Sunday, January 31, 2021


 This is not a drill...we're moving to England!!  Yes..."we!"

I got the call just before Christmas.  I had no idea it was coming and it was a total surprise for lots of reasons!  I wasn't supposed to be up for a new assignment this summer.  I was originally supposed to be here in Kentucky until the summer of 2022, but for some reason the Air Force decided I should move this summer instead.  I was happy to be offered a fantastic and competitive position.  After a very short period of consideration, I accepted and the details are being worked out now.

I have been trying to get to the UK for 11 years now.  Once I got back into horse ownership, I wrote off any long tours (two or more years) overseas because I figured I could not afford to bring my horse with me.  And not that I can totally afford it now, but I have the cash now if I had to pay for it up front, and I have to sell my (extremely beautiful, perfect, total dream) truck before I leave for some substantial money anyway.  So...I am planning on Sig coming to England too.

At least that's the plan right now.

I only hesitated briefly on accepting the position because I had no idea what this meant for Sig and I.  But it's the perfect position for my career development, it's a welcome early "out" from a very unhappy professional experience here, and it's in a place I've wanted to live for many years.  I had to say yes for the sake of my career, and I figured I'd figure the horse piece out in the months to come.

I initially wanted to book Sig's flight immediately, but then doubted myself and what was "right" in this situation.  I wrestled for the last couple of weeks with leaving Sig home (lease?  Sell?  Leave in training?) and buying a young warmblood over in the UK.  I think that 17-year old side of me that still dreams of being in the Big Eq and jumping the 1.30s tried to convince myself that this was my one and only shot to get an outstanding prospect in Europe that I could never otherwise afford here in States.  And I started to feel sad about Sig and what would happen.

But just in the last couple of days I've found my decision is for him to come with me.  I am so, so looking forward to this adventure with my best boy!  What fun it is to think about hacking out in the English countryside, the rolling green fields and forests, and enjoying the total life adventure that is having my horse in a foreign country with me.  I had a horrible first day back at work a couple weeks ago where I actually was in bed crying myself to sleep, and it was the thought of escaping to the UK with Sig that actually settled me down somewhere around 1am.  And that's not the reason I decided on taking him, but it was a first sign that it was the right decision.

Sig has grown up immensely over the last year, especially since August or so.  He's mentally and physically matured so much, and become an absolute dream to be around and ride.  He is getting so much stronger on the flat, and his lateral work (shoulder-in, travers, leg yields, turn on the forehand/turn on the haunch, walk pirouettes, etc) are getting very reliable and confident.  Over fences he's been remarkably consistent and soft, tackling more technical questions and more height/filler with ease and bravery.  He's his usual cuddly, lovey self on the ground and has grown a lot of confidence through groundwork.

I don't have recent flat footage, but now he's giving me the type of push and suspension I felt in these videos from this past summer.  Out in the field he has to push a bit more due to the higher grass and slight elevation, which he can now offer in the ring.  I mean he's no Valegro, but for a polo pony: he fancy. 😎

And as if he knew I was unsure of the future, his last couple weeks especially he's been just nothing short of SPECTACULAR.  We had a dressage boot camp and two weeks off jumping (staff quarantine), where he really started to feel super on the flat.  His jump schools have been his usual consistency and overall he just seems so mature.  We've had some extra time too the last few weeks to spend time and I think that helped too.  This is me anthropomorphizing of course, but it does feel that he's making his case for us to stick together. 

He also gave me not one, but TWO flying changes in yesterday's jump school.  I've not been schooling those of late (to avoid confusion and dramatics) and have instead focused on the building blocks: counter canter, canter loops with simple changes through the walk, haunches-in at the trot and canter, etc.  I went to transition to do a simple change on course through the trot, but he swapped clean to the correct lead instead!  Total surprise.  Shortly after he again swapped to the correct lead, this time cross cantering for a few steps, but I applied the outside aids and he stepped under with the correct hind very smoothly.  I was totally thrilled.  He jumped great too, but it was the changes that had me smiling ear to ear.  He's trying!  We'll continue our building blocks and make slow progress toward consistent flying swaps.  I'm not rushing this as our current approach seems to be working.

We have both been working so hard the last 18 months, and that progress is really apparent in the last couple of months.  I've received so many compliments lately from our barnmates that I swell with pride every time someone mentions how good he's looking, how well he's going, how lovely he is to watch jump around, and how far we've come together.  He's starting to get push-button and very educated.  I am starting to see the horse that I had hoped he'd become when I looked at him as a three year old.  

