The latest news about whats happening at Olympic rider Phyllis Dawson's Eventing farm, Windchase.
Invest in the Journey, not the Destination.
June 5, 2010 - December 24, 2010)
Notes from Phyllis



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trip to Canada in 2010.

Canada 2010

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Phyllis's Travels

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 I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. 

                             ~ Charles Dickens ~

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New: Read about Phyllis and Jineen's trip to the Canadian Rockies. 


December 24, 2010
     I am very lucky to have such a wonderful group of people working at Windchase, and I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the great job they do.  Much thanks to barn manager/trainer Jineen Reed, trainers Melissa Hunsberger and Dana Bivens, staff members Heidi Wardle and Dawn Zambito, farm hand Kenny Popkins, and working students Chloe Brownlee, Julia Horton and Ashlynn Riefenrath.  Thanks also to the Windchase Boarders, who are a great bunch to work with.  Having such good friends in the barn makes every day a pleasure.

     I hope all of you have the chance to spend at least part of the holidays with family and friends.  Hereís wishing you a very Merry Christmas.


December 15, 2010
     The weather has been bitter cold the last few weeks on the east coast, but I managed to escape to a warm climate for a few days; I spent most of the last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I attended the U. S. Eventing Association Annual Convention.  As a newly appointed member of the USEA Board of Governors, I look forward to the chance to give back to the sport that has done so much for me over the years.  The meetings and educational programs I attended were excellent, and it was kind of fun to stay in a posh resort like the Westin Kierland.  But though the weather was lovely, I was in meetings most of the time and so didnít get to be outside enjoying the sunshine as much as I would have liked.
     I did get a chance to go out in the desert, though. The first morning I was there I didnít have any meetings before noon, so I got up early and left the resort at sunrise, picking a couple of oranges from the trees outside the hotel for breakfast on my way out.  I drove east and north away from the city to McDowell Mountain Park, where I went for a lovely hike on a secluded trail through the desert.  
It was a landscape of dry sand, cactus and mesquite, punctuated by iconic saguaro cactus standing tall against the brilliant blue sky.  I left the path and clambered up to the top of a ridge for a panoramic view of the rugged mountains rising up beyond the desert floor.  Save for an assortment of birds and two coyotes, I was totally alone.  The only sounds were the birds singing and my own footsteps.  

     One can easily get used to the beautiful weather in Arizona.  I heard the long-term forecast for the Phoenix-Scottsdale area on the news; it said ĎSunny and Seventies until April.í  It was quite a difference returning to temperatures in the teens and twenties in Virginia.  But still, itís good to be back home: though the desert has its own unique kind of beauty, itís still desert - and it canít compare with the green hills of Windchase.


November 25, 2010 
     I know I have gotten behind in updating this column, but it's not my fault; the weather has been so lovely all through November, how could I possibly make myself sit down and do office work?  Who wants to be inside in front of a computer when they could be riding a nice horse through the autumn countryside!  Surrounded by such beauty, it is easy to think of a thousand things to be thankful for.

     Not only have the days been gorgeous, but the evenings have been giving us spectacular sunsets.  I have been trying to take advantage of the chance to photograph the 'Hunter's Moon' as it comes up over the mountain and lake.   
      I hope you have a great Thanksgiving, and spend it with friends and family.


November 1, 2010
     It has been an especially beautiful autumn.  It is a joy to ride around the farm each day, enjoying the vibrant colors of the foliage against the cobalt sky.  I live a charmed life.

