A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We've been working hard!

This is Amy, riding Ash.  Amy is one of my riding students, who has excelled at horses.  The girl is simply amazing in both her ability to learn riding quickly, as well as her lack of fear while retaining all common sense. 

Ash there (I have to brag) is my 21 year old Thoroughbred mare.  My first riding horse, who taught me so much.  Yeah, she's a little on the forehand now when she canters, but as you can see, the old girl still has some GO.  Ash has taught many people to ride, and her favorite speed is canter.  She's technically my second horse, by about 2 weeks.  What can I say, I had the fever! 

But Amy, as you can see, is a very capable rider.  She recently offered to help me get back on track with my horses, and to help me over come my fear issues.  Bonus for her, she gets a TON of riding time, and gets to learn how to do the training aspect.  Now, as many of you know, there's no real "lesson" system for training, as it all depends upon what happens at that moment.  Oh sure, you can PLAN to go from halter, to lunge, to driving to riding, but it's the nuances and dealing with things as they come that matter most (and scare the jeebers out of us).

So, with the help of a very capable rider, and a whole whack of horses that have been ignored for far too long (too busy, too kicked in the head, etc) I had plenty of work for Amy to do.  I do my best not to take advantage of her, but as she can SIT a horse, and her instincts are correct, and she seems to LIKE working the young horses, well.... working we have been.

Now, last week, my darling Scorch managed to spook and buck her off.  So this week, we got her back on Scorch, and kept things nice and easy to get them used to each other.  He needed to realize that he's ok with that rider up there, and she needed to... um....ride?  Yeah, Amy had no concerns about getting back up on him. 

So there we are, with me on the ground giving pointers, and Amy in the saddle moving around.  Scorch is fine with all of that.  In fact, he's SO fine, that soon we're going to have to teach him that Mr. Willy can't hang to his knees all the time when he's working.  Nothing like a pink weeny to REALLY show up against a black horse.  Amy did ask for a western saddle.... just incase... and I happen to think it's a great idea to get the horses used to ALL tack.  Scorch is currently listening really well to seat and leg aids, much more so then to the bridle.  From my point of view, this is wonderful.  He tends to act more brave and relaxed then he is though, as our problem last week showed us, so this session was confidence building.

He did great though!  He's nice and forward, alert and intersted, yet looks as if he's having a good time.

Now, Amy's riding apparel is from the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).  Her linen shirt actually helps keep her cooler (and much less sunburned then my tank) and check out those boots!  Custom made (by Amy) boots that are thigh high, AND work while riding.  I am definitely putting some on my Christmas wish list, if only I can decide what color.  She made a friend of her's a pair in pink, so lots of color options.  They are water proof, fold down to cool.  I am thinking who needs half chaps if I have a set of those!

But I digress.  I'm really happy with how well Scorch is coming along.  He's about as green as they come, while still having a brain in his head, so a great way to start Amy on teaching a young stupid horse.

So then we did some retraining.  Check out Ozzy!  Notice that there's no person on the ground near him?  Yep, this is a HUGE step for that boy.

Until yesterday, Oz acted as if he "forgot" all of his saddle commands.  He would stop, back, and just not do what is asked, but his whole manner was more of "what does that MEAN" and not "get off me now".  Our retraining of Oz started with her riding, and me walking.  From there I moved further and further away, until he would turn away from me and still do what his rider asked.  Then I moved to where I walked behind HIM, and he had to listen to the commands, but wasn't alone. 

So when Amy mounted up yesterday, and asked Oz to move off while I put the mounting block next to the fence, I was SHOCKED to see Oz start to walk away from me willingly.  Oz doesn't care who is on the ground, just so long as there's a person there for him to follow.  Well, walking away, and minding his rider only, that's a huge break through.  I walked to the center of the arena while Amy rode around me, and then I walked away and sat on the block at the fence line, totally "ignoring" them.  He was still fine.  We praised him so much, and because he was dead on, we called it quits early. 

Now, I can't recall what order exactly we worked horses in, and my pictures on my camera are out of order (since Oz and Scorch's pics are at the first and the last) but she also put a really nice work out on Poko.

Poko as many of you know, used to be Leah's Horse.  He is not a total novice horse, but he's got some great things about him, and does well for an intermediate and above rider.  I'm in serious need of horses that are packers with more size to them (wide not tall) and Poko fits the bill.  He'll also hold a canter for an hour lesson and never think twice about it.

So, we're working Poko up as an intermediate lesson horse.  Amy is showing him that canter work is ok, and can even be FUN, and he seems to like it.  That doesn't mean he won't spook, or that he doesn't make mistakes, because boy does he.  He pulls to the gate - HARD - and tends to freak himself out when he gets into the canter.  He has to be kept on a tight rein to prevent the "oh my god I'm going too fast" freak out, but our plan is to work that out of him.  I also think he'd make an amazing SCA games horse.  Can't you see that little tank there jousting?

Amy said that she's decided Poko is her favourite horse of the ones she's ridden so far.  Kinda funny really, as he's known to be a total pest, but I kinda like the big lug too.

Oh, and for those of you who have been waiting to hear about him getting his hiney kicked into shape... well... it didn't happen.  The snot has been perfect.  Oh sure, when Amy was riding him, he called out to the mares, and she spent about 10 minutes doing patterns to get his mind back on WORK not ladies, but besides looking and calling, he didn't do anything else.  He figured out REALLY fast that being treated as a stallion is NOT fun, and he'd much rather be a gelding and play with his gelding buddies.  So, the "fixing" of him was a big let down.

And of course there's more, but I don't have the pictures of it all.  Sweetie has started lunging.  Diva is about to start driving.  Cayenne is almost sound enough to see if she can bear a rider (this afternoon, gonna hop on her bare back and see if she's ouchy).  And I have Amy starting to get to know Nazar.

Nazar is one of my foundation SDHR mares.  She's just about exactly what the Sugarbush Draft Horse should be, except that she has no spots.  This mare is LOVELY (and in foal to O for 2012) and just a wonderful horse.

Sadly though, some where in her past, she got scared of people.  Because of this, she does NOT like strangers.  I started to work her a while back, and learned that lunging is also BAD.  If you assume the "lunge" position, she bolts off, and with 1600 pounds of horse pulling hard, there's just no stopping her.  She is green broke, but she needs a lot more work, and she's a very sensitive horse.

So, I have Amy spending time just loving and grooming her.  This lets Nazar get to know Amy, and Amy gets to love a horsey (I mean really, who wouldn't want to pet this amazingly lovely horse?).  Day one went well, and Nazar seems to like Amy, so tomorrow, we're going to play a few tricks on her.  Rather then "lunging" her, I'm going to "lunge" Amy.  We will start with Amy walking her, and me standing in the lunge position.  From there, we hope to have a lunge line from my hand to Amy's, and see if Nazar will get the idea with out becoming afraid. By next week, I expect to see this big girl doing some real work, and getting ready for riding!

Amy's also been riding Doodles, and working out his muscles issues.  Doodles has chronic ulcers, and just had an "episode" early this spring.  When he does this, he stops eating.  Of course, if your throat and stomach hurt, who would want to eat!  But at the same time, the food in his belly helps to buffer the acids that make the ulcers worse.  So, we now have him back to weight, and his ulcers under control (twice daily top dressing of his food helped) but he's so out of shape.  All of his muscles wasted away in the few months (3?  4?) that he stood around doing nothing.  His trot is not forward, and he's disassociated at the canter.  In other words, his from end goes on one lead, and his hind is on the opposite.  The lack of muscling causes this, so his treatment?  Riding.

