What scares me is that she actually got that dirty on a DRY day!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Link to video
PS- Pixie didnt stick:(
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
You know, sometimes being happy is scary. I've been riding my new mare, Lily/Sookie and just loooooving every minute of it. I ride down the road, gallop down the trail, play in the arena and spend lazy afternoons just hanging out. Lily/Sookie is such a good girl... it is not that she doesnt do anything wrong, it is that she is so reasonable about being corrected and I can trust in her, her temperament and willingness... plus her lack of "ghosts" or negative experiences. I couldn't be any happier with her. You know, when I ride down the road I actually think "If I saw me right now, I'd be wishing that I could be me." As bizarre of a thought that may be, I cant explain it in any other way. I am relishing in the simplicity of riding a horse I enjoy and trust.
At the same time I havent forgotten that I am riding a horse. Lily could kill me, by accident, just as easily as my old gelding could have by some act of insanity... but I feel like....at least with Lily, if I was hurt or injured I would at least be doing something I loved- having fun and living life right up until the final moment.
Add to that, I love the barn I am at. It is AWESOME. The family is so nice and takes such good care of her, the facility is really ideal (stall with turn dry turn out plus pasture) plus there is just one other horse and she is a sweetie....and the icing on the cake the board is very reasonable and it is just a few minutes from home.
I am just soooo happy with with my "horse life" (and in my persona life too) that it kind of scares the crap out of me.... I feel like I have to literally knock on wood every time I think or say aloud just how pleased I am with everything. I am trying really hard to just enjoy the ride (both literally and proverbially) but.... actually, no buts... I am going to just enjoy the ride.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Anyways, all started well. We found the property (30+ acres) and there seemed to be access via an old logging road running off a side street.... so the going was pretty easy, at first. Then the road turned in to a trail. The trail turned into a coyote track and then the trail vanish all together. Fast forward three hours . We walk back on to the coyote track, then the trail, then the old logging road and finally to where I had parked the car. (side note: there was actually a horse loose on the street which I had to catch and then hunt down the owners. He was a massive bay draft of some sort and just as cute as pie.)
In that three hours we had bushwhacked our way through thirty plus acres of forest, bushes, bramble, blackberries, ferns, spider webs, and slugs. At one point I decided I didnt like the direction HS had picked so I ventured out on a path of my own. This is where I discovered that one stubborn, single minded, bull headed woman is no match against a blackberry bush the size of a small house. Subsequently my legs now look like this....
At least the scratches you can see are a result of a battle hard fought (though lost) and my proponent was a worth advisary- notoriously resiliant, thick stemmed, and equiped with vicious razor sharp thorns and arms like some multi headed mythical monster- but truth be told those blackberry bastards are nothing compared to the sting of that lowly, inconspicuous and frilly looking (though freakishly potent) stinging nettle!
Can I just say that my legs are on fire! Seriously. Burning.
Had I known that we'd be going all survivor-man-style I'd have thought to wear long pants!
Oh and FYI...f-ing Chamomile lotion doenst work worth a shit!
Friday, September 24, 2010
I simply admitted to myself that buying an unknown horse is gamble and made my bet with eyes wide open.
You see, I have basically decided that it is impossible for me to really know if a horse is going to work for me unless I bring it home and use it over the course of a few weeks or months. Soundness, temperament, trainability, all of those things that make a horse "the one", (or not) are transitory. One horse might be quiet for me and hot for my friend. A horse could have a minor strain that compromises a vet check while another might pass a vet check because their injuries are not aggravated and/or they are drugged. Some horses are more submissive when with a big herd but bolder when with just a single mare. Some horses can stand up to being loved on while others need a firm and heavy hand. How many of you know someone who bought a horse who was so good (or so bad) that turned out to be bad (or good!). All the environmental factors (handler, feed, herd, weather etc.) effect how a horse shows on the day you try them out and all of those factors (handler, feed, herd, weather) effect a how a horse will work for you.
