Weekend in pictures. Ish.

If you are a fan of live streams, this was a great weekend to nerd out on a laptop with 3 different eventing options to choose from. I was glued to the Blenheim 4* XC, mostly because it suits my schedule much more to watch a live stream from 5am to 9am. But also because I’m already wondering why the eff we came back here, where it’s supposed to be 100 degrees today on the first day of effing fall, when we could have just stayed in the UK for a month or so and gone from one big event to the next. Poor life choice on our part. I could even SEE some of the shopping in the background of the live feed. Didn’t take long for those Burghley withdrawals to kick in.

Tim Price

I also popped in and out of the Plantation live stream throughout the day, mostly to try to catch some of the Mighty Magic offspring that were competing. He had FOUR spread amongst the 2*, the 3*, and the 4*. Turns out it was a great weekend to be sat on a MM at Plantation, because 3 of the four finished on their dressage score and the other added only one rail. All of them were double clear XC and two finished in 2nd place – one in the 3* and one in the 4*. And in the 3*, the two fastest rounds of the divisions both belonged to the MM’s. Sometimes it’s fun to be a horse stalker.

Another Mighty Magic won the 3yo FEH West Coast Championships too. “Magical” weekend, eh (yeah ok I’ll stop being punny on a Monday morning, sorry)? When you’re waiting for a baby horse to grow up, sometimes the only way to get your kicks is by stalking his relatives, so give me a break. It helps me stay sane(r).

Speaking of Presto, he also had some adventures this weekend. Some good, some bad. Very bad. On Saturday I stuck his bridle on and trotted the triangle a few times in hand, to make sure he still remembered how. The entry fee money for FEH championships officially left my account so I figured I should probably like… prep for it. For at least maybe 5 minutes. He was perfect, he knows this part pretty well by now.

looking handsome, I think!

Then we stood in the ring and watched the other horses work. He finds that to be equal parts boring AF and fascinating AF.

What he doing?

We went and parked it down at the end by the trailers, where he became very obsessed with the horse in the window. For a long time. He’s pretty entertaining, I’ll give him that.

IT ME!
But how me inside the trailer and outside the trailer at the same time???? *mindblown*

On Sunday I was at the barn super early to load up Henry to head to Pine Hill for XC schooling. It started out really well when I couldn’t actually FIND HIM in the pitch black. He wasn’t in his usual turnout, and I guess I interrupted his beauty sleep, because he finally stumbled up to the gate looking only half awake.

I got literally zero pictures or videos from schooling, so… you’ll just have to believe me that it happened. It was our first time back out on XC since Coconino so I had a pretty rank horse for the first half, but everything clicked back together by the end. It would be nice if the ground would soften up a bit so we could get back to our regular gallop schedule. Someone needs it. Anyway, since I didn’t get pics I’ll just give you GIFs.

The first half went like this

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And the second half went like this

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When I got home I unloaded the trailer, unpacked everything and was flyspraying the boys, getting ready to leave, when…

Yes that is Presto.

Yes that is a couple of gross cuts.

Yes that is a really swollen hock.

You gotta be effing kidding me, you little shit. It’s as if he could FEEL that entry fee money leave my account on Saturday. HORSES. EFFING HORSES. How? I don’t even know how!

Luckily the vet was just getting in his truck to leave when I found it, so he climbed back out, looked at it, gave him some banamine and penicillin, and said “Jesus, this is getting ridiculous. I have my gun back here if you want me to shoot him.” NO I DO NOT WANT YOU TO SHOOT HIM, YOU ARE NOT FUNNY (also that’s not very believable from a man who has a farm full of animals that other people wanted to put down and he wouldn’t do it). “Okay well you should probably cold hose it then.”.

So I cold hosed. For a long time. And Hillary won the A+ friend award by bringing me a blueberry lemonade to make cold hosing seem less miserable. By the time I was done it looked like the swelling had already gone down a bit. I slapped some Surpass on the hock, sprayed the wound with Alushield, cursed Presto a few more times, and headed home. I guess we’ll see if we can get that swelling down and the wound looking better before Championships, which are… Thursday. And maybe, like… not accrue any additional injuries before then? That would also be great.

HORSES.

September’s 10 questions

This blog hop has been making the rounds and I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s answers to these questions, plus it’s Friday and I can’t brain hard enough for other content, so here we go!

1. Favorite quirk your horse has?

Henry – his weird tongue thing that he does, where he flops it out the side of his mouth and sucks on it. If he did it under saddle it most definitely would not be my favorite, but luckily he doesn’t, therefore it’s cute.

Presto – I’ll be honest, I find his constant need to have something in his mouth to be hilarious. Mostly when he’s holding something he shouldn’t (like a crosstie) and you’re like “Presto!” and he just goes totally still but doesn’t drop the object. He’s like “what, there’s nothing in my mouth, I dunno what you mean.”. It’s a symptom of his general personality, which I love. Luckily it seems like he wants to hold things more than actually chew on them… most of the time.

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2. Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse?

Henry – cheeky, genuine, emotional

Presto – confident, goofy, curious

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?

Pole work! We do a lot of that.

4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

Many. I think they’re all quite different, you can’t really come at each of them exactly the same way. The most important thing is to be realistic about the horse you have, what it’s holes are, and what it needs physically and mentally. I also think that it’s important to remember that there are huge changes in their body happening in that first 6 months to a year off the track, and they might need extra support or help, changes in diet, extra care, etc etc. Stay diligent and be ready to alter your program as needed.

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OTTB in… 2002? 2003?

5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?

Yes to both. I’ve been a working student for a couple different upper level riders and have done some work here and there (mostly when I was younger) as a groom.