     Jineen and I took a daytrip to Skyline Drive last week, where we went hiking in the Shenandoah National Park.  The weather forecast was for sunny and high fifties, but up on the mountain it was extremely windy and only 41 degrees.  The views were dramatic; the leaves were near their peak of color, and long shafts of sunlight broke through the passing clouds.  The wind was gusting so strong on the ridge top we couldn't get out of the car without fear of being blown away.
     Heading downhill and out of the wind, we took a loop trail along the Rose River, which led past a series of cascades and pools to a waterfall.  The sky cleared to a deep blue, and the trees were all in gold and scarlet.  We were alone in the forest - we could hear nothing but the wind in the trees, the sound of the water, and our own footsteps in the leaves underfoot. 
Jineen has very keen eyes for sighting wildlife, and we hadn't been on the trail very long before she saw movement in the trees below us - to our delight it was a black bear.  We watched him, enthralled.  Furtively sneaking from tree to tree, we were able to make our way closer.  Hiding behind a tree trunk, we watched him digging among the leaves and eating acorns.  We were about 100 feet from him before he saw us and booked out of there. 


     After completing the waterfall loop, we traveled further south on Skyline Drive, enjoying the fabulous vistas.  We then hiked to Bearfence Mountain, a loop trail that goes up over a series of high rock outcroppings to the summit.  In places the path went straight up the face of sheer boulders, which we scrambled over using crevices in the rock for footholds.  The sheer drop-offs were acrophobia inducing, but the spectacular views we were rewarded with made it well worth it.
     In the evening we parked at an overlook, where we had Happy Hour while watching the brilliant sunset over the Shenandoah Valley.  All in all, a great day.  For those of you who live in Virginia but have not yet visited Skyline Drive or the Shenandoah National Park, you are missing an amazing treasure.  

Bearfence Mountain

     Windchase had a good weekend competing, with some of our riders going to three different competitions.  Heidi Wardle won the Area II Novice Championships in Lexington, VA with Guy DeCorte's talented Irish horse Tulla Gold.  She would have also been Reserve Champion on Kilronan Farm's lovely mare Little Gem, except for a misunderstanding of the equipment rules causing a technical elimination.  Windchase's assistant trainer Dana Bivens rode her thoroughbred Happy Go Lucky in the Intermediate at Lexington, placing 6th with a double clear SJ and XC.  At the unrecognized events, congratulations to Wendy Jones for winning at Waredaca, and Karen Eichert for her win on Lochcarron at Loch Moy.  Emma Dixon and Andrea Courson were also well placed.  

     On Saturday night we went to watch the Washington International Horse Show, where many of the top horses and riders in the world competed for the coveted President's Cup.  It was especially cool to watch McLain Ward win this jumper classic with his awesome mare Sapphire; the efficient tight turns she made in the jump off were amazing. 


October 26, 2010
     We had another beautiful Eventing weekend, with perfect weather and the autumn foliage at its peak.  Windchase sent eleven horses to the Waredaca Horse Trials in Maryland, and we had a lot of fun.
     My Irish horse Drifter did his first Preliminary, and we really had a blast.  He started off with a fairly good dressage ride despite the busy Prelim Test B in the small arena.  He then show jumped clear in outrageous style, clearing the fences by several feet to take the lead - he really enjoys showing off for an audience.  On cross country Drifter couldn't have gone better; he jumped clean over quite a challenging course, with just some time penalties, to finish 8th.  I really had a great time riding him around the course, and can hardly wait for the next event.
     Congratulations also to Windchase working student Chloe Brownlee, who did a great job with her horse Toby to place 9th in the Half Star Training Three Day.


October 15, 2010

     This summer Jineen and I took a really great vacation to the Canadian Rockies; I have finally finished writing up the journal.  There are a lot of photos so the pages may take a few minutes to load, but hopefully you will find it worthwhile.  Click on this link to read about our trip:  Canada2010_1.htm

Our trip to the Canadian Rockies


October 6, 2010

     It is not often one gets the chance to watch the World Championships on home turf.  Jineen and I we felt it was an opportunity not to be missed, so we went down to Lexington, Kentucky to watch the Eventing portion of the World Equestrian Games.  We met up with our friends from Mexico City, Pedro Gutierrez and his wife Angelita, and we had a really awesome time.

The XC fences were huge!

