Thinking about the Future

For me, it’s always seemed like making plans either results in fortune or folly. Usually folly, when it comes to horses. Sometimes things work out (like AEC’s, or the Classic 3-Day) but a lot of times they don’t. Horses don’t know anything about the plans, dreams, or agendas of humans. It’s simultaneously one of the best and worst things about them, IMO. As long as they’re fed and safe, they’re happy. There’s a beautiful simplicity in that, even if sometimes it can make them really frustrating creatures to the humans who laid grander plans upon their backs.

Horses: unimpressed with our bullshit since the dawn of time

Despite having been a multiple-horse owner for the majority of my adult life, Henry has been a one man show for years. My brain is still re-adjusting to having more than one animal to train, consider, take care of, and plan for. And since my budget is pretty tight, it takes a little more thought. I can’t just do All The Things, so stuff has to be prioritized, which requires looking more at the long term big picture. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I really WANT to do, and when those things have to be done.

poor kid doesn’t even know what he’s in for

The big unmoveable future thing is really Presto’s 4yo (ie horse show debut) year in 2021. Whether he’s mature enough to start a legit eventing career that year or not, he’ll still be under saddle and he’ll still need to start going to horse shows in some capacity. That’s a really important, must-happen thing. Of course, showing two horses at the same time will be financially pretty damn difficult for me, so it’s likely that either both of them will go to schooling shows, or one of them (ie Henry) won’t get to show. 2021 will be the year of Turning the Baby into a Show Horse.

From there we start working backwards. In his 3yo year (2020) I’d like to send Presto to my cowboy/colt starting guy for 2 months in the spring – the same guy that started his dam. He exposes them to a lot, which I like, and he’s been doing this FOREVER, which I also like, and he’s gotten pretty involved in the english world so he understands what we want from our horses. Of course, he’s expensive, so all of my extra money that spring would go toward that. No recognized shows for Henny.

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3yo Sadie at the cowboy’s

Once Presto comes back from the breaker he’ll really just trail ride or hack out a few times a week during the summer. Of course, it’s too friggin hot here for me to show Henry in the summer, so either Henry isn’t showing or we’d have to go out of state. Unless my financial situation changes or I got pretty lucky, I don’t really see that happening. In the fall of Presto’s 3yo year I’d like to send him for a month or two of dressage training, then bring him home and give him the winter off before his 4yo “first season” starts. Sending him off for more training is more $$$, so let’s go ahead and write off any recognized shows for Henry for the remainder of that year too. 2020 will be the year of Baby Training.

When you look at it that way, that really leaves us with the remainder of 2018 and 2019 for the primary focus to remain on Henry. Just boarding two already puts a pretty significant dent in my show fund for him, but when Presto is actually in training or needing to go to lots of shows himself, the Henry show budget will be almost non-existent. I don’t really know what will happen once they’re both rideable and showable. Selling Henry is not on the docket ever, but would I lease him to someone? Would I just keep him and not show him? Or would I find a way to show them both, albeit very sparingly? I don’t know that part yet. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’m obsessed with him, he’s mine forever

But thinking about all these things did kind of make me feel like, if I have other things that I really want to accomplish with Henry, now is probably the time to lay it out. To be honest, I never had ideas for us beyond getting to Training level. And that was a huge, far-reaching idea that seemed more like a joke than an actual probability. So we got there, and it’s been great, and I’ve just kinda been like “Ok well here we are, achievement unlocked, ta-da!”.

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Henry, every time he crosses the finish line on XC

Figuring out Presto’s grand plan and realizing just how little time I have left with Henry as my sole focus kind of prompted me to think… do I want to try to keep going? Do we ever want to make an attempt at Prelim, or do we just live at Training and have fun? Both are appealing to me in their own way. I didn’t start out ever wanting to do Prelim, to be honest. I feel like that’s the level where things start getting stupid, and more dangerous, and the difference between Training and Prelim is huge. My horse does not have endless scope, or easy speed. He’s Prelim-capable, but it really is nearing the the limit of his natural ability. Then again, we’ve schooled Prelim stuff and done a couple CT’s and both of us think it’s pretty damn fun. And I’d love for Presto to eventually be a 1* horse for me, so it’s obviously not like I’m saying I’ll never consider it. If Henry is sound and happy and fit, is there a real reason to NOT at least try to work towards it and see what happens?

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In my mind there are kind of two Prelims… “Legit Prelim” and “Prelim Lite”. There are a couple venues where I feel like the courses are a lot easier for my particular horse, and the P wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for him from where we are now – Prelim Lite. Other venues have monster courses, less suited to my horse, and I just really don’t have much interest in running them on him ever – Legit Prelim. Prelim Lite seems reasonably doable, with a lot of work. And those venues even have some schooling shows. That would take away the pressure added by spending more money and having the results be on the horse’s USEA record, which in turn makes it sound like a more interesting proposition to me.

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who do I have to bribe in Texas to get more schooling shows?

So after texting with Trainer, the plan is to spend the rest of this year cleaning up our showjumping, stretching the comfort zone, and getting more miles. We’ll see where that leads us. If things stack up to where Prelim Lite looks doable at some point in 2019, we’ll give it a go. If not, we’ll keep having fun rocking around Training and that’ll be that. If I can’t step my game up, or if Henry seems stretched beyond his ability, then we’ll stay where we’re at. That horse owes me absolutely nothing, and the most important thing is for me to feel like we’re doing right by him. As long as he’s happy, I’m happy. So we’ll let the horse dictate our future, and see where it takes us. It’ll be a lot of fun, either way.

Two Bros in a Pod

You know what’s cuter than watching my two boys interact? Nothing. Literally nothing.

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My heart. Omg.

On Saturday I was in a hurry trying to beat the rain, so both boys just got worked separately and briefly. But Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day, so Henry did a conditioning ride first, then we went back up to the barn and grabbed Presto.

