Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thirty n' flirty

My 30th was a few weeks ago. Even though I'm now considered adult, and many a teenager's eyes
"old" (just you guys wait...) I pretty much went kicking and screaming into it.

Honestly, the 20's were not all that fabulous. University was great, but it was a huge struggle to establish myself personally and professionally in a sport that is dominated by people twice my age. It was a huge period of upheaval, change, poverty, and dealing with coming fully into adulthood.

I did get wonderful things, both tangible and intangible.

I had a fabulous few lessons with JJ, and Danzador rode exceptionally well. It's great to know that the training that you've put on a young horse is exactly on track. She helped tweak the program a bit to really help his hind end and back develop better. She also put down this great striding the circle exercise that has become a quick staple in short order. The focus over the past few rides on what she focused in on has improved the trot work. Something that, while he has a good trot, it's not as strong as his canter.

A few friends took me out to a few dinner(s) out at some of my favorite spots.

I got myself an early present in Flair (thanks SunShine Meadows), and they even sent on some current footage of the her and her colt the other day. They're looking fabulous.

I was given the go-ahead to go look at investment horses. Which means I sit in front of a computer, or on the phone looking at video after video after video of horses going around in circles.

For the most part, time was well spent. But, ultimately the theme has been perspective.

This year, things have changed a lot.

For starters, the time away from Sinari has so far served everyone well. It's hard watching her loaf around, now barefoot in a field during the day and in her stall in the evening. She's happy no matter where she's at, especially since there's always food.

We're going to be facing our 60 day check in September, our final Shockwave treatment this week, and go from there.

Honestly, I'm comfortable with her at this point.  If she comes back, she comes back. If she doesn't, well, I'm alright with that too. The pony doesn't owe me or anyone else anything. She's achieved far more than anyone else has expected her to, and it's been a joy to ride and develop her from a young horse. Everything else is icing on an already great career.

Speaking of kids, I've also come to find out that I really enjoy developing young horses as much as I like riding the upper levels. While I'm searching around still for an FEI schoolmaster to get the ride on, I'm looking at a lot of nice young horses.

In a lot of ways young horses are a little trickier than an older mature horse. Somedays, they're brilliant and you feel everything, other days, you can't turn left and you're looking like a monkey humping a football. But the way they develop is amazing to watch, and it doesn't hurt that a sense of humor and a glass of wine are must have's.

I've had fantastic opportunities within the past two years to work with wonderful breeders, like SunShine Meadows, great owners (Noble Spirit) and talented horses (Danzador, Flair). Even as my program progresses and evolves, the focus on quality becomes even more important.

What I ride, own (or have stakes in) and produce is good quality. But what I'm looking for in my next investment is the like the difference between a local painter, and Monet.

Also, as a good friend has said, they all cost the same to keep, you might as well choose the one that will advance your ambitions.

Buying is as tricky as selling, because people are emotionally invested into finding competitive homes like mine that will help bring their programs out to the next step. It's an honor to have people think of me in this regard, but at the same time it's hard to keep your perspective so you can go out and accomplish the larger goal at hand. The idea that their horse is going to be sold, and potentially re-sold is a hard one for anyone to swallow.

Saying 'no' to a lot of horses, that have the pedigree and would excel regionally, if not be well thought of nationally, is hard. These horses would make awesome competitive mounts into great homes or even a half way decent local Grand Prix horse. Truthfully, they all deserve to have owners who will cherish them and appreciate what they can offer.  It's not fair to push a horse into a level of competition that would only degrade him. The expectation itself sets everyone up for failure and frustration; and I believe that's where really abusive practices begin.

To be successful in dressage at the level I want to go at, you have to have at minimum, eight's immediately out of the box. Meaning at minimum, for example, you should have- 8's on gaits, 8's on general impression, 8's on submission, 8's on conformation. You get the gist, the horse is essentially born to do the sport and will score an 80 percent just walking into the arena.

This is where perception begins to get tricky. Because what is perceived as an 8 on one level is barely scratching a 6 at another, and the idea of elitism comes in.

I don't consider it elitist to make my job as a rider easier. Nor do I consider it a chore to manufacture things either (Sinari had weak mediums). Every horse has challenges and the sport is one giant challenge in itself. I enjoy making a horse better through correct work. It's what dressage is about. But at a certain point to be competitively placed, you need to start taking a hard look at where you start and where you want to end up.