Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Tuesday and both boys got some work in. Last week my farrier came out to pull Toby's shoes since we are under a 2 foot blanket of snow which will probably be around for the rest of winter. I asked my farrier to "clean up" his feet after his shoes were pulled. He ended up trimming him a little bit too short and it made Toby ouchy. That was last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Toby was still showing some signs of being a little ouchy but it forced him to put more weight on his hind end. In fact, I had one of my best rides with him. He was compliant, round almost directly from the start and when we practiced our "halt at X" he didn't have the last word about it like he usually likes to do. We had a fabulous ride!

Betsy rode Hola who was also moving like he was on egg shells. Yes, he was trimmed up a little bit too... But he was a rock star too! I sound so repetitive lately but he is giving his best and once he understands what he's being asked to do he's all about showing off the move. Knock on wood he still hasn't protested when he becomes confused. He just keeps trying.

After their work, both got some soaked rice bran (which they both love) and were turned out for a gorgeous day in the sun and snow. Now they will get some time off as I head to Detroit for Christmas and to Lexington for New Years with the boyfriend. He was recently here to experience the season in northern Michigan. It was a bit of a temperture shock for a Kentucky boy... But you gotta love a guy who actually wants to go shoot photos of sleigh rides through the woods.

Winter in northern Michigan

And he shot this adorable photo of the local brownie troop who stopped in front of my house singing Christmas Carols:

Winter in northern Michigan

Sometimes I believe I live in Mayberry...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Working on Round

Last week's lesson was fun. I had a friend around to shoot photos while both my boys went through their drills. I rode Toby and Betsy got on Hola.

Toby takes a bit of time to get warmed up but once he gets going he does a nice job for an older guy.

I got my new saddle back from repairs and I needed to change the stirrup leathers to be a little shorter. Of course my ego got in the way and I didn't do it because I want to stretch my legs as long as I can make them when I ride. So, in most of the pics I'm reaching for the stirrups. That'll teach me to ignore my ego and go with good sense. But one day (sigh!) I will be able to stretch my legs down farther and not fall apart.

Hola started out a little questionable. He had his nose way up in the air and his mantra was "I have a need for speed." But he came around, got round and for the first time made a circle to the right perfectly! Betsy was so proud of him. Of course, I was too...

Starting out (I love his reach and toe point action):

Finally going well!

So proud of his genius!

Hola is such a trainable guy. He wants to please so badly. I love that he becomes round without much asking and maintains it. Unlike Toby (aka grumpy old man) who seems to have that need to let me know he's really in charge and ALWAYS puts up a little fight about it when we discuss his roundness... What a personality he has.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tough Day To Be a Horse Blanket

My mistake completely.

I went out to the paddock to take pictures. Since the sun was shining brilliantly after weeks of overcast sky, and it was relatively warm (30's), I thought it'd be nice if I took off my boys blankets to get some photos.

So Hola came up to me first and i started to unbuckle the turnout sheet and pull it off. One of the buckles got stuck on the liner and Hola trotted off, dragging his turnout by his liner which he was still wearing. Of course this got him a little excited. The turnout came loose and fell and Hola stopped but then the liner started to roll over. He, of course, stepped on it, ripped it and ran around again.

Toby, the leader of the gelding paddock, was beside himself because in his mind none of this was right. If he could talk he would have been yelling "This is not right! Not right at all!!" Everytime Hola would move and drag his liner, Toby would have a fit:

Of course that got Hola going again...

Eventually I got it off of him. No harm except to my pocket book. Again - MY MISTAKE!!

In the meantime, I had to get the Turnout Sheet Toy away from another one of the boys trying to have fun in the snow:

The guys totally had my number today.

And these two just wanted me to take pics of their cute morgan mugs as they followed behind me where ever I went:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Boys Rock!

End of the year and lots to do...

But I will always make time for my boys! Therefore, yesterday was lesson day for both Toby and Hola. It was the first time since my clinic lesson that I rode with Betsy. So I was focusing on the items I was working on with Maryal (sitting back on my seatbone, using my core muscles better, etc.) I think I've improved my riding position quite a bit. I kept myself back in the saddle which amazingly helps Toby to balance himself through the corners of the indoor arena. Toby is so long which makes me feel like I'm driving a big old Cadillac around. The first part of the lesson had me sweating boatloads because I had to work so hard to keep Toby moving forward. Then eventually he met me half way and our ride went so much better! Amazing how that happens. At any rate, for the first time in a long time, I had Toby steaming after a lesson and I've improved my seat and body position a ton. Betsy seemed very happy with both of us!

Then Betsy got on Hola. I had told her I was having problems getting him to stand at the mounting block. I know, you I can hear you guys thinking "oh he's walking away as soon as you try to mount"... well no. That's not it at all! He'll stand there, pretty as can be UNTIL you put your foot in the stirrup and then he goes in reverse. So Betsy worked on him getting "reverse" out of his system. The minute he tried to go backwards, she would force him forward and make him walk around the mounting block. After awhile, he finally stood still while she got on but it took a good long time. So it's my job to work on this with him. Seems easy enough to do.

Once Betsy got on Hola, he ended up being spooked by the frost on the mirrors in the arena. So Betsy let him sniff out the scentless horse through the frost and he settled down. You just never know what's going to get his heart racing. Betsy couldn't believe how much his heart was pounding! Silly guy. But if you let him check it out, then that's the end of his antics. He's ready to go to work! I love that about him...

In Hola's last lesson, he showed us that he drops his right shoulder big time when he is going to the right. Well I'm happy to report that he remembered his previous lesson and, in dramatic fashion, was easily corrected. With just a minor touch of the inside leg to ask him to pick up his shoulder, Hola would pick up the shoulder and FLING his legs to the outside with incredible flair. It's funny to watch.

