Sounds like Life

CaptureSounds like life to me it ain’t no fantasy
It’s just a common case of everyday reality
Man I know it’s tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
It sounds like life to me

Sounds like life to me plain old destiny
Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride


Get used to all this unpredictability
Sounds like life

Darryl Worley

Wise woods for me as I get banged around the pin ball crazily careening through the machine bouncing off the flippers,  a marble gone crazy.  

My beautiful new from Kentucky, Foxhound suffered an accident Monday leaving her paralyzed. By Friday with none of drugs giving her relief, Lauren and I stood by her as we put her to sleep. So, what was the point of bringing that beautiful dog with such a dear soul to me for a month to tear our hearts out as she passed?  I don’t get it. 

In the meantime pregnant and due to deliver Fargo just keeps holding on to the baby one more day. I have chosen to sleep out on the concrete by her stall. This is bucket list stuff and I dearly want to be there when the baby comes.  So far just rain and back aches have come from my all night camping trips at the barn.   

 

Fargo is 331 days pregnant. Full time is approximately 340 +/-  

  Last night as the storms moved on and the moon showed up in the sky I took about 200 pictures. Not sleeping. Pretty bored. No baby. All the other horses laid down at least for a while but Fargo just kept munching hay. Good times. 

  To make the week more chaotic my horse Nova colicked badly with a serious impaction in her gut. We were lucky after a rough 36 hours or so to see Nova was going to make it.     Feather super “drunk” so could get some good x-rays. 

Then Feather went to the top of the prayer list as X-ray showed a serious mass in her facial bones. Some top Texas surgeons were betting on a real bad end to Feather’s life but continued diagnostics have us thinking we might be looking at a completely different, and treatable problem. Fingers crossed. 

 

Finally our boarder Kendrick caught this great shot of Feather, Nova and Betty Sue on the beach in my back pasture catching some rays. I love it!  
I will keep sleeping again with my mare on the off chance I catch her giving birth. I am off to Oklahoma Monday for a few days so no doubt that is when the baby will come. I guess that’s life.  

Sounds like life to me plain old destiny

Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty

You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride

Get used to all this unpredictability

Sounds like life

Pin Oak Wrap-up

The first jump in the Classic at Pin Oak.

The first jump in the Classic at Pin Oak.

After our thrills of last week, this second week of Pin Oak brought some adjustments and lessons to my daughter and her silver streak of a horse.

Lauren in her show whites with her number and Irish Sport Horse emblem pad with Feather's name.

Lauren in her show whites with her number and Irish Sport Horse emblem pad with Feather’s name.

Wednesday found Lauren and Feather back in the ring trying out some new heights for them, jumping 1.05 and 1.10 meters.  It was the first time for Lauren and Feather to tackle the 1.10 meters in competition.  It was pretty amazing.  Feather went in the ring like it was nothing new and jumped around clean and fast.  In fact, she was in first place until the second to last rider who beat her by less than one second out of a large field.

Friday found the team learning some lessons about how tight is too tight to make a turn and how best the mare approaches a jump.  There were no ribbons Friday or Saturday.  But there was a time, just recently, that we would have never expected to get a ribbon at Pin Oak so maybe we got a little spoiled with our riches in Week 1.

Both Lauren and young Feather are new to competitions of this size and working against horses of this stature.  They needed to pay some dues and learn from their mistakes.  Sunday they went back in the ring for a pretty solid ride to a seventh place finish in the Low Adults.  They were invited, based upon their previous week’s performance, to the $10,000 Classic.  That is a lot of money.  But Lauren pulled the first position in the go and headed out first to conquer a new ring and huge, solid jumps.  Feather stopped at the very first jump.  Lauren brought her around and she jumped everything from there with a final downed rail on the last jump.  Her share of the $10,000 was as the 12th place finisher not as the winner (AJ de Leyer was second).

