First Blue!

Feather and Lauren showing off their winnings.

Feather and Lauren showing off their winnings.

So it came to pass in a town oddly named for the nickname of Kathryn (Katy) that a young lady who had been showing on the  circuit since she was just a wee child, finally after many years of riding tricky horses and a cute but not quite ready for prime time pony, came to own an outstanding Irish mare.

Now, like most fairy tales, this one involves the horse leaving Texas, making a haphazard if not dangerous trip back to the great state all the way from Florida.  When the beautiful mare arrived she was not quite several things, a. Beautiful, b.  well broke or c. Very brave.  But then never in a fairy tale do you find an easy path.

It took awhile to learn transitions from walk, trot to canter and then stop.  It took a few ( okay, maybe more than a few) trips to the show arena to not spook all the way down the outside line.  And in this story that spans a little over two years it took most of that time to get the mare to load in the trailer.

The young lady herself had some growing and working to do as well.  Coming from a quick, brilliant jumper who could win every round or just as easily throw you to the ground, the girl needed to learn confidence and trust.  Partnership, I dare say.

Over the last ninety days as the young lady rested and recovered from a hard fall, there was some speculation if they could make a come back.  The mare had the right genes but perhaps the wrong brain to make a trustworthy mount.

Two years had passed since Feather first danced into the ring with Lauren and while their rounds seemed to improve one thing was as illusive as a cool spot in Texas in August.  They had NEVER won a blue ribbon signifying that they were the fastest on the course for that round.

Today, 90 days since limping off with two torn knees and a significant tear in her back muscle, Lauren rode Feather brightly into the big arena.  No fooling around today, they took aim at the show’s highest jumping class, the Opens, at over 3’6″.  It was a little choppy as they found their groove but they finished quick and clean.  Three rounds, a first place, two second places and points to earn Grand  Champion overall.

What a wonderful time to win that first blue!  Next week they are off to the “A” show and I dare say this fairy tale made add another sequel. Please stay tuned!



Within our schooling horse show association, someone looked at the calendar and picked Fourth of July weekend as a great time for a horse show. And actually compared to the heat wave of last weekend, this show with its balmy 90 degree plus days was cooler. I was there Friday when trainer Dev started the mare Feather out in the big arena. Feather, six, is continuing to progress. This show we had planned to move her up in jumping height to the 2’9″ – 3 foot division of Schooling Jumper.

Kona was with me, his nappy poodle coat acting like Velcro to all the dust, spider webs and debris that was present in the arena bleachers.

We watched as Dev got a choppy ride from the mare. She seemed hot, her grey coat soaked in sweat, and unwilling to make an attempt at more than an occasional jump. Getting her to take a combination of fences was met with sloppy jumping and lackluster style. I was afraid that by the time Lauren got to ride there would be no horse left.

Nagging at the back of my brain was the thought that maybe we had seen all this mare had to offer. Extreme, I know, but who really knew what this young mare could do. Lauren rode a few jumps and we called it a day. I didn’t know if it was the heat, the horse or just one of those things.

Saturday, we were thinking the jumper ring started at 10 am. We needed to ride, trailer home and get to Kendyll’s birthday party. As it rolled on towards noon, I checked with the office. The schedule was to not start before 10. So, we waited some more.

Finally, the jumps were set and Lauren was third in the line-up. As they started their round, it was just like a playback of yesterday. Feather was slow, unwilling, and sloppy over the fences. There is a maximum time set for each round and Feather was almost ten seconds slower. I did not think I had ever seen her do so poorly.

I understand the heat was pretty brutal, but this is a young, well-conditioned athlete. Second round, Feather jumped one jump from a dead stop, walked on course (it’s supposed to be about speed!) and I heard one man remark, “boy, that horse sucks!”. I was stunned. I knew Lauren had to get the mare moving.

Mickey, Lauren’s jumping companion of many years, FLEW over the jumps. Going too slow was never an issue. Feather, well, I wasn’t sure what was up. I yelled down from the stands to Dev. “Crop?”, I suggested. He shook his head no. But he said she would try Caroline’s spurs in the final round. I was not sure what would happen. We had not used either on this sensitive mare before. Caroline completed a good round with Roy, hopped off and started trading gear with Lauren. Lauren had already been called to start. The was no time to try out spurs. At the last second, Dev handed her the crop as well. I held my breath.

Spurring the mare forward, off they went towards the first jump. Feather put in a great, athletic and quick round. She was, glory be, the new leader as they ended. Feather said it was hot and she did not want to jump but if it was that important to us, okay!

In the end we missed first place by 1/10th of a second. We were pretty proud of that second place after the day we had! We got a lesson in personality. Feather is not Mickey. We will need to learn and respect who she is. It is all about personality.

