Texas Rose Fall HT: Dressage

I decided that I’m going to follow a new format for show recaps, branching off of one of the books I’m reading about show ring mentality. I think it might be a more helpful exercise for me to break it down a little differently rather than just word vomit all the things I remember most (which is usually all of the less-positive things). Feel free to tell me what you think of this format!

Never shy about telling me what he thinks about anything. Or demanding cookies.

So, for dressage…

What went well?

Y’all, it was 35 freaking degrees on Saturday morning and my dressage time was at 8:07am. I thought I might die.

Good news: didn’t die!

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Did just about freeze solid though. Definitely could not feel my face or fingers or toes.

While Henry was tighter than usual, he actually ended up giving me some really nice work towards the end of our warmup. Which… warmup was a really interesting place to be all day. Nothing like dropping a bunch of fit, athletic eventers into a sudden arctic cold front. Yee-freakin-haw.

Henry was a bit more tense in the ring (he always is, especially at Texas Rose) but he did his job and was relatively obedient. The beginning of the Prelim A test is especially tricky on a tense tight horse, with the 10m circle, halt, 10m circle sequence at the beginning making it hard to really push them forward into a nice rhythm. He tried for me though, and we even earned another 9 (our second this season!) on the final halt. Our first recognized Prelim dressage test was in the books, and with a totally respectable score of 34.8. I really just wanted to be under 40, so I’m 110% hella ok with a 34.8.

Real good at stopping. Sometimes. The other halt score was a 6.

What could have gone better?

Omg, y’all, I HAD AN ERROR. HAHAHAHAHA. My dumb ass turned up centerline for the first leg yield and tried to freaking half pass instead. I just had a total brain fart and started going right instead of left. A few steps in I was like wait… this isn’t leg yield… right as the judge rang the bell. Total derp moment.

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Why I’m trying to make this test even harder than it is, I don’t know, but I sure did. Whoops. If you’re going to mess up, that’s a pretty hilarious way to do it, I suppose.

To be honest I thought the test was going to score really badly. I just felt a little disorganized in general and I knew I was inaccurate in a couple of figures, plus the medium canters felt very lackluster. The judge was definitely nice to me I think, but I will take the charity. I guess it balances out the mean judge from Holly Hill a couple weeks ago.

I have no pictures of Henry from dressage so here’s a picture of Trainer’s OTTB that I’m going to steal once he gets to 1*. Shhh don’t tell anyone. Can you believe he was just restarted in February???

What can we work on to improve things next time?

Um well I could, like… remember the test, that might help. News flash: there’s no half pass at Prelim.

Otherwise I’m not really surprised with how things went, all the lower scores were on movements that I already knew were a bit lacking. We definitely need to keep working on the 10m circle-halt-10m circle at the beginning, and the 10m half circles at canter. I’m struggling a little to keep him from getting stuck in those. A dressage lesson definitely needs to happen. And honestly, it’s probably time to try to mark out a dressage arena at home, because those smaller figures are really hard to ride well at a show when you only ever ride in a field at home. I do way too much guessing.

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I feel like this is kind of what my circles looked like

So, ya know, overall there was definitely plenty of room for improvement, but some good moments too. Most importantly, dressage was done, and now I could focus on stadium! That’s the part I was really worried about…

Look Alive

Presto has been really, really quiet lately. He’s always pretty quiet for a baby, as far as not being an idiot, but his default setting is also “pest”. You know how baby horses are… kind of busy and mouthy and with short attention spans. Over the last month or so all of that kind of faded away to the point where even the barn worker noticed and said something to me. He ate, he drank, he played with the donkeys a bit, and he looked fine, but he just seemed to be a little more dead to the world than you would expect a long yearling colt to be. On Wednesday he was so blah that I even took his temperature to make sure he wasn’t dying (nope, all good) and left the barn wondering if I should have the vet out for another blood panel or something.

The most alive I could make him look on Wednesday

And then a cold front blew through.

Have no fear, people, Presto is back and he is a bigger menace to society than ever. I got him out intending to take him out for a pony in the field, and he was a total wiggle monster in the barn. Couldn’t stand still, wanted to put everything in his mouth, forgot very basic manners relating to what direction his butt is allowed to go at any one time, etc. And that was just in the barn.

I open dis box, take tings out, and trow dem on the floor. Heh heh heh.

He spent some time tied in the arena while I flatted Henry a bit, which he mostly just alternated pawing and moving his butt around from one side to the other in protest. When I untied him and went to pony him away, he decided it would be fun to bite Henry and then try to run away bucking. Clearly we were not going to pony in the field this day. Baby horse was miiiiighty big for his britches, and way too full of joie de vivre.

They are horrible creatures. I love them both.

