Summertime Gone

I feel like summertime has just began but based upon the photos that are rising up on Facebook and in my own messages, it is clearly the start of yet another new school year.  In Texas, there is no marked change of weather to indicate time to return to school has arrived.  I remember late August days in Chicago when the wind would pick up and the temperatures drop forcing us out of the community pool and out shopping for sweaters.

Shortly, in much of the US, there will be brilliant leaves falling from trees and the first frost descending on the land.  Last year, we did not have a frost.  Period.  No temperatures below 32 degrees.  Usually the true summertime weather hangs around until Halloween or so.

It used to be in Florida I would pride myself on turning off the air conditioning by November first and not turning it back on until May first. We were close to the ocean and got that ocean breeze but here I am lucky to turn off the air for Christmas Day. I am sure the warm weather year around is a blessing. But it is one I struggle with by the start of the new school year.  I mean really how many days of changing your clothes three times because they are soaking wet can you take (and for those of you who have not lived in the humid south, we are not talking about getting caught in a rain storm although that is always a possibility as well).

We were able to let all the girls out together for the first time-and everyone got along!!

We were able to let all the girls out together for the first time-and everyone got along!!

The mares grazing on the late summer grass and subsequently being rained upon.

The mares grazing on the late summer grass and subsequently being rained upon.

But as much as I complain, the cold is harder on me than heat, so I trudge along.  In spite of the weather, which included several strong thunderstorms this week, life at the barn continues.  This week saw Libby with her healing broken hand climb back aboard Cody for the first time.  She also had a brand new saddle.  One specially made to fit Cody and keep Libby in the saddle and off the ground.  After so much pain, it was delightful to see the joy on her face as she took an inaugural spin around the arena.

Dev was back for the first time in many weeks as well, healing from his broken orbital and subsequent surgery.  I haven’t sat back in the shade of the deep porch and watched lessons for some time.  The arena was perfect and horses spot on.

Jordyn made some progress on her riding as well.  It has always been one step forward and two steps back for my first granddaughter.  It has taken some urging, begging, threats and praise but Jordayn finally trotted off through a series of cavellettis and some Xes.  This is a precursor to trotting over jumps and a  transition she needs to make to move on.

Jo and Snow with Kona, Kena and Maui-barn dogs extornaire!

Jo and Snow with Kona, Kena and Maui-barn dogs extraordinaire!  Look at those dirty, giant paws.

Jordyn headed off to third grade this week and remarkably has the same teacher as last year.  While second grade at the new public school brought tremendous anxiety to Jordyn, this year’s first day went smoothly and easily.

Riley entered first grade this year and is a top student.  He looks pretty GQ in this picture from “Meet the Teachers” night.

Handsome Riley meeting his first grade teacher in Denver.

Handsome Riley meeting his first grade teacher in Denver.

Summertime heat may be here to stay for a while but fall will soon begin again.  As always thanks for riding along!


Lauren and I send our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to the Figenshaw family as they attempt to grasp with the new realities of their lives.  In a horrible instant, while taking daughter Meg (whom we have known since Whipple Tree days) off to college, Meg and her father Paul, were hit head on.  Paul did not survive the accident.  Meg has a broken neck, collar-bone, ribs, arm and pelvis.  Having lost my sister in a head on wreck, I know the anguish of loss.

Lord make your face to shine upon and give them strength to carry on.

A moment can change everything.  We are so deeply sorry for your loss.


Summer Working Students

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Many barns with top trainers and riders have summer working students that come and essentially work for free in return for proximity to such amazing learning opportunities.  Okay, so our little backyard barn does not house a resident trainer or a hot-shot rider to motivate the working student to spend grueling hours under the hot Texas sun, but apparently we have some draw as two students joined us this summer for a four-week program.  The program (I am being generous here) was designed (thought up one night in response to the impending arrival of the students) to aid the students in learnIng multiple facets of the  equestrian business, from running a barn smoothly to greater insight on the horses they ride.

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia, formerly of Houston, returned from her current home in Malaysia (I bet my working student came further than yours did) to spend the time under Lauren’s tutelage and took up residence in our home.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel, a boarder, from Katy, Texas, came daily to work, learn and sweat with the group.

Both girls have trained with Dev Branham and continued riding multiple mounts for him during the summer program.  Timing was such that everyone got a shot at showing as well.  The Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Show conveniently was scheduled mid-program.  Dr. Lynn Criner helped out with offering up her pony-Just George for Mia to show.

It wasn't all work!  From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

It wasn’t all work! From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

Next year, if we do this again, I have advanced plans of much better ways to incorporate time and teaching to the working student.  But for this year, I put together some opportunities interspersed with amble time for riding, barn management and hopefully some fun.  Several days a week the girls had responsibilities for horse turn-out, cleaning stalls, barn management and arena perfection.

