Thursday, September 29, 2011

3'3" and an oxer...together :)

Lauren and Lucy over a 3'3" oxer yesterday.
It has been easy for me to forget lately that Lucy is only 5. She's been acting very grown-up this summer and she's been enjoying all the new fun things we've been doing. Her knees are closed per my vet (or she wouldn't be jumping) and I think she's just about done growing. She's still young, though, and I don't want to fry her body or her mind. Do you have any specific rules for your horse as far as how many days a week he or she is worked, and how hard? Do you only jump x number of days a week? Do you never jump more than one day in a row? If you jump one day, does the horse get the next off or do you just hack around and have an "easy" ride?

I am asking because I tend to have a "no jumping two days in a row" rule, but this week was an exception. I jumped on Tuesday, and then Lauren jumped on Wednesday. Lauren jumped the 3'3" oxer just twice and a few of the other, much smaller jumps a couple times each. Lucy was hardly even sweaty at the end of the ride and Lauren said she planned on a light hack today. Lucy also got her legs hosed off thoroughly with cold water and then a brace/liniment applied up through her hocks and knees, just as a preventative measure. She seemed no worse for the wear this afternoon when I brought her in. Still, I don't plan on making that a regular thing.

When I introduce new things to a young horse or a green horse, I want to challenge them and get them interested, but I do not want to over-face them or make them doubt that they can do whatever I'm asking of them. I think I've done a good job of this so far, because Lu hasn't shown any hesitation at all. She's jumped everything confidently and willingly. Ideally from here, we'll start upping the complexity of the courses so that they include rollbacks, inside turns, broken/bending lines, and other challenging things. I would also like to start simulating some XC jumps in the ring (more on that in a future post). I am not eager to increase the height she's jumping right now. She's shown she has plenty of athletic ability and she certainly has the propensity to jump big. What I'd really like to know is if she's cat-like enough even as a big horse to get around a jumper course with the aforementioned challenges.

So this is what we'll be working on in the near future :)

In other news, this blog has reached almost 100 subscribers! I am planning on doing a giveaway contest for one of my painted saddle pads, a $45 value, once we hit triple digits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

3'3" and an oxer

I didn't think it was possible to love my horse any more than I already do, but today she was so spectacular that I think she has gone up yet another notch. I wasn't feeling well this morning so I took the day off from work, but by noon I was feeling much better so I decided to go to the barn. We jumped 3'3" and also our first real oxer. We also had a good gallop in the field! It was a busy day.


Trying an oxer. She didn't hesitate at all.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Great horsey weekend

On Friday it was drizzling, chilly, and feeling very much like fall in New England. There were periods of heavy rain so the horses stayed in. When I got to the barn after work, I put Lucy out in one of the big paddocks so she could stretch her legs, since there was a lull in the rain. I figured she'd be fine out there for half an hour while I did stalls, and then I planned on bringing her in and riding.

I went out to get her half an hour later and she was covered in thick, wet mud from nose to tail. UGH.

I brushed her off as well as I could and rode anyway. I decided to ride bareback, and we went and hacked around the front field on a very loose rein w/t/c. She was so dreamy and easy to ride. I was really quite impressed!

Saturday was sunny and beautiful. I had to photograph a wedding in the afternoon, but I was able to sneak in a quick hack in the morning. I always carry my cell phone with me and it rang as we were walking down the trails. I answered it as Lucy carried on walking on the buckle. There I was, yakking away, when I noticed two good-sized young bucks in the woods about 30 feet away from us. Lucy looked over at them and I prepared to get tossed. I quickly said to my friend on the phone, "ok gotta go!" and hung up, and braced myself. She looked at them, let out a huge sigh, and turned her attention to the trail. Then the bucks took off through the forest parallel to the trail, and ran across the trail behind the horses. She didn't even flinch!

On Sunday, Lauren and I went on a really long, fun hack together. She rode Lucy and I rode my barn owner's little Arab mare, Bella. I have ridden Bella in the ring a few times and she has always been well-behaved, but no one knew how she'd do on the trail. She turned out to be a total pro. She was happy to lead, or she was happy to follow! She wasn't impressed by a big puddle we encountered but she just danced around it. We had a trot and a canter alongside Lucy, and both girls behaved beautifully. We walked through a big neighbourhood, met some kids, saw some kids on bikes and skateboards, and had dogs running at us and barking, and neither horse had an issue. We went back to the barn and had some fun galloping around one of the fields:

Lauren and Lucy

I LOVE this photo.
Me and little Bella. She is a ton of fun!

