I anticipated that having two full siblings among the group of babies this year would be extra fun, and so far it certainly has been.
Not just for the sake of comparing and contrasting but also because watching Obi and Patrick interact is just plain entertaining. They have a lot of differences but one thing they both love is some good old-fashioned colt tomfoolery, and they seem to take great enjoyment in their rough and tumble sibling antics. They are each other’s playmate of choice, for sure.
Obi actually spends a lot of time with Teddy – they both seem to really love a game of tag – but once he’s ready for some down and dirty scrappiness, he’ll always go seek out Patticakes.
It’s funny because when he was a newborn Patrick was quite playful and rowdy, and now he’s kind of settled into a bit of a quieter more serious and more mature role, similar to Pippa.
Obi on the other hand was quite sensitive and careful at first, and now he’s become rowdy and is constantly putting himself in the middle of everything. Thus Obi tends to be the instigator of the Patrick-Obi antics, most of the time.
Of course, Patrick’s no fool. He might not start it most of the time but he is certainly a seasoned warrior by this point, older and taller than Obi. He knows all the best tricks.
If that particular move doesn’t get the results he’s after, he’s got plenty more up his sleeve.
Or, if worse comes to worst, you can always just smash your butt into your opponent (Sadie’s personal favorite) like a wrecking ball and knock him out of your way.
I don’t think Obi ever really “wins” per se, but they both seem perfectly content with their sparring roles, and at the end of the day they’re always still brothers and BFF’s.
About a year ago I said something to the SO in passing, like “Wouldn’t it suck if both of the dogs went at around the same time?”. Nothing like having a freaking premonition. I told him at the time that I knew I’d want to go get another dog immediately, not to replace either of our boys (because that’s not possible) but because I thought that having a dogless house would be the final heartbreak that I’d never come back from. Dogs just bring a certain unique joy to a house, and as someone who is naturally broody, introverted, and tends to want to isolate from everyone, I really need a dog to help balance that. Stewie always helped make sure I never sunk down too far, but I knew that if I went too long without a dog I’d inevitably end up spiraling.
SO was kind of against the idea. We lost his heart dog two years ago and he just hasn’t really been interested in another dog since. He suggested we take a break from dogs for a while, especially since there at the end with both Quinn and Stewie I was basically running an around-the-clock dog hospice. I don’t think I got a full nights sleep for those last 4 months at all. But also I really like to feel needed, and useful, and having something to do and/or focus on helps me cope with grief. I didn’t want a break, I wanted something else to pour my energy into.
So this past weekend we went to the Austin shelter, just to see what they had. Naturally I’m not one to go in without a plan so I’d looked through all the dogs online in advance and made a list of all of the promising looking ones and their kennel numbers. Otherwise it would take us 6 hours and I’d want 50 dogs by the time we looked at all of them. Had to narrow it down a bit in advance. My list had about 20 dogs that fit our criteria: 2 years or under (after 3 seniors in a row I need a break), 40-60 pounds, friendly and spunky, and unlikely to try to murder the cats. We got there and walked around to see all the ones on the list, crossing off some and then putting a star next to the ones we wanted to take out and see one-on-one. Both SO and I were immediately drawn to a particular smaller (40lb) black dog who was just curled up in a ball in her kennel looking like the saddest thing in the world. She looked at us but didn’t even lift her head. She looked absolutely heartbroken, and as someone who was also currently very heartbroken, I think like recognized like. I stood there and stared at her for a while before putting two stars by her name, Mona, and off we went in search of a volunteer so we could start meeting the dogs we had liked most.
First we got out a cute little heeler mix who was very sweet and chill but maybe not quite the right dog for us. Then it was on to a husky mix, who we LOVED, but again maybe not the best fit. Then when we were walking back the other way I looked out at one of the playgroups in the yard and said “I think that little hunched over black one is Mona”. We stood there and watched for a while as she slunked around the perimeter of the yard, looking really overwhelmed, before finding someone to ask and confirming that it was indeed her. Her kennel notes said she was “shy, timid, afraid, move slowly around her”. We asked if we could take her out by herself, they handed her over, and off we went to a solo pen. She immediately stood up a little straighter but as soon as the dogs in the kennels next to us started barking she looked worried again. She alternated between wanting to sit on our laps and wanting to pace anxiously. To us she just looked super overwhelmed by the shelter environment, really confused as to why she was there, and kind of shellshocked in general. After we handed Mona back to the volunteer the SO and I looked at each other and I said “do you even want to go see the other one or should we just get Mona?”. We both turned on our heels and made a beeline for the office to start the paperwork. I don’t know what it was about her but that dog had tugged on both of our heartstrings.
Once we got to the office they pulled all the paperwork they had in her file, which included 2 pages of intake notes. Turns out that she was actually closer to 4, not 2, and she had originally been adopted out of the very same animal shelter as a puppy in 2018. Her owners had brought her back about a week before, saying that they were moving somewhere that didn’t allow dogs. My heart really broke for her then. It explained a lot about her attitude and why she seemed so upset and worried. From what they had put on the intake form it seemed like she had been a part of the family at least enough to sleep in their bed and for them to put notes about how she didn’t like the vacuum cleaner and kids made her nervous (me too, girl, me too). I don’t know what happened to make them have to bring her back, but I knew we couldn’t leave her there. I can’t imagine how stressed she was at being returned to the shelter after 3 years of having a family. Plus being a shy timid black adult dog in a shelter didn’t really bode well for her getting adopted anytime soon. Looking over her paperwork SO said “Are you sure? She’s older than we wanted.”. I was like “We aren’t leaving here without that dog”, to which he wholeheartedly agreed, so the paperwork was done, we changed her name from Mona to Mina, and tada – she was free.