6. Favorite horse and rider combination?

I tend to be drawn to the ones where you can really see and feel the connection they have forged together over time. To me that’s what it’s all about. You know, the people who clearly worship their horse and maybe can’t even talk about them in an interview without getting a bit choked up or beaming like a lunatic with pride. Historically I’ve really liked duos such as Buck and Ballynoe Castle RM, and Michael Jung with Sam. They’re both retired now, so I think my current “famous” favorite is Ingrid and Hale Bob, although there are so many (at every level) that I really enjoy.

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7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

Yes, twice! Once in Half Moon Bay, CA and once in Jamaica. A beach ride in Texas is on my bucket list to do with Henry, maybe this year or next.

8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?

The UK, hands down, for practical reasons. 1) I know the language. 2) SO many competition opportunities. 3) it’s cheaper. 4) it’s highly competitive. 5) it’s so saturated with top level riders, horses, and coaches. I feel like I could learn a lot with a year in the UK.

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?

Having come from the h/j world, the first one that pops to mind for me is standing martingales. I don’t really understand the whole “martingale as an item of apparel” thing, even though I’ve been guilty of it in the past (lord, the h/j life feels like it was such a long time ago). It’s silly. There are plenty of other things that I think are totally useless for me personally, but if other people like them then whatever.

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10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

I don’t remember exactly which the first one was, but considering that was 30 years ago and they were schoolmaster types even then, I highly doubt any of those early ones are still alive! Thanks for making me feel old though.

It’s in the Blood: Burghley 2019

Yeah I know, I’m slacking a bit on this one seeing as Burghley was 2 weeks ago. I fully intended to post this before we left but I had only gotten about 3/4 of the way through my spreadsheet by that point. And now I’m kind of glad, because I broke things down a little bit differently this time considering the heavy influence that cross country had, and looking back at the XC finishers and the top 12.

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There was nothing particularly unusual in most of the statistics. By now, after doing these breakdowns on a lot of the big events, they are generally pretty consistent across the board. The average blood percentage (how much TB or arabian blood a horse carries in it’s bloodlines) of the starters – 62% – was a bit higher than we’ve seen at some of the European “majors” before (that tend to average around 57-59%) but a tad lower than we saw at Kentucky (65%). This is probably because with that big contingent of Americans we brought 6 fullblooded horses with us.  Fun fact: all 4 of the fullblooded horses that completed cross country were American (Vermiculus, Indy 500, Tight Lines, Unmarked Bills). Leamore Master Plan, who had the fastest clear round from an American, is 80% blood by full TB stallion Master Imp xx.

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Leamore Master Plan

More interestingly, the average blood percentage of the top 12 was 73%… higher than the field average of 62%. However, if you look at the average blood percentage of the horses that showjumped clear, that dips to 57%.

The usual disclaimer about the facts and figures in this post applies: several horses, especially those of Irish descent, don’t have complete pedigree information. In those cases I have to exclude them from any datasets where I can’t verify the numbers or the parts of the pedigree I need. The record keeping (or lack thereof) around the Irish pedigrees is incredibly frustrating. Every breeder in Ireland will soon know that I’m a complete psychopath, because if I can find out who the breeder is I will definitely message them and ask if they know more about the pedigree. But hey it did benefit me this time when I saw that the winner was listed as being out of an “unknown” dam. I messaged and was told that they were fairly certain it was a full TB dam, but the ISH board was working to confirm that.

About 25% of the field had a full TB sire, where 40% had a full TB damsire. Sky Boy xx, Mr Prospector xx, Hoist the Flag xx, and Danzig xx all made multiple appearances, but the most common sire to show up in the first 5 generations was Nijinsky II xx, present in 5 horses. Lots of Northern Dancer (and Native Dancer).

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Captain Jack, who carries Danzig and Nijinsky

While stallions are mentioned the most due to the fact that they produce way more offspring and therefore show up way more often, any breeder will tell you that mares tend to be more influential to the offspring. So it’s definitely worth mentioning that one mare had TWO offspring in this year’s Burghley field. Faerie Dazzler, who competed through 4* before becoming a broodmare, is the sire of Xavier Faer (by Catherston Liberator) and Faerie Dianimo (by Dimaggio). Faerie Dazzler’s dam, Mudlark (a full TB by Ben Faerie xx), produced two advanced level event horses herself. Great mareline!

Fairie Dazzler

As usual we have some stallions showing up more than once within the first few generations: Courage II is the sire of 3 horses (2 finished top 15, one DNF), OBOS Quality is the sire of 2 (the winner and one DNF), Fleetwater Opposition is the sire of 2 (both DNF), Mill Law is the sire of 2 (one top 20, one DNF), Cavalier Royale is the damsire of two and the sire’s sire of two (2 top 10, one top 20, one DNF), Marlon is the sire of 1 and the damsire of 1 (top 20 and DNF), Cruising is the sire of 1 and the damsire of 1 (one top 25, one DNF), Chellano Z is the sire’s sire of 2 (2nd place and DNF), and Master Imp xx is the sire of 1 and the sire’s sire of 1 (one top 10, one DNF). We’ve seen most of those names before.

This time I did a little more digging, looking further back in the pedigrees to pull out more sire lines. This was a little interesting. Galoubet shows up in 4 horses, Landgraf in 4, Capitol in 5, Ramiro in 6, Clover Hill in 9 (by far the most represented Irish horse), and Cor de la Bryere in a remarkable 13 horses. Five of those 13 are via his grandson Contender, who was by Calypso II out of a Ramiro mare. Even more incredibly, 6 of the top 12 horses – HALF – have Cor de la Bryere in their pedigree at least once.

Corde was a prolific showjumping sire, becoming a legend in the Holsteiner breeding history books. He’s pretty common in jumping pedigrees these days. And while he found much success being crossed with the Holsteiner mare base, if you look at his pedigree he is actually Selle Francais – and 2/3 TB at that. He is by TB stallion Rantzau xx. His jumping prowess combined with a good bit of blood seems to help make him a prevalent ancestor of event horses.