So baby horse got put to work instead. I really just wanted to spend 5 minutes doing walk/trot/halt transitions on the lunge line but that little turd decided to kick up his heels and try to act like a fool. I do not tolerate horses kicking out on the lunge line, especially babies, and especially when the hind feet come anywhere near my general direction, so he kept getting quickly shut down every time those hind feet decided to rocket from the earth. I wish I could say that he learned his lesson quickly, but no. We repeated it over and over and over. Finally he started to focus and I started asking for some transitions, but now he’d forgotten how to stop straight, and instead opted to turn in towards me and stop. Seriously, this is a thing he learned forever ago and hasn’t done in a really long time, he knows that whoa means halt straight, but we had to have some serious remedial school work yesterday.

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By the end he managed to gather his faculties and put himself back together. Turns out he can in fact still trot and walk and whoa and stand still and pay attention. Mostly. We ended with me standing next to the big mounting block outside of the arena and stomping around, leaning on him, and flapping things around. He was unimpressed by that, so I think I sufficiently re-killed his spirit.

You don’t have to try to be bigger than Henry before your 2nd birthday, kid.

Life with babies is never boring.

I was glad to see him back in pest mode though, since I was starting to worry about the too-quiet behavior. Maybe he was just feeling hot and sluggish. Maybe he was moping about not getting to come out and do stuff as much lately. Either way, if yesterday was any indication, he’s cured.

Freestyle

The local venue where Henry and I sometimes go for winter combined tests is offering a whole new type of event this winter.

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Yep, a very very low key, super chill dressage freestyle show. You can make your own test, pick your own music, do it solo or with a partner or as a team, and even wear a costume (I’m pretty sure that’s Timon and Pumbaa in the picture). If you’re trying to make me way more interested in dressage, you’re doing a good job. They even said that equipment rules will not apply, so I’m welcome to do my test bareback and bitless. Which is kind of my dream. Henry is much easier to ride bitless in general, and I’ve always felt like it would be fun to play around with a test that way. I do bareback and bitless “dressage” rides with him at home pretty regularly. Yeah I know, I can feel all the DQ’s screaming internally at the idea and/or principles of bitless dressage. Take the whole dressage part of this to be a very loose description of what’s really happening and do some deep breathing, it’ll be ok.

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There there, DQ’s, there there.

I’m a little less into the musical aspect of things. That seems like a lot of work. I honestly just want to do my test to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” and have fun with it, even though the music does not at all work in the real dressage freestyle format. Unless my horse was trotting a few thousand miles per hour. Which technically he probably IS capable of, but pretty sure no one wants to experience that, especially his bare back and my pelvic region. Raise Your Glass is my favorite song on my horse show play list, though, very fitting for us, and if I can’t make that work then I don’t know if I’m interested. Unless a Missy Elliot song is also possible. Then maybe. Omg, what if I could weave together Raise Your Glass with Get Ur Freak On or Work It???

But anyway, I’m torn. I think the show sounds super fun until you get to the dressage freestyle aspect of it and then it feels suspiciously like hard work. I feel like I have to get into tempo and beats per minute and make all the music line up right and have a test that makes sense and flows and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I don’t know if I’m into all that, and honestly the dressage freestyle boringness has never been very interesting to me. I just wanna go be dumb and incorrect and do a bareback and bitless dressage test to a fun song like an oblivious idiot because why the hell not. I have enough real work to do right now related to our attempted move-up (my brain is at max capacity), so I just want something silly and fun that feels like the opposite of real work. Which I guess I could totally do if I just ignore all the rules of dressage freestyles and how they’re supposed to work. That’s definitely an option.

But then we circle back around to the effort required to figure out a test and music and I start questioning my commitment again. I don’t even have a dressage arena at home, how would I figure out and practice the timing? That seems complicated. Then again… where else will I ever get a chance to make up my own bareback and bitless dressage test?

I just wanna do this, but like, markedly less fancy

What to do, what to do. Is anyone out there good at this kind of thing? How do I make this work, with a minimal amount of time/brainpower invested and no arena in which to practice?

Last Minute Tune-Up

I suppose the good thing about showing more often is that you don’t really have a lot of time after one show to think about the next. It feels like we just got back from Holly Hill, but here I am doing laundry (I decided I hate everything white) and getting ready to leave on Friday for Texas Rose. This is our 2/3 move up, doing Prelim stadium and dressage and Training XC, so I really wanted one more stadium lesson before we go. The only time we could really fit it in was on Tuesday afternoon, but considering I have so much leftover PTO that I’ll never be able to use it all, it worked out great. Hillary and I loaded up the horses and drove 2 hours down to Trainer so we could both have a lesson.

Hillary jumped Annie around some Novice size courses (not that Annie ever clears anything by less than 2′, pretty sure she’s jumping Advanced most of the time regardless of jump height) and then Trainer put them up to Prelim for me. Which… it just shows how much she’s been messing with me all along with jump height when I was like “Are you sure these are Prelim? They look small.”. So she jacked one of the oxers up bigger and I shut up.

It was a really freaking hot and humid day (come back, fall, I miss you) so we didn’t do much, just a couple courses, but it was exactly what we needed. We had a couple of mistakes which I got to fix, heard those ever-constant and ever-necessary reminders to sit up and rebalance and get the inside hind under him (has anyone ever actually counted the number of times that your trainer has had to repeat the same instructions over and over throughout the years? It has to be a massive number by now for me…), and it felt productive. I know that we’re capable of this, I just have to believe it when I step in the ring. I’m feeling better about it though.

