“This mare, Indy, was born and raised in San Luis Obispo County,” Andrea Baxter proudly expressed. Andrea recently returned home to Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles from her Eventing adventures with her horse Indy 500 over the pond in England. Indy was born at the local Thoroughbred farm formerly known as Cardiff Stud Farm in Paso Robles. She has now competed Internationally.
Andrea got Indy as a four-year-old and brought her quickly through the lower Eventing Levels then spent several years with her at the Advanced level. “I waited and got her quite confident at the Advanced level, then we finally entered Rolex CCI**** in Kentucky and did well there this Spring,” commented Andrea. “I’ve always wanted to ride at Burghley, but well, its super expensive!” Andrea expressed. The pair did well at Rebecca Farm in Montana and came home with some prize money. “A UK trip became an option, with the added prize money.”
Eyes set on Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
So with experience, results and some prize money in hand Andrea set her eyes on the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in England, August 31- September 3, 2017. Burghley boasts the grandest Elizabethan House in England as the Horse Trial backdrop.
“I chose Burghley even though it one of the hardest CCI**** courses in the world. It tests the horse’s endurance and bravery. Indy is very brave and being a Thoroughbred the endurance comes naturally. I felt the course would suit her. The technical questions would be challenging, but I know she’ll jump anything I point her at,” explained Andrea.
After walking Burghley’s cross country course for the first time, Andrea discovered the course to be even bigger, longer, bolder and more technical than she imagined. “It was triple big!” Andrea exclaimed.
However, looking back Andrea realizes her favorite memories come from walking the course. “Everything is just so beautiful – the trees, the colors, the setting, the fresh air – it is truly a magical experience,” Andrea stated and added, “While walking the course, my mind would sometimes wander off absorbing the sights. Then I’d meet the next fence and snap back into reality!”
On Course with Indy 500 at Burghley
The morning of cross county came and her mind was focused as she and Indy 500 took off on the course. “Indy felt amazing. She didn’t skip a beat; she jumped boldly. Unfortunately, we underestimated a smaller, easier fence (# 13) where Indy approached it aggressively. This aggression caused her to twist over the fence and I popped off. I landed on my feet,” said Andrea as she disappointingly described their cross county course ride. A fall of horse or rider is elimination from the competition. As Andrea hand-walked Indy on the long path back to the stable, she reflected back on how well Indy had jumped. She became quite confident they belonged at Burghley, so this thought came to mind, “I know we belong here. We need to capitalize on what we got started here in England.”
Move on to Blenheim Horse Trials
So without skipping a beat Andrea arranged to enter Blenheim Horse Trials a CCI*** event also in England. Blenheim is known for its stunning setting and is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Many international riders place Blenheim on their competition schedule.
Living Life in England
Andrea made arrangements to stay with at a local yard and spent the next ten days getting help with their Dressage phase. The extended stay also enabled both Andrea and Indy to adjust to their new environment and became more comfortable and familiar with the culture and the flow of daily life in England, and for Indy a new diet.
Competing at Blenheim
So much new info was gathered in this ten-day period that it was nearly too much to put into proper action for the Dressage phase at Blenheim. There was also more pressure for her to be successful, to redeem their Burghley experience.
Andrea had a better Dressage score at Burghley, yet has come home with a plan of action to apply as she prepares for Rolex in the Spring. In contrast to Burghley, the pair’s Blenheim cross country run was super successful. They made it around with no jumping faults and just a few time faults. “We played it safe,” remarked Andrea about their round, “This really was my redemption ride!”
After a disappointing Dressage score, and few added time faults on cross country, Andrea was elated to make it to the afternoon session of the show jumping phase with all the top horse/rider pairs. This provided the opportunity to watch the morning rides. “The stadium round was causing quite a few problems with rails coming down and time faults added,” said Andrea. “I chose several good inside lines. Indy is usually a careful show jumper, yet the course pushed her to pull one rail. However, I was very pleased with her overall performance!”
Indy 500 and Andrea Baxter placed 25th overall at Blenheim. “We were in 86th place after Dressage, and moved into 31st place after cross country and finished moving up to 25th. This shows how difficult both jumping phases were!” remarked Andrea excitedly.
The Benefit of International Experience
Looking back at her international experience Andrea realizes that there is definitely an advantage having the familiarity factor that is inherent in US shows. This of course only comes with experiencing it and hopes more US pairs can make the trek over the pond to gain the familiarity advantage. There were four US horse and rider pairs finishing in the top 25 at the Blenheim event. To top off the US experience at Blenheim, the Star Spangled Banner rang out around the Marlborough stadium as US rider Kim Severson and her mount Cooley Cross Border came home with the trophy. An American hasn’t won a European event in quite a while.
Riding in an Unfamiliar Environment
“It’s hard not to be intimidated when you are warming up with ten people who were in the Olympics or World Games!” remarked Andrea. It is also hard to replicate, in California, the beautiful grass and the common occurrence of rain which are expected experiences in England. “We’re just not used to those elements here in California,” said Andrea then added, “I got really lucky as I hardly got rained on during our entire stay. Coming from California, I’m not used to getting wet!”
Crowds are another factor. Andrea and Indy were exposed to a larger crowd at Rolex, the biggest US venue. The Rolex stadium crowd in comparison to the UK events is much larger. However, the cross county phase at both Burghley and Blenheim boasted large crowds throughout the course which make the experience a bit overwhelming. “The cross country phase was very busy as was the trade fair. It was hard to get through the trade fair area at times,” explained Andrea. “Lots of spectators – including a large number of non-horsey people – come to the jog and trade fair at the English events. These two events are really a fashion show and a very posh flea market!” said Andrea.
We welcome Andrea and Indy home and look forward to more adventures which will elevate the level of riding not only in our local community but in the US and the world. Andrea is already making plans to return to the UK with Indy 500 to tackle Burghley again. Andrea is back at work with her students and horses through Estrella Equestrian. She is also very thankful for the tireless work and support of her grooms, Lexi Thacker at Burghley and Ellie Leonard at Blenheim.
Cover photo: Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 complete the Stadium Jumping phase at Blenheim Horse Trials in England. Photo credit: Matt Nuttall Photography