Saturday, November 25, 2023

Winter plans

 Sometimes you need to be hit upside the head with the clue bat to figure some things out.  I had another clinic with Pam Goodrich, my third time riding with her, and she is so good at tearing through the nonsense and locating the actual cause of a problem.  I appreciate her blunt honesty and I could hear her and Trainer Z comparing notes and plans while I was riding.  I'll be benefiting from her findings all winter.

Theo is not surer he likes the idea of a winter plan

This time it was straightness.  Funny how I never seem to work on anything new and yet I'm always finding new things.  Forward, straightness, balance.  Theo's asymmetries have improved dramatically since he's been ridden by Trainer Z but he'll always have his little quirks.  He likes to travel with his shoulders to the left.  When it was severe, he had a four beat canter and would drag through my left arm to the point that it would fail rather than let me manage that left shoulder.  His left lead canter was nice to watch but his right lead was . . . dicey.  Now we have a right lead that is functional and is frankly higher quality than the left.  The right is a shorter, bouncier canter that sits on his butt.  The left is a bigger stride but more earth bound and heavier with hocks wanting to trail behind.  We worked so hard to fix his right lead that it's now the easier one to change.  The left is still his preferred lead but it is a bigger pain to adjust.  Go figure.

Given the insight that the left lead, which I've called 'the good lead' for eight years, is actually now the bad lead, the difficulties in changing the lead from left to right make more sense.  The canter is less balanced, more downhill.  It's more difficult to change out of so Theo will cheat with that extra beat in his flying change or will bronc to get the height needed and his massive shoulders out of the way.  Ugggggggh.  Some of it is emotional/mental of course since he prefers his left still but more of it appears to come down to the quality of the canter.

Poor baby.  But his grain got upped and he likes that part.

How do we fix the left lead to get the flying change?  The magic is in the counter canter.  A straight, balanced horse can counter canter through pretty much anything.  It's a good test since the results are very clear.  I'd started doing 15m circles in counter canter to work on my anxiety with the move.  During the clinic, I ended up doing a 10m turn onto centerline in counter canter to set up the half passe to the rail.  Then turn back onto center line without a change of lead so still counter cantering.  Holy crap.  Seriously, did not know Theo could do that.  I don't think Theo knew he could do that, either.  Setting him up to be balanced enough to do that turn made the half passe easy and lovely.  

With this new world, Trainer Z and I decided to go back and reapproach my canter and flying change set up.  Oddly enough, the thing that has worked the best to help me and Theo understand what's going on is the oldy but goody:  serpentine with changes of lead through the trot with less and less strides of trot.  It requires a nicely balanced canter, a correct half halt that goes through, and not doing weird whacky shit with my hands.  Combine this with making sure that I come in with a good head of steam and the changes are very nice.  Left to right is still difficult to consistently do without a pole to make Theo remember to not do that extra step.  It's just a habit at this point, he's not being naughty, it's just a valid option in his mind.  It's so fast it's basically impossible to stop from the saddle so pole for repetitions and muscle memory.

Added bonus to all of this is that his canter is improving every ride.  He's back in his double now that whatever was causing problems with his bridle connection has resolved on it's own.  I'm loving the little bit of finesse to get his shoulders and poll up without having to put too much brain power into managing it.  My brain has too much to focus on as it is, I can't be focused on making sure he's not dropping down on top of everything else.  The double on it's own seems to put the idea in his head.  Got some very lovely, connected trot today that felt like a million bucks.

So this winter is focused on teaching me what the right canter feels like so I can build it every time.  When I have it, he bids for the change in both directions and I have to tell him to wait, not try to make him do it.  It's muscle memory for both of us, repping until we both pick it up automatically.  We want to go into spring with the changes being just boring for us, just another move.  

Then it's show season 2024 goals:  Bronze scores, Second level freestyle, and a trip to regionals.  You know, little stuff.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Tiny tumble

 You can't ride horses if you're not willing to fall off.  Yes, I'm supposed to be limiting my exposure to rapid decelerations assisted by the ground but the reality of riding is that it's going to happen eventually.  I have only fallen off Theo once and it was for a ridiculous reason while I was goofing off.  I've sat all of his rodeo worthy broncs over the years but while not paying attention, I tipped out of the saddle and landed on my butt.

