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A week away from home

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This past Sunday I returned home after spending a week on the road, heading first down to Ocala, Florida for the USEA Young Horse Symposium before heading to Thomson, Georgia for the second time in February to photograph the event with Mark Lehner and the Hoofclix crew.

Although I did write several articles about the USEA Young Horse Symposium for EN, I was there out of personal interest too, as I’m now working part time at a barn working with young horses and learning about sport horse breeding. The barn owner wasn’t able to go, but she encouraged me to attend and report back. I’m really glad I did.

I learned a lot about evaluating a young horse under saddle and pedigree analysis. I also got to do a bit of networking and hang out with some pals from Virginia who were either in Ocala for the seminar or wintering in sunny Florida.

I was really blown away by Maren Engelhardt, an incredibly knowledgeable woman when it comes to pedigrees and breeding horses. I was glad to meet her and get some valuable feedback about Fey (she likes her!) and stallions I’ve considered for her.

My favorite session, however, was David O’Connor’s 40-minute discussion about bringing young horses along properly and strengthening the pipeline for producing young horses through the levels in the United States. We know David is a good coach, but it’s clear he cares a lot about the horses and their wellbeing. Robin Walker also made some fine points on this same topic, including riders needing to learn to be producers as well as competitors, and taking the time to care for a horse mentally during its development and the course of its career. That’s horsemanship, folks.

Secrets to Michael Pollard’s Dressage Skills

From Young Horse to Team Horse with David O’Connor

Roundtable Discussion: Developing the Young and Future Event Horse Programs

(Click here for more Young Horse Symposium articles)

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I’ve known Mark Lehner for several years, and he was always so nice to me when I was just coming into photographing at horse shows. He also has a great crew of photographers working with him that I now call friends. So I’m really grateful to get to work with him this year and learn and better myself as a photographer.

I pulled double-duty at the two Pine Top events in February shooting for Mark during the day and writing up score reports for EN in the evening. The big “drama” at the second event was the insane temperatures that we knew were coming well ahead of time. I packed well in preparation and have to say I wasn’t miserable. I had my snow boots, my long underwear, good coats, etc. I’d say the only thing I had to adjust to was wearing gloves with fingers, which I don’t normally do while shooting as it makes working the buttons a little clunky. But in 20 degrees, I’ll suck it up and wear the gloves.

I didn’t write this one, but from the photos you’ll see the kind of weather we were dealing with. (7 Photos of the Frozen Water Jump at Pine Top).

Thankfully it warmed up on Saturday, but Sunday it pretty much rained all day. Which is annoying only because trying to keep the camera dry is annoying. But again, I was so strangely slap happy to be at that show that I didn’t really mind the weather so much. I should start packing coolers of sandwich stuff though, instead of eating granola bars and bananas from the hotel for three days.


Journalism These Days

A portrait from Cruz Control's holiday photo shoot at Little Kentucky Farm.

A portrait from Cruz Control’s holiday photo shoot at Little Kentucky Farm.

I mentioned in my last post that I had embarked on some new creative projects. As it happens, I was welcomed on board as a freelancer at Eventing Nation, for which I was a writer in its earliest days, circa 2010.

Since then EN has developed into the go-to source for eventing news and event coverage, with significant international reach. EN is comprised of an amazing team of talented journalists and I’m pretty stoked to be a part of that team.

Since picking up with EN in December, I’ve been able to work on a number of special stories. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

Francis Whittington Clinic Report: Part 1, Part 2

Rider Profile, Julie Richards: Part 1, Part 2

Take No Liberties: Francis Whittington’s Keys to Success

Nantucket Summers: Meghan Perry’s Island Treasure

Runs on Stilts Stands Tall as Maryland’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred

Peregrine Farm: Breeding By the Book

These next three are difficult describe. They cover important issues and were challenging to produce, both in covering the delicate nature of the topics and in an attempt to do justice the strength of the people and horses involved. But I’m proud to have been able to tell these stories, which are ongoing.

Hope the Wonderhorse: A Starved Filly with the Will to Live

Contaminated Horse Feed Causes Panic in Georgia

32 Horses in Andrew Palmer’s Barn Exposed to Monensin

I will also be producing monthly short stories for eCovertside, the magazine of mounted foxhunting, for which my good friend Katy Carter is an editor.

I’ll try to remember to include links to articles in the future. I have some seriously adorable photos from a recent shoot to share with you soon as well.

