Sunday, April 29, 2012

I need advice, please help.

I will start with the history.  The subject matter is Moonlight.  My 8 (9 on Tuesday :( ) year old daughters horse.  He is also used as an everybody horse.  We have owned him for nearly 2 years now.  He has been a saint.  He has packed my daughter through MANY crazy situations and has kept her 100% safe every single time.  I can give example after example of situations on trails that we have been in that he proved himself reliable every time.  They have made a great pair.  We have logged many many miles together, her and I.  Me on Steady (not the most reliable trail horse) and her on Moonlight.  There have been many situations  that Steady simply lost all sense and those two had to be the strong steady ones to get us out of the situation.  He has been pushed to his limits and never shown and angry bone in his body.  He has never been spiteful or mean under saddle or done anything remotely dangerous.  There has been 2 times that very inexperienced riders have been on him and they strayed too far from their trail mate that he did run away with them.  But in his defense each of the people this happened to completely let go of the reins and didn't even attempt to stop him.  Once they did pull back slightly he immediately stopped.  So I am not sure if I even consider that running away with someone.  I mean I think of running away when you are pulling back and the horse braces and runs anyways.  He does NOT do that EVER. 
He has had one down side to him.  He is pushy on the ground.  That was obviously from his previous owner.  I personally saw her let him just push her around.  I have established with him his pecking order now and besides the occasional reminder session he is MUCH MUCH better.  With my daughter on the other hand it is a bit different.  He is better with her than he used to be.  I used to never even let her lead him.  I do let her lead him now but I do not 100% trust her to lead him around alone without me being close by to step in.  He has never done anything mean just push on her to get to food and has stepped on her feet a few times.

Ok that will catch you up until that last two months.  In the last two months something has changed in this horse.  He suddenly became very aggressive in the herd.  He has always been pushy when it came to food.  He reminds me of a fat kid in a candy store and would chase others away but it is different now.  There is strong aggression behind his behaviors.  Now he has been put on a diet about the same time so I figured he just thinks he MUST be starving to death and thus has become over protective of food.  He actually looks good weight wise right now.  First time since I have owned him that he hasn't had a big ole belly.  Then I started noticing he was generally grumpy.  Alot more pinning of ears even at me.  At the moment I didn't think much of it past the, 'oh poor guy thinks he is starving to death, but it is doing him some good'.  I didn't think much of it until, about 3 weeks ago my 5 year old daughters says to me, "Mom, Moonlight bit Macy(my 7 year old daughter)".  Me, "WHAT!, When?, Hard?! Where?!"  Macy proceeded to tell me the story.  They were both picking grass then going to the fence and feeding Moonlight the grass.  She was standing on the fence and Moonlight bit her on the back.  I am immediately pissed.  This is a kids horse and there is NO excuse for that behavior.  Then she showed me her back!  OMG she had a dark bruise the size of a SOFTBALL!!!  And a welt and this was 2 days after it had happened.  I have NO idea why she never told me when it happened but she didn't.  I felt stuck because there was no way at that point I could discipline the horse over it, too much time had passed.  I was furious but was stuck.  I told her to stay away from him for now.  I could think of a few reason how and why it could have happened.  My thought was that she had been feeding him and was probably standing there with her back turned and he just had a moment of, "hey why did you stop feeding me".  Macy also does not yet have a great horse sense about her being as young as she is so she could have easily not been paying attention to the horse the way she should have.  It was uncalled for and inexcusable but we are all entitle to laps in judgement ONCE in our lives plus there was just not much I could do at that point.  OK that brings us to yesterday.  I had to wait a day to write this because it has taken that long for my anger on the situation to calm a bit so I could think straight to even write it.  My daughter had a sleep over for her birthday.  Her and her two friends were in the pasture petting the horses.  The two friends were petting Lily and Snappy and Elaina was petting Moonlight.  Now this child has AMAZING horse sense.  She turned her head for a second to check on her friends to make sure they were ok and THIS is what happened

He bit her on the EFFING NECK!!  You cannot see in this picture the yellow bruise around the entire abrasion but it was the size of a baseball.  For NO unprovoked reason he bit her on the NECK!  I am at a loss.  I don't even know what to do or where to go from here.  He has never once even given me one inkling that the thought of biting has ever even crossed his mind when I am around.  I did get home about 30 minutes after this happened I will not tell you what happened after that but I was pissed.  When an animal goes for another 'animals' neck that is for the kill.  It is not annoyance or misbehaving, it is out for blood.  This could have been so much uglier.  Just imagine if that pressure had been inflicted just a few inches over to the esophogus?  It makes me sick even thinking about it.  He is a kids horse!  And he is biting kids, WTF!  I need some logical advice at this point because the Mama bear in me has emerged and this horse is on my shit list.  If you have kids I am sure you can imagine my anger toward this animal.  If you don't have kids I am sure you could imagine a little bit of it.  So that is why I need you guys.  I need level headed, logical, responsible horse peoples advice in this situation.  I have never dealt with a horse that was out right aggressive.  Let alone aggressive toward children, then add on to that that it is a sudden onset after owning him for 2 years.  Please help.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

60? nevermind, and where we go from here.

I was all excited to see Slow and Steady Wins the Race finally broke out of the 50's and officially had 60 followers.  I 'was' going to come and post about it today.  Then I logged on and the number 59 caught my eye.  Uh?  Well it was very short lived and we are back in the 50's.  It is fine I would not blame anyone.  I am actually surprised any of you stick around.  Between my terrible grammar, my short attention span, inability to proof read and lack of use of spell check it is enough to drive anyone crazy.  But either way I am grateful for all 59 of you.  This blog has become a significant part of my life and I know that only through it have Steady and I come as far as we have.  I makes me keep note of each step whether it be forward or backward.  It helps me analyze, re-analyze and over analyze each ride, lesson and thought process.  And in starting this blog is how I have found many of my favorite blogs to read.  The amount I have learned through those blogs is immeasurable.  So thanks for sticking around, reading and commenting.

