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The Back Up Horse

Have you ever noticed that the moment you say “never”, life throws you into a situation to change your mind? The Universe sure is a funny thing.

I’ve never understood the idea of having a back up horse. A horse that isn’t your main mount, but is rideable for the times when you want to and your main mount isn’t able. I mean, I had Gem – a horse who is always sound and has the ability to work more than I ever have the time to work her. Any time I wanted to ride, it was as simple as tacking her up and going. Well, maybe not quite that simple as some days it took me 40 minutes to catch her and the rides were anything but “easy” but physically she was always there when I could ride. What would I have ever done with a back up horse besides pay to board it? I barely found the time to keep Gem in consistent work.

My Gemmie. She still has my heart even if I’m happy to not be riding her

But then Doofus entered my life and has been out of commission more than in and when I looked down and saw that missing shoe I lost it. Poor Hubby got the brunt of it with his ill timed call and by the end of my spewing rage at the Universe in general, Doofus in specific, he told me to go and buy a second riding horse, remove the shoes from Doofus, let his hooves grow out as originally planned while out in the pasture being mindfully ignored until next summer, and be done with this nonsense.

And I finally get it. I understand the need for a back up horse. Thanks Life for the lesson.

Saw this little filly up for sale for $600. She is the spitting image of my Gem.

It is tempting.  I went so far as to specifically lay out in my mind what I would want: 15 yo, been there done that, no spook/rear/bolt/kick/bite, has experience at BN xc or in the jumper ring to 2’6″, goes out on trails alone or in a group. SOUND. Barefoot. Basically what I was looking for when I decided on H’Appy only double the age because the back up horse wouldn’t need to be my main mount for the next 10-15 years as I hoped H’Appy would be (I still think if he lives to 10 I will be lucky).

This face. It is 100% Gem staring at me in itty bitty filly form. I came this close to getting my truck and trailer and buying her. She is 30 minutes from me. I could raise her my way. Send her to a good trainer. But yeah…doesn’t solve my riding problem of the moment.

I looked through sales pages again. Found a mare I really, really liked and went so far as to contact the seller and set up a test ride (she sold later that same day) and tracked down a horse Trainer recommended as a BN packer type (he requires a lot of maintenance though and that doesn’t qualify for a back up horse in my mind).

And then Sunday I shoved his barefoot hoof into the boot and went for a ride. Was it perfect? No, Doofus is still Doofus and while not exactly the horse I thought I was buying I know he is in there and can feel in my gut that he is worth sticking with. I’m excited to see where we will be in a year if he stays sound, injury free and with shoes on.

Wyatt helps with horse chores. He can lead Gem all by himself while I take Pete or H’Appy. She is so good with him. I do love this mare.

I’m not ruling out getting a back up horse though. When the Hubby gives a green light to buy a horse I’d be stupid to completely ignore it. It is so very tempting with an injury prone PITA gelding that can’t keep his crap together long enough to get 3 rides in a week. Back up horse would be there, ready and able to to go when H’Appy found himself yet again laid up with some self induced trauma or another and I could get back to my own riding goals and progress.

The thing that holds me back is what on earth I would do when H’Appy decides to turn into a real horse, stop injuring himself and get with the program and now I have two horses that need ridden and one butt to do so. I don’t have a show barn with kids lining up for any free ride they can sneak in and I have enough trouble squeezing three rides in a week myself.

Happy Halloween! Dusty cut out plywood headstones and Wyatt and I painted them. He came up with all the sayings and hand painted all the words. He has difficulty with writing and I was so proud of him!

Like I said, I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not actively seeking it either. My eyes are open and I am ready to jump on something if it looks absolutely perfect, but I won’t be making an ISO ad or spending hours on the internet scrolling through sales ads. Most horses are out of my price range (back up horse also needs to be cheap), too young, or not experienced enough for what I want. We will see. I may look into a free lease option, but damn if I’m not too type A to handle having a horse I can’t call all the shots on.

