Tag Archives: horses

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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When You Don’t Have Your Horse

I’ve been reading lots of posts lately about goals, plans, and how they can get all messed up very quickly when you’re dealing with horses. Trust me. I get it. Georgie and I were on our way to becoming a Prelim pair when that got instantly derailed.

And since then I’ve ridden lots and lots of horses. I even bought a baby horse who I hope to have a fun future with. But as someone who likes loves a plan, this has been a really challenging year.

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Yes please to this gallop.

I was certainly lucky to keep riding despite losing Georgie as my partner. From Val the fancy dressage horse to Tiegan the green bean, I’ve kinda ridden just about every level and type. Which is AMAZING. And has truly made me a better rider. What I’ve learned from Macy alone is absolutely priceless.

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Thanks May! I love jumping too.

But what all of this has lacked, is a plan. I tried to make plans with Macy, but that just left me feeling more depressed when things didn’t pan out. So, I stopped making plans with her, and just hope I can keep riding her.

I don’t have a “lets make a plan” horse right now, and that is super duper tough for someone like me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really trying not to complain. I’m just trying to figure out why going to the barn has been a bit lackluster for me recently. Why I am fine with not doing my homework, and instead just hack or work on trot sets over and over, hoping I can improve my time. Not having an end result, or goal, is really tough for me. Especially since my goal typically involves some sort of event where I get to run cross country. Because, let’s be real. That’s why we event.

I know that June is my end result. She’s the goal. But she’s a ways away from being “my horse” in the sense that we’ve got a lot of work to do before we get into real work. So, I continue to the ride the rides I have been given. And continue to learn. And be thankful. But I can’t deny the part of my brain that continues to want to have an end result, a goal with the horses I am currently riding.

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Great rides on Tiegan recently

I’ll get through this funk, and who knows what the future brings. Perhaps that’s the fun of not having plans. You can be pleasantly surprised.

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Forgetting How to Ride

I’ve basically grown up on the back of a horse, or pony, as was the case when I was a wee child. And I feel incredibly comfortable around horses, I would definitely categorize myself as someone with good horse sense.

But put me on someone else horse, and have that person watch me ride their horse, and it’s as if I have never ridden before.

This was true when Sarah had me ride a potential horse for one of her clients. I couldn’t get it to stop jigging even though Sarah had just ridden it without a problem.

I was even like “woah pony, how do I stop you?” with Zoebird, despite how kind the mare was being to me riding her bareback.

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Thanks SprinklerBandits for letting me get the Zoebird experience

And I feel like this was a huge problem when I first started riding Macy.

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Macy was like “just ride you eejit!”

Something Sarah said to me when we went to see that sale horse was “When you try a horse, just ride it how you know to ride.” Sounds simple, and full of great wisdom, right? Yet, I cannot seem to follow those instructions.

Instead I worry if I am giving the horse the right cues, if I am sitting softly, being too handsy, EVERYTHING except just riding the horse.

And while I am not the world’s best rider, I have got more experience in this sport than any other sport I participate in. And no one has told me I am a dangerous rider and sent me packing, so I feel like I am doing ok. Ok enough to ride an unfamilar horse.

June has been coming along great, and we’re finding that you have to keep this mare’s brain engaged and active or she just gives you the finger and becomes a bit obstinate. So, with the groundwork going so well we realized it was time to back her. Dana let me have the first ride on her and sure, getting on my mare for the first time was a bit nerve-wracking but mare didn’t offer anything that as a horsewoman, I should have been concerned about. Yet I got up there and acted like a total novice. Which is great when you are riding a horse who has never had a rider on their back. I gripped with my knees, forgot to engage my core and could not for the life of me be loose and relaxed in the saddle.

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But we do kinda look good together

I didn’t give June my best ride for her first ride. The good news is that we’ll have lots of years together to work on that.

I will say that now that I realize this problem, I’m working on being a confident rider no matter what horse I ride. My first ride on Tiegan went great. I had a good sense of where the horse was at in her training, what she needed, and knew what I wanted to work on with her. I was unable to get the correct lead going right, but I knew to work on that in my lesson and problem solved.

Do any of you have similar issues? Or am I alone in the loss of riding ability when riding someone else’s horse? I think the fact that I am now riding lots of horses is helping but man, it’s taken long enough!

 

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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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June Update!

I am really, really starting to love this baby horse. I feel like we’ve turned a corner and are having so much fun together. Well, I’m having fun, not sure she loves all the round pen work.

I knew she would be going to Trainer Dana’s at the end of the week, so I did as much as I could in preparation. I put shipping boots back on her, did cavaletti work, and maybe did this:

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Could I be any happier?

I just sat on her for about 30 seconds, and she was great. I kinda had to before she left me. I dunno why. But most of you probably totally understand…

She lives with a Palomino mare who she bosses around and I like to turn them out on grass together. As we were heading to the pasture my friend was leading her sister in to ride and I insisted on a picture of them together for compare and contrast purposes.

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Yeah, they look nothing alike. Her sister (different mom) is much more fine boned…

I trailered June down to Trainer D’s yesterday and she was great in the trailer. I was a nervous wreck, but it was my friend’s slant load which she has never had an issue in.

Within minutes of being there we put her in the round pen and she offered this:

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Such a brave baby!

I let Trainer D know that I would love it if she could be exposed to as many novel and scary things as possible while there. The more she sees now, the better. I mentioned having her kids hang all over her, I don’t have kids, so she doesn’t really ever see them.

Last night I got this photo:

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Yup. This is exactly what I meant

I miss June already and know I’ll be sad when I go to the barn and she’s not there, but I am excited to go see her in about a week and see all the progress Trainer D has made with her!

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