Presto and the FEH show

Despite going to Young Event Horse/Future Event Horse symposiums and courses and clinics for a few years now, I only became involved as a competitor starting last year. Presto went to two FEH shows in 2018 – one qualifier judged by Peter Gray, and then Championships judged by Peter Gray and Robin Walker. I had really good experiences at both shows with both judges, and agreed pretty much 100% with all 3 score sheets we got and the comments on them.

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Presto is always really excited for adventures. Dobby is skeptical.

The main complaint I’ve heard over the years regarding the FEH program has been the judging, particularly with regards to inconsistency. It was one of the reasons I wanted to learn so much about how they’re supposed to judge, what they’re looking for, how it works, etc before I got involved. And last year, I had very positive and consistent experiences. I came away from both shows feeling like I got completely appropriate feedback. The scores were fair and so were the assessments. Peter and Robin disagreed a little on a couple minor things at Championships, as is to be expected from one person to the next, but overall I felt the judging was quite good and accurate and very consistent. This time was a little different.

First off – I have to say the show itself was great. I’m so grateful to have more FEH classes available to us down here, especially ones that are held on the weekend so I don’t have to take a day off of work and drive 4 hours each way to a recognized HT just to show a baby on the line. I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t show FEH at all if that was my only option. This venue, a new one to me, was beautiful and the show ran well. No complaints there at all. But the feedback I got from the judge was very… confusing. Some of it really had me scratching my head completely. This judge was totally new to me, I’ve never shown under her or met her before, and overall it was a very different experience than what I got last year under the other judges, for several reasons.

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Dobby, scream if you need help! (there was much screaming)

I debated about how much of this I should even say here because I definitely don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining. Like I said above, the show was super, and my horse got his qualifying score, so… I’m 0% mad or upset at anyone. I want to be totally clear on that. I’m only saying any of this because I like the FEH program and believe in what it’s trying to do, and I think that we have to be willing to speak up when we care about something and want it to be better. I also think it’s worth talking about this experience and how it compares to past ones, for people who might not be as familiar with FEH. I want to caveat this by saying I know that wildly differing opinions are just a part of subjective judging and horse showing. But consistency is one of the big goals with all judging, dressage or in-hand or otherwise. I also think it’s important to be willing to say the same things in public that you’re saying in private, especially when giving feedback about stuff that can be improved or made more clear. That’s what this is about, and the much more succinct version of my feedback has already been sent through the official pipeline.

All of that said, my issues were thus:

1. The judge asked how Presto was bred. This was a huge point of contention at the FEH symposium we went to in Ocala in February, because Maxime Livio thought it was important to consider as part of the judging, but the founders and heads of FEH strongly disagreed. They thought it was important for the judges to evaluate the horse that was in front of them, totally without bias, and it was stated unequivocally that the judges are definitely NOT supposed to seek out that information prior to judging. It threw me for a loop when she asked me, enough to where I asked for clarification “His breed registry, or his breeding?” and she said “his breeding”. I told her, but it was weird considering I know they aren’t supposed to ask.

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hanging out waiting for Dobby to finish his derby

2. She never looked at him square from the front or the rear. They are supposed to travel around the horse (one side, front, other side, back) to fully assess the conformation, and the handler should square up the front and hind feet as the judge travels around so they can see the straightness of the limbs. That didn’t happen.

3. She only used half marks on the score sheet, like you would for dressage scoring. FEH is supposed to use the full scale, ie scores of 6.8 or 7.2 or whatever. They REALLY encourage the judges to use those extra tenths, because it can make a definite difference in the overall score, given how every category is multiplied and weighted. I will say that obviously I didn’t see every sheet, but all four of the ones I did see had nothing but .0 or .5 marks.

4. Scores and comments didn’t match up. For his Type, which has always been Presto’s best score (never been below an 8) the comment said excellent athletic refined type with a score of… 7. I admittedly don’t quite understand how that comment matches up with a score of 7.

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Those are my official observations. As for the completely personal opinion side of things, I disagreed with a few comments. Especially the ones saying that his neck is tied in low and that his pasterns/shoulder are upright. I don’t see those things AT ALL. I went back and stood next to him at the trailer and looked again, still nope. He’s never gotten comments remotely like that before. A judge doesn’t have to like my horse or score him well, but I do want to be able to at least understand what the judge is seeing. If you said his pasterns are a little long? Yup, I agree with that. Toes out on the RF? Yup, also true. Neither of those things were mentioned, but upright was. I respectfully disagree, which is fine, it’s just weird to hear things that no one else has ever said and that I can’t see myself.

