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.

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