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HAI

I wanted to revisit the ponying lesson that we had started the weekend before. I didn’t have time to work on it at all during the week, and it’s not something I want to feel like I have to rush, so I wanted to wait until we had plenty of time. I wasn’t sure if either of them would retain the lessons from the first session, or if it would be like starting over again. I didn’t have anyone around to hold Presto for me while I got on Henry, so challenge #1 was mounting one horse while holding the other (and not getting tangled or have either of them head in separate directions). Challenge #2 was getting them both through the gate, into the arena, and closing the arena gate behind us. Or at least I thought it would be a challenge. They both complied with no issue, like they’d actually been trained or something. How bout that.

I made a few laps of the arena, stopping and starting and turning, walking over the poles and between some narrowly placed barrels. It was all super easy. Both boys started out even better than we had ended the weekend before. So I figured hey, let’s just leave the arena and make a couple laps around the barn and see what happens. Answer: nothing. I opened the gate from Henry’s back, we walked out, and marched around the barn. Easy peasy. At that point I just kinda shrugged to myself, thought “well, why not”, and headed out to the field. I wasn’t planning on going out there until we had another ponying session or two under our belts, but they were both being great… may as well.

Two sets of ears!

Presto LOVED it. He was looking around at everything, but in an interested “WOW THIS IS AMAZING” kind of way, not in a spooky way. In fact, he never spooked at anything. Not the rustling field of corn that we had to pass on the way, not the trees and bushes blowing in the wind, not the birds that always fly up out of the tall grass. He just calmly took it all in and stayed very well behaved. For a yearling I continue to be really impressed with his brain.

a set of derp bookends

I have to give Henry a ton of credit, he is a great horse to pony off of. If Presto starts pushing into him or getting too far ahead of his shoulder, he pins his ears at him and puts him back in his place. A couple of times we halted and Presto didn’t notice for a few steps, which earned him a “PAY ATTENTION” nip from Henry as a correction. He’s the one teaching the kid to pony, I’m pretty much just holding the lead rope. Henry acts super grumpy about it all, but I think he actually really likes it. Being bossy is his favorite thing in the world.

We made a lap of the jump field, then walked around the edge of the pond through some scrub before heading back. I could have stayed out there forever, but I figured it would be wise to keep the first field adventure to a 20 minute max. On the last stretch before the barn, all the mares in the mare pasture decided to gallop up to the fence to see us as we passed, which was exciting for about 2 seconds before Henry and his grumpy ears put the kibosh on that nonsense from both sides. God I love him. If we hadn’t had Presto with us he would have been prancing and acting like a total idiot, but he absolutely knows the difference in those situations.

“You stand right there and you be still, cuz I ain’t got time for any of your kiddo crap”

I tied Presto in Henry’s stall while I untacked Henry in the aisle, letting him supervise the “stand tied” lesson. If Presto moved, Henry pinned his ears at him. I stood there in the aisle giggling for a lot longer than I really should have. Man its a lot easier to outsource all this baby training.

Since Henry seems to be such a good influence on Presto, I took them both out to the washrack together. I hosed Henry off while Presto watched, and then hosed Presto. He wasn’t thrilled, but he didn’t protest.

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Okay, maybe he protested a little

They both seemed happy and chill, so I let them stand there and graze for a bit. Once they were outside of what I assume Henry deems “working conditions”, Henry was less grumpy towards Presto. I swear I think he knows that this is his little bro and it’s his responsibility to make sure Presto doesn’t end up a heathen. Probably because he doesn’t trust me to accomplish that on my own.

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Dis my little punk-ass brudder. Der are many like him but dis one is mine.
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PHOTO BOMB

Everything went a lot better than I expected. Presto is proving that he’s got a good brain, and Henry is proving (once again) that he’s worth his weight in gold. That horse, he is one of kind.

A friend is going to let me borrow her Western saddle for a while, which should help make our ponying a little bit easier. Juggling that lead rope in an English saddle is certainly doable, but it would be really nice to have a saddle horn just in case. Plus I can’t wait to throw that thing up on Henry and take a bunch of pictures of him REALLY looking like a quarter horse.

Once we get some more ponying experience I’d like to haul them off property and do some trail riding, especially during the summer when it’s too miserably hot to do much else. These two are so much fun.

Friday Floofs

Between Presto, the cat, and my barnsitting charges, I have an extraordinarily high number of Floofs in my life right now. Not gonna lie, it’s awesome. I am a big fan of floofiness.

This is JB, aka Baby Floof, the new foal out at the barn where I barnsit regularly. It’s possible that the very first thing I did when I got there yesterday was go straight out to play with JB.

He’s going to be a super fancy dressage horse one day. His sire is Tolegro and his genetic dam (he was carried by a recipient mare) is a daughter of the resident black stallion Toni, who’s antics have made it to the blog several times before.

JB thinks he’s sneaky. He’s not. But he is VERY sassy, and 100% colt. It’s pretty cute, in that really naughty baby way. Especially since he’s not my colt and I’m not the one that’s going to have to teach him manners. You gotta watch your back around the Baby Floof, he’s quick and he’s armed at both ends.

Barnsitting also comes with what is really THE ULTIMATE FLOOF. This is Lola the Malamute.

Pictures don’t even accurately capture how floofy this floof is, y’all. SO FLOOFY. She’s got the super derpy personality to match, too. So much leaping and flopping and tongue lolling around sideways out of her mouth. Hence why she gets the title of Ultimate Floof.