After we trotted the triangle she spent a while discussing how she was surprised that he has a big stride considering how upright his shoulder is, and that he moves uphill  considering how low his neck is set. I mean… his shoulder is maybe a touch straight, but the stride length comes much more from the humerus, and his is quite long and sloped. His stride is huge because of that (for real, you should see him gallop, the kid can cover some ground). The “low set neck” was a little confusing too, since I do have a horse with a low set neck and this one is not it. I think his movement matches his conformation, personally – good and bad. It’s big and he travels slightly uphill, but he’s not naturally very active or underneath himself behind. That’s the weakest part of his movement (and has always been mentioned at his other FEH classes and his breed inspection) but it wasn’t mentioned at all. His trot was his best score, actually (an 8).

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all missing chunks of flesh courtesy of Henry

So it was just very different from my other experiences, and one that left me scratching my head a bit. I will say that I do appreciate that she took her time and was more conversational, something I know they aren’t really supposed to do but I did kind of like. I might not have agreed with all of it, but I liked having additional words and explanations aside from just whatever fits in the comment box on the scoresheet.

In the end we DID get our qualifying score for Championships, so mission accomplished, and no harm no foul. That was really why we went. I’m still on board with the FEH program and in full support of it’s purpose. I already know who the judges will be for Championships, and I’ve had good experiences with them. Hopefully by then Presto’s current growth spurt will slow down and he’ll look a little less weedy! And, uh… maybe Henry will stop taking huge chunks out of his hide. I’m excited for the opportunity to represent Willow Tree Warmbloods at the Central Championships again, and see some friends and their babies!

Fix a flat

It was a long and busy weekend here, between barn stuff and house stuff and Presto’s FEH show. I have a lot to say about the show but I’m still thinking on it, so… maybe tomorrow we’ll recap that. Today though, I’m here to talk about our lord and savior – Joint Injections.

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Not really scared of Tillie anymore, but Tillie is still wary of us. Henry’s reputation precedes him.

Henry is 12 now, and I feel acutely aware of each passing year. He never raced, but he was used on the training track a lot, and his conformation isn’t particularly ideal. His legs are crooked, his neck is low set, and he travels quite croup-high naturally. I feel like my life is dedicated to rocking this horse back on his haunches, something that requires a lot of strength-building and constant effort. He also doesn’t have the best hocks. He’s kind of the case of the horse who does the job despite his conformation, not because of it.

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Because of that, most of his life is tailored around keeping him strong and fit. His whole body is happier that way, and his job is easier. But he also seems a lot happier with regular hock injections, too. I’m never particularly excited about sticking a needle in a joint, but if it helps him be happier in his job, I’m gonna do it. I can always feel when he needs them done long before I can see it. It’s hard to describe but it almost feels like he’s got a little bit of a flat tire in his canter. He’s not able to sit as much, or he’ll start trying to swing his haunches slightly one way or the other to take the load off the hocks (especially on the hills). The past month or so he’s been feeling like he’s got a flat tire to the left, so the during Henry’s pre-Coconino checkup, the vet flexed him and agreed that some joint juice was a good idea.

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He got a couple days off, a light hacking day, and a flatwork day, and then on Saturday Hillary and I set some jumps up. Aside from the gymnastics day a couple weeks ago I haven’t jumped him since we were at Holly Hill in the middle of May. We set a smaller course, then Hillary got off and raised them a couple holes for me. Nothing too huge, but closer to what we normally jump.

We kept it really short and simple, but Henry feels really good. He’s definitely leaving the ground better and I’m not having to work quite so hard to get his front end up. It was a pretty quick difference, an immediate fix to the flat tire. Hopefully this week we can get his farrier appointment moved up a little bit, he’s grown so much foot that even at 4 weeks things are looking sketchy, and keeping his toes under control is a major part of keeping his hocks happy.

Then after that he needs his health certificate (have I said enough times how convenient it is to have your horses living at your vet’s house?) and we’ll hopefully be good to go. We’re kind of just cruising now, keeping him happy and loose and feeling good. I’m so ready to get the heck out of here, I need a vacation! Pretty sure Henry will be really happy to escape the heat and humidity too.

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just me or does this seem excessive for 9pm?

