Thursday, February 27, 2014

Never change my pants Equissentials

People who know me best know that my clothes in general take a hard core beating day in and day
out. When I love an item, I really love it to death. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's good, I tend to take it to the limit.

I notoriously go through breeches.

In the beginning of my career, my mother had the forethought to buy things that last. This was true of anything we bought for the sport, it just had to last. My then coach, had introduced us to Equissentials, a unique clothing brand that makes breeches that utilizes doeskin leather and terrycloth. It was love at first sit. Forget your stick on spray, each pair locked me into position, they didn't grab or chafe and as someone who does have a figure, these were really flattering. They also offered free custom work on every pair, run regular specials and put their seconds on sale regularly for a fraction of the cost.

But where a lot of higher-end breeches failed at the end-life of their product, Equissentials succeeded.

They were definitely were into up cycling prior to it becoming on the rage in main stream culture. Instead of tossing away breeches, the company salvages them, putting old seats on new cloth (the leather is sewn on to instead of in to the cloth) to extend the lifetime use of the breech. For someone who can't justify dropping $200 plus on a new pair every time a hole appears, this is a definite blessing on my finances, plus makes my favorite hard-wearing pair last that much longer.

My oldest pair- my winter weight full seats- are now 12 plus years old and still going strong, my youngest pair is about six years old and were in regular daily rotation on four plus horses a day until recently.

In 2013, I was convinced by a good fashion friend to try a few different brands to supplement the slowly dying pairs that are still in rotation.

Minus a pair of Pikeurs, it was mostly a failure. At the end of the year there were holes in the nubuck/cloth. But everything from zippers, to buttons breaking down or falling off occurred. I couldn't interchange the cloth and leather, and what's worse it took awhile to feel secure in my seat again- the synthetic full seat material was very slippery. By the end, I had one standing pair left and it bore the brunt of my undying affections until it was cold enough to switch to my stand-by winter weight full seats.

That's when you go back to your first love, and what your mom taught you.

Flash forward to February 2014, I'm proud to announce sponsorship from Equissentials, the line of breeches that has been with me since I got on my first dressage horse and has outlasted many things since.

I'm proud to be apart of a company that not only stands behind the brand but is also innovative in the way they treat their products and people.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eight days a week

This is the first real work week back for all horses, and in a way it felt like spring cleaning- a chance to air everything out and get the house in order.

It's the first time in a long time that all the tack was stripped, not just wiped down, that all the windows were open, that I didn't shy away from anything water based in fear that I would be frozen to it and I could wear a short sleeved polo instead of the eight layers of StayPuff jackets for warmness.

Also on the housekeeping list is updated videos, and photos of the horses and pony parlor days of grooming.

Because our show season was pushed back to April instead of February, it gives the opportunity to really prepare grooming wise. All this week horses were scrubbed, washed, a few had their mains pulled, the rest had their braids put in. Tails are being deep-washed, getting the grease and gunk out of them and then being conditioned and picked through regularly until the strands feel better. They also got their first taste of post-workout wash downs.

My wash rack looks like a disaster zone from the mud and embedded dirt that's come off the horses. But they're starting to get their blooms under the wiry winter hair. Hopefully the weather will keep going so they can really get the deep-set grime out.

Spring is also the time to evaluate feeding programs, so Pennfields is due out to look over the new horses, adjust the old, and see how things are going. Their regular bags- Fibregized and Ultra Balancer, have been staples in my barn now for the past five years.  I can't wait to add in the Progressive line again. Their electrolytes, Topline, and hind gut formulas are excellent complements to the Pennfields line.

Fantastic, shiny summer coats start with good baseline nutrition which is supported by good grooming.  It also gives me time to create a game plan for how each horse's meals should be developed to address their needs.

So while we're waiting on the visit, the stock in Suave has risen by a few cents due to massive purchases of coconut smelling shampoo and conditioner.

It's also time to break out the clippers and get goat hairs, old man hairy ears and strays out of the picture. The Hidden Pond Farm horses are going to get clipped so they don't look like they're out of the ice age.

But the best sight is the wet saddle pads hanging outside, showing proof the higher temps and sweating it out in the sandbox. I can't wait until the trails clear up and I can get back to conditioning, walking up and down the driveway is fun for all of five seconds.