Amy takes him out and works on big sloppy forward movements.  Our only goal is to get his hips limber, and have him use his back.  As the hips and back build, we are adding in a few steps of canter, to encourage the proper back mucles.  He tends to pick up the proper canter, and then break out of it after about 5 strides, so it's a lot of sloppy forward transition work.  The picture is Doodles before his recent medical leave, and you can see, he's not a big or fancy horse, but this little guy is bomb proof (except for small animals under his feet). 

There are many other horses who have been getting there share of work, but this gives you an idea of how fast we are getting caught up to speed.  I had just started to get really depressed because things weren't going well for me.  I couldn't make myself climb on some of these horses.  The green horses just gave me fits of paranoia, and the packers I couldn't get myself to canter on them.  Now, after watching Amy make it look easy, I'm much more willing to climb on and go.  That doesn't mean I'm back to NORMAL yet, but seeing that it's safe makes it FEEL safer for me.  Amy's a strong and fit rider with quiet aids, and a good solid seat, and I have the years of figuring out how to out think the horses.  Between the 2 of us, it seems as if the horses are FLYING along, and improving in leaps and bounds.

And here's the odd thing for me.  Because I feel like things are happening as they should, I feel more confident.  The more confident I feel, the more willing I am to try something.  The more willing I am to try it, the less afraid I feel.

I'm not back to normal yet, and who knows if I ever will be, but it's definitely a leap in the right direction.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What IS that smell? Oh... I think it's me.

Oh my, it has been a wonderful, but long day today.  I didn't even catch what the temperature was out there, but it got nice and warm.

Started off with crawling out of bed, and while waiting for the coffee to brew, Leah texted me saying she was at the barn.  Got coffee, headed to visit, and was surprised with breakfast burritos!  Thanks Leah!

So then, Amy and her friend (I'm scared to try to spell her name) showed up.  Did some riding, with Amy working out Boo and Doodles for me, and her friend riding Ash.  I think she did very well, and it's always wonderful to get back on a horse after such a long time away.  And while we did that, Leah rode too.  Lots of great people, and lots of riding time, and me running around in mismatched clothes and plastic shoes.  Ahh, the joys of the weekend.

So then, as Leah's about to leave, she asked me if I had missed my chance to get feed.  AHHH!  Feed store closes in 20 minutes, and I don't have enough grain for the weekend!  AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yep, rushed out, and made it with 5 minutes to spare.  A half ton of grain loaded up (should last almost a week) and I'm hooked up for the weekend.  Got back, and even had time to sit down and drink a gatoraid.  Well, or so I thought.  Got the drink, sat down, and then checked the clock.

Crap, Farrier should be here.

Peeked my head out the back door, and there's his truck.  *sigh*  I can drink and rest in the barn as well as the house, right?  So what if there's no AC.

So, half a herd of horses later, and some good gossip with the farrier, and guess who shows up again?  Yep... LEAH!  And she was in one hell of a nice ride too.  She brought beer by, which does me no good as I am not the biggest beer fan, but the guys loved it!

By this point, my plastic slop on shoes are seeming like a bad idea, and I'm wondering when they will make true summer proof deodorant!

Finished up with the trims/shoes, and then fed a whole whack of ponies, and slipped inside.  I have to say, I am sitting on my butt for a bit before I hit the shower!  I'm actually thinking that once I get clean, I might not be able to stay awake that much longer.

I suppose I should think about eating something.  That breakfast burrito is long gone by now.

On the upside, I'm ready to go for tomorrow, and I have a whole bunch of horses ready to get into training.  With Amy helping me out, I think I'm gonna be able to get some of my younger drafts started up and put into the lesson string (eventually that is).  I will have a full draft barn one day (well, at least mostly, because I do have a few odd balls I'm keeping).  Odd how things work out though.  I thought I was going to have a draft lesson horse, and then didn't, but now it looks like things are actually working out for the best.  While I may not be totally conquering my fears, I have friends all around me that are helping me work around them and stay ahead.

I may stink, but I'm a very happy girl.  I love my life. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fear Friday!

We've all felt it.  We've all tried to ignore it.  And here we've talked about it some.  Fear. It doesn't listen to logic, it doesn't make any sense, and it's so hard to get over! 

It's that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, the raise in heart rate, the shortness of breath, and the trembling of your hands.  You know it when you feel it, and it drives away your desires.  It's a monster, and one that threatens so many of us.

But how to get over it?  You can't just rush headlong into it, and say "move over buddy, coming through!".  While that's what everyone tells us to do, it doesn't work like that.  The reactions we feel as fear, are the same reactions that prevent that type of action.  How do you try when your body screams to run away?

I've always had fear.  I personally think that anyone who doesn't it lying, or broken.  In the past, my fear was minor, and never stopped me.  Sure, I knew that climbing on a green horse could have a bad end, but it was worth it to me.  I knew I could get bucked off, broken, permanently injured, or what ever, but I could control the physical reactions, and still move forward.  Since my accident, I haven't been nearly as successful.

For me, my fear has been all about being under a horse's hooves.  It doesn't matter if it makes sense, but if my mind can make the leap to me some how ending up under the horse, the fear comes out.  Riding Boo on a windy day can trigger it.  I know he's stable and a safe ride, but I know that windy days tend to make horses spook more, and that's all my little brain needs.  It starts ticking away, out of control:

It's windy, you'll get to the back side of the arena, and the long grass will blow, and he will spook.  He'll spin, dropping you on the ground, and then bolt right over you, and there's nothing you'll be able to do to stop him.  Just stay off of him, because it WILL happen.  You will die, shattered into a thousand pieces under the hooves of your beloved horse, with your family sitting there watching, forever traumatized.

Yes, that is how my fear gets to me.  Boo is a saint of a horse.  He can take a joke, and keep on going, and he rarely spooks.  When he DOES, he never bolts.  So what makes me think that will happen?  Maybe because I know it COULD?  I honestly don't know.

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Dorothy Bernard

I had a friend tell me that I should stop saying I am afraid.  I am not sure that I agree with this.  Her thinking is that if I say I am afraid, then I will be afraid.  My thinking is that I am already freaked out, so why hide it?

Oh sure, I could fake it.  Sometimes I feel like that is what I should be doing, just suck it up, and get back on the horse!  But trying to do that, and finding that I was unable to, left me in tears.  The harder I tried, and the less I was able to do, the more I felt like a failure.

Feeling like a failure saps my self confidence. The less confidence I have, the less I am able to progress, so instead of battling my fear, I try to battle my confidence.  I do what I can, and always try to add in one thing that is "new" or that causes me a small amount of anxiety.  But does she have a point?  Does saying "I'm afraid" make me more afraid?

Does ignoring it make me more brave?

What is bravery anyways?  Is it overcoming your fear, or is it never having felt it in the first place?

So what is fear, and when is it really ok to say it's fear?  For me, it starts with butterflies in my stomach, my heart rate increases, and my breathing gets shallow.  If I try to push it, I feel the tingling in the back of my throat, and my hands shake.  I want to leave,  I want to do something else, ANYthing else, so long as I'm not doing THAT.  I start to feel the desire to cry - and I'm not a weepy person by nature - and then I feel shame at being so weak.  The more I push, the more it builds on itsself, and the worse I feel about who I am.  Things that shouldn't matter become bigger then they are.

It may start with feeling fear of the canter, and end up with being sure that I can't care for my horses at all properly, and should just give them all away.  The harder I push at my fear, the harder it pushes back at me.  If I let it, it seeps into everything, eating away at my pride, and my feelings that I can do something, ANYTHING right.

