Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I'd like to tell a little story about bravery, or at least pretending to be brave.

When I was in elementary school I was fearless (isn't any young person?), and a tomboy (surprise!).  At that young age nothing bad has happened to you and you view everything as an adventure that is inevitably bound to be positive.  At my school we had a large piece of playground equipment made out of telephone poles,  It had a bridge two telephone poles wide, steps, a slide, a pole, monkey bars, and one guard rail.  When I was a child it was popular to put one leg over a guardrail (or other similar equipment) cross your arms under your leg and push off with your leg to spin around the pole as fast and as long as you could.

One day in January when I was walking across the bridge someone spun and hit me, sending me flying through the air.  I came off the bridge and landed head first on the ice below.  Typical of 1980s schools I was sent him with nothing more than a note and a huge bump on my head and a woozy feeling in my tummy to parents that told me to shake it off.

Thus developed my fear of heights.  It eventually progressed to the point of being unable to stand on a single step stool without shaking in fear, even elevators bothered me.

For reasons I do not know, will probably never know, I'd had enough of my own fear.  It was crippling me and I wanted to stop being bound by things I could not do because I would not do them.  I was only in middle school at the time.

I decided that I would teach my family dog to cross the very same bridge I'd been sent tumbling off of.   A bridge I hadn't been back on since that January.  At that point in my life I fancied myself a dog trainer, perhaps foreshadowing my days to come as future rider of horses that shouldn't be ridden.  I don't remember why I decided to do what I did, and I don't remember the exact steps, but I do remember at least a few things.

I remember having to work up the courage to even climb the steps, putting on a brave face to teach my dog her new trick.

I remember being on the middle of the bridge a few weeks later, on my hands and knees, all alone in the evening sun except for my dog, tears streaming down my face and arms shaking in fear.  I looked at my dog and she was behind me on the bridge with her head cocked to the side and an inquisitive expression on her face. She wagged her tail slowly and whined a bit.  She was a good obedient dog but she was afraid.

What kind of person would I have been if I'd let her down?  If I had asked her to cross that bridge when I couldn't cross it myself.  I certainly didn't have the right to ask her to do something I myself wouldn't dream to do.  She looked at me for leadership and support.

I crossed the bridge that day.

Weeks later I could SKIP across the bridge, my dog bounding up the steps and leaping across it with me to go down the slide nose first.

That is how I am about bravery.  I'm not a brave person, I have a well founded sense of my own mortality.  I am afraid of things.  Yet I believe that things that we are afraid of must be met head on because we are afraid of them and we should never let fear prevent us from continuing on in our adventure.  I may be afraid of things in my riding.  I am not a brave rider. This jump looks big, that hill looks steep.  But I must suck it up and fake it for my horse who puts her trust in me.  I don't have the right to ask her to jump something or go by something if I'm scared of it.  I take lessons to help me get over my fears, and because I don't believe in fear getting in the way of something that I love to do.  Face your fears and even though you are afraid you are also brave and that is the best kind of bravery there is.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Results are in from Purdue, and although they are waiting for more lab results, it appears that Annie had Hemangiosarcoma.

It's a rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer, almost exclusive to dogs, rarely in cats, and almost never in horses.  The tumor often appears on the spleen, right sided heart base, or liver.  It causes right sided heart failure.  It is most often diagnosed post mortem as it doesn't start causing problems until late in its development and those problems are catastrophic.  Aggressive and early treatment can extend life by a few  months, but it is a fast moving and %100 fatal cancer.

The above video and the video below are Annie EXACTLY one month before her death.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Yesterday I went on my first ACTHA ride.  I had a ton of fun.  The weather proved to be a "bit" of a challenge.  The horses were fresh, hot, and spooky and the trails in the woods were wet and leaf covered.

