(Archive: June 9, 2006 - October 25, 2006)

Notes from Phyllis

Phyllis and Viatar at Morven Park.

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

October 25, 2006
Congratulations to Melissa Hunsberger; she successfully completed the Fair Hill International CCI***, with clear jumping rounds on cross-country with both of her horses!  Everyone here at Windchase is very proud of Melissa! 
     The CCI*** is a very high level of competition, and all of the top horses and riders participated at Fair Hill.  Melissa had a somewhat rough start in the dressage on the first day, as extremely high winds encouraged her very fit horses to be a bit over the top in the energy department.  But the difficulty of the cross-country ensured that it would not end up being a dressage competition; the course was big, tough and demanding, and it caused plenty of problems through the day.  Melissa had great rides on both of her horses, with no jumping faults and just a few time penalties.  She then followed it up with solid show jumping rounds on the final day.  She ended up finishing 15th on Just Fun Stuff and 23rd on Expedience, out of around 70 starters in a very competitive field.  This is quite an accomplishment, especially since she was riding two horses that she trained herself.

Melissa and Just Fun Stuff on XC.

     Meanwhile, back at the farm . . . . 
     We have been enjoying an especially beautiful autumn.  The colors of the leaves and foliage are spectacular, and they change every day.  I love to ride out along the edge of the woods and just soak it all in!  The weather has been mostly nice, and the amazing colors have lasted well.  I just love this time of year!

Until next time,

October 18, 2006
Leading up to Radnor, I didn't really know if we would get there or not.  I had a great autumn season of Horse Trials with Viatar; he jumped clear on both cross-country and show jumping in all three of his Open Intermediate competitions.  But the week before the Three-Day he came up dead lame with a foot abscess.  As soon as we got that resolved, he caught a virus and spiked a temperature of 104 degrees.  Then in response to the antibiotics for his fever, he had a little episode of colic.  All of this in the last few days before Radnor!  I was beginning to think that we weren't really meant to go after all; but then on the other hand these things come in threes, so maybe we had gotten all of the bad stuff out of the way.
     Sure enough, by the beginning of Radnor week Viatar was fine, and off we went.  Radnor is a wonderful competition, with a long history and a fabulous atmosphere.  I have competed there many times over the last 30 years or so, but in recent years I have attended in the role of coach rather than rider; it was really great to go back this year as a competitor! 
     Having ridden a string of upper level horses to the International levels for over 25 years, at this point in my life I am less focused on competing, instead spending more of my time and efforts on running the business at Windchase: training, selling horses, teaching and coaching.  Competing to the highest levels is a fabulous experience, but it is all-consuming; you are under a great deal of pressure, and to be successful you have to dedicate most of your time and energy (not to speak of money!) to preparing your horses for competition.  Now that I am no longer competing much, I am enjoying having a little more low-key competition life, just Eventing the young horses for resale, and keeping one nice horse for myself, to compete just for fun.  Viatar is that horse, and I have been having a super time with him.  It is great to go to a top Event like Radnor and just be a part of it all.  Viatar loves to compete too, and he seemed to really enjoy being there. 

     Viatar loves to run and jump, but dressage is not his favorite.  He has been improving steadily in this phase however, and he put in a very credible test to score in the middle of the pack.
     The CCI** cross-country course was huge, really technical and challenging; a lot of us felt it was a two and a half star!  Many competitors chose not to run because they felt the course was too difficult.  It was a much harder course than Viatar had done before, and I was quite nervous, but I felt that he was up to the challenge.  Sure enough, on cross-country day he went extremely well and jumped around the course confidently.  We did have a couple of technical boo-boos, rider errors where I didn't get my line right on accuracy questions, incurring jumping penalties; but Viatar was awesome and we had had a blast jumping around the difficult course.  Only just over half of the competitors completed! 
     Viatar jumped spectacularly in the show jumping on Sunday.  Overall I was thrilled with his performance, and I really enjoyed being a part of this wonderful competition.  In fact I had so much fun that I came home and entered Viatar to run in the CCI** at the Virginia Horse Trials in a few weeks.  That is the great thing about the new short-format for CCIs; it doesn't take so much out of the horses, so you can go again! 

