Prefixes and Suffixes

There is a lot of discussion among the breeding community right now about a suggested rule change proposal that would make it mandatory for people to keep a breeder’s prefix or suffix on a horse’s show name. You could change the name part itself, but not the prefix or suffix. So basically if you had a horse that was named Looney Tunes WTF, you could change the Looney Tunes part, but not the WTF part.

maybe we should have made his suffix WTF

Like most things breeding related, I have a lot of feelings about prefixes and suffixes (this is shocking, I’m sure). I would never take a prefix/suffix off of a horse’s name, just because I know how important it is to breeders to have that easy recognition for their horses. It’s a nod of respect and recognition to where the horse came from, and all the blood, sweat, tears, money, and time that someone put into creating that horse. That’s not to say that there aren’t terrible ones like BRA or MF… I’d be less thrilled about those too, so I understand if someone wants to change a bad one. I still don’t think I personally would do it, but I would understand.

I also find it annoying how a lot of big sale farms just tack their prefix/suffix onto a horse they got in, jack the price up because it’s a (insert whichever one you want here – Fernhill, Cooley, RF, CR, FE, etc), and it becomes more of a “look where I bought this horse from” thing instead of a nod of credit to the person or farm that created the horse in the first place. Pretty brilliant for the seller though, since now everyone knows who sold the horse. I can hate it all I want, but it’s effective.


Even though I am a big fan of breeder prefixes and suffixes, I don’t really support this rule change proposal. I don’t think it should be up to USEF to monitor their useage and application. They got enough problems, man. Not to mention, what do you do about the fact that there are plenty of prefixes and suffixes out there that are used by more than one breeder. Who gets the “rights” to the letter R? What do you do with the ones that already have it? Sticky. Way too sticky.

I do have plenty of respect for the breeders who put into their sale contracts that the buyer can change the name but not the farm prefix/suffix. That seems totally reasonable to me. Granted, if that person sells the horse on, the next person isn’t bound to keep that.

All the new microchip recording stuff with USEF will help a lot of this, I think. Horses will no longer be able to just go *poof* and reappear under a new name with a new age. All of the information is much more likely to follow a horse throughout it’s career, and I think people will be a little less inclined to change the name. If nothing else, hopefully we become a bit more diligent about making sure the breeder information and the pedigree information get recorded with all the other microchip information too, and stay with the horse even if any prefixes or suffixes are dropped or names are changed.


But the most interesting thing that I’ve seen while following along with all these discussions in the last few days was that several people (non-breeders) said that they would not buy a horse with a prefix or suffix if they weren’t allowed to change it. Like even if the horse was otherwise perfect, it would be an absolute dealkiller to have any kind of prefix or suffix on it’s name. That seemed kind of crazy to me, but I guess names are THAT important to some people?

Presto of course is registered as Like Magic WTW – with the Willow Tree Warmblood suffix. Because I’m proud of my friend and her farm and the horses that she produces, and I want Presto to be a bit of a “spokesman” for her program, wherever he goes. He will wear his suffix with pride.

What do y’all think? Hate prefixes and suffixes? Love them? Would they be a deal breaker if you couldn’t change them?

The purple breeches that weren’t

Remember how excited I was last week about the dark purple breeches? Yeah well. They accidentally sent me burgundy. Burgundy is not purple.


Which wouldn’t be bad, because they’re beautiful breeches, but a) I already have a pair of burgundy breeches, b) they do not measure how their size chart said they did, so they’re too small, c) the company (QJ Riding Wear) is in Australia. I emailed them to see what they wanted to do, since not only are they not the color I ordered, they also don’t measure as advertised. They were not very helpful and asked if I thought I could just sell them here. They seemed to have no interest in getting me my purple pair that I was so excited about, or rectifying the mistake. I said I would try, and that was the last I heard from them. No gold stars for customer service. Or maybe I’m just accustomed to how fabulous Riding Warehouse is to deal with and my expectations are too high.

Too bad, really, because like I said, I quite like the breeches. Very very Animo-esque and a gorgeous merlot color. If anyone is interested in them, I’ll sell them to you for a bit less than what they cost with shipping from Australia to the US. They are AUS size 14, which was supposed to have been their equivalent of US 30/32, but the waist measures just a hair under 30 so they’re really more like 28. A slim-fitting 28. They have a sock bottom, silicone knee patch, and silver detailing at the back zipper pockets. I’ll sell them for $75USD including shipping anywhere in the US.

