Aruba • Australia • England • Chile • St. Martin • Canada • Scotland • Peru • Bahamas
Ireland • France • Costa Rica • Israel • Norway • Italy • Iceland • Sweden
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Adventures Down Under
By Alex Harvey, Sandy Spring
The American Polocrosse Association (APA) has a youth development team program (YDT) where kids of certain ages can travel to various countries on polocrosse tours, staying with host families and competing in tournaments. I was a part of the YDT U21 team from 2014 to 2016, one of the best opportunities of my life.
I currently attend Davidson College, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina. I’ve ridden most of my life and started competing when I was 11 in dressage schooling shows and some local hunter and jumper shows. Once I joined Pony Club, I participated in almost every discipline from games and tetrathlon to eventing on a great Norwegian Fjord named Thunder. We even started playing polocrosse when I was 16 and my first tournament was in September of 2011.
Unfortunately, after my first several tournaments, I realized that because the game requires high agility and maneuverability, I would need a more suitable horse and I bought Dancer, a Thoroughbred mare. It was quite a jump from a Norwegian Fjord so it took a little while to settle down a mare with attitude, but after some practice, we learned to get along.
Polocross in New South Wales
My first YDT U21 tour was an inbound tour in 2014. The team played in a quadrangular tournament in Harvest, Alabama between the U16 team, World Cup Team, and the Australian U21 players from New South Wales (NSW). Both the 2015 and 2016 trips were outbound tours and I was part of the Ambassador tour to NSW with two other U21 players. We stayed with host families, who were all part of the Tumut polocrosse club, and we played with their club.
My host family had a “small” 100-acre sheep station in Eugowra, NSW. Some stayed with families who had over 7000 acres. The mother of my host family was an equine dentist, the father was a painter and trained horses, and they had two children; one was away at university and the other was at home helping work the horses.
We played in two tournaments, which they call carnivals over there, and were mixed in with the Tumut players. We played in A reserve in the first carnival at Harden (just a notch below the top grade) and in the intermediates division in the second at Tumut (17- to 21- year-olds). The Australians were very gracious in that they provided some of the best horses they had for us, their Yankee guests. We ended up switching horses almost every game, so I ended up riding up to six horses in just two carnivals, not to mention the horses I rode while with my host family.
I appreciated every moment of that tour because every person I met was so welcoming and had so much helpful advice to give. Being able to learn from Australians, and even just watching them play was the best thing for me, especially in my transition to A grade back in the U.S. Along with acquiring great experience and horse knowledge, carnivals were just a great time to have fun with evening bonfires, lots of talking and enjoying the weekend. Australians definitely know how to have a good time.
Field Studies in Queensland
After the tour was over, I left NSW to go up to James Cook University in Smithfield, Queensland. I took a marine biology and ecology class specific to their unique location. We got to do field research in different ecosystems around the Great Barrier Reef, specifically in a mangrove system on nearby Green Island and at Cape Tribulation, both on the rocky beach and in the rain forest mangroves. At each of these locations we recorded observations of different organisms, plant and animal, and studied the biological and physiological layout of the ecosystem.
Outside of studies, I would go hiking, sightseeing, and swimming, being careful of the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles, plus snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier. I even made it back down to my host family in NSW a couple times to visit and play polocrosse, playing A grade at the Warren Carnival. They were so welcoming and happy to have me back after the tour, it was like I had a second home in Australia.
Hiking in New Zealand
Thomas from my fraternity at Davidson was on the program to Cairns so we made a trip over our mid-semester break to see friends from Davidson who were studying on the South Island of New Zealand. We stopped with our friend in Dunedin, surrounded by smaller mountains that were really big hills, which was a good warm-up for all the hiking we were about to do in the big mountain ranges at Queenstown, next to Lake Wakatipu. The lake similar to most other lakes in NZ, is such a bright blue color that is almost impossible to describe its beauty.
We hiked every day, but the most eventful hike was a six-hour trek on the Glacier Burn Track, which climbs almost to the top of Mt. Bonpland up the Bryant Glacier. We were feeling a little adventurous once we got to the base of the glacier, which was a big opening where a very steep rocky incline led up to a ledge. Most of this incline was covered in five feet of snow, which made for difficult climbing. Once we made it to the top, where it was snowing heavily, we enjoyed the view and got a well-deserved rest. The most efficient way to descend was to slide very slowly, rather than sink through the snow with each step. During our descent, Thomas injured his shoulder and had very limited mobility. I was able to give him first aid so we could get back down the mountain. That was definitely the most eventful hike we had on our trip.
