I’ve been doing a ton of riding over the past few months and have decided to enter my first show! It will be on Sunday, November 9th and to be honest, I’m terrified. Sue and I have made great progress in our partnership, but we’re far from perfect. This show is a schooling show, so it’s meant for folks of my experience and ability. Those of you who know me know that I get competitive and super nervous… so even though there’s not anything on the line, I’d like to do well!
This past weekend we practiced a lot… everything from going to a new arena (Sue’s thoughts: “scary”) to working an obstacle course (Sue’s thoughts: “cool!”). He really had a blast with the trail work – pulling a log, weaving through cones, walking across poles. We might need to do some more of that! The new arena had cows… Sue has yet to decide if he’s scared of them or really, really excited about them. He’s cowhorse-bred, so it’s in his blood to be a little bit of both. One of these days we’ll get out and work with some cows!
Here’s to another week of practice before the big show!!!
On Thursday I took the day off work to head over to the stables to work for the day. My trainer had mentioned when I first started riding that if I ever had a day free, I could come learn the ropes. Thursday happened to be perfect as the farrier (the guy who puts the shoes on) was there. He offered to do Sue first so that I could watch, which I gratefully accepted. I asked if I could bother him with questions while he went (I’m sure he regretted his decision over the course of the next 30 minutes) and I learned a ton. I had no idea what a fine art horse shoeing is… it’s one of the most important parts of the horse and it goes way beyond just nailing a shoe on. He also trims the hoof (think if it like trimming your fingernails), but it has to be done at the right angle, often enough, etc. He then has to fit the shoe to the hoof (that’s where the loud metal-on-metal banging happens) and nails it on (nailing it in the wrong place is called “hot nailing” and results in a swift kick!). It was quite the process and was amazing to watch him work!
Isn’t that a beautiful horse butt? Sadly, I have no more pictures after the farrier – I was too busy having fun!
After Sue’s shoes were done, my trainer showed me how to muck out stalls. I know it sounds completely unglamorous, but there’s something to be said for taking care of these amazing animals, especially in the morning when they’re quiet and eating. It took me a lot longer than it would her (who knew there’s a fine art to picking up poop?), but I got the job done.
All of that raking and shoveling was exhausting, but then came the best part of the day – the riding. I took a lesson on Sue, with another rider from the barn riding her horse, Strider. My horse is a lot smaller than Strider and has much shorter legs, ergo a shorter gait. I’m constantly working with him to extend his trot and lope. My trainer had a fun idea… for me and Sue to chase Strider. It was so much fun just racing around the arena like little kids.
After lunch we came back to the ranch and I rode a beautiful little Arabian mare. She was much more sensitive than Sue, which forced me to work a little harder on my horsemanship. She had a beautiful lope – it was great experience! When I was done on here, my trainer put me on the ranch’s stallion, Charlie. Let me tell you, it was terrifying. He was all muscle and every time we came around the side of the arena that housed the mares, he would stop and whinny at them… with his whole body. It was sort of this guttural noise and shaking. Thankfully, my trainer was there to talk me through riding him (can’t show him any doubt or hesitation) and I was able to stay in control. He is a beautiful animal that once he knew I was boss was fantastic to ride – all muscle and power!
We ended the day with some more stall cleaning and the evening feeding. It’s fun to be the horses favorite at that point… everyone is happy to see the feed cart! I came home around 7pm Thursday night wanting nothing more than an ice-cold shower, a big dinner, and some time on the sofa. It was an absolutely amazing day!
Today I headed over to the barn after work to spend some time with Sue. We’ve been working really hard in our lessons, so during the week when it’s hot after work I’m trying to spend some time bonding with him. Sometimes that involves taking him out of his stall and just walking him around the ranch. Sometimes, like today, it’s just petting him and singing to him (the horses listen to country music all day). And, of course, treats. Lots of treats.
He’s still very young and very curious, so a lot of the time it’s hard to get good pictures. He loves to sniff and nudge me to see if I’ve got any treats on me. I actually got him to stand still for a bit so I could give him kisses. That nose is indescribable… ridiculously soft!
Here’s an example of his mischievous side… I keep seeing all of these great pictures on Pinterest of people snuggled up with their horses, the horse looking at the camera with soft eyes. I, on the other hand, get the show stealing horse… “Look at ME!”.
But seriously, he makes me laugh, even when he’s being a hooligan. I took a zillion pictures, including ones of him nudging me and trying to dig through my pockets. This picture takes the cake and might be one of my favorites of him:
Very soon I plan on giving him a good bath and taking him out to one of the pastures for a photo shoot. He’s super dusty and dirty right now out of necessity… it’s fly season and every ounce of dirt helps keep them away! I brushed his tail out the other day and it’s glorious… I need to get some good pictures! Happy Friday everyone!
