(Archive: January 1, 2006 - June 7, 2006)

Notes from Phyllis

Phyllis and Viatar at Morven Park.

New!  Click here to learn about Phyllis and Jineen's trip to Ireland, July 2005

Visit the Trip Report Page to read about Phyllis's travels!

June 7, 2006
     Congratulations to Melissa Hunsberger for a great performance at the Jersey Fresh CCI*** this past weekend.  She completed the three-star in great form with her talented thoroughbred Just Fun Stuff.
     Melissa had a solid performance in all three phases.  She did a nice dressage test on the Friday, putting her in a confidant position going into the second day.  The cross-country course was very challenging; the jumps and obstacles were plenty difficult enough, but the twisty turns and tight roping of the course made it a much harder test.  Then it rained for 24 hours before the start of cross-country, making the footing extremely slippery.  It was tough riding on Saturday, but Melissa rose to the occasion and did a great job, piloting Fun around the course in super form!  She had just one error, 20 jumping penalties for missing the turn in an angled combination, but both Melissa and Fun Stuff proved themselves ready for the challenge.  The Show Jumping phase went well too; they jumped a good and steady round, with a few rails down as the light poles in shallow cups proved challenging.  All in all, Melissa and Fun put in an excellent performance to complete their first CCI***, and everyone here at Windchase is very proud of them both!

Melissa and Just Fun Stuff at the Jersey Fresh CCI***

     It was also a great pleasure to watch several other former Windchase horses have success at Jersey Fresh.  Jennifer Libby finished 4th with her exceptional TB Draco, and Emilee Libby was 8th with her Irish Sport Horse Cahir.  It is great to watch these combinations have such success, and to have two horses from Windchase in the top ten at that level! 
     Also, several Windchase students had good days at Waredaca.  Katie Willis won her Preliminary division with Polar Wind, her talented young horse by Brandenburg's Windstar.  And congratulations also to Andrea Courson, who put in a double clear in the Prelim with her Windchase homebred mare Mystic Angel.

Until next time,

May 21, 2006
Virginia Horse Trials is always one of the most well organized and most fun events on the calendar, and this weekend was no exception.   We made the 3 hour drive down to Lexington, VA and all of the Windchase riders enjoyed an excellent weekend!
     I was really looking forward to riding Viatar in the CIC**, but unfortunately he sustained an injury to his stifle in the pasture this week, and he will have to rest for a while.   This was particularly frustrating because he was going in such good form, and I thought we were really on track to be competitive at the CCI** at Jersey Fresh.  But such is the nature of horses and sport, and we will have to wait for another opportunity!
     I rode my Irish youngster, King's Journey, in the Open Training at the Virginia Horse Trials, and he went the best he has gone yet.   He did nice dressage test to place 2nd in that phase, and jumped clear rounds in both cross-country and show jumping, with just a few XC time penalties.  I was really happy with his performance; he tries his best in all three phases!
     Melissa had a good weekend on her mare Expedience; they jumped faultlessly to finish 5th in the Open Intermediate division.  And Melissa also had a nice ride on my Irish youngster Noble Touch in the Open Training; this talented young horse will move up to Preliminary soon.
     Windchase working student Cyndi Boughen had a super competition with her talented TB mare Divine Intervention in their first Preliminary competition.  She had a good dressage test, a confident show jumping round, and a lovely clear cross-country.  We were really proud of her super performance!

Preliminary Cyndi!

     Dana Bivens had a successful weekend in Lexington with Carpe Diem in the Preliminary division, with a clear round cross-county.  And Andrea Courson successfully completed the Preliminary with her talented mare Mystic Angel; it is great to watch this pair develop into a good partnership!

     On the home front, we are enjoying the lovely spring weather.  We have finally had a bit of rain so the ground is good, and the scenery is spectacular this time of year.  Mom has been mowing the lawn with the help of the goats; as you can imagine, they are a great help.

