Windchase News Archives for Olympic rider Phyllis Dawson's Windchase farm.  Event horses for sale, boarding, training, working students, breeding to Brandenburg's Windstar.

(Archive: May 5, 2008-December 25, 2008)
Notes from Phyllis

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Quote of the Week:
Don't just believe in Miracles, rely on them.


December 25, 2008
     Merry Christmas!
     The barn is officially finished. Our builder, Dave Rahn, basically completed his work last week, and although there is still a bit of painting and installing fixtures to finish up, everything is basically ready to go, and we have been moving into the tack room.  It is good to be home again!  The barn fire was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and the whole second half of this year has been about rebuilding, but life is finally getting back to normal now, and we have a brand new barn, with some improvements over the old one.  We celebrated Christmas Eve with a staff lunch party in the new tack room, and popped open a bottle of good champagne to toast the new barn.  To Windchase!

Christmas Morning at Windchase

     This morning dawned clear and bright, and pleasantly warm.  Looking out over the lake to the newly rebuilt barn just after sunrise, it was easy to count my blessings and think of how lucky we were this year. 

Wishing you Peace on Earth,

December 10, 2008

     Winter is here, and the Windchase Jumping Mini-clinics are starting up this weekend.  These are fun and informal jumping clinics that I teach in our indoor arena on Sunday afternoons throughout the winter.  Generally 3 to 5 in a group, with groups from elementary through Preliminary/Intermediate.  Sign up the week before, and I usually e-mail out ride times on the Friday preceding the clinic.  I still have some spots available, so contact me if you want to be included.
     The barn is almost finished.  The horses have been in their stalls for well over a month, but we still haven't been able to move our equipment in the tack room or use the aisle.  But the builders are getting near the end now; they are building cabinets and completing the tack room.  I have been busy painting practically nonstop, and we are putting the finishing touches on.  The goal is to have everything finished and be properly moved in before Christmas - very exciting!

Phyllis and Lilly

     I had a wonderful visit with my 'great niece' Phyllis, along with her parents Stacy and Jonny.  Phyllis is three and a half, and she just loves to ride.  Thanks to the generosity of our friend Mary Hallisy for the loan of her wonderful mare Lilly, little Phyllis got to go trail riding every day for the two weeks she was here.  I think we have a real future equestrian star on our hands!


November 26, 2008
     Happy Thanksgiving!
     Here are some of the things I am thankful for:

     I am thankful that I am able to live in such a special place as Windchase. Every day I look around and think how lucky I am.

     I am thankful for my family; my mother, my sister and brothers and their spouses, my nieces and nephews and cousins - I will see some of them this holiday season and some I will not, but we are all very close, even when separated by distance. My 3 year old 'great niece,' little Phyllis, is visiting from California, and I am so happy to have the chance for us to spend time together and get to know each other. I am afraid I have already corrupted her; she is quite the little rider, and wants to spend most of her time on a horse. 

     I am grateful for my friends; I am very lucky to have so many special people in my life. Friendship is one of the most important things we have in our life.

     I am thankful for the amazing luck we had when lightning struck the barn and burned it down in June - the fact that no horses or people were lost or hurt is a blessing I will be forever grateful for. The extreme generosity of all of our friends - both old and new - that helped us get back on our feet after the fire made the whole thing primarily a positive experience. I want to once again relay my heartfelt gratitude to all of those who helped us.

     I am grateful for my barn staff, and how they stood strong and worked hard to keep Windchase running smoothly during the turmoil that this year has brought.

     I am thankful that my good friend and barn builder, Dave Rahn, was willing to come out of semi-retirement and rebuild my stable after the fire; I am also grateful to all the others who helped with the construction.

     I am grateful for the results of the presidential election, and hopeful that Barack Obama can lead this country in a new direction. With the plunging economy and increased job losses, there are so many who are having an extremely difficult time - we are all hoping that by this time next year they will all have much more to be thankful for.

     And I am appreciative that after all these years, I still get the same joy from riding the horses that I always did, and that I still have a passion for what I spend each day doing. Every day is a gift.

Thanksgiving at Windchase 


November 7, 2008
I am very excited and inspired by the results of the Presidential election.  I wanted to share with you the lyrics of a song that I came across on a website.  “Yes We Can” is a song that was inspired by a speech delivered by Barack Obama following the 2008 New Hampshire primary.  The song was released on February 2, 2008 by the Black Eyed Peas member on and also on YouTube under the username ‘WeCan08′.  (Although the lyrics are entirely quotations from a speech delivered by Senator Obama in New Hampshire during the 2008 campaign, his campaign had no involvement in its production.)  Perhaps these words will resonate with you as they did with me.

