We’ve all got them to some degree. You know those things that you’re just really particular about? Some people might call it obsessive, or persnickety, or… well… anal-retentive. I was thinking about this today after I did stalls, because I couldn’t just walk away from the shedrow without raking a crosshatch pattern into the dirt in front of the stallion’s stall. When I was a working student all the shedrow barns had tiny pea gravel in front of the stalls, and when we raked it every day after cleaning, we always did a nice neat crosshatch pattern. Granted, it didn’t last, but it sure did give a sense of satisfaction and made the job feel complete. It was very zen, like Japanese sand garden style.
Besides my weird raking fetish, there are a few (million) other things I’m kind of nutty about. I can’t polo wrap a leg without doing a perfect upside down V at the front of the fetlock. That’s how I was taught as a kid, it’s how I’ve always done it, and any other way looks horribly wrong. Don’t make me look at a badly done polo.
Do you pay attention to how you’re tightening your girth and make sure that you’re on equal holes on each side? I do. Because being on the lowest hole on one side and way up on the other is just lopsided. CHAOS.
You know what else is chaotic? Bridle straps not contained in their keepers. If I see loose straps flopping around I find myself hypnotized by them. Yes I’ve put a random person’s cheekpiece back in it’s keeper at a show. You’re welcome, random person.
I also have a texture issue with tack conditioner. I don’t like thick and sticky, or really thin and greasy, or super waxy. Hopefully I’m not the only person that has stood in Dover and opened every conditioner to touch it. I would say sorry but I’m not. I’m just weird.
Anyone else get twitchy when a horse’s mane gets too long? I have a friend who I’m pretty sure didn’t pull her horse’s mane for years because she knew if she let it get long enough I would do it for her while she wasn’t around. I’m looking at YOU, Stacy. Way to benefit from my craziness. It continues to this day.
What are your crazy person issues? Surely I’m not alone here. Honestly, I could probably keep going all day…
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I got back in the States. Between getting caught up at work and the weather finally being decent enough to get some rides in (hallelujah) there hasn’t been time for much else. Then on Friday I started barnsitting again, this time for 9 days. Poor SO… I was gone for a week in Europe, home for 3 days, and then gone again. I enjoy barnsitting though, I like the quiet and the solitude and working in the barn. Or at least – NORMALLY it’s quiet.
Since it’s such a long period this time, the barn owner invited me to bring Henry along so I don’t miss any riding time. Her place is pretty far out of town, it takes me an hour to get to work, so I wouldn’t otherwise have time to go to the barn to ride him. On Friday night Brandy brought Henry out to stay with me here in the land of the black Trakehners. Right away the older broodmare Quinnie took a serious shine to him, and she has basically been winking at him and screaming for him ever since he arrived. Henry is super confused. He knows that he’s supposed to love her but I don’t think he really knows quite why. Every time she neighs, or if he can’t see her, he gets a little upset and starts pacing and neighing back. In the meantime, I just want everyone to shut the hell up and stop being dumb. Surely after a few days they’ll get over each other right? RIGHT? Poor Toni (the actual stallion) is just standing over in his stall like “Hello!!! I’m STILL HERE!!!”. Sorry Toni, Quinnie has chosen.
I’ve ridden Henry a couple times and he’s been fine once I’m on him, but only half of his attention span is present because the other half is focused on Quinnie, the love of his life. Irritated. I am very irritated. And it’s supposed to start raining again tomorrow, so that’s super. Since when did Texas become the PNW? Agh.
On the bright side, the fact that the Euro and the dollar are almost equal right now is kinda fun. Just for giggles I perused all my favorite European sites to make sure there wasn’t anything I “needed”. The first perusal turned up nothing so I thought I was safe, then someone mentioned Calevo, which I had somehow forgotten. So over I marched and immediately fell into The Trap of the Calevo Sale and nabbed an Equiline coat and Pikeur breeches for $300 shipped. I can live with that. The coat is exactly my colors – navy with golden yellow trim – and the breeches are exactly what I was looking for color and style wise as well.
Plus the retail therapy slightly eased my irritation at the horses, at least temporarily. If anyone needs me I’ll be in the barn chanting the Serenity Prayer.
After a couple days in Paris, a day in Brussels, and a day touring the Belgian country side looking at horses, we were finally to the main purpose of our trip: the sBs stallion selection show. For those who don’t know, sBs is the Belgian Sporthorse studbook. Despite being one of the smallest warmblood registries it still ranks #3 in the world for show jumping – pretty damn impressive for a humble little studbook in south Belgium when compared to all the glitz and glamour of the “big guys” like Hanoverian, Holsteiner, KWPN, and Oldenburg. Wondering what sBs horses you may have heard of before?
