Friday, December 12, 2014

So many updates, so little time...

Wow, so much to update you on. Dan and I found an apartment in NJ! That's the big news, and we just moved in this past weekend. Between Thanksgiving vacation with family, several Christmas art commissions for me, both of us still working our other jobs, and the big move to NJ, we have barely found time to sit down and breath!

Charlie is coming to his new barn on Monday (yay!), but I at least got in one last snow ride yesterday at Spring Hill :)

I love riding in the snow
So does Charlie
I promise to write more soon and fill you in on everything else that has been going on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No stirrups November?

Sorry, NSN is going to have to hold on for a little bit. I went to Equine Affaire last weekend and I have some new goodies to try out:

1. Equi-fit front and hind boots, on closeout because they are last year's model with plain black fasteners instead of ones with white stripes. Anyone who jumps knows these boots are kind of the shit, with their sleek styling and super protective memory foam. And they are also usually way outside my price range....I got them for $40. Total. Gah!! I got a little nervous they weren't going to fit, even though they're the larges; when I went to put them on I really had to stretch them to reach around to the nubbies, but I think they will stretch out a bit with use. After a few steps Charlie didn't seem to act any differently with them on either so they must not have been bothering him.

Equi-Fit boots
2. Just in time for the cold weather I also snagged this pair of Noble Outfitters muck boots for just over $100. I had two pairs of Muck Boot company boots that I swore by for winter work/riding, but since both are now cracked - one literally being held together with duct tape - it was time for something new, and I really liked the sleeker design of these boots by Noble Outfitter. They fit great in the stirrup with a nice solid tread, and they are more flexible and forgiving in the ankle than my Muck boots ever were. Plus, despite windchill temperatures in the teens and single digits yesterday and today, my feet stayed toasty warm.

Noble Outfitters boots
3. Finally, a brand new ECP half pad with shims. I actually bought this gem off of Maddy after spying it in her room. She knows someone who sells them at a discount, and since I've been wanting something like this for awhile, she offered hers to me and said she'd just go pick up another. Score! Riding in it today I couldn't believe the difference. It worked perfectly for Charlie's high withers! I used to use a sheepskin pad, but honestly this worked even better.

ECP half pad with shims
All in all it was a pretty successful (and fairly wallet-safe) trip to EA, with only a few other small purchases. I didn't come home with any blankets or saddles, though I was tempted. Oh, I did order a new helmet to replace my old IRH. One of the tack stores had the Elite on special for $160 and that price really can't be beat. The Lami-Cell one I bought this summer just isn't cutting it.

Looking happy and fit in the new gear
Stay tuned for more info on the clinics and demos at Equine Affaire in my next post....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


On Tuesday we had some unseasonably warm temperatures here in PA (65 degrees in November?!) so Jan and I decided spur of the moment that we would take the day off and drive to Gettysburg for a ride.

A very TB look
Charlie did pretty well overall. Although antsy and looking at everything, didn't really do anything about it. As long as we kept moving he was fine. I couldn't blame him for being "up"; I had only ridden him twice in the past week, and even then it wasn't that big of a workout since I was doing the No Stirrups November thing and had worn myself out after ten minutes (note I did not participate in NSN for this trip).

Me and Jan
Per park rules we could only walk (which was to my disadvantage since Charlie could really have used a chance to burn off some steam), but Charlie took everything in stride. Right in the beginning a huge stag leapt out from behind some brush where he had apparently been napping, literally 15 feet from us, and Charlie didn't flinch. In fact he he only picked up his pace as the deer ran off, as if he wanted to go play tag.

These were some scary fences to walk between
I really wanted to jump this
As the ride continued we had to go over a small bridge, through a creek and past some hikers, many monuments, scary pointed fences, and even some cattle (that blew Charlie's mind). Jan's horse, Randy, is an old steady-Eddie, though, and the perfect trail companion. He let Charlie lead until we came to a scary part, and then calmly showed him the way.

