I've made it a point over the past few days to really sit down and think hard about what I *really* want out of my horses, what I want to be doing, and what I want them to be doing. Honestly, since I lost Gogo, I've sort of been whirling around without any serious goals to aim for, and sometimes I feel like I am really struggling to get back to that level of commitment. When I had her, everything in life completely revolved around her and our career together - we were like mac and cheese, we just went together and completed each other. There was never ANY question about what our collective goals were, and it was very hard when we lost that due to her injuries. I didn't really know what to do with myself at the time, and now, several years later, I don't really know how to quite get myself back to that pre-injury mindset that I had.
What do I WANT to be doing with my horses? What I really want, if I am honest with myself, is a horse who will win the dressage and skip around clean XC and stadium, and who will be capable of Prelim if we get there - who doesn't want that? Eventing is part of my very being, part of my identity, and trying to leave it completely is just not possible. I don't want to and I don't think I could.
What do I NOT want to do? I don't want to wind up in a situation where I an projecting my desires and dreams onto an animal that can't physically or mentally handle them. Immy, as the prime example, was not ever going to be mentally capable of being an event horse, as much as I tried and as much as I wanted her to be. I did the right thing and made sure she was in a situation where she would be comfortable and happy, even though it wasn't what I had originally planned. As for O, I'm on the fence. I feel as though I have put a huge deal of pressure on myself because of the close proximity of the AECs. I mean, they're right HERE! Why wouldn't I want to shoot for them, I can do it!
But at the same time, I don't want to set either of us up for disappointment. While I might be able to help her jumping form out, and her canter as well, there is only so much that I can do to really improve those things. I don't want to expect things from her that she isn't physically really capable of, and I don't want to be disappointed in her for something that isn't her fault. It makes me sound like a snob, but I just don't want to show unless I am going in there to win. I don't enjoy going into a show feeling unprepared or like we are going to make fools of ourselves, especially at expensive events, so I am quick to back away from it. I don't want to dive into this with her thinking it will be just like it was with Gogo, when it will not be anything like it was with Gogo (and shouldn't be). O is not Gogo and will not ever be anything like her. And somehow, the thought of eventing with her has just not brought out the same level of excitement in me that it ever did with Gogo.
Could she do it? Of course she could. To the level I want? I don't really know. Should I keep pursuing it, or pursue other things? I don't know that either.
What I do know is that there are so many other things that I want to do with her - the things I outlined in my last post. I find myself trying to rationalize wanting to do these things, for reasons that I don't really understand (i.e. why I should do them instead of eventing, which I feel that I *should* be doing, although I don't know why exactly I feel that I *should* be doing them other than they are the only things I know how to do). I think that is exactly what it boils down to.... eventing is the only horsey sport I really know how to do. It is the only thing I have ever done, for as long as I remember. It has always been what I have done.
Of course I still want to event. But, I need to have a horse that will be that knockout specialist in that sport to do it the way I really want and O doesn't fit that kind of mold. O is much more of a jack of all trades than say Tre, who is probably going to be REALLY great at eventing and really BAD at things like chasing cows, running barrels, and trotting for a million miles up the trail. (I mean you never know, but she is a very different mover and a very different personality!) O might not be that knockout dressage horse, but she can still do it. She might not be a fantastic jumper, but she can still do it. She might not be a specialist at anything, but she can do EVERYTHING. And seeing that in her - really stepping back and seeing that - is kind of exhilarating. I mean, what CAN'T we try and not expect to probably do reasonably well at?
So, I got brave. I signed us up for our first little endurance ride. It isn't even an LD (which is 25 miles), it is an intro ride that goes for more like 10 or 15 miles (the ultimate noob level). At this point, we can do that in our sleep, but this is a brand new experience for me. I've been grilling poor Funder for help, and if anyone else has some tips, I'd love to hear them! This is a big branch-out for me... I've never done anything quite like it before. I'm excited, and a little bit nervous! It is hard knowing I am going to walk onto a property and have literally NO idea where to start, aside from what I have been told to do.
Feel free to chime in and help or offer advice/encouragement/anything you want! It is on Nov 9th, so we have about two weeks to mentally prep for it. Holy moley, I can't believe I am doing this!
