Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to recover your stolen trailer using Facebook and pissed off horse women.

On August 26th an older 2 horse Sundowner was stolen out of a local parking lot. 

The theft was caught on film although the truck plates were not in view.

The owner of the trailer made a broadcast post on Facebook which quickly spread across the state to hundreds of connected horse people.

Someone made a post on craigslist offering a reward for information leading to the stolen trailer.

I'll leave the rest of it in the words of the trailer's owner about the recovery. Recovery and arrest took less than a week.

Yesterday evening, 8/30/14, I received a phone call from a restricted number telling me he had my trailer. After multiple dropped calls and a return call from a Kentucky number I was told his name was “Johnson Smith” and he had bought my trailer for $900, in Pine Knot, Kentucky, in a parking lot, with no title. Someone had brought our CraigsList ad to his attention and he did not want to get in trouble for having a stolen trailer in his possession. He then told me he was 23, his father was a minister in Carmel, gave me his father’s “phone number” (which was always busy), and said he wanted to do the right thing and return the trailer. Not two seconds later he started saying how he was going to be without a trailer and out of his cash. He wanted his $900 back and he would bring the trailer back up to us. I told him to let me see what I could do and I needed to talk to my husband.

Once I had a legit number I started texting him because I could not understand him very well over the phone and his calls kept dropping. I told him we would scrape the money together, without mentioning how much, and I asked him if he could send me the VIN or photos and then we could meet somewhere. I told him we were willing to drive down there to get it ASAP, we simply needed an address. After 12 hours of vague text message replies and phone calls he said he could not find the VIN, his phone did not send pictures, and I could not get an address from him. I told him let’s just meet somewhere, give me a time a place. He agreed to that as long as I gave him an additional $250 for gas money, which brings the total amount he wanted for returning the trailer up to $1150. I again told him we would cover him, without agreeing on the price.

Now the fun started with trying to nail down a location. His first suggestion was to meet outside of Shelbyville in Decatur County at a truck stop. I told him my female friend and I would be arriving in a white Chevy, my truck is green, and we set a loose time. I then contacted the Sherriff’s department there. I was able to speak to a state police officer during this time who looked up the name I was given and told me the only Johnson Smith in Pine Knot, Kentucky was 15 years old, but the number did go back to a cell phone there. After a couple hours of no replies back I called him and said they were leaving Kentucky, but he had to drop his cousin off so could we meet in the parking lot of Walmart at 38th and Franklin at 10 pm. I agreed and we called IMPD and they sent an officer out to our house so we could explain everything to them.

The plan was, thanks to Thomas, to arrive early and call the police as soon as we saw the trailer pull in to avoid any confrontation. At 9pm myself, Tom, and his military buddy left the house to go look for the trailer. At 11 pm there was still no truck or trailer and after multiple text messages and phone calls the location was changed again to the Wendy’s at 56th and German Church because something was broke on a vehicle. Little did he know this was in our favor because that is where Lawrence PD Thomas works. Once we got to the location there was our trailer! We let Jen and Thomas know it was on site and they called in the cops. We watched from the parking lot next door as they cuffed the two guys and searched their car.

Once Jen and Thomas gave us the all clear we pulled up and spoke with the officers. Mr. Johnson Smith, which wasn’t his real name, tried to tell the officers he only asked for gas money in return for driving the trailer back up to Indiana, not that he had tried to extort an additional $900 from us. He was adamant he deserved money and he was only trying to do the right thing. Once Johnson Smith was uncuffed he tried to approach the truck after Tom and his friend told him not to and let’s just say you don’t breach a perimeter set by Marines. After further discussion myself and the officers did not think he was the one who stole the trailer, but he probably knows who did. I did give him $100 to prevent a civil suit because we did offer a reward for the trailers return, no questions asked on CraigsList. He and his friend were released and the trailer was released to us, but not until after they spun their tires at the guys on the way out of the parking lot. We then went and got celebratory Frostys.

Here is what we found out about Johnson Smith. He gave a fake a name. He had an Indianapolis residence. He had prior convictions. He told the officers he purchased the trailer that morning. His receipt for the trailer contained an imaginary name. He did actually tell the truth about his age. He also planned on meeting two women in an empty parking lot with $1150 in cash, not two Marines and the Lawrence police department. What possessed him to call me I don’t know, but I am glad he did and equally glad I will never know his intentions.

So what did we learn? LOCK YOUR TRAILER AND INSURE YOUR TRAILER FOR THEFT NO MATTER HOW OLD. Don’t steal from a police officer, don’t steal from a Marine, and most importantly don’t steal from internet savvy horse women. We don’t play around. Thank you to everyone who helped with the recovery of the trailer and shared the information on the internet. Remember how important networking is for stolen property and don’t forget what a resource is for recovering stolen horses and equipment. They are always in need of volunteers and donations. 

