Little Moments Count.

Yesterday I was having a not so great, day.  It happens to us all.  I had little time to spend with Reason or Errika, a quick hello and giving their yum’s was the extent of my visit.  I first went to say hi to Reason.  He knew why I was there and he knew what I had in my hands; the bag of his favorite, rice bran.  It was cold, he was frisky.  His initial reaction was to come up to me and bury his nose into the rice bran.  Well, no he can’t do that and he’s not allowed to do that.  He has to wait.  It took about 5 minutes of correction before he went and stood patiently at his feeder. 

I first started by asking him to move away, at a safe, acceptable distance.  If he moved a hoof forward, he was asked to move it back.  I’m not at all concerned with if he moves sideways, back or even acts excited right now.  But he cannot move towards me at all.  That’s the first rule and it’s a rather basic one that is fair enough to ask a young ex-racehorse in my opinion.  Once he stood still, his reward was to be allowed to go to the feeder.  He stood there waiting and I rewarded him with finally, his rice bran. 

I spent some time petting Reason and it was a nice reminder of the things to be thankful for.  Each day I am lucky enough to see him and have him in my life.  A simple pet seems something to be thankful for in itself.  On the journey to goals, it’s these little things that remind us why we do what we do and how lucky we are to have horses in our lives.

Today, will be a better one.

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Testing, Testing…1,2,3

Lots of horses, well almost all of them, like to revert to the flight mode when they see a fellow horse kicking up it’s heels.  They want to take part and at times mirror the reaction of their fellow equine that is playing or misbehaving via the opposite side of the arena.  It’s acceptable for a horse to be a horse, nonetheless.  We should encourage them to be expressive and comfortable in their own mind and body, not forced into what we think they should or shouldn’t be doing.  But, we must allow them to be expressive in a safe, appropriate manner.  Which means, the horse should stay with it’s rider/handler, coming back quickly to their aids or cues.

Yesterday, I had a test of this with Reason.  A fellow boarder was taking a lovely gallop down the path that ends up parallel to the arena.  I was given a heads up to her coming, so I prepared myself in the best position possible.  Before the warning came, Reason was already on alert, his ears up and focused in the direction of the galloping horse, although he could not see it yet. 

This was to be a test of Reason’s respect towards the handlers aids and overall presence.  I was anticipating this, I was unsure of what his reaction was to be.  But, I stayed calm.  There were two fellow horses in the arena, which I wasn’t concerned about in regards to their reaction.  I actually thought that having other horses in the arena which would probably remain relatively calm during this encounter, would keep Reason’s own flight reaction to a less than exuberant adventure.  I can’t tell you if it really did just that, without doing multiple field tests, but I think it helped.

As the horse quickly came into view, Reason’s head, already up, became even more alert.  His tail went up, he did a quick turn and snorted.  That wasn’t bad at all!  He was a bit fired up thereafter, but I was pleased and this was an all acceptable reaction to this encounter.  The trouble though, followed.

Although the encounter of the galloping horse, was very exciting for Reason and he exuded a sane reaction, he had little patience to stand there and not do something.  His lack of patience, escalated to needing something to hold in his mouth.  Naughty pony!  He went for the rope, he went for anything close to him.  This was enough stimuli for one day, he was good, but now he was a ticking time-bomb.  As I exited the arena, I wasn’t short of correcting his naughtiness.  Mouthy ness is not a form of expression…  My corrections, did little to relax him altogether.  Sometimes you have to correct and move on.  I did, paying no attention to him as I walked focused to the tie-rack.  Once there, he was more relaxed and once tied, back to normal.  He stood their quiet.  

I didn’t want to have to get tough on him regarding this new encounter and how well he did with it, but unacceptable behavior is well, unacceptable.  I’m very much taking a more direct route, trying to be as clear as possible with what I expect out of Reason.  

Now that that’s over, we move forward.

I’ve been doing a lot of case studies, which I document in my head (not very precise I know) regarding Dressage horses and riders. 

My aim for Reason once the day comes;  A nice loose, relaxed, happy, enthusiastic ride/horse.  I so admire Carl Hester and the work he does with his horses.  I’ve found a fascination with the training behind the horse, the training that created the horse you see in the show ring and Carl Hester is for sure one rider and trainer that is exempts what Dressage is.


 

Growth Comes Full Circle.

I’ve wrote about the process of growth in horses.  But, without a doubt, it also means that we grow along with them.  In the end, if we are open to it, we become better horsemen & women.  This idea of growth as a circle is really neat and special.  It’s another way horses can change and touch our lives. 

I’ve found that part of the growth process and learning, comes with lots of humbling.  A good horse will do that to you!  It’s a love, hate relationship.  It’s not always fun in the moment to be humbled, but in the end it proves to be another piece of the puzzle!  If you are open to it however, you will learn way more than someone who either refuses to be put in that position or refuses to believe in the idea of “horse humbling.”

