Monday, September 30, 2019


You can tell I'm at the end of the show season.  The weather is perfect but I can't go out and play yet.  Not until October 7th can I call my season done and do my usual fall slacker routine.  Until then, nose to the grindstone and all that.  I'm starting to get grumpy about it.

Saturday I busted out the western tack to make sure I actually remember how to ride in it before my show on Sunday.  I've had the WORST luck with western dressage shows this year.  A whack to the head, lyme, it all took me out of my western dressage shows.  I only managed to make it to two of them this year.

At least I'm finally content with my western setup

The ride went well other than Theo being an idjit because I forgot his ear plugs and having no interest in getting off my left leg.  With the new indoor, I can hear things with this metallic echo.  Very minor for me but I'm half deaf anyway, it's apparently a very big deal for Theo.  I pop in some ear plugs and all of a sudden he can focus and we've had some really good rides this week.

Theo's magic pink pills of sanity

I gave him a real bath, held him for his massage (still has tight hammies, poor jumping pony), and headed home to pack and prep my trailer.  It might have been when I swung my 35 pound saddle into the back of my truck.  It might have been when I realized my debit card was missing and ended up dumping out everything in my car, mostly all over the driveway.  I'm not sure exactly what I did but my back was giving me a big FU after packing the trailer.  I went in to sit down with some Advil, no big deal.

I went to get back out of said chair after my break and yes, it was a very big deal.  Remember last year when my SI went out completely?  Yeah, that.  No nerve pain running down my leg this time but it took some careful planning and gritted teeth to get me out of that chair and to the freezer for my ice pack.  Show was suddenly looking unlikely.

Fortunately I knew what it was this time so I didn't treat it like a tweaked muscle.  That seems to have made a big difference.  I hit it with ice, Advil, a lidocaine patch, and scheduled walking every hour.  I've avoided the nerve pain part and have remained mobile the whole time.  I did miss my show, however, since I suspect trying to sit trot through two tests would have taken me out completely and I'd be missing GMHA.  Um, no, not missing that show if I can manage it.  So I, yet again, scratched a western dressage show due to injury.  Mine, not Theo's.

 Chilling in the round pen between his bath and massage, he has a tough life

Today Theo has his chiro appointment which will hopefully straighten out his tendency to look right.  That usually means his poll is out.  We'll see what the chiro wants for a work schedule.  I'm going to pack my lunging equipment because I'm not risking riding just yet.  He'll probably lunge until his trainer ride on Wednesday.  I'll plan to hop on Thursday and see how things are.  With any luck, we ship out Friday.

Not being twenty anymore sucks.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In a program

Theo's a handful.  I love him to death, he's my heart horse, but he is a damn handful.  I have a full time job that has four legs and an amazing tail.

Unfortunately I also have a full time job that pays for Theo.  And a husband.  And two adorable dogs.  And a life outside of the barn, including adulting that I don't like but still need to do. 

Peyton is assisting me with my laundry, or at least that's what she says

Hard to believe but it's true.  Holding down two full time jobs and having a life is freaking impossible.  Theo needs at least six days a week, an hour of work at a shot.  Any less than that and he starts getting ideas.  I'm calling in some help.

Enter Trainer D.  As the resident trainer, she's who I'm turning to for getting Theo more work.  He's not trustworthy right now so he's a pros only ride until he settles in.  I'm signing him up for a weekly training ride as well as my weekly lesson.  He doesn't really need to learn anything, he just needs positive, forward, confident rides from someone that won't react to him deciding to be a bit of a bronc at random.  She's also good at changes so she can play with those.

Two jumping rides a week will probably rock Theo's world.  His massage therapist noted that the change in work is causing changes in his body already.  His chest and shoulders are loosening up but his hammies are very tight right now.  The muscles used to jump are now sore while his front end appears to be getting a break.  So he's got an extra massage coming up and a chiro appointment to make sure he doesn't get anything out of whack while he adjusts to these changes.

I'm genuinely excited to be in a program.  This is what I'm used to, what I grew up with.  I'm used to my trainer managing a lot of the aspects of my training and making sure I don't do the dumb with my horse.  Two jumping rides a week?  Theo's going to be in good shape to do some jumping type shows this spring.  Trainer Z is happy with the improvement in the quality of his canter, Trainer D is happy with Theo's balance when turning or coming to a fence, it's working well for everyone.

Mostly it's working well for Theo.  He does love to jump those jumps.  The hubby is pretty okay with seeing more of me, too.

