Category Archives: horse care

Horse Happiness

Yesterday I headed 4.5 hours (one way) to go see Junebug and decide if she was the horse for me. I brought my most trusted advisors with me, Sarah and Stella, and knew I wouldn’t go astray with them helping me.

Stella got car sick the entire trip up there, which made me feel like maybe we weren’t starting off on the right foot. But once we got there her spirits brightened and she happily ran around while Sarah and I met with Rapid’s owner/breeder.

We brought Junebug in from her pasture, put her on the cross ties and I got to grooming her. She stood and let me groom her everywhere as well as pick up her feet. She wasn’t antsy, or pushy, and literally just stood in the crossties.

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I also got right to work getting lots of pics

Next we took her into the arena, out of sight of the other horses. We trotted her around a bit so I could see her move and then I attached the lead rope and walked and trotted her over some poles. She was slightly distracted, but it really wasn’t until the other horses whinnied for her that she realized she was away from them. She still allowed me to lead her around and was completely sensible.

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We headed back out and I took her for a walk around the property and down the long driveway. She was slightly more interested in turning back to her friends than heading away from them, but was easy to handle and was easily convinced to go with me and leave her friends.

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So shiny!

As we were walking along I thought to myself, I’m buying a horse for her brain, everything is secondary and I need to remember that. When I got back to Sarah and Junebug’s owner, I found out that Junebug had only gotten out a few times in her 23 months. If mare is this sensible with that little handling, I feel like I am getting the brain I want.

Conformationally she is built uphill, has good bone and is the thick, stocky build that I like. I imagine she’ll grow to about 16hh. She won’t be built like a lithe racehorse, but I feel like her breeding will help with getting around xc easily.

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Lastly, after saying goodbye to Junebug, we drove over to go meet her momma. Her mom is a Quarter Horse who has produced some nice babies. Junebug’s maternal grandma produced lots of nice, smart, jumpers. I need to research the lineage a little more, but momma was well built and seemed sweet. Her full brother is a total sweetheart, with a lovely build and great brain.

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Cute momma!

And her Dad. Her Dad is who I hope will get us some nice dressage scores and will give her major athletic prowess. Her half sister has proven to be quite the athlete, so I’m hoping Junebug will also prove to be a great eventer.

As we headed home I started talk things over with Sarah and Stella. Our conversation didn’t last long, as it was clear she was a great baby horse for me to take a chance on! I’m currently figuring out when to bring her home and what our future will look like together. She will be 3 on 6/24, so we have some months of ground work and life experiences together before I get to riding her.

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Not a bad life so far

I’m obviously excited, and nervous, and anxious, but mostly excited. I can’t wait to start our future together!

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Plan #15

It’s been a whirlwind week. I flew to Florida for a conference, spent 4 days there, flew back for one night, and then flew to Seattle for a U2/Mumford and Sons concert. (With guest appearance by Eddie Vedder!!) So, I’ve been travelling a BIT.

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Drinking my favorite drink (or two of them) with my cousin while in Florida.

Somehow in between traveling I’ve managed to get some rides in on Macy. And, they’ve been pretty horrible. What I realized is, that after she spooks or is crazy once, the ride is over for me. I worry about her bolting so I tense up, shorten her and then neither of us can recover. I don’t want to get into every crazy moment she has had, or what she did, but do want to mention that I get why people keep horses that aren’t appropriate for them. I’m struggling with the idea of giving up on Macy and she isn’t even my horse. I didn’t buy her, invest a lot of time or money into her, and even having her doesn’t make me exempt from having to buy a horse in the future. So, really, I have it super easy with her and I am still struggling with giving up riding her. I can’t even imagine what it is like for people who bought a horse and are having this struggle. I get it.

In the past weeks I have realized Macy isn’t the horse for me and lately I feel more unsafe and frustrated than I have since the beginning. I let Sarah know and she totally understood. But then I kinda back tracked and was like ” Well, maybe we can see if I can make it work.” Because I just couldn’t give up, even though I wasn’t really enjoy riding her. It’s so messed up!

