Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Catching Up...Moved in - Check!

Well, I have been a little slack, but I suppose I have a valid excuse - I have spent every waking moment at the barn possible!  The boys moved in Friday night.  It seemed like an eternity that we had to wait, but the day finally arrived, and they have settled in beautifully!

Samson on the left, Robyn's boy Linkin on the right
We wrapped the boys up with shipping wraps, and then Robyn's momma Jeanine trailered them to the farm for us.  We tailed behind her with our own cars, and all I could do was squeal with anticipation the whole way there!

Leaving The Meadows at Waxhaw
It was such a wonderful weekend.  We unloaded the boys at the new farm, and it was very nonchalant.  Perked up ears, but that was the extent of the excitement.  We put them in their stalls so they could have some water while we unwrapped, and then I threw on a pair of splint boots as a precaution before turning Samson out, just for a little extra protection on his suspensory in case they got to running around.  Turns out, it wasn't even necessary.  Both of our boys were as calm as can be.  Linkin trotted around a bit, and Samson lazily plodded behind, but that was the majority of the excitement they displayed.  The most exciting moment was when we brought them up for dinner, and Samson CANTERED down the pasture, looking as sound as can be!!

The boys after being turned out the first time!
We have jokingly nicknamed our guys the Siamese Twins, because they are seriously joined at the hip.  It's pretty adorable, as a matter of fact.  Robyn keeps joking that Samson is going to have to ride along every time they show, because he exhibits some pretty serious separation anxiety if you take his buddy away.  I am kind of hoping that introducing Delilah to the herd might help break up the Ambiguosly Gay Duo (their other nickname...) but we'll see....
Joined at the hip...
The rest of the weekend was awesome.  Robyn's mom, who has been boarding our guys the last few months, gave us a huge hug and told us we are always welcome back.  On Saturday, Momma Briggs (our trainer Kelsey's mom) came for a visit, along with their boarder Laura and her daughter Ashley, Kelsey's really promising working student.  We all hung out for an hour or so, showed them the farm, and had a celebratory drink together.  Everyone has been so warm and congratulatory, and it has been amazing to have so much support and genuine excitement for our little venture. 

Samson grazing Saturday morning

Samson has become incredibly affectionate since moving too.  He comes up to me in the pasture to say hello, and on Sunday I stopped by in the afternoon to just hang out, and ended up sitting in the stall with him for quite awhile.  At one point, he literally laid his muzzle on the top of my head, and stood there for ten minutes while I stroked his muzzle.  I love my big guy.  I ended up throwing on a bridle Sunday night and hacking around the pasture bareback.  It was SUCH a blast!

The view from hacking around bareback  :-)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Night Before Christmas...

I feel like a kid on the night before Christmas.  Eagerly awaiting the tick of the clock to announce that it is finally time, that the wait is over.  We are moving the boys to Thalia Farm tonight.  At last, the wait is over, and it is time to pack up, load up, and settle in to our own farm.  But of course, I have to make it through an excruciatingly boring work day first, which means the hours are dragging on longer than I would have thought possible.  So here I am, devouring a delicious treat from Coldstone, watching the minutes tick away. 

I feel like such a kid.  The dream of having my own barn has finally come true.  I know it isn't going to be all sunshine and roses, and there will be mornings that I may begrudge having to trudge out in various weather to feed and clean stalls...but I don't care.  I have dreamed of this day since I got my first Grand Champions Riding Academy - which, by the way, was also a green and white barn, the color I always dreamed of having. 

Our hay was delivered last night.  100 bales of clean, gorgeous, weed-free fescue, and a round bale to be stored for the field later on.  We emptied grain into our grain bins, opened shavings bags, cleaned out the corner feeders, and opened the himalayan salt licks for the stalls.  Everything looks amazing - neat, tidy, and ready for the boys' arrival.  It was like playing house, in a manner that only two horse-crazy girls could understand.

Ohio grown alfalfa hay!

Grain bins filled and ready!

So now it is 3:13, and I have puttered away a sum total of five minutes typing a blog post.  Now, if only I could figure out how to zip through the next hour......

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Riding Through the Fear on 485....

