Saturday, October 30, 2010

Working on the Outside Rein

I haven't been to a clinic with Boo or with Bernadine in months, but last Saturday that changed. When I got the notice through email that a clinic had been scheduled I signed up right away. It's been my experience that if you procrastinate you lose because her clinics tend to fill up quickly. I wasn't sure when I signed up if Boo was going to be able to go. That injury to his jaw took a while to heal. I hadn't put a bit in his mouth at all since he had been injured. The day before the clinic was scheduled to happen, I went to the barn and decided to longe him in side reins to see how he behaved carrying the bit. The last thing I wanted to do was hit the ground because he wasn't healed up enough yet. I tacked up and took Boo over to the indoor. We started out longeing without the side reins. Once I had seen no adverse reaction there I attached the side reins loosely and continued to longe at walk/trot/canter. Still no adverse reaction. While I was longeing another boarder showed up to meet her farrier. Having someone around helped me to make the decision to climb up on Boo's back and test him out. I wanted to be absolutely sure that it was going to be Boo at the clinic rather than Baythoven. As luck would have it he was soft and responsive and we had ourselves a nice ride. I cleaned him up after the ride and clipped his bridal path. He's so fuzzy right now that I would have loved to body clip, but there just wasn't time for a bath and a clip. I cleaned up all my tack instead and put everything together so the DH wouldn't leave anything behind the next morning when he came out to haul Boo over to Crosby Creek.

The clinic began at 8:30 Saturday morning with an hour long lecture. We partnered up in pairs with a set of reins for each pair. We switched off being the horse and the rider while Bernadine gave us instruction in the finer points of handling the reins. We simulated different experiences that can arise while riding and what to do about them. The point was to have some idea of what to do to fix the different scenarios when they arose, using our seat and legs with only minimal use of the reins. After the lecture we all had our own 45 minute lesson.

I warned Bernadine that both Boo and I were a bit out of shape since the last time we had seen her. We started off getting Boo in front of my leg which is nothing new. Every ride starts of with getting Boo in front of my leg. I don't mind because it usually doesn't take much before he gets with the program. After we had him moving forward, we worked on getting him connected to the outside rein. We did this by spiraling into a circle and back out again. I found that I really needed to work on sitting straight, using my inside leg, and supporting with the outside rein. When he got it I would relax the inside rein and give him a good boy rub. We had to do this over and over every few strides, but we had many moments when he got it. I figured that's what we were striving for. Lengthening the time when he gets it. Lengthening the time when "I" get it. It seemed as if the lesson was over in no time at all. Boo and I were actually in better shape then I had given us credit for. Now I'm looking forward to working on what we learned on a daily basis and moving on in the next clinic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building the relationship

Up to the point where Sarah started riding Baythoven she had spent most of her riding life on a lovely Welsh pony called Merry Mary. Sarah and Merry Mary had done 4H together. They had done a few dressage shows and some Welsh pony shows too. They had even done some driving. They made a good team, but Sarah was outgrowing her.

When Sarah started out with Bay we wondered whether or not they would be a good fit. He was going to test her, and we weren't sure if he would scare her off or not. Bay isn't a mean horse though and Sarah is not faint of heart. I even think she has grown to enjoy his sass just a little bit. I'm not sure that a completely obedient horse wouldn't bore her. Sarah was determined to go back to the basics and learn to ride Bay correctly. She spent the first year taking lessons from the resident trainer (who came highly recommended), and she worked diligently between lessons. She only left the barn with Baythoven once that winter and that was to go to a schooling show at the Canby fairgrounds. The DH went along, and while Sarah rode the hunt seat classes the DH rode the western. Sarah and Bay were slowly but surely learning to trust one another.

