While the pony is not 100% magically healed after his 30 day stay at the rehab place, can we take a minute to appreciate how good he looks?
He’s up to 25 minutes in the aquacizer now, 5 days a week. He goes on the walker twice a day for about an hour total, and then gets handgrazed. All of that combined has kept him fit and sane despite no riding or turnout. I can tell he’s kinda grumpy and bored and tired of everyone’s bullshit, but he’s not being stupid or wild at all.
Even the vet commented on how great he looks. We’ll see how he feels under saddle when I finally swing a leg back over, but it makes me happy that it doesn’t look like he’s lost a stitch of his conditioning despite the down time.
We won’t talk about how hairy he is. Good god, he grows butt hair so thick a polar bear would be jealous. I’m already itching to clip it off. Soon. Soooooon…
Good news, though: I think we found a “halfway house” barn that can accommodate his myriad of special needs (that have literally become a long list of bullet points, because Henry) for the time-being. Looks and sounds promising… we shall see how it goes. It’s mostly a western dressage/trail riding type of place but the owner was super nice and seemed undeterred by all of our high maintenance requests.
They have multiple people onsite 24/7 to keep an eye on him, so he can be brought in if he starts acting stupid. It definitely wasn’t overly fancy but it was clean and well-kept and they just put new sand in the arena so it’s nice and cushy. It’s less than 20 minutes from my house and way cheaper than keeping him at the rehab place for another month or two, which my badly damaged wallet is happy about. Fingers crossed that it works.
Ah, intuition. I said on Friday that for some reason I had the nagging feeling that we wouldn’t get the all clear, and I was right. The good news is, we took a 90% sound horse and turned him into a 95% sound horse. He’s definitely better. Unfortunately, he’s still not 100%.
We took more rads of the injury site and compared them to the original ones from a month ago. The tiny crack was gone and he’s laying down good bone on top of it, but it’s still in the process of healing.
Luckily the external wound track on his injury has closed up, so we were able to do more diagnostics that we couldn’t do last time for fear of introducing infection to the bone. We blocked that area to see if it would make him 100% sound, but it didn’t.
Oh, and we had to pause mid-exam to put a shoe back on because of course he pulled it and then proceeded to be off on the barefoot foot when we jogged him. Thank goodness for a vet that used to be a farrier.
The only part of Henry’s regular maintenance that we haven’t been able to do throughout all of this is inject his left ankle. Again, last time he didn’t want to stick a needle anywhere near that wound, especially not one that was going into a joint. So, short of blocking our way up the whole leg (which would probably take a crew of four people because he is AWFUL) we figured it was worth a shot to do his maintenance injection in the ankle, give him a couple more weeks, and see if that brings him the rest of the way sound. If so, great. If not, we’ll have to do some harder diagnostics because we sure can’t find so much as a pimple anywhere else on that limb.
The vet doesn’t think it’s necessary for him to stay at rehab any longer. He’s cleared to start easing back into turnout and riding, but with a lot of specifications, mostly because that bone is still healing and there’s still a chance that it could turn into a sequestrum if we aren’t careful.
He doesn’t want Henry to go straight back into his usual 12-22 hour a day turnout, lest we put too much stress on all that new bone. He’s not allowed to gallop around a lot in turnout for the same reason, so if he DOES start acting dumb, he has to be brought in. And, more specifically, he can’t be ridden on a hard surface for at least the next couple months, until all the bone settles. He also wants the leg wrapped and/or poulticed after every ride for the first few weeks.
So, this creates another problem for me. I don’t really want to keep him at the rehab place if he doesn’t need to be there, because $$$. Plus they don’t really have much in the way of turnout, nor is their ring finished yet. But the specifications that the vet outlined are pretty impossible for our normal barn to accommodate as well… it’s a small private barn, and there are times during the day when no one is there. He runs around a lot in turnout with Halo, and it’d be impossible to always have someone able to bring him in when they get started. The ground is also pretty hard out there since we’ve not gotten much rain in a while, and it’s the type of soil that gets very hard when it’s dry. Henry is just way too high maintenance right now for that situation.
