Two loaded weekends!

The first weekend of November, I participated in the William Woods University Completely Relaxed Dressage Schooling show with two horses. Topaz trailered in for two days of tests in the Intro series, and I also had the privilege of piloting Max in his first dressage show at 1st level. Max is owned by good friend and client, Jojo Kyger, who boards her two fabulous mounts at K&L where I manage and train out of. Max is very familiar with the big leagues in the jumpers and is temporarily changing tack to gain strength behind and suppleness over the topline.

Both horses were absolutely amazing… I am so proud of Topaz for again showing us how down-to-earth she really is. A seamless warm up sent us into two great tests Saturday and two even better tests on Sunday. The judge had some very complimentary things to say about her, and gave us great tips to improve on. The first day, Intro A and B yielded a 65%, and the second day, Intro B and C were a 66% and a 68% respectively, tying us for the high point of our division. She is really starting to understand my aids quicker and relax over her back, making it easier to set her up in the transitions and figures. Leah and Myles were the best team and the most supportive parents of “baby horse”, who’s not so baby anymore!

Max participated on Saturday, giving me all the same work in the warm up that he’d given at home, which was delightful. My disadvantage was changing rings between the warm up and the show ring, which had him quite curious as to where the jumps were. By the second test, the tension had subsided drastically and he really locked in on his job. I was stoked with a 63% and a 68% for 1st level test 1 and 2! I know that with strength in his hind end, the lengthenings and lateral work will only become easier. I was beyond the moon with excitement for his polite behavior and adaptation to the scene, as it was his first show to ever attend and not take a fence!

I also have to give mad kudos for my amazing groom Jen, who really helped keep all the stray ends together and get us to the ring relaxed and looking fabulous J

Both horses took a few days off to rest before gearing back up for another weekend at The Woods to participate in a clinic with Pierre St. Jacques for the Equestrian Academic Showcase. While the list of his accomplishments is longer than this blog post, Pierre was a member of the Gold medal winning team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games with Lucky Tiger. It was a huge privilege to ride under world class instruction!

Max’ lesson went very well as Pierre focused on establishing an even connection in the bridle. It was a challenging lesson as I was not used to riding so boldly forward. I learned a LOT from the exercises and figures Pierre put us through, and Max benefitted from it immensely, with some moments of serious improvement! I had also been quite structured in my schooling with Max, but found the benefit in breaking it down to the nitty gritty and using my aids to get the results instead of relying on the figure or exercise. We came away with LOTS of homework that will keep us busy this winter.

I had a blast in Topaz’ lesson on Sunday. Pierre really unloaded a new system for establishing the connection with a young horse, and it worked beautifully. I have been hesitant to lock into one particular “school of thought” or another in regards to a system of training, and instead try and focus on what works best to talk to each horse individually. Hitting the “nail on the head”, so to speak, by the end of the ride Topaz was exploring steps of leg yield, had suppleness in the topline, and was gaining consistency in a solid connection.

Thank you to Karen and WWU for hosting the clinic, Pierre for such great lessons, and Leah and Jojo for the opportunity!

In the insanity between loaded weekends, I had a very exciting delivery late Friday night. No exaggeration, at 11:11pm on 11/11/11, Atticus W came off the trailer at K&L having made the trip from Watchman PRE horses in Modesto, California. A 2009 Iberian gelding, “Finch” is an Andalusian/Trakehner cross sired by Kamiakin. Kamiakin’s season has yielded great success with rider Mija Paris, who were named Champion in the IALHA USDF All Breeds Year End awards at Training level in the Open division with a median score of 73.036%! He is going to make a fantastic show horse for someone with dreams of a partner with fantastic gaits and a great mind.

As an affiliate with Watchman PRE horses, K&L will host Atticus for training and sales. This winter I will focus on his ground work and he’ll be backed in the spring. If you are looking for your next partner in crime, look no further and don’t hesitate. Price will reflect his level of training.

Check back soon to see more pictures, video, and progress!


Fall 2011

Lots of things have happened in the 8 months since my last post!

Starting from “the top”, here’s the scoop to catch everyone up.

