Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I wanna go to a show!

There is a brand new open show in a couple of weekends near my house. I really want to go, but I'd have so much work to do between now and then. My trailer needs a new jack, my horses need serious hair cuts and I don't have show clothes or boots yet. *sigh*

Monday, October 20, 2008

Longest week of this month

Last week was a long week. My sister decided to go out of town the weekend before last so we spent most of last week in a flury to try to work enough hours that I didn't have too much to do while she was gone. We work about 5.5 hours each week at the ranch we board the horses at. It's getting harder now that the days are so short. And then I realized I was going to have to go pick up a load of hay (20 bales) by myself. I made my husband help with the unloading so he was all grumpy too. My hay guy freaked me out while I was there because there was a big fire that I drove past last week. Apparently, the guy who started it was hauling hay on a trailer like mine and the wheels overheated and caught fire. He pulled over and it set the field next to him ablaze. Well, then...I told him do NOT put as much on my trailer as he did that guy and then I drove the 8 miles to the barn at about 30 mph.

Last Wednesday night I got an idea I was going to work with my sister's horse, Promise, on standing still for mounting. It's been an issue since we got him. He just doesn't like anyone that close to his butt. I took him in the round pen with just a bridle and lunged him for a bit. Then I stopped him and tried to mount from the fence because I'm too short (a whopping 5'1") to get on him without. Each time he moved I would hop down and lunge him a few laps. Finally he stood still! Until I got on that is.... The minute I was on his back he took off bucking like a rodeo bronc. I'm pretty good at sitting through bucks if I'm in a saddle but there was no way I was staying on him. I landed on my shoulder and hit my head. It was the first time I've fallen off since I started riding again 5 months ago. I was angry but I was also concerned. He has never been anything but quiet when we've ridden him in the past. Normally, once you're on you're golden. I picked myself up (falling sucks a lot more at 32 then it did at 18) and started over. I lunged, I tried to mount, I lunged again. Finally he stayed completely still again while I very quietly threw my leg over him. I gently sat on his back. I felt him tense all over and I just stayed quiet and still until I finally felt him relax. He sighed a big horsey sigh. I asked him to move foward and had him walk a slow circle around the round pen then I hopped down and ended for the evening. I was really worried because the bucking didn't seem like him.

The next day I got of work early and decided to go back out to ride. I noticed Promise hadn't eaten all of his hay which was strange. I cleaned stalls and got Tax tacked up and ready to go. We had a awesome ride. It was my third attempt at really focusing on soft hands and he popped into a relaxed trot almost immediately. We worked a bit on backing and then a couple of canter strides and ended on a good note. When I was done hosing him down I went back and check on Promise who seemed a little sullen. I had just read a great article about turning horses out together so they get some "herd" time. My poor guys are in their stalls all night and get turned out alone every other day. I decided to take all of them and turn them out together. Their stalls are right next to each other and they know each other. I guess I need to read more about how to introduce them in the open like that. The boys got into a serious fight and I had to grab a lunge whip and go break it up. I don't see that Tax landed any kicks but he decidedly won the war as Promise crept off by himself at the other end of the pen to stand in the corner. Promise on the other hand won the battle and landed one good kick with both feet in Tax's side. He's got a welt from one foot and the other hoof scraped a big chunk of his hair off. *sigh* I won't be trying that again soon, and I kind feel like an idiot. Their stalls are next to each other, and they stand in the attached run nose to nose whenever they aren't turned out so I wasn't expecting an all out battle. It's not like they don't know each other. Once I decided they were going to stand in their own corners and leave each other alone I went back to cleaning right outside their pen. A couple of minutes later I saw Promise go down. He didn't fall...he carefully laid himself down but it seemed weird. I went over and he let me walk up and start petting and checking him all over in case I'd missed a kick mark the first time. It seemed weird that he didn't freak out about being touched up close and personal by a human while laying down. Again, I found nothing. I thought maybe he just tired himself out with all the rearing and kicking he'd been doing. I took Promise back to his stall and then cleaned up Tax's skinned area and dressed it and left them for the night after asking the barn owner to keep an eye on them.

Friday I went out after work to ride one of the BO's horses but when I got there she let me know Promise hadn't eaten all of his hay. I went to check on him and he was laying down...again. I got him up and he just wasn't himself. I couldn't put my finger on it but it he was just not his normal worried "don't touch me" self. Normally it would have thrilled me, and I would have hoped that it meant he was getting used to me but combined with the not eating and laying down I began to worry even more. I called the vet thinking that maybe he was going to have an episode of laminitis. Judging by his feet we're pretty sure he's been chronic laminitic but it hasn't caused a serious rotation thus far. The on-call vet told me that if he wasn't showing signs of lameness (he wasn't) then we could rule out laminitis. She was more worried about potential colic but I didn't think he was showing any real signs, and neither did the BO who has dealt with a fair share of colicky horses. The vet and I finally agreed he could have 1-2 grams of bute and we'd see how he was doing in the morning. I hate that my horses aren't closer but the BO agreed to check on him that night and call me if anything seemed to change for the worse. The next morning, Promise was back to normal. I wonder if he had a bellyache or muscle ache or something that set off the bucking spree?

