It’s in the Blood: Fair Hill 3* and 5yo YEH Champs

Yeah I know, two boring breeding nerd posts in a week. Stick with me on this one though, because thoroughbred lovers, there’s fun stuff for you this time too! US events always have more thoroughbreds than European events do, and Fair Hill and YEH are no exception.

Small disclaimer, I did all these stats before we lost a few entrants before/at the first jog, but decided to leave those horses in the stats. They were interesting, and worth looking at, and well-qualified, so I think they’re still relevant to the data.

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First of all, let’s look at the Fair Hill 3* horses.

Originally we had 41 entries, before we lost 3 at the last minute. 44% were bred in the US or Canada, with 51% originally hailing from Europe (the rest of either Unknown or from elsewhere, like Australia).

The most popular breed registry is Irish Sporthorse, with 10 entries, followed quickly by Thoroughbred, with 9.

The average blood percentage is 63%.

One stallion, Chacoa (who is by Contender), has two offspring in the field. Contender himself is also the damsire of 2 others.

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Contender

On the thoroughbred side of things, none of them share any parents in common, but there are certain names that show up repeatedly across the nine entrants. Danzig shows up within the first few generations of 4 different horses, with Mr Prospector showing up in 3.

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Danzig

Now that I’ve broken down the breeding on 10 different upper level events (I haven’t shared most of them, maybe eventually I’ll make graphs or something and condense this stuff, as I have more data), the trends in the thoroughbred lines are interesting. You see Danzig a lot (he was the most common among WEG entrants as well, if you remember) which does not surprise me being a Danzig lover myself, but I have been a little surprised at the prevalence of Mr Prospector. He gets a bit of a bum rap, and I myself have even tried to avoid him in the past, but clearly having him in the pedigree is not a detriment. And I think it’s safe to say that he isn’t showing up repeatedly simply because he was so popular that he can’t be avoided. Storm Cat is super popular too but I have yet to come across him in the pedigree of the horses from any of the upper level events I’ve looked at so far (fear not, Storm Cat fans, you’ll feel better after we look at the YEH horses). Of course, Storm Cat is 13 years younger than Mr P, but only 6 years younger than Danzig, so I don’t think the age excuse holds much water either. I’ve also come across a fair bit of the Mr P son Fappiano (especially via Unbridled’s Song, another horse that gets a bum rap), Nijinsky, and Mt Livermore.

Aside from the 9 full TB horses in the field, there are 9 others that have a full TB parent. Of those, 4 horses have a full TB sire, and 5 horses have a full TB dam.

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Alright, on to the YEH horses! I only did the 5yo’s, because everything is just way too much of a wildcard at 4, but historically the 5yo’s have gone on to see a decent bit of success at the upper levels.  Again, I worked my numbers based off of the original entry list. These horses are, generally, a lot harder to track down since they aren’t at FEI level yet and therefore still flying under the radar paperwork-wise. Some of them I couldn’t find much on at all, but I was able to at least figure out the sire. I wish people were more diligent about entering their horse’s breeding completely and correctly, but alas, I digress.

While I wasn’t able to track down breeder information for everyone, I was able to figure out that the majority of the horses are imports. Of the 41 entries, I could only confirm that 12 (29%) are USA bred. Of those, 8 are full thoroughbred.

One of the thoroughbreds is actually by the same sire, Flatter, as one of my trainer’s OTTB project horses, which is probably relevant to no one but me, but hey fun fact.

Totally stealing him once he gets to 1* level, shhhhh tell no one

Among the thoroughbreds, Mr Prospector, AP Indy, and Storm Cat are quite popular within the first four generations. Mr P shows up in 5 horses, AP Indy shows up in 5 horses, and Storm Cat shows up in 3 horses. We also see some of the same names that we saw in the 3* thoroughbreds – Danzig, Unbridled, and Mt Livermore – but with less frequency.

There are some warmblood sires in common between our YEH 5yo’s and the 7yo horses over in Europe at Mondial du Lion, too – Diarado, Shannondale Sarco, and Zambesi in particular have offspring at each.

The showjumping stallion Verdi is the sire of two horses in the YEH 5yo field.

One of Dom Schramm’s rides, Quadrocana, is out of the full sister to Michael Jung’s phenomenal mare FischerRocana. Quadrocana’s sire is Quadrofino.

Fernhill Turbo’s dam, Royalty van de Heernis, also has an offspring competing in the 6yo class at Mondial du Lion with Piggy French.


I guess the reason I do all this is that for a long time people believed that you just couldn’t breed event horses. That, much like hunters, they were simply the castoffs from other sports, more like accidents that happened purely by chance. It’s obvious to most breeders by now (especially those crafty Irish and French), that this clearly isn’t true. It is entirely possible to breed eventers, it’s just not tracked and studied and logged the way that it has been with showjumpers and dressage horses for so many decades. Not to mention that our sport has changed a lot in the past 20 years, and the type of horse needed at the upper levels has changed right along with it. I find the whole thing really fascinating, and I’m striving to better my own understanding, because I think it’s really important – not just for breeding, but also for sport. Thanks for hanging in there on a subject matter that I’m sure bores most of you to tears. Fear not, I think y’all are probably off the hook for more of these posts until LRK3DE.

Cold Front Crazies

First off, if anyone is interested in watching Mondial du Lion, they’re live streaming the 7yo dressage here, and the order of go is here. Because seriously, that’s way more fun on a Thursday morning than, like… working.

