Saturday, November 3, 2012

Germany...with Friends and Horses!

There really is nothing like it.  It is exciting, suspenseful, emotional and thrilling! I look forward to this trip every year and now that I am leading a tour for the experience I find the trip even more rewarding.  Sharing it with friends (and strangers that become fast friends) makes the trip even more memorable. Whether you are in the market for a horse or you just love the idea of going on a horsey adventure, the trip to Germany to experience the Hengstmarkt (stallion market) should be on your bucket list.  The culture, the food, the shopping, the people and ahhhh the HORSES!  We visited the farm where Silvermoon stands (the sire to the great Blu Hors Matinee) and he looked AMAZING!  Even at his age he floats around the arena and has legs as tight as any four year old! We got a chance to see Susan Mahoney's youngster's.  Her coming two year old black gelding, Lestat by Hofrat (by Gribaldi) looked fantastic as he trotted around his field with his band of two year old colts. I am looking forward to his arrival in the US!

is absolutely incredible.
This year was a little tame compared to some years past but still made me fall madly in love with the Trakehner horse all over again!

They awarded the Trakehner Stallion of the year to Connery! This award is highly coveted and prestigious.  It often predicts the future world beaters. Gribaldi (Totilas's sire) was the 2008 Trakehner Stallion of the year just before Totilas took the world by storm!

This year was particularly interesting because the German Verband inspection committee went out on a limb and picked the PINK stallion as the Grand Champion! His name, Donauruf. He of course was stunning....but he really did look pink! He is by E.H. Herzruf out of a mare by the Thoroughbred stallion Exobitant xx.  It was nice to see the German Verband selecting for horses with some blood! He sold at the auction for 300.000 euro (which is $390,780 US dollars).  That is a large chunk of change for a two year old unbroke colt!  His owner (pictured here) has had several champion stallions over the years and she has managed to do it with only maintaining a herd of 4 mares!  I guess she has figured out how to make money in the breeding business!

I am already starting to plan next year's trip.  We will be visiting three stud Farms as well as the Trakehner stallion market in Neumunster.  It is a great opportunity to have someone else worry about all the details (rental car, hotels, food), meet new people, and have friends to travel with! If you are interested in joining us on this tour please let me know so I can update you throughout the year on plans for the 2013 Germany trip. For more information about this trip visit:
and if you would like updates or to register to join us next year please email Natalie

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Be a Benevolent Dictator

Another whirlwind couple of weeks!  The Greg Best clinic was once again an incredible learning experience for all. Greg always gives 110% to all the participants and this time was no different!
After the clinic we had the opportunity to have Greg coach us at the Sonoma Horse Park Jumper show. The picture above is of Jedi in the 1.20 class.  Those are 6 ft standards!  What a great way to put all we learned in the clinic into practice. It went so well I am moving Jedi up to Advanced this weekend at the Woodside Horse Trials.

Here are some of the Gregisms we tried to make use of!........

Warm up- Even pressure in contact for stretch
Make the highest point as close to the withers as possible when stretching.
Still hands (carry whip under thumbs to see if it moves back and forth...seesaw)
lengthen and shorten in your warm up 
Push around turns with outside aids and leading open inside rein. Practice counter bend with tight turn and still forward so it will be easier when jumping

Watch outside ear in turn to keep from leaning and maintain straightness.

Straight, Collected, Lead change (if necessary)....after every jump

When horse is hot, use LESS bit because the horse is more reactionary when hot and too much bit makes the horse more reactionary. With a sensitive horse, more bit increases anxiety. Less bit equals less anxiety.

The mistake people make is trying to bit for ENERGY rather than SENSITIVITY.

Greg told the story of a lethargic horse that had no respect for its rider. So Greg suggested bitting to get respect, which is counter-intuitive for bitting a lazy horse. The rider also stiffed the horse over the jump, instilling respect for the rider. It woke the horse up and got the desired result.

Riders must give an APPROPRIATELY positive ride to the jump. Give horses what they need and never drop below that level (which might be a stiff arm over a jump).

Greg does not like having riders halt during a course because it's too easy on the rider.

Ride the canter, not the jump

Use proportional resistance (vs. give and take), offering resistance proportional to what horse offers.

Rider should either want to land after the jump with the same control as before the jump OR start with more and finish with less.
15-20 lbs of contact, if you find yourself without the exact amount big deal. If you start with 1/2 lb and suddenly have 2 it changes a lot.

If horse worries about landing don't realease (overrelease) over fence so there is less change after.

Practice walking distances.

Ride into contact to avoid weak hind end when riding lines.

Riding with low hands makes smooth and positive ride....also takes away from riders ability to invert the horse by being left or not following in the air.

Think about what level of impulsion is needed for height of fence

What is a sustainable ride? Ex: Don't let horse drift into turn after fence by the 10th fence, dive and turn!

Riding is an exercise in mistake management.

If fussy about lead change pat immediately when he gets it right
Avoid confrontation
don't ask too much too quickly

Exercise: Pole- 60 feet -jump – 60 feet- pole
four and four
five and five
strides after jump should not be less than strides before...challenge yourself to put 4 and then 5

How far a horse takes off from jump does not correlate with the size of the fence....but with the size of the stride. They take off a half of stride before.

Release does not mean let go off.

Don't let horse get comfortable with disuniting (cross cantering/ trot canter gait)

Be consistently out of control through the whole process relative to what you feel comfortable with.

Every horse wants to get crooked in the process of collection.

Don't circle in the middle of a course (expect more from yourself).

90% of learning is self discovery.

Be a benevolent dictator!!!!!!

