Let’s Discuss: What’s your range?

Last week we discussed ponies versus horses, and both the cultural and sometimes ruling limitations that stop ponies from being more popular in the english disciplines. So today I’d like to ask the more personal question- what is your perfect size, and why?

Ivan and Foster were both 16.2h and uphill, and Smitty is fitting right into that category and will likely get much bigger. While it’s a lot easier to market a larger horse, I’m finding his constant growth (.5″ from September to December) a little disconcerting.

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

When I was horse shopping, I was looking at anything from 15.2h to 16.2h, though there were exceptions of course. I really quite like riding the shorter guys, in fact, and if I didn’t want to jump I’m probably stick to something 15.2 or 15.3h tall.

A 17h horse I tried in KY...

A 17h horse I tried in KY…

.... and a 15.2h pony from the same day

…. and a 15.2h pony from the same day

For me, I prefer to jump something a little bit taller than 15.1-15.2 hands simply because the fences look smaller from a bigger horse, and my balls went MIA a long, long time ago. Otherwise, I feel like my leg is ok on a variety of horses and would be open to a more vertically challenged prospect.

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XC schooling baby Smitty

What about you? What is your acceptable range in a mount? How does your chosen discipline affect your preferences? 

Let’s Discuss: Cloning

News broke recently that the famous Irish stallion, Cruising, has not one, but two clones on the ground. If you are not familiar with Cruising, you probably know his prodigy- Mr. Medicott, or Flexible, for instance, to name a couple. The clone 2 1/2 year old stallions (nicknamed Rooster and Booster), are to be made available at stud to select mares this year. Personally, I was shocked to hear this news.

The late Cruising meets his two clones

The late Cruising meets his two clones / PC: Horse and Hound

When we sold our farm, it was purchased by a man with a vision to breed Irish horses (after going through breed books with my parents over the kitchen table, no less). He went to Ireland, purchased himself one grade-A stallion and 10 purebred mares, and imported them to the States. He then bought 40 Belgian draft mares (some halter broke, some not), and started an embryo transfer practice using the draft horses as the recipient mares. For some time we continued to live in the house while he took over the farm, and a little piece of my heart broke seeing half the barn turned into a laboratory. The Irish Draught registry must have felt similarly, and had an absolute shit-fit. They determined that only one foal by a mare/stallion combination could be registered per year. So, if one Irish mare donates 3 embryos that year that become live foals- which one gets registered?

Crusing

Crusing

I’m sure this rule was at one point overturned (this having happened in the late 90s), but the Irish Draught Society still ruled with an iron fist over their registry books. Getting an Irish horse registered is no joke, including hours of preparation, grooming, and training in hand before going to the inspection in your region. And even then you are not guaranteed approval- we were told to represent one full Irish mare the next year because she wasn’t fully matured in her back end. The approval of Ivan as a registered stallion, an even more rigorous test, then was a huge relief.

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Ivan at his stallion inspection

 

So, knowing as I do that the Irish Draught Society errs on the conservative side, how did such a prestigious stallion come to be cloned, and the news stay secret for so long? Is it right of them to allow cloned horses into the registry books? What about the multiple clones, such as in Cruising’s case? Personally I’m not fully decided. But I do think if there’s to be a clone for breeding purposes, maybe it should just be one horse and not two, so as to keep the integrity of the breed by not ‘polluting it’ with one genetic line by having it available for the space of three stallions’ lifetimes.

Read the Horse & Hound’s article on the clones here.

Weigh in! What do you think of introducing cloned horses to the genetic pool, and how do you think this will set an example for future generations?

Throwback Thursday: Ivan

Thinking it would be fun to do a mini throwback series on the horses of my past. Afterall, they are the ones that made me the rider and the horsewoman I am today, for better or worse. So starting with the most recent, here’s Ivan, the sometimes terrible.

