Thursday, December 26, 2013

Working Out the Kinks, Part One

Last Saturday was December 21st -- also known as the Winter Solstice -- and good lord, it was 60-freaking-degrees in cold as shit Massachusetts.

So, I did what most people with horses did: rode!

Before I even started stalls, I popped into the paddock to say hello to Simba. He greeted me with his usual wiggly nose and bright eyes. It's been almost a month since he's been here, and after some discussion with D, I started Simba on a capful of Pony Prozac (aka Omega Alpha's Chill) to see if that helps his obsessive stall walking. He is one tense, anxious critter. Image was tense and anxious under saddle, but had a pretty good handle on the ground. Simba is constantly "on". I have a feeling it won't help the stall walking, but it did seem to help his overall demeanor a bit.

I decided to do a bit of ground work before starting stalls, just to see where his brain was truly at. The last time I worked him on the ground, I began teaching him a couple of simple things: yield the forehand, yield the hindquarters, back up with voice, and walk up with voice. We worked on that today, along with just a little bit of lunging for funsies. He was focused on me and really only got "stuck" when I asked him to move his forehand away from me. He gets worked up and tries to shoot forward. Eventually, with small, baby steps, he got one good turn and I quit there.  He was much more "in tune" and quieter than I've seen him since bringing him home, so that was encouraging. He may be blonde, and he might not always have all his "lights" on when working, but he's not stupid, that's for sure!

I buzzed through stalls, ran over to L's to grab her saddle, and zipped back to the barn. I've been having some serious issues with my Bob Marshall saddle slipping and being stable in general. It seems that the style I have (square backed, western rigging, longer in general) just does not do well with rounder, mutton withered critters. So, in an attempt to see if it's just MY Bob Marshall, or ALL Bob Marshalls in general on Simba, I borrowed L's endurance style model.

I let him warm up the memory foam pad on his back while I groomed him, and it was the first day that I saw him rest a hind leg in relaxation. Simba is a bit odd: he's rather dominant, but has a tense, anxious streak a mild wide that isn't conducive to being a dominant lead type. Seeing him chill out enough to cock a hind leg was lovely. It could be that he's settling in, it could be a result of the little bit of Pony Prozac he's getting...but it was a good sign!

I finished tacking him up and readjusting the bridle (more bit experimentation; I'm not sure if he's ever going to really be "happy" with any bit, but I don't know or trust him enough to try bitless just yet), and mounted with more ease than I have ever in my Bob Marshall. Sigh. There are a few more things I can try, but L's saddle is shorter and has English style rigging, and I think those are the two major culprits. So, I'll have to figure out a plan B. I'm already looking into purchasing a lower end but sturdy Abetta endurance saddle from work to tide me over until I can scrape together the money for a new saddle. I cannot bear to part with my current Bob Marshall -- it's a very special saddle to me and next time, I'll be buying a horse to fit that saddle!

Simba and I set out down the road for a bit of a walk, and he was his usual fire-breathing dragon self for the first five minutes. He's never done anything bad, ever, but he's a ball of electric tension under my seat. I kept my hands, seat and energy quiet, and by the time we hit the dirt road, he was a little less frazzled. We kept it at a walk for a bit, and then picked up a slow gait down the straightaway. I noticed that he was travelling cockeyed -- his shoulder kept popping out and he seemed resistant to travelling straight. I noted this in the back of my head and we continued on while I kept correcting him and keeping him from popping random body parts out of place.

He showed me what his true "ohmigawd there's an oogyboogyMONSTER out there!" response is: stop and refuse to go forward. Okay, that's not a big deal. I can handle that. He tried to spin away from the imagined (or possibly real, but I honestly couldn't see anything and I'm pretty good at picking out oogyboogies) scary monster of doom. I caught him with a leg and pushed him forward. It took some encouraging, but he finally said "okay, if you say so, but I PROMISE THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY BAD OVER THERE SO IF WE GET EATEN IT'S ALL. YOUR. FAULT."

Needless to say, we did not get eaten. Hah!

I turned him back towards home and we gaited a bit on the way back. He's already able to hold his gait for a longer period of time, and seems happy to do so, so I let him gait for a bit. We hit a slight uphill incline, and without actually really thinking about it, I asked for a canter. It's pretty obvious Simba has not been asked to canter much, because the first few strides were hysterically discombobulating. Once he figured out what, exactly, his legs were supposed to be doing, he gave me a couple of nice canter strides. I sat back and rocked him back into his gait and he came back into my hands with no fuss. Good boy!!

The rest of our ride was mostly uneventful. He gave me one spook that made me go "oof!" right at the end of the ride -- his spooks are not explosive, but he throws on the brakes, and hard. I haven't been unseated by a horse throwing on the brakes in years, but I think there were will be many reminders of "shoulders back, heels down, deep seat" in my future. It's a bit of a bone jarring experience when you're walking along at a decent clip, and all of a sudden your insides are rocking around because the critter has decided now is a good time to slam to a stop. Good thing I don't have ANY plans of jumping him, because I have a feeling he'd be one hell of a dirty stopper!

We got back to the barn and D came out to greet us. I mentioned his inability to travel straight, and she asked me to gait him up and down the was pretty obvious that he was popping his shoulder and resistant going AWAY from the barn, and a perfect gentleman going back to the barn.



I corrected him heavily with my leg going away from the barn, and he tucked his shoulder back into place and traveled kind of straight. Straighter, anyway. What was more interesting, was that if I switched what side of the driveway I was on (I had been traveling up the driveway on the right side, closest to the I switched which side of the driveway I was travelling up. Curiously enough, he barely popped his shoulder.

He's got a lot of oddities that are taking some time to figure out. He obviously wasn't EVER treated badly, but he is certainly used to getting his way in a quiet, passive aggressive manner. I wouldn't classify him as a dangerous horse, but if not given the proper correction, I could see him escalating into being a big butthead.

I have much more to say, but I'm going to separate it into two posts because this one is already long. Here is a zoomy snow pony for your viewing pleasure!

Wait for meeeee!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Aoife over at Pampered Ponies and Niamh over at Trace a Line is hosting a Christmas contest, and I felt like I wanted to play!

So, here's a combined contest entry and Merry Christmas post!

Photobomb by Dolly the Border Collie!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Maiden Voyage(s)

You guys? Hey, you guys?

I rode my horse. A couple of times now, actually (bad blogger, BAD!). But I rode my horse.

MY horse. MINE. I put MY saddle and MY bridle on him and rode him, without getting bucked off! That, in itself, is worth celebrating :)

D and I set off into the woods together on Saturday the 7th. I offered to lead the charge, which may have been a disaster with a horse I'd only known a few days. I've managed to turn myself into a relatively confident rider over the years, so I felt okay leading and wanted to see how he did. He was "up" and snorty, but he didn't offer to spook or do anything naughty while he was so tense. I sat quietly and encouraged forward movement, and he picked a very careful path through the snow dusted trails. While we were winding through the woods, I tested his responsiveness to the bit, and was absolutely THRILLED with how soft and supple he was in my hands. I changed him over to a Myler short shank low port western curb bit, just on a hunch, and I had a much happier critter. I was able to ask him to drop his nose and use his hind end just a little at the walk now that he wasn't trying to spit the big, fat Herm Sprenger KK Ultra bit out of his mouth! What was also lovely was that even though he was a little insecure about this whole thing, he took direction from me and continued "talking" to me, instead of just tuning me out and reacting to his nervousness. He takes a lot of comfort in the person on his back or on the end of the line, and despite the fact he's a tenser critter, I haven't seen him truly hit a point where his brain completely melts out his ears and we're unable to communicate. Will that happen? Most likely. Will it be fun? Probably not. But, hopefully, at that point, he and I have a good enough relationship that I'm able to talk him down off the proverbial ledge and we'll be fine.

