Y’all. I think Coco has found her Big Girl Pants! A little help from some hormones and better riding doesn’t hurt, but we had an AMAZING weekend recently! I took Sterling and Coco to my trainer’s place outside Houston a couple weeks ago. This was Sterling’s first leg of his trip to his lessee and I took Coco to a small schooling horse show as well as a few lessons with my trainer.
The first day we were there both horses acted like lunatics; first when they got off the trailer and then later because we separated them into separate pens so they would (hopefully) not hurt themselves. By the time I rode Coco for our lesson that day she was pretty much exhausted so was a super easy ride. She jumped all the jumps with no hesitation and we even got in a few nice flying changes.
The horse show was on Sunday only, but we opted to take Coco and the other horses showing to the show location early Saturday morning. This allowed us to ride in relative peace and get her away from Sterling. It turned out this was a really really good idea. She schooled fantastically and was generally pretty chill about the venue. Much better than she had been at the previous two small shows I’d taken her to. Perhaps she was getting the hang of this leaving-home-and-showing thing.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. My division was going first so I got on pretty early to attempt to warm her up in my ring before it was closed. Long story short, the warm-ups were ALL chaos, she was very agitated and amped, and the start time was delayed AN HOUR! Needless to say, by the time my ring started I felt like I was riding a hot wire. My trainer had another student showing in the same division so she had me get off and take Coco to her stall to chill out until the other student was done. Coco never really chilled out, but I do think it was a better idea than continuing to wait around with the other horses and make her more frazzled.
We were showing in a 2’3″ division with 3 hunter trips and a hack plus a warm-up trip over fences. My trainer sent us into the warm-up trip and with the guidance to trot the first fence in every line. Just get her around soft and easy. And I’m so pleased to say that it was just that, soft and easy. She definitely relaxed and was happy for the first time in a few hours.
Looking happy and fancy! Photos are all from Ernesto Photography!
For our second trip we opted to trot the first fence and my trainer said that if she felt good go ahead and continue cantering. If she felt hot, then bring her back and trot to each jump in the lines again. Well, she felt great so after trotting the very first fence we cantered the entire course. We did one lead change and it was spot on.
She’s definitely very green over fences, but I don’t think we have to worry about her scope!
For our second two trips I took it very slow before starting to canter, but we cantered both trips entirely. She is SO FUN TO JUMP! She seems to really like it and you can really feel her spine curve over the jumps. She overjumped the jumps on the first course by quite a lot, but settled down a bit for the last few trips. All her lead changes were perfect, especially when I didn’t look down.
She looks so happy to be jumping!
After our four jumping trips we opted to skip the hack. The thing about schooling shows is that there are often horses and riders that are a bit on the rough and ready side. Either the horse and/or rider are inexperienced or maybe don’t ride under the guidance of a trainer, so they can be a bit crazy. Being that some of the horses in my division were also very green, it just didn’t seem like it would give Coco a good experience in case one of the other horses got out of hand or they did something that would unnerve Coco (like ride up too close behind her, or pass her too close, basically anything to crowd her would be bad).
All things considered I was ecstatic about our day. It had the makings of being a true disaster, but through the fantastic guidance of my trainer and a little patience on my part, it was an unforgettable day. After six long years of waiting I finally feel like I really might have my fancy hunter. Don’t get me wrong, we have a long road ahead and there will be plenty of bumps in the road, but she proved she has the talent and she likes jumping and showing. Those are things you can’t train or teach any horse.
Not a bad horse show day!
The icing on the cake was that we ended up Reserve Champion in our division, even without doing the hack! My barn-mate was Champion! Coco won the two over fences classes that she cantered in their entirety and was 2nd in the first hunter and 3rd in the warm-up. There were six horses in our division. What a good girl!
A very exciting thing happened this week. Sterling went out on lease with the world’s most delightful teenager! I’ve known for at least a year that I 1. need to start showing Coco 2. don’t have the funds or the time to show two horses 3. would prefer to find Sterling a job with someone else at least until I know where things stand with Coco’s future as a hunter. My trainer and I have been talking about it for a year and she finally found the PERFECT situation for my favorite unicorn with one of her clients.
