Rocking Horse Winter 1 – Cross Country

I did XC about half an hour after stadium, but it needed it’s own post because – good news – I have so much freakin media!

Well ok, I have no video. But I do have XC course walk photos and I bought the All Images package from Xpress Foto, and they got TONS. So ya know. Win.

First: the course.

We hadn’t seen any of this before, of course. When we were here in December we ran the Novice, so aside from passing through the water complex, all of this was new… even the start box was in a new place.

I took pics of all the jumps but these below are a mix of mine and ones from Jana Lyle Ellerbusch in the XC Course Walks group on Facebook… hers were generally a lot better than mine.

The only one missing is the last jump, which was a simple coop shared with Modified.

1 and 2 were both running right beside the trailer parking, so honestly this was my main point of concern. If he’s going to get nappy or distracted it would be there.

2 and 3 were both simple jumps, getting into the flow. 4 was a flag table, not too big or wide, with a pretty quick right hand turn to the first combo at 5AB, two ramps set on an angle with four strides between them. You had to make sure not to come in too hot to the flag table lest you miss your line for the ramps.

6 was another gallopy jump (this one is one of my favorites, it’s big and wide but the profile is so friendly), and then you were at the next combo at 7AB. It’s really hard to tell in the photos, but the ground did a little roller coaster thing in between these two. You went up a bit of a mound to 7, then down a bit, then up a bit, and then downhill to the sharks tooth at B. Nothing crazy, but you had to ride it almost like a coffin so they had time to figure out the terrain in between. 8 was a big open MIM oxer, with a quick 90 degree right hand turn to the water. The “in” was pretty friendly, a small rolltop a couple strides before the water, and then directly out of the water there was a big hanging log.

After that was another table with a long gallop out to the crater at 11 and 12. We had a mushroom table, down into the crater, back up the steep edge, and then a brush skinny a couple strides out of the edge. Presto hadn’t yet seen a brush skinny, so that one could be interesting.

Then it was a wide brushy steeplechase fence at 13, straight ahead to a half coffin at 14AB. The ditch was a stride before the jump, and the jump was set on an angle to the ditch. Cool question, I liked it. After that you hung a right to another brushy gallop fence at 15, over to 16AB. This was a ramp, swing a left around a tree, to a corner. You also went from light to dark here, so it was important to get their eye on the corner ASAP and ride positively up to it.

From there it was a relatively easy gallop home over a coop, then another skinny brush, and a little house at the last.

So how did it ride? Let us begin mediapalooza. For some of the jumps I have a photo series, so I made GIFs for those. It’s sort of like video right?

first jump, away we go!

By some strange miracle, when I got down to XC warmup there was literally no one there. It was crickets. SJ had been running a good 20 minutes behind so I think it just kind of became XC ride time mayhem. Which kinda seemed to work better, since they were just sending people out as they were ready. I cantered a couple laps each way, making sure I could go forward and back, then popped him over a little coop, then a bigger coop on an angle, then a bigger log oxer. Presto was feeling keen and ready to go, so I trotted over to the start box. They asked me what countdown I wanted and I asked for 10 seconds… the less we dwell, the better. I also think for this horse the way we leave the box is important, so I kept him on contact in a marching walk, bending him left and right to keep his attention. At 3 seconds I pointed him through the opening on the side and by “have a great ride” we were cantering out, keeping Presto’s mind on the business.

I also have noticed that if he’s going to try to spin, it’s almost always through his left shoulder. So I made sure to come out with my whip in my left hand and with a bit of a left bend to make sure that shoulder stayed on track. No worries though, he was all business. We popped over one and I asked him immediately to go a bit more forward and keep his attention off to the left towards the course rather than gawking at all the trailer parking on the right. Presto was very much Game On though, no problems at all. We hopped over the bench at 2, the green rolltop at the 3, and then made the turn to the first real question on course, the flag table to the angled ramps.

I made sure to get him straight to the flag and try to get him deeper to the base… if you took a flyer there or came in too hot you’d have a hard time making the right turn to the ramps without ending up way off your line.

We landed, half-halted, and I turned him right and I could kind of feel him going “huh” and when he saw the ramps “oh wow more?”. Things come up faster and closer at Training than they did at Novice. To his credit his response to things like that is “NEAT, LET’S DO IT” not “oh geez that’s a lot”… he’s super keen.

In over the first angled ramp

you can see me already whoaing lol

And out over the second. This 4 stride rode tight for us.

After that it was a little ways to the triple step bench thingy, which he jumped freaking amazing. Right out of stride, shoulder up, all I had to do was shift my own shoulders like 6 strides out and he did the same… like a real boy. He’s already figured out so much since we ran the Novice here a couple months ago. He got a Good Boy and a pat for that one.

Then it was the little roller coaster at 7AB, which I’d heard had been riding a bit spooky. Because of that I rode a little bit strong into that one, which ended up not being necessary, and made the line a little bit tight getting out. I dunno what some of the other horses were seeing there, but Presto was not bothered.

