Find out all the latest news about whats happening at Olympic rider Phyllis Dawson's farm, Windchase.  Event horses for sale, boarding, training, working students, breeding to Brandenburg's Windstar.
(Archive: December 19, 2009 - May 15, 2010)
Notes from Phyllis



Read about Phyllis and Jineen's
trip to Scotland in 2009.

Scotland 2009

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

Phyllis's Travels

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Windchase Photos page.
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The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity. 

                             ~ Gene Roddenbury ~

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New: Click here to see Brandenburg's Windstar's video online. 


May 15, 2010

     The weather is good and the horses have been going well at their events, so life is good at Windchase.  Melissa has ridden Lochcarron and Almost Heaven in several Beginner Novice and Novice events and they have gone super, gaining experience and confidence at every turn.  Several of our other youngsters have made their Eventing debut; look for Gateway Island and Failte on the Horses for Sale page soon.
     Congratulations to Heidi Wardle for winning the Training at MCTA Horse Trials on Moving Illusion. Melissa also had good runs there on her two talented young horses by Brandenburg’s Windstar, River Star and Starstruck.
     At last I am back to riding more normally after my neck surgery in February; I have progressed from hacking to doing flatwork, and the other day I jumped cross-country for the first time.  It really feels good to be back schooling, and I am looking forward to taking the ride on my special youngster Almost Heaven away from Melissa and competing him myself; she has done a terrific job with him, but why should I let her have all the fun?
     My Irish horse Drifter has been on stall rest following a kick wound that required surgery to remove a chipped fragment of bone, but he is now recovered and ready to go back to work.  Between his surgery and mine we will have missed the spring competition season, but I look forward to Eventing him this autumn.  But in the meantime, it will be a joy to just hack him around the farm as I leg him up again.  How great it is just to ride!

April 30, 2010

     We have a lovely new foal; our good brood mare Gold Trinket had a beautiful colt on Tuesday, by our Irish stallion Brandenburg‘s Windstar.  Quite unusually, the foal appears to be a liver chestnut; Windstar usually throws dark greys or bays - in fact, I have never had a foal before that was born such a rich dark chestnut color.  It will be interesting to see if he stays this color or if he turns grey; it may be months before we really know.  He is the most gentle and sweet colt imaginable, like a big puppy dog. 

     The magic of seeing the foals born, watching them the first time they stand up and nurse, and their antics the first time they go out with their mothers in the paddock; it is something I never get tired of.  And the process of watching them grow, training them as they mature, and dreaming of the success they may someday have - that is why we do this.


April 13, 2010
     Spring is here in her full glory.  I know I say it every year, so my regular readers are probably sick of hearing about it, but April is probably my favorite time of the year.  As the flowers bloom and the trees leaf out, every day the world looks different.  Each spring there is one magical morning when I come outside and the maple trees in the yard are full with leaves, when the night before there were merely buds.  The changing colors along the edge of the woods always remind me of the Robert Frost poem:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

     We started our Event season this past weekend by taking a bunch of the young horses out to an unrecognized event at Loch Moy Farm in Maryland.  Yes, I know we are off to a bit of a late start, but somehow it didn't seem too enticing to enter Morven Park on opening day when there was still two feet of snow on the ground.  Since we don't have any upper level horses going at the moment we are not in a hurry, and after a winter of being stuck in the indoor arena, we wanted to make sure the young horses all had enough time to school outside and be properly prepared.
     Our preparations paid off and the horses all went great.  Melissa rode five for me, and several of the working students took horses out for their first competition.  Despite so many first timers, everything went smoothly - well, almost everything, that is.  There was that moment when one of the young horses became frightened on the trailer and threw a fit and got himself hung up on the chest chain, and while trying to get him loose my index finger got crushed in the chain, and Melissa was holding two horses and trying to load one of them to calm down the freaking out one, which I as trying to subdue, while blood from my finger was splattering everywhere, and the one Melissa was trying to load wouldn't get on the trailer, and Melissa had 12 minutes until her next dressage test but had one she had to show jump before that, who wasn't tacked up yet . . . yes, except for that, everything went pretty smoothly. 

Parker and Jess, winning at Loch Moy, offered for sale.

Orinoco and Heidi, first place at Loch Moy, offered for sale.