In other news, I started giving lessons to one of the girls, AJ, that just moved to our barn. She's 9 and wont listen to her parents advice. They asked me to work with her just to make sure she's safe with her new horse and can get her to respond to her cues. Now, I'm not a real trainer but I've taught several adults how to ride. My sister learned from me and I think in many ways she's a better rider than I currently am. She's done pretty well at shows and even beat my trainer (who is incredibly good) in a jumper class. I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression though, and I've been very honest about the fact that I'm not comfortable teaching more than the basics. Also kids are new so I'm finding ways to communicate ideas differently. I've worked with my own kids and their cousin but they aren't serious riders and just giggle and hold onto the front of the saddle anytime I try to teach them to trot. If AJ outgrows me and still wants to show I told her parents I'd refer them to a real trainer. AJ's new horse is the cutest little morgan pony. She's very easy going but she'd been out to pasture for a couple of years and really doesn't want to move forward. Our first lesson was a little rough with Tiara not wanting to move and AJ accidently pulling on the reins whenever she'd finally get a trot. Other than that her balance is good and except pulling back occasionally her hands are positioned well. She's fiesty and serious too and I like that in a lesson kid. Our second lesson was this past Saturday and already she's doing better at focusing on putting her hands forward and legs back (she gets them out too far in front sometimes) when she cues the trot with her legs. Tiara trotted around the round pen for her 3-4 times each direction and AJ said that's the longest she's been able to make her trot. Yay!

Monday, October 13, 2008


I wanted to place to journal my thoughts about training my horse beasties, and I decided that Myspace wasn't good for it. Most of my friends are bored to tears the moment I mention my horses. I don't know what that thing is that separates horse people from non-horse people, but it's really something. I know for myself I was obessessed with horses as soon as I was old enough to know what one was. My early bedrooms were covered with My Little Ponies and Barbie horses. I played horses with my best friend, Katie, and we would run down our streets neighing and galloping with each other. I wonder sometimes if wherever she is, Katie still dreams about soft noses and smooth muscles and that glorious smell all horse people know and love. Admit it, even if you hate it you also love it because it means there are horses somewhere close...

First let me take a minute to introduce myself and said beasties. My name is Anna. I'm a 32 year old mother of three boys ages 12, 8 and almost 3. I'm married and work a full time job in Human Resources so my riding time is limited but precious. The boys have shown more interest in the horses than I ever expected, although, some days friends are far more exciting than hanging at the barn. I had owned horses from the time I was about 12 until we bought our first house around 6 years ago. At that time I felt I had to make a decision between my new family, and house and paying board for my TB (Cody) that I honestly didn't have time to ride or enough money to care for as well as I wanted. He was healthy and a nice show horse (schooling jumpers) but not getting any attention so with the help and counsel of my trainer I decided it was time to sell him. I still wish I hadn't. I still think I owed him more than I was able to give him at the time but he went to a good home that he lived at until recently. Eventually, he was retired out in a pasture where I was able to drive by and check on him at times and my old trainer checked on him regularly but he just recently disappeared and I'm too afraid to stop and ask. My life, in the meantime, changed dramatically. I got a better job that pays well and I have more flexibility in my schedule. I also received a small inheritance to ensure I have some savings for my horse dreams. I realized that my new husband is the most wonderful and supportive man I could have hoped for, and he puts up with my long hours away from home with more grace than I know how to thank him for.

So, about six months ago I realized that I wasn't happy with a few things in my life. I no longer had anything I was passionate about. I was starting to do that thing where I only thought of myself as someone else's employee, wife or mother. I can't remember a time I didn't dream about riding, training, showing and caring for horses. I had always wanted to teach people to ride. I discussed it with my husband nervously. His mother owned horses so he is well aware of the amount of time they take. I was worried he would think he'd come second which is kind of how I think he felt as a kid with his mom sometimes. To my surprise he was more open to the idea than I thought he would be. He wants more than anything for me to be happy and to realize my dreams. So, I was off with a budget to buy a horse and a trailer. Yay!

I should now also mention my sister, Kim. She is not actually my sister but close enough to the real thing that it doesn't matter. My current profile pic includes her and it's fitting. We spend alot of time together. My dad and her mom started dating when she was 14 and I was 18. I had just gotten my TB as a four year old with about 90 days training when I met Kim. When I found out about a year later than I was pregnant (and single) I asked Kim to start helping me with Cody since I was out of comission. I taught her to ride English and how to deal with my very kooky horse. She's never worked with another trainer, but I think she's gotten quite good and she's brave as hell. Recently when I decided to get back into horses I asked her if she would help me again because with such a large family I knew I was going to need the assistance and motivation.

