Monday, November 30, 2009

Eclipse's Glamour shots

So, I've been Blogging here for months, and just now took the time to figure out how to add photos. So I'm going a bit nuts. Eclipse, Ensign's Grace's awesome Morgan stallion and my faithful show companion, had a boudior photography session last August (c'mon mares, isn't he hot???).  This little stallion has so much presence, and Catharine really captured it well. Thanks Catharine!!!

What an active hind leg. On a Morgan. Who needs huge warmblood size or purchase price??

His "Big Boy" bridle

Powerful little man, isn't he?? (Yea, I'm in love).

He had only been doing half-steps a few months when we took these. He has the most incredible mind, and a nicely active hind end.Plus a great tail :-).

Friday, November 27, 2009


My red mare rocks. Plain and simple, she is the most amazing thing on hooves, a total joy ride. Yes, I am totally biased, but then, everyone should be this in love with their own horse. That’s the point, right?
As a pro, this is not the norm, at least not for me. I end up with the unwanted problem children no one else wants, and envy my client’s really fun horses. Until now.
At the beginning, I guess Venus kinda fit that description. She was born at a small, quiet racehorse breeding farm. They had a broodmare who wouldn’t settle live cover, so they tried AI, hoping that if she carried that way, she would be more likely to carry live cover the next season. The result was a bright red half-warmblood filly, and they really didn’t know what to do with her.
I first met Venus on a frozen late December day. She was a gangly, homely 2 ½-year-old filly who was afraid of her own shadow. She was all legs, with a bit of a straight shoulder. Her neck was a little short, and her back so short I thought she would hit her hip with her shoulder blade. But she did have nice hip angles, and the price was right, so I bought her.
At first meeting, she warned me of her nervous nature with a huge, deer-in-the-headlights look. She plastered herself to the back of her stall when we came in. After a little scratching, she decided I was ok, but the other human with the large black nose (or camera, as it was) was NOT ok.

Here she is a 2 1/2, all legs and angles. It isn't a great growth stage, but what a hind end!!

We trotted her around on the frozen ground, and her movement was nothing to write home about--not much bounce and not much bend at the knee. But she kept a steady tempo despite the hard footing. When she reversed, she tucked her hips underneath herself. For the price, I decided to gamble. 
In January, I took her home. She was completely overwhelmed. After 25 minutes and a lot of carrots, we got her into her new stall. I was beginning to think I’d need to carry her over the threshold. Then she called to everyone who walked in the door—horse, human, cat, dog, everyone. She was a 15.3hh doorbell. Actually, she still is.
I groomed and petted her and let her grow up. One unseasonably warm March day, I arrived as two horses were being turned out. One of them bounced a bit in anticipation, floated across the spring grass, then lifted into a powerful, suspended canter. It took me a minute to realize that was MY horse. Somehow that collection of spare parts could really move.
Because of Venus’ timid nature, her early training took a lot of time. No matter what that body could do, I had to train her mind or I would never unlock her potential. When she was confident, she was amazing. When she got tense, her gaits became short and running. Until late in her 6-year-old year, amazing didn’t show up much.
Sometime in her 6-year-old year, she decided that the safest place to be was on the bit. When she competed in that mode, she was fabulous. Then I’d salute, and she would look up, see the judge, and startle. It was like she hadn’t seen the judge before. Funniest thing I’ve ever competed.  

Venus, her 6-yr-old year

At Devon, of all places, she gave me a glimpse of coming attractions She arrived two days early as a companion for a 4-year-old, and was a bit overwhelmed on day one--for anyone who hasn't been to Devon, the show grounds is really, really busy. But day two she handled it all like a finished horse. By day 3, she went into Suitability and rocked my world. Her back was so connected to my seat, it felt like I was moving her legs. I could add suspension, change tempo, anything I wanted.
I was still in the zone when we all stood in line up. Eleven of us competed, so one of us would leave empty handed. They kept calling numbers, and we stood there, getting more and more bummed, thinking “wow, it must have felt better than it looked.” Then they called her number, and gave her a pretty red ribbon. I was totally blown away. That ribbon lives in my small collection of “special” ribbons. 

