What Macy Didn’t Teach Me

Macy taught me so much in our year together. She taught me how to ride a bolt. How to ride a spook, How to ride a spook into a bolt.

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Usually I was good at riding the spook bolt. This time not so much

But she didn’t teach me how to ride a buck. Which, at the time, I really appreciated. But now, I could have used some practice.

Because for the third time June bucked me off.

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Yeah, I still love her though

Our lesson was going so well. We were working on connection. We were getting her to flex at the walk and trot. Then, we moved onto the canter. And we worked on some more connection, but also getting her to go forward on a 20 meter circle, and not having her run out her shoulder when we were at the open end of the arena.

She was getting tired. This was to be expected. She hadn’t worked this hard before for this long. She had been great so far. But this time, when I asked her to canter she was so incredibly behind the leg, and I could tell she really did not want to. So, I gave her a whack with the dressage whip.

And she responded with a double barrel kick that unseated me and threw me forward and then sideways. Unseating me freaked her out and she squirted forward. And I started falling off, but growing up a foxhunter taught me to never let go of the reins (who wants to walk miles home??) so I kept pulling on the left rein and she freaked out and well, I fell on my ass.

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When I stood up, there was Georgie , who was also being ridden in the arena. I looked at her and said “God I miss you.”

What’s the worst thing about falling off (when you’re totally ok)? Getting back on. It really is. Or, maybe the next day is the worst part. All I know is, I landed on my tailbone and my ring finger on my right hand did not want to bend. But despite the pain and the blood from ripping my fingernail back, I got back on and got back to work. I knew the faster I got what needed to be done, done, the faster I could go ice my hand.

June was really good. We did some more cantering, in both directions and my tailbone was on fire, but luckily we didn’t have to work long, since she was responding to everything I asked of her.

So, welcome to the world of opinionated mare babies? Maybe I’ll get better at sitting a buck. Maybe third time’s a charm. God I hope so.

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Expectations

At a coffee shop yesterday, a horse acquaintance asked me “Is June everything you hoped she would be?”

I looked at her and paused. I had so many thoughts of June flash through my head. Jumping xc for the first time, going on a trail ride for the first time, jumping for the first time, cantering for the first and second time, trotting for the first time off the lunge line.

Is June everything I hoped for? I have no idea. We’re so barely at the beginning of our partnership, how can I quantify it? How can I say yes when I have barely scratched the surface with this horse.

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Has June exceeded my expectations for bringing along a baby horse? Has June taught me so much in our short time together? Am I madly in love with her?

Absolutely.

Those are easy to answer.

She’s growing up so fast, and some days, it’s hard not to ask more and more from her. But I love the approach we’ve taken, slow and steady wins the race, right?

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We had another short xc outing last week. Just another water outing, to see if I could get her more comfortable in the water. Or, get me to be more comfortable on her in the water.

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She was great. Once again, we made progress far more quickly than I anticipated we would.

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So, here’s to a mare who so far, has exceeded all expectations.

 

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June’s New Bridle

The hunt for a new bridle is over!

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Thanks to those of you who gave me recommendations on what you like and what you have!

Just as a recap, here was my wish list: brown jumper bridle under $200. I was looking for a show worthy bridle, although my day to day bridle doesn’t fit well either, so I am going to have to work on replacing that as well…

It was a fairly simple list. But, what wasn’t simple were all the options….

I finally decided on the Kavalkade Ivy bridle. I love the ergonomic design, and really really loved the price point, at about $130. We have a great mobile tack shop that I knew would be coming for the jumper show, so I contacted the owner and she let me know she does have that bridle and would bring one up for me to try.

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Dear Bridle, I love you.

It’s been a while since I’ve shopped for new tack with a new horse and it made me remember why having an actual tack shop is so nice. Especially one that comes to your barn! I brought June over, and we tried the bridle in horse size. It didn’t fit. Then, we tried cob. That fit everywhere except the noseband. Ugh. Looks like the bridle I wanted, wasn’t going to work.

But good news, she had about 10 other bridles for me to try. What I loved the most were all the different price points she had. She didn’t only have cheap bridles or expensive bridles. She literally had bridles from $100-$300 and she was more than happy to work within my budget. (Which, since I thought I was getting the Ivy had shrunk to around $175).

