Fair Hill Part 1: Brain Dead

How to completely fry your brain in one easy step: sign up for a YEH judging workshop. I learned so much that I’m not even sure I can fully absorb it all. My brain is still mush. In the absolute best way possible, of course.

powered by Wawa

On Thursday we met Marilyn Payne and the rest of our group beside the dressage arena, spent some time talking about dressage judging in general, the YEH program specifically, and what they’re looking for. Then we started practice judging, first as a group, and then on our own, followed by a group discussion. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever been so interested in watching very basic dressage tests in my life. It was pretty cool to see that most of the time my scores were pretty close to Marilyn’s, though.

god help me
my scores are the big number, MP’s are the small ones in parentheses

The way the YEH stuff works is a lot different from a regular dressage test. They don’t judge the YEH test by each movement, but rather by the overall impression you get as the horse performs it. As you watch the horse perform the test, you’re looking for it’s best possible walk, trot, and canter, and giving a score based on those “best moments”. We also gave an overall score for submission (where obedience and rideability came into play), and the impression of the horse as a potential future 3* or 4* competitor. The dressage portion counts for 35% of the final score.

In the YEH judging, you are truly hunting for talent. Riders who sacrificed brilliance for the sake of accuracy did not do their horses any favors in the scoring. I actually wondered if some of them really knew how the YEH classes are judged and what exactly the judges are looking for. There were many instances where we thought the horse likely had another level of brilliance lurking in there, but the rider just wouldn’t quite be bold enough to show it. You can’t score brilliance if you don’t ever see it.

After we watched several of the 5yo tests, we walked back down to watch some of the conformation portion. We discussed what makes a good event type, things that were particular positives, and things that were particular negatives. The most important part of conformation is type – does it look like the right type of horse to be an eventer? We want something that isn’t too heavy or too light of bone. Something proportionate, with good feet, a good neck set, well-balanced, with correct legs and a strong hind end. You want a horse that looks as if it’s built correctly enough to stay sound at the 3* or 4* level. Of course, while conformation CAN certainly be a predictor of a horse’s future potential, there have definitely proven to be many exceptions. Conformation only counts for 15% of the final score.

Will Coleman and Trakehner stallion Rusticus

After the conformation lecture, we went back to the dressage and this time judged the 4yos. It was more of the same of what we did with the 5yo’s, really searching for that moment of brilliance in each gait and the overall impression of the horse’s potential. It’s hard to really see it in some of these horses, being so young and green, but it almost became a bit of a game to try to find that glimmer of what the horse might someday become.

At the end of the day we compared our group scores to what the actual judges had, and while we were consistently lower than they were number-wise, we pretty much had the horses in the same order. A couple of things raised some collective eyebrows (especially one horse in particular in the conformation section), but overall I think there weren’t many surprises in how the order shook out.

Marilyn of course gave us homework… we were to walk the course for the jumping portion and be prepared with our thoughts/comments by the following morning, and we were to study the materials she’d given us on how the jumping portions are judged. Clipboards, folders, and pens in hand, we marched over to the jumping course to look it over, then lugged everything home and read about what was to come the following day.

walking the 4 and 5yo course

Day 1 was definitely really long, but SO enlightening. As someone who is really interested in young horses, breeding, and the YEH program, what I learned was valuable beyond measure. To be able to sit with someone like Marilyn, in a group comprised mostly of judges, and hear/be a part of these conversations… wow. Just wow. I really think that having a good eye for a horse is super important, and this kind of thing is such a great way to fine tune it. Many thanks to the USEA and Marilyn for the opportunity.

Tomorrow, on to Day 2 (the fun part)!


The Cost of Rehab

The most common response I get when I tell people that Henry is away at rehab is “Wow, that must be expensive!”. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that, I might almost be able to cover the cost of rehab. (Heh… no, not really…)



And while yes it’s expensive, it’s really not that bad when you look at the services we’re getting. Most people that have heard the overall 30-day figure have said “that’s really not that bad, considering”. They’re right, it’s really not that bad, considering. From all the shopping around I did, what I’m paying is pretty average for a rehab type of facility. I kinda wish I’d known a long time ago just how (relatively) affordable this kind of thing can be… I guess I just assumed it would be crazy big bucks.

