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!


Cygnata said...

I'd keep her and keep getting up early to train her. You will get there, eventually, I think. :)


raphycassens said...

DO NOT SELL BONNIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If worse comes to worse, send her to a professional that you trust for a while, but you went through the trouble, hopes and trauma to create the perfect horse for yourself. She is not wasting her life if she isn't living up to her potential as fast as possible...what's the rush anyway?

Gillian F said...

You know I have always had a thing for Bonnie, even though I never really bonded with any mares I've had. Soooooo....yeah, shoot me if I ever ask you to sell her to me :D

She's a lovely and special horse. Take some time and think about what you want to accomplish in riding.

Much love (and kisses to my big French horse),

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us know something about you and your horses! I think both Lexi and Bonnie are lovely - as you know I have a thing for bay mares! It sounds that with Sky in the picture now, and the new plan for Lexi, that if you work it right you will have time to work with Bonnie - it certainly sounds to me like you want to keep her, and no wonder! What a beautiful horse she is, even at her young age.

Keep us posted on their progress.

Anonymous said...

i agree, bonnie is a very special horse with tons of potential. since your life is maxed outnow... why not do the same thing you have with lexi? its noit fair to the horse to go through this yo yo training . they ARE STILL YOUR HORSES... but let someone else work them. at least they are moving ahead with someone else while you are being bogged down.. and when the time comes that things get slowed down and go normal for you and you want to go ride ....they will have been more progressed then when they were under your care. who knows maybe they will be show quality by then. ;];];] either way... its relives you of guilt and stress. and it really benefits the horses in the long run..!!! good luck with your decision ;];];]

Java's Mom said...

OK, honestly: three horses, in your barn or not is a lot to occupy one's brain. All 3 mares are fabulous, no doubt you are very lucky, I TOTALLY understand what you are saying (not that I've ever had 3 horses of my own at once). Keep Bonnie, at home and make it work. She is green, you have a lot of time in the future to work with her and it will eventually click. Sending out is fun/fine and convenient, but I do not see that as accomplishing what you want. Bonnie will have to figure out how to be the best with inconsistent work until it becomes consistent work. Java is 12, I got her when she was 3 1/2 and we have never been consistent, she is a super nice horse and she has always adapted to what I could give her, there were times I thought that bucking and being a spaz were her traits, but they were/are not, and there may be rough spots with Bonnie, but keep her, work with her when you can and if it's not making you and her happy sell her (but I think you'll start to see her adapt to what time you can give her and she'll develop beautifully for you). As long as she still cooperates with you and has a good mind, keep her. And, even if she is rusty at home, don't condemn her until you take her off the property again and if she is great in a show/event environment; keep. If she breaks your heard at shows/events: she' gone. Sorry Jason, I vote that she take more time with her. :)

Anonymous said...

I think, in order for you to have Bonnie, and tap into her unlimited potential is to send her to an upscale barn where she can be trained and show not only by professionals, but maybe in the children's and a/a by someone else. Given, you would have to be okay with her being away and other people putting the work on her, but it would give her the opportunities to thrive where you do not have time to give her.

Also, you would then be able to ride her when you get out there as well as show her in the a/o's, particularly if she already competing at those levels.

Anonymous said...

I'd keep her. You've already put a lot into her, even if it does not always feel like it. You have the skills to improve her and help her reach her full potential, even if you do not always have the time. You'll make time for now, and eventually, you won't need as much time to make progress. Remember, horses do not have aspirations, so it's not as though she is resentful that you are "limiting" her. You're doing the best you can with her under the circumstances, and that is all that anyone can really do. Of course, this all assumes that, on the whole, you enjoy her (or at least enjoy what you suspect she will turn out to be). If you stop enjoying her altogether, then it is time to sell. But with young horses, I would suggest not making the decision to sell based on a few weeks (or months) of frustration.

I think about selling my 4-year-old TB sometimes for reasons similar to those you've stated. But, then a few months later I think - well, thank goodness I didn't sell him - he's amazing!

Jason said...

I've GOT to play devils' advocate here !! LOL !!

As you all know, what I want out of this is a happy wife, and if that means keeping Bonnie, I'm okay with that, whether or not she is trained here or elsewhere.

HOWEVER, more than anything else, Bonnie thrives on consistency.

Between our various "extra" jobs and caring for 38 horses and a farm, sooner or later Melissa's consistency with Bonnie is going to break down, and when it does I can promise Bonnie will react poorly to that and Melissa will react poorly to Bonnie, thus cancelling the "happy wife" deal.

So I still think the best option in the long term is selling Bonnie and focusing her time on Sky, who is rapidly proving to all of us that she was exactly made for the job she was brought here to accomplish, which is putting a SMILE on Melissa's face CONSISTENTLY !!


Kaitlyn said...

As someone who let 'The One' get away, if you really feel she is this special don't do it. I will NEVER forgive myself for letting my Willoughby go, and I have a feeling you wouldn't be able to let Bonnie go either. Just keep getting up at extra hour early, pretty soon it won't even feel extra, just normal. Good Luck!

(long time reader, first time commentor)

Anonymous said...

im with jason.... sorry ya"ll but it makes sense.. its for the best of both parties . and they BOTH will be much happier in the future..after all this topic is whats best for bonnie right? and melissa does have a horse that she can work with ...already trained in her basics. and melissa sounds content as will be bonie WITH CONSISTANT WORK FROM SOMEONE WHO CAN GIVE HER THE ATTENTION SHE NEEDS. remenber we DONT LIVE THE SAME HELL BENT SCHEDUAL THEY DO... it may be close but not the same ;];] im with you jason melissa this is for bonnies BEST LIFE IN THE FUTURE..GIVE HER WHAT SHE IS MEANT TO DO. its like any animal. if you cant give them the time and attention and possibly care..that they demand... why have them? give them the home they rightly deserve.

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

That's weird, I left a comment here yesterday but it's gone? I just said I didn't have any advice because I have three green ones to ride myself (2 for me and 1 for hubby)! HOWEVER, Bonnie is more refined than any of ours and you could sell her I'm sure. I feel for you as I know how hard it is to get rid of a horse you have foaled. I guess the only two questions to ask yourself honestly would be 1. how long can I "in reality" keep up the riding program with her with all that needs to be done on the farm and 2. which horse gives me the most joy to ride now? Great photos of you! Good luck with your decision girl! Jason, you're funny!

Java's Mom said...

OK, second comment here: Jason's comment might have shed a more clear light on this for me. If Bonnie does not make Melissa happy, then she should be sold, not sent away, sold. She will live happily ever after somewhere else with consistent training. And based on Jason's comment - Melissa will be happier.

Candy'sGirl said...

Why don't you find someone to lease Bonnie for a while? If she's as good as you say she is I can't believe there isn't someone out there at a good dressage facility that wouldn't jump at the chance to train and show her. Maybe when she's a few years older and has had that consistent work she'll be better able to tolerate your sporadic riding.

In the mean time concentrate on Sky and the progress you can make with her.

kowetafancypants said...

((long-time reader, first-time poster (: ))

I agree with Candy'sGirl- leasing is a good option if you don't have time to ride consistently, and you can still arrange to ride (half-lease type, maybe? whatever your leasee is comfortable with). My experiences with leasing have always been positive, but, then again, I've always had a good, honest relationship with the owners and they know who they're trusting their horse to. That way, Bonnie gets consistent work and it's not such a budget drainer like sending her to a trainer.

Bonnie sounds like a fantastic mare (and beautiful to boot!), so good luck on finding a path for the two of you!