Monday, September 29, 2008

School and Things

Just to let you know, I just started classes today, so things may be a little slow as my poor brain adjusts to the fact that four Classes In College are a little different from four high school classes :)

I've been riding a little. On Saturday, we went on a trail ride with a girl who we met through a mutual riding-friend. I rode Pandora, and Mom rode McKinna. Everything went pretty well, considering.

We got outside the gate and started riding down the grass on the side of the road. Pandora was a little nervous (champing at the bit a little, snorting a little) but not too bad. We walked down until we got to the corner, where we rounded a narrow little edge. "Oh," our guide recalled, "the burro in this field sometimes comes galloping up and freaks the horses out."


So as we wound our way down the fenceline, the burro perked his ears up. Pandora and the other horses looked at him, but didn't seem unduly bothered. Until he came galloping up, ears-a-flopping and tail waving, to the fence. McKinna stopped dead to stare at him, while Pandora began making her uncertainty clear. Everything would have been fine if he didn't let out one teeny little bray, though. That really made Pandora nervous!

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and took Pandora across the road to the other side. McKinna, after standing and staring at the donkey for a minute, seemed to decide that he was no stranger than the rest of the livestock she's been subjected to chasing or walking past (sheep, pigs, cattle, small children) and walked calmly on.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. Except a little canter up a pretty steep hill that we'd been motoring up at a trot. It was quite nice, Pandora and McKinna just trucked on up but then got a little excited and cantered for a few strides.

That being said, the ride was more than I expected or wanted. Truth be told it only lasted for an hour and a half and my (probably wildly inaccurate) estimate is that we covered maybe 5 miles, plus or minus? It's not that much. But, some of it was over some pretty hilly or rough ground, and I was uncomfortable with how much we asked of the horses. Unfortunately it's not like there was a shortcut home, so we just had to roll with it. I'd made it pretty clear that we just wanted a light trail ride, but there you go.

No harm done. The horses weren't that sweaty, they got water and hay as soon as we got home, and put back in the pasture. As far as I can tell there was no stiffness or anything.

I probably worry too much. It's not like they're totally unfit and were taken on a daylong ride, but still. Ah well, at least I know for next time just how long 'the loop' really is :)

Overall Pandora did very well. Even when she was nervous, she never offered naughty behavior. She was pleasant over all types of terrain. She walked in close proximity to the other horses just fine. Once she pinned her ears and hitched a back leg at McKinna, but I smacked her shoulder and those ears went quite quickly forward! She responds like that to discipline -- very quickly straightens up. It would be very easy to over-punish her. Over and over again I come back to that sensitive nature of hers, which I don't mind in the slightest. I find that it makes her wonderfully fun to work with because it invites a very subtle interaction.

Next post I'll talk about Mom's ride on McKinna tonight, but for now I'm off. College is tiring!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Yesterday I went in to the orthopedic surgeon and NO MORE WALKING BOOT! I am VERY excited.

I now have a little brace to wear inside my shoe when I'm not hanging around my house, but he said I can take it off for riding if I feel like my boots are supportive enough.

Thus -- I rode last night!

I took Pandora for a little spin. Just some walking and trotting. Some things that came to my attention immediately:

  • Keeping my heels down can kinda hurt my ankle -- less so if I simply let my heels sink, more so if I push down on the ball of my foot.
  • I am a leeetle bit lopsided.
  • Someone took my thigh muscles and replaced them with jelly. I want them BACK.
  • Pandora's mouthing, tucking behind the vertical, and general futzing with the bit tends to go away with quiet hands.
  • I can actually trot without it hurting very much, unless you count the aforementioned jelly thighs.
I think I can pretty easily work through Pandora's bit nonsense. Because I have better balance (ah, youth!) and more experience multitasking in the saddle, I can keep my hands quieter than my mother's (though I must point out that she's done an excellent job riding during my convalescence!). When I rode, she fussed less. Therefore, quieter hands = less fussing.

It appears to be a fairly simple, fixable problem, for which I'm eternally grateful. I am sure we'll fight our epic battles in time, but for the most part, riding her forward into a gentle steady contact with plenty of bending and serpentines seems to work very well.

Also -- THIS HORSE DOES NOT RUSH. Can I tell you how much I like that? Both horses before have been rushers. She is not. She does, of course, have her own unique issues. But she doesn't rush. Also she doesn't suck back. GOOD THING. Her speed is very steady and easily adjusted which I truly appreciate. I am really looking forward to pushing the dressage work on her.