Today I headed over to the barn after work to give Sue and his mama, Banshee, a bath. They both needed it and it was a beautiful day. Sue actually had dirt caked down to the skin on part of his mane (what can I say, the boy loves to roll in the dirt!).
Here’s my boy – I swear he’s not starved… I think this was just a weird angle with a wet horse. He absolutely loves having his mane brushed – whenever I do it he gets really calm and his head starts to sag. We’re finally getting it to mostly lay over to the left… although when he shakes he’s still got some that flips back over to the right (for those of you who don’t know, he rubbed a big chunk of it off on the fence). I seriously love this horse! Every time I’m around him I can feel our bond getting stronger and stronger!
Here’s his mama, Banshee. She’s a champion reining horse:
Dana, my trainer came by and asked if I wanted to ride her bareback… to which I responded with a resounding YES! The one time I’ve “ridden” bareback was on our honeymoon – and they basically plopped us on the horses and we walked them 10 feet into the ocean. Hardly riding. Today was amazing… it was so cool to feel her move. I fell in love with the saddle I bought because it lets me feel the horse – this took this to the next level! We did a few loops around the arena and then practiced some spins – so different than on Sue because Banshee clearly knows what she’s doing! It was a great time!
I have very seriously enjoyed every facet of owning a horse.
Sue has his own silly little personality. Like any young creature, he likes to test his boundaries… everything from nibbling on my arms to pushing on me with his nose. He tries it in the arena (“You want me to run? I’llshowyou run!”). For me it’s been a learning lesson because I’ve had to learn the basics about horses and their behavior as well as the ins and outs of riding. My trainer is one of the coolest people ever, but she challenges me. A lot. I love that, even though it’s hard and sometimes uncomfortable. Dana gets me and helps make me a better rider, even on the days we don’t ride and just do groundwork.
A couple weekends ago I had a ride that started off rough and then felt like everything that could go wrong did. When I tried to mount up, Sue started a little bit of bucking, which scared the daylights out of me. Lesson 1 of the day: pay attention to your horse when walking to the arena… if the cinch (the strap that goes around their belly) is pinching at all, climbing up in the saddle can hurt them, causing bucking. After that, I lost a bit of confidence and by God, that horse knew it. He tested me at every chance (didn’t lope when I asked, stopped when I didn’t ask, etc), but we made it through. I went home feeling like the worst rider in the world.
I went back for a trail ride the next day and everything fell back into place. Over the last two lessons, things have just clicked. I feel like Sue understands what I’m asking him and actually wants to do it. We had one of the most wonderful lopes around the arena that I’ve ever had with him – we made it four or five times around before I asked him to walk. It was just one of those blissfully good rides.
I still find a lot of solace at the barn… when I’m there I don’t worry about other things in life. I don’t think about what’s for dinner or that email I have to send when I get home. It’s just me and Sue. I’m learning to be the alpha with him and it’s been really fun. His stall is right next to his mama’s (her name is Banshee) and she neighs every time I take Sue out or bring him back in. I sneak her treats for being a good mama.
It’s official… I now have everything that I need to own a horse. Technically. I learned this weekend that there is so much amazing stuff out there… it could be very easy to spend TONS of money on horse gear!
This weekend I bought my very first saddle! My trainer hauled Sue down to the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center, where a cutting show was being held. I have been riding in one of her saddles that I absolutely love, made by Roohide Saddlery. John, the owner and saddle maker spent lots of time with Sue, trying different trees (that’s the shape/form of the saddle) on him to make sure we got a good fit that allowed his gait to be free. After sitting on what felt like a thousand different saddles (it was actually about 40) and trying a few out (who knew that’s how you picked a saddle), I finally found one I liked. I honestly could not have asked for a better saddle… it’s like he custom made it for me! I absolutely love it – the skirt and gullet have rough out leather, which is basically a roughed up version of the leather on the rest of the saddle. The edges all have barbed wire tooling – nice and manly for my Boy Named Sue! I left it overnight because John wanted to do some customizing on the stirrups (since I have seriously short legs he wanted to change up the length so that I had more holes – ie. could raise them higher if needed). I rode on it this afternoon and it was beyond comfortable!
When I went back today, my parents met up with me to watch some of the cutting competition. Cutting is basically a judged version of separating or “cutting” one cow from the herd and keeping him there. It’s so interesting to see the different techniques and the level of discipline the horses have! My parents were awesome and decided to buy me the last piece of tack I needed – the headstall (when put together with reins and a bit, it becomes the bridle). Since I had my saddle there, we were able to match the leather. I absolutely love it – the tooling is arrows, which goes well with the barbed wire on my saddle!
Here’s the bit I got from my trainer… I love the silver detail on it!
Now it’s time to break it all in… tonight’s project is to sit on my sofa and bend and smush my reins… the softer and more “broken in” the leather is, the better! I am one happy, tired cowgirl!
