Archive of ‘The Horses’ category

Chantilly lace had a pretty face…..

I recently had the amazing fortune to spend 10 days with a delightful friend in France and England. It was the horsiest non-riding vacation imaginable and it was heaven! Not to be rude, but I generally have little or no interest in looking at other people’s vacation photos. So, rather than inundate the world with annoying photos I’m going to blog about a few of my favourite parts of the trip, include a few photos and keep the rest for myself to enjoy the memories that go with the photos.

Our first full day of the trip was spent visiting the Domaine de Chantilly with priority given to the Grandes Ecuries (aka Grand Stables). This trip was ALL about HORSES. Anything we could possibly do that involved horses, without actually riding one, we pursued. And let me tell you. These stables are GRAND.

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

I can’t even comprehend what went into building a stable like Chantilly. The focus and energy that went into horse care during a time when the horse was the hot rod is difficult to wrap one’s head around 100 years after the automobile has taken over as the choice of transportation. Horses today are just something that little girls (and some big girls) obsess about and are a luxurious hobby. These stables were the difference between Jay Leno’s garage to store priceless Maseratis and street parking an old Honda Accord in a bad neighbourhood today.

Imagine warming up your horse in this setting in preparation for a morning stag hunt (I should be wary of imagining such things considering women at the time the stables were built were assuredly NOT going on stag hunts).

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

We toured the stables and clucked at all the horses, however they were onto the clucking thing and were having nothing to do with the tourists. Most of the horses in the stables were Spanish types, which we found odd but they are likely more suited to living in a stall and doing public shows than the average Selle Francais. We also toured, and loved, the Musee du cheval (Museum of the horse). It was without a doubt one of the best presented horse exhibits I’ve ever seen.

To finish off our Chantilly horse fix we attended the Equestrian Spectacle. The show was lovely, not the most amazing horsemanship in the world, but they do the show most every day and the horses and riders are actually lovely. Definitely a flight of steps higher than Medieval Times in the US. They did all the announcements before the show in French and (evidently) a select few in English at the end. One of the ones they didn’t say in English was no photography, so I got yelled at by the cute French boy charged with chastising audience members for photography. BUT not before I got at least a couple of good shots. We think this location was probably where the horses were shown off during the heyday of the Grand Stables.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

As a relative newby to the sport of fox hunting I really enjoyed the French take on the sport. The Chateau at Chantilly is full of art and homages to the sport of hunting. The French did/do a lot of stag hunting as well and it is depicted in their art. At the entry to the Chateau grounds there are stags on either side of the entry and then further at the actual structure are hounds. I would LOVE to have a larger than life bronze of my hounds at my front gate. Someday.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

If you are going to France and you are horse crazy, I highly advise going to Chantilly. It is a short (and lovely) train ride from Paris and is an unforgettable experience.

Happy Independence Day Y’all!

Happy Independence Day! It seems like the older I get the more holidays sneak up on me. Generally I feel like I don’t plan for holidays very well and I now have a much greater appreciation for how much parents put into making holidays special. It takes planning and preparation to make holidays special and memorable. Since I seem to forget about them until it is the week of, not many of them are very memorable for me now that I’m an adult! I’m in charge of making them special and I’m not very good at doing so. Combined with Boot City’s general disdain for holidays makes most of them rather mundane.

This year’s Fourth of July was a pleasant exception. Not that I put any more effort than usual into planning but two very fun events occurred and I enjoyed both of them greatly! One of my girlfriends’ hubby had purchased a table to see the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concert in the Garden the week of July 4. He got called up by the Marines (he’s a reservist and I’m in awe of his dedication to his calling as a Marine) and had to be out of town so we benefitted and the evening turned into a girls night! How fun!

Cheers to great friends, great music and to this great country we call home!

Cheers to great friends, great music and to this great country we call home!

Eight of us girls packed up the coolers, loaded into the Suburban and headed to the Botanic Gardens for an absolutely delightful evening. The weather was PERFECT! Unbelievable for July in Texas! Nights out are extra special these days as our schedules have us pulled in a million different ways and we hardly see each other.

The Fort Worth Symphony puts on an amazing show. The theme for the night we attended was All American so lots of John Philip Sousa marches and the like. Towards the end of every concert are always a breathtaking show of fireworks. Combined with the All American music there were tears in nearly every eye. God Bless America!

Fireworks at the Fort Worth Symphony's Concert in the Garden.

Fireworks at the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concert in the Garden.

