Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let it snow!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Yesterday we had our first real snow of the season (not counting a dusting on Christmas Eve) and boy was it pretty! I had stopped in last night to visit Charlie and tuck him in just as it was starting to really pick up, and then this morning we woke up to a winter wonderland :) Thinking that Charlie might enjoy a romp in the snow, Dan and I stopped by the barn this afternoon to let him play in the outdoor but he was more interested in making friends with the new mini donkey (so cute!). He did get a bit more playful when the donkey's horsey friend was brought out, but I didn't wait to see how that ended up as both of them started getting a little too frisky for my liking on the slick new snow. Here's a video from when we first let him go - unfortunately I missed the full out time!

Donkey wasn't the only one getting the love, kisses for Pickles!
Unfortunately between holiday traveling and associated festivities I haven't had as much time to spend with Charlie over the past two weeks as I would have liked. I did get to play with him last weekend, though, and introduce him to Dan's aunt and cousin. I decided to let him loose to run around for the first time in the indoor and boy did he go nuts! Once he realized he was free to do whatever he wanted, we all got quite the show as he took off on a good 20 minute galloping-bucking-snorting-kickfest. (Um, I thought I was told my TB was calm?!)...

A bit steamy after his crazy run-around
By yesterday I was so desperate to ride that I tacked up and hopped right on; silly me for not remembering last weekend's excitement and thinking that my TB would be a good boy despite the swift temperature drop, lack of turnout due to the weather, and not having been worked in a week. Freshy McFresherson! We quickly transitioned to an intense lunging/manners lesson, and I've ultimately decided it would be a good idea to stay in this stage for a few weeks before we can move on to any of the "fun" stuff...

Every day that I'm working with Charlie I am realizing more and more how little I know about him and how much of a baby he truly is. So much to learn! Over the years I've worked with my share of young or inexperienced horses, but it's easy to forget where they started and take for granted their current good behavior. Charlie, though incredibly sweet and affectionate, is way too big to be running into me and ignoring my personal space, not to mention the ridiculous and entirely inappropriate rearing nonsense I've had to deal with a few times already. Honestly, while  it means I will have to take several steps backward to lay a new foundation with him, I'm secretly really glad to see this "pep"; initially I was afraid he might be too quiet and push-button to be exciting :)

I'll leave you with this shot of him chilling after his romp in the snow:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Back in the saddle

Where has the time gone? One minute Charlie had just arrived in Rhode Island and then I blink and Christmas is practically here! Unfortunately between work, Christmas parties and everything else that's been going on recently my free time to go work with Charlie has been pretty limited and I didn't get to really start working with him until this week.

Monday was my birthday, and I had the day off from work, so Dan and I had planned a nice day out together. This, of course, had to include some quality time with Charlie, but since we planned to spend the majority of the day in Newport and I didn't want to get too dirty, I decided just to lunge him and work on his ground manners (which are quite rusty). Considering Charlie's recent craziness, I also really didn't want to take the chance of spending my birthday in the ER from some silly fall. It was a good thing I did! Although his naughtiness was nothing compared to what I'm used to with Lucy, he definitely had extra energy to burn and a very hard time concentrating. He even reared at one point, totally unacceptable!! It took about 20 minutes of bending, stopping, and practicing "personal space" but he did calm down. By the end he was licking his lips and trotting long and low, much more relaxed. I also got the chance to take some conformation shots so I can track his progress. (Dan was much better at getting Charlie to stand nicely than I was haha).

On Wednesday I actually got to ride and was pleasantly surprised with the progress both he and I made by the end. He's stiff and out of shape - so am I - but once we got going he started reaching into the bit and lengthening his stride rather than being so short and choppy and did get a bit looser. He is a leaner around turns, so we'll have to work on that, and he has a funny "pop" into the trot that could use some smoothing out, but overall I'm pleased. I'm also happy to say that I'm starting to feel more comfortable in my saddle, which is reassuring :) He was so good that I decided to try an emergency-style hop off at the end; he just turned around and gave me a look as if to say "aaannd you did that why?" lol

Friday, December 14, 2012

First ride in Rehoboth

Last night I headed out to the barn with Dan for my first ride on Charlie since bringing him up here. I actually wasn't quite sure what to expect. My barn manager called me on Wednesday to let me know that my gentle giant apparently caused quite the scene during turn in that day, running around like a bat out of hell with his tail and head in the air all stallion-style, getting all the other horses riled up and bucking and snorting like a maniac (they managed to take down two electric fences in the process but luckily the whole main paddock is wood fencing). What?!

Apparently he was great all day and fine once he was in his stall but something obviously got to him outside during evening turn in. Geez! So anyway, I wasn't sure what to expect but I bravely tacked up and hopped on in the indoor where a little girl was taking a lesson in one of the ponies ("dear god don't let me get put through any shenanigans that would scare the s*#% out of her mother who was standing ring-side"). Charlie obliged like a gentleman and was actually very good. He snorted a little at some equipment down one end of the ring and was a bit strong, but no funny funny business. Months off, new barn, cold weather and he didn't try to buck me once. What a great horse!

Me, on the other hand, I need a definite tune up. I am so out of shape and trying to get used to my new horse and new saddle at the same time is not working out so well (my other close contact saddle didn't fit him at all so I had to get a new one kind of spur of the moment...gahh more money!). I think it will just take time, as it does technically fit both him and me, but it's a different feel than what I'm used to.

