Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2008 British Grand Prix Freestyle Champion, and British National Champion Dressage Rider, Maria Eilberg (GBR)

Addington Premier League which seems ages ago now was great as a warm up for Wiesbaden and Lingen. No matter how many times I have ridden the Grand Prix I always feel rusty if not having competed for a month or so so it was good to have a practice run! Two Sox was full of beans and very happy to be out at a party again, perhaps a little too happy as we entered the Grand Prix at a buck! He had another little whiz just before the 2s but I wasn’t too bothered as I was glad he was feeling fresh. I had planned to do the Grand Prix only but as he was feeling so well he did the Special the next day as well which he was more settled for. Woodlander Rockstar did his first PSG which as I expected was a little green but he did everything and didn’t feel phased by the work. It was good for me to have a go so that I know what needs working on!

Wiesbaden was eventful! I had never been before--so many people and different events going on all at the same time! The warm up and main arena are situated in the middle of a park so you get a lot of people who are just interested to see what’s going on and children, so many children! I was working Rockstar the one morning and not only did he have a tractor harrowing the arena but a bus load of children appeared and started to have a coat throwing competition: Who can throw their coat the highest?! He was so good and the next day he had the vaulting horses to work around!! On the way back home we ended up being in the middle of the cross country course which was exciting, I heard the whistle and wham, I had a horse coming behind me at a gallop! Two Sox was a star and on great form. He was a little fresh when we arrived but soon relaxed and felt so loose and supple after the journey. He is so content with himself now taking everything in his stride and not being phased by anything. He used to get quite nervous at big shows and it would show with him being tight, anxious and not eating. Now he thrives on it, at the age of 16, loving the atmosphere and applause, and trying to get hold of any grub that is going, he is one happy horse!

In the Grand Prix he did pretty much a clear round, the piaffes perhaps being a little forward and the zig zag a little tight so a few edges but he did do his best ever extended trot which I was very pleased about! He finished third with 68% not far behind the winner which was really encouraging. We opted to do the Freestyle which I wasn’t quite sure about as it was to be the next evening under floodlight which was bound to be very spooky! I was drawn last to go at 11pm. The atmosphere was buzzing and electric, he came out onto the warm up quite nervous. After a good bit of suppling he started to relax and I had to keep him moving more or less the whole time so he didn’t have time to wind himself up, all he could hear was lots of murmuring from the people watching and there were shadows everywhere. When it was time for me to go in for my test we had to make our way through the crowds of people to main the arena, it was a huge party atmosphere with commentary and interaction with the audience and judges, like a demo. As the last rider was being interviewed the crowd gave huge applause and he got a little excited but did a great test, just two little blips, a small mistake in the one tempis on the half circle where he got a bit disorientated heading towards all of the people and a slight rhythm blip in the last ext trot down the centre line- I didn‘t support him enough. He finished third again with 73%, very close to second place, I was very pleased! I thought that perhaps the whole evening would have taken a lot out of him but no sooner had we taken him back to the stables and taken his bridle and saddle off did he walk straight into his stable of his own accord and start eating his hay! (Photo: Celebrating Wiesbaden!)

Unfortunately Lingen didn’t go exactly to plan! I was cycling back to the hotel when I fell off the bike and broke my elbow, I was going to fast down a hill and didn’t make the turn! Luckily it seems to only be a small fracture so I should be riding again in a couple of weeks which is very good news! I am also extremely fortunate to have my Dad and brother at hand to keep the horses going in the meantime.

The next goal is Aachen which I hope I have done enough to be selected for, it will be the final selection before WEG so fingers crossed!

Monday, June 28, 2010

2006 WEG Vaulting Gold Medalist and Recent Cornell University Graduate, Megan Benjamin (USA)

Believe it or not (personally, I’m still in denial), I am a college graduate. After four years of 20-page history research papers, grueling exams, late nights in the library, and plenty of parties, on May 30th I graduated from Cornell University.

It was certainly a bittersweet moment. As challenging as my academic career at Cornell has been these past few years, I have loved every last moment. More than anything, as a California girl, I’m sad to leave my Cornellian friends, who will scatter across America’s northeastern cities from New York to D.C. to Boston. Luckily for us, there’s Skype and gchat, and as they reminded me as we said our goodbyes and I worried aloud about when I would see them again, “Megan, it’s not like you were ever on campus this semester anyway, and we’re still friends.”

Fair fact. Since January, I ventured to four different countries (Brazil, Denmark, Netherlands, and Canada) on four different occasions to teach clinics and compete abroad, went back to California for vaulting training camps and more competitions, drove over to Princeton, NJ to visit my boyfriend of four years, and flew to Portland, OR and Louisville, KY for the annual meetings of the American Vaulting Association and the United States Equestrian Federation, respectively.

My friends and family don’t quite understand how I managed to graduate (and maintain a pretty sweet GPA, I might add) from Cornell while simultaneously traveling the globe, training for WEG, and keeping my close friendships and relationships intact. The truth is this insane travel schedule and level of stress has been my norm for a long time. There are many things that are important to me, and I approach each and every one of these things with the time, effort, and dedication I believe they deserve.

As my mom has told me during times of stress, “You can have it all, but not all at once.” It is certainly true that if you stretch yourself too thin, it’s difficult to excel at any one thing. Although I’ve managed the delicate balance of my million and one passions these past four years of university, it’s time to scale back. As I write this, I am on a plane from Cornell to California. When I arrive, I will have a single focus for the first time in years—vaulting.

With no more academic obligations, I am finally free to train with my whole mind, body, and soul. With less than 4 months to go before WEG’s Opening Ceremonies, this is perfect timing. My calendar for the next few months is brimming with national and international competitions, vaulting practices, fabric shopping and uniform fittings, gymnastics and dance instruction, strength training, riding, and (of course) hours upon hours of barn chores. I’ve waited four years for this moment, and you can bet I’m going to take full advantage of every second.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twenty-Second National Title for Four-in-Hand Driver IJsbrand Chardon (NED)

Twenty-second national title for IJsbrand Chardon

At the end of May, I won the Dutch National four-in-Hand Driving Championship for the twenty-second time in my career. A Dutch Championship is always special and I never get bored of winning it! The Championship took place during the World Cup Qualifying competition in Zelhem (the Netherlands) and I also won the international class, ahead of my compatriots Theo Timmerman and Koos de Ronde.

It was only decided two weeks before the event that Zelhem would host the Dutch National Championship, but I did not mind that. At the start of this year, I choose to start my outdoor competition season and training schedule 5-6 weeks later than normal. The World Four-in-Hand Championships during the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky take place in the first week in October, which is much later than my usual ending of the season. In Zelhem I was pleasantly surprised by my dressage performance, for which I used my World Championship Team. If I drive like this in Kentucky, I will be very happy! The dressage is a decisive factor and I am extremely pleased with the way my horses went.

The marathon was a different matter though..! I noticed very well in this phase that we only had a short period of training before Zelhem. My fellow competitors had all driven more marathons than we did and I really had to work hard to keep up with the speed! The level is very high at the moment and I was still happy with my fifth place in the marathon which abled me to keep my lead in the Dutch Championships and the international competition.

I also had different, but experienced people on the back of my carriage in Zelhem. My wife Paulien stayed home because our eldest daughter Jeannette (18) had to do her school exams. We believe school is very important and that is also the reason why my son Bram (16) will not be able to compete in one of the nicest international pony driving competitions in The Netherlands this summer. Bram has moved on to national level with his pony team at the start of this season. He and I now regularly compete at the same shows, so he won’t be able to backstep for me all the time. But Paulien and Bram will for sure be on my team in Aachen and at the World Equestrian Games!

The final obstacle driving competition went very well, I drove a clear round within the time allowed and it was a great feeling to hear the national anthem being played for me for the twenty second time!

