Thursday, August 31, 2017

Free Jumping!

Look who is just the cutest!

We aren't doing any serious/under saddle/whatever jumping this year. Just occasionally little exercises to get her to think about her feet and her body in space.
trotting a vertical is very hard

It's so fun to watch her learning process!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Farrier Appointment!

Ok so technically calling this a "first" farrier appointment is a misnomer because obviously Zoebird is four and well taken care of, so obviously she has had her feet done before. I mean. Her former owner, a farrier, picked her feet up and hammered on them for me to show me that she was fine. 

You know. You take a baby horse from the forested mountains that she grew up in and drop her in the desert with a bunch of strangers and completely change the expectations for her life, and it's a bit stupid to expect everything to stay the same.

So anyways. Zozobird has fabulous Percheron feet. She's four. She's never worn shoes. She was definitely due for a trim.

It's stupidly hot (still) and the flies are TERRIBLE (don't get me started on dumping pig manure on fields right now) and work has been exhausting, so when I showed up at the barn and my friend was having the farrier out, I begged us an appointment so we wouldn't have to roast in the sun-toasted arena.
Anywhoodle. I'm that weird dork that asks a million questions of qualified professionals so I watched him work on a couple other horses and tried not to be too annoying, then we pulled out Zoe. 
#adultammystrong yes those are heels at the barn
I'd told him about the draft cross thing and when I said "momma was a paint" he started on like "paints tend to have trouble with their digital cushion like the one we just looked at" and then I said daddy was a Percheron and he was immediately "PERCHERONS HAVE AMAZING FEET" and then he looked at her and was like "omg yay percheron feet!" (my interpretation after a long hot day. not his actual words). 

I warned him Zoe was a baby with a baby attention span and baby issues. 

I didn't really need to. 
Zoe was all "o hai" and then a total superstar. We talked about transitioning from a mountain environment to the desert a little and we talked about her changing from teenage feet to adult horse feet--he commented that baby feet tend to be more spongy whereas adult hooves are harder. You can actually see the growth line of the grown up feet coming in on Zoe, which is pretty cool. 

He raved about her big, solid feet with excellent concavity. He also said that if at all possible, he likes to leave shoes off of babies so that they can keep growing and developing--apparently if the shoe helps them compensate for structural weakness while they're growing, then the foot kinda stops developing in the younger horses. I've never had a proper baby before so that was a fascinating insight. Good news is that Zoe is doing great barefoot, so we're greenlighted to continue on. 
unrelated photo of farrier and vet consult over a mobile xray for a different horse
I mean. It's probably silly to write up like "my horse got a trim and it was a total non-event", but it's just so weird to me to have the horse that's non-dramatic, well-behaved, and has awesome feet. Like. Awesome.

<3 Ms Zoebird

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A New Paradigm

A couple of people have mentioned to me that they noticed a shift in the tone around here when lil Ms. Zoebird came home. 
tail brought to you by Equifuse
It's true.

Courage and I had such a complicated relationship. Off again, on again, with twists and turns and ups and downs.
such hair <3
It's not that Zoe and I won't have our differences, because I'm sure we will. It's not even that we're in the glowing honeymoon phase of a new relationship, which we are.
tasty stick
Zoebird just brings a whole different energy. She's calm. She's so smart. She's a thinker. She shows up, she tries hard, and she's good to be around.
and she's fanceh!
She makes every day fun.
We aren't doing cool advanced stuff. We're doing baby mare stuff. You know. Steering. Ground work. Stop. Go. Eat cookies.

And yeah, I enjoy every minute.
even the goofy ones

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Zoebird

Zoe's barn is at 99.6% totality for yesterday's eclipse. My plans to go north to 100% fell through, so I was at the barn watching with my best girl instead.

I know animals are smarter than people about not staring at the sun but I couldn't be too careful with Ms. ZB.

It was pretty cool--the temperature dropped ten degrees and it got darkish and we sun the sun snakes.
new fav pic of trainer
So much for theories of animals going berserk or whatever. None of the horses or barn cats cared at all. 
I knew I could count on animals to have good sense. 
cool light!
I look forward to seeing the photos from yesterday's event--such a cool time to be alive.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Zoe's First Trail Ride!

