Monday, November 30, 2015

Welcome Wagon

This past holiday weekend might go down as one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever.. Mom added creamed spinach to her turkey day repertoire, the baby was adorable and playful all day, there was champagne a plenty and oh yeah.... WINDSOR ARRIVED.

I got the call at 7:30am on Saturday that Windsor was about 3 hours out.  So I shot out of bed, tried to maintain my cool and "enjoy" my coffee slowly, but I ran out of things to distract me, so by 8:45 I was out of the house and headed to the barn to twiddle my thumbs and watch lessons until he arrived. 

The barn was unusually busy for a Saturday, and some of the ladies had prepared a welcome party, which was totally fun and let my inner Twelve-Year-Old-Girl come out a bit. 

As I watched the haulers slowly back him off the ramp, it became obvious to me how much excitement and expectation I've been holding back.  I've allowed myself small celebrations here and there, but I think all of the unknowns of shopping for a horse like this really put some serious restrictions on my celebrations.

Is he really as nice as I remember? Did I get totally screwed in this deal? Has he been totally ignored eveer since they got my check? is he going to be a spooky asshole? 

But as soon as I took over the lead rope, all of that reserved concern pretty much evaporated and I was grinning form ear to ear. 

You guys.  I am TOTALLY IN LOVE.  Whatever shortcomings this guy has, I am going to be totally, and completely blind to them for at least the next 90 days.  I am smitten. 

He is cute.

He is calm.

His tail is surprisingly luscious (which I had forgotten).

He is a snuggle bug in his stall.

He was easy to handle and parade around


We have a ways to go in our selfie game...
One of the ladies was kind enough to bring her good camera out and snap lots of arrival pics, which took the pressure off me for documentation, so I am lacking in immediate photo gratification, but I appreciated the ability to just enjoy the afternoon. 

And the champagne.

And the homemade creampuffs.

I hand grazed the little man for a few minutes when he first arrived before putting him into his stall, where he promptly checked my pockets for treats, peed, rolled, ate some hay and then pooped.

Which is a pretty perfect agenda for a horse that's been traveling since last Monday.

I let him unwind and relax for a bit while I chatted with everyone and caught up with a few of the boarders that I don't get to see very often, before I pulled Mr Man out for some grooming, inspection and... more cookies. 

He seems to have hauled relatively well.  I don't think he dropped much weight, his temps are running normal and in general he seemed very relaxed about it all.  The only signs of a long journey are a few nicks on his heels where he seems to have stepped on himself a few time.  Nothing major, but still... I forget how easily blood shows on a gray horse....

Since he was so relaxed about life, I turned him out in a smaller paddock for a bit to let him stretch his legs, and after a few polite bucks, he settled right down and got busy sniffing every inch of his space. 

I spent some time watching/oogling him and even did a little tiny bit of join up/liberty work (if you want to call it that) to see where his head was at.  Turns out his head is very motivated by treats and relatively interested in engaging with whoever is in his space.  He walked up to me every time I entered his paddock and politely followed me if I started moving around. 

Eventually the horse next to him started to spin up, and Windsor started displaying some behavior more in line with a horse that had been cooped up for a week, and oh yeah... gelded really late... so I opted to bring him back in and love on him in his stall a bit more.

Every doubt that I've had about whether or not I should have bought a second horse, and whether or not I should have bought this horse just melted away as I curried his neck and ran my hands up and down his legs. 

I know the new-unicorn-shine will wear off, but for now I'm reminded how much I've missed having something to ride, and the excitement of a new partnership ahead of me. 

I can't wait to start working with him.

The plan is to give him a couple days to relax, then start him back to work on Tuesday.  I will likely let my Trainer take that ride and see what we are working with.  Plus then I can video (!!) and look forward to some lessons later in the week.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hand Me Downs

Poor Windsor isn't even here yet and he's already getting hand me downs...

Just flip that old nameplate around and.... good as new!

As I was brainstorming on things that the new man absolutely needs, I was surprised to figure out that aside from ordering some new blankets, this might be the first time I can pretty much outfit a new horse from items already in inventory.

At first I nearly gave myself a pat on the back for having grown out of my greedy, tack-ho ways. 

But then, it dawned on me that the only reason I probably don't need to buy much for Windsor isn't because I've suddenly adopted a simple, humble approach to horse gear - but because I pretty much already bought all the things

And that - is probably not something I should be overly proud of.

The fact is, the collection of saddle pads, and open front boots, and bits, and various bridles, and grooming products and coolers can easily be adjusted for a new arrival. 

The only real unknown is what the hell we'll do about a saddle.  If CWD makes life easy, we'll trade our current saddle in and see what we can do.  If they don't, I'll probably look more aggressively at other saddle options (since I'm still crossing my fingers that this guy just might be a horse I can fit off the rack..). 

