It’s In The Blood: Mondial du Lion 2019

Putting together stats on younger horses is always a bit more difficult. It’s harder to find info about them and harder to dig up complete pedigrees, which makes all the stats more challenging. I spend a lot of time digging through the depths of the internet trying to piece things together. One day we’ll have a nice, official, all-inclusive database right? A gal can dream.

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But anyway, it’s Mondial du Lion time again, one of my favorite events of the year. It’s the World Championships for 6 and 7yo horses held every fall in France, with 6yo’s competing at 2* and 7yo’s competing at 3*. Some of the very best 5* horses in the world competed at MdL on their way up the ranks, with a whopping 35% of 2018’s entire WEG eventing field having competed at Lion. My research has shown that it doesn’t even necessarily matter how they place – some future superstars finished way down the leaderboard in their year – but just having competed here seems to give them a leg up. Lion is touted by riders as being a fantastic and essential learning experience, with a bit tougher courses than these horses have seen so far, and certainly A LOT more atmosphere. They tend to leave MdL much more seasoned, regardless of the score. Last year’s 7yo winner, Asha P (who has a stallion full-brother, Araldik), was just part of the gold medal winning Nation’s Cup team for Germany at Boekelo.

Looking at this year’s 6yo field, we see a lot of the typical bloodlines we’ve come to expect from watching the 4* and 5* horses: a lot of jumper breeding, largely holsteiner and selle francais, mixed with blood. The average blood percentage of the 6yo’s (the ones that I could verify for sure, anyway) is 51%. Six horses (14% of the field) have a full thoroughbred parent, and another 3 have a full thoroughbred damsire. The thoroughbred stallion Esteban xx has two offspring in the field, one Belgian Warmblood and one Holsteiner. Esteban is well-established as a sire of eventers, with multiple offspring having competed through 4* and 5* level.

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Esteban xx

The 7yo field boasts a similar average blood percentage at 50%, and also has 6 horses with a full thoroughbred parent. Interestingly, only one of those is the sire, the other 5 are full TB dams. An additional 7 horses have full thoroughbred damsires.

Several other stallions are represented by multiple entries across the two divisions. Trakehner stallion Grafenstolz (who we met in France last month) is the sire of 5 horses, Mighty Magic (also met in France last month) is the sire of 3, Quite Easy is the sire of 2, Rock Forever is the sire of 2,  King Size is the sire of 2, OBOS Quality 004 is the sire of 3 and damsire of 1, Shannondale Sarco is the sire of 2, Ramiro B is the sire of 2, Cavalier Royale is the sire of 1 and damsire of 3. Spoiler alert: you’ll see some of these names again next week in the Young Event Horse Championships recap.

I will probably never mention Mighty Magic without using this picture, get used to it

A few dressage stallions are represented as well, something that you see sometimes at the middle levels but is quite rare at 5*. Most of the ones in this field, though, are not too surprising if you look at the actual pedigree. Rock Forever, while a Grand Prix dressage horse himself, is quite jumper-bred, from Ramiro, Landgraf, and Grandus lines. The stallion Catoo (sire of one of the 7yo’s) has a similar story – he had a GP dressage career but is completely jumper-bred. One stallion that is perhaps less expected to see as an event horse sire is Vitalis, sire of 7yo Victor 107, from dressage lines Krack C, Jazz, and Donnerhall.

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Vitalis

As we’ve become accustomed to seeing by now, the French and Irish are sat almost exclusively on horses bred in their home countries. Only two French riders have non-French bred horses, and only two Irish riders have non-Irish bred horses.

Another fun fact – Leprince des Bois, another horse that we saw last month in Europe, was a 5* event horse in his own right (competed at Pau, Badminton, Luhmuhlen, and Burghley under Kai Ruder) and is the damsire of one horse – a Selle Francais ridden by none other than Chris Burton. He finished 7th in the 6yo class here at Lion last year.

Want to watch Mondial du Lion and try to pick out your favorite future superstar? The live feed is on their home page, along with links to the start lists and results.

Blog Hop: Playing Favorites

The fact that Mondial du Lion, YEH Championships, and Fair Hill are all happening this week has got me absolutely knee deep in spreadsheets right now, so this fun blog hop from Raincoast Rider is super timely. I’m hoping I’ll have at least one In The Blood post ready to go tomorrow (I don’t think it’s possible to fit 3 events worth of horses into one post, I’ve got something like 300 horses to sort through) but we’ll see what happens. This morning I’m incredibly distracted by the MdL live feed. Who’s excited about watching 6yo event horses do dressage at 5am? Me. Duh.

