It’s been a long time since I have written. To be honest, it has been a long time since I have felt like writing. A lot has happened in the few months since I last posted, and while I usually like to keep this blog strictly about Shady and Indy, I feel a brief touch into my life will help explain the direction we are going in the future.
To say that it has been a stressful few months might be an understatement; however it has been all for the good and I certainly have come out far ahead of where I ever imagined.
More detailed blogs are to follow, on most topics, but an overview will help me create a timeline while allowing me to jump around a little. My year started with an incredible trip to Germany where I learned a new trade – saddle flocking and repair. This has truly allowed my business to explode; I have been incredibly busy and having a great time meeting wonderful new people and being able to help them and their horses has provided me with immense satisfaction.
Getting away from everything and focusing on a new trade allowed me an opportunity to truly evaluate my personal life and the direction I wanted to be going.
It was difficult, as most change is, but I had to put myself first and stop wasting energy in a stagnant, emotionally exhaustive relationship. I was ready to move forward with my life, and unwilling to put any more effort into someone who wasn’t ready to do the same for me. So, I left the key on the table, walked out the door forever, boarded a plane and went to represent Stubben at Rolex.
Upon coming back, I moved into my newly purchased home. The timing was perfect, and it is everything I needed. I’ve taken some time to truly make it my own, upgrading and fixing; and now, finally, Indy and Shady are spending their first night at home. They love their new grass fields and are content now in their stalls. They will be living outside for most of the year, which will really make them happy. Soon Indy will have a friend joining them, which will be another exciting moment.
KC, my little cat, has really settled into farm life, and is thoroughly enjoying her time chasing mice in the fields and hanging out in the barn. I was feeling bad about all my travel time and one day found her a kitten to have as her very own. She was scared at first, as her previous cat-mate had been rather nasty to her, but as I type she and the kitten are running around the house playing. I’m happy she has someone for when I am traveling for work. Plus, this kitten is highly entertaining and cute as cute could be!
Six months ago I could never have imagined sitting here where I am. I never realized how badly I needed change and how good it would ever be for me. I’ve got my own farm, a growing business, and the world ahead of me.
Now that Indy lunges well, the next logical step seemed to be to add tack. He’s already used to wearing blankets, a surcingle, and a saddle pad. One night, after a good grooming, I casually put on his saddle pad and a saddle. A friend loaned me a small kids saddle, older and well used, just in case of incident. While it doesn’t fit him well, there will be no weight in it and it isn’t tight enough to cause any discomfort. When he is further along he will get his own saddle!
I tightened the girth as normal, acting like this was a regular occurrence. Indy remained calm, resting a hoof and staying relaxed. Once in the indoor I tightened the girth a little more, just about one hole looser than if I were going to ride. I don’t want it loose enough that it could slide or move at all.
He lunged completely normal, seemingly not noticing the saddle. At the trot, the saddle flaps began to bounce a little, making a flapping noise. I had taken the stirrups off for now. His ears flicked back and I could see him tense his back a little in response. I encouraged him to trot on, telling him he was a good boy in a soothing voice. He relaxed.
When we changed direction I tightened the girth one more hole. He then lunged well in the opposite direction. As he was so good and attentive, I checked the girth one more time and let him loose. It is a good reward for him as well as a good opportunity to let him figure out the saddle on his own. There was some bucking and leaping around, but not more than I would say is normal. When he really got going the saddle flaps were louder but he accepted the noise readily.
I knew adding the bridle would take more getting used to. While young horses are generally happy to take the bit, confusion takes over when they cannot eat it or spit it out. I put it on in his stall first, without his halter, and let him figure it out on his own for a few minutes. I had taken his hay out of his stall as I didn’t want him to try and eat with it in. I then took it off, patted him profusely, and groomed him.
A few days later we put the bridle on again, this time with the halter over it, and went for a walk. He chomped and played with it, occasionally tried to rub it off on me, but quieted down as we walked on, becoming more distracted by his surroundings.
For the third time, we wore the bridle while being groomed, then added our saddle and headed out to the ring. As you can see in the video, he was great. He didn’t get the chance to run around first so there was a little bit of inattentiveness. He is infatuated with the horse in the mirror (you can see him constantly looking toward the left side of the video). He had a few moments leaping around (which I found hilarious) but was overall very, very good. We went for about 8 minutes total, then I untacked him right in the ring and let him go as a reward.
We haven’t lunged since then as the weather has been either too cold, or nice enough that we can go for a walk outside instead. I have been spending time taking the bridle off and on, walking with it or grooming with it on. Eventually we will start leading of the bridle as he will be wearing the bridle in his in hand shows this year. By that time, it will be old hat!