Topaz and Tres went to a fun show at the National Equestrian Center in Lake St. Louis in early March. Topaz was an absolute star and was very relaxed about all of it, despite a massive, crowded warm-up, and loud stabling. Topaz won her first class (ever) and took the blue in Non-Stock Conformation Halter. She was then entered in an English Pleasure class, where she was a rock star and kept her composure the entire class of 20+ horses in a small ring :)

Leah’s mare Tres was the Reserve Champion in the Horse Coupon Book’s Season of Excellence contest. Terry Waechter of Watchman PRE horses graciously awarded her a free breeding to Fugitivo XII! This was a delightful surprise, as only the winner of the contest was to be awarded a free breeding. Tres is now confirmed in foal to Fugi, due Spring 2012. Fugi is being campaigned by Para Dressage rider Susan Treabess toward the 2012 US Olympic Games in London.

In March, Topaz developed a mass on her lip and after careful observation and two weeks of steady growth, we had it biopsied through Equine Medical Services. Unfortunately, it was quite a rough diagnosis to swallow as we listened to the vets explain the rarity (and severity) of a mast cell tumor. For a horse of her age, we came to understand the career limitations of a cancer diagnosis, the (expensive!) treatment options, and the unknown chance of reoccurrence. It was because of its rarity that the Missouri University Teaching Hospital was so willing to see our case and help sponsor her surgery, which went phenomenally. Unfortunately, the road is never a clear and easy path with Topaz, and several days later, she had completely destroyed her lip, ripping out most of the stitches and then some. Her lower lip was missing a chunk of flesh as big and deep as a dinner steak – several times bigger than the tumor that had been removed!

So, with a few months of rehab now ahead of her, Topaz was sidelined again. Leah and I are now walking testimonials to the power of Vetricyn. This miracle gel healed up her lip in about 8 weeks with minimal scarring.

I took most of spring to focus Sport towards our on campus recognized show at 4th level, but some last minute changes introduced me to Don Giovanni, a recently donated 13 year old Oldenburg. “Gio” and I went to a clinic with Axel Steiner in late April, which was an incredibly educational opportunity!

Over the summer, I took the temporary Assistant Trainer position with Lyndon Rife in Pilot Point, Texas. If I hadn’t been accepted as the Graduate Assistant at William Woods beginning in the fall, I would’ve accepted the permanent position without blinking an eye! In addition to working with two fabulous trainers full time, the clients and horses made every day a great one. Thank you to Lyndon, Julie, Jillian, and countless others! Congratulations to John Rees, the new (permanent) assistant trainer :)

When I returned to Fulton, Missouri to start my Masters, Topaz was also ready to go back to school, and did so absolutely flawlessly. In September, she went to her first schooling show put on by the CDCTA and was old-hat to everything there. Rope flags strung between barrels, an open grass warm-up, and a flat bed trailer for a judges stand didn’t faze her in the slightest. We came away with a 2nd and 3rd in Intro C and Training 1, with lots of good feedback and an overall educational experience. I’m such a proud (step) mom!

However, in the habit of always throwing a kink in her training, Topaz decided to throw another scare at us. We recently had a half-dollar size mass removed out of her hip that came back from the lab as a fatty lipoma. The vets are shaking their heads at this one, as the chances of a cancerous tumor the first time were slim to none, and now within the same year, another has appeared (thankfully benign). I suppose it just gives new meaning to the phrase “a one in a million horse”!

Also in the move back to Fulton, I have been given the opportunity to “set up shop” at K&L Hightime Stables in Millersburg. As a 22 acre property with a beautiful 8 stall barn, an enclosed indoor and a new outdoor arena, it is the perfect set up for my current work load. Topaz moved here in August to continue her training, which allows MyLeah Andalusians property in Calwood to function as the breeding base of their operation. I can now offer full training and lessons on school horses and to outside clients with this great facility.

In the near future, I am anxiously awaiting a clinic with Pierre St. Jacques. Pierre is this year’s WWU Equestrian Showcase Clinician! He was the first alternate for the US team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games with Lucky Tiger – I distinctly remember watching him as the test rider before the freestyle last October :) Also coming up in November is a schooling show at WWU, where I may be riding a few horses.

Praying for a long fall and an easy winter!

Until next time,



Topaz, FTW!

You often hear people say you never know when you'll meet the person who will change your life. I've found that shock-to-the-system kind of relationship with Topaz. Our relationship today began after a crazy turn of events that started several years ago where I met Leah in creative writing class, of all places!

In our fourth ride tonight, Topaz continued the trend of "see what I can do to absolutely blow Lauren away". Totally relaxed, she was game for everything I asked of her, including cantering both directions.

