The Noisy Cricket

…is what I should have named Izzy. It’s perfect. Cute, small, will knock you on your a**.

That’s my girl!

My trainer was up from Florida for his monthly torture sessions….I mean training sessions. He kicks my butt.

Friday we had a great ride. Izzy had upper level carriage and at the end we had the most beautiful half pirouette. I caught a glimpse in the mirror when we came around and she looked like she was ready for PSG, I1.

 THAT is how good she was. 

Saturday we played in the hay field and galloped a bit. A girl’s gotta blow off steam!

Sunday I snuck in the schedule for a second lesson. Iz was equally as good but quite fatigued from our lesson Friday and the field Saturday so we ran through our 1st level test. 

She amazes me. Her brain is in it. Her body is in it. Most importantly, she’s having fun with her new-found power and enjoys cantering and/or trotting off with me or trying to do flying changes whether I’ve asked or not. ๐Ÿ˜‚Silly cricket!

So now her job is to rest for two days after her hard weekend because this pony has a show this coming weekend! 

Ride for Life. Raise awareness. Raise funds. Raise Hel….wait, that’s not right.

Here’s to another long week!๐Ÿป

Madre the Warrior

My mother is an amazing person. One of the strongest people you’ll meet. Maybe not physically strongest (Fine. She can still take me down, even though I’m 4″ taller, as all mothers can do to their children. She will smite you) but strong in perseverance and “go get em” attitude. 

Not only that but she’s incredibly smart. (To be honest, my entire family is blessed with brains in different areas: real estate, education, nursing, lawyer, computers, automotive, business, etc).

My mom has been through a lot. With four kids, now adults, she’s had her hands full for years! Pushing us to do our best, pushing us to do our chores (note to self: when asked to put your clothes away, for days on end, just shut up and do it or they’ll end up scattered over the front yard. Lesson learned. Thanks, mom!๐Ÿ˜‚)

But let’s go back. She graduated high school and got her RN (diploma), worked nights and had kids. 

Then she changed careers and became a Spanish teacher with a Masters in Teaching. ๐Ÿ™€(Earn a Masters degree? No problem!)

Taking classes, passing with flying colors, while raising four kids….four never-run-out-of-energy kids with different interests and schedules. We had her going in 18 different directions. I swear she’s Super Woman.

She’s amazing. Truly.

And here we are. I’m two days away from my 33rd birthday, which is great. 

In my 20’s I never thought I would reach 30 and then when I did, literally every birthday I have, I enjoy. Becoming older is a privilege and every year I feel more myself.

But the point of this story is is that my mother has, once again, added another noteable to her wall of accomplishments (ok, so there’s not really a wall but could you imagine?!). Madre just achieved her BSN bachelors in Nursing and graduated with a 4.0! This is her third time graduating a different program and she kicked its butt, as usual.

I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Way to go, Madre, and I can’t wait to see you in July!

Skip the Quarter Horse

Skip is one of my favorite quarter horses. He’s a beeeeeeeautiful bay with roaning on his barrel. Know what else he has? SUSPENSION. He’s a pretty cool horse in my opinion and would make a bang-up dressage horse. But I digress…

However, Skip is notorious for being horrible to load on a trailer. Horrible as in years of ‘No. I’m not getting in that box.’

By chance, I showed up at Skip’s barn to teach my biweekly lesson the same time they were loading Skip. Well, they were standing in front of an open trailer with Skip.

Normally I mind my business and keep walking. I work with the motto, ‘if you want help, ask for it.’ I also don’t offer my opinion unless asked.

 This time was different though. I saw a lot of people hanging around, all unable to help or come up with new ideas to help them. It was a large group of people and Skip’s owners looked heavy hearted. I asked them how it’s going and they say they’ve been trying to get Skip on the trailer for an hour and a half. That’s 90 minutes of a horse either not understanding or being belligerent or both. 

My riders were already there for me but everyone is basically family and had no issue with me helping Skip before their rides.

