Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Challenge #5 - the last time you rode your horse and what you did

This is a quick one.  The last time I rode was yesterday and we did nothing.  Walked around for a few minutes.  Nina has been a little off on her right rear.  I was thinking hocks until I discovered some thrush under the frog of her foot.  I have been treating it pretty aggressively and just wanted to get on her for a few minutes to see if it was more comfortable.  Definite improvement. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Challenge #4 - A horse that impacted your life

Meet Shorty, aka General Counsel

When I started riding again in my 40s, after about 15 years off, I rode school horses for a while and then was offered the lease of Shorty, a 17h TB who had retired from a career of doing the Open Working Hunters.  
Shorty taught me how to jump.... and how to fall.  You do not lean on a professionally ridden 4ft horse.  You find yourself sitting on the other side of a jump on the ground. 
I taught him about trail riding (not hard, he was pretty savvy about the world) and cross country, which he had never done and LOVED. 
I full leased him for over 6 years and loved him madly.  He retired to pasture, kudos to his owner. 

Other than being a teacher, Shorty introduced me into a world that changed me from someone who enjoyed horseback riding into being a Rider.   Although I had competed my Quarter Horses in my 20s, I was a product of backyard training, occasional advice from helpful pros and no training facilities.  I trained reining patterns on the ditch roads in Albuquerque. 

The world where I leased Shorty was a world of serious Hunter, Jumper and Eventing competitors.  
I watched pros training and teaching all day everyday.  I was riding with people who rode 5-6 days a week, year round.  When I left Shorty standing for a week one time, I received phone calls to see if I was ok and a serious chewing out on my next trip to the barn.  
I had never been in this sort of environment before and I soaked it up like a sponge.  
By the time I bought my own horse (Scotty) my thinking about my life had changed.  I defined myself as a rider.  My daily schedule included time at the barn.  The horse became a priority, not a luxury.  
Regardless of finances, or lack thereof, a horse was a necessary part of my life.  Other things could be given up to make this happen.  

Hardships have come with this shift in priorities, but I have never regretted it at all.  I am a rider and will always be.  Thank you, Shorty.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Challenge #3 - a picture of your best riding

Not a show picture, looking a little scruffy in my sweatshirt and baseball cap, this is probably the best riding picture I have.  This was a cold, windy winter day.  The horse is Scotty, 17h OTTB.  There are also picture of me nearly being bucked off on the same day (which I will not share) and I have to say with some satisfaction that hundreds of hours in the saddle concentrating on correct position does pay off when you are riding an explosive horse.
In this photo my posture is good, my eyes are down a little but my head is not tipped forward.  My leg is wrapped around the horse, heel down, not braced.  I have a straight line from elbow to bit and my elbows are by my side (could be a little better, but not bad) and my arm looks relaxed.  The horse is on the bit and actively engaging his hindquarters, ears pricked and paying attention.
I am happy with this one, hoping for the day that I am fit enough to ride like this again.  That is what I am working on now.  Dinking around with Nina and not really working hard on me has left me slouched and soft.  I am fixing that over the winter.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks to all of you who are sharing Nina's journey 
with me. 
Your thoughts, comments, laughter and visits 
have added to the experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I decided that Nina had just too much hair and was heating up too much so today she got a haircut.  I have been going back and forth about clipping her because I am mostly riding in the middle of the day so getting her warm and dry before sundown is not a problem.
I was SO glad I decided to clip her.  Her hair in some places was TWO INCHES long.  The rest was about an inch and a half.  It didn't look that long but she has been trundling around carrying a big bearskin. 
I did a trace clip on her and she was very good.  The last time I took this much hair off I sedated her.  This time I just took my time, clipped her in her pen and gave her a couple of breaks.   She did kick a couple of times, not at me or even near me.  When she is totally frustrated she will pick up the hind foot on the side away from me and lash out hard, straight back.  I make sure that she is not near anyone else if I am going to do something that she considers picking on her, like clipping, and don't worry about it.
She did finally get just so ticklish and reactive that she couldn't stand it and just touching her with my hand made her twitch all over.  You just can't clip skin that is twitching so I have a little clean up patch on her flank to finish tomorrow and I will take pictures of her in her new 'do.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We have to talk about the pink

I have owned geldings all my life.  So Nina was the first mare. 
Coincidentally, I had (have) a tack trunk full of assorted blue or green or blue and green accessories for riding cross country.  Saddle pads, boots, vest, jacket, helmet covers and of course sheets and wraps. 
I went with blue and green because you can get ANYTHING in blue or green and at that time these colors were out of favor as being too common, everyone was switching to different colors as the gear became available.