So for the sake of spreading the word in a “the more you know…” kind of way, I figured I’d share some numbers. Hopefully you never need services like this, but if you do, maybe this will help you figure out whether or not it could possibly be within your budget. Like I said, most of the places in Texas that I looked at were very similarly priced, so I would assume the costs would be relatively comparable elsewhere too.


The way our particular rehab place works is that there’s a basic board fee, and then whatever rehab services you opt for (the aquatred, laser therapy, saltwater spa, theraplate, etc) add a set per diem cost on top of that figure. Pretty standard setup across the board, from the research I did. The base board fee is $600 and includes:

  • double size stall
  • whatever feed you want (mine eats Triple Crown)
  • coastal hay (pretty much constant, so however many flakes per day that they eat)
  • a flake of alfalfa at each meal
  • daily grooming
  • fly mask on/off or blanketing if necessary
  • turnout, if the horse is allowed (mine isn’t)

Already a pretty good rate with the alfalfa, premium feed, and daily grooming thrown in. A nice perk is that the owners live on site plus have other employees there daily, so there are always people around. They also let me leave my trailer there for no additional charge, which is nice.


Beyond the basic board rate, things take a pretty individual turn. My vet only had two specific requests: aquatred 5x per week, and bandaging when necessary (the vet laid out criteria for when he wants the leg bandaged, so it’s up to the facility staff to determine the necessity).

The rate for the aquatred at this place goes up or down depending on how often you use it. Once a week, no price break, but the more you use it per week, the cheaper it is per use. Most places I saw just had a flat rate, so getting a little bit of a price break was nice. With the frequency that Henry goes in the aquatred, it brought that figure down to only about $23 per time. Use of the aquatred also comes with time on the equiciser (at a walk, to warm up and cool down) which is a nice inclusion. So figuring he’s in the aquatred 5 x a week at a rate of $23 per time, that adds about $460 for the month.

for a badonk like this
Bandaging/wound care is a rate they quote you depending on how intense it is – some things are easier than others, obviously. Henry’s is $5 per time he needs to be wrapped, so they keep track of it and we figure that number out at the end of his stay. So far it hasn’t been many. This seemed to be on the cheaper side of industry standard… $10 was the most common rate I saw.

As for the rest of the services, I can’t really speak on individual pricing. I know that just like the aquatred, they too had a sliding scale depending on how often it was used. I suppose if you wanted to utilize lots of different therapies, things could get expensive pretty quickly, but it’s also pretty easy to tailor a program that will work for you and still be relatively affordable.

worth every damn penny
For a month of individualized care and rehabilitation, while still keeping my horse gorgeous and shiny and fit… seems like a pretty good deal to me. If you ever find yourself in a really crappy My-Horse-Is-Broken situation, definitely take the time to look around at some rehab facilities in your area and see what they can do for you… it might be worth it.

Broke-Ass Retail Therapy

Having an injured horse is kind of like the Universe’s double Eff You. Not only is your horse hurt and you can’t ride him, you’re also probably so tapped out from vet bills and/or rehab that you can’t even treat your feelings with some proper retail therapy. It’s annoying when you’re forced to just have the feelings instead of buying lots of pretty things to bury them under.

I think they’d love to be buried under these, personally…
I’m incapable of going very long without acquiring something though, even if it’s a low budget item. I might have gone a tad crazy on Thriftbooks, buying some more breeding books. Yes I already have a bunch of similar books already in my collection, which may or may not include a Holsteiner book and a Hanoverian book written entirely in German. Don’t judge me.

