Party in Da (Ocala Jockey) Club

Originally I had a much heavier post drafted for today but that can wait til tomorrow, right? Good. Because my temporarily-Ocala-based Texas friends really came in clutch yesterday on Presto’s birthday and they deserve some blog time. Plus there’s cute pics, so no one should mind.

birthday party spoiler alert

I’ll be honest, when I posted about Presto’s birthday yesterday morning I was kinda bummed to be missing it, but as the day went on and more people commented on social media and the memories started flooding back, I got more and more sad about not being there. Have I ever in the history of all my horses cared that much about a birthday? No. They get a cookie, a “happy birthday”, a picture, I spend a few minutes lamenting about them getting older and time flying by, and everyone moves on. But with every Presto birthday I vividly remember how close he came to not ever actually having any, and they hold a lot more meaning. The memories of that time around his birth are still so sharp, and still so weighty… it’s inevitable that I get dragged back into them a bit. All those hours sitting in the dirt, agonizing over his bloodwork, cleaning up his runny butt, constantly checking his joints for heat or swelling and praying to every god that has ever existed that I wouldn’t find any, helping run the endless bags of fluids and plasma, bawling the entire hour home worried that I was making the wrong choice, being too terrified of getting a bad phone call to fall asleep, then getting up and doing it all again the next day, day after day after day. Just thinking about it is, even now, still enough to make my heart skip a beat and my blood run cold.

So every year when I put some sort of goofy hat on him and take his birthday pictures, its not so much about the birthday itself as it is about what he overcame just to be here and to have that birthday. Every single one feels like a milestone. Plus I know the memories that are going to start popping up over the next couple weeks, and I always dread them. I don’t avoid them, because I feel like it’s important to remember, but they instantly transport me back to those horrible moments just the same. The trauma lingers on his people much more than it ever did on him, thank goodness.

Peak Presto

And the thing about it with him is that I’m not the only one. “His people” span far and wide, some that know him well and others that have never even met him in person, with so many having gone through it all via the blog, right alongside. I know I’m not the only one with a lot of emotion tied up in this horse, and the fun celebratory hat pictures are just as much for his “fans” as they are for me. Everyone was so supportive during that time, and has remained supportive of him and invested in him ever since.

So those were the real thoughts that were running through my mind as the day wore on and I was thinking about his birthday, and how it was the first one I’ve missed. There was some sadness in that for sure, alongside the fact that I do miss seeing his crazy goofy giraffe face every day.

My friend Julie is down in Ocala right now with some of our Texas contingent, at a farm just a few miles down the road from where Presto is. Upon learning that it was his birthday she immediately offered to go see him and take him an Oatmeal Cream Pie (since I was feeling like such a bad parent for not thinking ahead enough to have a box mailed to him). Already way above and beyond for her to do that, so I was thrilled.

Y’all may remember Julie from The Best Henry Selfie ever, from Coconino 2019:

Anyway, she sent me some pics and videos of Presto, and y’all my icy little black heart melted a bit for real. Not only did she go say hi to him and get him an OCP, she got him a little birthday cupcake, a hat, and a birthday boy ribbon to wear for some pictures. If I couldn’t be there, it was certainly the next best thing. If that’s not a seriously proper birthday party, I don’t know what is. And now the streak of Presto birthday hat/headband photos remains unbroken!

All in all he had a pretty awesome 4th birthday, I think. More treats than he could even stuff in his mouth, visitors, some fancy accessories… what more could a giraffe kid want? And then after his formal party he put on his clubbing attire and went out for another pasture party.

Holly says he’s embarrassed by his club outfit. I said nah, the dorky outfit is 100% on brand. In Presto’s mind he thinks he’s going to the club like this:

Download Its My Birthday Dance Gif | PNG & GIF BASE

But he’s really going to the club like this:

Night at roxbury GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

Complete with footage of how he gets his forelock ready:

A Night At The Roxbury GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

So ya know… dorky outfit is totally appropriate.

Many many many thanks to Julie (and Megan… I should have warned her about the stipulations that come along with this horse but I think she’s catching on) for arranging and pulling off this little birthday party and pics for me and Presto. It means A LOT more to me than you think.

Coming of Age

Omg today is Presto’s 4th birthday. Can you believe it? He’s officially an “adult”. It’s the biggest, most monumental birthday for a horse really, comparative to when a human turns 18. In a lot of ways this has felt like a looooooooooooooooong time coming (there is nothing slower than the first 3 years of a horse’s life, I’m convinced) but in other ways it feels like only yesterday that this little noodle popped out with no warning, in the middle of the afternoon, right into a hay bale.

