Turkey Trot

On Thanksgiving I did a Turkey Trot with my sister and her boyfriend. I don’t know about other places but Turkey Trots in my area are just thinly veiled excuses to ride horses and drink. They’re usually full of weekend warriors and trail riding yahoos. A good bunch to have fun with but you’ll definitely be around people who don’t know or care about equestrian-to-equestrian courtesies. Like going the speed the least experienced rider is comfortable with or tying ribbons on tails to indicate kickers, biters, stallions, etc.

So Cal. Land of dead vegetation.

Fun fact: Ben is not ‘beer broke’. He was okay with people cracking open beer but not really okay with any lingering hissing from the cans. Not that I really ever had a need to crack open a cold one while on horseback but these Turkey Trot riders were very adamant that it’s a skill I should teach my horse. For the sake of ‘sacking out’ it’s probably not a bad idea if I ever want to drink a soda while riding?

The path was a nice nature trail that they recently graded for a 5k run earlier that morning. I tapped out at a beer and a half because I move very quickly from the liquid courage category to the unsafe to ride category otherwise. We led our group at a brisk walk for the most part. No slow pokes here. It was fun and pretty uneventful. Which is nice. The last Turkey Trot we did years ago a really drunk woman came off in a glorious cartwheel after her knee made contact with the corner of a fence while galloping around a corner.

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It was a little more spectacular than this.

Overall 10/10, would go again.

1 Horse, 2 Horse, Old Horse, New Horse

I wrote this when I first created this blog, trying to build up some draft posts and then a day later bought Valeria. So Aria is not my most recent purchase anymore.

I’ve always been really fortunate horse shopping. I don’t take a trainer or do a vet check, mostly because I’m crazy I’ve always relied on my gut instinct with a horse. My two most recent purchases happened when I wasn’t even shopping for a new horse. I really believe that the right horse will find me, or at least that’s how I’ve been conducting myself since my last horse purchase over 15 years ago. I know that’s really rolling the dice and hoping lady luck is on my side but it’s worked so far.

The first horse my parents purchased, Banjo, was a surprise. My sister and I had no input on what we wanted because we didn’t even know we were shopping for a horse. He turned out to be an amazing babysitter. He packed us around everywhere and in general was lazy unless asked to canter.

The second horse we got, Hershey, and the first horse to call all my own was another one that I didn’t make the purchase decision on. She was a birthday present and was waiting for me when I got home from school. If the first horse was a great babysitter, this second horse was a damn saint. We were super connected and I never got hurt with her, despite my more idiotic ideas of horsemanship as a kid.

My third horse, Apollo, was a colt out of Hershey. I hand-picked the stallion and planned everything. This baby was going to be my dream horse and I was going to show in dressage and possibly jump. Things didn’t go as planned and he passed days before his second birthday.

On to horse number four, who I still have. I bought Ben fresh off of the heartbreak of Apollo. It was a rash decision but he was big and chestnut and had chrome and I wanted him. He was everything I hoped Apollo would mature into. Looking back, he was a terrible purchase for an 18 year old who had no experience with a green horse. I was bucked off. A lot. After a particularly hard fall I stopped riding all together. I was afraid and didn’t want to get hurt anymore.

Shortly after that I went to makeup school in Los Angeles and I had to euthanize my mare due to colic. I fell out of love with horses for a while from too much heartbreak.

Then last year my sister sent me a listing for a gangly little Andalusian filly and my interest in horses was fully rekindled. My trainer at the time tried to talk me out of looking at her but I ignored the unwanted advice. I took my sister with me and we tried her out twice. We were under the impression that the filly was broke to ride and found out after a 15 minute under saddle workout that she had never been ridden before. I was sold. She was smart and levelheaded (obviously!). I started with new trainers, who I had idolized for over a decade, and so far Aria has been amazing.

To come back to the whole point of this post, I have learned in my equestrian life that when I try to control it too much it goes badly for me. When I let it happen organically and allow the universe to control it, I get much more in return.

Unexpected Growth

Sunday very spontaneously I decided to go on a trail ride with my sister and her boyfriend. Ben was pretty high when we were tacking up which is to be expected since I haven’t ridden him in two weeks. He started the first 30 seconds of the trail off in his normal fashion. Head in the air, looking at everything, going mach 10. I asked him to frame up after he almost ran over my sister’s horse (seriously, he’s so crazy sometimes) and he chilled out. I was able to ride him on the buckle the whole ride and he didn’t bother looking for monsters the whole time. Any time he got a little looky loo I just kept him moving forward.

