Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Excellent Lesson

O was with the young boys at Iron Ridge, so Jaz, who still can't be ridden, got to cool his jets in the barn while Pokey and I had a lesson.

Dumb ass here had a major lapse in judgment when I underestimated how much room it would take to swing my truck and the trailer so I wouldn't have to back it, and would be heading the right way to leave. I nicked the edge of a stack of hog wire and destroyed one of the trailer tires. The horses did NOT like the sound of that tire popping and the air hissing out of it. Mr. Fry had been visiting a friend nearby and showed up at the end of my lesson to say howdy. My hero changed my tire and didn't give me a hard time about it.

The former occupant of the stall left some grain.

Two hens on bug patrol outside Jaz's stall.

These guys were in the stall next to Jaz.
Haha, Pokey! No excuses today!


Lean back, sit deep

It was already hot at 9 a.m. There was enough of a breeze that it could have been an issue for Pokes, but it wasn't. Without the goats in the adjacent round pen or other horses in the arena, he was calm, engaged, and seemed to be enjoying himself. I had a GREAT lesson. We worked on walk and trot — lots of trot. Umm, wish I had worn my tights rather than those jeans.

Only now do I realize how much fear I've harbored since my rodeo incident last May. We were trotting up a storm when everything went to hell that day. Now, every time we go any faster than a walk, I tense up, which throws me off balance. Heather is patiently helping me through it. Because I was able to relax, so did Pokey.

It felt like I was practically lying on my horse's back because my tension has been causing me to hunch that far forward. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we overcame a major hurdle. However, I can still only get his nice shuffle gait as a momentary downward transition between trot and walk. I want to learn how to get him into that gait and keep him in it. It's so smooth and the perfect speed. Heather says it's going to take speed and impulsion to get that from him, so that's what we're working on. >sigh< Quaker, where are you when I need you, bud?

We did yo-yos and Heather helped me soften my hands to get him to back without so much pressure on his mouth. I even got him to do a sidepass. Not a pretty one, but he got it.

I was so proud of him, and he ate up every bit of praise Heather and I gave him. He was still looking for "good boys" when we got home hours later. I'm a happy bunny.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Insanity Doesn't Run; It Walks Calmly

Some of you may think I have completely lost my marbles after my last post.

See? I didn't. Here they are.

I apologize for the length of that post. I should have split it or not done such a brain dump in the first place. Sincere thanks to those who took the time to read and comment.

I announced I had abandoned my quest to buy Quaker, my little one-eyed, Steady Eddy QH buddy. I also revealed that Heather had offered me Daltrey (nee Streak) and part of the deal if I keep him is that he needs to remain intact until O's last foals are born at Heather's in 2011. I can see where you might think I had a heat stroke or something.

"Fry," you might say, "you are closer to 60 than you are to 50 and you're a mediocre novice rider at best. Where the hell do you get the cojones to take on a Stonewall foal, much less a stud colt? At your age and experience level, you should be sticking quarters in the ponies at WalMart."

For your consideration:
  • It is not a done deal. Daltrey will come here for a visit when he is weaned, which could be as soon as next month. We'll see how he does with the Boyz, see if he bonds with me and Mr. Fry, how the land does with a third horse, and quite frankly, see if I am up to the task of bringing up a baby. Umm, I can be kinda lazy. Sometimes two feels like too many.
  • If at any point, it's not working, I can send him back. I can keep just my two or I can try another one. That's the way they roll at Iron Ridge. I am not in this alone. I have all the expert help and support I need.
  • These horses have amazing temperaments both as a product of their selective breeding and the way they are handled. They do seem to be born "old souls". The draft in them makes them so sweet. They have their moments, like they all do, but by-and-large, they are people-oriented, compliant, and even-tempered. Most milestones, including their first ride, are non-events.
  • If you handle a stallion from birth, accepting nothing less than perfect manners and respect (as they do at the farm), it's no different than handling any other youngster that's full of itself. Having hosted the then-2-year-old Stonewall stallion, Scorch, I can tell you that I had not one problem with him. If his genes are needed, Daltrey will be collected — no live cover — and he'll be gelded as soon as his jewels are dispensable.
  • Stonewalls and Sugarbushes (drafts in general) mature much slower than lighter horses. It's not abnormal to wait until they are 4 or older to even start them under saddle. Jaz is 11 and Poco may be 14 (no way to know for sure). Both are sound and healthy, and unless something unforeseen happens, I plan on a lot more years of improving my riding skills with them. God willing, we have all the time in the world to work Daltrey up. I won't ride him until we're both ready. Others might, but I won't. It's that closer-to-60 thing...
And there you have the method to the madness or the biggest crock of shit you ever heard. Take your pick.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Ongoing Saga in Which Lightning Strikes Twice and a Secret is Revealed

