Riding/Horses

Horse #2: F

While I was at the barn, the seller mentioned there was a mare that would suit me as well. She was already in the barn, so we looked at her first.

F was a 9 yo, 16H TB that was trained at the track but not raced. She was schooling 3′ at home and giving w/t/c lessons to beginner kids as well as taking beginners to shows and giving trail rides. She was taken to a nearby river and apparently loved the water, but she had no actual cross country experience.

I’ll admit to being unimpressed at the start. To my eyes she was a plain brown, large mare with no hair.

As we walked into the ring I was prepared to remain unimpressed as was Trainer, but we were wrong.

Look how long her neck is! And it wasn’t up by my nose!

F went around the ring like everything was no big deal. Past jumps decorated from kid camp days that I can tell you with certainty Gem wouldn’t have even entered that arena decorated like that. She carried herself well and was obedient and relaxed about everything.

Since she was the first one I sat on, I was pretty nervous. She was tall and so very different than what I was used to.

And then I sat on her and felt comfortable from the get go. She listened so well to everything I asked. Once I set her up on a path or at a certain pace and gait, she held it until told otherwise. It was the lightbulb I needed to realize how hard Gem has been.

It’s apparent in these videos how much more relaxed I am on her. It felt good guys. Like really good.

She was so comfortable that I began to push her a bit more to see how she would react. The mere fact that I was brave enough to start upping the pressure said a whole lot.

And F never disappointed. She went around w/t/c calm and relaxed with a gentle mind and a kind heart for my mistakes. In fact, the only negative was that she took a whole lot of leg to get going and stay going. I ended up grabbing a crop to help and I’d think I’d likely need spurs for her. Not the worst issue after my hypersensitive mare, just one I’m not used to and my legs were a bit jello like at the end.

It was neat to ride with Trainer and hear things like “Ride her back toes. Move her forward. Go, go go.” Typically all I ever hear is “Slow down, no slower, SLOW DOWN”. Polar opposites.

After I got off her and we returned to the barn to look over H, she showed her true personality in her stall. She was silly, curious and a doll. I really, really liked her.

I didn’t purchase her either though I was tempted and have gone back and forth a ton since trying her.

At the end of the day though I think she was a bit too quiet for me. She never complained and went along pleasantly enough but lacked any spark. She jumped because it was in front on her and I doubt she’d ever pull a dirty stop or run out but she didn’t have that look in her eyes that showed me she enjoyed doing this. She was obedient because that is who she is.

Plus she has a physical issue that made me nervous. I’d for sure do a PPE on her and figure it out, but at 9 years old she could end up having a very long life as a pasture pet and I don’t need that either. It broke my heart to walk away from her sweet disposition, but after a lot of internal debate I knew I couldn’t take a gamble on a potentially forever lame horse.

So as much as I enjoyed my ride on F, I let her go.

Riding/Horses

Horse #1: H

I want to chronicle this shopping journey to look back and compare rides and remember what I thought. If anyone thinks this is highly inappropriate, please politely let me know what is wrong and why. I don’t want to hurt any seller or a horse’s chance of being bought and will not get into anything controversial or rude but want to present an overall picture of how I personally felt on each horse and why.

H was what brought me to the barn on Tuesday night. The seller commented on an ISO post and he looked really nice. When I found out how close he was to me, I just had to set up a time to go meet him. What was really funny was that the farm he was at was one we were supposed to look at to buy but the seller kept changing the date for the showing and then we bought the one we did. And I’m glad we did.

But. The horse.

H is a 13 year old, 16.1H Registered Appendix Gelding. He was on consignment at the barn to sell and as such the seller didn’t have exactly all the info.

I take bad pictures

The most memorable thing about him was how measurably uphill he was built. Incredibly uphill. It surprised Trainer. It made him look much taller than he really was.

He was schooling 2’9″ at home, had trail experience and had been to a few small shows without fuss. What really caught my eye was how gentle he looked in the show ring with horses all around.