I was finally able to make it out to the barn yesterday and ride Henry/mess with Presto. I hadn’t sat on Henry since the jumper show on Saturday, which was before this 45 degree temperature drop and disgusting, never-ending rain (for real, send an ark and a waterproof parka and a few gallons of hot chocolate). It had also been about a week since I’d put my hands on Presto at all. The turnouts have been too slick for turnout since Sunday, although the barn worker has been turning them out in the arena on half hour rotations, when the rain lets up. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Still, Henry and Presto are both starting to get that slightly frazzled, freedom-seeking look in their eyes. Y’all know the one.

HALP ME, I IS BEING HELD HOSTAGE

Henry handles captivity pretty well, for the most part. His manners don’t change, he just gets a little spookier under saddle and does a lot of crowhopping when you canter. It’s 0% intimidating, as evidenced by the fact that I chose to do a bareback and bitless dressage ride in the arena yesterday. In true Henny form, he was totally fine except for a few slightly dolphinesque canter laps that are nothing but entertaining.

post-ride noms

Presto, on the other hand, is having a little bit more difficulty coping. He’s back in his shed row barn now that the water system out there has been fixed, which is actually a good thing in this situation. He basically has a double stall out there, giving him more room to move around. He hasn’t made a pest of himself too much yet… nothing is broken and the buckets are still attached to the wall, although he appears to have spent quite a while pulling his halter over his gate and playing tug-o-war with it, if the layers of dried slobber are any indication.

As soon as I started leading him into the barn I could feel him slowly turning into a baby horse balloon. He was snorting lightly, and growing steadily taller with each step. You could feel the crazy rolling off him. I decided to pass right by the barn and head to the arena first instead, to let him blow off some steam. Clearly there was no way he was gonna stand politely in the crossties for grooming at that point. So I turned him loose in the arena, where he spent the first two minutes ambling around, sniffing things, then all the sudden took off like a little banshee. There was a lot of galloping, a lot of bucking, and a lot of screaming and squealing. Quality entertainment.

this has to be some kind of fancy haute ecole move right?
Is this what people mean when they say “floaty mover”?
volunteers to start him under saddle?

What Presto doesn’t have is much stamina or dedication. His psycho circles lasted all of 2.5 minutes before he broke back down to a trot for a lap and then promptly trotted straight up to me, declaring himself finished.

Why didn’t you trot like this at FEH Champs, you little turd?

At that point I took him inside to the crossties for grooming, where he was semi-behaved. As long as he stayed in his space, I let him be. Some days you just have to pick your battles and lower your expectations a little.

By the time I left the barn it was raining AGAIN. It’s supposed to keep raining til Saturday, then stop just long enough to make us realize what nice weather is, and then start again. I give up. Good thing I have a pretty new raincoat on the way.

that hood is legit AF

It should be here tomorrow, just in time for my volunteering gig this weekend. I also entered one more show for the season, because sure, why not. Nothing like a solid couple weeks of rain to inspire me to throw money at situations in which I’m unlikely to arrive prepared. Meh. I can dream about sunny days, right? In between all the squealing and crowhopping, that is…

It’s in the Blood: Mondial du Lion 7yo World Championships

Help me, I can’t stop obsessing about eventing breeding and statistics. Actually, don’t help me, I am a nerd and I love this stuff way beyond what anyone would consider normal. It’s expanding my own education to do these little breakdowns for big events, so whether anyone else is actually reading or not… that’s ok. The more I break this stuff down, the more correlations and patterns and commonalities I find, so when I see them, I try to point them out – hence there are several mentions of WEG in this post too. And I actually already have stats for Fair Hill 3* and YEH 5yo Championships as well (lots of TB data to be had there!), but they were too much to fit into this post. Maybe I’ll subject you to that tomorrow, if anyone is still awake by the end of this one.

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I am a particular sucker for young horse events, be it Bundeschampionate or YEH or the biggest of the big guns when it comes to finding future stars: Mondial du Lion, the World Championships for young event horses at Lion D’Angers, held every fall in France. You may have heard of a few of the past MdL competitors, like FischerRocana, Mr. Medicott, La Biosthetique Sam, Seacookie, Avebury, Quimbo, Bay My Hero, Bayano, Hans Dampf, Upsilon, and so on. An impressive amount of 4* horses have passed through Lion d’Angers on their way to the top. The 2010 7yo Championship title was captured by none other than Mighty Magic, Presto’s sire (that was a pretty big year – the field included eventual Burghley 4* winner FRH Butts Avedon, Rolex 4* winner Quimbo, Rolex 4* winner Bay My Hero, 4* horse Paulank Brockagh, 4* horse Onwards and Upwards, 4* horse Qwanza, 2018 WEG competitor Carriem van Colen Z, 2018 WEG competitor Pivoine des Touches, and 2018 WEG competitor Rumour Has It). Basically, if you want to get a good look at the future superstars of eventing, the 7yo World Championship in particular is a really good place to find them.

MDL

MdL is way up there on my bucket list of events I want to attend. I was hoping it would happen this year, but alas, no dice. One of these days it’ll work out and I’ll actually get to France in the fall for this event. One of these days.

