It was only for about 20 minutes, mostly at the walk, with maybe 5 trot circles. The rehab place hasn’t finished their ring yet, and there’s not much cleared flat space, so I couldn’t really do much. I think Henry felt pretty good but I’m reserving judgment for a time when I can get a better ride in.
Which should be sometime this week, since he’s moving to his new place tomorrow. He’s a week overdue with his feet though, and his shoes are barely hanging on, so hopefully I can get the farrier out ASAP. He’s still got one more day of aquatred and spa time, then it’s back to the real world. Sorry Henny.
The rest of my weekend was dedicated to a few less exciting but equally important things.
1) Helping a friend get a bunch of stuff for her new horse property (well, I really just laughed at her as she ran her overstuffed cart into all the aisle displays at Lowe’s. Lesson here: choose a better friend than me.) and haul it home for her in my truck.
2) Cleaning all the things. First I cleaned and conditioned all my tack, which took a ridiculously long time.
I also completely cleaned out, washed, and reorganized my tack trunk. It’s amazing how the wildlife completely took over in just a month’s time, there were cobwebs everywhere. I think I came across at least 15 different species of spiders.
Saddle pads, fly mask, and XC boots also got washed too. Everything is now cleaned and packed and ready for the new barn tomorrow.
3) Getting stuff ready for HALLOWEEN. It’s my favorite holiday, and we always have a party at our house on Halloween night. I made lots of food and wrangled some last minute costumes (I haven’t been very good at the whole preparation thing lately) for myself and the dogs. They’re going as emojis that match their personalities.
Next time someone gives me the stink eye in the grocery store after I’ve been at the barn, I’m just gonna pretend like I’m haute couture instead of a hot mess. The equestrian trend still seems to be hanging in there, and this season has delivered a couple of real winners.
For instance, Tory Burch, who made paddock boots and half chaps that aren’t actually paddock boots and half chaps. Or, in their words, “1 boot, 2 ways”! And they’re $625. And you can’t even ride in them. Stop it.
Time to put on your half chaps and paint the town, I guess?
Then there’s J. Crew. Aside from the fact that they have completely unrealistic ideas of “barn hair”, they also don’t know how to spell reins.
I dunno about y’all but I totally dress like that and stare longingly into pastures.
They also think that this giant red scarf/blanket thing is very equestrian chic. Because I dunno about y’all, but I always wear a big red cape when I ride.
Not sure how to wear it? No worries, Ralph Lauren also thinks that a red cape is very equestrian, and they show us how it’s done.
Too bad nobody told them that a pinque coat has to be earned, not purchased. Faux pas, Ralph Lauren, faux pas!
But Riding Warehouse has a fall clearance sale (up to 75% off!) going on, if you want actual riding clothes that serve an actual purpose and are not stupid expensive.
Despite some of the preconceptions some of y’all might have about me, I have a confession to make: I’m actually very frugal. Anyone who has read this blog for very long is probably doubled over laughing right now, or rolling their eyes so hard they’ve fallen out and are tumbling around on the floor. Let me explain.
I love my money. I don’t really get paid that much of it, and the majority goes to Henry. Horse people know how that goes… it’s borderline obscene. There isn’t a whole lot left over at the end for equipment or clothes or any of that other lower-priority stuff that we all need, and it’s really not easy to get me to give that money away. When I need something new or feel myself wanting a retail therapy pick-me-up, as fun as it is to shop for something, I actually loathe the idea of spending my money. The conflict, of course, is that I hate crap. I have to really really like something to spend my money on it. My hatred of poorly-made, ill-fitting, uncomfortable, unattractive, unflattering, short-lived things that don’t work very well outweighs my love of gripping tightly to every dime. My life would be simpler if I was less picky.