His new rider is a teenager who has been showing hunters since she could barely walk, so is clearly a more skilled rider over fences than me. I think she will be WONDERFUL for Sterling. He has taken me so far with my learning and been an absolute saint to put up with all my mistakes without ever give me the middle finger. His new kid will hopefully be able to take him even further and over bigger jumps because she’s less likely to cram him up to the jumps and make him look like a frog, which I’m really good at doing.
Here is a clip from her lesson (and first time riding him) yesterday. They are an adorable pair!
I’ll keep everyone posted on their progress and will shamelessly post pics and videos when they start showing!
I took Coco to another show this past weekend and we had a much different experience from the previous weekend. In a good way, too!
Hidden Lakes is a great little show venue near Flower Mound, Texas. They often have show series throughout the year that are great to attend if you are starting out as a rider or for young horses that need miles. Clearly, Coco fits the bill for #2. I had intended to go to more of these shows, but at our first attempt Coco was having nothing with getting on the trailer. We worked that out. Then I had a show with Sterling in Waco. Then we opted for the closer to home show we went to last weekend, so we only ended up going to the final weekend of the summer series.
We got to the show grounds at 7:30a (my ring started at 7a). I THOUGHT there were only 6 jumpers so we would go around 8:30a or 9a. I was very wrong in this regard.
When Coco gets to new places she isn’t particularly energetic or spooky, which is great. However it makes me a bit lackadaisical in getting her acclimated to the venue. On this occasion I got her tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring immediately after completing our entry at the office. She started out OK, but got more and more amped up as other horses entered the warm-up area, she started to notice horses showing in other rings and the energy of being at a show started to spark.
It was at this time that I figured out there was no way we were showing around 9a. “Then she started doing the same thing she had done the previous weekend (which she didn’t do at home all week) and offered to buck when I added leg to ask for the canter. Rather than be in a dangerous situation and scaring other horses/ponies and riders, I decided to untack and go the the lunge ring. This was the BEST idea I’ve had in a long time.
She is nothing if not beautiful!
It was a hot day and it didn’t take too long before she was showing clear signs of getting tired. Thankfully she’s a good sweater in the heat.
After lunging I led her down to our show ring to await the completion of the jumpers and get her into the ring to lead her around and show her the jumps. This was happily uneventful. At this point in her life she had never jumped anything with fill under it. No flowers or walls or really anything other than rails and standards.
There was a still a full division before mine so we headed back to the trailer to tack up (again) and get ready. I could tell when I got back on her that the sassiness was still there. The edge was gone, but not the sass. We meandered to a warm-up ring and she was clearly going to kick up at the canter again. I was about at my wits end with her shenanigans. Back to the lunge area we went , which is just a circle area of sand, but I stayed on her rather than lunge her again. We trotted, all was well. I asked for the canter, head down and hind legs go up. I sat down in the saddle, grabbed the reins in one hand, and gave her 2 strong (not hard) taps with my crop. This got her attention and she rocked back to her haunches and cantered on. YAY! A win!
We changed gait a few more times with no issues then walked a bit and changed direction. She did the exact same thing again; trot, leg on for canter, head down and hind legs up. I sat down gave her 2 strong taps with the crop and it was back to business. From here on out for the rest of the day she was awesome. Relaxed and willing to do everything I asked her to do.
Our first trip around the course was OK. She stopped at the second fence in a four stride line, but it was completely my fault. I looked down, leaned forward and forgot I had legs. The second trip was fine. No big mistakes other than a couple close spots to jumps. Same with the third trip, except I think we may have added a stride in a line, but I’d rather have a calm young horse add an easy stride than one running away with me around the course.
My goal for our hunter trips were these:
Jump all the jumps
Use my legs for the entire course
Look ahead to help her get leads and not have to change lead
Should the need arise, do lead changes
And guess what, we pretty much met all these goals! She did multiple flying changes exactly on purpose. I got so excited she got the changes, I forgot to look where I was going and she dang near jumped out of the ring!
