It’s in the Blood: Mondial du Lion 2020

I’m not gonna lie, y’all, I get more excited about Mondial du Lion (aka the 6 and 7yo eventing world championships) than I do pretty much any other event all year, 5*’s included. There’s just something really fun about seeing the top up-and-comers in the sport, many of which we’re also seeing on the world stage for the very first time, and trying to pick out which ones will be the next big superstars. Because have no doubt, the next big superstars are definitely here among the field somewhere.

Mondial du Lion - 15 to 18 octobre 2020

I thought about holding off on this post until after MdL was over, to include scoring statistics and results stats, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from analyzing all this data by now, it’s that it really doesn’t matter where a horse finishes at MdL, it matters that they participated. Particularly in the 7yo class, which has been the springboard for a massive number of top horses. Remember WEG 2018, when more than 1/3 of the field had competed at MdL earlier in their career? Some of them had finished at the top, some of them had barely completed, but what mattered most is that they had been. So you can keep up with the live stream and the results (oh and also DEFINITELY go take a look at the jumps, they have the prettiest courses in the world, hands down – fight me) on your own… let’s take a deep dive into the horses themselves.

Starting with the 6yo (2*) horses, there’s definitely a wide variety. Most are jumper-bred with blood, per usual in event horse breeding, but there are also several dressage-bred horses in attendance – not super unusual at this lower FEI level, but it will be interesting to see if any of them return at 7 to contest the 3*. Jazz is represented by 3 horses – two as grandsire, one as great grandsire – and dressage stallions Ampere, Follow Me, and River Dance each have an offspring in the field as well. The blood percentage of the dressage-bred horses are all between 30-40%, definitely lower than the overall field average of 50%.

ELS Jazz - Dressage Stallions - Choose a Stallion UK

While those horses are relatively anomalistic for what we’re used to seeing in upper level eventing, the rest of the field is stacked with familiar names. There are two direct offspring of OBOS Quality 004, Contender is the grandsire of 2 (plus the great-grandsire of another via his son Contendro), Rosalier xx is the damsire of two, and Sir Shostakovich xx appears on the dam side of two. There are other very familiar thoroughbred names with representation, including Imperius xx, Noble Roi xx, Mytens xx, and Hand in Glove xx. There are no full thoroughbreds in the field, not particularly unusual for Europe, but 4 horses have one full TB parent – all of them being the dam. 82% of the horses in the field have Holsteiner (largely C line to Capitol or Cor de la Bryere) or Selle Francais (largely to Quidam de Revel or Galoubet) within the first two generations.

Rosalier’s 1990 brochure

Some of these 6yo’s also come from very successful and well-producing mares. Ollie Townend’s mount Cooley Rosalent has a full sibling competing at 4*. Dia van het Lichterveld Z is out of a mare who competed through 4* level herself with Karin Donckers. The dam of MHS Brown Jack is also the dam of 5* horse MHS King Joules (by TB stallion Ghareeb xx) and a 1.60m showjumper. Keenabout Wonderland’s dam has produced two other FEI-level event horses and three 1.50-1.60m showjumpers. Ballygriffin Chacoa Power’s dam has two other FEI-level eventing offspring, one at 3* and one at 4*.

Gini ten Hunsel, dam of Dia vh Lichterveld

The 7yo class is where things really start to get interesting. These horses have more FEI starts under their girths, and 3* is where we begin to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to top level talent. There is only one fully dressage-bred horse in this field (Quasary du Hans, by a Quaterback stallion out of a Rotspon mare), although dressage lines still show up here and there in a few pedigrees. Sir Donnerhall has one offspring (she’s interesting for another reason, we’ll circle back around to her in a minute), Sandro Hit can be found in the grandsire spot in two horses, and Fuerst Nymphenburg is the damsire of another. Again though, jumper lines are the overwhelming majority. This field does have a slightly higher blood average at 52%, although still no full blood participants. Four horses do have a full TB parent – 3 as the dam, 1 as the sire.

Vigo d’Arsouilles is the sire of two horses in the field, from full blood or high blood % mares, which caught my eye because this isn’t the first time in recent years that we’ve seen successful event horses from a Vigo x blood cross. There’s also been Fletcha van’t Verahof (5*/WEG), Leipheimer van’t verahof (4*), Extebaria van’t Verahof (4*), Lamicell Unique (4*), and Ruben de la Pomme (4*). Vigo’s sire Nebab de Reve is the grandsire of one other horse in the field as well.

Vigo d'Arsouilles is gone. | Stud For Life

Diarado is the only other stallion with two direct offspring in the field, although several stallions have multiple representations within the first four generations, including Contender, Lux Z, Carthago, Quick Star, Indoctro, Casall, Corrado, and Amethist. OBOS Quality 004, who has 2 offspring in the 2*, has one more in the 3* as well. While there is a lot of blood in this field – and 7 horses have a full TB damsire – only one TB stallion is seen more than once in the first 4 generations: Exorbitant xx. Again we see some familiar TB names though, like Count Ivor xx, Master Imp xx, and Esteban xx. There are also 3 horses in the field with full French Anglo-Arab sires.

