Coco turns the ripe old age of 10 this year. I took things vvvveeerrrryyyy slowly getting her started for myriad reasons ranging from resources to preservation of soundness, and now I’m feeling quite behind in her development. Added onto that the COVID year(s) and my focus on foxhunting and she just isn’t where a 10 year old show horse should be in terms of dependability and consistency at shows. Not that Coco has any idea or cares at all!
With my increased flexibility at work and being able to lesson more regularly, it felt like it’s time to “hit the road” this year. I’m still not planning on showing a lot comparatively, but really anything is more than we’ve been doing. We had a great time at Tyler in October and made some huge progress so I was excited to head to Week 2 of the Winter Series in Katy last week. The show goes 4 consecutive weeks, but we only had the bandwidth for one week and we made that week count! We showed in at least two over fences classes every day from Thursday to Sunday and a couple of hack (flat) classes intermingled.
I’m not going to dissect every trip, or really even every day, but suffice it to say there were some really really good things and some not so great things. It is interesting to develop this horse and notice her similarities and differences from horses I’ve shown previously. My first show hunter was a thoroughbred that was bred to show not race. He was always a bit excited the first day of a show and generally settled more and more each day. Coco has proven to be more up on the first day of showing, pretty nice and consistent each additional day, but once she hits her proverbial wall she gets cranky. I’m still figuring out the “wall”, but I suspect last week had to do with the weather and being stalled for 5 days when she’s accustomed to 12 hours of turnout every day. It was sunny and glorious Wednesday to Friday, then a windy cold front blew through on Saturday. She was surprisingly good to show on Saturday, but she was DONE on Sunday.
What do I mean by DONE? Coco is a bit on the sensitive side and we are starting to get to a point in her development where she has all the basics and we need to work on the nuances of polish and detail. I’ve never really had a finished horse to show, so this is new to me and my habits tend to be to ask big questions which result in big answers. On Sunday Coco came out of her stall after spending the night with a tarp flapping against the building all night, a significant drop in the temperature and no turnout since Tuesday. I think she was tired and just a bit frazzled. So when I asked a big question (slow down, lead change, etc). She had a big response either by ignoring my aids (not slowing down) or not doing a tidy lead change (I looked down and didn’t ride straight). She needed a calm, relaxed ride to assure her she was fine and I gave her a frazzled ride.
I was frustrated with myself on Sunday because I knew I didn’t give my horse a fair ride and since it was the last day we didn’t end on the best note. However, it was a huge step forward in our development as a team overall. When I went back and watched the videos from Sunday the trips look 5 million times better than I would have imagined. When she was slow, she was absolutely beautiful. When I rode her to the fences well, her jump was perfection. The bobbles that felt like they were disasters were truly just bobbles. Things often feel so much worse than they look.
Outside of riding, it was a great week. I enjoy getting to know the other riders at my barn during shows. I don’t see most of them very often since I keep my horse at home and haul in for lessons on weekends. I braid Coco myself at shows because it gives us some nice relaxed time together and my braids are getting better again after not having done it much for the past few years. Oscur made friends with every single dog he laid eyes on! We even got one of the indoor arenas to ourselves after the show day ended one night and let our dogs off leash to run around the jumps, which was adorable.
Our next show will either be Pin Oak in late April or Fort Worth in mid May. We may try to make it to a local unrated show in between, just to get more time off the farm and at a horse show, but we shall see. Even with the frustrating and disappointing moments I know how fortunate I am to even be able to dabble in this sport and to have such a quality horse to ride!
I may be the only person in the entire state, but I really kind of enjoy Texas’ winter storms. I’m also amongst a very privileged minority who have been blessed with no power outages during winter storms in the nearly 16 years we have lived at our property. Yes, I count my blessings after each storm.
Why do I like these awful storms? People in western cultures are exceptionally terrible at stopping. Stopping to “smell the roses” or just take a break and Boot City and I are no exception to this “busy-ness”. Winter storms force us to stop and focus on the little things like food, shelter and water for ourselves and the lives we take care of on our little farm. We have to haul water (the barn pipes freeze when it gets below freezing for more than half a day), haul hay, feed, clean stalls, repeat for however long the cold snap remains.
As I type this my whole body is sore. My arms. My neck. My hands. My knees. All the parts, but there is a satisfaction that comes, at least for me, from the aches that come from real hard work. I absolutely love having my horses at home. I can’t imagine not being in control of every single facet of their lives and know all their idiosyncrasies, and ailments and their favorite scratches. etc. I also know how they react to winter weather. Coco gets cold when it’s below 40F. Jaguar gets cold a lot easier in his old age than he did 5 years ago. Simon is fine in the cold, but he’s always on the thin side so I blanket him to try to prevent him losing calories from keeping himself warm. Gene is a sturdy island pony, so he’s warm unless he’s wet or in the wind. Pablo is the lowest on the pecking order and won’t stand for wearing a blanket, so I have to be sure he’s somewhere he can get away from wind and weather.
