It has been a crazy busy, yet awesome autumn, which included a super ending to the 2016 show season. It was only last month that I competed at the US Dressage Finals in Kentucky, but I'm already itching to get going with my plans for 2017.
My seven-year-old homebred stallion, Faolan, is turning into more than I ever dreamed he would be, and I'm getting really excited about our future. My five-year-old homebred, Fauna, is also doing well. Our success has been made possible by having an incredible support system. I'm reminded of this all the time, especially when I think of how fortunate I am to get to ride and compete horses for a living.
Here’s a quick recap of our 2016 fall show season: Faolan was third in the Intermediare I at the Regional Championships with over 70 percent. Fauna was reserve champion at Second Level at Regionals with more than 71 percent.
Fauna enjoys being part of the victory pass after she won the reserve championship at the Region 8 Championships at Second Level. (Photo by Karin Worm)
Both horses then went to Dressage at Devon, where Faolan did his first CDI, and Fauna competed in the FEI five-year-olds. Fauna finished second and third at Devon, scoring up to 82 percent. Faolan placed in the top 10 at Devon, out of a huge class of more than 30 in the Intermediare I, his first CDI, finishing ahead of some very well-known combinations.
At the US Finals, Fauna placed sixth in the country at Second Level. Faolan was fourth in the country in the I-1 Finals with 69.956 percent, and he was third in the country in the Prix St. Georges Finals. I came home from Kentucky so incredibly proud of both young horses.
Bridget Hay on Faolan at the US Dressage Finals (Photo by Susan J. Stickle)
Then, as if I weren’t happy enough about Faolan, I realized he was sixth in the country for USDF Horse of the Year rankings in the I-1 with more than 71 percent. I couldn't believe it. There are close to 300 horses on the list. My little homebred is starting to make quite a name for himself. He's turning into my next rock star.
With a horse like Faolan, I feel I really have to go to Florida again this winter. Being there is crazy expensive, so planning it all out carefully as much as possible is a must. I'll probably only go for five or six weeks. I go for as long as I need to, but as short as necessary to keep within my budget.
My main goals for next year, fingers crossed, are to continue competing Faolan in Small Tour CDIs this winter, while also training for the Grand Prix. Depending on how things go, I’m possibly thinking of doing the Developing Grand Prix with him early next summer.
Faolan will decide if he's ready to do that by then. Of course, I'd love to qualify him for other things, too, but we'll just have to see how the show season goes.
It often feels as if the stars need to align for everything to fall into place. Faolan has the best people who care for him and guide me to what's best for him. His amazing longtime veterinarian and my friend, Dr. Rachel Gardner, always works with me in planning what's appropriate for developing his strength and fitness, while helping him peak at the shows. She makes sure that I give him enough down time as well, especially after the shows.
Rachel has known him for his whole life, so she and I have been aware of every single minute thing about him from day one. That’s the great thing about having a homebred. She even helped decide when to start him under saddle as a baby.
I have a super group of clients and friends. They recently organized a clinic for me to teach, which was solely to raise money to help pay for our trip to Florida. My friends who are also trainers help me at the shows and are always great eyes on the ground, as well as good roommates with whom to split the cost of a hotel room. We all work together and help each other out. It really takes a village to get down the center line and compete at this level.
If all goes well, 2017 could be my most exciting year yet. I feel so fortunate to have these opportunities, and to ride a horse like Faolan. He truly gives me his heart every time we go down centerline. We have such a great support group behind us, and I just hope that we can make them all proud next year. I'm so fortunate that so many people believe in Faolan as much as I do.
I'm also planning to take Fauna to Florida again. My goals for her in 2017 will be to compete in the FEI six-year-old test, and see if she can qualify for the Young Horse Championships. I'm also planning to show her Third Level next year, and possibly even Fourth Level, depending on how things go.
She really seems to be moving along quite quickly, just as Faolan did, so I think my goals could be very reachable. Unfortunately, I'm seriously considering selling her at some point next year, to help pay for all the training and competing that I'd like to do with Faolan.
If I'm able to keep her, then I would definitely plan to show her at Dressage at Devon, and try to qualify for the U.S. Finals in Kentucky again. We'll just have to wait and see how the year goes. I'm really looking forward to 2017 with some super horses to train and show!