Wednesday, December 5, 2018

United States Dressage Federation Annual Awards Banquets - All Breeds Grand Champion

This past weekend I attended the United States Dressage Federation's Annual Awards Banquet.  This year it was held in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I went because Klein ended up with Grand Champion in three different categories for the All Breeds Awards for the Percheron Horse Association of America.  This was our goal this year, to go for at least one All Breeds Award and we got three.

The Awards Banquet was nicely done and the part I honestly enjoyed the most, besides the fact that my mom went with me, and that I was there because I won awards, was hearing Kate Shoemaker speak.  If you are not familiar with her, she is a member of the United States Para-Dressage team.  She has a condition called "Periventricular Ischemia" which causes interruption in motor control in the right side of her body, due to the softening of white matter in her brain.  It causes her to have to walk with a brace as well.  She spoke about setting goals and at the end pulled her gold medal out of her collar to show us that anything is possible if you commit and don't look at obstacles as complete roadblocks.

Kate Shoemaker speaking.

The entire WEG team was there, except for Laura Graves.  There was a slide show/video presentation for Diddy since he was again named Adequan/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year, then Laura and Diddy joined us via live video feed.  She gave a great, lighthearted talk about winning the award and those that helped them get to where they are.  She said that Diddy is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down and even tried to buck her off twice last week. 

Laura and Diddy on the live feed.

As soon as we got there we ran into a very nice family that we always see at shows.  I was happy to see them because they are such nice people and they have some drop dead gorgeous Oldenburgs.  They were there because a couple of their young Oldenburgs had also won some All Breeds Championships.  Very well deserved!  They are a group I will be sad not to see regularly anymore after we leave here.  But, we made a deal that we will see each other at next year's awards banquet because we are planning to win some more this year.  I also made a couple new friends that are familiar with the military and look forward to seeing them this show season. 

So glad my mom was able to go with me because after all, these awards ARE for one of her beloved Grand Horses!

Overall, I was so proud to be there as a representative for the Percheron Horse Association of America.  Of course all of it is thanks to Klein.  She has taken me so many places I would have never imagined I would go.  I will forever be grateful to her for everything she has given me and taught me.  The only place to go from here is up and I am very much looking forward to achieving more of our goals that I have set for us this coming year.

Heart Horse aka Horse of a Lifetime aka Once in a Lifetime Horse, aka BAMF.

Friday, November 30, 2018


I have continued to have the privilege of riding a variety of horses.  I also continue to learn from every single one of them.  Even if it is one tiny thing I learn, I'm happy to learn it.  You can never stop learning with horses, ever.  Here are some of the horses from the past couple months.

SS Honah Lee aka Honey (super sweet, talented little mare) 

Bear, a sweet old guy that is just a lovely ride.

 Working with Honey more to improve her engagement and learn to lift her back.

Pats for a good girl. 

Fitness work with Wonder. 

 Captain Ed learning that people aren't so bad.

 Wonder being a coat rack.

Blurry Wonder working on dressage skills.

Leo still in the lineup. 

Letting him blow off some steam with gallops on the track. 

Adventuring with Leo.

As this chapter comes to an end in NJ, I just want to say thank you to everyone whose horses I have ridden while here.  Every single ride has been valuable in its own way.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Fixer Upper

Yes, we seriously had to put several of those signs on our fence despite our property clearly being a privately owned property complete with a gate on it.  Those signs may have saved a few people from being scarred for life if they had approached that fence within our view.

I kind of look at Super B as my Fixer Upper.  It's a known fact that pretty much all racehorses come off the track with some type of issue(s).  That was one thing that kept me away from owning one, or even wanting to own one for so long.  But, we all know Super B came along and changed that.  I'm not saying I want another one either.  She is THE exception.