Do any of you have a back up horse waiting in the wings for when your main mount goes rogue on you?Does it ease the stress of not being able to ride or add more when you see the horse and know you don’t have time because main mount is able bodied again?

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Oh Crap! October is Over

Man, where did this month go??? Tomorrow is Halloween, my son’s favorite holiday, which means it is the end of this months random drawing for a $20 prize.

So far I have:

Amy – 24 hours
Emma – 13 hours
Amanda C – 15.5 hours
Nadia – 2 hours
Sarah – 20 hours

Anyone else? I’ll do the drawing on Thursday and announce the winner!

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Three Shoes, Nine Toes, Don’t Care

One thing H’Appy is bound and determined to teach me is to loosen up, go with the flow and screw perfection. Those are hard lessons to learn at 36 with a life time of being excessively Type A behind me.

He finally stopped trying to run to the next county when I touched his back on Tuesday. The scratch was healing nicely and I looked forward to getting him back to work. Again. The thing with him is that he isn’t always fun right now but I know without a doubt that once he is back to a routine and getting worked consistently again he will be amazing. It’s that whole consistency thing we are having issues with at the moment.

It’s a major win to get him shiny. I love shiny coat and his was so full and brittle when I got him. I made it a mission to get it better. It is nearly there

I was hoping to ride Friday but it was disgusting out. In the low 40s and pouring. The type of cold that gets into your bones and will not leave. Yeah. No thanks.

Saturday was gorgeous though and Sunday was supposed to be even better (spoiler it was!!). Dusty did morning chores at 540am before he headed to work and all was fine. At 12:30pm I headed out and was greeted by a nicker from Gem which always pulls me in the pasture for scratches. I should write a whole post on how different she is in retirement. Anyway… there I was scratching on my main mare when Doofus, the most jealous horse on the planet, comes sauntering up and shoves his head in my back for attention. I look at him to push him away and that’s when I saw that he had lost his right front shoe.

Of course he had. He knew I was planning a trail ride for Sunday. Damn him!

Still learning to like him. He is a lovable enough goof but he has some habits that I really hate.

Unfortunately for the hubby, he called at the exact moment of realization to tell me he was on his way home. He regretted that instantly as I spewed my frustration complete with many, many expletives over the phone. So much so that he told me to just go buy a back up horse and be done with this crap.

I do like that he is naturally curious and enjoys checking things out that are new to him. Bravery is something Gem lacked and it is nice to see this in H’Appy

I stormed off into the house and pouted for a while before hitting the sales pages and pouting even more.

Sunday morning was as glorious as promised Sunny, mid 60s and a breeze. I was damned if I was going to miss a day on the trail yet again due to his pain in the butt. Typically I wouldn’t ride with a missing shoe but he has me at my breaking point with all his crap. Oh! I never wrote about a few weeks ago when he came in with a bloody chin. Or Friday when his left front leg was bleeding even though he had been in his stall all day. I was done.

The trail is always my happy place no matter the ears I’m looking through

I shoved his right front into his hoof boot, put his butt on the trailer and went anyway. See. I am learning to just go with the flow and make do. I needed to ride.

Front right boot and three shoes. Don’t care. He has a habit of hiding his face when I get the camera out. A bit shy? looking at the road where a horse trailer just left. So sad to be left all alone in the world

The ride itself was pretty darn good overall. Well minus my now broken toe. I’ll get to that. His biggest flaw or training hole perhaps is his herd bound tendencies. It was the reason I was literally shaking the last time as I did up his bridle. The group xc school I went on had him tearing off to join his brethren the moment I slipped the halter off.

Who could be stressed when this is the view?

But while the big man is stubborn, he isn’t as stupid as I once thought and a lesson learned typically stays put once planted. This time he was Mr. Chill at the trailer. Barely moved and didn’t even fling his head when it came time to bridle. He stared in a very embarrassing way at the other horses at the trail head, but never even made a peep. It’s a big deal and he got a lot of Nickerdoodles for it.

