Friday, December 9, 2022

Money money money!

 I went and got myself something pretty.  And huge.  Massive some would say.

The Behemoth had picked up enough gremlins that we decided a 20 year career would be enough.  The Behemoth is going to be moved on to a job slightly less demanding.  This is Betty.  Betty is a 2023 GMC Sierra 2500 HD so basically the exact same truck but with only 10 miles on it when purchased.  It's nice having things like a back up camera and integrated Android Auto.  The payments are less nice.  I traded in my daily driver car so the hubby and I are sharing his little compact hybrid and saving Betty for hauling.  We both work from home so one commuter car works just fine.

I still need to get the gooseneck hitch installed but that can wait until after Christmas.  My first hauling expedition looks to be April when I bring Kiki up to live with Trainer Z in her youngster field.  She's got a filly that is just one week older than Kiki that will be looking for a new pasture mate in April when her current friend is due to foal so it will all work out beautifully.  The two yearling fillies will have a friend and Kiki goes straight from her breeder to Trainer Z.   This means I'll have both of my trouble makers at the same address and I can start teaching Kiki to go for walks in preparation for breed shows that start in July.

Two ponies and a new truck means a certain amount of strain on the ol' checkbook.  But that's fine!  I calculated and simulated and it's a totally reasonable lift.  It's fine.

So yeah, right after I did that Theo made it clear that he only wants the Custom Saddlery Wolfgang Solo saddle that Trainer Z had been using because it fit her better.  It also fits me better so no loss there but it's still a saddle purchase.  Ugh.  I'm hoping the good mojo from it being Schrodie's former saddle will rub off on Theo.  I'll freely admit that I really like the saddle and Theo goes like a dream in it so it falls under the heading of buying Theo anything he wants to make him happy.  There is actually a category with that header in my budget.  I'm also keeping the Frank Baines because it's the same make and model that Kiki's breeder uses on her cobs so I'll probably want that in a couple years.

Theo's also scheduled to get his hocks done this month because next season is Third Level work and he's turning 19.  He's sound and we want to keep it that way.  He he also made it clear during his fall crazies that he could use a round of ulcer treatment to get him back to a blank slate before the next show season.  Both omeprazole and sucralfate, please.  As the kids say, I'm broke as a joke.

On the plus side, the crazies were brief this year and I only missed two lessons.  One for crazies, one because I went on vacation (gasp!).  We're already back to work figuring out how to get a quality half passe at both the trot and canter.  We may skip Third 1 and go for Third 2 as it suits Theo better.  The quicker the transitions and movements, the happier he is.  He'll also be hitting the circuit with his Second Level freestyle with Trainer Z in 2023.  We're talking about him qualifying for regionals.  He did so well at Saugerties that it seems like a good idea.  At least it seems like a good idea when it's months away.  It's more a Trainer Z problem than mine, I'm going to be working on my dissertation next September when the championships roll around.  But with a professional in the saddle and new ulcer meds on board, he may actually have a chance at Second Level freestyle.  Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Life with Trainer Z

When I brought Theo to live with Trainer Z, I didn't think I'd ever get to ride again seriously.  I wanted Theo to find a leaser or at least have his brain cells reinstalled so he wasn't considered dangerous anymore.  Now I'm in regular lessons, schooling Third in preparation for going after those scores next year, and reaping the benefits of having my very own schoolmaster that is always tuned up.  It's been a huge change for the rider that did everything on her own, showed alone, and lacked consistent training.  It's been very hard to swallow at times that I'm not the one having 'those' rides on Theo anymore.  That's someone else's job now.  I ride the result of her hard work.  Not to say I'm not working hard, Theo does not believe in rider's getting to flop along for free.  But for the first time ever, I have a professionally trained horse.

Who won both of his Second 3 tests with her two weeks ago and went Reserve High Point Second Level in the Open division

Trainer Z's barn is both friendly and serious business.  It's small with ten stalls on the indoor and another seven or so horses living outside full time with run ins.  Her riders are mostly dressage focused with some eventers mixed in.  Not a lot of high level dressage trainers in this area welcome eventers with open arms but Trainer Z loves OTTBs and eventers.  She has a member of the local hunt take her out on trail rides to give her dressage horses a good example, up to and including the GP level stallions.  

The sign next to the door to the ring

That's also taken some getting used to.  Random mutts like Theo rub shoulders with fancy stallions like Schroeder and are taken just as seriously.  It feels surreal.  Today I was heading into the ring while Schroeder was in the cross ties after his ride.  Theo and Schroder know each because they trailered together to GMHA.  We had to scoot Schrodie (no, fancy stallions get no respect from me) back a couple steps so I could mount without him messing with Theo.  The fact that Theo gets the same handling and respect really changes how everyone looks at him, including me.  

