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It’s about time for an update

14 Aug

A lot has happened in my happy horse world over the last two weeks, and just when I thought things were under control!

First up – Amber. I had been riding Amber one evening and we had a fabulous ride. After we’d finished, I went to go and see TB to give her a progress update. We got chatting a bit and she asked me how my showing was going with Corona. I mentioned to her that my show season with him was over because I just didn’t think it was doing us any good. She then said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that…actually I’m not really that sorry because I have a proposition for you! What if you took Amber instead?” I hadn’t ever really considered doing this, mostly because I only ride her once a week at the moment due to my Corona commitments. TB mentioned that she would give me free trailering, but I’d pay the entry fees. Seems fair to me. I told her I’d look at the schedule and see if there were any shows that might work.

She then proceeded to ask me what my plans were in the fall and about the details of my lease with Corona. I mentioned to her that Corona is pretty much like my own horse as I’m the only one who rides him, and that come the fall, the plan was that CG and I would take our horses from the Boss’ and they’d live out at CG’s hobby farm. Upon hearing this, she eluded to this foiling a plan that she was mulling over for me involving something with Amber. She wouldn’t tell me the details, apparently because she didn’t want to butt-in on my Corona plans. She then proceeded to tell me that at some point she wanted to give me a lesson on her horse (who is trained to 4th level dressage) as a thankyou for my work with Amber. Sweet! I’m still wondering what that proposition was though!

Murphy’s Law – Amber has been lame since this conversation. Horses! First TB thought it was an abscess, now it looks like maybe she had some stone bruising, so she got shoes on Monday. Hopefully she’ll recover quickly as I was planning on entering us in a show on September 2.

Next up – Corona.

I cannot say anything bad about Corona, he has been a wonderful and solid equine citizen. We’re still plugging away at our training and I’ve been allowed to take him up to the back hay field to work on our “hacking”. After I told the Boss about being done with showing for the year, a remarkable thing happened. She encouraged me to do one more show. I was somewhat dumbfounded as she normally looks for any excuse to try to get me to let her get rid of Corona. Don’t get me wrong, she still told me how he is an awful horse and I’m essentially wasting my time on an arsehole that gives me little in return, but at the same time, she encouraged me to try again. What has been even more interesting is that over the last week, she has given me suggestions about things I could try in the show ring if things start to go hairy. With this in mind, we’re going to another show on Saturday at the barn where Corona was born! I’m going there and looking at it as a training opportunity and nothing more. If Corona starts to melt down in the ring, I’m just going to stop him or do some transititions instead of trying to ride through it like I’ve been doing. I’m actually pretty excited about it to be honest.

Lastly – Plans thwarted.

CG told me last week that she and her husband are going to sell the farm. There are many valid reasons for this but I don’t want to post their business on here even if I only use code names! To be honest, part of me wondered if our plan was ever going to come to fruition, as I picked up on little red flags here and there along the way. CG also has decided that Roller is not the horse for her, but will ride him until a new home can be found for him. Oh – this reminds me – I don’t think I ever mentioned that as of about 6 weeks ago, SM gave up her lease on Ember and no longer rides.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. On one hand, I’ve very grateful CG & husband have had these realizations now before we set up shop at their place. On the other, I was looking forward to getting rid of the drama that comes with the Boss’ including the copius negative comments about Corona! As of right now, no decisions need to be made, we can carry on status quo, but I’m definitely going to think about what I want and how best to do that. Perfect scenario? I take Corona to TBs…her board is rather expensive however and I don’t think I’d be comfortable paying that much at the moment. I’ve been wondering if I could work something out with her, but I think I’ll sit tight for the moment and weigh my options.

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Part 1 – Saturday

20 Mar

I don’t even know where to begin with this post, so I’ll break it down into two…

Part 1 – Saturday

Saturday I had arranged to go out to TB’s to have my first session with the rescue horses. I am working with a gorgeous registered quarter horse named Quinn. He’s four years old and is green broke, and he also apparently has shown previously in something western (in-hand I believe). According to what TB knows, his former owner had 3 horses he needed to sell, he was successful with the first two but not with Quinn, so he sent him to auction. He also apparently was aware that the horse went to a kill buyer. TB found this out because a girl who used to know the horse contacted her through the website when she found out he had been saved. Not sure whether the information has been passed along to the former owner or not, but after 6 months, you can ask the Ontario Livestock Exchange (OLEX – the auction house) for the contact info of the previous owners.

We started out by lunging Quinn and then I hopped on and had my first lesson in more than 10 years! I was using TB’s fancy dressage saddle with knee blocks and that was quite the adventure. I learned (well, it was confirmed) that I need to work on my leg position because I tend to rotate my legs outward and too far back. TB showed me how to “invert” my legs and get my knees stuck into the blocks for support. It was quite the challenge and something I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. I also learned that I have difficulties maintaining the proper contact with my outside hand. Instead of keeping my elbows at my sides, I let my arms creep forward and don’t give enough outside rein support which in turns allows the horse to collapse.