She started to come out of her shell from pretty much the moment she got in the car. She stood up straighter, looked out the windows, but still sat quietly and politely in the back. When we got her home she explored the house from top to bottom, cozied in next to me on the couch, and heaved out a big sigh. Poor thing, I don’t think she’d relaxed in a week.
I have to admit, that first day I wasn’t quite sure if I’d made the right choice to get another dog so soon. My heart still hurt so badly from losing Stewie, and I questioned whether or not I was even capable of loving another one. I think Mina could tell, because every time I was crying she’d snuggle up next to me and just sit quietly. Again, like recognizes like. Other times she would come up and smash her body into mine as close as she could possibly get and just sit there, like she needed to feel loved and safe. She was mourning too, I think. I found myself wondering who her former people were, what her life was like, and what their story was. If only dogs could talk.
Over the course of the week things have settled in. I no longer question whether or not adopting her was the right thing – I know it was – and she’s already wormed her way into my heart for sure. While she’s definitely a submissive type of dog, she’s extremely sweet and smart and loves to play. It’s also nice having a dog that was already house trained and knows the basics, it was a pretty easy transition. She seems to have figured out that I’m her new person and sticks close to me anytime we’re outside. Well, okay, she sticks close to me all the time. I think she needs the reassurance, but every day she’s looking more and more relaxed in her new life. When I leave the tiny house to go up to the barn she sits on the couch with her nose pressed to the window and watches until I come back. It’s pretty freakin cute.
Mina met the horses over the fence – she’s def got a healthy respect for their size, but she wagged her tail at them. She had pretty much the same response to the cats, who wanted nothing to do with her (yet, because cats). Overall she’s just a very sweet dog that wants nothing more than to be loved and included. There’s not a mean bone in her body whatsover, and yes she’s a little shy but she’s also very friendly. She loves to chase the ball around in the front yard, and practice her zoomies. We aren’t sure what breed she is (her shelter form said lab, lol, my guess is there’s some pit in there but we need to do a DNA test I guess) but it doesn’t matter. Turns out she’s the pretty perfect size for the tiny house, too. Big enough but not too big.
Her personality is much different from Stewie or Quinn, and while at first I wasn’t sure about it (I tend to like my dogs how I like my horses – boisterous, cheeky, and derpy), now I think it’s for the best. It makes her very much her own unique dog, with very few comparisons to draw between any of them, and I definitely don’t feel like I tried to replace Stewie or anything like that.
Most of all I feel like Stewie would approve. It’s nice to be able to give a dog a home, especially one as sweet as Mina, and you can already tell how grateful she is. My heart is bruised and battered for sure, and Mina’s probably is too, but maybe we can help each other put them back together again.
I don’t know if anyone likes watching these US Event Horse Futurity vlogs as much as I do (I watch every single one!) but Presto’s latest installment is officially released. This one offers Megan’s perspective on his first two horse shows, what he’s working on, and her impressions of him so far.
Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to watch these and follow along with his Futurity journey… making the vlogs is no small effort so we do appreciate the views and comments! Also don’t forget that comments and shares on the Futurity’s facebook post also count as entries to the Presto’s Favorite Things giveaway. 😉
Okay, let’s circle back around and talk about Presto’s YEH4 experience, shall we?
The Young Event Horse class took place the Friday before the main horse trial started, so it was a good opportunity to – at the very least – get the babies in the rings and see some stuff. For those of you that aren’t familiar, the structure of YEH is a dressage test and then a derby style sj/xc, 5 stadium fences out in the field and then proceeding directly to 10 cross country jumps.
He didn’t do dressage until the afternoon, so that morning Megan got him out for a quick pre-ride to make sure all his dressage buttons were in working order and to get him loosened up. He was quite good and the ride ended up being fairly short since it was already starting to get hot and humid. He got bathed and braided and BEMER’ed, and then came back out in the early afternoon for his dressage test. They were in one of the big arena’s down at the bottom, which put them very much all by themselves and out of sight of other horses, but he was really good about it. A little tense in his walk (that’s still a bit of a work in progress for him, he showed the walk a bit better in his actual horse trial test on Saturday) and wanted to gawk a couple of times but definitely no real complaints, especially considering the circumstances. He behaved himself quite well and was pretty professional in the ring. The dressage test is scored purely on gaits and rideability, and he got 7.2 for walk, 8.1 for trot, 7.6 for canter, and 8.4 rideability (I was proud of that one).
The comments were basically that he has a lovely natural rhythm, needs to develop more ground cover and range of motion, and my personal favorite “tuned to rider very nicely with confident basics”. All fair feedback, I think. He’s really just now started to discover his hind legs and is beginning to show glimpses of really coming through his whole body and shoulder, but he’s not quite there yet because, ya know, he’s 4 and he’s been in training for all of less than 5 months. You can tell there will definitely be more in there once he gets stronger though, I think. But also, since he’s meant to be a horse for me and not a horse for 5*, I was perfectly happy with the rideability score being his highest mark.