I know the history of my other three horses.  I know the people they came from, I know where they have been. In most cases I know or have had contact with all previous owners.  That is not the case with B.  Obviously I know what she has been doing, I have her record.  She raced 52 races, all around the country, and retired sound.  Though since she is a War Horse she changed hands a few times in her career and has raced all over the eastern part of the country.  From what I can tell, though race barns all generally work the same, they can also be very different from one another.  For example, I have a pretty strong suspicion that B was handled less than nicely at some point because she was SO flighty when I first started working with her.

She's a mare's mare and she knows what she likes.  This includes quiet time.  She prefers to be groomed and loved on quietly.  She's not spooky at all, she just gets annoyed.  She still keeps up the tough mare persona and that is fine because when it's just us she will softly nicker to me and falls asleep while I groom her and put my head on her forehead.

She is warming up to her dad more and more.

Here she is humoring Wes yesterday, which I am surprised she did.  I would have expected a "Knock it off already" mare glare, instead she just walks away when she's had enough.

Just simply moving around her, quietly, in a stall, and she would flinch and get up against the wall like she was expecting to be hit, despite arriving to my friend's farm and being let down for a few months with not much handling.  Things like that kind of drive me insane because I want to know what happened, but that is also one of those questions you probably really DON'T want to know the answer to.  Also because of that I don't even correct her like I would with my other horses if she does something that needs to be corrected.  I just ignore whatever it is she does (mostly mare glares and sometimes threatens to nip) and tell her things like "Heyyyy I don't do that to you, don't do it to me ok?"  or " No need" or "Um, inappropriate" in a calm voice and point at her, and she responds to it.  Normally, that would warrant a corrective smack from me, but if you were to smack her for doing something like that it would break the trust she's built up with me.  It would be sensory overload for her.  Honestly, I think she'd be confused and feel disrespected (even though yes, that behavior is disrespectful toward me) because she just doesn't need that kind of correction.  Her last trainer was banned earlier this year for a couple months for unauthorized injectables being found in his barn.  He also has negative press out there for running horses too often.  There are a few times in B's record where she would race every week or every other week.

Over the past 10 months she has relaxed overall and she doesn't get up against the wall like she is going to be hit. She is much more calm about a lot of things.  She also has always seemed like she was conflicted about people.  Like she wants to trust people, but so many of them have proven themselves to be aholes that she's not sure she is convinced there are any genuinely good ones.  That is going away as well.  I have had to prove myself to her over the past 10 months and show her I'm there for HER and that she has her very own person now, not a parade of them.  She likes having a person.

I got her knowing that it would take me most likely a year to get her straightened out and to make an established baseline for her overall health through vet appointments.  For example, my vet was having a Gastroscopy Clinic, so I signed her up.  Did I think she had ulcers?  No.  I know she was treated for them earlier in the year, and I have been taking preventative measures since she is an ulcer prone type of horse.  But why not take advantage of the clinic and have them take a look at her?  The only way to really know would be to have her scoped.

Getting scoped.

Sobering up.

Her feet obviously needed some help, and that isn't something that happens in a month.  She has had chiro adjustments after she told me she needed them sooner rather than later.  She kicked out under saddle one day when I asked her to canter not long after I restarted her.  That wasn't her normal in the short time I had known her at that point, so she was adjusted and hasn't done it again.  She is a horse you have to listen to.  She doesn't do things like that to be obnoxious or rude, she does things like that because she is asking for something she needs.  I promised her I will always listen.

She's a roarer, but that just wasn't enough to make me turn away from her.  Should it ever bother her, we'll get it fixed.  Clearly, she's green as far as being a normal riding horse goes.  She has her own quirks.  I had to figure out her preferences as far as things like bits, etc...  Sometimes she likes to launch like she's coming out of the starting gate.  I have figured out a pattern to that though and that's going away now too.  You just have to keep in mind this is not a horse that came off the track at 3 or 4.  She raced until she was 7 years old.  That's A LOT of training and behavior patterns to undo.  I just have always had the mindset that I will let her tell me when she is ready to learn the next thing we are going to work on.  It helps that she is incredibly smart and learns things easily.

Rolling in her favorite sandy spot.

