Friday, October 26, 2012

Bye-Bye Bay Babies!

Just a quick look back at the wonderful Bay Babies who stayed with us this summer.  The last two loaded up today to make their way back to their home farms.  My heart breaks, and my eyes weep, at saying goodbye, but looking back at their photos from the summer, I realize just what a treat it was to have them with us.  I'll miss them for sure, but I can look back and be happy, too.

Chazzy (Chaz-Man, Chazzykins) was the first to come stay with us, arriving in mid-June.  Immediately, he reminded me so much of my own Bay Boy Wonder that I fell in love.  He grew like mad this summer, gaining at least a hand in height, and growing into his shoulders.  By the end of summer, his baby orange at the tips of his black mane looked like so much bleach-blonde surfer hair.  I was torn at having to be at work the day he left.  I wanted to be with him to say farewell, but I didn't want to be bawling my eyes out in front of the commercial shipper.


Our second short-timer, Temper came for two weeks in June, buddying up with Chaz right away.  She came back again at the end of September, and stayed until today.  She's a fast, feisty, ferocious little thing, all petite and adorable, but what a motor underneath!  And the softest coat I've ever felt.  We'll see her again, I'm pretty sure, and I look forward to it!

 Oh, this is the hardest one, Mae (Mae-Mae, Miss Mae).  The kindest little filly, so wise and soft in her eye, an absolute gem of a horse.  Joining us in July, she crawled right in and stole my heart, along with Chazzy's.  He and she spent most of the summer together, a friendship I adored observing.  I found that letting go of her today was harder than I'd ever imagined it would be.  I bawled all over the barn girl who came with the owner to pick her up. I don't know if it was just her amazing personality, her sweet eye, or the fact that she suffered an injury while here, but, wow.  My heart hurts to bid her adieu. 

Mae (l) and Chaz (r), inseparable for most of the summer.
When she first arrived, Mae stood half a hand taller than Chaz.  By last week, he was at least a hand taller than she.  Something about the good grass and turnout here let that boy sprout!

Last, but not least, Alvin, who stayed with us for just a month from mid-September to mid-October.  Alvin, his barn name I'm certain influenced as much by the irascible chipmunk as by the Al portion of his registered name, was introduced to us as "a pisser," and that he was.  What a spunky, happy-go-lucky, friendly, smart little horse.  With unequaled joie de vivre, this youngster was a hoot just to watch.    The fact that he buddied up almost immediately with grumpy Uncle Celby just made me so happy for both of them.  I hope to see him again next summer as well!

So that's a look back at the bays who stayed!
What a privilege to be their caretaker.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


It's been years in coming, but the BBW really does seem to have grown up.  He's always been bold, always been fearless, always been eager to do and try and see, but he hasn't always managed to keep his enthusiasm for life contained in a manageable unit, with four on the floor and operable steering.  He's been getting there, better and more solid every day, but today I saw again just how much he's grown.

I woke to a hard, heavy frost on the ground, with a thick, near-freezing fog socking us in at the farm.  The crisp, spooky weather, to which all the resident horses seem so temperamentally attuned, was ripe for fall ya-yas.  Since it was likely the horses would be staying in just a bit longer this morning in order to keep off the frosty grass until it warmed up a bit, I wanted to take advantage of  having the pastures empty of distractions so I could get the Germ some long-lining work outside the arena.  So off to work we went.

Fatty McBlatterson has been whining that his saddle is pinching again (ugh, so much work to take off the weight, with great success, all blown by a move to a richer pasture and two busy workweeks for me!) so we are lunging for cardio/weight-loss work, and then long-lining because he loves it so much.  (He really thrives on getting to go first.)  So, after a good 25 minute lunge session, on went the second line, and we did a few tours of the arena, followed by a few tours of the grass lanes just outside the arena.

The boy was perfection.  He was forward without pulling, responsive to the slightest rein aid or voice command.  He even stopped and stood still for long moments, which is never his strong suit.  In the long-lines, though, he seems to respect that this is fun enough to be good for, so he stood.

Convinced that I had his full brain, I left the relative safety and familiarity of the arena area, and we headed out in front of the house to make our way westward and up the lane.  My dog Jake, who still hates Sherman (and all horses, really) for this episode, jumped up from his perch on the couch and lunged at the sliding glass doors, barking his fool head off at us from the other side of the glass.  Sherm gave a jump to the left, and, yes, a step to the right, but stayed smoothly in contact at the front of the lines. After the step back to the right, I said "Whoa," and he stopped and waited for me-- the typical Morgan spook and recovery and then right back to business.

