Friday, December 21, 2012

Set the world on fire

It's the end of the world year.

And the weather is matching it to boot. Gray, dreary, snow.

Three things I absolutely loathe. 

Not unhappy to bid the year goodbye. It's been an active year full of ups, downs and bumps along the way. I had a laundry list of goals for this year, some seemed a little far fetched and some were actually within striking distance.

Goals 2012
  1. Sinari to roll at 4th/PSG and school around I2.
    Check. More than Check, we actually pulled decent scores and earned all necessary  PSG scores for the PSG part of the Silver.
  2. Start/finish Silver Medal
    Started, one score shy at fourth level.
  3. Find a schoolmaster, start working towards CDI's
    EDIT 12/30/12: Actually something fell in my lap last minute. Details to follow. 
  4. Ride Sincere, and get him through his first big boy outings
    He's been backed and is doing really well in his new career. He's up for sale too.
  5. Continue to grow the business, but find balance in between.
    The business took over my life to some success and some failure.Along the way I figured out what I really want to try for 2013, and who really is in my corner (and who isn't). I did a lot of miles this year either way.
  6. Finish 2nd half of L program, gain scores for r.
    Couldn't find a program that jived with the schedule. I'm really worried about falling behind the curve on this one. No scores obtained for r.
  7. Start my apprenticeship for my organizers stuff
    Check. California was wonderful for this. I don't know if I'll be pursuing this in the future because I'm just refocusing on the riding portion of my life. 

1. Complete silver. Start Gold.
2. Be training the I2/GP. Be showing 2nd schooling 3rd/4th on Reba.
3. Find investment horses
4. Consistently devote two weeks of intense training per quarter.
5. Continue to grow the business, and remain financially solvent

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My heart's on the loose

First week back is the hardest for everyone.

Every time I go someplace I miss my horses. iPhone has made things easier by carrying photos and video of them wherever I go, but getting to watch people ride, and work can be exceptionally difficult especially since you want to take part and join in. I have a blast getting to know everyone and watching progress happen, but secretly I am a little jealous.

The weather hasn't been helping. I went from 70 degrees and sunny to cold, mud, slop and rain in Kentucky. Motivation has been lacking. Freezing my fingers off in the wee hours in the morning doesn't help.

Last week proved to be busy with make up appointments, riding, trying (and failing) to get the house cleaned, dinner with family/friends, phone calls, creating my 2013 calendar, running errands, attempting to go to a movie, and catching up on the ever elusive sleep. Riding time was carved out by the skin of my teeth and with more emphasis on correct spurts than full sessions.

The best part about coming home is getting to try out the work that you've learned.

Last week I had a fantastic lesson with an old friend and former local rider- Chrissa Hoffmann. Chrissa was one of the first to see the pony start out (four or five years old then), the first to get me to Florida to host, and the first rider in the area to really break out to the CDI and international levels. When she left for Florida and to further build her business, I have to say she left a hole in this part of the woods. While there are a few people moving to this area, I don't know if that void will be filled completely. I've had a lot of respect for her over the years, and she has a great eye for teaching and horses. 

It was my first lesson in a few months, and it really served as a vollying point to kick off the season. 2013 is bringing some ambitious goals and an equally ambitious calendar that spans a solid portion of coastline for all three horses. Plus those who are incoming. The calendar includes two weeks at Hilltop for training, some time in Florida (still feeling a little grumbly about this), a trip to Canada, and travel to shows.

Sinari has been on again and off again since October, she was turned out for a week and has been hacking ever since. She's had a tough schedule of travel, training and competition; so I felt that the downtime was really needed. I wasn't expecting much from the lesson to be honest because of this. But instead we ramped in and up into the I1 and some of the I2 work. Even did half steps and worked our butts off in the pir work. I feel pretty stoked for January and February if the trends continue on.

Reba sat this one out, I wanted a few more key details sorted out before we really go public. Her first real clinic will be in Florida, if I can squeak in a test that would be awesome too, but really I'm aiming her to be a spring pony. Right now, the focus is correctness and fitness. Something that is always going to be a long term project. But I'm super happy with her ability to collect and work the half steps from the ground.

Sincere on the other hand will be aimed towards eventing this year. The young man has a lot of ground to cover and if he's still around by fall I would like to see him at the AEC's as a BN or N horse. I'm not a fan of shipping to Texas for the championships, but we'll see. He's not FEH material and I don't necessarily agree with the program criteria. I'm really pleased with his training overall and he should be a sub-20 horse based on how well he carries himself and gaits.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The High Cost of Education

I don't frequent message boards, but recently there was a thread in the COTH that made me take a long pause.

It was about why clinicians and clinics are so expensive and why clinicians charge so much for their day fees.

I make no bones about my occupation. I host and organize clinics.

Actually, a lot of clinics (in the vicinity of 20-30 a year, across North America some public, some private), all handled through a professionally managed LLC, not my personal bank account.

A lot of clinics with a lot of good people from all over the world (Ulf Moeller, Christoph Hess, Edward Gal, Shannon Peters, Lendon Gray to name a few).

I really count myself lucky to be a side benefactor to playing host. I'm paid fairly well to do a job that is just easy for me, I meet my heroes, I get to hang with some seriously cool people, and I help people achieve their goals. If there's a glass of wine in there, it's a bigger perk.

Yes, I occasionally ride depending on who it is, where it is (I'm not driving my trailer to California), expectations for the clinician (Ulf only wanted young horses), and where I'm at in my training with the horse (bucking bronco is not worth it).

Do I make a million bucks? No. But the education, the people and being in the community has been priceless. It's opened a lot of doors.

All in all, I do it because I believe that education, shouldn't be closed door and everyone should have access on some scale to quality instruction. Everyone should benefit. My advertised clinics are and will always be open to the public with very few strings attached (three tenets: 1. Pay on time. 2. Show up on time and give it your best effort. 3. No assholes).

And as froofy as this sounds: people should be inspired to a greater level. I believe being in an environment that demands quality only makes you rise to that level.

But education, at any level, isn't cheap.

Neither is the associated expenses of hosting and bringing people to the physical location. This all costs money and is a huge fiscal responsibility.

As much as I try to be fair in the pricing to clients and to everyone, I still cringe at putting it out. I still worry about my clients traveling in good distances for what amounts for two days of really intensive training. I still worry about fill and fill rate, I still ham through the details.

While there are good, regular, teachers abound (I still train locally) and I will always say go with the person you're most comfortable with, get to regularly and can fiscally afford, the very best in the world cost especially if you have ambitions to eventually reach their level or step up your game.

But what constitutes the price per ride?

Among factors: you're paying for their time, expertise and teacher's ability to help. You're paying for potential networking time/sale, the wear and tear on a facility, the staff that has to take care of the teacher's horses while away, the staff that takes care of your horse and the facility while you're here, the insurance and a number of other items. You're subsidizing my efforts putting it all together and the fiscal liability factor.

Everyone needs to share their fair share of the costs.

But, if you want to clock out the math here we go:

Average theoretical budget for a US based clinician for two days, locally:

$3,000 (for two days of education by a rider/coach that is actively competing internationally)
$   500  (flight)
$   300 (food for three days)
$   600 (arena)
$   100 (insurance) 
$   300 (hotel, if you don't have a spare room or house)
$   300 (gas for transport for yourself as you gallivant across the county for three days)
$5,100 -- Total

Now take that number and divide by the allowable number of participants, which is usually 8-10 over two days. Divide by 16 as your BEP.

$5,100/16 = $318.75 a lesson. Round to $320.

If you noticed one thing missing- its accountability for your time.

You know, the time you take to contact the clinician and negotiate dates, the time to email/call/sky write people/organizations to tell them about the clinic, the advertising that you have to do, handling the last minute add/drops, the coordination between you, the facility, the camera dude, the photographer. The time setting up the arena, inspecting things, arranging flight and accommodation, asking for payments, et all. Never mind the time spent physically on location making sure details are attended to. Or the time you have to take off from your regularly paying job or horses to do this. 

