Taking a Challenge

Jordyn with all her Christmas gear on her Snowney.

Jordyn with all her Christmas gear on her Snowney.

Jordyn, who agreeably trotted all over as a toddler, has been unwilling to trot since I put her up on Feather and Feather bolted away.  Jordyn went flying to the ground.

Understandably, Jordyn was not interested in trying to trot her pony again.   And the more the family has pushed Jordyn to try again the more resistant she has become.

Jordyn was spending a couple of days with us over the holidays.   We were visiting with our friend Kathy.  She challenged Jordyn to try trotting.  But this time she challenged her to count her trot steps.  She told her, “just see how many you can do!”

We got home and immediately Jo was ready to ride.  She started with some basic walking around the arena.  At one point early in the ride, Snow pulled his head and reins out of Jo’s hands. Frustrated she said, “I hate this pony!”  I got her organized with her reins and feet in the stirrups.  She looked at me and said, “I want to trot!”

I was surprised.  Somehow when Jo and Kathy were discussing this, I thought it was going to be on the lunge line.  I started to walk with her towards the lunge line.  “No, Granny, you need to trot alongside me!”

Oh, what a great idea!  I can’t think of many things I can do better than run through deep sand in cowboy boots with two bad hips.  But by God, if Jo wanted to try to trot, I would give it a shot.  I grabbed hold of Snow’s bridle and started shuffling down the long wall of the arena.  Jo was second guessing her decision but I was moving forward.

It was a pretty great scene.   Fat, white pony being virtually dragged down the arena while a little girl fearfully hung on for dear life.  Oh, and granny’s limping and stumbling along like a Friday night drunk.

But miracles do happen.  Snow started a little jog.  Jo’s eyes lit up.  And she started counting.  We made 32 steps at a trot before granny and Snow slowed to a walk ( I blame Snow).   Lauren and I both applauded her brave progress.  Then she wanted to do it again.  We made 64 trotting steps this time.  It is really pretty awesome because Jo gets so focused on counting and beating her last number, she relaxes and just trots along.

Next day at the barn, she ran to tell Miss Kathy how many steps she had taken. Jo hugged her and said,  “Thanks for the great advice!”

Jordyn’s parents and other grandparents came down yesterday to see her finally trot Snow.   Thankfully, Jo glad agreed to allow Lauren to jog beside her instead of me.  Probably, because they feared I would slip and fall and Snow would just trot right over me.  I am also thankful because this time Jo and Snow trotted 108 steps.

Jo with Lauren as she prepares to meet another challenging day on Bruno.

Jo with Lauren as she prepares to meet another challenging day on Bruno.

Lauren has been facing her share of challenges as she has focused her vacation time on getting Bruno started as sport horse.  He has been difficult and argumentative.  But she has gotten some terrific tips on how to work with him instead fighting against him.  She has learned what makes the big horse listen and do as she asks.  Today they successfully navigated a short course of jumps.  He cleared a three-foot jump with ease.  A week ago he was barely going over a trot pole.

My girls are standing up to meeting new challenges.  Kendyll got in on the fun riding along with Lauren and Jordyn.  Holiday fun!  Thanks for riding along.  Enjoy your holiday.

Snow is being a trooper!

Snow is being a trooper!

Special Gifts

Holding the book of my blog of Bruno's first 300 days.

Holding the book of my blog of Bruno’s first 300 days.

The original Christmas story was about a lot of special gifts, those of the Christ child and magical gifts for him.   I enjoyed some special, thoughtful gifts today.  First, getting up early, seeing the beautiful star filled sky, feeding my animals their Christmas morning breakfast and then watching my grandchildren light up with joy at seeing what Santa brought them.

My daughters each had great surprises for me.  Amber and Ryan got me an amazing, huge art canvas of a beautiful paint horse (Lauren says it is Mickey’s mom).  Lauren added two beads to my favorite bracelet an Irish one and a seashell for my love of the ocean.

Ally and Luke, did something that I had to keep touching and reading to believe it was really true.  They took my “Bruno Stories”, the first 300 days of my blog about him and his journey into our lives, through surgery and on to being a sport horse and had them printed into a hard back book.

It is a beautifully bound book, straight from this blog (all the ones under the category of “a Bruno Story”).  Most days, I sit down and write a little each evening.  Often I am tired, cranky and frustrated with my ever erratic Internet connection.  Sure, I have frequently re-read posts, but nothing prepared me for the sheer volume of words, pictures and pages that would represent a printed copy of my Bruno story.

