Sunday, June 8, 2014

CA Recap

Leo and I returned home about a week and a half ago.  I came immediately back to the barn/work and haven't had a moment to sit down and provide a recap of our training and showing trip to CA until now.

Overall, the trip went very well.  Leo hauled like a pro and settled into his new home for the month at W Farms like he never had left (Leo lived there for 8 months).  He trained each session like it was no big deal and handled his first show (a big show nonetheless) like a seasoned veteran.

W Farms has become a second family for me over the years.  They have always welcomed me with open arms each time I have come down to train.  I always feel like a part of the team and cannot say enough positive things about everyone involved with the farm.  David Wilson, did a wonderful job preparing Leo and me for the Flintridge  Show.  The main points that we worked on were to continue to keep Leo in front and light to the leg and seat aids (we are now at the point I just need to use a little seat and Leo will respond); continue to polish up the submission (more so that Leo maintains consistency in the gaits and frame and not from any disobedience); and finally to have Leo work in a slightly higher frame (a frame that is appropriate for Training Level and the USEF 4 year old test).

Leo really did shine at the Flintridge Show.  For being his first show, he handled the environment like he had been showing for years.  The highlight of the show was the Training Level Test 3 ride on Friday when we scored a 76.8%.  Leo was fluid and smooth during this ride.  One of the comments from judge Axel Steiner was a this is how we want Training Level rides to be ridden.  Our ride was the second highest score of the day; and only .2% behind the highest score of the day.  Ironically, the high score of the day was from my old mentor, Hilda Gurney.

In our other rides, we had  some simple young horse mistakes.  When Leo becomes unbalanced in the canter he will simply do a flying change to other lead.  We had a couple of those when I lost connection during the rides.  Because there are not a lot of points available in the Training Level and First Level tests, mistakes like these are costly.  In the two other tests where we had these mistakes, we scored 68%.  It is really encouraging that on our "off" rides we are still near 70%.

Here is the video link from our Training 3 ride on Friday:

Our next show is this upcoming  weekend at the Beaujolais Show over Father's Day weekend.  There I will be showing Leo and also Andi Garland's 2 year colt Otto (Totalias x Riverman) in the Friday breedshow.

Thank you for the support!

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Friday, May 2, 2014

USEF Young Horse Clinic

Over the Easter weekend, I had the opportunity to ride in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Clinic with Scott Hassler.  Devonwood Equestrian Centre, in Sherwood, OR, graciously hosted the event.  We had a total of 8 horses/riders in the clinic.

One of the highlights of the weekend was to see how the quality of young horses in the Pacific Northwest has dramatically improved over the years.  There is now more depth in the quality of young horses in the area than ever before.  It will be fun to watch all of these horses, and some of the others that weren't in the clinic, develop over the coming years.  Talking with some of my colleagues, it looks like we have 4-6 horses aiming to qualify for the Young Horse Dressage Championships this year.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with my training sessions with Scott.  Scott lays out simple, yet extremely effective approach to training a young horse.  Over the two days, we worked with Leo on being more responsive to the leg so that he would then glide out in front of me with the simplest of leg pressure.  In addition, we worked on keeping him up a little higher in the shoulders in the canter to help with his balance, especially in the left lead canter.  All in all, Leo showed improvement over the two days of the clinic.  Scott was impressed with how he is doing and hopes we can do big things in the future.

Here is the video from the second day of the clinic:

Later that week, I took Leo to one day with Conrad Schumacher at Pumpkin Farms for Conrad to give us an eye and insight on how we are doing.  The ride went great.  I have been doing cavelletti with Leo at the trot, but not at the canter.  Conrad had us not only doing 3 poles at the trot but also at the canter.  Doing the poles helped sustain Leo's rhythm and little bit better in the canter, which then helped out with the balance. 