Posted on Net Posse

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baby horse diaries

I've been starting a friend's just turned 3yo gelding.  So far I've been taking my time trying to put a good foundation on him on the ground before I climb on.  Even though I've been one of two primary people handling him since he was born I've been surprised at the lack of handling he's actually had.  Really besides leading 20 feet back and forth to the turn out every day he's mostly feral.  He's had to learn a lot of things that you really take for granted in an older, trained horse.

I've been doing lots of groundwork with him.  He doesn't just need to know how to lunge, he needs to go where I tell him to, even if he's scared of something.  He needs to be respectful of my space.  He has learned that saying NO isn't an option, it results in lots and lots of groundwork and doing it anyway.  I slowly built up the obstacle here asking him to continue going over it in a calm manner as I changed it.  I even lead him while I rolled the barrels out.  He needs to be obedient and trust me.  He needs to learn to go forward.  I don't mind if he's scared but he needs to try to do what I ask. I think that this makes well behaved brave horses.  

I've laid over him a couple times.  He first had to learn that the mounting block wasn't going to eat him and to stand quietly when I moved from his head to his side.  He also has to deal with me stomping up and down the mounting block, patting his other side, and jumping up and down next to him.  He had to learn to wear a saddle pad.  

So far he's worn a saddle once.

He also needs to get on the horse trailer.  Before I could do that I had to take him OUTSIDE.  What I first thought was going to be pretty easy was actually pretty hard.  He'd never really been here before, always in the barn, the arena, or in the pasture.  He was very nervous and disobedient about going further away from the barn so we had to halt trailer loading and just work on being comfortable being in different places.  I got a buddy horse to go outside with him and we made it all the way to the end of the driveway where the entire neighborhood was out!  He met a golf cart, loose dogs, and children on bicycles!  He was most scared of the asphalt.  At times I forget how little he actually knows.  I was very pleased and slightly surprised that he didn't trample anyone.  

Then he had to get close to the horse trailer.  This took a couple sessions.  Yes, I believe in bribery.  At some point in this he decided to say NO!  very loudly, by getting further and further away from the trailer and rearing like the Black Stallion.  So I had to up the pressure and be very aggressive with my groundwork.  This was our longest session and maybe lasted 25 minutes, I've been keeping the sessions very short, about 15 minutes in length.  I don't want to fry his brain or push him to the point of making my own problems.  

I use a lot of pressure and release as well as bribery in trailer loading.  The inside of the trailer is the "safe zone" and is also full of horse snacks.  The outside of the trailer is full of groundwork.  It was several sessions before he realized he could step up and put a front foot on the trailer.  At first he started to paw inside the trailer with a foot so I rewarded that behavior.  Then I stopped rewarding the pawing and rewarded him standing with one foot, etc.  Each time I wanted another behavior I ignored the first one and rewarded any effort of exploration on his part. After his rearing episode he realized that me coming out of the trailer after him is a very BAD thing and I've gotten some very good results by applying a little bit of pressure on the rope and crouching like I'm getting ready to barrel out full steam.  He thinks about backing away and then looks at me and puts some slack in the rope.  Good evidence of learning.  

After several sessions where he became very comfortable with putting his front feet on I had to get his back feet on.  This was a matter of moving the snacks further inside the trailer and rewarding any forward motion.  

Next I worked on self loading, he needed to be "sent" into the trailer while I stood outside it.  No pictures of this!  I worked him on a circle and eventing closed off part of the circle to send him forward into the trailer.  I didn't mind if he looked inside at first but I did mind QUITE A BIT if he decided to run me over to get away.  I want him to go where I tell him to at the end of a rope and to go those places without me leading him.
Finally we are working on going into the trailer and having the door shut and waiting quietly for a few minutes.  The first time I did this he was very good inside the trailer but then I had to push him off the trailer because he was convinced he was stuck inside forever and ever.  After that we had to go over him saying NO! again because then he didn't want to get back on.

I worked some more on loading and staying on when the door was closed and he proved to be a quick study.  He knew when the door was closed that he couldn't get out and I reinforced this by saying "whoa."  Then when the door opened I had him wait and then said "back" several times so he knew he could only get off the trailer on a verbal OK.  He's confident enough in the trailer to look for things to eat and stick his head out the window to see what's going on.

