Monday, September 27, 2010

Blanket advice

My pony, you know my 17 hh pony, he is finally starting to look good.  We have  been through the wringer the last few month trying to get this guy to put on weight and start looking and feeling good.  He is really looking good.  He is not all the way there yet but clearly on his way.  So with the weather starting to turn and soon snow will be blowing I am hoping to keep his weight up all winter.  Thus he needs to be blanketed when the weather takes a turn for the worse.  He does not need to be burning fat and energy to keep warm.  The problem is I have never bought a horse blanket before in my life.  I don't have a whole lot of money to spend but I don't want to waste money on a blanket that is not a good product either.  I want it warm enough and durable enough.  He will be turned out and in the stall in it.  So what is it?  Do you have one that you have and love?  Have you had one that you didn't love?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our show debut!

September 25, 2010 was Steady's show debut.  Also it was my first show for 15 years.  Saturday morning I finished packing up, quickly bathed Steady and loaded him and Lily into the trailer and set out to our very first show.  It is about an hour drive.  I was going alone, but I did have a good advantage going into it because the show happened to be at the stable I have been taking Steady to for lessons and he has gotten quite comfortable there.  My trainer at our last lesson even turned on the pa system to get him used to it.  Though that was probably not all that necessary because he could care less when it went on.  She even threatened kareoke, thankfully it didn't get that far. 

Warming up.

We got there, unloaded and got steady prettied up, tacked up and me dressed.  Initially we signed up for 4 classes:  Cake walk, Open english pleasure, Open english equitation, and Open hunter hack 2'.  Most of them were later in the day.  As we were just hanging out I decided to sign up for the trail class last minute.  I was watching after they set it up and said what the heck.  I mean we really had nothing to loose.  We already paid to ride all day.  I was so impressed his attitude all day.  He was so sweet, obedient, calm when waiting and woke up quickly when it was our turn to go.  I was really impressed with his backing.  I have never even tried to back him before.  We have concentrated on moving forward thus far and have not done backing before.  We had to back in both trail and english eq.  Trail we even backed in an L shape and he did awesome. 

Trail class, we opened and closed a gate, went over trot poles which he kind of half jumped/tripped over...haha, it cracked me up becuase of his heart.  I knew going into it that they would probably pose a problem because they were placed so close together.  I mean the boy has some serious long legs and all the other horses were 15 hh or smaller.  He didn't skip a beat though and trusted me and went for it.  Next we were to cross a plank which he kindly refused and I had no intention of frustrating him over something we were doing for fun so I just passed on it.  Next was to move an object.  We were to pick up a ball from the top of a  barrel and move it to the next barrel.  No problem, well other than his height again I mean I really had to stretch to get the ball.  Then we were to do a side pass over a pole....hahahaha.  I walked up to it stood there, looked at the judge and said "haha there is no way this is gonna happen".  Last we had to back through an L shape, he nailed that.  On my way out of the ring I looked at the judge and said "not bad for a race horse".  I was beaming with pride and his calm, cool and collected attitude.  Heart of gold this boy has and he definitely takes satifaction in competing.  He puts on his game face in the show ring.  We placed 3rd out of 5!

English pleasure went well.  The only thing that didn't go right was he didn't pick up his right lead.  Which I just found amusing because that is the lead he always picks up.  It is the left that is his hang up and he picked that up right this boy.  We placed 3rd in this class.  Do I have to mention that it was 3rd out  of 3?

English equitation, I was not too sure what to expect with this or hunter hack.  I have never seen these classes before not to mention show in one.  The pattern; back from cone 1 to 2, 180 degree turn to the right, pick up right lead to cone 3, trot right diagnal to cone 4, halt stand 3 second.  I placed 4th out of 7 in this one!!  Again I am one proud Mama. 

While waiting for hunter hack he was even sweet and patient enough to let an eager 7 year old girl lead him around with me on his back.  She was relentless she wouldn't leave him alone.  I don't mind people loving on my horse but she was dragging him around even after I said don't trot with him she ignored me and kept trying to trot him. 

Hunter hack, pattern,  walk to cone A, left lead canter to first jump, continue canter to second jump, right lead canter to cone B, halt, back 5 steps.  He didn't pick up his left lead we pulled back and tried again and he got it.  He did great over the first jump and hit the second jump but didn't knock it down.  Which I didn't get to warm up over any fences so it was not his fault.  He didn't get his right lead but backed fine.  At the flat work he nailed it all.  What an angel.  We got 4th out of 8!!  I am so so proud and impressed with him.