Trainer also gave us the green light to enter the full Prelim HT at the Pine Hill show in December. It’s the best possible scenario, since it’s a schooling show (low key) but they use the same course as their recognized, plus I have enough credits from volunteering to more than cover all the fees. Free horse show = less pressure. If the weather is crap or something goes awry, we can always change to a CT instead.

It felt especially momentous that after I dropped the entry in the mail, I was looking at my facebook memories and saw that 4 years ago today I entered Henry’s first event (and what was, at that time, my first event in over a decade) at Beginner Novice. I never in a million years would have imagined that the journey would take us here. It still feels hard to believe. I will never know how I lucked into finding such a cool horse, he’s expanded the limits of what I ever thought was possible.

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But for now, we focus on Texas Rose this weekend and getting the job done!

The Mental Game Part 1: Awareness

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how I’m trying to focus on fixing my brain. What I mean by that is addressing the mental aspects of riding and showing (in my case, mostly showing) that are having a negative impact on my life and my riding. It’s been a goal of mine for the past couple years, ever since I started to become aware of the issue, but this year certain things have slowly made themselves more obvious, and I’ve buckled down on trying to address what’s going on in my head.

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The first part of this, of course, was becoming aware of it. I’ve been showing since I was a kid, and looking back I realized that I’ve always struggled mentally to some degree. It’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, had to pay for my own habit on a tight budget, and stepped into harder competitions and higher levels. The pressure has taken it’s toll, and it snuck up on me without me really even noticing.

The first eye-opening moment for me was at the N3D at Coconino in 2016. There’s a lot of hoopla leading up to an event like that… qualifying for it, conditioning for it, saving the money to make the trip to Arizona, taking 2 weeks off work to go horse show, etc. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, considering how much time and money I had invested in the event. And, naturally, I kinda bombed. The pressure I put on myself got the better of me in dressage and stadium, resulting in silly mistakes, and we finished just out of the ribbons. My first reaction was to be really upset. Not with anyone else, but with myself. I screwed it up, this thing that we’d been working toward for months, and I was really frustrated and angry about it. The things that I said to myself in my head (you don’t belong here, you aren’t good enough, you’ll never be good enough, what made you think you could ever do well at this, you wasted all this money, etc etc) were pretty cruel, and it showed on the outside as a generally sour attitude. My Trainer rightly pointed out that I was acting like a huge brat and needed to get over myself, which rocked me back on my heels at first. I was 33 years old and she was calling me a brat? WTF?

But she was right, and I’m glad she said it. It was the slap in the face I needed. I spent the whole drive home thinking about what she said, and trying to figure out what was going on with me that made me act that way. It was the first time in my entire life that I ever sat back and thought about my mental state as it relates to horse showing.

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Of course, once you start to become aware of it, you start to see it more. I could look back and think of other times when my inability to handle pressure (that I put on MYSELF, mind you, no one else ever has) and my lack of self-confidence had bitten me in the butt. I could also think of times that other trainers had noticed it, but their less brutally honest comments just never registered in the same way.

The good news is that you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. So realizing that I had a problem was the critical first step. Of course, from there you’re kind of left wondering what the heck to do next, how on earth to fix it. At first, I did nothing. I didn’t know what TO do. Mostly I just thought about it and reflected and tried to open up my awareness to how I was feeling and why, trying to figure myself out. I’ve been doing that for a couple years now, and I finally feel ready to do something about it.

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Lately I’ve been talking about it more. Bringing it up here on the blog and with some of my friends, trying to talk things through. It’s brought up so many interesting conversations, helping me learn more about others and about myself. It’s helped me pinpoint exactly what my issues are and what they stem from. There have been many lightbulb moments. And, with some encouragement, I purchased 3 different books about the mental side of riding, which I have delved into with more enthusiasm than I ever could have imagined. I’m very much a book learner, and they’ve already helped me open my eyes and start to develop a plan for myself.

I think I have a long, hard road ahead. Changing a mindset that I’ve had for my entire life is certainly not going to be quick and easy. It’s a struggle, every single day, to start training my brain to see things in a different way. I want to talk about it here, partly because I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this, but also because I’m hoping you guys will help me hold myself accountable. Part of changing how I think is changing what I say. I have to be more positive about my capabilities, more forgiving of my mistakes, more accepting that failure is a part of growth, and just plain have a little more freaking faith in myself. Especially now, as I’m starting to push outside of my comfort zone and outside of what I ever thought was possible for me. Growth isn’t comfortable, and I want to be more prepared when the struggles come calling.

This is the most ME chapter that has ever existed in any book. We jumped 36 fences at Holly Hill between XC and SJ and the only ones I focused on afterward were the 3 that I didn’t ride well.