Scary bridge is not so scary the second time
Omg cows!
Jan, as a war buff, was my personal tour guide and stopped periodically to tell me all about Little Round Top, Devil's Den, and Pickett's Charge. At one point we passed a horseback tour group and the woman leading the pack immediately pinned Charlie as an OTTB...not sure if that's a compliment or not....
Jan looking like a true cowboy
The whole ride took about three hours, and then we spent a leisurely lunch at a local tavern. Although I generally prefer a more "get-up-n-go" type of ride, this was really nice and a great getaway for the day. It was a gorgeous day and a perfect way to see the historic battlefields. Plus, any experience away from the farm is a good one for Charlie. :)

Selfie time

Monday, November 10, 2014


We have a new guy at the barn, and he and Charlie have really hit it off. Charlie has taken Dustin under his wing, making it his mission to protect Dustin from everyone else when things get too rough, pulling him aside so they can graze together in peace. Now they're almost always next to each other out in the field, and they each cry a little when either one leaves to be ridden. I think maybe Charlie is in love. Anyway, it's pretty darn cute how well they get along. I just won't tell Brantley (Charlie's first and only true love). :)

For as much as Charlie likes his hay, he's very good about sharing

Time for a grooming session

Sunday, November 9, 2014

No stirrups November

"I have a dream, Horse Nation.
A dream about thighs.
Strong thighs. Mighty thighs.
Your thighs 30 days from now, if you accept this challenge."

One of my friends posted about this challenge (and linked to this great article) and I figured, hey, why not give it a shot? Obviously it's not an option for me with any of the green training horses, but it wouldn't hurt me to lose the stirrups with Charlie.

Hang 'em up
Wednesday was my first true day of the challenge (although I did ride bareback earlier in the week, so I guess that kind of counts). I have to say, riding sans stirrups in a slippery saddle is much harder than riding bareback. I had a few moments where I caught myself leaning and losing my balance and I clamped up, which only made things worse, but when I remembered to sit up and breathe I got everything back.

I only lasted about 10 minutes and my thighs were definitely burning. By the time I was ready to canter it was a welcome relief from the trot. The only bad part was knowing that in order to stop I had to down-shift back through the bounciness again. Arggg. I kept getting flashbacks to training in college where we would have whole lessons without stirrups, jumping and everything, and our "warm up" would be to stand in two-point for as long as physically possible. Ouch. I'm not going quite to that extreme now hahaha, but I am proud to say I made it two laps of the ring in each direction posting without breaking down. Next time I'll try for three.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I started a new job working from home for an online education company as a contract author. It's only a three-month contract position, so it won't last forever, but for now I'm really enjoying feeling mentally stimulated again and the pay is good. Plus I can't complain about the flexibility or convenience of still being able to ride/train regularly and do this work on my own time.

Between that, two art commissions, plus several trips back and forth to NJ to visit Dan (because our apartment search has been a fiasco and a half and we still don't have someplace definite to move), my barn time has necessarily become more limited. When I do ride, it's mostly to train. And after riding several training horses and doing basically the same routine over and over and over, when I finally get a chance to ride my own horse I'm done with riding boring circles in the indoor. So I decided to give myself a new challenge: bridleless.

Five training bridles in a row, but none for Charlie...
Going bridleless is a bucket list item I've been wanting to try for awhile, partly for fun and to add variety, partly out of curiosity as to whether we have become in tune enough to do it. I figured removing the bit from the equation might also help Charlie focus on the finer details involved in a "whoa" or half halt and not become fixated on rein pressure.

So over the past several weeks I've been working up to it in small doses: first with a loose rein teaching neck reining; then working walk-halt transitions from body weight shifts and pressure from a neck strap; then riding in just a halter and leadrope, increasing the complexity by adding turns, circles, and transitions. Last week was the week I decided to take everything off (well, off his face). 

Bridleless superstar
That's the first time I ever rode a horse without anything on his face, and I have to say it was a bit scary at first. Even though I had effectively prepped and had already ridden several times in a halter and lead rope without needing to touch the lead rope at all to stop, seeing Charlie's bare face and knowing there was no emergency brake if I needed it made my stomach flutter a little (although I did still have a neck strap). 

