Spring Gold Cup

Gold Cup was over a week ago. But it did happen, so here’s the official report. 

It was a very wet, very muddy day that basically passed in a blur. But a great day with bloggers Emma, D’Arcy, and Shelby

We actually got Emma to come out! We were thrilled that we managed to bring her to our area in Virginia! 

Looking super stylish in a red jacket with the hood up while wearing a fascinator.

We drank champagne/mimosas.

She has a mimosa in her hand, but also the term “cute as a button” as been thrown around.

We were invited onto Member’s Hill and maybe/maybe not into a certain tent and definitely did not sneak in to enjoy the open bar and feeling of exclusiveness. 

Everyone looks totally adorable and I look like grandma’s lace doily, and I’m trusting all of you to never bring this up again.

Also, I believe there was a horse race going on.

He must have won a race!
That first horse looks like it’s auditioning for the ballet.

Another highlight included watching the women who wore fancy heels that ended up completely covered in mud. Poor ladies…

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So Many Foals

If anything could inspire me to have a breeding farm, it would definitely be going to a breeding farm. They are so incredibly cute, I want to be surrounded by foals all the time. I want to lay in the middle of the field and have lots of foals leaning up against me, like a foal pile. 

When I was a teenager, my family raised sheep, and it was generally agreed upon by the sheep community that the primary reason to raise sheep is for lamb season. Watching them bounce around, call to their mother, stand on their mothers, play with each other, and just lounge around so cutely was the highlight of the sheep year. I imagine that is how some horse breeders feel, too. I mean, sure, the foals will become magnificent horses, but in the meantime, SQUEEE, look at the babies!!

I found this breeder a year ago. It was actually recommended on Chronicle of the Horse forums, and I checked it out, and thought, I’ll keep an eye on that one. I followed it on Facebook, and left it at that. As I researched more and more about what I wanted, this breeder just really caught my eye, and one day I realized that the farm is not too far from me. I truly do not know how I missed this detail, but for some reason, I thought they were out west somewhere. Once I realized I could easily visit in person, they became a viable option. 

I made my way southward and found this landmark right near the farm.

This is Commonwealth Park, aka, the home of HITS Culpeper. It’s also super depressing when there’s no show going on, and it literally looked abandoned/haunted. They could at least mow the grass!

The farm was huge! 150 acres and there were so many horses! I live in horse country, but I have never seen so many horses on one farm. It was the kind of place where they aren’t totally sure how many horses they have because there are so freaking many. But the farm was beautiful. All the horses were out on well-maintained grass, and it was clear they take very good care of all their horses. It truly is a great place for foals to grow up.

The first mare we saw was a thoroughbred mare named Berry. She definitely deserves a shout-out for having the same name as my horse, and also for being a thoroughbred. Both excellent qualities.

Similarities – They are bay thoroughbreds named Berry. Differences – Basically everything else. Also, this one has a uniquely colored foal, my Berry definitely does not.

Berry’s baby was only about 3 days old. So tiny and cute! He was too young even to be out with the other mares and foals, so they were hanging out in the arena. After checking them out for a few minutes, they were relocated so we could see one of the big men on the farm, their stallion. (One of their stallions, I think they have four total).

He is in training at a dressage barn, but he’s back at home to bred to the mares that have already given birth. As soon as they brought him in, I was in awe. He is a very impressive guy!

He stood for us for a few minutes while we checked him out, and then he was released to strut his stuff. He determined that the immediate course of action was to sniff poop, so he did that for several minutes first.

I’m planning to edit the video I got of him, but for now, pictures will have to do.

After viewing him, it was time to look at the foals. It was a field full of foals. Sadly, my picture of them en mass came out really blurry, but there were 10 foals out there, looking so adorable.

“Yes, I am adorable foal.”

The ones we looked at were all daughters of the stallion above. They were all so adorable, and their moms were lovely – I wish I could take them all home!

Although suspicious at first, this one was the only one that let me pet it, while laying down no less. I was tempted to get this one for that reason alone.
This won’t be the last time you see this gorgeous filly…

After viewing our favorite foals, they showed us some of the yearlings to get a sense of how the foals will develop. Keep in mind – these are yearlings, and yearlings are awkward. No one wants to be judged by their awkward adolescence! 