He may be creeping on the other horses, but he is relaxed, stationary and quiet

I still decided to hand walk him away from the trailer and mount once on trail but I mounted sooner than before an we were off. And by off I really mean it. He had a fire up his butt for some reason and I was happy to oblige on a crisp fall morning down a lovely trail. We even cantered. I forgot how much I love his canter.

Two road crossings later I found the reason for the fire. He was hunting a horse. A drop dead gorgeous Arab gelding that we had run into on our last ride out there. H’Appy charged into the lead and we proceeded to have a much more sedate ride as the other lady only walks and I was fine giving my guy a break. He was sweaty and puffing pretty hard.

The lake was reflecting the bright blue sky and there wasn’t a boat in sight

She led us down to the lake which is something I never did with Gem as she hated water. The first entrance H’Appy was none too sure of the waves and wouldn’t get in. For some reason the second time we went down he was all for it and I barely stopped him from swimming. He was almost to my toes before I got him to turn around. Next summer we will be swimming!! I’m super excited about that!

Off we went again and soon we came to a crossing with a left hand trail that was a short cut back to the trailer. I’m not interested in H’Appy learning trails always mean run until you find a friend, so I politely took my leave and split off.

Or tried to anyway. He wasn’t ready to leave his new BFF who I’m pretty sure didn’t even know he really existed beyond a big orange butt he was forced to follow. H’Appy slammed on the brakes. He spun. He threatened to pop up. I bailed and brought him to a halt and hopped down. He needs to learn to go away from other horses but if it means I do it on foot for a bit I’m fine with that.

After a decade of staring at a horse’s rear end or being alone it is rather refreshing to be in a lead horse with company

I led him away and he was pissed but followed up a long hill that made me regret getting off. When I went to stop him and mount he spun, landed on my right foot, twisted and stepped off. I knew right away he broke my 5th toe. It hurt. A lot.

I hobbled on foot for a ways trying to determine if I could feel the blood of an open fracture but I didn’t and eventually I got back on. Posting hurt like heck so we walked. Until my foot went numb and then we trotted just so I could be done sooner.

It didn’t take very long for him to chill out again and once his brain was refocused we trotted and cantered a bit covering the last two miles to home and he was a very good boy for it all. He is not a spooky horse and this time I stayed mounted for all the creek crossings which were very full from Friday’s storm plus he went over the bridges without hesitation.

Broken toe blues. Shoes suck and will for a long time but there isn’t much for it.

Once this guy is exposed to something he really does absorb it. It’s getting his head out of his own butt that is the issue at times.

He was a perfect gentleman back at the trailer, loaded no issue and came home where he let out a surprised nicker that yet again I brought him back to his herd instead of the slaughter house.

A cell picture of a digital X-ray stinks for quality. I added the red lines to show the fracture lines

I ran over to Dusty’s work to X-ray my toe and sure enough there is a fracture there. It isn’t displaced so it will heal in about 6-8 weeks. I have a super busy beginning of the week of non horse things (an important meeting with Duke energy to attend Tuesday after work, trick or treating Wednesday night) but hopefully I can shove my foot into the paddock boot come Thursday for a ride in the arena. I’m not taking that much time off so toe be damned. I’m riding.

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Things I’ve Learned From Bloggers

The blogging community is a wonderful resource for all things equestrian from training ideas and specific exercises to tack and equipment. I learn just as much from reading the comments in posts as I do the post itself many times. Ask a question in your own post and you will more often than not be inundated with wonderful suggestions. Fortunately most bloggers are really awesome and leave the outright judgement at home. Those who are pretty vocally disdaining of others tend to be run out fairly quickly.

Over the past several years of reading blogs and blogging myself, I have learned so much from all you bloggers. While I love competition recaps, training exercise ideas and fun day posts, I have found that it is the little one off comments that have stuck with me and impacted my riding/management on a daily basis the most. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. There are plenty of tidbits I have picked up and don’t remember that I learned it from a  blogger, but here is a list of those I do remember that had the most impact. .

