Courtney King-Dye Update from Aug 30th

Here is a link to Courtney’s latest post.

Her last line is “Hopefully more (and something miraculous) soon!”

I feel like her tag ling should be something miraculous. You know, like under her logo it should say something miraculous. Even if Courtney is never show ring ready I know that she is going to continue to add a lot to our sport. Her grace is what sets her apart from so many other riders. The cool thing is that she had maintained her grace even after an accident that would have had most people giving up on life, let alone horses.

I will admit that I have been feeling a little down about horses as of late. Everything else is great in my life, but going to the barn to see Gen has not been the relaxing oasis that it should be. Reading that post reminds me that I am so lucky to be able to walk in to the barn everyday to see my boy. If Courtney Dye can have a positive attitude there is no reason that I shouldn’t also.

So Speaking of Falling Off…

I have decided to give up on riding Gen. How are those two thoughts related? Well I am really proud of the fact that I have never fallen off of him. I kind of want to keep that record going.

The thing is that I was SOOOO excited to be riding Gen again. I had all these dreams in my head that once I started to ride him he would suddenly be normal again and we could go galloping off through the fields.

The reality of the situation is that is never going to happen. I am allowed to walk Gen and only walk Gen. If Gen could just walk this would have been a non-issue. Gen however does not like to walk. Gen likes to RUN and run fast. I love to go flying around on horseback also which is one of the reasons we worked so well.  The problem is that now I freak out every time he even jigs for a step because I am so worried about him. That means that riding is not fun. And I have gone though too much with Gen to not have fun with him.

I enjoy him even as a pasture pet. I don’t want to ride him unless I can really ride him. Maybe someday, years from now, I will be able to walk trot and canter him. For now since all the vet cleared him to do is walk I am going to throw in the towel. Not all horses like retirement, but Gen does. Look at that happy boy trotting across his field. He knows how hard to push himself without getting hurt in the field. I don’t know how hard I could push before he breaks in the arena so to me it is just not worth the risk. If I am happy and he is happy why mess with it?

I fell off!

I almost did a post last week about how long it had been since I last “bought a piece of real estate” in a riding arena. I was almost at my 8 year anniversary of not falling off. I had been saying since I started with Phoenix about two years ago that I just wanted to make it to 8 years. The good news? I made it! Only by a few days, but I still made it! The bad news. I fell off of the Schoolmaster yesterday!

How did it happen? Well…I am not exactly sure. One minute I was trotting along, the next minute…not so much. The Schoolmaster spooked. At what only he knows. He tends to have demons in his brain so it is not surprising. What is surprising is that instead of riding out the spook and going with him, I stayed in place and the Schoolmaster went right.

There was a moment where my right leg was on top of the saddle. My left leg was in the stirrup and my whole body was off the horse. Far off the horse. I reached down to try and grab something to save myself, and there was nothing to grab! My only thought was “I hope my foot comes out of the stirrup”.

And then down I went.

Luckily my foot did come out of the stirrup. I fell down on my side, hip first so at least I didn’t slam my head off the bat although it did hit the ground so I am thinking I need to order myself a new helmet. I hung on to the reins with my right arm and the Schoolmaster was still freaking out so he dragged me for about 15 feet.

As he was dragging me I knew I had to get up so I focused really hard on getting my feet underneath myself so I could stand. After getting dragged on my knees I pulled against him and dragged myself up. He kept going backwards for a while, but I did get him to stop right as he was about to leave the ring.

I took a few deep breaths and readjusted my saddle (and fix the reins which thankfully came apart without breaking!). I walked him over to the mounting block and the Schoolmaster freaked out again and went flying out of the ring. Sigh.

Eventually I got him to stand still long enough so I could get back on, but it took a while because he was clearly terrified about something in the corner. It took 25 minutes to get him to calm down and focus enough to be able to ride in to that corner without spooking or bolting. At that point I was sore and ready to be done. Of course he had to spook again leaving the ring.

I swear the Schoolmaster could see dead people. After going in and out of the ring calmly and doing a little more work I headed back to the barn. This was not the ride I had hoped for!

8 years is a long time between falls. Especially when you think about all the times I have ridden. Even a conservative guess would be riding an average of 3 days a week for that time. That means that even with a lowball guess I have ridden over 1,200 times without coming off. Even more impressive when you think that I never came off my crazy Gennyral or my green Phoenix. I was due to hit the dirt.

