Friday, July 15, 2016

Barn Friends, Much Love

Growing up, I never boarded my horse with the exception of 2 winters when were were trying to qualify for a T3D. I had a barn at home and pastures and that was good.

3.5 year old Yankee and baby me in our "riding field"
 I rode outdoors all year round, no matter the weather. I rode alone. Fed alone. Cleaned stalls alone. Was basically alone.

All the time.
Took this with an iPhone propped on a barrel LOL

Then, I went to college. And I started boarding. It was self care, which added a weird element to the barn dynamic. I always felt like I couldn't make a single move without being judged or talked about under the table. The older folks thought I was insane for eventing and jumping, the vets thought I was stupid and the younger folks were just catty. I never actually enjoyed it. Sure, I made friends, but I didn't feel like I could rely on them. They had their own ways of doing things and my every move was questioned. From the depth of my bedding, to the grain I fed to the boots I used on yankee while riding.

Major eyeroll.

Why would anyone question this
THEN, I moved home and went right back to being alone.

Which also sucked.

Then, last September after another year alone, I leased out Yankee and moved B to an OTTB Jumper/Eventing barn with a massive indoor, XC/gallop field, and an outdoor arena. 

If it sounds like heaven its because IT IS.

We all know I adore OTTBs and to be surrounded by like minded, completely insane individuals like myself is beyond my wildest dreams. Not only are the people ACTUALLY nice, the facilities are more than I am used to. So much so that I call it The Palace.

B is like, "what are this fanciness?"
I love that everyone is always so interested in your life, your day, asking how you are, how your horse is, asking your plans and in general just being fucking lovely. It makes my day to walk in the barn and see such familiar faces, happy to see me and asking how my day was. Its the little things man.

To me, it feels like home and I legit have found my people and never want to leave.

These thoughts were solidified this week when I trudged to the barn, legitimately depressed over my injury, because B was finally sound, his shoes were on and I couldn't ride.

Piss poor timing.

So he was off for 5 weeks, on 1 and now potentially off for however many weeks it takes me to heal.

I was so bummed.

So of cours my friends noticed. 

I tried to be helpful and cheerful in discussion about their rides for the day and weekend show plans, but they knew.

One thing led to another and I was slowly tacking B up for them to ride.

Not me

They offered to ride my Dragon while I healed.

No one besides Supertrainer and L have ridden the dragon in 2 years, and until recently he was the most not chill. I never actually thought anyone would volunteer to ride him after witnessing the shitshow that was this winter. In Bacardi's defense, he's been the BEST baby lately. In their defense, he was a colossal asshole this winter and about dumped me every ride. So I could see why no one ever volunteered then. But he better now.

A on B
I was nervous, as always when someone rides one of my boys, but really freaking happy to see someone else take him for a spin. I never got to watch Supertrainer ride and the only video from their show together was from far away and blurry.

B was an angel and friend #1, "A", had him strutting around like a seasoned dressage horse. 

(Friend #2 you already know, she leases Yankee. Known as "V" on the blog. Theres also non-boarder but long time Ohio BFF, who also rides, known as "L". She's ridden B a few times too. There will be a test later.)

I was SO proud. I just sat there, beaming, while she took him through his paces. He is not an easy horse to figure out and she had him going round and forward in all 3 gaits in under 10 minutes. Bonus; he didn't spook at anything. Double Bonus; I have another wicked good horse riding friend that isn't afraid to ride The Dragon.

V on B

It was really cool to watch from the ground, because I get to see things I don't feel as well while in the saddle. Such as the ever so slight behind the vertical cop out that B gives when asked to really use his back and hocks. GOTCHU. You thought you got away with it, but nah son, goteem.

Case and point

We will be working on that one, lil mister.

Otherwise, he was a gem. My heart was almost exploding with love. Love for my horse, love for my friends and love for my life and where it has led in the last crazy year.

Prancy feets

I am so grateful my friends were willing to ride him this week. I was truly stressing about that, but instead they volunteered to help AND they're good at it.

L might be able to swing out and ride him this weekend at some point while we are all in KY for Champagne Run, so that is also very cool. 