I’m way behind on Shady updates, but this past weekend was too much fun to wait on!
Shady and I had our ups and downs all summer with soundness, but we’ve finally got it figured out. We had entered several events but wound up scratching. We did get to GMHA June and completed, but she wasn’t quite herself. Not lame, but not herself. I will update more on our path to soundness later.
The night before we left I finally accepted the fact that Shady was too hairy and would be hot. Thankfully my friend was generous enough to take time out of her day to do a beautiful clip job. Shady appreciated it eventually, though she didn’t know it.
Green Mountain Horse Association, or GMHA, in South Woodstock, VT, is our favorite place to be. Shady is very comfortable there, and settled right in like her usual self. She was quiet in her stall all weekend, not caring that some of her old “friends” were there. She had said hello to Aumara and Scribbles, but with a pin of her ears and a threat of a bite, she reminded them that she still doesn’t like them.
Friday evening we went for a long, stretchy hack then did some flat work in the warm up area. She felt good, though not as strong behind as she used to. It was a little more obvious to me at the showgrounds for some reason.
My dressage test wasn’t until after 11 on Saturday, which gave me plenty of time to take Shady for a walk, spot bathe, and watch some friends compete. Finally, it was time to head to the warm up for our turn. We drew the straw for the grass ring which isn’t always a bad thing. Shady does seem to do better on grass, though the footing has been really hard this summer due to lack of rain. We used a small stud on the outside front of our shoes, just to help with a little grip.
We didn’t do much in warm-up as she was quiet and felt good. Circling around the ring I put my leg on and really sent her forward, asking her for just 4 minutes of uphill, forward work. She responded beautifully, and down centerline we went.
I was pretty happy with the test. I was really bummed when partway into it a fly landed on her neck and started biting, hence the head tossing and resulting slap to the neck in an effort to kill said fly.
We landed in 5th with a 31.3 in a very tightly scored division. Two points better would have put us in first. Reflecting later on the test, just a few improved movements here or there would have earned us the blue. It is very reassuring to know that we are still competitive, and have a chance to make some easy changes to be at the top.
That being said, one rail in stadium would drop us down to 12th place, far out of the ribbons. I do think that stadium makes me the most nervous. There is very little room for error!
She warmed up very well, so we again didn’t do much. I typically only jump 4-6 jumps in warmup, I don’t see much need for anything more than that.
Stadium went really well, and I felt that I had ridden well, she responded well, and we were back out there as our beautiful partnership! We had no rails down to keep our 5th place.
I wish my friend hadn’t stopped the video, as Shady let out a series of enthusiastic bucks at the end. I laughed at her, as she was clearly displaying her proud-ness. She cracks me up.
The next day was our XC run. I unfortunately don’t have video, though I do have this lovely picture that someone took of me because they thought my saddle was beautiful:
It had rained just a little the night before, enough to make the hard ground just a little greasy on top. The course was a little shorter than normal, at a slow speed. The challenge for us was to get around safely, without incurring speed faults! Having seen several horses slip out on course, I had some worries about that. We have front shoes with stud holes, but are barefoot behind.
She was very quiet in warm up, but getting to the base of every fence well and listening to me. Then, she saw the horse two horses in front of her go and whinnied at it as we were walking. Suddenly, as I picked up the reins to head to the start box, I had a rearing, snorting, leaping horse under me. It was quite comical as my 17 year old, very experienced horse, propped and pranced around, on a loose rein mind you, to the start box. I laughed when the start box volunteer asked if I needed any help, and responded with “no thank you, this is normal.”
Not normal was our exit out of the start box, with a rear and sideways leap we sent the starters flying. Sorry!
She was excellent on course, getting to the base of every fence, with the exception being our speed. She truly feels that we should indeed be in a race to see who goes the fastest on course. Thankfully we weren’t in a tie! We did slip twice, both areas were incredibly slippery and numerous other riders had slipped at the same spot, including a few falls there. I felt bad to really bring her back, despite her opinions, but the slips would have been much worse had she been going at her choice of speeds.
We finished on our dressage score and wound up moving up to 4th. Shady was quite pleased with herself and cooled out well. She complied nicely with the USEF drug tester as well, as we were chosen for what I believe is the 6th time in our career. Drug Tester Randy (as I named him) was pretty entertained by our group of people and horses. As usual, not a problem for Shady and I, we know the rules!
Although we didn’t get out to many shows this year, I think this will wrap it up for us. Perhaps a few fun local events, but it is already getting cold up here in New England and winter will be upon us before we know it. Next year, however, we’ve got big plans.