Chaos from minute 1

I’ve been obsessed with him since I first saw that one little white foot and white nose poking out, and the obsession hasn’t really abated. Of course, we went through the ringer during the first month of his life (I absolutely DREAD the facebook memories that are going to be popping up over the next couple weeks, it’s still hard to re-live) but here we are anyway, sliding into his 4yo year Tokyo Drift style. Megan made sure he had his birthday cookies this morning, and he spent last night romping around a 30 acre field with a buddy having a party of his own design. A very Presto way to celebrate.

I had bought him a sash and a hat and big 4 balloon a few months ago in anticipation of our usual birthday photo, but of course the plans changed and now he’s not here. Boo. I’ll have to save it all for next year (except the giant silver 4, of course… not sure what to do with that…). Since we didn’t get to do a birthday photo shoot this year I figured I’d repost some of his past ones.

1 year

Delighted with my BS, even then

2 years

I swear he liked this one

3 years

not too many horses can pull off a “Seriously Magical” unicorn mullet hat while also holding their own lead rope

I still get a little emotional if I think too hard about his birthdays. Or, specifically, just how close we came (many times) to him not ever actually having any. Tugs on the heartstrings to think about what the alternative could have been, for sure.

If I was a good mom I would have sent a birthneigh cake or a box of Oatmeal Creme Pies for him, but in all the bustle of getting him sorted to leave for Ocala last week his birthday kind of snuck up on me and I forgot until it was too late. Terrible mother. Luckily Megan is there to pick up the slack.

Happy birthday, kiddo! Hope you’re having fun in paradise. The fact that he’s too tired from his party last night to even chew his birthday cookies with much gusto tells me that he must be having a fine time.

Right Place Right Time

Well that was a banner weekend. There is a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time and just having some good old fashioned luck.

At the F1 track here in Austin they’ve been having mass covid vaccination events on the weekends. Ya know, those big drive through ones where they’re able to vaccinate thousands of people relatively quickly. Right now in our state you can only get an appointment for the vaccine if you fall into the phase 1A or 1B categories, of which I am neither. I’d put myself on every “waste dose” list I could find, just in case something happened to come available, but otherwise I figured I’d probably end up having to wait until May or June to be able to get one. And then on Friday afternoon the mass vaccination event at the F1 track had some leftover appointments and opened them up to the general public. Bobby sent me the signup link and I immediately logged in and got myself on the list. You had to be quick, all the appointments were gone within minutes.

I managed to snag a time slot though, and got my appointment confirmation email. I admit I was still kind of skeptical. My appointment was at the end of the day… would they really still have doses left? Would they turn me away if more 1A or 1B people showed up? I had an “I’ll believe it when they stab the needle in my arm” mentality, but it sure as heck was worth a try. So on Saturday afternoon I got in my truck, drove down there, and proceeded to wait.

The lines were crazy long. First you had to wait in a line to get into a line to get into a registration line. Then you went into another line to get into an actual vaccination line then you went into another wait line before they released you to leave. A lot of lines. The volunteers had it down to a science though, and I had planned on waiting thus I had my Spotify playlist queued up, and it was nice enough outside to have my window rolled down a bit. Not exactly a hardship to sit in my truck and listen to music. It took about an hour to get into the registration paperwork line where you filled out your info, confirmed your appointment, and got all the paperwork sorted. They had 8 lanes of cars for this part, and they did one full lane at a time. The volunteers brought your paperwork, you filled it out, they checked it over, and then once everyone in the lane had their paperwork filled out, they’d release that lane to proceed to the next line to wait for the actual vaccination.

the nurse who did my vaccine got a huge kick out of my mask, he was a hoot

Whenever they let a lane go there was tons of cheering and honking and celebrating from both the people in cars and the volunteers. Which I’m kind of glad I got to experience that… it really brought home how momentous this really is. How much covid has completely derailed peoples lives, how much we’ve all lost, and what a relief it is to have a vaccine available and feel like we have a light at the end of the tunnel. The feeling was jubilant, and hopeful, like maybe just maybe there will be an end to this at some point. It was one of those moments that you won’t forget, when you experience something with so many other people on a mass scale like that. I think if I’d just had an appointment by myself I would have been happy about it, but it wouldn’t have struck me in such a big emotional way. Sitting in my truck for 2 hours was worth it for that memory, I think.

So, one shot down, and I have an appointment April 10th for the second dose. I’m pretty freakin pumped. Get me back on an airplane ASAP. I’ve got places to go and horses to see.

