(Archive: November 25, 2007 - April 21, 2008)

Notes from Phyllis

Phyllis and Viatar

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


Quote of the Week:

   I found the bond between horse and rider exhilarating, especially 
when I realized I could read their minds. When I discovered that they 
could also read mine, I knew I was part of a winning combination.       
      ~ Dick Francis 

April 21, 2008
Spring has been slow in coming this year; the middle of April and the trees are just now getting their leaves.  But the weather was been fabulous the last week (until Sunday), and I have been thoroughly enjoying getting back in the saddle.  The doctor doesn't really want me riding yet after my collarbone surgery, but I can't stay off a horse any longer - so I compromise by just hacking Drifter, and holding the reins in my left hand.  I'm eager to get back to schooling, but I can tell my shoulder isn't ready yet; its frustrating because I have a fabulous group of young horses and I can't ride them.

     This is my favorite time of year - I love watching the colors of spring change every day.  The bluebells are out, the cherry trees are blossoming, and the maple leaves seem to go from buds to full foliage overnight.  Everywhere you look there are flowers and birds.  The geese are setting on eggs by the lake, and we have a litter of baby foxes under the run-in shed in the front pasture. 

     Every cloud has it's silver lining, so since I haven't been able to ride much, I have been spending time trying to improve my photography.  I have always enjoyed taking pictures, but without really knowing too much about the technical aspects of photography; now I am trying to get better at it.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a workshop by well known nature photographer John Shawe.  The first day was all about exposure, composition, and shooting techniques.  The second day was devoted to the computer end of it; digital workflow, editing, and cataloging photos.  By the end of the seminar I felt completely inadequate and stupid - but I did learn a lot!

     We had a bunch of Windchase horses entered in the Redlands Pony Club Horse Trials.  Heidi Wardle started the the weekend off on the right track on Saturday, placing 3rd on her talented young horse Gemini in the Novice.  It was a lovely sunny day, the footing was perfect, her horse went great in all three phases, and  Heidi couldn't have asked for a better outing.  All of our other horses were scheduled to go Sunday, but that was another story altogether. 
     We woke up in the morning to heavy rain.  Melissa, Tizi, Meagan and Maggie all left at 5:00 am to get there for early dressage tests, and I set out a little later to meet them there.  Soon the skies opened in a torrential downpour.  It was coming down so hard that I found myself driving 30 mph on the Interstate with my hazard lights flashing, hardly able to see ten feet in front of me. When I was almost to the Event, Melissa phoned me to say the organizers had been forced to cancel because of the excessive rain.  We were disappointed, because this was meant to be a good first run for a number of the less experienced horses, but no way could we have asked them to jump under those conditions.
     Some of our other students had better luck with the weather at Fair Hill.  Katie Willis had a double clear in the CIC** with Polar Storm (by Brandenburg's Windstar) to finish 8th.  Kaitlin Spurlock had a lovely run in the CIC* on Baseline, also double clear, placing 6th.  And Meagan Hansen had a great weekend on her lovely mare Aurora, leading the dressage with a 22 and jumping clean to win the division.
     Melissa was planning on going to Rolex this week with Expedience, but as so often happens at this level, she had a minor setback that caused a change of plans.  Expedience bumped a leg while competing at The Fork, and came up with a little bit of heat in her leg.  It is a very minor injury, but being a good horseman and not wishing to take any chances, Melissa opted to play it safe, and withdrew from the CCI****; she will aim for the CCI*** in Bromont, Canada in June instead.

Until next time, 

April 11, 2008
Another good weekend for Windchase riders and students.  Congratulations are in order for Katie Willis; she had a super ride on her ultra-talented Polar Storm (by Brandenburg's Windstar) in the Advanced division at The Fork Horse Trials in North Carolina last weekend, going great on the challenging cross-country course with just one technical penalty for a circle, and also putting in one of the few clear show jumping rounds.  This was both her and Polar's first Advanced, and they made us proud.