D and I ran into a few hunters on the way down -- both were polite, and one was chatty. Standing still is not one of Simba's strong points. He's on a mission, and he wanted to get going on that mission NOW. Tory, who stood quietly while D chatted with the nice hunter man, watched Simba dance around with something like amusement etched into her features. Tory is a few years younger than Simba, but at this stage in the game, she's probably the more seasoned trail horse!

We continued down the trail and Simba began to relax a bit -- enough so that I could look around and remember how many awesome rides D and I had taken together when I was a teenager. It's been a long time since I was last on these trails, so it was a little bit of a shock to realize I didn't know where the HELL I was going anymore! Thankfully, D's been riding these trails for ten years and happily called directions out when I needed them!

D and I switched up who was leading, and it became pretty obvious, pretty quickly, that Simba preferred to lead. He was much more worried and bracy against the bit as I kept a safe distance behind Tory. He kept himself contained until we hit a steep downhill. Tory navigated much faster than we did (mostly because I have a "thing" about going down hills slowly, even with balanced horses!). Simba's brain began to melt out his ears a bit. Tory and D left our sight (no fault of theirs!) and Simba went "aieeee!" and popped up in front. It was a pathetic baby rear, but it was a rear nonetheless. However, that is a MAJOR no, and we had words. I growled at him, spun him in a few tight donuts, and had him stand for a moment. I got a good five seconds of quiet out of him before asking him to move forward. His brain had reaquainted itself with the inside of his head, so he controlled himself and listened to me as we headed towards D and Tory. He got over it and we continued on our way, but I filed that experience away as something to be aware of during future rides, as it could easily escalate into something bigger if not handled correctly. He responded well to my correction, but that doesn't mean he won't ramp it up when he feels the need to test boundaries as time goes on.

Hopefully the first of MANY between the ears shots!

The rest of the ride was fun and uneventful (minus the herd of deer that jumped out in front of us). It was all done at the walk, except for a short but sweet stint at the gait down some new trails I hadn't seen before. Oh, you guys, can this horse GAIT when he's set up for it. I must have never ridden a decent Walker, because all the other Walkers I've ridden have had a gait that had no "glide" to it. A few times (he can't hold it super long right now due to lack of muscling) he stepped into the gait, and I about died. We have a long way to go before I can get into really working on his gait, but it's in there and OH MY GOD IS IT FABULOUS!

I had a pretty tired critter on my hands when we got back, which certainly wasn't a bad thing. I was very impressed with his first outing on the trails in God only knows how long. He was honestly very good, despite his minor temper tantrum. He responded well to me, and seemed to enjoy being out and about!

He further impressed me the next day, as we went on our first solo outing...down the road...okay, I may have a bit of a death wish, but I honestly enjoy road riding. I like pretending that I'm travelling like people did way back when, and it's one of my favorite "tests" of just how level headed a horse is. Weird stuff exists out on the roads, like tarps covering wood and dogs bombing out at us and horses galloping up to fences and chainsaws starting and big dump trucks parked on lawns and cars that don't know how to slow the eff down...and, to be honest, he didn't spook at ANY of it. He was definitely tense, as I would have expected any horse to be, but he stayed in tune with me. He yelled a bit, which was more funny than anything else, but he got over that eventually as well.

It was really surreal to be putting actual rides on MY horse. It's still surreal. I never really got to ride Image, so it still feels a bit like a dream. I am, admittedly, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. It's all too good to be true, and though we have things to work on (which is okay; I think I'd be bored otherwise!)...I don't have a major project on my hands. I am worried that something is going to take this away from me, because that's the way my life seems to go. I am trying to keep those thoughts under control, but it's easier said than done.

I still feel very guarded with him as well. I'm sure it's simply a product of losing two horses in two years, but I was so enamoured with Image when I brought him home that I am struggling to find a comfy middle ground at this point. I am THRILLED that I can ride this horse, but I think we'll be spending a ton of time on the ground in upcoming weeks as I firmly believe that's why the connection I had with Image became so strong, so quickly. I put a lot of time into that horse on the ground, and I will never, ever forget the feeling of him walking up to me and pressing his head into my chest for ear rubs. I don't think Simba will ever be that demonstrative with affection, but I hope that he and I will develop our own special bond in the years to come. I don't think it will come as quickly as it did with Image...there was a much different spark there. Don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't have brought Simba home if there hadn't been any spark, but it was certainly a different kind this time around. Part of my fears that maybe I've hit my quota for heart horses...the other part of me feels that maybe, this time around, it's just going to take a little more time.

The holidays have been a killer this year, and I am more tired than I've been in FOREVER! I have so much more to say, but to avoid boring the masses, I'll end here and hopefully get another post up before the end of the week (and before I have more adventures to write about!). For now, here's another image from the little holiday shoot I did with Simba the weekend after bringing him home!

Merry Christmas to meeee!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Stills: AKA I am TIRED and Suck at Blogging

Tons to say, no energy to say it. Coming off a long, one week house sitting stint so hoping next week will be quiet enough for me to bang out a couple of entries talking about our first few rides and the discoveries I've made about his temperament and the buttons he has installed already!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Getting Checked Out

I knew from the beginning that I really liked this silly little yellow horse. I knew that wasn't going to be something that would hold us back. However, after the mess I got myself into with Image, I wasn't planning on plugging my ears and going "la la la la he looks healthy so we're good to go!" this time around.

Munching with his new buddies last Monday.

So, as a prepurchase exam was non-negotiable this time around, I put a call into my vet shortly after bringing Simba home. Chad called me Wednesday and we promptly set up a time for Thursday for the vet check. I chewed my fingernails off in that short amount of time because I am nothing if not an anxiety attack waiting to happen. I honestly didn't expect any catastrophic, "oh my god he needs to be sent back right this moment" revelations from Chad, but there was still a small part of me going "oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit". The last time I didn't expect any catastrophic revelations, I ended up having to put my horse down. So, I went into this expecting the worst...just in case. 

I showed up to the barn a half hour early to make sure Simba was presentable...and thank God I did because dirty pony was DIRTY. D immediately informed me that he's incredibly gross in his stall, and then happily remarked that she was glad SHE wasn't the one grooming him. I can't say I blame her -- he's going to be a tough one to keep clean and he's going to drive me a bit batty with his affinity for smooshing his face into his poop. Ew, Simba. Just....ew. 

He has settled down quite a bit since the move. I walked into the paddock and had a soft eyed, curious critter who quietly stuck his nose into his halter. He was still a bit dancey on the cross ties, but he wasn't calling to his new friends or acting like the world was going to end because omg new place. He enjoyed the currying something fierce, though...which is a good thing because there was lots of currying. 