Until next time,

October 10, 2006
     Windchase was well represented at the Morven Park CCI* and Advanced Horse Trials last weekend.
     Congratulations to Katie Willis, who had a great performance in the CCI* with her talented Polar Storm, a very promising young horse by our Irish stallion Brandenburg's Windstar.  Polar went superbly all weekend, and a double clear round in both cross-country and show jumping secured him a 6th place finish in a very competitive division.  Watch for this talented pair in the future!

Katie Willis and Polar Storm at the Morven Park CCI*

     Congratulations are also in order for Andrea Courson, who successfully completed her first CCI* with Mystic Angel, a Windchase homebred.  It was really great to see all of Andrea's hard work, determination and dedication pay off with such a successful competition.
     Melissa Hunsberger had a really good weekend with her Advanced horses, finishing 6th with Expedience and 8th with Just Fun Stuff.  She had excellent clean cross-country runs with both horses, and is hopefully headed for the Fair Hill CCI***.
     Well, fingers crossed and knock on wood, Viatar and I are off to Radnor tomorrow for the CCI**.  It should be great fun!

Until next time,

October 4, 2006

     This is one of my very favorite times of the year.  The air is cool and crisp, and the autumn colors, while not at their peak yet, are starting to become quite brilliant.  It is great to just hack out and enjoy the scenery and the foliage! 
     The Middleburg Horse Trials were held last weekend, with excellent footing and perfect weather.  Viatar went great for me in the Open Intermediate, jumping perfectly and finishing 6th.  We will keep our fingers crossed and aim for Radnor next week!  

Phyllis and Viatar

     In the meantime things are busy, as several Windchase riders are doing their first CCI* at Morven Park this week.  Good luck to Andrea Courson and Dana Bivens!

Until next time,

September 21, 2006
     We had another great weekend of Eventing, at the Seneca Valley Horse Trials on September 9 and 10.  After all of the rain the previous week the footing was perfect and the cross-country course was beautiful.  I had a super run with Viatar in the Open Intermediate; he jumped to perfection on both show jumping and cross-country, and we finished 6th.  The going was exceptional and the courses rode like a dream. My thanks to the organizing committee of this lovely Event!
     Pedro Gutierrez from Mexico City rode his talented new horse Mitchell in the Open Preliminary and had a great go with a lovely clear XC round; these two are in the process of forming a great partnership.  Melissa Hunsberger rode the young and talented NZ bred Thunder in the Open Training; he performed really well and will go Preliminary at his next outing.  Two of Windchase's youngsters also had their Eventing debut with Melissa in the Pre-novice; Doppler Effect and Cover Story both were super in their first Event.  It is great fun to watch these talented youngsters start their competition careers!

Until next time,

September 4, 2006
     The Loudoun Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials were held this weekend, and the event definitely started out as a classic case of "Be careful what you wish for."  We have been desperately needing rain; the ground has been as hard as a rock and the grass all turned brown.  We were praying for precipitation before the horse trials, in hopes that the footing would improve enough to make it feasible to run the horses.  Well, we got the rain.  Five inches of it.  All on Friday and Friday night! 
     We got up early Saturday morning, braided the horses, put the really big studs in their shoes, and headed off to Leesburg (VA) for the competition.  Having had 24 hours of non-stop rain, we were not unduly surprised, when we arrived at Oatlands for our early dressage times, to be told that the Event was cancelled for Saturday.  We went home and rode in the indoor arena; the horses were totally confused!  We told them to wait until tomorrow, we would try again!

     My hat is off to the organization of the Event.  Margaret Good, Vicky Fox, Brian Ross, and all of the many other volunteers and officials did an incredible job of making this Horse Trials happen.  It would have been easy to just cancel the competition and send everyone home, but they went to monumental effort to modify the courses, move the dressage rings, improve the footing, and to completely rewrite the schedule of start times in order to be able to run all three phases in one day.  The result was a fabulous competition on Sunday!  By then the rain had soaked into the ground and the footing was excellent; in fact it was the best going we have had all year!  I would really like to thank the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club organizers, secretary, volunteers and officials for making the effort and putting on such a super Horse Trials.

