Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mr. Merlot

Mr. Merot is a 2005 Welsh/Thoroughbred pony and honestly, makes the ponies that went down centerline at Gladstone National Championships look like hunter rejects.

He has the best of both worlds going for him and the looks (and scores) to boot. Seriously this pony has done great things on the east coast and would be competitive in any situation that we put him in.

Merlot is the type that is not only talented, but safe and fun to be on. You can literately pack him around anywhere with or without a care in the world and he has been there and done that on multiple occasions, big and small situations, with both youth, pro and now AA. By no means 100 percent push button,  he's going to make someone a really nice pony schoolmaster (he's corrected me on a few occasions about my canter departs), but in the end he's a solid citizen with flash and class.

Yes, Merlot is for sale.

Why? Well, of the two Merlot is a good candidate for the sport and for a kid or a AA to do something with while learning the ropes.  Plus honestly, he just needs his own human, he thrives off of personal worship and adoration. He's a serious ham. I (and his owner) would like to see him go to a home that will be competitive with him. He's fairly priced at $25k and can be viewed while with me in Florida.

Interest should be pointed towards his owner Cory Gregory:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Turn the clock to zero

How many times will I look back at 2011 and look, sometimes with amusement, wonder or  sadness, of all the things that we've done?

It was a hugely challenging and rewarding year. Literally expanded horizons and took things back on the road. With highs and lows in between, but I can honestly say, we met every goal set out and a little bit extra along the way. I'm forever proud of my ponies, and the people who are in our corner.It's been nothing short of an adventure, and it only has really just begun.

2011 Horsey Stuff:
  1. Finish bronze
    Did this in style on my birthday.
  2. Go PSG and 4th level
    I didn't get to compete but I did roll through the entire fourth level and PSG prior to fall, and even had the entry done for Pony Cup for PSG.This year we're set to roll out from the start.
  3. Continue to teach and train Sincere, bring him to shows
    Sincere didn't make any cameo appearances, but by the end of fall he did his 30 days under saddle and is now resting up for spring.
  4. Finish first part of L program
    Achieved, and got my sitting/scribing hours done to boot. I'm an L Candidate. Need to now go on to the second part of the program.
  5. Continue to grow the business
    The business hit turbulence around April when my former business partner pulled out. It took me until August to regroup and reform the business as a single entity. But so far, doing pretty darn good! Managed to host two more clinics in the past two months, and I have what seems like a pretty full roster for 2012. I'm cautiously optimistic for 2012, and still work towards being on even footing on all times. 
  6. Save for 2012 breeding and in general
    I, on a whim, purchased a breeding to Donatelli. Don't know where I'm going with this, but I think it's somewhere good. General savings were slaughtered again. I had also decided not to breed Sinari. It's not fair to take her out for two years and expect her to return. Embryo transfer just isn't an option. 
  7. Improve wardrobe
    I did! Three new pairs of white breeches, new show shirt, new (old) pin, new boots and a few other items to go out on the road with me. I'm still adding to my collection of polos.
All in all, it was a good year with amazing friends and family. I can't wait for 2012 to be here, and see what's in store for us then.

Goals 2012:
  1. Sinari to roll at 4th/PSG and school around I2.
  2. Start/finish Silver Medal
  3. Find a schoolmaster, start working towards CDI's
  4. Ride Sincere, and get him through his first big boy outings
  5. Continue to grow the business, but find balance in between.
  6. Finish 2nd half of L program, gain scores for r.
  7. Start my apprenticeship for my organizers stuff

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    God rest ye merry gentlemen

    Dear Santa,

    The holidays are nearly here, and I know some well-deserving ponies that could use some extra schwag near their stalls this holiday time.

    Sinari has been the best this year, for her I would like to make her job easier. Perhaps a Back on Track Blanket to complement her arsenal of Back on Track Saddle pads? Or hey that County Saddle we've had our eyes on for the last two years would be lovely as well.

    For Sincere, who doesn't really need much, extra apples (fresh Gaylas are his favorite) for him and extra time with me who doesn't get to see him very much.  If you can find a way to turn him into mini Toto, that would be great too, but I like him anyways.

    Also Santa, don't forget about the two newbies. They're cruising along too:)

    Mr. Merlot needs a great new home where a kid or an adult amateur can love on him all day long and take him out and kick ass with him. I'm sure he's easily transportable in that sled of yours and won't eat the cookies, and I'm sure you have a list of little girls who would just dote on him.

    For Wylie, a way to organize himself. Although he is getting there quickly, somedays are physically challenging. Also if you could let him get about 100lbs of muscle while in Florida. That boy has some talent and would be fun to go play at the top with him.

    Finally Santa, if you have room for one or two more things for myself, it would be awesome.

    I know you can't increase the hours in a regular day (more would be appreciated), but if you can find a small tour horse that I could compete CDI's with I would be greatly obliged, and help me finish the L program and obtain my scores for my Silver, produce another wonderful young horse and just go out and have fun, it would be great. But since you know me, I would settle for a good year and good horses any day of the week.

    You know where I live:)

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011


    (People have asked for regular updates with Florida travels, so consider this a blog within a blog)

    I keep forgetting it's December, there are only two weeks left out in the year and everyday seems jam packed full of stuff to do.

    Before I skipped town for the weekend I had a lot to do. Between packing and prepping, I've now been away for two consecutive weekends. Last week was my last meeting with Koford before we skip down south and this past weekend I hosted a clinic with Shannon Peters at Two Swans Farm.

    Last week's clinic with Koford went great, Sinari has come back stronger and more into the work. She's really firing, just needs the fitness at this point. I came home to work on pir's and cleaning up the collection. It also helps that I've inherited a good pair of eyes on the ground that can be equally torturous as I can.

    I came home to ride the boys, and they have been super stars. I've been playing with the balance and connection with both of them now (and now that I have a few new tricks in the bag from Shannon, we'll be rocking right along), taking them deeper and then when released bringing them up to move with more uphill balance. Wylie is incredible, he's such a scopey mover with a ton of action.

    The sale pony, Merlot, is moving right along with the program as well, and when he gets it, has great mediums and can sit. He's going to make someone a really nice FEI pony.

    Also last week, because the weather was nice, we clipped.

    Clipping ponies is always an adventure, they seem to grow twice the hair of a normal horse. Monday I worked on Sinari, and while everything was great, I think I screwed her face up.

    Sinari, unfortunately, needs drugs to be clipped, she tends to panic . I think she had something done to her earlier in her life. She came out of the drugs a little sooner than expected and lost my line on her face, so... it looks entertaining.

    The other problem was lack of light in the barn. When you clip you need as much light as you can, and with some barns there isn't always enough light or time to get everything. I managed to get the boys and girl clipped out prior to FL departure, and still had enough time to slam down laundry to the local soap house. But I'm afraid some spots may be interpretive at best.

    This particular trip down south was for business purposes, but in reality, "bacation" would have been a more apt term. I got to hang out with people and get to play with ground work in the pi/pa tours. I met even more fantastic people, and hope to see them again very soon.

    While not my first time hosting in FL, it was my first time in Wellington.

    Talk about a different league. It was like pitching for a minor team and then being expected to pitch for the Yankees in the world series. Challenging, intriguing, hard, and lots of expectations.

    Best view in town.
    The sheer amount of dressage, quality horses and people is enough to send any normal dressage queen over the edge in seizures. I had the immense pleasure of hosting at Two Swans Farm with a world class riders riding under another world class rider.

    I came back far more educated and a little more hungry than planned. I have a whole fun set of exercises to play with now. 

    The entire weekend was incredibly productive on the organizational front, I confirmed shipping dates and I also started to get something of a schedule thrown together. Now I'm back for two more weeks of holidays, riding and packing.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    New faces

    Christmas came early, I got new ponies to play with the other week (been belated on introducing them).

