Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fancy Girl

It's hard to believe that we are already on day 7 of this project. And more to the point, that the Princess has decided to settle in like she's always been here. There was a bit of jockeying around to get her assigned to a permanent stall, but she has one now with her name on the sign and everything. Saddles are sorted out, supplements are sorted out, all that's left are blankets and bridles. My 16.1 mare wears a cob sized bridle, so I have to get some new ones. Definitely the figure 8, possibly the dressage bridle. I'll have to measure her for blankets tomorrow so I can start combing the internet for good deals.

Aside from all of the technical stuff, Fiona has also settled in socially. Her best buddy Otto had a long grooming session with her today and I managed to snap a picture.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that she's in heat. So that's one question answered: what's Fiona like in heat? Exactly the same, possibly a bit more preoccupied with where Otto is, but that's it.

We had our first lesson on Thursday and she was a trooper. Bending lines, a little leg yield, working on her very enthusiastic canter. It's very useful to work on the brakes while she's still not fit enough to power along for too long. Today we hopped over some itty bitty cross rails, just to see what she'd do. At the walk, she ignored them and just walked over. At the trot, it was all business. Hop over, canter away, flying lead change if needed. Yes, someone has done this before. We did about three before she started locking on to fences when I'd turn her toward them.

It's been a pleasant surprise to uncover all of her buttons. She frames, stretches, leg yields, does flying lead changes, and jumps. If we could get her to quit grinding her teeth during dressage work, we'd be all set. Not that I blame her, I'm usually doing the same thing. We make quite the pair.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making Progress

Today was day four of Project Fiona. So much has happened to the poor girl already. She had a visit from the farrier and now has very pretty shoes all around and much shorter toes. Makes a world of difference to how people see her. She was surprisingly not foot sore afterward, so I took her down to the ring for some work.

Fiona is a looky young lady when she's walking around the property. One of the neighbors has an above ground pool, and the expression on her face when she saw some kids playing in it was classic. 'Holy s$#@, it's eating the kids!' I'll give her credit for not actively spooking or bolting. She just craned her head all the way up and stared at it really hard. We've also discovered that Fiona is a little flirt. There were no geldings in her previous barn, and now she's surrounded by all these fit young males. If she would just arch her neck like that in the ring, we'd be all set.

And yes, the boys love her back.

Today we rode with three other people in the ring and did our first canter work. She likes to bounce on the contact a bit, but she does know how to get long and low for a good stretch at the walk and trot. The canter was very exciting after getting Monday off. Monday's are my reporting day at work, and riding a hot, green mare while very stressed? Probably not a recipe for success, so Fiona will be having Monday as her off day.

The Princess also had her mane shortened with a shortening comb for a more natural look. Tomorrow it will be pulled to finish it off and we'll do something about that forelock. It was cut straight. She looks like a member of the Beatles. Not a good look for a delicate mare's face. So long as it does not interfere with dinner time, she does love the pampering. Currying gets her to make the funniest faces while she shifts back and forth so I hit the best spots.

Tomorrow will be more bending work while we work on the fact she likes to brace against my hands when I ask her to halt. The eggbutt snaffle is new for her, but she does need to be a lady about it. We will also see if the cob bridle fits. 16.1 hands and she needs a cob bridle and pony bit. So much for having tack ready for her.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Her name is Fiona.

Well, to be fair, her name was originally Savannah, but I didn't much care for that. My trainer suggested Princess Fiona, and that sounded good enough to me.

Let me back up and fill in the blanks, for anyone trying to figure out what I'm talking about. My adventures in horse shopping? Took a very interesting twist. I had a listing on Craigslist forwarded to me with a chestnut thoroughbred mare that needed a home by Sunday. It was close to my office, so I went to take a look.

Please keep in mind, I don't like mares. I really don't like chestnut thoroughbred mares. I don't know what I was thinking. Temporary insanity, I guess.

So I went on my lunch break, totally on a whim, to see this mare. The ad said that she jumped 2'9" with a previous owner and had dressage training. I pulled in to the farm, walked past the chickens, turkeys, dogs, goats, and other horses to meet this pretty mare. I call her a pretty little girl, even though she's 16.1 hands. She was led to her stall without a halter, just a finger hooked in her flymask. I watched with no real surprise when the mare promptly turned around, trotted out of her open stall, and went for a run.

There's nothing like standing in a barn, leaning on a fence and watching your prospect run loose around the property with the owner trying to catch her. But nice gaits, lovely movement.

So the mare is caught and brought back. I start going over her. Lacking in muscle just about everywhere, but very polite and willing to let me handle her everywhere. A couple of questions reveal that she is worked about once every two weeks. There's an old bow on her front right that I poke and prod at for a good ten minutes. Looks old, cold, and set. Even after her impromptu sprint, no heat and no limp. Trotting in the parking lot shows nothing.

She's tacked up and led up the hill to a small, rough ring. The rider climbs on and I watch as the mare jigs about and trots in tight, tiny strides. She's in a kimberwicke with the curb chain very tight and a very tight standing martingale. The mare never gets nasty, but when confused and stressed, she starts to ball up and bounce. This ends with the rider hitting the sand.

