My Trip Across The Ditch

My trip across the ditch

 

Earlier this year the family purchased 3 lovely fillies from the Yearling Sales in Christchurch, all 3 lovely fillies and 3 very different fillies! Making our latest team 5 Kiwis in total, sounds like we have an addiction! I was fortunate enough to hop back on the plane across the ditch and see how they were going after the breaking in prep. With New Zealand winters not favouring the horse training, a little too cold and wet. It was nice to see the fillies back in work after their winter holiday, still a little scruffy with their winter coats.

trip across the ditch

Friday

I arrived in Christchurch on a beautiful Friday afternoon, sun shining, spectacular clean crisp New Zealand air. We are so fortunate to live in this part of the world, especially when Middle Earth is only a 3-hour flight away.

We were in for an absolute treat on the Friday night with Addington races having a table in the members room with beautiful food and watching an action-packed race night. It was a spectacular experience, especially witnessing the running of Heat 3 for the Sires Stakes series. It was amazing to see Chase Auckland get the win in the heat, who went on to win the final. You can see Chase Auckland’s Heat win here on Harness Racing New Zealand website.

We retreated for an early night after the ninth race knowing we had a jam-packed Saturday!

trip across the ditch addington

Two reasons for the trip across the ditch, first one was to see our fillies and how they are developing after their breaking in prep. But also, to have a peep at Equidays NZ and to sit in on an incredible masterclass with Kyra Kyrklund. You can read all about the recap here with Kyra in my earlier blog post here.

Saturday

With Christchurch weather still on our side on the Saturday morning, it was time to drive some fillies! We watched Spider (Betterthencheddar) a nice little compact filly with a striking part white tail- workout first. At this point with her training she can be a little head strong and is a little opinionated!

trip across the ditch spider
Spider

Next, it was Libby (Sportswriter) and Misty (Shadow Play) turn to work out, I managed to steal the drive on Misty. I became rather attached to this big black girl this trip. I had an amazing experience driving Misty first up on Saturday, pushing her through a few gears with Libby. Who might I add was exceptional to watch, Libby has an amazing turn of foot. She really does look impressive when she finds that next gear!

trip across the ditch misty
Misty

I defiantly chose the right horse for me, managed to get the phone out for a quick snap on the way back in!

 

Trip across the ditch Misty Shadow

 

 

We also had a treat to see a filly who was only born several hours earlier! This stunning little girl is half sister to Spider.

 

To top off a wonderful horse day in Christchurch we visited Equidays, a pre- visit to Kyra’s Masterclass on the Sunday and to do a little shopping. I purchased a snazzy new Spooks vest and bought a matching pink one for my mother who was unable to join us on the trip. We finished off an amazing day with an absolute feast at the local Tai Tapu pub! If anyone is travelling to that area, I highly recommend the pork belly. 😊

Kyra Masterclass

 

Sunday

As it was only a short trip across the ditch, when Sunday rolled around, yet another beautiful clean crisp day. I knew it was going to be a jam-packed day. First up we attended Kyra Kyrklund’s Masterclass at Equidays, full details can be viewed here on the previous blog.

I was excited to take the reins on Misty again on day 2, she is such a straight forward filly to drive. Leading the way out on the track with Libby on my tail we pushed the fillies through the gears. We were extremely impressed how the fillies worked today. I was very chuffed with Misty, we both performed better together today over our first drive together on Saturday .

 

trip across the ditch
Misty and Libby

I just can’t believe how wonderful Christchurch’s weather can be, we were incredibly fortunate to experience sunshine over the weekend. Some of our previous visits all we have had is rain, wind and more rain!

Can’t wait for the next trip next month to take the reins with the fillies again! 🙂

Where did the Standardbred originate from!?

If you have a Standardbred like myself, you’re probably wondering where the breed originated from. I’m sure we have all had comments on our beauties having a striking resemblance to a Thoroughbred or even an Arab. If we are lucky even a Warmblood 😉

I thought to do a little research and a quick summary on the Standardbred history, even though I’ve lived around Standardbred’s most of my life I always find it amazing when I learn something new or even just refreshing my mind.

So,  let’s go back to a horse called Messenger (1780) an English Thoroughbred imported into the United States back in 1788. Who once on arrival into the United States was bred to mares of every type, description and variety. Messenger is the grand sire of a horse called Hambletonian (1849), who’s blood flows through our present-day Standardbred’s. Another standout was a grey mare Lady Suffolk who became the first trotter to run a mile in 2:29 1/2  this was in 1845. Lady Suffolk had previously trotted 2:26 mile under saddle, this wasn’t uncommon to see both harness and saddle races.

While the Standardbred has influential breeding from the Thoroughbreds, there is also quiet the influence from the Morgans. With producing horses, such as Ethan Allen, Justin Morgan and Daniel Lambert. Who produced many fine trotters back in time, however the Morgans had a few faults of their own. They were well known for their small size with most only topping at 14 hands high, also, being trappy-gaited, trotting with virtually a straight up and down action.

Another big influence early on developing the Standardbred was the Barb, influential family of the mid-19th century was the Clays who descended from a Barb stallion what was imported from Tripoli in 1820. He was called Grand Bashaw, from a mare of thoroughbred breeding including one cross to Messenger.