Hola tries so hard to please us. So far, our patience with him has paid off big time. I don't think most people would have been so patient with him. We have and it's paying us big dividends now. He has great trust with us. Knock on wood, he hasn't once reared or bucked when he's gotten frustrated by what we were asking of him. And when he's marching along in the arena, he puts himself into a lovely frame with out much asking. He seems happiest when we don't bother his mouth too much so when he's round, floaty and balanced Betsy leaves him alone - and away he goes looking gorgeous! It's been so much fun to work with him.

And I just love his childish behavior although his turnout pals don't seem to...

hola and toby

hola and toby - so proud of my boys...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Already?

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I was lucky enough to have spent the long weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. And had the opportunity to shoot some great races at Churchill Downs as well as see my first Fox Hunt! It was fantastic!

And for those camera buffs out there, I got to shoot with a really cool lens - a canon 500mm...

As you can see, it's about as big as me.

But now I'm back home in northern Michigan and taking care of my boys - Toby and Hola. Betsy came out to give Hola a work. He hadn't been ridden in a week and was on his toes for Betsy. She walked and walked him until he settled down and relaxed. Then she went to work.

Hola has a tendency to drop his right shoulder when travelling to the right. Since he doesn't understand many aids yet, Betsy worked on getting him to figure out that her inside leg pressure will cease when he doesn't drop his shoulder and is balanced. She worked and worked on it until it clicked with him. Then he proceeded to behave like a dog that has just learned a new trick. He wanted to show everyone his new fancy trick.

One thing I've noticed about Hola during this retraining process is how much he thinks about things. The entire time Betsy was working with him, his ears were flicking back and forth and he was constantly chewing the bit and creating huge foam balls that were falling from his mouth. He seems to enjoy the intellectual challenges we are giving him. The best is seeing how hard he is trying and the triumph when he figures it out. He just seems to bust with pride.

Right now the retraining is going in baby steps but once we get a good foundation down for him, he should move along fairly well. Now if we could only get him to relax right away and not jump to the conclusion that because there is a rider on his back that he needs to go fast...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stepping Stone Shows Year End Awards

Toby and I did alright! We were the Intro level Champions for 2009. And we had to beat the seven year old twins to do it. Those twins sure are a ruthless couple of kids... ;)

Sam and Lauren

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Maryal Barnett Clinic

Betsy invited international FEI judge Maryal Barnett up to Traverse City to give us a clinic. What a fantastic opportunity! I had big plans to ride Toby in the clinic. Toby had other ideas. He turned up three-legged-lame on Monday and the clinic was on Thursday. I wasn't about to take him even if he was feeling fine - which he was by Thursday. It seemed like he had a tendon injury in his front right so I didn't want to take any chances. And I couldn't take Hola yet because we've just begun him under saddle. We are just not ready yet.

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! I ended up riding one of Betsy's lesson horses. Meet my mount, Riot:


Riot is a 4 yr old Quarter Horse who is, believe it or not, a very mild mannered guy under saddle. He's a good combination of Toby and Hola and by riding him, I was able to work more on my seat and riding position. Which is exactly what Maryal did!

I took a lesson on Riot on each of the two days Maryal was there. By the second day, Maryal had me working on a killer "pelvic thrust" which she thoroughly embarrassed me by mentioning my boyfriend would be very happy if I perfected this... OH MY!

I did seem to improve my seat and get myself into a better position in the saddle. I was so happy with the improvement!

At any rate, the clinic was wonderful and I learned a ton. I hope to do more clinics and I hope most of all, that I can bring my rock star boy Hola C Bright next time!

Hola C Bright

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hunting Season Blues

I hate hunting season.

The barn is surrounded by hunting property and all you can hear are the gun blasts all around the area. Therefore, even with the outstanding weather, the horses need to be kept in their stalls. I've been trying to get the boys some exercise and a pick of grass to keep their sanity. Toby seemed to have strained a tendon in his front right leg and turned out to be very lame yesterday. After much cold hosing, liniment and an itty bit of bute to make him a little more comfortable he's shown a bunch of improvement. He absolutely loves the attention.

I took Hola out to the sandy outdoor arena last evening before it got dark and let him stretch his legs. He squealed and wheeled and ran lap after lap after lap after lap after lap. I sat down on the mounting block and watched him let his "inner thoroughbred" out. I was so bummed I didn't have a camera because he put on a good show. However, it didn't help to slow him down today for his lesson.

Betsy earned every penny today. Hola had nothing on his mind but "go" today. His back was humped up to start and he had his nose in the air like a giraffe. Betsy yells out to me, "I think we may have to walk a really long time today until he decides to relax!" He was a total pill looking for any excuse to take off on her. But he never did. Good boy! Eventually the hump in the back relaxed and he began to listen to Betsy.

Hola C Bright

He was busy playing with the bit the entire time. It seemed he was on the verge of "chomping on the bit" to "go" but thankfully he kept it to "I'm playing and chatting with you through the bit." He was drooling the entire time.

Hola C Bright

Hola C Bright

He worked himself into a little bit of a sweat and spooked at anything he could find a couple times. But otherwise, under the circumstances, I thought he did really well. Eventually he became round although he did a lot of counter bending but Betsy is incredibly patient and positive so that he did improve ever so slightly.

Hola C Bright

I actually like that we had a difficult day with him because these kind of experiences are when the learning is the most. I think he did well under the conditions (in the stall too much, lots of energy, having to understand that he was at work and not play when under the saddle).

And in the meantime, I'm counting down the days till hunting season ends...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My First Ride On Hola

It's been absolutely gorgeous around here lately. We didn't have much of an October but November has been a knock out beautiful month. So I had the itch to ride Hola...


Last night. I went out to the barn straight after work so I could beat the girl who feeds and cleans and get my ride in on both Toby and Hola. As it turned out, I had a good but not stupendous ride on the ever opinionated Toby. He just gets too much enjoyment at trying to get away with as much as he can all the time. It's a game. But really he was fairly good for not being worked for a week or so.