I was nervous to get on him even though I rode him second (but I list him first because he is was brought me to the farm and I’m still unsure of how to talk about the other one). While he never did anything wrong at all, he had a tenseness to him that made my wimpy self nervous. In fact he reminded me a lot of our Pete. Never doing anything wrong but had the look like he could.

Under saddle he rode well. It took me a while to get comfortable enough to push him but once I did he felt great. He needed a lot of direction and wanted constant feedback from the rider to make sure what he was doing was right, but never put a foot wrong.

You can tell in the videos that I’m tense on him and he still goes around the ring just fine remaining steady and even while the rider on his back does her best impression of a piece of rebar.

When I cantered him…well let’s say it was near orgasmic. He was so uphill that the canter felt effortless. It was impossible not to sit it and my face was in a grin that nearly hurt it was so big. I could have cantered him all day and cantering is my weakest gait.

Eventually I felt ok enough to hop over the tiny cross rail and it felt like it was barely even there. He was so leggy and the jump so small.

In the end though I didn’t purchase him. He did absolutely nothing wrong the entire time. He stood still for mounting and had great brakes. He never said no or made a fuss. I just wasn’t comfortable enough on him. I felt uneasy pushing him through no fault of his own and I’m not looking for another horse that needs that level of input. I want a baby sitter for me.

As I explained to Trainer: he would be a horse to either do amazing things on or to crush what little confidence I do have. I wasn’t ready to take that gamble.

Trainer loved everything she saw though and I hope he finds a great home. I bet he will be a force to reckon with at shows once he finds his person as he had a lot of natural talent and was a ready and willing guy.

Sadly, he wasn’t the one for me though.

Riding/Horses

Two Rides In And My Whole World Is Shook Up

Tuesday night I test rode two nice horses that were very close to my home. It seemed silly to not try them. Trainer came as well which was very helpful through the entire process. It also helped that I had just sold Nash and experienced what other people do for a test ride as I was pretty clueless what to expect.

I’m still figuring out what all I feel comfortable sharing online about a sales horse. Just because a particular horse wasn’t right for me or my goals doesn’t mean it was a bad horse and I don’t want to harm anyone in the making of these posts. However, I do want to chronicle what I try and how it went as a comparison through the journey. So we will see what I come up with in the coming days.

For now I want to talk big picture. You see, riding Gem has been my entire adult riding experience. For better and for worse. I knew in theory that she was difficult but since it was all I knew I generally chalked it up to me not being a good enough rider. Which in part is still true to a degree. You can only take so many lessons hearing the exact same thing before it becomes a bit demoralizing, you know?

Wyatt caught another small mouth bass in the pond. He is getting really good at fishing

Going into the test ride I was so nervous I nearly had to pull over and vomit out of my car door. These horses were so different than what I was used to. Would I make a complete fool of myself? What if I couldn’t ride them? What if I was scared to death on them? So many thoughts.

Then I showed up and did what I always do when I’m nervous: I talked a million miles an hour about useless stuff. It’s a skill. Then it was time for the seller to get on and Trainer and I watched them go. Trainer was pretty silent and waited for me to make my own comments on what I saw, what I liked and what I was concerned about. When it was my turn to climb aboard, Trainer treated it just like a lesson. She put me to task immediately and we did walk, trot and canter both directions, tested bend and jumped a cross rail on the short side so that we could see how the horse handled after the jump.

Hanging with my bud

I’ll go into more detail on each horse in another post, but here I want to go over my general take aways from the entire experience.

