Monday, February 27, 2012

a non-event weekend

Being in Florida is great, but less what was planned this weekend with no competition and Keegan still off with his bruise. The good news is that it looks like it wants to heal, not abscess, fingers crossed on that. So, I had a couple of lessons on Godsend, which were really, really great. What a fun horse. He has always been fun, but now he is also much more trained than when I rode him two years ago, so he is super fun! We did some jumping, so easy. I also reconnected with old friends Paul and Lauren Tjaden. We originally met when I tried a horse they had for sale. I didn't end up buying it, but kept in touch and they ended up selling several horses for me, the last of which (Vic's Time), Lauren bought for herself. Several years ago, they got out of the horses and are now managing a flight park (hang gliding and ultralights) in Groveland Florida I got to see the facility which was very cool and it was interesting how flat ground hang gliding works as all my experiences involved running and then jumping off the edges of cliff like objects. Lauren also works with Florida tourism and has recently become involved with She says they are great products and a great opportunity, so if you are looking for income supplementation, let me know and I can put you in touch with her.

The big happening this weekend was the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I signed up last fall when Bonnie Kibbie told me she was training for it. Of course, we did not manage to see each other among the masses, but she had a great first half marathon and I had a great training run. I will say I have never done a run before where I was blocked from running my pace, not for the first mile or two, but for the first 8 miles. If I do it again, I will go for a more forward corral. But the weather was great (the rain held off, but it stayed overcast), the costumes were fun. I tried a clif shot for the first time (Razz - it was pretty good), and I am not the slightest bit sore today so all good. The downside was the really early start time, meaning out of bed at 3:20 both yesterday (for the 1/2 marathon) and today (for the plane flight). I thought I was doing fine until I realized I had left my coat in Florida. The good news was a great sale in the airport, so I have a new winter coat.

And in burying the lead tradition, the other big news is that our offer on a country home has been accepted. This one is in Chadds Ford, just off the 52 corridor, on 2 acres. It is not a unique, old house. Rather, it is a super-liveable sun-washed Colonial type built in the 70s. Henry plans to replace the brick with stone facade and we will be finding a landscaper as well. Inspections in the next week or two. Look for a massive housewarming party to follow in the early summer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In which half an event is better than none

The weekend plan was Rocking Horse 2 and Keegan's 2nd Novice event. Great jumping lesson, great dressage lesson. Ready to go. The new hay is great as far as brain, but a little tough on the tummy as it is very green. We are planning to find some less rich grass hay to mix it with.

The original plan involved an easy going, late start weekend, but then Hilda got in on the stallion going training level and earliest ride of the morning went from 11:00 am to 8:30 am. Leave the barn time correspondingly switched from 8:30 am to 6:30 am, but we are eventers, no worries. Off we set as the sky started to get light (yeah, spring is coming, spring is coming) and got up to Rocking Horse in excellent time. Hilda even had time to braid Duke before she rode. I wandered around a bit and then eventually groomed and braided Keegan, watched some of the training level SJ to learn my course, and in good time hopped on Keegan and headed to warm up. He seemed a little more reactive to the road this time so we moved the warm-up a bit further from it and he put in a good solid, focused warm-up. Yes, I rode with spurs. Yes, it helped. I think his dressage test was a definite improvement over last week although the score ended up the same.

Then wandered over and watched Missy come off xc on BG (Critical Decision). They looked great. Missy confessed being very nervous having not jumped xc since Rolex last year and heading out on the advanced track, but she said BG jumped great and finished well. I helped walk him around a little and chatted with Missy, David and Steph, then headed back to get ready to SJ Keegan. Got on, walked out, trotted and cantered a bit. Jumped 7 warm-up fences and went. If he didn't feel particularly green last week, this week he felt like a total packer. Which was a good thing, given that I needed some packing. He just loped (and actually loped - I pretty much failed to really get the engine going) around the course, making it all feel very easy and put in a double clear round.