A somewhat nerve-wracking sight
That day we started with the halter and lead rope on, like I always do, then I unhooked the lead but left the halter on, and finally I reached forward and slipped everything off. It was so worth it! I couldn't have asked to feel more in tune and grounded and liberated at the same time. Without the bridle, Charlie was so calm and rode with his head/neck level and his lips and ears nice and relaxed, just as good as or better than he's been doing fully tacked up. When I asked for the canter I half expected him to take off (although why should he? That's just my lingering irrational fear from knowing there are no real brakes). Charlie instead gave me the nicest soft canter and as soon as I sat up and said "whoa" he came back smoothly to the walk. I should have known he'd like bridleless work; he's never been a fan of having pressure on his face.

I think I like this view
I feel like this was such a huge milestone for the both of us, and that in achieving it my relationship with Charlie has crossed into another level. It's going to be a fun twist to add to our rides every now and then. :) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oh what a beautiful morning

Today might be a bit wet and rainy but yesterday I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful morning:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Flint and Casper

Remember those draft horses we were training a few months ago? Well here's an update on two of them, 4-year-old Flint (black) and Casper (grey), living it up in Delaware and proving to be total rockstars in their Mounted PD program. :)

What a ham

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Accidents happen and people get lucky

Yesterday I had a horse flip over on me for the first time (no, it was not Charlie). I was working a 3-yr-old Quarter Horse with a decided dislike of water, attempting to get him to take at least a few steps toward the tiny creek in the woods while Jan worked Goose from the ground.

Everything was going fairly well, albeit slowly, with only a few frustrated buck/mini-rear episodes,  but then he tried to back up and mini rear at the same time. Unfortunately he did so up a small, muddy incline and his back feet slipped right out from under him as he was lifting his front ones off the ground.

It was the weirdest feeling. From all those times Charlie used to rear I learned how to anticipate them and deal with it, hugging neck to maintain both of our balances if it did happen, and most of the time heading off the urge before it got to a full blown rear. This was different. We were instantly vertical and neither myself nor the poor horse knew quite what had happened. There was what felt like seconds of vertical air time (although I'm sure it was pretty instantaneous) during which I somehow processed that he was going over and I had to bail. I remember being scarily calm throughout everything. But that's generally how it goes with me, I'll have the panic attack afterward.

I landed on my back, saw him coming down and tried to tuck and roll away as much as I could as he crashed down next to me. Don't ask me how but even though I ended up practically underneath him and his legs came rolling over all around me as he scrambled to stand up, that horse didn't touch me at all. Instead of being crushed, I ended up without a single scratch (well, except for my knee which happened to land on a rock). Jan was there instantly to help but since neither one of us was hurt I opted to get back on. We actually managed to finish the lesson on a positive note and I rode him all the way back to the barn with no issues.

So long story short there is a first time for everything and I'm pretty darn sore today, but, hey, I'll gladly take that over being dead!

Barn Party 2014

I'm not sure how many of you have been following for this long and would remember, but back on October 20 of last year Charlie and I participated in our first Spring Hill picnic and games (we had trailered over since I hadn't moved Charlie there yet). It was disastrous. Reading back over my entry from that day (which you can read here) I sounded surprisingly optimistic and happy, but Charlie really was a jerk. He spent most of the time giraffe-style, pirouetting with his head in the air, or standing on two legs.

Not so this year! :) Sunday marked the annual Barn Party and Charlie was an absolute star.

Games are more fun in Western gear
We had a lot more participants this year than last (thank you weather gods for the warmth and sunshine!) and Charlie and I did every single game: Simon Says, Musical Stalls, Egg & Spoon race, you name it. We even tried our hand at barrels and pole bending. Charlie didn't quite get the point of "go fast, then slow down for a quick turn"'s hard to get that long body around a tiny barrel! But we still had a ton of fun and he didn't give me one ounce of trouble. If anything he was (dare I say it?) lazy!

One of the games involved putting lots of carrot pieces on several barrels and then seeing who, in the fastest time, could make it to all three and allow your horse to eat only two carrots each time. Charlie loves this game. He loved it so much, in fact, that when it came time to try pole bending and he caught sight of the barrel marking the turn at end of the ring he raced right up to it and slammed on the brakes, searching for carrots. His face when he realized there was nothing there must have been priceless. Meanwhile I'm kicking and pulling and telling him "No, Charlie! Move! The poles! The poles!" We didn't win that one. 