Yes We Can

It was a creed written into the founding documents 
that declared the destiny of a nation.
Yes we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.
Yes we can.  Yes we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores 
and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
Yes we can.  Yes we can.
It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots;
a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; 
and a King who took us to the mountain-top and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes we can to justice and equality.
Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world.
Yes we can. Si Se Puede.

We know the battle ahead will be long,
but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way,
nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
We want change!

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics 
who will only grow louder and more dissonant.
We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check.
We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. 
We want change!

The hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon 
are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA;
we will remember that there is something happening in America;
that we are not as divided as our politics suggests;
that we are one people;
we are one nation;
and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America’s story 
with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea. 
Yes. We. Can.


November 4, 2008
     Don't forget to VOTE!


October 30, 2008
Congratulations to Windchase working students Heidi Wardle and Tiziana Prem for excellent performances at the Training Level 3-Day Event (half-star) at Waredaca last weekend.  Heidi placed 4th on her talented horse Moving Illusion (a.k.a. Gemini), putting in a good dressage test, a beautiful clear XC, and a lovely show jumping round where she barely dislodged one pole.  Tiziana, representing Guatemala on Shandon, also went well; despite a scoring error and misunderstanding of the rules resulting in a technical elimination, she was allowed to continue and put in excellent clear rounds in both XC and show jumping - and also won the sportsmanship award.  Windchase is very proud of both of these riders.

Heidi Wardle on Moving Illusion, and Tiziana Prem riding Shandon.

     I had a good weekend with my own young horses; Rockabye Star went foot perfect in all three phases to win the Open Novice, and Drifter was close behind, placing 2nd.  I am delighted with these two exceptional 5-year-olds, and I am excited about their future.
     Congratulations are also in order for Katie Willis and Polar Storm (by Brandenburg's Windstar).  They completed the CCI** at Fair Hill with a lovely clear cross-country run  a couple of weeks ago, adding another good go to their list of accomplishments.  On to the three-star next year! 


October 23, 2008
I got the chance to go see Barack Obama yesterday.  Jineen, Melissa and I went to Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, VA, along with 35,000 others, to hear him speak.  He is very inspiring on TV, but to hear him in person was truly amazing, and the experience of listening to him while part of a huge crowd of supporters was really intense. 

Barack Obama in Leesburg, VA.

     Attending the Obama rally was very much outside of the scope of my normal activities.  I don't like crowds, and I have not always been very keen on politics.  But our country is in trouble, and we need excellent leadership to start to reverse the damage that has been done by the administration over the last eight years and get us back on the right track.  I truly believe that Barack Obama can provide that leadership and bring us the change we need.  So get out and vote for Obama on November 4!


October 14, 2008

     How lucky I am that I get to make my living doing what I love best.  Perfect weather, excellent courses, a well-run Event, and lovely horses to ride - I couldn't ask for anything more.  All of the young Windchase horses had an outstanding weekend at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy, near Frederick, MD.  We had a really exceptional group of youngsters in the Open Novice, and they all had great runs.
     I rode my two exceptionally talented Irish 5 year olds; I won with Drifter (by Master Imp), and placed second on Rockabye Star, by our stallion Brandenburg's Windstar.  Melissa won a division on our lovely homebred mare Estrella (by Windstar), and also won her section on Dark Magic, an attractive thoroughbred who will go Training his next outing.  Lanzano, a recent import from New Zealand, placed fourth, with one unlucky rail in the show jumping narrowly preventing him winning as well.  Not a bad haul for the weekend; five horses competing, bringing home three firsts, a second and a fourth.
     Meagan Sentineal also had a good go with her mare Shiraz; they recently moved up to Training level, and the pair completed the event well.  Unfortunately several of our other working students had slightly less than stellar rounds, marring otherwise good performances by incurring technical eliminations for jumping the wrong fence.  We won't mention any names . . .
     In the meantime, the horses are enjoying their new home - they are happily settled in the new barn.  We have a lot to do before everything is finished, but we have officially moved in.  Now I am just trying to keep the horses from chewing the wood and kicking their stalls; I know it is inevitable that it will show some wear and tear, but at least I can try to make sure they don't destroy it before it is even finished!


October 4, 2008
     Very exciting news; the horses have moved into the new barn.  The stable has a ways to go before it is finished, but the stalls are ready, and this past week we moved the horses in.  There is still a lot to do before everything is complete; such details as the tack room, utility room, aisle way, cabinets, doors and trim; but at least now the horses have a permanent roof over their head.  It is so great to see them happy in their new digs, and to see the barn so nearly done.  Hopefully they won't chew it up or kick it apart before it is even finished!
 Tomorrow we return the temporary stables to Gretchen and Robert Butts of Waredaca and Jan Bynny of Surefire Farm; much thanks to them for generously loaning us the stalls. 

