I’m a little crunched for time this morning so I figured I’d do a quick catch up on some of the other things that have been happening in between all the traveling, and get your thoughts on some other stuff that’s on my to-do list. I was asked yesterday afternoon if I would be willing to provide breeding information to the commentators for the Tryon live stream, and I’m so delighted to have been asked that I’ve kind of dropped everything else to get those sheets done ASAP. I knocked out the 4*L and 4*S last night and am gonna try to get the 3*L done today. The live stream is already up and running, make sure to tune in! They’re reading off the info I provided and I’m so excited about it… more elaborate breeding info!
On a totally unrelated note, I got a Cricut a few weeks ago, which is both amazing and really dangerous. Nothing in my closet is safe from branding. But it also means that I can make my own stickers and decals, which is very convenient. Some of you may remember that I mentioned after Presto’s Fan Favorite win in the Futurity that I’d like to send a little something to as many of you as I can as a thank you for supporting him this year in his Futurity journey… this is it! If you voted for Presto as Fan Favorite and would like a WTW sticker/decal shoot me an email with your name and address. I can’t promise that I’ll be quick about it, but I swear I’ll make my way down the list as I have the capacity.
I also have been working on that white breeches review/comparison that I talked about a while back. Luxe EQ was kind enough to send me whites from several different brands to try on and compare, so I’m working on getting photos and my thoughts together on that. Before I get too far into this – what all do you want to know or see when shopping for white breeches? What features would you like me to comment on or rate them by? I’ve got 6 different brands I think, so a pretty good range. I want to make sure I hit all the necessary talking points!
I also picked up some Majyk Equipe pads in California, and I have to be honest… between this and my new boots/coat I’m strongly considering making Presto’s XC color just black. Or more specifically, black glitter. It just suits him, especially combined with his spiked browbands. I’d love to find a shirt with skulls on the sleeves or something and just do a whole glam punk look in general. Plus I already have the black glitter Majyk Equipe showjumping boots, so like… it’s destiny, right? I’m obsessed with the black glitter look. The navy pad is super nice too, it’s got padding built into the top for a streamlined look, no half pad required. I’ll definitely be reviewing both of these soon.
I also got a new/real camera (thanks Hillary!) a couple weeks ago, and took it with me to Galway to play with it a little bit. The photographer that does all the Texas shows had a sudden very big issue with me using her photos on my blog (woooo that was drama), which… is obviously a dealbreaker for me, since the blog is the main reason why I buy so many photos. Given that complication I figured it was time to get a real camera of my own. It’ll help me get nicer shots at home, I can use it to take pics of friends at shows, and get friends to take pics of me. More media! Plus now otherwise I’d have no show pics and that’s a bit of an issue for a blogger. My own DSLR was the solution I came up with.
I need to probably get a new/different lens for it (suggestions for what type of lens would be good for taking decent horse action photos? It’s an Canon EOS camera, FWIW.) but I think it’ll be perfect for my purposes. I just have to remember to use it.
There are a lot of balls in the air right now for me so hopefully more updates on bigger/more exciting things soon, but this brings us fairly up to speed I think!
I haven’t been out to the west coast in… a really long time. Not since I was a kid I think. I’m a grass and trees and pastureland kind of girl, so admittedly the Southern California landscape doesn’t really call to me, thus I just never seem to find myself there. But since I WAS going to be there for once – and indeed Presto was staying at a farm that some of my friends also keep horses at – I figured we definitely had to squeeze in some meet-ups. First on the docket was Emily and May of May as Well Event.
As is often the case when meeting other bloggers, I felt like I already knew Emily pretty well. I’ve been following her and May’s story for years, and we chat a lot online. I definitely wanted to finally meet in person, and of course meet the famous May. And since our horses are so very very very different, I was like… “we should take pics of them together”. It did not disappoint, the juxtaposition is hilarious to me. Proof that eventers come in all shapes and sizes!
Presto was absolutely obsessed with May. As soon as she walked over he was like OH MY GOD WHO IS THAT SHE’S BEAUTIFUL I WANT IT. May, on the other hand, was like “omg this idiot” and wanted nothing to do with him. She tolerated him, but was clearly totally disinterested in making friends and opted to just ignore him completely. Presto, bless him, is rarely deterred by how other horses feel about him though (zero self-awareness in that one), so he was bound and determined to fully investigate May regardless of how she felt about him.
Presto was very displeased when I dragged him away from May and put him back in his pen. If it was up to him we would have taken May home with us and she could have been the love of his life. I’m not sure what he liked the most – her size, her golden color, her apathetic attitude, or the fact that she thicc, but he was VERY into her whole aesthetic. Who knew.