Until then, I can obsess over it pretty well from home. There’s a live feed, there will be tons of pictures on the Mondial du Lion facebook page, and I’ve met a few of the horses that are competing. I saw US-bred Quantum Leap (piloted by Doug Payne) at YEH Championships at Fair Hill in 2016, where he finished 8th overall, and this year he is one of two horses representing the US at MdL. Long time blog readers have also already been briefly introduced to 3 other competitors in the 2018 field: Figaro and Max, both by Mighty Magic, and Leipheimer, by Vigo d’Arsouilles. We met all of these boys when we were in Belgium in 2015, on separate barn tours. The two Mighty Magic’s are actually a huge part of the reason why I chose him as Presto’s sire.

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Me and Max, aka Mighty Mr Magic M
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the ever handsome Figaro des Concessions (ok I’m starting to think Presto’s forelock is a Mighty Magic thing…)

I did my usual spreadsheet (the very fact that I have a “usual spreadsheet” routine is probably weird, isn’t it…) and research routine with the field of 7yo/2* horses, breaking them down by how they’re bred, studbook, blood percentage, and any other interesting information. Here’s how they stack up:

15 different nations are represented, along with 21 different registries. The USA has two – Quantum Leap and Irish-bred Cooley Quicksilver.

The most represented registry is Irish Sporthorse with 18 horses. However, only one of those is of completely traditional ISH breeding, with no outside European warmblood in it’s lines. The other 17 are at least 1/2 European warmblood (with 7 being half and 10 being 3/4). The full warmblood parent is almost always the sire, on an ISH mare. Four of those ISH mares have full TB sires. If you want an event horse, clearly jumper-bred warmblood (particularly Holsteiner and Selle Francais) + blood + a splash of Irish is not a bad formula.

Two stallions have three offspring each in the field: Mighty Magic and Shannondale Sarco. All three of the Mighty Magic’s are from different registries (one sBs, one Hanoverian, one Holsteiner). Two of the 3 are from very “blooded” dams – one from a full french Anglo Arab mare, the other from a TB x Hanoverian mare. The latter is particularly interesting to me, since that’s how Presto is bred. I’ll be watching Mama’s Magic Way closely (fun fact – he is being ridden by Andreas Dibowski, who was also Mighty Magic’s rider when he won here in 2010). As for the Shannondale Sarco offspring, all 3 of them are registered Irish Sporthorse. While Shannondale Sarco stands in Ireland, he actually has a full brother available for breeding right here in the US: Wonderboy.

Ok, ok, this is unrelated to the 7yo class, but Mighty Magic also has an offspring in the 6yo Championship, representing Canada. The same rider also has a Diarado offspring entered. Clearly we should be friends since we have the same taste in horses.

There is one horse in the 7yo’s, Leipheimer van’t Verahof, who is a full sibling to one of the 2018 WEG eventing horses – Fletcha van’t Verahof. Both are by the showjumping stallion Vigo d’Arsouilles, out of a full thoroughbred mare.

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Leipheimer van’t Verahof as a 4yo on our farm tour at Stal de Muze

Out of the 12 French riders entered, 11 of them are sitting on French-bred horses. If you remember back to WEG, every single French rider there was also on a French-bred horse. This is pretty standard for them. Clearly we need to be looking at what they’re doing right, both with their breeding programs and with how they produce and develop their horses and connect them with their best riders.

The average blood percentage for the field is 51%.

62% of the field has the majority of the blood in their pedigree coming from the dam’s side.

Much like the WEG field, Selle Francais and Holsteiner blood are overwhelmingly common among these horses. 76% carry one or the other or both within the first few generations.

 

Not that I’m biased or anything, but here’s a video of Figaro (Mighty Magic x AA) in his last jump school before heading to MdL. Baudouin tells me they’re planning on freezing a bunch of Figaro’s semen this winter and that it’ll be available for US import. Just saying.

Are any of these stats interesting to anyone else? Any other numbers you would be interested in seeing from this group or from the Fair Hill/YEH groups?

 

 

Sorry for what I said when it was Summer

Remember, like… yesterday, when I was complaining that it was still hot? That’s because it was. And then Texas was like “haha, hope you enjoyed 6 months of summer, because now it’s WINTER, bitches!”.

coldfront

Yeah it was literally in the 90’s on Sunday, and mid 40’s with constant rain and wind on Monday, continuing into today and… all week, they say. Guess we’re not doing fall? I’ve lived in Texas for over 2 decades and don’t remember it ever getting this cold this early. Normally the weather isn’t like this until December. Watching the cold front march steadily south was just ridiculous. I mean, I know Texas is huge, but an almost 60 degree temperature range from north to south?

And now it’s just windy and cold and gross. I’m barnsitting, so the horses have been stuck inside, which means constant stall cleaning and hay throwing and wet toes and cold hands. I’m grumpy. They’re bored. We all agree that this is not okay weather for October. Texas better snap out of this shit real quick, because I don’t suffer through endless disgusting heat just to then turn around and freeze my soaking wet ass off. We’ve earned some decent weather by this point, dammit.

Luckily I had already gotten my horses’ sheets and blankets cleaned and fitted and ready to go. They’re stuck inside too, and bored, and Henry in particular looks kind of sad, but at least they’re snug and cozy. These are the days when you really have to appreciate the barn workers… this shit sucks to work in, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Henry is as not-okay with this as I am
Prestosheet
Presto mostly just hates clothes

And yes, I’m really glad I ended up buying Presto a 72″ sheet, because I think he would have outgrown a 70 in no time. Hopefully that little bit of extra room in the butt will at least allow us to make it through this winter, and then it’ll definitely never fit again.