Part of my personal growth process is observation.  I am not an outspoken person.  I am not going to openly express my point of view, opinion or thought with someone.  For the most part, I don’t because the person is usually not open to it.  And simply, what is the point?  I refuse to converse much with people like that.  But I will observe them and learn from what I see.  Everyone has something to teach and sometimes you learn from things that they don’t actually realize they’re doing!

If you want to be a better horse person, if you want to be a better rider, you have to seek out what you want with honest intent.  I’ve toyed with the idea of taking riding lessons again on school horses to continue my riding, but I think this break is needed for me, oddly enough.  I know, weird.  I may begin riding with an event rider who works with off-track TB’s, which would be a great learning experience and great way to jump-start my riding again.  It would after all get my mind off of riding Reason.  However, as much as I want to ride him, I am smart enough and care enough to know exactly why I’m not riding and therefore I don’t have the desire to actually ride.  In the very least.  I have future, wishful thinkings, but not current temptation.  If I can’t respect time off, what kind of horse person AM I!?  Luckily, I don’t have to figure that out, it’s just, common sense.

Ok so, I guess maybe, I’m quiet for a reason, I’m an observer.  But, is that always a good thing?  If someone asks what I think, I’ll converse of course.  I’m not that quiet..lol. I love learning, asking questions and listening to individual perspectives.

In regards to Reason..  I have to say, I’m a much more confident person.  I’m not going to spend time being concerned or afraid.  I’m just going to go about my business and invite him to come with me and when he comes, we can learn together.  But until he does that, we aren’t going to get anywhere.  He’s tested me, not as to extreme like Ink, but he has and he continues to do so.  Each time, I have to break down and build-up as strong, as confident as possible to give him a reason to trust me.  Only then will he respect my judgement and therefore allow me to be the leader. 

I have to say, I see people who think they are in that position as the leader, but are not.  Their horse my submit on some things, listen occasionally, but in reality, they don’t really understand nor respect their role.  And then again, I see people who take the leader role in the wrong way.  “Leading” a horse does not mean you make them do what you want.  But rather an open relationship where there is a constant exchange of communication between handler/rider and horse.  They have to know you’ll listen and vice versa before any good communication can be established. 

I learned a lot of this understanding with Ink.  He taught me to listen.  There was no way I could ever get through to him, or help him merge into a happier horse, without learning to listen first.  Correction came second with him.  I had to figure out why he did the things he did, why he reacted the way he did and understand my own reactions to get any type of grasp on what was going on. 

 

A Different, "L" Word?

The “L” word scare last week, was over soon after it started..thank goodness!

There has been no sign of lameness since.  He’s sore stepping on the rocks throughout the pathways to various parts of the ranch, but that can be expected at this point.  Once he’s being started under saddle, we’ll rock the front shoes.  Unless of course, he could go without shoes altogether.  I’m not sure of that though.  We’ll see what happens when that day comes.

If you’ve never worked with an ottb, one thing that is usually distinct about them, is their lack of understanding regarding proper social skills.  Yes, they don’t have many.  At least from my experience.

Both Ink and Reason are friendly, very interested horses (both in humans and horses alike).  Ink was notorious for barging into another horses space without any consideration as to what the other horse thought.  “You like me, ya, ya!?” Is what seemed to be going on.  Although I do have to admit even Ink was a little reserved in how forward he was with other horses.  Reason takes it to another level.  

Errika is quickly becoming the god-mother of ex-racehorses.  She’s staying at the ranch for a week and I’ve been riding her or doing stuff throughout her stay.  I usually bring Reason into his stall for his rice bran to avoid dealing with correcting him in his paddock (he wants the rice bran so bad he cannot contain himself!  Although he has to, no exception.)  I put Errika in the cross-ties next to his stall.  He cannot get enough of it!  Oh how amazing it is to touch another horse!  But Errika, as usual is not amused.  She stands, sometimes acknowledging him but for the most part Reason is nothing exciting.  She stares ahead playing hard to get.  Reason persists, reaching to touch her shoulder, anything he possibly can.  Errika stands still, allowing him to smell her, but she is quick to let him know when enough is enough.  Reason is seriously beside himself in joy!  Bouncing his head obnoxiously up and down, trying to get Errika’s attention.  What a show off ;).  Secretly, Errika likes Reason.  I’ve known Errika long enough to know that when she plays hard to get, it’s a sign of lasting devotion.  I know that if I was to take him out of his stall and back to his paddock, she’d crumble.  