The owners of the boot company Majyk Equipe also keep a couple of retired horses at the same farm, and they were out there around the same time. I’ve met Michael and Beverly before multiple times but haven’t seen them in years, so it was good to catch up. They have a 3yo Mighty Magic filly that they bred specifically because of Presto, so it was cool that they got to finally meet him in person. I was informed that he was big. Everyone keeps telling me that. Let me live in denial, people.
After they said hi to Presto we made plans for the next day. I wasn’t flying out until Monday but Megan was leaving with the horses on Sunday morning, and everyone else was also leaving sometime on Sunday. We all went to the show on Sunday morning for breakfast, and I stayed for a while to watch the showjumping and take some pics of Britt and Ricky.
After that, Michael and Beverly picked me up and we drove out to Laguna Beach for lunch and some sightseeing. All I had really seen of the area so far was the drive between Ontario and Temecula and then back and forth from Galway to the Airbnb, so this was my one touristy day. They picked a great place, Laguna is definitely beautiful and a fun little beach town. We found a restaurant with rooftop seating, the weather was gorgeous, and we sat there and had lunch with a fantastic ocean view.
After we ate we strolled up and down the boardwalk for a while, taking in the very stereotypically California environment. Beach volleyball, check. People rollerblading, check. Surfers on the water, check. Vendors selling sea-themed art, check. Baywatch looking lifeguard, check. The people-watching down there is pretty epic too. We climbed the stairs of a hotel to get a good view of the beach and enjoy the afternoon. It didn’t suck.
After that we drove back to Ontario and they dropped me off at my hotel for the night, next to the airport. I figured since I’d had such a stereotypically California day already, I should top it off with one last thing, so I walked down the street to In-N-Out for dinner. Technically we have a few of those in Texas but I’ve only been to one once and it was probably a decade ago if not more. I wasn’t really even hungry but I got a burger and a chocolate shake and had zero complaints about it as I waddled back to my hotel room.
It was really great to finally put some faces to names as well as catch up with some old friends while I was in Cali. I had a great trip, largely thanks to all of these folks as well as Megan’s entourage, and got some great pics and memories out of it too. I’m not generally the best at maintaining my human connections sometimes, I tend to withdraw into my day to day minutia, but this whole trip really reminded me why it’s so important to surround yourself with good people and to keep up with those friendships. Perfect little mini horsey vacation!
I’m back from sunny southern California! When I booked my trip it was originally supposed to be for Presto’s Training level debut… which clearly didn’t come to fruition since he decided to be a monkey in turnout and effectively remove himself from his entire fall schedule. I waffled a lot with whether or not to cancel my trip, but in the end I decided that 1) I wanted the break from work since it’s the last one I’ll get for a while, 2) I wanted to be there for Presto’s next vet appointment. The money was already spent on my plane ticket so… may as well, right? I got there on Wednesday afternoon and Megan’s mom picked me up at the airport, and we hustled straight to Galway so we could be there in time for the 2* and 4* jogs.
Once the jogs were done we went down the street to the barn Presto has been based at during his Cali vacation… very convenient that it was so close. Megan had told me that he’d filled out a lot in the past month and boy she wasn’t kidding. The spaghetti noodle is looking more like a manicotti these days. I guess standing in a pen doing nothing but hoovering hay may not have been so bad for him. He barely even greeted me, he was too busy with his treat ball. I said hello, gave him a couple cookies, and left him to his business.
Thursday was dressage day, with Tenny going early in the 2* and then Mo going mid-afternoon in the 4*. Megan’s mom had gotten a VIP table for her entourage (which between family and owners was sizeable) and let me tell you, I was decidedly not suffering. Ringside table and full catering? I could get used to that horse show experience. We had a great breakfast and then headed over to watch Tenny’s dressage, which was lovely – she’s developed so much over this year. I mean maybe I’m biased because she’s my favorite but meh no I’m not.
Mid-morning we all loaded up and headed down the street to the barn for Presto’s vet appointment and to see Megan’s newest addition to her string (the first redhead in a mass of bays). This was Presto’s first Shockwave appointment, and my opportunity to talk to the vet in person.
He was a super nice guy, pretty much the first thing he said was “this is just a blip, it’s only temporary, he’ll heal up and this won’t be a problem or affect his career in any way” which is always nice. Clearly he’s used to concerned owners if that’s the first thing he offered up without any preamble LOL. I asked him what the most conservative, probably-overkill recovery and rehab plan was and he gave me an outline. We’re gonna do a couple more Shockwave treatments (which he didn’t think were necessary but said “definitely wouldn’t hurt”… what’s money, right?) and keep him rested for at least another month, maybe two, and then re-scan and see how it looks. We want any heat and filling to stay out of it and prevent him from irritating it any further. I’d much rather overdo the rest and recovery than try to rush him back to work and end up back at square one. Presto’s not missing anything (well ok he’s already missed everything there was on his schedule) so we may as well take it slow and be extra sure.
