Monday, November 29, 2021

Worth Every Freaking Penny



 Sometimes it is the silly little joys in life. The inexpensive extravagances. The things I would have done when I was 12 but I didn’t have access to horses back then. My family thinks I’m wasting money. My husband thinks I’ve gone crazy.

I think it doesn’t matter because the moment I got everything set I was giggling so hard my eyes watered and I snorted.  


Eeyore was the first to try his on and the color choices suit him perfectly. A bit loud, a little crazy, a whole lot of fun.


He isn’t much of a fan of hats so it took a bit of convincing to get a good picture.



In the end he realized this was his fate now.



Hamilton wasn’t left out of the fun. Hammy is a snob through and through so his needed to be a bit more sophisticated.


Being a generally amiable fellow he took to his no issue.

 


These are going to bring me so much joy throughout the gloomy, wet winter to come. I already can’t wait to tack the boys back up again!


Monday, November 8, 2021

Windridge Hunter Pace: The Good and Bad

I generally like to spare you all on the boring details of trailer loading and travel except….

Sooo…the ball should definitely be on the trailer tongue and the red handled piece? That’s my crank to raise/lower the trailer and was now sheared right off. 

I made the hour drive without complication and was asked to pull all the way up the hill to park by warm up. No biggie until I pulled off the drive. There was a bit of a ditch to go down which I’ve done many times before having schooled xc here in the past. This time, as I went over I heard a very loud, heart stopping bang. I slammed on the truck breaks, hit the emergency brake as well, then exited the truck screaming “shit, shit, shit, shit”. Just my luck, B who was riding Eeyore for the first time, happened to be following me in. Great first impression. 

Not the sight you want to see arriving at your destination. At least it happened in a safe place and not on the highway. 

I immediately called Dusty (after making sure the boys were ok) who jumped in the van to come help. Meanwhile I had the worst parking job ever in a big open field. I was blocking the entrance but there wasn’t much I could do. I apologized to the people who pulled in next to us. The guy was super friendly and looked things over. He said that I had the wrong size ball which made me go hmmmm…because I hadn’t changed it and we’ve been pulling this trailer for a decade now. 

Well…apparently the hubs had changed it out to help pull a trailer a while back. No clue how we managed to trailer up to KY twice plus go to other trails and paces without issue. Again, super lucky. Also super lucky that the hubs had volunteered to hook up the trailer that morning so he couldn’t blame me. 


B and I got ready to ride while Hubs made his way to us. I mean..why not ride? Nothing else to do right?

I was super excited for B to be on Eeyore as she is an eventer so I knew she’d let him have some fun over the jumps. Both boys unloaded fine even after that disaster. Before I knew it we were off to the start. I don’t know what bee got up Hammy’s bonnet but he refused to go past the starter table. I think he got distracted by the dog in a fence on our other side, then Eeyore moved on without him and he lost his mind. There was much spinning, backing up at speed and an attempt to pop his front legs up. I called out to B to bring Eeyore back and Hamilton settled. Baby horses I guess?

Things moved well from there for a long while. We trotted, cantered, trotted some more. I had warned B that Eeyore has started to dislike creek crossings for some reason and Hamilton had never seen one so be careful. We quickly came to the first of many water crossings and both boys went right over without batting an eye. Most of the beginning was in the woods. 


We popped onto the back side of the cross country course but without any jumps around. The weather was still cool so we moved up to a lovely hand gallop. This ranked top 5 best horse experiences ever for me. Hamilton flew but I couldn’t even feel his feet hit the ground. The terrain had almost evenly spaced out humps that we crossed over. He handled them like a pro. My grin was hurting my face. B was grinning and praising Eeyore as well. It was magical.

It was also the last bit of fun I had for a few miles. We let the boys catch their breath then found ourselves at the bottom of a nice grassy hill. Hamilton had made his way in front of Eeyore when B asked if we could go again. I said sure but didn’t realize she’d jump straight into a canter beside me. Eeyore shot off and Hamilton lost his mind. I have no idea how I stayed on him except my saddle is amazing. He reared and spun left at the same time then hopped up a few more small times for good measure. I got him settled and asked if we could walk for a bit. I needed my heart to settle as much as Hammy did. 