     On the competition front, I had a great time at the Middleburg Horse Trials last weekend.  The weather was perfect, and it is always a delight to ride across the lovely turf at Glenwood Park.  I rode my two quite special Irish five-year-olds, Drifter and Rockabye Star, in the Novice Division, and they were both super - I couldn't ask them to go any better, both of them finishing in the ribbons with good dressage tests and double clear rounds XC and SJ.  I really enjoy bringing along the youngsters and giving them top quality basic training and a good start to their Eventing careers.  Melissa also had good rounds on Lanzano and Dark Magic, so all of the Windchase youngsters represented themselves well. 


September 23, 2008
     Well, we're back, and we didn't get eaten by a bear.  Jineen and I recently returned from a ten -day trip to Alaska, where we had a fabulous time.  We did a lot of hiking and exploring, drove down some amazing roads, encountered a fair selection of Alaskan wildlife, had a wonderful trail ride in the mountains, saw amazing scenery, and took lots of photos.  I plan to post a trip report and pictures when I get a chance, but as busy as things are at the moment it will probably take me several months to get it all written and edited.

     It was a bit hard to tear ourselves away, what with the barn building going on and all.  But we had planned the trip long before the lightning strike, delayed it twice, and hadn't had a vacation in two years - so we were really keen to go.  And guess what, things went along just fine here without us!  Much thanks to Melissa Hunsberger for running things in our absence, and for a great job by our working students, Jenna Alwine, Tiziana Prem, Meagan Sentineal, and Heidi Wardle.
     Several of the above-mentioned working students rode at the Seneca Valley Pony Club horse trials while I was gone; Heidi, Meagan and Tiziana all had great performances at Training level.  Tizi won with her Guatemalan Sporthorse Shandon, and Meagan and Heidi were both second in their respective divisions - a great day all around. 
     Also, Katie Willis took her talented Polar Storm (by our stallion Brandenburg's Windstar) down to Five Points horse trials in North Carolina and had a very successful outing, jumping clear and placing 8th in the Advanced class.  Well done Katie!
     The barn is coming along well, though there is still a lot to do on it.  I am hoping that at least part of the stalls will be ready for horses by early October, which is when I have to return the borrowed temporary stalls.  Once we have the horses in their new digs and the use of our indoor arena back for riding, then it doesn't matter if it takes a while to finish the details.

     The puppies just about doubled in size while we were gone; they are totally little dogs now!  They are still ridiculously adorable and sweet.  The brown male will go to his new home with Natalie Hollis this week; both Nellie (the female pup I am keeping) and I will miss him.


September 4, 2008
     Things have been exceedingly busy; sorry I haven't had time to update this more often.  Event season is getting underway; Melissa rode Lanzano and Dark Magic to good runs in the Novice at Difficult Run recently, and Heidi Wardle went well with Gemini in the Training at Loudoun.  We've been breaking in the babies; the two 3-year-olds by Windstar are fabulous.  And the barn is looking better and more complete each week, though we have a ways to go yet before it is done.

     The Dawsons had a family reunion a couple of weeks ago at my brother George's house down in Lynchburg; it was a really fun weekend.  We had about thirty relatives there, and it was super to see all the siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins.  The activities included hiking, croquet, ladder ball, stilt-walking, beach volleyball (on the side of a hill, no less), re-telling family stories, and lots of eating - the make-your-own-pizza on the grill was a big hit.
     But now the exciting news.  Finally, a vacation - Jineen and I are going to Alaska tomorrow.  And no, before you ask, we are NOT going on a cruise!  We are renting a car for 10 days and touring the interior; hiking, photographing, exploring, looking for moose and bear, and in general enjoying the scenery and the wildness.  We are really looking forward to getting away; we haven't had a real vacation in two years and we are due.  Originally we were scheduled to go in July, but obviously we had to cancel after the barn burned.  But since they are frequent flier tickets, we were able to reschedule for September; hopefully we won't freeze.  I'll tell you all about it when we get back!


August 13, 2008
     The barn is continuing to progress nicely.  The framework is pretty much done and the roof is going on. I look forward eagerly to when it is finished and the horses can move in, but that is still several months away.  The horses are happy enough in their temporary stalls in the indoor arena, but this will be a problem when the summer is over and we need to ride indoors during bad weather - let's hope for a sunny autumn.

