We're always moving (I like to say we're always hustlin') around here and this week hasn't been any different as we made the move to expand our herd again.
If you haven't been horse shopping lately (or ever) you know that buying a top level warmblood FEI level prospect is $$$. While I'm obviously not averse to doing that on the rare occasion, realistically, I'm a cheap skate and like my deals. I also have REALLY enjoyed producing my own babies the past two years and am a bit sad that we don't have any incoming foals for 2017.
I've also been looking for project horses to start this year and have been coming up short on something that I want to work on. I HAVE however, been finding some awesome mares that either have temporary dings or weren't bred last year or have just been sitting out to pasture. Many of these have had PHENOMENAL (to me) pedigrees and look exactly like what I'd want a foal out of.
I have a wonderful dog training client that had mentioned a Hanoverian mare that she had had available and I messaged her after a particularly discouraging horse hunting day and while that one was sold, she mentioned that she had another horse for sale. A thoroughbred home-bred mare that had ended up on the back burner. She was lovely and so was her pedigree so we made the deal and Czarina came home with us after a lesson. Glitter Please? Yes please! Raja Baba? I'm in. #eventersneverdie Thank you Morgan!
So things should have ended there and the stallion shopping commenced buuuttttt... I couldn't get this one ad for a Hanoverian mare in California by Feiner Stern out of my head. Back in the day when I was trying to breed and it all went horribly wrong and I ended up broke from the effort, Feiner Stern was the man that I knew I wanted a baby by at some point.
This mare had been bought at a kill buyer type auction and the lovely people that I bought her from bought her and got her back on her feet and fed back up. They rode her and used her on trails and their lesson program. They were asking a tiny tiny price for her and I just couldn't help but ask if she was available. She was and I hired a shipping company to grab her and bring her back to Texas. Just wow on that whole week. I expected a donkey (like a true hee haw hee haw) to come walking off the trailer and the joke would be on me (risk taking doesn't always pay off yo) but instead a calm, gorgeous, well fed, and taller than expected bay mare came strolling off the trailer in the dark. I was smitten and overwhelmed at how well this had worked out (I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop but so far so good!)
So that's how we upped our mare game in one week's time. I'm super excited and while I'm always checking out stallions and stalking their offspring, I get to DO something about it this year with the shiny warmbloods. Not sure where I'm going to head first (its a bit like kid in a candy shop right now) but I can't wait for this part of the journey!
As if that wasn't enough, we added Sarah's mare to the group so we now have a boarder as well. Plus Sarah gets to see her mare regularly so all's happy.
So I was swapping out the implements on my arena drag and well, I pinched a nerve while I was picking up a 3lb piece of metal. No, I wasn't twisting, no, I wasn't throwing, and yes, I was using my legs. *sigh
I did stretches, slept on the coach with a heat pad and ice packs, drank loads of water and was generally a good girl about trying to get this thing to stop hurting. I didn't even ride that much so I mean, COME ON! Trying to be nice was fruitless in the end because my undoing was when I hosed Jade's legs Thursday evening (seriously!) and I could only walk like a decrepit 100 year old woman with raging arthritis. *more sigh
We also had a HUGE dog training weekend and I NEEDED to be at least functioning for that so yeah... we went here:
I've been going to the chiro for several years and while I know that my body is in better shape because of them, I'm still a dubious person when people talk about "miracle cures" where they walk in broken and walk out skipping. My regular doctor was across the street so I figured if I needed some heavy meds, I could just go there.
With my bases covered, I went and did a massage (which was really lots of stretching) and then my adjustment. At this point I didn't care if they cut my leg off because it was hurting so badly and unpredictably. Shockingly, when my adjustment was done... I could walk. And bend and yeah. Witchcraft.
I didn't expect this to last so I immediately booked for Monday expecting to be way out of whack by then but at least I could teach. The weekend was a little touch and go but never as bad as on Friday so definitely a win. We also helped 30 dog/handler pairs learn things and everyone had a great time! Now to get back to riding ponies!