    Wylie Court Jester (Wicked Court Jester) and Mr. Merlot are two ponies that I've been watching for years. They are fantastically bred ponies that have pretty much made waves on the east coast. They are every dressage rider's dream ponies and would easily hold their own in Europe. I envied them and Cory Gregory for years. Never in a million years would expect to get a phone call asking if I wanted to take up the reins.

    But, life, as with ponies occasionally takes a turn.After a flurry of conversations with Cory, the boys came down to be legged up for the spring.

    Both boys settled in without a hassle, and have been getting back to work for the past two weeks. While we're still on our honeymoon period, they are showing very well. They are exceptionally fun and challenging in their own ways. They are two very distinct rides and I can't wait to really dig in.

    The best part is they will be shipping in to Florida with Sinari.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Fashionable accessories.

    The leg work for Florida continues on.

    Sinari got her shoes tacked on. For the last eight or nine years, we've gone barefoot, and competed successfully with nothing with what nature gave us, so the change was something that I had to think about.

    Before hear the boo hiss of renegade hard-core barefoot people out there, I did it with a lot of thought in mind. First being keeping soundness during the year. In 2011 alone we've gone on more than 11 different surfaces, each one of them had their own challenges and features. Support was needed there.

    Secondly, despite having a good hoof keeping her hooves from becoming bruised/sore/ect was a challenge during peak training times. The ground here changes rapidly from week to week especially in summer and being on different surfaces wear the hoof differently. She was literally wearing her hooves out. 

    Finally, it was also a confidence issue. She just wasn't digging the pir's or mediums. I think she wasn't getting enough traction and re-directing the energy enough to really dig in and sit.

    The change has been enormously positive she just motors in the mediums and has a bit more confidence in the collection. The compression is much stronger. This weekend on a new surface she dug in and was uphill, expressive and confident. The only thing that is lacking is the high gear fitness, she could only last maybe 10 minutes of intense work without a walk break.

    Give it another three weeks and we can roll through a steady 4-1.

    Entries also opened up for the Gold Coast opener. While I want to do Wellington, Ocala is turning out to be a more reasonable option as far as costs, move up scenarios and trailer time (10 minutes versus four hours). But then there's also the issue of scheduling, on the weekend of the Ocala show I have a Young Rider Graduate conference in Wellington, within the same week I may have a clinic to ride in as well.

    So... choices. Either way we'll be stuck in a trailer, either way we'll be doing something.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Eyes up on the horizon

    I hate packing.

    The only thing worse is driving.

    I did both a lot as a student, and eventually had it down to a science. Packing came down to three big boxes and a few minor bags. Driving came to don't stop until you run out of gas.

    Packing for horses is a little different, especially when crossing state lines. I thankfully have people in Florida who are making the transition that much easier, helping me find good sources for bedding and general supplies, giving me tips (like bring your own hay) along the way. But it also means counting pennies.

    The hard part is the 30 days prior to take off when all organizational hell breaks loose, especially when you're trying to get your horses conditioned and your barn packed up not just once, but twice.

    Sinari is getting her traveling shoes back on. She is being moved again prior to going to Florida, just as a way to leg up for the up coming season. Between that it's a clinic with Koford, my trip to Wellington and a number of other things as well. I need to get the vet out next week to do some clipping, chiro work, fresh coggins and I think a few miscellaneous pack items.

    Sincere is going to his wintering grounds to grow up a bit before being brought back as a three year old. I'm really excited about him coming under saddle again.

    I hate splitting the herd up, it's very hard not getting to see him every day or play with him. I enjoy seeing both, but for now, he belongs outside in a herd to grow up.

    It's finally December and we're down to the last 30 something days on the calendar year. I don't know where November went at all, it's actually hard to imagine that it felt like September two weeks ago. 

    November goals:
    -Fit and hack out
    Check, as many times as I could with the weather.
    -Winterize trailer, small welding project and lay mats down
    -Continue with 30 days
    Finished, with flying colors.
    -Work lateral work
    Check, I think we lost our half halt
    -Prepare for Florida
    Check. Preparations are well under way.

    -Condition, fit and hack out
    -Clinic in TN

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Shameless promotion: Jim Koford

    For those who know him, Jim Koford is an amazing guy and one of the best people in the industry to know. Bar none.

    Seriously, who else can roll around Rolex and compete Grand Prix dressage the next and then go out for a beer and shoot the breeze? Koford.

    Jim is known for a lot of antics, but recently he's managed to find himself in a place that a lot of us would envy: high performance dressage with not just one, but two horses that have a very serious shot at the Olympics, World Equestrian Games and several other venues where the Team is planning on showing up. 

    One of the horses is Rhett (R. Johnson). He is American-bred (in fact Kentucky-bred) by Shirley McQullian who lives maybe six miles from my house. 

    This is indeed a unique situation.

    A lot has been said over the years by numerous people who have bemoaned, that despite successes of the US team, the field is still, for the most part made up of European imports. That breeders do not support the efforts of trying to field riders with international-caliber mounts via their program.
    Not in this case.

    We, as an American community, have a superb opportunity to showcase two Americans, one horse, one human, on the world stage. We, as a breeding community, have the opportunity to send a message to others that yes, small breeders who thoughtfully breed and support riders CAN be competitive in here and Europe. We, as a riding community, finally have a shot to bring someone who is authentic, personable and realizes, it's about something greater and far more important than the DQ mentality.  

    So why the hell NOT support them? 

    While there are the normal ways (Medal Equus, direct donations, sacrifices), McQullian and several members of the community have put together a treasure trove auction of canvas art, pottery, bronzes, jewlery, breedings, lessons, books and other fun items on FACEBOOK.  

    While I'm sure everyone has gotten their Holiday shopping done, I would be much obliged if you would visit, leave a comment and pass the word along. If you find something interesting, bid on it, the auction ends December 10th.

    In the meantime, if you run across Koford, give him a kick in the ass and a slap on the back. He's gonna need all the help he can get.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Editorial: Opportunity (or about thanks)

    Karen over at CONTACT recently posted about Boyd Martin's Working Student Position and the unfair's of being charged to work, and the only uber rich/affluent can afford to do that position.

    Three years ago I would have been doing the "right on sister!" routine with the crowd, but nowadays, not so much.

    Partly, it's due to me coming to realize how the horse business operates, the other part I think comes from now realizing what I have, and being more than grateful for the hand I have now. 

    At one point or another roughly three years ago, I was right there, horse rich, cash poor, educationally starved and very, if any, zero to no help in the bank department.

    What I had literally scraped together for my lesson money was about a quarter of my paycheque at the time (Starbucks Barista and starting-out free lance writer on limited work hours due to college for those referencing) and if I was frugal enough, I could do it every two weeks. 

    I kept my mare at bare-bones minimum with an outdoor and fed what I could afford (grass hay). I had also then stopped competing, and was pretty much languishing about things.

    It sucked.

    Not just because I couldn't afford to do anything, but I was really stuck in a rut. 

    I decided if I wanted what I wanted, and to really bring the potential out in my mare (and me) I needed to do something different.

    Problem was I didn't know how or what. Truth is there isn't a heck of a lot of opportunities for training level AA's out there, especially on "alternative breeds". My scores (after looking at what I'm achieving now) were laughable, and I lived with people who didn't think I could even ride anything bigger than 14.2.

    Something had to change.

    Things didn't begin to change for me until I made a change. Hindsight being what it is, it started with the barn. I switched to a reining barn where dressage, let alone meters, wasn't understood. I had breathing room, and an indoor and life became great.

    I also then, after I quit editorial (inconsistent cush job), took a really crappy job that paid consistently so I could take lessons with a local dressage trainer. My schedule also became consistent. It also lead me to pick up a mare, breed her and got very lucky. I got to one point, plateued, and then pushed to another.

    When I had started Team EnGaged, all I really wanted was the opportunity to educate myself. I never knew where it would lead. It's lead to something good, and while it will never allow me to retire, it's network and plethora of people that I've come to rely on I'm hugely appreciative of.

