Posts Tagged ‘Thoroughbred’

Field trip

In the nine years I’ve owned Sterling he has slowly but surely gotten much better about being ridden away from home, but he still gets quite distracted at new places. One of the best things about living in North Texas is the availability of really lovely facilities that allow outside riders, one of which is a mere 15 miles from my house. This past weekend Sterling and I made the trip out to Willow Draw to get some miles away from home.

Not many hunter/jumper barns have walls with mirrors so it usually takes Sterling a few minutes to get acclimated to the handsome grey horse that seems to do the same thing he’s doing.

It is SO nice to be able to see his frame in the mirror, though. Especially when I’m riding by myself. I can really see how my riding is affecting his frame and see the immediate change when I change something. There aren’t any jumps in the indoor so we worked on a 20 meter circle exercise we did at a lesson last week and then worked on his frame for the under saddle classes.

After 30 or so minutes in the indoor I wanted to get him out on the cross country course for a mini trail ride. As I’ve written in the past Sterling is NOT a fan of trail rides. However, I’ve only ever taken him out in large groups or with the fox hunt so thought going out by himself might go better. Willow Draw has a full cross country course, but we only ventured to one of the water hazards to see if I could get him to get his feet wet.

I didn’t take my iCellular with me when I went out in case he lost his s%&t and I got tossed into the water or something similar so I don’t have pics, but I was able to get him to get all four feet in the water! Here is a snap of the water hazard from the road. It is the one with the jumps in the distance, not the one right by the road.

I’m SO proud of him! He also had to cross a little ditch of running water and let me tell you, he cleared that 2″ of water by about 7′ both in height and the distance he jumped across. Dramatic much?!

There were some riders schooling on the cross country course and I wanted to stay out of their way as much as I didn’t want to overwhelm Sterling, so after our success at the water hazard we went back to hack a little more in the indoor.

Sterling was a very good boy and settled easily into the “new” arena. Just a couple years ago we would have had to lunge for 15-20 minutes and do plenty of hand walking before I would have DARED ride at a new place. I am SO appreciative that places like Willow Draw make it possible to use their beautiful facility.

The Three-Years-Old Phase of Horse Life

Simon is the most laid back three year old horse I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. I’ve (or my parents) had a lot of youngsters over the years and none have had the calm aura like Simon. He doesn’t act a fool in the pasture. He calmly goes in and out of the barn. He stands like a post when I mount and dismount. He stands quietly for grooming with no silly faces (like Sterling) or chewing on the cross ties (like Coco). He is so calm, that I apparently take it for granted. You can imagine my surprise when I found his foot like this when bringing him in from turnout recently.

I have NO idea if he did it in his stall overnight and I overlooked it when turning him out in the morning or if it he did it during turnout. He hasn’t taken a lame step (knock on wood) and it appears to be healing nicely, but holy smokes it looks BAD! There are also these scrapes higher up on the same leg that make one think he stuck his leg through the pipe fence in his turnout (the lowest bar is about 18″ off the ground).

As soon as I noticed the wounds I cleaned them up, but opted to not wrap his foot. The part of his heel that was pulled off started to get kind of nasty so after a few days I did super clean it and wrap it up. This horse. I tell you what, he is something. I cleaned the foot with the hose where I wash my horses and took him back to his stall where I put medication on the wounds and wrapped it up. All with no halter on Simon. For reals. He just stands there eating his food while I wrap up his gnarly injured foot. Have I mentioned how calm and amazing this horse is?! Granted he is only three years old, so things could change mightily with time. Boot City thinks he just so grateful to be off the track that he is on his best behavior to avoid being sent back. Running just isn’t his thing.

I feel like all horses go through an accident prone stage, so that is how I’m chalking up this injury. I won’t ride him again until it is fully healed and he seems sound (not that he doesn’t seem sound now, again, no limping).

Simon’s Bloodlines

When I was first considering buying Simon I posted on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums in the Sport Horse Breeding section requesting information about Simon’s lineage and it’s propensity for sport horse performance. It was an enlightening exchange from some very knowledgeable people with regards to Thoroughbred bloodlines and racing. Simon’s sire is Ghostzapper. Ghostzapper currently stands for a $75,000 stud fee at Aden SpringsSimon’s in Paris, Kentucky.  He won the Breeder’s Cup in 2004, the same year he was awarded the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He was retired in June of 2005 and at that point had won just under $3.5 million. I did a search on the United States Equestrian Federation’s website for offspring of Ghostzapper and only found a couple. One had shown in the hunters and one in jumpers, but neither horse had much of a show history. His first foal crop was born in 2007 and according to one of the COTH posters, they have done quite well on the track so not many have likely made their way to the USEF sports. They are known to have very kind personalities, which fits Simon to a “T”!

