Monday, February 23, 2015

Just what I needed...

I feel like a 10,000 lb weight has lifted from my shoulders.  The past year of competing has been rough.  Bug just wasn't completely himself, and I just wasn't trusting that.  Up until last year, we probably had a handful of XC penalties in his entire career, so when we started having runouts, I knew something was amiss.

After a lot of time and energy and changes, my horse is back, and I can not wipe the grin off my face.  This past weekend, we rocked around our first Advanced of the season.  Bug was looking for the flags and there wasn't one thought in his head of anything other than going.  Having that feeling back gave me so much confidence.  I rode the XC boldly and went for it.  We came home with a respectable dressage, double clear SJ, and a clean XC with some time.  We finished midpack in a huge division of big time horses.  I don't think that's too shabby for our first Advanced of the year.

Of course, none of this is to say that I can take anything for granted in the future.  There is always homework to be done, and one can never top striving to be a better rider and horseman.  However, without that little nagging voice that causes a bit of a lump in the back of my throat, it's a lot easier to step up in confidence.

I am so glad that I know my horse well enough to know when something was amiss.  It took a bit to fix it and get him back on point, but I am glad that I stuck with it and didn't just accept it.

Yes, I am biased, but I think I have one of the best event horses out there.  Not only is he amazingly athletic, but his heart is bigger than his jump.

Sending out a HUGE thank you to everyone who has kept believing in us and pushing me to believe in it.  Knowing I have an amazing team backing me is such a comfort!

Bug gets a little break from traveling, so we can really focus on training instead of running crazy.  He will be back out competing at the CIC*** at Poplar Place Farm in mid-March.

Until then... we will be working hard and striving to always be better.  Kick on!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Ingredients for Success

Bug with his ribbons from Full Gallop in January.  All of the pieces are slowly coming together this year, but not without a lot of thought and listening to what he's been telling me!

As good horsemen, we are always looking for the keys to managing each horse's happiness and success.  Some seem to be pretty straightforward, while others are obviously more tricky.  Nutrition, fitness, tack, and how they like to be ridden are just a few things that go into the whole picture.  We spend hours riding and training, but we spend even more hours thinking and planning through the roadblocks we come across.

For years, I have been told that Bug is just a stiff horse, and I would just have to learn to accept that.  My gut told me that this horse of mine could be loose and cool and do quite well in the dressage, but my head couldn't seem to find the right answers.  Every time I thought I found it, I was wrong.  My head started to believe all of the things I was being told, even though my gut kept saying that I know him better than that.

After discovering that the start of our XC problems was coming from an ill fitting saddle (a professional saddle fitter told me it fit gloriously), I sat down with myself and decided that I wasn't going to ignore my gut anymore.  I know Bug inside and out, and I can tell when he is telling me there is something wrong.  It is my job to listen.

At this point, Hastilow Competition Saddles USA entered the picture as a sponsor.  I can not say enough good things about their tack.  We got together, and I rode Bug in every possible dressage and jump saddle.  We did pressure testing on all of the saddles to see which one fit him the best and caused the least amount of pressure points.  They spent hours with us planning the saddles that Bug liked most.  The difference in Bug on that first day was AMAZING.  Since then, Bug has only continued to improve in how he's using himself.  He is jumping even rounder and better with his front end.  His stride has suddenly grown and gotten more rhythmic.  He is just turning into the horse that I knew he could be.

On top of the new saddles, I also kept a running dialogue with my bodywork lady, Kathryn Scheiss of TPR Bodywork  on how Bug was going and the things that I was feeling.  Kathryn is very intuitive and not only does she make their bodies feel amazing, but she can recommend supplements and changes in shoeing, injections, etc that will help with body issues.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but the more I listened to her, the better and better Bug became.

Of course, none of this is helpful unless the rider is constantly improving.  I am very thankful for Bonnie Mosser  for all of her help with my horses.  She is constantly making me up the ante and do right by them.  Good coaching is imperative to good results and happy horses.

The riding and tack are only one part of the equation, of course.  One of my biggest changes has been my feeding regime.  Thanks to Strouse House Tackle and Outdoors, Blue Seal feeds have become my go to feed of choice.  All of my horses are on the Sentinel line of feed, and I can not tell you how impressed I am with the difference.  Bug looks amazing, and he is eating so much less feed than before.  The feed is highly digestible, and even those prone to ulcers are happier.  It's a truly awesome feeding program.

My point in all of this is that there is so much that goes into who a horse is and how they perform.  When horses are competing, it is imperative that we listen to what they're telling us.  Bug appears to be a relatively straight forward horse.  However, he is just very stoic.  His ways of talking to me are much quieter than a horse that is high strung and a wimp.  Bug loves his job and will try his best to keep plugging away, even if he's not feeling 100%.  I owe this horse so much, and it is my duty to constantly be on alert for small changes in how he's going.