I do some sort of massive Thriftbooks purchase at least once a year… last time it was about a dozen eventing and dressage books, everything from Charles de Kunffy to Mark Todd. They’re pretty much all under $5 a pop, who can resist that? I’m turning into a random-equestrian-books library, and I’m ok with it.

about half of the horse books collection
I think the Universe tried to pay me back a little bit last week though, by letting me win not just one but TWO giveaways for a Triple Crown Custom cooler. Yeah, I have no idea how I pulled that off either… two totally separate giveaways for the exact same item. When I won the second one I reluctantly emailed them and let them know that I had already won one, and they should draw another winner. It was slightly tempting to not say anything and take two, but that just seems wrong and I don’t need that kind of bad karma in my life. Nor do I really need two wool coolers. Pretty excited about it though, the TCC coolers are awesome. It should end up looking something like this:


Gotta represent Anchor Equestrian.

There’s also a Mrs Tutton’s shirt on it’s way to me, the one I was drooling over so much. Too bad I won’t really get to wear it until next show season. Unless I wear it to work. Which… might happen.

Image result for mrs tutton may shirt

I’ve been teetering on the brink of ordering an Ogilvy Eventer pad… some days I’m stronger than others. I’ve gone so far as to add it to the cart, but managed to talk myself down from the ledge before I actually paid for it. We’ll see how long I last. We’ll also see how much damage I do at Fair Hill this weekend… we hit one consignment tack shop yesterday and I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without.

At least Henny seems to be having a good time swimming my money away?

Leaving on a jet plane

I guess it’s a good thing I’m used to getting up early, since I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Baltimore. Super excited for our little mini horse vacation to Fair Hill! I even packed appropriate reading material.


I’ll still be posting here the next couple days as usual… sorry, you don’t get a break from me.

If anyone wants to meet up at FH, send me a message and let’s coordinate! I’m ready for 3 days of ponies and shopping and nice weather (or so my weather app is promising).



Oh and BTW, we officially crossed day 180 of Sadie’s pregnancy (not that I’m literally counting the days or anything), so baby Presto is now about the size of a beagle.

ear size probably accurate
Next stop, day 240, when he’ll be the size of a lamb!



It’s Time: Top 5 Custom Christmas Gifts

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s not even Halloween, calm down with Christmas already.

Image result for christmas early gif

I’m not really ready to hear about it yet either, but all the best things are custom, and custom stuff has longer lead times (especially around the holidays) so really – now is the time to start thinking about gifts and getting stuff ordered. Plus I come bearing coupon codes and order cutoff dates, therefore this post is totally valid. Hang in there.

Without further ado, my top 5 picks for affordable custom Christmas gifts (in no particular order because that’s just impossible)…

Hamer & Clay custom ornaments


Hamer & Clay‘s custom ornaments/magnets are always incredibly popular and once her list is full, that’s it, so definitely order these soon if you’re gonna. Everybody knows that her stuff is one of my favorite things to give, and the prices are super reasonable (they start at only $22!). Plus, she was so kind as to offer my readers 15% off with coupon code Gohennygo. Knock yourselves out, order a dozen, and have fun with them.

Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks custom accessories


My love for Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks is also no secret, and their stuff makes a great Christmas gift as well. They offer belts, dog collars, leashes, browbands, and a few other things in whatever colors/pattern you choose, plus embroidery options to make it even more personalized. The deadline to guarantee Christmas delivery on custom orders is 11/25, or for items in stock colors (assuming they still have the size you need) is 12/10. They also offer a discount when you order 4 or more identical custom items (matching belts and/or browbands in barn colors, anyone?). I get tons of compliments on my Boy-O-Boy belt, the workmanship is amazing.

Deco Pony custom stall guards


I ordered a Deco Pony stall guard for Trainer last year and it was a huge hit. They look great as part of the stabling set up at shows, plus they’re easy to pack and wipe clean. It’s truly the perfect gift for someone that shows a lot. The cutoff date for Christmas delivery is December 1, and you want to make sure to give yourself time to pick a good design, get logos together, make sure everything is exactly how you want it, etc. Earlier is better! Bonus – mention this blog and get $5 off your order!

