Monday, February 11, 2019

Job perks

Those of you that know me in real life know that I spent half of last year nannying for the Davidsons -- the job was exactly what I was looking for after finishing up my stint as the world's oldest working student. I wanted a job that would keep me around horses, working with kids and being creative. A mutual friend of the Davidsons (and someone we sold a horse to) put us in touch and the rest is history! I got to spend an amazing 5-6 months nannying the coolest kid and being around incredible event horses everyday (and I'll be starting back up with them after they return from Ocala this year). I wasn't really sure what to expect in the early days but I thought I'd highlight some of the amazing job perks I was lucky enough to encounter along the way.

Oh ya know... just keeping it real casual watching Andrea jump a young one (that's Bruce Sr. on the right)

I'll never forget the first day I met Bruce Sr. I was playing with Aubrey at the barn and he pulled up in his car and rolled down the window and with a big smile said, "Hi, you must be Niamh, I'm POP POP". I was internally (*i know who you are*) and attempted to tell him who I was and that I had a horse (*but also forget I just said that*). I had no experience with anyone in the family until I started watching their daughter which I think helped the process of getting to know everyone as a family vs. equestrians. But that didn't leave me a bit star-struck at times. I was surrounded by greatness, and it was hard not to be inspired constantly. 

The whole thing felt very surreal. 

Like the morning that I was told I should come to the barn that day because Erik Duvander was in town teaching and if I wanted to, I could come watch. Um, yes please...

Erik getting his exercises ready for the morning rides (*that little baby on the left became my obsession last summer)

Or getting to spend hours upon hours with the man, the myth, the legend...

Returns from conditioning gallop to cool out with his grand daughter -- talk about adorable
He's everything I imagined... intimidating, articulate, funny, kind, a consummate equestrian (through and through), gracious and generous with his time and knowledge. And even though I felt like such a peon around him, we had many fantastic conversations ranging from breeding lines and training young horses, to funny client stories and quirky horse characteristics and all the while he never made me feel like anything less than another person who loved horses. 

As part of my job working for them I also took lots of pictures and video for social media purposes, which started small and wound up leading to some pretty cool shoots. This year I'm hoping we'll get to do more of this and I've been stock piling ideas:)

For Charles Owen, Heritage, and I LOVE MY HORSE.BIZ



Perri's Leather reached out to me to a lifestyle shoot with both Buck and Andrea and wanted to include Aubrey too. This also happened to coincide with the busiest part of eventing season so nailing a time down with the three of them and a vendor was quite a challenge! The people from Perri's couldn't have been easier to work with and were extremely patient with a hyper 2.5 year old running amok the whole time. 

The one and only Erroll Gobey

Aubrey got to pick out her own halter for Prize (it has owls on it!!!)

<3<3<3

He was such a ham the whole time -- Andrea is undeniably photogenic

Walking up the picturesque driveway at Chesterland
I was dying to have a chance to photograph some of their big time horses, so when they asked if I would be interested in making portraits of all their client owned horses I jumped at the opportunity. Emily was kind enough to come assist me for the day, as it was going to be extremely tough to snag a working student away for the afternoon. I have to laugh about that day though because the working students saw the two of us (both in summer street clothes) and said something along the lines of, "You know these are fit, advanced horses... right?"  To be sure, most of them were getting ready for Plantation *** -- but I knew I had the right person helping me out:)

I couldn't post any of these until after Christmas, but I LOVE how they turned out!



Prim (Escariz Du Rona), Bobby, Sam (Mr. Poppers), Archie Rocks, Carlevo, Sean (Copper Beach), Erroll Gobey, & Archie


Each and everyone of them were so fun to work with. I've spent quite a bit of time with Andrea's competition horses (Prim and Sam) and I'm obsessed with both of them. Sam (Mr. Popper's) has this larger than life personality and he looks like a stuffed pony. All of Buck's horses are just professional athletes... it was like they knew what to do as soon as they were in position, rocking poses and pouring on the charm. Sean (Copper Beach) was coming back from a vacation, so he was a little fuzzy and feral, but he really started to pose when he heard the shutter. I can't to see some of the owners this summer and see how they liked their portraits!

As our time together was coming to a close and they were getting ready to head south we toyed with the idea of doing a little family photo shoot before they left. The timing proved extremely tricky as Buck was running at Fair Hill with multiple horses (and coaching) and they were leaving directly from the event! So I made myself available by attending the event everyday with camera in tow in case we found a hour of time to grab everyone and take some pics. So after show jumping wrapped up, we asked Buck (as he was heading to his press conference) if he wanted to do pics and we were delighted when he enthusiastically said YES! So while they were literally packing up the last of their stuff to head south I whisked them away to a very glamorous spot behind the temporary stabling tents (!!!) -- where we were gifted with the most stunning fall light.

<3

Could they be more perfect?

Sweetest family ever!





