Thursday, May 29, 2014


Wow I just realized I almost forgot to update you guys on the insurance issue! I guess it ended up being such a non-issue in the end that I completely overlooked it.

If you remember, since I didn't buy Charlie for any set amount of money he was only insured for $3500 last year which was the base price Markel was willing to risk (here's the original post). Then I got a letter last month stating they were no longer offering medical/surgical coverage for horses valued under $5000 (basically I'd only get his mortality value of $3500, which I don't really care about; it's the surgical coverage I wanted in the first place). So I was really worried about how I could prove his value at $5000 without having done any shows or spent money/time with a trainer (since I'm doing all of his training).

Turns out I was worried for nothing. After speaking with Markel, I found out that in the absence of the above two validation options (shows and trainer) I could write a document stating Charlie's progress since last year and why I feel his value is worth increasing. So I wrote about how I am doing his training, spending 4-5 days a week on him, and about how he was almost unrideable when I first got him. I detailed his accomplishments on the ground and under saddle up to this point, which aren't monumental to some but still it's an improvement. Plus I looked up comparable horses for sale in the area and included their value (generally $4000-7000).....and they accepted!

So Charlie is (thankfully) still insured, now with $5000 mortality, $2500 colic-specific coverage, and an additional $5000 medical/surgical coverage for anything else, and I didn't even have to change companies :)

Insurance is totally worth it in my opinion. While I know I may never need it, in the past two months two separate horses at my barn have independently racked up vet bills in the $3000-6000 range from random accidents and that is way too much for my bank account to handle if something like that would happen to Charlie. I'll gladly pay my $495/year knowing that I'll only have to pay a $400 deductible. Markel can take care of the rest!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Perfect weekend

This weekend Dan drove in to visit and I couldn't have asked for a better time. On Saturday morning Dan went out golfing with my Dad while I put in a few hours at the dog rescue. Then he helped me with barn chores that afternoon and proceeded to take me out to dinner at an amazing seafood restaurant where I had the best tuna ever!

On Sunday we drove down to Devon to see the big horse show down there (Devon is only about 55 minutes from my house but I haven't been there in probably ten years). Unfortunately our schedules didn't work out to allow us to see any of the big hunter/jumper competitions, which are my favorite, but we did get to do some shopping and sightseeing and watch a decent amount of the carriage competition. Plus it was a gorgeous day so it was nice just being able to spend some time outside.

We did get to see some of the jumpers practicing in the morning

Dan marveled at how the complex is nestled right in a neighborhood, which really is pretty cool. It's been around since the turn of the century and it still has all of it's old charm (and old money, of course).

Some of the show stables
Some show barns really go over the top with their decor
Spotted a super cute quad of minis as we drove away!
After the show we returned home, picked up my grandmother, and met up with my mom, dad and some friends for an early Memorial Day BBQ.

The festivities then continued this morning as Dan and my dad went out golfing get again (lucky guys) and my mom and I went to the barn to ride. :) She hasn't ridden all winter so we started inside on some of the training horses (who had just spent some quality time doing groundwork with Jan so they were pretty good) so that Mom could get the feel of western riding again and some of the cues we use.

Then it was off to the gelding field to collect Charlie and Colby. I was a little unsure what kind of horse we'd have with Colby. I remembered him being awesome before, and very easy to pick up and ride after having some time off, but he hasn't been ridden in two months and can be a bit of a pony sometimes. 

I needn't have worried, he was perfect. We started in ring first just to be safe and after some warm up I coaxed Mom to get up on Charlie and give him a try. Without hesitation she trotted and, with some minor encouragement, cantered him around the ring. She was a little taken away by how big his stride is but had nothing but nice things to say about his willingness and softness. I was so proud of how good he was for her :)

Yay Mom! Look at them go

Then we swapped horses again and it was off to the trails. We had one slight bobble in the beginning: cantering up a short hill something spooked both horses and Mom came off Colby. She was ok, but he took off galloping through the fields. After I made sure she wasn't hurt I took off after Colby. Charlie was soooo good. He was freaked out from whatever spooked the two of them (probably deer) and was spinning and jigging trying to figure out why Mom was on the ground and Colby was taking off across the field, but he didn't rear or buck or anything. He held himself together and waited to see what I would ask him to do. And when I asked him to canter (um, or gallop) back down the hill and toward the barn after Colby, he did it without any nastiness. 
Freshly mowed hay field, with scary deer lurking in the woods
We went galloping right over a creek bed, around a sharp turn and up between two paddocks full of horses and he took it all in stride. Luckily we hadn't gotten far in our ride so Charlie and I were able to quickly catch up to Colby back at the barn and he immediately slowed down as soon as I asked. It was pretty cute: once we found Colby Charlie started nickering really short and soft under his breath, as if to reassure him and say, "Hey, buddy. You ok? I'm here, we're all right." 