Of course, I kind of feel like an asshole, because I clipped Henry last week after Willow Draw… where I had also felt like an asshole for not clipping him beforehand, considering it was almost 90 degrees when we were running XC. You just can’t win around here. And his coat is growing back so fast that I might actually have to clip him AGAIN before Holly Hill. Assuming that the whole state doesn’t float away by then, anyway. At this point, who knows.

Wet. Everything is wet.

There is a bit of good news here though… I got to break out a hoody. Favorite item of apparel, for the win. I guess I should have been more specific about the circumstances that I wanted to necessitate said hoody. The other good news is that I’ll be back to our riding schedule on Wednesday, rain or shine or cold be damned. Even if it just means trotting circles in the arena.

What’s the weather like where you are? I hereby declare today Bitch About The Weather Day, so if the weather is nice where you are… I hate you in advance.

Also Texas sucks.

Low key show days

A few times a year my trainer’s barn hosts little jumper shows/open schooling days, where you can do jumper classes for $5 a round and/or XC school for $25. I try to always come to these and do a couple jumper rounds, because at $5 a pop, they’re super cheap miles. They start with poles on the ground and go up to Prelim, so the shows are great for green horses or green riders or just riders who can’t get their shit together in stadium and need all the practice they can get (ahem). Plus it’s really really laid back, so if you have a problem or want to jump something again, or even want to make up your own course – go for it. Clear rounds get a blue ribbon. You really can’t beat that. Two rounds plus the grounds fee bring my total up to a whopping $20. You REALLY can’t beat that.

I also talked Hillary into coming along with me. She hasn’t been to a show since way pre-baby, when she lived in Tennessee, and this was a perfect little outing to knock some rust off plus introduce her to all of my peeps. Hillary might dabble in the h/j on the side, but it’s clear that she’s an eventer at heart, and I feel that it’s my duty to reconnect her with Her People now that she’s moved to Texas. And she fit right in, as I knew she would.

I’m barnsitting at the moment, so I had to get up before 5 to get the horses fed and stalls cleaned, then I made the drive up to Henry’s barn to get him ready. Hillary picked us up just after sunrise and we made the 2 hour trip out to Sleuth Wood with Henry trying to figure out if her mare, Annie, was friend or foe. He settled for making some nasty mare faces at the solid divider between them, while Annie was blissfully unaware of her overly emotional co-passenger. It never fails that Henry is the most marish horse in any group, even when in the company of actual mares.

We got there with plenty of time for Hillary to get in a couple of Beginner Novice rounds and then a Novice round, while I took up my position as videographer and jump crew. Annie seemed thrilled to finally be back in the ring, and Annie and Hillary both gained some admirers among the crowd. Nice horse plus good rider? Yeah, she can sit with us.

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After that I got on Henry, did a quick canter around part of the XC field, jumped a little 2′ vertical out in the pasture, and then went in the ring for a Training round as our warmup. Of course no one videoed this, because it was probably one of the best rounds we’ve done in a really long time. He was perfect, I was adequate… we looked competent. A nice, clear, smooth, steady, solid round that I have no actual proof of whatsoever.

someone videoed Prelim though!

After one more rider and a jump change (in which I swear I saw Trainer raise one of the oxers like THREE HOLES, what the hell are you playing at, woman???) we did a Prelim round. Henry was still actually really good for this one too, he just ticked the first jump not really realizing the height had gone up (we’d been sitting for a while between rounds), and I got quick with my shoulders coming out of the inside line, bringing down the front rail at the square oxer. Oopsy for both of us.

Don’t murder rails with your shoulders, kids, it ruins an otherwise decent screen grab

Either way, at Prelim height my goals are still just to go in and not make any huge mistakes, and not feel like the jumps look ginormous. The size didn’t worry me, so that’s good… my eyeballs are getting more and more accustomed to the height.  And I didn’t do anything spectacularly stupid (except get lost on the way to 4 before I remembered which one it was and weaved my way back to it). Henry felt good. I’m totally okay with that.

It was a warm and humid day, and I needed to get back to the barn, so I quit with that. We came, we put in two decent trips, and we got to jump some height. Mission accomplished, I think. We’ll be back for the next jumper round day to do it all again!

Review: Tiger’s Tongue

It’s not often that I review something super cheap that could be a useful tool for every single horseperson, but hold on to your britches, because that’s exactly what I’ve got today. This might actually be the cheapest thing I’ve ever reviewed…

Tiger Tongue Horse Groomer

I first heard of the Tiger’s Tongue horse groomer on COTH, where a bunch of people were raving about them. They weren’t very specific about the tool itself, mostly just saying all the things that it was useful for. I figured for $6 it was worth a shot, even if I just ended up using it as a sponge or bucket scrubber, and tossed one in with an order I had already built up at Big D’s.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised when it came in a flat little vacuum-sealed package.  When you open it, the thing springs to life, taking the size/shape of a sponge. It LOOKS a bit like a big pumice stone, but it’s got the texture of a pot scrubber, but it’s squishy like a sponge. Interesting combination.

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At first I wasn’t so sure about it, but once I started using it, I realized that it is indeed an incredibly useful little tool. During the summer I used it mostly for bathing and removing cannon crud/elbow scurf/face funk. It’s awesome for both of those applications. The sponge-like quality means that it can soak up your water/soap, and the texture means it can really help scrub away all that ground in dirt and funk. For the cannon crud it’s just abrasive enough to help slough it off, but not so abrasive that it bothers the horses (and I have a super delicate flower, so I feel like his opinion is pretty solid).

