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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label famous horses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label famous horses. Show all posts

March 21, 2014

Notes From The Madhouse

Be forewarned:  an unbelievably horrific three day long work assault meeting has left many brains crippled, so sense is not to be expected in any of the following statements.  And I hope CHP doesn't mind me borrowing a couple of their awesome graphics!

Dancing Dining With The Stars
TFS will be packing up and heading south this evening to participate in the long-awaited and tantalizingly star-studded Carolina International CIC*** and Horse Trial entrance onto the world stage!  Not only is it a qualifier for the 2014 Adequan Gold Cup series, but it brings a spotlight to our very favourite competition grounds, the Carolina Horse Park, about which I've written so many times.

Bruce Sr., Torrence Watkins, J. Michael Plumb, Karen Stives, and The Wofford
Alongside BFF and Solo's (hopeful) new minion (oh, what should her nickname be???  Blog Stalker?  No, that sounds too negative, although I love blog stalkers -- She Who Longes Children?  LOL), I'll just call her Erica, for goodness sake, we shall oogle and analyze the FEI*, **, and *** XC riders as jump judges.  If you haven't checked out the entry list already, well, what, do you live under a rock????!  Becky Holder Event Team, Colleen Rutledge, Kate Chadderton, Jan Byyny (currently sitting in first place after a lovely dressage test -- follow the link for video), our Carolina Will's, Faudree and Coleman, our new 'neighbour', Doug Payne, along with Arthur and Tate and Shiraz and Teddy and Wundermaske and William Penn and Pirate and Catch A Star and...dinner with the 1984 Gold Medal LA Olympic Team (Jimmy Wofford, Bruce Davidson, Karen Stives, Michael Plumb, and Torrance Watkins)!!! *fangirl implosion* And many many more eventing friends and 'family' that, well, we are hoping will wander by our chair on their coursewalks, because frankly, judging 300+ horses, I can tell you from experience, doesn't leave a lot of time for social calls.

(left) Can't Fire Me (Teddy) watches as Courageous Comet gives Dad a lesson at the winter farm in 2013; I bet I won't catch Teddy lying down on Saturday!

Related Online Crap
To the best of our ability, TFS will be live-tweeting (oh my cod, I'm so embarrassed I just typed that) from the event tomorrow, so you probably want to go ahead and follow us now so you don't miss out on the unmatched randomness and hilarious dorkiness that is our trademark!  Oh yeah, and The Becky StalkingI've also started a series of sometimes exciting, sometimes ironic, always entertaining #farmownerdiscoveries, as those of you who follow us on Facebook have probably discovered.  Like/follow/click/tap (take your pick from our media shortcuts in the sidebar) and join the insanity!  

Flying Solo Farm Stage:  Implementation
Crossties are up and fence tape is charged and mats are down and feed is stored and neighbours are supplied with excessive amounts of emergency contact information.  The door, my friends, at long last, is not only open, but strewn with bits of hay and mud and cat hair.  In addition, speaking of cats, one of them puked on the carpet recently, so I guess it's definitely home now. 

Blogger Mental Health & Plans For The Spring Season
The former is long lost.  The latter:  try not to starve, dream of times when you could purchase diesel, fatten up orange bellies after move stress shrinkage, remember how to ride a horse, learn our new trails, annoy visit with new neighbours...

And above all else, drink in the moonrise over MY east line of oak trees while a grey fox yips, at least four species of frogs sing across the pond, a great-horned owl greets the stars, and a brown bat makes adorable swoops after the first tiny insects of the year.  Through the bone-deep fatigue, those long-missed melodies are indeed balm for a great many things. 

Sunset over our creek pasture

February 13, 2014

Winter Ridiculousness

My front yard right now
I lived in the Ohio River valley (Northern KY) from age 8 - 18.  So I learned to drive on snow and ice.  Mostly ice.  It's not rocket science.   But strange things can happen, so while our usual 1/2 of snow per year leaves me unperturbed, raining ice pellets & frozen sheets of slush with more snow on top makes the decision to stay in and work remotely an easy one. 

However.  I moved to North Carolina for a very specific reason.  My most hated task as a kid was shoveling snow and I would go to any lengths to avoid it.  I tried the whole Gulf coast thing, but discovered that was merely two years living in a flat, sweaty armpit from hell (aka Texas) and we lived out west when I was younger, so I knew I wanted to stay east of the Mississippi.  So I set my sights on the Carolina piedmont.  It has seasons, but winter is about 3 months of rain and cold wind in spurts (mostly January) with a week of 60 degree days in between.  It still makes me crabby by February, but hey, that's when spring starts!

Today there is over 3" of snow on the ground, coated in a layer of ice, quickly being covered by another layer of snow.  It is not only past noon, but it has been here SINCE YESTERDAY.  I want my money back.

I'd love to go visit the horses, but after watching the ice pellets fall for over an hour and the curtain of fat flakes out the window now, the thought of the bundling and driving and hiking and then driving again and thawing and unbundling, all without having some oblivious nut run into My Precious...cost-benefit ratio = negative.  If we were all at the farm?  Absolutely, I'd march out the back door and at least take some pictures despite my deep hatred of the white devil.

So I'll just keep tying up loose ends of the statewide fisheries conference I have to run next week, I've only been working on it, oh, since last August.  And in the meantime, I will let you enjoy the wonderful video I found yesterday of Swaps, the astonishingly tough and fast 1955 Ky Derby winner who was the great-great-grandsire of Encore's dam and the darling of the recently closed Hollywood Park (I wonder what they did with his statue?).  In July of 1955, he was Sports Illustrated's cover boy and the 1956 Horse of the Year

I see the spitting image of Encore in him in the beginning as he walks off the train with his big eyes and bright star -- right down to the surfer bangs!



PS:  It's STILL SNOWING.  I hate being cold.  I hate things that get in the way of my outdoor activities.  I hate snow related sports.  I hate ice.  JUST.  GO.  AWAY.   Because I just hate winter.  In case you wondered.

January 4, 2014

A Little Video Of Solo And I Playing Bareback In The Winter



I didn't feel like getting the tack out so, I just looped the lead rope around and hopped on.  Sorry, I was so excited about the new indoor I finally completed at the new farm, I forgot my helmet!




HAHAHAHHA!

In all seriousness, though, Satchmo is and always will be an amazing horse and his partnership with Isabell has that rare quality which surpasses talent and skill and training and resides in the realm of heart and magic.  Enjoy.

December 30, 2013

Isn't Time Off Supposed To Let You Rest And Catch Up?