The books have given me a lot of good ideas on what to do and things to try, so my current status is “In Progress”. Right now I feel like I’m taking baby steps on shaky legs, but they’re steps in the right direction. I want to share the journey here, in all of it’s brutal ugly honesty, as I start trying to make these changes to my mentality. I have no idea how often I’ll write updates on how it’s going or what the heck the subject matter will be about, but this post is a starting point and, hopefully, a way to hold myself more accountable. I feel like good things have always come after I put something out there in the world, so… let’s try it with this too.


The books I’m reading at the moment are:

Pressure Proof your Riding by Daniel Stewart

Inside Your Ride by Tonya Johnston

Keep Calm and Enjoy the Ride by Annette Paterakis

Playing Catch Up

This time of year always seems so busy, with shows and lessons and barnsitting and volunteering and literally anything I can do outdoors in that little sliver of the year when the weather isn’t scorching. This fall has been no different, with something going on every weekend since mid-September. I was starting to yearn for a day where I didn’t *have* to wake up before the sun (not that I can sleep past 6 even if you give me the chance, but still… I was craving the chance…) and this past weekend was finally a little bit of a break.

This is his thrilled face

I did manage to fill up most of my Saturday with body clipping. The people I barnsit for are headed to their new Florida farm for the winter (luckyyyyy) and were scurrying to get everything ready, so I stepped in with some clippers to help prepare the horses for their trek. My victims were Toni (the stallion) and Tara, who were both impeccably behaved and very patient. A+ for behavior. I might still be digging black hair out of my eyeballs, but they’re both gorgeous and ready to go. Also considering I’ve body clipped Henry twice in the past month, I’m feeling pretty done with it for a while now. I used to clip A LOT to make some extra money (hustlers gotta side hustle) but I kind of remember why it wasn’t my favorite gig. It’s not the worst, but it’s not the best. Super satisfying though… I do kind of live for the moment when you’re finished and they look amazing.

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Tara-Moo-Su just wants me to stop calling her Moo

On Sunday we got to go for a hack out in the fields with Hillary, who just moved to my barn. After being there basically solo (only english rider, and the only person who really came out more than once a week) for two years now, it’s kind of nice to have a partner in crime. Pretty sure I’ve already talked her into a schooling HT next month. It doesn’t take much arm-twisting.

Henry also seems excited. Why do all of the horses in my life wear the same expression?

Hillary’s mare Annie is living in the stall next to Henry, and while he likes to make ugly faces at her while he’s eating (that’s kind of his thing) I can tell that he secretly enjoys her company. Their turnouts are near each other and I swear he kept an eye on her for quite a while as he was grazing yesterday. That’s about as excited as Henry gets about the existence of another horse.

Annie didn’t care about anything but grass

After we were done riding I pulled Presto out for groomies and decided to take advantage of the puddles in the arena while checking in with his lunging skills and voice commands. We will ignore the fact that I had to throw a rock at him to get him trot the first time (note to self: the “tr-OT” voice command button is a little rusty). I really need to find a lunge whip for this wild little stallion. Once he got going he perked up a bit, and seemed to enjoy splashing through all the puddles I pointed him at. He remains a superstar at “whoa”, screeching to a quiet halt within a few seconds from any gait. Maybe I should have bred more thoroughbred into this thing… 73% and “whoa” is still his favorite?

his wildest moment
So talent. Much wow. I can feel how impressed you are by his magnificence.

I even had enough time left over to play around more with some new things we’ve acquired lately. Like Henry’s fancy new Majyk Equipe superhorse monoflap girth. It’s so squishy. Definitely a massive upgrade from the extra-basic, no-frills, cheap synthetic I was using before. I’m excited to use and abuse it a bit more before I review it, and I still need to review the Majyk Equipe impact pad too. We’ll get there.

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Henry was perhaps more excited to try out these new Flix treats, which are made entirely from flaxseed. No added sugar, no flavoring, nothing but flaxseed in all of it’s omega 3 goodness. I figured there was no way he would like these, considering how much he loves anything super unhealthy and sugar-loaded. Pretty sure Henry’s life philosophy is “when it doubt, cover it with molasses”. I was shocked when he chomped them quickly down and begged for more. Presto and the donkeys liked them too. I dunno what sorcery this is, but if Henry will happily eat some healthy treats, I will happily keep him stocked with a full supply.

Glad he can’t read the label, he would be pissed to see that I’m peddling something that says “no sugar added”

On Sunday afternoon I got to catch up on a lot of reading, which lately has been primarily comprised of what I guess you could call self-help books for equestrians. I said I wanted to focus on improving the mental aspects of my riding, and I started that by ordering 3 books. I’m halfway through them and my mind is pretty blown. Some of the content is “duh”, some of it has made me stop and reflect, and some of it has absolutely left me reeling. This whole process is going to be it’s own series of posts, I think.

This week the focus shifts to getting ready for Texas Rose this weekend, the preparation for which will include but not be limited to: a jump lesson, re-learning the Prelim dressage test, shortening Henry’s ranch horse mane, figuring out how to stay warm while I’m camping considering it’s gonna be like 35 degrees (we’re all gonna die in dressage, y’all) and trying to apply some of what I’ve read so far in my books. We’ll see how any of that goes.