Things really start to heat up (for me the mega-nerd, anyway) when you take a closer look at these horses’ dams. Hooney d’Arville (one of the Vigo offspring) is a homebred of rider Lara de Liedekerke, who competed the dam at WEG 2010. Hush A Bye Baby’s dam has also produced 4* horses Balham Mist (by Mill Law) and Colorado Blue (by Jaguar Mail). Kilandra Capitol is out of the same mare that also produced 5* horse Harbour Pilot C, who represented China at the 2014 WEG. Don’t Worry de Lameth’s dam competed through Prix St Georges level dressage herself. Global DHI’s dam and Irene Leva’s dam, ironically both by Amethist, each produced a large number of offspring – a whopping 17 and 18 respectively (and none were via ET), mostly jumpers through 1.50m level. Spring Thyme de la Rose, by dressage stallion Sir Donnerhall (see I told you we’d circle back around eventually), is out of Lucinda Fredericks’ 5* mare Prada. Prada also has two 2016 ET foals by Mighty Magic that I’m now stalking, thanks to this particular rabbit hole.

Lucinda Fredericks - Prada | Approach to Wadworth Barrels | Flickr
Prada at Badminton

The TL;DR version? These two fields are super interesting. You’ve got a wide variety of blood, from 28% to 87%. You’ve got a little dressage breeding. You’ve got lots and lots of jumper breeding. You’ve got a multitude of sires that were successful to 1.60m showjumping, 5* eventing, and Grand Prix dressage. You’ve got mares that showjumped, evented to the top levels, or did dressage themselves, or have produced multiple top level offspring. Which horses will come out on top? Who will we see running at the 5* level in a few years? Do we have future Olympic gold medalists and Burghley winners in our midst (odds are WE DO!)? We’ll have to wait and see…

Let’s Discuss: the OTTB market

I fell in love with a TB yesterday, y’all. It’s a good (or bad?) thing that all my excess money is tied up in the tiny house right now or I’d have been on the phone with this guy’s trainer before I even realized what I was doing.

A big, young, athletic, very well bred for sport, good-moving, extremely attractive, sound-looking horse? Sign. Me. Up. His crazy eye and wild forelock give him extra appeal in my book. I see a lot of thoroughbreds in my feed due to pages I follow and groups I’m in, but it’s been a while since I loved one this much. He’s even out of a Danzig mare. A direct Danzig daughter. Swoon. The only thing that could make him better (in my book) is if he was a she.

Alas, I’m not shopping and I need another cheeky 3yo like I need a hole in the head, so I posted him on my facebook and Instagram. Someone needs to buy him. Preferably someone I know so I can stalk him forever.


Anyway, it was kind of interesting to me that in both places I posted him, a couple people replied thinking he was too expensive for a horse just coming off the track. Fair enough, at $5,000 he’s on the higher side of what is typical. It leads to an interesting conversation though – what IS a fair price for a horse coming off the track these days?

Obviously that can vary a lot, in my mind, depending on the horse. Age, sex, size, soundness, athleticism, movement – all factors that can affect the value, just like any other horse. From what I’ve seen over the past few years, OTTB prices in general have gone up a bit, probably thanks to programs like RRP and the resurgence of TB-only classes and awards. For the most part I think it’s been a great thing. Sure, it costs me (the consumer) a bit more money up front, but a horse being worth more tends to be better for said horse’s safety and well-being. If a race trainer or owner knows they can get as much as a claiming tag by selling to the sporthorse world, maybe they’re less likely to keep running the horse who wants to be done. If they think they can get a few grand from the sporthorse world, maybe they’re more willing to go through the inconvenience of listing and taking phone calls rather than just loading the horse up on the meat truck.

Tickets Now On Sale for $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National  Symposium

Not to mention – if the horse is young and sound and athletic and healthy and attractive, is there any reason why it SHOULDN’T bring more money? To me, there’s actually a lot of value already built into a horse coming off the track. It’s seen a lot, it’s been handled a lot… that life experience is worth something. Sure maybe the horse needs a little downtime, some Gastrogard, some farrier work, or some re-training, but so might just about any other horse you get from just about anywhere for that price. Hell, even a super expensive import could need that. But if you went and bought a $5000 3 or 4yo warmblood, what would your expectations really be? The same as the TB, or would you settle for even less? Younger, greener, less athletic, lower quality, perhaps some vetting issues? I would challenge that it would be quite difficult to find a WB of comparable quality and experience for that little money. So even at 5k the TB is still quite a hefty bargain in the overall realm of sporthorse prices.

I’ve bought many an OTTB in my life, although none in a while. In these past few years I’ve seen friends pay mostly in the $2500-7000 range for horses coming off the track, depending on a) the quality of the horse, b) how lucky they were. That’s certainly higher than maybe 10-15 years ago. It’s rare for me to see a super high quality, sound one listed for less than $3000 anymore. Every once in a while there’s a right-place-right-time type situation, but it doesn’t seem particularly common. There are even re-sellers who have made a thriving business out of selling OTTB’s in these slightly higher price brackets. Benchmark immediately springs to mind – they tend to have the cream of the crop, really high quality horses on offer in the $5,000-12,000 price range, and they’ve made an excellent reputation for themselves in the industry. Considering how many they sell, and how quickly, there certainly does seem to be a market for OTTB’s in that price range. At the end of the day horses are worth what someone is willing to pay, and plenty of people seem willing to pay fair money for a quality horse.

Thoroughbred Jubilee Benefit Horse Show | Second Chance Thoroughbreds, Inc.

