Retirement?

Man, when I decide to re-invent my life I have to go all in. I thought a horse would be a nice diversion, but now I’m looking at another horse and real-estate.

Fia, my first purchase, has turned out to be something a bit different than what I thought I’d bought. She was sweet and easy to work with at first, but then I took her halter off and turned her loose and she decided to go feral. I haven’t touched her since. Not from lack of trying, mind you.IMG_0263

Let’s just say we are learning more about each other every day. It’s my fault. I wrote a book about a black horse who was mishandled and then needed to be rehabilitated. (Miss Tea- it’s posted below in installments) I guess Fia read the book and now she wants to play the starring role. I’m about to learn if the stuff I wrote (it’s FICTION!) works.

So that’s my on-going project, learning patience, and how to be a horse whisperer. I am enjoying the process, and I’m learning a lot. But I still haven’t been able to ride and my great-niece would like to learn to ride too.

I’m looking for a second horse. Okay–I’m buying a horse for my horse. I think she would benefit from having a pasture mate. This time I’m getting one with no mental illness that I can actually ride. Did I mention that the state of my bank account is looking poorly?

I did get the horse trailer out of the mud finally. It still has no floor, the wiring is a puzzle that puts Rubic’s Cube to shame, and I’m pretty sure the wheel bearings haven’t seen grease in a decade. I really want to get a new trailer, but…IMG_0264

Real-estate. Something with some acreage and a large pole barn that could be converted to a riding arena. See what I mean about going a little nuts with my dreaming? All of this was because it was a long, cold winter and I was bored.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to pick up some extra hours at work to pay for all my enthusiasm. Oh wait–I was doing the horse thing because I’d have time now that I’m retired. Retired? Ha!

I’m not complaining. I’m happy to be able to still do what I want to do. I think I understand now why Dad can’t quite give up “farming”. Retirement is great, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

 

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Catch and Release

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything–I’ve been busy with my new horse. Okay–I have not been riding yet. There is still a ton of mud–thick, greasy, foot-sucking mud. And it snowed again, but that really isn’t the reason.

I’m still working on making friends with Fia. She’s not so sure that I’m not an evil horse-preditor human. I confess I did have a hypodermic needle hidden in my pocket. I wanted to be sure I got her vaccinated and I have that tube of dewormer just waiting to zap any vermin she may be harboring. How does she know?

She let me know that she was on to my devious ways. I thought I was being so nonchalant about the whole idea of vaccinating, but she knew. She showed me how frightened she was–I didn’t even have the vaccine out yet, but horse panic is no joke. No doubt my body language tipped her off.

So I’ve backed off for now. I put the needles back in the fridge. No, I don’t think you should let a little horse behavior put you off, but in this case, I need to build some trust first. I need to rethink what slow means. In Fia’s case, I think it will be a good long while until she is ready to trust me. I need to learn to trust her as well.

It took three days, but we had a breakthrough today. Instead of trying to catch her I just waited. She came over and caught me. I think this thing is going to work out. I still have grand ideas about riding upper-level dressage in my indoor arena, (no, not even a remote possibility yet) but for now, I’m happy with catch and release.

Fia-My trip back?

I jumped in with both feet and the water (or mud and snow as in the case of my parent’s Minnesota farm) is deep. I decided to just look at horses for sale. I wasn’t buying. I was over it. I didn’t need to get back into horses, but just looking wouldn’t hurt–right?

Then I saw her. Actually, she was the first horse that came up when I did a search online. It was February in Minnesota. I was sick of being indoors, really tired of writing and I wanted to go somewhere. The horse was like, five hours away, but I got in the pickup and started driving. Did I mention that I was not going to buy a horse?

I used to do horses. I used to be horses. But now I’ve got nothing except for a saddle that I couldn’t get sold. If I was going to get into horses, I’d have to start from scratch, buying all the equipment, and feed. I’d have to rebuild all the fence on my parent’s farm to keep a horse there, although the board would be free. No, there was no way I could possibly get back into horses, but I just wanted to look. It would be a nice diversion on a cold winter day.

