The Diary of a Working Student…

You think you know, but you have no idea.

Dressage tests and showjumps and cross country, oh my! April 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — workingstudent @ 10:39 pm

I guess we’re on the final countdown now – nine days until the short course! I’m a jumbled mess of excitement and fear of screwing up…on the one hand I wish it would just hurry up and get here, and on the other hand I wish I had an extra week to prepare! Megan and I went out cross-country schooling the other day with Melissa, and she made me feel better when she mentioned that we’re WAY overprepared for Beginner Novice – apparently some of the jumps we had been popping over are in the 2’9/3 foot range. And here I was thinking they were 2’…that’s good, though! TJ was a bit of a wild woman again but according to Melissa, it’s not cross-country unless you’re on the edge of being out of control. When I let TJ pull me into the jumps a little more the whole thing flowed a lot better and felt AWESOME. We had a good gallop in the sloppy footing to figure out 450 mpm, and then it was back to the barn. Cross country always

Cross-country with Tejana-Banana!

goes by too quickly, and it seems like the second I get into the rhythm, we’re done. Anyway, Phyllis finally sent me the new cross-country shot, and I love it! It’s a major improvement over my first time out there, and TJ looks so cute with her pricked ears and lack of woolly-mammoth coat 😉 Here it is – now I’ve got to go buy some Dover goodies! 😀


Finding the Rhythm March 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — workingstudent @ 9:50 pm

Today for our weekly jumping clinic we took to the boarder field for another cross-country school – and this, my second ever, was just fantastic! Most of my problems last time were control-based – TJ was running off with me, lengthening like crazy into the fences, and it was just a mess, not to mention that my lower leg was completely unstable and sliding back over the jumps, driving her on – I have a great picture that would perfectly illustrate this, but how about you just use your imagination!? 😉

I’ve spent a lot of time lately working without stirrups, getting my legs really strong and stable – and working on TJ’s half-halt! We strolled out to the boarder field today after a sub-par warmup, feeling a little bit anxious (on my part), and way too strong (on her part). Phyllis had us all pop over a few tiny logs to warm up and we blasted over them with wild abandon…and then it was on to a course. I decided that, for the sake of a few decent jumps, I’d trot over most of the jumps and cruise between, cantering when TJ felt adjustable. This approach worked well, and with our next course I asked her for a little more, and cantered more of the jumps. Before we continued, Phyllis told us all about “the Magic Button” – a place right in front of the withers where we should press our bridge and push down. This, she said, was the trick to a slower tempo and better half-halt on course, accompanied with check-and-releases as needed  – rather than the higher handed checks I’d been using. Then she had us all work on a tight turning exercise – jumping a vertical and then immediately turning 90 degrees to jump another in stride. Once we got the hang of it, my little mare jumped handily and it was on to our final course! This time I really figured out that “magic button,” and with the exception of a tight one-stride which Phyllis recommended we approach in trot, we hit that perfect rhythm and fairly flowed around the course. Coming down to the beefy log, where Phyllis was armed with her camera, I had a HUGE grin on my face…what a great feeling, to be totally in balance on a galloping horse, leaping over obstacles! It was a huge improvement from our last school, and even from earlier in the day where my mistakes and TJ’s lack of adjustability at the time led to an uncharacteristic refusal! I feel so much more confident now that we won’t crash and burn at the Short Course. And when Phyllis sends me that picture, it’ll be up here right away!


Counting down to competitions…! March 21, 2009

This time it really was the internet. And I am SO in the process of kicking Sprint’s sorry butt. Anyway, I have BIG news for those of you who don’t already know…I got a new horse! Danny found a perfect home with a local couple who trail ride – they invited me to their farm to meet their two Thoroughbreds and make the big decision, and a few days later Danny made the fifteen-minute trip. It was sad, but a relief at the same time. I love that horse, but he was frustrated and I was frustrated and it just wasn’t working – it was time for him to bring enjoyment to someone else. Thankfully, Jan, his new owner, keeps in touch and is very happy to let me visit when I get the opportunity.

TJ and I jumping the Fruit-Loops!So to fill the void, I got Tejana. She’s not technically mine – I’m leasing her until the end of June, but I may not give her back at this rate! She’s a 15.3hh chestnut Thoroughbred mare, 8 years old, competed through Prelim – so she knows a LOT more than I do and is not afraid to let me know! We went through a little bucking phase the first week that I had her, but I’m starting to figure out exactly how to ride her and overall just having a blast! She’s definitely not the type of horse to do things perfectly without being asked with perfect clarity – which is very good for me. TJ – as we call her – is also an AMAZING jumper and will jump ANYTHING I point her at! My confidence levels are definitely climbing – now, when I’m riding around the arena, I look at the jumps and am not intimidated by them (unless they’re at Heidi & Gemini height 😉 )…all I want to do is jump them! We went cross-country schooling the other day which was definitely interesting – TJ hasn’t seen cross-country since her last Prelim in June and I could hardly stop her! Never mind that my balance and leg were slightly sub-par – lol! We go out again tomorrow and I can’t wait!