     I finally got to go Eventing last weekend, for the first time since I broke my collarbone last winter.  It has finally (mostly) healed; the doctor kept telling me it would take four months after the surgery, but somehow I never quite believed him.  But now it feels pretty good, and I am jumping and riding cross-country again.  I took my young Irish horse Drifter to the Short Course Eventing at Loch Moy on Saturday, and he won the Novice division handily.  It is nice to finally be galloping on again.
     Our working student Tiziana Prem also did well at Loch Moy, placing 4th on her young horse Elliot, in his first ever competition.  Maggie Nichols brought her youngster Western Tern out for his competitive debut as well, and it was a good learning experience for both of these talented young horses.

     The puppies, Nellie and Jason, continue to be amazingly cute.  They are six weeks old now, and really learning to romp and play.  Every evening when work is done we have 'puppy playtime.'  There is no better way to spend time than playing with puppies. 


July 27, 2008
     Its starting to look like a barn!  It is gratifying to see the progress each day as the building progresses - still quite a ways to go, but its getting there. 
     I am enjoying the journey.  Back in 1987 when the barns were built originally, I was preparing for the Olympics, competing a string of Advanced horses, and traveling a lot for training and competition.  I did like watching the construction, but I was so focused on my competitive goals at the time that my involvement in the building effort was somewhat peripheral.  My priorities are different now, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of being involved in the day to day process of rebuilding.  It certainly wouldn't have been my choice to have it happen like this, but some good can come out of every misfortune, and I am enjoying it to the utmost. 

     This whole thing has also served as a reminder of how lucky I am, how lucky we all are.  Throughout this whole experience, the friendship and support of everyone who has helped has meant the world to me.  I am very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and neighbors, and the cohesiveness of the Eventing community is something special.  My staff and working students have been phenomenal throughout.  I am very lucky to have Dave Rahn overseeing the rebuilding project, and Pete and the other guys on the crew are doing a super job. 

Pete hard at work.

     I am looking forward to when the barn is completed and we can move back in; everything we do has a temporary flavor to it these days.  We have a Rubbermaid shed as a temporary tackroom, and the horses are living in temporary stalls.  We are trying to operate on a normal routine, but everything is on the inconvenient side.  But the stable is coming along well, and things are moving forward. Exciting stuff!

Phyllis Dawson

July 20, 2008
     The barn is coming along well.  Some of the rafters are up, and the roofline is starting to take shape.  I can hardly wait to see what the builders accomplish by the end of each day.  Photos soon; I took some tonight but there wasn't much to see, so I'll wait to post them until it is a little more impressive.  By mid-week I think it will start to look like a barn.
     It has been wicked hot all week, and we aren't competing much this time of year.  But Dana Bivens did take her Happy Go Lucky to the Maryland Horse Trials and placed 2nd last weekend in the Training; they will go Preliminary on their next outing.  It was great to have her go represent Windchase in such a good manner.

     Missy's puppies are the cutest things I ever saw.  Since the two of them have access to enough milk for eight, they are growing at an alarming rate.  They learn something new every day.  First they started to sit up, then to stand, then to waddle; today they almost were walking (using the term loosely)!  They have also learned to bark (well, maybe yip is a more apt description).  They have found that if they make enough noise someone will come and pick them up; they really enjoy that.  Just two weeks old and spoiled all ready!

Phyllis Dawson

July 13, 2008
     It has been a month now since the barn fire, and life at Windchase is finally getting back to something close to normal.  The horses are living happily in their temporary stalls in the indoor arena; I told them to pretend they were at a horse show - or in the case of the ones living in the stalls made from pipe corrals, maybe a rodeo.  We are proceeding with business as usual, and have resumed riding, training, showing horses for sale and preparing for the competition season. 
     The builders started with the construction of the new barn last week.  People have told me they are surprised at how quickly we are moving, and that we have accomplished a lot in a short time - but it doesn't feel that way to me.  It seems like it has taken forever to get the builders arranged, the site cleaned up and construction under way.  I have lived and breathed almost nothing else for the last month, so it is really a relief to see the barn starting to take shape.  So far we have nothing but poles in the ground, but I look forward to the rafters this week.  I am planning to rebuild the barn almost exactly like it was before.  I really loved how it was designed, so I don't see any reason to change it much.  I have a few small improvements in mind, but they are minor details. I look forward to having my stable back.
     All in all, I still can't believe how lucky we were when the lightning hit the barn.  Looking back on it, it still all seems kind of surreal.  It was a horrible experience, but we were so fortunate that it happened in the daytime when there were enough people around to get the horses out.  Even so, it was touch and go; the last horse out of the barn was Star Bright, and when our friend Debbie went into his stall to bring him out, the smoke was so thick she couldn't see him, but had to locate him by feel. 
     We have also been lucky to have so many people generously help us get back on our feet.  People are still coming by with donations of tack and equipment, and the support and assistance from the horse community has been amazing.  My staff and working students have continued to do a superb job throughout this whole hectic time, well above and beyond the call of duty.  It has meant so much to me that everyone has been so wonderful.  Sometimes when bad things happens it can be an opportunity to see the best side of people.

