Archive | December, 2012

An ounce of prevention would have been nice

19 Dec

Do you ever have those moments where you think the world is playing a joke on you just to see how you will react? I had one of those moments a few days ago…

As you can tell from my previous posts, I’ve been having mixed feelings about the barn as of late. We also have CG’s new farm, which should be fantastic, but of course there are the nerves that go along with such a big looming change, in particular I have nerves about whether or not I know enough about horses to be a responsible owner and provide Corona with everything he needs.

I got a text from CG late last week saying that Corona had been kicked while out in the field…by one of the racehorses who not only has back shoes, but also has traction studs. When I got the text, all I could think was, “are you kidding me!”. The kicker in question does not get turned out more than once or twice a week because of his training regimen. Is it just me or does turning a horse out with traction studs, into a paddock with other horses who he interacts with no more than a few times a week, seem a little irresponsible? Obviously the horse would be excited, obviously the other horses would be excited to see him, obviously there would be a lot of running around and leaps through the air and some battles for dominance…

So now Corona has a puncture wound on his right front leg, just at the side of his knee. His leg looks like that of an elephant.

At that moment, some of my nerves about whether or not I could hack it as a horse owner melted away. I realized that I do indeed have some proper horse care instincts and common sense. While I recognize that accidents happen, and that there are going to be bumps and bruises along the way, this is an example of something that could have been easily avoided if some common sense was used.

What’s that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Exciting news!

14 Dec

Fantastic news – CG and her husband have received and accepted an offer on their house! This was the last remaining condition on their purchase of the farm and now it all seems to be *almost* official!!!!

I am so happy about this! I’m also extremely nervous, as this means the three of us will be out on our own. We each have a lot of horse experience, but none have ever 100% been responsible for looking after a horse. Nonetheless, I am confident in my judgement and horse sense to take on this challenge.

The current closing date on the farm is the beginning of March, but the closing date that has been agreed to for the house is the end of January. CG is going to try to move up the closing on the farm, but worst case scenario they are able to move in with family in the interim. We’re not planning on moving the horses there until the fall, as this will allow us to get everything in order in the meantime. Depending how things progress out at the Boss’ however, I wouldn’t be surprised if things were pushed up.

I plan on initiating a dialogue with the Boss tomorrow about CG’s barn. Ultimately I’d like to be given the go ahead to take Corona as my own and keep him at the new barn. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about what the Boss’ reaction may be.

Something else to look forward to tomorrow – seeing the Trainer for the first time since last weekend’s blow out. I’ve been in this predicament before with the Trainer as I’ve eluded to in the past. I don’t want to say I forgave him for what he did that time, but I guess after a few weeks, I took more of the high road and just was civil to him for the sake of not making the barn an awkward place to be for myself and those around me. What he did last time was much worse than what happened last weekend, I don’t feel comfortable discussing the details on here, but it did involve him losing his temper. I have thought all week about how I’m going to be tomorrow, and to be honest, I’m not sure. As it stands right now, I’m just going to ignore him. He has already got his second chance from me and he will not be getting another. He is the type of person who knows how to manipulate others. He plays the victim all of the time, and somehow he gets away with it. I think he preys on peoples’ good natures and takes advantage of them. For example, he knows that the other girls and I are nice people who are respectful and polite. He knows we are not the type of people who can act like total bitches to people because it would likely bother us more than it would bother the object of our bitchiness. So, he lurks, he waits for an opportunity, and then he will begin to act like nothing happened and try to engage you in other conversations – often a funny story about his past, or something that happened at the store etc and then he’d ask you a question about it. He knows that we would find it difficult to be a bitch and just not answer, and this would be the little crevice that he would wiggle into and then sneak back into the inner circle. I’m truly going to make a conscious effort not to allow this to happen. Inevitably when I think about taking this stronghold, I feel a bit guilty about the awkwardness it will cause, but I have to remind myself how unpleasant things are when he is around, and how uncomfortable he makes us on a regular basis. I am choosing not to allow this type of drama in my life. I have too many good things going on, too many goals to strive for and I refuse to let these episodes ruin that for me!

A dangerous situation

9 Dec

Yesterday reinforced my desire to leave the barn. It’s a sad reality but once again, the Trainer, who I have severe issues with to begin with, showed his true colours…yet again.

I can hold my tongue until it turns blue sometimes, I’m not a confrontational person and I try to see things from various points of view. There is a point however, when enough is enough, in particular where my/my horse’s/ my friends’ safety and well being is concerned. Yesterday was one of those days.

