Last week’s Foal Friday was all about Obi and Patrick’s relationship, which is largely centered around their games of Bitey Face. Colts just gotta colt, and biting each other is what they do best. While those Bitey Face games are about the limit of Patrick’s rambunctiousness, it’s certainly not the only thing Obi is interested in. It took him a little while to come out of his shell, but I think Obi is now making up for it, because he is one rowdy and bold little dude. Of course, Pippa and Patrick (who are both fairly dignified) aren’t that interested in taking part in all of his games. You know who’s always up for a little chaos and mayhem though?
Mostly they chase each other around a lot, because that’s Teddy’s most favorite activity in the world. Nobody tell her she isn’t a racehorse.
She’s like Obi’s very own personal trainer, which is probably a good thing because, uh… he’s kind of a chub.
In between all the zoomies (and there are A LOT of zoomies) they also tend to have a sixth sense for finding trouble. Largely, I think, because Teddy’s pony DNA works like a GPS tracking system for Trouble, and she’s always drawn right to it. Obi feeds off of Teddy’s boldness and curiousity, for sure, and I think she’s helped him blossom and be more confident.
Admittedly every once in a while Obi forgets his place and brings his chompers to the zoomies party…
Luckily Teddy is pretty forgiving, and she usually just reprimands him by taking him for another few laps of the pasture. She’s already figured out that tired colts are better colts. Who run the world? Pony mares.
Admittedly I always have mixed feelings about the Olympics when it comes to eventing, mostly because it isn’t the top level of our sport. Indeed, most of the horses and a large portion of the riders in the field have never contested a 5*. BUT, there’s definitely an aspect to it that is special, like getting to see more diversity than we usually do in these top level competitions – so many different countries, different people, and a slightly more diverse field of horses as well (we don’t often see horses bred in Russia or Spain or Poland!). So let’s look a little more closely at the horses in the 2021 Tokyo field, shall we?
Before we start, to clarify: these stats include only the 3 starting horses for each team and the starting individuals, not any of the reserves, except for a couple brief mentions where I will make it clear that it’s a reserve horse that I’m talking about. Basically, if it has a dressage ride time, it’s included in these statements, if it doesn’t, it’s not. (note: I have updated to reflect the last minute changes to Team Australia and Team Ireland)
Alright, let’s roll.
Let’s start off easy: of all the entered horses, more than half of the field was born in one of these three countries: Germany, France, or Ireland. 16 horses in the field were bred in Germany, 15 were bred in France, and 11 were bred in Ireland (8 registered ISH, 2 registered SHBGB, one TB). Of note: out of the 8 registered as Irish Sporthorse, 2 are of traditional ISH breeding – the rest are part or full continental WB (usually Holsteiner or Selle Francais).
We are used to seeing at least a handful of full thoroughbreds at any top level event, but in Tokyo there is only one lone full TB in the field, Glenfly, who is an Irish-bred thoroughbred that competed unsuccessfully in national hunt races. However, even with only one full thoroughbred there is still a lot of blood present in this field. There are 4 horses by a full TB stallion (these stallions are Ostermond xx, Presenting xx, Albaran xx, and Seigneur D’alleray xx) and 5 horses out of a full TB mare. Additionally there is also a lot of French AngloArab blood present, with one horse registered AA, 1 horse by full french AA sire, and 4 out of full AA mare.
The average blood percentage among all the entrants (again: calculating only the starters, not the reserves, and tossing out the handful of horses that have an incomplete pedigree) is 55%. The horse with the lowest blood percentage comes in at 22%, with the highest being 100%. If we toss the full TB, the next highest is 90%. This average is pretty on par with what we see at most 4* and 5* level events.
Moving on to the sire’s side of things, the most represented sire is Holsteiner stallion Contender, who is seen within the first 3 generations of 7 horses, 3 via his son Contendro. Selle Francais stallion Diamant de Semilly is next up, being the sire of 2 and the sire’s sire of 2 more. Selle Francais (but 82% blood) stallion Jaguar Mail has three direct offspring in the field (one out of a full AA mare, one out of a high blood British mare, and one out of a low blood dressage mare). Three more stallions are represented by 2 direct offspring each: Selle Francais stallion Mr. Blue, Rheinlander dressage stallion Fidertanz, and Trakehner stallion Windfall. Two horses are by Contendro out of a Heraldik xx mare, and another is by Contender (Contendro’s sire) out of a Heraldik xx mare.
On the dam’s side of the pedigree, the most represented damsires are Heraldik xx (3 horses) and Rock King (3 horses). One mare, Rock Me Baby (by Rock King out of a Shaab xx mare), has two offspring at Toyko: Balham Mist by Mill Law on the Swedish team, and Colorado Blue by Jaguar Mail for Team Ireland. Also worth noting that one of the mares competing, the aforementioned Source de la Faye, already has an offspring competing at FEI level (Ultrasource del Cerro). He’s a 7yo currently competing at 2* level, and he completed Lion d’Angers last year, following in his mother’s footsteps.
