Tuesday, March 29, 2011

America's Favorite Trail Horse

I wrote about going and watching a ACTHA trail course 2 weekends ago in my last blog post. I do admit that I'm rather intrigued - I haven't had much time to condition for endurance rides this year and this might be a nice, intermediate thing to do while I wait for my schedule to free up a bit. And then, today, Jas Shearer-McMahon tells me that she's auditioning for 'America's Favorite Trail Horse', a new reality show that will show nationally on RFD-TV. Excitement! Brainwave! Maybe I need to try out too. Of course, I've never done one of these trail courses, so that might be a little too ambitious. Of course, a little too ambitious has never stopped me before. Monica is busy building a bridge for us to practice on (maybe her TB Willie will go too!) and most of the other obstacles can be cobbled together from what is lying around, so we'll see. If nothing else, it looks like good, clean fun and we can show off our Tekes to another audience, while sneaking in a little conditioning here and there. There are auditions coming up in April in Redmond, OR and possibly in Spokane, WA, either of which I could go to. No promises yet! But, you can follow Jas' journey and audition on her blog at Magicvalleyakhaltekes.blogspot.com and make sure to let your friends and neighbors know too - let's send her to the finals in Texas and get more people talking about our great horses!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trail competition

I went down to Maple Valley today and helped on a trail competition. I did have ulterior motives, as I'm thinking this might be a fun way to branch out in my competing, especially as I'm not getting the conditioning in I need to do well at 50 mile endurance rides. This was an ACTHA ride at the Danville-Georgetown trail system and although I went to watch, I ended up helping Monica Bretherton at one of the obstacles (and keeping her company between riders - VERY important). As I had no idea what to expect, it was a lot of fun. Our obstacle was a lope between two road cones- maybe a total of 100 feet total. The 'pleasure' horse and riders had to lope this on the right lead canter, and the 'open' teams were supposed to start loping on the left lead, do a simple change (or a flying change if they were up to it) and then switch to right lead canter. There was a wide variety of riding competence - from 'Thank goodness he didn't fall off' to "That was pretty nice" and everything in between.

We didn't get to see any of the other obstacles, but I heard of a gate that needed to be opened and shut, a log to sidepass over and a hat to pick up off the ground. Everyone seemed to be pretty happy when they got to us, so I assume those other obstacles were do-able.

Tomorrow, Monica, her husband and I are heading out for a nice trail ride ourselves, although I doubt we'll find any real obstacles out there, unless bicycles and strollers count. Of course, you never know, which is half the fun of a trail ride.

Maybe Galen and I will have to try one of these trail competitions, although I heard there are no extra points for doing it quickly. We'll see!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring is here...at least today.

The sun is shining, the frogs are croaking, the mud is drying up and the horses are shedding. Could it be spring? At least today it is. Tomorrow, who knows? I can look out the window and see the trees starting to bud and blossom, we have some crocuses coming up and best of all, the mud is starting to dry up.

I am SO ready for spring, after a wet, cold winter. Usually, Western Washington winters are reasonably mild, allowing us to ride the trails most of the winter. This year, not so much. When it hasn't been cold, it's been wet. When it hasn't been wet, it's been frozen. Thank goodness for covered arenas! The first endurance ride of the season is coming up soon, either this weekend or next, but I'm afraid I'm not heading out for it; one conditioning ride just doesn't cut it, even if you ride conservatively. Just to be perfectly clear - it's not Galen I'd be worried about...every year it takes a little more conditioning for me to get in shape for endurance rides and I'm not there yet.

On the other hand, this nasty weather has promoted working with the youngsters - Danny is doing very well under saddle and Andre has had two 'sit-upons' now. We'll do another one tomorrow and see if we can get a few drunken circles in for him. It's always amusing to see the youngster's expression when they realize having someone on their back isn't as easy as it looks. Happily, they figure it out fairly quickly and it's on to less basic instruction.

Enough being inside! Lunch is finished and I'm heading out to enjoy shedding horses and sun.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whirlwind Inspection!

My husband and I picked Dr. Tatyana Ryabova and Tito Pontecorvo up from the SeaTac airport Thursday night. Tatyana had flown into Texas a day or so before and spent that time with Tito and his wife Natasha at their Texas farm, AkhalTexas. We already had one outside horse in for inspection, who arrived Thursday, Kuwwat, owned by Erin Heatherstone of Oregon.

Friday morning dawned and people started arriving. We did our regular barn chores at doubletime and put all of my horses outside to make room. Happily, the weather decided to cooperate and it was a nice day. Good thing, as we've had blustery, rainy, sleety, all around March weather the rest of the week! Horses began to arrive around 9:30 - we had Wendy Connell's Nez Perce mare, Alpowa and her Teke/QH gelding Sunny's Tazzy Teke. Sofie Wollhaib brought her Teke mare Meshhurlyk, and a bunch of supplies for our lunch and dinner. Catrina Mettam drove up from the Washington-Oregon border with her colt Suygi and mare Mazaly a bit later in the morning. Some of my boarders came and helped out (thank you again, Alice and Monica!) which made the whole day go much smoother. Shannon Mayfield and her husband Craig drove up from Oregon to watch and participate in the educational aspect.