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Vanir Kamira – winner at Badminton, second at Burghley – carries Corde two times via Chellano Z

The other more interesting thing (to me) that showed up was the representation of particular registries. For instance, 38% of the field had one full TB parent. When you look at just XC finishers, that number drops slightly to 37%. However, if you look at just the top 12 final placings, 50% of those horses could be verified as having at least one full TB parent.

We saw a  similar trend when it came to Selle Francais, traditional Irish Sporthorse (ie contains Irish Draught), and Holsteiner bloodlines. The percentage of horses in the field that carried Selle Francais bloodlines in the first 4 generations was 29%. For XC finishers that figure rose to 35%, and for top 12 horses it rose a little more to 46%. Same story for traditional ISH. The percentage of horses in the field that carried traditional Irish bloodlines in the first 4 generations was 19%. For XC finishers that figure more than doubled to 41%, and for top 12 horses it rose even more to 55%.  Holsteiner blood was also largely represented. The percentage of horses in the field that carried Holsteiner bloodlines in the first 4 generations was 49%. For XC finishers that rose to 55%, and for top 12 horse it went up to a whopping 73%. To lend some comparison, 17% of the top 12 carried Hanoverian bloodlines, and 0% of the top 12 carried Trakehner.

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Santiago Bay and Gemma Tattersall

So when compared to the overall starting numbers, TB, Holsteiner, Selle Francais, and traditional Irish blood have a higher amount of representation in the top 12 horses.

But once again, even amid all of the more predictable pedigrees, eventing also showed some diversity, with an Arabian x TB cross (Vermiculus), a Connemara x TB cross (Feldale Mouse), and a Clydesdale x TB cross (Harelaw Wizard). Cross it with a TB and it still has a chance.

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Wizard is hard to miss, there is a lot of him!

Next up on the In the Blood series we’ll be keeping an eye on all the Young Horse Championships that are happening in the next month or so, both here in the US and in Europe! Hope I haven’t bored everyone to death yet.

Knock on Wood

When we last left off with our intrepid baby hero, he had tried to rip one of his feet off. Like… a week before entries closed for FEH Championships. Because horse.

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I brokeded my footie

The vet had to nerve block the foot, trim off the flap of hoof, and do some magic to try to preserve as much of the tissue as possible. Presto pretty much took off the entire heel of that hoof, and ripped a flap of tissue up into the coronet band. How, I still do not know, but he was pretty thorough. It took the vet a while to get it cleaned up and situated as he wanted it, and he bandaged it up and advised me that Championships were very likely off the table, and the heel of that hoof may or may not ever grow quite normally again. Depends on how much he really damaged. Good job baby horse.

$250 later

When I left town Presto still had the bandage on, and the vet said he’d take it off in a couple more days and see how things looked, fully expecting to have to put another bandage back on so Presto would be able to walk comfortably. But it looked a lot better upon removal of the bandage, so he checked for soundness and against all odds, Presto was sound. Still a bit tender on the gravel on that foot if he steps on a big rock, but… sound. None of us really have any idea HOW, because it still looks like it would hurt.

current status – big chunk of foot missing

The farrier was able to trim his feet without a problem, and we’ll just have to keep an eye on that one as it starts to grow out. It’ll be a while before he actually has a heel again. You can see there’s still a bit of open wound at the bulb, but the sublayers have already closed up so he doesn’t seem to feel it at all. I’m just keeping it clean and trying not to mess with it too much. Luckily its the outside of a hind foot, so it’s not a place he’s likely to step on or reinjure with his own feet (I said LIKELY, not impossible. If anyone could do it, it’d be Presto…).

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trying out Henry’s sheepskin pad to see how my saddle fits Presto with it

The vet filled me in on all this when I got home and said “he hasn’t taken a lame step since I took the bandage off – go ahead and enter him.”. Times when it’s great having your horse at your vet’s house… he’s seen him every day. So the original 3-6 week timeline for soundness (originally the vet gave me a 50/50 shot of him being sound in time for Championships) really ended up being like 5 days. THANK GOODNESS. I will give Presto credit, he is a pretty tough little dude. Looking at the foot, none of us feel like he should be sound, yet he is. I know Henry definitely would not be.

I got Presto out this weekend and walked and trotted him on the lunge line for a grand total of 3 minutes. I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t bother him as he went, and it didn’t. The cellulitis that had developed in his giant effing butt hematoma (or as I called it – the 3rd butt cheek) is mostly gone now too… still slightly lumpy, but it’s hard to see. He’s looking growthy again (although for him he looks pretty good) and is covered in bite marks (we’ve given up) but… I think he can go to Championships. Knock on wood, cross your fingers, pet that rabbit’s foot, pick up a penny, find a four leaf clover… ANYTHING. I’ll take ANYTHING. It’s possible that I considered hanging an evil eye from his stall. Maybe I should just braid one into his tail.

Big Evil Eye Bead for Home or Office Protection
is this one too big? 

So the entry is back in the mail (I went and retrieved it from the outbound mail box just in time when he first injured the foot) and I put in my PTO request for next Thursday. There’s no going back now, money wise, since there are no refunds. And that entry was really expensive for a 5 minute in-hand class. Hopefully I can keep him together and he can stay out of too much trouble until then? I dunno. Now I’m just nervous. This animal is walking T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

He’s lucky I love him

Presto has definitely racked up his fair share of vet bills this year. I remember his mother did that in her 2yo year too… hock infection, crazy ass wolf teeth removal that required all kinds of extra shit because they were GIANT (it’s never good when the vet is like “WOW, do you mind if I take pictures of this?”), x-rays, stitches, staples, something with her foot that I’ve blocked from my memory. I’m starting to think 2 is the worst age. At least for this particular line.

