Posts Tagged ‘trail ride’

Horses Out and About

The ponies and I had a very productive and fun weekend!

We kicked off Saturday morning by heading to a lesson at the barn where I bought Coco when she was only a few months old. Her flat work has been going really well and I know she’s ready to jump, but I also know that I need some eyes on the ground to give me feedback to bring along a youngster. Being that this barn raised and trained her dam (as well as multiple half siblings), stood her sire, and two grandsires I value their input both as professionals in the hunter/jumper world, but also their knowledge of her bloodlines. They hadn’t seen her in person since she was a baby baby, so it was fun for them to see her grown up.

Coco handled the “new” place quite well. She looked pretty hard at some jump standards in the corners of the ring, but she didn’t say “no” to anything. She also handled the traffic in the arena much better than I would have anticipated. One of the down sides to keeping horses at home is that they don’t get much time in an arena with other horses. It took Sterling a year or two of showing before he stopped panicking about horses coming up behind him on the rail. I could feel Coco’s energy when horses would jump nearby, but she was never naughty.

We did lots of flat work, walked and trotted through some ground poles and ended the lesson by trotting and even cantering over a crossrail. The trainer’s feedback was that she jumps cute, even over such a tiny fence. She also really uses her hind-end into the canter transitions. Coco will definitely be a talented jumping horse, so hopefully we will get a solid base and get to start showing over fences next spring!

Pretty (and very sweaty!) Coco after our lesson.

 

The norm lately has been a lot of rain and random storms. Saturday night brought over 1.5″ of rain at our house! My horsey besties and I had planned a trail ride at the Trinity Trails in Fort Worth and we didn’t let the rain deter us! It was misting a bit when we set off, but it cleared up and turned out to be the perfect weather for a Sunday morning ride on the Trinity Trails. Plus the weather seemed to deter others from heading out so we didn’t see more than maybe 15 cyclists and that was it.

All of our horses thought the stripes in the parking lot were walkovers. It was funny.

It is delightful to live in (near) a city that is so welcoming to trail users. The Trinity Trails system has many miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that allow you to ride right up to downtown Fort Worth. We got some pretty amazing photos!

This is Casey’s “but I want to eat all the grass not take a picture” pose! Downtown Fort Worth is in the backdrop.

Casey behaved really well. He looked at lots of things, but never spooked. There was a donkey on the other side of the river from us and he really talked to us when we rode by him! Thankfully we have Pablo at home because donkeys often scare the pants off of horses when they bray.

It’s so nice to have this much green grass in August. You wont hear me complain about the rain, that’s for sure!

Does your town have trails for riding, running or biking? Do you ever take your horse out?

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.

Coco Under Saddle for a Whole YEAR!

It is kind of crazy to think that I’ve been riding Coco for a whole year! In many aspects she should be further along in her education, but I always want to take it slowly with my young horses and let them tell me when they are ready to try harder things.

Looking, looking, always looking. You never know when a dog or a goat may come out of nowhere to eat you. Dried up brush is also very deadly.

She can officially walk, trot and canter on purpose. She mostly knows which lead I’m asking for at the canter, but we have done anything crazy like counter canter just yet. She moves off leg pressure when she feels like it. When she is focused on the killer dogs/goats/brush she will purposely ignore my aids. Maybe this is a “mare” thing or a just a “Coco” thing? She isn’t spooky when she’s away from home nearly like she is at home, which I hope is good in the long run.

Selfies while riding are hard.

My goal for her this year is to be working on flying lead changes by the fall. Once she has a lead change we will start dabbling in schooling shows. I’m hoping to take her to a couple more summer shows to do some hack classes and just get her out and about. Showing a young horse in the blistering heat of the summer can be advantageous for preventing shenanigans that cooler weather might perpetuate! I might take her on some trail rides with my foxhunting group this summer, but I’m kind of on the fence about those with her. I should probably take Simon so he is a bit more ready come hunt season.

She really is fun to ride. We have popped over a few small crossrail jumps and her talent is quite evident. Going straight is a bit of an issue, but we will start working on some cavalletti gymnastics and continue with dressage lessons to work on those skills. I have high hopes for Miss Coco Chanel!

She makes this face a lot. In her mind there is just no reason that humans aren’t perpetual treat dispensers and she’s pretty put out when that doesn’t happen!

I Love Horses

My name is Tara and I love horses. Supposedly that is the first step to recovery, right?! I can’t imagine my life without these divine creatures playing a major role and am so grateful I have the means and the support of Boot City to have them. People often compare the hobby of horseback riding to playing sports or golfing or other “similar” activities, but there is one glaring difference. If you own or lease a horse you are responsible for the care and well being of an 800+ pound animal 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. It is kind of like marriage; you take a vow to care for them in sickness and in health.