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1. Favorite show venue:
To visit? Nothing compares to Burghley for me. I loooove grass arenas on lovely turf like that, it feels so authentic and more in touch with the sport’s roots. No crazy huge grandstands or artificial anything or recycled golf course feel. It was beautiful.

2. Favorite discipline:
Eventing, for sure. It helps that there are 3 disciplines in one, so it’s pretty hard to get bored. I also love how pretty much any type of horse can compete successfully, it just has to want to jump. We get a wide variety, and I think that’s really cool. Even at the highest levels we’ve got anglo arabs, welsh cob crosses, draft crosses, connemaras, etc.

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Anglo Arab, anyone?

3. Favorite horse color:
Dark bay. Preferably with either no white or just a little.

4. Favorite tack store:
Oh man. Riding Warehouse is my most frequented, for sure, and they’re great people so I love them a lot. Luxe EQ is a big sentimental favorite and always has the prettiest new stuff to drool over. My latest addiction seems to be Premier Equine.

5. Favorite breed:
Thoroughbred, or warmblood with a lot of TB blood. They’ve just got so much “try” and athleticism.

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my favorite TB

6. Favorite place to ride:
Give me a big pretty wide open space and I’m happy (still internally crying over my fields being paved over and houses put in, I might never recover). Although Coconino is pretty hard to beat too… riding through those big pretty pine trees on a nice crisp morning.

7. Favorite piece of riding apparel:
Hmmmmm. This is hard, I like pretty much all of my things. I live in my Kastel shirts like 9 months of the year, so those would have to go on the list. Also LOVE my Motionlite jackets, you can tell me it reminds you of a scrim sheet all you want, those things are magical AF. I’m tied pretty equally on my Champion skull cap (I’ve never had a skull cap that nice or one that fits me that well) and TraumaVoid helmets. For breeches, I’m still liking the Horze Grand Prix the best, for the money. Also, like… honorable mention to my interchangable helmet pompoms that I made, because I love the shit out of them even if I look like a massively overgrown 10yo. Yolo.

8. Favorite horse related web site:
I don’t think there’s one I visit super consistently, I see pretty much everything on facebook with all the stuff that I follow. I probably click on stuff from Eventing Nation, Horse and Hound, and The Horse Magazine the most.

9. Favorite piece of tack:
Wow just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse than the “favorite riding apparel” question. My god. I guess my saddles win this one (Devoucoux Chiberta and Devoucoux Loreak) but also really loving those Premier Equine merino wool pads and I have used Majyk Equipe boots daily for like 5+ years, so clearly they’re a staple. OH and my spiked Dark Jewel Designs browband. And my Freejump stirrups. And my Eponia and Lund bridles. Ok I’ll stop.

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spiky browband + punk rock attitude

10. Favorite horse book:

Basic Training of the Young Horse, the newer edition with Ingrid. Ok so I’m a little bit of an Ingrid groupie, whatever. It’s a fantastic book.

11. Favorite horse movie:

Either Seabiscuit (love the historical angle it took) or The Horse in a Gray Flannel suit (cheesy but I love it). And International Velvet because eventing.

That Look

Do you ever have one of those moments when you see, with perfect clarity, just how effing creepy you are? This was me last weekend at the barn.

I was riding Henry, heading out toward the arena. To get there you walk up the fence line of Presto’s pasture, and he always comes up to the fence to be nosy say hi. So I stopped to talk to him, as one does, and just sat there on my best boy, rubbing my next-best-boy’s face, staring at them with hearts in my eyes and grinning my fool head off. In that moment I realized that I was looking at them the way same way Meghan looks at Harry.

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Me
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Me
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DEFINITELY ME

You know that look… 98% adoration, with just a tiiiiinge of that super crazy stalker chick from Wedding Crashers.

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I’m willing to admit that I might possibly be a little bit obsessed with these two horses, like way more than any others I’ve had before. Just looking at them makes me smile, no matter how bad my day was. I don’t even know if there’s a human on this planet that I like that much.

I have full-blown conversations with Henry sometimes. I even tell him about the course before we go out on cross country (“there’s a corner out of the water, don’t be surprised” or “I’m legit terrified of the weldon’s wall, please help me out, I’ll give you a whole bag of cookies if you jump it” I have no problem with bribery, and yes I always pay up). He stands there and at least pretends to listen intently, humoring me most likely. He does that a lot. I know Henry so well at this point, and he’s so outwardly emotional, I swear I can tell what he’s thinking. It’s easy to have a conversation with him.

