Friday, September 20, 2013

First horse, first loss


Today I made an easy decision that was hard to make.
 



11 years ago I was part leasing a 14yo TB/Appy cross named Stanley.  That's a picture of two of us shortly after I got him.  I did it because he was available, cheap, I wanted to ride more, and I was tired of getting ditched by my trainer for lessons (who I eventually left).   Six months later his owner asked me if I wanted to have him.  What else does a broke college student who has always had a dream of galloping off into the sunset say?  I took over ownership of Stanley and all his vices.
 
Unless you had a chain over his nose he basically dragged you around.  He didn't tie AT ALL and would throw himself to the ground to break whatever he was tied to.  If you saddled him in his stall he'd smash you into the wall.  Once you got him saddled you had to pin him in a corner between a barrel or have someone hold him or he'd take off at a canter as soon as a foot hit the stirrup.  Which was probably the only time he cantered because his previous owner was afraid to canter him so when he'd buck she'd get off him and put him away.  He'd also stand straight up if you even thought about putting him on a trailer. 
 
We had our ups and downs, I taught him to lead, load, and tie.  He eventually self loaded onto the trailer and was an excellent trail horse.
 
 
 
 
  He didn't blink at his first dressage show. 





 
He learned to jump... when he wanted to
 






I eventually transformed him into a handsome horse

When soundness issues made me retire him I told him he had a home for life.  I made due by riding other people's problem horses and found that I had a knack for it.  I turned them into solid citizens as well.  Stanley enjoyed retirement and giving the occasional ride to adoring children.  The girls even graduated to riding on their own, in their very own helmet.




He loved food and his favorite thing to eat were Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights and I had just bought him a box a few weeks ago. 





Over the last several weeks I had noticed a loss of topline and general slowness in Stanley.  I also noticed a ventral Edema that I thought was from a kick.  Earlier this week I noticed that he wasn't cleaning up his grain or hay, which is a big fat Stanley red flag.  I spoke to the vet and we agreed to watch him for a few days then run some blood.  I spoke to my barn manager who thought that maybe he was having trouble eating regular food and needed to go on senior.

By Thursday Night I knew that something was seriously wrong and my time with him was nearing an end.  I sat with him in the middle of the arena with his head on my lap for an hour while he slept and I patted his face.  I didn't sleep a wink Thursday night. 

Friday morning the vet came out and determined that Stanley was in heart failure.  I asked some questions about options but I knew what I had to do so I made the decision nobody likes to make.





This is Stanley not looking noble at all.  Someone gifted me a custom portrait of him and they chose this picture.  It captured his personality in every way and it now hangs in my home. 

Today I held the end of his lead rope while the vet put him down. 

Goodbye to the best/worst first horse a girl could ever have. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dan Hobyn recap

Last weekend Annie and I went to Dan Hobyn which is probably my favorite show facility around.  It's 7 miles from home, has great XC fences, and it's just so friendly. 

Cathy was out of town that weekend so I put out a call to see if a friend who was also going could pick Annie up.  Much to my surprise and gratitude a total stranger who boarded at Dan Hobyn said she would give me a ride.  She ended up being busy doing show prep so "short trainer" Rachel picked me up in their trailer (a Corn Pro stock trailer).  Since I was trailerless I crammed all my things into my car, no easy feat in a two door coupe. 

Here's a picture of my car after the show





There was a (welcome) storm blowing in so Annie had to work in the indoor then Rachel opened the gate open and we ventured outside for a short hack in a bit of a sprinkle.  Or rather, I whacked Annie and she trembled outside. I was really happy that I was able to ride her around in a strange place she had never seen before, without another horse or person in sight and she behaved herself like a professional.   Here she is in her stall with her new (annoying) friend.




The storm changed the high temps for the day from a high of 93 to 82 so we really lucked out. 

Annie is still convinced that warming up on grass is warming up for "galloping" so we had the world's happiest 20m circles but she really stepped up her game in the ring.  I thought that it was a fairly solid test.  I felt like she was tense over her back and in her pose instead of really connected and I am still having trouble making smooth transitions.  However we ended up earning our highest score to date which was a 40 so it means that I actually broke into the %60 world for my first time ever!!!!!  40 was only good enough for last place but who cares.

Stadium was a struggle for me.  It was deceptively hilly and Annie really got rolling downhill.  I also let her stop at the brick wall.  This is how the conversation went.

Annie "Are we supposed to jump that thing?"

me  "I don't know, maybe?"

Annie "Hmmm, can I stop and sniff it first and check for monsters?"

me "Sure, whatever."

Sigh. 

After stadium we took a nap and then we got to go XC schooling with Rachel and several of her other students.  Annie has a big forward walk so despite being the shortest one out there we lead the bunch down the trail to the back XC field.  We kind of snorted and spooked our way there since she hasn't figured out that her big walk puts her in front!

Annie grew at least 10 hands in the back field, there were a lot of horses running and jumping in varying degrees of control and a pony dumped it's kid when we got there and galloped past us headed for home.  She only stopped to look at one fence, a coop with some funny bark on it.  She jumped several log piles, other coops, and even TIRES!!!  Then we led the group back down the path toward the main show area. 

Annie was the first horse in the water.  The Dan Hobyn water is a bit spooky.  It's in a shady area and the water is very dark, there's also a big patch of mulch in front of it to provide more solid footing.  We snorted sideways all the way down to it and I had to whack her but she went right into the water.  Then another snort at the jump out of the water which had brush under it but she popped over from a walk.  When we went back through the water she trotted right into it and popped out over the log like a pro.   

After that we jumped a log and then I had selective hearing about jumping the GIGANTIC log that was next.  Unfortunately Rachel was paying attention and made me jump it again which Annie did with no problems. 

We did have a stop at the last fence, a big funny looking green barn.  I felt like she wasn't really spooking at the barn but that it was getting further and further away from her buddies and the end of the farm lane was there with possible horse eating monsters beyond.  I had to ride forward confidently and she jumped over it after that. 

Annie really needed a bath after schooling (such a sweaty animal) and it took a friend whacking her with a sponge to get her in the spooky washrack.  When she was in all I did was toss the leadrope over her back and she stood untied while I hosed her off.  Silly mare.

At the end of the day Annie's adventure wasn't quite over.  She had to ride home on another trailer, with someone else I had never met!  One of the main things that attracted me to the sport of eventing was how friendly everyone is.  I really appreciated having someone who didn't know me offer to haul my horse home.  They had a really nice Hawk trailer with a ramp, which was Annie's first ramp so she had to eyeball it before she got on but get on she did. 

It seems to have become standard for Annie to have a massage after she shows so Monday evening the massage lady came out to do Annie and I gave her the next three days off.  Sometimes I like coming home early from the barn to clean the apartment, relax, and play Candy Crush.   I've also noticed that after a hard day's work my horse gets hosed down, turned out, massaged, and a short vacation.  What do I get?  Some Alieve and right back to work.  Nice huh?