Irish Sport Horse-Feather

Funny how things in life line up and change your direction.  While we await the lab work for Mickey, we are leaving him on a light work schedule.  In fact, I should go out tonight (it’s Sunday) and give him a few turns around  the arena.  He needs some time under saddle even if it’s just to walk and trot.  Not sure I will, as Sundays tend to freak me out a bit.  I get overwhelmed with the week ahead and want to be in the  house, clean and ready for bed at an early hour. Tonight this will be more the case as Lauren is off to spend the night in Galveston.  I will have all chores to do and will need to get up even earlier tomorrow morning to get the horses fed, give them time to eat and get them out before my 5:30 a.m. departure.  I bet you are wishing you were me, huh?

We had planned for Mickey to have a lesson with Dev on Friday.  We have a schooling show coming up in mid-August and wanted to get Mickey sharp before the show. We do not jump Mickey except at lessons (maybe once a quarter) or at shows.  Tends to keep him fresh and his legs young.  Now he is sidelined with respiratory issues.  You just try your best.

Since Mickey was out of the lesson rotation, Feather had an opportunity to step up.  We had wanted to get her to training with Dev earlier this summer but all you loyal readers know, she refused to load in the trailer and now weeks later (and trailer ready) here we are.  Dev has only seen the mare once in late winter not too long after we got her.  I was anxious for Dev to see her again, see her work and see her jump.  I was like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Several things led to the lesson actually taking place at Caroline’s compound instead of Dev’s.  It meant a much shorter trailer ride for us and with temperatures over 98 degrees that was a good thing.  Still we got to Caroline’s around noon and unloaded Feather to find her covered in sweat.  We started off with a wet horse and I think she finally dried off and cooled down sometime late that afternoon after we returned home.

Caroline on Mariah, Arianna on Ellie Mae and Lauren on Feather were all in the arena when Dev pulled up.  As he first watched Feather work he commented that she had put on weight and muscle.  He also said she looked more refined.  The Irish Sport Horse is a product of the old Irish Draught horses (think big, stocky horse pulling the beer wagon).  When Feather first came, her head seemed unproportionately big for her body.  I remember showing Dev’s dad (a great horseman in his own right) a picture of Feather.  Never one to mince words, he told me, well, maybe she will grow into that head.  So apparently she has.

As Feather continued to work it seemed she got more and more compliments from Dev, or maybe I was just receptive to them. For her age, she does have a gentle, easy temperament.  Going to horse shows means seeing new places and new things without fuss.  Feather had come to Caroline’s and just set about doing what Lauren asked of her.  If anything, she was a little lazy.  I will take a lazy young horse over a crazy young horse any day.

Dev on Feather quietly looking over the arena

Dev got on Feather to see what Lauren was dealing with and to try out the mare’s responsiveness.  She worked quietly and well for him.  Then it was Lauren back in the saddle and time to jump.  Ultimately, to do well in a show, a horse must learn to navigate a series of jumps.  While one jump may be brilliant, the horse must jump up to 12 jumps, executing turns, bending lines, tight corners and difficult distances (those set to challenge the horse’s ability to change up their natural pace).  Except for one time when we did a three jump line at home, Feather had never jumped more than one jump. I was ready to see the mare actually go through a few jumps and see how she did.  While my picture taking skills were off, I would like to say that I had a great video of Feather over multiple jumps that Lauren accidently deleted.  At least I didn’t delete the pictures-I just didn’t get good ones.  Here you can see her at the downhill side of the jump.  It was 2’9″ and the standards (the posts of the jumps) are five feet so you can see she is clearing it by a couple of feet.  The first time to put two jumps together, Feather jumped the first jump well and Lauren cantered her to the next across the arena.  Feather stopped right in front of the jump, looking at us as if to say, “who put this here”.  But after she saw the jump she jumped it consistently and competently. 

I think she will do well after a tune-up at Dev’s.  We are working toward the next schooling show coming up in August.  It was great to hear all the positive comments and see some of the work is paying off for her!

Baby Mariah to Irish Moonlight

In the summer of 2006 Lauren and I went to look at an 18 month old filly named Mariah.  Her breeder had moved from doing dressage to western cutting and this solid-bred Paint horse was already 15 hands high at this early date.  Originally, we were interested in her solely on her size.  Most babies at this age might have been hitting 14 hands but not 15.  Mickey is just over 15 hands as a grown horse.  Dr. Lynn Criner went along for the look at the filly.  Overall, she liked the baby said she would go in on her so we could sell her as a three-year old.  I said, “but if we start and train her we will want to keep her”.  So, Lauren and I bought the big filly.  Another girl at Whipple Tree, where we kept her initially, had a yearling only one day younger than Mariah. 

Mariah at age 18 months with her same age friend Gunner behind her on the rail.

Here is a picture with Mariah in front and Gunner behind.  Look at their size difference.  Note Mariah’s coat color.  Already going grey around her eyes, we knew that as an adult she would be a grey mare.  Lauren was sitting bareback on Mariah at 20 months.  I was leading Riah with Lauren on board (this in itself was amazing for a young horse to just take in-stride without bucking or objecting).  As we got down to her paddock, two of the other horses right next to us, were tagged by the hot wire.  They reared and roared off while Mariah just kept trudging along with Lauren on her back.

Lauren and I did most of the day-to-day work in breaking and training this girl.  She was pretty smart and we took it slow to make sure we were doing it right.  Barbara Arlington spent some time ground-driving her which I think has paid off big time with how easy she is to turn and handle.  She was so big by age three that she was a little intimidating.  Okay, she was a lot of horse and scary.  I remember wanting to canter her on the lunge line so we would have some control if she started to buck or run off.  Lauren really never was a big fan of Mariah’s as she came along in her training.  She was younger then and secure on Mickey and not a risk taker.  I told Lauren to get on her and I would hold the lunge line.  There was no way she was getting on that horse with me on the ground holding a whip.  So, instead at age 50+, Granny got on the super green three-year old and took the first canter on the mare.

Dev making her look pretty. Notice how she is greying out.

Then she went to Dev to learn to really learn to canter.  She came back from Dev’s ready to show.  She did her first show at Whipple Tree in November 2008.  She was reserve champion first time out.  Honestly doing pretty well for a young horse in her first show.  I was so excited about her and pleased with her progress.  Lauren was not.  We moved Mariah to jumpers and things really started to fall apart.  Lauren got too aggressive, asking for too much speed too soon in the mare’s training and it went bad quickly.  I was very unhappy with the results of that first day doing jumpers and it was made worse because Mariah’s breeder had come to see her compete.  I realized my dreams were not necessarily my daughters. 

It was decided, reluctantly and with a broken heart, that Mariah deserved to go to a new owner, hopefully someone who would continue her path in the jumper world.  We found an ideal candidate in a young vet and her husband.  The vet had ridden thoroughbreds for years.  She had the experience and background to take my mare to the next spot.  Unfortunately, she did not really like my horse, it was for her husband (and he loved my mare) but he did not have the riding skills to really fit her.  Still, I felt as good about them as owners as I was going to feel.  We had a lot of trouble loading her that day.  it was like she was telling us she didn’t want to go.  But she did and I broke down and cried hard. Grief over her leaving, grief over a dream undone and grief over a horse I had personally taken from a baby, trained and rode who would no longer be with me.

Sixteen hands and getting grayer all the time.

It wasn’t too many months later that I heard from a Facebook friend that Mariah was up for sale.  I was devastated.  The owners had promised me to allow me the option of buying her back if they wanted to sell.  I didn’t want her back, nothing had changed with my daughter not wanting to ride her but I did not want her to go to just anyone.  I called Caroline who I knew from Whipple Tree.  I had thought Caroline and Mariah would be a great team.  She went to College Station to try her and bought her.  I was overjoyed. 

Yesterday at Caroline’s, with Dev down to do a lesson on-site, I was so gratified to see my “little girl” take off and do several jumps at 3’6″.  She would jump and she would buck. But she jumped well and compentently. Dev encouraged Caroline to just ignore it-ride through it.  I have to give Caroline props on this.  This is a big, strong mare and jumping the big jumps is daunting enough.  Add to that the bronc ride she was getting in the interim and it made for quite a wild ride. 

I am excited to see what their future will bring.   When we got Mariah we had never done an “A” show or jumped 3’6″ in competition.  Those were huge dreams.  Mariah is ready for all this.  At age seven, Caroline has prepared her well for her next steps.  Dev has been there each step of the way as well.  And I would like to think that maybe the time I spent starting this mare has helped as well.  If they are never better than they were today-they have exceeded my expectations!  Bravo!

Clearing the big jump with ease.