If you didn’t follow the inaugural US Event Horse Futurity on facebook in 2019, you really missed out. The training vlogs were fantastic, and it was so educational to see how different trainers approach different issues, and how the horses progressed throughout the year. I developed a bit of a fangirl crush on Maya Black, someone I didn’t know a whole lot about before the Futurity.
You see some of these upper level people running around the big stuff with older experienced horses, but it’s such a different ballgame to see them with young horses and get a front row seat to watch how they train. It’s an entirely separate skillset. Some of the trainers were exceptionally good at knowing when to take the pressure away and just hack out or give time off, and knowing just how much they had to prepare without pushing the 4yo brain. It’s an art form that’s fascinating to me (and extremely applicable to real life), and the Futurity brought it to the public eye in a way that is rarely so accessible.
Anyway, if you missed it, the winner of the 2019 Futurity and the second place horse at the YEH Championships overall was Double Diamond C, by Diacontinus. Y’all might remember Diacontinus because I was stalking him a little in Germany in 2017 at Bundeschampionate, plus his sire is Diarado, who is also the sire of one of Presto’s half brothers (Manny).
This week the Futurity posted the 2020 entrants – 11 new baby event horses throwing their hats into the ring to be crowned the next winner. It’s an interesting group, with a couple stallions, a few trakehners, a variety of warmbloods, some tb x wb crosses, a little 15h guy, and even a few dressage-bred horses. It’s a whole new collection of rider/trainers too, so we’ll get to see even more insight into how different people approach the process.
It’s a little too early for me to pick a favorite, since the Futurity has just starting posting pictures and videos of the horses on their facebook page, but if we’re going by pedigree I’m particularly interested to see how Galway, Protego, and Exmoor Xena come along.
Anyone else been following along and looking at the new entries yet? Who’s your early favorite? Did you glean anything useful from the 2019 vlogs?
I am a big fan of riding bareback. Especially for long walking hacks, or those super hot summer days where it’s just too hot to be bothered to tack up, or even sometimes for dressage rides to get a better feel for what the horse is doing and my own aids. I’m convinced that it’s really beneficial when it comes to highlighting bad habits or position flaws. I ride bareback pretty regularly, at least a couple times a month even up to a couple times a week in the summer, and I feel like I would definitely do it more often if I had a good bareback pad. Right now I use a half pad or a saddle pad, which does the job comfort-wise but tends to slip and slide around, tending to become more of an impediment if you want to travel above a walk. It’s annoying.
I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I should invest in a good bareback pad, but so many other things have always come first. I think I’m finally to the point where my other tack situations are well-managed (or, uh… overmanaged) and since we’re not so much in major competition mode right now and I’m sitting on some Visa gift cards, it seems like it might be time. Except… holy crap there are SO MANY bareback pads on the market. Since I’ve never owned one, trying to choose has been really daunting.
Here’s what I know:
I know that I don’t want one of those cheap fake fleecey ones that have the girth attached way too far forward. I don’t like the material and they don’t stay in place well and everything about it fills me with hatred.
I know that I want one with a generous contour cut, to allow for high withers. Because thoroughbreds.
I know that I prefer one with english girth billets, so that I can use my own girths.
I know that I don’t want a “treeless saddle” or stirrups/stirrup attachments on the pad.
I know that I need enough padding to where when Henry inevitably spooks, he won’t break my vagina with his aforementioned high withers.
I know that the only bareback pads I’ve ever tried before are the cheap fleecey ones and the Thinline, and I didn’t like either one.
Beyond that, I know literally NOTHING.
So I’ve been scouring the internet for a while, looking at all my options. When I found ones that looked interesting, I emailed or messaged the company to ask for more information. Most were really helpful. Some never responded. I think, from all of my obsessive stalking, I’ve narrowed it down to four contenders. They vary a lot, both in style and in price.
My old faithful Riding Warehouse does have a decent selection of bareback pads. The Horsedream and the Stargazer, while plush and dreamy AF, are massively over my budget. But they do carry the Best Friend pads, which I’ve found generally good reviews for. It comes in navy (always a bonus), it isn’t fleece, it has a little contour to the topline (I’m not convinced it’s enough, but maybe), and I think the girth is attached far enough back to work. Of course, it does have the western cinch style girth, which I don’t want, and it’s not as padded or structured as I had in mind. But, at $65 it’s the cheapest of my options.
