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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Select Breeders Service has a wonderful article up about our breeding program!

Our thanks go out to SBS for a lovely article about our breeding program! Please consider using their 'gold standard' services when it comes to breeding your next equine partner! They are top notch in every aspect and we highly recommend them!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Boxing Day! Happy Saint Stevens Day!

Our As You Wish WF had a marvelous time out with River Hills Foxhounds for Boxing Day!! Enjoy the photos - 2 foxes went to ground and it was a fantastic day out with lovely people! Many thanks to James Paxson, Melissa Gartland, Hoppy Stearns, Priscilla Godsoe, Wilson King and the Kennedy family for arranging hot drinks and festive food at the end of the day!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Or if Festivus is more your can watch the whole episode sans commercials HERE.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ok, ok, I had promised...

I had made a promise a few days ago that I wouldn't blog with my personal opinions leading the I'll just lead with this awesome article from Maren Engelhardt.

Take a few minutes, read through it, have a good think on all that it has to say. :)

Oh and think back to the l-o-n-g post about breeding for profit and why our program has operated the way that it has.

Very, very important ideas in that article of Maren's backed up with the cold, hard numbers of performance realities. Quite a wake up call, no?

And it is followed up by a super article from The Chronicle of the Horse on importing stock (primarily for Show Jumping, but applies equally to Dressage).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

As promised...a write up!

Like I said earlier in the week - a write up of the NB Finals has been done! Check it out HERE!

So Eurodressage has a review of the Nurnberger Burgpokal Finals! With photos from Barbara Schnell! Go check it out!!!!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

A very, very important win that needs sharing!

The dressage world has gotten to be such a close community. We can watch the competition live on the internet from the top shows in Europe, or at the very least enjoy live scoring results come through in real time. No longer is there a week long (or longer) wait for the placings and scores to be churned through the rumor mill...nope, they are accessible and easy to verify! Thank goodness! And with this instant feedback comes a closer gathering of people who are linked through horse's bloodlines and this is the really fun part to me - we have friends all over the globe who are very excited about the success of Dressage Royal's get. For example, Doringcourt lives in New Zealand but was born in Germany. He just won the Medium Advanced Championships for Andrea and shows great promise for the upper levels. Desperado OLD was the World Champion 5 Year Old in 2008 under Nadine Plaster, Damsey was bred by Dorit & Hermann (who own DR) - it's like a huge extended family all over the globe! :)

2008 WCYH

And yesterday morning, Desperado OLD and Carola Koppelmann won the Nurnberger Burg-Pokal Final (7-9 Year old PSG for the top 12 qualified horses in all of Germany) by a 38 point margin over Olympic Champion Isabell Werth! Desperado's final score was 75.45% and he is just 8 years old! Congratulations to all of his connections - his breeders, his owner Ralf Hartmann, the folks at Pferde 24 (who bought him at the Oldenburg Elite Auction in 2007), and of course to Carola for all her hard work!

Now, some folks have not joined Facebook. I respect that, I really do. BUT...there are a few albums of photographs already online from the competition, so if you would like a peak at the lovely mature horse Desperado OLD has's time to sign up!

Photo Album #1 has images of the entire class. Desperado OLD is in the first 2 and then has the blue cooler and ribbon on part way through.

Album #2 does not have any images of Desperado OLD but a few of the other horses that show the quality of the riding, training of his competitors!

And it is also worth mentioning Dressage Royal had another son in this class - the 9 year old licensed stallion Damsey! Damsey was 6th in the Warm Up Test and 11th in the Final. Like Desperado OLD, Damsey participated in the WCYH with fair results, but without the overall victories.

Some of you might be wondering why all the fuss about a stallion having 2 sons in this prestigious competition...and I am happy to explain! :) (there's a surprise, right?) So Dressage Royal is a privately owned stallion in Germany. He does not stand at a large stallion station with a book of several hundred domestic mares and large export business - and the advertising budget to match! So in other words, he get a good number of mares (by American standards) each year and has semen here in the US for distribution but is not producing 100's of foals...given that information - WOW! This is a very, very big deal to have so much success from smaller foal crops!!!

If any of the larger media outlets - Eurodressage, Dressage Daily or Dressage News have any reports or photos - I will publish the links so we can all enjoy seeing and reading about the competition and the commentary on the rides themselves! So check back in a few days!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Congratulations to Desperado OLD!!!!

Back to the regularly scheduled bragging updates, news tidbits and sale horse updates!!!

