Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hope is a four lettered word

2013 is over. I can't say I'm unhappy to see it go, it was a tough year for a lot of reasons, but it also
showed that we've come a long way.

The holiday time for me has always been about downtime, the horses aren't pushed, I can pretty much have a glass of wine and take time to say thanks and plan the new year.

There's a lot to be thankful for- I'm thankful for supportive owners and clients who've been very supportive and supplying the equine talent and funding to start achieving goals. I'm thankful for my team: Dr. Laurie Metcalf, Jake Burdine, Dr. Lark Carol, Dr. Kimberly Tummlin, Doug Leavitt and a host of others who keep us all running on track.

I'm incredibly thankful to my owners who have stepped up to the status change to keep me mounted on quality up and coming horses: Noble Spirit Farm, Sunshine Meadows, Rosanna and Carey Gage; Wendy and Kelly Spencer and a few more who are coming up . Without them I think honestly I would still be bopping around not really doing much. They make me better, not just as a person, but as a horseman.

A big thank you goes to Alfredo, JJ and a number of others, who got me out of a slump. I really look forward to continuing the relationship and growing the team with some really passionate individuals who are in my corner and want to be apart of everything.

My goals on paper for 2013 weren't overly ambitious, but they involved hard work. I took the year to be a building year, I did a grand total of two shows this year, both I wish I would have forgotten, but for the most part they were apart of the learning curve that is being an under-30 rider.

1. Finish Silver, start the Gold.
I completed my Silver, in 2012 I had a mis-scored test that I didn't catch until after I left the show grounds. There wasn't a way to correct it so, I had to wait until 2013 to finish out my one fourth level test (seriously fourth level) and get my medal in January. I didn't start my Gold at all, I took a year off with Sinari to let her down after three hard years of campaigning and training. We went out all of twice (January and September) with so-so results. I look forward to getting back on the campaign trail again.

We will go out with some more frequency in 2014- but will be picky about shows for her. We are on our last two years of showing, and at 15, it's hard find an excuse to keep her campaigning continuously without being unfair. The focus also shifted to the younger horses, developing them to find the next heir apparent. Which is hard, because a horse that steps into those shoes is going to have a lot of expectations.

2. Be training I2/GP
We can roll through about 65-70 percent of the sequences of the GP at this point. It's no where near show ready. Still need to put on one's, a firmer p&p sequence, and clean up a bunch of other things.

3. Find investment horses.
Did this and a little more. Initially, Reba's Song was an investment back up horse. However, she showed her preference to jump and with Anna Kate did exceptionally well for her first year showing (I think winning a major national title is cause for celebration). The Spencers purchased Danzador MSM and put me onboard as rider/partner. Flemmiro SSM is also her breeder's investment for the long haul as well. There are also a few more coming in as client sales horses and potentially a few big horses as well.

4. Devote two weeks of intense training per quarter
With the notable absence of an integral team member by May, I had to scramble hard to find a solid pair of eyes on the ground that took us at least somewhat seriously. We were left floating really until July, until things changed and I found people who not only clicked with me but really made a huge change in what I do. I've now added one more set of eyes and started utilizing technology to keep up with things.

5. Continue to grow the business and remain fiscally solvent.
The business grew and had some ups and downs. There was a lot of change in dynamics and how things developed. I'm now the tour manager for Christoph, I'm developing clinic locations and the clientele has expanded. I got to work with William Fox Pitt and I look forward to expanding my network with eventers and getting to know them a bit better.

1. Start Gold. Be schooling the majority of GP.
2. Have national rankings on each horse. End up in the year end awards for All Breeds and at minimum be qualified for regionals.
3. Increase fitness (human and horse).
4. Expand clients, horses in training, and investments that are capable, at minimum of shining on the national stage, also continue to remain fiscally solvent.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I'm dreaming of White Fences

The weather has been nothing short of disastrous.

The area has been nicely coated in a crystal casing of ice, doused with snow, and thawed and refrozen several times to make for very interesting travel conditions.
The horses have also started to get cabin fever as friends start making their way down to Florida for the season I'm slowly going just as insane. 

Literally our area has become a desolate polar paradise with little chance to escape until the ice breaks up and the sun starts shining consistently.

Sinari is an old pro and is used to the winter blues routines. She's wintered many times in the north. But  still can get very fresh under saddle. But for her, it's manageable and cool to have that focused, amplified energy to work with. It's literally refreshing for me as well to just sit there and play director. But even then managing her day-to-day energy outlet of a pony coming back into fitness can be hairy at best. Keeping her from stiffening up is also become easier with Back On Track products (hock boots and a sheet). 

Danzador is still adjusting to things a little. While he's used to being confined for a few days, he's not used to the swinging temperatures in the area. The first ride during the big drop was hairy, he was electric and while it was great to have the energy his concentration wasn't focused. He also physically isn't mature enough to keep loose, so we stepped up the body work on him. The next few days he's come in and has went better, but for the most part things have been about stretching and keeping things low-key. He has a show this weekend, which while I want to go I'm not looking forward to. 

Also with the downtime for Danzador, we started adjusting some of the support systems he's getting. He already receives regular chiro and massage, but with all the development he's undergoing he needed more support with shoes. 

His feet are solid and he's done alright without them, but he gets a little tentative in his body when he can't get traction, combine that with a natural propensity to tighten the back it's stagnated some development. Already I can see and feel a difference. His balance is lower, he's more confident and his overstride has already gained at least a few inches. 

The weather has also screwed with my schedule.

My last full clinic has been canceled, and I'm busy applying for several more to keep busy for the new year. Show organizers haven't put out their prize lists, so I can't really start picking and choosing where I want all of us to go. It's literally the dead time which I dread and enjoy all at once. 

The last cancellation left me with an open date and around a horse show time. With both horses actually feeling good, I tossed both of them in at last minute thanks to a generous secretary making space. The weather is decided to add value to the horse show by going from 40 and sunny to 28 and freezing rain. 

Then there's a huge step down from FEI.

It feels odd to be doing training level again. Especially on a baby that's pretty fit (ps. it's never a good time to show babies, you just have to go) and a test that's a fraction as long as the one you're used to.  I'm used to seeing two pages of test, a movement-by-movement breakdown, and now I had 14 grouped movements to get a good score on a four year old that is still physically developing, in a cold arena. 

I'm exceptionally proud of him in what could have been easily a mental undoing of a lot of horses. He was high, and cold, but the minute the bridle went on he started to click in, he warmed up great in a busy arena with kids trying to run into him, he gave me great balance, and minus stopping and staring at things, he thought it was the most fun he had in a long time.

I'm not happy with the score, because it felt appropriate. But the comments were somewhat valid.

There are things that can be improved off the bat- like the drunken sailor line, general crookedness and tenseness that comes from lack of showing. Mentally he was half in the zone and half baby ADD.

He does need to lengthen his top line out. But, I also know that comes from building carrying power to lengthen the entire frame. His main avoidance has (and possibly always will be) been behind the vertical, it comes from me asking for the balance and power. I honestly don't really think he's going to be a world beating training level horse, he's going to start to shine around second level. But until then he's going to keep going out at little shows to get experience until his mediums/lengthenings and lateral work are confirmed, which hopefully will be spring.

Otherwise, I'm proud of both of them. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

She's buying the stairway to heaven

A few weeks ago I vaguely explained what's happening with the herd and how my life is changing.
Then William Fox-Pitt, convention,  and a number of other things took over my life and I had to put introspection aside and do what I do.

A few weeks ago, I left my regular paying, 9-5 corporate non-equine related job. I left the security of knowing that despite good pay, a 401k, stock options and other various, great things in the normal world, I was unhappy. I survived six years of a job that had a crazy mentality and demanded total unrelenting obedience.

I'm happy that I had that opportunity to be there, it's given me a huge amount of perspective that I wouldn't have gained otherwise. It gave me a background for business which has become invaluable. It's helped me expand my skills to deal with a lot of situations. It was a good resource and the team I worked with was one of the best in the world.

