Welcome to our blog! Diamonds in the Rough Dressage is the story of two very special and very unusual dressage horses who are stealing the limelight from the purpose breds!
Prophets Star & Fran
Prophet’s Star, or Pea as he is known at home (short for Peanut Pony, a reference to his low price tag) is a 16.3hh 2005 gelding (Daylami x Alzao) owned by Fran. He inherited none of the speed of his sire or dam sire, only their quirky nature and thus his record as a racehorse makes for quick reading – last, last and pulled up!
He arrived home with us in the January of his 4yo year, having come out of racing the previous October and done nothing since. He very quickly showed us the reason why – a well-practiced and lightening quick emergency stop, spin, rear and cow kick manoeuvre that had deposited many exercise riders!
However he has met his match in Fran, they are as stubborn and determined as each other. He has qualified for the BD Area Festivals and Regionals at every level from Novice to PSG, most notably placing 10th in the Advanced Medium open Area Festival Championship and also 10th in the Advanced Medium open Regional Championship at Somerford Park, in 2013.
In 2014 he qualified for the Area Festival Championship and also the Regional Championships at PSG level (in just 2 outings!). He will shortly move up to Inter 1 and contest Premier Leagues at small tour level and is schooling all the GP work at home.
Whilst he still rears, it is lessening as the partnership between Fran and Pea develops and we have are beginning to gain more pictures of his elegant trot as opposed to his stomach!
By contrast, Nic’s boy – Galileo Figaro (Fig to his friends) has an extensive and worldwide record to his name. Bred in Australia he is a 15hh bay gelding (2004) by the renowned Galileo, out of a Windwurf mare.
Galileo Figaro & Nic
Fig has raced in Australia, Japan and the UK and we have fate to thank for putting him with us. Prevented from returning to Australia by the Equine Influenza outbreak in 2007 he was re-routed back to the UK to try his hoof on British Soil. Lucky for us that he was, or our paths would never have crossed!
Fig has the most exceptional work ethic and will never stop trying his hardest. He gives everything 150% and his rise up the levels has been nothing short of remarkable; retired from racing in Oct 2011 he came home to Leicestershire the Christmas of that year and by June 2012 had qualified for the Regional Championships at Prelim. He followed this up with a win at Patchetts Area Festival in the Novice Restricted to qualify for the 2013 Championships. Not bad for his first season off the track!
He has since placed 5th in the Novice Restricted Regional Championship at Addington Manor 2013, qualified for the 2014 Area Festival Championship and Regional Championships at Elementary Restricted level, and the 2014 Area Festivals at Medium Restricted level, and also has top 10 placings at Keysoe U25’s High Profile this year at Elementary and Medium. He is currently schooling Advanced and is aimed to debut at Advanced Medium by the end of 2014.
For our first blog I thought we would re-cap on where the boys are with their training currently, and what our short, medium and long term goals for 2014 are.
Pea’s biggest goal for 2014 was the Regionals at PSG level and when he very quickly ticked that off with qualifying scores at Bury Farm High Profile and Vale View PSG Q classes, we had to re-think! He will move up to Inter 1 level in March and we will quite simply see how it goes, if he qualifies for the Regionals that would be amazing but if he doesn’t we will just quietly plug away with the training and try again next year.
He has trips to Keysoe, Addington and Somerford Premier Leagues pencilled in his diary and as he needs more exposure at stay away shows I will probably aim to do the PSG on the first day and the Inter 1 on the second day.
Being a little long in the back and not always as submissive as he should be in his mind (!), Pea can sometimes cheat the contact by bracing the bottom of his neck, and then drop his hindlegs out behind him in the lateral work. He has an extravagant front leg action but doesn’t always want to push through that last little bit and match it from behind, so currently his schooling is centred around acceptance of the contact and staying on the hind leg with a lot of subtle neck flexion and on and back work in all paces.
Pea is a bit like a diesel engine and takes a lot of work to warm up so once or twice a week he does a session of light seat canter work on a loose rein and is really encouraged to go forward and have a buck and a play to keep him thinking forward. In the summer months he does this out in the field or during a trip to some local all weather gallops.
It is a constant work in progress to strengthen the GP work but the two main things we need to develop further this year are the piaffe and the 1’s: we can show 4/5 steps of the former and 3 or 4 of the latter and I’m hopeful that we can build on this over the summer in order to be ready to debut at Inter 2 at the end of 2014.
Fig’s next major outing is to Hartpury for the Area Festival Championship, and has also qualified for the Summer Regionals at Elementary Restricted (we intend to go to Addington Manor for this). Thinking of the next level up, he has got some sheets under his belt for the Area Festivals at Medium Restricted.
With his experience at big and buzzy shows still quite limited, I’ve planned for him to attend a couple of bigger shows this year too- recently he competed at Keysoe U25’s High Profile, and performed like such a pro and was very relaxed. But knowing how quickly he loses confidence in himself, we will go to Sheepgate U25’s Championships later in the year too which I expect will have a similar atmosphere. Should there be time to fit it in between him and Peas competitions, maybe he will do the Medium class at Vale View High Profile in November.
Whilst Pea now has too many points (show off!) to compete in the ROR Championships, Fig will take part at Elementary level this year. He has been successful the past 2 years and we both think it’s a brilliant show and really highlights how popular and diverse ex racehorses are becoming.
I always describe Fig as being the opposite of Pea; Fig is a sharp, forward little horse and although he is genuine and tries hard, it is a quality that sometimes works against him. He panics on the off chance of having done something wrong; his instinct is to set his neck and go shooting off; quite often needing a hug, a pat and to be told everything is ok. So whilst getting ring experience at Medium level this year, it is important to get Fig truly relaxed at shows too.
Again, the opposite of Pea, Fig is short in the back and very active behind. Bearing in mind his tendency to worry, I encourage him to stay soft over the back and keep the ‘split’ behind as big as he can manage (rather than quick quick quick steps). Our main thing to crack this year is the flying changes, he can do 5 and 4 time sequences, but they need to be smoother, rounder and I need to learn to count!
A final note to end our first blog, we would like to say a quick word of appreciation to our sponsors. Equiture, Fur Feather Meds and Roots @ Thorpe Farm, who have been a great source of support for us, in many ways. We love being a part of these companies and they have continually helped us throughout our journey so far.
Next time-finding an ex-racehorse for dressage, and how to start the re-training (including pics of Pea Fig through the years).
Fran & Nic xxxx