Before this Saturday I really was having reservations about Coco’s future. Was I asking her to do the right job? Would we ever “get along? Am I wasting a nice horse that should be doing something else with someone else? I’d be jumping the gun (pun kind of intended) if I said that all these questions have been answered, but I feel 99% better about us getting along and at least 70% better that this might be the right job for her.
We didn’t place very well and I REALLY wish I had video of our trips so I could see what they looked like, but it FELT good. She felt relaxed over the fences. She was incredibly consistent in her canter. She didn’t look at the jumps. She didn’t get spooky in the ring. SHE DID FLYING CHANGES ON PURPOSE. We have another outing planned this coming weekend, then she will get a few weeks of a break from “showing”. Miles, miles and more miles are what she and I both need right now! I’m sure excited to see where we are at this time next year!
Open and close gates/sidepass to and from solid objects like fences
Go in contact
Get out and about as much as possible
#1 is coming along nicely. #2 is a bit of a challenge to the right. As with many former racehorses, the left lead is easy but the right lead is SO HARD (American racetracks run in a circle that is counterclockwise so the horses turn left around the track). When we practice getting the right lead and he gets the left lead time after time, he has to keep working. As soon as he gets the right lead he gets lots and lots of pats and then gets to walk for a bit.
Last night we were working on cantering and getting leads and I got a wild hair to pop him over a couple of the crossrail jumps I have set up in my arena. When Sterling was starting out and we had trouble getting the canter, I would pop him over a small jump and land in the canter. So I wanted to try that with Simon. He felt SO good over the jumps so I begged Boot City to come take some video so I could see if he looks as cute as he feels over jumps.
(Enjoy the super cheesy music on the videos. I couldn’t help myself.)
He is SO CUTE over these teeny tiny jumps! SO. CUTE.
And every time we went over the jump to the right he landed on the right lead. I think we may be onto something here!
He’s only four years old and I promised myself that I won’t even try to get him jumping a full course until he’s five. Even after a short track career, and some known issues with one of his knees, I want him to have lots of time to grow and mature before his body gets worked very hard. Plus I really do need him as my hunt horse, so that is his first priority!
I am LOVING this horse and the fact that, as of today, he’s the youngest in my string and hands down the easiest!
Y’all. Mares. Are. Hard. We had lots of mares when I was growing up, but only one that was ever “mine” and she wasn’t “mine” for very long because she turned out to not be very good at her job (reining) so she went to the broodmare band (makes sense, right? Notsomuch). I’ve never had a long term relationship with a mare, until now.
Coco has been at the farm for 5 1/2 years as of this September. The first year was pretty easy, but every subsequent year has had challenges of one form or another. When she was a yearling and I switched farriers I learned that she had a club foot which required surgery to fix. She probably should have had the surgery 6-10 months sooner, but that is a post for another day. Few things are as fun (insert sarcasm here) as a yearling on stall rest, but I must admit that she actually behaved quite well considering the circumstances.
Her two-year old year was actually fairly drama free, but her three and four year old years more than made up for it. I opted to breed her as a three-year-old as I’d learned from other breeders that this can be good for the brain of a young mare and it also may help their fertility when they are older if they have already carried a foal to term. Breeding went fine, but she got injured a few months after getting in foal, so we were back to stall rest and hand walking. She was a bit more of a handful this time when being hand walked.
Coco about one week before she foaled.
When she was four was when actually had the foal You can read here about the actual foaling. It was heart wrenching and awful and I don’t ever want to re-live a similar experience.
So here we are today. Coco is six and has been under saddle for exactly two years. And she is a Pain In The Ass. Backing her was uneventful, and I’m grateful for that, but the past year has been challenging. I’ve backed lots and lots of horses. At least 10 before I graduated from high school and a handful since then. Every young horse has it’s challenges, but Coco’s have stumped me more than any other horse.
She sure is pretty, though!
Last fall she started a thing with pinning her ears and kicking up when I asked her to move forward with my leg. She had been going really really well and it kind of came out of the blue, so I thought perhaps she was in pain. I had a chiropractor/acupuncturist out and she was diagnosed with ulcers. I treated the ulcers, but the behavior didn’t change. This spring I had her back and hocks x-rayed. Nothing there either (thank GOODNESS!).