Did that again today except today it was during a botched flying change heading into the end of the arena.  We had a miscommunication, Theo had no idea what I wanted, tried to do a last minute change with a leap/buck and then had to turn to avoid hitting the end of the arena.  The overly flying change was not a surprise but I thought we were going right.  Theo thought we were going left.  We had a parting of the ways as I expected to have a horse under me to the right while he was trying to carry me to the left but my butt wasn't really in the saddle.  I basically flopped off much to the surprise of Theo, Trainer Z, and me.

Theo enjoying a snack with his PRE stallion neighbor who is ridiculously sweet

I was laying on the ground, looking up at my worried horse, and all I felt was relief.  I'd gotten it out of the way.  Theo didn't try to unload me or do anything bad, we just had a miscommunication and I lost my balance when he scrambled.  I landed on my lower back with not much momentum since we'd been in a collected canter.  Head and neck were not involved.  It wasn't scary in any way.  Painful to fall off a 16h cantering horse but once I'd taken stock of my body, I got up and got back on.  

Poor Theo was horrified.  The first thing I saw when I looked up was his gigantic nose squished against me with the whites showing in his eyes.  I immediately started petting his nose and telling him he was okay.  When Trainer Z reached for his bridle to back him up I swear he shook.  Poor baby, he really thought he'd screwed up.  People so rarely fall off of him and he really hates it.  He'll unload people with full intent but his people?  His special people?  He never, ever drops his people.  Even if I didn't want to get back on, I needed to for his sake.  He was seriously shook.  I got back on, assessed the situation, and then we went back to the canter.  We did most of the exercise again but skipped the change since I was sore and he was rattled.  Then he got a nice groom and back to bed.

And now I'm on the couch with a heating pad for my poor back.  Chiro appointment is tomorrow.  I'm going to have a spectacular bruise.  And here I thought I was going to get hurt putting blankets on all of the babies but that went perfectly.  Kiki is already outgrowing her borrowed 63" so I'm getting her some ridiculous blankets that she will probably destroy.

Such an elegant filly, pity her mom likes silly blankets

Someone is looking pretty cobby these days.  And feral.  Of course she walked into the barn and got blanketed with no drama but then she led the babies on a 'let's try to get rid of our blankets' run once she was loose.  It's now four fillies in that field, the two yearlings and the two weanlings.  I held the weanlings while they got their first blankets on.  The drama was limited but appropriately dramatic.  Glad we did that before I encountered the ground, I don't think I could contain a rearing, spinning weanling right now.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Princess Keekanator

 Now that I'm done fussing over that Third level debut, I can double back and show off what the Keekanator did at her last show of the season.

A small hint of what my future dressage mare will look like

No one knew how much fun we were going to have with this poor filly's name.  Quillane Marqui is such an elegant name but no, she's Kiki-kins, the Keekanator, Cheeky Kiki, Kiki Monster, etc.  She definitely knows her name is Kiki and will happily trot up to anyone in her field that says her name.  She is quite convinced she is a beloved princess and you know what, she's right.

A quick photo before putting my phone away so I could receive the enthusiastic filly brigade that came hustling when I called for Kiki.  L to R, Let's Begin WPF 'Lottie' (current year WB filly), Kiki, and La Vie en Rose WPF 'Viv' (yearling WB filly).  A lot of Grand Prix potential in this picture.

She handled her second show very much like she did her first.  She stood for her bath, got on the trailer with two adult geldings she'd never met with nothing more than a weird look (it helped that the gelding next to her is very sweet and submissive, they were immediate buddies), and settled into her stall.  For whatever reason she was put in an extra large stall and she looked a bit ridiculous.

She could practically practice her triangle in this stall

We walked every where and checked out everything.  No need for a chain shank or rope halter, Kiki understands the drill.  We go places, we look at things, and we eat.  We eat a lot.  Got to love that native pony common sense.

Really could not care less so long as there was grass

Once in her stall for the night, the naps commenced.  Baby pony requires at least two lay down naps a day when showing plus sleeping at night.