My favorite word is “affordable”. To me there’s a big difference between cheap and affordable (love how it was explained here)… affordable means I can make the desired object fit within my budget, either by waiting for a sale or saving up money over time. Cheap means settling for a lesser option. I’d prefer to either try to ferret out the deal of the century (which I seem to luck into a lot somehow), or just save up my money for a while and to buy the thing I really want. Pretty much every time I’ve tried to settle for the lower-quality item, I’ve been unhappy to some degree. Hasn’t stopped me from trying, but most of the time I end up not really liking it and selling it, then I go back and buy what I originally wanted in the first place. Ultimately when that happens I end up spending more money than I would have if I hadn’t tried to be such a tightwad.
Of course, sometimes the item I like the most IS quite budget-friendly, which is a win-win. Having a higher price tag certainly is not the be-all, end-all indicator of quality, by any means, and some things are just plain over-priced. But I don’t like “fast fashion”, “disposable” items, manufactured god knows where by god knows who in god knows what kind of conditions. Ethical and environmental concerns aside, I also want my stuff to last. It ends up costing me less money in the long run if I only have to buy it once.
Every time I buy something, I factor in longevity. It can be the prettiest thing in the world, and initially do the job just as well as the more expensive item (the good ol’ “a shirt is a shirt” or “a saddle pad is a saddle pad” argument), but if it only lasts for a short time before needing to be replaced, then it’s actually the less financially sound option. Right now I’m saving up for new tall boots, because despite being majorly tempted by a few cheaper options, I just can’t bite the bullet on something I don’t love. I want the ones that I really want, even if it means waiting.
Once you get beyond all the practical reasons of the “buy once, cry once” mentality, you get to the more shallow one: well made, pretty things that work really well just bring me more joy. Quality and craftsmanship matter to me – a lot. And once you get beyond the aesthetics, it can even be a safety issue, especially with tack and equipment. I grew up riding with a very fastidious trainer who felt that small details like this were crucial to the overall picture of horsemanship, and he really left that ingrained in me. But that’s probably a psychological discussion for another day…
That’s not to say that I don’t own my fair share of crap… of course I do. Sometimes I buy things just “because”, or as an experiment, or because I’m having a particularly bad day and just have to. That stuff is usually pretty short term and/or frivolous, and sometimes you see me griping about said item on here later because I never seem to 100% learn my lesson. Bigger purchases are different, though, and the older I get, the more I’d rather just buy the higher quality item and be done with it.
At the end of the day, I figure I don’t spend the majority of my life toiling away at a laptop for nothing. I’m gonna treat myself and my horse (how’s the spa, Henry?) as much as I realistically can. That said – I know plenty of others who think I’m crazy and ridiculous, and I can respect that. I know not everyone sees it the way I do, and I don’t expect them to. You do you, girl.
How do you feel about it? Would you rather save up for what you really want, or are you ok settling for less if it means saving money up front? Do you pay attention to where your items are manufactured, and does it bother you to see something produced in a country that is known for terrible or non-existent labor laws? And, would you rather have a small selection of high quality items or a closet full of cheap options?
Most of you probably aren’t as Young Event Horse obsessed as I am, so you may or may not have followed the goings-on from Mondial du Lion this past weekend… also known as the 6yo (CCI1*) and 7yo (CCI2*) World Championships for eventing. If you didn’t see at least some of it, no fear, I’m here to show you the best part.
But first, for the data geeks that were asking about numbers and predictability after my post about the USEA YEH Championships, the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses has actually collected some data about Mondial du Lion and how good of a predictor it is for future upper level success. Not quite applicable to our YEH program here in this country (yet) but a very interesting read, if you’re into that kind of thing. Some of the names of past participants might ring a few bells…
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, basic summary is that the 6yo rankings don’t seem to be a very reliable indicator of future success, but the 7yo results certainly do:
There are probably several reasons for that, if we really delve down into it, but enough nerding for today, let’s get on to the best part: Lion’s XC course. Leave it to the French to make something super cool and interesting and artistic like this. If you want to see pictures of the full 6yo course, go here, and there’s helmet cam video of the 7yo course here, otherwise I’ve pulled out some of my favorite pictures of the different fences from both courses below.
Congrats to YEH graduates Fleecework’s Royal and Betawave on their completions in the 7yo class. The fact that our US-bred horses can hold their own against the very best young eventers in Europe says a lot about the quality of horse that we’re producing here.
