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A photo shoot with Amber

19 Jun

Recall how back at the beginning of May I had that awful ride on Amber out at TB’s? Well, Monday was THE night that I got back in the saddle on Amber (I have been riding Quinn ever since). I was pretty excited to ride Amber again, mainly to see if the issues we experienced back in May could have been attributed to her being in a long and drawn out heat cycle.

Tacking her up we had no issues except for her trying to nab treats from someone’s bag. She was hesitant for any movement over her head, like when I would take off her halter or put on her bridle, but we got lots of practice since someone had borrowed her bridle so I had to put it on and take it off about 3 times to adjust it.

TB was there, along with her friend Anne who is a horse person and a professional photographer. As I was about to go into the arena, TB announced, “we’ll be right there, Anne is going to take some photos!” this was quickly followed by, “it may not be a good night for photos considering this horse hasn’t been ridden at all since the last time you rode her, but we’ll see how it goes!” My thoughts exactly.

Into the arena we went, where I mounted without issue and the warm up began, as did the photo shoot! Things were going really well but Amber was still quite fussy in the bridle. She flips her bottom lip when being ridden until she relaxes which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour or more. TB had a brilliant idea of seeing whether letting her canter might assist her in her relaxation – in particular since she’s an OTTB and at the track this is how they warm up. Given my one previous experience of attempting to canter her, my initial thought was, “oh sh&t!” but then I figured what the heck. I got up in two point (as much as I could with long dressage leg position) and asked for a canter. Superb! She was quick but extremely responsive so I just focussed on not getting in her way. We changed reins and I asked again, excellent! Then we tried it in full seat just to see how she would respond – the answer – with tension…so we’ll work on that. I asked for trot and TB’s brilliant idea turned out to be an “ah ha!” moment, Amber was SO much more relaxed. I could even put my right leg on her a bit stronger without her kicking out at it.

Anyways, I’ve uploaded some photographic evidence of our wonderful ride. You can see her flipping her lip in a couple of them and my leg in a funny position in a couple of them (avoiding putting it on her). You will also notice that I’m grinning like a fool in most – it was an excellent ride and this smile was not for the camera!

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Quinn-tastic!

29 May

Since I haven’t written about my adventures with the foster horses in a few weeks so I thought I’d devote a post to them.

I haven’t been back on Amber since that terrible ride I wrote about here https://pacesandtails.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/one-of-those-rides-the-sequel/. Originally I was planning on just riding Quinn once, but then we had such a nice ride that I rode him again last week, and then again on Monday. Also, the vet was coming out last week to give Amber a look over to see if there was any medical reason for her odd behaviour so I wanted to wait until I heard the results just incase. The good news, is that there’s nothing wrong with her! The vet thinks that maybe she released a large egg this cycle and it caused her some discomfort (forgive my terminology, I’m used to geldings!).

As I’ve mentioned before, after my show with Corona on May 19, I was having a bit of a pity party for myself and feeling a bit down about my riding capabilities based on his behaviour in the ring. I wasn’t really looking forward to riding Quinn the next day, but I felt obliged to go out since I hadn’t been able to get out there the previous week. I tacked Quinn up and took him to one of the outdoor rings for the first time. The ring is right at the front of TB’s property, directly in front of her front porch, but there’s lots of trees and bushes hiding the front porch so it’s not terribly obvious if someone is sitting outside watching you. I was having a great ride, doing lots of figures, working on flexion, leg yields and transitions and Quinn was being fabulous. Out of the bushes I heard TB yell, “he looks great! Very springy! Are you going to canter him?” I guess she had been watching the entire time and I didn’t even know. We cantered left and did a couple laps of the ring and some circles, but I couldn’t get him to pick up his right lead no matter what I tried. This is now my mission with him – right lead canter. I actually don’t think anyone has got it with him based on my understanding from TB but she assures me that she’s seen him canter right in his field so he can do it.

After I’d finished up, TB came over and reiterated how good Quinn looked and how my aids were bang on the entire time and how impressed she was. I would have been flattered on a good day, but I think with the self-doubt that had crept up from the show the day before, this was exactly the kind of pep-talk I needed!

As a cool down, I took Quinn up to the big field at the back of TB’s property where she has some x-country jumps and galloping track. We had to negotiate some horse-eating monsters (haying equipment), but it was a nice change of scenery. It was really humid that day and the track went by the forest so the bugs were insane. We had to turn back early because both Quinn and I were absolutely covered in mosquitos despite our bug spray.