We're heading to the National Equestrian Center in Lake St. Louis this weekend for the Fun and Frolic schooling show :) She's accompanying Tres, just to gain experience on the show grounds and see her way around a big event. Leah is riding Tres while Topaz and I will go in a halter class, and possibly a 4 and Under walk/trot class depending on how she adjusts and schools on Friday. I'm giddy just thinking about it. While you can never predict ANYTHING with horses, she's acted like such an old hat with everything thus far that I can only hope she'll be just as much of a star on our field trip :) I'm a believer that optimism counts for at least 60% of life!

Topaz has been such an unexpected, highly rewarding experience. I am so grateful every chance I have to work with her and have found that even as the "teacher", I'm the one learning the most.

"By learning you will teach; by teaching you will understand." _ Latin Proverb.

To vote for Topaz and I in the Horse Coupon Book/Season of Excellence contest to win a free breeding, follow the links below:

First, "Like" Horse Coupon Book 

and then "Like" my essay!

Thank you SO much to everyone who has voted thus far and continues to pass the word to others. I am so excited for this possibility, and to have so many people step out and support it makes me know I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have so many wonderful friends.  




Moment of Truth!

Well, I warned you... the time has come to help me win a breeding!

Miss Topaz had her THIRD ride under saddle on Friday and was absolutely amazing. She even cantered a few steps under saddle in addition to improved steering and control :) She's picking up so quick!

SO, in two easy steps, you vote for my essay to send Topaz and I to the finals!

On Facebook, find and "Like" Horse Coupon Book.

Next, follow this link and "Like" my essay :) The accompanying essay under Fugitivo XII is written by Topaz' owner Leah for her other mare Tres (recall our dressage show adventures in a previous post?) - click "Like" on that one while you're there so that we can all make it to the finals!

The winner is supposed to be announced before March 5th... and with my birthday on the 2nd, this could definitely qualify as the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER. 22 years in the making and I'd (kind of) finally have my first horse!

Thank you very much to everyone who can help - passing the info on to friends and family is also doubly appreciated! You can do this through the 28th of February.

Crossing fingers & toes,



Battling Old Man Winter

Just when I thought I'd get less busy... life happened again. I wouldn't change a minute of it but there's lots going on in my final semester here at WWU. Bitter cold, feet of snow, and nasty weather have all sidelined us from being anywhere close to outdoors, which leaves us to trailering in with horses, if that's even possible.

Several weeks ago, before the Snowpocalypse hit, I got one last session with Topaz in before the storm. It wound up being very successful and we logged our first official ride under saddle! We even learned to steer a little bit! Now that the snow is residing and spring is on the way (according to that blessed groundhog) I have big plans for this spring!

Most recently, was my submission to an essay contest held by Season of Excellence and Horse Coupon Book for a Win a Free Breeding contest! Leah & Myles have really presented me with the opportunity of a lifetime to help select a stallion for a designer dressage foal out of Topaz eventually, but we figured it wasn't too early to start looking. We found Fugitivo XII independently, and then discovered that he was in the contest! February 20th, the essays go live on their Facebook page and the top 5 essays in each category with the most "likes" move on to the finals, where a panel will select one winner.

Having said that, y'all can expect an update here shortly with more information (and lots of pleading to vote for us!). Until then, know that Topaz, Sporty, and I are wishing everyone a warm and productive winter!



Fall 2010!


It seems I apologize every post for all the updates I have missed and the amount of lapsed time between posts, but the past 6 months has covered so much, I can’t help but say sorry again!

After leaving off the last post with the Magnolia show, I have so much to share! I’ll start from the top and bring everyone up to speed…

The DDC Lemonade Daze show can be summed up in three words: HOT HOT HOT. I went down the centerline both days when the thermometer read over 100 degrees! Sport was body clipped, of course, but hydration and shade were big concerns the entire weekend. Since we were already qualified at 3rd level, Sport and I did two freestyle tests! We rode to a Van Halen compilation mix, which got everyone in the audience rockin’. The first test wasn’t the greatest as the sound system was in the process of exploding above us, but day 2 was very, very fun and my friends and family all came out to support. It was my first but certainly not last experience with riding a freestyle! Travis again came out to take pictures, Mary Beth was there as my mentor and groom, and the entire crew from Lyndon Rife’s farm was nice enough to let me stable with them and feed in the mornings!

In early August Sport and I made the long haul back up to Fulton, Missouri to William Woods. Everyone was very impressed with his improvement. With only 6 weeks until the Regional Championship, we used the time to work on details and improve his collection. We attended a clinic with WWU alum Erin Ackley, which gave us great insight to freer changes and more supple lateral work. In all, we made a lot of improvement and started working in the double with much success.