Speaking of Lion d’Angers (how’s that for a segue) we have a LOT of horses in the field that came up through the FEI Young Horse classes. 55% of the horses in the field competed in these classes (which are 6yo 2* or 7yo 3*) on their rise up the levels. Even more impressively, 42% of the horses in the field competed at the Young Horse World Championships at Lion d’Angers at least once. Their success at that venue ranged from podium finishes to eliminated, but they did qualify and compete there.
Looking inward at our own US horses, two of them (if we count our reserve) competed in the USEA Young Event Horse program. Tsetserleg did one YEH class as a 5yo, scoring 79. Mai Baum did one YEH4 class, scoring 74, and one YEH5 class, scoring 73. Needless to say, neither of them took the YEH world by storm and neither made an appearance at Championships.
Trak lovers (there are always a handful of you and you know who you are) there are 3 Trakehners in the field for you. Or really four, if you count the one that is registered Westphalian but is actually by a TB stallion out of a full Trak mare (this is why we look at the pedigree, people, not the “breed”! Thanks for coming to my TED talk). Two of these Traks were bred in the USA and both are by Windfall – Vandiver (out of a TB x Trak mare) and Tsetserleg (out of a Trak mare).
While the overwhelming majority of the field comes from Holsteiner and/or Selle Francais jumper lines, there are a few traditionally dressage-oriented sires with some representation as well. On the sire’s side of the pedigree we see: De Niro (grandsire of 1), Sandro Hit (grandsire of 1), and Fidertanz (sire of 2). On the dam’s side we see each of these stallions in one horse each: Wolkentanz, Royal Dance, and Donnerhall.
As for a few fun little random facts:
fischerchipmunk is one of 7 full siblings. He’s by far the most successful sibling, one other has evented to 3*, and one has showjumped to 1.35m.
Tullabeg Flamenco has two full siblings, both eventing at FEI level – one at 2* and one at 3*.
Totem de Brecey’s dam also produced 5 successful showjumpers who competed from 1.40m to 1.60m.
Diachello, Z, and Fuiloda G all had dams that showjumped successfully in addition to being broodmares.
One rider, Lara de Liedekerke of Belgium, is on a homebred horse. Alpaga D’arville is by Wonder Boy out of a full TB mare.
Did I pay a rush fee to get Presto’s Chatt photos in time to post them in the recaps? Yes. Did they actually show up in time? No. Am I gonna dedicate a whole post to them because now I’ve gotta get my money’s worth? Absolutely. Sorry not sorry. I’m sad that they didn’t get any dressage pics to memorialize his 23 score, but oh well. His first recognized Novice!
I think we’ve got ourselves a real baby event horse! He’s so game and I love that you can see it in his pictures.
I already did all the Chatt recaps of the actual horse show parts, but I feel like it deserves and needs one more little wrap-up post. Partly because it was a whole week, and a lot happened, but mostly because it was legit the most fun I’ve had a show in a long time. It was such a relaxed, chill, easy-going show, no drama, everybody happy, nobody on anybody’s nerves or complaining… it was lovely.
First and foremost, we figured out that Lex and Presto are pretty much kindred spirits. Both of them are young, cheeky, busy horses with an appetite for destruction, and I’m a little worried at what happens when they officially become friends and start to travel together. They weren’t even stabled next to each other but I swear the second they made eye contact they recognized what the other was deep down in their soul, and neighed at each other several times throughout the course of the weekend. Seeing them side by side in the warmup was quite hilarious too – one short and round little ball of Lex and one tall and skinny noodle of Presto. How will Hillary and I ever show together with those two monkeys in tow? Pray for us.
I also got to catch up with some people that I hadn’t seen in a while – Beka came to visit one day (gosh haven’t seen her in years but all the OG bloggers will remember her!)
and my brother, his wife, and my nephew came out one afternoon too. I stayed with them one night when we were there since they only live about half an hour away, and it was good to catch up. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen them. It was also kind of hilarious watching them meet Presto, as it always is with non-horse people. They got to help pull his braids out and give him carrots so they’re basically professional grooms now.
I also made BFF’s with Megan’s 6yo Prelim mare, Tenny (or as Tenny told me she’d rather be called – Tennifer). She’s known for being a little emotionally sensitive and very picky about things, but we legit bonded every morning when I was cleaning stalls. I was already pretty obsessed with her before Chatt (who wouldn’t be, she’s freaking stunning) but now she likes me back. And she doesn’t like anyone very much, so I feel special. Megan said I have to come to all of her shows to be Tenny’s emotional support animal, which is a job title I’d happily assume. Also trying to convince her that we need some Tenny embryos next year. I already have a few stallions picked out (naturally).
Aside from getting to watch Presto go, seeing Hillary and Lex boss up together was also a major highlight. Things are really clicking for them, and it’s fun having a front row seat. I’ve said this before, but at Chatt in particular they really owned it and I’m just so excited for her. He’s such a cool little horse and she’s already learned so much in such a short period of time. I’ve never seen her ride better. And they made the BN look so easy both weeks that they’re very clearly ready to move on to Novice (both Karl Slezak, who coached her week 1, and Megan agreed on that one). I’m just delighted to see her with such a nice horse and a promising partnership. The sky is the limit.
