I think the thing I like least about show season is that a lot of the time it feels like you’re just maintaining things between shows, or prepping particularly for the show, and you kind of lose that “let’s play around with new concepts and see what we can learn here” aspect. I love that aspect. The learning and growth process is my very favorite part, and for me horse shows are just a thing we do along the way.
BUT – horse shows serve to show us the areas where we still have improvements to make and things to work on. After Ocala I came away with two main bits of feedback: 1) after that fabulous mis-read of the jump in the water, we def needed to school that question, 2) I felt like our dressage had stagnated a bit and the lengthenings needed more work.
So to address the first part, last Friday we headed over to Sweet Dixie to school since they had jumps in both of their waters. And, yup… really glad we did that because I was right, he genuinely did not understand the question. This horse is such a cross country savant that I think sometimes we maybe take it for granted that he is, after all, just about to turn 6 (and missed a good chunk of time between 4 and 5, to boot). It took quite a few passes through the first water before he really got it and was jumping it confidently. By the second water he’d figured it out though, and nailed that one straight away on the first try.
While we were out there we schooled a few other things too, including a couple Prelim questions.
The ditch being on an angle in this coffin was tripping me out.
Overall it was a good positive learning day, and Hillary brought Henry along (peep his ears in the GIFs) so he could have a fun outing and jump a few things too. Presto is getting less nappy about leaving the group when he has “friends” along with him, so I’m glad that there’s improvement on that aspect as well. Schooling some bigger/harder questions is fun too, because it’s nice to feel him actually start trying and thinking a bit. He’s not been challenged by much so far.
To address part 2 of the Ocala feedback, we had a dressage lesson yesterday. I especially wanted to go over the dressage test for this weekend at Rocking Horse since I haven’t ridden it yet – we’ve done Test A three times now, but this’ll be our first attempt at Test B. In some ways I like it more than A, but it’s definitely more complicated, with some 15m circles directly after changes of direction, more canter lengthening, and two trot lengthenings instead of one. The transitions within the gaits are going to be important on this one, as well as showing enough difference, being aware of where you are in the ring, and really being able to have enough bend in the corners and the ability to change it quickly and seamlessly. I think this test plays a bit more to Presto’s strengths… if I ride it well. If I don’t, it could be a real hot mess. Mostly I really need to remember to keep my reins shorter and hands more forward, it makes all the difference in keeping his front end up.
For our lesson we played with different parts of the test and then ran through it once. At the end we worked more on his medium gaits and lengthenings, which we haven’t played with as much lately. You can definitely tell that he’s getting stronger, and as he gets stronger he gets less wide behind.
I do feel like I have a hard time working on the lengthenings at home because he doesn’t feel as secure on grass. He’s a big young horse, it makes sense. We might look into making some modifications to his shoeing to give him a bit more traction. When he’s on actual surface he’s so much more willing to go forward and sit and swing, and I don’t really blame him.
Tomorrow we’re headed over to Will Coleman’s for some jumper rounds, and then Rocking Horse is Friday and Saturday!
It’s here!!! The first official Foal Friday of 2023, and it’s only February. We’ve got a long foaling season this year which is bad for anyone who has to foal out mares, but great for stretching out our new baby content.
Anyway – first up for the year we’ve got a super cute little fireball of a bay filly, born last Thursday night. She’s an embryo transfer, by the Thoroughbred stallion Sea Lion out of Irish Sporthorse mare Kilpatrick Grace, and carried by Goldie. This is also an “R” year for names for her registry.
She aspirated a little bit of amniotic fluid during birth, so her first 30 minutes were a little bit scary as we worked to help her get all that out, but she’s a fiesty little thing and perked up really quickly. She was on her feet and trying to nurse within an hour.
She also named herself within that time too, because any time you touched her butt she hopped the teeniest little bucks. Kinda looked like she was twerking though, not gonna lie. She’d do like 10 of them in rapid succession. Before the night was over she’d already been dubbed RiRi, after Rihanna. Turns out she’s got exactly the personality to match, too.
She’s also out here Servin Lewks like she owns the place.
So far we know a few things about her for sure.
She loves to gallop.
And she’s snuggly when she feels like it (approximately 0.05% of the time, because see previously aforementioned things that she loves most).
It’s fun these first few weeks to see their personalities come out and watch them unfold and fill out a little bit. She looks like a super nice filly and she’s got a great gallop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a newborn foal do as many clean lead changes as this one does… they’re constant. Normally they spend a lot of time cross-cantering because 4 legs are hard to master, but not for RiRi!