He also had his half-birthday a couple days ago. Officially 2 1/2! We’re getting so close to 3, guys… that’s exciting.

Meanwhile, back at home…

As sad as I was to leave Europe to return to the land where walking outside is akin to putting your face in an oven, I was happy to get back to my horses. I’m sad when I take even just one day off from the barn and don’t get to see them, much less 10 days. Plus I came back bearing gifts, and all sorts of fun new stuff to try on them. What’s more fun than trying new stuff on your ponies?

The final Europe haul, by the time it was all said and done. Except the socks, I forgot those.

As soon as I rolled into the barn on Friday, Henry (ever the drama queen) pretended to be mad at me by retreating to the back of his stall. He does that every time I’m gone for more than a couple days. Show up every day, he greets me ears perked. Skip several days, endure his wrath. I gave him a handful of cookies and he magically got over it.

I wanted to try everything on to make sure it fit before I started taking tags off, lest I need to re-sell anything, so we started with Presto.

He ALWAYS has hay in his forelock, I’ve given up. 

I thought Presto might hate the fluffy halter. Ever since he had to wear that muzzle as a foal, he was wary about things being brought up over his nose. Like no joke he didn’t really get over it until last fall, after A LOT of repetition and teaching him the “head down” cue. I thought all the fluff might garner some protest and make him think I was trying to suffocate him, but nope. He mostly just wanted to eat it. Which… watching a horse try to eat the halter that is attached to it’s head is akin to watching a human try to lick it’s elbow.

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He got bored of that pretty quickly (because attention span is approximately .5 seconds), so I adjusted the fit and admired our $18 score. It’s so fluffy. I like it. I’m totally pretending like he needed a shipping halter anyway (he didn’t) and that it was worth lugging all over Europe in a backpack (my spine is still mad). I took him over to see what Henry thought of it…

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brotherly love

and then moved on to Presto’s next acquisition. He was still bummed to find that this one wasn’t edible either.

wore them for about 30 seconds before he got them dirty, because Presto.

These are the little faux leather bell boots that I found at Equip’horse for $20 and talked myself into buying even though I have like 4 pairs of bell boots already. In my defense, I bought these specifically for Presto (being able to reason myself into anything is my super power) and I do go through bell boots relatively quickly. Can one ever really have too many? It’s kinda like saddle pads. These bell boots do look really cute on him though and I kinda wish I had bought another pair, because I’m pretty sure they’re Equip’horse’s house brand but can’t find them on their website anywhere. Tekna makes some very similar to these although more expensive and hard to find. We’ll see how fast Presto destroys them. The faux leather itself seems very durable but I have my concerns about the elastic strap.

Once Presto was done trying on his new clothes (and putting everything in his mouth), we moved on to Henry, starting with his own super fluffy halter, and his fancy ice boots.

he’d had a lot of cookies by this point

His halter fits him too, and he looks adorbs. He didn’t particularly need a shipping halter either but shut up it was $18. That’s basically free. I did kind of wonder for a minute if I should have bought them both navy, but I think there are two kinds of people in this world: those who match all of their horses to themselves (ie people who are orderly), and those who want each horse to have different things so they don’t mix them up (ie people who live in a state of chaos). I’m clearly the latter, as a human. Plus my horses also have different color schemes – navy and yellow for Henry, navy and green for Presto. They don’t have to match. So their shipping halters are adjusted to each of them and easy to keep straight without having to label anything. Works for me.

The ice boots are maybe a touch big for Henry, which I knew they would be. He was at the upper end of “medium” on the size chart, but Presto will definitely be in the “large” range, and I figured being a bit big is better than being a bit small. Large it was. They fit just fine.

After that it was on to the pièce de résistance

This bridle is honestly my favorite thing that I bought. I had eyeballed the plaited hunt bridles last season but even I couldn’t talk myself into spending $200 for a hunt bridle when we hunt like twice a year. The vendor that had this one at Burghley (same vendor that had the halters, that place was dangerous) had plain flat hunt bridles with rubber reins for $30, or this plaited version for $50. SO CHEAP. I almost talked myself into the plain version, but then I was like “nah girl, you really wanted the plaited one last year, it’s your favorite style, it’s only $50, buy the damn bridle.”. So I did. And I have no regrets. I don’t get to hunt Henry much but I plan to hilltop Presto as much as possible next year, so I figured the purchase was more justifiable. Plus it was cheap, so if when Presto chews up the reins I won’t be as mad.

I tried it on Henry to make sure it would fit, and then took it home to soften it up. It was pretty darn stiff, especially the reins. Belvoir worked it’s magic on the bridle itself, which soaked up A TON of conditioner but softened up amazingly well. The reins were a little more stubborn, so I went back to my h/j roots and pulled out the good ol’ warm olive oil dunk + baggie + sunlight trick.

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Sitting on the back deck, thinking about being a pretty bridle. 

That worked like absolute MAGIC, and a few hours later everything was soft and supple and beautiful. Like… waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay nicer than I ever expected it to turn out, considering how cheap it was. Nicest $50 bridle I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure.

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I love her. ❤

There are few things more satisfying than that first oil/conditioning on a new piece of tack. One of life’s greatest pleasures.

The only thing I bought for the boys that I didn’t really like was the lead rope. It’s soft and thick so I thought it might be good for ponying, but in reality it’s a little bit too short and EVERYTHING sticks to it. Like it’s basically just a ball of shavings now. But it was $4, so I’m not that upset.

As far as the stuff for myself, I’ve tried both pair of gloves and like them. We’ll see how they hold up, that’s always the real question. I really like the feel of the Fouganza gloves, they’re very thin but grippy, and I can feel everything through them really easily. Of course, that also makes me think they might not last very long. We’re 4 rides in with no signs of wear yet, so we’ll see. They were $16, it won’t be that upsetting if they die quickly. If they came in more colors I would beg Mimi to go to Decathlon and buy me some more!

