Bruno-home from the Ritz

image Have you ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton or Hyatt Regency resort?  Especially one in tropical locale?  Everything is just cleaner, more luxurious and perfect than your real home.  I guess that is why guests fork over hundreds of dollars ( and sometimes more) per night to be treated like they are special.  And let’s not forget all the spa amenities like hot showers that never turn cold, massages and best salons around. As a guest, I have always enjoyed being treated this way.   Arriving home, my place looked a little drabber, and my hair never looked as good as when the professionals styled it.

Bruno has been gone for over two weeks away at an intensive training regime.  Bruno loaded in the trailer easily (after continued work with Sarah and Lauren). A hundred miles later, we were met by a kind, competent groom who led Bruno to his stall where he would live for the next two weeks.   This barn with its stucco and rock walls was a far cry from my metal shed with our homemade stalls. We learned the expected routine pretty quickly.  The horse was brought down to matted, grooming stalls with cross ties.  Perhaps this all felt like the norm to OTTB Bruno who came from a lovely New York racing facility.  Regardless, he settled in like it was just another day.   Bruno was tacked up, Lauren brought him to the covered arena and their education over fences got underway in earnest.

Getting the big horse started.

Getting the big horse started.

After the first day’s lesson, where Bruno progressed from trot polls, to Xes, to single jumps to his first oxer, Lauren handed the horse over to the groom once again.  The groom removed and cleaned his tack and Bruno was bathed in warm, soapy water. Each day, when Lauren arrived, she found Bruno a little cleaner and whiter than the day before.  A big part of this was a giant car type canister vacuum that was used to suck all the tiniest specks of dust out of the horse’s coat.  And each day the progress in the ring become sharper and brighter.  It was very helpful to have Lauren work directly with Bruno as he was being trained.  In the end, Lauren will need to be the one to keep bringing Bruno along. As I saw Bruno standing in cross-ties, I considered how Feather would react to this fancy barn.  I suspect that Feather would break a few cross-ties as she accepted the routine here.

Standing in the grooming stall, just like a show horse.

Standing in the grooming stall, just like a show horse.

With the many holidays, the two weeks went quickly.  Yesterday, in their final lesson, Bruno was jumping a short course and showing a lot of scope over several jumps.  Bruno headed home to my little farm.  Feather and Kid were nickering for him as the trailer pulled in.  Immediately he was reunited with Kid.  I am not sure who was happier.  Lauren worked a quieter, less intimidating horse today, who worked easily with her to walk, trot and canter.  Bruno was unimpressed with our icy cold well water that greeted him after his work-out.

We had hoped and prayed that one day this horse would fly. I am  completely convinced now, after these two weeks, that we have a top-flight jumper in Bruno.  Lauren was told multiple times that Bru will never be an easy ride or an easy horse to jump.  But we have never had the luxury of an easy horse.  Lauren held her own amongst the other top riders at this barn.

Bruno settled into farm routine easily this morning, eating all his breakfast for the first time in two weeks.  Bruno enjoyed his time at the top-flight barn.  He learned a lot in his classes and luxuriated in all the wonderful grooming.

Happy to be home!

Happy to be home!

What an amazing opportunity to allow Bruno and Lauren this time for training and new growth.  Kid says it is all fine and good since Bruno is back home where he belongs.  Thanks for riding along and wishing you all a wonderful New Year.

Kid keeping close tabs on Bruno.

Kid keeping close tabs on Bruno.

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.

The weekend

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Six horses are now in residence once again at Six Meadow Farm. It was a busy weekend with moving to the show grounds Friday, showing Saturday and Sunday while visiting my mom, readying the farm for Snowboy’s return, and regular weekend chores. Everything went well. I am pretty wiped out and it will be an early night tonight.

Lauren and Feather continued their progression up through the height divisions at the show. Although some six year-old horses are jumping over four feet, they have usually been in the show routine longer than the little over one year that Feather has been. Ironically, she did her first horse exactly one year this same weekend! In this one year, which started at the 2’3″ division, they have moved through multiple divisions until Sunday they showed in 2’9″-3′ foot jumpers.

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Lauren and Feather doing a little sailing.

They picked ribbons in all three classes on Saturday. Dev told her it was the best she ever ridden. Sunday came, the jumps were raised. It was a tougher more aggressive group. Lauren would have to ride faster, jump higher to place. She was second out of ten in her first class. It was pretty exciting to see Feather with lots of air between her and the jump.

We were soon loading Feather in the trailer. Snow easily loaded and we were headed home. It was a rocky as we pulled in the drive. Mickey was calling Feather. All the horses were trying to figure out who was in the trailer. Bruno went nuts, bucking, spinning, running in his small enclosed paddock.