Valentine Equine custom pinney

Know an eventer that already has everything? They probably don’t have a custom pinney from Valentine Equine. These are super affordable at only $60-65 AUD, or right under $50 USD. They offer a single color or a two color option, in literally whatever colors you want… if they don’t have it, they will dye a batch for you. Words that make an eventer’s heart go pitter patter. Of course, keep in mind that they’re an Australian company so aside from the normal lead times for a custom item, you should also allow extra time for shipping.

It’s a Haggerty’s custom sunshirts


We might be headed into winter now, but the sun will be back before you know it… unless you’re in the South, where it’s basically summer all year. It’s a Haggerty’s offers custom sunshirts in any color combo you want, plus FREE embroidery. You can get one in your barn colors, your XC colors, or just whatever colors you damn well please, with any logo or monogram. They even have patterned fabrics or collar/cuff accents if you’re into something more bold. The prices are great too, only $50-55 (plus a discount on orders larger than 10)!


Dressage lessons, XC schools, and bareback hacks.

So much pony time these past few days! On Thursday I went to work super early so I could fit in a half day of work and still get to Trainer’s by noon for a dressage lesson.


I know I already said I love Red, but for real… I love Red. He really makes it possible for me to work on myself, and boy is there a lot of work to do.

Plus he makes faces like this, which in my world is a real bonus

This lesson was definitely better than the first one, but still… damn… I constantly see so many things I want to fix. Dressage is so freaking hard. Riding a fun little horse like Red sure helps though.


Saturday morning I drove a couple hours to meet a friend at Pine Hill for some XC schooling. She brought her giant (no joke, 18h+) baby warmblood along for me to ride. He’d never been out XC schooling before and I’d never ridden him before, but aside from some general glee (“wheeeeee this fun!”) and typical easily distracted baby brain, he was great. He’s super brave about the jumps and had no problem with anything I pointed him at.


He wasn’t totally sure he wanted to get in the water at first but after a few patient minutes he waded in, realized it was kinda fun, and then had no problems coming back through after that.

He even conquered the big mound

and loped very nonchalantly over the Novice trakehner.

Up/down banks were no problem either. This guy could be a pretty cool eventer for someone, he thinks Novice jumps are a total snooze fest. Even though he’s giant he rides like a pretty normal sized horse (aside from the fact that you’re like 50 feet off the ground) and doesn’t have a heavy way of going.

It was also cool to get to ride him because he’s by Valentino Z, my favorite stallion ever. Although I’ve ridden V several times, this was my first time riding one of his kids!

I literally went from 13h pony last weekend to 18h warmblood this weekend. And yes, no doubt the pony was harder.

On Sunday afternoon I made the trek out to the rehab place to see Henny. As I was standing there watching him graze I just couldn’t help myself and hopped aboard. I needed to just sit on my boy.

feels like home

Once he got tired of grazing he made a beeline for the trail behind the barn and took me on a powerwalk all around the property. He seemed happy to be out and about, and after 2 weeks of mostly being cooped up in a stall, I don’t blame him. I indulged him and let him meander around wherever he wanted until he got his fill.

I sure do miss seeing my boy and riding him all the time. It’s been so awesome to get to ride all these nice horses and really work on my riding, but for me there’s only one Henny. Nothing else is quite the same.

Not sure why I find this so adorable, but I do

Hopefully just two more weeks. Fingers crossed…

Review: Lund Saddlery Five Point Breastplate 

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve spent the past few months testing out a few items from Lund Saddlery, a new tack brand. The owner of Lund contacted me a while back and was very clear in his mission for the brand: to produce quality tack at reasonable prices.


He had an obvious vision, for sure, and his enthusiasm about his products is undeniable. But we’ve all heard schpeils like that before, haven’t we? I was skeptical and decided to reserve judgment until I could get my hands on the items myself. He asked me to review some things, and I agreed, but warned him that I would be 100% honest in my reviews. He (and his team of riders that have helped develop the line) seemed undeterred.

fresh out of the box

The main leather Lund uses is Sedgwick, with Italian leather padding and backing. The hardware is stainless steel, and everything is made in the same factories as some other well known brands. I’ve had some Sedgwick tack before… for those who haven’t: it’s good quality, rugged, strong English leather. It takes a little longer to really get it nicely broken in and soft, but that’s because it lasts FOREVER. It’s the kind of stuff that seems to just get better with age and use. It’s not as thin and butter soft as French leather, but it’s obviously a lot more hardy. So if you’re looking for something durable (like something you could use for everyday and for showing), Sedgwick is a good choice. You definitely do not have to baby it.