ACTHA, or the American Competitive Trail Horse Association, is a casual trail ride competition over 6 - 8 miles with judged obstacles along the way.  Each obstacle has its own judge and the obstacle is timed but the entire ride is not.  When you come to the obstacle and judge you perform the obstacle one at a time.  You can compete in ACTHA in one of several divisions

What are the divisions?
Our highest challenge of obstacles for the seasoned horse and rider team (Example:  Gate- side pass to gate, open & close gate).  Reap all of the membership benefits including event awards, retail discounts, and points towards the Medals program and the Yearend awards.  
Same great fun with less challenging obstacles for the horse and rider team (Example:  Gate- walk to gate, open, walk through gate).  Reap all of the membership benefits including event awards, retail discounts, and points towards the Medals program and the Yearend awards.  Not available once your horse has placed in the Open Division. 
Looking to try out the sport at a reduced cost?  Same FUN, less benefits! Enjoy retail discounts, no event awards, 1 participation point but no placement points towards the medals program or the yearend awards.  Challenge of the obstacles is the same as the Pleasure division.  Not available once your horse has placed in the Open/Pleasure Division.
Scout (non-member) 
Looking to try out the sport at a reduced cost and not have to be a member? Same FUN, no benefits!  Challenge of the obstacles is the same as the Pleasure division.  Not available once your horse has placed in the Open/Pleasure Division.
Open to riders 7-15 years of age.  Challenge of the obstacles is the same as the Pleasure division.   Reap all of the membership benefits including event awards, retail discounts, and points towards the Medals program and the Year-end awards.  Don’t forget! Helmet required.
Looking to just get out and ride the countryside?  Same FUN trail, no obstacles!  Reap the membership benefits including the retail discounts and 1 participation point while enjoying the trail!
Buddy (non-member) 
Looking to just get out and ride the countryside and not have to be a member? Same FUN trail, no obstacles, no benefits!

There are several different Obstacles that can be used, in your ride meeting you get a list of the obstacles.  

At this ride we had the

Dismount:  Pretty easy to do, but you had to do it one handed!  Not as easy as you think!

Downhill:  You and your horse's way of going down a steep hill are judged.  Easy right?  Maybe not if your horse is herd bound and realizes that her bestest friend is now at the top of the hill!  The trails were very wet so we slid down this hill.  

Spanish Pole:  Harder than you think as it requires lifting and dragging the scary pole and pivoting your horse around to put the pole back.  I ended up dropping this pole for safety reasons and took a "zero" here.  

Wildlife Box:  The "wounded wildlife" was a giant inflatable spider that moved and hissed while you walked a circle around it.  I did a good job at this one, it was close to my horse's best friend and she was so focused on the spider that we made a pretty circle around it.

Wagon Wheel:  Not spooky, but difficult to get your horse to not step on the spokes when she's used to stepping on all sorts of things on the trail.  

Slicker:  Ride up to a slicker blowing in the wind, touch your horse front and behind, declare the weather, and put slicker back on hook.  

Prizes!  We got both ribbons and a wrapped mystery prize.  Plus I got best obstacle for the wounded animal!  

I think that practicing some of the obstacles ahead of time would really benefit you as a competitive member, it's one of thing to have a good trail horse, it's another to ask them to do unusual things by themselves.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rule proposal email response

I got a response to the email I sent regarding the rule change proposal, here it is.

Dear Sabrina,

I am sorry for the delay in providing you with a response while I obtained the correct contact information.   The USEA Board of Governors is the proponent of this rule change and I have been advised that it would be most effective were you to send your comments to the following e-mail address and to assure you they will be considered: by the USEA.

This said, I am also happy to share your concerns with the Eventing Technical Committee.

I would like to add that that all proposed rule changes for the 2016 Competition year will not be reviewed for final approval until the USEF Annual Meeting in January of 2015.  There is a great deal of time for comments to be received and all comments will be reviewed.  The USEA Annual Meeting will provide many opportunities for open discussion of this rule and it is absolutely possible to revise PRCs right up until and during the USEF Annual meeting.