After Queenstown, we trekked into Te Anau, a town on the southwest part of the island next to Lake Te Anau. We toured the glowworm caves and being in the completely dark cave looking up at the glowworms was like looking up at a clear night sky. We made our way up through Mt. Cook and stayed there for several days, then up to Christchurch to end our trip.
Polocross in Auckland
After my semester was over I made my way to Auckland, NZ to meet up with the U.S. team, eight players, including our coach, our manager, and myself. We stayed with families in the Kaikohe Polocrosse Club on the northern part of the North Island. The tour lasted three weeks, beginning just before Christmas and ending a little more than a week into the new year.
A former NZ World Cup player supplied the horses we used. We were given a pool of nine horses, and we spent one day riding all of them to decide which horses we all wanted to play. I ended up riding a chestnut polo mare that hadn’t actually played in any polocrosse carnivals. This made our first carnival, especially the first chukka, very exciting. It turned out that the girth wasn’t tight enough so I fell off within one minute of starting. Luckily she settled down, I tightened my girth, and everything smoothed out. We played in two carnivals; in the first at Kaikohe we were mixed in with players of different clubs in B grade, and in the second at Pouto we played as a team in A grade, where we finished off the carnival with our test match against the Northland U21 Team. Unfortunately we lost the test match, but we played especially well in the last chukka.
This tour was a bit different from the NSW tour in that we had a full team, and it was a bit more competitive so we had to be much more focused. Our host families were great, the food was amazing, and I wouldn’t have changed any part of it. Being able to meet so many welcoming people and learning from them was an amazing opportunity I’ll never forget. After the last carnival I went back to Auckland to fly back to the U.S., where I went straight to Charlotte, NC. Since it was a Monday I had already missed my first classes of the semester, woops. Fortunately my professors understood when I told them I would not be able to make it to class because I was in New Zealand. I had so many stories and unique experiences over the past six months, but my trip was over and it was time to go back to work in the real world.
The Misty Moors Dartmoor
By Barbara Smith, Lothian
The first morning there was heavy mist across the moors and visibility was limited. What I could see looked exactly like I imagined a scene from Hound of the Baskerville’s or Jamaica Inn. Ghostly hedges revealed hidden farmyards, complete with thatched roof cottages and low barns. We had come to Dartmoor National Park in Exeter, England to ride across the famous moors for a couple days before continuing onto Devon and Cornwall. Rosie Campbell, MFH of Bull Run Hunt in Culpeper, Virginia, her husband Chris Allen and son-in-law, Spencer Allen and my husband, Michael and I, had driven down to Bovey Castle from London on Tuesday. It had been cool, with some showers and by 4 Pm we met in the lovely sitting room for a traditional Devon cream tea. Delicious and decadent. We only had it once! Buttery biscuits, topped with berry jam and then the cream, which really looks like butter, is so good. Bovey Castle is a luxurious spa in the heart of Dartmoor and caters to hunting and fishing activites of all sorts. They have partnered with Liberty Trails, the equine brainchild of Elaine and Robert Prior, (www.libertytrails.co.uk) which offers riding holidays across these moors made famous by Sherlock Holmes and more recently, Stephen Spielberg’s movie “War Horse”.
I received an invitation from Liberty Trails to ride in their inaugural Dartmoor Derby in September 2015. Loosely based on the idea of the Mongol Derby, which I did in 2014, they were offering a 3 day “race” across the moors with more luxurious “camping” than the aforementioned Mongol Derby. As I believe I used several of my 9 lives completing the Mongol Derby I declined the race opportunity but asked for more information. The resulting brochure and descriptions of riding holidays sounded like a great way to explore a beautiful and remote part of England. I mentioned it to Rosie, who grew up in Devon, and she agreed it would be a lovely way to show her home to her husband and son-in-law. I contacted some fellow Mongol Derby riders, Chris Maude and Rob Skinner, who lived in Cheltenham and Exeter respectively, and told them they had to come and see me. I missed them. We were planning on 2 days of riding on the moor and then splitting up to do some sight seeing.