I know what to work on to perform better in the marathon and I will use different wheeler horses in Saumur this weekend. After Saumur, the next important competition is Aachen. I will meet my strongest opponents there; one of them is Boyd Exell from Australia. I consider him as a medal candidate. I feel it is important to scale yourself and not to stay on your own isle.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Endurance Rider Kathy Brunjes (USA) Blogs about the Endurance Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Back from the Shine and Shine Only CEI */** outside San Jose, California (held May 15). Many west coast endurance riders came together to either finish qualifying themselves and/or their horses for the WEG or to bring young horses up through the FEI mileage/qualification system. My good friends (and fellow team-mates) Heather and Jeremy Reynolds provided a very nice horse for me to compete on; this was to be his first 120km. The trails were some of the most beautiful I have ever ridden, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for this east coast rider! Unfortunately, my mount developed a small cramp in his hind-quarters at 60 miles, and we were withdrawn at that point. Heather and Jeremy went on to win and place second in the 120km on their horses. The course was well-marked, officials were helpful and ride management provided a spectacular venue (both scenery and hospitality). I’m ready to move!

The first of our WEG selection trials will be in Danville, IL. Central riders and horses, along with some East and West riders nominated on multiple horses, will be tested and examined over a course being laid out by our Chef d’Equipe and local volunteers. Immediately following the Central trial will be the East (Elton, MD at Fair Hill), then the West trial will conclude the initial selection process in Prineville, OR. Approximately 60 horse/rider combinations will be demonstrating during these trials. Added to the 45+ riders listed on the Endurance Rider Ranking List (ERRL) are the Wild Card invitations, extended to riders with their nominated horses who did not make the ERRL in the past 20 months, but have demonstrated a potential that has caught the eye of both the Selectors’ Committee and the Chef. Up to ten Wild Cards were allowed in the procedures, and eight invitations were extended to attend one of the three trials.

I recently took my nominated horse, Theatric, to a three-day competitive event, using this as cross-training before we went into our last week of sprint work prior to attending our East trial. The weather is warming up, humidity has entered the picture and we are keeping our fingers crossed that everyone stays sound and healthy for the next three weeks. Riders will have a chance to ask questions of our Chef at the upcoming informational call on June 7, and there will be one last chance to qualify nominated horses before the selection trials at the Ft. Howes CEI*** on June 13 (Ft. Howes, MT).

More to follow……..
Stay sound! Kathy

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vaulter Ali Divita (USA) Blogs About Her Beloved Horse, Lorino

Vaulter Alicen Divita (USA) was set to compete in the CVI in Saumur, France when her beloved horse, Lorino, fell ill. Below Ali recalls some of her favorite memories with Lorino, who is now on the road to recovery.

After my parents graduated from college, my dad got a job in Hawaii. Still living in California, my mom sold her horse to buy a plane ticket to go visit him; my dad told her that one day he would buy her an even better one. Sixteen years and four kids later, my Dad kept his promise. That is how Lorino came into our lives.

I remember that first day when he came to the barn, I took him out of his stall and used all of his new brushes, making his already clean coat even shinier and smoother. I had never had a horse before, but I grew up always wanting one. Even though I was already a young teenager, I felt that same little girl awe as I stood there with my 17.1 hand Hanoverian “pony”.

I remember learning to ride with him. I think I was the smallest girl in the lesson, but Lorino towered over everyone. All of the other girls could control their little ponies and would guide them in a perfectly straight line; daintily leaping over the sweetly arranged jumps one after the other. Then came Lorino and me. Barely making it around the corner, we serpentined towards the center of the arena, reigns being pretty much ignored on both ends, toes pointed into the stirrups, all four of our eyes sparkling at the jump ahead. Lorino would leap with all his might, clearing the 6 inch jump by at least 3 feet, all four feet at the same time, like a mix between a kangaroo and a little boy on a trampoline. It was clear we were going to have to find a creative way to express our “unique” energy.