Don’t forget to follow Threlkeld Creative on Facebook, where I post links and updates as often as I remember. xo

 


New Things

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated the blog… I apologize! I have several exciting updates for you.

Here are a few housekeeping notes:

  • You may or may not notice that http://www.lesliethrelkeld.com no longer points to this blog. Instead it now points directly to my Smugmug site, which I use primarily to display my photography portfolio and load galleries for clients.
  • The URL for this blog is now http://www.lesliethrelkeld.wordpress.com, so please update your bookmarks. If you are subscribed to my blog and receive emails when I post new things, you don’t have to change anything. If you are NOT subscribed to my blog… you should be! Click “sign me up!” in the sidebar to the right.
  • I have officially formed Threlkeld Creative, LLC for all my writing, photography, announcing and such. For several years I have operated as a sole proprietorship, and though Uncle Sam still sees it that way, I feel so very official.
  • You can now find my business page on Facebook! Check out Leslie Threlkeld Creative and “like” it.

Back in November I gave notice at the USEA. Having started out freelancing for the website in 2008, the magazine in 2011, and being hired on full-time in 2012, it was an indescribably educational, exhilarating, and fulfilling experience. I met many of my closest friends through this position and gained immeasurable experience in the journalism field. I am lucky to have been able to combine my lifelong passion of eventing with my career, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

Since resigning from my position as editor, I have been working on several creative projects and am excited for the year ahead. I’ll bring you up to speed in another post. Until then, thanks for your support, my friends! Happy belated new year!


Volunteering and Sightseeing

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Lovely mountain views in the new George Morris Grand Prix ring at Tryon International Equestrian Park.

It was a real bummer to have to withdraw from the WindRidge Horse Trials where Willow and I were going to make our recognized debut. But truth be told, I was not feeling 100% confident about competing one week after returning from AEC, so I might have actually dropped down to Starter level regardless. Either way, Willow has had some rest and is back under saddle. She’s irritated to be only walking and even more irritated to have had to take Fey on a walk with us yesterday, but she seems very sound and is no longer sore when palpating the area, even though there is still a slight knot.

Since I wasn’t riding at the show I figured I’d go volunteer and I had a blast! My friends Cindy de Porter and Rob Mobley were working the event, and I met several other lovely people and handed out some business cards for photography and announcing. The numbers at WindRidge are not  high, but it’s a really nice event. There were plenty of locals and some others that came up from Georgia and even one guy that was training in the area from Ohio. The courses and footing are great, the atmosphere is low-key and easy, and even though the weather was crispy in the mornings, it was a beautiful weekend.

I ended up being very busy. Rob had set up a PA system through the walkie-talkies and I am proud to have been WindRidge’s first ever announcer. I received a lot of compliments and people said how nice it is to have updates about scores and courses as they are happening. The system with the walkie-talkies was great because I was mobile and not locked into position in a room or a booth attached to a microphone and amp. At WindRidge, I could make announcements as I moved from point A to point B and could choose where to place myself on cross-country for the best view. There was some interference with other channels but that’s fixable for future events.

In addition to announcing all three phases, I helped steward the dressage ring and scribed for the judge in show jumping. I’m glad I volunteered, as I got to know the organizing committee there and it’s always such a great learning experience watching/working an event.

On Sunday we finished around noon and a bunch of people loaded up to drive 20 minutes to the new Tryon International Equestrian Park, which I’ve heard lots of great things about. There was a good turnout for the $100,000 Grand Prix with lots of seats filled by locals and 36 competitors in the division. I got there just in time to hear the dedication of the grand prix ring to George Morris, who was in attendance to accept the honor. I remember first hearing about the planned construction of the park at the USEA Convention last year, and while there is still some construction going on, the “guts” are all there. The rings are beautiful with little walkways and viewing areas between them so you can watch two rings at once. The barns are incredibly beautiful if lacking in a little airflow (the ceilings seem low to me, but there are fans installed in all the stalls). My favorite feature, however, is the mountain views. Western North Carolina is so pretty and I’m glad the natural beauty of the area is showcased at the park.

It remains to be seen what kind of eventing, if any, will be set up at the new park, but it’s nice to have this facility nearby to bring some business to the area, promote equestrian sports, and provide a new activity for locals. See more at www.tryonhorseshows.com.


Will You Please Try to Spook My Pony?

I was going to wait until after the event photographer posted photos to post this update, but it’s taking way, way too long. So no competition photos to show with this post, which is over a week late now. Sorry!

