I was so excited to see my new foals. After waiting nearly a year from contemplation on which stallions to breed to, to the foals actually being born, I finally got to see my foals that represented a huge investment of time, emotion and money. I'd always wanted to have fillies. But these two colts have been so amazing since the day they were born that I have changed my mind on the filly thing. Right away I made a commitment to make sure they had barn names, since I'd been know to call foals things like, "the baby or Lilly's colt" after the mare's name far too long. My favorite reality show is Gold Rush, so my boys got the names of my two favorite miners the hottie Dustin Hurt and the hardest working kid ever Parker Schnabel! They were easier to work with than most fillies we've (mom and I) ever raised (we have raised mainly fillies over the years) plus they were just really nice foals. Both have grown well, sound, injury free, weaned pretty easy, and since this little two day old photo collection, have become colts nearly ready to compete at the major futurities.
I haven't laid eyes on them since they were each about four months old when they left our place in California to make a 1700 and 1900 mile one way trailer ride to their respective trainers to get ready to show. Thanks to my mom and dad for hauling them safely. My mom and I will get to see them in less than two weeks and I'm sure we will be shocked at how they have changed and amazed to see them as show ready horses. Dustin my Palomino colt by The Home Run Kid will be about 7.5 months old and Parker the Ikon colt will be about 5.5 months old at the Breeders Halter Futurity. I'm overwhelmed with excitment that I am this close to realizing my goal to compete at the Breeders Halter Futurity. Not only am I headed there in less than 14 days, but both my mom and I have colts to show. I just think about the odds of anyone from CA, breeding, raising, and actually getting two babies to the BHF and that a mom and daughter get to be in the show pen together with home grown colts- it is just simply hard to do-I'm dizzy! Wake me up before it's over!
For the many years I've been in this horse business there have been stories and horror tales of the low side of the horse world. Some were statements from trainers, such as "oh she's a nice mare but so and so has one that is much better," so essentially go on home you're already beat! Or "so and so is always paying off judges so that is why they win all the time." You know the story. Its like a natural part of any industry and especially where there's competition. Yes, we know that these things do happen from time to time. I prefer for myself to promote words of confidence in this horse world. New and old owners and exhibitors have plenty of real backyard problems to worry about. Right now I'm worried my mare isn't getting sick since she's slightly off her feed. I choose to leave the drama at the door because if I get sucked into the bad I'd think more about giving up. I choose to realize that the downside comes with the territory and not to let it be the boogie man. You won't hear me in public talk about or raise drama and generalized worry or doubt about the horse industry. It is my choice and belief that it serves me and most people the best to be positive, optimistic, and realistic. There are avenues to have discussion and report real violations, simple speculation and gossip only creates an industry of distrust and will discourage folks to enter the business or continue.
I respect the right that people have to verbalize the negative, and that they may strongly disagree with my position, but negative peer amateur horsemen have really been the most draining part of having horses. Whether its attacks on HYPP horses and now PSSM, or negative speak about unfairness and politics, and I believe equally damaging is highly judgmental and mean spirited statements about each other, all and all negativity statements that discourages participation in the industry. I have spoken up to some individuals that I have observed being mean on Facebook, where it happens a bit. I delete those folks when I see continued bashing. I've opted out of the PSSM forums as I see it as highly slanted and biased. It appears more self-serving for those who are lucky enough to have ended up with non-PSSM horses.
Many forums ask, "what can we do to improve the halter industry?" I would argue it starts with each of us, for me it starts with me! Imagine for a moment, if we just all supported and encouraged each other, and all just showed up in the pen and had a good time, and realized someone has to lose...that is the name of competition. Be a cheerleader and go for it. I worry for those new faces who might consider buying their first halter horse, how do they feel when they hear this stuff? I can't believe it will encourage new entry to this industry. Please be thoughtful of how your messaging hurts us all.
Raising and showing horses is the most fun and stimulating thing in my life. It is for so many people, and could be for so many more. We've put hundreds of halter points on horses that we've raised, fit and shown ourselves on a very moderate budget. So in my experience of 30 years it is a completely open playing field where hard work, and investment works! Look around and put things into relative perspective. This world is full of bad, choose to focus on the great and possible!
