The Development of Young Horses

You guys know that I’m a, shall we call it, “young horse enthusiast”. Anything to do with breeding, development, and especially getting them started in their career is super interesting to me. Therefore I always read pretty much every article or show recap having to do with YEH and FEH, word for word. So when I was reading the recap of the YEH classes at Rebecca Farm this week, one particular quote from the judge really stood out to me:

If you talk to breeders, one of their biggest (or at least most consistent) complaints is how difficult it is to find good young-horse trainers in this country. In Europe it’s fairly common to have people that specialize in bringing up the babies, but here they are much fewer and farther between. And while a lot of big name pro riders are good with young horses as well, just as many of them are not.

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P Dutty: probably not a surprise that he’s good with the babies

Some of that I think is due to what Katie Prudent pointed out last week, about many of our best young riders only always sitting exclusively on the best horses. Many of our most talented younger riders that we’re producing these days just don’t spend a lot of time on greenies. I think that’s less common in eventing, but something that still probably contributes to the issue.

This was especially obvious to me last year at YEH Championships, since we got to sit there all day each day and watch pretty much everyone. Maybe they were just having a bad week, but there were a few that were borderline cringeworthy. Tip: don’t bring the baby horse to YEH Championships in an elevator, especially if you never plan on letting go of it’s mouth. They REALLY don’t like that.

It’s probably no surprise that the ones who stood out for particularly GOOD riding were ones that have been involved in YEH classes for a while. Because beyond just knowing the basics of how to properly bring a nice young horse along, the YEH classes themselves are different from a regular event. The judging is different, they’re looking for different things, and they should be presented with that in mind. It seemed like many riders didn’t quite understand how the classes were really judged, or what exactly the judges were looking for. I think that’s the other big issue.

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All this. They’re looking for all this.

From watching a few YEH classes just in Area V, this kind of thing was even more obvious (because, duh, it’s not Championships). Many seem unprepared, or brought horses that really weren’t what the YEH program is meant for. See what’s written in the General Impression box on the scoresheet? “Potential as a successful 3*/4* event horse”. As a low level amateur, I personally would probably not not try do the YEH stuff myself… but if I had a horse that I thought was potential upper level material AND it was mature enough mentally and physically, I’d absolutely send one through the program with a pro.

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Hopefully now with all of the YEH and FEH seminars and clinics that are starting to pop up (they’re doing another one at Championships on both coasts this year – highly recommend going if you can!), people who are interested will take advantage of them and go learn more about it. And hopefully some trainers will participate and help grow the ICP Young Horse Certification Program as well. I think if we can produce better young horse trainers, we can, in turn, produce better young horses. Which, if you think about it, could quite possibly be a big step toward making the US more competitive again on the world stage. Imagine if we could get really good at producing more of our own top quality horses instead of trying to buy them from somewhere else…

Three Beats

The first sign that something is amiss in Henryland is when the quality of his canter goes down the tubes. Normally his canter is his best gait, but as I’ve now learned, as soon as it starts to feel stiff and/or it starts wanting to have 4 beats instead of 3, we have a problem. Typically an SI problem.


This was exactly the issue that prompted me to have his SI done a couple weeks ago. Over the past month or so his canter had gone from stiff to occasionally losing the rhythm to pretty consistently four-beat. No bueno. Looked gross, felt even worse. It makes perfect sense when you think about it… sore SI, no longer wants to sit and push. But mostly I know that his canter is not naturally like that, so as soon as we lose that 3-beat purity, it’s a big red flag. Granted, on a naturally tense horse, it’s sometimes hard to tell which is “sore” stiffness and which is “tense” stiffness.

This week I’ve finally bumped his workload back up to normal, which means adding the canter back in. The difference is night and day; Henry magically has 3 beats again. When I get my new jump saddle (oh hey btw, I did a thing yesterday) I can’t wait to jump him again and see how he feels.

Although on one particularly wild day this past weekend we did jump over a natural ditch in the field a few times and then go for a quick gallop, because you can put the eventer in a dressage saddle for a month, but you can’t really take the eventer spirit away. The lady bits were mostly unscathed, so #noregrets.

Henry still has a couple more weeks of his “lighter” summer schedule before we start ramping back up again to prepare for the fall. Conditioning rides will get longer, lessons will start happening again with some regular frequency, and we have a ride-a-test/jumper rounds weekend on the calendar before I go to Germany. We’re only 2 weeks away from opening date for the first fall show. Finally! Hopefully now he’s back to feeling 100% and ready to cart my butt around some fancy Training courses.

Barn Shopping for Baby

No, not barn shopping for Henry. We’re quite happy where we are. But I’ve been looking around a lot, trying to come up with a “next step” plan for Presto. Theoretically he’s welcome to stay out in Midland as long as I want, which is super, because it takes the pressure off of me. But I’m a little emotionally scarred and would love to have him nearby so I could see him more often, plus would like to relieve Michelle of some of her own pressure. He has not exactly been a stress-free charge.