The trail then wound through the xc course for a couple miles. Poor Hamilton was unnerved. Those jumps freaked him out something fierce. I made the comment several times that it was a good thing I didn’t get him to be my event horse. His back was tight, his head was up and he was majorly not happy. When we came to the smaller jumps towards the start of the course I told B to head over and do the warm up cross rail to get used to Eeyore then she could do the little starter fences if she wanted. No pressure. Those two headed off and Hamilton could not live anymore. He was spinning, backing up at speed, going sideways…I called it quits and jumped off him so B and Eeyore could enjoy themselves. They did a few fences then Hamilton let me use a Training fence to get back on him. Not sure why that was ok but whatever.  

We walked the rest of the course, though we did play in the water complex a bit. Both boys went right in. Eeyore took a long drink while Hamilton tried to roll. We left there and followed the course a bit more before diving back into the woods again. Hamilton never did settle until we got away from the jumps. 



Once back in the woods, Hamilton took the lead again. We had a lot of fun trotting and cantering through the twisting single track though power steering was a bit hit or miss. I began calling out the turns for B’s sake as they were 90 degree out of nowhere turns but most of them we blew right past. Then on the very final right turn, we were flying up a hill when I called out “right turn” and Hammy turned beautifully without slowing. I was so so proud! I screamed “good boy!!!” and gave him all the pats.

Before we got there though we wound through the forest for what seemed forever. Eeyore was slowing way down. Even Hamilton wasn’t asking to go nearly as much. We only encountered one more issue. We had three more creek crossings, all no big deal. Then we hit the fourth. I don’t know what was different but neither boy was crossing. Another rider came up and gave a lead but Hamilton needed more time to mentally process. Once Eeyore was across, Hammy was still on the other side and now his brain melted again. He wasn’t ready to cross but he also wasn’t happy being alone on this bank either. I hopped off to hand walk him across when he leaped and nearly landed on me. But he crossed so he got a lot of pats before I climbed back on. 

Shortly after we had the final crossing which was super wide and super deep. Like came up to his belly deep. I thought for sure I was going swimming. Hamilton stopped to have the world’s longest and groaniest pee ever  right as Eeyore started across. I yelled to B to please stop so we didn’t have a repeat issue. They hung out in the middle while Eeyore gave us major side eye, Hamilton finished peeing eventually then walked across like the previous crossing issue never happened.

Not the best angle as we had already started moving away. I was sure I’d need to swim across. The center was super deep. 

At mile 7.25 we saw a SUV on top of a hill. There hadn’t been a half way stop yet. We looked at each other grimly declaring that if this was a 15 mile ride we’d DNF and cut through the trees to get back. Thankfully it was only a spotter in a difficult section. It was only a mile back. 

The rest was uneventful. Both boys made it back to the fixed trailer sweaty and tired  B praised Eeyore a ton and even threatened to steal him. Honestly his behavior has only improved with every outing. Unlike his younger brother who seems to be getting worse each time out. I didn’t get after him though. Being left behind isn’t fun. Having your partner spook you as they pick up a gallop right beside you isn’t fun. And apparently he is deathly afraid of solid fences strewn about open fields. 


The rest he was amazing for. A long gallop up a big open field? Polite and light. Twisting forested single track both following and leading at a good speed? No problem. His first ever water crossing? No problem? His first ever extremely deep water crossing? Also no problem. So really it’s a big win. He is only 5 and been off the track for 1 year though most of that he sat to gain weight. I’ve only taken him on trail a total of 4 times and this was his third pace. I’m nowhere near an expert here but I think we are doing ok. 



Friday, October 29, 2021

Caught in the Act


There have been a few instances of late of the horses getting out of the pasture. It has always included Eeyore but since he has been with me more 3 years with no prior offenses I stuck up for him. I blamed Hamilton since this started after he came back from the trainer this summer. I thought maybe he was running Eeyore through the fence. 