My friend, Kathy, has always said there is a book in the Bruno story.   Well, now there really is!   Maybe I will be the only one to read it cover to cover, but that is okay.

Momma and I enjoying Christmas!

Momma and I enjoying Christmas!

This afternoon, alone, after the girls moved on to spend day with their husbands and boyfriend, I went to see mom at the nursing home.  The residents seemed a little ill at ease, probably due to the incomprehensible influx of visitors today.  Mom had no idea it was Christmas.  I almost didn’t give her the simple gifts I had brought.  But I did and she was so excited!  She had tears of joy over the clothes and perfume I had brought. We hugged each other long and held on tight.  Her being in my life is such a wonderful gift.

I hope your day was magical! May the peace of The Lord be with you.

Waiting for Christmas

Sound asleep Muffy and Sneaky, waiting patiently for Christmas.

Sound asleep Muffy and Sneaky, waiting patiently for Christmas.

BrownDog sound asleep on tiny PuppyGirl.

BrownDog sound asleep on tiny PuppyGirl.

It is two days until Christmas.  The presents are bought, wrapped and waiting.  We did a pretty half way job on decorating this year.  No one will come to spend Christmas with Lauren and I.  Christmas morning we will head to Ally and Luke’s.  The tree is up but has only three ornaments, all new, one of a black poodle (surprise), one a Breyer Man O’ War ornament and one a gift from Amanda to Lauren.

Lauren has been on a riding marathon.  Since finishing finals a week ago, she has spent hours in the saddle.  Bruno went to the trainer last Tuesday.  Lauren has been traveling to ride him most days, learning with the big horse.  Then she has been coming home to ride Feather.  Today I washed seven pairs of riding pants.

It has been a good experience watching Bruno, a year after surgery, getting consistent exercise, training and work.  Asking him each day to learn a little more, seems to be working well for both of them.  Lauren has never ridden a horse as large as Bruno.  Plus, being a thoroughbred, he processes every tiny nuance of what she is doing in saddle.  Although six years old, Bruno has not had much chance to get in the ring.  He has had his downtime from the track, but not a lot of time under saddle.

Lauren was reminded that Bruno was like kindergartener.  He does not have experience in the jumping ring.  So, asking for complicated responses as they head over the jumps, is not going to work out.  But day by day, they have both learned.

Apparently, Bruno can jump!

Apparently, Bruno can jump!

After multiple days in the saddle, concluding with a good session with Feather yesterday, today was a day off.  Which was good as Lauren started the morning at the clinic with a temp of 101, a throat and ear infection.  It is cold here and after I got the stalls done and horses out, we were on the couch to stay.  Obviously, the dogs were pretty happy to keep us company in the warm room with the twinkling Christmas lights.

I hope all of you are looking forward to some wonderful holiday time with your families! We are waiting patiently for Christmas. Thanks for riding along.

Bruno’s One Year Anniversary from Surgery

Glowing with health.

Glowing with health.

One year ago today we headed to Texas A&M Vet Hospital with our new OTTB Bruno.  He had on-going hoof problems and was being referred by Dr. Lynn Criner for a possible coffin bone infection.  We met with the great orthopedic staff at TAMU headed up by Dr. Chad Marsh.  Bruno, tipping the A&M scales that day at 1450 pounds, was scheduled for surgery to cut out the infected portion of his hoof.  We were told it would be nine months to a year before he could start gently back to work.

About one fourth of Bruno's hoof was cut away to heal the infection that had brewed for sometime.

About one-fourth of Bruno’s hoof was cut away to heal the infection that had brewed for sometime.

Nine days later, we took the big horse home to his specially built stall to start over five months of stall rest.  It was a challenge.  We had all the work that is associated with holding a giant animal captive in cage (essentially) while keeping his bandages changed, his stall clean and shoveling in feed and hay to keep him content.   Plus we had to learn new bandaging skills with the miles of Elasticon tape and vet wrap we purchased.

Weeks become months, we had good re-growth due to some special supplements, good food and genetics.  Mostly, Bruno tolerated his captivity.  We had some horrible times when he seriously injured his rear foot, losing a lot of blood and requiring stitches.  But the time went by.  By June we were released to start riding him again.  We had managed to grow back all of his hoof in six months.  But the hoof walls were still thin and until this week, have been ‘casted’ to support his hoof.