I rode Quinn again on Monday night and we had another fantastic ride. He was feeling pretty good and was full of beans compared to his normal self. We have some more training to do at the “mounting block” as it took about 5 minutes of positioning and repositioning before I could get on. In the outdoor rings, there aren’t “real” mounting blocks the way there are in the arena. I was trying to use an upside down milk crate so I think that had something to do with it. Every time I’d move the crate beside him, Quinn would step away with his hind end or back up. I thought maybe he needed some time to investigate the crate, so I let him have a good sniff and mouth it. Eventually, I was able to get on and I decided to include some standing still work into our lesson.

After our ride, TB asked me if it would be ok for her to take some photos next time I rode Quinn. She wants to get on with marketing him to his forever home as he really is ready. It would be sad to see him go, but also a happy occasion and what the whole point of this is. I know that he could make someone a wonderful partner, and also it would mean another horse in need could then come to TB’s.

5 rides, 4 days!

2 Apr

The Easter Bunny came and delivered lots of horse-time this past weekend!

Friday:

I went out to the Boss’ only to find the Trainer there! I thought he was going to be gone…apparently not. He’s on his way out however, and that makes me happy. He wasn’t there any other day so I can’t really complain.

I continued with my groundwork on Corona and he was great. Like last time, there was no spooking at my stick & string and we seem to be learning the cues for hindquarter and forehand yields slowly but surely. His backing up is really improving and I even got to use it in a real-life uncontrolled scenario! Flash-forward to CG and I putting the horses out after our ride…I put Corona out first with Roller and CG was bringing out one of the racehorses. Rip charged through the gate (naughty!) but CG still had the lead on him, at the same time, Roller and Corona trotted up to him and chaos was about to ensue and the teeth were barred, butts were turning, and poor CG was not in a good place. I was standing at the gate and I yelled, “CORONA! BACK UP!!” and he actually listened to me! He backed up a couple of steps and didn’t lunge at Rip, I was so proud of him and this gave me warm fuzzies that our training is paying off.

Flash back to our ride – Corona was FRESH! All the horses have the springtime sillies right now. That, combined with the melting ice/snow that cracks under their feet on the track, makes for a bit of an uppity ride. CG was working with Grace, who was also super peppy, but since I had done groundwork with Corona first, she was almost done her ride by the time Corona and I started ours. Corona was good, we didn’t do too much due to the footing, but I have no complaints.

After the Boss’s, I headed over to TB’s to have another go on Amber. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t feel the need to apologize to the poor girl afterwards! Our ride was great – it started off a bit rough, but I worked on flexion and keeping her focussed on figures just at the walk, and then only when we were getting in tune with each other did I ask her for a trot. I was also fortunate enough to ride with a girl who leases TB’s fancy dressage show horse – he was second level champion and third level reserve champion this past season, so my jaw was on the floor as I watched him work. It was really inspiring to say the least. I was really chuffed afterwards as well as TB came to see us when we were done and Laura (the rider of fancy show horse) said that Amber and I looked fantastic out there. YES!!!!!!!!

Saturday

It was a horse-less day, went out of town to my bf’s family for Easter dinner…we did see lots of horses on our drive, but I have nothing to report about them…

Sunday

Started out the day at the Boss’ with CG. Continued groundwork with Corona and he was quite good considering the wind was howling and the horses in the paddocks were running around like maniacs. I managed to get some really nice hindquarter yields which made me very happy. I’m going to be focussing on the hindquarter yields as they are key to moving on to the exercises I have in store next J

After the groundwork, I tacked him up and we joined CG and Roller on the track. I focussed on getting Corona to pay attention to me at all times and we did lots of leg yielding, turns on the forehand, turns on the hindquarters, and shoulder-in. The footing was horrid – the snow and ice was melting, but it was just falling apart in chunks and literally collapsing from under us. I was so proud of Corona however, as a couple of times he as was walking about a foot from the edge of the “iceberg” and it just slumped down under him…the look on his face was priceless, he stopped dead in his tracks and just looked at his feet to see what the heck had just happened. No spooking! By this time, there were also quite a few puddles around, so I used them to my advantage and asked him to walk through them (he has been known to be finicky about water in the past), no problem!

I did a bit of trotting but the problem with the spring sillies is that it is contagious – when one horse has it, they all have it! We asked the horses to trot, Roller decided to canter, Corona subsequently thought he was a racehorse and that was the end of Zen-Horse. I settled him down and decided to go the opposite way of CG. Temper tantrum ensued with Corona squealing like a pig and launching himself in the air. Of course this was also the exact moment the Boss and her friend began watching us. Perfect. I managed to get a nice walk out of Corona and once he relaxed again, we called it a day.