  • Holy crap. Why have I tortured myself for the last 8 years?! I love Gem. That should be apparent, but as soon as I got on these two it was a 2×4 to the head how much easier life is on a horse who is obedient at the most basic level. When I asked to trot, we trotted. We didn’t jig or become a tense giraffe. We trotted nicely at the same pace every stride. Not the “each stride at a different speed to make things interesting” approach I’ve dealt with for nearly a decade. And once I changed gaits it wasn’t the end of the world either. I could canter and return to the trot or walk without a fight. With Gem once we canter it’s game over. I either canter for the rest of the ride or get off. Nothing else can get done.
  • Trainer got to see me on a different ride and gained insight. At the end she remarked how nice it was to see me on something different as it gave her a better understanding about what is a “me issue” versus a “Gem issue”. I still like to carry my lower leg too forward and braced and I still lock my elbows but I can actually use my legs and I can actually cue to canter. And steer. And be steady with my body and not flopping all over creation getting left behind one stride and going ahead another.
Tractor dog
  • I’m not as scared as I thought I was. While I doubt I’ll ever be one for the fast and furious horse (I’m not an adrenaline junky) I can feel comfortable and safe on a horse I just met. Even a 16+h tall horse. I was very worried horses of that size would scare me after riding my tiny Gem for so long. Nope.
  • While my eye for conformation isn’t very honed, I saw all the potential pit falls that Trainer did. Part of me was nervous that I wouldn’t see past the new horse thing for what was truly there. Trainer pointed out some conformational things and training scale things I wasn’t aware of, but in general I didn’t miss anything major in my assessment.
  • I can walk away without buying the horse. I’m not very good at just looking. I tend to buy. I did take a check with me in case things were amazing, but I was able to walk away on my own and think things through over night. The next day I was able to close the door on one of them and keep it open on the other yet still not feel pressured when I told someone else was looking the next day.
You spread lies about me, woman
  • I want a new horse. This is hard for me to admit. I’m committed to Gem. I feel guilty. I’m having a hard time imagining pulling new horse out of the pasture to ride and giving new horse my attention while ignoring Gem. It’s been nearly a decade of just the two of us. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve learned has been with her. The good, the bad and the ugly. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. And I’m giving up on her. She isn’t telling me she wants to retire. I’m telling her. And it hurts. But I still want a different horse for this sport. It’s insanity to keep putting my all into a horse who is this inherently difficult. Who makes a simple walk trot easy stretch ride at home degrade into a 45 minute battle to just flipping HALT when asked. At 20 years old. I’m tired of that. I don’t want to do it any more.

I have pictures and video to share of the two horses I tried out Tuesday night and will get those up soon. I haven’t bought either yet though I’m still pretty drawn to the one. If the horse doesn’t sell before Sunday I have the opportunity to take the horse xc schooling at FENCE with trainer and if it went well we might be done with horse shopping. There are some concerns that I have though that may kill it off for good.

But more on that to come.

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My Own Future

Before this gelding popped up, horse shopping wasn’t even on my radar. Mentally I had prepared for 2-3 more years with Gem and then begin looking as she starts fading into retirement in her mid 20s.

Stumbling across his ad threw me for a loop and I’m not sure what to think now. I know I’m not ready to put an ISO ad out there and the thought of setting up trial rides and spending my time doing that is a bit daunting at the moment.

After the initial disappointment passed, I began a fevered search of sale ads. I know what I want and what I won’t tolerate. Being so close to Aiken has the benefit of a constant stream of event horses for sale but the downside is that they are either green or $20,000 neither of which is on my list of doable. So it may take a while for that unicorn to pop back up.

If one does, I’m likely to run into the same issue I did with this guy. Apparently nobody else works day jobs in the equestrian world and by the time I can get to a horse, it will probably be sold. Evening appointments to ride after work aren’t considered acceptable either. But I tend to believe that things happen as they will and that the Universe has not only its own sense of timing but a wicked sense of irony and a dark sense humor too.

It could stop raining at some point though

There is one farm I’ve been following for a year now. They have really nice looking horses in my price range and typically have a good selection at any given time. They are in MD however (a town called Tuscarora) and over 7 hours away. I made a date with them for the weekend after my boards to go try as many as they think would suit what I’m looking for. I gave them a very honest list of my abilities and desires so we will see. I asked them to email me a list of what they had available the week before so I could make sure the trip will be worth it. I may not come home with anything, but if I got to sit on a handful of horses it would be worth it. Its about a month away, so we will see what that brings.

