Saturday, June 29, 2013

June Recap

Well, so June happened.

So far this summer, we've been riding a lot. In May my total was over 28 hours. I've never ridden that much in a month before. At least, not since I've been keeping track. And honestly probably not since before I was keeping track, either. June has been not quite as much riding, but it's been busy in other ways. All of a sudden I'm an author, and being an author takes a surprising amount of time. I suddenly need to tweet and blog and promote my book. And while so far I've had a lot of positive feedback and the whole experience has been quite rewarding, it's really eating into the amount of time I spend writing about my horses. (!)

Since I'm so behind, I'm going to give a short update for each horse (in order of appearance (in my life)).


Steen has been amazing lately. My mother in law visited earlier this month, and rode Steen twice. He was an utter doll for her. We rode in the tree pasture two days in a row, and we walked and trotted around. She has a good seat and fantastic attitude and was happy to be out with us, and he took care of her even when things fell apart with Zoey (more on that later) and overall just outdid himself in the 'solid mount' category.

In that same vein, I am suddenly a horseback riding instructor. We had a friend, Jane, out to meet Zoey a few weeks ago. She has been riding most of her life, but in a 'rough and ready' sort of way. She wants to learn refinement, and she might be looking to get her own horse in the fall. There is a chance she and Zoey could be a really good match in a month or two, once they both learn a little more. So in the meantime she'll be riding our other horses once a week, and probably Zoey a bit too (she already rode her once and that went well). And who knows? Maybe it will lead to a pretty awesome outcome for everyone concerned.

I gave Jane her first lesson last Tuesday. She rode Steen, and he was great for her too. I can't believe the way he will tolerate things lately, not getting ruffled even when people who aren't me ride him in ways he's not used to. Luckily Jane is both a willing and apt student, and it hopefully won't be long before their communication is a bit more streamlined.


Things with Laredo have also been pretty darn excellent lately. Brian and I have both been making a concerted effort to eradicate the gray zone in our handling with him, and it's really paying off. A couple weeks ago we had the most amazing trail ride. Brian rode Bear, I rode Laredo. We were out for an hour and a half, and we walked, trotted and loped through areas we hadn't been in almost a year. Laredo was so stoked to go, and he stayed engaged with me the whole time. He was smooth and relaxed and curious, the only hiccup being going up and down a really slippery, muddy slope where he got a bit anxious. But we got through that and recovered to have a pretty awesome lope on the way home.

We've also had a few great rides in the tree pasture lately. It's a good space for him, because we can use the trees as obstacles, but there are also large open areas to work on various things in. Earlier this week we (finally) brought a tarp out to the barn to add to our groundwork arsenal, and this has been a good challenge for all our horses.

Increasingly, Laredo is feeling solid and easy to be around. His ear issues are gone, his rooting and nose-out tendencies have pretty much disappeared as well. It's pretty fabulous. It's certainly making it feel like all the time and effort were well invested.


Overall, things have been going well with Zoey also. We've had a sort of give and take with her. When she arrived, we threw a lot at her at once, and mostly she took it quite well. Then we perhaps got a bit complacent. I made a pretty major mistake when my mother in law was visiting, and on the second day decided to ride Zoey out in the tree pasture with Brian on Laredo and Cathy on Steen. It was a warmish day, and buggy, and the last couple of rides Zoey had had diarrhea. She was antsy tacking up, antsy during mounting and when I got on she didn't feel settled at all. Also, we'd never ridden in that space before.

But, you know? I wanted to have a nice ride with our guest, and I didn't let Zoey's needs make an impression on me. We tooled around for a while. My main concern was making sure I never got too near Steen and Cathy, just in case something went wrong.

Zoey was bothered by the bugs, and at one point we were all walking along and she stopped and reached behind her with her head, the way horses do when they're trying to brush off a bug. Except she had apparently forgotten I was on her back, and she clocked her eye, hard, on the rather pointy toe of my boot.

