And success ….

This time the second ride was the charm. Waterford is my Rolls Royce. And we did it. No objections. I had to tap his shoulder to remind him not to fall in. But that was it. He’s soft, responsive, comfy, TALL. Can you feel the joy? We will simply add on to this walk until I feel comfortable and then we will pick up the trot. His canter will wait until his transitions are a little more confirmed.

Ive never sat on any horse this comfortable. And you feel his intelligence instantly! He’s the most like Callista of all my horses. That brain is sharp and quick. But it’s sensible and trusting. That’s the element I want to preserve so I will take my time. Jen gets to do the hard work and I get the rewards for now. But I feel confident that we will have a lovely partnership.

I have to use the four step mounting block. But it’s ok. As long as he stops growing.

Do they make a five step?

Love this horse!!!

Inauspicious start and is my five year old too smart for me?…

I’m prefacing my account by beginning with my conclusion. Even if my Waterford is loved, carefully started, very intelligent, generally accommodating, I have my work cut out for me. I have to win his respect. And he’s five!

Today was my long anticipated solo flight on my youngster bred especially just for me, by me. Up until now, I have had a few rides with Jen holding the lead line and me acting the SRS eleve. Meaning no rein contact. But today was supposed to be that solo twenty meter circle debut that I have looked forward to all winter.

And Waterford was having none of it.

We began at the mounting block. As soon as I put my foot into the stirrup, he stepped away, surprising me into a rather loud admonition. I know, you don’t have to tell me. Totally the wrong thing to do, but he caught me unawares. And I yelped. Second attempt went fine. I sat for a moment to relax. But he already picked up my worry. I mean I am 66, he’s 5 and over 17 hands. It’s been a while since I sat in him ( or any new horse for that matter). I think for most of us, a solo ride on a new horse, even one you know on the ground, means some elevation of heartbeat. I picked up my reins, asked him with my seat, rode a few reluctant steps ( he was reluctant , not me) and he halted. Jen marched to his nose, I asked again and I think we made a half circle before he ground to a halt.

So now I’m worried, because he’s behind my leg, because I’m not sure how hard to kick him, and he’s got my number. We lumbered forward again. He’s falling in, trying to get to Jen in the center. Now I put more leg on him and kick. Nothing. Jen walks back to his nose. She clucks him forward, I kick. Nothing. I kick harder and he starts backing up.

He’s never done this to anyone. So I’m in new territory. Jen is in new territory. I’m feeling reluctant to escalate tensions and equally reluctant to get off. I say out loud to Jen, “I really don’t want to let him get away with this.” So I try again, this time Jen grabs the inside rein and we have some reluctant forward, stumble around a quarter of circle or so. I attempt to cross the diagonal. Nope. He sees the exit, he’s tired and hot ( Jen had just worked him), and he knows lunchtime is nigh. He also knows he’s got a timid rider up there who is not impacting him at all with her aids.

So now when I kick, he goes into reverse. In all fairness, he has not threatened to rear or buck, but I feel him bunching up a little. Probably due to my growing tension. Jen asks me to lighten my seat and lean forward a bit to get him forward. I was so proud of sitting back in my seat, resisting any fetal position but I try to be game. A few reluctant forwards steps and he quits again. I send Jen across the circle with the hopes of taking advantage of his liking to be near her. It’s a no go. I know I need to stick this out but it’s getting worse. I can tell Jen wants me off and safe but knows it’s not good for either of us to give up now.

Again I gain few steps when rein grabs the reins. She ends up slapping him on the butt with her hand. Three more steps. I guess I look more worried. Jen advise me to hop off and she gets back on.

I feel better when I see that he doesn’t want to go forward for her either! She resorts to the short crop and with reluctance, the kid eventually responds with a good trot and canter.

So, yes, I’m disappointed. I guess I really expected just to get on and do some walk. By the time I got off I was shook, which my confidence certainly didn’t need. But I told Jen, should this happen again I would get back on after she put him to Rights. I decided right then and there to just assume this was an anomaly and it’s also his age. He’s going to test the rider. Next time I will carry a crop. I did kick him enough to know he wouldn’t buck or get dirty today. So next ride, I feel I can be more assertive.