But when I face it head on, and say "Yeah, I'm afraid of doing that...... but it's ok to be afraid" then it loses power.  Fear is a monster that wants to eat away at us, but if you starve it, it dies off.  At least for me.  I simply don't do what I am afraid to do.  I don't try to battle it head on, but instead work around the problem, and I find that I make more progress.

If I'm scared to pick a horse's feet, then I have some one else do it.  If I watch, and can SEE that it is ok, then I will try.  Sure, the horse's feet are clean now, but that isn't my goal.  Rather, I simply want to see if I can really pick up that hind foot.  When I do, I feel proud.  I feel like I made a step, and I feel like I am in control.

What do you think?  Is it better to tackle fear head on?  Does it work for you to sneak up on it?  Or is it better yet to completely avoid it all together?  What makes you afraid, and how have you been coping with it?

And what do those around you think about how you are trying to cope with it?

Every Friday is going to be dedicated to fear issues.  Many of my own, and any one who is willing to put theirs out there.  Have a problem with something, ask in the comments, and I might make it the subject of next week's Fear Friday (Because it can't be all about me!).  Post anonymously if you'd like.  I know there are a lot of us who are dealing with this, and for me, having the support of those around me, both real and virtual, has been so helpful. By coming together, maybe we can all conquer our fears together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With a little Help from my Friends

One of my riding students, Amy, has offered a deal that is too good to be true for both of us.  She comes up a few days each week, and helps me put some time on the horses that need work, and in exchange she gets riding experience and training.  Now, Amy is a very capable rider, with a good seat, and tons of confidence, so I think she's at the point where this is a decent step.  She's calm, stable, and willing to try.

Well, yesterday we had our first session.  I decided that I was going to start her on some green but generally safe horses.  This will let her get the feel of what an ignorant horse does, how they react, and how much of training a horse is really trusting your gut while putting regular riding into practice.  We started with Scorch.

Now, dearest Scorch has always been a saint.  He's young, he's dumb, and he's a stallion, so we started with lunging.  She got a good walk/trot in both directions, and he was responding nicely, so up she goes.  Walk was pretty nice.  He was turning, if sloppy, when asked, and walking relatively constantly.  I like to put the idea of trot in their heads once I feel I have control of them, so asked her if she would try to ask for the trot.  I completely expected a few steps and then he would peter out.

Yeah, didn't go that well.  She got about 3 steps of trot, and then he stopped hard.  She wobbled forward, and from there, it went downhill.

Amy was wearing a camelback, which is basically a backpack filled with water that has an attachment so you can drink.  Looking back, she realized that the added weight of the water caused some of the issues, but at the time, neither of us thought anything of it.  Our mistake!

When he stopped, she leaned onto his shoulder, doing a bit of hugging neck, but nothing bad.  I thought it would be a wobble.  Well, Scorch got scared.  Whether it was the predator suddenly grabbing the base of his neck, or the slosh of the water, who knows.  But after slamming on the brakes, he immediately lurched forward hard.  Amy was already off balance, and the leap forward popped her back.  She slips onto his rump, where he proceeded to catapult her into the air.  She realized she was going, and just went with it.

Up, Up, and Away.....

Since her trajectory was now UP, there's not a lot she could do.  Her right foot caught the stirrup, and while it had been properly placed before, she was hung on the top of the stirrup.  Thank goodness the stirrup worked as it should, and slipped right off the bar.  (If you ever wonder why I train in an English/Aussie saddle, now you know, it's almost impossible to hang a foot).  Amy went flying, and landed SMACK on her back... on that lovely cushion of water, and I watched the stirrup fly toward the heavens.  I was standing only a few feet away, and that girl was up and back on her feet before I could even walk 2 steps to her.  The camel back took all of the impact.

It was like watching a cartoon.  She went flying through the air, and almost bounced off the ground to standing.  The stirrup and leather though, had some serious hang time.

Scorch of course was terrified.  Some monster tried to eat him, and he just didn't know what to DO!  He went to the corner, and bobbed there, tossing his head, the reins, and hopping in place.  Finally, he realized that it was over, and he lived through it all.  The poor big baby calmed right down.

Amy is fine.  Maybe an ache here or there, but she hopped right back up and got back to work.  The girl is crazy!  (In a good way!).  No, I'm not trying to kill her, but man do I really appreciate her help.  Scorch is the last horse I would have expected to react like that, but we all know how horses are.  When she got back up on Scorch, he was fine, and went right back to work.  No, we didn't try the trot again.  Lesson learned!

So, we turned to an "easier" green horse.  Ozzie.

Oz is a strange one, as he's broke, but he's forgotten a lot of his commands.  He will carry a rider all day long, so long as all he has to do is follow some one.  When you ask him to walk away, he just doesn't "get it".

So, Amy hopped up, and gave commands while I walked ahead of them.  By the end of the first day, she had him moving around the arena pretty nicely, but he kept trying to take his direction from me on the ground.  It was a huge improvement, because he was listening to her, but not completely there yet.

So today, we worked with Oz again.  This time, we worked him up to where he was leading, and I was following him.  Much of our training is nothing I have ever done before, as I've never seen a horse quite like this.  It's a very hard thing to explain how calm and accepting he is, but how confused about the idea of moving as his RIDER directs him.  She got him walking, and I walked behind, and as we made turns, she would turn to the left, and me to the right, or vice versa.  He soon realized that he was ok if he went away from me for a bit, and that he really COULD listen to his rider.  He wouldn't die.

By the end of the ride today, he was moving away from me with something like confidence, at her command.  He's a nice moving, big, sweet horse, so working with him is always a pleasure, if a bit baffling.

We did some work with Diva on the lunge, and will soon be getting her to ground drive as well, and then I will be showing Amy how we lay on them, and slowly get the babies used to the idea of a rider.

Every day my confidence comes back a bit more.  I feel myself start to "want" to get on the "crazy" young horses, and the idea of taking a fall is not nearly as bad as it used to be.  I see Amy so willing to take a drop from my darling pampered spoiled rotten Scorch, and hop right back up, and it makes me think about why I don't want to any more. Oddly, I can't think of why.  I've never been seriously hurt falling from a horse!  (Knocked out cold, yeah, but never seriously hurt).

I have to say, it's also VERY hard to teach some one how to train a horse.  So much of training is doing what the horse needs at that moment.  Amy has some great instincts, which is why I'm willing to let her have a go at it.  I've never made a "lesson plan" for training to train, so I'm completely winging this, and Amy is ok with that.  There's simply the basic idea of "make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing hard" and to praise the horse as it does what you ask.

But for me, it's been amazing to see how much my friends have stepped up and offered to help.  Some things I am fine with, while others I have fear or confidence issues with.  Not sure what I would do with out my support group, but I'm so happy to see things starting to move forward again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Well, I can CANTER!

Back in the day, I had a trusty steed.  She was known as the "bitch" when I bought her, and the nick name has stuck.  Ash is a 1990 TB mare, who was used as a broodie only until she was almost 9 years old.  I backed her myself (mostly because she let me and I didn't know any better) and the she proceeded to teach me how to ride.

Too hard on the reins, she would lean on them.  Too light, she would jig.  Didn't post the trot, she got bouncy.  Every thing I did wrong, she made it obvious to me, in a way that was non threatening.  I learned to ride, and I learned to ride quickly.  Now, I had 3 instructors at the time.  One was a friend at the boarding stable who took an interest in me.  One was my (now ex) husband.  And the last was my actual instructor.  Every time I rode, 5 to 7 days/week, I had an instructor there to help me out, but my greatest lessons were from my horse.

