Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Long and Winding Road Part 4

Day 4 (I think…)

It is hard to keep track of time when you aren’t in the “real world” but we did dressage today, so it must be Friday.  Courtney Carson had Quantum looking like the star he is, with a set of braids the hunter people would have been killed to have.  Quantum didn’t have quite the test we had hoped for, but he is for sure going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.  The atmosphere was quite electric and he felt it (and being half TB, when he feels it, you know it.  No internalizing for this guy!).

Nowhere in the US do you have the crowds so close to the ring, all the tents literally on 3 sides of the ring and the crowd moving and climbing right next to the ring.  He was tense, and his lateral work and canter work showed that.  There were no major mistakes, but the connection was not always there and he was penalized for it, rightly so.  I thought Doug did a masterful job keeping the lid on, and there were some very good movements.   His trot work in particular had such an improvement in the cadence and lift compared to a couple months ago.  When he gets strong enough to carry that, he will be fabulous.  What a learning experience for him – it’s going to make the event formerly known as Rolex a walk in the park when he is there in 2 years. 😊

I watched the 6 years old this morning, and there were still large variations in the scoring, with scores 9-10% points difference between the judges.  As I’ve said before, a lot of very heavy types, with a lot of straight dressage breeding.  I just can’t see some of these horses going xc at upper levels.  First not with their breeding, and second not with their type.  In the past, the 6-year olds have had more of a dressage contest here, so I don’t expect the standings to change much for them tomorrow.

The 7-year olds are certainly more of a type that I can see galloping, as they are on a whole, more of the type I expect to see.  I especially liked Birmane – just the type I expect to see going well xc.  I have heard that xc is more influential with the 7-year olds, so hopefully that will be the case.  There are a lot of scores packed in between 25 and 35!

The amazing xc elves have been hard at work overnight with finishing touches.  The dragons at fence 1 laid an egg overnight, and some wooden horses were corralled next to the big drop.  I have to admit I didn’t walk the whole course again, so tomorrow there might be even more surprises.  The very influential corners at fence 21 have been softened with a black flag option that will takes some time due to the roping, but at least you have an option because they are both pretty narrow.

As far as dogs, apparently it isn’t all about Jack Russells.  The French have a lot of dogs here (just like the US).  I saw a bunch of whippets and French Bulldogs. (breeds I don’t usually see at events in the US) and not a single Lab.  That’s weird.

The trade fair is a little quieter than ours.   As usual, saddles and horse stuff, but fewer “crafty” things. Socks seem to be the “in thing” to have, judging by the number of booths.  Oh, and of course, wine.  Boy, is there wine.  But no chocolate anywhere, which I find both sad and disturbing.  As is the lack of pastries – I was expecting an epicurean delight of pastries, and no, not a single place selling them.

The wine comes both by the glass and by the case, and there is a very strange baguette you can buy that is labeled “American” which contains ham, cheese, lettuce and sliced hard boiled eggs with butter. My husband says one try of it was enough – and he is usually an omnivore, so I’m guessing the taste was exactly what it sounds like.  Apparently, he hadn’t sampled enough wine.

So, after drinking more wine tonight, relying on GPS to get us home yet one more way – we haven’t taken the same way home yet, we are looking forward to a great day of xc tomorrow!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

The Long and Winding Road, Part 3

We got up early and had a very French breakfast made by our host, which beat the piece of tongue I had last night (it had hair on it, so I’m not sure what part it came from, but I can assure you as a veterinarian, it was NOT tongue).  Then we headed out to watch Doug school early, then watch dressage and walk xc.

The horses are all feeling a little fresh – it is pretty cool in the morning and it was reassuring to see several riders head out to school flat work with neck straps.  I feel a little less like a weenie. Quantum schooled well, but may need a bit of a gallop before dressage tomorrow. He goes at 2:40 so hopefully will be a little more settled by the time we get to that.