No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you
— "Behind Blue Eyes" (Pete Townshend)
The Who, from their fifth album "Who's Next" (1971)

Lightning Strikes Twice

Kris asked me to come to the farm with her after work so she could interact with a couple of Stonewall and Sugarbush mares she's considering. Sure, why not? She was already there when I arrived. As soon as I was in earshot, Heather yelled, "You better sit down." I did. "Quaker is up for sale."

Quaker — October 2008

Quaker is the one that got away. He's the only horse I've ever cantered, and the one I trusted even more than Jaz, which is saying a lot. The little (14-14.2) guy really had a bead on my abilities. He never took advantage of me, but he did push me ever-so-gently. As soon as he sensed uncertainty, he'd back off. Quaker is nothing to look at. He's the color of oatmeal (sooty Palomino), and his right eye had to be surgically removed (uveitis), but he's well trained and willing. I vowed that if I ever had the opportunity again, I would not let him slip through my fingers a second time.

Quaker's current owner (J) was Rover's (here and here) former owner. I don't know how she got hooked up with Heather, but they traded horses because J was intimidated by Rover. Heather said Ro was the better horse, to which I only half-jokingly replied, "Rover's not a pimple on Quaker's butt!" As both Heather and I have noted, with a little firmness and consistency, Ro's quickly shown himself to be a well-trained, willing partner. I love riding him. In my mind, J traded one awesome horse for another.

The difficult conversation with Mr. Fry
Me: Do you remember me talking about Quaker, the one-eyed QH?
Him: Unnnnhh, oh yeah, yeah!
Me: He's looking for a home again.
Him: Oh nooo! Okay [the "okay" sounded just like Eeyore].

Let the Horse Trading Begin
So I call J, ask her the appropriate questions. I was unprepared for the audacious amount that delusional woman thinks she's going to get for him. He's a short, one-eyed, plain-Jane, unpapered QH! Go on Craig's list and you can get 3 or 4 pretty ones with all their parts for what she's asking for him. Time is on my side, because no one in their right mind would pay that much for him in this market, and if they would, more power to J. The odds are in my favor that I can come back later with close to my original offer and she'll likely beg me to take him.

J gets back with Heather and basically says I insulted her with my offer. Says it "wouldn't make good business sense." Does that sound as funny to you as it did to us? She says maybe she should trade Quaker back to Heather for Rover since she paid a modest-for-then-ridiculous-for-now price for Rover and she'll get more money selling him than Quake, so she can get whatever it is she thinks she wants now. Heather and I are baffled, because both Quake and Ro are wonderful horses. We can't imagine what novice rider J wants that's not either one of them. I would consider myself blessed to own either of the two.

The plan was, if J decided she wanted to trade Quake back for Rover, then I'd give Heather what I offered J for Quake (and prolly a little more, just because it's her). Except for one minor hitch. Ro's mystery lameness is no longer a mystery: ringbone in all 4 legs. Major bummer, and silence from J's camp.

Me & Rover — before the diagnosis

God bless Heather and Kris, who are both the best friends ever and the most evil people on the planet. They have been willing all along to bend over backwards with money and horseflesh so I can get my little horse, whatever it takes. And believe me, the absurdity of the situation is not lost on any of us (with the notable exception of J): we're talking about a deal involving a lame horse (who will never be truly sound) and a homely, (half) blind one. Now that's funny, I don't care who ya are!

Days later, from somewhere inside me, I hear a voice advising me to step back and relax. The four of us (Heather, Kris, Mr. Fry, and I) have been talking about it every darn day, but suddenly, it hits me like a brick to the head:
I don’t need Quaker as I once did or thought I did. There is and will always be a special place in my heart for him, but Quaker’s fate does not lie with me. It’s no different than outgrowing a boyfriend and knowing you need to move on, regardless of how sweet the guy is. My heart will ache a little, but I’ll get over it.

