Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ribbons and Rolex and Pau...Oh My!

Check out all the exciting news below, shared by Hawley’s awesome working student and groom, Sarah Braun, who has been with her every step of the way this season!

Hawley Bennett Eventing started off the 2013 season with a Bang! Hawley, Eleanor MacLean, Katy Groesbeck and I welcomed Marta Tabatabai to team HBE to start off the new season, and then Hawley and the one-of-a-kind Gin & Juice took home two consecutive advanced wins at Twin Rivers and Copper Meadows. As if that weren’t enough, they then dominated at the Galway Downs Spring International Horse Trails, the CIC3* leading up to Rolex Kentucky. Galway was a great event for the rest of HBE as well with Eleanor winning her very first intermediate, Hawley’s third consecutive win on Ginny, and I took home the Blue in the Young Rider Preliminary division on a wicked cool mare, Gwendolyn.

After the excitement of such a great show, it was time to start getting geared up for a little something called the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. Apparently it’s kind of a big deal. I’ve never been before, so I guess I was going to find out what I was in for! So, the packing and count down began-- I packed, unpacked, and repacked every day until we left for the Twin Rivers Spring 3-Day which was a few days before Ginny and Hawley left on a jet plane.  Finally, all the ponies were loaded and off to Paso Robles, CA.  Ginny wasn’t competing but she got to tag along with all her friends; as they got to run fast and jump high she had to play in the white sandbox and practice her circles! She wasn’t too thrilled with that, but she was excited that Katy Groesbeck took home a pretty blue ribbon and a new saddle in the CCI2* and that Emilee Libby had a 7th place finish. The sad part about the show was that HBE had to say goodbye to Eleanor and her horse Reilly as she headed back to Canada! 

On Monday after the show, I once again unpacked everything going to Rolex and repacked it and loaded it into the trailer. I couldn’t believe that Hawley and Ginny were about to head to the Blue Grass State early the next morning and that Rolex was right around the corner. Marta and I were up and at the barn at 1:30am to get Ginny all bubble wrapped for her little adventure. Once we got to the airport, we loaded Ginny’s entire luggage onto ‘Air Horse One’ and then it was Ginny’s turn to board. Hawley and Ginny were officially on their way, and I met up with them later in the week. We were lucky enough to stay at Allie Knowles’s facility in Pairs, KY until we vanned into The Kentucky Horse Park later in the week.

In the down time before the event, Hawley, a few others, and myself were invited to Keenland along with a few riders from across the pond. There was this one guy people call the “The Silver Fox,” I think his name is Andrew Nicholson or something – you might have heard of him – and also Austin O’Connor and Jonelle Richards!! It was a pretty cool day!

On Monday, Hawley, Ginny, and I headed over to The Kentucky Horse Park with Allie’s help. We got Ginny all settled into her new bedroom and unpacked and made ourselves at home. Monday and Tuesday were pretty laid back; we weren’t quite sure what to do with only one horse! Hawley had a few lessons from Buck Davidson and also with the new “Coach Canada” Clayton Fredrick practicing circles in the sandbox! Hawley’s best friend Maralee Paul and our awesome farrier from home, Tim Shannon, and this cool guy Bill Olson came out to support Hawley and Ginny along with Hawley’s mom, her husband Gamal, Ginny’s owners Linda and Terry Paine, Sue Church, Kim Liddell, my parents and a few others! It was a party, with everyone there to see The Juicer and her Blondie rock it at Rolex!

On Jog day I made sure Ginny had a shower and her pigtails were prefect and had her toes painted so that she looked fabulous on the runway. As Ginny and Hawley ran past the ground jury and I heard ACCEPTED, it finally set in that I was indeed at ROLEX! After jogs we went back to the hotel to put normal people clothes on and do our hair like normal girls and headed to Spindle Top Hall! I was finally able to meet my friend William in person, you know the guy that has won 11 CCI4*s and a few medals here and there… As I looked around I had to make sure I kept breathing, I was surrounded by the best riders in the world and I think I was a bit star struck! 