By the time the beginning of the second year at the new barn rolled around, Sarah was ready to think about some serious showing. She started out with a show at Mount Hood Equestrian Center. I'd love to tell you exactly how they did, but I don't have the score sheets and my memory fails me. I know they did well...I just can't remember how well. Sarah also thought she might like to do OHSET. Since OHSET meets started in February that was where Sarah's major focus went first. That first year of staying home and getting to know one another paid off big time. Sarah and Bay came home from their first meet in FIRST PLACE for their dressage event. The little freshman and the Arabian horses had started their season on a high note!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sarah and Bay

The sporthorse regionals for region 5 had been in May. The sporthorse regionals for region 4 would be in August, and Karen didn't plan to stay for a shot at another regional title. She and Bay had, however, qualified for youth nationals in July and she could take him there, but there were a couple of problems. School would be starting for Karen back in Germany. In order to go to youth nationals she would have to let her mom go home without her and she would have to start school late. She had already done youth nationals the year before and had come home with a Reserve Champion title. She had to consider that showing at that level is expensive too. She wasn't sure what to do, and then one day an opportunity arose that changed everything. Karen had ridden PV's lesson horse Annie at youth nationals the year before. They had been working together for quite some time, but Annie had gotten old and didn't want to work that hard anymore. Still, she and Karen had formed an intense bond. Actually, Karen's entire family had come to truly love Annie. Now she was about to be retired and the barn owner offered her to Karen. From that moment forward there was no more talk about going to youth nationals. If a choice was to be made it would be to take Annie back to Germany to live out her days with Karen and her family.

Bay's show season was over. Karen continued to ride him until her departure. She has come back twice for visits and always goes to see and ride Bay while she is here. I know he remembers her by the way he acts with her. Remember, he is a tough nut to crack and doesn't take to just anybody. First you have to earn his respect and Karen had done that. Throughout the show season of 2008, while Karen was showing Bay, there was one young woman at the barn who seemed to always be around. She was good friends with Karen and she liked Baythoven. Her name was Sarah. We had a conversation with Sarah and her mother about Sarah riding Baythoven. We decided that we would wait to have her try him out until after Karen had gone back to Germany.

It was in late July when the DH and I decided to make a change in our barn situation. We decided to move the horses to a new barn and trainer. We had promised Sarah that she could try Bay, so we went ahead and allowed her to ride him to see how it went. We told her that we were going to be moving the horses in September and gave her the option to pass on trying him out, but she decided to go ahead.

Things were different for our horses in the new barn. At the old one they had lived in a stall with a run. At the new barn they were only stalled at night or in extreme inclement weather. The rest of the time they were out to pasture with other horses. They lived in herds of 3-5 horses. Our boys were turned out together into their own pasture to acclimate. They shared a fence line with the two geldings they were to be turned in with. Bay had been out to pasture before, but as far as I knew Boo had always lived in a stall. It was a beautiful sight to watch them discover that they were turned out free with one another. They stayed that way for about a week, maybe two. Then they were turned in with the other geldings. Bay was the youngest and Boo the second oldest. This situation worked for about a month. Unfortunately both horses sustained injuries in the pasture, Bay to his knee and Boo to his hock. Of course we didn't see what happened, but we figured they had been kicked or kicked one another. The barn owner watched them closely and determined that she would move Bay to another pasture as he seemed to want to play and the older horses just found him irritating. Over time everyone settled in to their respective pastures and both of our horses are happier today than I have ever seen them.

It took Sarah about 2 months, maybe a little more, to make the decision to follow Baythoven to his new barn and his new trainer. Their adventure was about to begin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Region 5 Championships

Region 5 had it's sporthorse regional show that year at Donida Farms, and Baythoven and Karen did us proud. Bay went up in a 6-horse trailer with a few other horses from the barn. We all followed the horse trailer up in our own cars. The DH and I brought up the rear, and the DH got to play with his CB radio keeping in contact with the trailer all the way. About an hour before our exit our trainer told us she was going to need to pull off of the freeway. The horse trailer had blown a tire. I imagine it was an interesting sight seeing a 6-horse trailer and about 5 automobiles all parked along side the road waiting for the guy from Les Schwab to bring us a new tire. The horses got a bit restless, but it didn't take long to get back on the road. Once we arrived at the venue, checked in, and got the horses settled we all headed out to our hotel. We were exhausted and excited for what would come the next day.

