Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Timeline in pictures

So I won't write too much today but instead share the last few years in pictures with some captions to follow.  I will try and stay in order, but after almost 5 years, things can get confusing.

This is the last photo taken of Possum before he died on May 20th 2011. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss this crazy horse and appreciate all that he has taught me.  I love you Possum.

This is the last photo of Phin and I before he died from lyme disease. A piece of my heart left when he died and I still get tears when I look at pictures or think of him.  He was really my soul mate.

This is my partner Mike and Phin and Jetta. Phin took right to Mike first thing and they were buddies.  I am happy they got to spend time together before Phin passed.

Mike and I one of the first winters we were together, I believe this was late 2010.
The house Mike and I bought in 2011. I absolutely love it here!!
The back and side yard in summer with Chandler in the background. Chandler is Mikes Plott Hound who can be crazy and anxious but with lots of time and patience he has improved greatly.
This is JP, my handsome Tb gelding I got in the summer of 2011. Jockey Club name Travelin John Paul.
This is JP and I schooling at a cross country course about 3 months after I got him.  We mostly just cantered around and did small baby jumps at the trot.  He was very green at this time.

JP and I at his first horse show.  It was a local open show which is where Al started and is still currently showing now :)

JP at his first hunter show, it was soooo hot that day!

JP and I on course at his first hunter show.

JP and I schooling at the same cross country facility one year later. He had grown up soooo much in one year!

Same day schooling cross country.
JP and I at his first water jump, he was such a champ and so awesome!
JP and I marshaling the STB races at the Fryeburg Fair by ourselves, a dream come true!!
Galloping down to the winners circle at the fair
I loved marshaling the races at Fryeburg Fair and JP got more and more confident as the day went on.
Mine and JP's first time fox hunting (It's a drag hunt) I think I found my passion!!  Such a blast.
More fox hunting
Our last outing together was a ride on the beach before the terrible fracture of his coffin bone...
The X-Ray of the fracture.  Not good!
In steps The Understudy (Al) Him and I at his first local show. As you can see he is much shorter than JP.
Al and his friend Poppy with his first trip off the farm with me to the beach. Neither of the horses pictured had ever been to the beach, they were wonderful!
Al and I and a friend and her mare at our first horse show.
Al and I practicing our marshaling skills at the local STB track.
Al at his first ever jumping clinic, this was the flat portion.
Al jumping at a clinic
Al's first blue ribbon ever was in an 18in jumping class out of 13 other horses.  It was such an awesome moment!!
Took Al to his first fox hunt and he was awesome and loved it.  We are both hooked!
Al and I fox hunting watching the hounds work.
Al at the Fryeburg Fair for the first time getting ready to marshal the races for the week.  We both lived on the grounds for the week. I had a little camper and Al had this stall.
Al and I doing our thing out on the track
One of my favorite photos taken of Al and I during the week of marshaling at the fair.
Al and I got a year end award at the local show club.  Sportsmanship award :)
The last fox hunt of last year, it was a cold day!
Al and I at a clinic this spring.
Al and I at a clinic this summer
Al and I jumping at a clinic this summer
JP and Al are best buds!
The newest addition to our family is Charlie.  He joined us this past December from a rescue group.
All four dogs.  Abby, Charlie, Jetta and Chandler on the floor.  My cat Shadow who isn't in the picture is still around as well and doing awesome!
Another of all 4 dogs on the couch.
And last but not least is what has been taking up all my time and money lately, the new barn project.  it is a two stall shedrow with tack room.   I am so excited to be finished and have the boys home with me!!! Only a couple more weeks and it will be a reality.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The little pony that could

So I left off last week letting folks know that I had acquired a second horse, but left the story a cliff hanger.  So I will explain how a rogue pony managed to gain a spot in my heart.  So while JP was out of commission with his fractured coffin bone, the owner of the barn where I was now boarding asked if I wanted to ride and work with this little mutt pony.  He was a round 14.2h short legged thing with terrible conformation and a big gommy head and his history unknown to me at the time.  I took the bait and climbed up on his back with just a rope hater and went around the arena.  The first time I asked for a trot he immediately dropped his inside shoulder, spun around and proceeded to do a highly successful rodeo buck. I came off over his shoulder, but thankfully still had ahold of the reins. I got up quick as a cat and give him a large reprimand and backed him almost the length of the arena and then quickly swung myself back on and asked for a calm trot. He obliged, but begrudgingly.  It was after that incident that I learned of his real history.  Apparently Al (that is and was his name, a very fitting name) could be quite the naughty pony.  He was originally found tied to a dumpster at a fairly reputable morgan farm and the woman who found him decided to take him home and make him her own personal riding horse.  This woman ran a therapeutic riding barn and was a fairly accomplished horse woman from the sounds of it. When she got Al home I guess he proved too much for her in his naughty pony ways and she decided to send him for training at the barn I was at in hopes of finding him a good home. The owner of the barn did some NH training and trail riding with him and he could still be naughty at times but for the most part was OK when ridden regularly every week.  Someone took interest in Al and he was given to them on the condition that if it didn't work out, he would go back to the farm.  They could not sell or give him away to others.  I guess when left to his own devices and not ridden regularly by confident and knowledgeable people he began to be naughty pony again and launched the woman pretty good. After 2 months Al came back to the farm  and a few months after that is when I started riding him, not knowing anything about his background haha.