Out on the town and NOT in barn clothes

Monday, September 23, 2019

Blog Hop: Viva Carlos's 10 Questions

1. Favorite quirk your horse (or a horse you’ve spent time with) has?
Theo's such a quirky dude, it's hard to pick one.  Probably the way he sticks the tip of his tongue out when he's really thinking.  This is also when he seems to be sucking on his bit.  Not chewing, but sucking on it like it's a pacifier.  It's a very light, engaged contact but it sure ain't what they describe in the books.  It's more like the vaquero idea of a horse picking up the bit.  When Theo's on the bit, it's because he's carrying it for himself.

Sticking his tongue out as usual

2. Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse?
Curious, sensitive, affectionate

 Hungry was a close fourth

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?
Tomorrow is a dressage school so it will be lots of shoulder in/haunches in/renver as we work on Theo being more comfortable and less resistant.  I need him to be a bit more prompt off of my leg while letting me practice keeping him on the outside rein regardless of how I'm manipulating him.  Will probably do some flying changes to keep on that project.

4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?
Nope, my OTTB trained me.  He was already a school master when I got him.  I've worked with a lot of OTTBs but all were after being let down and having at least a few rides with someone else.

  The world's best OTTB

5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?
Yes, I was a groom for an h/j barn and man, that's a tough gig.  Out lunging hunters as the sun comes up, slamming in studs because they're jumping in the grass ring, hurrying down to the ring with perfectly turned out horses to meet up with their riders, then take the horses back up and get them put to bed.  Amateur owners are tougher than professional riders because they aren't as organized and there's a lot more nerves involved.  Nervous riders = snapping at the help.

6. Favorite horse and rider combination?
Hm, Ingrid Klimke and Franziskus.  Pretty much any horse Ingrid rides makes me happy, but I particularly like seeing her soft touch in the dressage ring with this stallion.  Isabel Werth and Bella Rose is a close second because you can see how much she loves that mare.

7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?
Yes with both Fiona and Theo.  With Fiona it was amazing.  We galloped, we played in the waves, she had so much fun.  It was one of the very few occasions where I could let her truly stretch her legs and give it all she's got (and blow right past all the other eventers we were racing).

Between gallops, she's probably sizing up the competition

With Theo?  Not nearly as relaxing.  I think if I took him with a single other horse and we had a nice walk/trot, he'd enjoy it.  We did have a nice canter with a friend and he was good for that.  But he also flipped out and started rearing by the end of the outing so not our best ride together.

Please don't buck me off

8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?
I think I'd like to try riding in Germany just because everyone I know that has gone over there to train talks about how crazy different it is.  Trying different disciplines has taught me a lot, I think I'd learn even more trying another country with a whole other system.

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?
Five point breastplate.  So many people jumping two foot in a monster breastplate for no dang reason.  Also flash nosebands.  How did that become the default?  Why do people still think Theo is somehow only half dressed because he doesn't have one?  He doesn't need one and his bit is plenty stable without it!  *end rant*

10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?
 Rusty Nail, Nails for short.  I did a pedigree search and sure enough, there's an OTTB from 1976 called Rusty Nail.  That could easily be him, right age, color, and gender.  He passed away while I was still at that barn, so I know he's not with us anymore.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sitting at the big kids table

I'm very fortunate that the new barn worked out a deal with me that Trainer Z can visit me once a month and teach lessons.  She's also teaching my friend and a few other people have mentioned interest in a dressage tune up once a month.  Today was my monthly dressage butt kicking.

Theo started the day by startling a deer on his way to turn out which resulted in both of them spooking.  Theo, being far less graceful than a deer, flew back fast enough to trip over his own feet and fall down.  A text about that event was what I woke up to.  Seriously, papi?  SERIOUSLY?!  But no worse for wear.  He was stiff on the right hind when he first started out but stretched into it within a couple minutes.  No heat, no swelling, mostly his bruised pride.  And bruised butt from the looks of it.

How dare you discuss my butt on your blog

I did get a bit of a talking to about my very long, no contact warm ups.  He can't warm up his carrying muscles flopping around like that.  If I want to have him carry, he needs to go into a low, training level frame pretty much off the bat.  It did help our warm up go smoothly so I'll have to get better about that.  Some leg yields and transitions within the gait took care of the lingering stiffness from his little tumble and a couple days of shenanigans from being a land porpoise.

Next up was our half pass.  We started in the walk since half pass usually goes by so quickly you can't do much about it once you've started.  Theo is prone to taking over the move and taking me to the wall regardless of my opinion on the matter.  I also wanted to work on my position since I know I'm doing something wrong in my canter half pass.  Rather than go sideways nicely, he gets tense and then tries to change leads.  That's not usually in Theo's list of evades so I knew I was doing something wrong. 

