I flew into Nashville last night to meet up with Hillary, and in a little bit we’re going to head down to Lexington, grab an RV, and set ourselves up in the campground for the weekend.
Not gonna lie, pretty excited about the RV. Beds, shower, toilet, kitchen, and we don’t have to ever leave KHP? Yes please. And considering the constantly changing forecast I think it’s a good idea that we didn’t try to tent camp.
We have a few things planned already, plus a blogger meet-up or two, but if you’re there and want to say hello, hit me up! Or if you aren’t going and there’s anything in particular you want pictures of, I can try to do that too.
I recently spent a couple weeks riding exclusively in my dressage saddle, letting my jump tack just sit on it’s rack collecting dust. I’ve tried to do a bit of a flatwork crackdown this year, asking a bit more of myself and my horse. But then when I put my jump saddle back on, everything felt weird. My legs had gotten used to being longer, my body more upright, and riding more with my seat. Suddenly I felt like a jockey on a racehorse. Granted, I have the opposite problem when I spend too many consecutive rides in my jump saddle and then try to dressage – I feel like my stirrups are 1000 miles away and none of my body parts will go where they’re supposed to. That’s when I realized that it’s really not that easy of a thing, at least for me personally, to constantly go back and forth between saddles and riding styles.
I obviously grew up as an h/j rider. The first time my butt ever even encountered a dressage saddle (a hard as rock, ancient brown Kieffer with no blocks to speak of) I was 19 years old, dipping my toe into eventing when I was fresh off a working student position. I had not a damn clue what I was doing (spoiler alert: still don’t). But back then I sure THOUGHT I did. I mean… I grew up in a barn where I sat on a lot of horses; green ones, made ones, rank ones, easy ones. I did a whole lot of flatwork on a whole lot of horses. Same thing, right? Ah, the naivete of youth. All I really knew was how to hold draw reins.
Yet that first foray into eventing still really didn’t hammer the point home to me, despite my bad dressage scores. I ventured back to my h/j roots, still thinking I was pretty awesome at flatwork. Maybe even more awesome now that I’d had some actual dressage lessons. I mean, my ragtag crew of various hunter and jumper project horses could all do shoulder in and leg yield and walk-canter transitions by the time I was done with them. I did serpentines, I spiraled in and out, I bent and counterbent. That was definitely more than most of the other horses in the barn did, therefore wasn’t I pretty great?
Switching back to eventing in 2014 was a real kick in the pants. I was mature enough by then to have a healthy respect for dressage, but really the first thing I learned was that I know nothing. The flatwork I was doing was not dressage. It wasn’t even all that correct, now that I know what correct actually looks like. “Real” dressage is hard, it doesn’t come naturally to me, my position isn’t good, and I have to really focus on every single step to even be semi-passably decent at it. Add to that the complication of discipline where dressage isn’t sole focus, and constantly going back and forth between saddles. It’s not as easy as I want it to be.
It’s funny, because when I switched disciplines I thought the XC would be the hard part. I was wrong. But for as much as I’ve struggled with the dressage (and as much as I still sometimes dread it), the more I learn, the more I actually like it, and the more I find in it that applies to and compliments my jump training. I’m glad that I didn’t go running and screaming back to the jumper ring on any of those thousand occasions that I contemplated it. It’s not fun feeling like you’re shit at something, but it does make me try harder to be less shitty.
Has anyone else switched disciplines in their riding career? What was the hardest part for you?
On Sunday I hauled Henry down to a new-to-us place for some XC schooling. Independence Foxhounds is, as you may gather from the name, homebase for one of the foxhunts in Texas. I never knew that they had a whole XC course at their facility though – and an awesome one at that. They have a full course of jumps from Starter through Training, including three different bank complexes (an Irish, a sunken road, and a double bank), a trakehner, some combos, and water. The terrain was open with some rolling hills – Henry’s favorite (ok, mine too). I really really loved it.
To be honest I was a little worried about how this school would go. I really hadn’t jumped in a couple months, so on Friday I set up a little Novice sized stadium course at home. It was shit. I don’t mean like kinda shitty, I mean like I forgot how to ride completely. I’m glad there were no witnesses. Poor Henry. So when I climbed aboard on Sunday I figured there was probably a 50/50 chance I would die.
As we trotted around the field to warmup, Henry entertained himself by spooking at all the Starter fences. Apparently the smaller they are, the scarier they are. Don’t mind my big brave Training horse, guys, he’s just over here trotting sideways past the 1′ tall telephone pole while snorting loudly. Trainer thought she was really funny when she gave us our warmup course that involved trotting the first Starter fence each way before cantering the first fence of every other level. Henry was rightfully terrified of the tiny pole but leapt over it. The N and T first fences were much less scary, he said.
After our warmup we started stringing together more fences, and I did my patented pull and lean to the second one (causing a really impressive bunny hop over it because #hennyisasaint) before I pulled my head out of my ass and let my horse keep coming forward. Amazing how much better things work when you do that. He was a champ over all the T fences and especially at a 3 stride rolltop to rolltop bending line. He was hunting the jumps and taking me to them, and we quickly got our mojo back.