Until next time,

May 11, 2006
Windchase horses and riders really had a great showing last weekend at MCTA!
     First off, I want to say that the MCTA (Maryland Combined Training Association) Horse Trials at Shawan Downs, near Baltimore, were sensational.  They have a super facility there, with a really good and efficient organizing committee, and the courses were terrific.  I really loved the new Intermediate and Advanced cross-country courses; they were quite difficult, but really well designed and built.  It was the nicest event I have been to all spring!
     I rode Viatar in the Open Intermediate, and he went really super.  He did a much improved dressage test, thanks to several lessons with Linda Zang the week before, and show jumped perfectly.  He went around the tough cross-country course in great style; I was really thrilled with his performance.  Despite having to make a circle due to losing my reins on a drop combination near the end of the course, we finished 5th.  I couldn't have been happier with Viatar!
     I rode my young Irish horse, King's Journey, in the Open Training, and he was really good in all three phases, and ended up winning his division.  As this was only his second Event, I was extremely pleased!
 Nina Bence won her division of Training on Griffin, and Cyndi Boughen was 3rd with her mare Divinity.  Michelle Wellman also won her division of Training on her super little mare Lady in Red.  Melissa had a really nice ride on the talented Irish horse Noble Touch to place 8th, he really jumped great.  And Andrea Courson rode well and completed the difficult Preliminary course with her mare Mystic Angel.
     In the Novice, Kaitlin Spurlock finished 2nd with her nice New Zealand horse Purr, Siohbain O'Connor was 3rd with Mizar, a Windchase homebred by Brandenburg's Windstar, and Corinne Janowiak completed in good form with her talented mare Charm.  I was really proud of all of your Windchase horses and riders!

     The other really exciting thing at the moment around Windchase is our current selection of horses for sale.  The two new arrivals from NZ are really special!  My Irish horses imported last summer are now proving themselves in competition and are ready to be shown, and we also have several experienced Training level horses that are perfect for the amateur.  All in all, we have one of the nicest selections of experienced horses that we have had in years!

Until next time,

May 3, 2006
Things have been quite busy at Windchase lately, with Event Season in full swing.  The Loudoun Pony Club Horse Trials were held this past weekend, and Windchase had a full contingent.  I rode Viatar in the Open Intermediate, and he went really well.  Our dressage was a bit mediocre (we are working on that!), but he jumped brilliantly, and I had a blast around the cross-country, finishing 8th with a few time faults.  I also rode my young horse that I got in Ireland last summer, King's Journey, in the Open Training.  He is quite green, as this was his first proper outing, and I was really pleased with him.  He got very distracted when warming up for dressage; he was so excited to be at the party that he pretty much forgot everything he knew, but after muddling through that phase he jumped really well and was clear both cross-country and show jumping.  He learned a lot, and I think he will be a lot of fun to ride in the upcoming shows.
     Melissa rode my other new horse from Ireland, Noble Touch, also in the Open Training.  He was very confident and jumped around like a pro to finish 7th; he is extremely talented and will be quite special.  Also, congratulations to Melissa for finishing 6th the previous weekend in the Advanced division at Fair Hill on her mare Expedience!

Noble Touch and Melissa at Loudoun

     Windchase working students Nina Bence and Cyndi Boughen went very well in the Training division also, to place 7th and 8th in their respective divisions.  Kelly Shine also had a good go with a clear XC.  And congratulations to Cyndi for winning the Training division the weekend before at Redlands, on her talented mare Divine Intervention!
     It was also fun to watch some of the Loudoun Pony Clubbers who have been training at Windchase have great rides in their home event.  Kaitlin Spurlock, Ginny Horne and Maggie Nichols all rode in the Training division at Loudoun, and they all looked great - it is nice to see them riding so well.  Cheers followed them around the course as all of their fellow pony clubbers urged them on!

