I am an incredibly fortunate equestrienne. I have two very lovely horses to ride (as well as a superb retiree and a couple ponies). I get to keep these creatures at home in the lovely barn we built for them and on grassy pastures on a few acres that are incredibly close to the downtown of one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Yet I find myself constantly “shoulding”. What do I mean by “shoulding”? I should ride more. I should show more. I should go to more clinics. I should put on more fly spray. I should body clip. I should, I should, I should, I should. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with shoulding and just don’t. At all.
Jaguar enjoying some winter sunshine. His days of my shoulding are mostly behind him, other than the occasional questioning of some kind of geriatric horse maintenance.
Having a full-time job. Taking care of dogs/horses/cats/goats/chickens/ponies/donkey. Keeping up a small acreage. Curating relationships with friends and family. It all takes resources, all of which are finite. The biggest one being time. The second biggest one being cash. And those two things drive a lot of what shoulds happen and which ones don’t. The part that I struggle with the most with my shoulding is the why.
I’ve lived far too much of my life doing things because (I thought) other people thought that I should. Buying clothes I didn’t really like because someone else said they were cute. Overextending myself socially because I didn’t want to say no and hurt someone’s feelings. Going on trips that may have not been in the best interest of our budget because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. It’s only taken about 4 decades, but my self-awareness is finally maturing.
One of my biggest “should” struggles in a photo.
My greatest should struggle right now is Coco. What should I do with Coco?! ??????? !!!!!!!!!!!! She’s nine this year. I’ve had her at home for 8.5 of those nine years. If you had asked me when Coco was four what I thought she’d be doing when she was nine, I’d have told you showing in the Adult or Amateur/Owner hunters. The reality is that she’s only been to a couple rated horse shows and I’ve still never jumped a 3′ course of jumps on any horse, much less her. There are myriad reasons why we aren’t further along, but I find myself questioning my path forward with this horse ALL THE TIME.
My greatest mistake with Coco 5 years ago was not putting her in more precarious situations sooner. I should have taken her on trail rides, gone to more local shows, and just gotten her out and about. She is the “fanciest” horse I’ve ever had so I was nervous about “ruining” her, which is dumb. I’m a good rider and I don’t ask my horses to do stupid things. I was never going to ruin her by riding her like I rode all the baby horses that came before her, all of which have gone on to wonderful careers under saddle in various jobs. I’m getting her out and about now and it’s going really well. Her first few trail rides were comical (she was NOT getting her pretty hooves WET, OMG. But she will cross water just fine now) but she’s gained a ton of confidence.
I should show her at rated shows, but I just don’t feel it yet. My two primary resource challenges make me question biting the bullet and entering a show every time I get serious about doing an entry. I want her to foxhunt and hopefully will get her out this fall with hounds to see what she thinks. But there is always a little voice in my head that tells me I’m wasting a really nice horse so I should sell her to someone who will tap that potential. My dream of all dreams would be for her to be equally good at showing AND fox hunting. Serious shoulding going on here.
This horse has pretty much found his calling in the hunt field. And he loves him a photographer to cheese for!
Simon is a much easier should. His shoulds are more about body clipping (ugh). Fly sheets. Pulling his mane. And other banal shoulds that won’t remarkably change his future, just his day-to-day existence. Sometimes I think I should show him, but it would also be dumb to show him when I SHOULD be showing Coco. This past hunt season went really well for Simon. He was fit. He stayed sound. He got better and better all season. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 7 and (hopefully) has many years ahead of him to hunt and trail ride and maybe even go to some horse shows. I don’t feel the pressure that I should be doing anything different with Simon, and that makes him more fun for me to ride. Which is dumb.
At the end of the day, all a horse wants to do is eat grass and be safe. They don’t care about their potential. They don’t care if they win or lose. They don’t care if they have a show record or not. They don’t care how big are the jumps. They don’t care about any of it, unless they are hungry or scared.
I continue to struggle with my shoulding, but am getting better at prioritising things for myself, my family and my animals. No one can make these choices for me and at the end of the day, no one other than Boot City really cares in the long run. I regularly remind myself of this when I start shoulding and it helps me make better choices.
Ah, spring! I really do love the changing of seasons. Well, except summer. Since moving to Texas I do not like summer. The past couple weeks we have had idyllic spring weather. Not too warm and not too cold. The trees and plants look to be mostly recovered from snowpocalypse in February. Only the Crape Myrtles still have us wondering. We have one VERY large one and will be incredibly sad if it didn’t survive.
I don’t think I’ve ever introduced Lilybet on the blog. She hails from North Hills Hunt in Nebraska. Her mum is a Welsh Foxhound so has a wiry coat and her dad is a Deerhound mix. Lilybet is about 50lb and much taller than a foxhound, but lean like the Deerhound. She is nearly 2 years old now and is starting to fill out and look like she’s done growing. She adores romping around in the grass with her dog friends and occasionally getting into trouble chasing goats.
