Sterling and I have been showing at regional and rated shows for about 3 1/2 years now. Pretty much all three years we have been showing over 2’6″ fences because I was basically starting at zero. I REALLY want to move up to bigger fences, but the only way to to do that is to ride better and to ride better I need to jump more. The primary barrier to that has been that the trainer I ride with at horse shows is located about four hours away from me and I really only see her at horse shows. To remedy that I started taking more lessons with a couple of trainers close to me who have similar approaches to riding and jumping to my horse show trainer. I still don’t get lessons as often as I should and now that fox hunting will be starting it will be even harder, but I’m committed to doing it both for me and for my horses. I want to bring Coco along correctly and not put her through the misery of my beginner mistakes that Sterling was such a saint about dealing with.
In that vein I had a lesson on Sterling last Saturday and it was SO FUN! The barn is a primarily jumper barn so the jumps are much wilder looking than hunter fences. Sterling has always been a brave jumper (he isn’t brave in any other aspect of his life, though. Remember trail rides?) so wasn’t phased by the crazy striped poles. He even jumped a liverpool with no hesitation! Most horses freak out the first time they jump a liverpool because they are moats of horse-eating scariness. Not Sterling. Other than me riding like a dufus he was perfect.
This is a liverpool jump. I don’t think we were jumping anywhere near this height, but you get an idea of what it looks like.
I made a ton of mistakes throughout the lesson, but he marched right along and WE JUMPED AROUND OUR FIRST EVER 3′ COURSE! This trainer had given us some lessons when I was first starting to jump Sterling and she commented about how much more forward he is now, so at least I’ve done something right along the way. We got our strides down every line and didn’t have any hard chips. A few close spots and a couple Tara-why-are-you-looking-down-and-not-forward moments, but I did better at keeping him forward and even used too much leg a couple times.
This isn’t from our lesson, but it is a pretty pic of Sterling at the horse show in Katy last weekend. Hopefully we can continue to get more lessons in and move up to bigger fences at the shows sooner rather than later. He’s such a good boy!
Photo by Jerry Mohme. It looks like we are in a forest, but we aren’t.
Fall is making a brief appearance this weekend here in North Texas. The wind is HOWLING today and I have a suspicion that we may lose more of the roof off the old barn. Owning property with outbuildings is not always glamorous. The fox hunting season is kicking off soon and we will be celebrating the beginning of the season this weekend. I’m SO excited!
Onward to updates from around the farm over the past week or two.
One of the last toads of the season. This guy/gal was in the dog water bowl and I thought he was too cute!
I have been nagging and nagging Boot City to finish the road gate as part of our pets-in-traffic prevention program and he FINALLY got it done! I LOVE it! It is the fanciest gate ever! The frame is 8″x2″ and the whole thing is 14′ wide so is very stout and yet very modern. The hinges he used are super heavy duty so it opens and closes smoothly and evenly even though it weighs more than 500lb. The automatic opener still needs to be installed, but I’m fine with the manual open and close for now.
These days it is very difficult to get a photo of the muppies that isn’t blurry! We let them in the house in the mornings and evenings and they play and play and play! Animal and Annie Sue went to the vet yesterday and they were 30lb and 25lb respectively. They will be BIG dogs!
Muppy play time.
We have a handy man/contractor doing some updates to the house right now and his first project was to replace the door from the breezeway to the garage. The door was in poor shape when we bought the house, but was made tremendously worse by the dog pack we have had during the past few years. Jessie did the door in and the entire bottom half was missing! The new door is metal so no worries about it getting giant holes in it, just scratches.
The new man door from the breezeway to the garage.
Sterling and I FINALLY got to go to a horse show this past weekend! It was an eventful trip getting to Katy. If you saw any of my social media posts you’ll see that my pickup broke on the trip down on Friday. Thankfully it was fixable in a day and the Firestone crew was AMAZING! We didn’t get to the show grounds in time to ride on Friday as we had intended, but such is life. I did lunge Sterling on Friday evening and he was surprisingly chill after standing on the trailer for 10 hours!