Things came up pretty rapid fire at his point. We swung around to the big MIM oxer at 8, which I have different views of.

That thing looked big in person, I’m annoyed it looks so small in photos. Also note the newer yellow MIM clips which break more easily than the original red ones. I do love seeing all the frangible fence technology out here in Florida.

From there we had a quick right turn to the water, which had a very friendly rolltop in, but that hanging log out had also been causing some problems. It was pretty big and spooky and right up on the berm edge of the water, so it definitely was requiring some gritty riding from a lot of folks. I was one of them. Not because Presto was bothered by it, but because this big dingdong sometimes just can’t resist a good cannonball into the edge of the water.

sir, can we not

He didn’t do that at the December POP show and I foolishly thought that maybe now at Training we’d given him enough to think about to where he would no longer feel the need to add his own flair. Incorrect. What he didn’t realize here was that there was a jump OUT, and it’s only a few strides across the water. He landed 1/3 of the way through the water, way to the right of our jump out. I had to do a major course adjustment while he was out there like DERRRRR WAAATERRR IS FUUUHHHNNN.

Me: the most concerned. Presto: the least concerned.

We ended up trantering out over the log on an angle, at which point he was like “Oh… whoops… didn’t know that was there… perhaps I made an error…”. To his credit, if I can get him pointed remotely in the right direction, he’s game to jump it. On the other hand COULD WE STOP INVENTING MORE JUMPS THAT DON’T ACTUALLY EXIST.

I think the polite word for this was “scrappy”

He did get a big ol Good Boy and a pat for jumping out, because I think there are plenty of horses that wouldn’t have. But he also got booted back out in front of my leg and told to knock off the Fuckery.

We had a decently long gallop stretch after that, with one table along the way between the water and the crater. That one also came up nicely out of stride.


At the crater I knew my priority would be to make sure he saw the brush as soon as possible, and to make sure he stayed straight. Jumping into the crater just looked like a sea of flags. He immediately locked on to the double up banks (which I appreciate your gusto kiddo, but those aren’t ours) and I really had to dig in to get him turned to the left and up out of the crater. He saw the wedge and wobbled from the line a bit, not understanding that it was his jump, but when I dug in and went THAT ONE he was like “Ooooohhhhhhh… never seen one of these before but sure!” and popped over it. We were crooked and deep, but he was genuine, so I was proud of him for that. Another big pat and a Good Boy.

he still has a “no touchie the brushy” policy

From there was the line from the steeplechase fence to the half coffin, which rode very easy, he popped right over that like it was a baby gymnastic. Then we had the turn back to the other brush fence, which he also jumped really well out of stride, and a long gallop to the corner combo. There I switched my whip to my right hand, in preparation for what was coming at 16AB with the left turn in the shadows.

I jumped in a little bit quieter at A to make sure we had a good turn back to the corner at B, and he was super game. Easy through that line.

From there we had another gallop stretch, and I asked him to gallop on a bit more. By this point he was kinda like “whew this is longer and faster than usual isn’t it?” I’m no expert but perhaps if we didn’t leap into the water like a drunken orangutan we’d have a little more wind left? Just saying.

Pretty sure this is the exact moment when I patted him and said “I know kiddo, just a few more, you’re doing great!”

He hopped over the coop at 17 easily, and then at 18 I was interested to see if he’d learned anything from the other brush wedge at 12. Indeed he did, because he locked onto this one immediately and stayed straight on the line. No question mark in his mind that time. Smart boy.

It was an easy gallop over the last, and a clear round at his first recognized Training! Was it a perfect round? Definitely not. There were a couple gritty moments. But I was super proud of his willingness and how genuine he is – there’s not a “no” in him, it’s just a matter of learning and getting the experience and getting him to stay focused.

I hadn’t put my watch on and we ended up a little slow, with 4 time penalties. It’s about time I step on the gas a bit more, and we need to up his conditioning a bit too. At every show we both learn things, and that’s what it’s all about at this stage. The time penalties dropped us down to 7th, which still got a pretty purple ribbon.

he was not impressed

While I don’t think that I was riding very well at this show, what I did like a lot was that Presto really wasn’t even remotely bothered by it. He knows the game by now, and he loves it, and at this point it’s still very easy for him. He doesn’t take things personally or get upset by mistakes. Once he’s got more miles under his girth I think he’s going to be so freaking cool. Also he’s still so unimpressed by anything at this level and just loping right over – there’s a lot more in the tank. That’s pretty exciting. He’s so freakin fun, y’all.

Rocking Horse Winter 1 – Dressage and SJ

The first HT of 2023 is officially in the books, and it was Presto’s first recognized Training!

I entered Training Horse at this show because it ran on Friday/Saturday vs Training Rider which ran Saturday/Sunday. Hillary was showing Lex at this one too and her division ran Saturday/Sunday, so in order to avoid the raging dragon that is PrestoWithFriends, I was like screw it, I’ll just try to avoid that situation altogether and enter the division for Fri/Sat. My dressage wasn’t until almost 3pm on Friday, which worked out great for me. I packed the trailer and cleaned my tack in the morning, then braided Presto around lunch time, loaded him up, and off we went.

