Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Great ride!

I don't have much time to post before I go back to work but I just had to say what a fabulous ride I had today with Charlie! We started out with some basic groundwork, with Jan giving some helpful pointers, and then I hopped on and repeated the bending and stopping exercises in the saddle. We trotted some circles and serpentines - all long and low and stretchy! - before cantering easily in both directions without him getting worked up for the upward transition or falling in on his inside shoulder (our two biggest tasks to work on). Yay Charlie! This is the Charlie I like!! :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Home

I may have chosen the coldest possible day of the season to move Charlie to his new home (can you say 9 degrees with the windchill?!) but with Connie's help he is now all settled in to his winter abode and seems pretty happy. I think he was immediately enjoying having the room to run and stretch his legs, and after showing off a bit for the other horses he quietly settled down to eat his hay.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Winter Vacation for Charlie

After giving it some thought I've decided it's in Charlie's best interests to move him over to Spring Hill for the winter. A few stalls have recently opened up (as training horses and a couple of others have moved out) and Jan has been really awesome putting together a working board situation that would help me pay for everything. Since I'm at the barn all the time anyway, it will be much easier for me to ride Charlie more consistently and I will have the indoor to use in bad weather. Plus I'm anxious to use the trails that back up to the property. I'm hoping that Connie and I can still make a weekly goal to continue riding together over there, if she's willing to trailer in with Gi. We had a lot of fun the last time :)

Most likely the move will happen sometime this coming week. Now I'm off to get two of Charlie's blankets fixed and cleaned by an Amish guy who was referred by Kate M. Gotta get everything ready for winter!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Good day for a ride

Today Connie and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm November weather to trailer the boys over to the barn where we work for a ride. It was awesome! We started in the indoor to make sure Charlie and Gi would be good since Charlie hasn't been out in a week and this would be the first time Connie ride Gi since her accident several months ago. Walked, trotted, cantered both directions. Charlie carousel-horsed the canter at first but then settled down. We got a b-e-a-utiful long low trot :)

After warming up we decided to hit the trails. The boys were perfect. Even a pond full of swans didn't faze them. With Gi leading I even got Charlie to cross a *very small* creek. Yes, he may have jumped it but, hey, he went across! Coming out of the woods Gi spooked and shot up behind Charlie causing him to jump all four feet straight up off the ground; probably scary to watch but just weird to ride. He calmed right down again and we finished the ride smiling. What a good day :)
The perfect view
Connie and Gi, all smiles :)
P.S. Today was Day 1 of Charlie's SmartCalm Ultra. Here's hoping it does the trick!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Boarding thoughts

Horse ownership can present quite the financial burden. That's not news to anyone. We equestrians do it because we love it and it makes us who we are, and many of us would go without food if it meant our horses could eat. My current situation isn't that dire, but being only partially employed does force me to carefully consider the financial aspect of horse ownership and figure out where I can cut corners and give something up in order to make ends meet.

One of the biggest financial hurdles for me has been boarding. In the past year Charlie has lived in four different places, all very different and with different price tags. No place was perfect but they were all good for one reason or another. Full board, semi-rough, and self-boarding, I've done it all.

Right now Charlie is getting excellent care at Connie's barn and I couldn't be more happy to have him close to home and living with a friend. This was my dream, having my horse in my backyard and free to ride whenever I wanted. But I'm increasingly concerned that this may not be the best fit for Charlie. He loves Gi, his barnmate, and I love that he has 24/7 open access to the paddock. I also like having the control to choose his feed/care and being able to visit whenever I want.

However, the biggest issue I'm running into is one of the consequences of not boarding at a facility: no exercise ring. I'm finding out the hard way how difficult it is to maintain Charlie's "rideability" in the winter on a diet of only road/trail rides. In the summer it wasn't a big deal, but now with the colder weather making Charlie more "up" and the shorter days meaning less daylight hours to ride, it makes it really hard for me to ride him safely (and there's often no one else available when I am to go out riding with me). If it is exceptionally windy, or we got a cold snap, or he's just feeling like a TB there is no comfort of having a ring in which to work him first and get his energy out.