Citation: ranked #3 after only Man O'War and Secretariat
I must be mistaken...

So I'll post my 300th mea culpa.  But I will share with you my ongoing project which fascinates me!

I mentioned that Pinterest had caught my addiction, er, eye despite my best efforts.  I had never really had any desire to look at scrapbooks or teenagers' bulletin boards, but with some digging, I did find more to it.  Poking led to clicking, clicking led to more clicking and I began to put together a visual collection of Encore's family tree, among a few other fun boards.  And it's amazing!

Discovering new parts to old stories and new stories of new horses is like finding a key to one of the most amazing treasure chests of all time.  My childhood was filled with re-readings of my favourite stories such as "Man o' War" and "Black Gold" (who I never knew was infertile) and "Old Bones: the story of Exterminator."  My shelves were lined with Stablemate models of Swaps and Native Dancer (and many more!).  Now I feel like I am touching each one as I lay my hand on Encore's neck.

I never knew they were related!  Count Fleet, 1943 Triple Crown winner -- and Mr P's great grandsire!
The one and only...
The Thoroughbred heritage and legacy truly is magical.  Part of me wonders why Encore was gelded; while he wasn't a stakes winner, he does have excellent conformation and he carries such a diverse mixture of old and legendary, European and American, famous and quirky lines.  Maybe he was just an asshole, hahaha, but more likely, and correctly so, few of the lines are rare and while he is special to me, his is not truly spectacular, as a good stallion such as AP Indy or or Secretariat or Buckpasser should be.

I continue to dig deeper and find more information about each horse and uncover the stories of the less famous, but still incredibly influential names.  I itch to organize it better!  Where is that catchup time again???

March 3, 2013

To Do

Apologies for fisheries conference-induced hiatus, but ONE WEEK TILL THIS RIG HEADS SOUTH TO BECKY'S!!!!!!!!

It will fit!
-Calculate how to fit gargantuan amounts of horse feed into limited space.
-Come up with room that doesn't exist to store five bales of hay.
-Remove archaeology-worthy layers from backseat of truck.

-Ride Encore 57 times in 7 days (I feel so behind!).
-Make note not to ride on four hours of sleep and half a hangover.  (But I had a great time and THANK YOU Amber for your thoughtfulness of taking me out for an awesome birthday dinner.  It was my own fault that I failed at high gravity beer math.)

-Change out leaky trailer tire for spare.  Why is there always one leaky one?
-Break down and buy a trailer tire jack.  I mean, really, with my luck?
-Clean shipping boots so Encore can poop on them again.  Repeatedly.
-Seam seal repaired spare rain sheet in case SmartPak replacement sheet doesn't get back in time (another story)

Yeah, horse, get to work!!!
-Clean your freaking tack, how 'bout it?
-Clean excessive collection of leg boots which is even more amusing now that I am a boot minimalist.
-Wash pile of breeches and attempt to pack riding clothes that don't make you look like a homeless person (barn clothes are barn clothes!).
-Find stupid girth extender for Mr. Belly Puffer that I bought and promptly put in a safe place.  A really really really safe place.

-Charge every recording media device in possession.
-Posit ways to casually hand strangers recording devices (although Amber is going to come down and take pics for us next weekend, yayyyy!).
-Create space on crowded hard drive for (hopefully) many new files.

-Bring carrots for Comet.  Try not to embarrass self in fangirl paroxysms.

Did I forget anything?

February 19, 2013

TB Story Time!

This post sponsored by Paddy Power.

Spring is creeping in, although I can't feel it yet.  Calendars are popping up with tantalizing offerings both here and abroad.  Our UK friends have a spectacle we do not -- the rush of the steeplechase, which comes to one of its high points in March at the Cheltenham Racecourse.  Four days of powerful athletes racing towards the culmination of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.  Even if you can't hop in your Peugeot with your best hat to view the races, you can follow the action & even bet on a Cheltenham Festival 2013 winner!

I might seem out on a limb here, talking about European horse racing, but in fact, we are more connected that it may seem...

If you take a closer look at Encore's pedigree, you will see that his sire, Crowd Pleaser, had a British dam named Creaking Board.  This fine lady was a G1 stakes winning mare, pulling down the 1992 Hollywood Starlet (part of the Breeder's Cup series at one time) & winning the Miesque Stakes on Hollywood Park's turf that November.  Following her lines, it turns out that not only can my charming boy claim American royalty as family, he can do the same on the other side of the pond.

Traveling back through this illustrious damline, we run into stories almost as big as the names they follow.

Warning:  this post may set a new length record.  Yet I am fascinated by the unlikely combination of luck, circumstance, almosts, rejections & accidents that has brought to life such incredible horses, each with a tale more impossible than the last!  I have summarized, but you can learn more at the amazing tbheritage.com.

Hyperion
Hyperion:  Weaned late in 1930 & showing little growth, he was left behind at the stud when his cohorts went off to train near Liverpool.  His diminutive size required a custom built feed box & he was nearly gelded because of his stunted body. 

All he had on his side was his blood (sired by Gainsborough, a Triple Crown winner & the best sire of his time, out of a dam who was not only fast, but became a legendary broodmare) and the fact that his trainer had fallen for him, "remarking that he was the most beautifully made little horse he had ever seen & would undoubtedly win the Pony Derby."  The colt only ever reached 15.1 & a half hands, but had a huge girth & 7.5 inches of cannon bone.

Mild-mannered & lazy, Hyperion nonetheless left his challengers in the dust in races both short & long.  He retired to the Derby Stud & was Leading Sire six times & twice Leading Broodmare Sire.  At one point, Lord Derby was offered a blank check for him by Louis B. Mayer (of MGM fame), which was turned down with the response, "Even though England be reduced to ashes, Hyperion shall never leave these shores." 

He later foundered & was euthanized around age 30 at the Woodlands Stud.  To this day, you can see his preserved skeleton at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket & a life-sized statue stands in front of the Jockey Club offices there.


Galopin
Galopin:  In 1873, this unremarkable yearling was offered as part of a lot in an annual yearling sale at Middle Park Stud.  Purchased for all of 520 guineas by wealthy Hungarian immigrant, sports fanatic, ex-jockey, & stud owner, Prince Gustavus Batthyany, Galopin was sent to train with John Dawson, who handled many of the prince's racers.  The horse won most of his races easily, only losing once due to severe bumping during the start. 