In other weekend news, Presto is officially an Ocala kid. He arrived on Friday night, having caught a ride with another trainer leaving from the Dallas area that morning, since Megan didn’t have any room on her trailer. They drove straight through, which at about 15 hours was definitely Presto’s longest trailer ride to date but he seemed to arrive in good shape and wasn’t stressed. Megan arrived Saturday morning, got her horses settled, then went and picked him up and brought him over to join them at Ocala Jockey Club. They’ve got dressage rings, jump rings, a racetrack to gallop on, tons of hacking, xc, turnouts… what more could a horse ask for?

So far the only update I’ve gotten is the crosstie picture (I have come to call these “proof of life” photos) but I have a friend nearby that’s gonna go see him at some point, so maybe I’ll have more media soon. I’m very jealous and majorly wishing I was in Ocala right now too. I can’t wait to hear about what all he gets up to while he’s there!

The US Event Horse Futurity also started posting the “starting” vlogs this weekend, led by yours truly.

Don’t forget that comments and shares = entries for the Presto’s Favorite Things prize pack that I’ll be giving away (which I still need to post details about, someone remind me another day). The next vlog in May is where things will really start getting interesting, since it’ll be more of Megan taking over at that point and talking through what she’s been doing, but this one is a recap of everything he’d done through like February basically.

Last but not least don’t forget that Baby Bets contest entries are due TODAY. I have a little bit of bad news in that it appears as though Daisy must have lost her pregnancy at some point after her 60 day check. Michelle noticed that she just wasn’t looking as big as she should at this stage, so she scanned her and unfortunately there’s no baby in there. So we’re down to 6 foals expected this year. Definitely a bummer, but luckily there are still a lot to look forward to. Get those Baby Bets in before the end of the day if you want a shot at the $100 gift card!

Friday Tidbits

Presto is officially Ocala bound as of this very moment! There wasn’t enough room for him in Megan’s trailer but another local (to her) trainer was leaving today also, so she took him over to their farm last night and they loaded up and headed east in the wee hours of the morning. He’ll get there tonight and hang out with them for a bit, then Megan will pick him up tomorrow. I’m super excited for him to get there and start experiencing all the fun things Ocala has to offer. This is his first big trip, first time leaving the state of Texas, first time going anywhere like this, traveling as part of a big group, etc etc. So many learning experiences for a baby giraffe.

We spent the week doing all the last minute preparation. Megan got Presto’s feet trimmed and a health cert issued. I Primed them a few tubes of Ulcergard for his trip, and Megan requested a fly sheet for him, so that was a new shopping item for me. I’ve never purchased a fly sheet in my life. I had a bit of sticker shock at how expensive they are, considering every one I’ve ever seen had serious shit for longevity. I couldn’t stomach spending $150 on a fly sheet he’s gonna wear for 6 weeks so he got a relatively cheap one. Hopefully he doesn’t destroy it immediately.

I’m already supremely jealous of him and wish I was going to Ocala too. I’ve done a lot of mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I could at least get down there for a weekend and see him before they come home in May since who knows if/when he’ll ever get to go again. We’ll see. There are a lot of factors to consider.

I did list a bunch of excess stuff for sale to help cover some of his Ocala bills, and all I’ve really got left is a pair of Doda boots, a show coat (size 6ish), a pair of breeches (size 30), and a pair of tights (size L). My friends came in clutch and cleaned me out pretty quick, but shoot me a message if you’re interested in anything I’ve got left.

Otherwise this week has been a bit quiet. Farrier visits, road hacks, and webinars (my favorite thing). I watched the EHV-1 one that USEF did on Monday, which was a good brush up on the actual facts and appropriate protocol. The media posting about every single EHV-1 case (which they really never do any other year when this happens) has spun a lot of people up into a blind panic with rumors abound, so it was good to get actual facts and more information on the current situation.

I’ve also been watching the “Foaling the Mare” webinar series by Sussex Equine Hospital. If you need to be scared out of breeding, I highly recommend. Just kidding. They’re really good actually, really important if you breed or are considering it.

And then of course this morning USEA announced that they’ve pulled the MER rule change proposal for now and will give more thought and consideration based on the member surveys they received. Which is great news, IMO, and I look forward to this being discussed and hashed out in more detail and with more consideration to the masses. I’m all for MER changes, just not ones that cripple everyone that doesn’t reside on the east coast.

Hope you guys had a good week. Did you see anything good this week on the interwebs that’s worth a share? Happy Friday, we made it to another weekend!

