Let’s Discuss: The Retirement Plan

The latest news to hit the eventing scene is the retirement of Anthony Patch, her veteran 4* horse and the subject of the hashtag #GoAlGo.

At 18, Al had nothing left to prove with multiple top 10 placings under his belt, back-to-back wins at the Advanced level at the AEC’s, and even a couple international events to boot. He’s no spring chicken, and a familiar face on cross country and social media alike. Without knowing the full backstory of what went into the decision to retire him, I am going to assume it was made in an effort to spare him any eventual breakdown that is inevitable to any athlete, horse or human, who is pushed past their prime.

Boyd Martin and Remington, Rolex 2012. Remington went on to compete at the lower levels after his retirement

It is a relief to see top-riders make good decisions for their mounts, even if their adoring public clamors for more. Specifically, I am thinking of Valegro, who left the top of the dressage scene on a high note, even though we all could imagine him eeking out a couple more wins at least. The honor that Charlotte and team showed him in allowing him to age gracefully and without the pressure of GP competition was a fitting conclusion to a team that has been role models for the entire equestrian world.

Jasper now lives the high life of green pastures and occasional hacks, as well as giving rides to friends that are desperate *cough-me* for saddle time

But for those of us who cannot afford to turn our winningest (or only) mount out to field to live the high life, what do we do? With Foster, his wonderful brain allowed me to find him a home that afforded him a slower-paced life that kept him comfortable. But what if your champion that can no longer compete doesn’t have a personality that can be trusted with your average retirement scenario, such as therapy or trail riding homes?

It’s not a favorite thing to think about, and yet we all hope that we will see the day that we are able to retire our beloved horses to the good life. What is your plan for your horse, or what have you done to retire your horse in the past? What retirement situations at the highest levels did you particularly appreciate, or are there retirements that you felt happened a little too late?


Staying in the Saddle

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed a couple appearances from a spotted creature that is most definitely not Fosterpants. TC is a sweet paint hony owned by the barn owner, who very sweetly is allowing me to ride him while I continue on my horse search.

Yesterday I was able to take my first jumping lesson in almost 6 months aboard TC, who is a green but willing guy over poles. We worked on finding the right tempo, bend, and inspiring lift from the point of take-off.

You can tell I have been out of the game, as my leg is not as solid as I’d like, my timing not great, and I’m carrying around more weight than I’d like to- all of which tests my balance more than necessary. However, TC and I are a great pair for the moment as we get fit together and hopefully learn a little while we are at it! I’m so, so grateful for the opportunity to ride this cool little guy and very much looking forward to future lessons and experiences with him šŸ™‚

Photography Friday: Styled Shoot with Lilybird Flowers

When one of my girl friends mentioned to me back in November that she wanted to start a floral business, I was so excited for her, and more than eager to propose we do a photoshoot together that would show off her services.

A styled shoot is an exciting opportunity for a photographer, because you get to exert an unusual amount of control over the aesthetic look of your subjects. In a normal photoshoot, the client chooses their outfits, the location, the horse/pets/etc and so on and so forth- and so they should- its their shoot! But in a styled shoot, the florist and I got to nitpick every detail.

Our model was another friend, who also was my realtor for the House on a Hill 2.0! Katie is a stunning creature and her young Hanoverian gelding, Sully (aka Smush) was a wonderful companion.

The hope is that Lilybird Flowers and I will partner for shoots in the area, using her florals as a wonderful accompaniment to my portrait sessions.

It’s been an exciting week for BGD and I have loved collaborating with Lilybird Flowers so far. Hopefully there will be more floral equestrian shoots featured here in the future!

Happy Friday, all!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Where have all the [Geldings] Gone

As much as I want it to, the horse market still hasn’t gotten that new surge of prospects coming in. Instead, everything available is too young, too old, or more likely, a mare.

So my list is fairly tiny at this time, though tomorrow I go to meet a very interesting local horse. Hopefully I will have some good news next week, but of course you never know.

Otherwise, things are quiet in blogland because we had a death in the family, and I’m simply swamped at work. So that’s my quick little update! Back to reality next week.

In Search Of: A Re-Write

In this latest round of horse shopping, much of my criteria has stayed the same. With some exceptions though, and having learned some lessons the last go-around, here’s what my latest ISO ad would look like….

The Requirements:

The horse must be sound, sane, and pass a PPE. Having 4 legs and a brain does not equate.

Secondly, the horse must be gelding. If it doesn’t have the right bits and pieces, trust me, I’ll notice. I have found my tribe in a local boarding barn, and the set up will only allow for an additional gelding. Your horse may be the most non-mareish mare ever to walk the planet, but if it has a hoohah, it’s not for me. And strap-ons don’t count.

