Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll

I escaped the second snowfall of the year by a narrow margin (12 hours by many counts) and while
my horses are freezing, I'm in the sunny equestrian-themed island of Wellington, Fl.

My trek this year with ponies was changed because I really felt that the time, money and effort spent should be concentrated towards other things. It's been rewarding, Hidden Pond Farm sent horses down for training, and there are other on their way that would have not been on the boat to Florida. But it's been a lesson of how to tolerate the cold and getting creative with schooling sessions.

Before I left, everyone schooled great. Danzador is on a lighter schedule, taking time to just work stretching and mediums. Sinari is also hammering in the I1 really well, the zig-zag canter work is becoming easier. The trot work is solid. Asanto HPF and Denia HPF are getting their sea legs back, they started doing light lunge work and if the weather is better when I get back, they should have their first grooming overhaul session.

Both of them are very sweet, talented horses who should do very well in the Amateur arenas.

Already the trip has been wonderful, if not busy. The first couple days I spent in Wellington were full of catching up with old friends and some new faces. I was attending the Young Rider Graduate Program, and already the time spent with people in similar and the same situations is really refreshing to know no man is an island.

The resources developed here have a far reaching impact. Not only is there face time with a lot of industry professionals, but there's legal help, there's networking for a future generation, there's brand revitalization and my phone will not stop buzzing with people who are realizing, spring is only a short 60 days away and there's things to do!

The second day proved just as fruitful as several judges, riders, trainers and industry professionals helped us lay out solid plans for the upcoming year and future quarters. I have a concept of how to go forward, and I'm working with people to help guide the process and make it a little less intimidating.

It's refreshing to know that there are also several people who haven't had the Young Rider accolades, who are doing things in a non-traditional path and there's even someone who is also making the transitions from a traditional amateur to the open.

The take-away message is you create your own success through stepping out of your comfort zone and finding/taking opportunities that are presented, no matter how small or large. Yes, it will cost you (money, time, sweat, lost clients), but you have to do what you feel is right for you, no one else will.

Outside the conference, the quality has been nothing short of inspiring.

I visited barns and caught up with old clients and really started to make a plan for the horses for 2014 and 2015. I had specific things I needed to do in a very short time span to make this year and next year viable and also to help my clients gain exposure for their horses.

2014 will be concentrated on the spring seasons and sales. The business needs to focus on the cash flow, education, maintaining the calendar and creating good results.

By 2015 we will hopefully be doing a full season in Florida. For the last three years now, it's become a very large part of what I do and I don't see it ever going away. It's where I feel I'll be able to further myself the most and in an area that's productive

In the interim, I miss my horses. It's tough being down here and having everyone around you ride, and you not be able to at least experiment with ideas and concepts. But this will change as I go back into the Polar North that has become Kentucky.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Come a little closer

We're hitting the arena pretty hard for not going down to Florida. All horses are pretty much going full steam when the weather isn't -20 degrees. It's making for an interesting schedule, it's pretty much work all the time unless the weather interferes.

Was extremely sketchy this week, it went down below zero for more than two days, and it was difficult to find an excuse to go outside let alone take their blankets off to work. My pathways were iced over and hard to navigate without myself loosing footing. All of mine stayed inside. Needless to say we had a few exuberant rides after that.

I'm continuing to bring Sinari back into shape, this week as really difficult for her in that I was picking movements apart and making them into gymnastic work. The lateral work seems to be a little tricky at the moment wanting to lean, or go straight or just run through the half halts. My current favorite exercise (much to her distain) is the walk-canter transitions in the half pass. It really forces her to remain through and accepting in the work. It's going to take awhile to get the point across, especially after the hard summer where her back went out from a bad heat cycle.

Danzador's fitness is already particularly good. It's more or less about keeping him building in the right direction which can be tough. He still goes through growth spurts and can be a bit coltish sometimes.