V and Yanks running through their test 
On that note, I am trying to decide if I want to do daily updates on the blog or wait until Monday, but other way...crew is headed out for the weekend! If anyone is going to be at the KYHP, hit me up! I love to meet bloggers < 3

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Pushing It

I may or may not have posted similar to this in the past, but as "they" say, the past only repeats itself and in light of recent events, and witnessing some questionable horsemanship, I bring you our next episode of What Do Wednesday...

Denny Emerson so beautifully stated recently what I have been thinking and have always thought, but he states it little more eloquently than I would;

We, the collective "we," are encouraged in 101 ways to push horses.
We have young horse classes. We have futurities. We have makeover programs. We have all that glitz and glamour of showing and competing, and not much being said about the satisfaction of the slow, daily process of bringing horses along, slow step by slow step.
The impression being made, I think, is that the finished product is of greater worth than the process of becoming.
Real trainers don't think the same way that driven competitors think. For a competitor the goal is the win. For a trainer the goal is the progress of the horse, irrelevant of the win

God, Denny, you are my spirit animal. I highly recommend following him on Facebook, always resounds so close to my heart and speaks when most others refuse to. Love him.

What he is saying though is something I see every. damn. day. On Facebook. On Instagram. On Blogs. In my personal life. Everywhere.

People are so concerned with WINNING that they push push push their horses to breaking point. Using gimmicks, forcing horses to do things they aren't ready for, working them everyday, etc....all for the sake of winning. Amateurs and pro's alike. We have all seen it at the upper levels, even though everyone makes excuses for them and stuffs it away like its not happening.

B as a gangly, skinny, unschooled lil babe (age 5, 1 month after I got him)
At what point is too much, too soon? At what point is too much? Too far?

That is the age old question isn't it?

It really depends on who you ask, I've discovered, and in regards to the beginning of training the general "acceptable" age to start a youngster is increasingly and terrifyingly getting younger and younger. No doubt the ability to adopt very young OTTBs and give them second careers is the cause of  what *I* see in my circle, but as all of us know, sometimes our circles can be small and I tend to generalize a little bit too much. I am more curious to hear others experiences and opinions before I damn everyone, but my opinions are my opinions and they will remain, regardless.

Its difficult to change my opinion when its backed by facts, science and the overwhelming evidence that is real life stories of horses breaking down du to overwork. I can't just claim that my thoughts are mine alone, when they are supported by actual occurrences. Maybe its none of my business though and I should just concern myself with my own horses and leave the other monkeys in their own circus...


Yanks at his first ever USEA show BN, almost age 6
Back when I started riding almost 20 years ago, the "norm" to start training was 4 years old... to START. Not already in work, but to pluck them from the fields and BEGIN. Four. Not 2. Not a yearling. Four.

It is a well known fact that most horses do not even finish growing until age 5, some even later. Vets, feel free to correct me if I am wrong and cite your evidence, for we can all use education, but as far as I know, horses are not quite ready to take the weight of a grown ass man at age 2. No way, no how.

So who's to say its acceptable to show these youngsters, when most of us are aware of the dangers of starting them so early? Joint degeneration, muscle wear and tear, mental instability are all caused by starting too young and pushing too hard and fast.

Yanks winning the 2014 First Level Midwest USDF Champs (just noticed, same half pad LOL)

Even my beloved eventers are competing the babies at higher levels than I have ever seen before. A 7 year old running Prelim+? A 4 year old running Novice? WHY? What is the actual point?

I don't mean simply starting them under saddle or readjusting them to new life if they're OTTBs, I mean full on hauling them to shows, competing and running around Novice + and not keeping the babies at the lower levels for the appropriate amount of time.

At some point, they are going to break down. Its inevitable. Mentally or physically, they will break. At what cost? Some ribbons? A championship? Humans own selfish ideas, goals and plans?

One can throw the money card at me and state that horse are expensive to raise and thats why they start them so early, but to me that is unacceptable. To me, thats saying one's own resources are more important than that horse and its well being. One's goals take precedence and have ZERO regard for the animal one owns and care for.