One of Lauren's stirrups came off the western saddle! We had to have a 20
minute stirrup hunt. I found it, though! Isn't she a nice rider? Perfect eq
despite her stirrup disappearing out from under her.
Then we went for a hack in the front field with two other friends
and their horses.

In the afternoon, I headed back to Suffolk Downs with my friend whom we went horse shopping for last weekend. She had decided to vet out Prairie Melody, the beautiful bay mare with the great personality and quiet disposition. She set the PPE up for Sunday afternoon and then on Saturday morning, the trainer called her and said the owner had changed his mind and didn't want to sell her, because she had been training well all week. I was like, seriously?! They're going to run her until she bows a tendon or something, and then her chances of finding a great home will be much slimmer. She's already 6! My friend was really upset because she had fallen in love with this mare, but she bravely decided to go to the track and have another look to see what else was available.

We had gotten a tip from a friend who works at the track that there was a lovely gelding available. His name is Montana Country. He's also 6. He was a bit smaller than Prairie Melody, but my friend is very petite so she had originally wanted a smaller horse anyway. He was super sweet. He came out of his stall without a chain over his nose and he trotted like a hunter, pointing his toes and poking his nose out as he stretched through his back. REALLY a nice horse. The problem is that he had chips in his knees as a 2yo, and the owner didn't have them removed on the vets advice. Instead, they gave the horse 6 months of rest and he has raced sound ever since. I personally feel that if the horse has raced just fine for 4 years, his knees are probably not an issue, but I still advised my friend to get x-rays in case there's any arthritis starting up in there. I hope he vets sound, though!

We saw a few other REALLY nice horses. One was a 7yo mare who was broke to ride as a hunter, and then when she was 6, the owner decided to race her. She has raced just a handful of times and isn't showing any talent, so the owner wants to sell her, but she is totally sound, no issues, and she is a true black to boot. She would be super easy to retrain since she already has a solid foundation under saddle. I would bet that she'll stay sound for a long time, since her body wasn't put under racing stress until she was 6 and fully developed. The owner is asking $3500 for her but according to the trainer, she's very negotiable. If you're in this area and looking for a horse, let me know and I will give you the trainer's info.

Another nice horse that we saw was a black gelding with really cute markings. He is also sound, and they're asking $2k for him and he has a lovely balanced build, and moves like a hunter. Really really cute.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

dear Lucy, those are barrels. PS: they don't bite.

I had another great ride on Lulu, including the introduction of The Blue Barrels.

You see, they've been casually hanging out by the side of the ring since I moved Lucy to this barn. We've walked past them to get to one of the fields we ride in on numerous occasions. She's come so far over fences this summer that I thought to myself today that it would be a perfect time to put the barrels and the jumping together.

Got trot? We do!
I love this photo because I'm smiling!
We warmed up as usual and then hopped over a few "normal" fences. I had set the barrels up on their side, with two poles forming an "x" between them. This way she'd get to look at them but not have to jump the barrels themselves. She went over the x without a hitch.

I asked Kenny to make the poles a vertical, so she'd basically be jumping the same height as the barrels themselves. Again, she went over this without any problems:

I was like, wow this is going incredibly well! So we put the barrels together and this was the result:

"I've never seen those barrels before in my LIFE!" *emergency brake*
Before this progressed into something messy and drawn out, I asked Kenny to put up some guiding poles to help eradicate any thought processes in Lu's mind that didn't equal forward and straight. My plan worked perfectly:

We also jumped the 3' vertical a few times. We started with it at 2'6" and she jumped it textbook perfectly:

Then Kenny bumped it up:

"lock and load!"

"wow there, killer!"

After all this, we went out in the field and had a nice little hack:

Whatta good girl!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Part 2: my cell phone is a naughty little beast.

After I got home from the track, I was all "I'm gonna go ride my racehorse!" so I headed straight to the barn and tacked up. Honestly I was feeling more like going exploring on the trails than anything else, so that's exactly what we did. Lulu was happy to be out and I found myself pondering how I ended up with such a brave, willing trail partner. She has truly exceeded all of my expectations as a trail horse and I love that so much about her!