At first I thought he might not be feeling right but he was alert and in good spirit so then I started joking that it would probably be our last ride together since one of us would probably die during the ride so we were both trying to enjoy it. A bit morbid, I know, but to have Ben be the calm horse on trail is beyond bizarre.

At one point in the ride there’s a long, steep climb. I always let Ben run up it because it’s easier on both of us. He really lunged up it this time and at one point his big quarter horse butt popped me out of my seat and I lost my stirrups. I thought for sure I was going to take a header off him but I had this small moment of clarity where my body just reacted. My legs relaxed and got long. I gripped with my knees to tell him to slow down. I found my center and sat back in the saddle. We finished the rest of the hill sans stirrups but at that point it didn’t matter because I was solid.

I probably would have cried (because that’s how I roll) if I wasn’t so damn surprised at myself. I haven’t caught myself from falling in years. Certainly not off a horse that is leaping up a hill. Normally my legs would come up and I’d grip them around Ben’s barrel in terror (which always causes him to buck like crazy). The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful. My sister’s horse decided to treat stepping off a curb like a 3 foot bank and launched herself into the road. Curbs are not new to this horse so we weren’t expecting such a spectacle from her and got a good laugh.

I didn’t realize how much effort catching myself took until I got off Ben at the end of the ride and couldn’t walk. I was sore the rest of the day and had to break down and rub some IcyHot on my body and take some pain killers.

That whole ride was nothing short of confidence building perfection though!

French Fries, Home Fries, Small Fries

My lesson on Saturday was moved from 9am to 3pm and I think in the future I’ll just pass on a lesson if it’s that late in the day during the fall/winter because I got home really late and wasn’t productive with my own horses at all.

Another lesson on Small Fry. I really like that little fjord but I’m still struggling to sit her hindquarter popping canter. I’m still not sitting down and apparently still standing in my stirrups. Even with P telling me to sit down and relax my leg  I can’t seem to actually do it. So I requested a bigger horse for my next lesson to get my seat back. Which means I’ll be riding Digger, a huge BLM mustang that belongs to one of R’s clients. He’s nice to ride, such a push button horse but also really heavy. I’ll be hurting next week!

We’re working on my rising trot because I have a harder time holding a horse together when I’m posting. I’ve got it down at the sitting trot because that’s pretty much all I did in my classical training. Small Fry refused to stay on the rail this lesson which caused a lot of disagreements between the two of us. So much so that at one point I stopped listening to P and just worked in a circle until Small Fry dropped her head and started collecting for me. Apparently another student had ridden her during the week and let her get away with not riding on the rail. It was a tough lesson but at least P said I was 90% ‘on’ the whole time. That’s pretty good considering a few lessons ago I was pretty much throwing my aids away every time I would rise to post. My heels have come back down, so the spurs aren’t cramping my style anymore. My shoulders have certainly noticed that I’m no longer holding horses in a frame but that little french fry wasn’t giving me anything for free.

I also dropped off a weeks’ worth of Benadryl for Aria and threw her fly sheet on. Between her fly spray not working and her poop being loose she’s just covered head to toe in flies and hives. Poor baby dumb-dumb. They take very good care of her but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I was closer to help. I am going to have a local vet out to check her since she needs her vaccinations anyway.

The Princess Diaries

I try to see Aria every weekend to give her treats and spend some time with her but it doesn’t always happen because I can’t always drive the hour and forty-five minutes to see her (which means I don’t always get a lesson every week either). Last weekend she wasn’t feeling well, probably because we had such a dramatic spike in heat and her fly spray stopped working effectively.

As R puts it, she’s a princess. A very spoiled princess. She’s not so sour that she’s a brat but when I got her it was very obvious that no one told her ‘no’ when she was growing up so she thought her behavior was acceptable. She’s learning to change very quickly and her truly sweet personality is shining through more. I don’t know that her desire for mischief will ever go away, but I’m secretly happy about that because I think it’s one of her better qualities.

She’s also a total princess because she’s allergic to everything. It would be easier to name what she isn’t allergic to. Flies are one of her big ones. So with her fly spray not working she’s developing hives and it’s making her miserable. I discussed changing her fly spray with R but it’s a crap shoot because she could also be allergic to it. We’re going to give a new spray a shot anyway and see what happens. I may have to break out her fly sheet but it gets too hot to wear it sometimes.