OH YEAH – also, I managed to leak Magic Cushion all over Henry’s sleazy… any ideas how the hell to get that out??

Jumbled Parts

You know what’s awkward? Being a 19 month old baby horse.

Sup y’all, I am a magnificent giramoose.

Poor Presto. He is so sweet, and such a good boy. He’s in a particularly (suspiciously???) quiet and compliant phase right now too. Like to the point where he’s been so still in the crossties that I’ve taken his temperature to make sure he wasn’t dying. He comes to me in the pasture, stands still as a stone while I tie his halter on, follows me docilely into the barn, and stands in the crossties while I groom and fly spray him and sometimes leave him unattended for short periods.

He really likes to hold his grooming tools for me. Such a helper.

What he is, though, is a weird collection of body parts right now. Some things have grown and developed and are looking more like they belong to a horse. Other parts are scrawny and small and look like they belong to a baby. The overall effect is a little… strange.

Also he is really dirty and scruffy right now, living his best donkey life

His head is… well it’s pretty big. Like, as big as Henry’s. His butt is starting to lengthen and fill out a bit too, and his barrel is taking on a little more depth. The neck and shoulders, though? Scrawny AF. He’s still SO narrow in the shoulders and without much topline. I was kind of thinking (or secretly hoping) that waiting a little longer to geld him would help out his topline a little, but judging by his behavior I don’t think he’s got much testosterone running through him. Still almost no colt-like behavior. Which… thank goodness. Both of his little cojones are easily visible now though, so whenever the weather decides to get cold enough to kill the flies, those little nuggets are coming off.

I has big horse head on wittle baby shoulders, and no clue that I has nuts.

Grooming him yesterday I took a good hard look at where his withers were in relation to my face (WHY ARE THEY LEVEL WITH MY FOREHEAD?) and went off to the tack room to dig around for my good measuring stick. He definitely isn’t growing at the same crazy rate that he was in the spring, when he grew a hand in 3 months (that was relatively terrifying) but no doubt he’s continued to add a little bit since the last time I sticked him.

Yeah so he’s just a teeny smidge shy of 15.3h now. If he could slow his roll a little, that would be greeaaaaat.

I couldn’t resist throwing my saddle on him either. I haven’t done that yet, but he’s worn a lot of saddle pads and his surcingle so I figured it would be a non-event and I was correct. He stayed asleep. And the saddle doesn’t look all that big on him, either. Granted, I think he would need like a 12″ girth if I actually wanted to attach this thing to him.

Very tired. Much sleepy. I used all of my energy to grow my butt and my head.

I’m guessing that the shoulders and neck will be the next things to grow. I hope? With every day that passes, he looks more and more like a horse and less and less like a baby. We’ll ignore the fact that he’s the same height now that his mother was at 2 1/2. I’m in denial about that.

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY ARE YOU ALMOST HENRY SIZED

He also seems really freaking bored, so this weekend we’re going to revisit long lining again now that I’ve got real long lines. Maybe I won’t have to stack every saddle pad I own to make the surcingle fit now? Ok I probably will. #babyhorseproblems

Made in America

Yesterday Eventing Nation sent out an email blast about the Goresbridge Go for Gold Sale, a big sporthorse auction that takes place every fall in Ireland. It’s an “elite” sale that has had a lot of top horses pass through it, so on one hand it’s really fun to look through the catalogue (well, ok, IF YOU’RE ME it’s really fun) and see the horses and the bloodlines and try to guess which ones might make it to the big time someday. On the other hand, it does make me cringe a bit to see a big American publication openly encouraging people to go overseas and buy horses there, when we have so many nice horses being produced by breeders right here in the US. Can we throw a bone to the US eventing breeders and young horse producers sometimes too? If we want nice horses produced here, we have to buy the nice horses that are produced here, y’all, and we have to pay the same money for them that people are ever-so-willing to fork over for an import. You know what would be nice, EN? An ongoing series of articles featuring American breeders and breeding programs. Just saying.

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Granted, that still doesn’t stop me from clicking through the Goresbridge horses, watching their videos, and looking at how they’re bred. If I’m picking a favorite to take home, it’s lot 21, Emerald Emoe. Reasons? Because I’d want a mare, already started o/f, that looked nice enough to have potential but not SO athletic that I wouldn’t be able to ride it. Plus a good pedigree.

But if we throw pretty much all of those criteria out, then I’ll order up lot 47, Jordan Cobra.

Fun fact, I’m such a creepy person that I’ve stalked his sire Cobra (who lives in the UK) extensively and even asked his owners if there’s any frozen semen available for US export. The answer is no, there isn’t. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop asking.

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me, creeping on facebook

But anyway, Goresbridge window shopping aside, I’m back to the issue of encouraging people to consider shopping American more often and with more enthusiasm. The first part of that, I think, is breeding more of these Goresbridge-quality horses, right here in the US. There are a lot of parts after that, like promoting the breeders, getting the horses to the right people to produce them, making it easier for people to FIND the horses, etc etc. But it all starts with getting the horses on the ground.