This year she stayed home to train. The walk-canter-walk is going to take some time to get relaxed, so I decided we didn’t need to show second level. I really enjoyed having one horse that I could work with without a show-calendar-dictated timetable. She had 6 weeks of slow hills while she recovered from Lyme’s Disease, but despite that she is still on track to come out at 3rd next year, unless I decide to stay home and train again. We’ll decide that in spring.
In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the ride.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I don’t get into this holiday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t feel thankful for all of the wonderful things I have. I do. Compared to my days of living in a one-room cabin and shoveling literal shit for a living, I’m very thankful for all I have.

But I have two beefs with the holiday.

First, the food. To celebrate thankfulness by insisting someone slave in the kitchen to make nasty, soggy, over-cooked bad 50’s food—that just doesn’t cut it for me.

Who eats green bean casserole any other time? Mushroom soup on green beans with fried onions on top? Be thankful your stomach doesn’t explode. Don’t get me started on 7-layer salad.

Second, the social networking sites. I enjoy seeing what’s up on Facebook. But really folks, does your family really need to log on to see you are thankful for them? Show them with your actions, and give me quirky, articulate prose to entertain me on Facebook.

Ok, I’m done ranting now. Eat yourselves silly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank you letter to the YDHTS Committee

November 13-15 found me, and 60 other professionals, huddled under a blanket in Hassler's covered arena watching some quality training. The event was the 5th annual Young Dressage Horse Trainer's Symposium, an invitation-only event created to encorage trainers to openly discuss the traing and competition issues we face every day.

The event was a fabulous experience. I enjoyed every minute--the training, the Saturday night dancing, my roommate, everything. I was going to pen some riveting prose about the weekend, then realized I already had, in my thank-you letter. So here's the letter.

Dear YDHTS Committee, Harmony Sporthorses, and Hassler Dressage,

I attended this year’s YDHTS weekend, and wanted to say a huge “thank you.” In a word, this weekend was simply inspirational.

This is my first year attending. I had considered applying in previous years, but did not. Like most dressage professionals, I have attended many, many educational events—from USDF L program, to USDF Instructor Certification workshops, to intensive training weekends, and more clinics than I can count. In past years, my thoughts have been along the lines of “this would be good to do, but how much knowledge can I get from one weekend?” Coming just after the end of show season, I’m usually looking for a weekend getaway that has nothing to do with horses. My tanks are usually a bit depleted.

So why this year? Honestly, I didn’t think it through in as much detail as previous years. I just sent my stuff in, and when I found out it was fully sponsored (thank you thank you thank you), I couldn’t use “broke at the end of show season” as an excuse, so I came.

I was expecting to watch a lot of nice young horses be trained, horses that were awesome, but not really in my frame of reality. When I saw Aesthete and Steinway on the ride list, I was sure that was all it was going to be, pretty horses with correct training, doing amazing things, that are fun to watch but really don’t resemble the kinds of training issues I see on a daily basis.

I was wrong.

Don’t misunderstand, Aesthete and Steinway are amazing. But this weekend differed from past clinics when I’ve seen these two horses go. This weekend we talked about the issues these horses, and all of the other horses, face. In most clinics, the horses are given some exercises that make the horse better, and we all go “wow.” In this one, Ingo and Scott went a step further, and said “this type of horse tends to do this, and because of that we need to do this.” That simple step of explanation did two things. First, it confirmed my eye. Second, it let me see get past the quality of the horse, and relate the training issues directly to horses in my barn with similar issues.

Ironically, the timing that kept me from applying previously is perfect for this clinic. The end of show season usually leaves me exhausted and a bit burned out. Now I’m fully recharged, and looking forward to a winter of training. The timing couldn’t be better.

But even beyond the horses, the attention to little details put me at ease. All of the tables, at every meal, were round, which encouraged conversation with more than just one person. The roommates were selected by age, which gave me a roommate with a similar perspective on the horse business. And the porta-potty trailer was hands down the nicest portable bathrooms I’ve ever seen.

Since coming home, I have been able to apply what I learned, and my horses are directly benefiting. This weekend ha s impacted my training more than any other single-weekend event of my training career.

Thank you.