As I rode Toby, the barn owner and her son were there cleaning stalls and then another boarder arrived. Turns out she was going to take a lesson in the next 1/2 hour. I had it in my mind that I was going to ride Hola that night and nothing was going to stop me. So I had to hurry to get the ride in before her lesson.

I quickly switched horses and took Hola into the indoor arena. All the lights were on and it was dark outside so the indoor arena had a different look to him. He eyeballed everything but was really quite calm and good.

So I got on him....

WHAT A WALK!! I was blown away at how it felt. He uses his hind end so well that even at the walk he was pushing me out of the saddle. Amazing! It covers so much ground and he wasn't being asked for it. I can't imagine what it'd be like if I asked him for more walk.

He has a narrow chest and a round barrel which I fit in perfectly (IMO). He was a wiggle worm just like a very green horse would be so straight wasn't anything he could do well at this time.

After we walked for a good bit in both direction I asked for the trot. WHAT A TROT!!! It's so floaty and easy to ride. Incredibly comfortable and it covers a ton of ground with minimal effort. He just marched around like a good little worker bee.

He can easily become tense but he relaxes quickly if you "coo" to him. So I sang softly the whole time. His ears flick back and forth and you can feel his muscles relax underneath you. That's when he will give you what you want... the roundness! And boy did he get round and floaty!! I was in awe and kept looking in the mirrors at us. He was gorgeous! Another horse came into the arena and he made himself even more round because at this point he was trying to impress the "girl horse." But he never lost step and kept on working. I love that about thoroughbreds. They are such good workers and enjoy having a job.

I kept the ride short and positive. He was just so good! And I was on cloud nine...

I cannot believe how lucky I am to have this guy. He's perfect!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothing But Great Weather

I've been in a busy stretch lately with not much time to ride my horses. They are both enjoying the wonderful weather we've been having recently. Hopefully, soon I'll have more to write about than the weather...

me and Hola



Hola C Bright

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On The Bit

Hola C Bright

I've been away for bit on a mini vacation and I got to see Barbaro's 2 yr old full brother, Lentenor, run in his first race - Lentenor at Keeneland

Needless to say, I had a blast.

But that meant Toby and Hola had a mini vacation as well. Hola hadn't been worked in 2 weeks due to his sore back leg then my mini vacation! Now that he's in excellent health -poops and all - meant he was going to be put to work today. This was only the third time he's had a rider and the second time that Betsy has trotted him around. Needless to say, I'm a proud mom.

I do have a Canoodler update. Seems he has found a new career in fox hunting where he will be fortunate enough to spend his winters in Georgia. What a lucky guy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Looking and Better Moving

My lesson day with Toby went pretty well. He wasn't as outstanding as he was the other day but he was CONSIDERABLY better than when Betsy last saw him work. So my ground work with him did make a difference and he tries hard. I really have a tough time getting him to "go" when he's in a lazy mood, which of course he was in. In his defense, both of his back legs were stocked up from being inside due to our crummy weather. But he came through after a ton of urging.

Betsy, for the first time, actually worked on my leg position. Particularly when Toby and I were walking. Being a former hunt seat rider, I like short stirrups and to tip a little forward. Betsy didn't bother me about my position at first because she felt that I'd make my own changes as I learned how to ask my horse for certain movements. She was right about that! I have changed some thing but now I need to make a little more of a conscious effort to make further changes. I'm glad she started to pick on my position a little more. It helps everything all the way around.

I had another realization today. When I get Toby in the right frame, it's easier for me to sit up and back. Toby is a L-O-N-G horse. So he needs help getting himself together to make turns properly and stay balanced. Therefore I need to help him with my own balance as well! Duh! Sometimes I'm amazed at the realizations I make which seem so obvious but in action are not so easy to enact.

So I have something to work on with Toby and my position. BTW - Betsy mentioned how good Toby is looking. Did I not just write about how well he looks right now?? She said he does not look his age AT ALL! His coat is super glossy and with the rice bran I've been giving him at lunch, he's filled out in all the right places. I'm so proud of him! Secretly, I love it when people say "He's how old????? He doesn't look it!"

Hola wasn't worked today because of his leg. His leg was cold as ice - perfect! No swelling. Nothing. I'll be putting him back to work next week. He still is having loose poops but I'm confident he will improve. He was in great spirits and was the total busy body checking out everything we were doing. He's such a social horse - with people and other horses. Everyone at the barn is feeling badly about his loose poops, since everyone knows how hard I've tried to get them to be normal. So there is a good team in place to check on him. I can't wait till his tummy is normal...

Oh yea - Hola made sure to roll at least 3 times in the mud with his freshly washed turnout sheet. What a guy...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dwelling on Poop

Tomorrow will be lesson day and I'll have it with Toby. Ollie's back left leg still has some very slight swelling in it and an itty bitty bit of heat. So he's getting some time off.

I rode Toby on Sunday and he was terrific! I sure hope he is good at lesson time.

I realize that my two guys are really lucky. They have me, a fun loving owner, who has few other distractions to keep me away from them. I'm single, no kids, a good job and am in love with learning about dressage (even though I'm not great at it yet). Having horses is more than just a hobby for me. Not only do my guys bring together two worlds that I love (racing and dressage) but my guys are also a part of my family.

So I do things that most people probably wouldn't or couldn't do. Such as, my lunch hour is spent running out to the barn to give Ollie his liquid supplement along with beet pulp/rice bran mash to help him gain weight and poop better. It's been working. But today - inexplicably - he had the worst diarrhea I have ever seen come out of him! It was "explosion diarrhea" which some was sprayed on the wall of his stall and it was all over his turnout sheet he was wearing. He's acting normally, his temp was a normal 99.1 and he woofed down his mash. It's pouring rain outside so I put Toby and Ollie out into our indoor arena to stretch their legs while I stripped Ollie's saturated stall. The two of them were their normal curious selves investigating everything they could in the arena while I took out 4 full muck buckets from his stall. Normally, it'd be 1 to 1 1/2 buckets. I put him back in his cleaned out stall (I wiped down the walls too) and took home everything he was wearing and pooped on.