You're looking at about 30 hours of work for one, two day event.

This is the reality of a clinic and of a sport that is growing in a world that is more expensive to live in.

I'm not bemoaning it, or complaining (I'm right down in the trenches with you on this), but what I am asking is this: if you can't afford it, don't pick apart something that is benefiting a community and helping riders grow in their own personal path. If you want to contribute, host, do something that helps people in this capacity.

It's only when we really truly respect each other and stop trying to put our personal vendetta/petty justifications on each other do we progress as a sport and grow as a community. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Turkey trotting (or 300 posts later)

I've been kinda quiet lately, namely because things, as usual are busy despite having no shows to attend to, and just coming off a two day clinic with Ulf Moeller and a trip up and down the East Coast (I think I did roughly 3,000 miles round trip) and then turning around and hosting Robert Dover plus planning a few fun projects for the Florida season next year. I'm very excited for the new year.

Like fall, things are changing, hopefully for the better. I have a few long term projects coming to fruition and others that are finally being put to rest. Either way, it's been a long climb this year with great moments and not-so great moments.

For two, very nice Indian Fall weeks, I was at home with my family and horses celebrating the holiday. After my last wandering into the yonder, I'm at home for, get this, a solid five weeks. I'm ecstatic.

The phone was mostly put on quiet throughout the holiday (alright we were playing Words with Friends) and I got to ride consistently and sleep in my own bed. This, and a stocked fridge, nothing really makes me happier.

Really, I am lucky to have this life, and while it isn't always wonderful, I'm thankful for the ability and support to pursue this path, for the horses that have come into my life, and for the people that continuously teach me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

School's out for the summer

So the winter blah's have already set in due to an early visit from Sandy. Everyone is going into their downgraded schedules, and sporting heavy winter blankets.

After trying, and unsuccessfully attempting to find a local person to back and break Sincere for 60 to 90 days, I'm resorting to shipping out of state. I like starting horses close to home, I can keep an eye on things and usually expenses can be managed a bit better. But this time, it's different since the person who was initially supposed to take him for backing and breaking, backed out last minute for a trip to Texas leaving me scrambling at the start of baby breaking season trying to find a place.

This was like getting your kid into Montessori. All the obvious choices were taken, even my second picks were too busy with their young green ones and had a wait list till spring. The last thing I want to do is put a three year old behind the eight ball.

Thankfully an opening cropped up and Sincere is being shipped North for the winter (now that sounds backwards) to do 60 days and then will potentially go south to be campaigned and sold.

With his course solidly set at least for two months, it really gives me a chance to start pushing the mares. 

The mares are working great these days. We've taken a step back from the regularly scheduled things to work from the ground.

I really enjoy times like these where all I really have to do is concentrate on the basics, and clean up some other issues that have been shelved from the season. It also serves as little more breathing room try new things, like piaffe and passage work. Which, has been our focus now for the last two weeks. We live in p and p land on the ground. 

God bless those who love working in hand, because those who can make it look easy, do so; and mortals like myself who are armed with a stick and a few basic concepts (tap on the butt = super articulated pretty trot= cookie) tend to look like hell for the first few efforts while being dragged around. 

For Sinari, this is a way to up her normally low score (6.5, 6) in her mediums (go like hell) and extensions (go for broke) through using passage to create more bounce and expression. She really has a lovely tendency for piaffe and finds passage a little more difficult.  What's making her a little stuck in the work is the want to be bargy, in addition to being a little whip shy from her younger years. She's in development. 

For Reba, this is like doing crunches. It's more of a development exercise to put on topline, help bridge some upcoming concepts and transition into really learning to carry herself, refine the half halt and to also create that much more expression. She doesn't last long, but she again puts in a lot of effort into the work. Her canter is coming along too and she's becoming a little bolder every day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New kid on the block

If there was ever a higher force that has a sense of humor, I have a feeling that force and I have a long standing game of gotcha for a number of years.

When I was initially horse shopping eons ago, I wasn't looking for chestnut, mare, or anything remotely near that. I was looking for branded, black and stupid. Several years later, I still have a blonde chestnut, a blinged-out chestnut, and now, another chrome-ladened chestnut mare. I have the flashiest bunch on the farm hands down.

Reba stumbled into my barn purely by accident, I was looking around for another project, potentially another investment, and Maryanna Haymond, a friend and prolific breeder turned me over to Arielle Perry who was looking for a situation for her mare Reba's Song for four years during school.

Lots of Facebook messages, contracts, shipping arrangements and plans later. The well-bred Hanoverian mare arrived at 3am in Lexington.

A little less than three months later, she's coming along quickly. 

Reba is a southern diva and a half. Where Sinari is Tina Turner, Reba is the steel magnolia version of Aretha Franklin and Scarlett O'Hare. She's got a warm personality, and a work ethic to die for (makes the pony look lazy).  She also came with an in hand and materiale resume that is fairly extensive. Wins at Devon, Grand Champions at competitive shows like Raleigh, the girl isn't a stranger to the arena. 

Right now, we're just refocusing on fitness, she hasn't seen too much action in the last year and we're going to spend the winter developing her to second level, and then set out to compete. In between we'll go to the little winter schooling series.

This is a bit of a daunting challenge, because even though she gets everything mentally quick, the body is still catching up from the work. What's compounding the situation is that the weather has taken a turn and hacking opportunities have become limited  at best. Bare feet and slippery surfaces don't mix. So, It means that we'll be taking a few trips to KESMARC to do more fitness work in the near future.

But for now, she's coming up and fits right in.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I’ll carry you home tonight

It's the end of a long, winding show season.

While I enjoy showing, and competing, I'm not too unhappy to bid adieu to 2012. It was a growth year, and the spurts, while necessary, were painful at times.

But things were surprising at this last show, the pony really put solid efforts in despite my pilot errors (errr.... left from right) and a number of people came out and made lovely comments on the work and the development since July.

I was really mentally prepared for this to be the last show, in fact in my head I pretty much ended the season three weeks ago after National Dressage Pony Cup and was in vacation land at Devon. I nearly forgot my show bag, I lost (and found) my credit cards, girth, drivers license and keys a few times, I didn't have everything in order, and I still had a stack of laundry in the car a mile high from September.

But we went on, not really knowing what to expect, and in the end I didn't get what I wanted, but got exactly what I needed. 

Around July, I thought I made a really good decision for the pony. Knock her down to the Jr's and let her ride out the rest of her competitive life in second level balance. I think Sinari caught wind of this and decided to pull a trump card, she really started to blossom in the work. 

When I sat down and started to chat about the lease situation for her, the attitude of everyone had changed as a whole. Apparently there was enough chatter in the air and the pony looked the part of an, albeit green, FEI horse to be considered truly as a contender for the I1 and potentially the I2. All parties at that point agreed that another year in the levels would only be beneficial to both of us and we tabled the discussion for the lease until that time. 

But the peanut gallery also had some nice things to mention about the training and development as well, which after so many years of just poking along it was a huge clap on the back and gold star for the work done over the years.

So, we've been invited to come and train in a few places. We're already looking at 2013 schedules and how to fit things in. Just thinking about 2013 makes me happier, but we really need the mental break. The ante has definitely been upped and the expectations have now been laid.

Because it's fall and we're at the end, I'm now catching up on all the professional appointments that I've neglected in the past few months.  Like dentists, saddle fitting and fall shots.

Saddle fitting was the start of the list (followed by fall shots for all). Sinari's is in production so, no news on that front, but new girl, Reba, has been turned in to an accidental saddle princess.

Normally the new horses aren't so picky right away- they usually ease their way into things. Not Reba. From the moment she stepped off the trailer she commands everyone's attention. If Sinari is Tina Turner, this is Aretha Franklin meets Steel Magnolias. 