Feather galloping off

Feather galloping off

But it was a wonderful couple weeks for duo and I know it will be fond memories for us for some time.  What we know for sure is that we have a mare that can take on the best and hold her own.  She definitely is part of the league of winners now.

The scoreboard with Flagmount's Irish Freedom (or as much of it as would fit)  and a look at Pin Oak arena filled with jumps.  It was not for the faint of heart.

The scoreboard with Flagmount’s Irish Freedom (or as much of it as would fit) and a look at Pin Oak arena filled with jumps. It was not for the faint of heart.

Thanks for riding along!

Glad Tidings

Waiting for results after the third class in Lauren's jumper division.

Waiting for results after the third class in Lauren’s jumper division.

You can go back in my blog to March of any year and there will be a discussion about the big Texas Charity Horse Show called Pin Oak that takes place each as a benefit for Texas Children’s Hospital.  In the blog I may talk about Jordyn riding Leadline (a pretty exciting time), or Mickey competing over fences but except for Jordyn (and honestly that is pretty much a gimme, as my dad would have said), none of my family or my horses have ever won a ribbon at this big show.

Certainly, this was the year to try as Lauren came back from her fractured arm to win the USEF Zone Finals in November.  Feather was jumping well and this would be our last time to compete at this height (1.00 and 1.05 meters) before moving up to bigger jumps.  Lauren was still suffering the ill effects of her injury with only partial use of her hand.  But she had learned to compensate pretty well.

The major division for them was the Adult Amateur Low Jumpers.  It consisted of a class Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Friday Lauren had been jumping well prior to this class but Feather was jumping hard and Lauren lost her reins over one of the big oxers.  For some reason, Lauren did not want to trust Feather to make it through the triple line of jumps with no guidance from her.  I know, you would have done it!

The placings of the classes are cumulative and it is hard to be competitive if you do not place at all on one of three days.  Satuday amidst horrendous rain showers I got to watch Lauren and Feather smoothly, quietly and without fuss burn their opponents to win that round.  But one thing was missing.  You may have heard my appreciation of the de Leyer family starting way back with Harry and his national champion Snowman (there is a Breyer of this) to his current family here in Houston that brings the horse and rider to beat to any competition they join.  AJ de Leyer was absent from the ring on Saturday.  He had won the round on Friday where Lauren had not placed.  We knew he was the man to beat if Lauren wanted to walk away with the Grand Championship.

Due to USEF rules, it had been a while since AJ and Lauren had competed against one another.  AJ, younger than Lauren by a few years, had not moved up to the adult division.  But he was here now and with a horse that had won multiple Pin Oak and Zone Final championships.  If Feather was going to win Grand she was going to have to be moving and jumping fast!

As I sat with a friend, as rider after rider went through the course, she asked where Lauren was in the rotation.  I knew she was close to the end.  “Where is AJ?”  After Lauren I answered.  That would give the benefit to AJ as he would already know if Lauren had gone clean and what her time was.  If AJ went before Lauren, if he knocked poles, Lauren could just take it easy and go clean and still win-not having to push the speed.

My friend figured that AJ and Lauren were tied going into this final round.  The only rider that could beat them for grand champ had a disappointing ride and the tie held as Lauren and Feather headed boldly in ring.  In this particular round, the rider had one course of 12 jumps which they needed to jump clean and within the time limit to head into the jump off.  Lauren went blazing past the timer and I held my breath.  Leap, turn, run, leap, turn, run, they took on the course aggressively.  A little too agressively I thought as I prayed they did not pull any rails.  But they came clear through the round and onto the jump off intact.

As a frame of reference, Mickey and Alex competing in the children’s division over the same course, finished in 60 seconds, Feather and Lauren tagged in at 63 seconds and some change.  I told you Mickey was faster!

It was on to the jump off which was a maybe seven jumps and meant to be all holds bared.  The tighter the turns, the faster the recovery onto the next jump and the faster the speed between jumps would lead to the winner.  And also to the almost winner, if they pulled down any rails in their hurry to win.

