Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yay For Trail Rides

Bravo for a splendid outdoor ride in the fields on a beautiful, perfect Michigan summer afternoon.

Huzzah for brave little toaster OTTBs, who march forward and confidently on trails he's never seen before, even when we start the ride at the trail head he's always been at the least very wary of, and at the worst terrified of when horses and riders have emerged from said trail head.

Big ups for this same horse who never once spooked or acted silly today. HUGE "Good Boys!" for walking literally right next to a controlled brush fire on the way home and marching through all that smoke and ash. He was concerned, but he listened to me and never hesitated.

Many big "Ha ha!"s when same brave boy was turned around in a circle so the mares we were with could catch up (man can this horse march forward)...I think this is the picture when he stopped mid circle-we were just a little ways from the barn, and it was like he was saying, "I don't WANNA go back home, let's keep going!". How can you not love this horse? He's also got a SQUIRREL!! vibe going here, but I assure you he never once felt tense or looky. Because, you know, he's awesome like that.

Many hugs and sugar cubes for a horse that is this relaxed on his 3rd (and longest) trail ride. What a pleasure he is to own, and to ride. I know, I know, more rainbows and unicorn farts about my horse. He really was that special today, though.

Finally, thank you so much to Amanda for taking these pictures to prove I have an OTTB trail extraordinaire, and for accompanying us with her 2 lovely mares Lady and Cody. What a splendid afternoon, and a PERFECT first official summer ride. She's good (not to mention sneaky!) with a camera, that one:)

Thanks ladies...all three of you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Telling You...OTTBs Are The New "It" Breed

Case in point...found this company totally by accident when they posted to the Camelot Weekly Facebook page: OTTB Designs.

I told them I need another saddle pad like I need a hole in my head, but I have looked high and low for something that would proudly advertise my Miles as an OTTB, just like they have logos for the Dutch Warmblood, Oldenburg, Holsteiner...every kind of warmblood out there, you can find a saddle pad with their symbol.

Well, now we have ours:) They're $34, and the best part is $5 goes to your choice of Thoroughbred charity. How awesome is that?? I haven't seen one in person yet, but they've gotten rave reviews, and I think they're just beautiful. Here's what I'm thinking for Miles:

Gorgeous, right? I love the "Sport of Kings" crown with a horse in an extended trot. They have them in white and red as well. All you OTTB owners-sorry to make you $34 poorer:)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

30 Day Challenge-My Turn! Day 1-When And Where You Started Riding

I'm worried this blog is turning into hearts and unicorn farts and rainbows surrounding Miles Teh Greatest Poniee Evar There Waz. In an effort to inject something different (and hopefully interesting), as well as break through whatever creative block I'm experiencing, I'm throwing my hat into the 30 day challenge...basically a bunch of questions related to my horse life, past, present and future. I know there are a couple different versions floating around out there, but I'm going to use Julie's from My Friend Grayson, since I really enjoyed her writing. I won't be doing a post everyday for 30 days (Seriously? WHO has time for that??), but I'll do my best. Without further ado:


Wow, this is lame...the answer is I dunno. I can't remember my very first ride, although there are adorable pictures of a 3 year old me at a polo match, standing on my tippy toes to pet the nose of a horse, and of a 4 year old me sitting on a palomino on Mackinac Island (dang I wish I could scan!).

I do know I don't remember a time I didn't want to be around horses and ride them, and I think I sort of wore my parents down. I remember my first "official" foray into riding was at a western barn where I took lessons. I loved it, but I also remember the instructor, who was very young, would often leave 6 year old me alone in the arena on my mount to do...whatever. My mama did not like this, obviously.

Shortly thereafter, my REAL riding life started when my parents sent me to Fox Brush Farm, a hunter barn that has been around so long that my 91 year old grandma used to take lessons there and recommended I learn English at a proper facility. Well, she was right-it was the perfect place to learn to ride. It wasn't fancy or new, but it was SAFE, and the school horses were amazing-I remember all of them-Gonzo, Nikki, Scottie, Barney, Rosie, and at least 5 more. My first lessons at Fox Brush were on a chestnut mare named Todd, and I looooooved her so much. She was the first horse I had a "relationship" with. We showed walk/trot and worked over ground poles. She was an old girl, but just perfect at her job.