As I mentioned yesterday the trip also had it’s practical purposes, like getting to try on some more breeches, and I found a pair that I really like. I was able to figure out that I’m a 28 in most brands but for Horze the 26’s fit better. I liked the Ariat Trifactors (although I wish they were a smidge higher rise) but they only had a teal color in my size so I passed on that. I ended up with a pair of navy Horze Aubrey breeches that have silver piping and the deepest freakin pockets I’ve ever seen in my life. For real you could put a 6 month old baby in there (if you were so inclined). They’re super comfy and I like the fabric, although of course they only come in white, navy, and a very hideous shade of puke green. Kind of a bummer because I like them a lot, especially for the price, and would def buy them in more colors if they made more that I liked. But hey, at least I got to try on more breeches and come home with a pair. And I bought literally nothing else while we were there so that’s a banner achievement in and of itself, considering all the temptation (please god get the custom boot trailer the heck away from me, I’m being attacked).
I also got to pick up my long awaited and much anticipated custom breastplate that I’m super excited about. It’s kinda one of the hybrid collar type ones (like bridge meets polo?) that shapes around the neck and has a strap that goes back to the billets, but nothing between the front legs. A shoulder freedom breastcollar sort of similar to the Fairfax. A friend of mine started doing leatherwork as a hobby and I bugged her forever to try to make something like this, and she totally nailed it. It’s got tons of adjustability plus I got to pick my colors for everything – main leather, padding, hardware, and stitching. Of course I’m boring and got havana brown with navy padding, navy stitching, and stainless hardware. Was SUPER tempted to go with the rainbow hardware though, I’ll admit. It’s very classy and pretty though and fits Presto great, and I’m excited to have one of the first ones made and sold. There’s already a long line to buy them I think! He got to wear it all weekend and it worked great, plus I love how it looks. I dunno if the horses really care much about that strap between their legs or over their shoulder, but it looks more comfortable to me at least.
Most of all though, we just plain had a good freakin time at Chatt. Megan and her mom are great, super nice and thoughtful and always very appreciative to have help, which I’m equally happy to provide. We sweated our asses off and were very busy, but it still never felt at all stressful or negative in the least. Everyone helped everyone and supported each other genuinely. Plus there was pizza and Mexican food… what more does a girl need from a horse showcation? I hope there are many more shows just like this one in our future.
Between all the Chatt recap posts (of which I still actually have one left that I need to finish) and dog drama, it’s been a while since I did a general update post on here. Granted, not all that much has been happening aside from Chatt and then dog drama. The only things I really have left on that front are 1) Mina continues to settle in well and we love her
And 2) I got a little memorial plaque thingy to go on Stewie’s gravesite under his tree, which helps bring a little closure I think. Now that it’s been a week and a half without him (geez, time flies) it’s feeling less raw, and having Mina to focus on has helped a lot. I went and put his plaque on his grave yesterday morning, and he’s nestled right in the corner of the jump field, which is freshly mowed and has a new course set now. He’s got the best seat in the house.
I also managed to watch a little bit of the dressage at the Olympics this weekend. Admittedly I can’t just sit there and watch hours of dressage but I watched a handful of rides, and was really impressed with Sabine and Sanceo. I don’t keep up with dressage really at all, at any level, so this is the first I’ve seen of her. What a great pair though, so lovely to watch. I also caught some of Charlotte and Carl.
I swear I’ll watch more when we get to the Freestyles. That holds my (very short) attention span a bit better.
There was of course some drama on social media right out of the gate, with The Horse Magazine posting criticism of Edward Gal’s riding and his team’s orange shadbellies. That kind of exploded. I’m sure there will be more Olympic drama yet to come, and indeed I was greeted with some first thing this morning when I woke up to the news that Tom Carlile withdrew Birmane. Noooooooooo. She’s one of my favorites and was the cornerstone of my team on Eventing Manager, dang it. It took me days to even settle on my team in the first place. I got mad and chucked my entire team and will start again as soon as I have the brainpower to do so.
While I didn’t watch a lot of the Olympic dressage, I did watch a lot of the Rebecca Farm live stream. Mostly to stalk Mickey, because if stalking Mighty Magic offspring was a sport I’d be the world #1.
Mickey led the 4*S from start to finish and seemed to have a fantastic time romping around the XC. He’s such a nice horse for only 9 years old, and it’s fun to have two young Mighty Magics (Mickey and then 10yo Mamas Magic Way aka Mason) doing so well in the US and primed for much more to come. I spent most of the live stream looking up pedigrees, as one does, even though I probably should have been spending my time looking up the Olympic eventing horses pedigrees to prepare for my In The Blood post that’s coming later this week. It’s a work in progress. So many pedigrees, so little time.
And of course as it does every year the Rebecca live stream mostly just made me sit here and scheme about how I could possibly justify trying to make the trek up there one of these years. It’s totally a bucket list event for me but it’s also REALLY FREAKING FAR (30+ hours each way, but who’s counting) so that’s a tough one. I wish they ran two weeks back to back, at least then you’d get a little more “bang for your buck” out of such a long drive. Oh well. Someday.