I had a strange afternoon yesterday.  I nearly got swiped off of my motorcycle on the way home on 485 last night.  After the adrenaline rush passed, I had the rest of the ride home to think about things.  This also came a week after my husband passed out unconscious on our cement driveway, and his buddy came pounding on the bedroom door to wake me up, screaming that he had fallen and was unconscious.  It was oddly reminiscent of the day his dad died, just a short year and a half ago.  Life can be over in the blink of an eye - really and seriously.  With that in mind, what is the point of getting strung out about situations you can't control?  I have a tendency to overanalyze and almost obsess about situations that are out of my control - I don't like things ending badly, I don't like bad reputations, I don't like negative gossip flying around.  These things tend to drive me nuts in general.  But in all honesty, I could be gone tomorrow.  Life is too short to be hung up in bitterness, and it is too trivial to waste your time worrying what people are saying about you.  There are too many people out there who are willing to forgive you for your mistakes.  Those are the people to be treasured in your life.  The ones that accept your flaws and imperfections, and help you to build on them, rather than point them out and scoff at them.  So this post, while oddly out of character and fairly sentimental, is dedicated to those people.  The ones who accept me for who I am, who know that I am imperfect in many ways, and who choose to love me regardless.  Thank you for being a part of my life.  Thank you for supporting my endeavors to grow and to change.  2010 changed me in many ways, and there have been a lot of tough times since then.  There have been innumerable losses, some too hard to even put into words.  But I have fought through each and every one, and am striving to make things better.  To accomplish dreams, and goals, that I thought I could never achieve.  Here's to the future.  And here's to everyone who will achieve it with me. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Full Weekend...Including Delilah's First SHOW!

It was an amazingly full and productive weekend.  I took Friday off to show around a potential boarder and get Delilah ready for her first show.  It ended up turning into a jam-packed day - toured a really sweet possible boarder around, then headed to Kelsey's to watch Delilah school for the show.  Robyn and I bathed her and put her up to dry, then headed out on a mission to start our cross country course.  We found a steal of a deal on tires - FREE! - and loaded up to make a few jumps we had already designed out when researching last week.  Then it was off to Robyn's farm to get our guys done by the farrier.  We had Bryan come back out, and he always does the most incredible job with their feet.  He takes so much time to educate his clients along the way, which I really enjoy and appreciate.  I set out from there to head to Clover, SC to pick up another steal of a deal - stadium jumps for sale on Craigslist.  Robyn had to head out of town that afternoon, so I loaded up and got them back to the farm, after an hour drive each way.  It was totally worth it though - I was so excited, I four-wheeled the truck back to the arena and set everything up!  Afterwards, I headed over to Kelsey's to finish with all the show preparations.  I realized I had forgotten to borrow the solo-comb from Robyn (which has a razor blade for pulling manes, since Delilah is a bit of a freak about that), and came to the harsh conclusion that I either battle through trying to pull it, or she would have to go shaggy.  I opted for choice number one.  It started out kind of ugly, so I put on a halter and had a brief come-to-Jesus in the stall with her.  She really thought about standing up on me once or twice, especially when I got up close to her ears, but I was extremely proud to make it all the way through to a neatly groomed mane!!!   Big steps for breaking through boundaries in being firm with her!!!

Saturday morning came bright and early - 5:30 am to be exact.  I headed to the farm, fed the two mares going to the show, and started wrapping and packing last minute supplies.  We loaded up and headed out, and got there in just enough time to tack up, warm up, and hit the ring for Delilah's 8 am dressage test.  She was stunning.  So calm in the warmup, so relaxed to be in such strange surroundings.  She continues to surprise me every time she proves herself to be so good.  She walked on and off the trailer all day, hung out there eating hay in between switching horses - I was glowing. 

Delilah's First Dressage Test!
After dressage came a little bit of a wait before the show jump round.  We hung around waiting, then finally came time to tack up and head to the schooling ring.  We entered her in an extra Maiden Show Jumper Derby round, to give her a little more time in the ring over a slightly bigger height than the Pre-Maiden level.  Kelsey told me after warm up that we would just have to see how she did in the first round, and if it was too much we would withdraw.  She amazed us all though.  She went around the course like a champ, especially considering she has never laid eyes on so many bright and distracting jumps, or even gone a full course before!  There was a set of black glossy rolltops that resulted in refusals all day long from MANY of the horses there, but with a bit of encouragement, she sailed right over them without ever stopping. 

After such a successful round, Kelsey opted to definitely go forward with the next class.  She continued to surprise us by cantering almost the entire course.  She got a little excited at one point, and Kelsey brought her back to a relaxed trot before cantering the last couple of fences.
Maiden Jumper Derby
We were so proud.  Then, to top it off.....
Kelsey with the Blue Ribbon Girls!!!
That's right - SHE WON!!!  Her very first outing, and she won the Pre-Maiden Division.  And to top it off, Rachel won the Novice Division, which was a pretty good sized class, and scored a 25 on her dressage test - Kelsey's second best lifetime score.  It was an AMAZING DAY!!!

