Neuf – Warmblood Retriever

Show report below, but I’m most pleased that Neuf has finally figured out how to hand me fly masks, from the ground, when I’m in the saddle!  We were so close a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t mess with it, but did think about it a lot.  We went out today to spread fly predators and hunt down two fly masks.  Spied the first one and came back for it after I was done sprinkling fly predators.

Stopped at the fly  mask and said “Neuf, can you pick that up and give it to me?”  And he reached down, picked it up, swung his head over to my right foot, waited for me to have hold of the mask, then let go!  I squealed with delight, telling him what a clever horse he is, and gave him 2 carrot pieces!

Then, it was out to do the second bag of predators and retrieve the second mask.  Got to that one and he did the same thing!  Woot!!!!

Next up, picking up other things.  Ball caps, whips/crops, perhaps a glove.  The things that you sometimes drop when you’re riding.  Bell boots might be useful as well, the horses lose a lot of those.

Neuf, my Warmblood Retriever.  

I entered a combined test at Morningside  this past weekend.  Novice Test A.  I printed it the day I entered, read the test, rode it the next morning.  Asked Tori for a lesson, to get some polish, and off I went.

I set off, not feeling too nervous.  I arrived, found a place to squeeze in my trailer, walked over for my number, tacked a relaxed Neuf up and climbed on.  We went up to the dressage arenas, told them our number, I had 16 minutes to warm up, which was perfect, since the heat and humidity were insane!

Rode a nice test, sadly no video, got the less frequent “your hands move too much” speech from the judge, which I smiled and shrugged.  I ended up with a 34.5, so other than one mistake (Neuf cantered one step at the walk-trot upward transition) it was a respectable test.  Bouncing hands and all.  Honestly, I was so thrilled with his relaxation and listening, workmanlike attitude that she could have said I was riding like a monkey and should never ride again and I’d have shrugged.

I went off and found Martin, found out there was a fair amount of time left before they raised the jump course to Novice height, learned the course, hopped off, got my water, visited with friends…then finally got back on to do jumping warm up.

I don’t love the jumping warmup at Morningside, it is on their schooling race track, people walk in front of the jumps constantly to go to the cars, making you pull up, the track is too skinny to keep a good pace when you reverse, so I never did get a great rhythm going for the jumping, but I wasn’t nervous.  This was a soft Novice level…maybe one fence at 2’11”.  Unfortunately, as we stood in line to go into the ring, someone noticed Neuf had lost a shoe!  The footing there is excellent and soft, and I hadn’t noticed the shoe missing on the track, so, I opted to go ahead and ride my course.

That lack of rhythm in warm up?  It showed, I wasn’t forward enough, didn’t get to finish the path I’d wanted to take before the bell rang.  I thought I destroyed the first fence.   Neuf paused, went crooked, ran into the fence, an oxer, I said “go”, he went, I heard fence sounds, and was “what was that?”

Everyone said “Keep going!”…so, we kept going.  Things got a little smoother, chipped in at 5, took a long spots to 6, roll back to 7 was so so, but we got it done.  As we finished, I noticed that they’d already put fence 1 back together.  How odd, they aren’t usually that quick during the schooling shows.  There was an accidental stop to the video, so the rest of the round is a second video.

Since it  had not been as smooth as I’d like, I opted to go in and school it again (allowed, but not for scoring), and the round was much smoother, more forward, but we had a rail at fence 7.

Later, when I went to pay for my extra round and get my test sheet, I asked if I’d placed, thinking it was a nope…but they said the judge marked me with 0 jumping faults.  Huh?  I  could have sworn that I’d demolished that fence. I took my 5th place ribbon and  headed home.  Later, I thought to watch the video…and I’ll be…somehow, Neuf left that first fence up.