Ghostzapper

Ghostzapper is sired by Awesome Again. AA doesn’t have a lot of babies registered with USEF, but most all of them have a show record! Many competed in the jumper ring and a couple were competitive as hunters and dressage. Only a couple did eventing. Ghostzapper looks quite a lot like his sire.

Awesome Again

Simon’s dam is Precious Brownie who is by Golden Missile. I was unable to find any photos of Precious Brownie so am going with her sire line. GM is noted to pass along nice movement to his offspring.Similar to Ghostzapper most of his USEF registered offspring competed in hunter/jumper events, but quite a few also have dressage records. Interestingly very few competed in Eventing, which tends to be more dominated by thoroughbreds than is dressage or hunter/jumper disciplines.

Golden Missile

Precious Brownie also goes back to a little known stallion who went by the name Secretariat. You may have heard of him before. Mostly it is just fun to say that he goes back to Secretariat, because even people who don’t ride are familiar with Secretariat.

Secretariat in his older man days

Another fun way to look up your thoroughbred’s pedigree is to use the photo feature on http://www.pedigreequery.com. Simon’s shows quite a list of photos of impressive thoroughbreds from many years past.

I love studying horse bloodlines. I can lose five hours on the internet before I know it has happened just researching and looking up photos! Do you follow bloodlines? Do you care about your horse’s bloodlines?

My Man Zapper

So this happened.

Simon!

Simon!

My farrier and I were at a Christmas party hosted by a mutual friend and he asked me if I knew of anyone looking for a horse to use for fox hunting. He had a really nice off the track thoroughbred that was just too tall for polo. His sport of choice being polo, he wasn’t interested in keeping a 16.1hh gelding. I was, of course, not interested but would accept some pictures so I could share the information with my fox hunting buddies. Unfortunately I was nearly immediately smitten. Zapper was every girl’s dream: tall, dark and very handsome!

After Jaguar’s disappointing diagnosis last summer and his being unrideable, I borrowed a horse from my Mom for this hunt season. I have known all season the regardless of how much I loved Casey, he would have to go back to Montana at the conclusion of hunt season for Mom to show him. I had it in my head that I might hunt Coco next year, but she’s got the most value in the show ring so I don’t think it would be in her best interest to join the hunt field until she is older and a bit more seasoned. Without thinking about it too much I went ahead and scheduled to go see “Zapper” with my horsey bestie.

Zapper’s last race was November 26 and we went to ride him on January 2. Keep in mind that means he had been off the track for barely 45 days! Here is a link to a video of when we tried Zapper.

He had some leg injuries from some pasture shenanigans and was probably a bit sore from the track, but he is a lovely mover. We were extremely impressed by his disposition. It took a LOT of leg to get him to go forward. He didn’t look at anything. He tolerated us jumping on him from the ground. My farrier rode him first in a big western saddle with smooth rowelled spurs and Zapper showed no care.  The hunt I whip for is not a fast and forward hunt, so requires a horse that can go forward over rough terrain just as well as it can stand still and await direction. Zapper showed strong propensity for the standing still part.

I scheduled my vet to do a pre-purchase exam a couple days later and after positive feedback, took him home within the week. Just what I needed, another horse! The first couple  weeks required some care and medications for his pasture injuries and there will be a few more vet visits for the broken tooth, but I have a good feeling about him.

Simon snug in his blanket and and all wrapped up in his Back on Track wraps.

Simon snug in his blanket and and all wrapped up in his Back on Track wraps.

He is extremely easy to have around. I wrap his legs and give him meds without even putting on his halter! He is calmer than the other four at home by far. I’ll give him the month of January completely off and start hacking him a bit in February. I hope to ride him at at least one or two hunts in March, just to see how he does out and about and hoping he remains as calm and quiet as his disposition indicates.

Like I said, just what I needed was another horse. I changed his name to Simon. Zapper reminds me of a bug zapper so he is named for the ghost in Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. If he ever requires a show name it will be The Canterville Ghost.

 

Simon the pasture puff. Still sporting his off-the-track bod. The next few months will be full of grass hay, Ultium and whatever it takes to pack on some lbs.