We hadn’t been to a show since February so I wanted to see what kind of horse I had early Saturday morning. We got to our ring well before the show started and hacked around in the dark. There was one other horse in the ring at the same time and all was well until the other horse started acting up and rearing. Sterling can be greatly influenced by the demeanor of horses around him so we got out of there and ended our morning hack on a good note. All seemed well!
I tacked up about 45 minutes before my division was slated to start and headed to the warmup. He was looking around a lot, but he seemed happy. The more we worked the more agitated he became. As a kid I would always show my horse in a different bit than I used at home. It was a way to “tell” my horse that this was a show and not just practice. It worked well for the western horses because they would go nicely in an easy bit and I would use a slightly stronger bit at the shows to better get their attention. This method evidently does NOT work with Sterling! We went over a few warm-up fences and he was clearly getting MAD! There were two trips until mine so I hurried back to the stalls and put his “practice” bit on. It didn’t completely change his demeanor, but he was most definitely not angry about the bit in his mouth any more!
I made a few rider errors on Saturday and we had a close spot (a “chip” in jumping horse lingo) in all of our courses so got 2nd out of 2 in all 3 over fence classes. The other horse was really fancy so we were also 2nd in the hack. Sunday was MUCH better! Sterling was very calm and never agitated by the bit in his mouth. I made a couple mistakes and he was spooking at a wheelbarrow by the judge’s stand in all our trips, but the last one was pretty solid and we won that round!
This is a video taken by a fabulous barn mom of our last trip of the day and the round that we won.
Now that Sterling and I are both a little bit more seasoned at the hunter horse show gig I know that he is quite sensitive and if I try to make a strong fix during a course, he will respond with a strong reaction. I have to correct quietly and when in doubt (which is usually the case!), just leave him alone. I’m pretty darn lucky that he’s been as tolerant of my learning curve at the same time he’s been learning!
Every once in a while I see a blog hop list of questions and I can’t help myself but participate. This list is from In Omnia Paratus, however I first saw it on HelloMyLivia.
1. Most equestrians quote fall as their favorite season to ride. Are you one of those that does? Or maybe not; what is your favorite season to ride, if so?
I love spring and fall, probably equally. Spring is great because the weather is nice and the days are getting longer. Fall is great because the weather is nice, but sadly the days are getting shorter.
2. Do you clip your horse in the fall? Or maybe you wait a little longer?
I’ll probably have to clip Sterling if we go to very many horse shows. I’m not using my own horse for fox hunting, so don’t need to clip Simon yet.
3. Have any costume riding events in October on/near/around Halloween? What will your horse be dressed as? What about yourself? What would you dress as if money/time were absolutely no issue?
I generally hate dressing up in a costume. None of the shows I’m going to have a costume class, but a few years ago I rode Jaguar at a show and dressed up as a rodeo queen!
I really was a rodeo princess when I was 11, so I actually did win that sash!
4. Is your horse afraid of any autumn colors? Or maybe has a certain quirk that appears only in the autumn?
The only thing I can think of that changes my horses’ demeanor in the fall is just the drop in temps. Cooler weather generally makes horses friskier!
5. Pumpkin spice. It’s everywhere right now. Find any natural pumpkin [squash] spice-esque recipes for your horse?
We used to get rotten pumpkins from a nearby church’s pumpkin patch for our goats and chickens to eat. This often resulted in random pumpkin plants growing around our property so all our animals are fans of eating pumpkins raw!
6. We’re getting to the end of the calendar year, any final few “big-bang” shows to look forward to?
Yes! Sterling and I are headed to Katy this week for the Britannia Farm Fall Classic. Hopefully we will make it to a couple more shows before the first of the year.
7. Winter is coming. What are you doing to winterize your trailer/rig/car?
Making sure that my hand warmers, extra socks and coats are stored in the trailer for me and that there are coolers and blankets for my horse! Thankfully winter is generally pretty docile in Texas.