Lauren was disappointed that she missed one turn that she had planned but still came in with the second fastest time.  And NO rails down at all!

AJ and his horse Skylark came blazing into the ring.  AJ is the son of a son of a top horseman.  He and his dad had every inch of the course planned.  As AJ flew over the fences in front of us, he was talking out loud to his horse, “get the six, get the six” (as in six strides) then as he hit the tight in-and-out we could him say “whoa, here,whoa, here”. He rode it beautifully.  I don’t remember looking at his time.  All that mattered was he was clean and off to the jump off.

Skylark gave AJ all he had as AJ urged him faster and faster with tighter and tighter turns.  Unfortunately, they pulled a couple of rails.  This left Lauren in second place for the class with AJ pulling a fourth place finish.

Suddenly, I looked at my friend, tears were streaming from her eyes.  “Lauren just won Grand Champion! No one deserves it more!”  Well, I don’t know about that, I am sure there are others that deserve a big day in their life but Lauren has had a long career with rescue horses, the horses people just were not sure what to do with and she has worked hard to make her way.  Especially this last year has been a tough one.  But Pin Oak Grand Champion-yes, it was something sweet enough to bring tears to your eyes.  We couldn’t even win a ribbon before and now  Feather had ribbons, and plates, and platers and pictures in the winner’s circle.

It was sweet, indeed.  Thank you to all of you who have ridden along with us!

I am holding the Tiffany winner's plater, trainer Dev is next and Lauren with mighty Feather.

I am holding the Tiffany winner’s plater, trainer Dev is next and Lauren with mighty Feather.

On the wings of Angels

I know the three of you were watching from heaven yesterday

as Lauren and Feather made their way through the in-gate for finals

I could feel the wind stir, I could see the drapes rattle

a little dust even blew up under Feather’s feet as she approached

the first jump

Lauren and Feather had your wings and your hands were upon them

‘Lil Betty stroking Feather’s neck so she would stay focused and calm

Helping Lauren hold the reins in a hand that no longer functions

Heels deep, back straight, reins even

Heels deep, back straight, reins even

I can see you daddy, being sure Lauren’s heel was deep in the stirrup as she approached the jump

And momma, your hands were upon her tired shoulders to keep her upright and strong

All three of you supported my little broken girl as each jump came up and they rode away clean

What team she had with you all on board!

Thank you for watching over my girls in the ring today.

Zone Finals Champ-Say what?

The outside wall is four foot.  Feather takes this big oxer like the wind blowing across the top of it without touching a thing.

The outside wall is four-foot. Feather takes this big oxer like the wind blowing across the top of it without touching a thing.

Over the years of this blog, I have written about our journey to the USEF Zone finals.  The United States Equestrian Federation divides the country into Zones and those states compete for points over who is the best of whatever division in which they are showing their horses.  Although Hawaii is just one zone (probably because it would be hard to trailer to a show in Hawaii from anywhere else), the other zone definitions by states are not necessarily equal in terms of size (geographically or by population).

Somehow, Texas (which clearly could be a whole zone all on its own based on size-I mean Alaska, Hawaii, Texas-which is clearly bigger?) ended up being placed in a zone with five other states.  So, Lauren and her fellow Texas riders compete for points with riders from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, and Kansas.  Now, does anyone actually make shows in all those states, probably not.  Six states in the NE would be a possibility but these six states in our Zone 7 are geographically disperse.

In the past, Lauren has qualified for finals three times on her horse, Irish Midnight, aka Mickey, the first time in hunters (where they had no chance of winning at all but it was fun to go) and twice in jumpers once in the Children’s Low Jumper and once in the Adult Low Jumpers but they have never walked away with a ribbon.