     I had a fabulous time on Sunday with Viatar; he breezed around the Open Intermediate course like it was nothing!  Having done a credible dressage and a really good clear show jumping, his cross country round moved him up to finish 3rd.  This was his first competition since a pasture injury in the spring, so I was especially pleased with the result.
     Windchase students Andrea Courson and Dana Bivens also both put up good clear XC rounds in the Open Preliminary.  Melissa Hunsberger rode Thunder, one of the new arrivals from New Zealand, in the Training; he went really well and jumped around the course like a dream.  This talented young horse gets better with every school, and we are very excited about him.

Thunder at Loudoun (offered for sale)

     Congratulations to Katie Willis; she moved her talented young horse Polar Storm (by our Irish stallion Brandenburg's Windstar) up to Intermediate at Loudoun, and had a great ride with a clear cross-country.  It is great fun to watch this pair progress!

Until next time,

August 25, 2006
     I don't think it will ever rain again. 
     These days the Events go all summer long, but I generally like to wait for the first of September to run my horses, hoping for cooler weather and softer ground.  We haven't had any rain to speak of in over a month; the ground is as hard as a rock and the pastures are turning brown.  The creek is almost entirely dried up.  We are trying to prepare the Event horses for their autumn competitions, but the hard ground makes it difficult to do much riding out of the arenas.  But at least I am getting good use out of our new footing; we added rubber to both the indoor and outdoor rings recently, and the surface is really great to ride on. 
     The hot part of the summer tends to be kind of a quiet time.  The pace of life slows down a little with the heat, and we back off on the competitions for a while.  Summer is a time for schooling the youngsters, breaking in the three-year-olds, and hopefully finding some free time to relax and to do some fun activities that don't involve the horses.
     One such activity I have taken up recently is biking.  Melissa and Jineen gave me a bicycle for my birthday in July, and Melissa and I have been going down to the Potomac River near Harper's Ferry and riding the bikes along the old canal towpath.  They say you never forget, but as a kid I was always on a pony rather than a bicycle, so I was definitely a little shaky starting out.  But I am getting better at it, and having a lot of fun!

     The other day we went down to Great Falls Park.  This is where the Potomac River goes over a series of huge rapids and waterfalls, and it is truly a spectacular place.  It was kind of a trip down memory lane for me; I grew up in Great Falls, just a few miles from this National Park.  

     I used to ride my pony there as a kid, but I hadn't been back in many years, and Melissa had never been there.  We biked and hiked on the trails, and climbed down on the rocks along the river's edge.  We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the wildlife.  We followed a doe and her fawn through the woods along the canal trail.  It was a lovely peaceful afternoon, and we vowed to make more time for such excursions!

Until next time,

August 9, 2006
     The Windchase 20th Anniversary Party was a great success!  It was attended by many old friends and new; it was hard to get an exact count as people were coming and going, but we estimated about 130 people were here.  The party started at two in the afternoon and went on until midnight. 
     The weather had been wicked hot all week, with temperatures hovering around 103 degrees, but we got lucky and it cooled off for the weekend.  Saturday was a beautiful clear day in the high eighties, with a lovely strong breeze.  We couldn't have asked for better weather! 
     We had tons of great food; we will be eating the leftovers for at least another week!  We had a video of what the farm looked like 20 years ago when it was nothing but cornfields, and many old photos of 'Windchase Moments' over the years.  There was a Windchase Trivia quiz, and plenty of stories from the past.  One of the highlights of the evening was when all of the working students went out on the lake in the rowboat, and our friend Lin swam out and tipped them over!

     It was so great to see everyone!  We had people come for the party from as far away as California, Texas and Mexico.  It was a great mixture of friends currently or recently at Windchase, and those that we haven't seen in ten years or more.  Everyone there had something in common; a love of horses and an appreciation for Windchase. 
     I have always felt that there is something special about Windchase, something that stems from the land itself.  The Native Americans believed that some spots on this earth are blessed, and are somehow, more than most, connected to nature and to the spirits.  Perhaps Windchase is such a place.  There is definitely a feeling of magic here, and of happiness, and of peace.  The love of this land is something that I experience every day, and never ever take for granted.  I am glad to be able to share this with all who come here.  A friend of mine wrote, "Everyone who has spent more than an hour at Windchase knows that there is no place like it."  It was great to get the chance to celebrate that spirit with the people who have enjoyed Windchase over the years!