This does mean that he’ll be staying with Megan quite a bit longer than the original home-in-December plan. It’s not really possible to stall rest him here at home or do “controlled” turnout, and then it also seems a bit pointless for me to try to bring him back into work myself after he’s been off for 2-3 months. Plus, like, the whole point of him staying through the fall was so he could do a few more shows with her to solidify what he’s learned this year so… he should just stay. We’re already 9 months in, seems like it would be a shame to potentially throw all that progress away at this point. He can stall rest there, she can bring him back over the winter, and then he can go to Florida with her and get a few shows in. Then I can take lessons on him again and bring him home late spring. So yeah, I’m bummed to be Presto-less for longer, I was really excited to get him back, but horses are horses and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. I kinda wanted him to go to Florida to show anyway, so maybe it’ll turn out to be a good thing in the end.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spiral pretty hard that night. I did. I promised Henry to Hillary for the winter to ride and show, and I REALLY do want her to ride and show him, it’ll be good for both of them. But that was based on the premise that I’d have Presto here, which now I won’t. Did I stay up until midnight looking at horses off the track? Indeed I did. The whole reason I ended up with Henry in the first place, for those who remember, was because I had leased out Sadie and spiraled hard a few months later, so there’s definitely precedent for this. Michelle talked me off the ledge though and told me I should just come get one of her mares to ride through the winter… something different for me to ride, a little excitement to look forward to, and no spiral-induced impulse purchase required. Yeah ok that seems like a much better idea. More on that later.
I also didn’t give in and buy a BEMER, which was my brains other “excellent idea” for a quick dopamine hit. It was tempting. I did manage to talk Tenny’s owner into one though, which was almost as satisfying.
Friday was cross country day, which kinda just makes me nervous when a friend and horses I’m truly invested in emotionally are running. The 2* looked fine (clearly I’ve suffered long term brain damage because I was like “these look kinda small”) but the 4* was YIKES. Like… YIIIIKKKEESS. Hard pass. No thank you. There were these big white rails headed straight down the side of a hill that you would have to pay me a massive amount of money to point a horse at. It was a big hard track, for sure, and the whole entourage was drinking hard and heavy first thing in the morning. Quick pause to say how freaking awesome her family and friends are – just the nicest people and a lot of fun. Which, I am notoriously bad at integrating into new groups with new people so the fact that I did so easily says a lot about them.
Megan’s two rides were only an hour apart, with the 4* running first, so we scoped out our spectating plan. We parked up by the startbox as she came out and went around the first loop, then booked it up to the main water so we could see her come through there. The first time through they had a big brush drop in, bending to a brush skinny, and Megan and Mo were baller through there.
It was a really tough course and took it’s toll, with only 4 people jumping clear. Megan ran into some trouble at the big downhill rails and opted to walk home and try again another day. There was a quick turnaround to get Mo vetted out of the box and then Tenny tacked up, then we were back at warmup. A bad fall on the 4* course caused a long hold and delay, so Tenny’s owners and I decided to head up to the main water to wait for Tenny. She came flying around that course like she was having the time of her life, looking absolutely fantastic and adding a nice double clear for her first 2*L. Great wrap-up to cross country day, and more importantly two happy sound horses… can’t ask for more than that.
Although when Megan was whipping from barn to barn in the golf cart doing post-XC care she almost ran over Billie Eilish coming back from dressage on her horse. That would have been bad. I knew Billie rode but didn’t know she evented, so that’s pretty cool. I mean, don’t run her over with a golf cart maybe, but welcome to our sport.
Saturday was showjumping day, and once again there was so much suffering happening up in the VIP area. I ate hash browns and oatmeal until I physically couldn’t anymore. Woe was me.
We ran over and watched the jogs (ok there was no running, I was full of potato) and then went and poked around in all the vendors for a while. It was disappointing, I found zero things I wanted. One trailer had some breeches and shirts that I liked but inevitably whatever color I wanted was not in my size and whatever was in my size was a color I didn’t like. The shopping gods said no that day, I guess. I did buy a sweater from a little clothing boutique (and talked Tenny’s other owner into a jacket and sweater and hat… I am an expensive friend) so it wasn’t a total failure. If they’d had the jacket in a darker color I would have gotten it but also how many jackets does a Texan really need?
Tenny showjumped a couple hours later, and while she’s still figuring some things out she’s progressed a lot in that phase too.
I really love that mare. A lot. And may or may not have talked her owners into maybe doing an embryo transfer or two. Like… the husband was even looking at all of my bloodline spreadsheets with me on my laptop that night. No one else likes to nerd out at that level with me so I was delighted. Gimme some baby Tenny’s.
The horse show wrapped up with that but I still had a few more things to do and people to meet while I was out on the West Coast… more to come about those adventures tomorrow!