Headed out to walk cross-country. The fences looked pretty small (amazing because a month ago, the novice looked pretty big). I saw a table through a tree line and thought, "hmmm...that looks really big. We probably aren't quite ready for training" It was, in fact, an intermediate table. Most of the training looked pretty jumpable, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Walked the novice course, unknowingly met someone I know through COTH who is getting into the eventing world (and has an adorable Jack Russell terrier), failed to find fence 15, but Cyndi told me where it was (so the plan was to rewalk from 11 to the end the next morning). Yes, it is true. I wandered out without a map - bad habit. But hey, the fences are numbered and I can count.... Wandered back toward the trailer, asked Mike Huber about Maggie Deatrick's run (completed her first advanced finishing on her dressage score), not realizing she was sitting right there (what happens when you know people from blogs and bulletin boards), stopped and chatted about saddles with Patty Merli, got back and helped load horses for the trip back to Ashmore.

Actually went out to dinner on Saturday night (because the stallion was done, so Sunday was a later start day with the first ride at 12:30). Interesting Turkish place. Didn't love the food, but it was really interesting hearing about Turkish food and customs from Annalise. Up Sunday morning and headed to the barn. Watched part of Peggy's lesson on Eddie and then went to get Keegan. Watched Keegan trot across the pasture, oooh - not good. Keegan does not look sound. Jog Keegan. Definitely off on the right front. Leave Keegan home as we head to Rocking Horse. Text Scott to set up lameness exam for Keegan (which will happen Tuesday morning). I enjoyed the day at Rocking Horse. Watched Missy ride both Bouncer (to 2nd place) and Ike (who looked fast, but wasn't always moving in a straight line) do cross-country, wished I was jumping xc because it looked like fun, chatted with Steph, picked up photos from xpress foto (including the one in this entry), watched Hilda and Olivia show jump. Chatted with Dorothy Crowell and watched her cute OTTB show jump (Dorothy really likes Chestnut horses as far as I can tell), introduced Hilda to Laura VanderVliet and helped get information on a mare Laura has for sale. Isabella - amusingly Susie Beale's Isabella's half sister. This Isabella came back to Ashmore with us. Teagan Star (she is for sale) won again. Olivia followed in Grace's footsteps and had a TE (stadium jumping this time), but jumped great around the stadium. It was once again great having Donna there. I like having a horseshow mom! Kim loaned her truck for me to pick up less green hay and Jordan schooled xc on Tribute. Riding would have been better, but it was a great day. Hoping the Keegan lameness is a short-lived one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In which we have another drive by as Keegan gets keen

Keegan made the move up to Novice at Ocala Horse Trials this weekend on a rather cold weekend (especially by Florida standards, though we did not have the ice they had at Pine Top in Aiken). He got very high marks for staying quiet and focused in the big atmosphere at Ocala and for being relatively blase about stabling at a show. Of course, he is a race horse. He seems to have fallen in love with Teegan and will call to her, but it doesn't affect his work. And the work was quite good. We improved our dressage score to a 37, very acceptable and the main issue was insufficient engagement, which we need to work on. Next weekend, spurs and maybe a whip. Stadium jumping was brilliant, a double clear round over the biggest course he has ever jumped, with some significant turns. Not everyone made time even at the Novice. Keegan was a bit jumpy in the warm-up, in part because they were running 15 minutes late which I did not know and he is not that good at just hanging out. But as soon as he got into the 2nd warmup ring (the one on footing), he settled and I could feel him focus. He went into the arena and while he jumped the first one a bit big, all in all, he did not feel like a green horse. We had a lovely dinner Saturday night with the Olesh's, Grace Carpenter and Chris Bradley. Grace was riding the lovely Finnglebridge Fearless (Little Finn) and Eddie and had very good days on both of them, although she was one who didn't quite make the time in the SJ. Chris had a great day on his lovely Lucas. Although there is still work to be done in the dressage (and for all of is that is a never-ending truth), they got 7s on the canter work and had a much more relaxed test, as well as a lovely, clear stadium round. Madison and her mare Kelly were also making the move up to Novice and had a very good day, despite a tumble in the SJ (luckily before starting and related to Kelly having a bit of a spook on the way into the arena). Madison climbed back on and jumped like a champ, only taking the last rail in her concern to make time, which they just did. Hilda was riding Teegan and they ended up the weekend on their dressage score as usual. John is quite the gourmet camp cook. Roast, vegetables, potatoes, cherry crumble, all yummy. Then to the first night in the new small coach. Hilda asked if 69 was ok for the temperature. Liking it cold, I thought it might be a little warm, but I was sleeping in one of the pullouts, so figured proximity to the edge would probably keep my bed cooler anyway. Grace was also spending the night with us. At about 3 am, I woke up feeling very cold. This is odd for me, so I groped around and found my travel alarm clock (with built in thermometer). 47 degrees! Oops. This is not good. So I got up and attempted to inspect the thermostat, discovering that it was still switched to cool. I flipped it to heat and the heater kicked on (thank goodness) and things got steadily warmer until wake up time around 6. Hilda was kind enough to brave the cold for morning feeding, so I had the luxury of hanging in the (now lovely) warmth until 7.

