I had a fantastic time Saturday at the Pacific Sporthorse Selection at Christiane Noelting Dressage Center in Vacaville. If you haven’t been to this event, put it in your calendar for next August. Not only is it fun and educational, but it’s wonderful to visit such a fabulous facility and see some quality horse flesh.
I started the morning watching the auction horses presented in pairs. There was a strong mix of jump and dressage horses this year, so it kept the presentation exciting. It seemed heavier on the jumpers this year than dressage horses, but that’s probably because two very nice dressage horses were sold before the weekend started. If I had been looking to buy, this presentation would have helped clear up some questions about a few of the horses (though my choice of the group was actually one that sold prior to the event). A couple of horses really shined when they got in front of a small crowd and made the other horses look quite average (though they were not). It was a pretty great morning.
After that, we all moved over to the main tent to attend the PSS University. The schedule got a bit behind, then a bit forward (there was a much shorter lunch break than initially planned, which was perfect). But it ended up being about 4 and a half hours of education sessions. The “classes” for this year were as follows:
Current Hot Topics in Sporthorse Research – Claudia Sonder, DVM
Evaluating Young Sporthorse Prospects – Melissa Creswick
Jump Course Design for the Young Horse – Linda Allen
Laying a Foundation with Young Horses for Future Success in the FEI – Anne Gribbons
Saddle Fitting – Jochen Schleese
Current Hot Topics in the International Dressage Scene – Anne Gribbons
The talk on research was similar to things I learned in my recent trip to UC Davis. Claudia Sonder discussed much of the same research, but related it to the dressage and jumping crowd. I have to admit I didn’t pay all that much attention, as it was a repeat of recent knowledge, but I know it was quite interesting for others in the group that were not aware of the work that UC Davis and the Center for Equine Heath is doing. Topics discussed were footing and injuries and future diagnostic tools that are much more sensitive and laminitis.
The classes with Melissa Creswick, Linda Allen and Anne Gribbons all worked in the same manner. They worked a bit like a mini-clinic with the clinician talking to both riders and auditors about their individual topics and horses working. The Melissa Creswick session was particularly interesting as she pointed out both very positive things and flaws in each horse under saddle and in an un-tacked conformation analysis later in the session. She shared with the group what her most important attributes are in a prospective sport horse both in temperament and conformation/movement (surprise…their mind is the most important).
Both Anne Gribbons and Linda Allen had some real gems to share with the audience about their topics and lessons were learned watching the horses and riders that were used for demonstration. It was particularly fantastic to watch three horses of different ages/levels in the dressage presentation with Gribbons and watching her work around each horses’ ability and limitations dues to age. Both dealt with the challenges of working with a young horse and how to bring them along without “messing them up.”
Next was a session with Jochen Schleese about saddle fitting for both horse and rider and what to look for if you’re buying a new saddle. His presentation felt a bit rushed, but the program was running behind schedule and he had another event he had to attend later that afternoon. It was an educational session, even if brief…and of course left me yearning for a new saddle.
Later in the afternoon Anne Gribbons came back to have a discussion session about some of the hot topics on the international scene (rolkur, judging issues, freeing up formal dress requirements). The discussion wasn’t lively (it came at the end of a rather long day), but it was informative to hear from someone that is actively involved as a judge at that level.
After the PSS University sections finished up, I jumped right into the wine tasting as the crowd started arriving for the evening gala. The crowd was good and the wine tasting time was great with a ton of mingling and checking out the raffle prizes and all the wonderful vendors.
The Gala presentation started at around 5:30 and lasted until around 6:30 and included some wonderful performances. There were the minis that showed off their driving skills, tricks and jumped in hand and the crowd ate them up. The vaulting was extremely good and fantastic to watch. The jumping demonstration was good (but not nearly as fun as watching the minis do it) and there was a lovely long line demonstration. The foal showing turned into a bit of comedy as the little guy decided he had some jumping potential and jumped out of the ring, then back in…and out and back again. He finally decided that his mom wasn’t enough enticement to stick around and left the arena to go back to the barn. It gave everyone a big smile and good hearty laugh. We were privileged to watch a Freestyle performance from Ari Lopez and her beautiful horse Armani. There was also a fun Frozen themed Pas de Deux showing off the fiery spirit of the Spanish horse.
I followed up my Saturday with a trip back on Monday for the first session of the Anne Gribbons clinic. I’ll be back again next year I’m sure (and maybe one of these years I will drive away with a new horse).