We let Snow out with Pixie first. That was a non-event. Snow faced off against Pixie. She backed off. We sent Mick and Feather out next. A little running, kicking and bucking ensued. We got everyone in at dinner and our barn was full.

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from left, Snow, Pixie, Feather and Mick

Jordyn called from Denver to ask what she needed to do to get Snowney to come home. I told her keep practicing and Snowney would home soon. We are T-minus 48 hours until the reunion. I can’t wait!

Back in the saddle again ( not a Bruno story)

Even though Bruno is in this story, I am not riding him. He is too big, too strong and too unpredictable for me to launch my return to riding on him. I just might be launched and that is not what I need right now (or ever)!

Lauren has been on vacation. Prior to vacation, we had just gotten the Pixie pony. Bruno had been cleared by the vet to be ridden but he had not held up well and we had backed off. Lauren was working Feather but not really anyone else. Having three young horses in training is a push for anyone.  It is lonely to be here and ride by yourself. Progress with a horse takes repetition and repetition takes time.

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From shoulder surgery of ten weeks ago, I had yet to be allowed to ride. Seeing the surgeon today I asked if I could start riding again. He said, “are you going to do it anyway?” “Yes”, I answered. “Then be careful”, he muttered. I took that as a full release to ride.

Pixie is the German Riding pony that came from our Florida friends. She is four and while “backed” as we call it she is certainly not completely trained. I did not pay for a well-trained pony, I paid for a prospect. I am much better than Lauren at starting the youngsters.  Lauren is thrilled I am taking over the pony’s initial training.

Pixie only had a few rides under her belt and I had not ridden since March. I was anticipating some trouble. I had watched Lauren ride the pony and noted she would pull her head up high to avoid the bit. Since she arrived we have also extracted two teeth and worked on the others. I hoped that would help with her mouth issues as well.

Now let’s not talk about my riding ensemble with my shorts and boots. It was way over 95 degrees and I was not riding in pants. Pixie fought me some, but with consistent cues I had turning, stopping, walking and trotting well. My left arm has been in a sling the better part of the last ten weeks. It felt like someone took my strong old arm and left me with one made of putty. The bicep and tricep muscles were the worst. But my tough forearm gained from years of hauling hay and feed was weak as well.

I was very gratified by the quick and easy responses I got from the pony. She will be a nice one. She was very quiet even though Bruno was doing his best to be disruptive from the paddock. I am thrilled to be back up in my saddle even if it is the western one for now. I love having a goal and horse to work on. I am very thankful my old body parts continue to hang in there for me.

Lauren and I riding together in the early evenings is wonderful as well.  It is always better to have someone to ride with and me on a horse does much more good than me hanging with the poodle.

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Lauren and Bruno made their second ride tonight as well. He is muscling up and covered with dapples. He is listening, working and learning. Lauren had some flowing trots and canters with a lot of nice, even cadence. We want to get Bruno and Pixie out to some new arenas to prepare them for showing. Please let me know if your place could be stop on roadshow training circuit. We would love to get out and ride with some of you!

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Lauren’s next challenge

Lauren out to take Mimi for her first ride since arriving home from the trainers. Notice big Bruno looking on from the rear.

Lauren and I have been sick the entire Thanksgiving holiday. Work; the basic feeding, vet care, stall cleaning all got done.but nothing extra was accomplished.  We slept 12-14 hours each night, fitfully, getting up to feed horses and dogs and going back to bed.  I only got the nursing home every other day.

It was a short-term solution.  Thankfully, we had already decided not to try to make the horse show this weekend with Feather.  Thankfully, we had help finishing the stalls and getting things ready so we could have five horses on the property again.  We didn’t have much energy to spare.

If you’ve read the details about our little place, we called it Six Meadow Farm, because in the beginning there were six acres and six horses.  But we have not had more than four on the property in a long time,

Lauren’s next challenge is to see if she has the stuff of Mimi’s trainer, Sarah, to organize, plan, and execute the training of three young horses while keeping Mickey fit, going to school and managing the household.  It is going to be tough.  Both Feather and Mimi will require at least four rides a week.  Bruno, until his hoof heals more will just get two to three rides.  Mickey will need the same if we plan to use him at all this next year.  There was a time when I could be counted on to flat (not jump) a couple of horses a week and in fact, I think the horses and I were better off for it.  Horses like variety and I would do long trots on the hay roads and other work outside the arena.  It kept their minds happy.  With all the demands of work, my mom and the just the hours spent commuting, I will not be good for much but an occasional weekend pick-up ride.  Ally is coming a couple of days a week and that should help as well but the major burden of the rides and schooling of these young horses will fall to Lauren.

We watched Sarah work Mimi last night.  Sarah told us Mimi did not like to work in the dark but when she has horses to work and the days are short, someone will get worked in the dark.  Sarah has award-winning horses because she does the work.  She does not take days off or short cuts.  She was nursing an upper respiratory infection yesterday like Lauren and I. 