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don’t fall for the innocent fuzzface

If I had my way, he’d be at my barn. There’s a field up in the front with lots of terrain and a creek crossing, and then I’d get to see him every day. But right now the field is pretty full, and pasture board there is a bit more than my already set aflame budget can handle.

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my budget right now

So, at the moment, that’s a no.

I have some other options though. There isn’t a lack of pasture board in the area, and some of my friends have graciously offered him space. I am a little bit complicated though in that if he’s going to leave Midland and the absolute top-notch care that he gets there, I want it to be for the perfect situation. The criteria that I’m looking for in particular:

  • large pasture, at least 5ish acres, with good grass. Big huge bonus if there’s terrain and hills (hard to find here, but still, if I’m in dreamland…).
  • safe fencing. I’m open to a few different types of fencing, but it has to be safe and in good repair.
  • either access to a nice big run-in shed or brought inside during inclement weather.
  • excellent staff. I’m a little neurotic about this horse. And by a little, I mean like off the charts insane. If he’s not somewhere that I can see him every day, I need to know I that can trust whoever is caring for him.
  • decent feed. Like not the $12 a bag shit that’s made out of the crap they sweep up off the floor at the mill. He’s a baby wb, he needs good nutrition. So either they have to feed something decent, or the price has to be good enough to where I can afford to supply my own. They also need to be feeding hay at least when the pasture isn’t as lush/during the winter, if not year round. I think he’s the type of horse that wouldn’t keep weight well without it… he’s naturally lean.
  • some type of training facilities are a plus, so that every once in a while I can at least bring him into a barn to groom him, learn about tack, crossties, start the very basics of how to lunge, etc. This part isn’t necessary though, I could do it in a pasture if I had to.
  • friends his age are also a plus, but older horses are fine too.

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That’s a lot to be picky about, I know. Some things are easy to find here, other things aren’t. I am willing to compromise on location, if all the other boxes are ticked. The closer to me the better, but I’m ok with him being up to a couple hours away if I feel really good about the place and the people.

Presto won’t be weaned until the end of September, and then he’d need to be gelded, so I haven’t been in a super huge rush to find anything. Like I said, he can stay in Midland as long as I need him to. I’ve really just barely started poking around to see what my options are… but then I came across this place.

From first impressions, they tick all my boxes. It’s about an hour away, definitely has the facilities (way more than we need), and they’re experienced with babies. I’m planning on going to look at it next weekend to check out the pastures and see what kind of vibe I get. If it doesn’t seem absolutely perfect, then it’s a no, because see above note about me being off the charts insane… but, we shall see.

Things come and things go

Moment of silence please for my Mondoni field boots. They served faithfully, almost daily, for 3.5 years, but this weekend I finally wore all the way through the sole on one of them. They’ve been slowly falling apart this year… first I wore holes through the lining inside the foot, then laces rotted and fell apart, the tongues started to split, and now finally, this:

Maybe it’s finally time to let them go. Especially because I just about implaled my foot on some particularly crunchy grass the other day. Texas is so great. Even the grass attacks you.

I think the Tucci’s will have to step in and take over everyday riding duty until we go to Europe, because I’d rather get replacement boots there. I can get the Ego7’s for about $300 instead of $500, which is obviously much more appealing. Plus then I could be the weird girl that wears her tall boots home on the plane, since they’re unlikely to fit in my luggage. Win-win.

But with one item headed out the door, I did acquire a fun new thing, and for only $25… behold my new dressage arena! (Thanks Megan!)

Ok, so I still have to actually measure things out and set them up. And find a good, fairly flat (ish. kinda.) spot for that. But in theory I have a dressage ring now. Ish. Kinda.

On my way back from picking up the letters, I stopped at Dover to pick up a dressage whip. I figured that since I’ve been using one now for like a month, it was probably time to graduate to Big Girl status and buy my own. Their selection wasn’t great, and who knew dressage whips were so expensive (at least at Dover, they were all $30-70!), but now I actually own one. The cheapest, ugliest one they had, but… still counts. This is a landmark moment in Henny history.

In retrospect I should have just waited until the next time I did a Riding Warehouse order, because they have the exact one I wanted and it’s only $13, instead of paying $30 for a shitty one from Dover. That was exceedingly dumb on my part. Now I think maybe I should return it…

But while I was in the store I wandered around to see if there was anything else I had to have. At the big wall of fly masks I stopped to dig around for a weanling size, figuring there was no way in hell they’d have one, but lo and behold:

Okay, Dover, you’ve earned back like .005% of my respect. Of course, it was $3 more than it is anywhere online, but in the realm of Dover that’s not bad markup. And not only is it weanling size, it’s the one with ears and the long nose. In theory, it could protect Presto’s little pink nose. In reality, I’d be shocked if the mask stayed on for more than 5 minutes. It’s the thought that counts though right?