Now I need to put aside the dream first ride. That just wasn’t in the cards. Tomorrow he gets a hack with Jen, so I will try again Saturday. Maybe it’s better for both of us to have early disagreements in a somewhat controlled scenario. We just have to believe in each other.

The best thing about today? It can only get better! “Forward” is the new mantra!

Loving the Spook, Pt. One

 

I’m on a hunt. There must be a rational way to deal with a horse that you love on every level and with all your heart. But that horse is a spook.

First, I’m going to lay out my rationalizations. I’m a baby booming adult amateur who didn’t starting training until my mid forties. I’ve had too many falls to remember. My first fall nearly ended the whole horse thing. I was hurting for months after and the only reason I stayed with the sport was that I already owned the horse. After some real work getting back into the swing of it, I soldiered on. But my lousy seat betrayed me several times over the years and I ate more than my share of dirt. Ten horses later, I can’t say that I’ve totally recovered from the last few. 66 years old makes for some pretty hard ground and lack of bounce.

Enter Casanova. On the surface, the ideal horse. Only 16’2 with a compact build, sweet as can be on the ground, easy to sit, lovely gaits, loves to please. He seemed exactly what I needed after all the big horses I had been pushing around the arena the last twenty years. My trainer, Jen and I tried him about a half dozen times or so. My legs draped easily. He was responsive and soft. So easy off the leg. He was schooling a very green  Prix St. Georges. Everything said go. He was glad to see me each time we tried him. Check out the photos above. It just doesn’t get better.

So home he came in November 2016. He immediately carved his own corner in my heart. To this day, that corner just grows larger.

But, he’s a very spooky horse. He is a true Chicken Little. His spooks are not big. Jen can bring him back in an instant. But with each spook I witness, my courage falters. Riding on the buckle at the walk is an exercise in adrenaline control.

I’ve set up my darling horse. Now me.

My last fall in 2012 was quick and dirty and on my relatively new mare Delhia (Lhia). In retrospect, I think it has colored my riding ever since. Fortunately, I had Callista who I never was afraid to get on. But once Lhia dumped me, I found myself discouraged. I worked hard on my seat, as I rightfully concluded it wasn’t good enough to help me in an emergency.

I pushed myself to get back to a good place with Lhia. We were making progress. But she went lame in the late spring of 2016. I’ve only just got back on her at a walk ( we are rehabbing her from a subsequent surgery) and she’s still fairly gimpy. On the days she’s really fresh, I don’t get on. That’s what brave, confident, YOUNG trainers are for.

With  Waterford a two year old, Callista being retired, Lhia laid up, the purchase of Novi was everything! And we started well. I was letting Jen start him and I was finishing him, always working on my seat. Then the spooking showed up.

We checked his eyes, kept an eye on saddle fit, asked for the work kindly. We were and are very fair. We offered as much turnout as our boarding facility  could allow. When we came home to Bella Blu, we offered even more. We vary the program, offer walks on the bridle path, we are committed to a regular show and clinic calendar to vary his environment. But he remains a spooky creature.

When he is good, he is perfect for me.

His spooks are largely visual when he is going left. It’s his right side when it’s on the outside that presents the problem. Yes, we had the eye specialist out to rule out any vision problem. But lines of any kind, footing variation, sun and shadow lines are all issues for him in this direction. As I said, most of his spooking is easily ridden through. He never loses his head over it. He just is a horse that thinks the sky is falling on a regular basis.

Anyone reading this would say, “Just sell him and get something else.” That’s not why I’m writing this entry. This is my Challenge. I want to trust ME to learn to ride this otherwise wonderful animal.

