Category Archives: horse care

My High School Self

I don’t particularly love who I was in high school. I wasn’t a horrible person, but I was your typical high school teen.

I had major mood swings.

I wasn’t a good communicator.

I was overly worried about what was going on around me instead of just being confident with who I was.

And while I was a good athlete and student, it didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work hard to gain All American honors in lacrosse and I worked incredibly hard to make it into AP classes. I resented those who made light work of both academics and sports.

So…

I was riding Macy the other day when it struck me. Macy is my high school self.

Lets explore this a bit further.

On the day I was riding her a lesson was going on. Macy was so preoccupied with this other horse in the arena. Every time it got near us she would pin her ears and throw her head threatening to bite the horse.

Just SLIGHTLY preoccupied with others.  Just SLIGHTLY worried about what was going on around her instead of just doing her thing.

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Always worried about what’s going on around her…

And while Macy is an above average athlete (and way more talented than I was in high school), dressage does not come naturally to her. She’s not built to make any of this easy. She’s downhill with this huge barrel, and she doesn’t exactly scream light on her feet. And yet, with hard work and determination, she makes it happen. It’s not easy, but she’ll be damned if any horse thinks she isn’t serious competition. And so, she refuses to make friends with the competition and instead keeps them at bay and keeps working at it, proving them all wrong.

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I mean.. it’s just not that pretty a picture. Love ya May! (most days)

Oh and the mood swings. Do we even need to go there? She is the moodiest mare there ever was. And instead of just communicating in a normal, rational way, instead she takes EVERYTHING to the max. Talk about a drama queen. It’s exhausting.

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It’s all or nothing with this horse

So, maybe Macy is stuck forever being a teenager. I feel for her, that is NOT a fun place to be. And while I want to comfort her, another part of me just wants to slap her and tell her to grow up. Being a perpetual teenager isn’t fun for any of us.

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The Tattletale

I’ll be honest. I’m feeling close to zero motivation to ride Macy these days. Maybe it’s the fact that I am riding Georgie again and she is SO easy. Or maybe it’s the fact that despite the easy winter that we are having, we’re still confined to the indoor because it’s Idaho and it’s cold. Or maybe, it’s the fact that Macy is just being a bit more ornery than she has been in the last few months.

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What easy looks like

It’s also tough for me to stay motivated to keep riding and keep working when I know I don’t have a competitive future with this horse. I’m competition focused and motivated. Riding Macy sometimes feels like a lot of work for no payoff. (Because for me the payoff will always be galloping around cross-country). I know this is incredibly narrow-minded and selfish to say (I have a horse to ride, I should be so incredibly thankful for that), but it’s how I feel and I can’t help it.

Whatever it is, I am finding it difficult to muster the motivation to get out there and ride her. We still have our weekly lessons, and for this I am grateful. With Sarah’s guidance I stay focused and we’ve had some fun jump and dressage lessons.

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wheeee

But it’s almost like Macy and Sarah have this secret communication going. Years of friendship where they can talk to each other without speaking. And Macy has decided that she’ll tolerate me riding her. But she is going to be a tattletale whenever I do anything wrong.

If I stiffen or drop my hand, Macy lets Sarah know. Not enough inside leg to outside rein. Oh, she’ll happily let Sarah know. Should I get distracted and not keep her haunches from drifting in, oh, she’ll happily toss her head, go around crooked and let Sarah see all of it. See, she tattles by showing her displeasure with my riding. She tosses her head, bolts, or gets tense. When I ride well, correctly, she is smooth sailing.

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I’m happy and she’s happy

So, I work my ass off to keep Macy from tattling on me. I work my ass off to make the ride easier on myself. Getting her straight to a fence without a lot of head tossing, is a lot easier than trying to do so when her head is straight in the air.

So, Macy continues to make me a better rider. Even if some days I would rather just take the easy way out. And in the end, I’m definitely thankful for it.

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Thanksgiving Makeover

I received this text from my Dad while travelling home for Thanksgiving.

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Nothing makes me happier than some quality horse time. Especially when I get to hang out with the original heart horse, Dublin.

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But I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bad their manes and tails really were.

Apparently it’s burr season in NY.

All I can say is thank you to whomever created Laser Sheen.

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Priscilla’s forelock was definitely the worst. I called it a burr bun. It’s a hairstyle that has not really taken off.

A good dousing of Laser Sheen, some tearing apart with fingers followed by shedding blade and the burrs actually came out quite easily.

