I'm a 20 something girl living in the beautiful state of Oregon. I have a lifelong love of horses and have been blessed to own a horse since I was 8 years old. My first pony was a 20-year-old POA mare named January. I mostly rode her bareback because I couldn't saddle her on my own. At that time we lived on 30 acres and I also had access to the neighbors 60 acres next door.
Ahh...life has been super busy and blogging is taking a major back seat. It doesn't help that we haven't done too many exciting things recently. However, one fun thing we did was head to the beach a couple of weeks ago. I went with a group of friends and Emi was the only horse. She was excellent, not concerned about being alone. Luckily for me she considers people part of her herd so she was happy to walk along with the rest of us. The weather was amazing and my friends got a chance to ride too. Emi was perfect, sweet as could be and her normal trustworthy self. It was a wonderful day!
Emi and I have both been enjoying our down time since the show. My plan for her to get a week off has stretched to almost 6. She hasn't been totally off work, but we've been riding a lot less than "normal." We are still on the struggle bus but my outlook is improving and we do have a plan moving forward. We are hopefully heading to the beach on Saturday (weather permitting) and I'm hoping to get back to a reasonable riding schedule starting this week.
In the mean time, the horse accommodations have been getting some upgrades. Phase one of the upgrades was a new barn roof! Of course, it rained three of the days that the roof was off. Luckily I think we got the hay and other items covered well enough and now we should be set for the winter. It's been fun to see the old structure coming back to life. Next summer we hope to re-side/stain it.
I've decided I'm going to get a mustang in the next year or so. When Roz first died I had no interest in having a second horse. Now that we are a year out, I'm finally starting to feel ready for another one. There are many reasons for getting another horse, although life is definitely simpler (and cheaper) with only one. I know Emi would enjoy having a horsey companion that could be with her in the field during the day. Liam is a great companion (and isn't going anywhere) but he can't have the grass. I'm sure she'd also appreciate a grooming buddy, which she doesn't currently have either.
I'm scratching her back and she's scratching his
Over the past couple of years I've added "mustang" to my list of horses to own at some point and now seems like the right time. I'm not currently in a position where I want to spend a lot of money on another horse (in terms of purchase price) so I want to get something that will be relatively "cheap." I love window shopping at OTTB's but really haven't had the best of luck with them and worry about their long term soundness, so that's not a gamble I want to make. I've loved following along with some of the mustang makeover competitions, in particular Elisa Wallace. There's also Eugene and Levi from DIY Horse Ownership. In addition I've had the opportunity to camp in the Steens Mountain the past two summers, where we've watched the mustang herds that make their home there.
Mustangs in the Steens
BLM holding pens - Burns OR
BLM has a Trainer Incentive Program (TIP) where trainers take a mustang and have 90 days to gentle them. They have to lead, load, pick up their feet, and be able to be caught. The adopter still pays the $125 adoption fee but the trainer is paid $1000 by the Mustang Heritage Foundation. I've made contact with some one local to me, who has had a lot of success in mustang makeover type competitions. She's willing to let me adopt a TIP horse through her. Ideally I'd get a horse around this time next year, and would have the winter to hang out with it and get to know it (pony on trails from Emi etc.). Depending on it's age, I'm thinking I'd send it out to be started in the late winter or early spring of 2020 and then I'd have a second horse to ride. Of course, we all know that "the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray," so the plan is subject to change. It's exciting to consider the possibilities and I think it will be a fun experience.
Six years ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
One days after my diagnosis
Six years doesn't really sound like that long but it feels like I lifetime ago. I don't think about it often, but it does occasionally come up. For instance, a couple weeks ago I noticed that my port scar has almost disappeared (kind of). Just this week I overheard some people talking about another women with breast cancer. She's early in the process but had a mastectomy, is going to be having reconstruction and will be having chemo as well...all things I'm quite familiar with. That same day I was with a group of friends who were talking about being bald. Although I did not chime in, I've experienced being bald.