Going to the next price point, I found the Barefoot Ride-On pads at $185ish. Still has about the same amount of padding, but it’s a little more structured, has the english billets, and also has some dees if I wanted to attach a breastplate or something. Unfortunately this is the only company that didn’t respond to my messages/questions, which bums me out. Also the color options are boring/awful. Not sure the good things are enough to be worth 3 times as much as the Best Friend, and the lack of communication from the company bothers me. A lot.
If you bump up the price point to $280 we get to the Brockamp pads, which are beautiful. The US Brockamp dealer answered all of my questions in a lot of detail and was super nice, which means a lot. Brockamps are made in Italy, and the foam is structured to give the rider more stability as well as give the horse’s spine more clearance, which prevents rubbing or binding. Really important qualities for Henry in particular who is really bothered by both of those things. The Brockamps seem to be very popular in Europe and thus are perpetually back-ordered. They come in a huuuuuge range of colors, and the US dealer has a few in stock, although not in either color I would want (navy or dark green), so I’d have to wait 2-3 months for the next shipment to come in to get one of those colors. But they DO have every feature I’m looking for, albeit in a bit higher price point than I had in mind (still nowhere near the Horsedream or Stargazer range though!). Then again, if I had a pad like this I’d probably ride bareback a lot more.
And then, because if there are beautiful and expensive things in the world I will definitely find every single one of them, there are the Trailmaster pads. They start around $250 for synthetic or $350 for leather, varying according to what exactly you want (I actually like the synthetic more – small miracle). They’re handmade in the USA completely custom, with just about any colors and fabrics and features you want and available in high wither cut. I mean come on. They are just gorgeous. More minimalist for sure than the Brockamp, a bit less padded and without as much structure for the rider. I love that they use wool felt topped with a thin layer of memory foam. I feel like it would put me closer to the horse for flat work, with the tradeoff being that it’s less secure. Hmmmmm. The owner of the company was again helpful at providing info and answering my questions.
I’m torn. My wallet says to go with the cheapest option, but after seeing the really nice ones it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the others. I do think I ride bareback enough to justify a nice pad, and if I had a nice pad I would probably ride bareback even more. Plus a good one should last for quite a long time. But then again, it’s not a small chunk of change. And if I did opt for a nice one, I’d have to choose between the Brockamp and the Trailmaster.
Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m a bridle addict. I like the thrill of looking through all the different new bridles. I like looking at the different styles and features, and the more unique it is, the more intrigued I am. I love opening a box and having a waft of that intoxicating new leather smell hit my nose. I love oiling or conditioning it for the first time, working the leather in my hands to soften it. I love putting it together, getting all the parts adjusted “just so”. There are few things in the world as satisfying to me as this. And all of those things combined are probably how I now find myself with 9 bridles.
I like having a bridle for any occasion, and I definitely don’t like having horses share the same bridle. Henry’s got a dressage bridle, a bitless bridle, a cross country bridle, a flash jumping bridle that is currently not in the rotation, a hackamore bridle (different from the bitless!), and a hunt bridle. Presto has his cob bridle that he’s pretty much totally outgrown, his new padded horse size bridle, and now… a green bridle?
See, I’ve been looking at those colored QHP Shiva bridles for a long time. The navy one is what originally caught my attention of course (#navy4life), but in my mind’s eye I just didn’t think I would love it on Henry. Plus he, even by my own admission, already really does have a bridle for everything. I just wasn’t sure that I would actually use it (yes I realize my logic is not always consistent considering I still haven’t used the hunt bridle for anything aside from a photo shoot. I plead extenuating circumstances on that one.). So I resisted the Shiva for a really long time.
And then I started doing mostly green for Presto, which turned my attention from the navy bridle to the green one. But green… on a bridle… was it too much? I kept seeing customer photos of it, and I really liked the look, but did I like it for me? Plus I didn’t need (my most dangerous word) another bridle, especially for a not-even-3yo. And then one day Decopony posted another pic of it on her instagram story and this time I made the mistake of responding saying that it was so pretty, and then she was like as it turns out I’m in the mood to clean out some stock for the new year, let’s make a deal.
