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!
Even before Coronapocolypse came into the picture in early 2020 I didn’t have big plans to do much horse showing. The trainer I’ve shown with the past few years had moved away from Texas and I was really focused on my new fun fox hunting friends and trips. I was hoping to go to Belle Meade’s hunt week in February, but life and responsibility got in the way. However, the planning made me stop and think that I really ought to get more experience and coaching to prepare for jumping some bigger jumps. The highest I’ve jumped at shows is 2’6″ and in schooling is 3′ and only a handful of times. Most of the jumps in hunt fields range from 2’9″ up to 4′ at the more ambitious hunts. The coops Simon jumped at Burwell in October were more like 2’9″ to 3′. To that end I started researching hunter/jumper barns in my area and decided to take a few lessons at a barn called Bay Yard Farm.
I was attracted to Bay Yard for a few reasons. I knew a few people who rode there and seemed very happy with the program. Fellow blogger Kelly of Hunky Hanoverian has ridden at Bay Yard for the past few years and had blogged about her great experiences there. Most of Bay Yard’s clients are adults or mature junior riders and after riding at a more pony/kid focused barn I was definitely looking for a barn with riders I have more in common. They go to a few A shows every year and sometimes add in a local show here and there. Lastly, they do haul in lessons and and have a focus on hunters with a dollop of jumpers which suits my 2020 goals and my foxhunting hobby.
My first few lessons were delightful! It isn’t terribly unusual to start at a new barn and feel pressure from trainers to get a new horse, go to a bunch of horse shows, or do other things that can be perceived as high pressure. I have ridden with two of the four trainers at Bay Yard and both have been nothing but supportive and complimentary of my horses and riding goals.
At the end of July trainer JB texted and asked if I would be interested in going to a schooling show nearby. With no hesitation I responded “Yes!”. I was hoping to take Coco and started making plans to be sure she and I would be prepped and ready to show in mid-August. Coco then promptly whacked her leg on something and subsequently got a “no jumping for 2 weeks” order from the vet exactly 2 weeks before the show. Horses! Her 2 weeks would expire on Friday before the show that was on Sunday. I opted to continue to ride her on the flat with hopes she would be healthy and sound to show, but knowing that I may need to take Simon if she weren’t ready.
Photo from a fabulous BYF Junior rider/photographer. Coco is not very affectionate. LOL!
Thankfully she was sound and prepared in time to horse show! We entered the 2’3″ Junior/Amateur division mostly because it was the first division to go in the morning, but partially because it didn’t seem fair to ask her to jump bigger jumps after a few weeks off jumping and a couple of minor injuries.
To say that Coco was a good girl is an egregious understatement. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous how she would act. In the past she has been either a bit hot or very agitated at horse shows. She will seem calm and accepting of the situation only to blow up and express her disdain by misbehaving. She’s never been naughty or dangerous, but I’ve never felt relaxed with her at shows. This was completely different. We had hacked around the show grounds the day before and she had been a bit fractious, but on show day she was aware of surroundings yet amenable to do what I asked of her.
Scope has never been a problem for Coco. These jumps were quite small so she didn’t have the loveliest form.
We did two hunter trips and an equitation course and she answered every question I asked perfectly. She was a bit crooked in the lines and she has a bad habit of veering to the right, but she happily jumps the jumps and mostly gets her lead changes (especially when her rider asks for them correctly).
Here is a video of our second hunter trip. Pardon the ridiculously long trot around the ring before we actually start the course. She was a bit looky after the first hunter trip so I wanted to just trot around the ring calmly before we jumped again. And I couldn’t figure out how to mute the talking from the video so inserted some ridiculous YouTube music instead. Feel free to mute your computer now. Haha!
She is calm, keeps a consistent canter, gets her distances and looks like a lovely hunter. I couldn’t be more thrilled with our progress. The regular lessons have made a world of difference and I can feel that my riding has made drastic improvements. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been getting regular lessons and it’s helping so much! We got second place in the second hunter and we won the hack to end up as Reserve Champions in our division!
Happy girl over the tiny jump.
I’m hoping we can make it to at least one or two more schooling shows this year. If a rated show works out I might go to one of them since Bay Yard goes to those shows more frequently, but it’ll depend on my fox hunting trips. I’m going to start getting Simon fit for Burwell so will be taking him to more of my lessons and (hopefully) getting some practice over bigger fences. Learning and getting better is so much fun!