And what a horse he is.

On top of all that, he still hacks out on the buckle, loves to just snuggle with his person, and is one of the absolute sweetest, kindest horses I've ever met.  He has a huge personality and is just plain fun to be around.  That's what I want with me in England.  What better way to settle in and enjoy a new country than with my best friend?

The tentative plan right now is for me to move and for him to stay in training with Ashley while I get settled in the UK (quarantine, work turnover, house hunting, etc).  Once I'm in a good place and have a chance to make sure this will work, he can come over.  I've had some wonderful horse friends help me get some education on the export process/flying.  I already have a deposit at a local yard (Anvil Park Stud), and have a town I'm looking at living in that is convenient to both the yard and the RAF base.  That all fell together quite nicely.  I think he'll love the yard, they have amazing facilities and seem really lovely and extremely horse friendly (and big on turnout, which is my biggest priority). 

If course the plan could change once I get over there, or even between now and when I leave, but after considering all the possible options and guilting myself into thinking I should sell and buy in Europe, I feel at peace with the notion of bringing Sig with me.  I'd be spending more than he's probably worth in the round trip, but it's worth it.  I have a horse now that I love riding, I love spending time with, has the athletic potential for what I'm realistically going to need, and a personality I adore.  

What a marvelous new adventure!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Anne Kursinski Clinic

 I will try not to be overly sappy here, but Sig just helped me finally realize a little dream of mine.  After several years and twice having to cancel out of the annual Market Street clinic, I finally got to ride with Anne Kursinski.

And Sig was, of course, absolutely perfect.


To set the stage, I've long admired Anne's style and she's been on my "bucket list" of clinicians for a long time.  I first tried to clinic with her in 2016, but Soon took a bad step a few days before the clinic and I pulled out to be safe.  The following year, well....Yeah.  Soon had his colic surgery, hospital battle, and later was put down all around the time frame of the clinic.  So this time of year is naturally a sad one for me, but now I have a very happy set of memories to cherish.

A friend of the farm regularly hosts Anne for clinics and thankfully a barnmate and I were able to secure slots in the baby 2'6" session all weekend.  Sig's been going so well both on the flat and over fences lately that I wasn't sweating or concerned about whether or not we were prepared.  Which is good, because I had just the shittiest week leading up to the clinic (not horse related).  My truck had to go into the shop, and thankfully Ashley was amazing and was able to haul us both this weekend to help out.  Plus work stress and my back being bad the last couple of weeks...I almost wanted to cancel and I absolutely told Ash to bring her riding stuff to the clinic in case she needed to hop on Sig in my place because I was in too much pain to ride.

Suffice it to say I was in "whatever" mode going up to this and didn't have the bandwidth to stress about not having done any no-stirrup work lately....

We had the first session at 9am both days.  Day one was mainly flatwork and some gymnastics.  Flatwork was lengthening/shortening strides and a mix of regular and no-stirrup work to get a closer, deeper connection in the seat.  We also did turn-on-the-forehand off the left and right reins, and I was so, so grateful that Sig and I have made lateral work a regular part of our flatwork routines.  He honestly did give some of the most obedient lateral work of the whole session, which made me very proud of him.  Gymnastics was a simple one-to-one combination with emphasis on straightness and forward, light hands with a short (!!) rein.  Video clips below from throughout the session:


Day two was a refresh of the flatwork concepts, more no-stirrup work, and leg yields off each rein at the walk and trot.  Jumping consisted of a course, varying stride lengths in a bending line from easy five strides to a bolder, more direct four, long approaches off diagonals, and the famous counting out loud.  Anne explained how counting up from one prevents backward riding (rather than down from a set number, ie. guess when you're eight strides out and count down, which tends to encourage riders to pull/wait to make the number happen rather than riding the actual pace/distance) and helps promote rhythm.



  Overall Sig was really, really perfect for being the young horse in the group. He got loads of compliments from Anne (lots of "goods!" and "excellent!" and "very obedient"...even some "very adorable!" comments) about his talent, rideability, and how quickly he picked up on things.  I'm proud to say I was also complimented frequently and I walked out of the clinic knowing that we were both very polished and prepared.  Anne even said that he "had a God-given talent [for jumping]," and coming from her that really means something. 