The discussions with Presto tend to be more along the lines of “let go of that, it’s expensive”, “did you just eat a rock?”, “he/she does NOT want to be your friend… see, I told you”, “you’re gonna scare yourself if you don’t drop it…. see, I told you”, “PERSONAL SPACE, BRO”, etc etc. Maybe someday I’ll be having full-blown conversations with him, too.

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I haven’t always been like this. There’s something about these two horses that has turned me into a stage five clinger. Hence how I find myself sitting there staring at them like one of them hung the moon and the other hung the stars.

You know when you’re younger and you sit there imagining your Dream Horse… probably the perfect shade of dapple gray or some shit, with perfect markings, the perfect size, your favorite breed, with a certain personality, blah blah blah. Oh how little we know. I look at my two (like a creeper), both very very different horses, neither of them top level anything, but at they same time they’re both a dream horse for me in their own right. Henry, in all of his very emotional, broody, downhill, appendix-lookalike glory, who really HAS hung the moon in my world. And then Presto, the outgoing, happy go lucky, resilient, athletic homebred that represents the future. I’ve adored him completely from that very first second when I saw his tiny little white nose enter the world, and there’s already so much history between us even though he’s only 2 1/2.

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Yeah, I know what you’re thinking and you’re right… I’m definitely that crazy horse lady, no doubt about it. I realized that about two seconds after I realized I was staring at my horses like Meghan stares at Harry. Please tell me I’m not alone.

“At All Costs”

Last week I was watching a video from a meeting that happened last winter, with upper level riders talking about young horses. Yes, I am a boring person, these are the kinds of nerdy things I love to watch.

It was an interesting discussion, lots of different takes on what people look for in a young horse, buying from the US vs importing from Europe, the development of a horse as it goes up the levels, etc. As the session evolved, one particular very big name rider/coach said  “This country has to – HAS TO – want to win at all costs and it has to have horses that want to win to do that”. It was said in the middle of a statement about the top level horses really needing grit and heart and a strong desire to do the job, which I agree with completely. But then I was like wait, hold on… what was the first part of that?

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I paused it, backed up, and listened again. “This country has to – HAS TO – want to win at all costs”. Paused, backed up, listened one more time. “At all costs”. At. All. Costs.

It kept echoing in my head. My heart sunk, to be honest. That kind of statement, in a sport like this, is enough to make me more than a little physically ill. Just the very idea of saying “win at all costs” in horse sports, much less living it… vomit. Is that really what it takes to win gold medals? What does “at all costs” really mean? Maybe, at least I really really hope, I’m reading too much into it. I’d rather this country never go to another team competition again, much less win, if it meant we had to do sacrifice horsemanship or welfare (or, well, a lot of things) to get there. And perhaps I’m just jaded or cynical, but that’s the vibe I got. I know there are people that think like this, it’s inevitable, but I’ve never heard anyone actually say it, especially not someone like that. Is that mindset more common than I thought? It has me questioning and rethinking not just the past, but also the future of the sport as a whole.

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I’ve spent almost a week now mulling over that statement, playing it on repeat in my mind. It’s made me incredibly uncomfortable. Is that the kind of perspective it takes to get to and stay at the upper levels? If so, is any of this worth it? With all the issues we face in eventing, which ones are we sweeping under the rug and accepting as being just another “cost”? What all is disposable, exactly, in this quest for gold? Are there people at the top of every sport that share this perspective? I’m sure there are. Maybe this is the completely accepted normal among the elites and I’m just incredibly naive. I’m looking at things under a new light, especially the high performance aspect, and I don’t really like it.

Maybe it’s just this person’s perspective. Maybe she’s the exception, not the rule. Maybe she didn’t mean it in the way it sounds. I don’t know. I’ve tried to reason it away many times over, yet haven’t succeeded. The truth is – it bothered me, it still bothers me, and I can’t get it out of my head. What do you make of that sentence? Am I taking it the wrong way, overreacting, reading too much into it? Or does it give you the heebie-jeebies too?

The making of Mini-Henny

Normal people equate autumn with things like pumpkin spice lattes, changing leaves, making soup, and arguing on the internet about whether or not candy corn is disgusting (it’s literally a chunk of sugar so it’s delicious by default, but if y’all don’t want to eat it that’s fine, more for me). To equestrians autumn mostly means fresh horses, lots of shows, and… body clipping.

