(Archive: November 6, 2004 - March 17, 2005)
Notes from Phyllis

Phyllis and Enniskerry Imp at Plantation Field.

 Learn about Melissa's experiences at the Morven Park CCI*!

 Read Pedro Gutierrez's diary of the Pan American Championships!

Read the full report on Phyllis and Jineen's trip to New Zealand.

Visit the Site Map for information on other Travel Reports.

March 17, 2005
     Spring is still teasing us, but its almost here.  The weather has warmed up some, the ground has mostly unfrozen, and the trees are starting to bud out.  We have been able to ride outside, and even do a little cross-country schooling.  But we are still waiting for that first truly spring-like day!  You know the one, where the grass is suddenly definitely green and the air smells like growing things.  Any day now!
     My new horse from Bulgaria, Vito, finally arrived last week.  I was over there in December and purchased him, but it takes forever to get all of the vetting and shipping arrangements done from that part of the world.  But he is finally here, and in good shape, having coped with the long journey well.  I am really excited about him, as I think he is quite special!
     We are quite busy now getting ready for the spring Event Season, and looking forward to the competitions.  Just two more weeks until Morven Park!
Until next time,

March 4, 2005
I'm just back from a real Colorado Rocky Mountain High vacation!  My Mom and I, joined by my sister and her husband, went out to Aspen last week to visit my brother, who has a beautiful house right on the ski slopes of Snowmass.  We had an amazing time!
     We were fortunate to have fabulous skiing weather; clear blue skies most days, but with one snowy night bringing us 10 inches of fresh powder.  It is an incredible feeling to be skiing down the mountainside, with a panoramic view of the Rockies spread out in front of you.  From the top of the ski lift you can see the Great Divide; its extraordinary grandeur makes you feel small and insignificant.  The atmosphere at that altitude is thin, so everything is crystal clear; the sky is an amazing shade of blue that you have never seen anywhere else, and the snow sparkles with the radiance of a million miniature diamonds.  When you get into the right rhythm skiing, it feels like you are flying!  And afterwards we would all retire to the hot tub, where we would enjoy a drink and a warm soak, amid the surrounding snow.

Zorro, the mother fox, visits the house.

     One of the coolest things about the visit was the foxes.  When we visited last year, a female fox with a broken leg was sighted in the yard, so my brother's wife Sandee started putting some food out for her.  These handouts no doubt helped her to survive the harsh winter despite her handicap, and last spring she had a litter of kits.  She started bringing them to the house looking for treats as well, and now Sandee has four foxes that come and visit.  They have become quite tame; they will come right up to the windows, looking in expectantly in anticipation of a free dinner.

Mom and my brother Lad.

     One of the highlights of our Aspen vacation was our snowmobile trip.  This was great fun, and it was something Mom could join us in; she rode first behind our guide, and then switched and shared a snowmobile with my brother Lad.  We followed a snow packed track that wound its way through Aspen forests, then up the valley to an amazing spot where we could view the picturesque mountains known as the Maroon Bells.  This is an incredibly beautiful place; the view of the Bells across the frozen lake is legendary.

Maroon Bells.

     Another great experience was having dinner at the Piney Creek Cookhouse.  Located far up a secluded valley, in the winter it is not assessable by car.  We rode to dinner in a horse-drawn sleigh!  Once there, we enjoyed an excellent (though somewhat overpriced!) meal of caribou, elk, buffalo and venison, served in a delightfully rustic dining room.  But the best part of the whole experience was the return trip! I joined Lad and Sandee, and my sister Patty and her husband Rob, and we snow-shoed back. 
     It was magical!  The night was beautiful, quiet and dark.  But as we started out, the nearly full moon climbed above the mountains to our right, and the light from it came flooding down, illuminating the snow-covered valley.  We passed through groves of Aspen trees, the moonlight glowing on their smooth trunks and casting long dark shadows.  The white mountains could be seen glowing faintly behind us, and the stars were glinting in the heavens above; Orion was dancing on the mountaintops.  We could hear nothing except the sound of our footsteps on the packed snow.  The sense of peace was incredible.  It was one of those evenings that you remember for the rest of your life!  And when we drove back to my brother's house on Snowmass, perhaps 10 miles away, we found that a winter storm had been going on there for hours, and everything was covered in over 8 inches of new snow.  It was amazing, as it had been a clear night where we walked; but just a short distance away the snow had been falling steadily!