After the show, we decided to continue with our blissful day by schooling the cross country course since Delilah has never tried it, and Rachel has been out maybe one time before.  Thankfully, Kelsey had an extra helmet and vest, so I popped on Delilah with the intention of just trail riding her over, then holding whoever wasn't being schooled.  It was pretty exhilerating to trail ride across a street with traffic going by, then ride around a huge open field with horses galloping around the cross country course on all sides of us.  Delilah got a little excited, but was very good about waiting around while Kelsey schooled Rachel.  Rachel was amazing for her second time out.  She is an OTTB, who hasn't been out much due to a few injuries that have sidelined her for a pretty good amount of time.  She has an incredible mind though, and tackled all kinds of cross country fences, even up to a Prelim-level question.  Then came time to switch for Delilah's turn!  Kelsey gave me a leg up on Rachel (thank God - she's TALL!) so I could sit on her while they schooled Delilah.  Or at least that was the original plan....somehow it quickly evolved into me getting to be Delilah's "lead" over questions on the course that may have been intimidating.  It started at the water complex.  Kelsey asked if I would mind walking Rachel through the water in front of Delilah, which of course I didn't mind AT ALL!  Then it translated into trotting through - first time ever, and it was a BLAST!  After I acted as their lead, Kelsey would school back through a time or two with Delilah by herself, and she was amazing!  Then we moved onto a stone wall, a ditch, a log, a little red table, and even more exciting - my first drop bank!  Kelsey talked me through how to ride it accurately by opening the chest and letting the reins slip through almost to the buckle - and I have to tell you, it was the most incredible feeling!  Definitely my favorite kind of cross country fence now.  In the end, Delilah jumped everything on the Maiden cross country course (2'3") without a single refusal.  Kelsey was stunned at how bold she was about all the different questions thrown at her - ditches, banks, drops, water - she tackled them all without the slightest bit of hesitation.  We have really high hopes for that little mare's future now!!!!!

After the cross country schooling, with the winning mares!!!

After trailering home and settling in the girls, we hit Maxwells for a celebratory dinner and beer, then went to see a movie.  Then it was home to bed, til morning came and another day of work on the barn began!  Sunday's progress included some huge ambition that resulted in us tackling the last giant project - painting the exterior of the barn.  We amazed ourself at how fast we accomplished the task, especially for it just being the two of us girls!  Hard to believe it has ever been insinuated that we are lazy, when you look at all we have accomplished lately....nevertheless, we finished half of the barn in only a couple hours, and only stopped because it looked like it was threatening rain.  We took the rest of the night off, and spoiled ourselves with a meal at Chilis and an El Presidente margarita to celebrate our successful weekend, then had a low key movie night at home before sacking out. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crashing Trees, Tidy Aisleways, and a Show, OH MY!

Well, it has been an exciting week for our little endeavor at Thalia Farm!  Monday night we got hit by a surprise thunderstorm, which turned out to be pretty exciting!  Robyn and I were working in the barnyard on constructing boxes to hold our stall fans.  We were pretty impressed with ourselves - we managed to pick up all our supplies, wield a circular saw and drill, and whip out five fan boxes without so much as a single hitch.  In addition, we also took the time to show a prospective boarder around the farm, who happens to be a really sweet lady that we had known previously and have become good friends with lately.  She loved the farm, and is seriously considering bringing her boy to us since she would like him to have a stall for the winter instead of being on pasture.  So we had finished showing her around, and had just finished our fan box project, when we heard the telltale pitter-patter of rain on the barn roof behind us...the rain literally moved from behind the barn until it reached us in front.  We scrambled around, pulling in the power tools, lumber scraps, etc, then settled ourselves in the aisleway to wait for Randon to arrive.

My hubby pulled up and joined us, and we were lounging around the aisleway making dinner plans when I turned to watch the rather impressive storm that had risen up around us.  It was then that I caught a strange sight out of the corner of my eye....a tree...bending way too far in the wind and rain....Within seconds I realized it wasn't in fact bending over, it was CRASHING down, right in front of my eyes...straight into a power line, blocking the entrance and exit to our barn.