     So the final results for the day were that all of the Windchase horses were in the ribbons.  Orinoco (a.k.a. Zenon) ridden by Heidi Wardle and Parker ridden by Jess Mullins both won their divisions.  Melissa rode Jazz Ticket to 2nd place, Alhambra de la Galerna to third, Almost Heaven was fourth, Lochcarron finished fifth, and River Star, in the Training, was 5th.  (Many of these horses can be seen on the Horses for Sale page.) Also, Kelly Shine placed 3rd with Sport, and Dawn Zambito, after a very 'enthusiastic' warm-up on Cobbles, finished 5th.  And me? I ended up with a broken finger which will be in a splint for six weeks. And boy does it make typing a pain!


April 3, 2010
     At last, back on a horse!  Any day I can’t ride my horses I consider a wasted day (unless I am on some cool vacation), so of course it has been a frustration to me to be unable to ride for over five weeks following my neck surgery.  But the last few days I have been back in the saddle, and it feels just great.  Never mind that all I can do is mostly walk; just to be able to hack around the farm in this beautiful spring weather is glorious. 

My house in early spring.

     My competition horse Drifter got kicked and is laid up too at the moment, so he has been sharing my frustration in not being able to run and jump; he is not enjoying his stall rest.  Between his injury and my surgery, we probably won’t get to do any competing this spring, but I am focusing my attentions on a very fancy five-year-old named Almost Heaven, who really is quite heavenly to ride.  A tall black TB with a white blaze, he is quite the eye catcher, and I hope to be able to Event him by early summer.  In the meantime, I guess I have to let Melissa have all of the competitive fun.
     Actually, we have a really fabulous group of young horses beginning their Eventing careers this spring.  They have been in serious training all last autumn and winter, and are ready to come out now and start competing.  Melissa will be quite busy getting them all out, but is should be a lot of fun.  You will be seeing them soon on the Horses for Sale page.


March 26, 2010
     Spring is finally here, and I am enjoying every moment of it - though I would enjoy it more if I could be riding!  But I am doing well after having my neck surgery, and I intend to be out at least hacking around in the sunshine quite soon.  In the meantime, the grass has turned green, the daffodils are blooming, and the trees are all budding out like crazy.

     I am almost finished overhauling the website; be sure to check out the Windchase Photos page.  I will continue adding to it as I get a chance to take new photos and sort through some of my older ones.
     Event season is about to start, and even though I won't be riding myself during the early part of the season, I am looking forward to getting the young horses out.  We are really lucky to have such a really super group of youngsters that are all ready to start Eventing, so Melissa will have her hands full riding them at the competitions. 


March 11, 2010
     The snow has finally melted.  Well, almost, anyway; still some patches here and there, but for the most part the ground is bare.  The last few days have been warm and sunny, and the grass is starting to show the slightest tinge of green.  The daffodils are even poking their way up out of the ground, and the maple trees are showing signs of budding.  Spring is just around the corner.
     I have been fairly inactive since my neck surgery, trying to be careful not to overstress it by doing too much.  It has been three weeks today since the surgery, and things are starting to feel better.  I think riding is still a ways off, but at least I am able to go to the barn and teach a few lessons now - it feels really good to just get out of the house.  I have been trying to put my enforced rest time to good use by updating and overhauling this webpage - so far I am only about halfway done; with luck I will get most of it finished before I am once again spending all my time at the barn.  But I can sure hardly wait to get on a horse! 


February 23, 2010

The warmer temperatures are finally starting to melt the snow, creating the inevitable flooding, as all the places it would normally drain off are blocked with monstrous snow piles.  Several skylights got broken during the roof-shoveling marathon, so they make a handy conduit for the water to pour through the roof and into the riding arena and hayloft.  And anyplace not still covered with a foot of icepack is fast becoming knee deep in slush and mud.  But I am cleverly avoiding this lovely circumstance for the moment, as I have begun my enforced 'vacation.'
     I had surgery last Thursday to correct a long standing problem in my neck.  It has been causing me some pain for years, but recently the condition has progressed considerably, and after seeing the MRI, my neurosurgeon felt I was at significantly increased risk of serious spinal injury in the case of a fall.  As he put it, "If I am going to be riding around on horses, it is definitely time to get it fixed."  
The surgery involved removing two discs and fusing those joints with bone, then holding it all in place with a metal plate.  The procedure went well, and after just one night in the hospital I am home again.  Once I am healed up, I should be able to go back to riding with no more risk than anyone else.  But for the moment, I am stuck in the house, taking my pain pills and muscle relaxants and watching TV.  (Fortunately the Olympics are on.)  At this point I can only sit in front of the computer for very short periods, so I may not be able to reply promptly to E-mails. 
     The doctor says I should keep quiet and stay off the horses for at least a month; I am sure I will be stir crazy long before that.  But at least maybe the weather will be better by then!


