Riding/Horses

Eight Years

“10 yo Arab mare, bay, 15h $800”

No picture. No video. No idea why I called the phone number, set up a date to see her or drive the hour to do so.

But I did.

I could say that I made a mistake. She was 150lbs underweight, belly bloated with worms, huge chunks of hair missing, hooves grown over shoes that hadn’t been taken off in over a year and a very shut down attitude towards the world.

Fugly little mare back in 2009.

In the early days I swore I made a mistake. I left the barn in tears more often than not. I tried my hardest to get her to do anything. Even just walk. But she wouldn’t. She’d stand perfectly still while I nudged, clicked, tapped with a crop, kicked, yelled. Not a hair would flinch on her body. And then right when I gave up trying, she’d bolt wildly around all crazy.

Not necessarily safe but not mean either. She just had no interest in pleasing me at all.

Snowy, craptastic Ohio winter day when we went to go look at her.

The best thing I did was move to WI away from the prying eyes and pieces of advice of only partly sane horse people. Once there she was housed in my backyard (we had a sweet set up of renting the second house on a boarding facility until we got evicted when the land owner gambled our monthly rent away and the property was foreclosed on) and I had all the time in the world to slowly work with her and show her that I wasn’t going to leave or ask her to do anything unfair.

It took until year three of our time together before she let me in. Then everything changed.

I’m biased, sure, but damn!!! Look at her now. This was taken this summer at our rental.

In the last eight years Gem has taken me from clueless, but loving horse owner who was mostly a passenger to a much more educated, independent horsewoman and an active, thinking rider. It hasn’t always been fun. It’s likely never going to be pretty. But it has been worth every second of effort I’ve put into her.

Part of me wishes I had blogged at the beginning but mostly I’m glad I didn’t. I’m sure everyone would have just told me to sell her back then and what a shame it would have been to lose out on all these experiences.

Gem went from not able to walk under saddle to bolting madly to having a trainer tell me she’d never be able to canter to becoming a 100 mile endurance horse cantering the first 30 plus miles nearly straight and is now jumping 2′ fences and schooling over starter sized cross country fences.

I’ll never tire of this picture

She isn’t easy but neither am I. I think we do okay together and even with all my complaining on here about her I have no interest in looking at the world through any other ears.  Here is to many more years with my Gemmiecakes!

2018 Volunteer Challenge, Uncategorized

EDITED Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is: A 2018 Challenge/Contest

My new favorite social media saying is “if you’re not doing, you’re just spewing”. Hitting like, sharing and ranting on social media pretty much helps no one if action isn’t also being performed in the background.

A while back I wrote about volunteerism in horse sports and how necessary it is to keep things moving. Without volunteers shows can’t happen. In order to be a doer and not a spewer, I’ve decided to put together a way to entice others to put more time into volunteering.

Introducing the 2018 Call To Volunteering.

Here’s how it works:

1) Sign on up by commenting on this post. You have until January 12th to do so. I had meant to do this before December ended but um…I got a bit busy.

2) Keep track of your volunteer experiences throughout the year. You’ll need to give me the name of the event, the position worked and the number of hours worked. You can do that by adding a comment on this post, on any other post throughout the year or on the page I will be creating once I have the names of those joined. Get the time sin as soon as possible after the event, but at the very least they need to be in by the end of each month.

3) Every hour of volunteer time equals one point. So a four hour dressage scribe position grants you four points.

4) The event can be local, schooling, fun or recognized but must be a real event. Clinics and camps don’t count. I reserve the right to contact the event to verify that you worked it though that will be unlikely.

5) Any equestrian discipline counts. It doesn’t have to be one you compete in and you don;t have to compete at all yourself.

6) This must be volunteer time, so if you get paid to do it it doesn’t count. Food, a swag bag, t shirt is fine, but if they had to pay  you to volunteer it isn’t volunteering. ***EDITED: If you get awards towards your local club or association, discounted schooling days or events, or event entries for volunteering IT WILL STILL COUNT. The only thing that doesn’t is cold hard cash in exchange for hours worked***

What you get

Besides a feeling of warm fuzzies for giving back you mean?