HI

And then there’s the floof that many of you have already noticed – Presto’s forelock. That thing is Grade A mustang quality. It’s enough forelock for at least 4 or 5 horses… I thought Henry had a decent forelock but this one is 4x as thick and really frizzy. A few of the longer strands almost reach the noseband of his halter when it’s brushed out. Every day I try to smash it down so that it looks a little less wild, but my smashing isn’t really working. I have no idea what I’m going to do with that thing when I actually have to braid it. It does give him a very Emo Floof look, though.

And then there’s Grem, the Princess Floof. She got a big fancy cat tower this week (because she is the most rotten cat in all the land) and is absolutely obsessed with it. She likes to sleep in the little hammock or perch at the very top and threaten to leap down on the dogs. Her reign of terror, ruling the house with an iron paw, is still very much in place. And we inadvertently enabled it by giving her a castle and a throne.

yes, the living room is being taken over by Grem’s stuff
Overseeing construction. Note the servant corgi in the background.

Hopefully by this time next week there will be yet another Floof in our lives. Sadie’s “due date” is Sunday, and she usually foals pretty close to that. Can’t wait to see Presto’s newest half brother or sister!

The Second Generation

One of the most fun things about having Presto home for the past week and half has been getting to know him better. I mean yeah, I knew him before… I was there when he was born, after all. But aside from those couple weeks he spent at the hospital as a foal, I had yet to spend more than a couple days at a time with him. And most of those encounters were me watching him, or just hanging out with him, not really asking him to do a whole lot. You don’t learn that much about a horse until you start asking them to step outside of their comfort zone.

Having also bred and raised Presto’s mother, Sadie, it’s been really interesting to see the similarities and differences in their personalities and temperaments. They’re both very smart and pretty sensible and food motivated. Presto is a bit more willing, or shall we say, more inclined to acquiesce to something I’m asking him to do that he might not actually want to do. But maybe that’s the difference between a filly and a colt.

There are a few other definite differences though. Sadie had a severe aversion to black mats for THE LONGEST TIME as a young horse. We’re talking like she spent a solid year and half thinking they were a hole to hell, even seeing them daily. When Michele lived in Texas, Sadie actually boarded at her house for 6 months or so, and Michele’s barn had a black mat across the entrance. Sadie jumped over it every. single. time. Presto definitely notices a mat the first time he sees it, but he marches right up to it, gives it a snort, and then stomps it. He recovers from “scary” situations a lot faster too. I think he is a bit bolder than her, which is saying a lot because otherwise Sadie really has always been a pretty bold horse (um, black mats aside).

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Sadie checking out the flowers. Not scary. Maybe tasty?

Despite a few irrational phobias, Sadie was always pretty sensible when it actually counted. When we moved from Michele’s barn to another barn up the road (by up the road I mean about a mile down the winding farm roads), my friend and I were trailer-less so we just led our baby horses down there. Sadie thought that was a pretty fun adventure, and was actually surprisingly good about the whole thing. I could see Presto reacting the same way in that situation. They seem to be naturally inclined to be inquisitive rather than fearful.

They can both scream though. Really loud. And Presto is more of a talker than she was. His first year or so of eventing might be a screamfest.

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Sadie’s first time wearing a saddle and first time lunging. Took all of 2 minutes for her to get it.

Of course, Sadie also threw some epic freaking tantrums about some of the most mundane things. She was STUBBORN, and if she didn’t want to do something your way, she was absolutely prepared to have a knock-down-drag-out fight about it. And once she was mad, she stayed mad. I was constantly trying to outsmart her, because you sure weren’t going to win a contest of strength or staying power. Presto might protest once or twice, but then he just kinda gives me the hairy eyeball, decides it’s easier to do it my way, heavy sighs, and it’s over. This definitely shows up in things like trailer loading (Sadie was not a good loader or traveler… partially because of her stupid black mat phobia and partly because I didn’t have access to a trailer to work with her on it).

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Definitely working on it a lot with this one!

When Sadie got older and became a riding horse, she turned into one of the easiest horses on the planet. I think she really thrived on having a job, and I always felt, looking back, that my biggest mistake with her was that I tried to go by the “teach them the basics but otherwise leave them alone” method of horse-raising. That method works well for a lot of horses, but for a horse like her, this wasn’t the right approach. She was too smart and too brazen and too inventive.

By the time she was 2 1/2 this had manifested in some undesirable behavior. I had been around a lot of foals and young horses, but I had never raised one myself before, so she was my guinea pig, for sure. A couple months at the cowboy helped turn her attitude around, and once she was under saddle and getting ridden regularly, she was a much happier and easier horse. She especially LOVED trail rides… exploring was fun to her. I’m interested to see what Presto thinks about hacking out in the fields. Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I think he’ll like it too.

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Leaving the trailers for Sadie’s first off-property trail ride as a 3yo. She’s the one way out in the front.

To this day Sadie is not the most reliable about tying. I was always worried about her hurting herself, so I didn’t do enough of that in the first couple years. Once she learned she could break a halter or escape from a blocker tie ring, that was the end of her ever tying reliably. She does not forget things like that. Presto has been getting tying lessons since he was 3 months old. Not repeating that mistake!

These are the main reasons why I ultimately opted to bring Presto to my barn, where I could see him and do something with him pretty much every day. I want his brain to be occupied, and I want him to have expectations that he has to fulfill every single day. I want him to tie, crosstie, pony, see lots of commotion, load on trailers, go on adventures, get baths, get groomed and handled. He still gets 23 1/2 hours a day to himself in his pasture to go be a baby horse, but he also is expected to be civilized when I ask him to be. No “choose your own adventure”, semi-feral style of living happening over here. Some people might think it’s too much, or unnecessary, but I think it’s the best thing for him.

Presto is the Crosstying and Boot-Wearing World Champion

So far though, he’s been a bit easier than Sadie. Honestly, I think he really thrives on having something to do. He’s eager for the lessons and always seems happy to come in and figure out what’s on the docket for the day. That’s Sadie’s brain at work, which seems like such a thoroughbred trait. They both have a fantastic work ethic… Presto just has a stronger desire to please. Or maybe it’s just a stronger desire to avoid conflict. Either way, I’ll take it.