For those who don’t know, my friend Michelle at Willow Tree Warmbloods has recently purchased two really nice broodmares for the eventing side of their program. It’s possible that both of these mares were my doing and I absolutely regret nothing. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s totally Michelle’s farm and program but I have managed to insert myself pretty squarely in the middle of everything. It’s what I do. See above gif.

I already mentioned Peyton a few weeks ago, a really nicely bred (for eventing) TB mare. It’s hard to find TB mares of her quality, so I’m really excited about her. A good jumping line stallion on a high quality TB mare has proven time and again to be a great cross for eventing.

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And then last week a friend of mine put her really lovely Irish mare up for sale to a breeding home after a really random freak pasture accident. I jumped on that immediately, sending the mare’s info to Michelle and helping her come up with ways to talk her husband into it. Luckily he’s easy to convince. Or maybe he’s just given up by now. Either one works for me. Anyway, this is Grace:

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Henry and I have shown against her and she’s an absolute GEM of a mare. So nice, incredibly talented, and with a fantastic temperament. The kind of mare everyone wants to own, even if you aren’t into mares (for real, it seems like at least 50 people have called dibs on a Grace foal). And for those who haven’t been falling asleep and/or stabbing their eyeballs out during my “It’s in the Blood” series posts, Grace is the magical eventing combination of Selle Francais x Holsteiner x Irish Sporthorse. Her pedigree contains Quidam de Revel, Cavalier Royale and Clover Hill. In fact, her half sister (out of the same dam) Kilpatrick Duchess is the dam of Cooley Moonshine, the 6yo that was just 3rd at Lion d’Angers under Liz Halliday Sharp. For an eventing broodmare, she ticks all the boxes in a big way.

CooleyMoonshine
Cooley Moonshine, whose sire is none other than the aforementioned Cobra

Of course, it’s also no secret that there’s really no money to be made breeding event horses in this country. Part of it is that for a long time people just didn’t believe that an event horse was something you could breed on purpose. First they were largely OTTB’s, then more “rejects” from the jumper market as we changed over to the short format. Slowly the tide has started to turn, as people realize that the same bloodlines are popping up over and over, and that certain traits do in fact seem highly heritable. That’s why I think that it’s so important for people who shop for these types of horses to be educated on breeding and bloodlines and what works. Top horses are rarely an accident.

But also, most people just don’t buy foals, and the ones that do typically don’t pay the same prices that jumper and dressage foals bring. If you’re trying to make a profitable business out of a breeding farm, eventers are a really tough choice in an already really tough game. Most of the big, successful eventing breeders in this country do it more as a labor of love, usually losing money in the process. Therefore we obviously don’t have very many big, successful eventing breeders.

FEHconfo
WTW’s first eventing bred foal = WTW’s first FEH winner

At the same time, if we want to produce world-caliber horses here on our home soil, we have to start somewhere, and we have to support the people that are dedicated to the cause. That goes for breeders of any discipline. If we want our riders sitting on the best horses in the world, we have to figure out how to make them and bring them up and connect them with said riders, and not at a huge loss for the breeder. The French do it. The Irish do it. The Germans do it. Why not us? I have to believe that eventually people will catch on, even if it takes a long time. Again… you have to start somewhere. Really good mares are exactly the right place, and I’m excited to look at stallions and start making picks.

So while I may have fun looking at all the Goresbridge horses and picking my favorite, it also urges me to spend time thinking about what we can do to get people as jazzed about shopping American as they are about importing from Europe. Thus, we have two objectives of this post, if you choose to accept the challenge: the fun part – which Goresbridge horse would you take home (because window shopping is fun, I don’t care who you are)? And the harder part – how do we get the US on par with Europe when it comes to producing and marketing top horses?

25 Questions

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a huge sucker for those instagram story templates. Especially if they ask good, thought-provoking questions that really give you insight into who someone is, on the inside. The only problem is that time and space are both quite limited in the story format, and there are a lot of interesting questions that I haven’t seen anyone ask yet. So, since it’s Wednesday and my brain is already fried, and it’s Halloween, my favorite holiday, let’s do something fun today with 25 questions! Some are easy, some are hard, some are fun, some might be a little uncomfortable, but here we go. The questions themselves are first so they’re easy to copy and paste, and then my answers are below.

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  1. Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?
  2. What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
  3. If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?
  4. What disciplines have you participated in?
  5. What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
  6. Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
  7. What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
  8. If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
  9. Do you have any horse-related regrets?
  10. If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?
  11. What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?
  12. If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
  13. What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?
  14. What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?
  15. If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?
  16. If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?
  17. If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
  18. Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
  19. If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?
  20. What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?
  21. As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
  22. What horse-related book impacted you the most?
  23. What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?
  24. What do you love most about your discipline?
  25. What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

 

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

I’m not sure why anyone would want to do a sport that doesn’t involve having an animal as a teammate. On one hand, a lot of what we do is completely insane by normal people standards. On the other hand, the rewards are more than worth it. I’ve never really been able to explain why I’m so drawn to horses though. Mostly I think it’s because of how giving and kind they are, without really expecting much in return… if people were more like horses, the world would be a better place. (I also feel the same way about dogs)

 

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?

