Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MIlner Downs - Derby Time!

Last year, one of my favorite parts of the show at Milner was watching the Canadian Hunter Derby.  The big grass field lends itself to a Derby course - and I enjoyed learning about the Canadian format.

Going into this year I wasn't sure if Winds would have the fitness to enter again, but he felt so good at 3' on Thursday that we opted to go for it. 

Down here, the USHJA runs derbies over two rounds.  The first round is scored like a traditional hunter round (out of 100), with the opportunity for earning up to 4 extra points if you jump all 4 high options offered.  The top 12 horse and rider combos return for a second Handy round which offers a shortened course where the judging emphasizes efficiency and brilliance.  Again the round is scored out of 100, with a possible 4 extra points for high options. Scores are added together to determine the overall winner.  

I love the drama of coming back for the Handy Round in reverse order.  It's fun, and the top competitors have an idea of how much they have to push it in order to get a winning score. 

However the downside of the USHJA format is that it takes forever and spectators can lose interest watching 50 Classic rounds, and even in smaller classes the horses have to stand by for the Handy, which is sometimes tricky, especially if you've got multiple rides.

In Canada, while the course format and build is similar, they have condensed the Derbies to only one round.  You still get a base hunter score out of 100, but then you are awarded 2 points for every high option (there are 5), and also given a score for handiness on a scale of 1-10.  This means the high options and handy score account for a possible 20 bonus points, and can swing the total score dramatically. 

The other big difference, is that where the USHJA National Derby is 3' with high options up to 3'5" and the International Derby is 3'6"-4'  with high options that are at least 4'3" - in Canada they offer two height sections, one with the base fences at 3'3" and the other with the base at 3'6", but the height sections are still judged as one class.

I like that the one round format keeps the class a bit more spectator friendly (and for the moment anyway, I like that it is fewer jumps).  Also, for horses who also go in divisions with their owner, or do a full pro division, I think it's easier to add the Derby to your schedule when it's 12 jumps, not 20. 

But I digress -  One round, we had nothing else to show that day, so Winds was entered. 

While my excitement for a Derby can never be contained, I was also a little nervous to test the beast at 3'3".  He hadn't jumped that high since Paso back in November, which meant I wasn't sure if he would be overly excited and crazy, or stiff, or come up sore afterward...

Winds warmed up well.  He was a bit stuck behind the leg, but that was a problem we knew would go away once he was in the ring.  To his credit he was following the rein better than he normally does and was stepping through nicely on landing (which is my major paranoia these days). 

The disadvantage of the one-and-done format is that you don't know how handy you have to be to win.  When you come back in reverse order for the USHJA class, you have a sense if you need to go big and make up points, or if you can play it safe and try to just not screw up. 

In the Canadian class, especially if you are early in the order you don't know if someone is going to post a huge score after your go - so your strategy has to shift a bit.  For this round, the high options weren't really very high.  Some of them were nearly the same height, but offered a slightly more difficult track.  The plan was to pick up bonus points on 4 of the 5 options - leaving a split rail fence that was airy and on a tough track.  Other than that, there were options for some nice inside turns, long gallops and not a single related distance. 

Winds marched straight into the ring and looked FABULOUS.  Every time this horse goes in for a derby it reinforces to me that this is where he shines.  He loves hunting the jumps, and perks up in a way that he doesn't for Hunter rounds at the same height.  It's a joy to watch.

Things that I love about this round -

Winds looks eager and interested.

He landed all his leads easily


His big open step.

His cute squishy face.

The judge also loved his trip and rewarded him with a base score of 89 (his highest derby score to date) with 8 for the high options and a 7 for Handiness for a total of 104.   I was thrilled, but tried not to get too excited about holding first place, as last year we were knocked into second by the very last horse to go.

This year however, Winds held the top spot and got to lead the victory gallop, which is always a lovely frosting on top of a great ride. 

Next up - The Ammy rounds with yours truly.....