"He's the most impressive ride I have right now."  That startled me considering the kinds of horses Trainer Z rides but it's not about the scores.  He's her most complicated horse and her biggest achievement because the margin for error is so small.  He apparently was doing caprioles in his turn out yesterday and getting up high enough to ding the top rail in his turn out.  Even the junior stallions were staring at his behavior in awe.  She knows what he's capable of and the baggage he carries.  He's not a fancy import, born and raised to be a dressage super star.  He's Theo, the wannabe stud with limited coping strategies for his emotions and the nastiest spin in the state.

Sign in the tack room

Today I rode my half passe in the canter and felt him lift his shoulders up and out of the way.  It felt like a completely different gait, a series of jumps instead of strides.  I had my hands up because that's where his shoulders were and I must have been far enough back because he was happy to do it.  He was balanced and powerful, happy to carry himself in the movement.  It was amazing, a tiny glimpse of true self carriage and what the high level riders get to experience.  It's a struggle right now to get my hands up but that's me learning to trust that this is real, it's not fake or him tricking me.  

It's been a completely different experience since we moved in with Trainer Z.  Theo is whickering happily before his rides and looks like a million bucks so he's clearly enjoying life.  And me?  I'm still getting used to my new role but it's a lot more than I'd hoped for just a year ago.  And when the show season rolls around?  I won't be out there trying to do it all myself.  That sounds like a slice of heaven.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Cob Mob

 I got to visit Kiki!  It was also the day that I dropped off the last check for her purchase and started transferring all of her paperwork to me as she's being weaned.  So I'm broke.  But let's focus on the cute.

Oh dear, Kiki

Poor Kiki, she's going through her first awkward phase that I've observed.  She's always been so balanced and then I came around the corner and just burst out laughing.  Oh, honey.  That butt.  What the hell?  

She's definitely in the middle of a growth spurt.  Her breeder and I agreed that we lucked out that she waited until after her inspection to pull this particular 'hide her behind the barn' phase.  Not unexpected at all, just hilarious for a filly that has hardly had a day where she didn't look perfect.  No, it's not the angle of the picture, she's just ridiculously butt high on the day I visited.  But I cuddled her and gave her all the skritches all the same because I know she'll catch up with that butt soon enough.

Kiki, honey, you don't fit anymore

She's still the sweet, sensitive young lady I've met before.  She absolutely loves to be touched, even on her belly or legs.  She doesn't really care so long as she's getting groomed.  She's putting on her winter coat and while the rest of the class of 2022 are showing how dark they can go, Kiki is sticking to her frosted buckskin look.  She has dark hairs mixed in but she isn't showing any signs of going super dark like the other foals.  She's hanging on to her light buckskin look and I'm delighted.

She's also a total heathen.  She has left  a lot of bite marks on the other foals.  I got to spectate while she reared and goaded the colt into galloping for her entertainment.  I didn't get pictures since I was out of range but she has the colt of the group well entertained.  They're being weaned together due to being very close in age and the other filly her age heading home to Canada today.  It's going to be a rough week for the class of 2022 with one foal leaving and two being weaned.  It had to happen but that doesn't mean it will be an easy week for a mama's girl like Kiki.  She certainly won't be alone but it won't be her favorite day.

A little grooming session with Avanti while I was on rump scratching duty

Back at home, I had an unobserved Theo ride and then he got a mini spa day.  We're going to avoid clipping him until after his last show of the season and then we're going to clip him conservatively since he's got a pro that can wait all day for him to dry if necessary.  The hope is that more hair = less tantrums.  I really don't want to risk Trainer Z.  They have a show together next weekend and then it's the off season for them.  There's a Second Level freestyle to finish and the final polish on his Third Level moves.  Trainer Z and I both have plans for next season.

He's sexy and he knows it

2023 is coming fast and I'm going to have my hands full showing a yearling filly and my Third Level horse (YES I'M GOING FOR IT).  I will catch up on my sleep now because come May?  Sleep is for the weak.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Rhythm is king

 aka My continuing attempts at figuring out collection with a horse that did not read any of the training books.  Any.  At all.  NONE.

