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.