First Day’s Ride
Elaine and Robert Prior picked us up the first morning and we headed to the yard for the horses. She had promised “eventing-type” cross country riding and Thoroughbred horses. She delivered on her promise and the six horses were all 15.3 to 17 hand English sport horse types. A friend of Elaine’s supplied all the horses and they were lovely. When hunting in Ireland I had learned to tell the livery people I was a mom of three and wanted a timid, slow, old horse. This insured I was not breaking in their latest 2 year old Thoroughbred. Since the Mongol Derby adventure I cannot get away with this ploy anymore. I was told I was given her best horse, Marco. He was a beautiful bay with a forward manner and I loved him. Elaine said he was her favorite with which to lead the rides.
Two friends of Rosie’s had also joined us, so the range of riders from beginners to experienced would be hard for anyone to to judge unseen, but I thought Elaine did a good job pairing riders with suitable horses. Some changes were made the next day and Rosie had Marco. I was given another beautiful hunter type, named Matt. The owner said “He is young, a little forward, you’ll be fine.” I have heard this before and took one look at the full pelham and flash noseband and nodded OK. He definitely wanted to be up front but had lovely gaits and I enjoyed him too. Spencer Allen, the huntsman with Live Oak Hounds in Florida and his dad Chris, Rosie’s husband, seemed pleased with their horses and we were off.
We trotted along narrow, hedge lined lanes until splitting off through a farmer’s pasture to the top of the moor. Suddenly the mist cleared and we could see forever! I had no idea there was this expanse of rugged, wild land in rural England. Elaine said it was about 300,00 acres and the landscape varied from rocky outcrops to small pastures bordered with the famous English hedges.
Bogs are infamous here and travelers are warned to be very careful. Elaine said to watch for little hillocks and small white flowers growing among the green grass as a marker for the bogs. However, we seemed to be in the bog before we realized it, and several times Matt, my young horse, did not like the “mushy” footing and seemed anxious to get out of the bog. All the horses were very sure-footed and careful.
Ponies and Stones
Everywhere we road there were wild Dartmoor ponies. Elaine said the many individual herds tend to stay within a 7 mile radius circle and the villagers all know whose ponies are whose! Twice a year they have a pony round-up, similar to Chincoteague in Maryland and sell some internationally. The ponies were not bothered by our horses and it was wonderful to watch the foals and mares. Several curious youngsters would follow us for a while before dashing back to mom.
The rocky outcrops on top of the hills are called tors and they number in the hundreds on the moor. Each is named and is a well-known local landmark. We would find one on the horizon and ride towards it as our marker. There were also very large piles of boulders, that were the rock wall remnants of what I would call prisoner “chain-gangs”. Nearby Dartmoor Prison has a long and notorious history as a prisoner-of-war holding. Even American Revolutionary soldiers were held here and the prisoners did hard labor piling boulders to build the endless walls across the moor. It is at times a desolate, foreboding landscape under grey storm filled skies. The sun did come out our second day and then the beautiful green fields looked like a Jane Austen movie. Elaine showed us the small farm where Steven Speilberg filmed the plowing scene in “War Horse”. It was immediately recognizable by the shape of the field, if you remember Joey, the horse, trying to go up and down in straight lines.
We rode past Bronze Age stone circles and mysterious double rows of small standing stones. These paths are supposedly along “ley lines” across the moors, sometimes separated by long distances, but still in a straight line leading to some long forgotten sacred spot. Another unusual marker on these moors were single tall posts. They are the last of what Spencer Allen, a former marine, called Rommels’ Asparagus. To deter the German Luftwaffe from landing gliders or planes during World War II, the villagers “planted” these posts all over the top of the moors to prevent any landing strips. These posts are still standing and leaning into the wind 70 years later!
We followed small paths and rode beside low stone walls, occasionally crossing a road, heading mid-day to a old pub, where we were told the peat fire has burned for 200 years, never going out! The distinctive smell was obvious before we spotted the white washed, thatched cottage that definitely looked at least 200 years old. While some of us held the horses, watching the nearby sheep, some went in to get pints of the local beer. Wonderful and thirst-quenching.