Saddle and blankets aside, Mr. Windsor will be getting plenty of use out of Prair's carefully curated pile-o-tack. 

I do feel a tad guilty about just flipping Prair's nameplate around on his halter... but he should have a plate of his own soon enough...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Party In the USA (also, we have a name)

::::::::::::::PSA - Gray Brad's flight got moved up a day, and he arrived safe and sound (courtesy of KLM airlines) in Los Angeles yesterday.  So far it looks like he's traveling well and should be on his way north on Wednesday.  He'll enjoy the holiday in Oregon, but should be tucked into our barn on Saturday!!!! Merry Thanksgivingmas indeed! :::::::::::::::::

So with an ETA set, my anxiety over picking a name has only continued to grow.  I'm quite sure that no one else is overly concerned about the naming process for Gray Brad (whaaa??), but every time I'm at the barn and see his future stall with an empty nameplate holder I hyperventilate a little and get back to brainstorming. 

I've literally got a Blank Space _____________
My poor friends have born the brunt of this ongoing question - getting endless text spewing possible names... "How about mr. wompum-pants?  Mark? what about Henri... that's French.. he's French... but I found him in Germany, should his name be German? OOOHHHH FREDERICK. no... not that..."
omg, the endless texts.  Bless them for humoring me.  I really shouldn't be surprised that I have been an indecisive stressball since we had the (exact) same problem naming our daughter...
I am not kidding when I say that our "beautiful birth story" involved walking around the deserted hallways of a hospital until 4am literally reading every baby name list online from A-Z out loud with my poor, tired husband.... His patience knows no bounds...
Or maybe it does...  He's done a good job of feigning interest in the horse naming process, but this weekend when I finally blurted out an option for Gray Brad that caused him to stop and say "That one. I like that one, that's the winner.  Just name him."
a) he's right, I should just name him, and b) if it's the wrong name we'll just change it later.  We are allowed to do that. (it turns out name plates are not what is actually expensive in this process...)
The show name was the easy part.  There were only a few final options that we both loved, and the winner gradually rose to the top.  Once it became clear that both sleeping on it and wine (along with lack of wine) didn't change my enthusiasm for it - we made it official with USEF, and you will officially find us in the Hunter Ring showing under "Heir Apparent."
Why Heir Apparent?  Well... for a while I was trying to stick with the one-word-adjective style name but was striking out.  I didn't want anything to pretentious like "Perfection" (actually a noun, I know), and it's hard to think of good adjectives that are both inspiring and humble... so I gave up. 
Then I enlisted my brother for help brainstorming obscure (or maybe not so obscure) monarchs and military leaders.  He did a great job, and I had a fabulous list of potential names, but none of them seemed to fit perfectly with the refined little Gray that we ended up with.  I loved Churchill, but aside from the fact that there are a bazillion Churchill's already registered with USEF, I feel like Churchill needs to be a large, square, stately horse.  Not a feminine, tidy, little guy....
So, then the search widened... I tried to keep to the Royal/Military theme, and stumbled upon Heir Apparent, and it just rang true.  I like that it's still regal in reference.. but it's also aspirational, not declarative.  We are not going to assume that we are/will be some great emperor and conquer the world...  Instead it's more like "someday" we might "maybe" be something cool. 
I do believe in the manifest destiny of naming... I think if you name your horse something like "Deadly Hurricane Rage,"  you might get a whiff of that personality.  Pia's name was originally P.I.A. and stood for Pain In (the) Ass.  I'd love to claim that she didn't live up to that.. but... well.... she's a feisty one.
So, something slow... something simple... something that implies maybe we'll be awesome.. That's why I like Heir Apparent.
Which brings us to his barn name.  My initial intent with Heir Apparent, was to find a cute French Prince to name him after, so that we had a nod to his Selle Francais registration.  My problem started with the fact that there are only like 12 names used (ever) for French Princes.  Not exactly a wide swath of variety (though I knew this going in).   After I weeded out the idiots and assholes., that short list got even shorter.. and the only two names left that I sort of liked, (Louis and Henri) were already taken by horses I know and love. 
So once again, the search parameters widened... to regions, other countries, and.... pretty much anything. 
Finally, in what is probably a slap in the face to his French heritage, we crossed the pond, and landed on "Windsor" as a barn name.
It still ties to his show name, it fits within the maximum two syllables allowed, and most importantly, The Boy gave it his blessing.  I figure this is important since it's his retirement fund I (maybe) spent (a little) of.
And so, the great Naming Saga of 2015 comes to a close. 

But never fear!  Brad, Gray Brad, and Bradley are all still totally acceptable.  I'm sure they will stay in the nickname rotation... they just won't be engraved on anything ;)

Now the countdown is on for Christmas Saturday and getting this guy all settled in!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Grazy ex(new) Girlfriend: Cyber Stalking Brad

I don't know about you guys, but whenever there is a new horse around, I always (always) cyber stalk the crap out of it. 

