Feather flys In Oklahoma City

The Gateway of Champions at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

The Gateway of Champions at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

As all things in life, there is never a perfect time for anything.  Lauren has never in all these years, showed her horse out-of-state.  We had planned and scheduled the OKC trip long before we had heard of Pultar Road or contemplated moving.  And it was long before Ally and Luke scheduled a cruise with the kids sharing time at both their grandparents which they will leave for this weekend.  And it was before we had boarders in our barn or seven horses to care for daily.  And most importantly it was before my mom started her rapid decline into ill-health.

Had we known any or all of these things, perhaps I would not be at work, afraid to journey anywhere while awaiting news on my momma (of course, I am so crazy busy at work, that I could not have gone anyway but I like to think I could be at her side as she heads into the ring).

For weeks we have debated if Lauren would really go.  I did not want her to go-just selfishly. I can barely manage my life and my mom without the added extras of the barn.  But Ally has stepped up and made an excellent barn manager in Lauren’s absence.  Not only is she doing all the barn chores efficiently but I came home yesterday to the trash already set out, a chore that involves moving the heavy cans down the long, winding drive.

Bruno has come up lame again-both front feet this time.  It appears he has abscesses brewing in the good foot and the bad foot has just had the shoe torn off too many times.  He is sporting wraps on both feet and Ally is getting to be a pro wrapper, quick with the tape, fast with the vet wrap.  Jordyn knows how  make a duct tape boot which perhaps we can illustrate here for other needy horse owners.  Point is they have really stepped up to help.

Bru's feet wrapped up once again.

Bru’s feet wrapped up once again.

That adds a whole lot of extra time to the daily routine as Bruno walks around like he is on broken glass.  Carefully stepping down with his badly aching feet.  We got x-rays back last night and think this is just a minor set-back.  The vet and farrier are actively developing an action plan and hopefully he will be back to work soon.

Lauren took Feather and boarder Cody to Dev’s Sunday night where they would start their trip to Oklahoma in his trailer the next morning.  Feather had been bathed, clipped and whitened to get ready for her first trip across state lines to show.  Cody, previously AQHA World and Reserve World Champion in Jumpers in OKC, told Feather it was really no big deal.

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It all got a little crazy right before Lauren, Libby, Feather and Cody were supposed to leave.  Dr.Criner and farrier Sean showed up to check out Bruno.  Ally and family showed up so Jordyn could ride.  Dr. Criner’s son and husband were along for the Sunday ride as well.  For my poor OCD daughter who likes everything ordered and structured it was almost too much.  Trailers and vehicles angled across the drive.  Lauren was struggling to pack last-minute hay and feed. But they got safely off and safely onto to Oklahoma City.

This morning was their first time in the show ring and I got a text full of excitement and joy.  Their first round had been a good one!

I know I have some Oklahoma kin who might want to wonder over to the Fairgrounds and keep an eye on Feather and Lauren for me.  They will be showing through Sunday.  Here is the link to the schedule and she should be in the main coliseum each morning doing the  1.0, 1.05 meter and perhaps the 1.10 meter if things go well.

I say “Go Oklahoma Go!”  it is the Go Show after all!

Click to access sked_140716.pdf

Flying High-a Feather story in pictures

Feather and Lauren making a pretty sharp team.

Feather and Lauren making a pretty sharp team.

Lauren is easily five feet off the ground here.

Lauren is easily five feet off the ground here.

The back of this horse may be the closest Lauren ever will come to flying without wings.

The back of this horse may be the closest Lauren ever will come to flying without wings.

If you were going to look for a jumping horse, as they call our horses here in Wharton, the pictures above would be a pretty good guide.  The horse’s knees, should be up to their chest, parallel and tight.  An honest horse takes the center of the jump and Feather is pretty close.

The horse should be using her body, the neck rounded, the shoulders strong and the hind quarter propelling the horse over the jump athletically.  The rider should be evenly balanced in the saddle, and not interfering with the horse. The top picture is a pretty good picture.  Lauren’s position could be slightly improved but anyone witnessing their rounds would know that Feather was jumping hard and landing hard.  Lauren was doing an admirable job of staying with the mare on the slam, bang assault of the jump course.