Yesterday I brought her in for my lesson and she was cuckoo bananas. She was tied in a different spot than usual and was so distracted and antsy. I was worried she would pull back, or trample me, and so I was tiptoeing around her. Sarah came over and let me know I can’t do that. Got her to pay attention and Macy didn’t like it, pulled back, broke her halter and galloped around the arena.

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How she reacts to me reprimanding her

I want to take a moment and mention something that happened while Macy was being a wild mustang. There were two other horses present. Both OTTBs and both, ironically, from the same breeder. One was getting acupuncture and one was being ridden in a lesson. When Macy had her meltdown, neither of them flinched. As she galloped around the arena, they stood still and waited for us to catch her. When Macy was caught they went back to what they were doing as if nothing happened.

So, props to those two OTTBs. And seriously, I am looking into who the breeder is and if he has any horses off the track for sale….

Ok, so Macy. Sarah hopped on her to show me a couple things to work on and then I got on. We ended up having a lovely lesson. Mainly because Sarah was there to guide me. I learned the following things:

  1. I need to keep Macy’s brain engaged every single step of the lesson.
  2. I need to be active every step of the lesson. If she gets the frame and bend I want, I need to keep working in order to maintain it.
  3.  If she spooks once, or even worse, if I THINK she is going to spook, I can’t get tight and lose the elastic connection. Because when I do that, it makes things worse.
  4. If she wants to spook, or does, get right back to work. Stop it before it escalates (if possible) but don’t get her short and tight. Get her back into that deep frame. (And when I say spook, this mare rarely just spooks, the spook leads into a bolt, head tossing bonanza)
  5.  I don’t trust Macy. I wouldn’t let go of the reins to even pat her when she was good.
  6.  I should not be riding this horse by myself. I haven’t ever been in a full lesson program, where all I do is take lessons and never ride on my own, nor do I want to be. But with Macy, I am doing neither of us any favors by riding alone without Sarah guiding me on staying relaxed and getting us through the tough spots.

 

So. By the end of the lesson I realized what I wanted to do. Showing is off the table completely. (Despite getting into an over subscribed recognized show, I scratched.) I won’t be riding Macy unless in a lesson. I’ll be doing that twice a week. I will continue to ride her with supervision because the lesson was actually really fun and I learned a ton. Once I learn how to ride her reactivity, I think I can ride her alone again. But that might be months from now. And that’s ok. Some of you mentioned that you worried a horse like Macy would make me lose my confidence. And I think that’s an incredibly valid point. I think that if I continue to ride her the way I was, when I free rode, that could definitely happen. With showing off the table I have no goals I have to meet in order to feel prepared to run her at Training. I can just learn and enjoy. I also realize Macy isn’t my long term horse. But my long term horse is going to be a young, green, unbroke horse, so I better get used to a little crazy in my life.

So, this is plan #15 I believe, and I am excited to give it a go. Plus, I’m going up to see Junebug Tuesday so I have something to look forward to 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  😉

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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The Best Grey Mare’s Birthday

It’s a special day for Georgie.  And a special day for me, as I used it as an excuse to give her a bath. Mare is DISGUSTING. I don’t know if it is because she hasn’t been brought in daily for grooming like she was when I was riding her, but my once a week grooming sessions are doing nada for her.

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In case you don’t believe me

She hasn’t moved to her new place yet, so I decided to take advantage of the indoor wash rack. She was thrilled to hear that her birthday present was a bath. Mare loves to be dirty, barely tolerates being bathed.

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The look she gave me when she heard she was getting bathed.

I didn’t do an amazing job, mainly because I didn’t have three hours, but I got a LOT of the filth off. I threw on her cooler and brought her outside to let her graze while she dried off. We barely made it onto the grass before she rolled. And as she got up her cooler was all askew, my lead rope came off of her halter and she took off. Good bye lame horse who isn’t supposed to do more than walk! Luckily the green grass nearby enticed her, and after galloping over to Macy to say hi (or show Macy that she was really the crazy one around here) she let me come grab her.