"Contact" made no sense to me, no matter how many times Sandy or Aaron explained it, but finding the happy middle with Ash's face DID make sense.  Posting, yeah what a strange thing to do, until I realized I was simply controling the bouncing Ash was putting me through.  Seat aids, leg aids, and so much more was made clear by a green horse that came right into work when I did it right, and just got ugly sloppy when I did it wrong.

And then there was the canter.  I can still remember the first time I tried to canter.  We were boarding at the time, and our arena was a mowed area in an open paddock.  I got up to the trot, and as we turned for the long side, I asked for the canter.  I tapped.  She ignored me.  I kicked, she ignored me, I flopped and flailed and yelled, and we made a lap around looking like the biggest idiots you have ever seen.  And then as we came back down the long side, she relented.  She cantered.

It was an amazing feeling!  The smooth rocking of the horse, the wind in my hair, the speed we were traveling..... amazing!  Ok, so it was a very slow itty bitty canter, she was babysitting me totally, so not that fast, but it felt like it!  But then we came to the corner.  I asked for a nice easy turn to the right, she complied, and I didn't follow.

My upper body leaned, I grabbed for shoulder, and just as I realized I was about to eat dirt, she scooped me back up and gently slowed to a halt. 

My instrcutor gave me pointers, told me what I had done wrong, and made sure I praised my horse for half passing back under me like that, then made me do it again and again until I got it right.  I got it by the end of the day, and perfected it not long after (well, became decent at cantering).

Canter is Ash's favorite gait!  Until recently it was mine as well.  And then all of this happened, and I've felt my heart rate rise at the thought of even an extended trot.  Speed = unstable in my mind, and I'm having trouble breaking that link.  Well.... when all else fails go back to basics, right?

Ash was carrying riders today for our weekend pony party.  Every one loves her because she's ready to go, and yet still easy.  At a very lumpy 21, she's still got it going on.  She's old, she creaks and pops, and her grey cancer has put some seriously strange tumors on her body.  She has a golf ball sized lump where her brow band goes, so she rides with it crooked (huh, maybe I need a one ear bridle.. hmm).  She has a grapefruit sized lump on the side of her neck, so she doesn't have much of a bend any more (not that she ever did) but her heart's still there!

So, after thinking about it, I decided to hop on her.  She was warmed up, and ready to go, and had been cantering around for a bit already, so I got settled, and just asked.  She just gave it to me.  Perfectly.  Nice, easy, and a small canter.  No fear, no anxiety, we just worked well together.

So I've cantered now!  But it's not the end of the problem.  When my friend took her horse up to a canter, I hadn't even put a foot in the stirrup yet, but I still got all jumpy.  Heart rate goes up, stomache in knots type of thing.  Heh, now explain THAT one to me!  I wasn't even near her or her horse, and she's comfortable on him.  GAH!

But for me, it's a step closer to solving the problem.  Rather then fighting against what freaks me out, I work inside what I can do.  I feel confident, I gain confidence, and I can actually feel myself progressing.  I'm starting to push 3 weeks of riding now (Wednesday I think) and it's coming back nicely!

And I think I'm going to use Lisa from Laughing Orca Ranch's idea, and do a "Fear Issue Friday" here.  That way I know I can keep up with it, and yet we can still all help each other work through our issues.  No fear is too big or too small, too sensible or too silly.  If you're having trouble "wanting" to do something, or feeling comfortable with it, let me know.  My email address is at the top, so you can send anonymously, or post any time in the comments.  Lets see how this goes, and maybe we can get some of us feeling confident enough to at least be able to breathe when thinking about that which sets us off. 

I have to say though, while it was almost a let down to canter so easily, I'm still kinda proud of myself.  I did it, and it was good, and now I can do it again.  YAY!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Epilogue for a bad week

Well, things are getting back to normal.  Cayenne loves me again, and nickers at me like I'm momma.  Hung out with some good friends this morning, had some horsey time, and pretty much did my normal Saturday thing.  Was supposed to show Boo today, but they didn't show up.  Waited at the barn until almost 2, for a 12:30 appointment, then gave up.  Oddly, I'm happy about that.  Boo is now off the market.

Bad news though.  It's looking like there's nothing I can do to get Lina.  A week ago, I had passed out her owner's name, because Lina's old team mate was up for sale.  Told all my people here, who passed it along.  It looks like one of those leads may have worked out, and worked against me.  I'm not sure, but I got a strange call today.

Evidently a friend of mine who rides here passed the number on to her coworker.  The coworker called, and wants to buy the horse, and has money in hand.  She called back my friend to ask who I was (you know how the whole grape vine thing works) and as the story goes, I am a horrible person, and did something bad.  I'm not sure what, but spreading lies was a part of it.  While I'm not happy about any of this, I tried very hard to stick to the facts.  I suppose that saying "she's talking bad about me" is just a normal defense though. Fact is though, it sounds like her friend really wants to buy the horse, and none of us can say that Lina is bad with out telling lies, and I have never seen the other mare.  I'm not sure who she was looking at, but my gut says it's Lina.  her coworker isn't even one of the people who hangs out here, so I will probably never see her again if this happens.

But, like with all things, there's light at the end of the tunnel.  Am I upset, well SURE!  What kind of person would I be if I wasn't?  A horse is hurt, a horse I adore is gone with nothing I can do to get her back.   But light there is.

Cayenne is doing pretty well.  Massage and stall rest have helped her tons.  We did some flexing stuff, and she's moving around much better, but still not good.  I'm going to find a chiro out here, and get her adjusted soon I think.  Will know more after the vet checks on her.

And I have one of my students coming out to help ME out.  She's going to handle some things that my recent fear issues have prevented me from doing, and give me an extra set of hands in exchange for learning how to do all of this.  Looks like she's brave enough to get Jinx finished up, and THAT will be my next lesson horse.  Sweetie is ready to back now too, and in about a year she will be ready.  In a few months, Cayenne will be sound again, and just work in the lesson string as well.  Not a bad little set of ponies I'll have... now I just need more students!

And I've had an epiphany.  I'm scared to canter, or do crazy things.  Well, I fixed that the first time by trusting my darling mare Ash.  I'm going to fix that again by trusting her.  Both of us are older now, but we're still a team.  A few rides each week on her at the canter, and maybe even a small jump (more of a step but you get the idea) and who knows where this will go!

Still have to sit down and cull the herd hard though.  I am so done with light horses.  Drafts are the "next best thing" in my mind, so I'm throwing my all into a pure Sugarbush Herd.  If you know anything about the breed, you'll know that's not possible... yet.  This means that I will be breeding, keeping, and selling the previous generation for a while, but I think that may work out really well for my buyers.  Why buy a baby, when I'll have really nice grown, riding, gentle, lovely horses to tempt you with!

And... to top it all off.....


I've needed the rain so badly.  My pastures are nothing but dust and weeds.  It's not enough rain, but it's something, and I'm thankful for anything I can get.

And I had a thought.  I'm considering starting a second blog to discuss fear issues with horses.  I won't have time to write it all, but I'd LOVE to have a place for all of us to get it out there and talk through it.  A support group type of thing.  Where y'all can post comments with questions, and have that featured the next time to see if any one has advice for you.    Any interest?

Cayenne and Fear (The end of a LONG day)

So, this is what I got so many years ago.  A small brown lump of dead horse.  Yeah, she was dead looking more then she was alive looking, as sleep hit her hard.  One minute she would be playing with us, and then the next, she'd just crumple.