I am not recommending that everyone take this approach. If I were out to buy a reining horse I would be looking for a specific set of skills, conformation, pedigree and I would be vetting up the whazoo to ensure that the money I am going to sink in to that horse is going in to the best prospect I can find. But for the kind of horse I set out to buy (a good minded trail horse that I can take to local shows and do a little of everything on plus something I can really bond with), I am focusing more on personality than performance prospect.
IAs such, I didnt care to waste my time with the "what ifs". Instead I decided to consider it a straight up gamble. For the cost of her purchase price I was willing to bet on her that she was sound and that the qualities I saw in her (the manner in which she processed her environment and overall innate temperament) was a true representation of her character. She seemed sane. She seemed quiet. She seemed sound. That was the best I was going to do. (I want to reemphasise what I said at the top... "for the cost of her purchase price I was willing bet on her." Put it this way, buying Sweet Pea didnt exactly break the bank. I feel I paid a fair price for her but I could also afford for her not to work out at all. Like any kind of responsible gambler I knew I could afford to loose.
But of course we are talking about an animal here and one loved by her owner M. The best I could do was tell her owner the absolute truth. I said, "I am going to consider purchasing her but I am not sure if she is going to work out for me. What I am looking for is intrinsict and while I'm sure she is a good girl I need you to know that if her and I dont click she'll be back on the market come spring. I will promise you that between now and then I'll take excellent care of her."
The only question I had left to answer was, "Did I want her?"
In the past, when I've gone to buy a horse, there has never been any question of want. I have always known, within a moment, if that horse is one that I'd like to own. The mulling comes when I have to decide if the horse is a good prospect for my intended use, if it sound, if it is sane, if the seller is telling the truth, etc. etc. etc.. But with Sweet Pea I'd put all that aside and discovered that I really didnt know if I wanted her. When I had gone to see her I had put on my "thinking cap" and tuned out from my (usually dominant) "feeling" side. I liked her. I thought she was a good prospect. But I didnt feel drawn to her... I didnt say "I gotta have her!" I said, "I'll sleep on it."
So that night, before "sleeping on it" I was talking to a friend and had an epiphany. *insert epiphany music please*.... it sounds like dah-ta-dah!
I realized the reason why I didnt feel this overwhelming urge to own her was that (a) I wasnt attracted to her color. (b) as a pedigree lover I wasnt crazy about her breeding and (b) DING! DING! DING! She HAD NO BROKEN WING!!!
Broken Wing Syndrome, for those of you who dont know, is the attraction that (mostly females) have towards any animal, man, bird, (whatever) that is needy. The abused, the skinny, the frightened, the overworked and underpaid. I didnt feel a pull towards her because she seemed so solid. She seemed like she had been treated pretty well her entire life. M. was friends with the breeders and had bought her as a yearling. She was trained using some natural horsemanship and was attached to her owner.
So that night I went to bed. I lay awake awhile, mulling. And then I woke up in the morning and texted M. with a note that said, "Sold". I went to see her Tuesday, signed a purchase agreement Wednesday and rode her home Thursday.
So far, so good.
Except one thing, still no name.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I watched, for a shortness to her step, for her to push into or past M. I watched her ears, her eyes and her expression... was she bitchy, sour, sweet or lacking for personality all together? How do we make these deductions in but a moments time? Is it the shape of the head? The wideness of the eye or the set of the ears? Is it in the lazy or quick swoosh of the tail? The headset? What makes us look at one horse and say that horse looks placid and at another and say that horse looks full of fire when both do nothing but stand and stare at you as you pass?
