Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tonight was not a good night at the barn.

It wasn't because of the company.  It was the usual cast, good friends all.  The winter instructor's dog was there and he gave me a merry game of keep away in the tack room with the tennis ball.  I was certainly happy to say hi to all of my favorite ponies, petting noses and handing out treats.

It wasn't the lesson.  It's dressage week so Fi got to show off.  And show off she did.  She's really been improving by leaps and bounds over the last month or so and it showed today.  Focusing on getting her responsive to my legs for lateral movement has made her much more adjustable and has made travelling straight a real possibility.  Once you get her truly straight, her back lifts and the weight shifts back and it's all awesome.

It sure as hell wasn't the horse.  The winter instructor was thrilled with her.  She's now doing baby half passe (I call it baby because she's not strong enough to do the move in true collection, but she's travelling laterally in the direction of bend) at the trot and canter.  We also did an exercise where we would canter on a twenty meter circle, then collapse it down to almost ten meters before opening it up again.  I think our next new exercise addition will be shoulder in at the canter.   I also need to work on cleaning up shoulder in at the trot and the walking pirouette.

So what the heck was the problem?

It's very hard to come to the end of a great lesson, fussing over your horse and telling her how good she was and how proud you are of her, and then answer questions about the timing for selling her.  I need a video of her doing her First level test, so we need to coordinate time with a videographer and an empty ring.  It's common knowledge at the barn now that Fiona will be moving on to a dressage home, so people are asking about it. 

It's very hard to enjoy riding a horse this much and know that you'll be parting ways in the next couple months.  The doubts and second guessing have started.  Maybe I'm being hasty, maybe I should try a season as a dressage rider and see how I like it, how will I ever find a horse I enjoy as much as my princess?  How will I ever find a horse that I can go to a sanctioned dressage show with (and even get a blue ribbon), then go on a hunter pace, then go race on the beach, then go trail riding, then take her just about anywhere for a clinic?  But I'm already edgy because I can't jump and I know I'm losing my edge because of the way I struggled in my last lesson.  Isn't it better for everyone if Fiona finds someone that won't feel resentful that they can't do what they really want?

This would be easier if it was because she was naughty, or scared me, or wasn't talented enough,  or we had a personality clash.  A lot of the reasons horses are sold would be easier, but I'm stuck in the unfortunate spot of owning a horse I adore and enjoy riding that isn't interested in pursuing the discipline I want.  Let's be honest, we pay far too much money in this hobby to pursue anything other than exactly what we want. 

I'm comforting myself that Fi won't go to anything other than a perfect situation and that she will be safe with me until that situation shows up.  If no one wants her or she doesn't vet (a real possibility, since she's never been vetted), then she will just stay with me forever and we'll be dressage queens together.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


With Fiona's complete retirement from jumping, I'm back to the rotation of borrowed horses game.  I can't get too terribly rusty.  It's bad enough now when I look at the jumps and want to throw up.  It's amazing how big 2'6" looks when you've been struggling to get over cross-rails for six months.

Today's mount was the infamous Ruffles.  That's not really his name, he's Rufus, but Ruffles fits.  Ruffles have ridges.  This pony's got some serious ridges.  He's a sturdy Quarter Horse, probably 15.3 or 16.0 hands and bay roan.  On the ground, he's far from a cuddle bug.  He'd rather you leave the treats in his feed tub and just kept walking.  No touching, no petting, and certainly no grooming or tacking.  He wears a red ribbon in his tail for a reason.

However, once you're in the saddle, he's a saint.  Pure and simple.  Point him at a fence and you'll get to the other side.  It may not be pretty, but he's a game pony.  His usual rider is fairly timid and is still working on her confidence over fences.  This means that Ruffles is used to approaching small fences slowly and chipping in rather than taking a longer spot. 

The first thing I did when I got on him was to get him up and moving.  No, no poking about, time to engage and go.  He also competes in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, so once the engine kicked in?  I had a lot of horse to work with.  That pony can turn on a dime and he almost turned out from underneath me when I asked for a turn and got more than I expected. 

I was in with some of the more advanced students, so after a couple cross-rails, the fences went right up.  2'6" looked HUGE.  I was pretty much ready to hurl, especially since I wasn't sure when Ruffles last saw something that size, but the pony was game.  He jumped through everything.  Once we were rolling, he was taking on the two stride, the one stride, the wicked bending lines, and everything else that was tossed at us.  I'm pretty sure those fences were 2'9" by the end of the lesson, since they had to keep moving up and down between me and the other two.  They were going about 3'3", then he would lower it two holes for me. 

He forgot to lower them at one point and I saw my life flash before my eyes, thinking I was going to be doing the big fences with the little QH.  The he realized they were still big and lowered them.  Thank goodness.  Ruffles probably would have gone for it, but I wasn't up for it while this rusty.