But in the end, this was a hobby to them and no amount of bargaining or discussing could change this. So, after the last management change, the talk of unionizing and facing down another winter, I finally said I couldn't do it anymore without mentally becoming undone.

In the meantime, I'm still continuing the clinics, which has been a good thing overall. But there's one final step I'm taking and that's going Professional.

"Going pro" has been on my radar for sometime. It's not something I necessarily wanted to do until I was totally confirmed at Grand Prix with at least appearances at major venues. I enjoy the sport but lately I've been pushing the defining boundaries of what it means to be an Amateur.

I still have a slightly romanticized version of the ideal professional who not only scores exceptionally well, but has a balance between teaching, riding, business and the normal life. They have that pipeline of horses that can sell somewhat easily in the market to buy up or take the capital and run, have committed lovely clients who want to progress in their various paths, a workmanlike barn and an overall love of the game.

While I have many of those attributes, I still struggle with the idea of playing in a broader field, and fear doing what you love may lead to burnout. There's also the fear of becoming apart of the crowd.

In short, aside from the USEF rule book, there is no how-to human resources cook book of guidelines that gives you a path of what to do next. For a lot of us, there are still, and always be questions of how to do this without killing yourself. But I know now that I can't wait around until Grand Prix and to be treated seriously you have to change.

The nice part is my herd has changed too.

In addition to Sinari, Danzador and Reba, there are going to be a few new faces.

Flemmiro SSM, by Flemmingh out of a Ferro mare will be joining the herd.  There are also a few planned breedings in the works to keep things growing in the right way.

So in 2014, with the renewal of my cards, the quality added to the herd, my Amateur status is officially done. I loved my time in this group. It's given me a huge amount of perspective of what people go through to achieve goals.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

We like to party

I did a two for one day at USEA and USDF's conventions.

I made the trek up to Ohio to at least attempt to attend Area 8 awards (missed it due to an overrun meeting) for Reba and Anna, and then jetted back down Lexington to accept my Silver in person.

It's not my first convention I went to, but it was the first time I've accepted an award on the national scene. Reba was also one of the first horses I've had to go out and just dominate, and also the first horse I haven't piloted to those ribbons, but "owned". It was a good way to end a year I'd rather forget.

Despite arriving late, I was lucky that I had friends there to hold a seat and a plate of food. My table had collectively some of the best, most revered classical trainers seated (Charles DeKnuffy, JJ Tate and Mrs. O'Connor) at it. Many of which I met for the first time, and for once in my wee existence felt really awestruck at the living history eating cake and having coffee.

I didn't expect to like many of them, many trainers on the hard-core classical path tend to be eccentric at best. But if you ever have the chance to meet Charles, he's incredibly wonderful to listen to and get to know and Mrs. O' Connor is spot on with much of her commentary.

If the night had a theme, it was education.

It is something that I feel very near and dear to as I regularly host and work alongside people who's greater motivation is to improve riding and it's understanding. To see these people, who have dedicated their lives to furthering the next generation, and being recognized for it, is cool.

It's hard to believe that 40 years ago (I've been a member about a quarter of that time) we were still competing on grass with chain arenas and education and the programs, like the L, the All Breeds, Regionals, Instructor Certification, that in were started when I was 15 or 16 years old. We  have made progress.

It was fantastic to see and hear the stories being exchanged. It was good to see old friends, and touch base with those who I do business with. Plus it just started to stoke the competitive fires for 2014.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What will become of us

Winter has become equally as busy despite the adamant refusal to move everyone south (I will regret
this later) for the winter season. It's snowed on and off again for two days, leaving my woods covered in unfashionable post Labor Day White.

Starting in December with a double convention days (USDF/USEA Area 8), each week is booked out with something to do, whether it be clinic, show, symposium, meetings, hosting and travel.

Before I even start making rounds I still have the horses.

Danzador, even through some awkward stages, is getting the knack of things. As a four year old, he offers a lot of glimpses into a really bright future. He just gets the lateral movements and has a really lovely balance point. More importantly, he never stops trying. The adjustability is being developed, which I think will come when he figures out more collected work. He's not going to be FEI five and six year old material but will be a good candidate for the Developing Horse or the straight FEI tests. He still has a lot of maturing he needs to do over winter and with some changes in the program he'll be just fine.

Sinari is still going on, she's come back into work and is regaining a lot of the fitness she lost. The little mare is pretty much getting the idea of the zig zags, and reeled off three's today without really thinking. The main goal is to push for the I1 next year and be schooling all of the Grand Prix work. She's working solidly every day, I just wish the footing would cooperate so we can get out of the arena more often, hacking up and down the driveway isn't what I call fun.

Reba's first year and a half with my team and her rider has come to an end, and I couldn't be more proud of what they've done in less than a half a season of eventing and showing. With Anna Kate in less than 10 overall events, she finished with minimal penalties and usually on sub 30 dressage scores. She won Beginner Novice at American Eventing Championships, was Reserve Champion on the Area 8 Leaderboard and started showing Novice at the end of the season. On a horse that has had barely a season of jumping and has only really returned to work last August this is very quick progress.

I honestly can't wait to see what next year, the second/third year of this project holds for everyone, in the meantime we're celebrating with some holiday downtime. The horses were chiro-ed on Tuesday and have had yesterday and today off. We'll return on Friday with some light work to finish out the week. Plus there's a few changes coming up that I'll announce when they're confirmed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You Gonna Fly

Tis the season for conventions 

I'm going to USDF's convention, which is conveniently less than a half of a mile from my house, to pick up my Silver Medal, and to USEA/Area 8 to meet up with friends, coworkers and watch Anna Kate pick up her ribbons for the season. All on the same day, within three hours of each other.  

Aside from one busy day, the time is also well spent on conducting business and setting the tone for 2014. It's one part social, two parts financial planning for my team and a whole lot of fun in between.

Convention is also the underlying reminder of what ribbons really cost. 

For every title, ribbon, trophy and award handed out, there are thousands of hours, dollars and opportunities spent for a brief, very fleeting, moment in time. 

While I'm thrilled to have earned my Silver, I'm reminded of the miles traveled with the pony, the struggles of a first year at FEI, the permanent hatred I have for fourth level, the clinics attended and hosted and the time away from home while I collect it and celebrate the newest lifetime achievement. 

Everything has a price, and horses, are no different. I'm very proud of what we have accomplished and no one can take that away. But occasionally, I hear the peanut gallery's voices singing clearly that it's not fair, and you've just have had better opportunities. 

I can easily say life isn't fair. 

But better opportunities? I made those with sweat equity.  

A recent post on Facebook reminded me how concerning the future generation of horsemen are going to be if they aren't clever enough or hungry enough to find ways to, as Tim Gunn would say, "Make it Work". 

We aren't all blessed with bank accounts and silver spoons. Many of us grew up in suburbs and with parents that could barely tell the difference between a snaffle and spur (but were lucky that they didn't say no to doing crazy things), but in the end, the dollars didn't prevent us, we just made it work. 

It's disappointing to say the least that many insert-your-age-here somethings would rather lament instead of going forward, asking questions and give a little to get a leg up, then complain at the suggestion that they go work and earn their place at the table. 

Go and volunteer, go ask organizers if they need a hand for anything (the answer is usually a relieved yes), start covering events for your local equestrian magazine, attend class, go to shows and watch, scribe, run, put on events, network, DO STUFF. Change begins with the individual, and to be have a say in it, you need to step outside and do something. 

There is nothing preventing you in this world to going out and going after opportunities. There will be times where people will say no, there will be times where you (and many others) question everything you do, the quality you have; there will be times where that plateau for training and riding stretches out longer than a country mile. But, if you don't keep going, you stop being apart of what you want. 

So, question is then, how bad do you want it? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

How quick are you gonna get up?

The season is officially put to rest.