     To everyone who attended our party, thanks for coming!  And for those of you who didn't make it, you missed a great time.  Maybe you can make it to the next one, in another twenty years!

Until next time,

July 21, 2006
     It's taken me a while, but I have finally posted the report on my adventures is Belize in June!

Until next time,

July 20, 2006
     Congratulations to Melissa Hunsberger; she had a successful competition in the CIC*** at Wayne with her mare Expedience, going clear both cross-country and show jumping.  It was a real drag for her to have to drive all the way to Illinois for a competition, especially in July, but the new FEI rule requiring that competitors qualify with a CIC*** before doing a CCI*** made it necessary.  But now she is all qualified for the three-day at Fair Hill this autumn, so the trip was worthwhile.
     Things are always a little quieter this time of year here at the farm.  It is too hot to do much competing, so we concentrate on schooling the young horses and maintaining the fitness level of the Eventers.  I am really happy to have Viatar back in work now, as he missed the latter part of the spring season when he got hurt in the paddock; he seems to be glad to be back in full work too!  I have several new four-year-olds in work that I am really excited about; it is always fun to bring on talented youngsters and dream about what they will do.  And Pedro has three more on the way from New Zealand that should arrive this weekend, so there is plenty to keep us occupied!
     We are also getting ready for our big Windchase 20th Anniversary Party on August 5.  Don't forget, all of you former clients, students, boarders or friends of Windchase, you are invited to our party! Starting around 2:00, we are having a cookout on the lawn, bring a side dish.  Hope to see you then!

Until next time,

July 9, 2006
     We had a nice group of Novice horses at the Surefire Horse Trials last weekend.  Cyndi Boughen had a nice competition with Starburst; this talented young homebred gets better with each outing, and jumped a lovely clear cross-country round.  Working Student Meagan Sentinel had a good round with her big warmblood Jinx, and Corinne Janowiak also went well with Charming Devil.

Starburst  (offered for sale)

     We had a big family reunion here at Windchase this weekend, and we had a super time.  About 65 family members attended, and it was really great for us to all be able to get together.  For entertainment, the working students participated in a horse show; actually a cross-country team relay race.  In addition to regular XC fences, they had tasks to do on horseback involving basketballs, boats, inner tubes and baseball bats; it was definitely a unique type of race!  Everyone had a lot of fun, and it was really a great party.

Until next time,

July 1, 2006
I had a great time in Belize!  I spent a week there with my sister and her family, and we had a ball.  Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with sharks, zip-lining through the jungle, cave tubing, conch hunting, exploring ancient civilizations; these were a few of the ways we spent our time.  As soon as I get a chance I will write up a report. 
     We had been quite dry here and needed rain; and boy did we get it!  It started raining just before I got home last weekend, and we got about 9 inches in three days.  We have been a bit under water, but no major flooding damage.
     Sadly, Mom gave away the goats.  She was in a constant battle to try to prevent them from eating her roses, and her success was marginal.  In the end it came to a choice between the goats or the roses. The roses won!

Until next time,

June 16, 2006
We had an excellent weekend at Rubicon Farm Horse Trials last weekend; it was fun to get all of the young horses out.  My Irish horse Journey went great in the Open Training; he is really starting to understand all three phases and is a lot of fun to ride. Pedro Gutierrez rode his talented young stallion Orujo in the Open Preliminary, and Dana Bivens had a good go in the Prelim with her mare Carpe Diem.  Siobhain O'Connor had a super performance with Mizar in his Training level debut, and also a good ride on Trevor in that division.  But the real stars were our Beginner Novice horses!  Melissa rode Starburst in her first event, and Cyndi Boughen rode It's About Time, and Melissa Moulton rode her own Jaguar, and Meagan Sentineal rode her Jinx; it was a fun first outing for all of these young horses!  Wendy Jones had a good go on Sateara, also in this division.  So all in all, Windchase was well represented!