A perfect way to bookend our summer together!
I never thought in a million years that I'd have this kind of opportunity -- and it feels like a dream come true to be able to combine all of the things I love so much. A horse adjacent job with the ability to be creative and have enough flexibility in my schedule to give my horse the time and dedication he deserves -- it's a win-win for sure. I'm looking forward to their return this spring and resuming my role with their daughter and I hope to have Scout making regular appearances over at Chesterland too!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Ocala Update



Sending my horse to Ocala is easily one of the toughest decisions I've ever made -- and I'd be lying if I wasn't questioning that decision constantly (see: chronic worrier). But I didn't decide to send him because he's naughty or because of my inability to ride him. I made the decision because it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. I have ALWAYS wanted to go south for the winter and this year, I thought about figuring out a way to spend a week or two with Andrea and Scout. But ultimately the timing and financial aspects of doing a short trip would not have been worth it in the long run. So when this opportunity came along and I made the decision to go for it, after the initial excitement wore off I started second guessing myself. The support I have received by and large has really helped. Hearing from friends and bloggers that you're excited for us and has definitely helped me feel like I'm doing the right thing. But still, you doubt.

So when I packed the kid up for his trip, I tried REALLY hard not to be a nervous wreck. Would he make the trip okay? Develop ulcers? Lose weight? Hate Florida? Would he be happy? How would his progress go? ALL THE QUESTIONS.
And I waited with bated breath for every update...


Well, he traveled very well and settled in like a champ.

Not in Kansas Pennsylvania anymore
For the first couple of weeks, they spent a ton of time figuring each other out on the flat. He was really struggling with going forward and allowing leg pressure before he left (which I think was partially due to being stuck in the indoor up here), so she worked on getting him to respect and allow leg pressure and then sent him forward. From there, she's been able to start fixing other issues, like getting his haunches in line with the rest of his body and introducing real bend.

bendy bean

struttin'
In a way, it's encouraging to see that Scout doesn't just pull this stuff with me and that I've done a decent enough job getting him to this point. Obviously, she's MUCH more adept at correcting his little evasions and it's really educational watching the videos she's sent me because her timing is just SO GOOD. He still wants to get on his forehand and/or curl when he doesn't want to carry himself and she just quickly corrects and sends him on and I think he really appreciates that she doesn't nag or make a big deal.

When he gets tight in his throat latch, she corrects and sends him forward

Looking a bit better here

His transitions are looking REALLY sharp and she doesn't allow him to clown around on his forehand in the canter. The result is a really great looking uphill step with some real bounce.

Dang

His hind step <3
But if I had any doubts about sending him south, that was all squashed when after only a few weeks she told me the most amazing observation. You see, Scout has always has issues with too much pressure, and much like a lot of other horses he needs to know there's an out. When he feels like there isn't one, he panics (remember the rearing???) So, one day we were chatting and she described a feeling in him that he has a bit of a claustrophobic mind... my mind was completely blown. How did this person who has only know him for a few weeks have that much insight? Saying his mind is claustrophobic is the most perfect way to describe his way of thinking and how it relates to his training. So with that insight she's been showing him the out and patiently applying more and more pressure and rewarding when he finds his way.

She's been jumping him a little, but has been taking it very slowly. She expressed that while he has tons of scope, he gets a bit careless with his legs when he gets tired so she wants to get him really fit and a bit sharper on the flat before taking him XC (can I just say I LOVE her for this?)

The cutest

Enthusiastic much?

Weeeeee!
And it seems as though he's taking to southern living quite well. It's been so cold up here that I've hardly missed riding, except for the last few days when the temps were in the 60s. He's even taken to throwing little baby tantrums when he's been kept in due to storms.


What a child

The kid doesn't seem to be missing winter either. His new favorite thing is rolling in the sand.


His condition is looking super and we've changed up his feed program a little to gear it towards the sport horse life (I'll post about this later). When I sent him off I was most worried about him dropping weight on the trip and losing a bunch of condition. Nora tells me he's LOVING the hay and vacuuming up every last piece. For the first time in my horse's life, he looks FAT.

And dapply

He's giant.
So, I'm pleased with his progress so far. I am missing him intensely and I cannot wait to go visit (only 19 more days til I fly to see him but who's counting). My last update from her was that she's teaching him leg yields and haunches fore, and really learning how to bend through his body. She plans to take him XC schooling this week and I can't wait to hear how it goes! 
Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Creating Value


How is value of a horse determined and why is it important? I started thinking about this recently after reading a post over at A Yankee in Paris which talks about the kind of life she prepares her horses for and why. For me, an adult amateur who helps co-raise two children, works several jobs and has lots of hobbies outside of horses, it is important for my horse to have some intrinsic value. But beyond that I want him to have some actual value in the horse world -- so how is that determined?

What's this guy worth?
When I first moved Scout to his current barn, he jumped a 4'6" hotwire fence TWICE to go play with some neighboring horses. The BO was recalling watching Scout trot half-heartedly up to the fence line and just ping over it when he asked me what my plans were for him. And I gave him my generic answer which is that I'd like to take him BN, maybe Novice some day. But that I'm not super interested in heavily competing but just enjoying my horse. I explained that I knew he was more athletic than my goals warranted and that was okay with me.