Here is the video from the Conrad clinic:

All in all, Leo is in a great place right now and we are ready to head down to California to train at W Farms with David Wilson and to show at the Flintridge Dressage Show.  You can follow our progress here or at Leo's website.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Video of Leo

With the end of February upon us, we are beginning to slowly increase Leo's training.  This is in preparation for the spring clinics we have coming up with HenriK Johansen, Scott Hassler and Conrad Schumacher, a schooling show to get Leo out and see a show setting, and for our May trip to California for training with David Wilson and to compete at the Dressage at Flintridge Dressage Show.

Below is a short video of Leo schooling:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Leonard da Vinci's 2014 Schedule

I am excited to announce Leo's 2014 training, clinic and show schedule for 2014
1st: Donida Farm Schooling Show
13th to 14th: Henrik Johansen clinic at River Run Ranch
19th to 20th: USEF Young Horse Training Clinc with Scott Hassler at Devonwood Equestrian Centre, Sherwood OR
TBA: Conrad Schumacher Clinic at Pumpkin Farms Dressage, Monroe WA
Beginning of May: Travel to W Farms, Chino Hills CA, for training with David Wilson
23rd to 25: Dressage at Flintridge, La Canada Flintridge CA.  Qualifying for the Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships
13th to 15th: Beaujolais Dressage Show, Auburn WA.  Qualifying for the Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships
TBA: Henrik Johansen Clinic
18th to 20th: Dressage at Devonwood, Sherwood OR
2nd: Summervale Dressage Festival, Roy WA
21st to 24th: Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships, Wayne IL

We will add in a couple of more clinics with international level instructors during the summer when their respective schedules are confirmed.
This will be a big  season for Leo and me.  We are looking forward to the challenge, excitement and fun of working towards being one of the best four year old dressage horses in the country.  Thank you for your support!
Matt Eagan with Leonardo Da Vinci

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


To achieve your dreams, it definitely takes a supportive team to train and show successfully.  Below is my team that helps me be the best that I can be.

If you or your company are interested in joining us and be part of this exciting team please feel free to contact me.

Complimentary/Integrated Veterinary Services
Jill Todd DVM
Dr Jill Todd is a vital component to my training and showing program with her therapies.  Dr Todd's services include chiropractic (Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation), acupuncture and cold laser therapies.  With her assistance, my horses are able to perform their best.

Northwest Equine Veterinary Associates
NW Equine Veterinary Associates

Dr Steve Latimer and his staff are truly the best in the Pacific Northwest.  Dr Latimer is the best lameness vet in our area and his approach to helping the horses is well educated and reasonable.  Using the most advanced treatments, Dr Latimer helps keep our horses happy and sound.

Anderson Equine Saddle Fitting Services
Anderson Equine
I have been using Dawn for the past 3 years as my saddle fitter.  With her keen eye and attention to detail she does a fantastic job of keeping the saddle fitting correctly and my horse's backs pain free.  Her customer service is outstanding in that she will recheck with me to make sure that the saddle for my horse is fitting perfectly.  I enjoy riding in my Hastilow saddle with the Fairfax girth.

Olson's Tack Store
Olson's Tack Shop
Mike Akers and his dedicated staff do a outstanding job of outfiiting me for my daily training and show attire.  Additionally, I will always find the training equipment that I am looking for either in the store or they will happily order it for me.  I always look sharp from my helmet to my boots thanks to Olson's.

Tom Wright Horseshoeing

Tom has been my farrier for the past 6 years and I cannot say enough positive words about the work he does.  From making minor adjustments to help the horse move even better, to correcting truly bad feet and helping the horse become sound, Tom can do it.  His positive, can do attitude with soft touch with the horse makes him the best farrier in our area.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hill Work for Dressage Horses

I have always been a firm believer in getting the horse outside of the ring either for hacking, or for strength work.  This not only gives the horse an opportunity to get outside of the arena but also to vary their training routine.

I am fortunate that at the farm I train at, Red Fern Stables, we have the opportunity to hack our horses on a series of trails right out the arena door.  Additionally, we also have two hills we can take the horses on.