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me too bro, me too

Back in the days when I was more desperate for money (or, really, before I branched out into other side gigs, because as a horse owner I’ll probably always be desperate for money) I used to do a lot of body clipping. It can be pretty lucrative if you’re willing to do it and can do a decent job, although year after year my willingness has definitely lessened. I’m relatively certain that I will have horse hair in my eyeballs forever after a few particularly busy winters in my heyday. Nowadays pretty much the only way I’ll body clip is if it’s my own horse or a friend’s horse.

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It’s not so much clipping as it is just removing the hair from the horse and transferring it to the human

Henry, bless his extremely hairy and also heat-intolerant heart, feels the same way about clipping as I do. He permits it because he has to and he enjoys the results, but he really isn’t much of a fan. He stands politely for the most part, but he’s so flinchy and sensitive that I get whipped in the face with his tail pretty much the whole time I’m doing his belly.

Lots of opinions. Very weaponized tail.

I’ve bodyclipped Henry so many times over the years that we’ve come to a few agreements by now:

  1. Legs and ears are off limits. He really can’t stand the clippers on his legs at all, he tries to be still but just CAN’T, so he ends up constantly shuffling his feet the entire time. I think I clipped his legs twice ever before I was like SCREW THIS SHIT and agreed that he can just always keep his leg warmers. Thank god we’re eventers and a hunter clip is a normal thing in that world. He genuinely is very uncomfortable/borderline terrified about clipping his ears, even with sedation, so I just get as close to them as possible and he keeps a little fur bonnet. I could push the issue if I wanted (there is a major double standard in this household, because Presto isn’t allowed to have opinions like this), but honestly he does a lot for me and if his hard limit is “no ear clipping” then I’m ok with that. Looks dumb as hell but he wears an actual ear bonnet at shows so who cares. I like my horse more than I like other people’s opinions.
  2. We keep a pretty big saddle patch. Because he’s the most sensitive, easily-rubbed horse ever. The patch is the same size front-to-back as the pad. If I don’t do that, he is uncomfortable and will get rubs. Period.
  3. I use my “little” clippers as much as possible, especially on his belly.
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tools of the trade

I have a set of Lister Star clippers, which are more powerful and faster, but they also have more vibration and are louder, and Henry doesn’t really like them on his midsection. And when I say he doesn’t really like them I mean he acts like he’s being murdered one inch at a time. So unless I’m in a hurry for some reason, I just clip him with my smaller Andis clippers. They’re still pretty powerful but he takes less objection to them on his sensitive areas (let’s be real, he’s a walking sensitive area).

“well that’s rude”

Normally he gets his first clip around the beginning of October, but I waited a little later this year since we aren’t showing and he’s really just coming back into a regular, more rigorous schedule. I was hoping if I waited a little later I wouldn’t have to clip him so many times. I think that was a mistake though, he was hot even in the 70’s weather we had this weekend. His coat is so thick, and he already has problems with heat regulation. I won’t do that again.

But yesterday we got down to it… I bathed him (wow he was FILTHY, he lives in a much sandier place now and I think he’s taking full advantage), got all my stuff ready, and went to town. Usually I use T-84 blades but this time I opted to go a bit shorter with T-10’s (thanks for that 30% coupon, Dover, well timed), hoping it’ll maybe last a bit longer before we have to endure do this again. I found a gross mega-flaky skin patch under all the hair on one side of his butt, too, which again made me feel like a bad horse mom. So he got a fungus bath when we finished and then I turned him back out. He didn’t even pause for a cookie, he just stalked away angrily to the back of the pasture. Two baths and a body clip in one day… I guess he hates me now.

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I cleaned up and packed my things away, pausing to make a little mini-Henny in the process (look, I’m a child and it’s the only real fun I get to have in all this, okay?) and he still refused to even look at me. YOU’RE WELCOME, HORSE. I know he has to feel a lot better, and it’s supposed to be almost 90 tomorrow so he’d have been legit dying otherwise. But, ya know… I’ll just plow him with cookies until he’s over it, like always.

Anybody else body clipping already? Nothing quite like a bra full of tiny stabby horse hairs to officially ring in the fall season.

October 10 Questions

1. What discipline do you ride? What would you ride if you could pick any other one?

I’m an eventer, transplanted from h/j roots. I’m quite happy with my current sport, but I guess if you forced me to switch I’d go back to jumpers (grudgingly) until I got tired of it again. Someday I’d like to try the western equivalent of eventing – Reined Cow Horse. It’s cutting and reining and working cow horse combined. I don’t think I’d fit in with the western crowd but it’s a neat sport.

On a buckskin, naturally

2. How many horses have you ridden in your entire riding career?

Lord, hundreds. I don’t even have the faintest clue at an exact number.