Simon the pasture puff. Still sporting his off-the-track bod. The next few months will be full of grass hay, Ultium and whatever it takes to pack on some lbs.

 

Sterling’s Family Tree

I follow a few other horsey blogs and a couple of them have recently done posts about the pedigree of their Thoroughbreds. Namely; the $900 Facebook pony and Patently Bay. I grew up reading the Quarter Horse Journal from cover to cover every month. At that time I could probably tell you the 3 or 4 generation pedigree for any top 5 horse in the how events at any of the QH World Championship show classes (I knew nothing and wasn’t interested in the speed classes). The breeding didn’t entirely make the horse, but it was no accident that the vast majority of the top performers had very purposeful breeding and you had a pretty good idea what you were going to get if you sought certain bloodlines. You would still be hard pressed to find a cutting horse today that doesn’t go back to Doc Bar at some point in it’s lineage. The same is true of Impressive in halter horse lineage.

Now that I ride and show hunters it DRIVES ME CRAZY how little Americans pay attention to their horse’s lineage. Every single time I read a Chronicle of the Horse article about results from a top hunter show and the pedigree description is “Holsteiner of unrecorded breeding” I want to go find the person who registered the horse with the USEF and clobber them with the November issue of the Quarter Horse Journal (the fattest issue of the year, think September Vogue). We as horse owners have given the European importers all the power to know which bloodlines tend to perform best in which divisions. We just pay 5 to 6 figures for said horse and can brag that our horse was imported from Europe. American warmblood breeders have been and are working so hard to raise nice horses of European lineage that meet the demand of the domestic riders, but until owners care about where their horse came from those breeders are going to continue to have a very small audience of buyers until after the horses are 5 or 6 years old and “proven” in their performance records. I’m off my soap box now, at least for a while.

I bought Sterling, known by the Jockey Club as Queen’s Black Tie, as a yearling. I had never owned anything other than Quarter Horses and knew I wanted to jump so sought the “poor man’s” route to the hunter/jumper ring via the American Thoroughbred. I didn’t know TB lineage at all when I bought Sterling so paid less attention to his actual bloodlines and more attention just to the fact that he was registered. I’m not sure how purposeful was his origin as the woman I bought him from had bought the mare pregnant with intentions of breeding her to a paint stallion. She had no need for or interest in a thoroughbred gelding.

Little baby Sterling

Little baby Sterling

Sterling is by Emerald Affair and out of Lee’s Wind Walker. Emerald Affair is by Black Tie Affair, who was a pretty successful Irish horse. Emerald Affair himself only had 17 starts and is listed as a “Winner”, but a Google search doesn’t turn up a whole lot of information. It turn up this Thoroughbred Database forum that Sterling’s breeder posted a few months before I bought him. I’ve searched on USEF for horses with the same sire and the only one that comes up is Sterling. This tells me that any horse that did do any hunter/jumper stuff and was by Emerald Affair either wasn’t recorded with the USEF with their actual lineage or they only did lower level showing that doesn’t require registration with the USEF. It appears that he stood at stud as recently as 2013 at a farm called Camp Wanna Ride. Camp Wanna Ride, according to Yelp is closed. All in all, not a lot of info of the sire side other than Black Tie Affair.

Black Tie Affair. You can definitely see the resemblance!

Black Tie Affair. You can definitely see the resemblance!

Nothing much comes of researching Sterling’s dam side. Most things I find about Tormentoso are in Spanish. Maybe he has some polo ponies second cousins? Giboulee had 38 starts and was a G3 winner. It appears he sold for $3,000 as a yearling, so not a big dollar horse. I did find a photo of him, though!

Giboulee

Giboulee

Researching Sterling’s pedigree is generally maddening for me due to the lack of information on both sides of his family tree. Sterling is really quirky on the ground, but is a dream to ride. I would love to be able to talk to other people with similarly bred horses to see if they have a similar experience, but that seems nearly impossible. I may do similar posts for Jaguar and Coco, but they will come later. Although I could probably write about Jaguar’s pedigree in my sleep.

Sterling in a Classic!

After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.

I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.

Fourth place in the 2'6" Hunter Classic!

Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!

