Since the middle of March it’s been organized chaos at TPF. With 16 horses from the farm competing at Southern Pines at the end of March, it was quite a manic weekend with regular 14- to 16-hour days. I have to say, on days like those, I do sometimes ask myself why I do this job and when I’m I going to get a “regular job.” Normally the answer is always the same... for the love and respect of the horses that do this sport.
I had to arrange for 12 horses to go north to Pennsylvania, whilst horses competing at Morven or The Fork had to go back to Aiken. Jennie ended driving to Southern Pines on the Sunday with horses who weren't competing but needed to go north, then she drove back to Aiken with the big boys. Both Ryan and Phillip drove north with full loads and then turned around and drove back on Monday or Tuesday to Aiken.
Tuesday and Wednesday we had training sessions with Katie Prudent, which went really well. I love her approach to teaching and attention to detail. She takes no prisoners when critiquing your ride and only expects perfection. At home Phillip will sometimes have to jump between 6 to 14 horses a day in between teaching and conference calls, so there is little time for perfection, only just getting the job done. These lessons help Phillip to really focus on issues he needs to work on.
Friday saw another five horses leave, with Ryan and Jackson heading off to Morven Park to compete. By this time myself and new TPF member Kate Brown had to start cleaning and packing up the barn. With Jennie’s shoulder keeping her jobs limited, I had her polishing the brass, which doesn't get done often enough at our barn!
For me personally, leaving Aiken is always a sad event. Yet again this year was made harder with the decision to pull Chip out of Badminton. Unfortunately he did not come out of a gallop so good... so the dream will have to be held onto for next year. I wish all the U.S. contenders well, and I also told Max [Corcoran, the O’Connor Event Team’s head groom] I expected her to bring back a trunk full of Cadbury’s milk chocolate for me!
The Fork went well. Phillip didn’t want to run all the horses to time on cross-country to prepare them carefully for the upcoming CCI events. Milo [Truluck] was very excited to be back competing, although tense in both dressage and show jumping. But Phillip was happy with his overall performance. Penn [William Penn] went well in dressage and on cross-country. The partnership still needs time to develop in the show jumping. He is actually one of Phillip’s best jumpers, but producing it in the ring on the day is going to take time. Happy [Mighty Nice] did his first advanced and seemed to handle the move up pretty well. Eagle [Fernhill Eagle] seems to improve each time out, so we have our fingers crossed that he will peak at Rolex.
We all drove home to Pennsylvania on Monday, and for once there were thankfully no transport issues! The horses were happy to see the grass and all had a good roll in the mud. Simon [Connaught] looks awesome, fat (for him!) and happy. Woodburn comes back to the farm tomorrow.
The next two weeks will be the nervous run up to Rolex. We have the babies going to Plantation this weekend, followed by some of the older horses doing Fair Hill the following week.
Life won’t be slowing down for awhile... but would I really have it any other way?