Life Goes On-

Bruno has been taking center stage the last few days but today was a day to catch up with family and friends.  Of course, I have been seeing my mom each day, a couple of days the visits have been a little rushed but I have gotten over each day.  It seems like there is something in the water there with all the residents a little more on edge and nuttier than usual.  One man had searched endlessly for his wife when he first came to the facility but finally had been settling in pretty well.  Last night he was going door to door (and opening each door without warning) looking for the dining room.  Twice he walked into my mom’s room as I was helping her dress for dinner.  The third time I just asked him if he wanted to wait and walk down with us.  He said okay and sat down on my mom’s bed to wait.  In loud stage whisper, mom looked at me and said, “Do you think he is going to break it?”  I told her I hoped not. 

Tonight one of our favorite residents was distraught over some men that were coming into the place and scaring her.  I am pretty sure it could have been the man we just talked about so I asked if she wanted to stay with us for awhile.  She asked Lauren over and over if that ever happened to her (that men had scared her). Then she started rearranging Lauren’s hair.  Another lady was convinced her room was on fire and was rushing down the hall with her purse intent on evacuating the facility. It is hard enough to get Lauren to go with me and I doubt she will volunteer for a while after tonight.

Micenzie looking focused and determined on Mr. Kid

Micenzie looking focused and determined on Mr. Kid

Today my friend Cayla and her family came down to let their daughter ride.  Jordyn was here and Caroline came with her daughters, Arianna and Abby.  All the horses, including Mr. Kid got saddled and ridden.  Everyone switched around a lot but I think young Micenzie rode the most horses.  I saw her on Kid, Feather and Mimi. 

Arianna trying out Lauren's Mickey. I'd say it went pretty well!

Arianna trying out Lauren’s Mickey. I’d say it went pretty well!

We thought Arianna was bringing her horse to ride.  Lauren and I had discussed the possibility of her trying out Mickey to do jumpers on this year but were afraid since he had not been saddled in almost three weeks that he would scare her and act stupid.  But they pulled in without the trailer.  It was one of the cases where things just seem to happen-the whole man plans-God laughs thing.  Arianna ended up doing great on Mickey and he acted like he had been working and jumping every day.  Lauren jumped Feather for me. It was great to see their progress.

Arianna and Lauren exchanged Christmas gifts.  Lauren got the beautiful white and gold OTTB saddle pad which I hope one day soon Bruno proudly wears into the show ring.

Arianna's present to Lauren and Bruno.  The beautiful OTTB pad (photo from their web site- )

Arianna’s present to Lauren and Bruno. The beautiful OTTB pad (photo from their web site- )

On the Bruno update side, I had told my friend Kathy that I was a little freaked out about what I had gotten myself into with this horse and the huge responsibility he would be for sometime.  I want to share what she told me. 

“This will be the worst part because you are at the beginning.  Time flies and each day that passes moves you closer to realizing your dream.  Any investment requires that you sacrifice something; usually money and time.  Its the sacrifice that makes the reward so sweet.  Hold on to the excitement of what they (Lauren and Bruno) can be.”

Well said, my friend, and I needed to hear it.  Tomorrow morning we will head back to TAMU for another visit with Bruno.  It will be day five for him. 

Amber and family come on Christmas day.  So much to look forward to-wishing happy times to all of you.  Enjoy the blessings of this season!

Lauren’s next challenge

Lauren out to take Mimi for her first ride since arriving home from the trainers. Notice big Bruno looking on from the rear.

Lauren and I have been sick the entire Thanksgiving holiday. Work; the basic feeding, vet care, stall cleaning all got done.but nothing extra was accomplished.  We slept 12-14 hours each night, fitfully, getting up to feed horses and dogs and going back to bed.  I only got the nursing home every other day.

It was a short-term solution.  Thankfully, we had already decided not to try to make the horse show this weekend with Feather.  Thankfully, we had help finishing the stalls and getting things ready so we could have five horses on the property again.  We didn’t have much energy to spare.

If you’ve read the details about our little place, we called it Six Meadow Farm, because in the beginning there were six acres and six horses.  But we have not had more than four on the property in a long time,

Lauren’s next challenge is to see if she has the stuff of Mimi’s trainer, Sarah, to organize, plan, and execute the training of three young horses while keeping Mickey fit, going to school and managing the household.  It is going to be tough.  Both Feather and Mimi will require at least four rides a week.  Bruno, until his hoof heals more will just get two to three rides.  Mickey will need the same if we plan to use him at all this next year.  There was a time when I could be counted on to flat (not jump) a couple of horses a week and in fact, I think the horses and I were better off for it.  Horses like variety and I would do long trots on the hay roads and other work outside the arena.  It kept their minds happy.  With all the demands of work, my mom and the just the hours spent commuting, I will not be good for much but an occasional weekend pick-up ride.  Ally is coming a couple of days a week and that should help as well but the major burden of the rides and schooling of these young horses will fall to Lauren.

We watched Sarah work Mimi last night.  Sarah told us Mimi did not like to work in the dark but when she has horses to work and the days are short, someone will get worked in the dark.  Sarah has award-winning horses because she does the work.  She does not take days off or short cuts.  She was nursing an upper respiratory infection yesterday like Lauren and I. 