I got some new bedding to use in my LQ trailer. It is called Beddy’s and I learned about it from my blog friend Hillary. I’ll do a separate post later all about it and if I like it, but it arrived in the mail last night. Linda approves, at least so far.
Linda trying out the new bedding for the LQ.
We have 6 total cats and 5 are barn cats. This is Black Caviar (all cats except 2 are named after racehorses). We have lost SO many of our barn cats to coyotes and hawks and owls so I make most of them stay in the barn rooms at night. When they get out in the morning they run and find places to hide from the dogs. The hay wheelbarrow is often a favourite spot for hiding.
Black Caviar safe in the hay wheelbarrow
Gene has grown a LOT since he arrived late last August, but when I look at pics like this I’m reminded how small he is compared to my horses. He turns a year old in May and I’ll do a string test (explanation will be forthcoming on that) to estimate how tall he will be at adulthood. His co-owner is hoping for right at 14.2h because that is the size of a large pony for horse shows. I selfishly want him to be more like 15h because then he’s a better size for adults to ride. Regardless, he’s well loved and is an adorable pony!
Coco on the left and Gene on the right after breakfast
I hope everyone has a lovely weekend and gets to be outside in lovely spring weather!
I’ve been remiss about posting in general, but ESPECIALLY about Gene! My last Gene update was in September 2020. While a lot has changed, not a ton has changed. You see, I don’t like to push baby horses (or in this case, ponies) too hard. Gene was weaned at the wee age of 3 months, so I wanted him to have lots of time to just be a baby pony. No training. No lessons. No pressure. Just be healthy and grow and learn from his pasture mates.
His travel buddy and temporary roomy stayed with us for about a week and then headed to her new home in Oklahoma. I wanted Gene to have a solid 2 weeks of zero nose to nose interaction with my horses, so after Nina left he had a week just by himself and he did great! But he was SO excited when he could finally touch noses with the big horses!
Gene’s first nose touch with Simon. SO CUTE!
When his quarantine ended I kept him by himself in a stall with a run so he could interact with his neighbours, but not be in danger of getting kicked or cornered or anything. Once I felt like he was comfortable with the big horses I moved him to the paddock with Jaguar (my 27yo QH). I know I can trust Jaguar with youngsters and he won’t be a bully. I also put my older pony Samson in with them just because he seemed to feel left out.
Gene easily transitioned to the paddock and a few weeks later started going in pasture turnout with Jaguar. I knew he would run around a lot the first time out, so it needed to be safely and without big horse shenanigans. As always, Jaguar was Mr. Perfect. He appropriately put Gene is his place when necessary, but allowed plenty of sillies to get worked out. It wasn’t too long before I felt that Gene was ready for full turnout with all the horses, pony and donkey. My horse pasture us about 7 acres, so they have plenty of room to run and play without getting into bad situations (however, they still get into trouble plenty. I’m looking at you SIMON).
Just before Thanksgiving Gene had his “brain surgery”, which to horse people means he got gelded. My vet came over to do the procedure and it went perfectly. He came out of sedation faster than we expected and had to be kept off his feet for another 15 minutes, but he healed easily and was back in turnout within 24 hours! Horses do best after gelding if they can walk around. This keeps the swelling down. Being with the other horses assured that he would move around more than he might left alone in a paddock. I worked from home and it was a holiday week so we had someone home with eyes on him all day for enough days that we knew we were out of the woods as far as having complications.
Poor little guy is a bit drunk and had a mishap trying to stand!
Gene has also had a couple farrier visits. My farrier has been wonderful with him. Incredibly patient and he makes sure Gene always has a good experience and is never frightened. Gene has great feet and our ground is rather rocky, so they haven’t been a problem. Not being pressed to get them “done” has helped a lot.
Gene was born in early May on Assateague Island, so I don’t think he ever experienced winter as a foal. Texas made sure to serve up some REAL winter in early February. We were incredibly fortunate and never lost water or power. I had plenty of blankets for all the horses and ponies so no one got cold. They got turnout every day and played in the snow. All these experiences where they have to get blanketed and led and what not are so good for the babies. He saw all his buddies get blankets and was a very good boy when he got his on for the first time. They were all ecstatic to have them removed the next week, though. Lots and lots of rolling because blankets are itchy!
I think he looks adorable in his cute blue blanket!
Gene will turn a year old in just a few short weeks! Once he hits his first birthday we will start Charm School. He will begin to work on being a real pony; leading, standing tied, getting in a trailer and eventually going to some little horse shows. He really reminds me a lot of Jaguar at the same age. A little punchy, learns quickly, not easily scared, and has a good general sense of himself. I really think this is going to be a very nice pony who we will enjoy having for many years to come!
And he gives to best kisses!