He was entered in a high stakes Derby, but the night before the race, the colt became very ill.  His trainer was afraid to tell the prince, who had severe heart trouble, for fear the news would kill him.  He spent the night with the horse, wrapped in blankets and the next day, Galopin came out & won, barely trying.

In 1883, the prince did perish of a heart attack while watching one of his horse's progeny win a race.  Rushing to help the dying man was the Duke of Portland, who ended up buying a fat brown foal by Galopin.  This unremarkable colt became St. Simon, one of Britain's greatest sires. 

Galopin himself was sold to Henry Chaplin, this time for 8000 guineas, that July & stood at Blankney Stud.  He was a Leading Sire in 1888, 1889, & 1898 and a Leading Broodmare Sire in 1909 & 1910.

Phalaris:  In the early 20th century, the Earl of Derby purchased a mare named Bromus at an estate dispersal.  She was not an overwhelming champion, but her sire was a derby winner & her dam was a St. Simon daughter.  In 1913, she gave birth to Phalaris, whose blood flowed back to the almost mythical Eclipse, the Godolphin Arabian, & the Darley Arabian.  He raced for three years, winning 16 of 24 races, at which point he was offered for sale for 5000 pounds. 

No one wanted the merely moderately successful horse, so he went to live at Derby Stud, an act which created the most dominant sire line in Europe & the US.  Four of his sons made lines including Nearco, Nasrullah, Royal Charger, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Raise A Native, Alydar, Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Sadler's Wells -- the list goes on.  Phalaris himself lived to be 18 years old, though his DNA is still alive today.  

Nearco
Catnip:  During WWI, horse prices were low & Federico Tesio, the owner of Dormello Stud (producer of Nearco & Ribot), snapped up a filly on an estate consignment from Ireland for 75 guineas.  Her name was Catnip (how could I resist that?) and though she would try Tesio's patience, it proved worthwhile. 

In 1918, she bore a filly named Nera Di Bicci who created a dynasty of her own, but Catnip was then barren from 1920-1922 & 1924-1927.  But in 1928, ten years later, she gave Tesio Nogara, a filly whom he would later describe as "small, elegant, light, magnificent hocks, magnificent action; top class from six furlongs to a mile.

He wanted to breed the filly to the stallion Fairway, but Nogara was denied admission to his book & was covered instead by his brother, Pharos.  The colt was Nearco (another of Encore's ancestors) & I think we know what became of him!

Ksar:  The French were busy producing spectacular racehorses of their own, but the Great War was exacting a heavy toll on their breeding industry.  There were few safe harbours, but one was in a quiet corner of Normandy, Haras de Saint-Pair du Mont.  With three decades of experience producing champions, the owner bred the best filly of her generation, named Kizil Kourgan, to a top French colt named Bruleur

In 1918, Ksar was foaled, with a graceful head atop "clodhopper feet and sickle hocks," & was sold as a yearling.  This unlikely colt won 11 of 15 races & made the equivalent of $250,000, making him the world's richest horse.  He took up stud at Haras de Jardy & was French Leading Sire in 1931.

Ksar d'Espirit
When he was 17, an American breeder purchased & shipped Ksar to Montana Hill Stud in Virginia.  The ocean crossing was not smooth & the horse was very ill upon arrival.  He only sired two foal crops after that & although none excelled as racehorses, daughters produced a winner of Paris' Grand Steeple-Chase & stakes 'chase winners Quiet and Pontius Pilate. 

Another daughter gave birth to Ksar d'Espirit...none other than Bill Steinkraus' silver medal show jumping partner on the 1960 US Olympic Team.  In 1937, the stallion died of internal hemorrhage & was buried under a monument to his great legacy.

Blandford:  Since we're immersed in WWI, let's talk about Col. William Hall-Walker & his Tully Stud in Kildare, Ireland.  The Colonel used astrology to determine if the horses he bred would amount to anything worth keeping, reading their horoscope at birth & selling those who did not appear promising.  While not always correct, "even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while." 

This particular hog felt an essential need to improve his nation's cavalry & gave the British government $370,000 worth of thoroughbred breeding stock.  In return, the country purchased Tully Stud & his Wiltshire training farm for $325,000 & named the man Lord Wavertree.  Thus began the National Stud for Great Britain.  In 1943, the Stud moved to England & in 1945, the Tully property became the Irish National Stud.  But I digress...

Blandford
In the spring of 1919, this new Stud witnessed the birth of a classy brown colt with a white star & big body perched on short pasterns.  When Blandford was a yearling, carthorses broke into his paddock, knocked him down, & trampled him.  He escaped intact, but was severely bruised and developed pneumonia.

The Stud director found him so sorry-looking that he offered the colt for free to their vet to remove the horse from the premesis.  The vet declined the dubious offer, even though Blandford recovered enough to sell at the 1920 Newmarket December Sale to Sam & Richard Dawson.  The young horse returned to Ireland & was standing well at stud until a new Irish government rose in 1932 & began an economic war with England which included a cripplingly high travel tax on broodmares visiting Ireland. 

His owners decided to move him to their training farm in Berkshire, a decision which proved lucrative indeed.  Blandford became the truest source for stamina for classic races, siring four Epsom Derby winners, winning three sire championships & making his mark as one of the most elite sires in history, placed alongside Danzig & Mr. Prospector.

Blenheim
Blenheim:  Richard  Dawson already knew what he had in Blandford.  It's no surprise then, when his son, Blenheim, came up for 4,100 guineas at a yearling sale, Dawson purchased him for the Aga Khan & took him in to training in Berkshire. 

Blenheim matured to 15.3 & strongly resembled his father, bringing both speed & stamina to the table, although he tended to be high strung.  He was retired from racing after a tendon injury while training for the Eclipse Stakes & moved to stud in France at the Aga Khan's Haras de Marly la Ville. 

In 1936, he was purchased for $225,000 & exported to the US (where he was known as Blenheim II) by a high-powered syndicate made up of Calumet Farm, Claiborne Farm, J.H. Whitney's Greentree Stud, Stoner Creek Stud, Fairholme Farm, Mrs. Thomas Somerville, & William DuPont.  Already proven in Europe (his son Mahmoud won the English Derby), he was an immediate success standing here at Claiborne as his first year produced the Triple Crown winner Whirlaway. 

He later also sired Jet Pilot, another Derby champion, & 58 other stakes winners & was Leading Sire in 1941.  His powerful hindquarters were passed down as a trademark of his male line through his grandson, Nasrullah, percolating through Bold Ruler & Secretariat. 