We had never been to Donida Farms before. It is a nice place. They had a couple of dressage rings going. They had jumping going. They had in-hand going. Of course there was also the warm up ring for all the under saddle classes. There was plenty to do and see. If memory serves me, our first day there was a preshow. We had Karen and Bay do a first level test just as a warm up for Saturday. They rode First Level Test 1-JTR 17 and Under. The ride was beautiful. Poetry. They scored a 73.666 and came in first place of six. During that first day we were able to get Bay settled in and familiar with his surroundings. Both Karen and the DH spent quite a bit of time leading him around the grounds so he could get out of his stall and see the sights. During one of these walkabouts the DH ran into a couple of competitors who knew Bay. They not only knew Bay, they said his previous trainer was at the show and the DH got the opportunity to talk to her for a bit and find out some of his previous history.

On Saturday Karen showed Bay in First Level Test 4-JTR 17 and under. While not the poetry in motion of the day before (why is he always better in the preshow?) it was still a good ride, and we were confident that they would score and place well, and they did. They scored a 68.684 and came in second place out of nine. This placed them Reserve Champion for the class.

Their final test was a Second Level Test 4-ATR Sweepstakes class. Karen wasn't happy with this ride. As a matter of fact, after she left the ring she rode directly back to the stalls not stopping to check in with what anyone else thought. Having had two daughters and being wise in the way of 14-year-old girls, we left her alone to work through her disappointment. Later on she told us she had felt Bay wasn't giving her his best and that they had probably blown their opportunity at second level. I personally had thought they had a good ride but this was not a junior to ride class. There were six horses in the class, and it was hard to tell for sure what the judges would think. Our rides were over. There was nothing left to do but wait for the scores of the final ride and cheer on the rest of our friends. It was while we walking back from watching another girl from our barn ride that the announcement for the Second Level ride came over the loudspeaker. Karen and FTF Baythoven had earned a 64.286 and secured Reserve Champion. Karen was bowled over. Her mother and I were hugging each other, hugging Karen, hugging anyone who entered our field of vision. The DH just grinned as if he'd known it all along.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baythoven obviously needed more than just a couple of rides a week under a novice rider. We had to figure something out fast before the DH ended up with his face planted in the arena dirt. Up to this point he had been doing an admirable job hanging in there. He didn't say much about what was going on. He just kept getting on and riding. After talking to our trainer we decided that finding a more than competent young rider to help school Bay and keep him excercised would be in all of our favor.

We were fortunate to ride in a barn where many competent young women rode. We were even more fortunate when we found that one of the senior girls was interested in riding Baythoven and in showing him if possible. Her goal would be to show him in dressage and to take him to regionals before she left for college the next year. Between this young woman, the DH, and our trainer, Baythoven would be in good hands.

Over time Baythoven settled in and he and the DH developed a deep bond with one another. I, however, kept my distance paying attention to my own horse. I wasn't particularly attached. I watched our young rider ride through bucks, I watched the DH ride through bucks, and I had no doubt that if I crawled up on his back he would try to buck me off too. There seemed to be a couple of reasons for this behavior. I believed it was due to Baythoven being confused by and having no patience with the DH's inexperience, and in our young riders case, I believed the charge of "lazy" was coming back to haunt us. Any time she asked for something that made him work hard he tried resistence. Luckily, over time, as Bay built up strength and was required to follow through on what was asked of him he began to resist less and less. Bay did well when shown in dressage and qualified for regionals just as our young rider had hoped, but unfortunately due to an unexplained injury just 2 weeks before the show he had to be scratched, effectively killing the dream she had of competing at regionals before she left for college in the fall.

After our young rider left for school Bay and the DH cemented their bond even further. From late September until February it was just the two of them. Just before the next years show season began another young woman ended up needing a horse to compete on. She had won reserve champion the year before at the Arabian Youth Nationals, but the horse she had been riding was getting up in years and was demonstrating in no uncertain terms that she was done. The DH and I discussed it and decided to offer her Bay to compete on. She had a few short months to get to know him and to help him get back into show shape. We were confident they were up to the task. Unfortunately, she and her family were here on a work visa from Germany and were scheduled to go back to Germany before regionals in our area, so once again Baythoven would not compete there. He did, however, travel to Washington to compete there and managed to qualify for their regionals.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In The Beginning