When we last left off with our intrepid hero baby horse, he was headed to California for his fall season. Unfortunately that didn’t quite pan out.
He did indeed make it to California. They went straight from Texas to Woodside, where he was entered to show in the Novice. If you remember, he’d had a particularly rowdy night in turnout before they were supposed to leave and came in with a banged up foot, but by the time they arrived he was sound and looked ready to go. And then the next morning, before his midday dressage test, he had a, uh… baby horse moment, and spent the morning absolutely ravaging his buckets with his feet (ravaging things with his feet is his go-to I AM ANNOYED/BORED move, he does it a lot), managing to get his foot stuck on one in such a way that he half ripped a shoe off and made himself very lame in the process. So, we scratched Woodside, gave him a week off, had the shoe put back on, and he looked good by that point so Megan planned to bring him back to work.
He looked good on the lunge line so she did a normal flatwork ride on him, where he also felt totally normal, but unfortunately afterward there was some filling and heat in his fetlock. The vet came out and did xrays, which all looked great, but Presto reacted positively to palpation of the suspensory. Like… reacted pretty dramatically. Enough to where they though oh shit, he’s done major damage. Out came the ultrasound machine and after much searching it was determined that there were no lesions or tears, but both branches were inflamed and irritated. The vet recommended 30 days stall rest along with daily icing/surpass/wrapping. So… his fall season was effectively over, and his Cali trip would now be spent just hanging out in his pen.
While it definitely sucks in a lot of ways and I was super disappointed for him to miss YEH Championships, I was mostly relieved that it wasn’t anything major. Thank goodness for Megan’s astute and careful observation or it really could have easily ended up being much worse, since she caught the physical change in the leg before he was actually lame. And when I thought about it, if this had to happen then it’s honestly kind of advantageous the way it went down, because we really aren’t set up for stall rest here at home. We don’t have enough horses to keep one in all the time with him, and he’d absolutely go batshit at being the only horse in the barn. Nor can I think of any boarding barns where I trust them enough to look after him properly and do all of his care to the letter. At least there he’s got plenty of other horses around him all the time and he’s at a busy barn with lots to see to keep him occupied, and I trust Megan implicitly to do all of his care plus she’s there pretty much all day every day. He’s such a busy horse I was very concerned with how he would handle the stall rest but so far he’s been ok in his pen.
Well… he did try to remove his ice boot thus earning himself getting tied very short during ice time, but otherwise.
I ordered him some stall toys, including a Wubba and a rolly treat ball. I wasn’t sure if he’d figure out the treat ball but apparently he did so pretty quickly and is obsessed with it. Toss it around and it gives you treats… yeah that sounds on brand for him. He’s also bulked up a lot, just standing there eating, so Megan is like “He looks so big now!”… um, wtf did he look before??? STOP FEEDING HIM. Just kidding. Mostly.
All was motoring along pretty well until yesterday, when Megan went to do his daily care and found a little bit of heat and some pulse in the leg when there hadn’t been any in a while. He’s sound, but she didn’t like the change and there’s no reason or explanation for it, so while he wasn’t scheduled for his next scan until this weekend she’s having him scanned again while the vet is out today doing a PPE. Fingers crossed that it looks okay… the last thing this horse (or any of his people) needs is an extended stall rest period. I don’t even know how to make that work. Trying not to panic and spiral too far, but, ya know. Mixed success.
Before he left I had already planned on going out to Cali for Galway, which is this weekend, and after thinking about it for a while I decided to still go. I couldn’t get full credit back for my plane ticket, I’d already taken the PTO, and this is probably the last opportunity for me to go anywhere until late next spring. Plus Tenny is in the 2*L and Mo is in the 4*L, and I have other friends showing, so it’ll be a fun little trip even without my own horse competing. The money is already spent so why not. By then we might know a little bit more about how Presto is doing and be able to figure out what his plan will be for the next few months. Naturally this has already ended up costing more than it would have if he’d stuck to the original horse show plan, between lost entry fees and vet bills and stuff, but what else is new with horses. At this point my only real concern is getting him healed up well and quickly. Fingers crossed for an ok scan today!
Hope everyone had a happy Halloween! It’s my favorite holiday,,, candy plus “dark”-themed things plus costumes… how could it not be my favorite. This year we were invited to a horsey gymkhana day, with costumes, and that was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. Let my inner 10yo horse kid out for a day? Sign me up.