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Post roll and gallop. Moderately clean still

I let her graze while I curried her, I mean there had to be something she would enjoy about this day, since it was her 14th birthday… and when we were all done, I brought her back to her pen. Where she rolled again. She is now just as dirty as she was pre-bath.

So, Happy Birthday Georgie! Way to never change and prove to me that you’ve still got as much sass and as many opinions as you did when you were 13.

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Keeping the Sanity

While I would love to give myself credit for how amazingly sane Macy has been acting lately, I don’t think that’s giving the full picture of what’s going on.

Sure, I think Macy tolerates me. Maybe even kinda likes me. She definitely likes that I let her get away with things Sarah NEVER let her get away with. And while I don’t always push her to her potential, or ask more and more of her, I do work her hard and expect her to work when I am on her back. Some days she is fine with that, most days in fact, but she does still let me know her opinions. But to be honest, her opinions have been far less dramatic recently, and today I rode her without draw reins. While I have ridden her without draw reins jumping, or hacking out, the thought of leaving them in the tack room for dressage seemed a bit risky.

But. She was perfect.

So, I’m going to give a shout out to some pharmaceuticals that I think are helping with her brain. And helping me enjoy this mare as much as I have.

Sarah has tried some calming supplements in the past. Nothing had really worked. In fact, the calming supplement from SmartPak “SmartCalm” made Macy even crazier. When she called SmartPak, they mentioned that yeah, that could happen in like 1% of horses. Oh Macy.

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Sarah telling Macy that if she doesn’t behave she’ll be getting draw reins again.

But something about having a baby and hormones changing seemed to make Macy more receptive to drugs.

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Macy on drugs that work

Sarah started her out on Regumate. It hadn’t worked in the past, but this time around it seemed to take the edge off. She was still a bit whackadoodle, but better. Because there was a positive difference, Sarah switched to the injectable regumate. There is some controversy over this drug, and how it affects horses, but so far Sarah is happy with it. And should it become banned from horses competing in recognized events we can deal with that.

Because what seems to have made the biggest difference is Quiessence.

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It’s like a miracle drug.

It has completely taken the edge off.

And while Macy will always be Macy, (today she wouldn’t let me groom her, so I had to let her gallop around for about 10 minutes) once she gets the ya yas out, she is ready to go to work. And doesn’t pull any of her crap. It’s not like being all wound up lasts for the entire lesson like it used to.

Um. Amazing wonder drug.

Now, we’re headed to a schooling show this weekend. And to be honest, I 100% expect Macy to be tense and slighty crazy. It’s who she is. But even if she is, the fact that I can enjoy her at home, safely, means the world to me.

So here’s to sanity for both of us, and enjoying the use of safe and legal pharmaceuticals!

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So… What’s Next?

Lots of people have been asking me that question. And I get it. Horses and riding have been a part of my life for so long that it can’t all stop now, just because I lost the best horse I’ve ever had (still sad and lamenting, sorry.)

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Best horse I’ve ever had, in action

And no, it’s not going to end now. When I got the news about Georgie, and began to process it, I realized I had a few options.

  1. Breed Georgie
  2. Look into leasing another horse.
  3. Look into purchasing a greenie or youngster

There are obviously pros and cons to each of these. You’ll notice that Number 4: Purchase a going horse, is absent from the list. I wasn’t actually expecting to have to spend money on a new horse, so my budget is not going to support throwing down a lot of cash on a my new equine friend.

A couple of people suggested breeding Georgie. Both of these people are experienced horse breeders. They’ve had great experiences with it and truth been told, I’ve been thinking about breeding Georgie (with her owner’s permission) for a little while now. It was something I always had in the back of my mind. But now that I have a perfectly good excuse to actually do it, I don’t want to.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons for this, because I think breeding is a very personal decision, but what it ultimately comes down to, is that I am not a horse breeder. It’s as simple as that. (Sort of.)