So, armed with this awesome new horse, guess what I get to do? That’s right – COMPETE! I’ve entered the MDHT Short Course at Loch Moy in MD on April 11th, and then Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials on April 26th. The short course is basically a combined test – you ride the dressage and then jump one course which is 50% stadium fences and 50% cross-country. Loudoun, however, is the real deal – dressage, cross-country, then showjumping. I can’t TJ and I cross-country schooling.wait!! The short course promises to be quite the Windchase day-out – Melissa is taking four horses (Eddie and Chance, two of the sale horses, and her own River and Jazz), Kaitlyn is riding her mare Castine, Megan is taking Cate, and Jenna will be competing a sale horse named Aherlow. Only Heidi is missing out on the fun – unless we can persuade her to take Phoenix…?!

Other than that, I don’t think too much else is going on here – we’re back to cold, cold days after a brief stint of mid-70s – however, spriing is finally here so I’m sure the warm fronts will be back! Hope all is well outside the bubble!


Well hey, I’m back. February 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — workingstudent @ 2:26 am

And I can blame my absence on my former lack of internet. Sort of. Anyway, once again I’ve given myself the onerous task of packing a month into a blog post – which, I realize, doesn’t make for terribly interesting reading. Oh well. I suppose I can start this post the way all awkward conversations start – with a comment about the weather. It’s FANTASTIC. Today it was – no joke – 61 degrees. Seeing as it was -4 with windchill the other day (we all ended up at IHOP), this is one hell of an upturn. Of course, now the ground is one big muddy suction cup but I don’t really care. It’s just nice to wear – gasp – ONE jacket. Although, I had a mini-vacation – sort of – a couple of weeks ago in Maine, and after the -27 degree temps there, even the coldest of days here feel positively tropical. It was nice to get back and see all my friends and visit my old barn, and it definitely refreshed my outlook quite a bit.

My mom and I drove back down and she stayed for a few days in the Little House and cooked all of us an AMAZING dinner of shepherd’s pie, brownies, and apple crumble…yum. That lasted us for several meals, which was fabulous – when you’re a working student any food you don’t have to cook or pay for is great and if it’s actually good food, well, that’s even better (and very rare 😉 )! Before she left, my mom gave me one last pep talk and then released me at the double-shed to grab Miranda – and it was back to my life.

Danny and I in the "snow."Speaking of life (and getting it moving in a more positive direction), I do believe my Danny problem may just be solved. I am aware that posting that online is probably the ultimate jinx…but oh well. A very sweet lady came and tried him twice (and of course, he acted his absolute worst the second time!). She rode him very well and I think with a few weeks of getting to know each other they’d be a great team. And she really liked him! Yay! So, fingers crossed that this will work out and I can move onto a more suitable event horse (and I know of the perfect one…!). I’ll be sad to see my darling Dannyboy go, but both he and I will be happier with different partners. My lessons on him just aren’t terribly productive and I feel like I learn so much more on more cooperative horses – such as Razor, the huge white(ish) horse owned by one of our boarders. I got to ride him in an inaugural “dressage clinic” the other day – modeled after our weekly jumping clinics, the first one was based on lateral work. It was me, and my fellow working students Jenna on Elmo, Megan on Cate and Kaitlin on Castine. We all had a BLAST attempting leg-yields, turns on the haunches and forehand, shoulder-in, and travers and renvers. Ok, we actually all did pretty well up until the last two…ha! It was so much fun to do it in the group format, and I hope Phyllis lets us do a few more of those!

One of our number is leaving us soon – senior WS Meagan has sold her gorgeous Thoroughbred Starry and is jetting off to New Zealand to work for an event rider there. The farm she’s going to is actually the farm all of Windchase’s NZ horses came from, and is, I’m sure, VERY nice. I doubt she reads this blog, but if she does – GOOD LUCK MEAGANNNN :D!

You probably – maybe – noticed two new names in the dressage lesson. We’ve got two new faces here in the Little House – Megan from Texas and Kaitlin from West Virginia/Ohio. Megan is a national-champion polocrosse player and brought a very cute liver-chestnut Quarter Horse mare named Cate with her. Kaitlin is an eventer and owns Castine, a beautiful Thoroughbred who used to belong to Phyllis. Both our newbies are awesome and fit in very well here at Windchase 🙂

Well, I think it’s about time for bed. Kaitlin and I were lucky enough to get a day off together today, so we got out of the  bubble for a little while and went to Sterling to catch a movie. We saw The Reader…which was really good but definitely made me cry at least four times! I loooove Kate Winslet, she’s my favorite (film) actress, so I’m predisposed to love anything she’s in but DAMN. She outdid herself this time! I totally recommend everyone go see it, however be warned that there is a LOT of nudity. So don’t go see it with your mom or anything. Because that would be awkward.