3. Most bizarre activity you’ve done with your/a horse?

I do lots of weird things all the time. Standing on them, swimming, herding goats, riding backwards, jumping anything that will be still long enough…

4. Do you consider riding to be your outlet? If yes, why?

Definitely. As soon as I put a foot in the stirrup, the outside world just melts away. It’s just me and the horse, in the moment 100%. That’s a rare thing in this day and age.

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The only thing that can make me truly live in the moment

5. Have you ever read horse-related magazines? If yes, which one(s)?

A lot when I was a kid, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. These days the only physical magazine I really read is US Eventing, since it comes with my membership and has stuff in it that I’m interested in. I get the USEF magazine too with my membership but almost never read it.

6. Most memorable advice given to you?

This goes back to my teenage years, but I still vividly remember it. I was having a problem where I would make one mistake, say a chip at an early fence on course, and then just completely fall to pieces, with things snowballing to complete shit. My trainer said (and I paraphrase here because this was like 20 years ago) “Look, when you’ve made a mistake, you’ve made a mistake. It’s in the past. You can’t change it. But what you can do is leave it in the past, sit up, kick on, go forward, and make the rest of it better. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s what you do afterward that matters. Don’t let one mistake be your undoing.”. Not only is it true in riding, it’s also profound life advice.

7. Did you ever collect Breyer horse models or similar?

They were expensive so my mom usually bought me the cheaper, smaller Grand Champions, but I did have two Breyer horses that I loved dearly. One was Double Take, the morgan (my favorite breed as a kid), and the other was Secretariat (always been a TB and racehorse fan). They were both early 90’s versions.

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8. Favorite “celebrity” horse?

I’m assuming celebrity means not sporthorse but famous for some other reason? I can’t really think of any except Patrick the Mini horse, so let’s go with him.

9. If you could spend a day learning from any horse person (past or present), who would you choose?

No hesitation, Ingrid Klimke.

10. If you could ride in any international arena in the world, where would you choose?

Hmmm. I’m not really one of those people that gets excited about “hallowed ground” or big atmosphere so there aren’t any arenas that immediately stand out to me as being super exciting. I guess I’ll say Hickstead, because of the Hickstead Derby. That arena is pretty iconic.

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Do you like how I slipped in the most XC-like arena possible?

Happy Friday, y’all! It’s been a long effing week.

SaddleBox: a review

Despite my best efforts when it comes to spending money and acquiring stuff, I’ve had a hard time getting into the subscription box trend. Mostly because, although it’s true that I do love stuff, I’m also really picky and perpetually on a budget, so I tend to be pretty particular about how I spend my money and what exactly I buy. The surprise factor of the subscription boxes has always made me a bit leery. When SaddleBox contacted me about a review I had to think on it for a bit, and responded warning them that I was only willing to do it if they didn’t mind me being brutally honest. They seemed confident, so they sent me a box.

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Before I get into the nitty gritty, there were a few things that appealed to me about SaddleBox upon initial inspection of their website. I really like that the company supports horse rescues – that always helps soften the blow when you’re spending money. It also always includes treats, which… Henry literally has 6 different kinds of treats right now because he is the most rotten horse on the planet. We are always down for trying new treats or just accumulating more (fun fact, they have a page full of treat recipes on their website if you’re into making your own!).

The box was relatively packed with stuff, that’s for sure. It’s always satisfying to get a heavy box with lots of stuff to dig through. In that way I can kinda see the appeal of monthly box subscriptions. It’s like Christmas. As for the actual contents of the box, some I like, some is not for me, but there are TEN items in here. The more the merrier.

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Besides treats, SaddleBox always includes some kind of grooming supplies, whether its shampoo or brushes or general barn stuff. This I really do like, because it feels like you’re getting essentials, which are always useful and makes the whole idea of a subscription box feel less frivolous. This box included:

  • Buckeye peppermint treats ($10)
  • CoFlex wrap ($2)
  • Fiebing’s saddle soap ($5)
  • tack sponge ($1)
  • Epona hoof pick ($9)
  • a face brush (I dunno, lets just say $3)
  • Tough-1 Great Grips shedding blade ($10)
  • Epona grooming mitt ($9)
  • a book “Handy Hints for the Horse Person” ($6)
  • a big, amusing sticker ($3)
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Grem also wants me to list the box as an included item, because that was her favorite part