(And since Prair is 90 minutes away, and Gray Brad is even farther... I have little to do with my horsey time other than scour the internet for information, and tack sales....)

Thanks to the ever increasing depths and online presence of the Horse World, often there are wonderful, endless click-holes that you can just fall into and pretty soon you're looking at 20 year old wedding photos of a horse's breeder... Which... isn't creepy at all...

Fortunately for me, since Gray Brad was born in 2008, most of his life is online, including his auction sale, stallion approval, and apparently some showjumping rounds (if I want to pay for the download...).  Even Prair, who is a 2005 model, has almost no online record from her time in Germany.  Amazing what a difference a few years can make...

We'll start with what I know.  Gray Brad was born April 16, 2008.  His first internet hit is his sale at auction for 9,000 euro in October of 2008.  (for the record that actually seems like quite a lot for a 6 month old? am I crazy?). 

I think this is his foal video from that auction, but I can't figure out how to embed it, so you'll have to click through if you want to see baby Gray Brad in a pasture... he's just starting to show that he'll gray out, but otherwise looks like a gangly, goofy baby.  If there's one thing I fully acknowledge I have no ability to do, it's detect future prowess and ability in a foal. 

I have no shot of being able to tell who will have springs in their legs, or move like a freak, (or anything, really) by watching a baby.  My eye has no idea what to look at.  I get way too distracted by cute baby fluff and those impossibly long legs... so I remain mystified by those who are able to see greatness in babies.

After his 2008 sale, it's pretty much radio silence until 2011, when has this video, which I think is from stallion approvals, but could just be his inspection.  I can't tell.

Then there is another big gap while baby horse grows up a little more, gets started under saddle and finally starts FEI competition 2014 at a 6 year old.  There might be other, local results, but I haven't stumbled onto those pages yet...

He started in the 1.20m FEI classes, where he stayed (for the most part) as a 6 year old.  A few larger classes at 1.30 toward the end of the year (which might be what the WCYH class is at?)

2015 saw him move up to 1.35 and 1.40, with his biggest accomplishment to date being a qualification for the World Championships, and making it to the final round of that competition. 

Again, I'm not a jumper, and I'm definitely not an FEI jumper - so I don't really know what this means.  I was told that about 3,000 horses attempt to qualify, with 300 getting a bid to compete, and that whittles down to about 60 for the final.  I'm sure of those 300, lots choose not to make the trip to Belgium, so I'm sure that actual numbers at the competition are smaller than that.  But still, top 60?  I think that's pretty good.  I might have to educate myself on the selection process.  But with my cross multiplying skills, I know that getting to the finals puts him in the top 2% of 7 year olds who are competing internationally at that height... so that's pretty damn cool.

There are lots of random website hits for this name in 2014, and 2015 which all seem to equate to show results and entry lists of the various shows he attended.  Not much else to add, aside from a couple of blurry photos.  Usually I won't screen grab a professional photo, but I made a moral exception in this case and captured what I could for archival purposes.  There are only two images that I think are actually him (there is a horse competing under a VERY similar name and their images and videos both return on searches..). 

Blurry, and there was no option to buy/photographer to credit... SORRY INTERNET

The only other fun fact I've been able to scrape up (so far) is that he has (at least) one baby on the ground that was born in June of 2014.  She's a filly, registered Belgian, and has one competition on record from 2015.. I'm assuming some sort of breeding class?

So, that's what's I've learned.  It's the horsey equivalent of digging into someone's facebook and looking at all their ex-girlfriends, and vacation photos and family pictures from Thanksgiving of 2003.  Except with horse-stalking you don't have to worry about your clumsy fingers accidentally liking a photo from 6 years ago....

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Eating Ramen: and other cheap things to do after wiring all your money away...

Title is self explanatory I think.  We are officially one step closer to bringing New Gray Horse home.

Good thing we actually like ramen??!?

The money ( has been sent. 

But as I've just sent a mysterious and large amount of money into Brussels (to an ex-pat) in the middle of a white-hot hunt for suspicious activity... I'm a tad nervous that I've been flagged onto some international watch list.

I informed The Boy that if we now always get pulled for "random searches" as TSA, I might know why...

Regardless, we are inching closer to actually bringing this horse into the barn.  So I should obviously get back to important things like naming the puppy, tack ho-ing for a new horse, and well... daydreaming.


Q: When will Gray Brad arrive?

A:  His flight is booked for the 24th, which means he should just be clearing quarantine about the time Thanksgiving happens, so I'm not sure how much that will delay him getting on a truck from LAX to Seattle... I'm sort of expecting him right around the 1st of the month.. maybe a tad sooner.

Q: Is Gray Brad going to be named Brad??