I got back on Thursday evening after I drove home from William Fox-Pitt's clinic that finished the day prior. I can barely remember how Friday was spent, except that I ended up at the barn riding that day and I was happy to be back to some version of normalcy.

With 200 plus people on both days, and some fun situations in between, it was well worth it and I had a blast. But somewhere between the final airport run and getting turned around on Route 50 because of construction traffic, I hit the wall.

I pulled over at an overlook and just sat there for awhile, wondering what I had just done and what it will mean. Probably sat there for a solid 10 minutes just looking out before my phone pinged with people sending on media, Facebook, and emails of congrats (Virginia has sketch signal and I guess things catch up when you stand on top of a hill). I found myself wishing for my horses.

The ponies didn't make the trek with me and earned some time off from the under saddle work. Prior to leaving, they were working really well. But at the clinic I found myself really wanting to ride in what little down hours I had and experiment with what was going on.

The horses didn't mind the absence so much. 

Prior to taking off, Danzador was working a little passage in hand and doing more than a solid training level/first level work, we even schooled a green change here or there. The last day with him was spent trying to find his gear for the lengthening, the horse doesn't quite trust where all his feet go yet, and can only give a solid five steps, but at least it's progress.

The last few days have been spent stretching and just getting him back in gear but yesterday, for giggles, we put him through a trail horse clinic. After the initial snorts and spooks, he became almost bored with the process as he tried to eat the tarp, the flowers, the sparkly confetti things.

As much as I raise dressage horses, they are horses first. They need to be exposed to a bunch of things that make them good citizens. Often times, as riders, we forget that, we try to sterilize the environment to make it safe, when in reality we're only doing ourselves a disservice. I also believe that submission, one of the core tenets of the sport, is first developed on the ground.  What you do there also reflects what's being experienced in the saddle.

I think he's missed the work, and the attention because he's come back looking more mature with a better trot and walk, his canter can be a tad scrambled but he's willing to collect and hold himself together. His walk canters are coming along very smartly. He's ready to do a show very soon.

Sinari's post hock injection work keeps improving, she's way more comfortable in the work and has returned to the level that she was at prior. We're still taking stuff slow, she lost a little bit of fitness due to the compensation she put her body through, but already she's lighter and softer in the bridle, she's not stuck in the back and she's happy about the work.

She's comfortable handling the three's and two's again, and I've been working on cleaning up the pirouette work. It's coming, it's just going to take time. But already she's willing to sit and wait more, just needs the strength. But already things are looking up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

I'm heading down a busy week of travel and riding.

First on the menu is the final prep for William Fox-Pitt's clinic, I'm pushing just over 200 people (riders, sponsors, auditors) for two days- during the week. It's by far and away the largest weekday clinic (if not clinic, Edward Gal was large, but not like this). This means packing the car, coordinating, doing laundry and having barn coverage.

Also during my trip out East I get to meet up with some old hunt friends that I met at Breyerfest in 2012. These guys are awesome and I haven't seen them in two years. So, I'm using this as an excuse to ditch the dressage gear and go have end of the season fun. I have a feeling that I'll be wrangled in to something that goes across country. I also get to see an old high school riding buddy and another few good friends. Either way, I'll be fine, hopefully alive after all of it.

It's also the week I generally start planning travel and shows.

On the docket for 2014 is air tickets to Europe for February to Holland for the KWPN stallion show and also co-oping it into a few other things. I would like to graduate with my L, and campaign the youngsters a little on the East. I will most likely make an stop in Canada at some point as well.

This week is also a heavy week for vet work.

While Danzador is clipped for the next few months, Sinari still needs to be clipped. Normally I'd have this done same day as the others but the one foible about Sinari is that she's petrified of clippers. No amount of coaxing, convincing will ever convince her otherwise. So drugs are necessary. Which means calling the vet out. 

We're going for a two for one special.

After a recent chiro session, we found that Sinari was also hyper sensitive on her hock and hock points.  This is a horse that's in six days a week of work, upper level work and has had joint support throughout her career (a daily oral, and a bi-monthly Adequan until Adequan decided to do some interior decoration of their plant then over to Legend) plus regular body work and has a good farrier. She goes on good footing, has properly fitting tack and everything has been done within reason.

But at 14 the work is hard, and has come time to inject the hocks.

I loathe injecting for the sake of injecting. I've been in barns and situations where the first answer is the needle and not really sourcing the issue (ill fitting tack, questionable footing, lack of development, no support, ect). My vets know this as well, as does the majority of my team that I'd rather avoid doing the unnecessary until options are exhausted and the horse dictates.  

Right now, she's dictating. She's still a little uncomfortable in the work, her normal good changes are sticky, the departs are a little rough going and she's not as fluid over the back. Then after her chiro work, she started telling us directly where it hurt. To make her comfortable for the next few years of competing/training, this is necessary.

After a decade of work, it's time. I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten away with it for so long and to have an honest horse to tell me when it's time. The injections went undramatically.

Danzador is doing exceptionally well, he's maturing into a fabulous young horse and gaining topline and fitness. He's so easy to ride, and as he's expanding his horizons, he continues to really try to figure things out. The other day he started doing changes, while they're green and all over the place he's getting the idea. He also started playing with baby half passes and park a bus in them pirouettes. While I still feel Sinari is smart, this guy is a brainiac sponge.He's just that quick to pick up on things and go for it. It's interesting, and very surreal when you have a horse that at four, can pick up on your mistakes quickly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My next thirty years

In 2014, I'm 30.

I'm not sad that the transition is coming. My twenties have been nothing short of dramatic with a huge amount of personal and professional growth.

While the number is daunting in a way, I really am looking forward to getting older. It also means I'm reevaluating my life and where I want to go.

Recently, especially within the last five years, my focus has changed from just riding and being an amateur to exploring more options as a rider and an active participant within the equestrian community (and you thought I just did clinics...).

However, the problem I see, and continue to see with my age group is the constant struggle to find good horses, good situations and living hand to mouth. We are all searching and fighting for the same thing: a living, a top horse, a good barn and support crew. Even as an amateur, I've experienced it in some fashion, and I'm very leery overall to put my toe in without having a safety net and plan in place.

I'm very lucky in the regard that over the period of years I've created a good network, have access to good training, and now have access to individuals who are starting to make investments with me.  Sinari was one of those investments, Danzador is another, and there are a few more in the wings that I'm very excited about (I'm actually looking forward to winter in the north for once). 

By no means, am I made in the shade, and things are evolving.

Right now I'm finishing up a few projects that will set the tone for the next eight years. I'm looking at finishing Sinari out potentially at I2, maybe Grand Prix in the next few years and then retiring her to being a pasture puff. Danzador continues to grow up, he'll most likely follow the national test track and not the young horse track, and Reba is still going through the levels as an eventer. 

I guess the question I'm posing is where do I go from here?

There's a lot of answers. The first and most obvious is invest. Currently I'm expecting one new horse in to for 2014 (which brings my total under saddle herd up to 4), there is also the plan of breeding two, and one foal purchase for 2014 as well.

Alot of it is still fuzzy, and still a lot of details to be hammered out.

This represents the future of my program, which is scary to think how I'll spend the next six to ten years.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

These bruises make for better conversation

I could complain about the month. It would probably make me feel better, but wouldn't be productive.

I'm not at Devon.

I'm at home. With an Eeyore-grey cloud looming around and a hairy bra from doing the fall clipping, a pile of laundry, puttering around, attempting to find shows to bring the babies out to while consuming my favorite pieces of chocolate updating the auditor/rider lists for Debbie McDonald and William Fox-Pitt.

I'm at home with my horses, one with a splint (he's getting better, back to work!), the other having back issues from a bad heat cycle that should hopefully resolve itself out within the next few days. Being grounded, temporarily, is the pits. The hairy bra takes the cake. But it gives a lot of time to regroup, refocus and live vicariously through others.

If there's one highlight in the bunch, it's Reba.

Reba was down in Texas for the AEC's. So without a competition on the horizon, I got to live vicariously through her and her rider the week for their final show of the season.