     We have been enjoying an absolutely beautiful spring; it seems like all of the blossoming trees have lasted longer than usual, and the weather has been wonderful.  (This is at least partly responsible for the fact that I am way behind in my paperwork and billing; how can I go inside and do the clerical work when the days are so glorious!)  And of course spring is always the time for babies!
     Our good broodmare Sara had a lovely filly by Windstar last week.  The foal looks bay now, but I am pretty sure she will turn grey.  She is very sweet and inquisitive.  It is always so amazing to see them born; it is an experience I will never get tired of.  And I love to watch them run around the paddock on their long spindly legs when they are just a day or two old!

     Once again this year, we have baby foxes living under the run-in shed in the front pasture.  There are five of them, and they are incredibly cute.  If you go out early in the morning or just before sunset in the evening you can watch them romping and playing with each other.  The mother fox is very smart; she knows just where the invisible fence is that the dogs can't come across, so she can safely raise her family literally within sight of the house.

     We have two families of baby Canadian Geese on the lake now, the little ones are fluffballs that just hatched a few days ago.  Those poor goose mothers have been sitting on those eggs for a month, but now they are proudly parading the goslings around the yard, while the fathers protect them; they can get quite fierce if anything threatens their families!

     I got to go flying again.  I always love the chance to go up in a small plane, and Gary Spurlock invited me to fly with him.  It was especially amazing doing it this time of year; it was really beautiful with everything green and in full blossom.  It was a lovely clear evening, and we flew over Windchase so I could get some photos. What a delightful way to end up the day!

Until next time,

April 23, 2006
Last week we said goodbye to an old and dear friend. Albany II, my Olympic partner, was laid to rest on Friday at age 27.  Failing health and increasing difficulty in walking comfortably finally meant that the difficult decision had to be made; there was really no other choice.  How I will miss seeing him wandering loose around the farm, coming and going as he pleased, grazing in all his special places that the other horses, confined to pastures, couldn't reach.  Albany was my horse of a lifetime.  The bond we shared was exceptional.  He will always have a special place in my heart. 

     I bought Albany in England in 1985.  I quickly came to appreciate his unique and wonderful personality.  He always one hundred percent tried his best at everything he did.  He was a kind and gentle soul, very affectionate and very trusting.  We developed a partnership together of the sort that is, to me, what Eventing is all about.

     In 1988 I rode Albany in the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea.  Of course, I had dreamed of having an opportunity to represent the USA in international competition all my life - but I don't think I ever really believed I would get there.  Then Albany came into my life.  We qualified for the chance to represent the USA at the Olympics by successfully jumping clear around Rolex Kentucky that spring, over one of the biggest cross-country courses I had ever seen! 

     I will never forget the feeling of riding around the outside of the dressage arena in Seoul, just before beginning my test, and looking up at the big scoreboard and seeing my name in lights: Phyllis Dawson, Albany II, USA.  I will also never forget the feeling I had when we finished the cross-country course with a clear round jumping.  It was a very demanding course, and the distances in those days were very long.  The cross-country was taking its toll; there were few clear rounds and lots of falls and eliminations.  When I galloped through those finish flags with no jumping penalties, the feeling was incredible - surely one of the highlights of my life!

     Albany shared my dreams and helped make them a reality.  He took me where I had always longed to go.  He helped me touch the sky.  For this I will be forever grateful to him.

Until next time,

April 19, 2006
     We had the most lovely Easter this year.  Usually I am off Eventing every weekend in April; it was nice to do something different this time.
     I went hiking with Melissa on Easter morning; she coerced me into getting up at an ungodly hour so that we could get started before sunrise.  We left at 6:00 a.m., when it was just barely starting to get light, and hiked up a trail near the farm called Maryland Heights, near Harper's Ferry.  As we climbed up through the forest, everything was quiet and still, and the predawn morning was crystal clear.  Nobody was about but the deer at this early hour, and it was incredibly peaceful.  The woods were filled with blossoming redbud trees and bluebells, and the sun was just starting to peep through the trees.  

     The path is quite steep, and it winds up through the woods until it finally comes out at the top of a cliff overlooking the small historic town of Harper's Ferry.  We sat on the rock outcroppings at the top and looked down on the town, and the spot where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers join.  The railroad track crosses the river on a trestle below, and we sat there watching the birds soar below us as the sunrise gradually filled the valley with light.

