I have always had horses, but for the past 5 years have only ridden sporadically. However in July I acquired a lease on an area pasture, which enabled me to move my TB/QH gelding from my parents' farm, and acquire a few more horses.
I have been documenting my journey with this horses on Facebook (For Hooves of Thunder | Facebook), but recently came across the member journals in this forum and thought I would post daily updates here!
First off, however, I wanted to introduce the horses, and state my goals for them.
Wings: 16 yr old, 16.2h grey TB/QH gelding. I have owned this big boy for approximately 8 yrs. He rides english and western and has jumped up to 4 ft (I regularly schooled him at 3'6" several years ago). We never competed, but I have been considering taking him to some small jumping shows in the future. He is also a wonderful trail horse. He recently developed cysts (cystic corpora nigra) in his right eye, which gives him limited vision on that side but it hasn't affected his personality whatsoever.
Skylar: 16 yr old, 14h BLM Mustang gelding. When I got him, I was told he had had very little handling. I have been working with him and in just the one month I have had him, he has made great progress! I can now halter and lead him - he even had his feet trimmed the other day for the first time ever! My ultimate goal for him is lower level dressage, as he has beautiful gaits and is incredibly sensitive to the slightest aids.
Cody: 16 yr old, 14.1h BLM Mustang gelding. When I went to SC to meet Skylar, I found out that his half-brother Cody was also being rehomed. Since they have been together their whole lives, I wanted to keep it that way. Cody has been trained to ride, and although he is somewhat lazy, he is an awesome trail horse! I have been looking into possibly getting him into CTR...and who knows but that we might do some extreme cowboy racing on the side! ;)
Promise: 7 yr old, 14.3h Appaloosa mare. Possibly pregnant, but we're not sure. She was recently rescued from slaughter, and finally made it down to join the rest of the herd. She is very forward and incredibly sensitive - at the same time she is also very brave and can JUMP! I am looking forward to doing some lower level eventing with her in the future!
This evening Michelle came over and we went riding together. She slipped the hackamore on Cody and I saddled up Promise.
I have found out the hard way that Promise bolts when you try to mount her. Usually a little groundwork will improve that, but she was being particularly obstinate today. Again and again I tried to mount her, only to have to jump back and spin her around when she tried to take off. After watching us a few minutes, Michelle remarked, “I can't believe you actually do this out here alone.” I shrugged. My husband doesn't ride and really has no interest in horses, so the majority of the time I go solo.
Finally I had to put Promise in cross-ties to get her to stand while I mounted. She danced in place, but fortunately settled down quickly. I made her stand for several minutes before releasing her.
Of course, as soon as we headed out, Cody immediately tried to test Michelle. He is a lazy butt so he never does anything dangerous but he did stop and refuse to move. We had to go back for the crop.
Realizing that Michelle had the crop, he knew he couldn't get away with balking, but he did keep trying to swerve and turn back toward the barn. He fought Michelle for close to 5 minutes before conceding defeat and dragging his feet after myself and Promise.
Promise, of course, is convinced she was a racehorse in a previous life. She never hesitates or balks at anything. I'm not sure she even thinks about anything. She just charges wherever she is pointed. It was quite comical – her head bobbing she imitated a running walk, and Cody bringing up the rear walking as slow as is horse-ly possible. At the same time it was good for the both of the – Cody being encouraged to keep up with a faster horse and Promise learning patience as she had to stop and wait.
We didn't ride that far – across the big field and down past the pond. We noticed “No Trespassing” signs all around the pond, but none on the other side where it opened up into a small field. We gave the pond a wide berth and headed across the field, cutting over to a gravel road (we thought), which turned out to be someone's driveway. As we were trying to determine where to head next, we accidentally bumped into the driveway's owner returning from getting the mail. I pasted my biggest friendliest smile in place and greeted him, “Good evening – how are you?” He looked puzzled. “Hello,” he said and kept right on walking. We were relieved that he didn't seem the least bit upset or even surprised to find two girls on horseback riding down his driveway!
We turned back once we reached the end of the driveway, as it became a busy paved road. We retraced our steps and headed home. Cody walked considerably faster going this direction and Promise practically danced.
Although it was a cloudy day, the setting sun still illuminated the western sky and we rode home admiring its beauty. Once back at the barn, Michelle suggested that we work with Promise on her mounting again. At first I wanted to tie her, afraid that she would run over Michelle. But Michelle insisted that it was better to change things around and to my surprise, Promise stood quietly. I mounted her from both sides at least twice, and she didn't move a muscle. Good girl!
I am leaving you with a few brief videos from the day.
We stopped and got the horses to stand quietly in the middle of the field – a good exercise for Promise!