And I guess I won’t be getting the purple, since the company seems uninterested in my plight. Boo.


It wasn’t a total loss of a week for breeches though, because I got my hunter green Ovation Aqua-X breeches in the mail and absolutely love them. The color is stunning with my chocolate brown boots, and I like the new sock bottom a lot. As usual, they fit me perfectly. Ovation to the rescue! Maybe someday they’ll make the Aqua-X in dark purple…

I also bought Presto his first rope halter (or as I like to call them – MANNERS), and ordered him a yearling size in rainbow. Because he’s my unicorn, and I can torture him however I want.

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DARK NEON RAINBOW!!!

I can’t wait to see him give me that patented Presto side eye while he’s wearing that thing. I won’t even be able to take him seriously.

Still trying to decide if I should bother buying him a winter blanket or not. He’s pretty impressively hairy, I dunno that he’ll actually need anything to keep him warm. But then again, it might be nice to at least have a waterproof sheet on standby, just in case…

Horse Toys

No, not these kind of horse toys:

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I’m looking for suggestions more along the line of these:

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But better. A lot better.

A couple weeks ago when Presto was stuck inside due to weather, he decided to take his angst out on the wooden support structure in his stall’s run. He’s not the first to go for those things, but he went at it pretty hard and heavy there for a few days, despite having a huge pile of hay to eat. Bored Presto is Bad Presto.

look who’s taller…

Michelle tried spraying the wood with all the different things known to man to deter chewing. Presto is a) smart b) not a quitter, so he figured out that if he could just endure the flavor long enough to lick it off, his problem was solved. Eventually she wrapped all the wood in a few layers of chicken wire, and that finally put a kibosh on the chewing. The wood beams were saved, and now turnout is possible again, so it’s not such an issue anymore.

He can’t take credit for all the damage, but omg for real

Presto will likely find himself stuck inside again at some point though, with winter coming, and I’d rather he not find other naughty things to eat or do.  He has a Jolly Ball, which gets played with a little bit, but it’s not interesting enough to keep him truly entertained. He hasn’t been super impressed with the big horse sized ball either. His diet is very very very carefully managed and balanced, so I don’t want to get him any of those stall toys with treats or food either. Plus he’s so smart I don’t think those would last long anyway.

I’ve heard of different homemade type horse toys, involving milk jugs or soccer balls or ropes… has anyone made anything like that before? Did they work? Or are there any horse toys out there on the market that helped at keeping a particularly smart and hard to impress baby horse entertained for more than 5 minutes?

Ashley Adams Clinic – Day 2 and 3

For Day 2 and 3 of the clinic, Trainer was riding Henry. She’s just getting back into her normal riding routine post-baby, and really only has young horses at the moment, so she hasn’t jumped anything of much size or technicality for like… a year. Henry is kind of perfect for helping a rider knock the rust off, because he’s got a high tolerance for mistakes, but at the same time he’s a HUGE tattletale. If you do something even slightly wrong, you’ll know it. Basically they got a little bit of a teacher-student role reversal this weekend, and Henry got to return the favor to someone who has really been so instrumental in bringing him (and me!) along over these past couple years.

Her stadium lesson on Saturday went a lot like mine. Lots of working on rocking the canter back onto the hind end and lifting his ribcage UP to his withers, and lots of working on her own body control. Henry seemed kind of pissed about stadium 2 days in a row when there were a bunch of lovely XC fences just outside of the arena, but he tolerated his torture with nothing more than large amounts of Resting Mare Face. It was pretty fun to watch the lesson progress and see Trainer finding her “sea legs” again as things went along.

this horse though, y’all ❤

The weather was quite miserable, so freaking humid in the morning that everything had a layer of wetness to it. The day ended up being 92 degrees with 60% humidity by the afternoon. Seems pretty excessive for mid-October, Texas. Henry had to spend a while under the hose to get cooled down when he was done. I was glad that I had clipped him the day before the clinic, although I’m not sure how helpful it really was considering the humidity.