Theo says he's fantastic and haters can exit stage left

It's been pretty dang amazing picking up my riding again with Theo playing the role of school master.  He's being ridden at a high standard most days of the week and it shows in his body and his expectations.  Trainer Z isn't going to put up with a lot of non-responses so he's gotten much lighter.  He's also gotten strong enough that doing the job isn't a big problem in his mind.  Trainer Z also rides him straight which means he's balanced enough to make up for my little (massive) physical issues.  When I get on him, I have a very level base underneath me which pushes me to ride in balance.  My shoulders aren't truly square since that's not physically possible but the weight is even and I'm not lurching off to one side or the other.  Kiki will benefit from this one day.

I'm very, very lucky to have this opportunity.  Theo's got a clean change in both directions now and by the time I'm given the green light to start playing with them, they're going to be pretty much confirmed.  I got to skip most of the struggles over the past six months while Trainer Z got those cleaned up and fully installed.  Theo knows me and we have our own, unique little relationship that results in us having fun even when we're screwing things up.  Might have crashed through some caveletti yesterday but it's still fun.  Just a little relapse into jumping reflexes at the exact wrong time.

Down side?  Theo is the freaking weirdest horse to ride in collection.  Trainer Z struggled with this as well until she was in a clinic and they stumbled on the fact that he doesn't feel like other horses.  He doesn't feel 'forward' in collection.  Trying to get him to feel 'forward' pushes him off his natural rhythm and the whole dang pyramid falls apart.  His impulsion powers up more than forward.  He's super willing and upward transitions are very prompt but you never feel like he's really going somewhere.  Both of us find it very weird to ride compared to other horses and at least for me it's been hard to get comfortable.  Because you must have forward!  True, but impulsion doesn't always feel like a drag car waiting to tack off down a track.  Sometimes it feels more like sitting on a rocket ready to launch.

When he's in collection you know you have all of this power but it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.  The wild part is that it's just a feeling, it doesn't reflect what's going on.  From the ground, it looks great and he gets 7's and even 8's for the technical scores.  His hind leg is taking the weight and he's relaxed and balanced and responsive and all that.  There's a reason his simple changes are his strongest movement.  But he's got that short back, small moving front end, and no mental interest in going anywhere in a hurry.  Apparently he knows you pay the same fee at a show regardless of how long you're in the ring and he's going to get his money's worth.  When he goes into collection, his cadence slows a notch and he does his powerful fancy prance with a very active hind leg.  He'll get there when he gets there, it's not like the judge is leaving.  Allowed to do things in his natural rhythm?  He's got some serious bounce.

Nothing wrong with his collection for a mid-level horse, just feels totally wrong

We were practicing his half passe in trot now that I'm figuring out how to get and hold that collected trot.  First we did haunches in, shoulder in, haunches out, 10m circle, all at random so he was really on the aids and I could feel him moving into the outside rein on both sides.  Then it was half passe while worrying only about holding the rhythm.  It's so easy for him to go sideways, my job is mostly to set up the shape and then make sure his rhythm doesn't change.  Don't lock down, keep the aids moving and keep the rhythm, worry only about the rhythm and what the hind legs are doing.  I went to change bend and rebalance for the corner and he really started to bounce.  I glanced at the mirror and sort of yelped.  My 18 year old mutt looks like he's considering passage?!

Trainer Z laughed because yup, there's a passage in that collected trot.  She's been working his half steps in hand but the passage offers are all him.  He loves the mid-level work and gets excited when we're doing it.  He's an odd duck in that he heats up as the ride goes by and his most animated, fun work is at the end when other horses will be getting tired.  I'd been riding for 50 minutes when he decided he wanted to show me just how big his trot could be.  Not that it felt forward.  Added bonus, he's developing a real medium out of that collection.  Which also doesn't feel as forward as it should.

I feel better that even the professionals agree that Theo feels weird.  He will be so on the aids that you feel like you're on a ticking bomb but he doesn't feel like he's going anywhere.  He's not stuck, he's just going the way he does.  Is it mental?  Is it physical?  Probably both.  He's not really built to cover ground and he's a lazy, lazy boy.  If he was my FEI prospect we'd have a problem.  But for a Third Level school master, he's pretty darn perfect.

Until the fall crazy times get here.  Then all bets are off.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Where Marqui came from: Stonecroft Gold Medallion

 Hold onto your butts, I'm going to try to figure out bloodlines.  Apologies for my lack of proper conventions when discussing bloodlines, it's a learning curve.

Marqui had a great inspection and all kudos go to the breeder that made the match.  I still feel weird that the ribbon goes to me when, frankly, the award should go to the person that created the pony in question!  But she insists and I'll happily hang up my first red and white ribbon.  I do feel like I should be a better advocate for my filly and get to know the bloodlines that created her.  So here we go, dam side first since I've met her and like her quite a bit.  You get to bond with a pony while cutting out very secure yarn braids after an inspection.