The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Dark Horse Documentary Film Review

Let’s start this off by clarifying that I’m no film critic! I avoid movies where animals die or get hurt like most people avoid accountability. I despise sad endings and I don’t really want to learn anything from a movie. They are my respite from real life. I enjoy couples falling in love while singing Benny and the Jets on a bar counter. Girls who move from Kentucky to L.A. and make it as burlesque singers are more my tune. When a good friend suggested we go see Dark Horse, I was skeptical. In Black Beauty (this is a spoiler) Ginger dies. Old Yeller, well I don’t even need to remind you. I can’t bring myself to even think of watching Marley & Me. However, I lucked into some free tickets to Magnolia at the Modern and when I looked at the upcoming films, Dark Horse was the first on the list! I read the synopsis and it didn’t say anything about any horses dying.

I should also add that I’m not a huge fan of horse racing. I’ve seen some horrifying incidents on the track that have gotten me nearly to the point of being unable to watch any horse racing. I get excited for the big races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), but avoid watching them live lest they end in another Ruffian. This film was an absolutely delightful surprise! Another spoiler, the horse does get hurt, but it isn’t horrifying and he lives.

The story of Dream Alliance is a fairytale. A lower middle class woman from Wales gets a super crazy idea to breed her very own race horse. We all know from recent posts that my experience with breeding has been a rough road so the fact that she got a healthy foal with four legs on the ground is a huge step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned!

Dream Alliance as a foal

Dream Alliance as a foal

Dream Alliance was raised him on a “slag heap” as quoted in a U.K. press article. He wasn’t born in the posh stables of the Irish National Stud or some other fancy racing stable and he definitely didn’t have any blue blood! His dam was purchased for a mere 300 pounds and the stud fee was only 3,000 pounds. Most racing stallion stud fees are well into the five figures. Dream grew up amongst those who would become his biggest fans as though he was one of them.

Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales

Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales

Dream Alliance’s breeder knew that the cost of training and racing him would exceed her resources so they offered up syndicate ownership to the townspeople for a cost of 10 pounds per month to each owner. The group they ended up with was a far cry from the typical racehorse ownership crowd, but they were committed and exuberant! When he was ready, Dream Alliance was sent to training with Phillip Hobbs of Minehead Stables. All involved with his training were pretty skeptical of his potential, but Dream exceeded everyone’s expectations!

Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race

Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race

Dream won many races and placed very well in those he didn’t win, but he did get hurt just before one of the biggest races of his career requiring 18 months off from work to treat his tendon injury, heal, and (miraculously) go back into training. It was AFTER this nearly career-ending injury that Dream won the biggest race of his career, the Welsh Grand National. He continued to race after the Welsh, but after pulling up at quite a few races or finishing poorly it was determined that he had a career ending lung condition. By this time he was 9 years old, a much longer career than most racehorses in the U.S.

Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers

Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers

The film is beautifully done with quite a bit of actual racing footage and candid conversations with syndicate members. I plan to buy it as soon as I can add it to my iTunes library to watch over and over again and cheer for the working class chestnut with four white socks who beat all the blue bloods at their own race!

Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure: Dark Horse Official Trailer

Saddle Shopping: Stage 2

So saddle #1 was a fail. We headed to another horse show in November and this time I discussed more fully with my trainer what exactly I was shopping for. We settled on looking for an Antares and a larger seat size than a 17″. They make lovely saddles in France and have a great reputation both for their customer service (even on second-hand purchased saddles) as well as for having a quality product. We ruled out a couple other brands for quality and fit issues and kept a couple as maybes. I have a tendency to get fixated on things, so I was pretty set on getting an Antares. My trainer mentioned the Antares Spooner, which is an off-the-rack saddle that Antares offers, but I mostly blew off that idea (in my head, not out loud) because it was a few hundred dollars more than what I was planning to spend. This would become laughable later.

As I previously posted that show went pretty well (we got 6th in our first ever hunter derby) and we headed home with renewed energy to shop for that new saddle. I shopped. And I shopped. And I shopped some more. THIS IS THE ONE! Wait, no, I don’t think that flap is long enough. I love it, but it is too expensive. I talked Boot City’s ear off about the whole thing. Maybe I should try this one, or maybe this one. I got so in my own head that I didn’t even try another saddle until Christmas. And what a lovely Christmas it was.

Boot City pays a lot more attention to things than I generally give him credit for. He is unbelievably supportive of my obsession with all things horsey and genuinely supports every harebrained idea I get about what I want to do with my horses. So, Christmas morning, this is what was under the tree:

An Antares Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak!

An Antares Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak!