Anyway, you get the point. Small registry, big quality.
Their stallion approvals every year are held in conjunction with a stallion show. This is awesome if you’re a spectator because not only do you get to see the young stallions that are being presented for approval as breeding stock, you also get to see the stallions that are already licensed and showing. Since we had the “in” we were at the VIP table reserved for the USA, so our seats were literally ringside. No joke, I got both dirt and horse slobber on me at various points during the weekend. The true mark of great seats.
There were a total of 40 stallions being presented for approval, ranging in age from 3 to 6. Saturday morning kicked off with in hand presentations, followed by free jumping.
Then the stallions that were 4, 5, or 6 years old came out and did a jumping round under saddle. They showed against the already approved stallions of those ages, in classes divided by age, much like our young jumper classes are here in the US. These pictures are all from the 4yo class:
One of the best parts of being VIP is that you get free champagne and vouchers for the food. And we’re not talking sandwiches here, we’re talking awesome catered meals. It was, no joke, some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. The desserts deserve their own shoutout too.
On Sunday they free jumped the 3yo’s again, then announced who had made the cut. As you can see from the short “approved” list, most didn’t. These guys are very selective.
But the ones who did make the cut were all really nice young horses. After the new approvals were announced it was back to horse show mode, with more classes for 4, 5, 6, and 7yo stallions.
Being a good little tack ho, I did keep vague track of what I was seeing tack and apparel wise. Samshield definitely ruled for helmets, and I saw a LOT of Animo coats and breeches. It seemed like every other horse was in a CWD breastplate, but the saddles ran the gamut of mostly french brands. I did notice three Ogilvy pads and one Ecogold pad, although most were sheepskin types. Stirrups were almost all Jin, Freejump, or Royal Rider. Also the overwhelming majority of the horses were in simple snaffles. It also gave me the warm fuzzies to see so many Horse Pilot jackets, a french brand I mentioned on here a couple times last year. They’re beautiful in person.
Unfortunately we had to pack it in before the 7yo’s started so we could make the train to take us back to Brussels, but by then my butt was pretty tired of sitting anyway. If you’re really interested you can go back and watch the entire selection show here: https://www.clipmyhorse.tv/en/archive/detail/1045/all/sbs-selection-show and probably catch glimpses of us in the crowd, most likely drinking and eating.
I really want to thank sBs for their hospitality – they were all super friendly and showed this American a really great time. It was also fun to get to mingle with some of the most successful breeders in Europe at dinner, and I admit I giggled a bit at how fascinated they were with the American Thoroughbred. They looooved looking at pedigrees, and they were very willing to share their knowledge about their own native bloodlines. It was such a wonderful experience and I learned so much, plus fell completely head over heels in love with Belgium along the way. Not kidding at all when I say I could totally live there.
À la prochaine, Belgique! I’m already trying to figure out the next time I can go back… maybe if the SO is good he can come this time. 😉
Our first stop was Stal de Muze, home of many world class horses including the renowned show jumping stallion Nabab de Reve (WEG bronze medalist in 2002 and sire of Vigo – WEG gold medalist in 2012) who is now 25 and still looking great.
We got a quick tour around the barn, looking at all of Joris’ lovely horses. We saw some really big name bloodlines, from half siblings to Hickstead to foals out of Butterfly Flip. If you’re a show jumping groupie, this place is your heaven. The facilities were also, as you can imagine, world class.
I also found it interesting that he had some young eventers there by wb stallions out of full tb dams – a cross that tends to be looked-down-upon in the US. Granted, the dam was an international level eventer herself, not just a random TB.
After Stal de Muze we headed to the barn of Lara de Liedekerke and her husband Kai Steffen Meier, both 4* eventers. Lara is only 26 and has already represented Belgium at two WEG’s. Pretty crazy. Their barn is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. First you pull up past the castle-like house and see this view when you park:
Then you actually go inside the barn and your jaw just drops.
Then you start walking around and looking at the horses, and your mouth pretty much just stays open in amazement the entire time. The sheer number of top quality horses in this barn is pretty incredible, and from all kinds of bloodlines: Jaguar Mail, Mighty Magic, Diarado, Orlando, etc etc. Nothing that has made it to this place got there by accident. Even the young horses are accomplished, many of whom had top 5 or top 10 placings at young horse championships under their girths already.
Lara and Kai were both very nice, taking us around and showing us the horses, including a young Mighty Magic gelding that Kai has for sale. This is an important moment, because this is where I really fell hard in love with Mighty Magic and decided I have to have one.