Please hold, Keekanator is recharging

So how did the actual showing go?  Great!  She left her braids in all day!  It helped that I grazed her between classes to help keep her distracted but she didn't try to systematically remove them.  We practiced being tied for grooming and braiding which she accepted gracefully after all of our work on releasing to pressure from the halter.  She is already very easy to handle in a stall and enjoys all of the grooming and fussing.  So much fussing, she's learning to live with an ammy that likes to hug, kiss, and generally love on her pony.  It's not my fault she has a very kissable nose.  I had complete conversations with people while draped over her butt.  She ignored me and ate her hay.

Kiki still doesn't get the idea of being big and sassy in the ring, she still trots along very politely with the person leading her.  She understands that she's going places with people but she isn't in a hurry.  It seems her base reaction to something new or overwhelming is to stop and look.  Her spooks are in place for the most part.  While trotting a bunch of geese coming from behind spooked her and she scooted for a couple steps before stopping to stare.  For a future performance horse, I'm quite cool with her spook being mostly stationary followed by cautious investigation.

Her breeder mentioned that her 'stranger danger' response to new people is quite common in Welsh cobs and that I might as well get used to handling her myself at breed shows.  She will probably always trot off better for me.  Guess I have to swap out my endurance running for some sprint training before next season.  I had the professional handle her for pony filly but when the handler was double booked, I filled in for the Welsh breed class.  Her movement scored better with me handling.

So pretty, so polite

I didn't use a whip person in my amateur handler because she trots just fine coming along with me.  She already understands no one is actually going to hit her.  I tapped her on the hip with the dressage whip at one point and her eyes got very big.  Little girl is very sensitive to correction, I will have to remember that in the future.  

So relaxed that she looks ready to doze off

We won the amateur handler with a 77% and comments from the judge on what a lovely bond we have.  Showing the handler class with a yearling is a bit of a challenge but Miss Kiki is very smart and seems to enjoy all of the people admiring her.  She knows how to hit her marks.

She knows to change stance when I touch her chest, next year hoping we can do it with a bit of bridle pressure

And then she went back home and went back to her feral, swamp creature life.  We got dinged on presentation for her socks not being white enough and I shrugged.  She is a swamp creature, no shampoo is going to turn those things back to shining white.  And she's happy this way so it's fine.

Still the best of friends and about to be big sisters to two WB weanling fillies

Her first year of showing is done and was a complete success.  Sure, no crazy placings or champion ribbons, but she got very respectable scores and comments from lots of people about her calm mind and excellent behavior.  She now loads into the trailer like a champ, sleeps in a stall away from home, and marches into strange rings because she knows that it's not a big deal.  For a future performance horse, it's everything I could want.  I had her help me pack the trailer on the last day so she walked with me while I carried all sorts of big, noisy, odd things and threw them in the dressing room.  By the last trip, I was draping things over her for her to carry.  She considers me odd but harmless and I'm delighted with that.  I can't say enough about what a good start the breed shows have been.  By the time she goes into the ring for her first under saddle test, she's going to think it's a complete non-issue.

We also got an email from the USDF today.  #16 for yearling fillies in DSHB horse of the year and #1 Welsh yearling filly.  So she'll get some fancy satin after all.

Thursday, October 12, 2023


 It's been a bit but I didn't want to jinx myself by talking about my attempt at Third.  I had at least a dozen times where I wanted to back out and a couple times I really almost changed my mind.  But I did it!  I went in the ring and I did the thing!

We had a bit of a tough time with the weather.  The rain rolled in Friday night and stuck around most of the weekend.  Saturday was still relatively warm but bands of rain were coming through.  The footing was getting a bit dicey while I warmed up in a crowd with the rain pouring down.  Grateful for my eventing background that sent me hustling to the tack shop to get some tech gloves.  My reins stayed in my hands where they belonged even when it poured on our test!

It wasn't a weekend for bronze medal scores, it was about getting that first test out of the way and convincing myself I could do it.  And that we did!  My scores were very fair and we got a 55.6%.  We got 6.5s for a lot of our trot work and a 7 for gaits.  We were definitely ready for the level.  We also got a 1 for our second flying change because Theo decided to be an over achiever and do that while still in the half passe so I didn't get to show one.  Sigh.  He also bucked at the start of our release in the canter move which did not help our scores.  But we were still first in our class of 4.  On the day, in the terrible conditions, we were the best.