And that’s how the last remaining Full size green/brown Shiva bridle in her stock made it into Presto’s possession.
I remained a little bit unsure about the green bridle from the moment of purchase all the way up until the moment I put it on Presto. I thought that the green would look good on his coloring, but considering his face markings and his crazy forelock and the fancy stitching and the buckles on the noseband, would it be too much? Tacky? I mean I dunno if I’ve mentioned this y’all but it’s green. This was very far outside of my usual wheelhouse. My deeply ingrained h/j roots were screaming in terror from whatever deep dark recesses of my brain they’ve been shoved down into.
But I tacked him up, put on his new green/navy reversible breastplate with the green side out (I love that thing and it cost me all of $10 with some gift card creativity), put his green bridle on, and… loved it. Like waaaaaay more than I thought I would. There’s something about it that just works on him. It’s quirky and fun and looks really good with his dark coloring. And it’s subtle enough that once you get 20′ feet away you can’t tell it’s green. It’s not like “OH MY GOD HELLO I’M A GREEN FUCKING BRIDLE”, it’s more like “hey girl, sup, I heard you like green?”.
So, ya know, TLDR – that’s why the non-broke horse now has 3 bridles. But hey, that’s still half as many as Henry. I think I’m doing okay.
Also I’m using this as the catalyst event to finally allow myself to get the dark green gloves that I’ve been drooling over for months. Please no one ask me how many pairs of gloves I have, then I’ll have to write another post just like this one (it’s 7, I have 7 pairs, last time I checked I only have 1 pair of hands but I LOVE GLOVES).
My SO is, and always has been, very typically suburban. He really truthfully had no freaking idea what he was getting into with me, although bless him, he’s been pretty patient about it. He was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, then lived in the suburbs of DC, and then moved to Austin. He’s definitely never lived in the country, or even spent much time there, aside from attending a few polo matches when he lived near Middleburg (do those even count?).
He’s not TOO much of a prissy city boy though. He was originally a mechanic by trade, he’s handy, and he likes hiking and mountain biking. Although his experience with animals has been mainly limited to pets, he definitely loves them and has a bit of a bleeding heart. Like he won’t even kill a cockroach, he’ll catch it and take it outside.
Granted, it’s taken me YEARS to get him comfortable with being close to the horses. At first he would stand as far away as possible, extending his hand with a treat in it, yanking it back several times out of fear of being bitten before the horse could manage to snatch it fast enough. And then once the treat was successfully administered, he’d pretty much immediately go wash his hands.
He’s always said he’d like to live more out in the country, though. But he hates driving very far, especially regularly, and a store being 15 minutes away is relatively horrifying to him, so I was never sure how that would quite work out. When the farm-living opportunity came along, it definitely took me a while to talk him into it. Mostly because of the tiny house aspect, not because of the farm aspect. He has a lot of stuff and loves having a lot of stuff, so I know he’s going to have a hard time with 400 square feet. There’s not much I can do about that part, he’s going to have to struggle through it and figure it out. BUT, I have been using this fall/winter to slowly ease him into the farm life side of things.
For now he lives at our house in the city most of the time, but comes out to the farm every Friday after work and stays through Saturday afternoon. Naturally, I save all of the “bigger” projects for Saturdays. Partly because some of them are easier to do with two people, and partly because I want him to start learning this stuff. If he’s going to be living here in the near future, he should understand how to do things and be able to contribute.
It started very very simply. His first official farm helper job was to dump and scrub all the water troughs and water buckets. Turns out this is also his least favorite job, for reasons unknown. Since he hated that so much, he quickly volunteered for other things, like driving the manure spreader (I didn’t warn him about the dust factor when it’s windy, so the first time he came driving back up to the barn covered in dirty shavings dust was only funny to one of us), moving hay from the storage barn to the main barn, fixing the lawnmower, changing batteries/lightbulbs, etc. Each weekend it’s progressed more and more.
In introducing him to all of this stuff I’ve realized that certain things are NOT inherent to all people. Like… how to lift/carry a hay bale. That very first day we had to move hay he looked at the bale, grabbed it in a big bear hug, and crab-walked it over. I died. It was hilarious. It never would have occurred to me that people don’t know to grab it by the twine. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to explain some of these tasks to the totally uninitiated, so this is a learning experience for me too. Also apparently normal people don’t have tons of calluses on their hands, because he tossed about 3 bales before I had to go find him some gloves. Who knew.
