Greetings from Florida, where my team is safely ensconced. We had a boring drive down—my favorite kind—and the horses arrived safely. We’re all settled in, we’re riding, we’re working, we’re juggling the holidays and the persistent rain days, and we’re absolutely ready to go… but don’t really have anywhere to go.
This is my longest Floridian winter: four months, as opposed to our usual three. My clients wanted to stay longer, so we’re staying longer. It meant we got here before Christmas, so by the time the horses were settled in, it was holiday-palooza, so they had an inconsistent work schedule all of last week. But everyone feels good, and the plan for the season is coming together.
For Swagger, that plan is… not much. Swagger turns 6 in 2020, and his withers have been persistently an inch below his bum for a few months, and said bum is turning triangle-shaped as he’s grown faster than his musculature. He’s started becoming a little cheeky, as teenage boys are prone to do. It’s all very charming and with a light heart, so I’m not even a little concerned, but it reaffirms my decision to take this season to confirm basic work, really make a stand on throughness, continue my pursuit of a collected balance being his default position, and let him just grow up and get strong. My goal for 2020 is to have a relatively consistent half-halt, executed in two strides or less, and without having to be strong to get it done. The canter is well on its way, and the trot… has some work ahead. No worries, normal stuff. He’s smiley, his legs are cold and tight, and I’m a happy girl.
Puck has been the little champion of the early Florida season, putting his best foot forward every day. Puck is strong, healthy, and has been remarkably dependable and focused. His time off this summer made him a heck of a lot straighter—a happy batch of lemonade to come out of that wee lemon—and as he’s developed since the fall, he’s maintained that straightness as he’s added strength and power. I’ve still got ground to cover. I can have him straight and through but without power, or I can have him powerful and disorganized, though the moments where I get it all are increasing, slowly. But I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll have him ready for Prix St. Georges by summertime, so that’s my 2020 goal. His immediate priority is to start going away from home and not behaving like a dingbat, so he’s going to start by taking lessons at Ali Brock’s farm, and then going on outings to shows as a non-compete before I enter the real thing.
And then there’s Elvis. Elvis spent his first week in Florida being almost completely untrained, which was an amusing little detour from the plan. Now he’s remembered that he is not, in fact, a plow horse, and I’m relocating my right leg, which seems to have fallen off in my seven-week stint on the injured list, and we’re back to business as usual. I had three CDIs planned for us, with an eye on the 2020 USEF Intermediaire I Championships. I’ve got my work cut out for me. Time off has not been good to my body, so I’m hustling back into riding form. I need to convert an old freestyle of Fiero’s into something that works for Elvis, and through it all I need to keep plugging away at the Grand Prix work. I’m getting somewhere with the piaffe, which is exciting. He feels fantastic in his body. I don’t in mine, but I’ll get back there. We’re on it.
I’ve got a few personal goals too. There are a few shares left in the Elvis Syndicate; I’d like to get them sold by the end of the year. My little business venture, the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club, is doing well, but I’d like 50 new members. I’d like to make the USEF Developing List. I’d like my right hand to get back to full range of motion, and I’d like the battle with my insurance company about paying for a few critical things to be resolved, in my favor. I’d like to take an actual vacation, one that lasts longer than 36 hours. And I’d like to really master cooking on my grill, which I get right only about 50% of the time.
I make my goals every year in January, and I usually share them in my blog as a means of throwing them out to the universe, and maybe more than a little accountability. I also write them down by hand, because studies have shown that writing one’s goals by hand makes them more likely to happen. And the fact that I can write all these down, with my still-rather-puffy right hand, means that I’m one step closer to crossing that one off the list. So on to 2020!
Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing The Elvis Syndicate’s Guernsey Elvis, Beverley Thomas and her Ellington, and her own Gretzky RV and Ojalá with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Read more about her at SprieserSporthorse.com, or follow Lauren Sprieser on Facebook and Instagram.