(or in other words - no more editorializing from the seat of the saddle)

Results from the warm up test -

Nurnberger Burgpokal - Warm Up Test - Prix St Georges Special
1. Desperado OLD - Koppelmann, Carola - 72.650 %
2. Flatley - Werth, Isabell - 71.700 %
3. Dancing Elvis - Rath, Matthias Alexander - 71.050 %
4. Diamond Girl - Capellmann, Nadine - 70.900 %
5. Damsey - Frahm, Steffen - 70.050 %
6. Rock Forever NRW - Oelrich, Oliver - 69.500 %
7. Amoricello - Wagner, Thomas - 69.100 %
7. Dave FBW - Casper, Nicole - 69.100 %
9. U.S. Latina - Lochthowe, Hendrik - 69.000 %
10. Hofgraf - Finken, Holga - 68.800 %
11. Danone II - Wahler, Theresa - 63.450 %

THAT's right! Desperado OLD & Carrola rocked the test!!!!! Back to his winning ways with a 72%!!! With Damsey (who's a year older) not far behind in 5th place!

Congratulations Dressage Royal!!!!!!! Congratulations to Desperado's Team!!!!! Good luck in the rest of the competition!!!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

PART 3: The land of gossip & scandal, breeding for profit, Carnegie all makes sense...

PART 3: The land of gossip & scandal, breeding for profit, Carnegie all makes sense...

So I am hoping to wrap up this ‘housecleaning’ project that has gone on in my mind for the past few days. Not that I mind sharing my thoughts but I would rather put more energy into training horses and working on my riding skills (such as they are) than wandering through my work with a lack of focus. Plus this post is an elephant in comparison to the other 2! (enough already...right?)

So here are some basics -
Is there no room in my heart for a rescued OTTB?
Quite the opposite, actually. I would love to rescue many horses and provide them with a better future. However, my current plate of responsibility is full and I can not commit to more than I have. You might ask, does this mean that I think there is no hope for an OTTB in competitive sport? This is not the case and I will fall back on what Mr. Schultheis said - "good breeding means less training." A horse bred to do the job you will ask of it is less likely to need as much training, effort, time and therefore money(!!!) from you. A racehorse has been genetically selected for about 150 years to go fast. No emphasis on temperament, rideability, responsibility towards their rider - merely go fastest and get their nose out in front. So would I pay hard earned money for an OTTB as an upper level dressage prospect? No. Would I adopt one to provide it with a safe future? Yes. See the difference?

Rumors and gossip...the stuff that makes the horse world go 'round, right?
As my riding life has been surrounded by horses that have specifically bred and selected for their particular qualities I find myself thinking 'well, of COURSE that makes sense! “Good breeding means less training!” Why would anyone do it differently than Mr. Schultheis said?' At this moment, I will go ahead and say what many folks have muttered to me (resentfully) over the years - I AM lucky. I have been given very talented horses to ride over the years. My parents did not make me ride horses no one else wanted or that would damage my riding skills or hurt me. They specifically bred, raised and trained horses that we could not afford to buy. I am spoiled. And at 35, I have no regrets and only the deepest thanks that my parents raised me in this manner and made the sacrifices that they did to provide the best horses that they could for me to learn on. Champagne tastes and beer budget definitely played a part in how I was raised - but there is a level of comfort in training third, fourth and fifth generation stock. It is a form of deja vu in many ways - no surprises, very familiar territory and that makes for a level of comfort and security.

So in case anyone is curious why they/we have done things the way that we have - here’s the lowdown -
Way back in the 70’s there was this awesome imported stallion (came over on a ship) who crossed really well with long distance bred TB mares. His offspring were showing exceptional promise in different disciplines, so my parents began the effort of breeding fine horses to raise, train and sell. And so it goes for over 40 years. We breed to stallions who are proven in our chosen area of sport with mares who are similar in type to the most successful crosses and viola - our multi-generational breeding program is unveiled!

Now, if it puzzles you dear reader - why do we get excited over things like fox hunting, eventing, hunters or jumpers and not just strictly dressage offspring - it is because we prefer the youngsters to have sufficient talent to enjoy good success in their new (hopefully) owner’s discipline of choice! If the horse does not have an inclination to be solely a dressage horse (lots of flat work with minimal jumping and cross country galloping), it had best have enough talent and scope to jump around a 3’6” course...otherwise it is an utterly failed breeding endeavor and a very, very tough animal to rehome, let alone make any sort of a profit.