At the walk everything was lovely and correct and nice. We worked on making sure my weight is to the inside and my seat doesn't do anything weird.  We also worked on adjusting my feel so I noticed when the haunches were lagging when I don't have a mirror.  Then I picked up the trot and right off the bat, Trainer Z saw what I was doing wrong.  I was hanging on the inside rein like it was the only thing between me and certain death.  I don't even know why I was doing it!  And my hand wanted to cross over the neck.  She said more outside rein and I couldn't get the feel at all.

I got sent back to the rail to do a shoulder in with a bit too much angle.  Sure, I can do that, and I pick up the outside rein no problem.  Then swap to haunches in.  Oh, sure enough, there's all the weight in my outside rein as I take control of the shoulders and push his haunches in.  Like, you know, a half pass.  We did this a couple times until I had the feel, then down centerline for a half pass to the rail.

Holy crap, that's fun!  I'm pretty sure that's the first time in my life I rode a half pass correctly.  And Theo has a knack for the movement so he was perfectly happy to pick up and start crossing.  Trainer Z started laughing and said I might have gone a bit too much for Third and it was a bit Grand Prix but it was a start.  Just have to be careful since Theo's a bit of an over achiever at this and will try to take over the movement.  Which brings us to the canter.

With the mechanics straightened out, we went to canter and I went rail to just short of centerline to avoid lead changes disrupting the flow.  I have to ride so, so, so carefully.  I set the bend to start the movement but then my inside rein needs to soften so he has somewhere to go.  While showing him the movement, I had to give him the inside rein completely.  My problem was that I was riding it so hard that he couldn't move.  I ride it soft and over he goes.  I need to work on his prompt response to the 'move over' aid.  It takes him a second to respond and at the canter?  I'm a quarter of the way down the rail.  He also is prone to straightening as we go as he takes over.  So it's half pass off the rail but if he tries to take over?  Swap to leg yield and reinforce the bend in the movement.  He can't be allowed to reach the rail in half pass right now because he totally takes over and takes me to the rail with shoulders leading and contact braced.

By this point Theo was a sweat ball but being super chill.  Perfect conditions for flying change!  Off we went in the canter to start actually schooling our changes.  He's done them enough that he's clearly got the idea.  We just need them clean and reliable.  So nothing fancy, just do a 10m circle, develop a good canter, and then ask.

Uh, what?  That's it?  No crazy prep, just ask?  Well, okay then.

He likes to do that fake one still but with a bit of whip tapping to get him really bouncing?  He's got a cute, clean change in him.  He sounds like a dying goose right before he does it, but it's a cute change.  I've never been so proud of a horse making that kind of noise.  I knew it was going to be clean when he did one big, bouncy stride with that grunting honk sound, then changed.  Much petting and cookies and love for that.  He's not the kind of horse to bolt or be dumb afterward, he considers it to be business as usual aside from some bucking due to the whip tapping.  It's in some ways anti-climactic after all of the fussing on the topic.  I asked, he did it (with varying degrees of success), and my homework is to just . . . practice.  Because somehow, someway, he already has a change.  It's just greener than green.

So that's my homework, to improve the quality of my canter half pass, do the shoulder in/haunches in exercise to keep him balanced rather than letting him take over, and practice my changes so they're more reliable.  That . . . sounds suspiciously like schooling Third level.

That's so cool.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Land porpoise season

Forget pumpkin spice lattes, aisles full of Halloween decorations, or the ads for Pick Your Own Pumpkins (that one might be a New England thing).  I know it's fall when two things happen.

First, Theo gets his first body clip of the season.

Second, he decides to dance the dance of his people, usually with some vocal accompaniment that sound suspiciously like dolphin squeals.

I'd planned on riding outside.  I had a friend and her steady horse all lined up.  I thought I would warm up in the indoor, then head outside for a nice hack and maybe a bit of trotting.  NOPE.  I did not calculate for the drop in temps that occurred the night before and Theo getting a night off.  My friend came to the indoor just in time to see Theo go from tight, slightly pissy canter to full on land porpoise bronc.  I stopped him and Trainer D (who was trying to teach, oops) says 'are you okay?'.  My smart ass adrenaline fueled response?  He does that sometimes.

No, Papi.  No.

I worked that damn horse for an hour with very little in the way of breaks to find the bottom of that mess.  He had one more outburst right in front of Trainer D but kept his feet on the floor for most of it.  By the end he was content to stand and watch the other three horses canter together so I took that as a win and got off to cool him off outside.

Does not feel at all bad about his life choices

Hopefully that and some slightly warmer temps will set us up for success in our lesson today.  And this weekend will be in the eighties so he should be a total slug for the Trainer Z lesson on Sunday.  But at least we won't be dealing with those dolphin sounds he makes while bouncing up and down because he just can't deal with himself anymore.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Pic Spam: NHDEA Schooling Show

I love the photographer at this show since it's mostly candids.

