Not Every Horse is an Upper Level Horse (and that’s ok)

If you’ve owned baby horses, or green horses, or maybe a horse that turned out to be less than ideal for it’s intended purpose, and you’re anything like me, at some point you will find yourself looking at said horse and assessing just what it’s niche might be in life. Is it destined to be the lower level packer that takes kid after kid around their first Novice? Is it a possible 1*-2*-3* horse for a good amateur or young rider? Is it a big time talent, a possible 4*-5* horse for a pro? Or maybe it would it be better in the dressage ring, or happier as a hunter or a jumper? I’ve done this with pretty much all of my horses (sometimes more than once, we know how things can change), since I’ve definitely never gone out shopping for a “made” one with a very specific purpose in mind.

BlackDot
Definitely looks like an eventer to me.

With Presto things are obviously a bit different. I’m not just assessing the horse in front of me, he was BRED for a specific purpose, and he’s being raised with that specific purpose in mind. He’s been mine since conception, and he was carefully planned. I do still constantly assess him, of course… are we on track for what I want him to be? Am I teaching him the things he needs now to make his (and my) job easier later? Does it look like he will fulfill that purpose? Until he’s under saddle, there’s only so much I’ll be able to tell.

I bred him to be an amateur-friendly eventer, something I can keep and raise and ride myself. One that isn’t tough in the head, can take a joke, has enough scope to get me out of trouble, has a knack for XC, a good work ethic, and perhaps is a bit more naturally inclined to the dressage work than my current mount (Henry you are the light of my life, but good lord you have been and continue to be A PIECE OF FREAKING WORK). Presto wasn’t meant to be a top upper level horse. I wanted something that could happily bop around Prelim, maybe Intermediate as an extreme reach goal, and be a fun horse for me to raise and enjoy.

PrestoKiss2
cutest ball of fuzz I’ve ever seen

Taking him to the Future Event Horse classes (and maybe later on the Young Event Horse classes, if that’s something that seems to be a good fit for him) is kind of interesting. On one hand, the whole purpose of the FEH and YEH programs is to look for horses that they feel like have legit upper level potential. Advanced horses, 4* horses, 5* horses. Mine is not that. He wasn’t intended to be that. So will it hurt my feelings if the judges don’t think that he’s going to be that horse? Of course not. I don’t think he is either. That was never my intention when I bred him.

I was having this conversation with someone a few weeks ago and they said “aw, but Presto is nice!”. I agree. I’m not saying he isn’t nice. I’m saying he’s not an elite horse, and I’m ok with that, because he wasn’t meant to be. A horse can still be really nice without being the next superstar.

PrestoMMflip

I think it’s important, especially if you’re going to own and show babies, to still be able to evaluate your horses as objectively as possible, so you’re able to choose the path that’s most suitable for them. For me, Presto has been perfect so far. He’s smart, he’s quiet, he’s easy, he moves well enough but not SO well that I won’t be able to ride him, and – from what I’ve been able to see to this point – has good enough instincts at the jumps to suit what I intended him to be. I mean, I do cry a little at the string test that says he will be 17h, but other than that, he ticks all the boxes. Will he love the sport enough to really be an eventer? Time will tell. Right now I’m very pleased with him. But is he the type of horse that the Future and Young Horse classes are really meant for? Not really, no. He is destined for life as an amateur horse.

At this point, we do the FEH classes for exposure. He could get that elsewhere, sure, but I like the program and want to support it, so that’s my choice. He gets to go to events and get miles and see some atmosphere. For horses like him (NOT top upper level prospects) that’s exactly what those classes are meant to offer. I know that going in. If he does well, great, if he doesn’t… oh well. He gets to go stand in the ring, trot around a little, and learn to behave himself – that in itself is a win at this stage.

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he mostly behaved

At this point I doubt that he will be the right type of horse for the YEH classes. Mostly because I think he’ll be a big dopey horse that is slow to develop and not necessarily quick to figure out his feet, and I have no intention of rushing him through that part. But also because those programs are meant for and designed for future upper level horses, and that’s not what mine is meant to be. If, when he’s 4, we find that the YEH class (basically BN) is a good fit for where he’s at in his life, we’ll do them to get some experience. If not, maybe we’ll do the 4yo FEH class (just a basic w/t/c) instead. Or neither, if neither option is right for him at that point. It doesn’t mean the programs are bad, or that the horse is bad, it just means that those classes aren’t HIS path. It’s my responsibility as his person to be able to recognize that. If I don’t see him for what he is and what he’s meant to be, and take that into consideration, I won’t be able to make the right decisions for him.

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and if one more of you h/j people say he’s a hunter, I’m sending you a glitterbomb in the mail

Horses with top tier talent are few and far between. They’re awesome and exciting and fun to watch, but are they suitable for most people? Probably not. Most of us need something far more average, less sharp, easier to stay with, and easier to own. Most horses are not upper level horses… and that’s ok. If they were, there wouldn’t be much left over for us mere mortals to ride. I don’t think it’s an insult to a horse to say that it isn’t the second coming of FischerRocana – not all of us need or want that horse. If the horse suits my needs and does his job perfectly, it’s better than a 5* horse to me.