We’ve started this year off with a bang for sure – Happy Foal Friday!
We should have a few weeks of solo RiRi content before the next one is born. I’m sure she’ll enjoy the spotlight.
If you missed the dressage and showjumping recap from yesterday, you can find it here if you must. Alright, on to the good part.
First and foremost, my new favorite cross country picture ever. You’ll prob see this one a lot so ya know… sorry not sorry. Look how flippin cute that lil horse horse, doing big boy things.
Ok, now that we’ve got that most important part out of the way, on to business. First and foremost, the course.
What I love about the shows at the Florida Horse Park is that the courses are always so different. This was my 3rd time showing there and everything was moved around to an entirely different place, new start box location and everything, so it felt entirely new. I dig it. All the shows here are good about that. It’s also becoming clear that this is never a particularly soft venue. There were 6 combinations on course, with the first one coming at fence 4. The first water was at 6 and came out swinging with a jump a few strides before it, a jump IN the water, and then a bending line to a jump up a small mound out of the water. There was also a full coffin with a big ditch set down into a depression and the last element on an angle. Nothing looks particularly big at the level anymore but the technical aspects give us plenty to do.
I wasn’t super worried about anything, but there were two places I knew I’d probably have to work a bit: the first water and the coffin. Mostly because these were brand new questions to him, he’d never seen anything quite like them. Presto had quite literally never jumped a jump IN the water before, and he’s never seen a spooky, real legit coffin like that.
In warmup he was still a bit feral to start out with. I got down there just a few minutes after showjumping and had several horses in front of me waiting to start, so I let him just walk for a bit before picking up the canter. I opened and closed his step a few times, pointed him at a jump, and he wanted to be speedy and rude. I jumped another one and he strongly considered galloping off into the sunset, so I halted him and had him quietly canter around to the next one. That seemed to re-establish his manners, and we jumped one on an angle and then a skinny before heading to the box. The starter counted us down and away we went.
He popped happily over 1 and galloped on when I asked him to open up a bit. Then he saw all the people and cameras and vehicles on top of the mound and stuck his head up in the air like a giraffe. BUT – he kept going and jumped fence 2 (right next to all the scary shit) just fine. Then it was over fence 3 nicely out of stride and just like that we were at our first combo, the wagon to skinnyish house thing.
This one had kind of a short, blind approach to it… you turned right and it was behind the combined driving stuff/a mound and you’d likely be on the left lead coming into it given everything you’d just done. So it was mostly important to jump in and get their eye on the B element as quickly as possible. Presto was great here, even though the distance walked and rode a bit tight.
From there it was over a rolltop in the treeline…
And off to the first water. I was most concerned about this one, of anything on course. First we had a jump coming in, which was small and fine, not a big deal, but we know that he loves to jump over the edge of the water as if that too is a jump. I wasn’t sure he’d get his eye on the actual jump in the water so soon after, especially since he’s never seen that question.
And, well…. it’s like I was psychic. He jumped the first jump fine, hopped into the edge of the water, and… did not even register that there might be something else in the water for him to do. I swear I think he put his eye up on the mound instead and then got to the base of the house in the water like WHAT???
Bless him, he legit flopped over it. Honestly it was impressive how he yanked his feet up at the last second and managed to get us over in one piece. They talk about good event horses having a fifth leg and this horse certainly does. It was a green mistake on his part (one I don’t think he’ll make again) but to his credit, he also bailed us out of it.
Granted, he just about rocketed me right off the side of him in the process. I lost both my stirrups and had to yank myself back to the middle with the neck strap of my martingale. I also found out later that he pulled his left hind shoe off.
What I like most about that picture is that he’s already got his ears up looking for the next jump anyway. Did we almost just eat shit? Yes. Am I legit coming off the side? Also yes. Yet there he is, galloping on to the next one already like he’s totally unfazed by that.
I managed to pull myself back to the center and find our way to the jump out, which I hopped over with no stirrups. There was absolutely nothing textbook about it but we got it done, and Presto cantered happily away as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
From there we had the big log oxer to put ourselves back together, and then just like that we were already at the next tough combo, the coffin. I rode around the turn to it very pleased with myself for my execution of the instructions we had discussed during the course walk… I stayed out a bit to give us enough space before the turn, he came right back into a lovely coffin canter, I had him really straight between hand and leg… and I looked up at the A and realized my dumb ass had lined us up with the Modified jump in, not the Training. FML.
