Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Arrives

(post by Jason) It's rapidly approaching the end of August and after a mostly temperate, pleasant summer we are finally getting some typical hot and humid summer weather. The horses take this sort of change in stride; they graze all night while it's cool and they spend the majority of their days resting in the deep shade of the woods. Unfortunately as much as we might wish to join them there aren't many lawnchairs and shade trees during the day for the people on this farm no matter what the temperature may be.

One of my many tasks today was moving feed from the bin at the front to various locations on the farm. It was high noon and hot as blazes...not the ideal time to slug anything but it needed to be done. While completing this task at various times I drove by each of our large pastures. The horses were comfortably resting in the woods and although it seems anthropomorphic in an unlikely way it sure looked like they all had smug expressions on their respective faces.

You know you've been out in the heat too long when you began to make up conversations between the charges in your pasture but I promise every farmer has done it at one time or another and today was my day. I expect the conversation between them went something like this.

"Look at that fool out there working his butt off in the sunshine and heat."

"Man, he's really putting it out."

"Sure is. He's so red in the face it looks like he's going to have a stroke. It's humid today. But it feels nice in here."

"Look at the sweat running down his face, arms and back. Man I wasn't that wet when it rained two inches last Friday. What a dummy. It's cool and pleasant in here. Let's tell him he's a dummy. With his college choices he should've picked an inside career!"

As you might guess this imaginary conversation made me feel a whole bunch better about my life choices. And of course it went on all afternoon. About twenty minutes before dark as the evening was starting to cool down all the horses made their way out of the woods. Every last one of them stopped to watch me drag my sweaty, tired self up the driveway to our house. Not for the first time I thought to myself that the animals in our care had things figured out a lot better than we do.

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Baby and Trigger


Donneur and George grooming with Asterik watching


Rocky, Largo and Oskar appeared to be hanging around in a food coma after breakfast


Johnny and B-Rad


Sebastian and Sam (Murphy hiding in between them)


Bergie


Toledo and Walon




Fabrizzio and O'Reilly


Lucky and Merlin

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Memory of Noble

Yesterday was a sad day for us as we said goodbye to Noble, a grey thoroughbred gelding who had been retired with us for four years. Noble was born in Indiana but made his way to the Mountaineer Race Track in West Virginia as a young horse to start his racing career. Noble had a total of 13 starts at Mountaineer Race Track, all of them small claiming races.  He managed to win three of his starts before his racing career came to a close.

Noble on his first day with us checking everything out


Noble as a yearling


After his racing career a hunter/jumper trainer in Pennsylvania purchased Noble for one of her clients. He made the move to her barn in Pennsylvania and remained at that farm until he came to our farm to retire. Noble's mom began taking lessons at this barn in 1999. She had ridden as a child but never had her own horse. When she was in her 30's she decided she wanted to get back into riding and began taking lessons. 

A few months after she began taking lessons at the farm Noble came up for sale as his owners were getting divorced. Although she loved him when she rode him, Noble's price was well out of her price range. Fate intervened when the only thing holding up the divorce proceedings was the sale of Noble. His price was dropped significantly to facilitate a quick sale. Noble was purchased as a surprise gift for his mom in March of 2000 and she officially had her first horse!

Noble and his mom receiving some last minute instructions at a horse show


Noble and his mom at a horse show


In their early years together Noble and his mom did a lot of showing. They started in the beginner hunter division and worked their way up to the adult amateur division. His mom said they really weren't an ideal match in the show ring as Noble tended to be anxious and spooky and get strong to the jumps. She said she tended to get anxious and spooky as well and at first they would feed off of each other. He made her learn and grow as a rider and they eventually forged a solid partnership with each other.

After they had been together a few years Noble's hocks started to bother him some when jumping due to arthritis. His mom stopped jumping and showing him and they spent a few years together focusing on his flatwork. His mom said Noble was a real joy to ride on the flat as he had a rocking horse canter and a very smooth, comfortable trot. She also respected his wishes to skip trail riding as he repeatedly insisted that deer, birds, rabbits were very scary.

Noble loved to play and we have countless pictures of him playing with his friends. Here he is playing with O'Reilly

playing with Walden

playing with Fabrizzio

early morning play session with Fabrizzio

After enjoying their partnership for more than a decade his mom made the difficult decision to retire Noble. After doing some research on retirement farms, including making a trip to Tennessee to see our farm, she picked us for his retirement home. In early October 2010 Noble made the trip from Pennsylvania to Tennessee to retire.

Noble was an incredibly social horse and to say that he took to life at our farm immediately would be an understatement. Noble abhorred the thought of being alone and preferred to always be surrounded by his friends. Although much of his time was spend grazing in quite contentment with his friends, Noble spent more than his share of time playing. He LOVED to play and we have countless pictures of him playing with other horses.

More pictures of Noble at play. Noble and Lucky playing.

Fabrizzio and Noble

Noble and Lucky

playing with Duesy


The last few months things gradually began to change with Noble. His hind end arthritis seemed to be bothering him and his vision also was not as good as it once was.  We did the obvious things to try and address the arthritis but they didn't seem to have much effect.  Noble was always a high energy and extremely active horse. Noble's personality was never to be very forgiving, he had high expectations of every horse and human around him, and he extended his demands to himself. When his body began struggling to keep up with Noble's mindset that he was forever young it became a real struggle for him.  The concept of growing old gracefully was one that he was unwilling to embrace.