Until we got to the bank complexes. Sigh. That stupid Irish bank at Pine Hill has really killed his confidence at banks. He wasn’t being naughty, he just genuinely is super confused by banks now and doesn’t trust them. He couldn’t figure out the down, so I got off and lunged him up and down it a few times. Once he popped down a couple times, it all clicked for him again. I got back on and didn’t have a single problem at any of the banks for the rest of the day. The sunken road was FUN (first time doing one of those!) and he happily popped up and down the double. Obviously we still have a problem that we need to keep working on though.
Henry also tackled the water like a machine (it’s honestly kind of weird how much he likes water, he actually SPEEDS UP to it) with a jump in, bending line to a jump out. The Trakehner was no problem either, or the bench or the rolltop or the table that I wanted to throw up on. I really hate tables. Especially square ones. I want to burn them all. But I didn’t pull and Henry jumped the snot out of it, so all was fine. Apparently his mental block is banks and mine is tables.
Overall it was a very useful schooling. First, we discovered an awesome new facility. Second, we know we haven’t solved the bank issue yet. Third, all of the jumps felt easy and nothing looked particularly big. It’s nice to be able to say that about Training fences. And fourth, we actually jumped again. Probably a good thing considering I entered Training at a benefit show in two weeks.
On Saturday the mares and babies arrived at the breeding farm in Boerne where they’ll be staying until the mares are re-bred. Naturally I jumped at the chance to go see Presto and Sadie while they’re relatively close… it’s only two hours to Boerne instead of 5 hours to Midland, where they normally live. A four hour round trip is significantly better than 10.
By some masterstroke of impeccable timing, I managed to get there just as they were pulling into the driveway. We unloaded everyone and stuck them in stalls for a bit so they could relax (which the mares did not do because they were idiots and freaking out because they were separated). The babies seemed a little tired, but otherwise no worse for wear after their long trip. Presto should be a pro at this trailering thing soon, this was his 4th trailer ride in the 5 weeks he’s been alive.
After they had their dinner we turned them all out in the pasture with the other broodmares and mare/foal pairs. That was initially a little exciting, but Sadie and Lissa kept themselves segregated and made sure the others knew to stay away from their babies. They stretched their legs and then finally drank some water and settled in to graze. The grass here in Boerne is legit compared to Midland.
Once they’d had some time to settle I went back out to play with Presto. He’s still the cutest. Zero bias here, of course.
He’s definitely put on weight in the couple weeks since I saw him last. He’s starting to fill out and look normal again, to the point where he’s borderline chunky looking in a few places.
Next to Liam he still looks a little small, but compared to the other two foals in the pasture (who are also close to him in age) he’s normal size. Liam is just a monster, it’s useless to try to use him as a valid comparison. Overall though, Presto is almost to the point where you can’t really tell anything was ever wrong with him, aside from all the hair he’s missing on both ends. His neck from where his IV was, and his butt from where the diarrhea singed off all his hair. BUT, he’s about to start molting that foal coat, so soon he’ll be dark like Sadie and it’ll all blend in then grow back.
He’s still super friendly and curious and likes attention, so nothing has changed there. He even tolerated lots of kisses from his 2 legged mom, which thank goodness he doesn’t seem to mind.
I mean, if we all put in $20, it would only take like… thousands of us to buy and import him from France. I’ve even got a friend over there who could arrange things for us (what up, Mimi?). Seems reasonable. Who’s in?
In other news, Sadie and Presto are headed to the breeding farm today for Sadie to be bred back to Mighty Magic. And since the breeding farm is only 2 hours away from me instead of Midland’s 5 hour journey, I’ll be going to visit Mr. Presto tomorrow! Brace yourselves for pictures.
Plus Henry and I are XC schooling on Sunday (haven’t jumped in forever so how could this possibly go wrong?) AND look what arrived at Luxe EQ:
Gonna try to go pick them up this weekend, too. Plus I need to start thinking about packing and stuff for ROLEX because I leave next Wednesday!
No, this isn’t a post about Bobby, as I’m sure most of you (rightfully) assumed upon reading the title. While he IS definitely a hardcore stalker, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how I stalk certain horses and their show records/photos, and why. Surely I am not the only creepy one?
My stalking is mostly relegated to a handful of horses, the majority of which are by Mighty Magic. Two are here in the US, and a few are over in Europe. Yes, my stalking skills are international. Some of you might remember these three horses that we saw when we were on farm tours in Belgium in 2015, the ones that originally made me want to breed to Mighty Magic:
They were all young horses then, just getting started in the eventing game. I’ve tried to follow their careers since it seems like I “know” them a bit and have more personal interest in how they do. They were the motivators to make Presto, after all. Now they’re all out there competing, and Mighty’s Match (who is a few years older than the other two) is a 3* horse.
