A Decade of Joy

“First favorite memory of her verses the latest one?” @casper2681.

My first favorite memory has to be snuggling with her the first time I met her. Joy was so small and gangly as a foal but carried so much presence already. She laid down at my feet, and I got to touch her for the fist time. I ran my hands over her huge ears, fuzzy mane, knobby knees, and tiny hooves. She snored the whole time! I sat, mesmerized, for hours while she learned about her world, the angry flies in it, and just how to move around on her extra long noodle legs. It makes me smile, just thinking about it!

who could resist falling in love with that disgruntled face?

who could resist falling in love with that disgruntled face?

Most recently, my favorite memory is Joy deciding to go swimming in our spring after lunging and she pulled me off the bank to go deeper in the water. Totally worth being soaked for while I laughed and laughed.

“Most serious injury or illness she’s had?” @livspiezequestrian

She’s been relatively healthy, thank goodness. There was a freak accident where a loose dog surprised her and in her desire to get away, she turned too quickly on grass and fell hard. It ended up causing some muscle damage in her right hind haunch. In 2015, she pulled up lame and it ended up being due to a calcification in her fetlock, likely from rough housing as a young horse, that caused a soft tissue injury. She had about a month off. She’s never been really ill, but she had a a horrible reaction to her winter shots in 2016 where I thought something neurological was going on. Head tilt, dragging legs, stumbling, not able to stand straight, the whole nine-yards. We used a different vet after that and had no problem near that magnitude.

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“What drew you to Joy and made you choose her over any other foals born at your stable?!” @Nicole_neurakis

Honestly, a lot of it was just timing. I was a kid, only 14 years old, so all the foals leading up to Joy had been born before I really had any sense of self. I was attached instantly for many reasons I’ve discussed previously, but when her breeder said she was going to sell her, I told her give me a number and I’ll work to pay it off. It ended up really just being the right place and the right time. What helped was that I had already been doing all the foal care for Joy, so I was pretty aware of what she was going to be like, and her breeder did not really seem to like her.

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“How did you find Joy?” @garnett_girl

I worked at a private breeding stable where Joy was born.

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“Craziest Joy story?” @sammy_corb

Apart from deciding to foal standing up and not letting her foal nurse, there have been plenty of wild things that have happened. One of my favorites is from Joy’s first schooling show. I left her tied at the trailer with my dad to go check in. As I was checking in, I saw my dad call and ignored it because I was trying to talk, and then slowly I herd people shouting “loose horse, loose HORSE, LOOSE HORSE” louder and louder. I turned around to see if I could help, and it ended up being Joy just a few meters from her who had broken her halter and gone on an adventure to come find me. Oh, and a rattlesnake jumped out of a tree at us one time. OH! And a small wild big, a javelina, decided to run at Joy while I was walking her in hand and she went AFTER it. Safe to say, I am not afraid of wildlife when I’m with her.

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“What was the hardest part about starting Joy?” @tamethetornado

You know, she was pretty damn easy to start. She was already really forward thinking and had a lot of exposure to her tack and weight and uncomfortable situations. It honestly seemed like she knew riding was the most logical next step. The most difficult thing was consistency. I started her in April 2012 and was forced to leave my barn of over 12 years in June because of some serious personal differences with my former trainer and the barn owner. We didn’t have anywhere to keep the horses and couldn't afford board at the time, so a dear friend of mine in the neighborhood who had owned horses let me keep horses at her property until we built a pasture for Apple and Joy in the front yard, where they moved to around July. We didn’t have an arena, so when I worked her, I had to hand walk Joy through our rural neighborhood and a back trail to get to a barn with an arena where I paid to use the facilities, do my work there, then walk back. Once under saddle work was more established, I began to ride her over, work, and ride her back. This went on for about three years.

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“What was the most challenging movement or concept to teach Joy?” @ams.dressage

The lengthened/medium/extended trot movements. They are not naturally easy for her, and I honestly struggled in teaching them the right way. It took a really long time to build up the strength within her to carry weight behind and take larger steps without increasing the tempo and getting quick in her strides. She preferred to tuck her chin, tighten her back, fall on her shoulders, and run on the forehand. It does not help her trot was atrocious to sit - so beyond bouncy. It was really developing as of late 2017, but I think is 10x better now than it ever has been. I’m looking forward to seeing if my predictions are right next time we show. She struggles with walk pirouettes too - she tends to get backward thinking and shuts down. A work in progress.