I'm hoping he just ate something and that he'll be fine in a day or two. He's so normal otherwise.

It's times like this where I wish I had some other distractions so I won't dwell over poop...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Proud of My Boys

Toby in cross ties
Hola in cross ties

Aren't they a pair?

Toby is looking so regal lately. He's at an excellent weight and fitness right now and his coat is glossy and shiney. He's looking great for an old man! I'm so proud of him.

Ollie is growing up. He's quiet and can stand in the aisle in cross ties. For the longest time he was such a wiggle worm that I could only cross tie him in his stall. Now he's relaxed and comfortable even in the aisle.

I'm very excited for Toby and me. We have signed up to ride in our first clinic. Betsy has invited Maryal Barnett to come to Traverse City and do a two day clinic. I love having something to work towards so I signed team Toby up. At first I was apprehensive because we are still beginners and Toby is an old guy (i.e. it takes us longer time to warm up and get round). So I emailed Betsy and asked if it truly was ok to have a middle aged woman and her 20 yr old ex racer as part of the clinic. She said "Absolutely! Maryal is great with beginners and very encouraging." So we are on the books for going. It will be held November 19th and 20th. We will be riding on the 19th. It should be a great learning experience.

Ollie came up today with a swollen left hind ankle. He had slipped going into his stall a couple days ago and gave himself a stinger. There was no heat and it didn't swell up. But evidently, it was tender and yesterday (the day after the incident) I had worked him on the longe line pretty well without realizing it was tender - he showed no signs. So today when I arrived at the barn it was swelled up. Part of the reason could be from standing in his stall for 2 days straight while the winds and rain (and by tomorrow snow) howled outside. It was a little warm so I cold hosed, gave him a little bute for the swelling, walked him for about 15 minutes and put on stall wraps. You can see he's favoring that leg in the picture above. He is walking on it fine so I'm hoping that he'll be ok in a few days. His Tuesday lesson may not happen. Stuff happens...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What a Day...

What a day...

I think I'll go in order of the day.

First was the phone call from Canoodler's racing trainer. She's a good friend and has a HUGE heart. I just adore her. But when I saw her number I had a sinking feeling. Canoodler. Canoodler along with another lovely fun mare from the trainers barn went to a gorgeous hunter/jumper barn in the Chicago area. They had the horses on a trial basis which is something my friend does not like to do. But after a month (maybe longer) and no word on the horses and no money for purchasing them, she sent her son (who is an expert equestrian himself) to check on them. He said he didn't recognize Canoodler because he was so thin. Her mare was another story where she had been injured and wasn't being properly treated and they had not been told about the injury. So today, the two horses were picked up and brought back home to my friend. She doesn't have the room or money to keep them so she called me for help. Of course she asked if I was still interested in the big goofy teddy bear - Canoodler. I can't even begin to say how much it breaks my heart to hear those words now. I don't have the means to take him. I feel like he's mine even though he's not and I want to help him find a good home. For some inexplicable reason I'm attached to the big peppermint loving lug. Thankfully, I have a great big network of good people and I hope to get him to a good place where he can thrive at a 2nd career which I firmly believe would be dressage. He's not the bravest guy in the world which is probably part of the reason he didn't make it as a racehorse. Dressage is so methodical and is also a great confidence builder for horses. And with a patient trainer who spells things out using capital letters in crayon, I believe he would do well. He's only 5 and just growing into his large 17+ hand stature. I wish I could take him and have Betsy work him. She's doing so GREAT with Hola and Canoodler has a similar personality but perhaps a less nervous temperment than Hola. He'd thrive with her. Please email me if you have anyone interested in him -

So I was crying with frustration and stress over Canoodler when I drove to the barn to get Hola ready for his lesson. Toby has this week off now that show season is over and my funds are, to speak frankly, tight.

Hola was so cute. He stood in the cross ties like a pro and I groomed him and tacked him up. He's suffering from really itchy skin especially around his hind end. Everytime I curry his hind end he literally throws his butt at me to brush harder. I'm almost thrown to the walls when he does it. So I made a concoction that one of you mentioned with witch hazel, baby oil and coconut smelling creme rinse. I mixed equal amounts in a spray bottle and applied it first to his tail. Then it seemed to make it to his entire body. He seemed so relieved from his itchy skin!

Then Betsy arrived to work him. Today we decided to just get right on him - no longeing. Betsy was able to mount him and he was quiet with nobody holding him. Good boy! Then she walked him around and he was calm right from the get go. He had a nice relaxed movement and a huge walk - which is just part of who he is and I adore! Then Betsy asked him to trot. He was trotting like he was either 1) drunk or 2) trying to do weave poles. His front legs were crossing over each other and he was all over the place. Betsy was laughing when she said "OMG! He's so crooked!" He did a few passes around the arena doing haunches in (not being asked to do so) in both directions. He seemed to keep wanting to break into a canter too. He has no problem with "go." Finally, he relaxed. He really falls to the right side and Betsy had to support him big time when they went to the right. So to help him, she counter bent him. It worked like a charm. But what happened next was amazing! She asked him to go on the bit and he did! He WAS GORGEOUS!! I was there sitting next to a young girl who is learning to train from Betsy and the two of us had our jaws on the ground. He went about 3/4 around the arena in perfect form. That ended the lesson! We were all so proud of him! Betsy walked him around and I have to tell you that his walk was killer. He overtracks BIG TIME! In fact, for a horse that is not so big, he has HUGE movement. Dressage is his calling! I'm so excited!

So today had a big down and a big up. I do hope to help Canoodler and I'm so happy to have Hola!