After 6 hours we were heading back down to the country lanes and the horses’ farm. We had trotted and galloped and walked for about 23 miles in a very large circular route. Robert Prior had met us mid-day with sandwiches and tea which we ate on horseback, watching the wild ponies and the occasional sheep herd. It had been an awesome day, on windswept moors reminiscent of the Mongolian landscape I had ridden on two years ago.
We were driven back to Bovey Castle for massages, tea and a 5-star dinner by a world-class chef. My husband Michael had opted to go fly-fishing with a local gilly, Adam Fox-Edwards of the Arundel Arms Hotel and he was enthusiastically telling us about the brown trout and lovely secluded streams he had found.
The next morning we mounted and headed off in another direction. We were going to meet a local falconer and hopefully watch as he showed us his bird-of-prey. Because of the hunting ban in England the hunts are allowed to have hounds only when hunting with a bird-of-prey. This is a very rough analogy of a complicated situation but we were to have the pleasure of watching a beautiful peregrine falcon.
We met the falconer at noon, high on the top of the moor. This was a testament to Elaine’s navigation and timing skills, which put 7 riders at the exact meeting spot, at the appointed time, after riding 10 miles across what looks like unmarked open moor ! The falconer’s Thoroughbred was completely unconcerned with the hooded predator on his arm as he galloped towards us. Our horses were not so sanguine, in fact almost all of them spooked a little and Matt, my young horse was ready to go the next county. This was one of the first times Elaine was trying to have a falconing showcase for her riders and after a few attempts to accustom the horses to the peregrine falcon we decided to take pictures holding the falcon on his Thoroughbred! He was looking for some ravens which he told us the young falcon would dispatch at about 70 miles an hour. Perhaps luckily for our untested horses, we did not find the aforementioned prey, but enjoyed listening to his hunting stories as he rode alongside.
The afternoon ended with a delicious and elegant picnic on the shores of a lovely lake. The horses were to be vanned back to their home as we had ridden for hours in a straight line away from the start this day. We had seen similar rocky hilltops and tors in the distance as well as cantered through lovely high pastures and fragrant pine forests. The picnic high note was the wonderful créme brulée, which was an unexpected treat. Elaine and Robert Prior, of Liberty Trails, had outdone themselves to make us feel welcomed and privileged to see their remote and wild part of England. Elaine had grown up on Dartmoor and after 20 years as an ad executive, she has realized her lifelong dream of riding here and sharing her love for the moors.
The Priors joined my Mongol Derby veteran friends and ourselves for dinner that night at Bovey Castle. We had many equine adventures to share and compare and we assured them that we had thoroughly enjoyed our Liberty Trails ride. Between us we had ridden in many countries from Africa to Mongolia and many others. We told them the horses were first rate and the countryside was as beautiful as promised. We invited them to come fox hunt in America so we could reciprocate the hospitality and assured them we would highly recommend the riding vacation to our friends. It is a truly lovely part of England and the history and romance of the moor is unbeatable. We thanked them and promised to return.
The next day we were going separate ways to sight see but we all thought our ride had been fantastic.
Official Maryland Trade Mission to Sweden
A delegation representing the Maryland horse industry, including officials from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, traveled to Sweden this summer for a trade mission. Traveling in the delegation were Maryland Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Steve Connelly, Maryland Horse Industry Board Executive Director Ross Peddicord, and Maryland Department of Agriculture International Marketing Manager Theresa Brophy.
Activities included meeting with Sweden’s agricultural and environmental leadership, attending the grand opening of a new racetrack in Stockholm, a tour of the Royal Household Cavalry stables in Stockholm, observing the Mounted Cavalry Regiment Band, Menhammar trotting stud, and Sodertalje Riding Club outside Stockholm, one of Sweden’s largest lesson & boarding barns.
Results from Rio
At this summer’s Olympic Games, held early in August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the U.S. equestrians made their mark, earning medals in all three disciplines. Kick-starting the equestrian sports was Eventing. Although the U.S. as a team ended up not completing the games, Philip Dutton of nearby Pennsylvania made his way onto the medal podium, earning a Bronze Medal with Mighty Nice. Michael Jung of Germany earned back-to-back Individual Gold Medals with Sam FBW, and Astier Nicolas of France earned Silver. The team medals went to France for Gold, and Germany for Silver with Australia earning the Bronze.
The Maryland-connected Blackfoot Mystery, ridden by Pennsylvania-based Boyd Martin, finished in seventh place individually.