This year very little thought was given to zone finals.  We had qualified early in the year based upon Feather’s and Lauren’s performance at one of the first winter shows.  Then she added some points at the Oklahoma Go Show this summer.  But that was before she broke her arm and her hand stayed permanently paralyzed in a claw position. And before her grandma died leaving a hole in our hearts.  And before the thought of jumping a horse over a big fence was something to be feared instead of something she loved.

Personally, I was pretty happy with Dev riding the mare and pushing her up to new heights.  I didn’t want to worry about how Lauren would grip the reins or hold a crop or intuitively know how to set the mare to a slower pace without a right hand to count on.  I was not keen on zone finals.  But Dev thought they should do it so off they went.

I usually try to get out to see her ride during the week but I have been sick with various ailments and have had a lot of work to catch up on.  Or so went my excuse.  When Lauren called me Friday to tell me they had a refusal in the .85 (about 2’6″) I just wanted her to quit.  I figured if they couldn’t get through that they were never going over three feet in the following classes.  I literally sat at my desk at work and silently cried.  I was just so afraid it was useless and that Lauren would be hurt more.

I texted my three dearest friends and both my other daughters to say a prayer for Lauren as she headed to the next round which would be set at a meter high (3’3″). My friend Lynn sent the following prayer:

dear Lord,

Keep Lauren safe and give her the confidence and the courage to face her fears and ride straight through them, Amen

My friend Kathy told me “she has already achieved a lot just getting back on and riding through the in gate.  Great rounds will come.”

Friends are awesome.  And they were right.  Friday she rode into the meter round with Feather and caught the first pole creating an immediate four faults, but then something just synched and they were perfect.  They did not place but rode very well.

Friday night and Saturday found me with horrible stomach flu which I blame on my granddaughters but fear and apprehension could have been a culprit as well.  Probably for the second time in the history of Lauren’s shows I was not with her on an important day.  I got texts later that they had placed fourth in one class (Out of 40) and were just out of the ribbons in the other.

This morning on the last day of the show I woke up feeling better than I had in a week (gee, wonder why).  I was off to sit at the ring and watch and write down the times of every single rider in her big group.  Lauren was 37th to go. I had seen falls, lots of pulled rails, many, many stops and only completely clear round for the adults.  Even John de Leyer’s horses had some issues.  I felt good about Feather as I watched her warm up.  Lauren was riding easy and clean.

Clearing the jump easily.

Clearing the jump easily.

IMG_2234 IMG_2239Feather flew around the course never even rubbing as pole or chancing a refusal.  It was a beautiful round.  And again, Lauren never used her legs, spurs or crop to ask for more from Feather, they just flew together to victory.  What a sight it was to see!  I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else today than watching this ride with this brave girl on this wonderful horse.

 

An extremely elated Lauren holding her ribbons.

An extremely elated Lauren holding her ribbons.

In the end, she was first in this class for both the Zone and the Division with only one other double clean rider, she combined the points for both her Zone classes and the division classes and ended up as follows:

Tied for Champion for Zone 7 Finals *****see below

Tied for Reserve champ for the division

It has been a year when the lows have really been low for us, but just as clearly these highs have really been top-notch.  I would have never dreamed when this little Flagmount horse got off the trailer from Florida she would take us so far.  Yet, even then I had a hint of a dream, a dream of a once in lifetime horse and we are so blessed.

 

Thank you especially to my daughter Ally who has been our savior and the only way this barn has kept running in the dark days and big thanks to Dev Branham who believed in Lauren even on a little bay horse and has helped us develop Feather to what she is today.  And to so many of you that urged us on, prayed for us and will be here for us still as Lauren and I go back to surgery once again.  Thank you for riding along!  God bless.

_______________________________________________________

***POST-SCRIPT***

I had a couple of things wrong.

First, Lauren was Zone Champion all by herself and not tied with anyone.  And second, the class on Saturday where we thought she did not place, she actually placed sixth.

 

All the Pretty Horses

Baby Betty as the leader of the pack.