As M. walked Sweet Pea out of the field and as I watched her go I decided two things. One, that this mare was submissive. No genius required there. Barely a square inch of her hide was free of some size of mark, from a little piece of hair missing to a larger piece of skin bared bald and raw. She eyed her herd companions wearily as we passed and let a few feet back from M. without having to be reminded. The second deduction was that she was quiet. Her eye, though worried, was still loose, with her lashes hanging low and ears pointing more to the side than the stars. Her head set stayed at wither and her tail head swayed gently behind her. Her body was slightly braced but more in fear (of her herd mates) than as if bundled for energy and movement. As we walked out the gate she dropped her head some more and chewed, as if she understood she'd stepped on to the safe side of the fence. M. parked her in front of the barn where the remainder of some sour smelling round bale enticed her appetite enough that tying didnt seem required. And tying was the biggest issue I had with this horse. One of my first questions is always "How does she tie?" and when that question is answered "Good" I am not satisfied, so I ask "How does she tie in new places, to trailers, next to other horses." And even if I get another"good", I am still weary and only willing to believe it, naturally, when I see it. Why the emphasis on tying? Well, I'll tell that story in another post but for now will just say that I believe horses who tie are better MENTALLY broke than those who dont. I also have learned (the hard way of course) just what a pain in the ass it is to have a horse who doesnt tie. Anyways, back to Sweet Pea and M. Before I had gone to see her M had told me that she did tie well, however, (to be totally honest, she said) there was a time when she did not. I guess the first time Sweet Pea was tied she managed to get herself shocked by an electric fence and from then on was quite nervous while tied. She had been sent for two months training (not pro but a "good hand" who was her close friend) and her friend had tied her every day until she "got over it". However, M admitted that she rarely tied her and she usually just ground tied her. And so the tying issue because my greatest hesitation in this mare and having seen her stand quietly while not tied (though well occupied by a pile of hay) was no reassurance.
What was reassuring was that M didnt take much time to brush her down, and didnt seem to care about little bits of hay left stuck to the underside of the saddle pad, or the bite marks on her back that looks a little puffy and sore, nor that the saddle didnt seem to fit her well. In my mind this goes to show that she isnt worried about giving her an excuse to buck, which means she probably doesnt buck (or that M. is the type who doesnt care if her horses buck, but, hey, I was trying to be optimistic.) She saddled quietly and bridled just as well. There being no arena at that barn and only a gravel drive there wasnt a whole lot she could show me so I asked her to walk and trot up and down the length of the drive. I watched the way she walked, watched for signs of unsoundness. Her quality of movement was great (winged in a little in the back and is slightly toed in at the front) she did seem sound and stepped out nicely. As for riding, Sweet Pea seemed to go when asked and to stop when asked (bonus!) but her steering was rough around the edges and even M admitted that while she was good mannered with no vices, and though she had quite a lot of trail miles, she didnt know much. That much I could see for myself but I could also so that she was no dead head. As she trotted down the driveway she weaved slightly from side to side, just a step off a straight path but enough to see that there was plenty on that road she was unsure about but also that she unwilling to put much effort in to spooking and she tried to be brave. I am more impressed with a horses ability to handle and process "scary" things with a horse who has seen much (much) more and has become desensitized. I was also heartened by the fact that when it came time for me to get on her I really didnt feel uncomfortable with the idea at all. Normally I hate getting on horses I dont know, but there was something so reasonable about the way she handled herself that I felt (somewhat) confident that even if things did go sideways it wasnt going to be an a disaster.
Note: This is where my whole concept of assessing horses has recently changed. In the past I've focused on a horses training and experience. To me this means that I would ask questions more about where a horse has been, what they have done, how seasoned that horse is rather than trying to assess their inherent disposition. This time around I've focused more on how that horse reacts when faced with something new rather than trying to find a horse who doesnt have much new left to see. Big differentiation there. You see, the more "exposure" a horse has had the more a buyer has to count on the quality of training of the past users. The biggest "ghosts" I've found in my past horses have come from that horse having had a bad first experience or from having been trained poorly or abusively. A blank slate, or a slate that has limited exposure combined with good solid training can be a beautiful thing ONLY (IMHO) if the horse has a naturally good or inherently trainable and sensible disposition. The less naturally trainable and sensible a horse is the more I have to look for a horse that has had PLENTY of good solid training of a professional. In other words, some horses are suited to amateurs like me and some horses really do need a professional. How to assess the inherent disposition of a horse (as oppose to the disposition that has been created in that horse) is something I'd love to write more about in another post.
After watching Sweet Pea be ridden I came to the conclusion that she was a naturally submissive, quiet and sensible horse who wanted to please and that what training she did have in her was of some quality. And so when I got on her I felt more comfortable than usual because I was betting on her natural sense of wanting to please and on the training of someone who seemed practical and competent.