A quick personal note.  Things between my husband and I are starting to get better.  We went to counseling.  He was able to express how he felt and feel like I really heard him and his concerns.  He also agree to work toward a compromise.  So one step at a time we are heading in the right direction.  He even seems much happier just by getting to get it all out.  So good good news.

Just few posts ago I laid out our schedule and plan for this season.  After last weekend I felt like I needed to re-evaluate a bit.  I have not made any decisions for sure yet but I am thinking we won't be doing the IEA HT the first of June.  I will most likely be going as a volunteer instead of a competitor.  I am ok with this.  But like I said I have not made a clear decision about it yet.  My full decision will be made when I go down to lesson with Dorothy and clinic with Peter.  I will know more then what direction will be best for us to head.  There are also big decisions on my mind concerning the future but I think that merits a separate post. 

I hope all of you that are going to Rolex this weekend have a fabulous time.  I have chosen to stay home in light of all of my marital issues as of late.  I am saving up my 'horse credits' for the real important stuff.  Like leaving for 3 days in just two weeks to go to Lexington for the clinic!  I am excited and super anxious that we will not be as prepared as we should be.  I haven't been on my horse since Saturday and that needs to change and it will today.

Edited to add this:

This goes to show that a still photo can really be decieving.  If you looked at these on their own and I was not as honest of a person as I am you would think we rocked the show last weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Now what is there to be learned from this?

I really cannot think of one thing that can be learned from that dressage test.  I am calling it a fluke.  I have never had a ride like that on that horse and it is in no way, shape or form a hole in training or even bad behavior issues, it was not lack of preparation nor was it a fitness issue.  Now you may ask yourself if it is none of those things then what is it??  It is unequivically, bad planning and random circumstances.  The circumstance I could not help which were; I didn't ride enough the week of the show because of all the madness at home, I can not change the circumstances that I own a OTTB or that he does not function well when stalled or that you add on to that the temperature dropped 25!!! degrees in a matter of 2 hour drive to the horse park, then plunging farther over night.  Those all had their impacts on the situation and things I had no control over.  But what I did control and where I did mess up is that I then should have changed up my plan accordingly.  Having never experienced this senario before with him I didn't know.  Hind site is 20/20.

What I COULD have done differntly to ensure a better out come.  I should have assessed the situation for what it was and considered what it might take to warm Steady up and get his body relaxed enough so that he could use his brain.

Mistake #1- I SHOULDA' ridden the night before.  Raining or not I should have taken him out when there were very few horses in the arenas and ridden him and gotten him used to the environment.  I should have ridden him quite hard.

Mistake #2- I COULDA' taken him out early in the morning when there were few people in the arenas and figured out what kind of mood he was going to be in. 

Mistake #3- I WOULDA' found out that he was crazy super hot and had the space, time and opportunity that I would have galloped him.  That is what he needed.  He needed a moment where he could be in his element and know that all was good.

What I did do was, pull my horse out tacked up and ready to go about an hour before my ride time.  Then headed to a warm up arena with 20 other horses walking, troting, cantering and even some bucking and running away.  I found out how insanely hot my horse was and began to try and work him out of it.  After 30-40 minutes of this I started to let it all get to me.  I started becoming the same ball of nerves and stress that my horse was and that concluded our warm up.  That start really set the tone for the rest of the day, which I feel could been mostly avoided had I had a better plan in place.
There it is SHOULDA', COULDA', WOULDA' ain't it a bitch?!

Do you want to know the score???  You have to be curious how bad it really was.  It will surely make you feel good about your worst ride ever because I am guessing we topped it.  So now you can know that no matter how poorly you score on a dressage test that at least you did better than Amy and Steady.  Drum rooooolllll...........................................we got a.................................................whooping.....................................................................................................


Monday, April 23, 2012

Good news is, it gets better from there.

Last post summurized our dressage disaster and here is the wrap up of the day. We head over to pop over a couple jumps and uh, oh yeah, learn my course. Opps how did I forget to do that? With my crew following behind one took Steady so I could head over and study the course with the help of two others. Then we went to warm up just to find what I had expected Steady was just as hot as he was in dressage. Cross rail kinda crazy running around with his head in the air after. Vertical same possibly a little better. Oxer same. I look at my friend helping warm up and I say, "this in not going to get any better. Let's just get this over with, I know he will go over all the jumps it is just going to be a bit crazy. We get to the gate and wait with 5 in front of us. As everyone elses horse are standing there waiting patiently there we are pacing, prancing true to racehorse form. Steady do you not remember that you are NOT a racehorse anymore??? We go in and are announced by one of my favorite people on earth, Mary. I never saw her face that day but she was still able to fill my hear with happiness. She announces our names and then shouts, GO AMY! over loud speaker. I LOVE this woman. I started the round wtih a smile and ended it with a smile. It was not pretty except the two stride line that he showed what he is capable of, which is greatness. Jump 5 and 6 were a bending line that I totally botched up, ROYALLY! Yes he was a mess, yes he was not acting the way he should have been but I could have ridden him the way he needed to be ridden and that would have helped. Instead I cut the corner all wrong and when I should have taken the jump at an angle to line him up for 6 I took him in actually at an angle in the opposite direction. Then stupidly came to the realization over the jump and in mid air cranked his head to what? try and turn him in mid-air? REalLY Amy, really?? He took a rail on 5 OF COURSE then we got all wonky to 6. But if I had just not made that one stupid move we would have been double clear and though far from pretty we would have been clear. But instead we added 4 penalty points to our already monumental dressage score. O.K. now that we got all that out of the way let's get to the part that I really care about the only part any true eventer reeaally cares about, CROSS COUNTRY!