So that brings me to today. I’ve only been back to riding less than a month. This last year, I’ve been plagued with Lyme, shingles, my mom’s death, my torn up Achilles and ankle. I finally was out of my cast about four weeks ago. I’m soft and more chubby than usual, due to a year of zero activity. But I really wanted to get back into things ASAP.

So it’s been mostly walk-trot this month. I started well, I think. I stay off of Novi on the days he is very “up” and when he is particularly spooky. But I have days when I let my environment get to me even when he is not spooky. Today it was windy. Novi had been particularly good with Jen in the schooling. Because she is showing him this weekend (Four One), I was just getting on to cool him out. We’ve been incorporating a lot of  walking on the buckle to make up for the casual kind of fun riding I didn’t get as a kid ( it’s a huge thing to be an adult rider without that careless childhood horse history). But I let the head games begin. And I dismounted unnecessarily early because I caved.

And it’s me. It’s not Novi. And I truly believe selling him and getting a different horse is not what is needed. I truly believe this is about me believing in me. When I can get over this hurdle, I do think Novi and I will do well together.

A Super Large sigh is echoing across the void.

We have a plan. One is taking advantage of Waterford’s training to help me. Just now, I get on about once a week for a lead line ride, using my seat and leg aids only. Jen proposes we put her up on him and begin teaching him how to longe with a rider up. When I graduate to trot on him, it will be on the end of a longe line. Waterford is a supremely confident youngster. As he matures, he will be a great help to me, I know. And hopefully, we can eventually have Novi do the same.

Now I need to work on sport psychology. I’ve a good library with all the classics. Time to read. Time to practice mental strategies. Time to believe in me.

 

to be continued….

 

 

 

Bella Blu Farm

 

 

 

AF02F0BC-9D93-41C6-9B2F-C9FD83328467It’s been eons since I have blogged. But life is rich and full just now and it seems right to catch up here and enlarge on the adventures life has offered the last few years. Yes, I’ve been very active on the Facebook  front. But nothing beats blogging for getting into detail.

Where to start? In 2016, we sold our Wellington property and bought another with an existing four stall barn. The house was pretty, the location ideal and we moved in the end of  July. Since moving we’ve painted, put in an arena, renovated the barn, added six paddocks . In short, I have this tiny jewel of a farm now. The horses arrived December 18, 2017. And except for a chronic injury keeping me grounded, it’s been heaven here.

The November before,  I acquired my sweet Casanova ( Novi). This last two years, we’ve been shoring up his basics and building his trust and confidence. He’s showing Third Two this weekend at the Palm Beach Derby. So proud of how he is developing!

 

 

 

 

The great joy of 2016 was bringing Waterford home. First to Stillpoint of course, but now here at Bella Blu. And I’m on him in a very rudimentary way. This is Rafi’s Son, for those of you that used to read this blog!

 

 

 

 

I rode my lovely Waterford for only the second time today. I felt like an eleve at the Spanish Riding School. No touching  the mouth! Just sitting lightly, reins at the buckle, and following the walk with my seat. He will be five on May 1. Seems unbelievable! He’s so tall. Over 17.1 now, I think. But the saddle area is so comfy. My legs drape his sides in such a nice way. Very reminiscent of Rafi. Possibly more ideal. He’s a total Roll Royce!

Delhia ( Lhia) is coming back slowly but surely. I was on her for the first time in nearly two years last week. Tomorrow, I’m hoping for my next ride.

00845941-A227-4F4B-9F05-05E17FDDF073

So, I am back! I will try to post more often about our Farm doings. Nearly time for night check now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BW-Callista Returns!