     The Eventing dressage was of a very high quality for the most part, and we saw a lot of really lovely horses.  But on walking the cross country, which was huge and very technical, it was very clear that this would not be a dressage competition.  Indeed, the course, designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, caused plenty of excitement, but fortunately there were no serious injuries, and it produced an excellent result.  The American team moved up to Silver Medal position after XC, and they were only one rail away from Gold.  But sadly it was not to be, and things fell apart for the US in the Show Jumping, with penalties by several of the riders dropping the  team to fourth place.  The team gold medal was very deservedly won by the British; they rode circles around the rest of the world, and were very impressive in their win.  The Canadian also rode like superstars, to bring home the team silver, and New Zealand earned the bronze.  
In the individual competition, Michael Jung of Germany was really impressive, winning the individual gold by a good margin.  He was followed up by William Fox Pitt of Great Britain and Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand for the silver and bronze.  Boyd Martin was the best of the USA riders, finishing tenth.  The legendary NZ rider Mark Todd, back in competition after an eight year hiatus, placed 11th.  All in all, it was really great to get to watch the best riders in the world in action.

Fuego XII from Spain in the Musical Freestyle.

     We also got the chance to watch the Grand Prix Dressage Musical Freestyle, which was just spectacular.  The black stallion from The Netherlands, Totilas, was amazing to watch as he put in a gold medal performance.  But the crowd favorite was the Spanish horse, Fuego XII; he is an Andalusian stallion with incredible animation and movement - both he and his rider performed with expression and flair.  When Fuego did the extended trot his front legs went so high his knees were almost hitting his chin, and his passage, piaffe and canter pirouettes were to die for.  But best of all was when his rider went down the center line doing passage and tempi changes with the reins in one hand, and the other hand waving to the crowd.  I never knew dressage could be so much fun!


September 23, 2010

     Congratulations to Heidi Wardle, who won the BN at the American Eventing Championships on Guy DeCorte's lovely Irish Draught horse Tulla Gold.   Heidi also was in the ribbons with Kilronan Farm's Little Gem.  We have really enjoyed training these two talented horses at Windchase, and it was fun to have them put in such a great showing at the AECs.
     The weather has been beautiful; I really enjoy the change from summer to autumn.  The air is clear, the sky is blue, and the leaves are just starting to turn; it makes for beautiful hacking.  But boy do we need some rain!  We have very little rain for months now, and the ground is as hard as a rock. 
     We took some of the very green horses and riders over to the horse trials at Elysian Hills last weekend and had a lot of fun.  Our homebred four year old Lyra won the elementary division (with Melissa riding), and all the others went really well too.  It was a nice old-fashioned unrecognized event - very informal and educational - a perfect first outing for the greenies, and a lot of fun.


September 5, 2010
This weekend was perfect Eventing weather, and we enjoyed it fully at the Seneca Valley Horse Trials.  As always it was a beautifully run competition, and the cross country course was excellent.  We need rain, but they had done a nice job aerating the ground to make the footing as good as possible.
     I am really happy to be back competing Drifter again.  Because I had neck surgery back in February, I missed the spring season, so both Drifter and have been feeling a little rusty.  But we had a really good go on Saturday, jumping clean and fast, to win the Training Horse division.
     Melissa Hunsberger moved Starstruck up to Preliminary and went well to finish 4th, and she was also 2nd in the Training on River Star.  Both of these talented horses are Windchase homebreds by our Irish stallion Windstar.  Good performances were also put in by Windchase students Ashlynn Riefenrath, Chloe Brownlee, and Jeff Speagle at the Training level.
     Our good run continued on Sunday.  Melissa rode Jet to a win in the Novice, and Heidi Wardle also won with Kilronan Farm's nice Irish Draught mare Little Gem.  I had a fun ride around the Novice on my young thoroughbred Almost Heaven, who jumped like a champ.  All in all, it was a great weekend.

Melissa wins with Jet  (offered for sale)  at Seneca Valley.