The vet gave me the names of a couple people with suitable facilities that might be able to accommodate us for a month or two until he’s totally healed. I’ve got some calls to make today, and probably some begging to do. Fingers crossed we can find someone able to take us on for a little while. The adventure continues…
Tomorrow is Henry’s 30 Day checkup for his “I’m a moron in turnout and also a total sissy about pain” injury.
Best case scenario: the bone is all healed, he’s sound, and he can be eased back into normal turnout and work. I sure as hell hope that’s the outcome, but I dunno, for some reason I’m not feeling outrageously optimistic.
I don’t have any particular reason to feel that way. I haven’t seen him trot since day 14 of rehab, where he looked perfect one direction but still ever so slightly funky the other direction. But the direction where he looked funky was the one where he actually looked best at the beginning of all this. WTF, horse. Granted, I didn’t have a lunge line and was judging just what I could see with him at the end of the lead rope. Plus its been two more weeks since then. Maybe he’s magically better?
So I guess I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll get the all clear, and really hopeful, but not necessarily willing to put my money on it. We’ll see…
Perhaps the most important part – what did we eat and what did we buy…
Let me go ahead and disappoint you right off the bat. I spent a grand total of $42 at the trade fair, and the overwhelming majority of that was a gift for Bobby. I know, wtf, he’s such a tool, why am I buying him anything? I dunno, pity I guess. But otherwise I couldn’t find too many things that I just had to have.
Anyway, let’s back up a bit. Michelle (with 2 L’s. You’ll see why I say that in a minute. Why is everyone named Michelle?) and I got into Baltimore before noon, picked up our rental car, and headed north. Naturally we had to stop along the way at some hole in the wall place for lunch, where I got this giant plate of sodium.
After that we headed straight to one of Maryland Saddlery’s consignment shops (WE DON’T HAVE THOSE HERE) to poke around. Let me just say, they have a really impressive collection of randomly weird stuff.
Despite my best efforts, I walked out of the store with absolutely nothing. Twas a sad day. I totally would have bought these gorgeous Sarm Hippique paddock boots if they were my size, but alas they were juuuuuuuuust too-small enough to be impossible. Damn toes.
After that we were off to my other friend Michele (one L)’s house in Newark where we were given a proper greeting by a particularly friendly little monkey dog.
Thursday and Friday were pretty much totally consumed with judging. But besides giving us a place to stay, Michele (One L) also got us the hookup on a VIP parking pass and lunch tickets, so Michelle (2 L’s) and I majorly lucked out on that one. We got front row parking and free fancy-people lunch both days.
Despite long, exhausting days, we still managed to stuff our faces appropriately every night. We’re troopers like that. Can we just take a minute to appreciate UDairy Creamery and their giant cookie dough chunks? Look at it.
After we were done with the YEH workshop on Friday, Michelle (2 L’s) and I walked the 3* course. Well, part of it. We quit at just over halfway, because too tired. She’s only been to a couple of events before, and definitely not one of this level, so it was greatly entertaining to see her reactions as she walked up to some of these fences.
Saturday was our only free day, so we showed up early to watch the 2* and 3* XC. Michele (one L) was able to join us that day, and we all descended upon the trade fair together.
I pretty much immediately dragged One L over to the Eponia booth. I’ve followed this brand on Instagram for a while and thought they had some cute stuff… riding clothes, tack, etc. I knew that One L in particular needed a new dressage bridle and likes the PS of Sweden styling, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money. She said she wanted a 2-tone bridle so that it would match both of her saddles, and bam, there it was. Black with dark brown padding, rhinestones on the browband that pretty much perfectly matched her horse, and they had it in his size. Five minutes into the trade fair and I had One L dropping money like it was hot. Let’s just take a minute to appreciate how right I was though, it looks awesome on her horse.