Am I horse shopping right now? No. Do I have extra money in my budget at the moment to go pick up another horse? No. But if I did, you can bet I wouldn’t have hesitated for even one second to pick up the phone and call on that horse. Would I like it if he was cheaper? LOL of course. I would like it if literally everything was cheaper. If I was hunting for a mega-bargain with a very low budget and was willing to make a lot of compromises (as was the situation when I bought Henry) then no, that particular horse wouldn’t make my list. But if I was shopping for a really high quality prospect that had it all, he’d 100% be it. IMO there’s definitely value in that, and I don’t begrudge them for putting a price like that on him at all – just like any other horse that ticks a lot of widely desirable boxes. If he’s worth it, someone will pay it. (Me. It would be me. I would pay it.)

So, let’s discuss. Pretend you’re shopping for a high quality young/green prospect and you’ve got like 10k+ to spend. Do you think 5k is a fair price for a very nice horse (not even necessarily this particular horse, but one that ticks all your own personal boxes that would make a horse perfect for you) coming straight off the track? Why or why not? And do you think these kind of prices, lets say $4000-7000, are fair for horses like these? Why or why not? At what point do you think the price is too high for a top-end horse just off the track?

She Started It

You know how facebook goes out of it’s way to show you posts in groups that your friends have commented on? Smart feature, most of the time. Total tattletale, some of the time. See, this is how I busted Leah buying yet another bridle, which honestly just made me feel a lot better about myself and the fact that I too probably have a few too many bridles. Pretty sure she has more than me, therefore by the rule of comparison I can’t be that bad, right?

Logical GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Anyway, I busted her buying a unicorn bridle, which 1) totally excusable, why would one NOT buy a unicorn bridle? Duh. 2) turned out to be the gateway drug that let me down quite the rabbit hole and now has me coveting something entirely different. Just remember, Leah started it. Anyway, she bought this one:

I gotta admit, the noseband is rad. I kind of love the oil-slick type look that the piping has. It doesn’t really work on any of my creatures or match any of my stuff, but it’s a pretty noseband none-the-less. And in that same post the seller had a picture of another bridle they carried, one that is definitely more up my alley. Navy. Navy sparkles.

Still though, as much as I love it and as beautiful as it is, I don’t own any dressage bridles that I can’t also show in (truth be told I only have one black bridle at all actually, it’s a schooling bridle AND a show bridle) and this sparkly blue noseband is probably a bit too brazen for me. Maybe if Henry was stronger in the dressage phase I would be that brave about drawing attention to his head, but as it is the only “flair” on his dressage bridle is the black rhinestone browband. And Presto, well… his face is already a bit busy for color and sparkle like that I think.

But these two bridles are both from Waldhausen, which did make me go investigate their entire bridle selection. If you want color, that’s certainly the place. Pink, blue, green, gold, red, purple… they’ve got just about everything, and an assortment of sparkles too. But the more I thought about that sparkly blue bridle, the more I was like… “wouldn’t that be perfect in black?”. Picture it, for Presto: black dressage bridle, spikey punk rock browband, black sparkly noseband. Punk rock sparkle bridle. His personality 100%. I think he could pull it off too. With the help of photoshop I was able to reimagine the blue noseband in black.

And from that moment on I was kind of obsessed with the idea. Naturally though, Waldhausen doesn’t make that noseband in black sparkles.

By this point I was already pretty far down a rabbit hole (again, totally Leah’s fault) but I was about to go even further. Y’all ever googled “black sparkle bridle” or “black glitter bridle”? It’s an experience. I forgot how much DQ’s are into sparkles these days.


Just a couple of the many many options that pop up.

SD® Mystery bridle in Black/Black/Glitter patent. Pony R-714

And unfortunately they’re also really into patent. Like, most of the sparkle options also included patent. I do not like patent. I also didn’t really like the ones with a big block of glitter as the noseband, I preferred it more as the padding or piping. A little more subtle that way. DQ’s, you know perhaps you’ve gone off the deep end when the eventer is like “I dunno, it’s just a lot…”. Anyway, I finally found The Perfect One at SD Designs, AND you could buy the noseband by itself (yay)…

SD® Noseband with Jet Crystal Rocks black/black. R-496 - SD® Normal  nosebands - SD Design Aps
juuuuust the right amount of sparkle

but of course… totally sold out in Full size. I stalked every store they listed as a distributer (dozens, literally dozens of stores that I clicked through, some of which I also emailed because they showed as having some in stock) – same thing, all sold out. So I decided to be that super annoying person and email SD Designs to ask if they were planning to make more of them, and if so when. They did respond, which was great, but alas, no, they are not planning on making any more of them. Cue sadness.

By this point I was already in way too deep. There’s no abandoning an idea like this and going about your life as if it never happened, I’d already invested way too much of myself in this as-yet-still-a-figment-of-my-imagination punk rock sparkle bridle.

Is This the Most Heartbreaking Scene in the Last Jedi? – Darkside Creative

Luckily these days we don’t have to just learn to be satisfied with off the rack options. Custom bridles and bridle parts are a big thing these days, especially in dressageland where somebody always seems to have an idea for more sparkle or more color or more patent. Some people put me in touch with a couple OTHER companies that can make pretty much anything you want for a shockingly good price, and I may or may not be “in discussions” about this currently.

So basically I tell you this whole story to make it clear that whatever happens, if indeed another bridle is acquired (let’s be honest, it will be sooner or later, these ideas never just die), it wasn’t my fault. I was just minding my own business scrolling through facebook when I was ATTACKED by a wicked temptress.