The next opportunity to clinic with Greg is September 1-3.
Limited spaces available. Auditors welcome! So sign up early!!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rolex in our future

Natalie and Jedi in 2012
Natalie and Aladdin in 2001

Oh my, has life been CRAZY lately. I definitely have been testing my ability to juggle.  My kids, the shows, two farms, planning an inspection, a Greg Best clinic, starting a couple young ones, a Pony Club Rally,  buying and selling horses for clients, dealing with my injured goodness.  I need to take a breath.

Thankfully my horses give me strength!  Jedi has been the source of the twinkle in my eye.  He has been reminding me what it was like (once upon a time) to have a special horse (sniffle) that feels like you could light the world on fire!  A horse that makes you dream of the Olympics, a red coat, and possibly a Rolex watch! Jedi easily skipped around the CIC** at Galway for a fourth place finish and then the CCI** at Twin Rivers for fifth would have been second if it weren't for one very expensive rail down in show jumping.  I am so glad Greg will be here in two weeks to put the polish back on my show jumping!

Watching the four star at Rolex on my computer this weekend was even more exciting this year knowing that I have a horse that should be ready to meet that challenge in 2013. Both Allison Springer and William Fox Pitt are inspirational and I have enjoyed how technology took me to Lexington for an exciting three days of competition.

Thanks to all of my team who have been so supportive and helpful in these last couple of crazy months! Linda, Katie, Susan, Marjorie, Anya, Rodney, Anja, and my wonderful kids Tyler and Sydney.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Starting young horses

Starting our young bright stars to be!
I wish all the young horses that come to me to start jumped like this right from the beginning!  This is Saphira.  She is a coming 5yr old Trakehner mare.  We measured her today because both Katie and I are sure she has grown in the short 8 weeks she has been here.  She measures an even 16 hands and her topline has really started to puff up.  Maybe that is why she looks so much bigger than the little roly poly that was brought to my barn just two short months ago. Or maybe it is the ATTITUDE...she certainly knows she is special.
We have really enjoyed the young ones lately....we have been blessed with talented and extremely trainable projects so far this year.

This is our approach:
I always make sure their teeth are checked, floated and ready for a bit. I also want their feet to be in good shape before they start working.
We spend the first week handling them...a lot! At least 20 minutes of grooming everyday.  We use the hose, clippers, curry, wet towel, fly spry (or anything out of a spray bottle)...and make them stand in the cross ties patiently. I will put a saddle pad on and eventually a surcingle and take them out for a walk and some grazing. We spend some time getting to know the wash rack and the arena.
Next I channel my inner horse whisperer and we play "rope halter with words".  I make sure they understand whoa and moving away, backing up, and coming forward to me. We walk and when I stop they stop. I teach them to go in a small circle (prep work for proper lunging).  It is your typical natural horsemanship stuff.  This step usually only takes 2 or 3 days. (We go back to it whenever we need to though!)
Now we start with the lunging. This step is very important and we want it to go well from the start (so I leave my phone in the barn).  I tack them up with a pad and surcingle and the lunging cavasson (no bit or bridle yet).  If everything goes well to the left at the walk and trot we switch directions (often times it is a whole new task going the other way!) If this day is uneventful I am ecstatic! I always try to introduce something and give it a few days to sink in before I up the ante with a new challenge.
Now we will add a bridle! We still wear the lunging cavesson though and the lunge line is not attached to the bit. After a week with our new fancy big boy/girl  bridle on it is time to add the sliding reins (not side reins...I have very little use for those).  Still the lunge line remains attached to the lunging cavesson rings.
By now we have the words... walk, trot and canter down. We have also built up enough strength to lunge 20 minutes each way with about 10 minutes of that at the trot, 5 at the canter and 5 at the walk.  We have added a saddle and at the end of the lunging time I will hunt down one of working students to practice their lead line etiquette.  I am always amazed how uneventful that first time up in the saddle usually is (at least the way we do it!)
Now we add a little variety....we introduce long lining for steering and on another day we pony them off of one of my other babysitter types to introduce trotting over poles, trail riding, ditches, banks, water.  We incorporate small jumping obstacles right from the beginning. Once the youngster ponys well and is attached to the babysitter, I put a brave soul on the youngster while I ride the pony horse.  We do this for a few days and then we switch horses and cut the pony rope!  At first I am happy if they walk around the ring alone.  On the second day I usually find that trotting is fine too.

Within another week we usually are walk, trot and cantering around the ring with a fair amount of steering and control.  It seems like the whole thing takes a long time but this process usually goes quickly if you are consistent.

Just look at that fancy horse in the picture......not bad for 8 weeks! The owners are planning to sell her. Hopefully we will have a chance to get a few blue ribbons first!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jedi getting fit

Today was a conditioning day. Jedi is such a trooper. Because he is so LARGE, I am careful about getting him fit enough and keeping him sound in the process.  Doesn't do me any good to have the most talented, fancy horse at the show if he isn't sound!

One of the things I have found to really step up his fitness without hard mileage is the Hydro Horse at Circle Oak Equine in Petaluma.  I can go once a week and I am amazed the difference it really makes! He seems to have an increased range of motion and it builds both his strength and his cardio! Doing that along with our gallops at the beach and some hill work and Jedi feels amazing! Getting ready for that CIC** at the end of the month. So if we don't quite make the Olympic three day team he will be primed for the swim team! Watch out Michael Phelps!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Welcome to the Four Star Farm blog! I'll be keeping you up to date on all that's going on here in Bodega and Napa, California, with me, my clients and of course the wonderful FSF horses. The Trakehner breed is a passion of mine and you'll be hearing all about how talented and fun these horses are.