On the Fourth of July my hunt group got together for a Gymkhana, in American English it is called a Play Day. Our hostess is originally from England and it is much more fun to say Gymkhana. We did pole bending, flag races, bucket jumping, jumping stadium jumps and ended with a ride around the cross country course. Jaguar was born for these things. His reining training comes in very handy with the tight turns and quick stops. We did very well in the pole bending, the flag race and the bucket jumping.

The bucket jumping is my favorite. They set out a line of buckets, I think we started with 10 or so and then everyone takes a turn jumping the buckets. If your horse knocks over a bucket then you are eliminated. The hard part is that each time everyone goes through and jumps the buckets, one bucket is removed. The winner jumps the fewest number of buckets. It is VERY difficult to get your horse to jump one or two buckets when all they have to do is take one step left or right and they can avoid the work! We made it down to two buckets, but Jaguar was just too smart to stick it out and jump them.

My bucket jumper.

My bucket jumper.

The owner of the property where we rode is a primarily a polo player, but she keeps a very nice course of stadium jumps, too. We made our way around the course a couple times. I can’t quite tell if Jaguar pulls rails because he’s lazy or because he’s not in good enough shape to jump!

The lovely stadium course on a beautiful July Fourth.

The lovely stadium course on a beautiful July Fourth.

After all our horsey shenanigans we settled down to enjoy a tasty picnic lunch. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the Fourth of July than with my horsey family. I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend, too!

Resting between events.

Resting between events.

Catching Up

How is it already June?! And mid-June at that! I have travelled for work, family or fun every week for about eight weeks. I know lots of people who travel much more than that, but it has been a lot for me. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody so I have to recoup in between trips and this week hasn’t been any different.

Tonight I wandered around the property enjoying the AMAZING weather and snapped some cute and funny animal pics.

Cute mother and kitten post scratching

Cute mother and kitten post scratching

Until the chicken ran up and scared everyone!

Until the chicken ran up and scared everyone!

New buddies; Sterling and Coco

New buddies; Sterling and Coco

Babies first lizard

Baby’s first lizard

Pretty sunset

Pretty sunset

Annie meets kitten

Annie meets kitten

Everybody loves Pablo

Everybody loves Pablo

The big 2-1!

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

There are some things that happen in your life and for no apparent reason they are burned into your memory. I remember taking Daughty to Colorado with my Dad in the spring of 1992 almost like it was yesterday. I remember how the barn where Juniper lived smelled. I remember that it rained. I remember meeting the Wolfs, who owned the farm where Doc’s Juniper stood at the time. And, I remember when, eleven months later, Jaguar was born. I was 13 years old. Yah, I know, I just gave away my age.

We had had foals before, but from the moment Mom and Dad planned to breed Daughty to Juniper I knew this one would be mine. They wouldn’t let me have a 2 year old in 4-H until I was 15 and when this foal turned 2, I would be 15. I was beyond excited. As a foal Jaguar was mischievous. He would run up behind me and put his feet over my shoulders. I thought it was adorable until Dad reminded me how not adorable that would be when he weighed over 1,000 pounds so we put a stop to the silliness. He bit. He bullied. He acted like a normal foal and I absolutely loved him.

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

The 4-H colt program started when the horse was a yearling. You had to show them in hand to exhibit their training and cooperativeness. Much to my delight Jaguar was brilliant. He learned new things faster than I could teach him. We won nearly every class we showed in that year. He could do Showmanship with the very best. He never put a foot wrong and would square his feet in about 3 steps. It was so much fun to show such a smart horse. His smarts would also lead to many of his greatest difficulties. Our first such experience was taking him to the Montana State 4-H horse show in a one-horse trailer. He was fine getting in to head to Great Falls for the five hour drive. Coming home was a different story, and I can’t say I blamed him those trailers are terrifying! We nearly had to beat him to get him in that trailer. He learned a valuable lesson, though and he’s gotten into every trailer since without a moments hesitation.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

His two year old year just continued to show his brilliance. He never ever took a step wrong when I broke him to ride. I was terrified of him bucking so I did all kinds of crazy things to him before I even acted like I was going to get on the saddle. I put tires on the saddle. I concocted crazy contraptions with whips and raincoats to simulate a person. I’m sure that by the time I actually rode him he was relieved to be done with the shenanigans! We worked very hard all year and he was a very broke 2 year old by the time we got to the fair. The judge, however, was horrible. She decided that there was no way I could have possibly trained him so well on my own so wouldn’t give us higher than a blue ribbon (Grand and Reserve Champion were the winners, everyone else got a blue, red or white ribbon depending on how they did) in any of our classes. I was furious and so frustrated. Jaguar was starting to show a lot of promise as a reining horse so my parents and I made the decision to quit 4-H and move on to only show in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association shows. I learned young that people like to punish others for being better than them at something, even if it was legitimately earned. Nice lesson for a 15 year old kid, right?!