So far 2017 has had it’s fair share of “sickness”, mostly in the form of injuries. Right, Sterling?

We like to selfie while on stall rest. Again.

Simon tried to pull his hoof off of his leg this spring, but miraculously was never lame. The injury looked really bad and made me kind of nervous so I haven’t been riding him. I want to let the hoof grow out more and he is really just a baby so the time off is fine.

Simon trying on a hunt bridle to prepare for what we hope will be his future career!

Jaguar is kicking it retirement-style. His hurt leg is noticeably off, but he’s happy as a clam out in his pasture with his buddies. He even trots and canters sometimes! I thought he’d be annoyed at being retired, but he’s taken to it pretty well. He still bosses everyone around, including the neighbor horses.

The handsomest 24 year old, grandson of Doc Bar, past AQHYA World Championship qualifying reiner, retired fox hunter, there ever was!

Coco (so far) is one of my “in health” horses currently. She has had PLENTY of “in sickness” over the past few years so she deserves it! We will make our way to a few more horse shows this summer as Sterling convalesces. Miles, miles and more miles are my goals for Coco this year.

Hanging out in her giant stall at the horse show. My favorite thing about Texas Rose Horse Park are the huge permanent stalls. It is so nice for the bigger hunter/jumper horses to not be stuck is some tiny 10×10 or even 12×12.

Last, but certainly not least, Casey has been the VERY best step-in hunt/whipper-in horse I could have asked for! He was a perfect gentleman all hunt season, enjoyed a few trail rides and now is FOR SALE! The plan had been to take him back to Montana, but Mom thinks it would be best for him to stay in Texas and have a busier job with someone who will appreciate him. Casey is one of those horses that you can truly grab out of the pasture, jump on and go and there is no drama. I know because we did just that 2 weekends ago. He hadn’t been ridden since March and I hopped on (with no lunge) and he trotted and cantered around like he was ridden yesterday. And he’s only FIVE! He’s got SO MANY great years ahead of him! So, you should buy him, or at least tell your friends to buy him. For reals.

Poor Casey’s biological clock stayed on Montana seasons so he didn’t start shedding his winter coat until JUNE! When he would get hot and it was wet, well, he would roll in the mud to cool off.

No, horses are not just a “hobby”. I can’t put them in a closet and forget about them until the next time I want to “play”. They are my lifestyle and I love every second!

Field trip

In the nine years I’ve owned Sterling he has slowly but surely gotten much better about being ridden away from home, but he still gets quite distracted at new places. One of the best things about living in North Texas is the availability of really lovely facilities that allow outside riders, one of which is a mere 15 miles from my house. This past weekend Sterling and I made the trip out to Willow Draw┬áto get some miles away from home.

Not many hunter/jumper barns have walls with mirrors so it usually takes Sterling a few minutes to get acclimated to the handsome grey horse that seems to do the same thing he’s doing.

It is SO nice to be able to see his frame in the mirror, though. Especially when I’m riding by myself. I can really see how my riding is affecting his frame and see the immediate change when I change something. There aren’t any jumps in the indoor so we worked on a 20 meter circle exercise we did at a lesson last week and then worked on his frame for the under saddle classes.

After 30 or so minutes in the indoor I wanted to get him out on the cross country course for a mini trail ride. As I’ve written in the past Sterling is NOT a fan of trail rides. However, I’ve only ever taken him out in large groups or with the fox hunt so thought going out by himself might go better. Willow Draw has a full cross country course, but we only ventured to one of the water hazards to see if I could get him to get his feet wet.

I didn’t take my iCellular with me when I went out in case he lost his s%&t and I got tossed into the water or something similar so I don’t have pics, but I was able to get him to get all four feet in the water! Here is a snap of the water hazard from the road. It is the one with the jumps in the distance, not the one right by the road.

I’m SO proud of him! He also had to cross a little ditch of running water and let me tell you, he cleared that 2″ of water by about 7′ both in height and the distance he jumped across. Dramatic much?!

There were some riders schooling on the cross country course and I wanted to stay out of their way as much as I didn’t want to overwhelm Sterling, so after our success at the water hazard we went back to hack a little more in the indoor.

Sterling was a very good boy and settled easily into the “new” arena. Just a couple years ago we would have had to lunge for 15-20 minutes and do plenty of hand walking before I would have DARED ride at a new place. I am SO appreciative that places like Willow Draw make it possible to use their beautiful facility.

Unplanned Retirement

Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.

Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.

This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

The big 2-1!

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

There are some things that happen in your life and for no apparent reason they are burned into your memory. I remember taking Daughty to Colorado with my Dad in the spring of 1992 almost like it was yesterday. I remember how the barn where Juniper lived smelled. I remember that it rained. I remember meeting the Wolfs, who owned the farm where Doc’s Juniper stood at the time. And, I remember when, eleven months later, Jaguar was born. I was 13 years old. Yah, I know, I just gave away my age.