It was a super hot and humid day so Presto was hot and sweaty after his dressage test, but luckily he had a couple hours before the jumping phase. Of course, the forecast also called for storms to roll through right when the 4yo’s were supposed to go, so the organizers moved everything up to try to beat the storms. We got him tacked back up, Megan rode the 400 miles down to warmup (for anyone who has been to Chatt, warmup was way down in the bottom of the XC field across from the HorseMansion), got warmed up and ready to go, aaanddd… the skies opened up before any of the 4yos could actually get out on course. There is literally nowhere down there to take cover whatsoever (except for the people that had trailered in), so all the babies had to make a mad dash the 400 miles back up to the barns, getting completely and thoroughly soaked and hammered with pouring rain in the process. I have to say, they all handled it really well from what I saw… that could have been a massive shitshow.
There was a hold while the rain passed over, which dropped quite a bit a moisture on the ground, before they called everyone back down. Of course, that meant all 10 of them showed up at the same time, and it was taking a good 8ish minutes per horse by the time they did the showjumps, the cross country jumps, and then the judge filled out her scoresheet. The course was very spread out, more than I’ve seen in a YEH class, so the judge was being driven around the course in a golf cart to be able to see all the jumps. Presto was towards the end of the order, so he had to wait. And wait. And wait. And then the sun came out and turned everything very disgustingly swampy. I could see him over there in warmup starting to wilt. It was now his fourth ride of the day, it was hot and humid AF, and the poor baby horse was getting tired.
To add insult to injury, the course was TINY. Like so so tiny for him. All the showjumps were BN height at most, and the XC was all BN except the first two fences that shared the Novice course (but of course being the first two they were not up to full N height, therefore still small). The specs for the second half of the year say that the jumps can be up to 2’11”, and that’s what we were really hoping for (especially at Chatt, which tends to always ride big) but no… they were miniscule, barely at the minimum spec. Maybe because the YEH class there the week before had been total carnage? I dunno. The YEH specs also say “Jumps that allow the horse to display its boldness are encouraged, such as ditches, trakehners, Welden’s walls, etc.”… there was nothing remotely like that. All the XC jumps were very basic and very straightforward. We would have much rather jumped the 5yo track, which followed the Novice course with the Training water and at least had the showjumps closer to 3′. I guess the course was great if you had a 4yo that is just starting out and/or lacking a bit of confidence. Not great if you have a Presto, who is very confident and not at all easily impressed. I was like omg he might just canter right through all these, they’re so tiny and blah.
He did actually jump over them all, but in a very very very bored and not at all impressive way. He literally just cantered over half-heartedly (funnily enough, the other 4yo that was in Presto’s Novice division on the weekend was also in the YEH class and he felt the same way about the tiny jumps – there’s a pic of him literally taking off and landing at the same time over one of the XC jumps LOL). Being baked in the heat forever and then presented with extremely tiny fences did not exactly inspire an impressive performance from him. Still, he easily cantered over all the jumps and listened to Megan and did exactly what he was asked to do with zero hesitation. He also handled the wet footing with no issue. The round just lacked pizazz for sure. Which, ya know, again, isn’t a bad thing from my perspective. If he’d gone out by that point and jumped it all like a freak I’d be thinking I might die trying to ride this thing.
I really wasn’t sure what the judge would think. To me, I could tell that it was a very bored and uninspired baby horse that had a lot more in the tank, but also it’s my horse so I know him. I also know that some judges try to interpret potential whereas others only judge based off what they’re shown. Still though, while there was nothing electrifying or exciting about his performance, there was nothing wrong with it either. He was definitely one of the bravest, never backing off or hesitating at anything, and when Megan put her leg on he still did go forward every time he was asked. With the jumps being so small she was hesitant to really gallop him at them, given that she’s spent so long trying to get him to not do that, and I think her choice of a BN pace to BN jumps was appropriate and the best thing for the horse.
But, turns out, the judge really preferred the very forward horses that jumped in a bit more of an impressed way. Granted, given that the highest score was 76, she clearly didn’t like any of them all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 10-deep field of east coast YEH horses where only one got a qualifying score, and such a low one at that (75 is the minimum). Presto got a 70, which actually nestled him into a tie for 4th place, if that tells you anything about how low all the scores were overall.
From the scoresheet feedback, her issues with him were 1) his jump technique was inconsistent. Which she’s right, it was. He gets much better as the jumps get bigger and he has to give it some effort, but over 2’6″ he’s real blasé. 2) she didn’t get the impression that he was forward-thinking. The comment was “would need to develop a more forward attitude”. Which kind of made me chuckle, because that horse is actually SUPER forward-thinking, almost too much so at times, but based off of what she saw in those few minutes I can also sort of understand why she said that. He did look blah and bored (and hot and tired) and there was nothing on that course that really let him show off how bold and forward he truly is. I don’t think she got an accurate picture of what the horse is really like and that’s really no one’s fault. I do think the scores overall were quite brutal… I’ve seen an awful lot of YEH classes and championships and IMO there were definitely 4 horses there that deserved a qualifying score and could have gotten one on any other day. To only have one (barely) out of 10 at a big Area 3 show is yikes. I’m not a judge though, so what do I know.
