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One of Those Days

September 19, 2009

I had a very bittersweet day at the barn yesterday – had a wonderful time with Lily, and agreed with my trainer that I will be riding her in almost all of my lessons from now on. This is partially because the gelding that I have been riding is probably going to be re-homed soon. A woman is interested in him, and they are going through a trial period to see if they’re a good fit. He is by all means a wonderful horse, and deserves a great home with lots of attention, but I will be very sad to see him go. He is really the horse that gave me my confidence back and taught me how to feel true harmony between horse and rider. My time with him has helped me with Lily leaps and bounds. In that time, I also grew very attached to him.

When I walked out to the pasture yesterday, the two of them were grazing together. I always imagined having my own property with the two of them as buddies one day. He is a wonderful horse but not sound for more than flatwork and very low jumping, but he and Lily get along well and I would have loved to have taken both of them home one day.

This is one of the hardest things about loving horses – even when you have that one special horse, you can still form a partnership with another, and saying goodbye is still painful.

Suppleness and Moving Forward (or Consistency)

September 14, 2009

I had a marathon day at the barn yesterday to make up for lost time: I got to the barn at eight and gave Lily a marathon grooming since she somehow managed to roll in mud when the entire pasture is bone dry. (I actually saw her do it – she takes one of the big rubber buckets we use as water troughs and pulls on the handle until it sloshes over the sides. Grey Lily no more!) Then we took a lovely early morning walk around the property and I just enjoyed being around her for awhile.

I then turned her back out, and caught my trainer’s gelding for a lesson. For months now we have been getting him in shape with lots of transitions and trotting. He can be supple, willing, and on the bit for a few steps, but he had been breaking out of it almost right away because he was horribly out of shape. I’m the only one who rides him, and since a lot of my attention has been directed towards riding Lily, I haven’t been working with him more than once a week these past few months.

Over the past few weeks we have been able to keep that wonderful, forward, supple movement for longer each ride. Our work has finally paid off, because yesterday we had a wonderful lesson in which we both stayed supple and relaxed through almost the whole ride – what a feeling when his hindquarters are actually engaging! Suddenly sitting deep with a long, relaxed leg wasn’t such a struggle anymore. My hips stayed open and my seat balanced, and I could feel his mouth perfectly through figure eights, serpentines, and, one of our big struggles: canter transitions. Once we’re a couple strides into the canter we collect up fine, but normally that initial transition is a lumbering stumble. When he was on the bit and moving correctly forward at the walk, it was not a problem – imagine that! Sounds so simple, but such a click moment.

After I put him away, I got Lily out again and we went for a relaxing ride outside. My seat was still in perfect lesson mode, and it made a huge difference – her trot was forward and springy without nagging on my part. Isn’t it amazing how many training “problems” end up being rider/handler error? The good news is I am sure working up some leg muscles now that I often ride two horses in a day when I go out there. Now I’m wishing that we had a cross-country course I could try my hand at on my trainer’s gelding. I can’t wait for it to be Lily and I someday.

As Promised

September 1, 2009

I have lots of pictures to share today! It’s my last week of summer, and I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m working with Lily as much as possible before I’m back living in Chicago and making the trip out to see her at crazy hours of the day. 

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Lily’s chest is still tiny – once she finally stops growing and builds up muscle, I’m betting she’ll look less awkward. Luckily she’s not growing tall as quickly anymore, so hopefully she won’t top 15.1 or 15.2. 

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Look how well she’s filling out! You can tell she’s still mid-growth spurt, though. 

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She was grumpy when I told her to stand and wouldn’t rub her face. 
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Hera, one of the kittens that survived, and the litters’ foster mom (also a stray), Soleil. 

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Chuck and Soleil.

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I can’t resist that adorable face!

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Ross and I walking into the reception for his sister’s wedding. 

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With the bouquet and garter. 

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Dancing. 

Ross and I celebrated our five year anniversary on Saturday – I can’t believe it’s been that long already. I’m so lucky to have found him – there are not many boyfriends who would fly to Texas with me to find my dream horse, and make the continual trip out to the barn to keep me company when no one else is there. Cannot wait to get him up and riding; it’s a shame Lily’s not exactly a beginner horse, as wonderful as she is. 

Whew – that was a lot of uploading! I have another lesson tomorrow, so I’ll update again soon.