I think Mom and I are going to go on a trail ride this weekend. I'll ride Pandora (or my Panda-bear, as I tend to call her) and Mom will ride McKinna. The walks will be good for rebuilding my strength as well as giving the horses a physical and mental change of scenery, so we'll try to take advantage of what little nice weather remains.

I start classes on Monday and am also excited about that :)

In other words -- Life As Usual is back on track. With school and actively riding both back in my life, expect plenty more of my previous kinds of posts, with musing on riding and training and the like. I can't wait until the saddle time starts the thoughtful juices flowing again.

Hope all is going well for you guys and your equestrian adventures.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Presentation Part I: Poor

I'm going to skip the stage of the ad that's Very Poor, i.e. a Craigslist ad that says "Horse for sale, $600" with no picture. There's not much point in me doing that!

So -- I'll be demonstrating the next step up.

Remember, all three of these steps will feature McKinna, so it will be pretty obvious how different presentations can make a horse look bad or good.

McKinna is a 12 year old QH/Arab mare she is good at Jumping and trails. A great ridding horse and good for a broodmare maybe. Shes a lil quick at the walk but real good for everything else and woud be Awesome for OHSET or 4H or your new pleasur horse. Shes a very pretty white color. $1500.

(Gratuitous capitalization, run-on and fragmented sentences, slang, misspellings, an endorsement of her purdy color? Check. However, there is some useful information [age, breed].)

(Strange-angle picture that tells you nothing about the horse, but illustrates the creativity of construction 'round here? Check.)

(Very, *very* tiny picture of me standing next to her in a field of jumps, suggesting that it's possible she can jump but also raising the question of why I'm on the ground? Check.)

([Small] Pasture picture of questionable conformational integrity? Check.)

Upon you emailing me to ask further questions, I will wait six and a half days to reply. With the bare minimum of syllables per sentence, I will answer about 70% of the questions you ask, simply forgetting to answer the rest. I will not volunteer any information that you did not ask for. I will then either end the email, or write several long paragraphs detailing why times are hard and I need to sell my horse, how my friend's sister's uncle's dentist's cousin is a great trainer and real good with the unbroke ones, and give you a detailed analysis of my health and financial situations.

This does not paint a very attractive picture. If I saw a sale ad with these photos, I would do one of two things. If nothing caught my attention about the ad, nothing that I thought could make this horse a steal for the price, I'd just drop it. If I saw something I liked, I'd probably ask for more, or just go look at the horse -- the first picture shows me that she might actually be a decent looking horse. Maybe.

But the point is, if you put up an ad like this, you are not going to attract the kind of people you want.

That being said, if you're looking for a diamond-in-the-rough (and I mean rough), these kinds of ads can often be a place to look. For example, the ad for Pandora said something like "Appendix mare, 6 y/o, has been on trails and evented. $600. Email for more info." The pictures she sent us were pasture shots at strange angles, with one small head-on jumping photo that didn't tell us much. Pretty bare-bones. I spoke to a trainer to ask her if she could come test-ride her for me, since I was obviously still broken-ankled. Trainer told me that a horse that cheap has red flags a mile wide (well, it's true, she does have a supposed backstory of rearing) and that she wouldn't even go look at her.

Well, that was pretty sound advice. But I also went and looked at her, bought her, and so far she's been nothing but 100% pleasant to work with, willing to please, and intelligent. No nasty behaviors. No resistance (other than wanting to tuck behind the bit -- an anxiety thing). She doesn't get rude on the ground, she's wonderful for tacking up and grooming, she offers no funny business under saddle.

So -- here you go. If you're looking for a bargain, poor presentation like this can be your friend, because you may find a truly nice horse that other people passed over because of price, advertisement, whatever. If you are selling your horse, put the extra couple hours in to take some good pictures, please!

After this, Presentation Part II: Average.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thank You.

I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts about Bailey.

I'll miss him. But I also rarely have trouble getting back on the proverbial horse -- I've accepted his death, grieved for him, and moved on. I am happy that he was happy, and I am happy with the horses in my life now. I am very, very grateful for all that he taught me, because every time I think of him, I realize just how much he taught me about handling horses. So I am content in this knowledge: I took him from a bad situation. I taught him how to be a horse, how to work with people, and he taught me how to teach horses. He put me in a better place, and I put him in a better place; that's all I could ever ask for.

There's plenty for me to update you guys on. Pandora is doing very very well, as is McKinna. My mom is planning on riding both of them in a dressage schooling show on October 5th. In less than two weeks, I get my boot off! I also start school in two weeks and a day.