And recently, while getting Scout insured I discovered that whether I knew it or not I've been adding to his value all along.

So how is all of that determined? Well, from a fair market value Scout has a lot going for him. He's big, bay and a gelding. He's just turning 6 this year and he's conformationally pretty correct and desirable. When I bought him his value was ~$5000, and now it's nearly doubled due to a couple of choices I've made along the way that have helped to increase his value.

When I started reaching out to professionals throughout owning Scout it was for two specific reasons... 1. the further his training and 2. to prepare him for me. At the end of the day, I want Scout to be much more advanced than my goals will get him to and beyond that, if life gets too hectic down the road, I want Scout's "value" to be more than just a BN event horse. If I ever decided to lease him out his value will be determined by his versatility and experience.

Has talent, needs direction
But before he gets to BN or anything else, he needs quality mileage. All of the pieces need to come together to help create a foundation for a great athlete. I've put a nice start on him, but my skill set only goes so far.

With my BO, playing at being a jumper
For Scout, that means time in a various rings. My BO would love to play with him in the 6 year old jumpers this year. I fully support this idea!

And even though I want him to be an eventer, it doesn't mean he has to be a one trick pony:)


Maybe cow pony?

Western Dressage???

So I was stunned when I went through the process of insuring him and they helped me to quantify his value. Obviously if a horse has a recognized show record that adds value, but what I didn't know was that professional training also is included in a statement of value. And while we've intermittently used a professional, the overall dollar amount equates to increasing his value by nearly double. I was very excited to learn this, but it was never the reason for me using a pro.


I just need him to be a solid partner
And having value goes beyond his monetary value, or worth in the show ring, because I also need him to have value as a solid citizen. When I recently stopped at the barn to organize some of my stuff, I ran into the main guy who does all the day-to-day stuff and he expressed how much he was missing Scout (he calls him "domestic" and always tells me what a nice horse he is). If nothing else, it's nice to know that my horse is a barn favorite, admired by many and an easy guy to handle and deal with daily.

But what's he worth to me?

#priceless



Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Crowning the Prince -- Dark Jewel Designs Review

I've been coveting fancy browbands for as long as I've owned a horse, but it's always a bit tricky to make a commitment to something custom when you're still trying to figure out what kind of tack your baby horse like to go in. We've been exclusively using the Weathabeeta Comfi-tec bridle for the last year or so and Scout goes really well in it, so I decided as a special treat for my birthday, I'd design a couple of crowns suitable for my prince.

I reached out to Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs before placing my order because as an artist myself I was completely overwhelmed by all of the choices available (I couldn't even decide which shape of browband to choose). She was incredible at helping me walk through the process and reading my messy mind to narrow down the kind of looks I wanted. For my jump bridle I wanted something with browns and earth tones. She gave a me a ton of variations to look through during the process.

So pretty and earthy!
I thought the muted tones of the natural stones would really bring out his gorgeous bay coat and amber eyes. I liked the little bit of bling as a spacer and much preferred the sparkly brown spacers to the more fancy silver ones.

Finished jump bridle version

I'm obsessed with how this turned out! I love that it's sort of monochromatic but has enough visual interest to stand out against his coat. I chose the curved browband because the one on his jump bridle now has a slight curve and he has a broad enough face to pull off the more dynamic shape.



LOVE.
Earth tones against earth tones! LOVE!

For his dressage bridle, I wanted to go with something with a bit more pizazz. In the midst of my birthday spending, I also picked up a really pretty grey and black stock pin that I used as inspiration for the browband.
Hello my Celtic pretty (from Riding Warehouse)
Scout's colors are going to black, grey(silver) and white, which look stunning on him while also staying pretty classic and simple. I wanted to include a little Fleur-de-lis as a not so subtle nod to Scouts symbol and Amelia was able to track down a perfect little adornment to add to his bling-y crown! I had more trouble finalizing my design for the dressage bridle because I'm basically a magpie and was like OOOOOOO sparkles.

Some contenders <3
In the end, I let Amelia guide me in the right direction and she did not disappoint.

Hello GORGEOUS

As with the jump bridle, it's sparkly and fun without being too much. I love the muted grey moonstones and the dark grey sparkly beads and I really enjoy how the black shiny spacers help break up all the bling. True story, I had never even put my dressage bridle on him, but I think he looks okay:)

Who is this stunning creature?

From start to finish the process took only a few weeks, and Amelia was even able to get my order to me JUST before Christmas. She gave me updates throughout the whole experience so I knew where she was in production and what to expect next. The transaction was super easy to complete via her Etsy shop. The craftsmanship of each item is superb and the beads feel really secure on the browband. I've gotten SO many compliments in the barn since I'm at a H/J facility they are a little mesmerized by some of my gear. And Scout? Well I think he knows he looks good. 

I'm looking forward to debuting these in the show ring this year!