Until next time,

February 21, 2005
Sadly, today we said goodbye to a wonderful competitor and a great friend, Snowy River.  This horse was a real athlete, and enjoyed a successful career at the highest levels of Eventing. 
     Snowy was bred and raised by Bruce Davidson, and was by the leading Eventing sire Babamist.  I purchased him from Bruce in 1994, and we went on to form a great partnership together, competing successfully at the Advanced level for a number of years.  Like most of Babamist's offspring, he wasn't particularly fond of the dressage phase, but excelled in the cross-country and jumping.  He could run like the wind and jump the moon.  Together we competed at Three-day Events at Rolex Kentucky, Fair Hill and Burghley.
     The highlight of Snowy River's career was when we represented the United States Equestrian Team in the Open European Championships at Burghley, England, in 1997.  With a fast and clean cross-country round over an imposing and difficult course, we finished 19th out of over 90 starters, in a field of the top competitors in the world.  We were very proud to represent the USA at this incredible competition!

     After retiring from the International levels, Snowy River continued competing with Melissa Hunsberger, now Windchase's assistant trainer.  Melissa competed Snowy at the Preliminary and Intermediate levels, and the experience and mileage she gained with him helped her to develop into the talented rider and competitor that she is. 

     Recently Snowy developed a condition of severe arthritis in his neck, leading to discomfort and loss of mobility.  It was with great sadness that we made the decision to put him to rest.  He was a unique personality and a great partner, and we will miss him.

What Delight
To back the flying steed 
That challenges the wind for speed. 
Seems native more of air than earth! 
Whose burden only lends him fire!
Whose soul, in his tack, turns labour into Sport.
He makes your pastime his. I sit him now!
He takes away my breath. He makes me real.
I touch not earth, 
I see not - hear not - all is an ecstasy of motion!

                       ~ James Sheridan Knowles

Until next time,

February 20, 2005
     This week has just gone to the dogs. And I mean that literally! 
     I have four lurchers, a breed of dog that is very popular in England and Ireland.  Lurchers are typically a cross between greyhounds and border collies, though technically any combination of a sight hound and a working dog can qualify.  It is a breed that was developed by the Gypsies, to poach game in the royal forests.  Lurchers are very fast, and they are avid hunters.  They are sight hounds, which means they hunt by viewing their quarry rather than by following a scent; and they hunt silently.
     Unfortunately, my lurchers have recently taken to hunting my neighbor's cats!  The lady who owns the farm across the street has about thirty half wild and mostly geriatric cats, and apparently my dogs have decided that they are quite good sport.  Although they don't bother the barn cats here at the farm, they apparently feel that the semi-feral cats across the way are fair game.  Predictably, my neighbor doesn't share their view.  And herein lies the problem!
     In order to find a solution and to keep peace in the neighborhood, I had the Invisible Fence people come out and install an underground fence to keep my dogs at home.  As they are used to having the run of the farm, I felt bad at limiting the dogs; but we extended the fence to enclose quite a large area, at least 25 acres, so they really still have plenty of room to run. 
     But this brings us to the next step; the training period!  In order to train the dogs to respect the boundaries of the invisible fence and still have the confidence to run and play within its confines, an extensive training period is needed.  So for the past week, I have been keeping them confined in the barn, except for during their training periods.  I spend 20 to 30 minutes working with each dog, twice a day.  Multiply this by four dogs, and you can see where all my time has been going!  Jineen has been helping me with the dog training, and the end is in sight.  They seem to be understanding the rules and the consequences, so hopefully they will stay at home, and their hunting can be limited to the squirrels in the yard and the groundhogs that are close by; even though this isn't as much fun as the neighbor's cats!

Until next time,

February 11, 2005
Waiting for Spring.  This is the quiet time of year.  We are all eager for the change of season; and yet I relish this time of year, savoring the preparation and the anticipation.  Soon the Event season will be on us, and we will all be going flat out; but for now we have the luxury of time to focus on bringing along the young horses and improving the basics on the experienced ones.  I love the in-between time, the getting ready.
     And of course, the in-between times are even better when the weather is good!  So far we have been lucky this year, enjoying a mild winter.  Oh, sure, we have had some really cold snaps (the worst of which I managed to be out of town for!), but they have been fairly short, and on the whole the weather has been really good (knock on wood!).  In fact, it was in the 50s all last week, and it is supposed to warm back up to that again over the next few days; so we have become quite spoiled.  I have never been one to go to Florida for the winter; I have a business to run and it would just not be financially feasible.  Besides, I love being at Windchase, and I have no desire to pack everything up and be gone for 2 or 3 months in the winter, even if I could.  But I have to say that in some of the more severe winters it has been tempting!  But now, we are only about a month away from true spring, and there is plenty to look forward to!