No matter what people said, bald is not beautiful on a 24 year old girl, but joy, love and friendship are.
I find the further out from the experience that I am, the less it defines me. Shortly after diagnosis the treatment was so all consuming and cancer was always near the front of my mind. As time has gone on it has moved from being in the front of my mind to taking a back seat. Now it's almost an afterthought, the remnants of a bad dream. Although I still have some physical reminders, I was remarkably fortunate. Fortunate to catch it early. Fortunate to have a doctor who investigated further. Fortunate to come out on the other side with no last effects, after 8 rounds of toxic chemo.
Turning 30 is no big deal when you weren't even sure you'd make it that far
I'm so thankful to be healthy. I'm thankful to be strong. I'm thankful for the support and love I received from my family and friends. I'm thankful for dreams that have come true. I'm thankful for life. That being said, I don't fear dying. I believe in God. I believe that his son, Jesus, died for my sins, and I believe that there is life with him after death. I refuse to live in fear of the return of cancer and instead choose to live life to the fullest, doing my best to bless other people along the way.
Dreams - growing up before my very eyes
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
One year ago today, I said goodbye to Rozzy Ridge. It was one of the hardest days of my life and I miss him so much. I looked back through our old photos last night. Thinking about his final days but also about his life. We had so many wonderful times together. He marks some of the best riding years of my life. He was always a reliable and willing partner, a true pleasure. I used to tease that there were no "bad rides" on Roz. He won me a pile of ribbons and I trusted him completely. He always took care of me. Oh to be able to have him back again...if I could repeat those years I would treasure them even more than I did. I'm so glad he could live out the last half of his life with me. He was one in a million.
The first time I owned Roz
Shortly after I bought him back - (3 years after the first photo)
A much younger "me" with Roz
Roz and Annie - I still have the dog although she's old and grey now
Heading out on a trail ride with his other little girl.
I always loved sliding onto his back and going for a ride.
Exactly 10 years after the first picture
Our last Christmas together
His 25th birthday
My last ride on him
The way I'll always remember him, doing what he loved, galloping around a green grassy field, putting on a show.
Despite my current level of frustration and discouragement, I'm excited to say that Emi won an awesome neck ribbon for being the highest scoring welsh at the show. I'll be honest, when I checked in they told me I should submit Emi's papers because there was a high scoring welsh award. I told them I would, but also said we wouldn't be in contention for the high scoring welsh award, we'd need the low scoring welsh award. Oops!
Once we got our first score of 67% I realized it was possible that we'd be in the running. With a 70% the following day I knew we had a real shot. There were still more rides to go when I left the show on Sunday but they told me that I was currently in the lead....and we stayed in the lead. I've always wanted to win a neck ribbon and it was fun to earn it for being the high scoring welsh.
We did well at our first recognized show and all I feel is extremely discouraged. She's behind my leg. Really, really, really behind my leg and if I can't fix it we have no future in the dressage arena. She has all of the pieces to be a successful dressage horse, as evidenced by good (to great) scores (on tests with many areas that need to be cleaned up). I feel like I've failed her and that she doesn't really want to work with me right now. There are few things worse than sitting on a horse that will.not.go. (maybe one that won't stop)
Everyone has some sort of suggestion for what the problem is, from something truly being wrong with her, to feeding her poorly, to something about how I'm riding. I personally feel like it's a training issue. I don't think she's purposely naughty (perhaps under-motivated) so it makes me think she doesn't understand the answer that I'm looking for but I'm also not sure how (else) to convey that to her. I'm trying to hard to give her my very best and I feel like I'm falling short. Where we are at right now is not fun for either of us.
So we are stepping back. She and I are taking a week off, then we are going to get back to bareback hacks, jumping, trail riding and seeing if we can come to some sort of agreement on a go button. I have a friend who's going to come ride her with me and I'm interested to see if she will have any insight. My vet is coming out to take a look at her/adjust her in a couple of weeks. This winter I might send her for a couple weeks of training with JW - although I feel like I can probably un-train her as fast as she can train her. Right after I told someone that Bad Eventer posted about "Marriage Counseling"...it seemed to fit with the current state of affairs.