I’ve learned that she needs to walk around for about 5-10 minutes before you ask her to work. If you get on and immediately ask for a trot she will pin her ears and kick out. It’s like she needs a few minutes to get her head into the game, nothing wrong with that. I’ve found that letting her stretch out and walk nearly eliminates the crankiness at leg pressure. She’s been doing lots of lead changes over a log and even gotten a few that I’ve just asked for on the flat. We have been doing some cavalletti work as well as small jump gymnastics. I can’t help but get really excited about her scope and athleticism over even tiny jumps.
Her behavior has improved in general (the kicking at leg pressure had gone away almost entirely) so this past weekend I took her to a little horse show not far from home. She needs more time off property and they offered flat classes as well as some small jumping classes. I let the show organizers talk me into doing a showmanship class, which I think contributed to her developing crankiness during the day, and she was OK but definitely irritated. By the second flat class she would NOT canter. She would only buck. Not hard and she never got me out of the tack, but she was MAD!
I didn’t want to continue to fight with her in front of a crowd (they were extremely accommodating and the show was really delightful) so I scratched the over fences classes and took her home to see what was the deal. We got home, I tacked her back up (added a sheepskin Thinline pad in case it was a pain issue) and headed out to my arena to see if she would do the same thing. She didn’t. She was a perfect angel. Cantered off my leg from a walk, even did a couple flying changes over a log.
I think a few things contributed to her badittude on Saturday:
She hasn’t been off property very much
The other horses in the ring really jazzed her up and got her more “up” than usual
I forgot to put in ear plugs before I got on and I think the loud music and announcer contributed to her irritation
She is going to try to do what SHE wants to do until I make it clear that the final answer is NO
She is very smart, very athletic and young
Coco is challenging me more than any horse has before and I really think it is going to be a good thing for both of us. She’s not bad and she’s not mean, and I’m also not convinced that she doesn’t have some pain from her heat cycle that I’m hoping to get treated this week with some hormones. I plan to get her out a bunch this summer and fall to lots of local shows and venues. Time on the trailer and around new places will (hopefully) convince her that as long as we are together she will be just fine. We don’t have the trust established between us yet that we need to be successful. I feel like right now we coexist and my goal for the rest of the year is to develop an actual partnership.
Have you had a mare? Have you had similar issues? I’d love to hear from other mare owners, especially warmblood mare owners.
I’m still riding the high of Justify’s Triple Crown win this weekend so wanted to a post about his uncle!
Photo credit to Barbara Livingston. This is by far my favorite race photo from Justify’s bid for the Triple Crown. This one is from the Preakness.
Justify is by Scat Daddy out of a mare named Stage Magic who is by Ghostzapper. As you may recall from my previous post, Simon is by Ghostzapper. Which means that Simon is Justify’s uncle! This relation has strongly contributed to my obsession with Justify. I’ve also been closely following McCraken’s racing career, but it has not proved to be quite as illustrious as Justify’s (McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper and contested the Kentucky Derby last year, coming in 8th).
I’ve owned Simon for a little over a year now. I purchased him in January of 2017 and after his vet check and communication with his last race trainer I opted to give him a very easy 12 months. His race trainer indicated he had some issues with one of his knees and he came to me with some injuries from a run-in with some mares in the pasture he had been living. I’ve had off the track Quarter Horses, but never a thoroughbred and everything I read about OTTBs (off the track thoroughbred) indicated that time off would cure most ailments horses have from their track life. Plus I had two other horses to ride and show so it worked out better for my schedule.
I rode Simon maybe a dozen times in all of 2017 and he was always a lazy plug. ALWAYS. I took him on a couple trail rides and you’d have never known he had been a six figure yearling race prospect and was only three years old. He crossed bridges, didn’t spook at wildlife and seemed to really not care if he was in front, in the middle or at the back of the group of horses we were with. Basically he was a dream trail horse, albeit a very tall one (most trail riding horses are closer to 15hh and he is nearly 16.2hh).