I had just barely gotten through trying to clean up his belly when Chad pulled in. Simba danced uncertainly for a moment, eyes wide at the noise of Chad's truck. He chilled out relatively quickly though, which I'm glad to see. He's settling in more and more, so things aren't wigging him out quite as much. He's the type that needs a minute to just check things out before being okay with it. Once he's wrapped his head around the object, he's usually able to think things through. 

Chad greeted D and I with a warm hug (d'awww!). Many people in the horse world don't go "oh yay, I get to see my vet!" Vets usually mean vet bills. Unfortunately, there's no way of getting around that...but I'm super lucky because holy crap do I love my vet! How many vets greet you with a hug, give your pony mints, call him cute pet names, spend a little time chatting, and then leave with a hug...all while doing a FANTASTIC thorough prepurchase exam? The man has every horsewoman in northern MA charmed to death, that's for sure. He makes the prospect of handing over a bigass chunk of money a little easier to swallow! 

Chad did all the regular stuff I'd expect at a vet check: checked temperature, heart rate, and breathing. Then, he went over him with the proverbial fine tooth comb. He picked up on a mild tenseness through his mid thoracic area on his back, a mild case of thrush in a front foot and a hind foot, and an old injury that had scarred over on his left hind close to the heel that I had missed entirely. Fortunately, none of that was alarming or deal breaking -- just still to keep an eye on and/or treat, especially in the case of the thrush. Chad also noticed that his third eyelid on his left eye was showing, and told me to just be aware of it, as that was a popular place for a scary type of cancer to manifest itself. If caught early, it was no big deal...but if cancer starts there it can easily get into the bone. Lastly, and what concerns me most in the long run, is that Simba has very slight changes in his eye lenses that could be indicative of cataracts as time progresses. Right now, they aren't inhibiting sight or causing any issues, but it's something to keep in the back of my mind. That may cause issues down the road.

Chad then did flex tests, which he passed easily (and I nearly passed out because my fat, out of shape ass had to jog back and forth). He also gaited in hand with me a few times (squeeeeeeeee!!), which was lovely to listen to on the pavement. Chad let me catch my breath, before asking me if I was okay with him taking the lead line for a neuro exam. 

I'm not sure if a neuro exam is status quo for most prepurchase exams, but I was really happy Chad did one. It was borderline fascinating to see Simba's responses, because they were SO different from Image's responses. I now know just how neuologically unsound Image was in comparison. Thankfully, Simba showed no neurological deficiency and gave all the right answers to Chad's questions. 

He handed Simba back to me, and then nonchalantly asked if I could put him through his paces under saddle. Oh, was I glad that I had thrown on my breeches and had my boots in the car! I was hoping out maiden ride was going to be a little more trails, a little less going in circles, but OH MY GOD I WAS GONNA RIDE MY PONY! 

Ride I did! I was so proud of that funny little yellow horse. He has settled quite a bit since moving to D's (though he's still spinning circles in his stall at night; we're hoping that settles down eventually as well) and didn't even flinch when I mounted up. Admittedly, I'm still a little wary of those first thirty seconds in the saddle...I keep waiting for the horse to explode underneath me. I'm hoping I work myself out of that, but it may be something that follows me forever. 

I walked him up and down the driveway, and I had a ball of electricity underneath me. I wouldn't call him ready to explode, but he was definitely tense. He didn't offer to spook (though the one corner up by the house was snort-worthy) at anything on the driveway, but his "forward" button was a bit sticky. I was wearing my clunky winter boots that didn't offer much flexibility, and my stirrups were off kilter, so I was having my own issues too. Regardless, he softened to the bit when I asked and listened to me when I asked firmly for movement.

Fuzzy yellow ears!!

He did do one funny little hop that had me laughing out loud -- from the driveway to the backyard there is a small grass path between the horse fence and a rock wall. This was, apparently, TERRIFYING and needed to be jumped through. We walked through it calmly on the way back, but that little hop was amusing! 

We did circles in the backyard and Chad observed his movement. Thankfully, he saw nothing and I felt nothing while having a couple of discussions with him. He is definitely not fond of doing any sort of ringwork. It's not fun and he has to use his body and pay he's a little resistant and a bit defiant. He didn't pull any jerky moves and didn't retaliate when I got after him, but I'm going to miss having a ring to use when we need to do some real schooling. Trying to work with him on an almost flat but not quite totally flat area when I'm out of shape and my balance isn't perfect makes me a little nervous -- no need for horse and rider to end up on the ground! 

Chad said that he didn't see anything troubling, so I hopped off and gave Simba a hug. He didn't buck me off, and that's a big reason to celebrate after nearly eating dirt almost every time I rode Image. I think there was only once we were able to walk off without him exploding! Simba looked a bit perplexed at the whole ordeal, but he didn't put a foot wrong the entire time...being poked and prodded for a full two hours was not his idea of fun, but he tolerated it very well and made me a proud mama.

Chad left shortly after that, and D gave me a hug, congratulating me -- this was the final real hurdle before I could really start calling Simba mine. I allowed myself to open my heart just a little bit more once it was clear that he was a happy, healthy pony...and now, it was just time to tackle the very first trail ride to totally seal the deal! Fortunately, I got to do just that this past Saturday, but I feel like this entry is long and boring stay tuned! ;)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Stills: The Past Week in Pictures

I have LOTS to say and am trying to split it into three separate posts, but here's a preview or two...

Tall vet is tall. No spoilers -- but he passed his vet check ;)
Maiden trail ride!
Merry Christmas to me!! He is very tolerant of me playing dress up with him.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ready, Set, GO!

I started working with Simba today. No time like the present, right?

Before I get to today's adventures, it occurred to me last night after putting him away that Things are definitely different this time around. I fell in love with Image almost immediately upon meeting him. Now, don't get me wrong, my heart goes all fluttery when I see Simba, but I'm feeling juuuust a little guarded right now. There are a lot of things I'm good at, and a lot of things I will be good at, but being careful about just how much of myself I put into my animals will never be one of those things. I've come to accept that. However, it does mean that after losing two horses in two years, I'm feeling a little less game about jumping into a horse-human relationship with both feet. I have a feeling that a certain yellow horse is going to win me over sooner rather than later, but I've got a proverbial arm out to keep him back a smidge until he clears his vet check, which will hopefully be later this week. It's mostly self preservation, at this point. My heart simply can't take another major blow right now.

I may also be feeling a little guilty. It is absolutely irrational, but Image is still very much on my mind. I am so happy and excited to have Simba with me, but I still miss my little black horse. Simba shares a lot of the same qualities, and as time goes on and we work out the kinks, there may be more similar things that pop up, and that hurts a little more than it comforts right now. That will change as time goes on, as he and I forge an entirely new relationship, but I will have to sort things out in my own head.

Today was the beginning of sorting things out and starting our relationship. Last night we left Simba in his stall a little "up" and tense, but really no worse for the wear. He had slid into the herd dynamic almost silently, and was quickly picking up the routine. I was -- and am! -- very pleased at how he's settling in.

