Sunday, September 25, 2016

Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)

It's beyond mid summer and Fall is already starting in.

Most of my Summer has been about acquisition and some loss.

In August, despite being down two horses, I moved to a new property due to the upcoming expansion of my herds and also some other resume-changing items.

The property is not ready to be truly discussed as things are still very much underway, but I felt, and still feel, its a good move for a variety of reasons.

The physical space while a work in progress, has been a welcome relief of sorts. I have all my horses under one roof, my paddocks are private/semi private again, I have expanded amenities, it's a shorter commute for Mike, and the best of all, it's five minutes from my house and another five minutes to the Kentucky Horse Park. I feel to sell, train and do things successfully it's a good place to be.

The barn itself has been fairly quiet, but I'm no less busy with some new faces peaking in and many more who are just starting out.

To start, I lost my ride on Flair. She went home to Canada.

I don't have anything bad to say about the mare, she was really lovely and I do wish her success in whatever her next steps will be. I'm also and will always be very proud of her and what she's accomplished within my program in such a short time- going from field to third level in about a year and a half.

But as they say, life goes on and my herds are no different.

My breeders acquired three new broodmares through me that I'm thrilled about, the Aprio, the Fabuleux and the DeLaurentis are really standouts for mare quality, and hopefully we'll have some 2018 foals.

The DeLaurentis especially excites me since there's the classic Donnerhall- Rubenstien cross, and very recently within the pedigree (within the first two generations). The bloodlines can contribute just about anywhere, and have been super rideable.

Back at the performance side of the farm:

PostScript is continuing to improve and develop. The little pony schools about a meter on the
occasion, but has been focusing on the basic things.

At 90 days out of the wild, and 30 rides under tack she's schooling regularly off property and just progressing fitness wise. She's gone around and schooled cross country, she's starting some early fall conditioning.

She went out and most recently started lessoning with Derek Braun at Split Rock. While there are a lot of similarities between starting a dressage horse and a jumping horse, when it comes down to specific developmental tracks, it helps to have a specialist on hand.

The move has helped with that, and now we have a plethora of Grand Prix jumpers living down the road who don't mind when the dressage people show up.

Split Rock and I go back to about a year ago, when I started hosting with them for clinics, so it seemed like a good progression to ask for help.

Derek did wonderfully with her and Mike, and gave us several exercises and direction as to develop her for the over fences work.

It's slow work but work that will pay off in the long run when she goes onto a new rider eventually. In the meantime, she's ready to go out and explore a show atmosphere and see how she takes to having a job.

Then there's this guy:

Alberich. (Armani/Ferro), a 2012 ISR/OLD stallion. He arrived back in August. Owned in partnership, he's is settling in great and has begun work.

With just a handful of rides, he's a quick study with an easy temperament, like all good horses, there's a try in him. I'm lucky that he's stepping in quickly to be developed as my horse.

Al's personality is a lot like Flair in a way, but with breeding horses, it's to be expected. He was a little slow to open up, but he's a goof who enjoys having his butt scratched and told he's the best.

Despite being so green, he uses himself very well.

By the fourth ride I already get the impression that collection isn't going to be an issue with him. He readily accepts compression and his first response in anything is to raise the shoulders and lower the hind end. He's hot enough that you can drop a whip, but not stupid.

The rest of his 2016 schedule is pretty active for a green horse- a few clinics, a few off property jaunts and more prep for 2017's schedule.

The other new face at the farm is actually an old school three year old Thoroughbred gelding by The Cliff's Edge. He's track trained but hasn't raced. He's affectionately known as Moose around the place.

A massive 16,3 hands at three means he's taking twice as long to develop, and that's alright by us. Where Al, Moppi and PS are developing, poor Moose has gone through one or two growth spurts. Combine that with being trained to not move throughly, he's taking his time. He's no less talented than the others, and I think he'll either end up as a hunter or in the meter jumpers really easily.

There's also this guy along the way:

Equibest Sine Metu G. (Sezuan/Calypso II), a 2014 gelding that's half brother to Equibest Fahrenheit G. He was purchased as a project via an investor to train and eventually resell within the three year old year.

I love the addition of Sezuan into my herds, and out of George's dam, only makes the cross more attractive.

The lack of full KWPN in my herds is sorely obvious now. My heart is always partial to Dutch (and both boys are technically part Dutch and the pony sports some Dutch blood), the German blood in the barn is proving equally as good especially when combined with KWPN.