Today, Bruno is an inspiration to the OTTB spirit.  He has been ready to work, ready to play, ready to be interested in anything we have tried with him.  Now, weighing in at 1650 pounds and measuring over 17.2 hands high, he is a lot of horse to handle.  I am proud of my daughter, Lauren, who has taken on this mammoth challenge with determination and hope.

We are very close to having a nice horse on the flat, one that walks, trots and canters smoothly and on command.  His left lead at the canter will probably always be an issue.  He ran on a sore foot for some time and will not chose to pick up the left lead.  Memories of pain are hard to erase.  But pain is no longer an issue and Lauren will hopefully, get him to trust her that he can reach out with that left foot and be pain-free.

The jumping is coming slowly.  While natural jumper Feather with her Irish relatives has generations of jumpers, Bruno comes from generations of runners.  Yesterday as Lauren and Bruno worked  through a grid, it started to get better.  Lauren relaxed and let the horse relax and he was much smoother.  Perhaps this is a horse that we need to let find his own way over the jumps and not interfere with him.  That would be fine.

What I know for sure is that a year ago I was agonizing over my decision to do the surgery on this horse that had just come into our household.  There were no guarantees that this would work or that Bruno would ever get back to sound or ever jump a jump.  We took a leap of faith in taking in Bruno and deciding to do his surgery.

This is an excerpt from my blog a year ago:

Am I nervous?  Yes, I am almost in tears just writing this.  This big guy has fully and completely integrated himself into both Lauren and my hearts.  But I feel there is no point of trying to let the hoof heal on its own.

I honestly don’t know how this story will end, or to put it another way, if the Bruno and Lauren story will ever get to begin.  I am making the best decision I can, to do the right thing for a beautiful, proud thoroughbred.  I hope one day he runs freely and majestically as he did before.  I hope one day he is whole again.

I know now that it was a good decision, for the horse and for us.  Bruno has yet to walk into any show ring or win a blue ribbon, but at least we have given him a chance for this to happen.  I believe we are on the cusp of the next part of great Bruno’s journey. I can’t wait to see what I will be writing about him a year from now. I hope you stick around for the ride.  Thank you to all that have supported us in so many ways to help get Bruno through this year and off to a new career. We are so grateful.

Happy reunion?

Jim seeing momma for the first time in a year.  She was not quite sure who he was.

Jim seeing momma for the first time in a year. She was not quite sure who he was.


Jim explaining to mom that she was his wife and he loved her so much!

Jim explaining to mom that she was his wife and he loved her so much!

Well, she was clearly remembering something!

Well, she was clearly remembering something!

We got to the nursing home early this morning wanting to make up for lost time from last night’s missed rendezvous.   First thing Jordyn, Lauren and I noticed was that no one was working the desk and the usually bustling lobby was empty.  Uh, oh!

We were told by the aide that all but three residents had some horrible strain of stomach flu.  My mom was one of three that was well.  I hoped that maybe fifty or so years of special occasion stomach flu had built up my mom’s immune system and was helping her throw off the flu.

Jim and Jay arrived before we could think much about it.  Mom did not know Jim.  No question, but he slowly convinced her he was her husband and she seemed pretty happy to have him by her side.  Jim had brought a lot of great pictures.  We all enjoyed visiting.  We left mom just before lunch with a promise to pick her up later in the afternoon for the family dinner.

My stepfather, Jim, is quite a man.  He was the first person I ever met.  Literally!  He was my mom’s OB-GYN and he delivered my sister and I.  He and my mom were reunited years later after they both had lost their spouses.  One of the first times I met Jim again, was in Florida.  He went with me to Ally’s riding lesson.  He informed me he had served honorably in the US Cavalry!  Do you know anyone who rode in the Cavalry?  He jumped horses over things that would make Feather and Lauren faint at heart.  He is a real horseman.

We went back to the farm so Lauren and Jo could ride for their grandpa.  It was sunny and relatively warm, but that north wind was gusting across the prairie at about 25 miles an hour so it was not the best time for a 96 year old to hang out with the horses.

Jim making a new friend.

Jim making a new friend.

First, I found Jim making fast friends with my Irish mare.  He was slipping her apples and she loved him!  Then it was off to meet big Bruno for the first time.  “Now, that looks like a horse who could jump!  He is really amazing!”  Jim noted.

Bruno was playing to the camera and enjoying his old and young visitors.

Bruno was playing to the camera and enjoying his old and young visitors.

They watched the girls ride some and headed out for some soup and respite from the chilling wind.