While Presto’s brief YEH career is now over, since that’s the only qualifier we could get to (Area 5 is the worst place to be if you want to do YEH, that’s for sure), I was still really proud of him. That was a very long day for a baby, and he never once said no or got sour or didn’t want to play. He kept going and kept trying even when he was tired and over it. And also, once again, his rideability score was his highest mark in the jumping phase as well, which I was pleased with because priorities. I also come away from the experience with no qualms with the YEH format, aside from the seemingly wide variation of qualifier courses. I’ve seen considerably tougher qualifiers than that, which is what we had prepared the horse for, and to me this one was more like what you’d expect toward the beginning of the year. That would have been a great course for Presto back in April when he was first starting out…. not so much in July when he’s easily running Novice. Granted, there were some horses there that needed the soft course, so I get that’s it’s a hard balance between too much and not enough when it comes to 4 year olds.
I think what I’d really like to see in these qualifiers is some option fences. Like maybe put one more showjump out there at a larger height and give people the option to take that one or a smaller one. No bonus points for doing it, but a chance to show off your horse over something a little bigger if you so desire. And perhaps they can offer a couple of XC options too, for taking bigger or more difficult jumps (maybe some on the 5yo course that would still be within the upper spec limit so that it wouldn’t require more fences or more flagging?). I know they offer an option or two at Championships for just this reason, but since the qualifiers DO vary so much in difficulty, it would be nice for the rider to have the choice to make it a little easier or a little harder depending on the horse. For us I think it would have helped, rather than being relegated to all very straightforward BN-size fences.
With YEH Championships now off the table we’ve changed course and made a different plan for Presto, but we’ll talk more about that on a different day!
God, even just typing that title required me to stop and take a minute to pull myself together. It’s been a really rough couple of weeks for me here and I’m not gonna lie, I’m still struggling.
When I wrote Quinn’s obituary here a couple weeks ago, I didn’t quite tell you guys the full situation. Partly because I didn’t want to distract from his story, and partly because (probably rather intentionally naively) I didn’t really want to face the reality of the situation.
See, the day after we had decided to call and make a euthanization appointment for Quinn, Stewie woke up with a major IVDD flare up. He had a wicked head tilt, his eye was twitching, and he could barely stay on his feet. He almost looked like he’d had a stroke. I got him in to the vet ASAP. Stewie was originally diagnosed with IVDD in January this year, after a similar incident where he woke up one day just looking absolutely crippled (although not to this degree). We knew then that this day would come eventually, where we could no longer keep him comfortable with pain meds. After all, he was 16, and a 16yo dog isn’t exactly a candidate for major spinal surgery.
It took him a few weeks to recover from that January incident, but in the time since then he’s looked pretty great for a 16yo dog. He tired easily, sure, he was a bit unsteady on his feet sometimes, sure, but he bounced around happily and enthusiastically and was as perky as ever. He was always a very happy dog, and he remained so. At least, right up until that day a few weeks ago when he woke up looking so terrible.
The vet found that the IVDD had progressed, of course, and there really wasn’t anything they could do aside from send me home with more meds and hope that this was just another flare up that would improve with strict rest. At first, it didn’t. That second day was bad enough to where when I emailed to make Quinn’s euthanasia appointment, I told the vet that we might actually have two dogs needing their services. It was a horrible thing to have to even consider, much less write.
But then Stewie did start to improve a bit, after a couple days. The eye twitch went away and he got a bit steadier on his feet. The head tilt lessened, and he seemed to be more comfortable. He wouldn’t eat his regular food, but he’d eat the fancy wet food I bought him. We strung several good days together before I had to leave for Chatt, and I was really hoping we were on the right path. Leaving for Chatt was hard, but I left him with my SO with strict instructions, and honestly I thought it might actually do Stewie some good. Whenever I left he tended to just lay around and sulk, staying much quieter and less active than when I was around. Keeping him quiet was key, so I was hoping I’d come home to a dog that had more or less just laid in his bed all week.
The SO had a very hard time getting meds in him and getting him to eat, but they managed. When I got home he didn’t look great, but ate A LOT as soon as I got home and then actually looked a lot better for the following two days. Enough to where I was having to basically barricade him into his bed to prevent him from trying to wander around the house. I really thought we’d turned a corner and he’d be back to normal Stewie in another week or two.
And then Wednesday night he was constantly up and down, seeming anxious and uncomfortable. Thursday he woke up looking pretty terrible again, almost as bad as the first day. I couldn’t get him to eat. He had an anxiety attack (he was a very anxiety-prone dog even at the best of times) pretty much all day and none of my usual tricks or his meds worked to get him out of it. Getting his meds into him at all was a monumental task in and of itself. I was up with him basically all that night trying to get him comfortable and calmed down, with very little luck. By the time Friday morning came there had been no improvement, he still wouldn’t eat or drink, and although I did get his pain meds into him, they seemed to do absolutely nothing. He couldn’t stand without me holding him up. Worst of all, his eyes just looked checked out. He looked done, and exhausted. I knew at that point that I had no other choice left. He couldn’t, and didn’t want to, live another day like that, and I knew then that if I kept him alive any longer it was purely for my sake, not for his. As soon as the reality of the situation hit home, the tears started, and they’ve been coming in waves ever since.