Sunday was cross country day, finally something Henry was happy about. They started with little exercises, eventually stringing together some courses and then some harder combinations. A lot of the focus was on the ability to quickly bring the horse back from an open XC canter to rebalance for more of the shorter bouncier stadium canter that is required for combinations… a little bit of a struggle in the beginning with Henry, but eventually she got it done. He was pretty pumped to be out and jumped everything she pointed him at, regardless of mistakes. The first time he leaped into the water I’m pretty sure he was screaming “CANNONBALL” as she had to quickly gather her reins back up to make the turn for the jump out.

loping out of the coffin like NBD

Really cross country day heard a lot of the same concepts repeated from stadium day… especially “put him up into your outside rein”. Like if I had a dollar for every time I heard outside rein all weekend from Ashley, for real. She ain’t wrong, though. Another thing she really stressed was that it was important to keep a conversation going with your horse all the way around, instead of just sitting up there like a bump on a log (“bumps on a log don’t go cross country”) or setting your pace and then just kind of expecting the horse to gallop along on autopilot. It was important to continually check in with them, make sure they were with you, make sure they understood what you wanted, make sure the balance was always there and ready, etc. It really helped the horses not just perform better, but they seemed more confident in the exercises.

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At the end, Ashley’s main takeaway for Henry (both for me and Trainer) was that either we could let him go around and be an average cute little horse, or we could really ride every step, create the powerful canter, improve the balance, and then suddenly he was a machine. Or more accurately, she said it like “MA-CHEEEEN”. He performs to whatever level he’s ridden, basically. Ride him averagely, and he’s an average horse. Ride him well and he’s a great horse. Which really is absolutely 100% accurate, so I need to make myself be a better rider so that he can be a better horse. What else is new?

But now I feel like I have a lot more specific tools in my toolbox to get that done. When we got home I unloaded Henry from the trailer and immediately drove out to my jump field to set up some exercises while everything was still fresh in my mind. I will be riding around thinking about straight bouncy canters, outside rein, my core, separating my hands from my body, quicker reaction times, and riding his girth uphill to the base. Maybe we’ll actually even succeed and get better.


Either way, I can’t recommend Ashley enough. She isn’t just a naturally talented rider, she’s also a really excellent teacher, and it’s hard to find both of those things together. She can very clearly get her points across and knows exactly when to push and what to say to get the results she’s looking for. It’s also really obvious that she cares a lot about what she does and she really gives it 110% of her effort and attention. I’ve been to a lot of clinics with a lot of people, some of them really big name riders, and none of them were as useful to me as she was. It wasn’t one of those “one size fits all” things where there’s one exercise set up and every horse does the exact same thing throughout the day.  Instead everyone got exactly what they needed, individual attention, and specific exercises to help them with their particular horse. Nothing cookie cutter about it. Those of you in Area 2, I’d definitely look her up and try to ride with her. But if any other folks out there are thinking of bringing someone into your area for a clinic, for sure look at Ashley! 10/10 would recommend.

Ashley Adams Clinic – Day 1

Well, y’all, I think I found my new favorite clinician. I also got my ass completely and thoroughly kicked. It was awesome.

Since I was letting Trainer ride Henry in the actual clinic on Saturday and Sunday, I had a private lesson with Ashley on Friday evening. I have to admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about Ashley going in. I knew that she had taken an OTTB all the way up through 4*, and that my trainer said she’s amazing, and that she’s worked a lot with Buck and Kim Severson. I had quickly perused her faceboook and Instagram, like a proper internet stalker, but you never really know someone until you see them in action. Over the weekend I got to know her more, and it seems like she’s ridden horses for just about every BNT, plus she rides timber racers, plus she coaches the Randolph-Macon eventing team. I don’t know where she gets the energy, but omg she has a ton of it.

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also flexibility

I went out for my lesson and we did the usual “tell me about you and the horse” thing, then we went right to work. I got about one lap into canter before the feedback started. And never stopped. Right off the bat she nailed me for my canter being too long and weak, so we spent a while working on me properly getting him back on his hocks and getting him bouncy yet forward and straight. Since he’s kind of a downhill horse she wanted his poll to stay a little bit higher, and think about bringing his ribcage up toward his withers. That alone helped tremendously. Ashley has a really good way of wording things that make you easily visualize what you’re trying to do, and therefore you end up automatically applying the right aids to get it done.

