Horse Life

Next Steps & Decisions

When the decision was made to enter Leo into the Windridge HT, my biggest dilemma was deciding who would ride him. Trainer B opined that I could do it just fine, but if I wanted him to do it, he would. I hate making decisions like that. I’m no good at it. For being as decisive as I am at home and in my job, when it comes to these horses, man, I can’t make a decision to save my life.

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In the end, I decided it would be in Leo’s best interest to have a pro ride for his first competitive outing. Leo’s a bit of a ball of nerves and I didn’t want my ammy nerves expounding his- I want him to find outings to be as positive as they can be. That tends not to be the case when you have someone who’s competed once in the last year to be sitting on you while vibrating with adrenaline.

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We didn’t BOTH need to be like this

And the final reason was because of my hand. I’ve mentioned this issue sparingly in some posts, but I finally have a diagnosis (after nearly 2 years of MRIs, nerve tests, injections, therapies, etc) for why my right hand/wrist/fingers are failing to cooperate with me. And that’s because my radial nerve has decided it no longer has a reason to live and is choking itself on some scar tissue and, ya know, dying. In other words, I have a suicidal nerve.  I’m now past the point where there’s hope for anything other than surgery to stop the degeneration, and while I can will still ride until then, the uselessness of my right hand doesn’t make for the most stellar rider.

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Which I guess teaches you to sit back while you fumble around for it

But the plan HAD been for Trainer B to pilot Leo around HT #1, then for me to take the reins (literally) for #2. So to prepare, I brought Leo along on my excursion to Carolina Horse Park the week after Windridge. I was already going to support and help some friends who were competing, and got Leo a stall so we could participate in the schooling day on Saturday. Our instructions were to trot all the Green as Grass (18″) and Maiden (2’3″) jumps and work on downward transitions after each fence.

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Pre-XC Schooling. Husband came with the fam and Leo’s side eye is spot on

And he was, in a word, AMAZING.

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If a bit exuberant after the first fence

He was just so game for everything, yet so rideable, that I never wanted to get off him. Even fences that backed off other horses with much more experience than he had (this was his 4th time seeing XC fences) he took without so much as blinking.

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This little jump caused a lot of grief for all those around us…but not for Leo

AND we jumped his first (flagged) BN fence AND cantered into water for the first time. It was so hard to call it a day, let me tell you.

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Leo: Get off. Me: No

So two days later, when I was staring at the Rider blank on the entry form for the upcoming HT, I couldn’t understand why I found myself in the same dilemma as before. Leo’s already done a HT, we JUST had an incredibly successful XC schooling, he’s never stopped at A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G….there seems to be no reason why in the world I was still hesitant.

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Because this was FUN

But I am. And it’s ridiculous. I’ve done 99% of the riding on the horse, and 99% of THOSE rides are outside of lessons (aka, unsupervised). I clearly haven’t messed the horse up yet, and doubt one weekend would do that, even if I were to ride like a total monkey.

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Especially if I could ride like this monkey. Great balance, sir

And it also makes no sense that I would be more nervous to show than to school. Schooling at CHP, which I’ve done twice now with Leo, is not exactly a chill environment. It’s actually fairly insane, with hundreds of horses/riders of all levels congregating at one facility and schooling the same 50 or so jumps during a single 6 hour period. If Leo & I can handle that atmosphere, we should be able to handle anything.

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The horse can fall asleep anywhere, it seems

So in a nutshell, I KNOW I’m blowing this way out of proportion, but I seemingly can’t do a thing to stop myself.

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Bless both Husband and Trainer B lately

And after talking with Trainer B about it, I decided he’d ride Leo again. Then I hung up the phone and immediately felt sad. I almost called him right back to go, “NEEEEEEVERMIIIIND!” but figured I’d sit on it for awhile longer. And after getting home and staring some more at the entry form, I finally submitted it under Trainer B.

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Then I went upstairs and tried on my show clothes.

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Let me tell you, it’s SUPER fun being Husband right now.

