We’ve gone back to school – oh happy day! – yours truly and our young Connemara, Landgate Lord Peter. We enjoy the process of bringing along young/green or OTTBs equines, and Lord Peter has been a very special project – worth every minute of the years invested in earning his trust and defusing his startle buttons. We’re very excited about this next chapter in Peter’s lifestory. He’s smart, athletic and essentially kind, and now he’s beginning to show his great mind, even in challenging circumstances.
According to a dear friend, an extremely knowledgeable breeder of Connemaras, Landgate Lord Peter is a brilliant representative of the sturdy Irish breed. In fact, she compared Peter’s potential to the great eventing pony Theodore O’Connor and urged us to find a professional who would develop the star potential of Mr. High Octane, as she nicknamed him.
Well, we thought about this and we knew we had to move to a new farm asap with winter encroaching, but we railed against the notion of sending our pony off for training. We won’t go into all the details, because she spoke out of concern for our well-being, but age has nothing to do with making a horse on the flat. Experience and knowledge are key, consistency is a mandatory ingredient in the training recipe. What we needed burst into our brain in a moment of crystal clarity: a good ground person who, if circumstances warranted, could step in to sort out a handling or under saddle issue – Ah-HAH! – Bryan and Brandy McDonald of The Fine Equine Stables.
Bryan’s curriculum vitae is pretty impressive – here’s what made our ears stand at attention:
Professional Show Jumper Rider for Ms. Gay Parkinson. Successfully competed the top imported/exported Connemaras in the world. Showed and successfully competed in show jumping world renowned stallion “Ashfield Feisty” the top Connemara Stallion in Ireland.
Competed for Ireland and successfully won the prestigious “Bank of Ireland’s” Irish Permanent Combined Training competition three years in a row. The trophy on behalf of Ireland was eventually retired to Mr. McDonald for his outstanding accomplishment.
Assistant Trainer to Mrs. Mary McKan, founder and owner of Hartwell’s Stud. located in County Killdare, Ireland. Schooled and handled international Grand Prix and Nations’ Cup Stallions, “Sea Crest ” and his offspring “Cruising.” In addition to working with these top sires, Bryan started many of their offspring under saddle and onto successful show jumping careers.
There’s so much more – experience in Kentucky, race-riding – how old is this guy anyway? Never mind – we liked Bryan and Brandy from the first introduction last May. Asked them to evaluate the pony and they came to us (wow) and loved Lord Peter. We rode first and then Bryan, who told us that his goal was to make Peter even more our horse – that we are perfectly matched.
Bigger wow. When do we move?
Wednesday morning, 27th October, we woke up to rain – gaaah – slight chance of clearing skies. It cleared long enough to load Peter with one of his mini-pals and, with fingers crossed, set out. By the time we turned out Peter by himself, temporarily, in a paddock next to the barn, it was raining steadily and we were soaked to the skin. Peter whinnied lots and had that young horse look in his eyes: where am I? Who are they? Where are you going? Why am I here? ooooh, mud – yucky… think I’ll roll in this hay… WHO ARE YOU? and we are mortified to say that we left him to sort out his new circumstances so that we could finish up the WEG wrap PDQ or else.
By the time we finished sending the photos and returned to The Fine Equine it was dark. En route, we called Brandy who reassured us that Peter was fine, turned out with her very senior horse, the venerable Cashmere (Kashmir), and they were getting along fine and all was well, so don’t feel you have to come out tonight… At that point we were minutes away and we needed to see Peter, to tell him how sorry we were about abandoning him like that…
It was a peaceful brief walk in comfortable country darkness, cloudy sky so not much moonlight whatever phase it was in, and Peter really was fine. His coat felt cool and healthy to the touch. Oh, he was babyish, mouthing and grinding his teeth, letting us know he’d been through a trying afternoon, but everything’s terrific now.
The next day was the best one in ages. We left the laptop at home, alerted editor to call us if anything cropped up, and made tracks for The Fine Equine and Peter. It’s on the other side of Warrenton (VA) in Rappahannock County: if you keep going west on Rt. 211, you’ll drive into the Blue Ridge Mountains, literally!
Anyhow, we got there and Peter came trotting up to the fence and the next two hours were absolutely fabulous. Bryan was just finishing up in the ring hacking View Finder, by the Irish Sport Horse Carrig View (see photo), and had several more to ride. Peter stood in the aisle for grooming and tacking, we got into the ring after Bryan had already started one of twice weekly ‘walks’ for his timber race mare, I’mACraftyDame.
We took a walk around the perimeter fencing, looked at all the jumps, the corner with wishing well standards etc, and then Peter stood like a statue at the mounting block.
30 minutes of sheer bliss! Mostly walking with just two little trots, circles and half-circles, halts, walking over the ground rails – Peter was so good, so soft, so sweet – one of those precious times in life that will sustain us through the bumpy bits and remind us what brings us the most joy – partnership with our horse.
Bryan complimented Peter several times and told us that we were on the right track – just to take it easy and treat him like a green 3 or 4yo for the next couple of weeks. We know that the warm weather had a lot to do with his laid-back attitude, but we also know that this is the season to “flat” this horse (pony – he ‘sticks’ at 14.3), to take advantage of every ‘mild’ afternoon for some under saddle time and to use crisp/breezy days for in-hand work.
Mister Moochie makes his face when we walk back out for one more hug and a few treats (hay extender pellets usually – once in a blue moon he gets a piece of carrot or apple, but definitely nothing with sugar or molasses). We have the camera and really would like a nice photo for this first installment in his CEqE journal.
whatchagot? Camera. can I eat it? Absolutely not, you little dickens. but but but Let us snap one nice photo and you’ll get some hay pellets. sweet!
That’s our pony – reminiscent of an old-fashioned English Thoroughbred, pure 100% Connemara and he does have that “look” – but he’s ours and whatever his destiny, we’re going to explore it together. Time will tell. He loves to go on trails, and we hope he takes to foxhunting. Some little shows, little events – whatever he enjoys is what we’ll do and he too will be an ambassador for the Irish sport pony – the “can do it all” Connemara.
We’ve only just begun…