Bali is still on low-impact, walk work for one more week, I did do a very short, test trot yesterday and she felt good, but it was less than 2 minutes and we only have a few more days.  We’ve been doing a combination of walking around that feels like Bubba’s shrimp recipes in Forrest Gump, walking with a child in front, or walking around on a trail loop, or walking and doing squares, walking haunches in, walking shoulder in, walking renvers, walking half pass, walk pirouettes, medium walk, collected walk, extended walk, free walk, walking serpentines to focus on bend change.


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Jumping more sticks

I had an early jumping lesson this morning before work.  I hadn’t taken Neuf out since our super, fun, Fisher-Price “My first XC school” on the 4th of July.

After Neuf’s lovely ride on Saturday, Sunday was a decent ride, but not amazing like the day before.  For a variety of reasons, including heat, bugs & humidity, I decided to not react to laziness with the level of intensity that would create kicking out and bucking, but give me forward, and just left it as an “okay” ride, which is actually pretty awesome in the grand scheme of things.

But, I knew the laziness would need to be addressed today, and had I been riding alone, at home, I would have done it on the lunge, but in a lesson, I felt ok with it.  He did get a bit stuck, but there was no where near as much warm up as on Saturday, but I stayed in two point for a long time, off his back, until he was really motoring forward.

The exercises were simple.  3 cavaletti, one stride apart, with the middle one offset. The cavaletti are 8′ long, so offsetting the middle one allowed for a very-straight, 3 stride line of 2, or a very-straight, line of 3 one strides.

The next exercise was 3 fences set at 2 strides apart, steep crossrail, to a vertical, to an oxer (eventually).  After doing all those, we then played around with angles, as if in a jump off.  So did figure 8 like figures across the oxer, loop back on the other lead to the vertical, back to the other lead to the steep crossrail, back and forth.

On getting my right to left lead change, I need to really get his haunches in.  He swings them out, and then isn’t straight, so can’t change.  I wasn’t focused enough on the haunches, but too much on the shoulders.  So I’ll work on that.

An excellent way to start a Monday.

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Intention…and playing with my pony

I have been reading a book recently, and it has reminded me that intention matters. It isn’t a riding book, but a book about leadership, which, when you think about it…riding is about leadership, so maybe it is a riding book!

Neuf and I are in a good place, but I’m still struggling with his getting “stuck” in deep corners, particularly going left. I’m pretty sure this is a weakness, as he warms up out of it, and it has been getting better. We still usually have at least one kick-out/objection to forward per ride, but it doesn’t feel like Neuf’s intention is really to get out of his job, but more that he is saying this is hard.

Today, I rode with the intention to not have a single kick out during our ride.  But, still have forward, so this was not going to skip the hard stuff, but my idea was to figure out if I could develop our ride so that there was never any point to him feeling the need to object to the effort required.  This translated into a riding a better warm-up, one where I was using feel, not exerciess

It worked.  We had a fabulous ride, shoulder in, haunches in, leg yielding, 10m circles, 20m circles, bending and counter bending, really focusing on suppleness and feeling when there was a tightness to work through.  Only increasing intensity or changing gait after checking all the soft, listening buttons.

At the end, I went out to play with Neuf on my little “project”, which is turning Neuf into my Warmblood Retriever.  Neuf picks things up for me…

So, I’m working on transitioning this into picking things up for me, when I am on him.  Namely, fly masks in the field.  Since horses often take off their fly masks in turn out, then the easiest way to spot them is from horseback, then you climb off, get the mask, climb back on, the logical next step is to get my horse to pick it up and give it to me.

We’ve made excellent progress.  He’ll pick up the fly mask, then turn around but he drops it before I can grab it.  I have been giving him his cookie, since he has figured out the next step in the puzzle, but last week he did it twice, then he just quit, because he was obviously confused as to what was expected.  I got off, had him pick it up and turn to give it to me on the ground, to back up a step, and stopped at that.   I’m trying to figure out how to break this down into smaller steps, so he understands to hang onto the fly mask until I’ve got it.  This might require some gentle, tug-of-war with a Wubba (a dog toy that Neuf likes to squeak and toss) play.

