Friday, July 22, 2011

Samson is Back in the REAL WORLD!!!

Well, it has been a rollercoaster the past few months, but I am thrilled to report that Samson is back in the real world as of last night!  AKA - he has graduated from the paddock to being turned out!

We had a brief scare last week that he had reinjured himself.  Thank god, we put the pieces together that he must have just tweaked something when he went after another injured horse we tried to put in with him.  That did NOT go over well.  When Samson turned into such a bully, I have no clue!  But after several consistently sound rides, combined with the fact that he felt good enough to be a bucking mess the other night, I talked to Smokey about bumping up his turnout by a week and Smokey agreed.

Stopped by and grabbed some Ace.  Smokey laughed when I told him about our adventurous trail ride the other night.  He is the greatest vet.  He always comes out for a hug, and asks for the latest updates on what has been one of his most difficult cases...(Way to go Samson!  Note the sarcasm...) 

So we doped him up really good, to make sure he wouldn't run around like a freak.

Mommy, I'm on DRUGS!!! :-)
We rearranged the pastures to make sure he would end up with Linkin, who has been a pasture buddy in the past.  They have always gotten along well.  We brought out a six pack of Miller Lite, prepared to sit and supervise the new arrangements all night.  Turns out, it was a piece of cake.

Checking out all the accoutrements of the REAL WORLD!
I think we made it through a half a beer before realizing that the entire event was going to be far more low-key than expected.  Even Rapunzel integrated beautifully in her new field.  So we retired to the porch, and the welcome breeze from the fan, and listened to horses munching in the distance.  Overall, a gorgeous night!

Samson and his buddy Linkin!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Schooling Ride from 7/14/2011

Just a little video update!  Thanks to my girl Robyn for videoing that day!  Nothing fancy, just a little bit of schooling in the paddock to keep her worked while her trainer was away at the beach!!!  I am amazed at how light she is becoming.  She has such a delicate contact now, instead of laying on your hands or trying to duck behind the contact.  Her headtossing is virtually a thing of the past, and we are moving forward little by little! 

I had a lesson with Kelsey last night, too.  She pushes us, just a little at a time, and it is the best thing for me.  She takes me just enough outside of my comfort zone to stretch me, but not enough to scare me.  We schooled in a big open field, with no boundaries but the ones I enforced.  And we finished up by schooling over fences at the end!  We had an awesome, productive lesson.  She worked with me on transferring the principles I use to create the "stretchy trot", as she calls it, into a collected trot.  We can have a beautiful, relaxed trot, with zero contact, and 100% steering with my seat and leg...but when I go to collect her upwards, I revert back to old habits of being tense, holding too much on the inside rein, and it all falls apart.  We drilled our transitions as well - walk, trot, walk, trot...downward transitions are pretty simple for me, but we are working hard to eliminate the first hollow stride from walk to trot, and instead get a smooth, collected upward transition.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Fat FAKER!!!!

Well, it might be a stretch, but is it possible that Samson (who I have always considered to be a little piggish and slightly less than brilliant...) may be smarter than the average bear?

I know.  Horses are not geniuses.  They supposedly are not intelligent enough to rationalize something like "faking", but I swear to god....

I was riding with Robyn last night, doing my rehabilitation regime, and I started to do a little bit of trotting down the long side to see how he was doing.  He was acting incredibly off last week, and I had been spiraling into a dark and dramatic depression thinking we had taken eight million steps back in his recovery....well, he started trotting and tossed his head around a bit, and kept breaking back to a walk.  I told Robyn it was frustrating, because I didn't know how hard to push him - if something hurts, or if he was just being a pig.  As of his last exam, we have been cleared by the vet to start adding in small bits of trot work to his rehab routine.  So I finally said screw it.  I was riding bareback (both of my saddles are with Delilah since she has been the rideable one in training) and I asked him to trot.  When he broke back to a walk, I threw my arm behind me and whacked him once on the butt since I didn't have a whip.  Low and behold, he stretches out and forward into a gorgeous forward SOUND trot....

Can we say FAKER???!!!!!  If I wasn't so happy, I might have been royally pissed....  So that's my theory of the day.  Samson is smarter than the average bear, and he is a big fat phony fraud.  Who has been outed.  And will be going back to work, stat!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Being an Advocate for Your Horse (And YOURSELF!)