I felt somewhat embarrassed at the lesson incase TB changed her mind about letting me ride with her, but she said these were just small fixable items and that I had a great seat and balance. Needless to say, I was rather sore when I dismounted and felt the burn from the lesson for the rest of the weekend! I’ve attached some photos of Quinn…I can’t take credit for them, but it will show you how cute he is!

I went home and all was well…until Saturday night when I was going to bed. I received an email from the Boss saying that she thinks we have come to the end of the line with Corona and that she would like to put him down. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I felt terrible because this clearly had come from our discussion last week where I had expressed my frustration at his aggressive behaviour, but in the email, the Boss said that it has been on her mind for awhile. Needless to say, I barely slept that night and spent the night sobbing. It wasn’t clear from the email whether she was asking me for my opinion or whether she had made the decision already. I was dreading going to the barn the next day and finding out.

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The dreaded c-word

25 Feb

I heard the dreaded c-word when I went to the barn yesterday…colic.

Apparently on Friday when the horses were being brought in for the night, Corona was lying flat out “like a flat tire” in the field. A lead-rope was clipped on him and he got up and came into the barn, where he flopped down in his stall right away. They took his temperature and it was really low, so he’d been lying out there for a while, thank goodness it wasn’t very cold out that day and he was wearing his heavy blanket. The Boss called the vet and in the meantime gave him an injection of dipyrone to help in the relaxation of his gut. The Boss and the Trainer then started to walk him around. After a few laps, it was decided he was looking a bit better so they put him back in his stall to monitor. Apparently with dipyrone, since it’s a relaxant, you try to just leave the horse alone and let the injection do its job (provided the horse isn’t thrashing around in the stall doing more damage). After a short period of time, he pooped! The vet called and I guess at this point they figured the best thing to do was to monitor, so that’s what the Boss did. No further ill effects and after a few hours, Corona was back to chomping on some hay and back to his normal poop-filled self. Thank goodness.

I’ve never experienced colic before but have always dreaded it and the fact that this happened has shaken me up a bit. It’s hard too because I don’t own the horse so wasn’t called – not that it would have helped matters but I would have been out there quick as a whip to do anything and everything I could to help. In speaking with the Boss yesterday I told her flat out that she should call me next time and I’d do the walking/ monitoring etc. so she didn’t have to.

I have no idea whether it’s related or not, but last week when I was brushing him, he was very sensitive on his left side, from about half way down his neck, to his hip. At the time, I noticed a small bite wound on his neck from one of his buddies, so I figured he had perhaps just been kicked as well. When the Boss told me about the colic episode, I told her about this coincidence and she didn’t really think it was related but you never know with horses.

I watched him like a hawk yesterday for any additional signs that it might happen again. Like last week, he was still really sensitive on this left side. Anytime I’d touch him with the brush he’d pin his ears and give me stink-eye. I felt around and couldn’t find any lumps and bumps but it is definitely out of character for him to be like this. I wondered if I’d even get a saddle on him so I took it slowly. If he was sore I wasn’t going to ride him, but surprisingly, he didn’t seem to care about the saddle at all.

I was pretty excited as this was pretty much the first time I’ve been able to ride him since Christmas! The recent nice weather we’ve had has melted the ice that has prevented us from riding for so long. Like had happened a few weeks ago when I THOUGHT we were going to get a ride in, Corona was SO excited to get out there, especially because CG and SM were there with their horses too. Off we went and it was heavenly! Since it was our first ride in a while, and we are still recovering from the knee wound, we just walked but it was a brilliant walk. Corona was off to the races, huge strides and ears forward just ready to take on the world. I made a great effort to stay relaxed in the saddle and Corona obliged, even when we walked by a spooky half-buried bag in the snow bank.

We were out for about an hour and I was eager to see how the exercise affected Corona’s leg. His knee is still swollen, but the swelling in his tendon was virtually non-existent after the ride! He was completely sound at the walk, in fact, I had seen his trotting and cantering earlier in the field too and he looked sound. The vet is hopefully going to see him on Tuesday as they’re coming out to see the racehorses. Apparently there’s a new vet with the practice and if she comes, the Boss won’t have her look at Corona because she doesn’t trust her, so I’m praying that it’s one of the other two vets as I’d really like their opinion on things – after all, this has been going on since mid-December. I keep meaning to take some photos of his knee to post on here, will do that next time I’m out. I don’t mind if it’s just an aesthetic issue, as long as he’s sound on it and we’re not missing something bigger!

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!

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