I remember teaching him what vaulting was about. My mom would get him trotting on the lunge circle, and I would slowly start trotting next to him. Immediately he would stop. I would keep running forward, softly holding his bridle leading him forward, “No silly just like me, keep going.” Eventually he learned to keep going at the canter, and soon I was able to run all the way towards him, grab the grips and use the momentum of his stride to pull myself up onto his back. This is how we learned to work together. When I stand on his back, my legs extend all the way to his hooves, when he pushes off the ground the energy comes all the way back up through my arms. Maybe the director of Avatar was trying to get at this. I am pretty sure that if Lorino and I braided our manes together the result would be slightly more awkward, but the connection is there, it is the most natural feeling in the world.

I remember when I was in high school, coming to vaulting straight from school, totally exhausted and not even sure why I was sad, and just leaning into his shoulder feeling completely safe because he knew. It is that level of communication that does not require words.

I remember walking with him back and forth through the parking lot to cool down after morning practices, both of us still breathing hard. Our heart rates went down as the sun came up, I felt like I was watching the rest of the world wake up. Lorino would push my shoulders with his nose, both of us just being there in the moment. Sometimes Lorino would take advantage of these moments of awe, because he has one fault: food. Somehow he had a way of leading us closer and closer to the trailer each time we circled. Then, just at the right time he would make his mad dash to the cookie jar, pulling me along with him and reminding me that a “lead” line is only defined by the end that can pull harder.

I remember driving all over the country with him and my mom. At each gas stop he would poke his head out the window, ready for his treats: that was the whole point of the ride right? I would feel so proud as people would marvel at how big and pretty he was, he was always the one I told the smallest kids they could pet, “You can always trust Lorino,” I would say.

I remember last year, stumbling through my routine at practice, starting to lose hope as I missed a handstand and landed on my shoulder. With my ear pressed into his back gripping the handles I had a moment of wanting to give up. But with the energy of his stride, I actually felt Lorino encourage me. He put in enough effort for both of us, moving forward he told me I could do it, “Just like me,” he said with his stride, just keep going.

This Sunday was the first time I realized that Lorino is not always going to be there. Coming back from yoga I wondered why my mom wasn’t home, I called my Dad and he told me that they were at the emergency vet. Lorino had been looking uncomfortable earlier that day, but after walking him around for a few hours the vet and trainers said nothing seemed to be seriously wrong. My sister, Shannyn and I got in the car and drove straight out to see him. When I saw him standing there with an IV in his neck, I started to cry. Things got better and worse as the night went on, and eventually it was just my mom and I in the early hours of the morning.

After some much-needed bonding time with my mom, I started thinking about the term paper I was supposed to be working on for my East Asian Art History Class. They say that before Buddha was born as a human he was born hundreds of times as various different animals. I told my mom and she said, “So Lorino could actually be a future Buddha?” A Buddha is supposed to have extreme wisdom. We looked over and Lorino was spraying water everywhere as he scratched his butt on the automatic water dispenser. “I am not sure if wise is the first word that comes to mind,” my mom said. But as we stood there laughing I couldn’t help but think about how good it felt to be there with my mom and our horse, in the middle of the night, during finals week, having completely forgotten about everything I was stressed about earlier that day. Buddhists say we are taught by skillful means; he moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes it is obvious what we learn, or what we take away from our relationships, and sometimes it is a blessing wearing a very strange disguise.

We were lucky that we were able to give Lorino surgery, and he is doing much better now. It doesn’t look like I will be vaulting on him at the selection trials this year, but that doesn’t mean he is not still with me. Just as when we meet new people we bring with us what we have learned from our previous relationships, I know that I will always have what I have learned from Lorino when I vault on other horses and when I continue on in life. We are the result of our different experiences. It is about being strong enough to hold the move steady, but loose enough to absorb the stride. As a rider you may think you are in control, but I think really we are just being taken on a ride. So all I can say is enjoy it, and make sure to keep your eyes open.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Latest from Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist, Beezie Madden (USA), on her European Tour

Show Jumper Beezie Madden (USA) blogs about the end of her first European Tour with her mare, Madmoiselle. More to come as she continues on her second European Tour with her gelding, Danny Boy.