Then Gem, Eeyore and Hamilton were found running amok last weekend at o dark thirty. The pasture gate was wide open. The last person to close it was the Hubs so I blamed him for not paying attention and leaving the gate open. 

Well….I was getting ready for work this morning and received the following text from the Hubby…

Yes, Hubs calls Hamilton Hamstring. It is better than what he calls Eeyore.

I had left the horses in the barn overnight to give them a break from the cold downpour that had started in the afternoon and was slated not to end until this afternoon. I know that stall was closed and latched.


Guess I owe both Hamilton and Hubby an apology. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

Tryon Hounds Hunter Pace

 

This sums up the day with Hamilton perfectly 

Sunday I hauled both chestnut boys to a gorgeous private field to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather at the hunter pace. Surprisingly C asked if she could have the ride on Eeyore again and I was happy to hand her the reins as long as she rode in his Aussie saddle which she was happy to do. It worked perfectly and Eeyore was the mostest goodest boy ever. The saddle makes all the difference. Plus some monstrous hills, but I’ll get to that. 

This view did not suck

I also took her advice and instead of trying to be the first ones on the trail we waited until midway through hoping all the fast riders were off the trail before we even started. It was a lovely plan and we ended up in a nice bubble for most of the ride. Those who did pass us or that we passed were all friendly and safe about it. A much different crowd than the speedsters at the front. 


Hamilton seemed to approve of the view as well

The trail was amazingly well marked which is saying a lot as they worked hard to get the mileage in by winding through fields and small thickets of trees. There were times where the trail headed sharply left to wind around a half mile just to end up 10’ in front of where you had turned. It would have been easy to just go straight and miss it had it not been for the massive red arrows everywhere. Big kudos to whoever had that job. 

Eeyore was a saint for the entire ride. He never put a hoof wrong.  C was thrilled with him as was I. He didn’t even seem to mind when others came up behind but again, they didn’t gallop blindly up our butts either. Honestly there were several moments where I wished I had been on my Appy instead of the rage monster I found myself on. I did feel really badly for the chubster though. We were going along nicely with a lot of trotting through fields and things were going swimmingly until after the hold.



After that we entered the GENTS trail system and let me tell you…I’ve done a lot of trail riding in my day and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered hills as steep as those. I’m talking hills the horses had to slide on their butts down. At one point we found ourselves a lovely flat trail along the riverbank. All four of us eagerly hopped into a trot then a canter to enjoy the flat, easy and cool trail. Just as we all settled in the trail turned sharply right and we found ourselves staring straight up the side of a mountain with a small pink ribbon at the top. I wish I could have been in front to see the look on Eeyore’s face. I’m sure it spoke volumes.

After that poor Eeyore was done. We still had a handful of crazy steep hills to climb before the end too. Honestly that horse gave his all and then some Sunday. I couldn’t be any more proud of him. 

Then there was my Baby Racehorse. Remember me saying how much this horse LOVES the trail? Apparently one pace was enough for him to learn the game because he came out ready to rumble. Now. The bar for “bad behavior, expressing opinions” is set pretty high since I’ve been riding Eeyore for over three years and he is the King of Expressing Opinions. I’m not sure how someone who isn’t used to Eeyore would feel about Hammy. For me, I thought he was silly. 



One of his issues is that he is starting to strongly dislike being behind Eeyore. Or at least being behind a tired, barely moving Eeyore. He was perfectly happy to follow until Eeyore started to slow down at which point Hammy thought he’d help motivate him by being very very snarky and attempting to bite his ass. He got sharply reprimanded for that maneuver.

Then he got angry with me for holding back his greatness and tried to bite my leg. He got kicked in the nose for that. He was good for awhile (good meaning his objection to not racing was expressed through grunting, sighing and the occasional moment of tucking his head to his chest and blowing out a lot) until we came to a stretch that was particularly sandy for some reason. I felt him slow, paw and then his knees began to buckle as he thought that was the perfect time for a good roll. A sharp heel to the ribs got him moving before I became a sand coated pancake. He was in rare form indeed.