Reason is becoming the fixture in my life.  He’s the future and I’m excited for that.  Sometimes it’s not easy to watch all your barn mates riding and progressing, while you stand on the side line wishing that could be you.  But, for that moment of desire and wishful thinking, I have millions of knowing that when the day comes, that will be Reason and I.  It is and will be worth waiting for.

There is nothing more true than the whole point behind this dark horses name.  “Everything Happens for a Reason.”  I know he came into my life for a purpose, I know I have a horse with an side-lining injury for a reason.  I know now, but I can’t quite put it into words.  It will all makes sense later. 

As moments happen, it’s very much like a puzzle.  A piece here, a piece there.  It doesn’t look right all the time, it doesn’t even look like the picture on the box at times, but slowly and surely, piece by piece, it begins to come together.  One by one as each falls into place, you start seeing the glimpse of the finished product.  And as those pieces form into one image, the excitement grows.  The long period of not knowing molds together forming into the simple answers to those complicated questions.  The past within the picture and all questions are now answered.  The key to building this puzzle, is that no matter what you never lose sight of the picture.  You treat each piece with understanding in it’s placement.  You devote yourself to the little things that create the final product. When the final product is gleaming in front of you, a sense of accomplishment and amazing growth in personal understanding begins to fold all into one.

Horses are our puzzles.  We must treat each piece with care and attention while we never lose sight of the finished image. 

The "L" Word.

Yesterday evening, I went to take Reason out and noticed he was lame.  The first time he’s been lame since I’ve had him.  No!  Uncertain, but pretty much convinced I just wasn’t seeing things when he walked over to me, with some three legs, I took him out to see what he looked like on hard ground.  There was a noticable nod at the walk when the leg would bare weight, the left front, bowed leg.  Hmmm, not good.  I took him to the arena to check it out, still noticing something.  It was less consistant, but there.  Sometimes worse, sometimes not as noticable.  Obviously, I should have went with the hoof first and worked my way up the leg for any possible placement of what could be going on, but I didn;t and forgot to pick the feet.  I went from 0 – 60 on concern, forgetting something as simple as picking the feet.  A rock could easily be causing his paper thin hoof to be in pain. 

I picked out some bark and there appeared to be a rock lodged down in the left side of the frog on the left front hoof.  After that, I walked him down the barn isle-way to see if anything appeared different.  It did.  He was walking on four legs again, with no head nod and baring weight on the front legt again.  HUGE sigh of relief.  I’m still on high alert, but seeing the not slight, but significant difference in gait after the hoof picking (oh, my, gosh) I was a little relieved.  I cold hosed both front legs and put him away.  His feet are not in the best of shape besides.  The pathways leading from his paddock, to the barn, to the arena are all compacted road base and loose rocks.  It’s the nemisis for these poor TB feet.  

I have to remain very concious of the idea of bute.  He already feels good, but if I give him some bute, like I might for another horse, I could run into more problems.  If he’s not feeling so great, he won’t want to play or be silly like he would otherwise, therefore a less likely chance to cause further damage to an already injured tendon.  So I’m holding off on the bute.  There appeared to be no swelling to the area or change in the bow itself.  There was little heat. 

He’s going to have a couple days off from walks and since it takes a walk to get to the wash-rack for cold hosing, I suppose I’ll do icing instead.  If this lameness reappears within the next 2-3 days, the vet will need to be called.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it was simply a rock.  Or possibly a hoof abscess.  

Three Months. The Lost Past.

One day, I will sit down and write a book.  My life, over the last four years has been surrounded by my passion and love for horses.  But most importantly, my passion for Ink and Errika.    

Three months ago, today, I lost one of the most important things in my life.  I feel as though that part of my life is gone, left me the day I lost Ink.  Errika has been my closest thing to that part of my ‘past’ life and to Ink.  Sharing this life with her, without Ink has been weird.  Even when they were separated by barns for that brief period, or even by living situations within the barns we’ve boarded at, they were never apart.  Always connected to each other someway, somehow.  They would always love seeing each other when they’d come together for a ride or when I’d work both of them together.  I always knew and believed they were best friends and loved each other as much as I loved them, but I never knew how much until Ink was no longer around.  

When I go to the barn to see Reason, I don’t feel that void.  I feel sad and I think a lot about Ink because everything there reminds me of him.  Reason has his old paddock, stall and all my tack and equipment was most likely purchased over the span I had Ink.  But in some ways, it’s comforting to know this was Ink’s last resting place.  Sometimes I still feel he is there, looking on and watching Reason and I on a familiar path.  