The two MM offspring they had were quite similar looking, and both seemed really good minded. Definitely my type of horse.
After we left Lara’s place we headed out to see more of Baudouin’s horses. He breeds mostly eventers and has a lot of TB and Anglo Arab (real Anglo Arab, not tb x arab crosses) blood in his stock. As an eventer, chatting with him and racking his brain was really interesting. He’s also seen so many young horses by all the popular eventing stallions that he’s a wealth of knowledge about what crosses work well. I may or may not have shown him a few thousand pictures and made him pick which of my mares would be best for Mighty Magic.
Then we headed to another of Baudouin’s barns to see some brand spanking new babies that he had foaled out for a client – these were straight Arabian show foals, apparently worth ridiculous sums of money. It was fun to play with the babies a bit.
Then we headed to the last stop of the day – the barn of young event rider Julia Schmitz. We saw yet another Mighty Magic, this time a 4yo stallion owned by Baudouin out of one of his AA mares. I loved him too. The consistency across the board in these offspring is pretty incredible.
This was, for me, the best day of the trip. I loved being able to see all the different horses and so many different bloodlines all at once. It’s tough to get that kind of experience here in the US, with how spread out we are geographically. We also got the insider’s look on how they raise and keep their young horses – also really interesting. Some Americans would just die at the mere sight of the mud or the thought of communal stalls for babies. And of course, spending the day driving around the southern Belgian countryside was a treat in and of itself. What a beautiful place… I totally could have stayed forever. And yes, I’m looking into purchasing a dose of Mighty Magic frozen semen to use for Sadie. We’ll see what happens. 😉
After spending a couple days in Paris, where we ate and drank and walked way too much, we headed to Brussels for a day. Guess what we did there? Ate, drank, and walked way too much.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical about Brussels at first. The walk from the train station to our hotel did not make a great first impression (it was one of those “don’t make eye contact and just keep moving” kind of affairs) and after being dazzled by the beauty of Paris it just looked drab in comparison. Things started looking up when we got to our hotel – it was old but super swanky and cool.
Then when we left the hotel and walked a couple blocks away into La Grand-Place, I suddenly understood. WOW.
La Grand-Place is the city’s central square. It contains their Town Hall and some other official buildings, but also many taverns and touristy shops. I’ve never seen so much amazing chocolate in my entire life. First we hit a tavern for some beers (bonus points if you guess which one is mine) and a super delicious cheese tray. Because cheese.
Then we wandered around past some more shops and I learned that apparently Easter is a really big thing there. All the chocolate places had crazy elaborate displays in the windows, most of which involved bunnies of varying levels of creepiness.
Then we wandered down to an alley full of nice restaurants to find some mussels (apparently you must have mussels in Brussels, but I personally refused to partake because ew). I kept calling it Diagon Alley but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it. We got serenaded by some interesting dudes and were lured into a restaurant with the promise of free drinks. When you’ve already had a few beers, free drinks just seem silly to turn down. Plus – I was on vacation.
We ate and drank some more, then started wandering back towards our hotel. Along the way we passed a waffle shop with some awesome looking waffles in the window, so I leaned in for a closer look. Sadly, in my slightly hazy beer and wine induced state I mis-judged just how far away the window was and WHAM – forehead went boom into the glass. Commence my former friends dying of laughter, everyone in the shop dying of laughter (it was a loud thunk), and me slinking away in shame. No waffle for me, just a minor concussion and long lasting mortification. Sorry about the forehead print on your window, waffle shop.
To make up for my lack of waffle, when we got back to the hotel we decided to see just how many macarons we could fit in our mouths. Those buggers are bigger than they look, I must say.
The next morning we snagged some breakfast from the buffet, where I fell in love with this brioche. Good god it was delicious. Pretty sure that’s crack sprinkled on top.
Then our Belgian friend Baudouin came to pick us up and take us to see some PONIES!!! But you have to wait til tomorrow for that… brace yourselves for pictures. Many many pictures.
After we landed in Brussels we took a train to Paris, checked into our hotel, and immediately set off sightseeing (sleep is overrated).
We didn’t get into Paris until around 2:30, so we mainly just walked around and got a feel for things, enjoying the city and making our plans for the next day. We ate (croque monsieur that I’m pretty sure had at least 2lbs of delicious cheese on it), we drank, we lost our way a couple times, and we got rained on, but it was still pretty amazing. Nothing exists in Paris that isn’t beautiful.