     In the meantime, there is plenty to do.  We have a really good bunch of horses in training, and they keep us quite busy. Summer is the time we concentrate on schooling the youngsters and giving them experience.  It is time to start breaking in the 3-year-olds soon, and the older horses are being readied for the upcoming events.  We also have an exceptionally nice group of horses offered for sale.  The breeding season is in full swing; we had four fabulous foals this year, and we are busy getting the mares back in foal.
     Windchase working student Heidi Wardle represented us well today; she rode her lovely thoroughbred Gemini at the Maryland Horse Trials today and finished 2nd - a very good result, after successfully making her Training level debut at Surefire two weeks ago.

     My collarbone finally feels like it is starting to heal properly; it is still weak and a bit sore, but I can use it more normally now.  I jumped Drifter the other day; it was the most fun I have had in ages.  Having missed competing in the spring because of my collarbone surgery, I look forward to taking him out to the events this autumn.
     Missy's puppies are cute beyond belief.  They are about 10 days old now and still don't have their eyes open.  Since there are only two of them, they have no lack of groceries, and they are very round.  They look like little teddy bears, and they are hopelessly spoiled already.  There is nothing more fun than puppies!

Phyllis Dawson

July 7, 2008
     Today was the big day; the rebuilding of the barn began.  The clean-up crew has worked the last two weeks to remove all the debris and rubble, leaving the site clean and ready.  I talked to quite a few very qualified barn builders, but in the end I was lucky enough to get the original builder, Dave Rahn, to agree to take on the project.  Dave is a good friend and I am thrilled that he will be rebuilding the stable - I know that everything will be done the right way.  This evening there was a rainbow over the building site; surely a good sign.

     The other fun thing is we have puppies.  Our dog, Missy, was bred to Leslie Law's lovely lurcher Dillon, and on Thursday morning she had two darling pups.  Yes, just two!  They are quite big and very fat, since Missy has enough milk to feed about eight, and they are amazingly cute. I just love puppies, so I am going to really enjoy raising these.   

Phyllis Dawson

June 26, 2008
     Life goes on. It has been just over two weeks now since June 10th when my barn burned, and things are gradually getting back to . . . well, maybe not normal, but at least operational. The horses are happily standing in their temporary and corral pipe stalls, and for the most part we have gotten back to our regular riding schedule. We have gotten used to the sight (and smell) of the charred remains of the stable, and we are able to carry on business as usual. All of the Windchase staff and working students have been phenomenal; they have worked hard through all of this with never a complaint, and done an exceptional job.
     The response from the horse community has been simply overwhelming. I cannot believe the number of people who have sent me supplies, donations and tack. Friends, neighbors, people I haven't seen in years, and in many cases people who I have never even met have made contributions. Their generosity has been amazing. This whole experience has given me a renewed appreciation for how wonderful people can be. 
     Thanks to the exceptional kindness of all who have helped us, we have tack to ride with and a fair supply of grooming and barn supplies. Now we just need someplace to put it all - we have set up a makeshift tack room in the boarder barn hayloft gallery, and stuff is stacked everywhere. Tack trunks and bookshelves, those are our needs at the moment. 

     I am in the process of planning the rebuilding. I have been meeting with builders and contractors, drawing up floorplans and estimating costs. I really loved the stable, and I hope to rebuild it very similar to the way it was - with just a few minor changes. I am quite eager to get the reconstruction going quickly, but there are a thousand details to take care of and arrangements to make. I think my cell phone may be permanently adhered to my ear. But yesterday the clean-up crew started working, and the remains of the barn are being removed. Progress!
     It has been interesting, in a slightly morbid sort of way, to pick through the debris of the fire. We found quite a few metal saddle trees, with every scrap of non-metal burned away. A lot of the remains were recognizable, but most things were reduced to ashes or to amorphous masses of congealed and melted plastic. It was interesting to note some of the things that weren't burned, though. For instance, amid a heap of charred and burnt tack remains we would randomly find something like a spur strap, completely undamaged. Most unexpectedly, I found, amid a pile of completely incinerated rubble, the wrought iron toilet paper holder from the bathroom - with the roll of toilet paper still on it! Who would have thought that toilet paper would be fireproof.

     Amid all of my preoccupation with getting the barn building underway, other good things are happening. We had two beautiful foals this past week. North River Lady had a colt just a day after we got the temporary foaling shed set up. He is a dark bay color, though he may turn grey, and he is absolutely beautiful. I have named him Phoenix Star.