Within a minute of getting on her that was put to the test as the tractor that had been, up till then (murphys law) working a nearby field decided to come in. In order to get back to the equipment shed he had to drive past us at a distance of no more than six feet. As the tractor approached Sweet Pea kept a close eye on it. As it got really close she asked if we could move by taking a tentative step forward. I said no, "stand". She stood, quietly. The tractor passed and we walked on. It was as simple as that. She move forward well when I asked and stopped when I asked. As we walked down the driveway I noticed that her attention would bounce back and forth from one scary object to the other and though I did have to direct her back to the path I had set her on every minute or so her reaction and willingness to move past those scary spots without making a big deal out of them was commendable. M and I headed for a small round pen at the far corner of the property but when we got there it was half covered in water and the sandy ground was fetlock deep and slick as snot in a door nob (I learned that expression last week and have since revelled in it disgusting descriptiveness! lol) As we moved in to the arena she hesitated but walked on at my urging. When we approached the edge of the water she stopped and bulked when I asked her to walk through. She snorted, she sniffed the water and took a step forward then back. I bumped her gently and kissed her forward and she went, not smoothly, not prettily and with her body all bundled up but she went. On the other side I stopped, petted her neck and told her she was a good girl. She blew out the nerves and huffed a sigh of agreement. M. suggested that we give it another try as Sweet Pea is always better the second time and by the third she usually gets over it entirely. I walked her to the edge of the water and kissed her forward before she could stop. She went. And this time she didnt bobble her way through, she just went as confident as can be. I liked that she processed that experience so quickly and decided that it was okay. As we walked back to the barn she had to go buy the tractor again, this time stopped next to a work crew with bright orange traffic cones and shiny vests. I could feel her bunch up as she walked past but once again she did as she was asked and relaxed quickly on the other side.
And that was the end of my ride. We untacked her at the barn and she once again just stood with her nose buried in the hay. The only thing left to do was find a safe place to tie her. We walked her over to a fence and rather than tie her hard M. wrapped the lead rope three times around a pole. I pulled the rope a little shorter and then did what I could to back her up against the line so that she met the pressure of being tied. She didnt get nervous or react in any way. Under the circumstances it was the best that I could do but the tying thing still worried me. It was also then that i picked up her feet and discovered that she wasnt great with her back legs being handled. As cranky, if you could even call it that, as she was about it she didnt wig out or create a big scene, she just tried to pull her foot out of my hand.
After a few minutes of standing there, trying to get a feel for her and giving her a little pat I put her away in her paddock (unhappily as within a minute she was getting dive bombed by a big black standardbred mare) and left the barn. Not before being told, naturally, that there was a lady coming the next day to see her so "could I let her know asap." I told her "sure I'll let you know in the morning" less than enthusiastically and with a bland stare. Horse sellers! Also, naturally, I was quick to get on the phone with a friend and when asked "SO!! How was she?!?" I said, "Ehhh... fine." I wasnt excited. My mind wasnt day dreaming of what it would be like to take her home. I didnt think or feel or say "I have to have that mare!" There was no pull at my heart string. The best I could do was, "I'll sleep on it."
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
For the sake of simplicity I will call her Sweet Pea in this post. And yes, that is a hint as to the name she came with.
Oddly enough the whole saga of Sweet Pea and I began right here on this blog. You see, I wrote a post back on August 31st named "Geldings Geldings Everywhere and Not a Mare to... Buy" in which I vented my frustration over being unable to find a good registered mare and I wrote a little about how I thought it might be wise to find a prospect who actually needed the miles I planned on riding this winter. In that post I also dissected my "feelings" and the whole concept of trusting your intuition when buying horses. My exact words where, "I am also having trouble resisting the green broke "prospect" over the older steady eddie. I just figure that if I am going to be doing a lot of riding over the winter why not get something that needs the miles? The BIG proviso there is that they would have to be naturally quiet, confident and sweet natured horses with a good start on them."
I concluded that post with this...
"I really hope that next time I write a post it will be to tell you guys that I found THE one!
Until then... *bangs head repeatedly against wall*"
Okay, so I have a flair for the dramatic.
