Friday, March 24, 2017

Four Years of Suzie

Circa 2013
Four years ago today I welcomed a certain red-headed mare into my life and heart. But today isn't just a mark of celebration for having owned Suzie - it is also a huge mark in my equestrian life - the day I became a first-time horse owner.

I remember dreaming about the day I would finally have a horse to call my own.

About all the fun adventures we would have, and all the memories we would make.

And this is what 4 years of adventures and memories looks like:

One of the first conformation photos I ever took of her, 2013.

One of many bridleless rides, 2013.

A week after I brought her home, 2013.

Our first undersaddle ride, 2013.

Trail riding, 2013.

Third or fourth ride on her, 2013.

Not even four months later from the above photo, 2013.

Ground-tying, 2013.

When we only ground-drove because she was a fucking
physco to trail ride, 2013.

Being cute, 2013.
Winter, 2014.

Meeting Tally, 2014.

Pony rides for the nephew, 2014.

Bath and clip, 2014.

Playing at the kids park, 2014.

Conformation shot, 2015.

At the new barn, 2015.

Blowing raspberries, 2015.
Reining clinic, 2015.

BVX 2015

Hunter classes, 2015.

Vet visit, 2016

Sleeping with Nifty, 2016.
Mash face, 2016.

Summer, 2016.

Her favorite rider, 2016.
Suzie's BFF #1 and BFF #2 (creeper), 2017.

Four years doesn't seem like that long, but it truly seems like I have owned Suzie a lifetime. She is a mirror of my fiesty-self, and a testament to the old adage "Hell hath no fury like a chestnut mare".

I learned (and continue to learn) so much in the years I have owned Suzie - and I have made many mistakes along the way. She has been both patient and kind with my shortcomings and I can only hope I have made her proud.

When I had brought her home four years ago, I knew she had had a life of short-term homes and not so patient owners. Never abused, but certainly shifted around more times than her AQHA history admits.

I made her two promises on the long 16 hour haul home:

1. She would never have to fear being rehomed ever again.

2. I would love her endlessly... forever.

Happy 4 Year Anniversary, Suzanne.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Small Victories are Worth Celebrating

She's got no muscle and a clubby foot, but we're working on it.
The season of Spring has been slow to show it's face this year, and as such, the horses have been restlessly waiting for outings far more interesting than hand-walks and green grass to lip at. I can't say I've blamed them - the last dump of snow we received put a huge damper on most, if not all, of my March-related goals. 

It's left me in a bit of slump - thinking of all the things I should be/could be doing with my horses, especially Annie. There isn't even much room for in-hand work, and the ice has been preventing walk-hacks around the neighborhood.

After a somewhat disastrous farrier appointment (wherein Annie literally could not horse), I felt embarrassed, frustrated, and completely out of my league. She acted like she hadn't ever had her feet done before. Throughout the appointment, she danced, jittered, and kicked out on several occasions.

The farrier assured me that a lot of young horses can act that way, and it'll get better so long as I put in the time and effort but I was still mortified at her antics given that Suzie can literally be shod sans halter. I mean, Annie is four. She should know better than that!

Trust is built upon a positive relationship.
I had been lifting and cleaning out her hooves a lot when I first got her, simply because she had attempted to kick out when I requested she lift one of her hind legs. Admittedly, I've been bad about continuing to rinse and repeat the exercise, especially since I've had zero problems with it since that day and subsequent attempts afterwards.

The appointment was good in a way, because the farrier gave me some really sound advice and made me feel much better about the whole situation. He basically said that ya, she's four, but she hasn't had a lot of life experiences and from his expertise, he guesstimates she hasn't been trimmed more than a handful of times.

His biggest piece of advice? Don't get mad at her for being unsure or scared - kicking, biting, and bucking are absolute no's and she can get into serious shit for that, but anything else? Comfort her within reason and ask the right questions.

That advice hit a nerve with me - in a good way.

This is my first greenbean, and despite her being older than most greenies, she still deserves the same amount of understanding. Sure, she may be good with having her blanket heaved over her back for 2 weeks in a row and then on the 15th try, she might spook and bolt. And that's OK.

She is still figuring herself out and she is still TRYING.

She isn't dangerous, and the farrier highlighted that fact numerous times when he saw my horrified face. She was very, very unsure and very nervous about the whole situation and did what she knew to prevent herself from getting hurt or in a bad situation.