The good thing was that I didn’t get hurt. And that I have not learned that I don’t have to go to the hospital every time I fall. I have only fallen off 6 times in my life counting yesterday. Not bad considering all the times and horses I have ridden. My pride though is pretty injured. I am looking forward to having a lesson and making sure my confidence is intact.

Anky van Grunsven Sues Eurodressage

Read the story straight from the horses mouth as they say.

When I first read the story all I could think is “are you kidding me”. This is not a joke. The evil empire is really suing a journalist for linking Anky’s image to Rollkur. What is crazy about this is that 90% of the people who know what Rollkur is and who ride dressage already link the work with Anky in their heads.

What makes this story even more nuts is the e-mails that Anky and Sjef sent to eurodressage!

My support is clearly for Astrid Appels.

Is it okay to train an animal just because we can?

So on my trip to Florida I took a day to go to Sea World. I LOVE sea animals and used to dream of being a Sea Lion trainer so I was really looking forward to a great day, and I had one…until I saw the Orca show. I had been to see some of the other shows in the day and had a great time seeing such well trained animals. I also enjoyed watching the “pet the dolphins exhibit” where people were given a fish so they could “pet THEN feed” these amazing creatures. While watching that both of my traveling companions looked at me and said “too bad they don’t have something like this for horses, Gen would be PERFECT at that”. He would happily pose for pictures and go over to strangers and let them pet him for treats all day!

Anyway, one of the shows I did not get to see until the end of the day was the Orca show. I sat down in the splash zone excited to see the beautiful whales up close and was looking forward to the show. When it started though, I began to stop having fun…it was horrible to watch these majestic creatures doing stupid tricks. I sat there paralyzed with a guilt that is hard to describe. Like it was my fault that these beautiful Orcas were humiliating themselves for human pleasure. It was so disgusting that I wanted out of the show and fast.

It got me thinking. Are we just as wrong for training horses? They are wild creatures and we make them do our biding. I know that PETA has come out saying that domesticating horses is wrong. I had always thought that was laughable, until seeing that Orca show. After that PETA didn’t seem quite so crazy.

I left that show wondering what I had done. Who gave me the right to train something so magical? I don’t know any person who has seen a horse running in the wild who has not stopped to take a breath and marvel at their beauty. Is that same feeling of awe there when you watch domesticated horses? I don’t know.

After a little while I was able to justify domesticated horses to myself by reminding myself that my horse would have died 3 and a half years ago if he was out in the wild, and considering he hurt himself running in the field it is not like he would never have gotten hurt. I also feel that my horse has defied the odds and kept his spirit, not something all domesticated horses still have intact.

So what do you think? Is it wrong of us humans to train horses? Do you ever think about how your horse would survive in the wild? Is there any way you can ensure that a horse keeps their spirit?

Meet the 2010 American WEG Dressage Team – Todd Flettrich

Todd Flettrich is living pretty much every person who rides dream. Or at the very least he is living my dream! He didn’t start riding until he was 12 years old (same age I started) and has pretty much been good at it ever since (not so much like me). What I love is that his rise to fame came because he worked hard and good people took him under their wing. At 14 years old he was already being a working student on the weekends to pay for his lessons. He kept up and even left his home town of New Orleans in the summers to work at barns in California and Atlanta.

When he graduated high school he dropped everything and went up to Pennsylvania to train with the very talented Jessica Ransehousen. While there he had the opportunity to be selected to go to NAYRC’s four times! FOUR TIMES!! Not only that, but he one year he even won the NAYRC gold medal in dressage. After bringing some young horses up though the levels he took a break from showing himself. After training with some top trainers (including Steffen Peter’s) he hit the show ring again and has had some great successes in the past decade.

In 2007 he took seven horses to Germany so he could work with them and the famous Hubertus Schmidt. When he came back to the states he had a great horse waiting for him. Margaret Duprey (one of his students and owner of Cherry Knoll Farm) had bought a talented horse named Otto from Heather Blitz. The pair have been working hard and came back from another training trip to Germany last year stronger and more focused. They keep getting better and better, and while they might not be standouts, they are always at the top of the pack.

