Monday, January 31, 2022

The Answer I Needed

 On Saturday a lady came out to try Eeyore. She loved him. The plan is for him to head to her place Saturday. It’s only 40 minutes away and I have an open door invitation to come whenever, plus it’s a lease not a sale but still I found myself crying that night when I did evening chores. It feels like I’m letting him down, giving up on him, casting him away because he wasn’t good enough when really he is a good boy in his own way. It’s that face. I am really going to miss that face coming up to me in the pasture. 

Of course it was telling that I tried to get out of riding him for her and then only did the absolute minimum before handing the reins over. I enjoyed watching her ride him immensely though. 

This face. Always the same happy hour lucky look.

I spent the rest of Saturday night in a heart broken funk. Sunday morning, even though it was only 30 degrees F out with nasty wind, I loaded Hamilton up to hit the trails for some therapy. This was his second solo ride, the weather was nasty and he hasn’t been worked in a couple weeks, but I needed to see if I’m broken or not. If I’m correct in finding Eeyore a new situation or if I’ll never enjoy any horse so I might as well dig in with the one I have.

Hamilton gave me the answer I was seeking. The trails are currently being torn up for maintenance, the wind was blowing icy cold, we saw two deer crossing the trail, passed several hiking groups, and snuck by a fishing bot all without batting an eye. 

I always get compliments about our matching hats when I’m on trail. I love it. 

We walked. We trotted. We cantered. I found myself smiling the entire time. I sang out loud and laughed when he pinned his ears back. When we hit my favorite section of trail I egged him into a short gallop. I’ve never egged a horse into a gallop. Not since I was a kid at least. 

The 6 miles flew by. Not one single time did I get nervous or fearful. Not one single time did I wish the ride was over. It was exactly what I needed.

The world is just right when I with Hamilton

Yea I can ride. Yes I can enjoy it. No I’m not broken. It’s amazing what finding the right horse can do for you. I’m still sad about Eeyore, but I feel more at peace with it. I’ll miss his face. I’ll miss seeing him every day. I’ll miss him. But I won’t miss the angst every time I thought about riding. I won’t miss the arguments with Hubby about why I haven’t ridden in yet another month. I won’t miss fighting with Eeyore to be something he can never be. I don’t think he will miss me either. We will see and since I still own him if this doesn’t work I can bring him home and try again.


Friday, January 28, 2022

What To Do About Eeyore

Anyone who has stuck with me since 2018 will be heaving a big sigh and a "not again" eye roll. This is a topic that has come up routinely which probably should have told me something years ago. What can I say...I'm a slow learner. 

I do have a lot of thoughts all pinging around in my brain about this, so I warn you this post may end up disjointed and rambling. 

First and foremost: I love my Big Orange Doofus. Really, I do. I love the stupid doofusy look on his face every time I come around. I love his can do, lets go attitude. I love his kisses. Seriously, I love this guy. What I don't like is riding him. I haven't liked riding him in a very, very long time, maybe ever. This isn't Eeyore's fault at all. In fact, over the last 3.5 years of having him, he has improved leaps and bounds in his training, abilities and skills. He is 100% not the same horse he was in 2018 in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, in the way that matters the most, he is the exact same. 

Eeyore LOVED the snow we had a couple weeks ago

I need to back track a little in my thought process here all the way to 2009 bringing home Gemmie. Gem took me places I never thought I'd go. She taught me so so much in the years she has been with me. She is currently happily retired in my pasture where she will live out the rest of her days with nothing more than being polite on the lead line asked of her. She holds a special place. However, Gem was also not fun to ride. Gem was a very solid Type 2 Fun horse (recall Type 2 Fun is fun had after the activity is completed) and sometimes, well frequently in the beginning, was a Type 3 Fun horse (no fun at all even looking back). I spent nearly a decade riding only Gem. 

When I was looking for my next partner I had a list of things I knew I didn't want to repeat: take away the spookiness was a major one, enjoy jumping was another, as was actually liking to be around humans, preferably liking me the most. It actually never occurred to me to think about Type 1 Fun (fun had in the moment) and horses because well...I honestly thought maybe I kinda didn't actually like riding horses all that much. Like, I liked the thought of riding horses and I liked having ridden a horse, but I didn't actually like actively riding a horse. Makes a lot of sense, right? Told you I'd be rambling. 

