New blog banner photo courtesy of....

my beautiful future daughter-in-law. Isn't that a gorgeous picture?

Sunderland v Manchester City

City kick off the new year travelling North East to Sunderland who it's fair to say haven't really been up to scratch so far this season. Hence the sacking of Steve Bruce and the hiring of Martin O'Neill.

Since taking charge of Sunderland on the 5th of December, the fortunes of the Club appear to be looking a little better. However the points they have picked up are against those around them in the table and they lost away to Spurs, which isn't all that bad given Spurs' current form.

Where they might be in the table had they held onto Darren Bent last January and Assamoah Gyan is anyone's guess, but the fact that Sebastian Larsson is their current top scorer tells a story itself. That's not a slur on Larsson at all, and he is definitely going to be a goal threat for the defence to watch out for. But the fact that Larsson is a midfielder tells you they haven't managed to replace the threat that Bent and Gyan posed in front of goal. In all honesty, Niklas Bendtner wasn't ever going to be the answer to the loss of those two players.

It will be interesting to see how O'Neill deploys his midfield as this is where a game against City is really won or lost. Playing a defensive 6-3-1 like Stoke certainly isn't the answer as this gives City's midfield far too much space and time to look for the right pass. West Brom on the other hand, although once again playing defensively, played with 2 close banks of 4 which limited the amount of space for players like Silva to thread that killer ball into.

That hasn't always worked for teams as we've seen, but it certainly makes it more difficult for City to break through, and I suspect that may be how O'Neill will look to thwart City's advances on Sunday.

As for City, I fully expect Mancini to field a very different team to the one that started against West Brom. Why? Because City play host to Liverpool just 2 days later. Liverpool will also have had an extra 48 hours rest so it will be up to Mancini to try and keep the '1st' 11 as fresh as possible.

The 2 main headaches will be the full-back and central midfield positions. At the time of writing this there is no news on the fitness of Micah Richards or Aleks Kolarov. If both are fit to play I suspect Aleks will play at left-back and Zaba will continue to play on the right. This being with the Liverpool game in mind of course where Richards and Clichy would start.

As regards to the midfield issue, does Gareth Barry start against Sunderland after only being used as a sub against West Brom? Or does he sit on the bench again and be fully fit to face Liverpool? I know this wont be popular with a lot of the newer City support, I'd rather him play against Liverpool as he has been one of, if no the most consistent performer in the entire squad since the start of last season. My thoughts on his contribution will have to wait for now though.

If I was pushed to make a decision on who will start in the centre I'd go for De Jong and possibly Abdul Razak. Mancini is going to want Barry and Yaya fit to face Liverpool, and I've simply no idea what is happening with Owen Hargreaves.

A recall to action is in order for Edin Dzeko, after missing out on his last chance through a late ankle injury. As mentioned in previous articles, he is due a few goals as he seems to score in fits and starts. Although he is getting less opportunity at the moment due to the ever increasing contributions of Mario Balotelli.

I suspect this will be quite a tough game, especially with the number of changes we might see to the starting 11. Even so, City have enough ability to win and keep another clean sheet. Whether that happens, we'll find out on Sunday.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

New Sales Horse: Ricochet EDF

NAME: Ricochet EDF
SEX: Mare
COLOUR: Bay (w/2 hind fetlock socks)
HEIGHT: 15.3hh
DATE OF BIRTH: 6/29/2005
SIRE:  Resonanz (by Rhodiamont)
DAM:  Rhyme (by Clover Hill ISH)
BREED:  Oldenburg/ISH
BREEDER:  Eleazer Davis Farm, Inc.
OWNER: Lisa Samoylenkom / Eleazer Davis Farm.
Cheti is super talented, nice moving and unbelievable jumping young horse. She is a real lady that has the ability to take an accomplished rider as far as they want to go in either dressage, show jumping or eventing.
She was bred by her owner Lisa Samoylenkon of Belford MA. and trained professionally from the get go. She is bred beautifully with jumping and dressage lines from Germany and Ireland in her pedigree. In the right hands this could be one of America's top young horses.