This is Stonecroft Gold Medallion, aka Bonnie.  She's an 18 year old broodmare that just got added to the Westfalen Mare Book I.  Didn't get a movement score due to the flooding and her complete refusal to participate in this nonsense when it's storming out but still got a 7 as she's that darn pretty.  When the ponies aren't listening, Bonnie is generally considered the nicest mover of the broodmare band.  Her personality is more stand offish than the other mares but she will do anything for a peppermint.

She's had several foals for this breeder so Marqui has several half sibs.  2017 was the bay colt Quillane Rhaego who is off doing the hunters.  2019 she had Quillane Accolade who is in a dressage performance home.  He was just approved as a stallion for Westfalen.  2020 was a buckskin colt named Quillane Rubik.

Quillane Accolade (Gallod Auryn x Stonecroft Gold Medallion), photo from Wolf Run Farm

Bonnie's sire is Stonecroft Bold as Brass (aka Freddie), known as a driving cob that competed in combined events with his owner at the Novice level.  His breeder and owner is Marsha Himler and he was foaled in 1997.  Marsha Himler was on the board of directors for the Welsh Pony and Cob Society as well as a performance judge.  I found this picture of him and, well, it's kind of funny.  A little well placed censoring.  But he's got a big trot that his daughter definitely inherited.  Little bit of family resemblance as you go through the generations.

Poor Kiki trying to show her movement in a flash flood

Freddie's sire was Parc Dilwyn, an international champion from Parc Welsh Stud in Wales.  I've seen a lot of Parc horses in performance cob pedigrees and Freddie is mostly Parc lines.    No luck in finding a picture of Dilwyn.  I'll keep hunting but there are a lot of Parc stallions out there and it's hard to find pictures from forty years ago.  Per a video I found, the stud was still operating and competing in hand and under saddle in 2012.  When I look through lists of great cobs, I find examples like Parc Lady and Parc Rachel that are lovely, substantial mares with solid top lines.  There is a tendency to be butt high as is the fashion in the cob world but nothing extreme.  Parc horses do show under saddle and in harness as well as in hand.

Freddie's dam was Gweneth Pres Y Penrhyn, a chestnut with a wide blaze called Pres, that was foaled in 1976.  So yes, we're already looking at horses born before I was born.  Penrhyn Stud was based in Buzzard's Bay, MA and played an important part in the introduction of Welsh Cobs to the US.  Penrhyn was focused on creating solid, well rounded horses that could try lots of different disciplines while keeping the type and character of the Welsh Cob.

Photo from Welsh Review

On the bottom of the pedigree, Bonnie's dam was Thornbeck Golden Deilen, another cob owned by Marsha Hilmer.  Everyone that knew Deilen comments on how her daughter is basically her twin.  I'm going to keep hunting for a picture of her since so many people remember her but she appears to have dodged cameras since the internet became a thing.

Deilen's dam was an import which adds a level of complexity to my research.  The ones living in the USA are easier since the cob world is small and you hear about the ponies' personalities and barn names along with their performance record.  The names are also much easier for me to pronounce.  Cen-Y-Cerrig Y Penrhyn was from the UK and registered in Canada.  Deilen's sire was Cwmfelen Golden Eclipse and was also Canadian.  He was a palomino that was mostly used to produce crossbred ponies.  

I noted Dafydd Y Brenin Cymraeg both top and bottom of the pedigree.  He was certainly a handsome fella, look at all that bling.  I can see that movement in Bonnie.

Photo from

So Bonnie is performance bred with driving in mind.  She never pulled a cart and instead got some points in western pleasure with a young rider before becoming a broodmare.  Marqui certainly carries that big trot forward for another generation.  

Next time, Taraco Mourinho!

Monday, September 5, 2022

Foal Monday?

 I've heard that Foal Friday is a thing.  And I tried to participate on time but Monday is close enough on a holiday weekend.  I'm too far away to participate most weeks but the pictures from the inspection are starting to emerge and I got to visit Kiki this weekend.  So without further ado, pictures of pony foals!

All good photos credit to Spotted Vision Photography, all cell phone shots are me or Marqui's breeder.

Kiki has to go first, of course.  Poor thing trying to show her lovely movement in water up to her ankles due to the flash flood.  

She tried hard to be a good girl but you can tell she thought this was all a bad idea.  It doesn't help that her mom was so utterly done with this whole thing.  Please note Bonnie's expression as she is plotting her revenge while trotting through the storm.