Last month, we welcomed BW-Callista to our farm. It has been 13 years since Leslie Valente purchased her as a yearling, and devoted herself to methodically developing Callista into a highly successful FEI horse. Callista finished growing in the Hilltop Farm Raising Program and was started under saddle by Michael Bragdell. Under Tami Glover, Callista became the 2006 USEF/Markel 4-Year-Old National Champion with an overall score of 9.0; earned an ISR/Oldenburg Premium Mare award and won her MPT; was the 2006 GAIG/USDF Region 1 Training Level Champion; and the 2006 USDF All-Breeds Awards (ISR/Oldenburg) 4-Year Old Mare Materiale Champion. Leslie then moved Callista to Florida and into the training program of Cathy Morelli who competed her successfully through 4th level with scores upwards of 68%. Cathy’s assistant trainer, Jen Griger, continued competing Callista successfully at 3rd level through PSG and also earned impressive scores. Through all of Callista’s competitive years…

View original post 58 more words

Tristan Tucker Clinic

Read this and enjoy! I WS blown away by the Tristan Tucker Clinic last weekend. I am no fan of the NH or “cowboys” but Tucker really has a way and a real progressive method. Linda Santomenna does a brilliant recap here!

Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014 Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014

I have been using elements of John Lyons style groundwork for years, but have had difficulty transferring that work to the saddle in a way that is compatible with the dressage training scale.  Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a clinic with Grand Prix dressage trainer, Tristan Tucker, based in the Netherlands.  His “conditioned response system” was developed out of an eclectic background as a games, eventing and jump rider and working alongside his mom in a racing barn before relocating to Europe.  His program progressively raises a horse’s tolerance for pressure, improves their proprioception, enhances suppleness and improves their fore and hind limb range of motion.  Tristan worked with each horse/rider combination 1 hour per day which began with mobility work then transitioned to de-spooking exercises where standing still was the correct response and finished with fore and…

View original post 259 more words

Tristan Tucker Clinic ~ sharing a great blog!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Tristan Tucker Clinic.

Had to share this. Linda did a brilliant recap of what we learned last Saturday and Sunday at Ashby Farm. I will study all her notes and the videos. I will attend any of his clinics that cone my way. This is the only “cowboy” trainer to make an impression on me. My horses can only benefit !!!

Waterford does Dressage at Devon!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

photo.jpg Wateford Devon 2

photo.jpg Waterford Devon 1

Waterford Devon 3

Waterford Devon 4

Waterford Devon 5

Waterford Devon 6

Waterford Devon 7

Waterford Devon 8

Waterford Devon 10

Hard to believe our Devon experience was over Tuesday morning!!! Seems like everyone I know arrived yesterday and are warming up today. Someday, Waterford I will do the Performance Division. It’s a worthy goal! But doing one class in the Breed Division was a joy! And there will be more photos, I promise. These are just from our phones.

After dropping the Shelties to be boarded early Monday, I hit the road for an event I have been looking forward to ever since breeding Rafi. Waterford was having a major field trip. We were going to Devon. The drive went quickly enough with an audiobook to make light of the miles (Voyager ~ Diana Gabaldon…..a beloved series for me! Yes I’m addicted to the Starz production as well!). Usually, I’m rushing not to be late. This time, I beat the trailer from Blue Waters Farm by two hours! Yeah, I was excited. We were stabled with the Hilltop Farm group, so I easily found our stabling and took to wandering.

I love Devon. I love the town, the architecture in the area, the show grounds, even if the stalls are a little small, the ambience! And I don’t care if it pours! Because that’s part of the atmosphere as well. Luckily, although a bit gray, there was no rain Monday. And Tuesday was so glorious that you overheard everyone commenting on the weather, knocking on wood that it would hold. (By the way, it’s pouring today! I’m missing out…)

Soon the trailer pulled in and we unloaded. Linda surprised me by disenfecting all the stalls after we hunted for and pulled protruding nails and the like. I have forgotten what the biodegradable concentrate was called, but it is sprayed on with the hose to dilute, dries very quickly, totally harmless on wood or tent walls and completely safe for all uses. Smells like ammonia and shoud you get it in the buckets as I did, it foams up like bath bubbles. Just rinse!!! It’s something that I plan to add to my future show checklist and routine.