My original idea for our costume was to dress Henry up as a unicorn and me as a rainbow. But then while scrolling through rainbow bodysuits I stumbled across a llama onesie and I was like omg that’s it – I can be a llama and Henry can be the drama (not a stretch) so together, tada, drama llama! I was able to find the onesie on Poshmark for pretty cheap, snagged some rainbow hair tinsel for Henry, and bought a little button where you could record whatever you wanted on it. I recorded it to play the “is it me, am I the drama? I don’t think I’m the drama. Maybe I am..” soundbite. Which, if you have TikTok you will definitely recognize – it’s one of my favorite viral sounds and very suited to Henry. He also had a drama llama sticker on the other side of his saddle pad, Julie painted his butt to say “Am I…” on one side and “the drama” on the other, and his bonnet had a drama llama sticker on it too. Plus he wore his glitter boots.
I didn’t want to put so much on him that it interfered with his ability to be a gymkhana pony, because priorities, but it seemed to be enough for people to get it. The button was a hit, at least with those in the TikTok demographic. You can hear it if you scroll to the video in my Insta post. The llama onesie was hot AF but hilarious, so… worth it. Definitely a little slippery to ride in, but very convenient that the hood fit over my helmet easily.
Once we were all ready we got on and headed to the covered, took some pics, laughed at each other (there’s something particularly great to me about seeing adults have some childish fun with their horses) and then got down to the serious business of games. There was some pole bending, which Henry was actually quite good at. He caught onto the idea of weaving around the poles pretty quickly and was firing off lead changes at each one. We also did some kind of cup-moving race, and a relay and… something else that I already forgot. Henry was down for anything that required speed, and if it didn’t require speed, he thought it should. Maybe he missed his calling. After I did a few games I got off and Hillary got on, and I was like you gotta try the pole-bending though.
Henry was like YEAH I GOT THIS. SO FAST. He’s always pretty proud of himself and this was no exception.
A friend of mine had a polo mallet as part of her costume and asked if I wanted to try smacking a ball around. Sure, why not? I removed my hot AF llama suit for that, and made sure Henry was ok with me swinging a mallet around him. He’s fairly whip-shy so I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about it, but he didn’t mind. I whacked the ball around a little bit (with… um, mixed success) but I dunno that polo is for me. I broke my right elbow in a cross country accident years ago and something about the swing and the weight of the mallet made that old break ache. I handed the mallet back and we headed back toward the trailers to untack. The trailers were right next to the jump field, so I was like hey Julie, want to jump Henry?
We were there, jumps were set, Henry was warmed up, Julie hasn’t been able to do a lot of jumping lately… why not hop around on King Henry. He was a little bit lit up because of all of his pole bending domination and the fact that now he saw JUMPS, but he was polite anyway. Julie got on and cantered him over some jumps and it was just really freakin cute. Then I was like hey Hillary, you wanna jump some stuff too? We already had a pony ride thing going on and Henry seemed to be quite enjoying himself. I handed over my boots, she hopped aboard, and off she went to jump some things too.
Good on my friends for always being up for a little horsey fun time. And of course Henry is the bestest boy in the world and seemed to enjoy taking everyone for a spin. It’s really cool to have a horse like this that you trust, that you know will be safe for people to ride and is fairly straightforward. This kind of stuff is his jam. He did keep searching the surrounding area for cross country (sorry buddy, not this time) but seemed pleased enough to get a few jumps in anyway.
We hung out and chatted and ate candy for a little while before making the trek back home. Another fun weekend with my best dude, and we even came home with candy… better than ribbons, if you ask me.
We’re slowly but surely wrapping up our 2021 Glamour Shots series! Weaning time is just around the corner, which will mean no more Foal Fridays for a while… I know, I’m sad just thinking about it too. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
This week we’ve got Pippa, who was the first foal of the season and she definitely started us off with a bang. Originally she had been claimed pretty much immediately by an upper level rider/repeat customer, but as Pippa has matured Michelle got the gut feeling that this one was something special and really wanted to keep her in the breeding program.
An agreement was reached and we’re happy to say that Pippa will instead be retained by WTW for future breeding. She will also have some kind of sport career, but Michelle thought Pippa was just too nice to leave the program entirely. Always gotta go with your gut on these things!
Pippa is 81% blood, has a sire that ran 5* and then was a young rider mount, and while her dam’s oldest foal is only a yearling he also is looking very promising, so we feel like she’s definitely outproducing herself. All of those things combined make Pippa an exciting addition to the breeding program in the future. Not to mention that she’s bold, smart, people-oriented, and very level-headed. Can’t let this one go!
Y’all will be seeing lots more of this girl in the future.
They’re actually making me drive into the office today to give a presentation (the horror) so I’ve gotta make it a quick one (for me) without as much of the usual fluff and lead-up. My apologies. Although I doubt anyone really misses having to read through all of my drivel just to get to anything good.
Back in March when the US Event Horse Futurity started, I also launched my own little competition. I really love the idea and purpose behind the Futurity and want to support the program in any way I can, so I exercised what little flex I have and incentivized you guys to interact with Presto’s Futurity posts. And as usual, you guys showed up, not only making Presto’s posts by far the most active, but bringing in a lot of new eyes and page likes to the Futurity program as a whole. Thank you to every single one of you for that!