But I do miss having a good Dutch horse, especially around Keuring time.

Also part of Fall is inspection and Keuring. It's becoming a regular staple on my calendar to attend most of them within this area. They're educational and a good way to see where you stack up in comparison.

With the addition of Al, and the mares, my 2017 is going to be split between licensing, and getting the mares prepped out and inspected.

With Flair's absence and Haiku's sale, our plans to ride at the Indiana keuring were out. It's a bit sad since she was easily ready to retake the IBOP and I so desperately wanted to get another horse into the year end standings (Fahrenheit is 5th in the nation, Starkozy is first, Sincerely G moved up to the 3' divisions).  But secretly I was relieved as I went on my yearly sabbatical from the circuit in August with my family in upstate New York and the turn around was killer.

I still went up anyways to help and observe. I love the Indiana Keuring for a variety of reasons. It's an excellent facility with a professional staff, the quality of horse is super and it's also a good excuse to shop for the next top horse.  It was a good visit, I caught up with old friends and what has quickly become my second barn family.

 The rest of the fall is spent from October to December in pushing with the clinics, and getting the investors aligned for the Spring season. Until then, it's just a daily grind of developing and figuring out what the next teps are.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm a sucker for pain

I'm a sucker for mares. Pony mares are truly my soft spot when it comes to things. 

So when I sold Fahrenheit and became in between serious sales horses I started wandering around the internet just looking at things. 

I had a few owners looking in the market but they were looking for broodmares or lovely young horse resell projects. I wanted really wanted something with no expectation. In short, I was wanting a summer project to fill a gap.

I never particularly commented or showed interest in anything I saw. They were just horses that I knew were not in the best of ways or needed a lifestyle change, they would get those with  the people responding to them. 

When I stumbled across an ad for a free RPSI pony via a friend, I stopped and responded. 

She was pretty, fairly good type and relatively near.

So I jaunted out to see her. 

She was less than impressive with her presentation. The owners had cut her tail off, wretchedly kept feet, covered in dew poisoning, unhandled, and her mane was wild dreadlocks. In many ways, it reminded me of when I pulled Sinari out of the backwoods ghetto tobacco field at three.

She was the essence of ghetto and the definition of redneck. But still all the parts were in the right places. The then owners were basically going to give her to the Amish, and knowing what unbroke, slightly opinionated ponies do, it would have not been a good ending for either pony or human.

A few phone calls, I convinced an owner to take her on, so a few weeks later after we cleared the health papers and paperwork she got into my trailer with some chemical and physical assistance and headed to a new life. 

When she stepped off the trailer, the mutual reaction of people was of general concern for my mental health.

The problem is after you've had a Haiku, a Fahrenheit, a Flair and even a Sinari, the expectation becomes a double edged sword. On one hand, you have really nice horses, that have gone on and done good things, and the assumption is that you'll continue on this path. On the other hand, the perception is you've had it easy and those nice horses were just flukes.  

Truth is, in this industry, you're only as good as your last horse and while I choose nice horses, my team and I have to make them even nicer. 

The first days were interesting. She stuck out like a sore thumb with her tail bobbed off, and lack of social skills in a herd of 16 plus hand mares. Her world, basically was turned upside down. Everyone thought she was a yearling with her size and lack of maturity.

She became a project, first were the feet and teeth, then it was getting her into a nutritional program that wouldn't overwhelm her. She was groomed, daily, and taught to tie. Then the work began.

She took to it, happy to have something to do. She liked the attention and every time out she improved a little. There was never a real issue that she could do whatever job I asked. 

21 days later she's started, and already she's showing good talent and what's more is she's unafraid. It's an asset to have any horse like this, it makes working them easier, and it's a gift especially with the ones that for the first three-quarters of a decade haven't done anything except eat and loaf. 

While I know my barn will be full again with super horses in a very short time- I'm enjoying the little downtime with this one, and also the several  the mental health questioning and seeing where this takes us all. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mountain at my gate

Summers are a balance between financials and goals. 

On one hand you have the pursuit of goals, hours are spent at home riding, plotting, planning from early in the year. 

On the other hand your wallet screams in pain at every rip of the check book when the vet, farrier, coach, voodoo priestess, nomination, registration, show/clinic entry comes along. 

It's a nice relationship. They play, I pay.