So I get a whip (for tapping๐Ÿ˜œ) and I take the lead rope. (Think natural horsemanship). It was a dramatic 2.5 minutes revolving around a conversation with Skip, telling him, “Look, dude. You don’t have to go forward but you’re never allowed to go over my head, left or right. All I need you do to is face the trailer….then we’ll talk about taking a step forward when you’re ready.”  

He’s not a big horse but he’s about 1100# so compared to me, he’s got me. He’s also got some naughty moves that he’s clearly perfected over the years. But after our 2 minute conversation, he understood what I wanted but had had enough of the whole “let’s do this trailer thing.” 

So he left. 

Yup. Skip exited stage left. 

He reared, spun, bulged his underneck and dragged me until I let go. (Yeah I let go. What’s the point of getting busted up, dragged on the ground? I saw someone get dragged on their belly/side across show grounds by a longe line before. Not because they were stuck but because they refused to let go. Knucklehead. Needless to say, that 1400# horse got loose anyway and they were picking gravel out of their skin all night.) If you have common sense, let go of the rope.

I calmly walked over to him, talked nicely, took the lead rope and walked him directly on the trailer. He never hesitated.

Skip just needed to blow off steam and for someone to understand him. No problem, dude. I got you. 

The owner and I hung out with him on the trailer and we talked about things Skip needed for this to work. They explained that he’s had a trailering issue for years, even before they owned him. It was a long standing issue, not caused by them.

We loaded again and he was fine. They drove him around and came back and we loaded one more time. Done deal.

 You don’t know until someone tells you and Lordy help ya if they tell you the wrong thing. 

I checked in with them a week or so later to see how it’s going with Skip and I get this picture sent to me:

I was SO pleased that they had committed to working with Skip and understanding body language etc. I couldn’t stop smiling!!!

My favorite QH is starting to earn his Good Citizen award ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Story of Yordi: part 3

We moved to our new barn. A place of my own! *harps playing* 

I’m actually just renting a barn but it’s private and things are as I like them (much like anyone else with their own place).

I had space! We have hills, hay fields, long driveway, etc. Room to use my program in full.

Yordi was developing into a beautiful, comfortable, confident horse. She amazes me.

Yordi is even at a point where I can put my working student on her and I don’t need 911 on speed dial. 

I was most impressed, recently, when we went to the outdoor to long line. Her owner had injured her knee and couldn’t mount her tall mare and I hadn’t long lined Yordi in a year. 

We tacked up and walked her out. The lines didn’t scare her. She remembered how easy this is and how good it feels. 

๐ŸŽ‰Yordi is becoming a solid citizen ๐ŸŽ‰

She even likes chatting with a tractor next to her. She’s rarely phased by things now. I never thought she would ever become this settled. But she has settled. She’s home (she’s also no longer a picky eater. We frequently refer to as a “raccoon in a dumpster”. She will eat everything in sight.)

There just aren’t enough good things to say about this thoroughbred mare with a heart of gold and sometimes you just have to show your appreciation.

The Story of Yordi part 2

Treatments and stall rest with me, and then a month of aqua therapy. Yordi came back in November looking like The Hulk.

 Sweet baby Jesus. 

Now it was cold out and I had a super fit, stall bound, sound, thoroughbred that hadn’t been sat on for over two months on my hands that was spooking when you walked by her stall

First things first. I hung a Jolly Ball in the middle of her stall just low enough that it could gently touch her back. 

What did that do? Well, any movement scared her, so now she lived with constant movement. It also got her used to things touching her body again, at any time. 
It actually completely solved the spooking in her stall. *thank the gods* 

Next came the riding.

Just kidding! We certainly started with hand walking with tack. The weight of the saddle and the tightness of the girth were cause for concern. No longeing. 

Proper rehab starts with walking straight lines. No sharp turns, no circles. 

(Hand walking was exciting. I still have a mildly bowed tendon on my finger from when she spooked and ran backwards at the speed of light. That felt good…)

After a week of handwalking with tack, I got on. And actually, to this day, Yordi has never tried to unload me. Everything she did with me was honest. It was spooking. It was tightness. It was her new body that didn’t hurt. She never bucked. She never reared. There was everything else you could imagine, but not those two.