Tucked into all the sea of blue and green was a pink, purple and black helmet cover.  Heaven knows where I got it and it has thankfully departed to a friend who loves purple. 

But it got me thinking. 
Dress up the girl in pink and purple.  It certainly would look good on a black horse, it would give me an entire shopping list to work on and it would be a way of saying that she is different from my other horses.

Fortunately, before I embarked on serious shopping I got to know Nina a little.
I discovered that she is like myself at around age 5, when my mother was in despair over trying to dress me in pink lacy froo froo girlish clothes, while I much preferred to get dirty with the boys.

Nina is only a girl when she is being a bitch.  The rest of the time she prefers to think of herself as tough and powerful and on a bold day, in charge.

The pink halter is in the bottom of a box.  It will someday go out to the therapeutic riding center when I remember to take it out there. 
Nina's current nylon halter is brown.  Her leather halter is brown. 

She looks very nice in green and blue, especially my xc saddle pad.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Challenge #2 - a picture of your horse

A picture of your horse, yeah right.  Here are several.  How can you post just one?
I do try to put some of my favorites in her photo album
For those of you who have read this blog and wondered why on earth I took on this project in the first place.... here are some of my first impressions of Nina.

It took quite a while to get her loosened up a bit.  She was gimpy and stiff as a board.  Her spine was so rigid is might as well have been fused.  And she still could move like this:

And she has always had a kind, intelligent eye.  The picture with the green halter is the day I picked her up and the one with the pink halter (which I have apologized to her about ever since) was about a month later.  

This shot was taken just a few minutes after unloading her the day I got her.  She was lame, skinny and wary, but she still had a sort of regal presence.  I saw it the first day I went to look at her and it was what drew me back for a second look. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Challenge #1 - a picture of you and your horse

 This is my favorite picture of Nina.  You can see is all over the blog and my FB page.  It's not that it is the best picture of either one of us but this was a very important ride.  This was last summer and after hassling with this horse for a long time and thinking that I just did not have the skills to get her out of her tucked under, sucked back, resistant way of going... on this day she suddenly relaxed into the bit and for the first time I felt the power in her movement.  She was striding forward, relaxed, and just floating over the ground.  Five minute later she was back to her usual way of resisting, but that ride was enough to convince me that she was worth all the time and effort.  She is an exceptional and powerful mover when she is not worried.  Now I can get better movement than in this picture almost every ride, but this was the break through moment.

And below is Nina making faces at the person with the camera.  She kept looking gorgeous when the camera wasn't out, but she was apparently enjoying threatening my friend over the picture taking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

30 day challenge

Looking for topics to post about as winter sets in and just getting on the horse is a major accomplishment, I found this 30 Day Challenge on Standardbred Excellence and it looks like a good project as we head into the end of the year.  Each of the topics will turn into a link as I complete it and it is in the pages bar at the top of the blog.  I am not going to try to do it in 30 straight days as I plan to continue blogging about anything else that comes up also.   I think this will be a fun project to get me through the darkest part of the winter.

1. A picture of you and your horse.

2. A picture of your horse.

3. A picture of your best riding.

4. A horse that impacted your life. 

5. The last time you rode your horse and what you did. 

6. Your most accomplished horse. 

7. Your best ribbon. 

8. A little about the barn/stable you are at.

9. Any injuries you have gotten from riding. 

10. How does your family and friends feel about your riding?

11.  Find a sale horse online that you want to buy. 

12. Favorite horse color.

13. A picture of your worst riding. 

14. Your dream barn/farm.

15. If you could say something to any one horse, what would you say?

16. Your most recent fall.

17. Your equestrian idol. 

18. Your favorite horse show picture.

19. A discipline you would like to try.

20. Your favorite horse show. 

21. Your favorite schooling outfit. 

22. Describe the importance of riding in your life.

23. First horse you rode. 

24. Your best riding buddy. 

25. Your dream trailer

26. Biggest riding pet peeve. 

27.  You know your an equestrian when.... list 5 things. 

28. Helmet or no helmet. 

29. Favorite brands... boots, breeches, tops, helmets etc. 

30. Your future with horses.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

this is too good to pass up

Another great photo from Rockley Farm.
Horses at the farm watching a fox hunt go past.
You need to click and enlarge to really appreciate it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Essential Oils