I board my three new horses at a smaller self-care family barn (yes, one turned into three somehow but we're making it work). I'm actually really happy I found this barn when I decided to start riding again. I work about 20 hours a month to cover some of my board and the people there are wonderful. I'm not missing the big show barn we were at before like I thought I would. I've been surprised at the horse market since I started back. I'm happy to be able to take advantage of the economy but so sad for all the suffering I've seen along the way to obtaining the three horses we ended up with. I personally helped take down a horse hoarder and I'll have to relate that story sometime, but I'll do it another day.

The horses and their stories:

Tax - Or Artaxman, was the first of the group. He's a son of the racehorse, Artax, who was pretty well known. He's 5, about 16.2 hands and dapple gray with a pure white mane and tail. Tax raced a couple of years and had, from what I can tell, a pretty typical claiming race career. I don't know much else about him other than I can tell he has a well healed quarter crack in one of his hooves. Maybe it ended his former career. If so, I'm glad that's all it was. He's a pretty typical TB...a bit steep in the shoulder, but hopefully nothing that will keep him from being a successful schooling jumper. I don't think he's ever going to be a grand prix horse, but he's sweet and beautiful and likes to jump. He was bought by a Mexican dressage trainer who'd worked at a hacienda when he was younger with some of the Haute Ecole instructors. He had a much softer style than many of the trainers I've met from Mexico and I respected his way with his animals. He had some wonderful AQHA reining horses and a couple of TB's he's bought from the track. He was working on their ground work and one of the other's he was working with could even Piaffe on the long reins. I wish I knew how to teach that stuff, but I don't ground drive well. Anyway, I chose Tax because he seemed to have a good mind and wasn't as explosive or athletic as the piaffe horse. I wanted to easy back into things. When I got Tax home I realized he's only ever been worked 1. at the track and 2. in a round pen. Also, he had no idea how to canter. It's all walk, trot and gallop like the demons from hell are chasing you with him. More updates on how far we've come later.

Promise - Or possibly Golden Rule if we ever get to show him. He's a super cute 14.3 hand, grade palomino paint. Kim's convinced he might have some Mustang blood. My sister and I had been working Tax together when we decided we might like another horse so we could do some trail riding together. I wanted something maybe the kids could show at some open shows. After seeing many horses in some of the most disgusting situations you can imagine we found Promise. He was owned by some old guys who obviously didn't give a hoot about him. They didn't even know his name. The barn was filthy. There were rope burns on his legs from when they were training him to get use to their ropes. He was so cute we couldn't leave him. He's great when you're on him. He doesn't spook and he's steady with nice movement. On the ground it's another matter. He's a worrier and pretty sure you're about to beat him if you move near him at all. We're working on helping him realize that we're nice and we're fair. There may be consequences but they aren't going to be life shattering, and only when you don't go with the program. We did discover he has a minor rotation of his coffin bone (1 mm) and he's cresty so I thought he may have EMS but after bloodwork he seems to be fine. He's been nothing but sound since we got him so hopefully it won't be a problem.

December - is also a OTTB but I can't read her tattoo to research her racing history. She's about 16 hands, 12 years old and a dainty flea bitten gray. She showed A level jumpers at Pebble Beach, CA last year and I think she did pretty well. I have a feeling she's a real packer and was owned by a 12 year old girl. Big Name Trainer had her hauled to a show near the end of last season and she got her leg caught on some kind of divider in the trailer. The hauler tried to detatch the divider and when it became unstable and she started thrashing. She basically laid her whole side open. Fortunately the laceration was all skin and no tendons or muscles. When she first did it they thought it was much worse than it ended up being. BNT wanted to put her down and just collect the insurance money but the barn kids all fundraised and had UC Davis patch her up. I got lucky and when the vet released her to go back to work the BNT who already had a new horse for his student with the "loss of use" insurance money decided to sell her cheap. I don't know if she'll go 5 feet or anything now but since I'm terrified of 3 feet I think she'll have a good home. She went dead lame between the time I bought her and the time I picked her up a day later. The BNT trimmed her feet himself to save some money and quicked her. Actually my farrier said that except for being EXTREMELY short it wasn't to bad of a job. At any rate her feet grew, she got new shoes and she's feeling much better. Not off at all now and just wants to canter along in her smooth wonderful canter. I think it seems even smoother when compared to the galloping maniac.

Now that I've practically written a book for my second post, I'm off. Almost barn time. I'll post some updates on how the training has gone with the troops soon.