It’s In The Blood: Red Hills 2021

Yes, fellow breeding nerds, it’s time for the first In The Blood post of 2021!

Red Hills Horse Trials Announces 2020 Horse Trials Dates – The Tally Wire

This is “just” a 4*S, which normally I wouldn’t really cover, but it’s the first big event of 2021 and we’ve got some possible LRK3DE entries in the field alongside some exciting up and coming horses, so let’s take a look!

It’s always interesting to me with big US events to see which horses are North American-bred and which ones are imports. Seeing NA-bred horses as the top levels of our sport makes me super happy, and it’s important for people to see that we indeed can and do produce that caliber of horse on this side of the pond. It’s good strong representation for us in this field, with 11 of the 30 entrants (36%) born and bred in North America.

Country Comparison: US vs. Canada | shiksha.com

As is pretty typical at this level, the average blood percentage of the field is 57%, although if you drop all of the full TB’s from the equation it drops to 51%. That would be low if this was a 4*L or 5*, but not really unusual for a 4*S. The lowest blood % horse in the field is FE Golden Eye at only 23% (but who’s damsire is the extremely well-proven eventing sire Contendro).

It’s also a pretty strong field if you’re a fan of the OTTB. We’ve got 4 in attendance, and these guys really do a good job of showing how hard-knocking a good TB can be. Among them we’ve got two of the oldest horses in the field in 18yo Cecelia by Connecticut xx (Ogygian xx/Secretariat xx) out of Penny Stock xx (Spend a Buck xx/Affirmed xx) and 16yo AP Prime by Aptitude xx (AP Indy xx/Northern Dancer xx) out of Czarina Kate xx (The Prime Minister xx/Sunpower xx). Plus there’s 10yo Sorocaima by Rock Hard Ten xx (Kris S xx/Mr Prospector xx) out of Sankobasi xx (Pulpit xx/Northern Jove xx), who was also at one time a CANTER listing, that had a racing career that spanned 4 years and included 43 starts.

Rock Hard Ten sold to Korean interests - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
Rock Hard Ten

As usual it’s the warmblood jumping lines that dominate the majority of the field though, particularly the Q and C jumping lines. That’s… to be expected by now I think? Irish Sporthorses have some good representation, with one stallion, US-based Irish Sporthorse Formula One, having two offspring in the field – full siblings Landmark’s Monaco and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. These two brothers were bred by Jackie Mars and are out of a full TB mare, making them 88% blood.

While we don’t have any others that are quite that closely related, a few stallions do pop up in more than one pedigree within the first few generations. Dutch stallion Mr Blue is the sire of Qorry Blue D’Argouges and the damsire of Rubens D’ysieux. Irish stallion Puissance is the damsire of two horses in the field – Fernhill Limited Edition and K.E.C. Zara. Puissance’s TB sire Imperius xx is also the damsire of Jack of Diamonds, who is represented by offspring Islandwood Captain Jack.

Mr Blue | The Horse Magazine
Mr. Blue

Several horses in the field also come from widely talented performance families, with a mix of dressage and showjumping success. Quidproquo’s sire jumped through 1.50m showjumping. Fidelius 35’s sire showed through Grand Prix level dressage. Global EX’s dam jumped through 1.30m showjumping. Magnum Martini’s sire jumped through 1.50m level showjumping. Flower Girl’s sire competed through 1.50m showjumping. Ruben’s dam competed at 1.60m showjumping. FE Golden Eye’s sire showjumped to 1.60m level. Prophet’s sire Tatendrang, a US-based Trakehner, sire competed through Advanced level eventing. Vermont’s sire Van Helsing competed through 1.60m showjumping (and is sired by Valentino, who stands at stud in North America) and Vermont’s dam also produced two other FEI level event horses (both by – guess who – Contendro).

Van Helsing: jumper, 7 exclusive videos, pedigree, ratings - rimondo
Van Helsing

Vermont isn’t the only one with a good-producing mother: Dutch Times has a whopping 7 full siblings, including one competing at PSG dressage. K.E.C. Zara’s dam produced two other FEI level eventers from different sires. FE Coldplay’s dam also produced a 1.35m showjumper. Voltaire de Tre’s dam also produced a 1.30m showjumper and a 1.40m showjumper. Ms Poppins’ dam has also produced two 1.30m showjumpers.

It is indeed in the blood, y’all.

Who are your favorites for Red Hills?

It can’t always be glitter and rainbows…

BUT SOMETIMES IT CAN BE!!!