Sunday was cross country day. We all headed out more or less together. Keegan warmed up well, if enthusiastically. It was about 50 degrees with a biting wind, so the fact that he was focused and attentive was fairly impressive. We did our figure 8 exercise and jumped the warm-up cross-country fences several times and then headed out on course. Fence 1 excellent, fence two lovely and then Keegan discovered some other gear or confused cross-country and racing and I lost most semblance of steering and braking - except (and this is an important except) in the last 3-4 strides toward the fences, when he settled and focused on both me and the fence. Still, we had a drive by when I couldn't get him turned to a fence in time and a circle after a jump that he absolutely launched, leading me to completely drop one rein. But he was brave and keen and it was really, really, really fun. Have I mentioned that I love this horse? Madison had a similar issue, not so much due to Kelly running off as miscalculating a line and doing the smart thing in not jumping at a crazy angle. Chris and Lucas had a clean fast run (their first clear at the novice), with everything clicking. Grace had a great ride on Eddie despite a blonde moment leading to a TE (missed fence 7). This is the tough thing when you are doing two different levels. It is easy to mix up the courses. Well, we've all done it and everything else went well. Little Finn had a whole cheering squad, and made it around, showing off his new level of fitness. All in all a really lovely weekend, despite the colder than ideal for Florida weather. Next weekend, we'll add a touch of bit for brakes and steering, continue with the no alfalfa feeding program (which made all the difference between last weekend and this) and continue to enjoy the eventing boy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My pre-purchase exam request

I buy a lot of horses, many of them long distance. For others, I am there, but especially for the long distance ones, I have developed the following form which I send to the vet before the exam. Finding the right vet is another matter entirely and I depend heavily on recommendations from friends, colleagues, USEA Area contacts, facebook and the COTH forums to find the right vet having been burned by dishonest (only once) or incompetent (a few times) veterinarians in the past. Here is what I send. Obviously, aspects of it would be tweaked depending on my goals for the horse or what the horse has been doing. I have bought horses without PPEs, but rarely.

TO: Veterinary name
FROM: me

“Horse Name”
Pre-purchase examination request

INTENDED USE: Eventing (potentially through the upper levels) Horse has been described as a 4 year old, 16.2 hand off the track TB gelding, described as currently sound and in good condition in light work. I have not seen the horse in person, but have seen photos and video footage.

Please do the following:

1) General physical. If possible, could you also measure height. Check heart rate, respiration, eyes, ears, nose, mouth/teeth and general physical exam and neurological/coordination exam. No need to scope unless something in physical exam suggests the need for it.

2) Gaits, hoof testers and flexion. Please check for any paddling, winging, interference, etc at walk, trot and canter. Check soundness (on both soft and hard surface, straight line and circle if available). Hoof testers and flexion for all legs. Any osselets, bows, splints? Where and of what condition? Any conformation of the legs, back or joints that would lead you to believe horse would not hold up in upper level work, as well as your general assessment of build and gaits for upper level work.

