Foal Friday: Pippa’s Glamour Shots

We’re slowly but surely wrapping up our 2021 Glamour Shots series! Weaning time is just around the corner, which will mean no more Foal Fridays for a while… I know, I’m sad just thinking about it too. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

This week we’ve got Pippa, who was the first foal of the season and she definitely started us off with a bang. Originally she had been claimed pretty much immediately by an upper level rider/repeat customer, but as Pippa has matured Michelle got the gut feeling that this one was something special and really wanted to keep her in the breeding program.

An agreement was reached and we’re happy to say that Pippa will instead be retained by WTW for future breeding. She will also have some kind of sport career, but Michelle thought Pippa was just too nice to leave the program entirely. Always gotta go with your gut on these things!

Pippa is 81% blood, has a sire that ran 5* and then was a young rider mount, and while her dam’s oldest foal is only a yearling he also is looking very promising, so we feel like she’s definitely outproducing herself. All of those things combined make Pippa an exciting addition to the breeding program in the future. Not to mention that she’s bold, smart, people-oriented, and very level-headed. Can’t let this one go!

Y’all will be seeing lots more of this girl in the future.

Happy Friday!

Presto’s Favorite Things Contest WINNER

They’re actually making me drive into the office today to give a presentation (the horror) so I’ve gotta make it a quick one (for me) without as much of the usual fluff and lead-up. My apologies. Although I doubt anyone really misses having to read through all of my drivel just to get to anything good.

Back in March when the US Event Horse Futurity started, I also launched my own little competition. I really love the idea and purpose behind the Futurity and want to support the program in any way I can, so I exercised what little flex I have and incentivized you guys to interact with Presto’s Futurity posts. And as usual, you guys showed up, not only making Presto’s posts by far the most active, but bringing in a lot of new eyes and page likes to the Futurity program as a whole. Thank you to every single one of you for that!

Anyway, my own little competition was dubbed the Presto’s Favorite Things Contest, with a prize package full of all of Presto’s, well… favorite things. Or his most-used things, anyway. I ended up with a lot more names in my proverbial hat (ok, my spreadsheet, it was a spreadsheet) than I expected, but at the end of the day the winner is: Barbara Culbertson! She was definitely in it to win it, sharing and commenting on everything and earning herself tons of entries. Congratulations Barbara, I’ll be contacting you later today on facebook to get your shipping details.

I also have some leftover WTW swag that I’d like to send to some runners-up – I’ll get those organized, drawn, and contact y’all within the next few days. Again, thank you so much to all of you for participating and for supporting Presto on his journey this year, and of course voting for him to win Fan Favorite. I hope y’all got even a sliver of the same enjoyment out of his vlogs and updates as I did. What a wild ride it’s been, eh?

Can y’all even believe what our boy has accomplished this year?

I hope all of you will follow along with the Futurity next year too, I hear that WTW will have another entrant!

(almost) WW: Maryland and YEH pictures!

I love it when Michelle brings her camera to things, she always gets some great shots! Maryland was no exception, she got some really nice ones from YEH4, YEH5, and the 5* showjumping. I was charged with editing and uploading and sharing (sbe’s the talent, I’m the admin), which took me a while to actually get to, but I finally did. They’re all uploaded on the WTW facebook page as well, feel free to share with the rider/owners!

YEH5 Championships

YEH4 Championships

5* Showjumping

It’s in the Blood: Mondial du Lion 2021

I’ve been crunched for time when it comes to these spreadsheets (hence the lack of me finishing the Maryland one… sorry…) but I did have to prioritize what is possibly my most favorite international event of the year – Mondial du Lion at Le Lion d’Angers in France. It’s the World Championships for young event horses, with a 2* class for 6 year olds and a 3* class for 7 year olds. This is where stars are born, where we get a glimpse of the next big superstars. This event has historically been the springboard for so many top level horses on their way to the top, I find it ridiculously fun to watch them all and try to figure out who’s going to be the next Sam, Rocana, Vassily, or Quimbo. Sometimes it’s the winner, but just as often it’s the mid or lower placed horse who just got a little overwhelmed in dressage, a little tired on showjumping day, or just wasn’t quite ready to chase the time yet on XC. Odds are though, future superstars are definitely present here regardless of finish. Don’t forget that 42% of this year’s Olympic event horses competed at MdL earlier in their career… a pretty impressive statistic for one event. With so many spectators and atmosphere, it’s often the first time these youngsters are experiencing what it’s like to compete on the world stage.


So um, yeah… I kind of love MdL. It’s exciting to get a glimpse of the future.

This year’s horses I admit surprised me a bit. The field of 7yo’s have the lowest blood percentage I think I’ve ever calculated in a higher level event – 46.6%. In 2020 the 7yo average for MdL was 52%, in 2019 it was 50%, and in 2018 it was 51%. For reference, for 4*’s in Europe somewhere between 51-53% is the norm, and usually a bit higher for 5*. In the US we tend to trend more like 55-58% given how many full TB’s we have here. 46% is quite low… yes it’s “just” a 3*, but given that these are the horses that are being aimed for future 4* and 5*, the lower than usual blood percentage is interesting. Sixteen horses in the field had a blood percentage under 40% – that’s quite a lot. I do have to wonder with the emergence and popularity of the ERM series in Europe (assuming it comes back post covid-restrictions, anyway) if we won’t start seeing more lower blood horses purchased and developed specifically for that 4*S format. Time will tell I guess. The 6yo field was a little bit on the low side too at 49%, but that’s not quite as far off normal like the 7yo’s are. Last year the 6yo’s were 50% and 2019 was 51%.