Ok..so here is where I become a Hamilton Apologist, but I have a point so hang with me. Hamilton has very long legs. He is also born to move out. While Eeyore thinks he is moving out he generally tops out around 7-8 mph at the trot and then has to canter. He cruises best around 5-6 mph. At one point I let Hamilton lead for a nice trot stretch and before I knew it we were cruising at a glorious 9.2 mph with happy ears. Poor Eeyore was cantering and still getting left behind. I’m sure Hamilton enjoyed finally getting to stretch out those long legs of his to move freely at his own pace down the trail. I sorta felt bad putting him back behind Eeyore after that as I could tell he was pissy about it. You can’t go leaving your chubby partner behind though. 

The finish was at the top of this field in the gap between trees. You can see the arrow pointing us left to hug the tree line and wrap around. 

Beyond his obvious displeasure at moving slower than he liked, Hamilton was such a good good boy. He tackled his first set of creepy, rickety bridges. He navigated knee deep mud. He scooted down hills on his rear. He galloped up hills so steep I grabbed mane so I wouldn’t slide off the back of him. He did it all without blinking an eye or once saying no to anything. He even lead a great deal at the walk and a small portion at the trot. For his second pace it was a lot to throw at him. I think now the only thing he hasn’t encountered is a water crossing.

So…yeah his behavior wasn’t the best. He was pissed we weren’t flying through it all and he was showing it in some pretty naughty ways but as always he stayed safe, listening and easy to handle, if annoying. No bolting, bucking, rearing. Just a baby horse throwing some epic temper tantrums when he didn’t get his way. 

I managed to snap the most unflattering picture of both my boys post ride. Eeyore looks like a mule here  (no offense to mules LOL) and I swear he isn't this bad looking in real life.

All in all it was one of the best rides I’ve ever had. It easily ranks in the top 10. Both horses were happy, easy going (in the ways that matter) and safe. Both us riders grinned and laughed through it all. I couldn’t have asked for better. We ended at just over 7 miles and just shy of 1200 feet of elevation gain. Poor Eeyore dug into his hay bag while we wandered over to the food truck to grab lunch. Both boys then fell asleep while we ate. Not too shabby of a Sunday afternoon. 



Monday, October 11, 2021

Why This Works

 Had someone asked me a year ago if I thought I'd ever not only own, but actually ride, two riding horses at the same time, I'd have laughed and said it wasn't possible. I mean, I barely ride one horse enough to keep him sane and in a shape other than morbidly obese. How could I ever think I'd be able to find the time to ride two horses?

I would have been wrong, but only because I ended up with the World's Best Baby Racehorse as the second horse. Honestly, I'm not sure I could/would make it work with any other combination of horses. These two work perfectly because they are polar opposites of each other. Two Eeyores or even two Hamiltons wouldn't work out for me. Well, two Eeyores in the same place would probably make the Universe implode so we won't even think about that. 

How we found out the solar charger on the fence crapped out. 








Last night I hopped on Hamilton first to try out a new to us saddle. Someday I'll have all four saddles situated perfectly, but for now at least I have half the equation sorted. I think. Maybe. We will see. Hamilton HATES the arena. He sees no point whatsoever in going around the same area multiple times. He does not enjoy working on figures or figuring out puzzles. He abhors ground poles and don't even think about an actual jump. He will do it and he does it as beautifully as he does everything. But it is very, very obvious he does not enjoy the work. I probably need both a crop and spurs to ride him effectively in the arena. He tends to go around nicely in whatever gait I've coerced out of him (holy crap though I could canter him all day long it is so so so wonderful) and then stop politely while grunting about how hard the last 2 minutes of his life were. 


I've been searching high a low for this particular saddle and even ordered a new one only to be told it was back ordered until at least December. I finally snagged one on an endurance page. It fits him very well. 

I ride him with a LOT of leg, clucking, laughter and giggles. He makes my heart soar even when arguing that he will not die of exhaustion after a single trot lap of the arena. 

Get him out of the arena though and that horse will go for days. He loves to explore, he loves to look at new things. His stride is forward, his ears up and he never tires. There is a difference in just riding in the pasture versus the arena. A completely different horse. 

