd Martin’s winter farm, in Bridle Creek, and got to see a few of the London hopefuls school show jumping with Lauren Hough and Captain Phillips (and Neville in his stall). We also had breakfast at the famous Aiken track and watched the horses breeze. It is a horse-crazy town!
Hitchcock Woods is a 2,000 forest for horseback riding with trails and a lot of jumps, smack in the middle of downtown Aiken. Our first full day, we hacked and jumped at Hitchcock and it was amazing – a great confidence builder for me with Oreo, and I think for the rest of the group too. Only in Aiken do you park your 6 horse trailer on the side of a downtown street, in front of southern mansion, and hop on your horse and take off!
We also schooled cross country at Jumping Branch Farm and Full Gallop (I had to leave early and missed the Sporting Days schooling), two very different but challenging places to ride. At Jumping Branch, the beginner novice fences began to look very doable, and by the end of the morning, our group of starter/bn and some novice horses had jumped a log drop into water – easily a training question. Yes, a very big day for confidence!
Full Gallop Farm has a lot of technical questions, plus just A LOT of jumps! By the end of our schooling there on Wednesday, I think most of our group was easily BN confirmed, with several good novice jumps under some of our belts. Full Gallop is hilly, and has two water complexes – and eventers love to play in water! Wednesday was an even bigger confidence builder!
On Thursday, most of us showed at the Apple Tree Farm South combined test. The organizers did a great job of putting together a 14 fence show jumping course – with roll tops, barrels, flowers, gates etc – a real course! All of the Team CEO horses and riders ate it up, and it was a very good day for everyone. We all cheered for each other, and it was so great to see Holly C and Jester complete their first dressage test and first jumping round – Jester was a star! Another huge boost in confidence for all of us, made even more fun by the support of the whole group for each other!
It was a wonderful week with 15 great ladies who love their horses and eventing. To be able to spend a week away from life’s distractions was so valuable to my riding, and to be able to spend it with a bunch of new friends was icing on the cake. Our group ranged from fearless college age girls to some of us who have been eventing since before Megan was born, but we all enjoyed each other’s company and riding. Watching everyone improve so much was so educational and inspiring. If you are on Facebook, you may know we also took a lot of pictures and video, and enjoyed sharing them each evening. We had wonderful dinners out at little Aiken restaurants that Megan picked – from sushi and Mexican to Cuban – Megan again stretching our limits and showing us new things. I really can’t say enough about Megan – she truly has a gift for bringing out the best in each horse and rider, and even after teaching 8-10 hours a day, was still our fearless leader! She is so positive and encouraging, and knows how to get the best out of each horse and rider combination. She truly seems to love what she does, and I think that shows in the results we all had. I have to also mention Andrea – how amazing that she has only been eventing for 1 ½ years – she is such a good rider, and hard worker, and always in a good mood.
So we are home, and looking forward to Paul Frazier CT and seeing members of our group again. For me, Aiken was an invaluable week. Two months ago, I was ready to give up and sell Oreo. After a lot of help from Megan (and Andrea!), we are entered at Paul Frazier AND Spring Bay – and confident that we can conquer both!
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