I met Mom with the horses halfway as she was walking back, we remounted, and we went on to have a wonderful long ride in the woods. Both horses were fantastic, no more issues (except for both of them refusing to walk across a very washed out portion of the trail which was full of muddy water, rocks and lots of frogs. I don't blame the horses for not wanting to cross that). We had a blast!!

There were some really beautiful trails
What a cutie
I am beyond proud of my handsome man for taking such good care of my mom and me :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Micklem Success

Kate (of Lucy's Quest) was nice enough to let me borrow her Micklem bridle to try after she saw it was on my wishlist and I finally got the chance to give it a go today.

Within a few minutes Charlie was trotting as nicely as I've ever gotten him, soft and long, and was giving into the bit pressure when I asked, neither too high or too low with his head. Either he was just having a really good day, I was riding exceptionally well, or the new bridle had something to do with it (I was also riding bareback since he likes that and I was feeling more balanced there than in a saddle - I think my english saddle throws me forward too much).

Anyway, we'll give it another few tries but I am pretty happy so far! Thanks, Kate!

Here's a few May conformation shots for you as a bonus:

I never thought his topline would pick up!
And he's keeping weight really nicely too

Friday, May 16, 2014

Blog Share!

I've been meaning to write this post for quite awhile but for a good bit there I really felt like I had so much to say on my own that I'd overwhelm you with too many posts. Anyway, I wanted to share my best friend's new blog: Back In Show Tack.

Emily is a fellow TB owner and my best friend from college who has been a big part of my horsey escapades for about ten years now. But whereas I tend to push her outside the box, and my blog and experiences reflect this, she has a lot to teach me about a portion of riding that I don't really have all that much experience with - the show hunter side - and that's what her blog is all about.

Em and I both showed IHSA in college and she has now gone back to compete for the first year as an alumni as well as keeping up with showing her horse, Ronin, in traditional hunter shows. She started this blog to document her first year of alumni IHSA and real showing with her big sweet boy.

You should check her out :)

P.S. I'm getting inspired by all this and am starting to think of show names for Charlie horse because I plan on at least doing one show with him this summer if I can (and I don't want to show under his JC name, Wayfinder).....if you have any ideas shoot them my way!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stream Success!

Slow and steady pays off. We made it through the stream today on our first try. I'm so proud :)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tackling the stream of doom

Yesterday and today were much better for me than earlier in the week. I rode Charlie both days, and it was perfect and sunny outside. We had such a good time. I decided to try out my new (old) western saddle and I really like it! It looks snazzy, with a little bit of silver bling, and is very comfortable. Plus even though I wasn't originally keen on the orange-y leather, I must say it looks really nice on a chestnut.

Got my new saddle pad in the mail too, as well as Charlie's boots, so of course I had to try out the whole ensemble (who cares that they are "techinically" jump boots?). The pad is wool on the bottom, which I picked especially for Mister Sensitive Skin, and the withers are cutback to allow ample clearance.

The cutout is perfect
Obviously I've chosen blue for his color
Our lesson for yesterday and today centered around water. Charlie has historically had a thing about crossing water. We've done it, and he's waded into a lake before, but he's not too happy whenever he has to get his toes wet so it's been a constant slow battle and one I haven't had the opportunity to work on in awhile. Now that spring is here, though, and the water is running off the mountain there are several little streams around the barn that are perfect for breaking him in and desensitizing him.

Le Petit Brook aka the Stream of Doom
Yesterday after a nice hack I decided to approach the water for the first time in six months. As soon as Charlie saw it he stopped dead and then proceeded to tray all of his tricks: spinning, snorting, walking sideways while his head is turned the other direction, backing up, half-heartedly threatening to rear (oh no you don't!)....every time he decided to give me attitude I added leg and kissed to him and made him move in some other direction of my choosing and as soon as his feet would stop moving I'd "sit chilly" (as my trainer used to say).

After several moments of calm I'd ask him to step forward again. There is a very fine line with Charlie between being assertive and being bossy, but I've learned pretty well how to ride the balance and how far I can push him, how to stay light in my hands and seat while still maintaining authority. 

If we got one step in the correct direction we stopped and he got praised. If he protested we did hindquarters over or we practiced back-forward-back-forward or serpentines until his feet stopped moving. Eventually we made it within ten or twelve feet of the stream, which was an accomplishment, but not quite good enough. 