We tried three or four Counties on her the other evening. Already a half size bigger than the pony, the new girl really expressed her opinion about ill fitting tack, namely sucking back, going inverted, and trying to do the dump n' run.

Not typical for this really sweet girl who's been working her tail off.

Finally, we resorted to the old stand-by: County Competitor. And low, in the proper tree width and seat size, anything is possible. 

This is the third horse I've ridden that saddle in, and it seems to suit a greener, unfit horse, while giving me the stability I really need for the in case of moments. But it will be hilarious if we end up again in a Perfection about two years down the pike.

I'm just happy to be home to concentrate on the next  few months and develop the herd.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dance till you're dead

Within the past few weeks, my pre-dawn game face begins with blaring red alarm clock numbers reading 5:00am and ends with the same ugly numbers saying 10:30.

Welcome to fall.

I love and loathe this part of the season for a lot of different things.

It's the best weather to train and compete in. The horses are getting their second winds and they feel fantastic. It's the time that young horses start their careers, and the older campaigners get to go out and hack about.  It's also championship season time, where all the work you've put in shows off, hopefully, at the right time.

It also marks the end of the long march of inspections, travel, shows, the pressure and the regular grind. It means that I don't have to keep the trailer stocked and hooked up. I can go out with friends that I haven't seen since March, go see family or take a non-horse-related trip and maybe, just maybe spend a few weeks at my house crashed on the couch.

It also means waking up and going home in the dark, hairy bra's for clipping said horses, extra shavings, blanket changing, heated water buckets, mash, fall shots, dental work, pulling shoes and apples from the local cider mill.

This fall denotes the end of a long, interesting season and the start of something entirely too different.

My horses, like everyone else, are benefiting from the change in season. Sinari has sprouted a coat, which makes work shorter until we get the clippers out.  Her workouts are more playful, but will gear in this week for another run at FEI in two weeks. Sincere is getting his act together and really start to come along, he still has a baby neck, but all the mechanics are there especially when he relaxes. He'll be shipped out in November to start his East Coast career.  I've started a little bit of in hand work with him to get the idea of lateral work in and also start creating some flexibility. Reba is also really starting to develop her canter. Her trot and walk are really nice, but the canter is still weaker so transition work on the ground and under saddle has really started to help her organize herself.

Also I got to travel a bit to Devon where I caught up with old faces and new ones. Devon is magic, and for those who haven't been the show (which is typically started with rain and goes into monsoon) the fall CDI is a staple and attracts a number of great rides. It's the only place in the US where you'll see babies straight to international Grand Prix in about three square miles of actual ground. It's also insanity.

This year I didn't bring a horse, but I was somewhere between press, at large groom and spectator. I enjoyed it but without a horse, I felt a little out of place. The shopping made up for that fact. It's something that I'm slowly feeling that showing there is something obtainable, and with the quality that is now coming out, it's on the goal list.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I get my back into my living

I had a pretty epic conversation with a girlfriend of mine last Monday about winners going back to mucking stalls and running around like total loons.

The past couple of days have been non stop packing, unpacking, laundry, truck servicing, clinic organizing, need-to-pick-up stuff, post reviews on a saddle or two, shuffling and doing the full time work gig. Seriously 5am comes quick around these parts and my day doesn't really end until 10pm. I'm also on a first name basis with my barista. We can officially say hello to fall season.

It's finally nice to see the end of the line in a year of ups, downs, and inside outs. It will be nice to rest, and not have to worry about schedules for a little bit and be able to sit still.

Even though the pony has had off for a couple of days, it doesn't mean that the other ponies have off. Reba and Sincere continued with work until Sunday (normal day off). Local shows have their perks, as in, the regular working population continues on with their daily routines including chores. Makes for early starts and late evenings.
Reba has been alternating between lunging and under saddle work since arriving, while she's really giving all of herself in work, I'm bringing her back slowly to make sure she understands and conditioning is there. She's an incredible work-a-holic and whip smart to boot. It's been a bit of an adjustment from Sinari, who moves differently and I can push harder. There will be plenty of time to ramp into the deep part of training, right now the work is purely focused on getting her fully back into shape, figuring out our language and honing the basics. I might consider taking her out in public in November if everything is going according to plan.

Sincere however is ready to begin with his under saddle career again. It's been decided that a good friend and midget (seriously smaller than me) will take over the ride in November and get him to the East coast. Plus it gives her an extra ride.

Before shipping out to destinations known, I would like him to do at least 30 days of general backing and breaking. One problem-  the girl who I asked to start him backed out at the last minute, putting a kink in the schedule and a minor annoyance in my way. So I'm on the hunt for someone to back him out and get him through the young horse antics.

He's also enjoying his time in the chute. Really draws toward the fence and is very catty. I've never seen a pony have more fun.

Sinari came back the other day after an easy week of hacking out at a walk. She's still in show mode when I pick her up. Looking at the tests, there are several points that I want to work on before October. One of them is mediums and extensions, the other is half pass. But we can clean those up. 

There's some other things also out on the horizon as the regular season draws to a close, but more on this later. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't stop till you get enough

No one said the climb to FEI would be easy. But finally, we made it.

To add to the celebration, we earned our first national title against a seasoned company, we're three quarters to our silver, and we did it flying solo that weekend (no coaches to help, but a really dedicated ground crew that dealt with an absent mind). But most importantly, we were surrounded and sent on by the people that matter the most. It was truly special.

On the surface, it's all champagne, sugar cubes, celebration and shadbellies. A few days after I'm still getting phone calls of congrats, and the pony is eating her way through a ten pound bag of apples. It's interesting to be in this spot.

This occasion marks Sinari's entrance to a special family. Sinari is one of a dozen ponies that has shown FEI. She is the fourth or fifth cob in the United States to go FEI. Even rarer, Sinari is the second cob mare, to go to this level, and now is the only one in the US doing so.

To be apart of her life and to achieve this has been really amazing. 

The show itself ran smoothly with exception of weather. Friday we went for our formal jog for our card in 90 degrees.  We were deluged on Saturday which turned the footing into slop. Management did its best to mitigate the issue, but because it's sand even if you drag it, it just takes one trip down the centerline to return to slop stage. But Sunday's weather was pitch perfect fall.

We had a lot of mistakes that first test, she threw fours, threes, twos and even one's in the lines (figuring extra credit here) and was very conservative in the mediums and extensions. But overall very obedient. The second day the weather chilled out and footing drained off enough in both the warmup and in the arena to give more purchase. She warmed up fantastically and pulled through to a Reserve National Champion FEI pony. Not bad for a first time out.

It gives a lot of confidence now to do my entries for BLMs and finish the year out at this level and clinch the rest of the Silver. By November, we'll pull shoes and stay in the fields for a bit.

For every step forward, there were times, if not spaces, of stagnate work. Work that was tedious, work that is about building up and breaking down of new and old habits. Focused work that brought out the very worst, and the very best.

If most of us could think their way into those levels (in fact, I know of a few who'd ride a good portion in their head), the majority would be there already. It is hard work and not for the timid. There's the continuous questioning, evaluating and second guessing. Are we really good enough? Are we really committing to do this? Are we fit enough? And finally: do we belong here?

That work is distilled into a product of a sound horse that is eager to work, and beautiful to look at and the worry, self doubt and questioning goes into one answer:

Yes, we do belong here.

For all the success this weekend, we couldn't have done it for a lot of people behind us. What no one ever tells anyone about going FEI is the sheer amount of heavy support work that goes on. Physically and emotionally.

A horse traveling through the levels isn't shepherded into it by a just a rider. It takes a small village of loyal, beyond dedicated people to bring one pair to this point and we'll be staying there because of them.