SM, CG and I had a great ride. It was snowing like crazy with these huge beautiful snowflakes. We took the horses up to the back field and just had a nice ride. When we brought the horses into the barn afterwards, the standardbred farrier was there, along with the Trainer, to fix some of the racehorses’ shoes.

The other girls and I were in the tackroom cleaning our tack when the Trainer comes in to look for the caulks for the shoes. He can’t find them. The Trainer has the shortest temper I’ve ever encountered, it’s actually quite scary when he loses it as he truly does just “snap.” Normally I ignore his episodes because you can’t talk to him when he’s in that state. The girls and I ignored him and left to brush the horses and put their blankets back on before turning them out.

The farrier had a horse in the crossties at the end of the barn where the door is, and the door was closed over. We got our horses ready to be turned out, and so that we would only disturb the farrier once, we waited until all three of us were ready. CG went first, followed by SM, then myself. CG got held up at the door because it was closed and she had to open it, no problem, at this point the three of us were in aisle with our horses. At this same moment, the Trainer comes raging into the barn from the tackroom (which is at the opposite end of the barn as the barn door, ie: behind us) and starts looking for the caulks on the shelves at that end of the barn. He was so angry that he started hurling items off the shelves, throwing shavings bags around, knocking over metal stools, basically launching anything that was in his way, right into the aisle which was about 10 feet behind Corona. All four of the horses that were in the aisle started freaking out at this point and because the door was closed there was nowhere for them to go.

SM and CG got their horses out and then the horse on the cross ties started dancing, prohibiting me from getting by safely. I turned to the Trainer and said, “can you please stop for a sec?” which he basically ignored. I got the farrier to hold the horse on the cross ties and got out with Corona. Various items were still being tossed around with a vengeance at the opposite end of the aisle.

I. Was. Fuming.

I turned Corona out and the other girls and I looked at each other in utter disbelief at what we’d just encountered. It was like it was my turn to snap, my adrenaline was pumping and all I could see was red.

I went back into the barn, out the tackroom door to the mountain of junk that was now all over the floor. It was as if something took over me. I marched right up to that asshole and, in a remarkably calm but firm voice said, “That was really dangerous, someone could have got hurt; you are fucking ridiculous!” at which point I grabbed the rest of my things and left out the barn door. The farrier saw the whole thing happen, and was gobsmacked. I don’t know if the Trainer said anything back to me or not, I didn’t give him the opportunity to do so.

The Boss wasn’t at the barn at the time, so I couldn’t let her know what had just occurred. We received an email from her last night where she told us that the Trainer had called her on her cell and given her a mouthful demanding to know where the caulks were while screaming nonsensical profanities. I feel really bad for the Boss. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a strange dependent relationship between her and the Trainer. I’d like to say that this will be the last straw, but there have been other incidents where I’ve thought the same and things just continue.

I feel good about my actions. Looking back I think I perhaps should have put Corona into a stall, but in the heat of the moment, getting everyone out of there seemed like the best option.

Moments like this make the potential move to a new barn more than mildly appealing! It doesn’t solve the underlying issues about what the Boss will do, but perhaps this will nudge her towards retirement and into a new role as Special Advisor at CG’s barn. I would truly love it if she would do this, she would be able to have all the comfort of horses and could help where she wanted, but she wouldn’t have the physical or financial obligations that she has right now.

Along with the good, may come the bad…

5 Dec

Excitement is in the air – but along with excitement comes nerves as well as questions about whether you’re doing the right thing.

First some background information to set the stage. The Boss is 75 years old. She rents her property, including the barn, and she doesn’t ride at all. The barn has 12 stalls in the main section and then there are an additional 3 stalls in the back area, but we avoid using these stalls when possible just because they’re not very accessible (especially in the winter when snowdrifts easily block access). At the present time, there are 13 horses at the barn: the Boss owns 4 riding horses (Corona included), there are 3 brood mares owned by a boarder, and then there are a total of 6 standardbreds which are at various stages in their racing careers. These standardbreds are either owned by the Boss, the Trainer, or the “Owners”. In addition to the Boss, the Trainer, and the Owners, the other main characters at the barn are myself and my 2 other riding friends, who I’ll hereby refer to as SM and CG, as well as the Boss’ ex-husband (who is also around 75 yrs old). I’ll be very blunt here – horse people can be extremely shady folk. I’ve had various experiences throughout the years, but all in all I think I was relatively sheltered from horse related drama. It seems this streak has been broken, and over the last couple of years, I have been exposed to more drama at the barn than should even exist. Some of the drama is the regular run-of-the-mill stupidity and looking back is actually quite funny, but there is also the type of drama that nobody should have to deal with and that makes you question whether or not you should stay or go.