February Sunset

Until next time,

January 28, 2005
Last time I wrote, I was somewhat apprehensive about going to Minnesota to teach a clinic, as it had been reported on the news that it was minus 54 degrees there.  So it was with trepidation that I set off, amid much teasing from the barn staff about my frigid destination.  But I picked a good time to be gone; it turned out that the extreme cold temperatures left Minnesota and headed to Virginia!  Windchase enjoyed single digit temperatures and severe winds.  The power went out for over 20 hours and the water pipes froze, as did the working students.  Meanwhile, I ended up teaching in a lovely indoor arena that was heated to 48 degrees; but don't tell the barn staff - I told them it was 28 below zero!

     We have been really enjoying working with Pedro's two new arrivals from New Zealand.  One of them, Purr, is a very promising up-and-coming Eventer, and the other one, Alpha Bravo, is an experienced Preliminary horse.  Both of them are very talented and tons of fun to ride. Look for them soon on the 'Horses for Sale' page!

     Also, congratulations to some other former Windchase horses.  Jennifer Libby has been invited to ride Draco in the Winter Training Sessions for the U.S. Equestrian Team, and her sister Emilee will participate in the Developing Riders sessions with Cahir.  It is really exciting and rewarding to see horses that we have sold go on to have such success!

Until next time,

January 20, 2005
It's done at last!  In November, Jineen and I had a wonderful trip to New Zealand; and I have finally posted my journal!  It has been a lot of fun to relive the trip through writing the story.  Sorry it has taken me so long!

     I am heading off to Minnesota this weekend to teach an Instructor's Certification Program workshop.  But to my dismay, I heard on the news that they have been experiencing record low temperatures this week; down to minus 54 degrees!   

Until next time,

January 1, 2005
     Happy New Year! 
     We had a nice Holiday Season here at Windchase, and we topped it off last night with our annual Windchase New Year's Eve Party. I have been putting on a party for New Year's Eve for over 20 years now; and since I don't enjoy parties where there is nothing to do and everyone just stands around, I always plan some sort of activity or game, and make it as original as possible. This year's theme was Extreme Makeover! 
     After dividing the guests into two teams I gave them their makeover assignments; one team would make me over and the other team would work on Jineen, and the Judges Panel would decide which makeover was better! The results were somewhat frightening; Jineen ended up as a cowgirl hooker, making the world a happier place, one cowboy at a time. I had to be Mrs. Phyllis Santa, charged with taking care of ALL of Santa's needs. I am still trying to get the strawberry Jell-O out of my hair! 
     The Judges called it a tie; but one thing was clear, it was not a pretty sight!  But you can see the results below.

Until next time,

December 23, 2004
Getting in the Christmas Spirit!   We had a little photo-shoot this morning with Jasper and Cyndi. Jasper was very patient and a very good sport about the whole thing; and who would have known that Cyndi would make such a good elf!

Santa's Little Helpers

Until next time,

December 22, 2004
I bought myself a Christmas present this week; a new car!   For those of you who have seen the 1989 Corolla I have been driving for the past 15 years, I am sure you will say its about time.   But that has been a good car, and it was kind of hard to let it go.   (Of course, the broken shocks, the cracked windshield, the faulty muffler and exhaust system, the transmission that had started slipping out of gear, the broken heater, and the oil leak that caused it to emit great clouds of blue smoke when you start it all made letting it go just a little easier!)   I wanted to trade it in on my new vehicle, but the guys at the dealership would only give me fifty dollars in trade-in value on it.   Can you believe that?!?   Fifty dollars!   Doesn't the custom two-tone interior count for anything?   After all, you don't see many dark grey interiors with maroon door panels!  (This was compliments of my dog Shelby, who ate the original gray door panels!) 
     Not wanting to accept fifty dollars for the car, I donated it to the Salvation Army.   I must say I felt a pang of guilt when I left it there; will they take good care of it?   Will they find it a good home?   Will it miss me?   However, any perceived regrets soon disappeared, upon driving my new Toyota four-wheel-drive RAV home!   I have never had a brand new car before; so this is a real treat! 