First there's the people at home. My significant other is incredibly supportive of my habits. He and my family (both blood related and those who I wish that were) have pulled for me longer than anyone and will be there long after. It's scary how more dedicated they've become over the years, to the point where they drive five or six hours to just watch, speak to me honestly during a tough situation, or keep an eye out for upcoming horses that would benefit the team.  

After the people at home come your team of professionals. Vet, coaches, farrier, chiropractor, saddle fitter, nutritionist, the breeder that bred the horse and the mechanic that keeps your car on the road. All of which play more than vital roles keeping everyone going in the right direction and encouragement.

Finally, in some odd way there's the readership of this blog. Who's watched patiently over the years from a barely working first level combination straight to this point.

Without them we wouldn't be here or remotely close. 

Thank you for joining us, and thank you, on occasion for the words of encouragement. The best is yet to come.

Photos and video will be posted, still getting everything in:)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Because we are who we are

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap; for the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work… It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while.

You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

---Ira Glass
I'll save the I'd like to thank the academy post for later. Today, I just want to savor this moment. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A trio of chestnuts

When I was initially horse shopping back in 2002, I was sick of chestnut mares. The pony I owned at the time (almost a carbon copy of Sincere marking-wise) was schizoid at best (poorly bred, slightly neurotic National Show Horse...) and pulled a Thewell mob hit more than once.

When we figured out she wasn't going to remotely be a dressage horse I made my list initially of what I wanted, at the top was 16.2, black, gelding and stupid.

Instead I got 14.1 flaxen chestnut and mare, Sinari. To add to the humor, we found her in a resting tobacco field. She's so far been the most successful purchase, and has a permanent retirement home when she decides enough is enough.

When I did try to do the big black route I ended up not where I expected... two dislocated shoulders and a long drive home for Valentines Day dinner.

This was followed by Bella, the blonde haflinger that I rode briefly and then Sincere who arrived in 2009 after breeding two bays, again hoping for a slightly more blingy black/bay.

You plan and God laughs. 

Now we have Reba's Song. Another blingy, small, chestnut mare.

Reba is an interesting one already, by far the best quality I've had in the last 10 years she is an easy 8.5 on gaits and a work ethic to match.We're still in the getting to know you phase, but she's massively fun already.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two for the show

So it's nearly September and the majority of life is still... in... flux.

Not exactly where I want to be, but when in doubt when life hands you a snow globe, just shake the damn thing until it settles or go to a horse show.

I vote going to a horse show.

Last year I enthusastically entered into the National Dressage Pony Cup PSG test. I barely had confirmed pir's and the tempi's were still a tad shakey, but I was boldly going where I had not clue about.

And the show, alongside a few others, supported it.

I love this show, it's exactly what the pony population needs and is a fabulous showcase for anything under 14.2. It even has small horse classes. To have this in my backyard is a heaven sent.

But it wasn't to be last year, the pony popped a split and was out for a little while. Then it was cold, rainy and miserable on top of it.

This year, entries are due and I was at a toss between Fourth level and PSG. 

A few days ago, out of sheer curosity we rolled through the PSG. Not expecting much, or anything brilliant I was reasonably impressed, but not enough to consider it. So I went to an non-bias source and rolled through it again.

It was respectable.

So on a whim (and a few bourbons of courage) I filed the entry for the NDPC at the Saint George and before I could change my mind the post went out in the morning mail.

Today, I realized I have less than two weeks till I reach something we've been working towards for a very long time and I thought I would never say it, but it's scary.

There comes a point in your life, when all you've wanted comes perfectly within grasp, and then you have to make a choice whether or not you really want it. I've wanted to do this since I started dressage about a decade ago. There wasn't really a day that made me stop wanting it and wanting it on a larger scale each passing year.

So, commitment phobias aside, I'm trying to get my game face on despite some reservations. We've been rolling through the test itself at least twice in a session picking things apart and putting it back together. The canter tour is a marathon and not recommended for the faint.

Still could use as much good juju as I can get though.

This also comes as fall season kicks off and a new horse arrives this weekend.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sincere G.

Officially posting this.

Sincere G. is a 2009 chestnut gelding by Savant (Kupido/Grannus) out of a 14.0 Bask/Barbary-bred Arabian Mare.

Flashy, highly trainable, easy going with three good gaits; he was lightly backed in 2011, and has begun working on the lunge and through the jump chute with stylish, careful form. Initially bred for dressage, he would make an exceptional A circuit hunter/jumper candidate. He will be going under saddle this fall if not sold.

Asking $5,000, motivated to place him prior to winter.

Kelly Gage

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opportunity costs

It's been awhile since I've posted here, and I've been uncharacteristically silent for a few reasons.

First being travel has got the best of me, and I'm some weeks, without internet connection. The last three alone have been spent living out of a trailer at various functions away from home. 

The other reason has been much more thoughtful.

The last few weeks have been trying, really trying, and the schedule has been more than tough. Sinari and I left for VA on the 5th, only to end up somewhere entirely different on the same day, 13 hours later. We turned around and went to the Dressage at Lexington show (mixed results, but broke 60 percent) six days later and then traveled home. All in all, spent roughly 20 hours on the road.

I saw a lot on that trip, from young international horses to adult amateurs kicking along. Even the Amish got involved at some point. 

What initially was planned as a training trip, ended up being a training loss minus one or two people chipping in a long the way who kept us up and going.

I did a lot of thinking on this trip and where I wanted to end up, I talked to a lot of people who know me and respect the goals I have in mind. While I was on the road I spent roughly three hours on the phone with different individuals.  After those conversations, I came to the collective conculusion that my herd and I have diverging goals.

For the first five hours of this realization, it was horrible. It felt like I was giving up on family and I was knocked in the gut, but I knew this day was coming, I just hadn't accepted it or planned for it as well as I should have.

Sinari, who is the light of my life, is 13 this year. She is committed for the rest of the year and should reach PSG by September. She's my first FEI horse that I've made from scratch, she earned the bronze and is in the process of earning the silver, she's a premium mare with the Hanoverian book (Weser-Ems Pony), she is the only Welsh mare in the US doing this sport at this level, and has taken me from nothing till now. Those accomplishments will never be taken away from either one of us. She's an incredible worker, and gives 100 percent every day of the work, but physically it gets to be too much. She's earned the right to step back and be comfortable in the last six years of competition as an FEI Pony for a junior and allowed to shine in the world stage.

She's the touchstone of my program and she will never be sold. When she's ready to retire, she will retire with me in a back yard somewhere, fat and happy.

I look at Sincere, who I bred, and raised so far from birth. He's an athletic, beautiful, capable pony who is a card and fantastic to be around every day. He's everything that his breeding represents. However, looking at his age group and conformationally what he is, he's not going to make a class dressage horse. After working him through a jump chute, it's obvious what his career path is, and what he enjoys the most. Blood never lies and with Kupido and Grannus in the mix, well, the boy can't help but have springs.

I've put him on the market to get him to a home where he's going to shine in the hunters. 

This begs the question of what's next. The answer is I don't know. There are somethings working out for fall and for next spring. There are some possibilities as well, I won't know how 2013 will really be until November.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saddles For Sale

Like everything around here, my horses have changed... again.

Saddle fitting is art and science, but mostly it's a pain. While I'm happy that the changes are positive, with horses gaining topline and changing due to training and maturity, I'm not happy I'm back in the throw darts mode of finding something. Thankfully, I have a really good team of people for that in County Saddles (Sara Ivie let me count the ways...).

Surprisingly, Sincere's saddle is a Schleese. Or was. It statically fit him two months ago. But when we got into more serious work, he changed and doesn't fit now to the point where its teeing him off. So on the market it goes for something that will keep him and his back happy.

It's a four year old dark brown 17.5 wide Schleese JER with long billets. Exceptionally pretty and in great condition. I'm asking $700 obo.

It's pictured right.

Following in her younger counterpart's steps, Sinari, decided it was time for a change.