His daughters became part of the foundation of Calumet's wild success, as the Farm owned 25% of his syndicate.  He died at the ripe age of 31 & is buried in Claiborne's stallion cemetery.

Mahmoud at the Epsom Derby.
Mahmoud:  From father to son to son.  Mahmoud was born in France, trained in Britain & in 1935 was named the second best colt of his generation.  Surprising, considering he was labeled "surplus" as a yearling, put up for auction, & failing to sell, was raced by the Aga Khan. 

He set an Epsom Derby record in 1936 that stood for 59 years.  He too was exported for 20,000 guineas in 1940 to Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's stud in Kentucky.  He was Leading Sire in 1946, having produced 70 stakes winners, & Leading Broodmare Sire in 1957.  He died on the stud farm at 29 & is buried on the property, which is now part of Gainesway Farm.

Mumtaz Mahal
Mumtaz Mahal:  This filly was only born because the owner of her sire, The Tetrarch, saw him outrun a deer in his pasture & decided against gelding him.  She was purchased for the Aga Khan in 1922 for 9,100 guineas.  The grey filly set a course record for five furlongs & earned her "Flying Filly" nickname over her year and a half career. 

She gave birth to nine foals, the most famous of which is by Blenheim himself, & the resulting filly's 3/4 brother sired the dam of the famed My Babu.  She has three crosses in the pedigree of the famous sire, Pleasant Colony & stands out in the lines of many other elite Thoroughbreds. 

When the German army commandeered the Aga Khan's horses during their invasion of France, she was the only mare left behind, perhaps due to her age.  She lived out her 24 years at the Haras de Marly la Ville & died in February of 1945.

 Mumtaz Begum:  That Blenheim filly above, foaled in 1932 in France, turned out to have something of her own to offer.  Although she only raced as a two year old, she made her mark on the racing world when, of her ten foals, one was sired by the already famous Catnip son, Nearco, a match made in Ireland by the Aga Khan III. 

In 1940, Mumtaz Begum gave us Nasrullah.  Due to his unpredictable & rather lazy temperament, after standing for seven years in the UK, owned by Brownstone Stud in County Kildare, he was then sold to Claiborne Farm in the US in 1951.  This opinionated son was Leading Sire five times in the US & sired Never Say Die, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Never Bend, Red God & many other premier stallions, stamping the legacy of his grandmother on the Thoroughbred breed.

Red God
Red God:  Bred by Cain Hoy Stables, sired by Nasrullah & foaled in Kentucky, Red God was born the same year as Bold Ruler, Gallant Man & Round Table at Claiborne.  He was sent to run in England, but was then brought back to the US to run the Triple Crown in 1957. 

Unfortunately, he was injured & in 1960 he was shipped back to County Kildare in Ireland to stand at Loughton Stud.  He sired ten stakes winners who earned over one million pounds.  Perhaps best known for his son, Blushing Groom (named one of the great international sires of the 20th century), Red God also sired Crafty Admiral, who was the broodmare sire to Affirmed, & his grand-daughter gave birth to a horse called Danzig

Red God's portion of the Nasrullah line is one of the few to remain strong among the swamping of Thoroughbred genetic diversity by Northern Dancer/Raise A Native blood.

January 2, 2013

The Horse That Inspired A Nation...And Me

He was literally standing on the slat-sided kill trailer at New Holland when a young Dutch emigrant, too late for the auction itself, looked through the bars and decided he couldn't let the skinny plow horse with scars on his chest and torn-up feet end up with a bolt in the head.

Thus began the improbable story of Snowman and Harry de Leyer.  And if you don't read it, you are missing a magical piece of history about two characters who literally had nothing, yet, without any benefactors and sponsors or grants, became everything.

Harry was the son of a successful brewer in Holland and rode his own mare, carrying the flag for queen and country in international competition as a teenager.  But then the 1940's happened -- the Nazis occupied Holland, Harry's father joined the resistance and had to go into hiding lest he be sent to a concentration camp, and Harry had to forget about riding and focus on surviving the horrific conditions of occupation.

Following liberation, Harry married and emigrated to the US, where he did a stint as a sharecropper in High Point, NC (only about an hour from where I live now!) and ended up teaching riding at strict girl's school on Long Island.  He was proudly able to purchase his own 1.5 acre farm and prided himself on finally becoming his own man.  During the school year, he taught riding to the girls, giving them the one place they could truly be free and be themselves, on the backs of the horses, and during the summer, he showed the school's horses to try and earn money to support his growing family.

Aside from being the story of a gentle grey plowhorse who took children swimming in the morning and jumped six-foot open jumper championship in the afternoons alongside Frank Chapot and Bill Steinkraus, The Eighty-Dollar Champion:  Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, is the story about making dreams out of difficult situations, about making your goals happen, and about taking chances and following your heart.

Sinjon and GM at the 1960 Rome Olympics
Harry was (IS!) a kind man and a soft rider; he turned many of the shiny Thoroughbreds owned by his students parents' into jumper champions.  Most amusing is his memory of selling one such horse, a hot but talented young jumper named Sinjon whom Harry had brought up through the ranks, to the USET, where Sinjon was paired with a young, upstart kid named George Morris.  I don't think much ever became of them, though...

He even sold Snowman once, as a child's gentle mount.  And the horse jumped miles of pasture fences to come home for several months, even after a truck tire was tied to his neck, before Harry gave in and bought him back, even though he never thought the horse would be anything more than a good school mount.  After all, he stumbled hopelessly over crossrails and ground poles and never went faster than an easy lope.  He took a chance one day though, feeling unmotivated to get off and lower jumps set at four feet, and rode towards a single vertical.  The plow horse transformed into a pegasus, having finally been set at something worth his effort. 

Harry and Snowman
They never looked back.  Summers were their chance to shine.  The placid plow horse would trot quietly into the show ring on a loose rein and proceed to gallop around six foot jump-offs while crowds gasped in amazement.  Snowman, destined for a dinner plate, instead won a hefty amount of his own plates, cups, and ribbons.  Once fall came, it was a back to school and to gently carrying the frightened beginners over their first crossrails.

It never mattered that horse shows were the realm of the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts, the upper crust of society whose ranks were NOT permeable to commoners.  In the 1950s, sport was considered to be firmly the territory of the monied amateur, who didn't have to work and could devote all his time to play and training.  It was even thought to be in bad taste to have a cash prize and if there was, you certainly didn't accept it!  The professional trainer and instructor was looked down upon as a poor underling who had to do the dirty work to earn a living and for quite some time, was not even permitted to ride in shows at all.  Fortunately for Harry, a recent rule change permitted him to do the one thing he always wanted:  to ride his OWN horse over those white poles.

