After leaving Florida, I went to work for about a month at Royal Palm Farm, for my good friends Andrew and Tiffany Palmer. I met both of them when I started working at Valhalla, and we immediately became friends. Good thing too, because they moved just 2 months after I started working there to start their own farm in Alabama. Andrew has carved out his niche eventing Trakehner stallions. He also helps owners prepare their young stallions for approvals.
Most warmbloods are registries, because outside blood will be let in if it passes the requirements at an inspection; however Trakehners are a breed, because the registration book is closed to outside breeds other than thoroughbreds or Arabians. Breeding stock, especially stallions, still have to be approved by a panel of judges. The stallions get scored on general impression, movement at liberty, and free jumping. If they are 4 or older, they get scored under saddle as well. After being approved, they have to complete an event after a certain amount of time (depending on age) and this is where Andrews expertise really steps in. At any one point in time, Andrew and Tiffany have the most Trakehner stallions in one place in the USA.
They asked me to come farm sit for them while they were in Germany. Of course I said yes! I came a few days early so that Andrew could teach me on each of the stallions, as I was to keep them in work while they were gone. It was so much fun having free rein to ride all their wonderful horses while they were gone! Their barn manager and I ran the farm of 30+ horses while they were away.
Andrew had been preparing a young stallion for the approvals at the end of the month, so I had a vested interest in seeing how well he did, as I had been working him daily while they were away. Andrew suggested I go to Ohio with them for the Annual American Trakehner Association convention. I had been to one the year earlier with Tanzeln when Jean was presenting a stallion. Of course I wanted to go! The convention is fun for me, since I love Trakehners, but also because it's like a family reunion for me! I try to go every year now. It's a pretty intense 3 days of looking at horses, comparing the stallions, etc. So the moment when they are all walking through the arena waiting to hear "approved" or "not approved" can get pretty intense. This particular year there were two amazing stallions that were approved premium. It had been 10 years, since Tanzeln, that a premium stallion had been approved -this year we had TWO! It was exciting for all the spectators. Unfortunately though, the stallion I came in support of did not get approved. It really put a damper on the dinner at the end of the weekend.
Shortly after we got back, my boyfriend came to get me and bring me up to North Carolina with him. Preston was going to stay with Anissa until I could find a barn for him. He was having some physical issues at the time, so we thought some time off to just be a horse would be good for him.
Moving to a new state with a guy you just met, and without having a job lined up would not be something I would recommend to someone. But Southern Pines is such a horsey area, and I was feeling pretty confident after riding all those stallions that I figured I was going to be able to make it work. As it turned out, I didn't have people clamoring over each other to have me ride their horses after all. I really put myself out there. The people that I did ride for were very complimentary, but no one had a job for me. It's an area full of eventers and fox hunters, and since I didn't jump, I was useless. I started to get pretty down.
Two months later, my hair stylist introduced me to Kathy Daly. It's a small world it turns out, since she had also moved here from Florida, and used to work at Valhalla many years ago. She used to train Erin when she was a kid! It was meant to be. She was the head trainer at a Lusitano breeding farm, about an hour away from me.
I started working there as soon as I could, even though I was not getting paid much, and had to start at the bottom again-cleaning stalls, etc. I didn't care, I would do anything just to ride! It wasn't long before I worked my way up to assistant, got a raise, and had my own string of horses again. There were a lot of horses to be started, and that is what I mainly did.
I liked the experience of starting the Lusitanos. Pretty much without exception, they were very smart, personable, and willing to do their job. When you go up to the gate, they all clamor to stick their head in the halter and be the "chosen one," even if they KNOW it means work.
When you are starting young horses, you typically have to repeat the lesson from the day before, the horse relearns it faster this time, and then you move on to the next lesson. With the Lusitanos, they act bored with the review lesson, and then go on to the next lesson as if they have done it 100 times. I stated to amaze myself at how quickly I could start a horse without leaving holes in the training.
Kathy Daly is also one of my favorite people. She had been training horses for 40 years, so there was a lot to learn from her, but she is also one of the most vibrant people I have ever met.
Unfortunately, it was only about 6 months before I was ready to leave that job. I still have a good relationship with everyone there, but the hour drive each way was starting to reek havoc in the rest of my life.
I moved my horse to my friend Rachel's place, the
I took a job at the Wine cellar in town, which was walking distance from my house. I was able to work off my board and focus on my horse. He had been having physical issues that I had not been able to resolve. I knew part of it was the farrier. He has one foot that gets clubby, and I had not had a farrier that knew how to deal with it since leaving Valhalla. We were also having saddle fit issues, which basically meant I was not able to ride him. I had bought a custom made saddle in Fl, and was not able to get it fit here.
Finally, I found a good acupuncture/chiropractor that was able to make a difference. She said he was weak in his stifles, and treated him for that. She gave me a strengthening program to follow, and within 30
days, he was a different horse. A horse with stifle problems needs work most of all, so giving him all that time off for the move was not the right thing to do. I also discovered that my saddle fitter did come to the area, so that gave us another answer that we were looking for.
I was not happy working full time and just riding my horse. I wanted to figure out a way that I could use my talents training horses and selling them for a commission. Enter Tattle. I found him on Facebook! His owner was looking to place him as a project horse with somebody, since she already had her own horses at home, but was paying board on this one, even though she did not regularly ride him. I knew she was being selective as to who he would go with, but he was all mine after I came out to ride him once! I came to get him the following week. I have him on consignment, I just pay her what she wants for him once he sells. He is such a nice horse, I almost want to keep him!
That is pretty much where I am, until a couple weeks ago, when I put it out there that I want to work with horses full time again. I got a reply from Briana Atwell, an FEI trainer in my area, that she needed help. I came out to her farm to "audition" on
the young stallion she is training. He definitely tested me, but I did a good job with him. She also has access to a lot of upper level horses that I can learn from. It will be my focus to show as much as I can, and to complete my USDF bronze.