I was really excited for both of them to top out their year together at the championships, the two have gelled wonderfully.

It's been over a year since she's arrived, and despite an inauspicious start, I think she's finally found her footing, her rider and a career. I'm just happy to be apart of her journey and be able to help give back to the sport through helping someone help themselves.

In the meantime Reba's progressed from an out of shape pasture puff to a solid competitor to now winning the AEC's at the BN level. I'm tickled and it's a positive spot in a dour month. There are some ideas evolving for next season but nothing firm yet.

My other two are chilling for the moment, Danzador has returned to light work with me cold hosing/packing/booting up his legs every ride. Sinari is going through stretch days in a snaffle, I think she's enjoying working on this (seriously the pony can stretch for a 9) instead of grunting around the arena working on half steps.

Otherwise, uneventful if not somewhat productive. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Don't let me down

Last week wasn't a competition highlight.

Sinari walked in tired and we both walked out frustrated with ourselves. We were fully on track for a 65 percent things came apart in the canter work on each day. The heat didn't help, nor did the footing, the crooked FEI warmup, I didn't help by intensively schooling throughout the week, plus having zero body work done prior to it. It didn't also help it was our first time back in six months in an important show. It was just a bad point in our career, and poor planning on my part. 

I look at the photos and the video from this year and the last, there are changes, huge changes in the muscling and balance points for the better, but like learning the walk pirouettes, it comes with a bit of an attitude at first.

Also downgrading her from I1/I2 work to the PSG also made her a bit mad throughout the weekend, and because of the new muscling- people were questioning whether she was a he.  A lot of mare owners quickly inquired to our breeding status and whether she was available for stallion services.

We'll work on through the issues for the winter with a good pair of eyes. I'm happy that's upcoming soon, and find a number of schooling shows to get our groove back. In the meanwhile I've gone back to playing around with the curb bit, maybe that'll sort things out a tad quicker.

The show itself was a great place to catch up with everyone. I ran into a lot of old pony friends, clients and caught up with them. It was the largest pony show to date with 73 pony entries and a huge FEI class. It was finally great to see this event enter into maturity and get the numbers.

Because it was local, I had to commute between barns so everyone was still being worked whether on or off grounds.

Danzador was surprisingly the highlight of the week, by the end of the week he was greenly schooling half passes and getting more consistent in the balance point. I like where his half steps are going. He too is lacking body work and it shows... badly. On the ground he's going over cavaletti, developing his mediums and trying to develop his back more. It's painfully slow work, but he'll come around. 

Devon is next week, and we hit the road again. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The luxury of knowing

News does not travel fast when you are in the middle of nowhere.  So, I'm surprised when I walk in to a place when I have full network/bar connections and I have 10 phone messages and 12 text within 10 minutes as.

It's a little unnerving to be without full communication for a week, unable to check things at the drop of a hat, and to make fine tweaks to my program. I was lucky that I can pirate internet connections, and iPad has allowed me to do chat, but phone calls are rare, if impossible.

I've been worried most of the week about two of my entries, the National Dressage Pony Cup and the Dressage at Devon entry. I entered in NDPC quasi last minute because I wasn't too sure about rolling through the FEI again, I sent Devon in advance but didn't receive a confirmation of it.

I seriously hadn't practiced a test (lower level or FEI) in about six months, all this time has been training and conditioning, mentally stepping away from the last three years of the circuit and developing to the last stage of Sinari's career, and having to redevelop key assets in my team. 

The first PSG test I rolled through was a train wreck, everything about it was rushed, hurried and not johnny on the spot. Sinari still feels clever about the counter canter to change at C, and while the pir's have improved, it's still not my cup of tea. The changes were adjustable went from fours to twos in three strides (had to deprogram the two's) and the mediums and extensions felt blasé. 

But we forcibly kept rolling through it and just before my self imposed exile sans horses, it felt solid again and I shoved my entry out knowing this year was going to be a big class (and it is! Five entries! Including Jane Pride's Ilja, Lauren Chumley's Newyn, myself, Jack Flash and Spar Trek) and knowing that we will have to show a lot more to be competitive.

Throughout my trip up, I kept on checking. When my name didn't appear on the list, I was
becoming really worried. My USPS is bad sometimes to the point of why bother. So it's why I tend to utilize online entries or mail drop at the main hub where I know it will be stamped and sent the same day. Which also made me worried about Danzador's entry for Devon. 

A couple of emails, a few phone calls promising various things (first born not included), both my entries are confirmed. I'm entered with times for NDPC, and the Devon was confirmed late last Wednesday (with email confirmation on Sunday) as I was leaving the "green zone" of cell phone usage.

Huge sigh of relief as I begin packing again for the fall and starting to hammer home tests and to catch up with the rest of the herd.

I started riding again yesterday, and I had forgotten how bad the humidity can be in Kentucky after being adjusted to NYS air.  I've never felt more sick in my life in the saddle than I did on Monday- I think my blood sugar completely tanked.

I completed the two works with equally tired, dripping horses, managed to look in on a friend who was having green horse issues and went home, grabbed the nearest bottle of Advil and have a piece of bread (carbs). Today, we get back to it in cooler weather and start rolling through tests again, the weekend I know is fast approaching. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

No one puts baby in the corner

I used to hate lateral work, I found it tedious and a means to the end. Go side ways, move this or that,
look cool doing it. That was about it. My half passes lacked power, my pirouettes were interesting and that shoulder in could definitely be muddled through or cobbled together.

It wasn't until very recently (read: four weeks ago) that I really began to understand and find it useful beyond making whoever obedient to the leg.

Yes, prior to that I was sufficiently nagged to include more lateral work, and I did to some success. But, it was the same old thing.

After Alfredo's clinic, I caved in and started warming up in lateral work, not because I thought it was particularly useful at the time, but the way he related it to me made sense.

Basically long straight lines are served as cardio, they do warm the horse up, but not as thoroughly as it could get. The purpose of a warmup, as explained, is (along with several other reasons) is to mentally click the horse in, create a better balance and create flexibility.

I used to think a few laps around the arena and let the movements do the work, and we have liftoff. Until over four weeks ago, I was comfortably ok with this scenario and then I was introduced to this new way and perspective shifted.

The work is very basic, specifically shoulder in, haunches in on 20 meters (and variations on it). Different horse entirely, different human too.

I added in using the deep corners and making a working pirouette out of them. Part of this was for the horses, the other part was for me to make sure I was using my body in an effective way. Either way it's a neat exercise.

Push forward a few weeks, everyone was warming up more and more uphill, and mentally clicking into the work faster. I started building on the corner exercise again in regular work after I saw old tape of another rider. After the corner pirouette, I start to add in the half steps and pseudo-passage.

The ponies picked up on this way too well, and upcoming dressage competitions (I think we're out of the NDPC, because USPS decided to do naughty things) I've started to downgrade a lot of the new material.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rain Dance Maggie

My busy summer is coming to a close, and while it felt the summer that never was due to the weather (really, I think this is the rainiest I've had in a long time), and the lack of show miles.

I broke the showing hiatus last week with the young guys. Initially, it was going to be three weeks of showing in a row (schooling, HTBB, and then Meadow Lake) it ended up being: Hasslers, HTBB, and screw this we need to school.

The show went well, I could harp on lack of management, and other things, but really why bother? The boys did well, they didn't set the world on fire, but they got around, made their baby mistakes and ended up scoring decently. Fritz outscored Danzador in the in hand, while I disagree with the placing (and point spread), the consolation is that Fritz has been worked with for five months and has developed- Danzador has been ours for just about two months, and two weeks of that have been spent on a trailer. So in reality, I'm not worried.

Sinari has been going strong, to the point where I feel very confident entering her in the NDPC at PSG. She's handling the pi/pa/pir work (we've been doing a little every day) a lot better. It also makes me debate about bumping to the next level. As much as I want a move up show for I1, I want the two's to be more solid before I venture forth (she reeled off a set the other day) . There's been some debate about doing D@D with her as well, but I think I'll pass since it's fourth level and I really just don't want to go there again with her.