There were a few more things in the Eponia booth that I was sorely tempted by but just couldn’t quite close the deal with my more practical inner self. She’s such a buzzkill.
We wandered around inside the tent to visit the smaller booths, and I bought Bobby his official FHI gear. They didn’t have anything left in my size that I liked, so I guess I just wasn’t meant to buy anything for myself there. Next I dragged One L and Two L’s right into Mango Bay, where they both proceeded to buy things while simultaneously convincing other shoppers to buy things too. We are a powerful force.
I kept waiting to stumble upon something really fascinating that I’d never seen before, but the only “new to me” thing I really saw was one half pad and it was a little weird.
Otherwise I mostly just kept circling back around and petting the Voltaire monoflap in a way that seemed to make the rep a little uncomfortable. Sorry, guy.
As far as fun splurges go, the trade fair was a bust for me. But convincing the L’s to buy stuff was almost as fun, since I didn’t have to spend my own money. My wallet is relieved.
I was standing by fence 21 on XC day with some friends when ML went by with RF Scandalous. Even though I was several strides back on the landing side of the fence, I could see the red-tinged mouth from at least a few strides before take-off. My first thought was “What brand sells red-mouthed bits?”. For real, that was my first, utterly ridiculous thought, because I just couldn’t believe it would actually happen again, especially in front of my own eyes. Then as she got closer my mouth just gaped open and I said “Holy shit. Oh my god.”. As she galloped away I turned and looked at my friend and asked her if she saw it too. There was a lot of red, and it was very obvious even at speed and even from many strides away.
My friend Michelle had her camera so we immediately pulled up the pictures she had taken so we could verify what we’d seen. There was no doubt about the presence of blood, and a lot of it.
Here is where I should back up a bit and explain why Michelle was even there with me at Fair Hill in the first place. She’s a lifelong h/j rider, and her breeding program is jumper-oriented. But she’s seen how much fun I’ve had with eventing, and she’s excited about my upcoming eventer baby. She has been considering possibly refocusing part of her breeding program to eventers, and even considering investing in a syndicate on an upper level horse. I have, of course, encouraged these things, because I love this sport and think she would love it too. Fair Hill was supposed to be a “come see how awesome this is and leave feeling inspired” kind of thing. A bloody horse galloping by us on XC, not getting pulled up at any point over the 10 minute course to be checked, and the horse in question ending up winning the event… let’s just say inspired was not one of the feelings she had when she left. Eventing needs people like her, and incidents like this only serve to drive them away.
Aside from the majority of the general public and a very select few upper level pros (much respect to Sara for having the integrity to speak up), this has been handled with mostly silence and avoidance. At what point will we stop defending this? The saying goes: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. But apparently four different times (Boekelo 2015, Fair Hill 2015, Galway 2015, and now Fair Hill 2016) on three different horses within a one year time period is not enough. How many times is too many? By the time you’re done piling on all the different eyewitness accounts of the series of events that allegedly happened that day, it raises a whole lot of eyebrows. I said it last year and I’ll say it again – we’ve really got to revisit the wording of the FEI eventing blood rules so that this can’t happen, much less repeatedly. I don’t really think that zero tolerance is the best answer, but surely we can do better than a rule that allows four incidences in one year with no consequence. Something isn’t working.
I used up most of my rage last year at the first two instances and all of the fallout that came after I posted about it. Now I’m just left feeling demoralized, defeated, and disappointed. Disappointed that it happened again, disappointed that this rider and her team not only seem to expect it but have figured out how to get away with it, disappointed in the fact that how it was handled is technically within the FEI rules as they’re written, disappointed in the governing bodies that seem more interested in defending it than stopping it, and disappointed in the image that this gives to the sport that I love.