 

Friday Randoms

With all the Safe Sport stuff that’s still being fervently discussed this week I feel like I really could have done a whole post chock full of just really disturbing quotes I’ve seen from people on social media, but alas I’m trying to burn them from my memory. You know it’s bad when convicted pedophiles are chiming in and people are supporting them. All I’m gonna say is that if you look around and find that your allies are a bunch of a kiddie diddlers, you might need to rethink your position. If nothing else, all of this has certainly proven just how important (and long overdue) a program like Safe Sport is. I used my barn commute time this week to listen to the Believed podcast, about the Larry Nassar case, and I’m still over here like holy crap. If you haven’t listened, you should. It’s INSANE how he got away with it for so long despite being reported numerous times, just because he was a well-liked famous doctor. It’s a situation that sounds all too familiar.

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In better news, Presto’s foot seemed to be about 95% better as of last night. Looks like he just managed to bruise it, thank goodness. He got two nights of an animalintex wrap and then last night I left him in Magic Cushion and a boot, so we’ll see how is today. I’m feeling more optimistic about the FEH show on Sunday. Fingers crossed. Of course, he’s still got huge chunks missing out of him (thanks Henry) and is very much in the middle of a growth spurt, so it’s not like he’s beautiful. But hey, I’ll take sound.

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I tied him out on the tree just as the barn owner was feeding dinner, HE WAS PISSED. Also please don’t ask me how big he is now, I don’t want to talk about it.

Since it’s looking like he’ll actually make it to the show, I’m excited to try out this new braiding wax that I got this week as a tester. There’s clear and there’s black (for sun-bleached manes – it’s tinted with charcoal) and it’s much lighter and more pleasant than any other wax I’ve seen. It seems sticky enough to give you some grip and tame flyaways but not so sticky that it leaves the hair looking gloppy or greasy or clumped together. I chose the lavender scent and it’s really nice. We’ll see how it works!

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Grem is into it

I’m in a little bit of denial about how soon we leave for Coconino (12 days) but I’ve started getting my shit together a little bit. As in… I’ve thought about all the things I need to do. I haven’t actually done any of it aside from having Henry checked out by the vet and doing some maintenance. I’ve got to get through the FEH show this weekend and then XC schooling next weekend before I can commit more brain cells to Coco.

Henry continues to be a grade A asshole to Presto and Dobby in turnout, so if he doesn’t chill soon he might find his ass in a smaller paddock by himself. I was trying to give him more space to stretch his legs, but if he can’t keep his random fits of rage under control then he’s gonna lose privileges. He’s lucky he’s cute because he’s a pretty terrible animal.

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He thinks I’m a pretty terrible human, too.

And last but not least, send all your good vibes to Willow Tree Warmbloods today for pregnancy checks! Some of the mares weren’t catching with frozen so we went a little outside the box to find a really good fresh option that we felt excited about, and I’m hoping that he got the job done. If he did, I’ll introduce him.

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is this young gun a baby daddy? we’ll find out today!

We’re pretty much at the end of breeding season here, with this heat. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll have some pregnancy announcements!

Ebb and Flow

When I was younger I would have had no problem telling you that if I couldn’t compete, I don’t know if I would ride at all. I was caught up in that fantasy they sell you, with ribbons and prizes and points and glory. My identity, and a lot of my self-worth, was tied up in competing. For a long time, while I didn’t realize it then, I also definitely felt like I had something to prove.

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I grew up riding at a hunter/jumper barn that was one of the best in the area. The trainer rode at the Grand Prix level, there were a lot of good amateur and junior riders in the barn, and plenty of nice horses. I was not that, nor did I have that. I was the barn rat who worked off all of my lessons and would swing a leg over whatever anyone let me sit on. I didn’t have my own horse, and the only way I went to an A show was as a groom (which I did – happily). When I was 16 I finally got my own horse, and I loved him dearly, but he was far from fancy. He was a lower level jumper with a major roar, a lifetime of bad training, messed up hocks, and zero brakes. I spent all of my years at that barn being very aware of my inferiority. I think that’s why, for a long time after that, I always felt like I had something to prove. Whether it was to myself or to someone else, I’m not sure. But I NEEDED to show and I NEEDED fancy horses. (spoiler alert, I didn’t need either of those things)

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My favorite horse from those days? This weird buckskinny-looking Argentine horse that was zero percent fancy but 100% fun.

As one would guess, I eventually burned myself out. Several different times, really, just to different degrees. I am hyper-competitive, to the point where it’s mostly counter productive. As the years have passed I’ve gained a lot more perspective, especially these last few. I’ve really started to remember why I do this – why I have so many extra jobs, why I dedicate so many hours of my life to this, why I constantly try to be better. It’s not because I love showing, it’s because I love horses. It’s that simple.