What do you think?
After months of anxious emotion, patience and prayers Parker is actually prepared to leave to be fit for the Breeders Halter Futurity and then he will come back to show at the new Best in the West futurity. Yesterday morning I loaded him and took him on a drive around the block so he could get a feel for the trailer and know that eventually it stops and life is ok! He has a great disposition! I'm not sure how this happened-that we got two colts with the most easy-going personalities! He hopped right in the trailer when I lead him to it. Now to give this context, he has never been out of the barn on his own before this moment. He was weaned last Sunday, and yesterday not a full week later, after being in the stall all week eating as much feed as his little heart desired, I took him into the paddock on the halter and made sure I had a good handle on him. He was so mild. Then I lead him out into the isle-way of the barn. I walked to the trailer parked just outside, he followed me right up to the trailer, and I stepped up and in, and without even a thought he was inside with me. He was calm and he nibbled some hay. I petted him, turned him around walked him out, and you know how they will mis-judge the height, he bumbled out like a clumbsy kid. I turned him around and went to load him again. This time he wanted to sniff shavings and check it out a little-then within a minute or two of patience to let him explore, he was back inside and very quiet. We closed the doors and Mom and I drove off with him inside all by his little 3.5 month baby self! He rode well, I hopped up inside with him, put his halter back on, and out we went and with the same lack of grace he hit the driveway. What a cutie!
Parker is special to us for several reasons. One he is beautiful! He is just very balanced, smooth, correct, and he has the "breedy" thing I love to see in a horse, and especially a young show horse. From every angle when you watch him in the stall he is just super looking. He doesn't have awkward looks. It is hard for a small breeder to get good ones like this-we have shipped from a lot of really good horses, raised a lot of foals, and too often we didn't get a baby that looked like a halter horse or what we were wanting. Second is his super disposition as I described. Third, is we raised his momma, grandma, and great-grandma. So this means he is home grown and a product of what we have worked on for about 30 years. We put Superior Halter awards on all three of these mares in his mare line, and we fit and showed them ourselves. (Except his momma went to Mike McMillian for about thee months, and we had Bob Kail lead his great-grandma at the World, and the amazing Greg Whalen led his great aunt to win the then highly prestigious Cow Palace, along with a few other catch leads for us a big shows).
I earned my first AQHA point with his great-great maternal grand dam when I was in high school. My mom earned her first AQHA point, and world top 3 with his Great-Grandma. My daughter earned her first points on his grandma and attended her first World show at the youngest age she could compete. She won her first Congress top 3 with his momma. Just a little HX so you know why Parker is so special to us. I know your story with your horses likely brings you the same joy and pride. We all have our story and I hope you cherish it for what it means to you!
Selling horses and making tough decisions about illness and injuries has been the worst part of having horses over the last 30 plus years. In this society it is about making a profit, and keeping your head above water. I was a finance major in college and finance and business teaches you that objective mathematical analysis should inform business decisions. These were the values that most resonated with me as I became an adult. But reality is that emotions exist and when I've been faced with horrid situations with my horses, the business head just can't prevail and rule my decisions. I have faced so many painful emotional situations with my horses, like most of us have if we've done this for a while, from losing foals during delivery, breech births, mispositioned foals, red bag foals, late-term aborted foals, serious colic and colic with surgery and death, awful cuts, broken legs, phenomena, and growth problems needing surgery. The last one I faced was with Nicky my beautiful little filly by Mr Yella Fella last fall. She cut a tendon and as I arrived at the ranch, I stood in the stall looking at her with two bloody hind legs, and one leg which she wouldn't put any pressure on or stand on-or couldn't stand on. The vet arrived only a few minutes later, and the news quickly followed that she had cut her tendon and that it would take significant intervention and treatment. The vet called around to get advise on treatment and then presented me with my options, take her to a clinic for treatment, treat her at home with greater risk of infection, or put her down. The anticipated treatment cost ranged from about $4,000 at a clinic to about $2,000-$3,000 if we choose to treat her at home. But treating her at home meant that she had an increased chance things wouldn't go well, and we would have to keep her leg wrap changed almost daily for several weeks to months, and she would need to be on stall rest for at least 90 days to allow the tendon to heal. She also had to have a wedge heel put on that leg to elevate the heel keeping the pressure and tension off the tendon. I stood bawling for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only about 10 minutes, while mom and I talked through my tears. My filly was seriously injured, and how could I justify that kind of money on a filly that was nice, but was probably worth about $5,000? I decided to keep her at home and treat her. My biggest fear was that she would end up with a huge infection and I'd loose her after investing the money in vet costs. My mom and I changed her bandages and wrapped her leg faithfully following our vet's recommendations. We kept her leg wrapped for about four months total! The vet was out many many times for IV antibiotics and follow-up care. Nicky made it! It was not a decision that was easy to make, and I ended up spending about $3,000-$4,000 in vet bills healing her up. Emotions ruled the logic of finance on this one. Nicky now lives with a wonderful family in Utah. I rest well at night and trust that my good deeds will pay dividends in the end.
