Monday, July 17, 2017

Adult Camp Adventures: Windurra!

You may remember I wrote about taking some time off work last week - fondly referred to as my "adult camp" lol.

Originally, my 'big' planned outing for the week was a clinic with Jimmy Wofford, alas cancelled due to lack of entries. Former barn mate Rachael had planned to bring her camp kids along to the clinic as a day trip activity and found herself scrambling when the clinic was cancelled.

In a moment of impulsive boldness, she emailed international event rider Boyd Martin asking to bring the campers out to Windurra. Amazingly - he not only replied extremely promptly, but also encouraged her to bring out the whole troupe to spend as much time on property as they wished.

He graciously offered to give a tour at a prescribed time, but said that they'd be schooling horses before and after, so to come whenever and stay for however long the group wanted to. Naturally, more than just camp kids were interested in going along for the trip haha! 

Boyd was out teaching a cross country lesson when we arrived - including schooling a horse while he was at it. First thing to learn about how Windurra operates: Boyd is always doing about 5 things at once, but in such a way as you might not actually notice.

After helping a student get a horse through a sticky combination, he rode over to the group to introduce himself, tell us about what they were doing, and encourage us to get up close and personal while they finished the lesson. 

Obviously, this was not a problem for us lol.

One of Windurra's most famous assets is it's lovely cross country course - with everything from starter level logs on the ground to advanced level fences and combinations. Tho interestingly, many of the combinations were set up at much higher levels of technicality but with relatively inviting fences. This looks like a GREAT place to school - perhaps we'll make it out one day!

Also worth noting - literally every single sentient being on Boyd and Silva's property was notably friendly. Like, walking down the path past a rider, that rider would unfailingly smile, say hello, and ask how we were doing. Like. Really friendly. It's pretty clearly a cultural thing at Windurra - and definitely a part of their business model. Friendly eventers. Yup. 

Naturally, while we watched Boyd finish his cross country schooling lesson, he pointed out a very special horse hacking with a working student. The camp kids were downright amazed to see this horse, having all watched the Purina Stories of Greatness video earlier that morning. Gotta say, it was pretty cool hearing the high-pitched whispers from the kiddos, "It's Neville!!"

Boyd also took this opportunity to point out facets of the property surrounding us. Namely, the all-weather footing track built into the cross country course for hacking and conditioning horses. It isn't necessarily a gallop track (there are plans to build one), but it's perfect for getting in conditioning rides when the ground is very hard, legging horses up, or simply helping horses get out of arena. 

It was kinda funny bc during the course of Boyd's group tour, he schooled three horses, taught two lessons, sold a syndicate share in one of his up-and-coming horses, and only god knows what else. But in such a way, again, as you'd hardly notice while on tour, lol.

After finishing his xc ride, he directed us over to the stadium ring, where he met us on his dirt bike to tell us more about the facility. Mentioning everything from the details of the footing, why he chose this type of fencing (for youngsters), and the various trainers who come in - including mentioning George Morris on multiple occasions as a visiting trainer (at a about a yearly frequency). 

Windurra is laid out in a fairly linear fashion - with the cross country course closest to the road. Then the jumping arena, then the plot of land planned for a new indoor arena, then the dressage court, then the shed row barns.

The dressage arena was its very own special brand of lovely - with a full wall of mirrors and surrounded entirely by roses. This was absolutely a spot we'd revisit again soon.

But first, a tour of the barns! Complete with meeting almost all of Boyd's current upper level mounts!! Unfortunately I can't remember exactly every detail he shared with us - but believe this particular horse is Master Frisky. Who wasn't particularly frisky on this day, oh well.

Then we met Steady Eddie, who was in the middle of all sorts of fun body work treatments (note the spectra vet blankets and magna wave tubing outside the stall). This horse is currently preparing to go to Burghley - pretty freakin cool!

For those of you unfamiliar with the story behind Boyd's shedrow barn, I recommend watching Purina's Stories of Greatness video - it's a good one.

