3 Years With The Corgi Horse

Three years ago, my trainer and I drove to PA with one horse in the trailer. He was tall, handsome, and as athletic as I could ever need. We returned with a short, kind of strangely built, corgi horse (and me with a lighter wallet).

It was probably a trade that made no sense. My old horse was easily jumping around Novice courses. He was brave, flashy, and even registered, but our relationship was in tatters. I had very few rides that didn’t end in tears, and he was just as miserable.

May (then known as Krimpet aka Too Many Cupcakes) was about as green as any horse I had ever ridden. Steering was optional, rhythm didn’t exist, and we needed about 20 – 30 trot steps to get the canter. However, she was clearly brave, smart, and pretty unflappable. In the end, that was all I needed. I loaded her into the trailer, shrugged at my trainer, and said, “If it doesn’t work out, someone will want her as a trail horse.” In fact, the below was the best pics we could get of her the first day:

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It’s been three years, and I can pretty confidently say that it worked out. (And I’ve gotten a lot better at photographing her)

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Blog Hop: What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Big thanks for Olivia for some blogspiration. She recently posted this topic on her blog, and I just had to tackle the idea!

Apparently, I am having a bit of a throwback week this week. (sorry, not sorry). I am going to go back a few years, to just before I bought my first horse. Let’s call it, “5 things I didn’t know I didn’t know about owning a horse”.

1. This is your responsibility only.

This one seems obvious right? You’re buying a horse and that horse is your responsibility.  However, it really comes down to how it is YOUR responsibility ONLY. Your trainer, barn manager, and friends may all be incredible resources for you on this journey, but this horse’s training, happiness, welfare, and health all fall on your shoulders. Be ready to educate yourself beyond your core group.

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2. You will feel guilty, and that is ok.

Shocking to no one, owning a horse is expensive. Owning a horse you want to train and compete is VERY expensive. I have always made enough money to support my horse habit, and I have always responsibly reined back my expectations for myself and my horse when funding just didn’t cover my goals. However, it is still expensive. Even spending the bare minimum, I still often feel guilt. I should be riding more, doing more, succeeding more.

Horses don’t work that way though. Just enjoy what you are doing, make sure you aren’t spending beyond your  means, and remember that a horse doesn’t care if it has the newest, fanciest anything. She really just wants a carrot.

3. You will fail, and it will make you better.

Failure in horse ownership takes so many paths. I have failed to prepare my horse properly for a competition. I have failed to recognize the signs of ulcers. I have failed to call the vet immediately for an injury that I thought was minor that turned out to need more extensive help. I even failed to make my first horse into what I hoped he would be. Now, however, I am a more educated horse owner, rider, and trainer, and every horse I touch is better off because of it.

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4. You will succeed.

I recently downloaded a mood tracker on my cell phone. I wanted a better sense of what impacts my moods (food, caffeine, hormones, etc.). Most of my ratings hang out in the middle of the scale, kind of like a Dressage test. There are lots of 5’s and 6’s and 7’s, even the occasional 4. However, after my first lesson of the season, I pulled out a 10. I was beyond myself. I called my husband just to word vomit to him all the amazing things I did with my horse in 28 minutes. I get the same high after a great horse trial and, sometimes, even after that perfect Dressage transition.

5. Ignore the Rail birds

Rail birds take all forms. They are the catty teenagers (and adults!) on the sidelines at show that feel the need to comment on your troubles. (Fun fact, it is not fun to watch the video after a rough SJ round and hear this commentary in the background.) There are friends and trainers that will try to put you into a box surrounded by what you “should” and “should not” do. There are COUNTLESS people on the internet that will love to critique your position, horse, tack, weight, and more. These people don’t matter. The beauty of riding, and eventing in general, is that this is a sport of you and your horse. Buy the horse you want to ride everyday, and then go out and ride it whenever you can.

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After 6 years of horse ownership, I have grown a ridiculous amount, and I know I still have so much to learn. What about you? Do you have any advice for yourself prehorse ownership?

A Throwback Fail!

It probably would’ve been best to post this on Thursday to make it a #TBT (ThrowbackThursday) post, but I just couldn’t resist sharing.

Nearly 10 years ago, a friend of my mom asked for some help getting her QH back into shape. He was a cute dude, and he lived in the barn in her backyard with one other horse. She was fairly timid, and he has been out of work. As I always did at that age, I eagerly hopped on. After trotting around leisurely for a while, I asked him to pick up a canter…

 

Ouch… I remember that one hurting. I was trying to be nice, given that he was pretty out of shape. A loose rein, up off his back, and gentle aids. After he put me in the dirt, he was put into the contact and asked to really work. He was wonderful after that… but I was always a bit wary of him. I think I only ended up riding him another couple of times before show seasons picked up and then heading off to college in the fall. Although, I do remember feeding and deicing water buckets for her in the winter.

