Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024

Staying Your Course When FOMO Hits



Tjornelys Solution DWB—”Beaker,” in the barn—is one of the best talents of my career. Owned by Clearwater Farm Partners, he’s 6 years old, and came into my life in February of this year with a stellar pre-purchase exam, three exquisite gaits, a clear understanding of the connection from leg to seat to hand, and a clean flying change. The FEI 6-Year-Old test is roughly equivalent to third level, calling for collection, flying changes, the third level lateral work of shoulder-in and half-pass. 

It was tempting to make that level a priority. He finds the work so, so easy. He is a lovely character, a happy little trier, approaching each day with a smile on his face. He deals well with pressure. And he certainly has the gaits to compete.

There’s also the minor detail that I’m in baby horse purgatory right now. With all of my last round of homemade FEI horses on to other paths, I’m starting anew. And I found myself at a show recently, warming Beaker up for first level, test 3, in the warm-up arena next to the CDI arena, thinking wistfully of how I could be on that side of the perimeter fence.

Blogger Lauren Sprieser and 6-year-old Tjornelys Solution DWB, owned by Clearwater Farm Partners, are sticking to their slow-and-steady plan … even if it means fending off some serious FEI ring FOMO. Photo

Ultimately, I came down to this: When we bought him in February, Beaker was 17.2 hands. Just three months later, he’s 17.3. In that time he’s blown through two widths of saddle, adding muscle and topline at a dazzling pace all from really fairly basic work. And not for nothing, but since the beginning of this year he’s lived at four different barns (the folks from whom we bought him, the farm in Denmark from whom THEY bought him, the farm I run in Florida, and my own Virginia farm), had his whole life uprooted, and his whole program changed multiple times. All those barns were stunning and safe and lovely; all those programs horse-friendly, compassionate and correct. But that’s a lot of change.

There are a few things to win at this age, but there’s one heck of a lot to lose. And I know all this. I believe this in my bones. And yet there I was at the last show, a CDI, feeling some serious Fear Of Missing Out. 

There are plenty of horses for whom the young horse classes are a great path. There are horses who are successful at those levels, and then successful at the international levels, and have long careers. Under no circumstances am I disparaging those horses, or the riders who choose to go that route. Anky van Grunsven’s Salinero—a horse and rider the internet loves to hate because of the Rollkur training method—contested the Bundeschampionate as a 5-year-old, and then went on to compete in THREE Olympic Games, winning individual gold at two of them. Clearly his young horse years did not lame him.

But there’s plenty more who don’t make it. Some wash out mentally, some physically. And as we breed superior athletes, horses with gaits out the wazoo that come from the way their tendons and ligaments are assembled rather than gaits developed through blooming musculature, we have to mind that there’s enough muscle on those big natural movers to support those delicate structures. 

I’m confident in my choice, as are my amazing team of owners, to not go that route with our big, special boy. Which is why I’ve taken him to two shows this year at first level, a level beneath his capacity. I have a personal loathing of second level, and while he could do third, I feel like that would be my plan for next year as well, so there’s not a lot of point in doing it now. I mostly wanted to show him to see what he’s like at shows (he’s great), and also because showing is fun (especially when you’re a competent rider on a banging good horse competing at a low level), and also because—and this is the dumbest thing ever, but here it is—this is a publish-or-perish kind of job: If I’m not showing, potential students forget I exist. It’s weird.


And yep, winning everything is very, very fun. His worst score thus far was a 68% (because there was a Lines On The Ground incident, plus also we learned a lesson in “don’t warm the baby up too long because he’ll forget what right lead canter is”—oops); the best a 77%. He’s won five out of five classes, and been High Score of Something every time, including high score of the whole show twice. Wicked fun times.

But I keep looking over at that FEI ring. 

The Elvis Syndicate’s Cadeau, who is 8 this year, is really close to his Prix St. Georges debut. That’ll help keep me from chewing off my own arm for a while. It’s taken us a minute mostly because Cadeau has a tremendous amount of go, particularly in the changes, and since I earned the “Just Get It Done” merit badge much earlier in my career, I want to make sure they’re good and solid, without any need of any seat-of-my-pants riding. It’s kept me from my original 2024 goal of the Developing Prix St. Georges National Championships with him. I know that there is literally not one jot of difference between making his FEI debut in April versus doing so in July, or August, or not even until his 9-year-old year. They will hold the Developing Championships again in 2025. And in 2026. And presumably every year for a while. Life will go on.

Buttttttt …. the FOMO. 

So I write this blog, and I look at the pretty pile of pretty ribbons on my desk, and then I also look at the results of the latest European CDIs. Glamourdale won the World Championships at 7, and then again at Grand Prix at 11. But TSF Dalera BB at 7 was a pleasant-looking, slightly boring ladies’ type with a late change in her sale video, prior to being Olympic champion at 14. There are many roads. There is no hurry. I’m not missing out. I’m just on my path.

Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist with distinction making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing The Elvis Syndicate’s C. Cadeau, Clearwater Farm Partners’ Tjornelys Solution, as well as her own string of young horses, with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.



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