I’ll be the first to admit that my brain really wasn’t “with it” at this show. There was a lot going on last week, I was carrying a lot of anxiety about completely unrelated things, and by the time the show came around I was tired, stressed out, and unfocused – something I wasn’t able to shake off all weekend.

Despite that, Presto was pretty good for dressage. I didn’t realize that during these giant winter shows Rocking Horse sets up additional grass rings… when we were here in December all the dressage was on surface. And of course naturally our test was in one of the grass rings. If I’d known that in advance, I would have put studs in him. The ground was fine so it wasn’t a problem per se, but he definitely is less hesitant to swing through his back, especially in canter, when we’re in a little grass ring. Lesson learned – grass rings are possible here so check which ring we’re in well in advance so I have time to put studs in if necessary.

a few good steps before we got to the corner and he got more stilted behind

It wasn’t our best effort but there weren’t any major bobbles. It was mostly just the continued feeling that I couldn’t quite get him to relax and swing through his lower back as well as he’s capable of, which affected every movement. Our scores were mostly 7’s with a smattering of 7.5 and 6.5, for an overall score of 30. I’ll be honest I was slightly disappointed with that because we’ve been working a lot on the lengthenings at home and they’ve really improved but I wasn’t really able to show them the way I wanted to, and I feel like this horse is always capable of scoring in the 20’s if I ride him well. On the other hand, it feels real stupid to be disappointed with a 30 lol. I definitely was not disappointed in him – he was a good boy and he stayed with me, so I can’t fault him at all. I mean… he’s not even quite 6 years old yet and he’s out here at a massive show being competitive with the pros on their young horses.

Showjumping was on Saturday morning. If I thought that I was unfocused and off my game on Friday, it was even worse on Saturday. By that point I hadn’t slept much for two nights in a row, I kept having nightmares or mega anxiety dreams (you know the ones where you wake up with your heart rate through the roof?) and I really wasn’t able to get control over it. My anxiety level was just at a constant high. It really had very little to nothing to do with the horse show, it was because of everything else that had been going on, but where I’m normally at like a 2 and a horse show raises it to a 3, I was running at an 8 and the horse show was raising it to a 9. It was making it very hard to use my brain and make good decisions in the heat of the moment and I was never really able to overcome it.

goodest doodle

The SJ course was eerily similar to the one from the last show, just a few minor tweaks.

we jumped the liverpool at the option at 5

To all of Presto’s credit, I think he would jump around Training with an actual monkey on him and not be flustered by it. Which is good, because that’s pretty much exactly the ride he got.

I know I was sitting up there and holding the reins, but I’m not sure that I made a single decision. Or if I did, it was a panic mode decision, not a focused and helpful one. It was like me of 5-6 years ago had resurfaced and was yeehawing all over the place. It wasn’t cute. I think I just blacked the whole thing out, because I really don’t remember any specifics now, just an overall feeling of major disorganization.

at least one of us was cute

Presto did his best but I let him get long and flat pretty much the entire way around. It was one of those rounds where it all just kind of happened to me and I didn’t do much to actively participate in my own fate. Which I hate. I used to default to that mode all the time and I’ve done so much work on myself and my mental game to overcome that… to revert back to it on that day really annoyed the crap out of me. Oh yeah, ALSO – my martingale broke. Like PING up into his face right before the one stride, and we ticked the rail there. Super proud of Presto for literally giving no shits about what I did (or really – didn’t do) but I was not so pleased with myself. Like what the hell man. What was that? I can do so much better than that.

To Steph’s immense credit she was very positive and constructive in her feedback but I was like wow. That was a thing I just did. Bless Presto’s heart though, he was like “COOL – NOW WE DO RUNNY JUMPIES?”. Completely unbothered.

One thing I did accomplish was to be able to go “ok that was not my best work at all” and stuff it in a box so that I could move on to the next thing. I was determined to be more present and give him a better ride for XC, which was only half an hour later…

Well I’ll be damned

It’s been a busy week around here! Rocking Horse is this weekend, so we’ve been doing the usual show prep and making sure everything feels good to go. The farm’s first foal was born this week (one of the TB racehorse boarders, not a WTW foal), and I’ve been doing breeding consultations and working on some exciting stuff for my Patreon peeps. And of course, riding Noodle and Nunez.

why is he so cute tho

I tell you what, if you need to feel loved by an animal, this pony would be the one to buy. He does these soft little nickers at me when I feed him, and if he sees me coming he neighs and runs up to the gate. Is it food motivated? Probably. Is it still freaking adorable? Absolutely. I’ll take his love in whatever form I can get it, because I mean look at that face.

Going back and forth from him to Presto isn’t quite as awkward as I had imagined. I mean… it’s weird for sure, don’t get me wrong. Mostly because of neck length more than anything else. With Presto there is A LOT of real estate in front of you, so that’s the weirdest thing to get used to. Otherwise I feel like my leg sits on him pretty well though, and I don’t have a problem putting my leg on or anything like that.