The second shot is good of Feather showing her natural jumping ability.  I think Lauren’s leg dropped back a tad here with the size of the jump (or at least as high as Feather is jumping).

The third picture shows Lauren in a better position.  Her leg is in a better place, with the stirrup sitting about even with where her little toe is ( I know this as I have x-ray vision).   Her leg is exactly where it should be, with her heel deep.  She is almost pulling off an advanced release where there is a straight line from her elbow to Feather’s mouth.  That is nice.

And finally, the horse and rider must be in harmony, moving as a unit through the various jumps on course with the horse sensing a change in direction, in pace, in stride almost as quickly as the rider thinks it.  Feather is growing in her ability to jump high, in her experience over different types of fences and in her communication with Lauren.

And you thought I was just going to show you some more horse pictures!  Lauren came in while I was writing this and said “who do you think you are?  George Morris?”  Oh, I wish, Lauren.  You would be a better rider then!

Come Backs

Come backs are a tough thing.  There have been a lot of top athletes that have attempted come backs after injury or retirement.  Try to name the ones that made it.  I am not coming up with much of a list.

Mickey and Lauren have always been a great story.  Mickey certainly was never bred to jump or compete at the USEF level.  My daughter has learned to win and lose on Mickey.  Each win greater for the twenty times in between when they did not place,

This morning Mickey was jumping well.  They looked good.  Then we went back to the stalls and just waited for Finals to start.  And we waited some more.  The anxiety increased for Lauren and the hours wore on.  By the time she got back on Mick and headed to the warm up ring to get him ready for the Final, Mick was not jumping.  He was refusing jumps in the warm up ring-never a good sign.  Dev dropped the height of the jump and he still wasn’t jumping.  It did not go well.  When Lauren got to the Finals ring, she had tears in her eyes.  If Mickey is not jumping well in warm up, chances are high he will not jump well (or at all) in his round. 

It was rough from the start.  It did not smooth out.  By jump number eight, he stopped.  Lauren neatly slid off to the ground without messing up her white breeches and walked out of the arena.  Zone Finals for Irish Midnight and Lauren were done.  It was a disappointing end to what could have been a great come back story. 

Mickey will now go into semi-retirement.  He just is not consistent and safe at the height they need to jump.  He has served my daughter well.  I have no complaints.

We are enormously lucky to have two fine young horses here at the farm that can all be great horses for Lauren.  We have so much to look forward to with these terrific horses.  Mickey has been Lauren’s go to guy for so long, it will take a while to get used to seeing her on new mounts.  But I will not miss seeing her on the ground after Mickey has decided not to jump a jump. 

Like most come backs, this one was not entirely successful (they did win some rounds at the show a couple weeks ago and did well yesterday).  I am grateful for the many wonderful times Mick and Lauren have had.  He will forever be part of our family.  I suspect he will help some other young riders start out over fences.  I will always be grateful for all he did for my girl.

New Adventures-Meet Bruno-A Bruno Story

Fiddler’s Pilgrim-aka Bruno

Life is never static at the farm.  New adventures, new animals, new opportunities abound for us.  Tomorrow it is off to Zone Finals for Lauren and Mickey.  Anyone that has followed this blog even minimally knows that Mickey had a very rough summer.  So sick with the pythium fungus he could barely catch his breath.  We didn’t know if he would show again.  But he did, he has and he will go into the ring Saturday at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center for Zone Finals in the Low Amateur Adult Jumpers with fences approximately 3’3″ to 3’6″ in height.  We hope for a clear round and a chance to get into the jump off.  The little man can fly.  I am thankful for all of your support and prayers.

Tomorrow after Lauren rides Mickey in a couple of practice rounds, bathes him and gets ready to head for home, it will be with a new horse. I know that sounds a little crazy but sometimes things just come along in life that are meant to be.  The new horse is another Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB).  His name is Fiddler’s Pilgrim (if you want to look him up you will find AP Indy, Secretariat and some other hotshots).  He was certainly bred to race and run.  But he’s a pretty laid back guy and thought a racing career was not all that much fun.  He is a big horse-17 hands and once filled out with granny’s feed probably will be over 1300 pounds.  He looks a lot my old horse Mac.  If he does half as well as Mac, we will all be pleased.  Bruno (he is from the east coast) is only five years old so we have some work to do.  He has a hoof that is healing so he will be enjoying some quality downtime while it gets better.