A:  Not sure.  Since I cannot pronounce either his current show name or his barn name, he is certainly in need of both.  I have a few show names on a short list and since there's a USHJA discount if you renew your membership before Dec 1... you can bet I'm going to decide that pretty soon.  I'm torn as to whether or not I should try to pick his barn name before he arrives.  On one hand I like getting to know a horse and letting their name be a natural fit.  On the other hand, sometimes that is how I end up with a terrible name.

Q:How much did all of this cost?

A: I am compiling my import costs, and will definitely craft a post when I have everything finalized.  So far, aside from the actual cost of Gray Brad (flying-money-emoji) this is all running about what I expected... maybe a tad less.  Though even thinking those words is a sure fire way to get blindsided by something..

Q: How much of Prair's stuff can you use on Gray Brad?

A: Uh... hopefully at least some of it.  There's no shot in hell that her saddle will fit, I'm hoping her nice CWD bridle will... I know I have enough girths in inventory that something will work... not sure about the martingale.  For sure her blankets won't work.. I don't know what size Gray Brad wears, but I'm pretty sure it's not "brontosaurus."  I'm hoping that I can eBay some of the larger items in my collection and seed a small "tack fund" for Gray Brad.  His plane ticket pretty much wiped out his tack fund for a while I think...

So that's the update.  A name will be forthcoming, so will a USEF number... And if all goes well, there should be a Gray horse in the barn by December!!!!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vetting - aka Horsey Land Purgatory

I'm pretty sure that the process of vetting a potential horse is one of the most stress inducing aspects of horse ownership.  Not because we don't make bigger, more important (potentially even more expensive) decisions once they are ours, but because the big, presumably smart Adult part of our brains have to go to war with the twelve year old girl who is jumping up and down shouting "pony! pony! pony!!!!" 
I have no photos for this post, but this 6 month old St Bernard lives at Gray Brad's barn and is cute.
Any number of things could pop up on a PPE, and if you're Twelve Year Old self gets too much control you'll end up adopting (or god forbid paying for) lamey-mc-lamerson because you've already fallen in love and you'll love him forever even if he only has three legs, half of his colon, and maybe one good eyeball... And when that happens, you my friend, are screwed.

Trying to force oneself to Adult in these scenarios is hard.  I've mostly decided that this is why you pay Trainers a commission.  It's not to necessarily unearth the last unicorn and bring it to you on a platter, it's really more to keep you from blindly writing checks for pretty- but useless, Brads.

Now, I'd like to think I've gotten the hang of this internal war, and I think I can even maintain a semblance of self control - at least for a couple of days. 

But vetting Gray Brad has taken  a week.


Part of this is due to the fact that while we were flying home on a 40 minute layover (which translates to a full sprint through Heathrow's Terminal 5...) we found out that Gray Brad's owner didn't really want to sell him. 

Or maybe she did.

Well, maybe for a different price

Or maybe just if I paid her commission...

Or maybe not.

I dunno....

Aside from nearly dying of heartbreak (the Twelve Year Old self might have had the upper hand there for a while..) I was furious, and we opted to postpone the vetting while we figured out if we did or didn't have a deal.

We were finally able to move forward with a PPE on Monday, which Gray Brad appeared to pass with flying colors.  But nothing really passes until our really picky lameness vet takes a really good look at everything. 

Everything means videos of everything, x-rays of everything, ultrasounds of everything.  Everythings of everything.


And, as you may imagine, transferring all of those files didn't exactly go smoothly.  Attachments bounced.  Some videos came fragmented, while some came through fine.  There was even a (rather surprising) series of endoscopy photos.  (Something I've never done on a PPE), but between the language barrier and a 9 hour time change it was really hard to get my vet to figure out what she was missing with enough time to get the German vet notice while his clinic was still open.

Therefore my poor, little, underdeveloped Adult brain had to wage war for five whole days. 

This is not easily done.

Fortunately Gray Brad (somehow) has the world's cleanest films for a seven year old who's been busy leaping over huge jumps. His ultrasounds also looked remarkably clean.  And the endoscopy (?) was also normal...
uhhh, normal I guess?

I'd be popping the champagne and letting my Twelve Year Old self run wild with Pixie Stix or whatever she likes aside from ponies - but the slight shenanigans that delayed the vetting still have me slightly on guard. 

I'm not sure I'll allow myself full celebration  until I hear that all four hooves are locked and loaded on a plane bound for LAX....

But, for now... things are moving forward, I'm just not uncrossing any fingers or toes quite yet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thursday (The Gray's Return)

Thursday was another early morning (a theme for the trip) that would start a day of "second looks".  The offer on Gray Brad (1.40m Brad) was accepted, so we opted to return for a second visit to decide if we loved him, or were over him.  The other client had her offer accepted on pretty Bay Brad, and we had a vetting lined up for that afternoon which meant she could be present for any findings. 