Before I get on, I loosen the curb chain as far as I can safely go and take off the martingale.

She's a good girl. When she doesn't understand, she still tries. Walk, trot, canter. Very much afraid of the bit, but that's understandable. She's tight and tense but willing. I even have her hop over some things, up to a two foot vertical. She's not too sure what's going on, but she's very willing to try. She offers a flying lead change, and I'm pretty much sold.

There's no time for a vet check, or even to really think about this too much. The mare needs a home ASAP. I think about it for about as long as I can manage before I sign on the dotted line and buy a horse. A couple of phone calls and I had a trailer on the way. That night, there was a new resident at my barn. A cute little mare that had been renamed Fiona. In the span of eight hours, that mare had gone from backyard horse that was ridden once every two weeks to a future eventer. Poor baby.

Will she stay sound? No idea. Will she ever go to an event? No clue. Will I eat sand retraining her? Probably. Am I going to have fun doing this? Hell yes.

My husband suggested a show name for her. Can't Drive 55.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Music to Horse Shop By

I'll admit to being one of those people that sings along with the radio in the car. Loudly. I apologize to everyone for the times when I've left my windows open and the neighboring cars have been subjected to it. I just get a bit carried away and start belting songs out sometimes.

Usually I belt out the songs that have at least some relationship to how things are going in my life. Rough day at the office? Prepare for some Limp Bizkit. I'm in a good mood? Probably something bright and cheerful. So what was I belting out at the red lights today after my trip to the barn?

It's surprisingly descriptive of my relationship with horses, and particularly when horse shopping. My husband keeps trying to remind me that I need to look at this like a business transaction, but it's this song that I'm humming while flipping through classifieds. Sure, a horse can be appraised and we can know their relative value, but a horse that has no value to one person can be the perfect horse for someone else.

I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck.

I have a horse to go visit tomorrow. It's one of those deals where you buy and move the horse in a matter of a few days, so we'll see what happens. Maybe this is fate helping me out? Or it will just be an amusing story of how I spent my lunch break to share with my coworkers. No way to know, I just have to go and meet the horse.

I bought a new bottle of antacid yesterday . . . .

Monday, August 9, 2010

If Wishes Were Horses . . .

So the first thing all of the horse shopping sites tell you to do is to make a couple lists. Must haves, nice to haves, and do not wants. Sounds pretty easy, but as soon as you start, it's amazing the things that start coming out. I don't want a lot of white, because Quick Silver can get expensive fast, don't want a gelding because sheath cleaning is disgusting, but then I don't want a mare because I usually don't get along with them . . .

By the time I was done, shopping was going to be easy. I didn't want anything.

Rationality has kicked in, and I've managed to get my list under control and start to figure out what kind of a horse I'm looking for.

Must haves:
- Be able to jump 3' fences, because I am not nearly grown up enough to be a dressage rider yet.
- Be able to handle some trail riding, because going in circles in the ring can drive anyone nuts after awhile.
- Have a sense of humor, cause any partner of mine is going to need it. Ask my husband.
- Honest and more than half a brain. These are very important when jumping.
- Have potential to go novice in eventing, because I'm crazy and like to jump things that don't fall down.
- Have some natural forward, because I'm not carrying a thousand pound animal around the ring. Kicking is not as much fun as it looks on cross country.

Nice to haves:
- Have potential to go training level in eventing. Just in case I go crazy and decide I need bigger jumps to panic over.
- Minimal white, because I've got a career and it's not keeping someone from turning yellow.
- Preference given to geldings because one half of the partnership dealing with PMS is more than enough.
- Not ginormous. I'm only 5'2", I do not need to look any more like a midget than necessary.

Do Not Wants:
- Rearing. Just NO.
- Trailering issues. I don't think my trainer would be able to handle that.
- A dirty stop or a dirty buck. I don't bounce the way I used to.

It seems like a pretty reasonable list, but I'm already figuring out that it's a tall order. I'm probably going to end up with a 19 hand white mare, because that's exactly what I said I wasn't looking for. But hey, so long as she can drag me around cross country? I can buy Quick Silver in bulk.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Horse Shopping

There can be no two words more terrifying than 'horse shopping'. Especially when they sneak up on you.

I wasn't really shopping up until yesterday. Sure, I browse,, and, but everyone does that. You don't have to be seriously looking to do a bit of window shopping. But it looks like the partner I have been half-leasing isn't quite right, and it's time for someone new. Half-leasing in general doesn't really work for me (I'm a control freak, I'm okay with that), and before I knew it, the words were out of my mouth.

"I was thinking about buying."

Just like that, game on.

This will be the story of one adult amateur looking for the impossible: a reasonably priced prospect for low-level eventing that won't scare the pants off of me or land me in the dirt on a regular basis. Reasonably priced being the sticking point, since I wasn't planning on shopping until spring. Isn't fate funny that way? We are at day 1 of 'Project Find Catie a Horse'. I've already gone through a bottle of antacid.

This is why I bond well with thoroughbreds. I understand problems with ulcers and being nervous in new situations.

I know my Mr. (or Miss.) Right is out there. It's just a matter of how many times I'm going to have to look at the wrong one on the way. I hope my trainer has a better stomach for this stuff than me.