Im Innocent GIFs | Tenor

Presto’s First (ridden) Show

Guess who’s officially a show horse?

this big kid

Technically all he did in the show ring was trot over some poles. He’s only 3 after all, and for his first show I figured we’d keep it super easy. I had considered entering a dressage test and doing Intro A, but given how distractible he can be (it’s not spooky or malicious, he just genuinely likes to SEE ALL THE THINGS) I opted for the jumper classes instead – that way if he needed to pause in a corner to check something out or drunkenly weave his way down the side of the ring, it would be no problem. This show offers jumper classes from poles up to 3’6″, which is really nice. All we had to do was get from one pole to the next, didn’t matter how. I thought that was a better idea than having to follow a specific pattern with a dressage test, or at least a bit less pressure. Plus I thought the poles might help distract him and keep his brain occupied if he started getting a little overwhelmed with all the things to look at. I entered HC (not for ribbons/placings/points) and tada, there he was, in his very first Table II, 2(b) and Table II, 2(c) classes!

When the organizer knows your horse and their level of enthusiasm matches

Really though, the point of entering the show was two-fold. 1) see what he thought of all the sights/sounds/spectacles of horse showing while also having to be ridden. He’s been to plenty of shows in his life, but always at the end of a lead rope. He’s never really been asked to go to work or have to focus a lot, and that ups the ante a bit for sure. 2) I wanted him to start getting the experience of the warmup (y’all know what I mean by that!), standing beside the ring waiting his turn, and going into the ring by himself to go to work. The main building blocks of horse show life have nothing to do with the actual showing part, really. In order to get the best from him when we’re in the show ring, first he has to learn how to handle everything outside of it.

Before I get into the details I have to pause for a second and give major props to the facility, Scissortail Hill, for putting on a very covid-safe horse show. They had mask requirements (on at all times when not mounted), guidelines regarding how many could be in an area at a time, spaced all the parking out, only allowed one groundperson/spectator per rider, had designated pathways to the office, plexiglass, staggered groups to keep people from having to congregate, etc. It’s a small local show, they certainly are not required by anyone to do any of that, but they did it and they pulled it off really well. It felt very safe and socially distanced without impacting the actual show at all. Props to Scissortail. This is the first horse show I’ve been to since all this started and I felt super safe about the experience.

Hillary was kind enough to come be my +1, which thank goodness, because it’s always a heck of a lot easier to have a helper, especially when you have a young/green one. Plus she got video and pictures, which is the only reason why I have any content for this post. She da real MVP. I left her at the trailer with Presto while I went and got my packet, and I came back to a clean horse with a trimmed bridle path and freshly banged tail. I literally pulled him out of his pasture, knocked the worst of the dirt off, and tossed him in the trailer, and it had looked like it. She made him look significantly more presentable.

You can’t really tell but he’s wearing his navy glitter boots

I lunged him for a couple minutes before I got on, but he seemed relatively chill, so I opted to just go ahead and swing aboard. He was definitely very interested in seeing everything at first, and there was plenty to look at. Trailers, horses, cars, the busy road that borders the front of the property, cross country jumps, the trail course, the horses in the warmup and the various arenas… lots to see, that was for sure. He was pretty calm about taking it all in though. He only neighed a couple times, and was happy to just stand and observe when I asked him to.

We started out trotting around the warmup area for a few minutes. He definitely had his head straight up the air like a giraffe, but he was being fine other than that, so no big deal. At one point a horse outside of the ring started to spin and leap around, and I could feel Presto kinda look at him like “WOW, IS THAT AN OPTION, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT WAS AN OPTION” and I had to tell him “No sorry, that’s definitely not an option, let’s go over here and make some circles instead”. I’m a buzzkill, I know.

Since poles was the first jumper division they had the ring open for schooling for a little while before the division started. I figured it was a great opportunity to let him see everything, so once a couple people came out I headed in. Props to Presto, he was super brave about it, marching around the ring with just a few sideways glances at the jumps stacked outside of the rail or the big flapping medic’s tent.

We trotted around for little while, I popped him over all the jumps that were set as poles, and that was that. We only had about 10 minutes before our division started so I walked him out of the ring and let him stand around on a loose rein checking things out. To his credit, he was really good at that part. Well, unless other horses come close to him, then he wants to climb on top of them and be their BEST FRIEND. Schoolhorses tend to not be the biggest fans of the big dumb warmblood baby trying to forcibly be besties. They ain’t got time for that. Otherwise though, he stood around and observed everything quietly.

standing next to the flapping flags, watching the leadline kids warm up

By the time we actually got to his classes, he was basically pro at this. He walked in the ring, we waited for the whistle, picked up the trot, and off we went. He understood that the point of the game was to go from pole to pole, and he had started to look for which one was next. The classes were really short, just 5 poles (can we make all showjumping rounds just 5 jumps? I’d be into that.) so it was perfect for his 3yo attention span. He trotted his poles, we went back to walk, exited out the other end of the ring, then walked back up to the ingate and did it again. He was really good.