The blood percentage abnormality got me digging around a little bit and playing with different parameters… would it change much if we looked at the top dressage scores, or the double clear XC rounds, or the clear SJ rounds? A little, yes. Does it actually tell us anything? I dunno. That’s up for interpretation I suppose. Here’s how it shook out:


  • range lowest to highest 18% to 79%
  • field average blood percentage 46.6%
  • top 10 finishers blood percentage 49%
  • blood percentage of horses that finished on their dressage score 50%
  • blood percentage of horses with double clear XC 49%
  • blood percentage of horses with clear SJ 44%
  • blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties 50%
  • blood percentage with no XC time penalties 50%
  • blood percentage of top 10 dressage scores 49%

And the same breakdown of the 6yo class:


  • range lowest to highest 30% to 76%
  • field average blood percentage 49%
  • top 10 finishers blood percentage 50%
  • blood percentage of horses that finished on their dressage score 47%
  • blood percentage of horses with double clear XC 47%
  • blood percentage of horses with clear SJ 48%
  • blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties 49%
  • blood percentage with no XC time penalties 49%
  • blood percentage of top 10 dressage scores 50%

In both cases the blood percentage of the top 10 finishers was a bit higher than the field average, but on the other hand the blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties was the same or higher. Interesting.

Anyway, we could dissect the blood percentage question a thousand different ways (and argue about how much it really matters or not) but let’s move along.

This Upsilon mare had the best ears

Looking at stallion representation, there’s no doubt that OBOS Quality 004 absolutely owned the 7yo class. He was the sire of SIX horses in that field, and the grandsire of one other. Funnily enough, for as much representation as he had with the 7yo’s, he only showed up in one 6yo, as the damsire. For what it’s worth, all of the OBOS Quality 004 representatives finished the event, ranging from 5th place all the way to 46th place. Every single one of them also had a full TB within 3 generations on the damside, although still overall they had a generally low blood percentage (41% average)… OBOS Quality 004 himself, by the Selle Francais stallion Quick Star and out of some very old school Hanoverian lines, only has 28% blood.

OBOS Quality 004 - Stallion AI Services
OBOS Quality 004

A few other stallions showed up multiple times in the 7yo field – Black Jack was the sire of 2 horses, Kannan was the sire of two horses, Canturo was the sire of 2 and grandsire of 1, and we saw Casall 3 times – twice via his son Connor. On the dam’s side of the pedigree we saw Cavalier Royale 3 times, Master Imp xx 3 times, and Hand in Glove xx twice.

In the 6yo class there was a bit less commonality but still some repeats – we saw 2 offspring of the Gem Twist clone Gemini xx, 2 by the stallion Up to Date, and Diarado was the sire of one and grandsire of another via his son Dinken. We also see Cassini twice as the sire’s sire and once as the damsire. This field also shared some bloodlines with the 7yo’s, logging more Connor representation via his son Connect (can I just take a moment to selfishly enjoy all the Connor that’s starting to show up, because I’ve been fairly obsessed with him and his son Connect for a while now and it’s nice to get some validation), 3 more instances of Casall, another with Hand in Glove xx, and another with Imperius xx (the sire of Master Imp xx). Former MdL competitor and upper level superstar stallion Upsilon also had one offspring in the 6yo and one in the 7yo.

CONNECT | HorseTelex
stallion Connect (Connor x Contender, 50% blood)

We do see a few dressage stallions popping up here and there – Ferro, UB40, Don Index, and Eliott MC. It’s definitely not common, with the overwhelming majority being from mainly showjumping bloodlines.

While the field did not have any full thoroughbred participants, there were a handful with one full blood parent. In the 7yo’s there were 4 with a full TB parent – one dam, three sire – and one with a full french AA sire. In the 6yo’s there were 5 horses with a full TB parent, all the sire. A couple of these showed up multiple times across both fields: the aforementioned clone Gemini xx, as well as the TB stallion Duke of Hearts xx.

Outback by Duke of Hearts xx, second in the 7yo’s

As usual, I want to take a minute to dig into the dams of these horses, since we all know the dams are honestly the more important aspect. In the 7yo field we have 3 dams who competed to 3*/4* level eventing and 5 that showjumped to 1.30m level or higher. In the 6yo field we have 1 dam that competed 3*, 1 that showed 4th level dressage, and 8 (EIGHT!) dams that showjumped 1.30m or higher themselves. In addition to these nice sportmares you also have some great career broodmares that didn’t have a show career themselves but have been fantastic producers – 22 dams in the 6yo field have also produced other international level eventers or showjumpers (or in one case, a GP level dressage horse), and 24 dams in the 7yo field have produced other international level eventers or showjumpers – up to 4*L eventers and 1.65m showjumpers. That’s just a bit under half of the field. Blessed are the broodmares, indeed.