Theo got to have a nice snack while I watched Trainer Z do her test.  She was right after me so I walked out of the ring, hopped off, and let him nom while I observed.

Random pic of Trainer Z managing a hot tamale mare through her show debut.  She's a former broodmare and her five year old son was also in attendance.

My ride pictures came out a bit awkward which is too bad, the test was lovely.  But all that stopping and starting makes photos tricky when you don't know the test and there aren't a lot of Second level tests at this show.  This is during the serpentine with simple changes.

But we have fun and that's what matters the most.

I might be a bit smitten with this horse.  Just a bit.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

International Helmet Awareness Day

Helmets don't go on sale most of the time so I've been biding my time, waiting for that magical weekend in September where everything goes on sale.  The weekend arrived and I had a bunch of credit from consignment sales built up at the local tack shop.  So I snagged myself a Trauma Void for $100.  Win!

My trusty Charles Owen was retired after 4.5 years of service.  My new Trauma Void has taken over as the helmet I have hung up in the tack room.

I've only had it for about 6 hours but so far I like it.  The fit is more oval than my Charles Owen but it's comfortable.  I got a 59cm and I wear a 7 1/8 with the ChOwen.  It doesn't move at all when I ride in it and is nicely ventilated.  Theo was being a bit of a sassy puke so I didn't even notice the new helmet for the most part.  That's a good thing.  No random headaches are pressure points after riding for an hour and sweating like crazy.  My horse is such a puke this time of year!

The chin strap is stupid long.  Yes, I like mine snugger than most people but come on.  I have it almost as small as I can get it with the padded part and the little clip is starting to creep under my chin.  Probably not a problem for most people, I think I'm oddly shaped, but I'll have to cut the excess.

I like having the MIPS system.  It's apparently pretty standard in the mountain biking world and the hubby was surprised the equestrians didn't have it until now.  If it's good enough for those lunatics catapulting down the mountain at ridiculous speeds, it's good enough for me.  And it's the same price as my One K and it looks nice.  Easy choice there.

I also got a vest, some new breeches, a bunch of treats, I really shouldn't be allowed in tack stores.  But I managed to put down all of the stock ties because I already have two on the way from Stockbubble.  My trainer will not be amused at the next show. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Spring in his step

Let's talk about how amazing my horse is.

Our jumper lesson outfit, I loathe the way this browband fits him, I can't get it to lay nicely with his very broad forehead

Boring topic, yeah, but sometimes he just blows my mind.  Last weekend he went out and marched around at Second, looked totally like a dressage pony.  Collection, laterals, the whole thing.  Today I had my second jumping lesson.  I told Trainer D that I am struggling with ditching some of my eventer habits like opening up my position on landing.  I'm also supposed to be working on forward per both of my trainers (4.5 for a medium is NOT cool).  Trainer D nodded and said she saw that in my jumping since both Theo and I will shorten when going down to a fence.  That's kind of the opposite of what I'm supposed to be doing.  When coming out of the corner, you maintain or go forward, it's very rare you actually need to shorten.  Especially on Theo.

We warmed up and Theo was very distracted by all of the activity outside of the arena.  The family that owns the corn field behind the arena was out with their kids and Theo thought I'd brought him to visit the Children of the Corn.  Trainer D got to see his spin for the first time when I didn't guard the left appropriately and she was quite impressed.  It really is one hell of a spin.  Not much I can do about it but keep him working and make damn sure I manage that left shoulder.  At least he quit dropping that shoulder.  Now he tries to bring me with him.  Progress?

Aside from that, we focused on rhythm while changing the size of his stride.  Everyone knows the spiral in, leg yield out exercise.  Yawn.  But this was a variation I didn't know.  Start with a big, open, jumping canter.  Start bringing your circle in smaller and smaller.  Don't let your rhythm change, don't lose the impulsion.  The stride will naturally shorten to make it possible (especially with fancy pants that took it down to just under a 10m circle).  But when you open it up, open the stride back up.  Why did I never think of this?  I can tell this exercise is usually for horses that don't shorten well but it works just as well for horses that shorten easily but don't open back up.  We did this a couple times both ways, working on Theo shortening and lengthening while not changing his rhythm.

For our jumps, we started cantering over a cross rail with a rail a stride out.  I wasn't allowed out of my two point until after the rail.  And I had to move my hands up to a crest release.  I was hanging on to Theo's mane with both hands while fighting my reflexes.  I actually dropped a rein at one point because I was so focused on grabbing mane.  Trainer D was very happy with my softer position and me not snapping open but it's such a struggle right now that I can't do much else.  If Theo needs me to actually, you know, ride?  The two point falls back apart.  Good thing he doesn't need me much right now.

