Trail Ride Extravaganza!

It’s exactly 20 days until the glorious 19th of May- also known as Spring Hunter Pace Day! Kyla and I have been working Cal and Gina regularly to get them fit for the ride. Our third team member, Levi, tells us he’s been working his horse Bubba, too. We’re all pretty excited- after all, Kyla and I have our third-place finish to defend!

Levi’s trailering us to the event, but wasn’t sure if all three horses would fit into his stock trailer. He assured me that it fits six calves, but since we weren’t sure what the ratio of calves to horses is, we decided to load everyone up and take them on the trails at the local lake. 
Kyla and I hit the trails a few weeks ago with our friend Will and his horse Misty. The horses were good then, so we were really looking forward getting out again. The horses loaded up in Levi’s trailer without too much fuss and fit totally fine. Once we arrived at the lake, we tacked up our guys and got ready to set off. 
Gina was totally fine until we set off toward the trail. She immediately zoomed backwards at maximum speed, shaking her head and flailing around. I jumped off, removed her flash noseband, and got back on. She was quieter. We headed down the trail, with Cal and Bubba in front of us. About 100 feet into the narrow, slippery trail, a plastic bag lay. Gina was not having the plastic bag. She reared. I clung to her neck. She spun. I ducked to avoid tree branches. She galloped out of the dense wooded trail and back into the parking area. I stopped her. After that, we decided to take an alternate, slightly wider and less tree-filled route. 
Kyla and baby Cal
Gina calmed down after that and we ended up having a great ride. We let the horses gallop on a long, flat stretch. Bubba, who’s a sturdy little Quarter Horse used for ranch work, smoked both Cal and Gina (two race-bred TBs!). We’re planning a rematch, though, since Cal wasn’t feeling his best and was recovering from an abscess. 
Me (left) and Levi (right) after galloping.
We spent about 2.5 hours riding and traveled about 8 miles. We wove through forests, across streams, over rocks, and ended up right on top of the lake. I suggested we swim across the lake to make for home, but somehow, no one was with me on that suggestion. It would have ruined my tack anyway…
This was the least-dense area we rode through. The lake is beyond the trees.

The horses were tired and soaked with sweat when we got back to the trailer, and we (and our tack) were covered in mud, sweat, and bug bites. No pain, no gain, though, right? We’re definitely ready to smoke the competition at the hunter pace!

Big Red, Little Red, and Bay Mare

The week after Christmas was extremely busy. I was at the barn every morning to feed, as Kyla was spending most of the week in New York. (We normally divvy up the days.) I got a lot of good riding in on nearly all of the horses.

On Tuesday, Gina was being an absolute beast. She was galloping back and forth along the fence line, whinnying as if she was a wild stallion. (If you’ve heard Gina’s whinny, you’ll know this isn’t an exaggeration. She really does sound like a stallion.) Kyla had assured me it was fine if I rode Cal while she was out of town, so I caught him and hopped aboard. I like Cal; he’s a very green 8 year old OTTB gelding. He’s a real sweetheart and very levelheaded and game. Anne and her teenage daughter were out riding Atut (who was being very obstinate), but Anne offered me some pointers and soon Cal was going along nicely, accepting the bit and happily bending through circles and serpentines at a walk and trot. Anne was so impressed with him she even rode him for a bit. Here they are, looking very nice:

Anne and Cal.

On Wednesday, Colt arrived. Colt (or Big Red as I like to call him) is an extremely large (we’re talking 17+hh) 6 year old Oldenburg gelding. He was bred by Linda (my boss/the barn owner) and is owned by her son. Colt’s dam (the TB broodmare Cherry Ice) and half-sister (the pinto Oldenburg Xeta) live at the barn. His sire is the great Oldenburg Wradar (who also happens to be all of Gina’s foals’ sire). Over Christmas, my boss and I convinced Colt’s owner Zach to bring him to the farm so I could ride him. Zach is an attorney with three young children who would like to ride but doesn’t have a lot of time. He hadn’t been able to pay as much attention to Colt as he would have liked upon Colt’s return from the trainer. As a result, Colt had become very pushy to both humans and other horses. Zach explained Colt wasn’t a bad horse; he just seemed to know he was much bigger than everyone else and could get away with bad habits.

Colt made his arrival known by clambering out of the trailer snorting and blowing. He half-dragged Zach as he pranced toward the pasture with Gina and Cal. Zach turned him loose in their field and we watched as he danced up to the two horses. He and Gina sniffed one another, at which point Gina wheeled around, pinned her ears, and kicked Colt on the side. Cal looked mildly interested at the fuss, but every time he attempted to sniff Colt, Gina charged between them, herding Cal away. Zach seemed pleased; I think he was glad to know that Colt wouldn’t be top dog.