If you got to watch any of the MdL coverage, did any of the horses stand out to you? Who do you think are the next big stars?

Henry’s Triumphant Return to XC

To be clear in advance, when I say “return” I mean he did a derbycross at a local benefit show, and when I say “triumphant” I mean he was second of two horses in the Novice division. But if you ask Henry he definitely won Burghley so we’ll just go with his interpretation, yes? Good.

To be honest I kind of forgot I had entered this show… it’s an annual event to raise money for a local TB rescue/rehoming program and I always try to attend in the years where my schedule allows it, but I entered online a month ago and promptly forgot about it with everything else that was going on. We got home from Maryland on Monday and then I saw something about the show the next day on facebook and was like “oh yeah, right… I’m pretty sure I entered that?”. I had to message the organizer and ask to make sure. Yeah, I’m that person. Luckily Past Me had been looking out for Future Me when she entered, because all I’d signed us up for was the Derby at Novice level – and the Derby was just showjumping and cross country. Not much prep required for that with him, thank goodness.

I clipped Henry last week so he had a fresh haircut, jumped him around a course at home on Thursday, got his feet done on Friday, and then loaded all his stuff up in the trailer on Friday afternoon. We were the second ride of the morning on Saturday – hallelujah – with our stadium round at 9:05am, so we left the farm early Saturday morning. It’s still getting pretty hot here in the afternoons so I was more than happy to go early. I got there at 8, planning to have time to walk both my stadium and my XC before I got on at 8:45, but I didn’t really account for the long line at the show office. That ate up almost half an hour, so I only had time to walk stadium real quick and then meander around the top of the XC field and try to figure out what was what. Meh… good enough.

This facility is the same place we go for the occasional jumper show, so Henry kind of knows the drill by now. Plus, ya know… he’s 14 years old and a veteran show horse at this point. I tacked him up, hopped on, walked to warmup, and did a quick w/t/c each way. I always warm him up for showjumping the same way… mostly getting him relaxed, moving laterally off my leg, and a lot of lengthening and shortening the canter to make sure he’s sharp off my seat and leg. We popped over a couple jumps each way and declared it good, then headed to the ingate.

The course was interesting in that the only related distance was jumps 1 and 2, a 4 stride line that walked a touch long. I landed and asked him to open up a bit, which he readily did, and the four rode nicely. After that everything just kind of flowed well, and I made some tidier turns and rollbacks but nothing sharp or particularly “jumpery”. I wanted to keep him out in front of me knowing that XC was coming after. In typical Henry fashion he rubbed a few, but they all stayed in the cups for a clear round. Unfortunately optimum time was 130ish and we came in at 115, quite a bit under, but I wouldn’t have ridden it any differently in retrospect, so no worries. I had to chuckle a bit because back when we did the jumpers pretty much the only classes he could win were the optimum time, because he’s so NOT a fast horse nor is he careful. But the other person had a rail which converted to time, which put her closer to optimum than we were.

Hillary had come out to be my ground crew and get some video, which… thank goodness for her (as usual). If not I’d have no media, plus after SJ I kind of flung Henry at her, asking if she could put his boots on and grab my vest from the trailer while I went back out to XC to try to find the rest of the jumps that I hadn’t had time to search for earlier. I never did walk all the way to the ones in the back but I was at least able to find the right path and figure out vaguely where everything was. It was super twisty with all but 3 of the jumps clustered in the top field, and I’m not the fastest person at learning courses. I was like 80% sure I knew where I was going though, so… good enough. I hiked back up to the ring to grab my steed.

Horse show helper extraordinaire (and her helper-in-training)

I got back on and hopped over one little long, then opted to just walk until it was our turn. The XC was very small – like very very small, pretty much all BN size aside from a couple of houses, so he was warmed up enough. What made the course a little trickier was the turns, there were lots of rollbacks or things that had a hard approach, or were set at the top or bottom of a hill off a sharp turn. I was mostly worried about keeping him on his feet since the grass was still a little dewy and he’s not drilled and tapped for studs.

Once all the jump judges were in place the first girl left of the startbox and I headed over toward it. I swear I felt Henry perk up a little. It’s been over two years since he last left the box for cross country, and I’m pretty sure he was like “wait, are we doing what I think we’re doing?”. At 10 seconds I walked him in and turned him around, and then 3-2-1, out we went. Y’all, it was the cutest thing ever. Henry just LIT UP. For a second I thought maybe I’d made a big mistake by only bringing his very loose-fitting hackamore, but he was actually quite civilized. Excited, for sure. Forward, yes. Ears pricked to the max, hunting the jumps, oh yeah absolutely. But he was also polite about it, and rideable, and listened to what I said. I mean… if I’d tried to STOP him I dunno that he would have been too pleased, but he was adjustable and made all the turns easily and listened when I told him that he had to keep his inside hind underneath him if he wanted to stay on his feet.