I absolutely love taking the horses up the hills as this helps strength their hindend region (especially the gluts and stifles).  It also helps teach the horse balance, not only going uphill, but as we go downhill the horse must learn to balance upright or they will end up on the ground because they lost their balance (this has never happened to me).

We have two hills on the farm.  One is a shorter, steeper  hill that goes into the woods.  This is great not only for the strength work, but because of some of the uneven terrain (it is a dirt trail). The ground helps strengthen the tendons and ligaments in the lower leg.  The other hill is the road that leads into the farm.  It is longer in distance (.5 mile in each direction), and overall less steep compared to the woods hill but nonetheless and great hill to begin and/or end the ride.

Typically, I will hack the horse halfway up the hill before the ride to help loosen up its muscles and joints.  If the weather is nice, I will get each horse out for a hack around the property before and after their training session, or for an easy day hack for 30-60 minutes.  This serves two purposes: 1) it gives the horse a change of scenery and gets them out of the arena. 2). The purpose of the ride is for recovery and the walking around helps loosen up the joints and muscles and also helps flush the metabolic waste out of the muscles.  I am able to keep all of the horses fresh and interested in their work because of this opportunity to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Recently, we experienced a severe cold spell in Seattle.  Because of the freezing temperatures the footing in the arena became unrideable.  Fortunately, we were able to handwalk each horse outside.  With each horse we did multiple hill repeats to substitute for the daily riding they were not able to do.  We did this for 5 days (My assistants and I were each hand walking 2-4 hours each day).  When the warmer temperatures returned each horse rode like they hadn't missed a beat because of the extra hill work we put into their program during the cold temperatures.  Having the hill to work on made the difference.

                                             Some nice views hacking around the property

                                                                A group of us heading up the hill
                                                                for some work

                                                                My dog "Z" leading the way

                                                                 One of the views from the top
                                                                 of the hill

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Complete Update

Indeed it has been a very long time since I have posted an update.  I am setting a new goal of posting at least one time a month.

I have had a lot of positive changes the past year and I am happy with where I am at now professionally, and more importantly, what the future holds.

New Barn:
The first big change, is I moved my business to a new farm in October 2012.  I am now conducting my training operations out Red Fern Stables on Union Hill in Redmond.  I couldn't be happier with the new farm.  I am also overseeing the day to day operation of the farm, which I am happy to do. 

Amenities include:
-Each horse has either a 12x12 or 12x14 stall with attached paddock off each stall.

-Full dressage court with hogsfuel footing

-Turn out 5 days a week


-Trail system right out the arena.  Great for flat hard ground work to strengthen ligaments and tendons and also two hills to do strength work on.  Weather permitting, I will hack the horses outside prior to schooling them, and then afterwards, do a little hill work to finish off the training sessions.  The horses love getting out of the arena and I have noticed my horses having greater strength and also stronger stifles from the hill work


-Observation Room

Currently we have a full barn of 17 horses in training.

Last October I purchased a horse for myself.  In my search I had been looking for a young horse (3-5 years old).  The reasons being were that I wanted to train a horse from the beginning of its career, but also a quality young horse fit my budge.  During my search I came across an 11yro, 17.1h chestnut Hanoverian gelding named Wyndham (by Wolkenstein II).  Wyndam and I clicked instantly and I decided to purchase him instead of a couple of other young horses I was looking at.

Wyndham came to me with a lot of talent, but also with some training issues.  Primarily, he was spooky and not quiet in the barn.  After a couple of months we began to see a turn around in Wyndham's behavior.  Most importantly, Wyndham began showing a little self confidence.

After six months of work we turned a huge corner.  It took longer than I had anticipated.  After weeks of extra time spent together, not only under saddle but also from the ground, I had a horse that was ready to really begin training.  The highlight was taking Wyndham to a Conrad Schmaucher clinic and having Wyndham take his training to another level.  A new horse emerged and I finally felt confident I would have a solid 3rd/4th Level horse for 2013 but also a FEI small tour horse by the end of 2014.  Grand Prix would be obtainable at some point too.