My Dad mentioned he had cut some out earlier, which made me cringe, obviously, but I did what I could to get them beautified.

For two retired pasture ponies, whose forelocks have been chopped off, it didn’t come out half bad.

Looking forward to having to start all over tomorrow.

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What Macy Has Taught Me

As I begin to reflect on a year that initially turned upside down, I have a lot to be thankful for that I would have never expected. Probably the biggest surprise of the year has been my relationship with Macy and how it has evolved over the past 10 months. She has taught me so much and before the year is over, I wanted to document what I’ve learned from her.

  1. Trust Your Gut

Probably one of the smartest things I did with Macy was declare that I didn’t want to ride her anymore. My confidence was shot, I wasn’t enjoying myself and I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to have a stress free ride on her. It was tough for me to swallow my pride and step away, but it was the best thing I could have done. Because, in admitting shit was not going well, I was able to take all the pressure off. I started having lessons at the walk. By only riding in lessons I never felt out of my comfort zone, and I was able to relax and knew that if I wanted to call it quits at any time, I could. It changed everything. Macy and I built a relationship and were able to move forward.

2. Be Flexible

Oh Macy. If only she was uncomplicated. Once I started riding her, I felt like I had to have a plan. I signed up for a recognized event at the Training level and about 4 weeks prior to the event I realized there was no way I was going to be able to ride the mare cross country without fear of dying. Then, 4 months later, I again signed up for a recognized event at Training and felt ready. But Macy was off, between ulcers and some lameness there was no way we were going to an event together. And it sucked. But I was proud of how ready I felt, and while none of my plans went as I wanted, it was ok. I was still able to enjoy this partnership.

3. No Trust, No Fun

See all of the above.  But, once you get that trust, things can fall into place and you remember why you are on a horse, galloping towards solid obstacles. And there is nothing better.

4. When In Doubt, More Leg

Seriously. It doesn’t matter what horse you are on. The minute I put my leg on, and get Macy forward, we had great rounds. No matter what discipline. But for me, I saw the most improvement in my xc riding. It also had a lot to do with me finally trusting Macy and knowing she would jump the jumps.

5. You Can Ride Your Trainer’s Horse and Not Ruin a Friendship

Sarah is my closest friend and also my trainer. And we thought it would be a good idea for me to ride her heart horse. Hello, does that not sound like imminent disaster? And sure, maybe I don’t blog about how sometimes I think Sarah wants to kill me when I am riding her horse poorly, or how sometimes I want to kill her when she says “Oh, she’s fine” as the mare is bolting down the length of the arena. But, somehow, this crazy grey mare makes us both laugh or say “you little shit” in unison, and somehow has made Sarah and I even closer friends. Sometimes bonding over a horse creates the strongest bond of all.

6. Be Thankful For Every Ride

I could have easily walked away from riding for the year. But instead I decided to challenge myself with a horse completely out of my comfort zone. And because of it I have grown as a rider and am so thankful for how much I have developed not only as a rider, but as a horsewoman.

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Thanks Macy for all you’ve taught me!

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Three Greys and a Chestnut

September was one of the craziest months I have had in a long time. I knew it would be, and prepared as best I could, but I still felt stretched too thin and as if I couldn’t enjoy any of it. Just constantly running from one thing to another. There were some real highs- I secured funding for my job for 3 years, I schooled prelim on Macy, family came to town, I did a TED talk, but I honestly just couldn’t wait for the month to be over.

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We’ve all been there- frazzled and unable to catch up. And I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to let life continue to do that to me. It is easy for me to get sucked into horses and riding and not enjoy anything else. Even without a competition horse this summer I still found myself not going for as many hikes or adventures. I’m the type of person who can’t do things half way. I’m all in, or I’m out. Hence, I was all in with Macy even though we didn’t know how that would go.

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She makes me awfully happy most days

The good news is, Macy is sound. Georgie is back at our barn. Tiegan has been more and more fun to ride, and June is progressing beautifully with Trainer D.

And while having 3-4 horses to ride and play with is every 6 year olds dream, I can see myself getting overwhelmed very easily. And getting back to that frantic state of mind.

So, I’ve set a bit of a schedule for myself. I don’t want to give up rides on any of these horses. (Typical of my personality..) So, I need to be realistic about what I can and cannot do so that I can still enjoy winter activities away from the barn (I signed up for a curling team after all…)

I’ve committed to Macy 2 days a week, Georgie 2 days a week and Tiegan 3 days a week. That will get me to the barn 5 days a week, which is totally manageable. I think. I hope… Macy will no longer be just my ride, but that’s ok. We’ve realized she can’t handle intense work, so we’re hoping to get her out 3-4 days a week and just keep her sound and happy.