Needless to say, she lost it. She tried to bolt. I shut her down and we spun in circles for a long, long time. Even after she stopped trying to run she was quivering and shaking and having a hard time holding still. I should have stopped then, should have taken a few steps back, maybe done some ground work or something else to build her confidence back up. Instead I shrugged it off and we kept going.

About ten minutes later, I was on the ground, Zoey galloping away, Brian trotting up on Laredo, Cathy stepping on Steen just to be safe. What happened? Well, everything. Basically, Zoey reached her melting point.

The play by play was simple. I asked for a trot, Zoey leapt into it, got pretty forward, and I tried to bend her into a gentle stop. When her head came around, she saw the toe that had nearly taken her eye out a few minutes before. And she panicked. She tried to bolt, I bent her again. She saw my toe again. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. I must have shut her down a half a dozen times before finally I lost a stirrup, fell forward onto her neck and couldn't bring her head around, at which point she opened up (she's a fast little thing) into a dead out run for the barn. I bailed, rolling off in at least what turned out to be a fairly graceful unplanned dismount.

A fall is always a little humbling. This was my first in 2.5 years. I got back on, of course, and our ride wrapped up ok. But it was a good reminder for me. Zoey is green. I was riding her as if she was not green, with too much of my mind on things other than her. I let warning sign after warning sign go by unheeded, and I got what I deserved.

So, we've taken a little step back with her, focusing more on groundwork and desensitizing, and little details like making her come to us in the pasture instead of just tolerating us approaching her and haltering her. It's already paying off. Today she came to me from a good distance off, stood perfectly still during saddling for the first time ever, and we had an excellent little ride in the outdoor arena.

Also, she and Bear are just totally pals lately.

Horseback Hours YTD: 90:15


  1. I'll admit I'm happy to hear you might have found a person for Zoey. One of the reasons I've never trained and re-homed animals is because I just get too worried about them ending in a bad situation after they leave. (I'm even worried about *your* horse ending up in a bad that tells you something about how well I'd do.)

    It's also pretty amazing how far Steen has come since you got him. :)

  2. I know what you mean about the re-homing. I have never wanted to do it before for that very reason. One of the things that makes me feel ok about this with Zoey (and one factor we were taking into consideration when we were shopping) is that Zoey was going to get on a trailer the day we got her, and if she hadn't come to us she'd have gone to the sale barn. That seems a bit different from picking up a horse that was in a good situation with the intention of reselling it soon. Zoey was in a bad spot, and we're hopeful we can get her settled into a better situation than where she was when we found her.

    But I'd be lying if I said I don't worry about this too. It's one thing to imagine selling a theoretical horse you've never met, it's another to know we'll sell Zoey in a couple more months. Still, I think there's a high chance we can do right by her. We don't care about making money on her, and we wouldn't sell her to someone who didn't seem like a good fit.

    But the sad truth is you never really know. Once she's out of our hands I suppose anything could happen to her. So many people in the horse world don't have much integrity when it comes to long-term care. I'd love to sell her to someone who would continue to board her at our barn, so we could stay at least a little bit involved. But at the very least, I'm hopeful we can say goodbye to her knowing we gave her a little more time and little more education, and a chance to end up somewhere other than an auction...

  3. Congrats on being an author! Lot of work but I'm sure it's super rewarding :)

  4. I nominated you for the Liebster Award!

  5. Yeah, I think what you're doing is great, I just don't know that I could do it myself.

    There's a rescue out here that keeps part-ownership of every horse they adopt out, and will follow up and take the horse back if they don't like their situation at any time. I totally get what they're trying to do, but I would never adopt from them, because I don't like the idea of someone being able to come to my house anytime they like and take the horse away just because they didn't like something. (They also have some different ideas than I do about what counts as a "reasonable" level of care.) But, this is what I'd feel like I needed to do with any horse (or other animal) I re-homed, in order to keep them safe.

    So yeah, I'm glad there are people who re-train and re-home animals, I'm just not sure I'm cut out to be one of them.


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