Phoenix Star and North River Lady

     Gold Trinket had her foal a few days later; a tall rangy dark colt; you can already see the white hairs around his eyelids that show he will be grey. We were glad we got the temporary shed to have somewhere appropriate to foal the mares; but that sly mare slipped him in on us early, in the pasture. He is lovely also; I am really thrilled with all four of my foals this year. Life goes on!

Phyllis Dawson

June 17, 2008
     I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us.
     As you can imagine, the barn fire at Windchase was one of the scariest and most horrible experiences of my life. I imagine you have all heard the story: how the lightning struck the barn, how the flames were billowing out the top of the barn, the smoke was so thick you couldn't see, some of the horses were panicking and refusing to leave the stalls - the stuff of nightmares. The window of time we had to get the horses out of the barn was extremely brief, and everyone involved was heroic, risking themselves to save the horses - which is what any of us who love horses would do. I am so lucky to have such a great group of people as staff, students and friends; it is thanks to them that all of the horses (and dogs and cats) were saved.
     From every dark cloud comes a silver lining, and that has certainly been true in this case. The stable and most of the equipment and supplies in it were destroyed, and though the barn was insured, the way it works with depreciation in farm insurance policies, it won't come close to covering the replacement costs. But the glowing bright spot has been the support and help we have received from our friends, neighbors, boarders, and in some cases even people we have never met. Everyone has been incredible! People have pitched in with offers of help, supplies, tack, and moral support. I have had dozens of offers of stalls for my horses, and generous donations of equipment to help replace what was lost. It has been great to have people contribute tack and barn supplies to help us get on our feet again; any money I can save on replacement costs is money I can spend instead on trying to rebuild the barn to its former standard. But even more important than that is knowing how much people care. The outpouring of support and help that we have received has been staggering. I cannot express to you how much it means to me and to everyone here at Windchase that people have been so caring. It has truly helped us get through this difficult time.

     I would like to thank Shauna and Gary Spurlock, Rafe Nichols, Debbie Brink and Marilyn and Andy Weinkowski for giving temporary homes to my horses during the aftermath of the fire. Gretchen and Robert Butts and Jan Bynny were very generous in loaning me temporary stalls to erect in my indoor arena for stabling while the barn is being rebuilt. Debbie Brink, in addition to being there to help save the horses when the lightning struck, has done a fabulous job in helping to organize the donations of supplies and aid.  There have been so many other people who have helped us so far that I cannot possibly list them all - and I am afraid to try for fear of accidentally leaving someone out. A few of the major contributors of equipment or help have been Amy Sue Leavens, Sandy Felker, Megan Hansen, Paula Horne, Denny and May Emerson, Amanda Draper, Kathleen Dingus, and Mel Litter. There have been many others. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have contributed.
     And of course, my staff:  Manager Jineen Reed, Assistant Trainer Melissa Hunsberger, working students Dana Bivens, Maggie Nichols, Tiziana Prem, Meagan Sentineal and Heidi Wardle, and Farm Manager Kenny Popkins.  They have all been awesome; I don't know what I would do without them!

     On Sunday we had a 'barn raising party.' Many friends, neighbors and boarders came, and we erected the temporary stabling in the arena. It was awesome, the number of people who came to offer their assistance. Again, I can't say how much it means to me that everyone is so willing to help.
     Today, we finally got the horses home. In the afternoon, all of the Windchase staff was there, watching the horses standing in their temporary and corral stalls, and thinking how great it was to have them back. It seemed like a time for a celebration, so I broke open a bottle of champagne for a toast. Then I looked at my watch and realized it was 4:20 on Tuesday; exactly one week after the fire. We drank to surviving! We're all here.

     I realize once again how lucky I am, how lucky we all are. The barn fire was a horrible thing, and I never want to experience anything like it again. But at the end of the day, no people were hurt and no animals were lost, and everything else can be replaced. And this experience has really shown me how wonderful my friends are. 
     Click here for photos from the fire.