My takeaway was the shorter rein both on the flat and over fences. I objected to the knot in the reins, but it did help forcefully demonstrate that such a short rein is both possible and useful.  Sig was still forward and soft, and I was able to maintain a more natural auto release rather than the down-to-the-side release I tend to fall into when my reins are longer.  I am going to try to keep the shorter reins moving forward.  We also insisted on obedience to the leg, and while Sig was generally awesome, every time he was slow to react I got after him with the stick and that was complimented by the clinician.  I don't fuck around when it comes to clinics and getting going.  He only needed one or two reminders and he was a tired baby, but he played along perfectly and was absolutely foot perfect after the minor corrections.

I am so completely proud of Siggers for how professional and perfect he was all weekend. This came off a horribly sad and stressful week and I could not be happier today to have Sig and my farm family.  There were lots of smiles, lots of laughs, lots of horsey hugs and (social-distanced) high fives with my team.  But I'm most excited about Sig.  He was a total professional the ENTIRE weekend.  He learned quickly, was totally quiet and soft, and was just the best partner for me for this adventure. I already can't wait for other clinics and more learning and growing with him.   I am so excited for our future and so grateful to be writing chapters like this in our story. Thank you, Brother, for your wonderful gifts.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

First Show with Sig! Basically ready for the Olympics now

 Sig and I finally got to attend our first show together!  And it was amazingggg!

Sig has shown a couple times over the years, but never with me thanks to me moving to Japan and a completely insane schedule here in Kentucky since my return.  But last weekend we got to attend a wonderful schooling show at Any Day Now Farm, and I can't say enough about the entire experience.

Sig stepped off the trailer and despite looking around and feeling slightly unsure for the first few minutes, he settled beautifully and got right to work.  No screaming, no shenanigans, just very professional and was very in tune to me.  We did a cross rail class to warm up and get into the show ring to have a look around.  The first round we just trotted around the course, and then came back to do a second round at the canter.  Both rounds he was super, very soft and stayed in a lovely rhythm.  

Then we waited around for what we really came for, the 2'6" class.  During the wait Sig was happy to stand around and nap or mug the show staff for peppermints, still zero drama as we hung around and did the "hurry up and wait."  Then they changed the course from crossrails to the set up for the rest of the day...and wow, did they ever break out the nice stuff!  

Liverpools, unique looking gate and panels, narrow panel with holes cut out of it, very elaborate and beautiful walls...all the fill was very impressive even for me and Ashley, who jokingly dubbed it "The 2'6" Olympics."  I actually began to wonder if all the fill was a bit much and debated leaving on our crossrail performance.  I think Ashley was understanding of the concern because we both looked at each other like " this seriously a good idea?" 

The two people that actually read this blog might recall this post, where I reflected on what was ultimately (and unknowingly...) my last show with Soon.  We had been schooling 1.10-1.15m all summer and it was feeling comfortable, we had an excellent horse show that week, and I greedily thought we could tackle the 1.0m.  It was our first real season of showing, and while Soon was super broke, he was still green in the show ring.  It was an unbelievably fine line between success and disaster, and one missed distance was all it took to wreck his confidence.  We had to back down to the .80m just to go in and end on a positive note.

I was super hard on myself for being greedy that day, and that haunted my decision making at the show last weekend with Sig.  A 2'6" class is not big to me by any means, but I kept questioning whether that plus all the super fancy show fill (seriously, Upperville didn't have fill that impressive!) was a bit much.  Sig hadn't jumped anything that fancy in a long while, he hadn't shown in probably 18 months at all, and I didn't want to rush.  I've been the anti-rusher with this horse, and so far that approach with Ashley has paid off.  But she was also quick to point out that if it didn't go well and he needed to school the course, this was the place to do it.  The hosts/show staff were unbelievably helpful and geared everything toward developing green horses.  Need a second round?  Go for it.  Need to ride the horse around in the ring and let them inspect each fence during the course walk?  No problem.

Sig inspected the fences during the walk and seemed comfortable.  After waking up in the warm up and jumping Ashley's jacket over the warm up fences (which Sig jumped super neatly and was very positive to!), we ended up just going for it.  "Just go get it done!" was the last bit of advice from Ash as we walked in the first as the first to go.  My mentality was just be a positive, supportive ride and get him on the other side of the fences.  It was a speed class, but I rode it like a hunter round just to give him the best look at all the jumps and focus on our rhythm going around.  I just wanted to make this a good experience.