Mickey, after finals, will be going into semi-retirement, which he has certainly earned.  We will pull him out for a few shows next year but our focus will be on the youngsters, Bruno and Feather.  Sounds like a mob boss and his girlfriend, doesn’t it?  We will have Mimi, the pony coming home from the trainers soon and will be looking to place her in a pony home.

So very exciting times.  I was not seeking a new horse when the opportunity for Feather in Florida came up.  I bought her sight unseen and had her shipped home.  She has not disappointed us at all. Well, maybe during those weeks when we struggled with the trailer loading, I did want to kill her a couple of times but other than that, she has turned into a beautiful, talented mare.

Likewise, Bruno came to us from a top trainer in the area, Sherre Sims, one for whom I have the greatest respect.   We first met Sherre when we were admiring her Corgi, Nordic.  Nordic and Lauren’s Corgi,  Sneaky had an ill-fated love affair.  Anyway…Sherre’s parents live on the east coast  and their friends bred and trained Bruno.  He got sent to Texas to become a jumper.  Due to Sherre’s limited space and his hoof issues, he needed to go to a new home.  So, once again, I am taking a horse, sight unseen, this one I can’t even work for a while, all because I believe in what he can be.  I think this one is going to be a real special guy for us.  Gee, I can’t wait to see him!

Caitlyn Rides the Nationals

You all will remember my story of Lauren’s friend Caitlyn who was working hard to make the national finals.  This weekend she went to Harrisburg, Penn. as a qualified finalist in the Pessoa Medal Finals.  Pennsylvania is a long way from Texas.  Her horse Ky and trainer, Trapp, traveled long days and nights.  Ky was stalled in many unfamiliar places.  Ky and Caitlyn met up on Friday to continue living the dream of riding the national finals.

We watched as a live feed from USEF brought us the ‘warm-up’ round yesterday.  Caitlyn was one of over 260 junior riders looking for a spot in the top-eight. We watched on our little computer in Wharton, Texas as Caitlyn entered the big arena in Harrisburg.  Before her had gone some of the top young riders in country, Lillie Keenan, Jacob Pope, Tori Colvin and Shawn Casady.  The camera caught her face clearly as she rode into the ring, calm but determined. Her warm-up round was beautiful.  She did not place in the top ten riders of her section but certainly rode well.

This morning, once today’s course was posted, the 250 plus riders and their trainers swarmed the arena like a million ants, walking the course, determining strategy and seeing the jumps up close.  There is no warm-up ride to this final event.  The horse goes in the arena and is expected to jump what is there, sight unseen. Caitlyn was deep in the list of riders.  It made for long hours, waiting and watching as some of the country’s best went before her.  Finally it was time for Caitlyn and Ky to enter the tunnel to the arena.  I was scared to death just watching.  Caitlyn had poise and calm far greater than her years of experience. It was not that long ago that Caitlyn just started these USEF shows and just had this year of hitting the nationals.  Some of these kids started in national pony finals as six-year olds.

Caitlyn and Ky negotiated the course well.  Former judges and top trainers felt she had a great ride but it would not be enough to make the cut for the finals. 

Which is too bad on many accounts.  Not just that, wow, it would have been great to see her make the work-off (the ultimate challenge of the final), but because Caitlyn and Ky do their best work when given the most difficult course.  And tonight’s work-off was just that,  a demanding course that asked a lot of the horse and rider.  But nothing Caitlyn and Ky had not practiced a million times in the last few years.  They would have been superb! 

Caitlyn (and Ky) have everything to be proud of tonight as they head to Baltimore before tomorrow’s long trip home.  A nation of horse crazy girls (and so many of her peers right here in Houston) watched a few years ago when Animal Planet did a reality show about how difficult it was to make it on the road to the national finals.  We all watched it.  But only Caitlyn went on and actually did it.  She did all work, rode all the shows, practiced all the moves and built up the points to make it to the top shows in the United States. 

So I say to you, Caitlyn-You are amazing! We back here at home could not be more proud of you tonight!