Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back to Normal

We are back to our regularly scheduled programming of retired horses with this post! The last two posts have been all about me and my horses which isn't the purpose of this blog. I appreciate everyone who took the time to offer their suggestions about Bonnie. I've read them all several times and am thinking about all perspectives. I think the best way to describe Bonnie sometimes is professional talent and a professional ride as well. I have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows riding Bonnie. With my revised schedule we've definitely been on an upswing the last few weeks. I also think she has been a bit slow to mature mentally and I think the brain is at least starting to catch up with the body. However it is has been the consistency of my schedule with her that has helped the most, no doubt about that. That said I'm very happy to have Sky in the picture. She's a very nice horse herself and so laid back, I've had a lot of fun with her in our first two weeks of getting to know each other. Thank you again for all of your comments!

Now on to the real starts of the show here, the retirees:

Dustin and Tony; Dustin is a son of Starman and was a big time jumper himself. Tony is a dutch warmblood who competed in the a/o hunters with a national ranking before stepping down to the 3' divisions his last few years.
Trigger and Ivan grazing by the shed. Trigger was a hunter and Ivan was a Grand Prix jumper.Apollo and Leo; Apollo is a hanoverian and retired dressage horse while Leo is a dutch warmblood and retired hunter. In a former life Leo also competed up to 4th level dressage as well, a very versatile guy!
Snappy, Teddy and Chili. Snappy had quite an impressive career. He was an eventer originally and was competed through the four star level (the highest international level) by the double gold medalist in eventing, Mark Todd of New Zealand. Snappy was then sold to an eventer in the states. Later in his career he showed on the A circuit in the hunters and won everywhere. Teddy is a retired dressage horse. Chili is a retired trail horse who was a working cow horse prior to hitting the trails in the Colorado mountains.
Tony; tall, long and lanky are the words to describe Tony!
Bear running along the driveway
Asterik with Faune behind him; Asterik is a Holsteiner and was a big time jumper as well as sometimes showing in the a/o hunters.
Faune, Winston and Trillion. Faune is a Selle Francais and was a top hunter nationally. Trillion is a dutch warmblood and was also one of the top nationally ranked hunters. Winston is a thoroughbred and showed in the hunters as well.
Lightening is an Arabian and retired trail horse
Norman the pony. Norman still has the run of certain parts of the farm. We enjoy having him wander around so much we haven't been able to bring ourselves to fence him in! He is very content with the situation as well.
Mina and Jo, world's cutest fainting goats
MyLight and Buffy grazing with Harmony down for a nap. All three are thoroughbreds. MyLight is retired from dressage, Buffy is a retired hunter and Harmony is a retired polo pony.
Lily and Cuff Links. Lily is a Quarter Horse/Oldenburg cross retired from the jumper ring and Cuffie is a Welsh pony and retired from the pony hunters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Someone asked a great question in the comments on my last post. I answered the question in the comments but I thought I would expand on it in this post to help me sort through my thoughts. The question was what am I doing with Bonnie and Lexi now that Sky is in the picture?

Me with Bonnie and Lexi

Lexi is the foal out of my wonderful retired show horse Bridget (click on the link for some pictures of Bridget). Lexi was born in April 2004. I got exactly what I wanted when I bred Bridget. I wanted Bridget's beautiful jump and amazing personality and temperament to be preserved, but I also wanted a better hind end and more length of stride in the resulting foal so they could be my next show hunter deluxe. On top of that if I was being extra picky I wanted a mare because I love mares. When I visualized my dream foal out of this breeding Lexi was pretty much it!

Lexi is about six hours old in this picture, she hasn't even unfolded yet

Bonnie was born in March 2004 a few weeks before Lexi. Bonnie is out of the wonderful swedish warmblood mare Gabrielle. Gabrielle was a wonderful dressage horse who also dabbled a bit in the jumpers for some variety. She was working Prix St. George when she had a pasture accident. She had been kept up for a few days due to weather and basically went crazy when she was turned out. She went up for a huge buck/spin in the air and came down dead lame with a bone chip in her ankle. As with Bridget her performance career definitely made her an excellent candidate for a broodmare. Bonnie was her second foal. Gabrielle was owned at the time by one of my oldest friends and she generously allowed me to breed Gabrielle at the same time I bred Bridget.

