Monday, June 19, 2017

Can't bribe the door on the way to the sky

After several long, exhausting weeks of showing, horse-related events and clinics, we've hit a minor week-long lull in the calendar that's allowed me to kinda catch up here. This odd hungover space where we can loosen up a little bit and get an idea but not relax so much that everything goes to hell.

While we kicked off our season early at Paul Fraiser CT, my first love, the Spy Coast Young Horse qualifier, officially opened spring for us.

We were set to bring out a record four horses for the team, but as fate would have it, one scuffed himself up, one went home and the others went through Frankenstein-worthy growth spurts that made us shelve whatever plans until their bodies caught up with whatever they were doing.

So it was just Alberich.

Show-cation with one horse and visitation with several other friends.

As of today, Al has been off property now about four or five times. Each time is a little different, and
each time gets a little better. He's a horse that takes a bit to adjust to a new place and people. He worries about traveling, so the more he does things, the better.

This time around, I popped on and took him for a spin. Even though I wasn't registered as the rider, it was something I was looking forward to for a long time. He was a good boy, and went on to do three classes the next day.

His materiale scores were flat, simply because we had over estimated the time (and the panel ran late) and honestly speaking, he's not a materiale horse or an obvious young horse candidate.

Like with a lot of the Olympic Ferro and Rubenstien offspring, it takes time to develop the gaits. It doesn't change my opinion of him, I still think he's going to be something for the upper levels, but it also means that until he has a change, and some pi/pa/pir work, he's going to be a little bit meh in motion at the start of his career in comparison to something more modern.

But we also took him through the jump chute not expecting much and came out on the other end realizing that he does have a fair bit of style over fences. Which bodes really well for what the primary aim is- licensing. We were encouraged to enter him last minute in the chute, but declined. Three classes, the cold, and lack of sleep was finally catching up to us all.

The week was quickly followed up by Rolex. I didn't attend this year. It just felt flat and I felt anti-social with everything going on. I also didn't want the temptation to shop.

Rolex ended, and then William Fox-Pitt's clinic began. I ridiculously decided to work with William.

I've worked with WFP as an organizer for about three years now; I like his style and approach to training, but I'm a dressage rider, and usually there is a bit of a difference with the quality.

With a normal eventing clinic, I just go crawl off into a corner on dressage day with the excuse of paperwork, William is someone who I think can span both disciplines successfully, and I have nothing but utter respect for that won't over face a young horse.

I figured it was a soft way of getting Al into a few lessons without a huge audience and little pressure for being five and not doing the FEI five year olds.

Well, I was only half right.

William took us through our paces in a group lesson. It was nothing new; just good basics and things that we were working on as a pair already. Where I was more gun-ho about working some items we've been schooling on (walk-canter-walk), he brought it back to the details.

It was refreshing to get some tips about how to ride a short thick neck out and also to hear about getting relaxation in a charged environment.

William was legitimately curious about him, what he's produced (two crops, good improvement), what he's been doing and where he's been going.

What I didn't expect was the 50 or so people to show up to watch Al go. But then again I'm not used to what Al is- black and a stallion.

It's fairly curious to show up on a pure dressage horse in an eventing clinic, especially one that doesn't even remotely fit in gender (not a gelding), type (short-coupled, thickly built) or in stereotyped behavior (not trying to cover everything that moves) for a clinic like this. We also went in with the express knowledge and statement that our end goal isn't eventing, but the licensing this year.

But it did give me some allusions of grandeur by trying to qualify for AEC's at BN.

At the end we got on with it, and had a good couple of rides. We had our first public outing as a pair together, got some help and enjoyed things along the way. Nothing Earth shattering, just good basics, but it gave me a good idea of how the rest of the year should go.

Then he was promptly followed out of the hall by a few people asking questions. The entourage was friendly, if not curious and supportive.

We rerouted Al from KDA's annual to take a more serious approach to the year end goals of getting through approvals and substituted Sine Metu instead. Another showcation with another singular horse.

I'm happy I did this; the KDA show was overall very low scoring and there were a few other things
that raised a bunch of concerns. We went out not sure what to expect and got away better than most, placing over mature horses that have twice as much time under saddle but still not quite happy with the scores.

My biggest concern was the bone of contention with the management when he was put in to a class with five-year-olds and four-year-olds.

It's not illegal to combine the age classes, but it's fairly unethical, if anything unfair. Especially given that the show prize list billed it as a separate class and three year olds have more of a propensity to be silly versus a maturer horse. Then there's the issue of comparing very different stages of development in a singular arena.