It was exactly the kind of outing I was after – relaxed, low key, and productive. He settled really quickly and was a good boy about pretty much everything. His only spook of the day was when he was trotting down the rail in warmup and a horse outside of the ring just dropped to the ground out of nowhere to roll. Pretty sure Presto thought he keeled over and died, so we had to stop and investigate. Considering all the commotion, I was pretty proud of him for how he handled everything. I think the poles were definitely the right choice, it was easy enough to not be asking much of him, but enough of a distraction to keep his brain busy. He had no qualms about warmup or about leaving the other horses to go in the ring by himself. Maybe next time we can try an Intro dressage test. We’ll see.

Many thanks again to Hillary for all her assistance, and to Scissortail for putting on a perfect, baby-friendly, covid-safe show! Presto has demanded a cookie raise now that he’s officially a show horse.

Foal Friday: Remi’s Glamour Shots

Foal inspections got cancelled this year, either in favor of virtual inspections or delayed ones, so the usual opportunity for pretty, more formal foal photos did not come to pass. It seemed criminal to not have them though, so Michelle and friends groomed and braided the foals and did their own little mini photo shoots with the help of @belindaloeppky behind the camera (all pics here are hers!). And I gotta say, they turned out super cute. Totally worth it. There were so many good pictures of the babies that I figured rather than try to pick just a few favorites of each foal and shove them into one post, each foal really deserved their own post with all their best Glamour Shots. One last time to have the spotlight to themselves before they leave the nest, so to speak, and I’ll link to each of them’s very first introductory post too so we can compare and see how far they’ve come. Since Remi is the oldest, I figured we’d start with him! He’s 6 months old now so he’s in a bit of an awkward, butt-high, gangly phase at the moment, but still handsome.

Remi’s Intro Post

Cantering is his favorite

But he can trot when he feels like it.

Oh, and we can’t forget about how he’s always been really really ridiculously good at posing for pictures.

A few last shots with his dam, Peyton. I think she pretty solidly knocked it out of the park for her first foal, what about y’all?

And who could forget Remi’s iconic Sneetch-shaped facial marking, of course.

It’s been fun watching him grow and change and develop into a proper little young horse with a very sweet and kind personality. Can’t wait to see where he goes from here!

Next week: Oakley!

By a Thread

Alright, who had “presidential candidate fly swatters” on their Weird Shit About 2020 bingo card?

I dunno what’s funnier, the fact that the fly swatter exists or that it’s already sold out?

I’m living for the memes though. They’re great. We deserve them, after suffering through the first debate. It’s the little things these days. Plus on Tuesday I spent all day battling a migraine, and then my dumb ass forgot that the migraine meds have caffeine in them and took one right before bed. I almost NEVER have caffeine, so I’m super sensitive to it, thus I only slept about 3 hours that night. So, it’s been a long week.

Especially because I’ve spent most of my free time majorly cracking down on cleaning out all my crap in advance of the tiny houses’s arrival (sooon???). I’ve lived in this house for 7+ years and how I’ve managed to accumulate this much crap is just beyond me. The first step was discovery, then sorting, and now actually doing something with all of it. So far I’m at 8 big black garbage bags of things for donation, 4 full trash cans, a huge pile of horse stuff where nothing is really worth more than $10-15 therefore shall be offered for free to the first person to come get it, and then a pile of horse stuff that’s for sale but I refuse to ship anything therefore will sell locally for like 1/3 of what it’s really worth just to get it out of my house. That’s where I’m at mentally. A trip to the post office would sever my last thread of sanity.

The sale bin. I swear there’s an actual bin under there somewhere.

I found a taker for my massive collection of horse books, so that’s good – those are leaving this weekend. Once all this smaller stuff is out of the way it’ll be on to the furniture and most of the kitchen appliances, which I’m tempted to set out in the yard and have people come take. I’m super over it at this point, I just want it all to go away with as little effort from me as possible. Evidenced by the fact that I became so ruthless in the process of cleaning out my closets that I now have 11 non-riding or non-barn shirts left to my name. Whatever. That’s enough. At first I was carefully going through everything, thinking about each item, waffling over whether or not to keep it, blah blah blah. But there are 7 closets in this house. SEVEN. That seems excessive for a 1500 sq ft house, no? Yet somehow they were all full of crap. We had 18 blankets. WHY DID WE HAVE 18 BLANKETS, WE LIVE IN TEXAS. This is what happens when you give people 7 closets. I ran out of give-a-shits by closet #3 and pretty much everything went straight into trash or donate after that. Done.

Throw away hilarious parody GIF - Find on GIFER
can I do this with my whole house?

Today’s project is the kitchen. Pray for me, y’all. Anyone want a fancy juicer that the SO swore he wanted for his birthday several years ago and then used like twice? (Not that I can throw stones, my huge pile of horse stuff is it’s own, probably much worse indictment)

Anyway, aside from getting rid of everything that’s not nailed down, it’s possible that perhaps I went ahead and caved and painted my other stirrups too. I was gonna wait a couple months to see how the first ones held up, but the first time I looked down at my feet and saw the sparkle, I was a goner. Plus I suddenly hated how the other ones looked, with their too-bright navy outside branch and weirdly royal bottom. (look, I already told y’all I’m hanging on by a thread these days)


So I brought those home and painted them too, and I don’t regret anything. With the black ones I painted just the outside branch but with these I painted the outside branch and the hideous bright blue bottom, so there’s way more surface area to glitter. Not that anyone will ever see the bottom of the stirrup (uh, unless something has gone terribly wrong, so let’s hope not…) but still. It’s pretty to look at.