Please call Boyd for more info 610-806-2381

Happy Holidays

We would like wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - and what a year! 2011 will definitely be remembered for us for a long, long time. It was the ultimate of highs and lows.

This past year was probably the toughest year for us with all of the tragedies that hit us in the middle of the year. Without a doubt, we could not have survived it without the hundreds of people that supported us through the tough times. One thing we learned is that when things go bad, you see people's true colors. We would like to thank everyone that chipped in to help us out.

We would especially like to thank the wonderful people that worked for us this year. We had the best team in the world that really rallied when times were tough. Without this awesome group of people, we could not have produced the outstanding results that we saw with the horses this year.

We would also like to pay tribute to the awesome owners that provide these spectacular horses for us to train. Without these horses, we would be nothing.

So thank you, and good luck for 2012!!

Boyd & Silva

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City: Post Match

0-0 was not the result anyone quite expected, but that's how it ended at the final whistle. After saying I hope West Brom have a go but suspected they wouldn't, I wasn't surprised when they didn't. But that result was certainly a positive one for West Brom and their main aim of not getting beat was achieved. 

City were left ruing a couple of fine chances that went begging which would have opened the game up and played into City's strengths. In the majority of previous games these chances haven't mattered as City have gone on to score several goals anyway, but not in this game. 

The first of these chances fell to David Silva on 24 minutes. Toure gave the ball away outside West Brom's 18 yard box, but as the Baggies played the ball forward Kompany intercepted the ball and hit a wonderfully weighted pass to Aguero who then put it on a plate for Silva in the middle of the box. Silva, with plenty of space, hoofed the ball over the bar. 

City had the ball in the net 10 minutes later but Balotelli's shot was flagged offside. The ball was initially played to Aguero who was marginally offside, however Aguero never touched the ball as a defender got to it first. The ball then looped to Balotelli who then volleyed it into the back of the net. As the ball was played initially, Balo was onside.

It's another instance of the offside rule either being misunderstood or mis-applied with all this first phase, second phase nonsense. It's high time it was simplified and cleared up once and for all. But anyway...

Balotelli came close to scoring in the 53rd minute. After receiving the ball from Clichy on the left wing, Mario struck a curling shot from 25 yards which beat the keeper but unfortunately for City, it didn't beat the cross bar. 

Perhaps City's best chance of the game came just after an hour as the ball was cleared from another City attack, Clichy lofted the ball to James Milner who headed it back into the box. The ball fell for Aguero who had the opportunity to toe poke it into the net but hit it wide from 7 yards out. Sergio actually thought he was offside as he hadn't seen the defender behind him playing him onside as the ball was played. Even so, as I was taught in school, always play to the whistle.

You have to give some credit to West Brom though, they're the first domestic team to stop City scoring so far this season. They created a few chances for themselves too, unlike the hapless Stoke in game prior to this.

The real reason as to why City didn't score (other than the goal that was given offside) is that City didn't have enough chances on target. Out of the 17 shots, only 4 were heading for the back of the net. Not a very good day for City on the attacking front and Mancini will have to watch for complacency setting in and weed it out should it appear. 

On the plus side though, it's the 3rd clean sheet in a row. Although I doubt anyone will be mentioning this despite creaming themselves over United's clean sheets on so long ago. 

Just short of the half way point of the season with 18 games played, City are still top of the table with a superior goal difference to Manchester United. City have also already played United, Liverpool, Spurs, and Chelsea away from home.The only team in the title and top 4 hunt that City have yet to play away is Arsenal. Everyone else has to come to the Etihad stadium where City haven't lost for over a year.

Strap yourselves in for one hell of a ride.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City

The season's festivities climaxed yesterday but as joyous as the occasion may be, many Blues throughout the land will have had a portion of their thoughts on something other than the Turkey; Boxing Day Football. City travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom in the next game of a tightly packed Christmas and New Year schedule.

