Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Love at First Sight

Looking for the right horse is no easier than looking for the right person. Many horses look wonderful on paper, or are breath taking to behold. Some have wonderful, loving personalities, others have the movement and jump to be winners. And ALL horses have quirks. Some quirks can be lived with, and others are non starters. We need to be smart enough to look for the horse (or the person!) who's quirks fit with our own.

With all this in mind, I traveled to Virginia to go horse shopping. I was on a tight budget, but there were certain things I was non-negotiable on-- the horse had to be started, had to have excellent conformation in order to stand up to eventing, and had to have that "spark" of greatness. I definitely did my homework on all the horses I went to look at--any one of them would make an amazing event horse.

Driving up to the last farm on my agenda, I had a clear favorite in mind, this last horse was really only a formality. I had found her last minute-- a previous horse on my agenda had been sold the day before I flew out, and somehow I came across this 3 year old filly, tucked into another horses ad.
Zahra as a two year old

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was in love with her. She was breath taking in the cross ties. The owner informed that this was only her 7th ride, and then hopped on and rode her on a loose rein down to the outdoor like it was nothing. Her gaits were all beautiful, she was enthusiastic and forward, and oh yeah, she can jump!! 

Zahra is the full package, for sure. Even though it's a Wisconsin winter, I can hardly wait to go to the barn each day after work and teach her something new! We're going slowly since she's so young and still growing, but every day is better than the day before.

I am so blessed to have found a horse like her. I think I've always believed that since I was a good rider, it meant I couldn't have a nice horse. I thought I could take a horse that was "good enough" and do well with that horse, and I did, and those experiences made me the rider that I am today... but now it really feels like the sky is the limit!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tough Decision

I’m currently between great horses. My first real competitive partner, Sgilti Lightfoot, has officially retired, despite my best efforts to hold him together a little bit longer. Genetics finally won the long drawn out battle, and in June of 2010, I officially retired my first FEI partner at the young age of 14. Meanwhile, in May of 2010, Streetlight Manifesto was born. “Puck” is by the Elite Hanovarian stallion Sir Caletto, out of my OTTB powerhouse mare, Wolfnbankersclothn. At the GOV inspection, he received Premium status, with excellent comments from the judges. My personal favorite was “It is surprising, given his jumper pedigree, but this colt has an excellent trot!” Puck is now a wonderful looking yearling, and I can’t wait for the future with him, but the future is still a few years away…

Wolfn at Otter Creek Fall 2011. Photo courtesy Xpress Foto.

Wolfn was supposed to fill in the gap. She came back from motherhood a little calmer and a little wiser, but still fiercely capable of anything. It was such a joy watching her dressage really come together this year… from my trainer Alex Gerding politely asking “When is the gray horse coming back?” to breaking into the 30s at Training level at her last couple shows. And cross country? This girl was a machine! She loved to go fast, and talk about scopey! She wasn't even trying til it was 4'. She was and is everything I want in an event horse: brave, enthusiastic, and extremely rideable. Sgilti used to make the Intermediate jumps ride like a hunter course, and he doesn’t hold a candle to Wolfn’s athleticism.
So, it was with great sadness that I finally came to grips with the fact Wolfn could never be the eventing partner I wanted her to be. She has an old racing injury in her foot—she broke her sesamoid bone while she was on the track. They gave her time off, everything healed up, and back to the track she went! When I did her pre-purchase, I knew the injury was there, but everything looked good in the x-ray, so away we went.
But horses are complex creatures, and the x-ray did not tell the whole story. Soon after we got her, we began to have major problems with trailering her. Over the years, to try and accommodate her, we put on and took off several different types of boots and wraps. We put her in a stud stall, an open stall, a box stall. We tied her. We let her loose. Nothing helped. Sooner or later, she’d lose her mind, and start viciously kicking the trailer as hard as she could. When we finally arrived at the show, my nerves would be shot, her legs would be bloody, and there’d be a new set of dents for the trailer guys to fix.
It took me until this fall to realize these things were connected. I never gave a second thought to that old track injury, but suddenly it dawned on me. Old injury. Arthritis. Even if it doesn’t affect her on a day to day basis, it must be the reason she went crazy in the trailer. Like the old football injury that can predict a rainstorm, it doesn’t have to hurt to be an issue. The vibration of the road through the trailer must have tickled that injury, and she was going to do anything in her power to make that irritation go away!!
So, I'll have to hold out hope she passed to Puck all the traits that I love about her. In the meantime,  I’m going to Virginia to go horse shopping. I need a horse that I can get going and build up to the 2* level, paving the way for Puck to have a smooth road to the 2* level… and beyond?
Stay tuned!