I think I had the mare bought before I even got out of the truck. She is beautiful, as all horses are, but there was something else. Something that made me know I needed to buy this horse. She is kind and sweet-tempered and moves like a dream. She doesn’t know much for an almost ten-year-old horse. I didn’t even ride her or need to.

I drove back home trying to talk myself out of buying her. Of course, that didn’t work. I had to scurry around trying to buy hay in the middle of winter when the prices go up and everyone is running out of hay to sell. The fence had to be rebuilt to be sure there would be a safe place to put her. With snow up past my knees, I managed to build a small corral that adjoins the barn. It will have to do for now, until the ground thaws.   I tried to dig my Dad’s old trailer out of the snow to no avail. The floor needs to be replaced and all the wiring is shot, but I can do all that.

Then it snowed again. Hard. I’d already put off picking her up for almost a month, but there was no way to get a truck and trailer in there. She would have to wait another week.

Fia first dayDad’s trailer is still frozen in solid, but I got the old floor out. I rented a trailer and we went to pick her up. I think Dad was as excited as I am. He said he would love to ride her. Dad is ninety.

Fia is a black Andalusian mare. She was sold as a broodmare due to her lack of training. Her story is long and sad. She has had some mishandling in her past, causing her to be timid. I think it will take a long time to overcome her fears, but I’ve got time. She has a big job ahead of her too. She needs to teach me how to find my passion for horses again. So far she is doing a great job.

Book Review *****

Another great read from Diana Vincent. The story continues with many unseen twists and turns. This book will have you on the edge of your seat while Sierra and River plot to Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 5.36.05 AMrescue a horse from certain disaster. Ms. Vincent has done an excellent job of bringing the reader emotionally into the story while keeping descriptions of training and barn life accurate. Read the whole series.

Roo: Letting a Horse Be a Horse

This post choked me up. Horses give so much to us humans, but all too often the minute they quit giving, we let them go. I’m hoping to find a retired horse or pony as a pasture mate for the mare I’ve just bought.

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

I was doing what I do when I lay down at night; mentally taking the late night walk-through, tossing hay for overnight, checking horses one last time. I’m in New Zealand now, one of the most beautiful places in the world, and missing my little farm on the flat, windy, treeless prairie of Colorado. It’s the first place that ever felt like home. Some of you know what I mean.

I’m thinking about an old horse on my farm. He doesn’t even belong to me.

Roo is a lost horse. That’s what his “owner” calls him. She had no intention of owning him and as for him, well, he has low expectations at this point in his life. He failed at his last position, and most likely, a few before that. His history is lost, too.

His name is Rooster, maybe he was that cocky when he was a colt…

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The Horse Thing

Now I’ve done it. I’ve been away from the horse world for a while. Life got in the way and I sold everything. The horses, the trailer, the tack, even the farm. Horses were my whole world for forty-some years, and then I just quit.

I had it all, a place of my own and a stable full of good horses. I had connections to other horse people. What happened? How could any dedicated horse loving person just walk away from that?

Brain Fart. Had to be. It’s been over fifteen years now, and as I look back I can see some things that I couldn’t see then.

I’ve always loved reading and learning, so of course, I applied that to riding as well. I needed to know what all the masters were doing. I wanted to excel in every way. I had to ride the same kind of horse they rode. That isn’t a bad thing–right?

It isn’t bad to do your best to improve. But it is important to know your limits. I was fortunate enough to be able to breed my mare to a Warmblood Stallion. The colt, Lustig, grew up to to be over seventeen hands, strong and magnificent. I loved that horse. I wanted to do everything right for him.

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Lusitg as a yearling

It started early on. Lustig was well aware of his size and strength. I started teaching him about trailering and all the important things a horse needs to know at a very early age. I used the patient, slow methods that I had read about.