But we started the day with a return to see the cute unflappable 3 year old we had seen the first evening.  He wasn't a fit for either of us, but Trainer was hoping to get a better sense of him and see if he might work for anyone else in the barn. 

He was once again, unflappable. and cute.  Great little mover and calm to the fences.  He'd make a great move-up horse for a kid, or a smaller Ammy I think.  Such a sweet personality - he deserves a good, happy home. 

Then we were back on the road and off to see the Gray again.  (squee squee squee).  The resident trainer had to leave for a show, so we were sort of on our own, which was nice.  We had asked for him to be left in his stall in the morning, no turnout, no time on the walker, etc. 

cute pony face
Going into it I figured when I legged up for the second ride I would either love him forever or be sorta over it. 

My trainer got on first, and I had asked her to ride him like she would at home.  Lots of lateral work, lots of transitions, lots of chill time, etc. The concern was that he'd be a bit more "up" in his work without having his turnout, or being ridden first by his own trainer.  But the reality was that he was calmer. (perhaps because he hadn't gotten excited about big jumps?)

Then it was my turn and I took my time.  Got a bit of a mini lesson instead of just trit-trotting around on my own.  When we started jumping, I was immediately more comfortable letting him lock on to his Hunter-Gap-ish distance and I didn't pick at the distances as much. 

Worked up to a small line, which was very easy.  The big challenge came when I tried to take the line off the short approach.  There wasn't enough space for me to wait in the corner and see a distance, and I was still tentative about carrying pace through the turn... so there were a few comedic misses, but bless the horse, he didn't hold it against me and still just trucked right back up to it. 

The fences got put up a bit, and I got more and more confident.

Finally, I remembered I wanted to hack him outside and see how he was in the open, on his own, so we walked around the farm, and up to a (lovely) outdoor.


He was totally chill.  He flicked an ear at some of the people walking up the path beneath us, but he settled right down and I never had to pick up the reins.  We played a bit, then took a few videos under saddle for my vet to see since it was obvious I really wanted to name the puppy and take it home. 

He's a cool guy.  The time spent on the ground and just milling around cemented my opinion that his brain is good as gold (I hope).  He seems like a solid citizen, and like he'll take to a Hunter job quite naturally. So.... we parted ways and headed off to watch Bay Brad get vetted...

Bay Brad was also a rock star.  In spite of the fact that he's four.  and a stallion, and it was dark, and raining and we were lighting the flexion videos with headlights from parked cars.... he was a chill dude. 

He's going to be a really, really cool horse too I think.

After a long, slow vet process, we finally packed back into the car and got back to the hotel in time to snag a bowl of delicious pumpkin soup at the restaurant before turning in for a couple hours of sleep before we headed back to the airport for the long ride home. 

A long ride home made longer by watching videos on repeat and making small offerings to the lameness gods for a clean vetting...

I hate waiting for vets.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Grays Continue

Our next stop was... somewhere.   (next time we go I'll do a better job of mapping my trip out.. but I can say with certainty that we were an hour away from the last place.. wherever that was).

Another huge farm, though it was dark when we pulled in so I didn't get to oogle giant jump fields or gorgeous grounds quite as much...

The trainer at this place was definitely tall, definitely German, and definitely traditional in his approach.  We later found out that he actually works for the State trainer the horses at one of the big studs (Holsteiner I think?), then trains/sells his own string before and after hours. 

He had two (gray) stallions to show us.  The first was five and actively showing at 1.20m.  I kept thinking it was a mare because he had Such a pretty head and neck, but, that didn't change that he was a stallion. 

Watching him warm up I got the impression that this one was going to have a bit too much blood for the Hunters, but it was by far the best mover we had seen so naturally my interest was piqued. 

The jump was unimpressive, but with a price that was literally 1/5th of the Gray we had just seen I was adamant that we suss it out a bit more.

When my trainer got on, I was really encouraged by how the horse responded.  Much lighter, floatier movement, and over fences it looked like a totally different horse.

Sadly, it still looked a touch hot for the hunters, but still... intriguing. 

I hopped on and definitely felt more comfortable on this one than anything else yet -  think mostly because it more closely matched Prair's movement and way of going. 

I opted not to jump since it didn't look like the easiest horse to manage (particularly in a circa 1974 Stubben that was slick as ice), but mostly because I could tell this one didn't pass my Trainer's smell test.

Still a fun ride though :)

The second Gray was also 5 (I think) but much greener.  Personally owned by the Trainer, I think his greenness was one of those "cobbler's-kid-has-no-shoes scenarios and he often got skipped when time was in short supply 

I first saw this guy standing in his stall, and while I was 99% sure he was too small for me, OMG THE CUTENESS.  Total pony face, with a huge cresty, adorable neck that looked ideal for snuggling.