From there we moved on to a grid of bounce canter poles, to further cement the idea of getting the horse light on the forehand and driving from behind. As we went, she built the grid up, and really focused on my position and how it affects the horse. Especially my inability to really separate my hands from my body. When my hands go forward, my shoulders tend to follow, and vice versa – when I actually sit up, I tend to lift my hands with them. I’ve always had an issue with this, and I struggled with it here too. I’ll definitely be spending a lot of time at home over tiny bounces and small jumps, working on making all my parts more independent.

It didn’t take long through the grid before Ashley could easily see my biggest issues, and what the likely effects of them are. Basically she said that my reaction time on the backside of the fence is slow and I don’t get him rocked back enough, which means he probably gets long and flat and has rails in the combinations, etc etc. I mean… she pretty much perfectly described our stadium round at Meadow Creek a few weeks ago. Creepily accurate.

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So we started doing some courses, many of them with some tighter turns to really force me to use my outside aids, get my shit back together sooner, and keep him back on his hocks. At first there was mixed success. She is really really insistent on riding EVERY step and really producing the horse’s best canter and best shape. It’s work, y’all. There wasn’t a single stride where I could just sit there and be like “whee I’m on a horse”. Yeah no. If that happened I flubbed the exercise and got the dreaded “No, start again!”. So, like… sit up and ride the damn horse EVERY STEP. Duly noted.

The biggest things she said that really stuck with me were 1) I tend to get a stride out and think my job is done, just kind of sitting there the last step. That means he’s weak off the ground that last stride and doesn’t jump up and around with as much power. I have to be sure to really hold him with my core all the way to and through takeoff, so that we aren’t losing it all in that last step. 2) The best thing she said to me all weekend (that is my new mantra) was “ride his girth uphill to the base”. So basically think of really lifting his rib cage and riding him UP all the way to the fence. Ride everything like it’s uphill, keeping him back on his hocks and making sure the hind legs stay active and underneath his body. For some reason the words “ride his girth uphill to the base” just made the whole feeling really click, and it worked out extremely well.

 

While it was definitely never perfect, it was much better by the end. He just really needs that help from me to get the proper canter, and to keep it all the way to the jumps. And I need to stop collapsing my core at the base. And use my freaking outside leg. No big deal right?

For a 45 minute lesson, I came home with a ridiculous amount of homework. But I also feel like I came home with a much better understanding of what we need to be working toward, and how my horse really needs me to ride him in order to be at his best. Definitely some epiphany moments there. Ashley is a magician. Her eye for both the horse and the rider is pretty incredible… a lot of the time you get one or the other, but it’s hard to find someone that sees so much minute detail in both. Totally worth it!

Review: Mrs. Tutton’s May show shirt

I’m so excited to finally be able to review this shirt. I got it over a year ago, right after we got home from Coconino, but then Henry got hurt and then show season was over and blah blah blah, so it ended up being forever before I could actually wear it. But now I’ve finally worn it a few times and gotten a decent picture of it in action, so here’s the review… better late than never?

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I hate stock ties. A lot. As far as stock ties go, I love the one I have from Style Stock, but it’s still a stock tie and I still hate a) tying things b) having a big floof under all of my chins. I just can’t get into it. I tried.  I feel like a rooster. When I get to the level at which a stock tie is required, I will wear one. Until then I will #resist.

But I also don’t really like the plain boring all-white look of just a show shirt, nor do I like the weird ruffley shirts that a lot of anti-stock tie DQ’s have adopted. I like show shirts with just a little bit of unique detail to make them different, and the May shirt from Mrs. Tutton’s really hits it out of the park in that department.

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let’s just agree to ignore the THANK GOD WE’RE DONE look on my face, ok?

The May shirt is available in a long sleeve or a short sleeve version. The long sleeve is available in navy or pink, and the short sleeve comes in pink or white. The navy (which is really a very thin navy pinstripe) has navy faux-leather detailing, and the pink and white shirts have brown faux-leather detailing. I got navy of course, because I’m nothing if not dedicated to my color scheme.