2009 Already!? January 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — workingstudent @ 3:48 pm

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe how fast 2008 went by. It was a pretty big year for me – I graduated high school, interviewed at Windchase and Team CEO Eventing, experienced my first barn fire, spent a crazy summer preparing for the transition to semi-adult life, and of course, moved down to Virginia! And I’ve learned a lot too – about life, about horses, and about myself.

But now it’s 2009, and it’s time for new plans and new goals. My number one goal is to actually get out there and compete! I’d love to do a few Beginner Novices in the spring and heck, maybe a Novice to finish up – that would be amazing! To do that, though, I need a competition horse…which is in the works. I’ll let you know what’s going on when everything’s 100% set in stone 🙂

I also want to find Danny a new job. As much as I would love to just keep him around as a pet or something of the sort, I can’t afford to have two. And Danny just doesn’t do well under the intense pressure of a program such as Windchase. Even though it might kill me a little bit, he absolutely deserves to have a home where he can be someone’s hacking out/recreational jumping horse. I need to put my own desires aside, stop being selfish, and just do it 😦

I feel like I should have some non-horse related goals too…but right now I can’t think about anything else! I’ve been accepted at a bunch of colleges and been offered a lot of large scholarships, but maybe I’ll just defer it all for a year and do my thing here for even longer. It’s too early to decide just yet.

Anyway, I know this isn’t a very exciting post but it’s been written right in the middle of the day, so deal 🙂 I’ll post something more interesting soon, I promise. And now that I’ve posted my goals for the new year – what are yours? Post in the comments 🙂


And because my blog is “boring”… December 30, 2008

…or so says my roomie Heidi 😉 (And yes, I agree. I need to update this thing more. I suck.) How do you fit a whole month’s worth of intense learning into one semi-readable blog post?

Well, I’ll start with Danny and me, I guess. After our first jumping lesson here (where he decided to refuse a crossrail several times and get shown up by a couple of three-year-olds), he and I both have improved a lot. Phyllis does weekly jumping ‘mini-clinics’ on Sundays, with a Prelim/Training group, one or two Novice/Beg. Novice groups, and the “baby” group for young and/or inexperienced horses (and riders!). Danny has been in the baby group every week, and I’ve been having a lot of fun riding in them. The first week he was an absolute SUPERSTAR, and in fact, this was the second time I’d jumped him since coming to Windchase – Melissa Hunsberger, one of our wonderful trainers, jumped him over some little stuff one day and I’d been getting some practice in on Shamrock. By the end of that first jumping clinic, he was jumping a line consisting of a crossrail, one stride to an oxer, and two (or was it three?) strides to a third oxer. I couldn’t have been happier – and although the jumps were probably 2’3 max, it was still a big step for us. Just the fact that he was having as much fun as I was, never even threatening to refuse, was enough for me. I probably had the biggest grin on my face leaving that arena!

The next week wasn’t quite so good, as it was part of Danny’s “Hell Week”…which all started with an ill-fated canter. Basically, Danny had the temper tantrum of the century and is just now pulling out of it. Anyway, this second jumping clinic was iffy – he was either galloping out-of-control or stopping and refusing to move (and consequently getting hit in the ass with the arena rake by Phyllis :D), and Phyllis made us jump over a vertical to an oxer a BUNCH of times until he submitted, and then we were done with him. Although it was certainly a *special* ride, he still willing jumped everything, so I decided to just be happy with that. Ohh aaaand Phyllis called me a “lovely rider” which is CERTAINLY something to be happy about, haha!

Yesterday was the third of our mini-clinics. I rode Danny in his bitless bridle just to see what he would act like, and, with the exception of our non-existant half-halt, he was actually quite good. Once again he was VERY enthusiastic, to the point that he would pull me throughChristmas Hack 2008! the line at a full gallop! We did jump through in a nice, civilised manner more often than not, though. We ended that clinic with a crossrail – five strides to an oxer – rollback turn to another crossrail and then a wide crossrail oxer type of thing. And then I cut across the arena and jumped another one of those which was apparently NOT part of the exercise, oops! I was very happy that Danny was finally getting over his tantrum, though, and today when I had a dressage lesson with Melissa he was in a very good mood, not at all balky, and giving me very nice canters! After my lesson, my fellow WS Meagan and her mare Starry joined us for a little hack around the lake. It’s so nice to take any opportunity to just enjoy the view here – Windchase is, honestly, the most beautiful place.