In other news, Miss Tre is turning out to be a super cute little mare. She is your typical dinky QH mover until you activate her and get her moving, and then she can be quite fancy. She is going to be an activate-activate-activate kind of ride, which is going to be a nice change. She has a beautiful, quiet, lopey canter - naturally, she wants to be a bit downhill, but when I have asked her to slow and gather herself on the lunge, she can practically canter in place. I haven't been on her since our first ride - I wanted to get a week or so worth of solid workouts on the lunge under our belts first, to better gauge her personality and attitude - but she has gotten better and quieter every day. Tomorrow is supposed to be nasty and stormy, but maybe I can sneak in a quick ride before the weather turns nasty!
Geez is she cute or what? If I can rotate that energy towards her hind end and lift her front end up, she'll be adorable in the dressage!
I don't get very many awards anymore, not since Gogo died, but I've been nominated for one! Hooray!
The Sunshine Award is for people who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” The nominee must do the following: thank the person who nominated her, nominate ten bloggers of her own, answer the ten questions given to her, and post them and the Sunshine Award button to her blog.
Mares or Geldings? Ok, seriously, if you've been reading this blog or Gogo's blog for more than 5 seconds, I think you can answer that question!
English or Western? Well, both, I suppose! A few months ago I would have still told you that I am a die-hard eventer/dressage rider/jumper/foxhunter, and those things are all still true, but I've been doing an awful lot of trail riding, barrel racing, and chasing cows as of late... so I guess both!
Do you prefer “younger” or “older” horses? Well, it depends. My "old" mare acts like a two year old half the time and the new freshly-five year old acts like she is 20 half the time! Rather than "younger" or "older" I think of them more as "schooled" or "green".... if they are green, I like them to be a blank slate that can be trained, and if they are trained, I like them to be well trained so there doesn't have to be a lot of erasing and re-training that has to be done!
Have you trained a horse from ground zero? Yes, a few now! Mostly I like to take them when they are green but w-t-c and maybe going over small obstacles, that is my favorite.
Do you prefer riding or groundwork? Good question.... I love them both!
Do you board your horse or keep it at home? I don't officially board, but I don't keep them at home... the horses are at S's house. I don't pay board, I just take care of her horses while she is gone. It's a win win situation!
Do you do all natural things or just commercial stuff?(in sense of products) I don't think I understand the question.... how do you 'do' products? Can anyone explain that one to me?
All tacked up or bareback? Both! I guess it just depends on what I am doing (and who I am riding!!).
Equestrian role model? Anyone from any discipline that puts the horse first, and isn't in it for money or gain.
What’s your one, main goal, while being in the horses world? To make a positive difference in any horse's life that is in my care. That's my number one.
So who is nominated As usual.... YOU! I nominate YOU if you are reading it and you haven't been nominated yet! I hate to pick and choose, you all deserve it!
(Recognize that monster? Yes, that is the little shitten that YOU helped me rescue! He is five months old is and almost EIGHT pounds already. The vet thinks he will make 20lbs!! He'll always have a slight limp, and one leg is shorter than the other, but that doesn't stop him from leaping up on the counters and causing general chaos in the house 24/7!)
Hmmm. I may have a small problem on my hands. I have an athletic, talented red mare who is a total ATV, goes anywhere and does anything, loves to run through the water, is totally brave, is a pretty mover, and can go forever without tiring. Primo eventer material, right? Only, there is one problem... her form over fences. It just.... isn't good. At all.
I had seen videos of her freejumping as a youngster, and I had written about her not-so-great form before. I was really hoping that she would improve with time, with schoolings, with grids, with knocking into some solid XC fences a few times. I thought she was doing well.
Then I got to see the pics from the schooling show.... wow. Her form was AWFUL. Here's the VERY best one, where she kind of looks like a halfway normal horse (but this was partway over the jump... the picture taken right before it had one front leg underneath her and a knee hanging badly):
(That's the one I purchased. The rest of them I hope to never think about again!)
Hmmmm. Well, I thought, it must be me, I'm restricting her in the front.... so how about I lunge her over some XC obstacles and see how she does with that?
That was a mediocre experiment at best. She flopped, flailed, and smashed into them repeatedly. She hung knees, twisted in the air, and in general just made a total mess of herself. The bigger they got, the worse the form was.