Best wishes,

Shealagh Costello

Monday, October 13, 2014

USEF proposed rule changes for lower levels

I wanted to share some news that could potentially affect quite a few lower level eventers.

There are two proposed rule changes that would change both the speed and difficulty at BN - Training, you can read about the rule proposals here.

Reasoning behind these changes is stated as

 The changes for the cross-country speeds is to better relate the speed required to the jumping effort required. It has been observed that horses moving
forward at a reasonable pace for these levels have either had to slow down and circle or have gained speed faults.The change of speed at which speed faults are calculated is to have one meaningful speed that competitors can learn and remember.The change of heights of two obstacles in the jumping test is to start to relate the standard of US jumping to the World standard at these levels.Note: The heights for spreads will proportionally increase by 5 cm (2") as the spreads are related to the heights.
To more clearly define the progression of difficulty in the cross-country and jumping tests as a horse/rider moves up through the levels. In particular, the changes are recommended in order to prepare horses and riders to make the step from Training to Preliminary.

Evention Nation also has a blog post up about this subject.

Anyone who feels like this would have a negative impact on our sport should feel free to write Sheila Costello of the USEF to voice your opinion.

I did, and my email is as follows...

Hello, it has recently come to my attention that there is a proposed rule change which will affect the speed and difficult of Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training.  

The proposed changes can be found here:  

The reasons for the proposed changes can be summarized in a few sentences.  
It has been observed that horses moving
forward at a reasonable pace for these levels have either had to slow down and circle or have gained speed faults.

The change of heights of two obstacles in the jumping test is to start to relate the standard of US jumping to the World standard at these levels.

As a lower level rider I strongly disagree with these proposed changes and the reasoning behind them.  There is no valid reason to make lower level eventing comparable at the world standard.  Lower level riders do not travel with their horses to other countries to compete, and international riders very rarely if ever import BN level horses to compete in Europe.  Many upper level riders whom have their eyes set on international competition start their horses at Training level and above and do not use a horse's capabilities at BN as a barometer for international eventing.  

Quite simply lower level eventing exists for lower level riders who will remain lower level riders or need a place to start, and lower level eventing is the backbone of eventing.  Without levels to attract beginning eventers, or eventers who have no interest at increased speed or difficulty there would be no eventing.  By increasing speed faults and difficulty at these levels you reduce the number of people who will enter into the sport and THAT is much more likely to affect the future of international eventing.  

In addition, raising the speed limit to accommodate riders who are unable to slow down sounds backwards and potentially dangerous.  Lower level riders should be learning how to regulate their speed on course, making sure it is neither too fast nor too slow.  Riders on bigger stridedhorses have the option of rating their canters, trotting, or circling, all important skills to learn.  Just because their horses CAN go fast doesn't mean they SHOULD go fast.  Raising the speed faults also makes it more difficult to give a dangerous riding penalty, a rule which is in place to not only make sure people are jumping safely but that everything in between goes safely as well.  

In summary, I believe that this proposed rule change is exactly what the sport does not need and I must voice my opinion against it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my opinions,

Sabrina Ashworth

Friday, October 10, 2014


Today we made the long trip up to Purdue with Annie on the trailer and the much longer trip home without her.

A good horse gone much too soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Good Horses (and bad stolen poetry)

Good horses go not go gentle into that good night,
old mares should leap and neigh at close of day;
neigh, neigh against the dying of the light.

Though wise mares at their end know dark is right,
because their hooves had jumped no coffin they
do not go gentle into that good night.

Good mares, the last fence past, crying how bright
their frail deeds might have jumped in green grass,
neigh, neigh against the dying of the light.

Wild mares who caught and sang the sun in flight,
and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave mares, near death, who see with blinding sight
blind eyes could blaze like meteors and neigh,
rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my mare, there on the sad height,
curse, bless me now with your fierce ears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interestin...