Polar Storm and Katie Willis

     Melissa Hunsberger had another excellent clear Advanced cross-country round on her mare Expedience to finish 11th; fingers crossed and knock on wood, they are Rolex-bound in a couple of weeks.  Melissa did very well at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2007 with her other horse Just Fun Stuff; it will be exciting to see if Expedience can top his performance.
     Speaking of Just Fun Stuff, as many of you know he was injured in a fall at the Fair Hill CCI*** last autumn, sustaining a broken scapula.  I am happy to report that he is doing very well after months of Melissa's careful nursing and rehab, and he is happily and comfortably grazing in the pastures now.  We are hopeful that he will be ready to return to riding by the end of the summer, although top level Eventing is probably no longer on his agenda.
     But Melissa has plenty to look forward to with her new horse, River Star.  He is a 4 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding, one of Windchase's homebreds by our stallion Windstar, and a truly outstanding youngster.  Due to the support and generosity of all of you who helped out financially after Just Fun Stuff's injury, Melissa has been able to make plans to take River on, to hopefully be her next upper level partner.  Of course nobody can see the future, but this horse is one of the most talented we have ever bred, and shows all the makings of a future superstar.

Until next time, 

March 31, 2008
     Spring is finally here, and things are getting exciting.  Windchase riders are off to a good start for the spring Event season.
     Melissa made the trip down to Southern Pines week before last with her mare Expedience, where she went well in the Advanced division to finish 6th, once again proving that it is not necessary to spend the winter in Florida or Aiken to have your horse well prepared for the big competitions.  Katie Willis also had a good run there to start out her season, jumping around the Intermediate in good style on her talented Polar Storm, one of Windstar's babies.
     Our first local event was this past weekend at Morven Park.  Unable to ride after my recent collarbone surgery, I had to satisfy myself with living vicariously through my students.  Fortunately they all did me proud! Melissa rode Pedro's talented New Zealand import Seattle in the Preliminary; he jumped like a champ and finished 7th with clear XC and SJ rounds.  I really think this horse is something special, and has the talent to make it to the top - it was fun to watch go so well at his first competition in the US.

Seattle  (offered for sale)

     Windchase student Kaitlin Spurlock was a star, finishing second in the Young Riders Preliminary with Baseline.  She also won the Training at Southern Pines a couple of weeks ago; she is developing a super partnership with this exceptionally talented young horse, another of our New Zealand imports.  Kaitlin also had a good round in the same division on Purr, and Dana Bivens went well with her mare Carpe Diem.

Tiziana Prem and Shandon

     Our working student Tiziana Prem had a great go in the Training division with her horse Shandon; Tizi rides representing Guatemala, and she put in an excellent performance.  Other former Windchase horses have been at the top of the leader board recently; Michele Lopsinger won the Novice at Southern Pines with Starlight, one of our homebreds by Brandenburg's Windstar.  And Emilee Libby won the Advanced at Rocking Horse with Cahir, one of my Irish imports.

     In the meantime, my collarbone is healing pretty well I think, and I am eagerly biding my time until I can start riding again.  In an effort to do something productive with my down-time, I am studying photography.   I take a lot of pictures and have fun doing it, but I am trying to get to where I actually know what I am doing instead of just depending on luck and instinct. Always something new to learn.

Until next time, 

March 21, 2007
Well, I seem to have survived.  I had surgery for my yet-unhealed collarbone just over a week ago, and I have been pretty much stuck in the house ever since.  It doesn't feel too bad as long as I don't move; I have been spending quite a bit of time on my living room sofa, watching movies, reading magazines, and working on a vicodin addiction.  No, just kidding about the vicodin, I'm off that now, but it definitely was my friend for the first few days. 
     I've been a bit more incapacitated than I had expected; somehow I didn't think the plate and screws would be such a big deal.  I am just starting to be able to use the computer comfortably now; I have become fairly adept at working the mouse with my left hand, but typing with just the left is problematic and slow.  I have been trying to catch up with my e-mail, and I offer apologies for those I have answered with a lack of punctuation and capitalization; I normally detest those kind of e-mails, but my lack of ambidextrousness does encourage brevity.  Hopefully by next week I will be a lot more mobile.

Until next time, 

March 7, 2007
March already; how time flies!  Spring is waiting in the wings: the grass is turning green, the trees are starting to bud, and the first crocuses are peeking out.  The birds know spring is almost here; they are celebrating everywhere you look.  (Never mind that we are supposed to get rain mixed with snow and sleet this weekend; the end of winter is in sight.)
     Unfortunately, I won't be enjoying the next few weeks by riding across the countryside like I would like to.  I went back to the doctor for my broken collarbone this week, and the stupid thing STILL hasn't healed.  I go in for surgery next week to get it put back together with a plate and screws; very frustrating, as I won't be able to ride for at least a month, and will miss out on the early spring Events.  Now I wish that I had gotten the surgery when it first happened - but I suppose hindsight is 20-20, and at the time the doctor thought it would heal on its own.  I guess it could be a lot worse, and I don't have too much to feel sorry for myself about, but I will really miss riding during the early spring.  Oh well, maybe it will rain a lot.