Our third and final Tour 1 Super League show took place in St. Gallen Switzerland and finished last Sunday. The team was the same as in Rome and LaBaule with the exception of McLain who rode Rothchild in the Nations Cup instead of Sapphire. Since Sapphire had little to prove, Rothchild got the chance to do his first Nations Cup.

Unfortunately, we again did not have a good day as a team. The conditions were tough as it had rained most of the day on Thursday and most of Wednesday night causing the cancellation of all the classes on Thursday. They did allow the Nations Cup horses to jump a warm-up round on Thursday evening. The ground was still quite soft on Friday for the Cup, and some horses handled it well and others did not. Our first round was dismal again.

Richard had eight faults, McLain had 13, I had nine with Mademoiselle, and Mario rode anchor with five faults. The time allowed was very short and, along with the difficult conditions, made for tough jumping. The French team, however, came out firing again and was in the lead after the first round. Our second round was only slightly better.

Richard was clear, McLain had eight, I had a disappointing 13 faults, and Mario had nine. We finished a very disappointing 7th place. I think some of our horses were feeling the effects of having already done two Super League shows with a lot of traveling and not much time off.

In the Grand Prix, we had another mediocre showing. Richard placed 10th with five faults in the first round and four in the jump off. Mario also made it to the second round with four faults in the first (the top
13 from the first round came back for the jump off) and completed the jump off with eight faults. I had nine faults with Mademoiselle, so I did not have the performance I hoped for to make the team for WEG. I can't, however, be that disappointed with her since she jumped three Super League Grand Prix's, two with four faults and one with nine. Our process of getting to know each other is ongoing. And with a little more time under our belt, I feel we can be very competitive at the highest level.

My focus now has to be on Danny Boy and his performance at Rotterdam next week and later at Aachen. With good results at those two shows, he could be in striking distance of making the WEG team. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Update from Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist, Beezie Madden (USA) on her European Tour

Olympic Gold Medalist, Beezie Madden (USA), blogs about the second leg of her European Tour in Rome.

Our second Super League show has finished with mixed results. We went to Rome with the same team as in Labaule: Myself, Mario, McLain, Hillary and Richard. This time ,however, I was on the Nations Cup team with Mademoiselle instead of Hillary with Quincy B. It was not our day as far as the team result. We finished a disappointing sixth out of 11 teams.

I was very happy, though, with Maddy in her first Nations Cup with me. With a four-fault score in the first round and a clear in the second round, we were the best combination of the American team that day. Richard started the team off with what was looking like a clear round, but ended up an elimination at the final double combination. This put the pressure on the rest of us.

I followed with four faults as did Mario with Urico. McLain as our anchor rider turned in an unusual eight faults with Sapphire. With a 16 fault score in the first round, we barely made the second round and came back first in the order. Richard produced a clear followed by a clear by me and Maddy. Mario then had four faults, but our comeback was looking good with McLain left to go. Unfortunately he had a light rub that fell for four faults, and we came back from our ninth position going into the second round up to sixth. This is why Nations Cups are so unpredictable. It's hard to have four horses and riders peaking on the same day.

The rest of our show had not quite the success as we had in Labaule, but McLain won the Grand Prix with Sapphire and two other classes with his other horses, and Hillary won a class with Corlette. Mademoiselle had four faults in the Grand Prix, but jumped and went beautifully. I am looking forward to St. Gallen this week. Again I am hoping for a fantastic week with Maddy, so we can move up the rankings on the long list and leave this first Super League Tour with a bang.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Olympic Eventing Gold Medalist, Stuart Tinney (AUS) Blogs About His Trip to the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event

Stuart Tinney Attends the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event: Proudly funded by Equestrian Australia and Australian Sports Commission.