We planned dinner early with Ally’s family and Blake joining us.  Ally and I headed to my moms to pick her up shortly before dinner.  I will spare you the details, but my momma was now in the count with the residents with the horrible flu.  We cleaned her up as well as we could (while trying to hold our breath) got her in bed and hurried out of the sick ward.  She was feverish, fluish, and barely able to allow us to get her back to bed.

We had the family dinner.  It was nice, but not they way it should have been.  Jim comes all the way from Arizona, gets to see mom for an hour, gets exposed to some violent flu strain and is to head home in the morning.  Man plans, God laughs.

I and all my family are having deep discussions with God tonight regarding stomach flu.  I know I am!

Thanks for riding along!  Really say a prayer for my momma tonight.  Thanks and God bless.





All dressed up

Jordyn helping granny nanny get ready.

Jordyn helping granny nanny get ready.

Alldressed up in her new outfit

All dressed up in her new outfit

Jim and his son, Jay, landed right on a time.  Back in Wharton we headed off to get Jordyn.  After we returned to the assisted living, Jo helped her great grandma get all fixed up for her rendezvous with Jim.  We had hemmed and gotten a  brand new outfit.

We left momma at dinner and settled in to wait for Jim and Jay to arrive.

We had alerted pretty much the whole nursing home that mom’s  good-looking husband was arriving soon.

Then we got the call that they were having to endure the worst of Friday night commuter traffic.   There would be no visit from the boys tonight!

There is just no accounting for the crazy Houston traffic.  Tomorrow morning we will give the reunion another shot! I can’t wait.

Jim returns to momma-tomorrow

Just like last year at this time, my mother’s 96-year-old husband will fly in from his home in Arizona to see her tomorrow.  They have not seen or talked to one another since then, although Jim has sent her many notes and pictures.  Last year this was a startling beautiful reunion that made me a believer once again in true love.

As Jim came through the doorway, my mom’s eyes lit up and they eagerly hugged, kissed and greeted one another. My mom loved Jim’s new beard.  Jim had tears in his eyes as he saw my mom.

But it has been a tough year for Jim with a fall and an injury to his head that has taken some time and hard work to overcome.  My mom, well, she is another year deeper in the evil grasp of dementia.   I feel lucky when she recognizes me.  It doesn’t happen every day any more.

We will see what the weekend brings.  I hope to get some great photos of former US Calvary member, Jim, with big Bruno.  And if we don’t get too much rain, Lauren and Jordyn hope to show their grandpa and great-grandpa, respectively a little of their riding skills.   Jordyn has been working with her baby sister Kendyll, to say “GGJim” as that is what she has always called her great-grandpa Jim.

Ally and Lauren made my mother’s old recipes for Manicotti and her famous Sherry Cake we all used to love.  We will have a fun family dinner on Saturday.

I am grateful that Jim’s son, Jay, is helping make this trip happen.  I can’t wait to see mom and Jim reunited again!

Guest Blog-from a rider’s husband’s perspective

I loved this blog by Diane Wilson’s husband, a behind the scenes look from a spouse (a supportive spouse-what a rare bird).  Thought you all would enjoy his perspective as well!

Jesse with Malloy.

Jesse with Malloy.

7 trips, two flats, and a drag

Nov 23rd, last show of the year, and it is a bitter cold, rainy, early morning at the Center. We have a tab at the Life is Good Cafe and I am running hot chocolate like a drug smuggler working on commission. You’ve see pictures of the trading floor of the stock market, with all of the guys jumping up and down holding papers overhead? That’s me, trying to place my order for hot chocolate behind a bundled lady in line in front of me, making small talk at the counter. The cold weather is a welcome change from the heat I keep telling myself, and a sign of the holiday season, but such arguments only make sense when holding a hot chocolate to complete the picture.

As the last show of the season, there was particular emphasis on equestrian fashion. As they say, it’s not just how good you do, it’s how good you look doing it. Lots had gotten gussied up for the occasion. Some were braided, many had glossy hoofs – you could tell they really got dressed up. Many wore “coolers” over their back ends while awaiting their turn in the ring. Some of them were – i am gonna say “fashion risks”. And I heard a bit of nickering in the warm up area too, so I am probably not the only one thinking it.

My favorite place to watch at the horse show is next to the steward’s stand.  They act as kind of the air traffic controller of the ring, directing traffic in and out, announcing and dictating the action. “In the ring, number 619, class 64, low hunter young adult – judge this is your class.”.  Delta heavy Six One Niner, I have you on approach, proceed to heading one eight four, level and wait for instruction. “Posting trot, turn at the walk, align your numbers to the outside, line up with your backs to the judge” It’s practically the same job.