My original interest was in a foal that would have the same breeding at this dark bay filly. 

They were such puppy dogs! They just love people! (which was actually true of every horse on this farm. I asked them about it, and they said they only keep/breed horses with personalities that they like.)

All about the itches here!
ITCHES!!

We moved on from the yearlings to the older mares’ field. It was a mix of 3 year olds and older mares, I assume to babysit and put those young whippersnappers in their place. Once again, super, super friendly.

Half horse, half puppy dog.

We were introduced to the stallion’s full sister. It’s interesting how they are related, yet they look so different. As the breeder put it, same frame, but very different finish. (granted, not super easy to tell when in an uneven field and not square).

Her foal was the one I was originally interested in – The dark yearling above is her daughter. She’s not pregnant, they did embryo transfer with her.

Our final stop was the field of mares who were giving birth soon. It was a field of adorably chubby mares. They got a bit excited when we showed up, and galloped as fast as their fat pregnant bodies could carry them.

So much weight to carry…the one in the back looks like she’s trying to hard to keep up.
This appaloosa was definitely an instigator!

That’s when I met my unicorn mare, and fell in love.

D’Arcy examines, and mare contemplates life.

I do want to point out that while I was very impressed by this mare in person, I didn’t make the final decision until much later. I purposely didn’t want to rush into any choice. I went home and researched her and her lines before coming to my final decision. 

I was really happy with my experience so far at this farm. The owners were very knowledgeable and informative and didn’t try to sway the decision one way or another. They answered everything we asked and admitted they weren’t sure for things they couldn’t remember (mainly relating to a specific horse’s lines…they told us they’d have to look them up to be sure, there’s a lot of horses to keep track of.) They were up front with how the registrations they could assist with, and which horses are only eligible for half registration. They spent three and a half hours with us, showing us horses. 

Fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan! 

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ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

The lovely Sarah, from A Soft Spot for the Stars, is having the most wonderful bloghop, and I’m loving reading about people’s locations. Here’s mine!

I live in Northern Virginia, in the general area of Middleburg. It’s horse country here, but has the advantage/disadvantage of being close to DC. A huge portion of people from the city who want to be involved in horses either live here, or travel here for their horse fix. Land is becoming more and more scarce, and horses are being pushed further and further away from the city as land is sold to make developments.

This is how you know it's the DC area.
DC residents spend lots of time loitering at landmarks… or they could be tourists…I guess. 

Cost of Horsekeeping:

When I boarded, I paid $475 for my horse to spend half the day in a stall, and be turned out the other half. It was a serviceable barn, with two outdoors, clean, but no trainer. My friend paid $375 for pasture board with an indoor, an outdoor, and a cross country field. Again, no trainer, but that would be considered the cheapest place to board around here. At barns with trainers, the usual going rate is between $800 and $1400, depending on the level of service.

If you decide that’s too high, and you’d rather have your own property, the typical property for sale around here is usually a newer house on 5-10 acre lot, part of a large plot that’s been subdivided by a developer. Basically, it’s a still a suburb, if each house had more land. If you want to be in commuting distance of DC, price starts at around half a million dollars, increasing as you get closer to the city, or it’s more than an empty lot. Close to the city, any property big enough for a horse is almost unheard of. There might be a few teeny unicorns in the $1.2 – 1.5 million range.

Hay usually costs about $45 – $70 a round bale. Square bales are a steal at $4.50 each, frequently at $7-$9 each.

I pay $45 for a trim, front shoes are $150. I haven’t even asked about all round shoes, that thought is terrifying.

Vintage at boarding barn.
Vintage at boarding barn.

Weather:

It’s hot and humid in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter. The worst of both worlds. DC is a literally a swamp. Someone already drained the swamp and built DC upon it.

This year I was especially annoyed by the drastic thunderstorms we were having that would dump so much rain on us in such a short time, it would wash out the stone dust in my arena. Middleburg had windows broken by hail. It was like Middleburg was being punished this year by weather. They should all stop and think about what they did.