Going over the rules. Charlie got bored and started pushing the pole back and forth.
In another game we had to team up and hold a length of toilet paper between two riders and be the last team with an intact strand after a series of Simon Says-type commands. Charlie handled that like a pro and we won easily, even though he was teamed with a very marish mare (she's the cute buckskin). He doesn't care about that stuff. He's like a little kid who thinks the snarling dog is "smiling."

I did switch to my Micklem after a few games so I'd have a bit more brakes
We also won the egg and spoon race which I was sooo happy about. I usually fail miserably at that one, but this time we made it through a canter and everything! Overall, of the 10 or so classes Charlie and I won four.

Everyone had such a wonderful time. Even 28-year-old TB, Prince, brought his A-game and showed everyone how it is done, blowing everyone away with pole bending and barrels. The old guy has still got it :)

Group pic (only missing Cinnamon on the left, couldn't fit everyone in the frame)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pre-winter shed

Two days ago we had a good night of rain so that meant Charlie rolled in as much mud as he could and I had a lot of cleanup to do today before I could ride (ankle is doing much better, but we're taking it slow since he's still not 100%).

I guess it really doesn't look as bad in pictures....
Since he's still blowing his summer coat there was a lot of short summer fuzz flying everywhere, especially on his face, but after today's session there shouldn't be much left to come out.

After I was done grooming and riding I gave him a big kiss before sending him out to the pasture and only realized after getting home (several errands later) that I had a huge smudge across half of my face that made it look like I was beaten and had a huge bruise across my jaw and right cheek. Whoops! The troubles of being a horse person in a normal world.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oh that's what liniment is for!

About a month or so ago a fellow blogger, who does wonderful "Teach Me Tuesday" posts btw, wondered about the purpose of using liniment (thank you, SprinklerBandit! You can read more here). It got me thinking and I realized liniment is one of those things that I naturally have on hand because it's widely thought of as a "must have" to avoid aches and pains, but I Never. Ever. Use it. Like ever. The bottle is growing dust and it's inside my trunk.

Yesterday I found a use! Two days ago, about 3/4 of the way through our ride Charlie and I had a nice soft canter going down the long side of the arena, everything was beautiful and smooth, and then I felt him take a random misstep and suddenly become quite "crooked". There he was, tripping over his own feet and coming up lame for the first time since I've owned him. I couldn't find anything obviously wrong so I cooled him out and gave him some bute, watched him for awhile as he meandered around eating grass, and then set him back outside for the afternoon. To be safe I kept him in overnight but by morning his right rear ankle was pretty stiff and a bit puffy. Bring on the cold hosing and *aha moment* liniment!

It sure makes my hands feel good, so I figured it must at least be somewhat cooling and refreshing on a hot, sore ankle. And if it does increase circulation like it claims to, then it should help the swelling at least a little. All I know is that after ten minutes of cold-hosing and a few applications of liniment Charlie marched right out to the field with much less of a limp, and by today (no cold-hosing, no bute, just liniment) he was nearly 100%. The verdict? Liniment may not be a miracle drug, and I don't think I'll be full-on bathing with it anytime soon, but it's re-earned a respectable space in my medicine cabinet.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flying changes and flying high

Over the weekend one of the other boarders had set up some ground poles along the centerline of the outdoor so I decided today I would use them to practice Charlie's flying changes. I like using the poles this way because horses naturally hop over them a little, it makes them focus on where their feet are, and it gives you a nice clean "1, 2, 3, NOW!" moment in the center of the ring over which to ask for the swap. You can easily see the point at which you'll need to switch your aids and you have plenty of time beforehand to prepare, balance and support. So after warming up, I cantered toward one of the poles, sat up and balanced, and when I asked for the change it was effortless. No kidding! For the first time, like, ever Charlie swapped cleanly on the first try!

