EN Today: Ocala training sessions begin

Fancy horses, fantastic event riders, freaking huge squirrels… just another day in sunny Slocala.

EN would like to thank Sarah Finkel for her write-up of the Training Sessions in Ocala. Sarah is a junior at University of Delaware majoring in International Relations. She rode with Danny Warrington for about 6 years before she went off to the O’Connors’ last year during her college winter break. Sarah acquired her horse Deep Sea (a.k.a. The Cutest Man in the World) as a 4 year old and they just moved up to preliminary last fall. Her spring goal is to do the Virginia CCI*. Thanks for sharing, Sarah, and thanks for reading!



Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me, photo by Maggie Deatrick

From Sarah:

Ocala has been picked on a lot lately with names like “Slocala” and reports of  “the wildlife.” I’ll admit the squirrels here do scare me. They’re just really really big! And kind of monkeylike… But it’s OK, we know you’re just jealous. Although I hear you have to go quite far north to experience anything like a usual winter, so don’t hate! Ocala has been showing some international flair lately with just a short walk between the U.S. and Canada for both teams’ training sessions at Meredyth South. To start things off, both teams did dressage on Wednesday. It was quite impressive to see where everyone is at this point in the year. You would hardly believe any of these horses took any time off. 

I was very curious to see Marilyn Little-Meredith and her recent acquisition, RF Rovano Rex. The horse is absolutely stunning to watch and could probably make just as nice of a dressage horse as he does an eventer. I asked Marilyn if she ever imagined she would be at these training sessions and she replied that no, her goal was a CCI*** last year and her goal for this spring is Rolex. Even with the Olympics this year, the qualifying competitions she did, and the training sessions Marilyn isn’t looking further than Rolex, just yet. She emphasized that she is just having a lot of fun! Her show jumping background has helped her understand a lot of what eventers do while her new eventing knowledge has helped her communicate more easily with her event students, explaining to them the feelings they want in a way they understand more readily than “show jumping lingo.” “I might tell my student think of the canter you have in the corner of the dressage ring or when you’re preparing for a flying change. They already know how to do it, they just need to hear it in the language they understand.”

On day two the riders had more choice of whether they wanted to do more dressage (yuck), or jump, with some opting to do a bit of a cross-country school. Becky Holder was one rider who chose to have another flat lesson with the Captain and she brought her dressage coach Gunnar Ostergaard along to watch. Becky told me how much she appreciated Captain Mark Phillips’ openness to working with her coach to create a plan for where she and Can’t Fire Me, or Teddy, need to take their riding next. “I chose to do dressage again today and felt I was able to implement the things we worked on yesterday while taking it further and working on more movements today. It has been very productive.”

Karen O’Connor’s Mr. Medicott was another horse I was excited to see go and he is everything you would expect from a horse with such a resume and more! Karen felt that she is definitely developing a partnership with Mr. Medicott and said he is a very kind and intelligent horse. Having just gotten back from a week in Wellington sharpening up the dressage and show jumping with all of her horses she is feeling readier than ever to take on the upcoming season and especially looking forward to her first run with Mr. Medicott at Ocala Horse Properties next weekend. Sounds like Mr. Medicott is speaking English these days! Maybe with a little Ocala southern drawl…


Guter junge! (That means Attaboy!) 

Last horse of the day was The Apprentice and Buck Davidson. Marilyn can’t feel too out of place with a horse like The Apprentice jumping nearby. It’s hard to say if Buck had a lesson or was showing off. I heard CMP say, “I don’t think we should change his jump” and I would have to agree! I don’t see anything wrong there except I don’t think I could ride it!


Hang on Buck!

Eventually CMP told Buck, “Put him away! You’re having too much fun!”

Over in the Canadian Camp, David O’Connor said he was very pleased to see that all the horses looked happy and healthy. “This weekend,” he said, “is about communication and fundamentals. Making sure the fundamentals are correct before we put them to use getting ready for competition.” The Canadians are also using video analysis of their rides to study and record their progress, always a great tool! There is a good deal of camaraderie between the two teams as they share Meredyth South’s training facilities. There is even a Canadian/American jump in the field!




North American Alliance? 

As the two teams prepare for the season, it is too early in the year to draw “borders.” The U.S. session ends today and the Canadians have one more day left. Both are sure to finish up just as productively as they started off whether there is more to be ironed out or just shown off!

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