As this was organized, shall we say, quickly, it was rather seat of the pants. The horses were mostly still in full winter coats, often sporting mud extras (we had LOTS of rain here recently and it is very muddy). In a way, it wasn't totally fair, as very few of the horses were in show condition, but Tatyana is used to seeing horses straight out of the field, so we made do. We all grabbed brushes and displaced as much mud as possible and then we began.

The educational part was that each horse came in and we all would give it 3 scores from 1 to 10, 10 being perfection, on Type, Conformation (Exterior) and Movement. Many of the youngsters did not show well for the movement, as they had no idea what we were asking - trot beside you? What? But, we did our best. Later, we would all sit down and compare our scores for each horse, with Tatyana then giving her scores and her reasoning. If we were really off on our score, she would ask us why we thought that and then explain her thinking. These were not the 'official' scores, as she has to take her scores and measurements, and then apply different formula to them for the official scores. We will get those later on.

So, we began with Erin and Kuwwat. Kuwwat is a young (5?) stallion, that Erin is using for Endurance and also for breeding with Arab and Mustang mares for future endurance horses. He showed very well, being wonderfully behaved. We wrote our scores down and then Tatyana measured him. She measured his height at the withers, from point of shoulder to point of hip, around the girth and the cannon bone right below the knee. These measurements all go into the Main Studbook, along with being used for general breed data. Ideally, each horse would be inspected as a foal and then yearly or bi-yearly afterwards. Unfortunately, as Tatyana is the only inspector in the world at this time, that usually does not happen, at least in the US. Several of my horses have been inspected 3 times now, but for this inspection, it was the first time for many that were ten years and older.

Next we did my 3 and 4 year old fillies, Asalari and Mahri. Both are smaller horses and that is not what Tatyana is looking for. Neither showed well for movement, as they've never been taught to trot in hand. But, they behaved and got their measurements done.

Then, Sofie brought Meshhurlyk out. Diva (her barn name) showed very well and both Tatyana and Tito liked her, as she is a tall mare. Sofie was encouraged to breed her again (Diva has had two colts for me- we were trying for a filly!), but we will see.

Next was Goshen, a year and a half old colt. Goshen was shown by Monica, who has high hopes for him. He belongs to Cascade Gold, but Monica is leasing him. Goshen showed very well and Tatyana recommended that we keep him intact to see how he matures. This has been our plan, as he is extremely personable, amiable and athletic. Good looking too. He was one of their two favorites at our inspection.

We went through the rest of the barn, and Catrina's two, with appropriate comments, measuring each horse and discussing certain aspects. She would ask what the older horses did: for example, what my gelding Galen has done competitively, for this will also be noted in Russian records. Everyone did a fabulous job, Tatyana and Tito worked without a break (not my idea!) and we finished around 4 pm.

After we had finished the barn chores and gotten every horse settled for the night, we adjourned to the house and the dining room table. We got out our notes and then she started the comparing. She would ask those of us who had given scores (some were too busy handling to do much in that way) our scores for each horse and then we would discuss why we thought that and what she thought. It was very interesting, for example: if the horse had pretty good conformation, but one or two flaws (and what horse doesn't?), how do you score that? Her answer was that you have to weigh how bad each flaw is. If a otherwise very functional, nicely conformed horse had very thin bone, you had to weigh that. Or, one crooked leg, or...so we discussed what was very important vs nice. Also, she mentioned that as the population has grown, we can be a bit more picky what we cull from our breeding programs now. Those horses that might have been considered ok 20 years ago, when the population was much smaller, can now be culled from breeding. This is a good trend, all in all, as we hope, as breeders, to make each successive generation better than the last.

We also discussed type, although not in great detail. This is something that is very subjective and is often hard for someone who has seen a limited number of Tekes. And, to make it even harder, different lines have slightly different acceptable types!

Movement was very difficult, as many of the horses did not have the preparation necessary to really show off their movement. But, with a week plus notice, we did the best we could. Tatyana recognized this, especially with the younger horses.

We had a lovely spread of food, which my family will be eating for the next week, including some home grown ham that Catrina brought from her mother's farm. Delicious!

Those that were leaving, left after dinner and then the rest of us talked for a bit and retired for the night, quite early. It had been a busy, busy day!

I took Tatyana and Tito up to the Anacortes ferry yesterday, and they are now at Amrita Ibold's Sweet Water Farm, where they are inspecting all 19 of Amrita's horses and enjoying the beautiful scenery of San Juan! I'm sure Amrita and Jenny will write about their inspection after it is over.

It was lovely to see Tatyana and Tito and all in all, even for a whirlwind inspection, it went very well. I have to thank my family, who really pulled together, my boarders, Alice and Monica, who came and helped so very much, the friends who hauled their horses quite a ways on short notice (thank you Catrina, Erin, Sofie and Wendy!) and of course, Tatyana and Tito for being so gracious, hardworking and amenable.

Today, I'm going riding.

P.S. Here are links to several other blogs about the grading here at Cascade Gold. Both Shannon and Monica did very nice posts with some good photos.