On Friday morning I called the vet office here in town that I’d taken him to before, to see if they would come do an at-home euthanasia. Car rides made Stewie’s anxiety even worse, and I didn’t want that to be the last thing he endured. They didn’t have anyone available to come for a few days, so I texted my horse vet (who also does some small animal stuff on the side) to see if he would come out. Bless him, he rearranged his schedule to fit us in for a late morning appointment. It meant a lot to me to be able to let Stewie go at home, where he was happiest, and surrounded by people he knew and people that cared for him. Rejan and Justin (the farm owners) let me bury him here (I put his very dapper bowtie collar and two of his favorite toys in with him), and they even went and got a beautiful tree to plant on his grave. Stewie loved this farm, and I know he would have greatly approved of his place of rest and his tree. That day was without a doubt one of the hardest days of my life, right up there after the day my mom died, but our friends helped make it sting a bit less.
I don’t even have strong enough words for how devastated I’ve felt the past few days. I got Stewie as a 12 week old puppy, and he’s been my constant companion for the past 16 years. For pretty much my entire adult life he’s been right alongside me, going everywhere and doing everything with me. Even though I knew this day was coming, and I’ve spent years watching him grow old and gray, losing him feels like losing a limb, he’s been such an integral part of my life for so long. The hole he left in my heart feels like a physical one, as if an elephant has been parked on my chest for days that makes it hard to even breathe sometimes. All I could think that first night is that I don’t even know how to do life without him. I feel so lucky to have gotten as much time with him as I did, but we all know that it’s still never enough.
Before my mom got sick she used to babysit him some days, and for some reason losing him feels like losing another part of her all over again, which might be another reason why it’s hitting me so hard. Stewie was one of the few dogs she ever liked or allowed in her house… he was always so cheerful and energetic, and so well-behaved, it was hard not to love him. I have so many memories of them together, and it’s hard to think about neither of them being here anymore. She was the first one I wanted to call after he passed, but I couldn’t.
There will never be another quite like Stewie. I hope he knew how deeply loved he was (and always will be) and most of all I hope I made his life even a fraction as wonderful as he made mine. How lucky was I, to have been loved by such an amazing dog.
Now that the babies are confident in themselves and officially old enough to be unlikely to hurt themselves if they pull some kamikaze stunts, it was time to introduce everyone’s favorite toy – the ball! Some years its a hit, some years it’s not. Manny loved it maybe the most ever, and Ollie had some good times with it too.
It always starts with the ball outside of the fence first, so everyone feels safe enough to come up and investigate, and give it a sniff. You’ll never guess who was the first to come over.
Of course, Obi is in a major “ME TOO ME TOO” phase where he simply must be part of everything, so he was quick to walk over and see what the weird new thing was too.
Once everyone had sniffed their fill and seemed comfortable with it, the ball was dropped over the fence and they were left to their own devices.
It didn’t take Obi long to decide that the best approach was chaos.
Although Teddy was quick to get in there, roll it away from the fence, and give it a piece of her mind too. The difference between the colt approach and the filly approach is pretty hilarious.
Pippa came over and checked it out at one point but couldn’t really figure out what all the fuss was about. It’s just a dumb ball. She’s far too mature and refined for that kind of thing.
She did end up calling a pasture meeting, though, so they could all discuss their thoughts on the new addition.
Patrick RSVP’d as Pending because heck no he ain’t getting involved in any of that foolishness, nooo thank you.
Which is probably just as well, because about halfway through the meeting Obi’s attention span went out the window and he just couldn’t control his feet or his mouth anymore.
I have to say though, I think the real winner when it comes to ball shenanigans was Percy. Now THIS is a stomp. Little dude’s got some moves.
Happy Friday! Hope you have as much fun with your day as these kiddos did.
Still no pro photos. Super glad I paid that rush fee for nothing. GIF’s it is!
When we left off on yesterday’s recap I said that I had a feeling that the XC would definitely have an impact on the placings. Reason being – it was a pretty legit Novice. Nothing super big of course, being Novice, but there were definitely a few technical combinations that weren’t so simple. I didn’t get pics of the first two fences (a simple rolltop thing and a simple house thing) or the last fence (run of the mill hanging log) but I got most of it.
What’s kind of funny is that originally I thought one of the perks of Presto doing the YEH class on Friday was that he’d get to see the water before the actual horse trial. Sometimes he’s still just a little careful/looky at water so I was like “hey if nothing else comes from the YEH class at least he will have gotten to see the water!”. Ha. Hahahaha. Only problem with that logic is that the YEH class used one water complex and the Novice XC used an entirely different water complex. Because of course it did.
Walking the course there were only two things I thought might potentially be tough – the coffin combo at 7, and the water at 10. At the first week’s show the coffin caused mass chaos and total carnage, and while Presto has schooled ditches, neither of his first two shows had one on course. Not only was he meeting a ditch for the first time in competition, but he was meeting it in kind of a tough question – the ditch was skinny across but quite wide, and had a boat on an angle one or two strides away (depending on where/how you jumped it). I thought that was quite a stout question for Novice.