Sigh. That is slightly depressing. She is built to do it.... but she's just not great at it. She's not AWFUL.... but she is seriously inefficient with her legs/body. If she doesn't learn to get out of her own way, it is only a matter of time before she seriously hangs a leg.
Here's the thing though... I'm disappointed in her form, but I'm not entirely upset. Why? Because she is so talented in SO many other fields, and will be SO good at so many other things! I haven't 100% decided to give up on making her into an event horse - she is such a cute mover, definitely enjoys galloping and jumping, and can't be beat in terms of bravery. I am a serious believer in not giving up on something, and that if you put in the miles the rewards will come. With more work on the canter, and more work through grids... who knows? Maybe she'll transform! But, maybe she won't. I don't really know.
What else do you do with an athletic little red mare who loves to run fast and turn sharp and go go go go go?
These are all things I bet she would be GREAT at. She loves to chase cows - I bet if I practiced roping some more we could do some breakaway stuff. (I don't really think it is totally ethical though... so likely not.) She thinks running barrels is the most fun thing ever! Once she gets going she will be SUPER at it. She would also be fantastic at poles, and we have barrels and poles to play with! We're not going to do the Tevis of course, but some LDs would be easy to condition for at this rate, considering how fit she already is - and who knows, maybe a 50 would be doable! Combined driving is what I REALLY think this mare would be awesome at, and what I have ALWAYS wanted to try - it's like eventing without the jumping part! Any sort of carriage sport is ridiculously expensive to get into though... I hope we can take some lessons, but as for right now I will have to stick with the ground driving. I have a client who competed in combined driving, and she told me I can come be her navigator next year!
The problem is that I have this overriding guilt about deliberately *not* aiming for the AECs when they are RIGHT here in Texas. They will only be here for two more years, and then they will go off somewhere else. If I wait, I will lose precious time.
Wait. Wait, I have a very small mare here who wants to try her hand at being an eventer!
(Can you find the bot fly in the picture that was making her so upset?)
Same as O, I bought her as a sale horse, and she will sell if I find the right home... but would she not be ADORABLE as an eventer? I wish she was a hand taller, but still!
Now that Tre is here, O (much to my surprise) looks like a perfect angel compared to her. Not that Tre is naughty.... I just don't know her and don't know what to expect from her all the time. I look back at O and how horrible she was that first week that I brought her home (thrashing around in the crossties, dragging me around, trying to kill me under saddle with no steering and brakes... you know the drill. She was just AWFUL!), and look at her now, and can't really believe how far she has come. She's just SO cool about everything!
I try every ride to incorporate a little dressage into everything that we do. This is a great payoff for both of us - we don't have to sacrifice fun for training, or training for fun, because we get to do both at the same time! For example: last night, we went to one of the local barrel races. S is DESPERATE to get O running (and to be honest, she'd be really good at it!), so I exhibitioned her for fun. She is patterned on the barrels, so she went trotting into the huge scary coliseum all by herself, saw the first barrel, and got right to it. (She's actually only ever seen the blue barrels before... these were brightly colored pop up barrels, but she didn't care!) The footing was very deep, so she fumbled around the third a little bit, but came galloping on home like she had been doing it her whole life. Once we were finished, we did some nice w/t work and ended on that.
Another example: last week we hacked down the road for awhile, and then decided to go check the neighbor's cows. O used to be VERY afraid of the cows, but has since gotten used to them and quite enjoys chasing them around now. S and I pushed the lot of them (41 cows/calves) into the holding pen, pushed them back out, drove them down to the stock pond, pushed them around the stock pond, and pushed them back up and into the pen again. O is more than happy to chase down breakaway calves, keep everyone together, and even run at the cranky old bull. And the best part is that we are doing dressage while we are working the cattle! Everybody wins.
(Be proud... I resisted the urge to roach it and just pulled it instead!)