I can hardly wait for November for our eventing debut!!!  It will be a whole new ball game but I am confindent that if nothing else, him and I can have a fun time!

I learned that my mindset toward showing has changed so much since the last time I showed as a teenager.  I think there is a few reasons for this.  One reason I believe is when you are starting from scratch with a green horse that each and every step of progress is a rush of excitement.  When you work so hard for each break through it makes it so much more valuable.  Then there is the fun factor.  I am there to have a good time.  As a busy, busy mom of 3 there is not a whole lot of me time.  This is me time and nothing is going to stand between me and enjoying that me time.  So placing is not all that important anymore.  The things that mean the most to me is where a we individually.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I am a homeschooler.  As a homeschooling mom you quickly have to get over the idea that your child should always measure up to the standards set by any said person or organization, as in public school, students that are the same age or overly opinionated people.  That education or self progression is not measured by a predetermined scale.  Instead by personal achievement and growth.  To be judged on an individual basis.  I think if we all sat down and thought about it we would see that this is true education(definition: the gradual process of acquiring knowledge).  So this is the way I see Steady and our relationship and progress.  It is not to be judged on one particular day, in one particular sitation, by one individual person(the judge), in a particular group of people.

Now I am not saying that showing is meaningless.  No, not at all but it is not, in my case, there to determine my opinion of me, my horse or our progress. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Horse show this weekend.

Steady's first horse show in his life and my first in 15 years.  Am I nervous?  Ha, um, heck yes, I am!  Are you kidding.  I know it will all be fine.  I mean my goals are to first of all not fall off, no one get hurt and have fun.  Having fun will be the hard part.  Sad but true.  When I get nervous I get stressed and when the perfectionist in me shows up it is hard for me to get over myself.  It should be an easy step into the show ring though so I think I will be fine.  I will only be doing a couple classes.  English equitation and hunter hack.  Really it should be no big deal, haha, I say that now.  My final lesson before the show will be tomorrow.  It will also be the first time we do two jumps in a line.  Which we will have to do for the hunter hack class.  I am just crossing my fingers that the jumps aren't bright yellow(he had and issue with those last lesson).  This will kind of be the trial run for the mini combined trials that we are working towards for November.  I can't think that far ahead though because my stomach will be in knots.  So I will fill you in after this weekend to how it all went.  I will need to get a new camera card before then so that I can document this occassion with a photo and be able to share it all with don't have any followers :)  but hey someday maybe someone will read it.

Blessing or a curse?

This love of mine.  As I read blogs and forums and well anything else I can get my eyes on, I realize more and more that I am not even close to alone in this lot of mine.  I just haven't decided yet if it is a blessing or a curse.  Of course it is a blessing.  I mean to get the chance to live my dream.  Ride again after those dreams were so far in my past I thought they just might stay there.  My dream of owning my very thoroughbred jumper became a reality this year.  As with any good thing comes work and sacrifice.  There is a sacrifice of time that I have had to make.  My family has had to sacrifice time with me also.  Then the monetary sacrifice, WOW, was I NOT prepared for this.  It is terrible and I should have known better but I guess I didn't put a whole lot of thought into how much money he would require.  I have had miniatures for years and they require little to no food other than grass to stay fat.  I guess I knew about how much horses eat but I didn't take into consideration that my horse just might be a bit more high maintenence than the average horse.  Obviously this was bad planning on my part but either way when it comes down to the bottom line it doesn't really matter.  Feed must be bought, lesson  payed for, chiropractor bills, vet bills and medicine bills.  Again the more I read the more I realize I am by far not alone in this, it seems to be what comes with the blessing of horse ownership.  See it is a blessing.  Either way what Steady adds to my life is irreplacable.

Just a couple weeks ago I came to the gut wrenching conclusion that we cannot afford to keep this dream alive.  It hurt, it hurt bad.  I cried and cried but it doesn't change the reality that if we cannot afford it then we cannot afford it.  I know that if these animals are under my care they will be cared for in a sufficeint manner.  So what they need they will get and when that interferes with properly handling my families money then the line is crossed and something must go.  I came to this sobering reality and made a decision as to what needed to happen.  The horses were to be taken to my parents house and we would have to ask them to care for the horses until I could find them a permanent solution.  I know my parents and when we are in need they will be willing to help us out.  This was incredibly painful but I knew it was in my families best interest.   So the decision was made and I would set out in the morning to my parents.  I went to Ryan and told him the dilema and my solution.  I have sadly up until this point not been open with him about our financial situation.  That was a major reason I knew there was a problem.  I do not agree with keeping anything from him and I knew in my heart I was doing just that so that I could ride this ride as long as I could...LOL literaly.  So I was open with him.  I laid it all out on the table and told him why I felt this was the only option at this point.  We talked for a while and he was not real happy when he found out how much it was costing us each month to have the horses.  He was kind of shocked and I think he would have rather not known.  I do not blame him I kept myself in denial as long as possible too.