The new car!

     My Mom has a new kitten, named Tally, that lives in the house.   Mom getting a cat was a total shock, because she has never wanted pets in the house before; but Tally is a really marvelous kitten, very playful and mischievous, but also quite affectionate.   She torments the dogs, wreaks havoc around the house, and attacks your feet at unexpected moments.   She is, of course, a great help to Mom when she is trying to sew (and Tally is trying to help), and she was equally helpful in assisting me to decorate the Christmas tree.

Until next time,

December 12, 2004
Guest column by Melissa Hunsberger
Destination Bulgaria!!!
Having found so many nice horses in Bulgaria last year, Phyllis decided to return to the Eastern European country once again.   I am fascinated with travel and anxious to see more of the world, so I approached Phyllis before the trip with the prospect of possibly being selected to be her bodyguard.   To my surprise she agreed, and before I knew it we were on our way!  
Natalie Hollis, who had gone on the trip with Phyllis the year before, had some essential advice for me.   “Bring your own toilet paper, pack lots of warm clothing, and remember nod for no and in the arena pass right hand to right hand!!!   Via the Internet, I had done some research on the country on my own; the information assured me that despite being in the neighborhood of the troubled Balkans, Bulgaria was very peaceful and the people very friendly. 
     The layout of the land is still reminiscent of a time not so long ago when the people were under communist rule.   Huge cinder-block flats are the central design of many cities.   The stables are also located either in or just outside a central city.   Today the majority of the stables are privately owned, with only a few still being operated by the Bulgarian government.
     One such stable is the Bulgarian national stud (a.k.a. the horse factory).   Phyllis and I had the privilege of receiving a guided tour of the facility from the stud manager, Svetlozar Kaschiev.   Founded in 1864, the National Stud remains the oldest breeding program in the country.   Svetlozar showed us some of the best Bulgarian stallions in the country, including his own beautiful Grand Prix dressage horse Tarzan.   The Bulgarian horse is a cross of the older heavier Bulgarian military horse and a thoroughbred.   The resulting Bulgarian sport horse is well-balanced athletic looking type.
     With the help of our invaluable guide Ilian and our essential and irreplaceable translator Lily, we were shown many beautiful examples of the Bulgarian breed in the country.   I was immediately struck by the enormous amount of pride the people take in their horses.   Most owners know the mother, father, sister, uncle aunt, cousin, and grand parents of every horse!   Like the Irish horse they seem to want to do anything for food and are always looking for a handout. 
     We also learned that the young Bulgarian event horse has no option but to start it’s career at the Preliminary Level, as that is the lowest level offered in the country.   Ilian and Svetlozar took us on a course walk at the national stud where they hold competitions at the one-star and two star levels.   Wow! is the only way to describe it.   Phyllis compared the courses there with the type you would see in this country thirty years ago.   Huge open ditch and wall combinations with big drops onto uneven terrain were the overwhelming theme.   Ilian then told us that this was the course his fancy four-year-old had completed this year!!!   I can not think of a four-year-old that I have sat on that I would ever consider pointing at those fences!   As it turned out, Ilian’s four-year-old Vito was one of the horses we were scheduled to see.   He was absolutely a cross-country machine!   I enviously looked on as Phyllis tried him over Ilian’s cross-country course; the horse truly has the gift of flight as he would effortlessly clear whatever Phyllis pointed him at!   I think Phyllis is very excited about starting this talented horse’s career in the US!
     Throughout the trip our generous hosts would entertain us at some very nice Bulgarian restaurants.   I must say I found it very strange to hear, in a country that not only speaks a different language but also has a different alphabet, a lot of modern American pop being played on the radio.   Phyllis and I had to laugh when while having lunch in a very fancy hotel we hear on the radio a DJ having a very intense discussion in Bulgarian exclaim the words Michael Jackson!   To us it sounded something like blah blah blah Michael Jackson blah blah blah!
     Just down the street from the hotel we were staying at was an American theme bar and grill called Happy’s.   Phyllis and I had many memorable experiences at Happy’s!   We first found it at the end of a long day of looking at horses.   Not quite ready to retire for the night Phyllis and I decided to see if we could find a place to have a few drinks.   Within walking distance from our hotel, Happy’s seemed the perfect choice   Our first problem was that neither Phyllis nor I had any leva on us, the current national currency.   A bigger problem was that the dogs in Bulgaria knew more Bulgarian than either Phyllis or I!   So we stroll in and approach a waiter.   I pull out some Euro coins and try to ask if they would accept them.   The waiter, nodding his head, rejected my offer, as they don’t accept coins in Euros!   Phyllis remembered she had some old Euro bills in her pocket and thought they might accept them, however she did not want to pull out a wad of money inside the restaurant.   So we casually step outside, Phyllis finds her bills and we come back inside.   The waiter gives us a suspicious look takes the bills and declares (as best as we could interrupt) that they do take Euro bills, but ours had a small hole it and was scotch-taped together, and that made it no good!!!   Rejected once again, we head back outside; on our way out for the third time we see a small VISA symbol on the door.   Yes!   VISA, it’s everywhere you want to be!!!   We turn around to find the waiter with his arms firmly folded across his chest.   VISA!   VISA!   We exclaim!   We can only imagine what was going through his head.   The third time is the charm however, and our credit was accepted and we were able to have our drinks.   We did notice however, that being the suspicious characters that we are, we were watched closely the whole time! 

