Thursday, February 26, 2015

TOA Blog Hop catch up

The Owls Approve
Another catch-up post for the awesome blog hop series from TOA!

Assuming that your horse has absolutely everything he needs (food, bedding, a warm stall, plenty of blankets, and a pasture mate he neither humps, maims nor gets abused by), what does your horse need to be the best version of himself?

Love and exercise. He's a very social creature and likes getting attention from humans and horses alike. He's not annoying about it (to me, at least - not sure what his horsey-friends think). He is a hot horse and does best when he gets exercised daily.

What personality quirks does your pony have? What makes him or her special?

He's in-your-pocket. He likes to cuddle. He loves getting pats on the face and neck. Sometimes he'll be mouthy in a sassy adorable way. He likes to nap. A lot. (not quite Bobby level...but close).

would smell as sweet. Every horse seems to have at least three names: the "real" one, the barn one, and that special one. What are some of your pony's names?

Jockey Club: Bohemian Spirit
USEA: Bohemian
Barn name: Hemie or Bohemian
Nicknames: handsome man, Mr. Heems, Hemie-kins, Mr. Snuggles.

What has been your horse's most expensive injury to date? Let's exclude maintenance things, like hock injections and the magical monthly package of MSM. What single episode blew your savings or left you boiling ramen? If you want to get technical about it, time is money, too. 

Knock on wood, no major injuries! Largest vet bill was in $800s for his post-purchase exam and X-rays.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

still thinking

Not much to report at this time due to traveling. No drama reported with Hemie while I was away so that is good. I'm still thinking about the tough questions and trying to get some other areas of life sorted out too.

I have made 1 decision, though, and that is to get Hemie seen by a well-known chiropractic vet. He's quite pricey but comes very highly recommended. Even if I ultimately decide Hemie isn't the right horse for me, as his owner it is my responsibility to ensure he is feeling his best.  After all, he had a rotational fall.  Plus it was also suggested by a well-respected trainer. I sure do hope he will benefit from it, though!

Thanks again to everyone for the positive vibes and messages sent my way. Its greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tough Questions

Thank you to everyone who has commented and who is sending positive vibes. And a special thanks to the amazing gals who have reached out to me on FB or text - I really, really appreciate it more than words can express. It is so comforting to know that others care and that I'm not alone.

I'm working through some really tough questions right now.

Is Hemie the right horse for me?  Am I the right rider for him?

Is Laurie the best trainer for him, or for me?

Are there things I can do - solutions I haven't tried yet?

What is the best situation for him to have a happy, productive, safe, enjoyable life?

What is the best situation for me to have a happy, productive, safe, enjoyable horseriding experience?

With the ongoing recovery from my injuries, the car wreck situation (and now, car shopping situation), and some imminent travel plans, I'm trying not to pressure myself into any hasty decisions. But I also hate these big questions hanging over my head. I like conclusions, I like plans, I like feeling in control.

In the meantime, I've been getting some low-key saddle time in. Barn-mates have generously offered me rides on safe older horses, which has been very nice. I did get on Hemie for just a few minutes the other day, just to walk and a little bit of trotting after he'd gotten a great ride from Laurie.

Again, thank you so much to everyone. I really, really appreciate the support of the blogosphere. I consider you special blog friends, and I truly am grateful for the comments and input. All of it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stormclouds of life

<<insert emo music >>

What is worse than having your rockstar of a horse exhibit new naughty, dangerous behavior on XC and then the next day end up in the ER?

Having all of that, then having your horse exhibit the most extremely dangerous, bad, horrible, naughty, OMG behavior when your trainer rides it.

And then getting into a car accident.

Seriously, I am over 2015. Really not my year so far.

Also facial scars suck.

So let's back up. Following my accident and injuries, Hemie spent a week getting ridden around by a barn-mate, mostly easygoing rides to get him out of the stall to make sure he wasn't a basketcase following the incident. He wasn't.

Then my trainer started riding him. While they love each other on the ground, they have never really meshed well under saddle. She is demanding, and a much better rider than me of course, and he gets upset at having to work so hard, so fast, for so long.

moving along fine


She rode him a few times without me, now I come out to help tack him up and watch the ride as a lesson/learning experience.

Looking good!


 Overall they seemed to be very productive rides. There were outbursts of severe naughtiness (rearing straight up, black-stallion-style with front legs pawing!) but meanwhile the rest of the ride was very good - lots of engagement, connection to the bridle, and that dreaded connection to the left rein while keeping right shoulder straight (so hard!). Laurie is such a professional - always focusing on training and not getting emotional.

Then there was a ride that started quite well, but nose-dived into the absolute most dangerous horse behavior I've ever witnessed. He reared, he ran backwards, he twisted his neck and body and dodged sideways. Then he practically sat on his haunches like a cat, grabbed the bit in his teeth, stuck his neck out and nose out, then launched forward into a series of jarring leaps, followed by a dead gallop.

He did this 10 different times.

It was a miracle that Laurie stayed on. It was absolutely horrific to watch - I thought for sure she was going to die. To be honest I'm still traumatized from watching it.

Laurie rode again the next day with some tack adjustments (and a different approach completely as a rider), and had a pleasant ride. She has since ridden a number of times.

I haven't ridden yet.