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Having Georgie back is the best!

June is off to winter pastures come November so she will be off my list until the spring. At which time Georgie will sadly probably be off my list. (We’re hopeful she will be part of a lesson program for young kids). So, we’ll see. As lovely as it is having all these different horses to ride, and as thankful as I am, and as much as I have learned, I’m really looking forward to the day when it’s me and June, galloping around Rebecca Farm, knowing each other so well and having an absolute blast.

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So excited to ride this one day!!!

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And… We’re Done

While the title reflects my current mood, it may not accurately describe the future. Maybe. Hopefully.

In the beginning of this month I was raving about how much I was enjoying Macy and how amazing our jumper show and xc schooling went.

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This. This was so much fun

But if you have a horse you know that for every high there is a low.

When we got back from the show, Macy seemed off. She wasn’t eating or drinking well, and when the veterinarian was called to check her out, she confirmed that Macy had an impaction colic.

So many reasons why this could have happened, but what was most concerning was that this was Macy’s 2nd colic in 6 weeks. And this mare, who is 17, had only colicked once before in her entire life.

The thought was the colic was spurred on by her ulcers, which used to rear their ugly head quite often. Macy is on an NSAID which could have been inflaming her ulcers and causing her to colic. To add to it, I was an idiot and forgot to bring her ulcerguard when we traveled. So, when she was flemming and not eating well at the show, I passed it off as her being in heat and being too concerned about where Max was and not to her  feeling off. That still could have been the case, but considering she felt like crap when we got home, I think she was already beginning to colic.

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How do you know you’re in Idaho? There is an enormous Mormon temple behind you while xc schooling

So, we take her off the NSAIDS and give her some rest. She starts to feel great after about 3-4 days (we also took her off her grain and Quiessence, which I only knew had happened when I got on her and she was her old flightly self. She went right back on the Quiessence…)

And, as expected, she felt a bit uneven and unsound. Old mare needs her drugs to feel 100%. So we started her back on them and she started to feel looser and more even. And then, the following day, I took her for a walk down the driveway and she felt completely off on her front left. At the walk. When we went back into the barn and I began to untack her she was resistant to put weight on it. I checked the foot and everything looked ok. I asked Sarah to check her out the next day.

When Sarah went to go check her, leg was swollen and hot.

Now, Macy is old and a bit of a delicate TB flower. But she had just gotten a week off for a colic/ulcer issue, and now she was lame on a front leg- usually the stifle is what is the issue. And while I wanted to be like “give her a week off and we’ll see how she is” I have a recognized event in about 2 weeks. And closing day was the following day.

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I don’t think a good horsewoman would look at this horse, who is basically breaking down around us and say “eh, she’ll be fine to run her first Training event in 3 years.” I don’t think a good horsewoman would think “I REALLY want to go to this event so how can we patch her together to make it happen??”

And while I like to think I am a good horsewoman, I thought all of the above thoughts. And others. But then realized I am NOT a good horsewoman and I emailed the show secretary and scratched our entry.

I’m not sure Macy can withstand the level of work I am asking of her. I think she would happily jump anything I point her at, that’s the kind of horse she is, but it’s tough on her body and she’s starting to show her age, as well as why she was initially retired.

The biggest bummer for me, selfishly, is that I felt like I finally got her. I felt like she had made me such a better rider and we were now a team. I really liked Macy, if not loved her. I haven’t met a horse with such an amazing work ethic before.

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Now, we’re not sure what’s wrong with her front leg, but hopefully the vet will tell us that she still has some riding left in her. Sarah and I have both prematurely come to the conclusion that we need to take it a bit easier on her. If she hasn’t blown a suspensory (always imagine the worst, right?) we’ve discussed doing some dressage work on her for the future. Maybe no more jumping.

Since I scratched the event and was feeling down in the dumps, Sarah offered to give me a June lesson, maybe I could back her. I pulled June out, threw her in the round pen and went through our routine. Brought her into the indoor and began to brush her. That’s when I noticed a cut on her left front. Plus lots of swelling and heat. So…. I went and cold hosed her, gave her bute and wrapped her. So much for my consolation lesson.

Horses. It’s never a dull moment is it?