When it happened I could practically hear the wheels turning in Charlie's head. He seemed very surprised as to how he miraculously got his feet all coordinated and going in the opposite directions than they were a second earlier, but I think he was proud of himself too. I definitely was. We tried a few more swaps but after that they were slightly less spectacular because Charlie was honed in on the "mini jump" and stopped listening so well to my balancing aids. Left to right was decent, right to left still involved lots of scrambling. We'll work on it.

Since he was so locked in on the ground pole, and because we were feeling so good together, I decided on a whim to canter Charlie right up to a little 2 foot vertical (side note: we haven't jumped in a couple of months and I was in a western saddle so 2' looks more like 3'). I sat up, gave a little leg and projected my best confident vibes. Wouldn't you know as soon as Charlie saw it he locked on that jump like a champ and took me right up to the base, up and over and straight! I couldn't have asked for anything more.

We did it a few more times then called it a day. So, yes, you could say that today was a winner :)

I is a good boy :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Galloping Goose

Most of the horses Jan and I work with already belong to clients but right now we have a TBx mare of our own that we purchased to train and resell. What a cool horse! She doesn't act like a mare at all and has the bulk and brains to really do anything. Such a tempting prospect, I wish I had the money for her myself. Considering how good she is now after only 4 weeks under saddle, I can only imagine what she could be like with continued training. Anyway, I figured you guys might enjoy a peek at this pretty gal so here's her sale ad:

"Goose" is a beautiful 16.1hh thoroughbred cross with a great personality and tons of potential. Recently started under saddle, she has had 6 weeks of concentrated John Lyons training and rides both English and Western in a light snaffle. Super adjustable and very smart, this horse would make an excellent hunter, dressage or sporthorse prospect, although with her in-your-pocket personality she would make a nice pleasure horse as well.

Goose has impeccable ground manners, will lunge both open and on a line, and is as light and willing from the saddle as she is on the ground. Does not act mare-ish at all! W/T/C easily in both directions and has been started over crossrails. Goose has had trail exposure and will hack out either alone or with a buddy. Very easy keeper who seems to get along with every horse she meets. $3500 firm with contract.

Here's a video:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Can't help falling in love

Beautiful fall cobweb in the morning dew
Charlie's been doing really well and hasn't seemed sore at all lately. The weather has been absolutely perfect for riding too, so except for a couple of days where he had some random lymph node swelling under his jaw (vet thinks he ate something) we've been on a fairly regular schedule of 3-4 rides a week.

Strange swelling on both sides
Swollen lymph nodes = grooming day!
This week Charlie got a bit more of a break than I intended. Between farrier and vet appointments for him, several of my own appointments (a few of which were unplanned), and training clients' horses I somehow ran out of free time to ride my own :( I guess that's how it goes sometimes, but I apologize to anyone who was in close proximity to me this week because I wasn't exactly in the best mood as a result.

Looking spiffy
On Friday I swore I'd make sure to have time for Charlie but it was no different: riding the training horses ran long - you can't start a lesson with a young horse and not finish it - so I ended up with only about 10 minutes of free time before I had to leave the barn. And I was going away for the weekend. So I pulled Charlie out of his stall, threw on his halter, walked him over to the fence next to the barn and clambered aboard, deciding it was better to ride him bareback out to the paddock to turn him out than to not ride at all. It really wasn't much, but it was all I needed and I instantly felt better.

That was fun, mom
I started to realize something then: I'm finally starting to love Charlie. That might sound like a strange revelation, but although I certainly liked Charlie when I got him, I wasn't in love. Despite his handsomeness Charlie took his sweet time working his way into that deep part of my heart and we had a lot of iffy days. However, he really is a cool horse and continues to amaze me on a daily basis, especially in terms of the things he doesn't care a whit about: like carefully wading through all kinds of horse-eating construction junk in the barn aisle this week without batting an eye (we tore out all the floors and plumbing in the viewing room) or standing like a statue as I attempted one day to launch myself up onto his back in the paddock from a standstill (yeah, I'm waaay too short. It was a complete failure)...Little by little he's inched his way in.

I don't know if I'll ever feel with Charlie quite the same soulmate-type connection I felt from Day One with Gypsy (an amazing TB mare who I promise I will discuss on here at some point), but who knows. Charlie is certainly something special :)

Silly horse