I’m really interested to see what other commonalities or differences start showing up in Presto as time goes on and we delve into more tasks. Discovering his personality has been really fun, but even more so since I know his dam so well. Raising horses is hard, but this is definitely one of the fun parts.

That. Is. Hideous.

The re-introduction of the hackamore into Henry’s show wardrobe created a bit a predicament (ha, pun. stop groaning.) with my bridle lineup. All of my good bridles these days are monocrowns, which don’t actually work with a hackamore… there would be one extra strap with nothing on it, flap flap flapping around in the breeze.

are flapping straps worse than this hideous thing? I don’t know…

Luckily I did have something it could go on: my old Royal Sports bridle that I had made for a hackamore several years ago. I hated that thing since the day I got it, and I still hate it, and it’s even uglier now than it used to be. I’ve just kept it around so I can ride in my sidepull sometimes without changing bridles around. I mean, the bridle technically does the job, but it’s hideous and I do not like using it in public, not to mention the fact that the crownpiece does not fit correctly around Henry’s ears. There’s no freaking way I can show up at a recognized event with that gross, flaking, orange-padded, ill-fitting nightmare. I’m pretty sure that counts as horse abuse or something. Granted, the hackamore that I picked up for cheap to use for this little non-bitting experiment is pretty ugly too.The only thing wrong with it is the color though (which ironically matches the hideous orange padding on the bridle perfectly), so my eyeballs were mildy less offended about that part than they are about the bridle itself.

If you like having cheekpieces in your horses eyes and a bridle that is more orange than brown, that setup is totally up your alley. (Fun fact from the above pics: it was so windy that day for the CT that none of the panels or gates could be put up in the cups lest they become airborne projectiles. Texas is great.)

If we’re going to use a hackamore for real, ie in public, I really wanted a true hackamore bridle with a jaw strap – like the Dy’on and PS of Sweden hackamore bridles have – to keep the cheekpieces out of his eyes and help stabilize the thing on his head a little bit. The problem is that those were the only two bridles I could find with that feature, and I didn’t want to spend that kind of money.

Ok that’s a lie, there’s this FRA bitless bridle thing that technically has the strap I want, but what the hell is up with that hideous “hook out” cheekpiece? It looks backwards. It’s making me twitchy. I cannot.

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And there’s also the Barefoot Physio bridle, which would have worked, but the brown one has hideous orange padding just like my current bridle. That’s a NO. Bridle makers: STOP WITH THE ORANGE PADDING.

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WHY????

Hideousness is the theme here.

So the Dy’on and the PS were the only two pretty bridles I could find with that feature.

The Dy’on bridle would have worked, and it’s only $150 (sans hackamore and reins) if you buy it from Europe, which isn’t too awful. Of course, then I’d have wanted to put a nicer hack on it, like a Jin, which I could also get from the same shop in Europe for another $100 (then add $25ish for shipping to all that), or a Stubben or a Herm Sprenger. The only thing I didn’t like about the Dy’on is that Henry really needs the full size crown for the ear cutouts to fit, but the full size cheekpieces would put the jaw strap up high, above his eye. I much prefer that the strap sit lower, so that it’s level with or below the eye. The strap is fixed, though, so I wouldn’t have been able to move it to where I wanted unless I took it to a leather person and had them do it for me. That’s annoying for something that isn’t cheap to start with.

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lower that strap like 2-3″ please

The one that I liked the design of the most, of course, was the PS of Sweden hackamore. It has the strap where I want it, and I love the wide padded crown. It comes with the matching (praise jesus) hackamore already on it, which is nice too. One purchase and you’re done. And it’s pretty (which matters a lot). But – there’s always a but – these went out of production a couple years ago, so there aren’t a lot left on the market in the size and color I want. The cheapest new one that I found from my preliminary search was around $315 including shipping.

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but prettttyyyyy

I briefly considered trying to Frankenhack something together that would work, but that sure sounds like a royal pain in the ass to try to get everything to match.

 

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So I tossed an ISO ad up on English Tack Trader on facebook, figuring it was worth a try but also thinking there was just no way I’d get that lucky. Next thing you know, low and behold, not only does someone have a brown full size PS hackamore, but it’s someone I actually know! She used to live near here and reads the blog and rode with my trainer a little bit. She offered it to me for a much more reasonable price than new, and I was sold. Done. Bam.

Everyone thank Teana for saving Henry from that hideous orange monstrosity that he’s been wearing. She’s done us all a big favor here.

And no one ask how many bridles I have now. Just don’t. A bridle for every bit, am I right???

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Week One with Presto

Well, all of y’all that were excited for all the fun stories and fireworks that were bound to commence after Presto came home are about to be sorely disappointed by this first update after week one. I truly expected him to get here and be a total hellion, a whirling dervish of tiny hooves, crazy hair, and teenage angst. Clearly I’ve spent a lot of time around baby horses. They are shits. But so far, none of this has really been the case with Presto.

meeting my friend’s new baby

When we left off after his Day 1 update, I was kinda blown away by how well-behaved he was with the initial move to the boarding barn. I was suspicious. It’s like when a room full of little kids gets really quiet…  that can’t be good. I thought maybe he was just a little shell-shocked and his behavior would deteriorate a bit as he settled in. So far, he’s actually gotten… better.

his new green ARABIAN sized halter

 

First of all, he comes up to me in the pasture. We’re not talking a Black Beauty moment where he sees me and comes running, but once I get about 40′ away he stops grazing and meets me halfway. Sometimes I give him an alfalfa pellet, sometimes not. I don’t want him getting mouthy and always looking for treats, but he’s pretty food motivated, like his mother, so I will absolutely use that to my advantage. Plus he’s a little “nose shy” in that he’s been very wary of what you’re trying to do to his nose/mouth ever since he had to wear the muzzle when he was a foal at the clinic. Now he’s letting me poke and pet and touch (and smooch) his muzzle with no real complaints. He used to take a couple steps back when you pulled the halter over his nose too, which has stopped. We played the “nose in halter = alfalfa pellet” game a couple days last week and that plus simple repetition seems to have done the trick.

standing in the crossties like a real horse!