He’s done it all without much complaint, though. He painted Chew Stop on the fences, and only complained a little bit when it got all over his hands (even through his gloves, which he wears pretty much at all times when he’s outside) and burned his skin. He’s gotten good at moving hay bales now, and it doesn’t make him sore anymore. I can’t even describe the delight I felt the first time he texted me on a Thursday and said “I just found a ton of hay in the pocket of my hoodie”. THAT is the true mark of initiation, for sure.
He’s learned to drive the tractor, and learned the proper pattern for dragging the arena, which he does every weekend. He airs up the perpetually cranky tractor tire. He re-stapled all of the ceiling insulation tiles that the storm blew down, and fixed all the bushes, and helped me pick up the scattered branches. He even volunteered to help me clean stalls, which… I draw a hard line there. Let’s be honest, he will not clean them to my standards, and he’s not ready to learn yet. That wouldn’t end well. I did let him pick the poop out of the stall runs, though, since that’s easy enough, and he didn’t hate it.
He’s even learned the difference between coastal and alfalfa hay, and what a flake is. I’ve instilled the concept of ALWAYS CLOSE THE GATE BEHIND YOU to the point where if I go through a gate and leave it open he asks if he should close it. I mean, that’s never the case, I never accidentally leave a gate open, but it’s impressive that he’s now aware enough to ask.
He’s even slowly gotten more comfortable with the horses. One time at night check he actually KISSED one of them. He’s pretty confident at giving them treats now too… I mean he still washes his hands immediately after and definitely looked a little green the night Henry laid a big sloppy wet lick on my open mouth, but he no longer yanks his hands away or backs up when they get close. He’s also starting to see and appreciate their personalities, laughing at the silly things they do. Last weekend I gave him his first official big horse task – turning Henry back out while I babysat Presto for the farrier. I did explain how to take the halter off (he’s learning how to do things, I’m learning how to explain things better) but otherwise he completed the task with no issues and no further instruction. That’s the first time he’s ever had to lead a horse anywhere or be solely responsible for one.
He’s also realizing just how much work it is, and that the labor ain’t no joke. There’s always something more to do. But, like me, he gets satisfaction out of it. There’s something really great about doing relatively simple basic labor that’s really rewarding, especially when you spend most of your days behind a computer screen. You can easily see what you’ve accomplished, and that it means something.
We’re making progress. I think there’s hope for making a farm boy out of him yet.
While I will never complain about what has so far been a mild winter (even by Texas standards) it is weird as hell to have a spring/summer type of mega thunderstorm blow through in January.
The forecast for Friday was super doom and gloom. They were calling for straight line winds of up to 75mph, tornadoes, and lots of hail. The farm was along the southern most tip of the projected affected area so the forecasters went back and forth for days (and even the day OF) trying to decide if it would actually hit us or not, and when. I had extra shavings delivered, in case the horses had to stay in all day, and watched and waited. And waited. And waited.
By the time it finally formed and started marching across Texas, it was a couple hours later than they’d originally said. Every time I checked the weather app they’d changed their mind about whether or not it was going to continue to form far enough south to hit us. The storm was definitely just as nasty as they’d said, though. Some places were getting 70mph wind and golf ball size hail. Parts were dumping rain at a rate as much as 15″ per hour, but it was moving so fast that luckily no one really got too much. There were several areas of rotation that could be tornadic, and at one point one of them was pointing right at us. It was close to hurricane-like. We get a few storms like that per year, but never in JANUARY. So odd.
By 8 I could tell we were definitely going to get slammed, so I went out and gave everyone more hay, shut all the doors, and hunkered down inside. It hit around 9, and it hit very suddenly and violently. It sounded like a train was circling the house, the wind was howling so hard (50-60mph, they said later). The windows were rattling, the power was flickering, and I could hear things blowing around outside. The satellite went out and I lost the connection to the barn cameras, so the dog and I just sat and waited.
Luckily it WAS traveling really fast, so within 20 minutes it had passed over. I went out and checked on the horses, who seemed to have not even noticed. The rain had blown so hard that the entire aisle of the barn was soaking wet, but the horses and stalls were dry. Some of the ceiling insulation had blown out and I saw a lot of little scattered branches, but in the dark it was hard to tell much else. Since the horses and structures seemed to be fine, I went to bed.