The little jumps were very easy for him. We started with a little box, down a steep hill to a little oxer off a short turn, straight ahead to some tires, left to a box, right to a coop, then to the water. Despite how many times Henry has been to that facility I’ve never actually schooled any of their XC so he’s never been in their water, which is pretty dark and small and looky. I had to bring him down to a trot anyway because of the very sharp turn back afterward to the line of bigger houses, and he definitely gave the water a peek as he went in. After the houses we had a long gallop down he hill and around to the back of the field in the trees to a tiny feeder, then a bench, then a hard right to a coop. I actually missed that turn (it was part of what I hadn’t walked) and had to stop and turn around and go back. Luckily I saw it immediately when we passed it. After that we headed back up to the main field over some barrels, up the hill to a hanging log, rollback to some tires, down a teeny little wannabe bank, and then sweeping around to the last fence. Was it super easy for him? Yes. Was he extremely proud of himself after the finish? Omg.

So cute. He was just so cute. It’s been so long since he’s been out there but there’s no doubt that he missed it, he was so happy afterward. All pricked ears and proud stance and “mom I was AMAZING wasn’t I?”. It didn’t matter how big the jumps were or how simple the course was, he was the happiest boy. He would be absolutely delighted to be a lower level packer, I think. It’s easy for him but he loves it all the same. Hillary had to take a call while we were on course so she only got the clip above, but you’ll have to take my word for how cute he was.

Afterward he got a bath, tried to molest the mini donkey (what is his DEAL with those things??), and munched some hay while I packed his stuff. We were home well before lunch time and he positively strutted back out to his pasture friends to tell them how fantastic he was. Cross country always puts him on a big ego trip for a few days afterward, and apparently that hasn’t changed nor is it affected by the size of the jumps he conquered. Never change, Henny. We both had a lot of fun!

Foal Friday: Obi’s Glamour Shots

Alright, back to the regular Foal Friday gig! This week we’ve got Mr. Obi’s fancy dressed up glamour shots and boy did he ever decide to wear his fancypants for this particular photo shoot. A lot of the time Obi isn’t one to waste energy but I guess all he needed was a crowd, because he definitely put on a show for everyone. Where did these moves come from, baby hippo?

I kind of can’t believe that no one has snatched this dude up yet, to be honest. His brother gets a lot of love but I think Obi might be my “sleeper” pick of this year’s crop. He’s got an absolute ton of personality too, I think he’ll be fun.

Put some braids in him and all the sudden he rises to the occasion, I suppose! I think Obi is a lot fancier than he may seem most of the time. And bold. And cheeky.


Happy Friday!

Whirlwind Recap: Maryland Part 2

Once the YEH wrapped up on Friday we were able to kind of switch from business mode to eventing fan mode. The spreadsheets got tucked away (well, the tangible ones anyway, the ones in my head live there all the time), no notes were taken, and we didn’t have to be at the showgrounds early since the 5* XC wouldn’t start until the afternoon. We took advantage of the relatively free morning and headed up to Bartville Harness & Tack.

Michelle went instant “grabby hands” when she turned the corner and saw all the halters

I don’t really need any tack (what a weird statement to make), so I managed to survive this particular trip unscathed. No money was lost from my wallet. Michelle though, who always needs baby halters, got a whole box full of them.

After Bartville we headed to the show and got dropped off over by the stabling so we could see the horse that Holly was grooming for and put some stuff down in their tack stall. As we were standing there at the barn I happened to glance over my shoulder and who did I see out for a handwalk?


I mean, I’ll totally admit that I’m a stalker but this time he sought ME out. I tried not to be super creepy watching him walk past but I’m not sure I succeeded in that.

From the barn we headed over to check out more vendors, getting a closer look at all the ones that were down in the infield. Again I didn’t fall victim to anything but I did quite enjoy creepily stroking a few saddles and bridles. By that point they were on the last few horses of the 3* so we headed out toward the cross country to see the last ones leave the start box and pick out where we wanted to wait for the 5* to begin. Ultimately we settled on the first water, since it had some bleachers we could park at to wait and post where we were on Instagram to continue our swag giveaway game.

we came home with zero of these cups, I was impressed by how many people managed to find us

We watched the first few horses come through the water and then packed it up and started to travel around the course. We stopped at all of the major points of interest like the owls, the coffin, the brush combo, the post rails, the down bank, the vee, etc. Since the track kind of ran back on itself we could usually see several jumps from any one location, which made it great for spectating. Pretty sure we saw horses jump basically everything on course.

By the time we made it to the far water (the point at which the course turned around and went back the other way) we thought it was the best place to see as much as we could, so we decided to just stay there for the last group of horses. The crowds weren’t too bad compared to other 5*’s I’ve been to, so we were able to get right up to the ropes for a good view of almost everything.

The longer we stayed at the water, the darker and darker the sky got. I refused to move until we saw Mason come through, and he was one of the last horses of the day. The rain that had been predicted for the afternoon was finally moving in, making for some pretty dramatic dark skies. I was starting to wonder if Mason would end up stuck in the pouring rain or not. Finally though, there he came out on course. Holly got her phone out and brought up the live feed so we could watch him come through the beginning of the course (not that they showed much since Boyd was finishing up at the same time and whenever Boyd is out the camera rarely leaves him). I had an ear on the announcer, an eye on the live stream, and the other ear and eye on the hill, waiting for him to show up. I’ve learned that I would make an absolutely terrible owner for an upper level horse, I was really nervous with him on course. It probably sounds weird to say that I feel very invested in that horse, but I do. He’s just so similar to mine, and I’ve been watching him since he was a 6 year old, so yeah… I’m emotionally invested at this point. It’s nervewracking when he’s going around and you don’t have eyes on him. All three of us were in the same boat though, and Julie sneakily videoed our whole ordeal in hyperlapse, which is funny as hell in retrospect.