This is a promotion for a client

Evening Star Essential Oils
This week, my Citrus Fruit Blend has been especially appealing. 
I love to spray it in the mornings for a fresh awakening. 
The shower gel gives me a boost when I use it, and the bath salts are divine.
I would love to share it with you!   (read the whole blog post HERE)
4oz Shower Gel (it lasts me about 5 weeks) is $8.95 + shipping
2oz Room and Fabric Spray is $5.95 + shipping
8oz Bath Salts $8.95 + shipping
Currently available by mail order; soon I will have pay pal set up so you can order from here.
contact me at to order.


She made the sport spray originally for cleaning up and deodorizing riding helmets, I use it and love it.  If you like essential oil products, check these out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

day off

Nina was a little off the last time I rode so I gave her a couple of days off.   She was much more cheerful today so I turned her out in one of the small pens while I taught lessons.  I tried to get a picture of her rolling in the sand, but would she roll while I stood there with a camera in my hand?  Nope.
And she stood and posed a couple of times, looked like an illustration of a Thoroughbred.  But the second the camera came into view she dropped her head and scuffed her way over to see what I had in my hand.
*sigh*  So this is all I got for pictures.  But she had a good afternoon anyway and yes, she did roll and roll and roll, as soon as my back was turned.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Doug Payne helmet-cam

Doug has shared some great rides with us via his helmet cam.  And like a good sport he is also willing to share the not so good ones.  Visit Horse Junkies to see this one.

Horse Junkies United - Doug Payne at the Royal Winter Fair

Monday, November 7, 2011

still grinning

I am quite sure that these posts are going to be endlessly boring for a while but I DON'T CARE.
I have finally got a trainable, teachable horse to work with and I am just delighted every day.   What follows is a long rambling babble about nothing much, I am just enjoying this new horse a lot.

We have been working a little in the indoor arena.  If the current weather is any indication of the winter to come, we are either going to ride indoors are not at all this winter.  
Nina has had a big problem with this indoor arena.  She has been ridden in two other indoors without a problem, but this one is different. 
To start with the other arenas were pole barns, wood, insulated and fairly quiet.  This building was never intended to be a barn, it is an old garage building owned long ago by a local dealer for servicing diesel engines and big trucks.  It is a metal building with a metal roof and every sound echos around in it and every thing that touches the roof makes noise.  Horses seem to either be very bothered by it or not at all, there aren't many in the middle ground.  Guess which side Nina is on?

Next, here is how she was introduced to the arena.  Standing outside one day getting shoes and a hailstorm blew in suddenly.  My farrier, Nina and I all ducked inside to avoid the hail.  What would normally have been a five minute Rocky Mountain summer storm turned into an incredibly destructive hail storm that rained down tennis ball size hail, tore through roofs and flattened enormous old trees in a long slow path of destruction. 
And we were standing in a metal building with a metal roof.  Sort of like being inside a drum at a rock concert.  The noise was literally deafening, the building shook with the hail and lightning and thunder, and there was no where else to go.  Nina was frantic, kicking at the walls, rearing, screaming.  She even managed to kick my farrier (which he forgave her for). 
Then, the next time I took her into the indoor we met mayhem inside, probably 15 people in an area smaller than a small dressage ring and of course some people needed to gallop no matter what and others were walking around talking on cell phones with reins draped on the horse's neck. 
Surprisingly, Nina did not like this either. 
When I tried to take her into the indoor by herself to get used to it, she got worse each time, ricocheting around at the slightest noise.   Eventually I gave up.

Fast forward to my new, improved Nina.  I rode inside yesterday and today.  Yesterday was perfect, there were two quiet horses inside and a lot of activity outside the open doors.   Nina was very good, a very small amount of spooking at noises but the new and improved Nina would settle down after a spook and look around to see what was happening.  She also seemed to accept MY opinion that we were in a safe place.  She walked around, looked at everything and did not once act like a fruit loop.
Today there were also just a couple of other horses, the doors where closed, the wind was blowing so there was more noise and she was perfectly fine.  No (over) reacting to every little noise.  