Until next time, 

February 16, 2008
We just experienced one of the most amazing ice storms ever.  A freezing rain fell all day on Wednesday, and ice coated every branch and twig.  By the afternoon, everything was covered with a layer of ice almost an inch thick.  It was beautiful, and also kind of scary; you could hear the reverberating crack of branches breaking off trees under the weight of the ice every few minutes. 
     I went for a walk with my camera in the evening.  I was standing on the bank of the lake taking pictures of the house and yard across the water when suddenly I heard a sizzling crackling sound; looking up, I thought to myself, 'Hmm, the power line seems to be on fire.'  An icy branch had fallen on the overhead wires; soon the smoking and sparking turned into flames shooting up.  'Interesting,' I thought, 'I'll take some photos of it,' as I watched the flames grow bigger.  Finally in occurred to me, 'Hmm, perhaps I should move now.'  I walked about 20 feet over to the roadway, and sure enough, just seconds later the blazing power line snapped in two and came snaking down, one end of the broken cable going into the lake and the other length of presumably hot wire falling to the ground right where I had been standing an instant before.  Whew, close call!
     Interesting though this potentially near-death experience was, the worst part was that now, once again, we had no power - we seem to be losing it more and more often recently.  The generator will run the pump so we can water the horses, but no lights and no heat gets old after a while.  I went to bed that night with practically every blanket I own piled on my bed.
     Such occasions always lead to reflection about how dependant we are on modern conveniences.  I was talking about it with my Mom, who is 87, and we were marveling about how much the world has changed (and not necessarily for the better!) in her lifetime.  She spent a good part of her childhood without electricity, and grew up doing her homework by kerosene lantern (in fact, the very same kerosene lanterns we are using now - not many things that you can buy today that will still work just as well a hundred years after they were made), whereas kids today think they have it rough if they have to use a dial-up connection for the Internet.
     The following morning, Valentine's Day, dawned sunny and bright.  The ice storm had turned Windchase into a crystal wonderland.  The trees, the grass, the fences - everything seemed to be incased in sparkling glass, the sun reflecting off the ice in a million prisms.  It was incredible - I really can't describe how awesome it was.  The sparkling beauty lasted through the day.

Valentine's Day at Windchase

     Of course, we were still without power.  No heat, no telephones, no computers, no stove.  Aside from freezing, we couldn't even make hot coffee.  The auto-waterers in all the fields were frozen because the heating elements were off, so all the horses that live out had to have water hand carried to them.  Repeated cell phone calls to the lights-out number for the power company yielded recordings stating that work had been completed in our area, and really, our power should be on now. 
     Eventually I tracked down a repair crew out on Kidwell Road; pleading our lack of electricity, I got them to come up the driveway to see where the power lines were down.  The repairman stood for a while looking at the cable going into the lake, and the loose lines down across the driveway, then very astutely drawled, "Yep, there's your problem, Ma'am."  Fortunately, after this keen observation and accurate diagnosis, they were able to make the repairs and finally restore our power.  We now have a renewed appreciation of electricity.

Until next time, 

February 1, 2008
Winter, while not necessarily my favorite season of the year, does have a beauty and mystique all of its own.  I enjoy the way the winter weather makes every day different.  Yesterday was sunny and fairly warm, but today a freezing rain has coated everything with a layer of ice.  The skies change with the seasons, and the winter sunsets are often dramatic.

The Wolf Moon

     In earlier times, the Indians gave each month's full moon a name.  The one in January is called the Wolf Moon.  Just the name gives me the shivers; it evokes images of people huddled close around a campfire amid deep snow in the far north somewhere, wearing heavy furs against the subzero temperatures, and listening to the sound of hungry wolves howling just outside the ring of light from the campfire.
     Fortunately, viewing the Wolf Moon at Windchase is a little less remote and dangerous than the scenario in my imagination, but I did hear the coyotes howling the other night.