Oh, how times change and how hilarious the paradigm shifts can be.  

I haven't finished the book yet, but I have already been inspired by the incredible amount of hard work, dedication, and thoughtful fairness that Harry brought to everything he did.  With no money, little time to call his own, and a horse who came with nothing more than wise brown eyes, cut-up knees and harness scars, Harry brought his dreams to life.

So why can't we?

January 29, 2012

A Little Promotion For A Really Big Project

You may not know who Steuart Pittman is, but let me introduce you.  He owns and runs his family's farm, Dodon Farm, which dates back to the 18th or 19th century.  But today, not only does it produce eventing Thoroughbreds, it's also stands Steuart's amazing Jockey Club Throughbred stallion, Salute the Truth, who took Steuart to the advanced level and is highly sought after by mare owners across the country for his propensity to pass on incredible bone and athletic talent to his progeny.  His website also has a great series of essays on, well, just about anything.  I dare you to click "Steuart Says!"

But while all that is great in and of itself, that's not what I'm really here to talk about.  You see, Steuart is passionate about the off-the-track Thoroughbred and is a major force working to promote these horses for second careers in sport, as he is more than familiar with their heart, agility, intelligence, and try.  I HIGHLY encourage you to take the time to read a paper he put together for the National Throughbred Racing Association on expanding the ex-racehorse market.  He and his wife (Sorry, Erin, if I got that wrong, but I'm going to go with that) have started an incredible force in motion.  Titled, "The Retired Racehorse Training Project," it creates a place where owners and buyers can search bloodlines of horses competing today for trends (enter YOUR TB in the Bloodline Brag, I put Encore in there!), where people can contact trainers who work with the OTTB, and where, perhaps most fun of all, you can follow the "RRTP Trainer Challenge." 

Much like the Mustang Makeover, this challenge takes four horses, fresh from the track, and pairs them with three trainers:  Eric Dierks, Terry Blackmer and Tiffany Catledge.  They have just chosen their horses from the pool late last week and from the drop down menu on the RRTP page under "Programs," you can follow the blog of each one as they bring these horses along.  Each horse will be for sale at the end of the challenge, which lasts five weeks. 

Steuart designed the program to be a showcase for the OTTB and to educate the public about just how wonderful these horses can be.  They are not bolting, spooking, fire-breathing dragons, fit for only the hardiest pro.  They are often, in fact, kind, willing horses who go on to perform with all their heart as amateur hunters, eventers, dressage horses, and even western and trail horses. 

So I encourage you to go check it out and follow along -- I can't wait to read more from each trainer and see how each horse develops in what, to them, in a whole new world.

November 13, 2011

Higher And Faster: A Night At The Grand Prix

Last night, a packed crowd gasped and cheered 23 horses around the course and through the jumpoff at the 2011 Duke Children's Benefit Grand Prix in Raleigh.  When I attended a Grand Prix last year, my experience was one of mass flying pole carnage and horses whose jumps made me close my eyes in fear.  Not so, this time; the caliber of equines had obviously made a massive leap in the upwards direction.

This was a 1.5 meter course (4.92 feet for you non-scientific people), as demonstrated by this brave competitor.  I can only imagine such a course walk:  "Ok, jump is at eyeball level.  Fine, no problem.  Next!"



Quite thoughtfully and appropriately, the venue saw fit to pay tribute to Solo and all his contributions to horsedom.  As they should.  Ha.



And it began.  Meagan Nusz, a young rider from The Woodlands, TX, stole much of the show with her four phenomenal horses.  I think she is all of 24 years old and has been winning Grands Prix at least since she was 17, which leads me to believe that apparently I should have been born in a parallel universe that she obviously lives in.  Ridiculous!  But fun to watch and she rode the pants off those horses.  If horses had pants.  Each of her horses was more fantastic-moving than the last and they all had HUGE, lofty jumps, like 1.5 m was a walk in the park. 

A beautiful moving liver chestnut named Why Not.



Our favourite, a gorgeous grey named Cilantro.  The name is all charm.



We were a bit confused when she brought this one in, a bit of a chestnut named Dynamo.  Compared to the instant "wow" factor of the other 3, this little guy looked like just your average horse.  Then he lofted the first jump.



Another show stopper was 5x Olympic rider Manuel Torres, a Columbian rider with a butt tossing stallion named Chambucanero. WARNING: do not Google this rider's name without some sort of equine qualifier! Apparently, an identically named actor is quite famous for films of the pornographic genre. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Yeah, I know you are googling it right now. Nonetheless, Manuel and Chambucanero rode at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although it looks like they had an unfortunate 21 fault round there.  Not so on this night!



We had some local favourites, too; like veteranarian Fernando Cardenaz, of 3H, a Raleigh-based clinic which specializes in lamenesses.  His horse, Orphan Car, is a regular in this ring.



Harold Chopping competed for the Canadians in the past, but now trains hunters in NC.  He rode two and I did not get video of the witchy, but talented mare on which he won 3rd place for the night.  This was his other horse, Big Air.



I also really liked this grey horse, Wattesson, even if he didn't go clean.



Then it was time for the jumpoff, which was a surprisingly large field, with 11 or 12 riders.

Thaise Erwin, an Australian rider based locally, and her mare, Matilda, set the pace.



Then Manuel Torres and Chambucanero blew it wide open.



The next 8 riders couldn't touch him, although Harold came very close. Until Meagan and Dynamo came back.



It was impossible to restrain oneself from yelling, "Go, pony, go!" and more than one of us leaped out of our chairs as Dynamo shot through the finish timers like a rocket. The atmosphere was electric (unless you were Manuel Torres) and even the horses fed off of the energy. What a fantastic way to spend an evening! And so much more relaxing when YOU are not the one picking stalls and cleaning feet and shining tack and walking courses....whew!

September 10, 2011

Thoroughbred Heritage

Warning:  longest blog post in history commences.

One of the exciting things about bringing home a gen-yew-wine (that's how we say it in NC) racehorse is that he comes with a paper trail.  His every move has been watched and logged since he set foot on a track and his family tree has been carefully charted.  So, as you can imagine given my irrepressible curiosity, I set out on a google quest and discovered that I had stumbled upon a pot of gold.

Watch Encore (running as "Joyous Jester") break his maiden with a bang at Pimlico in 2008. Well, now I know he can gallop.