One of the big changes in her is that she seems to be looking to me to make decisions.  She has, I think, never looked to a rider for anything but a fight.  Her safety and her reactions were all hers, based on horse instincts, no other input allowed.   Accepting my opinion about things is a new way of paying attention too.
I am enjoying this a lot. 
For those of you who are moved to tears of boredom.... I will run up a flag when this phase is over.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

RIP Hickstead

Horse & Hound has reported that the fabulous show jumper, Hickstead, has died at a World Cup qualifying competition.  Article HERE.

Hickstead was a one of a kind horse, incredibly talented, ridden by Eric Lamaze.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

yuck and brrrr

It's not actually that cold here... low 40s but it is wet and cloudy and we are used to dry and sunshine beating down on you when the temps are zero.  It's a different kind of cold.
I got to the barn with every intention of riding, only to find Nina looking like a stucco hut, covered in dried, hard mud and very very very pissy.  Ears pinned and lots of teeth showing.  She was cold and miserable.  I waited a while for a round pen and then trotted her around until she was warm.  Spent about half an hour knocking the big chunks of mud off of her, found a little puncture would on her leg and treated it.  By now she was warm and cheerful and I was cold and shivering.   The outdoor arena was slippery and muddy and the indoor was crowded, mostly with teenagers chatting on cell phones and not steering.
I put a sheet on Nina, gave her her beet pulp and left.  Before I got home it was raining. 
The clinic tomorrow has had to move indoors and much as I enjoy Eric's clinics, I am not driving 60 miles for an indoor jumping clinic.... in the cold.... without a horse...... nope.
I am thinking about having something unhealthy and greasy for dinner, building a fire and watching a movie.  Sounds like a plan.

nothing here

Wednesday night we had another heavy wet snow and yesterday the arena was still ankle deep in mud so Nina has had a couple of days off.  Yesterday I took her to a round pen, which is sand and better footing but still full of water.  She walked in, looked around, poked me with her nose and looked around again.  She was telling me plain as day that THIS place was just as muddy as the pen she was standing in.  Did we need to walk all the way over here for THIS?
Since she couldn't find a dry place to roll she walked and being a Thoroughbred she kept walking.  I sat in a chair outside the pen in the sun and did some paperwork and she walked.  Every once in a while she would stop by me and stick her head through the fence.  I would tell her to keep walking and she would give a big sigh and start walking again.  She walked around for about 45 minutes.  Fairly good exercise in spite of the mud.  Kind of strange but it was a relaxing afternoon, no one else was at the barn and I just did some worked and we chatted. 
Hopefully things will be drier today and tomorrow if the weather and the footing is decent I am going to go and watch a cross country clinic with Eric Smiley.  Hope the weather holds.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new snow and rethinking Nina

We do often have a big snow in the fall here, kind of a wake up for the coming winter, but this is our second storm, 7 days apart, more like winter than fall.  Does make us wonder what is coming.

While I am drinking coffee and staring at the snow - yesterday I was riding in nice weather - I am rethinking Nina.
Over the last couple of years I have gotten very attached to her on-the-ground personality.  She has gone from moving as far away from people as possible to inserting herself in every conversation and calmly hanging out, listening to people and enjoying the attention.  All good.
But I also was coming to terms with the idea that I was never going to be able to really train her.  I was never going to be able to trust her under saddle.  And the endless loop of starting over again and again was where she was stuck, apparently forever. 
So honestly, I slacked off.  I taught her little bits in little pieces.  I rode her for short periods of time and tried to avoid the nuclear meltdown that went with pushing her.  A big one is that I let myself get out of shape.  I am not able to ride the way I did Scotty. 
Apparently most of her problems came down to hormones because a couple of weeks on the red raspberry leaves have totally changed her.  She can still be a little shit.  Yesterday she threatened to rear a couple of times and tried to get her feet under her to buck at least once.  But she worked HARD for over half an hour, which turned out to be my physical limit for hard work and not hers.  And she was quite cheerful about all of it, including her obvious thoughts to unload me, which were just avoiding work and not a meltdown.
I suddenly have a horse to work/train/compete and I had gradually moved away from that mindset and relegated myself to sort of a babysitter.
Now I need to get my butt back in gear, get back in shape and come up with an actual training plan that does not revolve around just avoiding trouble.  I can start by building on the little bits of things that I have taught her and start creating more correctness and more fitness there.
I really need to come up with some money for lessons.  I have had kind of a wishlist of taking lessons with some of my favorite instructors, but since it was just for me and not for actually making progress with Nina it has not been serious planning.
I am feeling happy, excited and kind of at a loss. 
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