In other news-I've been writing for Horse Junkies United, a Canadian blog about the boys' prep up to Devon. You can follow along the adventures here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I booked the long way 'round

I have spent the last four or five days on the road. It's been more than incredible, even if I didn't have a horse with me.

I spent the last week at Hassler Dressage at Rivers Edge, managing the barn for Lendon's EDAP program. Rivers Edge is a wonder of a facility and is not only a flagship dressage facility but the standard setter for American dressage. It should be on everyone's bucket list of must-go-see.

There's not a lot to say because words for this experience are very limiting. I was surrounded by the top (Debbie, JJ, Scott, Courtney, Lendon) trainers and coaches in America today for five days straight. I feel incredibly lucky to get to watch and have a minor hand in helping develop good athletes and horsemen for the future. Perhaps I'll be lucky next time and get to bring one or two along with me so I can be a sponge.

I also picked up a lot of good techniques and exercises that I'm implementing with the herd. My current favorite is from JJ which involves the I1 or GP zig-zag (depending on your count), of half pass- walk, change bend canter half pass five strides, walk, change, ect. It really has set up for the wait and change of bend.

Coming back home wasn't difficult, I was looking forward to being back in my own bed and home for all of four days until I hit the road again this past Thursday with a bunch of babies to Ohio to compete at the Hotter than Blue Blazes. 

The horses, despite break, have been working well. Sinari, despite protests of not being able to sit against my hand, is doing great. We went through the same issues when I really started working the pirouettes. I suspect the added pressure of more collection is being a bit of a pest.The rotation of one more hack day (but still asking for this pressure while out) has helped out tremendously.

Danzador has been going well, I had the chiro look at him and she's really pleased with how he's developed his hind end so quickly (thank you lateral work, thou shalt not be shirked ever again). The weather has once again held us back from doing some serious hacking, but once that gets sorted we'll get back to trotting and cantering hills.

Show updates in a later post.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't want good, don't want good enough

There hasn't been a moment to breathe on my part since last week. Everyone has been training steadily for the last week or so in and out of the arena.

Sinari is doing fabulous. Aside from being due for chiro, she's been doing well with the pony yoga routine. The concentration hasn't been so much the movements, but riding through. Every movement, every transition has to be ridden through, no exceptions, and has to be ridden for an eight.

This, of course, has been a sticking point with the pony because she likes to throw herself around sometimes, but she's getting over it.

We've been working a lot more lateral work, adding power to the half pass, cleaning up my mental fart of a pirouette (which with this past clinic really cleared up some notions and gave a lot of solutions), even the changes are better.I'm slowly starting to get the idea of piaffe, but without mirrors or a confirmed pair of eyes, it's difficult.

About midweek, we took a break from the arena with her, and went out and galloped on ground that had dried out. She clicked off five miles at a solid pace and had recovery time in 10 minutes.I'm exceptionally proud of her fitness, which is making a huge difference in how long we can last in the arena, and in the test. By fall, with the crisp weather we should be cruising very well. 

Last week also marks one month since the bay dorky thing arrived. Danzador has done a lot for a month, and probably has seen more of the Western part of the country than I will in this lifetime.

It's been a busy month for him. Two chiro sessions, pool time, never ending work and very little time off, the poor guy isn't too sure about what he got himself into. 

Though, this week, it's been particularly intense. Danzador has taken the brunt of the time spent in the arena, simply because the weather and footing outside has been atrocious from all the rain, and my schedule and KESMARC's hasn't been meeting up.

Even when we get a reprieve, the footing is still saturated. This past weekend we were cleared to go out on the grass and we clicked off a few laps around the hill, it was fun to get him out and let him roll. His energy is fabulous, much more forward and uphill, and for a four year old, he takes compression with very little fuss.

In the arena, I introduced piaffe/passage work not too long ago and already is seriously latching on to it. He's not 100 percent comfortable in it, and it's a long way to being finished, but the idea of sitting and going uphill has already started to translate into the other gaits and under saddle. He can do about 5-6 steps in hand, which is a lot considering it's been seven days since we initially started toying with the concept and he needs to gain a lot of strength and topline to really develop.

The good news at one month is: he's becoming immensely stronger in the work as well and gaining definition. He's getting a better neck, his back looks fuller, and he's starting to get a hind end. I'm kinda excited about him for next year, considering this year is almost over. We have an outing with him next week, for a materiale class in Ohio.

This week my schedule gets interrupted to go to Hassler Dressage to manage Courtney King Dye's Horsemastership Clinic. It'll be my first time up at Rivers Edge. I'm looking forward to seeing what is a paragon of barn architecture and an epicenter of American dressage. Not to mention I get to hang with cool people. Always a bonus. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Just a little bit of everything

Physically, it's been a very busy week.

There were multiple training days where people looked in on us, friends in town and travel days to new parts of the world.

Combine this with my birthday, a bunch of work, vet, doing entries, and chiro appointments, I'm happy to be back with an extra day to sleep in. Unfortunately there won't be a day off, there are horses to work that need catching up on and laundry. Never ending laundry.

The other reason for the straight ride through is the week after next is a trip to Maryland for the EDAP at Hasslers and then a short prep to  two back to back shows, HTBB and Meadow Lake, for the boys to compete at.

The big success story of the week was the three day clinic with Alfredo Hernandez, after what happened earlier in April, I really thought I wouldn't have another person to really push me along let alone be in my corner. Life is funny in that regard.

There's a lot that was covered and a lot of exercises were given. Many of which have become fast favorites, several more which were incorporated into the babies' programs.

We are also now confirmed in piaffe and passage. I knew Sinaris piaffe would be nice but in the passage she about unseated me because of the height and volume. I was laughing so hard not because of how high she bounced but the fact we were 60 meters down the pike and we were really doing it, when I thought I would have to truffle shuffle along into it.

In the process we scored more ability on the half pass and pirs through developing gymnastic ability versus just doing it over and over and over again.Which is what I was doing (and the definition of insanity in the process).

The entire funny bit was I was on the verge of not going, because for the most part I've felt in a rut for a long time and there was (and still is) a never ending list of things to do. I'm thrilled that I went and I'm more than eager to get back in the game.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tounge Tied

I have to say last week, I was really jealous of people in Virginia. Dressage at Lexington was going off and I feel left behind.

I was sorely tempted to take Danzador there, and in fact had the paperwork completed, but there was a minor complication- I hadn't ridden the horse yet and didn't feel exactly comfortable hauling five hours with a complete and total unknown factor.

Hindsight is this: I'm happy making that decision, but it left me without a ride for one of my favorite shows.

I kept track of the results all weekend, and was living again vicariously through friends and fellow competitors. Reba made up for being out of the loop, winning her first horse trial on her dressage score of 24 and change.  She's so far never been out of the ribbons and has been double clear on everything. The dressage scores keep going well too, nothing above a 35.

Instead of mourning a show, we threw ourselves into more training and conditioning.

Sinari is bearing the brunt of it, at least five days a week in the arena with two out on the hills working gallop and trot sets. The pony's fitness is light years from where it was two years ago. Even on hot days she's capable of doing a full 45 minute session (where I'm probably not as fit), her pir's are becoming much stronger and she's banging out two's regularly. This weekend we do more pi/pa work and hopefully get a base foundation in.

She's going to be under Lendon Gray for a day (poor timing on my part for not being able to do more than one schooling day). But anything for more eyes on the ground. 

The boys are starting the deep part of their summer workout program, three days a week on hills, one in the pool and two in the arena.

Danzador is coming along quickly, he was a little immature when he stepped off that trailer, but he's starting to seriously use his hind end and create balance. He will never be a fast horse, or do anything above training level speed, but it's not the purpose to be eventing fit, the purpose at this point is to develop more forward and the gears that we'll need later on down the pike. His lateral work is the highlight of the entire thing and is really helping him ramp the balance up and keep him honest in the connection. I'm tickled with him.