I really really LOVE the look of the faux leather around the collar and sleeves. It’s just enough to be interesting without being “in your face”, so I think it looks extremely classy and high end. The fabric itself is a nice Japanese cotton that breathes well but isn’t thin enough to see through. It washes up nicely and doesn’t require any kind of special cleaning, just machine wash.

Mrs. Tutton’s is an Australian-based brand, specializing in the “stable to street” style. Many of their clothes could easily double as work wear, and all of it is made in Australia out of high end fabrics. It’s a brand that was developed by riders, FOR riders, and I think that really shows in the thorough attention to detail, fit, and finish.

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Normally these shirts are a little on the pricey side, around $200AUD, but right now they’re actually on sale for $115AUD, which is only around $90 USD! The available sizes are a bit limited, but if they have yours, it’s definitely a great deal for a high quality shirt like this. As far as fit, I found that the Australian/US sizing charts were accurate in this case – it all seems to run true to size. It’s worthwhile to take a look at all of their other clothing too… it’s all gorgeous and much of it is on sale at the moment.

If you’re looking for something a little different, but still elegant, definitely take a look at Mrs. Tutton’s!

 

Definitely less feral

It’s been a really long time since Henry and I have had a lesson with Dressage Trainer. Like over a year. Because first Henry got hurt, then when he came back we were really focused on the move-up, therefore mostly the jumping parts, since… you know… much less likely to die if you’re a shitshow in dressage vs cross country or stadium.

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this almost became the new header photo, but I didn’t want people to think I was that into dressage

But we’re finally back at a “stable” point to where it’s time (ok, past time) to add regular dressage lessons back in. I’ve taken a few this year from regular Trainer, but she’s far enough away to where I just can’t make it over there all the time. Dressage Trainer (DT) is a 15 minute haul, meaning I can squeeze lessons in on weekdays after work, which in turn means that it still leaves my weekends open for jump lessons or xc schooling or whatever else with regular Trainer. They both have similar styles, so it works out well for us.

Last night we had our first lesson with DT again. I was actually a little excited when I scheduled it, because I feel like Henry has come a long way since DT last saw us. Then on Tuesday we were a shit sandwich full of tension. Like… just could not, from start to finish. All the sudden I found myself kind of dreading Wednesday’s lesson. How embarrassing would it be if we were exactly the same amount of terrible as when he last saw us, early last summer?

Loves dressage

Luckily Henry decided to actually come to play. He was still more tense than he has typically been lately, but he was obedient and fairly rideable. DT remarked on the massive improvement in his connection, which kind of just made everything better in general (shocking how that works). Shoulder in and haunches in were better, lengthenings were better, leg yields were better. We’ve never really touched much on sitting trot before, since Henry is the king of back tension, but we sprinkled some of that in there too, and it was not as awful as it could have been. Of course, there’s still a whoooooole lot to work on and a looooooooong way to go.

The most fun exercise I think was when he had us canter up quarter line, leg yield over towards the rail, but stop just short of the rail and go into shoulder in. It required a lot of straightness and acceptance of the aids, neither of which Henry has ever excelled at, but he did it pretty well every time, getting better with each attempt. We also worked on haunches-in at the canter on a circle and when we finally got a few really good steps, it was amazing how much “sit” there was.

Plus it was AWESOME to not just ride in an arena again (something we don’t really do very much) but especially one of standard size that has MIRRORS. Omg. I forgot how much I love the mirrors. Being able to see the angle of his body and my position and all that… it becomes self-correcting. Also, Henry still looks kinda fat. When the dressage guy says his condition looks fantastic, you know your event horse is fat.

but he looks pretty slim in this picture, so lets go with that

Overall he was pleased with Henry’s progress, especially in his connection and general attitude toward the work. Definitely less feral! I was happy to hear that, because of course he feels tremendously improved to me, but… ya know how that goes. We’re going to try to stick to a regular dressage lesson schedule with him, hopefully twice a month, so we can keep building on the positive momentum we’ve got going right now. Henry will be SO thrilled.

 

Best/Worst Clinic Experiences?

Henry and I are headed to an Ashley Adams clinic this weekend at my Trainer’s barn. Well… I have a private SJ lesson on Friday, and then Trainer is riding him. She’s mostly back in the groove from her post-baby/riding-hiatus, but all of her horses are green, so who better to gallop and jump big fences on than Henry? Plus I’m still planning on making her run Prelim on him so they may as well start getting re-acquainted.