Cayenne has always been a darling little pony, but tonight, when making her some mush, I thought she looked taller.  You know about absence and all that.  Well, I can't just a horse's size to save my life, so I pulled out the stick.  Yes, Cayenne is 14 hands, and 1/4 inch tall!!!  She's a HORSE!  When did that happen???

So, she's a bit bonkered up from her trip out east.  I don't know what happened, and it doesn't matter.  I do know that she says her mouth is sore, her poll is sore, and her hip hurts like hell.  Did she get the hell kicked out of her?  Did she fall while tied?  Did she pull a Cayenne nap when she was at a patience post?  In the end, it doesn't matter.  My baby is home.

I had missed her little murmers to me at feeding time.  Oh how she loves the bucket - it's her mother after all.  I missed having a nice "pasture rider" for myself, since Poko can't hang in the pasture any more.  I realized that I need a nice small moving quarter type horse.... the day after she left.  So I can't tell you how nice it is to know that she is home, she is safe, and she will never be sold into some place I can't control again.

And then there are my fear issues.  Oh they are still here.  They come, and they go, but for the most part I just deal with it.  Some one earlier mentioned the "give it time" comments.  I actually think there is some plausibility to this, but not as the sayer thinks.  I have found that the best way to address my fears, is to acknowledge my fears.

As an example, when riding, if I suddenly feel panic coming on, I just stop, step off, and breathe.  I put myself in a safe place/position, and wait.  I never try to push through it.  Oddly, this has been working SO well.  I say "I'm not ready for that" when I'm not emotionally ready for something, and no one makes me feel pressured.  I learned that most of my "peer pressure" came from ME, not them.  So, I do take my time... time to feel comfortable with the situation before I try it, time to think it through and decide how I feel, and time to be scared.

I trust my horse when I think I can, and I move out of the way when I don't feel right.  If that means I am running screaming from sweet darling Boo, well that is just what I do.  If people don't like it, then they don't have to be around me. 

Every time I have tried to push myself to get over it, I regress.  It's usually not pretty, and a lot of times it has tears and snot involved.  Hey, I got kicked in the head, it's not exactly a fun thing I want to repeat!  My mother always said "better safe then sorry" and I believe her.  Also, it seems that having some one near me do something gives me courage.  Jae can pick up that horse's feet, so I can too... lemme try.  Mom just rode that horse at a canter today, so let me try.  Kris just, Leah just, Rachel just, Amy just...... I'm surrounded by examples of just a little thing that I can suddenly do because I saw some one else just do it.  Maybe it's brushing a horse's tail.... pulled over to its ribs, but brush it I did!  I take pride in those accomplishments, because to ME they are a big step.

And you know what?  When I admit it, my friends cheer me on.  They don't laugh at me, they don't get annoyed with me, they encourage and support me!  And if they don't... bah, who the hell needs em anyways?

Tonight, I vented publicly.  I stressed, I whined, and I let it out there.  It feels kinda good to do that every once in a while.  And do you know what happened?  My friends and family rushed in with support.  A coffee at my desk here, a shoulder there, a chat on facebook that made me smile, tons of texts, and a phone call saying "here's the bush, and there's the bear".  Something I thought would be a minor scrolling bit of text in the virtual world ended up being a warm and fuzzy virtual hug.

The best part.... I heard the words I needed to:  "We understand, you're not alone.  We're with you."

I am going to keep doing what I'm doing.  I always try to learn from my bad days and my mistakes.  And I'm going to be realistic about my business.  None of those things are shocking to any one that knows me.  I don't think I could give up horses completely if I wanted to.  I do always think so long and hard about breeding, and I try to sell only to the best of homes.

I also feel that it doesn't matter WHY a horse doesn't work out, I only need to get my horsey home.  If I lose money, then it's only money.  A life is always more precious.  And some how, the money follows the good intentions.  I mean, I do horses for a living!  It's been said that can't be done, and yet I do it month after month.  Oh there are heart breaks and wonders, but it's something that is more then a job.  I think the biggest reason why I can make a profit in horses is because I try so hard to be honest.  Maybe I'm wrong some times, but I do not lie about it!

In this line of work, we have to balance 2 things that do not like to balance.  Business and emotion.  I have to run my business as a business.  If I don't, bad things happen (like no money for feed, vet... well, all the things I need).  And at the same time, I can't treat a horse like "inventory".  They are thinking, feeling, caring creatures.  I think that the only thing that can balance these 2 is the attempt to be as honest as possible.

And yes, I really am this much of an optimist at the end of the day.  I just whine and moan in the middles.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's like a roller coaster, and all downhill from here

Warning:  it has not been a good day.

So, where did it start?  I'm not sure of exactly what the first straw on this camel's back was, but now it's broken.  Last weekend was an amazing high for me.  Found the most amazing lesson horse, she fit right in, and I started acting like she was a fixture here.

Well, as we all know, if it's too good to be true, then it probably is.  This was.

I think it started with the cat.  Maybe.  I'm not sure of the exact timeline now.  But one of my cats got out.  She does this sometimes, and usually comes in as soon as she realizes it's hot.  Not this time.  She left, and never came home.  She was Jae's baby, always in his lap begging for attention.  It's been kinda quiet in his lap for the last few days.

Then there's the stupid family issues.  Nothing serious, but just one of those extra straws that adds up over time.  A fight with my mother, some grumbling with my father, Jae not getting why I'm upset about it, more grumbling.  I'm sure that's all a symptom though.

Add in a snarky ex client who pretty much does their best to let me know just how bad I suck... repeatedly, and it's not a very good feeling.

Oh, and then there's the horse I sent home because my fear issues kept me from working with him.  You want to talk about a blow to the ego, well that's it right there.  I don't KNOW that I can ride or train horses any more.  I'm totally shot.  Hell, I still have panic attacks at the canter!  I was so pleased before that I was walk/trotting ok, but all of a sudden it seems like such a big deal that I can't canter.

Sales... well, I have a few client horses I told them I could sell.  I haven't.  I can't bring myself to get on them before this week, and now, when I try, I end up feeling like I'm just a washed up moron when it comes to horses.  I had plans to push myself into it.  Get on them, and get it done.

But then there's the whole income stream problem.  Lessons are going good now, because I have that extra lesson horse I need... right?  Yeah, not so much.   Now she wants to trade back!  Says that Cayenne isn't broke, and has a hip issue.  I'm not really sure what she's talking about, as I just rode Cayenne a few days ago!  Walk, trot, and even a step or 2 of canter, and well... read above to understand why only a few steps.  I was so proud of the baby for finding a great home, but this lady says she won't do a thing.

So then I show Boo.  Oh my.   He's a complete moron.  If I said he'd do one thing, he did another.  Neck rein?  yeah, he forgot all about that.  Act like a trooper, nope... check out the girls though he had no problem with.  I had just bragged about this horse, and then he's a moron under another rider!  Add another straw on this feeling of not being able to teach a horse a damned thing.

So, I can't train outside horses.  Can't sell my own horses because they are completely different with me then anyone else, and I am quickly losing my confidence to train riders, because of all this adding up.

So, I'm seriously considering getting out of horses.  Maybe I need to just make them fun again?  But I love the SDHR horses, and want to keep working with that, and lets not forget that I have a bunch of babies coming next year.  What the hell am I doing?

Right now, I'm sad, I'm feeling very insecure, and I'm pretty sure that by putting it out there, some one will come along and kick the wet puppy in the rain while it's down (can I mix a few more metaphors?).  I have some serious thinking to do about the business, the horses, and the work I do, and I'm not sure at all where it will lead.  Who knows, maybe its a sign or something.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be....

Because it looks like she might have a new name!