So at least some of the rust is off.  I survived my return to jumping in group lessons.  It felt good to canter into a one stride, followed by a bending three strides to a square oxer, and feel confident that I was going to get out the other side unscathed and without overwhelming my mount.  I think it would take a couple rides, but if Ruffles and I got to know each other, I'd feel pretty darn confident taking him around a Beginner Novice course.  Of course, he's pretty booked between his eventing day job, his shooting night job, and the many people that like to kidnap him for rides.

I talked to my trainer today to set up the plan of action around Fiona.  We'll set the plan in action next month with an eye toward momentum picking up in April when my trainer is back from Aiken.  I've decided to let my trainer handle this completely.  I won't be showing Fiona or around for those rides.  I'd be too much of an emotional wreck. 

I'll be hiding in the tack room.  Under a table.  Cuddling a stuffed animal.  Possibly nursing a flask.

Monday, February 11, 2013


It's probably not surprising to anyone reading this that it's taking me some time to adjust to the fact I've decided Fi needs a new partner.  We get so tangled up with our equine partners that it can take time to get untangled.  Fortunately I don't have to do it all in a rush.  Unfortunately, it gives me plenty of time to think about it and second guess myself.  Really, who wants to say goodbye to such a good friend?

I don't like goodbyes.  I said goodbye to a school horse yesterday.  To see her in her stall on that day, you wouldn't be all that impressed.  Bay mare with a lot of white hairs showing up, the slightly sunken in look that comes with great age, bundled up in blankets.  She riffled my pockets while I scratched behind her ears.  She was a stellar school horse, able to guide even the greenest, most nervous riders around their early jumping courses.

What many of them didn't know was that Shari was once an Intermediate level eventer and had hauled many a rider around cross-country.  Not only was she an upper level eventer, she was a talented horse that was hard to beat.  That mare forgot more about cross-country then I know.  I think all school horses should get respect, but Shari more than most.  A horse that could gallop and jump at that level, now showing nervous adults that jumping was safe and okay.  At the age of twenty-seven, Shari got a blue ribbon with one of her teen riders over fences at a local show.  That was her last show, and a fitting way for her to end her amazing career.

I will remember Shari for her quirks and charm.  While she was a sweet, kind lady, she would occasionally have flashbacks to being an elite athlete.  One brisk fall day, she bucked after a fence and almost dropped her rider.  I don't know who looked more surprised, the rider, the trainer, or Shari.  Taking her out to turn out on a windy day did require a chain shank.  Shari would snort and prance all the way down the hill.  If a rider happened to hit the right buttons, this fancy dressage horse would emerge.  I had one little girl that was riding a rather frisky Shari in a chilly morning lesson.  Shari was going on the bit, showing a lovely, floaty trot with plenty of forward.  The rider was mystified.  That's not what old school horses are supposed to feel like.  My instructions to the little girl?  "Whatever you do, don't kick."  You don't kick Intermediate level horses, especially when they're feeling good.

I never got to ride Shari and I regret that.  I have a serious weak spot for these old war horses.  Her, Alac, an old thoroughbred named Roo, my horse Allen.  The wise old souls that will roll their eyes and take care of a rider that's screwed up.  They know how it's done.  They may be creaky, cranky, and quirky, but they have so much to teach us.

Considering how my weekend went, is it any surprise that I bawled when I had to rehome some of my fish?  The cough syrup probably didn't help.  Spending the weekend digging out my . . . everything after the big blizzard seems to have taken it's toll on my immune system.  I wheezing, sniffling, sneezing, and I think I might have a fever.  And I have a dressage clinic tonight.

Being drugged to the gills is like being relaxed, right?  Feverish delusions is like a zen mind space, right?

I'm so screwed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


It's been a long time coming, but I made a decision today.  A difficult one, but I feel a necessary one.

Fi isn't cut out to be an eventer.  We've been struggling since September to do any kind of jumping and she wasn't jumping cross rails consistently in our last jumping lesson, even with a professional riding her.  If she won't do cross rails, I can't imagine she'll ever return to Beginner Novice, much less Novice.  She's been so happy as a dressage horse, why would I hammer on the one thing she doesn't want to do?

You should have seen her in my last flat lesson.  Lovely leg yields, at the trot AND the canter.  Shoulder in on a circle.  Her first baby steps of half passe and a walking pirouette.  It was wonderful, she was amazing to ride.  Yes, she has her moments of stress and confusion where she turns into a llama and protests, but she keeps her marbles together.  I've been hearing compliments on the way her neck has filled in and her entire topline has lifted as we've started to work on actual collection.  She's a solid First level horse, ready to go out and compete this summer.  She will school day after day, always going into the ring and ready to work.  She's made me grow as a rider, learning to control my body and be extremely aware of where my horse is.  She's just so damn talented.  As my trainer said, she's been an amazing journey.

There is no reason to make her jump.  Many a dressage rider would kill for a horse with her mind and talent.  You can unload her from the trailer, toss a saddle on, and head to a crowded warm up with no concerns.  You can head out on the trails or go on a hunter pace with no problems.  You can even get good ribbons at a sanctioned dressage show, and this is with an amateur adult that specializes in jumping in the irons.