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Learning to Chill

In my last lesson with Trainer Dana and June, I proudly showed off all we had been working on. I mean, June is basically a genius. I explained that I was having some trouble with June trotting and cantering when I didn’t want her to.

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She’s always ready for the lesson to be over

Well, it didn’t take Dana long to see that I was basically amping things up when I didn’t need to. So, here was my learning moment. When Dana told me June should move when I ask her to move, I took that as “she must move fast and in order to be responsive she must be moving quickly and be slightly frantic.”

This is not true. June can be responsive at the walk. The halt even. So, we basically worked on slowing both our brains down.

My genius baby totally figured it all out and we had a very successful lesson.

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This is her figuring it out

I’m excited for her to go to Dana’s place for a month but also sad because I’ll miss seeing her everyday. I know she will learn so much and be such an amazing horse when I get her back.

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She learned about bits this week and blow dryers. Neither were of any interest to her

She continues to be adorable and make me happy every day. Every day that she doesn’t jump through a trailer….

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The cutest

 

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Being A Baby

I gave June about a week off post trailer incident. Not only because I needed a break from her, but also because I was headed to the show with Macy and needed to concentrate on that.

I got her back into work Monday, and she was full of it!

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There were a lot of “no thank you’s” to what I was asking her to do. But we worked through it and even did some pole work under saddle.

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Sassy pants was far more willing to work and listen the following day, I am realizing how important consistency is with her. While I don’t think she needs 7 days of work, 5 days of work seems to help her process things so we can move on.

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This is her “now what?” look, which I love. Also, the smoke has been terrible because of wildfires

She has some attitude when I ask her things, especially when I ask her to think continually- lots of change of direction, or adding something new. I kind of love the attitude. It lasts a second and then she gets back to work. She’s going to keep me on my toes for sure.

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Her favorite part of the lesson is when it’s over

Hoping to get a coupe lessons in with Dana before sending her down there for full training. Also hoping to introduce her to a bridle and the blow dryer in the next week or so! So much for baby horse to still learn!

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Riding the Broke Horse

This past weekend was a bit of a test. How would Macy do at a schooling show? How would she do schooling xc at a new venue? My hope was, it would all go well, as I had just entered us in our first recognized event! If all went well this weekend, Macy and I would be trying our hand at Training come October.

At the show we entered in a 3’3 jumper round as well as a 3’3 jumper derby round. This jumper derby would be out on grass and along with stadium jumps there was a bank and a ditch. Any opportunity to get some more xc schooling! Plus, the derby had a cash prize for the winner!

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Getting show ready

Macy immediately went into heat when we unloaded from the trailer. She was IN LOVE with the gelding that traveled next to her. And while Max is quite handsome, her full on slut came out. It was kind of x-rated. But great news, while she is obnoxious on the ground when she is in heat, it doesn’t impact her game face.

Warm up was, you guessed it, tense and not fun. I ended up walking a LOT and jumped two jumps before heading over to the jump arena. We were working on being forward and getting a good rhythm. I felt like we accomplished that. But Macy still had 3 rails down which is SO uncharacteristic of her. Mare can jump. Rails were a sign I was doing something wrong. Quick chat with trainer Sarah, who agreed we could do another round, I just needed to keep her off of her forehand, ride more with my core.

Second round was amazeballs. No rails and it felt great. We got our distances, and had just an all around good round. Phew. I know how to ride this mare.

On to the derby round! Macy was awesome. We had a clear round and it felt great.

 

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Wheeeeee

She didn’t look at the ditch and she was a rockstar off the bank.

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Macy and I ended up winning the derby round. To be fair, we didn’t have much, (or any) competition, but still! We made it around without faults and it felt great.

The following day we went off to cross country. Macy was a champ. At first I rode tentatively. This is my MO. We loped around, without much purpose and got to a bank drop into water. And she stopped.

Macy doesn’t stop.

Until now.

Sarah called me over, and told me to ride way more forward and with way more purpose. So I did. And she flew into the water the next time. Good pony. Way to be the teacher Macy. I appreciate it.

The lesson went well from there on. I have a lot to work on. Macy does not. That’s the thing about a broke horse. This mare can teach me so much. There is nothing we will be jumping that she hasn’t seen a million times. There is nothing we will be jumping that will be a challenge for her. But, that doesn’t mean I  get to leave my 50% at home. If I don’t bring it, she won’t either. Or not for an entire course at least.