So I gave him a pat for being brave up to that point and hopped off since I knew it wasn't worth battling more from in the saddle; we wouldn't get much further and he'd just get frustrated. With a little coaxing, and relying on our ground training work to drive him forward, I was able to get him right to the edge and very slightly dip his nose in the water. I let him drink and play for a few minutes and then hopped back on. We walked a few feet back up the trail, then turned around back toward the stream and I was able to get him within five feet of the edge that time. Good enough for Day 1.

Ok, I guess I can put my nose in
Today we marched right back down there (well, we had a little canter in the field first) and I immediately was able to get him to the 12-feet mark from the day before without much fuss. Try as I might, though, I couldn't get him too much closer. However, this time when I got off and asked him to walk forward he was much more confident and as soon as he sniffed the water and I kissed for another step, he walked right in! I was standing on the bank and not in the saddle but who cares? My horse was standing with all four feet in the stream, calm as anything. 

One foot in.....

"You want me to do what?!"
Success! Now that wasn't so bad
We stood for a good five minutes, I let him play and do whatever he wanted, and then I asked him to come out, mounted up, and we went home.

Next time we'll try walking in without me having to dismount.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


It seems like the more I do with Charlie and the more I buy for him, the more I want to get. That can get dangerous quickly.

So far in the last week I bought some open front jump boots, a bit, a new helmet, a western saddle pad and another western saddle (used) to see if it fits any better than the one I currently have. I mean, when Horseloverz is having a flash clearance sale, or you hear of some other crazy good bargain, how can you pass this stuff up?

Every time I get another Dover or SmartPak catalog in the mail, I meticulously go through page by page, earmarking ones that I like. As if I'm actually going to buy the Tad Coffin saddle or GPA First Lady helmet....Someday I'll have the money to get some of these things but in the meantime I just keep adding them to an ongoing wishlist. Here are the top five big ticket items (but realistic, and in no particular order) that are on it so far:

1. Rhino Wug medium turnout - $205. I am just in love with the X-front closure and high neck, plus the cutouts that allow the blanket to wrap around the horse's belly. And this navy color would look stunning on Charlie.

2. New Ariat paddock boots - $200. I only buy Ariat paddock boots and have never gone wrong with them. I love their 4LR technology and you can't beat the comfort of an Ariat sole IMO.

3. Pessoa Legacy XP3 XC saddle - $2500. This is my dream saddle. I know, there are plenty of nicer ones that are twice that price but my budget doesn't even allow me to dream up there right now. It really bums me out that Charlie doesn't fit in a Pessoa because they fit me perfectly and I really love the lines and look of this one in particular (plus I sat in it and it fit like a glove).

4. Bates Caprilli CC saddle - $1500. Since Pessoas do not fit Charlie, a Bates is my next choice as I have heard they are budget-friendly and fit high-withered TBs really well. Plus I like a saddle with a narrow twist and medium-deep seat. This will likely be my big purchase item in the next few years as I'm just biding my time with my current saddle. I'll have to try out a few different models but so far I like this one.
5. Micklem bridle - $190. I've always wanted to try this bridle for Charlie since he is so face-sensitive; I think it might really work well for him.

Charlie gets the short end of the stick

Arrgggh today was one of those days where the training horses were all feeling stubborn which means, since 3 of the 6 we currently have in training are drafts, it was quite the workout for me. Although I worked with each one until they were doing what I wanted them to do, by the end of three hours I was physically exhausted and really frustrated, and I had completely lost my drive to ride my own horse. That sounds horrible; it's one of the worst parts of training, that sometimes my own horse gets the short end of the stick :(

Charlie probably would have been perfectly fine, but experience has taught me that if I am in a less than chipper mood he'll pick up on it and I really didn't want to start a fight over something we didn't need to fight about. We both need positive experiences like we've been having. Plus, if he acted up at all I think I would have run the risk of flailing or falling off because my arms and legs were like jello by that point after dealing with forcing turns, serpentines and transitions on three separate two thousand pound bohemouths. 

The rest of the days this week are supposed to be just as nice weather-wise as today. Hoping to be in a better mood tomorrow so that I can devote some quality time to Charlie.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

He's growing up! 7 years old
Charlie's birthday presents will be arriving in the mail soon (I ordered some open front jump boots to kick start our jumping career, as well as a western saddle pad), but I made sure to give him lots of  treats in the meantime: extra cookies, mints in his mash, and we shared an apple after a really nice hack around the ring and a fun little trail ride in the woods. 

He was a gem. Although I decided against tackling the full stream (Charlie has this thing about water and the stream was pretty bubbly from all the rain earlier in the week), Charlie willingly went through shallower water that was running over the path, was a pro at traversing two gates (while I was in the saddle), bravely followed a narrow spot of trail that crossed over the creek, and calmly watched as a kid zoomed around on a giant lawnmower right in front of him. I'd say it was a good day :)