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He loves when I take him out for his birthday at my favorite restaurant to talk about horse shows. You can see it in his eyes.
Horse Life

Things

I’ve been on the blog struggle bus for some time now- reading and writing. Husband, who told me when he took this job that, “it’ll be a night or two traveling some weeks,” has spent approximately 2 days at home in the last 3 weeks. That means I have 1.5 hrs at the barn after work (a TRAVESTY) before I have to get kids, get home, microwave them dinner, do reading with the kindergartner, attempt math/science nonsense with the 6th grader, etc. The upside is my house remains sparkling clean because we aren’t home enough to mess it up.

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This is what I show my kids when they complain that I don’t heat the frozen chicken nuggets all the way through

P has been toting around the Tiniest Dictator. He’s perfect.

Leo has also been on his own set of adventures, such as jumping all the BN/N XC jumps at Trainer B’s, and his first oxer!

Leo gave it no more than a cursory glance the first time over it, and then the second time didn’t even blink. He didn’t stop at a thing or even try to, not even the big coffin ditch.

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First time over the real ditch (the one furthest in the picture) and he nailed it!

And at home when a horse at the barn refused to go over this tarp repeatedly, Leo was all, “What’s the problem?”

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But the last couple rides he’s been a little more reluctant to go forward, even on Monday after having THREE DAYS off (I totally wore sticky breeches and they totally weren’t needed). No lameness, just a little fussy about staying in the trot/canter. So the vet was out today to do shots/Coggins for everyone and I asked her just to do a general check to see what she thought. And after watching him go around the lunge line, felt he was a bit stabby with his hind legs, likely indicating sore hocks. So he’ll be getting hock injections in short order. I also had him on a 30 day trial of a joint supplement, and the not-so-stellar rides happened after he’d run out and been off the supplement for about a week. So he’s starting back on it tomorrow to see if that helps any as well.

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I tried “Round the World” on Leo the other day and he was soooo unimpressed

And he looks even better than before, thanks to a tail makeover! After attempting to dye P’s tail and it turning PURPLE, I was so nervous.

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Before
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During- before attempting this, I danced in his stall waving plastic bags for at least 5 straight minutes
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After…heart eyes

Hopping off now to go read y’all’s blogs!

Horse Life

Oh. Man.

My wonderfully talented photographer friend was with us at CHP for Leo’s 1st XC schooling and snapped some amaze-ball pictures of Leo. SWOON.

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I can’t remember if I had fun or not…
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Pretty sure I did, though

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Picking up legs is optional over little jumps
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Me: There’s a tiny green box that needs jumping. Leo: ON IT
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Wheeeee
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Nailed it
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I will never not want to canter this horse
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But we must turn…
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Back to smiling

 

 

 

Horse Life

Leo Survives…XC Schooling

Back in June, when Leo had been off the track for 30 whole days, I took him to Carolina Horse park for the weekend with P. And while he handled it as well as could be expected, by NORMAL standards, it was sort of a mess.

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How Leo looked at everything the last time

Since then Leo has had 23 rides at home and been to Trainer B’s 9 times for lessons, and in my opinion, has come such a long way. But the real test was going to be heading back to Carolina Horse Park for the War Horse schooling day/horse trial, because there’s A LOT going on there.

Friday morning we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson (in which he was perfect), then left straightaway for CHP. My friend was showing there with her trainer and another client, so I stalled with them, and we had another friend coming in to help out, so a really fun group of day drinkers support.

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Did someone say wine?

Leo settled in nicely, then I went to go hook up my trailer in the campsite with the plan of hacking him around the grounds when I got back. Of course as soon as I got back to the barn the heavens opened up and it poured and stormed for about an hour, and I saw my chance of riding slipping away. I was sort of desperate to get on him, though, as I figured my best shot at a calm(ish) ride would be that evening when 1) It wasn’t super crowded, and 2) He’d already been worked that day. So as soon as it stopped downpouring, I tacked him up and we headed out.

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Leo willing himself to not be 16.3 so he can fit through the opening

 

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Leo: I iz a teensy poneh and can totes go under the rope

It was still sprinkling, there was a bunch of lightning and thunder, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, but the horse was PERFECT. A little tense, but didn’t put a foot out of place, even when someone came cantering head on towards him. We lasted about 20 minutes before the storms came rolling back in for real and it became a little insane to be out there.