Encore was bred for speed, stamina, and heart; his pedigree reads like a review of the TB leading sires list.  Great names that have almost been forgotten in modern racing spring off the page, as well as a few horses who were founders of the modern jumping sporthorse.  Settle in for a tour of the kings of racing and of the unstoppable heart of the Thoroughbred horse.

AP Indy
As I mentioned in my previous post, Encore is an AP Indy grandson.  AP Indy was purchased as a yearling in 1990 for a whopping $2.9 million, which turned out to not be such a bad investment.  In racing alone, he won almost $3 million and was crowned Horse of the Year in 1992.  He went on to even greater heights in the breeding shed, where he stood for $150,000 per cover until 2011, when he became infertile.  In 2003 and 2006, he was the leading TB sire in the country.  He sired many fantastic horses, one of which was Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness winner who was the first stallion chosen to breed the champion racemare, Zenyatta.

Encore's damsire is Allen's Prospect, a Kentucky-bred stallion, purchased at Keeneland's famous yearling sale for $560,000 (that was a heck of a lot of money in 1983).  A son of Mr. Prospector, he ended up siring a greater percentage of winners than the famed Storm Cat (who has a $500,000 stud fee) and topped both Seattle Slew and Unbridled in national stallion rankings.  He is also known for siring a number of VERY good jumpers and eventers, particularly through his broodmare line.   

It only gets better from here.  His papers include, from the USA:

Secretariat:  Does he even need an introduction?  Just in case you live under a rock, I wrote about him here.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew:  The only undefeated Triple Crown winner (1977),  the renowned tough guy Slew won the Eclipse Award in 1976 AND 1978, was awarded Horse of the Year in 1978, was the Leading Sire of 1984, and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1995 and 1996.  Before he died, Slew sired an amazing 7 North American champions and 1 European champion.  Encore inherits his toughness and speed from both his sire and dam's lines.

Mr. Prospector:  Descended from the Darley Arabian through Eclipse, Mr. P earned the affection of many.  He had the misfortune of racing in the same year as Secretariat AND Forego and it is a testament to his courage and speed that he came second to both.  A Leading Sire 6 times, Mr. P sired a winner of each Triple Crown race, as did his grandson, Unbridled.  He is buried at Clairborne Farms between his old rival, Secretariat and the Canadian legend, Nijinsky.

Swaps
Swaps:  This 1955 KY Derby winner broke records left and right.  Named Horse of the Year in 1956, reporters wrote that Swaps would "go to the front of the race and say goodbye."  Also in '56, he fractured his leg in three places and most parties agreed he would have to be destroyed.  Swaps would have none of it -- he hung in a custom-built sling in his stall for four weeks and trotted out at the end of it to live a long life.

Nashua:  In 1955, he beat Swaps in a match race when the latter had an infected foot.  The two were hearty rivals and Nashua won out as Horse of the Year in 1955, when he won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  He won over $1 million and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.  He stood at Claiborne with his sire, the Irish champion Nasrullah.

Citation
Citation:  In 1948, Citation won the Triple Crown and went on racing until he was 6 to become the first horse in history to win over $1 million.  Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959, he held the American record on a dirt track for 30 years until Spectacular Bid blew it wide open.  Citation is listed as #3 on the list of Greatest Horses of the 20th Century (he trails only Man O' War and Secretariat) but he won far more races than either legend.

War Admiral:  Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, this son of Man O' War was only 15.3 but he won both the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937.  He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and was a Leading Sire in 1945.

Bold Ruler
Bold Ruler:  As a colt, Bold Ruler was so accident-prone that Bull Hancock (owner of Claiborne Farm) would hide him behind the barn in his own paddock so visitors wouldn't see him.  He was forever cutting his legs to pieces and once nearly bit off half of his own tongue.  Nevertheless, he grew to win the Preakness in 1957, even though there was a 2 inch splinter from his fetlock imbedded in his leg tendons for some time.  As a result he won the Eclipse Award and Horse of the Year in 1957 and was inducted posthumously into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1973.  He sired Secretariat and was the grandsire of Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid.

Round Table:  Foaled on the same night at Claiborne Farm as Bold Ruler, this stallion was the greatest turf horse in US history.  He dominated the world of racing in 1958, winning every award there was, including Horse of the Year.  In 43 of 66 starts, he won $1.7 million and set or equaled 14 records, including 2 US records and 1 world record.  He was the Leading Sire of 1972 and when Queen Elizabeth visited KY in 1984, she requested her own audience with the great horse when he was 30 years old.  He is noted for contributing jumping talent and good temperaments through his genes.

Buckpasser
Buckpasser:  Often called "the most perfectly conformed Thoroughbred ever seen," this stallion was an international record-winning two-year-old.  A quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he still was Horse of the Year in 1966 and was the first horse to win over $1 million before the age of four.  He was syndicated for $4.8 million and was the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1983, 1984, and 1989 and is noted for passing on soundness.  His sons include Spend A Buck, Lil E Tee, and Silver Charm.

John P Grier.  I had to note this guy; he was the only horse who would race Man O' War in the 1920 Dwyer Handicap.  Although he did not win, he remains the only horse who ever ran neck and neck with Man O' War for a mile.  That, my friends, is guts.

There is a lot of very impressive international blood there too:

JJ Babu
My Babu:  I admit, I squealed when I found this one.  This French Thoroughbred is one of the most influential jumper and eventer sires of all time.  He set a stakes record in England in 1948 and in 1955 was imported to America for $600,000, the highest price ever paid to import a Thoroughbred to the US.  Syndicated for $1.2 million along with Nashua, he stood at Spendthrift Farm, where he was the Leading Juvenile Sire in 1960 and sired 47 stakes winners.  Even more notably to me, his blood produced Bruce Davidson's 1984 gold-medal-winning mount, JJ Babu, Anky van Greunsven's Bonfire, and the Grand Prix jumper, Sympatico, who set the world record for puissance (high jump) in 1973.

Princequillo
Princequillo:  Bred in France, his dam was shipped to Ireland, where he was foaled, to protect her from World War II.  His sire was less lucky and was killed by German artillery fire in France.  Princequillo and his dam were then sent to the US as the war escalated.  He nearly died on the boat ride over and was sold due to his poor condition.  His owner no doubt regretted the decision, as Princequillo went on to become the greatest distance runner in US history besides Kelso.  He was retired at 4 to the breeding shed of Claiborne where he was the Leading Sire of 1957-58 and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1966-70, 1972 and 1973.  He is the grandsire of rivals Secretariat and Sham and known for passing on soundness, good temperament, and large hearts.