     We are also really excited for Katie Willis; she and Polar Storm (by Brandenburg's Windstar) just won the Advanced division at the Five Points Horse Trials at the Carolina Horse Park.  This follows on the heels of her placing third in the Advanced at Millbrook a couple of weeks ago, so she is on a roll.  It is really fun to watch Katie, a former Windchase working student, have such success on this talented horse that she trained herself. 


August 27, 2010
It has been a hot dry summer, but at least we have gotten some rain and cooler temperatures lately, and the feel of autumn is starting to be in the air.  And with it, the anticipation of the autumn Event Season.
     Last weekend we took the green horses to the Potomac Pony Club combined test; it was the first time we had been to this venue, and we were delighted - the friendly relaxed atmosphere and nice facilities made it a perfect first outing for the youngsters.  Melissa rode three for me in the green division; Polaris and Lyra, both homebred Irish Sport Horses by Brandenburg's Windstar, and a young promising Thoroughbred named Prospector.  It was the very first show ever for all three, and they went like champs.  In fact, Polaris may have set an eventing record, scoring only 11.5 penalties in the dressage; this big rangy charcoal grey five-year-old is immensely talented, and probably the best horse I have bred.  At the end of the day my three horses placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th, but they were only beat by another of Windchase's entries; Heidi Wardle won the division on Kilronan's Glenstone, a lovely four-year-old Irish Draught stallion, owned by Larry and Michelle Robbins' Kilronan Farm.  Heidi also had a good ride on her new young horse Logan, as did Jessica Schenck on Karin Harper's nice young homebred mare Punky.  Julia Horton on Jett, Dawn Zambito on Cobbles Creek, and Michelle Robbins on Little Gem all had good goes to round out a successful Windchase outing. 

Heidi Wardle riding Kilronan's Glenstone


August 7, 2010
We just got back from a wonderful vacation; Jineen and I spent eight days in the Canadian Rockies.  We had four days hiking in Banff and Jasper National Parks, and four days trail riding and camping with the wranglers in the Willmore Wilderness Area.  The weather was perfect, the scenery was spectacular, and we had a terrific time - we would have loved to stay another week.  I took a zillion photos, and as soon as I get time I will write up a trip report and post it with pictures.

     Congratulations to Tiziana (Prem) Billy, former Windchase working student; Tizi recently represented her country, Guatemala, at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Puerto Rica - and she won the Eventing Individual Gold Medal!  The Games are multi-sport Regional Championships held every four years, between Olympics, similar to the Pan American Games - they are a big deal; athletes from 31 countries competed in 32 sports.  Tizi rode her horse Shandon, and won it all, coming away with the Gold.  Everyone here at Windchase is very proud of her!

Tiziana and Shandon, Gold Medallists at the Central American / Caribbean Games.


July 27, 2010
Everyone had been talking about the weather lately; though it has cooled down now, this past weekend was a real scorcher with the temps reaching 104 degrees both days.  I don't mind it too much though after the winter we had; I keep telling people the good thing about the heat and humidity is that you don't have to shovel it off the indoor arena roof.
     But never mind that; it is vacation time.  Jineen and I are taking off this morning for the Canadian Rockies.  We will do some hiking and some sightseeing, but best of all, we have booked a four day riding/pack horse/camping trip in the Willmore Wilderness area, a remote park with no roads, accessible only by horseback or backpacking.  Should be awesome; Jineen and I in the wilderness with a bunch of cowboys!  I will tell you about it when (or if) I get back.


July 19, 2010

     Windchase had another good weekend at Loch Moy, at the second installment of the summer Maryland Horse Trials.  Melissa Hunsberger tied for first in the BN with Michelle and Larry Robbins' lovely Irish Draught mare Little Gem, and Heidi Wardle won her division on Guy DeCorte's ID gelding Tulla Gold.  Both of these horses are now qualified for the American Eventing Championships, and Windchase is very proud to work with the excellent Irish horses from Kilronan Farm.  Our working student Jessica Schenck was also in the ribbons with her mare Jazzy Queen, so it was a good day all around.  It is nice to take out the horses that are new to Eventing at such a nice venue - but most of the more seasoned campaigners get a break from competing this time of year because of the heat and hard ground.  And on that note, has it ever been a hot summer so far!  I guess it is making up for the cold winter.  