Stewards have walkie talkies to communicate with the judge and stewards at other rings. Is Dev with you? I have priority. He just left me, heading over to you. Roger that. Every now and then someone will drive up in a cart, approach the steward’s stand to air a dispute in  person.  This is great theater. There are gestures, body language, sometimes raised voices, intonation, and sometimes people stand up or sit down dramatically. There is a whole range of human emotion that can’t be expressed with numbers over a walkie talkie which  is suddenly released. An argument ensues, with someone when you know is just gonna cart away in a minute anyway, and it quickly concludes. It serves the same purpose as the firey halftime speech – it gets the blood boiling so you can finish strong.

My favorite part is when the steward has to lay down the smack on the riders. Things like: “If  you trot into the ring, you are done, I will shut you down!” and “Dev you are on deck, Lindsey you are in the hole, Sara you follow Lindsey. ” Once I saw the steward put every single rider in the hole in succession – some of them multiple times. But there was no idle ring, so I guess it works!

My favorite thing I have ever heard a steward say was in response to a rider who asked him, “How long do I have?” to which he responded “Seven trips, two flats, and a drag” which is code for “I have no clue how long you have”. But it had a lyrical quality to it, and if I had a guitar with me and knew how to play it, I just might’ve strummed up the tune of George Thorogood’s  “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” right then and there. My version might’ve gone “Seven Trippps, two flaaaaats, and one beeeeeeeer!” because, well years of singing along with that song have worn a groove at that particular point. I don’t know why it hasn’t been declared the official anthem of Texas yet, but it’s a wrong I hope to right sometime in my lifetime. But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, at the steward stand.

The other reason I am fond of it, is that’s where they give out the ribbons and prizes. The last weekend of the season we did really well, winning champion of the division both days, in a field of 8 and 7. So that’s a pretty good haul of ribbons, and since I’ve been doing this a while, I’ve found a good way to carry all those ribbons while keeping my hands free by clipping them to my pockets. And it ‘s a good thing, because this time the prizes for first place were potted pink flowers, which took both hands to cradle them to my chest. So can you imagine the scene as I tried to carry all this back to the stall? There I’d be, wearing my cowboy boots and dungarees, shuffling down the aisle, literally dripping with machismo and rugged individualism, calling out to the missus, “Darlin’! Darlin’! They decorated me like a Christmas tree!”

I have to say though, it has been a really successful season. We’ve achieved goals I didn’t even know we had. What’s a circuit champion? Well, it means you get “this”. Oh cool, I like being circuit champion. That’s the best kind of goal, the kind that chases you instead of the other way around. In fact, we’ve had such a successful year, I had to fight the urge to start trash talking. Not that I am a big trash-talker, but I am a guy, and well, that trait is part of the equation.  “In your face! Um, Diverse Luke” or, “You call that a change? My grandmother moves better than that!”    I restrained myself of course. I didn’t want to inspire a new  GHHJA rule against taunting, and anyway, I’m not sure the horses would even  understand they got served.

I know it’s not gonna always be like that of course, and I have to admit I’ve grown fond of some of the members in our division, and I even recognize some of them, and sometimes when the steward announces who is in the ring, I can say “I knew that.” So all in all, good year, I could get used to this.

Fall Harvest Horse Show

Back to the arena


Lula and Kona with Bruno in the background.

Lula and Kona with Bruno in the background.

Although still in the 40s which I understand may be better than what you are facing, it is still pretty cool for us southerners (Lauren was born in Florida and moved to south Texas). With wet and cold conditions, Bruno has barely been getting his rides in.  Add to that Bruno has only had maybe 40 rides this entire year, and you are apt to see a horse not wanting to settle in and work.

I am certain that Kona was a big asset in calming the fresh, green horse.

I am certain that Kona was a big asset in calming the fresh, green horse

It didn’t get whole lot better. Bruno pretty much refused to trot ( he said race horses don’t trot).   So, the first 20 minutes were spent “breezing” a pretty easy pace (like gallop) for a pretty good distance.  Bruno was running some sideways.  His tail was swishing away, showing his irritation.

Okay, he is mad.

Okay, he is mad.


He finally got a little rounder and a little softer.  Still there was nothing about this ride that spelled anything but green, young horse.  It was great to be able to got and ride.  Each ride builds on the next.

And at the end, Bruno walked straight into the trailer.  Day by day! Thanks for riding along with both of us!