For me personally the contents of the box were kind of middle of the road. I always like treats, although these particular ones are not Henry’s favorite… he’ll still eat them eventually, if a bit unenthusiastically. Would I have bought them? Those particular ones, probably not. Buckeye is a good brand though. The CoFlex wrap is great because there’s no such thing as too much of that stuff, let’s be real. Would I have bought that? Yes, at some point. Same goes for the tack sponge – a simple staple that I always need. The saddle soap would go in the win column for me too, because I did actually need more. The grooming mitt probably isn’t something I would have bought, but I love those types of mitts for baths, so we’ll count that as a win too. Hoof picks are another essential, although I am obsessively married to the Ultimate Hoof Pick, this Epona one is suitable enough to keep (I put it in my trailer as an emergency spare). The book was fine, I leafed through it quickly and saw a couple of semi-useful tidbits but it’s also not something I would have bought. The sticker I did find kind of amusing, so it now resides in my office at work.

It fits right in

The only things I definitely didn’t like were the little face brush (I legit have like 10 of them and never use a single one. I’d also just gotten an almost identical one the day before in my FEH packet so it was kind of amusing. They multiply at an alarming rate.) and the shedding blade (I hate these types of shedding blades. Haaate.). Both of those will go in the donate bin.

As far as bang for your buck, the overall value of the box is at least $55, and the cost from SaddleBox is $35 per month (or $30 for the first month’s box with the LOVEHORSES coupon code). You can cancel anytime, which is nice, so you don’t feel like you’re signing up for some kind of major financial obligation. They also have gift plans if you want to do a box or a subscription as a gift, although they’re a bit more expensive.

Overall – is there value there? Yes, for sure. Is it something I would buy for myself? Probably not. It didn’t really excite me enough to make me want to part with my money on a monthly basis. I could definitely see myself giving it as a gift though. I think the target audience for something like this is a more casual horse person or a hobby rider. A new rider would probably love it too, or a lesson kid. It’s a company I would feel good about giving my money to, so I’ll be keeping it in mind next time I need a fun, unique gift for a horse person. If you want to keep up with Saddlebox, follow them on Insta here or facebook here.

I Just Like to Look

It’s one of my favorite times of year – sale season! Thank the lawd that I am alive in an age where we can look at an endless amount of ponies online at just the click of a button. Two big eventer-centric sales happen one right after the other in Ireland in November – Monart and Goresbridge. It’s my ultimate dream that someday we will have a fantastic eventer sporthorse auction like these in the US someday. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could make it work, and get our american bred sporthorses in the hands of american riders. It’s a lot harder here.

just a full brother to Annie Clover, nbd…

I also really like the foal auctions from the breeding registries, with Zangersheide usually being my favorite. The Holsteiner folks have a few auctions a year and the summer one, with young horses, is always a highlight to me too. You do start to lose me a bit with the riding horse auctions where the horses have clearly been pushed and the gaits or jump are definitely being manufactured and manipulated. Those are… not so great. But still, these sales are the best kind of window shopping, you can see so many horses right there in one spot, with their breeding listed. I’m definitely NOT a buyer, but as someone who is perhaps a bit obsessed with breeding I like to look at as many horses as I can. These things are a free education. Seeing the horses online isn’t as good as seeing them in person like we sometimes go gallivanting across Europe to do, but there’s still a lot to be gleaned.

Plus lets be honest it’s fun to pick out the ones you like most and then see how they sell and who buys them, even if a small part of me dies every time an American rider buys from overseas. A lot of big name riders source young horses from these sales, and I get why. There are so many nice ones in one place, in a way we certainly haven’t been able to emulate here yet.

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Copper Beech, sourced from Goresbridge

Aside from trying to pick out the best ones, I also like to pretend-shop for myself. The horse I’d pick for me is different from the one a lot of pros would gravitate towards as a 5* horse. I want something nice but not so fancy that I can’t ride it, something with enough TB blood, that doesn’t seem like too much a of punk, and from a line that I’m pretty familiar with. This go-round I’m picking this one:

Yes, it’s buckskin. We’ve talked before about my weird closeted obsession with buckskin, ok? Don’t act surprised. I will never get on board with breeding for color but if a horse I already like comes in buckskin wrapping, it’s on. This one is by a stallion I’ve mentioned on here a few times (because I’m low key obsessed but he’s not available frozen so it’s one big SAD for me), who is the sire of one of my favorite 5* horses Tullabeg Flamenco, and it’s out of the same dam as freaking BANGO. This guy, Wheelagower Gold, looks like a total dude in his video. Like he could pack my butt around with few complaints. The only thing that could make him better is if he was a she.