Sinari continues to come back in good form, she's really becoming more solid in the FEI degree of self carriage. Its now just a question of sharpening the movements. Four's and threes are no issue, as are the trot half pass and mediums/extensions, I need to solidify the twos and keep working the full pirouettes. Her half steps are stronger, as are her pirouettes. I need to start playing with the zig-zag again.

Danzador is motoring, he's had a few intensive days of on the lunge with some p&p work to get his head back in the game. He also went through a growth spurt during the heavy part of the winter. He's gained height and looks like he's about ready to gain width again. He continues to be clever, finding his gears in the trot and schooling walk-canter, canter-halt transitions. I'm hoping by the end of spring we can put a change on him which should gear him nicely for the end of the year. I think the idea is to have him schooling close to third level and be showing/working second. I also need to start working through his lateral work and make it more educated and more on the spot.

Denia HPF is a little superstar. She's stepping out everyday trying to improve. While she doesn't have the gaits like Danzador or Asanto, she's a very game, balanced mare who is very clever and observant. Even though she's not very fit and doesn't last very long within the work, every day she's stepping out and accepting the progression. Her main challenge at this point is keeping the relaxation to maintain thoroughness, because she's so anxious to please often times she over thinks. The time with her is split lunging to help her gain her balance, and riding. She will be looking to do a couple small schooling shows in the next few weeks to get her around.

Asanto HPF is also progressing. His personality is actually growing on me. When he first came he was a bit stand-offish. But now, if he's not at the center of attention he will get it immediately with an playful little nip or lipping your hair. He's English schoolboy cheeky, and a pony stuck in a very large package. The main thing we've been focusing on is straightness, strength and like Denia HPF, relaxation. His time is also spent between the lunge and also playing in hand. Even though he has an uphill balance point, right now his hind end over powers the front because he can't hold himself together for more than 15 minutes, lunging helps strengthen him and the in hand piaffe/passage work helps him get the concept of straightness, sitting, pushing, upping the balance point and engaging without loosing the entire package.

Flemmiro SSM is preparing to make the trip down to the US shortly. I wish she would have come in January so Alfredo could see her in the March clinic and get a better idea about developing, but knowing what we went through this winter season, it wouldn't have happened anyways.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Only know you love her when you let her go

Photo: Alexa Snowden
Winter has been dealt a death blow around here with the temps rocking in to the 60's.

My productivity has finally shifted away from my desk to the barn. It was about time, I was running out of paperwork and at home projects. The horses are in regular work again, the schedule is going forward, the season with the entire team is preparing to get underway. I can't believe it's almost March.

My guys are gearing in for an active season. Asanto HPF, Denia HPF, Danzador MSM, Flair, Sinari and a few others in the wings are kicking into active training with shows, clinics and events on the near horizon.

Except for one.

My time with Reba has come to an unexpected close.

Reba is fine, physically doing great, and after a clinic looks like she's ready to come back into form. However, a situation occurred where, through social media, I found out some things that I wasn't aware of or included on. It changed the nature of my relationship with the team and opened up a conversation that was due. Through a lot of discussion and thought process, the lease has been handed over in it's entirety to Anna Kate and her mother.

It seems only fair for the little mare who has found her place not in 20x60 meter box but running meters per minute to have a rider that is just as enthusiastic and good with her. Going from pasture puff to fit to winning in about two years was an endeavor, one that I was apart of and was exciting to watch.

I think in another time and place she would have made a really good dressage horse, but her calling is jumping and with limited time and with the end result of creating a broodmare, you pick and choose your battles.

For the most part, I'm actually pleased at the way things have turned out. Were they perfect on my end? No. But that's the risk you take when you take on an unknown. In this case, it gave another rider a chance and Reba a career path, and I'm all for that.  I'm happy to see her onto her next phase and with a decent team.

Good luck to both of them and go Team Fancy Pants.

Friday, February 14, 2014

All you need is love

I and my horses for the better part of a week have been grounded and I've been spending more time at
my desk or at the gym working through the winter woes.

If there's an upside of this winter, it's that my shirked paperwork is getting done and I'm setting down a firmer calendar and there's a myriad of holidays that involve chocolate.

