Our 2007 Congress Experience


I spent a very productive weekend at Congress. Yes, it's Congress time! Corky arrived late Friday afternoon. Matt rode her Saturday morning, and I rode Saturday evening in the Scottsdale arena. She was very energetic (putting it mildly!) and required a lot of schooling to make her settle and not run off her legs. I ended up spending the last half hour doing nothing but walking. We need her mind to get used to everything without tiring her legs out...that's a challenge.

On Sunday Matt ponied her through the jam-packed crowds of horses in the Scottsdale. Sunday afternoon I tool her for a walk on the lead rope around the grounds. She got to investigate the food stands and the paths through the grassy areas. Sunday evening Stacey rode her, and then I rode her again. She was MUCH better! I had a very confident, relaxed ride. The most amazing thing was she seemed a lot better with the traffic. She didn't lay her ears back or get nasty when horses crowded her (which was happening a lot). Quite possibly this experience riding in the crowds day after day will really help her issues. While not feeling totally positive, I am feeling better about our upcoming ride in the 3yo non-pro HUS class. Ye gads....it's coming up fast!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Here we go! I left home on the prior evening and headed to Columbus. On the way I spoke to Stacey, who told he they had to have the vet out the night before because Corky had some mysterious swelling (an allergic reaction to something???) on her face and neck. She said Corky swelled so bad that her halter was cutting into her. She was given some medication to bring down the swelling, and by the time I got there (around 7:30pm) the swelling was almost all gone. Sheesh! Always something, isn't it? Because of the swelling, she was unable to be ridden in the Celeste the night before, so still hadn't gotten into the show pen. Yikes!

Our practice time in the Celeste was 12:30am-2:30am. I did a little longeing beforehand, and then brought her to the Celeste where Stacey and then I worked her a bit in the overhang area. Then Stacey rode her in the MOBS of horses in the Celeste. She handled the crowds very well, I was so impressed! I would have never believed this would be possible a few months ago. After Stacey was done, I had a chance to ride her a bit in the Celeste.

It was really too crowded to do any real work. Stacey had me go stand in the center and hang out and let her get used to the big aluminum bleachers. This is where trouble hit. The workers started sweeping up the trash in the stands and this absolutely terrified her. It caught me by surprise, because usually this horse isn't afraid of anything! She went NUTS, bucking and rearing and running into people. I knew she was going to launch me, so I hoped off first. I stood in the center holding her until our time was up, but she never did settle down. I took her back out to the overhang and put the longe line on her. She ran and bucked like a maniac for a half hour. It was now 3am, and she was dripping in sweat and we were both exhausted. Depressed, I wandered back to the stall, cooled her off, and went to the hotel for a nap. Things weren't looking good.

In the morning I stood in line for an hour and a half to longe her. She really didn't have much energy. Later that afternoon I ponied her off of Chris, the great paint pony horse. This was a great way to give her exercise and stretch her legs without putting pressure in the saddle. Hopefully this was enough, because time was up!

The non-pro 3yo hunter under saddle stakes began at 5pm. I was in split #2. Stacey warmed her up, and then I worked her a bit. She was going well. Stacey told me several key things that made a difference in our ride - don't hold her face (let the reins relax) and trust her, sit back, watch traffic and always pick out the path you were going to ride. First split reversed, we went in the makeup area and checked in...time to go!

Well, all I can say is we had a near perfect ride! We were the second ones into the arena (sure made me look confident LOL!). The first horse made it all the way to the end and then spooked hard at the organist. Corky jumped slightly sideways as a reaction, but I just took her inside and passed the other horse and continued on, and she was fine. Our ride was GREAT, I was absolutely thrilled. She was so quiet, easy, and pleasant...hardly worried at all about traffic. The weird thing was the only time she was worried about other horses was when we were passing them, she had no problem if they passed us. Makes no sense to me, but then Corky never does anything that really makes sense!

We stood in the lineup, dripping in sweat. It was very hot and humid, so unusual for Congress weather. The first number they called was 7926, and I felt a pang of disappointment. Our number was 7400, and generally they called the finalists in numerical order. They fooled me this time, for some reason in this split they started at the highest number and went backwards. Second number they called was 7400! I couldn't believe it. We made the Limited finals, and the Open Semi-Finals!!!