Presto’s girth next to Nunez’s girth

On the docket for Presto this week was a jump lesson on Tuesday and a fix a test with Debbie Adams on Wednesday. We had talked the past couple weeks about playing with a new bit for him for jumping, and we had tried a 2 ring with definitely no success. Next on our list of things to try was a slow twist, but when I got there on Tuesday Steph was like “This is going to sound crazy, but just try this myler combo bit. I have a hunch.”. I know for a fact that I looked at that bit, looked at her like she was smoking some kind of very potent meth and crack combination, but somehow forced my mouth to say “Ok”. Presto is so opinionated that he thought a 2 ring was a medieval torture device and you want me to try this thing on him?

da fuq

I would never have picked that to try, not in a million years. But I’ll admit that I don’t really have a lot of experience playing with bitting, so if someone I trust says “lets just see what he thinks” then ok, let’s try.

When I warmed him up I really still wasn’t sold. I don’t think he quite knew what to make of it yet. But he had no real objections (and he is never shy about expressing his opinion) so we went ahead and popped over a few jumps. Those went well, so we did a small course.

what is this sorcery

And hell if it wasn’t great. Like… what. What the fuck.

Steph said she had a hunch that he might prefer nose and poll pressure to tongue/bar pressure and I think she’s correct. Which, thinking back, I actually thought that about him way back in the beginning when I first started him under saddle, so this isn’t a new thought, just one I hadn’t really connected. I do have to be very conscious of giving with my hands in this bit, but his balance stayed more uphill, each half-halt was just a one stride say-it-and-be-done, and I was able to ride him more forward because it wasn’t such a long discussion about keeping the balance.

I can get the half-halt done a lot earlier and be really soft at the base of the fence

That’s the ride he really likes, and it just made everything smoother and easier.

Him liking this bit blew my mind completely. Naturally I had to go home and research it to figure out exactly how it works and why he might like it so much. This article helped it make sense. As did this one.

The fact that there’s a “stop” on the main ring means that there’s a limit to how much leverage it has, and there’s nose pressure first and foremost. Which I think it why he likes it. I pretty much never even get to the point of enacting the actual mouthpiece. It’s sort of hackamore-esque but less nose pressure and better steering. You learn something new every day man.

We’re going to use it this weekend, bringing a backup bridle with his other bit just in case the second time isn’t as successful as the first.

Yesterday we did the fix a test, which was at Alyssa Phillips’ farm about 15 minutes away.

the only media i have of Presto from yesterday, aren’t you impressed

He had a real halfway meltdown in warmup because a horse and carriage passed by on the other side of the tree line. Which… fair. That’s fair. I thought his heart was gonna shoot right out of his butthole, it was pounding so hard. He also thought the mirrors lining the arena were definitely the keepers of demons. It took about 15 minutes of very insistent “no sir, you have work to do, pay attention to me” to put the hamster back on it’s wheel. What I do appreciate though is that 1) he didn’t completely explode 2) the hamster was indeed capable of going back on it’s wheel.

He went in with more tension than he usually carries, but he was also being more expressive in his gaits. That tension can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending. The key at this point is learning how to channel it for good.

The fun part was that Debbie loved him. Like loved him. Asked his pedigree, thought he was super nice, really talented, thought he for sure looked the part of an upper level horse (Jennie Brannigan had gone a couple horses ahead of me and she commented on him in warmup too)… which, like… it’s never a bad feeling when people like your horse. She was complimentary of how I rode him too, which was also nice to hear. We ran through the test once, she gave me some suggestions, and we ran through it again with her talking me through bits of it. She gave me some good suggestions, just little things that I think do make a difference. Her overall advice was to not get so caught up in riding the test perfectly, but to ride the horse in the way that’s best for him, shows his quality, and teaches him how to be correct. She said that’ll be more helpful in developing him properly, and this is the type of horse you should always ride with the future in mind. That was helpful feedback!

We capped off the day yesterday with taking Henry and his current rider over to Steph’s for a jump lesson. He was every bit as delighted with himself as you would imagine.

best horse ever

He earns new members of his fan club wherever he goes. It makes me so happy to see him out there having a good time and teaching things to new riders. He’s so good at it.

Now we’re in show prep mode, with dressage tomorrow afternoon. Fingers crossed the weather cooperates (I’d prefer not to freeze to death please and thank you).

Variety is the Spice of Life

Sometimes I have to kind of chuckle at the complete 180 my life has done in the past year. It used to be that every day was the same, my schedule from one week to the next was largely just a repeat of the week before, and routine was the name of the game. Now… good luck having a clue keeping up with wtf is going on from one day to the next. Which isn’t a complaint, to be clear. I have been a long-time devotee to routine, but I’m finding that having several different things going on kind of helps to always keep everything fresh. Last week I worked a bit for the tack shop, a bit for Eventing Nation, a bit for Ride iQ, and a bit for BRC. I also found myself sat on 3 very different horses doing very different things.