I have to be honest and admit I wasn't sure I it was going to go once we got out there on the XC course. Steady had just not been acting like himself so I just didn't know what he would do. He pranced the entire way down to the course. He apearantly forgot how to walk the whole weekend. I will skip the mishap with the boot/socks where I ended up barefoot on one foot and him crow hopping. I did a quick dismount handed him off to my friend and fixed the issue the remounted a dancing horse, gawd, I can imagine what he was like at the track and why he did so well. We start over an 18 inch coop and do it over and over and over again working toward getting a calm, relaxed approach and gallop afterward. It took a while to get it. There were helecopters buzzing us (the park is surrounded by the military base) and I had to learn to let him GO!!! Joan kept telling me to stand up and put my knuckles in his neck. It is so counter intuitive to release when your horse clearly just wants to run. But it worked when we would get it right. A few times yes he did just take off but after a while I figured out how I could better control his speed with my body and my hands just make him want to go faster. Once we got what we wanted I asked if we could move on to the rest of the course. J and D gladly obliged. I am not sure if they were thinkng I was a nut ball for wanting more or not but they went along with it. What happened next I could attempt to just a bunch of big and fancy adjectives and adverbs to describe it all but I am not a good enough writer to do so. So will just go back to the 7th grade and give you a simple, "It was TOTALLY AWESOME!!!".

We started at the BN/N log and made sure we got the same results with did with the tiny coop. We jumped a beginner novice roll top and pheasant coop. We added in our first ever table. Now this is where the only blunder of the day was and it was ALL my fault and it is simple inexperience on my part. We had been approaching everything to this point at a trot to help Steady embrace his inner zen. About once stride out from the table the thought when through my head, "we do NOT have enough forward, for this jump" but Steady is as honest as the day is long and just did with it what he could which was kind of a deer hop to get over it. I came up out of the saddle and back down somewhere between the saddle and his neck in a huge heap of a person. He just cantered off nice and calmly and I know he did that on purpose. If he had an evil bone in his body one quick turn or change of speed would have surely been my undoing but he did nothing of the sort. So I quickly got my bearings sat up and went on laughing. OK let's try that again with a little more forward mometum this time and he sailed over it like a dream. We did a beginner novice rolltop combination. Hopped over a ditch just to show me that, well ditches are not an issue. We then came to the hanging log down to a ditch which is a training half coffin and I wanted to do it. I went over the ditch by itself for good measure and then to combo. PERFECT! I am high as a kite at this point. Steady is still up when we are walking in between jumps but he was being managable. His biggest concern the whole time was the huge group of screaming boy scouts just behind the tree line. There is something about screaming children that just unnerves this horse. It has happened before. I tend to think it is because of my kids and it is the 'Lassie' in him that is just concerned when for them. We move on to some banks and they were lovely. On the double down bank he had a very slight launch on the first one but nothing big. We then did a BN square hanging log. The approach and jump was beautiful and then the gallop afterward was amazing. I just let him keep going. He was rythmic, straight and enjoying himself so I went with it. He made it clear that he was in his element now and we were just connected finally. I knew I could trust him and he knew he could trust me. I was beyond happy and ready to head back, have a little gallop and hop over a few jumps on the way and call it a day. J and D asked if I wanted to try the Novice log. I thought, um, of course! We get up to it and I think hmmm that is a BIG novice log and we jump it beautifully. Then we have a little discussion and come to find out it was not novice it was training. Oh, well that makes more sense, can we do more?! So we strung together a training coop to the log. Hahaha I tell you what I was on TOP of the world!! Here is where you add in all of those descriptive words, instead I will say it was TOTALLY AWESOME!!!

Sorry for the crappy cell phone video and it is
I am still on that high but I can feel the after show crash coming. That moment that you realize it will be a while before all of that awesomeness happens again and that you have a LOT of work to get there. Because of the events of the weekend I am re-evaluating our plan that I had and there will be more on that to come.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heartland CT

I couldn't come up a catchy title that summerized the last two days so I went with the obvious.  I would be amiss not to mention how amazing and supportive all of you have been through this tough time on my life.  Thank you.

Next on the agenda is an apology.  I had every intention of coming home with so much electronic evidence of the weekend that you all would be sick of it.  I had the video camera, helmet cam and camera all charged and packed along but as soon as I get into that show environment I loose all sense of direction and every time come home with very little.  This time was no different.  So other than a few cell phone photos and videos there is not much to share.  Sorry :( 

Now on to the nitty gritty of what was the show experience this weekend.  Like all of you suggested I put on my big girl panties and got through the tough part of packing and preping to get mine, my eight year old daughter's and our baby lamb's butts to the Heartland CT.  That proved to be the toughest part of this whole weekend.  And yes you read that right I took a baby lamb to the horse show with us.  It was the only option other than leaving it at home to die since there is NO way on earth my husband would have bottle fed it every 5 hours that it needs.  So a three week old lamb named Mr. Pink in a diaper loaded up into the truck and got on the road right on time.

 Hauling was stress free and just wonderful (love the trailer)!  We arrive and the rain started and the temperature had dropped 25 degrees in the 2 hour drive.  My little helper and I dodged raindrops(unsuccessfully) as we unpacked.  I spent some time tryin to make Steady look a little more like a show pony and less like a back yard farm mule(fairly sucessfully, even without a bath the boy cleans up nice).  A friend later showed up and once she was unpacked a few of us went to grab a bite to eat and catch up.  I honestly think half of why I do all of this is get to see and spend time with people like them.  You will not find a warmer and more kind group of people than those in the eventing crowd.  Sure there are those still that stick in their high school like cliches but the ones who are not like that will literally give you the shirt off their back to help you out.  There has not been a show or clinic that I have not heard the words, "do you need anything?"  They have taught me how to think beyond myself and for that I am so very grateful and for everything they do for me and for getting to know them.  We got back to the horse park after filling out bellies and hearts, made our beds in the truck and called it a night at about 11:30.

I didn't have to ride until noon so I figured I could easily sleep until 7:30.  My daughter on the other hand as a morning person had complete other plans.  So just after 6am I was answering questions like, "Mom!  Is Jessica gonna still ride at six?!"  Mom, when are going get up?  Mom, there are people out at the barn already!"  At that point I resigned to the fact that I would NOT be sleeping anymore that day.  So we set off to the bathrooms to brush our teeth and make the lamb a bottle.