The next morning it poured some more, so everything became a sloppy, disgusting mess. It was the pre-horse trial schooling day, and my instruction from Trainer B had been to get him into the water complex, and also to get him over a few of the tiniest baby jumps IF he was handling everything well. There was a lot of excitement on the grounds, as it was a frigid 70 degrees after 90+ degree heat for the entire summer, and many a call of “Loose Horse” could be heard around the venue.

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Unfortunately more than a few people experienced this over the weekend

So when I got on at the barn and walked him past mucho madness to meet everyone at show jumping and he DIDN’T melt down, I was so proud. He did have one moment when a couple horses came at him, but it was more of a “We gotta get out of the way,” spook than anything else. Unfortunately, my friend’s horse and the other client’s horse were having a rough go at life, so our XC schooling time got pushed back while the trainer could get on those guys for their schooling rounds. I ended up walking Leo across the street and just hanging out, letting him soak in the insanity that is XC schooling, and walking/trotting him around the field. AND HE WAS PERFECT. Yes, this is going to be a theme here, guys.

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THOSE EARS THO

By then everyone else was there, so we followed along while they jumped, because my main mission was water. He stood still while everyone jumped, and didn’t even flinch when a whole group of horses came charging around the corner and up the hill towards us like the cavalry (with the trainer hollering behind them NOT to do that). The only time he got upset was when we were in a little straightaway with woods on either side and my friend cantered off on her horse. There was much sideways motion and llama neck while I convinced him we weren’t going with them, but once they got back, I decided to trot him over the glorified groundpole that is the Green as Grass jump and he had no issues moving away from our group to do just that.

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Then we popped over a tiny coop, and on approach he was much more interested in the flag laying in the ground, and did a little pitter-patter with his tooties before popping right over.

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But came right around and did it again.

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And again.

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And the water? Oh…a non-issue.

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Then we hopped over a couple more little things:

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And then finally strung together a mini course…and he was an angel.

Heading back to the barns, I almost got off to walk him because I figured he might get a little anxious crossing the road and going through the trailers and barn madness, but my curiosity to see how he’d handle it all won out, so I stayed on. And we ended up splitting off from the group with one of the other clients so she could go back to SJ warmup and tackle those jumps again, and Leo this time was perfectly fine with the chaos. I got off him so we could be the client’s jump crew and he followed me around like a puppy dog, and stood like a statue while she jumped. You better believe he got praised like he’d just jumped around Rolex Land Rover for how incredible he was.

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Neither of us can believe how calm the other was on XC

He was so good I almost let Husband peer pressure me into entering the actual competition the next day.

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And the next day, despite being cooped up in his stall most of the weekend, was perfectly calm to walk around and graze, while I watched some dressage warmup and SJ rounds.

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Even getting my phone out to take a picture was not possible in June
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Not caring about the multitude of tents, nor the anxious horses that were spooked by them

And while I know that there’s still a long way to go, this outing really bolstered my confidence in his brain…not to mention I had SO.MUCH.FUN.

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PC: Eileen Dimond Photography

 

 

Horse Life

Adulting Sucks

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I had two massive grant proposals due on Friday the 16th and on August 5th the building my office is in informs us that they’re replacing the AC unit and will be closed from August 13-19. No access whatsoever. So for me, the grant proposals had to be completed by Monday the 12th, which had me working 12 hours a day at the office, then bringing my computer home at night to keep working.

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Me for 7 straight days

So I’ve been working from home this last week, which meant THREE trips to Trainer B’s for Leo, and BOTH horses getting worked every day. It’s been MAJIKAL.

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Not 100% sure Leo agrees with getting in the trailer every other day

Leo’s been coming along well, and I’m learning a whole new way to train an OTTB other than the “get on, ride, hope it works out” method of trainers past. It’s seriously been eye opening and with the help of P, I’ve been practicing using all my aids in a more coordinated fashion, timing my release of pressure, and just getting stronger in the saddle and on the ground in general.