He’s done a lot in his first week, really. I’ve brought him in every day for grooming and hoof picking and crosstie lessons. One day he was a little distracted by the horse in the stall next to the crossties and we had to have a discussion about the impropriety of swinging one’s haunches around all over the place while I’m asking him to pick up his feet, but for the most part he’s been good. I haven’t actually hooked him up to the crossties on both sides yet, just in case. I clip one side and use his lead rope looped through the stall grate on the other. Enough to keep him still, but not enough to keep him stuck if he does panic. He also definitely cannot be left unattended yet. I get about 6 feet away before he’s dancing around, wondering where I’m going and why he can’t come. We’ll build up, he’s just not there yet. He’s pretty confident in most things as long as I’m there next to him, but not so much once he feels like he’s alone.

that hair tho

We’ve also gotten some practice in the washrack, thanks to a little cut he got on his upper leg. I don’t think he’s ever actually had a bath before so I was prepared for a rodeo. The washrack in general is scary, a big patch of concrete with holey black mats, and several curled up hoses. Not to mention the actual water part. I let him walk up and snort at the mats, then asked him to step forward, and he did so without any hesitation whatsoever. In this way he’s very different from his mother, but I’ll talk about that more in another post. We did half of the cold hosing in the washrack itself, and the other half on the grass next to it where the water kind of puddles, to see what he thought about that. He thinks puddles are cool (yes, baby event horse!).

He gave a teeny flinching spook when I turned the hose on, and danced around for a few seconds when the water started touching his foot, but quickly settled. He just stood there for 10 minutes and let me cold hose that leg. I was pretty impressed by that. 10 minutes in normal time is like 2 hours in baby horse time. Everyone with babies knows I’m not even lying about THAT one.

He also wore boots for the first time. Once we’re ready to start ponying out in the fields I want him to at least have some kind of boot on, so I slapped some open fronts on him to see what he thought. He flicked an ear at the sound of the velcro, but that was the only reaction I got about the entire thing. Boots definitely fit him funny right now though… he’s got the cannon height of a normal horse (his legs are actually longer than Henry’s, which I find very comical), but like half of the bone. This age is so awkward.

On Saturday after I got back from the show with Henry, I decided it would be a good day for trailer loading lessons, since I was already hooked up. I REALLY REALLY thought that the only reason he loaded right into my trailer last week was because he was just caught off guard by it. I thought there would be much more resistance this time around. Yeah, no. On the first try he did wiggle to the left and step sideways off the ramp, but I just lined him back up and asked again, and he walked right in. He stood quietly, I rubbed his ears, and then we started the harder part: backing out. Again I have to give his brain so much credit, he definitely wanted to try to turn around, but I just kept backing him and guiding him, one step at a time, and he made it all the way down with no problem. We walked a circle, I loaded him again (walked right in), stood there and patted him for a minute, and then he backed out perfectly without much guidance needed from me. Boy genius right there.

accurately sums up each horse’s feelings about all this

On Sunday I figured I may as well start our first ponying lesson. The arena was empty and Henry was scheduled for a light day anyway. I tacked Henry up, went and grabbed Presto, and led them out together. Sometimes the young ones are a little startled to see a human above them for the first time but Presto was just kinda like “oh hey cool, you’re attached to that horse, that’s neat, can you rub my ears better from up there?” Okay then. Off we went. The first few minutes were a little bit of a circus. I couldn’t get Henry and Presto on the same page. One of them would go one way and the other one would go the other. I was like omg this is what parents of human children must feel like.

no mum, don’t pay attention to him

So to make things easier I put them both on a small circle, Henry on the outside, and we just spiraled around for a few minutes. Neither of them could really resist, since we were were always turning, but Henry got the idea of being the leader, and Presto got the idea of moving himself in accordance with what the other horse was doing. I slowly made the circle bigger and ta-da, we had it. Henry still wasn’t really thrilled about it, but he sure did step right into the role. “OMG kid, walk faster. I don’t have all day!“. Pretty sure I heard him mumbling something about how in his day he used to have to pony uphill in the snow both ways, kids these days, get off my lawn, blah blah blah. We walked around the ring for about 15 minutes, practicing stopping and turning, and then walked over some poles.

literally the grumpiest

If Presto wanted to get a little too friendly or wasn’t moving away from him appropriately, Henry would pin his ears at him for emphasis but he never once even considered kicking. That grump ass, bossy older brother, tough love persona sure does fit him to a T. We’ll do some more ponying in the ring before we move it outside, and I’d like to borrow a western saddle for the first outdoor excursion, but we’re off to a solid start.

we did it!

Presto is smart. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes he has an OMG or a NO moment and starts screaming and dancing and being a dumb baby horse, but every time I give him a real task to do, he applies himself and uses his brain and figures it out. He’s a thinking horse, much more than a reactive horse. I keep expecting him to have one of those “checked out” moments, but so far he hasn’t. The barn owner and one of the workers have both come up to me separately and raved about his temperament. Apparently one day they were doing road work, which involved heavy machinery, lots of scraping, and several loads of gravel being dumped and grated right next to his turnout. They said Presto just stood there next to the fence the whole time, watching for hours like it was some kind of very interesting movie.