After I was done giving all the gorey details he came back with this, "I think we should do whatever we have to do to make it through this month and next month I am getting a raise and we will be able to handle it a bit easier".  I explained that we don't have enough to make it through the month and he said even if we have to use credit...............errrrrrrr....that is the squealing of the brakes going on.  We do not use credit, not to make ends meet for sure.  Then for him to say that when it came to keeping these beasts that he has nothing to do with.  I mean it is rare that I have even seen him pet them on the head.  Let alone make sacrifices in order to keep them.  I tried to convince him that they needed to go.  I really tried.  Woah, have the tables turned.  Me telling him to get rid of the horses and him trying to convince me to keep them.  Really it felt like the twighlight zone.  After much effort on my part I came to the conclusion that nothing that I could say was going to convince him otherwise.

So I ask myself, why?  Why would he feel so strongly about keeping these animals?  There is no other reason than that he wants to make me happy.  He has seen first hand what having these horses do for me and it has changed his veiwpoint on these animals.  I read a saying the other day and cheesey as it may sound I can't help but feel this way.  "The greatest love strory in the world, is your own".

So my conclusion: is the love, passion, obsession  that I have with the equine species a blessing or a curse?  Both.  It offers the highest of highs.  On top of this powerful animal that to the untrained eye looks like a fun excursion but to those of  us that have truely known a horse.  It is a connection unlike any other between two beings that do not speak the same language yet hear each other with every movement, every emotion and every step.  You, on the good days, are insync, are one.  On the bads you are buddies embracing eachother with acceptance that we all have bad days.  Each ride good or bad is ended in the same place, head in your chest confiding your devotion to eachother.  That tomorrow you will be there with eagerness in my heart and a loving whinny when the back door opens.

Ryan has never known this friendship personally.  He has never experienced firsthand the connection between a horse and his human but just witnessing it secondhand has changed him.  That should tell you how powerful it is.  And to know that he will sacrifice so much not for his own benefit but for mine has changed me.  So either way horses or not I know I have this man on my side loving me through thick or thin and that means more than all the money in the world.  So I guess I can see in the end it is all a blessing.  This is what God means in Romans 8:28 For all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are called according to His purpose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One step closer to the dream.

I am going to copy and paste Steady related posts onto this blog.

Step one was get get all the projects that were more pressing done first.  Which were many.  They all took money and energy.  We try to do as much as we can ourselves.  Which usually takes less money but more time. Both resouces of which are in short supply around here.  So all in all this step has taken from the time we moved in, to now.  About 5 1/2 years.  Ahhh patience is a virtue, one I often don't emulate but in this matter I think I showed a great deal of patience if I do say so myself.

Then during the winter my husband built a stall.  Now if you know anything about me or my farm you may wonder why I say I don't have a horse.  Since I clearly have 3 "horses" right now.  These are miniatures and one is a yearling halflinger, also a small horse.  So my fencing and stall space has been sufficient for these "horses".  When I say horse I mean one I can get on and ride for pleasure without my feet dragging on the ground and the poor animal grunting.  So the stall my hubby built was a big stall.  One suitable for a full sized horse!

The next step is to put in a fence.  We are so close.  We have the money and we are on the scheduele for the fence company.  The trick is this is an amish business.  If you don't know much about amish you may have an ideal in your head of friendly hardworking folk that ride around in cute little buggies and are generally good people.  Now I am not saying they are bad people I am just saying that the ideal may be a bit nicer than the reality.  For one, they are not real fond of the "English" as they call us.  They don't always deal honestly and they are shrewed business people.  Though they do work for less, alot of times, since they do not have the overhead or debt and bills that most American businesses have.  So I do choose to do business with them and do not discourage people to give them business.  I am mearly saying do it with caution.  They also do not run on regular time!  They do things when they want and don't really care if you don't like it.  All that to say I am hoping that my fence gets put in during the month of April.  Now they said last of March first of April but after speaking with Jacob Stoltzfus today he said probably not until the second week of April.  Wishful thinking makes me want to believe that it will get done soon but reality is I may not see the fence for a few weeks.  Can you tell my 5 1/2 year patience has finally run out?!  I WANT MY HORSE!!  That may have sounded a bit like a 2 year old temper tantrum, well, because it kind of is ;).  Ok ok I will stay calm but I am so excited about the whole thing I could jump out of my skin.

