Six Months of Change

Every horse deserves to be loved by a little girl at least once in his life

Well, I last posted well over a year ago, and at that time I was working very hard with Chance to continue our improvements. It would have been only about 3 months later that Chance’s attitude took a turn for the worse and we began to backslide. Nearly every ride was a bit of a battle and he was rarely sound.

Long story short, six months ago I said good bye to my best friend. Chance had an old injury to his hip from his racing days in which I thought I would always battle, but just keep nursing. It turned out that about May 15, 2013 he finally told me what he had been trying to tell me for a while, that what I was doing to him was too much, he was done. I took him to a vet in Phoenix who confirmed my thoughts, that he was pretty much destroying what was left of his hip socket. He could be a pasture pet, no more.
For me to ask a six year old HOT thoroughbred to be a pasture pet while we walked in constant pain was too much, so I made the incredibly heart wrenching decision to put him down. Chance, my Chance and I took the final walk, the most painful walk of my life and I gave him the peace he deserved. Too soon. It all happened too soon, I only had Chance for two years, after only planning to have him for six months top…. but boy did he make an impact on me. I loved his quirks, his tendency towards mischief, his athleticism…. his eyes. I loved most his eyes, always looking toward me.

July 3, 2013. Six months, 2 days ago. Such a hard decision, among other turmoil in my life, this was definitely a change. I miss him daily, but I still know, as all horse people do, that I made the right decision by the horse, however, even now a huge painful lump forms in my throat as I think of those last days, our last ride, our last treat.

I still remember the reason I named him Chance, and I really feel like a better name for a horse could not be had. Chance gave me opportunities to grow as a rider and as a person that I never could have found without him. He taught me so much and his final gift to me was another AMAZING Chance- we’ll get to that soon. I will forever remember that horse, the horse he was, and the horse he could have been. I know he is running on clouds and spooking all the other horses with his naughtiness. And most of all, I know he is no longer in pain. I miss my Chance.


Getting it Straight

You would not believe how hard Chance and I have been working. I have never ridden so hard in my life, and the crazy thing is every few weeks I find yet another level of work that is still left to do. It is incredible. Lately we have been working on getting my body correct, and like magic Chance fixes himself…. it is incredible and so self evident. But alas, I keep uncovering things.

Our recent goal is to get forward motion while having him come evenly into both reins. This is building on my previous goal of getting a real connection with him, which I do not even pretend to have, but we continue to work on it. Before I had him going into the bridle, but he was too light in my hands, with nothing behind it, now we are on the road. The other day I realised that every time we go to a jump he fades to the right, and I set off today to discover the root of that issue, and I think I found it. I do not engage my left tailbone, I collapse with my right side and my elbows I have discovered are nowhere near where they should be!!! Imagine all these things that I am missing and yet, I continue to ride. As I worked on the simple act of lifting my ribcage, my horse for a few strides, would straighten. WOW. This riding thing sure is cool.

I digress. I am here, in Arizona alive and well. Chance made it too, he is better than ever, really. He is looking like he should, a hunk of a beautiful thoroughbred, although I had to change his diet upon coming here to mostly all alfalfa, he handled the transition and is just blossoming. I swear every day he grows, but he sure has widened out and every single day I count myself lucky that I have him. My big boy is going to be officially 6 here in a 10 days, (even though his real birthday is in March) and I feel like his antics can no longer be chalked up to baby energy. I am coming to more of a realization; I own a hot thoroughbred. Now that he is fit, he is not only powerful but crafty. He can duck faster than any horse I have ever ridden, but the ironic thing is that he is so dang athletic that I can stick his naughtiness. He gets ridden 6 days a week, has a stall and a pen to himself and a new best friend, my trainers horse ‘Z.’ I also have an arena that is groomed constantly and a whole set of nice jumps that only I use, so I never have to change heights and such… wow am I sounding spoiled.

