Fast Times

 

sandboot

Lauren has finally returned from her trip to The exotic and yet achingly familiar place of her birth in Florida.  Evidenced by her boots left lying on my kitchen counter her first night home, the farrows of her boot’s sole lined with fine, white Florida sand, she walked (and rode) many miles during her stay at the Wellington Equestrian Festival (WEF).

And we have missed her.  As much as Ally stepped up to perform an outstanding job on everything at the barn and the farm, we were all glad to know Lauren was home.  Ally was in many was a better manager and keeper of my clan than Lauren but in the way a new, eager (not yet exhausted and broken) employee steps in at the holidays to work retail. I know we will miss the little extas that Ally provided us with while she was our barn manager.

From Ally’s perspective, the whole event climaxed on her last day to cover Lauren with an extreme bloody horse injury, and Ally was eager to hand the muck rake back to her sister.  But I also feel that Ally learned a few things in this process.

  1. Like how much work was really entailed in this job of her sister’s.  The sneak attacks that hit you just when you think the day is done and a horse goes down to colic or rain drives all the horses back to the barn just as you have completed turn-out. Nothing like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes to appreciate what their life is really like!
  2. Blood has never been Ally’s thing.  Any mention of following in her other sister’s footsteps to be in the medical profession have always fallen on deaf ears.  But when Ally had to handle literally buckets of blood she did so readily (although she did gag a lot) and Thank God she was there!

Lauren, likewise, learned a bit about the real lives of top equestrians.  Through her days circulating through Grand Prix Village (on an actual imported Grand Prix horse) or working as the trainer’s aide, she learned immense amounts about hard work.  And not just her work either.  The riders she saw had worked years and years, lifetimes in the saddle, to be as good as they were.  She learned there were no short-cuts to fame.

cate

catky

You all have read about Lauren’s friend Caitlyn.  You can search this blog for stories of Caitlyn’s many horse shows (Harrisburg, Washington Invitational, Maclay rounds, West Coast Talent Search) and hundreds of rides right here in Texas. Lauren is a couple years older than Cate but Cate has spent way more time in the saddle and at the big shows perfecting her art than Lauren has.  In all my years in the horse industry, while I have known many to ride at WEF, I have never had a real relationship with anyone who won at WEF. Like, I have never really known them-they were a top rider that I had heard about in the media.

This is exactly what Caitlyn and her horse Ky did!  I was thrilled to hear of them winning a class-how exciting is that?  But to come back and place high enough to win the whole division and be GRAND CHAMPION AT WEF, well, that was quite the way to end the show.

A ride with all the other grand champions on Sunday, in the International Ring, was the icing on the cake.  To ride in the arena where so many greats of sport had ridden before her was unimaginable thrill.

On a side note for those of you that like the star factor, Mary Kate Olson (yes, Full House Mary Kate) rode against Caitlyn in her division.  She rode not one horse, but four of the best horses that money could buy, but Caitlyn was there to win and had the experience to do so.

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Finally, back home with Maui Jim and friends, I told Lauren how good he had been.  No eating FitBits or chewing shoes.  I wasn’t missing my glasses either.  I thought we had finally passed over puppyhood and he was getting to be an adult.

Then I got this text:

bible

We will let you know how the power of God is effecting Maui.

As always, thanks for riding along!

 

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!

Craigslist OTTB rakes in high-level ribbons

Borrowed with permission from Off the Track Thoroughbreds-

I understand the actual video of Trapp riding in the race saddle over the crudely constructed jumps was something to behold. The owner expected him to fall off this little mare, but she just went willingly along. Feather and Lauren, no doubt, will encounter Cait and Lulu as they make their way up the ranks. Thanks Susan for a great story!

By Susan Salk on June 3, 2015

World Cup rider Trapp O’Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she’s in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson. Alison Harwell Photography

World Cup rider Trapp O’Neal found Au Girl on Craigslist. Now she’s in the ribbons for owner/rider Caitlyn Epperson. Alison Harwell Photography

 

Leading Grand Prix rider and coach Trapp O’Neal was out shopping for a flatbed trailer one lazy afternoon in August when he discovered in the dirt and dust of a modest Texas farm a gem of a Thoroughbred with the makings of an A-rated sport horse.

Though Au Girl lived in circumstances that lacked a standard ring to stretch her legs or pretty jumps to display her form, she went along quite willingly and smartly for O’Neal, who rode her in her jockey’s saddle over jumps made of orange cones and lumber. The bay mare just seemed a natural for the job.

“As a Grand Prix rider and coach, it’s never been typical for me to chose Thoroughbreds to work with. But as a horseman, I’ve learned to keep my eyes open. I don’t think you can be too prejudice as to what shape, size and breeds the talent comes in,” O’Neal says. “And when I tried Au Girl I knew I couldn’t pass up talent.”

O’Neal purchased the ex-race mare in August 2013 and took her home to his Magnolia, Texas facility TKO Sporthorses, where the green mare quickly proved herself as worthy as the fancy show horses in the barn.

Au Girl
Barn name: Lulu
Sire: Formal Gold
Dam: San Miguel Queen
Foal date: April 23, 2009

Whip-smart and scopey, she trained for about a year before Trapp sold her to his longtime student Caitlyn Epperson, 20, who formed an instant connection with the mare. “The minute she sat on her, they just clicked,” says Caitlyn’s mother Kathryn Epperson. She adds, “They are a great team. They’ve already earned numerous grand championships and reserve championships … this mare just has a spirit like she’s in it to win it, and yet, she’s also very sweet.”

The pair has excelled at the TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Division at the lower heights, but has also ribboned at the High Adult Jumper Division as well. Her awards include: Low Adult Jumper Champion (1.0 – 1.05 meter) Dallas Harvest in October 2014; High Adult Jumper Reserve Champion (1.10 – 1.15 meter) Great Southwest Winter Classic IV in February 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Reserve Champion (1.0 meter) Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in March 2015; TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumpers Champion Show Jumping Classic in May 2015.

Au-girl-face

Au Girl takes a nap after winning Grand Champion in the Take 2 Jumpers at the Show Jumping Classic in May

Au Girl is ranked 9th in the National TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings and 7th in the USHJA Zone 7 TAKE 2 Thoroughbred Jumper standings through April 2015.

But more than earning ribbons there is the deep satisfaction that comes from bringing along a green OTTB to compete at the highest levels.

“In this area you don’t see a lot of Thoroughbreds competing at this level. A lot of trainers just want the Warmbloods. Trapp was one of the first trainers in our area to step out and try a Thoroughbred, and now that people see her, other people have started to show an interest in them,” she says. “This horse is just a trooper. I don’t care how tired she is, or if she’s been at a show for three weeks, she’s going to give 110 percent every time.

“And she moves, very, very well. And she was a fraction of the cost of the other horses in her division. She was a true diamond in the rough.”

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.