Lauren is young.  She is tough.  She is disciplined.  I wish we had other friends that could come down more often and ride with her.  Facing the ring alone day after day is lonely.  Lauren is going to cut back her hours at school next semester to get these horses started.  She has a calendar and a plan. 

Horses are a business where the best laid plans can fall apart in an instant.  But these next few months should show Lauren if the horse business is what she wants from life.  While there are lots of songs about cowboys losing everything to follow the rodeo circuit there are not any (that I know of) about an equestrian sacrificing everything to ride the show circuit, but it is the same story.  Keep reading along and we will see how it goes.  She’s got three nice young horses ready to reach the next steps, they are the best she has ever had.  Let’s see what she turns them into.

Lauren headed out to saddle Mimi and Feather.

Outings

Today found Lauren  and Mickey off to Dev’s for the final tune-up before next week’s show.  They had a good lesson, in fact, I believe Dev may have said Mickey was as good as he has ever looked.  Wow.  Not where I thought we would be after our summer off work.  I am very pleased.

Today found me taking my mother to the nail salon.  She had “fake” nails on and has had them (not the same ones) for many years.  I have needed to get them off of her but have not been able to get her to the salon.  I was frightened about what we would find under the “fake” nails.  And not to be too graphic but I am unclear if my mom has had a pedicure since leaving Tucson last March.  I was not going to take that on and none of my daughters were volunteering.

The trip to the nail salon was a huge success with newly painted hot pink toes and finger nails.  I am pretty sure she kissed the nail girl goodbye.

Successful outings all around.

Mickey-Back in Action

Mickey is stepping out again!

For the first time since mid-June, Mickey has returned to Dev for training. A little bigger, a little more excited but hopefully coughing a little less, Mickey took the almost 100 mile trip to Dev’s this morning for his first lesson in over 90 days.  That is crazy.  I don’t think Mickey has ever been out of training for 90 days since the time he was a two-year old.

I had been a little anxious all morning waiting to hear how it all had gone.  Things seemed to be starting off well.  Mickey loaded in the trailer first try which was way easier than the usual angst with Feather.  And he rode quietly, even though they hit rush hour traffic on the Beltway and weren’t traveling over 10 miles per hour for a period. But Mickey is not Leo either and stood quietly in the trailer no matter what truck or car pushed past.

And the lesson was a success!  I think Dev was a little surprised to see “Western Mickey”, with his mane long and wild.  His body shape is more of halter horse than the sleek thoroughbred he has resembled in the past.  “Western Mickey” will have to have a major grooming session prior to the October show to get him back to “Show Mickey”.  Today he looks like he should be going out to work some cattle.

Lauren has really been reminiscing about her days with Mick.  I come home to find her re-watching her winning videos of the past season, over and over.  Last night she posted on Facebook, a video from the February show.  It was a good round for them and I think she is so eager to be back in the ring that she is yearning for it.  It has made her eager and hungry for the adrenline rush of the big fences (for us anyway).

Dev said he thought Mickey looked solid (people have called me solid before-not sure it is a big compliment-maybe better for a horse than me).  He said he looked healthy and well-rested.  Once they got in the ring, at the trot there was some coughing, but they pushed past it, and went on with business.  It seemed that Mickey, like Lauren, was eager to get back to his job.  He was very accurate with his jumping and looked great over fences, which he has not jumped at all in these past  few months.  They took him up to about three-foot.  It was enough for the first day back.  Enough for Dev to know that the little bay gelding was on a come back trip.

Actually, Mickey looked good enough and behaved well enough, that Lauren was the one that got the homework assignments.  The horse can only be as good as their rider is, and Lauren has been out of practice these last months as well.  While she has spent a lot of hours in the saddle between moving Feather along and keeping Mickey fit, she has not had the eyes of a trainer on her.  We all know that words coming from me, are just that, words.  So, Lauren has some work to do on her posture and sitting back and waiting before the jump.  These are not new concepts to Lauren but ones she always needs to be mindful of as she rides. 

We could probably cancel our date for the scan on Monday but I would rather go ahead with it.  If we do and all is fine-then that is done.  If I don’t do it and Mickey continues to have issues, we will always wonder what the scan would have shown.  My analysis at this point is Mickey has allergies that cause him to cough (and he will always have issues with these) and he had the Pythium fungal-like infection in his respiratory tract.  He has overcome the Pythium problem but will always have allergy issues.  I think the scan on Monday will be fine.  But I want to know for sure.

It is with enormous satisfaction that I received the message from Dev today after the lesson that it went well and Mickey did great.  It has been a long, hot summer waiting to see this horse back in action. 

As always, thanks for riding along!