Option 2 was very appealing in the hopes that I could still compete this season.  But, I am kind of ready to start a new partnership with a horse that has no rules or stipulations attached. It’d be really nice to be able to make all the decisions for my next horse without needing the permission of someone else.

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So, that leaves me with Option #3. A youngster is appealing to me as I have never started a horse and I’m not getting any younger, but I feel like I now have the tools (and friends) to make this an ok idea. Starting a relationship from scratch, with no baggage, is appealing to me. I’ll probably start looking at youngsters and see what might fit the bill, and whether I am really ready to start this new chapter.

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Maybe I’ll have this to look forward to…

Quite unexpectedly,  people have been offering me their horses to ride in the meantime.  As someone who didn’t really let anyone ride Georgie, I find it incredibly kind that people would let me ride their horses.

There is one horse in particular that I have begun to ride and she and I may have a future together. I’ll get into this in my next post, but I’m excited about this new partnership and where it may take us!

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Saying Goodbye

When I originally started this blog it was to chronicle my adventures as I looked for a new horse. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep leasing Georgie and thought I would purchase a horse instead.

At this moment in time I have no idea why I would ever have thought I didn’t want to keep Georgie.

This past Friday the vet came out to ultrasound her suspensory. Georgie has a tear in her suspensory ligament. The vet checked and rechecked, not understanding how a hole of this size could be in a horse with such minor lameness. She mentioned that Georgie must be a super tough mare.

Yeah. She is. She also has a heart of gold.

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I’ve obviously shed a lot of tears over this new-found information. I spoke with her owner and we both agreed. Georgie shouldn’t compete at the upper levels again, even if in 6 months or a year she appears sound. She’s given me everything. Why would I ask her to do it again and possibly reinjure herself?

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I feel like I’ll still be seeing this view from between her ears

So, come May, when the snow has hopefully melted, Georgie will be rehabbing in a lovely privately owned stable. I’ll be giving up the lease as is, and creating a new lease on her. One where I am responsible for checking in on her, getting her out for walks and making sure she is doing well. While I can’t continue the financial aspect of keeping Georgie during rehab, I didn’t want to say goodbye completely, and happily agreed to continue being her primary caretaker.  My hope is that one day she can show someone wanting to go BN what an incredible thrill it can be to ride a safe and honest horse cross country.

I have so many “I wish we could haves” but I’m not going to dwell on them. Our partnership was clearly not long enough, but man it was super fantastic while we had it. I never fell off of Georgie. She never, ever, refused a fence. What horse in 3+ years never stops at a fence??? She never scared me and she never hurt me. She didn’t mind that I dressed her in purple from head to toe. She let me learn so much, and kept saying yes when I asked for more.

I am so incredibly lucky to have had Georgie in my life as a competition horse. My dream when I started eventing to was to maybe, one day, go Training. Not only did we accomplish that goal but we became a competitive Training pair and were ready to tackle Prelim, despite the fact that I was initially told Georgie would never be a Prelim worthy horse. With Georgie as my partner, I never feared a thing while on her back. That mare took care of me and saved my butt more times than I can count.

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Mare tackled this ditch wall like it was nothing. Just like I knew she would

So, yes, I’m devastated. And yes, the crying and lamenting will continue for a bit longer. But here’s the thing. Georgie will still be a part of my life. And who knows, perhaps if she is sound I’ll get to rehab her and take her to her first BN event post injury. I’m lucky that this is not a final goodbye.

And I’m lucky for incredible friends. People who have been offering me horses to ride and buy since they’ve heard the news. This certainly isn’t the end of Georgie, and it isn’t the end for me either. Sure, moving forward every horse will have to live up to Georgie and I’ll always compare them to the mare that did no wrong. But it’s ok. I am ready to start falling off, and refusing fences, and I am more than ready to continue the 3Day adventures with horses.

rebecca

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