Today was our pony party.  Every Sunday a few of us get together, and have a good time riding.  I supply most of the horses, but a few have their own, which makes for a nice mix.  Around 8am the riders started arriving, and I was out at the barn before them (this is NOT normal, as I am anything but a morning person).  I have been working hard all week to be in the barn and working by 8am, but I admit, I usually run late (8:30 or so).  Since I also usually go to sleep around 2am (check water give hay at midnight, which takes 45 minutes, then wind down, and next thing I know the time is gone) well lets just say I'm not a morning person!

So, Kris found a bridle in her shopping spree the other day that would fit on ol' jug head there (no really, her head is HUGE, but so is the rest of her, so it's a large kind of pretty) and Chris wanted to ride her.  While I haven't had her long, she's been just amazing, and I felt it was ok to try it.

She had a fit about getting her feet picked.  On her fronts she tries to stand on them, but touching her heels with the hoof pick and just slowly adding pressure gets her to pick up her feet.  I don't even have to push hard, just show that I'm willing to start adding pressure.  She lifts, I praise.  She'll get the idea soon enough.  But her hinds, well that was a different story.  We lift, and she would put it back down.  Nice, gentle, but heavy.  And when her LEG weighs as much as it does, there's not a lot you can do when she pushes down.  I ended up recruiting Jae (stronger then me) to help.  I kept her from trying to walk, and he picked up her leg.  When she did what we wanted (lift and didn't push down) we would praise and give her a cookiee (alfalfa cube or horse treat).  2 tries, and she was willing to have her hoof picked.  Not perfect, but again, she's still new.

So Leah beat us into the arena on Jaz.  Now, the big grey mare has yet to really meet the other horses, so potentially this could be a problem.  I had Rachel walk her out, see how Jaz would react, and to check out the "scarey" tractor haying.  (You might remember that the same tractor spooked Poko a while back resulting in Leah eating some dirt... it's terrifying).  The mare could care less.  Got Chris mounted up, and away he went.

Now Chris is a novice rider, but the mare was simply amazing with him.  She did what he asked, and while inertia is a large factor in riding her (takes forever to get going, get stopped, and turning is like driving a semi!) but she's mild mannered and more then willing.  Chris bombed around on her, doing walk and trot work.  Rachel, Nita and I were sitting there staring at her for a while, when Leah rather pointedly asked us if we were going to ride!  Oh right.... forgot about that!

Got every one settled, tacked up and ready to go, and it started to look like a color coordinated drill team out there!

They decided to practice for the roayal wedding procession, and wave for the camera.  From left to right:  Chris on grey mare, Leah on Jazu, and Kris on Keeley.  Not long after this Kris called it quits, and I snagged her horse, riding bareback.

And MAN, that really makes you know just how out of shape you are!  My lower back and the outside of my thighs was burning when I got off.  I felt myself pinching up on the horse (a good way to lose all control and balance, relaxed is better) and kept fighting my own bad habit.  8 weeks out of the saddle really does NOT do the body any good!

But while we're riding around, we started talking about names for the big girl.  A few good ones were put out there, as well as many of the wonderful suggestions from the forums, and I've been trying them all.  Isa (Isolde) seemed to be ok for her, but most of the others were flat ignored.  Nothing picked her fancy.  Rachel suggested Avalanche, or Ava, which I thought was cute, but before we could even decide, some one mentioned a name that fit so well we all loved it.


If you don't know the story about Thumbelina, here's the basic idea.  A lady couldn't have kids, so asked a fairy/witch/kind old lady (depends on the version) to help her.  She is given barley corn which she plants in a flower pot and it grows a lovely tulip.  When she kisses the flower, inside is a perfect child, but she's only an inch tall.  This is Thumbelina.  Poor little Thumbelina is abducted and many animals try to marry her off, first a toad, then a bug (similar to a June Bug) and then a mole.  She meets a butterfly that keeps her company, and falls in love with a sparrow who is out of her league but friendly, and in the end marries the price of flowers.  The point of the story is about a woman making her own choices in the world, and not following what is expected of her "just because".  It was one of my favourites as a child.

Of course, the short version would be "Lina" because "Thumb" just sounds silly.  But that makes a whole different set of jokes.  What with the many "Lena" bred horses, and a massive draft mare (who is lovely) named Lina.... it's right up there with my Poko (er Poco Bueno?).

Every one seemed to LOVE the name idea, and I have a twisted sense of humour like that.  I did want a name that sounds feminine, with out being disgustingly girly, so that no one will say "oh, Pat... well he's so pretty!".  She's a girl, albeit a BIG girl, and deserves to be seen as such.  Lina rolls off the toungue nicely, doesn't sound like any one else I have, and makes me giggle.

So I spent this evening asking her if she was a "Lina".  She seems ok with the idea, and no more for or against it then any other.  So for now, her tentative name is Thumbelina!  (unless something happens to change my mind it will likely stay).

Most everyone took at least a little spin around the arena on her.  At the end, it was kept to a walk, to help get her muscles in shape with out making her sore or achy.  She's very much out of shape, but she's always willing to try.  I think in just a few weeks, she is going to be a wonderful horse, and the pride of the lesson students.  She's been totally bomb proof even considering this is a new place, and I know a few SCAers that might want to borrow her for some events. I honestly think she'd excell at it.

Although the funniest thing of the day...............

That "pony" on the right stands 15hands!

And yes, it was dry, dusty, and all of my pictures are a bit hazy.  It didn't get as hot as I thought, and we ended the day watching Jaz and Daltrey mow my lawn, with the help of Diesel (aka Stevie) the OTTB.  The boys were loving the muchies, the breeze kept it nice.

I turned Lina out into the main pasture for the first time.  That was a non event.  She fits in so well, and is such a great horse!  I adore her tons!

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's official, I'm a horse trader!

Ever have one of those deals that is too good to be true, but it's really true?  Well, I stumbled upon one of those the other day.

I have been looking at selling some of my smaller lesson horses that are rarely used in order to get a draft or draft cross lesson horse for the big guys who come out to ride.  I'm sorry, but a 6'4" guy just doesn't fit on a 13.3. hand pony!  I don't really teach kids to ride, and I have no children of my own, so Cayenne was the "best" option of horse for me to sell.  My plan, sell Cayenne, use the money to buy a nice and well trained draft horse.

With that said, she's also my orphan.  I hand raised her, I pampered and spoiled her while trying to be sure not to let her have too many bad habits, and I did all of her training.  She's a wonderful and fun little horse, and just loves human attention.  Well, again, I am lacking for time, and I don't need as many horses as I have, so I'm slimming down, so Cayenne went on the sales list.  But I was adamant that she would get the BEST home possible.  She's my baby!  And if I get a home that would keep me updates on her regularly, then even better!  (Because nothing sucks like trying to get info when the owner doesn't want to give you that).

So, when checking on some of my ads on Craig's List, I saw an ad a few posts above mine.  Now, I'm pretty sure that for most people, CL (Craig's List) is not exactly the be all and end all of advertising, and you assume that most of the people who contact you, or who you contact, will be wack jobs.

So, A few lines above mine there's an ad for a shire mare.  Well, I'm a draft lover, so I just HAD to look.  I opened the ad, and saw "Want to trade for Quarter Horse"  uh..... WHAT?!?!

Most times it's the other way around.  Have quarter horse, wish I had a draft horse (at least here).  So, since I'm trying to sell a quarter horse in order to get a draft horse, I sent an inquiry.  I will be honest, I completely expected to get no response, OR to get "Yeah, I have this rank, nasty untrained ancient horse I will trade for your perfectly broke AQHA horse".  I mean, every one wants something for nothing!