Until next time, 

January 15, 2008
Well, I've been grounded - it seems that my broken collarbone hasn't healed.  I went back to my orthopedic doctor for a recheck, because after seven weeks it was hurting as much or more than it had at three weeks - which was, coincidentally I am sure, when I started riding again.  He seemed to think I started doing too much with it too soon and didn't give it a chance to heal.  I told my doctor this didn't make sense, because it really doesn't hurt when I ride.  He sort of rolled his eyes and said, "I have never ever had a horse person yet admit that anything hurt when they rode!"  So I guess now I have to back off and not ride for a month.  Or at least not ride very much . . .

     I received some very sad news today.  Half Magic injured his knee irreparably in a pasture accident and had to be put down.  He was one of my favorite horses in the world.
     I bought Magic as a two-year-old, and we had a great competitive partnership for many years together.  His career highlights included winning the CCI* at North Georgia in 1992, the CCI** at Essex in 1993, and the CCI*** at Checkmate, Canada in 1994, as well as many Advanced Horse Trials.  He was short-listed for the World Equestrian Games in '94, the Pan American Games in '95 and the Open European Championships in '97.  He was a great athlete with a wonderful spirit.  In more recent years, he has been ridden by Emily Curtis and Amanda Draper; they found him as much of a joy to ride as I did.  He was 23 years old and still going strong. We will miss him greatly. 

Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
~ Cecilia M. Hylton

Until next time, 

January 9, 2008
Winter is over and spring is here!  Or at least, that's what it feels like.  The weather has been sunny and seventy the last few days, and we are really enjoying the early spring; it was nice that the winter was really short this year.  What, you think I am deluding myself?  Oh well, you know what they say: "De Nile is not a river in Egypt."
     OK, I do realize it is a brief reprieve and before long winter will be back.  Soon enough we may be stuck in the indoor arena, but for now it sure is nice to ride out in the sunshine.

Until next time, 

January 1, 2008
     Happy New Year!
I had a lovely day to start off the new year: I planted a tree, saw a golden fox while out riding, and watched a beautiful sunset with pink clouds over the lake in the evening.  These things must be good omens.  I believe in magic.

Until next time, 

December 23, 2007
     Merry Christmas!
     I went for the most lovely ride yesterday.  I was on my young Irish horse, Drifter: this automatically starts everything off on the right foot, he being such a pleasure to ride.  The sky was a little overcast, but it was warm for December and the footing was good.  Trotting and cantering around the hay fields at the back of the farm, I was, as always, appreciative of how wonderful it is to take such a ride.
     Of first and foremost importance is the feel of having a really good horse underneath you.  There is nothing to beat sitting on a horse that is eager and forward thinking, responsive and light on his feet, and enjoying the ride as much as his rider.  Drifter approaches hacking across the countryside with as much enthusiasm as I do; he loves to go fast when the opportunity arises, but is also content to mosey along and enjoy his surroundings.
     Each season has it's own kind of magic.  Contours of the land are revealed in winter that we don't usually see; a hundred secret places in the woods that are hidden when the leaves are on.  You can look across familiar grassy fields and winter woods to the mountains looming blue-gray in the background - always there but different every day.  The changing seasons and skies, the varying weather, the diverse light and shadows - this make it all easy to appreciate anew each time I see it.
     There is always wildlife.  Riding along the edge of the woods, I saw a varied assortment of birds come flitting out of the hedgerow ahead of me; Drifter pretended to think they were quite scary.  In into the woods we passed three deer, standing quiet in the trees not far from the trail, hoping to escape notice.  I stopped to watch them; they stared back at me, not afraid because I was on a horse.  A bit further on, a rare red-headed woodpecker swooped from tree to tree, and a small flock of blue-jays flashed their bright colors as they flew in and out of the underbrush.  As Drifter and I came out into the open field again there were more deer, a herd of about twenty this time; they bounded off and disappeared into the woods.  (We always see a lot of deer, but during hunting season the numbers seem to double - they have learned that Windchase is a refuge from hunters.)  A red fox loped across the clearing in front of me, his luxurious thick winter coat accented by the brilliant white tip of his tail.  Overhead a flock of geese flew by in a ragged vee, the sound of their honking accenting the quiet afternoon.  As I went up the path returning to the barn, I saw a lone doe, curled up cozily in the woods just a few feet from the trail, serene and peaceful.  We gazed at each other for several long moments, as if we were sharing a secret.  