Northern Dancer
Northern Dancer:  The most successful sire of the 20th century, he won 14 of 18 races and never finished lower than 3rd place.  He set the KY Derby record until Secretariat broke it (who still holds it) and in 1964 he was Canadian Horse of the Year, North American Champion Three-Year-Old, and an Eclipse Award winner.  In 1965, he was also the first horse inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (he now shares it with Big Ben) and in 1999 he got his own Canadian postage stamp.  With a $1 million stud fee, Northern Dancer sired a mind-blowing 147 stakes winners.

Nearco:  This Italian Thoroughbred was named one of the most important sires of all time.  He had his own bomb shelter in World War II.  He produced Nasrullah and Nearctic and was the grandsire of Northern Dancer.  Over 100 of his sons have stood at stud around the world, which is a world record apart from St. Simon.

Carbine
Carbine:  This incredible horse from New Zealand won 33 of 43 starts and was 1 of 5 inaugural members of both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.  He won the 2 mile Sydney Cup in record-setting time as a 3-year-old and won the 1890 Melbourne Cup while carrying 53 more pounds than the 2nd place horse.  He failed to place only once because of a cracked hoof.  Imported to England in 1895, Carbine's descendents include 8 of the 9 horses to ever win more than $10 million.  From 1914-1978, half of the Melbourne Cup winners descended from Carbine and in the US, both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra can trace back to him.

The Tetrarch
The Tetrarch:  An undefeated, white-spotted grey called "The Spotted Wonder," was named Britain's top 2-year-old of the 20th century.  An injury ended his racing career at 2, but he was Britain's Leading Sire in 1919.  His most important progeny was a mare named Mumtaz Mahal, called "The Flying Filly," who became one of the top broodmares of the 20th century. 

Gainsborough:  He won the English Triple Crown in 1918, he was the Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 1932-1933.  He left a legacy of conformation and stamina behind.

Cor de la Bryere
Dark Ronald:  Yes, that is his real name.  His sire was Bay Ronald; the owners were apparently not very inspired.  This stud stands at the roots of the modern show jumper.  He was purchased in Great Britain by the German National Stud in 1913 and his blood has produced horses such as Landgraf I, Cor de la Bryere, Furioso II, and Ladykiller xx.

Teddy:  Another founder of today's showjumpers and one of the most influential sires of the 20th century, Teddy was a French horse that raced in Spain and France in the mid-teens of the 20th century.  He won 6 of 8 races and was the Leading Sire of 1923.  Imported the US in 1931, he sired 65 stakes winners.

July 23, 2011

Buckin' Good

A hot Saturday proved perfect for meeting a friend in Winston-Salem and checking out the new documentary about Buck Brannaman.  If you have no idea who that is, Buck is both the equine advisor and the man upon whom Robert Redford's character was based in the 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer.

A great theater always helps, so we tucked in at the Aperture in downtown Winston -- you can order up a beer and a baked-from-scratch treat and enjoy your film in fine style.

And enjoy we did.  I knew Buck by reputation, had read about him, seen video of him and his incredible bridle horses, and tried to attend one of his clinics when I first bought Solo.  Alas, they were always full.  He has remained one of the only touring "cowboy" clinicians that I truly respect, perhaps THE only one that I know of.  After you watch the film, it's clear why.

Despite a brutally abusive childhood, Buck became a sensitive and empathetic horse trainer who studied intently under Ray Hunt, who in turn learned from the legend, Bill Dorrance, the man who first showed America that you don't have to hurt and terrify a horse to train him.  Buck Brannaman took all of this on the road and nine months out of the year, tries to help horses by teaching people feel, compassion, respect, and understanding.

The film itself is getting a great reception, both from horse lovers and those outside equine circles.  I think even without being a horse-crazy nut, it's easy to connect with Buck's story and there is something simply beautiful in watching him interact with horses and humans.  His family and friends provide glimpses into a man of a quality that everyone wants to be closer to, either simply in association or in emulation.

Not all stories end in triumph and there are horses so damaged, ironically by people who thought they were being kind, that even Buck cannot undo the havoc that human betrayal has wrought.  But here, too, Buck is able, through what is I am sure extreme frustration and sorrow, to teach and to guide people in hopes of avoiding repeated experiences in the future.

You may have to do some hunting to find it; check your local independent theatres and call and request if they are not currently carrying this movie -- it is worth the effort and worth the watching and I hope it continues to build its momentum!!

June 1, 2011

A Sport With Soul

One of the things that struck me the most after all the mishaps we suffered at Virginia last weekend was not the impact of injury nor was it the frustration of messing up.  What shone above everything was the way my fellow eventers rallied around me with words of support, advice, kindness and laughter.  None of them know me that well, perhaps a few casual encounters at events and an email on a listserv or two, but they knew exactly when to step in and offer a hand or a hug or a word when my hands were shaking or my shoulders dropped.

This community is a big part of what makes eventing the incredible world that it is. The capacity for empathy, compassion, and the spirit of helping out put the heart in our sport and turn it from just another horse show to a true endeavor of passion and fellowship.

This force is in full motion this week following the heartrending barn fire at True Prospect Farm that struck Tuesday morning in Boyd Martin's stabling. John and the gang are keeping us all updated over on Eventing Nation. We always know that horses can break our hearts, but there is nothing more chokingly terrifying than the thought of losing a horse in its prime to an accident. Not only did several people lose their beloved partners, but they also lost everything they had to the flames, even as they suffered injuries of their own rescuing the animals they could reach.

It's a nightmare beyond imagining for any of us and I have no words that can express my sorrow to all parties involved. What I can say though, is that, in less time than it took to post the news, the eventing community rose up to help out.

Of course, this is a high profile incident; Boyd is at the top of our sport and is recognized virtually everywhere he goes. But what I have seen evidenced and talked about above is this: it doesn't matter if you are Boyd Martin or if you are Nobody Zero Me. The support of our fellows is offered with ever-surprising generosity to both and it never ceases to touch even this tired, cynical heart.

If you would like to help out the gang at True Prospect, EN John has posted information here. From experience, I can tell you that even just a note of compassion can go a long way. Because I like to think that, if the tables were turned, help would be there for each of us too. Ok, maybe no one would donate book sales to me or you (although I guess you never know), but you can bet eventers you never even met would lend a hand if asked and offer support when it is needed most.  That is what gives this sport its soul and what keeps me coming back even when the going gets tough.