After the Boss’s, I went to TB’s for a ride on Quinn. As always, he was a dream. He stood like a rock for me to get on and then once I was on, he began his moonwalk. I did a few corrections and once he stood still for a few seconds, I asked him to go forward. We had a great ride and worked on our canter. He is good at picking up his left lead, but won’t pick up his right. TB came in at the end of our lesson and got me to do an exercise where we pick up the left lead canter, canter the long diagonal, and then right before turning the corner, we trot and ask for the right lead. I still couldn’t get the lead, but this will be a good exercise to practice. On a very positive note, TB did comment about how my hands look much better and clearly I have been practicing!

Monday

I went out to the Boss’s again for some Corona time. The weather was horrible!!! The temperature had dropped to about -3 degrees and the wind was howling. There was debris flying around and even on the drive in, I could feel the wind blowing my car around. CG was there and we were going to ride, but then she had to leave early. I debated whether to ride, do groundwork or just have a spa day with Corona (he has the springtime muddies along with the springtime sillies)…I decided to ride because I wanted to see how calm Corona was in the bad weather with no other horses around. I’m glad I did, because he was great! There were a couple of spooks at a plastic feed bag blowing around, and a flock of crows, but otherwise he was pretty good. We did a bit of trot up the long side of the track where the footing was reasonable, and continued plodding through puddles which now covered one entire short side of the track. We were only out for about 30 mins, but I was frozen…my eyes were teary from the wind and it just wasn’t pleasant.

After our ride, I gave Corona a good grooming and he really seemed to love it. He was covered head to tail in mud, except for the parts his rain sheet covers. Before our ride, I had just brushed off the dry parts which luckily were where his girth lies. By the time we had ridden, most the mud was dry and Corona seemed to enjoy the pampering.

I’m pleased to report that there was no aggression on any of the 3 days…not for tacking up, not for untacking, not for brushing, not for anything! I wish every weekend could be four days long…only 4 days until the next one!

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Amber – the horse that will teach you softness

28 Mar

Last night, I headed out to TB’s after work for a riding double header. In addition to riding Quinn, I also tried out a former off-the-track-TB mare called Amber. The story on Amber is that she was retired from the track and purchased by a very novice rider who subsequently found her more than he could handle. TB got her because a friend of a friend of a friend (etc.) was told that this guy had had enough and was shipping her for meat that week. TB picked her and her buddy up that afternoon. I’m not sure how long the former owner had Amber for, but apparently it was a sufficient amount of time for him to completely ruin her mouth and make her extremely worried/nervous during riding. She is a very sensitive soul and is going to be a horse that will teach me (and any others who ride her) quite a bit about riding and softness.

Her ground manners are impeccable, and based on her behaviour when I tacked her up, I was shocked at the different horse she became when I got on. I felt quite relaxed about the whole process, especially because TB was going to give me a lesson, but I realized that Amber did not feel quite so at ease with me. She was pooping up a storm, probably went about 4 times in an hour, she was clearly nervous about this new person sitting on her back and asking that she do things. I felt bad for her that I was taking her out of her comfort zone, so I tried to be as quiet as possible and gave her lots of praise and scratches which she seemed to appreciate. TB explained that this mare will make me understand what it truly means to have soft “requesting” hands. I thought I knew what this meant, but this mare has confirmed that I have some work to do. I need to focus more on keeping my outside rein consistent and giving the horse something to move into, while at the same time massaging with my inside rein and releasing when I get flexion. These are not new concepts to me, but schooling these concepts on these rescue horses is quite different than schooling them on Corona. With A LOT of coaching and demos from TB, I was getting somewhere by the end of the session and I got some really nice long-and-low and relaxation. The other teaching method of this mare is that she is extremely sensitive to the leg…not that she will take off on you, but she kicks if you use too much! I didn’t think I used too much leg, but I think the trick here is that this horse needs more seat and rein aids, as opposed to leg aids at the moment. It reinforces the need for me to secure my leg position as I mentioned in my blog about my first lesson with TB. I really enjoyed riding Amber and am pretty darn excited to continue to work with her. I apologized profusely to Amber at the end of our lesson in hopes that I hadn’t worsened her issues, but she seemed ok with me J Also, TB got on her for 5 mins to demonstrate some things to me which was incredibly helpful. I also was grateful that Amber’s session ended on a really good note as TB is an excellent rider and clearly Amber appreciated it.

