Monday, April 22, 2013

"This class is going to be crazy!"

We had a successful first horse show of the season! No, we didn't bring home a blue ribbon but we did bring home two ribbons from both our qualifier and our championship classes. We found a division that suits Mario, and had clean rides in both classes - no big mistakes! That being said, we did learn some things to help us improve as the season progresses.

The Park division is so much fun! It's a faster pace, and you can really ask your horse to step up and give it his all. Something that I didn't like about showing in Country Pleasure last year was that I really had to hold Mario back. This year, I have to push him! We had a lot of horses blowing by us, so I need to work on just letting him go. I'm really used to applying pressure to the reins at the canter to get him to slow down, but I need to ease up and just let that boy run. I learned that at this show.

Mario and I warmed up in a different ring than our competitors in our Championship class. When we came to the warm up ring where everyone else was before going into our class, there were two horses that were out of freaking control. "This class is going to be crazy!" I heard a guy say. He was right. One of those two horses nearly collided with Mario and me when we were cantering second direction of the ring in our class. I had to make a quick decision to steer Mario to the right to avoid crashing. Unfortunately the judge did not see this near collision and when I veered right, I came a little closer than I would have liked to the judge. It may have hurt us, it may not have - who knows.

I have to say though, something that my uncle Gary said to me really rang true as I reflected over the last couple of days about the show, "If you're having fun, the ribbon doesn't matter." So true. This horse show was the first time that I truly had so much darn fun that the ribbon didn't matter. My horse is so safe and I completely trust him. He listens to me in the ring. As I was watching some of these other horses I realized that he may not be THE best of the best show horses (I mean, he's pretty darn close) but he's also not going to hurt me. Some of those horses I watched this weekend made my pulse race and not in the good way! I'll take a horse that may take third/fourth/fifth over a horse that will win every time if I know I'm going to have fun and not fear for my life.

Our next show will be Bonnie Blue in Lexington, VA in a couple of weeks. I believe it may be webcast and will for sure let you know the information if I'm right about this.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Update from my phone (sorry for short post)

Ok showing tonight. in class #39 three gaited park horse amateur - starts at 7 my class will prob be like 7:30.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Keeping on

I fully realize that at times like these, events such as horse shows seem a little trivial (some of you may be thinking, uh, they're trivial even in the best of times - haha). Although I did not personally know anyone killed or injured in yesterday's attack, I mourn with the people who lost their loved ones and I am sending healing thoughts like no other to the people fighting in hospital rooms in Boston right now. This could have been any of us; you or me. As I have heard echoed across the media over the last 24 hours: we can't let them win. Foreign or domestic, terrorists will not take away our joy. So as I mourn in my own private way, and you in yours, in honor of those lost and those fighting to survive, we will keep on keeping on.

So. This week Mario and I head to West Springfield, MA to show at UPHA Chapter 14 Spring Premiere. What's cool? They're webcasting the horse show this year! If you have any interest in checking us out, here is the link. My trainer has not decided which class we will enter in yet. We will either show in the Amateur Park class or the Novice Park class (I will edit this post when I know). If we show in the Amateur Park class, our qualifier will be tomorrow night and our championship will be on Friday. If we show in the open class, our qualifier will be Friday and our championship will be Saturday night. Here is the schedule for all of the sessions (I bolded any class that we may be in, all times Eastern):

Wednesday Night

34. Equitation-USEF Saddle Seat Medal
35. Hackney Harness Pony-UPHA Classic
36. Morgan Park harness-Amateur
37. Saddlebred Three-Gaited -Open
38 . Roadster Pony-To-Bike-Jr. Exhibitor
39. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Park Horse-Amateur
40. Equitation- UPHA Pleasure Challenge Cup- 17 & Under
41. Morgan English Pleasure-Ladies
42. Roadster Pony-To-Bike - Amateur
43. Saddlebred Park Pleasure UPHA Classic
44. Morgan Pleasure Driving-Jr, Horse
45. Saddlebred Five-Gaited-Amateur
46. Morgan Park Saddle-Ope