  1. L. Williams from Viva Carlos is one blogger that spends a lot of time running through my head when I ride. Creepy? Maybe. Probably?  In a series of posts this year she was writing about trot work and mentioned that Dante broke to a canter when asked for the trot. Her response to this was to calmly bring him back, set him up for success and ask again. Now this is pretty basic stuff for most, but it really stuck with me. When H’Appy breaks to the canter instead of trot I tend to get a bit handsy and tense. My MO in all things. But now I find myself thinking of those posts, relaxing, calmly bringing the Doofus back and asking again while ignoring the misguided attempt to canter. It has really impacted the way I respond and in turn the way he responds.
  2.  Dom from A Collection of Madcap Escapades  completely changed the way I use quick release lines. She was writing about an incident with a horse in the cross ties and went on a small and informative rant about the proper way to use these which as it turned out was not the way I had been doing it for years. I always attached the quick release part to the horse thinking that in an emergency I could reach up and release them. Nope. That end goes on the solid object so that when you release the horse, you still have a tether to grab and contain them. Ever since reading that, I have flipped it around.
  3. Carly from Poor Woman Showing has a lot of wonderfully sarcastic and funny posts. The one that really stuck with me though was when she went off on a trail adventure with Dopie. She said something along the lines of having to get through the suck before it gets good. And that has wormed into my brain and boosted my bravery on a number of occasions with Doofus of late. In order to get the horse I want, I need to suffer a bit through the firsts and potentially seconds of everything.
  4. Saiph from Wait for the Jump wrote about an endurance related issue with Lily at the same moment I was having a similar issue with Gem. Both mares had done a fall 50 mile ride and Gem had finished the ride with passing scores but I watched as she drank throughout and still had diminishing hydration scores all day long. Lily had the same thing happen at her ride with Saiph though she unfortunately ended in the vet tent for some hydration at the end. Saiph learned through that that the potassium wasn’t high enough in the electrolytes she was using which caused the water to basically sit in the gut without being absorbed and used. From then on I began to make my own electrolytes and I never had another issue with hydration again.
  5. This isn’t a single moment thing and I’ve been debating adding it, but it really has impacted me so I am going to. Olivia from DIY Horse Ownership has a difficult gelding, Levi, that doesn’t make eventing easy for her. Yet she goes out there, nearly vomiting half the time, and goes to competitions. Sometimes she circles between jumps. Sometimes she trots. Sometimes she knocks a lot of rails over. But she is there doing it while I sit at home waiting to be better, more ready, more perfect. And that is stupid. She has taught me to go. Have some fun. Do the thing even if it scares you or you feel like an idiot for being there. Go and do and learn and grow. She was the catalyst for me getting off my rump and doing the CT with Gem last year and I didn’t die and I did learn a lot from it.

Those are my top 5. How about you? Anything stick out that a blogger wrote that changed your own perspective, ways of handling things or gave you a good tip? I’d love to read them!

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Volunteer Challenge Check In

This year flew by in a blur. As we near the end of the year and the end of the Volunteer Challenge I wanted to do a little check in for those of you who may be point chasing for year end awards.

October and November will be random draw months, so even if you haven’t volunteered before you could still win something. Even just 1 hour gets your name in the pot, so to speak.

December will be the end of it all with year end awards given out to the Champion (highest points) and Reserve Champion (second highest). In the case of a tie, I will randomly pick the winner and depending on how much money I have at the time the other person may get something small too.

What will you be winning you ask??? At first I had thought about a cooler and a halter, but eh…I’ve gotten more creative and personal as this year has plodded along and I have the perfect idea for the Champion. I’m still working on the Reserve Champion idea, but believe me it will be worth it and I’ll announce them both in December.