Second?  Revere, the colt that enjoyed the inspection and his captive audience so much.  He did not want to end it and come back to the barn.  Retained by the breeder for obvious (omg got an 8.3) reasons.  He's a half-uncle to Avanti and Ozzy (same dam as their sire).

Third is Avanti, the little filly I waited for but ended up passing on.  She is such a personality, she will present you with her rump and refuse to move until she has received the skritches she wants.  She's shedding out jet black and will be stunning.  She's also growing into quite the little chunk.  She's going to be a strong, fast young lady.

Last but not least?  Ozzy.  This is a half brother to Avanti with the same sire.  He also enjoyed his inspection greatly as he got to run amok while people coo'ed to him.

Bonus picture of Ozzy checking in with the inspector to see if there were any other instructions.  The cobs are not a shy group.

She's not really a foal but she's still a filly and there was no way I was not going to share this picture.  Half sister to Avanti with the same dam, two year old Raleigh got an audible 'ooooh' from the spectators when she started moving.  And then a scramble to make sure she didn't jump out of the ring as she was clearly considering doing.  Spicy little red head.

And now for the candids of me visiting the mob for no other reason than I was in the area and wanted to love on my foal.  I have never been around a foal mob before and it was a lot of fun, even if I was definitely concerned that the kids were going to knock me over while jostling for position.

Rhya is the one giving me a kiss on the cheek, Kiki is the one wanting to know why I'm being interrupted from rump scratching duty.  The kids are starting to shed out and get ready for winter so they were even more itchy than usual.  Poor Avanti is going to shed her baby fuzz just in time for her winter fuzz.  

I love this picture and I'm going to look back at it a lot over the years.  Me cuddling with Kiki at 5 months old.  She's going to be quite sensitive but that's an attribute for a future dressage horse.  She loves cuddles and grooming.  Her ears never stop moving and she's very aware of everything around her.  She's going to be spicy but I think she's going to be the good kind of spicy.  You need some spice to move up the levels.

It'll probably be a couple weeks before I make it down for another visit.  She's being weaned at the end of the month, I can't believe she's already six months old! 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Possessed by demons

 Not Theo this time.  Just me.  More specifically, my hands.  This is not a new phenomenon.

Since I spent two years out of the saddle, a lot of my muscle faded to zilch.  This is kind of a good thing since it means I'm now rebuilding under supervision with a well educated horse.  All those weird habits I picked up due to survival or Theo not being at all on the aids?  We're removing them one by one.  I'm also slightly less warped through my body due to having very consistent chiro and some PT.  Trainer Z is happy to see my lower back strengthening and she no longer has to yell for me to sit up or sit back.  I don't collapse to the left the way I used to.  It feels natural to have Theo step up under the saddle and to sit on his hind end.  He's got enough forward now that I'm not squeezing and kicking every step just to maintain.  Go us.

I also got moved into rowels.  That helps.

F your rowels, mom

But then there are my hands.  Especially my right hand.  It just goes rogue some times.  We're going along, things are fine, and then something tenses or gets off balance and my hand will go up near my shoulder.  And Trainer Z is like 'hand!' and I look down like 'wtf when did you get there?  and why??!!'.  No one knows.  It's like there's a second brain in my right wrist that just does whatever it wants.  Counter canter is currently a reliable trigger for that hand going bonkers.  Need to set up a counter bend before I start the loop which does tend to make Theo shorten his neck.  The canter is now so calm and balanced that I should be able to just deal with him getting a bit short and have a lovely movement.  

I look down and my hand is in a different zip code and Theo has no idea what way I want his body.  Cue tension and collapse of the canter.  Whhhhhy.

Right now, in an attempt to get my elbows connected, rogue hand under control, and everything in a straight, clear communication line, I am riding with my thumbs turned out.  Like a lot.  It looks weird but its retraining my arms to get in and form a straight line with the bit.  

Proof that I can take flattering pictures of my long suffering horse

Words have changed a lot.  I now compress my horse rather than always goosing him up to go forward.  I know when I've got collection because it feels like he could go in absolutely any direction and I should sit very still because he WILL go any direction if I shift.  He keeps getting stronger and maintaining the frame and balance is no longer a debate.  If I set him up correctly, he coils like a spring.  It's just making a lot of things very different.  Forward tendency in the halt used to be something I snorted about.  Theo?  Forward into a halt?  Never.  Now he can and now I have to ride him that way.

The sport does keep us all humble.  Theo and I used to get 8's for our halts.  Guess what we did for about 15 minutes in my last lesson?  Learn how to ask for a halt correctly.  It improves the trot depart dramatically of course.  I've got to be ready for the depart now so I don't loose my balance when he bounces up into his depart.  