We had a relaxing morning.  I helped here and there with people getting ready for their early rides and leisurely got prepared for ours.  Little did I know that would be the only relaxing part of the day.  I planned to be on at 11 to give is an hour to warm up.  Which I thought was a reasonable amount of time.  Little did I know what Steady had in store for me that day.  I bring him out of his stall to give him a look around and within two minutes he was doing his best giraffe impression and so worked up that he was quaking....hmmmm.  What is the deal here?  I get on to find out that he does not have a walk.  I only got trot, trot, trot, jig, jig, trot, jig, jig, jig, trot, giraffe, frozen giraffe, jig, jig frozen giraffe jig, trot jig.  If you think reading that sentence was annoying just multiply that by a hundred for the next hour and you will have our entire warm up.  Not even one moment of relaxation found.  I handled it as well as I could and as our ride time approachd I could start to feel myself start balling up with tension.  Not a great combination.  So time arrived and I was at a loss as to how this was going to turn out.  Turns out our test went even worse than our warm up did.  Not kidding, it was completely awful.  I have never had even one dressage ride like this on him ever.  As soon as we entered the outer arena I could tell it was not going to go well.  He went from crazy forward and quick in warm up to completely sucked back and not wanting to move forward.  The plan at that moment became; do the patern, stay on course and stay in the arena.  I can gladly tell you we did all of those things and did not get eliminated.  That is a positive right? :/  Beyond that the whole test was complete shit.  The video of it will not be posted and it will shortly be deleted from my video camera as a piece forgotten history.  It is even painful to watch for me and I think it is best to be forgotten.  I learned alot.  Let me rephrase I learned NOTHING from the test itself but from the whole experience but we will get into the take aways in a different post.  So after a the best part of the test, a square halt a salute and a sharmeful look from the judge making it clear that she thought I had NO businiess on the back of a horse we walked out of the areana to head over to the show jumping warm up.  More to come on that front...but as a teaser the day may have started off as a hot ball of craziness but it ended on a VERY high note and I am still on a high.  If  you have ever evented you know there is only ONE thing that gives you that kind of high and it is not in an arena!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Of butterflies and fairy tales. (not horse related at all)

Yesterday was a good day.  My husband and I actually got along.  A little bit of that weight on my heart was lifted so that I could actually be a little happy.  I am not stupid enough to think our troubles are over but I thought maybe, just maybe I could go into this weekend with a little bit of hope that my life is not about to come unraveled.  Well I think my husband saw that as a moment of opprotunity to squash any hope and send me back to that heavy and sad place I have been in since this all started.  I am so sorry for all of you that would rather me not bring up this crap on my 'horse' blog but I have to have somewhere to get it out and this is the place I am using for that.  I will not go into details but contrary to what I had hoped, that he was angry and after some time would start to come around and we would be able to come to a comprimise and both be happy.  He is still loud and clear and unreasonable about his demands and comprimise is not in the picture for him.  The heavy weight and sadness is back and that was probably his goal since he knows I am about to go off and do something that makes me very happy and I am not allowed to be happy when he is so miserable.  Now this my friends is NOT how love is described or protrayed in any of those fairy tales.  It was not in the vows that I said at my wedding.  I hate that this is how it really is. 

He wants to be needed.  He wants to be the only love in my life.  He wants to be my whole life.  And horses do NOT fit into that equation for him.  That is my take from all of this but the way he is going about all of it has been so mean and hurtful that we have become enemies.   I am doing everything I can to be nice and agreeable but to no avail.

My day was planned I was going to get packed for the show, squeeze in a ride, bathe Steady, get the house cleaned up and leave for the show.  I have been looking forward to it, I have been excited about it and now I just want to curl up and stay in bed all day.  I want to cry until I can't cry anymore.  I want my life to be different, I want my reality to just be a bad dream.  He has succeeded in bringing me down to this pit of misery he lives in and turning my love of life into stress and hurt.  I think he is probably quite pleased by this too.  I think that is actually his goal in all of this, if he can't be happy then neither can I.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Galloping goodness and jumping too!

One quick word about "the" issue.  Our counseling session is scheduled for Tuesday.  Patience is not my best quality so now we are doing our best to get along to bide our time to deal with the issue.  I appreciate all of you support and sweet words.  It helps more than you can know.  I can look back and see this coming but I guess as with any potentially icky situation I always tried to think positively and thought it would all get better over time.  Well I was proven wrong unfortunately but I still have to believe it is all going to work out for the best.  I could say SO MUCH more but I will stop there and get to an enjoyable part of my life, horses!

It was a beautiful day and I am grateful because I needed it.  I got a used new dressage bridle the other day.  It isn't great and the leather is pretty dry but it will do for this show at least and it was CHEAP!  So since I needed something black to match my saddle I snatched it up.  It had white piping which I would not have picked out on my own but again for $35 I was going to just go with it for now.  I put it on Steady and I have to say he looked quite dashing in it!  I am sure pictures will come if nothing else after the show this weekend.  Now I just need to find some reins and I will be all set to show.  Well except for a show coat but I am hoping to borrow one for the time being.

I was planning to just work on our dressage test today and try out the new bridle.  It didn't seem to effect Steady much which is not a surprise.  He is used to riding in a drop noseband and the only difference is this has a flash but they both do pretty much the same thing.  Yes I strap my horses mouth shut, gasp!  It does wonders for him not opening up his mouth and bracing against the bit.  Well my dressage plan was foiled when I was having issues with him getting all sucked back and not moving forward.  Then it turned from that to refusing to bend to the left.  He was just making it very clear that prancing around as a pretty pony was not what he was in the mood for today.  So we cantered then we opened him up for a little gallop.  Then we threw in a few jumps since he was galloping so politely.  He started by jumping long.  Then I remembered how to ride and decided to ride each jump like I meant it.  Put on both legs, ride him straight and right to the base of the jump and viola!  He jumped beautifully!  I decided then it may be a good idea to jump at height at least once before going to the CT and doing an entire show jumping course and XC schooling.  I set the jump to 2'9" pointed him at it he cantered up to it, took off and jumped it like it was 2'.  Oops!  I got down set it back up9joys of never having a ground person) and told him that it really is a better idea to look at the size of the jump and then pick up his feet accordingly.  We came back at it and cantered right up to the base of the jump and jumped so round, so beautifully and so easy to ride and he jumped it like it was 2'9" this time and the next 5 times through same thing.  I strung a couple of the jumps together and he was on his game.  Now if I can ride like that on Saturday we will be set.

