Posts Tagged ‘horse’

Trail Riding!

This past weekend a group of us affiliated with the fox hunt I ride with went on a trail ride at one of the properties where we hunt. This is newsworthy because the weather was AMAZING! It was forecasted to be in the high 90’s and we got lucky with a very cloudy morning and even a few rain drops.

I took my Mom’s little yellow horse, Casey. His mane has completely grown back and I think he should be called Fabio now.

Casey and his Fabio mane. I keep it braided at home so his neck doesn’t get so hot, but took out the braids for trail riding day.

Casey was awesome on our ride. He hasn’t done a ton of trail riding so I’m always happy when we get out and he has a good experience. He’s only 5 so getting good miles in now will pay off a lot on the long run. Trail riding can be unnerving for horses because they see things they don’t normally see out on trails (animals, 4 wheelers, all kinds of things!), riding in a crowd can make them nervous, and having to cross water and ditches can be scary.

A group selfie. You know your horse is good for trail riding when you can take photos and completely drop the reins and he just keeps going.

Since I’m working to sell Casey for my Mom I want him to have good, constructive experiences when we leave home and he got just that last Saturday. He crossed all the ditches, never spooked at anything, didn’t get terribly worried about where the other horses were. We rode in the front some and in the middle some. He’s got a pretty good walking pace, so he’s unlikely to be at the back just because of his speed.

Literally my favorite view. #lifebetweentheears

We are always so grateful when our hunt landowners invite us out for trail rides. It is a great way to explore the properties while not being busy with hounds. This property is still relatively new to us and we have struggled with knowing how to get from point A to point B at times! It has a steep ravine through the center of the property and is quite wooded. We spent some extra time finding ravine crossing spots and pulling down dead tree branches when we had the chance. The nice thing about Casey is that he isn’t crazy tall. This property will be interesting when I start riding Simon because he’s about 5 inches taller than Casey!

Lush green grass in JULY and glorious clouds make for a pretty spectacular view.

Our group stayed pretty slow, which I liked. Galloping in a group seems like it would be great fun, but it always brings out the crazy in one or two horses and someone ends up on the ground and/or scared half to death because their horse is a victim of “groupthink” and freaks out because it wants to win some proverbial race or at least keep up. I’m not one of those riders who enjoys that kind of chaos. Save it for the warmup ring at horse shows where there is always plenty of drama!

Riding in the middle of the group for a bit.

We had a potluck lunch after the ride complete with homemade Shepherd’s Pie and homemade Gazpacho soup.

Sterling Update 07.10.2017

This poor horse! I feel SO bad for him! Thankfully he hasn’t seemed to be in much or really any pain, but my gosh this thing is taking FOREVER to heal! This is what his stifle looked like a little over a week ago. Much worse than before we drained it the first time.

The fluid started accumulating inside of the top of his hind leg AND around his stifle. I don’t know that this photo does it justice. It was SO fat!

Last Monday the vet came over again to drain it, again.

If you zoom in on this photo you can see the fluid flying through the air as it drains out. So. Gross.

 

As it was the first time, the fluid was an amber color mixed with some blood. The vet cut two large holes and really got into the fluid buildup to break the capsule where it was accumulating. This time some chunks came out in addition to the fluid, which the vet said were the walls of the capsule where the fluid was collecting. Part of the reason for cutting two holes was to tie a piece of rubber tube through the holes so they won’t close up so quickly and allow the accumulating fluid to build up, yet again.

After the second draining with the rubber tube in place.

 

It has been a week since the second draining and yesterday Sterling was lame on that leg again. I felt like the holes were sore and ready to have the tube removed, so that is just what I did. Took out the rubber tube, cold hosed it for 20 minutes, gave him some banamine and put some DMSO on the swelling. Within a few hours of doing that he was running around in his paddock so I presume the banamine helped! The fluid coming out now is much more opaque and seems like pus, but it isn’t stinky and worrisome.

For now we will cold hose twice a day, DMSO on the swelling and he’s getting an antibiotic just in case there is some infection. This poor horse! Add him to your prayer list that this heals up and he can get back to his normally scheduled life. He is SO sick of being kept up while his buddies go out to graze at night.