Macy is an older girl with an injury. We’re not sure how many jumps she has left in her so we try to get in, get it done, and call it a day. We decided to ride a prelim coffin line and while it went ok the first time, it only went ok because Macy is honest and will jump what I point her at. We tried it again, with me bringing my half, and it rode so well, and was so fun.

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Over the ditch, preparing for the SKINNY chevron

Here’s the video, with my enthusiastic yell at the end:

Ya’ll I am so lucky to be able to ride this horse. I know she’s quirky and a pain in the ass sometimes, but man she is so honest and can teach me so much. I’ll never have another broke horse like Macy. My hope is we can continue to move forward and I can continue to learn from her every time I am on her back.

Oh, and June is back in work post trailer incident as well! More on that, next!

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A Setback

Baby horses.

They keep us on our toes, no?

As I mentioned in the last post about her, June has been making major progress. But she is a youngster, so we need to expect some things won’t go perfectly..

June loads into my trailer like a champ. But that’s sort of where the champ behavior ends.

Let me give you a picture of my trailer to help better understand the rest of this post. I have a two horse, straightload, bumper pull.  Where some straightloads have a chest bar and then empty space, I have a solid wall, with a flat area, essentially, a manger. There is also a window off the manger.

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Hopefully this picture helps

I grew up with straight load trailers. I love them.

But this isn’t a post about trailers. It’s a post of an idiot baby horse.

On the drive to our last lesson I felt my trailer fly around. A few times. But I kept going, thinking there was nothing I could do on the side of the road. When I got to the lesson, June was cut up pretty badly. Clearly she had been having issues in the trailer.

It wasn’t until I practiced loading that I realised what was happening. June was jumping into the manger with her front feet. It wasn’t good or pretty. But I worked on it, and before our next lesson, I felt like the problem was resolved.

I started using shipping boots, just to be safe, and loaded her up for our lesson. We were driving to the trainers barn. About 35 minutes away. About 15-20 minutes into the drive, I felt the trailer sway and pull on the truck. I thought “Oh Shit!” and slowed down so I coud pull over. Then, as I was slowing down, looking to pull off the highway, the trailer pulled to the right, then the left. I looked in my rearview mirror and flipped out.

June had broken the front window open and her head and legs were sticking out of it.

I can’t really explain the panic I felt. I made a hard turn off the hwy, stopped the truck and ran back to the trailer.

Um. Now what?

She was struggling, but I didn’t want her to come further out the trailer.

So I shoved her legs and head back into the trailer and shut the window. “She’ll sort herself out,” I thought.

And thankfully she did.

But she had ripped her leadrope and was now trying to turn around. I grabbed her head, held the halter and called my trainer.

Dana told me to hold on, she was jumping in her truck and would come get us with her trailer.

Because June was acting so agitated in the trailer, I decided to unload her. We were away from the hwy and safe from traffic.

The minute I got her off the trailer she was a different horse. Pretty calm and easy to handle.

About 20 minutes later, Dana arrived and June loaded right into her trailer. She travelled well and when we unloaded her I got to cold hosing her, as she had ripped the area behind her knee(right above the shipping boot) on her right front leg.

She’ll be ok. We’ll all be ok. I have to say though, this was one of the scariest things I have experienced with a horse.

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Ugh. Love this face. Some days

I’ve made some decisions based on this experience.

June will be going to Dana’s for full training in October. (The soonest she has an opening). I am selling my straightload with a manger, as there is no way I can ever have her travel in this trailer again and feel safe. I am going to work on all other aspects of this horse and evaluate if I think she is safe and sane for me.

Ironically, her half sister did the same thing when she was a baby. She tried to jump out Sarah’s trailer, over the manger and through the window. Difference is, the trailer was parked. And Rapid wasn’t going down the hwy at 55 mph.

I still really love June. I still believe she is a sensible, capable horse. But as Dana and I were talking post incident, she said something along the lines of “She’s bold. And that can make her great on cross country. But it can also give you a horse that is a lot to handle.”

Yup. Sure can. And I need to figure out if she is sensible and bold, and just green, or if I have signed up for more than I can handle. What I have learned about June is that once I show her something and she understands it, she is great. There’s no problem. But, when she is on her own, or confused about what is being asked, her MO is to plow through things and just push her way through them. I honestly believe that because I couldn’t be in the trailer, teaching her, she went with what she knew. Which was to plow forward.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. And I know this is an easy post in which to cast judgement. But what I’d appreciate, are stories where your green horses acted like idiots and how now you can look back and laugh. Cause man do I need a laughable moment right about now.

 

 

 

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