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…and he wasn’t even sorry #noregrets
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Leo hanging with the kids
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The Tiniest Dictator is seriously a horse whisperer
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Either that or the 1,000+ animals are just afraid of the T.D. That’s a totally realistic possibility as well.
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Is the T.D. kissing Leo’s nose or whispering threats to him? We’ll never know the truth.
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If P weren’t in his stall, you better believe he’d be running towards the T.D. as well. These two crack me up

Tomorrow (well, today, as I’m scheduling this to be published in the AM) Leo and I head BACK to Trainer B’s for the 4th time in 8 days.

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There will never be anything cuter than P and the T.D.

And then Leo and I are going to Carolina Horse Park this weekend for some hanging with friends and *possibly* some official XC schooling. Because…

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Plotting together? Maybe

…we are tentatively planning Leo’s eventing debut!

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Horse Life

An Ode to the Horse Husband

Ah, Husband. Some of you have SOs who knew full well the crazy they were getting themselves into when they decided to date/marry you. That’s not the tale Husband gets to tell.

When I met Husband, I was finishing up college and at that point hadn’t ridden a horse in about 7 years. Horses came up from time to time in conversation, but as I figured my horse days were long behind me, it wasn’t a main focus.

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Now he says I look at my horses the way I used to look at him

We dated, I graduated college, we got married, I started my career, he re-enlisted in the Marines, we bought a house, we had a kid…something was missing but I didn’t know what it was.

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Then about 3 years after we first got married, one August day in 2010, I walked into a public speaking course, hating life because public speaking, while necessary for my job, was something I dreaded.

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But as introductions were made, one stood out to me- a girl who said that for fun she rode dressage.

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Now, I’d lived in NC at that point for 4 years and I’d never heard of anything remotely horsey, never even seen a horse trailer, so hearing the word “dressage” after 10 years was startling. But we talked, she invited me out to her barn to meet her horse, and 5 minutes after patting the ol’ guy’s neck, I decided I NEEDED my own horse. Stat.

Problem was….Husband was deployed to Afghanistan. He was infantry, so wasn’t on a base and could only communicate via letters (which took WEEKS to go back and forth) and the occasional phone call from a satellite phone. Sat phones were the bane of my existence during deployments. They only worked for outgoing calls, so I was at the mercy of waiting for him to call 24/7, and they were so unreliable that you never knew if you’d get 30 minutes or 30 seconds. So when that # flashed on my screen, I answered and without even a hello said, “Hey, I want to get a horse.”

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Husband off saving the world, not knowing what he was going to come back home to

But he said to go for it (because he had NO IDEA what he was encouraging), so a week before he arrived home, I’d purchased Jester for $700 w/delivery included, a basically unbroke 9 year old Paint/TB cross gelding. And Matt came home after a 7 month deployment at 6 AM, we took some pictures and immediately headed to the barn.

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7 AM
Matt & Jester
9 AM

Husband later admitted that he assumed having a horse was pretty much like having a dog that lived somewhere else. Sorry, Husband. I didn’t even really know what I was getting us into.

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Because the area was so decidedly non-horse friendly, I had no trainer options and instead, relied on Husband videoing on our camcorder so that I could later upload the video to our desktop computer and compare my videos to pictures and videos of professionals. THEN I would write notes of what I needed to work on, drag Husband BACK out to the barn the following day, and he’d simultaneously video while reading me my notes.

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And he did it all. Every time. No complaints. Even though it was mostly stuff like this thriller below- 2 minutes of counterbent trotting along the rail.

He came to my shows and cheered the loudest of anyone when I won a walk/trot class (I KNOW, that was what was AVAILABLE, ok?).

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Class sheet of the local horse show series in that area. Jester and I killed in the Field Hunter W/T

He agreed to trade in one of our cars in order to get our first truck. And a month later when we went on our annual family vacay to Michigan, agreed to take one of the days he could be spending at the lake to go buy a horse trailer….then drive it 17 hours home.

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It took 3 of my uncles to help park it because Husband & I had NO IDEA what we were doing
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But I was so excited

Then when I found a quasi-dressage trainer that was the closest available, Husband would drive 1.5 hours one way with me to video. And if the sun was in the way, he freaking BLOCKED THE SUN (1:11 of the video).

