Category Archives: perspective

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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History

There has been much talk of history in the news lately. And while this is in no way a political blog, it’s tough for me to turn a blind eye to the atrocious acts that have been occurring in our country of late. I am embarrassed by our country’s leader and horrified that hate groups feel emboldened to come out of hiding. Our country has parts of its history that we shouldn’t be proud of, but instead of moving forward, we’re bringing the past into the present.

History is a tricky thing. You can’t erase it. But by living the present in the way you want the future to be, you can change the course of the past.  That made sense on my morning run, I hope it still does now, as well.

Macy has a storied past. You really can’t say her name around someone who knows her without getting some sort of story about her past. And while her event record on paper is quite flawless and speaks to the athlete she is, the entire picture of this horse is more than what you see by looking up her record on useventing.com

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Macy has a history of being a difficult horse. She’s quirky. She’s a pro ride. She doesn’t make it easy.  She’d spook and bolt and bite and kick and really wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

I got to hear all about this when I decided to start riding her this spring. And, as you can imagine, hearing the history of this horse made me feel a bit less than confident around her. And, as you can imagine, Macy took full advantage of this.

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Even Sarah couldn’t get Macy to listen to her

And we had our mishaps and frustrations and my confidence plummeted. To where I dreaded riding her. And dreaded having a lesson where Sarah would yell at me because I over reacted when Macy over reacted and the entire thing was a disaster.

So, I stepped back and essentially started over. I stopped riding Macy as if she were my next event horse. I had lessons that were completely at the walk. My attitude about riding her began to change. I slowly started to trust her more and more. I could sense when she was going to spook, or toss her head, and reacted appropriately and with minimal fuss. We moved on, instead of letting it overtake the lesson. I rolled my eyes when she wanted to bolt and made her get right back to work. I was over the behavior. But more in a motherly way than that of a scared child.

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And since then, Macy has begun to change the path of her history. She’s become a rideable, calm, enjoyable, dare I say it, fun, horse to be around. We have been having a fantastic time together. We went and schooled cross country and Sarah was essentially silent the entire time I was riding. She had a few pointers for me, and there were some laughable moments, but all in all, it was a great outing. Macy was calm and relaxed and so was I.  We haven’t had a bad ride in over a month, maybe two.

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I have my theories about why Macy is a changed mare, but they are theories. Sarah thinks it’s because I am riding her better, and am more confident, and that may be a (large) part of it. I think the other part is that a) it’s bloody hot and who wants to put in the effort to be bad? and more likely, b) Macy realizes she isn’t a 2* mare anymore and is ok with just plodding along. I honestly believe that so much of her past behavior came from a place of “I MUST BE AMPED UP WE ARE JUMPING BIG JUMPS AND GALLOPING FAST.” We haven’t done any of that together and I think she’s realized it’s a thing of the past. Her future is going to be all about galloping at a moderate pace over pretty insignificant jumps. And I think she’s ok with it. More than ok with it.

So, here’s to not letting history dictate our future. Enjoying the present and letting it be the guide of what our future holds.

 

 

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Fraggle Friday

Sometimes, I just can’t handle how cute she is.

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She gets away with a lot because of it.

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I feel like there should be some sort of puppy support group, a group of puppy moms that can commiserate on what’s going on with their puppy and be told it’s all going to be ok.

Because deep down I know she will grow up to be a fantastic dog, but some days I wonder what the hell I was thinking adopting a puppy.

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My Current Favorite Picture

Sure. It should be of June. Since she's my future.

And I do love this pic of her on a bridge casually relaxing.

But my new favorite picture is of Macy. You know, the mare I have been struggling to ride. The mare who can kill my confidence in the blink of an eye, (or bolt across the arena). I haven't hidden the fact that I'm not sure I'm the rider for her.
And I'm still not positive I am. But man she's been great lately.
And I've actually been having fun.
And letting go of the reins

And while she isn't impressed with any of it, I really am. Because it shows progress. And happiness. And those are both reasons why I spend all my money on this crazy passion.
So here's to more fun with this mare more learning and perhaps more surprisingly good rides on her.

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What’s The Hurry in Bringing Up Baby?

I have never started a young horse. But over the years I have observed lots of people starting their youngsters or green as grass horses.

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Did someone say grass?

Sometimes it goes amazingly well. And sometimes, there are serious struggles. And guess what? From my observations, I’ve formed an opinion. A completely personal opinion that has no scientific data attached to it. So, take it for what it is: an adult amateur’s opinion.

One of my strongest opinions about starting a young horse is when to start them under saddle. I believe that you should wait until a horse is closer to 4 years old. When I decided to get a 3 year old horse I was fully prepared to wait 8 months to a year before I started riding her. I just don’t feel that most horses are mentally or physically ready to be put to work at 2-3 years old.

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She still needs nap time

To strengthen the validity of my opinion that horses aren’t physically ready to be started younger than 4, I called 3 of my most trusted equine veterinarian friends. Not one of them could tell me that I should absolutely wait to start my horse until she is closer to 4 years old. There is no proof that horses started later in life stay more sound than those started earlier. They thought that mentally, it might be better for the horse, but there is no proven theory that it is physically better. In their opinions, not surprisingly, it has more to do with what we ask of our horses once we do start working them under saddle.