I’m obsessed with him

On Wednesday we popped over to do a couple jumper rounds at Fredericks Equestrian. Ocala is starting to come full swing into season where basically every week there are a couple jumper shows and probably at least one fix-a-test as well as a horse trial to choose from. It doesn’t suck. This past week there were jumper rounds at Fredericks on Tuesday and Wednesday and then another venue also had jumper rounds and then there was a recognized HT happening (in addition to the h/j shows at WEC and HITS and the dressage show at WEC). This week I’ve already seen 3 different fix-a-tests and two different jumper rounds shows, something literally every single day of the week to choose from and it’s all cheap. Plus there’s a recognized HT this weekend and a schooling HT next Wednesday. As someone who came from an area where this kind of stuff is few and far between, it’s still continuing to amaze me just how much opportunity there is to ride and train and improve here. It’s like drinking from a firehose filled with rainbows.

Anyway, last week was jumper rounds, and the plan was to do one or two 1m rounds with Presto. We got there, warmed up, and jumped around the 1m, which was uneventful and looked quite small. I expressed that thought to Steph when I came out and she was like “why don’t you just wait til the next height and do a Prelim round?”. Me, in the moment “Okay!”. Me, 10 minutes later “Wait…”.

wheeee found the long one

But I was committed at that point, so we sat there through the rest of the Training height and then the jump crew went in and put everything up. And I swear to god it went from looking teeny to looking giant. If I hadn’t watched them measuring everything I’d have thought they were fucking with me. They also put lots more fillers in, including the liverpool trays. It went from hehehehecute to BUFF. I was watching them put the oxers up and looked at Steph and went “Well now it looks MASSIVE” and she looked at the jumps and went “Meh, this is how big you jump at home.”. FINE. YOU’RE NOT WRONG. OK. THIS IS FINE THEN.

We went back in and jumped around the 1.10m, and Presto, bless his little heart to the moon and back, did not even blink. I made a few creative decisions (ok bad, they were bad) but he was just like “weird choice mom but ok” and did what I asked. He’s still not really even having to try much at this height and he is delightfully unbothered and unfazed even when I’m wrong. All the cookies for the child who is a complete dingaling 98% of the time but manages to be a total fantastic dude when it counts.

been a minute since we looked through these little ears!

On Friday I hopped on Henry, since the person who’s been riding him was out of town for the weekend. I mostly just did whatever the hell he wanted to do, because he’s the king. I scratched his belly for an absurdly long time, and then got on and took him for a hack. I just gave him a loopy rein and let him choose his own adventure. We hacked down to the longhorns down the street, cantered down the shoulder for a ways, and then wandered a full lap of the farm. It’s always good to be back on Henry.

his Dad Bod is going strong

He might get to go to a show next week, too! I gotta get my Henry’s Mom deluxe #1 fan outfit prepped and ready to go. His birthday is also only a few weeks away, and he’s 16 this year. Definitely have to throw him a good Sweet Sixteen.

Also Nunez’s little teeny girth (y’all its like the length of my forearm) arrived on Friday, so I hopped on him for the first time on Saturday. I had ridden Presto right before so uh… yeah… going from 17.1 to 14h is just as weird as I expected. But what I didn’t really anticipate is that Nunez is actually not particularly wide in the rib cage, so I didn’t feel like I was sitting on some sort of low-riding sofa. I found him pretty comfortable actually, and it was easy to get my leg on him.

so low to the ground

He’s a smart pony, and definitely feels athletic. He’s quite green still but willing, and tried hard to figure out what I was asking. I think he’ll be really fun to bring along. Definitely a super mover too, he covers a lot of ground for a little guy. I also didn’t look as big on him as I feared I would. All good marks for his first ride here, and he hacked around the farm afterward like a champ.

only minor pony squishing

This week I’ll be riding Presto and Nunez, and Rocking Horse is this weekend for Presto so we’ve got a few things on our plate (jump lesson and fix-a-test) this week ahead of that. Busy busy times! But in the best way.

Pony! Like really… a pony.

Anyone who has been keeping an eye on my Insta stories may have noticed a particularly adorable new addition.

lewk at heeem

This adorable little nugget is none other than Nunez WTW, from the foal class of 2019. He just moved to Florida from Texas, where he was in training for part of last year. He’s started under saddle w/t/c and has jumped a few things here and there. Now he’s come to Florida for me to work with and figure out what he wants to be, so that he can be sold into the appropriate home. Hunter pony? Dressage pony? Event pony? I dunno… we’ll all find out together.

he’s frickin cute tho
I mean come on

For those who don’t remember, he’s by the imported GRP stallion Nuno, out of sportpony mare Stormie. I sticked him this week and he’s a bit over 14h right now, so I think he’ll definitely stay pony size, but should be a good-size large. I did have to order him a girth though, because, uh… my smallest one for my monoflap is a 22. It’ll sorta kinda hold the saddle on but definitely isn’t small enough to be safe to ride him in. His new one should be here on Friday, and then I’ll get on him. This week I’ve been bringing him into the barn to groom him, and I’ve lunged him a few times to start working on voice commands. He’s got basics well-established, but now it’s time to start refining and focusing things a bit.