Christmas Ivan

 

Name: Ivan
Registered Name: Padi’s Classic Mountain
Breed: Irish Draught (RID)
Color: Grey
Height: 16.2h

Ivan was one of many horses that seemingly fell into my mother’s lap. A friend of hers had a 2 year old Irish Draught stallion, and simply didn’t have a place for him anymore. So we acquired him, at a hefty 90% discount off his weanling price. The intention would be to raise him for another year, maybe breed a couple mares, then send him through the Irish Draught stallion approval process and sell him as a Registered stallion.

I, as silly teenagers who have watched one too many romantic horse movies tend to do, was immediately drawn to this stallion’s quirky temperament. We’d play tag in the field, and he let me play dress up with him on occasion.

Baby Ivan wears the monkey hat

Baby Ivan wears the monkey hat

He grew up for a year, then Ivan put on his big boy pants and went off to training in order to pass the rigorous Irish Draught Horse Inspections. After passing, he came back home, was bred to a few mares, then went down to Georgia to go on consignment with a trainer.

Ivan at his inspection

Ivan at his inspection

It was some months before things went wrong. All that raging testosterone was getting to his head, and after her latest fall, the trainer’s husband forbade she ride him until he was gelded. We agreed, he was gelded, and he came back home. Where I promptly fell back in love with this quirky big grey.

First ride on a freshly gelded Ivan

First ride on a freshly gelded Ivan

As they say, the rest was history. For the most part. I retrained him in a more classical dressage way-of-going (as opposed to dressage in an elevator bit), and slowly we started working on showjumping courses.

Ivan's second show

Ivan’s second showjumping competition

Both dressage and showjumping progressed somewhat slowly, as sometimes Ivan’s personality could be… unpredictable. I never knew if it was Jekyll or Hyde that I’d be riding that day, and I can recall lessons where the trainer just told me to ‘wait it out’ until he saw fit to stop galloping a 20 meter circle. Once he got going, Ivan was a train, and his bucks were unbelievably athletic for a horse his size. A fractured ankle (thanks to Ivan) and a maybe broken hip (thanks to Ivan) put me out of commission and were part of our slowish progress. Yet still, I loved him.

Showing first level for the first time

Showing first level for the first time

Because of this unpredictability, I decided Ivan would be shown as a dressage horse only. We showjumped at home, jumping 3’3″ courses and the occasional 3’6″ fence with ease.

Athletic, and a bit on the exuberant side

Athletic, and a bit on the exuberant side

Luckily, his dressage was fairly good as well, and we started campaigning at the local shows at First level, and the ribbons started finally coming our way.1923424_541191201449_618_n

@ FENCE

@ FENCE

Even though he had his terrible moments, in his 6 year old year Ivan started to calm down, and which the naughty side still existed, it was only appeared once in a blue moon. 95% of the time, he was a sweetheart, and a great dressage partner. He toddled my 10 year old sister around over crossrails, and even walked and trotted about with my husband (as his can-you-deal-with-horses test when we started dating), who had sat on a horse only once before.

Ivan and his best friend Bo

Ivan and his best friend Bo

Ivan was my heart horse, and for the most part was an exceptionally cuddly creature. He wouldn’t let me bridle him without a big neck hug and a raspberry into his cheek, insisted on grabbing the hose at bath time, and had a huge love of water. Oh, and he used to get into everything- the things I pulled out of his mouth! Phones! Pens! Jackets! Santa Hats! (Sound familiar?) What wasn’t to love?

Ivan's molar marks in a phone he destroyed

Ivan’s molar marks in a phone he destroyed

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But alas, all good things must come to an end. I completed college and was forced to send him home until I could figure out a permanent salary to support my horse habit. Eventually, when no permanent job happened, and not wanting to see his talent wasted, I agreed to put him on the market. No less than 2 weeks after he sold, I received a full-time job offer with benefits. The resultant horse shopping led me to Foster, so I can’t complain, but I am still thankful to the skills Ivan taught me, and certainly happy for the memories of those years together.