And on one final note - I worked as the photographer at the Lope For Hope Classic horse show which benefited Breast Cancer Research this past Saturday. I hope you enjoy my photos in this slide show. Be sure to click on specific photos to read about the people behind the show. Many of them have amazing stories.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Here's the Poop Scoop

Exciting stuff, I know. But I'm sure that any one of you reading this are horsey enough to know that good horse owners monitor feed intake and poops...

When I first met Hola in July in Baltimore, I noticed that he had very green, very loose poops. I asked about it and was told "grazing in a lush pasture."

When Hola arrived in August, not unexpectedly, he had very green, very loose poops. As time went on, these poops didn't seem to be getting any better and I can assure you we do not have lush pastures for the horses to graze in. They are well picked over with this crowd of gelding nose pickers (said with affection).

I was shaking my head over what to do. In the meantime, I had put him on GUT and was giving him supplements for his joints and a supplement for Vitamin E and selenium which northern Michigan soil is deficient in.

Betsy noticed the loose poops as well. Eventually, she mentioned the name of a girl who may be able to help out with Hola's poop issues. At this point he was still a mess. The poops were exceedingly wet, had no shape and very green in color. I always had to wash off his backside... I called this girl for help.

Gabriele is her name and she works for KAM Animal Services. Gabriele told me Hola is having some very expensive poops and to stop with all his supplements. She made a good point and so I stopped with the supplements. Based on my description to her of Hola's behavior, (nervous, didn't like to be brushed, a weaver) we both assumed he had an ulcer as well as having a strong need for probiotics to help his deep digestive tract. She recommended I get two items to treat for both. Hola is getting their UF-Formula to treat for ulcers as well as KLPP to bring back the good bacteria he seems to be missing in his gut. I won't lie - they cost me a fortune. In fact, I've never spent so much on supplements in my life and I wasn't happy about it. I grumbled about it to anyone that would listen to me. I was even prepared to chalk it up as a financial mistake. However, I'm dumbfounded by the results after a month!

His poops are brown, are taking on a "road apple" shape and weigh a heck of a lot less because they are not nearly so wet! He's much more calm to be around, tolerates being brushed almost to the point of not minding at all (he doesn't lift his leg to threaten to kick anymore), and will quietly stand in cross ties in the aisle! He's like a new horse!

The best news of all, is that once I run out of these (expensive) supplements I do not need to reorder them. He should be good to go with his digestive tract in good working order. He has at least another month worth of supplements to go, maybe more. But after a months worth of supplements, he's doing exceedingly well. His poops aren't right where I want them to be yet but they are very close and I have great faith that these supplements will get us there.

Only a mother would be this excited over a good poop... and only a mother would want to share a story of curing loose poops with the world. :)

Thanks Gabriele and KAM Animal Services for helping out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Toby Challenge and Hola's First Ride

not food

Another good lesson with Hola. In fact, we had a good lesson with Toby and I was given a challenge by Betsy.

Toby, as you know, is an older dude and set in his ways to a certain extent. He's always giving out his opinions whether you want to know them or not and he's basically happy when you keep him on his toes when you're in the saddle. Toby and I always seems to take a good bit of time before I can get him to be round and on the bit. We rode serpentines and circles and once we got his brain engaged, he became supple, elastic and round. Betsy's challenge to me was to get him supple, elastic and round earlier in the ride. So it's my mission to accomplish and Betsy gave me a month to work on it. I love a challenge...

Now to Hola. He's such a good boy and settling down very nicely. I can now cross tie him in the aisle without him wiggling around, he's quiet to brush now and his poops are looking awesome! I will be writing another post about his poops but it is important to note. I think that Hola has/had ulcers which would explain some of his unsettled and anxious behaviors. But each week, he is quieter to tack up and easier to handle.

He marched around on the longe line. I had told Betsy how terrific he was just he day before and evidently he wanted to make a liar out of me. He started with his twitching and pulling on the draw reins. Ironically, once he got it out of his system he marched around like a trooper and was PERFECT in the opposite direction. Then Betsy got on him. This time I didn't lead them around. Betsy walked him all around and worked on getting him to give to the bit. He was chewing the bit the whole time. He seemed to like the work and did give to Betsy just a wee little bit. It's a starting point and he wasn't fighting it. Gold star on his forehead!

Here is a video of our work. Beware! It's absolutely the most boring video but for this proud mother it was a huge step towards getting him to the show ring. So without further ado, here is Hola's first ride as a dressage horse:

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm A Wimp

It's ok. I can take it. Go ahead. Call me a "wimp." Yep! I'm a wimp!

Saturday, I went up to Black Star Farms to photograph the hunter/jumper people at the Stepping Stone show. It was a gorgeous day but you could tell the temps were dropping and clouds were rolling in. After several hours of photographing, I went over to see my horses and go through the tests with Toby.

After cleaning up Toby and getting him tacked up and out to the outdoor ring, I noticed how full of life he was. He knew...

He knew that the weather was about to change big time! We warmed up, then began working on our tests. Toby's mind was completely elsewhere. In fact, he began a crow hopping escapade when the winds picked up. Then the rain began, which quickly turned to sleet and finally snow. Being the determined gal I am, I made Toby finish the test against his will in blizzard conditions. It wasn't pretty but he did it so I was very proud of him and let him know it. We both looked like drowned rats and went inside where he was happy to be. I was still optimistic about going to the show on Sunday so I gave Toby's whiskers a trim and fixed up his bridle path. He was enjoying the attention.

After cleaning him up, I took all my tack home to give it a final polish too. It was still a "wintery mix" as I drove home. So I called Betsy who was going to be hauling Toby to the show for me. I told Betsy that if her other clients didn't want to go that I would go along with their decision. The other clients were 7 yr old twins and as you can imagine, their mother didn't want them out in the cold and wet for the horse show. So we didn't go.

This didn't bother me too much. Since the twins didn't show, it pretty much locked me into the year end awards in Intro level since we won both tests in our first two shows. Yes, the 7 yr old twins were my biggest competition!