While the pony is not 100% magically healed after his 30 day stay at the rehab place, can we take a minute to appreciate how good he looks?
He’s up to 25 minutes in the aquacizer now, 5 days a week. He goes on the walker twice a day for about an hour total, and then gets handgrazed. All of that combined has kept him fit and sane despite no riding or turnout. I can tell he’s kinda grumpy and bored and tired of everyone’s bullshit, but he’s not being stupid or wild at all.
Even the vet commented on how great he looks. We’ll see how he feels under saddle when I finally swing a leg back over, but it makes me happy that it doesn’t look like he’s lost a stitch of his conditioning despite the down time.
We won’t talk about how hairy he is. Good god, he grows butt hair so thick a polar bear would be jealous. I’m already itching to clip it off. Soon. Soooooon…
Good news, though: I think we found a “halfway house” barn that can accommodate his myriad of special needs (that have literally become a long list of bullet points, because Henry) for the time-being. Looks and sounds promising… we shall see how it goes. It’s mostly a western dressage/trail riding type of place but the owner was super nice and seemed undeterred by all of our high maintenance requests.
They have multiple people onsite 24/7 to keep an eye on him, so he can be brought in if he starts acting stupid. It definitely wasn’t overly fancy but it was clean and well-kept and they just put new sand in the arena so it’s nice and cushy. It’s less than 20 minutes from my house and way cheaper than keeping him at the rehab place for another month or two, which my badly damaged wallet is happy about. Fingers crossed that it works.
Ah, intuition. I said on Friday that for some reason I had the nagging feeling that we wouldn’t get the all clear, and I was right. The good news is, we took a 90% sound horse and turned him into a 95% sound horse. He’s definitely better. Unfortunately, he’s still not 100%.
We took more rads of the injury site and compared them to the original ones from a month ago. The tiny crack was gone and he’s laying down good bone on top of it, but it’s still in the process of healing.
Luckily the external wound track on his injury has closed up, so we were able to do more diagnostics that we couldn’t do last time for fear of introducing infection to the bone. We blocked that area to see if it would make him 100% sound, but it didn’t.
Oh, and we had to pause mid-exam to put a shoe back on because of course he pulled it and then proceeded to be off on the barefoot foot when we jogged him. Thank goodness for a vet that used to be a farrier.
The only part of Henry’s regular maintenance that we haven’t been able to do throughout all of this is inject his left ankle. Again, last time he didn’t want to stick a needle anywhere near that wound, especially not one that was going into a joint. So, short of blocking our way up the whole leg (which would probably take a crew of four people because he is AWFUL) we figured it was worth a shot to do his maintenance injection in the ankle, give him a couple more weeks, and see if that brings him the rest of the way sound. If so, great. If not, we’ll have to do some harder diagnostics because we sure can’t find so much as a pimple anywhere else on that limb.
The vet doesn’t think it’s necessary for him to stay at rehab any longer. He’s cleared to start easing back into turnout and riding, but with a lot of specifications, mostly because that bone is still healing and there’s still a chance that it could turn into a sequestrum if we aren’t careful.
He doesn’t want Henry to go straight back into his usual 12-22 hour a day turnout, lest we put too much stress on all that new bone. He’s not allowed to gallop around a lot in turnout for the same reason, so if he DOES start acting dumb, he has to be brought in. And, more specifically, he can’t be ridden on a hard surface for at least the next couple months, until all the bone settles. He also wants the leg wrapped and/or poulticed after every ride for the first few weeks.
So, this creates another problem for me. I don’t really want to keep him at the rehab place if he doesn’t need to be there, because $$$. Plus they don’t really have much in the way of turnout, nor is their ring finished yet. But the specifications that the vet outlined are pretty impossible for our normal barn to accommodate as well… it’s a small private barn, and there are times during the day when no one is there. He runs around a lot in turnout with Halo, and it’d be impossible to always have someone able to bring him in when they get started. The ground is also pretty hard out there since we’ve not gotten much rain in a while, and it’s the type of soil that gets very hard when it’s dry. Henry is just way too high maintenance right now for that situation.
