Monday, January 30, 2012

When Dreams Come True

Weekend before last, my riding buddy Jean and I went on a road trip. We had an appointment to meet a guy named Stu. Although we had not met him, we had heard that Stu was a nice guy and we were looking forward to meeting him and talking horses. After an hour and a half, we found the long lane way to the farm we were looking for. We were greeted by two large dogs, announcing our arrival. A tall (very handsome) man emerged from the barn and carefully maneuvered over the icy open area to where we were parked. After we introduced ourselves, The Farmer told us we would find Stu in the barn with his daughter.

I chatted with The Farmer (did I mention he was handsome?) as we walked up to the barn, asking about his milking operation and his hobby of driving. He currently drives double and four hitches and competes in the regional fairs, if he can get someone to babysit his cows over the weekend. Which brings us to the reason we came in the first place. Meet Stu....

Isn't he handsome? Jean heard about Stu through a friend. He is trained to drive single, double and in a four-hitch. The only issue....he's too short! The Farmer bought him as a 3 year old, hoping he would finish at closer to 18hh. But, at 6 years of age, he pretty well finished at just 16.3hh and at 1400 lbs (we measure him), he's too small to drive in pairs or teams with The Farmer's other horses. As a comparison, Gem is around 16.0-16.1hh and weighs in at 1300 lbs. Although Jean did not have plans to buy a horse until the Fall, Stu was pretty much exactly what she was looking for; he is the right age, the right size, a gelding, has a gentle demeanor, he is an easy keeper, has never had any health issues, is outside 24/7, has good feet and reasonably priced.

It's not all roses though. The Farmer was honest with us and said that Stu had not been worked with for a year, was living the life of a prince out with the other horses, is in the upper section of the 10-horse herd hierarchy and was sometimes hard to catch in the field. Oh, and he's never had a rider on his back.

Stu let us touch him all over (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and we picked up his feet and held them up without issue. We couldn't trot him outside because of the ice. However, The Farmer's 13-year old daughter walked him up and down the aisle of the barn. He never pulled on the lead rope and was quite content following her. The Farmer did say that because he knew that Jean was looking to have a riding horse, he put his daughter up on Stu prior to our arrival to see what he would do! He said he wouldn't have done it if he wasn't confident that Stu wouldn't turn into a lunatic. He did it again for us. Stu sort of had a look of "hmmm...that feels different....", but he didn't twitch or freak out.

A date was agreed on for the vet check, a handshake sealed the deal and Jean and I said our good-byes to Stu, The Farmer and his daughter. We waited until we were driving down the lane way before we started whooping and hollering.

Jean excitedly told LA about Stu after our lesson last Tuesday. Instead of being excited for Jean, LA's response was guarded. She's concerned for Jean's safety. She thinks Jean is in for a lot of hurt and frustration. But what was hurtful was she doesn't quite get why Jean would want a Clyde in the first place. "You can't do anything with a Clyde." It was a bit of a letdown for Jean and when the two of us went for Burgers and Beers afterwards, I had to give her a little pep talk. However, LA's negativity and big horse prejudice has made Jean even more determined to prove her wrong. :-)

The vet check was done this past Wednesday and other than the vet wanting him to be a little heavier, he passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, because of icy conditions Stu couldn't be lunged in a circle, but the vet's examination did not lead him to believe there would be problems. All his vaccinations and a Coggins Test were done. His teeth will be floated in the spring.

Getting a Clyde or any horse that is +16.0hh brings on other challenges. Normal trailers can't handle a large horse comfortably. Most farriers won't work on drafts without the use of stocks. Getting a saddle may be a challenge. But you can always find a solution and it's amazing how horsey friends come together and help. I offered my English saddle to Jean just to get him used to having something on his back while she's working with him. A trailer was found and booked. Boarding arrangements, at the regular outside board rate (yipee!) with LA have been finalized. Stu will have his feet done before he's transferred to give Jean time to find local farrier that will work without stocks.

I am going to be Jean's ground person for the first while, and definitely when she's ready to start sitting on him. Her goal is to be riding him by the summer, eventually working towards taking him out in the small field to get him used to larger spaces with a rider on his back. I am excited for Jean - her dream has come true. I am looking forward to helping her; I think I will learn a lot. Stu will be here in 2 weeks....I can hardly wait!!! :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liebster Blog Award!!

My apologies for the delay in posting. Thank you so much to Story at All Gear No Skill and to Mona at Panic and the Pony for passing along the Liebster Blog Award!

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs

Choosing only 5 blogs is difficult for me because I really love all my blogger friends! But here are a few that I am sure you will enjoy.

Joyous Art I always enjoy reading about what Joy is up to, whether it’s home schooling her boys, crafting or taking riding lessons.

