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.