The main advantage to rain. (besides all that grass growth!)
The main advantage to rain. (besides all that grass growth!)

Riding Demographic:

It’s varied. There’s definitely lots and lots and LOTS of hunter/jumper. Some of that overlaps with the foxhunters. There’s five active hunts that I’m aware of.

Eventing is huge. Morningside was put on some national list for young rider training. Morven Park is an international facility. Since I don’t do eventing, I don’t know what else there is, but I hear people talk about it all the time. I’m not a good source for anything in this category.

Dressage has its place too. Some people use the dressage trainers in this area as a resource for eventing, others are pure dressage. It’s not as popular as the jumping sports, but there’s a solid dressage populace around here.

There are some western riders too, from pure recreational trail riders to the western sports. A good rule of thumb is the further out from DC they are, the more likely they are to be western.

I didn’t know how big polo was until this year. But since then, I’ve found out there are a bunch of polo clubs, and matches all summer. It’s popular.

Racing is popular, too. Middleburg has its own training facility, and there’s private tracks all over the place, including my own trainer’s barn. Charlestown Races is just over the border in West Virginia, and I bought a horse straight off the track there, and before she ended up in my hands, Berry showed her failure as a racehorse there. Great Meadow is nearby for steeplechase racing.

Basically, whatever it is you want to do, it’s here. It’s horse heaven.

Tori Colvin checking her course at Upperville.
Tori Colvin checking her course at Upperville.

 

Other Notes:

There is no shortage of trainers in this area. There’s a huge variety of trainers for every discipline/skill level. It’s easy (although perhaps not cheap) to get into exactly the kind of program that fits what you want to do, simply because there’s so many choices. If your preference was to take a lesson at 11pm every full moon, there’s likely a trainer that would be happy to accommodate that. And if they didn’t, there’s so many other actually talented trainers to check out. There will definitely be one that works out perfectly. (Downside, lots of people call themselves trainers and they’re terrible, but that’s true anywhere.)

There’s tons of well know trainers in this area, and we regularly have big name trainers(if they don’t already live here) pass through for clinics. If you want to watch the big names compete, they are here regularly.

I am biased, but this is the best place possible to advance your riding.

There’s tons of shows around. It wouldn’t be hard to show every weekend, if that was your preference.

If you don’t mind traveling, there’s a many parks with trails. I’m just grumpy and wish I could get to them without trailering.

barn
Middleburg Barn

Frustrating Things: 

It’s expensive. I feel like this is obvious, but everything is at a premium, because there’s high demand for everything.

Trails are disappearing because land is being developed. Sometimes horse people move in, sometimes people from the suburbs move in and don’t want horses riding on their property, or even livestock within their sight. I guess they moved out to the country just to spend all weekend mowing their acres with their lawn tractors. (I’ll stand at the edge of their property, a single tear rolling down my cheek as I watch them mow all the potential pasture).

People from the city come out on the weekends and ride their bikes on our roads. I get it, we have scenic country roads. We also have people interested in getting from point A to point B without being stuck being a flock of bikers going 10 mph taking up the entire lane of the two lane road.

Traffic in general stinks. I hate my commute, but I do it because I love where I live. I know I’m not alone in this thought because our roads are super crowded, and it’s not uncommon for a 20 mile commute to take an hour or more. I live way more than 20 miles out. The traffic is getting worse each year, metro can’t figure out how to operate, and there’s too many people everywhere! Now get off my lawn!

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Katie Price’s Pony Club

Katie Price is a British reality show celebrity, with a ready for TV drama filled life. I’m not a fan of reality TV shows, but throw in horses, and yes, I absolutely am a fan! I don’t care if it’s good, or terrible, I want to watch this so badly! What do we need to do to get this to the U.S.?!

This is the best video to describe exactly what this is. You can actually see Katie Price riding a bit. Plus, kids falling off. I wonder if one episode will feature a trip to the emergency room.

And then all the promo videos:

I don’t know the history of this woman, so I’m not sure if I should love her or hate her, but I kind of love her for doing her own work on her farm.

AND she has chickens!

Seems she’s a bit immature, and loves pink. And of course, embarrasses her children.

Please TLC, bring this to the U.S.!!!

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