The gist is: When Boyd and Silva Martin first got started in the US working out of Phillip Dutton's barn, there was a fire. They lost almost everything, including some horses (the notable exception there being Neville - again, another reason to watch the video).

After the devastation wrought by the fire, all sorts of local (and not so local) supporters came out of the woodwork to help rebuild. Including donating these turnout sheds - each from various good samaritans - that are pieced together to create Boyd's international event horse facility.

After many years operating out of this beloved shedrow, there are now plans to build a more 'traditional' barn. But it was pretty cool to see this facility in action. Especially after having maybe been a little spoiled by the cushiness of my current hunterlandia-ensconced barn lol.

Anyway. The tour continued - next with meeting Crackerjack. This horse is particularly special, having been around some of the biggest 4* tracks in the world despite having respiratory (or "wind") issues rendering him closer to 50-60% capacity of what he ought to be for his level. As Boyd said, this horse should not be able to do what he does - and yet he does it. He's an incredible athlete!

Also notable - you can see we've got a fairly large tour group in a busy bustling barn full of upper level, valuable horses. All in various stages of work, with riders and working students buzzing about. The most exceptional thing? Nobody ever once had to tell a kiddo to be careful or not get too close to a horse. Because every single horse was quiet and friendly and safe.

Maybe they stick the surlier ones somewhere else.... but again, I tend to think it's a cultural thing. At Windurra, the horses are just kinda expected to be ok with whatever happens. Like that horse barely visible behind Boyd just chillin on his Theraplate.

Another thing that struck me was that almost every single horse we saw under saddle (and there were a few) went in a loose ring snaffle. Sure, there are other bits hanging on the wall above (and the most.... non loose ring snaffle-y ones are obviously the furthest from the door....), but it's just an awful lot of simple bits. Even all the horses we saw on the cross country fence.

Oh and there was also this goat haha. Another very friendly resident!

Continuing with the introductions to Boyd's upper level horses - here we see Shamwari 4, who is featured in the video below. This horse ran around Rolex last year, unfortunately sustaining an injury and just now getting back into work. Such a lovely face tho!

Then another horse whose name is only just now getting to be more broadly known: This is Ray Price, one of Boyd's homebreds. And, according to Boyd, this is a very special horse. We'll see a little more of this horse later, as he was currently being prepped for Silva as we toured the barn.

Unfortunately a couple big name horses weren't in the barn during our tour (sorry but I apparently completely missed Welcome Shadow, sorry Megan!). Tho we did get to see Blackfoot Mystery, maintaining his mystery by staying shrouded in fly gear in his field lol.

Finally tho it was time to see Boyd and Silva back in action again - Silva on Ray Price and Boyd on Tura Lura, whom he showed this past weekend at the Maryland Horse Trials.

While he rode, he told us a bit about what he looks for in a 'type' of horse. Specifically, it has to move and jump like a warmblood, but look like a thoroughbred. Many of his horses are very high percentage TB - up to 80%. But with that WB style of moving. And this horse in particular - Ray Price - is one to watch for the future, as Boyd suggested he's aiming him for Tokyo 2020. 

It was also pretty clear tho, just why everyone at Windurra is so freakin friendly. This is a bustling place of business - and even as we were there, so were owners and buyers and various investors. Including one owner who was checking in on a new acquisition - but who also may or may not have jumped in on the Ray Price syndicate in the meantime too. 

Anyway - the tour followed as Boyd moved to schooling his third horse, Shamwari 4. He told us a little about his conditioning plan for horses too. And by "a little" I mean omg I should have just recorded him bc he spoke too much information too quickly for even yours truly to capture it all. 

Long story short, it's very heavily focused on conditioning. Basically every horse works twice a day. Once for some type of conditioning, usually done by working students. Whether a long slow walk or trot, or more purposeful canter or gallop sets. Then another ride done on the flat or jumping, usually done by Silva or Boyd.