HE. WAS. SPECTACULAR.  You can't tell how impressive the fill was from the video, but he absolutely made it look like a hunter round.  He was very positive and confident to the jumps, but not too bold.  He was very soft and rideable, and that combination is such a fun feeling.  He jumped the gates with  lots of flower fill, the weirdly cut gates, the narrow panels, the liverpools, and was perfect in all the bending lines.  He even had the best sense of humor when I forgot the inside turn to the one-stride and had to bend back to it.  I was just so over the moon excited about how he went and how totally professional he was walking in there and jumping around like such a pro!

The video cuts off the last two jumps: a long approach to an oxer and then quick left turn over the narrow to finish.  He was just as soft and super to those two as the rest of the course.  Everyone was thrilled with him, just hanging around the ingate that morning he had earned some fans and all of us on baby horses were cheering each other on.  I was smiling ear to ear so much it hurt and couldn't stop praising this kid.  We hung around and watched a couple more rounds, he got stuffed full of peppermints, and then we loaded up to come home.

He also self-loads on the trailer now, by the way.  That's pretty cool.

Overall I'm super excited about how relaxed and professional he was, and how happy he was to hang out and then go back to work.  The whole day he just seemed super positive mentally and tuned in.  I can go on, but it would be just more of the same gushing.  Great day, great horse, and I can't wait for more!


Sunday, October 11, 2020

That one long really overdue update...

 Sig's doing fantastic.  COVID kicked off and since then he and the farm have been a great source of normalcy and I've been extremely thankful to have that one consistent factor in my life.  This summer was very crazy and unhappy professionally - I was the only officer in the detachment, working the commander roles as well as several other jobs in addition to my normal job titles.  I didn't get out and about with Sig very much as a result, and this whole year since arriving to KY has just been one professional frustration after another.

But this fall I've decided to have work life balance, to take morning lessons during the week and work virtually twice a week to accommodate that.  I'm protecting my downtime and weekends.  And more importantly, lately Sig and I have had a lot more consistency in training and have been having some adventures of our own.

 For the two people who actually read this blog, check out his Instagram for more regular updates:


Quick summary of what's been happening lately:

1.  He's getting a custom saddle, I ordered a new Palm Beach from Voltaire and turned in the BlueWing.  It wasn't the best fit and I never loved it, I'm hoping this will be the end of the saddle journey with something custom built for the two of us.  For now he's living in Soon's CWD, which if shimmed, he seems perfectly happy in.

2.  He was started on a hind gut ulcer supplement as he had some pretty remarkable inconsistency with his attitude and behavior.  So much so that over the summer we were honestly wondering if he was going to work out long term...for about a month or so I was going back and forth on selling him and hopefully finding him a better fit elsewhere.  He was oddly spooky and much more reactive from the spring into the summer, but about two months ago he went on the supplement and the turnaround has really been remarkable.  He's way, way less reactive.  Our cool, sweet, sleepy Sig is back both on the ground and undersaddle.  As a result he's way more consistent in our jump lessons and my Snuggles is back. 😊💙  Suffice it to say that thoughts of selling him are off the table and I'm back looking forward to a very, very fun (and hopefully long) future with this amazing boy.  He's just so fun with everything. 

3. We're exploring more rollback turns and bending lines over fences, he's getting pretty handy!

4.  Still no flying changes.  I schooled simples one day and he gave me one clean (perfect!!) flying change on purpose, but so far just the one.  I've shelved the flying changes schooling and have gone back to more canter loops, counter canter work, and simple changes for now.  Might revisit later this fall or wait until the spring.

5.  Signed up for an Anne Kursinski clinic!  It's next month down the road at a friend's farm.  Very excited and feeling good about it!  Fingers crossed this time I finally get to ride with her.  We went on a field trip yesterday to Cloud Nine Farm where the clinic is being held, and got to ride with Stevie.  It was a great experience, everyone was super friendly and welcoming, and it Sig was foot perfect the entire day.  He seriously acted like a seasoned pro, no fuss at all and I was so proud on how he handled himself and how he improved throughout the lesson.  Videos on the IG embeds below.