As I told a fellow boarder, Ms. Zoebird has more rides on her than I have fingers now so probably it's a great time to go trail riding. I lined up the two most broke horses on the entire planet to go with us, and this weekend we loaded up.

Noted: ZB has limited trailering experience--her last owners hauled her 3-4 times and then her last trailer experience was when Roxie's mom stuck her in her (luxury liner) trailer and hauled her all day to our barn.

All that to say. If the little lady was like "ehhhhhhh i dunno" about loading into a strange rig, I couldn't have been too upset with her.

But instead she marched on like a freaking champion.

She unloaded like a champion. And remember. She's been very few places. She's four. This is her first off-property trip with me. It's her first trail ride. It's off a semi-busy road. There's a lady with a weed whacker directly across the street.

I'd be lying if I said I was totes 100% calm. I was more like 89% HOLY SHIT IMMA DIE WHAT IS LIFE and 11% trusting the people I was with.

And uh. Yeah.
Zoe like. Looked around a little. Was a little pushy on the ground. And I was like "stop". And she stopped.


I got on first because I wanted someone on the ground to grab me if things went sideways I guess.


She was fine. We went through the scary gate. We started motoring down the trail.

Motoring as in Zoebird thought her friends walked too slow SO SHE JUST LED THE FREAKING WAY LIKE A FEARLESS BADASS TRAIL HORSE.

(No pictures because I was like HO SHIT DO I HAVE BRAKES) (yes at the walk) (i have issues ok)
zero drama

Anyways. I did have brakes. I made Zoe follow the lovely brave painty mare because that just seemed like a better idea for everyone.

And you know what terrible naughty thing she did then?

Literally nothing.

At one point there was a big, scary stump right off the trail and Zoebird was like WUT IS THAT SCARY? And the other horses ignored her so she just walked past it.
pictured: not that stump
We saw a hiker with a dog. Zoe wanted to go put her smooshy nose on them SO BAD but when I said no, she just stood politely with her friends until they went past.
water sighted!

We went all over the park and followed lots of little trails. Zoe is not always the best at remembering how many legs she has, so she tripped more often than the other horses. One loop took us back in the direction of the trailer so she was like SMART ZB KNOWS WHERE WE R GOING FAST and tried trotting a couple times.

She didn't jig. Didn't throw fits. Didn't get mad. And when I asked her to walk, she just walked.
i also wore my kickass percheron shirt but the only hiker we saw didn't even notice to compliment me on it
About halfway through, my brain finally kicked things into gear and I realized I was actually having fun on my baby horse on her first ever trail ride. Loose rein. Smiling. Felt totally safe.

I mean, she's definitely a baby. Steering is still kinda, well, babyish. She kept wandering off the trail.

But that's literally the worst thing I can say about her.

To finish the ride, we had to cross through a marshy area and go over some concrete pipes that are partially exposed. Zoe trooped right up until the marsh and then was like HO SHIT GUYS DANGER which I think is a 100% rational response to the ground changing under your feet. The steady eddies were both not thrilled about the footing. It took some encouragement and a lead horse, but after a while, Zoe went through the marsh and up onto the solid ground.

But then the concrete pipes are right there.

And she was like HO SHIT WUT R THAT NO PlZ DO NOT WANT. (There are no photos because I blogger failed you).

Anyways. She'd been so damn good. She had literally just made it through the marsh with the sketchy footing. We were less than 100 feet from the parking lot. Oh and her "ho shit" response is literally looking at something quizzically and not offering any naughty behavior or getting agitated.

I just hopped off and led her over the pipes. She went first try with zero resistance and did fantastic. Calm, positive experiences. Next time will be better.
Oh yeah. And loaded and unloaded like a freaking champion. Again.

I just. You guys.