As her owner and partner, it's my job to show her there is nothing to be afraid of.

I stupidly had thought the best way to deal with her uncertainty, balkiness (or whatever) was to punish her. Whether that be by a jerk on the leadrope, a stern growl, or a smack on the neck. This isn't to say I just beat her all the time, but I can say without any kind of uncertainty that I was unfair to her in some situations simply because I expected her to be fine with _____ because she had been fine with it the day before or because other 4/5/6 year olds are fine with it.

I tacked her up yesterday after hand- walking her the day before. A friend who is here visiting drove Spud while I rode Annie. She was silly for the first 1/4 of the ride - not wanting to stop, not wanting to walk with Spud, bracing against the hand, not listening to the reins, etc - but nothing too dramatic or bad, especially for a greenie that's been off for over a month.

Awkward stance, but looking fancy for an
exciting walking-only hack!
As I settled into the ride and changed my viewpoint - praising her when she did as I requested and ignoring when she didn't - I could feel her temperament changing. She seemed so much more relaxed, walking around on a buckle rein and standing halted quietly until I asked her to move off.

It seems like such a simple and trivial thing - halting quietly. But it's a huge step and it's a building block of the foundation to come. Every time I patted her and reassured her, she soaked it up and felt like she was becoming more reassured of herself.

I've known older horses to be less quiet when returned to work and that's something to celebrate.

The small steps. The small victories.

And those don't come by with a misunderstanding of eachother - it comes with understanding, patience, and once in a while, a little pat or two to say everything is OK.

They are becoming friends <3

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fraidy Cat Eventing Contest: Bingo

This past weekend, Spud and I had a show - I haven't talked about it and have avoided blogging because it was a complete and utter disaster.

While most of my followers know that Spud and I have had a successful driving career thus far, I decided to switch gears and attempt eventing with him. I feel like getting him well-rounded in plenty of divisions and disciplines is the best thing for him.

From this unfortunate event tho, we may just stick to driving....

Everything started out really well, we arrived on time, got him bathed and braided and ready for Dressage the next morning.

All was well when we had tucked into the camper for the night - it was even a bit humid out so the BF and I left some of the camper windows cracked open for air-flow. It was nice until about 2am when a torrential downpour awoke us.

BF rolled back to bed, but my heart sank thinking of all the flooding that no doubt would be occuring from the downpour. I hoped that it wouldn't last long and managed to roll over and fall asleep for another hour or so before waking up to feed.

Most of the facility managed to be rain-free, save for the dressage court that apparently was sloped wrong when it was made. It literally held in mud and I watched as a volunteer in her gumboots got her boot sucked right off while walking across.

I gulped and went to get Spud ready.

I didn't even warm him up because he's pretty awesome with the fancy stuff, so we waited for the bell to ring and I hopped on and away we went.

And I'm really proud to say Dressage went SO well. Thank god he's a driving pony because I didn't even have to use my reins - he just listened to me whisper commands.


I kept checking the scores after Dressage, and we were in the lead!! We had a fantastic ride and the judge really liked how well I fit him.

Next up was stadium, and I don't have any pictures from it because the boyfriend was in the line-up getting Spud a hot dog (gotta keep the pony happy you know).

But this is where things started to go bad.

Spud did one of these in front of a swedish oxer:

Not once.

Not twice.

But three times.

And as I exited the class, I learned that we weren't even supposed to jump the swedish oxer - it was just in there for the next division.


I ignored the fact he was being bad, mostly because we have never jumped together before so attributed it to his greenness (no kidding).

Because this was a one-day event, we were able to roll into XC right around 3pm. I was pretty happy with my time since that meant we could head home early.

The unfortunate thing about XC was that... uh....

We literally had NO fucking brakes!

I ended up getting lost because Spud wouldn't stop and we flew by three jumps that we were SUPPOSED to jump. I ended up just letting him gallop home because he literally locked his neck and just went.

So I guess next time I'll use a gag?

Suffice to say, we did not hold onto our first place after Dressage.

We came in dead last and didn't even get a ribbon. It was awkward tho because the division only had three people... so I guess that's how bad we were.

Maybe we will just stick to Driving?

Monday, March 13, 2017

When the Pony Becomes the Ponier

This is what happened two days ago.
With the weather not being able to decide what it has wanted to do, I've spent more time cancelling horsey-plans than making them. In the past three weeks I've cancelled: 2 riding lessons, a teeth floating appointment for Annie. Oh, and the farrier cancelled this past weekend due to the weather and him being sick.