We're not afraid of not pinning but at the same time, we want fair scores that potentially eliminates comparative bias; and comparing a three year old to a four year old and a group of five year olds is irksome.

We ended up with a solid score (the lowest in the group was in the 60's, unusual for materiale) and topping out the five year olds in the group. The next day we won with improvement and took Sine Metu home to prep out for the next two weeks for Majestic Farm.

Majestic is usually at the top of June, and it's sometimes a hit or miss show on the calendar. We tend to aim for Tryon, but with no one big horse in the barn with no major young horse championships on the calendar- really, it's a wasted trip. We routed out to Ohio, and brought Sine Metu and Jolie Etolie (Emici/Rose Noir 2), a client's horse, out for materiale again.

It was a very productive show for both horses. Sine Metu, who's now an old hand at showing- went out and just clocked around his classes without a care.

More impressively was Jolie Etolie that we started back in May. She absolutely owned the place, turning in solid performances and showing three very good gaits for all of 13 rides under saddle.

It was her first time off property and really allowed her to grow up. She blew both Michael and I away with her rideability and her elastic gaits. She handles pressure enormously well. Can't wait to show her again in July.

In the meantime there are several wonderful things on the horizon that will keep us busy well after Fall and possibly into  Winter.

But for now, the top of the season is here, with a clinic this weekend with Oded Shimoni, a show two weeks later our calendar is booked. I'm looking forward to the slower pace from mid-July to August where we can breathe a bit and focus on the details of keuring, inspections, licensing and year end championships.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


First show of the year is in the books for us, and it was somewhat strange to be back out again after a

hiatus from essentially last June. Normally our kickoff is SpyCoast in May, but with it arriving early this year, we decided to start out with something a bit sooner on the calendar.

Local schooling shows for me, are approached with a somewhat split feeling of happy anticipation and dread.

Anticipation for getting out and seeing new people, showing the kids what life can be, seeing them on their maiden voyages in a situation that in all respects, doesn't make or break a career, meeting new people and catching up with the old groups.

Then there's the dread.

The dread of people in your space, navigating a warm up that is, at best uncontrolled chaos, arenas that aren't set up as professionally as they should, making sure that no one dies/cries/embarrasses themselves too badly and above all making sure that said kids have a good time.

I knew walking in what the comments would be, and what approximate scores he would get- and we got them from the judge and the rail birds.

Al's first show was successful in many ways, and shows room for improvement in others.

What I, and Mike weren't prepared for was the amount of people who came by and followed us to and from the arenas. Part of it was I think the idea of a stallion of that quality at a show, but the other part I think people were genuinely curious. Either way, it was something new for us, and felt a bit odd. Al just accepted the accolades graciously via carrots, admiring glances and the occasional insistence on a butt scratch.

We came home and addressed what few issues he showed us, and already I feel he's ready to go back out. I was for the most part, pleased about how he behaved in the wake of a Spring outdoor show and how he went to work despite the looney environment that he woke up to.

It was quiet on Friday, with the arenas basically with four or five people total in them. He schooled in and around the arenas fine, we rolled through the test and called it a day. Our class was put in the early afternoon, so we were literally sitting around doing nothing for the morning and afternoon (one horse at a show is boring nowadays).

Next day, everyone arrived. It was pure madness in the barns, and the arenas exploded with people and activity.  Ponies, kids, riders who got a little too close while walking near us with their horses, traffic, trailers coming in and out fast, people who lingered at his stall trying to pet him (which he was confused about as to why they weren't scratching his bum).

I wanted him exposed to all of this because it's only going to get busier from here on out. We went on a few long hand walks which helped. Hindsight I should have lunged him, but the available lunging area was a pitched surface and not dragged. So, I put him under his Back on Track sheet to keep him limber and made miles under our feet.

To his credit, Al held himself together.

We were concerned about the warmup, where it wasn't as regulated and my concerns were realized  when he was t-boned by a junior rider on her horse (everyone was fine). Even though he was sore he still put in a good, focused test. It wasn't a winning test, but that's what you get with young horses going against horses that have done more than a few seasons at training level.

Overall, we have a better idea going forward what to do with him, and how to prep out. He's back at the farm working towards SpyCoast and the May series.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pole dancing

Being stuck in the great indoors this winter isn't exactly thrilling. Same four walls and a ceiling every day, the great outdoors too inconsistent to risk a tendon or a thrown shoe. Our past month has been as wild as the weather.