I used to feel like I needed a more well-defined purpose than that. It sounds so cheesy to be like “OMG I JUST REEEEALLY LOVE PONIEZZ”. Surely to be a Serious Rider (whatever the hell that is), I needed some kind of lofty goal, a pie-in-the-sky dream that kept me motivated and got me out of bed in the morning. But… no. I don’t really need that. I like having that, because I like pushing myself to always be better. But at the end of the day the thing that keeps me going is really simple: the love of the horse. As I kid I knew that. I would unabashedly gush about how much I just loved horses. All of them. Time and my experiences and my competitive nature made me lose sight of that a bit.

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y’all, this kid was just real pumped to be here and also this pony’s name was Cinnamon how do I still know that 30 years later?

I’ve also noticed that my fierce competitive drive and interest in showing tends to ebb and flow. Sometimes it’s like I’ve got a total one-track mind, and I’m hitting everything really hard, and my schedule is super structured and focused. Other times I just need to enjoy my riding time, without any pressure or deadlines or expectations. The latter usually happens when the rest of my life gets really stressful. I find that I just need to retreat to the thing that always has the ability to stitch my soul back together.

The month of May was a tough one for me, between the injury, the fall, some personal drama, a big upheaval at work that has brought me a lot more responsibility, having to move barns on short notice, and one of the dogs passing away. While I was originally really annoyed at having to take some time off from my otherwise pretty stringent schedule in order to let my body heal, I think it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Henry and I had been hitting it pretty hard since last fall, and I had already felt myself waning a bit, but suddenly it was possible for me to give myself permission to just take a step back. We went on long walks. I rode bareback. I just sat on my horse and looked out at the land and let everything else go quiet. I listened to him chewing on grass and I soaked up the sun and just enjoyed the company of my favorite creature. Those are the moments that remind us why we really do this. They aren’t the ones we write about or include in our highlight reel, but they’re the ones that keep us going. There is no ribbon or accomplishment that could give me a feeling more magical than that.

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If your view looks like this, you’re having a good day.

Because I missed so much of May, I ultimately decided that we’re probably not going to run Prelim at Coconino. I entered Training, leaving the possibility open of changing, but I don’t think I will. The horse owes me nothing and I don’t have anything to prove (hey it only took me 30 years to figure that out) so I’d rather just go have fun and not be stressed about it, worrying if we’re ready. Right now what I want more than anything is to go spend 10 days in some nice weather, enjoy the company of my friends and my favorite horse, and just forget about the rest of the world for a while. I find myself not even caring about the horse show part. There are a lot of things in life that are truly important. Horse shows aren’t it. They’re fun, for sure, but… they’re not it.

At the end of the day I love the sport and I love the horses, and that’s what really matters. The rest of it can come and go. That’s just fine with me.

Stay Cool

Let me tell you one of the many reasons why I hate Texas: it’s stupid hot for like 6 months of the year. With all the rain we’ve had this year it’s stayed cooler than most summers, in that we actually managed to make it this far without hitting triple digits. That’s supposed to change tomorrow, with a high of 100.

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The “feels like” has been getting over 100 pretty regularly for a few weeks now

The rain has made it a bit more humid than normal, too (for example, right now – 88% humidity). Normally in the summer I switch my schedule and ride in the morning instead, but that just hasn’t worked out this year. We had a lot of big changes at work and right now I really can’t be coming in at 9am when the rest of my team is there at 6:30. Plus I have a meeting every morning at 8:30. It was a bit easier when my barn commute was 20 minutes and didn’t go through heavy traffic… if I tried to do that now, it would take me a minimum of an hour to get to work from the new barn. Trying to ride later at night, when the heat wanes, its also challenging, considering it doesn’t really get better until 8pm and crawling into bed at midnight doesn’t really work when I crawl back out of it at 5am. I am not a great sleeper, so 5-6 hours in bed would result in maybe 3-4 hours sleep. Not doable.

We have similar feelings about the weather

I also handle the heat about as well as my horse does, ie not well at all. Honestly Henry has been doing better with these hot afternoon rides than I have. He’s pretty much cooled down once I hose him off, while I’m still sitting there in a chair in front of the fan trying not to pass out. I’m taking walk breaks while I’m riding, I’m drinking water (I went through 4 bottles yesterday at the barn), but I’m just plain getting overheated. Because it’s hot AF.