 The next picture you see of my back yard there should be a beautiful new 4 board fence across it!!!  And I will be laying in my hammock looking into the new pature and gazing at my horse!

Eventing? What is that?

Ha yes it is true, I did not even know what eventing was.  After a couple months of getting to know Steady from the ground and easy going rides around the yard I decided it was time to find a trainer and hopefully start moving forward.  Remember I rode for many years but it has also been MANY years since I have seriously ridden.  I needed ALOT of refreshing of the memory to do.  I was really amazed though at all that came back naturally and on its own.  But we needed work non-the-less. 

At my first lesson the trainer after watching us trot around a while said "have you thought about eventing?".  I said "no, I haven't".  I didn't happen to mention that I didn't even know what she was talking about.  I mean I didn't want to look like a total dunce.  Funny though I am putting it openly online.  Hey I never said I was sane.   She continued to tell me that she thought that Steady could do it.  Also she said "but you are going to have to loose weight"  haha, she really holds back.  So I go home and immediately start googling eventing.  I mean I didn't want to have that conversation again having no clue what I was talking about.  Gotta love google and youtube.  I have since spent hours reading and watching anything I can about the sport.  I have continued my training on a bi-weekly basis with my trainer and ride 4-5 times a week to work in that direction. 

This was all just about 3 months ago.  I plan to compete in my very first combined test in November!!!  We have come a loooong way and have even longer to go but either way I am so excited!!

Introduction to us and why we are here.

I entered the blogging world just a few short months ago.  I since have fallen in love with documenting my life through this outlet.  Now this blog in particular has started because my other blog was supposed to be documenting my life as a wife, mother and farm girl.  It seemed to be over taken by my posts about my OTTB thoroughbred Steady Smiler.  So that is why I am here.  This blog will be dedicated to tracking and documenting me and Steady on our journey to retrain eachother to do eventing.  So this is us and here is our story.

 We had horses in our back yard before I was born.  So life without horses was foreign to me.  It all started well before I could walk I was on a horse.  After that you were hard up to get me off a horse.  I started formal training in hunter/jumping when I was 8.  I started with weekly lessons.  After about a year I started going to the barn daily.  In the summers I was dropped off in the morning and would leave at night.  During the school year I was dropped off at the barn by the bus every day.  So as you can see I lived at the barn.  I would exercise at least 5 horses a day for my trainer and in turn would earn my lessons.  Show season was what we lived for and I could not get enough of these animals.

At about 15 I was sent away to boarding school and this is when my hiatus from horses began.  Sadly I went for years and years without these beasts in my life.  But they were never out of my heart.  Straight from graduating boarding school I went to college and from college I was quickly married and started a family.  We were not in a financial postion to own a horse.  So I made a plan.  How long would it take me to acheive this dream of horses ownership again.  It was a five year plan and I am happy to announce about 5 1/2 years I brought home my very own horsey and my dream became reality!!!

This is where Steady comes into the picture into my life and into my heart.  April of this year our fence was put in, stall was built and we were ready to start looking.  Oh who am I kidding, I started looking way before that was all finished but we were finally ready to bring a horse home.  I did look at one other horse before I found Steady.  I can't tell exactly why I was so drawn to OTTB's.  I think it is in general the thoroughbred breed that I am attracted to.  They are so beautiful, strong, athletic, hardworking animals.  Those long leg can make some good jumpers too and that is what I wanted to do.

Me and Steady on our very first ride.  I was 20 lbs heavier, my saddle fit terribly and we were generally a big mess.  But I was as happy as a girl could be.

I decided on Steady and brought him to his new home, in my back yard.  This is where this story begins and why "Slow and Steady wins the race" came about.  The title of the blog does not refer to the speed of Steady himself.  He is far from slow.  He raced all the way up until 10 years of age.  He won 8, placed 9 and showed 13 races.  Had 75 starts and won a total of $335,000 over his career.  Not to shabby.  He even won a race as little as one year ago and his last race was January of this year.  Actually I was just told a story about how Steady would still be racing had the man that owned him not owed his trainer money.  The owner still wanted to race him but the trainer decided Steady deserved to retire and that is why she was finding him a new home.   Slow is refering to the process of retraining a racehorse for a new career.  If you have done it then I know you will relate.  If you have not but it interests you I am sure you can learn a little from our experience.  Even if it is from our mistakes.  They are unique creatures in many many ways as you will soon learn.