 I need a different bridle so badly but no idea what to get to go with my red saddle and weird shaped horse

We moved on to a little course with the barrels and an oxer with a plank.  He's such an honest boy.  Squished in the extra stride to the new, looky fences but jumped nicely.  We worked on pace.  More pace.  Move up to the fences, don't touch his face.  He compresses off nothing, you don't need your hands.  I knew when we had it because I could get up off his back and see that perfect spot four strides out.  The light bulb started to flicker and Theo started to push toward the fences rather than shorten.  Our last oxer got us a 'yes!' from Trainer D as we pushed forward out of the corner, nailed the distance, and had tons of impulsion for the jump.  I grabbed mane with both hands well up his neck and didn't let go until well after landing.  It's a good thing he's got all that hair.

I'd forgotten how addictive it is to have a horse carry you down to a fence with enthusiasm and then jump the dickens out of it from the perfect distance.  He's no hunter but he does have a stylish way of getting over the sticks.  

He's so much damn fun to jump.  I can barely remember the days when he was tricky and refused everything.  His ears come up and he locks on like a heat seeking missle.  He may spook or spin at things between fences but when we're on approach, he's all business.  We're not jumping big right now, probably 2'3" - 2'6" but he's having a blast.  It's serving the purpose of lighting him up in a positive way.  I had to ditch my crop for our last couple rounds because he was getting a bit hot and reactive.  Which is a good thing.  Sort of.

The jumping addiction is back in full force.  Good thing Trainer Z is coming out to visit on the 22nd.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Quality of care

Last night I went to visit the pony and got an unpleasant surprise.  His left eye was watery, a little goopy, and rather swollen.

The shiny goop under his eye is Swat, but yeah, not ideal

Oh what the hell, papi?

The usual feeling of dread kicked in.  What do I do, how do I manage this, what is my next move?  I cleaned the mess up, braided up his forelock, checked for eyelashes and whiskers that might have curled the wrong way, and added some Swat to keep flies away.  The barn manager saw me working on his eye and looked surprised.  His eye was fine when she brought him in from turn out and it was looked at by a vet the day before when he got his rhino booster, so this just happened.

Kind of looks like a prize fighter

That was enough to get me breathing again.  This wasn't something that had been sitting unnoticed since Monday.  It must have happened in the two to three hours between him coming in and me showing up to ride, probably from rubbing in his stall.  Just giving him some attention and cleaning up the area had the eye looking better so I took him for a 15 minute bareback walk/jog in the indoor.  The barn manager rummaged up some banamine for him and promised to text me at night check and breakfast with updates.

The banamine worked a treat and his eye was at about 90% of normal by morning.  Theo's eyes always water (he and I have the same seasonal allergy schedule) but the swelling was down to almost nothing even after the banamine wore off.  No need to call a vet, looks like he got carried away scratching his itchy eyes and the anti-inflammatory broke the cycle before he could do himself any harm.  He'll get checked again when he comes in and then I'll see him tonight.  If the swelling comes back, the vet is getting a call.

I never get tired of seeing him like this any time I visit during the day

This is completely and utterly different than what I'd gotten used to.  I'm used to no one knowing there's a problem, having no resources outside of what I have on hand, and needing to do all care on my own.  Now I'm getting texts at 7:30 in the morning with updates on my horse's eye.  The barn manager not only knew what to do but had banamine on hand.  I was staring at Theo, trying to make a game plan, and she stepped right in.  I stopped by the barn on my way to work this morning.  I had to see his eye for myself so my anxiety would settle. I apologized to her for my pony-noia while I was there.  It'll take awhile before I get used to having someone else taking care of my horse.

But this is why I moved.  I know if something happens with my horse, they'll take care of him.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fancy prance

I probably should have done a schooling show before I debuted Second at a rated show, but oh well.  I have finally made it to a schooling show and ran through Second 1 and Second 2.

NHDEA Fall Schooling Show warmup

Theo was uncertain about this.  Probably because the trailer next to us had a herd bound horse screaming her fool head off and crashing around.  Poor papi was certain I'd brought him to a very bad place.

Where have you brought me?!

Trainer Z was in residence and helped us warm up for two nice tests.  The first one was very solid and I, dare I say, had fun riding it.  I even smiled.  It's starting to feel confident and secure so I can ride with less anxiety and a lot more enjoyment.  That test got us a 64% from a judge that's known for not playing nice just because it's a schooling show, so I'm very happy.