Lustig began training me the day he was born.

Being a colt, he was mouthy. By that I mean he liked to test everything with his teeth, the lead rope, the brushes, my arm. He wasn’t mean, but he treated me (and everyone else) like another horse. He bit–hard. I gelded him early hoping it would help, but it never changed the behavior. I did what my instructors told me to do. I did what the books said. I tried everything. The biting got better, but I had to watch him all the time.

The biting thing was only the beginning. Lustig used his size to push me around. I think I won that war by teaching him to move away from pressure, but not until he had me pinned one day and I lost it.

Trailering was a battle every time. I spent hours using wisdom from experienced trainers. I even bought him a custom trailer that would accommodate his large size. I tried loading him daily and not taking him anywhere. None of this made any difference. If he didn’t want to go, he didn’t. No, I didn’t just let him have his way. I would stay with it until long after it made sense to continue. But what do you do with three-quarters of a ton of horse that flings himself on the ground and refuses to get up? Yeah, I tried that. Sometimes he would get in and then throw himself down in the trailer. It wasn’t pretty.

So why would I keep such a monster? I felt like I was somebody–part of the dressage crowd. Don’t get me wrong. I did have some great rides on Lustig. I was taking lessons and advanced quite a bit. I even got to ride a few steps of piaffe. But this was clearly not the right horse for me.

I stubbornly held on to Lustig thinking he would make me somebody in the dressage world. His breeding said it would happen. The horse didn’t even have much talent. More than one trainer and several judges pointed out how lazy and heavy in my hands he was. It wasn’t fun to go anywhere with him. We never won at shows. I was spending tons of money I didn’t have.

I finally let him go. I sold him with full disclosure about his problems. (Or more likely my problems). I had to sell him to give him a chance. I often wonder what he could have become under the right rider. I also wonder how much more I could have learned with the right horse for me.

I did go on to have other horses. My next warmblood was showing some talent and I was offered a good chunk of money for him. I took it. I’d lost confidence in my ability. I felt like I was the problem. Life got in the way. I sold the farm.

It’s interesting how the mind can suppress things to the point where it just seems like it’s gone. I grieved when I sold the farm, but I didn’t have the desire to ride. I figured I’d just outgrown my love for horses. Fast forward a few years and a couple of marriages. (The Lustig obsession didn’t help matters in that department either, but that’s another story.)

My son, Jay remembered that going to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna had always been on my bucket list. He isn’t a horse person, the poor kid had to endure hours of me playing a video of the Airs Above the Ground when he was little. He gave me a trip there IMG_2594for Christmas. I thought it was an awesome gift, but I was reluctant to go. I never would have traveled to Europe on my own, and frankly, I was over the Riding School thing.

When we got to Vienna we walked to the riding school. Jay is a world traveler and had been to Vienna before, so he knew the way.  The old world flavor of Vienna does not disappoint, it is oozing with cobbled stones and Baroque architecture.

I was not prepared for my reaction. I think I hid it pretty well, but I started crying when we were a couple blocks away. A notion to turn and run gripped me as we got closer. My hands shook and I had to make all kinds of weird faces to suppress the sobs that threatened to escape. I could not speak.

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I don’t look like I’m about to cry–right?

The performance was lovely, but that is not the memorable part of this trip. What stays with me is my visceral reaction to being there. A part of me that I thought was long dead is alive.image4

It’s been almost a year since we were there. I’ve done a fine job of ignoring the thing that’s been kicking me. I made it until now by keeping busy. I wrote two books. I was still okay, I don’t need horses. I even tried to sell the saddle I still had laying around. (No sense of letting it rot, I’ll never use it anyway.)

While trying to market my book, I came across The Girl Who Loves Horses by Diana Vincent. check it out here Or read the review in my book reviews section. The thing is back. Reading about riding has made me feel again.