Fun walk down memory lane. This was the best jumper round of my life. Of course it was proceeded by being bucked off in warm up, but we will forget that ok?

So anway...in comes Eeyore. He checks all my boxes. He comes home and is pretty much immediately a Type 2 Fun horse. Again though I didn't think much of it. I mean, I spent my youth in competitive whitewater slalom and that was always very very much Type 2 Fun for me, so it wasn't anything new to have a hobby/sport I only liked when I had completed the day's activities. I plugged away with Eeyore. When things got bad, I found Trainer AB. When they got worse, I pushed harder with Trainer AB. Then I took a break. Then I came back even harder. Then I gave up. 

During this time of figuring out my life, Hamilton came home. I wanted something easier. Something less opinionated. Something quiet. Hamilton was all that and so so so much more. Hamilton it turns out, was Type 1 Fun. Even when he reared because his track pony crossed a creek without him but he didn't want to cross to meet him on the other side. Even when he had a near heart attack seeing cross country jumps. Even when I nearly fell off as my friend raced Eeyore passed us without warning. Even in the "bad" moments...I was still having FUN. Solid, unbelievable Type 1 Fun. 

Hamilton being the safest horse on the planet

It was possible then. Very very possible to actively enjoy riding while I was doing it. Even when things went wrong. Folks, this is a stupid epiphany to have at nearly 40 years old having owned horses for almost 15 years, but there it was. 

Mr. Leonard may have been a rash decision, but he wasn't a pointless one. You see, Hamilton HATES jumping. I can't explain his visceral response to the mere sight of a jump clearly enough. Hamilton is a sloth covered in horse skin. He looks half stoned, barely aware of his surroundings 99.9% of the time. Until he sees a jump. I had set up some jumps in the arena Saturday for Eeyore. Leonard and Hammy were stalled for the trial ride due to pasture use. When I led Hamilton back out he stopped, staring with heart racing at the two tiny verticals set up in the arena below. I have no idea where this comes from. I suspect some serious training could maybe work but I have zero interest in riding another horse towards a jump that they have no interest in going over. I did that with Gem enough. No thanks. I already have that t shirt. But having found a Type 1 Fun horse, I really, really wanted another. Maybe one that wanted to jump. In comes Mr. Leonard who does love to jump and has also been, so far with only a handful of rides in, a solid Type 1 Fun horse. 

One of my favorite Eeyore pictures

But that leaves me with the question of Eeyore. The issue is a simple one: we are a mismatched pair trying desperately to make it work against all odds. Eeyore is a forward horse. His go to evasion is to hollow and canter. His go to fun loving activity is to canter. His go to response when he doesn't know the answer to a question is to canter. You get the point. I've tried training. It has worked to a point. He is undeniably way better trained than he was in 2018. His resume is now impressive. Unfortunately, at his core being he is still a forward horse. Guess what I am not? A forward rider. 

Want to know what Hamilton and Leonard have in common? When they are unsure of something, when they want to evade real work, when they have no idea how to answer a new question...they stop, they think, they slow down. Sure, those behaviors are as "naughty" as Eeyore's answering with canter, speeding up, blowing through. In terms of a well trained horse, both are unacceptable. I'd hazard a guess that many people would find Hamilton's and Leonard's responses way more annoying/difficult than a horse who's go to is to get more in front of your leg, more forward, move the feet. Not this rider.  


I have tried to be. Trust me I have. Having made this revelation, I have ridden Eeyore with the thought of: just suck it up, put your leg on and ride him forward. But that slides dangerously close to Type 3 Fun for me. I tried it. We boldly went forth around the arena, over jumps, around turns. Eeyore was light in my hands, ears forward having the time of his life. I was nearly shitting myself. I lasted 12 minutes before sliding off with shaking legs. 

On the other side of that coin is forcing him to slow down, be a more woah type of horse. He can do it. I've been forcing him to for almost 4 years now. Guess what though? He is having solidly Type 3 Fun during those rides. And don't think I don't feel guilty. Had I never gotten Hamilton, I'd be plugging away with Eeyore still to this day. I'd be trail riding, riding at home, taking lessons somewhere. Nothing would be changing. It sorta really sucks. 