Only a couple more days, a shit load of work and I will be off to ride all my worries away and spend some QT with some kick ass people! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Show week. Warning depressing post.

Normally there would be an exclamation point after that title but though I am looking forward to the show this weekend it is with a lost, confused and heavy heart.  Everything as far as horses health is all good so no worries there.  This place I am in is because of my personal life that seems to be in the shitter as of this moment.  Without too many gorey details I will just say that my husband has given me the ultimatum of him or the horses.  He has laid out plain and clear that he does not just dislike horses but he absolutely hates them and resents me and the horses for the all the time and money they take.   I can't even begin to express what is going on inside me right now and my life is at best up in the air at the moment.  He says they HAVE to go.  All plans will go ahead as far as what I have planned for the April and May for me and Steady.  No drastic changes are going to happen until the kids finish the school year. We are starting counseling and there I guess we will sort out all the details.  I cannot say much more nor do I know how it will all turn out.  I just needed a place to let this out because there is no one that I talk to on a regular basis that would even begin to understand what kind of decision he is asking me to make.  I had a friend last night say that I should just get rid of the horses if that is what he wants.  I am sorry but if you can say that with no emotion you can't even begin to understand what it actually means.  I am sorry to emote on you all but in other shitty news....

 to add to the CRAP news and mood of this post I just found out Peter Atkins has had to withdraw from Badminton due to a broken ankle.  Ugh, that is shit.  So sorry Peter and well wishes sent your way.

We will leave for the show on Friday afternoon with the show being on Saturday.  Then if the weather permits I will XC school afterward with a friend or two.  We are doing a BN CT and my daughter is volunteering at her first event and is SO excited.  The winds here have been outrageous so I will not be riding today.  We will see if the weather is nice enough to let us get a couple rides in this week to prepare.  I haven't spent nearly as much time as I would like going through my dressage test so let's hope I can do better than the last time I did this test and went off course but then again if I came home with a 31 again off course or not I would be exstatic but for the first show of the year my goals are stay safe, have fun and finish.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Two extremes. Meet the Haffie!

Can you get more extreme opposite than a 12 year old gelding racehorse veteran that is 17 hh, high energy, highly athletic Thoroughbred and a 4 year old, laid back, 13.? hh stocky, tough as nails mare haflinger?  Steady being my only constant mount for the past 15 years or so I have naturally become very accustom to 'handling' him and his strengths and issues.  I have made it not only my passion but my every spare moment obsession to educate myself to train me and him.  So bringing home Lily the haflinger pony and starting to work with her has been a different experience.  A good one but very very different.  I don't think I realized how 'hard' Steady is until getting on her back only a few times.  He has truely made me who I am today as a horsewoman.  Lily is going to make the most easy and versitle pony you will meet.  She will be able to be a trail blazer, western pleasure pony, eventer and cart pulling dream of a kids pony.  She will definitely win the versatilty award on my farm.

I know the main man on this blog is Steady but I thought I might give a little training progess with Lily too if you all don't mind.  To start she is crazy easy to work with and believe me that is not by accident.  See if you recall Lily was purchased by my Dad about two years ago as a two year old.  She spent the next year at my place.  I put alot of time and training into her during that year.  She left here for a year because of the cost of feeding another mouth all winter and at the age of 3 she still had a year of growing before I could really start her under saddle training being that she was young, small and I am a 5'9" adult I was not comfortable climbing up and doing any consistent work with her until her bones/joinst were developed.  So basically she was as far as I could take her until she grew up a little.  When she left she was great on the ground, she was good to haul, experienced in a show environment, hauled all over kingdom come to stand and be tied at horse shows and deal with 4-H and show madness.  She was cart trained, had a saddle and bridle on her on a regular basis and had me on her back a handful of times.  So she had the best of the best of a foundation put on her.  I dropped her off at my Dads sad and a little concerned that all that time and effort I put into her would be lost by standing in a pasture for the next year.  After a year I went to my Dad's and took Lily out to see what she remembered.  Just to find out that she was pretty much right as I left her.  I was amazed and that is what made me decide to start back up where I left off.  If she sat for that long and didn't miss a beat then to me she was a special horse and a horse I could trust with beginners/kids or anyone for that matter.  She just needed to be finished off in her training.  She understood the basics of undersaddle when she stepped back off the trailer at my farm because all that was laid out to here long before.  So she fully understood acceptance of bit, bridle, saddle and rider.  She understood move forward at a walk, stop and simple steering.  So that foundation I laid was solid and effective and that set us leaps and bounds ahead of the average 4 year old entering under saddle training.

I have a 15 year old girl riding her for lessons and using her in 4-H.  She is doing well with her and I think they will do well in 4-H this year.  I do get on her back to correct issues that the young gal can't work through during their lessons.  I think it is good for both of them to deal with beginner horse and beginner rider issues.  4-Her is old enough and ridden long enough to be able to figure out how to handle a safe but young horse's issues and Lily will benefit greatly from having to deal with a beginner rider and their issues.  But Thursday was my first official training ride on her.  Finding the time to ride two horses I know will be a challange but the nice thing is she should be good to go for most riders in such a short time that it won't last too long.