And when we decided to go for Kid #2, Husband respectfully requested that I not ride, as it made him nervous. So I agreed and, having wanted to try Jester in eventing anyway but not having facilities anywhere nearby, sent Jester to a trainer a couple hours away to introduce him to dressage arenas and XC fences. Unfortunately, a pasture accident a month into training left Jester with an irreparable broken leg, so Husband drove me the 2 hours to say goodbye.

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And a few weeks later, these momentos arrived, courtesy of Husband. I had no idea he’s gotten any of Jester’s tail hair, and he said he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want to upset me further.

A few months later the Tiniest Dictator came into the world and shortly after, we packed up and moved to the Charlotte area, using the horse trailer for storage, as I was horseless.

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But not for long, because while I was sort of looking, sort of not, our anniversary was coming and Husband had plans. He knew which one I wanted based off of how much talking I did about this horse so…

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Baby P face!

And resumed his Husband duties of videoing every excruciating trot circle and canter transition, still with no complaints. But this chapter is where he started inserting his own commentary (you know what I’m talking about if you follow me on IG) into most videos.

He makes me laugh when I hear a ridiculous accent:

He has the ability to make you sit on the edge of your seat. Will they make it??

Sometimes he ran into things:

He’s videoed more BN dressage tests than I can even give him credit for. And usually I wouldn’t even watch the video- I’d grab a screenshot or two and forget the rest.

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1 hr of travel time + 20 minutes of warmup + 5 minute test + 1 hr of travel time back = ONE satisfactory screenshot

And, oh yeah, he’s Super Dad. Usually while he’d be videoing, he’s also be wrangling control over a 6 year old and 1 year old. More than one dressage judge has heard him threatening our kids with bodily harm if they disrupt my test.

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Though sometimes he uses the horse as a weapon…

He continues to be baffled by the fact that I only want horse stuff for birthdays/special occasions. But he’s compliant.

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P loves going to shows with him because he knows Husband brings food.

And I love him going to shows because he’s an excellent…

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…Groom…
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…Drinking partner. Even at 10 AM…
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…Nerve dissipater…
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…Fence scale…
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…Horse show cook…
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…and Selfie taker.

The last 3 Father’s Days have fallen on horse show weekends..

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And there was that one year that we spent his birthday at Windridge and not only did he NOT complain, he came out for the dressage/SJ day to video in the pouring rain, and THEN he said that my winning the event was the best birthday present (which is insanely cheesy, can not possibly be true, but 100% how Husband is).

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When I said I wanted to buy a hammock so I could sleep in the horse area of my trailer at shows instead of stay in hotels, he found me a turquoise one.

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Then when I decided that sleeping in a hammock was NOT for me (after one night) and said I wanted AC in my dressing room, he took my trailer to the shop.

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THEN when I wanted the dressing room insulated so it held heat/AC better, he bought all the materials and got to work.

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Supervising

He’s even gotten in front of the camera a few times to help solidify our nonstop contest winning. It all started because I really wanted those free Kastel shirts but the contest was geared specifically for men. Luckily I have Husband.

It did take a *tiny* bit of convincing, though.

And that led to him playing the part of “Crazy Pilgrim” in our Triple Crown contest submission (which, of course, we won). Husband is at 2:18 in the video.

And most recently to our submission for some free Coat Defense, which…we won.

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And been a co-conspirator on other crazy videos we’ve done, like “Game Day:”

Because everyone should test to see how their horses handle getting beaned by a football.

He did the AM handwalking for me while P was on stall rest (and after this terrifying video, underwent an intense course on how to properly secure a rope halter):

And through it all has videoed pretty much everything- with his own twist, of course.

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He lets P play with his zippers, which P appreciates

Every year for P’s birthday he buys decorations. The 2 years I was in KY over P’s birthday, he took the kids out and they sang him Happy Birthday and gave him treats.

2018:

2019:

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When I was in Nashville for a bachelorette party, Husband went to the barn and surprise-FaceTime’d me from P’s stall.