Fi wants to be a dressage horse.  I want to be an eventer.  She's so darn happy right now with no jumping in her schedule, and I don't have the heart to ask her to jump again.  It kills me to feel her tense up and start to panic.  This isn't fun for either of us, and isn't that what it's all about?

Fiona and I will be parting ways.  I don't know when, but I'm setting it in my mind.  Come this spring, when she heads out to the dressage shows, I'll have 'for sale' fliers for the posting boards.  She would be so much happier if she never saw a jump again and I'm just not grown up enough to be happy as a dressage rider.  I need the adrenaline.  Of course, I'm not in any kind of hurry.  If Fi stays with me for another year, I'd be perfectly happy.  I adore every hair on her silly red body.  I wouldn't let her go for anything less than the perfect situation, but there it is.  She will be for sale.

I've never sold a horse before.  I don't know if I really can.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To believe or not to believe

Let me clear up the record on one thing:  I'm a skeptic.  It's my natural state.  I don't believe in anything that isn't right in front of me.  Psychics?  Nah, with the exception of my mom.  She's got a very uncanny ability to know what's up with me.  Whether it's phone calls asking why I'm stressed because she can't sleep or getting pants in the mail that are perfect for a new job (even though she bought them before I got the job), she always seems to know what's up.

So if I'm willing to make one exception, can I make two?  My mom was referred to an animal communicator that her dog friends swear by.  She asked the communicator to talk to Fiona.  As my mom put it, we've tried all of the science, time to stretch a bit.  The communicator is in Wisconsin, my mom is in Minnesota, Fiona is in New Hampshire.  My skepticism knows no bounds, but my mom really wanted to try.  All I had to do was tell Fiona that it was okay to talk to the communicator.

I also added instructions that the princess should talk about more than her favorite treats, but that's because I know her so well.

I got the reply today.  Keep in mind that the lady in question knows Fiona's name, has a picture of her, and knows that she's in New Hampshire.  She was told Fi's age (wrong age, mom said she was 7) and given a couple questions to ask.  Here is what I got, word for word including the typos, from the communicator:

I did the reading on Fiona. She is so sweet, an bsolute sweetheart. She gave me lots of information. I hope this all makes sense to you. I don't know horse terms so I'll do my best. If you want to talk or have any questions, please feel free to call me or email me. My phone number is ***-***-****.

Fiona likes to run and play. I saw her frolicking inside of a fenced in dirt area. She's very happy, and she loves Catie. She also loves apples. She loves the one-on-one time with Catie. She likes training, but she gets tired when she does too much jumping. She showed me the course, and she's very proud when she does it. I did pick up that her front legs hurt, not bad, but you could try glucosamine-chondroitin or Legende shots to help her joints. She said she doesn't want to let Catie down.

As far as her health, I felt an upset stomach, like really bad nausea. It feels like it is upper GI to me. I asked what was causing it and it is something with her diet. Is the hay okay, is it moldy? I definitely picked up on the hay that she was eating. It's not digesting right. She also said she would like more apples.

As far as jumping, Caite needs to relax. She seems to tense up just enough for Fiona to feel it and be apprehensive about jumping. Fiona also felt that she would get hurt if she jumped too high. Her front legs are uncomfortable when she jumps to much or too high. Catie needs to go slow and easy when coming up to a jump and start out by lowering the jump at first so Fiona can gain confidence. Also, is Catie keeping her head up when she jumps or is she looking down? Also, give Fiona some lead so she can see where she's going, don't tighten up on the reines.

Fiona wanted to tell you thank you for loving her so much, and thank you for all the help you have given her and for your patience. 

Huh.  That's a pretty interesting analysis from someone that's never seen either of us or seen us jump.  Even if she tracked down this blog, there aren't pictures of her turnout (which is a small, dirt paddock) and I haven't mentioned the fact that we're dealing with diarrhea right now after a hay change.  It's been about a month of trying to clean up after her upset stomach.  I haven't written about that anywhere on the net.  Even my mom doesn't know about that, so she couldn't have told the communicator.

So now what?  Do I believe in this reading or do I just shove it off as my mom being quirky and gullible?  Even with my skeptic tendencies, I can't make myself just dismiss the message.  She got too many things right.  I've been looking down lately due to my anxiety.  And I'm anxious.  I do need to keep the reins long.  She does have an upset stomach.  She does love apples.

I e-mailed my farrier, asking him to test Fi's front hooves when she's shod next and see if the heel pain is back.  We've been completely focused on her back end, did we miss something on the front end?  I'm also going to look into the hay situation and see if there's anything that can be done.  I know the hay is good, I handle it all the time, but there's something about it that's upsetting her stomach.  Maybe it's acidic?  I'm also going to get more apples, since she's been getting carrots.  It appears she doesn't approve.

None of this is information that seems extreme or like a bad idea.  It won't hurt anyone to investigate it further.  As my mom said, we've tried science.  Time to stretch out, even if it's not comfortable for me.