One of the first items I received was the Lund 5 point breastplate. The retail price on this is $210 Canadian, or around $158 USD. My first impressions out of the box were 1) navy elastic, hell yeah. (#teamnavy) 2) the details were very well done. Maybe it’s my h/j background but I’m a sucker for fancy stitching and padding, they make things look so much, well… fancier. I immediately inspected the edges, the backing, the stitching, and the seams, looking for quality issues. Just because it’s relatively inexpensive doesn’t mean it should look cheap – I don’t want to see any loose, crooked, or uneven stitching, rough edges, leaking glue, uneven straps, fake sheepskin, thin elastic, or cheap hardware. Luckily I found none. Nary a stitch was out of place, the sheepskin was gorgeous, and the elastic was thick and multi-layered. So far, so good.


The Lund breastplates come with dee savers, which are really nice to have since I don’t like clipping things directly to my saddle dees. It also came with a clip on running martingale attachment, another nice “extra”, and gives you the feeling that they didn’t cut corners to save a few bucks in production. It drives me nuts when I get a breastplate (or any tack item) and it doesn’t have all the snaps or attachments that I want. Extra points for Lund for providing appropriate snaps and accessories.

Despite the popularity of the 5 point design among eventers, I’ve never actually used this style of breastplate before. It took a little bit of finagling to get it adjusted exactly how I wanted it, but once it was done, it was done, and I haven’t messed with the fit since then.

In application, the breastplate does it’s job admirably. As one would expect, it’s quite stable, and gives a nice feeling of security. I can see why people like this design for cross country… your saddle isn’t going anywhere, and even if something happened and one strap broke mid-round, you’d still have several more to keep things steady. The only thing I didn’t like was that for the first few rides (until it broke in and softened a bit) I could feel the leather strap under my boot. Mildly annoying, so I attacked it for a few days with Belvoir and that seemed to do the trick.

5 point in action

My only minor whine is the color of the leather – I am not Australian Nut’s #1 fan. I prefer a darker Havana, but I know that most of the h/j world (and probably many eventers as well) prefer the slightly lighter, redder tone. I’ve had a little luck darkening it so far, and having owned a Sedgwick bridle in this exact color before, I know that it will darken more with age. The color is fine as-is, I’m just a bigger fan of darker tack. Personal choice.

it does look pretty smashing on Red

Overall I think this breastplate is a great piece of tack in it’s own right, and especially at the well below $200 price point. It’s light years better quality than the HDR 5 point, and I like it more than the Ovation, Nunn Finer, or Prestige 5 points (which are all more expensive) that I have seen, too. In the end it comes down to the details, and Lund really nails it in that respect. The fancy stitching, padding, and quality workmanship on the Lund put it solidly ahead of it’s competition.

Lund Saddlery is also doing a monthly giveaway to go with their brand launch, and October’s item is the 5 point! Go here to enter, and follow Lund on Instagram here.

Motley Crew

I have a lot of really awesome friends. Despite Henry being laid up for a month or two, I’ve not been lacking in offers of horses to ride. So many, in fact, that I haven’t even been able to get to them all yet. Typically I’m the kind of person that really prefers riding one horse, not a bunch of different horses. I like the day to day progress, always having a plan in mind and a goal to work toward. Let’s be honest though, it’s really good for our riding to sit on a lot of different horses.

I don’t think Violet really cares about me or my riding #mareglare

I’ve already talked about Violet of course, who is a total blast. She’s a little bit tricky though… she wants to get quick sometimes, and if you try to use your hand to whoa, she just goes faster. She really wants you to ride off your seat and leg, you know… properly, and if you don’t, she gets a case of the zoomies. Henry puts up with a lot more bullshit than she does, so Violet offers a good reminder about not getting grabby.