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Then I had this INSANE idea to get ANOTHER horse.

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Literally me after bringing it up in conversation with Husband

And Husband said, “Go for it.”

So I did.

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And Husband was there when I arrived back from DE with Leo in tow to video and snap some pictures.

And he’s still videoing the most boring things ever with his most expert commentating.

And I still have yet to hear him complain. Love you, Husband!

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Being the best Horse Husband ever is exhausting
Horse Life

Leo Survives….XC!!

It’s so strange to be back in the land of wi-fi and horses. I left July 5th for a week-long family vacation in Michigan, which involved 64 of my closest relatives packed into 4 small cabins on a lake. It’s a yearly thing, but thanks to Husband’s educational/employment endeavors, we haven’t been in the past 3 years. It was great to see everyone we don’t see throughout the year, as we’re scattered around Chicago/Virginia/NC, but a week of no horses is way too long! Thanks to the lack of wi-fi and basic internet connection, I couldn’t even get my horse fix through y’all’s blogs, so I’ll be stalking them throughout the day to catch up on what I missed.

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The day before I left, Leo and I went up to Trainer B’s and a boarder came with me to get MEDIA. And she picked the perfect time to come, as Leo was the most amazing ball of amazingness.

We started with a bunch of work on the flat, getting him to relax. When he lets go, man-oh-man, you won’t want to go against him in dressage. Homeboy has some serious fancy pants he occasionally flashes.

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Then we trotted a bunch of poles, which he’s done quite a lot, then over a teensy x-rail.

Then with one half of the 2nd x-rail up:

Then TWO x-rails. Hitting the big time here.

Then Leo’s first vertical!

We did that a few more times, then headed out to the XC field for some real fun.

First up was the ditch. Trainer B has 3 levels of ditches in a row. You can start with the log with the dip behind it, then graduate to the faux ditch with the sand/pole, then next to that is the legit ditch. We started by walking around it both ways, then trotting over the teeny log before coming around to the middle faux ditch. I sat in the backseat, just letting him have his head and encouraging with my leg and he hesitated for a split second but DID NOT STOP before popping right over!

Then we went the other way, with no issues.

Then threw in the flamingos just for fun.

Then went to the water. Leo’s been in both of Carolina Horse Park’s water complexes, but this was the first time he’s seen the dyed turquoise water. And he clearly didn’t trust it once he saw it, so we spent a few minutes doing laps around the edge, getting closer and closer…

…Until he decided we miiiight not be trying to kill him, and oh so gingerly stepped in:

Then we just walked in and out from all different sides until there was no hesitation and called it a day!

Then Leo promptly got a week off while I was gone, and decided he didn’t need hind shoes.

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Then the next day he twisted his OTHER hind shoe. AGF came out and fixed them both, then Friday he did the same thing to his front right. So clips it is!

So we’ll spend this week getting back in the swing of things before heading to Trainer B’s on Saturday to see what’s next!

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Leo’s ONE fail from the day where he found out he needs to watch where he puts those lanky legs of his

 

 

Horse Life

Leo Survives…A Lot of Trailer Rides

Thanks sooooo much for all the kind comments and commiserations! It was definitely a low point in life with P, and I’m pleased to report that it’s been 11 entire days since P’s last vet visit. He did try this out:

After the Foot Hole this didn’t even make me flinch

But AGF slapped some epoxy right on and said to ignore it.

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Despite being med–free for 6 days now, his eye continues to remain wide open and as far as I can tell, the pupil isn’t dilated anymore. The vet had said it could take 2 weeks for the Atropine to wear off, and it’s been 11 days, but he’ll continue to wear the eye patch on his fly mask until Friday anyway.

But the bug mask is a thing of the past 😬

Leo had an insanely long weekend. It started Thursday, when I attempted the right lead canter. Up until then, I’ve only cantered him 3x, and only to the left. He has an incredible canter and is so adjustable, you forget he raced just last month…until you try to steer him, that is.