With the rain the week before last and then prepping Vana, myself, Simon and Sarah (plus helpers) for the show, I hadn't been riding Jade. Apparently she lost a shoe and by the time I noticed it, it was show time and we put it off for the week. Over the weekend though, Vana decided he needed to join in and pulled a shoe of his own. Luckily I was down with my pinched nerve during this time so it was put on hold until Monday. #backinaction #shortvacation
Just a simple post of me taking way too many pictures on the drive back after my lesson (bad I know). The sky was so red and looked like someone had set it ablaze. Amazing!
Also one of Vana before our lesson, rocking our gear!
I didn't know I wanted to write a post about this topic until this past weekend. This is not a post about loneliness or depression, although those are important topics, just not here and not this time.
All my life I've been alone in my ventures. Horses, dogs, whatever. I never minded really. I never really thought about it. Honestly, the fact that the people in my lives allowed me to do my own thing was the best part. I've never really fit in anywhere except when I'm training and showing animals and I had long ago accepted that I was weird. It's ok. It's fun to be different. It's empowering to a certain degree. You learn to be ultra independent and strong but at the same time, you really are a bit disinterested/distrustful of other people and forming relationships with them. Being an introvert though, this fits in fine for me.
When I was a teenager, I trained and showed my mare from horse trader purchase to preliminary level eventing on my own. My parents didn't participate, pay, or drive me to events (they did pay board and weekly lessons though). If anything, they made it clear frequently that it was a burden on them and possible leverage to get me to perform to whatever standards they wanted at the time (school, chores, etc) at times. I was anxious during these years because I never knew what might make them threaten to take my horse away and it was frustrating because I was working so hard to do this thing I loved and felt like I fit in (albeit with the 40+ year old adults - you guys were/are the best). When I was headed to college, my parents had me sell my mare as agreed to when they purchased her. My cat and dog were put to sleep that year due to medical reasons unexpectedly and I entered college knowing that animal companionship was also fleeting and I formed a bigger shell around myself despite attempting to be more social with my own age group.
Showing dogs as much as I have, I've longed for some sort of mutual human partnership. Just someone I could count on to help out in the shows and we could tag team it and therefore get more done in each weekend. Many times I thought I had found that person/persons but in the end, they never came through. Some of them had meltdowns or stage anxiety at the last minute, some prioritized other things before the showing, just whatever and I was left alone to pursue my own goals. I've met MANY lovely people at shows but in the end it was all on me to make things happen. Another reinforcement for being independent and strong.
I just learned to do these things on my own, with whatever budget I could manage, and I was always professional and polite - never letting anyone breech the friend barrier, not really anyhow lest I be burned again. I've always done things on my own and I am so grateful that my husband simply allows me to do these activities and anytime he helps past that point, I always get nervous. He's definitely the most important person in my life and the fact that he tolerates (and encourages now) my shenanigans blows my mind. Is he happy? Is he fed? Is he going to be mad that a show is so boring like I told him but you never know? I also have these same thoughts when someone I enjoy being around comes to these events. It makes it hard to focus and perform, yet I've managed to do just that despite personal stress. Again, going to the shows alone makes this scenario somewhat easier.
Even with Alex aligning her life with ours these past few years through dog training (vet student when showed up one day and never went away despite my indifference at first), I know she's graduating soon and onto bigger and better things. I'm super happy and proud of her but there's a part of me that's going to miss having a regular partner in crime, an apprentice, and someone to talk dogs and horses with on a daily basis. But even with her enthusiasm and friendship, I haven't pushed her to involve herself in my life any more than she wants to. I know she'll still be around and in our lives but it won't be the same crazy "whenever and wherever" way we do now to support and push each other.