Presto doing his part to remind you to stay hydrated

I’m about to start investigating those cooling towels or weird ice neck bandanna things. Anything to help get my temperature under control. Anyone use anything like that? I just don’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer at the barn. Luckily I don’t have to do this for much longer since we leave for Coconino in two weeks (where the highs are in the 70’s, lows are in the 40’s, and there’s 15% humidity – BLESS THAT PLACE) and then Henry will be on his easy vacation schedule for a little while after that, and then I’ll be gone to Europe for a couple weeks after that.  For now though, I’m just trying not to pass out in the barn. I must look terrible given how fast the barn owner ran to get me a chair yesterday.

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Boops from the chair

In other news, Presto has decided to get either a hoof bruise or an abscess THE DAY AFTER I sent in his entry for the FEH class this weekend, so we’ll see if we can get that fixed in time or not. The vet looked at him last night (real convenient to be boarding at the vet’s house when you’re a crazy person that likes to completely freak out and overreact about your horses’ maladies, btw) and it’s definitely something in his foot, just couldn’t tell exactly what. Considering that it’s been wet and he spends all night stuffing himself in front of the round bale, the muddiest spot on the farm, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was brewing something. We wrapped it up with animalintex so now we wait and see. Horses, man.

Lion Tamer

After Henry’s supposed near-death experience (if you ask him, anyway) on Saturday, Sunday was set to be a chill day at the barn. I got up early and did an 18 mile bike ride with my dad – finally finishing the Nessie race that took way too long thanks to my ankle – and then got to the barn about mid-morning. The big hay pasture was finally mowed and baled and open for riding, and I was hoping for a nice relaxing canter. Except I guess Henry decided the night before that he was in love with the two 2yo’s that they were turned out with, and thus was preoccupied with screaming his idiot head off.

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in his defense, they’re pretty cute.

This is why he didn’t have friends for so long. He’s so much better as a single horse. Lord give me strength. He’ll stop this eventually right? He was the only one that was concerned about any of it, of course. None of the baby horses cared one bit. No one else stands in the barn screaming for half an hour for no reason.

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So there we were, trotting around the field, Henry alternating between screaming and spooking, and out comes the barn owner with one of the minis she has in training. Hooked to a cart. I had been waiting for this day to come, Henry’s first encounter seeing this whole driving thing, and now here we were. It finally happened.

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We stopped, and he stared, but to my great surprise he really wasn’t scared of it. He seemed more concerned about the fact that something was chasing one of his minis. He was staring at him in the “omg do you need assistance” type of way. Little mini is a champion (literally, he’s won all kinds of stuff apparently) so he just trotted around the ring, all business, and after watching him make a few laps we proceeded on our way. Henry never stopped spooking at the sprinklers across the fence (that were not moving and not on, just sitting there) but he never spared a second look at the mini and the cart. This horse is strange.

After I put that dingbat away, I got Presto out. He’s entered in a FEH class this weekend (just like last year I managed to miss every single qualifier until this one, which is the last one, so if he doesn’t get a qualifying score then… oops?) so I’ve been doing a little more with him again, reminding him that he’s not feral. We did some w/t/halt on the lunge line each way, then I had him trot over some poles to try to help unlock a bigger trot.

That was all of maybe 10 minutes. Hillary was riding Dobby so I set jumps for her while Presto just hung out in the ring. If this horse ever has issues with ring traffic or keeping calm amidst chaos, it won’t be for lack of trying on my part. After Hillary was done I asked her to get some video of Presto’s best party trick – groundtying while I wave the whip around him.

don’t try this at home, kids

All the groundwork has definitely paid off. I’m trying hard to make him into a horse that is respectful but also calm and trusting. I have the benefit of raising this one myself, and I can’t help but see so much contrast between him and Henry. Even with our years of partnership I don’t think I will ever overcome Henry’s beginning, or his natural tense and nervous nature. It makes me wonder how different he would be if he’d had different experiences earlier in life. Would he be a more confident horse today?

This week I need to put Presto’s bridle back on and get him used to it again (and probably let it out a few holes, let’s be honest) and practice his in-hand stuff some more. I’m hoping that when we’re at the show he’ll decide to be a little wild and show some more active/uphill trot, because what I’m getting at home just kind of looks like he wants to go win the hack class at a hunter show. It’s hot. He’s lazy. It’s uninspired. Of course, he’s also covered head to toe in bite marks (THANKS HENRY) so that’s great. And he’s in the middle of a growth spurt. Also great. Oh well. Guess we’ll how well this judge can see potential?

