It's my birthday today, so you'll excuse me if I keep this wrap up pretty brief - I've got some wild champagne-popping... studying... to be doing. Ahhh the academic life. But really, I woke up this morning and realized that I already had the only presents in the world that would make me happy: a loving supportive family and two wonderful sound horses that I'm absolutely crazy about. My mother is even here visiting (!!!) which makes it a million times more special. Counting this year, I actually have only been with any member of my family for my birthday twice in the past five years, and the other time was at Dually's disastrous last Intermediate where I ended up spending a lot more time crying than I would have liked! So I'm really, really thankful =)
(Sproing! This little pony didn't get the idea of 'brushing')
The other big 'gift' that I got--besides the awesome trips to Badminton, Tattersalls, Bramham, and Luhmuhlen, which I think would really do me for next several birthdays/christmases/graduations combined given their general awesomeness!--was an ecogold saddle pad for Kiki of which 50% of the proceeds went to help with the fire at True Prospect, and a visit from our local electrician to check to make sure the wiring in the barn was as safe as possible. Our barn is a fire nightmare, as it's an old bank barn with only one entrance/exit, so we're trying to think of everything we can to make it as safe as possible. In addition to getting all the wiring checked, we're also installing smoke alarms and updating the fire extinguishers. Hopefully we'll never have to use them!
(Beautiful Bramham parkland)
But anyway, to Bramham. It was, in a word, AWESOME. I'd wanted to go ever since I'd read about Jennie Brannigan's trip there a few years ago, because the idea of this prestigious Under-25 CCI*** British National Championship sounded like something that I had to see to believe. And man, are they amazing. Everyone talks about the depth of the British program, and this was the proof. Many of the riders in the class were still in their teens AND fresh off Badminton with their top horses, and yet made the incredibly challenging track at Bramham look like a canter in the park on their 'second stringers' (as much as you can call a CCI*** horse a 'second string'!).
(idyllic mega win)
The course was lovely and rolling, and I think my favorite setting of any horse trial I've been to in Europe yet. The grounds even had classic British landscape design elements like 'temples' placed on very specifically idyllic sight lines, reflecting pools between tall stands of manicured pines, and of course an absolutely gorgeous main house that just made you want to swoon when you realized that it was still in private, lordly, hands. Britain = ridiculous, but I love it so.
(Oh you know, just cantering by a temple - nbd)
There were some notable crashes, but a lot of really good riding. It was interesting to watch the horses, especially, and realize of what incredible quality they are. The standard is just SO high these days, and you have to have a pretty special athlete to make it all the way to the top.
(Holy shit they're going down!! Fortunately both were only a little banged up but otherwise fine)
But of course, there was a small but present group of less jaw-droppingly stunning types that also confirmed that eventing is a great sport in that it really rewards partnership, hard work, and above all heart. I just love how hard event horses try, and it was a reminder, as always, to honor that trust that they place in us with the best horsemanship and riding that we can give them.
(One of the 'tryer' types - I WANT IT SO BADLY IT'S WAY TOO CUTE!)
This week I've got three papers to write (MY VERY LAST THREE AT OXFORD EVER!!!), and then it's a manic few days of packing before I'm off to meet Pa at Luhmuhlen. Like I said earlier, I'm feeling pretty blessed =)
(My favorite horse of the whole competition, Portersize Just a Jiff: 15.2hh of pure athletic badassery)
**Edit: ALSO, Kiki was a star at GMHA this past weekend, just pulling one rail and adding 0.4 of a time penalty to her dressage score of 35 in the Open Training. She finished out of the ribbons but was apparently a total star. Even more excitingly, Pa and Dually came back from a less-than-stellar dressage test (though looking at the scores, I think the judging was a bit whack - there were horses scoring in the high 40s that normally are in the low 30s!) to finish on their dressage score for 7th place!! This was their first clear stadium round at Training, and I'm so so so proud of them. Getting very excited to start showing with them again!!