    You see, no one is obligated to hand out positions to help yourself, employers aren't even obligated to make sure you progress. So when somebody asks you to carry you're fair weight (work wise, financially, ect), you a choice of stepping up or stepping out.

    Little by little things have built up to a place where I feel I've actually done something, and the sensation of whining about what I don't have and the inability to take advantage of opportunities is gone.

    Does it suck I can't go out on a lark and take three months to do serious intense training?  Yeah, but I can't afford to take three months out of a full time job, keep my life and work towards future goals. So, I figure out what I can afford to do, work my pitute for it and continuously push boundaries.

    Are there setbacks? Yes, a lot. But it's the willingness to take what you have and make the best go of it that makes opportunities available to you and your horse.

    The lesson inevitably is, sometimes opportunities are more direct than others, and some have better chances, but the ones that are most assured, and appreciated, are the ones you've developed over time, bit by bit.

    So don't bemoan those who have the means and capability to do, be thankful, and stay hungry.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    The heart is alive tonight

    Three days of rain and a dentist appointment knocked us out of our game plan.

    I've been naughty and haven't had the ponies floated in awhile. Actually, for Sincere it was his first time in the chair. Quick drugs and he was an unbalanced mass of two year old. Poor lad had the most work done, wolf teeth yanked, angles re-righted, seat put in, hooks begone and all the while the vet was amusing how small his mouth was for a two year old.

    While he was under I took the opportunity to pull his mane to a reasonable length.

    Sinari, who was also floated just had a couple of hooks.  She's already going and doing better.

    I'm still excited about up coming winter, I'm excited at the possibility of an entire string coming with me, however it's presenting challenges.

    First is settling in at home base, which is proving a bit difficult with the holiday coming up. I want home prepped up so I can leave and come back with very little drama. This means a lot of networking and pre-packing/arranging, supplying both sites, assuring transport and care for those staying behind.

    The next is preparing, Sinari is out of her beach body and into her santa suit. She's only lasting about 20 minutes of solid work and then there are the contract negotiations with her (yes my right leg means something). She's an extremely rewarding ride, and hopefully will keep the hotness when the fitness returns.

    I have clinic on the 10th and 11th of December, and then I'm out hosting again the week after. I'm fighting weather and time.

    Then finally there's execution and survival. I'm hitting a deep budgets, and I need to make sure my bills are covered and paid and I can return, I need to make sure that my contracts are signed and ready to roll. Scary stuff for me, and a huge gamble. 

    But needless to say I'm excited and ready to roll out.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Rolling in the deep

    Fall is something else in the horse industry. Between the color, clipping and the year end wrap up, the whole population is in transition.

    Kentucky winters are catch and catch all. Some years they're mild, and will not get below 50 degrees; and others, well... you don't get to leave the house for three months.

    There are people who are making the yearly trek down to Florida and then there is the indoor shuffle. I've officially joined the thundering herd, at least temporarily.

    My herd is back in transition. I spent this week trying to recover from my last week's trip to Florida and planning the next few trips down there as well for business.

    I have decided to go to Florida this year with Sinari. I've been avoiding it in years past simply because I didn't have the cash and it feels stupid to take a horse down there that isn't competing at a certain level. I also felt stifled to expand my network in an unknown area. It wasn't until recently did I know anyone that does that trip, and felt comfortable enough to do it.

    We've ended up in Ocala this year simply because of friends and cash flow and hopefully by next year we'll be in Wellington as an FEI pair (I'm planning on using the time to get my scores at fourth and qualify for DAD and part of my silver).

    The trek to Florida also means prepping up and out for it. A first major goal since the splint.

    Sinari is back to being powder keg hot. It's nothing short of wonderful. She doesn't last long still but with another few weeks she will be back to it. Worked a lot of lateral work, a lot of schooling pir's and changes. Her changes are bigger, but inconsistent. Trying to find my schedule with her has been a bit challenging, but with a few upcoming changes it should be better.

    Sincere I couldn't be happier with. He walks, trots and canters under saddle, off the lunge, round, and fairly balanced. He is above all obedient. It bodes well. He too will be breaking for winter fields and then back to work in spring. As a 2 ½ year old, he's done plenty.

    I also did a minor fashion splurge for the 2012.

    I purchased my first shadbelly. I've been holding off for a while, I wanted a nice one, and nice ones run in the area of 600 on up. Then I ran across this one, of all places Facebook. A 14R, for 30 bucks. Sold. It arrived the other day, tried it on and while the waist needs to be tailored a little shorter (and I was thinking about putting different buttons on it), it fits like an old favorite jacket. It's beautiful and elegant, and surreal.

    Another surreal thing is I got the notice that I was accepted into the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program.
    I had applied a bit on a whim not thinking I would be remotely competitive enough or even accepted. A lot of the riders who apply have been to the NAJRYC, have been competitively mounted and trained since the age of 18. While I've been trained, and continue to have access to really good teachers, I've never been competitively mounted on anything trained by someone else. Plus I'm only now getting good results and records.

    So to be invited to that and have the potential to go to the FEI Trainers conference has made my day. 

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Everytime I Return

    I've been through six states in the last four days. I think that has to be a new personal record. The on-the-road gig plus or minus a few other projects has put a crimp in updating.

    Despite whacky scheduling, I couldn't be happier with the way things are turning out with the ponies.

    Sinari is positively electric with the change of venue. I can barely put a leg on her without going across the arena with megawatt power. The bonus is she's utra-light in the bridle. She still doesn't last very long, but her efforts haven't gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Need to ride her a bit more tactfully.

    Sincere is a huge success. There is something about watching a colt you've bred and pushed onward to start his career under saddle. From the first ride to now, he's doing light work. He has the best attitude, and a ton of ability for being so new to the work. I can't wait to get in the irons.

    Recapping October:

    October goals:
    -Clean, winterize trailer, stow summer supplies.
    -Continue to walk and begin to condition again.
    Conditioning is doing great, working like a fiend.
    -Complete 30 days with Sincere
    In around day 10. Got a late start.
    -2012 schedule.
    Check. Should see some great stuff.
    -Finish paperwork (L Program, awards, ect)
    Sent everything in, officially awarded Bronze, now an L Candidate, and working on a number of projects.

    November goals:
    -Fit and hack out
    -Winterize trailer, small welding project and lay mats down
    -Continue with 30 days
    -Work lateral work
    -Prepare for Florida

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    The Sound of Winter

    October has been eventful.

    In Kentucky, it's Breeder's Cup and Auction season. The yearlings have gone to sale and the last major championship for the signature industry

    After a week's vacation, I'm back at home and going full steam with prepping in for 2012, plus finishing up a series of projects and planning out things for '12.  Between that and hearing about the weather up north and East, I feel exceptionally lucky that snow hasn't come our way yet.

    I'm excited to be back with Sinari under saddle. She has been going like her hair has been on fire. She's slowly coming into fitness again, but the work with her has been more than productive. She gives 110 percent every time out now, and has actually become very hot in the work.

    With the time off she lost a lot of endurance, while she gives it all, she can't maintain beyond short spurts. I don't think the winter coat is helping either. She'll be clipped out sooner than later, and the fitness is returning slowly.

    Sincere has also been going well, he's doing his first 30 days. I've been roughly to four of the sessions, and I'm really happy with how he's coming along. He's an eager student, easy to get along with and willing to work. I seriously can't wait until he's four and going full gear. In the meantime, I'm really enjoying seeing him accept the work.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011


    Sinari's nick name with several people is Tina Turner. Same diva attitude, same hair.

    On a good day, the volume of it trumps that of one of those candy floss cones you get at the carnival, on a bad day, it's more like Bride of Frankenstein.

    It's extremely pretty, and, occasionally an extreme pain in the ass.

    Traditionally, the pony has always sported a long running, french braid when working. She works five or six days a week, which means five or six days of braiding. You get pretty quick about doing it, my best time was five minutes with 28 sections. 