Oh and for the masses that ‘feel sorry for me’ having to ride rambunctious young horses at the odd schooling show - whyever would you say that to me? Pity? Really? Just because I am on a big moving baby that acts up? It’s a schooling show - not the Olympics! The young horse is there to LEARN what showing is about! Of course it will be exciting to them - new place, lots to see, commotion! I lap that stuff up like a kitten with a saucer of milk! The horse and I are there to test the waters, assess where there needs to be some polish and then move along with the training process. Next time keep a good eye on the width of my smile - I enjoy finding the ‘limits’ of where they are and it will be a dead give away to the level of upset that I am experiencing. There is no need for pity to even come into your mind unless I have an arterial bleed and can not catch the bugger. Quiet is wonderful but an expressive, explosive horse that does not try to unload me at every opportunity is just fine, too.

How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice Man. Practice. This is the punch line to an old joke about a first time visitor to NYC who pulls over to ask the Hippie panhandling on a corner - How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
So expand that a step - how do I make progress with my riding? Practice!

Plain and simple! Get the best quality instruction so that you understand the timing of the aids, the correct ‘feel’ and then apply those repeatedly to the horse(s) that you ride until they are second nature. And while it is very much easier said than done - practice is the only way to improve your riding skills. Oh and practice is not easy, painless or without struggle. For anyone. Ever. We all have to work hard to make progress.

And if you are working with an instructor that has not trained a few horses or competed to the level that you would like to ride some day - reevaluate why you are there paying them. Lots of people hang a shingle and get business with absolutely no real life experience or qualifications. Much like I say about breeding - do your homework, go watch them teach or coach. If you would like to learn to canter some day - go work with a trainer that teaches horses regularly to do flying changes (they are really just another canter stride, honest). Do not settle for the Queen of Intro Level C or the rider who is Training Level Champion year after year. There is so much more to correct riding beyond the basic levels - and that includes everything below Prix St. Georges. Do not listen to gossip or ask for how-to advice over the internet. Get the best instruction that you can afford so as to make the most progress in the least amount of time. If you are strapped for cash - ask about working off lessons, barter...make it happen if you want to learn.

Bloodlines and performance vs. fashion
So now that I tackled that sticky mess...on to fashionable breedings and expectations, hopes and dreams! (what can I say - this stuff has been bugging me for ages!) I am a fuddy duddy. There I said it. No, wait. Let me expand on that - I am a fuddy duddy who has lived the life of the privileged rider with good horses that stay sound, are forgiving and have upper level talent. They were not by parents who won the latest stallion licensing, testing or were the hottest new kid on the block in Germany or Holland. Nor were they owned by big name, big budgeted, high cost advertisers in all the glossy magazines. They were from sires that worked hard, stayed sound and produced performers. A PSG horse does not a Grand Prix horse make - remember I said it is only 1/2 way to GP? Really. I’m not making that up. A fancy trotting triangle winner does not an FEI horse make. A low level (less than FEI) horse does not make anything beyond a low level horse with rare exceptions - of course. There are always exceptions and everyone is always hoping to be the rarest of exceptions. It is an exception because it is rare. Do not bank on being an exception. It takes too long and will cost too much money in the end -- just like a rescue horse. A talented horse will present its own set of challenges but far lesser physical difficulties moving up the levels. And if it is bred from ancestors that worked hard for years at a high level - you up the odds of getting there yourself. Stack the deck in your favor and leave experimental crosses to those who have the financial, emotional and mental resources to take such risks.

But with the self-awareness of being a fuddy duddy in regards to bloodlines and ‘old’ names - these are horses that need to work. They need a routine - a dedicated training program with a schedule that is sequential and has definite goals. These bloodlines have been bred for generations to maximize efficient feed consumption, have durable joints, sound bodies and the mindset that repetition is a good thing. They are not dumb bloods or stupid - these are horses that relax into their work and improve dramatically with consistent effort. They learn quite quickly and do not have a level of impatience with repetition. Remember Hanoverians were the horses for the calvary - not the fancy officer’s mounts or the ones to pull the canons or beer wagons. Quadrilles, set patterns, repeated school figures - it makes sense to them. Really.

Breeding for profit
This is something that I thought was a great idea once upon a time! Of course it would be possible to breed good horses, raise them properly and sell them for a vast profit. Is it possible? Yes. Is it something the average breeder with an average mare can count on? No. Is it a bankable scenario for a mare owner with a really good mare? Possibly.