Cross Country and Bitting

Ah yes, the good ol’ fashioned “how to make eventing safer” debate. Depending on who you ask, there are all kinds of things to blame for safety issues. I’ve heard everything from the death of the long format, to the change over to the popularity of the warmblood, to the footing, to the course design, to the speed, to the technicality, to the level creep, to the fence construction, to the way riders are brought up and trained, to money, to pressure, and even tack choices. To be honest, I think there’s some truth to be found in almost all of them. It’s not a simple situation, and I don’t think there’s one answer. At the end of the day we’re still galloping horses at solid fences, and there’s still a lot that could go wrong.

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like a rider missing a distance, for example… ahem.

First, though, I think it’s important to acknowledge that, statistically, eventing has gotten safer over the past 10-15 years. The fall rate has dropped, including that of rotational falls, since that data started being tracked. There’s no disputing that. We definitely do hear about mishaps more these days, in the age of social media. Everything that happens, at any event, anywhere, is common knowledge within hours. At the same time, I also think it’s true that here’s also more improvement to be made, and more we can be doing.

It’s always interesting to me to hear the perspective of top professionals on this issue. Some of them just kind of shrug and point to rider responsibility, but others have clearly given it a lot of thought and spent a lot of time formulating their opinion. A few days ago Horse & Hound posted an except from Eric Smiley‘s new book “Two Brains One Aim”, in which he talks about how he thinks that a trend toward bigger and harsher bitting setups have led to increased danger on the cross country phase. The full except can be found at the link above, and I highly recommend giving it a read, but I pulled a few quotes that jumped out at me.

Two Brains, One Aim

I first noticed the desire to achieve greater control when the minimum weight restriction was removed from the eventing cross-country phase in 1998 (previously all horses had to carry 165lbs (75kg), made up with lead weight if necessary, for the cross-country phase). At the same time, courses started becoming more technical. These two changes brought control into focus as lighter riders were now riding big, “scopey” horses, and they needed better control to negotiate the more technical courses. The short fix was to find a bit that offered more control.

Asking a horse to gallop at Preliminary (US) or Novice (UK) cross-country speed of 520mpm before he is comfortable with a fast canter (350–400mpm) has every chance of triggering his natural response of “run.” The moment speed becomes a conditioned response to the rider shortening her stirrups and getting into an open space, the rider feels the need to control it. Now problems arise and the perception is that brakes are needed.

The range of bits and gadgets is endless. Some of the most popular are:

The three-ring or bubble bit.
➤ The elevator.
➤ Rings and pulley reins in various forms.
➤ Curb chains — excessively tight.

Every one of these is a potential disaster waiting to happen! The bits I have listed above, and others like them, have an action that encourages hollowness in the horse’s way of going that is detrimental both on the flat and over fences.

 

But by using bits that encourage an incorrect way of going, we create many problems for ourselves and the horse:

➤ The jaw shows resistance.
➤ The head comes up.
➤ The neck goes hollow.
➤ The shoulders become blocked.
➤ The steering becomes delayed and unresponsive.
➤ The back becomes less “through.”
➤ The rider stops using her legs for fear of more speed.
➤ The horse’s hind legs are less engaged.
➤ The rider’s hands become the dominant aid.

Spend a day watching cross-country and you will see some unsightly pictures. Look more closely and there is also a trend: most of the ugly sights are control issues. Look more closely and you will see these control issues will also have a bit issue. Course designers cannot make the jumping phases of eventing higher or wider in their effort to separate competitors, so they have had to use their imagination to test the control of horse and rider.

To produce a suitable canter or gallop, the horse must allow himself to be balanced by accepting the rider’s leg aids. These aids should engage the hind end in a way that doesn’t produce speed, but encourages the horse to accept the contact and the resulting adjustment to speed in a round and rideable way. Failure to do this makes it difficult for the horse to see, assess, and take responsibility for his part in the jump.

Eric’s perspective is one that I haven’t heard many people mention, especially not this in-depth. I don’t necessarily think it’s always true across the board, but I’m sure any of us can sit here and think of many scenarios for which it certainly does apply. You definitely see some wacky bitting rigs on cross country (y’all know how I feel about ML’s choices) and many times, sooner or later, it does end up going the way that Eric says.

Image result for marilyn little bit
This photo from Boekelo will never stop making me cringe

Of course… bad things happen in snaffles too. That’s an undeniable fact. I also think that not every horse can go in a snaffle, no matter how much we want them to. His perspective does get me thinking, though. I found myself going “he’s not wrong…” to a lot of what he’s saying. Examples of misusage of bits and equipment can be found across the board in all sports – most just don’t have as much inherent risk already at play as ours does.

It makes me take a closer look at what I’m doing, and the equipment I’m using. Yes, Henry goes cross country in a snaffle, and yes, we work on adjustability from seat and leg EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But are we good enough at those things? No, probably not.

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What are your thoughts on Eric’s perspective? Do you think that there’s an issue with bitting (or, really, a constant quest for ever more control over the horse) across disciplines? Do we cover up basic training issues with bigger bits? And does that eventually catch up with some of us later on down the road? Whether or not you agree with what Eric is saying, I hope you at least think it’s as interesting to ponder as I do, applied both to what you see from others and to what you see with yourself and your own horse.