Henry is a terrible trail horse

The new barn is only about 25 minutes from a 1,000+ acre park that has a lot of equestrian trails, so on Saturday we decided to take the boys. We were thinking it would be a nice relaxing change of pace, we would get out and enjoy some nature and look at the scenery, and just enjoy the horses. Henry was not on board with any of this.

Dobby is so much bigger than Henry, it’s a little comical.

Henry has been foxhunting. He road hacks. He’s a freaking EVENT HORSE, for god’s sake. I will admit that he hasn’t done much actual trail riding like this, but it’s not as though the horse only ever sees the inside of an arena. We ride out almost every single ride. But there was something about this place, with all of it’s terrible horrible nature… Henry was a spooky snorting idiot the whole time.

I mean, he still wanted to lead the way, but he wanted to do it while spooking and snorting.

He spooked at everything that moved. He spooked at everything that didn’t move. He was convinced that every little stick on the ground was definitely a snake. He gave any little depression/ditch/hole a very wide snorty berth. If anything so much as moved in the brush, lord help us. And then there was that time when we encountered (brace yourselves for the horror) another horse and rider and I could actually feel Henry’s heart pounding until the demon was safely past.

Dumb. Real dumb.

ANACONDAS EVERYWHERE

He was so busy snorting and spooking at all the fake snakes that he missed the one actual snake that crossed our path. For real, he was too busy staring down at a stick and he totally missed that thing slither across the trail in front of us. Thank goodness. I can’t imagine how smug he would have been if he realized all of his idiocy had been justified.

Me: What a nice view. Henry: OMG LOOK AT ALL THE NATURE, IT’S HORRIBLE.

We tried to get down to the river access, but with all the rain we’ve had lately the water was too high. We still got a nice little hill workout out of the deal, going down and then back up the steep trail that leads down there. Up until this point lazy-ass Dobby (I swear, the horse walks SO SLOW) had actually been keeping up with Henry. Then the big long hill happened, Dobby thought he was gonna die, and then he was out of juice. Henry had no problem leaving his ass to get eaten by wolves or bears or whatever else he thinks lives out there (neither of those things actually live out there).

Dobby is not into effort.

I think the best part was when we were walking along the river trail and A MASSIVE LOG had fallen across the trail. And by massive log I mean like the tiniest little tree ever, it barely qualified as more than a stick. It was about the same size as a ground pole. Henry completely refused to go over it. Like… snorting and the whole 9 yards. At one point he reached his nose toward it and touched another stick, spooking himself. This is my Prelim event horse, ladies and gentlemen. Refusing a tiny log. And then spooking and snorting as he walks sideways past a puddle.

Yes indeed you can hear me say “This is really embarrassing” as we’re both cracking up. Oh Henry, you weird little horse.

So as it turns out, Henry isn’t much of a trail horse. Nor did he find the day to be at all relaxing or pleasant. He might be scarred for life.

It’s kind of sad when the 4yo OTTB on his very first trail ride is much more chill.

Oh well… at least the humans had fun?

It’s in the Blood: Luhmuhlen

If you’re getting tired of these pedigree breakdown posts, I’m sorry. I won’t stop. I’ve become dangerously obsessed with studying this stuff and my spreadsheets are out of control. But also this time I’ve tried to pull in a few more “fun facts” as I’ve gone through the field, so hopefully it’s a little more interesting even for those who aren’t breeding nerds.

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Today is Day 2 for dressage at Luhmuhlen, which is always one of my favorite cross country courses. It looks like something straight out of a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, like you might turn the corner and run into Hansel and Gretel. If you have a Horse & Country subscription (do I have a subscription to pretty much all of the streaming equestrian event channels on the internet? maaaaaybeeeee…) you can watch the live stream online. If not, Eventing Nation has pretty good coverage.

This year there are only 34 starters in the 5*, an even smaller field than Kentucky, but it’s chock full of an interesting mix of heavy hitters and first timers. My usual disclaimer: if I was unable to find enough of a horse’s pedigree to calculate a meaningful stat, they were excluded from the numbers.

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Leader after dressage, Irish Sporthorse Brookpark Vikenti

As usual, the most represented stud book is Irish Sporthorse, with 10 entries. Of those 10, 4 have traditional Irish breeding (no European warmblood). Despite the Holsteiner studbook having only 3 horses representing, 55% of the field carries some Holsteiner blood within the first 3 generations.