Love+Revenge+Chocolate Cake I just found this blog. Landers lives in South Africa and has horses, dogs and loves to bake...sounds like a recipe for adventure (pardon the pun!)

Beautiful Mustang Linda has beautiful horses and dogs, including an Irish Wolfhound!

The Horse Talker Laura is a student doing her Masters in Animal Science and hangs out with her beautiful Cob, Trooper, whenever she can.

My Boston, My Friend Fred is such a cutie. Check out his recent fashion statement!


p.s. I had to sneak this one in...this blog has more than 200 followers, but I just love it! The women in Advanced Style are inspirational!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Separation Anxiety.....and Danger Lurks

So, some long time readers may remember Gem's escapades a couple of winters ago, when he managed to find a way to get out of his turnout area. Well, he's at it again. LA mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Gem found the only spot in the electric fencing tape that did not work and pushed through it and joined the herd at the far side of the property. DH stood at the opening but did not go through. His forlorn look as LA was walking past made her stop and check things out. Gem was not gone long; he was easily caught and both he and DH were brought in and stalled. The electrician was called and he replaced the faulty electric fencing tape.

Well, somehow he managed to escape again yesterday. I am not sure of the details but it had something to do with having to turn off part of the fence because of the water tub heater or some such thing. Never a problem in the past, but within that 10-15 minute period, Gem found the right spot and made his escape. LA didn't realize he was gone (the fence had been turned back on long ago) until she heard DH softly whinny at the turnout fence when she was walking up to the house. She checked it out, discovering that Gem had escaped again. Sigh. He was with the herd for at least a couple of hours before he was brought back in.

When I first became Gem's partner, he had been turned out 24/7, but was by himself. When he came to LA's facility, he had to learn to be in a stall and he had to learn to make friends with The Boys in the back turnout. It was different when he was being ridden, and I have never worried about him being aggressive to other horses during lesson. We tried him out with the herd initially, but he was too dominate and because of his size, LA was worried he could injure one of the other horses.

Now, two years later, LA is wondering if we should try him with the herd again. LA assured me she would observe him, making sure that the dominate, bullying attitude he exhibited when he first arrived doesn't reappear and cause any serious scuffles. If everything is OK, then he would be able to frolic with everyone else. My heart started to pound a bit, my anxiety level started to rise as she talked about the possibility. I think I have an idea of how a mother feels when their child is boarding the school bus for the first time. :-)

Me: (slightly whiny tone) When I came here, I told you that I would hate traipsing around the fields looking for my horse. I still feel that way. If he's turned out with the herd, I will be covered in snow going out to get him. I could fall!
LA: We can make sure that he's in the back turnout or his stall on the days you come here.
Me: I will be adding another day to my routine, but I don't know which day.
LA: You can call ahead and we will make sure he's in from the fields.
Me: He will turn into a lunatic, wanting to be with his new buddies, when we are out on the trail! Just when I am getting the hang of trail riding! I will be thrown or the other horses will charge me!
LA: I think you are being a bit dramatic.
Me: Sigh.

Gem is smart, and in LA's opinion, he's a bit bored and looking to get into mischief, hence finding the weak spots in the fence. He knows the barn routine, and he will probably be waiting for her to turn off that portion of the fence. It's like a game to him now. Because of this, she will have to change the routine to turn him out later, after she is done warming the water tub. I am guessing that Gem will not be happy with this arrangement.

I liked Gem being in the back turnout area because I could easily call to him and he would come. I liked that bite marks were few and far between. I liked that he had his own private apple orchard. I liked that I could stand and easily watch him interact with DH. I liked that he had his own water supply close at hand. I liked that he had his own hay and I knew how much he was eating.

I whined my way through these "likes" with LA and we agreed to have him turned out with the herd on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It will break up the week for him. I see him every Sunday, lesson on Tuesday, out with the herd Wednesday and Thursday, I see him Friday or Saturday. I am nervous about this, but I can see how he would benefit mentally and physically if he's able to wander and socialize with the others. Expand his horizons, so to speak.

When I arrived for lesson last night (rescheduled from Tuesday because of -20C weather), I carefully checked him out for bumps. I found four big bite marks; two on each butt cheek. No damage anywhere else. I asked one of the ladies who works at the barn if she was the one to bring him in from the field yesterday after his escape. She responded that she found him chowing down at the big bale of hay, the only one eating while the other horses stood around him, watching. Hmmm.....perhaps that bullying attitude has not left completely....