Oh and totally by random happenstance, I noticed that Trafalgar Square has a 20% off sale today (use code LOVEHORSES), and they carry Eric’s book. I haven’t read it, I have no idea how it is, but I ordered a copy for myself this morning!

Mid-Week Mashup

I have a lot of little things today that are kind of random but this week is full of exciting stuff, so bear with me here…

First, and most important, today is Henry’s 12th birthday! Time is flying, guys. How is he TWELVE already??? Sometimes I wish I could just stop the clock so he could stay this age forever. I love him so much, it’s borderline ridiculous.

And yes, it’s possible that I raided the office supplies to make him a headband at work yesterday, so that I could take birthday pictures.

Second – I have TWO giveaways running right now and both of them end tomorrow, so if you haven’t entered yet, today is the day! The first giveaway is based here, through the blog, for the US Event Horse Futurity. It’s super easy to enter and there’s a gift card and saddle pad up for grabs, check out the post if you haven’t seen it yet.

The other giveaway is through my Instagram and there’s a $100 Riding Warehouse gift card up for grabs! It’s worth a shot, free money is awesome.

View this post on Instagram

It’s Monday – let’s start the week out with a bang with a GIVEAWAY! Who likes free money? 🙋🏻‍♀️ 💵 My friends over at @ridingwarehouse are getting close to 10k followers, so let’s help them get there! Here’s how to enter for a chance to win a $100 Riding Warehouse gift card (you must do ALL THREE to enter!): 🐎 🐴 1. Follow me AND @ridingwarehouse here on Insta 2. Like this post 3. Tag 3 friends who also like free money for horse stuff 🐎 🐴 Complete terms and conditions can be found on RW’s website. Entries close Feb 14 at midnight CST, winner will be announced next Monday 2/18. Good luck! #giveaway #ridingwarehouse #eventing #eventer #horseshow #dressage #hunterjumper #equestrian #horses #horsesofinstagram #horsebackriding #ottb #thoroughbred #quarterhorse #equine #equestrianstyle #horseblog #equestrianblogger #showjumping

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Semi-related to the first giveaway – if you’re not following the US Event Horse Futurity on facebook, you’re really missing out. I am loving all the vlogs posted by the trainers so far, showing what they’ve been doing with their Futurity horses and what they’re working on. There are some awesome little training tidbits in there, and it’s really interesting (at least to me) to see how these different riders start their horses. Yesterday they posted the second of Doug Payne’s entries, Quberon (one of my early favorites), and showed what he’s been doing during his first couple months of training. Doug talks about how he starts his horses under saddle, when he introduces jumping for the first time, his thoughts on their first horse shows, etc. It’s so educational, I’m loving it. Can’t wait to see more of these from all the different riders!

 

Henry has a fancy new bit on the way! Riding Warehouse is carrying Neue Schule bits now, which is dangerous as hell, and after much deliberation I settled on giving the “Tranz Angled Lozenge Eggbutt Bit” a whirl. He’s been going in a KK Ultra for dressage for a few years now, so I’m interested to see how this one compares and see if he likes it. You never know with Henry, he’s a delicate flower. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about the Neue Schule brand though, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

 

And last but not least, I’ve finally found a couple of horse-related podcasts that I like! I’m a big podcast fan, but I’m also really picky, especially when it comes to content (or on the more shallow end of the spectrum – people’s voices). I want to learn something from a podcast, or at least feel like I’m really engaged in the subject matter. I haven’t found many that have kept me consistently coming back for more.

The first one I’ve really been enjoying is Major League Eventing. They interview bigger name event riders, which isn’t something that would typically grab me, but I like the conversational style and the questions they ask. It’s more interesting than I originally thought it would be, and I’ve listened to most of the episodes by now.

MLEpodcast

My favorite one is Big Talk for Breeders, which… I KNOWWWW, most people aren’t going to be interested in, but hear me out. An Irish showjumping breeder (which – the host has a very pleasing Irish accent, that makes it a winner already) interviews some of the most successful sporthorse breeders in the world. The first episode was a little rocky for me, but each episode after that has gotten better. The host asks really good questions, and I’m always so fascinated to hear all the different approaches when it comes to breeding. There aren’t many episodes yet, but I’m looking forward to more.

This weekend is our next Prelim HT (the weather is looking more and more cooperative – except its supposed to be 85 degrees on Friday, WTF?) and then next Tuesday, Michelle and I fly to Ocala for USEA’s YEH/FEH symposium. Not gonna lie, it’s possible that I’ve already plotted out a few tack shops to hit on the first day. For uh… ya know… research.

What are you guys up to this week? Any cool things you’re loving right now?

 

State of the Presto

I was thisclose to calling this post “State of the Ballsack” instead but it includes more than just the current status of Presto’s nut-removal situation, so I had to be more inclusive. Oh, and btw, the state of the ballsack is: empty.

IT’S WHAT?

By last Tuesday/Wednesday the last of the swelling was pretty much gone from his sheath, and everything has looked normal since. No more cold hosing or forced exercise, and I don’t feel sorry for him anymore.

Which means… back to “work”! Which, for Presto, really just meant another long-lining and ground driving session.