Next up – dressage watching. The 6-year olds went in the morning and we were able to watch the top couple of riders go.  The scoring was a little difficult to understand at times – it didn’t seem the judges were all looking for the same thing and seemed to be rewarding opposite sides of the spectrum.  At one point, the final scores for 1 rider were off by 11% – that’s a pretty big range and it continued across the day.  It varied as well – not one single judge was always high or low.  I did get to see a 10 though – for a leg yield by Cooley Moonshine who is currently leading the 6-year olds.   I was impressed by Michael Jung’s ride – he rode his horse in a longer frame which I thought was better for his horse, as it is not the most elastic mover and it allowed him to show relaxation instead of cramming the horse together.  The youngsters did well in the environment – some were tense, but they handled it well and no major malfunctions seemed to occur.

The 7-year olds are quite impressive.  Ingrid Klimke is currently leading and had a lovely, forward test that wasn’t rushed, as some of the others I saw today were. The horses again handled everything well, and most of the tension was seen in the connection to the hand with some unsteadiness evident.  There are some very heavy movers though – I wonder how they will hold up over a 4* course.

I did see the Diarado, who is currently in third and although he wasn’t as relaxed as he could have been, I continue to like him.  I also liked Bogosse du Levant, an Anglo- Arab who though unsteady in his connection, was a loose, elastic mover and I think his gallop will be effortless.  I guess I’ll find out!

We then walked xc with Doug, Jess, Hudson, Marilyn and Richard Payne, and some of their friends here for the event.  It was kinda like a class trip, with people going ahead, having to wait for others and people falling behind to take pictures of the jumps.  They are truly amazing. The course is along galloping paths which are roped off pretty narrowly, so twisty and turny with some open spaces. It is really dry here, but they continue to water and aerate, so I think the footing will be fine.   The first couple of fences are pretty small (like even I would jump the first 4 or so!), and then they get harder.  I gave up thinking I could ride them after about fence 6.   There are a lot of accuracy questions and some very skinny corners and lines late in the course when the horses are going to be tired.  I’m also unsure what the course will look like with 60,000 people roped in close – I think that might be the toughest part for Quantum.

As far as the jumps, my favorites were the snails (escargots, for you French folks) and the dragons which are jump #1.  They are fairly innocuous dragons, but I like them anyway.  I’m not sure which is going to be the hardest combinations on course – there is a big drop off a house roof (yes, I did say a roof), 4 strides to a skinny to a 2 strides skinny, all down a pretty good slope, and a turning question which involves a skinny ditch and wall to uneven terrain and a corner, so….

So, looking forward to tomorrow and dressage.  Quantum is just starting to mature into himself, so I’m hoping this is not going to be a dressage contest. Watch the live stream and cheer us on!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

The Long and Winding Road, part 2

So, we flew over to France Saturday night/Sunday morning, afternoon, evening.  It seems like that day goes on for a week.  Of course, you all know how much work is involved in leaving horses when you leave home, so I spent the last day shipping some horses one place and some another, writing out instructions, and taking care of all the other animals as well.  Whew!  And I feel really guilty that I’m missing the YEH Championships this week at Fair Hill, as I have a young TB mare in the 4-year-old class and won’t see her go.  Can’t be in 2 places at one time though!

We spent 2 days in Paris, not much horse related except for the 3 degrees of equine Kevin. Bacon.  We were invited to a dinner party Tuesday night where one of the guest’s daughter had spent the summer riding with Adrienne Lorio, who had come to try a 3-year-old of mine last year.  Small equine world indeed! We walked all over Paris, and although it is a beautiful city, it is way crowded for this person.

We left Paris this am and drove down to Le Lion, which was about a 3-hour drive – other than some major confusion about the tolls, and no earthly idea how to figure out what we were going to owe at the end, it went well.  Thank God for credit cards. The country is beautiful, rolling and lots of trees.  It looks pretty dry, and I’m not too sure how the footing will be.  The towns are small, the roads narrow and they look a lot like small town rural America – boarded up buildings and store fronts.  The difference is that the towns here have older stone houses that are boarded up, and the cost of redoing them to today’s expectations must be staggering.