Bonnie's dam Gabrielle

Bonnie's sire is Budweiser, a Dutch Warmblood stallion. Budweiser was exported to Germany the year after I bred to him and then a couple of years later was exported again to Australia. Here is a blurb about Budweiser: 1994, 17 hh Dutch Warmblood. Approved by: GOV, RPSI, & SWANA. In his pedigree, Budweiser has the 5 top European stallions consecutively: Burggraaf keur, Voltaire keur pref, Ahorn Z (v. Alme), Landgraf I, and Roman. Budweiser completed the 100 day performance test at Pruessendorf with a score of 126.20 points for jumping (3rd). For his character, he scored a perfect 10 and scored 9 in Free Jumping, Temperament and Ability to Work. Budweiser has sired 22 Premium foals between years 2000 – 2002. Budweiser competes at the Grand Prix level in showjumping.

Bonnie meeting Bugle when she was about 9 hours old; she was born in mid March 2004

My hope for this cross was my future jumper/dressage horse. Any good jumper has to be able to do low level dressage! Of course I hoped for a mare as well. Yet again I got exactly what I wanted. When Amy hopped on Bonnie the other day the first words out of her mouth were "this is the most uphill horse I've ever sat on!" Bonnie is built like a powerhouse with an outstanding topline and hind end. She's been evaluated by two FEI dressage trainers who both told me she had the conformation and gaits to potentially be my horse to go to Grand Prix in dressage if that was what I wanted to do. She isn't a floaty, pretty mover like Sky but she has power to her gaits when she really engages herself. As one of the trainers said she may not win at Training/first level because she doesn't have the flashy front-end auction trot but she has the build to sit and collect which is what you need as you move up the levels. I have not really jumped her at all but from looking at her and riding her canter the jump should be there.

Bonnie and I cruising around the cross country course last August; she still looks like a baby in this picture. She has grown taller and filled out more in the last year.

If you want the quick re-hash of my undersaddle time with them here it goes. They were both backed as three year olds and then turned back out to grow until they were four. At four they were both back in work sporadically. My life was busier than it has ever been last year! I took them to a cross country schooling day to hack around, play in the water jump and see the sights last August. When I was on my way home some idiot decided to stop in the middle of a very busy 2-lane road going downhill on a blind curve and do a U-turn. Needless to say they halted traffic from all directions and cars were going everywhere. They did not stop at the scene but completed their U-turn and left. I was only going 25mph at the time but still had to slam on my brakes hard (I was the second vehicle behind this car). Lexi actually fell down in the trailer on her hind end and then slid under the chest bar and got stuck there sitting down.

Me on Lexi in February of this year; notice the short sleeves! Jason cut my head off in this picture

At the time I thought my main concern was the bad puncture wound on one of her legs that I had a heck of a time getting healed. Well, as it turns out what I should have been doing during the saga of healing the puncture wound was having the chiropractor work on her a LOT. She sustained a sacro-iliac injury and if any of you have had experience with rehabbing an SI injury they are tough ones. One of the keys is very specific and very consistent work. She started back to work earlier this year and sometimes I was all over the rehab program but then I would have a couple of weeks where I just didn't have time to ride and we backslid. It was a very frustrating up and down rollercoaster. Oh, we're making progress! Oh, we just lost all of our progress because I didn't have time to ride! Jason didn't handle my reaction to all of this too well and I can't blame him.

Bonnie in the water jump last August
Bonnie also had some time off after the trailer incident but spent some time with a trainer earlier this year to get going again. Once again this was thanks to my schedule. Bonnie is one of those horses that at least as a super greenie does best with a very regular schedule which she wasn't getting from me. It is very frustrating to have such an incredibly talented horse that you feel like you make no progress with at all! Jason often made the valid point that it didn't seem like I could be getting much fun out of a horse that was in full training somewhere else, although he went along with it and paid the bills without complaint.