It was with great pleasure that I took the opportunity that Equestrian Australia gave me and others to travel to Lexington, KY for the 4 star Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in April in the lead up to for World Equestrian Games later in the year. Coach Wayne Roycroft, Vet Denis Goulding, High Performance Manager Brett Mace and fellow rider Megan Jones were the eventing contingent that went from Australia. Veterinarian Graham Potts and rider Sam Griffiths where to go from the UK but the Icelandic volcano put a stop to their travel.

This was also a problem for the event organizers, as two of the ground jury members could not get to the event and they had to call in some help. Marilyn Payne and Christian Landolt where both judging in Florida and they could step in the last minute to be the part of the ground jury which was lucky. And also lucky, the horses that where to compete from UK flew out the day before the airport shutdown. William Fox-Pitt (the eventual winner) and Oliver Townend got themselves to Spain and where picked up by private jet from there, all a bit of a logistical nightmare that seemed to get sorted out very well!

The venue is as amazing as you might expect. Having seen many photos of the area it did not disappoint at all—lots of white post and rail fencing and very green grass. Although the cross country course for WEG will be on a totally different track it was great to see the terrain and landscape that will be used, which I think will be very valuable. Having been familiarized with the accommodation and the general lay of the land and the set up of the event and the facility will be a great benefit, come the time of the championships. Again, thank you to EA and The Australian Sports Commission for this opportunity.

The Road to Kentucky...
Time certainly draws closer to the World Games for Vettori (Kiwi) and myself. We recently had a good run at the HSBC World Cup in Sydney May 7-9. The dressage was indoors and competitive, with the Australian judges scoring us 49.4 penalties for the CCI***A test. The XCountry was tough, technical and some tough questions on some lines. The HSBC World Cup was presented at The Sydney International Equestrian Centre. Those that remember the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it is quite hilly and the track this time was no exception. The horses really had to be fit! I put my foot down a little this time, Kiwi was just super and came home with .8 time. The field was large on Australian standards 31 starters, 20 were left after XCountry day. This left us in 3rd position, however the scores were close. Kiwi had an uncharacteristic 2 rails in the Indoor show jumping. His first start of the season I was overall pleased with his performance.

We will now look forward to Melbourne International Three-Day Event June 12-14. I am also taking Panamera (Buzz). She has not had an eventing start since Adelaide, although she has been to some dressage comps, as we have been attempting some embryo transfer. Buzz will have a CIC*** run in a couple of weeks and Kiwi will go show jumping!

Thanks to Kathy Ward and Peter O’Connell owners of Vettori for their continued support, Tim Game owner of Panamera, my sponsors Coprice, Bates, Nature Vet and Horseland.

That’s all for now on my campaign trail for WEG. Regular updates on our progress can be found on

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eight-Time USEF National Four-in-Hand Driving Champion, Chester Weber (USA)

My team and I are in full swing for this summer’s events. We have made the decision to train and compete in North American this year and prepare for WEG. It was a tough decision, we love competing in Europe but I feel that training and competing here is a smart decision. I have had the opportunity to compete under several European judges this season and we feel confident in our choice.

This summer I plan to fine-tune the horses at Garden State (CAI Allentown), CAI Bromont, and Iron Horse CDE in Illinois. I feel this will give us the chance to reach our goal and have the horses peak at WEG.

Meanwhile, the team made their debut on TV last month. NRHA is hosting a Countdown to the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games sponsored by Adequan, featuring different disciplines each episode. This particular episode featured driving. Check out the video on the NRHA Inside Reining website, visit or

While I am busy schooling the horses at home I recently attended school, this time in front of the class. I visited the Central Florida Community College and attended an Exercise Physiology class for the Equine Studies Department. It was the last class of the semester and I summarized to the students my training and conditioning program for my horses. I spoke specifically about my feeding program, cardiovascular conditioning and how I maintain soundness through post-exercise therapy and regular veterinary evaluation. The students were fantastic and it is great experience to help influence the future of the horse industry.