* * * * *

Last night I picked up Jean and we drove to lesson together. We drove on roads that were still a bit treacherous from the recent freezing rain. We managed to skate up and down the lane way at the barn a few times without falling. We led our horses down the dark, icy lane way to the arena without incident. Had a great lesson on frisky horses and then had to lead them back up the skating rink to the barn. No problemo! I removed my helmet and coat and I untacked Gem. As I was carrying my saddle blanket back to the tack room, the little saddle pad that I use under the blanket slipped and dropped in front of me, causing my feet to get tangled up and I went down....hard.... My shoulder took the brunt of the fall, then my elbow. I was fortunate that the saddle blanket softened the blow in some ways and my head did not connect with the cement. Jean and LA's mother had to help me up.

On the way home, Jean and I experienced a whiteout on the highway - my first. It was like driving into a wall of white. We both said "Holy Sh--! at the same time. I had no point of reference to indicate where I was on the four-lane road. We were both very nervous.....OK, we were scared! :-) I managed to crawl along and eventually saw the haze of a street light, indicating civilization, that we used as our beacon. Whew!

So, I managed icy roads and lane ways....walked my horse on skating rink conditions...and survived a terrifying white out. But it was a stupid saddle pad that got me! I can barely lift my arm today, my shoulder hurts that much. Fortunately, it's my left shoulder/arm so I was able to put my makeup on with no problem. ;-) Be careful out never know what's going to get you!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I don’t know about you, but getting back into the swing of things after a break can be difficult. It’s like my brain has atrophied. Embarrassingly, it doesn’t take much time for this to happen to me. :-) Up until this past Tuesday night, I have not had a lesson since the beginning of December. I am still stiff and I bet Gem is, too!

I have, however, managed to get in a few trail rides over the last month, which were great therapy. I am usually an a organized, calm person, but it's activities like getting ready to ride that made me realize my stress was showing. I had a dickens of a time trying to remember my normal routine of tacking up!! Granted, my brain has been full with family stuff, but you would think that some things would be automatic. I found myself fumbling and forgetting, going back and forth to the tack room numerous times. I had trouble lifting my saddle up to put it on Gem’s back. Once, I forgot to tighten Gem’s girth before mounting. Fortunately, I remembered (after I was on him!) and asked one of Young Ladies to tighten it for me before I took off for my ride. Duh. Dismounting has been...well...interesting and not very fluid. My brain and body forgot what to do!!

My trail rides were with DH’s mom; she is a very experienced trail rider and, of course, having Gem follow his paddock-mate made it easy for me. I didn’t have to think. Most of the time, we just walked along, enjoying the scenery, talking about frivolous stuff. I was grateful to be out in the fresh air, doing something that I love and I know Gem enjoyed it being out of his usual turnout area.

We have been experiencing quite balmy weather here...very unusual. The average temperature over the last month was about -3C. I know! Crazy, eh?! We are usually freezing our butts off here with -10C on average during the day, but not lately. We really have only had a couple of really cold days. The first couple of trail rides I went on, I actually wore my English winter breeches and 1/2 chaps. I find this ensemble much warmer and more comfortable than wearing long johns under jeans. That is, until a couple of weeks ago...

I got my new winter riding pants from Zephyr Equine Gifts!

No, that is not me in the picture....sigh.... I was a bit skeptical when I first pulled them out of the packaging. They were so light-weight; how could they be warm if they didn't feel heavy?? The outside material is smooth (but not slippery!) and the inside material is thick fuzziness. They are stretchy. Believe me, my shape gave that stretchiness a test!! :-) They hold their shape nicely, without feeling like you are being cut in half, and have a nice wide non-slip waistband. And, I can walk in them, unlike some of the other snow pant options out there!!! I have been wearing them over thick dance workout leggings (another humiliating conversation with a sales clerk - why do I keep doing this to myself?!) and have felt quite toasty in them.

I rode in them on Sunday and the temps were around -8C.... no problemo! Mind you, the days that I have been out on the trails have been windless. If it were windy, I would easily be able to slip on my snowboarding pants over them. I have been searching the last couple of years for the perfect winter riding ensemble and I think I have finally found the missing piece. I love them! And, guess what? DH's mom, a die-hard western reining jeans-wearing rider, wants a pair! You see? Once again, I am a fashion trend setter at my barn. :-) The price is competitive and what I appreciated was that you could customize them if you wanted. The sizes are accurate to your usual size, so if you are a size 14, order the Large and it will fit you beautifully. I will be ordering another pair of these pants, but in wicking summer weight. I find jeans so hot in the summer!

Well, I am looking out the window right now and the snow is coming down quite hard. I believe we will be getting about 10-12 cm of snow over the next couple of days. The temperatures are supposed to be colder on the weekend, but trails will be nice and fluffy. Bring it on! I am fashion ready! :-)

Life Lesson: Listen to what is being said before you respond. This is actually a lot harder than it sounds. :-)