I'll take it as an achievement if Theo manages to trot me out of the saddle because his back is up that much.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


I'm really not all that educated on horse breed organizations or how warmbloods do things like inspections or manage their studbooks.  As someone that's always had mutts or random horses met along the way, that never affected my life.  And then I thought I should get my first pedigreed horse.  Since I wanted a native pony, warmblood registries still remained something I just didn't bother looking at.  And then I got Marqui.  

Yesterday I went to a Westfalen inspection to spectate as my new filly got inspected.  Her sire is approved Westfalen and the breeder wanted to have her dam approved.  There was a total of four foals, one yearling colt, one two year old filly, one 4 year old stallion, and 4 mature broodmares, all Welsh Cobs.  The breeder wanted to get them all inspected as a check of her work.  There isn't an equivalent system of inspection for performance with cobs so this is how she's chosen to measure her progress.  Apparently Westfalen has a Welsh section in their studbook and are happy to inspect pretty, sporty Welsh ponies.

It was similar to the KWPN inspection I spectated at a couple years ago.  The stallion was shown in hand and under saddle.  The younger horses were shown in hand and then turned loose for zoom zoom time.  The cobs were, for the most part, a much more chill group than the warmbloods.  The broodmares trotted around with an air of chill while their foals made like little ping pong balls.  The two year old filly carried on dramatically before being turned loose but still, not too crazy.

Kiddery Rockstar (Quillane Authentic x North Star Suzanna) showing everyone how it's done and earning an 8.2

I'm not someone that handles foals but I tried to make myself useful doing things like grooming the horses.  Marqui decided to take a lay down nap so I had to pick through her braids and get all the sawdust out.  I ended up spending an hour just grooming and cuddling with Marqui who quickly became Kiki.  No one thought I was really going to keep such an elegant name as a barn name, did they?

Bonnie and Kiki watching while I try to get all of the hay and sawdust out of curly foal tail hair

Rain came and went as horses moved in and out of the ring.  The second to last foal was on his way out when the thunder started and the rain started to get serious.  Everyone decided to wait and let the storm pass since the thunder was getting louder.  Glad we stopped.  My phone started to go nuts with alerts as my weather app let me know of local lightning strikes, severe storm warnings, and flash flood warnings.  Uh oh.

Riding ring turned swimming pool

Within 15 minutes we were all huddling for cover as the arena went under water.  Lightning struck close enough that we could smell ozone.  It was kind of terrifying as everyone made a break for the mare barn to hide in a secure structure.  On the one hand, we've been in a pretty serious drought and we needed the rain but not a whole month's worth in an hour!  4.5 inches!  Everything was under water and poor Marqui was still waiting for her turn in her stall.

All dressed up with nowhere to go

So now what?  The inspection team swapped to getting the approved foals ID'd with microchips and DNA samples while we waited for the rain to stop.  And then the power went out but thankfully there was a generator so they didn't have to work by phone flashlight.  It really was insane the storm that blew into the middle of the inspection.  I don't think even an indoor arena would have saved us, we still would have had to stop due to the lightning strikes and power going out.

We waited until the thunder was gone but it was still raining pretty hard.  They tried to get Bonnie and Marqui to trot in hand but both of them turned their nose up at going out in the rain and did their best impressions of western pleasure ponies.  So they got turned out in a half flooded sand paddock with some umbrellas for encouragement.  I didn't really get any video since it was still raining hard enough that my phone couldn't cope.  It was all weird and hectic but apparently it was enough for the inspectors to see what Marqui moves like.

Our first picture together and her first ribbon

It's a terrible picture of me but it's a great picture of Kiki.  She got an 8.5 and was high score for the inspection.  That also makes her a Premium foal.  She now has Westfalen papers as well as Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America papers.  The inspectors just loved her.  I'm not 100% sure what her papers look like to be honest since they were all being dried in the breeder's kitchen when I left.  The sudden deluge meant a mad scramble to try to protect all of the forms.  We'll catch up tomorrow when she's had a chance to rest (running an inspection site is tough) and the paperwork has had a chance to dry.  

Yes, that's Bonnie and Kiki at the end of the rainbow

So Marqui is apparently very fancy and fell asleep while I scratched her forelock.  She's sensitive and almost shy but once she's got the idea that you're a person that wants to love on her, she's quite happy for cuddles.  She seems very curious and wants to touch everything, she just wants to get back from things that are chaotic.  She handled everything from braiding to having to run in the rain with general grace.  She was quite happy to be turned loose with her friends once everything was done.  And it's the best movement videos I got of her since the rain had stopped.