In the meantime, I’ve hired a professional to finish my arena so hopefully Gem and I can get back to it. I’ve re watched the rounds from the schooling show we did before I took a hiatus and in hindsight we actually didn’t look as bad as it felt. I think we’ve come a pretty long way and would like to see where we can go with this as I await the arrival of my unicorn. I’m in no rush yet willing and able to jump as opportunity arises and I think that’s a pretty good place to be.

More of this would be nice
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Sunday Went A Little Differently

The plan was to go try this gelding. Fall magically in love. Buy him. Turn the Three Musketeers into the Fantastic Four. Conquer cross country and show in my first horse trial this June.

Instead we turned the Three Musketeers back into the Dynamic Duo.

Goodbye Big Guy. I hope the best for you.

I never got to see the gelding. He sold Thursday, came available again Friday and then sold again Saturday. It was fine though. I wasn’t set on it and there will be more to try in the future.

But what happened to Nashville? A lot really.

I’ve been fairly silent about him on here. I had such mixed feelings about him. He’d be great for a while and then pull some crap like the time he bit Wyatt’s arm for no reason. Or the time I gave him a spring bath and it went spiraling so far down hill that I ended up losing my temper and throwing the sponge at him and flipping him the bird. I’m not proud of that. He just pushed all my buttons and I cracked. Dusty finished the bath for me before I did something I’d really regret.

We’ve been struggling with what to do with him for a while. He craved attention and the ability to be his full pony self and he wasn’t getting it. I had hoped my ultimatum would be the push Wyatt needed to start interacting with Nash more. He didn’t have to ride him. Simply hanging with him, being his friend, loving him was enough.

It worked for a bit. He rode him Monday and Tuesday and enjoyed it. Then he asked to ride him Friday. He rode Gem in from the pasture bareback and giggled the entire time. When he got on Nash, Nash pulled a dirty buck and threw him. That ended that.

It was back to debating his fate. For all his flaws he had one job: take care of Wyatt. That’s it and he was failing at that though that was mostly our fault. Being worked for 10 minutes maybe 3 times a month wasn’t doing him any favors.

I decided to put an ad out and see what would happen. If he didn’t sell in a couple of weeks, I’d send him to pony boot camp. Saturday morning his ad hit and Sunday afternoon he sold.

The lady knew  ponies and loved his personality. She rode him w/t/c and over a small cross rail. She adored him and has a lovely farm with a lesson program where he will get to be ridden consistently and loved on a lot. His personality won’t be a hinderance, but instead something laughed at and enjoyed. He couldn’t have been very happy living in a place that didn’t understand him. She laughed at things that drove me nuts and he soaked it all up begging for more attention. I fully believe that he will have a happier life having a job and loads of people who love him and I wish him many happy years. I do worry about his future. I was his 4th home that I knew of in his short 9 years on earth and that just sucks. I had planned on him spending the next 20 years with us growing old and being lazy in the sunshine.

But in the end it couldn’t happen like that and it makes me more sad than I thought it would. Sure I could have let him be a pasture puff for the next 20 years, but I’ve learned a lot having Gem and I knew deep down that Nash needed a loving home versus a tolerant one. Everyone deserves to be appreciated for who they are and loved and he wasn’t getting that from us. He was getting punished for being himself and that wasn’t fair.

Wyatt handled it better than I thought. He cried and it broke my heart, but when offered one last ride he refused saying he was scared. Wyatt really needs lessons until he is w/t/c and then we can revisit the horse thing though he won’t get a pony again. Ponies and I don’t get along.

Loo Mom! I’m Super Mud Boy!

The Dynamic Duo were happy to see Nash go. Nash bullied Pete to no end and poor old man winter kept coming in with fresh bite wounds at Nash level all over his body. Nash wanted Gem to himself and Pete was getting pushed away time and again. At 28 he didn’t need that stress. Gem was stressed as well by all this. I think most of her ulcer issues were Nash induced and it will be interesting to see how she does without him. I was also growing tired of all the bite wounds on her too.