The next bridle I tried was a NunnFiner. Also not a great fit. And while you can swap out pieces of this bridle, the whole thing just wasn’t great. June is kind of between a cob and horse, so fitting can be a little difficult. I tried a Schockemole which I loved, but it was way out of my price range. (Maybe one day when we do a long format I can justify getting her one of these). Then she brought out a Passier, which was also out of my price range but she wanted to try the fit and see if it could lead her to something else that might work.

Damn you, perfectly fitting, beautiful bridle. She went to take it off and I was like “hold on a minute.” I needed to admire it for one more moment….

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image stolen from Smartpak

I asked again how much it was and she told me she would look it up and see what she could do. So, I put June away and when I returned she told me it retails for $220 but she’d sell it to me for $175.

SOLD!

This was not even a contender on my list, but again, reiterates why having a tack store is so nice. I would have been sending bridles back left and right had I not had the chance to try them on my horse’s oddly shaped head.

 

The only thing I didn’t love about the bridle was the flash attachment. I don’t ride June in a flash, and am not sure I ever will. But when you pull the strap, the attachment is so small, you can barely see it. So, I made an exception on that part of my wish list. I’m not one to get nice new tack, so this purchase made me giddy. I took it home, cleaned and conditioned it, and will stare at it lovingly until we have a show to bring it out for.

Any of you have a Passier Blu bridle? If so, please tell me you love it!

 

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Fraggle Friday: Stella’s 15th Birthday!

This past Wednesday was a very special day. So specia, in fact, that I deemed it a holiday and took the day off of work. It was, you guessed it, Stella’s 15th birthday!

I had major plans for the monkey, I wanted to make sure it was a truly special day. I ended up doing an Instagram story chronicling the day which was really fun.

It started with a walk around the block.

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Then she had breakfast with a few extra treats thrown in, followed by a nap so Siri and I could go for a run.

Her favorite part of the day was probably what happened next…

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SWIM TIME!!!

After being thoroughly worn out playing fetch, she came home for another nap. And woke up just in time for her acupuncture appointment!

Basically acupuncture for Stella involves her laying on her bed gulping down treats while some needles go into her back. She’s pretty good at just laying there..as long as there are treats!

Then it was time for me to make the birthday cupcakes! A mixture of peanut butter, ground beef and lamb jerky, all her favorite things!

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When you’re 15 your birthday involves a lot of this…

Because, little did Stella know, she was having a surprise party! Sure, the surprise party was all my friends (she is over having dog friends stop by), but it was still fun and involved drinking mojitos and singing happy birthday!

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Siri was so excited that I made her a cupcake too!

At about 8pm Stella let me know she was totally over all of it, and wanted to go to bed. So my friends and I went to dinner and she went to bed, exhausted from all the activities.

I’d say it was a pretty great birthday and I am elated I got to spend another one with my best dog.

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Show Jump Sunday

Labor Day weekend was a big one for June.  Saturday we had June’s First XC Schooling and then Sunday we had a jumper show at our barn. My plan was to do ground poles and cross rails. We hadn’t ever done a jump course before, so I figured ground poles could give me an idea of the turns, etc.

After a quick warm up, mostly in the round pen, June and I entered the arena for our first round. We trotted the poles, I let her look around a little, but really wanted her focused and turning.

We did well enough that Sarah mentioned what an organized and polished round it was.

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The barn swallows joined us

For my next round I decided to try to canter the poles as much as possible. Our turning while cantering is getting better, but still more Mack truck than Ferrari.

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I think she’s trotting here, but looking cute, so using the media

She was a good girl and it was no big deal.

So, next up, cross rails. Since this was our first jump course ever, I figured we would trot and if she wanted to canter, she could.

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It was definitely a mish mash of trot and canter, but she was forward and easy to steer and I was really happy with her!

Next up, a round where we canter the entire course!

I decided to ask for the canter in the corner before the first jump. We were going right, our less consistent direction, and June REALLY wanted to look out and run through her inside shoulder. So, we didn’t get our lead. Which was fine. We popped over jump one in the trot, and then cantered the rest of the course. Mare gets the whole “land and go on” idea, which I love.

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She got all her leads (from what I remember) for the rest of the course. And sure there was some veering, and she may have tried to run out at jump 3, but really, it was way more organized and flowing than I expected it to be.