photo credit: Michelle Dunn

Thursday was the big day!!!! Ginny’s, well, not so favorite: it was the day for The Big White Sandbox, also known as Dressage day! Ginny and I both bonded pretty well on all our strolls to the main ring, a lot of hand walking and grazing to keep her settled. I think we both got our exercise, but at least there’s a ton of green grass in KY, there’s not so much back in California! When the time came for that long black flap saddle to go on Gin & Juice I made sure she had her quarter marks symmetrical on either side of her bum, her pigtails were tight and perfect, her tail was brushed, and her toes polished. It was then time for Hawley and Ginny to make their way down to the main ring, and that’s when I got nervous. As those two made their way down, everyone else from HB Eventing headed toward the stadium to watch the fabulous pair. As most of us know, dressage isn’t one of Ginny’s favorite activities, as she tends to get a bit wound up in the sandbox knowing what lies ahead of her in the days to come. But luckily over the years, Hawley has learned how to tame the Juicer and her wild side, putting them in the middle of the pack after a competitive dressage day.
photo credit: Bill Olson

Hawley had a jump school on Friday morning with Buck, and as she was warming up The Silver Fox was finishing up his jump school with Quimbo. I mean, I guess it’s an alright horse and he’s an okay rider….. ;) After Ginny and Hawley’s jump school, I hit up the trade fair to do a little damage with my plastic card, watch Hawley and Allie play with the Pony Club games ponies in the celebrity Games challenge, and watch a few dressage tests! Watching Allie and her mare Last Call was incredible as we all were watching the scores the judges were giving and when she halted and saluted the whole stadium went wild! Then I was curious to see what exactly a 4* cross Country course looked like, so I tagged along on a course walk Buck was doing. Yup! Big! Very Big! And very long; I couldn’t finish the course walk, so I went back to the barn to have a little discussion with the Juicer. I told her, you know what you have to do, and you’re good at it!

photo credit: Bill Olson

Finally, the best day came around!! CROSS COUNRTY DAY!!! Team HBE got everything all set up at the Vet Box and so the only thing left to do was to get Ginny and Hawley all decked out in their Navy and White battle gear! Once Ginny looked fabulous and Hawley looked fierce I did a once over to make sure they had everything, and they headed out to warm up.  Ginny and Hawley both looked great practicing more jumping logs and other things before going out onto course. Walking down toward the Start box with Ginny, Hawley, and Clayton, I had to take a few deep breaths and play it cool. The Starter started counting down, 10 seconds, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 (oh boy!), 4, 3, (here we go), 2,1..and they were out of the box!! I ran over to the TV tent to watch, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest it was beating so hard, but Hawley and Ginny were just ping-ponging around like it was no big deal. When she was at the last water I ran back over to the finish twiddling my thumbs until I saw Ginny still full of fire and looking for more things to jump. The pair came flying past the finish, Hawley having to make a few laps around the vet box before Ginny realized she had to stop running! This horse is always full of run and fire; she’s a freak of nature! After she was oh-so-thrilled about having cold water poured on her and scraped off, humans touching her, and other horses galloping out of the start box and past the finish line, she got to go back to her bedroom to chill with some magnetic therapy, her fireman boots for her toes and legs, and some fluids. After a few hand walks and a jogging up and down the barn isle, she looked better than ever! Finally we tucked her in for the night in her bedroom with a few more bags of shavings and I could tell she was already thinking about tomorrow. More Jumping! Yay!

The final day of competition finally arrived, and thinking about having to head home the next day was not what I wanted to think about! When I got to the barn before the sun was even up, Ginny got to go for a walk before she had to go back into her fireman boots and magnetic therapy and get her hair did again. She loves those pigtails! As Hawley was getting did up for the final horse inspection, I made sure Ginny looked beautiful, and of course they strutted their stuff more alert than the first jog! After the final horse inspection, Hawley and Ginny were sitting in a top 10th placing. Before the show jumping began, Hawley hopped on Ginny for an easy ride, and then we let her hang out in her bedroom for a bit to relax.

