That post got too long so here is the rest of my update

I found another thing to ride, sort of. A pony at the barn where many of my friends moved to in the Great Exodus of 2014 needs a rider, and guess who is pony sized?

Pony has spots so is presumed POA, but moves like a fancy Welsh. I swear when I have the time and money I am going to find ponies in backyards and teach them to jump little courses and be fancy and it’s going to be the best. Soon after I got the ride, pony got a paying shareboarder, so rightfully, they have pick of the days they ride. So I’ve really only been riding her once or twice a week.

Also, some combination of trying to make arrangements for Lacy, housesitting for a month straight, and tweaking meds kicked my anxiety into absolute OVERDRIVE. So I’ve been downing xanax like it’s candy and some days it’s all I can do to go to work and not have a meltdown, let alone go to the barn and deal with either other people or being alone. Mental illness sucks balls. I wish I had polio or some shit instead. We’re still working on very slowly switching SSRIs and I hope in a few weeks I’ll have leveled out and can lead a more normal life.

On to the most important update! Pearl has been (said in the whisperiest of whispers) doing great. I spent the summer trail riding her anywhere from 6-12 miles a time.

the EquiTrack app is AWESOME

the EquiTrack app is AWESOME

We did a lot of schooling in the field, and a lot of messing around with saddles and bits justincaseIcangetherintheshowringorsomethingshhhhh. She continues to make my heart sing daily with her big heart and willingness to work (most days translated as CAN WE GO FAST MOM PLEASE).

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She was a little ouchier than usual and that is just how she wanted to trot that day idk man I don't ask questions

She was a little ouchier than usual and that is just how she wanted to trot that day idk man I don’t ask questions

Then we’ve been having the weirdest warmest winter ever (because global warming is totally fake and all), and it’s been too wet to ride pretty much anywhere. So then I pull her out of the pasture and she almost jumps on top of me so I stick her in the arena to work out any kinks and she looks like this

So I feel like she feels pretty OK, and I want to be able to keep riding her over the winter and not die. So I took a deep breath and took the plunge, and the beginning of January she is moving to said barn where all my friends are. Just for the winter, because I have never seen her so happy as she is at BPL, and it’s a better turnout situation for her, and she deserves that happiness. But I get to make selfish decisions sometimes, and I wanna ride, so we need an indoor. I’m trying really hard not to get ahead of myself in regards to goals for our time there. I want to be able to toodle around W/T/sometimesC and not be constrained to daylight hours and go on trail rides with friends. So as long as that happens, I will be happy with my decision. If we can get to the point where we are schooling First Level tests maybe not show ring sound but still accurate and functional, I will be thrilled. If by some miracle she can go around on decent footing and not look lame enough to get kicked out of the show ring and we can hit some little schooling shows just so I can say I’ve finally shown my damn horse whom I’ve had for six years but something is always getting in the way, I will be over the moon. I’m not holding out for that last one though. Safe, happy, and comfortable is our main goal.

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Oh right, I have a blog

My horsey life has been… disorganized for the last six months. I haven’t ridden so irregularly since before I had a horse, probably. Roundup of things that have happened:

 

In September or so, Lacy’s mom messaged me. Lacy had been having a series of impaction colics that H and her vet believed were due to the coastal/bermuda hay down south, plus a history of ulcers. She also doesn’t handle the bugs and humidity very well, and H was spending so much on vet bills she couldn’t enjoy her horse. So, she made the heartwrenching decision that Lacy needed to find a new home in a different climate. Did I want to lease her?

This could have been my life

Um, what? I jumped at the chance. I spent weeks checking out barns, getting quotes from shippers, researching feed, consulting with my vet about ulcer treatment, daydreaming about having a sound horse who moves like a freak and can jump and trail ride and show and has the best mind of any young horse I’ve ever seen. And I looked at my bank account and realized the numbers just don’t match up. I can’t afford a second horse. No Lacy, no bay OTTB. Not until I have been to school and have a career and a salary and a home and a truck and trailer.

I was and still am heartbroken. True, I’ve only known this horse in person for five months, but I’ve loved her since before she was born. She embodies all the things I love and admire about Pearl, and is truly the fanciest most naturally talented animal I’ve ever sat on. Unsurprisingly, H had no trouble selling her. In less than a week. She shipped to California at the end of October, to a woman who wanted to do the hunters and “promised she was not a trainer or a horse flipper.”

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Ofc they slapped her in draw reins right away

Then H didn’t hear any updates on her for a while, until she was contacted by her new, new owners. Turned out she had been resold again for a “huge profit.” These owners took the time to seek out H and say they are planning on keeping her but will give her the first opportunity to buy back, have had her chiropracted and teeth done, and I’m sure she will want for nothing, and will kick ass in the show ring.