Anyway, my own little competition was dubbed the Presto’s Favorite Things Contest, with a prize package full of all of Presto’s, well… favorite things. Or his most-used things, anyway. I ended up with a lot more names in my proverbial hat (ok, my spreadsheet, it was a spreadsheet) than I expected, but at the end of the day the winner is: Barbara Culbertson! She was definitely in it to win it, sharing and commenting on everything and earning herself tons of entries. Congratulations Barbara, I’ll be contacting you later today on facebook to get your shipping details.
I also have some leftover WTW swag that I’d like to send to some runners-up – I’ll get those organized, drawn, and contact y’all within the next few days. Again, thank you so much to all of you for participating and for supporting Presto on his journey this year, and of course voting for him to win Fan Favorite. I hope y’all got even a sliver of the same enjoyment out of his vlogs and updates as I did. What a wild ride it’s been, eh?
I hope all of you will follow along with the Futurity next year too, I hear that WTW will have another entrant!
I love it when Michelle brings her camera to things, she always gets some great shots! Maryland was no exception, she got some really nice ones from YEH4, YEH5, and the 5* showjumping. I was charged with editing and uploading and sharing (sbe’s the talent, I’m the admin), which took me a while to actually get to, but I finally did. They’re all uploaded on the WTW facebook page as well, feel free to share with the rider/owners!
I’ve been crunched for time when it comes to these spreadsheets (hence the lack of me finishing the Maryland one… sorry…) but I did have to prioritize what is possibly my most favorite international event of the year – Mondial du Lion at Le Lion d’Angers in France. It’s the World Championships for young event horses, with a 2* class for 6 year olds and a 3* class for 7 year olds. This is where stars are born, where we get a glimpse of the next big superstars. This event has historically been the springboard for so many top level horses on their way to the top, I find it ridiculously fun to watch them all and try to figure out who’s going to be the next Sam, Rocana, Vassily, or Quimbo. Sometimes it’s the winner, but just as often it’s the mid or lower placed horse who just got a little overwhelmed in dressage, a little tired on showjumping day, or just wasn’t quite ready to chase the time yet on XC. Odds are though, future superstars are definitely present here regardless of finish. Don’t forget that 42% of this year’s Olympic event horses competed at MdL earlier in their career… a pretty impressive statistic for one event. With so many spectators and atmosphere, it’s often the first time these youngsters are experiencing what it’s like to compete on the world stage.
So um, yeah… I kind of love MdL. It’s exciting to get a glimpse of the future.
This year’s horses I admit surprised me a bit. The field of 7yo’s have the lowest blood percentage I think I’ve ever calculated in a higher level event – 46.6%. In 2020 the 7yo average for MdL was 52%, in 2019 it was 50%, and in 2018 it was 51%. For reference, for 4*’s in Europe somewhere between 51-53% is the norm, and usually a bit higher for 5*. In the US we tend to trend more like 55-58% given how many full TB’s we have here. 46% is quite low… yes it’s “just” a 3*, but given that these are the horses that are being aimed for future 4* and 5*, the lower than usual blood percentage is interesting. Sixteen horses in the field had a blood percentage under 40% – that’s quite a lot. I do have to wonder with the emergence and popularity of the ERM series in Europe (assuming it comes back post covid-restrictions, anyway) if we won’t start seeing more lower blood horses purchased and developed specifically for that 4*S format. Time will tell I guess. The 6yo field was a little bit on the low side too at 49%, but that’s not quite as far off normal like the 7yo’s are. Last year the 6yo’s were 50% and 2019 was 51%.
The blood percentage abnormality got me digging around a little bit and playing with different parameters… would it change much if we looked at the top dressage scores, or the double clear XC rounds, or the clear SJ rounds? A little, yes. Does it actually tell us anything? I dunno. That’s up for interpretation I suppose. Here’s how it shook out:
range lowest to highest 18% to 79%
field average blood percentage 46.6%
top 10 finishers blood percentage 49%
blood percentage of horses that finished on their dressage score 50%
blood percentage of horses with double clear XC 49%
blood percentage of horses with clear SJ 44%
blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties 50%
blood percentage with no XC time penalties 50%
blood percentage of top 10 dressage scores 49%
And the same breakdown of the 6yo class:
range lowest to highest 30% to 76%
field average blood percentage 49%
top 10 finishers blood percentage 50%
blood percentage of horses that finished on their dressage score 47%
blood percentage of horses with double clear XC 47%
blood percentage of horses with clear SJ 48%
blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties 49%
blood percentage with no XC time penalties 49%
blood percentage of top 10 dressage scores 50%
In both cases the blood percentage of the top 10 finishers was a bit higher than the field average, but on the other hand the blood percentage of horses with XC jump penalties was the same or higher. Interesting.