The next morning the SO came and we walked the property checking for damage. Luckily the leaning power pole (that is slated to be fixed soon) hadn’t budged, and there was no major damage to any trees. Lots of little limbs down, and the bushes along the back of the house were blown completely over the fence, but considering the wind, it wasn’t bad at all. The letters from the dressage arena and my jumps were blown all over the damn place, though. My barrels were scattered across various ends of the pasture, blown up against the fence. But, thank goodness, that was all easily fixed.
We had everything sorted and cleaned up by Saturday afternoon, so no real harm done. That was a completely bonkers storm though, for this time of year. Hail and tornadoes in January?? And Dallas had all this same weather on Friday night, then SNOW on Saturday morning. What the heck? Luckily it wasn’t even all that cold down here, much less snowing… that would have made me exceedingly grumpy.
Global warming is nuts. Anyone else having crazy weather?
As you may remember, at Thanksgiving the SO (hereafter known as Crazy Cat Dude or CCD) brought home a black kitten from the local rescue because he’s a sucker. This delighted me, mostly because I was the one that acquired the last two animals (okay 4 if you count horses), and now we’re totally almost even. Ish. If you’re bad at math.
We went back and forth for a couple weeks on his name. I wanted something monster related, preferably movie monsters since the other cat’s name is Gremlin. May as well have a theme, and let’s be honest, cats are both dramatic and monsters, so it kinda works. We never really found anything we both loved, but we did settle on one we both at least liked – Count Orlok, or just Orlok for short. CCD is super into classic horror films, and don’t tell CCD but I kinda think the cat looks like Count Orlok, so it fits.
Of course, right now CCD is living at home and I’m living at the farm, so I’ve spent approximately 4 total hours with the kitten. Mostly I just get constant updates and pictures and videos. He’s a cute cat, less shy than Grem, definitely less sensitive, and a little dumber. They’re definitely very different. Honestly I think that works out well in this dynamic. He’s very happy and naive and bold, but not at all alpha or sensitive or timid. He just wants to play and sleep and be a dude, bro.
At first Grem was pissed, as cats usually are when you introduce a new cat into an established household. She hated him, and she hated CCD for bringing him into her kingdom. She wasn’t aggressive, she just didn’t want anything to do with either of them. Majorly majorly offended. Every time I stopped by the house to pick up mail or a package, she would come running up to me, screaming and demanding that I pick her up and pet her and take her away from that horrible place. Oh how the tables have turned. I used to be her second choice, taking whatever affection she deigned to throw my way. Now I’m her clear favorite and she loves me. HA.
She’s definitely coming around, though. Once she finally settled enough to start playing with him a little she decided he wasn’t so bad after all. Turns out she can WAP him all she wants and clamp her teeth around his head to her hearts content, and his goofy dumb ass just loves it. That’s way more fun than when she tried to do those things to the dogs, who would flee in abject terror. I think Grem has now decided that Orlok must be her toy.
She no longer sits around staring at him like she wants him to die. She doesn’t quite love him yet, but she doesn’t hate him anymore. She is, however, holding a bit of a grudge against CCD. I’m definitely keeping the preferred parent status even while being largely absentee, so this is working out pretty well for me.
We still have to figure out the best way to fit the animals and all of their accoutrements (CCD will not stop buying cat toys and furniture, omg you should see the living room) into the tiny house, but that’s a post for another day.
That’s a lie. They probably don’t really call me anything, and I don’t even know who “they” is. But they should call me Dolphin Rider, because that’s basically my profession these days.
Henry has been back in work for about 4 weeks now. I’ve started him back really slowly, gradually building up the work load. We started doing mostly walk with some trots, incrementally lengthening the time and adding more sets, then tossed in a few hill repeats, and last week we started adding lateral work, more circles, and cantering.
You know who’s been really excited about cantering?