The water was dark and kind of hard to see until you got right up on it (it’s shaped weird), and it had a jump just a few strides before it and a few strides after it. Megan wasn’t worried (she’s never worried about anything, how do I get some of that?) but since it was only his 3rd show I wasn’t quite sure what he’d think of it.
There was also one more combination that I thought was pretty legit for Novice – a little roll thingy, bending line to a down bank, 4 strides to a sharks tooth. He’s schooled something similar so I didn’t think he’d have an issue with it, but still, definitely a legit question for the level. I’m not sure I’ve seen many Novices that asked more questions than this one did. There was definitely plenty to do out there.
Luckily it’s quickly becoming obvious that XC is Presto’s phase. He was a totally different animal than he was in showjumping warmup, more settled and more focused. He’s still got his patented Presto Swagger of course, but he’s more tuned-in the the job from the second he steps foot in warmup.
The first jump was set quite close to the box, so Megan cantered out and popped quietly over the first one. Presto was very nonchalant about it.
There was a decently long stretch before fence 2, so she revved the motor a bit and picked up the pace, which he was more than happy to do. He pinged right over 2 on a bit of an angle and then made the turn back around to 3 (for some reason a few horses thought that fence 3 was definitely a horse eater, not sure why) with no issue.
Then it was over to the first combination on course, a simple 4 stride line from a wide brushy thing to a sharks tooth with some very bright flowers in it. Presto jumped in a bit bold there so the four was tight, but he was quick and clever with his feet and made it work no problem.
From there they had a loooong gallop out into the back field, which unfortunately we couldn’t see very well. Fence 5 was out of view, but I could see the ditch and boat of the coffin way off in the distance between the trees, which he jumped through without hesitation. Good kiddo. From there he disappeared behind trees again and I was very impatiently waiting for updates from the announcer, since we couldn’t see the water at all. It wasn’t long before he said “here comes Like Magic WTW and Megan Sykes confidently back into the main field” and there they were popping over the stone wall and headed toward the downbank combo. He looked to be cruising along easily.
She jumped the little roll and asked for a big whoa to get him back on his butt and make sure he actually saw the down bank, and he came right back, popping politely down the bank and staying balanced for the four strides to the sharks tooth.
After that it was pretty much home free, with just the big V table and then cruising over the last, coming in with 20 seconds to spare.
When Megan pulled up after the finish she said it was super easy, he didn’t look at anything or even so much as hesitate, he just cantered right around like it was old hat and was quite rideable. She jokingly said “He’s ready for Training!”. (don’t come for me internet people, he’s not actually going to move up to Training, but you understand the sentiment). Double clear like a pro.
As I anticipated, XC did indeed have an impact on the placings, moving Presto back up two spots to finish in second. Without the forgotten-jump-circle in showjumping he would have won by a good 7 point margin, but we’ll still very happily take 2nd at a big venue in Area 3.
I was really super proud of him all weekend. Was he foot perfect? No, but he was pretty damn good for a 4yo who just started eventing a couple months ago, was at his third event, and was at a real legit venue like Chatt. It was a lot to see, a lot to do, a ton of atmosphere, a really long journey, and a big ask, but he stepped up to the plate big time. He proved that he can seriously lay it down in the dressage (I’m still mind-boggled by my 4yo doing a 23), showed improvement in the showjumping, and absolutely ate up a tough XC like it was a fun and delightful second breakfast. For a young horse I think he’s pretty freaking exciting, and I think we’ve got a future XC machine on our hands, which absolutely thrills me. It seems to just make sense to him innately, which is pretty freaking cool to see. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I bred him, and watching him blossom under Megan’s tutelage so far has been a feeling I can’t quite describe. It’s really really really fun.
Well, I paid the rush fee for pro photos specifically so that I would have them by today, but alas I still have no pics. So… sorry about the shitty screenshots again. At least there’s video.
Presto had a couple hours between his dressage and his stadium, so he got to go in his stall and chill for a bit (aka rub all his braids out and make me redo them) while the humans continued running around all over the place shuffling horses between phases. I wasn’t even riding and I was still sweating to death, plus getting more and more sunburned no matter how often I put on sunscreen (six times. I put on sunscreen SIX TIMES.). It was by far the hottest and most miserable day of the show, naturally, since it was also our busiest. Four horses showing meant 4 dressage rides, 2 Prelim XC rounds, and 2 Novice showjump rounds in a 7 hour period. Megan looked miserable before she even got on Presto for dressage, but she’s a trooper. Finally by late afternoon Presto was the last ride of the day for her with his showjumping round.
They’d had jumper rounds during the week before the show, and he’d gotten to do a 2’11” round on Wednesday evening. It was a good chance to get him in the big ring with all it’s flags, gazebos, extra jumps in the corners, tack trailers along one edge, concessions along another edge, jump crew milling about, loudspeaker, etc. That ring can be a lot to look at for even a seasoned horse, so it was nice to have a chance to get them in there for a little jump around before it was in Full Atmosphere mode on the weekend. The course for the jumper rounds was short and simple and didn’t include any of their scariest jumps, but true to typical form Presto didn’t give a shit about any of it anyway. On Saturday for the show they had their two scariest sets of standards as the first two fences (naturally they hadn’t used either of those in the jumper rounds) which had caused a little bit of spookiness with the greener horses, but we didn’t anticipate a problem with Presto. If anything we hoped that maybe they would help back him off a bit, because he still sometimes has that tendency to want to take over once he locks onto a fence.