February 15, 2010
     Well, the driveway is plowed, the roof is shoveled off, the snow is piled 15 feet high all around the barns, and we are gradually getting back to the business of riding and schooling the horses.  It feels really good to put down the snow shovel and get on a horse!  I am very grateful to all the working students and barn staff, and the wonderful job they have done coping with this incredible weather and making sure the horses have been perfectly cared for.  Much credit is due to Jineen Reed, Melissa Hunsberger, Kenny Popkins, Jenna Alwine, Xira Bartz, Jess Mullins, Taylor Simmons, and Dawn Zambito.  Hey Windchase boarders, bring them food!

    Loudoun County passed the record for the most cumulative snow in one winter two storms ago; I think we are now around 90 inches total.  And guess what, it is snowing again!  But we aren't expecting too much accumulation this time; anything under a foot is hardly even worth noticing any more.


February 11, 2010

     We're still here!  A bit buried in snowdrifts, but the barn is standing, and the horses are all fine.  Tuesday night's blizzard was severe, bringing an additional 18 inches or so of snow on top of the 30 that was already on the ground, along with winds gusting to 50mph.  But due to the valiant efforts of our friends and boarders shoveling off the roof Monday and Tuesday, the snow load is now back within the safety limits.  So though we are starting to feel a little like that movie 'Groundhog Day,' and we keep living the same snowstorm over and over again, things are looking brighter.  I won't go so far as to say things are back to normal, but at least we can get the horses out of the barn.  Lets just hope we don't get any more snow for a while!   



February 9, 2010
     This is beyond crazy.  Still reeling from the nearly three feet of snow we got this past weekend, we are now getting yet another major snowstorm, which is expected to dump another two feet on us in the next 24 hours.  Our biggest fear is the sheer weight of the snow, especially on the roof of the boarder barn/indoor arena. 
     The snow was about two and a half feet deep over most of the roof, but with a huge drift along the peak that was more like five feet.  After doing the math, we figured that there was more than 426 tons of snow, just on the south side of the roof.  This is a terrifying figure on its own, but with two more feet on the way, circumstances were looking dire.  Moving this tonnage is a daunting task, but with help from our friends we got a lot done.  Yesterday and today, we shoveled a huge portion of the snow off the barn.  Because of the large expanse of the roof, assembly lines are required to move the snow to where it can be pushed off the edge.  I put out a call for help, and many of our friends and neighbors came and pitched in.  For their hard work and dedicated shoveling, I want to express my most heartfelt thanks to Andrea Courson, Emily Curtis, Karen Eichert, Charles Hutchings, Bruce Mountz, Mike Reed, Anne Staszecki, and Tara Swersie, along with several of their friends whose names I don't know, and others I have probably forgotten to name.  Of course the Windchase staff all did a terrific job as well, with thanks due to Jineen Reed, Melissa Hunsberger, Jenna Alwine, Xira Bartz, Jess Mullins, Taylor Simmons, and Dawn Zambito.
     With the amount of snow that was on that roof, I feel sure that it would not have withstood the weight of the snow from this new storm if we had not shoveled it off; I have been hearing stories of buildings and arenas collapsing around the area.  But with what we accomplished in snow removal over the last two days, I feel like we are in pretty good shape.  Hopefully we will weather this storm!


February 7, 2010
     On the News they are calling it the Blizzard of 2010, and saying it's one for the history books.  I'm not sure if it quite broke the all-time snowfall record in Washington, but we got well over 30 inches here at Windchase.  To say we are buried is an understatement.  The snow is so deep and heavy that the tractor can't get through it even with the chains on, and Bruce Mountz' truck and snowplow are stuck in my driveway, overwhelmed by the sheer depth.  It is also almost impossible to walk in - you are tired by the time you go twenty feet - and getting from the house to the barn is a major undertaking.
     I have arranged for a guy with a bulldozer to come and dig us out, but he hasn't made it yet.  They haven't plowed Kidwell Road out yet, so nobody is going anywhere.  Melissa and I have been carrying feed by horseback out to the far run-in sheds to feed the broodmares and youngsters; you couldn't get up the hill any other way.  It makes me feel kind of like a cowboy!  
But for all the extra work involved with the blizzard, I do have to admit that it is beautiful.   