Martina and Linda then unloaded Doxology and Waterford. I was so proud of these babies. Except for Inspections, they’ve never gone anywhere, do not live in confined stalls, plus they were separated from their respective herds. Neither baby had spent time with the other before the trailer ride. They unloaded and went right into their respective stalls. Yes, Waterford called a lot. But no more than my mares do when they arrive at a show. And soon they were settled, walked around the arenas…Doxy in the Gold, Waterford in the Dixon.

We met up with Brendan Curtis, who would be handling the babies in the ring. Waterford’s Dixon Oval warmup went like a charm. And it was super busy. I was so proud of how he handled the buzz. After he walked out and back to the stable like veteran.

Linda and Martina had to go back to the farm and their families that night. So I did night check. And you learn so much about your youngster from the little things. I regret to say that Waterford has inherited a few of Rafi’s less wonderful attributes. He’s a slob. Just like mom. He braids his hay with urine and manure into rugs and mats, just like she does. And don’t get me started on his chrome! Just like Rafi, his hind socks are going to be the bane of my existance. Some day I WILL own a black stockinged bay! White on the face is fine….just spare me the chrome on the legs! On the great side, for a horse that is never stabled, he was remarkably well behaved about the manure bucket and my raking up the ruins of his stall! Bodes well for the future. He’s social and happy to visit all the humans that pass. Oh God! I’m so in love!!!

Tuesday dawns. The big day has come. I only entered him in one class. For the most part, that was to accomodate Linda’s busy schedule. And I did want this to be all about going to a show and having a happy experience. He’s not stallion, so I have nothing to prove on that front. He’s not for sale, so I don’t need a ribbon hunt. He’s for me. And I have promised myself to guide him carefully and responsibly. As it turns out, this was indeed the wisest choice. He had a great class.

He was very good being braided, the grooming was a thorough on without overfussing. Again, making his experience cheerful and safe feeling. 8:30 arrived quickly and we were number 7 on the roster, so by 8:45 wewere in the warmup.

Brendan traded off his previous baby and picked up Waterford. Martina, Linda and I hurried to the ring. Watching him entering the Dixon, was my moment. Tears filled my eyes. Even as I write, I’m still welling up a bit and feeling the shiver of goosebumps. This is MY colt. MY future. My connection to my past with Raphaela. I held the cup and tube for the vet during the embryo transfer, which means he passed between my hands as a morsel of promise. And now, here he was: a big, lovely moving, sweet tempered yearling! And now the performance journey will begin.

Janet Foy was the judge. That made me happy. I think she is a particularly fine breed show judge. I find her tough and fair. Waterford Blu placed Fifth in Class 104 with a 75.3%. More photos to follow!!!

My futurity ~ Rafi’s Son

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10336810_10202815844736015_5131482943526009621_nP1050089428726_508239399225998_1801216380_n294187_514601315256473_1518792127_n264565_514601311923140_442091706_n217365_514602215256383_707059465_n

After a flurry of procrastination, followed by total confusion, Waterford Blu has an entry enroute to Dressage at Devon. It is minus a handler, a USEF number (what takes them so long?????), a Coggins, and who knows what else I may, or may not, have screwed up. Fortunately I have Linda at Blue Waters Farm. She’s a veteran of these breed shows, so I know, at the end, all will come out well!

Tomorrow, Simon (my sheltie puppy, too young young to be left home!)and I are off to see Waterford’s third session with the phenomenal Richard Malmgren. I got to know Richard a bit when Callista went to Hilltop to live out her childhood, the summer of 2003, when she was a yearling. Richard handled her many times in the breed ring and helped her become the 2006 National Four year Old Champion and USDF Materiale Mare of the Year. I connected with him briefly at the Hassler’s when I chose Wamberto as the stallion for Rafi. This past winter, he was in Wellington and began long lining Callista and Delhia on a weekly basis. The plan is (someday) that I will learn HOW to long line myself. But auditing this student of Bo Jena and advocate of the Swedish system for long lining has been an extraordinary opportunity that I will repeat this winter. My mares really benefitted from his calm, kind, assured horsemanship.