Monday, July 24, 2017

MIlner Downs - The start of the week

Last week we ventured to Milner Downs to return to what was one of my favorite shows last year.  It's hard to beat a big, gorgeous, grass field to gallop around in all week, but on top of that the staff is crazy friendly, the hospitality is great and it ends up feeling more like a fun summer camp than a frenzied horse show.

Our plan was to step Windsor up a bit from his extra (extra) light duty at Tbird last month and see how he felt.

Tuesday he hacked out well, so I was excited to see him go Wednesday. 

Windsor, was also excited to go Wednesday (though not excited about selfies) - and the single warm up round at 2'9" turned into three, as Mister Man lacked a bit of focus and manners during his first (two) trips around.

Loose hair, don't care!
Here's the first round - not bad by any means, but if you know Winds, you can see that he's powering off the ground and tight in his back, both signs that he wants to paaaarrrrrrrty.

By the third round he was a bit less excited to be out in the big world:

It was a bit to be expected, we haven't been lunging him at all (which I like) - and even last year when Milner was our 6th week of showing, he perked up quite a bit when he got out in the big field. 

We ended the day on a good note, and opted to hack the Under Saddle just to let him explore the ring a bit more.  With all the extra classes he ended up with a very unplanned Reserve Champion in the Schooling 2'9" Hunter division.

Definitely didn't mean to take him around the ring three times, but height doesn't seem to affect his freshness (much), so I'm glad we kept it low at 2'9" and let him work out his wiggles without too much effort. 

Looking at the schedule for the rest of the week, my 2'9" Modified AA's was stretched out over Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - leaving a nice gap on Friday for Winds to maybe contest the Derby. 

Since he hadn't popped over anything over 2'9" since last November (gulp), we added one round at 3' on Thursday to see if he felt loose, or if the added height brought out any old symptoms of discomfort. 

(looks like a different beast when he is braided)

He jumped the 3' better than the 2'9" so we finalized our plan to have him do the (one round Canadian style) derby Friday, and just cart me around one round at a time the rest of the week.

Stay tuned for the DERBY, and also my triumphant (low) return to my beloved 2'9".

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Voltaire Hunter Bridle

Much like how I wasn't really shopping when we found Quiz, I also wasn't shopping when I ended up with a new bridle. 

It's been such a long time since I bought any new strap goods (how is that even possible!?), that I have started casually eyeballing them, but with (literally) no reason to buy, I've shown remarkable restraint in not collecting. 

This piece found it's way into my trunk in a non-traditional manner, but that's a story for another day. 

Today we discuss what I think about it.

A while back I noticed that Voltaire had added a figure-8 and a hunter bridle to their online store.  the photos were remarkably poor quality from a professional marketing standpoint, and I had never noticed one in person, so I wasn't overly tempted. 

Voltaire's Hunter bridle (w/flash attachment)

But, I've been on bridle hunts with a few other barnmates over the past year and gotten to see a variety of new Hunter bridles up close, as well as watched the process of eliminating some over others.

In terms of the "big" European brands, I have always coveted an Antares that hangs in the tack room.  It has a big, padded monocrown, but not ridiculous or overly trendy in it's size or style.  It has a normal (single buckle) throatlatch and looks very acceptable in the hunter ring.  What stands out is the weight, and quality of the leather.  It's the difference between picking up a plastic fork at a picnic, and feeling the weight of your grandmother's silver.  Sure, they mostly do the same thing, but one is just yummy in your hand.

Antares lost me with their weird new anatomical crown (they still offer the less dramatic version).  It looks like an awkward hat and I haven't seen it sit well on a single horse.  I'm sure it works wonders for someone, I'm just not sure who.

My favorite piece in the next price bracket down, is the Nunn Finer.  I've always thought their leather was of a good quality, and their styling is classic.  It takes some work to get it broken in - but once you get it - I think it rivals Edgewood for quality at a fraction the price.