Sadly, two days after the clinic Wyndham experienced a severe colic.  I took him up to Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital.  Initially, Wyndham was stable but after a couple of hours began to go downhill.  We elected to perform surgery on him.  About midway through the surgery we determined it was in Wyndham's best interest to stop the surgery and put Wyndham to sleep.

What we found was that Wyndham had 5 feet of dead small intestine (it was completely black) and a gastrosplenic rent that was discovered and then was lost.  The dead colon did not concern me as much, but the unknown rent did, as most likely we would need to perform a second surgery in the future. Based upon those factors, plus knowing Wyndham's behavior, a prolonged recovery for Wyndham would have been extremely tough on him.  So much so, he would have likely hurt himself from being stall bound, hurt me or someone else, and most likely had a second colic because of the frustration of being stall bound.  Wyndham was a horse that need not only work, but also to be outside.

While the decision to put Wyndham down was easy to make, the emotional fall out/devastation was greater than I had ever imagined.  I had put down a personal horse earlier in my life so I knew what that entailed.  Wyndham's death hit me greater than a ton of bricks and to this day still brings tears to my eyes thinking or talking about it (seriously, I am wiping away tears right now).

What I can take comfort in was the 6 months that I owed and trained Wyndham were the best of his life.  He gave so much to me and he trusted me so explicitly that I don't know if I can have a connection like that again.  What amazed more than anything was that I didn't realize the connection the two of us had was so apparent to other people.

Following his death, most of my clients mentioned that they saw the connection, but also people who saw us at the Conrad clinic, who just saw me ride him and nothing more, saw the connection too.  A couple of the auditors later mentioned to me that they could tell how much Wyndham trusted me based on watching us work together.

Wyndham will always be a special horse in my heart. I will always know we were meant to be a team, even if it were for a short period of time.

Leonard da Vinci:
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  Once I began to recover emotionally from Wyndham's death I began a search for a new horse.  During my search last year I came across a 2 year old at David Wilson's farm (W Farms).  I liked him a lot at that time but decided to go with Wyndham, who was also at David's.

I contacted David's sales manager, and a good friend, Amanda Olson, to see if Leo was still up for sale.  Fortunately, he was.  In August I traveled down to try out Leo.  For a 3 year old, Leo showed exceptional balance, power and up hill tendency.  He arrived in September.  Leo is a 16.1h bay Hanoverian (Locksley I x Dacaprio)

Over the past three months, I have taken Leo out to clinic with Conrad, Anne Gribbons, and Henrik Johansen.  The main purpose of these clinics was to take Leo out to new places and to get an evaluation from these international level instructors.  Because of his age, we kept the sessions short.  With each trainer, we were given new exercises that did challenge Leo and he took each new challenge in stride and performed each well.

All three instructors had positive remarks regarding Leo and basically said you have an exceptional young horse on your hands.

Leo shows three solid gaits, with an exceptional canter.  He is very workman like under saddle but a little bit of a goof in the barn.  He has attached himself to me fairly quickly and is always aware of where I am at in the barn.  My assistants are always laughing when they are tacking up or handwalking Leo because he is always looking at me.  Every morning when I come into the barn he hears me and has his head out of his stall stall looking or calling to me.

My plan for Leo is to take him down to CA in May for a month of training with David and to compete in the West Coast Young Horse Selection Trials at Flingridge.  Our big goal for 2014 is to qualify and compete in the USEF Young Horse Championships at the end of August.  I am aiming for a high finish. 

All of this of course will be dependent upon Leo.  If Leo is not ready for any of this I will back down on his training and showing.

Photo credits: Christine Thronton

In the next few days I will post another update of new horses I have in training and am showing.

Also, on a quick side note, I choose not to mention my work with my students and their improvements and accomplishments as I feel that that is their personal work and not my business to publicly talk about it.  Needless to say, I have been quite proud of my students and their work.