Sinari has become fit to the point where she dropped an entire tree size (despite being a few pounds too heavy) and what awesome County rep Sara Ivie and I thought would be the forever saddle turned out to be a temporary band aid. So we're on the search again and I've put her's on the market as well to help aid that search financially.

Sinari's saddle is a 17.5 inch extra wide black County Competitor. At five years old, it truly is a fantastic saddle, helping us develop and get to this place, and fits the majority of horses it's thrown on, in fact I've had horses throw fits because they don't want to go back to their old saddle. It was recently reflocked, and is regularly conditioned. I'm asking 1,800 obo.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Go your own way

I've been avoiding blogging for the past few weeks, namely, time (clinic, clinic and show), and to be quite frank, I really didn't want to recap things or make goals or do much of anything. Even training, no matter how progressive as it's had become, was a drag.

I've officially hit seasonal funk and it's only June.

It's not like I didn't see this coming, a so-so show debut at 4th (55,6; 56,5) in the nasty 100 degree weather put a huge damper on things, dealing with the drama of work, organizing and a few other items has also left me a little more or less worn out and running for cover. I had my first weekend off in eight weeks and didn't know what to do with myself.

But with no regular lessons to keep us going at a critical juncture/push, and the next big days for travel in July, the wide expanse of June seems intimidating, if not boring.

It's not a negative thing, in fact there's a bunch of positivity about what had happened and what continues to as well.

Sinari has progressed and is gaining huge amounts of condition. When the weather holds, and there isn't a hay crop being harvested, we're up to six miles of trot and canter sets about two days a week. She officially beats the off the track thoroughbreds. Hoping that we'll get up to about eight miles before it's all through.

In the arena, the upped balance point and running through all the test elements at least once a session has helped. I've asked her to become hotter and wouldn't you know it, the little girl has it. I just need to go back to Sesame Street to learn to count my tempis.

The show wasn't a waste either. I can see why people can easily get bummed about mid-50's. Not showing since last July, we were, very, terribly out of practice and at a new level to boot. So while it didn't meet our goals of above 60, everything is fixable.

During the show she dug in and really did try to work it, but didn't have enough gas in the tank. It was my stupid fault for the warm up routine in that kind of heat. That our mistakes (pir's and accidentals fours) were really easy to clean up mistakes. The judges were really positive about the comments and talking to them after helped a ton as well. We're in review mode and I'll be darned if we don't crack 60's by July.

Sincere, despite showing that he was a turkey during the Hess clinic (just took him out to lunge in a new place) really is doing exceptionally well for his age. He has a ton of swing and three very elastic gaits. Just no topline to speak of to really sustain it. Plus he keeps trying. What's not to like about a horse that just keeps digging to find the right answer? He's looking less immature and more up hill and horse like everyday.

Even had an email from his dam's owner. May is doing really well, and is even going under saddle. I can't wait to see her again, it's been three years.

Being alone doesn't mean you don't limit your progression, it means you find different ways of adapting to progress.

I'm terribly manic about a few things, and one of them is staying as goal-oriented as possible. I think that's how I've managed to drive the ponies to this point, just get from point a to point b and work your ass off in between. Every. 30. Days.

Not having eyes on the ground, or being able to ask questions to your coaches (they've honestly been busy), when the expectation has been up has been really difficult. But it also makes you independent and much stronger. I still have questions, and experiences I want them to relate to, but right now their pursuing their own goals.

Friday, May 25, 2012

And I want more

The last few weeks have been a blur between a lot of highs and lows.

The season is here, and it's breathing down our necks and after two straight weeks of training, it feels like we're prepared enough to roll down centerline this weekend at 4-1. No promises for photos and videos, I have no idea about the amount of extra hands I'll have about.

In between I tossed both ponies into Houston and Hess' clinics.

Sinari, dug deep on the first day of Houston and produced a solid school with really ramped balance and collection. The second day, riding in the heat of the day, we ran out of juice and schoolmastered around trying to keep her comfortable. She was able to pull a little bit out of work, but we mostly worked on biomechanics and positioning.

Sincere benefited as well, getting a base feeling and direction as to where to take his training in the next few months. In the end, I know the more we develop on the ground the more we will have under saddle.

A day off from work and we shipped over late to Rolling Hills to train with one of my all-time favorite judges, Christoph Hess. Christoph, who has an equally quick eye as Houston and Koford, picked up on the work quickly. He began ramping us into this week with emphasis on scores. We picked apart and reviewed and picked some more. His goal aside from setting the stage was to push an electric ride.

Talk about a different ride entirely! Sinari became positively hot off the aids, to the point where we were pushing control issues. But that's where we needed to go, just to the edge.

Hess also noted a year over year improvement on the mare, which was great to be not really re-humbled back to a 20 meter stretch circle for 45 minutes.

I also brought out Sincere to this one as well. The purpose was two fold, the first being that getting him off the property and getting him into a job (even a basic mindset of work) in a new place is fun and he shouldn't worry about it. The second, is I have a huge amount of respect for the people I work with, Hess being one of the top people in the young horse world I wanted his thoughts on what was produced three years ago.

While Sincere was a trooper, and I didn't kill either one of us in long lines, Hess was not as impressed. Sincere pretty much looked like a turkey trotting around tense and not his loose usual self.  But, given that he shipped in 30 minutes prior, was groomed, tacked up in a busy barn and lunged in a strange arena, I give him more credit.

Overall it went well, and we'll be back for more.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Plastic ponies anonymous

I've been trying to find the time to write this, it seems so hard these days to find time/energy to write due to the schedule!

So other than putting about 2,000 miles on the truck and working odds and ends and dealing with an extremely busy schedule, there's been some news as of late.

A while back, Breyer (y'know the plastic ponies) announced it's annual festival at the KHP.

I have Breyers, and while I'm not a super-nut for plastic ponies like some of my friends, I do have a soft spot for some models that dot my book shelves and my nightstand.

I still have Erin Go Bragh, Black Beauty, Merry Legs and a limited edition arabian horse that a friend gave as a graduation present. I still pick up the yellow box to read the back stories on the model.

However, I normally avoid Breyerfest weekend at the park (these days I'm rarely in town to really do any avoiding).

This year's theme is British invasion (London 2012) and apparently since Sinari is technically considered British by default (Welsh), she came up and was accepted for Breyerfest.

Which leads to the dilemma-- what do you do for Breyerfest?

Enter one freestyle. There have been a bunch of ideas thrown about in the camp, but the one main requirement is that anything we do be, well, English-themed.

My initial freestyle is done to Dr. Who, composed by BBC, however I think the music is too serious for a bunch of girls who are in it more for entertainment than anything else.

Then we thought of Queen and while the guys thought it would be spiffy to dress up in drag (pleather full seats anyone?) and get sparkly Petries, again, age plays a factor. Beyond, We are the Champions, I don't think anyone remembers Fat Bottomed Girls.

The final decision went down to Coldplay. The modern band isn't my first choice, but a relation (e.g. my brother) pretty much booted a Paradise/The Scientist/The Verve remix that is total fun/high energy.

Riding has also been interesting as well, we ramped her up in VA, and this week we're taking it a little light due to an upcoming clinic and show. Doesn't mean the work isn't serious, just means that we're doing more suppling exercises.

Sincere is out long lining, the wee guy (well not so wee now) turned three yesterday, and he's been going on the lunge now (on and off) for the last three weeks. What a guy, just takes everything in stride. It's been forever and a half since I've gotten to play with a baby, and I've forgot how much fun it can be. Yesterday he went out long lining in the fields, took everything like an old pro.

I'm guessing his summer plans will include lunging, some free jumping, getting out on the trail in long lines and then by late summer/ early fall have someone jump on him a few times for some work, perhaps a cheapie in hand show to get him out there. 

May Goals (I'll cap April off this week):
-Above 60 percent scores at 4th level
-hone the pir's
-hold the count on the tempi's
-up the balance point

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All around the world

I've been really naughty and not posting. Partly for good reason, partly because my internet on the road is more than sketchy at best. 