In part, I blame/credit this decision on my friends. Heather has mentored me, encouraged me, supported me, helped me. She has taught me everything I know. The progress we’ve made with Poco is nothing short of miraculous. Kris has helped, albeit unwittingly, by coming here and riding with me. She calls, asks when (not if) we're riding, and I pick a time because I don't want to disappoint my friend. I have ridden more often and more consistently this year than in the previous 3 years I've had horses. And because I would not want the liability of anyone else riding Poco (funny, no one seems to want to), I'm forced to ride him so Kris can ride Jaz. It's been really good for me and both of my horses.

The Secret
I had not planned on talking about this unless and until it was definite, but my decision to let Quake go doesn't completely make sense unless I let you in on the secret.

I have always loved O (here, here and here). He's so much like Poco, and I think he's gorgeous. I understand him. I have also long admired the foundation Appaloosas bred by our late friend, Sigrid Ricco. Heather has offered me Streak, the blue-eyed baby boy, son of O and Arden (one of Sig's horses), for a price that can barely even be called a token. Throw in that Heather will work with him, and help me work with him.


Arden & Streak

Streak (a few weeks old)

The Catches

  • I have to do something with him — a sport or discipline. From the first time I met him, I was impressed at his gregarious, curious, fearless personality. I think he has the temperament for an amazing trail horse. So maybe competitive trail riding? Heather may opt to work him up for something else as well.
  • O, the last known standing Sugarbush stallion, has been sold to another woman (coincidentally also named Heather), who shares our Heather's passion for the breed. Our Heather will breed O to several mares prior to his departure in the hopes of getting a "keeper" colt for the Sugarbush line. If she does, Streak will be gelded. If she doesn't, Streak will be collected and she'll try that way. So, I have to keep Streak intact until O's foals are born, or until he is about two. I'm okay with that. O will not be that far away, so trying again with him is not out of the question.
  • I added this one. Unless/until I say the word, Streak is for sale. If someone wants to pay "real" money for him, I need to step back. After all, my friends are running a business.

I won't commit to Streak unless/until I’m certain this is the best match for me, all 3 horses, Mr. Fry, and the land. That decision will wait until he's been here awhile for his "big boy lessons".

Quaker is relatively close to the same age as my Boyz, perhaps a bit younger. I got to thinking that if I brought him home, at some point, theoretically, at least, I'll be dealing with 3 geriatric geldings. That could potentially leave me with no riding horse, and I for sure can’t bring a 4th horse on our land, which currently resembles sub-Saharan Africa. But in any case, I think a younger horse makes more sense. A younger horse will continue to teach me and force me to stretch out of my comfort zone in ways that Quake would not. Quake would help me be a more confident rider, but Poco’s already doing that — trial by fire! Think of all I can learn about handling and training with a younger horse. By the time Poco and Jaz are ready to retire or are relegated to lighter riding, Streak will be ready.

I've told Heather that if J does decide to trade back, I will help with Quake’s expenses, and I’ll definitely help care for and exercise him.

There you have it. And since I've revealed every other part of the secret, I'll also tell you that if Streak's new home ends up being here, I've already chosen his new name: Daltrey; as in Roger (The Who), the original blue-eyed rocker. It's not that I'm a rabid fan, but isn't that just the coolest name ever?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Baby's Got Blue Eyes


O Stop Looking
Stonewall Sport Horse (IPSHR)
DOB: March 9, 2010
Sugarbush Harley's Classic O (SDHR) x Quagga's Ardent Sun (ApHC)

Love the tipped ears!
But he's not just another pretty face.
He's gregarious and fearless.

Heather doesn't expect him to get
much taller than Jaz,
though he will be heavier.

Aunt Leah and Uncle Mike will be hosting
the blue-eyed baby boy
after he is weaned.

We'll give him some time at the farm
in a pen with Poco and Jaz,
to see if they all get along.
If so, when it's time to leave,
it will be no big deal for him
to hop into the trailer with his new BFFs.

