Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Tale of Two Horses, revisited

McKinna at Inavale eventing camp, summer 2009

I have been chewing over a bit of a dilemma for quite some time now.

It has simmered quietly in the back of my mind, bubbling just a little bit louder sometimes-- like when I ended up taking McKinna to the eventing camp. Or when I ended up taking McKinna to my rating. Or when I ended up taking McKinna to the first two dressage lessons . . .

You get the point.

So the simmering question is this: am I wasting my chance for riding McKinna in her best years?

I never got the chance to truly work on McKinna. I rode her for about a year, took her to her first XC schooling sessions, did high school equestrian team, and had a great time. Just after I broke my ankle, I joined Pony Club and bought Pandora. My riding has improved by leaps and bounds since I joined - but I've hardly focused on McKinna since then. I have never turned my new skills, long-term, to riding her.

When I do ride her, it's great. She kicked butt at an eventing camp with pretty much no preparation and I was able to successfully get my D-3 rating on her, also with not much preparation. (Not that she was perfect. But, she was fun.)

Both of them have sort of been booted into gear as I start conditioning again for the season. McKinna took over the first two dressage lessons since Pandora whacked her poll, and they went very very well. So well that my mother has insisted I keep schooling her, and the improvement is awesome.

This is difficult, because riding Pandora is also very fun. She's cheerful - even more cheerful than McKinna, who can be grumpy in the winter. She's incredibly sweet and friendly and always willing to come in from the pasture to say hi.

Pandora comes in for some snuggles, summer 2009

She's also sensible: last night, the trainer was working a young gelding who's been laid off from a cough for awhile. He was really full of beans and at one point got the rope under his leg, and she let him go so he didn't hurt himself. Pandora and I were at the end of the arena, and as he came galloping towards us at full speed, I just settled her into a halt on a light contact and stayed in as secure of a seat as I could. He flew by a few feet from us; Pandora snorted and jumped a bit to the side when his trailing rope nearly hit her, but other than that she was calm and quiet.

She's pretty laid-back about scary fences. Even last spring when we jumped a course of Inavale's brightly decorated fences, including one zebra-painted end fence, she hardly blinked. She's easy to get along with. Sometimes she gets upset about something, but it's so easy to bring her down just by staying calm and giving her a moment to process what's going on.


If you'll recall, I never intended to keep Pandora forever. I wavered back and forth: project horse to sell, or keep for longer? And if you also recall, I decided to keep her for at least another year. I had lots more to learn from her, I decided. (And I did have more to learn, and I have learned a lot.)

At the same time, McKinna has a lot to teach me, and I feel like I should take advantage of this now. My time and effort may be better invested into McKinna: regardless whether I keep my horse for this year, I will sell Pandora before I graduate college. This is because of the way my after-college plans are looking, which I will talk at length about in my next post. I love and care about Pandora, but she is not my "forever horse" and I knew that when I bought her.

After-college plans considered, though, McKinna is my mom's horse, and she will stay with our family for the rest of her (long and happy!) life. Any training I put into her will continue to benefit us in the long run as my mom will still ride her.

There are other advantages and disadvantages, of course. Sharing one horse between us means sharing expenses - all the money I currently spend on Pandora and her upkeep could then go to more lessons, more clinics, and the ability to maybe go to MORE than one recognized event. The mind, it boggles.

On the flip side, sharing one horse means . . . sharing one horse. We did it for awhile, but it usually means less riding time for Mom, and it also means one of us is always stuck not doing much while the other person rides. I think we could handle it, but it could sometimes get frustrating. (That being said, in most cases it's not too hard to find a horse in need of an occasional ride, so riding together wouldn't necessarily be out of the question.)

Then it comes back to Pandora. I think she is an excellent lower-level eventing/PC/do whatever you want horse. She's fun, sweet, laid-back. There are a few things to work out - for example, at my rating, she was rushing quite a bit on XC, and I think I can resolve that with some quiet schooling. She's also a little volatile about trailering lately, which is a bit of a leftover from her accident, but with patience she's already begun to settle down again.

Trotting at a Karen O'Neal clinic, spring 2009

So it's not that she can't do what I want to do. She did well last year at the combined tests and event derbies and schooling shows. At Lily Glen we were schooling Novice XC with great success. I strongly believe that after a few more dressage lessons, I'll start to see a big difference in her too. Last night I was working on some concepts from the first lesson. Since I've only taken one lesson on Pandora with the dressage trainer, I wasn't entirely sure if I was on the right track - but I asked for a canter transition and it was immediate and balanced, so I'm pretty sure I was headed in the right direction.

But maybe it's time for both of us to move on.

I've put a year and a half of training and time and love into her. Consistent sessions with the chiropractor have made an incredible difference in her body and her comfort level. A switch to this barn, where she gets year-round turnout in a pasture as well as mountains of hay, has created a horse who is very happy throughout the year (instead of a head-flipping mess in the winter) and who needs very little grain to maintain good weight.

