Riding Blind — Midlife Horse Adventures - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 193 Old 12-03-2019, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Cool Riding Blind — Midlife Horse Adventures

So, first, I should mention that I am not completely blind. I am "legally blind" which means I can't drive anymore and everything is blurry. It's like some people are without their glasses. But I'm only that good in one eye--the other is just light and shadow mostly and my "good eye" is not quite the same as someone without glasses, because I have a medical condition that makes things weird. However, I've now been at this level of vision for about 12 years and am really used to it and my brain has adjusted. I manage to go hiking by myself (with my Guide Dog, but she is not working and off leash, but sometimes I call her back and hang on to her collar to get me through tricky lighting or footing. This, along with the disease that caused it (Reactive Arthritis with a side dish of Fibromyalgia) and various other nagging medical conditions, has led me to a big drop in confidence and big feelings of failure and feeling useless in my life. I've been on disability since 2007--I worked full time while disabled for many years, but finally, when I was forced to go into a wheelchair for a few months--while being at this level of vision and spending 2 hours each way to work with public transportation--I had to say "Enough!" Not being one to every say "quit", I got myself "healthy" again. Rode my bike every day--yes, you heard that right. Heart pounding, being passed on the bike trail by 80 year olds and 5 year olds! (hey, when you can barely see a blurry 4 feet in front of, you tend to ride slow). I walked a ton--until I got severe plantar fasciitis in BOTH feet. I took herbs, I ate healthy, I fired most of my AMA doctors and stopped the drug merry go round. My eyes finally stabilized after a decade of continuing flare ups and pain and different vision levels every month so I could never adjust. I got a lot of rest and finally got my spark back. I met a man and got married and moved to a big city (yuck). I was now 38 years old and ready to "be me" again, only better. I wanted a HORSE! This time I wanted my OWN horse, I was sick of riding everyone else's horses--nice as that was. I rode other people's problems, I broke my wrist in my mid 30's falling off a horse out of stupidity. After a couple of years, my husband decided he wanted to be a hobby vegetable grower on a larger scale (most of our postage stamp lot right now is vegetable garden) so he was on board with moving to the country! And BAM, he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a couple months later. Several years later, we are still in this house, he is 95% better. I am probably worse (I'm 48 now and perimenopause is kicking my butt!) and he sees me handling and riding horses for a week on a trip we were on and finally realized "my wife needs to get horses back in her life". So, busy and stressed as he always is, he told me to find some way to start being with and riding horses again and he would drive me. We decided once a week would be enough, since I'm so out of shape anyway. I searched for leases we could afford and that would be a good fit for me--how was I to know that the few horses people were leasing in my area were all high level performance and show horses? I found a couple that were good trail horses--but they wanted vast amounts of money for the lease--ridiculous amounts. I thought about buying my own horse and boarding it--if I could find cheap rough board. But then, since I've worked with horses, I know all the things that can happen--vet bills, special feed, special equipment, farrier fees, hauling fees, unexpected stuff. And not being in good control of my own animal's life was not a good fit for me--the born nurturer and caretaker. Former Veterinary Technician, degree in Wildlife Biology and Zoology. Former zookeeper, former big cat keeper and trainer (hands on with many of them). I raised and trained my own Guide Dog b/c I couldn't stand the idea of someone else raising my dog. I'm a bit of a control freak when they are "mine". I want the best of everything and I will spend every waking minute researching diets, tack fit, footcare, etc. Stress! So nothing happened for months. No horses, I lost hope. Then one day I placed an ad on Horseclicks about my need for horses. While checking my ad one day, I did another random search for lease horses and BAM! again, enter...Draumsyn! A 13.1 hh, 13yo Icelandic mare. For someone who wanted a Clydesdale or a Percheron, this was a bit of a letdown. But i did know about Icelandics, so I arranged to meet her and try her out. Then I read everything I could get my hands on and every video I could find with Icelandic horses in them. You would be surprised how little there was. Hmm....Icelandics were really unique and "mysterious"! Even better for my adventurer's soul who never wants to follow the crowd.



Then , I rode her. Ah-mazing! I'd never had the chance to ride a gaited horse before. Well, one TN Walker who was so stiff and sore it felt like he was walking over boulders--that didn't count. LOL Draumsyn has all 5 gaits (walk, trot, tolt, flying pace and canter). She went really well for me that first day and the owner, a young woman in her late twenties, was very impressed my riding skills and seat--as I told her I hadn't done any real riding for many years. I felt great! Then, I found out that since I could only come out once per week--she was cutting the already somewhat affordable lease price by HALF! Woo Hoo! I was in business! I got to have all the fun and not have to worry about any of the logistics and finances of having a horse--and I get along so great with D's owner. What a sweetheart--both of them.