This contest is in its infancy and my dream is to grow it pretty big over time, but for now it’s being funded by yours truly with a smaller than I’d like budget. I’m working on getting sponsors and will be reaching out to various companies. Again, meant to already do that but time slipped away.

Prizes:

1) Each month a random drawing will occur of all those who submitted times for that month. These prizes will be small, under $20 or so, and will be announced at the end of each month. This will reward anyone who got out there and give everyone an equal chance to win something regardless of how much time they can donate.

2.) Each quarter the participant with the most points for that quarter will get a prize package. Currently it is a Riding Warehouse gift package valued at $50 for the first quarter.  As time goes on I will announce the following quarters. If I can get sponsors as planned, this package will grow and grow and grow.

3.) Overall yearly points will continue to accrue, so don’t worry if you have a slow quarter or two. You can always pick back up!

4) Year end will see the person with the most number of volunteer hours spent receive a monogrammed horse cooler. It will have “2018 Volunteer Challenge Champion” or something like that on it.

5) Year end reserve champion will get a nice leather halter with an engraved plate.

So that’s it. I’m very passionate about volunteering and giving back and this is my way of enticing others to get out there and spend some time working these events. Hopefully it is a fun way to grab some cool prizes too. Remember, it can be any position at any event in any discipline. Get out and volunteer people!

Oh and feel free to share this far and wide. The more who participate the better it will look to sponsors and the better the prizes will be. I can only spend so much on my own.

Sign up by 1/12/18!!!!

Farm life

The New Routine

Life is starting to settle on the farm. With the new digs came a new routine and it took me a while to figure out what would work best.

Sunset grazing

While I love the pasture life, I’m not a fan of feeding in it. In order to prevent the faster eating Pete from stealing Gem’s grain, I’d have to stand there and watch them eat. Not so bad in nice weather, but it sucked in the rain, cold or extreme heat. I also didn’t like how the horses had no handling unless I was either riding or going to annoy them with farrier work or other such things. It was making Gem a bit annoying to catch and Pete darn near impossible. He tends towards going feral when he isn’t handled frequently.

All this was solved with the new barn. We’ve been bringing them in for feeding twice daily and it has made a world of difference. Gem can now eat as slowly as she’d like since Pete can’t get to her. This also creates a situation where we are haltering and leading them in/out four times a day.  When Gem sees me coming with a halter these days, she meets me at the gate to see what is up. That is a first in nearly eight years of having her and I love it.

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Food? Food? Are you sure you don’t have food?

The only issue that has popped up is Gem’s decision that she is now an indoor horse and refuses to leave her stall both morning and night to return to the pasture. It takes a solid minute or two to convince her that outside in a green pasture isn’t so terrible before she will slowly drag her fat butt down the barn aisle and outside. She does so in protest too as she drags her legs and hangs her head. Of course the moment she is out she goes trotting away and rolls, so I don’t believe her antics one bit. Life is hard when you are a Princess. I’ve also caught Pete dozing in the morning when I go to turn out. If I didn’t work all day I’d let them stay in for a few hours.

Her typical post turn out roll

Nashers is fitting in as well. I completely failed to get any media of his introduction to the herd, but it was a complete non event. They said hi and got to eating.  He is being slowly introduced to turnout since I have no idea what his grass situation has been before up in RI. Currently he gets to go out with Gem and Pete during the day and is in at night. I’m not sure when we will let him out at night if at all. Once the spring grass starts growing in a few months, we will be back to shorter cycles until he adjusts.

Wyatt helps bring him in and out. Nash needs to learn some better ground manners as he likes to stop a lot to eat clover. i don;t tolerate horses who pull on you or try to stop when being led, so we are working on that. 