My team and I have started a little later for our qualifiers, and this year the big goal is the USEF Four Year Old Finals in August. 

The calendar year for qualifying is short, and not every show counts for scores. There is only one qualifying class in the entire show and you need two scores, preferably three. 

 On top of this you have to count for growth spurts, horses doing stupid things to themselves, weather, crazy judge panels and a few other things. 

I'm also notoriously choosy about shows. Having been to the majority of grounds in the U.S., I know what I like and what I don't like. I also know since it's my money that I'm bleeding I get to make that decision. 

Our first qualifier is later than expected, Kentucky was a nice stepping stone but with young horses and KHP you never know what you're going to bring out. We were lucky that it went well on a basic level for materiale. 

Two weeks later there was another semi local qualifier that we passed on due to footing, panel and prep time. 

Instead, we traveled to Tryon over Majestic (six hour drive versus an hour) for better footing and a better panel. It's also the last score Fahrenheit needs for HOY materiale. 

The facility, which is new, is beautiful. You cannot really want for anything out there. The stalls are
great, matted, with fans. They lead out directly to the arenas. There is a dedicated horse path that takes you around the property and there are shaded wash racks. Live scoring, shopping, restaurants  and accommodation on site. If you live locally, you can haul in and out and work off the trailer for the day. It makes showing much more easy. 

They're still expanding. A new covered arena is developing, the cross country course for AECs is finalizing. You can see direction and joyfully, logic, for competitors and spectators. 

The show itself for us was a mixed bag. The first day was brilliant, Fahrenheit scored beyond expectations, a 79,9 with a giddy judge panel that confirmed what we've always known- he's a horse with a stellar future. They gave us things to work on.

 The materiale was better but, the score wasn't reflected, we still out scored the other horse by a solid 10 percentage points, but it brought our average down. Sitting second in the nation isn't such a bad thing especially given who is leading. 

The next day we were all exhausted. Between running around getting the truck fixed on the road, showing, socializing, strange beds all week (I shifted houses since my air conditioning broke and it was 100 degree heat index) and scheduling things, we made a calculated error in over warming him up. He lost the electric sparkle but still put in an obedient, quality test for a middle of the pack placing with a fair yet tough international panel. Impressively he still scored a 7,9 on the canter work. 

We are a bit bummed by not achieving that one goal this year, but really at the end of the day it's about producing an FEI horse. He will easily be that. 

Also in perspective we achieved something in 90 days of work (you're average horse has had about a year of under saddle time doing this program and has at least three shows already this year) that stood up to a good standard, it was a positive experience for him and for us and we're into our second year of producing from gate to arena. 

We're thrilled about the initial successes and what's coming down the pike, we got home safe, and the horse had a positive experience. You can't ask for much more.

Perhaps then it's a bit ironic and bittersweet that because we do so well in developing, that they sell well. 

It was exactly three days after the show, that a professional came in looking for her next Grand Prix horse and scooped him up. It's an excellent match, and she clearly adores him and will do a fabulous job and we're excited and pleased. 

But it means, as usual that we begin again. It's the nature of sales and young horses that we always start over and there is a lack of permanence in the barn. But we're not for wanting, there are two new horses coming in, one sales, one long term horse, and my breeders are breeding or buying more with their now consistent income from the work from my team. 

Flair is still being aimed for Fall shows and the IBOP, so I'm not without a ride. However, the barn will feel a little emptier and a bit more quiet that the goofy German chestnut is gone. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I spent a lot of nights on the run

It's been a few months since an update happened here.

It's not because there isn't anything going on, it's actually the opposite. Myself and my team have been busy, and to the point where I just didn't have time to update. 

Spring is here, and that means a lot of things in this region. It mostly means that we've stepped up to a full week of training, that foals are being born, dams are being rebred, horses are being sold, and the rigs remained fully hitched to go places. 

It's been a lovely blur. 

May we started back out showing. 

First up was the Spy Coast Young Horse Series, a show that I've come to love and really appreciate as a relaxed starter for my guys. We brought everyone out except Flair (who aged out of contention this year), and came away with qualified horses, ribbons, highpoint and cash. 

We then turned to Kentucky Dressage Association's Annual.  

This has been a staple in the community for 30 years, and I occasionally come to play there. It's my way of catching up with people, saying hello, and getting to sleep in my own bed at the end of the day, which if you travel the circuit, you come to really appreciate. 