Then, on my second ride, D was a little bit stubborn and a little bit nervous about corners in the arena. Then, on the 3rd ride, I found myself spending half my time fighting with her as she acted barn sour and tried to constantly go to the exit gate. Then, one more visit went super well--"yay,", I thought, "we've worked thru it and now we're a team"!

And then the next visit it all started going to hell in a handbasket. Enter FEAR!......to be continued!

These pics are from the first day "tryout".
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Last edited by jaydee; 09-27-2020 at 10:39 AM. Reason: Title change
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post #2 of 193 Old 12-03-2019, 05:33 PM
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I will follow your journal with great interest because of my very very dear blind friend and all the fun we had with horses together (and many other things like doing plays and shows together). I miss my friend so so much. She died when we were about 36.
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post #3 of 193 Old 12-03-2019, 05:38 PM
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That was a great first journal post, and D is absolutely darling! I completely fell in love with Icelandics when I visited Iceland this past summer and got to ride one. There is nothing quite like the tolt - it had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I'm considering owning one some day.

I also lease. I completely understand the feeling of one day going great, then new challenges, then seemingly fixing those challenges, then either new or old challenges returning.

I can't wait to read more about your journey with D.
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post #4 of 193 Old 12-03-2019, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knightrider View Post
I will follow your journal with great interest because of my very very dear blind friend and all the fun we had with horses together (and many other things like doing plays and shows together). I miss my friend so so much. She died when we were about 36.

So sorry to hear that! It sounds like she was an amazing and brave woman!
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post #5 of 193 Old 12-03-2019, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRideaHippogriff View Post
That was a great first journal post, and D is absolutely darling! I completely fell in love with Icelandics when I visited Iceland this past summer and got to ride one. There is nothing quite like the tolt - it had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I'm considering owning one some day.

I also lease. I completely understand the feeling of one day going great, then new challenges, then seemingly fixing those challenges, then either new or old challenges returning.

I can't wait to read more about your journey with D.

Yes, I was hooked when she was tolting that first day! I like Flying Pace though too--going fast without cantering! Of course I can barely get her into Tolt anymore--she just goes right into Pacing.
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post #6 of 193 Old 12-04-2019, 08:19 AM
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What a great start to a Journal.
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Just winging it is not a plan
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post #7 of 193 Old 12-04-2019, 10:59 AM
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subbing :)
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post #8 of 193 Old 12-04-2019, 11:14 AM
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What a great first journal post. Definitely excited to hear more. :) Sounds like you definitely have the right attitude. Working through things makes everything worth it. Great pictures!
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Ride more, worry less.
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post #9 of 193 Old 12-04-2019, 12:51 PM Thread Starter
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So, I am including the first video of my riding Draumsyn. This was the third or fourth ride on her and the first day I tried riding in just a halter. I had thought some of her issues were bit related. Her bridle was rather tight (as I'm told Icelandic's bridles are) and they have this tight little chin strap that holds their bottom lip rather tensely and "pinches" a bit. It's a regular snaffle, so the bit itself isn't that harsh. But she didn't like having it put on and whenever she saw the bridle coming, she dropped her head to the ground and swung it to the other side. Hmmm. Being that I have turned over a new leaf in horsemanship, I wanted to see if the bridle was part of her problem in being stubborn and antsy sometimes. My last ride she had also chewed on the bit quite a lot and was yawning and stretching her mouth. I have quiet hands normally, but when she got stubborn, I had get a little tougher and then we just fought. So, I screwed up my courage, trusted my instincts, and the owner and all her stories about this horse and got on with just a flat halter and a dog leash for reins! (my "hands-free" dog leash is built exactly like reins, with clips on both ends and is 12' long--so 6ft reins). D went beautifully for me most of the time that day. We did the outdoor arena, and she was a little nervous about the farm equipment parked next to it--I think? Here's the thing--I don't see well. I can tell there is equipment there. I can tell the closest one is a hay elevator (or whatever you call that very tall motorized ramp that sends the hay up to the second story LOL), but I have for the vast majority of the time, lost my fear of the "unknown" amorphous shapes that I encounter in the world, and I now trust that every stick and shadow I see is not a snake in my path. LOL So, all I'm saying is, she's not getting this "nervous" thing from my vision problems--because that doesn't scare me. So, she hates that one side of the arena. I walk her around in hand a little before riding. I show her the barrels sitting on the edge--let her touch and sniff them. I'm so proud of myself for helping this horse get calm, giving her what she needs to build her trust and faith in me. I'm feeling good. And I get on and she goes great--at least to the point that I would barely know I was riding her without a bit--she responds well, stops, turns, all that. Maybe I'm direct reining a bit wide on the turns without a bit (pulling the rein more straight out). But a couple times as we pass the exit gate, she stops and refuses to move. Just absolutely stuck. So I turn her and then turn her back and then the other side and back, and I experiment with more heel pressure. Until now, I had really not wanted to kick her at all if I didn't have to. I eventually started giving just small, soft kicks--not that it seemed to matter. Anyway, we got going again. I even had her tolting (although I'm not sure I had much to do with it LOL)--but I did "coax" her into the right gait somehow and I was having a blast! We pretty much sidepassed all the way down the far side of the arena every time, but she kept moving and we kept going and I felt like we were improving and I wasn't letting her "run the show", but I also wasn't being mean. "I will be firm but kind" as Julie Andrews sings in Sound of Music! And only a touch of fear in my ocassionally as she shied away at the corner a few times. I did not have a very confident seat yet and was riding with a very tense butt and every turn we took at more than a walk I slipped a bit and got nervous--but then righted myself and felt fine again. I wanted to tolt or trot or pace through those tall poles, but I didn't have the seat for that yet. Turns out, it only took about 2 more rides to find that seat and feel more secure.