After the rather unexpected cake walk that was City v Stoke earlier at the Etihad 5 days ago you would expect and maybe hope West Brom to put up a little more of a fight with them being on home turf. Sadly I half expect them to play like the away side and sit and defend in the hope they can withstand City's attacks for 90 minutes. I hope I'm wrong.

Woy Hodgson is tasked with stabilising the somewhat yo yo existence seen in recent years at the Hawthorns and at this stage of the season they are mid-table, and around halfway to safety with 21 points.

Unfortunately for West Brom, their home form isn't exactly exemplary, having lost 5 of their 8 games there this season. West Brom have also failed to get any points from any games against teams in the top 6. City have won 5 of their away games, only losing to Chelsea with 10 men 2 weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, the odds are clearly stacked heavily against the Baggies in this fixture.

Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie bare the majority of the responsibility when it comes to scoring goals. Both have scored 5 and 4 league goals respectively. England international Ben Foster will be hoping his defence can limit the number of chances City create, but I would think he may be a little busy.

His opposite number, and England number 1, Joe Hart, will also be hoping for a clean sheet which would be the 3rd in succession after shutting out Arsenal and Stoke prior to this game. Kompany returned to his imperious best in those games too, and will be wanting to continue and build on that form.

After impressing against Stoke, possibly partly due to the lack of defending he was required to do, Adam Johnson will also be hoping for another start. Mancini was clearly pleased with his contribution during the game though. Whether he gets his start or not is another matter. At the moment I would think he would take any time he can get and has a habit of coming on from the bench to score late on in games.

Who starts up front is a mystery and will partly depend on whether Dzeko is fit enough to play after turning his ankle in training before the Stoke game. Both Aguero and Balotelli have been in fine form though so either one should be able to do a job up front.

Micah Richards is the only other injury concern and with the number of games coming up it may be once again down to the man for all seasons, Zabaleta, to fill in at right back.

With all due respect to West Brom, I hope they put up more of a fight than Stoke, but unless they play out of their skin or City have a really off game then City should have another 3 points by the end of the day.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

It is a very merry Christmas

When I dropped this man off at the airport on Friday afternoon, it meant he was flying away to be gone on Christmas.  But there was no sadness.  This was an important trip to see a beautiful woman.

And there was a very important question he had to ask this woman, the kind of question it is best to ask in person.

And she said YES!

We had a feeling that the answer would be yes, so our goofy elves got busy.  We had a new stocking that had to be added to the row.

The elves had to choose the right decorations.  They chose a platypus (yes, a platypus), a ring and a camera.  She is a lover of platypi, a wearer of a sparkling engagement ring, and a fabulous photographer.

Welcome to the family, Faith.

Congratulations to you both.  We love you!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We're busy here, cleaning up our projects and preparing for Christmas Eve service. 

Packages are wrapped. What's done is done; what's not we shall do without.

Emmanuel, God With Us. 

The Light Has Come.

We have much to celebrate!

along Thailand

So, the big exam was done. After 11 boring months I moved to Dubai/Thailand for 3 weeks with Rafaela. I really wanted to keep training but it was impossible.

Or the place was too hot...

Or too small...

Or too polluted... (ending with red eyes, and a sense in the mouth like if I'd been licking car engines for 1h)

During 3 weeks we did 3500km by public transport, 150km of which by boat...

... and was part of the medical team of the Ironman Asia Pacific and got really enthusiastic with Triathlon.

Overall, it ended being a really nice trip... The touristic places were really nice. The untouristed places made me, once more, remember the value of our European way of living.

In the second last day, and after 3 weeks eating in the street food stalls, I got a gastroenteritis at a McDonalds (!). Altogether, I lost 6kg, from which I'm still recovering (today's breakfast=5 waffles).

Now I have a loong way to recover the shape. Yesterday was the day zero! Let's go!

Manchester City v Stoke City: Post Match

That could be the easiest 3 points earned by any team at any point this season. Stoke seemingly arrived at the Etihad with only one plan; not to get smashed. They certainly didn't want to have a go at City's back 4 and in the first half they rarely managed to get the ball out of their own half. I'm not sure whether or not 3-0 is getting smashed either by City's recent standards.