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This was the first canter. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing with my body other than I had in my head that I was conveying relaxation and trying to stay as still as possible. The next time I cantered him I experimented with sitting in the saddle and making small adjustments with my body, which resulted in an incredibly uphill canter that of course was NOT caught on camera #FirstWorldProblems

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But the right lead canter was a much different beast. He bolted into it, then bolted around the arena, almost careening into jump standards and the arena fence. Then to the left was as quiet as a mouse. Luckily we were heading to Trainer B’s the next day, and he fixed errrrything. Hallelujah.

Leo looking relaxed at Trainer B’s…or maybe exhausted 🤷‍♀️

Saturday was a local-ish schooling CT/Jumper show that I had planned on taking Leo to just to hang out, but I ended up coercing my BO into entering with a client’s horse so I’d at least have something interesting to watch. So Leo got back on the trailer with a new friend, and we spent a good 4 hours just hanging out in the atmosphere. He learned horse shows = ear rubs and treats, and was relaxed the entire time.

It took approximately 50,000 pictures before my friend got got this one of him looking remotely interested in something other than grass
After convincing the judge that I wasn’t there to compete him, they let me wander around the jump arena with him. This was the spookiest jump and he just wanted to taste test 🤔
All the ear rubs ❤️

Sunday it was BACK on the trailer to go BACK to Trainer B’s, to make up for lost time since Trainer B has selfishly been competing (and winning) on his own horses. We started in the main arena just waking over poles of various heights, then headed to the dressage/gymnastic arena where (drum roll) Leo and I “jumped” for the first time! I mean, as much as a 16.3 hand horse jumps a cross-rail.

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About the right visual

Then we headed to the XC field and as nervous as he felt the first time he saw all the crazy jumps, he was super brave about stepping over the log back and forth a zillion times, and we called it a day.

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Our 80 minute session at Trainer B’s on Sunday saw us doing ALL THE THINGS. If you haven’t already, this free app called Equilab is amazing for tracking rides/training sessions.

We’re heading back there Thursday (and I miiiiight have company, which means MEDIA) before dear Leo gets the week off while I head on family vacay. I think he was just glad to get a day off of getting in the trailer.

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Horse Life

Leo Surivives…A Show

Welcome to another installment of the hit new series, “Leo Survives…” You can view the pilot episode, “Leo Survives…His First Lesson” here.

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In the week and a half between these posts (I’m SORRY, Michele, there just haven’t been enough hours in the day), Leo’s had 4 more rides and a play day in the arena puddles, since there are NEVER puddles in the arena. Our rides are quite boring, as they are currently just a bunch of walk/trot/halt transitions and learning to steer. He has pretty good natural balance, but he’s also still very track tight and carries a LOT of tension in his back/neck/jaw.

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Moments like these don’t last long so I screenshot for memories

So our rides are fairly low-key with lots of serpentines, figure-8s, circles and some lateral work to loosen him up. When he relaxes he goes into this absolutely lovely natural frame, but when he’s tense, he’s like riding a giraffe stuck in quicksand.

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Like this

Here’s a video of his 7th ride- it’s SUPER boring, but I’m posting it anyways, so I can reference it in the future.

And here he is playing in the puddles. No hesitation and he seemed to quite like the water!

And over a pole!

He got new front shoes and back shoes put on, so I’m hoping that helps him get more comfy with using himself, the way it did for P.

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AGF working his AGF magic

He’s now been off the track for 30 days, so naturally it was time to take him to a show. And because P-Bug still needs round-the-clock eye meds, he got to come along as well. First time off the farm for something besides a vet visit in a year!

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This was the first time I’ve had Leo and P right next to each other- height difference much?

We went along with Trainer B and the team to Carolina Horse Park’s War Horse Event Series. It definitely wasn’t my first choice for his first show, as it’s really a lot of atmosphere to take in, but it was also my only shot at taking him to something like this for the next couple months, so we went to get it over with. He and P did well on the trailer ride, which I was absolutely FREAKING OUT over. I’ve never trailered two horses together and was absolutely petrified they’d fight or get injured one way or another, but we all arrived intact and the 2 boys stood on the trailer sharing hay while I got their stalls ready.