Fortunately, everyone fared well in this storm. I opted to turn my horses out every day for at least a few hours. Only Simon has shoes and unshod horses tend to have better grip on slick footing (unless they have special shoes) and they all were fine. I find it is better or their mental and digestive health to get some time to move around even in bad weather. They ran and bucked and kicked and played, even Jaguar! But they were all ready to go back to their stalls when the sun started to climb behind the hill at sunset.
The winter storms always feel like a season reset on the farm and for that I’m grateful. The weather in Texas will warm up now and all chances for snow and ice appear to be gone until next winter. I’ve already started preparing the heavy blankets for summer storage and planning the spring cleaning in the barn. Coco and I are headed to a horse show this week (YAY!) and will hit the ground running for spring cleaning after our return.
I have no idea if I’ve blogged about this at all, but a couple years ago the trainer I showed with hung up her trainer hat and moved to Florida to pursue a slower and less dramatic life away from horse showing. She’s living her best beach life these days! The timing was in some ways terrible and in some ways really good for me. She lived and trained near Houston, so I only saw her at shows or on the very infrequent long weekend I went for lessons. Coco was just getting going and Sterling was out on lease (that turned into a happy purchase!). As a relative newby to jumping I have long known that I needed more consistent lessons and had some starts and stops with lessons at various barns near where I live. However, none of them quite scratched the itch for me.
Schooling at home
Fast forward to winter of 2019/2020 and I finally bit the bullet to find a barn closer to me for more regular lessons and hopefully some horse showing. I knew a few people who ride at Bay Yard Farm in Argyle so I looked more into their program and really liked what I found. They have a solid regular lesson program, multiple trainers so if some are gone horse showing you can still get lessons, they attend most of the rated shows in Texas but also some of the fun and desirable out of state shows, and (one of the most important to me) their program is ideal for adult amateurs. There are kids in their program, but it’s not a pony/eq/junior focused program.
Lesson at Bay Yard.
PC Kelly Wilson
I’ve been taking lessons with off and on regularity since January 2019 and am LOVING it. I mostly take Coco since she is my show horse and my veterinarian has suggested that lots of smaller circles are not ideal for Simon’s funky stifle. In 2019 and 2020 we went to a few unrated local shows and really enjoyed the experience. 2020 was a horse show mess, so we didn’t pursue the rated shows at all that year, plus I was traveling with Simon to foxhunts A LOT.
[caption id="attachment_1715" align="aligncenter" width="300"] We interrupt this horse blog for a photo of the cutest horse show dog.
We finally made it to our first rated show with Bay Yard in October of 2021 and had a BLAST! Coco is fairly straightforward at shows, but she’s definitely a different ride than she is at home. We showed four days and got into the ring as much as possible with no expectations for ribbons. I wanted to give her good rides and develop consistency. She had quite a few green horse moments, but nothing disastrous. I was pleased with the overall show experience for her. The other riders, trainers and staff at Bay Yard made the overall experience really special. Everyone is supportive and there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie. Coco was incredibly well cared for and I’d be lying if I denied that having grooms felt like the ultimate luxury!
Princess being spoiled at the horse show
Coco is a lovely and incredibly talented horse (thank you Wendy at October Hill for breeding and selling me this special girl!), but she’s a very different ride than I’ve ever had in the past. I joke that Simon is like driving a Rolls Royce and Coco is a Ferrari. She’s quick and catty like a cutting horse, but athletic and scopey. Usually this works in her favor, but it can also make for some drama that seems to come out of the blue. She also can have a less than stellar work ethic. On my own I can be lazy about holding her accountable for her work ethic. The lessons and guidance from Bay Yard have made a huge difference for both of our focus. I’ve never shown her consistently so we both have a lot of lessons to learn in the show ring. She’s 10 now, so hopefully she’s over youthful shenanigans and we can work through the green ones constructively.
She’s a cute show hunter! PC Jerry Mohme
Next week we are heading to Katy to show at Great Southwest Equestrian Center for their Winter Series. The weather looks amenable to outdoor showing and other than a weird blowup last week, Coco is going nicely. My lofty goal this year is to lesson and show enough to move up to the Adult Amateur division. I know she has the scope for pretty large jumps, I just need to be able to be an effective pilot!