At least he has this guy to keep him company. I’ve been making Simon stay in with him because he doesn’t seem to care if he doesn’t get turnout. You know, like most 3yo thoroughbreds who are off the track, he just wants to laze around in his sandy stall run.

They really do like each other, I promise, they were just cranky yesterday. I presume Sterling was grumpy because his leg hurts and he is SO sick of being hurt!

Farm Friday 07.07.2017

Boot City and I both took some time off work this week to get some stuff done around the farm. Usually when we do this we get distracted and hardly accomplish anything on our to do list, but we did really well this time! Lots of gates built, arena sand delivered and some purging of Boot City’s metal collection.

Little Mickey is quite the snuggler. He has no idea that he only weighs about 5lb. He acts like he is a 70lb pack leader! So funny!

 

Casey is spoiled and gets 24/7 turnout, mostly because he is so well behaved and not a fat kid. He often has chicken buddies while he grazes during the day and the other horses are in their stalls.

 

Simon. Just because he is a lovebug and so cute.

 

It has become somewhat of a tradition for one of my hunt friends to host a gymkhana the weekend before the 4th of July. We were blessed with moderately cooler temps this year and had much fun!

 

I got a truck load of sand for my “arena” and the dogs and horses took full advantage of the sand pile. There was much dog wrastling and horses rolling!

 

It is never easy to see them go, but its time for these boys to move on. Boot City took them to the goat sale this morning. I always tell myself that they end up in a home similar to ours and get good lives.

 

What are you up to this weekend?

Farm Friday 06.30.2017

It is the LAST day of June! How did that happen?! Summer appears to be here for good for a few months. It isn’t blistering hot just yet, but it is quite warm. Boot City and I are taking some time over the next few days to do some pretty major farm improvements. Hopefully some will be blog worthy!

This is what Dickens thinks of mornings when he doesn’t get to go outside.

 

Harriet is right in the middle of her heartworm treatment. She is handling it like a champ. Dogs who are having the fast-kill treatment have to stay calm and quiet to avoid getting their heart pumping too hard. As the worms in their heart die, they get pushed out into the bloodstream and if the heart gets to beating too quickly it can kill the dog if a worm gets lodged in just the wrong place. It appears that Harriet gets this and when she is allowed to come outside she is very docile. She doesn’t run and play with Dragon and Dickens like usual. She may feel a little under the weather, but she seems more like she just knows she needs to mind her p’s and q’s. She is a wonderful little dog!

The dogs LOVE to eat my horses’ Muenster Milestone feed. They like it so much they get in empty bags just to lick the bag. Weirdos.

 

We got some good rain last weekend and early this week. We had been a few inches behind average at the start of June, but according to my Farmlogs app we are pretty much caught up to average.

For a little while this was a FULL rainbow. I never tire of seeing rainbows, they are such happy things.

 

Since all my riding horses are pretty much lame except for Coco, she has been getting LOTS of rides lately! It is really paying off and she has made a ton of improvement in the past few months.  Fingers crossed she will be ready to do a real course at a real show by the end of the year with lead changes and everything!

She does make happy faces, too! I think she enjoys her job and hanging out with me. She definitely LOVES her some treats!

 

Dragon and Dickens are both sighthounds, which means they are bred to hunt by sight. This instinct is much stronger in Dragon than in Dickens, but he certainly joins in when she goes on the chase. Lately they have been chasing the cat, which means the cat has been actively avoiding coming in the house or being around the house in general. We lost Tarzan and Marby last year so it makes us very sad that Sabrina doesn’t feel safe in the house. I don’t think the dogs would hurt her, but it isn’t fun getting chased every day. She disappeared for a day or two and we worried the worst had happened.

She showed back up in Boot City’s shop and it appears that she may becoming a shop kitty! We have moved her kitty food to the shop and Boot City has made a bed for her. Hopefully she will feel safer there and stick around. We love our Sabrina! Plus this might keep her away from the busy highway which is where the other two cats met their demise.

