Monday, January 15, 2018

Just a Number

I've been thinking a lot lately about how very different riding has become for me since I brought Annie into my life. It's not like I've had to make a discipline switch or completely alter my riding style to fit my mare - it's more in regards to my way of thinking and how I approach certain issues or scenarios. I've been an equestrian for just over 15 years - 10 of which were spent on the backs of lease horses or catch rides with the intense guidance of a coach or mentor.

The last several years I started to edge out on my own, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because amenities in the area (ie coaching) became sparse and girls I had grown up riding with moved away and horses became retired. When I restarted Geronimo, a PMU gelding who had been sitting for several years, I was fortunate enough to have the guidance I needed in the beginning of our relationship. And once we were able to fit the pieces together, I tackled the remaining questions solo style.
This horse... was challenging to restart but I loved him in the end.

Restarting a horse who's sat is a very different from a 30 day "just broke" baby, though. Although, Geronimo certainly displayed more... erm... inclination for the sky than keeping all four hooves firmly planted on the soil below him. Bust still, all the training was there - the jet-fueled gallops and bucking were merely excess energy and... his temperament, haha.


Riding a green horse was... eye-opening. Not that Annie has been a naughty baby - because you guys, she has been such a pleasure to bring along. Still, the whole process can certainly make a person feel like a novice rider. But then again, it doesn't really take a doctorate to bring a young horse along (but maybe like, a few chants and a sacrificial goat offering to the Baby Horse Gods?).

Maybe if we close our eyes tight enough and pray hard enough this Dressage
test won't be a disaster lol.
All joking aside, it's been really interesting territory to dip my feet into. I feel like I've grown as a rider, as well as am more attuned to my horses and their needs in relation to their training. Of course, I was able to have some kind of experience with a young green horse when I brought Spud home and continued his driving training. But the whole aspect of driving vs riding is quite different (and let's not forget what a giant asshole Spud was).

Throughout 2017 I tried to be the best rider I could be for my horse - being meticulous in my asks and attempting to navigate this whole Bringing Up Greenie thing without much direction or interjection. We had some major successes and celebrations over the months (especially when I was able to canter a haphazard 20m circle for the first time EVER). But, as most riders know, we can be our own worst enemy. It's not to say I didn't have fun, because this was the most I have probably ridden in a very long time, what with Suzie's lameness issues and always looking for catch rides when I didn't have a horse of my own. Throughout 2017 Annie has been there, patiently waiting at the gate and ready to ride and it's been such a wonderful feeling.

It took me two years to get the courage to show Suzie at the
BVX - I tried to do the same with Annie, but fate wouldn't let me.
I did, however, have very high expectations for my mare and in some ways, it came back to bite me in the ass. A lot of the mistakes I made with Annie were primarily personal decisions - ones that I am "over" and dismiss as learning lessons. Some of them, however, were results of listening to public opinion (like our first show), and this resulted in putting myself and Annie in a Not So Good Place.

But, learning lessons and all that. 

And Annie certainly isn't worse for wear - the PTSD baggage I carry is mine and mine alone!

With the downtime Winter brings, I've been slowly able to piece together why I had such a nagging feeling of being behind the curve. I had always kind of known it, but never really admitted it to myself. 

It all boils down to age. 

Even with a sore back she's a pretty good little bean.
Annie is coming 6 this year and being the epitome of self-conscious (oh no, someone is JUDGING US ANNIE), I continuously and consciously compared myself to riders and their horses - specifically those in the same age range.

It's not only unproductive to think this way, but it is also pretty silly.

I mean, we are all on a different journey with our horses. And before anything like age comes into any kind of relevance, we have to ask ourselves some questions about the horse's previous training, living situations, and even their temperament.

So, for Annie, it may mean she is a five year old Appendix on paper, but it doesn't really give a good look into who she is or what her experience with the world is.

Can't wait to get back to this and do more jumping this year!!
Let's back up a bit here.

I purchased Annie from a woman who owns a bit of a "project horse" resale barn. She's rescued horses in the past, put time on them, and sold them to good homes. While I've never met the woman, I've heard good things about her from people who have met her and been on her property. While Annie was not a rescue, she did come from a friend of the woman's boyfriend.

Annie was supposedly born into a large ranch and from there, was purchased by a someone who wanted to keep one of his young TB's company. Fast forward to December 2016, she was brought to this woman's facility (as this gentlemen was a friend of theirs) to be broke and find a new home afterwards. When she was listed in early January 2017, she had been started 30 days prior by the woman's boyfriend (who I assume was western because holy cow mare had a pretty hard stop on her) and had only been ridden in the facility she was at.

An ad-photo Annie <3



So let me break that down.

The horse had (what I assume) minimal handling and exposure from the time she was a young foal until her late 4 year old year. She took to being a riding animal pretty easily, as evidenced by her demeanor in the sales videos. She learned the ways of being at a boarding barn and became familiar with the routine and things like the inside arena.

And then, I bought her and had her hauled 16 hours to the cold and snowy north.

Suddenly, she was living out 24/7 and hacking on icy roadways. She was being trailered to all these new and weird places with a person she didn't really know. She went to a few lessons, hacked out alone, ponied Spud, was ridden bareback, crossed streams rivers, was hot shod for the first time in her life, ridden in a halter, jumped, taken to a few shows and fun days, been to overnight shows...

And she's been a rockstar.