Discussion was had over variety of feeds, hays and type of work that the horses were doing (or not).  Pasture management including important things how/where manure is dumped and pasture rotation was an ongoing subject.  Certainly there was never a shortage of opinion or feedback about pasture assignments (horses, just like people {or dogs}) like and respect others in varying degrees.

We set up some other educational sessions as well.  Dr. Kendrick Govan did a tremendous job helping the ladies build a perfect barn first-aid kit.  Additionally, she walked them through what a lameness exam in a horse is meant to show and basic first aid tips.  The group was very complimentary of Dr. Govan and what they all learned.

Likewise, the girls spent a day auditing the Emerging Athlete’s Program sponsored by USEF at Katy Equestrian Center.  After listening to American Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis work with the riders in the program the students and Lauren raced home to recreate his course in our arena.  When trainer Dev arrived and questioned the unique course, I told him to ask Mia or Isabel to explain the point to of this particular course.  Without hesitation, Isabel clearly articulated to Dev what the horse and rider would gain from riding it.  I call that a big win.  (I would note that course pretty quickly got changed-it was pretty tough to handle.)

Tony's Timber Ridge Farm

Tony’s Timber Ridge Farm

A trip north to the beautifully built and appointed barn of Tony Font was a fun educational outing provided by trainer Trapp O’Neal with the help of Caitlyn Epperson.  Trapp,  a rider and trainer of Grand Prix horses, aided the girls in understanding basic horse anatomy and how it plays out in the jumping ring.  The girls were asked to evaluate several horses based upon the criteria they had just learned.  Caitlyn also did some jumping demonstrations which were case in point.  It is doubtful that any of these students will be jumping around a Grand Prix course any time soon (or ever) but it is always fun to see inside the world where you have been a spectator in the past.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor.  A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor. A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Four weeks of summer fun which included a lot of laughter, fast food and shopping when the group was not hauling dirt to fill the rain-soaked pastures, working another horse in the hot, humid environment of summer in Houston or dragging the arena yet again in the endless circles of perfection. A heartfelt thanks for all that you accomplished this summer.   I would call our first working students, Mia and Isabel, amazing, intelligent, and hard-working. I saw them get tougher, stronger and become better horse-woman.   I am grateful they came to learn, to work and to grow with Six Meadow Farm.

And to all of you, thanks for riding along!

Lauren’s horse biography

Lauren’s trainer, Dev Branham, has launched a new website with help from rider Amy Heidbreder and asked each rider to do a little bio on themselves.  Here is what Lauren put together for the website ( ).

Lauren Davis

Hi, I am Lauren Davis and I was the first of the ‘southside’ to start riding with Dev almost seven years ago.  I keep my horses at home, in Wharton, which is a scenic 175 mile round trip to Tomball.  I was just dragged along into riding when my sister and mom had horses in Florida. I don’t believe I ever made a conscious decision to ride, there were always just horses in my life.  I started riding competitively over 16 years ago and have been blessed with some great horses over the years.  Most memorably, is Irish Midnight, aka Mickey, a small but determined bay horse who will be coming to live at  Dev’s soon.  I started out in walk-trot with Mickey and have won blue ribbons on him up to the 3’6” jumpers.



Although just 15.1 hh, this little horse will teach you to ride, to find your spots, to see the distance and to succeed in the jumper ring.  Together we have made USEF Zone Finals three times, won many year-end schooling championships and grown up together. With the arrival of two six year-old horses on my farm, Mickey has not getting the rides he deserves so I hope his transfer to DSH will give him a chance to shine again while some of you get a chance to ride my favorite guy.

About 18-months ago, a young Irish sport horse who was still growing into herself stepped off the trailer from Florida.  Sired by Flagmount’s Freedom (a top-notch eventing horse), we knew this mare should be able to jump but had to overcome some initial issues like not ever wanting to get in a trailer again, being terrified of crops, fly spray and people before we could adequately ride and show her.  It has been a lot of work, some of it tough, but I am proud my mare, Flagmount’s Irish Freedom, aka Feather, has progressed from the 2’3” hunters to the 3’6” jumpers in this short time.  She has also learned to load, be clipped, endure fly spray and most importantly enter every arena with a calm, business-like attitude.

Feather and Lauren at their last show.

Feather and I at our last show.

I don’t know where this mare will take me.  I do know we have not yet begun to see the top of her jumping limits but love the horse this mare has become!

My next horse I blame on Dev and yet applaud Dev for sending to me.  Huge, 17.2 hh, six year-old Bruno came to me solidly lame last November.  Many of you may have read my mom’s chronicles of his fight to return to soundness after hoof surgery at Teas A&M Vet Hospital last December.  Over five months, Bruno stayed in his stall as I learned every conceivable way to bandage a hoof, deal with a giant, crazy OTTB and have a horse I had barely even ridden lodge himself solidly in my heart.