Sadly I don’t have any photos of Jaguar reining. They are all in Montana, still. He was a fabulous reining horse, but the same troubles would always bubble up. As soon as Jaguar figures something out, he makes it more interesting for himself. Like spooking at chairs by the arena that have been in the same spot for 3 days, but he just now noticed them. Or anticipating parts of reining patterns and doing them before he’s supposed to. After three or four years as a reiner he had to move onto a new career because he knew all of the patterns and there was no way you could trick him to wait for cues.

Trail riding selfie

Trail riding selfie

My Dad used him to rope on at brandings and to sort cattle. My Mom showed him in some local shows and basically won everything they could possibly win. They finally told me in 2006 that I needed to take him to Texas. I couldn’t really believe my Dad had actually given me the option to keep him. He always sold my horses and never gave me any input on the decision. It was bittersweet when they brought him down because about a month after they visited Texas my Dad died from a blood clot that was a result of an injury from an accident he was in while riding a horse he had. For that and a myriad of other reasons Jaguar is one of the strongest living reminders of my relationship with my Dad.

And how many 34 year olds have pets (if you can call a horse a pet) that they had when they were 13 years old? Jaguar has seen me through ALL of major life events. Think about it; prom, my first boyfriend, starting high school, graduating from high school, going off to college, graduating from college, moving away from home, my first job, my wedding. He’s been in my life for every single thing. I can remember getting mad at friends or parents in different times in my life and going out to the barn and spewing my frustrations to Jaguar and the other horses I had at the time.

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar turned 21 last Saturday. I don’t know why this birthday seems like such a milestone, but it really does. I love that horse to pieces! My parents bought and sold so many of my horses while I was growing up that I learned quickly to never get attached to them. I still don’t really get attached to them (or at least I think I don’t, we’ll see when I actually need to sell one!) like I feel attached to Jaguar. He bucks on most every fox hunt and acts like an idiot for the first 45 minutes of every trail ride, but when push comes to shove he’ll always step up. I can put any inexperienced rider on him and he’ll be absolutely perfect. I was trail riding with hunt friends last weekend and we had an episode that caused Jaguar to spin around faster than I could stay on and I remember falling on the ground and him stepping over me so the other horse running by wouldn’t step on me.

So, cheers to Jaguar! Easily the best horse I will ever have the pleasure of riding! And he earns extra credit points for being the absolute best baby sitter of baby horses you could ever ask for. Just ask Coco.

Best buddies.

Best buddies.

Queens Black Tie

Sterling has the least appropriate registered name of any horse I’ve ever owned. Queens Black Tie. I don’t remember his bloodlines and I don’t know Thoroughbred lineage very well, but his name really says absolutely nothing about him. Which is why his barn name is Sterling. At least it indicates his color! When I bought Sterling nearly six years ago Boot City and I thought it appropriate to give him a barn name that matched his personality and was derived from something to do with where the breed originated. The modern thoroughbred originated in England and he’s grey so we landed on Sterling. I think it fits him quite nicely. Don’t you?

Sterling looking dapper

Sterling looking dapper

He’s seven years old now and has become quite a lovely horse to ride. I consider myself an advanced rider, but when it comes to jumping I am definitely more towards the beginner skill level of knowledge. I’ve had Sterling since he was a yearling and for the most part have taught him everything he knows. This is why it is somewhat of a miracle how lovely he is to jump. The horses I jumped when I was a kid were all Quarter Horses with cowhorse bloodlines and one in particular was a really dirty stopper. He’d go up to the jumps like he was going to go over no problem, then slam on the brakes at the last second. Not the best way to build confidence in a 13 year old kid learning to jump. That and my cowboy Dad wasn’t the most supportive of my love for English riding.

Ready for a ride

Ready for a ride

Sterling and I have been taking lessons at a jumper barn not far from where I live. The same barn I bought Coco from. Kayce has a lot of patience with my ingrained habits to ride with really long reins and going much too slow. My hope is that by the time Coco is old enough to start riding and jumping Sterling will have helped me advance my knowledge to a point where I won’t inhibit her progress and talent. I took Sterling to a few regional shows last year and plan to do the same this year. He’s jumping 2’9″ rather easily now and his lead changes are delightful. But the best part is that he’ll jump pretty much anything I point him at, unlike Giorgio!