We’ll keep chipping away at the mundane things and slowly start adding in fun stuff as Presto gets a more solid foundation. It’s going pretty well so far, though! At least for me and Presto. Henry thinks this is some real bullshit.

Last Minute CT

I spent most of last week waffling about whether or not to enter the local Combined Test at Scissortail on Saturday. Mostly because I’ve been pretty distracted by Presto, and Henry’s had a really light schedule since Texas Rose. We’ve mostly just hacked out, done some conditioning rides, and hopped over a tiny fence a few times to test the Seaver. I also had other plans for the weekend and wasn’t sure if it was going to be wise to try to stuff it all in. But, ya know… I got to Wednesday and couldn’t come up with a truly valid reason NOT to enter, so online I went, filled out our info, and hit submit. Done. And can I just say omg thank you for having online entering, bc that is amazing for the lazy procrastinators among us.

The only media I have from dressage but the sky looked really cool!

I entered another Prelim CT, mostly because I really wanted to do that dressage test again. It has it’s challenges for us, for sure, but I love the flow of it, and the movements are a little bit more challenging. But also I knew I’d likely be the first rider of the day and could be in and out of there really early. That was exactly the case: my ride times were 8:20 and 9:25.

Despite the 30 degree overnight temperature drop, Henry warmed up well. I’ve been asking him for a lot more lately as far as quality of gaits go… more push, more carry, more impulsion. It does require effort and focus on my part, he’s quite happy to plod along in a short little trot (and sometimes I seem quite happy to derp around and let him), but he’s also got better gaits in there if I do my part to bring them out. Caveat being that he’s actually relaxed enough to let me put my leg on and ride him, which sometimes is not the case at shows.

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Henry, sometimes.

This time he was good though, and I thought the test went really well. It was not brilliant, but it was very consistent and he was obedient. The 10m canter half circles back to the rail are still quite challenging as far as keeping him balanced, we need to work on that more. For the right one I was able to hold that counter lead for the last few straight strides before the trot transition at the letter, but for the left one (at the end of the test) I just couldn’t keep it and he plopped back into trot a stride too early. The medium canters were a lot better though – not as balanced as they should be, but we actually WENT. I’m so tired of the comment “show more difference” on the lengthenings in the Training test, I was determined not to get it this time.

The test was good enough for a 35, which is actually the best score we’ve ever gotten at this venue because they always bring in REAL dressage judges. There is no soft schooling show scoring happening here ever – the scores are always on par with what I get at recognized. I really appreciate that a lot, because it gives you a way better idea of where you truly stand. All of our scores were between 6 and 7, which I thought was 100% fair, and the comments were totally on point too.

After that I stuck Henry back at the trailer and went to walk stadium.

Henry watched me walk. Pretty sure this face says “make sure you remember the course, that’s literally your one job.”.

This is where it’s extra awesome to be the only person in your division, because I was able to ask them to set the jumps a bit soft. We hadn’t jumped a course since Texas Rose, and we haven’t jumped anything of height in a couple months. Plus I was trying out a new bit, or rather – lack thereof. I wanted to see how he went in a mechanical hackamore, which I haven’t ridden him in for a few years. This venue is always super accommodating, so they had no issues with setting most to Training height with a few Prelim sized fences thrown in. I cantered a couple laps of warmup, hopped over the vertical once and the oxer once, and then in we went.

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Henry was actually really good. I felt like he was coming off the ground better, using his body better across the entire arc of his jump, and I was able to keep him in front of my leg much more easily. I had to whoa a bit in both lines and he immediately came right back, no problem. For our first test run in the hack, I was pleased. I am rarely pleased. And we FINALLY got a clear round! It’s been too long.

It was a good day, and we were out of there with a blue ribbon and a gift certificate (I’ll say it again: being the only person in your division is awesome, how can I make this happen more often?) by 10am. Can’t beat that. I really appreciate these local venues that are willing to take on the headache involved in putting on schooling shows. For less than $50 and just a few hours of my time, it’s so nice to be able to get these miles. And the organizer is always so accommodating – she wants everyone to come away with a good experience, no matter what. I wish we had more places like that. They are few and far between around here.

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he could not be any less interested

I think maybe for next month’s show it’ll be Presto’s turn… he can go spend the day screaming at all the commotion and taking in the sights. Unless I can recruit a ground person to come with me, then maybe both boys can go? We’ll see. I’m sure it’ll be another last minute decision on my part, that’s just how my life tends to go.

Show Shirt Stack-Up

Somehow over the past few months I have managed to acquire three new show shirts. I don’t really have a good reason for this… one of them was a Treat Yo’self, and the other two were so cheap on sale that I don’t think they even count. Plus I just really like shirts for some reason, so whatever, judge me if you want.

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Valentine Equine Aila

The first one I got, the “Treat Yo’self” item, was the Aila shirt from Valentine Equine. I’ll be 100% honest, I got it because I freaking hate stock ties. I hate remembering to bring them, I hate tying them, I hate pinning them, I hate how floofy they look, I hate washing and sometimes having to IRON them… I just hate them. A lot. I’ve been going sans stock tie at pretty much every event for the past couple years, unless it was a special/more formal occasion. So the Aila shirt, with it’s BUILT IN, TACKED DOWN, PERMANENTLY AFFIXED stock tie was a really appealing alternative for me. I don’t want to wear it all the time, because I still hate stock ties, but for the shows when it’s more appropriate to wear one, at least this way I won’t have to go through all the fuss.

The only thing I didn’t love about it was that it came with short sleeves. I guess I spent way too long in h/j land growing up, but I gotta have some cuff peeking out from under my jacket. I messaged Valentine Equine and asked if they were planning on offering a long sleeve version, and they replied saying that all of their shirts are made to order, so I can get anything I want. Whaaaaat? Ok, sold. I sent my bust measurement (because I am useless at Australian sizing), wrote in my request for long sleeves, and ordered online. There was no additional charge for the sleeves or for having the shirt made to my measurements. All of that, including shipping, brought the shirt to around $100 USD.

built in, tacked down stock tie!