Based on pictures alone, the Voltaire piece is not something I would have ordered.  Their trademark contrast stitching is ALL OVER IT.  each piece of leather has bright stitching down it's side.  Not just the noseband and browband.  Fancy stitch is EVERYWHERE.  Cheek pieces, cavesson hangar, etc. EVERYWHERE.  It's busy.  And the monocrown means that not only is there an extra buckle for the cavesson, but even the throatlatch has a double hanger - which makes for a lot of buckles.  And while the crown isn't overly padded or huge, I wasn't sure about the signature Basque stripe on the top of it.

But alas.  we got it. 

The narrower leather looks good on him I think.
(I also shouldn't have chided Voltaire for their photos, as I have NOT exceeded those standards... whoops. )

While the stitching is bold, the leather itself is rather narrow, and it fits his chiseled-pony-face quite nicely.  The contrast looks classy, and at least on a gray doesn't seem too busy.  After a few applications of conditioner and a night in a ziplock with some oil, everything is feeling appropriately soft and pliable.  The reins are still a tad stiff (and I will note a preference for the CWD laced reins...) but the quality is undeniable.  The padding is also exceptionally squishy, hopefully it is also sturdy.

Blurry, but at least his whole face is included

Still not sure I would have pulled it off the rack if I was actually shopping, but now that I have it, I like it.  And I enjoy that it looks a bit different without being obnoxious. 

What do you guys like to see in a bridle? How different is too different?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Meet Quiz! (and a naming contest)

It's been really, really, really hard not to jump the gun on this, but meet Quiz!

Picture already shared.  Need more stat.

Quiz is the aforementioned Brown Brad, a 5 year old cute gelding by Quadroneur (drool).

Much like Windsor - (while adorable) he appears to be far too chill (and slow) to really excel in Europe as a Jumper.  Fortunately for Quiz, he's cute as hell, trots like he's on a cloud, and I think will make one heck of a fancy little Hunter stateside.

I have always coveted liver chestnuts, and also the Quaterback lineage, so I'm just giddy as all get out at the prospect of finding both in Quiz. 

Quiz lacks the significant resume that Windsor had (no world championships for this guy), but he's only 5, and while he has shown, 1.10m is the extent of his experience at this point. 

What I really like about Quiz other than his color (and his daddy, and his trot..) is that he appears to have a very Windsor-esque brain.  Very chill, not in a rush to get anywhere and very unconcerned about where you pilot him to in front of a fence.  Chip in? Leave long? NBD.  We'll just lope around and figure it out later....


His classy good looks are just some really, really nice icing on a lovely liver chestnut cake. 

The wire has been sent, and his ticket is currently being booked.  Fingers crossed he gets here soon!!

Without further ado, some video.  Please note, this boy is in steel.  Swoon. 

The plan will be to get him out right away, (likely in August at Thunderbird) and see how he handles life as a Hunter.  Part of my agreement with The Husband is that this horse (unlike Winds) will always be for sale.  I hope I get to enjoy him for a while before someone snatches him away, but make no mistake - I have my Windsy, and while I'd love to have two - I will definitely allow another ammy to find theirs if the situation presents itself.

Anyway, the second order of business is that this thing needs a USEF name.  He is literally registered as just "Quiz," which I think is cute and will definitely keep for his barn name.  But he needs a big boy name for the show ring.

I already have a short list of favorites, but since none of them are perfection, I'm going to mine the blog-hive and see if you guys can top it.  (which, very likely).

Here are the guidelines:

1) start with a Q.
2) Sound like a regal, fancy, calm Hunter.
3) Don't be something that USEF has a ton of (Quiescence, Quintessential, Quixote, etc). 
4) I am open to creative spelling (Qredit is an example), but bear in mind ease of announcer pronunciation.
5) bonus points if it ties into Heir Apparent/Windsor.  I love a theme!

If I end up using your suggestion I will get you a $50 gift certificate to the online tack store of choice (Dover, SmartPak, RH, etc.).  If I stick with one of my picks, I get the gift cert (lol).

The "contest" is open until I actually register the beast.

Sound good? 


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