Here are the standings so far, inclusive of those who have given me hours for October already. Don’t worry, I’ll do the call for hours towards the end of the month still. In case anyone feels compelled to get out there and win this thing in the homestretch, here is what you are up against so far and man is it impressive:

Everything Pony – 4 hours
Holly – 4 hours
KC – 4 hours
Teresa – 6 hours
Betsy – 7 hours
Carly – 9 hours
Amanda (beljoer) – 12 hours
Olivia – 16 hours
David – 16 hours
Amanda C – 17 hours
Sarah O – 19 hours
Emily – 21 hours
Naadia – 26.5 hours
Bette – 46 hours
Amy – 77.5 hours
Emma – 79.5 hours

Total: 364.5 hours

Dang folks, that is A LOT of hours given back!!!!!!

Amy and Emma you guys are super close, so get out there and get those hours in!! The rest of you still have time to win this sucker. Trust me it will be a prize worth winning.

 

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Waving The White Flag of Defeat

Riddle me this:

How much time off does a horse need coming off a 5 month hiatus for hoof related lameness?

The answer?

10-14 more days.

H’Appy. Courtesy of Emma.

I probably sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress the fact that in nearly 10 years of owning, riding and competing Gem , she never had a lameness and only had one incident with a wire fence while being boarded that required veterinary care and time off enough. Even now, happily retired she is sound, healthy as can be and injury free.

20 years old, healthy, sound and about as happy as this mare gets. 

Oh, and she was also only $800 and I did not do a PPE on her. I’ve never even seen her legs or feet on xray. Oh, and she was barefoot for everything except the 100 mile ride.

I’ve had H’Appy for 5 months. In that time he has had two vet appointments for lameness, a very expensive farrier appointment with pads and custom shoes, and has been given most of that time off for lameness and/or injury.

I’m shocked too buddy. In a terribly defeated way.

Today was supposed to be a great day. I took off work, scheduled a lesson and a saddle fit appointment through Custom saddlery. Life has been one big giant suck fest lately and I really, really needed this day.

H’Appy and I tackled our first trail ride last weekend and all went well. Then on Monday he came in for dinner with this:

How? How on earth in a 15 acre paddock of grass with no buildings or sharp objects? How??

Thankfully he stayed sound on it, but it was angry and over a joint so that granted him the beginning of the week off to heal. Come Wednesday he looked spiffy and ready to rock and roll for the lesson Friday morning.

Only last night he came in with this:

Seriously, horse – HOW?!?!?!
The other two don’t have a mark on them. At this point, if this guy lives to 10 I’ll be shocked. He is an accident waiting to happen. 

Now, Dusty is forever telling me to suck it up and ride the dang horse, so when I had him look at it and he told me no way should I ride and he would need at least 10-14 days off to prevent that from splitting wide open and requiring sutures, I sagged in defeat and texted Trainer to cancel the lesson and oh yeah no saddle fit either.

Me handling life right now.

Plus I texted Emma to commiserate with. Life sucks less with friends.

Adding this all up – in the time I have has H’Appy he has had maybe 2-3 consecutive rides before yet agian needing a chunk of time off to heal something or another. At this rate, we may be ready to show by 2025, if he is still alive at that point which is highly unlikely.

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Trusting the Trail

Deep down in my bones I’m a trail/endurance rider. My heart and soul live in the woods and my peace of mind can be found on a single track, hilly trail.

H’Appy killed any shred of confidence I had when he threw me over his head at a walk in the pasture. Before that I laughed at his shenanigans and shrugged off any behavior I didn’t like. Once I landed in a heap in front of him, all of that changed and fear and mistrust replaced it. I now know that he can pull a nasty buck and rear maneuver and he isn’t above being mean to get his way.

Where have you taken me, Human??

All of this has created a lot of tension in my rides of late and I felt like it was time to turn to my trusty trainer – the trail.

The proper trail can teach a horse a lot of things, but what I love most about it is that the trail itself has a personality and requires respect from both the horse and the rider. I ride better on the trail. My posture is better and I hold my horse more accountable than I do in a lovely, flat and secure arena. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am more lax in the arena often times allowing the horse to not walk immediately or turn after I had wanted or cut a corner because what does it matter? On the trail, a cut corner could mean falling over the cliff and an ignored halt could result in getting run over by a car at a road crossing. As such, when I give an aid I expect it to be listened to immediately without question when on the trail.