He took it upon himself to order the Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak for me to try. Yes, the saddle that was a few hundred dollars over the budget I had set for myself he just went ahead and got for me to try. I had to sit down for a minute. I HAVE THE BEST HORSEY HUSBAND EVER. The trial saddles from SmartPak generally only come in a 17″ (as previously mentioned, this is the most popular size seat). If you like the saddle you try, you can just keep it. Having discussed the larger seat size with my trainer already I was fairly certain I was going to need a bigger saddle, but with the trial I could make sure it fit my horse and that I generally liked it so I could order the correct size.

How does the saddle need to fit the horse? I’m no expert, but I can explain the basics. You want the gullet, the channel down the middle of the underside of the seat, to be wide enough that it doesn’t put pressure on the horse’s spine. You also want plenty of clearance over the horses’s withers (the hump behind their neck and before their back), but not hitting the top of the withers. Lastly you want the underside of the saddle to touch the horse evenly. The more evenly the panels touch the horse, the more evenly the rider’s weight is spread out. If all the rider’s weight is only supported by a couple spots then the horse is going to have pain in the spots over time. Thankfully my horses are all rather easy to fit. Sterling especially.

The back view. Not the best photo ever taken, but you can see there is plenty of room down the gullet to give his spine plenty of room.

The back view. Not the best photo ever taken, but you can see there is plenty of room down the gullet to give his spine plenty of room.

In this shot you can see there are no issues with his withers being pinched or hitting the underside of the saddle. Things are looking good!

In this shot you can see there are no issues with his withers being pinched or hitting the underside of the saddle. Things are looking good!

All signs were pointing to yes to the Spooner. Yay! Now to ride in it a few times. SmartPak very specifically says to ride in it like you own it already. Often when you try new saddles you have to cover up the stirrup leathers with a sock so as not to damage the leather and you can’t do much in it because the saddle still needs to look brand new if you opt to not keep it. Not the best way to try a saddle. So we spent the five days after Christmas riding in the Spooner as much as possible and sending myriad photos to my trainer to get feedback on fit.

Day 1:

Definitely too small, but leg position is improved. Trainer says shorten the stirrups and send more pics.

Definitely too small, but leg position is improved. Trainer says shorten the stirrups and send more pics.

Day 2:

Stirrups shortened. Getting better. Trainer requests another pic with stirrups shortened again. Done and done.

Stirrups shortened. Getting better. Trainer requests another pic with stirrups shortened again. Done and done.

Day 4 the-saddle-must-be-mailed-back-tomorrow

Looks good! Trainer says to order the 18". 18"?!?!?!?! #selfimagesuffering

Looks good! Trainer says to order the 18″. 18″?!?!?!?! #selfimagesuffering

I’m a female in the United States of America in 2015. Bigger size, means big person, which is generally frowned upon in the culture that worships young and thin. I need an 18″ saddle?!?!?! So, I ask my trainer what any female student would ask, “is my butt really THAT big?” Here I get another lesson in saddle fitting. It isn’t about how big my derriere is, it is how long my legs are and how skinny my horse is. Huh? I have long legs. What?! No one has told me that since I was 17. I thought that I had somehow become average in all aspects of size as an adult, but evidently my legs did NOT get shorter upon entering adulthood. My horse has flat sides and doesn’t have a huge barrel. This combination means I need to ride with a shorter stirrup than I would on a larger barrelled horse which pushes my seat back in the saddle and results in needing a larger seat size to accommodate all this accommodation for my skinny horse. Make sense?

At this point I have a whole new level of respect for saddle fitters and for people with hard to fit body types and horses who are hard to fit. I’m just a little bit out of whack and it made getting just the right saddle that much more complicated. But, I knew now that I needed an 18″ Antares Spooner. I boxed up my beautiful test ride saddle and sent it back to SmartPak and called to order my 18″. Except that they no longer carry the Spooner in the 18″. Wait. What?! Nope. No. Can. Do. I’m quite certain I nearly cried. I guess the bright side at this point was that I knew, for the most part, what size I needed and that I needed the long flap (not the Normal or Short flap, the long one for my long legs. I was pretty excited about having long legs again).

So, next week will be the big saddle shopping finale.

The “big time”!

I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.

I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.

We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.

The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.

The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!

Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!

Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Do the Derby

Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!

At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!

Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.

I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.

Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.

For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.

GHHJA Mini Derby Nov 2014

It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!

Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!

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