Anyways, so I remember writing that post and thinking, "maybe now that I have written out what I am looking for I'll actually know it when I see it." And then I clicked on the little blue "post" button, got up to take a widdle, sat back down at my laptop and clicked over to craigslist. There I was struck with an idea. (sidenote: when I search craigslist I usually just enter the term "mare" or "gelding" in to the search bar) I realized that some people continue to call their mare a "filly" long after their yearling year. So, on a whim I typed in "filly" and began scanning the listings. Literally within minutes of writing that "not a mare to buy" post I found Sweet Pea. The ad said that she was a five year old registered mare, well started, quiet, sweet, no vices, sound, lots of trail miles etc. etc. etc. The pictures where not great but showed a stocky and VERY white mare. I wasnt crazy about her color but told myself to suck up and buck up because color doesnt matter. In every other way she sounded almost perfect. I immediately switched back over to this blog and came this *holds up demonstration of a very small distance with my fingers* close to adding a little caption to the bottom of the post saying "WOW! I think I found her!" But I didnt. Because I am superstitious. And not presumptuous. And maybe a little lazy.
In months of shopping I had yet to cold call a seller. Usually I e-mail back and forth a few times and ask the usual questions before getting on the ol' yapper and having the inevitable marathon conversation in which I usually forget half of the useful information and instead remember the life story of the swift talking seller and her eight-to-many horses. But with Sweet Pea I didnt waste any time. I picked up the phone and called the seller M. M, shockingly, didnt have a lot to say. I asked questions and got an answer, no more, no less. I cant say I felt all warm and fuzzy about M but she was polite and seemingly honest. The horse continued to sound solid. The only "scary" thing about her was that she did, at one time, have an issue with tying and tying issues are a HUGE red flag for me... one of the first questions I ask is always, "how do they tie?" Despite that I made an appointment to see her that Saturday (which was the earliest M. could show her.) Was I excited about her? Yes. But not crazy excited. If she had been a few hours away I probably would have waited to see her until I had a few to see at the same time. But... here is the kicker. In 10 years + of horse shopping I've never once looked at a horse in my home town... or even my home region. The only horse I've ever purchase from here was my old (and once in a lifetime) gelding Rocky and I was only 14 at the time. Over the past few weeks while I've been shopping I've looked almost exclusively across the line and "up country" (about 5 hours north of me). The reason for this is that I found the Washington state horse market to be much more saturated and, with the economy the way it is, the horses in WA are much cheaper, of better quality and greater variety than here in BC. It does cost a couple hundred dollars to import them (coggins and health certificate) plus 10% in taxes but it was still worth my time to shop across the line. Sweet Pea was, shockingly, just 15 minutes from home.
Tuesday turned to Wednesday and I continued to look at horses online. I found a number of good prospects. The excitement of finding Sweet Pea faded quickly and while I was still interested in seeing her I had found a few other horses that better suited my "taste" and color preferences. As a horse shopping junkie I continued to seek new fixes... and the thrill of the Sweet Peas fix had faded.
Thursday I spontaneously decided to fly off to Maui with my man HS. In the back of my mind I regretted having to cancel my appointment but I was thinking more of Mai Thais at sunset, not white mares on Saturday. I e-mail M. from Maui to cancel and was informed that she was showing Sweet Pea to another person on Sunday. I wrote back saying how I'd love to see her but understood she couldnt wait. Then I slathering on the SPF 50 and went for a snorkel... I couldnt say I cared. Fast forward. I'm in Vegas. We're on our way to see Cher. The e-mail comes in saying Sweet Pea didnt sell. I dropped her a quick line setting up a time to see her on Tuedsay, the day after we were due to get home. Then I went to see Cher. She sucked. But more on that another day.
Monday we get home. I hate to admit it but I was kind of dreading going to see her. I love searching for horses. I hate the actually buying of them. I hate having to dissect the horse and every word the seller says, trying to find the hidden issues of mind and body. I hate getting on horses I dont know. I hate having to make a decision. I hate it so much that a few years ago I was actually willing to buy a horse sight unseen, just because I couldnt stand the idea of having to go look at her. I hate it that much.