One thing you cannot deny about Simon is that he is very handsome. I love that he has the big blaze on his face, but nary a white hair on the rest of his body.
I opted to not use him for foxhunting last season (his intended job when I purchased him) to let him grow up some more plus I rode another member’s horse for the season to give that horse some much needed miles. It was a win-win for us all.
Well, now it is time for Simon to have a job. I’ve committed to getting at least 3 rides on him every week and building his skills to make him a pleasant hunt horse. He needs to stand quietly for mounting, move off leg quickly, stand still when necessary, sidepass to open and close gates and (most importantly) tolerate hounds around his legs. As I write this post he stands great for mounting and has started moving off leg nicely. He will sidepass in the open, but he thinks I’m nuts when I ask him to sidepass towards solid obstacles like trees, fences and gates. He hasn’t been around hounds yet, but he does fine with my dogs around him.
I am also trying to get him out on trail rides as much as possible. This serves many purposes. He gets practice loading and riding in the trailer, going out on uneven terrain, riding with other horses, crossing water, seeing wildlife, and afterwards he has to stand tied at the trailer while we have a snack or lunch. We have been out twice this summer and Simon has been perfect in every way. I am astonished at how well he’s taking to his life of leisure, still at only 4 years old!
Our most recent trail ride. That is the Brazos River behind us. Photo cred to Bart Robbins!
Suffice it to say that all is going very well with My Man Zapper these days. We hope to get many more trail rides and some play days on our calendar this summer. By November he should be a seasoned trail horse so all he will have to adapt to will be the hounds and riding out alone. I am so lucky to have this special horse!
Do you have an OTTB? I love to hear stories from other OTTB owners, especially those who got their horse right off the track. They are special horses and so often overlooked.
Sterling’s legs have gotten a LOT of attention over the past week! As I posted previously he was crazy lame last Tuesday evening with what we suspected to be cellulitis. The vet came to see him on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed the cellulitis AND that it was caused by a 3″ deep puncture wound. So that “scrape” was actually 3″ deep and had hit the bone. The vet was concerned that there was damage to the bone, but wanted to wait a few days to see if there were symptoms to indicate bone damage. Sterling got put on a regimen of antibiotics twice a day, steroids with a pain killer for four days, then every other day for eight days, cold hosing twice daily, a furazone/DMSO sweat application and leg wrapping if/when the swelling moved from his forearm down to the cannon bone and finally medication IN the puncture wound.
Sterling’s much improved leg.
His lameness improved within 24 hours of treatment and by Sunday evening the swelling was nearly entirely gone. Hallelujah! He HATES the oral antibiotic, but isn’t a complete jerk about letting me give it to him. He also really hates the powder medication on his feed, but after pawing at it, flipping his feed pan over and pouting in the corner for about an hour, he usually finishes it, too. I combine applesauce with his feed when he gets to powder and, in my head, it helps the meds taste better. By Day 4 he wasn’t going to let me stick anything else in the puncture wound, which was fine because the wound scabbed over entirely by Day 5.
My regular vet had been out of town for the cellulitis/puncture fiasco, but had been scheduled to come over this week to look at some soreness Sterling had in his back at the last horse show. After a full lameness evaluation my vet concluded that Sterling has soreness in his hocks that he is compensating for and is causing the back pain. This isn’t terribly uncommon for a horse of Sterling’s age (11) so I wasn’t surprised that we will now be doing hock injections a couple times a year.
Hock injection number 1.
For these injections the horse is sedated to prevent any unnecessary wiggling while being stabbed in the hock. Each hock gets two injections, one on the inside and one on the outside. It is an intra-articular injection which means it goes directly into the joint to reduce inflammation and pain. Most likely the injections will need to continue for the rest of his life at an interval of about every 6 months, but that may depend on his work load. Most people in the sport horse world will tell you that joint injections are a matter of “when” not “if” they need to happen.
You can see here where the injection was done. The hair is wet and there is some blood.
After the injections my vet recommended that Sterling stay in his stall for the day and he can resume work again after about three days. Considering the puncture wound/cellulitis issue combined with the hock injections I’m probably going to wait to ride him until next week.
