My last week in Florida finished in typical whirlwind fashion. I made the brilliantly boneheaded decision to show Fender one last time on Thursday and Friday, with the plan of then packing Saturday and leaving Sunday, because there’s nothing like trying to pack up your entire life to help you focus on a horse show.
Fortunately Fender is impervious to nonsense, and had his best show yet. The amount he has matured, not just over our five years together, but particularly in the last six months, has been just unreal. I’ve always said there is something magical about 9 years old, where even the looniest of loonies gets his ducks in a row, and Fender is no exception.
We did an open Prix St. Georges class the first day, which is not the best test for Fender. I find the pattern of the walk to the first couple movements of canter doesn’t let him stay in front of my leg as easily as some of the other tests we’ve ridden together over the years. So that has been my focus over the winter, and it paid off with a 68 percent from a serious international judge, not far away from one of my year-end goals of 70 percent from such a judge. The icing on the cake for me was her telling me that sometimes his neck is too high and that he’s not round enough.
Being excited about this may sound insane, but since I have been diligently working from age 4 on keeping his neck from being too low and too round, this is a major victory!
The second day we rode the Developing test, and damn if I wish it hadn’t been a qualifier, because he was just outstanding. That test flows beautifully, but to top it all off, there was a colossal five-minute rainstorm, followed by an absolutely explosive musical freestyle, all while we were in the warm-up, with horses losing their cool everywhere around him, and Fender never blinked. He then went on to be the best he’s ever been in the ring for 73 percent, a blue ribbon and a very big class, and big smiles all around. Mission accomplished!
The show was the cherry on top of the best Florida season I’ve ever had. Client-owned Fiero and Bo made huge progress for their owners, both doing their first FEI tests with great success. The baby horses—Danny, Dorian and Johnny—all return home so much more rideable, through and useful, than when we left. They all are in varying degrees of solid in their flying changes, and the older two are quite solid in there half steps. Most importantly, they confirm for me every day what I’ve always believed—that they are the best I’ve ever had, and will all be very successful international horses.
And there’s one more horse to complete the story—Ella. To make a long story short, I never wanted to sell her, and it was about necessity and making what was, at the time, the best choice, which over time became about needing to make a sacrifice in order to keep my pipeline of horses going. It doesn’t make any sense to put all of my eggs in one basket, and since no one is buying international horses for me, I have to make them myself.
For reasons surpassing understanding, Ella has been difficult to sell. She’s not terribly big, she’s a mare, she’s red, and she’s in the United States, at a time when people are all too happy to schlep to Europe and spend twice as much. And it seems stupid for me to be sacrificing and slaving with the hopes of riding CDI Grand Prix one day, when the possibility to do so was very much within my grasp.
I ended up making the difficult decision to sell one of my good young horses, though I had the great fortune to do so to a client, who will keep him with me and, even more unbelievably, let me finish the year as his competition rider. I am so blessed and honored, and so excited that I’m bringing Ella home!
So home we went, and an extremely and mercifully uneventful trip, only to have my car blowup 24 hours after my return. (Go figure.)
I’ve hit the ground running, riding and teaching my little heart out, and got the best welcome home present I could possibly have received in the form of great success at our first Virginia show of the year, the highlight being the successes of my junior rider phenom, Kristin, who rocked both the junior and pony divisions at their first qualifier for the National Championships. It’s great to be back! Let’s get to work!