Little Gem, owned by Kilronan Farm

Tulla Gold, owned by Guy DeCorte

     A couple of nights ago, I was sleeping soundly in my bed at around 5:00a.m. when suddenly I was awakened abruptly by a loud explosive noise and the sensation of the house shaking and the windows rattling.  I jumped out of bed, heart pounding, sure that the furnace had blown up, or perhaps the air conditioner unit had exploded.  Listening intently for smoke alarms, I searched the house for damage.  Finding none, I went outside to see if a plane had crashed in the back yard - but no smoldering remains were in apparent.  Presently I concluded that no catastrophes had occurred and returned to bed - but I had a hard time getting back to sleep, because for the life of me I couldn't imagine what could such a ruckus and then leave no trace.  Surely I couldn't have dreamed the whole thing.
     But in the morning, the mystery was solved.  After checking the yard to see if perchance a large tree had fallen on the house in the night (it had not), I got in my car and turned on the radio - to be greeted with the news that we had experienced an earthquake!  OK, I know you guys in California are rolling your eyes and saying no big deal, but to us here in Virginia, a real live seismic event is an occurrence to remember.  Imagine, our very own earthquake.  That's the great thing about life; you never know what will happen next.


July 15, 2010
Melissa had an excellent day at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy last weekend, winning both the Training division with her talented Starstruck, a Windchase homebred by Brandenburg's Windstar, and also winning the Beginner Novice with Michelle and Larry Robbins' Irish Draught mare Little Gem.  Those double victory days don't come along too often, so we enjoy them while we can!
     We celebrated Independence Day as we usually do, by going to the annual party at the home of Dr. Howard, my veterinarian for many years while I was growing up.  Always great to see old friends, and many of them were there.  I have a new camera and was experimenting with some fireworks photography; click here to see the photos.

     Recently I drove through Montgomery County, Maryland, to go to the Seneca Valley Horse Trials, and I am now thrilled to find that out they have a wonderful new service.  As you drive down some of their roads, they will take a nice color photograph of your car, and mail it to you - all you have to do is send them $40 to pay for the photo.  I am now the proud owner of such a portrait of my car; if you want one of your car let me know, and I can send you details of where to drive to take advantage of this service.  All you have to do is go 40mph in a 25 zone . . .


July 1, 2010
     Last weekend Windchase hosted the 2010 Dawson/Jarman Family Reunion.  Our family has been trying to have a get-together each summer the past few years, and Jineen and I put on the party this time.  It was great fun, with pretty much all of the family here; at best count we had 73 for dinner on Saturday.  Of course, I had prepared about twice as much food as we needed - we will be eating leftovers for weeks.
     We used this weekend to celebrate Mom's 90th Birthday; one of the highlights was a team scavenger hunt style game which we dubbed 'The Amazing Grace Race.'  It was super to get to see everyone; we are lucky to have such a close-knit family.  Mom especially enjoyed the chance to spend time with her four great-grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 5; it was a treat to watch the members of the youngest Dawson generation get to know each other and play together. 