The vet gave me the names of a couple people with suitable facilities that might be able to accommodate us for a month or two until he’s totally healed. I’ve got some calls to make today, and probably some begging to do. Fingers crossed we can find someone able to take us on for a little while. The adventure continues…
Tomorrow is Henry’s 30 Day checkup for his “I’m a moron in turnout and also a total sissy about pain” injury.
Best case scenario: the bone is all healed, he’s sound, and he can be eased back into normal turnout and work. I sure as hell hope that’s the outcome, but I dunno, for some reason I’m not feeling outrageously optimistic.
I don’t have any particular reason to feel that way. I haven’t seen him trot since day 14 of rehab, where he looked perfect one direction but still ever so slightly funky the other direction. But the direction where he looked funky was the one where he actually looked best at the beginning of all this. WTF, horse. Granted, I didn’t have a lunge line and was judging just what I could see with him at the end of the lead rope. Plus its been two more weeks since then. Maybe he’s magically better?
So I guess I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll get the all clear, and really hopeful, but not necessarily willing to put my money on it. We’ll see…
Perhaps the most important part – what did we eat and what did we buy…
Let me go ahead and disappoint you right off the bat. I spent a grand total of $42 at the trade fair, and the overwhelming majority of that was a gift for Bobby. I know, wtf, he’s such a tool, why am I buying him anything? I dunno, pity I guess. But otherwise I couldn’t find too many things that I just had to have.
Anyway, let’s back up a bit. Michelle (with 2 L’s. You’ll see why I say that in a minute. Why is everyone named Michelle?) and I got into Baltimore before noon, picked up our rental car, and headed north. Naturally we had to stop along the way at some hole in the wall place for lunch, where I got this giant plate of sodium.
After that we headed straight to one of Maryland Saddlery’s consignment shops (WE DON’T HAVE THOSE HERE) to poke around. Let me just say, they have a really impressive collection of randomly weird stuff.
Despite my best efforts, I walked out of the store with absolutely nothing. Twas a sad day. I totally would have bought these gorgeous Sarm Hippique paddock boots if they were my size, but alas they were juuuuuuuuust too-small enough to be impossible. Damn toes.
After that we were off to my other friend Michele (one L)’s house in Newark where we were given a proper greeting by a particularly friendly little monkey dog.
Thursday and Friday were pretty much totally consumed with judging. But besides giving us a place to stay, Michele (One L) also got us the hookup on a VIP parking pass and lunch tickets, so Michelle (2 L’s) and I majorly lucked out on that one. We got front row parking and free fancy-people lunch both days.
Despite long, exhausting days, we still managed to stuff our faces appropriately every night. We’re troopers like that. Can we just take a minute to appreciate UDairy Creamery and their giant cookie dough chunks? Look at it.
After we were done with the YEH workshop on Friday, Michelle (2 L’s) and I walked the 3* course. Well, part of it. We quit at just over halfway, because too tired. She’s only been to a couple of events before, and definitely not one of this level, so it was greatly entertaining to see her reactions as she walked up to some of these fences.
Saturday was our only free day, so we showed up early to watch the 2* and 3* XC. Michele (one L) was able to join us that day, and we all descended upon the trade fair together.
I pretty much immediately dragged One L over to the Eponia booth. I’ve followed this brand on Instagram for a while and thought they had some cute stuff… riding clothes, tack, etc. I knew that One L in particular needed a new dressage bridle and likes the PS of Sweden styling, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money. She said she wanted a 2-tone bridle so that it would match both of her saddles, and bam, there it was. Black with dark brown padding, rhinestones on the browband that pretty much perfectly matched her horse, and they had it in his size. Five minutes into the trade fair and I had One L dropping money like it was hot. Let’s just take a minute to appreciate how right I was though, it looks awesome on her horse.
There were a few more things in the Eponia booth that I was sorely tempted by but just couldn’t quite close the deal with my more practical inner self. She’s such a buzzkill.