Last weekend a young girl came out to ride him for a possible lease situation. She was a forward rider. Eeyore and her had a blast together. It really showed me how much of a disservice I am doing by him. Sure, Eeyore has a good horse life: pasture, herd mates, health care needs fulfilled. I don't know though. There seems like there should be something more for him. He is only 10, in the prime of his life here. Could he sit in my pasture the next 20+ years? Sure. Should he? I don't think so. Gem, heck even Hamilton could easily spend their entire lives as a pasture ornament and be great. Eeyore though.. while he doesn't give a crap about ribbons, ride times, penalties...he does give a crap about attention, adventure and doing things. He likes doing things. 

Simply being around Hamilton is Type 1 Fun

It also warmed my heart in a very odd way to watch him stride off without me, not giving me a second thought. This horse is a human seeking missile. I used to think that he was a one person horse who had chosen me as his person. Nope. He really could care less about me specifically. He wants any attention, all the attention. In the end the girl decided not to take him. He is in a weird grey zone. Too forward and not trained well enough for a true beginner or timid rider but not athletic enough for those who want that competitive edge. I'm sure the right fit is out there. 

Yeah...phew that was a long post. To conclude Eeyore needs a new situation. I'm not ready to sell him as I think he is quirky enough to end up in the wrong spot and he does not deserve that. I'd rather him sit as  pasture puff with me than that. I'm trying to find a care lease situation with someone who would get him out and about, maybe event, maybe show jump, maybe fox hunt or hunter pace. I had some initial responses, but then I second guessed it way too much prior to this girl coming out and missed the boat. I have one more person coming tomorrow and then will renew the ad, worded a bit different this time. Hopefully something comes along. I also have a lesson scheudled with a new to me trainer at a hunter/jumper barn only 4 miles down from me. I guess I will be taking Leonard to that. I plan to ask her if she knows anyone looking as well. 

I'll be sad to see him go. I will likely shed some tears because I do love seeing his face every day. Knowing he will be in a fun loving, forward thinking place though, getting to be him in all his glory will make it ok though. If I ever find that for him and there is no rush to get him there. I guess if any of you bloggers know anyone looking for a horse like him to lease, let me know or send them my way please. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Mr. Leonard

My new found mojo has also got me wanting to write again. Blogging has become kinda eerie though. So few people are left writing and even fewer ever comment anymore. It is hard writing into a void, but I think/hope even if people are not commenting that they are still reading. I know I stopped commenting on the blogs I follow due to reading on my phone which for some reason eats all my comments without publishing them. On the rare case I really, really want to comment I log onto my laptop to do so but it isn't very often. 

Anyway....

Leonard. The huge, baby elephant in the room. 

Hubby was finally home when I rode so I have my first ride media with him

Leonard was an...emotional decision. Rash even. Quick to the point of absurdity. But hey, you only live once, right? And we have the space, finances and ability to care for him so eh.. It may even work out in the long run. You never know. The Universe is a strange beast.

Back when I was looking around for Hammy there was a horse named Leonard that I liked quite a lot. He was off the track several months already transitioning to his new role which happened to be baby jumper lessons to beginners and kiddos. His pictures were great, the videos of him were even better. I hesitated because a) he was way higher priced than I wanted, b) he was only 6 which was younger than I thought I could handle and c) he was 17.1H which way so absurdly tall I laughed at the though (recall Gem is 15H and Eeyore 15.2H both feeling plenty tall thank you very much). I hemmed and hawed a lot. The Hubby really, really liked him pushing me to pull the trigger, but I kept hesitating. Then when I finally reached out, he had sold. 

I found my Hammy though so it all worked out perfectly anyway.



Flash forward to right before Christmas. I received a message from the original seller that Leonard was back up. I mentioned it to the Hubby who immediately told me to get him. We'd deal with the details later. He was even more money this time though for the first time in my life I actually haggled the price down. Things became a little complicated at this point. You see, it was the week before Christmas. M, the Swedish exchange student we had had for 2019/2020 was actually slated to come back to visit us from the 26th to January 10th. I thought Leonard was in LA where he was the first time which was about 10 hours away. I tried to talk the Hubby into making the trip ourselves to save on hauling fees (plus nobody was going that way over the holidays anyway) but he really wasn't biting. Then the seller informed me he was actually in OH, about 90 minutes from my inlaws. 