While here, he will get the basics
on how to be a big boy:
how to stand for being bathed,
groomed, clipped, etc.,
how to walk on a lead.
He's already had his first pedicure,
and I'm told he was perfect,
if a bit wobbly.
We'll also do walkabouts
and gratuitous trailer rides —
LOTS of experiences.

My goal for him is that everything is
just hunky-dory, no big deal,
it's all good.

I expect Streak won't be the only one
to learn a lot from this visit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

They Can't All Be Winners

The horses are becoming downright nonchalant about being trailered to and from the farm. Jaz went to his usual hangout with the junior stallions unless/until someone opted to ride him. Kris was on industrial-strength allergy meds and was in la-la land. She wisely opted not to ride.

How come Jaz gets to play and I gotta work?

Answer: Because you're the one that needs it.

I don't wanna — it's too HOT!

Answer: It sucks to be you, don't it?

A commotion erupted in the junior stallion pen, and I looked over to see O bearing down on Jaz. O is not a junior stallion; he's a full-blown, testosterone dripping 16hh+ Sugarbush stallion, but he has been behaving well enough lately to be run with the little boys. They are in a large L-shaped pen that contains a couple horse trailers, and he must have been behind one of them, flirting with the girls in the pasture. I never saw him. Even if I had, Jaz is a gelding and so submissive, I would have assumed O would have been fine with him. And I'd have been wrong then, too. Jaz escaped being seriously hurt because he's fast enough to outrun O. Heather ran over, opened the gate, and Jaz flew out. She was also kind enough to doctor him for me so I could tend to Pokey, who was still tied to the stocks.

There were lots more nicks, cuts, and scrapes. The above photos were taken much later in the day, after we'd been home and Jaz rolled in the sand. All wounds are superficial, and believe me, I've seen him bashed up a lot worse than this. He is, however, unable to be ridden for awhile because of the location of the big abrasion on his back. And did he play the sympathy card! He banged the feed pan in his stall: "Hey! I'm hurt! Give me grain!"

Jaz wasn't the only casualty. After we were done riding, Poco was tacked down and hosed off, Heather sat on a pile of wood, while we yakked and I hand-grazed Poco. The wood shifted, Heather fell on her butt, and Poco spooked, whipping me around and into the bush grill of their truck. The anthropomorphism police will get me for this, but I swear, whenever he does stupid, chicken-shit things like that (spooking at nothing), he gets the most sheepish expression on his face, as if to say, "Please don't tell anybody I just did that." Anyway, the bruise looks a lot worse than it feels.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: the ride. It was just okay. It was windy and those pesky goats in the round pen got Poco's goat. I rode out a couple good spooks. Although compliant, he never really relaxed like he did last time. I kept us at a walk.

The one time he did put his head down, Heather yelled to pull him up — the stinker really was about to go down on his knees to roll. The good news is, I think I can recognize THAT head drop now: it's straight down (and I can feel his shoulders drop), as opposed to stretched out in front of his body. Maybe next time I'll get to check out the merely-stretching, relaxed head drop.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Operator Error

Remembering how fast we blew through horses at our last play day, I trailered both of mine to the farm again. Turned out, Kris and Nita were not able to join us, so I wouldn't have had to bring them, but a gratuitous trailer ride never hurt anyone.

Jazu was a stinker about being caught both coming and going, but once caught, he loaded without hesitation.

He spent the time playing with the junior stallions while I rode Poco. Well, some of the time. The little boys were interested in trying to impress the girls, which did not impress Jaz.

Heather rode Cayenne, an orphan QH filly she hand-raised. Although she measures barely 14hh, she's got substance and you can see she carries Heather well. Stubborn little girl, though.

It was hot, and Pokey was relaxed and compliant. With barrels, ground poles, and me making him do yo-yos, he was engaged and wasn't trying to anticipate our next move.

I'd like to thank whomever it was who wrote a post about looking where you're going. Sounds like such a no-brainer, but I caught myself looking around, looking down at Poco, etc. No wonder we're all over the place! It went much better when I kept my eyes on my destination. Pokey stayed close to the fence line and didn't short-cut corners. He was a lot more likely to actually walk in a straight line. I didn't have to fine tune every step he took.