Tuesday, after a week of groundwork and walking over poles and up hills, I finally got on Miss Tre. I made sure S was around (because you just never know), but she was perfectly quiet for tacking and mounting. I walked around in the small pen for awhile, trotted a lap or two around to see how she feels (she feels a little weak all over but sound), and stood for awhile while mounted. She was perfectly quiet and agreeable. S hopped up on her big yellow horse bareback, and we went for a lap around the top part of the field (where ideally I'll be doing most of her rehab/legging up). She was forward and broke to the trot once, but behaved herself otherwise. S needed to go grab something from the barn, so I stayed up where we had been riding while she rode him away. And Tre.... Tre did not appreciate this. She pitched a little hissy fit and spent a few minutes fussing. She finally settled down into a figure-8 pattern at the walk, and was actually quite good from then on. Not exactly how I had planned on our first ride going, but there you go! In her defense, I don't know that she has ever been ridden alone, she has not been in work for several months, and she assuredly has limited out-of-arena time. It was kind of a lot of ask of her! I think she just needs more miles. I'll be riding her down closer to the barn for a little while just to get her going, and then when S gets back from being away, we'll start toodling on the trails some. (Or I will pony her off of O, but O does not like that much!)
I was going to do a lot of tackwalking to get Tre going, but honestly, the horse is sound. She looks great! She is ready to roll and she looks better and better every day. The more she moves around outside - the more she walks and eats and relaxes - the better she gets. Better and better and better! I decided to start lunging her lightly and keep an eye on her movement, but she honestly just looks GREAT.
(One of my friends made the comment that O and Tre reminded her of Ginger and Black Beauty.
Oh man. They DO, don't they? Even down to the part about Black Beauty's knees and Ginger's mental issues. Who knew.)
On Wednesday, Future Hubs and I made the journey down to Austin to pick up Tre. It is NOT my usual policy to take on a horse sight unseen, but given all of the circumstances it was worth taking a chance on. I had all of the rads and a currently sound horse in front of me - and a place for her to go be a happy broodie if she doesn't stay sound - so it was worth taking a chance on. While she was smaller than I had originally anticipated (just so feminine and delicate!), she was very gentle and sweet, and was happy to let us pull her out of her stall, brush her off, put a cooler and boots on her for the trailer, and stay standing quietly in the crossties. She loaded onto my trailer fine.... aaaaand then she totally lost it. My shipping halter is too big for her, and she popped out of it a few seconds after shutting the escape door - we had to use a regular halter instead. The bouncing and pawing began as we pulled down the driveway, and she banged up a STORM for the next half-hour. We stopped for gas and left the truck parked for about 10 minutes while we ran in for some food, and we could actually see the trailer bouncing up and down from inside the store.
Thankfully, by the time we ordered our food and made it back out to the truck, she had totally quieted down. She had also completely pulled down all of her boots, so I ended up just taking them off and leaving her legs naked. She was silent the rest of the way home, thankfully.
She unloaded quietly and was pretty at peace with her surroundings. She has been in a stall for a large part of the past two years (common with show horses) and been fed spaced out meals (also common with stalled horses), so the way our setup is probably looked like heaven. 24/7 high quality slow-fed hay, 24/7 turnout, a friend to live with, no shoes and no hard grains... what more could a horse ask for? Make no mistake, my animals are athletes and they work very hard for a living, but letting them live like horses is the best thing I ever did for them. I'm *sure* the day is coming when someone will get hurt or sick, but I have not had one issue with lameness, sickness, colic, or anything else since I switched from stalling and babying my horses to letting them be who they are. To me this isn't about being a weird hippie natural horsewoman... it's about common sense. A horse is a horse... so let it be a horse. Simple as that.
Tre was super excited to be outside.... O was not quite as amused. I was not sure who would come out on top, but after some back and forth squabbling O firmly asserted herself as the alpha mare. FIRMLY. It has taken a few days, but they have finally gone from O not letting Tre anywhere near her to eating off of the same haybag... finally. They thankfully do not seem to have taken too much interest in being too good of friends, something which I hope will not change. I would rather not have two screaming attached maniacs if I can help it!
O let her eat some of the hay in the shed, after she had already pooped on it, of course.
And then they were finally friends.... and Tre let Kali know that she was NOT welcome at all!
She is going to be VERY pretty once she gets muscled up. VERY pretty!