So 4 strides out I course corrected to the left, jumped the A of the Training line definitely not straight, but kicked out over the ditch and then the brush in what ended up kind of being a bending line, making that question even harder. Presto was really good there, gave zero fucks. Can’t believe I almost TE’d myself like a total idiot.
Then we had the bench, which he jumped fantastic, and then yet another combo (this shit was kind of rapid-fire) with the spooky mulch ramp, 4 strides to the skinny wedge. That was easy peasy. He’s getting good at starting to look for skinnies in combinations – much improved in the past couple shows.
After that we had a little bit of a gallop stretch so I opened him back up again and he jumped the next table nicely out of stride. Then we were to – you guessed it – another combination. The hanging log down into the crater, through the bottom of it, and back up the edge to a corner on the top. He was super game here and jumped through that line great.
We kept galloping to the steeplechase and he jumped it nicely out of stride too. Presto has really gotten that part down pat in the last couple shows, he’s jumping a lot better without needing help to keep his shoulders up to the base.
After that it was back around to the second water, which just had a jump a couple strides before and then a jump a couple strides after. He clearly learned his lesson at the first water because he entered the water here MUCH more carefully, looking at what was in front of him and where he was putting his feet. Not backed off, but very aware. Smart kid.
Then we just had a table and the log ramp, which were both great, and we were done!
We finished with time to spare (18 seconds under OT) which speaks to how much better he’s jumping out of stride, and gave us our first double clear at the level. Second recognized Training is in the books!
It definitely wasn’t a picture perfect round, but I do think it was a really educational one. Aside from genuinely not understanding the water, he was super “game on” and bold and smart about everything. We were able to find a schooling venue that has a jump in the water right now, so we’re gonna take him later this week to school that and make sure he’s got it. A lot of his education at this point is just about learning to focus and pay attention, and he’s getting better about that every time out. He definitely needs to keep seeing the harder and more technical questions at this level, but he feels really confident and happy out there… even when it goes a bit sideways. Every time out he feels a bit more educated than the last.
Overall we finished 7th in the division, just adding the rail to his dressage score. Another purple ribbon for the collection.
Next up we’ve got Rocking Horse again in 2 weeks. I feel like Presto is at a point right now where we need to keep going to shows and doing the thing and building on what he’s learned to get him confirmed at the level and keep the momentum going. Tis the season in Ocala.
I was, in retrospect, a bit conservative with Presto’s workload leading up to this show, for a few reasons. First, my division ran on Thursday, and everything with Gemma happened on Monday. Kinda threw things off track a bit in many ways. Second, it was a really windy and dusty week, and there was a shitton of pollen in the air… Presto is always a bit affected by air quality. Third, it was going to be hot on show day, and all of our phases were within 2.5 hours of each other. I (stupidly) thought “maybe I should go a bit light on him this week so he’s fresher on Thursday”. Lol. Loooollllllllll. Go ahead and engrave that on my tombstone.
Its possible that he was perhaps slightly feral. To his credit he is not good at Long Game Feral, his tends to be released in small bursts. So he warmed up quite well for dressage, and went in feeling good. The test started off great, with a string of 7 and 7.5’s. And then when we turned right after the free walk in the middle of the test, he got an eyeful of the horses running cross country. And theeeeeen things got a little western. As soon as I picked up the trot to the right and made my half circle, I was like “oh dear”. He was now significantly more tense than he’d been. That movement had scored a 7.5 on the other side – this one got a 6. Then we got back to the rail and picked up the left lead canter. It was tense and tight. Another 6. Then we did our circle and I asked for the lengthening. And, well… we went to the rodeo.
I wish the original video had picked up the squeals he let out with every bounce. It was iconic. I mean, the judge didn’t think so, she gave it a score of 3 with a comment of “disobedient”. It probably says a lot about me that I started laughing so hard that I almost forgot the next movement (the transition back to trot at X, which he thought was very stupid, and also got a 6). If you don’t have a sense of humor this isn’t the horse for you.
Presto did come back to me for the rest of it and we finished up fine, but uh… the damage to our score had kinda already been done. What had been trending as upper 20’s before he had The Sight ended up a 33.6. It do be like that with enthusiastic young horses sometimes. To be fair, the judge and scribe were also laughing when I finished and I asked if I could get extra credit for the airs above the ground (apparently that’s not a thing).
After dressage I got off and handed the Noodle over to Hillary so Steph and I could walk stadium. It was kind of interesting in that it started with a bending line, and when I stood there and watched a few horses go after we walked, everyone did a different number of strides in every line. Cool cool. That’s fine. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure. Finally Lauren Nicholson went in and did it how it had walked, so I was like alright that’s all I needed to see.
