Bellinger, 1992-2020

By |2020-03-03T19:25:37-05:00March 3rd, 2020|COTH Posts|

I had just turned 18. I’d shown a bad Prix St. Georges on a borrowed horse the summer before I started college, and I’d gone to school horseless, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to really dedicate myself to horses or just ride for fun.

Two weeks into my first semester of college I realized the huge mistake I’d made, and I begged my parents for the opportunity to try for the FEI North American Young Rider Championships. The decision was made to shop in Europe, so off my mom and I flew to Frankfurt, Germany, driving the three hours to Warendorf, and arriving late in the afternoon. It was January, and bitterly cold, and dark. And the agent with whom we were shopping said he had a few horses to see that night, if we were up for it. I was so excited I couldn’t even see straight, but my mom wanted to stay at the hotel and catch a nap, so off I went.

I returned a few hours later declaring that I’d found my horse—the first one I’d seen. My mom laughed. Sure, sure, she said.

But 15 horses later, Bellinger or “Billy” still had my heart. So he came home with us.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse.

Head Space

By |2020-01-17T06:58:06-05:00January 14th, 2020|COTH Posts|

When Danny first got sick, it was one in a series of disasters for me. I had a string of personal and professional challenges, all in a row, and unrelenting. I normally err on the side of optimism, to a sometimes annoying degree, but it got harder and harder to do so. I’m not an amazing sleeper, but I found myself having more and more restless nights, more than ever, more than other tough periods of my life. I’m a pretty high-energy person, but there started to be days where getting out of bed was a chore.

It got cyclical. I wanted to stay in bed and feel sad, so I exercised less. Fewer endorphins, less energy burned off. More sleepless nights, so more fatigue, so I wanted to get out and move even less. In that particular period of time, I was riding very little, because all of my horses decided to hurt themselves simultaneously, and I just didn’t have a ton to ride outside of my own string. I’d watch my peers ride at shows when I couldn’t, and in my dark state of mind, I saw their successes as my failure. Then I’d listen to the news, to stories of actual war and hardship, and I’d feel so pathetic and weak for not being able to endure the fact that, in my life of privilege as a healthy and educated person living in a stable democracy, I was having a hard time facing each day because my ponies were hurt.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Guidelines For Post-Show Pouting

By |2019-06-19T16:55:52-04:00June 19th, 2019|COTH Posts|

FACT: You are, at some point in your life as a competitive rider, whether an Olympic contender, a walk-trot division regular at schooling shows, or anyone in between, going to have a competition that does not go according to plan. It’s just the nature of things, and if you can’t accept that, then please find a new hobby RIGHT NOW. If you can embrace the possibility of having a train wreck ride, then here is my guide on how to deal with it when it inevitably happens.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Stratocaster, 2006-2018

By |2018-10-01T07:38:03-04:00August 19th, 2018|COTH Posts|

He was coming 4, big and slow and goofy. I brought him an apple from my hotel, and it took him about 20 minutes to eat it, turning it into mush in my hand. He had a huge tail and big eyes and was sweet as can be. I brought him home, got him in front of my leg and taking my hand, and he proceeded to be the most angry, hostile and fractious young man I’ve ever owned from 4.5 to 9, when he realized that if he just shut up and accepted his lot in life, he’d get a lot more cookies and work a lot less hard. But it took so, SO many hours of running backwards, gnashing his teeth and pinning his ears.

His name was Stratocaster, and he was one of the great horses of my career.

And now he’s gone.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse.

Let Your Daughters Grow Up To Be Horse Girls

By |2018-05-22T18:03:19-04:00May 17th, 2018|COTH Posts|

Lauren Sprieser helps a student get ready for a dressage testParents, let your daughters grow up to be horse girls.

Let them learn early the joy of dirt under their fingernails and the responsibility of cleaning tack or sweeping aisles. Let them learn that if they don’t do the chores, or if they don’t keep their grades up, they can’t go ride. Let them struggle it out with lesson horses that aren’t very skilled, only to then earn their way to either a horse that is kind and fun to ride, or a horse that is just a big enough monster to keep them humble, and to maim them just a little, but not permanently damage them. Whichever one they start with, make sure it’s followed by the other.

Parents, let your daughters go to horse shows. Let them learn to deal with nerves, with crowds, with going from hearing their coach in their ear every step to being totally alone. Let them learn to plan ahead, or let them forget their breeches or hairnet or test, and don’t save them, so they learn to take some ownership and not do it again.

Let them set goals and reach them. Let them set goals and fail miserably. Let them learn that, if they work incredibly hard, practice like hell, ride the best quality horse they can and take impeccable care of him, they’re sometimes going to get beat by someone with 10 times the money and one tenth the drive.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Tips For A Successful Show Season

By |2018-04-09T15:26:40-04:00April 9th, 2018|COTH Posts|

Unless you’ve done the winter circuits in Florida or California, you’re probably thinking about your first show of the season. And for many of you amateur riders, this might be your first show season ever. As I watch my own students make their plans for the year, I wanted to share some musings on showing from the trainer’s perspective—mistakes I see riders make, both in and out of the ring, that make their lives so much harder and shows so much less fun.