So, I get back pictures of this lovely mare, and I had spoken to the owner on the phone.  The mare is broke, lazy, quiet, but a little rusty (I don't recall her exact words but that is the impression I got).  Owner wants something smaller, basically.  I showed her what I had, and then asked the leading questions to see how good of a home it is.  Come to find out, it's PERFECT for Cayenne.  Horse people who know what they are doing, love their horses, and really USE them.

And the mare?  Well, she looked nice, but she really looked sweet as can be, and sweet matters more then pretty for a lesson horse.  By this time I'm getting a little excited.  Half of me is sad thinking that Cayenne won't be here for ever, but most of me is thrilled.  And then I start thinking "well..... if it's too good to be TRUE....".

And Jae of course is all for the deal.... so long as the draft mare meets his criteria.  In his words, "I am not giving up my first born daughter to just ANYone".  Now, is it just me, or is that kinda cute?  Our little orphan is his "first born".  Yeah... he's a keeper!

But besides that, he's all for it.  So, we arrange a time to meet, and the horse's owner arrives with horse in trailer.  She walks her out of the trailer, and.... lets just say her pictures do NOT do her justice.  What looked to be a short neck was a decent neck.  What looked to be a long back was only a touch long, her legs are amazing, her face is very pretty, and she's a tank.  Nice and 'short' (for a draft) but solid as I could wish for.  This lady could, ahem, pull her own plow!

Oh, and she's broke to ride AND drive.  She really COULD pull her own plow.

So we tacked her up, and found a few minor issues.  As an example, she is heavy to pick up her feet.  I poke with the hoof pick, and she changes her mind easily.  She doesn't like to take the bit, but a nice cookie and it's suddenly a decent idea.  No mean problems at all, and her personality is SWEET.  I have been saying that a lot, but she really is just a very lovey and huggable horse.

Jae made a few laps of the arena, decided she's a "nice mare" and I let the owner know we're SOLD!

So later this evening, I had some people come out to ride.  One is a more advanced student, Amy, who is a solid rider and just tweaking the last of her technique.  Well, one look at this mare, and Amy wanted to ride her.  I gave her the whole "well, I have no idea what she'll do, but you're welcome to try" and so at the end of the day, we tacked her up, and Amy took her out.

Oh, she was amazing!  Ok, not perfect, but I didn't expect perfect.  She was a saint for about 15 minutes in the Texas heat, and then she got tired.  At that point she started heading for the gate (common problem) and when Amy MADE her do what she needs to, well, she gave a half hearted hop.  Ok, it wasn't even both hind legs, just a lift of her hip after a nice kick to get her paying attention.  She obviously doesn't care to be kicked too hard OR made to sweat.

So, she's a great horse in my opinion.  Yeah, she's going to need a tune up and conditioning, but she's WONDERFUL.  She's exactly the type of horse I would have bought.  So, we just took out the middle man, and swapped right over.  I guess that means I'm officially a horse trader now, since I've traded for a horse.

And Cayenne, well they LOVE her.  She's at her new home, settling in like she's always lived there, and being her normal little self.  The owner called me this evening, and I thought "oh no, there's a problem, there HAS to be a problem... this is too good to be true!"  But nope, she just had a few questions, and wanted to let me know how the girl was doing.  I told her about the mare, and we're both just as pleased as can be.  AND I'm getting updates on my baby!  I can't tell you how happy I am.

But I have a little problem with the big girl here.  Her name was Maggie.  Well, my donkey is named Maggie Mae.  Now, while they look nothing alike, I can't have two ladies around here with the same name.  I checked, and Maggie the draft horse is not really in tune with her name, but rather the tone of voice used.  She answered to "big girl" and "baby caakes" as well as "sweet heart" rather well.  So I have no restrictions on name.  Doesn't have to sound alike at all, but she needs something proper for a 2200 pound horse (ok, she's very fat).

The best idea I've had so far is Isolde (as in Tristan and Isolde) with a short version of Izzy (since Issy was decided to be "ick").  I kinda like it, but I wanted to see what every one else thinks.  Suggestions are welcome!

And I will say, while I had ruled her out as a breeder before, after seeing her in person, I can't help but think "lets see how she looks when she's in shape".  I can say though, that she will not be bred to O, as his minor flaws and hers are the same.  I would only breed her to something that just happens to compliment her... but with that said, I have something that compliments her!  Long neck, nice sloped shoulder, and good length of back, but a tad weak on the hip... this mare has a lovely hip.......   So it's not completely ruled out, but it's not why I got her.  Decisions about breeding can wait, but her training is about to come into full swing!

So, let me hear your ideas for what you'd call a 16 hand grey draft horse that's as sweet as can be, and a little bit regal in her personality!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wow, it's been BUSY! An update around the farm

So it's been a while since I posted anything.  Would you believe that I set up a few posts to auto post, and I'm STILL this far behind?

Well that's a good thing for me, for the most part!  Let me catch y'all up on what I've been doing, and how it's going.

First off, I'm back into riding.  I haven't had vertigo in more then a week, and probably closer to 2 weeks now!  My face is healing up pretty nicely (see picture there, while not the prettiest, it IS recent).  I've put up a few horses for sale, got some interest in them, and stumbled upon a deal that is just too good to be true.

So, first off, the riding.  That pretty little Bay arab there is Boo, or Boojum, my first horse.  He was named after the fictitious character created by Lewis Carrol.  I got Boo when he was 4 months old, and he's now 12, and one of the best riding horses I have.  Sadly, he's also 14.3, which is TINY, so he always tends to end up on the back burner.  I have decided that I'm putting him up for sale, in my effort to reduce the number of horses I have.  So um, if y'all know a GREAT home that needs a totally amazing bomb proof horse, lemme know.  I'm not overly eager to sell him, but I would LOVE to see him get more attention.  It's only fair.

But, my "excitable" Arabain gelding there is the "goto" horse for me to get back into riding.  He's calm, predictable, and does everything.  Yeah, he rides English, and has been formally trained in low level dressage.  He rides Western, and neck reins, although I've never "taught" him to do that, he just picked it up from bombing around.  He does just about anything at all.....except walk through water.  Yes, that's Boo's problem, he's a priss.  So, when I had to choose a horse to ride, something small, and predictable was PERFECT for me.  My first reason to ride was that I needed a video.  Yeah, still working on editing that, but I did get a ton of footage.  But "needing" to ride is a lot better of a reason to MAKE myself get up then just "goofing off".

So, after that, I started working with Cayenne again.  Sorry, it's not a current picture, but you get the idea.  She's a little itty bitty thing, and my bottle baby.  Cayenne is just totally bomb proof, although she's not finished totally.  She has a nice Walk, Trot, Canter on her, but her trot to canter transition is rough, and she needs a lot of finesse on her.  Did I mention she's little?  Yeah, that's my 13.3 hand baby there.

So, we had a few good rides, a few not so good rides She's very fussy about her bit, and very light mouthed.  So light in fact that the other day she kept balking on me, until I realized it was the bounce of the reins at the trot on her 'new and pretty' bit.  Of course, this is the horse I usually ride in a bitless, or a halter.  I have even ridden her with a lead around her neck, but she wasn't exactly ready for that (i.e. SLOPPY).  But again, more rides on a nice sweet horse.

And then I had a couple of viewings.  I just got a deposit on Zire here.  He's going to head off and be a great and amazing barrel horse!  A friend of a friend is getting him, so he'll stay in the extended family!  Zire is a 3 year old ApHC Appaloosa, and not yet broke to ride, but we all have high hopes for his future!