Long story short (because we still have two more shirts to get through here), it took about 5 weeks to arrive, which seems reasonable for a made to order item traveling from halfway around the world. It definitely fits small – it’s SNUG on me, so I’m glad I sent my measurements and didn’t just try to guess at a stock size. If in doubt, definitely size up. The fabric is quite stretchy and comfortable, and I like that the stock tie part isn’t too floofy. It’s sleek and simple and definitely very solidly built into the shirt. The zip at the neck makes it easy to get in and out of, and the collar is fairly short, which I prefer. Nothing worse than a tall collar jutting into your second and third chins.

The only two things I would really change are the length – mine is just barely long enough to tuck in – and I would make the zipper at the neck white instead of metal. Overall though, it’s a great option for stock tie haters that might find themselves having to wear one at some point. It definitely takes all the annoyance out of it, so it’s a useful addition to my closet.

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Aila with her BFF’s Paige and Madison – you can see the length

The next two are both really similar, so we’ll do a little compare and contrast as we run through their features. One is a navy and white RJ Classics Paige show shirt, and the other is a teal and white Noble Outfitters Madison show shirt.

cat tail not included with the shirts

I actually got both of these at Dover on super sale – the RJ I got online at the end of last season for something ridiculous like $30, and the Madison I got on the sale rack in-store a couple months ago for $40. In general they are really similar shirts. Both of them have a white front fabric, the RJ’s being a tone on tone stripe and the Madison’s being just a plain flat white. Both are a little bit sheer, but not too bad. The RJ’s fabric is a little bit lighter weight overall, both the white front part and the colored stretchy tech fabric parts. The RJ also has snaps that go 1/4 way down the front and the rest is sewn, which is GREAT both for ease and for eliminating any possible boob gap issues. The Madison has regular buttons and covered placket going all the way down the front.

Both have patterned fabric inside the collar and cuffs, which seems pretty de rigueur for  show shirts these days. I prefer the colors and patterns of the Paige, I think it’s a little more elegant, but that’s totally personal preference.

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When it comes to design details, the Madison has a bit of an edge. On the back of the collar it has a loop (for you weirdos who actually like to wear stock ties) which is a nice feature, and it also has more ventilation. The middle back panel is made from a mesh fabric for breathability, whereas the Paige just has the same navy tech fabric making up the back of the shirt.

What they both need is some real arm ventilation. I find them both to be a bit hot, especially in high humidity, compared to my lovely lightweight cotton Winston shirt. Granted, these don’t wrinkle as easily as that one does.

The Madison does make an attempt at an arm vent, with a little one inch wide strip of mesh on the underarm. This feels more like a joke than a vent, but I guess they get points for trying. I’m not sure that one shirt really feels particularly cooler than the other.

The tailoring and fit are good on both shirts… both are fitted to the body, not boxy (my biggest pet peeve in a shirt) and both have enough length to tuck in securely without having a ton of shirttail leftover to create a Lump Butt situation in your pants. No one likes that, especially not the people looking at your Lump Butt.

I think if you combined these two shirts, you’d end up with the ultimate show shirt. The back vents and the small, thoughtful details on the Noble Outfitters shirt are testament to how much work went into the design, but then that front button situation makes it look a bit cheap. It reminds me of those Royal Highness shirts that used to be everywhere for like $20. I much prefer the 1/4 snap front and general styling of the RJ Paige. It’s sleeker and more streamlined.

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the Paige in action

For what I paid for them, I’m quite happy with both. They’re nice shirts that look good and are comfortable to wear. They’ve both been really easy to wash, too, no issues in the washing machine and neither of them require steaming or ironing to be wrinkle free.

These three new additions plus my other two standbys, the Winston Vienna and the Mrs. Tutton’s May, have given me a pretty solid show shirt collection. I’ve got something for pretty much any occasion, and they’re all really attractive shirts that have their own unique features. No boring, frumpy show shirts around here!

Thoroughbred Thursday

While it’s been no secret that I’m a warmblood enthusiast, my first and main love has always been the thoroughbred.

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my first horse Charlie, a TB

I grew up at a h/j barn, which meant that it was occupied by mostly thoroughbreds and warmbloods. I was horseless for most of my time there, which meant that I rode… well… anything my trainer let me ride, which was usually the more sensitive or hotter ones that other people weren’t clamoring over. That meant I rode a lot of thoroughbreds. That meant I got a lot of practice at riding a forward, sensitive, and sometimes quirky horse.

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Quirky, who’s quirky?

Of course, to this day I am really freaking terrible at riding a horse that doesn’t have it’s own motor. I really cannot. It’s sad. Give me some fire or I don’t want it.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t thoroughbreds out there that are dead quiet, bombproof kick-rides. I’ve ridden PLENTY like that. There is definitely a lot of diversity in the breed, from temperament to phenotype and everything in between. But what I really love about the thoroughbred in general is their innate desire to please, their drive to find the right answer, and their willingness to work. Those are qualities that I have come across in almost all of them, without fail. Unless they had a physical reason to behave otherwise, or if they have been treated – in their opinion – unfairly… those two things are game changers for horses like this. But I truly believe that if you do right by them, make them happy, and find what they’re good at, they will turn themselves inside out for you.

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He lives for this job

Throughout my life, thoroughbreds have always been the way for me to have a quality sporthorse at a reasonable price, with just a little time, patience, and elbow grease. Since I was lucky enough to grow up riding them, I understand them pretty well. I didn’t appreciate them enough then, and remember longing for the days when I could afford a big fancy warmblood. That was a silly mistake on my part.

