Saturday, May 30, 2009

Update on Major

Earlier in the week Kevin and I took a nice evening ride; Kevin on his OTTTB, Jett, and me on - who else?- Major. Jett was used as a "pony" on the track for a while, after knee surgery and retirement from racing there, so he came to us with a little bit of "regular" riding experience. (More on Jett later....) So on our trail ride the other day, Jett was great. Major, however, has never been ridden outside the arena or a fenced paddock. Nevertheless, Jett took the lead and I sent Major right along after him. (I had put on my spurs, by the way... I hesitated to get out the dressage whip.) Major had such a good time on his first trail ride! He got a little frantic when Jett would get out of sight, but other than that, he was loving it. He was walking with a "pep in his step", looking around, ears up, happy expression..... we even trotted! He didn't panic when we rode along the creek, with it's boulders and birds and water noise; he didn't freak when the other horses started calling to us; he was pretty steady the whole time... with the expected excitement of the first time out of the arena. We are so happy with Major! All the horses make us happy, of course, but we are thrilled with how well he is doing so soon!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ever Feel Like This?

Hee hee. I feel like this when I get my vet bill, when I get my farrier bill, when I buy feed, and lots of other times also.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fighting Flies!

So warm weather is upon us, bringing with it annoying insects at the barn. Flies make the horses miserable, and me miserable trying to fight them. It seems like no matter what products I try, nothing really works all that well. I do the usual flymasks to keep the bugs out of their faces; but discovered that flysheets are pretty much useless and only get destroyed in the pasture.
Right now I am using Repel-X concentrate, which keeps most of the flies at bay for about as long as I am riding, but that's it. I love the Supersheild Green; but that doesn't work much better. It smells better, though. Here are some things I have tried to repel the pests in the past; and a few I have heard people talk about but never tried:

- Adding white vinegar to the bottle of flys pray
- Using a dryer sheet on the horse's face
- Tea Tree oil solution
- Avon Skin-So-Soft (I have not tried this.)
- Listerine - this is something I heard today.

So, anybody have any ideas on other things that work? For people or for horses/animals?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meet the "Kid," Major!

This is one of the off the track Thoroughbreds, Major. His Jockey Club name is actually "Ima Last Love." Major is the sweetest, gentlest, most laid back horse in the barn right now. I can't see how you can get more laid-back than he. He just turned 4 in January 1, when all Thoroughbreds have their birthdays. His Jockey Club pedigree shows that back in his family tree he is related to the likes of Racing Greats Native Dancer, Nashua, and War Admiral. He was "disgarded" from racing simply because, as the trainer told us, he simply would not race. The official record of races won on his papers is blank.
He isn't as flashy as the other two we have, but he is still sweet, and pretty clever.
I haven't been able to ride him much, as almost as soon as he stepped off the trailer after coming here from the Track, he was kicked on one of his lower hind legs and he bowed a tendon. That requires a lot of rest. Then he got into the high tinsle portion of our fence and cut himself badly, and it got infected. Then bad winter weather set in, preventing me from doing hardly any riding at all. Yesterday, however, I threw on breeches and boots, determined to fling my leg over one of the horses, and I chose Major. We got into the arena, and all he wanted to do was mosey along at a s...l...o...w... walk. I used muscles I haven't used since my instructor clinics when I rode several different horses for eight hours of riding per day..... I used a heavy following seat, pushed him with my seat bones, calves, thighs, I gave him everything I had without kicking him (I despise kicking horses...) and he never changed gears. After 20 minutes, I was getting worn out, and knew I wasn't going to get a trot from him, so we packed it back to the barn. Next time, I think I will try using my light spurs (prince of wales) and maybe introduce him to our friend the dressage whip. (I never whip the horses; the whip is merely an extension of one's arm.) I think maybe he was cursed when the breeder named him Ima LAST love..... Thoroughbred breeders should think twice before naming their horses anything with "Last" in it. :)
Nevertheless, I know I will figure out what makes Major wake up, and he will make a lovely school horse for my students. He is such a doll. At 4, he is still pretty immature, so I refer to him as "the Kid." I think he thought I was crazy, when I took about 50 shots of him, trying to get him to pose for me. The more shots I took, the more he showed me he "wanted his bridle off, already!" by lowering his head, as I teach horses to do for bridling and unbridling.
Stay tuned to meet our other horses soon.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