2016.

2016.

2017. 

2017. 

“What is Joy’s favorite movement to do - under saddle or otherwise?” @sparkafirefly

Lateral movements are her favorite thing in the whole world. Leg yields, haunches in, shoulder in, half pass, all of that is really her forte. As long as I stay appropriately balanced and ask nicely, she is always obliging to offer her best work laterally. Because she is so compact, it’s easy for her to get crooked in usual work so we focus a lot on straightness up and over the back, knowing that she’ll always be very laterally supple and capable. honestly, they are some of my favorite movements to ride on her! She also loves to go on a good gallop and recently, she’s developed a penchant for changes! Now, I have to get her to a place where she’ll wait for me to ask instead of making up her own counts.

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“Is Joy people particular?” @isabella.simonds

INCREDIBLY. She’s generally over fastidious with her company. She shows a lot of preference, and she generally does not appreciate people departing from her routines. I like to think she likes me, but sometimes I think she just placates me by letting me play dressage rider. I think Taylor and Erin are probably her favorites, for wildly different reasons.

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“When did you know Joy would be capable of FEI?” @aqha.champ

I actually have a small piece waiting to publish about this very subject! Stay tuned!

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“What has been your biggest obstacle to overcome in your partnership (not showing)?” @cc_equestrian

Hmm, I think managing both our huge personalities and reactive tendencies has been huge. I can get caught up in the moment, especially because after all this time, it feels like we aren’t on the same wavelength mentally. Sometimes it’s like Joy knows exactly which buttons to press to frustrate me or make training feel like a moot point. It‘s not always been pretty, but Joy is forgiving and I’m a quick learner and even quicker to quit while we’re ahead, so we’ll keep trying to communicate with kindness and accuracy. Neither of us are mind readers, and I can always do better to set a better example of a partner for her.

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“Your biggest challenge bringing her up the levels and how you overcame it?” @wannabedressagequeen13

I think the biggest movement is the extended trot, which I discussed above, but I think the biggest challenge of all was improving the quality of her gaits. Joy is small, complex, short backed, and not a massive mover, as most followers know. Through lots of strength training, small tweaks, and trusting the classical process, Joy’s gaits have stayed correct while improving in overall quality, becoming more elastic, ground covering, reach, uphill tendency, and developing real self carriage. Particularly in the trot. Very proud of that. Now the focus is the canter

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“Had there ever been a moment you thought about selling Joy?” @ivys.scarlet.ember

I think there was one time my parents caught me being a naughty teenager and told me they would sell her if I didn’t shape up and fly right! I was 15/16. It wasn’t serious, but the threat worked! Since then, never. I always worked to make providing for her a priority.

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“Who’s the next stallion you would breed to? And when?” @kenzie.kleier

I have a short list of stallions I’m keeping an eye on for the future for both Joy and Posey, but no plans to breed in the future for the moment. There are some stipulations on when and who. It all really falls on 1) Posey’s performance at her 3-4 year old inspections and under saddle career to breed Joy again and ET her, and 2) if Joy was injured to let her carry naturally. I have no plans to breed P until she proves herself worthy to reproduce. Stallions are secrets for the moment! But M, H, B, G and I Trakehner lines are on the table. Staying within the studbook but considering internationally bred studs.

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“What do you think was the biggest lesson J taught you?” @dublinlawlife

Humility. There’s nothing riding a young horse that will either score 70%+ or a 40% or that will either be the star of a clinic or be asked to leave. She also taught me critical problem solving skills. When you don’t have eyes on the ground or a fabulous facility, you find get creative in ways to improve your riding and your horse’s fitness.

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“What did your equestrian life look like during undergrad?” @sarahwells7b

It was busy. I worked part time during the school year and near full time during the summers, took 15-18 credit hours a semester, and for three of those years, the horses lived on my parents’ property. The summer before my senior year, did not work and studied for my LSAT, while I boarding at a stable up the road from me. I tried to structure my classes where I had them stacked Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday all day, and I could work on the alternate days. I usually woke up, fed the horses, and headed to class 8am-9pm on those stacked class days, did homework on campus, and fed when I got home so the horses got that time off. On days I worked or only had a class or two, I tried to ride very early or very late, dawn or at dusk. During the summers on days when I wasn’t working, I was lucky enough to be able to devote all my spare time to riding and horses. I only showed two-three times a year, close to home, and I tried to see my mentor once every couple months on the weekend. Oh, and I dated - they just were crap relationships!