The average blood percentage of the field is 56%. I looked at the pedigrees a little differently this time in that I broke out one more generation of sire information. This time I looked at the entrant’s sire, the sire’s sire, the dam’s sire, and the dam’s damsire. This revealed something kind of interesting. If you look at just the sire, sire’s sire, and damsire, the number of full thoroughbreds is about the same – 7 horses have full TB sires, 7 horses have full TB sire’s sires, and 8 have full TB damsires. But if you go back a little more and look at the dam’s damsire, the number of full thoroughbreds doubles – to 15. That’s exactly half of the pedigrees that can be verified that far back. Is it an important place in the pedigree to have blood, or is that just a coincidence?

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Seigneur d’Alleray xx, full TB sire of Soraya 243

This field is chock full of horses that came up through the FEI young horse classes – 62% of the field participated in 6yo and/or 7yo 2* and 3* classes.

Several sires show up more than once throughout the field, with Irish Sporthorse stallion Touchdown being the sire of two horses and the sire’s sire of another. Touchdown (now deceased) was a 5* showjumper, sired by the Selle Francais legend Galoubet and out of an Irish mare that had a full TB sire. Touchdown has been a successful producer of showjumpers through the 1.60m level and eventers through the 5* level.

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Touchdown

The stallion that shows up the most throughout the field, despite having no direct offspring, is Contender. He is represented via his sons Contendro I, Contendro II (full brothers), Con Air, and Cristo.

For the thoroughbred stallions we see a lot of the usual names like Heraldik xx, Master Imp xx, Mytens xx, Damascus xx, and Sir Ivor xx.

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Sir Ivor xx

The most eye-catching horse in the field is probably Tullabeg Flamenco, who is hard to miss with his buckskin coat, 4 white socks, and a blaze. I am admittedly a little obsessed with him, so I fell down a rabbit hole while looking into his breeder and family. Bear with me here. Tullabeg Flamenco is one of at least 6 full siblings, out of a skewbald Irish mare named Tullabeg Heidi and by the dun stallion Tullabeg Fusion.  One of the older full siblings, Tullabeg Vision, is competing at the 3* level. Another, Tullabeg Tango, is being produced by 2018 WEG silver medalist Sarah Ennis and currently competing at the 2* level.

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Tullabeg Flamenco. If there isn’t already a fan club I would like to start one. Who’s in?

If you dig more into the families and siblings of the entrants, you find some other very successful mares. The dam of Ascona M, Naomi IV, is also the dam of Clifford M, a 4* horse ridden by American rider Charlotte Collier. Ascona M is by Cassaro, while Clifford M is by Cristo (one of the Contender sons mentioned above). Cristo is also the sire of  Luhmuhlen entrant, Calle 44.

Clifford M

Paulank Brockagh’s dam, Calendar Girl (by TB stallion Triggerero xx) is also the dam of 4* horse Paulank Kings River. Both horses are ridden and have been brought up through the ranks by Australian Sam Griffiths. Palanks Brockagh is by Touchdown, and Paulank Kings River is by Kings Master (by TB stallion Master Imp xx).

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Paulank Brockagh

On a sort of interesting note, American hunter stallion Ultime Espoir also has an offspring in the field – Efraim. Of course, as is typical of many hunters of these days, before Ultime Espoir came to America, he was a jumper in Europe. Efraim is one from one of his earlier European crops.

Ultime Espoir in his second career

Let’s see how the weekend unfolds! The leader after dressage is Brookpark Vikenti, a traditionally-bred Irish horse with 81% blood by the TB stallion Master Imp xx. Can he keep his lead? Who are you rooting for?

Settled

On my last update about the new barn and how the boys were settling in, Presto was kind of being a dingus. He spent most of the first couple days staring out his window into the distance, snorting and pacing and flagging his tail like he was trying out for some kind of elite Arabian squad. Luckily that was just a phase, and he finally settled back into his normal weirdo self (which is loads better than his cracked out Arabian self).

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Will Henry ever stop being jealous? Nah.

Presto is not the smartest horse in the world when it comes to social situations, so he’s currently missing many chunks of skin and fur. When other horses come at him he just kind of curls himself up into a ball rather than MOVING OUT OF THE WAY, so… I dunno if/when he’ll figure that out. His right flank especially has like 5 chunks missing right now. Pretty sure at least 4 of them are because of Henry.

He did make a new friend in a black gelding named Otis, who actually seems interested in playing with him. That’s rare. But naturally, this has caused Henry and Otis to kind of hate each other. You should see the mare glare they exchange from across the barn aisle, and Otis tries to bite Henry when I lead him past his stall. Poor Presto doesn’t even know that this whole power struggle over “ownership” of him is going on. He’s just delighted to have discovered that this place has ROUND BALES, which he rolls on, scratches himself on, tries to climb on, and eats almost non-stop.