Can I borrow some money from someone so I can buy this one?

Last week I played hooky from work and drove down to Trainer’s for a lesson on one of her sale guys. I’ve seen a lot of this horse this year from her showing him, but I’ve never sat on him before. He’s a young TB, therefore my type by default, but he’s been ridden so well that he really doesn’t feel that green. His buttons are well on their way to being fully installed and he’s quite the proper young event horse. I’m not used to a horse that 100% seeks out and willingly goes forward into the contact, and stays there. Plus this horse is super responsive to your seat as well – it took very little from me to get a response. He was a really good “this is what we’re striving for with Henny” type of example. Not a made horse yet by any means, but a horse with a really really excellent foundation. I love him and want to steal him, it was so nice to really feel where we’re trying to go with my own horse.


On Saturday I took a turn in the total opposite direction and went out to a friend’s place to ride some of her schoolies that need more work. One was an itty bitty pony named Bonnet (who I’m pretty sure wanted me to eff off and die, although she was fairly polite anyway) and the other was a big paint/draft cross named Nerey. I really thought I’d dislike the drafty horse, because I do better with forward, sensitive horses, but once I let Nerey know that forward wasn’t optional he was actually super cool. Turns out he was a foxhunter in a past life, and he’s pretty darn broke on the flat too. It takes a lot of effort to get it out of him (I literally had an ab cramp when I got off of him on Tuesday) but I quite like that dude. Much respect, Mr. Drafty.

The pony was definitely harder for me to ride. Good god, pony legs move so fast and they’re so close to the ground. That was an exercise in body control for sure, since my torso was longer than her neck. She was good though, and I got to tell everyone that I smooshed a pony, so that’s a bonus.

for real, look how close to the ground

I’m sneaking off to Trainer’s again today for another lesson, then riding Nerey again tomorrow. This weekend I get to go XC schooling on yet another friend’s horse that I’ve never ridden before, which should be super fun too. I’m dying to get back out there, it’s been way too long.

Moral of the story: I have pretty great friends. It’s nice getting to ride such a wide variety of horses… each one of them is a learning experience in their own right.

So you think you want to breed your mare?

I have a lot of breeder friends, both pro and amateur, and can’t seem to stop obsessively following all things sporthorse breeding-related. Our trip to Belgium last year to visit farms and watch the sBs stallion show will forever be one of the highlights of my life… I was in heaven. So, ya know, I guess you could say that sporthorse breeding is a subject very near and dear to my heart. Having worked at a breeding farm in the past and been involved with the breeding industry in some capacity for many years now, I have made a lot of observations along the way. I have certainly learned a ton in the decade since I first embarked on the journey to create my first homebred – much of it by trial and error.


Since breeding Sadie this year for what will be my second homebred (because yes, even having seen all the terrible things that I’ve seen, I’m still dumb enough to do this myself – TWICE), I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments, and heard a lot of stories from people thinking about breeding their own mares. A few people even asked for my advice. Oh dear. My advice? Well, you’re about to get it. Strap yourself in, because here we go.


The mare is way more than 50% of the equation. She might contribute 50% of the pedigree, but foals tend to take WAY more after their dams in terms of general mannerisms, temperament, and often even in talent. There’s a reason those Europeans are all about their mare lines. Finding a good stallion is important, but having a good mare is imperative. If you don’t love pretty much everything about your mare, inside and out, you’re not going to like the baby very much once it gets beyond the cute, fuzzy phase (which is sadly quite short). I’m not saying your mare has to be world class, that’s unrealistic, but she needs to have a good temperament, you should find her enjoyable to own/ride, she can’t have any genetic or major conformational defects, and she has to be suitable for the sport you want to do.