I started working with Leah Strid’s Topaz de la Plata, a 3yo Andalusian mare, sporadically during the semester. This mare is going to be something extra-special, let me tell you. After only a few sessions of working on the ground, I casually swung up onto her back one day and she looked at me like “so, what’s next?” She’s got the sharpest mind I’ve ever seen on a horse this young. Sadly, we cannot anticipate injury, and right as we put a schooling show on the calendar, she was sidelined when a dog spooked her through a fence. Myles (Leah’s husband) did a great job of working with her when I was busy with school and shows! Topaz and Tres are the latest of their herd at MyLeah Andalusians in Calwood, just outside of Fulton.

Midway through the semester the opportunity presented itself to switch hats for  minute. A good friend of mine Kate Vanbenthuysen rides competitive western events with her all-around horse My Patriot's Hightime. Her young horse, Jade needed experience at a schooling show, leaving Patriot free for the weekend, and when Kate offered to let me have the ride, I jumped right on it! What a fun experience to ride a very successful, produced western horse and be able to feel and understand the similarities and differences between the two disciplines. Patriot was a wonderful, patient teacher as I learned the ropes of western pleasure and showmanship. I wore more bling than I'd ever seen at a beauty pageant, and we wound up taking Western High Point of the show much to the credit of a wonderful coach and horse!

Early October, I took a trip with one of my best friends to the WEG in Lexington, KY. The entire week was the first time I’d been able to see that caliber of dressage at a big event. Between the new world records, the shopping, and the weather, it was only to get back on my horse that I wanted to return to Missouri! But, only a week away from our big show, I used that extra energy to motivate us for the Region 4 Championships!

Heading to Lake St. Louis for the regionals was a very great experience. After months of work with Sport, I felt we were very prepared. Unfortunately, in packing for the show, I managed to throw out my neck when I tried to lift something heavy off of a tall shelf. Two emergency chiropractor appointments weren’t enough to get me aligned just right, however, and I wound up barely hacking the first day and scratching my first test of the weekend. After lots of rest and TLC, I rode my freestyle test on Saturday in order to get in the ring before my Championship ride on Sunday. I was very excited, as we were also riding to new music. Mary Beth flew in from Dallas to visit and see our freestyle, too! While Sport had been fabulous for our hack, the ring became very intimidating to him when it was filled with bustling people at the A end. Once I lost the suppleness to a big spook, it was incredibly hard to regain his trust. His tension became cause for extra changes, and we lost our counter canter early in his attempt to avoid the scary corner. I was also extremely sore, so the thought of coming unseated was of extra concern! By the end, I was optimistically happy about how we had at least stayed on the general path of the freestyle… but needles to say I was now concerned and sore heading into the final and most important day of the regional show.

With my amazing mentor Mary Beth and unflappable groom Ericka Schaefer, we took the night to crash early and relax. Sunday, I felt much better about the next chance in the ring; my neck was looser, Sport was calm, and everyone was very supportive.

With a smooth warmup, a calm lap around, and a conservative, relaxed frame, by the end of the test, I couldn’t keep the grin off my face! It was a very clean test, and I was super happy with how it compared to his previous performance in the ring. The test earned us 7th place with our final average. Sport and I rode in the ribbon ceremony sporting our big purple ribbon. Between Karen letting me borrow her Escape when my truck died, Ericka tacking up because I couldn’t lift the saddle, and Mary Beth reminding me that I could be successful despite the adversity, I felt I did the easy part of the weekend!

After the regional show, we both took some downtime to let the pressure off for a while. A few weeks after regionals, we picked back up and set our sights on 4th level for an on-campus schooling show. We garnered scores of 62.5 and 68.6! I was incredibly proud of him and very excited for all the work we’d done from the beginning of the summer. Because Topaz was sidelined, I took Leah’s other mare Tres in the Intro classes to help her get some added exposure to the show environment. It was a very educational experience for all involved, and I was very happy with Tres’ effort and improvement. The rest of the semester, Sport and I worked towards the canter pirouettes and improved tempi changes.