We continued on out, up the lane and into the fog.  Sherm was calm, quiet, forward, and perfect.  He did everything exactly as I asked, and in addition waited to be asked to do more-- this really is progress, for he generally likes to volunteer more of all sorts, but today he just waited eagerly and was instantly responsive.  It was marvelous!

We got back down to the barn after the first pasture of horses had actually been turned out, and wow, what a hullabaloo! Frisky fall ponies spring-sproinging everywhere.  Sherm just watched with a posture that said, "well that looks like fun, but I'm working here, see, so I have to behave..."  I quickly untacked and put him in his stall for a few minutes while I put out the two-year old who was rearing and kicking the walls of his stall in his eagerness to get out and join the ya-ya party.  I wrestled said youngster up the same lane Sherm and I had just quietly walked down, and this boy was spooking, leaping, trembling, staring, and goofing at every shadowy boogey in every corner of the farm.  It was exasperating. I turned him loose, and it was a five-buck bolt before he got more interested in forward movement than upward.

I went back down and got Sherm and Uncle Celby and brought those two up together.  After I released them, they both had a good, exuberant canter out to the back of the pasture, demonstrating that they, too, felt good and had some good fall frisky to work off.  I was so pleased to see that Sherm really had been demonstrating great maturity in not having his ya-ya session while we were out there alone in the scary fog, but rather waited until an appropriate moment with the herd.

They grow up so fast...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two Years On..

It was two years ago today that we lost Bayou Roux, the big, red Saddlebred mare who started this whole crazy horse thing in our lives.  Without Roux, there'd have been no move to this farm, and no introduction to Sherman, the Bay Boy Wonder himself.

In honor of the lovely Roux, I re-post my favorite video-- Sherman, at 2 or 3 months old, playing with Auntie Roux across the fence line.  He was bold enough to to play alone, without his dam, and she was delighted to again have a youngster to fret over.  I don't have a lot of video of Roux, and I am always grateful that I was there that day, with a camera, to capture this fun moment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Icky Tacky

I picked up the tack this morning and it felt gummy.  Ick.  Definitely time to clean it.  Been saying that for weeks, but today's humidity loosened all the sweat and dirt in the leather just enough to make it sticky.  And icky.

I will confess; I hate cleaning tack.  I know people who say they enjoy it, but I think those are the same people who eat unreasonably hot peppers in front of a crowd just to get attention.  I don't really think anyone likes cleaning tack.  I think we all like clean tack, but that's the adjective.  Verbing it just ain't no fun.

But I did it, sitting there on my kitchen floor.  And now I have that clean tack.  So I'll like that tomorrow.  And perhaps Sherman will appreciate my efforts and give me clean, forward, balanced  movement as a thank you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

4th Quarter: We're All in this Together

This time last week, I was awash in a sea of indecision, disappointment, and self-loathing about my work with the Bay Boy Wonder.  And it was a turbulent, cold North Sea to swim if there ever were one.

I'd had such a great day two weeks ago on Monday-- when I'd put the little socks on the Boy's girth, and made him so happy that we worked twice in one day!  Two days later, nothing I did could make the Boy happy, and I was left with deep gouges in the arena sand where he'd just ripped forward and upward as he expressed his full-on Morgan temper tantrum, tangible reminders of the deep gouges he left in my confidence.

I looked at the late-September calendar, very aware it was marking the end of our "reliably good" riding weather, and asked myself what, exactly, have we accomplished this season? and answered a woeful, not a hell of a lot.  

And then, of course, the inevitable perfectly-reasonable, genuinely-friendly inquiry from my best horse friend about heading off to a hunter pace in mid-October came and just added twenty pounds of anchor chain to carry around while I was swimming in that cold North Sea.  I didn't have anyone ready; there was no way I'd have anyone ready, and really, that's the only thing I actually know I want to do with the BBW, so wow, what a failure am I!

Wallow, wallow.

And then a funny thing happened in the second half of last week.  Weather and work (and, yes, wallowing woe, I must admit) kept me from getting any horse training in, but I became aware of something stirring in the virtual world that feeds my equine addiction in the hours I'm not out in the physical barn.

From Facebook, to CoTH, to the blogs I follow, there was a streak of similar woeful wallowing!  Other people, other riders and writers I enjoy (and from whom I take inspiration), were expressing variations on the same theme I'd been hearing in my own head.  I suck!  I'm not getting anywhere!  Everything is hard!  Maybe I should take up another discipline!  Maybe I should sell my horse...