But still.

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This is the horse that, in another life, I could have had for free. If circumstances were different. I know I am deeply fortunate for all the things I DO have…but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one more thing. Did you know my horse makes the fanciest freaking babies on the planet?

I swear, if I could just have one of these, I would never ask for anything ever again. Technically, I could afford a stud fee. I have a dream stallion picked out. I can get vet work done on the cheap. But I can’t afford to support another horse for all of its days, and lesson and show, and all those other things I want. So I wait, and hope that by the time I am able to do my own repro work Pearl will be around and I can do an embryo transfer. That is my biggest dream and the goal I am striving for.

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Full circle

A couple weeks ago, I went on a road trip (my first solo trip to somewhere that isn’t Ohio!) and had the experience of a lifetime. The year before I bought her, Pearl had her 6th(??) and final foal. I’ve kept in touch with her owner over the years through the wonder that is Facebook, and when I knew I’d be heading down south this summer I asked if I could make a stop to visit the pretty girl. To my delight, she said I could not only see her, but I was welcome to ride her.

I can honestly say that riding Lacy was one of the best things that has happened to me in the last two and a half years.

There is something unbelievably special about being the first human being ever in the universe to lay your hands on a tiny perfect equine specimen. I have been so lucky to see many pictures of Lacy growing up as posted by her adoring owner… the next best thing to being there in person.  She is still the people-oriented lovebug that she was from the day she was born. She has the comfiest, floatiest trot I have ever ridden.

She is incredibly balanced for such a young horse (turned four in March) and while she hasn’t really been asked to use herself, her gaits are pure and correct.

For the love of all that is holy, BEND YOUR ELBOWS

She was not at all fazed by a new person in the saddle. I took her over a line of crossrails– she’s jumped maybe 6 times in her life and I’ve jumped 3 times in the last two years.

She’s got a case of the baby wiggles and got a little excited the second time through but her jump is smooth and easy to ride, and she has a natural lead change. She love face scritches and hates baths, just like her momma.

She even inherited her YEEEEEEEHAW face from mom

Riding Baby Laceface was a chance to feel connected to my past, and a reminder of how I’ve made it through so much in her short lifetime. I watched her breeder “push the trigger,” as it were, the day she was conceived. I remember having to cut a ride short in order for Pearl to be ready for her 14 day ultrasound. I brought Pearl home for the summer and watched in wonder as her belly expanded in just the span of a couple months, thinking of the little critter growing in there who was already so loved.

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Last preggo picture

I slept in the barn for two weeks during a frigid Ohio spring…only to have my sneaky mare showing no signs of going into labor at her 3am check, and waking up to my friend’s exclamation of “Natalie, there is a FOAL in that stall!”

 

I watched her squeal with delight and gallop in circles the first time out in the big pasture.

I looked on with pride as she rocked her foal inspection.

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I said my tearful goodbyes the week she hopped on the trailer bound for her new home.

It was hard not to feel a little wistful… if I had a 4-year-old Pearl, oh the places we could go! Her owner told me I should go to GA vet school and I could ride her anytime…how tempting is that! She would like to breed her someday, and I told her sign me up if it’s a filly. Lacy May, you are perfect and I am so honored to be a part of your life.

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The Prettiest in Purple

I mean, when you can’t really ride your horse with any specific training goal in mind, you gotta at least mug for the camera, right? Twenty years ago, Papa Glenn of Broken Pony Land planted wildflower seeds and to this day, the lupines bloom every year. Last year they came and went, but this year I was determined to do something with them. And by do something I mean drag my poor ever-faithful barn buddy to take pictures.

Cell phone photos in no way do this justice

Obviously, this meant we had to match our outfit to the flowers. P had a blast. Since she had an abscess on her birthday, this was our belated birthday gallop. Because horses totally understand the concept of birthdays and birthday presents. During our cool-down aka bit of schooling on the lawn so she doesn’t think she just gets to wildly gallop every time we go down to the front field, she was so proud of herself and marched along with her head high and ears pricked, and of course insisted on cantering a few laps. And probably would still be cantering right now if I hadn’t pulled her up.

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Yes, yes she did jump over the flowers.

Yes, yes she did jump over the flowers.

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Hello yes I am the proudest mare how ’bout you

I also had C snap a video while I had a captive audience, and she actually looks… not that lame?