The aftermath of injections.
Another one of the joys of having a grey/white horse is that after something like injections you can see the blood, even though there was hardly any. His poor hind legs look like he participated in some weird ritual leaving him with four small blood spots on the same part of each hind leg. He’s so done with me fussing with his legs that I didn’t want to fight with him to wash them off.
Now that his cellulitis swelling is completely gone and he’s one dose away from finishing his oral antibiotics I’ll get him cleaned up soon. He’s not the best horse patient (that would be Coco), but he isn’t horrible (Jaguar is HORRIBLE to do his teeth. HORRIBLE). I’m looking forward to riding him next week. Daylight Savings PLUS a sound horse make me happy. 🙂
I’ll have an update on Coco’s vet visit later, too. She didn’t want to be left out of all the fun.
WAY back in December I ordered a custom tack trunk. My first one ever. I was beyond excited. The retailer (Centerline Style, I’m not going to tag them because their customer service was horrible at the end and I don’t want to send them any business) was having a 20% off sale which included custom tack trunks and it was a deal I just could not refuse.
I emailed the store (which turns out was the owner) with my myriad questions before I placed my order. All my questions were answered quickly and succinctly so I felt “safe” in ordering the trunk. To make a very long story somewhat short, the great customer service lasted for a few weeks and then the customer service fell off the planet. I last received a response to my question about a delivery date in mid-January and it wasn’t an answer, it was a “here is a $40 store credit to thank you for your patience”, which frankly made no sense to me. I placed my order on December 17. The website stated a 6-8 week turnaround, which would have my trunk arriving somewhere between January 26 and February 9.
I had a show the first weekend in February and was REALLY hoping I would have it by then, which would have been towards the 6 week end of the timeframe. The days leading up to the show I emailed, called, online chatted and contacted the retailer online to no avail. No one answered the phone ever. No one returned my call. No one responded to my email. Needless to say I was getting angry and a bit worried.
The week after the show I called the trunk’s manufacturer. They were AMAZING! Turns out they hadn’t even gotten my order until January 2, so the 6-8 week window got pushed out two more weeks. Thanks Centerline Style. They gave me the current status of the trunk’s build and finish time and told me to expect it to be ready to ship in a week and a half. That timeframe had the trunk arriving sometime between February 16 and 23. I had another show the last weekend and February and was super excited to have my trunk. Finally.
The week of the show arrived and I contacted Centerline again. Still no response. No one answered the phone. No one responded to my email. I was starting to get REALLY angry. I contacted the manufacturer again and got some really good and really awful news. My trunk had been done since February 14, but the retailer wasn’t responding to communication from the manufacturer so they couldn’t ship my trunk. Now I was furious. I left a 1 star Google review, contacted the Better Business Bureau, and lastly contacted my credit card that I had used to buy the trunk. You’ll never guess how this ends……….. within 24 hours of contacting my credit card I received this email from Centerline,
“I just wanted to let you know that your tack trunk finally shipped yesterday! Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything at all, we can’t wait for it to arrive!
To be clear, the trunk actually shipped the day after I got this email. I don’t think the retailer was trying to pull a fast one on me, but I do think they are understaffed and have bitten off far more than they can chew. Retail in 2018 is tough. The Dovers and the SmartPaks of the world do a pretty good job of answering their phone and email in a timely manner, especially when you order something that costs more than $1,000. I’m sure many people have horror stories of the big equestrian retailers and I’m not here to start an argument, but to go over a month not responding to a customer’s requests for information on any order is unacceptable.
In happier news, here are my “unboxing” photos from when my trunk finally arrived last week. In March. 10 1/2 weeks after I ordered it. Boot City is highly entertained by online unboxing photos and videos, so these photos are dedicated to him.
The delivery vehicle. For some reason he didn’t want to drive up my driveway. Some people have no sense of adventure.
I had to finagle in out of the bed of the pickup to be careful to not drop it! It wasn’t crazy heavy, but it wasn’t light. That is Punky the goat in the background. She was very helpful.