Now that we’re into fall, I’m really appreciating it’s value as a shedder, sweat mark remover, and mud remover. It even works better than my beloved jelly scrubber, and Henry doesn’t make rude faces at me while I’m scrubbing away. I especially love that you can use on delicate areas like hocks, elbows, and the back of the pasterns. Works like a charm, with no discomfort for the horse.

 

Yeah I know, fantastic cinematography in that video. I’m as impressed as you are by the production quality.

Anyway…

I’ve also used it as the aforementioned bucket scrubber, to remove super sticky Magic Cushion residue from my hands, poultice from Henry’s legs, and even to scrub mud or poop off of the trailer walls. I feel like I’m still discovering all the possible uses of this thing.

Presto’s personal favorite application is for scratching all of his favorite itchy spots, a job at which is apparently really excels.

Use dis please

Of course, his favorite itchy area is inner thigh/sheath/tiny baby colt nuts, so… poor Tiger’s Tongue.

It really is an all around useful tool, with as many applications as you can think up. Totally worth the $6 and then some. It seems super durable too – mine still looks as good as the day it first sprung out of it’s packaging. Lot’s of stores carry these (except RW, sadly) so it’s easy to toss it in with another order to help meet the free shipping requirement or with your monthly Smartpak shipment. The Tiger’s Tongue is one of those staples that I think anyone would find to be very useful, and it definitely has a permanent place in my grooming bucket.

Three Bridles

As I was setting up my stall area at Willow Draw last weekend, hanging my stall guard and saddle rack and tack hooks, then unloading all my stuff onto said racks and hooks, I had to chuckle a little at myself. Eventing is already a sport that involves a lot of CRAP. It’s 3 different sports, after all, rolled into one. You need stuff for dressage, stuff for stadium, and stuff for cross country. And if you’re a little… um.. extra… like me, you might take it to the extreme sometimes. Do I need different helmets and saddle pads for the different jumping phases? Prolly not.

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Stuff. I have stuff.

I would also dare say that most people showjump and run XC in the same bridle. That certainly makes things easier, having only 2 bridles to deal with, and not having to worry about a quick change between phases if you have stadium and XC back to back. Of course, I showjump and run XC in very different bridles, both of which are also different from my dressage bridle, which necessitates me bringing a bridle for every phase and changing said bridle between each one. But it’s taken me a long time to arrive at the setups that Henry goes in now, and for where he’s at in his training, and where I’m at in my riding, I feel like each one fills a need.

WDProDressage

My dressage bridle is, unsurprisingly, the most straightforward. It’s a monocrown flash bridle with a KK french link loose ring – really standard for dressage. Getting to that setup has still been an evolution over the years, though. Henry was so nervous about contact when I got him that after trying a few different bits, I took them away completely, and spent 6 months just riding him bitless in a side pull. Once he got used to being ridden more from seat and leg, I put him in a copper loose ring, and we started his reeducation on contact from there.

A dentist once recommend that I try a thinner bit, since he’s got a big tongue and low palate, which Henry protested to GREATLY. Eventually I tried a thicker KK on a whim, and that’s been his dressage bit ever since. For a while I couldn’t ride him in a flash, though, because he was so offended by it that he wouldn’t relax into the bit. These days I can ride him with or without, although I have a slight preference for with. I like all the padding that a crank noseband offers, but I have mine adjusted quite loose (2 fingers, inserted stacked, on the bridge of the nose), as is the flash. He does NOT like a tight noseband, and neither do I. He’s still a little bit tricky to ride into the contact sometimes, but he gets better and better, really really slowly, over time.

WDProXC

Finding something that works for him in stadium has been a lot trickier. He’s a horse that needs to be supported a lot (downhill problems), but he’s also a horse that doesn’t like contact to the fences. For a long time I just showjumped him in the copper loose ring, and experimented with different nosebands. In that bit he got a little heavy in a regular noseband, but I felt like he backed off my hand a little too much in a flash or figure 8. (Have I ever mentioned he’s really sensitive?) Henry is a little bit harder to ride in stadium, just because he gets behind the leg REALLY easily. The natural forward that he has on XC isn’t present, you have to manufacture it. In his early days I showed him in the jumpers in a side pull, and then a regular mechanical hackamore. The side pull wasn’t enough, but the mechanical hackamore was too much. There was too much leverage, and I had to set the chain REALLY loose or he got quite offended.

Last winter I started experimenting with his stadium bit/bridle again and decided to try the PS of Sweden hackamore. It appealed to me mostly because of the design – I love their crownpiece, but also the unique shape of their shank makes it have considerably less leverage than your regular mechanical hackamore. The arms are swept back quite a bit, and the slots that the noseband, chin strap, and reins sit in are a bit “open”, allowing the metal arm to slide more before it actually causes any action on the straps. It’s also got a nice leather curb strap – no chain. It took me a few days of playing with the adjustments on this to get it where I liked the feel… and everything is quite loose. Like a stacked 2 fingers under the noseband and the chin strap. As it’s set up now, the thing is a glorified halter, with a smidge of leverage. Turns out this is exactly what we needed, though, the perfect middle ground between a side pull and a regular mechanical hackamore. I can push him up into the contact, and he goes there happily, looking for some support, which makes it a hell of a lot easier to balance him and ride him up into the hand without him wanting to back off the contact and get behind the leg. It does make quick adjustments and steering slightly more difficult, but with correct use of seat and leg (which, uh, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t…) it’s not an issue. For now, this setup is golden for us.