 

Do you have fun weekend plans? I’m sure lots of people are going on trips for a long weekend since the holiday is Tuesday. Be safe and have fun!

Jaguar’s Retirement Celebration

I’m absolutely terrible at taking photos at my own parties. Terrible! We had a lovely gathering of horsey and not-so-horsey friends over to celebrate Jaguar’s retirement. This year has been so hard, I needed something happy to happen at the farm and this was just the ticket. I’m sure many of my friends and family think I’m a little bit nuts because I tend to mostly have parties for my animals. Not birthday parties like normal people with animals and not kids have, but Sip and Sees  and horse retirement parties. However I’m beyond grateful that they indulge me and attend said parties.

Jaguar in his Retirement Party stall decorations

Jaguar in his Retirement Party stall decorations

I attempted to decorate his stall in my hunts colors, but last minute planning and the lack of the correct hunter green at the local Dollar General resulted in a shamrock green, but it still looked festive and Jaguar was very interested in his balloons!

Checking out his loot and eating carrots

Checking out his loot and eating carrots

Jaguar was showered with lots and lots of fantastic gifts and there were even a few for his assistant (me)! He got mostly carrots and horsey treats plus a bottle of Stella Artois to indulge his taste for beer and a Jolly Ball for his stall. I got bottles of champagne, vino and a couple lovely home accessories.

 

Very well packaged horsey and horsey assistant gifts.

Very well packaged horsey and horsey assistant gifts.

I am still pretty sad about not being able to ride the old man any more, but I look forward to a new kind of bonding with him. He’s got so many treat bags as gifts that he should be able to do every trick in the book you can teach a horse using treats. We have already been working on bowing and making great progress. He’s very careful with his hurt leg, but is still game to try most anything it takes to get a cookie.

All of Jaguar's goodies

All of Jaguar’s goodies

The “big time”!

I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.

I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.

We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.

The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.

The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!

Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!

Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Do the Derby

Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!

At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!

Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.

I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.

Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.

For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.

GHHJA Mini Derby Nov 2014

It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!

Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!

Longchamp (not the handbag)

To continue our horse-centric French rendezvous we made a day of going to the horse races at the Hippodrome de Longchamp.

Longchamp 4

I have a love/hate relationship with horse racing. I love the stories of horses like Seabiscuit and see them at the track in person, but I’ve been close enough to the sport to know that racehorses are to most of their owners and handlers (I know there are exceptions) not much different from cattle. Once they are done, for whatever reason, they are gotten rid of in the quickest and most lucrative fashion. I’ve seen my fair share of legs broken on the racetrack and my dad ran a stockyards when it was legal to sell horses to the killers in the US. Quite a lot of the horses on those trailers were from the track. However, there is a spirit in many thoroughbreds that nothing can fulfil other than racing. It is powerful to watch such majestic creatures run their hearts out because it is what they were bred to do. It was with that spirit that I found myself at Longchamp.

It was easy to tell the moment we laid eyes on the horses in the paddock that they were extremely well kept. Their coats glistened, their hooves were shiny and, to our surprise, most all of their manes were braided. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a racehorse (in person) in the US with it’s mane braided. Their tails were also thick and banged (cut bluntly). I definitely have not seen many American racehorses with a nice tail! The paddock itself was lovely. Lots of green grass and beautiful flower beds.

The paddock at Longchamp

The paddock at Longchamp

One of the differences between French and American horse racing that first struck me was the lack of pony horses. At all tracks in the U.S. racehorses are led onto the track, while on the track and often when leaving the track on pony horses. Meaning that someone riding another horse leads the racehorse. Pony horses are usually calm and put up with a lot of racehorse shenanigans. There was not a pony horse in sight at the French racecourse. The first race we watched were three-year-olds and they walked, pretty calmly I might add, from the paddock to the racetrack all by themselves. Most had a human handler or groom walking alongside, but they were pretty much on their own.