Of course, as of right now, she has no muscle at all. She is pretty darn SCRAWNY compared to big beefy O! I expect her weight to fluctuate a little bit - after all, walking around 24/7 when you were mostly in a stall before is in and of itself a HUGE increase in exercise. Having 24/7 netted forage is a huge help for getting weight on a horse, so that's at least a start... but she really, really is not a fan of our 'grainfoods.' We feed hay pellets, a pelleted fat supplement, and supplements. Since Tre was on straight Senior before (AKA candy), she is not particularly fond of switching over to the new regime (AKA raw veggies with no dressing). She ESPECIALLY does not like any of the new supplements, and also doesn't like the food to be wetted (harder to pick out the good bits, so instead she mushes all the parts she doesn't like into a glob in the bottom of the bucket and then ignoring the rest). I need to get her eating as I need her to gain some weight, but seeing as she has been living in a stall and was being fed meals, the likelihood of gastric issues is extremely high. She also smells not quite right to me... just sort of chemically and acrid. I'm hypersensitive to that smell, so I'm sure it would go unnoticed if she was with anyone else. She doesn't act like an ulcery horse in any way (except for being picky about her supplements, but that is probably just that she doesn't like them!), but the sooner I can get her fully transitioned the better. Being outside with a friend with hay all the time is huge for helping any gastric issues, no matter how small, so that is half the battle right there.
She is currently sound, very very sound in fact! She looks even better in person than she did in videos. I pulled her shoes yesterday and was pleased to see her instantly moving better, stomping around on rocks like a champ. All four feet are somewhat contracted, which isn't surprising given her exercise level, but I expect them to beef up within short order. She was very happy after her trim and went running around like a wild thing. Surely she thinks she has died and gone to heaven here!
Her rehab schedule has started with a week of handwalking, walking her over elevated poles and up and down hills to help give her hind end a head start before I get on. She thinks this is great fun and has been very agreeable and easy to handle. (She is fresh though... there is occasional leaping and rearing/striking out like a frisky colt!) She is not very fond of the Theraplate yet (scary vibrating monster) but I at least have her standing still on it at a low setting for a few minutes. On Wednesday, I will get on her and start tackwalking!
Hills and poles!
Learning to tie... she's a smart girl. Well, mostly. (I did teach her to pony on Friday... there was a lot of rearing and flailing until she figured out exactly what was going on.)
(Yes, she DOES have kind of a Gogo face... obviously not the reason for getting her but interesting nonetheless!)
She is a 5 y/o Appendix mare, 15.1 hands of springloaded action. The girl is ATHLETIC.
So, why is she ending up with me? Just like with O and Immy, there is a story behind it and a reason I am picking her up for dirt cheap (i.e. a few hundred bucks). And just like with the others, it's a gamble and it may or may not pay off for my end goal. O is turning into a really cool little event horse, but Immy instead has turned into a really cool little companion! Unlike the other two, however, this mare's problems are not mental - they are physical. In some ways, this is both easier and harder to deal with.
So what happened to her? Her usual turnout at her old barn was flooded one day, so the barn owner decided to turn the horses out into a pasture that had a paved road in it. She took off, like you'd expect, and being steel shod.... boom. Wipeout.
She has a small chip in one knee from the accident, with no joint involvement, that is now healed. She is currently sound but the trainer says she thinks she is a bit stiff behind still - the vet thinks this is probably a strength issue that will improve as she gets fit, but perhaps she'll need to be medicated. As for me, I can't see a lameness - or even that much of a stiffness, unless I am REALLY looking for one - and my vet and I see no reason to believe that this mare won't be 100% fine with a proper rehab. In his words, "if anyone can do it you can."
We're going to pick her up TOMORROW! It has been pouring literally for days and days, so she'll probably be up in a stall or in a tiny turnout for a few days, and then she'll go out with O. I'd rather her not go galloping around in the slop! (This weather is super, super gross... I have been feeling like a very bad horse mom because I didn't ride yesterday OR today... I could have gotten my lazy butt up and trailered to WD, but... I didn't want to. I wanted PJs and hot tea and BED, so I did that instead. I have guilt!)
It occurred very suddenly to me today that I hadn't done my October goals yet!! What was I thinking!!
1) Continue basic dressage work - walk/trot/canter on the bit, emphasis on stretching and quietness, taking a contact solidly! As always a work in progress!
Success! She has done really, really well with this and is finally "getting" it on a regular and consistent basis. Or well, at least at the walk and trot she is... the canter is still a work in progress. It will take probably quite awhile to get her where I *really* want her, but as always, we will get there. As for her walk and trot work, her 69% and 73% in her Intro tests speak for themselves!
2) Jump schooling - work on gymnastics, small courses, cantering fences, slightly bigger fences and more XC schoolings!