The Boss doesn’t have any paid help at the barn. Up until about 2 years ago, she would do the majority of the work around the barn including turning the horses in/out, feeding, mucking all the stalls, etc. The Trainer and the Boss go way back, they have both been involved in racing for years. Since the Trainer has worked out of the Boss’ barn, he has essentially taken over turning the horses out each morning. Since the Boss’ ex-husband has been back on the scene (also for the last 2-3 years), he has come to the barn faithfully each afternoon and has taken over the duties of bringing in the horses each evening. He also has taken over mucking duty the majority of the time. Us riding girls go out to the barn on average about 2-3 times a week. I have a Monday-Friday 9-5 job, SM has a job that involves shift work, and CG is actually still in school as well as working, so we do work where we can, but it’s not at defined times throughout the week.

Over the last year or so, it has become more and more apparent that age is catching up with the Boss and that she cannot do what she used to, despite what she’ll admit. The Boss is a wonderful woman, she has an enormous amount of knowledge about horses and life in general and is a great friend. She is also a very proud woman and along with this trait comes a stubbornness to ask for help, or admit when things are not going so well. While I adore the Boss and greatly appreciate everything she has done for us over the years, I’ll be the first to state that we also don’t have all of the same principles about horsemanship. She has done things that I whole-heartedly disagree with, but that I have had to step back and bite my tongue or risk the relationship. This has been the same with the other girls as well and there have been a few major incidents this past year, in particular the last 6 months or so that have really left us asking each other, “what is going to be the last straw?”. Many of these incidents have also involved the Trainer who, to be blunt again, I cannot stand and do not trust.

The situation is that much more convoluted as a result of us girls not actually owning the horses we ride. We lease them from the Boss. All the times we have wanted to up and leave, we feel somewhat tied to the fact that if we leave, there is a chance that we may not be able to take the horses with us. Also – that we would jeopardize our relationship with the Boss.

It has always been the medium-term goal of CG to purchase a farm with her husband. It was in their 5 year plan. Luck struck about 2 weeks ago now and they’ve found a wonderful hobby farm of about 10 acres, complete with a new barn with 6 box stalls! The offer to purchase was submitted, accepted and now the only outstanding condition of sale is the successful sale of their current house! The original intention (time-wise) was that the purchase of this farm would coincide with the retirement of the Boss from the horse business and us girls would have a place to bring our horses. Tthe problem was that the Boss has always been non-committal about her intentions within the business and how long she was planning to stay in it. Now that CGs farm is purchased, somewhat earlier than anyone had initially thought, it is formally raising the question of, “what is everyone’s plan!?”.

In an ideal world, the Boss would see this purchase as a positive thing, would let us have our leased horses because she has no use for them (and she got all of them for free herself) and mentor us in new farm ownership tactics. In reality, the Boss’s reaction hasn’t been so encouraging or supportive, there has been nothing committed to about the horses, and no warm fuzzies about offering advice and guidance.

I think that the Boss has mixed feelings – I think this is forcing her to think about her intentions and what her plan is, especially if she doesn’t have us girls there. While she does have the Trainer there, they do not get along very well. There is a funny relationship there that is based on mutual dependency but there isn’t a lot of mutual respect. Also, it’s just not a sustainable operation, there is nobody there on a consistent basis who is able to look after the barn full stop. While I recognize that maybe the Boss doesn’t want to stop out of fear of what comes next, I really need to play the common sense card. I worry that if things continue the way they are, that someone is going to get hurt and also that the care of the horses will be sacrificed.

It’s a really tough position to be in, for myself as well as the other girls, and also for the Boss. I just wish that an honest discussion could take place so that we could start to make some progress and start to sort out all of these questions. I’m so excited about the new opportunity – but I don’t want to ruin relationships or rain on other people’s parades in the process. Advice welcomed!

A weekend of rides!

4 Dec

I managed to get in two rides this past weekend, and it was wonderful!

On Saturday I was really excited to see what I could do as a result of reading that Parelli article that I posted about (https://pacesandtails.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/fantastic-article/). I didn’t really know what to expect since I’d never tried anything like this, so I broke it down and focussed on bits and pieces. Basically, what I wanted to focus on was a) to only use one rein for control, and b) keeping myself balanced in the saddle so that when I used one rein for control, that I wouldn’t flop off or confuse Corona, and c) take Corona out of his comfort zone and use the one rein for control technique as well as the approach and retreat technique when he got spooky.