I promise posts will be much more frequent once I'm in the saddle again, too. Something about riding sparks the reflection and deep thinking. Maybe I should start a zen-horseback-riding retreat, where you ride long trails and think deeply about what you're doing wrong and right. Hmm.

Hope everything is going well for all of you. Later today I am finally going to make that first post on Presentation of the Horse for Sale.

Monday, September 8, 2008

So It Goes.

This post is really hard to write.

So I'll cut to the chase. My mom spoke to Bailey's owner today. Yesterday, he walked up to the fence over near where she was to say hi, and looked a little off. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that he had a very, very deep cut on his leg.

To make a long story short, he somehow sliced damn near all the way through his leg, severed his flexor tendon, and was euthanized. She's not sure what he did it on, and walked the entire fenceline without finding anything.

She's very upset and we are too. She says he was not distressed at all -- he was very calm, and loaded calmly on the trailer to get to the vet (the only time he's ever gone on without giving her trouble....leave it to Bailey!).

It's hard to think that he's gone. He was my first horse, you know? I'm sure you can tell by the tone of my posts about him that I loved him very much. I find it both ironic and very sad that the day before this happened, I wrote about my last ride on him. It means so much more to me now, and all the other memories -- the good and the bad. Sitting on him out in the center of a big outdoor round pen under a flat grey sky, crying from frustration in the pouring rain as he stood. Cantering in a group on a trail ride, and the way he stopped dead for me when another rider fell right in front of his hooves. Cruising around the stadium course at Inavale and that easy way he always was willing to take the long spot. The fact that he'd stand perfectly still for an intranasal vaccine, but not for the farrier. The faces he made when I fed him a bite of an ice cream sandwich, or the one time he mugged me for a cough drop and spent the next ten minutes trying to get rid of the taste. The nasty faces he'd make at me every day when I tacked him up. The way he'd always boss McKinna around and herd her away from other horses. The way his whinny always started out hoarse and barely-there, but by the third try was earsplitting.

At least it wasn't traumatic. It wasn't frightening for him, or confusing, or horribly painful, though I'm sure it hurt. It wasn't a long, drawn-out illness that slowly killed him. It wasn't an agonizing episode of colic. To be honest, he was an incredibly healthy horse. Other than being footsore after trimming for the first year or so, he was always completely sound and healthy.

I'm going to miss him very, very much.

This is one of my senior pictures. Before I got the studio photos (for yearbook), we had a session out at the barn with Bailey, because he was for sale at the time and we wanted to have these pictures of him. I am very glad we took them.

This one's my favorite. It's the way we always were when I was telling him what a wonderful boy he was; hands on either side of his head, and he'd just cock his ears and stand there. Must be a horse thing, I guess.

As Vonnegut would say -- so it goes.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Last Ride on Bailey

As I spend more and more time with Pandora, I've been thinking about Bailey a lot. Why? Well, the similarities lead to comparisons, in this case. She's far more like Bailey than McKinna ever will be, just because she's half TB.

Here he is below, showing us exactly what he thinks of that ribbon he just got at a schooling show.

But I want to share with you what my last ride on him was like.

We met with the prospective buyers a few days ago, and tomorrow they're coming to sign the bill of sale and pick him up. He'll be on a trailer to Montana, where he'll get to have plenty of turnout and she'll ride him for eventing. I wonder if he'll handle the colder weather well -- he always grew a pretty substantial coat for a Thoroughbred, even when he was blanketed. He'll probably be fine.

It's my last night with my Bailey, with my first horse. I don't feel much like schooling flatwork or jumping him, even though I know I'll miss his soft, forward canter that makes you feel like you could gallop forever. Even though I know I'll miss the smooth, powerful way he jumps, never exerting much more effort than needed, but never making you feel like he was working.

No, tonight I just want to ride my horse. We're both quiet as I tie him and grab his bridle. He takes the bit as soon as I hold it up, and I take a moment to smile as I remember the first year of putting molasses on the bit and fighting with him about taking it.

With the bridle on, I clamber up the railing of the arena and slip onto his bare back. He's warm against the fall-evening chill. We head down the barn aisle and out the wide doors, walking down the small hill and around the frosted grass and spread compost that covers maybe half an acre. It's dark by now, with just a little light from the moon, so I let the reins hang loose on his neck as Bailey picks his way with calm ease.