We wandered around inside the tent to visit the smaller booths, and I bought Bobby his official FHI gear. They didn’t have anything left in my size that I liked, so I guess I just wasn’t meant to buy anything for myself there. Next I dragged One L and Two L’s right into Mango Bay, where they both proceeded to buy things while simultaneously convincing other shoppers to buy things too. We are a powerful force.
I kept waiting to stumble upon something really fascinating that I’d never seen before, but the only “new to me” thing I really saw was one half pad and it was a little weird.
Otherwise I mostly just kept circling back around and petting the Voltaire monoflap in a way that seemed to make the rep a little uncomfortable. Sorry, guy.
As far as fun splurges go, the trade fair was a bust for me. But convincing the L’s to buy stuff was almost as fun, since I didn’t have to spend my own money. My wallet is relieved.
I was standing by fence 21 on XC day with some friends when ML went by with RF Scandalous. Even though I was several strides back on the landing side of the fence, I could see the red-tinged mouth from at least a few strides before take-off. My first thought was “What brand sells red-mouthed bits?”. For real, that was my first, utterly ridiculous thought, because I just couldn’t believe it would actually happen again, especially in front of my own eyes. Then as she got closer my mouth just gaped open and I said “Holy shit. Oh my god.”. As she galloped away I turned and looked at my friend and asked her if she saw it too. There was a lot of red, and it was very obvious even at speed and even from many strides away.
My friend Michelle had her camera so we immediately pulled up the pictures she had taken so we could verify what we’d seen. There was no doubt about the presence of blood, and a lot of it.
Here is where I should back up a bit and explain why Michelle was even there with me at Fair Hill in the first place. She’s a lifelong h/j rider, and her breeding program is jumper-oriented. But she’s seen how much fun I’ve had with eventing, and she’s excited about my upcoming eventer baby. She has been considering possibly refocusing part of her breeding program to eventers, and even considering investing in a syndicate on an upper level horse. I have, of course, encouraged these things, because I love this sport and think she would love it too. Fair Hill was supposed to be a “come see how awesome this is and leave feeling inspired” kind of thing. A bloody horse galloping by us on XC, not getting pulled up at any point over the 10 minute course to be checked, and the horse in question ending up winning the event… let’s just say inspired was not one of the feelings she had when she left. Eventing needs people like her, and incidents like this only serve to drive them away.
Aside from the majority of the general public and a very select few upper level pros (much respect to Sara for having the integrity to speak up), this has been handled with mostly silence and avoidance. At what point will we stop defending this? The saying goes: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. But apparently four different times (Boekelo 2015, Fair Hill 2015, Galway 2015, and now Fair Hill 2016) on three different horses within a one year time period is not enough. How many times is too many? By the time you’re done piling on all the different eyewitness accounts of the series of events that allegedly happened that day, it raises a whole lot of eyebrows. I said it last year and I’ll say it again – we’ve really got to revisit the wording of the FEI eventing blood rules so that this can’t happen, much less repeatedly. I don’t really think that zero tolerance is the best answer, but surely we can do better than a rule that allows four incidences in one year with no consequence. Something isn’t working.
I used up most of my rage last year at the first two instances and all of the fallout that came after I posted about it. Now I’m just left feeling demoralized, defeated, and disappointed. Disappointed that it happened again, disappointed that this rider and her team not only seem to expect it but have figured out how to get away with it, disappointed in the fact that how it was handled is technically within the FEI rules as they’re written, disappointed in the governing bodies that seem more interested in defending it than stopping it, and disappointed in the image that this gives to the sport that I love.
I’m also embarrassed… truly and deeply embarrassed for my sport, and the fact that this performance garnered someone a National 3* Championship title. The media can’t even post any pics or videos of the winning horse from XC day because it’s mouth and chin are covered in blood. As an American eventer, I am absolutely mortified by that. It’s shameful, and it’s disgraceful. It’s an image I don’t think we can afford to project. Let’s be clear: no one has won here, especially not the sport of eventing.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow (with the actual fun stuff from Fair Hill) because that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
In a lot of ways, day 2 was obviously a lot more interesting. Watching horses gallop and jump beats the heck out of endless dressage any day. But on dressage day we were looking for moments of brilliance, whereas on jumping day we had to a) take every single step into account b) figure out what all of it meant to the bigger picture. If a horse had one ugly jump – why was it ugly? If the horse looked underpowered sometimes, was it truly weak or was it because of how it was ridden? If the horse made a mistake, did it learn from it and improve? And so on, and so on. Judging the show jumping and xc were a lot more complicated, really.