So that's been frustrating.

Couple that with working nightshift and an unfortunate family loss, and time with ponies is just not viable (and when it comes to family, pony play-time can wait). 

So when the sun peaked out and I had the afternoon clear, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

Current body shape: Potato-esque.
I feel ya, Spud, I feel ya.
 I got Spud ready first and decked out in his all turquoise gear before lugging Annie out and introducing her to the cart. She sniffed deeply at it a few times and when I walked around the driveway with her, she spooked when one of the cart tires touched her leg. For a young horse who has probably never seen anything quite like it before, she took it all in stride and even paid careful attention to where she was in relation to the wheels (probably because they tried to eat her earlier).

We didn't go for too long considering the sides of the roads where we normally ride weren't plowed due to the snow and it made things a bit tight when vehicles tried to pass.

Aside from being super proud of how Annie handled everything, I was beaming with how Spud acted. I didn't really expect any less, but there is just this air of seriousness about him when he's hitched. A good friend of mine made a comment back in August when she first met him and it has really struck a cord with me. She had been watching him in the paddock before the wedding and during the tacking up process and finally, watched him being driven and remarked, "He really takes his job seriously, doesn't he?"

And I've said it a few times on this blog - he is such a shithead sometimes but as soon as that harness gets put on, he is SO game. When I first started driving him two years ago, he felt so insecure and wormy. It's really neat to see such a huge change in his character and how confident he's becoming - it makes me excited for Annie.
 Initially, Annie was like "Do I... do I walk with you or do I walk with the cart lady?"
And then she kept sniffing him like "Hey. Hey. Hey. What are you supposed to be?"
For the drive, I held onto the reins and that was about it - he listened to voice commands and just powered on even when Annie stopped to look at a dog, crept up and kept sniffing his neck, and even when we stopped to get apples from a really nice neighbor-lady. I was too busy checking Annie to make sure she wasn't getting too close to the tires, wasn't getting too far ahead, and watching the dogs (who were playing with a neighbor dog all. over. the. fucking. road.).

If you are wondering what Suzie was up to while we motored
She was still eating when we returned and this is the face she
gave Spud when he got too close.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

TAAHH Blog Hop: Blog Name Game

 Some may notice I have recently changed the name of my blog - it wasn't my first choice and due to some personal circumstances, I wasn't able to forewarn my followers in advance of the changes. As such, I thought it would be interesting to do a hop about the blog names people have chosen and why.

Onto the point of this hop:

What is the reason/ story behind your blog name?

Those of you may have previously known me as That Red Mare - which is what my initial blog name was when I first began blogging back in 2013. As the name suggests, it was a nod towards my current mount and her fiery coat personality.

The very best mare.
 And then I got this little guy:

And I was like "It's okay because he is kind of a red-head (and a mare) by extension."

So the name stayed.

But, things have changed yet again.

Notice that she isn't red.
My herd has expanded (and deflated slightly over the years with lease horses) and my life has changed in such an exciting way. Needless to say, I came to the realization that a name change which included all of my equines would a more appropriate choice.

I hemmed and hawed for two days over what I would rename my blog and finally settled on a bit of wordplay and "Two and a Half Horses" was born. The irony being that I own two full sized mounts and one pint-sized wanna be horse (sidenote: I don't know that I needed to explain that...).

Monday, March 6, 2017

First Bareback Ride

As if some kind of cruel Horse God was trying to spite me, approximately four days after the outdoor arena was completely clear of snow and ice, it snowed.

A lot.

Pardon the loose noseband.
A thin sheet of ice layered the roadways as well, so I wasn't even able to hack around the street with Annie.

So instead, I did what any intelligent baby horse owner would do.

I hopped up on her bareback in the paddock with her pasture-mates loose and puttered around at the walk and trot.

Of course, I lived to tell the tale so it couldn't have been that bad. In fact, it was really nice.

Annie tried to drift a few times towards Suzie, who stood there judging us, but other than that she obliged with my requests and even complied with a forward trot until she slipped on some ice hidden under the snow and was hesitant to trot off again. I did find that I am horribly uncoordinated and lack A LOT of balance and core strength, which resorted to Annie being a bit confused with me in some aspects, but we ironed it out alright in the end.

All in all, it was a good little ride and I am happy to cross another "first" off our list.