Fine, I’ll Ride My Own Darn Horse

I’ve started putting Slewy, my loveable, dorky, slightly nutty, rather large, off-the-track-Thoroughbred back to work.  Which leads to me contemplating actually getting back on him.  Hmmm . . .

So I came up with what I thought was a good idea.  I asked the trainer who my daughter rides with (and I’ve ridden with a bit) if she would get on him a couple of times before I did.

Besides being slightly daunted at the thought of climbing back aboard, I thought she could give me some insight about how best to work with him under saddle.  (Ok, that’s what I told myself . . . really its because I’m a wee bit concerned about riding my spooky, 17 hand, horse.)

She said, “NO!”

I was like, “What?”

“He’s crazy.  No.”

I tried to talk her into it, noting that he has never offered to buck, he just gets a “little” strong, and promising to lunge him for another week or so before she comes out.

“No.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

I was surprised.  And then a little miffed.

First of all, he’s not “that” crazy.  He practices his airs above the ground and he’s wiggly in the cross-ties but he’s never once offered to buck.  Sometimes he forgets he’s not a race horse any more (which is funny because he sucked at racing) but you can tell he’s trying really, really hard to be good.

Second, isn’t that her job . . . to ride horses??  (I know I might get some flak for this one.)  Doesn’t she train horses?  Isn’t she the professional who rides all the time and has the skills to deal with young and green horses?  She does train green horses besides giving lessons to kids.  I completely understand not wanting to get hurt but, back to point number one, Slewy’s not that crazy and I definitely wouldn’t call him dangerous by any stretch of the imagination.  Like I said, he tries hard to be good.

But, ok.  Sigh.  Kind of like Ella and Ghost, I want to prove that Slewy can be good.  So, I guess I’ll ride my own darn horse.  Look how cute he is!!!

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A Tale of Two Thoroughbreds

Here at Stori Stable, we have Slewy and Ghost.  Here’s Slewy:

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And here’s Ghost (who wasn’t feeling like having his picture taken.  Slewy LOVES to have his picture taken.)

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Both Slewy and Ghost are 14 years old.  Both are off the track.  Both are about 17 hands tall.  Both raced only a few times.

Slewy has had a pretty cushy life.  He has only had two owners – his breeder and me.  He had a whole extra year to grow up; his breeder doesn’t believe in sending their horses to the track until they’re 3.  He was well-treated at the track, ran terribly 3 or 4 times, and was brought back home.

Then I bought him.  He was sent to a nice trainer to be re-started for his new career.  He lives here, in our quiet little barn, with his buddies.  He has never been mis-treated.

Slewy is a complete dork.  Slewy spooks at everything.  Slewy gets into everything, knocks stuff off the table, tries to eat his halter when you put it on, wants to “help” with whatever you’re doing, and firmly believes he can fit in your lap.

Slewy rarely walks in from his daily turn-out without practicing his “airs above the ground.”  I’m positive he sees a future for himself at the Spanish Riding School and that’s why he practices so diligently.  Its about the only thing he does consistently.

images (1)  I’m pretty sure this is Slewy’s goal.

And then there’s Ghost.  From what we know, Ghost had a good life for awhile once retiring from giving racing a try.  He also only ran a few times.  He was owned by a nice family and well taken care of until his girl went to college and he was sold.  He fell into the wrong hands for a few years and was passed through a few people, none of whom treated him kindly.  Eventually, he was rescued by a kind person who rehabbed him.  But, by then, his coat was marked with scars, he was extremely underweight, and his teeth and hooves hadn’t had any attention in far, far too long.

We bought him from the kind lady who rescued him, put a bit of weight on him and promised him she would only sell him to a good home . . . which turned out to be us!!!

Ghost is kind as can be.  He’s loving and steady.  He doesn’t spook.  He takes things in stride.  When you put his bridle on, he drops his head, looks at you and quietly says, “I’m glad you’re here!  What do we get to go do?”  He’s willing and trusting.

Ghost has lived with us, right next door to Slewy, for not quite a year.  Slewy has lived here for 10 years.

Neither Slewy nor Ghost did much work over the winter when our arena is too muddy to work in.  They both got turned out, together, along with Stormy our old guy, almost daily.  

And last week, when we set out for our first lunging session?  Well, there were turkeys at the end of the arena.  Ugh.  Turkeys.

Ghost:  “Oh, hey, did you guys see those turkeys over there?  O.k.  I saw them too.  No big deal.”

Slewy:  “Hey Person!!!!  There’s TURKEYS over there!!!!!  They might KILL us!!!  RUN AWAY!!!!”

Aahhhh . . . Slewy.

Maybe Ghost will be a steadying presence to Slewy?  Maybe?  I can always hope something will be a steadying presence to Slewy.  Its good to hope.

At least I have Slewy to save me from killer turkeys.

Slewy’s Saddle-Fitting

My trainer came out yesterday to check Slewy’s saddle fit.  Last year, I had my saddle “re-flocked”, which means they open up the saddle and redo the padding and stuffing in it to make it soft again.  I also had it widened a bit.

But, because of how my life goes, I had never put it on Slewy so we didn’t know how it fit.

At the saddle-fitters advice, I also bought a Mattes saddle pad, which is perhaps the most expensive piece of tack I’ve ever bought.  It has its own bag, which it will return to after each use!

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Its white and fluffy and oh-so-soft and beautiful and I intend it to stay that way!!!

The Mattes meant that I also had to buy another saddle pad to go under it, between its snowy whiteness and my horse.  Horses are never-ending . . . buying one thing leads to the need for another.

Anyway . . . we went super slow with Slewy, letting him give each new saddle pad and the saddle a thorough sniffing over before putting them on him.  He’s a super anxious horse so slow is the only way to go.

He was super good!  He probably hasn’t had a saddle on in nearly a year.  But once things were completely sniffed, he was fine.  It took him a minute to remember that he can walk with a girth on but that’s ok.

My trainer gave the thumbs up to our new saddle pads and saddle fit.  Yay!!!

But, here’s the not so good news.  Slewy is still super skinny.  And his back is sore, which is weird since he hasn’t done anything much in the last year.  She said I could ride him but I’ve decided to wait until he puts some weight on and gains some muscle.  As inpatient as I am, it wasn’t a hard decision to make because I want to do this right.

So, I’ve sentenced Slewy and I to more boring lunging.  But, Slewy also now gets all the hay he can eat and that makes him a super happy horse!

At least with all good pads and a properly fitting saddle, I feel like we’ve made some forward progress.  Now, I just need a fat horse!

Its a Good Idea to Label Your Garden

We plant a garden every year; usually at least four tomato plants, some lettuce, carrots, lemon cucumber, potatoes, and whatever else.  I’ve given up on zucchini.  Everyone around here plants zucchini, it grows like crazy, everyone always has too much zucchini and is trying to give it away, and, at least in my house, no one really likes it.

This year, I bought a ton of seeds for cool, funky, heirloom vegetables from the Baker Seed Company catalog.  I made the mistake of assuming most of them wouldn’t grow.  So, to start my seeds, I dumped a whole bunch of seeds into my little seed starting containers.

Surprise!  The majority of them popped right up.  Then, I was faced with the problem of root tangle.  So, I just transplanted them in clumps.  Now I have a clump of tomato plants, for example.  None of which are getting very big.  Hmmmm . . .

But my bigger problem is with the seeds I direct sowed into the garden beds.  For some unknown reason, I didn’t keep track of what I planted in any way.  So now I’m faced with this:

20190530_112754  What are baby veggies and what are weeds??  I’ve got no idea!!!  I planted a couple of different things in each container so I’m not even sure what veggies to look for.

Yesterday, as I was studying  my budding garden and this problem was dawning on me, I tried to look for patterns . . . like, similar looking plants in a row.  That helped in a few containers; I think I identified some baby beets.  But overall, its going to be garden surprise!

So, folks, remember to label your garden!!!!

A Week or So of Lunging

First Slewy update:

I’ve managed to lunge him for several days now (consistency is one of my challenges).  He’s done pretty well!  But then, he’s typically good on the lunge line.  We’ve been lunging at the same time my daughter lunges one of the minis.  Occasionally Slewy forgets which person he’s supposed to listen to but, for the most part, he’s paid attention to me and remained focused on what we’re doing, rather than what the small ones in the other half of the arena are doing.

I gave him  yesterday off because on Monday, he really just wasn’t having it.  He obliged me by trotting and cantering around but, when we changed directions after about 15 minutes, he said he was done.  So, after a few decent circles, I let him be and turned him out with his buddy.

I am concerned that he trips quite a bit.  And that he drags his right hind toe.  If I lunge him over a trot pole, 95% of the time he clonks his right hind toe on the pole.  I’m hoping that either 1) he’s just being lazy and / or 2) this will improve as his conditioning improves.

Our other problem is that, let’s face it, lunging is boring for both of us.  Everything I’ve read says that ground work is of the utmost importance.  But, honestly, I know zero about it.  I really want to try double-lunging or long-lining him but I’m kind of scared to.  He’s so sensitive and I’m scared I’ll screw him up.  I just ordered the book, “Schooling Horses in Hand” by Richard Hinrichs.  Hopefully that will be helpful.

Tomorrow my trainer is coming to check saddle fit.

Minis Update:

I just finished reading “Step-By-Step Guide To Training a Miniature Horse to Drive”.  Its super helpful.  Very clearly written with lots of pictures.  The author makes the whole process sound super simple.

We’ve been lunging the minis as well because everyone needs to get back into shape.  But I think we can undertake some of the exercises in the book as well to try to keep things interesting.

Sorry I didn’t have time for pictures this morning!  Next time!

The Road to Riding Slewy

The chestnut (light brown for the non-horsey readers) is Slewy.

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I’ve had Slewy since he was 4 years old; he’s now 12.  He’s an OTTB (Off-The-Track-Thoroughbred), which means he was a racehorse.  I bought him pretty much straight off the track.  He had been brought home from the track to his owner’s place and allowed to relax for a couple of months before looking for his new people, which wound up being me.

Pretty much everyone thought I was insane for buying him.  My two previous horses were disasters and my confidence was at an all-time low.  So, what do I do?  Buy an untrained, huge, racehorse.  Yeah, ’cause that’s a wise decision.

I have ridden Slewy.  But its been  years.  I was just scrolling through my phone looking for the photo of me on Slewy and my daughter on her first mini, Flicka, but instead I came across the photos I took of the kids and Flicka in the days before we lost Flicka to EPM (a horrible, non-preventable disease) and that made me cry.

O.k., moving on. . . .

I have struggled with Slewy the entire time I’ve owned him.  I’ve been advised to sell him on numerous occasions, by numerous people.  My farrier has called him “dangerous”.  My vet has told me “your horse has a severe case of ADD”.  But I can’t quite give him up.

I know that part of my inability to give him up is rooted in my need to prove something.  To prove to myself that I do know what I’m doing with horses.  That I am a good rider.  And that I can handle a horse like Slewy.  (This has been confirmed through recent lessons with a well-respected trainer who admitted that, when I first discussed Slewy with her, she thought I was insane.  But then, when she saw me ride, she was like, “Oh my gosh, this lady can ride.”)

Second reason I can’t give Slewy up is that he’s the type of horse that I’m afraid could easily fall into the wrong hands.  He takes confidence.  And patience.  So. Much. Patience.  I’m afraid that someone could quickly get frustrated with him (or scared of him) and thump on him.  And then, he’d totally lose it and not recover.  It wouldn’t be a good situation for anyone.  So, he has a forever home here no matter what.

I have gone through periods of time when I’m absolutely frightened of Slewy.  He would never purposefully hurt anyone; the horse doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.  But, he does jump around and rear and play when you’re bringing him back from being turned  out with his buddy (my 29 year old, retired, Thoroughbred – the one behind him in the photo).  And, at 17 hands (that’s big for the non-horsey readers – I’m 5’4″ and I cannot see over his back), that gets scary.

But in the past few months, really, since January, the fear has disappeared.  I can’t explain why.  I wish I could.  For the first time in a long time, I’m actually excited about the prospect of riding my horse.

I believe in Slewy.  I whole-heartedly believe that somewhere under the ADD, there’s a really good horse who just needs kindness and patience.

And so I’m putting him back to work.  I’ve bought fancy, ridiculously expensive saddle pads and had my saddle altered so its just perfect for him.  Of course, he’s extremely sensitive . . . think the Princess and the Pea sensitive.  I’ve started lunging him.  Unfortunately, this crazy May weather we’re having has interrupted that.  With all the rain we’ve had, my arena is a lake.  But, I’m not going to get discouraged.  Its supposed to dry out after today.

I don’t know what twists and turns lie ahead on the road to getting back on Slewy.  But, for the first time in years, I’m heading down it because I want to; not because I feel like I have to.  And I’m hoping that makes all the difference.

New Pets at Stori Stable!

Stori Stable (my little home barn) welcomed a couple of new family members just before the holidays.  First, came Hazelnut the duck.

img_20181209_163718_485  She’s extremely sweet and doesn’t mind being held.  Well, she doesn’t mind my daughter holding her; I’m working on it.  Ducks are more difficult to hold than chickens.

Hazelnut was a spontaneous acquisition.  A sort of friend posted on Facebook that Hazelnut needed a new home.  Of course, I immediately said, “I want a duck!!!”  After it was all settled that Hazelnut would come to live with us, I informed Husband.  “We’re getting a duck!”  “Why?” he asked.  “Ummm . . . why not??  Its a DUCK!!” I explained.

As we were settling in Hazelnut, our good friend called, asking if they could finally bring their bunny Chloe over to meet our bunny, Hammie.  “Ummm . . . we just got a duck.” I said.  Our friend sounded so crest-fallen (we had talked about Chloe and Hammie meeting for a long time now) that I called him right back and said, “Fine, bring Chloe over.”

20190112_170220_1547342674275_001 (1)  Of course, now Chloe is a Stori Stable resident as well.  The picture is Chloe trying out hopping around on her bunny harness and leash.  She was very enthusiastic about this prospect.  And Hammie is now a much, much more engaged, happy bunny since he has Chloe.  Yay!!!  Bunny happiness all around!!

Hazelnut, for her part, is happily settling in with our nice chicken flock.  Every once in awhile Frizzle the rooster thinks about chasing her but Hazelnut just looks at him, quacks (who knew that ducks are SO loud??) and then Frizzle thinks better of it.

All four of the horses got turned out over the weekend.  Unfortunately, rain is forecast for the first part of the week. 20190114_113236.jpg  My Thoroughbreds are  convinced they will melt in the rain so I just leave them in the barn.  If I do turn them out and water falls from the sky, they stand at the gate and look like they’re about to die until I go rescue them.

Once we dry out, I’ll get back to horses and bunny walks!