An Amazing Day With Sue

Yesterday was our third schooling show and I had one goal going into it… to not get disqualified. I know it sounds a bit silly, but we’re so new to showing and still learning so much that in both of the first two shows we went off pattern (first time was my mistake, second time was Sue’s). I honestly am not going to these shows to win ribbons (although it would be fun to get one), but rather to expose Sue to as much as I possibly can. My goal with him is to make him the best trail horse ever, which means that we need to see as much as we can and learn how to be calm together when faced with new and seemingly scary things. A show is a great place to do this – from the nervous energy of other horses and their riders to new sounds, smells, and things. I’m proud to say we made it through all three classes without getting disqualified!!! Sue definitely had his game face on:

Good Morning!
Good Morning!

Over the last three shows, we’ve made huge strides. He will now stand quietly while all of chaos moves around him. He doesn’t try to bolt across the arena when he realizes we go in alone like he did the first time.

Waiting For Our Rail Class To Start
Waiting For Our Rail Class To Start

Just before I did my trail class, my sister and the kids showed up… I got to take Chloe for a quick (about 3 feet) ride. Day made!

Chloe, Sue, & I
Chloe, Sue, & I

It was a great day! I’m so proud of my little fella!

Frustration

Yesterday the group I ride with got rained out. We decided to head into Ione for a ride under their covered arena… which, once we arrived we discovered that there was a show in progress. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining there and we had miles of trails to head out and work on. This arena is a bit scary for some horses, and sometimes Sue gets sucked into the energy. I don’t know if it’s because it’s covered, or there’s cows, or what, but something just makes them all a little on edge. I was so proud – we warmed up and he was doing great – definitely alert and paying attention to his surroundings, but listening and responding to me. Same thing when we headed out to the trail. He loped when I asked him to and when he got a little crazy (ran a bit faster than I was asking for), responded to my cues to slow down.

We came around a bend on the trail and I spotted a puddle. I thought “we’re having a great day and he’s scared of puddles… since he’s listening, let’s give it a try”. It was about 10 feet long and about 2 feet wide… I went to the short side and asked him to cross.

You would have thought I was asking him to step off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

We fought. My trainer and the rest of the group watched and coached and encouraged me. I got more and more frustrated and I could feel Sue doing the same. We’ve crossed puddles and creeks before and while he’s been nervous, it was never a fight like this. I started to feel like all of our trust was disappearing.

Finally, my trainer asked me to step off so she could work him on it. It took a while, but she got his mind back and he finally did it. At this point, both he and I were covered in sweat and exhausted. I was a little embarrassed that I wasn’t able to master something that was seemingly so simple, especially since we had done so well on what seemed like more advanced stuff earlier in the day. I hopped back on and we spent the remainder of our ride just chilling and reconnecting.

I think the day was more traumatic for me than for him. It reminds me that every time I get comfortable and feel like I’ve got this, something new will pop up. He’s young, I’m new(ish), and it’s all part of the process of learning and growing together. I got so focused on the “bad” part of the ride (which in reality was a really good learning experience) and didn’t focus on all of the really great stuff we did.

We’ll conquer the boogie man in the puddle someday!

A Most Excellent Day

Today is my 34th birthday… I can’t believe how quickly time goes by! Wow, how old does that make me sound?!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how important spending time with the people I love is… and that’s what my whole day was about. I spent the morning with my awesome hubby getting our old truck sold, then headed out to go riding with my niece Katie. Her birthday was a while back and we’ve been waiting for good weather to go riding (that was our gift). Today was the big day… and it was a blast!

Katie & Missy
Katie & Missy
Katie & I Riding
Katie & I Riding

Finally, I ended the night with my CERT friends… the coordinator team met up for an end of year dinner at Chevy’s. They surprised me with the whole sombrero/singing thing (honestly surprised… the waiter slapped it on my head from behind and scared the crap out of me!) and it was great to just share a meal together.

Tomorrow the festivities continue (I always seem to have more of a birthday week!) with a pizza oven extravaganza, after I ride with my sister (because it’s not a good day if I don’t get to ride!). Life is pretty darned good… here’s to enjoying every minute between now and 35!

An Important Anniversary

One year ago today I took my very first riding lesson. At the time, I had it in the back of my head (as I had since I was little) that it would lead to actually buying a horse. But there was always a bit of doubt… that I wouldn’t have the time, the money, or the patience. The funny thing is that it was running that led me to my horse… I had been training for my second marathon and had run past the stables about a million times. My mom and I were driving around the area checking out places to take lessons and I mentioned we should pop in to the one that I had been running past. I met my trainer who told us to come back later that afternoon for a trail ride… the rest is history!

Little did I know, that first ride on Nike the Appaloosa would lead to my amazing Sue.

Me on Nike
Me on Nike

I’m so thankful that I’ve found my amazing trainer and of the progress that Sue and I have made together over the last nine months. Here’s to a lifetime of riding!!!

Our First Show

I say “our” first show instead of “my” first show very deliberately. I could do none of this without my horse. Sometimes I take a step back to think about how amazing this sport is – an animal that weighs ten times what I do allows me to climb on his back, poke him in the ribs, and make him run when he would otherwise rather be grazing. He has the opportunity to kill me at any moment, yet he doesn’t.

Our show was a couple of weeks ago and I honestly could not have asked for it to go any better. It was a schooling show, so the idea is that people and horses of all different ability levels can compete in a safe, non-stressful environment. Everyone is there to work on something and have the experience of a show without some of the pressure.

The first chunk of the morning we spent getting ready – the horses needed to be brushed and cleaned up, as well as tack. Then I had to get dressed and get my number pinned on.

Show Morning!
Show Morning!

There was a lot of waiting around, which was awesome for Sue. He (and I) had to practice sitting, watching other horses, and just generally being calm. The same thing happened in the warm up pen – tons of other horses doing their thing and we had to practice just doing ours.

Waiting For Our Turn
Waiting For Our Turn

We competed in three classes. The first was a walk/jog class – the horse and rider are judged on how nice their gait is, how well they work together, etc. We had a really good time doing that and it was nice because there were 16 other horses in the class, so it wasn’t a solo thing right off the bat. The second class was our pattern – you have to move the horse through a series of walking, backing, loping, jogging, trotting, and galloping. Sue was amazing… he did absolutely everything I asked him! I missed the right lead (horse speak for making him run but starting with the right front hoof), which automatically disqualifies you. It was a great experience and was the one thing that went “wrong”. Needless to say, we’re going to keep working on that right lead!

After that, we played around on the trail course – basically a series of obstacles that you and the horse have to navigate. Not once did Sue do anything bad (there were other riders there that had horses try to buck) and I could feel that he was really trying hard! I love that horse!

A Day In The Life

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!

Shoe Coming Off
Shoe Coming Off
Hoof Trimming
Hoof Trimming

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!

Splish Splash

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!

Sue Freshly Washed
Sue Freshly Washed

Here’s his mama, Banshee. She’s a champion reining horse:

Sue's Mama, Banshee
Sue’s Mama, Banshee

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!