So, she's a project for a few reasons aka my Fixer Upper.  I'm having fun showing her what it means to be a family member and the world beyond the track.  I can't wait until I get her fully rebuilt.  The weather and the monster abscess have set us back here, we had a set back earlier this year when she went feral for a few weeks and refused to be caught, which meant no work during that time.

Seriously, the weather here sucks and has been a massive and depressing obstacle this year.

Part of our backyard is under this.  If you look close in the center of the picture you can see one of our bridges.

Once we head out on our next big adventure she will be back to work.  I will increase her workload gradually and document it here so you can see her progress.  She's looking pretty good at this point as far as soundness from the monster abscess.  It's healing nicely and she's feeling 1,000% better.  I cannot wait to get her back to REAL work.  I'm not even exaggerating when I say I'm having serious withdrawals from riding her.  Here's what we did in four months...

Just wait and see what happens in the coming year.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Our Fall so Far...

She is such a dork!  She's lucky Wes puts up with this kind of stuff.

There is a big change coming but before we get to that, a recap of what has been going on the past month. 


Mochs has been at a friend's barn and killing it in the jumper ring.  She was even grand champion of a division a couple weeks ago, because she had the perfect type of rider for that show.  The girl who rode her gave her the exact type of ride she needs, and with it, she shines.  She has also been in a couple lessons as well and taught some of the kids some new skills.

It's always a nice feeling when you can go for a bareback ride on your pony, then take her bridle off, hang it on a fence, put a neck strap on and go ride where ever you want.

Wes has been seriously enjoying the cold weather.  After his Anaplasmosis this summer I decided it was not a good idea to put the weight back on him that he lost from it because of the excessive heat and humidity this past "summer."  If I kept him on the lighter side he would be much more comfortable.  As soon as the weather finally broke and started to cool down I upped his feed and he has gained it all back and looks great.  Part of this is the fact that he excels in cold weather.  He is so clearly a polar bear.  He is more active and weight just goes on him so easily in the cold.  

His daily roll.  He doesn't typically get a blanket because he is such a polar bear, but, we just had the temperature drop into the teens somewhat suddenly so, sorry buddy. 

Klein has been enjoying low key work on her little vacay.  I have a strategy for this year's competition season with her.  Part of it involves a little vacay prior to the big change we make next month.  She won two more additional year end awards with the local dressage associations in the area in addition to her national USDF awards this year.  I fly out this Friday for the USDF Awards banquet so that I can accept her three All Breeds Grand Champion awards on stage.  Here we are, 11 years later and she still makes me so proud on a regular basis.  I can't wait for the upcoming adventure, which includes a reunion with a BFF and two horses Klein lived with at one point.

Enjoying the leaves starting to change.

Super B, oh my Super B.  On October 13th we had a dressage show.  We got there, got tacked up and went to the warm up.  In the warm up I felt the slightest hitch in her gait.  So slight I had to trot her a few times and on different surfaces to be sure.  After trotting on grass and in a very nicely footed ring with mirrors I was sure something wasn't right.  I dismounted and withdrew her.  We ran xc a couple days prior to that and I though maybe she bumped herself and was a little sore.  The lameness felt like it was her right hind.  She did get an odd distance to a log and bumped a hind leg so I thought maybe that bump was harder than I thought. 

I took her home, gave her some bute, bubble wrapped her in her Back on Track sheet and BoT no bows.  A couple days later, the same.  Fast forward a couple weeks from there and we still had intermittent lameness which had also clearly presented itself one evening within a matter of hours in her right front.  To the point of her being lame at the walk.  Woo hoo!  Abscess!  I I wrapped it with Animalintex.  The next day she was dramatically better and sound at the walk though nothing was on the Animalintex.  I thought we were onto something so I wrapped again.  She had a vet appt for a scope the next morning so I had them do a quick lameness exam prior to sedation.  She was flip flopping with the block though the vet still was leaning toward an abscess in that right front.

But damn, she looks good, right?!