Warmblood registries can be really freaking confusing. If you’re breeding for any of the Olympic disciplines, or for the hunter ring, odds are that you’re going to end up going through a warmblood registry for foal registration and papers. Make sure you understand their guidelines, terminology, and fine print well in advance of breeding, so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises later on. Each registry is different, so it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the rules and regs of whichever one you choose. If you can, attend an inspection and get an idea of what you’re in for. Even better – present your mare for inspection BEFORE you breed her. And definitely never be afraid to ask questions.


It can get really expensive really quickly. If it takes more than one attempt for the mare to become pregnant, if she has uterine infections, if your vet is not particularly proficient at reproductive work, if the semen quality is sub-par, if your mare needs to stay on Regumate for the duration of her pregnancy, if you have foaling complications, if the foal is unhealthy, if the mare dies, if the foal dies… all of these things can REALLY add up fast. And to add insult to injury, there’s a real possibility that you might have nothing to show for it in the end. Whatever you think your initial cost estimate is – write it down, light it on fire, and then start over with all of your numbers tripled.


The stud fee is probably the least expensive part. Because of the last point, don’t even bother getting super concerned about saving a few hundred bucks on a stud fee. You see people on the internet all the time asking for stallion suggestions “under $1200”. Girl, no. Just no. If you luck into a good deal on a great stallion, that’s perfect, but find the best match you can, don’t quibble and fret over a few hundred bucks and allow that to be your determining factor. If such a relatively small amount of money causes you anxiety, this is not the adventure for you.

It is so important to do your research. In every regard, you must be thorough. Creating a life (and make no mistake, that’s exactly what you’re doing) is a really heavy responsibility, something that should not be done with reckless abandon or blind naivete. The stallion, his offspring, the farm he stands at, his fertility, your mare’s fertility, her offspring, all of their ancestors, performance, temperament, traits they pass on, traits they don’t pass on, registry options, etc etc… you need to know all of it. We live in the internet age – use it. Find pictures, find videos, talk to people, read up on the bloodlines. There is a ton of information out there.


If you don’t have a good eye, enlist the assistance of someone who does. Can you pick a horse apart, piece by piece? Can you spot areas that need improvement, areas that are very strong, issues with movement, trends that are common among offspring? Can you tell a good front and hind end jumping technique from a bad one? Can you tell a decent canter from an excellent canter? If you want to increase the odds of producing a good match, you have to learn this, and you have to learn to see past personal feelings, a fancy looking horse, or a pretty picture. Every single horse has strengths and weaknesses, and every line has things that they consistently pass on or improve upon. Find them, evaluate them, and use them to help you make better choices.

The odds are in your favor… barely. Roughly 60-65% of breeding attempts result in a live foal. That means the other 35-40% either don’t become pregnant, lose the pregnancy, or have a complication that results in a stillborn foal. Finding an excellent repro specialist will increase your chances (sometimes exponentially) but this number is fairly steady industry-wide. Something will go awry more than 1/3 of the time. Expect it. Breeding can be heartbreaking.


Finding a good repro vet is vital. With every cycle that your mare fails to become pregnant, or every aborted pregnancy, money and time are lost. Your local vet might be great at lameness but that doesn’t mean they’re great at repro. Find someone who specializes in reproductive work, especially if you have a tricky mare or are using frozen semen. Also be wary of industry professionals who use incorrect terminology. A really common one: there is no such thing as an “absorbed” pregnancy.  If your vet uses this term, it could possibly be a red flag about their equine reproductive qualifications. A lost pregnancy is an abortion and it is expelled via the cervix – the conceptus is just so tiny in early pregnancy that you’re unlikely to ever find signs of it. If they’re using incorrect basic terminology, what else are they getting wrong on your dime?


Foaling is effing scary. Yeah sure, it’s amazing, blah blah blah, miracle of life, blah blah, but really – it’s SCARY. Don’t believe me? Buy Blessed are the Brood Mares and try to get a good nights sleep after you read it (for real though, buy it, and The Foaling Primerand throw in The Complete Book of Foaling for good measure). If you’ve never seen a mare give birth, you’re probably in for a very stressful night when your mare goes into labor. Foaling can be brutal, and things can go very very wrong in the blink of an eye. If you’re uncomfortable handling a foaling emergency, or if you don’t have a way to quickly and easily get a mare and foal to a vet for help, send your mare to a qualified professional for foaling. You don’t want that terror, trust me.