Anyway, we could dissect the blood percentage question a thousand different ways (and argue about how much it really matters or not) but let’s move along.
Looking at stallion representation, there’s no doubt that OBOS Quality 004 absolutely owned the 7yo class. He was the sire of SIX horses in that field, and the grandsire of one other. Funnily enough, for as much representation as he had with the 7yo’s, he only showed up in one 6yo, as the damsire. For what it’s worth, all of the OBOS Quality 004 representatives finished the event, ranging from 5th place all the way to 46th place. Every single one of them also had a full TB within 3 generations on the damside, although still overall they had a generally low blood percentage (41% average)… OBOS Quality 004 himself, by the Selle Francais stallion Quick Star and out of some very old school Hanoverian lines, only has 28% blood.
In the 6yo class there was a bit less commonality but still some repeats – we saw 2 offspring of the Gem Twist clone Gemini xx, 2 by the stallion Up to Date, and Diarado was the sire of one and grandsire of another via his son Dinken. We also see Cassini twice as the sire’s sire and once as the damsire. This field also shared some bloodlines with the 7yo’s, logging more Connor representation via his son Connect (can I just take a moment to selfishly enjoy all the Connor that’s starting to show up, because I’ve been fairly obsessed with him and his son Connect for a while now and it’s nice to get some validation), 3 more instances of Casall, another with Hand in Glove xx, and another with Imperius xx (the sire of Master Imp xx). Former MdL competitor and upper level superstar stallion Upsilon also had one offspring in the 6yo and one in the 7yo.
We do see a few dressage stallions popping up here and there – Ferro, UB40, Don Index, and Eliott MC. It’s definitely not common, with the overwhelming majority being from mainly showjumping bloodlines.
While the field did not have any full thoroughbred participants, there were a handful with one full blood parent. In the 7yo’s there were 4 with a full TB parent – one dam, three sire – and one with a full french AA sire. In the 6yo’s there were 5 horses with a full TB parent, all the sire. A couple of these showed up multiple times across both fields: the aforementioned clone Gemini xx, as well as the TB stallion Duke of Hearts xx.
As usual, I want to take a minute to dig into the dams of these horses, since we all know the dams are honestly the more important aspect. In the 7yo field we have 3 dams who competed to 3*/4* level eventing and 5 that showjumped to 1.30m level or higher. In the 6yo field we have 1 dam that competed 3*, 1 that showed 4th level dressage, and 8 (EIGHT!) dams that showjumped 1.30m or higher themselves. In addition to these nice sportmares you also have some great career broodmares that didn’t have a show career themselves but have been fantastic producers – 22 dams in the 6yo field have also produced other international level eventers or showjumpers (or in one case, a GP level dressage horse), and 24 dams in the 7yo field have produced other international level eventers or showjumpers – up to 4*L eventers and 1.65m showjumpers. That’s just a bit under half of the field. Blessed are the broodmares, indeed.
If you got to watch any of the MdL coverage, did any of the horses stand out to you? Who do you think are the next big stars?
To be clear in advance, when I say “return” I mean he did a derbycross at a local benefit show, and when I say “triumphant” I mean he was second of two horses in the Novice division. But if you ask Henry he definitely won Burghley so we’ll just go with his interpretation, yes? Good.
To be honest I kind of forgot I had entered this show… it’s an annual event to raise money for a local TB rescue/rehoming program and I always try to attend in the years where my schedule allows it, but I entered online a month ago and promptly forgot about it with everything else that was going on. We got home from Maryland on Monday and then I saw something about the show the next day on facebook and was like “oh yeah, right… I’m pretty sure I entered that?”. I had to message the organizer and ask to make sure. Yeah, I’m that person. Luckily Past Me had been looking out for Future Me when she entered, because all I’d signed us up for was the Derby at Novice level – and the Derby was just showjumping and cross country. Not much prep required for that with him, thank goodness.
I clipped Henry last week so he had a fresh haircut, jumped him around a course at home on Thursday, got his feet done on Friday, and then loaded all his stuff up in the trailer on Friday afternoon. We were the second ride of the morning on Saturday – hallelujah – with our stadium round at 9:05am, so we left the farm early Saturday morning. It’s still getting pretty hot here in the afternoons so I was more than happy to go early. I got there at 8, planning to have time to walk both my stadium and my XC before I got on at 8:45, but I didn’t really account for the long line at the show office. That ate up almost half an hour, so I only had time to walk stadium real quick and then meander around the top of the XC field and try to figure out what was what. Meh… good enough.