It's silent from our lack of tack, and his steps are quieted by the soft dirt. After awhile we stop and just stand there, breathing; it's visible, mine wafting like a small puff of smoke, Bailey's curling like dragon's breath from his nostrils. I twine my hands in his mane at the base of his neck, trying to warm my cold fingers against his body.

Together we stand there for a long, long time. I spend the minutes thinking about everything we've come through together, and everything he's become. He wasn't a rescue horse, but I rescued him, alright. Bailey used to be stick-skinny, untrained, and mean. Now he is this, a calm and trustworthy partner who stands quietly beneath me on the last night we'll spend together. A lot of the work was his, I know, and more than half was my trainer's gentle guidance. But I can't help but be proud of him, my OTTB that everyone looked down their nose at when I first got him.

We've come a long way, the two of us. And it's time that we both move on.

With one last stroke down his long neck, I shift and ask him to walk back up to the barn. The lights seem too bright when we get back. There's not much fanfare; I just slide down his dark side to the ground, slip the bridle off his head and the bit out of his mouth, and lead him back to his stall with just the reins around his neck. I'm cold without his body heat. He's happy to get his grain and dives into it, glancing up at me once when I stay at his stall door, slobbering grain all over before returning his nose to the bucket.

I smile and close the door, then head home. I'll see him one last time tomorrow.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Closing the Sale

Okay, first off, thank you guys so much for the info on horse insurance! It's a lot of food for thought. I'd known it existed before but never put much thought into it. I read all of your comments (even the small novels that some of you wrote! Kidding, kidding) and really appreciated the information you gave me.

Things with my ankle have been going quite well. I'm actually able to walk on the boot without the crutches now, though it's kind of a zombie-limp. I feel like I should be shuffling along drooling and snarling and trying to eat someone. This has been a welcome relief from the crutches, because one of them is pinching a nerve on my left arm in a serious way, so a lack of crutches lets me get away from that.

It also lets me get around the barn a lot better. I can help bring the horses in, I can help carry tack, and so on. I still haven't tried longeing yet. I could probably handle McKinna fine since you basically just stand there and give voice commands, I s'pose.

I rode a little tonight! Just a walk on Pandora, but it was my first ride on her, and was quite nice. I suspect she's been asked to have a headset in the past rather than take contact with the bit, because she tends to tuck behind the vertical a little. It may just be an understanding issue, as there were some times where I got her to step forward into a nice contact without tucking her chin. We'll see where that leads. She does have a very nice walk, though.

There's several things that you should keep in mind as you close the sale of your horse.

I admit this is more geared towards, well, the way I sell horses. A horse I've owned for quite awhile, know very well, and for whom I want the absolute best possible future life. Not all items on this apply to, say, people who buy and sell horses for a living -- but then, most people who read my blog don't do that, so I think we're safe.

Among them, a bill of sale. You can look up plenty of samples online. In general it includes but is not limited to these elements: names of seller and buyer, horse's name/age/description, for which price [note that it is paid in full on such and such date], horse is now sole property of buyer, and so on. Signed by both parties, one copy each to buyer and seller.

Consider feed and possibly water to send with your horse, or at least inform the buyer of the horse's feed for a gradual transition -- not so much an issue if your horse doesn't eat much other than grass hay. For the exceptionally picky horse, sending a bucket or two of your 'home barn' water may help the transition but that may be more for the overly-worrying types!

It is very helpful for the buyer to know your horse's measurements. What size blanket? Saddle tree? Bridle? Bit? Do you have anything you'd like to send with the horse? With Bailey, we sent some blankets -- we didn't have a horse they'd fit anymore, they weren't worth much to sell, and we wanted to be sure he had blankets for the winter.

Do make sure that your horse loads safely. No-brainer, I know. But it will go a long way towards everyone's peace of mind if there isn't an hour-long ordeal to get the horse headed to its new home.

Get contact information from the buyer. I don't know about you, but I like to hear how the horse is doing every once in awhile. Bailey's owner sends us emails every once in awhile letting us know how things are going, and once she sent pictures. It's nice.

Make sure you do what's necessary to transfer papers, depending on your horse's registration (or lack thereof). The Thoroughbred registry, for example, doesn't track transfers of ownership but you can simply sign off on the papers. I won't claim to know the way other registries do it -- perhaps you could enlighten me?

You may also want to give them your horse's medical records. At the least, letting the buyer know the date of the horse's last immunizations and deworming would make it easy to continue a healthy program at the future barn.

Alright -- it's bedtime and I'm all out of ideas!

What else do you guys make sure to do when you're selling a horse?
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