The view over Harper's Ferry

     We headed back down and easily made it back to the farm by nine o'clock, in plenty of time for the next activity of the day; The First (and most likely Last) Annual Windchase Mounted Easter Egg Hunt!
 The evening before, the Easter Bunny, Melissa and I had all gotten together and hid eggs all around the farm.  Then in the morning we got the working students together, gave them each an Easter Basket and a set of directions as to the route where they would find eggs.  Carrying the baskets on their horses, they searched for the eggs, some of which were fairly easy to find and some of which were quite thoroughly hidden.  We had them hunting under jumps, looking in hayrolls, reaching in to holes in hollow trees, climbing up deer stands, and racing up the manure pile.  It was quite good fun; the grand finale was getting the egg that was floating out in the middle of the lake.  This involved a bit of wading and swimming in the very cold water to reach it, but the brave soul who finally dived for it was well rewarded on discovering that it was attached to a bottle of champagne!  It was only after he returned to shore, soaking wet and shivering, that I asked him why he hadn't just taken the rowboat!  Everyone had fun, and Cyndi won the special prize for finding the most eggs!

The winners!

Until next time,

April 14, 2006
I love this time of year!  Yes, I know, you get sick of hearing me say that every year; but I just never get enough of it!
     Each day is different.  Every time you look around there are new flowers, new blossoming trees, and new colors along the edge of the forest as the trees turn from bud to leaf.  I savor every moment of the springtime!
 I am particularly enjoying watching the progress of spring this year with my new camera!  I love photography, and I am really having fun learning to use my new digital Nikon D70S.  I have a great telephoto lens for it, so I can really zoom in close.

     We have a pair of Canadian Geese that nest on our lake each year.  The female sits on her eggs right on the edge of the lawn, and the male chases away anyone who approaches.  He keeps all of the other geese off of the lake while his mate is setting; once the goslings hatch, he will then welcome back the other wild geese who want to visit.  He also chases away any dogs, people, horses or vehicles that come too close.  My dogs normally love to chase the geese off of the shore and into the water, but they know better than to mess with this pair; last year they had a fight with the father goose, and the goose won!  Now they respectfully keep their distance from the nest. 

The mother goose on her nest

     Every evening after the barn is done, Mom and I have been taking her two baby goats out for a walk.  This has really become a wonderful evening ritual!  Mom rides on her scooter, and the dogs and I walk, and the goats follow.  They love to romp and scamper, and they are great climbers and jumpers, especially the younger one, Frisky.  They climb up on the cross-country jumps and play king of the mountain, butting one another and trying to push each other off.  he dogs enjoy these walks as well, so it is quite a procession, with two goats, four lurchers, Mom on her scooter and myself, all traipsing across the farm.  And Frisky loves to ride on the scooter with Mom!

Mom and her goats

     I went to Weave A Dream Horse Trials last weekend; I took King's Journey, the five-year-old I got in Ireland last summer.  I was really looking forward to riding him there, he was to run in the novice in preparation for moving up to Training on his next outing; but we woke up early Saturday morning to a cold and steady rain, and as the day wore on it just got colder and rained harder.  I drove to the event, braided Journey's mane, put in his studs, walked the cross country course, and then got in the truck and went home without ever taking Journey off of the trailer!  Perhaps I was being a wuss, but I figured I have spent decades riding and Eventing in that kind of weather, and you know what?  It isn't much fun, and I don't have to do it anymore!
     Windchase working student Nina Bence did ride in the Training division on her nice horse Griffin, and put in a great performance, jumping clear around the cross-country to finish 7th.  So at least Windchase had one good representative who wasn't afraid to go out and get wet! 
     Have a great Easter!

