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!

Foal Friday: Introducing Rihanna WTW

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.

Premium nap time with Hillary

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.

If this was an “S” naming year, she’d be Sasha Fierce
gotta get the booty

So far we know a few things about her for sure.

She’s sassy.

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).

sometimes she’s sweet to her poor mother

and sometimes she’s sweet to me too (usually conditionally, based on neck and booty scratches)

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.

Ocala Winter 1 – Cross Country

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.

when you’re trying to do zoomies but you’re also staring at the scary camera equipment on top of the mound

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.

not today, water

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.

theres still one more jump in here, buddy, we’re not done

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.

the ramp in – already turning
and the wedge out

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.

Sorry not sorry for posting it again, I warned you.

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.


Is it just me or are the comments always the best part of videos #equestrian #eventer #eventing #ocalaflorida #horses

♬ original sound – breed.ride.event

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.

Ocala Winter 1 – Dressage and SJ

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.

To be fair, there were a lot of nice moments

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.


When you’re supposed to be doing a canter lengthening but your young horse is ✨feral✨ #sideeye #equestrian #horses #equestrianfail #horsegirl

♬ original sound – user6934054176375

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.

the one stride at the end was TIGHT but he made it work

After that we put his boots and my vest on and off we went to cross country warmup!

The World Keeps Turning

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.

this guy knows how to put a smile on my face

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.

still trots into the ring like he’s here for the chaos, tho

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.

Debut Album Cover

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.

a real meeting of the minds in Presto’s jump lesson… this is totally their debut album cover

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.

wheee derp

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.

he was DISPLEASED to learn this information

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.

werk werk werk werk werk

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.

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).