In other eventing news, Presto is keeping his summer eventing train rolling and is entered for River Glen in a couple weeks.
Megan has a training camp thing in Arkansas this week anyway, which is kind of partway to River Glen. Her string is all going to camp and then will head over to Tennessee next week from there. If nothing else this boy is definitely learning all about traveling this year, and being part of a string of horses rather than being individually catered to. It’s good life experience. Presto already got his AEC qualifying placing by finishing second at Chatt, so assuming he gets his 3rd and final USEA completion at River Glen he’ll round out all of his qualifying requirements, and then he can go to AEC. The chance to experience that kind of atmosphere would be great, and I think he’d really eat up a Championship course at KHP. That’s our new “redirect” plan instead of YEH Championships. We’ll see how River Glen goes!
As for Henry, I’ve been able to keep him in more work so far this summer since our temps have been so mild (well, upper 80’s low 90’s is mild compared to our normal 110 anyway). It’s still a bit hot to be hauling him much but he’s getting ridden plenty at home and I haven’t had to dial back the intensity too much. Of course, I think our luck with the mild summer is about to run out and we’ll be getting closer to triple digits, but still, I feel like we got two “free” months and the grass is still quite green for the end of July in Texas, so I won’t complain. Oh, and I got Henry’s pics from our little jumper show we did… he’s too precious for words. Chonky little dolphin.
I’m still on the lookout for some green Horze Grand Prix breeches if anyone finds them in stock anywhere in the US. I need a 26. I’m beyond sad that everyone is sold out, those are still my favorite color breeches ever. Le sigh. I did find a new pair while I was at Chatt that fit pretty well (sadly not green) so I at least have one pair of breeches that fits. You know what doesn’t fit though? My everyday Mountain Horse tall boots.
They were a little big to start with and now they’re a lot big. They’re still functional though, aside from some bunching. We’ll see how long I can ride it out because the thought of buying new everyday boots has less than zero appeal right now.
I think that’s pretty much everything else that’s been going on though, aside from a few bigger things that are still in the works and aren’t ready to be discussed yet. We’ll get there eventually!
I anticipated that having two full siblings among the group of babies this year would be extra fun, and so far it certainly has been.
Not just for the sake of comparing and contrasting but also because watching Obi and Patrick interact is just plain entertaining. They have a lot of differences but one thing they both love is some good old-fashioned colt tomfoolery, and they seem to take great enjoyment in their rough and tumble sibling antics. They are each other’s playmate of choice, for sure.
Obi actually spends a lot of time with Teddy – they both seem to really love a game of tag – but once he’s ready for some down and dirty scrappiness, he’ll always go seek out Patticakes.
It’s funny because when he was a newborn Patrick was quite playful and rowdy, and now he’s kind of settled into a bit of a quieter more serious and more mature role, similar to Pippa.
Obi on the other hand was quite sensitive and careful at first, and now he’s become rowdy and is constantly putting himself in the middle of everything. Thus Obi tends to be the instigator of the Patrick-Obi antics, most of the time.
Of course, Patrick’s no fool. He might not start it most of the time but he is certainly a seasoned warrior by this point, older and taller than Obi. He knows all the best tricks.
If that particular move doesn’t get the results he’s after, he’s got plenty more up his sleeve.
Or, if worse comes to worst, you can always just smash your butt into your opponent (Sadie’s personal favorite) like a wrecking ball and knock him out of your way.
I don’t think Obi ever really “wins” per se, but they both seem perfectly content with their sparring roles, and at the end of the day they’re always still brothers and BFF’s.
About a year ago I said something to the SO in passing, like “Wouldn’t it suck if both of the dogs went at around the same time?”. Nothing like having a freaking premonition. I told him at the time that I knew I’d want to go get another dog immediately, not to replace either of our boys (because that’s not possible) but because I thought that having a dogless house would be the final heartbreak that I’d never come back from. Dogs just bring a certain unique joy to a house, and as someone who is naturally broody, introverted, and tends to want to isolate from everyone, I really need a dog to help balance that. Stewie always helped make sure I never sunk down too far, but I knew that if I went too long without a dog I’d inevitably end up spiraling.
SO was kind of against the idea. We lost his heart dog two years ago and he just hasn’t really been interested in another dog since. He suggested we take a break from dogs for a while, especially since there at the end with both Quinn and Stewie I was basically running an around-the-clock dog hospice. I don’t think I got a full nights sleep for those last 4 months at all. But also I really like to feel needed, and useful, and having something to do and/or focus on helps me cope with grief. I didn’t want a break, I wanted something else to pour my energy into.