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This time, though, we ditched the halter, and I clipped the lines directly to his bit. This was his first time having anything actually interacting with his mouth directly, so before we started the session I did some very basic “pressure on this side means move your head this way” lessons at the halt. The idea of yielding to pressure is nothing new, so he had that figured out pretty quickly. Then we started on a small walk circle and practiced whoa. He knows the voice command well, so I started with the voice command and a teeny bit of pressure on the reins. He wasn’t a big fan the first time.

But we did it a few more times, and each time was better. By the 5th or 6th time, I asked with just the lines, no voice, and he stopped. I mean… he gave me the stink eye about it, but he stopped. So then we went on to ground driving at the walk, and turning using the lines like long reins. That went a little easier, and he was actually quite responsive to the basic idea of following his nose. Much better than when we’ve done it in a halter. Things are getting serious, y’all. Boy genius right here.

very smart
much brains
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bigly IQ
What?

Oh, and that cob size bridle is definitely too small for him in the crownpiece now. It was barely workable last fall, but now the ear notches are not lining up with his actual ears, and everything up there is a bit… snug. The rest of the bridle is still okay though. For FEH classes this year (since 2yo’s have to show in a bridle) I will probably end up having to use Henry’s bridle’s crownpiece and then put the rest of the cob parts onto it. Awkward baby horse also has an awkward baby head.

We did hit a bit of a snag when I put him back in crossties. I used to crosstie him almost daily, but for the past few months I’ve mostly just been straight-tying him wherever there’s space. It was as if he’d forgotten the countless hours we spent learning how to stand still and straight in crossties, without wiggling. He was all over the place with his butt. Little Sir will now be crosstying again quite regularly, because I can’t stand wiggling.

He stands like a freaking rock when I tie him to the stocks. I have no idea why, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s funny – for as relatively unpleasant as all of his extra attention was during his castration and recovery, he still seemed to enjoy it. I left him totally alone for a couple days last week but as soon as he saw commotion in the barn, he just stood there at the gate, staring in like he wanted desperately to be a part of whatever we were doing. That’s his signature move these days. He really craves the attention and I think he likes having something to engage his mind. Presto is so much like his mother in that way, always looking for something to do. If he inherited her work ethic I will be absolutely thrilled.

On Sunday the weather was too gross for regular turnout so I stuck him out with Henry in the arena.

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I’ve noticed that Presto has stopped doing the submissive chompy “baby face” thing to most horses anymore, but he still does it to Henry all the time. They’re almost the same size at this point so it’s a little amusing, but I think Presto has a healthy fear/respect when it comes to Henry. Which is fair. Henry is ruthless.

They did play a bit though, which was entertaining, mostly because Henry was more wild than Presto. There were airs above the ground from both of them though.

He’s like a little baby noodle, so flexible
Henrybucking
Henry probably thinks he’s really bucking

This week I’m going to make an effort to get an actual conformation picture of Presto, so we can start his little throughout-the-year comparison. I think I’ll stick him on those days too, and track his height in centimeters since that’ll be a little easier/more accurate to see the smaller height changes. Anything else y’all would be interested in seeing me track on a month-by-month basis with Presto? Since, ya know… this is hopefully the last post with specific details about his ballsack…

Winter Ruins Everything

BIG FAT HEAVY SIGH.

I suppose I should have known that winter still had another trick up her sleeve. The end of January was just so nice, and so warm. I got lulled into a false sense of confidence, excited about a full calendar and ramping up for spring.

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last week I was wearing a t-shirt and the ground was dry enough to jump, I MISS THOSE DAYS

We had grand plans to head up to MeadowCreek this past weekend to do some XC schooling. I was very excited to be heading somewhere besides Pine Hill. I love PH, don’t get me wrong, but that’s where we always school and there’s nothing on their course that Henry and I haven’t already jumped. I was looking forward to some new challenges and a change of scenery. Plus the first show of the season is at MeadowCreek, and I really wanted to check out their Prelim course.

Originally we were supposed to get a gross cold front on Friday, but it was supposed to stay above 40 and be relatively dry. Miserable, but still workable. And then Friday rolled around and it was actually 32 degrees and frozen shit was falling from the sky.

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Our radar is never pastel. I don’t even know what all the different colors mean.
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we also never have these
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Texas winter storm, y’all.

But… hey… we’re eventers. As long as the ground is good, we’ll tough it out for XC. Dressage maybe not so much, but XC – heck yes. We got the all clear for schooling, so we got up on Saturday, loaded the horses, and off we went.

And then, when we were only about 20 minutes away from the venue, Trainer called and said she’d just gotten there and it was definitely way too wet to school. UGH. But we were already close, and we had Dobby with us, who could at least benefit from having a look around the facility, so onward we went. Trainer was right, it was REALLY wet. Squishy mud everywhere, to the point where I didn’t even want to get on to hack. So Henry rode 2 hours in a trailer to unload, stand in a stall while Dobby scoped out the place, get back in the trailer, and ride 2 hours back home.

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I FEEL THE SAME WAY

And then it basically spat rain on and off for the entire rest of the weekend. It was cold, it was wet, and it was disgusting. The ground is so saturated at this point that any little bit of rain immediately turns things to muck. All I got to do with Henry all weekend was a walk hack. So much for productivity.