It’s no secret that without the thoroughbred, warmbloods would still be nothing more than fancy cart horses. They have been absolutely instrumental in building the modern warmblood as we know it – which is why I always get so amused to see people arguing over which “breed” is better, or when someone sitting on a warmblood says that they hate thoroughbreds. Girl… your ignorance is showing, just like mine used to.

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best seat in the house

Good luck finding a showjumper these days that doesn’t have Ladykiller, Uppercut, Rantzau, Cottage Son, or Furioso in it’s pedigree. Or a dressage horse without Sacramento Song, Angelo, Donnerkeil, Laurie’s Crusador, or Lemon.  You can’t throw a rock at a 4* event anywhere in the world without hitting a horse carrying the blood of Heraldik or Master Imp or Hand in Glove.

I appreciate the thoroughbred a lot more these days, as I’ve become more educated and as I’ve learned more about myself as a rider. This is exactly why I chose a stallion with such a high % thoroughbred to be Presto’s sire. Most of the best event horses in the world are at least 70% thoroughbred, and while a lot of that has to do with gallop and speed and efficiency, I also think that when it comes to cross country, you really need a horse with a lot of heart and a lot of try. Something that can dig down deep, even when it’s bone tired, or even when conditions are terrible, and get the job done. And that’s not to say that warmbloods with low percentage of TB blood don’t have this quality… some certainly do. But it’s something that has been bred into the best thoroughbreds for centuries. I wanted a horse that had plenty of that.

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he’s not the fastest, or the fanciest, or the most talented, but there’s plenty of try in this one

So while I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about warmblood breeding and looking at warmblood stallions and mares, I wanted to take the time to appreciate the breed that has been, and always will be, my true love. They are not for everyone, and they have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they are the horses that have molded me as a rider and a horseman. They are the horses that have served to improve other breeds to make them into the successful world class sporthorses that they are today. I’ve been lucky to own a lot of good ones, the current one of which is by far the most golden horse I’ve ever sat on. I’m even luckier that my next prospect carries the names of so many of the world’s best examples of the breed.

Whether you love them or you hate them, I hope we can all at least appreciate them. And I hope that, at least once in your life, you also have the honor and privilege of owning a really good thoroughbred.

Day 1 of Charm School

24 hours. That’s all the time Presto got to settle in before his first big boy day of what I will call “Charm School”. It could also be called “Real Life” or “Fun’s Over, Kid” or “Boot Camp” or “Your Mom is a Real Drag”. So ya know, Charm School just sounds better.

Hates Me (and yes, I know it’s tied wrong, I didn’t do it)

As soon as I got to the barn I went out to his pasture to check on him, with a few alfalfa pellets in hand. I don’t want him to think that he’s in for torture (his words, not mine) every time he sees me coming, so I intend to make a point to walk out there sometimes and just love on him or give him a little something tasty. He doesn’t run from people, or avoid being caught, but he’s definitely wary of what fresh hell you intend to unleash on him. Can’t say that I blame him for the wariness, considering all the poking and prodding and medications he’s gotten in his one year on earth.

So I walked up, gave him a couple alfalfa pellets, rubbed his face, and then left his pasture. He followed me for a few steps before he resumed grazing next to his bestest BFF Quarter Horse across the fence (he’s still not that interested in his donkeys).

After I rode Henry, Presto was still in his stall finishing his dinner hay, so I pulled him out and led him into the barn for grooming. He wasn’t totally keen on my idea, and neighed a couple times, but he came willingly enough. I curried him and brushed him and picked out all 4 feet with very little protest. The barn worker was turning the horses out, so every time he led one out of it’s stall Presto got a little concerned about where that one was going and would dance for a few steps or neigh/poop. But overall the grooming part was pretty civil, so I grabbed a dressage whip and headed out to the arena for a few minutes of in-hand work.

We walked, trotted, practiced standing up correctly for in-hand classes, and backing. He’s actually quite obedient for the in-hand work (we worked on it a few times before his inspection), although very very ADD. He gave me as little of his attention as possible, and was much more interested in all the horses that were coming and going to and from the barn. He did everything I asked though, so we can work on the Eyes and Ears On Me part.

Then I started introducing the most very basic idea of lunging – just basically sending him around me in a small circle on the lead rope and working on cluck = forward, whoa = slow down. The left he understood almost immediately. The right he was a little less cooperative about, but after a few corrections he gave me several proper circles. The good thing is that he’s quite civil about not pushing into my space, and takes the corrections well. He’s smart. Maybe a little too smart, just like his mother. It could be a challenge to keep his brain engaged for good instead of evil.

HENNY IS NOT OK WITH THIS

We ended by walking over some poles in hand, which he plodded right over no problem. We were out there for a total of 11 minutes… that’s how fast he got all of those concepts. Then I took him back to the crosstie area to give him his soaked alfalfa pellets + oil. I’m trying to get more condition on him, he’s so growthy and scrawny looking right now. Plus I want him to associate that area with good things, and look forward to coming inside for his lessons. While he ate I draped the lead rope across him, around his legs, picked up his feet again, and tossed a saddle pad all over him. He kind of just gives me the same “You are LITERALLY the most annoying person in the entire world but FINE” look that Henry gives me all the time. He did think I was trying to murder him when I got to the fly spray part though.

I went home and ordered him an arab size rope halter, hoping the nose is a little smaller, because that current one (which is supposed to be horse size but looks like it would fit an elephant) is just ridiculous. I got hunter green on a whim. I dunno, I think he might be a navy and green kind of guy. We’ll see, I guess. His summer coat is just barely starting to poke through, a nice super dark chocolate brown, but he still looks really mousey from being clipped.

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green for the brown horse?

We’ll keep doing these short little lessons and then hopefully maybe next week I can start trying to pony him a little!