As carefully as possible, during the dead of winter, we went through the 8 week rehab program. After 4 weeks, her behavior was steady enough that I surprised her owner and told her to get on and walk her. 

If I remember correctly, there were tears of happiness.

When rehab was over, we also started long lining her. This was exciting as seeing the lines over her back were alarming to Yordi but after a few sessions she was pretty darn good! We broke up the training between walking little hills, long lining, and ring work. 

Yordi was getting the hang of this and starting to understand that the pain was gone. They were rebuilding their relationship with understanding and patience and “wait it out, it will be ok”.

Cat’s Black Orchid: The Story of Yordi

July 2017 will mark two years that Yordi has been with me. 

Who is Yordi, you ask? This is Yordi.She is one of the most beautiful horses you will ever meet. Truly. Even if you despise thoroughbreds, you will be hard pressed not to admit she’s easy on the eyes. 

She didn’t always look like this though. I met her when she was 11yo but I’m sure she had her gangly tb days.

By 11 years old, Yordi had already endured more than any horse should. For starters, this fighter of a mare (before her awesome owner purchased her) had purposely been poisoned with arsenic….and survived. Can you believe it?!

That alone ranks her higher than most horses. 

I didn’t know her then either though. I met her after she had spent about 5 years with her current owner struggling through typical young horse shenanigans. It would be great and then it would be awful. Her trainer was at wits end and suggested having another trainer get on her. 

Enter: me

She hauled to a friends barn for me to assess Yordi. She longed her in a halter and she was well behaved…and only bending left, in both directions.

 Ruh-roh 

So I decide to get on and feel what on earth is happening. I go to put the reins over her head and she flies backwards, nearly to the opposite end of the arena, with me going with her.

“Is this normal behavior or is it my charm scaring the daylights out of her?” 

I was told it’s normal behavior. *I make another mental note*

Bridled, saddled, mounted. We walk and Yordi is super defensive and agitated. Head up, base of neck and back dropped, hind end left in the back field. 

Well, you can’t feel anything that the horse is blocking you out from. So we walk calmly, gently touching the bit. We walk some more. And more still. After about 20-30 minutes of walking, she takes a breath and relaxes. *finally* 
Unfortunately, her relaxing allowed me to feel what she was protecting.

I halt in front of the owner and say, “I know you said she’s had her neck worked on….but what in the h*** is going on behind the saddle? That is a major issue.”

The owner tells me she’s been through numerous vets, farrier’s, acu/chiro people but to no avail. One vet had flexed her, positive on both hind legs, and told her it was normal and to proceed working…

[I have a habit of slow blinking people. Let me explain. It’s when you hear something so utterly moronic that your only reaction is to stare at them for a long time and eventually blink once, VERY SLOWLY, as if to convey your disbelievment of ‘wtf was just said to me?’]

Now this is not to say I was implying the owner was a moron. Oh no. That judgement was for whatever vet had imparted that advice on her.

Moving on.

I told the owner, “I don’t know if I can fix this and I’m not making any promises but I’m willing to try and I have a great team (vet/farrier/act/chiro) to help us get your horse on the right track.”

They trailered her straight to the barn I was working out of and left her with me. 

After one month with me I learned a bunch of things:

1) Yordi panics when horses ride towards her

2) Yordi will break cross ties if there is no wall behind her

3) Yordi doesn’t trust food. 

4) Yordi is spooky in her stall

5) Yordi started to relax and trust the rider enough to almost totally stop any bad or spooky behavior, including running away from oncoming horses 

6) now that Yordi is trusting me, it’s clear she has major hind end issues

We had two options. Retire Yordi and buy a new horse or sink the time and money into her to try and fix the poor mare.

The owner has an undying love for this horse and doesn’t have dreams of the Grand Prix. She just wanted this horse to be fixed and as comfortable as possible, even if that means we start over and maybe she shows and maybe she doesn’t. Fair enough. I’ll call my vet.