A week later and some more Animalintex wraps, nothing.  Well, I'm the person that can't handle uncertainty so I made an appt at the hospital that I take Mochs to and that did Super B's PPE.  I HAD to know what this was.  After a thorough lameness exam (to include blocks and x-rays) and reviewing some video of the lameness that I had The Other Half take one evening, it was clear that she was sore in both fronts and needed an adjustment in her shoeing protocol.  Easy enough.  I just paid a lot of money to find out she is a victim of notoriously crappy TB feet.  That's fine.  I got my answer.

Everything was great, egg bars with pads in the front went on two days later and I thought in a week she should be feeling pretty good.  I went out of town for a short trip and the FIRST morning I was gone I get a phone call from The Other Half "B is super lame at the walk on her right front..."  FML.  Whyyyyyyyy???? He sent me some Marco Polos of some tracks in the pasture where someone CLEARLY slid, and it is pretty easy to discern Super B tracks from Klein and Wes tracks. We thought she must have slipped and done something to that right front.  Bute, rest, poultice and 24 hours later she was the same.  I called the vet who came out and again did some blocks and HIGHLY suspected an abscess.  STOP PLAYING WITH MY EMOTIONS ALREADY.

She was so incredibly lame that the vet actually had The Other Half start her on a couple days of bute.  I got home and had the farrier come out and see if she could locate it because she was still lame at the walk.  She was pretty sure she found it but nothing had blown yet.  The next morning when I unwrapped that hoof and pushed around where the farrier thought it was I saw pus come out of a nail hole and it had that unmistakable, vomit inducing smell.  The Other Half was standing there and we both were like "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!  FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and he hugged me and picked me up off the ground in celebration.

After a couple days poor Super B was still incredibly lame and now had some swelling. The farrier came back out to open it a little bit and help it drain.  There just wasn't much drainage when she did.  She suspected it was moving higher in the hoof again.  Within an hour after she left I noticed some flies on her coronary band on the side where it was draining through the sole a little bit.  Then within another 10 mins, pus started to seep out of the coronary band.  Unbelievable.  Poor Super B.  Though I was happy because this meant there had to be an end in sight to all of this.

A couple days of soaking and drainage from the coronary band and there was still enough swelling that was rising about her fetlock to make me uncomfortable.  She was also still three legged lame, so obviously extremely uncomfortable. So, I called the vet out again and she opened the sole a little more to help drainage and when she did blood and pus came spurting out.  She also started her on a course of SMZs since this thing was being so stubborn.  

Some of the swelling.

FINALLY, a few days later Super B was starting to walk better and the swelling was decreasing.  I continued to soak and wrap with CleanTrax and Animalintex.  She also started to be much more cooperative with letting me handle that foot.  Of course, because it didn't feel like it was on fire anymore.  That abscess was a MONSTER.  No wonder I started feeling some lameness a month before it blew.


She got her shoe back on last weekend and I stopped wrapping and just have been keeping it clean.  It is starting to heal nicely and she is feeling better by the day.  She is now totally sound at the walk.  It came in little increments.  First sound in a straight line, then sound when pivoting on it or turning. This thing is massive and I cannot possibly imagine how uncomfortable it was to turn or pivot with that massive gap at the coronary band.  

I haven't ridden her in over a month now, and I'm having serious withdrawals.  Though when I do get back on her, the shoeing changes and now this thing out of her foot...she will be twinkle toes.  the change we are about to make next month will also dramatically improve her feet.  She'll be out of the egg bars after a while.  She needs her feet to dry out (this weather up here has been unbelievably disgusting) and just more time to grow a better foot.  The x-rays that were taken a couple weeks ago were compared with the x-rays taken at the PPE and her angles have already begun to improve.  She still needs to just grow a better foot, which Farrier's Formula Double Strength has been helping with a lot. Give her another year and I suspect her feet will be completely remodeled. 

In the meantime she has been enjoying life with the Canadians (Klein and Wes) and being treated like the Queen B she is.  While it has been disappointing because she was just starting to jump through grids really well, I have all the time in the world for her.