That first ride on Al when he bucked me off was about the first of March.  He perked my interest because of the challenge he would be and also the fact that I really didn't have another horse to ride for a while. So I continued to work with Al and he was providing to be quite the challenge.  He was super green, meaning that he knew nothing about traveling straight and had no real forward. I learned that he would suck back behind the leg and that was when the bad behavior would start. So I started to ride him forward and straight (sound familiar my dressage friends ;) ) He was pretty clueless so the aids of leg and seat so we basically started from scratch.  As the riding became more advanced, meaning I was asking him too use his body in ways he has never had to do today and be obedient to the aids the naughty behaviors started to dissipate. As the months went by he became more focused on me and the work we were doing instead of rebelling and really seemed to take an interest in jumping.  Small cross rail helped to teach him to be straight and also to know where his body was in time and space., his coordination improved right along with his attitude.

The fall before JP was injured I was asked by the current marshal at the time from the Fryeburg Fair if I wanted to fill in for her on a day when she could not do it.  It was a dream come true and my foot was finally in the door. I co-marshalled with her the day before she couldn't be there to get JP used to the track and STB racing life.  I admit I was super nervous about how JP would be going back to a racing track and STB racing in general.  Things started out a little rough but the day smoothed out as the races went by and we both settled into the job nicely.  The next day I took JP to marshal the races alone and he was spectacular.  As I was leaving that last day of the fair I was approached by the management and asked if I wanted to become their new marshal permanently for the week a year the fair was in operation.  Apparently they had had some difficulty and personality differences with the current one and knew it was something I had always dreamed of doing. I was ecstatic and didn't even hesitate to say yes. Fast forward to February when JP injured his foot and I was sweating bullets wondering of he would be sound enough to do the fair in the fall and if not, who the heck could I train and use to do it???

Then in steps The Understudy. Al had been doing pretty well in his training and it was now May and I felt like he could be ready for his first schooling show.  It was a fun local open show and he did great for his first time out.  We didn't win any blue ribbons or anything, but he was solid and well behaved. We then attended a hunter show in June and he did even better than the open show and put in some really good rounds at the 18in division.  As we were attending open and hunter shows we were also trailering to the local STB track and practicing his marshal skills.  We rods around the track, ponied horses and did mock events that might happen during the races. Al was getting better and better and becoming more confident in the world around him.  He rarely had naughty moments anymore and seemed ready to tackle whatever challenge I threw his way.  His fist big accomplishment came in August when he won a hunter class and came in second in the other one, out of 13 riders.  He was quickly stepping away from the naughty pony label and becoming a good citizen.  He had come in at the perfect time when JP was injured and became the understudy, hence why I decided his show name should be The Understudy.

Then one day I got hit with a dose of reality.  This pony that I had been working so hard with and was becoming a pretty darn good boy was not mine, and in fact the more I posted about him on my Facebook page and people saw him out and about he started to gain some interest by others.  Al was technically still free to a good home and could leave at any time.  So at the beginning of the fall I made the decision that I really wanted this horse who got along so well with JP (They are best friends) and was proving to be a great partner.  I contacted the owner and let her know my intentions but that I could not afford board on two horses. I could build a barn at home like I had always dreamed, but it would be at least 9 months or so until I could save the money and have the project finished.  Al's owner agreed to keep paying his board until I could get my barn finished and then I could take him home with JP.  I was so happy, but quickly went into planning mode and how was I going to fund this barn project and then build it.  I saved all winter as much as I could and into the spring.  By the spring I had to light a fire under my BF to get started on this project as it would take some time to finish.  Slowly the ground work got done.  Trees were cut and stumped and gravel was laid down.  Then holes were dug for sonatubes to be filled with cement that would be mixed by hand.  Slowly but surely things started to take shape.  As of today the barn has been framed and waiting for a roof and siding.  Running water and electricity will take shape probably in a month or two because we will need a water source close to the barn that will not freeze in the winter and be easily accessible.