A live foal is only the beginning. Baby is here! You’ve made it! Mission accomplished! Well… you’ve made it to the beginning of the mission. Now you’re responsible for taking care of another horse, one that knows literally nothing. Those first few years are crucial – are you qualified to handle and train a horse that knows literally nothing? Foals are a totally different ballgame and to be honest, sometimes they’re huge jerks. Baby tantrums are real.


Breeding a horse to keep “forever” is unrealistic. This is something else you see pretty often, too. Person has a mare who they say is their “heart horse” and they really want to breed her. They know she has some major flaws, but that’s ok, because they’re going to keep the baby forever. Insert about one million eye rolls here. C’mon, man. That’s about as unrealistic as you can get. Things change, life happens, and there’s just no way to guarantee a “forever” anything. If you’re going to breed a horse, make something that is still useful and marketable. Train it to be a good citizen. Teach it manners, from day one. Those are the only ways to stack the odds in the horse’s favor so that it can have the best chance at a good life, whether it stays with you or not.

Duds are real. A lot of people don’t talk about this, but even the two very best parents can still produce an offspring that isn’t as good as they are. Sure, some things (like jumping ability) are more heritable than others, but if it were as easy as putting two great horses together, we’d have a world full of Sapphire’s and Sam’s and Blueberry’s. If you’re really trying to produce something very specific, you’re probably better off buying a horse that already exists. The idea of breeding is fun, because it lets us visit fantasyland for a while, but that’s a whole lot of time and money and risk to put into what is, ultimately, a best case scenario. Are you prepared for the worst case scenario?


Fair Hill, here we come!

When I saw USEA post last week about a free workshop with Marilyn Payne at the Young Event Horse Championships, I totally geeked the hell out.


For those who aren’t interested in clicking on the link to read through it all, the short version is:

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Committee is excited to announce they will be offering an educational opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about the YEH program, especially current YEH judges, riders, trainers and breeders.  The workshops will be led by Marilyn Payne and will take place at both the East and West Coast YEH Championships. Participants in the workshop will sit as a group with Marilyn to observe all phases of the competition.  Everyone will have the opportunity to practice judge, compare notes, ask questions, and discuss the fine points of such factors as scoring range, how to evaluate the gallop on the flat versus over fences, and anything else unique to YEH judging. 

Shut. The. Eff. Up.

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it feels like Christmas

My most favorite things combined into one – breeding, young horse development, and eventing – and there’s a FREE workshop, at CHAMPIONSHIPS, with MARILYN FREAKING PAYNE??? I immediately messaged my friend Michelle at Willow Tree Warmbloods and told her we had to go. Luckily she geeked out almost as much as I did, because nerds.

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The West Coast Championships are at Woodside, and the East Coast Championships are at Fair Hill, so I immediately started looking up flights to both areas and comparing prices. I stumbled upon some amazingly great deals if we flew into Baltimore on the particular days we needed, and another friend of mine lives only 10 minutes from Fair Hill and offered us a place to stay, so tada – just like that – within an hour we were booked for Fair Hill.

Badasses Kathy and Lofty in the 2* at FH last year

The YEH Champs are on Thursday and Friday next week but we decided to stay an extra day so we could watch all the FEI level XC too. I haven’t been to FH since 2001 when I was a working student in MD, and I’m so freaking excited it’s a little unbearable. Being excited about something is way more fun that being bummed that my horse is broken.

I already stalked all the horses entered in the YEH-Ch and picked out some that I definitely want to pay particularly close attention to (like the Mighty Magic 4yo that Phillip is riding, and a couple by Diarado). I know I’m a total nerd but this kind of learning opportunity is so cool, and super valuable for those interested in anything involving breeding or bringing up young eventers, especially through the YEH program. I can’t wait!

Oh, and if anyone else is going to be at Fair Hill, hit me up!