He looks really good in a dressage style saddle. Now for me to figure out how on earth to ride in it. I've ridden in western, Australian, endurance and jump saddles but not a true dressage saddle. I needed to let me stirrups out a lot. 


Then there is Eeyore. After I was done laughing my way through 20 minutes of w/t/c with Hamilton, I set up a single jump and hopped on my Pocket Rocket. Where I have to constantly urge Hamilton to move at all, I'm fighting Eeyore to slow down - where's the fire? Eeyore ADORES jumping. I haven't jumped him over anything since May and he tackled that jump like he hasn't missed a beat. The best part of jumping Eeyore is that he loves it so much he doesn't care how badly I ride him to or away from it. Long spot? Fine. Stuff him the next time? Ok. He will always say yes with happy ears. 

During one of Hamilton's "breaks" when he stopped moving, sighed and then grunted like "wasn't that enough boring arena work yet?"


I spent 20 minutes having the time of my life doing a figure 8 over my single vertical. 

And that folks is how having two riding horses works in my life. I can meander along with Hamilton enjoying the freedom of the trail and pasture or a floating ride in the arena feeling safe and like I'm not working at all and then hop on Eeyore and blast around and over jumps. My plan is to focus on jumping with Eeyore with maybe a return to lessons and hitting some local schooling shows. Then I will focus on endurance with Hamilton with a hope to hit our first LD in the spring and maybe, just maybe if the stars align make it to Decade Team with him in 2032.


Purchased this photo from the Scotsgrove Hunter Pace


With two horses having polar opposite riding styles, preferences and interests I can ride one and then the other without having to try to do the exact same things with both. I can ride Eeyore first and spend the time working on bend, relaxation, slowing the poop down, and jumping. Then I can tack up Hamilton and work on adding energy and steering or decide screw the arena and hit the pasture or trailer out. Knowing myself I don't think I could handle having two jumping horses or two trail horses. I don't have the time, energy or motivation to work them both the same way or deal with the same issues.

I never thought this would work out but it is and I am loving it.



Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Holy Crap, I Did It!!

Three and a half years ago I naively tacked up my brand new to me horse, marched out to the large pasture by the arena, threw my leg over his back...and ended up a lawn darted heap in the grass. 

To say that the arena pasture has been a source of much dread ever since is an understatement. Which is a shame because that pasture is perfect for conditioning work with hills that run step like from top to bottom and left to right with enough room to move out and get in nice canters or short gallops. But not for me. The mere thought of riding Eeyore out in that pasture gave me heart palpitations. 

Saddle shopping is wearing thin. I decided to try Gem's Thorowgood T8 Jump on Eeyore. He seems to like it well enough. No bucking which is his telltale shouting that he hates a saddle. This has been the only saddle I have ever been able to actually sit his canter in as well, so I am going to stick with it for a bit. 


Last spring Trainer AB was bent on getting me out there to ride my tub of lard horse. Each week, after the hard work was done in the arena, she would have me march him out of the gate and cool out in the pasture. She made a fatal miscalculation in her plan though. Her thought process was to work Eeyore hard in the arena with our flatwork and jump lesson and then he wouldn't be so scary out in the field. Error number one was that Eeyore would ever be too tired to have an opinion about something. She was right in that he was quicker to acquiesce after the hour long lesson but that didn't take away his try. The bigger issue was always me. 

For as long as I can remember, way back to my lesson days with Gem in 2016, I have had this tipping point in my rides. I start nervous but excited to work through whatever exercises were on the docket. Things would be going well. I would be enjoying the work, tackling and conquering the exercise until all of a sudden the adrenaline, and all my confidence with it, would hit empty and I was done. Unfortunately, this always seemed to happen right before the Trainer would say "ok..do it one more time" and I would have to put on a brave face and tackle the exercise again, this time with shaky breath and a death grip. It always happened. Every single lesson no matter the horse I was on or the person I was riding with. My body calls it quits before the ride is complete.