He added some flair in places such as his first flying change.  Got a 6.  At least it was clean?

Shoulder-in and renver are so easy for him, it's ridiculous.  6.5s across the board with smooth transitions between movements.  4.0 for our first turn on the haunches because he just noped out in the middle.  We can work on that over the winter.  

You can see the mucky conditions.  The footing at GMHA is generally good but nothing holds up under the amount of rain we've had this year.  Theo was not enjoying it but he did march around well.  Got conservative on our extended canter because I didn't want him to slip.

I did my final salute and it took me a couple hours to really realize that we'd done it.  We'd moved up and survived.  And then I totally cried on my tolerant pony's shoulder because that was a long, long time coming.

It poured Saturday night to the point that groundskeepers were out monitoring the flooding to make sure they didn't need to evacuate stabling.  Good news is that the water stayed out of stabling, the bad news is that the footing became soup.  I scratched on Sunday after watching a beautiful, balanced mare retire in the middle of her Third level test because she was slipping too much to do her canter work.  Theo and I are very new to the level, we're not ready to take on the added challenge of footing sliding when he's trying to jump up into his movements.

So the 2023 season is over and we finally, finally moved up to Third.  The judge's comments were very encouraging and since they're from an S judge, I feel like we demonstrated that we are ready.  No, not 60%, but I was very nervous and made some silly mistakes (hard to set up the half pass nicely when you completely miss center line).  We demonstrated that we can do all of the movements in an acceptable way and even got a 6 for the extended trot.  A little more confidence and some dryer footing?  Yeah, we'll get those scores.  

Someone might have talked me into shooting for regionals next year since I'll be done with school.  It sounds like a great way to celebrate my doctorate.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Media Dump: Brookside Breed Show

 When your filly's breeder is also the photographer, you get some fantastic pictures.  It doesn't hurt that's she's growing up just gorgeous.  All photos courtesy of Studio Equus.

Tada!  Looking completely civilized and like a show horse.  She's growing up so beautifully, looking less and less like a baby every week.  She dapples up so nicely.  21 braids to get that full double mane contained.  All of the other horses I did got 11.

Such a polite trot but I can see why this got us comments like 'needs more push' and 'needs more shoulder freedom'.

Polite little trit-trot only gets you a 7.6.  Which is a great score but the three other pony fillies were all GRPs from a dressage breeder and the winner got a 7.8 in the trot.  It was very close with Kiki at 76.5% and the winner at 77.1% and reserve at 77.0%.  Little lady needs to show off that big cob trot since movement has a coefficient of 3.

Seriously could not hear this dang judge, there are several pictures of me staring in confusion.

Pretty girl.  Kind of excited for her to cob out but we're all watching her height closely.  She shot up again.  Might be a small horse, not a pony.  

It was a lot of forelock when it was loose for her Welsh classes.  Fortunately her mane was full of braiding wax and laid down nicely long enough to get around.

Good gravy her face.  Everyone commented on her beautiful face and kind eye.  She got her sire's eye and an uncanny resemblance to her sire's sire as a yearling, Danaway Flash Jack.

She's not so sure about this trotting along with a stranger while the nice lady suddenly tries to chase her with a whip.  Going to have to train her mane on the right side to get the full effect of the silver hair from her frosted gene.

I love this last picture as we're both looking at the judge going 'huh?  You want us to what?'.  I did not do well in amateur handler but the judge was also kind of a jerk.  I couldn't hear him and he did not like to repeat himself.  I also did not need the extended lecture about forgetting my phone in my back pocket after braiding nine horses and needing to coordinate across multiple barns.  Or the comments about my fitness and how it was clear I don't do this kind of thing.  But worth it for the picture of us both looking utterly confused.  Breeder said she trotted off nicer for me than the professional handler so we're taking note:  Kiki loves people but currently isn't cool with working for strangers.  She does it but with a big question mark over her head.

Entries are going in for the breed show in September.  We have no illusions of grand winnings, the pony fillies division is apparently very hot and Miss Kiki appears to be one that will show better once she's matured a bit more.  The 'toe out' and 'cow hock' comments are fine for a filly that's going to gain a lot of width as well as height in the upcoming years.  I'm really looking forward to presenting her as a three year old, all grown up and confident with lots of ground work to develop the in hand trot.  

