Monday, June 29, 2009


Saturday and Sunday were lovely. We were the first ones in a newly worked arena. She lunged like she'd been doing it all her life, and mounted, we could trot big circles (and little ones) without losing her balance. So, so good.

And then there's today. I don't know. She's back to her spinning to face me gig, but fortunately only on the right. It's weird. I'm beginning to think she loses her balance, turns, sees me, and then feels stuck and doesn't know what to do. Maybe not. Maybe she's just stubborn and wants to quit. Either way, it's frustrating. Just when I'd think I had her worked through it, she'd do it again. And rear.

Jolly fun.

We finally got to a point of semi-mutual understanding, though, and went to mount. She more or less stood still to mount, but acted like an idiot once I had my stirrups. I finally saw why: One of Cathy's working students was turning out horses in Izzy's pasture, so they were running around wildly and upsetting all the other horses. Izzy is still pretty reactive to that. I probably could have at least tried to ride her through it, but there was no foreseeable end, I was already in a bad mood from dealing with the rearing, and I was going to have to steer around the lady taking a lesson who I swear is one of the dumbest people I've ever met.

I got off. I figure it's better to have a short day than a bad day. Besides, we have a lesson (gasp) on Wednesday. That should be exciting.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I know several people who I will not name that have within the past couple of years decided to become "professional" horse people. Now don't get me wrong; I definitely believe that if you've invested blood, sweat, and tears into a career with horses, and have spent time training with good trainers, doing what you want to do professionally and you now have lots of practical experience and want to help bring students and horses along, that's a good thing. Obviously, not everyone's background is going to look the same. So let's say you want to teach Hunter/Jumper riders and horses. In my book, that means you took lots of hunter jumper lessons. You showed hunter/jumpers successfully on the local level. You graduated from the local level and traveled in your region, still showing as an amateur. Now get this: you worked under a nationally-renowned trainer and showed successfully for let's say a year.

At this point, you may not be national trainer quality. You're almost certainly not. In fact, if you were, I would probably lose all faith in national-level trainers. But at this point, in my mind, you could come back to the local level and start coaching your students up through the levels while riding and training horses yourself.

The point is, you need to have done SOMETHING. I know horses are expensive. I know Idaho isn't frequented by many english riders of renown. If you're young and/or have the capability, get off your butt and go do something. I don't mean go to a local schooling show, though that is a start. If you expect me to respect you as a person and I trainer, I have to believe that you can do something and have done something worth while.

The people I was speaking of earlier now promote themselves as equine professionals, yet their only claim to anything is "I re-trained an ex-racehorse". Whoop de freaking doo. I did that too. I have over a decade of experience with horses from the ground up. I have successfully showed locally in H/J, eventing, dressage, and 4-H. I have started numerous young horses for my trained (who did do something before going pro), and she used to have me ride problem horses for her back before I started college. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I know that. Just because I have some of the basic groundwork does not make me qualified. I'm getting to the "do something" stage. Maybe I'll go there. Maybe I won't. If I don't, I will not be setting up a shingle claiming that I'm qualified because I retrained an exracehorse. Even if I do, I'm not sure it's a job I'd want. I love horses, and I don't want to change that.

And on a related note:

Colored horse equipment.

I'm not talking about nylon halters and leads. I mean colored boots, colored wraps, colored pads, colored saddles, all that crap. While I'm not a fan of it, I do have some. When I was eventing, I bought royal blue splint boots and a royal blue saddle blanket for Cassie. That's the extent of it. I would like to upgrade the boots, but I'm not sure which direction Izzy will go yet, so it doesn't make sense to buy her anything sport-specific yet and they still work ok.

Seriously though, people. Show some respect for your sport. If you've spent any time reading the estimable Mr. George Morris, you will perfectly comprehend my position. These glaring colors distract from the turnout of the horse, look and are tacky, and have no place in english riding. When I see grown women riding around with zebra polo wraps IN A DRESSAGE CLINIC, all I can think is how completely out of place and classless it is.

Oh, and did I mention that zebra polo queen is pretending to be professional now? It rankles me.

I don't think I can do justice to my disgust today. Next time, maybe I'll talk about those co-dependent students who drive me up the wall.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back to Square One

There's nothing quite like a horse who's used to being the boss. I've had Izzy for almost 6 months now, and her old habits still shine through.

For example, when I got her, it took us about two months to learn how to lounge properly. During that time, we went through lots of rearing, bucking, and general fussing to get her to behave. Now she acts like a pro; she's quiet and responds to voice commands.