This morning, after nearly dying on VERY icy roads through northern MA, D and I turned out and did stalls. I slid his halter on, and was both thrilled and annoyed with the poop stains on his FACE. Yay! for being comfortable enough to lie down and get some rest in a new place...but REALLY, Simba? Your FACE? I love, love, love his coloring but oh dear...I may need to start buying coat polish and spot remover in bulk! Good thing he's cute! He was a little concerned about Flynn leaving before him, and we had a quick lesson on patience regardless of how excited you're feeling.

D and I peeked out the windows to watch Tory, Flynn and Simba reacquaint themselves after everyone was back in the paddock.  Tory was still protective of her Flynn, but the three of them quietly munched hay together underneath the shelter off the back of the barn. Image was a little on the food aggressive side and was prone to trying to guard as much of the food as possible, so it was nice to see them all sharing space and eating second breakfast (snork!) without pinned ears or flying hooves. Good critters!

We let them finish up before braving the cold and wet. I gave Simba his first spa session before bringing him out to the round pen. D jokingly calls baby Flynn "Pig Pen" and I may have to adopt that nickname for Simba, too. Eeeew! I curried the hell out of him and then spent time picking through his mane and tail. I am, admittedly, VERY vain about my horse's mane and tail. D saw firsthand today the amount of mane and tail products I have in my grooming box. I like to make my ponies pretty! Thankfully, he tolerated me buffing him very well. He was definitely nervous in the barn and out of eyesight of his new friends, but he wasn't out of control or overly pushy about anything. I don't blame him for being nervous and didn't push the situation to a point where it could have gotten ugly. I did, however, get after him for pawing -- THAT is a major no-no, and won't be tolerated. His wiggly-ness will be worked on when he's less stressed about moving, but pawing is something I have no patience for.

I switched out his flat halter for his rope one (which he happily stuffed his nose into...silly boy!) and led him to the round pen. I could almost see the energy coursing through him -- his head was up, his body was tense, and while he wasn't spooky, he was a little snorty. I lunged him on the end of the line very briefly before turning him loose.

How can you not love that color on him??



Simba, to his credit, didn't shut down mentally or go completely spastic. He was spunky, but not insane. It took him some time to focus, but he wasn't completely tuned out to what I was asking him, either. I also LOVED the fact that he didn't buck ONCE during his happy fun time in the round pen. I also observed that he was very, very careful about where he put his feet (the round pen is on a bit of a slope in the backyard -- D's property is basically one big hill, which is GREAT for hill work but a little bit tricky for flat work!) and how he balances himself. That may be different when someone is on his back, but it was encouraging to see that he was really thinking about shifting his weight around to minimize the possibility of hitting the ground.

Dolly the Border Collie making sure that pesky horse stays right where he's supposed to!

He and I fumbled about kind of awkwardly for the first few minutes. I've had a lot of influences over the years in regards to groundwork, and finding out what works for which horse is sometimes a challenge. D has been doing this a lot longer than I have, and was REALLY helpful during this first test run. When I round pen, my usual go-to "stop" cue is stepping in front of the drive line. Image had picked up on this quick, both on and off the line, but I always felt a bit like there had to be a better way to communicate what I was looking for. This cue didn't seem to translate well with Simba, who blew through my command nearly every time. D offered an alternative, and I didn't hesitate to give it a shot.

Instead of cutting him off by stepping in front of his nose, I asked him to come in to me by backing up. This, essentially, cuts him off a little later and draws his energy towards me, encouraging him to turn, face, and walk up to me. It took us both a few times to get it, but it wasn't long before he had given me on fairly good turn/face/approach on cue. We quit there, with him standing in front of me, a bit sweaty, but a LOT more level headed. This horse has a lot of energy and a lot of power...with his brain intact, he is going to be a BLAST with all of his gogogogogogo electricity. He needs to put it somewhere productive, and I'm hoping to channel as much of it as possible through groundwork, trick training, and riding.

Love the soft expression here. Good boy!

The other thing I observed is that he is definitely more on the dominant side of things. M and I both have a sneaking suspicion that he may have been gelded a little later than most. He has no true "studdish" tendencies, but he does toss his head much like a stallion would do. He is more likely to challenge than submit, and definitely needs someone who isn't going to be intimidated by his showy attitude. He hasn't given me ANY reason to believe his bite is worse than his bark, and he doesn't strike me as a horse who truly has a mean bone in his body, but it is something I will be paying close attention to. There can only be one royal in this dictatorship, and that's going to be me, damn it!

Sassy pony is sassy!

I walked him out and was very pleased at his demeanor after getting some of the excess, nervous energy out. I had a much quieter boy with a happier brain and a softer response to me all around. I am thrilled to see that this is his response to just a little bit of work, and hope that we can make this who he is on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure regular work is going to be the key to success here -- anything to work his brain, really -- and he will be fabulous.

I am excited to see where this goes. Next weekend will be a lot more telling of where he actually is, as he's had some time to settle in and figure out the routine. Dr. McGee will hopefully be out this week to do a vet check. I'm off to start researching trick training!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Home to Pride Rock

I'm sorry, but the Lion King references are NEVER EVER GOING TO STOP EVER.


So, after a WHIRLWIND of a week that included me panicking because HOLY SHIT WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT MY PONY??, a death plague from hell, having to arrange transport and boarding on short notice, and getting all the details in order...I haz a ponee!


My name is Simba and I am a handsome, handsome pony!
Long story short, M needed the critter moved by Saturday to avoid some strife with her current barn. I, in the most controlled manner possible (because HOLYSHIT PANIC TIME! inside my head), scoped out as many boarding situations at possible, seeing as L's was full up. I had a lot of kind offers, but the one that made the most sense at the end of the day came from my aunt D. We chatted during the big family Thanksgiving dinner, and agreed that it could be win-win for both of us. Simba needed a place to call home, and D needs a bit of help around the farm. Once we iron out all the details, I'm pretty sure we're going to have a great time!

So, this morning, I got up, watched an episode of My Little Pony (yes, I am a five year old at heart...), and scurried off to northern MA to meet up with D. She hooked up her trailer, and off we went!

The entire ride to western MA was peppered with conversation, but I was buzzing with electricity I was trying to contain. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I did such a great job of it, but such is life. My GPS did an excellent job of directing us through a quaint college town, full of gorgeous brick buildings and unnmarked speed bumps in the road that sent the entire rig sailing through the air once or twice (oops!). We made excellent time and pulled into Simba's barn just as M was bringing him back up from the paddock.

I could tell by the shake in her voice that her heart was breaking. Today was very exciting for me, but having just lost a horse, albeit in an entirely different manner, I felt M's heartache quite a bit. She loaded him on the trailer with no fuss from Simba, and we wandered off to sign paperwork.There were many hugs between us and many promises of pictures and blog posts and Facebook updates before we left.

Loaded up!

Simba was mostly quiet on the ride back -- he hollered once or twice, and pawed a few times, but got over that relatively quickly. He didn't make a peep back there once we got on the road. We made good time getting back to D's house, and arrived just as the sun was casting a gorgeous golden glow over her paddock. Her Missouri Fox Trotter mare, Tory, and baby pinto gelding, Flynn, followed the trailer eagerly as we headed up the driveway. Surprise, kids! Here's a new buddy to play with!

Checking out his new surroundings.