I was waiting to send in my MeadowCreek entry for their March recognized show until after this schooling-that-didn’t-happen, so now I’m feeling a little up in the air about what to do. I’m looking at the forecast for the next couple weeks and wondering how good the ground will actually be in a month’s time, as we head into what is typically our wettest time of year. Henry is NOT a mudder, even with big studs in, so I’m definitely not looking to run his first recognized Prelim in potentially questionable footing. Plus all 3 phases at MeadowCreek are run on grass.

I’ve got 2 more weeks until closing date, so at this point I’m kind of just waiting to send my entry in, watching the weather and hoping that everything will dry up. I’ll really only be able to afford a couple of recognized shows this spring, so if a show gets cancelled or I have to scratch after closing date and I lose my entry fee, I’m just kind of screwed. Of course, there are also only a couple of what I would call “inviting” Prelim courses in Area 5, so if the two shows that I have in mind don’t work out, I’m not sure what my fall back plan would be. My options are limited.

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We’re entered in another Pine Hill horse trial this coming weekend, although I think we’re all a bit skeptical that it will actually happen, at least in it’s full format. They are wetwetwet and it’s supposed to rain more there today. The January one was cancelled, so I’m not sure what will happen with this one. There has been talk of modifying the XC course to take out the areas with the worst footing, if need be. At this point I’ll take anything, even a CT, although we really need some XC too. Whatever we can get. Come on weather, I’m finally trying to For Real do this thing that I thought I’d definitely never do, and you’re killing me here. Especially because, in a few short months, we’ll be winding things down due to heat. SO MANY HEAVY SIGHS.

In better news – keep an eye on my Instagram this afternoon for a fun giveaway! There will be free money up for grabs. Everyone loves free money.

US Event Horse Futurity (and giveaway!)

Alright, I’ll say it: the US produces horses that are just as good as the ones in Europe. Having seen and/or been involved with breeding programs on both sides of the pond, I believe that this is true without a doubt. And I’m not a commercial breeder, so I feel like I don’t have any bias in this one.

What Europe does have, that we do not, is a solid and well-established pipeline for bringing up and training their young horses, and a way to connect the talented ones with good riders. This, obviously, helps tremendously when it comes to sourcing good young horses as potential upper level mounts for their own riders. I often find myself wondering particularly about France… you so rarely see a French rider at the top international levels on a non-French bred horse. The same is often true of Ireland and Germany, as well. So if we believe that we produce horses here that are just as good as theirs (and I do), yet most of our upper level horses are imports – what are they doing that we’re not?

The biggest missing link in our chain seems to be in connecting the breeders, and thus the horses, with good young horse riders and producers. We don’t really have a program in this country that highlights riders that are particularly skilled at bringing up the babies, and we don’t really have any program to help bridge the gap between them and the breeders. At least… that used to be the case.

Futurity

New for 2019 is a brand new program, the US Event Horse Futurity. The Futurity is the brainchild of US breeders Laurie Cameron and Elizabeth Callahan, both of which have produced successful upper level event horses (Quantum Leap, in the top photo, was bred by Elizabeth Callahan). They, like many other breeders, have faced hurdles when it comes to connecting their best horses to our best riders. We have programs like FEH and YEH that highlight the horses once they get to competition level, but – how do we get them there? If you don’t already have a relationship with a rider, how do you find one, and how do you promote your breeding program within the US eventing community, to professionals and amateurs alike?

The purpose of the US Event Horse Futurity is laid out thoroughly on their website:

Purpose 

  • To develop a market for purpose bred /produced event horses through media exposure and publicity
  • To develop and promote a pool of professionals who are willing and able to develop the young event horse to the top levels of the sport
  • To develop and align a network of breeders, trainers, and riders to develop the pool of young horse talent in the US
  • To engage the general public into the world of young horses and Young Event Horse Training 
  • To develop a fan base for young horses and young horse trainers

For it’s first year, the basic outline of the Futurity is simple: it’s open only to US-bred horses that were purpose-bred for sport, and are turning 4 in 2019. There are 12 horses entered, and each paid an entry fee of $525. The money goes into a pot, and will be given out as prize money to Futurity horses that compete at the 2019 4yo Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill. Here’s the official prize money breakdown:

  • 10% to the breeder of highest scoring Futurity entrant
  • 50% to the highest scoring Futurity entrant
  • 25% to 2nd place Futurity entrant
  • 10% to 3rd place Futurity entrant
  • 5% to 4th place Futurity entrant
  • Ribbons to the Highest scoring horse and reserve
  • Ribbon to the fan favorite entrant (chosen by polling the week before the Championship)

Fan favorite? This is where things get really fun and unique.

We all know that a big part of what makes a program successful is the support it gets – both from the participants as well as from the public. If you can get the public involved and interested, not only is it good for the program itself, but it’s also good for the horses, the riders, and the breeders that are participating. After all, a big part of the purpose of the program is to increase public awareness, and help spotlight the quality of horses that we produce right here in the US. So, the Futurity wants to encourage public involvement as well.