    Normally, when a horse is in work with me, long manes get chopped. Many an Andalusian, Lusitano, Haflinger and Freisan mane went by the wayside. I My mother insisted otherwise on this one.

    So, for the last eight years, I've been braiding. Every ride.

    Since April, I was debating about giving it the old chop and pull. She has a lovely topline and neck that supports the buttons, and would compliment her build.

    And, then today, then I bit the bullet, and did it.

    It felt much like cutting off of Aslan's mane, or something short of what I did three or four years ago to myself. I ended up with a foot of soft blonde mane and a lot of pulling ahead of me. It also now looks like she had more topline because of the weight and curl of it.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Wide open spaces

    A few weeks ago we broke camp and had the opportunity to get out into a different facility for a while.

    This was a huge lifestyle change for Sinari.

    For the last five years, she was pretty much in a stall on extremely limited turnout (two hours daily, in good weather). Occasionally we caught luck and got to turn out for three or four days, but for the most part it was stall central.

    Her stall was really deeply bedded, I spent a good portion of my paycheque and afternoons making sure it was just right. She also had a dutch door and a window to look out of so she wouldn't be bored or feel closed off. The barn itself had high, open ceilings.

    I became a quintessential DQ in that regard. If anything was less than ideal, it was hand grazing and hand walking.

    When we moved, that situation changed, drastically.

    We went from 3 hours, max, to 8 in a very grazed down two acre field. 

    Coming off a splint, I was holding my breath for the first three weeks as she pounded around her field at whatever gait she choose.

    Since she didn't melt, break, blow up or disintegrate, it really made me start to think about horse keeping, turnout and injuries in general.

    Horse keeping became easier. I first noticed I wasn't burning through two bales a week, and 10 bags of shavings. But I have a feeling this is going to change, not just with winter but with work load. But for now she gets good forage out in the field.

    But it's what I've noticed about her physically that's changed.

    After we've backed off the work, she lost a bit of muscling and condition. Over the summer I was constantly working to keep soreness in check.

    Off the bat, her back and hips are less sore. She's much more loose in the work, and the problem places seem to be going away. She's due for a chiro appointment.

    Then there's the current issue of the old splint. Splints are created by the bone being reformed/re-modeled from work. They happen in many cases, but I think lack of turnout had a factor in this due to the non-gradual nature of the conditioning work (coupled by really packed ground) involved.

    So while I'm not going to go to the opposite end of the spectrum of total pasture puff, I'm actually happy with the changes in place to allow her to be a horse and allow her to physically re-charge for the work at hand.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Learning to walk again

    Sinari is back under tack doing light work. I'm immensely happy to have her back. She's steadily gaining back conditioning with the work.

    I'm still working and riding the horses. I need to, they're just as much fun as the ponies and I have someone exciting in the wings.

    Namely we've been concentrating on forward, supple and balance, taking the time to lay some firm rules down for the push back to 4th and PSG. There is some grumbling from the girl about committing to that much balance, but already it feels better.

    Hopefully we'll be further up to speed by the end of the month. Florida is still under consideration with her.

    Sincere, however, has been going gang busters in his work. Lunging lightly under saddle, he's really accepted the job. He's worn saddles, bridles, side reins and Vienna reins. Accepted it all, with class and maturity. He looks awesome and minus some willy nillies from spooking at the turkeys, he's pretty darn brave. I can't wait to see him go on as a three year old and a fully formed four year old.

    Since this is the end of the year, it means paper work. I shipped in my L paper work, my Bronze Medal application (conveniently online), the photo release form for the USDF Year Book, YR Graduate Application, and a few other things (trying to get my 2012 calendar in order). I have a few projects on the stove, and I still have clipping I need to get done with the ponies.

    But right now, it doesn't matter, I'm taking a week break from the rush and I have an excellent view of the ocean.

    The Blog has it's own paperwork as well. I'm still surprised after 250 plus posts and a number of years, that people actually read what I write. But then again, it still comes as a surprise when people come up and comment about articles I've written or edited professionally as well.

    We recently received the One Lovely Blog Award from Dressage on the Quarter. Dressage on the Quarter posts very regularly, and, has a diverse amount of discussion.

    Because of the perpetual nature of the award, I nominate the blogs to the left. They are good reads and aren't always just dressage-related.

    The other condition of the award is I have to divulge 7 things about myself. So here it goes:

    1. I meet my  heroes on a regular basis. I'm surrounded and continually inspired by the people who I train with, who I know, and who I work with. They keep me, the ponies and my perspective fresh. I think it's uber neat that I get to play, frequently, with those who help shape and impact the sport (not just dressage) on a far reaching level.

    2.  It takes a village to raise an FEI horse. I rely on my team on a day-to-day basis to help us get where we're going. Currently on board is a small army of individuals and companies that keep us afloat. I'm hugely ambitious, and want to compete as many times as I can with the ponies at the FEI level, so I seriously cannot do it without them.

    2a. Within the same vein: my ponies and horses are awesome too. They are deeply apart of my life and have been for sometime. They've sometimes come from odd, unexpected places as well. Sinari was found on a tobacco farm in back woods Kentucky, Sincere was bred out of two plain bays (and out of a dam that was never started under saddle and came to me malnourished) and the others I've found through just a bevy of network contacts and luck. I feel immensely privileged to have talented, willing and capable equines. When I'm away from them I don't feel right, so I carry video and photographs of them everywhere.

    3. I'm pursuing my L, and eventually my 'r' for Dressage and DSHB. I'm currently apprenticing for my CDI organizers license as well (it's a five year push).

    4. I'm a work-a-holic. I enjoy having multiple projects, staying busy and solving complicated, huge projects (as well as the cute small ones). Especially after they've created issues. It's a huge rush seeing the resolution come through. Whether it be a complicated article, piece of code, design flaw, riding issues, I don't care, if there's a way to make things less complicated, more effective and more beneficial to a larger part of the world, I'm right there tinkering with it. It also means vacationing and taking time for myself is hard (not to mention 2a).

    5. I love to read and watch movies. I regularly abuse my iPad, Netflix and Library card. It also doesn't help I work for the world's largest retailer and I have access to all the new stuff coming out prior to it hitting the shelves. During the off and winter season, I probably roll through a book every week or so.

    6. I'm find myself becoming more and more frustrated with the trend of feel good training within the discipline. I like uncomplicated (and happy), but I realize to progress you have to break a few eggs to get there. Training isn't always pretty, it's not meant to be perfect. It's meant to allow development. When things don't go well, or a new idea is met with resistance, just keep going.

    7. I believe you are never where you don't belong.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Wake me when September ends

    September in Kentucky has always been a month of transition, and like everything in transition, you get a bit of good and bad.

    A year ago, Kentucky played host to the biggest equestrian block party for three weeks, and I think still a year later we're having a small hang over from it. I was in WEG Candy Land and rehabbing Sinari from when she cast herself at the first Christoph Hess clinic. Sincere was not really doing much of anything except eating.

    Transition a year later. 

    This month we were still convalescing for different reasons. A small splint popped earlier in August, which we began treating aggressively. While it cleared out in a week, Sinari still remained sensitive, and we were cautious about putting her back to work before that sensitivity cleared up. We skipped NDPC, the rest of the season, and the doldrums set in.

    I began working Sincere more earnestly to ready him for his first 30 days. The more I played with him the more he really took up the challenge. I took on a few more horses that needed to be ridden, and started planning 2012. I became a little more active in the region via the BOD, I even was conscripted to different disciplines for some extra work. 

    Finally, we were cleared earlier this week to walk, and for the first time, in a month, I rode something smaller than 17.2 hands, super wide and was worked beyond first level.

    Holy mother of pearl what a different feeling.

    My hips didn't wishbone when I got on and there was the odd feeling of not having a mile of neck in front of me. Everything was compact. Everything felt... small.

    We strolled through the lanes around the property, nothing huge or spectacular, just out for a stroll. It ended too soon, but I know they'll be more to come; hopefully the weather will hold for it.