But why are the called a Standardbred?!

Quite simply really, as the breed began to mature and eventually reach a point where it became obvious that something new and exciting was bursting into the equine world. A dedicated farmer John H. Wallace created the American Trotting Register which was first published in 1871. There had to be a standard within this register for all the horses, which, if the horse could meet the standard of speed, trotting a mile in 2:30.

The Standardbred was born. 

The Standardbred breed characteristics reflects similar to the Thoroughbred. Standardbreds don’t stand as tall, on average around 15.2 however with a slightly longer body then the Thoroughbred. The head is refined set on a medium sized neck, the hind quarters  are muscular but sleek. With clean legs, set back well.

As you may have noticed there are two types of Standardbreds, we have trotters and pacers. Pacers are most commonly bred through out Australia.  Paces move their legs on one side of their body in tandem, left front and rear, and right front and rear.

3 Things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

Arniwho_Standardbred

It has been an amazing journey so far with my beautiful Standardbred boy, but I STILL feel like I have yet so much MORE to accomplish!!  I PLAN to accomplish so much more! Remember no such thing as “I can’t” !

I swear every 3-6 months I look back and reflect on our training and progress, I feel like I know so much more in that 3-6 months then the prior 3-6 months… and so on…it’s a continuing cycle of knowledge.

I honestly feel that Arnie is that “one in a million” horse for me, I’m not talking about scores I see on the result board (that’s a bonus). I’m talking about the journey as a whole, I have never come across a horse that has taught me so much & shaped me into a better rider and still continuing to do so… Also, he has that  “I wanna be human” personality that brings a smile to the stables every day 🙂 Yep he’s pretty cute !

Arniwho_ Standardbred

So here are my three things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

1. Patience 
Yes patience, it might seem so simple… But patience! Teaching an individual his new career after racing in harness is exciting. BUT it also made me want to pull my hair out at times! In the early days when I just thought to myself… WHY, why can’t you just understand what I’m asking !?! It honestly can’t be that hard!?!
Why can’t you move your shoulders this way, why can’t you leg yield this way and why do you struggle so much cantering on this lead!?!
But as I have learnt over time bring it back to simple terms, simple to me means most effective!  Short and simple! After all it’s all NEW to him!
I have to say one thing to my fellow standardbred riders… DO NOT stress about the pacing, its natural. It’s up to you as the rider to teach them when to use it.
Think of it this way, I’m asking a question and he’s giving me a multiple choice answer. His first answer might not be correct but it’s up to me to let him search for the correct answer and reward.
It might take that little bit longer for him to understand how and why you want him to move his body in this way. But he will soon figure it out, the light will turn on, the penny will drop. It all takes patience, every individual is different, this goes for both horse and rider! Everyone has a different learning style. 🙂
2. Relax and enjoy the training and the progress
Relax, probably a thought far in the back of your mind when things are all going pear shaped. Those sloppy transitions, those pacing strides in between canter and trot…. But funny enough when you relax take that deep breath and think about what you are doing, the hose relaxes.  Just remember to SMILE, it helps 🙂 trust me ! He is only reverting back to what he feels is natural and what he feels is correct!
Thinking about WHY you are asking something and HOW you are asking.
Does he UNDERSTAND what you are asking, make it achievable & enjoyable.
Keeping the aims within reach each session and keeping it positive definitely helps boost his confidence.
For example for me at the moment leg yields and shoulder-ins. Don’t make it hard! Pick a few strides at a time, pick a line, choose an achievable angle, control the pace- keep the impulsion going in a positive way. There is always NEXT time round to start asking for more angle.
3. Reward, Reward, Reward!! KEEP IT POSITIVE !
I always want things to be PERFECT, it frustrated me not having everything “perfect”. . NOT everything is perfect really ate away at me…I use to dwell on my rides, It really did! All I wanted was perfection!  I wanted perfection without putting the hard yards in!HOWEVER as I have learnt over the recent years….nothing is PERFECT, no horse is perfect, no rider is perfect. You have to TRAIN and WORK HARD to make your self close to being perfection!I NEVER use to reward, crazy isn’t it. Such a simple training aid and I wasn’t even considering having it part of my riding!?! Needless to say I reward so much more now! As it has given me more positive results !Even the small things, for example an ordinary transition. Still ” gooood boy” followed by a pat, he tried.. the effort was there, the intention was there.
99% chance it was the rider (yes me!) not setting up and/or asking the transition correctly. As one wise rider (Charlotte, my idol) would say it’s the case of pat the horse slap the rider. BUT I will do the transition again, and again until we make progress or should I say I make progress and it reflects in the horse!?!
I ensure each time I make that effort to reward, rewarding to me is encouraging the horse, letting him know YES you are doing a GOOD job! You want to encourage him with his work, after all it’s a foreign language to him.
Riding isn’t suppose to be a chore, you are to enjoy the journey… otherwise how is your horse suppose to enjoy it!?
Happy riding 🙂
Arnie & I always enjoy a selfie 🙂
 Arniwho Selfie Standardbred