I would have liked one more show but I have to say that mother nature won out. I show for fun. I do enough work in the elements for my paid position that I don't feel I should have to be in unfriendly conditions for fun. Here's one example:

2006 US Women's Open At Newport Country Club, RI

So that's it for the year with our shows. Hopefully next spring I'll have a new partner to show with... :)

pretty neck

And he's doing so well!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Horse Show Preparations

I thought I'd give a quick Toby update as we head into the weekend and the finals of the local show scene.

Toby has had a much better attitude since Tuesday. I rode him in our outdoor arena and he was back to his happy-go-lucky self. He's definitely ready for more challenging work and becomes bored easily. To counteract that, I've become more unpredictable in what I ask from him - I do lots of transitions, many circles, serpentines, etc. I have to keep him guessing and then he becomes a very good riding partner. My lesson here is to keep his brain engaged. I also find it amazing how well walk-trot transitions work to get him round and stretchy.

Our show is on Sunday at the very lovely Black Star Farm. If all goes well, Toby will be shipping over with one of Betsy's lesson horses on Sunday morning (Black Star is only a few miles away). It's a new trailer for Toby which means I just never know if he will load or not. He should since it's not a slant (which he abhors). Hopefully we'll get there safely and without incident.

It'll be great if we can continue our winning ways!!

what horses are all about
Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Someone Had An Attitude

A double lesson day - Toby followed by Hola/Ollie. Let's go in order.

Toby was finicky, fussy and annoyed. Perhaps it was the weather? It was pouring rain all day long and he just hates it when he doesn't get to go outside and roll. So he was looking for any excuse. It started with the saddle being put on too far back. That had him snarling until it was remedied. Then, and he's justified in this, he didn't like the saddle. My Albion saddle had some stitching break and now needs a panel to be sewn back on so it's back to the old saddle until the Albion is repaired. And the final straw was riding in the indoor arena. He was just a big grump. His back was tight, it took a long time to get him to relax and it felt too much like work.

We have a show this coming weekend so we were practicing the tests, and practicing and practicing. We rode for quite sometime because we just weren't that good. I'm certain the saddle was bothering him (and I even had it padded up) but eventually we were doing better.

I happen to have a Pessoa all purpose saddle which fits Toby well so I may be practicing for the show in that saddle to prevent his back from becoming sore. It won't help me to practice in it but it'll be more comfortable my old guy. It's just a thought at this point. Sigh...

Hola had a big day!

It started out with him being very quiet in the cross ties. Usually he'll swing his hind end from side to side while in the cross ties in anticipation of going to work. It keeps you on your toes. He also becomes grumpy when you brush him on his rib cage - he'll generally threaten to kick using the back leg on the opposite side of you. I'm pretty convinced he has an ulcer which I have been and am still treating. But on this day, he was like a lamb in the cross ties. Betsy and I marveled at his good behavior.

Once he was tacked up we went out to the indoor arena where a big drop of water landed on him from the ceiling and scared him. Did I mention it was pouring rain...

One thing to note about Hola is that he's a nervous guy and submissive guy. Which is the main reason we have been working him slowly. As long as you have a routine for him, spell it out in crayon, and have no surprises thrown in, then he will give you his best.

So we started out with the usual longe line work with our redneck draw reins. He gave to the bit, marched around rythmically and worked beautifully off of Betsy's voice commands. He did that in both directions. We shortened the draw reins a bit and it was more of the same. So then came his big moment...

Betsy got on him.

Taking into consideration that Hola becomes nervous easily, we did everything slowly, repetitively and my job was to be his security blanket. Part of his training is to take out the "race" that's in him. So for mounting, Betsy got on and we just stood there for awhile and then she got off. Mount, stand, dismount, repeat. He was doing exceptionally well. Betsy had sat in the saddle before on him and he immediately wanted to walk off into action. This time he just stood there like a good guy. Absolutely no forward movement. Just a repositioning of his feet so he could relax better.

After a couple times of that, we walked around the arena. Betsy had a hold of his reins and I had a hold of the longe line which was still attached. Betsy told me that I was to follow along but not do anything except to hold the longe line. My sole duty was to make him feel secure. So Betsy gives him a squeeze of her legs to move forward. Nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing happened. She smooched at him and he went forward! He has a massive walk. Big stride! It was difficult for me to keep up and he wasn't trying to go quickly. After a couple laps around the indoor arena, Betsy noted that he took to the bit well and has a very soft mouth. He also knows to move away from leg pressure as the two of them would go from left to right away from the leg pressure Betsy was giving him.

He was great! And he was relaxed the whole time. So we stopped. He had such a pleasant attitude about everything. I was such a proud mother!!

Now if only Toby could have that same pleasant attitude... :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Gumby!

I have been working Hola and Toby and both are doing well. No tantrums from Hola and Toby and I are leg yielding wonders. Now they get a 3 day vacation while I head out of town for a business trip. So no lesson this week.

Part of owning a horse, well any animal, is getting to know their quirks and habits. Hola has one quirk. He's a weaver. So is Toby to a much lesser degree. Hola will throw his head around and weave back and forth about as often as Jag used to crib. It certainly is not a problem to deal with. As soon as he has to work or is on the end of a lead, he stops weaving. And he only weaves in anticipation of things such as his feed or when he's feeling good. It's his way of "self expresssion."

So I couldn't resist. I had to make a short video of Hola doing his "Gumby Dance."

Notice how easily he swaps his leads and look at that floaty trot!

I'll be back at the end of the week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just When You Think It's Going Great...

Hola C Bright

I took a lesson on Toby and had Betsy work Hola this past Tuesday.

Toby was great! He had a ton of impulsion and as he warmed up he became very round and stretchy. I love to ride a stretchy horse. A stretchy horse has such a cool feel and relaxed swinging back.