The bay colt in the video was second place with an 8.3, he's being retained as a stallion prospect.  He's going to be a BIG boy, he's actually younger than Kiki.  The little black filly got a 7.7 and had her owner within 48 hours of her birth.  The breeder had a great season with these three little trouble makers. 

Marqui's going to be a lot of fun in a couple years.  Hopefully I will have professional pictures of her soon but with all the rain, these may be the best we can get.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Big girl lessons

 Two rides in one weekend again?  Goodness, at this rate, I might even make some progress!

I took zero pictures this weekend so enjoy a random picture update of Marqui

First was my clinic with Pam Goodrich.  I was a nervous wreck since I was watching Trainer Z and a Grand Prix stallion work on very detailed, carefully timed work.  It was a lot but also great to watch since she's working on keeping her horse straight the same as me!  Of course she's doing it in a passage while I'm doing it in a walk but it's still the same idea.  I told Pam that I was coming back from injury and would probably need some extra breaks but otherwise, it was just like any other clinic I've ridden in.  I even bought new breeches because there was no way I could ride in a clinic without wearing a belt.  Just NOPE.

Another beautiful picture from Theo's trip to the D4K Youth Festival

A lot of the focus was on getting Theo straight as we're both naturally asymmetrical.  Theo's a lot better now that he's being ridden by a balanced professional most days but he will always, always want to pop that left shoulder.  It's just the way he's built.  A lot of it comes down to making it so I'm not talked into picking up my inside rein.  It's inside leg to outside rein, not random chaos at the bit to kicking him because he's got nowhere to go with the leg.

We really worked his weaker right lead canter to chase down that bit of lateral movement that he'll get as you move into collection.  I worked him on a 20 meter circle while holding on to that outside rein like my life depended on it.  Don't let him talk me into a false hinge to the right as a 'bend'.  After a couple circles, I found the sweet spot where he shortened his stride behind while lifting his shoulders up and out of the way.  That last piece of his neck, right in front of the saddle, connected and all of a sudden he went light.  I thought the clinician and Trainer Z were both going to throw a party.  It was a true collected canter on the right lead.  We held it long enough for me to wrap my brain around the sensation, then walked and ended the ride on that very high note.

Theo discussing horse show life with the 27 year old GRP that handled the walk trot and lead line tests.  The GRP was a passport carrying FEI pony in his youth and probably has amazing war stories to share.

Two days later saw me in my regular lesson with Trainer Z.  I felt fine after my clinic ride so we agreed I'm ready for big girl lessons.  So sure enough, we did big girl stuff.  We worked on the connection through my elbows and keeping a straight line to the bit no matter what.  We worked on getting him into true collection in all three gaits since he's now strong enough and educated enough that it's second nature to him.  I just need to figure out how to get there.  I was introduced to his 'fun' trot which is cadenced, strong, and balanced.  It doesn't feel as big as I thought it should but it you settle at just that right tempo and power, you get a light, balanced trot that you can move laterally with ease.  Also judges love it.  Keeping it?  Yeah, good thing I've got a long, long time before I may consider returning to the show ring.  It's definitely a delicate balance.  

We also worked my counter canter and how to properly set it up so Theo remains balanced and knows what's coming.  Suddenly yanking him off his feet to do a counter canter loop isn't fair so he gets all the prep he needs on the short side before starting the serpentine.  I had no idea.  It was awesome to ride a balanced, calm, collected counter canter after chasing it for so many years.

I don't know how I'm going to manage it, but I'm going to start working toward two rides a week.  I'll figure it out one way or another.  We're making so much progress now!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Black Beauty

Nothing makes me more proud then when my horses go out and help other people have wonderful weekends.  Allen was borrowed last minute by a teenager to go to the New England Equitation finals.  Fiona took a teen around a horse trial short notice and ended up working with her for the rest of the season and helping her get confident at novice.  I was worried Theo would never get to be that horse since he had such a bad reputation.  And has been known to clear the warm up ring at shows.  And did his dance of the land porpoise extensively during the winter.  But time changes things and let's face it, Theo does know the drill when it comes to shows.

Pony gets his cookies, I get my simple changes

Last weekend Theo stepped in for a pony that went lame and took a teen to her first Youth Dressage Festival at Saugerties.  He's been so good lately and Trainer Z has been working with him for a year so I felt confident that if she thought it would work, it would work.  Sure, there was a decent chance he'd be a dork because he's Theo but the teen's usual pony is a bit of a heathen so she's used to it.  I gave her free choice of Theo's browbands and left everything else in Trainer Z's hands.  She apparently changed her browband for every ride and chose my most blinged out colors, I was so proud to spread my corrupting influence.  Poor Trainer Z.