When I see Errika, every time, a part of my heart sinks.  I don’t think this will ever go away.  I don’t know if I’m feeling what she is, or if seeing her automatically brings up so many memories, mostly of the two of them.  Errika impacted Ink’s life so dramatically, yet perfectly.  She was gentle and kind to Ink, but quick to turn away when she needed to.  He was always quick to follow.  Even when he was naughty or pushy with her, she would walk away and he’d chase after he begging for forgiveness.  But when she needed his defense or protection for what may lurk around the corner, he always wanted to protect her.  She stood confident for them both, while he was learning what confidence was.  It was funny to see Ink prance ahead like a stallion, snorting and ready to take on what may come, but once he was truly faced with whatever was threatening, he would run and hide aside Errika.  She’d remain calm and secure, teaching Ink about all the world.  To watch this alone unfold, was truly special.  I give Errika a lot of the credit for being Ink’s first teacher.  

What Errika gave to Ink most, was companionship.  A thing that even I couldn’t replace.  To have Ink socialize and connect with a fellow horse, who was everything he needed in a companion, was priceless.  It was a great time for him while he was coming down off the track.  It was a great start to his new life.

When Ink passed away, the first place I wanted to be was with Errika.  I knew she knew what had happened.  For weeks thereafter, Errika was not quite herself.  I was honestly a little concerned about her.  She was mopey and wouldn’t be at her stall door waiting for breakfast when I’d go to feed, her normal routine.  Seeing her made all what had happened, more real.  It was heartbreaking to know that they weren’t going to see each other anymore.  And it sealed the closing of Inks’ amazing life and story.

Ink was more like a person than a horse.  In some ways.  He was so amazingly insightful.  He was so wise.  There are countless times where I’d stare at him and wonder who he was and how I was so lucky to have him in my life.  You know how they say that a horse’s eyes are the window to the soul?  This was so true for Ink, but even then some.  There was so much life behind his eyes.  So much understanding of the world that I could not comprehend.  He amazed me everyday.  

You know how it feels like when you can trust a horse, when you connect with it and know that no matter what they will take care of you?  I dreamed and worked each day to have this with Ink.  There is nothing more I wanted than that.  

I spent the first year of owning Ink, afraid of his wild, full-boar kicking habit, biting and overall intimidating stature.  There are some days where I spent hours on end trying to figure out how to get through to him. Countless days where I’d come home in the beginning, not with doubt in my own head, but that from others around me.  In the end, I trusted him the way I always wanted to.  I learned to understand him and most importantly he taught me to stay true to what you believe in.  

Ink came so far.  He was amazing.  I can only think of the things we would be doing now.  And to think of what he was like when he arrived home.  It makes me so proud to have experienced that last four years of his life with him.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Sometimes I feel lost without him.  Sometimes I dream of him running along Errika and I.  Sometimes I dream of that day when I sat on him bareback without a halter, the thoughts of him from day one, month one, running through my head.  I love him so much.

Nothing seems the same anymore.  But change happens and sometimes it’s good.   

Thoughts over Bridles.

Yesterday and today, I bridled Reason for the first time.  I was curious, not knowing much about his past, what this experience would be like.  I know that Reason is sensitive near his ears and upper neck, so how could this effect his willingness to accept a bridle without any issues?  Again, just as with the saddle, just as with leaning over his back, I wasn’t worried about it.  My gut told me that this was a racehorse after all.  Bridled, haltered almost all day, he had to accept it.  Not only because it was important in general, but because it was needed for the purpose to get everything done fast.  Haste makes waste at the track, from what I hear.

But, nothing.  Reason actually willingly wanted to be bridled, lowering his head to have the bit slide into his mouth and the headstall to slide over his ears. 

The next thought of logic, was, how would having a bridle effect him?  Mentally, that is.  Would this make him think TRACK.  Would his behavior while on a walk to the arena for a hang-out and short stroll, change because of this piece of tack that is so fundamentally related to racing?  I just wasn’t sure what to expect. 

But, again, nothing.  He chewed on the bit, in a way of comfort.  He seemed more interested with what I was asking, or about to ask, because the bit was there and the bridle was on.  Because there was no reaction at all, in a negative sense to the bridling, I was quickly wondering what would be the next appropriate thing to do?  I took Reason to his familiar sight in the arena, the mounting block.  He’s always so interested in it.  Perhaps because I put treats on the mounting block when I was introducing him to it?  He had no idea what in the world this mounting block was, nor what it could do to him.  A little friendly invite from treats, quickly made him fall in love with it’s exsistance!

So, I climbed onto this mounting block, as Reason stood quietly parallel to it.  I took the reins in both hands, leaning over onto him and asked him to give to a little rein pressure.  It started slow, obviously, I wasn’t expecting much, but I knew he was going to quickly catch on.  And he did.  A little wiggle of my ring finger and he was yielding.  No it was’t pretty and yes, he was correcting me by lowering his head and bracing, but I asked and listened.  I respect his knowledge and quick reminders of his training and it’s a good thing.  He has an unmistakably willingness to learn.