Two-time USEA Lady Rider of the Year, Olympic and Pan-Am Games rider, Lauren Kieffer is taking the USEA along on “bringing up babies” as she shares a year in the life of four of her 6-year-olds in their journey to become top level event horses. Catch up on Part 1, 2, and 3.
So it’s been a very busy summer bouncing back and forth between England and the States and we are certainly very happy to be settled back home with all the horses under one roof. I’ll catch you up on where all the young guys are after the summer. I am very fortunate to have a great team at home keeping them going on the weeks I was gone so they kept improving.
Lauren's team with Get Gaudi. Lauren Kieffer Photo.
Get Gaudi ran several Training levels over the summer and continues to impress. So much of her work has revolved around consistency and strength. She’s always been quite brave, but she’s young so strength and stability was a big focus. Luckily with all the hills in Virginia and spending hours out on them and riding through the woods, she’s noticeably stronger and hardier then the beginning of the year. She was great at her last outing at Surefire Horse Trials, winning on her dressage score, and she’ll finish up the year with one more run at Rocking Horse.
Gomar goofing around with Lauren's dog, Boozer. Lauren Kieffer Photo.
Gomarus had a quieter summer because he was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in late May. When I was home in May he just seemed a bit out of sorts, he felt fine in his gaits and jump but was not happy in his work and uncharacteristically nappy at the competition. The girls commented that he had been very grouchy in the barn lately as well. As riders our instinct when they misbehave is to discipline them, but I think it's often missed to look at other problems. Horses don’t misbehave just because they want to be jerks. Nine times out of 10 when I’ve had a horse start misbehaving or losing form, it has been a health issue, and more often than not it has been Lyme or EPM. I’m very quick to have blood work done, and it’s such an easy solution to a lot of problems. So Gomar had a quiet summer recovering from that and only did his first competition since May at Surefire in September.
I had injured my back at Blenheim so David O’Connor did me the favor of catch riding several of them and did a great job finishing second on Gomar. I think David had a good time too, so he’s going to be competing Gomar again at Rocking Horse in November, who knows, maybe he’s making a comeback!
Mocha competing in his first CIC*. GRC Photo.
Landmark's Mochachino was great this summer and topped it off with a second place in his first CIC*. Because of his young age and maturity, Ms. Mars and I opted to give him a light fall competition-wise. It’s easy to want to push on when they’re young, bold, and successful, but the goal is to have a long successful career and its important to remember they’re still growing. In my experience, not taking your time when they’re young – no matter how ready they seem to move up – just ends up stalling your progress later. Inevitably a hole in your training shows up later and you have to take a step back anyway, or their bodies can’t take the quick progress and you are forced into a break. So with Mocha we’ve continued to focus on his flatwork and creating an uphill appearance without being short in his neck so that he develops a more prominent topline. We’ve also focused on his rideability in the show jumping. Sometimes with very bold horses they can be less rideable, so he’s worked on being adjustable on the landing of fences, I should be able to easily add a stride in lines if I wish, or do a circle, halt, etc.
It's hard being 6 years old! Lauren Kieffer Photo.
So without having to prepare him for upcoming competitions I am able to practice jumping exercises that encourage him paying attention to me rather then anticipating the course. We do a lot of six stride lines where I add several strides, or leave a stride out and then come back and add, or do a circle in between, or halt and then canter again to the fence. Just a lot of different things to make sure he pays attention to my aids rather then anticipate he knows what the next question and answer is.
Apollo showing off his size compared to one of Lauren's Intermediate horses. Lauren Kieffer Photo.
Last but not least, Landmark's Apollo has also been progressing this summer. As we’ve discussed before, he’s a very large horse so has been slower to mature then others. Over the summer we’ve continued to work on his ability to make himself “small” so that he’s adjustable and balanced in his work. David also competed him at Surefire, and he will finish his year with a move up to Preliminary at Rocking Horse in November. He does a lot of his flatwork out in hilly fields so that he hills help teach him how to collect and balance and also help build his strength.
I will bring you another update after Rocking Horse in November and in the next post I’ll tell you what kind of vacation we give the young horses and how we bring them back and leg them up after their holidays. As always if anyone has any questions or requests for the next post feel free to email me.