Introducing The French Bear and some random updates

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It took more than two months to find him, but I’m excited to introduce everyone to The French Bear, or “Bear”, my new project horse.

Lisa found him for me via Diana McClure of DMC Carousel Racing Stables in Berryville, Va.

Bear is a 2010 bay Thoroughbred gelding (Gators N Bears–Femme De Diable, Devil His Due). He raced 16 times this year and was about to race again when Diana convinced his owner to sell him.

According to Diana, who also broke him, Bear tried very hard on the track, but his best wasn’t good enough. He never won, but he did get several thirds and won about $16,000.

I brought him home last Wednesday and Oh So was immediately jealous, of course!

I gave Bear Ace for the first few times in turnout, but he was fairly quiet. I put him out with Sam this weekend and they seem fine together. Sam actually seems uninterested, maybe because he doesn’t want to deal with a “kid” in his old age! Bear seems independent and happy to graze away from him, but he didn’t like being in a paddock by himself the first two days, so that’s when we decided to put them together.

Our first ride on Thursday started when my jump saddle slipped under his belly when I

Sam's enjoying his new buddy.
Sam’s enjoying his new buddy.

tried to mount! Thankfully, he just stood there, but I clearly need a different girth or a different saddle. I’m looking into a more narrow saddle, but I wasn’t expecting to have this expense. He’s so narrow right now though, so we need to find something. He’s about 16 hands, but I think he’ll grow a bit more.

Our second ride started well enough, but then he started being a bit nappy by the gate. A dressage whip helped, so that’s our new tool! I’ve been walking and trotting him over poles and working on very large circles.

On Tuesday night, I had my first lesson with my dressage trainer, Nicky. We started with some basic lungeing, which he knows, but we added an outside side rein. He was very good to the left, but to the right, he was a little reluctant and kicked out a bit when she asked him to go forward. We ended it on a good note though and then got on.

The first thing Nicky noticed was I need to define exactly where I’m going with him, instead of just trotting around the ring on big circles and straight lines. She said I need to decide which letter I’m turning in and think of square turns for a while so he doesn’t learn to fall in and so he learns to listen to both my leg aids.

We worked a little on dropping my weight into my inside seat bone when turning and she gave me a tool to get him to move forward past the gate instead of stopping and refusing to turn right, which is the only direction it occurs.

She wanted me to prepare for the disobedience by lowering my inside hand a bit, then wave the whip, which would be in my left hand, near his shoulder so he sees it. That seemed to correct the behavior, so we’ll keep going with that!

I’m excited and a little nervous to start with “raw clay”, so-to-speak. I’ve never had a horse so green or young, and Oh So was my first OTTB, but he already had his basics on him and was jumping small things.

I think Bear’s willing attitude will make it a lot more fun. He seems intelligent and willing to try things and I think he’s a real cuddlier, a bit different than Oh So for sure! He actually enjoys being groomed and doesn’t fidget, and he doesn’t try to kick my teeth out when I put on his blanket.

I’ll be sad when the time comes to sell him, but I can’t afford to keep and compete two horses at once. I think we both have a lot to learn from each other. I’ll try to update the blog whenever I can with some videos and/or photos after my lessons.

This fall has been kind of weird for me. On the one hand, I’ve been traveling so much that I haven’t had much time to miss riding, but on the other hand, this is the longest I’ve ever gone without riding regularly in my life and I still just feel a little lost.

I never thought at the beginning of the year that I’d be bringing home a new horse and taking on a challenge like this.

My life thrives on routine, which can be good, but can also be a little bit of a detriment. For the last 10 years of my life, fall has been the time I look forward to the most. The weather gets cooler and I start my competition season in September, move on to Morven Park in October, take a weekend at Fair Hill, then finish up the season with a great time with my

My view for Harrisburg

friends and trainer at VA Horse Trials.

I’ll be missing VA for the first time since I can remember, but it gives me a chance to go to Galway Downs instead, so I’m excited about that. I’m just really missing the competition season.

I won’t be able to get to a lesson with Lisa until next weekend, but I think it’s good for Bear to have a few weeks to settle before we put him back on the trailer.

I had a quiet weekend this week after Harrisburg to get to know Bear and relax a bit. Although it was a long week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, full of 8am-11pm

days with little to no downtime, I felt that the coverage that me and our intern, Taylor, provided was pretty good. We had fun shooting, especially the jumpers, and we

ended up getting some decent hunter people to talk with, which was a what I was worried about.

A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.
A Corn Husk horse at Fair Hill.

Check out our Pennsylvania National Horse Show coverage.

We drove over to Fair Hill for a few hours on Sunday and although I was disappointed to miss cross-country, I was glad just to be there and be outside for a bit after a week indoors.

On Sunday, I went to see Cavalia with my mom at National Harbor, which was a lot of fun. We went to see it a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and this show was similar, but with a little bit different theme. I really love watching the acrobatics. It’s basically like Cirque Du S’Olei with horses.

Toppers and Rocky had a fun trip down to the vet on Thursday so Toppers could have a couple of teeth removed. Rocky went for moral support and so I wouldn’t have to deal with him screaming at home while simultaneously dealing with a new horse and Oh So on stall rest.

The surgery was successful and the vet even gave us his two teeth, one of which was rotted and the other fractured. They shared a stall at the clinic and apparently Rocky tried to help by pulling out Toppers’ catheter!

Now I’m off on my final trip for COTH this year, Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif. I’ve been to one event in northern California as an intern, so I’m excited to see some SoCal eventing. I’m flying into San Diego, and I wish I had some time to check out the city, but I have a pretty packed few days. I’ll be flying home on Monday, then heading to day 2 of the William Fox-Pitt clinic at Morningside in Warrenton where I’ll cover it for our website.

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