The dressage test that sat us 2nd in a field of 18 at Training
I'm not saying leave them in a field until they are pushing 5, but to take it slow and steady. What is the rush? Where is the beauty in GOOD training? Who cares if you're jumping 2 feet [still] when your horse is 7 (HI, whats up, name's Monica) years old?

For me, I prefer to have a horse who will be happy, healthy and sound for years and years to come, instead of shiny ribbons on  my wall. I prefer to take it slow with the babies, because thats how they learn and thrive.

Sure, B is a mess. He's the outlier. Not all horses are like him and take the needed amount of time to decompress from racing, or get started backing in general. And sure, there are babies that are insanely smart and capable, like Yankee was.

BUT, just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Sure, B can jump 3'6, but I schooled that height one time when he was feeling good. Once. Sure, Yankee can rock Intermediate XC, but have I schooled that this year? Last year? No, there's no point.

With my boys I have taken it insanely slow in their training. Yanks for example, I got when he wasn't even four. I waited until the fall before his 6th birthday to compete him at a recognized event and even then that was BN when BN was tiiiiiiny (lol). Then we chilled at BN forever and then Novice forever before moving up to Training. It wasn't until he was almost 12 that I started schooling him regularly over Prelim heights, and even then, I was never ready to compete that high, so we just didn't do it that often. What if I had pushed him? Would he be sound? Happy?

With B, he's been an even slower process. Flatwork especially took ages. I think it took us year to canter properly and then finally start some crossrails. He was god awful at jumping at first, so we backed off on experimental height and then stopped altogether. I'm glad I did. Once we picked it back up, I kept it low for the most part. He started to learn how to use his body better and began enjoying it. Had I pushed him to keep going, I for sure would have ruined him. Now, I think he's insanely BORED at 2'3 and that makes me happy. Bored is better than scared, or injured or crazy pants. Maybe, just maybe this fall we will start at 3ft again. Maybe.

Point being, I take my time. Thats just how I do it. I enjoy the time spent with the beasts and they learn to trust me and enjoy their jobs. Especially with the OTTBs who were started waaaayyyyy too early in their life, they need an adjustment period to "find themselves" and their bodies and then the real work can begin.

I'm sorry, but I find it asinine to compete a young, ripe off the track four year old weekend after weekend or push it to the point of breaking.

 I will ask again, what is the actual point? I will say again, just because one can, doesnt mean one should. The temptation is great when the talent is there, but it takes incredible foresight to resist the temptation in order to create long lasting partnerships and healthy horses.

I have sadly seen several youngsters break down because their owners were stupid enough to push push push and it broke my heart everytime. Those horses didn't deserve to be thrown out like trash, or put down because their human was a fucktard. Call me high & mighty, I don't care, I just think it is incredibly dumb to push a youngster and so not worth it in the end.


Now that I'm done and stepped off the box, I want to know what you all think. I know it varies between breeds, discipline, etc, so I want to hear your thoughts. I personally wouldn't even start a QH super young but that is MY opinion. TBs tend to have more sounds issue than a hardier breed, say like an Arab or QH, but that would still be my MO with any of my own personal horses.

SO what do you all think? With your horses do you prefer to take your time? When do you know your horse is "ready"? How do you know when to move "up"? Tell me dear readers, what do??

Monday, July 11, 2016

Can't Catch a Break

Along with rude organizers spinning me out of control into someone I'm not Saturday, karma bit me in the ass Sunday and I threw my back out cleaning stalls. 

I felt a pang when I tossed the poo into the wheelbarrow and 5 seconds later I was literally crippled with agony. I couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. Couldn't function.

Essentially, I hobbled to my car, stifled sobs of pain and laid in bed the remainder of the day popping pain pills and icing my back. I felt like the most helpless human on earth and I was baffled as to how a 25 year old threw their back out with no previous back problems or strains. Quite literally in the top 3 most painful things I've ever experienced, and I got dry socket after my wisdom teeth were pulled. 

I can say this one thing, I will NEVER question people with back pain ever again, or take for granted a healthy back. Sunday and Monday especially were horrendous and today is only about 40% better.