Except sometimes. Today, when we switched sides to go right, she spun around, faced me, and when I tried to tell her to go forward, reared. I really wished someone was there with a camera to document it.

Oh well. Other than that, it was a non-eventful day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tack Sale WIN

We made it out this morning and were the first customers. Michelle wasn't really buying anything, but it's always fun to look. I found a pair of stirrup leathers, two saddle blankets (one white, one green), and a leather halter and paid $65 for the lot. Plus, Michelle and I had a great time talking to the lady running it about all things horsey. So much fun.

Before we went, I rode Izzy. She was absolutely lovely this morning. I switched the bit, and as expected, it didn't bother her at all. I also tried her shaped fuzzy pad on, and it looks super cute. I don't know how often I'll actually use it, though, as those are a pain to clean. She's walking smoothly, stopping better, and I think I can actually feel the improvement in her trot. It's great.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Going to a Tack Sale Tomorrow

That's right, I need more stuff to clean. Ha!

It's a local sale that I've heard has really ridiculously good deals on tack. I've never been before, and I hate going new places, especially by myself, so I'm dragging Michelle along. I've got a list of things to look for, and I'm hoping for a couple steals.

It does figure that today was the first actually nice day in like two weeks, and I didn't go riding. I had other obligations this morning. Izzy will enjoy her day off, though, and I'll ride her first thing tomorrow morning. The great thing about a tack sale is that they can't possibly care if you smell like horse. It probably gives you paddock cred. (Can the words "paddock" and "cred" go in the same sentence? It seems like I'm incorrectly mixing two distinct subcultures.)

Specifically, I'm looking for a couple of saddle pads so that I can rotate them and keep at least one clean for showing only, a dressage whip, a pair of stirrup leathers, and maybe another pair of riding tights. I'll let you know if I actually find any of those things.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Name is Aimee, and I'm OCD...

I'll just put this out there: I like cleaning tack. I like having clean tack. I love the smell of leather.

I've done enough reading of snotty horse books to know that ideally, I would clean my tack after every use. I've also done enough living in the real world to know that even I just can't do that. Things happen. It's true.

That said, I do aim to clean all my leather tack about every two weeks. I just bring it home, then scrub while I watch Pride and Prejudice. People at my barn (which is extremely laid back) think I'm a little crazy, but I just hold my supple, glowing reins and smile at them. I've contemplated starting my own on the side tack cleaning business, but I don't know if I'll go through with it. I prefer to just clean my own, then clean my trainer's, to make up extra work hours. She's incredibly amazing to me and doesn't really care if I get all my hours in as long as the work gets done, but I like to think she's not losing labor.

On top of that, I'm still sifting my way through the leather items Michelle and I pulled out of the grain room a couple weeks ago. I've found some very interesting stuff, but it is a lot of work to clean tack that dirty. One pair of laced reins took me almost two hours to clean and condition.


Izzy update: I own two bridles and two bits. I ride Cassie in an eggbutt snaffle. My second bit is a full cheek snaffle with a fixed cheek that I bought in our early H/J days because everyone had them and I liked how they looked. It doesn't work for her, though, because she wiggles her bit so aggressively that it rubs a bald spot on her lips. I have been using the same bridle on both girls and just readjusting it constantly, which works, but doesn't appeal to my neat and lazy side. I'm thinking that I'll ride Cassie in the old bridle with the eggbutt and put the full cheek on Izzy, since she doesn't wiggle her bit and it shouldn't bother her.

Beyond that, they both did well today. I'm working on Cassie's simple equitation stuff. I think she has the best shot of doing H/J again. She never did care for dressage. That means lots of w/c/w transitions, going forward, that sort of thing. We still do some leg yields and shoulder-in, but Cassie's happier going forward and jumping than she is messing around on the flat. Another advantage to this is that I can do all her schooling without stirrups. The last horse book I read (Hunter Seat Equitation) recommended doing about 25% of ridden work without stirrups, something I haven't done in years, literally.

Izzy did ok. We're still working on the whole steering/stopping/going thing. I like to think she's doing better. We had a major freak-out on the lunge, but it was due to a spook instead of general orneriness. Other than that, she actually mostly lunges like a trained horse. I'm kicking around introducing sidereins so she can begin to understand going forward and rein contact, but most of my reading indicates that they should be used to reinforce training, not introduce it. I'll wait for now. We still have trouble walking off from the half and walking by interesting things. She gets distracted and just stops. It's frustrating, but I can deal with it. Her balance at the trot is improving. I'm not sure that we'll hit the canter by the end of the month, like my original goal, but that's ok. Goals are to give me something to shoot for, not to force my horse into something she can't deal with.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Sometimes I wonder if my horses really are sane, or if it's just that I don't make them act insane. Take Izzy as an example. When I got her, she was supposedly crazy. She's nothing but a doll now. She's only spooked with me twice, and she doesn't get rattled at the shows I've taken her to. We had a horse gallop by within ten feet of us, and she just looked at it.