I had put my cell phone in the back pocket of my jeans, instead of taking the extra time to put it in the special cell phone holder I have that clips to my belt and is very sturdy/secure. We zigzagged around the trails for about two hours, and investigated an expansive neighbourhood that loops around behind the barn. I personally am a big fan of walking horses, especially young horses, through busy neighbourhoods. You've got the dogs barking at you. You have kids running around everywhere. You have bicycles, skateboards, and lawnmowers buzzing around. Basketball hoops loom overhead, ready to fall down and eat your pony. It is a virtual nightmare of potential death scenes for a horse at first, but give it some patience and you will have this:
That, my friends, is a happy horse on the buckle, plodding around the neighbourhood like an old pro. This is after we had already passed the barking dogs, basketball hoops, skateboards, lawnmowers, bicycles, and about 15 kids who wanted to come say hi, all with no issues. Oh, she also pooped on someones lawn but she had already made friends with them so they were very gracious about it (sorry about that, though!).

I was very happy with her.

We meandered around the neighbourhood for a while and then headed home. Once back on the trail, I let her open up a bit. We got almost back to the barn when I noticed that my back pocket felt...empty.

My cell phone had jumped ship! Oh I was SO MAD!

Dejectedly, I turned her around and back we went in the direction that we came from. I didn't see the cell phone on the trail so we went back into the neighbourhood. Everyone was still outside in their yards and they all turned to look at me like, oh, back so soon? I explained I had lost my cell phone and almost immediately, three boys jumped into action on their bikes and volunteered to go check the neighbourhood quickly to see if they could find it. How cool is that? They zoomed around and came back saying they hadn't found it. I decided to walk Lu down to where we were just after I took the photo above, because obviously I had the cell phone still with me at that point. I didn't see it anywhere, either, so then I decided to go back to the trail to try one more time. All of the kids were like, oh, maybe we can find it! So they checked with their moms (I didn't want any moms mad at me for luring their kids into the forest, you know) and they all came along. One girl brought her cell phone and called my phone repeatedly so we could try and hear it ringing. All of a sudden, I heard it! And there it was, stuffed quite snugly inside a bush on the side of the trail. Oh what a bad, bad phone. I am just glad I had it on ring and not silent! I don't think I ever would have found it!

So thanks to the help of basically an entire neighbourhood of people, I found my phone and from now on I will be diligent about using the holder I have for it that clips to my belt! Today's trail ride definitely goes down in the books as one of the most memorable ones! And that, my friends, is why this blog is titled "The Adventures of Lucy".

PART 1: the track

Today was so epic it deserves two entries. I know, I know. It's amazing.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: pony shopping at Suffolk Downs.

Today's trip to Boston proved to be enlightening, to say the least. We saw about 15 horses. Some were bonkers. Some were cute. Some were totally lame. Some had their "equipment" still (i.e. they hadn't been gelded). Some were available right then and there and if we had brought a trailer, we could have gone home with a full load. Some still had to race, despite the trainers all saying "yeah, he doesn't want to race anymore." Why make the horse run if he clearly doesn't want to? I have no idea. Most looked to be in really great shape, with glittering coats and cheeky expressions.

One really stood out, a 6yo bay mare with a big frame and a very quiet disposition who politely lipped peppermints out of our hands and fell asleep when we rubbed her ears. The trainer seemed really nice and forthcoming at first, and said the mare was tired of racing and he was really just looking for a good home for her. He brought her out of her stall and she stood quietly without even a chain over her nose while I ran my hands down all of her legs. Her ankles looked a bit big, which concerned me, but she trotted out sound and she was just such a sweetheart that she really "spoke" to us. My friend whom we were shopping for liked her the most and she's going to have her vetted, though when she called the trainer to tell him she was going to schedule a vetting, he told her not to waste her money, which is a red flag as far as I'm concerned. My friend is still pursuing her and is going to have her vetted (rightfully so!).

Here are a few shots from our expedition!

The mare whom we all liked the most. Isn't she beautiful?
Confo shot of the mare above.
These birds were hanging out sharing this horse's lunch. So sweet!
This is their manure management system! Crazy!
We all really really liked this gelding, but he had sore shins and was a little bit
fresh, too; he had only recently lost his "equipment", shall we say.
He really liked Lauren, though!
We all really liked this gelding, too. He had a great build and a big personality
but he would probably be too much horse for my friend, so we admired him
and moved on.
My friend visiting the "top mare" one last time before we left. She's going to
have her vetted hopefully sometime this week! Let's hope she passes!