Friday Morning

FRIDAY, APRIL 19- 11:00 AM
109. Saddlebred Five-Gaited UPHA Classic
110. Equitation-Morgan Saddle Seat Championship
111. Morgan Classic Pleasure Saddle-Jr./Novice Horse
112. Equitation- Saddle Seat- Limit Rider
113. Morgan Hunter Pleasure-Ladies
114. Roadster Pony-To-Bike-UPHA Classic
115. Saddlebred Three-Gaited English Country Pleasure-Jr. Exhibitor Cham
116. Morgan Hunter Pleasure-Jr./Novice Horse
117. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Park -Jr./Novice Horse
118. Morgan Western Pleasure-Amateur/Jr. Exhibitor Championship
119. Saddlebred Three-gaited English Show Pleasure 14-17 Championship
120. Saddlebred Three-Gaited -UPHA Classic
121 . Saddlebred Three-Gaited Country English Pleasure-Novice Horse
121.1. NEHC Saddle Seat Medal
122. Morgan Park Harness-Jr./Novice Horse Stake
123. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Park-Amateur Stake
124. Opportunity-Pleasure Driving-Open Championship
125. Morgan Classic Pleasure Driving-Open Championship
126. Walk/Trot Pleasure Championship-Any Seat- 11 & Under
127. Saddlebred Country Pleasure Driving-Open Championship
128. Morgan Classic Pleasure Saddle-Jr. Exhibitor Championship
129. Roadster Pony-To-Bike-Amateur Championship
130. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Park Horse-Jr. Exhibitor Championship
131.Opportunity- Hunter Pleasure Championship
132.Opportunity- Western Pleasure Championship

Saturday Night

173. Equitation-Saddle Seat Sr. Championship
174. Friesian Pleasure Saddle - Stake
175. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Amateur Stake
176. Morgan Classic English Pleasure- Open Championship
177. Saddlebred Three-Gaited English Country Pleasure Adult Champ
178. Morgan Hunter Pleasure-Jr. Exhibitor Championship
179. Saddlebred Three-Gaited Park Horse-Open Championship
180. Opportunity- Roadster-To-Bike Championship
181. Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving-Open Championship
182. Saddlebred Fine Harness-Open Championship
183. Morgan English Pleasure-Amateur Championship
184. Roadster Pony-To-Bike Stake

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I went out to the farm and watched Mario's training session this morning. Snapped this shot. Such a cutie. I took some video also and will work on editing it - should be able to post it later this week. I'll ride him tomorrow and then he ships out to our first horse show on Monday. Hard to believe it's already here!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What makes him such a great horse?

Our local television station came out to the barn today to tape a segment for their nightly half hour program on which they showcase what's happening around New Hampshire. They often run stories about local businesses, farmers' markets, artisans, and so on. My trainer asked me if I would be willing to head over and answer some questions about Mario on camera and also do some riding. Uh, yes!

It was a really fun afternoon. The reporter interviewed my trainer and her staff, they walked around and videoed the grounds as well as horses being worked. It was a super opportunity to get the word out about American Saddlebreds and Saddle Seat riding. Even if it was just on the local level. Hopefully a viewer or two will get the spark to start riding lessons and will come out to the farm and experience the joy that comes with riding. All you have to do is ride once to get hooked. Smile.

Thinking back on the day, one of the reporter's questions sticks out in my mind. What makes Mario such a great horse?

I hope that my answer did justice to him. In a nutshell I responded that he was a true ambassador for his breed. He is an absolute show horse at his core - he loves to go out in the ring and let everyone know that he's somebody. But in the off season when showing is far from our minds, he goes to the beach and out on the trails through the woods and is happy (and safe!) as can be out there. He is everything you could ever want in a horse.

I do not know if what I said in my interview will make it to the segment. Nevertheless I will post a link to whatever ends up airing here for you so that you can see the farm and its happenings.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What exactly is Saddle Seat?

I'm guessing that those of you who read this blog (Hi, Uncle Gary!) have very little idea what I'm talking about when I discuss my style of horseback riding. So here's a little tutorial about the style of riding that I compete in: Saddle Seat. This is by no means a complete description of my chosen riding style, but more of a glimpse, so that some of what I talk about here on this blog makes sense.