A lot of what he's doing right now is also half halt related but really interplays with balance. At nearly five years old, he's developing his mediums, each day it gets a little better and a little stronger. I've also been playing with a lot of lateral work as well. His half steps are becoming more piaffey.

The downtime was productive, I had enough things in the office to do (website, Facebook page, marketing options, contract development) that normally are left last to do in better weather.

In addition to this was a lot of planning for move in time for several horses in addition to horse shopping for a client.

There will also be two new PRE's in the barn, Hidden Pond Farm in Ohio is shipping in three for training, two are for sale immediately.

The ones on the market are the two rising six-year-olds by Barbian, Asanto HPF, Denia HPF. They are wonderful examples of the breed and will be very competitive in the arenas. They would make any Amateur happy going down the centerline at the regional level. I do feel that Asanto would make a good competitive

Luciado HPF (Fetichin), is Danzador Jr. He's a dead on replica of Danzador (down to the sock), but has more body that Fetichin imparted and being left entire a little longer. Rising four, he's definitely my candidate for next year's FEI Five year old test. This year, it would be great to do material and get his feet wet at training level.

I'm thrilled at the opportunity that Pam Nelson (as I am with the others who have stepped up) has given me, they're wonderfully bred horses and from a consistent, good program which makes my job that much easier. I can't tell you how many times I've handled hair wild horses from a breeder that need work but are already four years old and haven't been touched in a year.

I can't wait to see how these horses develop for the season and get their resume started.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

There was snow, white snow

The first week of the new year and things seem to be looking up, minus the temperatures, which are unfortunately approaching unwanted single digits and negative wind chills. I'm preparing to loose two days of training while everyone hunkers down and tries to stay warm.

In something out of Rip VanWinkle, I got to the barn on New Years Day and all my just-cleaned saddles and bridles (everything gets wiped off post ride) were covered in what looked like a year-long buildup of dust and dirt. It almost looked like I stumbled back in my tack room after a year's hiatus.

I was a little miffed about it, but privately, I took it as a sign that whatever happened in 2013 is long done and over; and that this is a new year and a brave new world.

The new year also feels like someone flipped a switch on my horses. They've all been working exceptionally well.

Sinari has been riding great, she's seems to have blown past a bunch of issues, and now it's just refocusing in on the basics. We've been working transitions in, out and between gaits. I wish the weather was more cooperative for fitness, but after the freezing cold is slop. I can't knowingly run horses in the mud and risk a tendon.

The other fun variation I've been playing with is riding the different movements within those transitions. It's definitely challenging especially as you try to press the balance, connection and keep the half halts in order. Her piaffe/passage work is becoming stronger which gives some exciting moments (I wish I had more ground help to operate a whip, my timing is off) and I wish I the tempi's would come back in order, which I'm sure they will when things truly get going again.

We finished out the week with just stretching and loosening, which with the impending weather is good set up for keeping mobile despite the likelihood of being stall bound.

Danzador is quickly stealing the show. He's turned in stellar work for being very young. The focus is creating, keeping and driving the balance up in the paces and through the movements. Even though he's gaining strength I definitely see him as a good candidate for the upper level work. He's smart, talented, willing and is developing really expressive gaits. I seriously cannot wait for him to start working changes, I think they're going to be fun for him.

In the last few weeks he's been schooling baby half pass, solid shoulder in/ haunches in, walk-canter-walk transitions, 10 meter circles, medium to collected, walk pirouettes and some half steps. It's hard work for a young horse, mentally and physically. Mentally, he can take the pressure with very little issue and it's important in this stage to introduce the expectations of the pressure and work in a fair way.

Because he's so willing and ready to do the work, it's mostly play with the emphasis on developing the strength and carrying power. His old evasions, going behind the vertical, locking his ribs and running sometimes still come into play especially when he's tired.

Interlaced with the riding is lunging days, just days where he can purely stretch. It's been a huge help developing his hind end and creating expression through cavaletti and a few other techniques.

Overall, I'm happy, but it's only week one, 51 more to go.