The most challenging (and hilarious) part will be the fact that I’ll be going back and forth from 17.1h to 14h.

the size difference between him and Presto is freaking hilarious

I predict that I will probably come off the pony at least once. Not due to any fault of his, but I mean… I’m used to having 75′ of neck in front of me. Better sit up I guess.

Either way it should be amusing for all of us. Welcome to Florida, Nunez!

Still The King

Yes hi hello, I’m still alive. The first two weeks of the year were completely insane between working the 9-5 retail gig and everything else I have on my plate. Luckily I was smart enough to only commit myself to two weeks of that, because my brain needs a break. Granted, it’s not going to get one, I still have a lot to do, but at least I have more time now in which to do it.

How about some updates?

pedicure for the queen

First and foremost; Gemma. Everybody’s been asking about Gemma. She’s been enjoying getting very fat and extra sassy ahead of breeding season. She had her official 6th birthday last week (January 11th) and got her front shoes pulled, so she’s completely barefoot now. I expected her to be a lot more footsore than she is, honestly. She was walking a little gingerly for a few days, but that’s about it so far.

Yesterday she got moved out to one of the mare pastures. I wasn’t sure if she’d like being in a herd environment and less coddled since she really likes her attention and her private snacks. Luckily she’s pretty low drama so the integration was easy, and she’s already made some friends. When she sees me she comes up to the fence for cookies and face rubs but seems calm and content, so… so far so good.

featuring the only thing I bought during two weeks of working at Luxe EQ – the sky blue Harcour breeches. No regrets.

As for the Noodle Doodle, he’s still chugging along. I took him last week for a jump lesson, trying out a new bit. I feel like the beval is just not quite enough sometimes, so we tried a 2-ring with 2 reins but he thought that was too much. We ended up taking off the bottom rein entirely but still I preferred how he felt in the beval. Back to the drawing board on that one. He’s been pretty good though (well ok, he did lose his brain for like 2 days when some of the seasonal boarders moved in and he couldn’t comprehend the fact that there were now horses in places they hadn’t been before) and we’re headed to Fredericks Equestrian tomorrow for a jumper class or two. Somehow Rocking Horse is only like a week and a half away now. Time flies. Send help.

As for Henry, he remains the Greatest Animal That Ever Lived. We have someone staying here on the farm in her camper for a few months, and she just sold her horse. I offered up Henry for her to ride, which is really a win-win… he needs to be ridden more than I have time for, and she needed a fun and reliable mount. She’s been riding him for a few weeks now and naturally loves him (because who wouldn’t). This past weekend she took him out XC schooling for the first time and I was basically the proudest horse mom in all of Ocala.

they’re adorable

I wore the shirt I have that’s just covered in his XC face (because lets be honest, that’s even better than a foam finger) and recorded everything and said “he is the cutest, I love him” like 752 times.

She said it was the most fun XC school she’s ever had. Nothing pleases me more than seeing the love of my life helping other riders find their inner badass, especially when they’ve had struggles with previous horses. He did so much for me, and watching him give that feeling to other people is just the biggest Proud Mom moment ever. Add another lifetime member to his fan club. Henry is still the king.

2023 Baby Bets Contest

Man, this has really snuck up on me this year. Can you believe that it’s already almost foaling season?!

As has become tradition around here by now, that means it’s time for our annual Willow Tree Warmbloods Baby Bets contest! Last year we had only one foal due, so we just did a smaller contest in the Patreon group. This year though, we’ve got a full line up, so we’re bringing it back out to the public.

First thing’s first: the prize (aside from extreme bragging rights, amazement at your psychic powers, and a virtual fist bump). The winner of this year’s Baby Bets contest will receive a Willow Tree Warmbloods swag bag, including a shirt, decal, cup, towel, and some other fun surprises. 😉

We’ll do the rules the same as we have before. Basically all you have to do is exercise those psychic powers and comment here with your guesses for the following, for each foal:

  • Foaling Date
  • Foaling Time (doesn’t have to be to the minute accurate, just to the hour is fine – ie 2AM. If it happens in the 2AM hour, you get the points.)
  • Gender
  • Color
  • Face Markings
  • Leg Markings (again doesn’t have to be specific – “one sock”, “none”, “four socks”, etc will work)

So your submission should look something like this for each mare (there are 6 this year):

Mare Name: 4/2 3AM bay filly with a stripe and two socks

But filled in with your actual guesses, of course. 

Everything you guess correctly will earn points. 10 points each for foaling date and time, and then 5 points each for gender, color, face markings, and leg markings… each foal can potentially net you up to 40 points. So even if you get a few things wrong, there are still ways to rack up some serious points. If there are any ties, I’ll put them all in a hat and get Michelle to pick a winner.

Still the cutest WTW foal of all time if you ask me. Definitely not biased.