I'm really happy with his home too.  I mean, his new owner is a wonderful calm and patient trainer, and she'll give him a good foundation under saddle, and make sure he LOVES what he's doing.  And since he's basically bred for chasing cans (ApHC race lines x ApHC cutting, reining, running lines) it's just a wonderful match.  At one time this little guy was going to be my next stallion...... until I inherited Quagga, and then discovered the SDHR.

So, with out jinxing myself (cross fingers) I have had some promising viewings of Nakai, the black Mustang we have here for a client.  I'm really hoping this works out for him.  The family are wonderful and willing to finish his training, and give him a chance to be a show horse!  What a great chance for him!

Normally I don't like to mention sales before the deal is done, but this is one I really hope comes through.  I can't imagine a more perfect home for Nakai.  He's just so sweet, loving, and nice moving of a horse, that he deserves to have so much more.  After my accident, well, I kinda suck at finishing the horses!  Right now I'm ok on the vertigo, but I get so anxious at the oddest times, and let me tell you, that is NOT how to train a green horse to ride.  I think Nakai will train up nice and easy, but I'm also not about to sell him to some one with out full disclosure of his problems.

So, his possible future trainer (if I understand right) is coming out to check out Nakai, and we'll see how that goes.  Y'all keep your fingers crossed for him!

And lastly, there is a VERY good chance that I am getting a new lesson horse!

She's a 16 hand (approx) draft mare (Shire, or Shire cross) who is just as sweet as can be and kid friendly.  She's been ridden quite a bit, and carried both small and larger riders.  While I thought I'd be looking for a gelding, those who know me know that I am a mare person!  I love the mares and their ways.  So this just thrills me to no end.

And no, from looking at her pictures, I don't think she'll make a great cross to O, but one never knows.... while her job is to be a packer, if she's built right, there is always the chance that she may be used in the SDHR revival.  Only time will tell on that point.  I just am giddy about her though.  Oh PLEASE let her be like I think she is, and not some crazy spooky man killer or something.

Oddly, I was checking on one of my ads on Craig's List, and saw her ad just above mine.  I figured I'd inquire, and get back a response that this mule looking horse (because there were no pics in the ad) had never been touched, and was a million years old, or something.  The response I got was anything but.  Broke, 12 years old, and gentle!  YAYAYAYAYAY *happy dance*

A larger horse is something I've been looking at for a while.  While I have Poko, well... we all know that he's ONLY an "advanced" rider's horse, and not a starter type.  So for all those horse husbands out there who have long legs, or are a bit bigger then my ancient packers can pack, this lady will be PERFECT!

But, there's one downside to her.  Her name.  It's not that I hate it..... it's that it's the same as my donkey's!  I can't have 2 Maggies here, so the new one will need a new name.  As soon as I know if she's staying, and how she acts, I will be sure to ask for advice on that.  Now watch, I just jinxed myself, and she'll know her own name.  GAH!

And lastly, I have a new riding student.  He is mature, male, and into horses.... and wants to learn how to keep a leg on either side!  After meeting him, I'm very impressed with him.  A complete gentleman, and a total horseman.  He asks good questions, and tries hard.  Our first lesson went really well, and I expect he's going to progress quickly.  I don't teach "show prep" or anything like that, but I do teach adults (since kids are like an alien species to me) how to be safe and stable on a horse.  I have talked to so many people who want to LEARN, but don't want to be pressured like you get in some of the big lesson barns, or show barns.  I offer a good starting place for people to get involved, get proper basics, and if they decide to, they can move up to a higher instructor later, or just finish with me, and trail ride with out fear of getting tossed.

And I can't tell you how happy I am that the vertigo is GONE!  I feel much more like ME again.  I do have some memory issues, but it's such little things.  Like I occasionally can't pull a  word out of my mind that I should know.  Pretty normal, but it's happening more then it ever has before.  I was warned (and rather a lot by the doctors) that some of this could last for up to 6 months.  As I'm not getting any younger, I kinda figure that a lot of it will just be with me for life.  I am trying to alter a few of my habits, like making notes more often, so that I can cope with the changes, but well... it's not a habit yet.  So for my friends and family, it's ok to remind me of things... I really DO forget a lot now.

And well, I'm out of shape, and have lost some of my "seat'.  But I'm letting myself slide on that for a bit... so no comments about how ugly I look in the saddle there... I really WAS all over the place, but I sure was trying!  But that's beside the point...

The fear issues.  Well, they are still here, but controllable.  As an example, when I was riding Boo the last time, some moron decided that peeling out was a GREAT idea.  He went up one street burning rubber (and wow does that stink) and then turned to drive past my arena.  My heart leapt into my throat, and I stepped off the horse.  Of COURSE the moron tries to peel out again, sees me in the arena and stops (least he's got that going for him, as he lives across the street from me) and drives away.  Boo was fine, and only twitched an ear.  Me..... Yeah, I had to walk a lap to "cool off".  My heart was pounding, and my knees were shaking.... and I wasn't even ON the horse!  Just thinking about Boo spooking and pulling me, or on top of me did that to me!

But, I'm learning to deal with that too.  I step off, I admit when I have the problem, and I calm myself as well as I can.  When I feel ok, then I step back on, and get back to it.  This means that my hour ride usually lasts a LOT longer, and my 30 minute rides are scheduled for an hour and a half.  I leave PLENTY of time for "freak outs" and just keep reminding myself how much I would hate it if I never rode again.  I'm not ashamed to admit my fear (in fact I think it's important to me, my horse, and my family that it's out in the open) but I refuse to let it STOP me.

On the flip side, it also means that my belief in what I can do is much lower.  I know that I freak out, so I simply don't have the confidence that I can truly finish a task.  Can I really break Diva?  How would I handle Scorch acting studly?  And what about those bad horses?  Can I really keep working with them, or am I just fooling myself?  I honestly don't have any of those answers, but I'm sure not about to quit trying.

And speaking of bad boys.....(sorry, this is the only picture I have of him right now) the P. Loco man himself!

Poko is being a good boy.  Yes, I know, it's shocking!  He managed to get himself caught the other day, and came up to the barn.  From there, he got isolated for a day, and decided that letting me catch him was a GOOD thing, and girls are out ranked by food.

After only a day and a half of being in a paddock alone, he was turning into a saint!  So I popped him out with his old buddies, Jaz and Daltrey (and Zire).  They are all doing well, and Poko is USUALLY willing to get caught.  Some days though, he makes me work for it (and I make him work back).  He's just about to get his little butt put into a saddle....

But here's the weird thing, he acts like he WANTS to be ridden.  Oh, he's not perfect... I mean, it's POKO!  He tries a bad thing here or there (just an hour ago, he tried to be pushy on the lead when walking into the barn) but they are little things.  Like nosing me, or drifting to where he thinks he wants to go, not where I want to go.  He's stood quietly when asked, and accepted his halter more then he's tried to run off.  He moves over for feeding, and just is being "good for Poko".  I have a crazy busy weekend ahead of me, but if all goes well, I'm riding this bad boy on Monday!  His behavior has been so nice since I took him away from the girls, that I didn't feel the need to make that boy sweat.

On the flip side, he made himself sweat.  He ran the fence line for 2 days straight when I put him with the boys.  His mares of course could care less, and wandered away from him to do their thing.  He would like us all to believe that his heart was broken.  HA!  More like his EGO.  =)  But he's fit, he's toned, and he's tanked!  If he stays sweet, then my ride on him should be a ton of fun.

And yes, I have the helmet ready because nothing is ever that easy.