Happy's Bar and Grill, in Ruse, Bulgaria.

       Ilian and Lily cannot be thanked enough for all their help and hospitality on our trip.   They even ordered above average weather for us!   I would also like to thank Phyllis for inviting me along on the trip it is an experience I will never forget!

Until next time,

December 10, 2004
Having recently returned from our fabulous trip to New Zealand, and before I was even over the jet-lag, I flew off to Bulgaria on a horse shopping trip.   Seems to be my season for travel!
     This time, I took Melissa along for the ride.   Our good friend Natalie, who went with me to Bulgaria last year (click here to read about last year's Bulgaria trip), gave Melissa the following advice before the trip: Remember to pass right hand to right hand when riding, nod your head for no and shake it side to side for yes, and be sure to have toilet paper with you at all times!
     We had a good time, and I found several horses I really like.   More on that later!   But in the meantime, I am letting Melissa write up the details of the trip this time.   She should have her report ready to post in a few days!

Until next time,

November 27, 2004

     I think I could quite happily live in New Zealand.   In fact, if I didn't love my farm here at Windchase so much, I would definitely want to run away from home and move there, and live on the South Island!
     Jineen and I just got back from a super vacation.   We spent two weeks in New Zealand, and it was an incredible trip.   The people there are very friendly, the countryside is beautiful, the mountains are spectacular, and as it is spring there, the weather was fabulous.   Both Jineen and I love to travel with no itinerary.   We might have a rough idea of where we want to go, but we like to make no concrete plans; just follow our noses, explore the countryside, and book lodging where ever we end up at the end of the day!   This proved to be a great way to explore NZ, and it was one of the best trips ever.


     We hiked, we drove the small back-country roads, we looked at horses, and we walked the beaches.   We went trail riding, jet boating and shopping.   We saw glaciers, kiwis (the people, the fruit and the birds!), possums and seals.   We visited waterfalls, filming sites from 'The Lord of the Rings', mountaintops and amazing fields of flowers.   And oh, does the term 'Bungy Jumping' mean anything to you?!?
     I am not over the jet-lag yet, and having been gone two weeks, I have a lot of catching up to do.   But as soon as I get a chance, I will write up a complete report on the trip, put the photos with it, and post it here on the website.   But don't hold your breath; with the schedule I have over the next few weeks, it will probably be about a month before I get it all written up and posted!
Update:  My NZ Journal is now posted, click here to read it!

Until next time,

November 6, 2004
     Vacation time!   I am really excited; Jineen and I are getting ready to spend two weeks in New Zealand.   It is a place I have always wanted to visit, and now I am getting the opportunity!   From everything I have heard and read, New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful country, with large areas of wilderness and incredible mountain scenery.   It will be late spring there; that should be a perfect time to visit.   We are leaving on Monday, and I can hardly wait.   All I need to do now is get caught up with my paperwork and errands tomorrow in time to get packed!
     I will tell you all about it when I return.   After I recover from the jetlag, that is!

Until next time,


For past news from Phyllis and the crew at Windchase, go to the
Windchase News Archives


United We Stand


Phyllis Dawson
Phone: (540) 668-6024 stable
(540) 668-6548 home

(540) 668-7210 fax
Address: 36502 Kidwell Road
Purcellville, VA 20132  USA