Submit your entries via a comment here on this post or you can message them to me on my social media. Just make sure you leave a link or an email address so I can contact you if you win! Easy peasy.

The “Due dates” I’ve listed below are based on the average 340 days gestation, but keep in mind that normal gestation can be anywhere from 320ish to 360ish. I’ve included pictures of both parents and whatever info is important so you can make your best guesses!

Sea Lion x Kilpatrick Grace

Embryo Transfer (Carried by recipient mare Glo)

Due 2/17

One of our most anticipated foals ever! This will be Grace‘s first foal, carried by a recipient mare. The sire is the full Thoroughbred stallion Sea Lion, who competed to the Advanced level in eventing with an amateur. Sea Lion is plain bay (and throws a lot of fairly plain bay) and Grace has 3 socks and a stripe.

Utrillo x Lasilissa

Embryo Transfer (Carried by recipient mare Champ)

Due 3/16

This will be a full sibling to Percy, definitely bred to jump with two Grand Prix parents! Lissa’s color panel is AA/Ee (homozygous agouti, carries the red gene… so she can throw bay or chestnut). Utrillo obviously is gray and we think he was born bay. Since gray is at play here and isn’t always immediately obvious at birth, I’m looking for guesses about the base color only. Chestnut, bay, black, etc.

Lingo van de Watermolen OR DSP Araldik x Vonhra xx

Due 4/18

We don’t know yet who the sire is for this one, because we used partial doses from both stallions to make up a full dose… it’ll be a fun surprise on so many levels for all of us. This will also be Vee’s first foal! We do know that she has a red gene, since her dam was chestnut. Vee is fairly plain bay and so are both potential baby daddies. Lingo is still quite young, his oldest foals were born in 2021 and he’s currently jumping at the 1.30m level. Araldik is a full sibling to Ingrid Klimke’s superstar 4* mare Asha P and he’s jumped to 1.40m.

Future Hepsilon x A Firm Question xx

Due 4/24

I’m really excited about this one because I love this young UK stallion by the famous eventing stallion Upsilon, and of course I love Peyton. Future Hepsilon is gray (born bay) and also carries a red gene, and Peyton is a pretty plain bay although if you remember her first foal Remi was by a plain bay stallion and came out a very flashy chestnut. Her second foal by a plain bay stallion came out fairly plain bay. Peyton has a hidden white-markings gene at play that shows up sometimes and since she’s had a chestnut foal already she obviously also carries a red gene. Since gray is on option here also and isn’t always immediately obvious at birth, I’m looking for guesses about the base color only. Chestnut, bay, black, etc.

Philanderer x Daisy

Due 4/25

The color possibilities with this one are a little more fun – Daisy is a grulla with a color panel of aa/Ee D/D. Philanderer is black, but I’m unsure of his red status. If he carries red then there’s a chance of red dun, but otherwise it’s grulla. They’re both pretty plain as far as markings go. Philanderer has evented through the 4* level in Europe.

Usandro Tilia Derlenn x Chanel Z

Due 4/28

Yup that’s right, there’s a hony superstar en route! Chanel is obviously chestnut but Usandro is homozygous, meaning that the foal will have to be either bay or black. Usandro is plain, Chanel has a stripe and a couple socks. Usandro is the #1 pony jumper stallion in France, and Chanel competed to 1.40m. She had two foals in Europe before being imported to the US – her offspring have competed to 1.50m and 1.45m, and she also has a granddaughter that has so far competed to 1.35m. This one will JUMP.

I’ll leave entries open through 1/24, so that gives you 2 weeks to get your guesses in! The contest winner will be announced after the last foal is born. Obviously I have no idea exactly when that’ll be, hopefully by early May.

Splash Mountain

This week/weekend I’m working at WEC, but I wanted to be able to get a lesson in with Presto before that started. The winter season is very quickly approaching (closing date is next week for our first one!) and I thought it might be a good idea to go XC school a few questions that he maybe hadn’t seen yet. In particular, there’s a Weldon’s Wall at Training at a couple venues, and I am not the biggest fan of those, and Presto had never seen one.

Every time he sees me packing the trailer he’s like HI MOM WHERE ARE WE GOING

Our favorite close venue happens to have a Weldon’s Wall on their Training course, which was tres convenient, and Steph had time on Tuesday to meet us, so we headed over there.

Aside from the Weldon’s wall I also wanted to school a drop into water, since we haven’t done that question very much either. Presto is bold, but he IS still green, and we’re still a relatively new partnership, so I’m definitely interested in doing the things that put deposits in the trust bank. It’s never the best feeling to get to a show and be like “hmm well we’ve never done anything quite like that before”. At least not for me.


So we started with a few simple warmup fences, then went over to the trakeners. He’s jumped the Novice one before and the Training one isn’t much bigger, so he didn’t even blink at that. He was far more interested in the horse at the top of the hill in the distance that was having some primo shenanigans.