Look folks, I’m not growing anytime soon. I fit comfortably on a variety of horses, and those horses are between 15.2 and 17.1 hands tall. I’d prefer my toes not to drag the ground in the saddle, nor a ladder to climb aboard. Don’t try to sell me your “big-barrelled” pony, or your “super safe” 18.2h goliath. Please and thank you.

Did I mention no mares?

4-11 years old. To me, this means old enough to have exposure to life, or at least a little of it, and young enough that the expectations for my goals (3rd level dressage and training level eventing) are still realistic. Yes, yes, a horse older than that can still do these things. But, see above note about expectations passing a PPE.

I will not give up on my eventing ambitions, therefore, the horse must jump. By jump I mean some semblanceĀ of bascule, lift through the elbows and sense of self preservation. The scared sack of potatoes you coerced into lobbing itself over a stick one day? No thanks.

Haunches in animated gif

The Preferences:

A good canter. Meaning 3 beats instead of 4. Or 2 (yikes!)

Nice gaits, with an uphill way of going and a moment of suspension in the trot- even if you have to squint to see it right now.

Some jumping experience. Even if it’s 2’3″, that’s something. Listen, folks, it’s been 2 years since I’ve been able to compete- and I am more than ready to dominate that local Maiden track if allowed.


The Niceties:

A forgiving jumper. BecauseĀ I’m an amateur, and I sure as hell have amateur moments. I’m rusty with a serious need for some jumping WD-40. If I have to be spot-on every time to a fence in order to stay in the tack on the landing side, we’re probably not a good match. I’ll get my sea legs back eventually, but I would prefer not to die in the process.

That puppy dog mentality. I like smart- and will handle a fair amount of cheek on the ground. Personality is a plus to me, and I just love the idea of a partner that’s as fun on the ground as he is in the saddle. Sounds like a raunchy dating metaphor, no?

What am I missing?


Photography Friday: Equestrian Gender Reveal

Horses are a part of our family, even if they don’t (often) fit through our front door! So when Kasey and Trip reached out to me to do an equestrian gender reveal shoot, it absolutely made sense. We scheduled the shoot for the farm where she keeps her retired (maybe to be un-retired!) showjumper Noah, and her baby thoroughbred Tide. We chased the sun all over the farm, and here are the results!

And for the big reveal- this family of 4 will become a family of 5 and welcome their little boy!

Congrats to Kasey and Trip, and happy Friday everyone!

Let’s Discuss: Putting in an Offer

Since retiring Foster, I’ve put in offers on four different horses. The financial decision that goes along with purchasing a horse is a big one, and I may have a way that is different from others in regards to making an offer on a horse.

When I first go see a horse, I am as much assessing the horse for its value as well as for it being a good fit. Just like when shopping for a house, the horse shouldĀ feel right, but if you can’t afford it, you’re wasting everyone’s time- including your own.

Smitty’s sales photo

With that in mind, if I see a horse that is slightly above budget, I like to reach out and contact the seller. I respectfully (and that is key!) share my interest, describe what I am looking for and mention my budget. Sometimes the response is “sorry, the price is firm at X”, but most times I’m told to come see the horse anyways and we can go from there. To me, being on the same page about realistic expectations for payment is key- I don’t want to waste the seller’s time if I can’t possibly afford the price they want, and I certainly don’t want to waste my time either. So far, sellers have been appreciative of a more candid discussion about this up front, and I appreciate not being toyed with as a buyer.

So far for me, the pre-purchase side of things has been more of a pass/fail type scenario. Having agreed to a price, the assumption is that barring any surprises in the exam, that is the price I pay. If the vet finds something awry with the horse, we can of course have a discussion about how that could affect the price, but typically for me it’s more of a decision about whether or not I can accept the horse as-is altogether as a suitable partner.

Price can be a sensitive issue when horse shopping. I try to be cognitive of the time, emotions, and finances the seller has put into the horse, but prefer to be frank with both the seller and myself about what investment I’m willing to put into the horse as well. There have been several times in my search that a seller values their horse as solid first/second/third level when the training is obviously not there, or that the horse is described as an upper level prospect when the conformation or ability simply isn’t present, and I choose to not engage these sellers as a rule. Let someone else be the bearer of bad news, or let the market speak for itself when that horse doesn’t spark interest at the price they are asking.

Luckily, in general the folks that I work with when I go to see a prospect are familiar with the process of buying and selling and are not offended by someone talking money before the deal is done, or even before someone has sat on their animal. But I’d love to know- what are your experiences with this? Do you have strong opinions about the money-aspect of buying horses? Do you plan to pay full price, or how did you evaluate the horse you currently own before bringing him home?