Part of the requirements for the Futurity participants include monthly blog posts or videos so that fans can follow along on each horse’s journey as they aim for YEH Championships. You’ll get to see and hear about how the horses are coming along, what they’re working on, and get to know more about the riders and horses behind the scenes. For people like me, not only is this fun and engaging, it’s also a fantastic learning opportunity. How often do we to peek behind the curtain and get details about how a dozen different 4 year olds are being developed toward the same end goal? Not only is this interesting from the breeding perspective, IMO it’s interesting to anyone in any discipline that has or might someday have green horses.

The blog posts and videos will be posted on the Futurity’s facebook page, and they have an Instagram account that will post regular updates as well. They have already done introductory posts for each of the entrants, so you can learn a little bit about them, their history, their bloodlines, see photos and videos, and maybe pick an early favorite. There’s also a full entry list on the Futurity’s website.

Aside from all the prizes available for the horses, special prizes will also be awarded to the fans that interact most with the social media pages (via likes, comments, and shares). There will also be a winner chosen from the pool of people that voted for the horse that ends up winning. Yep, that’s right, YOU CAN WIN STUFF too! Just by interacting with a facebook page and/or Instagram account.

I am a big believer in what the Futurity is trying to accomplish here, and I really want to do whatever I can to help support it. The program is completely run by volunteers, as well as being self-funded, so having public support is going to be really important. I’m not a rider, and I don’t have an appropriate horse that can participate, but I do have a little bit of a public platform. What I REALLY want to do is encourage participation. I want people to follow along on social media and see how the year goes. I want people to see the kind of horses we’re producing here. I want these riders to get a chance to show us all how good they are at bringing along young horses. I want us all to learn more about what really goes on in the first year of an event horse’s career. So to help encourage more of you to follow the Futurity, I’m offering my own little prize package incentive.

Want to win a “Have a Great Ride” saddle pad from Ride Heels Down and a $25 Riding Warehouse gift card? I’m going to make this really easy, with 4 different ways to win. Pick as many as you like!

futurityprize

Let me know in a comment which entry options you took! I will draw a random winner from the pool of entries (and yes, I will verify the follows and likes) so the more entries you get, the better your odds of winning. And remember – the more you like and comment on the US Event Horse Futurity’s social media accounts throughout the year, the more chances you get to win prizes from them as well!

I’m really excited about this program, and I think it could be exactly the kind of thing we need to help us start bridging that gap between US breeders and US riders. How neat would it be to someday have a winning US team all sitting on US bred horses? How neat would it be for all of us – pros and amateurs alike – to be able to easily connect with US breeders and good young horse producers, and be able to get nice horses without having to go to Europe to do it?

Flashbacks

I was looking through some old photos on my computer the other day and stumbled across several from Sadie’s 2 year old year. Seeing as how Presto is now entering his own 2yo year, a decade later, it was really interesting to scroll through those photos. First, to see and remember exactly what I was doing with her that year, and also to see just how much her body changed throughout the year. Those first couple years, the changes come fast and they are drastic.

I’ve talked before about how I felt like I didn’t work with Sadie enough when she was a baby, so it’s no surprise that Presto has already done or been exposed to a lot of the things Sadie was introduced to as a 2 year old.

These pictures span pretty much throughout her entire 2yo year, the first part of which she spent mostly in a field with me seeing her only on weekends, and the latter part of which she spent at a boarding barn with me seeing her a few days a week. In the spring she wore tack for the first time, in early summer she got ponied for the first (and maybe only?) time, and then in late summer and fall she went on her first field trip to the park, freejumped, and did more serious lunge work. She didn’t do any of those things on a regular basis, I tended to have more of a “one and done” approach.

Presto, of course, has already done a lot of these things, most of them several times over.

In a lot of ways Sadie was my guinea pig – the first horse I raised myself – and I learned a lot by way of trial and error. Not only did seeing her old pictures give me flashbacks (mostly to all the things I should have done differently) but they also made me remember just how much I really love this process. There’s something so incredibly rewarding about raising the babies, and teaching them new things, and seeing them soak it up like a little sponge. I didn’t always feel that way though.

When Sadie was young I mostly remember how incredibly impatient I was for her to grow up so that I could ride her. In my mind, at least back then, that was where things really started. My obsession with groundwork really didn’t begin until the tail end of her “childhood”, and I’ve learned a heck of a lot since then. I haven’t felt those same impatient, hurry-up-and-grow-up-so-I-can-ride-you feelings with Presto. I’ve had a lot more fun with him in these baby years, and I’ve approached him more from a “let’s do all the things that will give him the best foundation possible before riding ever comes into the equation” point of view. With Sadie, the first couple years felt like an obstacle, but with Presto, they feel like an opportunity. And that has nothing to do with the horses themselves – that’s the difference in me as a horseman 10 years ago versus me as a horseman now.

The other fun part of looking through all those pictures was watching Sadie physically change through the year.

Sadie2yjan31
January
Sadie2yr7
April
Sadie2ysummer1
July
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September
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December

She was almost a hand taller by the end of the year, and fluctuated drastically from squat and chunky to long and lean and then back again. She also finally started to grow into her legs a little bit, although by the spring of her 3yo year she looked like a giraffe again. Presto comes by that trait honestly.