Finally though, he crested the hill, hopped the big table, and headed for us at the water. He was really bold through there, although he stumbled a bit up the bank and just about gave me a heart attack. Luckily he’s catty and recovered quickly, hopped the log and the skinny, and galloped away looking strong. We could see him go down into the dip where the vee was (and we could sorta see the big screen in the other field) and then over the roller coaster and down the big bank. After that we tried to pick him up on the live stream but again they showed very little of him after that because now Lauren Nicholson was on course. Gah. They’re killing me with their lack of Mason coverage.


Horse girls in the wild at Maryland 5* 😂 #horsegirl #eventing #maryland5star #eventers #sportsfan @willowtreewarmbloods @archibaldpartypony

♬ Benny Hill – TV Themes

Not long after Lauren came through, the rain finally caught up with us and the skies opened up. Great timing for the riders since everyone got finished just in time. Naturally though the water we’d been parked at was at the very far end of the course from the entrance/parking, so we got to enjoy a nice long (LONG) hike through the woods in the pouring rain. Every square inch of me was soaked to the bone – shoes, hair, backpack, you name it.

the beginning of our long journey

By the time we got back to the car the rain had pretty much tapered off (OF COURSE) but by then we were all a sad bunch of drowned rats. We got back to the airbnb, changed out of all our wet clothes, and ordered delivery for dinner. I deserved every bite of that cheesesteak after all the walking and then the total submersion.

The next day it was COLD. Like ok probably not that cold to locals, considering how many people I saw walking around in shorts (SAVAGES) but it was in the 50’s and I was a popsicle. I’m a Texan, I spend 8 months of the year acclimated to 90 degrees or higher. I also really didn’t have enough clothes for that weather, because part of my plan had been to buy a hoodie or a vest, thus I didn’t pack any, thus when I didn’t actually find and buy either of those things I was a little SOL. I put on my thickest sunshirt (lols, Texans are stupid) and my only jacket which was pretty lightweight. We went out to breakfast, sat outside because it’s what was available, and I proceeded to freeze my ass off. Michelle was also cold so she went a couple doors down to the Hallmark store and came back with some beanies, one of which I promptly stole and pulled over my entire head and face.

dramatic much

My nose was cold, okay? But then the nice lady brought me my hot chocolate, so I had to emerge slightly to drink it.

Dusty thought he was funny, sneaking these pics… (which he titled: Cold Blogger in the Wild on his Instagram)

I was a little warmer after the beanie, hot chocolate, and some pancakes, but I still made it the first priority as soon as we got to the show to find a sweatshirt or something. I remembered seeing the cowl neck Noble Outfitters sweatshirts at one of the vendors so we headed straight there and found one blessed non-hideously colored one left in my size. I guess I wasn’t the only cold person because when I paid the lady at the register asked if I wanted her to cut the tags off so I could wear it out. Indeed yes, yes I did. With another layer added I was much happier, so we proceeded to the stands to find our seats just as the showjumping was about to start.

Masooooooon (is the whole post just a testament to how much I stalk Mason? Maybe.)

We didn’t get the cheapest seats but we didn’t get particularly expensive ones either, and I have to say they were pretty good. Definitely close to the action and with a really good view. Comparable to the view you get at Burghley, closer up than Kentucky. I know Michelle and Dusty and Julie got some good pics with their real cameras. My ass was starting to get a little cold on the bleachers by the very end but otherwise no complaints. The crowd went absolutely WILD for Boyd, and it was kind of fun to be there when an American(ish) finally won a 5* after a 13 year drought. I was mostly impressed by the representation of the American Thoroughbred – there were some REALLY good ones… I can’t wait to see how PD’s Sea of Clouds (Malibu Moon x Jolie’s Halo x Alydar) develops as he gets more experience, that is one seriously nice horse. For a 10yo OTTB at his first 5 star I thought he put in a fantastic performance. He had a nice TB in the 5yo’s too, by Union Rags out of a Meadowlake x Herculean mare. Lots of really nice sporty TB’s to see throughout the entire weekend.

That’s a wrap on our latest adventure! Between Ocala and Maryland I feel like we crammed a lot into one week, although I was definitely tired by the time we got home. We walked about 30 miles, and that last 6am flight home was a killer. I think we got a lot accomplished though, and definitely had a good time catching up with friends. More fun things are in the works!

Whirlwind Recap: Maryland Part 1

Originally I was gonna stuff all of the Maryland trip into one post but that got ridiculously long and full of pictures so… it’s a two-parter.