After the three-phase at Chestnut Creek, I was keeping my eyes open for another opportunity to get the pony into the show ring before our first recognized event in October. As it happened, the very location where that event will be was having a schooling horse trials August 24.

Willow had had a few days off while I was on vacation, so it didn’t seem fair to do a full three-phase. My biggest concern was getting her more relaxed in the dressage ring, so I sent off a last-minute entry to do two tests and skipped the jumping altogether. I think we were the only ones in the whole show to do dressage only.

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Thinking really hard about canter transitions.

Our goals were to improve upon our previous score of 43.7, get our leads, and be relaxed in a busy environment. So I was really bummed when I got down to the warm-up only to discover we were the only ones there. Dressage was running so far ahead of schedule that by the time I’d warmed up and my actual ride time had arrived, I was still all alone. Not too mention the dressage was really secluded with jumping and stabling located too far away to be a distraction. This was not what I wanted at all!

I approached the teenage girls who were stewarding the ring and asked them if they could do me favor. “Do you think you could try to spook my pony while I’m in the ring?”

“What? Really?”

“There’s no one here! I want her to have distractions and work through it.”

Laughing, they agreed, and stayed behind “A” dancing and waving their arms around. I told the judge so she wouldn’t fuss at them. I think she was a little weirded out my request, but this is why you go to schooling shows!

Willow was unfazed by the dancing. She was relaxed and tried really hard to be obedient. She got an 8 on her entrance and really good marks on her trot work. She’s just getting to where she’s strong enough and comfortable sitting a bit in the canter and is learning how to keep her balance and rhythm. It’s nice but it’s not perfect. In the collective marks the judge said she was a little flat at the canter and resistant at times. However, we got both our leads and the left lead transition was so nice (7!) it surprised me a little.

Right after we finished our first test, kids on ponies and all their parents and trainers swarmed the warm-up. Willow woke up a bit, we practiced a few more canter transitions, and went right back in the ring. The humidity had also increased considerably by then, and we were both suddenly very tired.

I did not ride her as well as I could have in the second test. Intro C and Beginner Novice B have a lot of transitions between letters and then a couple random transitions at letters. I was not 100% confident in how well I knew where the transitions were supposed to be, so I wasn’t really preparing her for them. Sorry, Pony! I got a couple late transitions, and then, holy crap, I got an error. My second one ever, I think.

We did our free walk in the wrong place. On the up side, we had a few extra seconds to walk around and do it again, so she had better stretching and freedom, scoring a 7 on her free walk (“some overstep and stretching”), which she got a 4 on at Chestnut Creek (“short steps, no stretch”).

At this point Willow was a little dull to my leg, but she was maintaining a great rhythm. Right after my error, we just had to pick up the trot at K and turn down the centerline. As we faced the warm-up and I lifted her head, Willow saw something, momentarily became a giraffe, and almost stopped completely. Meanwhile I’m asking for the trot and she doesn’t even hear me. Laughing and pony club kicking, she finally trotted, did a surprisingly balanced turn down the centerline, and halted straight at X.

Mission accomplished! We scored a 36 on both tests, and she would have had a 34 on BN B without my error. That’s an almost 10 point improvement since Chestnut Creek, and this little girl on a big black horse said “that was gorgeous!” which totally made my day. We have some work to do before October, but I’m thrilled with her.

Strengths: Her trot work – wow! She scored 8s on both trots across the diagonal in BN B. She has a really great rhythm and is very elegant. Her balance at all gaits is improving all the time.

What to work on: Flexibility – the right side is my bad side, and I can ask for a little more bend both directions. Keep working on building strength at the canter, which will make for a steadier connection and less resistance in the transitions. Also, erm, learn the tests!

We’re having a lot of fun learning and competing together, but one of my favorite things is just hanging out with Willow. After I cooled her down I went and grabbed a sandwich from concessions, picked up our tests, and chatted with a friend. When I got back to the trailer Willow was happily munching away on hay. She nickered and we shared a bit of sandwich while I called mom to tell her about our test. The whole time Willow played with my hair and begged for bread.

I have to thank Katie from the barn for letting me borrow her rig as my poor Bernadette suddenly ended up in the shop with a bad fuel pressure regulator (my bank account just cried).

I’ll add the link to photos when they are uploaded. We had another adventure this weekend that I’ll tell you about soon, too. Go pony!