Granted, it’s not as easy to stalk the European horses. Most of my updates on them come via their owners and riders on facebook (except for Mighty’s Match, he’s a bit easier to stalk since he’s an FEI horse). It’s pretty cool to see them going around now, all “grown up” and everything.
There was another European horse that I used to follow pretty closely after he won the 5yo Bundeschampionate for eventing in Germany in 2015 – Michel 233. Imagine my surprise a couple months ago when Will Faudree announced a new addition to his string, none other than mister Michel 233 himself. This of course makes him much easier and much more fun to follow, especially since Michelle is friends with Will.
They’ve already been hitting some 1* events this spring and he’s done quite well so far. Definitely interested to keep watching that pair and see where they go, especially because Michel 233 is out of a Hanoverian dam with a few similar lines to Sadie. Pedigree-wise he’s got a lot in common with Presto.
The other horse that I’ve been watching on this side of the pond is actually not by Mighty Magic. She’s a young mare named West River, by Sadie’s sire Westporte. He’s advertised as a hunter sire but has made some jumpers and eventers too. This mare was fun to watch with Waylon Roberts (she won a big indoor eventing thing in Canada with him, and went through the 2* level) and now she has a new owner. They just won the 1* at Chatt Hills, and at Carolina she finished 12th and Michel 233 finished 5th. I tend to obsessively flip through the galleries on EN, COTH, USEA, and photographer’s websites after the big events, looking for pictures of those two horses.
So really, all of my horse stalking is because of pedigree and how they tie back to Presto. Because what else is there to do in the first 4 years of a horses life while they’re growing up and turning into show horses themselves besides dream about what they might become?
Anybody else have particular horses that they stalk? What are your reasons?
But they really all mean one thing: Presto is a devious little turd.
I can check Presto’s stall cameras on my phone, and there for a while I was doing it pretty obsessively. I am more than a little traumatized from his first few weeks of life when he was literally on the brink of death while fighting chlostridium, so when he came home I kept a really close eye on him through the cameras. I even used to set an alarm on my phone at night so I could wake up and check on him and make sure he still looked ok. And really, he’s looked great. I’ve kinda learned his patterns now as far as when and how long he sleeps, when he’s more active, how often he nurses, etc.
Over the past week I’ve tried to wean myself off of checking him so frequently, and even stopped purposefully waking up in the middle of the night to check him (although if I wake up on my own, I always check him, because I’m paranoid AF). So on Monday afternoon, after I was done running my errands after work, I pulled up the camera and was very confused to see Presto in the wrong stall. Sadie was still on their side of the fence, but now Presto was in the stall and run with Lissa and Liam. Um. What.
But Michelle was already in the process of moving him back, so I went back through the camera feed to figure out wtf happened. Turns out he wiggled under the fence. It looked fairly accidental, like he’d laid down with his head too close and ended up partway under, then just squirmed his way to the other side. Granted, that’s pretty impressive because the gap under the panels between their runs isn’t even 12″. Luckily Lissa didn’t try to kill him, although she did chase him into the stall and keep him pinned down in there, away from Liam. We figured that it was just a one off scenario, made plans for building up the ground under the panels, and didn’t think much more of it.
Monday night/Tuesday morning Stewie woke me up around 3am having another anxiety attack (he’s been much better since he started his medication but still has them every once in a while). I took him to the guest bedroom, laid with him for a while, and got him calmed down. After about 45 minutes I was finally able to pry him off my neck and rolled over to try to go back to sleep. Then I thought “ya know… I’m just gonna check Presto real quick”. Grab my phone, pull up the camera – he’s in Lissa’s stall. WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF. So I start panicking, because Lissa is really keeping him chased back into the stall fairly aggressively and at that point I had no idea how long he’d been over there (answer – since 2:30). I started calling Michelle, who of course had been up really late getting some non-horse stuff taken care of, so it took me a while to rouse her. When she answered I just said “Presto did it again”. She sprung out of bed, put some shoes on, and drove down to the barn to rescue him. AGAIN. For the second time in 12 hours.
Once, I believe that’s an accident. Twice, in such rapid succession… not so much. That little turd totally squirmed under the fence to go play with Liam. I guess in retrospect it’s not too surprising. The past couple days Presto has become increasingly bored, constantly looking for things to play with.
Point taken, baby horse, you want to go run around and play. We hadn’t been quite ready to put them all out in the bigger pasture yet, but we’d also rather he stop trying to crawl under the panel between their stall runs. Ya know… lest he get stuck or stomped on by an angry mare. So yesterday afternoon he got his way (what else is new) and they all went out together in the big pasture for the first time and got to stay out all afternoon.
First 50 seconds are Presto and Sadie running around, the rest is Liam and Presto playing.
They played pretty much the entire time. Like to the point where they were both so tired they could barely stay upright anymore. But they seemed to have a really great time being colts. Liam is like twice as big as Presto, but Presto is much sneakier so they seem pretty fairly matched.
Meanwhile, this horse is aging me fast. Could you please just not, Presto?