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auditing Charles de Kunffy

I think it’ll be fun, and since I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ashley (especially regarding her experience with OTTB’s), I’m willing to give it a go. Normally you have to twist my arm a lot for the clinic thing… by the time all is said and done most of them end up costing about as much as a horse show, or a lot of lessons with your regular trainer. When your budget is tight, it becomes a matter of priorities and choices. Clinics don’t usually win.

I have been to some good clinics though. I’m lucky in that I’ve never ridden with a truly BAD clinician, although some have definitely been better than others. I’m not sure that I’ve ever walked away with any huge revelations though. Except for that little steeplechase lesson we got from Hawley Bennett as part of the 3-Day at Coconino… that one little lesson, and applying what we learned at the subsequent event that weekend, really made cross country riding “click” for me in a way it hadn’t before. Maybe the Classic Format in general should get the credit there (the whole event was set up as a semi-clinic, with jog up lessons and everything), but Hawley’s advice still echos clearly in my memory on cross country.

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steeplechase practice with Hawley

Granted, I haven’t ridden in a ton of clinics… only 5.

I’ve audited a lot more than I’ve ridden in, plus participated in a couple un-mounted ones (the YEH judging and FEH ones). Some were great, most of them decent, and a couple were just uncomfortably bad. Auditing Charles de Kunffy was a particular highlight in the “great” column, as was the YEH judging clinic with Marilyn Payne, both of which I ended up writing about here.

The bad ones that stand out in my mind were mostly bad because of the clinicians’ attitude toward some of the riders. There’s a difference in constructive criticism and just plain meanness.

So that got me thinking: what were the best clinics you’ve ever been to, and what made them so great? And on the flip side: what were the worst clinics you’ve ever been to, and what made them so bad?

WTW Inspection: The Rest of the Horses

It occurred to me that some of you might want to see the inspection pictures of Liam too, since a) he’s adorbs, b) he’s featured so prominently in Presto’s life story thus far, as the trusty BFF. But if I’m gonna post pics of Liam, I may as well post pics of all the WTW horses that were part of the inspection, right? I mean, in some capacity y’all have probably at least heard most of them mentioned on here before. And if you haven’t, you should. Because Willow Tree is the best and you will keep hearing about them forever and ever. Plus a whole post full of pictures of pretty horses is never a bad thing. So I guess consider this an update post on the horses you already know, and an introductory post for the ones you don’t. **The overcast pics were taken on actual Inspection Day, and the sunny pretty ones are from an impromptu “redo” with better lighting.

First and foremost: Liam!

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always a showoff

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he’s got the best baby stallion lips

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And of course there’s Liam’s dam, Lissa (Lasino x Winnetou), the 1.50m GP jumper mare. I thiiiink Michelle is going to breed her back to Emerald next year and hope for a keeper filly this time? She borrowed Henry’s jumping bridle for the inspection… I think she pulls off the Lund figure 8 and the Boy-O-Boy browband with panache.

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Chanel Z (Crown Z x Heartbreaker) showed through 1.40m classes both in Europe and here in the US. Chanel already had two foals in Europe before she was put under saddle and then sold across the pond. The first foal is currently jumping at 1.45m in the UK and the other is at 1.20m in Slovakia.

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Inca R (Diabolo D’Esquelmes x Lux Z) is a super cute 3yo black filly that was started under saddle this year. If you know anyone that’s looking for a more petite sporthorse prospect, she’s for sale! Inca is very smart and easy and quiet, with a huge stride, and should mature about 16-16.1h. And she scored a 9 for her trot at the inspection.

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Laken (Torino x Pikadero) is out of another mare that Michelle used to have – Portia. They look very very similar: big, powerful, and beautiful. Laken showed a little bit when she was younger, through 1.15m, and now she’s in foal to Diarado.

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Hanna (Iris Landai x Iveday) was the very first broodmare at WTW, the one who started it all. Hanna is the senior lady of the herd but started her life in Belgium, where she won a huge young horse class before being imported and having a long career in the children’s and junior hunter ring.