6.  We did a groundwork clinic at the end of July (early Aug?) and he conquered his complete fear of the giant ball!  We revisit this every now and then and he's been so super.  After allowing him the option to be brave and go forward on his own, he's definitely gained a lot of confidence with "scary" objects and it helped his mentality a lot.  Extra bonus: found out yesterday he even self-loads in the trailer!  😏

View this post on Instagram

FINALLY! Some decent flatwork footage. Love how far Sig has come and how good he feels lately. He was not amused with repeating yesterday's routine, but even with the added tension and baby horse attitude, I'm still happy with how he ended up. He gets a little hill workout in this corner of the field with the uneven terrain. Very happy with this boy and how hard he tries! He's been making me smile so much when I need it most. So blessed to have him. 😊💙💙 #SibeliusMB #SiggyStarbutt #sweetbabysig #KentuckyWarmblood #Thoroughbred #thoroughbredsofinstagram #mtbrilliant #hunterjumper #showjumping #horsesofinstagram #equestrian #equitation #younghorse #babyhorse #equestrianlife #showjumper #horsetraining #KentuckyThoroughbred #dressage #flatwork #pferd #pivo #pivoequestrian

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He's looking absolutely fantastic right now, topline looks amazing and he's matured so, so nicely.  Though at the moment he's definitely getting fuzzier than I remember him getting this time last year, so...I guess that mean's he'll be getting his super sexy trace clip a little earlier than usual?  We'll see!


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sig Update - 29 Mar 2020

Well...we're in the Coronavirus/COVID-19 lockdown so I thought I'd finally write an update on Siggers!

Did I mention he loves outside?
Overall he's doing great.  He's back to living outside full time, which I honestly think he prefers.  He'll come back in this summer and spend his days inside so he can have his fan and save his feet a little bit, but I think his new schedule is be outside full time from probably Sep/Oct - May/June.  Just seems to work for him.

His only real issue is that he's got the "warmblood spook" and needs more desensitization exercises.  Really windy days in the ring, or when something in the indoor changes, seem to all be excuses for him to be very look-y  and potentially spooky.  So I need to add more desensitization training to his routine.  Otherwise, he's mostly very consistent and doing well both on the flat and over fences.  I have to remember that he's still young and green (will turn six in a couple of weeks!), so he's entitled to his baby antics from time to time.  For a young horse he is generally very easy and I'm thankful for that.

On the flat, we're working on slowly shortening and raising his outline.  We had a lesson with our dressage trainer a couple weeks ago and she loves where Sig is at and feels like we can as him to shorten up a little bit more, while maintaining the throughness and keeping his back up.  This will be a slow progression, but even now I'm feeling like he's getting it, and it's just a matter of building his strength slowly.

We're also confirming/cleaning up his shoulder-in (tracking right is great, tracking left is hit/miss) and have introduced the haunches-in (travers).  He's very smart and is picking up on these lateral movements very well, so I try to school them a little bit a couple times a week.  He's so quick that doing the exercises too much quickly leads to him anticipating or getting upset, so it's a very fine balance.  I'm also thrilled with how his canter is coming along on the flat as well - also focusing on him pushing forward from behind and stretching into the contact.  That mentality has helped develop a very soft, adjustable canter that is way farther ahead than I thought we'd be there.  I want to start doing some canter loops and eventually some counter-canter this spring, and start focusing on flying changes later this year.  He has done a couple flying changes in the past, but we've tried to keep it to simple changes for now until we got more strength and balance in the canter.

Here's a video and some screenshots of that February dressage lesson.  This was at the end of a pretty challenging lesson, so we lack some of the energy and push we had been enjoying earlier in the ride.  I think it does show that he's very soft and elastic, and overall I am getting so excited about how he feels on the flat.  Such a cool horse!

Asking for a little more elevation in the poll while maintaining push from behind

Starting the stretch...


On the jumping side, nothing mind blowing to report.  We're still trying to focus on keeping him soft and slow to the fences, as he jumps so much nicer from that.  He has a tendency to rush and not necessarily be fast, but getting him to really "think" slow to/from the fence helps his jump so much, and he's so unbelievably simple to ride in that mindset.  It really is like a switch flips in his brain (usually after he rushes through an exercise once or twice...) and then he sets himself back and gets soft and slow.  Then he really is just a point and shoot ride.  Here are some recent clips:

From Dec/Jan timeframe:

So, finally some video proof that Siggers is doing fantastic.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how far we can develop him.  He is just too damn cool.

I'm supposed to go TDY in May for two months, so if that is still happening amidst the COVID-19 stuff, then Sig will go back into full training with Ashley from May-June and I'll pick back up in July.  I need to get back into decent shape, I've already put on noticeable weight with the quarantine and I'm not liking how I feel in the saddle.  Blah. 

Just to leave on a cute note...HOW ADORABLE IS HE???