Simba was a little sweaty when we backed him off the trailer, and more than a little "wtf"-y about the whole situation. However, he kept himself in check and walked the driveway with me a few times before giving a proverbial shoulder shrug, and settling down to munch some grass. Once he heaved a sigh of contentment, I turned him out into the paddock. We had shifted D's two horses over to the round pen so Simba could get the lay of the land, and so we could introduce Tory and Flynn one at a time. We spent a little time readying his stall and getting things organized before bringing Tory and Flynn back into the mix.

You always prepare for fireworks when introducing horses to one another, so I think we had both readied ourselves for the introductions to go screwy. We were both pleasantly surprised -- there was some posturing, some squealing and striking, but soon enough they looked like a herd of three that had spent quite a long time together. I'm not even sure I really saw anyone pin their ears. The one thing that we both found kind of fascinating to watch was that Tory made sure to keep "her" baby Flynn away from the newbie. Tory has never had a foal, but since D's eldest horse, Ripley, moved on to a new home, it's obvious that the dynamic between Tory and Flynn had become protector-protectee. Tory was very much immersed in her role as protector and didn't hesitate to tell Simba off if he got too close to "her" baby. It'll be interesting to see how the herd pecking order comes together over the next few weeks, that's for sure!

Once I was a little more sure there wouldn't be hooves flying, I ducked into the paddock to snap some pictures. Simba needs a spa day, which he will get tomorrow, before I take any serious pictures, but I couldn't resist getting some of him in Image's bright blue halter. It's his now, of course, but it made me smile to see it on a horse again.

BAH. He's so stinking cute!

I have much more to say, but no energy to do so. I did want to get it out there that's he's here and adorable and I am so, so excited to see what happens next. I'll have more to say tomorrow, including elaborating on the plethora of mixed emotions running through my ineffectual little brain!

Until tomorrow, ya'll! :)

Flynn and Tory say "good night!"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We're Gonna Be a Mighty Team

Tuesday morning I walked into work, bleary eyed and pale (I caught a terrible death plague and ended up leaving early yesterday and staying home today), coffee in one hand, bagel in the other. Stupidly, I had forgotten about our usual Tuesday morning product training meetings. Awesomely, I had woken up exceptionally early and decided to just go in instead of laze around in bed. I was only ten minutes behind schedule for the product training, so I quietly twisted the door handle to the conference room full to the brim with my coworkers, and slipped inside.

Immediately, I was met with a chorus of cheers and applause. I stopped dead and stared blankly at my loud, opinionated, funny, caring coworkers who were beside themselves with glee over the fact that I had found my next horse. Dover has given me a room full of women (and one token gentleman who is very, very patient to put up with all of us!) who are surrogate aunts, mothers, and grandmothers. When I lost Image, their hearts were breaking too. It shouldn't have been a shock to me that they were all so thrilled to know that I had finally found The Horse, but knowing that all of those lovely people were rooting for me was one of the sweetest things I've encountered in quite awhile.

I'm sure that little anecdote has told you exactly what I'm about to say, but just for good measure: yes, the charming, funny little yellow Walker has decided I should be his. Previ the Peruvian was a lovely little horse with personality coming out of every pore, but something just wasn't "right". There were a couple of outside factors that concerned me, but as we were gaiting around the ring, I realized that I wasn't picturing my next riding adventures framed by black ears. I was picturing them framed by yellow ones. I sighed internally, and gave in to what I had a feeling was going to happen: I didn't want another Walker, but another Walker wanted me. So, here we are.

Lookit those big fuzzy wuzzy ears!

I'm already starting to think about a riding plan and getting his gait back to being a true, four beat gait consistently (he's more apt to pace or step pace if given a choice)...and he may have a brand new, bright blue rope halter sitting on my bed right now. Some of Image's tack will become his tack, but I think he deserves some new things of his very own as well. Admittedly, I'm keeping their color the same, because that electric blue looks SO freaking good on a palomino! I am also coveting this set from Taylored Tack (

Lynika headstall. SO PRETTY.
Brice breastcollar. 

In this color biothane:


like NO ONE'S business. I may need an intervention before I start painting the actual pony blue as well ;) I don't NEED more tack...but who doesn't want to spoil their new critter?

Anyway, I am scrambling to find Simba (yes, I am calling him Simba!) a place to stay for a little while, as both Coworker L and Barn Owner L have zero room at this point in time. I have a couple of options that I need to flesh out before Saturday, as the boarding situation where he's at is kind of...well, it's special, to say the least, and I'd like him out of there as soon as possible. No fault of M's whatsoever, but it'll be a weight off of M's shoulders to not have him at that barn any longer. I will bring him home, have Dr. McGee do a vet check for me, and hopefully we will be on our merry way.

I am, as I was with Image, excited and terrified. However, this time is feels so very different from when I was getting ready to bring Image home. There is nothing like the excitement of bringing your first horse home, and I'm a bit sad I won't ever really feel that again...however, this is the start of something new. Something good, I hope. I feel like a really big weight has been taken off of my chest because I have something in my life to hold on to again. I still miss Image, and I still miss GP...but hopefully, Simba and I are going to have a long, lovely story full of adventure and laughter and kisses all over that sweet face!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blonde Bombshell

I went back and rode King today.

I've never been one to fall for blondes, but I think I've fallen for one.

Today was the coldest, windiest day yet this season. It didn't even get above freezing, and with the wind, it was likely to be painful if you stood around too long. Still, after M and I checked in with each other ("Are you game?" "I am if you are!"), I donned my warmest riding clothes and trekked out to western MA. I sang at the top of my lungs the entire drive out to keep myself from thinking too much. It worked, for the most part. I decided late last week that as much as I loved Lucy, I just couldn't stomach the "what if" that came with her age. I will, however, be going back to J's to ride in the near future! So, with that in mind, this little test ride had a lot weighing on it and I was trying not to psyche myself out.

I was wrestling on my heavy Mountain Horse jacket when M pulled up, waving enthusiastically. We schlepped out to King's paddock together, wincing against the wind that cut to the bone. King spotted us once we got into the paddock, and didn't hesitate at all to leave his hay to come say hello. He snuffled his mama, and then turned those bright eyes on me.  I melted a little, against my better judgment. Hmph!

M handed me the lead line and we walked into the barn. King crossed tied nicely, even if he was a bit wiggly, and inspected us both for cookies. He made me laugh with his curious, in your pocket attitude about everything. He got a little cranky with me when I rubbed his belly, but quickly quit with the 'tude when I told him off.

We quickly groomed him up, and welcomed L and R into the midst. L, bundled up to the millionth degree, reaquainted herself with King before taking control of my camera. R was handed my cell phone to get some video. It's lovely to have ground crew for these horse evaluations!

I dragged my saddle out (with stirrups this time, thankyouverymuch) and situated it on his back. He cocked an ear, and I could see the gears twisting in his head. I had already decided to lunge him before even thinking about getting on his back, but the slight tenseness that traveled through his body with the addition of the saddle cemented that plan into my mind.

We headed into the indoor (the lovely, lovely indoor!) and I asked him to move out around me on the end of the lunge line. Much like Image did, he zoomed away from me, a little bit of panic in his eyes. This time, however, I knew it wasn't from bad handling anywhere along the line. The indoor was windy and there was another horse being worked at the other end of the ring and oh my dear LORD she's asking me to work WHAT AM I EVER TO DO?!