Honestly I wish I had better notes from that bc it really struck me just how much these horses get ridden - but especially how low-impact much of the riding actually is. It's not just short bursts of intense activity, but long slow building up.

Anyway, Shamwari was delivered to Boyd at the jump arena by a working student who had just done something like 40min of walk/trot conditioning on him. And Boyd warmed him up for a little bit on the flat before doing very purposeful work over a single oxer, back and forth, with placing poles two strides out on either side (this is all in the video).

Shamwari was a little frisky but looked pretty good! Then Boyd went on to just cruise through a fairly long course of jumps - stringing various combinations together. And then... Done. That's it. Nice and sweet. So the focus for the horse had been on that 40min of conditioning. Then just some very purposeful, to the point type jumping. Then done. Gives me food for thought!


It was honestly pretty incredible to have been able to see so much, and hang out for so long. The entire team at Windurra was amazingly friendly and welcoming, horses and goats included.

It was also very enlightening to learn more about the inner workings of an international eventing barn, chock full of 4* talent and incredibly valuable horses - both the confirmed talents and the up-and-comers. On the one hand, there are a lot of dedicated folks working very hard to keep this operation working like a well-oiled machine. But on the other hand? They're still just horses who need fly spray and a quick hose off in an open air wash stall.

In any case, it was honestly pretty inspirational to see how they operate at Windurra - tho Charlie maybe wishes I hadn't learned that all those horses work twice a day lol. But who knows, maybe Charlie will have the opportunity to visit the property himself at some point in the future!

63 comments:

  1. What a great place- physically and mentally! I would totally want to do a clinic with him and I think Charlie would love it. :D

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    1. I really enjoyed this visit -- and actually have audited a clinic of his before too (here if you are interested: http://fraidycateventing.blogspot.com/2015/12/more-auditing-boyd-martin-clinic.html?m=0). It's hard to say if I would pay to ride in a clinic just bc his style and Dan's are very similar (they have ridden together and with Phillip) but Dan already knows me and is a little more affordable price wise. Ya never know tho!

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  2. I was at Windurra a few years ago to audit a George Morris clinic. But your visit sounds SO much cooler!!!

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    1. Oooh I would love to watch George's clinics there, esp if he's teaching a bunch of eventers too lol

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    2. It was eventers and a steeplechase jockey thrown in for good measure!

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    3. Oh man that must have been so fun to watch! Definitely worth going back for lol

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  3. Wow, what a cool place!! I love that he uses shedrows, efficient and to the point. So sad abotu the fire though... I'll definitely be checking out the video.

    That's so awesome you got to go up there. I can't wait to see Charlie there!

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    1. The video is definitely worth watching! And yea I would like to get Charlie up there. When Dan first moved his business up to that area we had grand plans of taking Isabel and Wick to windurra for a lesson with him. Never happened tho!

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  4. SO COOL!! I was struck similarly by Boyd when I worked at the USEF and spoke with him a lot. He's just a regular, friendly guy who just happens to be a freakishly amazing rider and businessman! And those 4* horses? Yeah, they're amazing, but at the end of the day... they're all just horses that love carrots and turnout. What an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the very tippy top of our sport! I think a group schooling outing at Windurra is DEFINITELY in order! ;)

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    1. I think my favorite thing about eventing is this culture of accessibility. And Boyd really epitomized that with this visit. And yes I would love to make it up there! Brita has schooled up there a couple times know with Dom but I have yet to make the trip with a horse

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  5. This is pretty cool. I'm definitely jealous of that XC course, I don't think I'd ever leave.

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    1. That course was gorgeous and there's so much more to it than meets the eye. Sooooo many fun things. I'd actually really like to be there for when they reset and rearrange things, since they're almost all portables, just to learn more about what Boyd is thinking in his course design.