WDProXC1

Cross country has actually been the easy part. He’s easiest to ride in this phase, mostly because he’s so freaking happy to do it that all of his typical over-sensitivity kind of falls to the wayside. He started out doing XC in the copper loose ring with a flash, but as soon as he decided that XC was the bestest thing ever and he was the greatest at it that ever lived, I needed a little more whoa. My trainer suggested a Dr Bristol full cheek (Dr Bristol to discourage him from pulling on me, and full cheek to stabilize/keep the Dr Bristol’s plate in the right position and to aid in steering). It’s worked great for him from Day 1 – enough whoa to get his attention, but not so much that he’s backed off the bit.

We’ve experimented a little with a running martingale and different nosebands. I used the flash for a while, but as the speeds have gotten higher and the distances longer, I moved him to a figure 8. It might not make a difference, but then again the horse already has respiratory issues, so if it helps liberate those airways even a tiny bit, it’s worth it. I didn’t feel like the running martingale ever actually came into play or was needed, so we ditched that a while ago.

WDProSJ

Maybe someday we will need more, or less, or different. Horses and their training are a constant evolution, just like riders and their skill sets. It makes sense that the equipment might change a bit over time. For now though, we lug around three bridles.

Bitting and equipment are always super fascinating to me… so many options, so many different wants and needs depending on horse and rider. What do you ride your horse in, and why? Has it evolved over time?

No Rest for the Wicked

After FEH Championships, my plan for Presto was to give him some time “off”. Since he came to live here in April, he’s had something done with him almost every day. Tying lessons, ground work, ponying, grooming, the basics of roundpenning, in-hand practice, trailering, and so on and so on. He’s always seemed interested and engaged in his lessons, but still, he’s been pretty busy for a baby, so I wanted to give him a few weeks to just go be a horse (except for hoof picking and fly spray, those are daily objectives).

He hated that idea.

he’s really into selfies right now

For the first couple days he didn’t seem to think anything of the fact that he was being ignored, but as more days passed, he quickly caught on. One afternoon when I went out to his pasture to fly spray him, he wouldn’t let me leave. Every time I went to step away, he tried to block my path and climb in my lap. Rude AF. Also pathetic. The next day he was in the barn eating his dinner when I arrived, and as soon as he saw me he left his food to come bang on the door with his foot, while staring right at me. If horses are capable of staring at someone accusingly, he certainly was. And he was definitely pouting when I went to Henry instead of him.

there’s been a lot of galloping

He’s been playing with (and chasing) his donkeys plenty, and he still gets to come inside twice a day to eat. It’s not like he’s been abandoned in the wild to fend for himself. Far from it. He seems to think that’s exactly what’s happened, though.

HERRO BEST DONKEY FRIEND
I eat you now

It turns out that I don’t think Presto wants a break from school. He’s become more and more of a pest every day (those poor donkeys), and finally on Monday I broke down and took him out for a pony with Henry. Yes, that’s correct… it barely lasted a week. He seemed happier immediately, though.

On one hand, I’m glad that he likes his “work” this much. I’ve tried to keep his lessons light and easy and varied, so that he never feels too much pressure or finds reason to become sour or resentful. I mean, he’s only a yearling, there’s not a lot we can do anyway. I guess he must like them, if he objected so much to having them temporarily stopped. On the other hand, his brain is so busy, and so eager, I’m not sure how the heck I’m supposed to keep him occupied for the next year and half. I’m already running out of ideas for stuff I can do with him.

These two idiots

For now he’s on semi-vacay… I’ll get him out to groom him and he can come pony with us a couple times a week. Maybe that will placate him for a little while. Such a demanding little turd. Any ideas for what else Presto can be learning over the winter? We’ll start revisiting ground driving again soon, but after that I’m running short on creativity when it comes to this little monster.

Show Recap: Willow Draw HT Part 2

Although Henry and I have been running Training for a year and a half now, this was our first time showing at Willow Draw. I had avoided it on purpose, really. Although considering we only have four venues in the entire state of Texas that host recognized shows, you can’t actually succeed in avoiding any venue for very long. Willow Draw is known for having tougher courses, and it’s not generally the type of course that my horse is best suited to. Henry likes wide open spaces with lots of room to gallop, and not a lot of trees and bushes and shadows to spook at. More than half of this course is a bit twisty and turny, going up and down steep hills and through woods. And it’s a one day show, which isn’t really my favorite format for him either, especially with a 4 hour haul each way. Willow Draw has always been just kind of intimidating to me. So yes, I specifically avoided it until we were at the point where I felt like we could easily handle the extra challenges.

I didn’t do a formal Course Walk with my app, so I don’t have good pictures of all the individual fences. The first time I walked I wasn’t sure of where the hell I was going, and the second time I was with Trainer and we were in a hurry. By then I was done walking up that stupid ass hill between 5 and 6, so… whatever. I wasn’t too concerned about figuring out my minute markers, since the speed was 450mpm and I have a really good feel for that by now (I might not be good at very many things, but I’m really good at pace). Plus since it was still pretty hot, I was just going to let Henry tell me how fast he wanted to go. I knew where I could push it a bit if he felt good, and I knew where I would have to whoa more for combos or terrain, so I just wasn’t worried about it enough to walk the course a 3rd time.