All is currently well which is great feeling. There is a lot of work to do around the place and we will slowly get to it all in due time. Right now I’m just happy everyone has settled in.

Goals

2018 Goals….Sort of

Last year was the first time I set yearly goals in writing and it went….poorly. Mostly because I changed my entire focus two months into the year and basically every goal was made obsolete. It was mildly annoying each quarter to look back and realize that nothing I set out to do was going to happen.

In lieu of grand yearly goals for 2018, my focus will be on quarterly goals. I figure that this way I can focus on where we are and where I’d like to be in a more fluid and probably more realistic manner although I still have some things I’d really like to see happen by end of year so perhaps I’ll still throw some bigger plans out to the Universe and see what happens.

Quarter 1

Gem:

1) Get back to a 2-3 times a week riding schedule for consistency. I have the arena at home now and lights. Really there are no valid excuses left.

2) Twice monthly lessons. The last two months have been rather dry due to the move and the holidays. The beginning of the year slows down at work quite a bit too which should help.

3) Switch feeds. Triple Crown has been disappointing since the sale to Purina. I’ve talked to a new rep from another feed that seems promising and with only one bag of TC remaining in my feed room (holy crap I have a feed room!!) it’s time to make the switch.

4) Figure out a good mix of flat rides versus jumps at home. Now that I have a few standards I can jump at home for the first time ever. I’m very nervous about this since I haven’t the foggiest idea about how to set up an exercise. I need to find my 101 Jumping Exercises book and get cracking.

5) Make it to two h/j shows and don’t wimp out of the 2′ division for absolutely no reason. Time for the big girl panties to come out.

6) Make it back out on the cross country course for schooling again.

7) By the end of the quarter have Gem accepting my leg at the trot and begin work on better bend using inside leg

Farm:

1) Get the left side of the property situated. There are two fence lines I want to condense to turn three pastures into one. There is a fourth pasture there too but this one needs some fence work to make safe and a plan on how to connect it through a small patch of woods.

2) Look at the right side and start some tentative plans. This half is trickier as there is a section of woods with a deep creek separating two pastures and then an open area that was used as a burn pile separating another. I’d love to plan a cross country field over on this side. Tentative planning will help future ideas.

3) Hang real cross ties in the aisle and wash rack

4) Make some early plans for the tack room organization

5) Figure out stall bedding. Having never dealt with stalls before I’m a bit clueless as to what works best. Since they are only in stall for a few hours total a day the stalls don’t get that messy. I’ve been stripping them once a week and it’s been fine. The pine shavings I grabbed at TSC are ok but there has to be a better way to buy in bulk.

Me:

1) Ride 2-3 times a week with a mix of solo rides at home and lessons

2) Continue to work on my lower leg position. I’d love to have it in muscle memory by end of the quarter

3) Learn to relax when jumping. Trust Gem a bit more and go with the flow better.

4) Gain a better balance with the release over jumps. Right now I either throw my reins all the way up by her ears losing all contact or I don’t release much at all and get her in the mouth.

By End of Year

1) Complete a HT at any height, most likely amoeba (18″)

2) Begin work over 2’3″ stadium fences

3) Have a decent canter in dressage with ability to show the BN dressage tests

4) Have all pastures reconfigured

Farm life, Riding/Horses

Wyatt Meets Nashville

Friday was a screwy day. I was expecting the shipper to come in later in the day but Thursday night he called me to say he’d be there around 9 am. I had to leave for the OR by 10 and was really nervous about getting Nash and leaving right away hoping he’d still be alive when I got home later that night.

Thankfully my Aunt and Uncle, the ones who taught me how to ride, moved down here last year and were eager to help out. They came that morning and stayed all day watching over him. I couldn’t thank them enough.

I had two surgeries to do and true to form with this OR my start time kept getting bumped back. The first case went amazing but the second fell apart a bit. It turned out good in the end, but it took all my training and skills to figure out. By the time I finally left it was 5:15 and getting dark.