My first glimpse….. of Styrofoam……..but I have to admit that it was very well packaged.
I had to lay the box on its side to slide the trunk out. I put cardboard under it to be sure to not scratch it at all.
Ta da!!!!!!!!!!! It is a beauty! But, of course, Centerline messed up the order. You see, my initials are “TNT”. The coolest initials you could possibly have, so I wanted it on my trunk as “TNT”. The way it is on the trunk now is the “correct” way, but not how I ordered it. I’m not going to send it back, because Lord knows how long it would take for them to fix that. But I will be bringing it to their attention…..(them being Centerline, I know the manufacturer just did what they were told)
Last, but not least, the inside. Murtagh approves, but I don’t think there will be room for him in there once it is filled with all my horsey goodies!
My advice is to shop at Centerline Style with extreme caution. Kelly at Hunky Hanoverian also had issues with customer service at Centerline and if you read their Google reviews, all of them in the past couple months are pretty terrible. I’m excited to have my trunk and am grateful for the discount, but I’m pretty sure the time I spent trying to wrangle my dang order cost more than I saved. We live and we learn!
February in Texas means time for the Winter Series horse shows in Katy at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center. It is a series of four weeks in a row of hunter/jumper horse shows and for some reason is one of my favorite shows of the year. Possibly because it reminds me of showing at the NILE when I was a kid and probably because I tend to enjoy the precarious weather that February brings to Texas.
The series started the first week of February and had four separate shows going until the last weekend of February. In the interest of not abandoning Boot City for multiple weekends in a row we opted to go to the first and last weekends. I drove down and hauled horses with my horsey bestie the first weekend and she picked us up to go down the last weekend. It is way funner to get to go with your best friend on a four hour drive through a really boring part of Texas.
My name is Sterling and I hate baths. Why a horse who was born to turn white has to dislike baths so much is beyond me. He’s gotten better, but he still thinks you are torturing him.
I have been taking lessons at a local jumper barn and was REALLY feeling READY for this horse show. I’ve gotten much better at seeing distances to the jumps and feeling like I’m actually riding rather than passengering. Well, the first weekend of showing didn’t really prove to be my best riding. We are still showing over 2’6″ fences so my mistakes aren’t hugely cumbersome to Sterling, but man they are frustrating for me. The first weekend of the show was smaller so there were only 10-12 in my division and we placed in all our classes so I’m happy about that aspect of the first weekend of showing. I am still not doing a very good job of controlling the consistency of Sterling’s canter around the course which caused a few chips (getting really close to the jump which is then HARD for the horse to get over safely) and a couple of very L O N G spots.
I went home and watched a bunch of videos from trainers teaching how to practice to find distances and set up some small cross rail and cavalletti jumps to practice. The weather wasn’t very cooperative towards the end of the month so we didn’t get as much practice as I would have liked, but thankfully I have two other horses I can ride to do the exercises multiple times in one day. Plus Simon and Coco benefit a lot from going over cavalletti. I went into Week IV feeling a bit better about my skillz. Now if I could just keep my brain tuned to the right channel while showing I would be in good shape!
We got to the show a day earlier for Week IV than we had for Week I because horsey bestie was showing on Friday. It was nice to be there and get to settle in before showing. Sterling gets a bit nervous so I felt like the extra day allowed him to settle in more. Plus it was WAY warmer in Katy than in Azle during the two day iceapolooza storm we had. Sorry Boot City for leaving you to blanket-unblanket-blanket-repeat three horses while I basked in the 75 degree temps with my one horse.
Our first schooling ride over fences was fabulous. He was relaxed. I (mostly) made good decisions. We got to school in our show ring without a ton of other horses to distract us. I finally felt good about showing. Hopefully I could keep it together for another 48’ish hours.
Nap time for the Unicorn. He doesn’t lay down often, but I think it is so cute when he does. I imagine this is how parents of real children must feel times 100.