As predicted, Mancini was set to give Dzeko a starting role but an ankle injury before the game put an end to that. Lescott did return at the centre of defence though, and Adam Johnson also got a rare start.

The first 45 minutes may as well have been a training match of attack vs defence. Stoke's lineup started as 4-4-2 but ended up more like 6-3-1 for the vast majority of the half as City passed the ball pretty much at will, looking for an opening in the tightly packed Stoke defence.

It was Adam Johnson who got the first meaningful shot. Cutting in from the right at the edge of the area there was only ever one thing on his mind but his curling shot ricocheted off the woodwork.

Tony Pulis was constantly barking orders at his players from the first whistle, but whatever he was trying to convey helped very little, if at all as the entire half was all about City. Even when Stoke managed to get the ball out of their own half it was picked up by either Kompany or Lescott without much trouble.

After 15 minutes the possession stats flashed up 65-35 in the Blues' favour, and it didn't get any better for Stoke. Nasri and Toure went wide with shots of their own around the 20 minute mark as City continued to completely dominate the play.

The first goal came just before 30 minutes after a nice bit of play between Silva and Nasri out on the left wing. Silva found Yaya with a cutting ball into the box with the Ivorian hitting a shot/pass across the box met initially by Kompany, parried by Sorensen, tapped home by Aguero. A brilliantly worked goal.

City didn't have to wait too long for the next goal either, and what a goal it was! The home crowd were still thinking they should have had a penalty when Silva was blatantly pushed in the area and Stoke were looking to get the ball back out. They did get it out, only to the top of the 18 yard box before City had the ball again. Adam Johnson found himself in plenty of space and struck a beautifully driven shot from around 30 yards that rocketed into the bottom left of the goal. 36 Minutes, 2-0, absolutely nothing for Joe Hart to break a sweat over.

That's how it continued in the second half although Stoke put up a bit more of a fight. I say a bit, and I mean a bit. In fact Stoke were lucky that City appeared to be taking it easy knowing the number of games they will be playing in a short space of time.

Stoke conceded a third less than 10 minutes into the second half in a way that merged the first 2 goals together. Stoke were pinned back and managed to clear the ball from their own area but only by a couple of yards before Toure and Barry stole the ball back for City. Nasri received the ball off Barry and hit a low cross across the goal which was met once again by Aguero who tapped the ball home.

Much of the second half was City asking Stoke "go on then have a go" and then taking the ball off them and knocking it about for a while in no real rush to extend their lead. Not to sound cruel on Stoke, but they had absolutely no idea either in defence or attack and very rarely managed to keep the ball for a reasonable length of time. It's not often that stats give you the full story in a game, but these few really do;

Man City: 76% - 24% :Stoke City
Man City: 937 - 292 :Stoke City
Pass %
Manc Cit: 91% - 72% :Stoke City
Shots on Target
Man City: 11 - 0 :Stoke City
Shots off Target
Man City: 3 - 3 :Stoke City
Shots Blocked
Man City: 8-0 :Stoke City

After the electric pace of their game against Arsenal, City were quite content in taking it a little easier, keeping the ball and making Stoke do all the running. Stoke managed 3 shots in the whole of the 90 minutes, and not one of them was on target. Joe Hart may as well have sat in the stands for all the work he needed to do.

Another 3 points, Manchester City sat at the top of the tree at Christmas for the first time in Premier League history, and the first time since 1929. Just another tick in the Club's record breaking season so far.

Merry Christmas and here's to a happy Blue year

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Eagle Scout Court of Honor

Tuesday night we had the pleasure of taking a few hours to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our newest Eagle Scout.  It was a fantastic ceremony, and we kept the party going with swing dancing and pancakes back at our house.  Below is the speech I gave in Rex's honor.

It was a night to remember.

We are so happy to have you all here in the midst of this busy and holy season of Christmas. Thank you for coming. Rex, you began scouting shortly after turning eleven. Here we are, seven and a half years later, and you have achieved the goal of Eagle Scout. Congratulations, son. You have done very well.