Finally it was time for the final phase; with Ginny’s pigtails in she got to have the brown short flap saddle on this time, and open front boots, which means not circles but hurtles, and boy does Ginny like to jump hurtles in front of a sold out stadium! Team HBE met Hawley and Ginny down in show jumping and watched them put in spectacular double clean round!! As my heart was beating out of my chest I screamed and shouted and threw my fists in the air, I was so ecstatic when Hawley and Ginny came through the finish! The pair finished phenomenally in 7th place, we celebrated with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne as we packed up our home for the last week!

photo credit: Lee Ann Zobbe & Megan Brinks

The next morning we were at the airport for a 6am departure on Tex Sutton with the help of Maralee, Allie, and Gamal. We had to stop in Ocala, FL to pick up 20 race horses and then stop again in Dallas, TX to fuel up, and finally we made it to Ontario, CA and then had hour drive home to Temecula. The incredible journey to Rolex Kentucky was sadly over, and then we had to start thinking about our next event! What great memories I made at Rolex and not just as a spectator but as a Groom! I can’t wait to do it again!

The part about returning home that I was dreading the most was that Marta and her little mare headed back home while I was away Rolex, and we all miss her! But a week after returning from Rolex we welcomed a new hard-working girl, Elizabeth Henry, and she was put to the test pretty quickly; after being with us for just a few days we had an event at Galway. Hawley was riding 6 horses and I was riding 3 and it was my younger horse’s first prelim! It was a really fun show and I was pretty excited when I won the Preliminary again on the mare I won with at the last show!
photo credit: Betsy Braun

At the end of May was the Event at Woodside, which I was really looking forward to because it used to be my home turf. With a full load of horses and a truck full of girls for an 8 hour trip, we headed up to Northern California! I was excited to see some of my best friends from back home, my dogs, and be reunited with Eleanor and Marta. The weekend started off great, but I left with some disappointments and a lot learned. Hawley had a great weekend with all her young horses and some ribbons to add to her collection!
A couple weeks later was the Summer Event at Copper Meadows where I had a much better weekend and a big confidence booster, and Hawley had another great weekend with her young horses and also a second place finish in the Advanced with 5 O’Clock Somewhere, right behind Katy Groesbeck who took home first in both the Advanced and Intermediate. It was also an awesome weekend for Chloe Smyth at her first intermediate with a second place finish right behind Katy! HBE had a great weekend all around for everyone! Returning from Copper, we welcomed now the newest member of HBE, Holly Wenzell!!

Right after Copper Meadows I had a little vacation and spent a week home in the Bay Area and surprised my dad for a little early Father’s Day gift! After the Father’s Day weekend I headed back to Temecula. That week was a bit rough for HBE because Hawley had a spill XC schooling, and as everyone knows our sport has so many of its ups and downs and plans change, and unfortunately Hawley won’t be competing at Rebecca Farms in MT or Burghley in England. But, looking on the bright side of things, new plans have been made and the opportunity for both Hawley and Ginny to compete in France has us all excited at HBE! Hawley and Ginny have competed at Rolex, Badminton, and Burghley, and now hopefully Pau!!!!! Having never been to Europe or been out of North America even, I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to go to France and to be a part of this amazing journey! While Hawley has been recovering, Gin & Juice has been on a field trip for a little Pilate’s instruction and lots of circle practice!  

Meanwhile at the end of June, Twin Rivers hosted the Area VI Young Rider camp, and we were lucky enough to have Jennie Brannigan, Allie Knowles, and Hawley as our instructors. The camp started off with a bareback jumping contest; I think I made it to 4’6’’ or something, somehow I stayed on!  It was a great weekend even though we cooked in a 111 degrees! A huge thank you to Jennie, Allie, and Hawley for their time and thanks to the Baxter family for the use of their phenomenal facility and to all the parents that make everything possible!
photo credit: Natalie Kuhny

 Everyone at HBE is counting down the days until we leave for Rebecca Farms, no actually counting down the days till we ARRIVE at Rebecca Farms! Does a 24 hour drive sound fun? No not really, but it’s definitely worth it; Rebecca Farms is the most beautiful place I have ever been to, and I know this is the show everyone looks forward to all year! I feel so honored to be a part of this amazing team and have the opportunities I’ve been given, to travel to some of the greatest events around the country and even the world in the near future! I would have never guessed this would have been me!

Wish HBE the best of luck at RF and see you all there!

Kick on, till next time
Sarah Braun