Ponies have arrived!

This weekend was pony weekend (but isn’t every weekend?). On Saturday, Richal, Audrey, and I headed to Tulsa to pick up Moe and Gina. After admiring my ingenious tuna can bridle hangers, they helped me load my meager possessions into the trailer. We caught the horses and both of them loaded into the trailer like total pros. Neither horse has ever been bad about trailering, but I am always grateful when they hop right on without any fuss.

They unloaded quietly and were quickly led to their new homes: two stalls with dry lots off the back in the breezy shedrow. They aren’t next to one another- between them is a mare and her cute Paint/Fresian foal. Both horses spent some time pacing and whinnying; Moe was also terrified of the foal. (He’s terrified of all tiny equines.) They settled down after a little while and were munching hay when I left.

On Sunday, I went out to see how they were coping; both horses were turned out in a big field. I rode Gina in the small indoor, just to see how she’d do. 

“This looks a lot like work…”
Gina was good; she didn’t spend a whole lot of time looking around or calling for Moe. She put in some really excellent trot work, let me open the gate to the outdoor from her back, and walked around the outdoor arena sanely. (It was a nice change from Fred, let me tell you.) I gave her a good scrubbing after our ride, which she desperately needed. She was grimy with sweat and dirt and general grit. She pulled back once and broke her lead rope (sigh), but I just grabbed the spare in my tack trunk and proceeded as usual.
Monday I rode Moe, who was delightful as always. The minis, Peanut and Charlie, were hanging around in an aisle close to one corner of the arena. Moe was completely terrified of them and spent a few minutes standing completely still, staring at them. He refused to go very deep into the corner (lest a mini attack) and spent the entire ride in the indoor giving the minis some serious side-eye. For their part, the minis ignored him. I took him out into the newly mowed hay meadow and we cantered for a bit; it felt good to have space to run. It also felt good to just ride my favorite old horse. I gave Moe a bath after our ride and turned him out, where he thoughtfully rolled in the grass.
“Did you need us for something?”
I also rode Freddie on Saturday and Monday. Dear old Fred has pulled her right front shoe again, so we are continuing the ever-exciting walking routine. I rode her in a borrowed dressage saddle on Saturday, which made her feel super downhill. She was good, though, and I felt like I was using my seat and legs better, so we’ll keep it in our rotation. On Monday, I dug out my breastplate to see if it fits her; it does, and she looks extra legit in it. 
The best at looking like a majestic creature.

Fred was good. She’s starting to respond to halt requests more readily and seems to be beginning to understand bending. If only we could keep her shoes on!

One last note: Carson has found a new home! A couple of weeks ago, I accompanied Audrey and Richal to a nice hunter barn in Tulsa who was interested in trying him for their lesson program. They thought he was too forward (again, LOLZ) but thought he’d be a good fit for one of their students. He stayed there on trial, and his new owner recently commented on one of my posts about him that she’d just bought him. I wish her the very best with Carson (who is now renamed Moose); he was one of my favorite horses and I won’t say I didn’t shed a few tears when we dropped him off at that barn. 
Back to the work grind today; I hope y’all had a great Labor Day weekend!

Freddie freaks out

After Freddie had a little meltdown in the hay field last week, I decided to keep things low-key for our next few rides.

Ruining a perfectly good photo by shaking her head.

On Sunday, we headed to the outdoor arena for a walk. She’s had some trouble containing her excitement in the outdoor before; she walks quietly for a couple of minutes, then totally spazzes out and tries to run off. She was marginally better on Sunday, by which I mean she walked for about 10 minutes before beginning her nervous jig. I tried to stay relaxed and keep my reins loose so she wouldn’t have anything to pull against. Major fail, as Freddie took that as a sign to trot as quickly as possible. We spent the next half hour having a come-to-jesus about the nature of half-halts and walking. It was ugly, but when she walked an entire lap each direction as well as over some ground poles, we headed back to the indoor to cool out in the shade. Freddie promptly pitched a fit and took off careening around at a canter and bucking. The indoor is very small, so I didn’t feel like I was in any real danger and I sat the temper tantrum until Freddie settled down. Then I closed the gate between the arenas from her back, which didn’t bother her. Weirdo.

Indoor is boring! Need more running!

I rode Tuesday before work, sticking to the indoor this time. Freddie was about the same as she was on Sunday; totally fine for about 10-15 minutes, then totally amped up and ready to run. More careening, more bucking. 

Such noble. So majesty. Much Thoroughbred.

During our Thursday morning ride, Freddie was definitely better. She stayed (mostly) relaxed for our ride; I also shortened it, thinking that maybe 45 minutes was just too long for green bean Fred. I stuck to the indoor and tried to keep her busy with arena figures and walk-trot transitions. She had a few very moments of stretching down and reaching for the bit; I was very happy with her. 

Freddie is proving to be much feistier than I thought she would be! She is pretty sensible, not spooky, and not mean. She’s just very ignorant. I’m currently riding her every other day, and I think having a regular schedule will help her immensely. (Doesn’t it help them all?) 
As long as she doesn’t buck me off and break my good arm before work, I think we’ll be okay.

Desk jockey

Good news, y’all! Yours truly is no longer unemployed! Or rather, yours truly is no longer under-employed teaching the occasional riding lesson and training the occasional horse.