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They are not actually this bright, you know I wouldn’t have bought them if they were

That’s pretty much everything. It all fits, and I like everything except that lead rope. I really didn’t buy that much, considering the sheer number of stores we went in. I’m secretly relieved that Fairfax wasn’t there, because I probably would have blacked out and bought a breastplate that cost more than all of this stuff combined. I came in WELL UNDER the budget I had allotted for myself. When does that ever happen? Shoulda bought more bell boots…

Epic Europe Trip 2019: Final thoughts

Now that I’m home and de-jetlagged (it was brutal this time, geez) I’m able to reflect a little bit on the trip as a whole.

First of all, Burghley is incredible. I would 110% recommend it to anyone. The shopping was ridiculous (over 600 vendors???), the food was insane (we ate a lot of cheese), and the crowds were huge. I found the Brits to be extremely nice too – special shout out to Gadding About with Galahad, who I happened to meet on a train platform by pure happenstance, and who also showed us a much quicker shortcut to get into the grounds. Blogging, y’all… it goes worldwide. Getting to see iconic fences like the Cottesmore Leap and the Leaf Pit with my own two eyeballs was really fun, too. The jumps are massive, the terrain is intense, and it’s easy to see why Burghley is the biggest and baddest XC in the sport.

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extra scope required

As to the controversy that’s been swirling around regarding all the falls and retirements, I’m a little bit on both sides of the fence. I did not like the gates combination and didn’t think it was fair or safe. Mark Phillips admitted as much himself in a press conference. I also didn’t like the big log oxer going downhill into the Trout Hatchery, I didn’t think it jumped well overall. But I will also say that I saw a lot of big rider mistakes, especially at the Maltings, and a lot of people that should have pulled up but kept going. Most of those falls you could see coming from several fences before. And despite all the problems the course was causing, surprisingly few selected to take the longer easier routes, even when it was clear that the horse was already feeling a bit overfaced. The riders who did it well did it really, really, really well. Smooth and textbook and easy, a total masterclass. The ones that didn’t… it was bad. Take out the trappy, unfair questions for sure. But at a point the rider has to take responsibility for the horse they’re sitting on and know when they need to take a long route, or when they need to put a hand up and call it a day. I did not see enough of that until it was already too late.

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Dom and Boly taking a smart option at the Maltings

The other thing that wowed me about Burghley was the turnout for the Young Horse finals. I know I talked about it a bit on the day recap, but it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about since. The whole culture over there is so much different regarding breeding and young horses, so many people are interested in it. Being part of the crowd there, which numbered in the thousands, and having been a part of the crowd here, which numbered less than 50… it makes you wonder how to get that same level of enthusiasm about young horses and breeding over here. Are we just such a culture of “if you want a nice horse, go import it” that we’ll never have that kind of interest here? I don’t know. It’s a little depressing. Although I did have a bit of a chuckle at the thought of us running our Championships in the same format, with the dressage arena marked in the grass in the ring, and you do your dressage test then go straight over to the jumps. I think some folks might have a fit. I remember doing a FEH clinic a few years ago where someone brought up how the judge rides the top 3 in England, and suggested trying something like that here… one of the ladies had an absolute STROKE at the mere thought of it, saying she wasn’t going to let anyone else sit on her horses under any circumstances. We’re a bit primadonna sometimes. Having to do your jump warmup, then a dressage test, then go straight to your stadium course… I bet there would be a lot of grumbling about that.

QJ
This 5yo by Quidam Junior didn’t really trust those thin little branches sticking up out of the top. When in doubt, clear it by a few extra feet and just keep cantering like nothing happened.

Setting Burghley aside, there were lots of other perks of the trip. I’ll be honest, I had been a bit worried about all the trains we had to take (that involved 4 different trainlines and many different stations) because I have historically been REALLY dumb about trains. No joke I’ve gotten lost in the Atlanta airport before because I took the train the wrong way. But somehow we managed to always get where we needed to be, never missing a train or ending up in the wrong place. Way more confident about the train systems in each country now, and next time I think we’ll modify our trip to include more trains and less driving.

I am also completely convinced that the only way to really see a country is to avoid the bigger cities. I’ve come to hate them, even Paris. Getting out in the more rural areas, away from the tourist traps and the constant bustle… that’s my favorite thing. Driving through the French countryside was just so lovely, a thousand times better than anything the city has to offer. You can see the real soul of a place. The same was true in England, I don’t think there is a town in the world that is cuter than Stamford. And have you even FRANCED until you’ve stood in a pasture full of mares and foals in Normandy, fields stretching out in every direction as far as the eye can see?

Although I will say, the French are interesting people. The culture is a lot different from America, especially with regards to lunch time. Like… everything just STOPS at noon and doesn’t start again until 2. Businesses close. Don’t ask to meet anyone anywhere during that time unless it’s for lunch. And if you walk into a restaurant one minute after 2, they won’t be serving anymore, you’re just kind of SOL. This is how we found ourselves at a French McDonald’s, having been a bit late for lunch time and unable to find anything else that was still open. But bonus – you can order at the kiosk and change the language to English, which was a bit of a relief after a couple days of having to use the Google Translate app on every menu. Unsurprisingly, French McDonalds was way better than American McDonalds.

Speaking of which, if you find yourself in a restaurant that offers an english menu, totally get it. It will be entertaining AF. We laughed particularly hard at this dessert section at a restaurant in Deauville.