I just started a new job so taking time off work for lessons is not part of the plan (at the moment) but lessons are definitely on the radar. It's difficult to fully capture what she's like on a normal day at home as she's usually a bit more peppy when we haul somewhere. I am investigating a lead on a trainer closer to us, which could be a good in between option.
I keep a training journal and have been jotting down ideas for schooling her. Things like: working on voice commands on the lunge line to hurry her along, that I could then transfer under saddle. Perhaps I'm not being diligent to "retest" her as Jane Savoie suggests. Maybe I could use the whip in a different way, repetitive tapping or on her shoulder or? Although I (sort of) complained about suggestions above, I do welcome your insight as there may be something I'm overlooking.
Sunday brought an early morning wake up call, with my first ride close to 8am and the second right around 9am. I ran outside to feed Emi breakfast and showered while she ate. Once I was ready I loaded her up in the trailer and we headed for the show grounds. I had started her braids the night before and finished them at the show grounds as the sun was rising. Emi was slightly more vocal on Sunday morning and the haul in area was crowded compared to the prior two days.
I had plenty of time to get her ready and hopped on her with 20 or so minutes before our first test...she requires minimal warm up. She warmed up fine and we headed in the ring for Training test 2.
As the test got started, I felt like she was resisting my forward aids and I was kicking her along while she was slowing down. I honestly thought she might just halt (while trotting) and refuse to go forward. Thankfully she didn't and we plunked around through the trot work with me thinking the canter was going to be a disaster. The first canter arrived and she jumped into, cantering right along. She did the same thing for the canter on the other side. Weird!
Low score: 6.5 (x2) - First halt/salute and one canter circle. High score: 8 (x2) - Medium walk and free walk (the pony likes her walk work)
Gaits: 6.5 - More air time, especially in canter Impulsion: 6.5 - Well ridden. Could come more over ground in tempo Submission: 7 - Obedient Rider's Position and Seat: 7 Rider's Correct and Effective Use of the Aids: 6.5 - Using health a lot rather keep heels down to support.
Further remarks: Harmonious pair.
Score: 70.385% and 1st place
I hopped off of her for a while between our two tests and she snoozed while we waited.
I felt like the trot work was slightly better in Training 3 but we again botched a canter transition and then broke in the canter before we were supposed to make the transition. Ugh.
Low score: 4 - canter across the diagonal and trot at X (we didn't do this at all) High score: 8 (x2) - Stretchy trot circle and final halt/salute
Gaits: 6.5 - More lift, less grounded, especially in canters Impulsion: 6.5 - Bit behind aids Submission: 6 - (lightness of forehand circled) Some food, some lack of balance on arms (? - not sure if arms is what was written) Rider's Position and Seat: 6.5 - too much kicking with heels "grounded" horse Rider's Correct and Effective Use of the Aids: 6 - Create more from behind to carry shoulders
Cute pair! Just get stronger.
Final Score: 65.000% and 4th place.
Up next - final thoughts (and hopefully some video).
The first day of the show started off early with ride times of 8:25am and 9:15am. Emi warmed up fine and cantered with out an issue. We were off to a good start.
Training 3 was first and it was a mess, with us missing both canter transitions. By missing I mean cantering WAY late...it was bad. But, there were no hysterics and no bucking so that was a plus.
Low scores: 1 (x2) for our canter transitions which were MIA and one 3 for the canter circle where we only cantered half of it.
High scores: 8 (x1) for our stretchy trot circle, 7.5 (x2) for our free walk and our final halt and salute.
Collective Marks :
Submission: 5 - Comment: Cute horse with enough talent but not focused on riders aids in canter exercises.
Rider's Position and Seat: 6.5
Rider's correct end effective use of the aids: 6 - Comment: Ability to find canter? and corners and geometry.