Honestly, the above probably wasn’t this guy’s fault. (I think his name was Buddy.) He was out of shape and a round-type to start with, so I can pretty much guarantee you that the saddle he had on didn’t fit him right. Now, I would have checked the saddle fit before getting on, but back then, I really didn’t know much, if anything, about saddle fit. Buddy also had a wonky right front foot that, even then, I didn’t think the farrier was handling in the best way.

Live and learn people!

Also – Olivia at DIY Horseownership is having an Easter Contest/Giveaway! I can’t wait to see everyone’s pictures. You can check it out here: https://diyhorseownership.com/easter-contest-and-giveaway/

Thankful Thursday

Amidst all the driving back and forth to the barn, I have had an opportunity to reflect on what I am more thankful for in my riding career. However, the thing I am most thankful for, is the mare that turned out to be much more than she was ever supposed to be.

I have talked a lot in the past about how May was a complete impulse buy. You can read the full story here: A May As Well Purchase However, I am not really sure I ever explained what I was expecting. Originally, when I bought her home, we joked that I had overpaid for her. After all, she couldn’t even do a 20M circle before she popped her shoulder and ran in the opposite direction, a canter took nearly 20 steps of trot to pick up, and I quickly learned that she had never seen a gymnastic.

To be honest, my original thought for buying her was that, if she didn’t work out, I could recoup most of my money and just sell her as a trail horse. She was sane, and sensible, and had color. All the things trail people want. Right? I mean, she could comfortable carry a larger rider for miles without discomfort. Then, we went to our first CT. It was a W/T Dressage Test and 18″ stadium round.

And we had SO MUCH FUN. She was a champion, and I finished with a giant smile on my face. I was hooked on competing this horse, and I think the man in this situation finally understood what it was all about. She never was supposed to be as cool as she is, but gosh… she is really cool…

 

I think she has turned out to be really cool… And I can’t wait to see what more she has to show me.

30 Facts About Me

I saw this on a youtube video, and I thought it would make a fun blog topic!

1. I’ve been riding since I was 6 year old (nearly 22 years ago!)

2. I didn’t ride at all when I was at college, but I did ride 6 horses, 6 days a week each summer I was home.

3. My first horse was actually a buckskin, QH type. Unfortunately, we only had her for a year before we found out she had fairly serious bone cancer and needed to be put down.

4. I didn’t start riding with an eventing trainer until 2014. Before then, I had only ridden hunter/jumpers.

5. I received my bachelors degree in Economics Finance.

6. I work in the Hedge Fund world… doing compliance and operations.

7. My favorite colored horse is black… with minimal chrome

8. I rode one horse for more than a decade. He was an OTTB, and the first horse I got on after I recovered from breaking my hand and getting surgery. (Even before I got back on my own horse at the time)

9. My favorite breeches are the Romfh Sarafina breeches… I just can’t justify more than 1 pair for shows and clinics.

10. I have worn some of the most expensive helmets on the market… and I still prefer my OneK. (although the new technology in the Back on Track helmets make me think twice.

11. I have no desire to ever go beyond Training level eventing… The upper levels just are never going to be my cup of tea.

12. My favorite horse I have ever ridden was a fairly poorly trained Irish Sport Horse, who could jump the moon.

13. I am a dog person… but I do give the barn cats love whenever I am at the barn.

14. I hated Stubben saddles growing up… and now own 2 that I really like.

15. Both my left ankle and my left wrist suffer from the remnants of some old ligament injuries.

16. The only bone I ever broke around horses happened on the ground… lunging my old horse.

17. I almost took a job out of college that would’ve forced me to spend a year and a half out of the country. It was a higher salary than the job I ended up taking by $12,000, but it was completely the right move.

18. I hunter paced about once a month each fall and spring while I was a young teenage. I keep trying to get back to it, but haven’t found an opening. (Totally different leopard App below)

when I used to jump spotted things in the woods all the time #tbt

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19. Some days I seriously consider quitting eventing, buying a western saddle, and just trail riding. May wouldn’t care much either way… as long as we don’t go straight Dressage.

20. I used to play Eventing 2001 with a friend of mine… religiously.

21. The only time I have ever fallen off of May was in front of Marilyn Payne in her clinic. It was nearly 2 years ago, and I haven’t written about it yet.