The first horse I fell in love with after really learning to ride was Rassilon, a cute solid chestnut appy cross gelding with a flaxen mane and tail and an unpredictable spirit that I was totally drawn to. He was just a bit too much horse for me, but he made me a great rider and I eventually leased and showed him. I remember being SOOO jealous when other people rode him for lessons, lolz:)

One of the things I love about Fox Brush, looking back, is that I don't remember a single ONE of their lesson horses getting "sour". I mean, some were lazy, some were a little "barn sour" when you tried to ride out of the arena, but none of them hated their job. I think Fox Brush did (and I imagine still does) a great job of rotating their horses, and having enough of them that the horses were never worked in lesson after lesson after lesson every day. When I got older, Fox Brush gave me my first job (after volunteering all summer) at age 13, assisting with lessons, tacking up, watering, feeding, mucking...all those things that go into running a barn of about 30 to 40 horses.

When my confidence waned after taking a couple spills, my instructors allowed me to ride at the pace I needed and put me on the perfect horses to restore my bravery. They took a 7 year old girl who couldn't post the trot to a 14 year old girl who could jump a 3 foot course on a good day, and they found The Best First Horse In The World for me. If Kyle and I ever have a child that shows an interest in horses, I would send them to Fox Brush in a heartbeat. I hope they continue to be around for horse-crazy girls and boys for decades to come.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Re-defining Perfection. Also, Muscles!

Had an interesting ride today. It really cooled off, and Miles and I rode in temps in the mid-60's for the first time in...well, it feels like months. So he was a bit up and fresh, and very looky-loo, but still had a brain in his head. I decided to hand walk him twice around the arena, turn on "The Twilight Singers" on my phone (I don't know about Miles, but listening to Greg Dulli makes me feel invincible), and hop on.

He was a bit distracted, and not really into the whole riding around the ring in circles and serpentines bit. Could it have something to do with the fact that I wasn't either? Hmmm. There was no one to go trail riding with, which is too bad because it would have been a perfect day for that, especially because I think I saw 2 flies all day.

Instead, after riding for about 15 minutes and making sure we executed all 3 gaits in both directions, I pointed him at the cross rail, set up on a diagonal as the vertical had been on our last ride. We trotted it a couple of times, then cantered it each way-and there was such a profound, amazing change in both of us. Miles stopped looking all around, rushing in this corner, stalling in that corner, and just generally tuned in to me and what we were doing. I stopped feeling like I was constantly asking him for forward impulsion and engagement he wasn't offering. That's the great thing about jumping (and again, keep in mind I'm talking about under 2 feet at this point). It changes our whole ride. After going over that cross rail, his trot got BIG. His canter transition was there, BOOM, instantly. I think we cantered it about 5 times-the first 2 times we got a slightly short spot, though I wouldn't call it a chip. The 3rd time we got a long spot, but I LOVED that I asked him to take it and he did. The last 2 jumps were perfect.

He's perfect.

OK, hyperbole in writing, blah blah blah. If anyone actually saw our riding (especially before we started jumping)-look, it's NOT perfect. I know that. What it IS is perfect for ME, for what I'm asking of him at this stage of our partnership. Not always pretty riding, but he's always trying-and that's all I can ask for at any time. He's happy in his work, and that makes me happy. It might not be perfect by most definitions, but it's perfect enough for me. Hey, I've never been accused of being type A:) Plus, look at these MUSCLES!

Yeah, I'd like another 50 pounds on him, but I think our work in the last month is paying off. Natalie at Retired Racehorse pointed it out on Facebook, and she's right. His butt is way more impressive than it was 6 months ago:) Thanks for the big ups, Natalie!

Facing the other way, with a punk-rock hairdo. I'll always love that neck of his, muscled or not.

Modeling his very own Dr. Cook's, which we both love. Never going back to a bit again, no matter what. He's doing even better in his very own, that I can adjust to fit his face perfectly, and there is Zero leaning with the noseband sitting just a bit lower as it should be. Make no mistake, I can still "collect" him-in fact, if you haven't already, go read Fugly's latest blog-beautiful example of bitless riding. Passage, Piaffe-you can do it all without a bit. "On the bit" is really just collection, and you don't need a bit for it. Believe me, I hate the feeling of a strung out horse as much as anyone-I've never felt more connected to Miles than I have in a bitless bridle.

