Sunday, July 13, 2014

VCBH: We are young

I'm around a lot of young horses, and I shop for them frequently.

While I'll take an FEI horse in a New York minute, young horses are frequently more in my bracket and there's something pleasurable about creating something from barely broke. Young horses also present the alluring thought of potential, and really show the transformative effect of training. So watching and working with them, for me, provides the most entertainment.

I'm also lucky that I have good owners and breeders who provide and trust me with their kids.

My oldest youngster, Danzador, is a five year old, and my youngest, Flair, is a four year old.  However, where Flair is on hiatus, Danzador is being actively ridden and worked (sorry buddy, no maternity leave for you).

Danzador is a wonderful athlete. He's mastered a lot of concepts at an early age, where several professionals have complemented him on not only his basics, but his promise in the upper level work. At five, he already shows a more confirmed piaffe than a lot of Grand Prix horses showing today. Mentally, he's sharp and handles pressure exceptionally well. He's at a point in his development where he's very much set to go forward and shine in his career, especially start making steps to becoming an FEI horse.

Physically, he's catching up to the warmbloods- PRE's are notoriously slow to mature- and like all athletic young babies, somedays you are brilliant and par for course and other days you can't turn left to save your life.

Thus go the way of babies. No one said it wouldn't be interesting.

There's a lot of varying opinions on what a young horse should do and how fast they should progress. Everyone's program and horses are an individuals in that regard. Ultimately, my end goal with my horses is that I have an sound, happy athlete who is capable of going and doing the FEI levels.

In my book, the young horse years (three to seven year olds) are critical for putting the basics on some of the larger concepts.

Yes, they should forwardly walk/trot/canter on the bit and stretch to the connection, they should hack (preferably on a loose rein without killing you), they should tie and stand; they should mind their manners, and go places and not be total embarrassments.

They should be good citizens first, and athletes second. Simply because having a half-ton animal on top of you is not only rude, but dangerous. Respect is a universal concept.

But they should also know lateral work, they should be building strength to carry by learning to collect and extend the paces. They should be adjustable in the outline and learn extend their balance points. They should be playing with half steps, doing simple and flying changes. They should go in a variety of bits and bridle combinations as they progress.

In short you need to have expectations. Which when it comes to young horses, can be an unpopular thought.

They should, and deserve, to have a preview of the regular questions that are coming down the pike to help develop their physique and mental capacity to handle pressure. It's easy to become trapped in the time warp of Junior being five forever (seriously, I still think Sinari is 10), and perfecting the lower levels before moving on instead of creating a solid foundation of basics instead. It's not easy to get them out of their comfort zone because you're bound to get a reaction.

It shouldn't be perfect. It should be correct.

In a dressage horse's (and most sport horses') career, they'll actively face these questions time and time again, at each level with greater volume and intensity. It takes uninterrupted years of carefully building strength, balance and coordination up. In short, a horse will not magically be an upper level anything with a wish, a wink and a nod. You have to create and foster them through this by being consistent, and systematic.

It doesn't mean hammer on your five year old to do the entire Grand Prix piaffe/passage tour, or shove your three year old into a second level balance for 45 minutes or have your four year old do tempi's. It doesn't mean immediately take the horse who was back and broke 30 days ago and jump around a course of 3'0 questions, also doesn't mean go out and do it everyday until everyone is burned out, either.

It means this: school them in moderation but with the expectation that they go on, and have the capacity, physically and mentally to handle the work that lays ahead. Develop their toolbox. Support them with a good network of nutrition, farrier, vet, equipment and body work so they can do their jobs happily.  Above all: use common sense and be aware.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shake it out

It's finally July, the great and terrible month of the year. 

On one hand Danzador is doing great, he's progressing so much and physically looking like a dressage horse instead of a gawky leggy colt. We finally got his video up and loaded on YouTube, plus a little extra showing his ultra talented half steps in hand. He also has been actively being ramped up to show in August if not under contract by then. Seriously, whoever ends up with him will be incredibly lucky. There's not enough nice words in Webster to describe how genuinely cool he is. 

Flair finally foaled out as well! Couldn't be happier with the results of her first foal- a black/bay colt by Diamond Stud. He's aptly named Justus SSM. For a maiden's colt, he's huge, and shows zero fear. He's a brilliant little mover as well, showing the strengths of the Ferro/Donnerhall blood and the modernity of his dam's sire. Both mom and baby are doing great- Flair is reportedly good spirits, and is handling things in stride. I still can't wait to get the call come fall/winter that she's on the trailer to ship. She's my next long-term project and I feel that she is going to make a good horse. 