I sat on a horse here and there a few times at birthday parties or for girl scouts, but I didn’t start weekly lessons until I was 10. It didn’t turn into more than weekly lessons until I was 14, when I moved to TX and started working at the barn I rode at. I was a stereotypical barn rat all through high school, riding anything and everything my trainer would let me ride. We didn’t have the budget to go to the A shows, but I would go along as a groom for my trainer or to help the other girls. In a way I’m grateful for that now, because I feel like I learned more about horsemanship without having showing as my main focus. 

 

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

Puddles. I have no good reason for this. She was a complete nut and ridiculously hot. I loved her anyway.

 

puddles
1998 or 1999 maybe?

What disciplines have you participated in?

Competitively – hunters, jumpers, equitation, eventing, and dressage. For fun – a little bit of reining and cutting also.

 

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

If I had to make a total departure, reined cow horse looks pretty fun. Kinda like the western equivalent to eventing?

2ldwe6
into it

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

Yes to both. One from a TB exracer organization, and one from a very ghetto horse auction. 

 

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

I was fairly obsessed with Morgans as a kid. Not sure why, the book Justin Morgan had a Horse definitely started it, I read that thing a million times. I still really like Morgans and have ridden a few but never owned one. 

Image result for morgan horse

If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

That’s a tossup for England and Germany for me. England would be an easier place to live, for obvious reasons, but I sure do love Germany (and since when do I like to do things the easy way?). So I would probably tip towards Germany. I like their system for teaching people to ride, even if I’d probably have to go back and start all over with all the little kids.

 

Do you have any horse-related regrets?

From where I stand now? No. Just because I’m pretty pleased with the status quo. Sometimes I wish I’d gone on longer as a working student, or stuck with eventing that first time I did it, rather than going to back to the h/j world, but I also feel like maybe those things were necessary learning points for me that led me to where I am now.

 

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

Christopher Bartle. He probably wouldn’t know what do to with a plebian like me, but the man is a legend as a coach, so why not aim high?

 

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

Someday I will gallop around the Irish countryside on a good horse. 

Image result for ireland
extra credit if there are castles

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

Yes, for sure. I’d be a breeder!

 

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Probably 2*. The highest levels aren’t really super appealing to me, but 2* seems reasonable enough for an amateur with a fantasy. 

 

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

Henry, hands down, no contest. About riding, about horses, about myself, about life… we would be here all day if I tried to list everything he’s taught me.


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If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

To be closer to my trainer. It’s hard to get as much done as I want to, or progress like I want to, when she’s 2 hours away. 

 

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

Rebecca Farm, for freaking sure. SOMEDAY. 

 

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

I’m fairly torn between Lion d’Angers and Burghley. Maybe next year I’ll be able to cross one of them off the list.

 

Image result for burghley horse

Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

Completely? No. I’ve taken a couple of very short “breaks” but I could never quit completely. I don’t think I would know myself without horses, everything I am is built around them, and some people might think that’s bad or weird but I like it that way.

 

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

To fix the horse safety and horse welfare issues. 

 

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Have I ever told you about the time I was trying to take a break from horses to pay off some debt and I bought a horse sight unseen off of facebook for $900?

WDProXC1
10/10 would recommend

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

That I’ll never be any better, as a rider or a horseman, than I am now. 

 

What horse-related book impacted you the most?

Most recently, Tik Maynard’s book In the Middle are the Horsemen. I like his perspective on learning, it really hit home for me. 

 

What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

Value Most: a horse that is genuine/kind/honest. Dislike most: a bad work ethic.

 

What do you love most about your discipline?

That it’s so freaking hard. Trying to be good at 3 very different things, all at the same time, is pretty ridiculous, but it’s what keeps you working hard day in and day out. I think that’s also what makes the people so great… we all know how hard it is, and how easily things can go wrong, and everyone seems so much more supportive of each other and kind to each other than in any other discipline I’ve done. 

 

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

The mental side of things. At this point I know that’s what is holding me back the most, so I’m trying to fix my brain. 

Holly Hill HT: The “everything else” part

A lot can happen in 3 days a horse show, and this one was no exception. There were a lot of other extraneous things going on outside of the show itself that I wanted to talk about.

First of all, we tried Magna Wave for the first time. Yes we, because the practitioner let me feel it too, before she put it on Henry.

Image result for magna wave

I was so fascinated with watching and asking questions that I totally forgot to take a picture. But Henry was licking and chewing within a minute of starting the session, and although we kept it light and short since it was his first time, he definitely seemed to enjoy it. I’d had some issues the previous few rides with getting him to connect in the right rein, and the next morning after the Magna Wave treatment he definitely seemed better in that regard. I need to look into the local MW person more to see what her prices and travel availability are.