The second weekend of showing definitely went better than the first weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better. Not once did we come out of the ring and trainer ask if I was trying to kill my horse! We had one bad chip the whole weekend. A few close spots and a couple long spots and for some reason I still let him zoom around the ends of the ring. There were nearly 20 in our division and we placed in 3 of 4 trips over fences so I was very happy with those results! We were in very good company (read, competing against horses WAY fancier) and didn’t make fools of ourselves. Plus I had SO much fun. Like SSSOOOO much fun! I love my barn family, my horsey bestie and pretty much everyone I get to hang out with at horse shows. And, of course, I adore my horse. Never would anyone have thought that the ugly steel grey yearling would turn into such a wonderful show pony!
Maybe one of my most favorite horse show pics to date. He just looks SO cute!
The forecast in the next week or so in north Texas is COLD! Highs will be in the 40s and lows in the 20s, plus it feels colder because the air is humid. Mind you the temps in my hometown in Montana are MUCH colder with highs in the single digits and lows well below zero, but consistently freezing weather in north Texas is pretty cold. At times like this I try to remind myself how miserable it is to ride when it is in the 90s and humid in the summer so I can motivate myself to take advantage of not roasting. It can be difficult.
I wish I had photos from winter rides during my childhood. I can remember helping friends move cattle and 20 minutes into the ride I couldn’t feel my feet. By the time we were done moving the cattle or whatever task we were seeking to accomplish I likely couldn’t feel most of my face, my hands and below my knees! I didn’t ride regularly in the winter as a kid. Usually the winter was when I participated in some school sport like basketball or volleyball. My horses always got the winters off to get fat and hairy and have some down time.
We never had a horse colic in the wintertime, either. My parents had a very successful program for winter horse management. The horses had plenty of shelter and hay to keep warm and dry plus our stall runs and pastures had access to Ritchie horse waterers which NEVER froze. Horses don’t like to drink freezing cold water and if they don’t drink enough water they can get impactions in their gut which cause colic. It is vital that they have access to clean, not-freezing drinking water at all times.
Now that I live in Texas, winter is my favorite time to ride. It generally doesn’t get much below 40 for most of the season, so with enough clothing it is comfortable to be outside.
Sterling decked out in his winter riding attire.
When it really is “cold” I use some extra horse clothing to keep them warm while I ride. The quarter sheet covers their hind end, which is where some of their largest muscles are located. Quarter sheets are usually made from some type of fleece or wool fabric so when they do get hot it wicks away the moisture. I keep my horses under lights all year (this tricks their body into not knowing when the seasons change so they don’t grow thick winter coats) so they don’t get super woolly. Because of their lack of winter coat they need blankets when many fuzzy horses don’t. It seems cruel to take off their warm blanket to go ride and not cover them up at all, so I use a quarter sheet.
Bundled up rider, but less bundled up horse.
When we really get to working I will remove the quarter sheet so as to not overheat the horse, which can be worse than getting cold. It is much easier to get a horse warm than it is to cool them out in the winter time. At the horse show we went to a couple weeks ago many riders used a quarter sheet right up until they went into the show ring and put it on as soon as they came out. The older the horse is and the harder it is working, the more important it is to keep those muscles warm and prevent cramping and discomfort.
My tack room is heated so my horses also don’t have to deal with freezing cold bits in their mouths. When I go to fox hunts I often put my bridle in the floor board of the pickup under the heater so when we get to the hunt they get a nice warm bit in their mouth.
As far as keeping myself warm, I’m a big fan of layers. Especially in Texas where it often feels really cold when I first go outside, but as I start moving around I get warmer and warmer. Layers allow the removal of extra clothing so I don’t get too hot. And my favorite way to keep my ears warm under my helmet is with “hunter hair”. Hunter hair is accomplished by putting your (long) hair in a ponytail with hair covering your ears and a hairnet over your whole head to keep your hair in place. You flip the ponytail up and put the helmet over your hair. This makes your hair an ear warmer! Brilliant!
You can kind of see my hunter hair covering my ears. It works much better and is far less bulky than any type of headband to cover your ears under a helmet.winter r
If I still lived in Montana I’m pretty sure my horses would still get winters off and I would spend the season gaining the festive fifteen from eating too much and not getting enough exercise. I’m looking forward to lots more winter and spring rides before hot Texas summer returns.