Here’s a short video of us doing our final round

I considered entering 2′ but decided to end on such a positive note. We have lots of work to do, and jumping our first verticals in a show, isn’t going to help anything.

Overall, I was super duper happy with June. She was great about standing around, and then got right to work when we entered the arena. She did pull the “I’m not going forward” crap in between classes, when I wanted to walk her around, but she got over it pretty quickly and we walked all over the property once she understood that wasn’t allowed. She definitely has opinions, this mare.

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Not many people see me work with her day to day, so I think they were surprised to see me cantering a course, since last time I just trotted ground poles. Trainer D was there, riding a horse for a client and she was really impressed with how far June has come, which made me happy. A few other horse women I respect also commented on what a good job I’ve done with her, and their comments really meant a lot to me. There’s still so much to do, but I love the base we have and am excited to keep getting better and better.

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June’s First Cross Country Schooling

It’s a funny thing, prepping to school cross country on your own horse after not having done so for way too long. I was convinced I would forget something, and put my safety vests in the car the night before just to make sure I didn’t forget them. Then there was the task of deciding what June needed to wear. I haven’t bought much for her, so was hopeful Georgie’s xc boots would fit her (they did!) and that she would be fine in her D ring snaffle (she was!). Once I checked and double checked that we had everything, the excitement was palpable.

We went to school with Sarah and Rapid, which I appreciated, as I wasn’t sure we were ready for a group environment yet. Keep in mind, we’ve cantered in the open twice? Three times? And she has never done the “go do something then come and stand here for a while” routine, which is what you do with groups. Plus, I had no idea what she would think of all the jumps, and all the open space, and I really just needed to see who this horse was when put to work in a new environment doing new things.

I started with lunging her (duh) and she was so calm and relaxed we quickly moved to jumping over some obstacles. She handled these incredibly well. Really didn’t look at anything, even as we progressed from logs to a “picnic” table,  red branch looking log thing, A frame, hanging logs, etc.  Again, she was being so good, I hopped on her and we got to work under saddle.

The goal for the day was to build confidence, but also for me to get a glimpse of what she might be like on cross country. Who knew if she would even want to do this, and one thing I must have, is a horse who is willing to get from one side of the fence to the other, safely.

We started by trotting and cantering around the field. She didn’t get spooky or weird as we trotted and cantered away from Rapid, into the shadows, and up and down a teeny hill. In fact, she kind of liked the exploring, and she had her ears forward, ready for what was next.

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Just taking in the sights…

I continue to be in love with this horse’s canter. I have never had a horse with an uphill canter, nor did I ever put much thought into why it was important. But then, when I rode Rapid for the first time, I was like “Woah. This is like a totally different experience.” The best part is that you just feel the power from the back end surge forward and instead of falling down they come up. Have you ever driven a sports car? Hit the gas and felt the front of the car lift as the back powers it forward? It’s like that. It’s amazing. Ever since I rode Rapid’s canter, I knew I wanted an uphill horse. And thank God, June does not disappoint. She isn’t strong enough to keep that canter for too long, but it’s there, and it’s going to make things so much easier moving forward.

From there we moved on to trotting over logs. Super simple, super FUN. Our goal was to see if we could get June to land in the canter. No problem. She was eager to do so. She was bold, honest, and everything I would want her to be for her first outing!

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wheeeee

Now, don’t be fooled. I’m making this sound easy and perfect. It wasn’t. I was thinking “steer, steer, leg on, steer, SUPPORT,SUPPORT, steer” the entire way to the jump. June was being honest and brave, but it didn’t mean I just sat there and hoped it would happen. It was a lot of work, a lot of figuring out what works best, but in the end, it honestly went great and I think both of us had a good time!

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Love everything about this!

Since I didn’t want to over jump her on her first outing, we headed over to the water to see how she would be with that. Sarah was going to school Rapid, so June and I would have a little break and she could just check things out. I made the mistake of hopping off of her, so I could film Sarah. And I say mistake, because June thought me getting off and standing with her for 20 minutes meant we were done. She wasn’t really excited when I got back on her. She got tight in her back and a little sour. So, I hopped off, lunged for a few minutes, asked her to lunge through the water (which she did) and got back on. She  without hesitation walked into the water and walked around.