I hope that someday Todd gets to go to the Olympics. Dressage can be such a money sport that it is frustrating to see people buy their way to the top. Todd Flettrich’s career is built on hard work and dedication so I know that I am not alone in wishing him the best of luck. I hope that he and Otto peak at the right time and take home a medal…for all of us little people out there who just love dressage.

Horse People Are Styling!!!

So every 5 years or so the high fashion magazines go through a wave of loving equine inspired fashion. You will see glamorous spread of an 80 pound model with knee high boots, leggings and some out of control jacket that if you squint you could see how it was inspired by a hunt coat. When I see these spreads I always smile, but I don’t really give it a lot of thought. If I see a great piece in NYC, I buy it, but I don’t go out of my way to keep an “equestrian inspired look” because, as I am sure you all do, I feel like I have that going for me a couple of hours a day already anyway!

Normally I only see the equine sheik thing in little boutiques or high end stores like Bloomingdale’s. Imagine my surprise when I was in the mall last week and looked in to a store and saw the display above. It was in just a normal store! Can you see the faux full seat breeches? I had to take a picture because I thought it was pretty cool. This is the first time I have ever seen equine inspired fashion in a big chain. Who knows, maybe someday I will be wearing my full show habit to work and be at the height of fashion 😛

Meet the 2010 American WEG Dressage Team – Tina Konyot

Tina Konyot is a true horse person. She grew up around horse, her parents grew up around horses, and so on. In fact, her grand father was scouted by Ringling Brothers to come to America and do the equine circus acts. How cool is that! Her father was also one of Robert Dover’s first trainers so to say dressage is in her blood is an understatement. What really makes her special from many other “dynasty riders” (riders who grew up with famous riding parents) is that Tina went off to Europe for 5 years to learn. She wanted to get better and wanted to train with the best in the world.

Clearly that was a good move because when she came back in 1999 with a young stallion named Justice she started right at the top earning a 7th place finish at the selection trials for the 2000 Olympics. Since that time she has kept busy winning on a variety of horses and making the short list for the 2004 Olympics with the mare Anna Karenina.

Tina Konyot and Calecto V have been competing together since 2007 and have gotten better and better. I was at Devon last year when she won the Freestyle with a 72.60%. I know that she was over the moon excited after that win. And after being there she was without a doubt the best on that night. Since then the pair has only gotten better. If you watch the videos of her from last year and her from this year you can see that Calecto’s gaits have gotten much bigger and they also just seem much more confident.

Even cooler? Tina OWNS Calecto V!!! Very, very few top riders own their mounts. Most need sponsors or even syndicates to afford the horse, let along competition fees. I LOVE the fact that she owns her own top horse!

The pair is on a real hot streak as of late. They won 7 Grand Prix’s already this year! At the Kentucky Cup in April they got a 76.25% on their freestlye, which hopefully is a foreshadowing of what they will do at WEGs this year! The pair also won the 2010 Collecting Gaits/USEF festival of champions making her a lock for the team. If anyone out there is going to WEGs and needs to interview riders you should try to get a hold of Tina for an interview. Yes, she is a fantastic rider, but she is also REALLY funny and has a great sense of humor. She is just someone you would want to hang out with, and that comes across in interviews.

How close is too close?

So for the past week and a half I have been pet sitting for a friend. Not only does this friend have the cutest pets EVER, but her place is also close to where Gen lives. How close? 4 minutes!

And honestly, I think that is a little close! I have already decided that I should probably not have my own barn ever because I would never get anything done, but now I am thinking that I need to board more than 4 minutes away!

Why you ask? Because I am going to the barn WAY too much! I pop in on my way to run errands in the morning. Head over on my way back from lunch. Stop in when I am driving by the in the afternoon, head over to groom him around dinner. I have even been known too go before bed to get him ready for turnout and give him bed time kisses. The barn owner has even told me to knock it off because my Mexican General is starting to get used to seeing me all the time…making his already inflated self worth grow to epic proportions.

Considering I am just under 20 minutes away now I feel like that can be a little far some times. Although I am not complaining because is the closest I have ever boarded him. The farthest I have ever lived from my pony is 50 minutes, and that was tricky when he was hurt and I had to get there two times a day.

So if 5 minutes is too close, and 20 minutes is too far, I wonder what the perfect distance is for me? What about the rest of you? How close is your horse boarded? I know that most of you do not go every day like I do, but does how far away your horse lives impact how many times a week you can see him/her?