Therefore, with my back issues and B with no front shoes, I decided to suck it up work him a little in the soft grass on the lunge. Sick of things beating me down (multiple human injuries, bad timing, lost shoes, etc), I am determined to keep him in work as long as he is comfortable and sound. SO I said what the heck, slapped some side reins on and took the baby for a spin.

Despite my actual, not exaggerated, agony, I was able to move ever so slightly  and ridiculously and get a good 15 min lunge in with B. He was lovely and I was quite surprised with how fluid and responsive he was moving having pulled two shoes the day before.

Freaking love this
I don't know how super exciting I can make a lunging sessions seem, but it was a cool 75*, partly cloudy, mostly sunny day and my horse was looking gorgeous, so despite my horrible back, I was enjoying a quiet moment with my horse.

The reason I bought him , dat trot doh *praise jesus emoji hands*

The good news is that I work for revolutionary PT office and they spent some time with me yesterday dry needling my back, electric stimulating it and trying to readjust it. I was able to finally breathe without severe pain, which is a plus. The bad news is that I popped a rib out of place and thanks to over clenched muscles, its going to take a few dry needling sessions to get the muscles to relax enough to pop the rib back. For now, this means no riding, no lifting, no nothing. Including sleeping. Its not fun. I don't wish this on my worst enemy. Hopefully more sessions today and tomorrow, the heat pad and the TENS unit will free these muscles so I can get back to normal.

Fingers crossed this won't take more than a few days to get better, but who knows.

Mixed Emotions

This weekend was a shitshow at its finest and I am/will struggle to find the best way to articulate what happened in a...*ahem* mature manner. I will probably fail. I am not proud of some...things. Its fine.

Saturday started off with me frantically trying to find B's coggins. Somewhere along the lines of his last show and me supposedly making copies, it got lost. Luckily my vet office is the real MVP for being open and emailing a copy to me. First tragedy, settled.

Then, I pull B out of his stall and am unfuckingpleasantly surprised with only one shoe.

I FUCKING KNEW IT (oh god, I'm already getting derailed).

I knew it. The night before I had a fleeting thought to keep my boys in just in case they played too hard and special destructive princess lost a shoe. It was so nice out that night though, I allowed turnout. Should've been a dick and kept him in. The only good news is that he was 100% sound and it was not the "bad" foot. That foot had a glued on/nailed on/apoxied on shoe, so I duct taped his other foot to be safe and loaded his ass up and away we went. Whatever.

Sidenote, I def need to buy a boot now because apparently this is a regular thing. *grumbles*

THEN, the asshole wouldn't get out of the trailer once we arrived. Got in just fine. But out? Nope. I asked nicely for 5 minutes, patiently waited for 25 minutes, then put a little bit of pressure on and he exploded into kicking the absolute shit out of my trailer. If the whole city didn't hear it, I would be surprised. Throughly impressed he didn't fuck up his back legs, because SOMEONE won't tolerate hind boots, I debated leaving his ass in there all day or taking out the divider.

I took out the divider.

What a fucking princess. I was so annoyed already and hadn't even tacked up.

THEN, I signed up for classes. Easy, cheap and quick. However, I then saw the course. I was dumbfounded. They had the absolute smallest skinny I have ever seen as the FIRST fence with 3 strides to approach it (you had to turn off the wall to the centerline) and a giant fucking rolltop...IN A GREEN AS GRASS CLASS. As in a 2ft (and 2'3 and 2'6 ) class.

So I calmly ask if they were for real and the organizer proceeds to say these things to me;
1) "Suck it up"
2) "We NEVER have issues with these fences"
3) "A 7 year old has jumped these before with her horse, if she can do it, so can you"
4) "This is jumpers, get over it"
5) "This isn't my first rodeo"

In which I proceed to advise that those jumps are incredibly dangerous and that this too is not my first rodeo, but also didn't want to pay to get eliminated on the first fence because my baby horse has never jumped a skinny, let alone a skinny as shitty as the one that was set up.

