August 25, 2023

Bannockburn Farm Keuring 2023

Every year for as long as I've known Lisa, minus a couple of years during the pandemic, there's been a Belgian Warmblood - North American District (BWP-NAD) Keuring at her mentor's farm, Bannockburn Farm. Lisa's mentor, Allyn McCracken, who passed away earlier this year, was an incredibly influential breeder in the Belgian Warmblood world, at one point rising to #4 in the USEF Show Jumping breeders list through her stock, which all carry a "B" suffix.

Simsalabim, Allyn's pensioned herd sire, enjoying the good life on a steamy summer morning on Wednesday

It has never worked out for me to attend the Keuring before this year, but this year it did, and they needed help. They didn't have anyone to run the Bannockburn horses, and Lisa was bringing five Welsh Cobs and one half-Welsh/half-BWP to be inspected also (which meant the moms were along for the ride as well).

Guess who? Aeres!

I was a little nervous to have a "client" for the Keuring, since I had never attended one before, although at this point I have a lot of experience showing in-hand with Lisa. I also did not have the required attire and had to scramble for a pair of khaki pants off Amazon, which ended up being kid school uniform pants, lol.

Baby getting branded. I had never seen a branding before, but it was a lot calmer than I imagined. The babies just looked back wide eyed for the "fly" that just bit them, no fireworks.

In the end, I ran nearly every single horse at the Keuring except for two or three, since I had some outside customers asking me to handle their horses day-of too. It's a pretty simple formula: walk the horse parallel to the judge, try to get them to stand as still and straight as possible for conformation judging, then walk a lap, then trot two laps.

PC: Leah, who got up super early and took a day off to help all day and also keep me company on the 3 hour roundtrip drive, which was so appreciated

I approached this like I approach Welsh showing: run hard. Lisa and I have casually observed through the years that the pony's strides and intensity tend to match the handlers. If the handler is moving with purpose, freedom and knee action, the pony will too. If the handler is shuffling along, the pony will too. And as a lifelong cross-country runner/current CrossFitter, I had no problem keeping up the pace or intensity all day, even when it came to the big-moving Warmbloods.

Thanks to a recent rule change allowing breeders of pony/BWP crosses to choose whether they want their stock inspected as Belgian Riding Pony or Belgian Warmblood, this stunning half-Welsh fellow was approved Belgian Warmblood yesterday and currently has one of the highest colt scores in the country for this year according to the Belgian judge. Castleberrys Orion (Castleberrys Red Dragon x Olivia B (Arko III). He is available and will finish BIG.

And this is when I learned that there is one thing in the horse world I am good at: showing sporthorses in-hand. And since I'm not naturally good at literally anything else in horses, you better believe I am proud of that, lol.

Running mom with a loose baby was definitely a skill I got better at throughout the day. Had to keep an eye on baby and be a little crafty to keep the baby from running between me and mom.

The BWP-NAD pres non-jokingly asked if I'd be willing to fly around the country and handle horses at Keurings. She said that was some of the best handling she'd seen and that I really showed the horses at their very best, which helps to maximize their scoring. Poor handling can hurt a horse's score by highlighting rather than minimizing flaws during the conformation judging and by not showing off the fullest extent of their gaits in the movement judging. 

Allyn and her husband Fletcher loved foxhunting, which Allyn would sometimes do sidesaddle!

The Belgian judge also said it was great handling, and said he liked the calm way I handled them and that I didn't jerk them around even when some of them got silly, including a recently gelded jumbo-sized warmblood yearling (Judge to owner: "You're SURE that's a yearling? Positive?" 😂) who tried really hard to be a good boy, but had some Feelings during his inspection and gave me some flashbacks to handling racehorses in high school.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and whether or not I legitimately have a new side hustle flying to Keurings to handle, I am so grateful I was able to participate in this one and honor Allyn's legacy, since this is possibly the last one at Bannockburn given that they aren't breeding anymore and the remaining stock and semen are slowly being sold. 

Need/want: fireplace in my tack room and chandeliers in my indoor

PS - anyone want an eventer? This is Aeres' colt going for some extra credit on Wednesday. Same fellow that walked into the pond at 3 days of age! This little guy couldn't be clearer about what he wants his future career to be.


  1. That's great!! I don't know the first thing about showing in hand, but I can totally understand how big of a difference the handler can make in the horse's score!

  2. What a great experience for you and how complimentary to your handling skills!

  3. Kudos to you and your handling skills! I went to a sport horse in hand clinic in the beginning of the year and I immediately clocked I would not be able to run like the pros doing the demos so I'm praying that in my girl's inspection they won't make me run. Definitely could be a side hustle to become a handler at sport horse shows and inspections/Keurings!

  4. Wow, that's a great experience! So nice to get such wonderful feedback too. I hope you do get a fun new side hustle out of this!