It's always an honor to have the opportunity to compete at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****. This being my second time down the centerline, it was no different.
I must first thank Larry and Amelia Ross who have been partners for some time with Crown Talisman, or "Tali;" without their help I would not be here today! We were at Rolex Kentucky this year with the future in mind; just a week and a half before the event, I received an email from the U.S. Equestrian Federation informing me that I'd received a Land Rover grant to compete at the Saumur CCI*** in France.
I want to thank Land Rover as well as the countless private donors who make trips like this possible. This is a chance I would certainly not have without their support! I chose to just ride in the dressage phase at Kentucky to save and better prepare Tali for the upcoming years. He is such an incredible athlete and talent, but at times, a big atmosphere can limit his potential. There is no better place in this country to introduce him to the international stage than at Rolex Kentucky!
I was quite pleased with the test. As expected he was apprehensive entering the arena, but settled as the test progressed. He's a funny horse—generally the first time in an environment he wants to check all of the surroundings, rather than focusing solely on the job at hand. Historically, the second time he is all business. Being that he was more rideable this time than I expected, next year should be tremendous!
As I often do, I went straight to the video following the test to figure out what could be improved next time around. Coming out of the first halt and the walk pirouette, Tali nearly took a canter step. This was frustrating being that a score of 7 or 8 quickly dropped to a 4 or 5.
He's a very sensitive over-achiever, and I think I simply hadn't been differentiating my aids coming out of the halt enough. No need to make his job harder than it needs to be; I called my good friend Kim Severson for advice on how to make it more clear. I've been working on halt-walk, halt-trot and halt-canter transitions ever since.
The other obvious inaccuracy in the test was in the counter canter loops—especially the second one that was about 2 meters too small. Although he was tense at that moment, I will be making sure to not sacrifice accuracy in an effort to minimize tension.
I rode dressage on Thursday afternoon so the remainder of the weekend I tried to make the most of our time and get Tali in the most charged places on the park. I wanted to let him check it all out. Friday afternoon I had a jumping lesson from Silvio Mazzoni, our new show jumping coach. We worked on getting Tali to be more consistently quick off the ground in front of the fence. He had some great exercises using placing rails that improved Tali's jump significantly.
After cross-country on Saturday we galloped around the park. At times I find myself getting caught up in the schedule and where I have to be next, so it was a special experience to ride around the park with no timetable. We are very lucky to have such a competition and venue in this country. Sunday, Tali went for a walk and headed back to North Carolina following show jumping.
Fast forward a week: Michelle (Tali's mother, I'd be shocked if she lets him out of her sight for the next two weeks!) and Tali headed off to the Jersey Fresh CIC*** yesterday. I stayed back to ride all of the horses at home. I head up today for our last run before Tali hops on a plane on the 16th for France.
I will be in New Jersey through Saturday when the CIC wraps up before returning to the farm in North Carolina. Michelle and Tali will remain in Jersey at my parents' place in Oldwick to minimize his travel. I'll return to there for a final dressage test run-through with my mom, and then back to Carolina on Wednesday.
I fly out late on the 16th from Raleigh to join them outside of Paris. My wife, Jess, will be holding down the fort at home until early the following week. I'm very lucky to have such a great team of people helping me both at our new home in North Carolina as well as New Jersey and the USEF in Kentucky.
As you can imagine, this is a logistical headache, but what an opportunity! I'm determined to make the most of the chance I've been given. Looking back to our trip to Boekelo (the Netherlands) some years back, I'm in a much better position now. My goal is to be a player this time around!