Part of what I've become since last year is more active. I used to barely travel outside of Kentucky to ride, and now I'm hauling to the big East. My trailer time went from an average of maybe a once a quarter trip in the spring to now a once a month thing.

I blame Koford.

After last week's clinic with Houston, the pony and I traveled out again to VA to see Koford, Houston and Shannon Peters.

I was going to host Shannon (that was a whole another kettle of fish that was cancelled) that weekend and pick up more time training with Koford and Houston. While Shannon didn't happen due to a strange airplane cancellation, spending time with the amazing Morningside crew, Koford, Houston and company did.

Sometimes karma just works out in your favor.

We really ramped into training with Koford, the balance came way up and we rolled through PSG. Found out that the pony had a fitness issue and needed to work on condition for the marathon test ahead. But for the most part we both agreed that we would be ready to roll (barring a flop at 4th) PSG in July.

Houston saw us after the three day ramp in and still had stuff to tweak on my position and accuracy.

It's nice to have the guys in your corner pushing you and helping you go in a direction.

Between rounds, I had a Wednesday photoshoot with photographers Wendy Wooley and Matt Wooley. Since they participate in what I host I felt turnabout was fair play and became a working model for about 45 minutes for 8 photographers.

It was the first time I wore a shad in public. Not entirely too sure about it still, but we rolled through elements of fourth and the PSG (plus some half steps). The pony was braided up and looking spectacular. One of the images above is one of my favorites, I'm looking forward to seeing the entire results.

I'll recap April and do May's goals soon. But for now there's just too much going on.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Wheels on the bus

What a fantastic week!

Sinari just peeled off work after work after work that just kept getting better. I think we've got over the fitness hump and a few other things as well. She's looking svelt and trim.

With the one bad side effect of fitness with mares is that they come into heat harder. I used to remember the Sinari who would silently cycle and not bat an eye at anything. Sinari of today, who is now ramped into some serious fitness (30-45 minutes a day, six a week) schedules thinks it's muscle beach and everything is fair game. Go figure. Time to break out the Regumate.

I've also noticed that she definitely has an ego now. Which I blame being doted on by the barn ladies left and right and being told that she's the best. While that there is no dispute of this fact, it's nice to have her ego back into the game.  

Despite this, It felt so good that we rolled through strings of PSG toward the end of the week, and started choreographing with the new music.  Seriously can't wait to put it on tape and see how it looks. The new music is Coldplay.

This past weekend we did our second session with James Houston. Four straight days of clinic (and a grand total of 7 days of under saddle work) really pushed our limits. We worked through everything and despite me feeling like I mastered the last set of work, he pushed the boundary a bit further by picking on more biomechanics, and straightness. More work in the wings for May. We'll see him again this weekend during Shannon's clinic (bringing the pony along for more schooling time with Koford and Houston). 

Sincere came back into work yesterday, he arrived last Monday and took a whirl around the roundpen just to see what we have, and then yesterday I put him back on the lunge. He wintered well, but has zero muscle, however his gaits are really consistent. I think the next few weeks are just going to be spent getting him back up to speed and starting a lunging routine. I want County to look at him to see what kind of tree we're going to have to work with and he's started on a few other things to help with the nerves of moving (raspberry leaves). 

Last week really started our season, I put out the first entry, and started looking seriously at the upcoming schedule. May is looking slammed between weekends, visitors and work. This week we take a day breather and go into a photography session and then leave for VA. Don't even want to think about next week.  

Plus there's been more good news here and there, which I'll announce in due time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Eyes wide open

It's been busy and not just gee, maybe I'll catch a break busy, but go to 11pm and wake up at 5am really busy.

Sinari is back under saddle from her bites, we spent the majority of the week last week just lunging, and while I really dislike being on the ground so much (my fridge and I are good friends during those periods) but the investment of the time is really paying off under saddle this week.

She's back to being super light in the bridle and collection is easier for her. She's even being a hair too smart about the lateral work and the pir's lately. I'm getting more giggly over the changes which we rolled through for the first time in about a month. She's really going to be fun when she gets the one's down.

I've been way anal about the insect bites, they are bathed every other day and coated in anti-biotic ointment and corona. She's ridden in the half pads under the square pad. It's been great for her skin the hair is growing back quicker and the blotchy patches aren't so blotchy any more.

But the concoction makes for nasty saddle pads.

So my weekend was again spent in front of a washer doing 14-15 pads and two half pads plus the left over winter wash. Not to mention polos.

A serious labor of love. 

It's been busy on the work front as well, with back to back to back scheduling moments with clinics (James is Rolex weekend, Shannon Peters is Derby weekend, breather, then James the third weekend of May then Christoph Hess and then KDA).

Not to mention having to throw together a completely new freestyle for something in July, it's going to be interesting times. So, we have to get cracking. Fitness is going to have to take center stage this month, we're going back to KESMARC for some swim time once the truck is repaired.

I find that low impact, high resistance is really handy for those who are really hard to condition. Plus it's hay season, and being chased by a thresher, while motivation for going faster, is not my cup of tea. 

So goal recap:
Much better, but still has fading moments.
Getting there, she still argues about the balance point on long lines. 
-Roll through 4-2 and PSG
Negatron, just lazy. 
Her left side pir is competition sized, her right I would like to say you can park a minivan in it at the moment.
-Soft connection
Girl is like butter now, no jacked necks or backs. 

Goals April:
-Roll through 4-2
-Choreography for FS

Thursday, April 5, 2012

We've got the funk

Spring funk is here too.Unlike the weather, it's not a welcomed visitor.

Rain rot is one thing (it's up and down her legs and on her belly), but what happened on Friday and have been battling until now, is something different and kinda has me baffled as how Sinari did it considering that the last run in with ants there were visible mounds of them.

Friday rolls in and I go out to the field and Sinari is hanging out. Everything looks fine until I go and scratch her on her back and she about collapses on the ground. Looking at her whithers and back she had broke out in quarter sized lumps that were wrinkling and really hot to the touch. Confused

Fast forward a few days later, and well, things are better, the swelling is gone in some areas or down to almost nothing. Sensitivity is also gone, but now comes the fallout, the dead skin is sloughing off in patch work to red patches of skin.

Needless to say, under saddle work has been canceled, which sucks. So we're lunging to keep up fitness and other things. After the third day of walking circles you get fairly creative with your routine, you start to add poles, or work on collection, she's smart enough to do walk canter transitions and a few other things.  But until I can come up with some sort of solution (possibly involved a few lambskins) on the ground we stay.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Drive by

Normally, I'm a Sunday blogger. Sunday's are my day away from the barn where I get my laundry, house and billing done. I also get a coveted day of sleeping in to 8am and taking my morning coffee, with whip cream, on the couch (you can stop laughing now).

For the last three weeks I have been waking up at 5 or 6 am to do things. I don't regret it, in fact a lot of it was necessary, but by the end of last week I was more fried than anything. To the point where a vodka and cranberry sounded really good and turning off my phone felt fantastic. But I had one more push before I could really rest. 

Friday was the final edit for the Run Henny Run website that I retooled for Peter Atkins. I met Peter July last year through Jim Koford at the July Dressage at Lexington show. Peter, who is a great rider and a brilliant natural marketing guy, isn't so clever about his web presentation.

After that show Peter and I kept touch, and eventually I made it down to slow-cala to stay at his place where we really started sculpting the website. 

The end product is based off the iWeb platform, and will be switching over to another, more flexible one, but it's definitely better than the 1996 Geocities look that it was sporting. While the push was in the afternoon, I was pretty much spent after a full day at work. But I am very proud of that work and of the team it reps.

Speaking of, please go visit and support Peter and his chance to go to Badminton.

But because of the whacky schedule I carried last week, this week was a bit of a leftover.