Arizona, by my measure is a sure different animal than Colorado. Besides the obvious dedication to its’ western heritage, it is distinctly more horsey, all the while being less horsey. Sorry, double talk. I think in some ways horses are more widespread, and who could not like the riding year round, but it also seems more ‘backyard’ people than Colorado. Maybe quality vs quantity thing? Not sure… but I sure do like it, although I suppose just more of my interaction by choice are horse people, so it seems like there are more??? Who knows. I know that I do appreciate my life, especially after writing about it.

Our goals are forever the same, maybe this year I will finally enter my boy in his first event… still aiming for a beginner novice event. We have been trying to get to schooling shows, but lately circumstances have not allowed. We did get to another dressage show, and this one was worlds better than the first. He behaved, actually he was stellar, we rode three tests and actually placed in the small classes. His first truly earned ribbon, I suppose that was a big milestone for my boy. We have been schooling 2’3 courses, but are about to up the heights back to 2’6. I would really like to get up to 2’9 here soon. He is so solid right now that for once I am not worried. I am finally over my refusing, defensive position and with it Chance stopped his refusing behavior. Another magic remedy… just kidding. Maybe tomorrow we will up our heights, I can only hope.

Well this was mostly a blog of blab. I guess a little catch up. Hopefully from now on it can be less about my floating through life and more of a ottb’s journey to his first event??? I can hope. I can still have analysis, but I have so much to write about riding and my super cool horse. Forever working, forever striving to be better.

Hard Work Pays Off: The Big Announcement!

It has been a solid four months and so much has happened I do not even know where to begin. This past month marks a year spent with the horse who really has given me so much joy I cannot begin to express it. Chance came into my life as a resale project and because of his injuries and everything he has found a semi permanent home with me. If I could find him his perfect match I would really love to move him on, but for now he and I are partners.

This summer I took a job at a camp outside of Estes Park, about 1.5 hours away from home, which has not only eaten my gas money, but provided me with so much learning and some good times. I was the riding director for a small horse program with some wonderful staff members, some horrible staff members, some wonderful horses, some horses who jump on top of you in the middle of a river, you know the usual horse job. I rode some amazing trails, rode some amazing and funny horses, and got to know myself as a manager and as a staff member still learning. I got to really apply some first aid knowledge which I loved and generally had ups and downs, but mostly ups. BUT. Here is the

BIG NEWS. I got a job. Not just a job, but one that might blossom into a potential career, or if not a career, I have a job to do for the next few years. I am headed back to Arizona, to the camp you might remember I worked at in 2010, but this time as a faculty member, or a provisional one for the next year. All I know at this point is I have a job, I will be working with the horses, be part of a team have dorm dutiesūüė¶ and will be bringing my horse and cat with me. Not a great knowledge, but it is enough for me right now…. I am Ms. Flexibility…. or I am¬† trying to be. Oh, and I leave in (Checking calender) 10 days. TEN. TEN DAYS. I will be renting a Uhaul, shipping chance and packing the kitty to join me. Although I am slightly panicked, I am also so very excited to try something new and really stretch my legs. And it is a job with horses, that is pretty much all I could have hoped for.

I just cannot express to you, how much it means to me to have found this job. It was offered to me on my last day of classes, and I know just how lucky I was to have this opportunity, literally as I was graduating college (oh yeah, I graduated!!!) I got the job of my dreams. I hesitate to use the phrase dream job yet, as I am not even positive what the job is yet, other than teaching and dorm duties, but it is a job with horses and that it all I wanted since I was 5 years, no, 3 years old. Against all odds, I am the only person I know who got the job they wanted just out of school, and it was not luck- I did not simply fall into this position, I worked from the time I was 10 years old to make a name for myself and to prove that I was not just another horse crazy girl who would grow out of it. I followed my heart and made it happen. Finally after blood, sweat and tears, I made my dreams come true. If you had asked me 10 years ago, what I would be doing right now, chances are I would say exactly this, working with horses, owning a horse and being happy. And boy oh boy am I happy.