Next up was The Mighty Quinn (which I have learned is now his full name; I like it but I was gunning for Quinnie McWhinnie as I think it suits him although perhaps doesn’t exude the same tone as “mighty”). I continued where I had left off on the weekend, with lots of practice at standing still for more than 5 seconds at a time. Mounting was even better than our previous session, instead of doing 10 steps of moonwalk, there were only about 2! On the negative side, he refused to stand at the mounting block for more than 10 seconds once I was on. Onwards and upwards however; I took the 10 seconds a couple of times and then asked him to move forward on my terms. I practiced what I had just learned on Amber and Quinn seemed to respond really well to it as well. He isn’t as sensitive as Amber so was definitely more forgiving. I’ve noticed a bit difference since our first ride together, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are both getting used to each other, but things are definitely moving in a positive direction. I wish I could afford more than one horse, whoever eventually gets this guy is going to be really fortunate.

With the long Easter weekend starting tomorrow, I’m looking forward to the 4 days of horsey times ahead. I’m excited to see Corona and continue on our “Road to Respect” and I’m planning on getting in a ride on each of Amber and Quinn as well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things are drama-free as it would be wonderful to just relax and enjoy the journey(s)!

Confidence and determination

27 Mar

I wish there were more non-work hours in the day that I could devote to horsey items such as riding and staying up-to-date on this blog! I guess I will continue to hope for a big lottery win, but given that I don’t play the lotto, my chances aren’t looking too good…

I’ve been out to TB’s twice since my last post – once last Wednesday evening, and then again on Saturday afternoon. What can I say, other than I absolutely adore Quinn. He’s such a nice horse, incredibly calm and level headed and a quick learner too. He’s not the most patient boy, but he’s only a baby so I’m keeping that in mind as we work on patience. Throughout the whole process, I’m trying to keep in mind the big picture – that the goal for this boy is to find a forever home. This is very important so that a) I don’t get too attached and b) so that I can focus on things that will help him get a great home. First impressions are extremely important to potential buyers, especially when the market is flooded with good horses. As a result, I’m really paying attention to ground manners and teaching them consistently as part of our lesson time. Quinn is pretty good on the x-ties, he fidgets a bit, and paws, so I’m trying to stop that. He’s also a bit fussy about his ears, which has repercussions for bridling, so we will continue to work on that too. He also is not a fan of standing still for mounting. It’s been a bit of a dance trying to balance teaching him to stand while I get on. We have made improvements though – on Saturday he stood still until I was in the saddle, then he decided to moonwalk backwards which tipped me onto his neck. I caught my balance quickly and then we stood still for about a minute so he received a lot of praise for that. Riding-wise, we are getting the hang of each other. Our ride on Saturday was excellent. He moved off my leg incredibly well and was feeling pretty light in my hands. I was doing a lot of transitions and various figures and also practiced straightness using the quarter lines. All-in-all, I’m really enjoying working with him. I’m going out to work with him again tonight and possibly do a double header with a TB mare named Amber! I got an email from TB yesterday saying that there’s a potential buyer for Amber and that she could use a few sessions with a strong rider – quite flattering!

On the Corona front, I had a PHENOMENAL time with him on Saturday. We started off with some groundwork, where I really focussed on establishing my own personal space and asking him to stay out of it. The whole “I want him put down” incident with the Boss has given me a new and more confident/determined attitude with him. Whether good or bad, I see it as my mission to prove to everyone around how great this horse can be. Whether it’s a fluke or not, who knows, but since I’ve had this confidence with him, things have changed for the better. I basically will not take his crap – any of it. Ever. Why? Because if I do, I am risking his life. Period. I’m not willing to put his life on the line so I need to be the best that I can be at all times.

Usually when I work with my “savvy” stick and string, Corona tends to spook at the string anytime it’s dragged across the ground. Not on Saturday! Could this be a result of my confident attitude? Perhaps! Regardless, I was really happy and this has made me even more confident! Funny how that happens – confidence leads to good results, which leads to more confidence! We did lots of groundwork – leading, backing up, yielding the hindquarters and forehand, basically focussed on the Parelli games #1-3 and practiced yielding to various pressures while at the same time keeping out of my space. I ended the session with some trotting in hand and not getting in front of me when I would stop. I wish I had a video of this. This horse was stopping dead in his tracks without getting ahead of me. Amazing. I wished the Boss had seen it, but she was in the house at the time. I dream of the day when I show all the doubters what this horse can do, I can just imagine their jaws dropped on the floor and Corona and I riding bareback and bridle-less into the sunset (yes, I may be getting *slightly* ahead of myself)…

After our groundwork, I tacked him up and we went on a nice walk around the track. The wind was howling and there were snowdrifts everywhere. We didn’t last too long out there but we had a great couple of laps. Super relaxed, I was asking for flexion and yields and my furry friend was more than happy to oblige. There was no spooking, no acting up, it was just blissful.