Further remarks - none.
After the ride I was texting my mom and told her it was probably a 57% with how no-existent the canter work was. Apparently you can still score decently with barely any canter work because we scored a 62.5% (and got 2nd place). Even if we had brought those three low scores 1, 1 & 3 up to 6's we'd have scored a 68.5%. Crazy!
Next up was Training 2. I had hopped off Emi and let her chill for a bit before waking her up again in the warm up arena. We thankfully produced both canter transitions, when requested (mostly), in this test so that was a big improvement over the first test. Otherwise it was similar to the first one. Sticking with the current theme, Emi was behind my leg and I was kicking her around the whole time. Let me tell you, I got my workout this weekend.
Low scores: 6 (x4) both canter transitions, one canter circle and one trot across the diagonal
High scores: 7.5 for our first trot circle and an 8 for our final halt and salute.
Impulsion: 6.5 - Comment: Capable team! Improve corners and geometry.
Rider's Position and Seat: 6.5
Rider's Correct and Effective use of the aids: 6.5 - Comment: Too much load kicking, corners and geometry of circles.
Further remarks - none.
We had a final score of 67.115% for second place.
Later in the day I was volunteering in the show office when the show organizer asked how old I am. I told her I was 30 and she said that's what she thought. The previous day someone had told her I must be older than I look but I appear to be 12. Then the lady who was scoring with me said "I'm the one who said that." She proceeded to ask if I had the horse that was bucking while schooling on Friday...yep, that was us.
While in the office I also asked if the judge was know to be generous. Both looked at me with surprise and said she's fair but she's not generous. I was surprised by that because I felt like our scores were quite generous.
As you all know from my last post, our horse show prep had been less than stellar. I sent an emergency message to JW who offered to give me a lesson at the show grounds on Friday. I quickly agreed and added Friday haul-in to my entry.
We arrived at the show grounds and after checking in I started getting Emi ready. When I got on, JW asked if I wanted to ride in the competition arena or in the warm up ring. There were several horses in the show ring but I opted to ride in there, knowing I could move outside if we were being too disruptive.
Emi was pretty "up" and I worked to get her focused on her job. JW gave me a heads up that the rules of the arena seemed to be different here, that there was not a lot of left shoulder to left shoulder going on. We picked up a trot and Emi was tense and rushing. I worked to settle her, with JW talking in my ear, telling me to use my hand when needed but also to be as soft as possible. We had made a few circles around the arena when Emi exploded bucking. The first one gave me that thought of "wow, I'm coming off today" but I sat up and was able to ride here through a few more before I got her stopped. Those were the most powerful bucks she has ever given me, and they were totally unprovoked.
JW then said maybe we need to look at things more closely as she's really never bucked like that before. We discussed the fact that I have increased her grain quite a bit recently and I had an appointment set up to have my saddle fit checked after our lesson. I did tell her that that kind of bucking is not what has been happening at home. In hindsight I think she may have been a little overwhelmed by the arena chaos and acting out because of it.
We continued on with our lesson and of course, we didn't have a canter issue. Horses! We had a nice 30 minute lesson and all went fairly well. Emi was nicely forward and we successfully navigated a crowded ring. At one point JW asked "do you ever feel invisible?" Why yes, yes I do. Haha.
After our lesson we hung out for a while waiting for the saddle fitter. She said Emi's saddle is too wide and that it's causing it to smash down on her in the wrong spots. She took some tracings and asked for 30-45 minutes with it. I hand grazed Emi while we waited. Once the adjustments had been made I tacked Emi back up and we put in a quick ride to make sure everything felt fine. Once we finally finished with that I hauled to her Cind's (Emi's breeder - she lives less than 20 minutes from the farm where the show was held). We gave her a quick bath and I braided her mane down before heading out for a late dinner. Talk about a busy afternoon!
Killing time at the trailer - Baby girl is good at that, especially when there is hay in front of her.