    Needless to say the majority of goals I set out weren't accomplished this month, except supplying out winter and trying to end the year's endless paperwork.

    September Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    -Condition, keep running through PSG.
    -Ready supplies for winter
    Check! Found a reliable source for winter hay, need to still re-supply, and clean blankets.

    October goals:
    -Clean, winterize trailer, stow summer supplies.
    -Continue to walk and begin to condition again.
    -Complete 30 days with Sincere
    -2012 schedule.
    -Finish paperwork (L Program, awards, ect)

    Baby Love (SHN v. DAD)

    It's a bonus show weekend, two championship shows going off at the same time in two different places.

    The East Coast tradition, Dressage at Devon, where every breeder hopes to end up and Sport Horse Nationals, where every Sport Horse person with an Arabian wants to as well.

    I unfortunately happen to on both sides of the fence.

    One of my goals this year with Sincere was to make it to AHA's Sport Horse Nationals. I felt his quality at the start of the year wasn't going to be up to the Dixon Oval (boy was I wrong). Plus SHN, is, after all in our backyard. Easy decision right? Hauling distance versus not hauling, hotel versus my own bed, roses over rosette. Not.

    Unfortunately, timing and cash flow didn't work out for SHN. 

    On doing the entire entry for one (!) class, was over $500, including stabling, memberships I would have to have and a few other requirements. This, for a single in hand class, for a two year old.  What made the class attractive in 2010 and not 2011? Cash payout, which they abolished this year.  For two minutes in the arena, it's roughly $4.16 a minute, no payback.

    Normally, I don't complain about show costs. I'm used to filling out entries for myself and several other competitors and seeing the tabs that are racked up in the name of pursuing blues.

    However, I really couldn't justify this cost when I sat down and ran the numbers against Devon, who has the largest breed show in America attached to it and also no payout. Cost: $350 for three classes, which included stabling ($1.94 a minute if you really want to do the math) and the registration cost for USDF for Sincere to compete. My memberships to USEF and USDF already allow me in, and the best young horses on the East Coast are there.

    So the future choice becomes: Garland of Roses or Dixon Blue?  

    Don't get me wrong, I love both shows.

    A placing at Devon would mean serious street credit for Sincere. It would mean a lot in other departments as well.  I've always wanted to show Devon.

    A placing at SHN would mean street credit in the breed for the boy as well, but there's something that would be sour about placing there, especially after I saw the classes run and scored.

    I believe AHA has taken a huge step and risk in bringing the show to Kentucky on a permanent basis. I believe that they are trying to revitalize an industry that has been a victim of their own success, in a way that allows regular people to compete their horses in a national championship venue in disciplines that naturally promote and award good, ethical training practices.

    The joy of the SHN show is that the in-hand classes are huge and the quality is bell-curved.

    You have everyone showing young horses all the way through mature stallions. Everyone gets a spin on the triangle. Where most breed shows are drying up, this one boasts serious numbers (43 for half arabian geldings alone). Their definition of how an amateur can handle horses is open; but unlike open shows, the classes aren't strictly run to the morays of Dressage Sport Horse Breeding or Hunter Breeding. The show is a hybrid between an open dressage, hunter, carriage show and an Arabian show.

    That's where the sour feeling comes in.

    While it's great that the class numbers are big, and that an amateur can handle a non-relation owned horse, there are bigger problems.

    The breeding classes are mashed together, so it's a mixed bag of movers and judges (hunter judges place hunters and dressage judges place dressage), there's also a score for "arabian type" which I don't believe has any bearing on what would make a good sport horse. You're not allowed a whip handler, and you're not allowed to make a double pass either.

    Most of this is tolerable, but there is one bothersome point: is that there is no end result to the process.

    Where normal in hand shows are just for young horses (6 and under with the occasional appearance by a mature stallion), AHA is producing the next halter industry, and ignoring the creation of a pipeline from in hand to a performance career. They are ignoring the point of why breeding classes exist not as permanent places to show, but as a way to identify, develop and award talent and breeding programs that produce it.

    So, while I'm still interested in showing at SHN in future under saddle classes, for the 99 percent of the time that Sincere will be competing, it will be in the regular world, against every other horse, where I know his placings and wins aren't tempered with the statement: 'just the best of the breed', but rather just the best.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    I wanna go

    Mary Phelps, Whip; K. Gage, Groom. Phelps Photo
    It's been busy out here.

    The year end stuff has finally caught up with us and it's the final drive to October.

    Most of my last two weeks have been spent on the road, training, grooming, finishing up 2011 or planning out 2012.I haven't really seen my guys, or ridden any of my usuals.

    I partly blame the weather. My outdoors have been under water now for the last two weeks. So, I've spent the weeks finishing out my paperwork so I can go forward with graduating the L, attend  few conferences and figure out winter.

    But needless to say it hasn't been short of adventurous. 

    After getting to ride 17.1 hand giants (a nice mare and two lovely geldings), clipping a few ponies (see above photo for results) I was conscripted into service by Sterling Graburn for the weekend for a HDT in Louisville.

    I'm not an exact stranger to driving, but I am a complete novice when it comes to the particulars and morays. Within an entire weekend, I think I managed to get grasp on the basics of it. I even groomed and navigated. I ran into old friends and even made a few new ones.

    The quality of horses here ranged from VSE to international caliber. It was incredibly pleasant to experience that range and hospitality of both competitor and organizer.  

    It felt nice to step out of my discipline for a bit and go in to a place that is a little out of my depth, but not too unfamiliar at the same time.

    Now I'm back at home, readying for the final go for October, sending Sincere off for his first 30 days and trying to gain more saddle time while closing out the last bit of the year.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    We've got to make it rain somehow

    I started writing this complaining about the weather. Up until Friday, it was raining, and spent another week grounded because of weather and a convalescing pony.

    Seems like karma can't catch a break.  

    With the free time and plowing through my weekly groceries, I managed to catch up on paperwork. I was glued into the USEF National Dressage Finals pretty hard, cheering on friends who made it to the pinnacle of the season. Over the weekend I managed to stop by the NDPC/MSEDA show to watch a few of the rides, be around people and carry out appointments.

    But, between rounds, I found out it's very hard for me to sit on the sidelines.In fact, it really bites.

    So I went back to the barn, and instead of feeling out, I went to work.

    Sincere was groomed and worked in hand. He's going through another growth spurt, and while he isn't swan ugly, he's not looking like a super model either. He's amazing to work with and alongside. Soon he'll be shipped out to winter pasture to grow up a little further.

    Sinari was groomed, going to have to clip her soon. She's regained a lot of her energy and she's becoming jealous of Sincere. Hopefully will be back under saddle soon and preparing out for winter season.

    Saturday, September 3, 2011


     It's dry out. You step on the grass out here and it's like walking on dead leaves. The ground is hard, and we're in need of some rain. We haven't galloped in ages. Otherwise, the last bit of summer is loosing it's grasp.

    I'm not ashamed to bid this summer farewell, it's one that I haven't gotten to reflect on or idle in too much. The horses and I were busy from one weekend to the next, with few breathers until now.

    The last week has been slow in the work department, the pony is still off. Her soreness is gone, but just want a vet clearance prior to taking her back into the program. Sincere is still going forward with what he's doing (hint: not a heck of a lot). There are a also a few interesting developments. Arena fever has set in and our attentions have turned to fall and winter training.

    I wish we had a competitive indoor series like Europe, we have the facilities for it, and we do have a decent fall season schedule in October. However, personal plans are taking over around that time. So, forcibly, our show season is done. Next year though is already holding a lot of promise.

    August Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    Check, and had a lot of homework for it.
    -School through PSG
    Check, perfectly do-able, just going to take some practice.
    -Send entry in for NDPC
    Check, and then scratched.
    -Re-flock saddle
    Check, Sara Ivie of County Saddles is awesome.
    -Transitions, halts, lateral work
    Better transitions, and better lateral work, but need to tighten up the canter-halt transition.
    -Finalize Kur.
    Still toying with music. Going with Dr. Who, just need choreography.