What do I even say? She is the coolest little lady and I am so lucky to have her.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

State of a Zoëbird

I know you're all thinking BUT WHATS ZOEBIRD DOING PRECIOUS?
ahhhh <3 so cute!

At least, you are if you're as obsessed with her as I am.

Which you shouldn't be because the Zozo Bird is a pretty rare species. #wentthere

Anyways. The answer to the very pressing question is "pretty much everything". The follow up is "in baby sized pieces". ZB shows up to work every day and has a fantastic attitude, so I don't really want to overdo anything and wreck that.
carefully selected screenshot

Right now, we're aiming for two days under saddle, then one day doing something else. One of those days is me riding. One of those days is trainer riding. The "other" day has been ground work. Or bath day. Or whatever. There is so much to work on
first soapy bath achieved!
I couldn't ask for a better lil baby mare--she approaches each challenge with her ears up and mind quiet.
She jumped her first baby crossrail (over painted planks!!) the other day. She was completely nonplussed by the whole experience. The coolest thing about Zoëbird is just how honest she is. As long as she understands, she gives each task 100% effort. 
look ears!
And it sounds weird to say this, but after a steady stream of thoroughbreds and thoroughbred crosses, I am so glad we have a trainer to work with regularly. ZB is fantastic and fun and straightforward and my whole skill set is built around a high-energy forward horse that wants to be tense through its back.

At this moment, Zoëbird swings her back more than any thoroughbred I've ever sat on. 
big trot!

So like. What comes next? We're going to find out! 

There are fun things on the horizons--I'm pulling together her first trail ride and getting ready for lessons. Photo shoots! Outfits! Show plans? IT COULD HAPPEN.
you just want to smoosh her nose. admit it.
The world is our oyster. 

Well, that or cantering.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teach Me Tuesday: Registering the Grade Horse

For the first time in my life, I own a grade horse. That doesn't particularly bother me inasmuch as the traits I purchased her for are definitely ones that will help her down the line in the unlikely event she needed to find a new home.

But to me, a registered horse just has one more layer of security--something to point to as a value add.

So tell me, people of the internet--are there registries that accept a pedigreed-but-not-papered performance mare? And if there are, are any of them worth the time and money?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Outfitting a Zoëbird: Part Two

Needless to say, when you go from the cobbiest of cob size OTTBs that ever cobbed the earth to a Percheron cross baby, not a lot of your tack is going to fit.

Like. Less than you'd think even.
i mean. they go on. and they're purple. so they stay.
I did not expect C's boots to fit, but they do. Sorta. As in. Well. ZB has good, solid bone but isn't exceptionally enormous, so the height is pretty ok. She's definitely broader than C is, so boots that overlapped a little on him don't quite close on her.
o hai expensive boots
I do have this fancy schmancy set of Schockemohle dressage boots that I bought for Courage, but by the time I got done dicking around with eBay UK and they actually arrived, I'd already decided to rehome him. (So if you don't recognize them, that's why.) Anyways. They fit just slightly differently than the knock offs and are the best fitting boot I have right now.

I did not expect my boots to work.

I did expect my saddle pads to work.
yeah she thinks i'm funny too
I keep meaning to take a fairly hilarious video for you guys, but essentially, my beautiful Ogilvy wither-relief pads... uh... don't work for a horse without withers. Like. You push one end down and the other pops up. And if you're wondering, no they do not stay under the saddle. Oops.

Fortunately, I have more dressage pads and those seem to work ok for her shape.

and that shape is hella sexy
 Then saddles. 


I knew my $$$$ Custom was never going to fit her and I know it's idiocy to buy a $$$$ saddle for a baby horse that's going to change shape dramatically unless you can afford to just keep buying them. Which yeah no. Not happening. 