I hadn't had a lesson on Toby in a little while because I was gone one week and then when I came back Toby seemed to be ever so slightly punky. He was eating but his poops were on the loose side. So to be safe, he had the time off. Now he's back - fit, happy and healthy. He had a lot of enthusiasm for his work which was very refreshing. So we started to work on leg yields with him for the first time. Toby needs a lot of help from the rider to keep his long body balanced and when I did that he was great. He's easier at leg yielding to the left than to the right but everyone has their bad direction. We just started and next time I hope to video tape and show you our progress.

Hola was another story. He had been doing very well. He's figured out how to work on the longe line and he has been settling down both with his manners and his ground work. That is, until I said something about how good he was doing. Then he seemed to slowly fall apart but by the end of the lesson he got it back together.

I have a good friend of mine I used to play golf with often. She would NEVER say anything to me after I hit a great drive down the middle of the fairway. That is, not until I hit a good second shot when she would say, "you hit a nice drive back there." I asked her about this. She said, "You should never compliment a good drive until you've hit the second shot because what's the point of a good drive if you can't hit the second shot."

I think that's an important concept for the next time I begin thinking Hola is being good. I'll be sure to wait to say something until after he's done and not right in the middle of his lesson!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jaguar Hope (in pastel)

The hurt of losing Jaguar Hope hits me unexpectedly most times now. Sometimes I'll see some of my photos of him on Flickr that someone has "favorited" and my eyes will well up with tears. Sometimes it hits me when I'm pulling away from the barn in my car and I see his empty paddock and the bare earth from the hole where he is buried. He was such a spectacular being to me.

So yesterday I was a head case when I opened a package that arrived from the UK. It was a painting I was anxiously awaiting:

jaguar hope portrait

Just look at the detail! Ali Bannister is such a gifted artist. I've marveled at her work via Flickr where she posts. Once she knew I got the original she posted a photo of this pastel of Jag on her Flickr site. Again, I was crying at the comments and her description. What Ali wrote about Jaguar Hope is also true for me:
You know when you see something so beautiful that it moves you and you're either rooted to the spot, staring, or you rush to get as close as you can and breath it all in?

That's exactly it for me. I'm so grateful to have had him in my life and that he was shared by many others through my photos.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have this work in my home. Words simply cannot express my appreciation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Needed The Big Picture

It's painfully apparent that I'm the pushover and Betsy is the one who pushes the envelope with each lesson.

Just in my last post I was singing the praises of Hola marching around like a good little worker bee. I even mentioned he didn't have any protests. Then Betsy comes in and pushes his abilities just a little more. In this case, it was apparent that I do not have the draw reins at the same length as Betsy. Hola felt the bit right away when Betsy started to work him and he had to protest:

the protest

He broke the draw reins twice (once on each side) with his head twitching. He was really feeling his oats...

working trot

In that shot he was marching along on a mission! And eventually he settled down and relaxed. At that point of compliance it was time to end the lesson! Good boy!

I get excited watching him work and thinking things through. He has lovely movement and a gorgeous neck.

pretty neck

And even when he's feeling good, he has yet to ever kick up his heels or rear! Even Toby loves a good buck or two when he's feeling good at the end of a longe line.

At the beginning of the lesson I spoke with Betsy about "the big picture" regarding his training. I need help getting the "big picture" otherwise I become too anxious to move on when in fact we are not really ready. Therefore, throughout the lesson, Betsy explained to me what she was asking for and looking for from him - essentially compliance with the bit. Our plan is to treat him as if he was a green 3 yr old and train him like he's learning everything for the first time. She said she'd rather have him learn to accept the bit on the longe line because there is less chance of anyone getting hurt if he should throw a tantrum and he can learn a whole lot on the ground while simultaneously getting to know and trust us. Sounds like a good plan to me. We are not in a rush and the results have been very positive so far. He's a nervous guy when he's unsure of what's about to happen next or if he's anxious about something. Typically he begins to weave from side to side when he's anxious. It's his only vice and he does it during anxious moments such as waiting his turn to come in from the paddock for feeding time. Going slowly and spelling everything out for him with his training helps him and his anxiety. He relaxes much more quickly. As I'm working him between lessons, he's becoming more fit and the lessons with Betsy seem to be more of a mental exercise than a physical one.

After longeing him, Betsy worked him for a little while at the mounting block. Being that he was a racehorse, he was mounted most times while he was moving. Now he needs to learn to stand still while being mounted. We stood him next to one and while I held him, Betsy got up on the block, bounced up and down on it, shook his saddle around on his back and eventually she layed down across the saddle. He simply stood there and only wondered what Betsy was up to when she was hopping around on the block. We ended his lesson with that.

And at the end of it all, he always wants hug - his cutest habit for sure!

the after work hug

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Fun

Since our last lesson, I have taken Hola out to be worked on the longe line several times. He's a pro! He hasn't done any halts and turn in to look at me in confusion, he marches around like a good horse and he will speed up and slow down with my voice. It's funny to realize that a kissing noise really gets him to move more forward rather than clucking. I look forward to showing off our abilities to Betsy on Tuesday.

Now for my weekend adventure...

On Saturday, I had a friend come up to visit. We had gotten to know each other through working together with others to help an aging race horse get off the track. His name is Top Bunk and he earned over $575,000 racing and was, at the time running in $4,000 claimers at the age of 11. With the help of many kind, big hearted people on the internet we were able to raise the money to claim him. One of the people who helped us was a canadian folk singer named Garnet Rogers. Garnet and his wife had long ago bought a former race horse at an auction. Garnet turned that experience of buying an older "used up" race horse at auction into one of his most popular songs - "Small Victory." Here he is playing that song:

A few weeks ago, I saw a poster in town saying he was playing at a nearby art gallery literally three blocks from my home. I contacted my friends and one of them could make it to the show. She came up and spent the day in Traverse City. She met Hola and Toby and took photos of us. We also did a little wine tasting and caught a glimpse of the Schooner Festival.