The Hardest Part of Riding is the Ground

A lot has happened since my last post: I announced a dressage show in GA, photographed at Rolex in KY, published the Rolex Feature issue in a week (Go Team!), had Cortney’s family in town for a visit, covered CHC International in GA, and spring finally showed up. 

Oh, and I fell off the pony.

It was really silly. I stopped to pick honeysuckles and forgot about the hot wire fence across the boards next to us… the wires in the pony’s field are not turned on… I was bareback and not holding on to the reins or neck strap (I know, I know). Pony touched her nose or flipped her tail over the boards or something and took off like a shot. I remember watching her spotted butt get further away as I hovered in the air thinking “what happened/I know what happened/What an idiot!/This is gonna hurt.” I “lawnchaired” as Cortney calls it, and I may or may not have kicked myself in the eye with my own knee. Either way, I landed on my back, Pony took off (I don’t blame her), and I lay in the dirt for a second trying to decide if I could get up.

I could. 

I walked back to the barn, and Kate met me with the pony in tow. I haven’t fallen off in a long time (like, years.), and I know the whole “get back on right away” thing, but my back was injured and I wasn’t risking a second fall just to prove a point. The pony was not being bad, she got popped in the nose by a demon fence post. 

Anyway, I went the next day looking like a battered woman to the urgent care. I didn’t have any broken bones, but here a week-and-a-half later, I’m still having acute pain in my left hip. Granted I haven’t been “taking it easy” like they told me too.

I went to a dinner at Naomi’s the same night and we had a good laugh about sitting on the “cripple couch” as she held a cold compress to my face and she rested her very broken leg on my lap. 

I share this story not looking for sympathy, but for a laugh I guess. I keep visualizing it in my head over and over, and it makes me giggle… just picture honeysuckles flying, my shocked face, and the pony screaming back to the stables (she has a great gallop) wondering “WTF?”

I know I have a tendency to be very trusting of my horses, and I don’t micromanage their footsteps. However, had I been holding on to the reins or neck strap I likely would have stayed on and she wouldn’t have been so frightened. Ultimately, I shouldn’t have stopped by the hot fence at all… so many lessons to be learned. Either way, it’s a good story! And a tricky scheme by Pony to have a couple weeks off. 

So it goes with horses (and ponies!). Onward!

P.S. I have internet now! Like a normal person. So plan on more regular posts, especially photos! 


More About the Pony

Because I can’t stop. Won’t stop!

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Willow is FIT. Like, ready to go run around a horse trials fit. I talked to Amy this weekend and told her that the goal now is to maintain and finesse. I’m really excited to shoot for a fall horse trials.

She also looks like Tina Turner and has decided that I am not to pull her mane. No way no how. Such a diva.

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We had an awesome weekend! We had a great flat lesson (my first in far too long), which I’ll tell you all about in another post, and we went for a really fun hack/cross-country school with our adventure buddies Caroline and Crazy.

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Her Face! “This is the best day EVER!”

We wanted to go to a nearby farm for a XC school but could not figure out if the course was open, so I trailered the pony (who has learned to self-load. yay!) over to Caroline’s farm and we hit the “hack loop,” which was a lovely stroll through fields, woods, streams, dandelion flower beds and rock gardens, and a finished off with a little cross-country school.

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The horses absolutely loved “swimming” around in Goose Creek, a perfect activity for a beautiful warm day. Caroline and I laughed and laughed as Crazy and Willow (the water was up to her belly) stomped splashed around and submerged their faces for fun.

I’ve been itching to do a real XC school with Willow (we jump over random logs at home all the time). We did one last year, but her fitness and way of going has totally changed. There were a number of nice inviting BN-sized XC jumps on some good terrain and she was feeling good so we went for it and had an amazing time.

Willow is just so game and so willing. She was brave but really really careful (as evident in the below photo). She jumped me out of the tack once or twice, but we both hit our groove near the end of the school.

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WEE!

It was great to have Caroline’s eye and she gave me some very good advice: It’s obvious that I want to be forgiving and teach the horse to find its own distance, but I drop my shoulders in the last few strides when I should be confidently sitting up and moving more with her, which will give her more incentive to take the jump out of stride instead of lofting quite so much. This is a bad old habit I will need to work on. But it’s been a long while, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.

We also jumped up and down a bank and over a good ditch without a second glance (but with plenty of enthusiasm! Thank you neck strap!). And overall, Willow handled the terrain very well and maintained a good pace and held her own balance. She finished fit and looking for more. It was awesome.

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This picture makes me laugh. It’s like she’s sliding down a boat ramp.