Headed to the track

Headed to the track

The other difference was that the track at Longchamp is turf (grass). All of the Triple Crown races in the U.S. are run on dirt tracks. Most American tracks have a turf track, but more often run on the dirt. I thought it was a curious difference. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race is run at Longchamp and is the second richest race in the world. The turf does make for a much lovelier view than does dirt. At first it made me a bit nervous because grass can be very slippery. In none of the races we watched did any of the horses have issues with the footing, thankfully.

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

We stayed for six of the eight or nine races being run the day we attended. We were there on a Monday afternoon so the stands were rather empty. We noticed a few other tourists, but most of the spectators were men and were betting. We had hoped to have a lovely picnic on the grass in the infield, but we couldn’t figure how to get to the infield so we settled in stands and enjoyed getting to watch the horses and general racetrack activity.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

My favourite part of each race was how calmly and orderly the horses left the track. The jockeys would ride them about 1/8 further down the track than the finish line, then turn their horses around and canter back to the same gate from which they rode onto the field. None of the horses jigged or pranced as they left the track in a single file line back to the paddock. I’m not sure that my 7-year-old thoroughbred (whom has never run a race in his life) would have done it so calmly.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

All in all it was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. The horses were gorgeous, the racing was good and the weather was absolutely perfect. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was to be run a few weeks after our trip. It would be fun to see one of the fancy races in Europe, but I’ll hold out for Ascot one of these trips.

Chantilly lace had a pretty face…..

I recently had the amazing fortune to spend 10 days with a delightful friend in France and England. It was the horsiest non-riding vacation imaginable and it was heaven! Not to be rude, but I generally have little or no interest in looking at other people’s vacation photos. So, rather than inundate the world with annoying photos I’m going to blog about a few of my favourite parts of the trip, include a few photos and keep the rest for myself to enjoy the memories that go with the photos.

Our first full day of the trip was spent visiting the Domaine de Chantilly with priority given to the Grandes Ecuries (aka Grand Stables). This trip was ALL about HORSES. Anything we could possibly do that involved horses, without actually riding one, we pursued. And let me tell you. These stables are GRAND.

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

I can’t even comprehend what went into building a stable like Chantilly. The focus and energy that went into horse care during a time when the horse was the hot rod is difficult to wrap one’s head around 100 years after the automobile has taken over as the choice of transportation. Horses today are just something that little girls (and some big girls) obsess about and are a luxurious hobby. These stables were the difference between Jay Leno’s garage to store priceless Maseratis and street parking an old Honda Accord in a bad neighbourhood today.

Imagine warming up your horse in this setting in preparation for a morning stag hunt (I should be wary of imagining such things considering women at the time the stables were built were assuredly NOT going on stag hunts).

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

We toured the stables and clucked at all the horses, however they were onto the clucking thing and were having nothing to do with the tourists. Most of the horses in the stables were Spanish types, which we found odd but they are likely more suited to living in a stall and doing public shows than the average Selle Francais. We also toured, and loved, the Musee du cheval (Museum of the horse). It was without a doubt one of the best presented horse exhibits I’ve ever seen.

To finish off our Chantilly horse fix we attended the Equestrian Spectacle. The show was lovely, not the most amazing horsemanship in the world, but they do the show most every day and the horses and riders are actually lovely. Definitely a flight of steps higher than Medieval Times in the US. They did all the announcements before the show in French and (evidently) a select few in English at the end. One of the ones they didn’t say in English was no photography, so I got yelled at by the cute French boy charged with chastising audience members for photography. BUT not before I got at least a couple of good shots. We think this location was probably where the horses were shown off during the heyday of the Grand Stables.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

As a relative newby to the sport of fox hunting I really enjoyed the French take on the sport. The Chateau at Chantilly is full of art and homages to the sport of hunting. The French did/do a lot of stag hunting as well and it is depicted in their art. At the entry to the Chateau grounds there are stags on either side of the entry and then further at the actual structure are hounds. I would LOVE to have a larger than life bronze of my hounds at my front gate. Someday.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

If you are going to France and you are horse crazy, I highly advise going to Chantilly. It is a short (and lovely) train ride from Paris and is an unforgettable experience.