Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I GOT A PONY!!!!!!!

Yes, the title of this blog is to be squealed, at the top of your lungs, with the gusto of an exuberant child.  Because that is exactly how I feel!  It was made official this morning.  April is now mine, and the mare-formerly-known-as-Delilah - now dubbed "Eve" has a new home as well. 

It is amazing the way all the pieces fell into place.  Even after making the decision to list Delilah for sale, I still wasn't completely at peace with the idea of her going to a new home.  I was worried about her falling into the wrong hands and having an uncertain future.  But I know she is safe and extremely well cared-for where she is now, and most importantly, I know that her physical issues will be sorted out, and her education will be continued with a strong and proper foundation.  That is why I can't believe how lucky I am.  I have the opportunity to own an AMAZING horse, with the potential to teach me SO much - the mare is trained to 2nd level dressage!  She is extremely forward, and will push my comfort levels without scaring me.  Most importantly, she has the skill and talent to further MY riding education, which is something I have desired for a really long time.  I am thrilled that it is finally time to work on ME.  Don't get me wrong - I think there are plenty of things you can learn from working with a green horse.  But I think I need more of a foundation before being put in that position.  There are too many holes in my education still, which I am really excited that great instruction and a solid horse will help to fill.

I was told by the instructor who sold me April that I have a good natural seat and balance, and that she thinks I have a lot of natural talent to be honed.  I nearly cried when I heard her tell me that.  I have felt like an untrained monkey for so long...the lone ranger in a world of pretty perky hunters...oh, how she gave me a thrill by telling me that!  It reaffirmed to me that I have been on the right path, and I am so grateful to Robin and Renie for giving me a firm foundation in the basics of correct riding.

Last night I wanted to squeeze in one last ride before making my final decision of which option to choose.  (I was offered several different mare-swapping deals to choose from)  Well, I'll be darned if a thunderstorm didn't crop up right as I was getting to the barn.  It poured for ten minutes, then died off a little, so I threw on tack in hopes of catching a quick ride.  Yep, that's right - ME, the former chicken-poo (use your imagination, I have to be proper on a blog, right?) hopping on the super-forward horse amidst rain and rumbling thunder....Oh, and not only did I ride in these less-than-ideal conditions, I even left the farm and rode down the driveway for quite a ways!  Oh, how giddy I am to think of my first event with this mare!!

So here I am, again, like a child at Christmas.  You see, the phone call occurred this morning on my way to work, so now I get to go to the barn and she is "officially" mine....so I can't WAIT to get off and go see her. 
Oh wait...I just realized.....I own another MARE.  Didn't I swear to never do that again???  Ahh, let the adventures continue.......

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Letting Go....

It has been a really interesting month.  It has seemed like a roller coaster of emotions lately - up and down, back and forth...starting the farm has been such an amazing journey, but it of course isn't easy or stress free by any stretch of the imagination.  Transitioning from having Delilah in training to being my responsiblity again full-time...now trying out the new mare for a possible trade...there has been so much to process.  Add into that the fact that I have been fighting a brutal cold or flu bug for almost two weeks now, and it seems completely overwhelming.  But all of the laying around and trying to recover has left me with a lot of time to think and process the past few months of craziness.

Perspectives are a funny thing.  Everyone's view of the world is shaded by their own personal perspective.  Our perspective is formed by our years of collective experiences, successes, and even disappointments.  For example, I will use my own take on the world.  I have always been an incredible optimist.  I was always the happy, perky, bubbly girl, and you didn't really see me down in the dumps about anything.  But you take that same girl, and channel her through a year of hell, in every sense of the word, and she is bound to come out the other side a little different.  You see, 2010 for me started with the death of my husband's father.  It is something I rarely talk about, but it was hands down the most traumatic experience I have ever been through.  People experience death all the time, and it is all traumatic, but being there when it happens completely unexpectedly is a different experience.  You will forever have flashbacks, every time an ambulance screams by, each time someone grabs their chest or is short of breath...it lives with you forever, and it colors your perspective on the world.  After dad's death came the loss of our first pet, Trinity, after a pretty horrible accident in June.  In July, my beloved grandmother took a fall getting out of bed in the middle of the night, and after a month of rehabilitation, she passed away.  Then in August we lost my favorite uncle, the one who knew how to color life with my favorite thing - a glorious sense of humor.  Then in October, I found out the horse that I purchased over the summer, my heart horse who I really came to love so quickly, had a bizarre congenital defect of the navicular bones, and would need an expensive surgery to be able to be sound.  And then, at the end of October, I lost my golden retriever Skippy, who was my most beloved canine companion of all time.  Truly, the nearest and dearest animal to my heart of all time.  There were so many other things in between, but that is the collective picture of the year I went through that forever changed who I am, and who I will be in the future.