I got the all-clear from the doctor, then the next day got into a car accident. It wasn't my fault, but my shoulder doesn't really care. Ugh.

Doesn't look too bad. But just found out there's frame damage.

I hope to get back in the saddle this weekend. Not Hemie's though. I need a few relaxing rides - preferably on a 30+ year old horse that's tired and lazy - before I think about getting on Hemie. Also I'm waiting for my air vest to get serviced.

So happy Friday the 13th everyone. I seriously hope you're having a better year than me!

On the bright side - roses!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Galway Downs XC Clinic Recap

I've been holding off on this post in hopes of getting photos from a friend, but oh well. The good news is my shoulder and head and face are on the mend. I should be back in the saddle within a week or so!

Luckily there was more to the clinic besides the whole falling-off-going-to-the-ER situation.  I wish I could say it was a smashing success - it wasn't. Let's go with "learning experience."


Hemie settled in at Galway Downs like a champ, even though we were stabled in and among the racing trainers. There lots of lovely young thoroughbreds and we got to see a few getting workouts on the track. One day I'd like to gallop on a racetrack and see how fast we can fly.

Hemie played a fun game of "let's roll in the shavings anytime my mommy grooms me early." I must have brushed his tail out at least 6 times.

That's what shavings are for, Mom!

I also settled in well. I was quite lucky to stay with a friend in her RV on-site. So convenient to be right there at the facility! 

RV view overlooking dressage courts
The event was very crowded - over 400 horses! In addition to the fundraiser clinic, it was a USEA Instructors Certification Program (ICP) Symposium. In fact my trainer went down a few days early to audit some of the master classes.

ICP Symposium

Both days we did XC and we rode with Debbie Rosen of Wild Ride Eventers. On Day 1 Hemie was very chargey. Multiple times he refused to have a calm, collected canter and wanted to run at the jump. Well, the solution to that was walking to the jumps, then trotting. After a few gos of this he settled down okay and we did a fine schooling. I really needed to keep my upper body back, hands down (even if he tried yanking the bit) and stay secure in my legs. Overall I felt like I was able to physically respond well to his antics.

A few more times in the session he got a little strong, so I would circle and calmly enforce a quality-canter-in-order-to-jump rule, which he begrudgingly accepted.

Towards the end of the schooling, the yank-the-bit-and-run-at-the-jump came up again, much stronger actually, as we headed towards a jump we had done last year. He added a twisting maneuver of his neck and body which almost unseated me once or twice. It was actually a little frightening - I felt like I was getting run away with, right at the jump. I had no doubt we'd get over the jump, but it was a fast and ugly approach.

Sorry, no more action shots.
This is Daisy who stayed with us in the RV.
Debbie had me re-approach the jump a few times and counter the pulling by pulling back myself - to resist his disobedience and make it uncomfortable for him to jump. Unfortunately, I failed at making that work. We repeatedly had fast, ugly, twisting-neck-and-body jumps. On one of the landings, I got off balance and toppled off. I hit the ground fairly easy and the handy air-vest did its job and I felt no impact. (So, yes, I fell of TWICE at this clinic. Sheesh!)

Surprisingly, Debbie offered to get on Hemie. A 4* rider and trainer on my horse? Yes please!!

I admit to being a little heartened that she had the same issue with Hemie for the first 2 or 3 jumping efforts. Then she got him to relax and canter like a normal pony and jump like a sane horse. She came over to me and said "Sarah, you may not have the strength to do this."


She went on to clarify that I have the physical strength, but that the solution is very challenging for most riders. What Hemie needed at that moment was loopy rein and strong leg aids. Release your reins when a horse starts charging off with you? Yep - difficult!

I also did a bunch of auditing.

I got back on Hemie and cantered around, figuring out how to loosen my rein and strengthen my leg when he started to pull. What a leap of faith! But I did it, and it worked. We got through the rest of the clinic without issue, but taking all the cahones and prayers I had.

After the clinic, my trainer gave me a mini-lesson in a warm-up arena. She felt that Hemie needed a reminder that he must submit to rein contact and move forward accepting the bit. We did just a few minutes of trot and canter and happily Hemie did not start a fight about it.

I put him away and then I admit I had a beer or 2 to help me relax. My perfect cross-country horse wasn't perfect for XC that day. It was a blow.  It was very hard for me to accept that he was being naughty. And it bothers me that it escalated to dangerous behavior.

Can you tell he likes his shavings?

But I did my best to keep it in perspective. You have the horse that you have on any given day, and you just have to ride through it.

The morning of Day 2 Hemie got an early longe, then later got a bit-up and warm-up ride by Laurie before I got on. Hemie was quite good. A few small moments here and there of him wanting to go fast, but I calmly would loosen my rein, add leg, circle and insist upon quality canter, before heading to the jump. Most of the time he was accepting of the rein contact.

Then we had our incident, and my barn-mates graciously took care of everything for me. Horse, packing, hauling, everything.

I think that our accident was caused by simple mistakes on both mine and Hemie's parts. I didn't do a good enough job at powering us up the hill and keeping us straight. Hemie not only stalled out and dodged a bit, but mistakenly tried to save us by attempting the jump and getting a leg caught. Generally I don't think these mistakes are huge, but it just so happened to go badly for us. It happens.

Handsome face is handsome