Sure enough, we were trapped.  I called the power company and sat on hold for fifteen minutes before getting through to a representative, who couldn't even give me an estimated time of arrival.  My husband was chattering on in the background about his intentions to wield a chainsaw and take the tree down, regardless of the fact that it was on a LIVE power line.  Fool.  Then you add in the fact that he was hungry and therefore cranky, and you get the picture...it was not a collection of pleasant moods, by any stretch.  In the end, we pulled the headlights closer to get a better idea, and quickly realized his chainsaw couldn't possibly get through the tree anyway.  So we compromised (I guess...I still don't think MY input was ever considered...) on him cutting off the branches so we could at least fit the cars out underneath the tree.  I hid in the tack room praying like a banchee that he wouldn't be boiled alive by a live power line, kept company by my worried little golden puppy. 

The end result...he is alive.  I still think the man is a fool, but he got us out, and we all went for a celebratory meal and beer afterwards. 

The barn is coming along nicely!  We got our tools neatly hung and organized in the shed, got our salt block holders hung in the stalls, and last night we took an easy night to straighten up and shoot photos to update our Facebook page and advertisements.  Our next projects are painting the barn exterior and starting on a few cross country fences, and possibly building crossties.  My amazingly supportive hubby agreed to purchasing a mower and spreader last night, so I am really excited to finish laying up all our necessary supplies soon!

On top of all the Thalia Farm excitement, the other thrilling news is Delilah's first REAL SHOW - this Saturday!  I have Friday off to spend the day at Foxhollow watching them school and then grooming for the show.  Kelsey is going to ride her in the Pre-Maiden Combined Test (2') and then do a Maiden Jumper class (2'3").  I am SO excited to see how she does!  Kelsey's theory is that she will either pass with flying colors, or totally bomb - it probably won't be anything in-between.  Kelsey is taking her mare as well, so it will just be the two of us.  I will take tons of pictures to be updated after the show is over!

There is a lot to be excited about.  I have been working harder than ever, but I am truly loving every minute of it.  I can't wait to get my ponies moved in to our new barn.  Robyn and I have been pouring sweat into the place to really make it special, and it is really starting to show.  I am so glad that we have partnered up to do this.  She has worked long and hard without a single complaint, and then spends her days helping with all the legwork to arrange insurance, supplies, etc.  There are so many things to arrange, and we have each been tackling projects and then collaborating to compare notes.  It is all starting to fall into place though, and I really feel like this is meant to be.  Life is great, and I can't wait to see what we accomplish in the next couple weeks!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What a Week.......

Sorry for the lack of updates.  The past week has been a really strange rollercoaster of up and down emotions, but I think I have resolved to simply keep moving forward, rather than revel in things I have no control over.  So, with that in mind, it is time for an update on the progress at Thalia Farm!

Robyn and I worked like dogs all week.  It started Thursday, when we picked up two truck beds full of fill dirt.  We unloaded ourselves, and were at the barn til nearly midnight hosing out and cleaning the trucks afterwards.  Friday we took a little down time since we had promised a friend we would go out.  Saturday morning we were back at it again - spreading the fill dirt and tamping it down.  It was some serious labor, and we just THOUGHT we were sore by the end of the day...

Then came Sunday.  We started really early, since the goal was to start dragging in the stall mats and laying them out.  We got the first stall completed pretty easily, but ran into some planning issues with the other stalls, which had less-than-normal dimensions.  Thankfully, Robyn's mom is a GENIUS, and she used her drafting table and all sorts of tools to draft us up plans that were to-scale.  We hit up Tractor Supply for the remainder of the mats we would need, and headed back to the barn. 

Much more sweating and grunting ensued, but by the end of the day, we managed to get everything laid out.  Randon has a couple more cuts to make in Linkin's stall, but that will finish it all up!  In addition, we managed to get the driveway lopped back, which was less than glamorous...pieces of cedar trees falling down your shirt, not pleasant...

Tonight is the step I am most nervous about.  We are meeting an Outdoor Lighting Consultant from Duke Energy to see about running lights to our arena area.  I am desperately hoping it won't break the bank, but it is a pretty necessary investment, considering the fact that Robyn and I don't get out til the sun sets in the winter.  So we are crossing our fingers that it won't be a small fortune to use our perfectly graded and totally usuable arena.....

I am also working on finding painters, to see if I can contract the barn painting out to save us a little time.  I have some great connections through the apartment industry, so I am looking to see if I can snatch up another good bargain.  Things keep falling into place so beautifully.  From the free fill dirt, to the several boarders we already have coming out to look, to the manure spreader at a STEAL of a deal...things just keep falling into place.  We are so excited to see the continued progression of our little dream as it comes to pass.  Life is good, and we are grateful for our many blessings!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Working on the New Farm...Day Two!