    September Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    -Condition, keep running through PSG.
    -Ready supplies for winter

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    I get knocked down

    It's been a tough few weeks at base camp.

    Work has been beating up on me for a little while now, and late-season exhaustion has officially kicked in. It's always the last stretch that is the hardest. Kind of like the 10th round in boxing, where both parties are slugging it out. There's just that urge just to continue to see what you've started to the finish.

    After the clinic, we took Monday off, worked Tuesday and Wednesday. Normally with a show on the horizon, I don't leave town, but as a change of pace, I went to San Diego for a business trip. Sinari is a little confused by the R&R time, but I think it will help keep her fresh for the final push of the season.

    I hated to do it, but I canceled our PSG test at NDPC. She was a little sore. So instead of pushing the issue and potentially having a greater problem, I erred.

    Despite the light two weeks the predominate theme has been tempi's, pir's and canter tour.The timing has gotten better for the canter zig-zag, but the left-right change is sticky and the right pir is very large still.

    The trot work is coming well. The half pass has gotten flowy-er before the break I could add a lot of power.

    Sinari isn't the only one who is shining with the work. Sincere, is quickly proving he's going to be a nice horse.

    Aside from the serious delight to work around, he's a clever mover. The goal as always with him is to keep his interest in the new work and develop consistency within the gaits. 

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    No one said it would be easy but no one said it would be so hard

    This past weekend we finally scored a pair of eyes on the ground and started to throw the test together.

    Prior to this weekend I had maybe done the meat of the test a dozen times either concentrating on just trot or canter tours, and even then I didn't do them in entirety (yeah those two canter pir's to the four's, threes and extended... woo).

    On the surface the PSG is the equivalent of fourth level. Same movements. Different beast entirely.

    It's deceptively flowy, with softball setups on paper. In reality it's rapid fire execution and claims serious real estate in making the rider and horse be fit to actually carry through and execute. This is not a test for the under prepared. I think the test writers must have been laughing all the way to the bank when they wrote it.

    With this weekend we identified two weak spots in our work. Canter zig zag and the pir's. The pir's are still too large but the zig zag is a matter of attacking the set up. The tempi's were also weaker because we ramped up the balance.

    It's also the first time I felt what we are going up against.

    It's hard. Especially the canter work at the end where it all happens all at once with separate scores on just about everything. It doesn't help that we're stuck in arenas where the dimensions are skewed.

    But the challenge has given me food for thought of what I want to do with this part of my life. Is it hard? Yes. These are the hardest tests in the sport.

    Does it make me want to do this for the rest of my life? Yes. Insanely, yes.

    So it's time, as Koford has said, to throw our big girl pants on and suck it up. Four weeks till lift off.

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    How to see the sun rise

    The two Bronze rides from VA came in the mail the other day, I finally figured out how to upload them to Youtube.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Sunset in July

    We went back to work last week and started hauling through the training. We had our arguments about certain items, and we began discussing the tempi's again and a number of other things, but it seems that we're right where we need to be. We've worked through the vast majority of elements in the PSG, and I'm feeling fairly satisfied over it. Today she worked pir's with moderate success.

    The time in the fields did her well, although she came back from her gallop sets a little more braced and rushy. I'm happy to have her back in the arena. I managed to carve out a kur, I just want to get it in front of JK and CF for final approval before I ship the tapes out and stick it on Youtube.

    August for us is normally a light month, there is only one show in-state and it's usually too hot to even thing about attending unless you're desperate for a score. Riding is usually kept to early mornings or evenings, and there's usually a lot of water involved for all parties.

    I'm using this month to prep up for the final show of the season, the National Dressage Pony Cup. The NDPC is a strictly pony-only show, it's sister show, East Coast Pony Cup, takes place later this month in New York. While I really wish I was going, a lot of good ponies are going to be there, but it's just not in the cards this year. I have a feeling that I will be the only one at PSG at this one, and the judges are pretty alright.

    I've seriously waited for this entry for a long time and I'm still a little hyper, and a little sensitive about entering. It's a huge leap. But I trust the training, and I trust the people that have brought me to this point and believe that the pony can do it.

    So far, we've managed to get good training in, and it doesn't feel like we're over doing things, and hopefully within the four weeks we can put everything together. Despite a low-key schedule there is a lot being planned to get us through the month.

    But for now July's recap:

    July Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    Check, it didn't go exactly as planned, but ended up exactly how we needed to be.
    -VA Show
    Check, biggest success of the month. Had a fantastic time there. Want to go back.
    -Finish Bronze
    Check. Best birthday present the pony could have given me.
    -Halts and transitions
    Still need work, we need to bump those 6's and 7's.
    -Condition, condition, condition
    Check. She's gained more muscle for the mediums and extensions.
    -Decide level for NDPC
    See photo:)
    -Finish Kur.
    Check. Just have to choreograph.
    -Tempi's, big, bold tempi's.
    Rehashed these. She needs an adjustment and a reflock to really start swinging for the fences. 

    August Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    -School through PSG
    -Send entry in for NDPC
    -Re-flock saddle
    -Transitions, halts, lateral work
    -Finalize Kur.

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    I keep my eyes fixed on the sun

    In case you didn't get the memo, it's hot.

    Normally, we still work through the heat, but this has been beyond excessive with triple digit temps and the humidity being off the charts. The pony has more 'fro than usual.

    Sinari was in her stall sweating with a fan, however, Sincere was busy bouncing off the walls and playing with his Jolly Ball. The ADD two year old doesn't mind the heat so much. He's just happy to be active.

    Normally, after a large show the pony gets about two days off and then a light week of hacking in the fields. But the weather interfered and we stuck to pony parlor, re-organizing the supplies, wrap-up efforts and hand grazing until Friday, where the weather broke temporarily and I was able to lunge just a little bit in the indoor. Saturday was much better, when we finally got under tack and went hacking over hills for a short while.

    Despite weather, she's come back fresh, which makes me incredibly happy, she power walked out to the fields and did short canter and trot sets before the humidity became too much. I'm planning on doing a 50/50 week with her- start the week in the fields and then go back into the arena for starting up the fall season.

    The time off with the pony also meant I got to play with the young man. He was more than happy for the attention. Pulled his mane, sorted his tail, trimmed the fetlocks and lunged him once or twice. Feet trimmed today. The big news for him is that he wore a saddle for the first time, and was completely awesome with it.

    Begun making fall plans for both and this week we have visitors in town.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Through every open door

    We've finally unpacked, cleaned the trailer out, threw the laundry together and Sinari has had a good couple of rolls. It looks like she came out of it alright. Her attitude is cheery, her legs are tight and cold and she's not sore. We should be back to under saddle by Thursday and in the arena next week.

    Dressage at Lexington was nothing short of fantastic. Achieved everything that needed to be achieved, plus more. I'm still honestly floored about the entire thing.

    I didn't expect to take this trip this year. In fact, I was prepared to just stick to Kentucky and a few Ohio shows. But, a few months ago JK challenged us to throw our big girl pants on and come to Dressage at Lexington in July, a first major East Coast showing for the pony. Feeling, game I entered us not really knowing what to expect.

    What I didn't know was that this was a number of major qualifiers for the bigger championships. Several large barns show here, several large riders do as well, several of which are high performance riders from other disciplines. Even the AA base is ultra strong at this show.

    We left last Wednesday around 8am before the heat and the Breyerfest crowds hit Lexington, and arrived safely around 3ish in the afternoon after white knuckling it through West Virginia. The Virginia Horse Center is a beautiful, sprawling facility with hills. The view is breathtaking.

    We landed not in a quiet park, but in the middle of hunter pony princess hell. For the first time we were easily the biggest in the group and definitely the oddest. We were surrounded by jumps and kids at every turn.