Till next time, stay safe, and take care of each other. 

January 26, 2011

Big Red Fire

I spoke to Dr. Bob again on Tuesday.  We agreed given the sudden onset of Solo's discomfort and the fact that he wasn't "warming up out of it," he's probably tweaked something while leaping around in the pasture on the crappy winter ground.  So now it's a week of bute and no work for him and a week of staring despondently for me, while I hope fervently every day that this is just a passing ache and that I'll soon have my horse back.

As a consolation prize, I had the DVD release of the 2010 film "Secretariat" in hand, eager to revisit the magnificent horse I met long ago (left). Since it was the Disney version, I braced myself for historical inaccuracy and cheesiness. Turns out, they should have named it "The Penny Chenery Story," as Secretariat seemed to play a minor supporting role. And the horse who played Red could not capture the legend's incredibly regal eye and proud soul. But it was a fair introduction to this mind-blowing athlete for people who may not have grown up with his story and included Big Red's bitter rivalry with Sham, a brave bay (ironically, bred and owned by Claiborne farm, where Secretariat retired) who never raced again after his defeat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

But the redemption of the film is in watching beautiful horses run; it never fails to make me catch my breath and go still. Because I know how it feels to sit on top of 1200 pounds of red fire. I know the sound of each foot as it hits the ground and pushes off, propelling a chestnut rocket to ever greater speed. I know the chug of air that rushes into two flared nostrils to fuel the flame stoked within. I know the incredible surge of muscle as a burnished copper back and hindquarter coils and releases immense energy in the name of the gallop. And I know the electricity of sitting on top of the unadulterated joy of running, the flaming of a soul who lives to stretch out well-muscled legs and eat up the earth in quickening strides.

I have been lucky. I have been blessed. And I will never forget it.


Photobucket

October 19, 2010

Dressage With Becky

There is so much to tell of late -- the new saddle came in this weekend (YEEHAW!) and is currently in Phase Break-In. We are busy prepping for VA Horse Trials and still trying to finish photo processing from Ecuador. However, I cannot go any longer without talking about the phenomenal experience that was our recent clinic.

About three hours south of us, a guy has been hard at work building an eventing facility for the adult amateur. He already has one farm in Connecticut (why oh why was I not born to these people!! Sorry mom, I still love you!) and decided apparently that warmth was better (of course, I agree!). So he has created Southern Eights Farm just over the border in South Carolina.

This place is exquisite. Designed for and by the adult rider passionate about the true form of our sport, the long format, everything about it is top of the line. Parts are still under construction, but there is a full cross country course with one of the loveliest water complexes I have ever ridden, beautiful guest stabling, a roads and tracks course and steeplechase galloping track and barns that *I* would happily live in. There is no skimping and I have to give a shout out to Brad and his manager, Shelley, who runs Classic Eventing, their training business. I wish I had remembered to take pictures of the place...

The scene is set then and Solo and I march our way up for our dressage lesson (in our jumping saddle no less) with Becky Holder. We are longtime fans of her and her fantastic OTTB partner of eight years, Courageous Comet (left), and have watched them ascend through Rolex to the Olympic Games and two weeks ago, to a beautiful performance at the World Equestrian Games. So I may have been a weeeee bit star-struck as we rode into that arena.

I did laugh when Becky walked up to us and said, "Hi! I'm Becky!" Just in case we had any doubts that she might be an imposter? But I quickly briefed her on Solo's history and his Quarter Horse tendencies to prefer lazing along on his forehand to actually pushing uphill into the bridle. 

Solo and Rocky meet Becky. Solo is fascinated by arena pole, ambivalent to equestrian superstar.


She watched us warm up and then said, "Ok, stop! Now, trot again, but this time shorten your reins about five inches, double-time it and stop being such a nice little student and get bossy."

Solo did display some nice stretching during warm-up though. No, our reins were not always THIS long.


I say, "Yes, ma'am!" Solo says, "Aw, crap." And then I said, "Trot! Now! For real! From your butt! No more Nice Mom from me, buster!" And holy hell, did he trot.

Becky: "Look at that! That's not Quarter Horse-y; that's a mini-warmblood!"

Me: (out loud) "Wheee!" (in head) Hey, don't call my horse a warmblood, that's an eventer insult! (then head argues with self) But I guess it's ok to have warmblood trot...

Becky: "I can see his face when you ask him to work, I can see the twinkle in his eye as he pulls you down forwards trying to get out of really using himself."


Me: (in head) Ohhhh, you have no idea how good he is at that, you get an A+ for horse telepathy...

So we got to work. And wow, did my horse feel different. His back was up and active; his hind end pushed up into transitions like a piston coming up through the saddle; I could sit down on his trot and lift and shorten it with my seat and leg. We stepped up into canter. Becky caught him immediately in his classic antics of grabbing the bit for the first four steps. "Don't let him snatch those steps as his own," she admonished. "Be strong and insistent and make him be where you want him IMMEDIATELY." I did it over and it WORKED. And Solo was pissed. They always hate it when you take their cheats away.

We did get a few pictures from a co-clinic-er. I am kind of stunned -- not only is my horse pushing up into the bridle, but I am SITTING UP STRAIGHT. No hunter perch!!! Do I have any idea how I did that? Absolutely not. But now I have evidence that it is possible...



A summary of the Wisdom Of Becky In Respect To The Dressage Slacker That Is Solo:

-Be strong in your core and back (I cannot tell you how hard this is!), really use your legs to push the trot up into the bridle. Set yourself up where he needs to be and make him work up into that place.

-Be fair, but demanding about when and where transitions happen; get tough, it doesn't matter if he pitches a fit about it, ride it through. Make him give you the awesome trot right away, don't let him shuffle a few steps into it. Never accept mediocre.

-If he tries to come up and brace, especially in transitions, use bend and leg yield to soften him through it.

-For downward transitions, wrap your legs around him and squeeze him in two so he goes forward into the walk.

-In the walk, sit back on his back legs even if they are sticky off the ground. Don't let your body get ahead of them, wait and let them come through under you.

-When asking for the canter, demand the good canter immediately and really stay solid and strong. Don't let him seize any steps away from you. Lift your hands and really "show off" the horse, lifting his poll.

Is any of this new information? No -- but it was a good series of reminders, in the right place, at the right time, that I need to NOT let him get away with slacker moments. Needless to say, it was a very tired and sore me that trooped back to the barn. But I was excited about what we'd accomplished and very much looking forward to Stadium Jumping Saturday.