Tuesday rolls around. I drag on my boots, slip on a baseball cap and and pull up my big girl panties. I drive out to the farm. I get my first look at Sweet Pea.... or so I think, this horse is white and spotted and omg does it have a nasty neck. I swear in my head and wonder how I'm going to get out of riding this nag. And then M. walks past the nags paddock and continues on a little further.... and further still. We grab a halter and head in to the field. It is then that I get my first look at her. I size her up. My eyes dart over her points, assessing each in a glance. Good tie to the neck, a little short, but low head set. Petite head. Good length of leg. Nice length back. Good hind quarter, could use some muscle and weight. Hocks too high. Tail set a little off. No mane. Good heart girth. Nice expression. Blue eyes... hmm... dont know about the eyes. God she's white. Steps out well. Moves lightly. Good length to pasterns. Spring in step. Slow mover. And it goes on and on. As I chat with M. my mind works to pick up every detail of the piece of flesh before me. I dont pause to pat her. To say hello. I just watch.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Some of the names that are being bantered about right now are Rowan (ro-win), Lilly (Lil), and Hola (o-la). Lily is a top contender but I'm just not sold.
I am VERY particular about names, I like them to have a meaning, to associate with something positive and to suit the character of the horse more than just their physical attributes. I also like unique names which is why Lily is a little too obvious for me.
I got home from my two day road trip late last night but was able to get out to see her this afternoon and spend some time just grooming her (oh the dirt on that white!) She is such a nice little mare, very sweet, gentle and sensitive with a feminine look and quiet presence. She lacks confidence but is very willing to be reassured. One of the characteristics she has that really intrigues me is that she is a watcher.... When she stands in the paddock she usually has her head up and her ears pricked forward as she gazes off in to the distance. If there is something to see she wants to watch it and will even move about the paddock to get a better view... and she isnt curious about normal things, it could just be a person walking down the road, birds in the field or nothing that I can see at all....she is very interested and engaged in the world around her. She has excellent ground manners and I think that all the training she has to date has been the good kind, she is very solid and doesnt seem to have any ghosts that I can find.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
This afternoon I went to the barn where she was boarded to pick her up. I brought my saddle, pad, bridal, halter and a bag with water and apples.
My new little mare ____ is an absolute gem. She is OH-SO-SWEET, tries super hard and I TOTALLY CLICKED with her. I walked up and down hills, over bridged, through the forest, down the open trail with dogs and walkers and all sorts of things. I long trotted her. I loped her on the flat. She goes when you tell her to and maintains her gait well. She stops when you ask too boot! Her steering needs work and she doesn't know much but she is game.
Did I mention how sweet she is? I cant believe what I did today! I picked up my new horse and RODE her to the new barn where I'll be boarding. It took about two hours but I walked her (in hand) for a lot of it and we stopped to graze and to chat on the cell phone:)
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
And as for "DB" becoming "HS" that is something I've wanted to do for a while now as I've always hated "DB" as abbreviation... I call my man sweet, sexy, funny, lovey and all sorts of endearments but never "darling". "HS" actually is a nick name of his (and no it isnt short for horse shit (though he likes to joke it is)) and he finally gave me permission to use it. It feels natural to call him HS but I always struggled to use "DB". Anyways, that is the story and I'm sticking too it!!
I MAY have some BIG news tomorrow. May. Might. Could. Maybe. Ya'never know.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Only I didnt. And then we came home. And I kissed my dog 18 times, snuggled my kitties, cleaned my house, did 18 loads of laundry and now I'm ready to go again.
Do I really want to buy a horse? I hear Scotland calling my name.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Well...the poem does say...
"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!"
True story... my sister packs a few dozen bottles of vitamins with her whenever she travels. Her purse looks like a health food store and she has been known on occasion to utter the words, "Oooh! It's time for my vitamin B-12" I like to tease her about this. She doesnt think it's funny. I probably wont think it's so funny when in a dozen years or so she looks so amazing I get mistaken for her mother.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Will write more later but I'm headed to the beach with my man and a bottle of SPF 45 sunblock.
It is a tough life.
Hope you have an awesome weekend!