The biggest thing that I took out of that year is that life is short.  Really, incredibly, and even traumatically short.  There isn't time to waste living in misery.  It's a lesson I am still peeling open, layer by layer, even as I write this post.  Which has little to do with horses, but ironically it does have to do with riding through the fear, in a metaphorical way, I suppose.  I lived in a place of intimidation for a really long time.  I let so many things influence who I was, what I was afraid of, and the choices I made.  But in the past few months, I have started to dig down and rediscover who I truly am.  I'm not perfect.  I have never claimed to be.  I am as human as the next guy.  I get mad, I retaliate, I try to justify myself...it is a part of being human.  But at the end of the day, it isn't me.

I don't really know what the collective purpose of this post was for, other than to get out the massive amount of feelings that have been pouring out of me the last few days.  Remorse and guilt for the ways I have acted at times, but also pride and peace at the way I have allowed myself to rise above at other times.  A good friend of mine took a step to create a little more peace for herself too recently, and even though it didn't have the result that she had hoped for, I think it created a pathway for us to both move on with an open heart and a clear conscience.  I used to go to a church that warned so strongly of the effects of living in bitterness and unforgiveness.  They talked about the way it would poison you, from the inside out.  The last few days of letting go have made that so clear to me.  It's funny, the way things fall into place when you release it all.  It is as if all the little puzzle pieces were floating around, waiting to fall into place, if only YOU will get out of the way.  Well, I'm getting out of the way.  I am letting go....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Trial, Day One - Night and Day!!!!

The first thing I HAVE to do is give major credit to my trainer.  I will be the first to admit, after trying April, the first thing I decided was that she was a really nice horse, but really forward from what I typically like.  I almost didn't take her owner up on doing a trial, but Kelsey was the main proponent of giving it a shot.  So first and foremost, she gets the credit for seeing the potential in the mare and the possible combination with the two of us.  Because, here's the thing....

Our ride last night was INCREDIBLE.  It was night and day from the trial ride on Monday!  I tacked up and headed to the arena to warm-up and wait for Kelsey to arrive to teach our lesson.  Even hacking around, I felt much more comfortable than the previous day.  I picked up a trot, and it was nothing like the day before.  I made sure to focus on the tips both trainers had been giving me during the trial - not sitting in a chair seat, really centering on my seatbones, and using my core strength to "hold' her and regulate our tempo.  We nailed it, right off the bat.  No running around like the previous day.  So I was already glowing when Kelsey arrived, partly also from the little bits of leg yielding I played around with, and the accidental haunches-in I got.  The mare is SO sensitive and so responsive, she is AMAZING to ride. 

Kelsey had us working on a lot of trot work and canter work, since that is what we struggled with so much during the trial.  She had to keep reminding me not to get "locked" with my inside rein.  Robyn was awesome enough to take a million videos, which really helps put things in perspective.  I might feel like I am relaxed and moving in my elbows, but I can see afterwards exactly what Kelsey is talking about. 

So we had a PHENOMENAL ride, and it left me feeling dramatically different from the day before.  At this point, I am REALLY excited to see how this swapping possibility may end up.  Kelsey saw a lot of potential in the situation, mainly because she knows all the factors of my situation.  I am pretty horse-poor when it comes to buying potential, so the "swap" would be a promising situation, this horse has a TON to teach me and improve my riding - 2nd level dressage people!!!  So instead of floundering around trying (operative word!) to teach a green horse, I could actually be learning something.  We finished our lesson and I was floating on a cloud.  It was such a dramatic difference from how the day started.  I had been frustrated, after hearing from a second trainer how uneducated my mare was.  I didn't understand why we had "wasted" so much time making little to no progress.  Robyn had given me her best pep talk, and really did help, because she helped point out the fact that I at least conquered my fear of Delilah, and even if that was one of the only advantages I gained from the situation, it was a pretty big one.  But I had still been bummed.  By the end of the night though, I had more hope than I remember having in a long time.  I feel like I have a chance to do so many things now.  The dressage movements I have always wanted to learn....doing an entire course calmly and sanely....packing up a trailer to show my own horse....all these things seems within a realm of possibility now. 

So I am skipping around lighter than air.  And really, REALLY hoping this doesn't come crashing down in disappointment.  Because at this point, I am THRILLED!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mare Swap!

I'm sure there will be many more details to share in the near future, but...meet April!