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  6. Wow. What an amazing facility. I particularly love that photo of the goat hanging in the wooden "thing". So cute!!! Its wonderful to see top level pros take the time to talk to a group of camp kids.

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    1. Ha I loved that picture too! That's actually a giant cross country jump laying on its side, and the goat is peeking out the bottom. With obvi a high level dressage horse doing its thing in the background. Ya know. The usual! I think this will be an experience that stays with those campers for a long time!

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    2. What? Dressage horses can't work with such outrageous distractions, Emma. Don't be crazy. ;)

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    3. Lolol in fairness, the dressage horses at windurra are kept in a separate and presumably quieter barns. The horses there might be highly exposed, but they're still silly dressage horses haha

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  7. This is so so cool, what a great experience! I had the chance to meet Boyd at AEC's last year and he was SO nice and you could definitely tell he's just a great person. Loved watching that video of him schooling too. Sassy horse lol!

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    1. Ha I love watching him school that horse too - he was feeling GOOD lol. And yea they just seem like good people up there.

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  8. Just, wow. What a great opportunity to have such a tour. And why is my outdoor arena not surrounded by roses?!! :)

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    1. I know right?? Life goals right here haha

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  9. What an incredible experience 😍 the goat in the cross country jump had me giggling though.

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    1. Lol that goat was too cute. And super friendly, like all the other animals too. I didn't get a picture but there was also a dog running around for all the world like a very schooled cross country lab - jumping fences left and right!

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  10. That is SO FREAKING COOL! I watched the Stories of Greatness awhile ago, and bawled at least 4 times. Glad you had fun!

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    1. Oh man that video is SUCH a tear jerker tho!!

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  11. What a kind and generous guy! Thanks for the inside peek - add me to the list of people wanting an outdoor surrounded by roses :)

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    1. He was super gracious to have us there - you could kinda tell they give tours pretty often

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  12. Honestly talking to you about this reminded me how useful a 2x ride a day can be! It often makes Pig much more focused on his second ride. Like he already got out all his stiff "I don't wanna"s. Funny, I'm the same way. I hate just jumping up for a run. I much prefer doing a walk or some other activity before leaping in for my core/hard workout. It takes some of the pressure off having a "good effort".

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    1. Yea definitely. Like esp a horse like Charlie, he needs a lot of slow low impact miles to just move his body out. But he also needs to learn about his new job. It can be difficult to balance rides during the week that continue his education without being too intense on him but also keeping him physically conditioned for the work. Apparently the solution is to just do both types of rides each day lol

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    2. And add about 5 hours to each day through judicious use of magic. ;)

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    3. or get 8-9 working students ;)

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  13. Lack of entries! That boggles my mind!

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    1. I mean, most ammies have day jobs :(

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    2. Why they insist on scheduling all these clinics on random weekdays is beyond me.

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    3. yea seriously. it's so obnoxious. brita loves it bc she's off all summer from teaching, and rachael can do the same since she makes her own lesson schedules. but like. c'mon bro, what about us office dwellers??

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  14. What an awesome experience for you all!

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    1. thanks, it was seriously a fantastic day!

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  15. That sounds so amazing! I'm so happy for you that you got to go to Windurra. You look VERY enthused in that pic with your friend LOL It sounds like a very cool place to visit and the xc grounds....to die for. I really wish I had something like that around here. It'll be so awesome if you and Charlie get to go there sometime!

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    1. ha i think you might be confused about who is whom in that pic - brita is in the green hat, i'm in the tan DJD hat. but yea, it was such a lovely venue, such a great place! definitely want to get up there some time, just wish it wasn't such a long haul for the horses

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    2. Haha oh sorry. I probably should've added that it was sarcasm LOL. Sarcasm doesn't translate too well over text does it haha! I just had to mention it since your friend looked ecstatic and you were all cool as a cucumber :D Yeah I hear you about the long haul. I'm trying to find summer camps or like week-long things because right now the best close things I can find are like 4-5 hours away one way -_-

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    3. oy yea, that's super far. we're so spoiled in my area that i have tons upon tons of options within the 20-45minute range such that driving 1.5hrs to windurra feels like a hike

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  16. So cool!!!!! What a nice facility and I'm super jealous you got to go on a tour like that!