Lauren is young.  She is tough.  She is disciplined.  I wish we had other friends that could come down more often and ride with her.  Facing the ring alone day after day is lonely.  Lauren is going to cut back her hours at school next semester to get these horses started.  She has a calendar and a plan. 

Horses are a business where the best laid plans can fall apart in an instant.  But these next few months should show Lauren if the horse business is what she wants from life.  While there are lots of songs about cowboys losing everything to follow the rodeo circuit there are not any (that I know of) about an equestrian sacrificing everything to ride the show circuit, but it is the same story.  Keep reading along and we will see how it goes.  She’s got three nice young horses ready to reach the next steps, they are the best she has ever had.  Let’s see what she turns them into.

Lauren headed out to saddle Mimi and Feather.


Its a blur-would you want to take the chance of falling from five-feet off the ground going 25 miles per hour?

The show has gone well.  Yesterday not as well as Thursday, but solid rides for Mick and Lauren.  Today, they headed into the 1.0 meter (approximately 3’1″) division called the “Low Adults”.  This is the division she will ride in the finals coming up in three weeks.  Lauren has traditionally had issues with this division.  They have successfully jumped 3’6″ inch courses for the last four years.  But when we go into the division and call it “the Lows” something psychologically comes over Lauren and she does not do as well.

Today maybe five jumps into the course, Mickey refused. He stopped and Lauren went off hard into the jump.  We have done this scene multiple times in the past.  Lauren came out of the ring, angry and embarrassed.  She was mad at Mickey but it was her approach to the jump that made him stop.  At this height, she needs to set up him for each jump or he is not going.

Lauren wanted to quit.  She said she was so tired and Mickey was worn out.  Probably so.  I told her that was fine but we would not come back to ride finals.  She needed to go back in the ring and try the 1.0 meter class again.  We could not give up, then come back in three weeks and think she was going be successful.  She did not like my answer.  Her trainer gave her some tough love.  He told her if she rode well, Mickey would jump well.   Neither Dev or I were giving her an easy way out.

To the degree I can understand this as I have never faced a three-foot jump, I get that galloping at high-speed toward a solid object on the back of horse is frightening.  Lauren has been thrown countless times.  Been hurt many times, as well.  I understand that giving up is easier than facing down her fear.

Dev and I looked around to find Lauren before her next class.  She had disappeared.  I was not convinced that she hadn’t gone back to stalls and given up.  Then I spotted her at the far end of the arena, she wasn’t happy but she was hanging in there.

I sat next to a dear friend who assured me Lauren would be okay.  I wasn’t so sure.  Neither was Lauren.  The first jump was good.  Mickey stopped and refused at the second jump but Lauren stayed on.  She got her crop, hit Mickey once to get his attention, circled around, sailed over the jump and finished her course.  Dev said that Mickey was jumping as well as he ever jumped and Lauren rode like a pro.

Facing down your fears, when you want to quit and give up takes courage.  Nothing about this sport is a given.  Equestrian sports with the strong connection between horse and rider are exceptionally difficult.  What other sport do you share with a thousand pound partner-counting on them to keep you safe?  Lauren showed courage (we kind of forced her into it) today and I couldn’t be prouder.

Two Weeks and Counting

Mickey and Lauren both showing the athleticism and team work needed to succeed.

Lauren and Mickey went to Dev’s today for another lesson.  It was the follow up to last week’s lesson and we will have one more next Thursday.  Dev’s parents Terry and Don were there.  Both top riders and competitors in their own right, they are a great support system for the Devereaux Sport Horse riders. 

Don was surprised at how Mickey looked.  Usually a true bay (a brown horse with black mane and tail-as you can see in the picture above), Mickey is growing his winter coat and looks almost black.  Both Don and Terry thought Mickey looked healthy and happy to be back jumping.

Two weeks from today, the Britannia Farm Fall “A” Show will get underway in Katy, Texas.  Mickey and Lauren are officially entered.  We will start off with a few lower height classes: .90 meters (2’11”)  and .95 meters (3’1″) and see how he does.  Lauren will move Mickey into the Eq Center on Wednesday and then show the subsequent days.  It is like an entire village of horses, trainers, riders and their support systems take over the center.    The plan will be to see how Mickey tolerates each round, each day and if he is physically able to keep competing as the fences go up, the courses get tougher and fatigue gathers. While well rested, he is clearly not in his optimum physical shape. 

If we do reasonably well, in that he is jumping well, pretty competitive in his times and not doing stupid things like refusing fences, then we will feel pretty good headed to Zone finals on November 10th. 

Inadvertantly, we may have done a good thing by giving Mickey a couple of months off.   Some horses get ring sour, wear out their legs by overuse and/or just do not want to jump.  The horse under Lauren today at Dev’s was rested, healthy, eager and excited about jumping.  He may just carry those attributes into the ring with him for finals.  And if he is ready for his come back and able to keep the cough at bay, Lauren and Mickey may be real contenders this year.

We are certainly in a better spot than we had anticipated and are thankful. It was terrific to hear the excitement in Lauren’s voice today as she told me about her lesson.  We will wait and see.