Monday, December 22, 2008

Son of "Soul of the Matter" A Proven Winner

The first of Super Derby Winner, Soul of the Matter’s US foals to enter the show ring came out a winner in his dressage debut. Three-year-old Reese, shown as Top Gear, earned first place at the Intrepid Farm's Holiday Dressage Show. His rhythmic gaits, powerful hindquarters and unflappable personality contributed to his overall score of 67% and promise a successful career in his intended job as a three-day eventer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Intrepid Farms Holiday Show

We had a great day last Saturday at Intrepid Farms Holiday Dressage show. The threat of rain disappeared, giving us fantastic sunny, crisp fall weather that’s perfect to ride in. This was our first trip to Intrepid Farms, which runs schooling dressage shows throughout the year. The show was small but super friendly, extremely efficient and well run. The folks at Intrepid put out their usual gi-normous food spread, including breakfast goodies and strong coffee for when you first arrive, a wide variety of sandwiches for lunch and snacks to keep you going throughout the day. (Anyone who knows eventers knows that we’re always up for free food!) Intrepid is generous with their prizes and fair but encouraging with their judging. If you live near Moopark, California, you have to check out their shows. If you don’t live nearby, it sucks to be you. We’ll definitely make plans to return in 2009. If you'd like to get more information about their shows, go to

The day started out with our Friesian barn buddy, Haeke, blowing them away in the Intro class. Reese (aka Top Gear) with Michelle E. riding him took first place in Training Level 1 – not bad for his showing debut! But maybe the most fun of the day was when Carolyn on Ceilidh and Nahmi on Simon rode their classes with a (nearly) glimmering display of lights on their saddle pads. Ceilidh, despite being a little naughty before going in the ring for test #2 still came away with two red ribbons. Simon, billed as Simon the Likable sounded more like “Simon Says” as he whinnied and bellowed his way through his two tests – editorial comments about his lights perhaps? The last ride of the day was Nahmi on Sparky who was his usual stellar self and got first place as well.

The show was good practice for all of us who are used to the shorter eventing dressage court (40 meters) to have to deal with all the extra real estate that a regular dressage court (60 meters) gives you. If you think the free walk is long in an event, it’s merciless in a long court! Plus, as Nahmi found out, holding the extended canter all the way down the super-sized long side can take your breath away – literally.

Sorry, as Reese’s proud mummy I was so jazzed about his first show that I forgot to bring a camera but Carolyn did her magic and pulled a few still of every off the video. Check out the photo album at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The New Antares Saddle Has Arrived

So the big day finally arrived – Carolyn’s new custom-made Antares was delivered right on time. Per Antares’ instructions, she oiled it three times, giving each layer enough time to dry before even taking the saddle out to the barn. The result was the gorgeous chestnut brown saddle and girth you see in the pictures. I'm not much of a photographer but believe me, they are beatiful. What's even more stunning, however, is the Antares breastplate on her gray mare, Ceilidh. When you buy your Antares saddle, it's definitely worth it to go the extra bit and get the matching equipment - wow!

Then came the moment of truth, the first ride in the saddle meant to end all saddles. Expectations had been built fairly high since everyone in our barn raved about how great their Antares was from the moment they set their delicate little bottoms on them. Carolyn carefully tacked up in all the resplendent gear, including the matching girth and breastplate. She mounted, waiting for the choir of angels to sing and... nothing. No “Hallelujah Chorus,” not even a barber shop quartet. The verdict from the first ride was that it was ok, not great.

Carolyn had a limited time to decide if the saddle was right or not. The problem was (and is) that her horse Ceilidh isn’t approved for jumping after coming back from an injury until the very tail end of her trial period. The whole reason for the new saddle was to boost Carolyn’s feeling of security over fences and there was no way to test it until it was almost too late.

The first step was to have Michelle watch her ride in the saddle. Bearing in mind that Carolyn has been strictly a dressage rider for over a year because of Ceilidh’s injury, Michelle felt that the saddle wasn’t singing to her because Carolyn wasn’t used to the jump saddle position. The other factor is that Carolyn had an injury a few years ago that resulted in a blood clot in her left leg, causing her left leg to be weaker than her right. That weakness was really showing through in the jump position and doubly so in a mono-flap that encourages more leg stability but requires a tighter leg than a regular flap. (Can you say “accident prone horse and rider combination”?). Michelle’s one comment later on, after riding in the saddle a few times to help break it in, is that she really loves the comfort of the wider seat that Carolyn opted for.

Thierry took a look at Carolyn in the saddle as well. He was more than happy to take the time to talk through her issues with her but ultimately declared that in his opinion, the saddle was the perfect fit. But he also assured her that he’d continue to work with her on the saddle if she wasn’t truly happy.

So what’s the deal? For the money you spend on a custom saddle don’t you have the right to expect a choir of angels? With any new saddle there are a huge number of factors to consider. The new leather is stiff and the “sweet spot” of the saddle hasn’t been broken in so it’s like putting on a pair of tall boots and expecting them to be comfortable right away. A new leg position only adds to the confusion.

Bottom line? It’s been a couple of weeks now and Carolyn has ridden in the saddle a number of times. It gets better with each ride although the chorus of angels remains stubbornly mute. The true test will come when they get to jump...