RIP, Sally Swift

I learned today that Centered Riding Guru Sally Swift passed away in April at 95. Sally and her Centered Riding techniques inspired me as a young teenager, refining my personal riding style. As the result of multiple falls from horses while going over jumps, I had damaged my neck and upper back and was seeing a sports medicine chiropractor for treatments. I was in terrible pain while riding, and it showed. One of my several riding instructors at the time was an avid Centered Riding fan, and using Sally's method, helped me to address and overcome my pain and the root of the problem - which was not just the falls onto my head, neck, and shoulders. I was able to finally relax, "ride with my bones", move with the horse, and balance myself. This made the horses I was riding happier also.
As I began instructing at 17, I incorporated the Centered Riding method and terminology into my student's lessons, and they responded very well to it. Centered riding uses a lot of word pictures and visuals to illustrate concepts - like "soft eyes", "hard eyes," building blocks, trees growing out of your helmet, your boots dragging the ground, your arms reaching and holding the bit with your fingers; and one I use constantly with young riders: holding the reins like "little birds" - not squeezing the bird to death, but holding him just firm enough so he can't get away. The image I always held in my mind over fences was her blowing out birthday candles between the horse's ears as you go over the fence.
Tapping wine glasses for hands, and ice-cream cones for little ones are a few more of Sally's visuals I adopted. Another one I loved so much I wrote it down in my journal as one of my favorite quotes ever: "......PLUNK! Down into your boots, along with the ice cream......" What a lady. She revolutionized horseback riding, not just for hunt seat or dressage riders, but western riders as well.
Rest in peace, Sally Swift. You have left riders everywhere a amazing gift. You may be gone, but you will inspire me forever.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Snow Babies

I am posting some older photos of the horses, because they are cute, and because I have not taken any good shots of the horses recently. These were taken in March of this year after the "blizzard" here. We had just turned the horses out of their stalls, and they were playing in the snow like children. In the first photo, Red is chasing Halley; even though Red is 14 hands, and 1000 lbs; and Halley is near 17 hands and 1400 lbs. Red is 23, and as the offspring of our first horse we go tin 1986, has been with our family since birth, and is more like the family dog than a horse in the barn. He has carried 2 generations of our family's children on his back and in horse shows.
In the next photo, we see Princess, my Paint mare, and one of my more recent additions. I think she is trying to figure out where all the grass went, and if the snow is edible. You can also see the circles they ran in the paddock.
The last one shows the back pasture with the riding arena, and the pool in the back yard, looking more like a pond in the middle of all the snow.......

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Horse's Home

This is a shot of our barn in the rare snow we got this past March.....
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Welcome to "All the Pretty Little Horses"...... a blog devoted to my ramblings and adventures in the wide world of horses and riding. I was introduced to horses and promptly fell in love with them in 1986 at the age of 6, when my brother bought his first horse, Cookie Cutter. Since then, my family and I have been immersed in it.
I am a certified Instructor through CHA - Certified Horsemanship Association in both English and Western riding, and have taught professionally since I was about 18 years old. I am currently not running a lesson program, for personal and other reasons; but hope to start again.
I grew up riding and showing hunt seat, and taught myself western riding later. I have trained horses for other people (although I no longer like to do it), and managed the farm and barn where I ran my lesson program; and kept a busy show schedule with my students and horses in training.
I adore raising and training foals and being there for a child's very first lesson experience most of all. I am also a leader of a 4-H group in the county where our barn is in NC.
Most recently I have embarked on a totally new journey of retraining "OTTTBS" - that is, off-the-track Thoroughbreds; which is nothing like I thought it was going to be! My husband used to ride in competitive, endurance-type trail rides in his home state of Michigan; now he rides the trails with me on his lovely OTTTB.
We lease a lovely barn in rural North Carolina, about 10 minutes from our home in Virginia; where our 7 horses reside. My parents also own a small farm where we keep some of my retired lesson horses, and others.
Although I am and always will be a Hunter-Jumper nut down to my core, I love expiramenting and trying all other forms of riding and anything "new." I have ridden and shown a Plantation Tennessee Walker; I love trail riding, and tried driving once.
I will be posting a little bit of everything on this blog, including photos and videos from my faveorite horse movies, and goings-on in my barn and stories about my horses; how-to's and product reccomendations, and nifty ideas to make your own horsekeeping easier, better, and sometimes, cheaper! Stay tuned for lots more....................