The view from up here. We have a lot of yucca on our property.

The view from up here. We have a lot of yucca on our property.

End of the Season

It’s always bittersweet to attend the last hunt of the season. I love the formality, but hate to see the season end. The first and last hunts are the most formal, at least they are with the hunt I’m a member. Horses are gussied up with baths and braids. There are usually more guests attending. The meal is a little fancier after the ride.

Thankfully the weather was warmer for closing than opening this season. I rushed home after work on Friday night to get Noelle bathed while the sun was still out.

Sudsy pony

Sudsy pony

I don’t think I’ve ever bathed Noelle before. It wasn’t her first bath, but I don’t think she loved it. She kept trying to get the hose in her mouth. I’m not sure if that was to play or just to get it away from me! Spring is shedding season so between her taking the hose away and all the hair flying around I was a filthy mess and she was squeaky clean.

All clean!

All clean!

I got up early the morning of the hunt to braid her mane. She was a patient girl and I just love how the horses look when they are all braided.

All dressed up

All dressed up

It rained a bit early on so we dressed our horses all up in sheets to keep our saddles dry before heading out.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

We had a great turnout for Closing. Most of our regular members as well as a few guests. It was an exciting end as we really got to see the hounds work. The scent was rising fast, but the hounds were on it! I learn more every season about the hounds and how our hound master guides them. Hopefully next year I’ll get to ride up with the hound master a few times.

Release the hounds!

Release the hounds!

Noelle was great. This is the first hunt season I’ve ridden her so you never know how the horse will react to the commotion. No matter how old or seasoned the horse they can have a strong reaction to the hounds or the other horses on the hunt. I rode with the Hilltopping group who traditionally ride on the hilltops and watch the faster groups. In reality we ride pretty close behind the first field, depending on the terrain of the property. In this photo the first field is in front of us. The field masters wear the red coats and we ride behind the masters. There is much tradition in the hierarchy of where people ride. Collar colors denote status as do buttons with the hunt’s initials. I’m at the very back of the group. Not because of the hierarchy, but because Noelle is kind of slow.

Closing Hunt 2014

Closing Hunt 2014

In a few weeks the hound show season will start. So, until November, this is the last hunt post! Tally ho, y’all!

Hilltoppers

Hilltoppers

Celebrate with Coco Chanel

“Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.” Coco Chanel

A very lovely creature celebrates her second birthday today!

Baby Coco

I forget how much horses change in the first few years of their lives.

Coco RPSI trot

Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I’m so lucky to have Coco Chanel. She is the daughter of Mai Tai, an up and coming jumper at October Hill Farm by the late Coconut Grove. She exemplifies the best in both of her parents. I can’t wait to see what her future holds!

Anna Routh Photography

Anna Routh Photography

Next year at this time she’ll be getting her first rides and having a rendezvous with Cartier R at Rising Star Farms!

Coco 0314

Happy second birthday Coco Chanel!

November means Opening Hunt!

November brings with it many reasons to be excited. Family gatherings to celebrate Thanksgiving, the launch of Christmas season, the leaves changing colors on the trees, and Opening Hunt! I was introduced to fox hunting in Texas in the fall of 2010 and fell in love with the sport instantaneously. The lovely horses, dapper hunt coats, flasks of good cheer, handsome hounds and the overall camaraderie of riders.

Opening Hunt this year was a bit later in November than is customary which may be why it was SO much colder than usual! When I arrived at the hunt I was greeted with messages that we were going to go ahead and bless the hounds, but skip actually riding out as it was cold and freezing rain. Many of us were disappointed at the prospect of not riding after getting up early (or staying up late) to braid horses and prepare formal hunt attire so were delighted when the decision was reversed to ride out. Some had already taken horses back to cozy stalls, but about 15 riders remained and made the best of the cold weather.

Our Masters and hunt staff led the hound blessing for the 2013-2014 hunt season and we were off. The weather started to turn when we were about half way out and so we turned for an earlier than normal arrival back to the host’s home for lunch, but it was well worth the ride out. One rider was unseated, but incurred no injury other than pride. Many of the hounds were young and hunting only for the second or third time. No quarry was followed, but we did see rabbits and deer.

I look forward to the remaining hunt season with my old partner, Jaguar.

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