April is an 11 year old Hanoverian/TB cross that I have on trial for the moment.  Ironically, Delilah is on trial with April's owner as well, and we are going to give both situations a shot for the next week or two and see how it goes.

I tried her out yesterday.  I liked her, but she is an extremely forward horse with a pretty serious work ethic.  She is VERY correct, so I think she has a LOT to teach me - it just comes down to whether I think she will be too much horse for me to really enjoy.  She isn't hot, and she's very honest, you just have to be extremely correct in what you are asking her to do.  So we will see how things go! 

Delilah had a big first day with her trial too.  They apparently had a few "conversations" about how things were going to go.  As usual, D was trying to assert her opinion into every imaginable equation.

And now I am off to the barn for my first lesson on April!  I am very excited to see how it goes!!

April on the flat

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Runaway D-Train, Stormin' Norman, & A Possible Trade!

It's been a busy week at Thalia Farm!  It started out at the end of last week, when Robyn had to rush out of town for a family emergency, leaving me to play "barn" by myself for the weekend.  Friday evening I hopped on Delilah since she had the luxury of having the past three days off, and we started out with a pretty decent ride.  Since she seemed to be relaxed and responsive, I decided to pop over our little tire jump....and that's where the "Runaway D-Train" left the station....

I'll be darned if that mare didn't take off on me at a crisp little gallop.  I can't quite say that she "ran away" with me, because the truth is, I was able to hold her in a circle.  But she did not respond to a single half halt, with my hands, seat, anything...at one point, I did the emergency haul-back on both reins....nothing.  That mare kept chugging away, to the point that I pretty much gave up and let her gallop herself out.  Apparently, she got wind of the fact that her trainer's horse, Baby P, was galloping off at the American Eventing Championships, and she wanted her turn too!  Needless to say, we eventually got her brain back, and then I had to take on the challenge of cantering her again, so we didn't end on such a wretched note!

Well, Friday was the day I realized I have taken BIG strides in my fear of Delilah.  Even as out of shape as I am, I proceeded to work on her canter several more times til we ended on a good note.  It didn't happen immediately either - twice, I thought for sure I was going to go sailing off the side of her, when she inadvertently hopped around a rock or bad footing, and I sort of hung in midair before rebalancing in the saddle....it got a little hairy, but I really stuck it out and hung in there.

When I finished, I decided to take her trailblazing through the woods - something that would have previously set my heart racing, but regardless, I pressed on.  Well, I got a little ambitious, and ended up pretty deep in the woods, stuck amidst the cedar trees.  I paused for a minute, and ducked against my little mare's neck to escape being swiped off by a tree branch, and when I did, the reins went slack and Delilah took a step forward, and then another one...I decided to put my trust in her and see where it took us.  Sure enough, I laid on that mare's neck, and she let us through a little maze and back to the open trail in no time.  What a good little mare!  She never fails to surprise me.

The early week brought about a vicious cold that I have been fighting, so it has been all I can do to get through chores, let alone ride.  Last night I started feeling a little bit better, and just in the nick of time - because we found "Stormin' Norman", our new addition to the barn tools. 

Yes, we've named our lawn tractor.  But how could we not, when he was such an awesome find?  "Norman", as I've dubbed him, is a 23 hp lawn tractor, with the hydrostatic transmission, less than 80 hours, and 2 years remaining in the extended warranty.  And all for a STEAL of a deal!  So we ran out and snatched him up in Cleveland, NC - ironically, the same area our hay comes from!

And last, but not least, the possible trade.  I don't want to jinx myself, but at the same time I am so excited I have to mention it.  A local trainer has a mare for sale that I inquired about, but when I did so, I mentioned that my horse-buying power is also tied up in my current mare.  So she threw out the option of bringing Delilah so she could sit on her and try her out, while I try her mare, to see if there could be any type of trade option. 

So that is what the future holds for us in the upcoming week.  Lots to look forward to!!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cross Country Schooling!!!

I don't know HOW it has taken me this long to post this, but I had my first cross country schooling on Delilah this week!  Monday brought a threat of rain, so we decided to use our day off (thanks Labor Day!) to get our rides out of the way first thing, before the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee rolled in.  I had expected the horses to be a little cranked up, with such a quick drop in temperature, but our warmup started out beautifully.  I kept commenting how lovely Delilah was - calm, and relaxed, and really fun to ride!  Before I knew it, I had pointed her at our little tire jump, and our cross country day was underway!

Robyn and I had a great time.  She took a few videos for me, and then I did the same for her.  Delilah schooled the smaller tire jump multiple times, and was so much fun!  And then Linkin surprised us ALL by doing the 2'6'' tire jump, just as calmly as could be!