Speaking of getting out and enjoying the property, on Christmas Day Heidi, Meagan and Clare (a former working student who came back to spend the holidays with us 🙂 ) and I went on another “picture hack” – Heidi on her young horse Phoenix, Meagan on Starry, Clare on Shamrock and me on Danny. Phoenix, the baby of the group, ended up being the best behaved of the lot! Danny was actually so badly behaved that I had to lead him most of the way home because otherwise, he would just spin around…and around…and around…lol! Even so, it was still a really fun ride and watching Shamrock “levade” up a hill was quite an entertaining sight!

Things in the Little House are basically the same as usual; we have our Little Ghetto Christmas Tree living on our kitchen table and a TON of sweets and socks that the boarders gave us. We’ve all been attempting to play Scene It, but we suck at it. We also had a little party/lunch thing in our brand new tack room on Christmas Eve which was great, and then a wonderful Christmas dinner at Phyllis’s house. Free, GOOD food is one of a working student’s favorite things 😉 Other than that, there’s not too much interesting stuff to report. I’ll tryyyy to update this again soon…haha!


A typical day at Windchase… December 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — workingstudent @ 2:12 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Because I’ve been getting so many “what’s it like?” emails and Myspace/Facebook messages lately, I decided to just throw together a fairly typical (although there’s really no such thing at a horse farm of this caliber 😉 ) day-in-the-life kind of thing. Hope it answers some questions.

Here was my day today:

5:15am – Wake up. Put on kettle, read a book and drink tea for a little while to wake up.

5:55am – Get dressed – lots of layers are important around this time of year. It’s still dark out.

6:10am – Head out to the barn to do my ‘pay stalls’. I do five, and they have to be done before morning chores.

7:30am – Grain the boarder barn.

7:45am – Grain Phyllis’s barn.

7:55am – Change any blankets that need changing – usually Jamie, Voodoo, Drifter, Expedience, Aidan, Mystic, and Chance.

8:15am – Start turnout.

8:45am – Clean Phyllis’s barn. We each do four or five stalls.

9:20am – Do other miscellaneous morning chores – raking the boarder barn aisle, raking the arena track, tidying up the barn aisle and haying the horses on stall rest all need to be done, so we split the chores up between us.

9:45am – Our maintenance man, Kenny, wasn’t here today so we had to do his stalls – 2 each.

10:10am – Run inside for a quick breakfast.

10:45am – Bring in Corocotto, grab my tack and place it outside his stall.

11:00am – Bring in Drifter for Phyllis.

11:10am – Bring in Jerry for Melissa.

11:30am – Hop on Corocotto for Phyllis so she can see if he’s off; trot and hand-gallop in both directions.

11:45am – Untack Cory very quickly and turn him back out; run out to the mares’ field to grab Shamrock.

[Right around this time noon chores get done too – bring in Expedience and put out Cory and Voodoo; hay the horses who are in.]

11:55am – Tack up Shamrock.

12:15pm – Bring Shamrock to arena for jumping lesson with Phyllis. Melissa, Meagan, and Heidi are also riding. (It was a blast :D)

1:15pm – Untack Shamrock, leave her inside to cool down for a little while, run out to the mare field to get Lilly for Phyllis’s great-niece to ride.

1:25pm – Turn Shamrock out.

1:35pm – Help get Lilly ready.

1:45pm – Groom and tack up Theodora, one of the three-year-olds, who Heidi brought in for me. (Because I loooove Heidi!!!!)

2:00pm – Bring Theodora out to the arena for a mini-lesson with Jineen; I’m going to start riding Dora regularly and Jineen is basically giving me the run-down of her.

2:45pm – Bring Dora back to the barn, untack and feed her.

3:00pm  – Walk her back up the driveway to the doubleshed field.

3:15pm – Walk Wager up to the doubleshed field.

3:30pm – Start to bring in horses.

3:55pm – Hay and grain Phyllis’s barn while Heidi hays and grains the boarder barn, and Jenna grains the baby fields.

4:20pm – Change blankets, pick feet and do footcare in Phyllis’s barn.

4:40pm – Check feed tubs in both barns, close up stalls.

5:00pm – Go to office to sit for a minute, chat with Jineen, check the schedule for tomorrow.

5:15pm – Head up to the house to change for a trip to IHOP, then come home and chill before bed at 9 or 9:30.


And this, my friends, is a basic day. On Mondays, the farrier is also squeezed in there. On Tuesdays, the vet. Many days we have show-for-sales, which are hectic – we have to find time to make the sales horses beautiful, tack them up, set fences, etc etc. Today a puppy got hurt which added drama! Yesterday a three-year-old fractured a hip – all sorts of exciting things go on here. Windchase is NOT for the faint of heart, but we all love it here 🙂