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Regrouping

So, you may have known, or guessed it, but last week I did a pre-purchase exam on a horse. And since I’m not overflowing with joyous announcements right now, it should also be somewhat obvious that I decided to pass on the deal.

I feel like the horse market moves in cycles- most days I obsessively casually browse my top horse-sales sites and go through the same “seen it, talked to the seller, watched the video” role call of the horses available. And then all of the sudden there’s an upswing and there will be a lot of good prospects appearing online.

Right now, I’m still trying to assess the financial damage done by the PPE and plan my next move. I hope to meet a local horse sometime this week, weather allowing, and I also have asked a couple of the working-student friends I made in Ocala to check out a prospect there.

I have eyeballs all over the place looking out for that perfect pony, and I am so appreciative for that. Hopefully there will be another surge of horses hitting the market and the right one will be amongst them!

Photography Friday: Christine and Kadet

Christine is a very special friend of mine, and also a huge part of this blog in that she has probably taken a good percentage of the media, particularly sales horse media, that you see on this site.

In return for the countless (because if we’re counting, it’s probably more than 20) hours driving to horse shows or seeing prospective horses, as well as being chief ear wrangler for my photography projects, I was keen to do a photo session with her and her horse Kadet.

Kadet is a special guy himself, a spritely soul turning 19 this year. He is retired from the highest levels of showjumping and now enjoys the good life of trail riding and light work with Christine. When he’s not galloping around his spacious paddock, Kadet’s other skill is proving himself to be the miracle horse. Despite breaking his coffin bone, getting cast in his stall, and fracturing a bone in his leg (all separate occasions), he’s bounced back every time and is the picture of health today.

So many thanks to Christine for her continuous support and friendship! Happy Friday to everyone!

Reflections on Smitty

It’s been 2 weeks since Smitty returned to Florida and started a new chapter in his life. Since then, I’ve lost no time in returning to the search for the perfect horse, and sat on 7 different prospects of all different descriptions. Each one I have compared and contrasted to my experiences with the horses of my recent past- Smitty, Riley, Darcy, and of course, Foster. ā¤

When I purchased Smitty, I knew I was taking a risk. The obvious being that I didn’t know actually how he would ride, though I a few things I was quite certain about. The spur marks on his sides indicated that he was a kick ride (though we quickly got that sorted out!) and that he had been ramped up into work pretty quickly- in other words, the horse in the video wasn’t the product of a year’s worth of regular training, but more like some months. Because of the draw reins in the sales video, I knew that there may be some re-training to contact and reaching for the bit (also something we fixed). But overall, I saw a great prospect, at a great price, and knew that despite the risks, he was worth snapping up.

I don’t regret buying Smitty, though it wasn’t a good fit in the long term. He tested my abilities in ways that other horses hadn’t, and allowed me to prove to myself that some of my doubts, at least, were unfounded. For instance, when he first came to North Carolina, Smitty did not cross-tie well. Standing is hard for babies, and especially tall lanky babies who can reachĀ everything and are enormously smart. I had someone comment to me that I should just tack him up in a stall, and not press the issue. But I believe that cross-tying is a basic skill that could and should be expected of any sport horse, and so I let him dance, and told him off when I needed him to stand still for tack and getting his feet picked up. Eventually he learned to stand, and for the most part, learned to be patient and [mostly] quiet while I went about my business in the barn.

Smitty taught me that there is still an ounce of bravery in me, even though it needs a good pep-talk to come out these days. The day we went cross country schooling will always be a favorite memory with him, as well as the undoubtedly hilarious attempt at the Green as Grass showjumping course at CHP. Those are thoughts that will always make me smile to remember.

But Smitty also taught me what I’m not willing to live with, or rather, where I need to draw the line. I need to draw the line where goals just aren’t financially responsible, or even possible. I need to draw the line at a point where I acknowledge that I needĀ professional help, and understand that help may be getting saddle time instead of me, despite my wants and wishes. And he taught me to draw the line at a point where it made more sense to find him a better fit, someone who can provide the guidance and assertiveness that I, as a non-professional, could not dedicate toĀ him just now.

There are plenty of silver linings in the mix, however. Thanks to Smitty I found a wonderful barn with a community of ladies that I appreciate more with every visit. I learned things through watching the training rides that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned from the saddle. I now understand the expectations of how to start a young horse in dressage with the aims of competing at the upper levels. I enjoyed seeing him progress and learn how to be a better equine citizen during his time with me. And I’m proud of where he ended up, even if it isn’t with me.