Under saddle he didn't look super suitable, so none of us even legged up, but since we saw him, our broker guy has gone back and scooped him up.  He sent a few initial pics of him riding, and the potential is definitely there.  He won't be ready for a while, but I definitely want to see him when he is!!!

what a difference one ride can make...
I really like this one
After that, we turned for home.  But almost immediately we got a tip on a newly listed (gray, lol) gelding on our way.  With nothing else on the agenda (aside from sleep) we opted for the slight detour and the possibility of a diamond in the rough.

As it turns out we were definitely in the rough.  The barn looked a tad shabby relative to everything else we had been to (so... it looked American?) and the guys who met us there definitely didn't radiate professionalism.

The gray was tacked in the cross ties, and aside from a subtle roach in it's back, it looked remarkably like all the others. 

Under saddle it was clear it was a tad on the green side, and maybe forward.  but it had a nice way of going, and maybe could be an Eq prospect.  That's exactly what my trainer and I and the other client were chattering about when all hell broke loose at the sight of a small cross rail. 

The horse inverted (I mean, literally curled back into itself) and exploded to the other side.  Each leg appeared to go in a different direction and organized on the other side only to start launching some serious bucks. 

As he was getting taken for a ride, our lovely broker (who I had grown rather fond of and didn't want to see splattered on a wall) shouted "THIS IS NO HUNTER!!!!"

To which the two young "trainers" mumbled back "no?" and then seemed to continue to negotiate the point in German.  I couldn't pick up a word but eventually I picked up on a simple question:


They managed to ask this just as the horse came back around and repeated it's performance over the cross rail again.


definitely not.

This, our broker explained, is why he never plans stops for horses he hasn't tried himself at least three times.  He was busy apologizing profusely for wasting our time (but we were all wildly entertained), and simultaneously lambasting the guys about marketing a video of a quiet, broke hunter, when the reality looked a bit more gruesome. 

The horse himself had a sweet eyeball, but the terror and anxiety he displayed had a story to tell, I'm just not sure what it was.  He wasn't confused about his job, he was terrified of it. 

There was a glimmer of salvation though, when our Trainer inquired about the (dark) shed row of (adorable) tiny ponies and asked if there was anything for sale that would be suitable for her daughter.  The guys nodded enthusiastically and said there was one for sale "perfect" for a young kid.

Out of the darkness came a very cute, very furry..... 16 hand horse.

In all honestly, I'm not sure if would have measured as a Small Junior Hunter, let alone a large pony. 

When we tried to explain that PONIES in the US had to be under 14.2... and this kid probably needed something drastically smaller than that.... they just blinked in general confusion.

While not our most productive stop of the day, it was rather entertaining, and possibly left us with the best story of the trip (I'm 100% sure I'm not telling it well). 

By that time it was about 11pm, and all (reasonable) restaurants in the area had closed.  So we stopped at a McD's at a gas station and after a few more minutes of discussion - we put the offer in for the 1.40m Gray. 


Monday, November 9, 2015

Wednesday in the German Countryside

Wednesday was our first full day of shopping, and it started early.  Truthfully I have no idea where we went, I just know we drove for about an hour (or so) and then another hour, then two, then one, and then we were home.  Some of the trip was on major highways, but so much of it was on smaller country roads that refuse to be straight, requiring me to give up on maintaining a sense of direction almost immediately. 

literally no idea where this is
 Brad #1's barn was our first stop of the day, which I was excited about, because... well I REALLY WANTED TO SEE THAT STALLION, but for more practical reasons, if we loved him, I had time to vet him in person, and if we didn't, I could write him off early in the search process. 

I really can't express how gorgeous these farms are compared to what we see in the PNW.  I think our home facility is one of the lovelier show barns in the area, but nothing can compare with these huge, sprawling farms with charming barns dotted about and jump fields and indoors with stadium seating and guest cottages...
(the only non-horse, non-scenery picture of the trip)

Turns out we had three horses to see at the first stop.  Brad #1, a 4 year old Eq type prospect and another 4 year old stallion intended for the other client. 

The Eq horse came out first and had amazing presence.  He didn't have the movement for the Hunter Ring, but he was stunning, and calm, and certainly had the look of eagles in his stoic, stunning eyeballs. It's amazing how comfortable these trainers are putting the fences up for these youngsters.  They don't work them overly hard, but I wouldn't DREAM of popping a 4 year old over a 4' anything - and in fact a significant portion of our car ride conversations centered around the differing philosophies of bringing along young horses. 

On one hand the Germans start them so much sooner, but on the other - their lives are so balanced.  Time with the herd... short work sessions, lots of variety in their life.. a few months on, a few months off... it's incredible.