Enter: my vet

Yordi hates vets, chiro/acu/farrier. Anything that effects or manipulates her could cause her to leave the situation. With or without you. 

Ironically enough, our vet is Yordi’s teddy bear. She never once tried to steamroll him…well, except that one time ๐Ÿ˜‚

Lameness exam complete, he gave the owner more answers and information than she had received from past medical professionals combined. Next step: bone scan, to confirm.

Yordi is beautiful inside and out and her bone scan was equally as beautiful. She lit up like a flippin’ Christmas tree. ๐Ÿ™€ *gulp*

Everything is treatable. There are two things, though, that are not fixable but can be maintained and she will be comfortable.

Could she have saved the thousands of dollars on treatment and bought another horse? Yup. But even knowing Yordi’s physical limitations, she loved this horse enough to want to provide the quality of life as best she could. So we went for it. 

Izah’s Second Show

Head to the show on Friday with three horses. It’s 96 degrees with 65% humidity. We had a lesson in the morning with my trainer so we simply hacked at the show. It’s the same venue as the first show and our horses were super chill and happy to just hack.

And then the weather changes. It drops ~25 degrees and even though it’s not “cold”, it’s significantly cooler and, lord help ya, if you have a mare. (PS there is another red mare I frequently read about and it’s basically the larger, fancier version of my own red pony. ‘Wind was blowing NW 5mph but suddenly changed to NNW 6mph……time to freak out.’)

The warmup footing is too deep for my pony. Her little stick legs sink right down and it’s truly difficult to push through. It irritates her, I’ll just say that. However, we deal with the cards we’re dealt. She’s hot but agreeable for about 10 minutes and then, oh boy, her switch goes off and she no longer wants to be in the arena. She desperately tries to drag me down the opposite end to the gate. I put my leg on and she tells me ‘Yo, girl. If you don’t back off, I’ll unravel completely and walk us out on my hind legs.’

“Yes, Iz. I hear you.”

I take a walk break. I took a break not because she “earned it” but because I had two choices:

1) scratch the ride because this was falling apart quickly

2) develop a different plan and find a middle ground with my partner

One look at my fiancรฉ and I knew that scratching was not the right choice. Waving out is ok but scratching isn’t. So here we go. 

*Plan B*

I walk Iz down to the gate and I walk a 10m circle in front of it. (It worked out because there was little traffic at the time). We walked circles and I coddled her and spoke kindly (ok, maybe a few choice words were said but always in an upbeat, soothing tone because, be real, Izah’s emotions are not her fault. Horses are who they are.)

She settles at the walk and I go to trot…still in the comfort of the 10m circle then 15m then 20m. Finally she takes a breath and I think ‘Holy liver, Batman. Is she settling?….. she is!’ 

Here we go….more riders have come in but it seems the spectators and other riders have acknowledged that my pony just needs a few more minutes and then we can move on. We canter. She rolls her eye to the gate but she stays on our line of travel. 

‘Don’t move, Ash. You’re walking a very fine line between rideable and explosive.’     Yup, got it.
We’re going for it. 

I enter the ring and round to the judge. I greet her and crack a joke about weather swings and red mares. 

Iz was on the edge of exploding the ENTIRE TIME. But she didn’t. I didn’t over ride or overcorrect and we made it through. Was it a stellar test? Nah. Did we get a qualifying score towards the bronze? Sure did.

Sunday was very surprising. 

She was calm. Not “Izzy calm” but truly CALM. She was steady, we were in the indoor, the footing is much better. 

I couldn’t believe what I was sitting on. She was responsive, agreeable, rideable. My pony was back….but even better. The judge was tough but fair. For scale, the two horses above us were big, beautiful FEI, top quality horses and they only scored 67% (the day before, the first place horse scored 75%).

Izzy was on point and we secured a third with a 63+% against some stellar horse/rider combos. 

My scores for the bronze are done and Izzy is on her way to becoming a seasoned show horse.

And this is how I left my last test..