People have been asking me how we got to meet a lot of these stallions and visit these big farms. There’s not much science to it: just ask. I’ve found that, usually anyway, people are quite generous with their time, and were super kind to us, showing us their horses and talking to us about them in depth. Even if there’s a bit of a language barrier, we all speak horse. You can learn so much just from looking at other people’s horses, and listening to what they have to say. And especially when it comes to breeding, there’s nothing quite like seeing these horses in person. Some really wowed me that I didn’t expect. Others I liked less than I would have thought. Either way, we come away from every trip having learned something and having made at least a couple new friends.

Comfort
really liked this stallion, Comfort. Legs for days!

And of course, seeing Mighty Magic in person was just BONKERS, I knew from pictures that Presto took a lot after him, but good lord. Now instead of asking him “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS” I just look at him and go “I KNOW WHY YOU’RE LIKE THIS”. I keep showing his video to everyone that knows Presto and the reaction is always “oh my god they’re identical, same mannerisms and everything, how crazy is that???”. I’m now totally convinced there’s a gene for mouthiness. Presto is never getting nice reins. Have to admit though, I really loved MM’s total ham personality. Cheeky bastards are my thing.

IT GOES IN MAH MOUFFF
img_8939
IT GOES IN MAH MOUFFFFF

I think this might have been our best Europe trip yet. We got to do so much, even if it did seem like the trip just flew by. Every day was busy busy busy. I can’t wait to go back and do it again. Maybe Ireland next time?

Michelle is still uploading all the pictures, I’ll post links to the albums once everything is up! If there’s anything I didn’t cover or anything you want to see, just ask.

 

Au revoir, Europe!

Our last day in France went a little off script. The last farm we were supposed to visit was a lot further away than we originally thought, and the opposite direction of Paris, where we had to catch a train that evening. Given the drive, we thought that heading over there would be cutting it uncomfortably close timing wise to make our train, so we opted to hit a couple local tack shops instead. Just… you know… to browse…

The first one we went into was one that we just happened to drive past on the way out of town. It was more high end, and there was nothing in there that I really just had to have. When we got back in the car I googled for more tack shops and found another one just a half mile away, Equip’horse. Don’t mind if we do! That one had a little bit of everything – a custom saddler, barn supplies, tack, clothing, outbuildings, etc. A total one stop shop, and it had some more unique items I hadn’t seen yet, and good prices.

It would make more sense to put wings on a jump saddle, right?
it would pair well with navy or black pleather breeches, tho

The guy working in the store that came up to help us spoke English (which was good, since the only thing I mastered in our 3 days in France was how to say “I don’t speak French”) and he seemed oddly fascinated by us and by Texas. This was kind of a common theme when someone asked where we were from. “Ah, Tex-asss, what is it like?”. The guy at the tack shop literally offered to trade places with me and go live in Texas and me stay in France. Bonkers.

I’m gonna need this 4-stepper, where can I get one of these in the US? It was only about 150! 
grab some new jumps while you’re here

It was a pretty cool store, having everything you could possibly need right there in one place. It was like if Tractor Supply was geared towards english riding and only had horse stuff. Out in the parking lot they had arena drags and fence materials (all wood, naturally, no t-posts to be found) and sheds. There was one in particular that caught our eye enough to walk over and take pictures of it. It was a double sided shelter, with an area in the middle to put a round bale or two that horses could access from each side. I think I’d like it more if the back was open, so horses didn’t get trapped in the back, but it was a cool concept I haven’t seen before. The hay is protected in it’s center area.

hay goes in here

I did not escape the store totally unscathed, but we were worried about our baggage weight limitations (and uh… we’d already had to buy another bag to put all the Burghley purchases in) so we kept it to small things.

I couldn’t pass up those bell boots

It was all cheap, and it all stuffed into my existing bags, so… I’m gonna say none of it counts. I will have to do a post with all the stuff I bought between France and Burghley and go through it more in depth, but that’ll have to wait.

After we left that tack shop we headed back to Paris, and our nav system happened to take us right through that super ridiculous giant roundabout around AdT. It was total chaos and pandemonium. Cars everywhere. Everyone going in a different direction. It was hilarious. Could not stop laughing.

it looks fine from far away

From there we took the chunnel train back to London, then walked to our hotel for the night. Getting all our bags up the extremely steep and narrow stairs was like 3 days worth of cardio in and of itself. That was perhaps the only fleeting moment where I might have regretted all the Burghley purchases. The next morning we took the Underground to Victoria Station, then went up and got on another train line to Gatwick airport. I think the biggest accomplishment of the entire trip is how many trains we had to take, yet never once got lost. Small miracles.

Yesterday was long, between the trains and all the airport check in and security, and then a 10 hour flight home, customs, waiting for bags, driving home at rush hour, etc. I forgot how god awful hot it was here, and I was already regretting my choice to come back before we’d even made it off the shuttle to get to my truck. It’s not any cooler than it was when we left. Gross. Texas does have one thing going for it that Europe can’t match though…

Mexican food. Which was our first stop, naturally.

Although I have mixed feelings about being home, I am really pumped to go see my boys today. Almost two weeks is a long time to be without them. We’ll see how Presto’s foot is looking and make a decision next week about whether or not he’s going to Championships. Plus of course I get to try all of their new stuff on them. Won’t they be so excited?

This trip was a complete blast, and we got to do and see a little bit of everything. I have at least one more recap post I want to do, plus Michelle is going to upload all the nice pictures off of her camera, so stay tuned.

France Day 2: Babies errywhere

I’m officially at the point where I’ve seen so many horses in the past week that my head is spinning. Which isn’t a bad problem to have, really. I’ve petted more foals in the past two days than most people will ever pet in their lifetime, so… winning?

BEBES

Yesterday we met up with another French friend (Usandro’s owner) and started the day with a Selle Francais foal show. The judge was none other than Bernard from Haras de Brullemail, where we had just been the day before to see Jaguar Mail. He judged conformation, watched them walk straight on and away, then they were turned loose to trot and canter. Mostly canter… this is a jumping registry after all. Some of them had a pretty cute little trot in there too though.