Everyone was having trouble in the last two weeks of September! Some were dealing with mysterious lameness, some had young brats responding to the brisk fall weather.  Some just hadn't gotten as far as they'd wanted in the summer.  Some had disastrous outings at shows or clinics, or outings that just felt disastrous.  Some were just perturbed that, though all the cylinders seemed to be clicking, the equine engine was still running rough.

I took notice of this wave of  unhappiness and, in a truly classy streak of schadenfreude, I started to feel better... (Author's note: I actually spelled that word correctly from memory; good god, I am a monster!)

Maybe misery does love company, and it was as simple as that.  I know I took tremendous comfort in the post by one self-effacing, always hilarious, generally game, go-getter equestrian blogger who took my breath away when she wrote about quitting.  Quitting?  Her?  No way, never!  But, hell, she's having a bad week, too.  Man, if she's having a bad week, then there must be something going on in the phase of the moon or somesuch.

But maybe it's a little bigger than that.  I'm wondering if it isn't the fault of the Olympics.

Bear with me here while I run this thought by you...

The internet was full of humorous, and sometimes semi-serious, commentary on the Olympic Hangover syndrome that accompanied the ending of all three equestrian sports.  The Eventers hit it first, of course,  and maybe we laughed that off, as they are such an intense, in-the-moment group.  Then the Showjumpers finished up, and it felt sad, too.  And finally, the pinnacle of the dramatic British home-team double-gold in Dressage-- oh!  So much adrenaline to process!  While the Olympics were on, and the entire equestrian internet was mainlining cocaine livestreaming amazing horses and riders doing their thing in the world's most gorgeous and stately venue-- we were there, doing it, riding alongside, and periodically instead of, those phenomenal teams.  It was brilliant and magical and fantastic.

And then it was over, and the next few days were a little hard.  Coming down off that high was a little rocky.

But I think a bunch of us (or maybe it was only me) dealt with the withdrawal by turning the hunger for good riding inwards, and we said, hell, if that doesn't inspire us to get going, nothing will! And we redoubled our commitment to our own work, hoping that if we got only 1/10th as good as what we saw, then we'd be making real progress and feeling like Olympians ourselves!

So off we went to the arena or the XC field or the lunge ring, to get back to work!

And then, reality set back in.  We don't, most of us, get to actually live like Olympians, riding all day, every day, on horses of varying degrees of skill and experience for certain, but most certainly some schoolmasters in the bunch.  We have our regular lives and our regular horses, and we've got to find time, energy, and good fortune in equal measure to get those things to line up nicely.  And that's not easy.

And so we get to the end of September, a good 6-8 weeks after our Olympic booster shot, and we're still not ready for London 2012 ourselves, and we get bummed.

Plus, we Americans had a challenging Olympics, and the USET is now deep in the throes of some serious soul-searching as we look ahead to 2016 and beyond.  So being better and owning up to our shortcomings has become a national responsibility-- talk about 20 pounds of anchor chain for the adult ammie, working at home to just try to get a ride in... yikes!

Or maybe that's just me getting caught up in the zeitgeist and over-empathizing....

Anywhoooo, back at Chez BBW, I've taken all this in and given myself permission to shake off the recent despair as a case of perfectly-reasonable seasonal blues.  I looked back and asked myself what worked, and was again reminded that riding first thing in the morning, before anything else beyond morning coffee got done, was what has gotten me this far.  So, that has to continue, and it requires three specific changes--

  • Getting to bed and turning the lights out by 9pm in order to be out of bed by 5am
  • Prioritizing riding at the expense of dirty stalls a bit later into the day
  • Maintaining a rigorous discipline about getting my day job done early and thoroughly so I have the time to give to riding
The first two are ridiculously easy, so easy that it's stupid to have to write them down, but for some reason I had let those go and gotten myself in trouble.  The third one is also manageable, but requires discipline.  You know, like Olympians have to be disciplined.  So I got that.

Last Friday, I spent a rainy day getting all my grading done, and prepping all my course work for this coming week.  And I started going to bed at 9:00pm, and getting up at 5:00am.  Saturday stuff came up, but Sunday and today I have managed my morning ride with Sherman.  Not perfect, brilliant equestrianism by any means, not going to get me to Rio in 2016, but most certainly getting me out of swimming in the North Sea.

So it's October now, the 4th Quarter of the year.  There is time to salvage 2012, and thanks to hearing from my fellow writing equestrians, I know I'm not in this alone, and I feel like we're going to get there.