He was a little bit of a turd in showjumping warmup too, just like he’d been in dressage warmup. I’m not really sure what his exact deal is with warmup, he has no issues with traffic or any of that, and he doesn’t get nervous or spooky, he just tends to want to get really cocky and flip Megan the bird a little bit, like he thinks he already knows what to do and doesn’t need a dumb warmup (he is incorrect). Knowing him and his general demeaner/outlook on life, it’s not really too surprising. He’s had plenty of self-confidence and sheer audacity for his entire life. Poor Megan was at the end of an already really long hot day and there Presto was deciding to make her work for it even more. Nothing like saving the youngest greenest one for last.
By the time they got in the ring he was definitely feeling a bit full of himself and wanted to argue about a few of the distances, but he did listen and started to settle as he went around and realized that maybe he indeed did not know everything. He managed to get himself deep into a couple, once when he whoa’d a little TOO well and added a stride and then again when he jumped in big to the in and out (his stride is a lot bigger than it looks), but I thought it was kind of cool to see the difference in how he handled it here vs how he handled it a couple months ago at Texas Rose. At that show he ended up with a rail because he just hadn’t quite mastered his back feet yet when he got a deep distance. Here he was much more clever about getting all of his feet out of the way, even when he got right up to the base. He’s got a lot to learn still for sure, being a baby, but you can also definitely see the progress, and even when he’s tossing his head around being green, he’s still thinking forward and still responding to what she’s asking him to do. Now that he’s done 3 shows we’re starting to see patterns in him that can change the tactics a little bit… we’re still learning about him, too.
His style can still be a little bit inconsistent, but it’s gotten better with a little more height and I think it’ll get better still (he really seriously continues to remind me so much of Mama’s Magic Way, just less fancy). He’s fairly economical in the air, and he’s not overly careful but he’s careful enough to definitely make an effort to not hit the jumps. His round was going pretty well right up until the next to last jump when poor brain-fried and half heat-stroked Megan accidentally cantered right past it. She realized her mistake almost immediately (thank goodness) but it was too late to make it to the fence, so she had to circle. She recovered well and they jumped the last line nicely, but oof that circle was costly, with 4 penalties plus 6 seconds of time. She landed from the last jump and threw her hand up in exasperation at herself over the mistake.
Kind of a bummer, sure, but 1) that shit happens to everybody, no matter how focused and professional you are. Especially at the end of a long stupid hot day. 2) the horse has no clue what a circle means, and he jumped all the jumps clean, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a clear round. The scoreboard might not have reflected such, but we all know he did it, and that’s what matters most. 3) I was mostly just glad she remembered that fence in time to salvage things rather than cruise right past it, jump the last one, and end up with a technical elimination. It could have been a lot worse! 🤷🏻♀️
Megan kept apologizing to me about it but I really wasn’t bothered… definitely not nearly as much as she was. Which, I 100% understand, because I probably would have felt exactly the same way if I had done that, but still. Whatever. It’s not a big deal to me at all from an owner perspective. The horse jumped well and showed progress so that’s all I really care about at the end of the day. Plus he’d had a decent enough lead after dressage to where adding 10 points still only dropped him from 1st to 4th anyway. HA. Not the end of the world by any means, and I had a feeling that, after having seen the cross country course, the placings would change more by the time it was all said and done. There was still a lot left to do in that phase. More on that tomorrow…
Hey there, long time no post. For me anyway. As you may have noticed, I left for Chatt last week, and I didn’t have the time or the energy or the WiFi for the blog, so I took a hiatus. But now I’m back home, fully WiFi’d, and with tons of updates and pictures and videos that will take us a few days to get through. Yay? In all seriousness, Presto was just THE BEST kiddo and I’m so freakin proud of him.
Anyway – as you may remember we were originally supposed to do both weeks of Chatt. Unfortunately something came up at Megan’s barn that she had to stay and take care of, so she had to scratch week 1. With everything happening with Quinn that kind of ended up working out better for me anyway honestly. I ended up flying in on Tuesday morning, Hillary picked me up at the airport since she was already there, and then Megan got there on Tuesday night with all her horses. On Wednesday they offered some jumper rounds, so Presto got to go in and jump around a 2’11” (he was clear and a very good nug) although the course was short and simple and didn’t use all the “spooky” standards… it was still good to get him in the big ring with all the flags and stuff. He didn’t bat an eye, naturally.
On Friday he did the YEH class, which we’ll circle back around and talk about later, because I have a lot of thoughts and need to organize them before it just becomes word vomit. On Saturday the regular horse trial started, and he had dressage and stadium.
Presto was the last of Megan’s four horses to do dressage, and she had to come right off of Prelim XC and onto Presto in the dressage warmup. It was hot AF that day, like melt the skin off your face kind of weather, and poor Megan was just dripping sweat like a faucet. Presto decided that would be a great time to be a very disagreeable little shit in warmup, of course. It got a little better towards the end but it wasn’t great, so she headed down to the ring and I was like “well, this is just gonna be what it’s gonna be, that’s green horses for you”. Really Friday had been a very long day for him and I think he was just kind of Over It by that point.