So this past weekend we went to the Austin shelter, just to see what they had. Naturally I’m not one to go in without a plan so I’d looked through all the dogs online in advance and made a list of all of the promising looking ones and their kennel numbers. Otherwise it would take us 6 hours and I’d want 50 dogs by the time we looked at all of them. Had to narrow it down a bit in advance. My list had about 20 dogs that fit our criteria: 2 years or under (after 3 seniors in a row I need a break), 40-60 pounds, friendly and spunky, and unlikely to try to murder the cats. We got there and walked around to see all the ones on the list, crossing off some and then putting a star next to the ones we wanted to take out and see one-on-one. Both SO and I were immediately drawn to a particular smaller (40lb) black dog who was just curled up in a ball in her kennel looking like the saddest thing in the world. She looked at us but didn’t even lift her head. She looked absolutely heartbroken, and as someone who was also currently very heartbroken, I think like recognized like. I stood there and stared at her for a while before putting two stars by her name, Mona, and off we went in search of a volunteer so we could start meeting the dogs we had liked most.
First we got out a cute little heeler mix who was very sweet and chill but maybe not quite the right dog for us. Then it was on to a husky mix, who we LOVED, but again maybe not the best fit. Then when we were walking back the other way I looked out at one of the playgroups in the yard and said “I think that little hunched over black one is Mona”. We stood there and watched for a while as she slunked around the perimeter of the yard, looking really overwhelmed, before finding someone to ask and confirming that it was indeed her. Her kennel notes said she was “shy, timid, afraid, move slowly around her”. We asked if we could take her out by herself, they handed her over, and off we went to a solo pen. She immediately stood up a little straighter but as soon as the dogs in the kennels next to us started barking she looked worried again. She alternated between wanting to sit on our laps and wanting to pace anxiously. To us she just looked super overwhelmed by the shelter environment, really confused as to why she was there, and kind of shellshocked in general. After we handed Mona back to the volunteer the SO and I looked at each other and I said “do you even want to go see the other one or should we just get Mona?”. We both turned on our heels and made a beeline for the office to start the paperwork. I don’t know what it was about her but that dog had tugged on both of our heartstrings.
Once we got to the office they pulled all the paperwork they had in her file, which included 2 pages of intake notes. Turns out that she was actually closer to 4, not 2, and she had originally been adopted out of the very same animal shelter as a puppy in 2018. Her owners had brought her back about a week before, saying that they were moving somewhere that didn’t allow dogs. My heart really broke for her then. It explained a lot about her attitude and why she seemed so upset and worried. From what they had put on the intake form it seemed like she had been a part of the family at least enough to sleep in their bed and for them to put notes about how she didn’t like the vacuum cleaner and kids made her nervous (me too, girl, me too). I don’t know what happened to make them have to bring her back, but I knew we couldn’t leave her there. I can’t imagine how stressed she was at being returned to the shelter after 3 years of having a family. Plus being a shy timid black adult dog in a shelter didn’t really bode well for her getting adopted anytime soon. Looking over her paperwork SO said “Are you sure? She’s older than we wanted.”. I was like “We aren’t leaving here without that dog”, to which he wholeheartedly agreed, so the paperwork was done, we changed her name from Mona to Mina, and tada – she was free.
She started to come out of her shell from pretty much the moment she got in the car. She stood up straighter, looked out the windows, but still sat quietly and politely in the back. When we got her home she explored the house from top to bottom, cozied in next to me on the couch, and heaved out a big sigh. Poor thing, I don’t think she’d relaxed in a week.
I have to admit, that first day I wasn’t quite sure if I’d made the right choice to get another dog so soon. My heart still hurt so badly from losing Stewie, and I questioned whether or not I was even capable of loving another one. I think Mina could tell, because every time I was crying she’d snuggle up next to me and just sit quietly. Again, like recognizes like. Other times she would come up and smash her body into mine as close as she could possibly get and just sit there, like she needed to feel loved and safe. She was mourning too, I think. I found myself wondering who her former people were, what her life was like, and what their story was. If only dogs could talk.
Over the course of the week things have settled in. I no longer question whether or not adopting her was the right thing – I know it was – and she’s already wormed her way into my heart for sure. While she’s definitely a submissive type of dog, she’s extremely sweet and smart and loves to play. It’s also nice having a dog that was already house trained and knows the basics, it was a pretty easy transition. She seems to have figured out that I’m her new person and sticks close to me anytime we’re outside. Well, okay, she sticks close to me all the time. I think she needs the reassurance, but every day she’s looking more and more relaxed in her new life. When I leave the tiny house to go up to the barn she sits on the couch with her nose pressed to the window and watches until I come back. It’s pretty freakin cute.
Mina met the horses over the fence – she’s def got a healthy respect for their size, but she wagged her tail at them. She had pretty much the same response to the cats, who wanted nothing to do with her (yet, because cats). Overall she’s just a very sweet dog that wants nothing more than to be loved and included. There’s not a mean bone in her body whatsover, and yes she’s a little shy but she’s also very friendly. She loves to chase the ball around in the front yard, and practice her zoomies. We aren’t sure what breed she is (her shelter form said lab, lol, my guess is there’s some pit in there but we need to do a DNA test I guess) but it doesn’t matter. Turns out she’s the pretty perfect size for the tiny house, too. Big enough but not too big.
Her personality is much different from Stewie or Quinn, and while at first I wasn’t sure about it (I tend to like my dogs how I like my horses – boisterous, cheeky, and derpy), now I think it’s for the best. It makes her very much her own unique dog, with very few comparisons to draw between any of them, and I definitely don’t feel like I tried to replace Stewie or anything like that.