I also have investors actively looking at horses for me. It's hard to realize that this is actually happening and I may be flying to some pretty cool places pretty soon. It seems like I've looked at 200 or so horses every week ala YouTube. They're mostly KWPN horses from every direction, but a few from the GOV and other books. 

I found a few that I like, but nothing to really make me jump up and down and scream like a kid in a toy store over a must have. I have a few other personal feelers out there and a few old industry friends are sending me tape on other horses as well, but show and breeding seasons are dominating their schedules, so I get to keep on waiting.  

Then there's the flip side that's been hanging around for a little while now.

After two trips, several blocks, a bone scan and several lameness evaluations, Sinari's intermittent lameness isn't really a outlier occurrence caused by a soreness. 

It's much more serious that involves extensive time off and therapy. The prognosis is more than good, but still we're really looking at a year out. The only way now is to go through rehab and proceed from there.

While I know (and was reassured by several DVMs who have been looking at her case study) there's nothing that could have been done- I still feel like kicking myself. It sucks. I can easily whine how it's not fair, or how karma is cruel or even how hopes/dreams/ect for FEI glory are dashed. It doesn't matter. At this point, I'm relieved that there is a diagnosis and wanting my horse back and sound. If she's going to compete again, we'll approach that hill when we get to it. Right now, it's just one day at a time. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Matchmaker make me a match

When I worked at a corporate coffee shop back in the day, I was surrounded by a lot old school New
York Hasidic Jewish women.

These women, at least once a week, would order their coffees and sit down and gab for a little while; talking just about everything.

Eventually, they pulled me aside and asked me if I was single, and why on earth I wasn't betrothed to a nice man. After being given the third degree, I found out that these women were professional matchmakers who set up arranged marriages much like I now set up breedings, weighing what both parents can contribute- in the phenotypic and qualitative departments.

I've since then found the nice man, but the concept of matchmaking is something that's kinda stuck with me.

I love to shop for horses, and I love pedigree (comes with the gig of working for breeders). I love matching riders to them. Pairing the right riders with the right horses is this fantastic alchemy that if done right is just magic.

In the time I've been selling, I've been lucky. I've had pretty good pairings.

The most recent being between two long-term clients that connected over a horse that needed a new direction. It's any agents wish to have that kind of connection.

With Danzador officially on the market, I hope whoever ends up with him enjoys just as much as I do. It goes for the same for any horse that I represent. I genuinely love my 'inventory'.

For as many love stories that are out there there is no shortage of horror stories.

With what amounts to an emotional investment equivalent from a new car all the way up to purchasing luxury real estate to a visit to outer space, it's a huge financial investment. Selling and buying amounts to a high stakes cash game where it's literally all or nothing.

I count myself, and the people I have dealings with as honest and transparent, but there are people who shockingly are still out there who just try to hide or do things less than above par. The bigger irony is many of these horses are in the low figures, and not the high six figure ones.

I've unfortunately been on both sides- as a buyer and as an agent when the sale goes south.

From my first buy when the former owner had sellers remorse and snuck on the property and took back the horse during after hours to dealing with an owner who violated several clauses within a contract via social media to finding out one of my horses was underweight at the sales barn to dealing with a seller that non-disclosed surgeries on a horse that were caught on the radiographs.

Eventually everything was resolved and it makes for entertaining drinking stories, but I wonder what thought ran through their heads to make those actions acceptable. Were there life lessons in those? Unfortunately, yes. Personally, I would rather not have a sale go through than face the consequences and heartbreak that happens if it goes wrong.

So what makes people fall in for a horse?

For me, I fell for Sinari not because she was conformationally awesome, but because she had an honest try in her- in my horse shopping experience (I usually end up in the worst situations), she was put through the tryout from hell, and passed, there wasn't, and still isn't a no in her. She had three elastic gaits and was hot enough I felt to do the FEI. She's also probably one of the soundest horses (knock wood) that's doing FEI today. She received her first injections at 15- and is maintained on a monthly joint supplement. The farrier adores her feet and bone, and most trainers who I work around complement her very correct basics.

My owner picked Danzador for me thinking he was a KWPN with a lot of hair. He didn't look like your typical PRE, and is conformationally very correct (straight, no sewing machine, a little paddling, three good gaits).

Flair happened in to my life after I began following the dam, and really fell for her personality.

The point is, that no horse is perfect and sometimes things just fall into your lap, but whoever you choose, love it.