I’m also embarrassed… truly and deeply embarrassed for my sport, and the fact that this performance garnered someone a National 3* Championship title. The media can’t even post any pics or videos of the winning horse from XC day because it’s mouth and chin are covered in blood. As an American eventer, I am absolutely mortified by that. It’s shameful, and it’s disgraceful. It’s an image I don’t think we can afford to project. Let’s be clear: no one has won here, especially not the sport of eventing.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow (with the actual fun stuff from Fair Hill) because that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
In a lot of ways, day 2 was obviously a lot more interesting. Watching horses gallop and jump beats the heck out of endless dressage any day. But on dressage day we were looking for moments of brilliance, whereas on jumping day we had to a) take every single step into account b) figure out what all of it meant to the bigger picture. If a horse had one ugly jump – why was it ugly? If the horse looked underpowered sometimes, was it truly weak or was it because of how it was ridden? If the horse made a mistake, did it learn from it and improve? And so on, and so on. Judging the show jumping and xc were a lot more complicated, really.
At the YEH competitions the riders get a little bit of time before the whistle is blown to trot the horse around, look at the fences, or pass through the water. They aren’t allowed to jump anything, but they’re given a minute or so to let the horse look around and become comfortable in the setting. The course itself was pretty straightforward. The way the jumping portion works is more like a derby format… there is a short showjumping course (in our case it was 6 fences) then the horse proceeds to a short XC course. After completion of the last fence the horse is galloped at speed to the finish so that the open gallop can be judged.
The XC course was, IMO, an appropriate championship level course for these age groups. The 4yo course was very straightforward but asked enough questions to get an idea of the horse’s rideability. The 5yo course (click here for video of one of the 5yo’s competing) was more complicated but still appropriate. The route through the second water was definitely the toughest question on the 5yo course and caught a few horses and riders out. It was a true test of the horse’s bravery, attitude, and desire to keep going forward. A few didn’t want to play, and several of them jumped it quite greenly, but the vast majority jumped it without hesitation none-the-less. This question really helped separate some horses that were otherwise quite close in score.
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The scoring for the jumping section of the YEH test is quite important, as it makes up 50% of the final score. The jumping ability, rideability, and general impression scores get a x 2 emphasis as well. A good, safe jumper that is willing and able to do the job is what they’re really looking for. A horse is not necessarily penalized for a refusal or a rail… it depends on why it happened, and what happens afterwards. Did the horse learn from it’s mistakes and get better as it went, or did it continue to pull rails, jump poorly, and be backed off the rider’s aids? That’s where having a good eye and good judgment really came into play.
Overall I thought that the majority of the horses were well-ridden and well-presented. There were a couple who looked perhaps a little bit overfaced here and there, and sometimes there was a rider who would not really allow the horse to gallop between the fences or keep coming forward to jump out of stride… all of those things had a negative impact on the score. For the most part though, the horses visibly gained confidence as they went around and looked quite pleased with themselves at the finish.
One 4yo in particular was presented in a leverage bit and was ever really allowed to come forward, and subsequently it did not have a very good round or get a very good score. While there currently is not a rule requiring snaffles for the YEH competitions (wouldn’t be surprised to see one coming) it definitely weighed on the scores to see the horse presented in such a manner. Good to know: the judges really DO NOT want to see that.
I paid particularly close attention to the 4yo that Phillip Dutton was riding, Miks Master C, since he’s by the same sire as my upcoming 2017 foal. I was happy to see a well developed young horse that looked very rideable and willing, albeit a bit unimpressed with his simple little fences.
Unimpressed horses was really the most challenging part of the practice judging. I know everyone worries about these young horses being rushed, but for horses with this level of natural talent and riders with this much experience, these jumps are quite small and easy. Some of the particularly more unimpressed horses just looked a bit bored and left you thinking “Man, he really looks like he needs a bigger fence.”. Obviously that isn’t an option here due to age, but it made it more challenging to judge those types. You were pretty sure there was a lot more talent and jump lurking in the horse than what they were showing you, but it was tough to really know that for sure when they were just loping over them nonchalantly.