Now I have Sarah in the mix and she's such a wonderful asset with the horses and that portion of my life. I really feel like I have a home team and I didn't realize how awesome that was until this past weekend. With Sarah riding Simon and myself riding Vana, plus each of us riding two new-to-us-in-recognized competition levels, we were short on help and time. Sarah had her father and husband come along, Alex and her boyfriend came as well. My husband and son rounded out the group and we were all a team. Alex and Sarah's husband committed to learning how to read tests while we schooled that week and my husband was on deck to video Simon's warmups and tests for sales footage. Everyone was split down the middle, but we worked together like a team should to get our tasks done for the weekend. There were a few blips but it was just a nice mostly seamless weekend and we could all pat our backs at the end of the weekend no matter what color the ribbons were. I guess if anything I felt like the coach and that was so nice to be a part of. Part of that is being a stronger person. Part of that is trusting in these relationships with other people.
Alright. Day Two.
Short version, Simon realized Vana wasn't all that important really and he and Sarah did really nice, consistent rides where the scoring didn't reflect how lovely they really were. Granted we didn't disagree with the scores when we read the test, but still, they should have been over 60%. To be fair, the judging from 1st-3rd level was pretty harsh for everyone so it wasn't just us.
Sarah went first this time for 1-3 and I had the ability to watch her warmup and the test itself. It was a lovely test with lots of good things and a huge leap forward from the day before. I was super proud. The score was a 58.8% though which was barely 1% more than the previous day where they had dropped out of the canter 4 times. It's a horse show.. right? But it still sucked for Sarah as she knew she'd done a good job and the scores didn't really show that effort really well. Again, the scores for 1-3rd level were harsh this day too across the board.
Vana once again thought he might die without Simon so I was struggling with that. Warmups were a struggle too which made me feel better about the actual ride (he'd be predictable at least in his badness :P ) The 4-1 ride was first again and I won't lie, I was tired. His janky trot was hard to sit so it sapped whatever core strength I had left and as I rounded the second 10m circle I realized his impulsion was petering out, his curling was getting worse, and I tried to address that as we can to the center line for the shoulder in. My brain and body just wasn't coming together for ALL the pieces and I ended up doing a haunches out instead but at least he was not curling and got his forward back. We were rung for an error and went back for MORE TROTTING. I stayed focused through the gross pain and we finished up our trot work just in time for the walking. His walk portions were pretty good but he's decided that turn on the haunches, something we were basically super awesome at and a big point earner for us, needed some piaffe in it. Hence our turn on the haunches went a bit skewed on the right and he got bopped for that with my spur. We hit our canter off G though and managed to struggle through the rest of the canter work with impulsion and accuracy, but Vana was getting tired so curling was a thing still.
3-3 was basically a repeat of Saturday and I just elected to get onto him for his whinnying and distraction. We pulled the test off without any major disobedience, but harsh scoring again, us being tired didn't result in the score we were hoping for. 58.4% was an improvement from the day before though but still not quite good enough despite us digging deep for the points. Next time!
So basically we got out 4th level scores for our silver medal pretty easily (with lots of riding on my part to get it done) but botched what should have been our event at the 3-3 tests. I feel better about PSG honestly between doing 4-3 and 4-1 now without too much fuss but I want to grab our 3rd level scores if we can so I'm on the hunt for a show for that. Probably end of Feb/early March since I'd like to do PSG in April.
There's not a lot of picture evidence of my rides because well, everyone was everywhere since Sarah and I were showing practically at the same time. Our entourage was the bomb and since we're going to list Simon, I wanted footage of him rather than myself this time. I think hubby got a few of my rides though so I'll post those when I can.
Our goal was for me to score 60%+ in as many classes as I could. If I did that, I'd have completed my Bronze and 2 of my Silver Medal scores. I didn't foresee how strong the bromance was between Vana and Simon and I know I should have.
These two are pastured together and are basically in love. It's like an old man married couple honestly and a bit gross at times with the way they love and pick at each other. Naturally upon arrival Friday night, they were screaming at each other (ok, Vana was screaming and trying to look over the stall walls while Simon uncomfortably walked a few circles trying to figure out why we were getting worked up before starting to eat hay). Vana would continue this throughout the weekend without fail or tiring. Yay me.