The majority of the foals were embryo transfer from sport mares, which this particular farm had plenty of. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a 1.60m showjumper. The depth and quality of the mare band is definitely top notch.

Dame Blanche, winner at 1.60m with Penelope Leprevost. Now she makes embryos!

We also got to go out in the fields and see dozens upon dozens of offspring by a lot of different stallions, from foals up to 3 years. I love looking at the offspring like this, it tells you a lot, especially seeing so many in one place. I can’t even remember them all but just off the top of my head we saw offspring by: Diamant de Semilly, Alicante, Verdi, Luigi, Apardi, Untouchable, Vigo, Cardento, Tornesch, Vagabond, Malito, Candy de Nantuel, Emerald, Cicero, Kannan, Chacco Rouge, Tangelo, Armitages Boy, Quabri d’Isle, Urano de Cartigny, Qlassic Bois Margot, Topinambour, Quantum, Lauterbach, Cornado II, Casallo Z. We saw multiple offspring from several of them, so it was nice to be able to compare and contrast them side by side. My personal favorites of the day were a 3yo Verdi filly and a 2yo Tornesch filly. They looked like they wanted to event.

Pic from the camera view screen of the Verdi filly, who gave no shits about us.

I will also say, if you’re ever feeling unloved or uninteresting, just walk yourself out into a field of 2yo colts. I have never been more popular in my life than in these past couple days, particularly with the 2yo colts. Having a 2yo colt at home, I can totally see why that particular group is always the most curious and full of pests. You go anywhere near them and they come at you in a swarm, wanting to climb in your lap or eat anything they can put in their mouth. They are entertaining, even though they have no idea what personal space is.

You came to see us!!!
It’s a comedy show

We also saw the stallion Urano de Cartigny, another horse that jumped through 1.60m with Penelope Leprevost. I didn’t get a photo of him, but what a CUTE dude, almost ponyish looking in the face with a big bushy mane. He didn’t seem to appreciate me saying that, I’m relatively certain he called me something terrible in French.

There was also a cute 3yo stallion who is going for licensing soon, by Cicero out of a For Pleasure mare. Basically, name a top bloodline for showjumpers and this farm probably has it.

Today we have one more stop at a breeding farm this morning, then sadly we have to start making our way home. We return to rental car in Paris this afternoon then get on the Chunnel train back to London, and our flight home is tomorrow. Sad times. I could keep living this life for quite a while I think.

France Day 1: Dreams do come true

Yesterday was freaking awesome. Okay so this whole trip has been awesome but it’s possible that this was my favorite day so far.

Just driving around rural France, where every town looks like this

We started in Le Mans, picking up ex-pat Mimi (y’all know her from her hilarious recreations of Presto pictures) along the way. She was vital to the day’s success, since she actually speaks French and has a clue about how things work around here. Mimi, you’re the best.

From there we went to The Stallion Company, where we saw Grafenstolz, Namelus R, and Quintero la Silla.

Grafenstolz
Namelus

They were all lovely stallions, but we fell in love with the super cool character of Quintero. He seemed like a very kind boy, especially from the manager’s description of what he’s like in the barn. We also got to see a colt by him, which was a nice perk. Quintero is a big dude with lots of presence and so was the colt.

He seemed like the “feed me and tell me I’m pretty” type

We also got to peek inside their lab and cold room, where we saw container upon container of frozen semen. Seriously, never seen so much in my life. Their worldwide operation is super legit.

From there we stopped at a store that Mimi insisted we had to see. It was just your basic run of the mill sporting goods chain store, but it has an EQUESTRIAN SECTION. That’s right y’all, two whole aisles of horse stuff right in the middle of all the other sports, and everything was cheap. It’s possible that I bought another pair of gloves. One can never have too many gloves, right?

We also found a unicorn swim cap which I’m pretty sure was child size but I squeezed it onto my head anyway

Then we stopped at an awesome bakery in some other random little town, picking up a quiche and some cake/eclairs that were ridiculously to-die-for good.

THEN we were off to Haras du Feuillard, the home of (drumroll please) Presto’s sire Mighty Magic!

I’m in love

I was excited to finally see him in the flesh, after all these years of being a super fan, and boy did he not disappoint. Presto looks SO MUCH like him it’s almost spooky, and they both have the same goofy side eye and extreme mouthiness. I posted a video on my Instagram but here are a few screenshots to give you an idea. Look familiar?

It’s just crazy how similar they are, right down to the ever-present need to have something in their mouth. MM is beautiful, I was not disappointed.

We also asked to see his stablemate Cassitano, who I think is an interesting cross for a TB mare to make an eventer or to a dressage mare to add power/canter. He’s so correct, and jumped to 1.45m before switching to dressage and going to Grand Prix with a young rider. He can move, he can jump, he’s beautiful, and he has a great character. Loved him as well.

Mimi also made the mistake of asking to see the Mighty Magic x Welsh cross yearling, which was ADORABLE, and loved Mimi, so now we have to figure out how to crowdfund a baby pony for Mimi. His dam was 13.2h and jumped to 1.40m, how nuts is that?

It was love at first sight

After that we were back in the car and headed to Haras de Brullemail, where we were greeted by none other than Olympian Jaguar Mail. He went to the Hong Kong Olympics for showjumping before going on to sire 5* eventers as well as 1.60m jumpers. He is 82% thoroughbred and 100% gorgeous.

He was a very sweet boy, happy to see that we brought him an apple, and also happy to get lots of wither scratches. I loved his temperament, and he’s quite a good size and well put together. Another lovely stallion, and he looks great for a 22yo horse that had a big career himself.