I did have Dan take some pics and video but haven't gotten a chance to load them up yet. When I do, I'll post them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tootsie Time

If I could have planned things out a little better I would have definitely spaced out all this spending over several more weeks. However, as fate would have it, it's been 8 weeks since Charlie's last trim and he threw a shoe Saturday afternoon before we brought him up here, so I needed to find a farrier kind of immediately. Luckily my new barn manager has a guy who does her daughter's tricky OTTB so I gave him a call and he was able to come out yesterday afternoon.

Charlie was the perfect gentleman, although in true Charlie fashion he got bored after about 5 minutes and started nibbling on anything he could get his lips on: my arm, the leadrope, the farrier's hair...Anyway, the farrier took one look at his feet and said that Charlie had the best feet he'd seen in a long time: "if only more horses had feet like these..." (cue proud mom moment!)...let's hope New England weather doesn't screw him over :(

I know this is a little dark but I thought it was cool because you get a good look at how solid (and BIG) his feet are and you can also see the remains of where a small abscess came through (stone bruise back in October)...seems to be healing up nicely!

I hemmed and hawed about whether to go for snow pads but, in the end, I opted for the winter shoe set. I figured if I didn't get them we'd have a blizzard tomorrow...and if I did we'd be warm til spring...Murphy's law...Luckily he is fine to go barefoot in back so that did save me some money.

45 minutes and $140 later we had nicely trimmed and winterized tootsies :)
I'll leave you with a shot of him from this morning sporting his brand new blue plaid in his first true turnout (we've had some pretty crappy weather). The paddocks are still pretty muddy as a result but he didn't seem to mind. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Series of Fortunate Events

I think I've asked for a pony for Christmas ever since I was able to speak (well, that first Christmas I wanted a cow, but that's another story). My parents knew better than to make empty promises just to get their daughter to stop asking for a horse, so instead they side-stepped the issue, showering me with horsey accoutrements, driving me diligently back and forth to lessons several times a week and waking up at the crack of dawn to braid my pigtails and chauffeur me to horse shows. My "passing phase," however, quickly matured into a full-fledged obsession as I continued through high school and college, training and exercising horses for friends and competing intercollegiately for Lafayette College. When I graduated and moved to Chicago to pursue a Masters in Medical Illustration I feared that my riding would have to take a hiatus. However, even there I was able to find respite in the form of Noble Horse Theatre, an equine musical performance stable right in the heart of the city.
Me, Cowboy and Andy after a Noble Horse practice
After earning my degree I moved back east to Providence, RI to be with my boyfriend, Dan. He was finishing his doctorate so I, unable to immediately find a job in my field, opted to freelance while working full time as a receptionist for a local veterinarian. My quest to find a horse to ride/lease was short-lived as I was lucky enough to almost immediately discover Lucy - a then 4-year-old OTTB - through Craigslist of all places (kids, don't try this at home)! Her mom and I formed a quick and lasting friendship and will forever be bonded by our shared trials and tribulations in our quest to transform Lucy into a successful event horse (Kate maintains a fantastic blog about Lucy, by the way, which you can check out here).
Me and Lucy

Fast forward to mid-October: 

Dan had earned his PhD earlier in the summer, but was having difficulty finding viable job prospects in desirable areas so he was working at home as a full-time job save money we relocated from Providence to Bristol movng in with his dad, which put me an hour away from both my job and Lucy.......and my seemingly "sure-thing" illustration job in Kentucky, which I had been scouted for early last year, had turned into a "sure-thing-once-we-get-enough-money-to-start-which-may-be-quite-a-while," leaving me perpetually on hold.....

All in all it was at this fantastically unfortunate time that my good friend sent me the following text:

"Hey. I have a really nice, fancy 5-yr-old Irish TB...for free."

Usually I would brush a suggestion like this off without a second thought - after all, if I was looking for a free horse I could get ten of them off the internet in a second. Plus I had Lucy! But for whatever reason this text got to me and I couldn't stop thinking about the possibility. I forced myself to go to bed that night and not respond until morning when my head was clearer but, as I'm sure you have guessed, no matter how much my rational brain tried to shut this crazy idea down I found myself typing back "What's his name?"....

I went down to Pennsylvania to "look" at the horse the weekend that Superstorm Sandy was rolling up the coast. Charlie was out of shape but in great health, well-built and just about the sweetest horse I'd ever met. Let's just say it didn't take much convincing; he'd won me over without even trying. To make a long story short, his owner was a friend of my friend and owned several fancy horses. With a job that took too much of her time away from them, she was looking to downsize her crew in order to give the rest of her horses more quality time and Charlie a chance to really be something. I was sold.

Me and Charlie on our first ride together
While he weathered the storm at my friend's house in PA, I spent several weeks going over the finances to make sure this commitment was truly possible and researching countless barns in the area until I finally found the right one (wow are there some scary ones out there). It was going to take some sacrifices but I knew in my heart that this was one of those opportunities in life that I could not pass up. Then, this past weekend I (finally!) made the 6-hour road trip down to PA with the help of Kate, her husband and a rented trailer (thank you Tourbillon!) to pick up my new baby. 

Hey guys, what's up?

Exploring the new digs

It's going to be an exciting and life-changing ride, I'm sure, and I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that after 25 years I'm finally a horse-owner, but I can't wait to take it all in and see where this road leads!