Simon was up first with his 2-3 test and he was a little tense and trying to whinny here and there but was doing a good job of working hard. While.Vana.Screamed.From.His.Stall. The rode the test and it went pretty well with some expected amateur bobbles from both rider and horse and they ended with a 47%+. Yuck. It didn't really look all that bad, but the judges were on it and that's what they got. There were some nice scores throughout and some really not nice scores (many where it was already expected). Not a bad start for their first time at second level overall honestly.
I went next with Vana in the 4-1 test and he warmed up perfectly. Like seriously. I had a bad feeling at this point because he NEVER warms up that well but whatever; we're here to show. We headed for the arena when called and he promptly decided that all the flowers and judge's stands were spooky and he'd never seen such things in his life. So he was up. Really up. We did our trotting around the ring until the bell went and then we entered. Vana tried to be a slug and I basically reminded him repeatedly during that test to not be a slug. He kept it together for most of the ride but we had an issue coming off our counter canter where he wanted to change, I said no, he said oh well and did it anyways. I pulled him to a halt with only two strides before our letter to change (gulp) and had a discussion about him picking up the counter canter lead again and he did; then I asked for the change and we got it right at the letter. Go us. We were later complimented (well me, not him, the loser) for being so professional and realizing how to handle that, etc. It was nice. Also, people were smiling at my big goober when we were leaving and asked how old he was. I said 21 going on 22 and they all gawked and expressed their disbelief. 21 going on 5, I know.
That test pulled down a 61%+ and that was ALL me pushing for every point of it. We even got THREE 8s in it! I felt like a rock star for my performance. Vana just wanted to see Simon...
Simon went next in 1-3 but I had to hold onto Vana because our 3-3 was coming up fast too. I didn't see Simon's ride but I heard he decided he needed Vana and managed to do his job, but broke his canter FOUR times to a trot because he was trying to work and whinny (ugh, bromance) and couldn't. The rest of the test was lovely though. They earned a 57% despite the issues and some really nice comments (about the rest of the test of course).
Vana and I headed to the other arena for 3-3 and I thought man, we're going to get this test easy. It's basically the PERFECT test for Vana's strengths and he can do it in his sleep. I can do it in mine! This was going to be the best ever. Warmup was fine, entering the ring was fine, the first portion was pretty good until... Vana realized that this arena had a different view and maybe, just maybe he was close enough to the barn where Simon might hear him. So every time we hit this one corner, he couldn't help but neigh. Mostly he was working well, but then he started curling and I started asking him to stay mentally with us. Apparently the test (and me) weren't that mentally taxing and he chose to do whatever he mentally wanted. Our half passes were bleh at the trot but done, when we came around for our right canter half pass, it was in THAT corner and he just belted out and I whacked him for the half pass with my left leg and he swished his tail, kicked out his right hind (I saw it in my peripheral ><) and somehow we ended up almost to X without having done much half passing. I halted and debated what to do with the remaining 2 strides. I thought we had enough padding (if the judge was kind) to try for the two strides vs rider error, so we did that rather than the error. The rest of the test was passable but Vana was curling and tense so yeah, not so bueno. So much for the easy test... The score on this was a nice 53.8% and a big fat DISOBEDIENT on that half pass. I agree judge, I agree.
So yeah, basically my horse was a fruit loop but I handled it really really well and actually SHOWED and was mentally present each step of the tests. I felt really good about what I'd done despite my horse and by the end of the day, Simon knew that looking for Vana was dumb (they'd be back at the stalls later anyhow so meh?). Sarah did really well for her first time out at those levels and stayed focused and goal oriented. I did a good job coaching (if I do say so myself) so all in all we felt good about Day One. Oh and I got one silver medal score!