Bali is footsore in her right front.  I took her into the clinic for a workup to rule out soft tissue, and the vet determined it is in her foot, not likely a suspensory injury and he prescribed 2 weeks of resting/walk only, so I’m working on all kinds of walk work. It won’t do anything for her cardio-fitness, but it is good, contemplative/meditative work.  And, it definitely allows for giving my friend’s one year old nice, long rides!

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Forward Progress – part 2

I went to Florida for a weekend, kept riding, but no jumping shows and not really much jumping for Neuf, and suddenly it was the week before Upperville.  Martin was to be riding 1.10m, 1.15m, and 1.20m on Neuf, so we quickly came up with a plan to meet up at a jumper barn and Martin would have a jump school with a coach.  Neuf was fantastic.  They finished up with a vertical that was 1.30m!   With that prep, we all felt good about Neuf at Upperville.

They had a great show.  Placed in the 1.10m and 1.15m divisions, which were HUGE…over 30 and over 50 in the 1.15m!!! He had a rail in the 1.20m but it was still a really nice round.

I missed the first two fences as I didn’t make it over in time to get into position to video after setting warm up fences!

I did NOT show Neuf at Upperville.  That is my goal for next year, but this year, the plan was for me to ride at the Loudoun Benefit show, which is at the Upperville showgrounds, the week after.  That is where Neuf won the 6 year old Jumpers last year.  I did RIDE Neuf at Upperville though, it was a mental game for my own confidence.  After Martin finished, I put my saddle on and hacked around the grounds, watching 1.30m classes.

Loudoun Benefit was next with ME riding.  I entered .80m and .90m, because there was no .95.  I am close to entering 1.0m, but I want to work on improving my pace and not getting time faults with the fences at a height that Neuf can step over.

First thing I did was to take a jumping lesson on Tuesday morning, and it was good.  I also was relaxed and had fun, even riding on the sloped, grass jumping field.  Then, I remembered to take an ulcer med on Wednesday night, took another Thursday morning and managed to eat some rice, which is my go-to settle my stomach food.  I also brought my bowl of rice with me in the truck, so I could eat a few more bites.

I got there, and left Neuf in the trailer while I went to walk my course with Martin and get my number.  The course seemed ok, the oxers always seem big to me, but I reminded myself that Neuf had just done 1.20 meter quite easily a week before.  Neuf unloaded as calm as if we were at Martin’s for a lesson!!!! My stomach was good, I felt good.  I tacked up, used my trailer step as a mounting block and strolled over to the warm up.  I had a good warm up, only a little bit of spook at the other horses, and then I went in.  I really wanted to be within time allowed for this show.  I’ve often had time faults, since I don’t ride him as forward as I should.

I felt good, rode forward and we went double clear!!!!  A blue ribbon for this class.

We had a LONG wait until the .90 started, so I took him to the trailer and loaded him up, got lunch, then we went to get ready again

I lost some of our forward in this round and he pulled a rail, so no ribbon, but overall, I was pleased.  We were within time!

The next day, I was a tiny bit nervous, but I followed the same food protocol.  Felt good, but Neuf seemed tired at breakfast.  But, normal, so off we went to the show again.  He was more “up”, but less forward.  Spooking at the other horses in the warm up ring, I had to work harder to get him forward.  Our first round reflects that…with commentary from Martin (videoing) to get him in front of my leg!

It was a clear round at .80m but one time fault.  Drat.

We ended up with a long wait for the .80 m to finish and them to drag and reset the course for .90 m, but I went in with a plan to “wake him up”.  Shorter warm up, more reactivity to the other horses, but I handled it.  When I trotted into the ring, my plan was to get him forward before the buzzer rang.  At the beginning, you can see a solid kick out when I insisted.  But, mission accomplished.  We took 10 seconds off our time from the earlier course.  I felt really good.