Izzy's previous owner still boards her new horse at the same barn. When she got him, he was quiet but untrained for the most part. He had supposedly been a ranch horse before. Today, the owner comes and gets him out. He is pretty quiet as she gets ready, but he gets away from her while she's trying to lunge him and races around the arena while she keeps telling him loudly in a baby-talk way that he's being stupid. I have Cassie in the arena at this point, but she's too good a girl to be phased by some young thing running around. In fact, my biggest problem was stifling my overwhelming desire to laugh out loud at this woman. Clearly, the horse just needs some exercise, but she persists in following him around yelling, "Whoa!" as if that means anything to him. When she finally did catch him, 5 minutes later, she put him back on a lunge line. Now tired, he walked around and she told him to "walk" in a very loud voice every few strides.

Maybe I'm just talking crazy here, but it seems to me that if she wasn't so obtuse, her horse would be fine. She had Izzy, who was supposedly crazy, but isn't. She has Ben, who wasn't crazy, but now she thinks he is. Before both of them, she had another gelding who was supposed to be crazy... I saw him act that way, but only when she was around.


In an Izzy update, she's doing very well. Due to the past few days' downpour, the arena was a lot like slush, but we used the puddles as steering practice. She's starting to understand that she can halt using body cues, turn, and trot. Unfortunately, she so pleased with her ability to trot that she tries to pick it up just about always. "Look what I can do!" Show off. :-p

Monday, June 15, 2009

One Less Nightmare

I've been spending a lot of time lately reading about the troubles with buying horses, from dishonest sellers to unbroke horses to undiagnosed physical problems. I was fortunate enough to avoid all of these so far. I knew her owner wanted $8000-10000 for her, and I knew that she would never, ever be able to get that much for a mare with almost zero training and breeding that was ok, but not spectacular.

The mare's mother was my longtime show partner, which gave her sentimental value to me. When I traded for her, I knew exactly what I was getting: a gorgeous, untrained, sweet, smart, and dominant mare. I don't know if her owner would have been honest about her training level, but it would have been hard to hide as soon as she tried to put a halter on her.

I'm very glad that I didn't have to spend months looking for the perfect horse. Miss Izzy is everything I wanted. She's young, athletic, pretty, and sweet. We're working with her dominance issue, and soon she and I will be able to go wherever we want to.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Progression

She's a wild thing, March 2009.

Izzy and I begin riding, April 2009.

This is Izzy in May, pre mane pull and trim. Note the fuzzy fetlocks.

This is Izzy now, groomed, pulled, and gorgeous.

Starting With a Little History

Isadora, "Izzy", is my first horse to really own. She's the first daughter of the lovely TB mare I leased for years and showed in everything. Her father is the Oldenburg Stallion Impressario. I acquired her this February, the result of a trade. I board her out with her mother, as I don't have the space to keep her at home.

She's 6 this summer, but you wouldn't know it be looking at her. Her first owner took her away to a different barn and visited her twice in 5 years. That is actually a blessing in diguise. The mare did receive some training by a cowboy in this period, but it was only 60 days when she was 4 or 5 and she was never taken out of a roundpen.

When her former owner brought her back to our barn, Izzy began to learn some really fun little games. She would rear and strike and act crazy, and her owner would scream and run away. Many of our fellow boarders were introduced to her by helping her owner chase her around the barn as she spooked and bolted. Riding was out of the question, as was lunging, leading, picking up her feet, or anything else she didn't want you to do.

This was the state I acquired her in. I had seen her and admired her, but never attempted to handle her in any way. I didn't want to bond with someone else's horse.

On Sunday, February 1st, I traded Izzy's owner a baby horse I had rights to in exchange for this supposed train wreck of a horse. It was an incredible day.

The first few months I had her were mostly filled with hours of somewhat frustrating groundwork. She had to be convinced, gently but firmly, that she had to do things my way. No more rearing and bolting; now she had to go to work. I finally began to ride her in April, after teaching her to stand, pick up her feet, load in a trailer, lunge quietly, and accept both saddle and bridle without fussing.

I began to ride her more seriously (more than just mounting and dismounting) in May, after school got out. We've taken everything very slowly, because we're building the foundation that all her future training will be built on. Now, however, we're finally ready to start moving forward.
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