Those are spending the week curing, and the other painted ones have assumed regular duty at the barn. So far so good with the paint. Stacie was also kind enough to send me her old stirrup leathers, which I dyed chocolate to match Presto’s saddle, so it’s a complete fully outfitted saddle now!

Baby’s first saddle complete with it’s own fittings

The saddle continues to work out really well for Presto, I remain pleased with the fit and I find it really comfortable to ride in. I was really worried about that, having been spoiled by French saddles for so long. I honestly can’t tell much difference between it and my Devoucoux, though, the feel is very similar. Can’t beat the Mark Todd for a budget buy! Presto is in the process of filling out again but luckily the saddle fits him a little wide as-is, so I can make adjustments with padding as needed. I check it pretty much weekly, he changes so fast.

It’s like there’s a new horse in the pasture every week. Speaking of, maybe I should ride this thing and like… trim his mane or something before his big bad Pile of Poles show debut this weekend. Or not. I’ll definitely dig out his sparkly navy jumper boots though. Sparkly navy makes everything better.

Knowing When to Back Off

I feel like, as an equestrian, one of our main pursuits is knowing when to apply pressure and when to take it away. That can be true with anything from loading a horse in a trailer, teaching it something new, deciding if/when to retire them, or even evaluating soundness and fitness. Our lives can often feel like one big game of “do I push with this, or do I back off?”, and I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a big part of what makes a horseman versus a rider. It’s something that we all share in common, amateur or pro, across every discipline. It’s also one of the hardest things to get right, constantly trying to think from the horse’s perspective instead of our own, and something that usually takes a whole lot of mistakes before we start to get it right more often that not. And I still have yet to see anyone who manages to get it right all the time.

Henry’s like “You know what’s not right? This hideous outfit, MOTHER.”

It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I try not to think about it so much that I become paralyzed into indecision, but I also want to be flexible and willing to re-think and re-evaluate constantly. Horses aren’t machines, after all. I especially feel the weight of that responsibility with having such a young horse. They change and evolve so fast, and the things you do in the beginning can carry weight for the rest of their lives. Admittedly, I tend to err on the side of “When in doubt, back off”. For me it’s the bigger sin to push when I shouldn’t as opposed to not pushing when I should. There are probably those out there who would disagree, but that’s just been my own experience and preference.

While I’m especially mindful of this with Presto, I think about it a lot with Henry too, albeit more from a performance perspective than a training perspective. The very last thing I want to do is ask too much of him, or use him up. Having a happy, healthy, sound Henry is my #1 priority, more than any riding goal or horse show or level achievement.

His ears when you point him at a jump, tho ❤

I’ve also never forgotten what he is, as a horse. An ideal eventing specimen, he is not. He’s built downhill, naturally travels a bit croup high, has crooked legs, a jumping style that really uses his whole body, a middling amount of scope, and his gallop is not exactly the most efficient thing in the world. He also has a respiratory condition that means his fitness needs to be maintained at a higher level than most horses at his same level would require. Those things all make his job harder. Yet despite them all, he’s managed to be a successful event horse – mostly because he loves the game and his heart is 110% in it (well, the cross country at least, he could do without the other two phases). But to find that success, he has to work extra hard to make up for his natural deficits, putting more wear and tear on his body than another more naturally suited, more talented, better-built horse might. None of these facts have ever escaped me, especially as we started to make the trek up the levels to Training and then Prelim.

He’s got 4 successful Prelim XC runs under his girth now. No XC jumping penalties at any of his 4 starts at the level. It’s something that makes me immensely proud of him, and if you just looked at it on paper you’d probably be like “Rock on, this horse seems suited to the level”. But what I can’t ignore, as someone who sits on him every day and is responsible for his well-being and care, is how much competing at that level takes out of him. The conditioning work in particular that is required to keep him at Prelim – it’s a lot for his body. It’s too much.

I really came to terms with that fact starting last fall. Then covid hit, and all the pressures were taken away, and his conditioning schedule has stayed much more scaled back, and I couldn’t deny it. Physically he feels better. Cutting a chunk of that fitness work out of his weekly schedule suits him much better. He still needs to be conditioned and fit enough to be a healthy and sound riding horse, of course, but there’s a difference between more basic conditioning and the serious stuff. The writing has been on the wall for a while now – I don’t think I would have a sound horse for more than a couple more years if I tried to keep campaigning him at the upper levels.

It’s a reality that maybe should bother me, but it doesn’t. Not at all. The horse owes me nothing. He’s far exceeded anything he was ever meant to accomplish, and he’s already taught me so much and given me so much confidence, and he still has so much more left in him. He feels better now than he has maybe ever, and he hasn’t had any maintenance of any kind (no chiro, no acupuncture, no massage, no injections, no magnawave, no ulcer meds, etc etc) in a year or more. Trainer solidified my thoughts last Sunday, when, while we were warming up, she watched him trot and said “this might be the best I’ve ever seen him look” and the thought I’ve been having all year finally spilled out – “I don’t think he’s meant to be a Prelim horse”. We discussed it briefly, agreed that he can school bigger questions and lesson over bigger fences, but as a show horse he’s best at Training or below, at least if I want him to last. The difference between Training and Prelim is a big one, especially the fitness work and the speed, and it’s just not worth it to try to push it when it really toes the edge of his natural capability.