Anyway, I was feeling proud, but also unconfident about letting anyone see this video, as I knew I was not riding very well and barely felt like I knew what I was doing. I'm much more used to neck reining a big Western style horse. But I've done a little English riding and studied it a lot in videos so I thought I could just learn as I go. I fooled D's owner anyway! LOL But I didn't want my Mom's cousins wife who is a big league horse trainer and Gran Prix dressage rider (and her daughter got a job at 18 working with a Royal family from Belgium or Denmark who had a place in Florida--training and riding their wildly expensive horses. So, horse training--and high level is in their genes. And I have them as FB friends and know the mom quite well and didn't want to "show off" my lack of riding prowess, no matter how personally proud I was--and happy. I have secretly watched that video dozens of times as a form of "pinching" myself to believe this was really me and I was so happy to have this horse! And even more secretly, I wanted to evaluate my riding skills and see if I could tell how I could improve, or if I "looked" ok. At this point, I was still feeling amazing and amazed by the whole thing. Oh, and I also looked fat in the video LOL! I am all leg and when I sit- I just look all squished up--plus I have my front pockets of the jacket stuffed with gloves, my hair piece, sunglasses, a bag of carros--etc. I was floating and apparently, all things that float or fly, have to hit the ground (and sometimes crash land) eventually.



Next ride, Fear finally found me and snuck up and bit me on the keister! More on that next time.



In the video, please forgive my smartphone illiterate husband's banter. LOL Oh, and for those that don't know (I didn't when I started leasing her) Icelandic horses don't "bend" well. They don't have a lot of flexible lateral movement, so you don't usually lunge them for instance and they would never be barrel racers or pole benders. D makes pretty wide turns around barrels and poles and stuff, but that is more anatomy than anything I think. I've learned to work it with it and minimize it, within her limits. She is also well voice trained, and that's how I move her between gaits for the most part. Hope this video link works! The last picture I call "Horses!" as a not to Elizabeth Tayler in National Velvet when she stepped onto the race grounds for the Grand National. I am SO happy to be in a horse barn regularly--the small is just so full of joy for me!

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post #10 of 193 Old 12-05-2019, 12:37 PM
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You look like you're having such a great time with her in that video, and she is such a cute little mover! I love her little tolt - it looks so smooth and fun. Do you know if her preferred gait is tolt? I know Icelandics usually have one.

I know Icelandics are stubborn, plus she is a mare (I prefer mares, actually), so I can imagine you definitely will need to stand your ground with her.

I'm pretty sure reading your journal is going to make me even more obsessed with Icelandics than I already am (which already includes: following multiple Icelandic farms on Facebook, part of a group of Icelandic orders, and reguarly checking Icelandic sale ads.)
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