We spent much of the last month prepping for the HDS show this weekend. At first I was going to just take Vana to go for our 3rd and 4th level scores before bumping up to PSG (or failing miserably and sitting at those levels - not something we were honestly expected hence we went for it). Vana and I had started some pi/pa work as well as cleaning up pirouettes and tempis - things that aren't ideal when you're taking a horse like Vana at 3rd and 4th level. The past two weeks we really focused on good solid gaits and clean changes with expression (his specialty normally). I learned my tests and we felt good to go. About Christmas time though, we agreed that we would list Simon for sale at the end of January as he's doing so well and I feel confident that he could make someone super amazingly happy with his training). He and Sarah (Working Student) were looking good and I decided to get them out at the show too just to see how they'd do. She hadn't shown above 1st level before and he hadn't shown above Training level but I convinced her to go with it. Oh and she'd not done a recognized show before. *cough
After a month of coaching and letting her play with things, they really were clicking and seemed to feel comfortable with much of the tests' requirements. I also love the 2-3 test and convinced her that it rode better than 1-3. She believes me now. #converted She also learned that travers isn't that bad and that everything pretty much has a point to it and that made everything better. Perfect? Of course not, but the progress they've made in the past three weeks is outstanding.
With their last ride on Thursday and mine on the previous Monday (stupid rain!), we packed up the trailer and headed out to Great Southwest Friday afternoon. Naturally it was pouring and we got soaked unloading everything. Horses were bathed, Simon was ridden in the huge arena, and we double checked times. Vana twisted his shoe enough to be annoying so we contacted the farrier for the following morning to get that stuck back on before riding for the day. Since we were running super short on time, we found the braiding faerie and had her do Vana and Simon so we wouldn't be too rushed the next day. After all that, we hopped back in the truck and drove back to town to drive back the next morning.
It's time. Maybe a touch past time according to the foaling experts, but at nine months old, Zara has been weaned. She was still nursing pretty frequently but since her height was the same as Piper's (woot!) we went for it. The separation was pretty easy - Piper went out with the geldings and Jade has babysitting duty for the time being. Jade and Zara have been going out together off and on so it wasn't a big deal. There was some whinnying on Zara's part but it was short lived and I didn't hear Piper make a peep. Zara was a little clingy when I came around throughout the weekend and it was really fun to have her be so cute and cuddly.
With her rite of passage, I decided to finally register her and took the chance to take some pictures while I was out there. It was hard as she kept turning into me and following me as she'd been taught, but a distraction finally got her attention and I snuck around getting the four shots done. $100 to APHA later and she's now CS Infatuation (pending)!
The next morning brought about some unhappiness in Piper as her udder is now super full and she's banging on the gates periodically for someone to relieve her discomfort but in a few days she'll be good to go. Otherwise we're prepping for our big show this upcoming weekend and working on some more fun changes around the farm - stay tuned!
With entries for the upcoming recognized show in Katy coming up done, we're in work mode. We did that COLD lesson last week at my trainer's and Vana was feeling great and Simon + Working Student looked like a million bucks. They ran through their 1-3 and 2-3 tests and felt pretty good about everything by the end of it. If we had to run our tests today we'd be looking good so it's a nice position to be in as we're about 10 days out. Just need to improve things 1% each day and we'll be good to go!
Assistant Dog Trainer came out and while she has limited horse experience, she's willing to learn so Baby Jade (the best pony ever) got to be a pony rider giver for the evening while Working Student and I rode the big boys. Jade tried her best and was a steady eddy for the beginner rider and I was so proud of my girlie. Working Student got on Vana first to feel a good turn on the haunches to help her nail down what she needed to do with Simon for 2-3 and Vana proceeded to take advantage of her at all three gaits before I hopped on and we got to work.
The weather has broken today and it's a balmy 70 degrees with tomorrow pushing 80 degrees once more. I'm so happy with this winter and will take the few cold days we're getting in exchange for all the riding we're getting done after the past few years.
I just need to finish studying up on my 4-1 test since I only know the 4-3 test. We decided since we've been adding in passage, piaffe, and tempis to keep it simple for the fourth level as I'm really just hunting for some 60% scores to finish up my bronze medal (we're showing that lovely 3-3 test again) and head onward to my silver scores. After that we're hitting PSG as soon as possible.