Just had to share this pic...Michelle with my boy! I'm so proud of Cody – he may be a stubborn cuss at times but he is unflappable and I trust him a great deal. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so! Michelle wrote on Facebook:
“Cody did so well! I rode him BAREBACK for an hour all over creation, and I've only ever ridden him once before. I think that says something about what I think of Cody”
Not much to report in the past couple of days. Yesterday I went out and fed in the pouring rain. I accidentally left my camera at home or I would've gotten some pictures. It has warmed up in the past few days and the horses didn't seem to mind the rain any, but I was reminded that I need to start thinking about blankets for Wings and Promise this winter. Not so sure about the mustangs. It doesn't usually get that cold here but they have lived down in South Carolina for at least the past 10 years. I guess for now I'll just continue my groundwork with Skylar so that he will (hopefully) accept a blanket if need be in the future.
Today I was hoping to ride, but as I work 3rd shift Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday (and I have to stay up and watch my daughter during the day) I was exhausted and slept from 1-5 this afternoon. When I got up I went, fed the horses, talked briefly with the LO (land owner – I lease his pasture) and headed home.
I have a crazy notion. I want to ride to Northeast Park (a local park that has a number of horse trails). It is about 5 ½ miles from the pasture. (I am guessing it would be an approximate 13-14 mile trek altogether). I talked it over with Cym and Michelle – they are both on board with the idea. We have even set a tentative date – October 18th. They have both agreed to come out and help me exercise the horses in the meantime so we can get them all in shape. I personally plan to ride at least one a day – two if I have the time. I need to get some kind of training regimen in place...
It poured all night and was still raining this morning when I went to feed the horses. Promise, Cody and Skylar were all hanging out in the run-in shed – only Wings had opted to stay outside.
As I left Skylar stood with his head over the gate, watching me. Since he has discovered that I am the source of treats he follows me like a puppy.
I woke up at 4pm and my husband told me it was still raining, so I went back to sleep. At 5pm, I got up and was surprised to find it sunny and clear. I didn't even eat, but grabbed my tack and headed out. I was planning to ride Wings but realizing that I didn't have much time, I decided to take Cody out instead. Cody is the sort of horse that needs a lot of attention. He gets jealous if he feels like he's being ignored. He also craves stimulation and gets bored easily. I figured that tying him up and working the wind knots out of his mane would give him a good lesson in patience.
He stood quietly longer than I expected – for about 20 minutes – before he started fidgeting. I pretended like I didn't noticed and continued. Eventually I succeeded in detangling his mane (upon doing so I discovered that it was much longer once combed out), and braided it as well. I don't think Cody was impressed, but I personally was pleased with the results.
It poured Saturday, and again on Sunday. However, by late afternoon the rain had stopped, and although storm clouds were piled ominously on the horizon, I headed out to the pasture.
I decided to take Promise out for a hack. I am working on getting her walking quietly without jigging. I saddled her up (I don't dare ride her without a saddle just yet!) and put her on cross-ties to mount her. Knowing that she was tied, she didn't try to bolt. Once I unclipped her from the cross-ties, however, she transformed into a fire-breathing dragon, dancing and prancing. Fortunately she has a very soft mouth and is quite responsive to aids so after a few circles and serpentines she started to settle down.
We then headed out. We rode down the road, staying on the shoulder. When we got about a quarter of a mile from home, she suddenly decided to pitch a fit. She danced, whirled, even attempted a small rear. A car approached, slowed, almost stopped. I was grateful they were being careful.
I got her going again and coaxed her into the field beside the intersection, where I made her stand until several cars had passed. She paid no attention to the vehicles, and eventually relaxed enough to drop her head slightly. I patted her neck and glanced up at a passing car – an elderly woman beamed back at me. I waved.
Eventually Promise began to relax. I rode her up the road, about a mile to where the road was closed for construction. Some folks up there had a miniature spotted donkey, a mule, and two miniature ponies who stared as we passed. The donkey brayed loudly. Promise turned to look at them, but wasn't overly concerned. I wasn't sure if she spotted the emus in the pen just behind them or not. If so, she didn't seem particularly worried.
I had forgotten my memory card for my camera, so the only video clip I have from this ride is 7 seconds long.
Took Wings out for a ride today. He started off slow...walking nicely. But once we got to the railroad tracks, he began to act up. First he spooked at a pizza box in the ditch and then when I asked him to stand quietly while the train passed, he threw a fit. He wasn't afraid of the train – he just didn't want to stand! I made him trot up the hill away from home, before allowing him to come back to a walk. We continued up toward the house with the emus (who had been moved to the front pen).
What I hadn't realized while shooting the above video was that Wings hadn't actually seen the emus! Since he has developed cysts in his right eye, his vision is impaired on that side – although I hadn't realized just how much he couldn't see. When his right side was toward them, he was fine but as soon as he caught sight of them with his left – he freaked out. Rearing up, he spun and tried to bolt for home. I managed to get him stopped, but he refused to turn back. He wouldn't even pass them on the opposite side of the road! Now that I think about it, I should've backed him past the emus so he could watch them out of his left eye. But the way he was acting was jeopardizing his own safety, as well as mine so I decided to head back.