June 21, 2010
Windchase has always been a haven for wildlife.  Every time we hack out around the farm we are in the company of deer, squirrels, and rabbits.  We see foxes often; when we are very lucky we can watch the fox cubs at play.  Twice in the last week I have ridden very close to a newborn fawn - one following its mother, and one lying hidden in the grass until I was within feet of it.  Coyotes have moved back into the area and are occasionally sighted in the fields, drawing attention away from the multitude of small creatures that are easily overlooked; field mice, chipmunks, moles and shrews.  The nocturnal possums, skunks and raccoons are rarely glimpsed in the daylight, but can often be encountered if one is out in the wee hours.
     Birds are abundant, from the songbirds inhabiting the hedgerows and forests to the hawks and vulture soaring aloft.  Most days we will see bluebirds flitting along the fencelines, red headed or pileated woodpeckers flying high among the trees, or a lone great blue heron winging his way over the farm, its distinctive silhouette and flight pattern making it seem a throwback from the Jurassic era.  Occasionally an osprey puts in an appearance, spending a day at the lake en route to somewhere else, and wild ducks, grebes, and cormorants sometimes stop by when passing through, hanging out with the ubiquitous Canadian geese.  In the evenings we can hear the owls calling, their knowing voices welcoming the dusk, and sometimes as the light fades we will catch a glimpse of them, or hear the whoosh of their wings as they go by.  And just once, I sat on my horse on a high hillside, and watched as a bald eagle flew from a tree right in front of me and spiraled down the air below.
     Other, colder creatures live here too; black snakes, water snakes, snapping turtles and terrapins all reside on the farm, as well as the chorus of tree frogs and bull frogs that make music in the night.  It is always with great appreciation that I observe the diversity of the wildlife around me.
     But today, something special happened.  This morning, a black bear crawled under the fence and strolled across the front section of the boarder field, not far from the outdoor arena.  Unconcerned with Melissa riding in the ring, it crossed the fenceline over into the next pasture, then loped on through the top of the mares field, before disappearing behind the treeline and out into the cross country field.  We knew a bear had been glimpsed several times around the area, but this was the first time one had openly crossed the pastures in plain view.  You never know what you will get to see at Windchase!


June 13, 2010
We had a good time at the Seneca Valley Horse Trials this weekend, despite the hot humid weather.  Melissa had excellent rides in the Training division with her two up-and-coming mounts, placing 5th with River Star and 6th with Starstruck.  Both of these talented youngsters are by our Irish stallion Brandenburg's Windstar, and both are very special. 
     Heidi Wardle competed her Gemini (a.k.a. Moving Illusion) in the Preliminary, jumping around clear in great style to finish 8th.  Melissa also rode two for me in the Novice, placing 2nd on the talented youngster Almost Heaven, and 4th on Jazz Time.  (See the Horses for Sale page.)  For the time being I am still on the sidelines at the competitions after having neck surgery earlier this year, but I don't intend to let Melissa have all the fun for too much longer. 

Gemini and Heidi

Melissa riding Jazz Time

     My mother is doing really well following her emergency surgery a few weeks ago; her recovery has been amazing.  She has regained most of her strength, and it is all I can do to keep her off the lawn tractor at the moment.  We have plans to celebrate her 90th birthday properly, with a big Family Reunion the last weekend in June.  She is looking forward to seeing everyone, especially her great grandchildren!


June 5, 2010
It has been a tough week at Windchase.  I had planned to spend it riding and training, but all of that changed abruptly when my mother, Grace, became sick.  After having her checked out in the emergency room at Leesburg, I ended up driving her down to the hospital in Lynchburg, VA, where my brother is CEO.  She had to have emergency surgery to remover her inflamed gall bladder.  The surgery went well, but recovering from something like that is hard on someone her age, and there were many sleepless nights for my brother George, my sister Patty, and myself.  Mom celebrated her 90th birthday in the Intensive Care Unit. 

     My mother is a terrific person, known to many of her friends and family as ĎAmazing Grace.í  She is an inspiration to everyone who knows her.  She has always been the sort of person who could do everything, whether it be building barns, cooking fabulous meals, making riding coats, or building cross-country jumps - in addition of course to raising five headstrong children.  At age 90, she still gets out on the zero-turn lawn tractor and mows the lawn.  She is back home now and doing really well, and we expect she will soon be back to her old self.
     I am very lucky to have such a great staff to keep things running smoothly during my unplanned absence.  Jineen, Melissa and the working students all did a great job as usual, and I want to express my gratitude to them.  George and Patty were terrific through this tough time and we all got through it together; I am very fortunate to have such a close family.


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