All grown up

Our second test was my first attempt at Second 2.  I thought it would be a better test for us since there's more movements where we can pick up points without having stunning gaits.  All those simple changes, the turn on the haunches, etc.  And I was right.  Even though Theo and I were both dragging a bit when we went back in (4.5 on a medium OUCH), we got another 64%.  My shakier riding and Theo's smaller gaits were balanced by 7's for turns on the haunches and simple changes.  Did have a bit of trouble with that medium down centerline at the end.  Theo tried to drop the landing gear at X while still in medium trot.  I laughed, the judge laughed, Theo thought I was lost and possibly drunk.  We halt at X, these are the rules!

Being a bit of a twit while resetting for the next shoulder in but still pretty

This also got us the high point for Second level.  Yes, I was the only rider in both of my classes (Trainer Z was on a greenie in Second 3 as the only other Second level rider), but I picked up the ribbons anyway because dang it, I have moved up to Second and those are personal best results!

He's sticking his tongue out, my horse show photo album is complete

I really don't see a lot of two test shows in our future.  Sitting his collected trot is exhausting for me and being a big, powerful, collected horse is exhausting for him.  By the time he's appropriately warmed up so we get the best test, we've been working for forty minutes and there isn't a second warm up and test in us.  The second test went fine, but about half way through Trainer Z said she could see me basically stop riding.  My abs gave out.  Especially with our forecasted move to Third next summer, we'll stop signing up for two tests in a day.  It's just not going to be a thing.

This was a great outing for us and a confidence builder.  No explosions in the canter departs, improving mediums, all around the exact outing we need right now.

Most importantly this qualifies us for the year end awards through our GMO.  Yay, satin!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Hello two point my old friend

You've come to hurt my legs again.

I had my first lesson with the resident h/j trainer who I will dub Trainer D.  I wasn't too nervous going into this because, let's face it, the bar was not set high.  I'm a middle aged ammy on her middle aged draft cross.  Everyone knows we do dressage.  I was quite clear that I haven't had a jump lesson in about a year and equitation?  That last happened over a decade ago.  I've been doing the eventers and survival trumps all in that discipline.  We confidently and safely jump 2'6" but that doesn't mean it's very pretty or polished.

We're not really known for being pretty and polished

For the curious, I wore my brown knee patch Pipers with the purple piping, a dark purple polo, and purple belt with rhinestones on the buckle.  Brown croc open front boots, purple PS of Sweden saddle pad, and black bell boots for Theo.  I went with the loose ring snaffle because I tried him in his old french link D ring and he hated it.  Like head around his ankles and actively avoiding the bit.  WTF, Theo.  Trainer D was also mystified when I told her so we'll play with bits to see what mouthpiece he wants in a fixed cheek bit.  For now, skinny loose ring snaffle it is.

We warmed up like usual, trotting and cantering on the buckle.  She was quite pleased to see him so comfortable working on the buckle and complimented his steady canter rhythm.  Not as much knee action as she was expecting with his breeding but definitely not type-y enough for the hunter ring.  Sorry, Theo, it's just not in the cards.  2'6" eq horse, though?  Trainer D is solidly on board, especially after we started cantering around a course.  Theo is so good at coming down to a fence with a nice, steady rhythm.  Even over the barrels he hadn't jumped yet, he neatly tucked in an extra stride and over jumped rather than doing anything dramatic or changing his rhythm.  Trainer D declared him very cool and a great partner for equitation.  My homework for him?  NOTHING.  Not a damn thing.  Just let him get used to cantering in a more free, less managed way since he was a bit puzzled by the sudden lack of seat and contact.  He is perfect as is and got no homework.  Show off fancy pants pony, geeze.

No lesson media so have a picture of what he did right after our lesson when I turned him back out, filthy pony

As for me?  Well, I laughed a lot because I knew this was coming.  She said two point and I got right up out of my saddle.  No, no, more angle.  Get your butt out behind you.  Hands up his neck.  More.  I can hear all of my eventer trainers of the past screaming.  Muscle memory did eventually kick in and I trotted around the ring with my fanny back and my chest closer to his withers and my hands further up his neck.  My butt is solidly over the saddle because I've ridden so many dirty horses that I don't get in front of the motion (I like living), but it definitely felt weird to practice a crest release after so many years.  My heels aren't used to me really focusing on them and the ankle stabilizers have atrophied, so that was uncomfortable.

Who am I kidding, everything has atrophied!  Thighs, hammies, ankles, even parts of my abs and butt were protesting.  I was cantering around the course with my horse being damn near perfect and I'm struggling to stay down in my eq position and not open up into my eventer position or sit deep to micromanage like a DQ and my thighs burning all the way around.  I'm going to be spending a lot of time trotting and cantering around in two point while I rebuild those muscles.  I was hurting when I got home and had to rush upstairs to my office for a meeting.