That might sound completely preposterous but here's the honest truth - buyers have many options at the moment due to the economy which has taken a global hit. The market for young, attractive horses for sport is flooded. Buyers can shop by color, markings, gender (much like buying a car) without ever leaving the comfort of their home. There is a a level of expectation that is rampant in the buying public - the full pre-vetting of a sales horse is now the normal with full digital radiographs and a starting price of less than 10K for a green 3 year old. That is a very tough number to swallow for a well bred, high potential, talented youngster that has received regular farrier care, vaccinations and is sound. But there you have it. Less than 3 thousand dollars per year in full costs from the time the mare was bred to the third birthday. Ouch. Undersaddle horses with fancy pedigrees are selling for those sort of prices, too. So if you are considering a breeding venture - do the math. Do the hard math of monthly costs, unexpected stitches, colic, loss of the mare/foal at birth, projected board rates - all of it. Then figure out if you are making money.

Breeders must take the long and pessimistic view and ask themselves the very tough questions that are easy to shrug off as 'not in my case, my mare is special! I'm breeding to a famous stallion!' So ask yourselves - What happens if Baby does not sell? Can I afford the board for mare and foal? Do I have a facility to raise Baby and do the weaning process on site? Do I have the resources (background, experience, finances, professional services) to fall back on to raise Baby to 2-4 years to begin the undersaddle experience? What will encourage a buyer to purchase my Baby over one from a Big Name Stud Farm? Can I get Baby going undersaddle with enough confidence to sell to an amateur rider? Your Baby will eventually be a full grown horse and in need of an education - it is up to you to be fully prepared to provide all the care, training and preventative care for an indefinite amount of time. There are all logical and realistic questions for every potential breeder to take into sober consideration before getting misty eyed at the idea of breeding their precious mare.

And I will share a small story which may partially explain why I am so opinionated about this whole concept of clearing my mind’s accumulation of thoughts. Several years ago, I traveled to Wellington, FL to look at a stallion. I liked him on paper, his performance record was impeccable and was considering a purchase or at least pitching my case for breeding to him. On a hot sultry February afternoon, I met him and rode him with his owner and trainer coaching. About 2 minutes into the ride decided I had to have this horse. Had to. Not wanted. Had to. And breeding just 1 or 2 mares would not be enough. I wanted him to brighten my days and teach me what he knew and to make me miniature versions of himself to bring along for my riding future. Every rider has a horse that fits their style, speaks their language and just 'fits'. Waldaire was that for me. From the first stride in the canter I was sold. Uphill, plenty of power from behind with a super jump and a crystal clear 3 beat rhythm. He has continually produced that same quality for us in his offspring. A few strides into each ride on each and every one of them, I am vividly reminded how much easier it is for some horses to perform at a level that is just harder for other bloodlines. Training them is easier as they are so similar to their sire. Blood will tell. They are smart, talented and sensible. But not fashionable or with big names in the pedigree.

To shift slightly towards the subject of breeding for profit - I have one offspring in the current riding list by a much more well regarded and world famous stallion. I love this horse. I really truly do for all that makes him unique and special. He, too, has talent but we labor together to achieve that level of harmony that is already a given with the Waldaire youngsters. It is the best example of one of my pet peeves of horse breeding - A famous pedigree does not an easy riding horse make. He is extremely talented, beautiful and not 'easy' to ride. Most people would have been intimidated by his antics long ago...I look back at the foolishness he used to act on with fondness at this point. He is unique in our barn and I am grateful to have only 1 like him each day! :) Several people have asked me about breeding to his sire over the years and I repeatedly have offered them a ride on this horse. Very few are willing to accept the offer vs. the multitudes of amateurs and professionals who keep asking when they can take the ride on Wizard from me. (and here is a public statement to that often asked question - some one else can have the ride on Wizard over my dead body) But I will point out - we have had a number of horses in our care and program from other 'famous' stallions and breeding operations and the same general opinion remains - the horses might have fancy pedigrees with lots of well known, big name stallions but they are not necessarily easy to work with. If you are interested in breeding to a famous stallion - seek out his offspring and make arrangements to ride them. If you are not a rider, find a rider who you respect and ask their opinion (candid, unadulterated, honest, no hard feelings for good or bad words) of the stallion and his get. If you get guarded or lukewarm answers - you might want to rethink your breeding choice unless you are currently up to the task at hand as a rider yourself.

A number of young people have approached me with stars in their eyes about the whole breeding experience. For the record, it is like everything else - highs, lows, tragedy and joys with a lot of monotony mixed in each day. Lots of lost sleep and wakeful nights, sore muscles, anxiety and constant stress. But the joy is wonderfully addictive! A part of me feels like a Grinch at this time of the year for being so negative. Then my common sense reasserts itself, and I am forced to tell them that the only reason to breed a horse is that you can't afford to buy what you want and you can not find a breeder who will work with you financially. Breeders are far more flexible than you might think dear reader! The only way to discover such a thing is to ask!