I’ll miss him more than I thought. At the moment it happened I felt relief that he would be gone to a home that would work with him and give him a purpose, but that night it sunk in and I grew very sad. He was adorable. Wyatt was adorable with him. They could have had so much fun together. But they didn’t. Reality sucks sometimes. As I explained to Wyatt, when you love something you have to put their best interest above yours. I immediately followed their barn on Facebook and will be stalking him and his progress so hopefully I can see how much better he is doing.

On to the future I suppose. As ever changing as it is.

These two have no worries about finding a new home. They are as stuck with us as we are with them.
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So Many Thoughts and Emotions

First a shout out to Emma for texting with me during a work day while I was stressing out about things and stuff. Mostly things and stuff the hubby is tired of listening to.

Here’s the deal. I have found a horse I really want to try out and potentially purchase. I have a time set up on Sunday to go try him, but there are a number of people already scheduled before me so it may be a moot point anyway. It did, however, bring up a whole lot of thoughts and emotions I didn’t even know I had.

Writing helps me explore those, so you all get to be dragged down with me 😉

Being realistic, I have time to ride one horse. Heck, I barely have time even for that. Gem is a multiple rides a week type of horse. Sure, I could ride her once a month, but it wouldn’t be fun and why put both of us through that? This means that if I did end up purchasing a new horse, Gem would be defaulted to retired status. Not the end of the world for her – nice grassy pastures, twice a day grain and plenty of sunshine for the next decade.

I’m just not so sure I’m ready for that and I don’t know if she is either.

img_2493
10 am naps in the sun doesn’t really seem like a bad life

 

Look, I know she is hard and is making learning a new discipline for a part time ammy rider with confidence issues harder than it needs to be. There are evenings I really, really want to ride, but decide not to because I am already stressed and have no interest in fighting with her.

An easier going, better suited to this sport for my riding ability horse would be a thrill to own. I would ride more often, likely advance more in my skills and abilities and have more fun.

But I love my Gem and I’m not scared of her, I just don’t always want to deal with her crap. I’m excited to see where we would end up in 2-3 years with more work. She has made me a better rider and honestly probably more confident than I realize. It is hard to gauge when I haven;t ridden anything else for so long.

For her part, she still readily meets me at the gate. Now that she is on hold until my exam is behind me, she is starting to give me signs that she misses the work. Or at least the attention the work brought along with it. I don’t think she is ready to be a pasture pet.

Waggy stealing a drink from the horse water trough

Of course, I’m also not sure she really enjoys this new work. She tolerates it and is getting better and better, but like it? Probably not. She is settling into it and figuring out what I’m expecting of her, but she also got ulcers for the first time in her life with me when we started ramping up the schedule. It could have been her heat, the move, the spring grass etc…but she has moved before, had many heats and been out on grass for 5 years all while putting in way more saddle time and travelling a whole lot more with nary an issue. I think it is the stress of the new job.

So maybe retiring her to a second string job would be better for her in her senior years. Even though I’m barely asking anything of her with 18″ jumps, it may be too stressful for her mentally to handle well. Or maybe I’m trying to come up with an excuse to side line her and not feel bad about it.

The other thought I had was that the new horse could be used as a back up horse for a while and keep Gem in the starting line up. I could still ride her twice a week as normal and then squeeze in some rides on new horse when able. But that kinda defeats the purpose of spending that much money on a horse of his caliber. Why bother just to let him sit and age over the next 2-3 years until I’m ready to retire Gem?

And none of this touches on the financial impact of owning two horses. Thankfully, I no longer board or else this wouldn’t even be a consideration, but it still means two sets of tack. My saddles are adjustable which would help as long as the style of panels fits the new horse, but if they don’t it would mean an entire new saddle. Which I probably couldn’t really afford without selling one of my others and I don’t really want to do that. Of course, if I side line Gem I wouldn’t need her saddles any longer as she would be happier going back to riding in her endurance gear and being a trail horse once again. So in theory I could sell both my dressage and jump saddle if needed and not wreck my ability to ride Gem in the way she prefers any way.