She bobbles a little on the turns, particularly turning left, and of course she looks sort of stiff all over and rushy and just generally like a horse who is a little older and not that fit strong because, well, she is, but she’s not headbobbing lame. I will continue to be super cautious with her, but if we can maintain this for a while with our current previcox + isox + osphos every 6 mo regimen I’ll be pretty happy. And also sad that I can’t really ride her For Real. But mostly happy that she’s comfortable.

 

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Birthday girl

Pearl turned –gasp– 17 on the 19th. Our birthdays are super close together, so of course we used it as an excuse for a little get-together. Birthdays are a little sad, because I always figured she’d be one to be sound as a dollar forever, but with the lack of work–>muscles she really does “show her age” more than I’d like. She was also feeling pretty punky from her as-yet-unknown abscess, so wasn’t feeling terribly celebratory… but she got a good snack out of it, at least.

Obligatory annual portraits

Obligatory annual portraits

We worked very hard on our outfit coordination

We worked very hard on our outfit coordination

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Yes, yes those are Trakehner brand cupcakes. Be jealous.

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She rocked the pony-ride pony portion of the agenda. Take that, previous owner who told me never to let anyone else on her because she’s “dangerous.”

She stood stock still, so you KNOW she was feeling really yucky

She stood stock still, so you KNOW she was feeling really yucky

Mmmmm special snack

Mmmmm special snack

Happy birthday girlie– here’s to 17 more!

 

 

 

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Things that horse people get really glad to see

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The flakey stuff above her shoe is excess Equipak, not her actual foot

We found some pus! One of the many perks of working for a (n amazing) vet is you get to troubleshoot your pony problems while driving out to calls. She told me to treat it like an abscess for now– she’d just had her feet done, and something about getting spots trapped under the packet. I was a little unoptimitistic because when has Pearl ever had a lameness issue that was cheap and easy to fix? but dutifully complied. So I’m poking around her foot trying to see if I find any sore spots, and I find a nice squishy spot on her outside heel bulb. I poke it, she flinches, I poke it again, and out oozes some glorious goo. I don’t know which of us was more relieved.

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So she’s now sporting a cute purple bandage to try and get the rest of the yuckies out. Of course now I feel like a first-class dope for not spotting literally the most basic of all lameness-causing ailments… but in my defense, the horse has never shown one sign of abscessing in the 6 years I’ve known her.

I haven’t stuck her on the lunge yet, but fingers crossed that was her only issue. She was already back to her normal perky self on the ground, instead of the dull depressed mare I had this weekend. She needs to be better so we can hit those trails!

 

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How to make your lame horse even lamer: a step-by-step guide

Step one: start thinking about how your horse has really been doing well the past few months. Schedule vet for spring shots and Coggins so you can join the trail club, and since you’ve been hearing vet give the spiel about the new Osphos, decide to give that a whirl as well. It’s a helluva lot cheaper than Tildren, woohoo.

Step two: Ride horse morning of vet appointment. After she dumps you for the first time in years because she insists on cantering up a hill and it was SO EXCITING MOM I CAN’T HANDLE IT buck buck buck, consider that maybe her blowing through the super-duper-mild baucher maybe isn’t the best strategy for over-energized horse.

Who, me? Would I do such a thing?

Who, me? Would I do such a thing?

Step three: Have vet watch horse go on the lunge line. Vet confirms that she still takes some off steps, but looks really good, considering.

Step four: Spend hours scouring the interwebs for bits. Settle on a happy mouth mullen mouth pelham– the perfect blend of the stability of the baucher and the curb action of the hackamore. Order a new bridle for the hell of it, because you’re too lazy to swap out bits all the time, and anyways, you’re working 50 hours a week and you’re allowed to buy something nice for yourself/your horse just for fun.

Step five: Start planning awesome combination birthday ride, because your birthday is the 17 and your horse’s birthday is the 19, so basically you were made to be together. Maybe you’ll let horse canter which tends to turn into hand gallop in the big field because she loves it so. Hope the bit and bridle come in time– bit is coming from the UK because apparently that’s the only place they make 6-inch bits.

Step six: Give horse first bath of the season. Admire her running around the field looking all cute and fancy, and think that she’s going to look pretty awesome in birthday pictures.

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Step seven: Show up to barn on Tuesday. Watch your horse trot up to the gate when she sees your car pull in (awww) and your heart drops when you see that she’s headbobbing lame on a straight line. Like, pre-Tildren lame. Maybe she ran too hard on the weekend and will feel better in a couple days hahaha as if we’d be that lucky. Wrap legs ’cause it makes you feel better even though you know it’s her feet and there’s really nothing you can do.