Fritz is going with his owner about 90 percent of the time, I have to say I'm a tad disappointed but, the owner loves riding him (and he loves his mom) and is accomplishing a lot of things. I step on him when he needs a bit more direction. She reminds me a lot of where I was at when Sinari was four.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This is all I need

My hiatus from the world is coming to a close.

This year, after Florida, I made the decision to shut my barn doors for a little while and just regroup. For the last three years the pony and myself have been campaigning hard with the sole focus of reaching FEI. It's been an all consuming, ass-kicking goal. Now that we're here, the only other place to go is to finish out. But this meant stepping back and into a different place mentally.  

So the summer has been a nice break from the usual trek around the country I do.

But all good things...

Not only is the fall season near, but a few events are on the horizon. In July I have to trek to Hassler Dressage to manage Courtney's Emerging Athlete Dressage Program (EDAP for short).  It's about four days of intensive learning for the under 21 crowd. I couldn't be more pleased to be invited along to manage the day-to-day operation. I'm hoping to bring the pony or Danzador along for the ride for some extra education by Lendon, JJ, Debbie or Courtney herself, but we're still hammering out details.

I also have three days with Alfredo Hernandez which is great because I finally get time working P and P with better timing and feel and during the same week I have lessons with Cathy Fox, Lendon and JJ. 

One thing I will miss this year and it seems terrible, is Dressage at Lexington. I loved this show since I first started going to it two years ago. It's about a five hour haul from Lexington, Ky, but the facility, the management and the competition are very nice. It's low key, but not short on quality. It does a lovely job with Amateurs, awards, and making sure everyone feels at home. It's also the only show my family attends to, so I may or may not get to see my parents this year.

It's also one of the few shows that I can catch up with everyone all at once. I was debating about Danazador or Fritz for this show, but Danzador needs to develop more (not to mention my relationship with him) and Fritz, while he enjoys traveling, needs more conditioning.

With July here, and fall on us, it's time to ramp in again. 

This week Sinari really started comitting to I1. We aren't leaving PSG entirely behind, but really started working the elements of the I1 test, her trot work felt pretty good, her canter needs to be more adjustable. Her two's are going to be very fun, if only I could learn to half halt quicker. She's steadily doing trot sets for 1 hour with 4 minute rest periods. Canter-extended canter-collected canter hill sets are coming. The transitions are getting sharper. Pir's still feel interpretative somedays.

Danzador had the majority of the week off because he decided to roll on a nest of ground bee's and came in looking like Phantom of the Opera. Dork. We cleared him to ride again three days ago, and despite being ADD, he's a good boy. We're figuring each other out. He's fun as all get out and when he stops being a baby, he'll be very special. Overall he's really coming up in the balance, and forcing me to ride and lay a correct foundation. His main issues are curling, and sucking behind the leg.

Fritz was a serious star the other week as well- he went on his first official conditioning ride out in Shakertown, a historical farm out in Harrodsburg. This is where a lot of the hunt clubs, serious trail riders, and endurance riders ride and condition. The trails are spectacular out there and well maintained. He answered all the questions and was a happy boy. We're aiming him towards the IBOP in Coatsville, PA, with the thought of doing materiale and suitability in the summer and fall.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blue Ribbons and other awards

 I don't know why this post got deleted, I just know I had to re-type it. I was nominated a few times
for the Liebster Award (Sixth Stride, Cob Jockey, Woven Web). So thanks for the nomination!

(I tried re-creating the post exactly how it was but, of course things get jumbled)

11 Facts About Me:
1. I ride two to three horses, six days a week on top of a forty hour a week job. Two exceptions to this are weather over 100 and sub 30 degrees. I maintain my amateur status, clean stalls, hang the tack, work for Christoph Hess, and manage my own company in addition to all of this. 
2. I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Animal Science changed this. 
3. I started my company wanting an education, and got much more than I bargained for. I've met countless people, and it's made me a better person and rider.
4. I was a professional journalist for 8 years. It's how I saw much of the world, and I wouldn't exchange the experience. I stopped because the industry was unstable, and the hours really pushed out riding. I made a then-choice to take a crappy job with stable hours so I could train.
5. I am dyslexic. I was in special education for 9 years.
6. I'm way excited about the quality coming up in my barn, but it's also intimidating that I have to live up to it.
7. I'm a pedigree geek. I love qualitative relationships and theory that doing ped work provides.
8. I live next to a pretty cemetery.
9. I love to sleep. You'll often find me conked out on the couch with a book, a cat and the TV going.
10. I used to hate texting and resisted forever about getting an iPhone. Now, I prefer texting and can't live without it.
11. I have good people. I couldn't do anything without them. 

  1. Why did you start blogging and who in real life knows that you blog?
    I started blogging to track the progress and chart goals for Sinari. From there its evolved with the goal set and various things that are happening, the cast of characters also evolved as well. A lot of people know I blog, the cool thing (aside from getting comments) is actually meeting readership and getting to know their stories. 
  2. Black or brown tack
    Black, but I covet a pair of brown (dark brown) schooling boots. 
  3. Favorite Comfort food?
    Chocolate, and various mediums thereof.
  4. Favorite Color?
    Red, blues, second runner up black. 
  5. If you could ride any horse (living or not), who would it be?
    Too many to list. 
  6. What other pets do you own?
    Two cats. Although they would question the word owner. 
  7. What is your "hidden talent?"
    Being driven. 
  8. You win the lottery, what would you buy first?
    More Grand Prix horses and pay off the house.
  9. You can travel anywhere, for an infinite amount of time, with an infinite amount of money, where do you go?
    Europe, to train. 
  10. You're intimidated by?
    Lack of knowledge, being out of my depth. 
  11. Favorite movie?
    My favorite thing to do at the end of the day is to watch movies. I really don't have any favorite that I can specifically recall. But my Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts are well abused, and on my truly off days (rare) I love going to the movies if there's anything decent playing.`
From Woven Web:
1. Favorite racehorse and why?
Curlin or Rags to Riches. Classic distance horses have always been a favorite. I hope I see offspring in the sport horse arena.
 2. First racetrack you ever went to or wish to visit if never been?
Saratoga, made Keeneland look a little shabby.
 3. Favorite horse real or fictional?
My own. Perk of the job is I know wonderful horses, but seeing mine and how they're developing is the most exciting. 
 4. What color of horse do you prefer and which markings on it?
Inadvertently partial to chestnuts with bling. Bays and blacks are apparently popular too. 
  5. Who is your riding idol?
Kyra Kyrklund 
 6. Best place you've ever visited that isn't considered a major tourist attraction or is 'off the beaten path'?
 7. Favorite breakfast cereal?
Raisin Bran, otherwise granola in milk. 
 8. Favorite non horse animal? Can't be cat or dog either...
  Blue Heron.
9. What are you most afraid of? 
Being out of my depth. 
10. Could you ever see yourself training or competing in dressage?
I too aspire to make pretty twenty meter sand circles. 
11. Three people, dead or alive, real or fictional you'd have dinner with?
 a. Christoph Hess (I have dinner with him frequently)
 b. The Klimkes
 c. Felicitas Von Neuman Cosal

Monday, June 24, 2013

Crazy Kids

Photo by Susan Black
After a week of travel, Danazdor finally arrived over a week ago, Sunday morning, as I was pulling in with my morning coffee and plans to run horses through the jump chute.

His original ETA was for Wednesday that week, then pushed to Friday, then Saturday, and by that time, I just threw my hands up and wished that we crated him up with UPS.

Surprisingly, he came off the trailer no worse for wear. He was dusty, a little thirsty, and hungry. He hadn't dropped a single pound on his trip. Silly air fern.  We are just in case- going to start him on ulcer stuff because of the rapid change in grass quality and the long travel. He was popped back into place by Thursday by the chiro, and will probably have more body work done by my regular girl, Dr. Tummlin. But for a four year old that just criss-crossed the entire western US, and arrived at a busy barn, he is surprisingly mellow and no worse for wear.