At the YEH competitions the riders get a little bit of time before the whistle is blown to trot the horse around, look at the fences, or pass through the water. They aren’t allowed to jump anything, but they’re given a minute or so to let the horse look around and become comfortable in the setting. The course itself was pretty straightforward. The way the jumping portion works is more like a derby format… there is a short showjumping course (in our case it was 6 fences) then the horse proceeds to a short XC course. After completion of the last fence the horse is galloped at speed to the finish so that the open gallop can be judged.
The XC course was, IMO, an appropriate championship level course for these age groups. The 4yo course was very straightforward but asked enough questions to get an idea of the horse’s rideability. The 5yo course (click here for video of one of the 5yo’s competing) was more complicated but still appropriate. The route through the second water was definitely the toughest question on the 5yo course and caught a few horses and riders out. It was a true test of the horse’s bravery, attitude, and desire to keep going forward. A few didn’t want to play, and several of them jumped it quite greenly, but the vast majority jumped it without hesitation none-the-less. This question really helped separate some horses that were otherwise quite close in score.
The scoring for the jumping section of the YEH test is quite important, as it makes up 50% of the final score. The jumping ability, rideability, and general impression scores get a x 2 emphasis as well. A good, safe jumper that is willing and able to do the job is what they’re really looking for. A horse is not necessarily penalized for a refusal or a rail… it depends on why it happened, and what happens afterwards. Did the horse learn from it’s mistakes and get better as it went, or did it continue to pull rails, jump poorly, and be backed off the rider’s aids? That’s where having a good eye and good judgment really came into play.
Overall I thought that the majority of the horses were well-ridden and well-presented. There were a couple who looked perhaps a little bit overfaced here and there, and sometimes there was a rider who would not really allow the horse to gallop between the fences or keep coming forward to jump out of stride… all of those things had a negative impact on the score. For the most part though, the horses visibly gained confidence as they went around and looked quite pleased with themselves at the finish.
One 4yo in particular was presented in a leverage bit and was ever really allowed to come forward, and subsequently it did not have a very good round or get a very good score. While there currently is not a rule requiring snaffles for the YEH competitions (wouldn’t be surprised to see one coming) it definitely weighed on the scores to see the horse presented in such a manner. Good to know: the judges really DO NOT want to see that.
I paid particularly close attention to the 4yo that Phillip Dutton was riding, Miks Master C, since he’s by the same sire as my upcoming 2017 foal. I was happy to see a well developed young horse that looked very rideable and willing, albeit a bit unimpressed with his simple little fences.
Unimpressed horses was really the most challenging part of the practice judging. I know everyone worries about these young horses being rushed, but for horses with this level of natural talent and riders with this much experience, these jumps are quite small and easy. Some of the particularly more unimpressed horses just looked a bit bored and left you thinking “Man, he really looks like he needs a bigger fence.”. Obviously that isn’t an option here due to age, but it made it more challenging to judge those types. You were pretty sure there was a lot more talent and jump lurking in the horse than what they were showing you, but it was tough to really know that for sure when they were just loping over them nonchalantly.
It was a long day, but again I left feeling like the education I gained here was priceless. Even if I choose not to send my horse through the YEH program (I will let the horse decide if it’s ready for that when the time comes) I really got a lot of insight into exactly what they’re looking for, and was able to hone my eye for spotting talent in a young horse. Judging these horses is a tough job, but it was an honor to get to sit there with someone like Marilyn and bounce thoughts and ideas around. I think USEA has a really good thing going here, and I’m interested to see how the YEH program continues to develop. Maybe we’ll be there with a horse someday!