She's a mare's mare, but damn she is such a special girl.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018 Dressage Season Finale

Championship ribbons/plaque, USDF First Level Rider Performance Award, Percheron News feature in the current edition, and a USDF notification of being preliminary award winners with scores to be finalized this week.

Our dressage season has officially come to an end for the year.  Klein and I got everything accomplished that we set out to do this year both recognized and unrecognized.  Super B got a taste of what shows are all about and made a massive improvement that I could not be happier about.  Overall it was a great, successful year filled with new experiences and more learning (cause we all know that never stops).

Klein ended up as the First Level Reserve Champion for the East Coast Regional Dressage Association.  She was 6th in the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association's First Level Championship.  I would have liked to have finished better than that but that was also less than a week after my fall and my goals quickly readjusted to just being there.  I just wanted to make it to the show and not have to withdraw.  I was still riding in compensation mode for the terrible pain I was still in and it reflected in Klein.  She was great, but I was not as active as a rider as she needed me to be.  Our connection suffered and that's where we lost some points.  I honestly think that the first judge was not really a fan of Klein.  I had some pretty negative comments on the test where the word "lacking" was written repeatedly.  That's fine.  We deserve that, our connection WAS lacking.  Thankfully we did our best work at the recognized shows this year.

I call this look, "peasants."

Still so very thankful I was able to still ride by that show.

As you all know, Klein also participated in several USDF Sport Horse breed shows, one of which was at the infamous Dressage at Devon.  Speaking of USDF, I had set some goals with the All Breeds Program this year and we accomplished them all.  Every single ride and in-hand presentation was a qualifying score for us that went toward year end awards.  It looks like we will be accepting Champion for three different categories with the USDF All Breeds program this year.

Super B made a BIG improvement in her dressage work.  She continues to improve with each ride.  She was 6th in her division with the East Coast Regional Dressage Association.  She would have most likely been Reserve Champion if she hadn't gotten a bit distracted in her first test.  There was a circus going on outside the indoor with trucks driving by within 10 ft of the doors, dogs that were locked in a trailer tack room right out side the indoor were going absolutely INSANE (the prizelist said no dogs allowed too of course), that trailer also had a horse that was screaming its head off every five seconds the ENTIRE time we were there, and there was another horse right outside of the indoor screaming its head off too.  At the end of the first test the judge actually said to me that it wasn't really fair to B that all of that was going on.  I mean, stuff like that happens at shows, she has to get used to it, but it was bad timing that day.

Recent schooling ride.  I just love her.  Just look at her!!

In addition to the circus, people pulling in were being stopped if there was a ride going on in the outdoor.  B has to learn to deal with all the commotion, but if you are going to stop vehicles by one ring, you need to be fair to the other ring and enforce the same rule as well, and that wasn't happening.  Also, why put the Starter Horse division inside?  Put them outside and put Starter Rider inside since they're going to be on more experienced horses.  Such is horse show life.  So with the distraction, B's first test was a 64%, and who can complain about that?  That was her best score yet, so just imagine what she can do without a distraction.  The judge also told me that the rest of the test was very nice.

First championship ribbon!  There will be more where this came from!

Thickest light horse mane ever.  She sure loved being braided though.  She fell asleep in the cross ties while we listened to Pandora and I braided.

The second test she had no issues and scored a 70%, and who can complain about THAT?  A 70%?  A 70...when a few months earlier at her first dressage show I was questioning if I was going to be able to get her IN the ring and keep her in it.  I don't care where she placed after seeing that 70%.  I couldn't have asked for better from her.  She was great overall that day though.  Handled the usual ridiculousness of people not paying attention in a busy warm up ring and hung out on the trailer waiting for Klein to finish up that afternoon.

I mean...just look at her.  What an improvement.

Oh Super B...*le sigh*

In addition to year end USDF awards, I still have to submit my paperwork for my year end ESDCTA awards, which I will do next week.  We should find out by December how we did with those.  I am super proud of my mares.  We worked hard, and our hard work paid off.  I can't wait to see what we can do next year!