Step eight: Bridle has arrived and is suitably oiled and conditioned. Bit is installed. Try bridle on horse on Saturday. Admire how your horse looks super swanky and basically like she just stepped out of the jumper ring, freshly banged tail and all.

that golden-hour light

that golden-hour light

Step nine: Pop horse on lunge line to see what we have.

Happy fucking birthday to us.

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Compromise

Pearl is historically Just Not That Into Water. Last time I tried to fix it aka coax her into a body of water so I could tell her she’s a good girl and get right back out, I almost drowned us and I succeeded in drowning a phone. So when torrential rains early last week created a giant puddle, I mean Water Hazard because we are Wannabe Eventers, I couldn’t resist doing a little schooling. Fortunately, she can be convinced to do almost anything if there is a Going Fast component involved. She was a little hesitant trotting through the first time, but soon she was cantering through like a pro and loving it.

Good girl, Pearl.

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Split the Difference

It’s hard to ride both Pearl and Eliot in the same day and not compare the two. Eliot is like driving a semi. It takes forever to get going, forever to turn, forever to stop…just a long time for any sort of signal to reach the brain and then travel back to the legs. It doesn’t feel necessary like it’s a matter of not being sharp enough off the aids– even when corrected for, say, being way behind the leg, you can feel him process and start to respond, it just takes what feels like an extra long time to get it in gear.

When he gets it, he gets it

When he gets it, he gets it

Pearl is like driving a sports car with a flat tire (I don’t know anything about cars or trucks, but it seemed like a decent enough analogy). She’s hot off the leg, quick to turn… you have to pump the brakes a little sometimes, but not in a runaway sort of way. She just genuinely enjoys going forward, thinking through new challenges, and being told she’s a good girl the best mare in the whole wide world. When I first started riding her after almost a decade of pluggy school horses, the forwardness intimidated the crap out of me– I was honestly scared to canter her in an outdoor arena for fear we wouldn’t be able to stop.

We had a lot of these sorts of moments

After 6 years with her, I trust her in any situation. Not that she’s a babysitter beginner type, but I know her responses to situations and I know that while she might spook or buck or take off, the brain is always still between the ears and she’s easy to bring back down to Earth. I’ve been so spoiled by that leg-softly-holding ride that I honestly just don’t enjoy dealing with the backed off ones. I know how to correct it, and I can and will do it, but it’s not the type of ride I’ve grown to love.

I’m trying very hard not to project my disappointment at the Pearl situation onto my work with Eliot. He’s a good horse in his own right, and he’s doing well for a horse that has pretty much never been consistently worked for more than a few months at a time ever since he was started. But when he does things like decide he won’t be caught in the pasture today because you made him work yesterday and that was plenty thank you, it’s hard not to feel the resentment at having one young, sound, well-built horse that just doesn’t wanna play, and one older, conformationally sketchy, chronically lame horse who gives her whole heart no matter how much it hurts. Day-to-day, I’m doing much better facing reality than I was a year ago. I’m so thankful that Pearl is happy and comfortable enough to hang around and be a horse, and very grateful that I have other horses to ride. But having my first very own horse, my soul mate with four legs and a tail retired too soon when she by all rights should have had years left… that’s not something I can easily get over. So it’s really hard not to get frustrated about spooking in the same damn corner where there is NOTHING THERE I PROMISE, when I would rather be out galloping the trails, ears happily pricked forward.

Mayyyyyy have let her talk me into a couple strides of gallop along the treeline... not the best decision soundness wise, but it made her so obviously happy...

Mayyyyyy have let her talk me into a couple strides of gallop along the treeline… not the best decision soundness wise, but it made her so obviously happy…

I’m trying to keep E’s work as consistent/frequent as I can because that’s the only way he’ll be better about being ridden *gasp* multiple times a week, but it’s hard to muster up the motivation when the previous ride and the one before that were all just sort of meh.

Today he ran away from me in the pasture and only let me catch him when I brought Pearl in for her snack. He was kind of a turkey yesterday handwalking on the little trails on the property, so today I lunged him hard in the arena and then got on him to walk the trails because that’s happy fun relaxy time. He was very good, a little unsure but not balky. I’m trying to remember that he is making progress and he can be well-behaved even though it feels like his heart’s not it it. It’s not fair to expect him to be a different horse than he is, but then again, what in horses is fair?

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Back to School

So I’ve been dogsitting the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been passing the time by catching up on literal years worth of the SprinklerBandits blog. It has had two effects: 1) I really really really want a baby bay OTTB with just a teensy bit of chrome 2) I’m gonna try and blog again because I dunno, horse pictures and talking with horse people on the internet. Here’s what’s been happening in the land of the Best Mare:

  • In October, I finally buckled down and got Pearl an MRI.