The first fence was at a really weird angle out of the startbox. You had to come out angled to the right and then basically make a bending line left to get straight. Henry was busy looking at the tents and horses and the stadium ring just beyond the ropes, so we got there a little bit weak. I landed clucking and kicking him forward, and he seemed to go “oh right, sorry!” and shot off, clicking into gear. The table at 2 came up nicely out of stride (I love the picnic decorations on the tables)

then things got serious pretty quickly, with a Trakehner as fence 3. Which means that, naturally, this is where I made my big biff of the day by completely missing the distance and leaving Henry no choice but to take a flyer, pinging straight up in the air to clear the thing while I was back there hailing a cab. Bless him. I was really of zero assistance there at all. He seemed undeterred though, just flicking an ear back at me like “really, lady?” while I recomposed myself and gave him a well-deserved “GOOD BOY!”. Sorry Henny. Geez.

Is anybody keeping track of how many times he’s been sainted by now? We’ve gotta be in the hundreds.

That seemed to be the jolt I needed though, because I actually got my shit together after that and decided maybe I should, like… ride. I opened him up a bit on the stretch after 3, over a bridge and past the water to our first combo at 4AB. This walked a fairly tight 3 strides, so I came in with a showjump canter, but still had to whoa a bit. After that we were off and running again, down the hill, across the road, then back up the hill to a rolltop at 5 (a fence you couldn’t get a very straight approach to, with a tree in the way), around the corner to another rolltop at 6, with a downhill landing. Once we went down that hill we came to the base of the big, steep hill that – on foot – seemed like a mountain. I was a little concerned that a hill this big, this early in the course, might take away a lot of his wind. It was still a pretty hot day for Henry, and heat is his nemesis. We had a table at the top of the hill though, so we had no choice but to power up it.

Right after the table we swung a hard right, turning back to a sunken-road-to-rails combo. Down bank, two strides, up bank, 5 strides to a skinny-ish vertical rail. All of the elements were small, but the hardest part about this question was the fact that we’d just blasted up a big ass hill and over a table, then had very little time to compress the canter and turn sharply back to a very different type of question. Henry was super clever here though – he came back immediately, and once we were straight I just put my eyes on the vertical, kept my leg on, and he skipped right through like it was a gymnastic. Easy peasy.

After that we had a little bit of a breather, so I checked in with Henry to see how he was feeling. He still seemed full of run so I just bridged my reins and let him cruise, hopping over the next brushy rolltop out of stride. Then we crossed the road again, then another bridge, and we were on to the fence that I was a little worried about. We galloped down a little wooded path and popped out just a few strides from a big brush fence, set on an angle. As soon as I had my eye on the fence I checked in with Henry and felt him lock onto it. I sat, widened my hands a bit, and waited, and it came up just fine – no problem.

After that we weaved our way over to the water. The jumps themselves weren’t complicated here – it was just a ramp (albeit a wide one), with a bending line to a log set in the water. However, the course designer was sneaky about how she laid this out. The ramp was set kind of behind another unused jump, in such a way that you could not get a nice straight approach to it. You had to come in a bit angled, and then the landing was downhill, pulling you quickly toward the water. To get a good line to the ramp you had to come really close to the unused jump, which I was a bit concerned Henry might lock onto. And he did, but I was able to quickly divert his attention to our actual line.

After that we had another combo, a bending line of small houses down in the shade, before coming back out into the big field. After the houses I opened him back up a bit, since he was still galloping well, and tried to save some ground as we hopped over another little rolltop by the mounds. From there we had one more combination – a coffin consisting of a ramp to a ditch to a corner. I had seen a couple people jump through there earlier and the distance from the ditch to the corner seemed to be riding long. One person added a stride and another really had to kick to make the 4.

So as we turned to line up with the coffin, I rocked him back, but kept the canter coming more forward. He jumped the ramp fine, and I landed clucking and giving him a little tap with whip, since he can be spooky at open ditches. That ended up not being necessary though, he was locked and loaded and had zero hesitation. The 4 strides to the corner actually ended up riding tight for us. Once I saw that it was going to be snug I nudged him slightly left to give him more space, but he was quick with his feet and worked it out just fine.

I checked my watch here and saw that we were going to be pretty close on time, so I let him cruise over the last rolltop. We ended up 4 seconds under OT.

The double clear kept us in 2nd place, behind a pro, for our best finish yet at a recognized Training. I always feel like it’s totally my fault anytime this horse doesn’t finish an event on his dressage score, so to finish on it – and a good one at that – seems like I finally did him some justice. That 32.1 feels like it’s been a long time coming. The placing means we’re already qualified for AEC’s next year too, if we feel like that’s a thing we want to do. I doubt it, I’ve got other goals in mind, but it’s an option at least.

While I was not happy with my riding in a couple places (especially at 3, I mean REALLY wtf) I was super happy with Henry. He just gets more and solid with every show, and feels really content and confident in his job. My mistakes don’t deter him, he just looks for the jumps and goes to them, end of story. The level feels very comfortable for both of us now. Can’t complain about that.

Full helmet cam footage is here:

We’ve got a little jumper show this weekend, then I’m volunteering at Pine Hill again, then we have our last recognized of the season at Holly Hill. It’s another Training course that we haven’t run yet, so I’m hoping that one will be just as fun!