This was just a quick catch up post, I might post again more about Chance news and the details of the move, but tonight, I just revel in typing these happy words and again bask in the warmth of achieving my dreams.

shorter stirrups, signs of spring.

No time is wasted which that is spent in the saddle.

I cannot believe how excited I am to report that the weather seems to have broken, it is a balmy 60+ degrees here in beautiful Colorado, and Chance and I are moving along well. In our lesson the other day we did not get further than going over a pole on the ground, but he was unusually hyper and seemed to really not want to relax. Some of that might have been my fault because I shortened my stirrups and was really tense and uncomfortable. In other words, wow, I am out of shape! I was huffing and puffing in just a few canter circles. I thought I was working hard, but I think I just realized that I need to work harder and harder. We had a blast though, worked on getting him to relax and settle into jumping and such. The exercise we focused on was just getting him to relax and trot and canter the pole, while I kept a better contact with relaxed elbows. I have had really stiff hands so relaxing my elbows has become my biggest working point. It also helps me develop a following hand over the fences, therefore helping him to use himself better. I just have to remember that form to function, even within my own body is essential for my riding and his success.

Yesterday because of a huge test I was unable to ride, which was probably all the better because I was so very sore, and I think he might have been too. Today we rode for a while to step up what we worked on in the lesson. I started over a pole and increased it to a cavaletti and then a small crossrail. By focusing on just trotting those elements we were able to take all of them without a problem. We then moved on to a series of fences that were about 2’ maybe 2’3 and a small oxer, working on the same principles. He was an angel, a slightly tired angel I think. At our last fence I think he stepped on a rock and came up lame, so we ended there, but he quickly worked out of it and was fine after our grooming session. It did give me a slight heart attack.

Tomorrow Chance gets his feet done by a new farrier, which I am thrilled about.  Hopefully he will be able to work with us and get him a little more comfortable with lighter shoes. He also needs to have his whole foot brought back underneath himself, and a little less toe to decrease the resistance to his breakover. As I said, I am really excited about it, and I look forward to seeing if it helps his movement more. We also had a wonderful relaxing grooming session, he is starting to shed a little bit, which is so exciting! I cant wait for summer, even the thought of getting his summer coat is so exciting! I guess today I am just looking forward to the future, and all the promise that it brings. Chance is truly that, my Chance to achieve my goals.

Cold. Windy. Riding.

“Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory.”

I have not wanted to post for a while because I have felt extremely negative lately. However, riding really makes me so very happy. The wind has just been awful out here, just ripping, but Chance and I made some progress, even when the only dry ground we had was a 20 meter circle, but lots of lateral work and bending happened during those days.

Anyway, by persevering we have made some solid progress, he is finally bending and strengthening to the left, picking up the left lead and is less nervous with other riders in the arena, definite progress. I suppose that I do need to digress, I went to Europe for 2 weeks in January and when I got back Chance seemed to have lost his brain. He did not do well having that time off. We rode a few days without incident, and then went to the indoor down the road and it was a slight disaster. He sweated and jigged, kicked out at me when I lunged him, reared and struck, really was bad. Ok he was horrible. After that rough day we had baby bootcamp, where he worked his butt off for about 2 weeks, lunging and going all the way back to the basics. Finally we did get back on track, that was all the way back in January and we just started jumping again this week. That is our quick catch up. We went from really reall rough to back on track.

In other misc. times, I did my first clip job, on my own horse and discovered that I really liked it! I had so much fun perfecting it, although Chance had much less fun than I. Chance and I have really formed a deep bond, he really follows me, trots to meet me in the pasture, just makes me feel like a million bucks.

Today I was sick of riding in the wind, and decided to try something a little different, we went in the round pen just to see what he would do. Chance hooked on like we had done it every day of his life, and then we worked on some other fun moves. He learned to disengage his hips both directions and started learning how to back up in response to my cues. I also learned how much he does not like me on his right side, he protects his right eye diligently, so now I will start to work more off the right side. What an interesting discovery.