22. I worked in NYC for nearly 3 years. It was a 3.5 hour commute to the barn to ride my horse at night… and then a 45 minute commute home… all to get up to catch the 6:14AM train the next day… but NYC is an experience.

Sometimes NYC shows it's pretty side. #nyc

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23. I have one, older sister.

24. My mom lives in Florida… but about 3.5 hours from Ocala.

25. I drive a Subaru, and it has gotten me out of some seriously icy and snowy situations. I wish I had it when I was going to school in MA!

26. My favorite saddle I have ever ridden in is a Butet… but I have never owned a horse that one would fit.

27. I might have a serious chocolate addiction.

28. My favorite non-horsey store is Lush. (Can I count this as a horsey store if I say their bath products are my favorite after a long day in the saddle?)

29. If I could live anywhere in the U.S., it would be PA in the summer and Aiken in the winter.

30. I would love to try fox hunting, and I think May would really take to it. She has no issue with dogs whatsoever, and tends to be very logical in a big group of horses.

All that being said, May is doing great with her fitness. I have a new vet coming on Saturday to do an evaluation and recommend if there is any maintenance we should be doing. (May had her hocks injected in Summer 2016, but hasn’t seemed to need them redone until recently.) Do you do any maintenance with your horses?

Selecting the Corgi Horse

I’ve written before about how I came to acquire May (story here. Spoiler alert: Sangria was heavily involved.); however, I have seen a lot of posts lately about wish lists from horses. Michele blogged about finding a horse online, Tracy posted about her Unicorn List for horse shopping, and Amanda wrote about her perfect horse as a response to Olivia’s post on the topic.

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Old media is better than no media, right?

It got me thinking about my own brief and painless purchase of May. (looked at one horse, traded my previous horse for her, made 0 negotiations on price, did not vet check… still cannot recommend this method EVER.) On paper, my previous horse should have been everything I ever wanted.

  1. 16.1
  2. Well Built
  3. Quarter Horse (papered)
  4. Schooling Show Experience
  5. Not spooky (turns out though, he was also VERY sensitive)
  6. Athletic (3’+ was no issue for this horse)
  7. Brave and Honest
  8. Vetted Clean

I took my time with him, but after 3 years of him proving to me that he did not want to be my horse, I bit the bullet and put him on the market. (or more like I cried for 3 months and then put him up for sale). He now has a wonderful home with a teenager who absolutely adores him. I follow him on social media, and it is incredible how much happier he is.

However, when I decided to sell him, I was left with a dilemma. How do I NOT do this again? I started with the things he had and that I had to have again:

  1. Sound
  2. Not Spooky
  3. Brave and Honest
  4. Easy to live with

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Honestly, on the ground, my previous horse was the easiest horse in the world. Farriers loved him. Vets could do all sorts of things to him without medication. He would turn himself in and out to his paddock. (Although, I learned last week that May now handles her own turning in and out situation. Works for me. We all know she isn’t going much farther than the next patch of grass.)

I then added in the things that would have made my partnership with him successful:

  1. Lack of tension (Notice I didn’t say No Thoroughbreds. Below is a (10 year old!) video of me competing a thoroughbred that I rode for not less than 8 years.

I realized that his tension was the number one reason we did not get along. Nothing I did seemed to ease his tension. I tried everything I could think of, but we just could not get through that tension. 3 years later and with a lot more knowledge of Dressage and training under my belt, maybe I could deal with it now. However, I know I would not want to. I am an amateur. I have to WANT to work with my horse.

So what else did I add to the list:

  1. 15 – 16 hands
    • I am 5’3″. I really do not need height and was quite a bit intimidated by my last horse)
  2. 6 – 12 years old
    • I have ridden A LOT of young, green horses. As a junior, I put a lot of “firsts” on a lot of horses, but I also could ride multiple horses, 6 days a week. Now, I cannot commit to being at the barn as much as a really young horse needs me to be, and I cannot afford to put something into a program with a pro.
  3. Not gray
    • After owning a gray, I actually wanted a plain bay… Oh well. I found something yellow.
  4. Ability to become a packer at BN
    • First of all, I COULD NOT afford a made packer at any level. (seriously, May didn’t steer when I bought her).
    • Second, IMO, a horse needs a bit of athletic ability beyond the level you are competing at to be considered a “packer” at that level. (i.e. the ability to easily bail you out of a bad situation)
    • Right now, I would consider May to be a packer up to starter level for an intermediate level rider. I have, intentionally, made her too sensitive to the aids for a beginner, but I have seen her pack advanced riders around after they have taken an extended break for one reason or another.
  5. Unfailingly Sensible
    • I am not going to use the word “quiet” here. I don’t necessarily need a “quiet” horse. I do need a horse that is still thinking even when pressure increases.
    • Really good eventing horses are able to think through complex jump and Dressage questions when the pressure is on, and it is not a skill that is easily taught.