This past July, seeing Waterford in such a good growth place, I asked Linda about putting him Devon for a class or two. I love breed shows. Perfect field trips for babies! By the time they are ready to go under saddle, they are veterans. It’s just one more step for them to go to horse show. No biggie! At any rate, Linda said she would think on it and if by closing he still looked good, we might give it a shot.

Two weeks ago she called and said Richard was at the farm introducing Waterford to the prep work. Nedless to say, I’m thrilled. I couldn’t ask for a better trainer to introduce a baby to this elementary in-hand work. Richard will not run him at Devon (he needs a faster runner, I think. I also suspect Richard doesn’t run the babies at breed shows anymore. We’re all getting older, alas! And Waterford is a big yearling and has big gaits), but he will do all the prep. Last Wednesday I took the puppy (yes, I will post some photos!) and hit the road for his second session.

I am really loving how Waterford is accepting the corrections and acquiring focus….absolutely NOT a hint of stubborn behaviour. Not a glimmer of temper. He loses focus a bit, but other than that understandable baby behaviour, he is a great student. It bodes well for the future! He is a little tense yet, not really allowing himself to open all the way up in his gaits. The walk is superb and is relatively relaxed. He’s got a real grass belly, but I think there will be enough work this month to trim and tone him a bit. Starting this week, he will work two times a week with Richard and spend another day per week accustoming him to trailering. Right now the work has been in the indoor, but after tomorrow, Richard will alternate working indoors and outside to get him more confident and really encourage him to focus on the handler.

I am enormously excited about this boy! I feel an enormous responsibility to get him started well! My gut feeling is that he has Rafi’s excellent attitude and ethic. I so want this guy to be owned, bred and RIDDEN by me. I do dream of being the first weight on his back, although I do not plan to do those first 30-90 days under saddle. That will be Jen or a young horse specialist that really understands that I want to go S-L-O-W and very correctly forward with this wonderful colt. The dream is that I take him out and ride him through all the levels to wherever we are going to end up.

Life just keeps moving on…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10336810_10202815844736015_5131482943526009621_n

I think I bred my dream horse!!! Yeah, really! En route to Florida, three dogs in tow, I stopped at Blue Waters Farm to visit Charly, Rafi and my gorgeous baby, Waterford Blu. It was a quick visit and I plan to stop when I return to NY later this week. All three look awesome.

Waterford stepped right up inquisitively checking me out. He has such a gentle way about him, yet perfectly at home with himself. I have such high hopes for him.

Cannot wait to see him again and start getting him accustomed to me. Now that the house is feeling more organized in NY, I’m hoping to get down to see him once a week. first I will hang with him, but then I will bring brush and curry, maybe a small towel to drape over his back, some gentle noise makesers, umbrellas…Just slowly conditioning him to the larger world!

In other news, I have had a weird week in Florida at Bella Blu. Lightening struck the house, took out the generator, the pool equipment , the irrigation, the phone, some of the cable…..I left NY looking for a break from trades people!It idin’t happen. To add insult to injury, I caught a bad cold. The temperature and humiduty here are awful. There no ther way to state it. And it storms everyday.

So, I’ve been here a week…and I never even got to ride until today. Only Lhia. Callista heard I was coming, so she lost a she. Tomorrow, I will get on her.

So changes may be coming! We’ve owned our Wellington property for 4 years now. We have been planning the barn ring since Day One. But things have been keeping us from actually building. We are now considering selling and buying a place that is done. I had the real estatae here today, pricing our house and acreage. And I went to visit a small place about a mile from here. It had some nice qualities: Good use of the property, only a year old. Eight horse barn, 5 paddocks, good ring. Down side: strangely laid house which felt like a boarding house or even a college dorm. Stalls were only 12 x 12 and with concrete divides. So no breaking them down easily. Tiniest of tack rooms, no place to store hay….just not quite right.

I think we will do this, if the numbers are good for this house. They tell us that it’s good time to list as the market is busy and inventory is low. OTOH,I’m looking through the available stuff and I’m not in love with what is out there so far. Stay tuned.