Starting Monday, I’ll be the web manager for my local tack store The Horse of Course! When I was in to browse saddle pads a few weeks ago, I noticed they were hiring. I applied, and thanks to a well-placed call from a friend with a contact there, I was granted an interview.

I’m really excited, but also a little nervous. It’s a full time position, but has flexible hours. The barn is now a solid 45-60 minute drive away; I think as long as I get up bright and early, I’ll be able to ride before work. After all, someone has to keep Freddie in line and feed Moe cookies.

Speaking of Freddie, I got a hack in on her this afternoon. She was excellent in the arena, all softness and bends and little baby lateral movements. I headed outside for a walk around the hay meadow with our friends Holly and Sundance for company; Freddie was a real gem for about five minutes. Then she went from calm and happy to omgomgomg bolt now wut! in approximately 30 seconds. 
I don’t have a clue as to what set her off. Perhaps Sundance was too far behind her? Maybe the grass was extra tickly today? At any rate, Fred spent some time on a tiny circle and sidepassed for the better part of the walk back to the barn. We went back to work in the indoor arena for about 10 minutes, where she was cool as a cucumber. I’ll just file today under “learning curve” and leave it at that.

The great outdoors

Fred’s first time out of the arena.

Working with Freddie is already an exercise in patience. She somehow yanked off a shoe earlier this week, which is terribly inconvenient. Moe and Gina have been barefoot for years without any trouble; farriers regularly comment on how good their hooves are. I’d always silently thank the Thoroughbred gods for giving me two tough, hardy horses when I’d read fellow bloggers’ posts about hoof and lameness woes. Well. Now I’m right there with y’all. 

Freddie’s a little gimpy at the trot without her shoe, but totally sound at the walk. I spent about an hour on her yesterday afternoon, walking endless laps around the indoor arena while asking her to soften her jaw and bend the tiniest amount. We worked on halting. We worked on steering. We worked on letting other horses zoom around us. We worked on standing still. Freddie did well; I’m pretty sure she fell asleep while we were standing the the middle of the arena. 
While we were watching other horses canter around, a couple of riders tacked up and decided to go on a short ride around the facility’s hay meadow and back pasture. It’s about 8 acres of lush green grass with a small pond in the middle. Freddie hasn’t been out of the arena since her racetrack retirement, and I figured there’s no time like the present. Right? 
Freddie and I followed our friends out of the arena and into the unknown. Three dogs were escorting us on our ride, joyfully bounding through the tall grass and into the pond. Fred was unfazed by the knee-high grass and marched over to the pond as if she had every intention of getting in. (We didn’t, only because no one is sure what the bottom is like.) She happily followed one of her stablemates around and bravely led the way through a gate. She spooked once, when a dog suddenly rushed out of a thicket to her right, but settled down shortly thereafter. She was definitely interested in everything that was going on, and while she was a little tense, she didn’t feel afraid. 
I’d say Fred’s first trip outside was a big success. The farrier is coming Monday to trim her hooves and reset her shoes; I hope she’ll keep them this time! Tomorrow and this weekend, we’ll continue working at a walk. Next week? Trotting- maybe in the great outdoors!



I’ve added yet another horse to my list of bay Thoroughbreds: Expect Freedom, known around the barn as Freddie. Freddie is a 2008 mare by Include and out of Fairway Freedom. 

Freddie came off the track in April after eating some hay that contained blister beetles. She’s fine now, and trying to adjust to life as a sport horse instead of a race horse. She lives at the barn Moe and Gina are moving to in a couple of weeks. 
Richal offered to let me ride Freddie; Richal has a lot of horses in training as well as a lot of students, so she doesn’t have tons of extra time. Freddie is fairly low on her list of priorities- she’d really like to sell the horse. So my current job is to help retrain Freddie for a productive, off the track career and get her sold when she’s ready. 
The cutest.
Freddie is physically very similar to Moe- relatively short (around 15.1 hands), narrow, and kind of…delicate. Well, delicate looking. She has slender legs, a short back, a dainty face. Both Freddie and Moe have a lot of Turn-To in their pedigrees, which I suppose accounts for the similarities. 
Progress with Freddie has been a little slow- she was barefoot when I first encountered her a couple of months ago and seemed fine, but kept going gimpy. So she was shod on the front, which was a dramatic improvement…except she kept pulling her shoes. But when Freddie’s feet feel good, Freddie is good! 
Practicing standing around.
She stands quietly for mounting and her walk and trot are smooth and forward. She tries to zoom around a little bit, but settles down once she realizes her rider isn’t asking her to go. She halts pretty well and stands around like a champ. Last week, I trotted her over a few low crossrails, and she very bravely conquered them. Freddie still needs some work on cantering; she currently zooms around at a slow gallop and lets out a few exuberant bucks now and then. But she’s a smart horse and I know she’ll keep making progress.
I am so, so happy to be at a barn with lots of other horse people, lots of horses who need to be ridden, and good friends. I love Moe and Gina, and I love riding them and working toward goals I’ve set. But I also love the challenge of riding new and different horses and teaching them new skills. 
What about y’all? Do you prefer to stick with horses you know and love and perfect your partnership? Or do you like to ride something different every day? Some of both?