We had had foals before, but from the moment Mom and Dad planned to breed Daughty to Juniper I knew this one would be mine. They wouldn’t let me have a 2 year old in 4-H until I was 15 and when this foal turned 2, I would be 15. I was beyond excited. As a foal Jaguar was mischievous. He would run up behind me and put his feet over my shoulders. I thought it was adorable until Dad reminded me how not adorable that would be when he weighed over 1,000 pounds so we put a stop to the silliness. He bit. He bullied. He acted like a normal foal and I absolutely loved him.

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

The 4-H colt program started when the horse was a yearling. You had to show them in hand to exhibit their training and cooperativeness. Much to my delight Jaguar was brilliant. He learned new things faster than I could teach him. We won nearly every class we showed in that year. He could do Showmanship with the very best. He never put a foot wrong and would square his feet in about 3 steps. It was so much fun to show such a smart horse. His smarts would also lead to many of his greatest difficulties. Our first such experience was taking him to the Montana State 4-H horse show in a one-horse trailer. He was fine getting in to head to Great Falls for the five hour drive. Coming home was a different story, and I can’t say I blamed him those trailers are terrifying! We nearly had to beat him to get him in that trailer. He learned a valuable lesson, though and he’s gotten into every trailer since without a moments hesitation.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

His two year old year just continued to show his brilliance. He never ever took a step wrong when I broke him to ride. I was terrified of him bucking so I did all kinds of crazy things to him before I even acted like I was going to get on the saddle. I put tires on the saddle. I concocted crazy contraptions with whips and raincoats to simulate a person. I’m sure that by the time I actually rode him he was relieved to be done with the shenanigans! We worked very hard all year and he was a very broke 2 year old by the time we got to the fair. The judge, however, was horrible. She decided that there was no way I could have possibly trained him so well on my own so wouldn’t give us higher than a blue ribbon (Grand and Reserve Champion were the winners, everyone else got a blue, red or white ribbon depending on how they did) in any of our classes. I was furious and so frustrated. Jaguar was starting to show a lot of promise as a reining horse so my parents and I made the decision to quit 4-H and move on to only show in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association shows. I learned young that people like to punish others for being better than them at something, even if it was legitimately earned. Nice lesson for a 15 year old kid, right?!

Sadly I don’t have any photos of Jaguar reining. They are all in Montana, still. He was a fabulous reining horse, but the same troubles would always bubble up. As soon as Jaguar figures something out, he makes it more interesting for himself. Like spooking at chairs by the arena that have been in the same spot for 3 days, but he just now noticed them. Or anticipating parts of reining patterns and doing them before he’s supposed to. After three or four years as a reiner he had to move onto a new career because he knew all of the patterns and there was no way you could trick him to wait for cues.

Trail riding selfie

Trail riding selfie

My Dad used him to rope on at brandings and to sort cattle. My Mom showed him in some local shows and basically won everything they could possibly win. They finally told me in 2006 that I needed to take him to Texas. I couldn’t really believe my Dad had actually given me the option to keep him. He always sold my horses and never gave me any input on the decision. It was bittersweet when they brought him down because about a month after they visited Texas my Dad died from a blood clot that was a result of an injury from an accident he was in while riding a horse he had. For that and a myriad of other reasons Jaguar is one of the strongest living reminders of my relationship with my Dad.

And how many 34 year olds have pets (if you can call a horse a pet) that they had when they were 13 years old? Jaguar has seen me through ALL of major life events. Think about it; prom, my first boyfriend, starting high school, graduating from high school, going off to college, graduating from college, moving away from home, my first job, my wedding. He’s been in my life for every single thing. I can remember getting mad at friends or parents in different times in my life and going out to the barn and spewing my frustrations to Jaguar and the other horses I had at the time.

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar turned 21 last Saturday. I don’t know why this birthday seems like such a milestone, but it really does. I love that horse to pieces! My parents bought and sold so many of my horses while I was growing up that I learned quickly to never get attached to them. I still don’t really get attached to them (or at least I think I don’t, we’ll see when I actually need to sell one!) like I feel attached to Jaguar. He bucks on most every fox hunt and acts like an idiot for the first 45 minutes of every trail ride, but when push comes to shove he’ll always step up. I can put any inexperienced rider on him and he’ll be absolutely perfect. I was trail riding with hunt friends last weekend and we had an episode that caused Jaguar to spin around faster than I could stay on and I remember falling on the ground and him stepping over me so the other horse running by wouldn’t step on me.

So, cheers to Jaguar! Easily the best horse I will ever have the pleasure of riding! And he earns extra credit points for being the absolute best baby sitter of baby horses you could ever ask for. Just ask Coco.

Best buddies.

Best buddies.