But wouldn’t you know it, the second he trotted into the show ring he was 100% all business and never put a foot wrong. Guess he decided he just doesn’t want to warm up? Whatever, he went in there and threw down his best test yet, being such a good boy and super rideable, with very few bobbles, even in a ring with a lot of possible distractions happening in the background. He just looked very steady in general, without any of the temporary losses of focus that he’s had at his first two shows. I really wish the photographer had gotten any dressage pics so I had something besides these crappy screenshots. Low quality screenshots, high quality horse.
After Megan halted and started walking out the judge asked what breed Presto was, which I hoped was a good sign. She seemed to really like him and said he was lovely, and he was as good a boy as a 4yo can possibly be, so I was hoping the third time was a charm and he’d break into the 20’s (his test at Texas Rose was 31, MeadowCreek was 32). I took him back to the barn, hosed him, and Megan was off to hop on Tenny for cross country. By the time I got down to XC warmup we checked the scores and holy shit did he ever break into the 20’s.
Fuck yeah, Noodle! He was out in front by a 3 point margin in a class that ranged from his 23 all the way up to a 45. The judge loved him for sure, and we will 100% take that and run with it. There was still room for improvement, so it’s kind of fun to see glimpses of some real potential. Imagine how good he could be when he’s stronger and really coming through his body more! It’s pretty exciting. But also kind of intimidating for me, because I’ve never had a horse that was even capable of a score like that, and now I have to learn how to ride this creature at some point LOL. Luckily Megan said that despite all his monkeying around in the warmup he’s actually super easy to ride in the ring, so hopefully he stays that way.
I think my favorite part of the entire test is the collective comments – “lovely prospect” and “well started”. It feels so freaking good to see that. For me, because I believe in the horse’s potential so much, and for Megan, because she’s done such a stellar job with him already. If you’d told me 5 months ago when I dropped off that half-feral creature at her farm that he’d soon be at one of the biggest shows in Area 3 scoring a 23 in the Novice in excellent company, I’d have said you were high AF. I’m getting a ton of joy out of watching him blossom under Megan’s guidance, and I’m so freakin proud of both of them. She’s put a lot of hard work into him and it shows. It was really fun to be rewarded with a great score like that at a place like Chatt, not gonna lie.
There wasn’t a ton of time to celebrate though, because showjumping was next!
We said goodbye to Quinn the corgi yesterday. The writing has been on the wall for him for a while, so there was nothing sudden or shocking about it, which honestly made it one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. When Quinn was diagnosed with DM a couple years ago we promised ourselves that we’d let him go if/when his quality of life diminished too much, or if/when he started to lose the control of his front end or bladder. And well… we kinda hit all three of those milestones at once.
DM is tough, because they aren’t really in any pain. And for a smaller dog like Quinn, who is extremely lazy and very content to lay around the house most of the time, it didn’t affect his quality of life too much for quite a while. His hind end was first to go – one foot followed quickly by the other. We got him a wheelchair and while he never really took to using it, it did help him toddle around a little bit when he felt so inclined. DM of course is progressive, and over time his paralysis has inched it’s way forward. The past few months he really hasn’t been strong enough to hold up his front end in the wheelchair anymore, nor more recently could he push his upper body up on his own anymore. He could scoot from side to side, but not lift himself any. A couple weeks ago he scooted his front end off of his bed in the middle of the night and was just kind of hanging his front end off sideways, all twisted up and contorted, looking at me for help as soon as I got up in the morning. Who knows how long he’d been stuck like that but he was pretty stiff. My heart just sank.
Coincidentally that was right around the time he started not being able to hold his bladder anymore. Sometimes he could, sometimes he couldn’t, but he started dribbling a lot pretty much all the time and keeping him/his bedding clean became a full time job. We moved into the diaper stage last week, and I had to start wrapping my head around the fact that it was time. He wasn’t going to get any better, he was only going to get worse. It was really hard to think of it being the end though, when a dog is otherwise happy to see you and wagging his nub and begging for treats and all that stuff. He wasn’t in pain, but he clearly wasn’t living a happy dog life anymore either, and I was worried that there would be more incidents of him getting stuck, or he’d end up with some kind of infection or sores from trying to keep him clean and dry all the time. Trying to judge quality of life is tricky, and not something I would wish on anyone, even though pretty much all pet owners have to face it at some point. I have always said though that I would rather let him go a week too early than a week too late. There comes a point when you’re keeping them alive more for your benefit than theirs, and I think we were at that point.
We made an appointment to have him euthanized at home, to avoid the stress of the vet clinic. He spent the morning eating all sorts of terrible food that he normally can’t have, and then we said our goodbyes. We’re having him cremated, and we’ll spread his ashes out at the barn. He did love wandering around through the fields, back when he still could.
While we didn’t have Quinn for a super long time – we adopted him 6 years ago as a “senior” special needs corgi from a rescue up in north Texas – we loved him a lot all the same. He was part of the family, and quite possibly the cutest little miniature grizzly bear I’ve ever met. We never did succeed in training him even a tiny bit (he was totally uninterested in our opinion) but he was a funny, sweet dog in his own way and he fulfilled my dream of having a corgi. I will greatly miss his fluffy little stumpers, and I hope he enjoyed his time with us as much as we enjoyed our time with him.