He lost his brain for a bit, that's for sure. He zipped around me, snorting and putting on a decent show (including a buck or two!). I did happen to notice that even though he was flying around me at mach ten, he wasn't unbalanced and only leaned into the rope halter I put on him when he was trying to be naughty. It took him maybe five minutes, but after a couple of changes of direction, I saw his inside ear trained on me and the crazy, frantic look leave his eyes. Soon enough, he was licking and chewing at a walk around me, lowering his head and sighing in relaxation. At that point, I figured it was now or never!

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit nervous. I didn't expect perfection from him, but I'm coming to realize that I have some PTSD left over from Image. I have to constantly remind myself that MOST horses aren't going to go all esplodey into a bucking fit when you mount up. So, I put my big girl panties on and climb the stairs (LITERALLY. Biggest mounting block EVER!) and swung my leg over.

King didn't move a muscle.

Well. Okay then. Good boy!!

I futzed with my tack for a moment, before we headed back down to our side of the ring. I almost burst out laughing. Whenever I actually got to sit on Image (after his bucking fits...poor critter!), I described it as riding a nervous couch. King felt rather similar! His energy was more pent up, "gogogogogogogo" type energy, as opposed to Image's "omfg imma EXPLODE ANY SECOND" energy. Even with all of this electricity coursing through him, he didn't offer any sort of rude or mean action. No bucking, no rearing, no shying (even with some gnarly noises coming from the wind outside!), no bolting -- not even the slightest inkling that he was going to do any of these things. I thoroughly appreciated his lack of antics. +1 for King!

"What is this work you speak of?" Also I have a very large ass. Please ignore it.

We toodled around the ring at the walk until he relaxed a bit. He was very "up" and a bit snorty for the first few minutes, but was quick to settle and tune in to me. I tested his responsiveness to leg, seat and rein. He was a little dull to my leg aids for moving over, but worked off of a gentle squeeze for faster movement. He was definitely rusty at simple things like "whoa" and "back", but not so much so that I was concerned. I also have a sneaking suspicion that he is used to (and happier in) some sort of shanked bit. His sale photo from when he was a youngin' showed him ridden in something with a shank and curb chain, and by the way he was reacting to direct pressure from the snaffle I put in his mouth, it's wasn't something he was super familiar with.

Listening and trying!

When I asked him to move out, he was understandably pacey. HOWEVER -- when I checked him back and got him to use himself correctly...what a gorgeous gait this horse has. He has a very correct little rack and the beginnings of a running walk if asked very precisely. He was soft, soft, soft in my hands and super bendy through his body, which was incredibly lovely after riding some pretty stiff, bracey horses the past few months.

Awkward face moment but holy chunky monkey gorgeous pony!

Most of all, he made me smile. He TRIED his little furry heart out for me, and that endeared him to me more than anything else. He paid attention, made attempts to give me what I was asking for (even if he didn't understand) and listened to correction if I gave it. He has his own brain, though, and would test the boundaries once in awhile...I'm okay with testing the boundaries -- I like a critter that thinks for itself! He is smart, funny, forward, willing, and while he's not naturally bold, he takes a lot of comfort in the person who is handling him and has the potential to be a very fun boy out on the trails.

When I got off and took him back into the barn, M slipped out to go find a light blanket to cover him with. I shoved myself into the crook his his neck, and he, quietly and gently, rested his head on my back. He is quite the little fussbudget most of the time, so to have him standing so quietly with me, my face pressed into his warm yellow shoulder, was a little magical.

Okay, little yellow horse. You've got me. You win. STAHP.


Tomorrow I go and see Previ the black Peruvian horse, but he has some serious, serious competition right now. I know I said that I really did not want another Walker...but this horse and I clicked and I guess you can't dictate when and where that happens. It just does. Unless something truly magical happens with Previ and I, I feel I know what my decision is going to be.

It could also be that Image and GP got together somewhere and are snickering at their handiwork right now.


Goddamnit, you furry assholes. Harrumph.

(by the way if I take him I'm renaming him Simba because he is yellow and furry and is pretty convinced he rules all the things)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's a Small World After All

Is the song stuck in your head yet? Yes? Good!

(I'm an asshole. Sorry not sorry!)

New England is small. Horse world is small. Put one small world on top of another, and you get really, REALLY small.

Remember Renegade?

How about Daisy Mae?

Neither of these horses were for me, through no fault of their own. There were just things that I couldn't reconcile within my own head. Rene and I just didn't have that magic "click" moment, and Daisy and I probably would have clashed like oil and water. I'm not in a place where I want another major project.

Both of these horses were for someone else, though! The woman who purchased Renegade, who saw him mere hours after I did, is a lovely lady from Maine. Kelsey is a fellow blogger, and she stumbled across my blog on an unrelated thread on the Mainely Gaiters Facebook page. Needless to say, I went "HI CAN I STALK YOU AND RENE?" and she said "SURE WHY NOT IT'S ONLY A LITTLE CREEPY!" Okay, maybe she didn't say that, but that's how I figured it was going to go in my head.

A month or so after she brought Rene home, her friend, Casey, decided she needed a gaited horse too! Kelsey touched base with me and asked if I knew of anything in the area, as she was having a hard time finding something suitable. I was going to suggest King if I ended up not liking him, but before I could even go see him, Kelsey told me that Casey had found a critter...lo and behold, it was Miss Daisy Mae, the sassy little Walker mare that I had looked at not too long ago. It seems that Casey and Daisy have hit it off rather well, and Daisy is now living with them at Kelsey's Blonde Bomber Acres in Maine.

I am very excited to be able to follow these two horses. They weren't for me, but they both deserved fantastic homes and they both couldn't have found better ones. I hope to watch them both blossom into awesome trail horses with their respective people. I hope to travel to Maine to ride with Kelsey, Rene, Casey and Daisy some day (and maybe, if we're feeling nice, we'll invite N and her barn girl, C! ;)

As for news in my little world...I am now up to THREE horses. Three. 0 to 60 in the span of a week and a half. I go back to ride King on Sunday, and then on Monday, M and I are headed down to the southern end of CT to meet Previlegio, a 13 year old, 14.2 hand black as night Peruvian gelding.



*flops over*

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Okay, there were no actual diamonds today, but I feel like I've hit the proverbial gold mine. I know this is the best dilemma in the world to have, but all of a sudden, I have two very nice horses on the table.

Today, I drove to NH (to the same town where Image was from!) and got to ride with a coworker. Said coworker has Paso Finos. I didn't actually know that J had Pasos until about two weeks ago...she friended me on Facebook after we chatted a few times at work, and I immediately noticed that she was friends with a big name Paso Fino farm in Pennsylvania.

I had a minor spaz attack over this little bit of information, and then stalked the SHIT out of her photos. It was pretty obvious she had a couple of Pasos. The next morning, I ambushed her, and despite the fact that I was admitting to being a super creepy Facebook stalker, she was delighted to chat with me. When I mentioned that I was horse shopping, and reallyreallyreallyreally (did I mentioned REALLY?) wanted a spicy Spanish gaited horse, she smiled and said she had a mare she was looking to sell.

Meet Lucy.

She cuddled with me. It was adorable.