Looks like a Rockstar to me!
Yah, we've had some issues. Yah, she's still got a ways to go. And yah, she's physically five (soon to be six!).

But that doesn't mean anything. And for the first time in a long time, I don't care.

I'm proud of my mare. And I'm proud of me.

Mostly proud of Annie, tho haha. The path has been a winding road and I am truly grateful for the learning opportunities this sweet mare has presented me with. Baby horses can be frustrating, but the rewards reaped are just so much sweeter.


22 comments:

  1. My guy is kind of the same - he's 6 going on 3. First 5 years of his life were spent on the acreage he was born on. He had decent handling, but had never been in a building bigger than a 3 sided shelter, or in a trailer, or met horses he didn't know since birth. We're definitely behind on where many would think he should be based on his age, but he has gained some life experience that he badly needs. I have no show aspirations so I'm on no timeline. The slow way is often the faster way!

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    1. It's interesting to see how it effects the horse - being started later on in life. I don't necessarily agree with starting horses at the age of 2, but believe horses should be worked with throughout their young age so that when it comes time to ask the bigger questions the "smaller questions" aren't such a surprise (like standing tied, farrier work, etc).

      Sometimes I do question what I was thinking when I said yes and bought her tho lol. I am wayyyy out of my element, but it seems to be working out just fine.

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  2. You guys are doing great! I think the biggest thing I've gotten out of blogging was to STOP comparing myself to others, because being able to really dive deep into other peoples' journeys with their own horses made me realize we all have different opportunities, different trainers, different parts of the country with weather that allows for more or less riding. It made me realize we're all so different, putting a horse on a "plan" based on where it "should be" is ridiculous - which it sounds like you've come to the same conclusion!

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    1. It's taken me a very long time to not compare - it's something I still struggle with. But you are so right - we all have different horses, different barns, and even different goals! It's interesting tho, to see what everyone else is doing and how they get there - helps me feel like I'm not "alone" when other people struggle with the same things!

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  3. She seems to have handled all of her transitions very well and I think that you can be proud of where you are and how far you've come without comparing against other people!

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    1. She really has! It's kind of blown me away when I sat down and looked at it all <3

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  4. I feel you on so much on getting stuck on the age a bit. I have two five year old (six in the spring) who essentially just walk and trot. My friend's four year old is jumping oxers now and I feel kind of silly puttering around. But I'm proud that they are reasonably quiet (both ridden bareback) and the other stuff will come. I think you have done a wonderful job with Annie and you both should be very proud of yourselves :)

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    1. I am amazed at how much you ride bareback!! It speaks great volume to your horse's temperament and your training!

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  5. True story, it was only a month or so ago when I rode Bridget for the first time and was like "Hmmm, she's just doing her job right now. I can actually just ride and I probably don't look completely inept" Baby horses are a serious challenge!
    She's also doing great for 6, even if you want to compare to others! Most of the riders around here don't really start their horses until 4 or 5 - I think the mentality is changing.

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    1. Haha - I hear you!

      A lot of people around here are still starting at the end of their 2 year old year. I mean, whatever floats your boat. I didn't get to choose when Annie got started, but it's been interesting dealing with things that should've been taught to her as a wee babe vs a grown horse. It makes some things a bit more difficult, but for the most part we've been able to come out the other side no worse for wear.

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  6. she definitely seems like a neat horse who has more or less adapted to the major changes in her lifestyle! young horses are tough, esp sometimes when they start to think they have it all figured out (even when they totally don't lol).

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    1. They are quite... challenging sometimes haha.

      I am pretty pleased that for the most part she is a civil beast. :P

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  7. This makes me so happy to read! She is a rockstar! Yup, every horse is SO different. Look at my two girls: Savvy is super fun 8 year old that STILL bucks at the canter after three years of training, and Shiraz is my mellow baby who learned to canter without fuss in two weeks of training. But regardless they both have my heart and it sounds like Annie has yours. :)

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    1. It's kind of funny doing comparisons because Annie hacks out wayyyy better than Suzie ever did.

      Every horse is an individual, and what has been done with them sets the tone for what they'll be able to handle.

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  8. I love everything about this post. Everything. Carmen is going to be 8 this year and many other 8 year olds are much much farther along then she is. But it doesn't matter. There was a time when I would have been pushing for more because of her age. The way I figure it she's a young 8 and I'm a young 53 so it all works out. :)

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    1. At the end of the day, it really doesn't [matter]. We'll get there one way or another haha!

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  9. You should be proud of everything you've done so far! Green broke horses are not for me. It's why I love OTTBs so much--they've already had so much life experiences that I don't have to deal with all those firsts. You've put a great foundation on her and that counts for a lot!

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    1. Those life experiences really are invaluable. We'll slowly plug along with it tho - I do wish she had had more done with her as a young'in, but at the same time she's pretty level-headed about stuff so it kinda all works out.

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  10. So proud of you guys - you're killin' it and 2018 is going to be so awesome!!!

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    1. <3 Thanks for being in our corner and part of our cheer-leading squad!

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  11. Green horses can try even the best horsewomen. I started a horse years ago, and it really brought me down a few notches... Your determination is so admirable!

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  12. What a wonderful post! You should absolutely be proud of yourself and Annie for all you've accomplished. Bringing up a youngster is no easy feat and boy does it EVER teach us so much. The people with "doctorates" in horse raising/training had to start somewhere though, right? So you're just working your way through your own doctorate now!

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