On a beautiful spring day about two months ago I stood in the field looking at this beautiful colt and wondered, would I get to the moment where he would actually go back east to be fit for the Breeders Halter Futurity?
I can't tell you the number of times I have debated and played out the scenarios. Who would be the best trainer, would they take care of him, was he good enough, would he stay together, how much could I afford...? See I haven't been to a major event since 2005-nearly a decade, so it is really hard to know if I just have my head in the clouds and if I should spend the money it will take to go show this little colt. The deliberation is over! Today in about an hour he will be in the trailer and headed to Texas. Last night I went to visit him for the last time in his stall. He stuck his little nose though the stall begging for attention. I petted and kissed his sweet nose (I know breeding this level of horse, I should be all business...but) and appreciated how sweet he is; makes me weepy to know he will be gone and off to be treated like a "horse" and he will begin a journey of becoming a fit beautiful show colt. Let the journey begin...
I had been off work for about two weeks as a part of my six weeks following a surgery. I was sitting in my comfy chair in the living room and had the first period of downtime in almost a decade that let reflect and do nothing but think. My kids were adults, I had a pretty good job and a decent income, was single, owned my home, and still owned a few horses that had been leisurely grazing for the past few years as I had lost all time, and energy for them. My mom also had done the same still owning her best show mare, who about 10 years old and had only been bred once since retired from her show career. With all this time, as you can imagine, my thoughts were so free to drift and my little MackBook Pro made it easy to surf the web, read and learn about the Breeders Halter Futurity, find all sorts of groups, and look at hundreds of photos of halter horses (my eye skips automatically over the riders and any horse that doesn't have halter looks or breeding) jaded...biased...no! I just love halter horses. I love how they look, they are like art to me, a living breathing and ever changing piece or art. I don't want to buy one that is already what it is, I want to raise it to think about how the possibilities of the mare and stallions qualities will match up, I want the dream, the possibilities, the craftsmanship or art of being a breeder. The wheels were turning...
Within a few weeks I found a mare for sale in foal to Fearles, who was one of the few sires whose foals were eligible for the Amateur Breeders Halter Futurity classes, and she was only 30 miles from my house-she was due in February and to put this in perspective I live in California, and to ship a horses here form Iowa or TX which is where the action seems to be, is about $800-1500 depending on the shipper and how good a deal you can get. So here from the sky drops a mare all ready to go-in foal to one of the hottest stallions in the industry and I'm ready to get back into the game!
Christine Miller (Zoppi)
I love halter horses and have had a dream for as long as I can remember to have a World Champion horse that I raised from my own breeding program. I am a working person. I have had my ups and downs though life and have lived through some heart breaking moments with my horses and also times where I couldn't believe how lucky I was. I took a seven year break from the horses and in late fall of 2012 decided to get back into the game. I decided to begin this blog because I know Im not alone in this dream and journey. Im not a great writer, but I want to challenge myself to do something different, and be more open about the struggles, heartbreak, joy and utter heart pounding excitement that makes me want to successfully breed, show and sell horses, even though the bar is high and some would say only for those who have a lot of money.