There are skills and experiences you will take into the rest of your life as a result of your work in scouts. There are knots and lashings, swim strokes and orienteering, hiking and wilderness survival. You know to protect cinnamon rolls from raccoons, to always expect rain on a campout, and to carry plenty of water up Half Dome. But there are some things that are woven through scouts, subtle enough that they might not be noticed. I would like to point a few out.

The first is that the details matter. Any young man who has prepared his Eagle Scout binder for his Board of Review knows this. You must have everything imaginable, and a few things you didn’t imagine, all in perfect order. As it turns out, life is full of details that matter. They impact how you care for those around you, how you serve your community, how you worship, how you work. The key is in knowing the details that matter, which means we need God’s wisdom, and His grace. You have seen God’s hand at work through these seven years of scouting, and you know He will be there through each day and every detail. Details matter.

Your Eagle Project at Dad’s school is another example of an important truth: Service matters. Whether providing an outdoor learning environment for students, helping a single mom on her property or stacking cans on the day of the postal food drive, scouts has shown you that serving those around you is important. You are entering into the adult world at a time when the economy is shaking, and people feel lonely and lost. Your world will need people who are willing to serve. You have already been an encouragement to friends and family who are hurting, reminding them that they are loved and that God is there. Thank you for that, Rex. Live a life of service; you won’t regret it. Service matters.

These last seven years you have been in Troop 401, a group of men and their sons who are working together for the goals of scouting. They have shown you that community matters. These fathers are a beautifully diverse group, each one bringing a unique set of skills and experiences. Time together has meant that adventure fun is had, mistakes get made, lessons are learned, and the community sticks together. You have been in a community of people who want God’s best for you, and that is a gift. Whatever community you are a part of, Rex, will be blessed by your gifts and skills. We can’t go it alone: community matters.

So thank you, Troop 401 dads, for being a community for Rex as he has grown up. Thank you for modeling a life of service, for helping him conquer the details in his scouting life. Thank you for modeling the many different ways a godly man can approach life. We appreciate you very much.

Rex, you became an Eagle Scout on our 25th wedding anniversary, and now you are having your Court of Honor on the 26th anniversary of our engagement. We will never forget these dates! I cannot wait to see all that God has for you with the skills and talents He has given you. I love you. Congratulations.


Thanks to Our Hard Working Staff!

We're starting to gather bios and pictures of our hard working staff here at Windurra USA!  A big thanks goes out to all the staff here at our barn & we're excited to start posting their bios on our website.

Here are the first two entries:

Dressage Staff

KymmyNAME: Kymberly Pullen
HOMETOWN: Sugar Land, TX
Grooming, Riding and Hauling
Kymmy graduated Texas A&M University with a degree in Animal Science and Business. She began by riding and competing in the hunters, but has been competing in dressage since college.

Kymmy has brought her own horse along to WIndurra to work under the tutalage of Silva. Wiedermark "Markie" , is a 18.1h hanoverian gelding, who she has had since he was 4. Kymmy has brought him up through the levels to Prix St. George with their debut at Intermediare coming in the Spring of 2012 and their first CDI during the summer.

Eventing Staff

LindseyNAME: Lindsey Taylor
DOB: 3/14/1986
Saint Charles, IL
Head Groom and Operations Manager
Lindsey got hooked on horses while she was a freshman at Wheaton College at the age of 18. Looking for something to distract her from her schoolwork, she attended a mini event that her younger sister was competing in. She got the idea that riding might be a fun extra-curricular activity and began taking once a week lessons with Pat Bunge at a small eventing barn, Red Roses Farm in Saint Charles, IL. 
One thing led to another and she was soon leasing a horse and competing in local events. She rode a borrowed horse in a clinic with Becky Holder during this time and was impressed by the enthusiasm, expertise and attention to detail that Becky brought to her teaching. Lindsey decided to pursue a working student position with Becky in 2008 and 2009, during which time she learned an immeasurable amount about eventing at it's highest levels, and became quite interested in grooming and horse care.