No scope no hope! The best girl!
The ponies and I had a very productive and fun weekend!
We kicked off Saturday morning by heading to a lesson at the barn where I bought Coco when she was only a few months old. Her flat work has been going really well and I know she’s ready to jump, but I also know that I need some eyes on the ground to give me feedback to bring along a youngster. Being that this barn raised and trained her dam (as well as multiple half siblings), stood her sire, and two grandsires I value their input both as professionals in the hunter/jumper world, but also their knowledge of her bloodlines. They hadn’t seen her in person since she was a baby baby, so it was fun for them to see her grown up.
Coco handled the “new” place quite well. She looked pretty hard at some jump standards in the corners of the ring, but she didn’t say “no” to anything. She also handled the traffic in the arena much better than I would have anticipated. One of the down sides to keeping horses at home is that they don’t get much time in an arena with other horses. It took Sterling a year or two of showing before he stopped panicking about horses coming up behind him on the rail. I could feel Coco’s energy when horses would jump nearby, but she was never naughty.
We did lots of flat work, walked and trotted through some ground poles and ended the lesson by trotting and even cantering over a crossrail. The trainer’s feedback was that she jumps cute, even over such a tiny fence. She also really uses her hind-end into the canter transitions. Coco will definitely be a talented jumping horse, so hopefully we will get a solid base and get to start showing over fences next spring!
Pretty (and very sweaty!) Coco after our lesson.
The norm lately has been a lot of rain and random storms. Saturday night brought over 1.5″ of rain at our house! My horsey besties and I had planned a trail ride at the Trinity Trails in Fort Worth and we didn’t let the rain deter us! It was misting a bit when we set off, but it cleared up and turned out to be the perfect weather for a Sunday morning ride on the Trinity Trails. Plus the weather seemed to deter others from heading out so we didn’t see more than maybe 15 cyclists and that was it.
All of our horses thought the stripes in the parking lot were walkovers. It was funny.
It is delightful to live in (near) a city that is so welcoming to trail users. The Trinity Trails system has many miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that allow you to ride right up to downtown Fort Worth. We got some pretty amazing photos!
This is Casey’s “but I want to eat all the grass not take a picture” pose! Downtown Fort Worth is in the backdrop.
Casey behaved really well. He looked at lots of things, but never spooked. There was a donkey on the other side of the river from us and he really talked to us when we rode by him! Thankfully we have Pablo at home because donkeys often scare the pants off of horses when they bray.
It’s so nice to have this much green grass in August. You wont hear me complain about the rain, that’s for sure!
Does your town have trails for riding, running or biking? Do you ever take your horse out?
It is kind of crazy to think that I’ve been riding Coco for a whole year! In many aspects she should be further along in her education, but I always want to take it slowly with my young horses and let them tell me when they are ready to try harder things.
Looking, looking, always looking. You never know when a dog or a goat may come out of nowhere to eat you. Dried up brush is also very deadly.
She can officially walk, trot and canter on purpose. She mostly knows which lead I’m asking for at the canter, but we have done anything crazy like counter canter just yet. She moves off leg pressure when she feels like it. When she is focused on the killer dogs/goats/brush she will purposely ignore my aids. Maybe this is a “mare” thing or a just a “Coco” thing? She isn’t spooky when she’s away from home nearly like she is at home, which I hope is good in the long run.
Selfies while riding are hard.
My goal for her this year is to be working on flying lead changes by the fall. Once she has a lead change we will start dabbling in schooling shows. I’m hoping to take her to a couple more summer shows to do some hack classes and just get her out and about. Showing a young horse in the blistering heat of the summer can be advantageous for preventing shenanigans that cooler weather might perpetuate! I might take her on some trail rides with my foxhunting group this summer, but I’m kind of on the fence about those with her. I should probably take Simon so he is a bit more ready come hunt season.
She really is fun to ride. We have popped over a few small crossrail jumps and her talent is quite evident. Going straight is a bit of an issue, but we will start working on some cavalletti gymnastics and continue with dressage lessons to work on those skills. I have high hopes for Miss Coco Chanel!
She makes this face a lot. In her mind there is just no reason that humans aren’t perpetual treat dispensers and she’s pretty put out when that doesn’t happen!