Glitter GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Someone should cut off my Epplejeck access. Why to the European tack stores always have the best, cheapest stuff? It’s unfair. Back in January I convinced Hillary to go halfies with me on an order because there were a few navy glitter (#navyglitter4lyfe) things that I had been wanting but needed a good “excuse” to pull the trigger. A sale plus splitting shipping was a great excuse, if I do say so myself. I nabbed navy glitter gloves, navy glitter tights, and a navy glitter helmet.

It was all either on sale or really cheap anyway so I didn’t feel too bad about it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect really, you’re always guessing a bit at sizing and quality with unfamiliar brands, especially when it’s inexpensive, but… navy glitter. Worth the risk. And luck was on my side (or the universe approved of my purchases?) because everything fits and I like it all. I was skeptical that the glove size chart had me in a medium because I have big ol’ man hands and long fingers – I wear an 8 or 8.5 glove. But indeed, the medium does fit, and they’re delightfully glittery but still relatively subtle about it. They’re in the Roeckl style which is quite nice, the only thing they’re missing is the touch screen fingertips. A slight bummer, but they were also 1/3 the price of Roeckls, so I’m not complaining too much.

The next item was the navy tights. I waffled on these forever, because 1) tights are a hard one to get right, I dislike way more of them than I like, 2) they only had silicone-dot full seats. I’m generally not a fan of full seat unless they’re REALLY not sticky at all, and not being able to see them in person, it was a tossup. Plus their stock photo is so dark you really can’t see any details at all. But in the end the idea of dark navy glitter fabric won me over and I said what the hell, and chucked them into the cart. Again they were cheap, cheaper than pretty much any other pair of tights I own, and I figured I could always sell them if I didn’t like them. I also had to completely take a stab in the dark on the size, which is always fun. At least tights tend to be a little more forgiving than breeches.

its so hard to get a good pic of these

Once again though, the stars aligned, and they fit! Plus they’re really beautiful. The glitter is pretty subtle so I’m not even sure you’d notice from more than 15′ away, but up close there’s a ridiculously satisfying amount of twinkle in the sunlight. I keep staring at them. If it’s overcast you’d have to be right up next to them to see it, really. I’m relieved that they aren’t too in-your-face. They wouldn’t give too many trainers heart attacks, I don’t think. Plus the fabric is nice and thin which is good for Texas, and the silicone dots are just about the least sticky thing I’ve ever seen. They don’t feel any different from any of my knee patch breeches when I’m in the saddle, which to me is a plus. I’ve basically been living in these things. glitter

Last but not least in that package (subtle foreboding) was the helmet. This one was another thing I waffled over forever, but it was on sale for under $100 and it was just… really pretty. I always did dressage in my navy Samshield but that one is now past its expiration, and I killed my navy Traumavoid when I fell out of the tack room last year. My only navy helmet left is my MyPS, which I wear daily at home, thus its kinda been scratched up from low-hanging branches and the like. Plus, I love that helmet, but it lacks a little… show ring pizazz. You know what has pizazz? This.

I’ve never tried on the BR brand before so I had no clue if it would fit me, plus I was kind of in-between shell sizes, but… what the heck. That thing was gorgeous. Plus sale. Have I mentioned sale? Worth a shot. Miraculously it fits me pretty darn well (it could be a teeny smidge more oval, but it’s soclose) and it’s gorgeous. Like even more gorgeous in person.

3 for 3. That’s some luck right there.

The only disappointment is that they still didn’t have those navy glitter boots in stock, the ones that pulled me into Epplejeck in the first place last fall. I’d tried to go order them about a hundred times but the sizes I needed were never in stock. When I inquired about restocking dates, they said they weren’t sure. I gave up a bit, honestly, but I still checked back regularly.

And then a couple weeks later I got another email about another sale… this time a buy 2 get one free. I’m very much into that. This was just a few days after I’d had that dream about the rainbow box, which was still nagging at me, so I meandered over to the site thinking “Ok universe…” I do this a lot, where I declare things to the universe and leave it to fate as if that somehow absolves me of decision-making or responsibility “if they have the boots in stock, and the rainbow box in stock, AND all of them qualify for the BOGO sale, I’ll know that I’m meant to have them.”. And, well, hell… what do you know. After 4 months of checking for those boots, they were FINALLY in stock in M and L. Tossed a front pair in the cart, then a back pair, then meandered over and tossed a rainbow box in too. Then I went to the cart to see if it qualified for the BOGO and damn, y’all, it did.