It didn't take much convincing to get the Hubby to agree to leaving SC on the Monday after Christmas, spend all day Tuesday with his family, then pick up Leonard and come home Wednesday. We already had those days off work for M anyway and what else were we planning to do with her?

He has a really cute face. For his size he actually has a petite face. 

So off we set to make the absolutely frantically exhausting 10 hour drive up and 12 hour drive back to get a horse I had never met and didn't even need. Good thing the man loves me, right?

And that is the story of how I got Mr. Leonard, Jockey Club name Halo Redding, a now 8 year old OTTB. He is skinny, obscenely tall, uber friendly, mischievous, reactive, and super cute with his petite face and donkey ears. Jury is out if he will be a permanent family member or not, but so far things are looking good. For now I’m enjoying the getting to know you phase as he slowly starts to show us his true personality.


Monday, January 24, 2022

Finding The Joy Again

    I've been in a major riding slump since basically the end of May. That is a long slump. I've piddled around the arena, returned to the trail, did some hunter paces. Started riding Hammy more, Eeyore less. Got Leonard. It has all been fun, but riding has remained a chore. Something I have to do because I have the horses and they need the exercise. Tacking up takes me all of 10 minutes yet those 10 minutes remained an obstacle I didn't have the energy to surmount. It is easy to blame it on work stress, family life, running, cooking more at home to eat out less, farm chores as we prepare for a new major project to start in February. Always some excuse, right?

We had a fair amount of snow fall two weekends ago here in SC. The horses had been kept inside incase it turned to freezing rain, but by afternoon it was only snow. which meant they could go out to play. Old Man Pete here had a complete blast. Don't let this 32 year old lovable face fool you, he was a beast. 

I learned a long time ago though that people make time for the things that matter to them. If I really wanted to ride, the time would be there. 

Then on Sunday I had a girl come out to try Eeyore for a potential lease. I hopped on him first to show off his training which, while rusty from lack of use, was still solid. We even jumped for the first time in...gosh...many months. As I slid off to hand her the reins, I realized something. I had enjoyed that. Like, really, really enjoyed it. For the first time in over 6 months. As I watched her ride, her trainer giving her a lesson, I found myself thinking "I want to tackle that exercise...that looks super fun!". Eeyore was a perfect gentleman for the girl (I believe she was 12 and has recently outgrown her beloved pony) and both seemed to really enjoy the afternoon. 

He rolled. Ok. No big deal. Pretty calm. 

I'm not sure if she wants him or not yet. She has another horse to try this week before making a choice. Honestly? I kinda hope she doesn't though I will honor the offer if she does.  Eeyore would be having the time of his life with his very own 12 year old girl fawning over him plus I liked the trainer and her approach to him. If they weren't 3 hours away, I'd sign up to ride with her myself. 

Then he got the zoomies. I know...this is the most flattering picture of poor Eeyore ever taken. Ha!!But Pete was cantering everywhere. I can't recall the last time he went above a trot. 

And that folks was my light bulb moment. I finally figured out what had happened to my mojo. 

From January to May 2021, I pushed hard with weekly Trainer AB lessons. In the beginning I looked forward to Wednesday afternoon like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. As things progressed, I found myself waking up that morning with a knot in my stomach not of excitement, but of dread. Things were spiraling in the wrong direction. I don't blame AB. I still like her as person. I still respect her as a horsewoman and as a trainer. If someone asked, I'd highly recommend they take a test lesson with her to see if they fit without hesitation. But for us, things were not working. 

He came back to Eeyore once Eeyore had stopped rolling (I swear he rolled half a dozen times), looking for a fight.