Phyllis Dawson

June 14, 2008
     I am sure by now most of you have heard the news.  In fact, it has been amazing to me how quickly word spread.
     At 4:15 p.m. this past Tuesday, a huge thunderstorm blew through the area, and my barn was struck by lightning.  It caught fire, and within minutes it was a raging inferno.  Barn fires have long been (and still are) my worst nightmare.  I was at the house when it happened; after seeing the flash and hearing the deafening crack of thunder I set out for the barn to see if everything was all right.  By the time I got there, flames were shooting up high out of the roof.
     Thank God that the fire happened in the daytime when we were all around.  Jineen, Melissa, the working students and a couple of other friends were on hand, and we were all frantically trying to get the horses out of the barn.  It took repeated trips into the burning building and the blinding, choking smoke, but we were able to get all 18 horses (including 2 foals) out of the stable safely.  Even with 6 or 7 people helping, we barely had time to get all the horses to safety.  I had always heard stories about how horses will panic in a fire and refuse to leave their stalls, and I had wondered if that was really true.  Well let me tell you; it is!  Some of the horses came willingly, and others were flying around the stall in a panic, near impossible to catch, or were unwilling to leave the security of their stalls despite the rafters starting to fall in around them. 
     Someone had called 911 right away, and I am sure they came promptly, but in those circumstances it seemed like an eternity before the fire trucks arrived.  It was obvious that the barn could not be saved; the flames were billowing up far above the roof, and the incredible heat produced was scorching everything within 50 feet.  We were terrified that the flames would cross over the narrow distance to the arena barn, so we got all of the horses out of that barn as well.  Eventually the fire trucks arrived; about 20 of them - by the end at least six different fire companies had responded.  The firemen pumped huge amounts of water up from the lake to fight the blaze; they mostly concentrated on preventing the fire from spreading to the boarder barn.  Fortunately they were successful; I shudder to think what might have been the outcome if we did not have a lake for them to pump from.

     It was a very sad day for Windchase.  I loved that barn, and it is very hard to watch everything you have worked for and built up be destroyed by fire.  Aside from a portion of the tack that the girls were able to rescue, everything else was lost.  The stable was burnt to the ground, and all of the equipment and supplies are gone.  Of course I have insurance, but with the way the costs of supplies and labor have increased over the last few years, I will be surprised if the insurance limit will cover half of what it will take to rebuild the barn.  But at the same time, I count myself lucky.  At the end of the day, no people were injured and no animals were lost.  Even the barn cats made it.  It could have been so much worse, and I am grateful that we came through with no injuries or deaths.  Everything else can be replaced.
     I also want to say, I have the best staff in the world.  They went above and beyond the call of duty; not just during the fire while they were rescuing horses from the blaze, but also during the difficult ensuing days as we have been trying to retrieve some order from the chaos.  Manager and trainer Jineen Reed, assistant trainer Melissa Hunsberger, working students Dana Bivens, Meagan Sentinel, Maggie Nichols, Heidi Wardle, and Tizi Prem; they all were outstandingly brave and dedicated.  Alisa and Tilly, two working student interviewees, also were of great help.  Our friend Debbie Brink also happened to be here when the fire happened; she braved the flames with us to save the horses, and has also been an extraordinary help in the days following.  I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of them, and say how proud I am to have them as part of Team Windchase. 

     It has been a tough few days since the fire on Tuesday, but things seem to be moving forward now.  We once again have power and lights in the boarder barn, the pump is running on electricity so that we now have water again, and I am talking to contractors and trying to get the rebuilding process started.  I never thought I could spend so much time on the phone!
     Many of the horses are farmed out with neighbors and friends, but we are eager to get them all back at Windchase so we can begin getting on with life.  I have made arrangements to borrow temporary stalls, which can be put up in the arena; then we can bring all the horses home.  (Thanks to Gretchen Butts and Jan Bynny for the loan of the stalls.)  We are having a work party this Sunday at noon to put up the temporary stables; bring food, and come join us!

     One thing that has made this whole horrible experience much more bearable is how wonderful everybody has been.  It has been amazing how everyone has reached out and offered help and support.  Just about everyone I know and some that I don't have expressed a desire to help us.  It is gratifying to know what a great bunch of friends and neighbors we have.  People have been offering stall and pasture space, manual labor, tack, and barn supplies.  I can't thank them enough!  This is a real lifesaver, since other than some saddles and tack we managed to rescue, pretty much everything else in the barn was lost.  
     At this point we have so much stuff to replace it is hard to know where to begin.  We will have to acquire everything from tack to blankets to shampoo and fly spray, and anything else you can think of.  Friends and neighbors have been very generously donating tack and supplies; this is great, because every item that I don't have to buy will allow me to put that money instead towards trying to rebuild the barn to its former standard.  I give my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped.


June 7, 2008
     It has been a week of ups and downs.
     The best part was that Sirius had a lovely filly.  Sirius is a talented mare that I imported from Ireland; she is a full sister to my former four-star horse Star Bright.  I competed Sirius to the Advanced level, and she is one of the most talented jumpers I have ever sat on.  She then went on to event successfully with Natalie Hollis, and later was retired from competition to become a broodmare.  Sirius came back to me last year and I bred her to Pedro Gutierrez's lovely TB eventing stallion, Orujo de la Galerna.  Sirius foaled just before midnight on May 29, and the new filly is exquisite.