Our first official training ride.  Goals:
1)Get more effective response to move forward at the trot.  4-H gal really struggles to get her to move forward faster than a walk but that is only because Lily does not know what her job is yet and needs a little help figuring it out.
2)See how she responds to leg pressure.
3) Check how good her stop button is.
4) what will she do with poles and jumps
5) keep her happy relaxed and enjoying her new 'job'

1)  I had much success with getting her to move forward at a trot.  She has yet to figure out canter but I am in no hurry there.  If you keep your body language saying forward with the occassional kick, or tap on the rump with my hand she figured out what I wanted.  She wasn't just walking to be defiant she honestly did not understand that I really wanted her to move fast AND keep moving until I say stop.  In just that one ride she caught on!  Obiviously will keep working to affirm it but once she realized what I wanted she had no problem doing it.
2) I am simply amazed that moving off leg pressure is completely natural to her.  It makes sense but since that horses would catch on to that because it is natural for them to move away from pressure but for Steady it takes so much work to get him to understand it does not mean forward.  And he is also much less lateraly inclined than she is.  It was really just natural for her.
3) The stop button was crazy effective.  She stops on a dime with either a simple body que of tightening up your body or the slightest finger pull on the rein.  Ahh mazing!
4) Poles I was shocked how good she was with her feet.  I guess I think of that type of drafty breed as less agile with picking up their legs and also not as concious of where they are.  Not her, she didn't so much as touch a trot pole though she did slow down to a walk when she was trying to be more accurate, what a GOOD pony!  HA opposite of Steady who speeds up when off balance.  A jump?  Well even at 12" cross rail she would only trot over it.  Trot over it quite nicely I might add but she did not realize she could actually pick up both feet at once.  Best part is though she didn't once attempt to avoid it.  She looked with ears pricked forward and bobbled back and forth the tiniest bit but with the slightest encouragement that she could indeed do it she popped right over.  Again GOOOOD pony!!  I think I will need to work with her on a lunge to help her understand the JUMP concept.
5) Happy and relaxed she stayed the entire ride!  Success!

I am so over all happy with her first official under saddle training session.  I am actually just amazed how easy it is going to be to get her going.  I thought I may be able to have my daughter riding her by the end of the summer.  Now I am thinking she will be able to start working with her in a matter of a couple weeks.  This pony is a winner and it is so fun to work with her.  It will be kind of sad the day that she returns to her rightful owner  (my Dad).  Though I put all that work into her free it has been a great experienced that I gained a lot from so I will mark it up as being payed in experience.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The good, the not so bad, and the kinda ugly. Let's talk about leverage.

The not so bad: Tuesday:  Even the bad isn't really bad, it just isn't real good.  Mr. Steady was very odd at the begining of the week.  He was CRAZY spooky.  I mean everything made him jump.  A bird, a bush, my hand moving, the cat and even when I slid down his side to dismount he about jumped out of his skin.  So unlike him.  He is a lot of things but excessivly spooky is not one of them.  The winds were crazy at the beginning of the week.  So bad on Monday that I decided not to ride. Tuesday they were bad again but I was not foregoing riding for two days in  a row because of wind.  That was the first "spooky" day and the next day he was close to the same with spookiness but with less wind.  So Mr. Steady got his oats cut back to see if that may help.  Which he was a saint yesterday in our dressage work so I am thinking it did help.

The kinda ugly: Wednesday: Despite his spookiness I was pretty determined we were going to do some galloping practice in the field on Wednesday.  He was being so silly I had to get off and walk him past, well I actually have no idea what I was walking him past because I couldn't figure out what he was afraid of, the air maybe?  But once we got out to the field he was fine so we started our galloping.  He started out OK and then he started to get stronger and stronger and finally opening up and lettin 'er rip.  Really it was FAST!  It was not real pretty and I guess that means it was kinda ugly.  We worked on it and worked on it until I felt like I could end on a somewhat good note.  The good news is he is starting out better than he did last year.  He is way more balanced and not nearly as crooked and easier to straighten out.  But, um, the speed control needs some work.  That is where the leverage talk comes in.  I am thinking I need some help up there out in wide open spaces.  I, from day one, have not wanted to use any quick trick, easy fix or device in our training.  I have only ever ridden this horse with a saddle and a simple eggbut snaffle.  I don't like short cuts.  I don't care if it takes us years longer I would rather it be that way.  So here we are and I feel like I need some reinforcement.  I am only so strong and the one reason he was able to get so fast out there that day was because I was tired and just need to take a second to catch my breath before I started hualing on him to slow him down.  So I guess I am looking at it as I would rather have a little harsher cue that was much quicker than standing up and hauling on his face for 20 minutes with a 'nicer' bit.  In the long run it seems much kinder to do it that way.  So I will be on the look out for a leverage bit or a 'bubble bit' over the next couple weeks so we can prepare for our Peter Atkins clinic.  Our biggest pitfall at Event camp last year was our inability to gallop.  I quickly learned the importance of galloping practice that week.  The last thing I want to do is drive all the way down to KY for a clinic and spend the entire time in galloping practice like I did at event camp.  He got VERY good by the end of the season last year and we were able to go out to HHP and have a beautiful, steady, balanced gallop through the XC course so I know he has it in there but I need to get it to come back out.