Part of the problem was that AB is competition focused. This showed up in our lessons frequently. The best example I have is with rushing fences. Eeyore can get quick to the fence. Her approach to jumping is to always go forward no matter what. The underlying thought was that in a competition, be that stadium or on xc, the horse must always go forward to the next jump. Teach them to land and move it. You can't halt on the back side or circle. Well, you can, but not without penalty. Her motto is "if you can't do it at a show, don't do it in practice". So we rode forward which, for the two of us, resulted in more rushing. I asked to do grids. I asked if we could halt. I asked if we could circle. Nope, nope, nope. Must go forward.  

In addition, she started to get after me for doing the very things she had taught me to do. Now I know that expectations change as skills improve and new tools are learned. A simple conversation of "I know I taught you to always do X but now I want you learning Y" is fine. However it was more of a "Why would you do that? That isn't correct.  You need to be doing this instead." It made me feel stupid. Add to that her insistence that I get Eeyore cantering in the field beside the pasture even when I was very very uncomfortable even walking his sassypants self out there, and well the lessons became nightmares for me. So I stopped riding with her in May 2021. I was at a low point. Mentally I couldn't add up all that money and time on weekly lessons leading to me feeling worse about my riding. Why bother with all that if this was the end result?

He found it. Eeyore is always ready to play. 

I took time off. Sent Hamilton off to endurance camp while Eeyore sat in the pasture getting fat in the summer sunshine. I figured fall would bring cooler weather as well as a change in heart for me. It didn't. I blamed not having the right jump saddle for Eeyore instead riding in the Aussie which gave a really good excuse for not jumping him. How can I if I don't have the right tack? I rode Hammy more, and Eeyore even less. The more time I spent not riding, the easier it became to continue to not do so. 

 Then this weekend happened along with the epiphany. I want to ride again. I want to jump. I want to return to lessons, probably not weekly ever again but twice a month was nice. I need to find a new trainer which is difficult given my time constraints, not boarding and lack of wanting to be a hard core competitor. I have one in mind though. I'm ready. I'm ready to go back to it. Thankfully Eeyore has been waiting for me. Perhaps he is about to embark on his own new adventure for the next year, I will know more by the end of the week. If so, I have Leonard to learn on. If not, I'll have my trusty, opinionated sidekick. 

I told Pete he was going to be sore the next day but he didn't care. He was having a blast out there. Kinda made me feel bad for moving him South. 

It is a good feeling to have it back and now I feel unstoppable again. Lesson learned though. No matter how much I like or respect a trainer, if it isn't working it is time to move on. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hammy’s First Solo Trail Ride

 Last weekend Hamilton and I hit my favorite trail system up for our first solo ride. I never blogged about the last ride we did where we met up with a friend for Hammy’s first solo trailer out experience. Honesty? It was foot perfect boring in the best way possible. The outing made for the perfect intermediary step from traveling with his track pony together to going out alone but meeting up with a riding buddy. It was high time to go alone though, so we loaded up and headed out. 



Hamilton unloaded just fine and stood like a gentleman at the trailer to be tacked up. He is getting way better at standing still to be mounted which is a relief since he is way too tall for me to be climbing on from the ground without wrenching his poor back.

He had a moment of “I don’t want to” at the trail head heading down away from all the trailers. While the behavior isn’t good, his go to evasions are either to first stop then slowly back up which is so damn safe that I find myself remaining relaxed and happy during the negotiations. It took 3 minutes to convince him that we really were going off alone.



Then at the bottom of the hill we hit snag #2. Someday I’ll take a picture but there is a bridge leading into the woods. It’s a pretty shitty bridge. First it is under the trees which is always dark compared to the bright sunlight of the hill. Second it is only one horse width wide with tall sides making a not very welcoming shoot. Last, they have rubber mats on the ground which are always covered in slippery moss making the footing iffy. I anticipated some issues here.

Hammy had no interest in crossing that bridge. It took another 3-4 minutes of patiently insisting that he crossed, turning him when he tried to back all the way up the hill to the trailer, and patting any forward movement. The patient, relaxed approach paid off in the end when he calmly walked across without any tension or ill will.


From there things were good to go for a long while. We trotted some when I trusted his balance, walked a lot. He crossed two more smaller bridges without hesitation. We were passed by a few hikers, but saw no other horses on the trail. 