What I have noticed about him now that we have a few XC runs under our belt is that there are 3 very distinct Presto modes while on course. For the first few jumps he’s almost a bit overly bold… super pumped to be there, not as responsive to my half-halts. After that he levels out and goes into cruising mode and is quite lovely and focused. That lasts for most of the course. And then by the last few he’s like “perhaps I have regrets about my earlier Fuckery” and can be a little slower off my leg. Three different horses that require three different rides within about 5 minutes.

Schooling is a bit of the same. In the beginning he’s like YEEEEEHAW and then levels out, which is helpful because we can at least practice the best way to ride/handle each of the modes.

Didn’t even have the decency to look impressed

After the trakehners we went over to the Weldon’s, which he gave less than zero shits about. I don’t think he even registered that the ditch existed.

Since that was super uneventful we went to the water next, jumping down the smaller bank (which was on the T course), then doing the whole T line (down bank into water, skinnyish ramp a couple strides out of the water), then the Prelim drop. The T line was no problem, but he did seem to quite enjoy launching himself into the water. Steph was very convinced that if we repeatedly just walked or quietly trotted off the drop, he would eventually jump down it normally.

Which would be sound logic, if Presto was normal. I’m not sure if y’all knew this, but Presto is NOT normal.

This is fine.

If this had been a cannonball competition, he’d have won hands down. You could practically hear his glee every time he leaped out into the water like he belonged at Sea World. His enthusiasm never once wavered, no matter how many times we went down it or how quietly he approached. He was having a grand time. My knees and spine were having a less fun time. Also, I was soaked. I got a face full of water on multiple occasions, like I went to the water park. I guess I did.

I mean, the good news is, he has no hesitation about dropping into water. You just… might not enjoy the style in which he does it. The joys of a young, exuberant horse.

After that we finished up by stringing together the coffin, a corner, and the big open MIM oxer, all of which he popped through easy peasy. He was a super good boy and it left me feeling a lot more confident about whatever we might see on the Training courses this season. Time to send in the first show entry of 2023!


And just like that, it’s 2023.

Please hold, when I typed that I just sat here and realized that I turn 40 this year. I thought I was 38. Gonna need a minute to process that. What the fu….

Lex be like “yes hi please stop taking my picture and give me my damn dinner”

Anyway, we’ll deal with that particular existential crisis later, let’s talk about the fun stuff that happened last week instead.

First and foremost, I had a jump lesson on Presto. Specifically grid work, which was super good for him. We hadn’t jumped since the show like a week and a half before, and I’ve noticed that if we spend too long at home without going anywhere and challenging his brain with something beyond conditioning and flatwork, he starts to make up fun games. And when I say fun games, I mean fun for him. The day before the jump lesson he was playing a game of Corner Ballerina (you know, where you spin like a ballerina in every corner). He thinks that one is hilarious.

So off he went the next day for gymnastics, where he spent the first times through the line swearing that he was just way too tired to use his booty to push himself off the ground properly. That’s a lie. He is just a big young horse that would prefer to avoid using said booty because it’s hard. He got it by the end though. And then the next day he got a massage from his favorite bodyworker, because ya know… hard knock life. (lets ignore the fact that I’ve been unable to stand fully upright for like 2 weeks because I tweaked something in my back while I was SLEEPING. It’s fine.).

My Christmas present to myself arrived too…

If you said “Jesus, that’s shiny.” or “Good Lord”, or “You could see that thing from space”… yes. Yes you are correct. I dunno man, my helmets are coming up on their expiration and I’m having a real glossy moment right now and this one was on sale for like $100. Plus it fits me really well. So who am I to question the audaciousness of the glitter plus glossy combo? It is a whole-ass lot. I’m kind of obsessed with it.

On that same theme….

Sunday we had our barn holiday party at Steph’s, complete with a taco bar and a White Elephant gift exchange. As soon as Party Coordinator Libby (who is also a Steph student, a fantastic friend, a blog reader, a Patron, and the owner of Higher Standards Leather Care) said White Elephant, I knew exactly what I was going to bring. I did not pause for even a moment – I marched straight over to Amazon and got this glorious creature.

Hillary is modeling it here

I mean. Come on. Who doesn’t need one of those? It got stolen the max number of times in the White Elephant, so we’ll call it a success. And I walked away with a Harry Potter sorting hat, so like… win/win on that one.

Libby also got me a Christmas present.

Here’s where I should preface and say that these people are Croc lovers. Like…. really into Crocs. Pretty much everyone at the barn has multiple pairs, they wear them all the time, are hardcore devotees. And I have nothing against that. You do you, bro. But I’m not wearing them.



wrong, bitches

Libby rolled up in there with these black glitter crocs, complete with skull charms, all wrapped up in a unicorn gift bag. How thoughtfully manipulative, using all my favorite things to convert me. I stood no chance, really.

I put them on, flipped them into sport mode, and I’ve basically been wearing them ever since. Even into PUBLIC, and I didn’t give one flying fuck about who might have been judging me. You know why? First of all, look at them. Second of all, they’re stupid comfortable. I am shooketh. I don’t even know what happened.

If you don’t have friends that indoctrinate you into some weird shoe cult against your will, are you even living?