     If you are lucky enough to get the chance, go for a trail ride over the holidays.  It is a great way to find the spirit of Christmas.

Until next time, 

December 14, 2007
Back in the saddle again!  I am really happy to be riding again, after being grounded for three weeks from breaking my collarbone.  I am still having to be a little careful, and getting on and off is the hardest thing, but it's really great to be back on a horse - I consider any day when I don't ride a wasted day.  When I have broken collarbones in the past, I always found that I could ride again after three weeks; at two weeks and six days it would still be too painful, but miraculously on the 21st day, riding, though still a bit uncomfortable, was possible - and the same thing proved true again this time.  Good to know I haven't lost my touch.

     I can't believe that Christmas is just around the corner - as usual it seems to have snuck up on me.  But what with the Christmas Season and being able to be riding again, it seems like a good time to think about all of the things we have to be thankful for.  (OK, OK, I know, you're supposed to do that at Thanksgiving, but give me a break, I was still on painkillers then.)
     I consider myself so fortunate to be here at Windchase.  Both my Mom and I fell in love with this special place when we saw it for the first time, back in the spring of 2006, and that feeling has never faded.  There is some kind of magic here.  You all probably get tired of hearing it, but I appreciate being here every single day, and never ever take it for granted.

     The other thing I am really luck with is to have such a great staff.  Of course it all starts with Jineen Reed; nobody could dream of having a better barn manager, dressage trainer, or friend.  Melissa Hunsberger is a vital part of our operation too, and as assistant trainer she keeps the competitive spirit going strong.  I am very lucky to have friends like these as an integral part of Windchase. 
     We are very fortunate to have a super group of working students.  Dana Bivens and Meagan Sentineal have been with us on and off for several years, and they do a fantastic job; they are really exceptional people.  Lauren Thomas and Clare Higgs have been doing an excellent job, along with Mariesa McCulloche and Danielle Raykes, and Sunny Egyhazy helping out on weekends.  We were also thrilled to have Kaitlin Spurlock, Nina Bence, Audrey Tomlin and Maggie Nichols helping us this past summer.  Also, Kenny Popkins, as always, does a great job at keeping up with the maintenance and farm work that keeps the place looking so good.
     It is wonderful to have such outstanding people to work with, and I really appreciate the fabulous job they have been doing here at Windchase.  Thanks, you guys!

Until next time,

December 6, 2007
I can't believe it is already December - but time flies, and winter seems to be here in no uncertain terms.  We had our first snow yesterday, and though it was lovely, I am definitely one who thinks White Christmases are overrated.  Snow just makes more work around the barn, and puts a halt to riding out.  But since I can't ride at the moment anyway because of my broken collarbone, at least I could enjoy the beauty of the changing season.

     Congratulations are in order to Katie Willis, who successfully completed her first CCI** on her talented Irish youngster Polar Storm (by Brandenburg's Windstar) at the Florida International Three-Day Event a few weeks ago.  Watch for this pair at the Advanced Level in 2008.
     I hope to be back in the saddle by next week, and I am really looking forward to it.  In the meantime, let's get ready for Christmas! 

Until next time,

November 25, 2007
I hope all of you had a good Thanksgiving week.  Mine was interesting.  I had a fall jumping a client's horse on Monday, and I broke my collarbone.  Not the first time I have had this injury - in fact I think this makes collarbone break number six - but who's counting?  The good news is, if you have to break a bone, the collarbone is a pretty good one to break (aside from toes, which are generally expendable); usually they heal up fairly well in about 3 or 4 weeks.  The bad news is they are tough to immobilize, and I have found that moving any part of your body seems to make the collarbone move, so initially it can be pretty uncomfortable.  So at the moment I can't do a lot, and of course the frustrating part is not being able to ride; I consider any day that I don't ride my horses a wasted day - unless, of course, I am off on some really cool vacation.
     Preparing Thanksgiving dinner with one hand was interesting, but luckily my nephew Nick came up to help with the cooking; he is an excellent chef, and dinner, a joint effort, came off without a hitch.  As always, it was great to have family and friends together for this holiday. 
     So now, unable to ride, I am watching the horses work, teaching, and trying to catch up on some paperwork.  And in the meantime, I am getting quite good at using my computer mouse with my left hand!

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