I know, I’ve sucked at posting since I told you all I finally bought a horse. Life’s been busy and I’ve been spending as much time with him as I can!
The other day I headed over to the barn after work… it was really nice because no one was there and I got to spend some quality one on one time with Sue. I pulled him out of his stall and did some lunging. I’m still learning the techniques of this, but the basic premise is that I stand in the middle and Sue runs in circles around me. Using the lead line and my voice I can work on getting him to go slower or faster, closer or farther, and different directions. It’s great for exercising him when I can’t ride (as was the case this day because the arena was too wet), for getting some energy out and focus him before we ride, or to use as a training tool. It’s definitely not as easy as it sounds… first of all, it’s very easy to get dizzy! I also have to practice my footwork and handling – I’m moving in a smaller circle as he goes around me and I’m still getting used to my spurs. That’s right, I’m that girl who trips over her own spurs!
After that, I gave him a good grooming. He had been turned out during the day and one whole side was caked with mud, so he definitely needed it! No one else was there, the other horses were whinnying, and the country music was playing (a staple at any good barn). It was awesome to just spend time with him. I bought him a new halter and lead rope – we’re going with a hunter green theme, which I think looks good with his reddish brown hair!
In the midst of my selfie-taking, I discovered that horses are a lot like dogs… they are very inquisitive and want to sniff everything.
I seriously love this horse. He has such a fun, young personality!
There are really not words for how I’m feeling right now… those of you who know me know that I’ve loved horses my entire life and have always wanted one. Finally, after thirty-three years my dream has come true.
Everyone, meet Sue. Sue is a four-year-old gelding (that’s a castrated male). Yup, I have “A Boy Named Sue” (for those of you young whippersnappers out there, that’s a reference to a Johnny Cash song). He is such a sweetheart and I’ve fallen completely in love with him. He’s a sorrel (that means a reddish brown) American Quarter Horse and he even has freckles like me!
I’ve known for the past few weeks that I wanted to buy him (I’ve been riding him in my lessons since then) and today we went to his pre-purchase exam. Since horses are not cheap endeavors, you take them to the vet before you buy them to make sure that they’re sound. It was a little nerve-wracking because I already love him, but thankfully he’s healthy as a horse!
Now I need to go take a nap… I’m exhausted from all the excitement of the day! More pictures to come on Facebook!
Yesterday my parents came out for the afternoon to watch my riding lesson and to have dinner. It was quite the lesson… I was in the arena, which to date has been more exhausting than my longer trail rides. I think it’s because of the intense focus. This lesson started out a little tough… I was too focused on the fact that my parents were watching, my saddle was all wrong (we messed with the stirrups a bunch and finally ended up completely switching saddles), and I ended up changing horses. Once I got settled in on Rosie, I was good to go! I hadn’t ridden her before and she was a little more mellow than the other horses I rode, which was good because of the skills I had to practice. I also got to practice wearing spurs!
We started with the normal arena work – walking, trotting, and loping. A key thing that I’m working on is anticipating the horse – Rosie wanted to stop at a bale of hay, so I had to practice motivating her past it before she broke pace. After a while of that, my trainer said that we were going to move to the circle arena to practice balance. I had no idea this meant riding without holding on. Not that hanging on to the reins really holds you onto the horse, but in my head it sure does.
Rosie would walk/trot/lope around the arena and Dana would make me do all sorts of fun things with my hands:
While all of this was happening, my trainer was standing in the middle of the arena with a whip. Don’t worry, she doesn’t hit the horse. She would step toward Rosie and flick it, which would make her turn toward the fence and change direction. Keep in mind, we’re loping (which is a run). Rosie is a former cattle cutter, so she can spin on a dime. Dana told me to watch her ears, which didn’t make sense at first, but sure enough, her ears would signal which way she was going to turn and I could shift my weight to stay balanced. It was terrifying and so much fun! I definitely need more practice – my instinct was to grab at the saddle horn. Rosie was awesome… I think I was more exhausted than she was!
Last weekend my riding “lesson” was actually a ride around Lake Tabeaud with FOURTEEN other horses. Below is a picture of most of the gang as we rode up a little embankment to “pose”. I’m the 4th horse from the left (wearing the blue helmet). Not the greatest picture, but it was on my trainer’s cell phone. That’s a good looking bunch of horses!
I rode Cinch again this time and he was an entirely different horse with this many other horses around! Instead of having to fight with him to even move forward, I had to fight with him to keep him from going! Apparently he picked up on the energy of the group (we had several nervous horses who were practicing being around others) and decided he wanted to put some pep in his step!
It was such a beautiful day and I had so much fun riding with other people! It was really cool to see all the different types of horses and their temperaments. I think I’m zeroing in on what I want in my own horse!