After this encounter, Wings was certain that the world outside the pasture was full of evil, and he walked as fast as he could muster for home.
Although this isn't directly related to my own horses, I thought it was worth mentioning. I follow/document the feral/wild ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park in southwestern Virginia. I have a facebook page and also a blog for this purpose. This past weekend (Saturday the 24th), the Pony Association that manages them held their annual auction. I was unable to attend this year, and I am now glad I didn't.
Since I follow the ponies year round, I have named many of them and am particularly fond of several individuals in particular. A number of them are colts/young stallions. Unfortunately, the Pony Association believes that selling most (if not all) of the colts every year prevents inbreeding. This year, 13 ponies were auctioned off. I knew most of them by name, but four stood out. They were my favorites. I had hoped somehow that they would be spared -that at least one or two would be allowed to remain on the mountain. But it was not to be.
Upon receiving news that “my” ponies had been sold, I have been quite depressed. I just can't wrap my head around it. I had hoped – in the future – to purchase them myself. In fact when I first leased the pasture, I had done so in the hopes of acquiring a pony or two this fall. But life happens, and plans change.
Today I arose, feeling quite down. I got on the computer, and no sooner had I opened Facebook, when my friend Michelle popped up.
“Hey, want to go riding?”
You know the answer to that one. An hour later, we were tacking up Promise and Cody. Since I currently have only one saddle, I told Michelle she could use it this time. I was ready (or so I told myself) to ride Promise bareback.
I had second doubts as soon as I mounted. Promise is quite rotund, and keeping my balance was difficult at first. I was careful to avoid squeezing her with my calves. She is very sensitive to leg aids. But after a few minutes of working her in the driveway, I gained confidence and announced to Michelle that I was ready.
We hadn't gone a quarter of a mile when I heard the sound children's laughter. As we drew closer, I spotted several kids out in the yard near one of the houses. As we approached they were all in a huddle, eyes lit up with excitement and anticipation. Promise is typically very good with children, but she was still acting kinda antsy, so I motioned toward Cody.
“Y'all can pet Cody,” I said.
The kids flocked to Cody, who stood there with the funniest expression on his face. It was all I could do to keep from laughing aloud. I can best describe it as “quizzical”. He didn't seem upset or annoyed. Just puzzled.
We continued on our ride. I was so incredibly proud of Promise – she walked along quietly, more relaxed than she ever had before. She didn't seem to mind stopping and waiting for Cody, although he did a much better job this time of keeping up.
We stopped where the road closed at the top of the hill (about a mile from the pasture). Unfortunately both horses at that time decided that they wanted to wiggle and squirm instead of standing quietly. We persevered until we got them to stand still for a few minutes before acknowledging that it was getting dark and it was best to head back.
Of course, they were much more enthusiastic going this direction. Michelle even got Cody to trot several times (being that he is quite possibly the laziest horse I have ever ridden this was nothing short of a miracle:)
I will close with a short video taken toward the end of our ride...
It has rained nearly everyday this week and I haven't ridden in a while. I did let the horses out front to graze a few times while I was there feeding, and groomed them as well. Promise's mane is slowly but surely growing out. I doubt her tail will get any thicker but I hope her mane will eventually grow enough to flop over so she doesn't look quite so much like a zebra, lol. Speaking of which, Wings needs his mane pulled again, and I need to dedicate a few hours to detangling Skylar's as well.
This afternoon I went up to my parents' farm to see my sister ride her new OTTB, whom she adopted from ReRun a few weeks ago. The mare's name is Sassy N Bold and she is huge – 17 hands! I think I will stick to my smaller horses...I love my big boy (Wings – 16.2h), but I think I prefer to be closer to the ground in the event that I fall!
I took some photos of Cym and Sassy with Cym's camera, and here is one she posted on Facebook. Sassy didn't want to take the jump at a trot, she kept stumbling over it so they finally took it at a canter. As you can see, she cleared it with air to spare!
And now for other news... tomorrow I am going to Hillsborough to see a horse. It's a long story but apparently he was diagnosed with sweeney shoulder and the current owners can't/don't want to spend the time or money rehabbing him. It's quite sad. I guess he used to be a jumper until his injury, but now they are giving him away as a “pasture ornament”. If a home for him cannot be found, he will be euthanized. Poor creature. He didn't ask for this. My heart goes out to him.
Went up today to see the gelding with sweeney shoulder. His name is Thunder. He was a bit smaller than I had expected – about 13.2 hands. He is SO cute – jet black with a small white snip. He moves out soundly enough – just sort of paddles with his right front. He has so much personality too, you can tell.
I haven't told my husband about him yet. I'm having mixed feelings about this whole thing. I really didn't want to be getting another horse – especially so soon. At the same time, I feel as though I am bound to help this little guy. I'm going to sleep on it tonight, before I email the trainer with a final decision.
Here are a couple pics of the little bugger:
Note: This is not the sweeney shoulder...should've gotten a close up photo of it, but I didn't think of it at the time.