We bought Bay about 5 years ago. My husband had started taking riding lessons that January with our grandson. The lessons were a Christmas present from me. It was getting on to the end of the summer now and our trainer had casually mentioned that she had taken a couple of students who were looking to buy a horse together out to see this horse, but they had decided he was to lazy and to old. Still, she thought he was a nice horse and she thought the DH might like him. Now we were not in the market for another horse. I had bought Boo almost a year before and we were still settling in to being horse owners, but for some reason we decided to ride out to Newberg and take a look at this horse. We should have known better...we're both a soft touch, and this guy was pretty. He had the most beautiful eyes. So mellow. We each rode him in the arena. No problems even though Mick was still a beginner and I was barely any better in the saddle than he. The only problem we had was getting him up into the canter. I remembered that the younger girls had found him to be lazy, but I figured lazy wasn't such a bad thing for novice riders.

I distinctly remember asking the seller "no buck, bolt, or bite?" "Not as far as I've seen," she said. We decided that night that a 12-year-old gelding would be just the ticket for the DH's first horse and made arrangements to come back with our vet for a vet check, which he passed no problem. While taking care of the business end of the deal I got to looking at his papers and discovered that he wasn't 12 years old. He was 8 years old. I have no idea why the seller's agent thought he was twelve.

The DH was out of town the day we brought him back to our boarding barn. He loaded up on the trailer well and handled the ride all alone well too. When I turned him out in the arena he ran around and around and around. At times I thought he might come crashing through the gate. I groomed him a bit, fitted him with a Baker sheet and turned him into his stall. Once the DH came home though I mostly kept my distance. He wasn't my horse. I already had a horse.

From the very start Bay proved to be a very different personality than Boo. If you have a treat Boo is your best buddy. Bay was more discriminating. If you wanted Bays affection you had to earn it. If you wanted to ride Bay you had to earn it too. Bay set out from the very first ride to make the DH earn the privilege. I don't think he rode him even one time that first 3 months without Bay trying to buck him off. One afternoon during a lesson the DH rode past the open window at the back of the barn just as a car came rumbling down the gravel road and Bay bolted and nearly ran through the gate like he did the first day I'd turned him out in the arena...and wouldn't you know it...the little sucker was a nipper. I remember sitting in the barn on a freezing winter night watching the DH survive another bucking episode and thinking "we made a mistake buying this horse. The DH is going to get hurt."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Boo Has The Jail House Blues

My regular vet came out on Wednesday. He was scheduled to come out and give shots to many of the horses at the barn, so I called his office on Monday and told them I wanted him to bring his radiograph and take x-rays. Boo was still having trouble chewing, although he was trying. The pad under his chin was softer (it had been hard and swollen before), and I couldn't detect any foul order on his breath. Dr. "S" looked him over and did a lot feeling around on the outside of his jaw before he went to look inside his mouth. It seemed like Boo was still sore, but not as sore as on Saturday. His pain was more localized.

Our barn owner has been wonderful about taking on the brunt of the work from this. She gives Boo his soaked senior feed and hay cubes. She has hung a water bucket in his stall so that we can better monitor his fluid intake. She gives him his bute morning and night. Yesterday I was down in Salem visiting some dear friends and she sent me a text to say she had hand-grazed Boo and he was chewing on both sides of his mouth. Previously he had been using only the right side.

We started turning him out in the round pen for a few hours every day. He's still not able to join the other horses in the pasture. When I went out today he was anxious to graze and was acting very much like his old self. I fed him a few hay cubes that hadn't been soaked and noted that he was indeed chewing on both sides. I could clearly hear him grinding on the left side and he didn't appear to be nearly as sensitive. We will continue to give him slop for the rest of the week. On Saturday it will be 2 weeks since his injury, and we may try soaked hay at that point. I'll give him another week and then I'll longe him to see how he is in the halter. Finally, if he does well with the longeing, I will see how he does in the bridle. All in all, I am planning to give him about 3 weeks time from the injury date before I try to do anything at all with him. I'm hoping I won't need a followup visit with the vet.

So I would say things are looking up even though Boo is in horsey jail.

Sunday, October 3, 2010