Brutal Honesty 

Boy did the interwebs get all spun up yesterday about Katie Prudent’s comments on the WiSP Sports Horse Show podcast. I read the transcript of her interview really early, as soon as it was posted, and when I was finished I knew that a whole lot of people were probably going to be all kinds of offended soon. And, because the people of the internet are nothing if not reliable, they were.

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I have to say though, for the most part I agree with Katie. Sure, lots of people got their hackles up about this particular comment: “The sport has become for the fearful, talentless amateur. That’s what the sport has been dummied down to.”. Many folks got knee-jerk mad about what they perceived as being called talentless and fearful, taking it as a slam on all amateur riders. But really… put your emotions back in their glass case for a second and ask yourself – is she wrong? Because, at the root of things, I don’t think she is.

First of all, her complaint here really is the fact that the sport now caters to the lowest common denominator, and somewhere along the way has become more about horse showing and less about horsemanship. Both of which are pretty true, although whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on where you’re standing. Her second end point from that statement was that these talentless, fearful people can buy super nice horses and rise to a level (sometimes near or at the top) that they wouldn’t otherwise be riding at. That point I’ll leave alone, because I don’t think I’m qualified enough to determine that one. I do see what she means though, and can think of a couple examples right off the top of my head. But let’s go back to the part where a bunch of people got offended at the idea of Katie Prudent putting a spotlight on the “fearful, talentless amateur” (even though, IMO, a lot of people took that comment out of context).

The reality is, I’ve known for a long time that I’m not exactly chock full of top-tier talent, and the fact that I can’t really make eye contact with a Prelim level table kind of speaks volumes about the fearful part (I mean… I prefer to call it “knowing my limitations”, but, a rose by another name). So I have no real problem with someone at the very top of the sport thinking that I am talentless and fearful. On the scale of a lot of other amateur riders I know, I’m probably marginally talented and considerably less fearful than most, but that’s not the measure she’s referring to here. On Katie Prudent’s scale of talent and balls, the one that is looking for the next McLain, I’m DEFINITELY talentless and fearful. I can own that with no problem.

And while people don’t greet me at the gate with a bottle of water and a fan, hey, I wouldn’t turn it down if you did.

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Look, there are A LOT of things in our sport that cater to amateur riders. The governing bodies themselves even cater to us a lot, because they know we’re their bread and butter. There are plenty of people plugging away at USEF, USEA, USHJA, USDF, etc who are tasked with reeling in the amateurs and keeping them entertained. Because let’s face it, as amateurs we really do own the sport these days, at least at the lower/national level. We have entire divisions, special awards, points categories, programs, etc. We outnumber the pros at staggering numbers. We bring in the majority of the money that keeps the associations and horse shows in business. There are even support groups for amateurs, for god’s sakes. We’re not victims, so let’s move on.

Rub a little bit of ointment onto that initial butthurt from Katie Prudent pointing out that talentless and fearful amateurs are a real thing that exist, and then please keep reading the rest of her interview transcript. What Katie has to say is a whole lot bigger than that one comment. It isn’t an attack on amateurs, it’s an observation of the current state of the sport itself, what it’s evolved into, how the business has changed, and how that effects what’s happening at the top levels.

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A lot of what Katie says during that interview is pretty spot on. It might make some people uncomfortable, and it seems to have come across as a bit too brutally honest to the more sensitive among us (which, ironically, kind of proves her point), but her comments are honest and I can certainly appreciate that. She says what a lot of people don’t have the guts to. It’s easy to see that the sport is changing (not just showjumping, either) and her concerns about where we’re going to get our next generation of top talent is valid.  Her comments on the dumbing down of the sport are valid, too. I mean… it’s worked out to my own particular benefit, but it’s still a valid observation.

It’s entirely different now than it was in Katie’s heyday, some ways for the better and some ways for the worse. It seems like pretty much everything circles back to money, which was really one of her biggest concerns. It’s turned into a little bit of a pay to play game, even at the top levels, which she believes has been a bit detrimental to our pool of young talented young riders… and really that was the entire point she was trying to make here, IMO.

Of course, I don’t have any answers for how to fix it, and she didn’t seem to either. Honestly, if you’re asking me, I don’t think it’s fixable, but that’s because I think a lot of it is a reflection of our culture in general. There’s no turning back the clock at this point, it’s more a matter of finding our footing in our current reality. Something that, luckily, is not my job, because that’s a pretty tough thing to try to conquer.

But that’s just my very amateur opinion on the whole thing, which is probably worth about as much as you paid for it.