August 21, 2009


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August Update

August 13, 2009

Lily and I have been taking lessons about every other week now, and I have been working with her on my own about four days a week. She is so spunky now that she is out with the herd, and though it is sometimes challenging (she has her little “mare” moments, followed by what can only be described as a pout when I don’t let her have her way) it is so good to see her full of life. She has the cutest, most floaty trot when she moves out, which she has been doing much more readily lately. We’ve really been working on softening her responses so that she takes less oomph to get going. If I can, I’d like to get a video of her to post up here because she is moving so much more gracefully now that she has filled out. 

She has also established herself as the head of the herd somehow – the four or five geldings and two mares that are out with her never stood a chance. She seems quite pleased with herself when just a look can send the other horses away from her. 

I have been riding early in the morning when it’s cool, and it’s a good thing – besides Lily and the other horses at the barn, I have finally finished moving from my first apartment to my new one, and everything that goes along with that. I’ve been working at the nursing home full time for the summer and helping out with the cat rescue. The rest of the kittens exposed to the distemper have been cleared, and eight more were released to us. They’re so adorable that it’s hard to remember I have enough mouths to feed as it is!

First Ride (in awhile!) and Some Hard Things

July 20, 2009

I went out to the barn this morning and went through some ground work with Lily. Every time we work together I can tell she is trying a little harder for me – I free lunged her in the indoor today tacked up, and after a few minutes she was so focused in on me that she was making a nice little lunge-line sized circle. Unfortunately my saddle is a little wide on her, which I didn’t notice when I first tacked her up awhile ago because of how my seat saver looks. I’m sure it’s because she still has some filling out to do, so I have to decide whether to have a saddle fitter out, or buy a ThinLine pad until she grows into it. Right now she is growing up (I want to stick her soon, I feel like she’s about 15.1) and so all her nutrients are going there. She is filling out a little more, but it’s a slow process! 

Anyway, I couldn’t resist hopping on her and walking and trotting a little. I didn’t want to do anything much because I know an ill-fitting saddle must not be comfortable, but she was still great. I mostly worked her on a long rein and let us get used to each other under saddle. No pictures of the ride since I was alone, but I took a few of her myself: 

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The adorably obnoxious Halflinger is Benny, her boyfriend. 🙂

In not-so-happy news, it has been a tough week for the other animals around here. I help out with Ross’s sister’s cat rescue that she just started up, and a recent litter of kittens they received from a woman who found them in her backyard turned out to have distemper. The poor things were little balls of fur and so friendly. They were dehydrated, so we were giving them IV fluids, but besides that learning to trust people. Three of the four died within a few days of each other and then, because it is highly infectious, one of the kittens from another litter they had been caring for for awhile died. She was almost ready to be adopted out, and we were all attached to her. The other four kittens are still with us, and are to be quarantined for two weeks. After that, the vet said, they will be out of the woods. 

On the flip side, another “horse rescue” in the area went awry. The women no longer has enough money to feed the horses or pay someone to muck their stalls, and apparently has too much pride to tell anyone. My trainer was called there by a concerned boarder at this rescue who decided enough was enough and wanted to move her two horses. I was appalled when I saw them, they are skin and bone. How you could let your horse get to that point and just watch, I do not know. The woman has been reported, I’m hoping the state will act quickly. My trainer told me that the horses are now shut in their stalls all the time because then it is harder to see the horses and how they are doing, and no one will see them from the road. Clearly this woman KNOWS that she is abusing the poor horses, and has too much pride to do anything about it.

Finally, A Spare Moment

July 1, 2009

I thought that things would calm down with summer, but of course life never does! So, once again, I apologize for the lack of updates recently but I’m making up for it with a few pictures and some updates:

Lily has been wonderful. Our bond is growing so much and I can see the change in her from being out with the other horses. She is happier, more playful, and more willing to work. I’m sure a part of that is also that she is feeling better, but I can tell that she enjoys the company. I’ve taken her all over the farm now, and she is much more relaxed in some of the “scarier” places. I keep wanting to take her out for our first ride in the round pen, since the outdoor is unfenced and the indoor is usually busy and too dark for pictures, but the round pen is consistently underwater these days so if the rain doesn’t stop coming just as it’s about to dry up I’m just going to have to find a quiet day inside and get pictures later. 

I think most of you remember Julie, the Appaloosa mare I took care of for about 2 years. I went to visit her the other day with her owner, one of my good friends. She is at a retirement barn of sorts – the lady has nice pastures and a barn, but not many riding/training amenities – and is doing well. She’s still lame, though, and so her owner is going to let her live out the rest of her days being spoiled and hanging out in the pasture with her new friends as long as she is comfortable. 

The pictures I promised – some with Lily, and one of Julie and I at her new home:

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