Until next time,

April 2, 2006
Event Season in Virginia is officially underway!  This weekend was the Morven Park Horse Trials; always a great way to begin the season.
     I rode Viatar in the Open Intermediate division, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  He proved to be a bit overly fit in the dressage and show jumping phases, but we both had a ball blasting around the cross-country course today!
     Melissa had a great go in the Advanced division with Just Fun Stuff, finishing 3rd against some very tough competitors!  She also had a good weekend on her mare Expedience in the Advanced; except for a hiccup in the water jump she put in an excellent performance.  She is a very lucky girl to have two such nice horses competing at the Advanced level!
     Melissa has been dreaming about riding the Advanced course at Morven Park and jumping the infamous Leaf Pit jump for most of her life.  Coming early on the course, as fence 4, the Leaf Pit is a combination with a huge drop; when you jump it you feel like you are leaping off of a cliff.  It is always a fence that attracts the attention of both the competitors and the crowd; if you successfully negotiate it you really know you have accomplished something!  Today Melissa's dream turned to reality, as she rode beautifully and had super trips down the Leaf Pit on both horses!

Melissa and Expedience jump the Leaf Pit.

     Also, congratulations to Andrea Courson, who had a super weekend with her talented mare Mystic Angel, a Windchase homebred; they put in a great performance in the Preliminary, with a lovely clear cross-country round today.  What a great way to start the season!

Until next time,

March 31, 2006
Every so often it is time to get off the farm and get some culture; so Mom, Jineen and I went downtown (Washington DC, that is!) last week to see Shenandoah, the musical play version of the old Jimmy Stewart Civil War movie by the same name.  It was terrific!  Scott Bakula, one of my favorite actors, was very convincing in the leading role.  The play is running at Ford's Theater, which is where Lincoln was assassinated.  It was really interesting to learn more about that history! 

     Also, I got a new toy this week.  I love photography, and taking pictures is one of my favorite hobbies.  I have been wanting to get a real top-of-the-line digital camera; and I finally broke down and did it!  I bought the Nikon D70S with a big telephoto lens, and I am really having a ball with it.  I am in the process of studying the manual and really trying to learn how to use it properly; it is a fun challenge!  So look for more close-up and personal photos in this column in the future!

Until next time,

March 24, 2006
Spring seems to be on hold for a while.  Last week the flowers were starting to bloom and the trees were all budding and I thought winter was over; but this week it has turned cold and windy, as if Spring has been put in the deep freezer.  But what we really need is rain!  We have enjoyed the mild winter and the fact that we have been able to school cross-country all during March, but a this time of year should be wet, and we have had no rain in a month.  So we are just sort of waiting for Spring!  A few rainy days and some warm sunshine and everything will turn green and leaf out, and the waiting buds will be in full blossom.  But in the meantime, don't put the long johns away just yet! 

Waiting for Spring!

Until next time,

March 17, 2006
The weather has continued to be lovely, except for a few brisk and windy days, and springtime has arrived in all her glory.  The daffodils and forsythia are starting to bloom and the spring peepers are singing in the creeks and swamps.  We are seeing bluebirds along the fence lines, and the robins have arrived in full force.  The colors along the edge of the forest are amazing, as the trees put out their early buds that will soon turn to foliage.

     March is usually very wet and muddy, but this year the ground has been great; in fact, at this point we really need some rain!  But we have taken full advantage of the super footing, and have been out schooling the horses cross-country regularly.  Both the riders and the horses are eagerly anticipating the upcoming Event season! 

Melissa riding Noble Touch

Until next time,

March 9, 2006
I have been on the road a lot recently with a very busy schedule teaching clinics; now I am looking forward to two whole weeks at home without having to go anywhere! 

     Jineen and I gave my Mom an early Mother's Day present this week - a baby goat!  Really, that's not quite true; it was actually two baby goats!  We had planned on surprising Mom with a kid, but the goat-lady expert we got them from said they were much better in pairs, so what could we do? 

     We need two baby goats like a hole in the head; but hey, if we were practical, we wouldn't live on a farm in the first place, right?  And we certainly wouldn't be in the horse business!  Anyway, they are the cutest things you can imagine, and bottle feeding them is a real trip.  When they get older, they can eat Mom's rose bushes!