The universe has spoken - spongebob rainbow | Meme Generator

Now I should say, this was before I decided to keep Presto in training and battened down the hatches on non-essential spending. I wouldn’t have done a lil’ mini splurge if I’d already decided that. So I’ve spent the past couple weeks waiting for the package to get here (seriously Chicago customs, 10 days?) feeling really guilty about it. Then I opened it, was greeted with sparkles and rainbows, and honestly… don’t feel that guilty anymore. If I was gonna get one last package of fun to get me through the next however many months of strict budgeting, this was definitely the box to do it.

First the boots.

They are, without a doubt, the most perfect shade of navy. I love that only the straps are glittery, I feel like they’ll wear better and it’s a little more subtle. They fit Henry perfectly, which makes me think they might be a little small on Presto (which is who I really bought them for) but whatever. I’m obsessed. Dear all equestrian companies: this is the navy I want.

As for the box. Y’all. I understand now why I dreamed about it. This thing is magical. From 10+ feet away, it looks like a normal metal grooming box. Nothing fun to see here.

But then you get closer and you start to really see the holographic effect and it’s like bam.

Then real close: BAM!

It’s so pretty.

I’m still deciding what I’m gonna put in there. I think probably my braiding stuff and all my little show-specific things like boot polish and green spot remover and sharpies and safety pins and hair nets and sunscreen etc etc etc. It’s a pretty good size and I love the mirror in the top.

So really, no regrets here. It was a good last hurrah that’ll last me a while I think. What are the odds that I would like all 6 things? I won’t question my luck on this one. Next time we’re in Europe, if/when they ever let us back in, you can bet that a visit to one of the Epplejeck stores will definitely be happening. I feel like they really get my navy glitter/subtle rainbow aesthetic…

Captain Yeehaw

Man, Henry is really feeling himself lately. Presto leaving changed the herd dynamic for sure… he used to mostly just tolerate Presto’s antics and occasionally join in a little bit,but for the most part he was the buzzkill big brother that was much more serious. These days Henry is Captain Yeehaw out here doing laps around the field and airs above the ground.

Um, ok
it’s a REAL BUCK

It’s like taking away the big brother role also took away all of his (apparently fake) maturity. Which to be honest is okay with me. He’s 14 now, I won’t complain if he’s feeling good enough to act like he’s 4.

The weather has been good so I’ve been able to ride him 6 days a week. I can’t decide if he loves or hates having all the attention back on him. I’m not sure that he’s quite decided.

the sassiest and most emotional horse on the property is not the mare

I have to admit that having extra time to spend with my OG Best Boy isn’t such a bad thing. I can’t complain. I don’t have to rush through “the easy one” in an effort to have time for the young one, and it’s kind of nice. We can take the time to go on longer hacks, or wander aimlessly around the property before or after a ride and enjoy the nice weather.

if you give him a loose rein he will make a beeline for the t!ny h0use, I have no idea why

It helps too that the days are getting longer. God I hate winter with it’s short days. There is nothing cool about being dark at 5pm, it makes the day feel extra rushed. Now it’s light from about 6:40am to 6:40pm, which helps everything in general. I can get chores done earlier, and I’m not rushing to squeeze horse stuff in at the end of my work day. I can get up and do a spin class when it’s still dark (y’all, I might be addicted to the spin bike, I’ve had it for 14 days and I’ve ridden it 12 of those. At least I’m getting my money’s worth?) and be walking down to the barn right after dawn, clean stalls, and still be back in front of my computer before my 7:30 meeting.

he snorted at this turtle for a long time

I’ve been leaving the horses out a bit longer too, since they seem quite content out there on all the spring grass. Both of the chubbers have had no complaints. Henry also got a couple new hanging treat balls from Horse and Herd (a Montana-based business!) so he’s kind of just rotten 24/7. Technically one of these was supposed to be for Presto but I don’t think it’ll be much of a hardship if Henry ends up “having” to eat both of them himself. Luckily he’s slow about it (not a freakin shark like Presto who can demolish one of these in 2 days) so we’ll see how long this first one lasts. I let him pick which one he wanted first and he went for the Pink Salt one.

Otherwise we’re just kind of plugging along. I wanted to get Henry more fit before the hot weather hits, and he’s pretty on track for that. We’ve been doing conditioning rides a couple days a week, flatwork a couple days, a polework day, and a jump day. He’s… quite spunky and full of himself pretty much every single day despite the increased work load, so that’s a good sign. Maybe later on in the spring we can get out to a couple jumper shows and XC schooling, before it’s 100 degrees.

staring at literally anything

At some point I should set the Pivo back up and actually get some media from my Henry rides but I’ve admittedly been kind of lazy about it. We’re just kind of having fun enjoying ourselves with no pressure and without having to rush.