We flew from Orlando to Philly on Wednesday night, then took an Uber from Philly to our airbnb in Elkton. My friends Julie and Dusty had the inside info on a great little house only a few miles from the show, so when they offered to share I was all over that like white on rice. It was at a gorgeous little farm and so close to the show, it worked out supremely well for us. We got to bed pretty late on Wednesday night, but were at the showgrounds bright and early on Thursday to watch the YEH dressage.

bright and early was more like foggy and early but boy it was pretty

First of all, the new stuff they’ve built there at Fair Hill is jaw-dropping. The main arena, the track, all the cross country, the extra arenas… like, world class. Gorgeous footing, immaculate turf… it’s really stunning to walk into. Definitely smaller and more condensed than the other 5*’s I’ve been to, but really top tier in quality. They funnel you through the main vendor area on your way in, which was smart, a lot of things caught my eye on that first pass, but we didn’t have time to stop and look at all the pretty things yet because we had horses to see! I’d gone through the order of go the night before and made a list of all the horses we considered “must see” on Thursday and Friday so we could figure out where we needed to be and when.

my list may or may not make sense to anyone else,… most are by sire

We spent most of the morning up watching the young horse dressage, which was located right up close to the main arena/warmup, with a quick hop over to the 3* warmup to see a couple others that were on my list. We wandered briefly through the vendors, grabbed some lunch, and then hiked the LONG AS HELL ASS WALK over to Sawmill to watch the 4 year olds jump. Like for real, it was so far to get over to the jumping area. They had some shuttles running if you were lucky enough to find one, but we were not. I like the Sawmill field location and all, given the space and the little bit of terrain, but being so far from the main showgrounds is really… not ideal. It was hard to find even if you were seeking it out, on top of being super far away, plus there was zero seating down there at all. A set of bleachers would have gone a long way. Due to all of the above, it was pathetically devoid of spectators. Like we were often the only ones. We spent the afternoon standing in the blazing sun watching the babies jump, and it was pretty unpleasant. I couldn’t help but compare it to the young horse championships at Burghley, which are located near the edge of all the vendors, very close up to the main arenas and easy to find/get to. They have full stands and spectators stacked 10 deep all around the perimeter of the arena. If we want anyone to care about YEH, we have to make it easier and a lot more in-your-face to at least SEE it. Most people had no idea it was even happening, and that’s a bummer because there were a lot of really nice young horses, many of which were US-bred. Missed opportunity, IMO.

We brought WTW swag to give away each day and indeed we handed out pretty much all of it. It was nice to meet you all! BTW massive shout out to Holly (and her Cricut) and Hillary (and her embroidery machine) for making the swag possible at the last minute, they busted their butts to make it happen.

That soapbox aside, the course was really lovely and very appropriate IMO. I’d even say it bordered on soft, or at least softer than I’ve seen in the past. I didn’t get a pic of the first XC jump, but it was a small/basic table. The only semi-looky thing was the trakehner, which had a pretty legit ditch under it and caused some of the greener horses to either politely decline or clear it by a mile. All of it was about N height though, with maybe one or two bigger. Other than the trakehner there were very few problems, aside from one or two horses that hadn’t really been prepared for something of this level and were just very bug-eyed in general. When I was looking up the breeding of all the horses I also took a quick look at their show records, and it was interesting to see the wide range of prep that these horses had had… everything ranging from one or two YEH classes and nothing else to horses that already had a Training under their belts. Most fell somewhere in between, but it did seem (in general) like the ones who had at least run a Novice or two were better prepared and more confident.

The 4yo’s and the Futurity wrapped up on Thursday, but all the 5yo’s jumped on Friday, so we were back out to the showgrounds nice and early, and Holly met up to watch the 5yo’s with us. This time we got dropped off at Sawmill (thanks Dusty) so it cut down on some of the walking at least, but if you actually wanted to go back and forth between the YEH stuff and the main show, hahahaha good luck to you friend. Luckily we had met blogger Sarah the day before, who was volunteering at the YEH in-gate and told us we were more than welcome to sit in the volunteer tent when they weren’t occupying it. Just having somewhere to actually sit down in between horses was lifesaving at that point.

We stayed out there watching the 5yo’s for a good chunk of the day. There were A LOT of really nice horses. Like… several that I would have taken home. For the most part the scoring seemed pretty right-on with my thoughts, aside from one particular major head-scratcher (I’m not sure how a horse can jump with it’s knees pointed straight to the ground every single time – and yes I have photos to back that up – and still get 4’s and 5’s out of 5 for it’s jump scores, but I digress) and a few minor head scratchers (I don’t think one who clears the tops of the flags at every single fence while spooking off the ground looks much like a 10 out of 10 type of event horse to me either but at least it was safe). I did find it kind of funny that the 4yo’s Presto showed with at Chatt all scored like 10 points better across the board than they did at that qualifier.

Gina, the winner, by the stallion Gentleman who won Bundeschampionate in Germany the year we went. I loved her, she was so athletic and reminded me a lot of her sire.

After we’d had enough of the young horses (aka were hot/sunburned/hungry/bored) we headed back to the main showgrounds. This time we were lucky enough to snag a ride from Amanda of Boy o Boy Bridleworks – she came over to say hi and it was great to finally meet her after all these years – so she saved us from the long walk. Which is good, because then we hit the vendors, since we had a little bit of time before Mason’s 5* dressage.

