This was going to start as a blog about the wonderful fall season. But, I realize it is already December, which means 2018 is around the corner, so this post may turn out longer than I expected!

 Wow, Ivan placed 3rd in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the National Finals! What a way to end the year. This season I have been just thrilled with Ivan and have LOVED doing the freestyle with him. And he loves it too! You can feel how happy he gets when the music starts. And when you get to the first canter extension he is just ready to take off! It really makes me smile.



Ivan and I at the National Finals  Photo by Susan Stickle



A group shot from National Finals!  Photo by Susan Stickle


Here are the highlights of our season:

  • Highest freestyle score up to 73% (even one of the judges at Nationals gave us a 73%)
  • High score FEI at Dressage By Chance II
  • High score Freestyle at Loch Moy II
  • Barbara Silverman Memorial FEI Freestyle Champion
  • Region 1 finals: Reserve Champion Grand Prix, 3rd in Freestyle
  • BLM finals: Champion in Freestyle, Reserve Champion in Grand Prix
  • National Finals: 3rd in Freestyle, 8th in Grand Prix

This isn’t just the end of the season for Ivan and I, it's the closing of one phase of our relationship and the beginning of another. Ivan will now be leased out to Angi Voss. While I will miss competing ith Ivan, I am thrilled to begin working with him and Angi and look forward to helping them continue together in competition. Congratulations Angi! And thank you to The Stables of Rolling Ridge for the opportunity to work with Ivan.

Beyond Ivan, I am so thrilled with all of my students this year. At BLMs we had such a good time as a team. Everyone shared tack stalls and helped each other to take care of their horses and get out to the ring. We had a few more champions in our midst... Ava Brennengen and Relativity were Junior First Level champions. Doris Westhoff, who moved to Aiken last January, joined us and her lovely mare Fortunate was awarded Training level Champion. We have many more exciting results, which you can check out here.



Coaching Doris before her Training Level championship test at the BLM Championships.  Photo by Kim Brenengen



 Group photo from the BLMs.  Photo by Kim Brenengen



BLM ribbons!  Photo by Kim Brenengen

 Several other students also hit big showing milestones this year. Louise Foster and Beth Gillespie earned their Bronze Medals which are for results through Third Level. Carol Lippa earned her Silver Medal for results through Prix St. George. Carol also got started on her first 2 scores toward her Gold medal. There were so many other wonderful accomplishments in the ring and out, I apologize if I missed something. But I just want to say that I feel so thankful to have such wonderful students and lucky to have such wonderful horses to work with. Congratulations to everyone!

 In looking at the joys of the fall competition season, which is really the fruit of a year of hard work, it brings me to reflect on the past year. This has been one of many joys and many sorrows. Some of us lost our dear horse friends. Judi Rosenfeld lost her longtime friend and partner Quintessential. Quint was the beautiful and loving gray gelding Judi rode to Second Level before he retired. He has a special place in all of our hearts.

 Another great loss this year was Amicelli, who was my partner for a short 5 years, from 2012 to January 2017. After fracturing his pelvis in September 2016, he just decided it was time to go in January. (You can read his tribute and see some photos here). It was hard to imagine he rehabbed for 4 months and was looking so much better and then one day he told us he was ready to move on. It was hard to wrap my head around at first. But then one day the inspirational thought hit me... he waited around that long until he knew I was going to be OK...

 Two days after he passed, I was in Germany. Luckily the trip was planned or I never would have had the gumption to go. I didn’t think I would have the room in my heart yet for a new partner. However, Amicelli must have been orchestrating things from above, because it was love at first sight when Heinrich and I saw each other. I just can’t believe how I have fallen in love so hard and so fast with Heinrich. While we still have a lot to learn about each other, I feel like we are already partners.

 It is always interesting when I start riding a new horse. If I am fortunate enough to ride a horse over a longer period of time, I always have a moment after about a year or so – it comes out of the blue and the thought suddenly hits me: ‘We are partners now’. The crazy thing with Heinrich is that he and I had that moment from the beginning.

 I am so excited to bring Heinrich to shows next season. This fall with Ivan I kept thinking about how exciting it will be to have Heinrich out there. Heinrich is also excited to be in the spotlight – he has been feeling quite left out this fall with Ivan getting all the attention. I am sure he will be sharing that in his diary soon. I am so grateful for Nicole Uphoff-Selke and Andreas Selke for believing in this horse and believing in me and making sure that Heinrich and I found each other. I am grateful to Heinrich’s breeders, Insa and Dirk Ettwig for raising such a wonderful guy and entrusting me with him. I am especially thankful to Sara Greenberg who partnered with me to purchase Heinrich. And of course, thank you to all the Join the Journey Fundraisers who have been an instrumental part of this journey with Heinrich from the beginning.

 Heinrich was not the only newcomer from Germany this year. I was lucky enough to travel to Germany 3 times within 6 months this year! (Looking for Heinrich, picking up Heinrich and looking with Carol Lippa for her new partner). In June, Carol and I went searching and she fell in love with BellaMondo, a 6 year old gelding who joined us stateside in July. Some students also found love in their back yard. Laurie Berger met and became partners with her new mare, Royal Fergie over the summer as well.

 While there are many new additions to the team to be excited about, we are also excited about the many horses and riders who have stayed dedicated to the journey over the years and we look forward to the 2018 season. Again, I feel honored and humbled to work with so many fantastic animals and their people. An exciting season is up ahead.

 Well, I digressed into the review of the year and looking toward the year ahead. But I just want to wrap up by summarizing all the exciting things Team Strawson has done in the fall season!

 When I sent the schedule reminder out to everyone at the beginning of the fall season I was exhausted just thinking about it! Between September and December 1st, here is what Team Strawson was up to:

  • We attended 2 schooling shows,1 recognized show, 2 regional finals and 1 national final
  • There were 2 Clinics at Misty Gleann with George Williams. Ivan and I rode in a clinic at Rolling Ridge with Alfredo Hernandez
  • I gave one clinic for the PVDA during their chapter challenge weekend and I gave a talk about the Balimo program at Rolling Ridge.
  • Ivan and I performed at the Horses on Pointe Benefit – hosted by Wyndham Oaks – to benefit the Great and Small Therapeutic Riding program
  • AND it was Brian’s and my 25th Anniversary! We even managed an overnight getaway to celebrate. 





Ivan preparing for the Horses on Pointe benefit. Selene Bergman (pictured in top image) of the Stables of Rolling Ridge styled Ivan's mane and tail for the benefit.


Finally, a big thank you to my sponsors, Daily Dose Equine and Kerrits Equestrian Apparel for your continued support!

 Phew............... what a ride in 2017!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone!