“He’s Just a Hard-Keeper”

Slewy, my off-the-track Thoroughbred, has always been a hard-keeper.  I feed him and feed him and feed him some more, and he eats everything in sight (I think feeding time is his absolute favorite thing) but he’s still skinny.  I’ve done all the basics – regular deworming, regular teeth floating, basic blood work, etc.

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t think I realized just how skinny he was.  I think its harder when your horses live at home and you see them at least twice a day.  I stopped seeing that his hip bones were a little too pokey and his ribs showed a bit too much.  Plus, when I got him, he was still “race fit” so I’ve never really known him any other way.

I haven’t written about it much (probably because I’m embarrassed) but I’ve owned Slewy for seven years now and really have made very little progress on his training.  He’s still definitely what you would call “green”.  There’s a variety of reasons for that – the biggest one probably being my own confidence issues.  So, when I found a new trainer for my daughter that we both absolutely love, I decided it was time once again to tackle Slewy.

I managed to get on him a few times but noticed that every time I got his saddle out, he would roll his eyes with this, “please don’t put that on me” look.  Things didn’t improve once I was onboard.  Poor Slewy was so terribly tense that I was constantly fearful that he was going to explode any minute.  Which, of course, made me tense, which sent the two of us in a vicious circle.

Finally, my new trainer came out to take a look.  She informed me just how ridiculously skinny he was and convinced me that he can’t “just be a hard-keeper.”  She suspected gastric ulcers.  Thankfully, the super fancy vet clinic nearby was sponsoring a talk by the Ulcer Guard folks and were scoping horses for gastric ulcers for just $100.  So, off we went.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it I suppose) Slewy didn’t have any glaring ulcers.  He had one little tiny ulcer (maybe) but his entire stomach lining looked inflamed and ouchie.  Honestly, I was more than a little disappointed that we didn’t have a definite diagnosis.

So I plopped myself down in my vet’s office (different from the fancy vet clinic).  We decided to make some major changes to Slewy’s diet and did a briefer (less expensive) course of Ulcer Guard.  I decided to give him a couple of months off.

That was all in October.  Now, in late January here, I think he’s finally a little fatter!!!  I still haven’t put him back to work because its been raining and my arena is a swamp.  Slewy just gets turned out with his buddy, brushed, and fed.  While he’s working on putting some weight on, I’ve been taking lessons on my trainer’s dead quiet lesson horse to try to improve my confidence and get my legs back in shape.  Next step for Slewy is to start back on the lunge line (once my arena dries out) and then we’re going to take a look at how his saddle fits.  I wish I could take some of my minis’ fat and stick it on Slewy.  Then everybody would be in better shape!

Maybe Slewy will always be somewhat of a hard-keeper.  But at least now I feel like we’re on the right track to him being healthier.  I’m trying to not worry about the fact that his one month off has turned into several months.  We’ll get back to riding eventually and hopefully it will be a better experience for both of us!


When Your “Happy Place” is also Your “Sad Place”

I love my horses and I love spending time in my barn.  Its where I do my best thinking and, even though I often forget it and neglect to spend enough time there, hanging out with my horses truly makes me happy.

But its complicated.  While my barn is most definitely one of my most happy places, its also a sad place sometimes.

My horse, Stormy, turned 28 on June 13.  I was hanging out in the barn with him and, for some reason, my thoughts turned to my beloved first horse, Tori.  Pretty quickly, I was sitting in my barn, balling my eyes out.  I had to put Tori down on September 3, 1997 – that was a long time ago!!!!  But oftentimes it seems like it was yesterday.  Is it always going to seem like that?

Hanging out with my current horses – Stormy, my retired old guy; Slewy, my gorgeous off-the-track Thoroughbred I can’t seem to ride; and Holly, the kids’ mini – is certainly comforting.  But, sometimes I’m in the barn and I’m just overwhelmed with how much I miss Tori, how he was supposed to still be here with me (I know he’s always “with” me).

Compounding my sadness is the fact that I feel like I’m failing Tori daily by not riding Slewy.  Its as if all the time we spent together and all the skills he taught me is somehow being wasted.  That, though, hasn’t been enough motivation to get me back to riding Slewy.

Because Slewy’s not Tori.  They’re both Thoroughbreds and I put Slewy’s bit on Tori’s bridle, hoping that would help. They have similar personalities – sweet, kind, inquisitive, always in your pocket.

I just know that somehow, in my slightly nutty head, this is getting in the way of riding Slewy again.  And I’m just not sure what to do about it.  Logically, I think I would feel better if I were riding.  But logic doesn’t seem to have much to do with this.  If it were all up to my logic, I would have been riding years ago.

My happy place being my sad place makes it complicated.  And difficult to move forward.

When Your Passion, well . . . Isn’t.

I’ve ridden horses since I was 9 years old.  My parents finally gave into riding lessons by assuring themselves that my love of horses was a “phase” that would soon be cured by a few lessons.  After all, we did live in suburban Los Angeles – I was a city girl.

So much for the “phase” theory.  The main requirement when my husband and I were shopping for our first house was that it the property be flat enough for a barn and riding arena.  I now have a lovely little barn, an arena and three horses.

Despite that, I haven’t ridden in over a year.  I haven’t consistently ridden in probably 10 years.  My daughter rides and yesterday we tried out a new barn for her to take lessons at.  Watching her ride made me almost want to climb aboard my off-the-track Thoroughbred again.  Almost.  Maybe.

I expressed that thought to a friend of mine who replied something along the lines of “well, I know its always been a passion of yours.”  And that got me to thinking . . . has it been?  Was it?  Is it still?

Horses are definitely part of my identity as far as most people who know me are concerned.  But the fact that I ride and own horses is certainly not the first thing I’d tell you about myself.  I enjoy my time in the barn, which now mainly consists of feeding the horses, turning them out, cleaning stalls, brushing them, etc.  My best thinking is done in the barn.  No matter what’s going on, time in barn is pretty much guaranteed to improve my mood.

Can I even say that I “ride”? Or do I need to move that to past tense . . . “I rode.”?

I constantly berate myself for not riding my horse.  He’s likely the nicest horse I’ve ever owned or will ever own.  I constantly tell myself that it is therefore ridiculous that I don’t ride him.  For awhile I was just flat out afraid of him but that’s a story for another day.  And our relationship on the ground is definitely on the upswing lately.

But back to the “passion” issue.  I tend to think that if riding truly was my passion, I’d be finding a way to do it.  I’d be finding a way to make time for it even with all my mom, wife, attorney, etc. responsibilities.  So I’m wondering . . . is it really my  “passion” anymore?  It was when I was 9 certainly – but not any more so than any other horse-crazy, 9 year old, little girl.

Is the fact that I haven’t gotten back on my horse evidence enough that I’m ready to give it up?  And if so, how do I let go of that part of myself?  How do I tell my first serious riding instructor (who I still am friends with), “you know, I don’t think I’m going to ride anymore.”??  She’s also on the “but its your ‘passion'” bandwagon.  My Mom believes the same, “oh but you’re so, so good with horses.”  Ummm . . . yeah, Mom, not so much.  My last two horses destroyed my confidence and I’m just plain scared of my current one half the time.

I feel like “I’m not going to ride anymore” is an extremely radical statement.  Maybe I need to get back on my horse and ride a bit first.  Maybe that will help sway me one direction or the other.  Maybe I need to stop making such a big deal out of this.

In the meantime, I enjoyed watching my daughter ride yesterday.  It made me almost want to ride myself.  Almost.  Maybe.