As I said in Sky's introductory post Jason finally got sick of it all. He said "why don't you just go buy a horse that you can have fun with RIGHT NOW." And I did! During this time I had talked a lot about my predicament with one of the Amy's that works here. Amy is wonderful, an excellent horse person, an excellent rider, and an excellent person to discuss your horse woes with. She has been without a horse to ride for awhile now and one thing led to another and we worked it out that Lexi would move a few miles away to another farm and Amy would have a horse to ride again (we don't care any liability insurance for riding at our farm so no one but me can ride here). She is obviously fully aware of the whole situation with Lexi and her need for "physical therapy" riding. She also works with the same vets and chiropractor so will be able to seamlessly continue Lexi's rehab and get in back in the saddle herself. I'll hear about Lexi several times a week, she'll be fifteen minutes away if I have the time to go ride her myself, and I know Amy's high standards of horse care. A win-win situation for all of us! Amy gets to ride, Lexi gets the rehab schedule she needs, and I am relieved and feeling a lot less pressured and guilty.

Me with Lexi

Now the plan for Bonnie. I don't really know - and I can assure you Jason's blood pressure is shooting sky high as he reads that! Jason feels that I should sell Bonnie and for awhile I was starting to agree. Bonnie is a superb athlete but as mentioned does best in a regular program (what horse doesn't really?), and I have been unable to provide regular. It pretty much led to a circle of frustration for me as it constantly felt like two steps forward and one step back with Bonnie thanks to me and my schedule. I was beginning to accept that Bonnie is a fantastic horse with more potential than I would probably ever tap, but she did not fit in my life at this time.


A few weeks ago I started getting up an hour earlier each day. The only way I can fit more time into my schedule is one hour less of sleep. I did this so I could make a point of being on a horse and riding by a certain time each morning several days per week. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that things started really coming together for Bonnie and I once I kept to a regular schedule for a few weeks. Sky's arrival also helped a lot I think. I became less focused on progress with Bonnie as I had Sky to have fun on and wasn't stressing about Lexi's rehabbing. As I was cantering around on Bonnie the other day riding the most athletic, powerful, balanced canter I've ever felt on a horse (and I've had some really nice horses over my three decades of riding - thanks mom and dad!) my thought was "why in the world would I sell this???"


Now I have to be honest and say I haven't been able to replicate that exact canter since that ride although I've come close a couple of times, but overall the quality of our work and her understanding of what I'm asking for keeps getting better. The catch is what happens when we end up being more sporadic in our work again? On one hand I'm thinking I know the answer and we'll both wind up frustrated again. On the other hand I wonder if we've reached a place where maybe she's more mentally mature and more able to handle my life. I really don't know. I know Sky is the type of horse that as long as she is not completely unfit can be pulled out of a field and go right back to where you were before. I need that kind of horse in my life right now. I also think part of it is ego. I will admit I like knowing that I have a horse this nice. Sky is a very nice horse herself as is Lexi, horses that anyone would be happy to have and be seen on at an "A" show, but Bonnie has the potential to be something extra special if I can ever get my act together with her. As the title says, decisions.


If you've made it through this long-winded me, me, me all about me post I applaud you! I also have a question for you. If you were me would you go ahead and put things in motion to sell Bonnie? What would you do?
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program of retired horses and their pictures in the next post!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riding Sky and Overprotective Parenting

Sky and I are finally starting to get to know each other under saddle. I took it pretty easy on her the first week and didn't really do anything but walk under saddle, but we've had a few nice rides now. Hard to believe she hasn't even been here two weeks yet! You will noticed that I've dropped the second y from the end of her name. I'm not in love with the name Sky but everyone, including me, thinks of her as Sky now so I guess the name is here to stay! The name is starting to grow on me though, just like she is.

Sky is what I would describe as 'hunter' broke. She will trot and canter around in a nice rhythm all day with no real contact on the reins. She seems to have been ridden with more of a headset in mind than actual, true throughness and softness and thus no real elasticity and lifting in her topline. So especially at the walk and trot I've been trying to get her to start stretching down and reaching for the contact. At the canter I'm still just cantering in hunter mode, up out of the saddle in a half seat with light contact. She is a fantastic mover, even better than what I was expecting from her sales video, so I'm excited to see how much improvement we'll see in her gaits as we start developing her flatwork better.

By the way this was pretty much what I was expecting as far as where she would be in her training. Sky has never really had her own person and her own program. She was one of many foals at the large breeding facility where she was born, and then was backed and imported by a jumper barn in Ocala, FL and taken straight into the jumper ring when she was four. It doesn't surprise me that it quickly became apparent that Sky was NOT destined to be a big time jumper. She would be fine as a children's/adult jumper (3'6") but I wouldn't see her progressing up the ranks from there. Sky is definitely more of a hunter and nice horse to do dressage on at the lower levels, and I'm hoping she'll be game to jump around some cross country courses as well. Since she was in a strictly jumper barn she was turned back out after a couple of shows and sat in a pasture for over a year doing nothing. She was purchased by the wonderful people I bought her from a few months ago and was in sporadic work while waiting for a buyer. Sky is six this year.

