Category Archives: horseback riding

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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Considering History

Ask me 8 months ago if I thought I’d ever be singing the praises of Macy and I would have looked at you like you were crazy. But, Macy and I have certainly figured each other out. In a good way.

This weekend was our barn’s annual Halloween fun show. It included barrel racing, bareback jumping and regular jumper classes, you could do all of it in costume, which I clearly declined, seeing as I loathe Halloween. (I’m super fun, I swear.) Fun post of the show coming soon!

Anyway, despite not jumping Macy for a month or 6 weeks, and having ridden her 3-4 times in the last month, I thought I’d sign up for a couple 3’3 jumper classes. It’s my home barn, how bad could it be?

I brought Macy into the indoor arena and she immediately saw a ghost-  pulled back and proceeded to gallop around the arena. The thing is, she really did see a ghost. A horse dressed up as a ghost, sheet over his head and all.

I realized this show may be too much for her, but threw her out to gallop around and figured we would give this saddling thing one more shot.

Warm up was chaotic. No, it was crazy. There were first time show people, barrel racers, kids with parents and then like two of us, just trying to jump over the jumps in the middle of all of it for warm up. Macy was a rockstar and only bolted once, when her mom’s voice came over the very loud, very crackly, speakers, letting us know it was 10 minutes until start time.

She kept her shit together way better than I could have ever anticipated and we went into the jump arena with probably more confidence than ever, despite our lack of preparedness in the past month.

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Um, we kinda nailed it. Our rides werent flawless but they felt amazing and we walked away with a blue ribbon. I asked Sarah if I could enter her 3’6 and she paused, to which I said “No, no, it’s ok, we don’t need to push her that hard.”

But Sarah thought she’d actually love it and we agreed that I’d enter once and not do the jump off with tight turns should we get to that.

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She doesn’t care that my leg position is bascially non functional

It wasn’t as seamless and fluid as 3’3, but we got it done. And not a rail was dropped. Macy is still a fantastic and super fun jumper. And maybe even a tolerable horse in warm up these days. I totally get why she was Sarah’s heart horse despite her quirks and how difficult she can be. When she’s in that arena, she’s FUN. She’s the most fun horse I’ve ever jumped just because of her talent and experience. And this is her when she is far from her prime.

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Here she is at her prime. Going Intermediate for the first time, at Rebecca and ending up in first place.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Macy lately. Or rather, about Sarah and Macy. Macy was a homebred and Sarah has known her her entire life. Her hope was for Macy to one day be a prelim horse. But Macy exceeded everyone’s expectations as she climbed up the levels, making easy work of Intermediate and the 2* level. They were consistently in the top 5 at events, proving that eventing is not a dressage show. While Advanced was on the table, Sarah knew there was more work to be done to make sure they had a safe, confident ride at the level. And then one day, running cross country, Macy felt off.

She began to stop at fences.

And Sarah knew something was wrong.

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Macy at 1 day old! Those ears though!

A visit to the equine veterinary specialists confirmed her biggest fears. Macy had injured her stifle and her upper level days were behind her.

We’ve heard this story time and time again, and there really isn’t anything “special” about Macy’s story. But I’ve been thinking lately about how tough it must be to continue on after your once in a lifetime horse ends it’s career.

I didn’t have to bring Macy along. I didn’t teach her lead changes, or how to be straight, or how to do haunches in or pirouettes. I just get to enjoy all those things because of Sarah’s hard work with her. So, imagine getting to the point where jumping Intermediate jumps on the horse you have put so much work into is fun. And kinda easy, in the sense that your horse is prepared for it and can make light work of it. And how FINALLY you can enjoy your horse and get out of the minutia of training and do some of the more fun and “fancy” things. This is what you’ve been working towards for SO MANY YEARS. And this horse could be the one. The one that takes you to a level you’ll maybe never again achieve.

And then it’s over.

And she’s your only horse.

And because you chose to be an eventing trainer, you’re expected to move on. Find another horse and chase that upper level once again.

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Just flying around the Galway CCI**

But really, you just want to mourn for what you lost. You don’t want to have to start over. With the minutia. With the endless 20 meter circles and desperately trying to get your horse to come out of a corner straight. You don’t want to buy a “made” horse because you want the horse to be made by you. But really, deep down you don’t want to have to put those years back into training because it was finally fun. And thrilling. You just want that back.

In Sarah’s case it took her a while to find a new horse and get serious about it. And the horse she found is the polar opposite of Macy. (She saw the ghost at the show and was unfazed.) And it took Sarah a while to realize that it’s ok that the horse is nothing like Macy. She’s still a good horse. She’s still got talent and heart, two of the most important things.

I think it must be tough for Sarah to watch me ride her horse as an amateur who pulls on her mouth and bounces on her back. As someone who used to be so frightened around her and unable to get past that for many months in order to see what the horse is actually capable of.

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Look ma! From far away it looks like I know what I’m doing!

But I also know, that when she sees Macy make light of a 3’3 and 3’6 jumper course, despite the rider on her back not always seeing her distances, and sometimes riding backwards (it happens, I’m working on it…) I think it makes her happy. Happy that this talented, tough, mare, can have a second career.

And that it’s ok for both of them to move forward, even if they’re on different paths.

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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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