I may or may not have bought a black Espoir coat with black glitter accents to match the new boots I ordered. I will neither confirm nor deny this but I will say that it’s really pretty and fits like a glove and I have no regrets but also please god no one leave Michelle and I alone in any of the vendor tents again. To be fair I actually DID try to find the two things I actually intended to buy while I was gone, a vest and some breeches, but didn’t find any that knocked my socks off. The jacket (which I may or may not have bought) was a consolation prize at that point. Not my fault.

got to grab Presto’s Futurity award while I was there, too! It’s a nice Quillin halter, so thanks for all the votes. When he inevitably breaks it I’m gonna strangle him with it.

After we meandered around the vendors for a while we headed over to 5* dressage warmup so I could properly stalk Mason (Mama’s Magic Way aka Presto’s brother from another mother). I’ve said forever that he reminds me so much of Presto, but y’all… in person, OMG. They are SO incredibly similar. Seeing him warming up was eerie AF too, because they start out the same (tight back, not stepping up with the inside hind) and Will even warmed him up pretty much the exact same way Megan warms up Presto (sloooow tempo, lots of change of bend and transitions but keeping it calm and quiet and toned down). I had to send some video to Hillary since she’s seen Presto warm up so much and she thought it was super freaky how similar they were, too. Mason is like… a fancier version, but I’m pretty certain they’re the same horse. I mean, they’re bred really similarly so it shouldn’t be a shock, but still. Crazy similar.

We were able to get up into the owner’s seating to watch his test (Holly had a groom’s pass since she was there helping a friend, it came in very handy several times over the weekend) and then exit right by the ring when he was coming out. Up close and personal with my favorite 5* horse for the first of many times! He even gave me a very hefty skeptical side-eye as he passed, just like someone else we all know.

Presto-Mason. Preson. Masto.

After dressage wrapped up for the day we headed out to the Jimmy Wofford course walk so we could get a feel for the XC course and decide what we wanted to prioritize for spectating the next day. We stuck with the group for the first several fences but then it started taking a really long time and we were running out of daylight, so we ended up branching off on our own and walking a little bit further out. We’d been able to scope out a good bit of the back half of the course on our walks to/from Sawmill for the YEH stuff, so we mostly just took a big loop of the first and last third to see the rest of it.

Jimmy explaining 4A

Really there were interesting jumps scattered all around the course, so ultimately we decided we’d just start at the beginning around jump 4 and travel along the whole course watching a handful of horses at each of the more interesting fences. The course was really lovely – not as big and gnarly looking as Burghley but boy the terrain. I know anyone who has followed Maryland at all has heard “but the terrain” a thousand times, but y’all… the terrain. There were some serious hills, and basically the entire last third of the course was a climb. It was one thing to see it in pictures/video and an entirely different thing to actually walk it. I was really excited to see how the course would play out… the unknown factor of being the very first Maryland 5* added some extra intrigue for sure.

the owl keyhole corners looked like they wanted to eat your soul, btw

We walked A LOT that day, so we all figured we’d more than earned ourself some ice cream from Nottingham Creamery. I mean, ok, we had dinner too, but… the ice cream. I got Cookie Monster and I’m pretty sure it contained an entire package of oreos and a whole roll of cookie dough. It was good, but also I don’t think I’m going to want any cookie dough again any time soon. The local eats were top-notch this trip, though. Dusty has spent a lot of time up here and knew all the best places. 10/10 recommend eating ice cream until you want to barf after a long day at a horse show.

this is a SMALL

We went to bed pretty early that night since we were all whooped, and then we were back up and at it again the next day for some cross country! To be continued…

Whirlwind Recap: There’s Just Something about Ocala

I feel like our horse trips are always “whirlwinds” in a sense, because if there’s one thing we’re really good at, it’s packing a whole lot of stuff into a fairly short timeframe. This trip was no exception. We started out last Monday, hopping on a plane from Austin to Orlando. We rented a car (which was drama, but we ended up with an upgrade to a Subaru SUV, which you can make a whole lot of jokes and rhymes using “Subawuuuuu” so it was fun to drive at least) and made the trek up to Ocala, getting into town just after lunch time.

This place, I swear it’s heaven on earth

I still can’t reveal exactly what’s happening or the full reason we were there (I don’t want to jinx anything until it’s all done and dusted) but we spent our first afternoon doing stuff related to that. I swear you’ll get the full details sooner or later but for now just trust me it’s exciting and will be worth the wait.

we had some assistance

On Tuesday morning we hit up a couple of our favorite local tack shops and poked around for a while. I really wanted to pick up a new winter vest and maybe some breeches on this trip, but I struck out on both counts. Michelle found some halters though (if you ever need to know what to get her, the answer is always halters – foal or yearling size especially) and I found the D&S Pasta socks that I’ve been looking for, plus stumbled across some fun things in their whip section. I stood there debating between the green and navy dinosaur whip and the navy and silver glitter whip for probably what was an embarrassingly long time, but in the end I went with the glitter one because the dino one was just a bit too long for my preference. It was pretty great though.

That kind of turned out to be a fortuitous decision though because even the shorter whip didn’t fit in my bags so I ended up toting it through all the airports with the top of it sticking out of my backpack. I’m not sure what the dino would would have looked like, sticking up a freakin foot out of the top. I did get some real funny looks as it was.