I had fun showing this week.  Neuf was excellent, I rode well and felt comfortable at the .90m.  I wasn’t anxious or too worried, just the good amount of nerves that you have before some sort of performance.

It is time to start moving up to 1.0m at the schooling shows, work on more forward, at some point I’d like Neuf to look as good with me on him as he does with Martin riding, more fitness and then we can maybe do some Low Adult Amateur classes (these are 1.0m).

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Forward progress – part 1

Wow, I’ve had a long  break in journaling.

Bali first

Bali hasn’t been to any shows this year because she had a reaction to a vaccine, spent about 6 weeks with enough of a cough to require some medications that aren’t show legal, but luckily not bad enough to completely require rest, so we are still working.  I was going to ride with Gary Rockwell again, and then I had to go on a trip with my husband that weekend, so I gave my rides to Ashley Douzant of The Frame Sporthorses, as I can get some trickle down out of them, because she teaches me lessons.  Her excited clinic reports to me made it worth it, I love hearing someone else as excited over amazing lessons as I get.

I’ve spent the past several months working on getting Bali stronger in lifting her shoulders and carrying more behind.  Getting more forward without nagging, working on going with her. It is time to do a progress check with a test or two.  I may go for a schooling show, much more cost effective.  Changes are getting better and PSG is looking attainable.


Neuf is finally growing up!  I came off after he had a legitimate spook that he escalated into his bolt & buck, I realized that I’d had that “I should lunge him” feeling before I got on, so I finally started to listen to that little voice and I lunged him during high sugar grass/cool spring mornings.  I also realized that I needed to add a one-rein stop to his repertoire, and I was able to change my reaction to his starting to bolt, and redirect.  My attempting to keep his head up with both reins is never going to work super well.

Then I had to start truly wanting him to go forward.  I’ve been guilty of asking him to go forward, and then saying “WAIT, not THAT forward!!!” with my aids and body.  This reaction is directly tied to his signature bolt & buck, because true forward felt remarkably like the start of the bolt.

We had a show in Lexington, VA, Martin rode Neuf in 1.10 meter classes and I rode in .90 meter.  I was pretty nervous at this one.  I hadn’t shown Neuf at a rated show for over a year.  I’d done some local showing, but this was a big, multi-ring show, crazy warm up ring, but I love the Virginia Horse Center.

Day one, I handwalked Neuf around the colliseum (the 1.10 meter was in there) in the morning, walked him all around the ring I’d be riding in later.  He had a bit of playing in the one corner before we started, and we were a bit slow, but a respectable round.

The next day,  I was still nervous, oddly, almost MORE nervous.  I didn’t eat much, and so my stomach was more upset than normal nervous and I had a pounding headache.  But, Neuf was pretty chill when I got on after Martin had finished the 1.10 meter.  My warm up was going super well, with both of us relaxed, until a rambunctious gray buck/bolted in front of us as we’d just landed from a warm up fence.  Neuf spun, started to bolt, I remembered to use ONE rein, circled, never left the canter until we were fully in control, then I trotted, asked how much more warmup the other horse had left and waited for him to leave the ring.  I finished my warm up, never finding my good forward again, but it wasn’t awful

I was riding more forward than a year ago, but not as forward as I should, and I gave myself 4 faults by crossing the timer after the buzzer but before I actually started my course.  I had entered the .95 meter, but my not eating enough and a pounding headache caught up with me.  I asked how long until the .95 meter, and it was going to be too soon to go untack, eat and get back on, but longer than I wanted to feel nauseous.  So I scratched the second class, because I felt I’d accomplished my goals.

My biggest take-away from Lexington was that I need to find MY nutrition plan for shows.  What can I eat when I’m nervous, so that I can get to the start.  Once I’ve got my first round under my belt, I’m ok and back to eating, but that is sometimes pretty late.   I also realized ages ago that I do better if I take an ulcer med like Prilosec in the day before and during a show, so basically I need my GastroGuard, just like some horses.