Currently I have her on allergy therapy shots which seemed to do well over the summer but are failing a little with this late fall heat wave. I also give her flax seed oil for an Omega-3 & -6 boost. Her immune system needs all the help it can get to keep her histamine reactions down. Because she lives on a diet of timothy hay and rice bran I also give her Red Cell to help round out any deficiencies her diet may have. So far it’s been about management. I can’t keep her away for everything she’s allergic to (like barn dust), so I try to minimize her exposure as much as I can.

Double Trouble

My normal lesson on Saturday was not as good as my lesson on Friday. I was on Small Fry again but this time I requested double reins, at the request of R. Double reins are no big deal. I’ve been riding in double reins my whole riding career. The only bits I owned until earlier this year were pelhams. Well let me tell you something. Apparently I’ve been riding in double reins wrong.

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What I thought I was doing (upon closer inspection–SURPRISE–curb rein is on the index/middle fingers). I fail.

I don’t know how and I don’t know when but at some point some of my old trainer’s students were taught differently. I checked with a few of them and it’s a mixed bag. Some of them ride double reins the way I do (snaffle on the index and middle finger, curb on the ring finger) and some ride with them the way I was taught on Saturday (curb on the index and middle finger, snaffle on the ring finger).

My whole world is turned upside down right now. I understand the mechanics of how I used to hold them. I can’t even get my head around how they work with the new (and correct!) way. My brain hurt the whole lesson. I couldn’t always focus on what I was doing because I never knew what rein I was holding in my hand. Every time I tried to pick up my snaffle I was picking up my curb. I felt awful for poor Small Fry.

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Now here’s a method I could get behind! Seriously, I’m so sad.

Which might explain why half way through the lesson she told me to go pound pavement and we had a disagreement on what I wanted her to do versus what she felt like doing. The reality is more likely that when I dismounted to allow the barn kids to launch a rocket she thought we were done for the day, so when I got back on she was upset that her work wasn’t over. Either way, I think my next lesson is going to be more of me muddling through double reins until it finally clicks.

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Why is the curb rein up top? I’m so confused about how this method work for curb release.

Regardless I still got compliments and was told good-naturedly by R that I was showing off my skills. Which does wonders for my ego but also, I cannot take a compliment from R without short circuiting because ‘senpai noticed me’. R knows my old trainer mostly by reputation but my old trainer has seen R ride/train and spoke very highly about R all the time. It’s like a double whammy to get a compliment from a trainer that your trainer admires.

Not The Introduction I Intended

[EDIT: Not sure what happened but my first two posts got updated and shuffled around to a newer date.]

I bought another horse. That’s why I’m starting this blog right? To write about horses and my bad/crazy decisions about them…

She’s the first horse that basically checked all the boxes in my horse fantasy land. I wasn’t shopping for a horse. I didn’t even really want another horse. Currently I have a 20 year old Quarter Horse/Paint gelding and a 4 year old Andalusian filly. I was totally covered in the horse department. However, I saw her ad online and knew a thing or two about her lineage and the stallion she is in foal to.

I realize how crazy I sound. I just bought my 4 year old filly almost exactly one year ago and here I am buying another horse. I think I checked out when I saw her picture because suddenly I was emailing the owner asking if she was available to show the mare. After a few hours I had a time and date set up to see the mare and was doing some calculations to figure out what my budget was for a purchase.

The Spanish horse community is small. After I arrived for my viewing appointment it took about two seconds to discover that the woman selling the mare knew all of my trainers (past and present) and owned another horse by a very well-known Lusitano breeder. Other than an insatiable hunger for the grass growing at her feet the mare seemed very pleasant and calm. That’s a big bonus for me. American bred Andalusians can be pretty hot so I tend to go with the more level-headed versions when I can. Her eye was really soft and it wasn’t hard to see her potential. I told the woman I could pick the mare up the next day and drove home.

The next 16 hours was spent jumping back and forth between elation and panic. I was so incredibly happy but I was also terribly afraid I made a mistake. I’m terrible at second guessing myself even if I’m 100% confident with my choices when I make them. Now that she’s here I’m glad I listened to my gut. She’s a little unhandled, which is understandable for a broodmare, but she’s an honest horse and I have high hopes for her. After she drops the foal and we wean it she’ll go into full time training. The goal is to show in dressage or classical equitation.

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Introductions

[EDIT: Not sure what happened but my first two posts got updated and shuffled around to a newer date.]