Show Recap: Willow Draw HT Part 1

Sometimes I’m really good about getting as much media as possible for these show recaps. Other times I’m not. This instance is the latter. Well ok, I did just buy 10 pictures from the show photographer but I’m not sure when those will get here. Didn’t get much media of my own though. Part of it is that it was a one day event, with all 3 of my phases set within a 3 hour time span and everybody else was just as busy. The other part of it is that I was totally not focused on anything but riding, mostly because I wasn’t feeling uber prepared to start with. I didn’t even look up my dressage test until I was at the show on Friday. This show really snuck up on me out of nowhere.

Henry’s like oh god where are we going now

I did a quick stretchy w/t ride on Henry Friday morning at home, then loaded all my stuff and made the 4 hour trek up to Willow Draw. We were one of the first ones there, which was nice, but it did mean that we had several hours to wait before Trainer and the rest of our group arrived. I walked my XC course once while I waited, then we walked it with Trainer when she got there. There were a few big fences on course, but most of the challenge really seemed to lie less in the height and more in the terrain and the approaches to the fences.

A lot of jumps were set in such a way that you really couldn’t get straight to them, at least not from more than 5-6 strides away. Even the first fence was at quite an awkward angle out of the start box, and then there was a Trakehner early on course at fence 3. Between 5 and 6 was a long, steep hill, with a big table at the top, followed by a quick right hand turn to a sunken road to skinny-ish fence. The only one that had me a little worried though was 11, a big (Like boob high. Official measurement.) brush fence. The fence itself was fine, but it was at the end of a little path through the woods, and it was angled in such a way that you better be really darn committed and straight. You had no choice but to jump it on said angle, and if the horse didn’t get their eye on it before you popped out of the woods, a righthand runout would be really easy.

WDPrelimmounds
I was really jealous of Prelim’s mound to mound combo, it looked FUN

It wasn’t a huge fence to huge fence to huge fence type of course like we’ve seen before, but there were definitely some sneaky, creative little tweaks with placement and terrain that made it trickier than it would appear just from looking at the fences themselves. After we walked the course (and got assaulted by swarms of mosquitoes that may have been big enough to qualify as birds – I’M STILL ITCHY), we did a quick flat school, then tucked the horses in and went to bed.

Henry loves these stalls – airy and open, with a view of the indoor arena

My dressage was at a very reasonable 9:20am, so I had plenty of time to feed, take Henry for a walk, and braid on Saturday morning. I got on about 25 minutes before my ride time, let him canter on a loose rein for a few minutes, and then started putting him together. I didn’t feel like he was quite as connected or loose in his back as he was at Chatt, but he was being very obedient. The test itself went pretty much the same way – he definitely didn’t feel as loose and relaxed as he has the past couple shows, but he did everything I asked. Except for that second canter-trot transition at X where he threw in a flying change just before we trotted. Oops. That particular movement earned a 4, with the comment “flying change not called for”. Whaaaaat, no bonus points for flair? C’mooooon. I think if I could have done my morning pre-ride like we did at Chatt, it may have helped him relax a bit, but having all 3 phases in one morning meant I had to put my priority on reserving as much of my horse’s energy as possible, especially on a fairly warm day.

favorite test comment ever

Even with that flying change bobble, and with Henry not feeling quite as good as he can, we still got a 32.1 to be sitting in 2nd after dressage. We had a couple 8’s, a lot of 7.5’s, and a couple 6.5’s. Plus that lovely 4 for our “not called for” lead change. The judge liked that I was bold on the lengthenings though. This is the 4th show in a row where we’ve been near the top after dressage, instead of mid-pack or closer to the bottom like we used to be. I much prefer this position, I must say, although I do feel a little more pressure to not do anything too stupid. Like at week 2 of Chatt, where I missed to the up bank and tried to kill us, thereby sacrificing our 3rd place…

img_8393
I do really well under pressure

Anyway, I didn’t have much time to stew on the dressage, really, because stadium was next. We all went to walk the course after I was done with dressage, and it definitely had me raising my eyebrows a bit. The course was set on a grassy hillside, so terrain was going to be very much a factor in how everything rode. Uphill, downhill, a tree in the way, on the side of a hill – you name it, pretty much every fence had some kind of terrain question involved as well. Because of this they seemed to set the fence height a bit soft.

We walked when it was set for Prelim and it looked more like a beefy Training to me, which honestly had me a bit worried about how they’d look once they went down even more for Training. I generally do NOT ride well when I think the jumps look tiny. At all. I need something that makes me sit up and ride up to it. And Henry seems especially unimpressed and lazy when they’re small and boring. I was also wondering how all these terrain changes were going to work for me, on a naturally downhill horse, wearing a very loosely fitted hackamore. Not gonna lie, I had visions of rails flying everywhere. I put his studs in before stadium, to give us a little extra help on the grass and the hills.

take out 4C for Training

Honestly though, I think the terrain changes actually worked in our favor. I really had to focus on trying to keep him balanced as we went up and down, but still forward and positive, to the point where the jumps were more of an afterthought amidst all that. I knew that the hackamore wasn’t going to give me much help, so I was forced to use my seat and my body instead. Basically, the technical challenges of the course kind of forced me to… ride better. And let’s be honest, I REALLY needed to put in a decent stadium ride at a show for once.

He still ticked a couple of them hard enough to make me think at least one might have come down, but luck was on our side that day, and though one or two definitely rattled, they all stayed in the cups. Finally, FINALLY, a clear stadium round at a recognized Training. We’ve managed a few clean rounds at schooling shows but never put it together at a recognized. It was starting to feel like a curse! With a double clean round we kept our 32.1 and our second place position headed into XC.

Tomorrow – the fun part!