Well deserved green, green grass for his beautiful muscled-ass:)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Miles Conquers the Vertical

Just a quick update...the last few days were Hades hot, for real. I was swamped at work, and on the road a bit, so Miles got a respite. Today, however, he was back in fine form, and we had a lovely ride in 76 degree weather (we Michiganians are slightly obsessed with the thermometer. Does it show?).

There was a lesson happening in the arena while we were working, and various spooky things about because there was a fun show at the barn on Tuesday. At the canter, Miles tried halfheartedly to react to a mini-American flag in a bucket on the rail. He was so lame about it I had to laugh-is there such a thing as a lazy spook? Because I'm pretty sure that's just what he did. Maybe he's a Commie. Or just a proud Chilean:)

Miles has been tripping a bit, which I noticed over the weekend and again today. It's not horrible, but enough where I need to talk to our farrier about it in 10 days. He's also got a small to medium chip or beginning-chip in 3 out of 4 hooves, so I think his feet are just growing super fast thanks to all our wonky weather; super wet to super hot and dry...I think it's messing with a lot of pony feet. He's sound, just...clumsy. Anyway...

The BO set up a small vertical (which we've never done under saddle) on the diagonal for her student, as opposed to down the long-side like the cross rails we've been jumping. I thought what the heck-he was in a nice trot so I pointed him at it. His ears and head went UP, but I kept Lucinda Green's voice in my head; "Act as if your horse is a sandwich, and your legs are holding him together. If you squeeze too much you'll crush your sandwich, and if you don't squeeze enough everything falls out" (or some variation of this quote). I heart Lucinda Green so much. I also heart food metaphors-don't ruin my sandwich, legs!!

So, I supported him with my leg, and he JUMPED (like...JUMPED) Mr. Tiny Vertical...Good Boy!!! Somehow my position was strong enough to stay right with him and I remembered to grab mane. He was so pleased with himself, cantering away with just a slight toss of his head. Rightly so, natch:)

Did you know I love this horse?

This is the Droid you were looking for. Take him to your verticals.
(Milez iz owned by a nyrd.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mahhhhvalous Mr. M

Oh, we've not done anything crazy in the last week or so-but Miles has become Mr. Steady, Mr. Reliable, Mr. Pull Me Out Of The Pasture After A Week And Ride Me...which is exactly what I've needed lately.

Also, this horse LOVES jumping. Loves it. When he's being a little lazy (or it's like today, 85 degrees and muggy), I can point him at our little crossrail and he instantly becomes forward (but not rushy), and is now consistently jumping the obstacle from a trot and cantering away. I don't care that it's a teeny's added so much to our rides. It's been lovely.

The not so great news is that he's lost a bit of weight in the last few weeks. He's quite sensitive to bugs and heat so I'm pretty sure that's all it is. I've also not been at the barn nearly as much as I should be this time of year (though I would if I could have) to feed him his Speshul Miles' Mish-Mash of beet pulp, alfalfa and apples. He's been scarfing it up, and it's great because it gets some additional water in him as well. Our barn owner is aware and he's getting a bit of ration balancer in addition to his regular grain-which we've switched (again), from Purina Strategy to Tribute Kalm and Easy. I actually really like everything I've heard about this feed and their rep was great, so I hope it helps. Miles is also nowhere near as ribby as this time last year, but I don't want him ending up there either. I'll keep you updated.

Item! I've been blogging about Miles officially for over a year now. I had no idea I would have enough nonsense to write about for so long, but there it is. Posting has slowed down considerably in the last month or so, but I've found these things ebb and flow. Also, I suck at taking pictures-I need to remedy this because sometimes you can write paragraphs on the right photo:)

Item! Looks like Miles and I will be featured in New Vocation's summer newsletter. I think it's just going to be a blip among other updates from adopters, but still I'm so excited!!! Even though we aren't one of their "success stories" that have won tons of ribbons, when I was looking at horses a story like ours is exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to read. You know, about a horse who busts all the "Crazy OTTB" stereotypes, who is full of life and love, sound and barefoot, and who is a true partner to his totally smitten owner. I'll let you know when it's out.

Thank you to everyone who sent a comment or an email in the last few weeks. It's been tough, but you all bring a smile to my face. Happy June Everyone!! It's my favorite month, especially to ride. Enjoy YOUR partner.