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he ate a giant hole out of the middle and eventually buried himself withers-deep in his hay cave

I’ve seen him out there basically hugging the dang thing, he loves it so much. I mean, he was born in one, so I guess it makes sense.

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REMEMBER THAT?

Last week I ponied him with Henry once, and got him out for grooming a couple times. He’s already spent some time under his new Tree of Knowledge out in front of the tack shed. It’s nice and shady and right in my line of sight, so it’s perfect for baby horses. He’s pretty solid at the whole Tree of Knowledge idea by now though, so he mostly just stands there like a decent citizen.

Yesterday I decided it was finally time to do something a little more involved, so I put him in the crossties, tacked him up, and took him out to the arena to lunge. I thought he might be a little wild, but… I got like a minute in before the barn owner was like “do you need a whip?”. I think she was tired of hearing all my clucking, trying to get this crazy childerbeast to keep trotting.

WILD AF, WATCH OUT.

We practiced his whoa and his go and his standing skills, then I left him groundtied while I waved the whip around his head, smacked it on the ground around him, and stood behind him and waved it in circles above my head. Presto stood there looking bored like “stupid human tricks, am I right?”. So I guess we’re definitely back to normal now.

Oh, and… he fits in Henry’s dressage girth.

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It’s a 28, and considering that Presto is literally 2 inches wide, I have no idea HOW, but that’s a new thing we’re doing I guess. Granted, I have to put it up all the way on both sides, but… it does technically fit. He’s hardcore growing right now so he’s mega awkward and scrawny despite spending 20 hours a day knee deep in hay. You can tell he’s starting to get a little deeper through his body though.

He’s come a long way from that little bebe we saw on the ultrasound 3 years ago today (thanks facebook memories!) during his fetal sexing appointment.

He was still cute though, even then. Big ears and all.

 

 

#WinItWednesday

If you follow Riding Warehouse on social media (I have to assume that you do, because if not you’re missing out on all kinds of things), you may have noticed their ongoing #WinItWednesday campaigns. As you can probably guess from the name, they give cool stuff away pretty much every Wednesday to one Riding Warehouse follower. This week I’m really excited to team up with them for a big giveaway – you could win a Champion helmet of your choice!

Some of you may remember my Champion skull cap review from January, and I’ve really continued to love my Pro-Ultimate SNELL skull cap. It’s comfortable, very ruggedly-made, and I love all the little features like the metal safety buckle, removeable liner, and extra ventilation.

buckle up bitches

There are only 4 equestrian helmets in the world that carry a SNELL certification and Champion Pro-Ultimate skull cap is one of them. It definitely gives me a little more peace of mind to know that I’m wearing one of the safest helmets on the market.

For those who don’t need a skull cap, Champion has a variety of other styles to choose from as well. The brand is just now starting to establish themselves in the US, but they’ve been a leading brand in the UK for a long time and have a great reputation for safety and high quality construction.

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What else would you wear when accepting your medal from the Queen? #britishAF

How to enter? There are two ways! Check out the facebook post here:

Or the Instagram post here:

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So excited to be joining up with my friends over at Riding Warehouse for their #WinItWednesday campaign! This week’s winner will get to choose from RW’s awesome line up of Champion helmets. What makes Champion so great? For me – SAFETY! Check out the link in my profile to see my review of the Champion Pro Ultimate SNELL skull cap, one of only 4️⃣ riding helmets to carry the prestigious SNELL certification. Want to win your own Champion helmet? Here’s how to enter the giveaway: 1. Like this post 2. Follow @ridingwarehouse, @the900facebookpony, and @championequestrian 3. Comment and tell me what YOU think are the most important qualities to look for when buying a helmet 4. Tag 3 friends Entries close on Sunday, June 16th at midnight, and the winner (selected at random) will be announced on Monday, June 17th. Please visit RW’s website for complete giveaway terms and conditions! Don’t want to wait for the giveaway? ALL Champion helmets are 15% off exclusively at Riding Warehouse through this Sunday, June16th! 🥳 #giveaway #mindyourmelon #equestrian #horses #eventing #dressage #crosscountry #eventing #showjumping #hunterjumper #equestrianstyle #equestrianblogger #championequestrian #horsebackriding

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You can enter on both, if you choose!

If you don’t want to take your chances with the giveaway, ALL Champion helmets are 15% off exclusively at Riding Warehouse through this Sunday, June 16th! I really can’t say enough good things about mine, it is by far the best skull cap I’ve ever owned.

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