Most of all I feel like Stewie would approve. It’s nice to be able to give a dog a home, especially one as sweet as Mina, and you can already tell how grateful she is. My heart is bruised and battered for sure, and Mina’s probably is too, but maybe we can help each other put them back together again.
I don’t know if anyone likes watching these US Event Horse Futurity vlogs as much as I do (I watch every single one!) but Presto’s latest installment is officially released. This one offers Megan’s perspective on his first two horse shows, what he’s working on, and her impressions of him so far.
Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to watch these and follow along with his Futurity journey… making the vlogs is no small effort so we do appreciate the views and comments! Also don’t forget that comments and shares on the Futurity’s facebook post also count as entries to the Presto’s Favorite Things giveaway. 😉
Okay, let’s circle back around and talk about Presto’s YEH4 experience, shall we?
The Young Event Horse class took place the Friday before the main horse trial started, so it was a good opportunity to – at the very least – get the babies in the rings and see some stuff. For those of you that aren’t familiar, the structure of YEH is a dressage test and then a derby style sj/xc, 5 stadium fences out in the field and then proceeding directly to 10 cross country jumps.
He didn’t do dressage until the afternoon, so that morning Megan got him out for a quick pre-ride to make sure all his dressage buttons were in working order and to get him loosened up. He was quite good and the ride ended up being fairly short since it was already starting to get hot and humid. He got bathed and braided and BEMER’ed, and then came back out in the early afternoon for his dressage test. They were in one of the big arena’s down at the bottom, which put them very much all by themselves and out of sight of other horses, but he was really good about it. A little tense in his walk (that’s still a bit of a work in progress for him, he showed the walk a bit better in his actual horse trial test on Saturday) and wanted to gawk a couple of times but definitely no real complaints, especially considering the circumstances. He behaved himself quite well and was pretty professional in the ring. The dressage test is scored purely on gaits and rideability, and he got 7.2 for walk, 8.1 for trot, 7.6 for canter, and 8.4 rideability (I was proud of that one).
The comments were basically that he has a lovely natural rhythm, needs to develop more ground cover and range of motion, and my personal favorite “tuned to rider very nicely with confident basics”. All fair feedback, I think. He’s really just now started to discover his hind legs and is beginning to show glimpses of really coming through his whole body and shoulder, but he’s not quite there yet because, ya know, he’s 4 and he’s been in training for all of less than 5 months. You can tell there will definitely be more in there once he gets stronger though, I think. But also, since he’s meant to be a horse for me and not a horse for 5*, I was perfectly happy with the rideability score being his highest mark.
It was a super hot and humid day so Presto was hot and sweaty after his dressage test, but luckily he had a couple hours before the jumping phase. Of course, the forecast also called for storms to roll through right when the 4yo’s were supposed to go, so the organizers moved everything up to try to beat the storms. We got him tacked back up, Megan rode the 400 miles down to warmup (for anyone who has been to Chatt, warmup was way down in the bottom of the XC field across from the HorseMansion), got warmed up and ready to go, aaanddd… the skies opened up before any of the 4yos could actually get out on course. There is literally nowhere down there to take cover whatsoever (except for the people that had trailered in), so all the babies had to make a mad dash the 400 miles back up to the barns, getting completely and thoroughly soaked and hammered with pouring rain in the process. I have to say, they all handled it really well from what I saw… that could have been a massive shitshow.
There was a hold while the rain passed over, which dropped quite a bit a moisture on the ground, before they called everyone back down. Of course, that meant all 10 of them showed up at the same time, and it was taking a good 8ish minutes per horse by the time they did the showjumps, the cross country jumps, and then the judge filled out her scoresheet. The course was very spread out, more than I’ve seen in a YEH class, so the judge was being driven around the course in a golf cart to be able to see all the jumps. Presto was towards the end of the order, so he had to wait. And wait. And wait. And then the sun came out and turned everything very disgustingly swampy. I could see him over there in warmup starting to wilt. It was now his fourth ride of the day, it was hot and humid AF, and the poor baby horse was getting tired.
To add insult to injury, the course was TINY. Like so so tiny for him. All the showjumps were BN height at most, and the XC was all BN except the first two fences that shared the Novice course (but of course being the first two they were not up to full N height, therefore still small). The specs for the second half of the year say that the jumps can be up to 2’11”, and that’s what we were really hoping for (especially at Chatt, which tends to always ride big) but no… they were miniscule, barely at the minimum spec. Maybe because the YEH class there the week before had been total carnage? I dunno. The YEH specs also say “Jumps that allow the horse to display its boldness are encouraged, such as ditches, trakehners, Welden’s walls, etc.”… there was nothing remotely like that. All the XC jumps were very basic and very straightforward. We would have much rather jumped the 5yo track, which followed the Novice course with the Training water and at least had the showjumps closer to 3′. I guess the course was great if you had a 4yo that is just starting out and/or lacking a bit of confidence. Not great if you have a Presto, who is very confident and not at all easily impressed. I was like omg he might just canter right through all these, they’re so tiny and blah.