Hope everyone else’s weather is starting to take a turn for the better too so you can get more (pleasant) riding time in. Spring is my favorite!

Presto the Real Boy

Sorry for abandoning the blog on Friday. Partly it was because I didn’t have much to say, but mostly it’s because I was busy going through and editing all the pics Michelle got from when we went to visit everybody’s favorite nugget baby last Thursday!

that’s a cute kid

Which means I have a lot of media, which means I’m forgiven right? Good.

If I had any lingering reservations about Presto being away at college, they’re gone now. I wasn’t sure how he’d settle into the hustle and bustle of a busy boarding facility (he looked bored), or how he’d feel about having to be a bit more of a grownup rather than a half-feral pasture kid (he’s met the raised expectations). I knew all of this would be good life experience for him either way, but still I just wasn’t sure how he would process it all. Turns out there was no cause for concern, because not only was he half asleep munching on his lunch hay when I got there, he looked at me, sniffed my hand for a treat, and promptly returned to his hay when he realized I didn’t have one. Ouch. No loyalty in this horse. I see how it is. He doesn’t even have the decency to pretend like he misses me or cares about me at all.

Aside from a little scratch on his face (which, he’s been there a month and that’s the only new wound? pretty miraculous) he looks just like he did when I dropped him off. Or, really, better. He’s starting to get a little bit more topline I think, and he’s got more of an air of confidence or relaxation about him, like he thinks he knows some things now.

And indeed, he does know some things. Megan got him out so we could see her work with him, and she started out doing a little bit of work on the ground. The big thing she’s been working on is getting him more supple in his body and getting him to actually bend through his whole body and move both his front and hind end, so she can access all his different parts and ride him properly from back to front and around her leg. He had a tendency at first to want to drop his shoulder and resist or pull against the bit, so she made it clear that he needed to stay up through his shoulder and soft on the rein. She started teaching him that concept on the ground and then under saddle, but right now since it’s still sorta new to him she checks in on the ground for a couple minutes first to reinforce that she can indeed move all his different parts and he’s paying attention. I like that she broke it down to it’s most simplest form for him so he could clearly understand what she wanted on the ground first before getting in the saddle. The expectations were clear to him from the start.

He looks like a real horse. A very attractive one. WTF.

She explained everything she was doing and why, which I really appreciated. And I completely agreed with her assessment of the things he needed to improve.

Once she got on she repeated the same things at the walk that she’d just asked him to do on the ground – making sure she could move both his front end and his hind end, get him stepping across, put his body in the shape she wanted, and change that shape easily. Access to his whole body, basically, and getting his brain tuned in.

After that they moved to trot. They’ve been working on rhythm and getting him bending in a nice shape around her leg. Without dropping the shoulder of course, which is definitely his favorite go-to maneuver. She changed directions a lot, making sure she could change the bend and still keep the shoulders up, allowing him to come more from behind. He’s gotten way steadier in the contact, although sometimes he wants to default to dropping a little bit behind the vertical. That’s not unusual when they’re first learning, so she just keeps asking him to take the bit more forward again.

she’s very quick to reward when he does the right thing, which I LOVE

As you can imagine, the canter is a bit more of the same. She noted that when he’s relaxed his canter is pretty nice and he’s able to hold a nice rhythm easily, but when he gets a bit tense he tends to get stuck and the canter goes more up and down. I’ve observed that exact same thing. She just keeps pushing him up to a light contact and really allowing him and encouraging him to be forward and relaxed, but without letting him drop that shoulder (which he tends to want to do more to the right – his weaker direction – than the left).

After some flatwork they moved on to some jumps. With the winter storm she’s really only had a few weeks to work with him at all, so she’s only jumped him once before, in a grid. This was his first time doing a little course, or trying to canter fences without guiderails to help him. Overall he was really good. As he’s learning to carry his body more correctly you can see the improvements translate to the jumps too, he’s coming off the ground with more power. There’s a pretty good jump in him I think!

By the end he strung together a little mini-course at the canter, which was adorable. Not bad for a few weeks of a work and a second jump school!

I am honestly really impressed with how good of a job Megan does with the young horses. She’s very cool, calm, and collected, and approaches different concepts with a lot of intelligence. Presto was very clearly not stressed at all, and seemed happy to work for her and calm about everything. Is he still a goofy young horse? Absolutely. But even if/when he got unfocused she just kept riding, diverting his attention to something else that would occupy his brain more. That’s exactly the approach he needs. Plus she likes him, which counts for a lot.