I will say – I chose to enter the 6yo Training division at this show for a couple reasons. Mostly because any time organizers offer age divisions and they actually work out for me, I want to support that. But also because it ran as a Thursday one-day and if there’s anything I love it’s getting in there and getting done as quickly as possible, not having to make the drive a second time, and not being there when it’s mega crowded. I will be entering the pro divisions all season to avoid the worst of the crowds. There were 650 horses entered at this show. SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY. That is called a hard pass. Most go on the weekend, so by doing the Thursday divisions where really only one ran at a time, it was nice and quiet and peaceful.
Which is good because my horse was not.
Well, ok. We went up to SJ warmup like 10 minutes before my time (remember, we have learned by now that he knows exactly which phase he’s warming up for and when, and he has chosen SJ warmup as his designated ABSOLUTE MORON time). When I got up there I found that they were running early and there were only two horses left to jump, so I trotted a bit each way and then moved to canter. At which point he decided that he had never seen the logs outside one end of the arena before (they have always been there) and spun like a top, following it up with a big ol’ hi ho silver. He stood up and waved his arms in the air like this.
Which was right when Hillary happened to look over. The look on her face was priceless.
I booted him back to canter and was like “I think we need to jump something!” and we came around and popped over the vertical, which immediately plugged his brain back in. Presto is really convinced he’s there to party until you show him that he actually has a job to do. Then he’s fantastic. We jumped the oxer a few times, making it progressively bigger, then went to the ring.
We had a nice first bending line, but I didn’t really keep the balance up through his shoulders through the tight turn back to 3, and he ticked that rail. After that he went into No Touchie mode (see above photo) and was really good. I had a couple deep distances but he’s getting better at jumping out of those and keeping his balance up, which is what we’ve been working on for a while. There is not a world that exists in which I will always get him to a perfect distance, so how he jumps out of a less than ideal one matters, and he’s figuring it out. It’s hard for a big lanky horse, but it’s important because the long one or the weak one can’t be the default on a horse that has to jump solid things for a living.
After that we put his boots and my vest on and off we went to cross country warmup!
Well, I had a couple more posts drafted for last week, but after what happened with Gemma it just kinda… didn’t feel right. It was a somber week here, and to be honest I just wasn’t feeling it with carrying on here as if what happened with her was just a “blip”. Because it certainly wasn’t, not by a long shot.
The thing about having horses though, and living on a farm, is that life keeps on trucking along and the world keeps on turning whether you want it to or not. Other horses still have to be ridden and fed and cleaned up after. There’s still work to do. So you carry on, not because you aren’t devastated by what’s happened, but because you have no choice but to keep going. And the thing about horses is that while they can drop us to the lowest of lows, they also take us to the highest of highs. They wound, but they also heal.
So I took a few days to kind of retreat from “public” things a bit, like the blog and social media, and just spend some quiet time with the horses. At the same time I was getting ready for a show with Presto and let me tell you, it’s a weird thing to reconcile in your brain, being deeply sad but really excited at the same time. At least for me… admittedly I’m not the best with understanding or expressing emotions.
We also had the first WTW foal of the season born last week. And again – it was so exciting to meet the new baby, but also had a tinge of sadness because it also reminded me of the breeding plans we’d started to make for Gemma. There are lots of little kicks in the gut like that, from seeing her name on her grain bucket to putting away her blankets to having her cute face pop up on my facebook memories. It sucks, and it’s going to be like this for a while I imagine. I sure did love that silly little mare. At some point Hillary and I will start to keep an eye out for another nice mare, and if something super special comes along then so be it, but we won’t be going out of our way to look for one.
In less depressing news, tomorrow we’ll get to the horse show recap and then of course a new baby means that this week marks the return of FOAL FRIDAYS! That is probably the best news we’ve had in a while. This little one is super cute, too, y’all are in for a treat (pssst Patrons, check your dashboard for a preview). In the meantime here’s a quick catch-up on what else has happened in the past couple weeks.
The week before last, Presto went to another Wednesday afternoon jumper show to do the 1m class. He is quite unfazed by this height now and is legit just loping casually over things. We did learn at this show that the chin strap on my bit did not want to stay hooked (it came undone at fence 2 and flapped around the whole rest of the time, so that was cool), which was definitely good to know BEFORE that happened at a real horse show. I swapped the hook for a clip – problem solved.