It's hard to think that anyone will ever take as good care of her as I do. I CAN'T be alone in this. Other people feel this way too, right?! But I also, logically, know that's not true. Somewhere out there is a person looking for a friendly, enjoyable horse to have fun with, someone who will feed her lots of hay and make sure she gets turnout and take excellent care of her.

So here's the general idea: I'm just not sure what to do. At this point, selling her this spring or early summer to a really good home sounds like the best idea. I'm not under time pressure, so I will have the leisure to look for a perfect match. Then I can take McKinna to the recognized HT at Inavale, my C-2 rating, and finally just get a chance to make some progress with arguably the coolest little mare ever.

Phew. That was a lot - and like I said, I have been mulling over this for a long time. It is NOT a bad dilemma to have, and I know I'm lucky to have an excess of good horses. But that's what I've been thinking, and I sure wouldn't mind some thoughts from you guys on the whole matter.


Leah Fry said...

Does your Mom have any interest in Pandora? You said yourself she's a do-anything-you-want horse.

Sydney said...

Love the first picture.

Same as Leah I was wondering if your mom might be interested in Pandora.

Albigears said...

I would just say that if you are going to sell her, spring/summer is DEFINITELY the time to do it.

MyLittlePony said...

Mom here... Leah Fry and Sydney - good question! The short answer is probably not, but I'm not sure. One of the things we're planning is having me spend more time on her over the next month or so.

Part of me wants to just to keep her around. We do love her, but I don't know if she's for me. I didn't start riding until almost 40 - and I'm sort of a chicken! McKinna is my comfort zone. She's so easy and I feel comfortable on her. I'm sure I could get to that spot with Pandora too with some time. As Misadventures said, she really is a sweetheart, but I don’t know if that's the best thing to do.

Right now we board our horses so the expense is a huge factor. Sharing a horse would free up not just money, but also time. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to keep them both once Misadventures goes off on her own.

So, we’ll see. Logically, I believe we should sell her, but my emotions come into play more often than they probably should.

BTW – if we do sell her we will be picky about who she goes to. I realize you can never be 100% sure they end up in a good situation, but we will work very hard to ensure she does. We have time and aren’t in a bind to sell her.

RuckusButt said...

Well, if you have to pare it down to one horse at some point anyway than I think it's obvious Pandora needs to be sold. Take advantage of the fact you have time to find a good match.

Sure, you can never be 100% sure of where she ends up but you are selling a good horse. AND a horse that you've improved while in your care. You did right by Bailey, I'm sure you'll do the same for Pandora. I don't mean to sound flippant, I know it's an important decision. I just think sometimes it feels like the decision is between keeping the horse or sending it to the kill pen and I think that is an exaggeration. At least in my part of the world.

That's just my completely unqualified opinion. I haven't owned a horse since I was a kid but I lease, I'm involved in my horse community, and I watch and listen, a lot.

tangerine said...

Being a project horse owner for the last few years, I think I can help. First, you want to take into consideration the time of year, spring/summer is MUCH easier and you will get more bang in the buck department for all your hard work. If you have already come to the consideration that she's not your 'forever' horse, then its just a matter of what you have time/money to do. If you know you can afford her and you have the time to continue making her a better horse, by all means keep her until next spring/summer and see what you can achieve. I would also suggest taking a look at the added value you can expect to get by keeping her another year. Could you take her to recongnized events and win? That's putting experience under her belt that makes her much more desireable on the market. Does she need someone to push her to the next level, or do you think she's comfortable where she is and will stay that way. Many people buy a horse at their current level and never really move on from there. If she's not going to be moving up many more levels there's also not much else you need to teach her. These all revolve around your personal plans with her.

I have totally felt the "there is no one that can provide as good of a home as I can" feeling. All you can do is to thoroughly screen your potential buyers, make sure they are competent horse people, and if you really want extra assurance put a right of first refusal into the sale contract. That being said, there is someone who will love and cherish her for the rest of her days, it's just a matter of finding them.

Either way, good luck!

manymisadventures said...

Thanks for all your thoughts, guys. It's a complicated issue and not one that can be resolved overnight!

I will definitely be thinking about this for awhile. The plan for this month is to put a lot of time into bringing them both along, which may give us a better idea which direction to head in.

In all cases, totally agreed that spring/summer is the time to sell - which is why we're having this conversation now! Much better than trying to decide this sort of thing in, say, May...

Anyway, I will definitely keep you guys posted on what's going on and what the plans are. Again, thanks for the input. You guys are awesome!

manymisadventures said...

Oh, and tangerine - I don't think taking her to recognized events and winning is really an option, mostly because there's only one in the state (Inavale) and I just don't have the money at this point to do more than one. Maybe if I win a few big scholarships for next year I can afford it, though ;) A girl can hope...

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