I also wanted to ride because I had just bought Corona a new saddle pad – I thought we both needed a little pick-me-up to signal our new found determination. It’s red with white and navy trim and really suits him, picture is below. There was a sale at the local horse store which I took advantage of (saddle pad, two pairs of black bell boots, maple flavoured treats), and I had to go anyway to pick up some Quietex – side note: the Boss sent me a text last week telling me to get some for Corona. I will emphasize here that it wasn’t a request. Apparently his old owner used to use it on him and suggested it to the Boss when the Boss was no doubt informing her of the drama of her wanting to get rid of the horse the week before. I didn’t ask details, I just bought it because if that’s what it takes to keep the Boss happy for the time being, then so be it. I don’t know how I feel about using it – I personally don’t think he needs it, but am interested to see how it affects him.

On another note – I’m pretty sure the sh*t is about the hit the fan at the Boss’. CG told me that on Sunday, the Trainer told her that he was moving as of this Friday (i.e.: the day after tomorrow). None of us have heard anything from the Boss on the subject. The Trainer was supposed to be leaving in May, but this change in plans is just moving up the inevitable chaos that was going to ensue in May anyways. Not sure what the plan is for the racehorses (4), or the other boarders’ horses (3). I had thought that the Boss was going to have downsized to a manageable number (4 or 5) before the Trainer left because she wouldn’t have the daily help the way she does with the Trainer. With the sudden change in the Trainers’ plans, things haven’t exactly worked out the way they had planned. Also, apparently the Boss has decided that she might start up again with one of the racehorses (Bally) who was retired (for a number of reasons)…given that the Boss is not physically capable of taking up a horse, let alone hitching a jogger to it, this should be interesting. When will the madness end?!

I should have some interesting updates to provide this weekend…

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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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Foster fun!

27 Feb

On Monday night, I went out to meet the woman I wrote about in my last post, hereby known as TB. If you recall, TB is the current foster mom of 10 horses who have been taken from a feedlot in my area. She is working on their manners and training and of course, finding them forever homes.

I was really impressed with TB, she obviously is passionate about horses and also about the cause and is willing to donate her time and resources towards making a difference for these horses. In fact, I was so impressed with everything that she was saying, I think I was grinning from ear-to-ear the entire time I was out there, haha. TB told me that she had received quite a lot of respones from her facebook post and that the majority of responses came from people novice horsepeople, or complete beginners who were really interested in getting involved for the learning opportunity. She also eluded to the fact that she received some responses from people who had taken in one of the rescue horses from the feedlot and have now realized that they’re in over their heads and are looking at this as a learning opportunity. Recognizing that this isn’t exactly what she was anticipating from the responses, she is proposing that she creates an inclusive learning environment for the people and the horses. Basically what she is suggesting is that she puts us into groups so that each group has one experienced person, with some beginners. This will allow her to lead the learning but will also provide her with the support of an experienced person to assist. She also said that for the experienced people, she wanted us to look at this like a lease situation but without the fees – that we can feel free to come and ride when we’re available, just to let her know that we’re coming.

I was introduced to all the horses at the barn, there are probably about 15 in total, including the 10 rescues. Seeing the rescues was very surreal to say the least. I recognized a number of them from the facebook group and it was so sad, but yet inspriring, to know that these horses literally had only days left before they were slaughtered. They were all just gorgeous and incredibly friendly. When TB saw how tall I was (I’m 5’11) she introduced me to Quinn, a large chestnut quarter horse gelding, and mentioned that she thought I’d work well with him. The other great thing about this guy is that she thinks he’d make a good dressage prospect, and she’d like to take him to some shows this summer (provided he’s not sold before then). TB is big into dressage and we had a good conversation on the subject and she was excited that dressage is my interest as well. I think I shocked her a bit when she asked me who my coach was and my response was, “well, I don’t’ really have one…the Boss knows a lot about horses but she does’t coach us so we just do everything on our own.” TB then offered to give me a bit of coaching to assist me in my dressage endeavours!

It was left that TB will look at everyone’s availabilities and put together a bit of a tentative schedule and we’ll just go from there. I really can’t believe how great this sounds. I’m incredibly excited to help these horses move into their new homes, I’m excited to meet other like-minded horse people, and I’m excited for the huge learning opportunity that awaits.

I haven’t said anything to the Boss about this yet, I’m going to wait a little while just to make sure things are working out before mentioning anything. I don’t think she will frown upon it, but I am a bit worried she may feel threatened or put out that I’m exploring this opportunity as well (threatened may be a bit strong of a word..). The other part I’m worried about is mentioning that these horses were pulled from the feedlot because the Boss does send horses that route and does support it as a necessary industry.

All that aside, I’m really excited about this…

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