Dusty was getting out at the same time so he grabbed Wyatt and I went straight home. My Aunt and Uncle were still there and my parents had come as well. It was late and it was dark.

I got home just before Dusty and Wyatt and I asked Wyatt for a favor. I told him something odd had showed up in the barn and I needed his help figuring it out. We walked into the barn and I pointed out the stall. Wyatt couldn’t see over and neither could Nash, so I picked him up and he just about lost his crap right there.

He was so excited!!

We took Nash out and Wyatt immediately asked to walk him then wanted to ride. We wandered down to the arena, threw the lights on for the first time and Wyatt climbed right up. Bareback. He giggled and laughed as we went around and then asked if he could jump. We went over a ground pole and then a small cross rail that Nash just stepped over and Wyatt was on cloud nine.

Eventually we convinced him to get down but only because everyone was leaving. He then brushed him out and picked his feet and asked to go on again. So we did.

Saturday morning he got up and ran outside to grab Nash. He walked him around then got his helmet to ride. Dusty took him all over the one pasture, up and down hill and Nash didn’t put a foot wrong. When he got stubborn and stopped, Wyatt pony club kicked and told him to walk on and he did. They even trotted some.

The best thing is how brave Wyatt is. I went back and forth with Trainer on what to get. She thought a 14h, older, been there done that horse would be best as he could have many, many years growing into it. But I knew Wyatt’s biggest issue was height and perceived speed and I was concerned that a 14h horse wouldn’t be much better than Gem at 15h. Nash has proven to be exactly what I wanted: a great confidence booster and something Wyatt would be comfortable handling and riding from the start. So far that is exactly what has been happening. He has been walking him around, brushing him, picking his feet and happily climbing up and down on his own. When he nearly fell off he just laughed.

Who knows if his interest will remain this high or what will happen, but I’m very happy I got Nashville. He will teach Wyatt a lot even if he decides he doesn’t want to ride much. And when he does outgrow him, I plan to break him to drive.

Wyatt has kept both his full name and barn name as Nashville and Nash. I call him Little Nashers. After the holidays I’ll need to find a nice used pony bridle and saddle. Wyatt has already decided his colors will be neon green and black (his favorites) so I need to get looking for saddle pad and bonnet in those.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Uncategorized

Nashville

The ink wasn’t even dry on our closing papers and there I was paypaling a crap ton of money to a stranger for a pony I hadn’t even met.

There wasn’t any reason I had to add the stress of purchasing and transporting a pony from out of state on top of buying a house, moving, and filming for the show. The idea had gotten into me though and it just had to happen. Right then.

Right after I posted on here my lament that there were no ponies to be found, I stumbled on a FB group called “Packer ponies and horses for sale”. Huh. Sounded pretty perfect. It opened up my search nation wide and I immediately saw that there were a lot more prospects in my budget outside of my region where the same type of ponies were being listed for double or triple the price.

Early on I stumbled upon an ad for a nice looking welsh gelding. He did it all: w/t/c, 2′ jumps and trail rides. He was listed at the top of my budget and was located in RI which turned me off of him at first. Having just expanded the search, I was hoping to find something closer and less stressful to coordinate shipping.

As time wore on though, I kept going back to his ad and comparing everything else to him. Finally I caved and contacted the owner. A long conversation ensued and next thing I knew I was sitting in the lawyers office sending over money to a stranger hoping the pony really existed.

Next up was the stress of finding transport but it turned out to be extremely easy with living so close to Aiken and all the northern transplants heading this way for winter training. I ended up with several options and chose a delivery date of 12/22 (today!!!).

The last week flew by with moving and filming and I loved the seller who kept me in the loop with regards to the health certificate, shipping conversations and how he was doing. She sent me the bill of sale, a copy of his Coggins and the health certificate.

And then this morning I saw the truck pull up and my new love unloaded.