This facility is the same place we go for the occasional jumper show, so Henry kind of knows the drill by now. Plus, ya know… he’s 14 years old and a veteran show horse at this point. I tacked him up, hopped on, walked to warmup, and did a quick w/t/c each way. I always warm him up for showjumping the same way… mostly getting him relaxed, moving laterally off my leg, and a lot of lengthening and shortening the canter to make sure he’s sharp off my seat and leg. We popped over a couple jumps each way and declared it good, then headed to the ingate.
The course was interesting in that the only related distance was jumps 1 and 2, a 4 stride line that walked a touch long. I landed and asked him to open up a bit, which he readily did, and the four rode nicely. After that everything just kind of flowed well, and I made some tidier turns and rollbacks but nothing sharp or particularly “jumpery”. I wanted to keep him out in front of me knowing that XC was coming after. In typical Henry fashion he rubbed a few, but they all stayed in the cups for a clear round. Unfortunately optimum time was 130ish and we came in at 115, quite a bit under, but I wouldn’t have ridden it any differently in retrospect, so no worries. I had to chuckle a bit because back when we did the jumpers pretty much the only classes he could win were the optimum time, because he’s so NOT a fast horse nor is he careful. But the other person had a rail which converted to time, which put her closer to optimum than we were.
Hillary had come out to be my ground crew and get some video, which… thank goodness for her (as usual). If not I’d have no media, plus after SJ I kind of flung Henry at her, asking if she could put his boots on and grab my vest from the trailer while I went back out to XC to try to find the rest of the jumps that I hadn’t had time to search for earlier. I never did walk all the way to the ones in the back but I was at least able to find the right path and figure out vaguely where everything was. It was super twisty with all but 3 of the jumps clustered in the top field, and I’m not the fastest person at learning courses. I was like 80% sure I knew where I was going though, so… good enough. I hiked back up to the ring to grab my steed.
I got back on and hopped over one little long, then opted to just walk until it was our turn. The XC was very small – like very very small, pretty much all BN size aside from a couple of houses, so he was warmed up enough. What made the course a little trickier was the turns, there were lots of rollbacks or things that had a hard approach, or were set at the top or bottom of a hill off a sharp turn. I was mostly worried about keeping him on his feet since the grass was still a little dewy and he’s not drilled and tapped for studs.
Once all the jump judges were in place the first girl left of the startbox and I headed over toward it. I swear I felt Henry perk up a little. It’s been over two years since he last left the box for cross country, and I’m pretty sure he was like “wait, are we doing what I think we’re doing?”. At 10 seconds I walked him in and turned him around, and then 3-2-1, out we went. Y’all, it was the cutest thing ever. Henry just LIT UP. For a second I thought maybe I’d made a big mistake by only bringing his very loose-fitting hackamore, but he was actually quite civilized. Excited, for sure. Forward, yes. Ears pricked to the max, hunting the jumps, oh yeah absolutely. But he was also polite about it, and rideable, and listened to what I said. I mean… if I’d tried to STOP him I dunno that he would have been too pleased, but he was adjustable and made all the turns easily and listened when I told him that he had to keep his inside hind underneath him if he wanted to stay on his feet.
The little jumps were very easy for him. We started with a little box, down a steep hill to a little oxer off a short turn, straight ahead to some tires, left to a box, right to a coop, then to the water. Despite how many times Henry has been to that facility I’ve never actually schooled any of their XC so he’s never been in their water, which is pretty dark and small and looky. I had to bring him down to a trot anyway because of the very sharp turn back afterward to the line of bigger houses, and he definitely gave the water a peek as he went in. After the houses we had a long gallop down he hill and around to the back of the field in the trees to a tiny feeder, then a bench, then a hard right to a coop. I actually missed that turn (it was part of what I hadn’t walked) and had to stop and turn around and go back. Luckily I saw it immediately when we passed it. After that we headed back up to the main field over some barrels, up the hill to a hanging log, rollback to some tires, down a teeny little wannabe bank, and then sweeping around to the last fence. Was it super easy for him? Yes. Was he extremely proud of himself after the finish? Omg.
So cute. He was just so cute. It’s been so long since he’s been out there but there’s no doubt that he missed it, he was so happy afterward. All pricked ears and proud stance and “mom I was AMAZING wasn’t I?”. It didn’t matter how big the jumps were or how simple the course was, he was the happiest boy. He would be absolutely delighted to be a lower level packer, I think. It’s easy for him but he loves it all the same. Hillary had to take a call while we were on course so she only got the clip above, but you’ll have to take my word for how cute he was.
Afterward he got a bath, tried to molest the mini donkey (what is his DEAL with those things??), and munched some hay while I packed his stuff. We were home well before lunch time and he positively strutted back out to his pasture friends to tell them how fantastic he was. Cross country always puts him on a big ego trip for a few days afterward, and apparently that hasn’t changed nor is it affected by the size of the jumps he conquered. Never change, Henny. We both had a lot of fun!