For the first time in three years, I'm at home with my other. Valentines day isn't so much a big holiday with us and normally he makes the visit to wherever I'm staying, but it is something we try sit down, have a nice meal and watch a few movies. My other isn't horsey, but for all the stuff that I do and the time I spend, he's my biggest of fans and supporter in this sport. I know I'm incredibly lucky to have him in my life.

My other, however, isn't the first love of my life. Sinari is.

Sinari is one of those ponies that has always been there. She's really the foundation of everything that goes on in my life, she's the first to ride, and the first to really get the credit for where I'm at today. She's been my blackboard of mistakes, trial runs, first attempts and my go to when my confidence has taken a thorough pounding. While there will be many horses, there will always be her.

I know while I can never replace her I know I have to eventually choose another for the long haul. Danzador is great, crazy talented, but I also know that he's always on the market. As are many of the horses that are coming to me. I don't know if the relationship will last one month or nine. It's the way of things.

Leave it to Valentine's Day to really intercede.

A while back, I alluded to Flemmiro SSM a 2010 Canadian-bred KWPN filly by Flemming out of a Ferro mare. Flair, is that heir apparent. She's really good quality, and has the brains and ability for the upper levels. She was already to commit to come in for long term training, but with the breeder looking at the finances and the next horses down the pike (which are spectacular), we ended up striking a deal that would leave ownership to me and provide retirement to Flair when the time comes.

Seriously better than chocolate.

Video as a two year old here:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

No sleep till Brooklyn

We came back last Friday evening/Saturday morning to the frozen tundra that is Kentucky (12 am is an odd hour). I woke up to a complete white out nine hours later and an unplowed/salted road in front of my house. This weekend, it's gone from 60 and sunny to 40 and raining with another front rolling through with ice and misery following behind it.

I picked a ripe time to stay north.

I managed to start working horses not soon after the roads were cleared day after day, but even as I managed even stretch sessions or lunging or finding entertaining ways to keep everyone sane and fit in the indoor as temperatures plummet below sane working conditions.

Despite proverbial down time, I've made use of the time itself. I managed to design Team EnGaged Dressage's new website, in addition to giving the blog a spiffy revamp to make it look more streamlined and a little less emo-looking. The clinic site is next just to kinda regain some presence there as well and both will be moved over to actual domains. I'm e

The horses are still doing well also in light of the horrid on-again-off again schedule. The work, has mostly been focused on the basics.

With Denia HPF and Asanto HPF, fitness and relaxation have been the two biggest areas that have been focused on. From those two areas they're building a lot of strength, their paces are also getting more expressive as well. Denia's are becoming competitive, and she has one of the best walks I've seen on a PRE.

The fitness stuff doesn't end in the arena, it also helps that they're turned out on hills and walking them every day while they graze.

They're doing really well here and I'm excited to see both of them develop into their potential as spring comes on. They are wonderfully temperamented horses who are happy to work and enjoy their day to day routine. Whoever buys them will be very lucky, and very competitive wherever they take them.

Sinari is clipping along at a steady pace doing stretch work and focusing on cleaning up the basics. It's boring, tedious work, but it needs to be done to address strength and build back into things for spring. She's happily marching along in her program

Danzador is for all accounts the star of the group. He's rising five this year, and has already shot up another inch in the shoulder. He's now pushing a solid 16.2 and a quarter, but physically still looking a little gawky, but the time back on the lunge and the intermittent schedule has refreshed him. Yes, there's moments of the errant ADD young horse getting back into work, but for the most part he's mentally accepting everything. Lately, the emphasis has been developing medium and collected paces. His half halt, even at this stage of the game is a lot more refined than Sinari's and if the last series of tape that I saw with him, he's going to be really fun in the next two years.

PRE's and collection are naturally married together. It's easy for them and they can produce it without hesitation, but there's trade offs. It's the extension part that takes more strength for him. He's getting it with more fitness and more support from being shod and working on the lunge to develop the knowledge. Danzador gets it four to five strides at a time before loosing it and finding it again. Typical baby things.

Also despite weather and early year status, I've also begun looking at barns to be at next year in/around in Wellington. Needless to say, we've learned our lessons. The thought is, to co-op a group of professionals to drive down the cost, while sharing the benefits. If people are interested get in touch! Should promise to be an adventure either way.

But in the meantime, I do have my sights set roasting a certain rodent.