By the time we got back in the general area of our hotel we almost passed out on our feet in the market (30ish hours with no sleep maybe?) so we wisely decided to pack it in. I don’t think I’ve ever slept as well in my life as I did that first night. Exhaustion is awesome. On Day 2, which was our only full day in Paris, we had a definitive plan. We got up, had breakfast (the french breakfast is pretty much tailor made for me – a croissant, orange juice, and hot chocolate), and set off to the Eiffel Tower. Turns out that SOB is a lot farther away than it looks, it took us forever to get there. Almost 4 miles to be exact. Hindsight – take the metro. But then we would have missed out on seeing all the cool stuff along the way so I guess it was worth it.
Then we walked a little ways further past the Eiffel Tower to a tack shop called Padd. It was pretty neat to see this big store full of horse stuff in the middle of Paris right across from the military school. I’m not sure if it’s sad or a blessing in disguise that I only bought one thing… could also be a testament to the fact that I have too much crap already. But either way, it was pretty fun to paw through all their stuff and see what they had. Lots of color, a good dose of sparkle, Samshields and Delrange galore.
After escaping the tack shop with minimal damage we walked back toward the Louvre area, had some lunch, then hoofed it over to the Catacombs. For a history nerd like me this was pretty awesome, even if the experience was made slightly less enjoyable by the intense pain in my feet and calves from having walked so far already. Getting to see “old Paris” sitting right there under current day Paris… mind-blowing.
By this point we’d been out walking for 8 hours and all of us were dead on our feet, so we started the long trek back to the hotel, stopping of course for some sustenance along the way. And by sustenance I mean macarons. Then boeuf bourguignon.
By the end of the day I think we walked at least 10 miles total, and god did it ever feel like it. We were wrecked by the time we finally fell into bed. It was tough getting up the next morning, all of my muscles were protesting, but we managed to pull ourselves together and crawl on the train to head back to Brussels for one day of sightseeing there before the pony time began!
We leave today for Europe, which meant that my weekend was nuts. Unfortunately the package I ordered from Amazon with 2-day shipping that was supposed to arrive on Wednesday didn’t make it because of weather delays. Even though it was ON THE TRUCK for delivery on Friday. And even though I PASSED THE TRUCK two blocks from my house on the way home. Getting an email a couple hours later saying that it couldn’t be delivered due to “emergency weather conditions” was pretty irritating, especially considering it was 34 degrees and barely misting rain. There was zero impact on travel. Getting an email a few minutes later saying delivery rescheduled to Monday afternoon was even more irritating. Cue some very unhappy and fruitless phone calls after which I still had none of my stuff, so I got to spend all day Saturday driving around town buying everything I needed at the last minute and spending 3x as much money in the process. Ask me how much I love UPS right now.
But I did have time on Friday night to swing by the blogger meet-up, which was fun (and yay – swag). It’s nice to put faces with blogs and names and horses. Sadly that was the only time I was able to meet up with the group the entire time, because see title. Thanks everyone for putting it together, and sorry I couldn’t participate more. Next time! Also I took no pictures of the actual meet-up, because I fail at meet-ups. But I did take this picture of my contribution to said meet-up: a giant vat of queso and some blackberry pear cider. Pretty sure I hit all the major food groups.
After I spent most of Saturday shopping, Brandy and my SO and I went to an indoor cycling charity event and sweated our butts off for an hour to benefit a dog rescue. These are the kinds of things you end up doing on a Saturday evening when you make the mistake of befriending your favorite spin instructor. The venue was a new fancy place that has new fancy bikes that “turn” and lean and show you your RPM’s and your distance and all that kind of stuff. Wizardry and Magic and all that jazz. Really it just means that they’re harder to ride and make your entire body work to stabilize it, thus making your abs hurt the next day.
After our sweaty spin session we naturally had to replace the calories we burned by stuffing our faces with food and drink, then I went home and immediately fell dead asleep. Seriously I don’t even think it was 10pm yet. Sunday was laundry and errands and packing and running by the barn to say bye to this handsome face:
He watched me walk away and it just about broke my heart. I can’t help but wonder if he was watching me leave because he didn’t want me to go, or if he was watching me leave to make sure I was actually gone before he started celebrating his vacation. Whatever. I’ll opt to believe the first one.
And of course now I’m very slowly getting ready to head to the airport. See you in 16ish hours, Brussels! If I’m able to log on and at least post a few pictures I will, otherwise sorry in advance for the silence. I’ll make up for it with lots of pony pictures when I get back. If the weather hasn’t improved by the time I return I’m moving somewhere horrible but warm, like Florida or California.