Notice the arm between the ears!!
We all know the horse community can be a REALLY small world...well, ironically, I found out that Kelsey had been contacted by a former boarder from my previous barn about possibly putting her horse into training.  I contacted her as soon as Kelsey and I connected the dots that she was a mutual aquaintance, and let her know my phenomenal experience with Delilah's training.  She was ecstatic to hear an inside opinion of how successful our experience has been, and we agreed to meet up Thursday evening so she could pick my brain and see Delilah. 

I didn't intend to do much more than walk, trot, and work on the transitions - all things that Kelsey and I have been working on in my lessons.  I started riding in the only available paddock though, which was really uneven, and quickly decided that it didn't make for the greatest flatwork.  So I got to a successful place and decided to try hopping her over a little crossrail that was set up in the middle.
Can I just say.....WOW.  This was the second time I have played around with jumping her since she went into training, so it has been about three weeks.  I cannot BELIEVE the difference.  She was so laid back about the entire thing.  A couple times she cantered off, and it was all I could do to KEEP her cantering!  My jaw just dropped.  This is the same mare that at the end of May was barrelling off of jumps, and having to be fed treats to get her to calmly stop coming off of a fence instead of running around flipping her head.  Who would have thought that she would come this far this fast?  I was astounded.  One of the times I hopped her over the crossrail, she came off on the incorrect lead, yet she was so balanced in the small little paddock, I could barely tell.  Robyn pointed it out since she was videoing on the ground for me, but literally the second she pointed it out, we hit a tight turn, and Delilah did a perfect lead change!  I think she was late behind by about a stride, but this is AMAZING progress for her! 

I am seriously falling in love with my mare, and I can honestly say it is for the first time.  I have always loved her, but I am truly smitten right now.  She is turning into the horse that I have always wanted, and it is so refreshing after two and half years of thinking she would never get there.  It has really made me stop and reflect on a lot of things.  I left my former barn on unfortunate terms, but all of that aside, I am so grateful to my former trainer for seeing this horse's true potential and never wanting to give up on her, regardless of the fact that we didn't make a lot of progress there (mainly due to my confidence issues and lack of riding ability in dealing with a green horse).  I think that every horse has their perfect "fit", and there are a lot of things that go into it - their living arrangements, the trainer's riding style, everything...and I think that we have finally found the right fit for Delilah.  I always knew that I didn't have the desire to do the training side of things.  For quite some time, I debated sending her off to Kelsey, but I was too intimidated to bring it up, and when I finally did, it didn't go over well.  One thing I have really learned this year is that you have to be an advocate for your horse.  I had a gut feeling for a LONG time that going to Kelsey's for training would be the best solution for her, and I am really ecstatic to see that I was right in the end.  It is easy to be intimidated by people into not doing what you feel is right, either for you or for your horse.  But at the end of the day, you have to evaluate your situation honestly, and if you aren't making any progress, you have to make a change.  I think every trainer adds to your experience, and has different things to pour into your "big picture".  It's kind of like the whole "There is a season for everything under the sun...."  Delilah is blossoming in so many ways, and my confidence is blossoming along with it.  I am finding myself less and less afraid, and it is allowing me to find a balance of trust with Delilah that I have never had before.  For the first time in the almost three years I have owned her, I find myself looking forward to going out and riding.  It is so refreshing!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I guess I should preface this entry with the fact that I have been in a foul mood since early yesterday consider yourself warned.

I am at the point of throwing my hands in the air.  I love my gelding to pieces.  He is reminiscent of my first horse Cody, who was trustworthy enough that I could jump on him bareback and do just about anything.  Samson has the same kind of gentle demeanor.  He isn't perfect - he's a little piggish at times, but in general is such a babysitter, I trust him in pretty much any situation.  Well, he has been through the ringer since the day we bought him.  He's had surgery, he's been on stall rest, we've tried shoes of all kinds, the chiropractor, name it, we've tried it.  My vet's words keep ringing in my ears..."at some point, you just have to decide whether it's worth it to keep trying to stick them together with tape and glue, or if you're better off putting them out to retire in the pasture and just enjoy life...."

I'm at that point.

I should have never bought him.  I learned the hardest lesson of all through getting him - NEVER buy a horse without a FULL vet check...xrays, etc.  It doesn't matter if the horse is FREE, never again will I take one on without a lengthy vet check.   Now, it's not to say that they won't be injured the day you bring them home.  That's a risk you take with horses.  But in Samson's case, xrays would have shown the rare congenital defect of his navicular bones, and I wouldn't have purchased him.  The problem now is that I am attached.  And unlike many people in this world, I can't justify handing him off to be someone else's problem, or giving him away where I have no oversight of his future.  My bad decision doesn't justify him having a bad life because I can't afford him anymore.  If I had my own place, it would be a piece of cake to just throw him out as a pasture ornament to go enjoy his life.  But I am a boarder, and now I keep writing endless checks for a horse who can't be ridden. 