He’s lost a lot of strength during all his down time, especially in his topline, so I’ve been riding him in his bitless bridle. He looooves to stretch in that thing, and it’s easier to ride him longer and lower in that, which is where I want him right now. He’s kind of learned that that’s his “stretchy work” bridle, and his dressage bridle is his “up in the contact like a proper dressage horse bridle”. I also like riding him in the bitless when I’m really trying to tune him more to leg and seat. Since he’s just coming back, is rusty, and we aren’t doing anything remotely earth-shattering, I’ve taken the easier and more casual route with the bitless. The one downside of that bridle? When he’s feeling particularly feisty he loves to plant his nose between his knees and crowhop to his hearts content, like he’s trying out for the damn rodeo.
I have talked about this before, but he sucks at bucking. Like most of the time there’s way more head flailing than there are hind feet leaving the ground, much less getting very high in the air. I love him dearly but he legit sucks at it. He remains blissfully unaware of that fact, though, and absolutely loves trying. I find this to be endlessly amusing, and he always seems so damn pleased with himself, so I just ride it out, laugh at him, let him play a bit, and then leg him on. Even on his friskiest days he’s good for maybe 15-30 seconds of what I have come to call dolphining before he levels out and settles into a normal canter. He rarely does it when he’s in regular work, but if he’s had some time off or it’s particularly cold/windy or we’re doing something he deems “exciting”… game on.
Those first few days of cantering again, though… boy. I don’t think he took one single step of normal canter. I was off to the world’s least impressive rodeo, and he morphed into Flipper.
At one point he even squealed. He legit thought that he was the most impressively naughty bucking bronco in the whole world, while I was just trying not to laugh too hard.
This went on for the entire first week of canter work. By ride 3 of that week I was getting a few actual canter steps after a lap or two of dolphining. On ride 4 it was hot so he tucked his freak flag in and was normal that day, then the next ride it was windy and out it came again. He definitely is getting less and less enthusiastic about it as we ease back into a regular schedule, but sometimes he just can’t help himself. Like when we’re cantering uphill. Or like when we cantered with Bobby the other day, and Bobby peeked over his shoulder at us only to find Henry bouncing around like an idiot behind him. He found that to be quite entertaining.
Henry is moving back into his real bridle next week, and we’re going to start adding poles into the mix, so he’ll probably be really bummed about that. He’s enjoyed his time as a completely lawless hooligan, leaping and bouncing around all over the place. It would break his naughty little heart to know this, but I kinda like it when he feels fresh enough to try to play a little like that. Maybe I’m weird but coming from him, I find it endearing. He’s coming up on 13 and shows no signs of maturing out of it anytime soon. Never change, Henny, never change.
I am a strong believer in the power of genetics. Obviously. Otherwise it would be kind of dumb for me to breed or be so obsessively interested in pedigrees and bloodlines. While we haven’t gotten particularly far along in equine genetics, we do know that certain traits are heritable, or at least seem to be more heritable than others. Here are a few studies if you’re interested in nerd things:
If you really want to lose a couple days, there are studies out there covering the heritability of everything from facial hair patterns to OCD to cribbing to speed. Go to town.
Obviously many breeders and breed associations are obsessed with this. The goal is to make superior horses, generation over generation, and data can certainly be essential to that. Most registries track the offspring closely, assign breeding values to stallions, and even make handy dandy charts to show how a stallion’s offspring tend to trend as far as size, gaits, foot shape, back length, hock angle, etc. While nothing is heritable all the time, I do believe that a lot of things are highly heritable, and some stallions (and mares) are more prepotent for certain traits. A lot of people base a lot of breeding decisions based off of that theory, me included. Looking at the trends among the offspring is much more valuable to a breeder than looking at the stallion himself – you want to know how he produces, what traits seem most heritable. That’s the important part.
Of course, we also know that getting all the necessary traits for success into one package is a tough thing to do. The horse can have all the speed in the world, but if it doesn’t want to run, it won’t be a successful race horse. It could have gaits like Totilas, but if it doesn’t have the brain to withstand the pressures of the job, it probably won’t be winning any medals. Or if it doesn’t stay sound, or if it’s ridiculously hard to ride, etc etc. There’s also the flip side, where the horse might not be particularly talented, but it loves to work and is easy to ride and wants to do a job. Many horses live somewhere in that area. But the truly tip top horses… they tend to have a lot of those qualities combined into one horse.