We made a ton of progress last night!  We started our work on Sunday night, and ended up staying out there til almost 11.  All we got done that night was stripping about half of the stalls...they were really bad.  Layers of soiled manure that had rotted into hard chunks.  We literally had to chip away at a lot to get it up.  So we came out again last night and got the stalls completely stripped and the aisleway cleaned up and raked.  We took a break to go get food and more importantly, cold drinks, then came back with extra weapons for the next round.

I learned how to use a weedeater...not hard, but somehow I managed to mess up the thread a bit...oops!  I guess when you're tearing out a year's worth of weeds that looks like a mini jungle, it's easy to miss a rock or two!  I was really excited to find an entire flowerbed that was edged with scalloped brick.  I am really excited to get that replanted with something pretty!  After I ran out of daylight, I joined Robyn in the tack room, where she was hard at work scrubbing down walls after knocking down all the dead dirt dobber nests.  We scrubbed from top to bottom - thankfully the walls are a nice laminate finish, so they cleaned up pretty nicely!  Then finished with a preliminary floor cleaning - I have the feeling it may take several more passes to get it really clean!

We unpacked and hung a couple of fans, and I cobwebbed all the nice wire fronts to the stalls, then we decided to call it a night.  It was a hugely productive day!  Today's plan is to find fill dirt/pit gravel for the stalls, and call and get our grain pricing and delivery set up. 

It's funny, because it dawned on me this morning that I am in the process of accomplishing a lifelong dream.  I have wanted my own barn since I was a kid.  I vividly remember playing with my Grand Champions stable, and dreaming about my own place.  It is finally coming true, and there is nothing like it.  I am literally on top of the world!!!  Best of all, I am able to share it with someone who is just as excited and dedicated to the project as I am.  I think we will have tremendous success together!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Proudly Introducing...Thalia Farm!

It has been an incredibly exciting weekend!  Last week I received a call from the Office Manager for a local businessman who has several barn rentals in the area, letting me know that a new barn would be coming available soon.  We met the owner Friday night to walk the property and get all the necessary information.  It is a five stall barn with 15 acres.  A good part of the property is wooded, so there isn't a ton of grazing, but enough to definitely support five horses.  It was a bit of mess, as he had forewarned us, because the previous tenant had really neglected the place.  We were enticed, and headed to Lowes to price out equipment that would be necessary, then went home to sleep on it for the night.  The next morning, Robyn and I headed back to see the property again, and the owner had already been out that morning and bushhogged the place!  It was a remarkable difference, and we were able to see that there was a good deal more grass than we had thought.  We were thrilled, and continued our research - pricing grain, hay, shavings, working up budgets for equipment, etc.  We talked out all the pros and cons, then called the owner Saturday night and made an offer that he readily accepted!  The barn is now OURS!!!! 

So yesterday we spent the day loading up on supplies.  We hit Tractor Supply first, and got a 100 gallon trough, pitchforks, cleaning supplies, trash cans and feed storage, and insect killer.  Then came Lowes, and a full size wheelbarrow, stall fans, hoses, hose diverter, a shelving system, a rake....Then we got a phone call from Amanda that she had 8 stall mats she would sell us for an amazing deal, so we went and picked those up.  In the process, we discovered that her boyfriend is selling his manure spreader, so we are figuring out how to do that as well.  Really, the only thing we are missing still is a mower, and I have been working on that all morning.  The startup is a little hairy in terms of expenses, but I think it will be completely worth it.  We are going to take on two stall boarders, and ideally it will help us both to significantly reduce our expenses in terms of keeping our own horses.  We aren't deluded, we know it isn't going to be all rainbows and sunshine, it is a LOT of work...but we are up for the challenge.

I have so much respect for my new trainer out of the whole situation.  She has told me multiple times that I was welcome to keep Delilah with her permanantly, even if she wasn't in training anymore.  She is losing a boarder out of us moving to our own place, but she was so amazingly supportive and genuinely excited for us.  That's the way this world should be.  Friends are friends, no matter what, and business is business - and should be left completely separate from friendship.  I wish that everyone in this industry could figure that out.  As a result of her being so supportive, we have invited Kelsey to be our "resident trainer" at the barn, and when we get our cross country course together, we are going to give her access to come and school at the farm with her students. 

I am looking forward to our bright new future!

By the way - our new place is named Thalia Farm.  "Thalia" is from the Greek, and means "to flourish", or "blossom". 

The barn as we first saw it, prior to bushhogging