As widely respected American Saddlebred trainer, Smith Lilly, aptly puts it in his newly released book, Saddle Seat Horsemanship:

     Saddle Seat horsemanship, at its core, is about the careful development and refinement of the natural exuberance and inherent majesty that all horses possess...Such training should be enjoyable for both horse and trainer. We are only asking the horse to do what he most enjoys and delights in doing of his own accord. And, in turn, we as riders and trainers come to know the indescribable joy that comes from riding a horse that is giving all of the proud carriage, all of the height of action and all of the natural charisma that he has to offer.

Commonly, I'm asked where the jumps are. No, I do not jump. And no I don't race. Yes, we go around a ring, but there's a lot more to it than simply going around in a circle.

Within Saddle Seat you may choose to show in equitation or performance classes. In equitation it is the rider that is being judged (overall picture is important, so it's key that your horse is turned out nicely also). For further reading about equitation, you may want to spend some time reading this site. I'm not going to dive much deeper into equitation because Mario and I show in performance classes. In performance classes, it is the horse that is being judged. There are several divisions from which to choose when showing in performance.

Last year Mario and I competed in a performance division called Country Pleasure. According to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Rule Book, a horse showing in Country Pleasure should exhibit the following:

      Manners and suitablity as a pleasure horse are paramount. Transitions from one gait to another should be smooth and effortless. Special emphasis is given for a true, flat walk. Entries must be asked both ways of the ring to halt and stand quietly on the rail. Horses must stand quietly and back readily in the lineup. A Country Pleasure horse may be less showy than a Show Pleasure horse.

We did pretty well in this division last year. But over the winter Mario has been working a little differently and showing us (my trainer and me) that he wants to do a little more in the show ring. Normally, the next "step up" would be Show Pleasure. Show Pleasure has many of the same requirements as Country Pleasure with the exception of halting. Also a Show Pleasure horse is generally more animated than a Country Pleasure horse. But, Mario is working a lot more animated and really wanting to be a big, bold-going show horse, the stronger he gets (all the while still being a perfect gentleman).

This year, we will be showing in a division called Park. A Park horse (again, according to the USEF Rule Book),

     To be shown at an animated or flat walk, trot and canter. Horses should stand quietly in the lineup. The Park horse should be stylish with finish and quality and well-mannered. The performance should be animated and graceful at all gaits.

There are some significant differences between a Park class and a Country Pleasure class. In a Park class, flat walking and halting are not a requirement. Neither is backing. Manners are still important, but there is more emphasis placed on performance. Of course, we won't really know if this is the right move until we get him in the ring in a couple of weeks, up against the other guys. The great thing about Mario, is that he is suitable for Country Pleasure, so we can always go back to that if we've misjudged him in the off season. It will be interesting to see!

For more information about the American Saddlebred and Saddle Seat riding:

The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA)

Monday, April 1, 2013


I've had a couple of "bummer" rides over the last couple of weeks. Rides that I think about for hours after they're over. Days, actually. Until the next one. Trying to figure out what I should have done differently to make them better. I think that these are the best rides. Blessings in disguise. For it's these rides that I learn the most about my riding & my horse.

When you have a bad ride, the worst thing that you can do is blame. Blame your horse, blame your trainer, blame your equipment. Ultimately, when you have a bad ride, it's your fault. You're the one in the saddle, you're the one holding the reins. How are you going to improve if you shove the blame on everyone/everything else? You're not.

So I thought about some of the things I've done up in the saddle recently and thought about the orders my trainer barked at me. And then this weekend a lot of it clicked and I had a phenomenal ride. In the words of my trainer, "You get an A+ for today." It all came together at a pretty great time. Our first horse show is just around the corner and I will be going into it with a lot of confidence.

Confidence is essential in the show ring. Confidence is not something that comes easily to me. For me, I've always thought if you're confident, then you're cocky. But I think that I'm learning what the difference is. When you're confident you believe that you have what it takes to get the task at hand done. Being confident is not a bad thing. Anyway. That's what's on my mind tonight. Above is a picture from our ride this weekend. Horse and rider focused, happy, and ready to get the job done.
the wisdom's in the trees, not the glass windows - j.j.