Baby Betty as the leader of the pack.  (LOVE this shot)

It occurred to me yesterday when Mickey was off at a show and Feather had been moved to join the mare pasture with Kalani, Fargo and baby Betty Sue,that I had quite a diverse band of mares, at least from a color perspective.  Most English horses are grey or bay with an occasional chestnut to liven things up.  My grey, blue roan, Palomino and buckskin pinto look way beyond the norm.

So I set out this morning to catch some photos in the soft morning light.  It is going to be about the pictures tonight and a welcome to my new boarder, Jo Ann as well.

First, Betty Sue, a little over six months old and standing 13.3 hands high.  She is
“butt high” as we say when babies grow taller in the back before the front catches up.

Betty shining in the morning sun.  Clearly, butt high.

Betty shining in the morning sun. Clearly, butt high.

What a face!

What a face!

Trotting with Fargo.

Trotting with Fargo.

Fargo becoming a beauty in her right with a little daily attention.

Fargo becoming a beauty in her right with a little daily attention.

IMG_2013

Pretty mare Feather, startlingly against the sunlight.

Pretty mare Feather, startling against the sunlight.

IMG_2028 IMG_1992

Finally my favorite girl, Kalani also a study of contrast in the morning light.

Kalani, blue roan quarter horse.

Kalani, blue roan quarter horse.

IMG_2031 IMG_2091 IMG_2095

And finally some of them all.

IMG_1997 IMG_2032 IMG_2049 IMG_2067 IMG_2079

Finally, 31-year-old OTTB Hershey joined our barn yesterday and was getting to know pasture mate Prosecco.  This is exactly how OTTBs are supposed to end up, old, healthy and happy running with new friends.  Thanks and welcome to Jo Ann.

Hershey  meeting Prosecco for the first time.

Hershey meeting Prosecco for the first time.

Prosecco questions if this was a good idea.

Prosecco questions if this was a good idea.

 

This will be Hershey's last home and I hope everyday is as good as today.

This will be Hershey’s last home and I hope everyday is as good as today.

Thanks for riding along.  Let me know which one was your favorite picture.

Betty Sue and Grandma arrive! Lauren overcomes! Feather Soars!

Betty Sue seeing Lauren eye to eye on Texas soil.

Betty Sue seeing Lauren eye to eye on Texas soil.

First taste of Texas.

First taste of Texas.

Betty Sue, grandma Fargo, and weanling friend Carter had an uneventful trip from Colorado to Texas, arriving late Tuesday afternoon.  They were ready to get off the trailer but no worse for the trip.  The two weanlings were exceptionally calm and well-behaved.  We immediately reloaded Fargo and Betty Sue for the short trip on to our house

The girls have settled in easily.  They love the green grass but are slightly less enamoured with the temperatures in the high 80’s with their Colorado winter coats.

Wednesday Feather headed to the equestrian center for her first show since OKC in July and her first since Lauren’s broken arm.  Dev showed Feather Thursday and Friday, coming out of their first class with the winning time and the blue ribbon in hand.  From there they moved up from the 1.05 meter (which is the highest we have ever showed) all the way to the 1.15 meter.  Feather did fine, no problem with the height but will need continued work on her technique.   They showed in the 1.20 meter on Friday and had a stop at the big in and out jump, but nothing a little practice can’t fix.

Dev and Feather in the 1.20 meter

Dev and Feather in the 1.20 meter

 

Dev and Feather soar.

Dev and Feather soar.

Lauren returned to the show ring today with some natural fear and angst following her bad fall this past July. I needn’t have worried, they stepped into the ring, two titanium rods supporting her foreman and still total paralysis of two fingers, to take over second place in the .95 meter. I was SO proud of my girls.

IMG_1959 IMG_1966

 

More work happening at the farm as my son-in-law Luke works to get us arena lights before the time change hits.  He has worked for days, sacrificing sleep, family and football. I am very grateful!

Thanks for riding along and all your support!

Betty Sue says good night!

Betty Sue says good night!