He did actually jump over them all, but in a very very very bored and not at all impressive way. He literally just cantered over half-heartedly (funnily enough, the other 4yo that was in Presto’s Novice division on the weekend was also in the YEH class and he felt the same way about the tiny jumps – there’s a pic of him literally taking off and landing at the same time over one of the XC jumps LOL). Being baked in the heat forever and then presented with extremely tiny fences did not exactly inspire an impressive performance from him. Still, he easily cantered over all the jumps and listened to Megan and did exactly what he was asked to do with zero hesitation. He also handled the wet footing with no issue. The round just lacked pizazz for sure. Which, ya know, again, isn’t a bad thing from my perspective. If he’d gone out by that point and jumped it all like a freak I’d be thinking I might die trying to ride this thing.
I really wasn’t sure what the judge would think. To me, I could tell that it was a very bored and uninspired baby horse that had a lot more in the tank, but also it’s my horse so I know him. I also know that some judges try to interpret potential whereas others only judge based off what they’re shown. Still though, while there was nothing electrifying or exciting about his performance, there was nothing wrong with it either. He was definitely one of the bravest, never backing off or hesitating at anything, and when Megan put her leg on he still did go forward every time he was asked. With the jumps being so small she was hesitant to really gallop him at them, given that she’s spent so long trying to get him to not do that, and I think her choice of a BN pace to BN jumps was appropriate and the best thing for the horse.
But, turns out, the judge really preferred the very forward horses that jumped in a bit more of an impressed way. Granted, given that the highest score was 76, she clearly didn’t like any of them all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 10-deep field of east coast YEH horses where only one got a qualifying score, and such a low one at that (75 is the minimum). Presto got a 70, which actually nestled him into a tie for 4th place, if that tells you anything about how low all the scores were overall.
From the scoresheet feedback, her issues with him were 1) his jump technique was inconsistent. Which she’s right, it was. He gets much better as the jumps get bigger and he has to give it some effort, but over 2’6″ he’s real blasé. 2) she didn’t get the impression that he was forward-thinking. The comment was “would need to develop a more forward attitude”. Which kind of made me chuckle, because that horse is actually SUPER forward-thinking, almost too much so at times, but based off of what she saw in those few minutes I can also sort of understand why she said that. He did look blah and bored (and hot and tired) and there was nothing on that course that really let him show off how bold and forward he truly is. I don’t think she got an accurate picture of what the horse is really like and that’s really no one’s fault. I do think the scores overall were quite brutal… I’ve seen an awful lot of YEH classes and championships and IMO there were definitely 4 horses there that deserved a qualifying score and could have gotten one on any other day. To only have one (barely) out of 10 at a big Area 3 show is yikes. I’m not a judge though, so what do I know.
While Presto’s brief YEH career is now over, since that’s the only qualifier we could get to (Area 5 is the worst place to be if you want to do YEH, that’s for sure), I was still really proud of him. That was a very long day for a baby, and he never once said no or got sour or didn’t want to play. He kept going and kept trying even when he was tired and over it. And also, once again, his rideability score was his highest mark in the jumping phase as well, which I was pleased with because priorities. I also come away from the experience with no qualms with the YEH format, aside from the seemingly wide variation of qualifier courses. I’ve seen considerably tougher qualifiers than that, which is what we had prepared the horse for, and to me this one was more like what you’d expect toward the beginning of the year. That would have been a great course for Presto back in April when he was first starting out…. not so much in July when he’s easily running Novice. Granted, there were some horses there that needed the soft course, so I get that’s it’s a hard balance between too much and not enough when it comes to 4 year olds.
I think what I’d really like to see in these qualifiers is some option fences. Like maybe put one more showjump out there at a larger height and give people the option to take that one or a smaller one. No bonus points for doing it, but a chance to show off your horse over something a little bigger if you so desire. And perhaps they can offer a couple of XC options too, for taking bigger or more difficult jumps (maybe some on the 5yo course that would still be within the upper spec limit so that it wouldn’t require more fences or more flagging?). I know they offer an option or two at Championships for just this reason, but since the qualifiers DO vary so much in difficulty, it would be nice for the rider to have the choice to make it a little easier or a little harder depending on the horse. For us I think it would have helped, rather than being relegated to all very straightforward BN-size fences.
With YEH Championships now off the table we’ve changed course and made a different plan for Presto, but we’ll talk more about that on a different day!
God, even just typing that title required me to stop and take a minute to pull myself together. It’s been a really rough couple of weeks for me here and I’m not gonna lie, I’m still struggling.
When I wrote Quinn’s obituary here a couple weeks ago, I didn’t quite tell you guys the full situation. Partly because I didn’t want to distract from his story, and partly because (probably rather intentionally naively) I didn’t really want to face the reality of the situation.