Starting to hack him outside after his rides as he gets more comfortable

But the lesson went super.  Trainer D was very calm, positive, and clear.  She hit things like shoulders popping out, not being straight enough in the canter, and other details that I really need to focus on.  I know it, but it helps to have someone else keep me on top of things.  She didn't call for anything dramatic in terms of my position or Theo's way of going.  Yes, crest release and no opening up on landing, but I'm also not allowed to fall on the neck.  She agrees that we'll probably spend all winter putting polish on me while Theo basically keeps being amazing and builds up some jumping muscles and confidence for jumping without me micromanaging him.  He's grown up so much that he doesn't really need me at the jump.  If I canter down in a good balance with plenty of pace, he knows what to do.  I just need to look pretty.  Which is what an eq horse does.

Might have to shop for some new field boots while I'm getting those dressage boots this winter.

Friday, September 6, 2019

KWPN Keuring: An uneducated recap

A friend got a lovely KWPN mare a couple years back.  When the KWPN keuring tour came out to Massachusetts this year, she decided she wanted to have her mare inspected.  I tagged along since I'd never been to any kind of inspection and I wanted to learn more.  So here's what I saw when I wandered into a keuring.

Fair warning, I took a lot of pictures.  A lot a lot of pictures.  And some video.

First up were two mares doing their IBOP tests.  I have no idea what that stands for, but it was an undersaddle test for dressage horses.  First they both did a dressage test in a small arena, then they came back in for the judges to watch them being ridden while they gave instructions (walk, trot, more forward, softer hands, shoulder in, lengthen, etc).  The judges were looking for their dressage potential and after seeing the process, I'd probably want my horse at least schooling Second before I went in.  They're judging things like being uphill, the connection, and marked down on submission for resistance to the shoulder in for one mare.  It makes sense after watching the five year old test.  They weren't looking for a completely baked Second level horse, but I'd want to at least feel like I could do the trot work and the medium canter.  Lots of interest in how the mares handled lenghtening in the gaits.

The first mare was five years old, the second was eight.  The two were very different so it was nice to see the difference in marks and comments from the judges.  The younger mare is a half sister to my friend's mare (same sire) and I could see the family resemblance.  They're both very light on their feet and carry themselves beautifully all on their own.  The older mare didn't have the same carrying power or hind end action, so it didn't have the same effortless look.  The younger mare took to collection as easily as breathing.  The younger mare got a 79.5 while the older mare got a 69.

5 year old mare by UB 40 out of a Freestyle mare 

8 year old mare by Contago out of a Prestige VDL mare

I couldn't figure out the difference I was seeing until the judges made their comments.  That was the best part.  After the mares were done, the judges would tell us what they liked, what needed improvement, and what scores they gave out.  After the two under saddle tests, we headed to the indoor for the free movement and in hand classes.  My friend's mare was in the Studbook Inspection, 4 to 7 year old mares class.

First up they needed to measure all of the horses, then watch them trot on a hard surface.  I have no pictures of the actual measuring because trying to measure a bunch of wound up youngsters was . . . exciting.  Thank the heavens for professional handlers that know how to get that done.  Once heights were recorded, the horses walked and trotted off on a hard surface.

My friend's mare taking her handler for a run, let's just say these are the photos when she was being civil

This professional handler handled most of the horses and boy oh boy did he earn his paycheck.  So many bouncy babies.  My friend's mare is very strong, athletic, and confident.  She'd also spent the night in a stall and hadn't had a chance to go in turn out so she was quite a kite.

This mare stole my heart when she, at five, trotted off like a complete lady and then went back to snoozing while the other mares snorted and carried on.

Five year old mare by OO Seven out of a Trento-B mare

My new heart horse was also the first horse into the indoor.  The indoor was set up for free movement where they let the horses loose to trot and canter.  There are two marked off spots in the center to form a figure eight and give the judges a safe spot to watch.  The spectators were loaded into a chute along the side of the ring for our own safety.  Once the horse was in the arena, the big door for the indoor was closed with much snorting from the horses.  All mirrors were covered.

Horses would walk in hand around the ring, then the reins were removed from the bridle and they were set loose to trot and canter with a change of direction.  Three handlers in the middle with lunge whips kept them moving along and managed changes of direction.  They also helped capture the horses once the judges were done.  The free movement ranged wildly throughout the day from civilized to bronco show.

Do want

My heart horse did get into the studbook but did not get her Ster predicate.  She was weak in the loins and they wanted more reach and power from behind.  I can see that, but I want her anyway.  She looks like plenty of pony for this ammy and her mind was very settled.

Next was the mare we dubbed the dragon because of her snorting, tail flagging, and occasional honks while waiting her turn.  In the free movement, it was more of the same.