It was a long day, but again I left feeling like the education I gained here was priceless. Even if I choose not to send my horse through the YEH program (I will let the horse decide if it’s ready for that when the time comes) I really got a lot of insight into exactly what they’re looking for, and was able to hone my eye for spotting talent in a young horse. Judging these horses is a tough job, but it was an honor to get to sit there with someone like Marilyn and bounce thoughts and ideas around. I think USEA has a really good thing going here, and I’m interested to see how the YEH program continues to develop. Maybe we’ll be there with a horse someday!
How to completely fry your brain in one easy step: sign up for a YEH judging workshop. I learned so much that I’m not even sure I can fully absorb it all, but sweet jesus, my brain is still mush.
On Thursday we met Marilyn Payne and the rest of our group beside the dressage arena, spent some time talking about dressage judging in general, the YEH program in general, and what they’re looking for. Then we started practice judging, first as a group, and then on our own, followed by a group discussion. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been so interested in watching very basic dressage tests in my life. It was pretty cool to see that most of the time my scores were pretty close to Marilyn’s, though.
The way the YEH stuff works is a lot different from a regular dressage test. They don’t judge the YEH test by each movement, but rather by the overall impression it gives as the horse performs it. As you watch the horse you’re looking for it’s best possible walk, trot, and canter, and giving a score based on that. We also gave an overall score for submission, and the impression of the horse as a potential future 3* or 4* competitor. The dressage portion counts for 35% of the final score.
In the YEH judging, you are truly hunting for talent. Riders who sacrificed brilliance for the sake of accuracy did not do their horses any favors in the scoring. I actually wondered if some of them really know how the YEH classes are judged and what exactly the judges are looking for. There were many instances where we thought the horse likely had another level of brilliance lurking in there, but the rider just wouldn’t quite be bold enough to show it. And of course you can’t score brilliance if you don’t ever see it.
After we watched several of the 5yo tests, we walked back down to watch some of the conformation portion. We discussed what makes a good event type, things that were particular positives, and things that were particular negatives. The most important part of conformation is type – does the horse look like the right type of horse to be an eventer? We want something that isn’t too heavy, or too light of bone. Something proportionate, with good feet, a good neck set, well-balanced, with correct legs and a strong hind end. You want a horse that looks as if it’s built well enough to stay sound to make it to 3* or 4* level. Of course, while conformation CAN certainly be a predictor of a horse’s future potential, there have certainly proven to be many exceptions. Conformation only counts for 15% of the final score.
After the conformation we went back to the dressage and this time judged the 4yos. It was more of the same of what we did with the 5yo’s, really searching for that moment of brilliance in each gait and the overall impression of the horse’s potential. It’s hard to really see it in some of these horses, being so young and green, but it almost became a little bit of a game to try to find that glimmer of what the horse might someday become.
At the end of the day we compared our group scores to what the actual judges had, and while we were consistently lower than they were number-wise, we pretty much had the horses in the same order. A couple of things raised some collective eyebrows (especially one horse in particular in the conformation section), but overall I think there weren’t many surprises in how the order shook out.
Marilyn of course gave us homework… we were to walk the course for the jumping portion and be prepared with our thoughts/comments by the following morning, and we were to study the materials she’d given us on how the jumping portions are judged. Clipboards, folders, and pens in hand, we marched over to the jumping course to look it over, then lugged everything home and read about what was to come the following day.
Day 1 was definitely really long, but wow – SO enlightening. As someone who is really interested in young horses, breeding, and the YEH program, what I learned was valuable beyond measure. To be able to sit with someone like Marilyn, in a group comprised mostly of judges, and hear/be a part of these conversations… wow. Just wow. I really think that having a good eye for a horse is super important, and this kind of thing is such a great way to fine tune it. Many thanks to the USEA and Marilyn for the opportunity.