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“What is something that none of your followers know about Joy?” @ivys.scarlet.ember

She has a chestnut shaped like a dinosaur footprint on one of her hind legs. And, shhhhh don’t tell her I told you, she’s actually quite affectionaye. She mutually grooms, loves being around people and watching, and isn’t nearly as scary on the ground as she comes off. While a little standoffish, once you win her over with respect and her favorite curry, she will walk through fire for you. And boy does she love snuggles. She is so much more sensitive, emotional, and loving than she comes off.

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“What was your reasoning behind breeding Joy when you did instead of waiting until she was further along in her show career?” @hallieworthington

Timing. It had been planned for a few years. I was heading to my first year of law school and getting married and I knew that riding competitively would be a stretch. Rather than lease her out or have someone else ride her, which would have been a disaster, I set her up to breed after achieving all the goals I possibly could have dreamed of. Joy showing PSG was far past what I thought we would ever do, so if something had happened and I had lost her, or she was no longer rideable after foaling, she had gained value and I could rest easy knowing how much we did together. Any later in a maiden mare can be questionable.

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“Being so young, how did you make the decision to buy and start Joy from a baby on?” @marshal_the_morgan

Impulsivity and necessity, also a little bit of overconfidence. I was in a place where I had outgrown Apple, my lease horse was injured, and I would not be able to afford some crazy well bred, already started horse. I saw my chance, and I took it. I’m just grateful in hindsight that my parents supported the decision. Joy would have been dangerous in the wrong hands, and I couldn’t imagine a world where we did went through life without each other.

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“What would you change about how you raised her, if you could change anything?” @petrakpettingzoo

Guidance and oversight. I flew by the seat of my pants and educated myself however I could. However, I know she could have had a more solid start if we hadn’t been in such a volatile situation with someone who couldn’t provide the start a young horse needed. And I wish I had known more about how to question authority when she was a young horse, before we were out on our own, to keep her best interests at the forefront of the stable owner’s mind.

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“If you could go back in time and tell baby Joy anything, what would it be?” @mollisonryan

I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m sorry. I’m trying my best, but sometimes that’s not good enough. Hold me accountable. Things will be a bit unorthodox for a long time and we’ll keep learning. I’ll always keep your best interests at heart of every decision, even if I get blinded by frustration and overwhelmed by the responsibility of producing you. Apple will always be around. You have an amazing foal, who Apple will take over the mothering for. I’m so grateful for you, and I’ll always love you.

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“If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do different with Joy’s training?” @ivys.scarlet.ember

There are plenty. I would go back to a clipper interaction where I went a little too “cowboy.” I could have handled the entire thing better, and ultimately I did more harm than good. And ended up with a dislocated shoulder. Same thing with a trailer loaded incident as a three year old. I think I would also establish her basics more, focus on her strength and working over the back instead of riding defensively. We would have been on a better path if I had done that. But I’m not a professional. I was a teenager just mimicking what I had learned through a short dressage career and brief stint working with young horses.

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“What has been your biggest struggle with the queen over the past 10 years?” @breejarvisdressage

Consistency and providing a proper education. We have a little underdog syndrome, where we partake in above average endeavors full and struggle to be “average” within that group of those going above and beyond. We didn’t have the means to train multiple times a week with a well known trainer, clinic every time someone came to the area, show and expand our knowledge through extensive judgement. We had to make the most of our uncommon, wildly unorthodox circumstances for producing a competitive dressage horse. At one point, I use to ride from a neighborhood 2.5 miles one way on a country highway, under an overpass, to a local schooling facility to even ride in a 20x60. If I couldn’t ride for some reason, even just a couple day vacation, she got a vacation too. Now, that got better as we got older, and Erin was a huge help, but it’s not like I could just hand her over to a trainer I trusted, because those are few and far between. Even if I had someone I trusted, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. So, we did and do what we can with what we can. And I’m damn proud of all of it.