Sinari is starting to regain much of the strength that we backed away from, the tools and exercises from the clinic have really helped in giving me a way to get myself settled and make things much easier on the girl. The suggested positioning in my body has really given me twice as much power with her especially in the lateral work. The collection that we felt in Florida is returning, and the half halt has been re-established. The trot work feels really fantastic.

I've decided to forgo the April show for a late May. I know this wasn't apart of the plan (I really wanted a PSG test at Kentucky) but really what is these days?

What also made us forego the April date was shedding season. It's out of control. The weather has caused most of the horses to shed either rapidly or get rain rot. So most of those working right now are half bald or really patchy, Sinari included.

Speaking of hairy things, Sincere is set to come back to civilization April 15. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome to Oz

In Kentucky, the weather can go from blistering to sub zero in a span of a half hour. Within 15 minutes, we can go from tornadoes, hail, and flash flooding to rainbows, sunshine, partially cloudy and 65. This week alone we were in the high 70's and then dropped to 50's from a torrential storm.

Really, this weather is for the birds.

Because of the tornadoes there wasn't a heck of a lot of riding done and because of the travel (six time zones in a single week, plus clinic this weekend, so no rest for the wicked), there was more rail birding than actual saddle time. Which leaves both of us in a bind for the upcoming schedule of stuff and behind the eight ball for actual training.

This time last year we were in a similar corner, only less fit and on a different level entirely. Now I feel a huge amount of pressure to produce and go farther.

So I feel very much at a loss as to what to do for April's entry to the first show. Part of me wants to push back until late May, giving time to re-address the issues and the other part wants to jump in and just do it, and get through with it.

I feel like we've lost a lot of compression and sit over the last two weeks to the point where the pir's feel sticky. The half steps at the trot feel alright. But overall (and more truthfully) it was one crappy ride after another. It was becoming a serious bummer.

Enter one James Houston.

James comes from the same family tree as Jim Koford. The two have known each other for years and have worked alongside each other pretty extensively. Until this weekend I only knew him by proxy and probably still would if Koford didn't get the nod to go do World Cup. But life has a funny way of pointing you to the right people.

The first day I was still mentally checked out, we worked a lot on me, my position, and just had a 45 minute stretch session with the mare. In my push the collection, I forgot about the entire picture. Despite audience, it was a no pressure session. Just get unlocked and it was exactly what I needed.

Second day we picked up where we left off. It was seriously interesting to get his perspective from the driving world (he formally coached four in hands) and totally got the pony's driving background. Some minor adjustments here and there, and we were back to our old happy selves. Even got to show off a little and not look like total morons.

He's a seriously laid back instructor with a positive attitude and quick eye to make fine adjustments that have huge impacts on the horse. But what I appreciate the most is his honesty to get to the core cause of the problem and not BS the situation or the horse.

Thankfully, he'll be back in April. Until then we have our work cut out for us.

-Compression: there and lost it.
-Half Steps: there but not there.
-Fitness: better, she's now on her spring diet.
-Changes: good, but needs more wait.
-Roll through 4-2, PSG: Negatron.
-Compression, rotation: Better. Should be much more comfortable now that she's had some work done on her.

-Roll through 4-2 and PSG
-Soft connection

Sunday, February 26, 2012


The weather has finally been positively bi-polar. While the temps keep swinging from 30 to 65, at least it's dry enough to go for a few trot sets outside during the nice patches of warm.

We were all so sick of working just in the arena that getting into the fields was a huge relief.

While Sinari has been getting stronger in the collection and in fitness (she's finally getting the coordination for the pir's and the piaffe), her heat cycle has also become stronger and seemingly never ending. I think namely because of the weather and also the fitness level she's obtaining. Normally, she's an easy ride, but when cycling she pulls out the driving pony card and plows.

I don't blame her, cramps suck and she's using herself way more.

It also notes the start of going back to the summer program of Adequan, chiro, and other support system so we can continue on. But this year we might be adding something new to the mix, Reg-u-mate. I've never had her on any seasonal mare products because she hasn't cycled to the point where it became an issue or to where she was uncomfortable. But now, have to consider that too.

It sucks keeping her on the summer rotation, but to keep her comfortable in the work, she needs support. 

 Sincere is also scheduled to start back into the program. Officially bringing him in at the start of May to begin working again.

Between all of this, is scheduling the season out and travel plans. 

James Houston's clinic is almost full. I've had such a positive response for him that only two spots are left. If anyone wants to join, they would do well to speak up sooner than later. Going to try to have him back and the end of April or start of May if things work out well.

Christoph Hess is in May, and hopefully at the end of March, Shannon Peters will be doing something in Wellington. Never mind fall clinics at this point, getting through spring and summer is a priority. Then there are the shows, which I have a rough idea of at this point. I still need to roll through 4-2. 

I also have a few things to do in RI and CA, which is a long story, and I still have to do taxes, but for now, get through this week.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shameless promotion: James Houston Clinic

For those interested and/or in the area, James Houston is coming to Lexington, Kentucky.

James is an FEI rider and trainer, who has ridden for Silver Wood Farms (Art Deco, Sympatico, Hall of Fame), has helped out numerous riders of all disciplines up the ladder. His students encompass everyone from adult amateurs to professionals, from FEI horses (eventing and dressage) to young horses.

I think this is a nice opportunity for people who want a low-key clinic to prep up for the first few shows of the season with a rider who has a good eye for not just riding a test, but really addressing and fixing issues.

Rides are $145, open to everyone.

Interested people should get in touch with me at: or 859/699-7383

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Keep on Keepin' on

It's almost March, and we're starting to feel the competitive itch and pull of the season.

It really doesn't help that friends are already out there competing with huge amounts of success and great scores. Nor does it help that we're pretty much regulated to the indoors with minimal time to condition out in the fields. The indoor, while usually productive feels somewhat tedious when you don't have time to be outside.

It doesn't mean that we aren't working well. Her trot work is especially strong now, with a good amount of carry and expression. Her piaffe and passage are coming a long. The canter tour work is a sticking point, with her cycling hard the sitting and compression comes and goes. It's harder when she needs to be adjusted. So we've laid off on the huge amounts of compression until she's adjusted and back on Polyglycan.

She's also has become incredibly smart about the changes. Tempis? No issue. She's been throwing the 1's more which is fun.

I still want to roll through 4-2, and see where we're at and I also want video so I can see my problems...

But I guess I'm really waiting for spring because of Sincere. The boy is turning three this year, and I'm excited to bring him back into training. I'm sure he is as well, he seemed a little miffed that he got chucked out for the winter. But come April or May he'll be back in the program and training. I can't wait too, it's going to be a big building year for him as he actually transitions into a career.

I can't be more excited for him or hopeful or wondering where the hell we're going in this handbasket... 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

One of these days

 According to my phone it's 20 degrees. But it's really 4. There's snow on the ground and my motivation has dwindled like the temps. What's worse is that Netflix is running movies like Wintervention and Endless Winter across my favorites and suggestions.

Their humor is not appreciated.

So, I've taken to catching up on the reading. 

A recent post over at Eventing Nation kinda made me rethink a bunch of things.

A lot of people have bucket lists (a list of stuff that you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket) and at one point I thought they were hokey. Namely because of the people writing them wanted to scale K2, run an ultra marathon or launch themselves out of a perfectly functioning airplane.

All of those, while great, aren't remotely fun. In fact, you can count me out.

Then Annie posted this.

And then it kinda made sense. So I started throwing together a bucket list for my own goals. Among them is to ride as many times to Grand Prix as I physically can, consistency, and some interesting show venues. But more intrinsically, being a good person ranks in there too.

Between the bad weather we have been able to ride.

Rides have been concentrating on the quality of compression and rotation on the pir's. Sinari has been gaining more and more balance and more and more compression in the canter tour work. She's also getting smart about the changes to the point where I have to really be sure I'm counting otherwise she'll throw three's and two's in. The trot tour is still by far the easiest for her at the moment and the lateral work in it has been class.