     We competed at Waredaca last weekend with some of the young horses.  Melissa rode my good young Irish horse Drifter in the Beginner Novice, where he went great in his first ever Event and placed second.  I had hoped to compete him there myself, but I am still not able to jump because of my collarbone surgery - so I have to live vicariously through watching Melissa ride my horses.  Even though it was frustrating to be watching from the ground, Melissa did a great job, and Drifter definitely thinks he is hot stuff now.
     Melissa also rode two other of our youngsters in their first USEA event; she had good rides on our talented young homebred mare Estrella in the BN, and Dark Magic jumped around the Novice in great form.  It is so fun to watch these youngsters develop and learn as they begin their competitive careers.

     The downside of the week was that my mother fell in her rose garden and broke her foot.  And on her birthday, no less!  We had planned to go out for a birthday dinner with a friend who shares her birthday of June 3, and instead we spent the evening in the emergency room.  Mom is doing pretty well now, getting around the house in a wheelchair, and we are hoping she will be back fully on her feet by this time next week.

Until next time, 

May 28, 2008
     It has been a busy but successful couple of weeks.  We took a bunch of the young horses and students out to the Maryland Short Course Eventing competition; what a great venue for schooling.  Dark Magic, Estrella, Rockabye Star and Colony Times all did their first Events, and it was great experience for them.  Congratulations Windchase working student Heidi Wardle, who won the Training with her nice young horse Gemini, and also to Vicky Gray, who placed 4th on Razor's Edge in the Beginner Novice - and thanks to her and her husband for the great tailgate party!

Vicky Gray and Razor's Edge

     Everyone here at Windchase is very proud of Kaitlin Spurlock; she placed 2nd in the Young Riders CCI* at the Virginia Horse Trials last weekend with her ultra-talented New Zealand horse Baseline.  It has been great fun watching this pair progress, and we expect great things from them in the future.  Another Windchase rider, Sandy Felker, won the Training with El Piasso, so it was a good weekend all around.
     We have our first new foal of the year; our mare Sara had a lovely colt last week. One down, four to go!

Until next time, 

May 11, 2008
I like it when things are busy, as there is always a good sense of accomplishing a lot - but it has been a bit crazy lately.  Things are always busy this time of year during competition season, and this time is no exception.  I was down in Florence, Alabama this past week teaching an Instructor's Certification Program workshop, which was great fun.  However, the travel part of it wasn't such fun; in fact flying has become a bit of a nightmare, as the airlines cut personnel and efficiency to save on costs. 
     The fun started when I left home.  I had been madly rushing around all morning trying to finish up the list of things I 'must do' before leaving, only managing to get about half of the way through it, and set off in a perpetual hurry - so Murphy's Law kicked in and I got a speeding ticket on the way to the airport.  But of course once at Dulles my flight ended up being delayed for 5 hours, and finally arrived around midnight.  The workshop went well except for the tornadoes on the third day ("The tornado sirens are going off, quick, everybody into the mobile home!").  But getting home was another wonderful travel experience, the flight was delayed for 4 hours then finally cancelled; 2 hours standing in line to rebook, a night in the airport hotel with a 4:00 a.m. wakeup call, and finally a trip home by way of Cincinnati, arriving a day late.
     So I have barely had time to catch my breath, and now today I am heading off to Seattle to do another ICP clinic.  Hope this trip goes smoother than the last one!

Until next time, 

May 5, 2008

     The Maryland Combined Training Association (MCTA) held its horse trials this past weekend; it is one of my favorite Events on the calendar.  It was frustrating to not be competing myself (the collarbone seems to be finally healing and I hope to be jumping again soon), but it was fun to watch the other Windchase riders in action.
     Melissa rode Seattle to 6th place in the Open Preliminary, with a much improved dressage test and once again a double clear cross-country and show jumping.  And Kaitlin Spurlock had an excellent weekend in the Young Riders Preliminary, placing 3rd with Baseline and 4th with Purr.  A good showing for these three excellent Eventers from New Zealand, all imported by Pedro Gutierrez.

Meagan Sentineal on Shiraz

     Pedro brought his two nice youngsters up from Mexico to compete for the season, and both of them went well in the Novice; he placed 6th with Maromero, who was bred by the Mexican Army.  Meagan Sentineal, riding for Canada, rode her TB mare Shiraz in her first Novice and put in a great performance, with a good dressage test and clear jumping rounds to finish 5th.  And Amy Sue Leavens also had a good go with Graceful Star, placing 4th in her division of Novice.
     Congratulations also to Karen Eichert; she won the Novice division at Difficult Run on her lovely big draft cross, Booker!

Until next time, 

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