    After I got her settled, I went to check in and school around the arenas, what was left of the hunter pony crowd gathered to watch us go through the paces. Some hooting and hollering went down after we went through a few lines of changes and lateral work.

    Thursday rolls around and the weather is nothing short of a perfect 80 degrees and partially cloudy. I get up feed, walk and lunge her out. JK and crew arrives, unpacks and we proceed to start to school horses. Sinari still feels great, no hitch, but a little behind the leg. We school transitions up and down, in and out to get the brain firing. I get to meet the other clients, who instantly make us feel at home. By the end of the day we're set and ready to roll.

    Friday was another early start, a quick breakfast and trying to find the nearest coffee source, all of us were at the barn sorting horses and getting everyone ready for the early classes and preparing for the mad dash of the afternoon. I get up, warm up, and go and ride at the hill. Unlike Kentucky, there are huge amounts of space for warmup, I virtually have my own arena. Which is great because it settles her down and clicks her in. She puts in a solid round and consistent test to earn into mid 63 percent with great comments, and second place against confirmed horses.

    Friday night I catch up with people and watch good horses previewed for the Saturday auction. Keenland this is not.

    Saturday comes through with more perfect weather. Sinari warms up, this time with a small fan club forming on the rails. Small girls, and a few of the clients came out to cheer. I'm frankly not used to this, but the pony transitions into diva and channels her inner Aretha. She knocks out the test with consistent 65 percent, ending second to a really nice pair by 1 percentage point. Proving she belongs here and is capable I just have to ride the test clean, she does the rest. Due to the management using the same judge, we have to still compete Sunday to finish out the USDF Bronze. But the highlight is ending up Reserve Champion for the Sporting Horse Amateur Challenge (Individual).

    Saturday night rolls around and it's found out that it's my birthday on Sunday, Justin drives five plus hours to spend the night with me. I feel seriously lucky and on top of the world. I've had the best meal I've had all week.

    Sunday breaks, and the pony and I are running low on batteries. I get lost on my way back to eat breakfast with my parents. My cell phone doesn't stop going off with text, phone calls and messaging since 2am, so I'm on little sleep. We stick to the normal routine, but threw in an extra walk to keep loose. I drive around on the Bobcat to kill time and start packing up. My support crew is leaving after their last tests, my parents, who also spent the weekend left early that morning to travel home. Only Justin and JK's horses remain. For the first time, I feel the pressure of completing out the weekend well.

    We warm up in the covered arena, and everything is going according to plan. She's firing all cylinders despite being tired. She's doing everything as cleanly and I'm not riding like an idiot. Then they clear the arena to drag it, and we get chucked outside. We're interrupted, then delayed then allowed to go in early. The pony wilts mildly, she sucks behind and fades in the mediums. Her normally great lateral work felt weak. I ride it as cleanly as I can, and we go and cool out. I'm proud of what she's done and we've finally got our stuff together to ride tests.

    Ten minutes later I'm screaming up and down the barn and running to find, score texting came through. 61 percent. We've done it, we've achieved the bronze. Two seasons, countless hours later. I don't care we ended up fifth in the class. I don't care that we have a six hour journey back. We came to accomplish this, and we did it.

    We're now back in Kentucky, plotting a bit of 2012, but looking to perhaps make it a double threat with Silver in the wings. Next on the schedule is a stop in Tennessee and then a show in September at KHP.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    The bronze age.

    Long trip home so sorry about the quick note.

    Achieved USDF Bronze today with the pony, what makes it even more special is that it was my birthday. Thanks to everyone who came out, celebrated and has been more than supportive of Sinari's career.

    Go Pony!

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Up that great big hill

    It's bleeding hot out here. July hit and I think the weather finally figured out what it's supposed to be. Which is unfortunate, because while I'm sure several girls enjoy sweat rolling in unmentionable places, the rest of us do enjoy less balmy conditions.

    It would seem that a more brilliant person wouldn't move south to school either, but that's another logical question for another time.

    Despite the crap weather, Sinari and I still managed to put in a full six day work schedule. On the nastiest of days we hit the fields for brief hill and gallop sets. We ran through 3-2 with good results, and with this past clinic we are as prepared for this upcoming show as we can get. We even finished out on a technical high note.

    The highlight of the weekend among other things was the pony doing half steps, running through fours and threes, and working on canter pir's. We were nailed on extensions, preparing, executing and finishing them. Had a bit of difficulty on my end on keeping the neck loose. But, people have noticed a huge positive change in her topline, her energy and her training.

    Because of a few circumstances, I had some extra time and for giggles, I got on a horse of the 17.2 hand variety.

    I've been wanting to get on larger horses for sometime. I love working the ponies, but I feel to improve the candidate pool (and myself) and ride them out to the max, different horses are necessary. Larger horses just have a different feel entirely, you have to be twice as effective, and in many ways, more tactful.  

    I got on a really nice mare. Probably the nicest I've sat on pedigree wise and ability wise. She was a huge reflection of those qualities and her training. What a fantastic feeling. By no means was she easy to package. A mile long neck and many buttons to push. Doesn't tolerate people hanging on her, or nagging her. But what a grand mare. The timing is what through me the most. With Sinari, there is a lot of wait and prep time between movements with this girl it was a quick half halt and always go. I had forgotten how much easier it is not having to manufacture extension and I've definitely have an idea of big changes now.

    But it also creates impatience. I can't wait for Sincere, who has the best of both worlds to come under saddle. He's looking great, I wish I had the cajones to enter him in VA. They have a pretty competitive breed show, but I want him to really prep up and gain topline before I let him hit the road.

    On the list was a few major plans formed along the way. But right now, the push and prep for VA has begun. Monday is a light day off with me shipping out the laundry, doing coffee and a few minor errands. Tuesday is chiro and pack.

    We're arriving two days early to work out the kinks and get her loosened up after the long trailer ride. But lord, if it's anything like the ride home today, I'm going to have to double up on the electrolytes.

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Everyday I'm shuffling

    If there is a downside of a fit horse is that there are more buttons to push.

    Sinari has been going nothing short of gangbusters within the work recently. Despite the heat and wacky work schedules, she's gained a lot of expression and carrying power. The trot is still hard for her, but her canter has become much nicer and her lateral work is very clean. She can easily do four's and threes. We began working the pirouettes in earnest to help create more sitting power and uphill balance. Going out in the fields really helped clear her mind and prep her for the upcoming journeys.

     June Goals:
    -Majestic Show
    Check. Got out there, in odd circumstances and managed to put in a decent show back after two years off.
    -Finish Bronze
    Negatron. Tough judge panel plus equipment issues plus just wasn't firing on all buttons.
    -Finish out requirements to test for L program
    Need one more score.
    -Halts and transitions
    Doing much better, but still a little inconsistent in the balance in the halts.
    -Send in entry for Dressage at Lexington
    Check, attending DAL this month.
    -School through 4-1
    Check, ran though all the elements. She feels comfortable, but needs more fire in the extensions, and a hair bit more expression in half pass.
    -Put show trunk together
    Check. I need to learn to unpack it.
    -Continue conditioning
    Check. Out in the field twice a week until the ground becomes rough. One word: hills. 

    July Goals:
    -Clinic in TN
    -VA Show
    -Finish Bronze
    -Halts and transitions
    -Condition, condition, condition
    -Decide level for NDPC
    -Finish Kur.
    -Tempi's, big, bold tempi's.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Momma was a rolling stone

    I have a rare easy weekend this week. Despite downtime, the next two upcoming trips (and a few projects) are weighing heavily on me.

    The pony is on a small arena hiatus. The weather is too nice not to play out the fields, so the focus has been cleaning up the forward and back transitions. We'll be back in it by this week in the arena running through third two.

    I know summer means traveling. If you're a horse person, it means your trailer never gets unpacked and your social life becomes slim pickings.

    I had forgotten what it means to be a gypsy or at least a temporary one. I forgot what it means to live out of a bag, with a mobile and a laptop.