CDCTA was kind enough to host me as a judge in late November for one of their schooling shows. This was an amazing opportunity for which I am so thankful! Beth Hussey of Fairfax Farms parked a pickup at the end of her ring for me to gain experience in the judges box and I had so much fun! Stacey Bates was a fantastic scribe, and afterward we all enjoyed a poodle-skirted pony quadrille and fire dancers! WOW! My favorite participant was riding an adorable (and very correct!) dressage mule :)

As the semester came to a close, I was sad to have to let Sport down for a month during my absence over Christmas break, but extremely optimistic about my winter plans. Once school let out, I packed my bags for a two-week stint in sunny Florida, where I traveled to Knoll Dressage for an interview and tryout. Based in Chuluota, Florida, Knoll Dressage is home to Anne Gribbons’ training facility. I was introduced through Laura Graves, who I met at the YRGP last year. I was so excited to finally meet Diddy (and of course, see Laura again!) and see what the facility was all about. It was the fastest, most unforgettable two weeks of my life, and I learned so much while I was there. The barns, the horses, the staff, and the training were all I’d ever dreamed they could be. I am absolutely stoked to say that I am planning to go back on a more permanent basis as soon as possible!

However, “as soon as possible”, has to wait until I get through one more semester at William Woods. Finishing up my senior year is top priority at the moment, and I return now to this miserably cold weather in anticipation of what is to come in the next year. I have big plans for this semester and beyond, and I have made a resolution to update more frequently! Sport and I are looking to head into the show ring at 4th level around April, and I’ll be putting more time into developing Topaz, as well! Lots to do and not enough time to do it!

Warm wishes to everyone this winter, and bad alliterations to the rest of you!



Magnificent Magnolia!

So in the month I've been absent from the blog, Spork and I have been doing LOTS of work in preparation for the Windy Knoll show this past weekend. Amidst two weeks of rain, the stress was high as I was running low on ground above water. Thanks to Joe Baily and Bre Dorsett of Normandy Farms (where the below picture was taken), I was able to trailer to Keller to their facility to do some run throughs and touch ups before we departed.

Friday morning, the trailer ride down was uneventful (the best kind of road trip) and Sport settled in nicely. Our school went very well and my faithful steed assured me there wasn't much to be concerned with in the arena or warmup area, minus farm tractors, which of course are made of goblins and alligators. As always it was a pleasure to braid for Solstice Farms' Loverboy, and I wrapped up my night.

Our first ride was Saturday morning. and Sport really gave it his all for me. Our second flying change, a spectator jumped into a bush at the end of the arena, which made for an "eventful" change, hah! That lit him up but we finished alright. With lots of room to improve, I wasn't sure how we'd come out, but we received our first qualifying score with a 63.1. I was beyond stoked! I knew we had a few things to improve after receiving a 4 (that exciting flying change!), but we also earned a 9 in the same test. For only a month and a half together essentially, I couldn't have been more proud of the Lamborghini!

Day 2 started with a summer shower in the morning - while this wouldn't normally bother Sport, this was his first time back in a stall since he moved to Texas so it stressed him out. With a handful of carrots and a chair, I held his leadrope and babysat him all morning so he'd stay calm. *sigh* ... The things we do for our horses.... the list could fill a book!

The rain let up just in time for us to warm up. The only issue with the footing was directly at A, where the roof didn't cover the last 3 feet of the short side. Coincidentally, that's exactly where the halt, rein back is in the test. So I took it conservatively, let him be where he needed to, and we aimed for a correct, accurate test. It didn't seem to phase him at all - we had much better changes, our half passes felt great, and we came away with our second qualifying score of a 65.1!

The entire weekend was a massive success. Sport earned Jr/YR high score the first day and 3rd level (all divisions!) high average the second day. I couldn't have been happier for our first show together this season. We've officially put the Region 4 Regional Championships on our calendar for October 2010 at Lake St. Louis. If you'd like to be a sponsor, please contact me!

Of course I could NEVER have done this alone. While this may sound like an Academy Awards Speech, the people who got me here deserve WAY more thanks than I can give (and I just KNOW you want to be one of these people!) To my sponsor, Ashley, I was the best duck I could be. Mary Beth was my unwavering support and deserves Groom of the Year award for keeping us on time and hydrated all weekend - extra thanks for use of her trailer. For the few lessons I could squeeze in, thank you to Lyndon Rife, Julie Madriguera, and Patti Pace. And the Normandy Farms crew for letting us trailer out of the mud to use a regulation arena before the show.

Our next plan of action is rocking and rolling (hint hint) towards the DDC Lemonade Daze Show in Las Colinas July 31st and 1st. I am working diligently to fix and adjust a few things so we can be as successful as possible. Hopefully the heat will stay at bay for the most part.


Stay tuned for more updates, including more on the Armbands for All campaign. Part I of an article I wrote has been published on the Dallas Dressage Club website here! Part II is coming in August!

Rock & Roll,

Lauren & Sport

(Thanks Travis for the amazing pictures!)