It's not my favorite to bring untested young horses out since the atmosphere can be too intimidating, but we took Fahrenheit out for just a materiale class. 

The problem is that both Mike and I couldn't ride. Mike had to have some unexpected time off (he's fine), and my allergies had become so bad I had to carry an epipen incase I went into some weird attack or had a reaction to whatever happened to be in the air. 

So, I asked a favor and got a nice junior rider to pilot him instead. With four rides, he confidently put 
out a great result (78,9 and 81,5), and handled everything that the Kentucky Horse Park threw at him.    We're now focused on USEF Four Year Old Qualifiers at Tryon, Dressage at Lexington and a sale. 

Then there's Flair, who has become savant-like with work. On great days, she gives you changes (right to left is fab, left to right is... interpretive), piaffe/passage work, working pirouettes, walk pirouettes, super lateral work; and on the bad days well... the walls take a beating. 

She went in front of JJ in April and we've been taking semi regularly lessons off the farm.  It's been a tremendous amount of help in developing her since it's been a bit of time since my last young horse and my expectations have undoubtably changed. 

But putting it in perspective is that she's only been under tack for a grand total of a year. She's vastly 
changed from the Alberta Brown Cow to a lovely, modern sport horse.  

This year she has IBOP on the menu and I would really like to get her out at third if we can get our acts together.  

Then there's the steady drippings of sales, and looking at prospects. Already this year two have sold sight unseen. Justus SSM (Diamond Stud/Flemmingh/Ferro) and Mirage CBF (Balta C'zar) sold pretty quickly to their respective homes. 

My contacts in Germany are already looking at another young horse to come in, I have another client wanting to breed mares, and then there's another partnership in the works with another nice, young, horse, which will be sorted as soon as everything else gets sorted out. 

As for the rest of the year, Tryon will play a pivotal role as to if we pursue the rest of the Young Horse classes, or if we go more for the HOY items. Then there's the year end things of Inspection and Keuring, with no less than two or three to attend to in the fall, and the fall clinic schedule to host. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Take time, don't waste time

Spring is here, and very fortunately for myself and my crew we were spared the majority of winter.

Instead, it arrived all at once in two, one week spouts and then promptly melted off to a consistent 50 degrees.

It didn't prevent me from going to Florida for a few days in February for business, but at the same time, it allowed me to continue on with training.
My winter barn was full of young, green horses. Some client owned, some of them are my partnered horses, all of them are warmbloods from the Dutch or German books. 

The oldest of the bunch were currently five rising six and the youngest were three. My time was and
is still split between two properties at the moment. Winter was also a time that we really focused in on basics, and addressing some other things.

While there were several people aiming for an early start to the season, my season doesn't really kick off until May, at the Spy Coast Young Horse Show, so it's nice to take a breather from the constant push.

For me, winter is the "off time", despite still maintaining a six day a week schedule when the weather allows. The kids are still in school, just relaxed.

The relaxed time also means I get to catch up on my desk, and let's face it when I'm bored or trying to avoid reading the latest email, I read OpEd from the horse world. 

Young horses have recently become very popular to write about within social media.

It's been great to hear about other people's experiences and opinions on their own programs and theory. It's been interesting to hear perspective, from multiple sources, of a number of subjects, including the state of America's/Europe's breeding programs, Euro versus American breeding, import versus local, the use of Thoroughbred blood in the modern sport horse, thoroughbreds in sport, developing stages of the young horse, how horses "should" be developed, everything under the sun- if it was there I read it in the hours before I conked out for the evening.

While a few blogs grabbed me this season, two entries really stood out. The blog, written by a local Adult Amateur who rehabs, shows and sells thoroughbreds for herself and others, they write effectively, and entertainingly. They have a good platform, and for OpEd pieces they're easy, quick reads.

Therein lies the problem, when you have a platform and it's popular, I think due diligence on what you write is very needed. 

I don't know whether it's a lack of individual understanding, or a lack of general public knowledge, but where we are with young horses, isn't the same even from five years ago. Where we are as riders and a pool of specialist who do ride, and develop the young guys has evolved. 

Over ten years ago, we did not have a single championship for Young Horses, in any discipline, then the powers that be in USEF decided to pilot a program for dressage.

It bridged the gap from three year olds to four through six, then it expanded to include the Developing FEI classes. It gave young horses and young horse riders a niche market. It actually helped drive value in the young horses, and now with a bunch of young guys, I find myself starting to participate in that program with great horses that are wonderfully marketable.