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But I never got that relaxed, easygoing, horse back. She continued to be tight in her back and sometimes refused to go forward in the water. I wouldn’t give her her head, as I didn’t want her to buck, so the entire experience wasn’t as low key as I was hoping. I got a little stiff, she got a little stiff, and I expected it to go south. It didn’t. It went ok. In fact, in looking at the videos, I think she was less likely to buck than I thought. I think she was just figuring out the splashing, she wanted to drink (which she later did), and she didn’t love the feeling of wet boots in the water.  At one point she just started pawing and pawing and pawing in the water and would NOT move. I was legit scared she was going to lay down and almost hopped off, but Sarah was like “Nope. Stay on.” And she grabbed June by the bridle and pulled her out of the water. Then she looked at me and said “THAT was being a pony.” Meaning, she was just being a brat. So, the good news is, she isn’t scared of the water. She didn’t buck me off. We need to work on me being confident but smart when she pulls these shenanigans. Actually using my dressage whip to get her moving forward. I knew from the get go she was going to test me. Now I need to have the answers.

We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein and all in all I’d say it was a great experience. I’m so excited to get back out there with her!

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Fraggle Friday: Stella + Idaho

Oh Idaho. Your beauty can makes me forget how crazy a state you really are.

I’m just going to photo dump a few reasons why I feel lucky to live here. (All photos taken in the past week, showing you how much beauty I can see in just a week)

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That’s a mountain goat. Doing his mountain goat thing while I am on a hike

 

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I feel like heaven must have a lot of alpine lakes, cause they sure are beautiful

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How I spent my Tuesday evening

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Smoke filled skies but it’s still quite the view

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Stella had to hike up a steep mountain side so we could get this pic. It was worth it, don’t you think?

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Compare and Contrast

I find myself quite lucky to not only have June’s half-sister at my barn, but also for the fact that she is Sarah’s horse. June and Rapid share a sire, Riverman, but they have two very different moms. Rapid’s mom was a Connemara/TB cross, whereas June’s is a QH. Rapid’s mom (who has sadly passed away), had a sibling who ran at the 2* level, whereas June doesn’t really have any eventers in her family tree on her mom’s side.

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June would like to interrupt this post to remind me of how cute she is

Sarah started Rapid as a baby as well. She took her time with her, and, at 7, Rapid is getting ready to go Training. (She qualified for AECs at Novice in her first three outings at the level!) At first though, I wasn’t sure I really liked Rapid. I mistook “baby” for “naughty.” I remember thinking how impatient she was when being groomed. She was always getting in trouble when tied up. And then there was the time she tried to jump out of Sarah’s trailer window, using the manger as a stepping stool. And then, on her first xc outing she pulled the “stop,drop, and roll” maneuver. You are cantering along, she stops, drops her shoulder, and you fall right off the front of her.

But, now, I laugh. Because OMG she sounds JUST like June. Does jumping out of trailers run in the family or something? And they both have quite the buck. Just saying. But where I have learned to appreciate Rapid, and hope that June will follow suit, is in her movement and jumping.

Rapid is scopey. And despite hovering around 15hh, she makes light work of any jump you put in front of her.

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Oh hey big table…

And while she moves differently than June, they both have a lovely trot. Rapid just has more of a powerful hind end… at least for now.

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What was super fun for me was when I got a pic of both mares before we went on our trail ride last week.

I could compare and contrast all day, but really what I am struck by is how much more filled out Rapid looks than June! June looks like a 4 year old and Rapid looks like a muscled, fit, eventing pony! June will get there one day… I know!

I have been keeping my eye on Rapid, and letting it help me figure out June a little bit. I’m excited to see her future with Sarah, and I hope June has the talent her half-sister does!

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Jump Progress

Now that the FEH class is behind us, Trainer Sarah has been having us work on our jumping a bit more. June is taking to it incredibly well, and I like to think she rather enjoys it!

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She can clear a cross rail!

The progress has been really fun. Over the past month or so we have gradually begun to add to what June can do over jumps. We started with groundpoles, moved to a grid (groundpoles to a cross rail), then a single cross rail with placing poles on either side, and today we linked two cross rails together, only one with placing poles! It was basically our first course! And, last week, I lunged June out in our jump field over solid obstacles. Including the ditch! So, she’s getting experience with lots of different jumps.