Until next time,

February 4, 2006
Well, I hear that old Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog's Day, so we get six more weeks of winter.  Well, as long as its six more weeks of the kind of winter we have been having so far, we certainly can't complain!  It has been very warm and mild since a week before Christmas, with temperatures in the daytime often reaching the fifties and even the sixties.  Sure, there have been a few brief cold snaps, but for the most part I have managed to make my trips to warm places such as Mexico or Florida coincide with the wintery weather here! 
     Today Melissa and I took some of the young horses out for their first competition; we went to a schooling jumper show at Water's Edge Farm in Maryland.  It was quite fun; Shamrock Greene, Champ and Freeway all made their competitive debut, and all of them went really well and jumped clear rounds. Shamrock Greene even came home with a blue ribbon! 

Until next time,

January 23, 2006
I just returned from my first visit to Mexico, and I really loved it!  I went down to Mexico City to teach an Instructor's Certification Program workshop for the Mexican Federation.  It was a super experience! 
     The workshop was organized by my friend Pedro Gutierrez, and by Augustine Escalante, the head of the Mexican Equestrian Federation.  They did a super job of putting the whole thing together, and the quality of the horses, riders and instructors was excellent.  And it was really fun to get to know the Eventers of Mexico!

The ICP Instructors of Mexico

     The hard part was that I don't speak Spanish, so pretty much all of the teaching had to be done through an interpreter. I did take two years of Spanish in high school, but that was about . . . . well, we won't talk about how long ago that was.  But before I made the trip, a friend from Mexico had been teaching me a few words and phrases, and my high school Spanish came back to me a fair bit; by the end of the workshop I was at least understanding a bit of what people were saying!

     I had six days of teaching workshops, but in the middle of it I had a free day to see the sights. I went with several of the new friends I had made there, and visited the Aztec Pyramids, which are at the ancient site of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City.  This historic place was built by the Aztecs about 2000 years ago, and it is truly impressive; in ancient times it was known as "the place where men became gods." 

The Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan

     We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the tallest of the pyramids at Teotihuacan; it is the third largest pyramid in the world.  The stone steps were steep and tall, and they ascended over 200 feet to the top - it was quite a climb!  The high elevation and thin air didn't make the climb any easier, but eventually we reached the top.  Following the custom there, I stood at the highest point with my arms raised above my head and absorbed the power from the sun! 

The Pyramid of the Sun

     Oh, and the food! I have always enjoyed Mexican food, or at least what passes for Mexican food here in the US; but now I think I am spoiled forever for eating in Mexican restaurants here in the States.  Tacos in Mexico are an entirely different thing from tacos here, and a hundred times better! 
     I really enjoyed my visit to Mexico, and will look forward to returning in the future!

¡Hasta luego!

January 11, 2006
After a cold start to the winter in early December, we have been enjoying really unseasonably warm weather the last three weeks or so.  Its great to be able to go out for a cross-country school in January!  We are getting a little spoiled though; I am sure it will be a great shock when the weather turns cold again and we are once again stuck in the indoor arena.  I won't complain though; that's better that not having an indoor arena to be stuck in!
     Tomorrow I am heading to Mexico for a week.  I'm really looking forward to it; I have never been there before and I always love seeing new places.  I am going down to teach a series of Instructor's Workshops that Pedro has organized, so it should be a lot of fun.  And it will be a great chance to find out what 'real' Mexican food is like! 

Until next time,

January 1, 2006
     Happy New Year!
     We said goodbye to 2005 and welcomed in 2006 with the traditional Windchase New Year's Eve Party!  Never having been one to enjoy boring parties, I always try to make sure mine include some interesting activities.  This year we made a calendar!  Having been inspired by several calendars we had seen where a group got together and disrobed for charity (like the movie Calendar Girls), I thought that Windchase could have some fun with this theme.  Let me tell you, the results were quite interesting!  

     Being a family webpage, I can't show you all the photos here, but here is a little sample.  I plan to use the rest for blackmail!     
     Oh, and by the way: How about those Redskins!?!  Going to the playoffs!

Until next time,


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

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