For her yearling year?  Polite, calm, happy is the name of the game.  Oh, and her very first sugar cube.  Baby pony worked very hard and hard working show ponies get sugar cubes.  Her pupils immediately dilated, I might have created a monster.

Sunday, August 6, 2023


 Things you want from a baby horse at her first show:

  • Can be led - Check!  Very polite, no need for the rope halter or a chain shank, Kiki is a lady and goes where she is asked with minimal hauling the handler off in search of grass or mischief

  • Can be trotted - Check!  Could use some more enthusiasm honestly, she's a bit too polite right now.  Very lady like trotting does not show off her movement but it earned her points with the handler who found her easy to manage and steer.
  • Can be groomed - Check!  She loves it.  The baths have taken some work but now that she realizes warm water and soap lead to whole body scrubs, she is on board.  Good thing she likes it, her four white stockings take a lot of scrubbing.  She likes having her belly curried so we'll keep up on that, don't want to lose that.

  • Can be stabled - Check!  She enjoyed having her own stall with her own hay net.  She made friends with the buckskin yearling pony filly next door and anyone else that was willing to stop by and visit with her.  She's fairly neat for a filly, just one manure stain that needed a scrub but I had to stay on top of picking her stall because her color shows any bit of dirt.  By the last day she was not happy to go back into her boring box but she was so polite I got comments from the neighbors.

  • Can be trailered - Check!  While her bff was having none of the trailering, Kiki saw that the food lady was in there and she had a hay net.  A quick sniff and check to make sure the flooring was up to her standard before she hopped up the step so she could get her food.  Pony has a one track mind.
  • Eats/drinks/sleeps - Check!  Especially eats, this girl will eat anywhere, any time.  When her friend was being dramatic about the trailer, she was happily grazing and ignoring everything.  So long as she had a hay net, we could braid and groom with her loose in her stall.  She did get some Gastro Guard as a preventative each day but that tummy was never empty.  She also slept a lot.  Saturday included three lay down naps during the day.

  • Doesn't bite/kick/trample anyone - Check!  So, so people friendly.  She was delighted that everyone wanted to pet her and tell her she was pretty.
  • Can be braided - HAHAHAHAHA NOPE.  Oh, you can braid her.  She doesn't mind a bit, stands there eating hay with perfect manners.  Within five minutes of me leaving the stall she had one out.  Fifteen minutes she had four or five.  Forty-five minutes?  Disaster.  She uses her hind foot and systematically tears them out as soon as you leave.  She will also go down and roll to shove shavings into them or drag along the wall to bust the bands.  I ended up doing her last class with her hair down each day since it was her Welsh class and the other Welsh owner wanted to show her horse as a native pony with her hair down.  I certainly wasn't going to argue against taking her braids out early.  She was so damn good about so many things, I was not going to fight her on her braids.  We just took them out after her yearling pony filly class and called it a day.  That's a fight we'll handle another time.

So Cheeky Kiki is a show pony!  She was last in almost every class (got first of two in her second Welsh class) but she's in an awkward stage and doesn't understand that a show is when you get sassy and big.  She's very cooperative but the judges wanted to see more push and freedom in her movement.  We all know it's there, just not in the ring.  Yet.  She may be one of those that does better when she's three, all cobbed out, and a confident mare as opposed to a confused filly.  The goal for the weekend was to introduce her to showing in a positive way and we completely succeeded at that.  We both learned a lot.  Her breeder was the show photographer so I know we'll have lovely pictures soon.

I need to find a neck cover in size small pony before her next show.  I won't have any kind of a chance of keeping her braided without some armor.  But it's a good primary problem to have.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Oil change

 Two steps forward, one step back.

We had a string of great lessons and great rides.  Theo was gobbling up the Third Level work.  Then we had a ride where we couldn't quite get the right hind under him.  He worked into it but he was a little hesitant.  Then a ride where he was guarding the left to right flying change with Trainer Z.  We were watching it, trying to spot what was going on.  With the heat he was only in light work and he never looked lame.  Then Theo lost his ever loving shit during a ride with Trainer Z after the heat broke and she pushed him.

