Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Horses that made me: Sparky

I just realized it has been a year (a year!) since I wrote my first "Horses that made me" post! I had great intentions of continuing on a regular basis, then I got busy having fun with Charlie and completely forgot about it. Where does the time go? Anyway, here's to a *renewed* resolution to continue this post. Today, meet Sparky:

Sparky was aptly named, as he was certainly a little sparkplug. Everyone loved Sparky, it was hard not to, and he was probably the horse (er, pony) who really instilled in me the foundation of my riding.

Like many ponies, Sparky was notorious for deciding when a lesson was over, head going one way, body traveling another as he proceeded to trot right out the in-gate. But as a result he taught me that horses aren't just push-button beasts. You have to steer them, with legs and not just hands, and stay focused on what you're doing. In other words, I learned that I wasn't just along for the ride and that if I stopped thinking, he would start, and then we'd be in trouble.

When jumping, Sparky taught me the proper way of counting strides and finding a distance. This pony could find any distance with his eyes closed, and never missed a jump. He was so consistent, and through his tutelage I learned how to feel how much ground we were covering and visualize my strides to the base of a jump.

Sparky took me on my first real trail ride, where I learned that a crupper is an essential piece of tack on a round-as-a-hay-bale pony going down a 45 degree hill. That was the start of many more trail rides in my future.

He also took me to my first rated show at Ludwig's Corner, which is where all of these pictures came from. I had never been in a warm up ring with half that many people before (so much chaos!), and when I warmed up by jumping an oxer backwards (aren't the flowers usually on the other side...? whoops!), Sparky took care of me. All in all we more than survived that day, earning a reserve place ribbon in the end.

One of my favorite things about Sparky, though, and what I will always remember, was that he absolutely loved Skittles. Particularly the tropical fruit kind. He could be half a mile away and you'd shake a bag of Skittles, and he'd come galloping right up to the fence. I sure did love that pony :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Waiting out the winter

I've decided to stop feeling guilty for not going to the barn and being productive with Charlie. It's just too damn wintery! Sorry, New England, I know you guys have way worse issues than us right now, but this is by far the worst winter we've had here in NJ in a very long time, and it really sucks for horse-related activities.

Just a typical day
I've realized that trying to ride or do groundwork right now would be skating suicide, death by frostbite, or a combination of the two. I have also realized there is nothing I can do about the weather except wait for it to improve. And that's ok. It's alright for Charlie to have the winter off. Plenty of horses do that, and they do just fine. I'm sure he'll be fine too, although is topline is now completely gone :'(

On the plus side, Charlie is actually growing a coat this year and he's the fattest he's ever been. About a month before the move I switched him to Tribute Calm Ultra and he's really doing well on it.

Looking good, minus the shoulder rub
As it is, I make it out to the barn 2-3 times a week, give Charlie some love (and a quick brush, if it's not too cold), check for scrapes or blanket rubs (kicking myself for neglecting to put on his bra under his notoriously-rubby heavyweight early in the season), paint his toes, and then I'm out.

Now that I've accepted the fact that we're having a winter hiatus from "school", I feel like a guilt-ridden weight has been lifted. Honestly, I think it will be better for us to take this time off and start fresh in the spring as part of a regular routine, than to fight with the elements and inconsistency and ultimately leave us both wishing we had just stayed in bed. If I've learned nothing else in the world of horsemanship, I've learned that consistency is key. And the only way to do that right now, is to let Charlie be a horse.

These two say "Screw winter. Bed sounds nice! Huddle for warmth :)"

Charlie doesn't seem too concerned with the matter and is enjoying his time off. Although I wish I had a blanket with a hood for him for when the wind is really whipping, he seems quite happy to be out in the elements in his high-neck, even with constant negative windchills, and routinely is seen hanging out with Nic at the very far end of the field.

Waaaaaaay out there

Charlie's feet are doing fabulously, by the way. Despite those couple of ouchy days immediately after pulling his shoes, the only time I've really seen him acting wimpy, there have been no continuing issues. I'm putting on Farrier's Fix 2x a week and he's golden.

Every day I'm thankful for these feet

Sooo now we wait for spring!