The Blizzard of 2010

     The girls in the barn have done a great job battling the elements to get all the horses cared for; shoveling paths to empty wheelbarrows and turn horses out is a huge effort, and the single digit temperatures at night don't make it any easier.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Jenna Alwine, Xira Bartz, Jess Mullins, Taylor Simmons, Dawn Zambito, and of course Melissa Hunsberger for their fantastic efforts on behalf of the Windchase horses.

The Windchase Crew

     Hopefully things will get easier this week, as we get dug out and life gets back more or less to normal.  Oh, and I hear it is supposed to snow on Tuesday . . .


February 5, 2010
     I've decided I really like snow.  Bitter cold, too.  That lovely feeling when your hands freeze and you can't feel your feet?  Divine.  Being warm and comfortable is over-rated.  At least that is what I am trying to convince myself.  
It's getting a little ridiculous - this is the third snowstorm in a week.  I guess the first two hardly count, as we have reached the point this winter where a mere 7 or 8 inches of snow seems barely worthy of notice; but what we are getting tonight is a different story.   It started coming down mid-morning, and so far we have about eight inches (on top of 4  or 5 left over from the last two storms), but it is supposed to get really heavy tonight and tomorrow.  The latest forecast is for upwards of 30 inches of snow by tomorrow evening, along with gusting winds and really cold temperatures.  Sounds like fun!
     Remember when we had two feet of snow before Christmas?  I said then that I considered it sort of an adventure to get a really big snowfall every once in a while - like once every ten years.  But by that reckoning, we shouldn't have had to deal with another one until at least 2019.

Keep warm,

January 22, 2010
Out of the Deep Freeze!  After a month of severe winter weather with a lot of snow and ice, we have been really enjoying a bit of warmer weather; its been in the forties the past week, and even up near fifty a few times.  Never mind the inch of sleet this morning, that was just a minor setback . . .
     Winter is kind of a quiet time for us.  Many riders and trainers go to Florida or South Carolina, but I feel that if I am lucky enough to have a beautiful farm like Windchase, why would I want to leave it for three months?  Sure it's cold, but each season has its own unique beauty.  And winter is a great time to concentrate on training the green horses, improving the more experienced ones, and looking forward to the coming spring competition season.  Though after a month in the indoor arena, it sure is nice to get out for a hack around the farm.
     But I have a new challenge at the moment - I just bought a new computer.  My old one was on its last legs, so I finally replaced it, and now I am in the process of trying to get the new one up and running, and installing all the software.  I've heard good things about Windows 7, but it's really different from the Windows XP that I am used to - why do they have to keep changing everything?  Hard to keep up with technology - old dog new tricks and all that.  Hopefully I will get it figured out; if not I may have to find a third grader to help me.


January 1, 2010
     Happy New Year!
     We had nice holiday season here at Windchase; even though the big snow before Christmas created a lot of work, we did enjoy it.  I bought a cheap plastic sled at Nichols Hardware, and in a display of Christmas Eve silliness, the barn staff all went sledding. 


     Although the snow on the hillsides was not packed enough for the sled, we had a big pile by the barn from clearing the driveway which worked nicely; it was a short ride, but a fast one.  From there, it was on to the bank drops on the cross-country course; I don't think those obstacles had ever been negotiated in quite that way. 


     Just as well we sledded while we could, because rain on Christmas day melted the snow all at once; I never saw two feet of snow disappear so quickly.  But then snow again for a White New Years - I think we have already had more winter weather this year than the previous three put together.
     Over Christmas when my sister's family was here we went wine tasting; there are quite a few vineyards in the area now, at least three of which are within several miles of Windchase.  There is a fairly new one on Sagle Road that actually adjoins our property on the back, so we decided to give it a try.  It is called Notaviva, which means 'the intrinsic effect of music upon human emotion,' and goes along with their very original approach of pairing their wines with music.  Good wine, beautiful views, friendly hosts; we had an excellent time, and I would highly recommend that you stop in and check it out.  For more information you can check out their website:
     The Windchase Mini Clinics are going strong; I hold these informal jumping clinics every Sunday afternoon through the winter.  We gave groups from Elementary through Preliminary, so there is something for everybody.  Contact me if you want more info or are interested in participating.