Next big show was going to be Upperville with Martin riding.

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Minis and Carts and Paso Finos, Oh My!

Today, I took Neuf down to the Virginia Horse Festival.  We were to be a demo rider for Sonya Crampton, who has North Slope Stables in Bluemont, VA.  I have ridden with Sonya before and saw she had an opening for demo riders for her 3 sessions titled “How to Prepare to Give You and Your Horse Your Best Shot at Success in the Show Ring”, so I decided to do be wild & crazy and take Neufenstein!

Now, I have been to these Expos and Festivals before and they are a bit like a three ring circus.  In this case, 5 rings.  I was pretty sure Neuf would be ok, so long as I managed how I introduced him and was careful with how much pressure I put on him.  Which for Neuf means a lot of hand walking him to see all the things.  Let him really look, put his head as high as it goes to study all the scary things, and when he breathes and relaxes, give him pets.

The first scary thing was a white, miniature dragon horse.  It was about the size of Winston, my ancient lab.  This teeny creature was loose in one of the arenas so we just walked around.  The amount of concern he had over this creature was amusing.  Finally, he was able to sniff the small horse, I pet it, and he breathed.

Paso Finos were next.  Those horses don’t move their legs like any other horse he’d seen, and that was VERY CONCERNING.

Flags in the distance, loud speakers in all the rings, food trucks, hundreds of strollers and small children and crowds.  And he held it together.

Then I tacked up and got on, and we walked.  A lot, then a draft horse was over near the barn pulling a cart.  But, then the paso finos came into the ring with us and THAT was more concerning than the draft with the cart, I mean, what if he started having to take tiny little steps?

Then it was time to move into the pavilion for our first session.  Covered, arena, bleachers, more kids, more strollers, things blowing in the wind.  And the jump trailer with jumps being set up.  It was back to walking for a few minutes.

Once the lesson started he was a bit up, but all the walking had paid off.  The lesson was striding in lines, working on adjust-ability, and we did a so-so job.  We did not always get the strides we were supposed to, but my biggest concern was whether I could ride him when he is worried.  The answer was yes.  I was super proud of Neuf.  He was really brave and listened to me when he was worried.

We finished, and had an hour until the next session, so  a quick rinse for him, a walk in the wind to dry off and I let him hang out in his stall for a few minutes.

The next session was in an outdoor, and they were setting up a cones driving course in the parking lot at one end of the arena.  There were lots of little driving horses, minis, a pair, halflingers, and they were at the end of the arena.

I was feeling a touch worried about this.  The first time Romeo saw a cart, I had been leading him, he got away and bolted.  Taking a while to catch him.  It made an impression on me.

But Neuf is not Romeo.  He might remind me of Romeo in many, many ways, but he is definitely less reactive. So, when they started bringing multiple miniatures with carts, the white one from earlier was attached to a cart,  I sat chilly. I let Neuf look, but pointed out that none of the other horses were horribly concerned, and it was ok.

The second session was good, we did more bending lines, tighter turns and angled approaches.  More of the things you’d want in a jump off.  Neuf was good, but since we were doing whole courses, there were some long waits for his turn, and he isn’t used to 2 lessons a day he was getting tired.  We were going around the course a second time, the jumps were raised up, and as we approached a roll top on a bending line, we were looking straight at yet another horse and cart.  It might have been the pair driving.  But, I don’t think he really saw the fence until we were on it, and he’d been slowing down looking at that cart, and he just stopped, more of a rolling stall of the engine.  It was slow motion, not a naughty stop, but we went around, and fixed the approach.  Sonya had the other horses go wait at the end between the drivers and me, which helped, but he was starting to really get behind my leg.  I got him forward, we got through the rest of the course well, and I decided that he was done.  We just watched the last couple of courses and exercises and I had a teeny bit of regret that I’d said we were done, but he had been so good, all day, and we weren’t going to get anything positive out of continuing.