Then we headed out to the concert. As we walked towards the entrance, we noticed Garnet sitting outside enjoying the summer weather and the view of the tall ships on the bay. We stopped and introduced ourselves as part of the "Top Bunk Crowd." He was genuinely pleased to meet us and happy that Bunkie is enjoying life in a pasture with his buddies. That evening he told the audience about the two of us meeting him just prior to the show and he dedicated the song "Small Victory" to us. It was very cool! He even proceeded to tell the story about Top Bunk and how his wife, Gail, and he helped us out. Then he told everyone about his horses and the mare in the song Small Victory. The mare has since passed but they still have her offspring. Garnet's wife is active with sport horses and takes care of their horses on their farm.

Here are a few shots I took at the concert:

garnet at the InsideOut Gallery

He's doing a pretty good pirate imitation in this one. I guess he was influenced by the tall ships...

pirate imitation

And just for good measure, here's a photo of Top Bunk at his retirement home near Port Huron, MI:

Top Bunk

It was a fantastic concert and I highly recommend going to see Garnet if he is in your area. Now I've got to get back into the grind of work and quit daydreaming about the fun I had this past weekend. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He's So Smart!

I'm lucky.

I fell into owning a very smart horse. This horse, that has been given to me (in fact both my current horses have been freebies), is cute, friendly and best of all smart! I'm talking about Hola C Bright...

He hadn't been touched since his last lesson which I video taped. I went out of town the next day after that lesson and didn't return home until this past Friday night. So he's had 11 days of being fed, stall cleaned and hanging out with the shed gang for his turnout before I did anything with him.

He didn't miss a beat.

Once tacked up and longe line attached, he trucked around in a steady trot, got himself round, and at one point he was even using his topline so well I wanted to just cry! I can't believe my luck in getting this horse!

He was learning so easily that I wanted to speed up the process! I told Betsy, "If you had your trailer here you would be taking him with you to train!" Then I got my wits about me... He won't be going anywhere for a couple of reasons. 1) I just can't afford to send him into a month of training, and 2) I want to train him with Betsy's help! That was the whole idea in the first place. I wanted a horse to retrain with the help of a good professional. It's so rewarding and my relationship with my horse will be that much more special. It may not go as quickly but I want to be a part of it.

So later today I was day dreaming about Hola's progress. His first time in draw reins he would hardly move forward, mostly sideways. Second time in draw reins he moved forward quite a bit but had the occasional "why am i going in circles?" and would stop and look at Betsy. The third time was the charm. Today he was just flat out boring to watch as he marched around in his daisy clipping way and I couldn't have been prouder! He figured out that if he gave in to the bit that it was easier on himself and if he gave to the bit and had some bend that Betsy would keep the longe line loose (reward!). Such essential and key concepts which he has now figured out. What a smart boy! What a beautiful boy! I only hope that we continue on with this kind of success.

Over the holiday weekend I went on a couple trail rides with Toby. I rode with my friend Karen who is usually gone most weekends judging horse shows. She said the most complimentary words to me about Hola - she said he'd make a great hunter horse in the ring because he's so cute with an intelligent face and good movement that any judge would automatically be drawn to him over all the other horses in the ring. That's such a great thing to hear coming from a judge! I sure hope she's right.

Tomorrow, Hola has an appointment with the equine dentist. I'm assuming he hasn't had hardly any work done on his teeth. I know he hasn't had any dental work in almost two years. Hopefully he will be easy to work with for the dentist unlike my other guy who has horrible teeth and jaw alignment... There's always something with horses.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Holiday Farm Visit

I'm back from my business trip in Fort Wayne, IN.

On my way down for my business trip I was invited to stop by and visit Holiday Farm - birth place of Hola C Bright.

I was so excited. I was going to meet up with the Sebright's again and meet the Gilmore's (Hola's breeder) for the first time at their farm. And what a gorgeous farm it is!!!

The Gilmore's are phasing out of racing and their farm is now home to many retirees and "pets." They have a couple mini donkeys, a mule named Peggy Sue, a couple 2 yr olds that were taking some time off of their training to allow them mature a bit, and a few retired broodmares and racers that are near and dear to them. They had no foals nor mares in foal. They are simply racing what they currently have and not continuing on with new young horses. Here are a couple of their retired broodmares who are about 18-20 yrs of age.

The farm is fascinating. It's part working farm, part playground, part shrine to the ones they love. I got a tour of the 300 acres and saw some but not all of the highlights. There's a random tree in the woods covered in dog license tags, an area where you can "zip line" across a stream, another area where the christmas trees are planted after christmas. There are shrines along the paths to beloved dogs that have since passed away and random signs to describe areas of the property such as "alligator alley" - remember this is in Michigan...

You just know it's a very special place to the Gilmore's. Here they both are with one of their beautiful 2 yr olds:

I'm not sure I know how to describe how I felt about learning so much of the history of my new guy Hola. I've never been able to learn so much history of one of my horses. But with this guy, I'm learning all about his racing days right down to the super huge stall he was born in. It's pretty neat!

Holiday Farm was an absolute treat to visit. The barn is an architectural gem where I could just imagine myself spending time hanging out in the hay loft (which was full of hay). Part of the barn is set up to foster puppies for a dog rescue. THANKFULLY there were no puppies there because I'm not sure I could have walked away without one. And all the stalls in the barn were reconfigured so that all of them are now double stall size. It would be a dream home for any horse!

They also keep some cattle on part of their property. As you can see in this photo, they had a soft spot for a calf they found who doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the herd:

And the nicest people on the planet have to be the Sebrights...

They gave me a tour, shared fun stories about their times on the property and complained loudly about the other day when Mr. Gilmore rode over to their home on Peggy Sue and Peggy Sue decided to leave a gift in the driveway. Meet Peggy Sue:

I ultimately spent much more time at Holiday Farm than I had intended and had a fabulous time in the process. Hola was lucky to have started out his life with good people. I'm lucky to have met them.