Four year old mare by Navarone out of a Goodtimes mare

She also got into the studbook, but did not get a Ster predicate.  One of the judges, after looking at her pedigree, suggested she be reentered as a Gelder due to her breeding.  They're looking for different things with a Gelder instead of a dressage focused horse.  With this change in the test, she not only got her Ster predicate but her Keur predicate as well.  I'll admit that this whole bit confused the daylights out of me but the breeder seemed very happy.

Next up was my friend's mare.
Release the beast!  Iz was so excited to get out and play for a bit


Six year old mare by UB 40 out of a Metall mare (Rabiola, yes, that Rabiola)

She was so sassy, even the judges had to help corner her to catch her after her free movement because she was having so much fun.  Someone commented on her confidence because she was not at all nervous, just having a blast playing 'catch me if you can'.  She got a 75 conformation, a 75 movement, and her Ster predicate.  Woohoo!  She did not get her Keur predicate because she was too on her forehand, but it was close.  My friend is planning to come back next year to do the IBOP so her mare shows off her best moves and doesn't tear around on her forehand encouraging people to chase her.

The last mare was the younger mare from the IBOP test.  She was shown in hand since they already had movement scores from her IBOP.

What a Keur mare looks like

Loved her, too, my size and handled a chaotic dressage ring with a reasonable amount of drama for a five year old

While her conformation score wasn't the highest (she's kind of short), her movement and under saddle were so good that not only did she get her Ster predicate, she got her Keur.  Good day for the UB 40 daughters!

Once the mares called it a day, there was one colt for an advisory class.  This is where they bring in a youngster that they're considering a stallion prospect and want to see what the judges think.  

Two year old colt by Hennessy out of a Flemmingh mare

He didn't score that well, a 69 or so, so I don't know if he'll be keeping his testicles.  The judges were not happy with his weak pasterns and really pointed them out.

Next were the foals!  Let's face it, the real reason I went to watch my friend was for the foals.  The procedure is to bring them in with mom in a bridle and the foal in a halter.  They try to get them to stand long enough for the judges to get a look.  Then they trot mom around once in hand with the foal loose to see the foal trot (somewhere in the bouncing) and then, as one breeder put it, everyone is let loose for zoomie time.  The reins come off the mare's bridle and they're set loose to see the foal canter.  There were five dressage foals and four jumper foals.  Dressage foals went first (I didn't get reasonable photos of two of them, dang wiggly babies)

Colt by Gaudi out of a Bon Bravour mare 

 Filly by Navarone out of a Goodtimes mare

 Colt by Hennessy out of a Silvano N mare

The stunner was the Gaudi colt, he just blew us away.  There was a lot of 'wow' from the spectators when he started moving.  He got an 81 and well deserved.  Since he was first in the ring and I wanted to get a video of the whole foal process, I got video of his whole round.  Enjoy!

And then came the jumper foals.

Filly by Up to Date MLTOO out of a Cassino mare 

 Colt by Up To Date MLTOO out of a Veron mare

 Filly by Zapatero VDL out of a Veron mare

Colt by Impressive VDL out of a Crespo VDL mare

I wanted the grey foal that already leads nicely, let her halter be put on without fussing, and walked calmly through other horses acting up and rearing.  She was last in her class, but still got Second Premium and I would have thrown her in the back of my car in an instant.  She was just my type.

The winner was the very fancy bay filly by Zapatero.  She was beautiful but I can already tell she's going to be too much horse for an ammy like me.  Second went to the colt by Impressive (but the breeder was watching him rearing and I swear she was whispering 'gelding' to herself).

And with that, the day was over!  The amazing dressage foal also took high point for the keuring.  We discussed stealing foals and stuffing them in my friend's trailer but I started getting weird looks from breeders so I hushed and went home without a foal.

I feel like I learned a lot.  A couple stallions had multiple babies at the same outing so I could do some comparison.  The UB 40 daughters certainly had a resemblance.  They both had the same very confident, sensitive, almost reactive personality.  Too much horse for me but for my friend that wanted a CDI horse?  Perfect.

The UB 40 daughters waiting their turn

The Sir Sinclair foal had a dam I found unappealing, so the fact I really liked the foal was interesting.  The judges even pointed out how much nicer the foal was than the mare as a compliment to the breeding, so I'll look at him again.  I also fell in love with a broodmare named Rubi that was just such a pro at the keuring.  She was a show horse in her own right with beautiful movement (even with the broodmare belly) and her calm, professional behavior as she took her foal around.  The breeder talked to me a bit and Rubi was a favorite of his.  If that's the temperament they breed for, I want to know more.  They also had a jumper foal that was very sensible.

I'm a long way off from getting another horse, but this is the first step in getting me more educated.  One day I may actually own a horse with a pedigree.  One day.