We had a very short break, and then it was back in for the open semi-finals. They would call 15 people out of the semis to make the finals, to be shown next Tuesday morning. Again we had a near perfect ride! The arena was much more crowded and riding it was a challenge, but Corky was great! I stood in the middle almost in tears because I just couldn't believe she gave me two awesome rides in a row, at the Congress! Whatever happens, this is a dream come true for me. The feeling was topped off when my number was called yet again, this time as an open finalist!

We had to exit and then turn right back around and go in for the Limited Finals. This was important to me because this was a finals class that would be placed. There were 19 or 20 in the finals of the Limited. Corky went in with a great attitude - amazing after 3 classes in a row. Unfortunately she was completely exhausted by this time. At the first trot, she broke twice in front of all 4 judges...broke up to a canter (because cantering is so much easier for her than trotting). Other than that, she was darn near perfect again in the class. How could I be upset over that? What a great horse she is. Our breaks kept us out of the placings, this was such a tough class of very good horses...you had to be about perfect to get in there. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. We have one more shot - the open finals coming up on Tuesday. No matter what happens, this has been the experience of a lifetime I will NEVER forget. All that hard work, 3 years of goalsetting and effort, planning and executing my plans, all for this moment. I sat there and remembered it was just 2 years ago I stood in this arena with Corky for the longe line class that I barely made after saving her leg fro that bone infection (the one that the vet thought she'd never recover from!). I realize I am gushing here, but it is such a big experience for me!!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stacey showed Corky in the 1st go of the 3yo HUS Futurity this morning. I spoke very briefly with Matt, who told me she had a very good ride and Corky did very well, but they weren't called back. They were only taking 3 horses out of each split. I was glad to hear she had a good ride and that Corky is still keeping a good attitude. Oh well, tomorrow is the second go and I'll be there to watch and video so that will be cool!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I went to Columbus to watch Stacey ride Corky in the 2nd go in the 3yo HUS Futurity. I ponied her for a while in the Scottsdale that afternoon, then waited in line to longe to see if she needed to blow off any steam (she didn't). The class ran very late - it was after 10pm when Stacey showed. She was in the 4th split, and had a great ride! I could tell Corky was slightly on edge - it was cold outside and dark and I am sure she was wondering why she was being worked so late. The great news is Stacey got called back for the limited finals (to be shown on Wednesday!). She went back in for the open semi-finals, and Corky managed to blow it by stopping a couple times in the middle of the class to rub her nose on her leg. She is so weird about that. We cannot put any nose or face grease on her because she immediately tries to rub it off. Oh well...she was well behaved and did everything else right. So she will be showing in the non pro and the open 3yo finals - I never in a million years would have expected this!!!!

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2007

I am still floating on a cloud (albeit a very tired one!). We showed the FINALS of the Non-Pro open 3yo HUS Stakes today. Once again, last night I didn't have the greatest ride. It was raining and a bit colder than it had been (although it was still in the low 50's.). It poured rain all night and all the next day. When they made the first call for our class, we trucked on over in a solid downpour. Corky was covered head to hoof with a rain sheet, and I rode over to the arena in the comfort of a covered golf cart to stay dry.

Corky warmed up great, and I began to feel a bit of hope and plenty of anticipation. We rode into the area very confident, and immediately I could tell this was going to be a good ride. She was so easy, I swear I never had to touch her face once...just went along on a relaxed rein and was SO quiet! Our only trouble was our first canter transition, which was a little ugly (she lifted her head and hollowed out a bit before taking off).

At the end of the class I stood waiting to hear the individual judges' placings...the anticipation was killing me! We ended up being left off of 2 cards (one of them definitely saw the ugly canter transition), but placed 7th and 3rd under the other two judges!!! I stood back after they went through the individual placings and wondered if a 7th and 3rd was enough to finish in the top 10. They called out 10th place and it was someone else...I looked at Stacey and shrugged 'oh well!'. Then they called 9th place and it was ME!!! I couldn't believe it!!! My lifelong goal of placing in the top 10 at Congress had just been achieved, and in a big way in a tough class!