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    1. it was such a cool experience - esp really getting a closer look at how these upper level horses are kept. like it's easy to somehow end up in this mind space where we kinda put them up on this pedestal - but they're still just horses. granted they're usually owned by wealthier folks who can afford nicer treatments and equipment or whatever.... but it's still just normal every day messy horses. it's nice to see that sometimes!

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  17. Re the Wofford clinic, I get it. Weekdays are really hard for us 8-5'ers. A lot of people at my barn are retired/house wives. That's great you can get someone to give a lesson at 10a on a Wednesday, I can't go. Wow what a fricken amazing experience! Their farm isn't *too* horribly far from me (considering), maybe next year I find get a group to go over with me. What an cool thing to do, totally jealous!

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    1. oooooh you should totally try to get a group together for windurra!! if we ever get our shit together maybe there could be some type of blogger meet up??

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  18. What an awesome experience! Thanks for sharing it with us :)

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    1. glad you enjoyed reading about it too!

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  19. so freaking cool. AND IF You come to school you better let me know since that is in my backyard. I have schooled once there and Boyd was just lovely to deal with and the place too was great. That track is to die for. Remus was like what is bouncy stuff...SO JEALOUS you got to tour all that. And i remember that horrible horrible barn fire. :( thanks for sharing that visit so cool!! glad you had fun!

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    1. the tour was excellent - would love to meet up with you there sometime too!!

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  20. What a cool experience. I actually really like the whole shed row set up, but maybe that's just cause I'm used to that from here. It's a really gorgeous property.

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    1. yea it's definitely a cool barn - and they've really utilized the space well. i didn't post all the pictures i took (bc dear god there are so many) but i even have shots of all the little "in between" nooks that they use for things like blanket storage and what have you

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  21. Very very cool! I love the rustic shedrow set-up - it's very down to earth looking! And I lol'ed at the goat in the jump at the end.

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    1. it's so down to earth - everything and everyone there is super down to earth. it was refreshing!

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  22. Oh, neat! What an awesome experience. I've always loved the shedrow-style barns; they have some annoying limitations, but they always feel so cozy to me.

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    1. this was very cozy, and in a way almost intimate. definitely felt like we were right up in the mix at the barn, as opposed to viewing from the other side of a glass window or something

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  23. What a great experience! Boyd has always seemed so genuinely friendly to me, so I'm glad y'all got a day of it with him! I also love the shedrows, it's kind of cool to see such world class horses living in pretty quaint stalls.

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  24. I love that the horses are all so chill. That speaks VOLUMES. Time, miles, good training and good people around them inevitably makes for a very good critter. Such a testament to those things that every one of his horses is so good. What a great post, Emma, thank you for sharing and documenting so thoroughly.

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  25. I think this is my favorite post EVER. The only thing that would have been better was a pic of Welcome Shadow... but I fogive you. I LOVE that everyone was friendly. Barns should be like that. My respect for Boyd just went through the roof.

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  26. This is so incredibly cool and thank you so much for sharing it. I love hearing about how professionals work / train their horses and I especially love how all of the horses were quiet and safe. That is 100% what I want in all of mine - both in the saddle and on the ground

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  27. What a cool outing!! Boyd and Silva were incredibly pleasant and friendly when I met them at Dressage At Devon- very down to earth, very likable. I'm sure that's contributed to Boyd's ability to attract syndicate owners and other financial backers!

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  28. Thanks for sharing! Super interesting to see the inner workings. I always thought twice a day was too much but at the lesson barn I am at now, most lesson horses do 2 lessons a day (normally 1 in the morning with a walk/trot kid then a jump school in the afternoon). Definitely makes me think about my future practices

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