Second horse out was the four year old stallion by Stalypso.  At first I wasn't totally wowed by this guy, but the more I re-watched his videos and the more time we spent with him, the cooler he got.  He is very green (a few months under saddle), but totally chill and relaxed in his work.  Some construction was going on outside the arena causing all sorts of bangs and crashes and grinding sounds and he just jogged around the ring like there were no monsters to be feared.  His strength is definitely his canter which has such a strong rhythm, you can't disrupt it if you try.

He was darling over fences, and offered the same ride for the 6'3" German Man as he did for the ammy.  Our broker had him brought to the farm by his breeder, so this was a 4 year old, green, baby boy who has been in this ring for less than a week and tootled around on the buckle like it a total dude. 
Wouldn't kick him out of the barn!!

Finally it was Brad #1's turn.  I was so stoked just to see him and have the chance to sit on him.  I heard his clip clopping hooves coming down the aisle before he finally appeared through the (draped curtain) entrance and...... I was totally disappointed.

For one thing, he's not so big.  He is a true16.2, and he is only three (initially we thought he was 4 almost 5..) so there is growing to be done.... but he's very compact and realistically, not a great fit for me. 

After that initial observation, it got worse.  He was pretty sulky in his expression, never wore his ears forward, and his movement looked a tad choppier than it had in the videos.

I tried to remember that he's only been under saddle for 2 months.  The jump video I shared earlier showed his first jumps ever, so he really is absurdly green.  These riders do a insanely good job of covering that up, but when I got on it felt like I was trying to keep water from pouring through my hands... he was just all over the place.

And also sort of bitchy.

He didn't want to go forward, wouldn't fill my reins, balked and swished his tail... in general just sort of a twit.  I finally asked for some spurs and was festooned with the HUGE ROWELS the tall German Man had been using. 

Now, I don't know about you guys, but I'm twitchy enough on a three year old stallion that I don't know, without having huge, spurs that essentially act like tasers strapped to my leg. 

When he was still grumpy about moving out, both our broker and the resident Trainer were shouting "KICK HIM! GIVE HIM A PONY KICK, MAKE HIM LISTEN!!!!"

Yeah, NOPE. 

Not doing it. 

I am a fragile Adult Ammy.  I am not used to hopping on greenbroke anything and immediately adjusting to their needs and giving them good rides.  And given that, I am sure as shit not going to dig into a baby stallion's side and demand obedience. 

So, I packed in my ego, got off and politely handed (the still very attractive) stallion back to the trainer.

And that, is how my short lived love affair with Brad #1 came to an end. 

The next stop was a bit of a debate.  He really wanted to show us a gorgeous gray that he had sent some video of.  I hadn't been that impressed with the initial video, and I was even less impressed when I had heard the price that was attached, and knowing neither of us clients could afford him, it seemed like a waste of a stop.

But our guy was insistent that we should trust him, that the price was probably negotiable (hopefully by a factor of like TEN) and that it would be helpful for him to see if he was correct in thinking it would be a great fit.

Okay FINE, let's go to the gorgeous farm and try the gorgeous pony and see what we're missing out on.

So we were off, another hour through the countryside and we finally pulled up to a charming farm nestled into a hillside with a god-damn-castle perched on the hilltop.  It's nice when it's absolutely impossible to forget where you are.  There was no mistaking the setting for anything in the states, let alone the rain-swamp-forests surrounding Seattle.

In all fairness the Gray was a lovely horse.  Like some of the others, not necessarily impressive in the cross ties (why are all these horses so skinny?) but a beautiful picture under saddle. He was soft and light and had a lovely expression (which caught my eye after Brad #1 looked like such a jerk). 

So we took the bait.  What's his story again?

7 year old Selle Francais.  Formerly a licensed stallion, gelded within the last year, trucks around the 1.40m with a (questionable) amateur and has made appearances at both the 6 and 7 year old World Championships.  I still don't really know what that means, but it sounds like its moderately impressive. 

The jumps got huge (by my standard) and the Gray just loped around like nbd.  When our trainer got on, she let him carry a fairly light contact and unlike some of the other greenbeans, he was much more comfortable carrying himself (which at 7, he should be).  Whether that was because his German Man was less.... German (in his style) or because he was old enough to actually balance himself better, I couldn't really tell.  Probably some of both.

Anyway, I slowly fell a tad in love, so when offered the chance, I crawled up on his back. 

As an Ammy that's used to riding predominately one horse, every horse feels *weird* to me the first time.  And this guy was no exception. 

Prair has such a low back and a long neck that no matter how on her forehand she is, there is still so much horse up in front of you, you feel really secure.  Pretty much everything else I've sat on since her has felt like a narrow, skinny, small TB. 

And that feeling makes me ride a tad.. conservative.  It took me a few laps to get comfy, but once I figured out his balance and how to still communicate without shouting as him, we did just fine. 