Luckily, a piece of Ivan still lives with my family. Of the 2 foals by Ivan, we kept the Haflinger cross, a darling cob sized gelding named Riley. Not a mean bone here, but a quirky disposition, an affinity for playing with dogs, and a horse that I hope will see his true potential brought to light!

Riley

Riley

 

 

The Weeks Ahead

Where has the time gone? I’d been comfortably thinking of the Recognized event as being way off, and all of the sudden, I’m staring it in the face and trying to come up with a solid plan for our preparation, so as to not repeat the disastrous effects of last-minute-schooling at the Hunter/Jumper show.

Somewhat legit plan in place for next week.

Somewhat legit plan in place for next week.

Between lessons and more traveling for wedding/engagement/photography related stuff, it’s going to be very important that I stick to a schedule and not be left scrambling days before the show. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to manage any hill work or uber conditioning rides, since it seems unfair to do that either right before or after back-to-back lessons, but I believe the intensity and repetition of rides will keep him fit enough to compete. The terrain at FENCE is somewhat rolling, but part of the cross country course is on a giant hill- something new for Foster after having competed mostly in the rather flat lands of Southern Pines.

My last event at FENCE with Merry.. Dear Lord, I'm so thankful I don't dress like that anymore.

My last event at FENCE with Merry.. Dear Lord, I’m so thankful I don’t dress like that anymore.

This show will mark my return to Recognized competition, after 10 years away. To date, Foster has only competed at schooling shows. They’re cheaper, they’re local, and they don’t make me feel bad when we seriously goof. But with my pondering the decision to move up to Training level, it’s time to up the ante and see if Foster can handle a bigger atmosphere and tougher course. Also, prize money! Though I expect the competition to be stiff, I am confident in Foster’s abilities at this level and hope he puts in a pretty good performance.

Another photo from FENCE, Ivan at a dressage show

Another photo from FENCE, Ivan at a dressage show

Because this event is a pretty big investment in time and money, I’ve been somewhat aggressive with our lesson schedule. Last night’s training ride will be followed by a lesson next week, as well as another session with Doug over fences. So expect an unusual amount of lesson recaps in the next couple weeks as I try to keep all of this newfound knowledge and skillz in my brain! Yay busy horsey schedule!

 

Confessions of a weenie eventer

We had a nice weekend here, where my plan of having no plans mostly worked. I hope you all enjoyed your Labor Day festivities just as much. Also, my husband bought himself a truck!

Nothing sexier than a confident man driving a beastly truck (that I may be borrowing sometime!)

Nothing sexier than a confident man driving a beastly truck (that I may be borrowing sometime!)

Anyways, on to the topic of today, and my pondering of contradictions. Eventers are supposed to be the crazy ones, brave enough to jump solid fences knowing the potential consequences, and just doing the damn thing anyway. Cross country fields are where we are supposed to be at home, and trail riding comes as easily to us as white on rice.

Not for this weenie.

I used to be a rock-star trail rider before I got into competing and eventing. I was lucky enough to grow up on a small farm that was a short trek from the most amazing trail system- 180 acres of broad paths up and down hills, around ponds, over bridges, and through creeks. Every day I would throw a bareback pad (or not) on my trusty Haflinger, Tanner, and head out for some R&R. We’d canter all over the place, enjoying being out and about like all was well with the world.

Rocking the barepack pads with sweatpants, on Tanner for my 14th birthday

Rocking the barepack pads with sweatpants, on Tanner for my 14th birthday

Then one day, I was cantering Tanner down a hill, and he lost his footing and tripped. He slid down the hill on his back, chucking me into the trees. When I came to, my vision was in black and white, and the only clear thing to me were the shadows of the trees. I felt around for Tanner, who had miraculously stood up and was waiting right there, and climbed back on. I remember panicking a bit for the 10 minutes that it took my vision to come back- I was miles from the nearest person at the time. I never told my parents about what I now realize was probably a nasty concussion, but started borrowing a cell phone with me whenever I went out on the trails by myself.