Of course this is a never-ending cycle: the less I am able to ride the more excitable he gets, which makes me less likely to want to chance a ride out alone for fear of him freaking out about something and dropping me in the middle of the road. I don't this Charlie to emerge mid-trail-ride:

Jan 2013
I find myself asking if the pros of free boarding at home, at least during the winter, are still worth the cons: is it worth saving money if I can't really ride my horse? Is it worth the potential regression in Charlie's skills if he has this formal working time off until spring? Do I really want to rejoin a barn and all the drama that inevitably goes on there?

Obviously I don't have much of a choice at the moment - and thankfully unlike some of my previous boarding situations there is absolutely no drama and no urgent call to leave (see my posts from last summer like Evicted, Barn Update, and Moved) - but I truly feel that as a young competitive TB Charlie would be better off if we could be somewhere with an indoor where I could ride him more consistently and in a controlled environment. I wish I could bring him to the barn where I work (although there is a decent amount of drama from a select few of the boarders there). But even the discounted rate I could get there is still a decent amount extra for me to spend each month on my limited salary.

In the meantime I have decided to try something else: a band-aid to hopefully get us through the worst of it. Charlie has been on Vitacalm since I had him and it has worked decently well for the cost. However, I have always thought that SmartPak's SmartCalm Ultra, though pricier, would be a nice thing to try. The product has gotten great reviews and I've known people who have used it with success on their TBs. So since my Vitacalm is running out and SmartPak has a money back guarantee, I decided to order some SmartCalm Ultra. (Plus they had a 50% coupon for your first month of a new supplement...score!)

I hope that by spending this little bit of extra money to try to take some of the edge off, I can continue working Charlie through the winter without having to try more expensive options (like boarding somewhere else). I will let you all know how it goes!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


One busy day followed by another this week (I started my new seasonal job at Target). As a result I've come to really enjoy quiet beautiful sunsets at the end of the day: a moment to breathe....aahhhh :)

One of the many perks of covering the night feeding at the barn

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pennsylvania Hunt Cup

Today it was off to the races with Dan, my parents, and our good friends John and Kate to see the 79th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup!

 The day started off with several pony races. The ponies followed a lead hunt rider around all of the jumps, who set a decent but safe pace, before they were set loose on the homestretch to race for the finish. Totally something I could have seen myself doing as a youngster. It looked like a blast!

After the pony races there was a sort of intermission where they showcased several carriages.

Once the real races started everything became a bit more exciting, but also much more dangerous. This was a timber race which is run over solid split rail fences rather than the brush of general hurdle steeplechase racing so any mistakes are really magnified, no room for error. I'd guess that (conservatively) nearly 1/3 of the riders became dislodged from their mounts through the course of the race and many horses took some serious tumbles. In one race of 8 riders only 1 pair made it to the end. Thankfully none of the riders was seriously hurt. I was amazed at how many horses continued to race on riderless, taking all the hurdles and keeping up with the rest of the pack.

However, not all horses were so lucky; I saw my first horse get put down today, as a result of a racing accident. I don't know exactly what happened as the horse didn't fall or anything but the rider pulled him up after one fence and immediately started untacking. The horse was walking around but then the ambulance drove up and took him away. Later on I saw them pull over on the far side of the field and I picked up my binoculars to check out what was going on just in time to see the vet walk him to the edge of the woods and give him the injection. Not my favorite memory of the day :(

Overall, though, we did have a really good time and I got some fantastic pictures. We were so close, it was amazing! I have decided without a doubt, though, that I will stick to hunter paces and the show ring myself. When things go well in timber racing I'm sure it is exhilarating, but after what I saw today it is waaaay too dangerous for me. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day:

One of the many horses continuing on without their rider
Yeah, that jump didn't end well
Neither did this one (note three riderless horses)
Horse jumping sans rider, right along with the pack