The recipe for success certainly isn’t as easy as breeding a tip top horse to another tip top horse. Zenyatta’s foals are good examples of that. These traits, while definitely carrying a heritable tendency, just don’t come through all the time, or even most of the time. And to make things even more complicated, there are certain individuals that seem to either seriously out-produce their own quality or seriously under-produce their own quality. It isn’t at all uncommon for a relatively mediocre performance mare to become an absolute tip top producer. Breeding is hard, and relatively unpredictable, at least from our current understanding of genetics.
Like I said earlier though, I do believe that heritability, or at least some genetic tendency, is generally a relatively reliable thing. I become even more convinced of that when I watch JB and Presto at play. JB, the yearling, is very well bred for dressage. He doesn’t quite have the big flashy movement yet, but his natural balance is quite impressive. I have watched him do more textbook perfect canter pirouettes than I can even recall at this point. He’s naturally much stronger behind and across his topline, and has much more natural “sit” ability than Presto does. Which makes sense. Presto is bred to do this:
It’s really interesting to watch them, because they both love to run and buck and roughhouse and all the things that babies do, but their natural predispositions – their purposely bred genetic tendencies – definitely come out. JB’s balance. Presto’s boldness. They’ll be galloping together and then all the sudden Presto will veer down and zip past the edge of the pond, or jump down the bank, or leap over the ditch. He likes the more fun “offroad” path and aims for it on purpose. JB tends to always decline those options, instead choosing to redirect himself to a less risky path, probably throwing in a lovely lead change in the process. I can watch them forever and be endlessly fascinated by it, theorizing on why and how they’re wired to react the way they do. Most of it makes a lot of sense.
I chose Presto’s sire specifically because of the rideability and seemingly natural cross country prowess of all the offspring I’ve seen. He appeared to have a relatively high tendency to produce whatever qualities combine to contribute to success in that phase, particularly with amateur and junior riders. Of course, I do believe that the mare is a, probably the, crucial part of the equation, so I went with a mare that had similar qualities too. Watching Presto now, as he shows me some natural predisposition to his future job, I become even more sold on just how heritable all of these things can be. Certainly, a lot of it is “nurture”, but you can’t discount the basic influence of what we breed into their nature.
I can’t wait to see what scientists keep learning about all of this as we move along and our understanding and technology increases. I’m relatively convinced that there’s a genetic factor to almost everything, maybe even the things that seem anomalistic to us now.
Taking care of your own horses 24/7 definitely gives you a different perspective on them, and you start to learn some weird things. Particularly when cleaning their stalls and picking up their poop day in and day out. Like for instance, I came to notice that Presto’s turds are consistently small for a horse his size, like for real they look more like pony poops. Which led to a closer examination and determination that he has, well… a tiny butthole for a horse his size.
Seriously I don’t know why you people keep coming to this blog.
Aside from such earth-shattering revelations as tiny buttholes, I’ve also become keenly aware of and interested in their stall-keeping habits. Right now the horses are out for about 12 hours and then inside for about 12 hours. They have nice size stalls with runs attached off the back, so they’re free to come and go between the two spaces as they please. It seems like most of the horses prefer mainly pooping outside and peeing inside, which is nice. Easy to clean. Sometimes they’ll have one or two piles inside, but nothing major. Henry and Presto, however, are polar opposites at extreme ends of the spectrum.
Henry is very much a “poop where he’s standing” type of guy. He doesn’t seem to give it any thought, he just shits wherever he happens to be at the time. There could be 5 piles in his stall in all different spots. Or they could all be piled in one corner. Or he could have mulched it all up into soup. Or maybe it’s all outside. Every day is different, depending on how he spent his night. He seems to give zero shits about laying in poop and has zero motivation to “keep his room clean” so to speak. His is always the dirtiest stall and always takes the longest to clean. You just never know what you’re going to find and where.
Presto, on the other hand, is the opposite. In the entire two months that they’ve been coming inside at night, he’s pooped in his stall a grand total of twice. His poops are almost always relegated to the very end of the run, spread in a semi-circle next to the fence. Usually he has one pee in his stall, in the exact same spot every day, and he never lays in it. He uses hardly any shavings and it takes maybe 4 minutes to clean his stall and run.