Last year Presto definitely did the majority of his growing between February and August, so it will be interesting to compare all of his different growth spurts and pictures to the ones of Sadie. Sometimes I look at him and see a lot of Sadie, but other times I look at him and see a lot of Mighty Magic.

I think part of having a baby horse is trying to picture, on a pretty much daily basis, just what they might look like as an adult.

Sadieconfofoal
10yo Sadie is a totally different animal

I’ve given up trying to guess what Presto’s type might be. Sadie was very thoroughbred-looking for a long time, long and lean and light. And then she hit her 7th year and doubled in mass, and there’s not a darn thing about her anymore that would make you believe she’s 58% TB with a full TB parent. Presto has more TB of course, at 73%, but Mighty Magic is not known as a refining stallion, so it’s tough to guess what his adult type might be. More lean like his sire? Heavier like his dam? Who knows.

I think maybe this year I’ll make a concerted effort to take conformation pictures of Presto every couple months, so I can go back and see how he’s growing as we go along. Stumbling across the pics of Sadie was really fun, and I’d love to be able to have the same type of memories with Presto. Especially when he’s an adult, and we can all go back and laugh about how goofy he looked at 2. Because someday he won’t look like a giramoose anymore. Right? RIGHT???

A fitting tribute to the Ass

Most of you know that I am a big Riding Warehouse fan, and as such, I find myself on their website on a regular basis, browsing for things I might need, or just looking at what’s new. They make this pretty easy, with the whole New Items category right there on the main page, broken out by week. I like to peruse through all the newly added items, just… ya know… so that, uh… I know what all they have. Because… reasons.

Image result for help me i have problems gif

But anyway.

I found myself there on Monday, because I was looking at and comparing all the different kinds of buckets. Presto finally destroyed his over the fence feeder (which, granted, took him like 8 months, even if it was being held together by duct tape and blanket straps for at least 4 of those) and the regular bucket we put up to replace it lasted all of 2 days. Is there such a thing as a Presto-proof bucket? He’s a really violent eater.

After much grumbling and dissatisfaction while browsing through all the bucket options, I wandered over to the New Items page instead. I can always find happiness there. And as soon as I started scrolling down, I about died. This might be my most favorite product that RW has ever carried.

Yes those are men’s boxer briefs, with donkeys on them.

I don’t know who at Cinch is responsible for making these, or who in Purchasing at RW is responsible for adding them to the lineup, but big tip of the hat to you both. I got a really good laugh out of them. And if these don’t sell out, I’m really disappointed in our society in general. I mean… Valentine’s Day is coming up, right? What better gift for your beau than ass underwear? I’m kind of jealous that there isn’t a girl’s version, to be honest.

Maybe my amusement is partly because my life has become pretty donkey-centric the past few years since moving to my current barn, where first Henry fell madly and completely inappropriately in love with Dudley

and then Presto came to antagonize live with Bob and Dudley.

Those donkeys are a great source of entertainment for all of us, and the reason why Presto’s nickname is Swamp Donkey. They are 3 of a kind, the donkeys put up with a lot, and I’ve really come to love them. The picture on those bloomers looks a whole heck of a lot like Bob. Who knew their species would be the model for the latest in ultra-fashionable men’s undergarments?

definitely the face of a muse

I mean… I guess there are other cool things in the New Items section too, like Neue Schule bits and round bale slow feed nets and moar brown tall boots. But are any of those things as awesome as donkey underwear?

NO. NO THEY ARE NOT.

Image result for donkey shrek gifs

I don’t think they’ll ever top this one.

 

 

Brakes are Magical

It’s weird having lessons on a regular basis. I dunno how all this is actually managing to work out right now, but I’m not going to question it. This is a rare luxury! Although it does kind of make me pine for how things might be if I was able to get this much instruction on a regular basis. I definitely took for granted all those times when I had a trainer in-house… or in the same city… or not 2 hours away. She is worth it, but boy do I wish I lived closer. Seeing her more often just makes me feel that way even more.

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He’s not sure if he shares that sentiment

Hillary and I headed out for another jump lesson on Sunday, with Henry and Inca and Dobby in tow. Henry and Inca were up first, and instead of jumping height this time, we were going to focus more on rideability and adjustability. The timing was perfect, because I’d just made a bit of an equipment change.

Do you see it?

I’ve been doing stadium in a hackamore for almost a year now, and I really like it a lot more than a bit. It’s much easier to get and keep Henry in front of my leg, and to keep his front end/shoulders up. The downside to it, of course, has been that we sacrifice some adjustability. I bought the PS of Sweden hackamore specifically because it’s the most mild I could find… the shanks of the hackamore itself are swept quite far back, several inches further than most mechanical hackamores, which significantly reduces the amount of leverage. It also comes with a leather curb strap, making the curb action quite mild. To me the PSoS hackamore rides more like a step between a sidepull and a regular hackamore.

Which is great until the jumps are 3’7″ and you’re trying to make quick adjustments in a line.