Pros? Sweet, kindhearted, perfect level of brio, well trained, sure footed, brave, forward, and FUN as all get out.

Cons? She's 19.

I know it's not a death sentence for a horse to be nineteen. GP was 34 when we had to put him down, and we were still running around like fools on the trails right before he colicked. 19 does not mean the horse is going to come home and break down on me. However, it really, really ups the risk factor here. Again: all horses are risky, no matter what...but I really wanted to bring my risk down to the bare minimum this time around!

I went into the ride not expecting to be impressed. I got off of the horse a little blown away. First of all, can I say how AWESOME it is to ride with a bunch of like minded, fun, chatty people? J, her daughter, and her husband all tagged along (on Pasos, of course!) for the ride and it was just a blast. There is truly nothing like cortoing along, four abreast, chatting like you're meandering down the trail at a walk.

Lucy was easy to catch, even though J warned me she can be a little shy. She stood tied without issue, and quietly hung out while I groomed her, fussed with my saddle -- and yes, I remembered my stupid stirrups today! -- and untangled her bridle. Of course, it wouldn't be me without some minor tack malfunctions. I had to use a mini girth on her because my size 26 western girth was waaayyy too big. Thankfully, the mini girth did the trick! It wasn't long until we were all saddled up and ready to go.

All the pony kids were psyched to be going out, so we set out at a lovely pace. There are few things that bring a smile to my face and get it to stay there like riding a Paso Fino!

It wasn't long until Lucy was able to show me what she was really made of. Now, these horses are little firecrackers. They have lots of go, but they usually have excellent brains and temperaments to even out the "go". J's daughter was on the spunkiest grey gelding out of the group, and once we hit our first hill, it was time to go hell bent for leather. Yee-haw!

It's not often I feel comfortable galloping a horse I don't know. I'll do it, because it's fun, but there's usually a part of me that goes "you know, this is potentially stupid and you may die because if this horse bucks, you're going to take a header." That thought didn't even enter my mind with Lucy -- I felt like I'd be riding her for years the second I got on her. I had no problems whatsoever getting up off her back and letting her fly.

Dear friends, there is truly nothing better than a good gallop on a good horse. Lucy flew after the spunky grey gelding like a bat out of hell, and I laughed and whooped the entire time. What was even better, was that when I asked her to come back down into my hands, she didn't fight me. She quietly dropped back into a happy corto, even with all the energy coursing through both of us. I could have turned around and gone back to the barn right then and there, and been happy as can be. The ride continued, of course, and there were plenty of opportunities to go zoom. One gorgeous stretch of grassy, flat wide trail was cause for internal squeals of glee. Lucy was more than happy to indulge me.

The rest of the ride was equally as fun, spent at a lively corto for the most part. The only time Lucy even considered doing something "wrong" was when a sheep (no really, a sheep!) came bouncing over to us from the other side of the fence. All four horses went "WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF" and scooted away from the horse eating monster. We had a good laugh and I thoroughly wish I had caught that on film!

The entire ride was one to stash away in my mind and revist when I'm having a bad day. It was probably one of the best rides I've had since I lost GP, and I've done a decent amount of riding since then. It was truly the most fun I've had with horses in a long, long time!

I thanked J profusely, and after filling her in on King, told her that I'd probably have a better idea of what was going on come next Sunday. She waved me off, as she's in no rush to place Lucy. I'm sure we'll chat at work -- I don't tend to feel at ease immediately around a lot of people, but like some horses, there are just some people out there you "click" with!

I was half hoping that I didn't like Lucy. That didn't happen. I'm kind of going to have to hold steady until I ride King, but I fear I'm going to have a very, very hard decision to make. 19 or not, Lucy is a fabulous little horse and I feel that we would have an absolute blast together. However, am I willing to take that risk? I don't know.

Then there's King, who is so much like my little black horse that it was almost painful. EVERYONE saw just how much he was like Image, even just through pictures. I have to reserve full judgement on him until after I ride him, but even then...I really had my heart set on a Paso Fino or a Peruvian. Riding Lucy really reinforced that. Not to much as I loved Image, I don't know if I want one exactly like him right now. It'd be a lot of mixed emotions, and that would be complicated.

I'm feeling rather conflicted, even after discussing it over salted caramel brownies with B (have I mentioned how much I adore her? Because I do. A lot!), who lives right up the road from J. I know I'm going to just have to sit tight until after I ride King...but I fear my decision isn't going to be any easier then. Part of me is wondering that maybe this just means there's something else out there meant to be mine?

I don't know.

What I do know, is that I had a really, really fabulous day. I'm going to stick with that for now.

Kings and Queens

Meet King.

I should have learned a long time ago that fate likes to laugh when you make plans. Sometimes, it likes to laugh a lot. I think it's currently peeing its pants its laughing so hard.

A week or so ago, a horse person from another blogging platform forwarded me King's Craigslist posting. I, upon discovering that he was a Tennessee Walking Horse (strike one), a gelding (strike two), and had been out of work for awhile (strike three), almost just let his ad slide on by.

Instead, I shrugged and said "he's got Image's face. Might as well at least talk to his owner..."

A few emails later, and we had set up a day for me to come and meet him. I blinked at my computer screen, a bit perplexed at how I had gotten to this step when I realized that I did, in fact, want to go meet him. What happened to wanting a sassy, spicy Spanish gaited horse? Harrumph.

So, I did go see him. Today, in fact. M, his owner, met us at his barn in western Massachusetts (and by us, I mean my coworker/friend/partner in crime, L) and introduced us to the little gold horse. King pricked his ears and frisked me for cookies. Once he determined that I was fresh out, he turned back to M and mooched a couple of cookies out of her. "Food motivated" is an understatement, and he knows exactly who is going to give him said food. M is such a sweetheart of a woman, and King has her wrapped around his hoof. She was refreshingly honest about King's shortcomings and made no excuses as to why. I appreciated her thorough description of her critter, and her wherewithal to bring his registration paperwork. It's REALLY nice to know a horse's background. In this case, King Shadow Maker was bred in Tennessee, raised a bit in North Carolina, and then came up to New England as a three year old. In recent months, he hasn't had much work due to M's bad back -- she's way worse off than me, the poor thing!

It was shortly after going to get my tack that I realized I had (stupidly) left my stirrups at home -- please don't ask, I'm completely and totally mortified that I didn't notice that I had no stirrups on my saddle to begin with -- it was decided that we were going to just play with him. King took one look at me when I got on the end of his lead line, and went "Hmm. Newbie. What can I get away with?"

He attempted to barrel through me.

I backed his ass up. His name might be King, but I am the Queen when it comes to whatever horse is on the end of my lead line.

His ears swiveled -- first one, then the other, then they tipped back, and when I laughed at him, he pricked them forward again. He might be a blonde, but he's no dummy -- he knows perfectly well who is on the end of that line. He figured out very quickly that I was not going to tolerate bullshit from him. He was still a bit of a fidgety fussbucket and it was very obvious, very quickly, that he's BORED. He's bored with his life and the monotony of standing around doing a whole lot of nothing. So, we toodled off to the indoor to play.