I scrounged up a saddle at a local consignment place that fits both of us well enough but won't completely break my heart to sell when the inevitable time comes. 
sad lil jump pad
Bridles were tricky of course. Zoëbird is actually the same measurement bit to bit over the poll as Courage, but let's just say all of her other dimensions are... larger. If you're counting, yes, that means off-the-rack bridles are out for her. SOB. This is a shopping killer. I ordered her a Nunn Finer Custom event bridle because they let me pick the size of each piece without ever talking to an actual human being. (That's the whole point of the internet. Retailers, take note.) 
hey baby. sad bridle.
Now of course I have already ordered Ms Zoëbird her very own Topline Leather browband (custom specs omg can't wait!) buuuuut the wait time is killer and no matter how many times I'm like BUT LOOK AT THIS SAD BRIDLE WITH NO SPARKLES, I don't get to jump the line (sob) so I needed an interim browband also. Alyssa let me play with her cool new toy from Blackjak Refinery and with my great sense of restraint, I ordered my own immediately. 

rainbow hematite. i think yes.
Haha and remember how I buy every bit I can get my grabby hands on and never sell them and have this life goal of being the crazy bit lady in 30 years with basically every bit that was ever made?

Uh yeah. 

Well like 85% of horses on the planet wear a 5" bit. So my entire collection is 5" bits. And one 5.5" because there was a sale. 

Guess where this is going.
Yeah the "little" D bit in that picture is my lone 5.5". And yeah. It's too small. The eggbutt is a 6" that fits just fine. Jury is out on the ramifications for the bit collection, but it's a strange position for me to be in. 

Oh and halters? Hahahahahahaha shut up. When Roxie's mom dropped Ms. ZB off, she handed me a rope halter and was like "this fits weird. you can have it." 
just. weird. not bad. 
She's not wrong. It does fit weird. It also goes on Zoëbird pretty ok, so we use it on the daily. 

My inner optimist stuck Courage's fancy clinician-style stiff rope nose-knot halter on her...
someone should slap my inner optimist
Yeah it just straight up doesn't fit. Her smooshy nose barely goes in it and the tie throatlatch is BARELY long enough. 

So uh. Possibly there was some late night online shopping that hopefully rectified this situation. I'll keep you posted. 

Oh. And. We're not even talking about bonnets, ok? WE'RE JUST NOT. 
(definitely) let them tame you

I mean. I guess I would have been disappointed if I didn't get to shop for her. Silver lining?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Baby Horse Training: Initial Thoughts

Zoëbird is my first "actual" baby in terms of a horse that came to me with only good handling and no negative baggage to overcome. 
It's magical. Really.

I mean, yeah, it helps that she has this incredible brain and is level-headed and intelligent for sure.

After all the rubber-meets-the-road theory testing I did with Courage, I am having a fabulous time applying those things with Zoëbird.
I definitely realize I'm totally spoiled here--I cannot overemphasize what a cool girl Ms. ZB is. If there was ever a horse that could handle the rigors of the "young horse" type program, it's her.

And yet.

I have zero interest in pushing her along that road. I am on principle opposed to time-bound competitions for young horses. I think it encourages egotistical behavior and a wanton disregard for the long term good of the horse. (Admittedly, it could be argued that the competitions themselves weed that out--high achieving pairs are rewarded and those who pushed too fast too soon generally sift to the bottom of the barrel.)

Instead, I find that with Zoëbird, the accomplishments are their own reward. She went from afraid of the hose to confidently standing in the washrack and letting me hose her whole body down with zero use of force or extra people. I just went slow and explained it and rewarded every try.
We're doing the same thing under saddle. I have a very cool rider helping me out at this point--she just sits loose and comfortable with soft hands and soft legs. Zoë is never punished for trying--any effort merits a release.
trotting off the lunge!!
Again, Zoë has given us nothing but solid effort and sure, we could probably push things along more quickly. But you know what's cooler than jamming a horse around for a few quick instagram updates that gloss over the struggles?
Going slow. Explaining every step. Watching the light bulb click on and having my very cool baby horse start to offer behaviors because she understands the question. 
so basically she's a champion of everything
Right now, everything is new for Zoëbird. But every single day, she shows up to work.

It is so much fun to work with a horse that wants to be there. Whether it's her first time trotting off the lunge line, her first ride with me up, or her first time playing with ground poles, Zoëbird is the sort of horse that makes every day fun for both of us. 
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