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I took Leo out for a walk around the grounds and we did a lot of standing and staring into the distance. He didn’t seem to care about the normal spooky stuff, like banners, tents, flowers, decorations, etc, but it seemed as if he were trying to find the track. And…CHP happens to have one. Sort of. It’s grass and I’m not sure it’s really used anymore, but it is there and while I’m not 100% certain that’s what he was looking at, he sure was intent on staring in that direction.

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He was good about the stall and spent his time with his face mashed into his hay bag. It definitely helped that P was there as a calming presence, as he’s always been good about being off-property and has been to CHP a bunch of times. The only tense time was when my friend played the track sound and Leo DEFINITELY remembered it.

Then we did it to P, who tried to eat her phone.

-SmhSaturday was when it would get chaotic. This event series is unrecognized and Saturday is always their schooling day. For an additional fee you can school dressage/stadium/XC and because of this, the barns are nearly always at full capacity (192 stalls), with even more people trailering in for the day. Even P lost his damn mind the first time I came here for this horse trial back in 2017. It’s the reason I would’ve preferred to have gotten Leo to a smaller show at least once before coming here, but alas, the timing was not meant to be so sorry kid, I’m throwing ya into the deep end of the pool.

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I went to take this picture of all our horses staring at SOMETHING and afterwards, realized that one of these things is not like the other. Oh P

Trainer B wanted us to come out on XC that morning, but it would’ve cost me $100 just to walk/trot around the field (we clearly weren’t going to jump anything), so I opted to skip that and instead take him around the areas we had been to the evening before. But then I got brave and we wandered closer to the XC fields, which are across the street from the rest of the venue. And when no one stopped us, we walked further down the lane so he could see both sides of the XC course. Then Trainer B and some clients came up and Trainer B said to follow them around as long as we could on the XC course. So…we did.

we-made-it-out-hallelujahWhile there was much prancing and jigging sideways, he handled it better than expected. I can pretty much assume he’s never been in the woods, let alone when there are horses/riders flying around corners and leaping over things, and you can hear so much but not see everything. He went right into both water complexes with no issue and at the very end, after being out 1.5 hours, hopped over a little log with no fuss and Trainer B declared him a jumper.

Sunday was the show so I couldn’t do much, as everyone had pretty tight ride times so there was much helping/videoing/cheering to do. But at the end, Leo and P loaded right back up into the trailer, and were clearly happy to be home. P took off and galloped around his field a few times and Leo walked 5 ft and stuck his face in the grass.

This week will be pretty low-key, as Trainer B is heading to NJ for a horse trial, but I’m tentatively planning on taking Leo to a local hunter show this Saturday to hang out again. Which, after this weekend, should be a piece of cake.

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Horse Life

First (& 2nd Ride), Didn’t Die

If we’re FB/IG friends, you’ve already seen these, but I’ve been on Leo twice now and am still here to talk about it!

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Wednesday was my first time getting on- we arrived home late Saturday evening and my plan had been to give him a couple days to chill, since he’d undergone a lot of traveling and a lot of changes since racing just a few weeks ago. So I spent a bit of time each day with Leo on the ground and have found him to be slightly nervous, but altogether a really good guy.

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Yes, you

The ride was completely uneventful. BO held him for me at the mounting block, but didn’t even need to, as he stood totally still while I got on and found my stirrups. We just walked for the most part. While a bit wiggly and braced on the bit, he was surprisingly easy to maneuver with just my seat/leg, and quickly learned how to halt from just my seat. I wish there was some video, but BO was riding S at the time, so boo.

Thursday after tending to P, I pulled Leo out but it was getting late and tacking up seemed like a lot of work. Since he didn’t really know how to steer with reins anyway and I didn’t want him to get the impression that me=arena work, I decided to experiment.

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I did get on him first in the arena since he’d already been in there, but he was so chill walking around, I hopped off and led him up to the tall mounting block next to the dressage arena on the other side of the barn. He caught sight of the cows across the street so stood completely motionless while I got on (thanks cows!), then I turned him and we wandered around those fields and into the dressage arena.

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Today we’ll put our groundwork to the test and work on self-loading into the trailer because tomorrow we head to Trainer B’s!