We are staying in an Air BnB about 15 minutes from Le Lion and it is a house that was built in 1650 (or so!)  and has been totally redone. It is fabulous, and thanks to GPS, we can actually get back and forth with only minor discrepancies.

I didn’t get too much of a look at the course yet – a few fences were visible from the road and included a giant set of brush snails(!), a violin, and the spider.

We got here in time to watch the jog up and I’ll share my impressions with you.  First, the horses were all beautifully turned out. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the braided tail look, – mostly because they look half way done to me after looking at hunter braided tails.  I won’t say it affected the jogging or how they carry their tail, but I prefer the pulled look myself.  The riders were neat – most of them – but not ostentatious.   I only saw a few dangerous looking footwear choices and mostly the horses behaved.

It really is a who’s who of eventing – a lot of them were at the WEGs, so it will be really interesting to see them riding the youngsters.  Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Rosalind Canter, Piggy French, Thomas Carlisle, Sandra Auffarth, Andrew Hoy, Christopher Burton, and of course the USA’s Tiana Coudray, Liz Holliday Sharp and Doug Payne.

As for the horses first let me tell you that the horseflesh is amazing.  The quality that is here is superb. However, I thought a few, generally in the 6-Year-old divisions, could use a little more weight and shine.  Conformationally speaking, not all of them would be winning the conformation classes, which just goes to show you that it isn’t everything, since these guys have already done a CCI* and a CIC** with no xc jumping faults. I was surprised by the loin connection in a few – they looked weak in the loin and back, with poor hindquarters. There were some pretty low set short necks as well, which could affect front end and shoulder freedom.  But who am I to judge?

Now for the breeding junkies.  If you don’t care about the breeding or where your horse comes from, you might want to skip this part ‘cause it is going to be ALL about it!

I liked both the Diarado’s a lot – Rebecca Howards 6 yr old Cooley Convinced and Nicola Wilson’s 7 yr old JL Dublin. The best mover of the day might have gone to Gentleman FRH, the 6 yr old stallion by Gray Top. Is he going to have the blood for a 4*?  I also liked Aoife Clarks’s Celia D’ermac Z for Ireland and Thomas Carlisle ‘s Birmaine for France.  The Mighty Magic’s were different in size, but all the same type and have the same eye. I was surprised at how small Figaro de Consessions is – my MM’s have all been big horses. Not the biggest movers, but very similar.  Michael Jung’s horses, with the exception of the Contendro, Choclat ‘weren’t the biggest movers either.

And my personal favorite, of course, was Quantum Leap, who certainly is in the minority with a full TB parent.  Michael Jung has a TB sire on one of his, and there are a few with TB grandsires, usually on the dam’s side

Couple other observations…  First, the ISH breeding is no longer the dominant breeding that we used to see.  There is a lot of warm blood in most of them – in fact they now resemble the different European studbooks – seems like everything is being consolidated. You could pick out a few that were the older type ISH without a doubt, but on the whole, they weren’t much different looking from the warmblood.  The Selle Francais that France has were of many different types – there did not seem to be a clear consensus – some were heavy and short, some were tall and long. I was surprised   to see that dissimilar a type for a breed that is becoming more dominant in eventing breeding.

So on to dressage tomorrow, and hopefully a chance to walk the xc course and also thank my lucky stars and my stomach that I am not riding it.  I’ll try to get the snails’ picture close up.  Any of you at the YEH Championships in the next 2 days, cheer on those babies so that they might make it here to France in the future!

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan

The Long and Winding Road to Le Lion D’Angers

So, the nice folks at the USEA asked me if I would do a blog of my time in France at the World Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion dAngers. I told them I’d be happy to, although creative writing was not necessarily a talent of mine.  So, here’s what you’re getting!