So that is the story of Al and how he came into my life.  I certainly was not shopping around for a new horse, but it just kind of happened and seemed to fall into place.  This year JP is 9yo and Al is guessed to be about 11.  JP is doing well and should start riding again after the abscess in probably a couple weeks and Al has been super all summer.  Because of the barn building and my lack of funds we are only doing small shows that are affordable. Most of my time right now is spent working on the barn all weekend and week nights just going to feed and take care of them at the farm they are still boarded at. I am anxious to get the boys home and start this new chapter of our journey together.  I am definitely going to miss not having an indoor at all times, but I have a horse trailer and can trailer to local indoors in the summer.  I will find a way to keep riding and make it all work out.

So tomorrow I will post a timeline of photos so you all can see with your own eyes what I have been writing about, and later on in the week I will do a post on the week Al and I spent marshaling the races at the Fryeburg Fair, a dream come true for me.  But I will leave you with a cute pic of JP and Al last week outside in their paddock in all their fly gear.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm Back!!!

As the movie Poltergeist says "They're baaaack". It's been 4 years and I decided to resurrect my blog after some prodding from friends.  After about an hour of trying to remember passwords and user names I finally was able to log back in and take a look back at my life 4 years ago.  Wow have things changed! Some have changed for the better and some not without a lot of heart break. So let's just take a minute to quickly recap the last 4 years of my life... Well first, I lost my beloved Possum to sand colic in May of 2011, and 3 short months later I lost my best friend and dog Phin due to complications of lyme disease. This was without a doubt the hardest thing emotionally I have ever had to overcome in the my life.  Thankfully I was in a relationship at the time (And still am) with someone who was very supportive and basically just let me fall apart and try and deal with things from the ground up.  When Possum died I was lost not having a horse in my life and not having equestrian goals anymore. My parents thought I should take a break from horses and just get my life together but after a couple of months I felt like I had been starving and was gasping for the air that it was to have a horse again.  I did keep riding horses at the boarding barn but as most of you know, it's just not the same. I casually browsed online sale, ads mostly free for the taking and came across a young TB in Mass. On a whim I called and set up an appointment to drive the 3 hrs down there to look at him. I kept my emotions at bay pretty well and just tried to look at him objectively. He was a stunning almost black 16.2 hands 6yo gelding who had been off the track for about 5 months.  His owner got him off the track and just never bonded with him and was pretty nervous of riding a green horse.  Her trainer had ridden him twice and her daughter rode him about 4 times. I hopped on him walk, trot and he was great, kind of quirky personality but super fun and forward. I went home and thought about it a week before making a decision, as this would be a lifetime commitment. I decided to take him and made arrangements to go down and pick him up the following weekend. JP was green but caught on quickly and we had a lot of fun learning together. The same summer I got JP, my partner and I bought a house 4 miles from the barn that needed to be finished. I thought everything was finally working out, but that August my Phin died and I was thrown for a loop again. Just when I thought I was getting it back together, the universe knocked me down again.

As I slowly healed from those two big losses, our house was also slowly being finished and JP was coming along in his riding. He loved to jump and run and we were quickly forming a solid bond.  I found him to be so much easier than Possum. There were no fights no real struggles and his athleticism was 10x that of Possum. JP did teach me one thing though, and that was about emotions. I could not lose my cool with him, if I became emotional in any way he would just shut down and not move no matter what I did.  This really made me take a look at myself on a deeper level and helped to make my riding and training that much more advanced. As things were starting to once again come together and my partner and I moved into our newly finished home, the barn where I boarded for years and was my safe haven and where all my friends and supports were, was starting to unravel. The number of horses on the farm kept increasing while the help and daily chores decreased.  Breeding of horses was getting out of control while the resources to feed and keep them became more scarce. I became more and more concerned and made sure I was at the farm every day to make sure my horse had food and water. The owners' focus had shifted from good quality riding and horse care to maintaining a dating life and her own physical image. As much as she lost weight and stopped eating, so were many of the horses on the farm. Others shared my concerns but felt that if they just tried harder to help her and make sure things were taken care of, it would somehow right itself.  Having a background in psychology and working in the social services field, I knew that this was just a way of smoothing over symptoms and not really getting to the root of the problem. Things had festered for so long I felt that this had really turned into a psychological problem.  I had a very hard tome coming to terms with this because the owner was my friend and someone who I had respected and looked up to for her experience and riding. On an early winter evening an intervention was formed and with care and delicate wording it was decided that we would band together and confront the owner about the serious issues that were ensuing on the farm. We all agreed to help and support as much as we could and formulated a plan as such, as long as the owner admitted that there was a problem and wanted to make a behavior change. Well, as I'm sure you can tell, things didn't work out that well and a divide and conquer technique was used as a defense mechanism that because highly successful in planting the seed of doubt in others minds. Because I had already mentally and emotionally come to terms with what had become a reality on the farm, I became the scapegoat for these doubts and marked a villain because my perception of reality did not waiver as these waves of doubt washed over others. Another series of abuse and neglect happened at the farm and it was at that time I decided to do what was best for JP and myself and that was to move to another barn. I knew the owner would not take it well, but I finished up my chores for the week and only after I was done did I let her know that not only had I decided to leave, but the reasons why I was leaving.  Well this went over worse than a fart in church and she quickly became defensive and tried backpedaling and as a last resort began yelling accusations at me.  It was at that point I realized that the relationship I once had with a pretty awesome person and horse woman had come to an end. Even the weather at the time seemed to indicate it, it was drizzling, freezing rain with dark angry clouds on the verge of dusk. I made arrangements on the following day to pick up JP and move to another barn. As one chapter closed, another was beginning. I'm not going to lie though, I was really scared for the horses and other animals on the farm.  Now that I could not personally put eyes on them everyday I had no idea how they were doing. I had formed relationships with these animals and cared very much for them.  After I had moved to another barn I heard snip-its of goings on at the farm and it was not positive at all.  My heart still aches for what was and how much fun it used to be up there and the great amount of support we all felt.