8. Do you have any autumn traditions you/your horse follow?
Deep cleaning the barn to get the cob webs and dust out since they are more likely to be stuck inside during icy weather. Fox hunting, OBVIOUSLY!
9. October in many places marks the beginning of deer hunting season. Does this affect your riding at all? Do you wear blaze orange or modify your schedule to accommodate the season?
October his cub hunting season for fox hunting and the beginning of November is the opening of formal season. I opt for a red coat rather than orange. We do have to be aware of deer hunters when we are fox hunting and we generally avoid properties where deer hunting is active.
10. What are you most looking forward to goal-wise as the final months of the calendar year approach?
I’m so excited to finally get to show Sterling again! I’m hoping my riding has improved and I don’t cause him to chip a bunch of fences. Coco is coming along in her flying lead changes so hopefully she will be ready to go to a horse show next spring!
While they cannot actually speak, horses are really pretty good communicators. I say that as a human resources professional with an advanced degree in communication. I think horses more often have a benefit from not having words. Non-verbal communication is more accurate than verbal because it tends to be more honest (I’m sure you know PLENTY of people who could/should talk less).
For a while now Coco has been fussy when she’s brushed on her right side near where the saddle goes. She will kick at me with her left hind foot. She’s usually fine for tacking up, getting on and riding her. However she pinned her ears and refused to canter or bucked every time I asked for a canter yesterday. It didn’t matter which lead I asked for, she was PISSED! The timing was PERFECT for her first visit from a chiropractor/acupuncturist/veterinarian.
Sterling was seen by a chiropractor a couple years ago and was found to be pretty OK, but none of my horses has been seen by anyone other than my regular vet in a few years. It is always a little nerve wracking to wait and see what they will tell you! Coco flinched a few times during the evaluation, which I knew meant something was wrong, but you have to wait for the doctor to tell you what is up until after they finish the evaluation.
Well, it turns out Coco has a few issues, but nothing career-ending. THANK GOODNESS! The likely culprit for her kicking at me while brushing her is an ulcer. This would also be why she was such a brat about cantering yesterday. She will start getting some Tums immediately and will have a longer treatment with omeprazole followed by a change in her diet to (hopefully) prevent future ulcers. Other issues Dr. Barbie found were soreness and heat in both front heels, so she needs shoes. She was a bit off in her sacral area so got a chiropractic adjustment for that soreness. All in all her issues should be easily treatable and not terribly expensive.
Coco looking out over her domain.
Sterling tends to do the same kick-at-me-when-being-brushed-on-the-left-side thing so I had Dr. Barbie do an eval on him as well. Turns out he doesn’t have significant ulcers, at least not anything near what Coco has as far as pain level. He will benefit from some aloe added to his diet, but nothing major. She did confirm that he has soreness in both of his front feet. She suspected saddle fit, so we put the saddle on and all looked well. He definitely needs more than a thin saddle pad with the Antares saddle, but it wasn’t anything she was concerned about. I told her my regular vet indicated this spring that Sterling was showing signs of arthritis in his coffin bones and she agreed that is most likely what is happening so he will need coffin injections sooner rather than later. Getting older STINKS for horses AND people! He also got an adjustment to his sacral area and she was surprised he was doing lead changes with no issues considering his soreness. What can I say, Sterling is a lead change dream!
My big grey (frequently brown) goober.
I’m so glad I had Dr. Barbie come look at my horses. I am a strong believer in preventative care for horses and people so hopefully we have identified some issues before they become major issues and given their sporting careers a boost in duration.
Happy Fri-YAY! Texas keeps teasing us with fall-like weather, then slaps us across the face with temps in the 90’s. I need to just enjoy the nice weather and appreciate sunlight to ride after work and not having to blanket horses. My least favorite thing about winter is the short days that make it nearly impossible to get rides in after work.