If I needed to jump in and whoa the first and second stride, I really wasn’t getting it done until the fourth or fifth. Everything was just a little slow, and if Henry decided to try to take over and drag me around (ahem stadium at Pine Hill when he lost his mind because I smacked him with the whip one time), there wasn’t much I could do about it.

curbstrap

So I swapped out his leather curb strap for a curb chain. Well okay I tried to do this a couple lessons ago but the curb strap I had from my old mechanical hackamore was way too long for the PSoS hackamore. Waaaaay too long. I had to order this one, which is – I shit you not – “miniature horse” size.

It fits perfectly though, and I adjusted it fairly loosely, able to stack two fingers between his jaw and the chain. You never know how Henry is going to react to new things like that. He is sensitive, and he is high drama.

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I was pleased with it. We played a lot with rocking his canter back on his hind end in the warmup, doing lots of changes of directions/flying changes by almost thinking pirouette to sit him down, then doing a change and sending him forward again. I felt like I had a bit more control right off the bat. For our first jumps Trainer sent us directly to the outside line, telling me to get 4 strides the first time and then 5 strides the next. I could actually get the “whoa” done early in the line and then coast out. Brakes are magical.

As I said earlier, this lesson ended up being a perfect test for the new setup, since it was focused on adjustability and rideability. We practiced different striding, and stringing jumps together in quick succession on odd lines or angles, making things ride more like combinations.

I definitely need to get used to riding with the curb chain, and find my happy medium. I can’t have as much contact as I was used to before, but conversely I have to be careful not to just “throw him away” so much, especially with my shoulders. There’s a learning curve here, for me at least. I’ll play with it more at home this week and try to fine tune my aids and coordinate myself a bit better. The fact that Henry didn’t have a meltdown about it is promising, because if he really doesn’t like something he’s 0% shy about letting me know, usually in a most dramatic fashion.

Overall though, it’s nice having a bit more whoa, and being able to make adjustments more quickly. Kiiiiiind of important.

Sir FloppyLips

Presto’s brain seems to have rebooted since the first post-castration update last week. He’s back to acting like his normal self, ie a menace, pest, and master of sideeye.

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All 3 of those things in one picture

I think it helped that by Wednesday his sheath was quite swollen, which took him down a few notches, and he spent Wednesday and Thursday feeling a little sorry for himself. Poor kid’s sheath looked like two big ol’ stallion balls, temporarily earning him the nickname of Ol’ SaggyNuts. I had to enlist the barn worker’s and Hillary’s help so he could get lunged and cold hosed twice a day instead of just once, which seemed to do the trick. They started going down quite a bit on Friday, and by yesterday there was only a little bit of swelling left in the sheath.

Wondering why we’re all so obsessed with his junk all the sudden

Knocking on lots of wood of course, but hopefully this means we’re on the back side of all this. He’s healed well, the swelling is almost gone, and this weekend his personality returned back to normal. I am starting to breathe a little bit easier again, at least as easy as I ever do. Before we even started all this I was a concerned about a lot of things, but especially the swelling. Presto’s dam would always puff up like a damn balloon if you so much as looked at her sideways – she swelled a lot, and took forever to go down. Presto has injured himself significantly less than she did (guess that whole spent-the-first-month-trying-to-die-every-day thing maybe bought us some credit there?) so I wasn’t sure if he would take after her or not in that regard. I had visions of a watermelon-sized sheath or something. Because that’s how my brain works.

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in the past week I’ve taken like a hundred pictures of Presto standing at/near the washrack

Aside from feeling a bit sorry for himself on the two most swollen days, he’s seemed none the worse for wear. I do think he’s ready for me to stop cold-hosing his crotch all the time, but he’s been surprisingly good about it. I spent all last summer hosing that horse every day, but he’s never particularly liked being hosed on his hind end. Aside from raising his feet every time the water hits his legs at first, he’s stood remarkably well for all of this, and he hasn’t gotten mad. He still comes up to meet me at the gate every afternoon, even knowing that I’m gonna go take him to lunge for 10 minutes and then squirt him in the weiner with cold hose water.

Hi there
I SAID HELLO

If anything, he’s seemed to enjoy the extra attention. Which is just… weird, considering what the attention entails. Since we had to lunge a little every day, I took the opportunity to sharpen his voice commands, and make the transitions happen quicker and more often. It kept his brain engaged, and I figured it was good to reaffirm all that stuff even more right now, before we start picking up ground driving again in the spring. We made the circles bigger, and smaller, and worked on a little bit of “leg yield” at the walk. The best thing, though, is that I noticed that his lips jiggle when he trots.

It’s hard to see on the video, because it’s difficult to lunge a baby horse and video at the same time, but once I noticed the jiggly lips, I was highly amused. His nickname went from Ol’ SaggyNuts to Sir FloppyLips. Clearly he’s real worried about his life, y’all. Between the ears and lips he is really entertaining.

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Da nose goes in hurr

I also sticked him again, because he is getting awfully close to the point where I’ll no longer be able to see over his withers. I was worried that he’d hit 16h already, but no – 15.3 1/2. If he could hold off on 16h until after he turns 2, that would be great. I ain’t about that giant life. I’m in major denial that he’s going to be over 16.2h and I’d like to keep that daydream alive for a while longer, thanks.

Yesterday he felt good enough to chase his donkeys around and turn the manure bucket over when the barn worker’s back was turned, so I think it’s safe to say that things are pretty much back to normal.