His stats: 9 year old 12h welsh pony. Broke to ride w/t/c, jumps to 2′, auto lead changes (um…yeah he is better trained than Gem). Not registered, but I don’t care. He is a gelding. Super easy going nature, been on trails and around kids. Perfection.

Without further ado here is the first of many photo spams of Nash. Wyatt hasn’t met him yet so be prepared for that post coming up 🙂 Doing this on the app is driving me crazy but I don’t have internet at home yet. Sorry for any inevitable funkiness in this post.

His little head poking out the trailer window already stole my heart.

The hauler said he loaded well and travelled like a complete gentleman. His partner in the trailer was an equally adorable black pony traveling from RI to GA

He seemed happy to be out of the snow and in grass again. He was quiet and got busy being mosey immediately

His tiny little ears stole my heart!

I love the look on his face. Gem is all “Oh! What new friend did you bring me?” Nash is like “Dear God what is that thing?!”

We sectioned off a smaller paddock in front of the arena to let him stretch his legs and have a small quarantine period.

I let him off the lead rope and spent time walking away, going back and catching him again, letting him off, jumping around, making loud noises. He could have cared less about any of it.

Since he came from snow and hasn’t had green grass in months, I let him out for about half an hour and then tucked him away in a stall with a big pile of hay. He was drinking great, peed clear and by the time I had to leave to make it to the OR (to sit here and wait while my case got bumped) he was settling in for a nice nap. Wyatt will get to meet him tonight after work and then we will likely have some monitored meeting time with the Dynamic Duo tomorrow and Sunday.

I can’t wait to see Wyatt’s reaction when he meets his new pony. And now all my December craziness is complete. Life should return to normal soon.

Uncategorized

It Has Been A Bit Crazy

Waggy says that life on the farm is exhausting!

Phew! What a whirlwind this past week has been. Last weekend we moved into the new house and even though this is move number eight in thirteen years and I should be a pro by now I completely forgot how awful it is. Add to it that Dusty had to work Saturday morning, so we packed the truck Friday night and then my parents came and helped me unload Saturday morning. If a piece of furniture was moved, I was holding one end of it. I could barely function come Sunday.

The Dynamic Duo are settling into the new routine of coming inside to eat. It looks a bit silly having only two horse heads down such a long barn aisle.

Having moved so much I’ve come to learn to not stress at all about it. The first time I moved, way back in 2006, everything was a big deal: how the boxes were labeled, where the furniture ended up, how the kitchen was unpacked. I was a big ball of unfun. Since then though I’ve learned a few things: something important will be forgotten, something you love will get broken and no matter what your furniture will never fit the way you expected/wanted it to.

So now I just roll with it and shove boxes wherever, put the furniture however it best goes and deal with the rest. It’s much easier that way than to fight it.

There has been something else up my sleeve too which I haven’t been able to talk about until now and has added to my already full schedule of end of year work and the move.

We are going to be on House Hunters!!!!!

Unfortunately I can’t spill much beyond that. All filming is complete and it was a total blast. It required a bunch of time off work and a bit of shuffling around, but I would do it again in a heart beat. It helped that our field producer, Joe, was amazing. He kept us all in track somehow between all the laughter and screw ups. I haven’t laughed that much in a real long time.

We have no clue when it will air, but I’ll be sure to post it so everyone can laugh at me. Gem should make an appearance or two as well. For anyone local, or who wants to take a trip, we are going to have a major viewing party when it airs (we get a dvd copy) with an outside projector screen and a bonfire. All who want to come are welcome!

Gem staring me down through her new fence wondering what I’m up to.

Now that that is completed we are returning to our normal, way less fun, lives and trying to get settled into the new routine. Each house we have lived in has dictated its own flow and we are in the early stages of figuring that all out.

I have managed to ride, and jump!!, once in the new arena which was nice and as we get past the holidays hope to return to my 2-3 day a week riding schedule again.

One more big happening is about to be ticked off my to do list on Friday this week and then life will settle back down once again.