Tomorrow we have a lesson with our trainer, so hopefully will have some interesting new tricks and such to share, hopefully going to work on him being more relaxed about jumping, and maybe do some more coursework!! YAY!

The pictures on this post are from two days ago, just some fun riding, nothing really too interesting, just some flatwork and then a bit of crossrail work.

stepping stones.

Horses lend us the wings we lack.

Today¬†Chance was a¬†rockstar- again. Still working on our left lead, such a weird thing¬†for a off the track thoroughbred to have trouble with especially when we are jumping 2’6. Oh yeah, by the way we bumped¬†some¬†fences up to 2’6 today!!! Ok, it might have been a tad under, but nearly¬†there!!! The best part of the¬†day was that we got some awesome pictures. He looks sooo good and my leg needs work, but the foundation is thereūüôā It sure makes the¬†little crossrail pic from¬†the other day look like a bit of a wimpy picture, but all well :

I cannot believe I have had him for five months! What an impressive progression we have made. Sometimes I wonder if he was just too easy, I mean as thoroughbreds go he is a very mellow and tolerent horse, sometimes he gets excited but never hot, and I forget that he really is only 4. Atleast we reached our goal of jumping 2’6 and we can now just keep working at this level. Again, I need to make myself bust out the dressage saddle and get him off his forhand a bit more. I am just over the moon about this exciting step though. What a boy!

Still looking forward to our goals for the summer, and now they seem a little more in our sights. He is ready to go higher, and now we need to get our coursework down and school cross country and dressage. On our way. On our way

muttering about the cold

stupid stupid cold. There are 2 days left of classes. 5 Finals. 2 Presentations. One Paper. 14 days until I go to my parents for christmas and 19 days until Ireland/European Excursions. I am slowly checking things off the countdowns. I am also doing that in the first big cold snap to take over Northern Colorado. By cold snap I mean the high the other day was 10*. UGH. Usually this cold does not hit until January or February, which is such a bummer, yeah, global warming my sweet tuckas.

I have not been able to ride for a week, as my four year old thoroughbred reminded me the moment I took up contact on the reins today, he launched like a rocket into racing speed. It took me a while to mellow him out. We did so many transitions mostly from sitting trot to posting trot to halt to walk and variations of the pattern. He eventually loosened his jaw and listened to me, I even threw in some canter transitions, and despite a few jumps from the starting gate some of them were as smooth as butter. It is nice when hard work pays off. Only got the left lead once today, and that was inadvertant, at best. Some days it is like his left leg does not exist, so incredibly annoying, especially on todays like today where one off move turned him into a bundle of nerves again. I am further bummed because work and classes prevent me from riding the next couple of days. Hopefully the weekend temperatures will allow riding, I even feel bad for Chance when it is so cold. I figure if I am miserable he is probably not comfortable either. At the least I probably dont ride my best then either.

stupid stupid cold.

I started looking at the 2012 eventing schedule. I am so very excited to actually have my sights on it. My goal is to do a couple of beginner novice events. Beginner novice is the lowest recognized USEA¬†level with jumps up to 2’7. I think it is a good goal, withstanding that¬†Chance can handle it. I could not be more excited!!!¬†I really hope that it works out. With the whole graduating thing on the horizon, I am a little concerned that I might set goals and then be unable to reach those goals-¬†but it never hurts for a little planning. Here’s hoping I can get a ride to these events, I think the first big purchase when i¬†get a real job will be a serviceable truck and trailer.

Graduation. Impending. What a thought. I really really¬†hope that I can find a job, or something that will sustain me. I could stick with the same job I have now, but it is not really fulfilling, or pay well. I would like something in the horse industry, but who knows. I have been searching job sites and intend to invade the next few equine events with a business card (which I am now making the mental note to create) and my resume with the hopes of conning my way into a job. Here’s hoping!

stupid stupid cold. Back to creating a presentation for tomorrow. Back to freezing my rear off. Back to wishing I could ride my horse.

stupid stupid cold.

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