It’s kind of amazing how things progress with baby horses. I was saying to Sarah how it isn’t linear, and you always have to expect the unexpected. For June and I, this unexpected set back has been our struggle to pick up the right lead correctly. We struggled and struggled with this in our last lesson. I  just couldn’t ask in the right timing, June wasn’t doing me any favors by dropping her shoulder while looking to the outside. So, I spent two days with her on the lunge line, trying to figure things out. Trying to apply what Sarah was telling me and figuring what might work. And, lo and behold, I got her to pick up the correct lead on the lunge consistently. But, all that trying got June a bit anxious and she started to canter even when I didn’t ask. And always on the incorrect lead. So, we’ll stop lunging at the canter. We’ll take that off the table until it is no longer a big deal anymore.

I took what I learned lunging her and applied it under saddle today. I was ready to have to ask, then ask again, then ask again, for the correct lead, but June picked up the correct lead the first time I asked. I took my time, made sure I was ready to ask and wouldn’t you know it, it was no big deal.

We cantered a full course! (It was 3 jumps but the excitement was as if it was 12!)

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Also, there are moments where this mare’s canter is dreamy. Those moments are fleeting, but I can’t wait to feel it more often once she is stronger!

Of course, her canter can be long and strung out, she doesn’t always keep the canter, getting her to steer to the jump (and over it) can be a task in itself, so nothing looks “pretty” yet. But, to be honest, after my last lesson, I was elated with where we were at. June is getting stronger and more rideable. She can hold her more compressed canter for longer. We’re both figuring this shit out, and it is so fun and so exciting!

We have our first xc school this Saturday followed by a jumper show Sunday. I’m hoping to enter cross rails and maybe canter some of the jumps. Can’t wait for all the adventures that await us!

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This is us, galloping off into the future together…

 

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June’s First Trail Ride: aka June Can Buck

In my human mind, trail rides are like when your teacher tells you you’ll be watching a movie during class. You’re like ” sweet! Easy class!” I mean, what horse wouldn’t love a trail ride? You get to hang out with friends, not work, and munch grass.

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Look at that view! Who wouldn’t enjoy that view??

But that was my human mind. I didn’t really look at this from the perspective of an equine. June doesn’t know what a trail ride is. She knows she was trailered about 30 minutes to an unknown location where there were no other horses other than the one she trailered with. We’re in the middle of nowhere. She knows her mother didn’t lunge her, even though she lunges her before every ride. She knows that her mom got on her and expected her to walk out into the unknown forest.

And she responded by launching her mom into outer space.

I’m not making excuses for her. Launching me 1 minute after I got on her back, is not ok. But, since she is a baby horse, I am trying to figure out where I went wrong. And all I can think is it was a bit too much out of her comfort zone.

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Sure, this looks like fun… but not really

We did complete the trail ride. Despite a hard fall, I lunged the snot out of her, and then walked with her out the trail. I rode for about 1/2 the ride and for those moments, she was great. But I was sore, and defeated, and my confidence was blown. So, I didn’t ride her over stream crossings, and when I felt she needed a break I walked along side her. But we completed a 3.6 mile trail ride in the Idaho wilderness.

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Look at me riding my horse on a trail! Also, maybe I shouldn’t have brought Siri along to run around her?

And because I have an amazing friend, and I knew I had to conquer my fears of getting launched on trail rides, I asked Sarah if she would be up for another trail ride the following day. And so, the following day, we loaded the horses up, and gave it one more shot.

And this time, I lunged June.

I left the dog at home.

I didn’t ask any more of her than I do back home in the arena.

And she was foot perfect.

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And I look pretty happy!

She looked around and took it all in, but happily followed Rapid into the Idaho wilderness. This was somewhere she had never been, and she was okay with that. I asked her to lead on the way home and it was ok- she led for a bit, but was clearly a bit unsure. So, we let Rapid lead again, and I rode home on a loose rein.

Was it the perfect first trail ride?

Hell no.

But it ended well, and I am less sore than I was. I learned that keeping her routine as solid as possible is important for her. She wants to be lunged before I ride her no matter where we are. Skipping that, and asking her to be perfect somewhere new, wasn’t fair.

So, June can buck. I knew that. And I need to keep that in mind next time I want to hop on her and do something new. That seems a small price to pay for a horse who otherwise has been fantastic.

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