Aside from the sporthorse auctions I also have a relatively unhealthy addiction to perusing TB listings. Let’s be honest, if I ever actually DID have a budget for another horse (which I don’t need in any way shape or form) it would certainly be trending more towards OTTB. Totally fine by me, since I love them. I keep up with TB bloodlines with the same level of obsession, and my endless window shopping is definitely a part of that. Benchmark Sporthorses will be the death of me someday, and I regularly like to browse the CANTER listings. Which is where I stumbled upon this guy:

PotomacRiver

Potomac River, a 10 year old stakes-winning stallion. I’m always on the lookout for good TB stallions for sport programs that we could breed to the warmblood mares, and this one definitely stopped me in my tracks. He’s raced for SEVEN YEARS, still has clean legs, and has a pedigree stacked with turf lines. Be still my heart. Surely some sporthorse person needs him.

What horses have y’all been pining after online lately? Show me ponies! Or… who’s your favorite in the Goresbridge sale? Or… who’s buying me Potomac River? Kidding (no I’m not).

RRP (and the Little Orphan Annex award winner!)

Most of you fellow OTTB enthusiasts know that the Retired Racehorse Project Makeover show was last week. A few bloggers were there with their horses, and it was fun to follow along and watch the videos and live stream. The Makeover is totally a bucket list item to me, and looks super fun. I reaaaaally want to try my hand at it someday, if ever there is room in my life for another OTTB. It’s pretty amazing to see one big week-long showcase of all the different things they can do, and with less than a year of retraining at that.

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It seems like there’s always some kind of drama following this show (maybe something to be expected when you get so many different disciplines and green horses together?) and unfortunately this year was no different. My goodness, the drama around the barrel racing. Wow. Did anyone else see that unfold on social media?

For those who aren’t familiar, the Makeover is a show, but really it’s a training competition. It’s all judged and scored, and even the more simple timed events (like showjumpers and barrel racing) have flatwork tests where the quality of the training that has gone into the horse is judged. For barrel racing, its a relatively simple horsemanship test, the results of which are rolled together with timed runs to come up with a final score. No event at the Makeover is immune from a judged portion, because, remember, this is really a training competition. They’re trying to encourage people to prioritize a solid foundation over rushed training that leaves a lot of holes.

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So anyway, the girl who ended up with the two fastest times on the actual barrel runs had a lower horsemanship score, which brought them down a few spots in the rankings. A lot of barrel racers WERE NOT HAPPY about that. They argued that barrels was a timed event, plain and simple, and the fastest horse should be the winner. Period. They shouted that it was rigged, and that horsemanship and judged flatwork had no place in barrel racing.

Which… wow… there’s a comment to stop you in your tracks. I think if ever you find yourself arguing that horsemanship and a solid foundation have no place in your sport, whatever that sport may be, you might want to re-evaluate what you’re doing here. Effing yikes.

A lot of people seemed to have a hard time understanding that nothing about the Makeover judging is typical of standard showing. The cross country is scored, the showjumpers do flatwork and gymnastics and optimum time rounds, etc etc. Because, again, it’s a training competition, not a regular show. It’s pretty abundantly clear in the rules, which outline all of this and are available online to anyone. Even I knew the format and I’ve never done the Makeover. Reading remains a difficult task for some, I suppose.

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But anyway, Fallon Taylor won the barrel racing, which seemed to just add fuel to the “IT’S RIGGED” fire, and then Fallon also won the grand 10k prize for Most Wanted Thoroughbred, and lord I thought some folks’ heads were gonna explode. Which, to be fair, I was kinda sad about her winning the overall too (I voted for Rosie!) but it’s good publicity for the OTTB in western events, so whatever. Either way… woooow the drama. It’s a damn shame, IMO, because the Makeover is just so freaking cool. If you can watch those freestyles without a tear coming to your eye, you’re not human. The Makeover isn’t perfect, they’ve got kinks to work out for sure, but still… it’s insanely cool. OTTB’s are awesome.

One of the big highlights of the Makeover was of course the winner of the Little Orphan Annex Memorial award, funded by fellow bloggers in honor of Hillary’s mare Annie. This award went to the highest placed chestnut mare, which ended up being a super badass little creature named Great Reward – winner of the polo division!

RRPmare
Is she sweet?
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Is she salty?
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Maybe both

Hillary and I were both thrilled to see her win it, she was really fun to watch and definitely embodied that spicy chestnut mare spirit that Annie had. Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped make this happen, it was a truly special way to remember such an awesome mare.

One Week In

Anytime I move my horses I always get a little worried about the whole thing. It’s that whole “brace yourself for the possible disaster” feeling that horse owners are too familiar with in general. Because we all know how adaptable horses are and how impeccably they handle change, right?