I think breeding horses is a lot like evening.  It’s expensive, time consuming, back breaking labor, with a lot of bad moments. Really bad moments.  There is a reason breeder are called the eternal optimists.   Sometimes the rewards seem minuscule, and the forward steps so small, both in training and in breeding. I think it’s a lot like the two minutes before you enter the start box- you’re thinking “Why the hell did I think this was a good idea?”.  Maybe that’s when the bills come in for the breeding that didn’t take, or the mare that aborted, or the foal that is at the ICU.   But then in eventing there’s that magical moment when you’re finished cross country and you come through the finish flags and you think yourself “That was just awesome! I can’t wait to do it again!”.

So that awesome moment for me as a breeder is the fact that one of the horses I bred is the US representative and winner of the Turner Holekamp grant to compete at Le Lion d’Angers at the World Young Event Horse Championships in France later this month.   It’s pretty darn cool, and awesome, if I do say so myself. Yup, eventing and breeding have a lot of similarities.

That horse is the 7yr old RPSI gelding Quantum Leap. Quantum is owned by Doug and Jess Payne and Susan and Dave Drillock and ridden by Doug. Doug had the foresight (or the luck), to buy him from my small breeding program as a yearling six years ago. He had bought another one of my horses form another source and called me to ask if I had anything that I thought would be an upper-level prospect.  I sent him pictures and despite the pictures (because yearlings are generally hideous), Doug bought him.

He has campaigned him up the levels and into this world championship.  He’s there because he was the highest placed and qualified horse from the YEH Championships in 2015 and received the grant. The grant’s purpose is to develop and reward the breeding of future US team horses.   This is something we need here in the US.  We have the horses and the bloodlines to be successful on the world stage.  What we don’t have is the program and financial support to develop these horses.  The Turner – Holekamp grant is a step in the right direction for the development of quality event horses.   Being able to compete at Le Lion is a true yardstick. This year, over 34% of the event horses at the WEG had participated at Le Lion.  That’s a pretty high percentage, when you consider that the completion is capped at 70 7-year olds and is held once yearly…. So, it is hopefully a prediction for the future.

It’s a pretty tough competition. The crowds are usually about 60,000 on cross country day, and the course is a work of art and a lot to look at. The course is 10 minutes and it’s a true Championship course. So, it is going to be a real test for him.

I have a pretty small breeding program – I usually only have 1-2 foals a year and now am on my third generation. I started breeding 30 years ago which means I’m either very experienced or old or a little bit of both. I also started eventing about that time, and managed to actually compete at prelim, and even tried a couple (as in 2) Intermediates, but that was actually way too nausea inducing for me to keep going at that level.  Currently, I’m on a second generation homebred and have made my way (slowly, slowly,) back up to prelim after a 10-year gap at the lower levels.  I think 3’7 has gotten taller than it was 10 years ago.

I didn’t start out breeding event horses on purpose. I just wanted to breed something for myself to ride. Or at least what I think I would like to ride… Event breeding is a pretty small market and I think it is difficult.  You can’t breed the heart we need in event horses, but you can try to breed the best athlete you can.  As the years have gone on I’ve pretty much concentrated on that type of horse.  Most of my mares are at least half thoroughbred and I cross them generally with good moving jumper type horses. Quantum is a good example of that as his sire Quite Capitol jumped to the 1.6 m level in Europe and his dam is an OTTB who just happens   to be a half-sister to John William’s 4* horse, Sloopy.

As a breeder, first of all you want your horses to be in a home where they’re going to be taken care of and second, you’d love to see them doing what you’ve bred them for and reaching their full potential.  There’s a lot of hopes, dreams, and plans all caught up in that creature that’s in front of you. So, to see Quantum win this grant and to be able to go to watch him go is really one of the things that helps make up for all the not so good things that happen with breeding and with horses.

I can’t want to see him compete and to see the breeding on these top event horses. To have all that dedicated breeding in one place!  It’s like being a kid in a candy store.

So, I hope that I can convey some of this excitement to all of you when I am over there.   Not just in the competition itself, which is going to be fabulous, but hopefully in what I can get in rubbing shoulders with all those breeders.

Of course, that’s all provided we (my husband and I) can navigate successfully through the streets of Paris with a stick shift…. and stay married while doing so…

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan



To see pictures and related information follow this link to the USEA website: