A fine time-

Pink skies of dawn coloring the barn.

Pink skies of dawn coloring the barn.

My mother’s bed had collapsed at her place and despite several attempts to fix it, we finally declared it unfit for her and decided to give it to Lauren.  Actually, I have ordered a new frame for my mom’s bed and hopefully have fixed the one Lauren will have.  It just made sense to paint Lauren’ s room as long as we had to move her bed to my room.  It was a little like musical beds.  What ever bed ends up in your room is what you sleep on.

We have lived here almost seven years.  Lauren is a little bit of a pack rat, plus her room is small and storage limited.  What a mess!  But it is repainted and totally clean now so that was real bonus.

Lauren has a million horse show ribbons or so it seems.  We kept her top ribbons and boxed the rest.  From Pinterest she got a good idea as to how to display them.

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This morning, as the pink skies welcomed us to the new day, we took Feather for a lesson with Dev.  After almost 18 months of baby steps, Lauren was a little out of her comfort zone as she faced some bigger jumps.  She had a little trouble getting all the details right, too fast, too slow, or not straight enough.

After a few jumps, Dev proclaimed, “when you don’t think, you do great!”  I am sure this related to her tendency to over think her riding, but it was still pretty funny.

We went by mom’s before lunch to find her dressed once again in the pretty floral blouse I had gotten her for the luau.  I guess that was a hit!

This afternoon, found me riding Mickey and Lauren up on Bruno.  It took a good ten minutes before Bruno settled in to work.  But when he did, he looked vibrant and strong.

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This horse’s stride is huge!  The fence poles are spaced ten feet apart.  Without pushing him, he covering at least 15 feet in one stride.  Wow, that should cover some ground once we get him in the jumper ring.  I like seeing Lauren quiet in the saddle, letting the big man stretch out and find his own pace.  We have set up two small jumps for Bruno to go over to continue his education over fences.  Today went better than the last time.  He is alert and waiting for the little pole.

Attentive and ready!

Attentive and ready!

Bruno had quite a long workout today and seems to be holding up well to the rigorous training.  He has kept his casted shoe on a little over four weeks which is a new record!  I keep watching him for any signs of lameness, but he is moving fluidly and strong.

I have an infection in my molar and scheduled for a root canal tomorrow.  It hurts pretty badly but I cannot say I am looking forward to the procedure.  It clearly will not be a fine time.

As always, thanks for riding along and keep us in your prayers.

Lula getting a lift back to the barn.  Kona said he wanted to ride, too!

Lula getting a lift back to the barn. Kona said he wanted to ride, too!

Off to Hawaii with Momma!

Momma, Jordyn and I getting ready for the Hawaiian party.

Momma, Jordyn and I getting ready for the Hawaiian party.

In the fine fashion of Elmcroft Assisted Living we all enjoyed Hawaiian night! The assisted living home plans occasional “special” nights for the residents and I knew momma would be interested in the Hawaiian night. Hawaii is her all time favorite place and while she does not respond or react to many things these days, her eyes lit up with recognition when I started to mention Hawaii a few weeks ago.

Lauren and I had planned to go as I still remember last Thanksgiving when the residents who did not have family seemed so woe begotten and lost. Plus, we could not argue that we had nothing to wear since we had a trip to the islands just months ago. At the last-minute, Ally agreed to come with Kendyll and Jordyn and we all embarked on a nice evening. Mom swayed along with the Hawaiian music, seemed to enjoy the pageantry of Leis and island food. I tried to convince Ally and Lauren to get up and do the hula but they were not going along with my plan.

Momma watching her youngest great grandchild, Kendyll.

Momma watching her youngest great-grandchild, Kendyll.

Jordyn took on the staff in a limbo contest and won it all. Of course, she was half the size of the rest of contestants!

Limbo!

Limbo!

Momma had fun and enjoyed her brief trip to the islands. And as Ally said, and I concur, it was the most festive Friday night she has had in awhile!

Fear of Flying

Six year-old Jordyn flew from the back of Feather at a gallop in the first part of August. (See post https://exechorseluver.com/?s=feather+bolts ). Thankfully, she survived the hard fall with some road rash, bumps and bruises, at least physically, but mentally the already timid rider retreated further into her walk-only safety zone.

Having Jo fly off Feather, while I held the lunge rope and looked helplessly on, was one of the worst experiences I can remember. Honestly, I was no more willing to have that experience again than she!

We brought Snowboy home and from her first night when they were reunited, her family has pushed her to trot. I have been noticeably quiet on the subject. It seemed that the more we pushed her to trot, the more reluctant she became. Snowboy is pretty reliable but he is not being ridden much, actually just the few rides Jordyn gives him and an occasional outing with me. I am not exceptionally sure that all would go well if they did trot. He wants to head back to the gate (and towards the barn-what pony doesn’t?). Jordyn has to work to keep him at the far end of the arena. And due to travel and illness on my part, Jordyn has not gotten down to ride as much as I would like either.

Monday is the regular day to ride. We had a lot of rain over the weekend so I did not know if they would be able to ride or not. I had a late meeting so arrived at the house to find Ally and her girls already here.

I do not believe that Snow had been ridden in over two weeks. I do believe he has already gained weight in the work-less, eat-more environment of Granny’s farm. I could barely get the girth around to the first hole. I guess we will have to schedule some more exercise for him.

Jordyn focused on her riding and Kendyll focused on her walking!

Jordyn focused on her riding and Kendyll focused on her walking!

The weather is turning toward fall and temperatures were just in the upper 80’s last night as we got out to the arena. Kendyll walking sturdily now, thinks it is just a giant playpen for her amusement. Ally stands by horrified as the little one puts sand, dirt, rocks and other disgusting things in her mouth. Ally and Lauren pretty much grew up at the ballpark, at least there are not cigarette butts to find in my arena. Ally was not really consoled over that observation as Kendyll put Kona’s sand covered tennis ball in her mouth.

I had set up poles for Jordyn and Snow to practice going over and turning around. Jordyn was handling Snow better and he had not gotten away with any of his usual pony exploits. However, this could be the harsher bit (a Kimberwick) Lauren installed on his bridle as much as increased riding brilliance from Jordyn, hard to tell, but it was going better.

About 30 minutes into the ride, Jordyn asked me if I would come hold onto to Snowney’s bridle so she could trot. I was quite surprised although just matter-of-factly said okay and walked up to take hold of his reins. I asked her not to say anything to her mom or Lauren until we got going. And with no preamble, off we went. Granny jogging along as Snow started to trot. She asked excitedly, “Can I tell my mom?”. And she did, with both Ally and Lauren riveted between being excited to see Jordyn finally trotting and wanting to laugh at me as I jogged my way through the deep sand trying to keep pace with the white pony.

“You are even posting!” Aunt Lauren exclaimed as we continued around the arena. And she was. The little girl who had been thrown so hard into ground from the back of a horse just a short time ago was confidently posting down the diagonal line. Granny was still holding on, but just barely. Jordyn was steering, posting and controlling her pony.

Personally, I feel it was important to let Jordyn decide when she was ready to try again to trot (and then to do everything in my power to make it a safe, positive experience). I hope she can get down to spend the night and just get out in the arena to “play” on Snow. That is how confidence is gained.

Kendyll wanted her time on the horse’s as well and next time I will be sure to bring the helmet out for her.

Baby Kendyll riding with aunt Lauren.

Baby Kendyll riding with aunt Lauren.

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I am proud of Jordyn! I have a framed quote from John Wayne (if you don’t know who that is ask a parent). It says: Courage is being scared to death but saddling up and riding any way.

Thank you for riding along and keep us in your prayers.

A Little Rain

The rains returned to south Texas on Thursday. I had a rough week coming back from the old fashioned throw-up and die stomach flu. I was back at work Wednesday but so weak I could not make my usual walks. We were due to cut hay on Thursday. I was surprised at the farmer’s timing with the rain headed in but figured he knew more about the weather than I. What I did know was I was hardly keeping one foot in front of the other and the thought of stacking hay from the field to the barn was more than I could bear.

Lauren was keeping track of the progress of the hay as I made my way home, running directly into the line of storms. Lauren reported the hay bales were finally hitting the ground. Our friend Gaylyn was coming to get her hay and help us. Then Lauren reported they had stopped baling. Apparently the baler was broken. The rain was coming.

We had worked to empty our old garage and our barn hay room so we could hoard hay for the winter. We had planned to put up over 100 bales. As I got home, I called the hayman for an update. He confirmed the baler was broken and now he would be baling round bales (lower quality hay wound into a huge ball like yarn). The round bales (especially after sitting in the rain soaked field) would not be horse quality, nor would we be able to store and manage the giant bales in any case. There would be no hay for us this winter from these fields. I have several friends that have come to depend on this hay. It was a huge blow to see the hay go unbaled in the driving rain.

As the rain descended into Friday, we had not a single bale of hay in the barn, as we had been counting on the fresh hay. Lauren scrambled to go pick up a few bales of hay before the route to the barn became too waterlogged.

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Snowboy left on his own in enclosed section of the barn.

I got home Friday after visiting my mom, to see Snowboy standing in the front covered portion of the barn. Lauren was at Blake’s helping him celebrate his birthday. Kid goes out in this area every night. Lauren figured Snow would just clean up the dropped hay and get some time out of his stall.

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Lula finding any remaining traces of cat food

Check out the scene I saw as I got to the barn. Note the round, turned over table, the chairs setting on edge, the bags of shavings ripped open and the empty plastic bin. That bin had been full of cat food. Now Snow was full of cat food! What a mess! Boy, he had cleaned up alright. Every edible morsel of food was gone. It looked like Hurricane Snow had come through the barn.

Note to self-Mr. Kid is the only horse allowed in the space in front of the stalls.

I am pleased that our roof we added last spring, which has not seen a strong storm, really helped keep our stalls and horses dry. Also, those additional loads of rock, gravel and sand kept the pasture pathways high and dry so the horses were back out of their stalls this morning.

There is always more we can do, but the little ranch came through the rain in better shape than ever before. Step by step, we make our way.

Thanks for riding along!

Bruno Goes Jumping-A Bruno Story

Feather and Lauren at their last show.

Feather and Lauren at their last show.

We try to get to trainer Dev’s a couple times a month. He occasionally does some lessons in a rented arena much closer than the 170 mile round-trip trek to his place and we always try to jump on those opportunities.  Feather has been just getting better every time we have her out.  We are extraordinarily pleased with her year-long progression from baby fences to some real sizable jumps.

I recognize for Bruno to make the same kind of progress he has to get to the trainer, get to various arenas, get some exposure in the show ring doing something and just get used to the routine of a show horse.  When Lauren and Dev wanted Feather to attend this week’s lesson, I stubbornly said no!  I wanted Bruno to go.  Lauren was concerned about a new arena and a lot of horses.  Exactly why we should go there, told her.  Dev wanted to have enough time to devote to the young horse, which I appreciated but held firm to wanting to get him to a lesson.  Each lesson stacks upon the previous.  Each repeated effort at schooling results in acceptance and lessons learned.

Dev agreed to let him come and we were slated to ride last night.  I got home, changed clothes and got ready to help Lauren load Bruno.  When we first got Bruno he loaded easily into our trailer.  Most race horses are hauled a lot of miles from an early age.  Perhaps because the last year has been spent hauling him only to the vet (where pain was usually involved), Bruno has become a reluctant loader.  Not as bad as Feather was, certainly, but not a horse Lauren can just walk into the trailer without a helper on the ground (that would be me) urging him on from behind.  Once we get him loaded until the trailer is on the road, he does a rendition of the musical “Stomp” which threatens to send him through the floor boards.  It is pretty great.

We pulled into the nice facilities at Creek Colony Ranch.  Bruno was soaked in sweat from the trip north.  Lauren added a stud chain to his halter and took the big horse for a walk around the grounds.  He had his head up and was looking but was not inordinately spooky or difficult.  They headed into the arena where Amanda was already working her horse.  I was worried about the six foot by eight foot giant mirrors hung on the ends of the arena so the rider can observe their position.  But I need not have been concerned.  Except for a little spook at the passing tractor, Bruno was fine.  I held onto him while Lauren quickly tacked him up.  I’ve got to tell you, holding Bruno in an open space is a more than a little daunting.  Unlike Mickey, he has never offered to bolt, but seriously, at 17.2+ and now over 1500 pounds, I am sure not impeding his plan in any way if he choses to run.  Thankfully he didn’t!

Once onboard, it was apparent that Lauren’s month of regular saddle time coupled with Dr. Criner multiple chiropractic adjustments had helped Bruno immensely.  His flat work was nothing short of amazing-I am bragging a little here but it was nice to hear Dev exclaim, ‘he looks great, you would never know he ever had an issue with anything’.  He was round, soft and responsive.  The left lead at the canter is still difficult to get him to pick up.  My theory is that race horses run to the left.  His bad hoof was the left front.  A coffin bone infection is super painful.  I would not want to pound on that foot either.  After some urging, he did successfully pick up the lead.  Things were going very well, indeed!

 

Bruno working softly and quietly down the line.

Bruno working softly and quietly down the line.

Then the jumping started and just like at home over the cavelettis, Bruno had no interest, no regard and no desire to jump.  Run through the jump, sure.  Bulge out, away and avoid the jump, he had that down as well.  But just jump a couple of little jumps, not what Bruno wanted to do.

It was (is) still sticky hot in Houston.  Bruno was literally dripping sweat.  Lauren thought she had a touch of the stomach flu and being outfitted in leather boots, polyester breeches and a helmet while trying to hold onto a freight train, not a good combination. It is simple to say hold the horse in a straight line between the two jumps (like 70 feet) but doing it proved to be a much more difficult exercise for Lauren.

It is tricky as well in that you want to make the horse understand that running out on a jump is unsatisfactory behavior but the thought of giving Bruno even a slap on his butt was a little frightening, given his size and speed. I clearly understand (just do not like) that Bruno is a young, inexperienced horse. He also has a bit of a personality, which normally we like. He does not know how to jump, may not even like jumping and yet that is the career we have chosen for him, so he best learn how to jump and like it!

Gee, I am reminded in a way of a complaint my guest blogger Michelle had in my last post. So, we have decided Bruno’s future, are giving him instruction in it and he surely could do his part by just jumping a little fence. Huh. Maybe I should slow down and let the horse have a little time to get used to jumping, used to bending, used to having his pace regulated instead of racing the wind.

By the end of the lesson, Dev was up in the saddle. For all his year’s of experience and superior strength (to Lauren anyway, not Bruno) he had to do some mighty manipulation to keep the horse straight down the track between the two jumps.  We got a couple of solid, well jumped jumps and called it a good lesson.

Bruno was dripping sweat, breathing a little hard and fatigued.  Feather was pretty much a natural over fences, from first jump on. Bruno is not a natural.  Perhaps he is just waiting for a fence that will give him a little challenge.  We can only hope.

 

Getting a pretty good jump in.

Getting a pretty good jump in.

What are you going to be when you grow up? And other questions not to ask.

This was written on Facebook today by one of our riding friends. Michelle is the same age as Lauren. I think her message and frustrations are important to all of us with children as we try to guide them in their future direction. I thought Michelle did a great job expressing her concerns, her options and fears. I hope we can all share this as for ourselves or with our children as appropriate. My daddy (Harvard grad and airplane exec) always said find what you loved as a child and do it your whole life. Good advice! Thank you Michelle for letting me share this.

There is so much riding on college students who are preparing for their careers. Not to say that there shouldn’t be – you should definitely be focusing on your studies. But what’s really difficult and what I’ve come to disagree with is knowing what you want to be when you grow up and exactly how you’re going to get there. By the time I was able to talk, parents, relatives and teachers were always …asking me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and it was never socially acceptable to NOT have an answer to that question. By the time I turned ten it was “What do you want to be when you grow up so you can make money?” and I thought, “I want to be a jockey!” or “I want to be in the rodeo!” or “I want to be a horse trainer!” and everyone says “No, no, you can’t do that. You won’t make much money.” And so it goes.
Then by 16 or 17 you’re prepping to go to college and it seems like you’ve got to make this decision on exactly what you’re going to be and how you’re going to get there in a very short time frame. In your mind you’re going to be XXX and you’re going to go to XXX school for four years and study XXX and do XXX internships. Then after college you’re going to get XXX job and then you will move up the rankings and things will be holly and jolly.
Except that’s not actually how it goes. My dream was to be a horse trainer so I went to a liberal arts school with a great equestrian program and if I really applied myself and persevered, everything would work out. But again, that’s not how it goes and life changes and you find yourself in one of the darkest places of your life even though you worked very hard and did everything you were told to do.
You see, that’s just the thing. Instead of raising your kids to follow this 4.0 plan where everything goes according to XXX and if you get off track then you are lost forever – you’re a failure, you’re nobody. Instead of teaching your kids that, why don’t you let them find something their good at, encourage them to stick with it and let them figure it out? Because let me tell you – speaking from first hand experience – going to what I thought would be the college of my dreams where everything would settle into place and then having to transfer out and leave literally everything I ever knew about my plan for life? That is the scariest, most anxiety provoking experience that still haunts me every time I make a mistake at school or take a spill off my horse. Feeling wave after wave of disappointment because that big shiny plan that I, my teachers, parents, relatives and peers cooked up shriveled up and died.
Then I moved back to Houston in hopes of creating my own type of equestrian program and the sound of it is much easier to hear than it is to walk out each and every day. I no longer have a university spoon-feeding me lessons on equine health and first aid, or scheduled ride times, or whatever. My future in the horse world is now relying solely, completely on me and that is so terrifying.
I’ll admit the expectations that others had for me and that I had for myself nearly caused me to crash and burn. I started to hate horses; I even began to be disinterested in my own horses. Riding horses began to be unappealing and I would dread a lesson hours in advance.
It took a shocking spill off my horse two weekends ago for this all to hit me and to understand all my anxiety about making mistakes. My endless fretting and worrying before and after each and every round, scrutinizing my every flaw because surely I wouldn’t be able to be a horse trainer if I made this many mistakes. How would I make money like this?
That is not going to be the case any longer. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how to get there. Everything is a mess right now. I’m going to make mistakes, big ones. I’m going to go careening off my horse into jumps in front of my prior trainers. My heels will sometimes turn up and my leg won’t always be quite right. My back might arch and I’ll miss my spots and sometimes I’ll fold forward. Sometimes I’ll fold forward before every jump. Sometimes I’ll forget a course or two or three. Sometimes my confidence will be so dented that I won’t be able to look my horse in the eye.
But I have been riding horses for almost fifteen years and if that has only taught me one thing it is that I love horses. I want to be a horse trainer and I want to ride in the Grand Prix. I don’t know how I’m going to get there but somehow, I’m going to make it happen.

Please leave any comments or inspiration you might have for Michelle.

Sleep, or lack thereof

The rain continued to fall in parts of Colorado’s front range. As a native Coloradan, albeit one who has now spent 20 some years in the south, where rain and floods are common occurrences, it was a little strange to continue to encounter road closure after road closure as we attempted to make our way to Greeley for my great-nephew’s high school football game.

After over an hour of winding through back roads only to be blocked yet again by a solitary man in a utility truck, Amber gave up and headed home. It was illustrative of the path of our weekend, the path of my life in general these past few months. Driving to no where while encountering obstacles at every turn.

Both my nurse practitioner daughter and environmental safety husband work. The children, Riley and Lexi, two and four, have a compromised resistance to childhood illnesses, complimented with some life-threatening allergies. It is a rare night that both sleep through the night. My first night, Lexi came down with stomach flu. I fortunately travel with ear plugs and slept through the dreadful onslaught to the tiny girl’s tummy and the subsequent destruction of bed clothes and sheets. But Amber was up multiple times to aid, clean and console her child.

I remember back in Florida, I used to teach a class to prospective parents with one of my favorite OB-GYNs. I discussed planning and preparing for a new baby along with all the financial aspects (insurance, hospital stays, what to buy). One thing I always suggested was buying several crib sheets because into every child’s life comes a night like Lexi had.

Last night Riley came down with the stomach bug. I pray I do not get hit. I had forgotten the dulled eyes and lack of life look that comes from days, weeks and months of sleep deprivation. I know my daughter, Ally and friend Cayla experience it too. Amber is fortunate in so many ways, but sleep just doesn’t seem to be on the agenda for the next few years.

I am a little ridiculous about my own obsession to sleep, perhaps peppered by having done shift work at the hospital years ago coupled with three children spread out over 12 years. Lauren had some serious health problems as a child and sleep was always a luxury. For whatever reason, I am compelled each night to calculate my available sleep time. Not long after I get home from my day at work, visit with my mom and barn chores, I am preparing for bed. I realized at Amber’s I have not watched a prime time TV show at least since moving my mother here.

I will happily sleep in my own bed tonight, surrounded by my favorite dogs, ear plugs in place, hoping for eight-hours of sleep.

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I did, of course, come down with old fashioned stomach flu. What a miserable time. Perhaps tonight I will sleep. Glad to be home with all my animals.

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