It's All About Giving at This Time of Year

NJ Star Ledger has run a fabulous article in the sports section about giving back to the local horse community throughout the holiday season.  They also give a nice nod to Neville's nomination for Horse of the Year noting that, "Neville Bardos, who survived a devastating barn fire in May, has to be the odds-on favorite for the U.S. Equestrian Federation's international horse of the year honors."

There is also mention about fellow competitor Lisa Marie Fergusson loss of Smart Move this past week down in Wellington Florida.  Through the SCES (who raised over $50K for us in the aftermath of the TPF fire), a fundraising account has been set up to help Lisa, and is posted on Eventing Nation.  Please consider helping another rider in need this holiday season.

Check out the full article here & have a wonderful Christmas!

Manchester City v Stoke City

The Etihad Stadium plays host to Stoke City in tomorrow's Premier League fixture. The Potters have won the last 4 games on the bounce, beating an in form Tottenham on the way. City returned to winning ways against Arsenal on Sunday in an enthralling end to end spectacle.

Tony Pulis and his team currently sit 8th in the table and qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League. They are a tough test for any team to face, physically robust and know how to play to their strengths. Although Stoke do have players that can play a bit, they are well known for a certain, very unattractive style of play.

It wasn't particularly surprising when they announced the signing of Peter Crouch from Spurs in the summer. He's exactly the kind of player Stoke want up front as they punt or throw the ball into the 18 yard box. Peter Crouch is Stoke's joint top scorer with Jonathan Walters, both currently on 4 league goals.

Rory Delap is well known for his ability to launch the ball into the box from throw ins, and giving one away within 30 yards from the goal line is as good as giving away a corner. City will have to be fully focused if Stoke get any throw ins or free kicks near the area. If Kompany and Richards play like they did against Arsenal though even the likes of Crouch will have a tough time beating them in the air.

I think it's fair to say that you know exactly what you're going to get when you play against Stoke and to be fair to them, what they do works for them. Whether you like the way they play or not is another thing, but each team has to play to their strengths at the end of the day, and their strengths are their physical presence and set pieces.

I suspect we will see Joleon Lescott returning to the side after missing out on Arsenal. Kolo was likely chosen ahead of Joleon for his added mobility which thankfully shone through after some very lacklustre performances. However, Lescott has much better ability in the air and will be the better option against the aerial bombardment Stoke are likely to try and impose.

We may also see a recall to action from Edin Dzeko in place of Super Mario. Although Mario provides much more flair and an ability to create something out of nothing, Edin has more of a physical presence and is less likely to lose his temper with the physical nature of Stoke's defence. In short, Mario is an easy target and Edin he is a safer option to start with. He's also is due a bag full of goals having not hit the back of the net for over 6 weeks.

The last time Stoke played City was straight after their defeat in the FA Cup final. The result was 3-0 in a rather one sided game. In fact the FA Cup final was a rather one sided game too, although that's not to say the same thing will happen this time round. Both teams have improved since May and will be looking to pick up as many points over the Christmas period as possible.

City (Manchester of course) are unbeaten at home in the last 12 months, and Stoke have lost 4 of their 8 games away from home this season, conceding 16 in the process. This all points to what should be a comfortable victory for Mancini's men after his 2nd anniversary of becoming manager at Manchester City. However, football often likes to throw in a result no one expects. Hopefully that wont be tomorrow.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Manchester City v Arsenal: Post Match

What a game that was! Quite possibly the mos t exciting game I've seen this season. With a 1-0 scoreline you would be forgiven for thinking this was an edgy, nervous game with few chances, but you would be very wrong.

It was blatantly clear from the moment the whistle went that both teams were up for this game. City's season was falling apart according to large sections of the media after losing to Chelsea, and with Manchester United beating QPR earlier on in the day City really needed a result to stay top of the league.

Within the first 10 minutes City could have been 1-0 up as Zabaleta (playing at left back) received the ball out wide from a perfectly weighted pass from Barry. With the Arsenal defence retreating,  Zaba placed a wonderful first time pass across the top of the 18 yard box which was collected expertly by Aguero. Sergio's first touch was sublime, his shot however wasn't as he blasted the ball over the bar.