So what is the point of this one sided conversation...
Well, perhaps this blog is my way of warning those who will come after me in the horse business. All the glitz and glamour will not change the fact that horses are an expensive addiction with a high physical toll that goes into their daily care and training. It is a form of factory work to train a horse. Repetition, perseverance and determination with a whole lot of sweat thrown in from both horse and rider pave the way to success. There are no short cuts unless you have unlimited funds and can pay for someone else to have done the grunt work. It is incredibly fun and has moments of joy and feelings of accomplishment like nothing else on earth!

Maybe it is my chance to remind folks that we all have something to say. I recently took one of our horses (As You Wish - my eventing buddy) out fox hunting for the first time. 90% of those who have spoken with me are shocked and amazed that I did not give her any sedatives or chemical calming agents. Really? Why would I give her drugs to dull her reaction time? That is insane! Drugs are not a solution!! Her dam was a super hunt horse - other than being 17.2 and you cleared the uppermost cobwebs as she was the tallest horse in the woods. AYW’s sire Adamant was the best hunt horse in the barn and he threw great hunt horses! His sire Abundance hunted for years...she is an example of a horse that has been bred to do a specific task. Now - both her sire and dam evented and competed at the FEI Levels in dressage...but there are very few surprises in the training of this horse! I am proud that she took to it like a duck to water and hope to go out again for my own mental health.

So to tie this all back to the original quote from Willi Schultheis - “Good breeding means less training.” We need to take a step back as riders and caregivers to reevaluate our level of commitment, goals, current mount(s) and the emotional, personal financial investment that we are willing to make. Each answer is highly personal! And that's the way it should be!

So I think that is everything. Somehow I doubt that I will sleep better tonight - probably will find a way to fret that the burning torches and pitchforks will be rallying at dawn at my front door! ;) Ah well, if you all aren't there...I will read the Dressage Curmudgeon's latest blog and shake my head at how ridiculous people can be.

Happy riding!

Part 2: Factory work, vetting a horse, pricing a's all coming out now!

So this Part 2.
I will undoubtedly be crossing lines and annoying folks with this explanation of why things are the way they are.

Purchasing a horse
I mentioned buying a horse with training rather than a young horse. Breeding, raising, training and observing sales have been a part of my life since I was tiny. This farm is after all, a business. But there has been a dramatic shift in the mentality of folks who come in the driveway over the past 20 years. And for the record - I own 1 horse. Just 1 retired horse who is not for sale. So I have no dog in this fight beyond giving up training time on the other horses to show a buyer the horse(s) they have picked out from an internet ad. That means several hours of grooming, training and handling have been set aside from the day’s schedule to focus on the buyer and presenting our sale horse(s) in the best possible way on this particular day. I enjoy showing our horses that are for sale! I am proud of the 40+ years of hard work, the agonizing decisions of who to breed to whom, the training, the feeding, the farrier, the veterinary is like going to a competition and showing off your training methods but at home.

Numerous times I have heard A) “I spent a ton of $$ buying a youngster from Mr. Fancypants Studfarm and now only have $x,xxx to spend since I spent $xxx,xxx trying to train it/it went lame and the vet bills destroyed my savings. You need to convince your mother to cut me a deal.”
Wow. Just wow. Let me refer you to the above paragraph in which I hope it clearly states the fact that I own 1 horse. How precisely should I approach the owner, breeder, trainer of the horses and work a magical spell that will cloud her mind for weeks/months/years over the amount she is willing to accept for an equine into which she has invested a serious chunk of change? ‘Cause maybe I can convince her to put in some other luxury features in my life without sacrificing anything else...hmmm, what will I go out an buy first - a fancy boat? A Ferrari? Think she’d notice? You never know, right? Perhaps I’ll find this magic memory dust in the yard near my hedge or out by the garden’s edge! Time to go out and check!!! NOW!
I’ll let folks in on a secret and my tact is non-existent on this topic. My mother is a human being. Grow a set, talk to her yourself and explain your situation like an adult. Leave me out of it. Do NOT drag me into a situation that does not concern me. It’s is none of my business.

Or B) “I want a horse with FEI training and the ability to progress to Grand Prix, child safe so my cousin (who’s never ridden before) can work it after school for me, sound, a perfect vetting, less than 10 years old for under $20K and it needs to go cross country alone, hack on the buckle, live out 24/7, still have the ability to knock out a 75%+ at PSG/I1 and be a black/dark bay gelding with lotsa white.”
Ok! Sign me up! I want a few of these too! Cha-ching! Money in the bank!!! I can sell 100 of them for a small profit and retire!