He usually works into a better and better mood.  This time, he escalated and damn near unloaded her.  Everyone's radar went off.  He was very good the next day but the day after that, NQR.  Next day still not right.  Put him on the trailer and took him to the vet because something was clearly wrong.  Theo had told us in the only way he has that something hurt.  Most horses would show a deviation in gait, might even go lame.  Theo gets pissed that you're asking him to do something that hurts and lets you know in no uncertain terms that he will not play.  He goes from vague resistance to violence awfully quick.

The good news is that the vet found nothing but sore hocks.  He was seven months out from his hock injections so apparently he does need his hocks done twice a year at this level of work.  No big deal for a horse his age.  I threw a box of Adequan on his bill as well to top off any other joints that might not be feeling great.  He was an absolute gentleman for the vet and no signs of neck/back/leg pain outside of those hocks.  Even with us pointing things out and really hunting.  No swelling, no signs of soft tissue stuff.  Just a dressage horse with sore hocks that does not tolerate being uncomfortable.  It really is a blessing that he's a clear communicator but we could do with a bit less violence in the communication, papi.

But a perfect patient so he has that going for him

He'll get a whole week off since he was quite sore and we want to make sure he gets some rest and time to let his hocks recover after his oil change.  We're also off to the breed show so he was going to get some time off anyway.  I suspect he'll be delighted to get back to work after his break.  Now we just hope he doesn't feel so good that he feels he needs to share his joy with everyone by doing the dance of the land porpoise across the ring . . . 

Monday, July 3, 2023

Learning to fly

 It seems that the flying change has become my theme or my nemesis.  I'm not sure which.  I write about it all the time as I get closer and then I fall back.  It's this weird, ephemeral thing that low level dressage riders like myself see as a sort of witchcraft.  That's what the big kid dressage riders do, not us.  Somehow, over all of the years and false starts, it's remained out of grasp.  

Except it's actually within grasp now.  Sort of.  Or as was recently said, it was in my power the whole time, I just had to click my heels three times.  Theo's right to left change is completely good, confirmed, takes relatively minimal set up.  He's happy to do it and it's pretty much always clean.  He prefers his left lead so these days, keeping him from changing is more work than asking for the change.  The left to right change is good about 50% of the time.  It's the weirdest thing, Theo really seems to struggle with figuring out how to get all four feet moved through the change from left to right.  We've seen every variation under the sun.  In my last lesson, Trainer Z tried to explain what he did and came up with 'I think he just did one tempis up front and moonwalked behind'.  Neither of us knew horses could moonwalk.  My horse is here to educate us all.

One of our better iterations of mistakes, a little weird up front but not bad.  That's Pam Goodrich  coaching us (love her, there will probably be more clips)

Right now, we are using a ground pole and sugar cubes to help Theo get that maneuver locked in.  Minus the moonwalk, of course.  He has a lovely, clean, uphill change when he mentally computes what it is that he's supposed to do.  These days he knows it's coming, it's just a matter of making it physically make sense for him.  And making it so rewarding that he wants to get it right.  I'm going through a lot of sugar cubes.  

This feels different because Theo is stronger, he knows what we want, and he really is trying.  I've also got enough iterations at this point that I feel like I know how to ask.  I have confidence when setting up and asking for the change.  In my last lesson I succeeded in waking up Big Boy Theo complete with some bucking, jigging, and leaping.  And it was fine.  Riding multiple times a week has finally kicked in and for a shining few moments I was old me.  We half passed from center line to the rail, set up despite Theo's surging and bouncing, and then had a big beautiful change from left to right.  I lost both stirrups but was too busy petting and fussing to care.  I'd stuffed him full of sugar before I picked up my stirrups.

We have a plan for the Third Level debut.  I barely dare to type it after so many years but with one change locked down and the other looking to be well on it's way even when it's me and not Trainer Z in the saddle, an October debut feels comfortable.  Let's face it, if I wait for it to be perfect I will never do it.  Having one change very confident and the other 50% awesome and 50% 'creative' is not the worst thing a judge will see at Third 1.  He knows what he needs to do and gives it the good old college try, he simply screws up the footwork sometimes.  His half pass is lovely in both trot and canter, I'll be struggling to keep him from going sideways too fast.  His extended will get us a laugh and a 5 but time isn't going to change that.  Shoulder in to renvers he can do in his sleep so we may just skip to Third 2 in order to get that nice set up for the change.  But after so many years of fussing and thinking and dreaming, we're setting a date.  October 2023, we're going to start trying for those last two scores for my Bronze.