 

Barnsitting Therapy

It’s been a while since I’ve barnsat for my favorite Trakehners and their fluffy friends. This time was just a short 3-day stint, but it was fun just the same.

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Quinnie’s standard greeting
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she loves me though, even if she won’t admit it

I mean… technically, looking after 8 horses, 2 dogs, and 2-3 cats (the exact number of cats is up for debate) is work, but it’s still fun. I enjoy the labor and the quiet time and the solitude that accompany barn chores… it’s kind of therapeutic when you usually work in an office. Once I got to the barn in the afternoon after work, I literally wouldn’t see another human until I got to work again the next day. That seems like a win.


It was hot (omg the sweat) and of course not without our fair share of mischief. One of the kittens never actually showed up at all. No idea if he wandered off at some point before I got there, or if he just hated me so much that he never showed his face. The other two cats followed me around the whole time, telling me what to do, so who knows.

Toni the stallion is always super sweet, and he seemed particularly cheeky this time. He took extra care to slobber all over the handle of the muck cart at every opportunity, and oh-so-innocently crept up behind me as I was cleaning his stall.

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are you not terrified of the wild stallion?

One of the other Trakehners thought it would be great fun to bust through the little strip of hot tape along one side of the pasture, swirling the tape all over the place and completely snapping a couple of plastic t-posts. Luckily no one seemed injured (except the tape) and it was just a sectioned off portion within a pasture, so they didn’t get loose either.

All of the adult horses blamed it on the filly… I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt until I went back out there to fix it and hadn’t even walked 10 feet away before she waltzed right through it again. Didn’t even have the decency to let me get out of sight first.

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wouldn’t make eye contact

And because there has to be drama with literally every species, one of the Dog-Fluffs decided to do a little overnight remodeling of the dog beds.


I woke up to bits of foam scattered from literally one end of the house to the other, and there was Lola, happy as could be, tongue hanging out the side of her derpy mouth. It’s hard to be mad when they’re this cute.


Now their mom is back home, and I’m back at my house and back to my normal life, featuring Henry and an almost-as-derpy-as-Lola corgi. It was nice to have a few days of peace and quiet, with plenty of time for life reflection while doing barn chores. I’ve been thinking pretty hard about the future lately, trying to figure out if I want to make a big life change. I finally decided to put some feelers out and just see what, if anything, comes of it.

Does anyone else find barn chores to be kind of therapeutic?

Dreaming of Fall

This is that time of year in Texas where the grass is crunchy, the ground is hard, and the air feels like a moist oven. Therefore, naturally, the things I find myself doing most often are a) sweating profusely, and b) dreaming of Fall.

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It’s Hot.

Since we had to sit out Fall 2016 due to Henry’s fence-kicking injury, I’m feeling a little gung-go about doing All The Things this year. I wanted to spend the spring finding our footing and building our (ok, my) confidence at Training level at schooling shows before spending the $$$ to hit the recognized shows, and I feel like we did that. We had a momentary hiccup with Henry’s confidence at the down banks there for a couple months, but *knock on wood* he seems to be 100% back on track now. MeadowCreek in June in particular was a big deposit in the “we can do this” bank as Henry packed my butt around the XC like an old pro.


Ok, so maybe I still don’t have the balls to actually walk up to most of the tables or corners or trakehners-of-death at Training level (I don’t need to know how wide it is, thanks), but I know for sure that he can easily jump anything I point him at on course. That counts for a lot.

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trakehner of death

I’m still not sure yet if the budget will allow for 3 recognized shows or just two… we’ll see how talented I am about pulling extra $ out of thin air. But our most optimistic plan looks like this:

Sep 16-17 – MeadowCreek Park H.T – The Fall Social Event

Oct 28-29 – Holly Hill Fall H.T.

Nov 11-12 – Texas Rose Horse Park Fall H.T.

 

With, of course, the addition of some FOX HUNTING thrown in there for good measure. Trainer has been giving lessons to some of the ladies from the local hunt and they’ve offered to “show the ropes” to anyone interested. This is a big bucket list item for me, so I’m definitely in. Pretty sure Henry will think he’s died and gone to heaven.

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So us.

If I can keep my spending for our Germany trip pretty low, and don’t have any big unforseen expenses otherwise (ha. hahahahaha.), hopefully we’ll be able to do all 3 shows. If not, I’ll have to pick 2. I dunno yet, we’ll see how things go. Plus Texas Rose is, for us anyway, the biggest baddest course in Area V, so we’ll see how ballsy I’m feeling by then. Our plans will stay fluid.

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why tho?

And then in late fall/early winter Henry will get to go spend some time with Trainer to prepare for their Prelim debut. Just the thought of her (read: anyone) having to sit his trot for an entire test is hilarious. Mostly because I’m not the one that has to do it.

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