C) This is the real kicker of watching sales and something I struggle constantly with to understand - “I (the buyer) will not look at chestnut horses.”
I’m really going out on a ledge with this one but will say it any way - A good horse has no color. This is an old horseman’s saying which really means that if you are looking for a horse to ride - the color should not matter. Now I know that in this day and age, people are presented with all sorts of options of what color would they like the color of their laptop cover, car interior, rugs, coffee cups, plates, wall coverings,’s all able to be customized to meet precisely what the consumer wants. Horses are not cars. They do not have a key that can be turned and they are not born with gears that anyone can learn to operate. They have opinions, personalities and can frequently act out in an unpredictable manner.
A breeder does not have a button that they can push at conception to select markings, color and gender. It just doesn’t work that way. In a sense it would be fun to have the ability to generate a custom colored, gendered foal and hand pick which characteristics of a particular ancestor will come through - but it doesn’t work that way. Chestnut is recessive. Our breeding program has a lot of Absatz blood in it. Absatz was chestnut and an extremely important sire in Hannover. We will always have chestnut horses. It is the way it is. There are sires out there that repress chestnut but we have not seen enough of their produce in the competition ring at a level high enough to sacrifice the talent that is coming from our chestnut gene carrying stallions. It would downgrade our stock to breed only for dark coats. A good horse is a good horse and all that.

Bottom line to all the buyers out there -
Expand your horizons and look at horses based on their abilities. Negotiate prices with the owner of the horse. Leave the rider/holder of the lead rope out of the financial matters.

Commitment is a dirty word. Apparently.
A young horse will require a certain level of commitment from their new owner. Not just financially but in the amount of time it takes to teach them new skills. Mom and I will joke about our jobs being similar to working on an assembly line - 2000 repetitions to ‘set’ a new skill. You want nice canter to trot transitions - Ok! That’s 25 downward transitions per day for 80 days. A nice half pass - well, stretch that out to 150 days as it is both a stretching and compression and power movement, so not necessarily something to do each and every day with a green horse. Horse training requires a mindset of “time to make the doughnuts.” It really does. It is an exercise program where you get to build fitness, strength, power and flexibility. Monotony is the name of the game and to keep your horse balanced, there is cross training involved and a team effort of modalities.

So this is the perfect moment to explain pricing a horse. In B) above, I listed what would be many people’s dream equine with an out of this world reasonable price. In the paragraph above, you got to read the secret of how to get nice downward transitions - 25 per day for 80 days. No shortcuts, no gimmicks - just hard work for the horse and the rider developing the dialogue of how-to. An average, run of the mill, no frills car costs around 15K. A slightly nicer car with more features (i.e. horse with more training), say 25K. A really fancy car with loads of features (leather, power everything, heated seats) - say 80-100K. Apply that methodology/mindset to pricing a horse with undersaddle training. Instead of leather seats and a walnut dash, you get flying changes and pirouettes. Power windows are replaced by expressive lateral work with loads of power and crossing. The no frills horse will have the ability to advance beyond their current level but will require the commitment of time, energy and effort from their owner. Does this make sense?

The Vetting
A horse is an animal. It is not a machine. There is no crystal ball to their future. There are no absolute guarantees. The buyer will be getting a snapshot of where the horse is at that moment. What they have lived with thus far in their lives. Nothing more, nothing less. Radiographs are going to show many details that might frighten you with their clarity and detail but a clean set of x-rays does not guarantee future soundness.

Mom has a wonderful story (see, this is where folks should approach her and talk to her) of a famous veterinarian who was a teaching professor in regards to x-rays from back in the early 80’s.
-Good cartilage is the be all and end all of a horse’s career. A tough, sound horse will be able to overcome/ignore many bony defects and still compete, work, train at a high level. Dr. Whomever would hold up some frighteningly horrific films of a three year old for a group of new students. They would pontificate on all of the findings, OCD’s, chips, arthritic changes, and the massive amounts of degenerative joint disease at great length. At the end of the class, he would then produce photos of the horse’s 2 Olympic medals. In three day eventing.