     And now, I am off to have some fun in the sun!  I am leaving for a week of scuba diving in Belize with my sister and her husband; I'll tell you about it when I get back!

Until next time,

June 12, 2006

     Horses are famous for being great humblers!  You can successfully ride around a CCI*** one weekend, and the very next week end up on your a$$.  Can you identify this rider?

Until next time,

June 9, 2006
We're having a Party!  This August will be the 20th Anniversary of the founding of Windchase!  We are going to celebrate this with a party, on Saturday, August 5.  All of you Windchase alumni are invited!

     In the summer of 1986, my Mom and I first came to see this lovely spot on the earth that is now Windchase.  I had lived pretty much all of my life up to that point on our small farm in Great Falls, VA, which is much closer in to Washington DC.  It was countryside when I was a kid, but by the mid eighties it had gotten to be more and more developed, and offered fewer and fewer places to ride.  I was feeling increasingly hemmed in and frustrated at a time when I was competing very seriously and trying to make an International name for myself, and I needed to have the open space to train and condition my horses.  One day when I had been kicked off yet another of the places I had formerly had permission to ride, I came home and said, "Mom, let's move!"
     Well, we Dawson's are nothing if not impulsive.  The very next day, Mom went out searching for farms in Loudoun County.  She hooked up with a realtor, who happened to be a fellow Event rider, and he took her to see a piece of property that he thought we might like.  She immediately fell in love with it, and a few days later took me out to see it.  Of course, I also fell in love with it at first sight!
     Mom had always been a country girl, raised on a farm near Charlottesville, VA, with a great love of the outdoors and the country way of life; I had definitely inherited that affinity for farm life and nature.  We both immediately felt a strong sense of connection to this piece of land.  We looked at a few other properties, but nothing else measured up; both of us had completely fallen in love with Windchase from the first moment we saw it! 
     Within a week, we had negotiated a contract and gone ahead with plans to buy the property.  In August, 1986, we went to settlement to purchase the farm, and christened it Windchase.  And of course, the rest is history!

     Windchase looked quite different back then.  There was pretty much nothing here but corn fields.  The area where the barns and the sand ring are was a hay field, and all the pastures and galloping field was planted in corn.  Where the lake now is, there was a swamp with a stream lazily meandering through it, and the lawn near the house was mostly shrubby woods.  The house itself was old and dilapidated, about two thirds the size it is now, and covered with awful old asphalt shingles over the wood siding.  My brothers took one look at it and advised us to bulldoze it down and start fresh!   
     Mom and I had dreams and plans.  We spent many hours designing the stables, planning the renovation of the house, mapping out where to put the barns, pastures and fences.  We designed everything ourselves, envisioning what it would look like once completed. It has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that I have ever done in my life to make those dreams become a reality!

     During the late summer and autumn of 1986 we had the barn builders start on the arena and the stables.  We had our priorities right; get the barns built and worry about the restoring the house later!  We also had a crew working on creating the lake.  We commuted from Great Falls on an almost daily basis to work on the parts of the construction that we were doing ourselves; things like the dock in the lake, the water system in the stables, the retaining walls outside of the barns. 
     I have great memories of those days. I was totally in love with this farm, and so excited about it, and I clearly remember saying to myself, "I wonder if in 20 years, I will be as excited about this place as I am right now."  And then thinking, "Yes, I am sure that I will be."  And I am here to tell you, now 20 years down the road, that if anything, I am even more excited by it and appreciative of it than ever!  There's not a day that goes by that I don't ride around the farm and totally appreciate how lucky I am to be here at Windchase.  I never ever take it for granted; if possible I am even more in love with this beautiful place than I was 20 years ago!

     So like I said, we are throwing a 20th Anniversary Party.  On Saturday August 5th, we will have a pot-luck cookout to celebrate the  of the founding of Windchase.  I will attempt to e-mail out invitations, but any of you former clients, students, boarders or friends of Windchase that I may have lost touch with, you are all invited!  The cookout will be on the lawn, starting around 2:00.  Bring food!  RSVPs are appreciated. 

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