Jason and I firmly believe that every animal deserves to exit this life with dignity, and that life should be measured in quality and not quantity. Once it became clear to us that Noble was struggling at times to accept some of the infirmities of old age there was really only one decision to make. Like some people, some horses are unable to find peace with an aging body, and we knew we needed to let Noble go out while he was still mostly able to deal with life on his terms. Anything less would have been unacceptable to Noble. 

Noble leading his friends through the pasture (Merlin, Bruno and Lightning)

Noble and Walden on the run


Noble was a very fortunate horse in so many ways. While he worked hard for most of his life he had a lot of stability. He was not passed around from owner to owner and spent the majority of his life at the hunter/jumper farm in Pennsylvania. His mom owned him for over 14 years and gave him the privilege of spending his last four years in Noble's version of heaven: doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted, always with friends.

Yesterday Noble had a peaceful passing. He had a morning filled with hanging out with his friends and hoovering up carrots. As was always his way Noble left this world on his own terms, while eating a carrot.  Rest in peace Noble.

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grazing with Thor and Lightning


 enjoying a roll in the snow


wandering out to graze with Lucky after breakfast


always alert and interested in everything


grazing with Merlin


grooming with Bruno


grooming with Fabrizzio


enjoying a relaxing afternoon


grazing with friends


 more grazing


 grazing with Fabrizzio


grazing with Lightning and Fabrizzio


looking over the fence with Lightning, Slinky and Lucky

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Stills


Baby, Hemi and Apollo


Bergie, Stormy, Rocky and Largo hanging out in the shed


Trigger and Grand


Moe, Levendi and Thomas


Lotus and Gibson


Romeo and Flyer (George in the background eating the trees)


Asterik and George made the most of the rain shower we had this afternoon


Donovan and Johnny


Johnny and Lighty

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jitterbug is Back

Somehow I missed that my favorite quadruped correspondent posted another article about two weeks ago. Jitterbug is back, this time explaining to all of us "How To Help Your Human Pack For A Show."  You can find the original article here on the Chronicle of the Horse website.  I think my favorite items on the packing list were heavy rope to tie her in the saddle and smelling salts so she will at least be conscious to watch everyone else get their ribbons. Undoubtedly most of my horses have longed for these two things. What items would your horse think you need?

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My Human and I enjoyed a successful, if somewhat surprising start to our show season this year. I think she may finally be learning how to stay out of my way during the dressage portion—now we need to teach her to stay in the saddle for the rest of it.

I was horrified to realize how ill-prepared my Human was for our show. Every time I looked up from my hay, she was hunting for a hairpin, digging through her grooming box, or frantically trying to scrub a grass stain out of her breeches.

To protect myself from the ensuing embarrassment next time, (she did this in front of the whole barn, because apparently “subtle” isn’t her thing) I’ve put together a customized packing list for her.
Now I have to hope she doesn’t lose the list.

  • Cookies (for me—if she consumes another thing she won’t be able to fit into her breeches)
  • Organic apples. Not conventional. Organic. (also for me—she really is getting hefty)
  • Carrot sticks (ditto)
  • Bottled water, preferably Pellegrino or other imported. For me. See above parentheticals.
  • Pepto (for her—I don’t get pre-show nerves, because I actually know what I’m doing)
  • Valium (because let’s face it, that’s the only way she’ll get in the tack)
  • Secanol (because let’s face it, that’s the only way she’ll stay in the tack)
  • Heavy rope (to tie her on long enough for us to cross the finish flags after she faints on the cross country course)
  • Smelling salts (so she’ll at least be conscious in time to watch everyone else get their ribbons)
  • That super-soft brush I love that does very little against ground-in mud, grass stains, or serious dust—I need my massage and she needs the arm workout.
  • My Rambo stable blanket, even if it’s warm. It’s important for my colleagues to see that at least one of us has good taste.
  • A new set of French-named boots. (And if we don’t have any, then put it on the shopping list)
  • Hair spray (for her. My hair is perfect.)
  • More hair spray.
  • That isn’t enough hair spray yet.
  • A surround sound stereo system, with speakers to be placed at C, A, E, and B to play my theme music during the dressage portion (Track options include “Eye of the Tiger” and “Hail to the Chief”)
  • Extra spending money for the food truck (I’ll take the veggie wrap with extra carrots, please)
  • Extra spending money for the tack truck because I might like to go shopping in between rides.
  • Extra spending money for the show photographer. I suggest taking the bills out in hundreds—reduces bulk. 
  • All my blogging materials—HoofPad and charger are must-haves.
  • An extra HoofPad charger for when I chew through my original out of sheer frustration after stadium.
  • About $100,000 worth of professional camera equipment.
  • A professional photographer to zoom in on me, capturing every second of my eventing glory—even though she needs to purchase the show photos, I like seeing myself from several angles.
  • A second professional photographer, zooming in on the Human to capture every second of her fumbling. Game film is the best motivator.
  • A professional videographer to capture my best moments of Human coaching, for eventual use in my biopic.
  • A dose of specially-compounded, molasses-flavored bute for the ride home to combat my Human Show Headache.
 Happy show season!

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
Follow Jitterbug on Facebook! 

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Leo, Chance, Rip and Ritchie


Griselle and Sparky


Duesy, Merlin, Walden and Fabrizzio


George, Asterik and Gus


Wiz


Thomas and Apollo


Homer


Chance


Wiz, Murphy, Dutch and Renny