It's seriously swung enough keep an entire wardrobe in my truck because in Kentucky, just wait ten minutes.

What's even better is the long monotonous drag of getting the kids from essentially green broke to their careers.

It's a daily grind full of important tedious details that get addressed day in and day out. Bend that
way, go to and from legs, go on the bit, go to the contact, go over this pole or that pole, stand at the block, don't spook at the flappy thing.

Between that it's the stacked appointments of nutritionists, sponsors (we have new ones!), photoshoots, video creation, suppliers, farriers and vets.

It's this creation of boundaries and the never ending point to point to do  list that gives us a nice competitive start within the 20 x 60 meter box.

Some are taking it well, Irish Warrior (2013 Warrior's Reward) is coming along stellar in his development, going from downtime to jumping around a small course here and there.

Of all the horses in the group he's the steadiest of the bunch, and is really is just happy to go along to get along. Talent wise, while he's not a Fahrenheit, or a Haiku, he makes it up for sheer wanting and trying.

Sine Metu (2014 Sezuan) is following in Fahrenheit's footsteps and been one of the easiest horses to
back and start.

At nearly 17 hands, we're taking our time, but so far he's excelling, willing and is very steady. At 10 rides he's already hacking around and we're thinking of which shows to point him towards. He's very much Mike's ride, long legged, sporty and modern with multiple gears.

We also now have a group of rising five year olds.

Five year old year is typically one marred with a lot of drama, hissy fits and various shades of nopes. So far, we've had a few mild cases, but after laying down the rules they're pretty undramatic.

The two five year olds this year, Alberich (2012 Armani) and Equibest Delphic (2012 Don Index) are interesting to develop.

Alberich has developed steadily. Becoming more consistent in his work to the point where I'm now starting to ride him. He's really a fun ride so far with 90 or so rides total with him and unlike a few prior horses I got on with, he's wonderfully uncomplicated and genuine. We're still sorting the relationship out, not because of personality but because physically he's a very different ride than most horses. Al is incredibly short coupled, and combined with a thick neck, a low whither it's like driving a sports car around the arena that occasionally does the Toyko drift.

His ultimate aim is the stallion approvals this year. I'm considering him for the Five Year old classes later this Fall (not Young Horse Championships), but we'll see how this all goes.

Consistently across the board, he's come a long way in a very short amount of time and he's not done yet.

Delphic is progressing as well, he's enjoying the work, and the harder it is the more clever he
becomes. He's smart, almost too smart. Not unlike Al, he's taken awhile to physically mature as well. He's put on about two inches of topline in 90 days thanks to Progressive, Nutrena and our system, and lost the pudge.

He, like several others before him, have the jumping bug. He's brave and quiet to the fences and shows very classic form over them. He's thrilled to do it over 20 meters of circle any day of the week.

Like Al, we've started to incorporate poles within his daily routine to help him mentally focus and a gallop day to help him become fitter.

I have a feeling the majority of his show time will be in the hunters and not the white box or the event field. Which is a shame because I think he would be an easy AEC and Regional-qualified horse.

Our first shows are later this month at the horse park. I think this year because of the hodge-podge of the type and goals involved that we might skip the big outings. Which is fine, considering there's a larger agenda in place for next year already.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

When I die, I'll be on time

I've been overdue to write here for sometime and I've been avoiding my desk in a non-purposeful fashion.

I've also haven't really felt like writing in the past few months. I think the premature end of the season plus more than a few bumps in the road has just took the wind out of my sails to talk about life.  Combining this with a lot of travel, unpredictable weather, massive end of year clinic schedules, and other things, I've just been feeling that I should crawl under a rock and stay there. It's that uninspiring.

It has been the year of very high highs and very low lows.

It's been a year of travel.

We went out of state a few times, got to show at Tryon, I traveled to New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, poked my nose in at Wellington and a few other places. My plans for Europe in 2016 took a shelf as I felt it wasn't right to return at the moment. Paris had happened, followed by Belgium as I was making plans and for once, I just felt like staying home.

It's been an active sales season in my barn.

With two selling within three weeks of listing, and I think a few more sales abroad that are coming into contract. There's also two new faces in the barn, bringing my population back up to four.

The season ending up here also means Florida is rapidly approaching. Only one of us is going, and much to my chagrin, it's not Mike or myself.

But it doesn't mean that we aren't totally out of Florida land. There's a few certifications and some business of the non-horsey nature that I need to attend to. Even if it means I have to come back to the bi-polar tundra of Kentucky.