The cold has also made her forget the half halt.

She's due out to start trot sets soon if the weather clears out. Hopefully we'll be able to roll through 4-2. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Roll away your stone

It's been a catch up week with everything.

We all got back last week and now the tedious part of unpacking, reorganizing and setting up camp up here again.

Everyone has settled in well an have gotten back to work. If there is one small perk is that the weather has been mild this year in Kentucky (I'm sure we're going to pay for it later), but rainy. We're already on track to match what we did last year. So we're regulated to the indoor until the weather and footing clears out.

Which is depressing.

But, it's time well spent. I just wish I could hack out and work on some of the cardio stuff.

Being home also means seeing the young guy in his winter grounds.

Sincere hasn't changed personality wise since I chucked him out on the hills for the winter. Still goofy, protective, macho. He's looking pretty good and should be ready to come back in around April or so.

With spring becoming more inevitable, and with January over, it's time to start moving on to February goals. 

-Compression/Rotation for Sinari
Check. The pir's finally feel solid and compressed. The canter feels so much more organized.
-Solid counting for changes
Done with difficulty. She now has to do the changes without taking over or loosing balance which is harder, so we're back to contract negotiations.
-Educated zig zags
I finally got this down without being a total moron about it!
-Upping the balance point
Done, it's making that feeling the go-to point through fitness that needs to happen next.

-Half Steps
-Roll through 4-2, PSG
-Compression, rotation

Monday, January 30, 2012

She dreamed of paradise

Home from Florida.

It's hard to even imagine how the month went or how each day passed like an unbroken line. Or even harder, I forgot the feeling of snow and cold and for just a single second, I thought I was in summer again.

Yes, the place really is like venturing down the rabbit hole. It's a completely different universe.

Florida is amazing.

Even being removed from the hub of the dressage universe (Wellington versus Ocala), you get a taste of what it's like to be around people who all have a singular goal that's common to yours and can chat pony. But if you're not riding, there's something to do.

It's literately being in a buffet, and somedays you just don't know where to begin.

I went down with the intent to train, but as usual things just unfolded. Not only did I train, but I also got to view training sessions of not just high performance dressage, but eventing as well (kind of a perk when you live with an international eventer).

The best part was rolling through the PSG work and making it our own, getting the compression and rotation on the pir's and starting the pi/pa work. Having full mirrors to make fun of ourselves, and being around the crew again.

I got to visit the new show grounds (which will be really fun to show at), caught a weekend Grand Prix at WEF, I got to help people on the ground and got to see and visit fantastic farms and friends and I drove my first gooseneck trailer.

I proved to myself multiple things. 

I also jumped.

You can blame Atkins for that one.

In the end, we accomplished everything that we've set out to accomplish and it was well worth the time and effort put into the trip. Learned a lot about ourselves in the process, and got a head start for this year.

Will we go back next year?

Indefinitely yes. I can't see another winter without it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time flies

It's almost end of January, and I forgot to recap the goals!

-Condition, fit and hack out
Weather started to turn foul in KY, and we got as many rides in between the holidays and other activities. Felt, as usual it wasn't enough, but got through it.
Managed to clip as much as I could between holidays, client horses and other things. Slightly unsuccessful on one poor pony's case.
-Clinic in TN
Score, went down, did well. Also spent a week with Jim in Fl.
Check although what shipment when was more confusing. Lesson learned, send everything with the horses.

-Compression/Rotation for Sinari
-Solid counting for changes
-Educated zig zags
-Upping the balance point

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under Pressure

I can't believe it's Friday. The days have really just blurred together. I only have a few more days here in what seems like a never ending horse show.

But I think that's what happens when you put your head down and train like there's no tomorrow.

Time here has been spent very well. All three horses are going great and well, the new found holes in my breeches serve only as proof that you really can ride your ass off. I think I would give my right arm for a whirlpool and some salts.

Sinari is doing all the PSG work. We've put the screws in the last two workouts to her to ramp the balance, compression and the fitness up. Needless to say the results have been mixed (partially me, sometimes her), but I have a feeling she'll sign on soon enough. I really wanted to roll through the entire test, but the monster canter tour is getting the better of us at the moment. I was deservidly snarked at for doing changes after the pir tour not in the right place. Today it's more of the same, compress, compress, compress, and rotation.

Merlot, had a day off and came back ready to go. We've been upping the compression and lateral work with him. He now has turn on the haunches, shoulder in, leg yield, canter-walk-canter, haunches in, traverse, renverse, and a few other tricks in his bag. I really want to toy with the change, but since he's doing a test, I don't want to screw with his counter canter too much. He still likes to fall out the left shoulder, it's annoying but fixable. We've now have to really start pushing the tests.

Wylie is still in development, we do relaxed sessions with lots of walk breaks. His lateral work has always been very strong so it's more or less about organization with him. He doesn't last very long still but at the same time he also tries super hard. Have also been working after him to keep in front of the leg, and balance on the smaller circles.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle (yeah)

We've now been in FL for about a week. It's been one giant good thing after another so far, and while I thought I would have time to write extensively, I've had people make better use of my time here.
While the ponies arrived ahead of me (Wednesday) and I left not soon after that at 4am to trek south.
The drive isn't bad and I made good time, but when I hit Georgia at 8:30am and the landscape flattened like a pancake, the drive just stretched out longer, and longer and longer. Boredom and the radio got the best of me.

Truth is, it's an easy 13 hours. Especially when you have a radio, a cell phone and some things to do along the way.

My first stop was at Peter and Amy Atkins' to go set up the ponies at their place. The ponies arrived in better condition than I did. By the time I set up it was 830 and I still had to find my way to where I was staying.

With minimal lost-ness, I got there and collapse into the single most comfortable bed.

Friday I popped on all three for an easy day. Everyone felt fine. Saturday and Sunday was much of the same, minus the first solo trek to Wellington.

I went down to Wellington as a volunteer to be a scribe at the USEF High Performance Clinic with Steffen Peters and Anne Gribbons. There was indeed a lot of star power there, but in addition to that, it was a sheer joy to watch and sit at the table listening and learning for the day. I saw so many lovely combinations both from the A list and B list, and excused myself a little early to go home and try some things out on the horses.

Sunday I give a light day for all three (chiro'ed) and begin packing for the trek to Wellington again. I'm not looking forward to packing up my horses... again. But this is well worth it, we're going to go train with Koford.

Fast forward to now... it's almost Thursday, and we hit the ground running here. Sinari is doing extensive work in the collected canter (pir, changes, half pass), Merlot is working on up hill balance and lateral work and prepping out for his big Welly-world show, and Wylie is busy turning heads while coming back into fitness.

As for myself, it's physically hard. I have sores on the back of my legs and around my ankles from my boots. I wake up stiff. I'm drinking water like it's going out of fashion, and popping Advil too.

But, in all honesty, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can't you see I've waited long enough?

Today's the day. A long road ahead of us, a longer road behind us.

It's bitter cold here and while I'm snuggling up to my tissue box, blanket and Vitamin C, we've been packing non stop, prepping non stop and pushing non stop to start the first leg of the trip. It's been long days and longer nights.

There are a few things that I've already learned about packing, one of which is get a bigger bag and never try to do things around the holidays. People never respond.

Also that Home Depot has good, large trunks to pack your horse's stuff in (and they're open late!), that work with your rep's to get your stuff in order in another place, have cash on hand, a kind word, and have a good home and away support team.

The ponies loaded up today and are currently en-route to Peter's farm in Ocala. They'll be there earlier than I will. Normally I would be right down with them, but I have some minor things to finish up at the house prior to going down (like packing the electronics that I need an minor foodstuffs) I'll be leaving before the crack of dawn tomorrow, and hopefully will be down there early afternoon.