1. Remember this is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. Amateur or professional, this is supposed to be fun. No one gets into horse training for the money; we do it for fun. And I’ve never met an amateur who feels obligated to ride; they choose to do it, again, because it’s fun. So lighten up. Take a breath. Enjoy the journey.

When it all goes to hell in a handcart (which it definitely will, at some point), you’re allowed between 10 minutes and 12 hours of pouting, doled out on a sliding scale of the severity of the disaster. (One bad ride at local show on green or new-to-you horse: 10 minutes. Calamitous performance at the National Championships: 12 hours. Fill in the middle as you see fit.) Pouting shall, under no circumstances, involve crying in public, shouting at anyone, taking any of your feelings out on your horse, or generally making a scene. I recommend, once you’ve gotten your horse and your equipment put safely away, getting in the car and driving to Dairy Queen. Just as a trailer ride to the vet cures many colics, the car trip to Dairy Queen bolsters the spirits of most failed competitive endeavors.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!


By |2018-01-11T09:03:57-05:00November 22nd, 2017|COTH Posts|

Danny, my top horse, had emergency colic surgery at the end of October. To make a long story as short as possible, I learned that, because he’d had a brief hospital stay in August of 2016 for a non-surgical colic, I was ineligible for the colic surgery coverage I’d thought I’d had through my equine insurance; I’d thought coverage was reinstated a year after the incident, but it’s a year after the date of renewal.

If you think that’s a weird and arbitrary way of deciding when to reinstate coverage, join the club. But rules are rules, and my underwriters decided that insuring large numbers of my own horses, sending multiple clients their way, and also having my liability coverage with them for more than 20 years was an insufficient reason to bend the rules. So I was on my own.

This was not good news. To add insult to injury, Danny continued to drain from his incision upon his return from the hospital, and a culture showed an antibiotic resistant infection. In spite of having no other symptoms —no fever, no wonky vitals, no problems gastrointestinally —the consequences of an antibiotic-resistant infection getting away from you are severe. So he’s back in the hospital, looking at a two week stay to treat the infection with the only drug to which it does respond, naturally one that is incredibly expensive.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

The Pie Rules

By |2017-08-03T12:46:16-04:00July 12th, 2017|COTH Posts|

Rule #1: If you fall off, you have to bring in pie.

Variety of pie is up to you: fruit, chocolate, cream, candy; virtuous, diabetic-shock-inducing; whatever floats your boat, if it’s edible, we’re there, though it should be noted that bonus points are given if you purchase said pie from our local rockstar baked goods establishment, the Red Truck Bakery. Heaven.

Amendment to Rule #1: If you fall off twice in one week, I buy YOU pie.

Second Amendment to Rule #1: If you fall off one of the following horses, you should be a bit ashamed of yourself, and therefore you have to buy both pie AND ice cream:

– Fiero, who is a wonderfully good dude, although admittedly he does sneak a little spin in there once or twice a year, so keep your wits about you.

– Vinny, a Connemara who is right on the line for us, because he can be very cheeky, but he is low to the ground, with a sizable center of balance.

– Fabulous, a wonderful elder statesman who has earned his name. If you bite it off of Fabulous, we may not admit to knowing you. (Once you’ve dropped off your pie and ice cream, that is.)

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

More Boring

By |2017-07-14T20:34:08-04:00April 19th, 2017|COTH Posts|

Years ago when he was a wee thing, Midge learned the flying changes fairly quickly, and rapidly got comfortable with the fours, threes and twos. But the ones eluded us for almost a year. Midge, with his combination of crazy Dutch Harness Horse knees and boundless enthusiasm, could get through a few, but soon enough he’d be launching himself with reckless abandon in about 37 directions at once, and strong and brave and long-legged thing that I am, I couldn’t hold him together.

And that, I learned, was the problem. No one is strong enough to hold back a tidal wave.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Under The Radar

By |2017-07-14T20:35:22-04:00February 15th, 2017|COTH Posts|

Somewhere in the world, the 2028 Olympic champion is a foal out in a field. He’s ewe-necked, sickle-hocked, downhill and shaggy, with a club foot and a chunk of mane missing, because his buddy chewed it off.

Somewhere in the world, there’s a young horse that everyone says is too short to make it big. In three years, he’ll be jumping the standards, but right now he’s fat and short and no one is paying him any mind.

Somewhere in the world there’s a 7-year-old who can’t turn right, and a 10-year-old who has not shown the ability to put more than two one-tempis together without losing it, and a 14-year-old who hasn’t yet reached his peak, and all of them will be at the next Olympic Games.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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