By Thursday morning, Colt had been designated middle horse: definitely below Gina, but slightly above the good-natured Cal.

Little Red (Cal, left) and Big Red (Colt, right)

At first glance, the two horses don’t look too different in the picture above, but check out their backs! Colt is nearly two full hands taller than Cal! I longed Colt in the round pen on Thursday. I only wish I’d been able to take a video- his movement is absolutely gorgeous. His longeing is good- he definitely knows the drill. His ground manners are another story. He’s difficult to catch, and a pain to bridle. However, he stands tied quietly, stands quietly for mounting, and has a pleasant attitude under saddle. He has a very solid foundation and simply needs to be ridden. 

I’ve had a couple lessons on Colt with Anne, and she really helps me get good results. On Monday, Zach came out to watch, then ride, and Colt was a doll for him. The only issue plaguing us right now is a bit. Colt’s enormous mouth is too wide for even Atut’s 6″ loose ring. I’ve measured all the bits in the barn as well as all the extra bits at work, and none are wider than 6″. I found a 7″ online, and since it’s only $20, it might find its way to Colt’s mouth. We’ll see.
On Wednesday, Kyla and I left work a smidge early to try and get a ride in before the sun set. When we arrived at the barn, Cal was down and looking colicky. We quickly scrapped our riding plans and got Cal up and walking. After a Banamine injection, Cal perked up and looked much happier. He was eager for breakfast the next morning and has been totally fine since.
Friday was a beautiful day, so we called it a day around 4:30 PM and headed to ride. I hopped on Colt and Kyla on Cal, and we set off for some flat work. The horses were good, even after we switched halfway through our ride. 
Kyla and I had a lesson with Anne today, she on Cal and I on Gina. It was a jumping (I use the term loosely) lesson. After chasing the horses around their pasture for the better part of half an hour, we finally caught them and got to work. Anne had me work on getting Gina to focus on me; while I didn’t have any major disobedience from Gina, I never felt like she was fully invested in what I was doing. She seemed to have one ear and eye on everyone else and one on me. (All of the horses were acting crazy today; even the elderly broodmares were galloping around.) Despite her inattention, the G did pretty well. She trotted over ground poles without being too tense and gave me very little trouble over a crossrail. I hope this is a sign of things to come and that one day we’ll be over our stadium issues. Kyla and Cal had a very good lesson; Cal is totally unfazed by crossrails and ground poles and other horses carrying on like idiots. 
It’s been a busy week, but I’m excited for more like it!

Gina Makes a Friend

Gina’s shared her small paddock with Shari’s Quarter Horse gelding Whiskey for the last few months. Whiskey’s a small, sweet chestnut that happily shoves G out of the way at breakfast and dinner and eats approximately half of her food once he’s done with his. He isn’t very aggressive about it; he just moseys over and starts eating. G meekly walks away and lets him do it! (Very unlike her.)

I’ve been wanting to move Whiskey out, but it’s really nice to split the cost of a round bale with Shari and G seems to enjoy having company. I was planning to keep the current arrangement until I was able to get Moe to Oklahoma, and then put my two together. Something convenient and nice happened last week, though, and now G has a new friend!

A therapeutic riding place in Jay, Oklahoma called a few weeks ago and offered to give us two geldings, one a Clydesdale and one a Thoroughbred. We all agreed the Clydesdale would be a super addition to the program, but the TB probably wouldn’t have a place. Shari brought them both home last week and offered the TB to Kyla. Kyla, while less than enthusiastic about the expense, was very excited about the prospect of having her very own Adorable Thoroughbred Horsey. (Which is what I like to call them.)

So Burbank Cal, a 7 year old super-cute chestnut gelding that’s earned a whopping $3,000 on the racetrack has become Gina’s new friend. He’s currently very thin and seems pretty green. We took the ponies for a hack on Saturday and Cal was very calm in the arena, on the sensory trail, and in the field. He was fine with Gina hanging out with him and didn’t get too nervous when I took her for a quick gallop.

Kyla plans to join Anne and me for lessons on Tuesday. Cal won’t be under any heavy work yet, but it certainly won’t hurt him to walk around and work on bending, halting, and collection. I’m so excited to having a riding partner! I can just imagine all the dressage shows, hunter paces, and three-days we’ll be heading to next year!