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And then there’s Stormie the sportpony, smallest in stature but largest in ego. This is the pony that all the big name riders keep trying to buy from Michelle every time she takes it to a clinic (yes, this is her main riding horse too!). Stormie moves fantastic and jumps even better. REALLY can’t wait to see some super nice sportponies out of this one! I haven’t come across very many ponies in the US that equal her quality. I just wish we had a stronger pony jumper market here.

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also a showoff

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There is one more that I just had to include here. Murphy is a quarter horse, and he’s bred for barrel racing, but he’s adorable. You might be seeing more of him in the future once Liam leaves, because this little nugget is Presto’s other friend. Granted, Murphy is like half the size, but he’s got more than enough confidence in himself to make up the difference.

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I also really wanted to share these because this was Michelle’s first time hosting her own inspection at her own farm, and she really busted her ass making it nice. Sun up to sun down (or later) for WEEKS, doing upgrades around the farm, mowing, painting all these jumps and poles, making and stuffing flower boxes, watering, re-landscaping, getting the horses ready, getting shirts and banners made, etc etc. I’m proud of her and want to recognize her accomplishment, and I feel like everyone else should get to see it too. Round of applause for you, friend!

Oh, and if you’re not following Willow Tree Warmbloods on social media (facebook and Instagram), you really should.

Cross Country Playday (with a real life unicorn)

When you’re having a shit week at work and your trainer texts you and asks if you want to meet up at your regular XC schooling venue for a laidback play day, the only suitable answer is omg yes please.

De-stressing at it’s finest

Having no real plan or expectations, I hopped on and headed out to the field to warm up. We had done a lot of raised trot and canter poles the day before so I thought Henry might feel a little body sore, but if he did, it was overridden by his cross country excitement. As soon as I picked up the canter he did his patented gleeful dolphin leaps, head between his knees. We popped over a couple little logs, then the first fence for Training, then the first fence for Prelim, then a random Prelim skinny that’s set on an awkward approach. All quite boring, in a good way, and Henry felt great.

It was a pretty hot and humid day, so I didn’t see the point in jumping a whole lot of stuff. We weren’t there with some kind of big important mission in mind, we were just there to have fun and go for a spin. So we jumped through the Prelim water a couple times

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and then just ambled along through the woods while the rest of our little group schooled a few other things.

Or while they cantered through the water one handed, whip raised like a sword

By the time we ambled through the woods and made it back to the big field, my friend Kathy had somehow convinced me to take her Advanced horse, Lofty, for a spin. This horse is an actual unicorn – big beautiful gray warmblood with huge fancy gaits and a ton of jump. He finished 11th in the Gold Cup Advanced final at AEC this year (I really need to write about Kathy and Lofty at some point, their story is pretty incredible). So like… he’s as legit as an event horse can possibly be.

He gets so much air time (hence the name Lofty) that just trotting him around my abs hurt almost instantly. His stride feels twice as long as Henry’s, and he seems twice as big and about a thousand times more uphill. I was 99% sure I was going to break him, but they finally peer pressured me into jumping the Novice ark and then the Training triple down banks to bench combination. Since Lofty is a unicorn, he packed my ass around with no complaints while I mostly just tried not to kill us both. It was a lot of me screaming internally “DON’T BREAK THE ADVANCED HORSE” as Lofty loped politely over the jumps like he was literally asleep.

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And yes I photoshopped his outsides to match his insides.

Kathy had gotten on Henry, who expressed his disdain at her proper riding by pinning his ears and letting that helicopter tail fly in tight circles. He’s… special… to ride if you’re not used to him or his type. Sensitive is his first, middle, and last name, and he’s a little bouncing ball of a horse. Once she pointed him at a jump his attitude immediately improved, and we ended by peer pressuring her (fair’s fair!) into jumping the Prelim chevron.

Our two horses really couldn’t be more polar opposite. I love my little delicate flower, but it was definitely cool to sit on a really really fancy, really really trained one (even if I spent the whole time being terrified that I was going to break him).

We had so much fun though. It was nice to just come out for a relaxed day, no pressure, small group of friends, and just blow off some steam. I really needed it, and Henry is always thrilled to get a cross country day.

Plus on the way home I stopped at America’s Greatest Gas Station and grabbed two of my most favorite things in the world.

You can’t beat a day like that.