So today, life kind of sucks.  I know it is a part of owning horses.  It is such a hard lesson to be learned though. 

                                                                    My sweet boy...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dreaming & Scheming.....

So I have been plotting.  And dreaming.  And scheming.  You see, there is a piece of land for sale about ten minutes from my house.  It is ten acres - big enough for a "farmette" setup, enough to accommodate my two horses, my best friend's horse, and possibly a boarder or two to keep the costs down.  Here's the problem - I need to come up with $155,000. 

Geez.  It seems like such a miniscule amount.  The problem is, it is so hard to get a loan for land that doesn't have a house.  But even so, I am determined to figure out a way.  The land has a tax value of triple the listing price, and is perfect in so many ways.  So today I have been sketching out fencing plans, the location of the arena, barn, and someday house...and we can't forget the mini cross country course through the wooded area....

Sigh.  Surely there's a way....right???

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Progress Comes One Ride at a Time

I had a really uplifting ride last night, and it was just in the nick of time.  I have been feeling slightly overwhelmed at having the horses at two different barns lately.  I feel like I never have quite enough time during the week, and that someone is always getting skipped over or ignored too much.  So last night I decided to scoot my butt out of work as quickly as possible, and get over to ride Delilah after being a lazy putz all weekend. 

I decided to work in the paddock area again, like Kelsey had suggested after our last lesson.  It had been about a week since I had last worked her, and once again, I could STILL feel progress.  It is amazing how much lighter and more relaxed she is becoming.  Before I knew it, we were trotting around with LIGHT contact, and a forward but RHYTHMIC pace...unbelievable. 

So then, of course, I got a little big for my britches, and decided to proceed out to the big field where we were having so many issues at our last lesson.  Of course, within five minutes, things started to go south.  I was trying to self-examine the situation - am I creating this through MY nervousness or tension?  Is Delilah just excited?  So it got a little ugly for a few minutes - some of the old running, burying in the bridle, heavy contact stuff started to come back.  I found myself becoming a passenger, quickly, and when I realized it, I sat back, took hold with my seat, gave her a FIRM half-halt, and focused on controlling my posting to regulate her speed.  Then I realized I wasn't really breathing, so I made myself do that, seeing as how it is slightly essential....

At that point, I could feel all the old tension, literally coursing from her to me and back again.  So I decided to try something I had seen Kelsey doing at the end of her training rides.  She lets the reins slide through her fingers and has her going around on a long loose rein in what she calls a "stretchy trot".  Now remember, five minutes before, I was rubbing fingers raw with the half halt because of how hard she was chugging around. So letting the reins go loose in a giant open field - not exactly my comfort zone.  So I started slow - loose light rein, relaxed trot, steering with my legs only, no direction from the reins whatsoever.  When I realized how amazingly responsive she has become to steering with seat and leg, I quickly found it easier to let the reins slip more and more, til her head was stretched out, and I felt her back swinging freely beneath me.  We trotted around like this for ten minutes, relaxed, breathing, with no tension whatsoever.  And I decided to end with that big success for the day - we will work on more technical things at our lesson on Thursday.

I keep expecting the progress to plateau, or disappear, or to hit some sort of roadblock.  In the past, there has always been something.  To see this steady progression, literally EVERY time, is absolutely amazing.  It is refreshing to see her turning into such an amazing horse.  To an extent, I have always believed in her potential, but for the most part, I knew that I could never get her there alone.  We have too much history built up of mistrust, miscommunication, inconsistency, and just plain doubt.  Delilah needed a calm, firm, consistent influence, and we have truly found that in Kelsey.  She loves the mare, and really believes in her, and isn't afraid of her at all. 

Best of all, I untacked last night and found her dropping her head into my chest for a good scratch.  To see these little signs of personality coming out is beyond exciting.  Even better yet - she dipped her head further, and let me scratch between her ears, over and over again.  I feel like she is blossoming into a completely different horse, and she continues to become more personable with every passing day.  Below is a picture of her being loved on by all the kids from the summer Horse Camp - PRICELESS!!!