If you're curious, Eventing, Hunters and Show Jumping followed suit to various degrees of success, and now Combined Driving.

We have major national championships, field the teams to world championships, have a great, growing pool of people (younger and older) who specialize, and unparalleled access to resources (both equine and education). We have professionals looking for their next top horses as yearlings and two year olds now. We have people who are just as well known for producing babies as others are for FEI horses. Heck, we even have qualifiers within an hours drive in the majority of locations.

It's progress and it keeps progressing.

Which leads to this, because of the quality of horse, the specialist nature of babies, and the generally good quality of rider, horses can be produced a bit more efficiently. It doesn't mean we don't take time, it means that we don't waste it.

Like human kids, every horse has mile markers in it's age.

For dressage the hard and fast rule is: three year olds should be going training level, four year olds should be doing first level, five year olds should be developing for second, and by six you should have a change. The window to easily put fitness on a horse, to have it open to new things is short.

It's the same reason why we start human children reading as early as possible versus waiting until they're 10 years old.

I'm not saying that every horse needs to be an FEI horse by seven, and I'm not saying that this is a hard and fast thing- some horses need more time, some horses, like one of my own, are a year behind because of other things (Flair was a broodmare), but if we're doing our solid basics from day one- 30 days should be looking like this:

(that's 15 rides)
to this:

(that's actually 20 rides)

and this:

and maybe after 90 days this:

So, yes, while the horse dictates a lot of the job, we cannot waste the time and windows given to us. Training is hard, and I know all of mine would much rather be eating grass than having a job, it's always a fine line. But honestly, no one ever died from being worked six days a week in a fashion that was tailored to them.

Not every horse is bound for Rolex, or World Cup, but as young horse riders, we can give them a huge, solid foundation to be great for whoever inherits them next.

So if they want to spend the next ten years bopping around at Training level or Novice or going all the way, they have the luxury of doing so because we developed them, from the start to be relaxed, submissive, straight, forward and going into a good contact.

We cannot allow people behind keyboards to pass judgment us on moments in time (because babies have a lot of moments- good and bad), or to take it personally because it's window of time that will pass.

But because of the way the world is, we also can't shutter ourselves in. What we can do is educate them and use the platforms that we are given as trainers and let the results speak for themselves.

Monday, January 11, 2016

We can be heroes

I haven't talked about Sinari in a bit.

Sinari has been a mainstay in my barn for over a decade and is the reason behind my career, and this blog title. She is the original dressage pony of Dressage Pony.

Back in 2012, we finally made it to PSG, and in 2013 after much hammering at fourth level, we achieved the Silver. She also earned my Bronze as well. She still remains a firm highlight in my career so far; but in 2014 looking at her age, and how much effort it was taking to do the grinding work of the Grand Prix it was time to take a step back out of fairness and also to keep her in good health.

I was disappointed that we couldn't do it. It's was a huge thrill to knock on that door. At the end of the day- we had our time in the sun and more importantly, I have to do what is fair for her. 

I left for Germany, she stayed at home to winter, hacking occasionally with a friend, not really knowing what to do next.  Sinari has never been, and never will be for sale. She's earned her retirement, but at the same time, she's not ready to retire.

At first I really wanted a junior for the FEI ponies. It would professionally be a blast to have a kid reach the highest point in a pony ride. After interviewing a few kids, it wasn't 100 percent the right match, plus the idea of pursing USEF Championships, as tempting as that would be, wouldn't be the right thing for her at this time after a long four years of putting together two medals, she still needed time. After a little bit of time, I found that person and Sinari was pushed back down the levels for her new adult amateur.

I've been quietly sitting on the sidelines as they've been getting to know each other for the last few
months with the focus of getting Bronze scores, as Sinari regains fitness and as her rider figures out her the buttons are.

It hasn't always been easy to watch her with another rider; and I'm sure she hasn't been the easiest horse to figure out especially after being developed to be a hotrod. I'm also admittedly a bit jealous (this includes after getting the rides on Flair, Haiku and Fahrenheit) from time to time. I miss the familiarity.

It wasn't until the the other day though when I was sent some photos and I knew in an instant it was the right decision to do this, and I can't wait to be the loudest fan in the cheering section as Sinari brings another rider out and gives them the dream I have.