Now on to the good!  Everything else except those things are good.  Scratch that they are better than good, they are great!  Our dressage work has been improving with each ride.  That galloping practice did make his canter work yesterday night and day difference.  He has still been struggling to pick up leads and stay collected at the same time and also struggling with breaking or crossfiring.  Yesterday his canter was phenomenal!  They were every bit of 8's and I am stoked for the show next weekend.  Now whether or not he will be able to pull off the kind of work we have been having at home during our first spring outing is a different story but it won't be because we are not prepared or because he can't.  As far as jumping, we don't do much of that at all.  I love to jump and he is great at it but he just gets too rushy and I just don't see a need to attempt to do a bunch of jumping practice that will just get him amped up and too excited.  A. because all of our flat work is the basis for everything we do in a jumping course and I need to get his canter consistent and rythmic first.  B. Because quite honestly jumping is easy for him, he is incredibly brave and   C. The 2' 6" height we will be jumping at the show is nothing for him.  He just doesn't need much practice at jumping those heights.  Only downside is I know I could use some practice.  I just always repeat Peter in my head, Look up, kick up, stand up and we will be just fine.  Legs forward, shoulders back and stand up, collect and repeat.  We do go over a little cross rail doing Dorothy's 'walk, trot, pop' here and there just to embrace the chill factor while jumping.  We walk up two strides out we trot, pop over and two strides after back down to a walk.  Would I love to canter around and jump a 3ft course?  Hells yeah! Could he and would he do it?  Hells yes!  But that is not what my horse needs, so we don't.  I practice a little restraint and constantly enforce basics, basics, basics.  That is what he needs so that is what we do.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our event schedule, fun stuff!

I am excited and overwhelmed and nervous and excited!  I have not only just signed up for a Peter Atkins clinic in Lexington in one month from today but I have also schedueled a lesson with Dorothy Crowell the Friday before the clinic.  I have decided to use my IEA scholarship in one fail swoop through Kentucky!  I didn't sign up for Event Camp this year so I decided to take all my favorite clinicians from camp and make my own camp.  Lexington is about a 165 mile drive for me that will probably take 3 1/2 hours hauling.  I have never made that kind of trip hauling alone and that kinda freaks me out.  But now that I have a decent trailer I can actually do it! 

I am a little concerned that I will have spent all my money in the first two months of the season with a schooling show on 21st that I am signed up for, the lesson and clinic May 11-13th and IEA HT on May 31-June 2.  But my prediction is that the summer heat will show itself early this year and if it does I will be glad I am not doing all of this in 110 degree heat index and it gives us all summer to work on the lessons we learn from all of it early on.  Then maybe we will be going Novice by the fall?  Only time will tell, but it is a goal to aim for.  Just wanted to fill you all in on the excitment to come!  Just pray my husband is understanding with all the time away.  It is always a very fragile balance when there are 3 small children involved.  When I leave I don't leave him to have some guy time, I leave him with a load of work, responsibily with kids, cooking, cleaning and animals....blah blah is true it is a tough balance to keep it all running smoothly but I am just determined and stubborn enough to find a way to make it all work.

So here is Team Steady Smiler schedule

April 20-21st Hoosier Horse Park Hearland CT at Beginner Novice
May 11  Frankfort, KY Lesson with Dorothy Crowell
May 12-13 Lexington, KY Peter Atkins Clinic
May 31 Hoosier Horse Park Volunteer for IEA 3 day
June 1-2 Hoosier Horse Park IEA HT @ Beginner Novice
June 3-rest of the summer nothing ;)  we may re-emerge again come fall.  I will be saving up all my horsey time points for the rest of the summer to hopefully get to the Wofford Clinic

Next post, update on our riding work/progress/issues as of late.  Hint Steady may have had a track flashback in our galloping practice today...phew.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where did my horse go? Not all OTTB's are created equal.

I am in disbelief when I go out and see Steady now.  It is like someone took my boney, ribby, concave necked, horse and replaced him with a full, round, big assed, cresty necked studly horse.  It is incredible the changes in his body.  I spent the last two years beating myself up, racking my brain, stressing out over this horse that I surely must not have been doing something right.  Looking back now I can see that it was just part of the process that he had to go through and there was just not much I could have done except what I did which was keep feeding and keep working properly and it will come.  Those withers?  Where those shark fin withers were that were completely hollow behind and no saddle could fit him, have all but disappeared with muscule that has filled in and taken up that hollow space.  In the place where a topline should have been but was sharp angles and bones are all now round and full and a topline has emerged.  I would hear, "oh he needs groceries" and I would feel like crap, as if I was surely starving my horse in other peoples eyes.  Or, "if he is working properly then he will have a topline" again making feel completely incompetent and surely doing everything wrong in his training and obviously working improperly.  I have learned that those are just not always the go to statement that folks should go to when making a judgement or evaluation on a horses condition. 

What I have learned was when a horse has raced for 8!! years and the only life they have ever known was on a race track.  When they were as good at their job as a horse like Steady Smiler was, 75 starts, winning 8 times, second 9 times and 3rd 10 times and we are not talking about little claiming races we are talking about Derby's, Cup's and Stakes races.  I can't even imgine the life he led for so many years.  Then one day it all just came to a screeching halt and everything changed.  What he ate, when he ate, when he exercies, how he exercied, his contact with people, he was no longer handled by random grooms. He was a pet, in a backyard.  All of that and many other mental and physical changes will most likely cause repurcussions on many levels.  And looking back now I can clearly see it was all a process of him becoming happy, healthy and well adjusted to a new 'job'.  It was a job of being a horse 99% of the time.  Learning to connect with a human.  Figuring out that he can use his body for more than just galloping as fast has he can.  Learning what it is to be loved and valued every day of his life.  The biggest part of that equation that I think has changed him the most is the connecting with a human.  It was a long hard road to get him to connect on the ground, eye to eye and to connect with me as a rider but once he did it was like he gave his all.  I think it makes him who he is because he appreciates it more than most horses because he went so long without it.  He is not perfect and he has many moments and he is not a horse for the beginner rider and I doubt he will be for many more years but he is ALWAYS listening to you, always concious of where you are what you are doing, always trying to figure out what it is that you want.

What I have learned is that all OTTB's are NOT created equal and yes just because you have worked with an OTTB does not make you an expert on all OTTB's.  One that flopped at the track or even only raced for a year or two it not the same creature as a horse like Steady.  A horse like Steady does not come along everyday and most people would not have taken a chance on a horse with that many 'miles' on him but I sure am glad I did.  He doesn't fit the bill of broken down, lame or track reject.  He has the most heart that in all my years with horses I have never had the privledge of knowing until now.  I lucked out when I happened upon this War horse.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The best stress reliever ever!