I want to have the privilege to keep looking through these ears for a very long time

What it really comes down to is that I don’t want to have to be writing a post in a couple years about his retirement. I want Henry to be his happiest self, hopping around cross country at whatever level until he’s old and gray. And hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he could have a long career at Prelim and I’m taking my foot off the gas pedal for no reason. I don’t think I’m wrong though. I feel it in my gut, and I can’t ignore it. I’d rather back off before there’s a problem, when he’s still feeling great and capable of doing so many other things for hopefully a long time. I owe him that much.

So while you won’t be seeing anymore P’s on Henry’s record, he’s far from finished. Scaled back, perhaps, but certainly not out of the game.

Chaotic Good

Y’all know about alignment charts? You’ve probably seen them as memes, I think we all have by now, and that’s probably how most of us know of the concept.

Dogs of Schitts Creek on Twitter: "Fixed it. #SchittsCreek #alignmentchart # alignment @danjlevy @SalvaTonio… "
I will never pass up the opportunity for a Schitt’s Creek reference

I didn’t know until later that it’s a thing from role-playing games and it’s like A Thing and there are even Buzzfeed quizzes about it, so… must be legit right?

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that Presto is definitely in the Chaotic category. Usually solidly in Chaotic Good, described as: “A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations.”. Although sometimes dipping into Neutral (when he’s being a cantankerous child) or even once in a while into Evil (if you’re asking his far-too-submissive 2yo pasture mate JB). Always 100% in the chaotic category though, that much is certain. Rules and regulations are not his bag.

Imma just… bite dis K…

I was musing over all of this on Sunday after I rode him, because he’s just so distractible he can’t even help himself. A great example: I had forgotten put on my gloves before I mounted, so, as I often do with Henry, I asked Presto to just walk off around the arena while I pulled them on. OMG. He could not handle that level of personal responsibility. He bee-lined for a pile of poop, reaching down to sniff it. I finally got him booted away from that and he wandered drunkenly down the long side, with me trying to semi-steer and semi-pull my gloves on, while accomplishing neither. Presto stopped suddenly at one of the letters that was leaning over and tried to grab it. I again booted him on and he zig-zagged his way around the short side, again stopping abruptly at a letter to try to nudge it over. At that point I’d still only managed to put one glove on so I halted him, facing him toward the wall of the arena, and tried to pull the other one on.

And I almost succeeded before, once his 3 second attention span was up, he tried to walk right over the wall of the arena. Very narrowly managed to pull him away before it happened.

The wall is low, he is 100% gonna go over it sooner or later

Looking at the Pivo footage later, it took us 2 minutes to make that first lap around the ring with me trying to put my gloves on and him weaving around and investigating everything. I had to laugh at it, because it’s just so very typically Presto. He can’t help himself.

He’s getting pretty good at tolerating Mom Smooches though, as long as I keep them short

And for as much handling and groundwork as he’s had, he’s certainly not the most perfectly behaved animal. He knows about personal space, he’s known about it for years, the rules on that front have never changed. But it’s like he just can’t help himself from being like “HI WHAT YOU DOING?” and then you remind him to remove himself from your space and he’s like “Oh right, whoops…” two seconds later: “HI WHAT YOU DOING?”. He’s never rude or pushy about it, he just genuinely forgets himself and your silly rules. Like the labrador puppy that can’t contain his enthusiasm and curiosity. Riding him isn’t much different.

she made me circle here but I wanted to oval here, this is a dumb game

I also entered him in his first ridden show this weekend, and knowing all these things about him shaped my strategy as far as what to enter. It’s at the small venue close to us where I take Henry to do jumper classes sometimes, and where Presto did his in-hand trail class a while ago. They’ve limited entries due to covid protocol so I think it’s the perfect opportunity to dip his hoof into the show horse thing. Originally I was thinking of doing the most basic w-t dressage test, but when I thought about this venue and how his brain works, I didn’t think that was the best idea for his first time. Their dressage ring is in the middle of EVERYTHING, with lots going on around it, and usually a little pop up tent for the judges and big flower pots at all the letters. I think that would be a lot of outside stimulus with only some w-t work and a couple circles to attempt to keep his focus.

So instead we entered “Pile of Poles” jumper classes. The jumper ring has a lot around it too, but 1) knowing how his brain works, I think it’ll be less overwhelming to him 2) I think it’ll be easier to keep his brain occupied by trotting a course of poles rather than having to follow a more precise flatwork pattern. If I need to circle or do a transition or leg yield or stop and pat him, no big deal. Poles require more of his attention and focus, and a jumper class gives me more leeway with how I ride him. So we entered two poles classes HC, since all I’m really there for is to get him in the ring and ride around. We’ll see how it goes. I plan on getting there early so he can have a little lunge first and stand around taking in the atmosphere before I get on him. Maybe after his poles classes I can take him over to the dressage arena and let him check it out in a less formal way.

He’s starting to fill out again, as he does every fall, and he’s losing the gross sun-bleached look really quickly, thank goodness. Maybe we’ll make a show horse out of this ADHD giramoose yet.

He’s baaaa-aaack

How do you make Henry happy? Well ok, give him Oatmeal Cream Pies and back scratches. But, ya know, if you insist on riding him, how do you make him happy? Point him at a cross country fence.