B being adorable begging for noms

I still wanted to do the schooling class, since I could skip the offending jump, so I tacked B up and walked him around a little while V was signing up for her classes.

THEN, I look down and see a shoe in the grass. Its a size 2. B wears a size 2. I look at his other foot. No shoe.

I actually threw things.

How in the actual fuck did my horse rip off his shoe that should last through the apocalypse, at a walk, doing NOTHING?!?


 the fuck
I was so done. I took his tack off, cried inside a little , texted my farrier and went to advise the organizers I wanted my money back.

Losing the second shoe of the day pretty much solidified my decision that the universe was trying to tell me that riding today was not a good idea. I listened.

(also, I do NOT need farrier advice. My options are limited and I work with what I have so...dont give me farrier advice)

So I advise the organizers that I would like to write them a new check for a non-compete horse and that I didn't feel safe jumping the course they had set up for a BABY GREEN jumper class, and my horse threw a shoe. In which I am then advised that "we don't give refunds for people who don't feel like riding or had things happen outside our control".

After being told to suck it up, compared to a 7 year old, and advised that I am essentially an idiot, this comment lit me on FIRE.

This is when I proceed to actually let some cuss words fly such as "asshole" "hell no" and "give me my damn money back".

THEN, just as those words come out of my mouth, a girl spectacular flies over the rolltop as her horse refuses it and I think I actually screamed while pointing backwards, AND THIS IS WHY WE DONT HAVE A GODDAMN GIANT ROLLTOP IN A GREEN JUMPER CLASS!

At this point about 100 people are staring at me and the organizer is giving me hell. End result, I got my money back. Yeah, I was that girl. I literally don't care, they treated me like shit and had no idea what they were doing. I was willing to give them a non compete fee and just wanted my entry money back, which I thought was cooperative. However, due to their conduct, I  told them they lost a paying customer and we were never coming back. Which is a little sad because its a wicked nice facility and its pretty close to home. But, only a tiny schooling show and not a rated big wig facility.  #byefelicia

In the span of the day though, about 8 people fell off over those questionable fences and almost every horse refused the skinny. Like, NO SHIT, idiots. I was lit and really wanted to point out this fact to them. Not their first rodeo my ass. How DARE a "professional" speak to a patron like that. Anyways /rant.

At this point I don't really know what to do with B, but he seemed to like the trailer so much (*eyeroll*) that I wrapped him back up and stuck him in. He was happy as a bird and munched on hay, took naps and chilled the rest of the day. I kept the side doors open and he was totally comfortable. Win?

At least hes a pretty show ornament 

Moving on from that mess, V and Yankee were wonderful.

Truly spectacular actually.

They stood around for 4 hours waiting on their classes (we showed up at noon thinking we would be close to jumper times...wrong) and ended up still rocking it.

Despite standing around, when Yankee glimpsed the jumps he was AWAKE. V did an excellent job dealing with that and his propensity to knock rails over smaller stuff while excited.

It almost wasn't fair to everyone else there, to be honest. Yankee destroyed them, with ease. He barely had to step over the jumps and he is the quickest little OTTB you've ever seen. They whipped around the turns and negotiated the skinny like pros.

It was pretty funny because people on the sidelines asked if they evented or were actual jumpers and I just had to  laugh a little as I said yes. For the most part, everyone in participation was sweet and kind, unlike the organizers. I also learned I was not the first person to be spoken to like that that day, so that made me feel a little better in a weird way.

V ended up piloting Yankee to two victories and it was the greatest feeling in the world walking up to the show office to collect his winnings. I resisted the urge  to say "suck it" to their faces as I walked away, but I am actually an adult, despite what my earlier rant might portray.

I left angry and happy, which is an odd feeling. I was the most proud of my boys, and V for playing along with how the day went. Even though he's a pain in the ass with the trailer, B was still a good baby and was quite calm for the entirety of the day. Just getting him out and about was a win in my book, and Yankee's actual blue ribbons were the icing on the cake! It was a good bad day. And as I always say, a bad day at the barn is ALWAYS better than a good day anywhere else.

Spoiler, B sound with out shoes (this is from Sunday)