If you have read here for any length of time I am sure you know a little something about my arch nemisis, the little red, dark, narrow, short, dungeon of a horse eating trailer.  Steady is too big for it, hits his hips getting in it, can only ride comfortably with the divider out, is too tall for it, refuses to load int it, has hurt himself too many times to count in it and over all HATES this trailer.  Which has made me hate this trailer.  I don't like to be ungrateful for what I have and I am truely grateful that I did get to use this trailer(it technically belongs to my Dad).  But I did quickly learn to hate this trailer.  The thought of hauling couldn't even pass through my mind with out my heart starting to race and my anxiety going from 0-60 in .03 seconds.  This is not exageration in the least, it was really that bad.  He is still healing up from his last episode in this trailer.

Well long story short, I didn't know how I could replace the trailer at this point in time.  I don't have the extra money for an actual decent trailer, I am on thin ice with my husband about spending too much money and did I mention I didn't have the money to replace this trailer with anything better.  A friend told me of a friend that had a trailer they were going to sell.  She took me over there to look at it.  It is a 1991 Trail-et Equisport oversized warmblood trailer.  Two horse bumper pull with tack compartments.  It has some rust and was not in perfect condition but it was nice, it was HUGE, it had no dividing poll in the back end (what Steady hit his hip on every time he got in the red demon).  It has windows all around so it is bright and airy.  And he was only asking $1,500 for it!!!  I couldn't pass it up.  Is it my dream trialer?  No but it is a very nice, safe and functioning trailer that I still can't afford but is an incredible price.  Trust me I have been searching high and low and for $1,500 you can basically get a piece of crap tiny two horse, it is ridiculous.  So I like any responsible grown adult would do, I called my Daddy and asked if he could help me.  I mean he already owns one trailer he never gets to see or use why not a second?  For those of you who already want to be adopted by my parents are going to wish so even more.  They agreed to pay for half of the trailer so I could get it!

Let me tell you about the first time Steady rode in this trailer.  It was to Pony Club on Saturday.  He walked right in, calm, cool and collected.  The ride was completely uneventful, well except for the combine that ran us off the road, seriously my life flashed before my eyes.  I came around a curve and was met with a massive combine that was a good 5 feet over the centerline.  Did I mention the trailer is oversized?  It is wider than my 2500 cummins diesel truck.  There was a gaurd rail on both sides of the road with NO shoulder.  I had NO WHERE to go and neither did he.  I gripped the wheel and gritted my teeth and drove.  I have NO idea how we made it through.  I really think it was only by God's grace.  I am not joking, it was so fricken scary.  Anyways, he unloaded perfectly, then on the way home he loaded right back up and stood quietly while I proceeded to have a 15 minute conversation with someone!  NEVER before could I have waited even 2 minutes before taking off or he would explode.  He had the calmest, most relaxed look in his eye just eating his hay, like a normal horse who had spent a good deal of his life hauling back and forth to the track.  I had no anxiety and it was like a dream come true to haul stress free and injury free.  I don't know if anyone can really understand what a relief it is.  So here it is, my new rig!

Monday, April 9, 2012


I have a pretty addictive personality and blogging has become one of those addictions.  So I find that when I am unable to blog I feel like I get all pent up.  Too many days of this pent upness and then I want to come on here and spill all happenings since the last post.  So much has gone on and so much is happening and it is all great and exciting.  I am not much for patience but I will try to show some restraint and I will just do a short recap and hopefully find the time to come back and give full details and photos.

It was spring break last week for my girls so we had a trip planned up to Michigan to see my parents then on to Wisconson to visit my Great Aunt and Uncle.  We made the trip with the trailer to my parents house so that we could return with Lily(the haflinger).  I was a nice trip and also too short.  My mom always takes such good care of us that it makes it hard to leave.  Moonlight made the trip to MI with us too so that he could visit his Grandma and Grandpa.  He was spoiled by receiving grain twice a day.  I guess Grandparents are the same whether it is with kids or horses.  Spoil 'em and send 'em home!  My parents have the coolest property and I should have brought my camera to show you.  It is every horse lovers dream.  17 acres of 5 separate pastures with lush beautiful grass in all but one that is keep mostly as a dry lot.  White board fence along the perimiters by the house then triangular mesh and hot wire for the dividing fences.  All wooden posts.  A 4 stall barn with feed room, tack room, hay loft and the nicest stalls money can buy.  Then surrounded by hundreds of acres that neighbors give access to, with trails, hills, ponds.  Then they have the most beautiful landscaped "pond" in their back yard.  It is made to look like a pond but it is actually a chlorinated pool with the coolest tiki bar and bonfire pit.  It is amazing!  It is like a resort and the best part is my mom is an amazing cook.  She cooks and cleans and spoils kids and horses alike.  It is like the coolest bed, board and breakfast EVER but it is all free!  Can you now see why I didn't want to leave?  It was lovely but I had responsibilies to come home to so it had to come to an end.

I came home to do my co-op pickups and deliveries. BTW the co-op business I started has turned out to be way more than I ever imagined.  Orders are 6 x's what I had hoped for and it has just taken off.  People are loving it and it is going so well!  It keeps me busy but still leaves enough time to get in riding.  I have also been giving lessons to a girl and that has been going great too!  She will actually be using Lily in the 4 -H fair this year.  They make a cute pair.  Then I did an Easter petting zoo for the local country club.  I acquired a baby lamb, baby bunny, and little chicks.  And snappy came along.  That went fantastic!  But it has all kept me insanely busy.  I mean bottle feeding a lamb and taking care of all the other little baby animals on top of the craziness that is my life has made it non-stop for me.  I am excited about this week because I will have a few days that I can catch up.  I really would not have been able to do it all without my husband and great kids.  They are amazing and so helpful!

Well that is it for now, since like I said I need to go play catch up and get my horse ridden today(btw he has been a fricken saint! He is just soaring with progress!).  But there is much more exciting stuff to catch up on here too so I will hopefully get back here soon enough.