3) Radiographs if horse passes 1 and 2 (I’m hoping you have digital that can be sent to my vet as well). If any lameness on flexion or other concern, please call me before going on with x-rays. Front feet navicular shots including sufficient views to check for ringbone/sidebone, and hocks, including both the medial oblique and the lateral oblique. If there is something in the physical that makes you doubt suitability of horse for intended use, please call me before taking x-rays.

4) Don’t need any drug tests, or blood work except a coggins if the horse does not have one for 2011. If any vaccinations are not current (WEE, EEE, Rabies, Potomac, Strangles, Flu/Rhino, West Nile), please administer and create record of administration for me provided everything else on the exam is clean. If all is clean, please also create a health certificate for transport to address...

The seller is "name". The address listed on their website is "address" and the phone number there is "number"

Please feel to call me if you need additional information before proceeding or during the exam
I can be reached:
xxxx (work)
xxxx (cell) best
My billing address is: "address"

when fiction makes me think

Several of my favorite authors have recently written books in which the protagonists go up against (in one way or another) human trafficking rings. These include Walking Dead by Greg Rucka, Worth Dying For by Lee Child, and Taken by Robert Crais. There was also the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson (which is a completely different story, but also about human trafficking). I have made the assumption that this is a rarity in the modern world. Slavery is largely outlawed and I would assume that most people are fairly well identified, etc. A google search reveals that there is interchangeability of the terms modern day slaves and human trafficking victims, and that the occurrence is far more rampant than one would imagine. While I think most of us think of sex slavery (which is the topic of Walking Dead and the movie Taken), Worth Dying For and the book Taken center more around the taking of people for work in factories or for asian gangs. These are books of fiction, yet each point out at the end that the authors were appalled to discover the extent of these practices, and how global they are. I once again turned to google, hoping for information. Avoiding information from sites set up by activists (not that these are a bad thing, but potentially biased), I found a wealth of information about the extent of the issue, including, If it happens, and it certainly appears that it does, who is working to stop it. Luckily, there are several organizations, some international, some more locally based responses to the global issue, I hold very few beliefs as strongly as I hold that enslaving a human being is more than wrong, it is evil. It is no doubt a sign of my lack of connection to the news of the world that it took novels to raise my consciousness about this issue, but given what I now know, I will add this to the list of causes close to my heart (and checkbook) in the future.