This week has been moderately eventful at the farm. We finally got a handyman/contractor out to give us a bid on doing some outside repairs on the house. Boot City had started some of the repairs, then quickly realized a carpenter he is not! Now we have brown spots on the ceiling in the kitchen from rain getting into the attic where the repairs were started. Oops! Fingers crossed that next year is THE year for a total renovation inside the house.
This isn’t the best photograph, but I had to memorialize Jaguar’s molting chicken friend. This chicken has commandeered Jaguar’s water buckets as her nightly perch for over a week. She is molting (shedding old and growing new feathers) so she looks ridiculous. Every night Jaguar munches on his hay while she poops in his water.
Don’t worry. He has a second water bucket (with water in it) that she doesn’t perch on and poop in.
Jaguar and his molting chicken bestie.
Now that Sterling is back in action Coco isn’t getting as many rides during the week, but she is still progressing nicely. She has an appointment with an equine acupuncturist next week that I’m looking forward to getting some answers about her back soreness. When I brush her back from her left side she kicks at me with her left hind foot. She may be just being sassy, but I think it is only fair to her to see if there is an actual issue. The acupuncturist is also a veterinarian and chiropractor so is highly qualified for the task. Sterling does a similar thing so I will probably have him looked at, too.
Coco being Coco
Dickens had a BIG day this week. He had brain surgery! Not actual brain surgery, he got neutered. Up until about 2 weeks ago he was the easiest puppy in the whole wide world. Then, for no apparent reason, he started marking spots in the house and going wandering to the neighbors’ properties. We figured this was the universe telling us that it was time for his family jewels to be removed. The breeder recommended waiting until he was at least a year old to have him neutered because the hormones help them grow stronger bones and be overall healthier. He turned 1 in early September so the timing was right. He is still sore and I think he generally hates us right now, but he’ll be back in action with his beerhound besties in just a couple weeks.
Dickens the goober Whippet.
I had a really sappy moment earlier in the week reminiscing about some of the fun things Jaguar and I have done together over the years and got mad at myself for taking him for granted now that he’s an old man. I went out to his stall super late (like 1a, which is crazy late for me) to just give him a hug. He looked at me like I was nuts and was absolutely insulted that I hadn’t brought any treats for him. Reason number 4,086 that I love him!
“Hi Mom. I will bite your noggin because I LOVE you!”
This past Saturday was a BIG day for the muppy family! Of the 11 puppies 5 will stay in Texas and 6 will go to New York to get adopted. The New York crew will stay in Texas until they are old enough to get spayed/neutered and finish all their puppy shots. The local puppies can be adopted earlier, with conditions requiring regular vet visits. Well, this past Saturday four of the muppies went to an adoption event and I’m so pleased to tell you that all four were adopted within a couple hours!
On their way to Dogtopia! This photo was before they ALL got carsick and threw up.
The rescue group had done a few posts advertising a puppy adoption event so people were able to submit adoption applications in advance and speed up the process on the day of the event.
Denise was the first muppy to be adopted. She will be an only dog and will have a new little girl to be her best friend.
Betty Lou was Boot City’s favorite muppy so it was hard for him to let her go, but she was adopted by a delightful older couple who already have one smaller dog.
Beautiful brindle Betty Lou
Rizzo was VERY popular with his adorably scruffy face and extra calm demeanor. He was adopted by a super fun family and will get to go on lots of adventures! His adoptors have already contacted me and requested baby pics.
Rizzo. Who could resist this face?!
Last, but certainly not least, to leave the building was Camilla. She went home with a young couple to be their first pet together.
Camilla and Pablo snuggles.
It is always a little big hard to let the foster dogs go, but it is so satisfying to know that we helped these puppies have the best start to life they could. Definitely much better than if they had been born on the side of a busy road, which would have been their fate had a good Samaritan not picked up Jessie and July. My hope is that their adoptors will keep in touch, but there is satisfaction in knowing they went to good homes.