Hamilton also needs a new saddle and I thought I hit it lucky finding a local Wise. This was the only saddle I have ever bought new - I got it while at Rolex for my 30th bday. It never fit Gem though and I eventually sold it. I have regretted selling it ever since. Unfortunately, while it looked great on Hammy it was a seat size smaller than advertised. The lady was super nice and took it back the next day.

Riding Eeyore at home was no different so while the intention was to build my confidence by doing hard things in the arena then head out to simply walk and trot to the telephone pole and back, the reality was that by that point I was mentally and emotionally tapped out. Getting to that pole was torture.

I stopped trying when I took a break from lessons and AB back in May and spent the summer ignoring the field until the Aussie saddle arrived in the mail. That thing is old, beat up and definitely seen better days but oh my word is it comfortable and secure. Eeyore can act a nit all he wants to and I laugh. It bugs him to no end which makes me laugh even more. In that saddle I have him number. About a month ago I took him out into the big field and had a little walk about. He tried to throw his head and push his body weight around to get out of climbing the hills, but I felt invincible in that saddle so I buckled down and made him do it. As usual, he caved quickly and go ton to doing the thing. We did two laps at a walk around the entire perimeter and called it quits. 

Caught Gem and Pete having a massive groom session late one evening. These two have been best buds now for over a decade. 

Flash forward to yesterday. I picked Wyatt up from school, helped with his homework, played golf in the yard with him until he got hot and tired and then looked over at my chestnut boys with a grin. We had plenty of time to ride before dinner. 

Only...the darn arena needed to be dragged first. I love my arena. The footing is perfect year round never getting slippery even in the middle of a deluge. However it does get like cement in the summer if not dragged often to break up the surface, especially if it rains and then bakes in the sun. Which it had recently done. Sigh. I looked over at the tractor but the bush hog was attached so in order to drag the arena I would first have to drop the bush hog off then attach the drag and ugh....it was all going to end up eating up any time I had to ride. 

Einstein is getting old these days. Typically he is a mere shadow out on the property, coming and going and digging and hunting. Now he sticks closer by and chooses to nap in the shade. 

But then I thought....the grass has recently been cut in the big field. It is soft out there. Why not? I tacked Eeyore up in the Aussie saddle and led him out to the pasture. I briefly debated on starting in the arena, but opted not to in case he had a case of the sillies in there that would scare me off. I mounted and immediately cursed because the Hubby was the last to ride that saddle and I might as well have been riding stirrup-less. I climbed back down hanging the reins over the saddle thinking the poley would keep them up. A minute later and Eeyore snapped the cheek pieces of his bridle as he stepped on the hanging rein and pulled back. 

I took a deep breath and looked up at the brilliant blue fall sky. I led Eeyore back to the barn by his mangled bridle and contemplated my next move. He has another set of cheek pieces attached to his full cheek snaffle, but the issue is that he needs cob length ones for his Wonder Bit. I didn't have another set of cob cheeks, but I did have Gem's endurance bridle with clip on bit pieces in Arab size. I squeezed his gigantic head into her petite bridle, laughing at him all along. He looked ridiculous and I now wish I had snapped a picture. First, red is NOT his color. Second, the bridle actually wasn't a terrible fit except for the browband that was pulled tight. He has a very wide forehead. 

The telephone pole in the distance felt like my own personal Everest all last spring

We marched back into the pasture, I mounted once again swearing that I'd get an extra set of leathers and irons for when anyone else wants to ride Eeyore because I am never going to change the length of these ever again, and we were off. He walked around like a perfect gentleman. We marched up the hills north to south and east to west. I got comfortable enough to ask for a trot and then allowed him to canter the top ridgeline. He never put a hoof wrong. I stopped just shy of 20 minutes, right before I felt that telltale sign of my emotional limit being surpassed. I was beaming. 

I DID IT!!!

I conquered a fear that had been plaguing me for literal years. 

And then....

Then I tacked up Hamilton and did it again. At a walk. A few laps to set the pace and keep things easy for us both. He is Hamilton, so he did just fine. 

Hamilton being Hamilton.

I DID IT!!! TWICE!!!