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