We eventually made it to my favorite view of Lake Hartwell with mountains in the background. I hadn’t planned to stop to take a picture but Hamilton saw a scary pipe on the trail edge which caused another moment of “Nope, can’t do it. Let’s just go home instead” so I took advantage and snapped a pic.

Scary pipe

By this point he was figuring out that stopping wasn’t going to get him anywhere so the conversation was a lot shorter before he walked past the scary pipe with pinned back ears and a lot of snorts. I laughed and patted him telling him how brave he was.

Over a few more hills with some really awesome trotting later we came across his arch nemesis: water crossing. He hates it. He even hates puddles but sorry buddy. Water is a part of the trail life. We stopped at the crossing (his idea not mine) and began our backing up, turning, stopping dance. It was taking a long while. Eventually I hopped down and hand walked him across which he did without hesitation. He will follow me anywhere. We walked back and forth several times then stopped in the far side planning to turn around and head back the way we came to head home. It had been a while with a ton of en yak challenges for him and I wanted to end on a good note without over taxing him. His last major task was to cross the water to head towards home.



I managed to get on board and off he went without an issue. The way home took significantly less time than the way out had. There were several discussions of being polite and not galloping off to the trailer. I’ve run across the home fight with every horse and generally prefer to go in a large loop than an out and back. It’s a skill he needs to learn through so I made him walk a lot, trot some and canter only when he was being polite and relaxed.



It was a great first solo outing. We both remained relaxed the entire time, he finally did a polite water crossing and we ended with a smile. Hamilton continues to teach me what Type 1 fun is all about.



Friday, January 7, 2022

How to Make 80% of Your Herd Unhappy

 I’m winning at horse ownership folks. And blogging but darn is life insanely busy right now. 

Having 5 horses is a bit much but actually I caught myself telling the Hubby that we really should add a 6th to balance things out…so yeah I’ve gone completely off the deep end. A 6th is most decidedly not in the plans. Of course a 5th wasn’t either.


Anyway.

We originally put Leonard out with everyone else so they all could get acquainted. Lenny is basically Eeyore 2.0 in personality so those two hit it off big time right away.


Unfortunately for them the plan was never to keep a herd of 5 all together so last weekend we made the Big Split. Hamilton and Leonard gotto stay in the big arena pasture while Gem, Eeyore and Pete moved back into the far pasture they had been in for the month of December (quick reference: we have 3 pastures and rotate monthly).

This is beneficial for so many reasons. 1) Gem, Pete and Eeyore are fat and really should be on a dry lot instead of grass. I don’t have a dry lot. This way the OTTBs will get a month on fresh pasture to eat to their hearts content then the fatties will move on to a hopefully slightly eaten down pasture. Their weight will thank me. The pastures will still get one month to rest and regrow plus they are large enough that having 2 and then 3 at a time will still require mowing. 2) Hamilton is too into Gem pushing the others away from her. Last spring was interesting when she came into heat. No more worries about that. 3) Both Pete and Hammy were being excessively mean to Leonard.


Really it is the best thing for everyone. 

Of course they don’t care about that and now I have 4 unhappy horses. Eeyore misses his brother from another mother. Hamilton misses his girlfriend. Gem is pissed she got moved off her favorite pasture and back to her least favorite. Leonard is stuck with Hamilton who ignores him at best. Only Old Man Pete is happy now that he is away from his nemesis Leonard and can be with Gem without Hamilton pushing him away all the time.



Oh well. They will live. While I’m joking a lot in here, this arrangement truly is the best for everyone and they have all settled in to the new dynamic well. My only issue is that I don’t like to leave a single horse out by themselves so when I ride either of the OTTBs I have to bring them both in. That’s where a 6th would fit in to make two groups of 3. But I don’t need nor want a 6th horse so this is going to have to work.







Saturday, January 1, 2022

He Holds My Heart

 There is something special about this horse. 


The mere act of sitting on him settles my mind and calms my heart. 



As soon as he steps off a smile forms on my face that doesn’t leave until I slide off him again. 



It doesn’t matter what we are doing. Walking is just as much fun as anything deemed “more exciting”. I got him to trot over a single ground pole the other day and nearly exploded with happiness. It beat out every single big scary fence I’ve ever jumped over with any prior horse.

This horse. He owns my heart.