After I rolled through everyone in the chute, I got to play with him a little bit. He's a ham on the ground, doesn't want to be chased, would rather be cuddled and thinks he's the best. He's the first horse that I know automatically poses for photos. He's also a carrot whore.

Because of the travel, the body work, the change in everything we're keeping it light this week, he was lunged the first day, and the second day was lunged/ridden to no drama or fireworks. After the adjustment, we rode one more time in the arena and hacked out, already feeling better. Sunday was a hack day, we took him and a barnmate out to Masterson to work the hills a little more extensively. He was quick to settle into the routine and worked very well in the arena and went trotting/cantering outside with very little fuss, just a little looky. The only thing I can fault him on is that he doesn't like water, and has no idea how to go through it.

He's incredibly obedient under saddle, but after riding horses with a lot of gears, this guy hasn't found his yet. This is mostly because he has to develop physically. He also carries tension over the back which really diminishes his gaits (which are flipping fantastic) so there's a lot of work to do with developing his hind end and more looseness. We've developed a plan of attack for his schedule (it involves hills, an aquatred and alot of transitions). Despite all this, he's easy and easy to sit, just lacks developing.

Looking at schedule, we might go out and do a few schooling shows through July and early August, and one of the local barns is hosting a low key show with a materiale class attached to it. It sounds like a good precursor to the fall shows that we're taking a solid aim for.  

But honestly, for a four year old, couldn't be more thrilled. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beat this summer

With the rain we've had, I feel the switch from hay to rice is in order.

Despite rain, horse show season is still going strong up here.

I'm currently sitting out with Sinari while we develop, the focus is really Fall and Florida for her, which makes me excited. Lately we've been returning to full collection (pir's and piaffe/passage work), while we clean up our act. The low-pressure year has really done well. I'm happy, she's happy, my gas bill for the truck is reasonable.

I'm really looking forward to taking her to a three-day clinic with a piaffe/passage specialist. It's been my one of my main weaknesses that I don't have a good feel for. I've ridden a lot of pi/pa, but never had to really put a full 12-15 steps on a horse before. The two's are cooking right along and the one's I don't know about yet, we have three. Which I suppose is better than one. 

Reba made her eventing start last weekend, scoring a respectable 36 and change in dressage (ending up first on the leaderboard), a double clear in stadium (no brainer), but cross country there was a bit of a disconnect and hang up and an untimely departure between horse and rider. More than a few people had hangups and issues on that maxed out course, including a few friends who were schooling training height and had uncharacteristic time penalties and a tree fall in the middle of their stadium round.

It happens, but this is why we have schooling shows. Otherwise, very happy with her and the progress she's made in a year. Her new rider is enjoying her very much.

Sincere's owner also keeps sending in updates. From the photos, he's matured incredibly well, developing more bone and a tad bit more height. His owner is incredibly happy with him (despite young horse shenanigans), and I couldn't be more pleased about the match. I think he'll go out to show in the fall too.

Fritz has put on massive amounts of topline and has been working his tail off with me, his owner and one of the other girls who is brave enough to hack him on hills (as a rule I don't do baby's first outings). His main problem is, as with all driving breeds gone to the sport, endurance. He gets the connection, holds it for about 20 meters and drops it. Takes about 20 meters to get it back. With the hotter weather, he can only really last for thirty minutes. So it's more and more emphasis on conditioning.

Finally there's another new face in crowd, Danzador MSM kinda rounds out the "hair
crowd". He's a co-owned project that I'm actually kinda excited about. He's another 2009 baby, bay, leggy, tall and a PRE. When I saw his tape he didn't wasn't a-typical PRE that I saw in Texas (short with legs tending going everywhere), but naturally uphill and this freaky for the breed front end. He passed vet and is somewhere in the US currently heading to Kentucky. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Get Lucky

Since Reba made the switch to jumping, things have been progressing rapidly. She's gone from a fairly cranky dressage horse to a very bold, outgoing individual. She really enjoys her job and I'm happy to let her go and do it.

The mare has gone from simple questions to more complex and bold combinations. I've recently paired her with an ambitious local young rider who's good horse is out of commission from pasture accident and needed a leg up on quality.  People have been asking whether or not Reba was for sale or lease for a little while now (I typically sell my jumpers, keep the dressage horses) and until recently the answer was no, she was not for sale, but if the right rider came along, I would consider placing her with that person to keep her progressing and to give her owner a better candidate for when she breeds her.

From the tryout, it was pretty much a match made after the first ride. The kid has tact and good hands. Plus velcro for a position. The combination have really gained traction in the training and competition schedule. Reba is to be entered in a mini trial this upcoming Sunday at Spring Run and from there proceed to qualify for American Eventing Championships for BN or N.

Her barn (family owned/operated) is a departure from a one-person training operation as a training horse in a field. From what I've come to understand she's one on one with her girls and is getting worked everyday in some capacity.  In the end I think this is another progression Reba's career.

It seriously wouldn't surprise me if she ended up top ten at AEC this year in Texas.

It also kinda makes me wish I still evented in some capacity, but I'm still a bit of a weenie DQ these days to work anything bigger than a ground pole and do gallop sets. So vicariously living for the discipline is what I do best.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

If you're going to play in Texas

We all arrived back from Texas in one piece. The place is pretty cool, and surprisingly diverse (I ran into more South Asian than redneck) with more than BBQ and crawfish on the menus.

It really was a tough in and out trip, we had a number of sales horses to look at and about 10 hours to look at them in. I'm never one for speed dating, and I can be really peculiar about what I'm getting on and what I'm looking at (for this trip I probably looked at well into 70 tapes just to get to 10). 

Collectively, the trip was productive, I got to know more about PRE's, Andalusians, and Lusitanos. I saw everything from 12 rides under saddle to FEI and back again. While the overall quality of the gaits varied for everyone, everyone consistently had good walks, and good canters. The mindset is very professional, the horses want to work, they look forward to it. Even the stallions we saw and I got to work with were uncomplicated and all business under saddle.

The training also ranged quite a bit from what I would consider typical to interesting.

It was a change of pace with some of the other sales calls I've been on over the years. While we did run the gambit of you're usual barn, to something out of the Walking Dead to mega ranch, it was the breeds (we tried Lusitanos as well) that remained consistent in temperament and for the most part movement. 

The best part was after a lifetime of just learning to sit the trot on bigger horses, these guys barely move you in the tack.

For the wanted travel it's nice to be home and back in my own saddles and bed. I saw my herd yesterday for the first time in three days. Everyone worked well in the now hot weather.

The babies continue to go forward we're now to the point of debating about which show to go compete at to get our proverbial feet wet. From past experience, schooling shows are the best and cheapest way to get a young horse to go around. While we're not doing the four year olds, training level has it's own finer points. So Fritz might go out at the start of August and re-aim for MSEDA (training level) and Devon (materiale/in hand).

Sinari will stay chilly until Fall. We have a few clinics (a piaffe/passage one in Ohio, Debbie and possibly another). The break from the circuit is doing her well and she's really rallying back from her back being sore.

There's also a few other trips planned out for the summer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

All my exes in Texas

We've been horse shopping as of late and it's taken me to some interesting places.

Like exotic locations such as Canada, New York and Virginia.

This weekend we're going Texas to look at a group of 10. I've never been to Texas outside of an airport (really, everything, including airports are just bigger), and my general knowledge stems from Discovery Channel, former presidents and CNN coverage. So I'm really curious to see a bit of the state and sample the flavor.

It's my first real trip since Florida, and it couldn't have come at a more needed time. I was starting to  go stir crazy in my own state. The herd and I have been patiently sitting at the farm now for four months, just working on things with the occasional lesson.

My adventure brings me to  Lusitano breeders and a couple small trainers who have interesting, but quality stock for the sport. We're not talking USEF Four Year olds, but something, maybe, for the Developing Horse.