Well damn. There went the theory and belief that my horse would be benefitting physically from my decision. But whatever. There is still the mental aspect.

While some of you may see a 3 year old horse as completely capable to start work, I see a kindergartener. Especially June. She’s lived her life on rolling hills and forested pastures. She was brought in occasionally to be halter broke and get her feet done. She has seen nothing of the world and been asked to do nothing other than stand for the farrier. And while that sounds idyllic and lovely, it hasn’t really set her up to go straight to work.

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This grass is yummy

I feel like my responsibility as her person is to prepare her for the work ahead. So that, one day, when I get on her back, she is ready. I know her, she knows me. She knows what I expect of her.

So, our work will begin with me starting her with ground work. For however many months as it may take. I’ve asked an incredible horse woman and foundation trainer to help me with this process and I am SO excited. I can’t wait to learn with June. I can’t wait to see where she is uncomfortable and not as sure of herself and get her past that. So that one day, when I put her to work under saddle, I have a wealth of knowledge to pull from.

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More grass over there?

I’m not going to rush the foundation work just because I want to get back to eventing. I want to do this right so we can have a great future together. I’m sure I will fumble and be discouraged along the way, but I think having the next few months together, and getting familiar with each other, and learning to trust each other, is hopefully going to lead to a great future together.

The adventure has begun!

 

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Fraggle Friday-Siri’s 1 Year Anniversary

This week marked Siri’s adoptaversary! I adopted her July 11th, mainly due to this photo:

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That’s her in the back

I had been patiently waiting for a young female German Wirehaired Pointer or Griffon to come into a shelter for me to adopt. But all that came in were males, time and time again.

And Siri was a purebred GWP, but she was a puppy. Yuck. Who wants a puppy?

Plus, Stella had JUST had ACL surgery so the timing was horrendous. Oh, and I was leaving for Rebecca Farm in a week.

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How I got through Stella’s surgery…

Blerg. But, the thought of me passing by a female GWP haunted me. So I took her home, even though she was a puppy and I wanted a 2-3 year old dog. (or older)

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She was always cute when she was sleeping…

And wouldn’t you know it, 3 weeks after I adopted her, her mom, a 2 yr old GWP was surrendered to the Shelter. EXACTLY what I had wanted.

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She’s a sweetheart

And while I considered trading Siri in, it was too late. I was hooked. (And her mom got a fabulous home and I get updates on her all the time).

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There have been ups and downs, and lots of frustrating moments (like when she chewed my truck up), but yes, in the end I am so glad I adopted her on July 11 2016.

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She’s wicked smart

And this past weekend, when she overheated on a hike, I knew I loved her, because I hoisted her up on my shoulders and carried her down the mountain.

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At least she’s light?

I like to think she’d do the same for me…

So, Happy Gotcha Day Siri. So glad you’ve joined our crew.

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PC: Bekka Mongeau

 

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More Macy Chronicles

About 2 days into my unofficial lease of Macy I fell jumping her. We had some terrible rides after that, mainly as a result of me being nervous and tense. I told Sarah I wasn’t up for riding her on my own- it wasn’t helping anything, and wanted to try and only ride in lessons.

So, for the past 3 weeks or so, that’s what we have been doing. Having eyes on the ground that know this horse so well has been incredibly helpful, but also, at times, incredibly stressful. Sarah and I had a rather unpleasant lesson where Macy was a spook factory, churning them out at an incredible rate. Sarah eventually yelled at me that I was overreacting to the spook and making things worse. This turned into a back and forth of “well I’ve never ridden a spooky horse!” “well her spooks are an overreaction to nothing so what do you expect me to do?” “Really? put my leg on and get her to bend? That’s the answer??? I doubt it.”

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I appreciate when she goes like this

Weirdly it was the answer. And I don’t know if my handling the spook better has made our rides quite pleasant lately or Macy has just been in a good mood.

We’ve had some major aha dressage and jumping moments. Macy was a saint in our last jump lesson (of which I have zero media) and she proved once again that she will jump from anywhere, over anything, despite what I am doing on her back to make it more difficult for her.

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And this

She is such a different horse from any I have ridden. Yes, she’s a sensitive TB. But she’s also really opinionated. And you’re not going to change her. Lots of head tossing, which is distracting, but I worked really hard to keep my elbows supple.

When it started to thunder, then lightening, then rain, I figured we’d head in. But Sarah kept us jumping. And I was so nervous about the weather I wasn’t helping Macy at all. But, we kept at it, I worked on sitting up, shoulders back, sternum out, and we had a couple of lovely jumps before calling it a night.

Macy is definitely getting me to be a better rider. She can be aggravating as all hell, but when she’s good, she has a lot of wisdom to share and I really enjoy those moments.

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So, for now, it’s two lessons a week on her with me getting her out by lunging or round penning. It seems to be working for now, and we’ll continue to see what the future holds for this partnership.

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