Maat van Uitert is preparing to fly south for the winter with her two upper-level dressage horses, a retired FEI mare, and a baby event horse, and she’s letting HN tag along!
Enjoy the first installation of her series.
Welcome to the Snowbird Diaries
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
No, it’s not Christmas (yet), nor is it the start of the school year. It’s that glorious time when equestrians all over the world turn their eyes to south Florida in anticipation of the winter season in Wellington! With the non-stop events every weekend, I can’t think of a better place to be during the cold winter months. Welcome to The Snowbird Diaries, your go-to guide to beat the winter blues, experience the horse scene in wonderful Wellington, and follow me and my team of horses as we train and compete in south Florida!
Wellington is an amazing place in the winter. It’s the only place you can see such an international gathering of the world’s best dressage riders compete on American soil, and this year we have the added benefit of the first North American Global Dressage Forum to boot. Last year I almost ran smack dab into Steffen Peters as he was giving an interview (damn texting and walking, when will I learn?). Where else in the US can you make such a fool of yourself? Hopefully this year I’m a little less of a klutz.
This year I’m bringing four of my horses along for the journey: Nikita, my Grand Prix mare; Sublime JS, my Prix St. George gelding; TopGear JS (aka TG) my FEI-event prospect; and Nicolbria JS, my now-retired FEI mare (now a broodmare). Nikita and Nicolbria’s favorite game is to squeal at each other like a couple of dinosaurs, and I spent last year praying the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops with a noise complaint. Nicolbria is something of a devil, but she keeps Nikita happy with their games, so the little red mare gets packed on the trailer!
Getting ready to go to south is an event in itself. Luckily, I scored the same farm I rented last year, which is in the heart of Wellington, and super quiet. We’re on the bridle path, so there’s the frequent galloping visitor (which keeps Nikita entertained), and being the only trainer at my facility is a huge bonus I didn’t want to give up this year. The footing in the dressage arena is excellent, and there’s a ton of turnout, which is important to Sublime. Ro the dog (what’s a farm without a dog?) will be chaperoning our craziness, and keeping the mares in line.
Before we can head to Florida, I had a few more events in the Mid-Atlantic, namely the GAIG/USDF Region 1 dressage championships, where Nikita and I competed at Grand Prix (and where I sponsored an award); and the Waredaca Starter Horse Trials, where TG competed at Elementary. TG is a Thoroughbred rescue who’s been in training for less than three months, and fingers were crossed he would do great at his 2nd event ever.
For some reason, both these wonderful competitions were all on the same weekend. Which meant I ran around like a nut in a top hat. Less than one week after Hurricane Sandy. And guess what? Both horses were in the top five at their respective events! Nikita and I didn’t have our best day (hey, it happens to the best of us), but we still scored a 5th place ribbon in a difficult class. TG went clear in show jumping and cross country, and finished 5th in a class of 12 on his dressage score. Good boy! It’s impossible to think that less than three months ago, TG was certain water elements were a Thoroughbred-eating, watery grave, because now he takes them on like a boss. Now it’s time to focus on improving his dressage, and participating in a couple WEF competitions.
Watch out south Florida, because we set two feet and 16 hooves (and four paws) in Florida in early December. Stay tuned!
About the author: Maat van Uitert is a USDF gold medalist based in Maryland and Wellington, FL (Dec-April). Maat currently accepts horses for sales and training, and her training program focuses on developing horses for FEI competition. Her website is www.jsdressage.com.