I plan to do a lot of long and low work at the walk, trot and canter in the next few weeks and work on asking her to relax through her back and stretch into an active, soft contact. After just a few rides she is already starting to get the concept at the walk and trot. I won't push for it at the canter until she's really getting it at the walk and trot. She is also clearly not used to someone truly sitting the canter and is very used to more of a half seat, hunter type ride at the canter. With the incredibly willing attitude and quick learning she's shown me in our first three real rides together it looks like it will be fun to really develop her flatwork. I've already started to incorporate lots of poles in our flatwork and will pop her over a few low fences sometime soon.

Just as she needs some gymnasticizing on the flat I'm sure our jumping will consist of mainly gymnastics at first also. Every Saturday in August our local pony club chapter will have the cross country course used for the Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials open for schooling. The MTPC Horse Trials is actually the oldest consecutively run recognized horse trial in the country. Hopefully I'll have time to take her over there and we can cruise around, go up and down the bank, through the water jump and take in all the sights. She's never seen a cross country course before but she is so sweet and quiet I'm thinking she'll take it well!

I would love to hear about your favorite exercises for relaxing and stretching the topline and teaching them to have true contact. I plan on doing lots of leg yields, spiraling in and out on a circle, changes of direction, etc. Pretty much the usual, basic things. I'm trying to focus on having soft hands and showing her a very inviting contact that she would like to accept. I'm pretty rusty since I've been mostly out of the saddle the last few years so any exercises and tips are welcome. It is amazing all of the things you forget when you aren't using them. I also plan on taking dressage lessons as well after we've gotten to know each other more. I'm lucky to have Tami Crawford, an excellent Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, just seven miles away from me. Tami qualified for the Olympic selection trials on one of her horses a few years ago so I'm excited to take some lessons from her.

In addition to my first rides on Sky our excitement last week was our concern over Jo's weight. Jo is one of our two fainting goats and as I mentioned in my last post we were weighing her in a cooler - and she got nervous, fainted, and fell out the first time! That was traumatizing for Jason and I but she seemed fine with it. Jo is used to being a fainting goat but we still aren't always used to the fainting ourselves!

Anyway, the vet was out to see Jo on Friday. We put Mina and Jo in their stall and she examined both of them for a couple of minutes. Then she looked at us and said "I'm not sure why I'm here. These two goats look amazing. Their coats have a gorgeous shine, their gum tissue and soft tissue around the eyes have perfect color and their weight is excellent." We reiterated to her that Jo had dropped a decent amount of weight and we weren't sure if it was a growth spurt, parasites, or what and that even Mina had dropped a little weight. Well, she said Mina didn't need to get any heavier or she would be really fat (good thing she didn't see her a couple of weeks ago!!!) and that Jo was in perfect weight. As it turns out Jason and I had fat goats that dropped down to a better weight. Oops. What can I say, this isn't the place to be if you want to be a skinny, sad looking animal! We were happy that we had the vet out for absolutely nothing, a much better outcome than it being something!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do A Deer

If I had The Sound of Music on DVD I would so be watching it right now! I am sure Jason is down on his knees in thanks that we don't have that movie on DVD, because he would be forced to listen to me singing along with Do-Re-Mi a few times. I have had that song in my head since this afternoon. I was scrubbing the trough in the Big Boys' pasture and I noticed as I stood up for a break that their group seemed a lot bigger than usual. I carried on scrubbing the trough and while I was waiting for it to fill up I took a better look at things.

Well, their group was bigger than usual, in fact up by a total of three. They had three deer right int he middle of all of them happily grazing away, as were the horses. They were all very comfortable with each other and clearly this was not a new thing. I've seen deer grazing with the horses before but I've never seen them so relaxed, especially with me just a few acres away.

However the really neat part was when the boys decided it was time for their daily runabout. They have a good gallop around their 40 acres at least once a day. The big boys are a younger crowd and they can get pretty frisky sometimes. What made me watch in awe and amazement was the three deer ran with them. The deer weren't running away, but running right in the middle of the pack. It was amazing and really beautiful to watch.

