Archive of ‘The Horses’ category

Practice Makes Perfect

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.

Britannia Farm HORSE SHOW!

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!

 

Horsey Blog Hop | 10 October Questions

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!

 

Natural Horse Medicine

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.

Farm Friday 10.06.2017

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!”

Casey Moves Back to Montana

I got the news yesterday that Casey has officially moved to his new home in Montana! It was bittersweet for him to return to Montana, but I’m SO EXCITED for him and his new family.

Horsey Glamour Shots – with the saddle

My goal with every horse I “have” (technically Casey belonged to my Mom, but he was “mine” for a year) is for them to be a better horse that what I started with and therefore have value as a good riding horse. To my mind this is the best prevention from a bad situation. A kind, talented, well trained and rideable horse is far less likely to end up in an abusive home, at a kill-pen or just not cared for.

Horsey Glamour Shots – passenger side view

When Casey arrived in Texas he was very nicely trained, but still young and didn’t have a lot of hours outside an arena. He would inherently get more time outside from fox hunting, but I also wanted him to be a nice trail riding horse. He has an AMAZING brain. He’s generally unflappable and has that fabulous Quarter Horse smarts, so I had a great animal from the start. Mom also wanted me to work with his flying lead changes in case she wanted to try more reining or even western riding with him later. I am pleased to have accomplished all of these goals. We went on quite a few trail rides, which he took to very well. His lead changes aren’t quite automatic, but they are definitely there and just need some polish. I haven’t shown a finished western riding horse, so I don’t know if he has the talent for that event, but I do think he would make a nice reining horse with more training. He stops nicely, turns nicely and doesn’t have trouble doing lead changes. He looks at cattle so might even be able to do working cow horse!

Horsey Glamour Shots – driver side

About three quarters of the way through hunt season Mom made the decision that she wanted to sell Casey. We agreed that he had a better chance of going to a nice show home if he stayed in Texas so I marketed him here. Only by word of mouth until early August, then I posted a Dreamhorse ad. It is somewhat ironic that he sold to a family in Montana, but the best part is that he now belongs to a family I’ve known most of my life. Casey will get to do some ranch work, he will continue to do some showing and he will be loved by a little girl. There is a quote/meme you often see on social media about how every horse deserves to be loved by a little girl at least once in it’s life.

I completely agree and am THRILLED for Casey and his little girl!

Simon’s First Trail Ride

First off, I took zero pictures. I had no idea what to expect from a 3yo OTTB on hundreds of open acres for the first time and carrying my phone seemed like a recipe for disaster. I also didn’t have a safe way to tote it around since it is giant and I only had breeches pockets.

Some of Boot City’s family recently bought some property outside of Waco so horsey bestie and I headed down with our OTTB’s and her adorbs Welsh Cob mare to hit the trails with the fam and a neighbor. I was a bit apprehensive how he would behave as Simon had “come to life” on our last ride at home and went so far is to attempt to buck a couple times. Simon has a very level topline so it doesn’t take much for him to put his head down and let ‘er buck. Thankfully he’s quite lazy and very gangly so his attempts so far have just been entertaining. We also cantered for the first time since January on that ride. It is amazing how a horse that is SO awkward at the walk and trot can have such a lovely and balanced canter. Nevermind that you must ride EVERY stride or he will just stop. #lazyOTTB

Suffice it to say that he was a rock star on his first trail ride. It was the perfect environment for him and we couldn’t have dreamed up a better first experience. The company was calm and quiet, which was important to me for his first few outings. I want him to be comfortable with his pals on the trail and not be worried about any of them running away from the group or running up on the group. Once he is comfortable just ambling along a few times we will move up to trying some speed and taking forays away from the other horses.

On this ride he crossed a concrete creek bridge. Saw a few deer. Heard gunshots (it is dove hunting season in Texas) in near range for about 20 or 30 minutes. Rode through a group of cattle with calves. A couple birds flew out of cover when we rode by, but not big noisy birds. The property is lovely and has some nice roads throughout so we stuck to the paths. He never wanted to go faster other than speeding up his walk, but he wasn’t his completely slow ambling lazy self. He also stood tied to the trailer like a gentleman with his two girlfriends while we had lunch.

The laziest and sweetest OTTB!

We will be back down for another ride in the next few weeks, that is for sure! I might even get brave and take Sterling sometime to see if perhaps he does better on trail rides if he’s in a small group or even alone since he’s a hot mess in big groups. Many thanks to horsey bestie for coming along and bringing an extra horse and to Boot City’s family for hosting us and providing a yummy lunch!

Farm Friday 09.08.2017

HAPPY Friday! I”m sorry I’ve been MIA this week. I’m travelling for work a lot this month and didn’t schedule myself very well. We had a lovely holiday weekend and I got was happy to help with some dog transports to open shelter space for Harvey evacuees from the Houston area. Shout out to the Woof Gang group in Wisconsin for taking over 40 dogs out of Texas!

 

Betty Lou loves her aunt Quila! Quila is a bit unsure about Betty Lou.

 

It is hard being Coco Chanel.

 

A different kind of motherhood on the farm. This spider’s abdomen is covered in baby spiders.

 

Happy FIRST Birthday to our favorite Whippet!!!!!

Farm Friday 09.01.2017

Holy smokes, it’s September already! How did that happen?!

The past few days have been so emotional for me. I watch my Facebook feed to see countless posts of the devastation in the Houston area from Hurricane Harvey. My heart is warmed and my faith in humanity is restored to see SO many people stepping up to help people and animals in need. We will be taking in some shelter dogs a as a temporary stop on their trips out of Texas to make room for Harvey evacuee pets. My Facebook feed is also full of posts of the devastation from fires in my home state of Montana. Over 500,000 acres have burned this summer. Farmers and ranchers are losing their livestock and livelihood to these fires. At the end of the post I’ll include links to organizations I feel have the best direct impact on  those in need in Texas and Montana.

Onto more uplifting pics of cute animals!

 

Pablo meets a Muppy!

 

When I was riding on Tuesday night I got a bug in my eyeball and it has looked like this since Tuesday night! It looks much worse than it feels.

 

Our goats like to play with and in their food.

 

Links to help Harvey victims:

Fund established by Houston’s mayor: http://www.ghcf.org

American Associate of Equine Practitioners: https://foundation.aaep.org/form/foundation-donation

USEF Disaster Relief Fund: https://www.usef.org/donate

Urgent Animals of Fort Worth: https://www.urgentanimalsfw.org/donate

Austin Pets Alive: https://www.austinpetsalive.org/hurricane-harvey-evacuations/

Tarrant Area Food Bank: http://tafb.org/donate/

Farm Friday 08.198.2017

It has been a relatively uneventful week on the farm.  Which is a pleasant change! My horse trailer has a bit more damage from the runaway roof than we initially thought it had, so it goes in for repairs next week.

Enjoy the farm pics!

 

Casey had a photo shoot last weekend for his sale ad. He’s so handsome!

Jessie enjoying some time cooling off in a puddle. Hairy dogs don’t love Texas summers!

The muppies are big enough to nurse while Mom is standing!

Mickey had a follow-up vet visit this week. The trip was very hard on him.

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