I’m really battling over this. The truth is I want a different ride for the arena life. I want to enjoy doing all the things without fighting all the time. I want to not stress about every tiny thing and will it piss the mare off or not. I want it to be easier, not less work, but inherently easier on a more easy going horse who enjoys life as an eventer.  And that makes me feel guilty. I love my Gem. She has a forever home with me regardless of what she is doing. She has given me so much and while she is hard, she does try in her own way and gives it all she has even if all she has is being tense and hard to manage.

The hard truth? I want Gem, but I want her to be different and that isn’t possible.

So I’m going to keep my appointment to try out this gelding as long as he is still available by then. Who knows? I may ride him and get off thinking “eh, Gem is better and I wish I had ridden her instead” or I could hop down and go “wow, so this is what I’ve been missing all these years?!”. Either way I’ll learn something about myself and what I want. I can then continue my casual watching of the horse ads that flood my Facebook feed from Aiken for anything else that may catch my eye. I’ve been casually watching it for almost a year now and this gelding is the first one that has really grabbed my attention. Well, the first one in my price range which is hard to find in the area where most horses with experience in eventing are being listed upwards of $15,000 and I refuse to shell out that kind of dough to hop over 18″ cross rails like a boss. My search may end up taking quite a while in the end anyway.

Just a casual picture of my Smokey cat. Except she is in the living room where she is not allowed. The bedrooms are separated from the living space by a screen door which she has learned to open and now goes any where she darn well pleases. 

Anyone have any insights on what to do during a test ride? Thankfully Trainer will be there with me, but um…well confession time…I’ve never test rode a horse before. I bought Gem without getting on her due to her emaciated and neglected state. No way was I gong to ride her in that condition and no way was I gong to walk away and leave her there. Anything I should specifically do with said horse while on him? I’m very nervous about the whole thing.

Farm life

Arena Renovation Part 2

Yard work doesn’t bother me in general. Weeding, mowing, planting, cleaning stalls. I can find pleasure in it all.

Except raking. I despise raking. Not only is the actual act of raking annoying but then you need to pick up all those piles and figure out what to do with them. Raking is a never ending project. I hates it.

Once the arena was fully torn up, it was time to tackle all those clumps of grass and weeds. They needed removed and this has to be done by hand. With a rake.

No joke, literally 20 hours of hand raking through all the clumped sand to pull out the grass and weeds left me with all of 1/32nd of the total arena done. It looked super nice in the tiny corner I finished. At that rate I might have a workable arena again by next spring. If I’m lucky.

The bottom left corner of the arena is what I accomplished in 20 hours of raking. I still needed to go back through the corner again to rip up the remaining grass. It was disheartening. 

This wasn’t going to work. Sure the footing was looking amazing and I was getting some baller abs from all the raking, shoveling and scooping, but every time I looked up and saw the hundreds of hours still ahead of me I wanted to die a little.

It was time for a plan B: use the front loader of the tractor and just scoop the crud out.

While this method proved to be quick and way less work, it also was removing too much. The entire effort was in retaining as much of the sand footing as possible while still removing the crud and this method was removing everything.

I hopped off the tractor and sighed. Not going to work.

It was on to plan C: use the grooming fork part of the drag to break up the clumps of sand as much as possible in an attempt to lessen the amount of raking.

This proved a good compromise. The rake broke up the major piles and spread them thinner so it was quicker and easier to hand rake through. I started attacking the arena with a new vigor.

Then 10 more hours later I looked up and saw I had completed roughly 1/16th of the arena and the other half I had yet to touch at all was regrowing grass as my pulled up clumps had re rooted. Add in a ton of rain killing off days or weeks at a time where the arena couldn’t be worked and this entire project was seeming a bit daunting.

On to plan D: call in a professional.