Second thing – the cot. This was the first time trying out the new cot, and I figured it would be the perfect opportunity since it was supposed to be cold at night and the humidity is always so bad in Louisiana that if you tent camp, it ends up dripping condensation on you INSIDE of the tent. Waking up with a wet head/pillow at 4am is about as fun as it sounds. I learned my lesson about that the first time we were here 2 years ago. Not doing it again.

my really fancy room for the weekend

So I cleaned out the horse part of the trailer, laid a tarp down over the shavings, and set up my bed. First was the cot, then it’s cushion, then a top sheet, then a fleece blanket, then a quilt, and then I opened up a sleeping bag to serve as a comforter. I pulled the door mat out of the dressing room to put inside and voila – I had a decent little space. I was pretty darn comfortable back there, and the cot worked out well. I’m a splayed-out stomach sleeper, so I do wish the cot was maybe 6″ wider, but I slept well anyway. It was nice being able to completely close up the trailer to keep some of the chill out, especially on Friday night when it dipped down to 45 degrees. I think the cot will be a good viable option for when tent camping isn’t so practical, so in that regard it was a successful test run and totally worth the cot’s $50 purchase price.

Next up on this recap of randomness, we have a video of Henry eating a Pop-Tart, which he LOVES, but I don’t give him often. I had run out of treats and this was what I had as backup. What, you don’t keep emergency Pop-Tarts in your trunk? Weird. Wondering why the hell I’m showing you this video? He got the Pop-Tarts to hold him over until I could go get my wallet and run to one of the vendors to buy him some more. I wanted you to see what led to the circumstances I found myself in, how it started with the purely innocent goal of buying my unicorn some well-deserved treats. SURELY YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING.

Yeaaaaah so I bought cookies… and new dressage reins. My only real complaint about my Eponia bridle is the stupid rubberized web reins that came with it, but I never have gotten around to replacing them. On Friday I spent what felt like 3 hours cleaning those stiff, stupid things before giving up on getting all the dirt out of the webbing, so on Saturday when I went to get Henry some more cookies and saw the Kavalkade soft reins (because one does not just walk into a mobile tack shop without browsing just a little, right?), I was sold.

Well ok, I told the vendor that I would buy them only IF she removed the stupid martingale stops for me, which I also never remembered to do with the Eponia ones. She pulled out a knife, sliced through the stitching on each one, and I got myself a new pair of dressage reins. I’ll do a review once I use and abuse them for a while, but Riding Warehouse also carries them in black and brown in a 3/4″ width and a 1/2″ width. I think I’ll set the Eponia reins on fire and laugh maniacally while I watch them burn. Just kidding. Probably.

Image result for watch it burn gif

On Sunday morning I started prepping Henry’s stud holes early, and I’m really glad I did because as soon as I picked up the left hind I knew we had a problem. Somehow he had twisted his shoe about 1/2″ to the inside and stepped on the clip. He was totally sound on it and didn’t even seem to notice, but clearly I couldn’t run him XC like that. I called the show farrier and off we trudged to meet him at his truck.

Chillin with 3 shoes, because this is definitely what you want to be doing an hour and a half before XC

He pulled the shoe off, noting that luckily the clip had stayed in the wall (right where the nails typically go) and didn’t make it any further into the hoof. Henry had an ever so slight reaction the first time he clamped down with the hoof testers, then nada. I asked him whether he thought I should scratch (he’s from a family of eventers so I trust his opinion) and he replied with a very emphatic heck no, but maybe pack the foot with Magic Cushion overnight in case there’s any latent soreness there. I do that anyway after XC, so no biggie. This farrier is very good and has actually mentored my own farrier quite a bit, so he asked me to take some pictures with a couple of slight changes he suggests my farrier make. He bent the inside heel of both hind shoes in a bit more to help prevent Henry from being able to step on himself as easily back there, and then had to re-tap to make sure the stud holes were still good after that. It was NOT a cheap show farrier visit, but he got the twisted shoe fixed, addressed why it happened, we got a bit of a “consultation” if you will, and Henry trotted off 100% sound.

I might be biased but I think this boy is pretty handsome

Speaking of Henry feeling fantastic, he also looks pretty darn good right now. He’s FIT and he’s strong, and I’m really happy with his overall condition. He must be feeling as good as he looks, because on Sunday morning before XC I tried to take him out to graze and all he wanted to do was drag me to XC warmup and stare off into the distance at cross country. He knew exactly what it was and that it was his next phase. Henry is normally relatively chill in XC warmup, and always stands very quietly, almost looking asleep, in the startbox… not this time. He was spring-loaded and I had to circle through the box until our 10 second countdown. He exploded out of there, ears already on the first fence. I think between his fitness level and the temperatures finally cooling off, he’s pretty full of himself. He really feels like a horse that understands his job, and seems confident about it and happy to do it. I came away from this show feeling very satisfied with where he’s at, mentally and physically, and that’s what’s most exciting to me.