We cantered up to the queen to get our medallion and Corky slammed on the brakes about 5 feet away and would NOT go any closer to that sparkly looking woman. Eventually she was able to walk the medallion over to us (I was NOT getting off her, I wanted to ride out of that arena!). As soon as I got my medallion I burst into tears...who knew I was such a sappy person? It was such an emotional moment for me, and it was made doubly so by being able to achieve this goal on a horse I bred and raised myself, and agonized over for the past 3 years.

A decent picture, right? Yes, until you look at the actual 8x10 and see ME!!!

I guess I was really concentrating hard!

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2007

This morning while I was stuck at work Stacey showed Corky in the limited open HUS Futurity finals. It was actually more like a semi finals since 15 horses from the 1st go and 15 horses from the 2nd go made it to this point. They ran two splits and Stacey and Corky got called back to ride in the FINALS of the class! Corky stayed very good for her. Only one ugly canter transition...the same one I had the day before (OK, we have to work on that before Saturday!). She placed 5th under one judge, but it wasn't enough to crack the top 10 and place (and earn money). Still...ending up top 15 was VERY awesome for all of us! I am still amazed at how Corky has just come into her own at this show...and to think I thought this Congress was going to be a total waste of time and money! It turned out to be the most successful horse show I have ever had in my lifetime!!!

Stay tuned...Saturday I ride the Junior HUS and hopefully the Amateur HUS for one last Congress experience.

Stacey and Corky

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I arrived back at Congress on Friday evening after work. It was cold and windy, probably the coldest day we've had the entire Congress. I ponied Corky for about 15-20 minutes in the Scottsdale, but the pony horse was not cooperating so I decided to longe her instead. Uh-oh, she was very sore. She has been hitting her back ankles with her back shoes very badly, and the insides of her ankles were a bloody mess. She has only had back shoes on since the week before Congress, and for some reason she is interfering with herself. I took her back to the barn and wrapped her legs for the night. Poor girl! They looked very painful.

Saturday morning was a dark and cold one. With the wraps on her hind legs, we ponied her a bit and the started preparing for our Junior Hunter Under Saddle class. I had entered this as a lark, knowing that Stacey wasn't able to show in the class for me. Because of a football game tonight, I knew I probably wasn't going to be able to show the Amateur HUS unless it ran early (which it didn't look like it would), so the Junior HUS was just a class to get in and have fun - no pressure. I was looking forward to riding with all the 'big names' in the industry. Hopefully we wouldn't wipe anyone out!

Due to a number of scratches, the class ran a lot faster than we had expected. All of a sudden they were calling for split 6 (my split)! We ran on up to the arena, and after a quick warm up by Stacey, I basically had to just hop on and go in. Our split went fairly well, though Corky got VERY nervous with the wind rattling the tent when we entered the Celeste. It wasn't as smooth as some of my earlier rides, but our transitions were a little better. Unbelievably, I got called out of my split for the finals!!! I couldn't believe it...I actually made the finals of the Junior HUS...ME, an amateur!

We went in to the finals just having fun. There were 20 horses in the finals and the pen was crowded. It was VERY tough to maneuver her in this crowd. Several times she got boxed in pretty bad and it really made her upset and nervous. It was all I could do to hold her together to at least finish the class with a clean ride. I knew she was a bundle of nerves, but hopefully her legs didn't show her nervousness.

I stood in the lineup and looked up and down the row of all those trainers I have admired for years. How cool is it to actually be standing in the lineup for a finals in such company? It about made my head spin. They called the final placing, and I actually placed third under one judge. Third, can you believe it? Then they called out the final placing, and when they called me - Number 7400 - as the 10th place winner I about fell out of the saddle. It was by far the most amazing, incredible thing that has ever happened to me (Ok, so I must have a boring life LOL!). Me - an amateur - a 'no-name' amateur - placing in the top 10 in an open class at Congress! To this moment am still in amazement, shock, disbelieve, and have incredible excitement over this accomplishment. What a Congress Corky has given me!

Giving credit where credit is due is important. Someone told me it was a team effort that created Corky's success, and we three people made quite a team:

Stacey Ryan
Matt O'Neal
aaaand ME!!!

A very successful year for me!