We started out the session on the track – the temperature was -15 degrees with the windchill. It was not pleasant. After a lap of walking, we picked up the trot to keep ourselves warm and after a lap or two the weather was no issue. I had switched to my winter riding boots which have a thicker sole than my regulars so it took a bit of getting used to, and I had also forgotten to put on my spurs, but oh well, more leg to keep me warm.

There’s one spot on the track that Corona and all the horses hate on a fairly consistent basis. We can’t seem to figure out why, but I believe are a couple of squirrels who live around there so there’s often rustling in the bushes, often the electric fence clicks in that area too which adds to it. When riding past there, it’s a safe bet that Corona will speed up 50% of the time, will full on spook about 15% of the time, and then in typical horse fashion, will act like there’s nothing there the remaining 35% of the time. He most often does all three of these within single session. Sure enough, it was in this area of the track that I first applied the one rein for control experiment. We rounded the corner to “the spot” and Corona’s head shot up in the air and he started to get quicker, I sat back and gently brought the outside (left) rein to my hip and slackened the inside (right) rein, which turned Corona in a small circle to the left (outside). We did about 3 circles and then carried on straight down the track. We went through this process in both directions at various spots on the track. Now, whether this is right or not, I have no idea, but I noticed that after a couple of these circles, Corona was anticipating them anytime I picked up the rein so I didn’t have to bring the rein as far to my hip as I had at the beginning. Very clever fellow.

I also found myself repeating “lateral flexion is the key to vertical flexion” in my head – it was like my mantra throughout this exercise. It all started to make sense – when a horse gets spooky or excited, their head goes up and they no longer carry themselves with their poll at or below their withers. When their head goes up, adrenaline goes up, they get into flight mode. What you want is for your horse to maintain a more relaxed head carriage so that they do not instinctively go into this flight pattern. When you flex the horse laterally, they “unlock” from that vertical flight mode and avoid getting into the mindset where they can only react. They then have a lower head carriage (vertically) which keeps them in “thinking” mode.

In addition to “the spot”, Corona also doesn’t favour being ridden in the back field which is at the top end of the track. The ground is a bit uneven, it’s bordered by a forest at the furthest end, a corn field to the right and a soy bean field to the left. There’s also an old burn pile in the middle of the field with some tree stumps and long grasses that blow in the wind. Since we were doing so well on the track, I thought this would be a great opportunity to take us out of comfort zone and venture into the back field. I began with some approach and retreat up the long side of the track (right where “the spot” is no less!), then we went up about 30 feet into the back field and did some more. I did lots of changes of direction and kept my reins quite relaxed and really focused on only using ONE rein for control anytime there was a change of energy from Corona. It was phenomenal – this horse was alert, but was listening to me. I wouldn’t say he was absolutely confident in being in the field, but he was confident enough to do what I was asking without fussing. We did all sorts of circles, figure eights, loops around the old burn pile, any sort of pattern that involved changing direction. There was one spook where Corona took off but used the one rein technique and he calmed right down immediately.

I was having a great ride, and it seemed as if Corona was really enjoying himself as well. I love the feeling when you find you horse as enthusiastic about things as you are. He got a lot of praise and rubs as we cooled out with 2 laps walking on a long rein around the track. After the ride, I put on his new blanket (which looks amazing btw) and turned him out with his buddies.

Sunday came with freezing rain in the morning, turning into full on rain in the late morning and the rest of the day. Needless to say the temperature had jumped by about 20 degrees from the day before and this meant the new winter blanket came off again. My friend was riding Sunday as well, but since her horse is getting over a cold, we decided to take it easy and just go for a nice leisurely stroll with the horses. Both horses were great; even though we didn’t really do much, it was nice to be on the horses and just relax with them. I think they appreciate the change of pace and just being out and about the property. I took the opportunity to focus on my leg position and keeping my heels down. We lasted about 30 mins in the rain before we called it a day. On went the rainsheets again and ample treats were fed to two very handsome slobbery mouths.

I’m one proud horse mama!

3 Dec

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Corona and I won an award! I found out about a month or so ago but I just picked it up the other night. We placed third overall in the adult amateur division of training level dressage at the schooling level! I was thrilled when I found out – I’ve never really won very much when it comes to horses because I’ve never really competed until a couple of years ago. It was something I had been working towards all season, but with a few less than stellar performances, I wasn’t really sure whether or not we would be in contention.

Especially when I think back to my 10 year old self,  realize how much a big deal this is to me and how far I’ve come in my horsey-life.

Here’s some photos I took of himself with his medallion:

Corona medallion 1

Corona medallion 2

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