    There would be summers before I was 16 where I would spend weeks away from home. When I was 18, and became a working student there was a time where I and the horses would be on the road once a week for at least four days at a clip. When I was a regular journalist, it became weeks.

    Over the years, I and the herd grew roots. Leaving town became a pill, packing became a chore, the crowds became too much, gas became expensive and frankly I tended to like my hermit status (not to mention bed).

    Last weekend we went north to compete, this time we went south to condition and to prep up for Virginia.

    I had never been south of Kentucky before with a trailer, I haven't personally hauled by myself over that much of a strange distance or for that long of a time or over mountains. It was well worth it. I loved seeing everything and meeting everyone. It was nice being on the other side of the fence, if just for a little bit.

    It was a good productive week leading into the weekend. I got Sinari over the mouth thing and had someone pointed out that my curb was too low. Have to punch some holes and chop some billets. Was left with a bunch of things to work on, and a few more problems to resolve. Met the loveliest, most generous people in the sport and saw what could be the most inspiring view to practice around in a long time (but sorry no photos or video!!)

    The next few weeks will be concentrating on what we lacked during the Ohio trip. I also am in the process of finishing up the kur music. In the interim, she was adjusted and got back to business with Sincere. But the summer is going to be a long one.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Sister golden hair

    I took a two year hiatus from showing, namely to figure out what I wanted to do, get re-organized and to figure out if we were cut out for the upper levels.

    The weeks spent with JK proved we could hack the training, the two years allowed me to obtain transport, solid education and a new team, and all that was left was to enter to figure out whether or not we could still pull a test off.

    We slipped off last weekend to Ohio for the first time since Pony Cup. Paxton, now called Majestic hosts a regular series of dressage shows throughout the year. 

    The show itself was as small, laid back show, especially for a CDI* in a qualifying year. 15 CDI competitors and the majority of regulars from around the region. Despite the laid back nature of the show, the judge panel wasn't handing out any freebies. Very few people broke above 60 percent at second and above on Saturday and Sunday, and even the people who were regularly scoring well into the 60's and low 70's a few weeks ago were struggling with the panel.

    The first day was done cold turkey with mistakes and we were properly hazed for it.

    On our way up we hit a four car pile-up that held us for three hours, we didn't arrive until nine. This was coupled by high winds, torrential rain, thunder and hail. So no practice. Her being in heat didn't help. During second level she popped a change during the counter canter and in third level she broke after the extended canter.

    The second day, we redeemed ourselves. She put in two solid consistent tests, despite slipping in and out of tension, that I'm extremely proud of. We broke the 60 percent barrier and managed to salvage a little bit of the goals I had set out for us. We ended well in the collectives. She earned no less than 7's on her gaits and 7's on harmony and impulsion. Sinari was also really consistent in her balance and I was consistent in my position.

    I also need to obtain more wardrobe. Namely breeches, a few shirts and I need to take my jacket in to have a few inches shaved off.

    Along the way, I finally figured out that showing is different from training. The idea and concept of preparing and entering the arena for a test instead of a session is something I'm still working to master. In the 10 years I've ridden the sport, I've maybe shown three to four seasons total and it shows.

    In the end the summary is: good to be back, have some items to work on, we're going to make it.
    This week, we're taking it a little easier, going to be hacking and galloping out on the fields until Thursday

    In the meantime, yes, photos and video will be up as soon as I get to it. This weekend we're out of town again.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Fortunate son

    The more I play with Sincere the happier he is.

    He becomes intensely jealous of Sinari whenever she goes out and works and seems to skulk about the idea of a day without getting attention.

    So with that, I started throwing more variety at him. In the normal addition of going in and out of the barn, eating and sleeping, he now has a minor job description.

    He wears a sursingle (no side reins), a saddle pad, wears an in-hand bridle with his chifney, goes for long walks, knows his vocals pretty well, and is being worked more frequently on the triangle. No two days are the same, and the sessions maybe last 10 minutes.

    He has no trouble doing any of these things, in fact none of the routine bothers him and he doesn't mind obliging to the requests, where the other two year olds in the barn is more reactive and far less tolerant.

    The next step with him is to develop his consistency in the same short sessions.

    He has three good, uphill gaits, however because of his maturity he doesn't always have the strength to sustain for more than a little while. I want to develop his topline and more elasticity and suppleness. This is a lifetime of emphasis, but the more he can develop on the ground the better it will serve when he is under saddle.

    Devil in the details

    T-minus six days until show season kicks off and I feel a hair under prepared. The pony however is primed and as ready as she'll ever be, putting in consistent works for the last week.

    Possibly because it's been two years, tests have changed, facilities, people and my team have changed. Everything is different. Now there is the added expectation of completing out my goals in finite time.

    Or it could be that I've been running around like mad trying to find where all my show equipment actually went. Found my coat, stock tie, pants, gloves, had to order a pair of tall boots, can't find my nice sunglasses, my last good Fleck whip was stolen, my stock pin is probably in the black hole under the bed and my bucket and bridle hooks seem to have gone AWOL as well.

    Until yesterday I haven't memorized the full tests (normally I would have them memorized forwards and backwards) that I'll be riding. Just have been stringing bits and elements together and should be running through the full things this week. I'm very thankful that both have large canter tours and the trot work is uncomplicated and in good spots. 

    Also in a change, I've loaded the tests onto iPad to practice on the whiteboard application, and because I'm not helping, volunteering, sitting and only showing one, I loaded books onto the iBook reader. Heck, if the show office has wireless, I can even watch Netflix between rounds. Also loaded the little camera up for hopefully some video.

    Expecting a bit of a curve rejoining competitive society (not to mention a full schedule), I actually began packing today. I did a quick clean over the equipment, unpacked the box which hadn't been touched since we got back in early May, emptied the contents and began to sort.

    With horse shows, you need doubles of everything you have at home and a few bits of specialized equipment that stay with the trailer. I'm lucky that Sincere and Sinari now share a regular grooming kit and I can augment the left over brushes shampoos and other items into a new bucket. But eventually, more things will probably become permanent fixtures in the trailer and new supplies will need to be purchased.

    Made up new grooming buckets and bath buckets, checked the levels of the supplies (it should get me through July, or worse case scenario, end of June). Found Sinari's show halter and lead, shipping boots, found the snaffle bridle, loaded the trailer down with the spare buckets, extra basic supplies and started with the other items. I still need to copy my paperwork, and stick that in the portable folio, find the saddle cover and bridle bags, the shipping fuzzies and a few other items.

    In between, working with Pennfields and a few other people we've developed a nutritional plan for the pony to create peak performance before and during the show. So far, it's worked out great. 

    All in all, it seems like we're on the right track, but the real devil is in the details.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    A little bit

    So we didn't go to Spy Coast this weekend.

    I took a hard look at the way he looked and pulled the entry. Otherwise, he was ready.

    I guess it boils down to being picky. Sincere is still shedding out and gaining weight back from a hard winter. I'd rather show him at his best the first time out. He deserves that much. He handles really well on the triangle and in different situations he knows a lot more than your average just-turned-two-year-old.

    The other thing that had bothered me about the entry was the rule stipulation that, mandatory, two year olds have to wear bridles with bits.

    Let me clarify, at USDF shows, it's optional for two year olds. You can show in a halter or bridle (with or without a bit) and you see a lot of long two year olds sporting snaffles, usually stallions and usually at the major high-pressure shows. 

    Sincere turned two less than a week ago, and would have been the youngest in the class. I wasn't 100 percent comfortable with a short two year old even wearing a latex covered french snaffle and being run around a triangle by someone who I barely knew.

    Instead of showing, I started working towards the next one. I started walking him in new and different places, standing him up, and walking him out. He got his first (and several subsequent) bath since '10 and had his mane pulled. He's learning to be braided, and I'm learning how to do buttons... again.

    The more he does, the happier he is. Even though he has a slight worrisome personality (more or less doesn't know what to do), he really does try and more importantly, wants to do his best.