Monday, February 6, 2012

In which Keegan has a bee in his bonnet, but jumps brilliantly

Some of you may remember that when I rode Keegan in the clinic with Heath Ryan (the second time I ever rode him), I was a bit dismayed that the completely quiet horse I had tried and bought was leaping about the arena and was only settled when jumping. Heath said, he wants to be quiet; he just has a bee in his bonnet today. And once home at Blue Hill Farm, that pesky bee would show up periodically, but could almost always be tied to one of three things: 1)too much food as we tried to fatten him up from track weight, 2)too little turn out, 3)a day off/too little work. So, when the bee showed up at the Rocking Horse schooling show on Saturday, I first thought maybe he hasn't been working hard enough, but conversation with Hilda yielded that while it had been a bit of a light week, he had plenty of time under saddle. No change in his turnout and no obvious feed changes, so.... But then later in the day, when I opened the new bale of hay, I realized there was much more alfalfa in this T&A mix than in what I think of as Ashmore T&A. Hilda agreed and since we have been pushing tons of hay at him and since I had noticed his manure was greener and runnier than usual, we are hoping we have found the culprit. He has been switched back to straight Timothy hay and we will see what happens this week. So, given the bee busily buzzing about, dressage was a bit of a bust. He just did not want to settle. There were a few nice enough moments, particularly in the trot work, but his downward transitions were a hot mess and the canter work not nearly as consistent as last week. Sadly, he was totally ADD during the free walk and got a 6 versus last week's 8. After dressage, we headed off to jump (having entered 2 jumping classes, 2'6 to warm up and 2'11 to prepare for next weekend). He started leaping around, so I got off and lunged him for 10 minutes, then got back on. He began warming up quite well, but lost it again, when horses in the warm-up started crashing through the fences, so we abandoned warm-up and headed straight to the arena. The course was similar to what we had done last week, with the addition of a fence plus two 2-stride lines. This all went well. We had a rail, but it was a "training issue" rail, when rather than letting him leave long, I asked him to put in the extra stride, which he did, but then was a bit too close for tidy jumping. He definitely settled as we went along, jumping much better after the third fence than he did to the first 3. After heading back over to dressage warm-up and running through the test in a practice ring (that one would have scored way better!) and watching Grace on a mare she is trying and Olivia on Duke jump their stadium rounds (we later discovered that Olivia came 2nd in the cash back 2'6 and won $66 - go Olivia and Duke!), we headed out to cross country. And here, was the quiet and focused Keegan back on duty (of course, by this time, he had been working for 2 hours, so that probably had something to do with it). Hilda took the whole group out to school. In addition to Keegan, Grace's mare, Duke, Annalise's young Gage and Deirdre's lovely Winston headed off to enjoy a perfect day of xc schooling. This would be Gage's 2nd school and Winston and Deirdre's first. Winston is an 18 year old Arabian cross gelding and Deirdre is primarily a western rider, but we had gotten her to agree to do a couple intro dressage tests at the schooling show and she figured she might as well get the whole experience while she was there, so joined us for the xc as well. All of the horses were super. Winston and Deirdre totally took to cross country schooling and enthusiastically jumped logs, ditches, schooled the water, and looked to be having a total blast - not to mention completely event ready. Gage also did all the small stuff, and the biggest problem for Annalise was convincing him to take it seriously enough to go forward - yes it is a little tiny log, but you do have to canter over it. I am sure Annalise was more tired than Gage. Olivia is new to the sport, but after a super successful school on Duke, has entered her first event at Rocking Horse. She is on the waitlist for RH2 and entered for RH3, so it will be fun to have another eventing buddy in Florida. Grace's mare was a superstar. She is a lovely 5 year old with Voltaire, Abdullah and Consul in her pedigree and what a great brain. She was calm and willing and jumped everything she was pointed at. Hopefully, all will work out and she will be Grace's next eventing partner. Keegan was equally a star. We pointed him at some pretty big/scary stuff. Nothing to overface him, but plenty to make sure he is ready for the novice next week, including what I thought was the scariest fence on the Novice course last weekend, the green half rolltop with the brush (no problem). This weekend, no hesitation at the water, including once again jumping down over the log into the water. Great over 2 different small ditches and to all the novice sized benches, tables, etc. We had one glitch when I brought him underpowered to a biggish table, but it was fine once I discovered the correct canter and we had a great time. I headed back over to jump my 2'11" stadium only to discover that while having so much fun on the cross-country, we had missed the change over and the fences were now 3'3", but what the heck, he was all warmed up. So, no I am not totally crazy. I asked and received permission to jump a selection of the fences, not the whole course. Thanks to Leyna Merrill for working as stadium steward all day and to Alice, who on top of putting on a first class schooling show, judged the show jumping. We ended up jumping 5 and while he hit the first two (I think the first one surprised him and the second was off a tough turn - Alice says I may owe her some fence painting), he then figured it out and finished brilliantly, realizing that he had to work a bit harder and jump a bit higher, both well within his capabilities (and if he was a bit tired, it was well earned as he had now been under tack for 3.75 hours). We finished up and headed back to the trailer, getting cleaned up while Annalise and Deirdre did their dressage tests. Online results are not yet posted, but I do know that Olivia got the 2nd in the cash back jumping and Annalise and Gage had a super successful debut with a 5th and a 2nd (on a dressage score of 70%) in the USDF intro tests class. The weather was lovely once again. Jeff and Loki looked great. I caught their dressage test as we were finishing up, but missed their jumping. I missed seeing a few people I knew were there (but that is what happens when you spend 4 hours on your horse fighting that bee). Feeling ready for next week and hoping the bee stays far away.