On the topic of barns, my partner and I are currently in the process of building a barn at home.  A two stall shed row with a grain and tack room and a small loft.  Why 2 stalls you ask.....Well I have acquired another horse! I will save a post on Al for another day hehehe.

So after I moved JP to another barn about 30 min away he suffered a pasture accident 2 weeks after moving. He somehow fractured his coffin bone on the frozen ground. After weeks of thinking that it was an abscess (they have similar symptoms) I trailered him to get a x ray and sure enough it was a nasty fracture. So once again when things seem like they are looking up, I get knocked down flat on my ass again.  I was devastated at the thought of possibly losing this horse that I had grown to love. Thank goodness I had brought a friend with me who was a big support and kept me talking to keep my brain moving and not get stuck on the woe is me saga. I decided to pour myself into JP's recovery and give it my best shot.  He was a wonderful patient through it al. He was fitted with a cuff shoe to keep the foot encased and out in a small paddock to keep his movement to a minimum.  It was long year and few months but gradually he began to heal and become more sound. It was a real tough time for me and a time of reflection. I really had to step back and take a hard look at myself and what I wanted and expected in my horses. It made me more humble and appreciate for what I do have.  I started working with a project horse on the side at the barn to take up my time and keep me riding. I will post about that tomorrow ;)

JP is now doing awesome. He became totally sound this spring and I was able to ride him again.  I will never forget the feeling of climbing up on his back when I had my doubts that I would ever see the world from that view again. I was absolutely giddy and he was more than happy to move out. I felt like I had the use of my own legs again and freedom had once again opened its doors to me. JP is currently getting over a pretty nasty abscess in the non-broken foot, but anything after this past fracture seems like small beans to me! Once he is sound again we will start back at the beginning and slowly build up his fitness once again. Through this whole ordeal I have come to appreciate the journey so much more than I used to. I don't take any day with my animals for granted and make sure to love them as much as I humanely can. With all of the ups and downs in the past four years I have definitely grown intellectually, emotionally and mentally. There have been smiles, tears, fists clenched in anger and frustration, feelings of helplessness and through it all being thankful.

Well, it's been a long time since I have written this much and my fingers are starting to cramp so I guess I will sign off for the day. I think I will stick with this blogging thing again for a while. It's cathartic to be able to write down my thoughts and feelings again, since let's face it, I have a lot of them! haha. I guess tomorrow I will start with my second horse, the standby pony who has brought me so much unexpected joy and helped me to achieve a dream and goal that I have always wanted to accomplish. So I leave you today with lyrics from an older song that has been swirling around in my head for a few days now. I think it appropriate for this time in my life and with the new breath of life given to this blog. Also, take a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7PufAygAxI
Play Music

I see the world
Feel the chill
Which way to go
I see the words
On a rocking horse of time
I see the birds in the rain

Oh dear dad
Can you see me now
I am myself
Like you somehow
I'll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I'll hold the pain
Release me

Oh dear dad
Can you see me now
I am myself
Like you somehow
I'll wait up in the dark
For you to speak to me
I'll open up
Release me
Release me
Release me
Release me