I figured my second post would be introducing myself but I really felt the spontaneity of what I did end up posting was more appropriate and indicative of what you’re in for. That being said, let’s dive in to who I am and what horses I now have.

My name is Karen (I know, another Karen. I think baby name books should warn parents that a child named Karen will be obsessed with horses). I live in San Diego, California. I’m 32, work as a test analyst for an IT company, and produce for an indy game studio. I’ve always been horse obsessed. Since the day I saw Rainbow Brite come riding in on her flamboyant stallion, Starlite, I was hooked. I had so many My Little Ponies, Grand Champions, Fashion Star Fillies, and She-Ra’s Swift Winds (in 3 colors!) it was like someone puked pastel ponies all over my room. When I was eight I had my first riding lesson and when I turned eleven my parents got my sister and I our first horse. My parents never really got into horses but they supported our passion for them. And while I no longer have the wonderful horses from my childhood, I do have my current micro herd.


The first of my horses is a 20 year old Quarter Horse/Paint gelding named Ben that I adore. I’ve had him since he was 5. He came into my life at a difficult time. I don’t know that he was what I needed but I don’t have any major regrets about his purchase. He’s so incredibly sweet, acts like a horse half his age, is a gem in the arena, and is the source of all my riding hopes and fears.


My next horse is a 4 year old Andalusian filly named Aria. I fondly call her ‘Baby Dumb-dumb’ because even at 4 she is a gangly mess with no awareness of her feet. I purchased her a year ago and she’s been in full time training for almost 2 months. She’s very playful and very mischievous. Definitely ‘too smart for her own good’ smart.


My NEW! third horse is a 6 year old Andalusian mare named Valeria that I, as you know from the previous spontaneous post, literally just purchased. She’s currently in foal and expecting to drop in early March. Her personality is very mild. She’s horribly buddy sour and her ground manner suck, so we’ll be working on giving her confidence and teaching her to work with me. She has the same mannerisms as Aria but she’s more grown up about it.

Schooling Fjords

I had Veteran’s Day off so I scheduled an extra lesson with my trainer. It went really well. Normally I’m very sore in my shoulders and thighs after a lesson because lesson horses are used to packing small kids around and not working hard to carry themselves. I’m glad that I’m the go-to rider to give these lesson horses a good schooling, which also helps me improve my skills, but it’s really hard work. Like…just so tough, considering after the time change I haven’t been able to ride my own horse to stay conditioned. I need arena lights.

Luckily Small Fry, a cute little Fjord mare, and I were clicking really well so the lesson was smooth and she was really soft and responsive. I got comments on how long my leg looked, which is great since I’m 5’3” and work really hard to squeeze out as much length as possible. We hit the sweet spot several times where we were moving along in a great frame and I made Small Fry look like a bigger horse. Overall, super happy with my trot work.

I’m still not doing well with the canter. I don’t feel comfortable sitting it. It’s not that I feel I will fall off, though that was a huge fear of mine when I first started lessons, I just don’t feel my seat. My trainer is constantly telling me not to stand in my stirrups, relax my leg, and to sit down, but even though I’m making a conscious effort it’s not happening. I didn’t feel this way when I was riding the larger lesson horse but now that I’m sitting at the Fjord table (there are three of them and they have been my lesson life for over 2 months now) I can’t seem to get my groove. I think part of it is the short stride is hard for me to get into rhythm with and part is that Small Fry really leaps up when she’s cantering which pops me out of the saddle.

I really feel I need to canter without stirrups. I don’t know where that crazy line of thinking is coming from. Something tells me my old riding confidence is starting to crawl out of whatever pit it hid in but I also wonder if I’m ready.

Trainers

I’m not going to be name dropping my trainers on this blog because I want to respect their brand and I don’t want any of my downfalls to reflect on them or their training but I do want to clarify that I have two trainers. One instructs me on my riding (and whichever horse I am currently riding) and one is training Aria.

In the future I will refer to my riding instructor as ‘my trainer’ or ‘P’ and the trainer working with Aria as ‘my other trainer’ or ‘R’. Which one is classified as ‘my other trainer’ may eventually change because P trains dressage and R trains classical high school. I seriously covet classical training and know at some point I’ll move from P’s dressage program to R’s classical riding academy.

If I hadn’t taken a 10 year break from riding and lived closer to my trainers I probably would have jumped right into the riding academy. Nothing makes me itch more than when R talks to me about my old trainer and the high school riding he knows I’m capable of.