Sunday, July 2, 2023

Baby's first clinic

 Kiki got to attend her first clinic!  We were lucky enough to have a sporthorse handling clinic at the barn where clinicians learned from professional handlers how to show horses of different ages.  It made for a long day for the barn team as we provided all of the demo horses from foals next to their dams up to mature stallions.  Theo was a piece of cake since he's very good about trotting along with a handler.  He got braided up and that was it.  Kiki, on the other hand, was a multi-day project.

Day one was standing in the pouring rain while wrestling her cob mane into braids.  

Oh, this pony is going to have some hair.  I asked her sire's owner if he happens to have a full double mane and she replied 'Welcome to the world of cob manes!'.  Oh dear.  You can see her bestie Viv watching us work.  You'll also notice my yearling is standing like a saint for braiding with a human holding her slack lead rope.  She tried to get fussy at the start and got her halter shaken which was enough correction for her.  She thought this was all odd but getting her mane and tail brushed out was nice so she was down for it.  We got both of the ladies braided up easily as they both stood very well and turned them out for the night with orders to make good choices.  

The next day we were pleasantly surprised to see the braids were still in.  We didn't pull them up until the last minute since we could loop them up quickly with bands.  The girls only had to walk a short distance to go up to the indoor but it was the first trip for both of them.  We kept them together as a pair the whole time so they would have a nice experience.  Kiki was still not sure about this whole thing.

Bombastic side eye

We did have to have a brief talk about her standing politely while waiting for Viv to have her turn.  She would just start walking forward and was indignant when we backed her up.  About a dozen times.  Ever wrangle a several hundred pound toddler that is politely insisting they want to go see their friend?  Yeah, I was sore the next day.  She was never rude, just stubbornly insistent.  After a dozen iterations she gave up and stood politely.  

The barn's intern was doing the clinic and she was trusted to take Kiki around the triangle.  Kiki was confused but tried very hard to be good even though some stranger was behind her and clearly needed watching.

You might notice her socks are completely covered in mud.  The 2022 girls were turned out briefly while we were wrangling the 2023 girls and of course they went straight into the mud.  The liver chestnut was easy to clean up but the buckskin with four socks?  Thank goodness it was a clinic.  Everyone was surprised by the polite yearlings that just trotted around and accepted pats from everyone that wanted to meet them.  After that arduous outing that took about 10 minutes in the indoor, it was back to the field for the babies.

It was such a perfect outing.  They saw a crowd, got handled by several people, got braided, had to stand quietly for minutes at a time, had to trot along with a stranger, and then went right back into their field.  Now we know what we need to work on.  Kiki has a big trot and she needs to get used to showing it off alongside a human.  

We also need to work on that mane.  This baby has so much hair already!  Another month until her first breed show and she's a very quick study, I suspect she'll understand the game by the time we get there.  Whether or not I can make it around the triangle without falling on my face?  That's a whole other matter.

The entire mare band out enjoying their field.  Three broodmares, two yearlings, and two fillies.  6 of them are fancy, inspected Hanoverians from similar bloodlines, several are related as mother/daughter or half sisters.  Then there's Kiki, the buckskin pony.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Media Dump: NEDA Spring

 Minimal words, mostly just pictures of our adventures at NEDA's first winter dressage festival.  Held in June.

This first set are all courtesy of Meg McGuire Photography, the show photographer.

These are from Marielle Watson, one of Trainer Z's students who is also a photographer.  Yes, those are pictures of me as the groom, bundled up in many layers and escorting my fancy show pony about.

He's suddenly decided to go so grey.  It's so cute but at the same time breaks my heart.  Not yet, Theo, we've got stuff to do!  The photos of me in the saddle are probably a couple weeks away but I've heard rumor that there may be video.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I will enjoy all of these pictures of Theo with Trainer Z.  They make such a great pair.