I am not saying that spending a serious chunk of change is a small matter. Quite the opposite, actually. Nor am I saying that a vetting is useless. I tend to think of a vetting as a snapshot and a quick glimpse into what luggage a horse can carry with them and still perform. A prospect is a gamble - no way around it. A horse with proper training, a good feeding program and history of working hard for a living will have wear and tear just like a human’s knees and ankles do if they are a distance runner. The manner in which the horse copes with their personal jewelry is the important factor. If their sire and dam worked for 15+ years and stayed sound, that is a positive sign. If the horse has siblings that have stayed sound in training for several years - that is an even better sign! In other words, look beyond the horse directly in front of you! Do your homework and research what other direct relatives have done in sport (and not just the oolala fancy big name sire)! And do not expect perfection - it isn’t out there! All mammals are handed (left or right) and there will be asymmetries and imperfections in their bodies.

Life is short. Find the best, most suitable horse for your current situation, skill set, ambition and schedule! Revel in all that makes a youngster adorable if that is your chosen path! Enjoy learning what a trained horse has to teach you and do not look to the veterinary community for absolutes. That is not fair to them, the horse or to yourself. Buying a new horse is a balancing act - weighing pros and cons just like everything else in life. Keep the car analogy in mind when it comes to prices. If you want an ATV, a commuting vehicle or a luxury sedan - adjust your budget accordingly. If you want a young horse with the the movement for the international competition arena - be prepared to pay for it.

So I’ll take a breath, organize my clothes and go out and work some horses with full awareness I have torpedoed a few more sales, offended some veterinarians, horse trainers, undoubtedly a few big name breeders, sales name it!

There are still more rambling musings and thoughts bubbling away in my minds cauldron. I’ll get them out eventually! The ever exciting topic of ‘Breeding for Profit’ still needs attention!

Time to make the doughnuts!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PART 1: From the riding master and some other thoughts that have percolating for a while (Part I)

For a definite change in how the blog has been written, this is going to be a bit of a glimpse into some of my own personal thoughts on a few horse related topics. I have decided to break it into a few different posts due to my tendency to ramble. It is a fault and needs to be worked on. Several things have been keeping my mind churning when I try to go to sleep, so it is probably best to clear the air and hope for restful nights!

The local gossip has long since declared me to be opinionated with no justifiable reason for having an opinion. My years of riding successes (and failures) and patient coaching from my mother are apparently immaterial. Perhaps this will change some of the public perception of who I am. Perhaps not. If you have very thin skin and are offended by the verbalization of my thoughts or think that I am a complete nutter by the end, so be it. Everyone is definitely entitled to their opinion(s) and these are a few of mine. But like I heard recently in regards to politicians - "If you want someone who agrees with you 100%, look in the mirror."

Oh, and for the record, I am not getting out of horses. Gotta squash that rumor right now!

Such a simple concept! Why do people insist on making it so complex?
According to German Master Rider, Training and instructor Willi Schultheis, "good breeding means less training." Let us break this down to the most simple meaning - a horse that is bred to do the job (discipline) that is your desired area of excellence will require less work from the rider and trainers. That is not to say that will be an easy process - merely easier than a horse that was not bred for the purpose at hand.

So let's take a step back for a second, what does this really mean? In my opinion, a horse that comes from 2 parents that have performed at a high level in the same discipline in which you want to gain knowledge, experience and have success will be easier to train up the levels than one who comes from parents who have not. A simple example - a prospect for dressage will be less likely to come from 2 successful(or not) race horses. Or 2 parents that were show hunters, eventers or competitive high level jumpers will not produce upper level dressage offspring. There will always be exceptions and any horse can be trained to be proficient at a lower level in dressage but the effort, time (and in the end that means $$$$$) spent will be far lesser if dressage riders start with a horse specifically bred to be a dressage horse with the conformation to grease the wheels so to speak.

Ahhhh, there were some key words that you might (or might not have) missed! I'll rewind for a second as I want to emphasize them. Parents (sire and dam) that performed at a high level - this is a key piece of information and can not be stressed enough. A high level is definitely relative concept but if you are an aspiring FEI rider, it will be a rare diamond in the rough that can be found from a mare that never set foot in the competition ring from an obscure damline that has not produced performers beyond in hand or elementary level competitions and by a stallion that did not show above Prix St. Georges (which incidentally is less than halfway to Grand Prix). Likewise, the stallion has to provide his burden of proof - he needs to have produced offspring out of similar mares to the one that produced this 'diamond' that are out competing at a level you are looking to in your own future. If you would like to have an all around horse to trail ride, fox hunt or event with some dressage for training purposes only, do not look to a sire who has only produced show horses that only see the 20x60m arena as 'home'. Same for the mother of the all around horse...she should have the same background, success, level of achievement (or her older foals should) as you are looking towards. And for conformation education - you had best speak to my mother who is not only a licensed S judge but also a trained breed inspector who knows exactly what to look for in a prospect. She knows her stuff and what it takes to get a horse from baby all the way to Grand Prix and the pitfalls in between. There are obvious flaws that make the process more difficult and she will articulate what they are far better than I can.