Anyway, after some tack shop time we spent a while driving around the area getting a feel for where everything is located and how far things are. Spoiler alert: nothing is far. A 10 minute drive in basically any direction will take you somewhere amazing. After that we stopped at a friend of Michelle’s farm to see what all is currently being built out there. Super cute place, and she had a lot of insight on the area and some things that could be useful to know later on. After that we popped over to WEC for lunch and to see what shops were open.

still feels like Horse Disneyland no matter how many times I see it

Not many were open on a Tuesday but Romitelli Boots was, and I couldn’t resist a quick pop in there to show Michelle what they had. When I was there with Bobby in April he basically had to pry me out of there with a crowbar… I love boots and that store is just chock full of gorgeous things. I was tempted to try some on since I actually DO need new boots now, but I didn’t have any breeches or socks with me and we were kind of crunched for time, so I was like “well if we have any time tomorrow and end up back here, I’ll see that as a sign from the gods to try some on and just see“. Ya know, leaving it up to fate and all that.

After a quick lunch we headed over to the OBS yearling sale. We had some friends who were there looking, and some other friends who were there selling, and they both said we should come check it out, so how could we resist? We did see some really nice horses. We wandered around through the barns looking at the ones that were brought out, then stood out in the back by the holding ring, then inside behind the sale ring, and then went and sat inside the sale room itself. Definitely got the full OBS experience. It was fun to see so many young thoroughbreds in one place, and true to form the ones I picked out as my favorites in person were also ones I liked a lot on paper. Some sold for lots of money, some didn’t, but it was definitely my idea of a good time.

I may or may not have ended up stalking the dam of one of them and found out that the owner is selling all his stock so like now do I want a rando broodmare that I’ve never actually seen? Perhaps. Her yearling in the sale was by Empire Maker and I would definitely have put it in my pocket and taken it home if not for the tiny detail of the price being like 40x what I could afford. No horses were purchased by us that day though so whether or not you consider that a success or a failure depends on your point of view I suppose.

On Wednesday we went out to a another friend’s place to check out her stallion and foals. Well, I’ve seen him before but Michelle hadn’t, so I figured we may as well go by while we were out there. After that we ran one more errand and then found ourselves with a little time to kill before meeting another friend for lunch, so we headed back to WEC, I put on some breeches, and tried on some boots. What can I say, the gods have spoken.

I got a little overstimulated in there so I forgot to take good pictures, but Michelle snapped a few when I wasn’t paying attention. Basically my approach was that I’d try some on and see what I thought… if I liked them I’d ask what pricing was for all the options I wanted… if the price was under $X then I would order them.

And well. The stars aligned. I fit well into one of their standard sizes so I didn’t have to go full custom, which kept the cost down. The modifications I wanted didn’t add much to the base price of the boot, which was pretty well under the dollar amount I had in my head. They’re nice boots, were comfortable, and honestly felt pretty similar to my Tucci’s. When I’d researched the brand beforehand it was hard to find many people that had something negative to say (which… is rare for a boot brand…). So, ya know, whooopsyyyyy I ordered me some semi-custom boots. I opted for a black dress boot with brogue foot and a a black glitter top – just the top 1-2″ inches.

the brogue foot details

They’ll be a little bit fun but not so wild that they aren’t appropriate for whatever show I’m doing. That’s the idea anyway. They said it’s taking about 5-6 weeks to get them from Italy right now and then another week or so to get them to me once they hit Ocala, so I’m just planning on about 8 weeks and we’ll see what happens. I’m excited to have some pretty new boots that actually fit. And I’m really really really glad that I was able to go get fitted and order them in person at the Romitelli store because looking at the size chart I never would have picked the size I ended up in. I thought I was a 39 regular tall, but actually the 38 slim tall fit best when we played with some insoles. Never would have figured that, but there ya go – good reason to get fitted in person by a pro!

We capped off our Ocala experience with lunch at the Yellow Pony inside the hotel at WEC (the hotel wasn’t open last time I was here – omg y’all it is BOUJEE to the extreme) which had amazing food, then we had to head to the airport to catch our flight to Philly.

the stained glass is gorgeous

It was a quick 2 days in Ocala but we got to do and see a lot, and as usual I really enjoyed my time there. There’s something just a little magical about Ocala that really calls to me as a horse person. It’s a little slice of equine paradise, and more than that there’s something about it that feels like home. Which is NOT a feeling I have about Florida in general whatsoever, but Ocala really is a different world.

To be continued tomorrow with the start of our Northern adventures!

It’s in the Blood: East Coast YEH Championships

I had every intention of doing my full write-up of the YEH championships divisions for you guys but the past week has just been absolutely insane and now I’m in Ocala with another jam-packed day ahead, so it’s obvious at this point that a lengthy post isn’t going to happen.

I do have the spreadsheets though, so I put the file into Dropbox and made it public. Feel free to poke through it and form your own conclusions or do your own further digging. There’s a tab for the YEH4 and a tab for the YEH5, all the 4yo Futurity horses are noted, and whichever ones that I could confirm for sure were bred in the US are also marked as such. If you’ll be there and want a paper copy I’ll have some extras with me, just find the two ladies in the Willow Tree Warmbloods apparel!

YEH pedigree spreadsheet