Fall has become wintertime, and wintertime is about to become Florida-time. It’s t-minus four days from my own departure, with the horses to follow a few days behind. This year I have a record number going—10—as well as it being my first year at my own farm, or at least at a farm I’m renting the entirety of. I’m a good sharer, but it does sound nice to have the run of the place.
This is, however, the first year I don’t really have a big competitive goal, at least the first in a really long time. If 2017 had gone according to plan, Danny would be thinking about his Grand Prix debut this January, and Puck would be schooling the changes. But 2017 did not, under any circumstances, go according to plan. And such is plans with horses: they’re to be written in pencil, and should have about 892 contingencies.
That isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to going. I have a fantastic group of clients going, all with exciting competitive goals. It’s a wonderful group of horses, and that is always great fun. And my own horses are moving forward, if not towards the goals I had in mind, at least off this summer’s plateau.
Puck is back to work after a six-week break from basically bruising the hell out of his fetlock (which is what happens when one is a world-class prat at a horse show, and then spends the entire journey to said show kicking the bejeezus out of my trailer). He’s rebuilding slowly and steadily and, in one of those curious little twists of fate, feels even better now than he did before he got hurt. He feels straighter, more connected, more upright, and even a little stronger, though I still feel him fatigue at the tail end of his prescribed set of trotting and cantering.
I’ll be clear to do whatever amount of work I want by the time we get to Florida, but I’m actually enjoying the basic work, because he’s not hurting for talent for the upper level stuff. I don’t know if he’ll horse show this year—he has to at least go on off-property adventures, to redeem himself after being such a yutz at his first show in August—but I’m finding myself liking more and more the idea of just keeping him home and getting good at transitions, at straightness, at self-carriage. (Though talk to me again after my team has gotten to go to a show or two; I may develop the bug!)
Danny, too, is moving forward. He’s home from his second round of hospitalization post-colic surgery, and has been slowly clearing milestones—he started back into turnout yesterday, and he’s cleared to travel to Florida, with clearance to start back into work about a month after we arrive. The problem is that the surgery and long hospital stays have just eaten away all his topline muscle, and that gives me fears for when he returns back to work; if there’s no muscle to support his big fancy movement, the risk for injury is high. But that’s where another cleared hurdle comes in—he’s been granted permission to start working on a water treadmill. There are a few in Wellington, and I’ll bring him over to one a few days a week, just to walk. But walking through water provides more resistance than just normal walking, not to mention lower impact to his legs.
I’m still in for a very long, very slow return to work. I’m probably being too pessimistic, but I’m essentially writing 2018 off for Danny, and planning on taking the rest of the year to have him ready to do a Grand Prix in January 2019 instead. If he exceeds expectations, then gravy!
And then, speaking of exceeding expectations, there’s Swagger. He’s nearly 17 hands, he walks and trots and canters when told, mostly turns and stops, and is generally a ray of big, black, squishy sunshine. And as such he’ll stay home this winter. There’s really nothing to achieve in Florida for a four year old anyway, and my crack team at home of assistant trainers Lauren and Lisa and working students Renata and Hannah, there are plenty of skilled riders to keep him puttering around, maybe go on a few adventures to hang out at schooling shows, and just keep on keeping on.
I imagine I’ll take him out a few times at training level over the summer, when the initial rush of shows for my students is over, not because I have any illusions of competitive greatness at training level (though he’s a pretty sexy thing!), but to confirm that he won’t eat me off property. He’s so big and so elastic that I’m in no hurry to start leaning on him for harder work.
I’m also very excited to play with my and Beverley Thomas’s 5-year-old, Hurricane. Hurricane is also a giant and elastic creature, but late in his 4-year-old year he started performing acrobatics that I didn’t feel brave enough to tackle, and as such H has spent the last year with Michael Barisone, my 6’4” and brave-as-hell coach. Michael says he’s doing beautifully; I’d hoped to see more of him over the summer when I brought the other guys up to New Jersey for lessons, but since that didn’t happen, none of it happened. This winter we’ll get to play together a lot, which I’m excited about—that one is a mega talent!
And I will get to show a little in Florida. My mom owns the most delightful palomino Lusitano, a 6-year-old named Helio. Helio is largely unflappable, but he’s never been to a show, so I’ll take him a few times to do our due diligence. Plus, you know, palomino. And hairy. Be jealous.
I’m spending our last week trying to shove as many lessons in as possible, frantically packing while also trying to spread some holiday cheer, eating ALL of the delicious things and, accordingly, being very grateful for elastic waistband breeches. Merry Christmas!