It was kind of surprising to me to find that he’s such a neat stall horse. He’s not a clean horse otherwise, in fact he rolls at the edge of the pond every single day thus always has mud clinging to him somewhere. His mother was a pig in her stall too, so I have no idea where he picked up this inclination. At previous barns where he didn’t have a run, he wasn’t very neat, and often walked everything into a mess when he got bored. Something about having two spaces (and more space) makes him happier I guess?
With work and my long commute and barn stuff, my days become a balancing act of trying to fit everything in during daylight hours, so the less time I have to spend cleaning stalls, the better. Thus Presto, who always has the cleanest stall of the four, always wins the unofficial Stallkeeper award. If you think about it, it kind of fits.
The whole “I’ll shit where I want and you’ll pick it up because that’s your job” attitude is very Henry. And the desire to please the human and do the good boy thing is very Presto. I’ve found myself pondering this often when I’m cleaning stalls; how weird it is that each horse’s poo habits fit so perfectly with their personality? Obviously the horses aren’t thinking “I’m gonna poop outside because the human prefers it” or “screw her, I shit where I please”… that’s not how their brains work at all. Yet somehow their habits do end up matching their basic personality anyway.
And then I was listening to a book about FBI profiling, and I was thinking maybe you could build a psych profile on a horse based solely on it’s stall keeping habits. Thinking of the four I take care of, you totally could, and you’d be pretty spot on. Perhaps this is a book idea in the making? Could you tell your horse’s psych profile from it’s stall? All this time people have been using whirls to attempt to read personality, but maybe instead we should be gazing into their dirty stalls.
Yes, these are the kind of ground breaking topics I ponder when I’m cleaning stalls. You could probably profile me based on that, too… tiny buttholes and horse personality profiles…
Despite having been out at the new place for about 4 months now, I haven’t had much opportunity to really explore the area. First it was still super hot, then Henry was lame for a while, and it just didn’t happen. But now (knock on copious amounts of wood) Henry is back in regular work again, and we finally got the chance to do some poking around.
There’s a boarding barn pretty much right across the main road from us that recently opened, and they’ve got a covered arena, a decent size outdoor arena, and a lot of land. Fun fact, Sadie did her very first little show there as a 3yo literally a decade ago when the farm was under a different name and management, but I hadn’t been back since then and didn’t remember a whole lot about it.
Bobby mentioned wanting to go trail ride somewhere, so I figured this could be the perfect opportunity to go check out the farm. I’ve been following on facebook and it looks like they’re set to make some improvements, including clearing more trails for conditioning, adding some XC jumps (particularly ditch/bank/water), and putting in a rider gate right across from the stop sign at the end of our road. That would make it all of a 200-300 yard ride to get from our gate to their property. Considering I want to spend most of Presto’s first year under saddle just hacking him out and trail riding, easy access to 80 acres would be a big boon. Plus it would give me a bigger space to do Henry’s conditioning work, or just get him out for a change of scenery. Naturally, I would like to be best friends with these people.
So I made an appointment for us to hack over and ride out there on Sunday. Bobby trailered over to our place, and we got on and rode over to the other farm. On the way over we just rode down to their driveway, which is about half a mile down the main road. It isn’t a particularly busy road but the cars do tend to travel fast… luckily both our horses are well-used to road traffic, so it wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t super clear on exactly what was their land versus other people’s land, but once we got there we figured out that the one big empty front field actually has a gate out onto the main road that spits us out really close to my road, letting us avoid that half mile walk down to the main entrance. Bonus.
The space kind of brought back memories of the fields we lost at the barn that closed last year. It’s slightly rolling, which I think will be super nice for my needs. These wide open spaces just make my heart so happy.
We managed to make almost a 2 hour hack out of exploring everything and poking around the farm. They’ve got great bones to work with, and lots of land, so hopefully their vision will come to fruition. It would be great to have an extra big place to go hack the boys, especially if they put XC jumps out there. What a luxury it would be to not have to drive 2 hours each way to do some cross country! There’s also talk of doing some schooling shows (there are already some western dressage ones – their discipline of choice – set for this year), which would also be amazing. In what world have I ever been able to be within riding distance of a show facility? It could be great for Presto especially, as I start putting miles on him.
The facility is offering a one year riding pass for $125, which would be a pretty great deal if I utilized the space even just once a week. I’m excited to see how it comes along and what else they add. Bobby and I definitely had a good time poking around on a gorgeous 70 degree day!