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I was less worried about Presto, he’s a more adaptable, roll-with-it type of horse in general. Much less anxious than his older brother, who I don’t think has done a single dressage test in his life without the word tense as a comment at least once. My life is dedicated to keeping Henry as relaxed and happy as possible. Change can really flip a switch in him sometimes, so I just never quite know how he’s going to handle things like this.

Luckily, by some miracle, they both seem to have settled in pretty seamlessly. To the point where I’m over here kinda like

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But really though, they seem super happy and chill. It went MUCH more smoothly than I expected.

Henry is living in the barn with the Trakehners. Last week it was still really hot (a cold front blew through last night and it’s currently only 68 degrees. Did I drive to work with my head out the window like a dog this morning? MAYBE.) so Henry was on night turnout. Two of the trakehners go out during the day, so it worked out well for rotation.  Another of the trakehners, the stallion, handles heat about as well as Henry does, so they both stayed in their stalls with their fans on during the day. That meant Henry wasn’t alone in the barn, which seemed to appease him. At night Henry went out by himself in the pasture facing the barn that also shares a fenceline with Presto’s pasture. That also seemed to satisfy his whole “I want other horses nearby but not so close I actually have to interact with them” thing. He’s got a nice size pasture all to himself, but he can still see everyone. Happy Henny.

He seems to really like his stall as well, it’s nice and big and open and breezy with an attached run. The barn is insulated so it doesn’t get nearly as hot… he was definitely huffing and puffing a bit in the 100 degree afternoons last week but he didn’t look as miserable in the heat as I know he can. The airflow is super in the barn, too, and he can easily see everything around him and watch whatever is going on. He really seems to like that, and I think it’s a big part of what’s keeping him so relaxed. I also like that he has the option of coming in and out with the run, it keeps him moving a bit more.

having a board meeting with the trakehners before dinner

He’s been pretty good for his rides, too, and I’ve ridden him all around the property by now. There’s a little hacking path in the back pasture, and we put a log out in one of the hillier pastures for him to hop over. And, much to his chagrin, we’ve ridden in the dressage arena some as well. He’s already figured out which direction it is, and if I point him that way his walk immediately gets slower. It’s such a nice ring though, even if he’s not a fan of what it represents. I’ve literally NEVER had a dressage arena of any kind “at home” before, so it’s pretty great and will definitely come in handy. Actually practice a test in a regulation size arena before we have to ride it at a show? Whaaaaaaat? Novel concept.

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well I’m excited about it, even if Henry isn’t

As for Presto, he is for sure living his best baby horse life. His full time pasture mate is the yearling, JB, who is the perfect sidekick. Presto actually finds him a little annoying, which is HILARIOUS considering that Presto has always been by far the most annoying horse in every herd dynamic he’s ever been in. During the day they’re supervised by retired mare Quinnie, who has no tolerance for their nonsense. She’s the perfect babysitter because she isn’t shy about keeping them in line, but she won’t actually HURT either of them. She’s pretty pissed about her new job though and thinks its absolute bullshit. She wants to go back to the adult pasture, please.

At least she’s letting them come to the round bale now. Usually.

I kind of left Presto to his own devices all week, peeking in on him in the pasture (he still leaves his friends to greet me, so I haven’t been completely traded in yet I guess) a couple evenings but not much else. On Saturday I decided it was time, and I went and got him from the pasture and took him over to the barn. JB and Quinnie stared after him a bit when I walked him out the gate, but everyone was quiet. I brought him in, groomed him, and… that was that.

No dramatics, no screaming, not upset. Normal baby fidgeting, but he wasn’t worried. He just… crosstied like normal, and I groomed him, gave him a cookie, and put him back out. Quick and easy. Uneventful. All my favorite things.

It’s been interesting to see how he interacts with the two very different horses in his pasture. I figured he would devolve into complete baby shenanigans with the yearling, but for now he’s mostly chosen to emulate the older mare and is looking to her for guidance. I mean, he still plays plenty of Bitey Face and runs around with JB, but they haven’t completely devolved into Wild Boys status like I thought they might. For the most part he seems to be taking a lot of his “this is how we act” social cues from Quinnie. It’s pretty fantastic. The best of both worlds, really. He has one to play with and one to show him the way.

Overall both boys seem really genuinely happy with their new situation, which makes me super happy too. It’s quiet, it’s relaxed, and there’s no drama. They also fully switched over to their new food, which they seem to like, and Henry even looks like he’s gained a little weight through all this. Now we just need some rain to green up the pastures!