December 26, 2009
Jineen and I had a wonderful vacation in the Scottish Highlands this summer, and finally, I have finished the trip report and posted it, along with photos.  Sorry it took so long, but its hard to find time for such things.  Click here to read about our trip to Scotland, July 2009


December 22, 2009
Looking out across the yard this past Sunday morning, the world was pristine.  Deep snow blanketed the ground and the trees were heavily laden. The sun was out and the sky was blue, and everything sparkled with a million diamonds. 

     It had started snowing on Friday night, and it didn't stop until sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning - we ended up with two feet of snow.  And though I don't generally welcome such weather because of the extra work it makes around the farm, I have to admit that I like to get a really big snowfall every so often - once every ten years is about right - and I guess we were about due for one. 
 On Sunday it was a major undertaking just to get the horses out of the barn.  I spent most of the day on the tractor clearing paths around the stables and to the fields, while Melissa and the working students shoveled out gates and doorways, labored through the drifts getting the horses to their pastures, and got all the feeding and mucking done.  The girls did a super job taking care of the horses during difficult conditions; all you boarders remember to include them in your Christmas baking!

     When the work was done at the end of the day, I spent some quiet time enjoying the splendor of the evening and trying to capture a little of it with my camera.  The snow around the house lay mostly untracked, and the sky was of soft pastels.  I watched across a snowy field as the sun slipped below the horizon, and the sky glowed with a warm light.  I looked up to see that the last rays had turned the mountain ridge to a brilliant rose color.  Making my way through the thigh-deep drifts to the back yard, I saw to my amazement that the lake had turned to a deep glowing pink, the swimming geese totally oblivious to its radiant hue. 

     On Monday morning I took Drifter for a hack out across the fields.  The deep untouched snow stretched before us, an expanse of brilliant white.  We both enjoyed the incredible beauty of a perfect silent world, sharing it with deer, squirrels, wild turkeys and a myriad of small birds.  Along the edge of the woods we paused to examine countless tracks, everything from the marks of a mouse’s tiny feet to the deep hoofprints of a buck.  Out in the hay field, I came across the brush marks of large wings in the snow, converging with a trail of small footprints, where a hawk or an owl had swooped down upon some tiny rodent. 

     I think I might have revised my opinion about White Christmases; they may be worth the trouble after all. Not every year, mind you, but once in a while.

Merry Christmas,

December 19, 2009
We are in the middle of a record-breaking December snowstorm at the minute; 18 inches of snow on the ground so far, and it is supposed to keep snowing for another 10 hours.  I just got in from feeding the horses that live in the run-in sheds; the only vehicle that will go in the deep snow is the tractor, which has heavy duty chains but no cab - this makes it a somewhat 'invigorating' activity.  Much thanks to our friend and neighbor Bruce Mountz, who is keeping our roadways plowed out!
     A heavy snow always creates a lot of extra work taking care of the horses, but it really gives you a great feeling at the end of the day when they are standing snug in their stalls, munching hay, warm and happy as the snow piles up outside.  And though I have always considered White Christmases overrated, I do have to admit that this snow is beautiful.

     I bought myself an early Christmas present this year; a new horse trailer.  I have had the old one since 1988, and it has been a great trailer, but was showing definite signs of wear. So now I have a brand new five-horse gooseneck from H.R. Collins, so we will be going to the Events in style!  Though it's so clean and nice, I'm not sure I should let the horses ride in it . . .


     Our friend Laura Murphy has started a little horse blanket business, and she is offering some lovely Windchase dress coolers for sale.  They are navy blue with light blue trim, and the Windchase logo on the left shoulder; they are very smart, as shown in the photo of Drifter modeling one.  She also has some nice turnout blankets available, and shipping boots.  All are quite reasonably priced; $50 for the coolers, $50 for the shipping boots, and $75 for the turnout blankets, including shipping.  If you are interested in ordering one, let me know and I can put you in contact with Laura.


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