Hillary and Lex moved up to Novice, bossing it around Rocking Horse like a couple of little baddies.
Henry ponied Nunez (who also got body clipped) and it was pretty freakin cute.
Nunez also went on his first XC school, with Sarah in the irons. That too was pretty freakin cute. He popped around all the Starter like a little champion.
I think that catches us up on the bigger events… that I can remember anyway. Life feels like a blur at the moment.
If you follow me on social media at all then you already know this, but a couple days ago we lost Gemma.
It is, to be totally frank, wholly devastating. Losing a horse always is, and it’s the worst part of loving them. It seems especially awful when it happens so suddenly, without warning, like a complete sucker punch out of nowhere. Just a few weeks ago we had a discussion thread in the Patreon group about who we were going to breed her to this year, and now all the sudden… here we are. As Bekah so succinctly put it, “it isn’t just the loss of a good mare, it’s the loss of dreams”.
I won’t get into a lot of detail here because to be honest it was very traumatic and I don’t think most of you really want to hear it, but the short version is that she had a very nasty and severe colic. I found her down at breakfast (she had been totally fine at night check the night before) already in severe distress. It was very clear that there was no saving her and we had to make the humane decision to end her suffering.
Initial necropsy results show that she had a severe epiploic foramen entrapment. Surgery would have been the only option (which she wasn’t a great candidate for) and likely still wouldn’t have ended well – the tissue was already starting to die. Her odds for surviving even the actual surgery itself would not have been great and her risk for complications would have been high. It does help a little bit to know (and have several vets say) that our decision was the right one, because we all know how terrible of a decision that is to have to make.
Our time with Gemma was heartbreakingly short, but she left her mark on us none-the-less. She will always be the sweetest, funniest, hardest-trying little chestnut mare I’ve ever met, and I will always remember how brave and smart she was, and how it was impossible to give her a treat without at least a couple fingers ending up in her mouth. And I’ll definitely miss hearing her bellowing impatiently at me from across the farm when she demanded food and/or wither scratches.
Despite how it ended I feel like it was an honor to be her person and a privilege to know and love her. Rest easy, clever girl.
I’ve been working on drafting a post about how all the new equipment is going, but that’s been a bit slow coming along. Until then, let’s do a quick catch-up.
Since we’re in the middle of show season, we’re kinda going from show to show to show and then working stuff in in between. There’s literally a show every weekend through like April, so at least we have the luxury of choice. This weekend is Rocking Horse again, which Hillary is doing but I’m not. I opted to enter Ocala 1 at Florida Horse Park next week instead, and I chose the Thursday One Day division so that I can be done in just one day and not on the weekend. It’s easier that way. I dig having the option.
So basically since we always have show entries at this point, the other things get planned out accordingly. This past weekend we had a jump lesson, joining the Assistant Trainer and her super nice young horse who is the same age (and has a real similar personality) as Presto. They are two peas in a freakin pod, man. A good lesson match though, because we’re working on a lot of the same things and are at a fairly similar place in their training.
It’s also kind of nice lessoning with someone again. I love having one on one attention of course but I also see a lot of value in being able to watch someone else go and hear their feedback… especially since it’s so relevant to me too. I wouldn’t mind having a lesson buddy!
Something else we’ve also decided to add into Presto’s life is aquatred.
We have two places very close to here that offer it… one is a little cheaper and has a nice package option, so we decided to do a package and see how it works for him. I’m hoping it will help strengthen his hind end and give him a bit more fitness, but without the wear and tear on his body. Steph does it with hers and loves it, and our chiropractor thought it could be great, so I’m interested to see how he looks after doing it once a week for a few months. Watching his motion while he’s in the aquatred is fascination, you can really see him using his back.
I mean, he was real salty about the whole thing and not always the most coordinated, but I can see how this could potentially really help him. I’ll take progress pictures and videos as we go along so we can all compare.
For the first session they gave him some light sedation to introduce him safely to the machine, and slowly let in the water, only bringing it to about mid-cannon. Next time they’ll work it up to his knees, and then finally to just below his belly. They do it slowly though to make sure the horses are comfortable and understand what it’s all about. They’ll also gradually work up his time in the machine so that it’s not overly fatiguing. It’s a really nice place so I’m very interested to see how it goes.
Today he has his regular chiro appointment, tomorrow we’re gonna go do some jumper rounds, and on Thursday morning we’ll go pop over a few XC fences… not much, but maybe some skinnies and combos so that we keep building his education at that. Then we’ll just be coasting until next week’s show.