Sonya was great and explained that with a young horse, knowing when to stop is important and that you have to know your horse.

These sort of demos are very much for the audience, but Sonya does a great job with the exercises and teaching.  I have slipped back into my low-right hand again to turn.  I’ll have to work on that.  But, I’m very satisfied with how I feel taking Neuf places now, and this was definitely a test for us.

Neuf travels well, he drinks well on the road, he is listening to me when I reassure him, I am able to reassure him, instead of letting him get me nervous.  And, he’s just a cool dude.

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Jumper Fun with Neuf

Once upon a time, I loved jumping and had delusions of grandeur on what I could do with Romeo or Pico, and all kinds of confidence, but lacked the skills to match, and we should all probably be grateful that there is scant video or photographic evidence from those years. I also lacked the money and time to take lessons frequently enough to really polish my rudimentary basics. I also really like to figure out what the horse wants to do, and then actually do that.  This has led me into a fair amount of dressage, trails, horsemanship, and just having fun riding.

Romeo (a 1984 model) and Pico (1992) have both died now at 28 (in 2013) and 18 (in 2010), respectively, they were awesome horses for me and I learned so much on both. Not surprisingly, each new young horse benefits from the horses who taught me horsemanship and riding. Sparkle (a 1998 model) was the next teacher, she is my husband’s horse. I did a fair amount of dressage on her, and she is a super-cute jumper, but she has tiny QH feet and a pretty substantial body, so jumping is not the most comfortable thing for her. I got Bali, and she is pretty athletic, so we started out really well in jumping.

I got more lessons, improved, then ended up being over-faced on Bali, by an instructor around the same time a bunch of railbirds picked apart my riding, from still pictures…and my rational brain couldn’t seem to override the gut reaction that if I was that awful, I should just quit jumping.  I slipped into dressage.  Decided I was probably aging out of jumping, so I just did little stuff here and there and definitely quit putting any “learning” pictures up.

Then I bought Neuf, as a long yearling, he has strong jumper lines, but I rationalized my decision that the jumper lines improve the dressage canter.  Neuf has had other ideas.  He says jumper lines also make good jumpers.  I worked through his rebellious years, with a lot of help from my trainer, Martin Douzant, and I nearly sold him last year. But I started to have fun again.

I still get a tiny bit nervous about shows, but that is a little bit of “will I get a flat tire?” “will the hauling be trouble free?”, “will I ride well?”, etc.  But it is getting easier to channel that energy.

Today was another schooling jumper show.  The weather is cold, so turnout was light.  But I had fun.  I missed at an oxer and knocked every, single rail down when Neuf skidded into it.  But, I realized, this is why I like jumpers, because the jumps fall down when I make a mistake.  I went back, corrected my error and rode it well.

No video of the miss, since I wasn’t showing at that moment, just schooling.

I had a bit of a problem getting going on the lead I wanted in my second round, but it was a clear round, even if I wasn’t aggressive enough with my turns in the speed half.  I was having fun!!!!  And Neuf’s reaction to a “whoop” when he jumps really big at 7 is a bit funny.

Then the third round, I had a rail at fence 7.  I had him too deep and he knocked it with his hind.   Overall, I felt like everything is improving.  I like this trajectory and will enjoy making my rounds even smoother, then move to 3’3″ or 1.0 meter classes.  Get those smooth, then maybe I can do 1.10 meter (3’6″).

I also think he was getting tired by round 3.

I have to admit Jumper shows are way more fun than dressage shows.  But, it is time to start looking for my next yearling.  Neuf is 7, Bali is 13, Sparkle is 19.  I wonder what the next one will want to do.  I’ll probably focus on a bit more dressage lines, but who knows, maybe that will be what I look for in my 2022 horse.  I am considering waiting one year to look, but I’m keeping my ears to the ground.  Odds are good it will be a plain bay German warmblood.

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