This has been an awesome week.  We showed around two really great prospective boarders last night.  The horses are settled in, the barn looks great, and we have settled into a routine with the new farm.  Life has taken a really happy turn, and I am so content!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Lesson, Midnight Rides, and Moving Day!!

That's right, it's all about the girls this week!  I started out the week by taking a lesson at Kelsey's on Delilah.  We had a really great time, working very hard on transitions.  We have a lot of work to do on smoothing out our upward transitions, but made some great progress with our walk/halt and trot/halt transitions!  Delilah is showing a lot more consistency lately, and Kelsey commented that she was very impressed with how I was riding her on the day of my lesson.  She complimented me on really riding, and not being afraid to put leg on her and be insistent about what I was asking. 

Wednesday night, Robyn and I had decided to take a night off from riding, and we spoiled ourselves with dinner at Chili's.  We had to go back to the barn to get her car, so we ended up searching for the boys to check on them, since we had just opened up the back field for additional grazing.  Sure enough, after a creepy Blair-Witch-Project-type walk through the woods, with the miniscule amount of light from a cell phone, we discovered they were hiding (as much as a 1200-lb animal can "hide") behind the barn all along.  Blame it on the cocktail, I say....  Anyway, I got a wild hair up my...you know..and grabbed helmets and bridles, and we hopped on the boys for a moonlight bareback ride.  Linkin, being the wanderer that he is, decided to start trailblazing through the woods in pitch blackness.  So Samson and I followed.  We had the most amazing time, managed to NOT get scraped off their backs by any tree branches...a serious feat, since it was literally pitch black in the back of the woods.  Such a great night of bonding with our boys.  Horses are so good for the soul. 

I was off Thursday, so I tackled a bunch of barn errands, and went to ride Delilah mid-morning.  We had a strange ride - started out brilliantly on the flat, got a little ugly in the middle, and then ended on a great note.  She kept trying to run through my aids and just run around.  I realized that day that I have been taking big steps in not being afraid of her, because I really got after her when she was being naughty, and didn't even take the time to be scared.  Then, when I got her brain back, I let her trot around on a super loose rein to relax a bit, and then ended with a little jumping to have some fun!  That mare really enjoys jumping.  We went over a little crossrail in the paddock several times, and each time she cantered off and came right back when I asked her to. 

The I was off again Friday for Delilah's moving day!  I had hit Kelsey up to trailer Delilah, but being the fearless creature that she is, she decided to hack Delilah down to our farm, and I would go with her on Laddy, the wonder pony - her 13-something hand Arab who went Prelim level before retiring!  I twiddled my thumbs all day in anticipation, but at last, the afternoon rolled around, and I packed up the truck and we tacked up to go.  Delilah was a star.  LOTS of looking around, but she was awesome.  She gets this look going in new places - big, bugged out doe eyes, and perky ears, and she swivels her head back and forth, back and forth...but that's the extent of it.  She spooked one time, and it was at a BUTTERFLY.  Kelsey and I got a real kick out of that one.

We made it back to the farm in time to hack around before Kelsey had to go back to teach a lesson, so we hacked Laddy and Dligh back to the jump arena.  Somehow, we managed to get attached by a swarm of deer flys, and the poor horses went nuts.  We hopped off and started smacking, and were able to smush a few.  Then we got back on, but poor Laddy was still being tortured enough to throw in some little hops and try to run away with me....it was hysterical.  Kelsey hopped Delilah over a little line of show jumps.  She insisted she can't possibly be in the presence of jumps without jumping them...too funny!  Delilah was great, she cantered over both fences like it was no big deal.  Then Kelsey and I switched horses, and she showed off her amazing little pony's extensions, and then I schooled Delilah on the flat for a little bit, ending with an awesome halt/trot transition like we practiced earlier in the week!

 Delilah has settled in beautifully.  Integrating her into the herd literally consisted of her walking out to join the boys, and her going straight to grazing.  There wasn't a single display of dominance, or any kind of herd hierarchy to be figured out.  They just went right back to life, just with another herd member in their presence.  It's amazing, but I keep thinking that the mixed herd has been one of the biggest differences in Delilah's life since moving her.  She really seems to be far less "mareish" since being put out with the boys, both at Kelsey's and at our farm.  She seems more settled and happy in general.  Yet another piece of the puzzle that I think we have clicked into place. 

The herd, grazing out in the back pasture!

Samson & Delilah
And what would a new farm be without a little play day?  Someone in the area was shooting rifles last night, so we decided to forgo riding and play instead.  So Delilah had her first couple of times over the cross country tire jump!