See, the day after we had decided to call and make a euthanization appointment for Quinn, Stewie woke up with a major IVDD flare up. He had a wicked head tilt, his eye was twitching, and he could barely stay on his feet. He almost looked like he’d had a stroke. I got him in to the vet ASAP. Stewie was originally diagnosed with IVDD in January this year, after a similar incident where he woke up one day just looking absolutely crippled (although not to this degree). We knew then that this day would come eventually, where we could no longer keep him comfortable with pain meds. After all, he was 16, and a 16yo dog isn’t exactly a candidate for major spinal surgery.
It took him a few weeks to recover from that January incident, but in the time since then he’s looked pretty great for a 16yo dog. He tired easily, sure, he was a bit unsteady on his feet sometimes, sure, but he bounced around happily and enthusiastically and was as perky as ever. He was always a very happy dog, and he remained so. At least, right up until that day a few weeks ago when he woke up looking so terrible.
The vet found that the IVDD had progressed, of course, and there really wasn’t anything they could do aside from send me home with more meds and hope that this was just another flare up that would improve with strict rest. At first, it didn’t. That second day was bad enough to where when I emailed to make Quinn’s euthanasia appointment, I told the vet that we might actually have two dogs needing their services. It was a horrible thing to have to even consider, much less write.
But then Stewie did start to improve a bit, after a couple days. The eye twitch went away and he got a bit steadier on his feet. The head tilt lessened, and he seemed to be more comfortable. He wouldn’t eat his regular food, but he’d eat the fancy wet food I bought him. We strung several good days together before I had to leave for Chatt, and I was really hoping we were on the right path. Leaving for Chatt was hard, but I left him with my SO with strict instructions, and honestly I thought it might actually do Stewie some good. Whenever I left he tended to just lay around and sulk, staying much quieter and less active than when I was around. Keeping him quiet was key, so I was hoping I’d come home to a dog that had more or less just laid in his bed all week.
The SO had a very hard time getting meds in him and getting him to eat, but they managed. When I got home he didn’t look great, but ate A LOT as soon as I got home and then actually looked a lot better for the following two days. Enough to where I was having to basically barricade him into his bed to prevent him from trying to wander around the house. I really thought we’d turned a corner and he’d be back to normal Stewie in another week or two.
And then Wednesday night he was constantly up and down, seeming anxious and uncomfortable. Thursday he woke up looking pretty terrible again, almost as bad as the first day. I couldn’t get him to eat. He had an anxiety attack (he was a very anxiety-prone dog even at the best of times) pretty much all day and none of my usual tricks or his meds worked to get him out of it. Getting his meds into him at all was a monumental task in and of itself. I was up with him basically all that night trying to get him comfortable and calmed down, with very little luck. By the time Friday morning came there had been no improvement, he still wouldn’t eat or drink, and although I did get his pain meds into him, they seemed to do absolutely nothing. He couldn’t stand without me holding him up. Worst of all, his eyes just looked checked out. He looked done, and exhausted. I knew at that point that I had no other choice left. He couldn’t, and didn’t want to, live another day like that, and I knew then that if I kept him alive any longer it was purely for my sake, not for his. As soon as the reality of the situation hit home, the tears started, and they’ve been coming in waves ever since.
On Friday morning I called the vet office here in town that I’d taken him to before, to see if they would come do an at-home euthanasia. Car rides made Stewie’s anxiety even worse, and I didn’t want that to be the last thing he endured. They didn’t have anyone available to come for a few days, so I texted my horse vet (who also does some small animal stuff on the side) to see if he would come out. Bless him, he rearranged his schedule to fit us in for a late morning appointment. It meant a lot to me to be able to let Stewie go at home, where he was happiest, and surrounded by people he knew and people that cared for him. Rejan and Justin (the farm owners) let me bury him here (I put his very dapper bowtie collar and two of his favorite toys in with him), and they even went and got a beautiful tree to plant on his grave. Stewie loved this farm, and I know he would have greatly approved of his place of rest and his tree. That day was without a doubt one of the hardest days of my life, right up there after the day my mom died, but our friends helped make it sting a bit less.
I don’t even have strong enough words for how devastated I’ve felt the past few days. I got Stewie as a 12 week old puppy, and he’s been my constant companion for the past 16 years. For pretty much my entire adult life he’s been right alongside me, going everywhere and doing everything with me. Even though I knew this day was coming, and I’ve spent years watching him grow old and gray, losing him feels like losing a limb, he’s been such an integral part of my life for so long. The hole he left in my heart feels like a physical one, as if an elephant has been parked on my chest for days that makes it hard to even breathe sometimes. All I could think that first night is that I don’t even know how to do life without him. I feel so lucky to have gotten as much time with him as I did, but we all know that it’s still never enough.
Before my mom got sick she used to babysit him some days, and for some reason losing him feels like losing another part of her all over again, which might be another reason why it’s hitting me so hard. Stewie was one of the few dogs she ever liked or allowed in her house… he was always so cheerful and energetic, and so well-behaved, it was hard not to love him. I have so many memories of them together, and it’s hard to think about neither of them being here anymore. She was the first one I wanted to call after he passed, but I couldn’t.
There will never be another quite like Stewie. I hope he knew how deeply loved he was (and always will be) and most of all I hope I made his life even a fraction as wonderful as he made mine. How lucky was I, to have been loved by such an amazing dog.