As well as Zabaleta comng in for Kolarov and Clichy (injured and suspended), this game also saw Kolo Toure return to action, chosen ahead of Joleon Lescott. Noteably though, it was Kopmpany who occupied the left side of the central pairing. With the threat of Walcott cutting inside and causing trouble it was up to Kompany and Zaba to make so he didn't have any influence on the game.

That's exactly what they did. Both Zabaleta and Kompany has absolutely superb games. Amongst the best I've ever seen either of them play. Komapny was a giant in defence, nothing was getting past him and he even showed a few deft touches going forward when the opportunity arose. Zabaleta was sensational at left back both in defence and going forward, even hitting the post with a drive from outside the area later in the game.

After his previous performances this season I was a little worried when I saw Kolo's name on the team sheet. But I will hand it to him, he also had a fine game. Perhaps the most notable contribution was executing a perfectly times tackle on Aaron Ramsey with the young gunner 6 yards from goal and certain to score. The look on Ramsey's face said it all, he wouldn't get a better opportunity to score all season.

Balotelli came close to scoring after 25 minutes as he brought the ball down between two Arsenal defenders and shot on the turn from around 8 yards. Unfortunately for City, Szczesny was in fine form, and closed the gap quickly to stop the shot heading into the back of the net.

The first half was exhilarating as both sides seemingly took turns in trading blows. City attacked, then Arsenal attacked, back and forth it went. Joe Hart made a number of fantastic saves to keep City in the game, the best performance from him so far this season as he was clearly desperate to keep a clean sheet. Both teams went in level at 0-0 at the halfway mark.

The deadlock was finally broken on 52 minutes after Zabaleta intercepted a pass on the edge of his own area. Gareth Barry picked up the ball and passed quickly to Samir Nasri who then quickly turned and ran past the halfway line, spotting Balotelli in acres of space to run into on the left wing. Balo took control of the ball 6 yards from the byline, worked his way to the 18 yard box and jinked passed song before firing off a low drive. Szczesny parried the shot but Aguero managed to get his head to the rebound which then fell neatly to Silva who tapped the ball home with his right foot.

Both sides had a number of good chances in the second half. Robin Van Persie had the ball in the back of the net at one point but the assistant flagged for offside. Arsenal may well feel aggrieved after seeing the reply though.  It was a mixture of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from both teams that kept the score down before time was called on a simply breathtaking game.

An outstanding performance from all players. Nasri was given man of the match at the Etihad, Kompany was given it by Sky, although Zabaleta and Gareth Barry were two other very strong shouts for the award.

City remain top of the table despite their season apparently falling apart after the Chelsea game. Stoke visit the Etihad Stadium in the next few days, a different sort of test altogether awaits.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

On the Way Home from Germany

I am on the plane home to the USA ! I have Internet on this Lufthansa flight.
It's great!! Here is a pic of my neighbor on the plane!

I am sorry that we have not blogged more about Ash and Mintie's Germany trip.
Overall it was a great experience for Ash, but it was also very disappointing.

Ashlea and Mintie did a nice test on Friday but Mintie was not quite right in the trot. The canter work was great. They had no mistakes and Ash rode very well. After we got the score sheet back and the judges also commented on Mintie being not quite right behind, we decided to scratch him from the freestyle. It was heartbreaking for Ashlea but at the end of the day we have to do what's right for the horse.

Ash and all of us have been working so hard to get to Frankfurt, but horses are
horses and not machines. And that is why we love them so much!!!
Ashlea has learned so much from this whole experience and she has handled the situation amazingly well! There will be many more international competitions for Ashlea and the next time all she learned from this trip will help her.

I am looking forward to getting home and riding again! Only 3 more hours to go....


The Fourth Sunday of Advent

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! 