Bruno has been back under saddle now for a couple of months.  It is a little like riding a runaway freight train.  Bruno latches onto the bit and away we go.  My mom may tell us to come down from the canter to the trot, but she doesn’t realize I have been trying to get him to slow down for the last two laps of the arena.  We are just starting Bruno’s education over fences and it has been a little slow.  He is nothing like the natural jumper that Feather is.  But maybe we just have not set the challenge up enough for him yet.  Dev says Bruno may be my Derby horse and with an unextended stride of over 15 feet he will eat up the lines in the jumper ring.

Also, hanging out at my farm are Snowboy and Mr. Kid.  Snow, of course, spent some time at Dev’s and now is my niece’s show pony.  Mr. Kid is 112 (okay, really almost 32) but keeps Bruno company and is my mom’s old horse.

In my spare time, when I am not managing the family farm, I am attending college, and buying/selling some ponies and horses.

p 051513

Pony, Pixie, will be for sale soon.

Dev has been the perfect fit for me as a trainer.  I have learned so much working with him over the years.  I have not always liked what he had to tell me but I have come to realize he is usually right!

Leadline Success

Showing off her hair as she loves on Trapp's dog, Camo.

Showing off her hair as she loves on Trapp’s dog, Camo.

The afternoon started with Jordyn, Lauren and I running into Razzmatazz and getting our hair done. Jordyn’s hair is short but needed to look sleek and hang in pigtails so she could show off the mandatory Leadline bows. As we headed to Katy, we received a text that the horse Jo expected to ride, Ky, was out (too excitable)and she would ride a big, red roan named Red River. By the time we got to the Equestrian Center, we had a new message, that she would ride a huge, black gelding named Heartbreaker (HB) that Caitlyn had been showing in hunters this week.

And so preparation began. Caitlyn, Kathy, Lauren, Jo and I walked over to the stall area where HB was housed. Wow-what a horse! Absolutely huge (like as tall as Bruno but stockier and sturdier) and rippling with muscle. Only five years old, but bred for a quiet temperament, beautiful movement and conformation. I doubt Jordyn will ever sit on such an amazing horse again. What an opportunity!

We took him over so the braider could start on his braids. Meanwhile, Kathy and I, attempted to come up a way to showcase the matching ribbons in HB’s mane. I have little skill in anything ‘crafty’. Kathy has deep roots to the business side of things, but perfected four bows of zebra and blue ribbon that contrasted beautifully against HB’s gleaming black coat.

The tiny braids on his broad neck with his special Leadline ribbons.

The tiny braids on his broad neck with his special Leadline ribbons.

Ally, Luke and baby Kendyll got there with Kendyll decked out in a blue onesie saying she was Jordyn’s Biggest Fan. It had Pin Oak 2013 on the back. Then Ally and I got Jordyn ready to go with boots, Jodhpurs, blue show shirt, grey wool jacket, bows, helmet and gloves. Abby showed up all dressed at the same time and we got adorable pictures of the two equestrians.

Jo's number was supposed to be 860!

Jo’s number was supposed to be 860!

Abby, Lauren and Jordyn

Abby, Lauren and Jordyn

Lauren attached Jordyn’s entry number to her waist and we were ready to ride. When we made it to the arena, Kathy (I told you she was a number person!) realized Jordyn’s number was upside down. It was more than a little crazy.

There was a lot of activity at the in-gate as we waited (and waited) for the girls to be called. But young HB handled it all like the pro he is, and never seemed anxious or spooky. Little Princess was a trooper with Abby as well. Finally, the ring steward waved them through the gate into the massive arena. Leadline was on!

Abigail Lacombe on white Princess and Jordyn Taylor on dark Heartbreaker. What a pair!

Abigail Lacombe on tiny, white Princess and Jordyn Taylor on huge, dark Heartbreaker. What a pair!

There were four contestants in all. They were asked to walk, reverse, and halt. The judge asked Jo what her horse’s name was and she hesitated a moment, (in so much as we had changed horses three times today alone) and then answered “Heartbreaker”. The judge said “I bet this is a borrowed horse” and Jo said “yes, but I have one at home!”

All the little Leadliner’s won a beautiful Pin Oak blue ribbon and a bouquet of flowers. They were greeted by a mass of us upon exiting the arena. I heard Dev’s voice telling the girls what a great job they had done. I caught a glimpse of Trapp, Kathy and Cate’s trainer, who had been instrumental in getting Jo such a great horse to ride, raising his iPhone and snapping a shot of Jordyn and HB. It made me smile!

As a special surprise, Kathy and group from Trapp’s barn had gotten Jo a Pin Oak tee-shirt. They had all signed it and sent her well wishes. It was a perfect end to wonderful, wonderful experience. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart to all of you who made this such a special night for my granddaughter, she, and I, will never forget it!

I bet this shirt will be cherished for a long time.

I bet this shirt will be cherished for a long time.

Caroline, Abby and Princess finally headed back to the barn.

Caroline, Abby and Princess finally headed back to the barn.