    Don’t try this at home, kids. It’s $$$$.

    The verdict is, she’s not going to return to All-Better status. I mean, I pretty much knew that– she’d been lame almost a year and had plateau’d in her improvement. Diagnosis: basically navicular, with a lot of soft tissue damage as well. We did a round of Tildren (because why max out just one credit card when you can max out two??) and started her on isoxsuprine. With that regimen + a little more time, she’s currently at a “wouldn’t see it unless you knew it” level of lameness. She was going a little stir-crazy (I get “hey your horse chased everyone around for 20 minutes today” texts pretty much weekly) so I sent my vet a “how much am I going to hell if I ride my lame horse so she doesn’t make herself lamer” email and we have official permission to do light trotwork. With an occasional canter as the Princess sees fit. Which she often does, and Mean Mom has to hold her back. So, that’s that. Like I said, I knew at the point she wasn’t ever going to go back to full work, but it still stung a bit hearing the actual words. And by stung a bit I mean the vet was like “oh gosh, I really hate when I make people cry.” It sucks and I still dream about galloping and jumping her. Still, it’s a far cry from the worst case scenario, and she really is the perkiest horse I have ever seen.

    We got a little excited about our 5 minutes of trotting…

  • The Great Exodus finally happened! Christy & co left Barn S at last and moved on to greener pastures. As in there is literal pasture for turnout instead of just gross mud patches. I’m super happy that everyone was finally able to do this, and everyone seems really happy where they settled. Of course, that also means all the horses I was riding dispersed and I don’t really have the time to be going to a million different barns that aren’t super close to where Pearl is, so I lost those rides– but I’m so glad they’re safe and happy and well-fed now. Christy is also working on a super cool new website that everyone should go check out.

    Remy and Liam celebrate their new digs

  • I got a new job! As part of my can-I-ride-my-horse email to my vet, I also included a “what do I do with my life” paragraph because you know, I was supposed to apply to vet school two and a half years ago. She mentioned they’d be hiring a vet assistant in the spring, I applied, and 477828282 interviews later I have a job at the Fancy Vet Clinic. Which I wouldn’t have if not for Pearl being broken, so I guess that’s a silver lining or what have you. And it’s only a half hour from the clinic to Pearl’s barn, so I can head over to ride after work without too much additional windshield time.

    Sunset ride

  • With the snow and ice melted and spring more or less happening, it’s time to bring Eliot back into work. Which is good, because I’m sort of losing my mind not riding regularly. I started out as strictly a Lesson Kid so it was great to have the unstructured riding time I had in college when I first leased/bought Pearl, but now I really want to make actual progress. E had a lot of time off over winter due to lack of indoor + not quite broke enough to just ride sporadically as the weather allowed, so now it’s my job to bring him back up to speed while Lauren decides what she wants to do with him. I lunged him a couple times and hopped on last weekend.

    whoa there wild baby thoroughbred

    He was really great. His “thing” is that you’ll have a good few sessions in a row, and then he decides that really he doesn’t much like this whole employment thing and he does charming things like bolt away on the lunge line and go crashing over/through the fence, or refuse to be caught in the pasture. I’m trying to keep things fun by mixing it up and doing shorter more intense sessions rather than longer sessions with tons of walk breaks where he can get distracted. I’d love to take him out on trails, if I can find a buddy to go with.

  • Pearl basically decides what Pearl wants to do on any given day. I’m going to shell out for a trail membership so we can go on lots of long walks. Once I started riding her again, I noticed immediately how much easier it was for me to ride her effectively. All that time on other horses has really paid off. I try not to dwell too much on how much of a bummer it is that now that I can actually ride my horse, she isn’t particularly rideable…

    That canter was literally 6 years in the making

  • I started volunteering for CANTER Illinois, and have been seeing some serious eye candy I’ve never been on the backside of a racetrack before and it’s been a very educational experience. I love watching morning workouts. I wish the horses had names on their saddle cloths or something so I could follow them! Because yeah, I really want a baby TB of my own. My guy Gentleman’s Honor is still racing at Oaklawn under Gary Hartlage just got claimed again by Hooties Racing/Doug L Anderson, so if anyone reading this has any connections there, put a word in for me!
  • With working 8 million jobs comes more disposable income. Once I get the last chunk of Pearl’s vet bills paid off, Eliot should be in better shape to have Christy come over for some lessons. I’d really like to start takings some jump lessons again too, and I have a couple ideas where to go for that.

So, that’s pretty much where everybody is at. Not the most ideal situation in the world, but I’m making the best of all the pieces.

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