I tentatively popped over a cross rail, then vertical, then a figure eight of a couple jumps, then some oxers.... all without disaster. 

In fact it was more than not a disaster, it was really easy.  Where I'm nervous, this horse isn't, and where he needed help, I am confident.  He was a really, really easy ride, but still wildly out of the budget. 

So we hopped in the car and started talking numbers.  Trainer loved his suitability for me, I loved how cute he was over fences and the idea of a horse that could take me to the 3'6" and maybe do the big derbies (how FUN). 

So I texted The Boy about blowing the budget, and he (politely) responded that "we live in a great school district, so buy the damn horse."

We discussed numbers a bit, came to what I thought was a borderline offensively low offer, and we tucked it in our back pockets as an option.

Then we headed off for two more stops (with three more grays..), which I'll dive into in another post.  The days were so long I can't even cram them into one post!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Leg 1

(Boots, bubbles and a precious mileage seat up front)

Well, it didn't take long to get off plan. Our broker in Germany thought we were arriving a day earlier, and upon realizing we wouldn't hit the ground until Tuesday afternoon declared, "oh.... Hmmm.... No problem! Long nights, but don't worry, we have good coffee."


Good wine too I hope..

Only other snafu is that my carefully planned 4 hours of sleep (aided by exactly half an ambien) didn't happen either. Instead I zombied out in my seat and watched the sort of movies I can't con The Boy into at home (cough, cough Pitch Perfect 2, cough)

Side note- Magic Mike XXL was an option that I chose not to select. Even in the relative privacy of my mini "suite" it seemed like an awkward selection for passerbys to notice.... And in fact there were others that seemed even less appropriate - though I'm not sure when I turned into such a prude!

Anyway, flight to London was easy and lovely, as was the layover and meeting up with the other client also shopping on this

As a side note- traveling in my boots was not as difficult as I thought. They're probably the most comfortable shoes I own, and they are a nice warm layer in chilly airports...

Note taken.

Our flight into Germany was slightly delayed so we didn't hit the ground until an hour after we were supposed to and by the time we rented a car (hilarity, omg). And got going we were square in rush hour traffic coming through Hmaburg.

But we made it! I chickened out and made N drive the stick shift. I can drive one (and take pride in the ability), but foreign country + no idea where I was going + rush hour + signs I can't read? Yeah no. I grabbed my Adult Ammy flag and pleaded for mercy much like I do during lessons with the crazy good juniors.

The "quick 35 minutes" to our first barn crawled into an hour + and I was starting to question the organization and sales skills of the guy we were there to shop with.

He's a new contact and more the hours stretched on the louder a tiny voice got in my head that we were flying somewhat solo into the unknown...

But, fears were put at immediate rest when we finally pulled into the farm and found our way to him and the first two prospects.

A 5 year old Quaterback and a 3 year old... Something. Both geldings. Both, not that impressive standing in the crossties.

However our initial conversation was encouraging. I like how he introduced the horses and the background he gave on them.

Plus, when we headed to the indoor ring, they were exactly what he said they were.

Which is to say the 3 year old was Dead. Quiet. In the face of a jammed indoor full of jumpers and a course initially set for 1.30m or so.

He just walked around like a dude, pricked his ears at the froth-mouthed jumpers scampering by, but didn't scoot or get nervous or anything. He hacked out on a nice loose rein - and while not the most impressive mover, cute enough and a very balanced and soft way of going. Jumped ok. Nothing huge since he's... Three, but definitely an Ammy friendly brain and a cute face to go with.

The 5 year old didn't interest me at all. Not flashy, not a careful jumper and his breeder (who rode him for us) was so irritated that we were late in arriving that it showed.

The surprise of the evening was a 5 year old gray that our guy had, but wasn't for sale yet. HOLY CUTE JUMP. I mean, wow. (He's in the blurry pic)

His change is still a little sticky to the right, and for that reason he won't even consider letting him sell yet, but man that thing was adorable.

We walked away from the first barn with a good sense of how he evaluated the first three horses. And he had a better idea of what we were ultimately looking for.

We followed him a short ways to our cute hotel (I think we are in Hanstedt?) and shared dinner in the small restaurant downstairs. (And wine, duh). While discussing horses, the US market, other industry people etc.

Gossip is gossip is gossip, but I have to say it's a great way to feel out how someone fits into the industry and how they work. I was pleased to see that while he has relationships with lots of BNT, his way of doing business and his style has limited which of those he will actually work with. My little opinion doesn't matter much with regard to what BNTs do, but it was reassuring to hear who he stays away from and who he works well with.

After much chatting (and not that much wine) we poured ourselves into bed to be ready for a full day of visits. Brad #1 is on the roster for Wednesday (squee!) along with done others that I'm excited to see... Stay tuned!

Here Bradley, Bradley, Bradley!!!

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