If you have lower level dressage goals - do NOT settle for a stallion that showed at the most basic levels - his odds of producing exactly what you want are not that high and a youngster that comes from highly talented, successful parents has a greater chance of rising to your goals than not. Seek out a professional opinion and do your research - this is like a homework assignment - go RIDE siblings, relatives, distant cousins of the horse you are considering. If you don't like anything about them - reconsider your purchase as you are buying a RIDING horse. If it doesn't feel 'right' or as good as you had hoped - keep looking! Your special riding partner is out there! In a nutshell - aim for the stars, for they sparkle brightly and it is fun to shine!

And here is a kicker - if you are not currently up to riding a young, green horse which will be unpredictable at times and educating it - gather your financial resources and seek out a horse with more undersaddle education. Do not buy or breed a young horse. It is not a means to save money. Honestly. I swear I am not making this up! Killing some sales, possibly. Annoying folks who operate on the greater fool theory, absolutely! But fabricating a twisted version of the truth? Nope.

And I brought up the ever present topic of money! (how rude!!!!) There are a few ground rules when it comes to selecting and owning a horse. 1) It will cost you a basic amount each month to provide your new horse with food, shelter and care. 2) Your horse will require veterinary care, a farrier and inevitably cost more than you expected in regards to training and education. 3) No horse is free or a gift. You get what you pay for in most instances. Your time is valuable and finite on horseback. Injuries will happen to both you and the horse over time, so better to maximize your chances of success, attaining your goals and stacking the deck in your favor from the beginning with a horse that is up to the challenges before you both from the moment you set a foot in the irons. Time is money in many ways! And that reveals 4) Green on green is a mistake and will result in injury and/or frustration. Old horses get young riders so as to teach them how to ride properly. Young horses need an experienced team (rider and trainer) to advance their education. There can be exceptions but it is a long road to travel without a proper support group, trainer and financial backing to make it all happen.

So I've decided to break this into different segments for clarity. There have been a great number of things that have been weighing on my mind for a while and it is best to get them out of storage. However, there is no sense in dumping it all out at once! That would cheapen what I am trying to say. And your eyes are probably glazing over already with boredom...

But I will repeat what I said at the beginning of this post - I am not getting out of horses. I am merely reassessing where and what my goals are, my physical abilities, the financial realities that go into having a business and the current state of the marketplace. And I will re-read Mr. Schultheis' statement "good breeding means less training" and think of how far ahead we are with so many well bred, talented and promising young horses coming along in their training. From where I sit (on horseback most days) - I like the commitment of years of hard work, sweat and will continue grit my teeth with determination to better myself and the horses we have bred. Laughing and enjoying my work are part of each day, so why on earth would I ever change my career? Shift my focus? Certainly! Quit? Not on my life!

So take all that I have said with a grain of salt. It is worth precisely what you have paid for it...nothing more than the time it has taken to read this post.

Coming up next -
(I know everyone is on the edge of their seats with anticipation...) *roll eyes*
Rumors and gossip...the stuff that makes the horse world go 'round, right?

Is there no room in my heart for a rescued OTTB?

Bloodlines and performance vs. fashionable pedigrees

Breeding for profit

and probably a few other stray thoughts...I'll try to get them all organized tomorrow while I'm working horses, but no promises.

Happy riding!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big congratulations to Dressage Royal!!!

Dressage Royal continues to impress breeders and international judges with his successful offspring! Sons Desperado OLD and Damsey have qualified for the prestigious Nurnberger Burgpokal Finals!!!

Some of you might remember Desperado OLD as the price highlight of the Vechta Auction (210.000 Euros) in 2007 and then the World Champion of the Five Year Olds at Verden the following summer! Congratulations to Carola Koppelmann for all of their success at such a young age!!!! THIS is a super article about Desperado OLD's journey to the finals!


Congratulations to all these promising youngsters, their riders and trainers as well as the owners!! Best of luck in the competition!!!!

And as a quick reminder - Watermark Farm is the exclusive agent for Frozen Semen distribution here in North America. We offer Dressage Royal by the dose (no LFG) and with a limited Live Foal Guarantee for 2012 with proven conception rates!

Don William WF, Daylily WF, Drummond WF, Dreamcatcher WF, Dream Girl WF and Dolce Elise WF are just a few examples of his outstanding offspring!