Foxhunting (which is kind of like trail riding?), again on Tanner

Foxhunting (which is kind of like trail riding?), again on Tanner

Fast forward to my graduation to real horses, and competing for realz. I tried going out on the trails, but couldn’t trust them the way I did Tanner. They, being more sensitive types, felt my tension and would start looking for the threat they thought I perceived. Enter spooking at things that did not really exist. I just couldn’t find a way back to the relaxed trail rides, instead, trail rides meant channeling all my energy into calming myself down, which of course, is really hard to do.

Won't trail ride, but I will swim. And be awkward, I will always be awkward. No pics of Foster doing this, but Foster LOVES water. Someday we'll find him a pond to play in!

Won’t trail ride, but I will swim. And be awkward, I will always be awkward.
No pics of Foster doing this, but Foster LOVES water. Someday we’ll find him a pond to play in!

To this day, I do not care for trail riding. Give me a job- warming up, jumping, focusing on maintaining a rhythmic gallop, and I’m good to go. Tell me to chill the heck out and walk around on the buckle, and I tense up. Pretty much the most contradictory thing for an eventer, but that’s me, and that’s the baggage I carry with me.

What about you guys? Do you struggle with contradictory skills? Do you fumble over cross-rails, but glory over bigger fences? Hate the grooming process, but bought a white horse?

A one-sided story

Like most people, I find myself of the right-handed, non-ambidextrous sort. So for riding, I find that I am most coordinated and can maintain more finesse in my right hand.

Unlike most people, besides being more awkward to the left, I also I have a completely busted left side. To wit, these are the flaws and injuries that I have acquired that prevent any real grace on that half of my body.

ambiturner

Natural Gait
Some people toe out when they walk, others toe in. Others walk straight, and you stink. Me? I walk with my right foot straight, and my left foot toed in about 30 degrees. Walking straight lines is hard for me. I get this from my mother, who told me if I were a horse, she wouldn’t buy me (note: I learned everything about buying horses from her, and I get it- I wouldn’t buy me either 😉 ). She has, with time and concentration, talk herself to walk with both feet straight. I’m lazy and can’t be bothered. Also, I find my left leg wraps around my horse’s side better. Whatevs.

Love you too, mum, and thanks for the awkwardness.

Love you too, mum, and thanks for the awkwardness.

The Ankle
Labor day of my sophomore year, my friend and I went to return her phone. Turns out my horse, Ivan, thought it looked tasty, and his molars left it irreparable. We went to the barn, whereupon Ivan decided to inflict some damage on me. Not with his teeth, but by ‘bucking’ mid-air over a sizeable fence. I made the decision to bail, and got my foot caught in the stirrup, fracturing my left ankle. One leg cast and robo-boot later, and I can still occasionally feel the effects of that injury.

Hand-grazing Ivan in the leg cast.

Hand-grazing Ivan in the leg cast.

No worries, I still went out that night!

No worries, I still went out that night!

The Hip
A couple years later, after I had fully recovered from the ankle injury, I was jumping Ivan again when some horses started galloping around the arena. Ivan had this really fun habit of just bolting without notice, and did just that, careening around the arena. I hung on admirably about 3/4 way around before becoming unbalanced. I then somehow became clothes-lined hip first by a jump standard wing. The impact took me out hard enough that I couldn’t walk for 3 days. The Health Center said I may have broken it, and I should go to the ER. Eventers may be brave, but we’re occasionally also stupid (or maybe that’s just me). I never went, and my hip issues are the most prevalent body problems I still feel. A chiropractor said my hip injury has caused a pinched nerve, but I don’t actually know what happened- just that it hurt. A lot.

Jumping Ivan over one of the jump standards that took me out

Jumping Ivan over one of the jump standards that took me out

So there you have it, folks. A crooked rider, with a crooked horse (whose bum side is also his left). When all else fails, turn right.