He’s a TRAITOR

Now that I’ve gotten past all my initial panic about having him away from home, I’m really loving the changes I’m seeing. Enough so that I’m convinced he’s exactly where he needs to be right now, and I think it would benefit him greatly to stay there for a little while longer. The complication was that Megan is about to leave for Ocala for six weeks, but after a chat and some creative planning, it’s been decided that Presto will be going to Ocala with her. I just think he would get SO MUCH from an experience like that, where he can see a lot and do a lot and there’s everything right there on his doorstep. He can get more experience there in 6 weeks than he could get in 4 months here.


When he comes back we’ll see how we all feel about where he’s at mentally and physically and progress-wise. If we feel like he’s happy and doing great and has an actual shot at this YEH stuff, he’ll stay on with Megan for a bit longer and we’ll give that a try. If not, he can have a break and then revisit things later on. Absolutely no pressure.

I have to be honest, when I signed him up for the Futurity it was mostly just for fun and to showcase the kind of horses that WTW is producing. Just looking at Presto, I really wasn’t convinced he was that horse. He’s still awkward and gangly and wouldn’t turn any heads just standing in the barn. But you put a saddle on him and a rider like Megan in the irons and holy shit, y’all… this horse is nice. Like… nicer than I realized. I want to give him a fair shake, and no matter what he ultimately ends up doing, I want him to have the absolute best start to his eventing career that I can, so that he’s a better horse in the long run. I think Megan can give him that. So my budget will be absolutely LOCKED DOWN for the foreseeable future (and all my excess stuff that I’ve been meaning to sell for a while will actually be posted now to help fund Presto’s Ocala trip) but I feel like this is 100% the best thing for him. Seeing him there with her, all I could think was “how do I keep him here longer”. They get along great, and though I definitely do miss him at home, seeing him thrive like this makes it a whole lot easier.

Sneak Peek

I finished and submitted Presto’s second vlog for the US Event Horse Futurity! These beginning ones still kind of have more of that “historical” aspect – the first one was the breeding one, and now this one is the starting one. I felt like everything Presto had done in his first few years kind of led up to starting him, so I felt like there was as lot to cover. Y’all are used to me being long-winded by now, right? It’s under 6 minutes though, that was a feat.

I’m not sure yet when the Futurity will start posting the starting vlogs on their page. They’re due by mid-March, but I know we’re still waiting on a couple of the first breeding vlogs to wrap those up. My blog readers get special perks though, which in this case includes early access.

Making these vlogs is hard, I feel like I have so much to say and so much I want to include, but I also have to condense it way down to account for time. I tried to hit all the main points though.

I’m excited to get rolling on the actual training vlogs after this. That’s always the fun part, seeing them do more under saddle. And today I’m headed up to visit Presto, so hopefully I’ll have more media. Michelle is even coming and bringing her real camera. Fancy times indeed.

Let’s Discuss: Young Horse Development

I think that the ol’ “what age to start horses under saddle or in work” question might be one of the most hotly debated topics in the horse world. On one end of the spectrum you have the racehorses and western folk, who start pretty early at 18-24 months, typically. Then you have another subset of people who believes that no horse should even be sat on or lunged or anything until it’s 5 or 6 (or more). Most of us probably fall somewhere in between, but it’s one of those ask-10-people-get-12-answers type of things. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a real opinion on this particular subject, and most people have a lot of conviction behind whatever they believe. You often see this particular graphic being passed around facebook, but used to support total opposite viewpoints, which I find particularly amusing. I swear I see this have a resurgence at least once every couple months (psst, this isn’t even totally accurate).

The Stages of Equine Skeletal Development | EQUINE Ink

Opinions are one thing, science is another. Studies should give us clear answers, right?

Meh.

There have been a lot of different studies by now, using a lot of different variables, and the validity of those seems to be as hotly debated as the subject matter itself. I came across a new one the other day though, and new material seems fairly rare when it comes to this topic so it’s always interesting when something does surface. I myself have a few mixed and admittedly conflicting opinions after reading through all the data and looking at all the figures, but I’d rather toss it out here without my own impressions first to see what other folks think. Again it’s another racehorse-centric one, specifically about whether or not 2yo’s should train and race, so… how you feel about that is one part, and whether you believe that’s at all comparable to the sporthorse world or not is another part.

The link to the study is in that post. You can click Full Text to pop up the whole thing, or click on Download PDF.

Thoughts? Impressions? Have any of these studies impacted your opinion at all or do you rely more on your own personal experiences?