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.


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…

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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…

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Tristan Tucker Clinic ~ sharing a great blog!


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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!


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photo.jpg Wateford Devon 2

photo.jpg Waterford Devon 1

Waterford Devon 3

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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


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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…


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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.

Waterford Blu


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P1050151My lovely, new, little man is Waterford Blu. He is by Wamberto (Rousseau) out of a Piaster (Pik Bube) mare. That mare is my beloved Rafi! He was born on May 1, 2013 at Blue Waters Farm. He is being raised there. It’s tough, as I’m in NY or Florida and he is in Maryland. But Linda and Martina are doing a great job introducing him to the world. I get there as I can. Now that some of the work on the new house is getting under control, I may be able to leave occasionally and particpate more in his development.

His name came from the “W” of Wamberto, which is traditional for the Oldenburg world. The “Blu” is my choice of suffix in honor of Bella Blu Farm. I set the precedent in case I actually breed another baby in the future. With three mares in my life, that is always possible! But do I want to be a breeder? No!!! But I love my girls. The thought of a morsel of them for my future (I plan on living to be a hundred!) is very appealing. And I had great, good fortune on my first attempt.

The photo above is from last year’s (2013) ISR/OLD Inspection at Hilltop. The handler is the very best : Michael Bragdell! Waterford just missed premium status foal. But as he has since been gelded (he was always slated to be gelded, regardless of scores), I didn’t really care about that status. He got an 8 on his gaits. That was what I was excited about. He also was shown with his surrogate appy mom ( Waterford is an embryo transfer), who only has one true gait: walk. So he might have done even better with a more forward mom at his side. Who knows? I love how he moves. He floats like his real mom. And of course, Wamberto moves like a dream. All the grandparents are impressive as well. He is definitively and definitely slated to be a dressage horse.

I’m hoping for a visit soon. WordPress is not letting me easily add photos to my posts for some reason. Have to figure out what that’s about! I have so many to share!!!

A need to write quietly


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P1050151I’ve been on quite a journey the last couple years! I certainly fell far from the habit of blogging. I’m gently encouraging myself back here for all my ruminations. I confess to having been seduced by social media, particularly Face Book. Which is fine. But it’s time to be more reflective and contemplative again. Journaling here has always been good for this. You do get an audience and some feedback. But it’s definitely more supportive and thought provoked than dashing a reply on Facebook.

My horse life is transforming. We have changed our New York residence yet again. I am super happy to find myself back in upper Westchester. Feels like home to me. We have settled beautifully this summer into our new home. We are keeping the Florida place and still hope that my pasture full of grazing polo ponies will become my dream dressage facility. But it still has to wait. But I’m happy. The dream is alive. I’ve got a great boarding situation in Wellington at Tuny Page’s Stillpoint Farm. Assistant trainer Jen Griger has now moved up to being my full time trainer, as Cathy Morelli has given up the boarding end of her business. She’s doing great, BTW. She and BeSe are now based in Georgia and they still competing at Grand Prix!!!

I spent the last two years getting the Adult Amateur Dressage Initative going. We had some good results. I have stepped down from the Board, however. After my husband’s lymphoma diagnosis and cure, my involvement got a bit scattered. Unfortunately, I felt my efforts this last six months were neither inspiring or impacting anyone. So it was time for new blood and new ideas. It’s my baby and I hate seeing it sail on without me. But I have some other adult amateur projects to involve myself in. And I will always have opinions and I will always be a questioning nudge when I see the USDF or USEF riding roughshod over the AA’s.

The beauty of stepping down from the AADI? I can now voice my own views and not the consensus. I love the Priorities that AADI was focused on (although who knows if they will stay the same now?), but I didn’t personally agree or necessarily care about some of them. Separate pinning is desirable. But I don’t personally care if I am in a class with everyone. But when you are the president, you have to back what the group wants. Now I can express myself for myself. So that part is great.

I have learned that it is lonely at the top. You are damned if you do something and damned if you don’t. That was the pressure that got to me the most, I think. If I waited for others to start a project or take on a subject, it seemed like no one did. But if I took the initiative on a subject, I was being an autocrat or worse. I just got tired of it. I hate conflict. And it seemed lately, that everything I would say or undertake, I got more criticism than agreement. So, I bowed out. I’m glad I started it and led it. But now I am relieved to be done…

Back to my horses! Two years ago, after a long fight to keep her sound, I finally retired Raphaela. I promptly bred her to the young and fabulous Wamberto and via embryo transplant, got myself the most awesome foal. Waterford Blu is very like mom (hooray) and is now coming on 15 months of age. It’s a love affair. He is a gentle, handsome, excellent moving bay that I think I will enjoy forever.

Callista and Delhia (Lhia) are doing great. I’m off to Florida the end of the week to have some time with them. I feel like I haven’t ridden in ages! Who am I kidding? I haven’t!!! I cannot believe that Callista turned 12 this year! Boggles my mind. More soon. Good to be here again!