I lunged him a bit, and he reacted accordingly: a little affronted that I was asking him to work and even more annoyed that I wasn't letting him get away with simply turning in and stopping. Once he settled in a bit, I had his attention and he was trying to respond to the buttons I was press. I knew that I wasn't pressing the right buttons to get the correct response out of him (if they're even installed!). I honestly wasn't interested in getting the "right" answer out of him. I just wanted to see his reaction to slightly confusing stimuli. He was honest with his responses, and that was encouraging to see. He didn't overreact to correction, and moved off when I asked. He was VERY soft in my rope halter (yes, that was Image's. Yes, it broke my heart a little to pull it out and put it on another horse), and I absolutely loved that.

Is this for eats?

He was very pacey, though he gave me good moments of a running walk once or twice. I'm not going to hold that against him on the ground, but it will be interesting to see what he's going to offer me as a default under saddle, and whether or not the correct buttons have ever been installed to get him to collect up and gait properly.

He entertained us while we stood around talking by inspecting my camera bag, poking me incessantly with his nose, and generally acting like a goofy kid who just wants to be paid attention to. Of course, this meant that I had to entertain, I did. There were a bunch of these hanging around the indoor, so I just picked one up and plopped it over his neck. He didn't bat an eye. His funny, curious, thoughtful nature shone through when I asked him to walk around with it around his neck and he just went ", okay. This is weird, but sure! Cool new game!"

Wearing a hula hoop!

Once I was done messing with him, he did something terribly mean and cruel and adorable and god damn it horse this was NOT OKAY AT ALL.



Except...I might want this one. Next week, I go back to take him for a spin and see how he is under saddle, which will make or break the whole thing.

Damn it all.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's (er, today's?) escapades with a coworker that has Paso Finos up in NH.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Equine Affaire 2013

I forget sometimes that Massachusetts is horse saturated. People think Massachusetts, and they think Boston, Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Boston Tea Party, Revolutionary War, Battle of Lexington and Concord, foliage, people with funny accents, and really terrible driving...but not horses! It's only when I sit and think do I remember that Massachusetts is home to many, many horse people (and two of the largest equestrian equipment retailers in the world -- SmartPak and Dover Saddlery). We have beautiful trails, incredible farms, varied disciplines, and lovely horses all over the state.

So, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised every year that people flock from all over the East to go to the Equine Affaire in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Toss some big name clinicians in there, and we're likely to see people from as far away as the Carolinas. Equine Affaire has been going on for as long as I can remember. The first time I went, my aunt D brought me for my birthday. I was either twelve or thirteen, and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I was only taking lessons at the time, so being immersed in all things horsey was one of the most exciting things I had ever done at that time. Ten years later (oh my good lord I almost threw up writing that!), I still get the same rush when I enter into the Better Living Center and see the hundreds of horse people milling around. Of course, things are a little bit different now that I'm working for a major tack company. Shopping isn't quite the same, that's for sure! However, I'm still surrounded by like minded people and that's always a great feeling.

I usually go with a friend, so this year, M and I coordinated a day trip on Saturday. After an obligatory coffee stop (PSA: EGGNOG LATTE IS BACK AT STARBUCKS. SQUEEE!), where M proceeded to order two coffees and double fist it the entire drive to Springfield, we were on our way. I'm surprised we made it in one piece, if we're being honest...M had me in stitches the entire ride. Of course, this was in between the two of us singing along to the Wicked original soundtrack.


It was a cold, blustery day on Saturday so we made an immediate beeline for the Better Living center to peek at all the pretty pony things. M had a shopping list, and I was hoping to run into something special for Christmas presents. I came away empty handed for the first time, and M found most of the things she was looking for. Quick plug for -- they have beautiful product and were quick to monogram a dog collar for M. They were helpful, kind, and thorough, even amid the Saturday Equine Affaire kay-oss!

M and I were sidetracked on our way to the C barn by a clinic worth watching. C barn is where you can pat the ponies...and maybe buy a pony, if you're so inclined. Just as we were heading over, aunt D texted me to say they were in the Coliseum to watch Guy McLean. If you've never seen this man work with horses, you are missing out on an insanely awesome experience. Guy is genuinely kind hearted. He loves his animals more than anything. He is a wordsmith, and can keep us all entertained without even demonstrating anything. In short, if he can make horses love him as much as they do, I can't help but wonder...what can he do to WOMEN? ;)

I stood on the rail with M and proceeded to test out my shiny new toy in low light settings. I don't totally hate the results! I have a lot of work to do to really wrap my head around this lens, but I'm not regretting it one bit...and, despite not having Image Stabilization, the only blurry images were the ones I didn't focus correctly. Love it! The images are still a bit grainy for my liking, but that won't be remedied until I can afford a camera body that handles high ISO

Guy McLean and his awesome, awesome horses!
Love the expressions here!
So much kindness is emanated from this gentleman.
Spinabbey jumping on command!
Collection comes from within. I would love, love, love, LOVE to be able to learn how to do this with my next critter!
Quarter Horse gelding from Road to the Horse. CUTE!!
*ovaries explode* SO ADORABLE. I want one...meaning one of Guy. Immediately. Where can I get one?!

M and I bebopped over to the C barn after that. On our way, though, we had to stop and squee over this:


I was hoping to run into some lovely gaited people in the C barn, but no luck there. M threatened to smuggle a gorgeous, tall, total sweetheart of a Friesian home in the back of my car (which is a Chevy Prizm, mind you!). I was courted by an adorable buckskin pony gelding, who decided that the best way to get my attention was to stuff his nose in between my boobs and motorboat. No, I'm not kidding. No, I didn't get a video. Yes, I'm mad at myself that I didn't because oh my good lord was it FUNNY! I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe, and the lady sitting with him seemed to be a touch mortified. I would have taken him home, too...SO much personality in one little horse!

One other thing I realized while meandering through the C barn, is that if I ever decide I'm bored with gaited horses (yeah, right!), I'm getting a Morgan. I was absolutely enamoured with the Morgan aisles, especially the older style Lippit bred ones that were charming the heck out of everyone that wandered through. I love their build, their brains, and all that hair!

After I determined there were no Paso Fino or Peruvian representatives hiding in the C barn, we puttered around for awhile until finally ending back up in the Coliseum. D and her friends (one of which is a coworker of mine as well!) had decent seats for the Arabian and Friesian demos. I, of course, spent the entire time behind my camera. It was so much fun to see these two very well known breeds do SO many different things. I'm not an Arabian person, but I dream, like so many do, of owning a Friesian one day. Both breeds were represented well and they were GORGEOUS. Drool!

Spunky western pleasure Arabian.
Saddleseat Arab...preeeetty!
Hoooooly trot, Batman!

We had to scamper back home after the breed demos, so after a quick wave good bye to my aunt, we headed back to the car. I was officially wiped out by that point, and had a sneaking suspicion I was developing a nasty cold. I brought M back home, spent a few minutes snuggling her horses, and skeddadled back to Framingham to fall into bed.

On Sunday, I did...well, I didn't do a damn thing. It was lovely for the first five hours, but then I got bored. I like to THINK I enjoy sitting around doing nothing, but I really don't like it as much as I want to! ;)

The holiday rush has started at Dover, so forgive me if I'm a little more absent than usual the next few weeks. I do, however, have three exciting things going down this weekend...but no spoilers!

Until next time, ya'll! :)