To be a good horseman, we must analyze all aspects of our horses' lives.  Each tiny detail is important.

Be aware.  Be vigilant.  Be proactive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Ball is Rolling...

Win the War rocking the Open Intermediate at Full Gallop in January.

It's amazing to me just how fast time flies by!  I have officially become that old person that complains constantly about the speed of time and retells stories over and over because I've forgotten that I have already told them.  Life has a way of spinning me in circles some days, and I have been known to forget my own name.  

Though time keeps flying, I must say that there have been some amazing things going on.  

With prompting from some important people in my life, I have had to sit myself down and really study how I want the business to proceed.  I have had my hand in many things, trying to figure out where my niche is.  When I first started RSS, I had no idea where my competition I life would take me, as Bug and I were only going Novice.  I wanted to have many options in case things didn't go as I dreamed with competing.  However, as we all know, Bug turned out to be THAT horse for me.  He has taken me places that I only dreamed I would go, and I am praying and dreaming that we keep going further.  That alone has pushed me more toward the competition side of my life.  Anyone that competes can tell you, it's not a cheap life to live.

In light of that, I made the decision to really cut down on the amount of horses that I own myself.  I have also decided to cut way back on the breeding side of the business.  As many of you know, Fuerst Rendition, my Hanoverian stallion, is off with dressage rider, Leslie Bean, being a big time Dressage King.  He is happy having a job, and I am excited to watch them move up the levels together.  I adore Renn's babies and have a hard time selling them.  With this decision, I will only be breeding one, maybe two babies per year with the hopes of them being my pipeline for the future, rather than breeding on a scale that forces me to sell them on.  This makes it possible for me to keep them until they're going and decide what I want to do with them at that point.  

After the herd reduction is finished, I will be down to the main horses that I want to keep either to compete or to be my pipeline for the future.  I owned quite a few horses myself, so I am hoping that this drastic herd reduction will really help my expenses to go down in order to have more for competing.  This has definitely been a very difficult decision, as I love all of my ponies, but it was one that had to be made for the future of Rocky Start.

I am also excited to announce that Kelly Lawson has joined the RSS crew, hopefully, for as long as she will put up with us.  She is my official assistant and not only does she help with chores and working horses, but she's going to be assisting with a lot of the marketing stuff.  I am just so busy that it's difficult for me to get to everything and still have a day that isn't 20 hours of work.  Kelly is a kind person with a patient approach to the horses, and I am thrilled to have her on board.  

Some other pretty amazing people have stepped up to help support my dream.  Desiree Lerro, Patrick Forestall, and Bonita Biegalke have become members of the Win the War Syndicate.  We have also decided to add Pine Island Girl, aka Ellie Mae, on to the syndicate as the second up and coming horse.  I am thrilled to have these people on my team!!  There are still 7 shares left, so if anyone is interested in joining the team, please let me know!

Another amazing person to step on the scene is Susan Massaro.  She is the owner of Donovan, an incredibly adorable and talented coming 5 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding.  Susan has entrusted me with Donovan's training and competition goals, and I am so excited to ride this guy.  He will make his eventing debut this spring, and I see a lot of big things in his future!  Susan and her daughter, Mia, have been a big asset to the team and some of my biggest cheerleaders.  

This sport just isn't possible without a good team.

I have had quite a few new students come on board to join those that have been tried and true.  I love teaching those that show up to learn, and I have quite a great group of riders right now.  I'm so proud of each and every one of them for working hard and pushing toward their goals.  No goal is ever too small as long as you aren't afraid to keep pushing!  

Sales were great in 2014, and I hope things continue down that path in 2015.  We sold 9 horses in 2014!  That's pretty impressive, I think.  

So far, this year has started off with a BANG on the competition scene.  Bug and I competed in the Open Intermediate at both Full Gallop Farm the last weekend in January and Pine Top Farm this past weekend.  We brought home 2nd place and highest placed OTTB at Full Gallop, and we brought home 7th place from a big division at Pine Top.  Bug put in a 35 in the dressage at both shows, so I am very excited about the progress we have made in the dressage and hope we can continue to take that number down!  I am very excited about this season with Bug, and I am hoping for big things.  I am also super excited for Ellie Mae and Donovan to really burst onto the Eventing scene.  I also have a 5 year old OTTB gelding, Better Terms aka Willis, that I think will be quite special.  We are taking things slowly with him, but I have a feeling he will come into his own this year as well.

If anyone is interested in becoming a new student, sending a horse for training or consignment, or scheduling a clinic, please, don't hesitate to contact me!!

Heels down, eyes up, KICK ON!!