It’s been a, uh… long time since we’ve been out on XC in any capacity. I really thought we went schooling last fall but I scrolled back through the blog a bit (until my eyes crossed, which granted was pretty quickly) and couldn’t find it, so… it’s been at least a year I think? Maybe longer. He got that awful bruise last November and was out for 2 months, then I brought him back slowly, and right when he was pretty much back to normal covid happened, and then by the time that settled enough for things to start opening up again it was hot AF, so… time accumulated quickly.

I have to admit that I was in a little bit of a weird head space the night before. I wasn’t nervous or scared or whatever, but I also wasn’t particularly excited either. I felt… weirdly apathetic. I quite literally had a dream that Henry pulled a shoe and I couldn’t go and my reaction was a shrug and an “oh well”. Maybe it had been so long that I’d just forgotten. Maybe I’m just too distracted with other things in my life right now. I dunno. It was weird.

I did put up a poll on Insta to ask which pompom I should wear, though, and rainbow won with 64% of the vote. The people had spoken. Rainbow it was.

Maybe y’all knew I needed the vibes

Henry was a little skeptical when I threw him in the trailer before dawn, but when I unloaded him at Pine Hill he surveyed the area, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and I swear to god he smiled. He knew exactly where he was and he seemed pretty pleased about it. I tacked him up, got on, and walked down to warmup. Where the first thing trainer shrieked was “I VOTED FOR NAVY!” – because she did indeed vote for the navy and cream pompom, but hey what can I say? Do a better job campaigning for your candidate next time I guess. Instagram’s poll uses the popular vote, it’s totally fair. Rainbow won fair and square.

Anyway, after we warmed up on the flat a bit I pointed him at the smallest log in the line of jumps, and he cantered up to the base, peered down at it like “WTF IS THIS A TRICK” and leaped awkwardly over. Uh… yeah. A little rusty. We came around and jumped the BN one, then the N one, and by then he was like “ooooooooh right” and we finished on the T one. Once the group was done warming up we headed up the hill and Trainer gave us a couple jumps to string together – Training 1, a boat, up the hill to Training 2, a train car. Henry jumped the first one and it was like I just felt his brain click. He landed galloping, marched up the hill, and gleefully hopped over fence 2. He’s baaaa-aaack.

Then we headed over to 3, where he got a little too cocky. On the first approach I went to rebalance and he was like GIRL NAH I DO WHAT I WANT… so I pulled him up, because no you’re most certainly not going to run flat at a Training rolltop thank you, and we reapproached much more politely. We had our discussion and that was that, he settled back into normal Henry XC mode.

ruining all his fun since Dec 2013

I didn’t want to do a whole lot with him since 1) it was his first time back out in forever 2) he’s still not fit yet after his easy summer. After that we just did a few more combinations, including one of the Prelim ones.

We didn’t jump very much, but it was enough. We were both pretty happy by the end, remembering exactly what we love about all this, and where this horse truly shines. When we were warming up I was a little worried it would be a total shitshow and we’d both be terrible, and while sure there was definitely some rust, it really wasn’t bad. It all came flooding back pretty quickly. The dressage is a slog, the showjumping is meh, but give me a hundred Henry’s for cross country. I certainly wasn’t feeling apathetic about the outing anymore by the time we were done thanks to that wonderful creature, who was having a grand time being back in his element.

Now that the weather is cooling down I can plug away a little more at his fitness and hopefully get out for more schooling and lessons. Maybe we can even make it to a one day show or two over the winter, if the weather cooperates? I think he would like that… or at least the cross country part.

Foal Friday: Life Balance

When the foals were younger their lives were pretty solidly split into 3 sections: eat, play, nap. On average they were split into pretty equal chunks, perhaps a bit heavy on the napping. As they’ve matured those three chunks have changed size a bit, first with less napping and more playing, and then slowly into less playing and napping and more eating. Like it or not they’re slowly morphing into baby horses instead of actual foals, and weaning time is just around the corner. Not to say that there isn’t still plenty of playing going on…

Ollie thinks its fun to jump back and forth over the ditch
Remi’s out here working on his fitness
and jumping over the hose

Of course, most of the playing tends to be happening with the boys. They’ve still got that little extra bit of colt pizazz. Ollie in particular, shockingly, still spends plenty of time running amok. His chunk of play time is definitely the biggest.

Oakley likes to join in on the zoomies sometimes (probably just to remind those colts of who REALLY runs the world), but it’s definitely gotten a bit more half-hearted and short-lived.

As for Ellie? Well Ellie’s chunk of play time is relatively non-existant… take her “play” piece and re-label it to say “PET ME”… that’s more accurate. She’s pretty much only interested in food and rubbies.

Otherwise? They eat. A lot. Yeah I know, they’ve gotten a little more boring with age and maturity. But they eat and they eat and they grow and they grow, and such will be their lives for the next 3 or so years probably. This is the beginning of the perhaps less exciting part of their stories.

Ellie excels at this part of the curriculum. It takes a lot of calories to fuel an elephant.
That booty ain’t gonna grow itself
his Ramiro B head profile is strong from this angle

But then there’s Ollie of course, who somehow manages to even turn eating into a game. Who says you can’t combine play time and food time? I have a feeling this kid will never actually be boring, no matter what he does.

Dis mah beanbag AND mah snack

Our time with these guys is growing a bit short, and it’s bittersweet. It’s almost weaning time, and then off they’ll go to their new homes, to start their lives for real, and then before you know it it’ll be time to prep for the foals of 2021… all SEVEN of them. For now though, these guys are still fun to watch, just in a bit of a different way.