The other thing I worked on was sitting back and relaxing, which led to a huge revelation; an 'aha' moment, if you will — I'm holding myself back because I'm holding him back excessively. When Poco drops his head, I tense up because I know he has to have his head down to buck or to drop and roll, both of which he's done. I'm also afraid that if I give him his head, he'll take off. He used to do that to me when I first started to ride him.

In order for us to take our next big step together, I have got to trust him enough to give him his head.

Sounds so easy when I say it like that, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hoofin' It

As teens, that's what we used to say if we were grounded by our parents from car privileges and had to rely on more organic means of transportation, i.e., our own two feet.

I owed Kris a visit, so I made the trek to beautiful Celina, Texas. Kris and Shane recently moved to their neighborhood, which is an interesting place. It's like where I live only the lots are twice as big (10 acres) and it has less trees. Her neighborhood has more horses than mine; most of the properties around ours are heavily wooded.

Kris has Wynnie, a very frail old Arabian mare; Nakai (don't know if I spelled that right), a beautiful, stocky, black-n-green mustang; Cheyenne, an opinionated chestnut mare (QH?), and Voodoo, a gorgeous, splashy Saddlebred gelding. Life has gotten in the way of Kris's spending as much time with her horses as she may have otherwise chosen, so her two rideable ponies — Cheyenne and Voodoo — are not quite ready for prime time. She had not yet introduced them to the neighborhood, so we went walkabout, ponies in tow. Kris led the unpredictable Voodoo, while I took the supposedly easier Cheyenne. Yeah, not so much.

Kris & Voodoo

Me & Cheyenne

We passed horses, llamas, territorial charging, braying donkeys, and Cheyenne was a trooper. Then we went past a place that had a foal, and mama brought baby down to the fence. Mama was a bit protective: "Look at my foal, covet my foal, but I'll kill you if you make a move toward my foal." We moved to the other side of the road to be on the safe side.

Suddenly, Cheyenne started pacing the length of the lead rope (and it was a short lead rope), then swinging back in the other direction, snorting. I saw this little bitty snotty pony no bigger than a Rottweiler pawing and snorting at the fence across the road where the mama and baby were. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that every time Cheyenne went by me, she swung her butt
that much closer to me, pushing me into the fence — my fault for letting her get me in that position. I finally had to let go of the rope and hope for the best. Why that little shit got Cheyenne's dander up is beyond me. Kris said she has seen minis before. She trotted off toward home, but kept stepping on the lead rope, halting herself, and finally, I was able to walk up to her and grab her again. Through it all, Voodoo, who has a reputation for being hyper, was fine.

As you can see, Voodoo is a beautiful boy. I actually was able to get him going in a circle on the lead rope: a first for me (except for Jaz). He is the first Saddlebred I've ever met, so I was a bit unsettled by his high headset. I kept waiting for him to drop his head and relax. It was only after returning home and doing some research that I learned they are "born proud". Okay then.

I wouldn't say this if Kris herself hadn't said it first, but Voodoo is not the brightest crayon in the box. I got the impression that you could show him something one day, and the next he might be a clean slate again. His eyes have this look like la-la-la. His saving grace (besides the fact that he is drop-dead gorgeous) is that he is willing to please. I enjoyed playing with him.

Heather needs to meet Nakai. That is
her kind of horse. He looks like a squooshed Friesian and has lots of 'tude. Beautiful.

Kris and Shane took me to brunch at this great lil greasy spoon in downtown Celina where we had a delicious meal, including fried green tomatoes, good conversation, and lots of laughs.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

You're the Winner...

... if your name is:
Shannon, just for you, I chose an awesome shirt in bright blue, size XL so you and Dear Husband can share it.
Not only did I resist the urge to buy a pink and brown girly version (you're welcome, Matt), but since I know you both pack heat, I made sure firearms were featured prominently. The shirt says, "Cowboy Militia — Compete to Defeat". They had some cool girly variations, (Cowgirl Militia), but they were cut so small, it was laughable. Doesn't the younger generation have boobs?

Every girl deserves a bit-o-bling, so there's this:
Email me your snail-mail address, and I'll get your goodies on their way.

Congratulations and thanks, everyone, for playing. We'll do it again for my 400th post.
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