When he does all of these things instantly and consistently we will move the trailer to a different location and see if he still loads, then I need to decide how I want to haul him before we go for a ride.  I can haul him loose, or teach him to stand for the divider to be closed and I need to decide if I want him to be tied or not.  I know that people have gone on trips with far less work but I want to do it right, I don't want to get stuck some place because he doesn't want to get back on the trailer, he needed the groundwork to help with his RESPECT issues, and I want the trailer to be a positive experience and not just a thing that takes him away from his life.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Show prep for the August show started out like normal

cleaning my filthy dirty and now wet and angry horse.  Poor wet Annie.

LAZ generally has some sort of deal with the weather gods where it might rain in concentric circles around her property but not actually on her property.  However, she made a blood sacrifice for good weather for another event and promised to allow it to rain at this specific show, thus it rained, and poured.  There was standing water in the dressage ring and in show jumping but the footing is good and solid underneath so no problems with the going.

I decided to go ahead and warm up in one of the indoors then I went out in the rain to warm up in the other indoor.   I planned on getting soaking wet, because I didn't come prepared to ride in the rain at all.  Luckily, Cathy showed up just in time with a very stylish raincoat for me to wear.

Usually I like to warm up outside on the grass, Annie is used to indoors and her attention to my aids is much better without the distractions so I chose to ride outside with the distractions to try and recreate the show environment as much as possible.  I'm glad I made the choice I did when I saw that the grass was very very slick and a horse galloping around was slipping on the turns.  Not having a forward ride on the grass would not have been productive, nor would slipping and falling.

We had a SUPER dressage test, Annie kept her head down mostly because she was afraid of drowning
 but I'll take all the help I can get!  She was a little on the conservative side in her forwardness but I didn't want to push for more in the pouring rain, I was asking her to do something outside the norm already.  I think that I'll be wishing for rain on dressage in the future from now on (nobody shoot me please)  because her test put us in 2nd place out of 12, quite a big division.

Then we had show jumping.  Annie was all business as usual in warm up and I did my usual jump 4 fences and then get the heck out of dodge before I screwed something up and rattled my confidence.... hey it works for me!

The starter course felt easy, organized, and rhythmical.  I counted my strides, I made mostly good turns, the jumps came easily.  Here's a photo of us skipping comfortably over a fence.  Ho hum.  No big deal here.  Go Annie!

  Photos courtesy of Lee Ann Zobbe

Then I decided to MAKE MY MOVE.  I've had this goal of Beginner Novice for years now.  It's just 2' 6" for gosh sake.  People on their 2yo TBs 4 days off the track can do it.  Kids on ponies can do it.  Everyone does it.  So why does it look so BIG?  So SCARY?  It's not just the size difference for me.  It's the filler (gulp panels), the oxers (gulp, those look W I D E), and the 2 stride (double size gulp).  Plus it's like boldly going into the great unknown depths of space on Annie.  Here I hurtle on a 20yo arabian whose entire experience of jumping consists of everything that I've spastically taught her.  Just stop and think about that for a moment.  Scary isn't it?  I jumped "BN" at Dan Hobyn but it tends to be a "soft" course in a comfortable and casual environment with only the two rolltops to worry about.

NOW OR NEVER.  Here I was at a place I was familiar with, looking at fences I've jumped a million times, under the watchful glare of my trainer, and all of my fans (I HAVE FANS?).  So I did it.

Fence one was a spectacular failure.  I failed to keep enough leg on and Annie was quite surprised by both the increase in height and the sudden appearance of a back rail.  I got jumped right out of the saddle and lost my stirrups.  So I paused on the backside of fence 1 I pulled up, picked up my stirrups, and considered my options.

1.  pack it in and go home right then.

2.  Get my shit together and ride

I gave myself a little pep talk, vowed to ride like I freaking knew how, picked up my canter, signed my will, and finished the course.  Did I mention that I actually CANTERED the entire course?

It frankly took everything I had to not unfurl my parachute and squeeze my eyes closed in the two stride (I have no idea if it was 2 or 3 strides if that tells you anything) and to keep my leg on hurtling toward the panels.  It wasn't pretty, it wasn't thoughtful, and I probably looked like an idiot, but we made it.  

A huge part of that I owe to my horse who humored me over some less than pretty riding on my part, here's the same fence as above

Note my death stare at the fence, chicken arms, and swinging leg.  How quickly I forget everything I've ever been taught.  However, we did it.  I had a run out to fence 7 because I was so busy celebrating making it over the 2 stride I forgot to turn but who's counting?  

I think my legs have stopped shaking by now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

May the best human win

I really enjoyed reading this article, written about gender equality and the sport of eventing.  Are women tough and courageous? If you don't think so you've never been to an equestrian event.

Horses for gender equality courses.


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interestin...