Intially I just wanted to look at warmbloods, I didn't want to look at another hair breed. But after seeing a lot of good PRE and Lusitanos in Florida on the CDI arena plus hearing continuously good things, I figured I owed a look. Never figured on finding 10 that I actually like.

Going to a closed-book breed is a departure from what I normally look at and go for. I'm used to deciphering bloodlines for young horses, and looking at raw potential, but when a breed standard isn't exactly in sync with sport standard things become tougher. I go through what feels like twice as many tapes trying to find three decent gaits (temperament isn't questionable on a lot of these, just quality of gaits).

So it should be a fun, hopefully productive trip.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fastest girl in town

Bi polar weather is here. One day it's 80 and the next it's 30 and raining. We're battling funk, mud, and the lack of time outside and being stuck in the indoor. When we're not indoors we're battling the gopher holes in the field on the tracks we use to do trot sets.

We're finishing up on the heels of Courtney King- Dye's clinic during derby week (learned lots) and have a lot of take home lessons to work on for fall. 

Sinari is slowly, but surely coming back into fitness and regaining strength where she was sore. A week off is essentially a month lost in fitness, and with a lighter season it's really imperative that we come back to fighting weight.

Her sessions are wonderful she's much lighter and seems to have come back to her normal cheerful self. However, when she tires, she tends to become a bit offended about asking her to dig deep. This is the residual from working with a sore back. I don't blame her, and I know eventually she'll work through.

Conditioning becomes harder because of the grass in Kentucky. With an all-you-can-eat buffet out in the field (we've been muzzled since early March), it's hard managing things to keep everyone on the right track as diets swing very wildly (bye bye good hay, hello first cutting grass...) 

We'll probably hit KESMARC fairly soon to help with the conditioning issue.

Fritz is rapidly growing up into a horse that I deeply admire. He's pretty much a goof on the ground, but a really solid citizen under tack, walk, trot and cantering both directions on the bit and actively stretching. He went out on the trail with another rider to start giving him a break from the arena and to start conditioning him on the hills. 

I've learned a lot from him in a short time. The Fresians, are not unlike other driving breeds, they have a hard time stretching over the back, they plow through the aids as an evasion, they aren't too laterally supple, they pick things up quickly, they generally are steadier and they prefer to trot above anything else.

Fritz is a bit of an odd ball in that way- he loves to canter, and his canter for 60 days under saddle is really very nice and he's more laterally supple than most, but comparatively he's still not as flexible as a normal dressage-bred three and a 1/2 year old. 

Despite all the drama lately, there is good news on the horizon. Debbie McDonald is coming to clinic in the fall, I think David Marcus will be coming in summer, and I think I have a game plan for consistent access to trainers and to make the final climb to Grand Prix with the pony. Not to mention those new faces on the horizon.

I'm still on the fence about showing the crew until we're more established at I-1 for the pony and solidly fit enough to do training level with the others. We definitely have a few fall shows, but actually having this time and break to just work and develop things without the pressure cooker of going to shows.

I was tempted by doing a few local schooling shows, but timing just hasn't cooperated at the moment.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I've closed enough windows to know you can never go back

Transitions are a universal theme in the sport, we have a lot of them, and they aren't strictly regulated to tests.

About three years ago, I started something that's lead me to where I'm at now. Along the way, people, horses and events have come and gone. Some have stayed longer than others, some not so long. Either way, those people, horses and things have contributed in various ways.

Recently, a equestrian related-relationship that I've had came to a final conclusion. It did, and still does, have a major impact of where I've gone. It didn't necessarily open doors, but it gave me permission to break out and pursue goals. I have no bad feelings about moving on, just a wish that it was handled differently.

This transition was tough, simply because it was on top of a few weeks of tough riding. In addition to coming down with a low white cell count, Sinari came into a hard follicle that was simply stuck and causing bad back issues. She became sore to the point where any push was met with uncharacteristic resistance. This mare, while not uber fancy, takes pressure and compression with very little complaint.

I'm loathe to reach for a pharma-solution without first going to body work and seeing if it's a human issue (tack, fit, farrier, feed, schedule, dental), but in this case after body work robaxin and regumate were the go-to's.

The effects were great, and she's come back to her normal self minus some minor residual muscle memory issues.We're now just really starting back after a week off.

There's also a new face in town. Fritz, the three soon to be four year old is a fun new project, and is super fancy. He's also a Friesian. Normally I don't pair fancy and Friesian together, but this guy really has a wonderful way about him, he finds the work easy, and can take a good amount of pressure given the age. 

He's also the kind of baby that everyone hopes for, uncomplicated, quick to learn and pretty interested in being under saddle. I have good ideas for him, and considering he's going to be around for sometime, I think he's going to be fun none the less.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Might as well jump

I've learned over a period of years doing this sport, not every horse is meant to do it, or for
that matter, wants to do it.

There are multiple reason why a horse fails out of dressage, but it generally has to deal with really signing on to the job description. 

Reba was supposed to be a nice upper level horse. Her bloodlines dictated it (Rotspon), her wins in hand proposed it, but in the end the lure of leaving temporarily leaving gravity really won out.

I initially sent her on during my stint in Florida to keep her legs moving with Lauren Neathry who starts my young guys.

A few weeks have now turned into a few months, and everytime I go out and watch the flat, she's a miserable sod. Compression? Too much. Submission? Not interested. All the things that make a dressage horse? She'd rather take a lark.

But put a few jumps in the arena and toss in a few questions, she becomes electric and is keen, the same kind of keen-ness that I enjoy about dressage horses that love their job.

So one spring day last week, we put the fences up and really asked a hard question. Can she do the height?

Resoundingly yes.

This past weekend we entered her last minute at Masterson Station fun show (pretty much all you can jump for 60 bucks), her first rounds were a tad shakey, but by the time that the final class rolled she locked, loaded and produced wins and fast times without being pushed. She was happy and a lot of the problems that she was having on the ground, evaporated.

Needless to say, I'm happy she's happy and she'll continue down this path.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Baby, baby, baby

I've had walking allergies for the last few weeks, which is not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but the weather, and stress finally got the better of me.

But being laid up for a few days isn't so bad, I had a stack of magazines/books to look through, a freshly anointed cable box to watch all sorts of movies and fun shows (hello cable horse show coverage!) and a speedy internet connection when literature, the moving pictures and texting proved fruitless and boring.

The downside of being laid up in late March and early April (aside from missing out on the bouts of nice weather)? It's breeding season. Again.

Everything with four and sometimes two legs wants to reproduce itself. Stallion auctions are concluding, stallion shows are going off in Europe with delightful tape trickling in. Breeders are sizing up their wallets and preparing for the impending wave of foalings.

This year I'm going back into the game.

The past few years I've been watching Sincere grow, and now that he's onto his new adventure (who is happily doting on him with all sorts of fun toys) it kinda leaves a void in the line of talent. I enjoyed producing him, I enjoyed watching him mature.

Yes, Sinari is jumping the big 1-4 this year, she's making the leap to becoming a really solid upper level horse.

Reba is doing well, but not going to be a dressage horse (updates on this later). She loves to jump.So someone has to earn a paycheck in this business might as well be her.

So, I'm looking at a couple of gap years and using this year as a developing year for everyone.

There's the option of also going to Europe for a few months as well, but I'm not looking at that trip just yet. 

So it's off to the shed we go.

I've always been very partial to the KWPN books, I grew up with good, talented, Dutch horses (also worked with PRE/PSL occasionally). Not the half baked nimbly things that everyone often sees, but powerful, compact horses sometimes with questionable temperament. The love was only really aligned when I followed many of the Black Pearls of the 90s, the spectacular little horses that really secured Dutch dominance. I've been keeping track of them ever since. 

Over the past few years, I've developed a lot of relationships with breeders, and found a number of mares that I adore. I've found bloodlines that I've clicked with and feel that are in line with my programs.

So this year, we're aiming for a late in the US Season (working Canada!) Jazz x Ferro cross.