Just look at that bling.  And that very nice trot.

Traveling with a group has really changed Theo's attitude about away shows.  Trainer Z gives him the end stall when possible because then he only has activity on one side.  On the other side he has horses he got to know on the four hour trailer ride or that live with him.  They're all on the same schedule and being managed by the same people.  This appears to have been the missing piece for him to cope.  He doesn't have strangers on both sides and horses coming and going at all times.  He still needs lots of walks but he hasn't needed lunging like he did before.  His teenager was so enamored that he got tons of walks, grooming, and peppermints.  Working with a team also means there are always hands to take him places and keep him happy.

She looks so damn good on him but I have to put my stirrups up TEN HOLES after she rides, it's embarrassing

Theo returned her adoration with lots of solid tests at Training and First.  He did have some oopsies such as demonstrating his lovely canter to walk in a Training level test (no extra credit for increased difficulty, Theo, though it was very nice) but when it counted, he laid down some amazing trips.  

Show pony mode activate!

Trainer Z messaged me all capslock after his tests because she couldn't believe it.  Bronze medal in the Training Level division with a 74% and 5th overall in First Level division.  His teen won her equitation test.  He got his very first 9 ever (and it was for his canter, shocker of the week).  With the help of his great scores, Trainer Z's team went reserve champion team for the division.  Lots of ribbons, lots of smiles, lots of great moments for a teen just getting started in her show career.  

Yes, he's sticking his tongue out for this picture as usual

It appears Theo is seriously considering a career as a school master after all.  I'm quite excited.  Friday he has to cart me through my first clinic in years and be my Second Level school master.  I'll need a new bag of peppermints if I don't want to lose him to the teen that is now quite smitten with him.  

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Dog days of summer

 Ugh, I do not particularly like this part of the year.  Neither does Theo.

It's been 95* and humid as hell for about two weeks now.  I spent part of that pedaling my bike all the way across Iowa because I apparently like to do dumb, difficult things.  Ever heard of RAGBRAI?  That's what I did for the last week of July.  Theo worked hard for Trainer Z while I ate pie, drank beer, and generally questioned my sanity for 480 miles.

Me and my brother acting like complete fools somewhere in Iowa

I came back more fit and with some very weird tan lines.  The heat, however, has kept me from capitalizing on my improved strength.  There's only so much I can do when the larger half of the partnership has decided that it's too hot for this nonsense.  To be fair, he is quite large and muscley and solid black.  We did do simple changes on a serpentine because he thought ignoring my directions on lead choice was a valid option but other than that, nothing too challenging.  His Second Level choreography is due in a couple weeks but for now we're mostly chilling and waiting for the heat to break.  Supposed to happen on Tuesday.

 Next weekend Theo is off to play school master for someone else.  One of the teens qualified for the Youth Dressage Festival but then her pony went lame.  Trainer Z asked if Theo was available to pack around for some First Level tests and I said sure.  So he's off to Saugerties to (hopefully) help a 14 year old have a fun weekend.  He didn't mind the showgrounds when we went there for the regional championships and that was many, many shows ago.  Trainer Z will be there to school him if needed but he is a pretty experienced show pony as this point.  When the teen hopped on and ran through First 2, she declared 'he knows the way'.  Yes, yes he does.  We spent a lot of time at First and he is very happy to do the easy stuff.  Lazy pony.

He's entered as a school master since he's an 18 year old Third Level horse packing around a teenager at First.  We're really aiming for the teen to have a good experience but it would be nice if he got her some respectable scores as well.  He may be doing a Prix Caprilli test?  I'm not actually sure but he certainly wouldn't mind a random little cross rail in his dressage.  

On the 19th I'm going to be riding in my first clinic in years so that will be exciting.  Or terrifying.  I ordered new breeches that aren't tights so I can put on a belt.  I may not be a fit rider but I can at least dress the part.  Then the 23rd is Marquis's inspection and I'll be heading out to spectate and help since it's at the breeder's facility.  Trainer Z can't make it so I'll be taking video so I don't forget any comments.

August is shaping up to be very horsey and I'm very excited.  I've got saddle pads in the laundry, I dropped off Theo's jewelry box so the teen can pick out browbands for her festival, and new clothes on the way for me.  All of this horse activity is starting to feel kind of normal again and I love it.