When I was relaying this to Jason tonight he wasn't impressed at all. His response was "yeah, when I bushhog back there those deer don't even run from the tractor anymore." So I guess this group of deer consider the farm to be their home and all of the residents to be their friends. It was an amazing sight to watch those deer streaking across the pasture with the horses.

I just googled the lyrics to Do-Re-Mi so I could post them here. Now everyone can have this song running through their head!

Doe, a deer, a female deer
Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long, long way to run
Sew, a needle pulling thread
La, a note to follow Sew
Tea, a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to Do (oh-oh-oh)

Maria and Children:(Repeat above verse twice)


Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me. I could kill myself for not having my camera!! It was such a busy day that I never even bothered to take it out of the house. If only I could have gotten some pictures or video or something of the deer running along with the horses. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it that A) it happened and B) it was incredible to watch.

Faune and Winston Sebastian (in the flymask) and Lightening conversing over the fence. I think Lightening is saying something along the lines of "hey, there is something different about your face. I can't quite put my hoof on it . . . "
Bridget and Traveller
Mr. O'Reilly
MyLight was curled up in a ball napping
Then she moved into dead horse position for awhile
When she decided it was time to get up she rolled, including sitting up and doing the Elfin dogwalk, to roll on the other side Teddy with Snappy behind him
Grazing under a pretty blue sky
Leo, Ivan and Chance
Lucky grazing while Clay enjoyed a nice roll behind him
Lexi with Bridget behind her We've been a bit worried about Jo's weight. We think she is in a growth spurt but decided to start weighing her regularly. Jason first weighed the empty cooler.
Then it was time to put Jo in the cooler
Poor Jo, she is usually quite brave but being lifted in the cooler made her nervous when it tilted. She fainted and fell out. I was too traumatized to keep clicking and capture it on camera. It can be tough being a fainting goat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thursday Pictures

Our July weather has continued to be extremely pleasant the last few days. Yet again we did not get out of the 70's today. We also had rain off and on all day today. When Amy and I were feeding this morning we both got pretty wet. I managed to stay dry throughout the day including riding two horses. When I set out to do pm feeding and scrub/fill water troughs Jason said I should put Mina and Jo outside since it looked like the rain was done. I went over to the barn and put the goats outside, and turned the stalled horses out.

I kept looking at the clouds in the sky thinking we couldn't possibly be done with the rain. I made the decision to delay stall cleaning and do my pasture "stuff" first just in case. Thank goodness I didn't listen to Jason and looked at the sky! As I was walking back to the barn after finishing up the skies opened up and I got soaked again, but at least only for a minute this time. When I reached the barn I could hear two screaming, bellowing, distraught fainting goats in their pen because they were getting soaked. Goats hate to get wet and Mina and Jo won't go in their houses when it rains, they stand at the gate screaming to be brought in to their stall in the barn. So I got soaked again as I ran out to to open their gate so they could come back in the barn. They aren't spoiled at all!

It was pleasant to listen to the rain on the roof of the barn while I cleaned stalls, scrubbed water buckets and refilled hay for the next day. The horses enjoyed the warm rain and I didn't see any horses in their shelters, they were all out grazing in the rain. Actually no matter what time of the year and what the temperature is I rarely see a horse in the shelter when it is raining - kind of irritating really! You spend thousands of dollars per shelter so they can ignore them. I guess it makes us humans feel better to say that they have man-made shelters!

It can be confusing to identify the gray mares from a distance; L-R Buffy, Harmony, Lily
Winston; Winston had a little scrape on his leg that the flies found extremely attractive for some reason so I've been keeping it wrapped
Lightening, resident Arabian
The family; the goslings are pretty much grown up
Trigger, Baby and Tony
Ivan giving me the look of "what do you want, I'm busy!" as he was grazing by the pond
Levendi and Dustin; Baby and Tony are in the background
Lily, Missy and Buffy
Cuff Links MyLight and Lily hanging out under the trees
Homer (aka Homey or Homefry)
Leo and Trigger groomed on each other
This photograph is an excellent example of my terrible photography skills; I managed to cut Leo's nose off.
Slinky, Lightening and Teddy with Tony behind the fence