In addition, the trail hashes out a lot of things in a way that makes the horse responsible for bad outcomes instead of the rider. If you ignore my request to rebalance and slow down and then face plant over a root, that’s your fault. If you stop paying attention and walk into a tree, again your fault horse. Plus most horses aren’t stupid enough to go charging off through the brush on a whim.

It was a gorgeous day too. Cool enough to need a vest and most importantly- dry.

With all that in mind, I reached out to just about anyone I could think of in my area to see if they wanted to ride Gem to babysit H’Appy and me on the trail. Everyone was busy (or claimed to be so as not to have to ride my Gemmie) and so I found myself with my heart in my throat at the trail head of my favorite system, alone.

My biggest fear with him out and about is his herd bound tendencies. Once another horse is around, I no longer exist. Pulling into a busy trail head scared the crap out of me and so I decided it wise to hand walk him along the road, out of sight of the trailers and into the woods before mounting. Once in the woods, I realized this was the first time I’ve ever mounted him from the ground and it took way too long to get him to stand still for me to do so.

Not feeling as in love with these ears as my favorite black tipped ones, but some day I will get there

Once on him I was very very nervous and forced myself to breathe deeply and exhale relaxing my body and mind. Unfortunately a big part of the start of the 6.5 mile loop had been redone since I was last there and they lost about a mile of woods replacing it with a wide open gravel road. I was planning on using the terrain to keep any bad behavior at bay but now found myself in the open.

Very open and very inviting for a long canter. But I kept him a a walk not trusting him yet to not be a jerk about it.

H’Appy actually did very well. He didn’t spook at anything we came across: downed logs and piled up branches (Gem’s nemesis), deer bounding away, squirrels rustling in the leaves above and cars racing down roads. Once we hit the woods again after the gravel road, I calmed down a lot and put my faith in the trail.

I dismounted to walk across the two creeks on trail after getting to the first and feeling him try to bound over it from a stand still. The entire point of this first outing was to instill confidence and a positive experience in both and I thought that would be the opposite

It did not disappoint. H’Appy learned that by cantering instead of trotting he would miss turns and run into a tree. He stayed a trot or came back with a very small half halt after that. He also learned that when I ask for a walk after trotting and he doesn’t, he will regret that choice as he barrels down a hill and nearly face plants at the bottom. After that he slowed to a walk every time I asked.

He crosses bridges, roads and handled steep hills both up and down without pause. All great things

The biggest thing I hope he learned was to pay attention at all times. We came across my biggest fear with a mile left to go. As we crossed the road I heard horses up ahead coming towards us. When we got to them, they pulled over and we passed. He didn’t throw a tantrum because there was another horse ahead of us going our direction. We quickly came upon them, the lady pulled over, we passed and then she followed attaching herself behind us. Thankfully H’Appy was happy to lead (something Gem would not have done) and I enjoyed a small bit of company. When we crossed the final road though, the lady peeled off and we went straight. Well, that was too much for Doofus who had spent so many miles alone to finally find a friend. He stopped paying any attention to me, threatened to rear/spin/bolt back to them when he stumbled on a rock and near face planted. I laughed. The rest of the trek back to the trailer he focused on me and the trail although he threw in a few melancholy calls to his long lost new BFF.

After the second creek, I even trusted him enough to use a wobbly log to mount from. He stood perfectly still and was a gentleman

All in all it was a good time. Once I got over myself and started trusting him a bit. He ended tired and sweaty which is the exact way a horse should end a technical and hilly trail ride even though we walked 90% of it. I’m actually excited to go back out with him and hope that with time and miles the beginning settles down. I think I may try to do more trails and less arena work for now until I get a better understanding of how he works since I am most comfortable on the trail.

He was sweaty and tired at the end but in all the best ways possible. He was very good for most of it.