Next up was team Dressage where the U.S. riders took home the Bronze behind Germany with Gold and Great Britain with Silver. Team U.S. was made up of Laura Graves, who missed out on an individual medal by less than two percentage points, Steffen Peters, Kasey Perry-Glass and Allison Brock.
Also noteworthy from Olympic Dressage, Selten HW, ridden by Anders Dahl of Denmark, was bred here in the U.S. and got his competition start right here in Maryland at Hilltop Farm in Colora. The Sandro Hit gelding was Reserve Grand Champion at Dressage at Devon as a two-year-old and won the U.S. Four-Year-Old Young Horse Championships and Young Horse Classes at Devon with Michael Bragdell on board. Denmark finished sixth in Team Dressage.
In addition, Valegro, who just won his second consecutive Dressage Individual Gold Medal with Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, is by the stallion Negro, who also stands at Hilltop Farm.
Despite Beezie Madden having to pull out Cortes ‘C’ after the first round in Show Jumping, Team U.S. earned the Silver Medal in Rio! France took home the Gold with Germany earning the Bronze. U.S. riders included Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Lucy Davis and Beezie Madden.
By Jenna Isennock, Owings Mills
From August 13 through August 20, I went to the West Coast of Ireland on what is called the Clare Burren Ride. We went from Whitegate along the Mid Clare Way and then Burren Way to the town of Lisdoonvarna along the coast. The trip took six days of riding, roughly five to six hours a day!
I went by myself but ended up making great friends with the other women in our group, three of whom turned out to be “neighbors” from Landenberg, PA and Philedelphia, PA. We have already made plans to meet up at the Fair Hill International on cross-country day this year and ride out together on a few paperchases this fall.
It was a fantastic trip!
Costa Rica’s Full Moon
This past April, Stephen, Karen and Grace Fulton of Full Moon Farm in Finksburg headed to Costa Rica to teach horsemanship, riding and farrier skills. The Fultons first met Leonor Munoz of La Finca Centro Ecuestre in Costa Rica when she bought the eventing mare The Good Stuff from them back in the fall of 2015. Leonor shipped the mare back home and kept in touch with the Fultons. When she started to have a bit of trouble with shoeing, Leonor called Stephen and asked him to come to Costa Rica to shoe her mare as well as her father’s dressage horses and a few others at the farm. The trip turned into a family affair when Karen and Grace were also invited to teach clinics.
Stephen spent the trip talking with local farriers and showing them some different techniques he uses here in the states. Grace taught a variety of horsemanship skills such as mane pulling and tack care while Karen spent very full days teaching mounted lessons.
“The trip led to a great cultural exchange as Leo brought four of her students up to our place this summer to compete in our quarter star,” Karen said. The students borrowed horses from Full Moon Farm in order to participate and Leonor’s parents were members of the ground jury. “The plan is to go back there every six months and Leo is going to bring students here from time to time,” Karen added.
Heard & Barnaby Top U.S. Pair in Ireland CCI3*
Lillian Heard of Poolesville had a spectacular finish at the Millstreet International Horse Trials CCI3* in Ireland this summer. She attended the event representing the U.S. through the Jacqueline B. Mars Competition Grant and finished fourth aboard her own LCC Barnaby. Lillian and the 2006 Irish Sport Horse gelding started the competition in 12th place after scoring a 58.7% in dressage. The pair jumped clean on cross-country with just 2.8 time faults being added to their score to move up to eighth place. They finished the competition with a fault-free show jumping round to move into fourth place.
Lillian told the USEF, “My experience at Millstreet was spectacular. The venue was top-notch and the people were wonderful and welcoming.” She added, “My horse performed very well in all three phases. I had hoped for a better dressage score, but it gave me all the more motivation to claw my way back up the leaderboard.”
Games in Ireland and Wales
This summer, Aidan Doud (Annapolis), Bella Pellet (Frederick) and Kimi Fleming (Frederick) joined Olivia Owen (Tennessee) and Libby Butler (Tennessee) on the U.S. Mounted Games Association Under 17 team that traveled to the 2016 World Championships in Ireland. After the championships, Bella and Kimi went to Wales to compete in the 2016 World Individual Championships. Below are photos from their trip. Check out The Equiery’s Facebook page for a video of the trip as well!