Super chill dude

We also got to see TONS of mares and foals and older offspring at Brullemail, it was like the pastures full of fantastic horses were never ending. We saw tons of 2yo colts, tons of foals, broodmares like Tresor Mail’s full sister, Jaguar Mail’s half sister, and Jaguar Mail’s dam. The owner Bernard is so knowledgeable about all of his horses and their bloodlines, and obviously proud of them. He should be. At one point Mimi was standing there in the middle of a sea of foals saying that if she got kicked in the head and died right there, she’d be ok with it because she was already in heaven.

Babies everywhere
HI

Matriarch Elvira Mail, dam of Jaguar Mail and Katchina Mail. 27 years old!

We were at Brullemail forever, yet we still didn’t get to see all the horses. We had to cut it a bit short in order to get Mimi back to the train station in time. Which required some Formula 1 type driving from Michelle in our little Volkswagen Polo, which I thought was great fun. Mimi seemed a bit nervous. But hey, we got her there EARLY.

Thanks again to Mimi for all of her help, we had a fantastic day! Now Michelle and I are off to a foal show in Clarbec. Tough life…

Burghley Adventure: The Best Day

Which day is the best day? Cross country day! The whole point of coming to Burghley is to see the biggest toughest XC that exists in the sport, and this year’s course certainly lived up to that reputation. Burghley is no freaking joke.

This is the point where I’d be questioning all my life choices but Ollie seems to just be casually plotting his line

We started our day at the Leaf Pit, camping out there for a couple hours before the start to make sure we got a prime spot. We came equipped with mimosas and cheese and crackers, so we were happy. We watched the riders doing one last walk, plotting their lines and cementing their plans. Oh, and Michelle went back to grab a few more things for us (and other people) at the trade fair before the start, because that pile of stuff we had already accumulated on the living room floor of the Airbnb wasn’t big enough yet I guess. I’m proud of us, it was beautiful.

The combined hoard

Soon enough the first horse was on course, and I was pretty freaking excited to be sitting at the bottom of the Leaf Pit, one of my favorite jumps in the sport, on a beautiful Saturday morning in England. That drop is so big, and the landing so downhill. We watched the first four horses hop through like it was a gymnastic before packing up and moving along the course. Our plan was to watch a handful at each of the major fences/combinations. Which… on this course was kind of all of the them.

The crowds were CRAZY, like multiply Kentucky by at least 3 and there you go. But it was surprisingly easy to get right up to the ropes, since almost everyone was traveling around the course from jump to jump like we were. All the pics in this post are from my very shitty cell phone camera, to give you an idea of proximity. I could have reached out and touched the horses a few times.

We watched a few go through Discovery Valley, and once Will had gone with Tight Lines, we moved along again, this time to the Trout Hatchery. One iconic fence after the other. We watched a few there, which had varying success. This was a course that definitely needed to be attacked confidently, and we were already seeing some horses that looked a little overfaced and some riding that wasn’t nearly positive enough. We stayed at the Trout Hatchery through Andrea Baxter, then moved along to The Maltings.

Those big open oxers and corners at the Maltings were definitely my least favorite on the walk, but I figured we might see a lot of people opting for a longer route. There were lots of options at that combination aside from the very difficult straight route. But no, most tried to ride it direct, and that didn’t work out so well for many of them. Almost everyone who had a problem, you could see it coming from at least the first fence of the combination, if not even earlier. Or they didn’t make the right decision in the line from the oxer to corner and got there on a half stride. I hate open corners and always will, but thank goodness for the frangible pins. We saw them break 3 times just in the first 6 horses we watched come through.

Ben Hobday headed into the Maltings. Pretty sure he picked this horse up and threw it over the corner.

After that we moved along again, to the Rolex corners. We only saw a couple come through there, because everyone was getting caught out at either the trout hatchery or the Maltings. So we kept going along the course, stopping a couple more places along the way to watch a rider come through, before finally making our way to the Cottesmore Leap at the farthest end of the course. Where we sat for like half an hour and only had one horse make it that far. And then Liz hopped over that giant death trap like it was no big deal, and it was super anti-climactic.

By this point after listening to the announcer and getting an idea of what was happening, we figured that if we wanted to actually see anything, we should go back to the Maltings. So we hoofed it way back there, stopping along the way to watch Chris Talley come through the Rolex corners.

Then we just parked ourselves at the Maltings for the rest of the day, down by the big open corner of the direct route. From that angle it was easy to see exactly where things were going wrong for people. So many just made a bad turn from the second oxer to the corner. It seemed like the USA folks had mostly decided to go a slightly longer route, turning right after the second oxer to a different corner off a longer approach. It still caused it’s fair share of carnage, and I was kind of surprised to still see so few people opting for the easiest longest route. We only saw one. Therefore we also saw a whole lot of fence repair when people missed or tried something they shouldn’t have, and inevitably went crashing through yet again. It was a treat to see Gemma and Pippa and Ollie and Tim come through though… they made it look so easy. All class.

Burghley has always been a dream event for me, and it definitely did not disappoint. We had a great time, and WOW it is truly next level. I was sad to walk out of those gates after XC, not really ready for it all to be over. I’m not sure any other event will ever compare.

Bobby watching XC while drinking beer and cuddling his new halter

We had a total freaking blast, that’s for sure. And bought a ton of shit. For once I think Bobby bought as much if not more than I did. I have some pride in that. My job here is done.

My own personal haul

On Sunday we packed up and left Peterborough to head back to London, and Bobby parted ways with us. He headed home, and we got on the Chunnel train to Paris. We were able to watch the showjumping on the train, so that worked out great. From Paris we rented a car and headed west, ending up in Le Mans for the night. Today we start the stallion and foal part of the trip, and I’m super excited.

Michelle got some really awesome Burghley photos on her camera, which we’ll upload when we get home. Here are some sneak previews though, with me just taking a picture of the camera’s view screen.

Piggy French
My new hero and fellow Pom club member, Gemma Tattersall