PostScript is in Florida to do the pony jumper circuit.

The talented little pony needs some miles on the circuit and will probably not be coming back to my barn in Spring. Which was always the intent- to sell.

I'm very proud of that pony who has come a long way in a short time. While I know she's the odd duck in the barn (shortest, oldest), to see her transform from this raw, feral field pony to an athlete really give me a lot of great feelings. She may not be the fanciest of movers, but she will jump the standards for you, she's impressed a few people along the

Her southern move comes on the heels of dealing with some unplanned physical issues among the horses.

Namely Al who developed a crack in his hoof and required special shoeing, complements of Rood
and Riddle.

Looking like the complete idiot, he was sporting hind shoes instead of fronts. One Z Bar, one regular. Almost three resets later, we're back to barefoot. He also had about four weeks off during the prime fall season, which puts us behind in training, and we're now just getting back into the swing of things.

For a horse that's used to working, it was equally hard on him to see the other go out and not him. He had to contend with hand walking for three weeks, and then an extra week off due to my obligations with the clinics and travel.

Moppi had a small bout of cellulitis which left him feeling sorry for himself, but bounced back, then went through a series of growth spurts. He's been lightly lunging here and there while he gains all his weight back.

The DeLaurentis mare that I was very hopeful and excited as a broodmare passed suddenly in her original owner's care as we were arranging shipping. Leaving us with two mares instead of three. Still looking around for another and kicking some other ideas around as well.

Moose, the Cliff's Edge OTTB gelding, sold but not without some drama prior to, where he stepped on himself opening an old scar. His new owner is thrilled with him and I think he'll be a good performance horse for her.

Equibest Delphic has also come on board for the winter season hopefully to be sold. The black Don Index gelding was one that I had extensively worked with while in Germany, and his current owner bought him as a resell project.

Then there's the new OTTB by Warrior's Reward. The three year old gelding was purchased by an owner and let down starting in June, and now just making his way back into work. 

Seriously it's been the year of almost, and not quite and I'm not exactly sorry to see the backside of 2016.

But I have a few bright spots on the horizon in 2017.

Early next year is already active, with travel, shows and horses needing to be started. I had to expand the staff. I have a few clients who are looking for their next horses. There's even some debate about doing the five year olds with Al and Delphic, and I managed to diversify a bit and it's starting to show dividends.

So to recap 2016 Goals:
1. Pursue young horse track. Get into the observation sessions. 
We pursued the young horse track with a vengeance this year. Fahrenheit ended up 5th in the nation, one of my graduates won HOTY honors for materiale (funny because the horse is on track to do eventing, not dressage). We were on track for the USEF Young Horse Championships and we didn't get into the observation sessions for a few reasons, but namely by the time that the nearest session came through, Fahrenheit was sold, Flair went home, Al wasn't even started, PS isn't even the right horse, and Moppi well, Moppi is only two.

2. Continue to increase fitness (human and horse).
By Summer, the 2016 string was actively working six days a week and turning out well. Flair had finally lost the broodmare look and had put on a ton of topline in the process. I was going to yoga twice a week in addition to riding and walking quite a bit. 

3. Continue to sell and source horses world wide. '
This was a major success this year. All horses that were on the sales list, sold. Quickly. We sold close to six figures of horses. We sourced Fahrenheit's half brother for one of my clients, Equibest Sine Metu G. (Sezuan/Calypso II) (nee, Moppi) and he's in development for materiale next year. We unexpectedly sourced PostScript, who turned out much better than expected. Our partner's in Germany started gaining interest from people, and there's a bit of a push in the British market.

4. Continue to create and dedicate personal educational opportunities once a quarter. 
I started doing this weekly with a local instructor who I have quite a bit of respect for, and I changed focus of the clinic side of the business, drastically reducing the amount of clinics I host per year, and adding ones that are personally beneficial to me. I also started creating partnerships within the community to create regular opportunities. This will continue to trend like this for 2017 as there are other things that are happening that are taking me away from the clinics. 

5. Continue to develop Flair.
Flair. Flair and I's arrangement came to an end in July. I still like the mare quite a bit and she was schooling an easy change and a fair amount of p/p/p in the process. But things happen and she went home. 

With that being said here's 2017:

2017 Goals:
1. Continue developing young horses. Qualify for championships in multiple areas.
2. Continue to increase fitness both horse and human, and also develop a better diverse portfolio for investments.
3. Solidify sales sources and barn.
4. Continue education.