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Things I would not put up with under any circumstances:

  1. A horse that rears
  2. Heavy amount of maintenance
    • Not to get into the politics of it, but if a horse cannot comfortable run around BN without heavy and expensive vet care, maybe it is in their best interest not to event anymore
  3. Something super HEAVY
    • Physically carrying your horse around a XC course is not fun. Sure you can lighten a horse up with a lot of dressage, but I have found that if this is their default way of going, it will surface again. (often when they are tired)
  4. Something careless over fences
    • May and I knock rails… a lot because I miss a lot. However, she has the ability to get out of her own way on XC. Horses that cannot do that make me very uncomfortable to jump.

I then scoured the internet and found… May. How does she stack up?

  1. Sound – I have injected her hocks once, and they will need to be done again next year. However, I think that is fairly reasonable right now.
  2. Not Spooky – Lol. Nope. Definitely not spooky.
  3. Brave and Honest – Always. I have to really mess up for this horse not to jump. And then, it is usually in self preservation.
  4. Easy to live with – exceedingly. my farrier can do her on the cross ties, my husband can lead her around without issue, and she ground ties wherever I put her (with our without a halter).
  5. 15 – 16.1 hands – Yup. We are around 15.2. (I think, I have never measured her.)
  6. 6 – 12 years old – In theory, yeah. No one has really any true idea how old she is.
  7. Not gray – … not Bay either.
  8. Ability to be a packer at BN – Totally. I just need to like… jump stuff to make this happen
  9. Unfailingly Sensible – this is probably the hardest thing to evaluate when shopping. May is sensible, but she can flip me the hoof if she hasn’t been ridden regularly. She doesn’t run away or buck or rear or do anything really naughty. She kind of just.. tunes me out? It’s a tough sensation to describe to people.

I think I did pretty good! I continue to window shop on the internet, looking at horses that fit my criteria, and they are few and far between. (at least at the price ranges I could even consider paying at this point in my life). What about you? Do you keep a list of what you wanted/want in a horse?

A May As Well Purchase

Since this blog will most likely end up being a journal of all of May’s thoughts and feelings (and how I attempt to deal with them), I figured it would make the most amount of sense to explain how I ended up with a short, palomino mare of unknown origin. 
   

 May is a 10 (or 11 or 9 or something) year old Draft Cross. I was told she is a Belgian/QH cross and that works for me! She was bought pretty much entirely on a whim. At the time, I was trying to sell my previous horse (calling him PH from now on), and it was not going well. He was a sensitive guy who was truly a one-person ride, so he didn’t show well to anyone who came to look at him. PH was big, gray, and super athletic. The problem was: I am a rather short Adult Amatuer who works a very consuming job and might never want to even go Novice and really needs: honey sized, plain, and only athletic enough to save me. 

Enter May. I found her on facebook, when I had just listed my own horse. I emailed back and forth with her current owner, and it sounded like a great fit, if I could sell my current horse. Enter Sangria (the drink not a horse or person or anything)… After a rather long Saturday afternoon of drinking sangria and lamenting to my trainer about how tough it’s going to be to find PH a great home, I threw out the wish that May’s current owner would just trade for May for PH. Trainer, being as wonderful as she is, told me it couldn’t hurt to ask. 

  
12 hours later – we had PH in the trailer and were driving out to see May, check in hand. I rode her and it was… fine. She was super green, and I couldn’t turn her to save my life. However, she seemed as brave and level headed as advertised. The barn seemed nice and the horses were in good condition, so I had no reservations about leaving PH there either.

  

All adults smile like 12yos when they get a new horse, right?

In the end, I didn’t even negotiate, or have a vet check, or a trial, or even a signed bill of sale on either end. We then tried to load May onto the trailer. She was having none of it, wouldn’t even put a hoof on the ramp. Then we brought out a little bucket of grain, and she tried to run me over to get on. I should’ve known that was some serious foreshadowing. As soon as she got home, I was regaled with this majestic creature I had brought home.

  
But true to promise, she walked right into the barn and settled in immediately. The rest… You’ll have to read to find out 🙂