Success! Again, it's not speedy progress, but it is steady progress. She is jumping courses, cantering *some* fences (although mostly we are still trotting due to her explosive enthusiasm!), and are doing bigger and more complicated things out on XC. By bigger and more complicated I mean BN fences.... but that's a start! We'll be adding more gymnastics as the winter creeps up on us and we lose our XC courses to the weather.
3) Keep to our monthly calendar!
Partial success... I kept changing the schedule on myself! I don't think I did very well with this one, but it's a tricky thing to truly keep. If she needs a day off but the schedule says dressage, at this point I am not going to opt for the day off and not push her. As she progresses, this will probably change some, and I will be more apt to push her when she needs to be pushed. Right now, she doesn't need any pushing.... she just needs steadiness, relaxation, and extensive rewards for doing well.
4) Get organized - what do I need for showing? Dust off show clothes/tack and inspect everything!
Success! I made some lists of things I need now versus things I will need for the spring (when we will be doing recognized things) and I'll probably make up a fun little Pinterest list of wants and needs, just because why not. I know I am nuts, but I love making lists!
5) Survive our first schooling show! Get through with a good positive experience no matter what the score!
Success!! And I'd say it was more than just a positive experience - with a 69% (1st), a 73% (1st), and being Intro Champion to boot, I'd say we did VERY well at our first show! Bonus that we also did our second show (our first event) and were 2nd despite a pretty awful dressage test!
1) Continue working on w/t/c dressage work, REALLY focus on the canter!
2) Continue with jump schools - gymnastics, cantering courses!
3) XC schooling - any schoolings possible, work on BN fences and BANKS!
4) Revise show schedule - what do we want to do this fall vs. this spring?
5) What else do we want to play with? Driving, poles, barrels, roping, trails - make some loose plans for other fun things!
Now that we have made it through our first few little shows, it is time to focus on what we really want to be doing in the spring. Spring goal: winning at recognized BN. I am admittedly a bit of a show snob in that I'm not interested in spending my money on recognized events unless I go into it with a very good chance of winning, so I'm keen to do all of my prep work well in advance. Schooling shows are for schooling, recognized shows are for winning! We know that the canterwork currently sucks in our dressage, so that needs to be made a priority. Both the BN tests are simple, with just w/t/c, although admittedly the new Test A is just BIZARRE... you don't even do a complete first centerline, you veer off at X and go on a short diagonal instead! NEVER seen that before! For BN for stadium, we need to be able to quietly canter courses, which will probably come fairly easily and focus around just keeping her quiet and rhythmic. For XC, we again need to focus on rhythm and cantering things, as well as facing scary new fences, ditches, water, and BANKS! She has done several ditches with only a little bit of spooking and hesitation, so I think this won't be that complicated to work on. She loves to go splashing through the water, so schooling that is also easy. She has successfully jumped out of the water via an up bank, but has not successfully made it down the same bank into the water. At WD there is a tiny little up/down bank that she has been off of with success, so we'll start to make this a big priority. At BN you generally would never see a down bank into water, so we have plenty of time to make sure that doesn't become an issue.
As for the rest of the fall show season, I will probably cut it way down to almost nothing and spend the money on schoolings instead of shows. There is a goofy fun Halloween show next weekend that I will probably do (just some in-hand classes and some w/t/c fun classes!) just for funsies, and I may do the Quail Run show and Greenwood show as well. I will for sure do the schoolings there even if I don't show!
I let O have a light week this week. We did a few lunging sessions without any equipment on, and I also long lined her for the first time! As expected, she didn't care as all, and aside from stopping a few times to turn her head and look quizzically at me, she figured it out pretty immediately. I'd like to teach her to drive, if I ever have access to a harness and cart.... she'd be a SUPER combined driving horse and it is something I have always wanted to do!
Times like these are when I am very thankful that I installed a very serious stand-still button on her... she had no problem stopping and just standing around while I dug my phone out, fumbled on it, took a picture, and put it back away. Good girl.
She is also, um... ready to roll after her week off... a little too ready to roll. A week of light work for a hot mare this fit? Yeah, that will definitely result in a lot of this...
She did manage to get it together though and trot like a lady through some poles!
It is supposed to start raining tonight and isn't supposed to stop for a few days... I will believe that when I see it! Either way, looks like we'll be heading back to WD!