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing thy praises, O God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Thou art worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Book of Common Prayer, Evening Prayer I 

Travels in England and an Exciting New Import

I've had a fantastic couple of months away from the intense eventing competition schedule, which has allowed me to enjoy one of my passions: finding new, exciting young prospects.

Enjoying a pint with Dave

Recently Katie Walker, Dave Leinhauser and I had a wonderful couple of days in England scouring the country for horses.
Brian Hyslop

We were lucky enough to be guided by our new team Chef de Equipe, Brian Hyslop, who was in charge of the heavy social schedule that consisted of dinner parties, fox hunting and many team meetings at the pubs we passed by. We were also very fortunate that Rachael Wakefield from Uptown Eventing lined up around 35 top class young event horses for us to try.
Katie Walker sizing up one of the enormous hedge jumps in the Quorn Hunt field

One of the highlights of our four-day trip was the opportunity to hunt with the very prestigious Quorn Hunt. Dave and I borrowed horses from Irish eventing Olympian Mark Kyle.

Hunting with Mark Kyle

We hunted huge hedge fences, trappy iron gates and ditches that sent shivers down my spine over some of the most beautiful country in Leicestershire County for over four hours. I was very impressed not only by the superb country we rode, but the quality of the horses seen in the hunt.

Finally our horse shopping ventures were a success! Upgrade is a stunning five year old gelding that really stood out from the rest of the bunch. He is seven-eighths English Thoroughbred and one-eighth Irish Sport Horse. He is a very elegant mover which I think the dressage judges will be impressed with. His jump has good technique and scope to spare. All in all, Dave, Katie and I felt this horse showed the potential of a future four-star champion.

I am very fortunate for Katie and Cuyler Walker to purchase this exciting horse. He will fly to America just before the new year and join the other Walker event horse, Brewster. I hope to start eventing him sometime in February. It would also be a real thrill if I could move him up to Preliminary at the Plantation Field Horse Trials in the fall, as the Walkers are the landowners and event organizers of this great event.


The Friday Clive

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling to himself, "that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said Lord Digory.  "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy.  "In our world, too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

Manchester City v Arsenal

Another big game ahead as Arsenal travel up from London to the Etihad Stadium. The media have taken delight in declaring City's season is crumbling after falling out of the Champions League and suffering their first domestic defeat against Chelsea. All I will say to that is "pffft, get a grip and find something interesting to write about".

Arsene Wenger's side haven't exactly got off to a flying start to the season after selling 3 very important players over the summer. Their defensive record is quite shocking overall, conceding more goals than anyone in the top 7 teams.

This poor record is partly down to their complete and utter capitulation to Manchester United earlier on in the season, but they have only conceded 2 in their last 5 Premier League games. However, their numbers at the back have taken a serious hit and are without a recognised full-back on either side of the pitch.

Unsurprisingly I would say their main threat is Robin van Persie. RVP has almost single handedly kept the Gunners in the top half of the table, scoring 15 or the team's 31 league goals. And they said City relied too much on Tevez last season! I've not heard much (anything) about how van Persie has been carrying the squad from the media, and you wont do either.

Given RVP's goal scoring form, it is a little concerning that City haven't kept a clean sheet for 8 consecutive league games. The absence of Nigel De Jong has certainly showed this season as Mancini has opted for the combination of Barry and Toure in the middle rather than Barry and De Jong with Toure further up the pitch.

On the plus side of this though it has obviously enabled City to be more adventurous despite using the exact same formation as last season as we now have more quality attacking players to choose from. There can be no denying that City's ability going forward has more than made up for less cover at the back.

Talking of cover at the back, Micah Richards is set to return at right-back which is a big boost to the squad. Pablo Zabaleta is likely to move over to the left of defence as Kolarov is still recovering from injury and Clichy is suspended. Other than that, there are no injury concerns at this time.

City are once again favourites with the bookies to come out on top, and despite Arsenal slowly getting themselves back into top form and City's little blip in the league I'd have to agree with them. Arsenal will come and play football, there will be no buses parked in front of their goal. This, coupled with their makeshift defence, could play right into City's strength on the break.

And FIFA 12 predicts...

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
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