To Breed, or Not to Breed

With the feeling of spring upon us, I, like many mare owners, have the temptation to do something a little naughty.

It's time to set up my single friend!
Maybe no longer a single spinster? What man could resist this face?

Not everyone likes appaloosas. I’m sure there’s some of you looking at Vintage and thinking of appaloosa spawn…

It’s not my fault she always looks like she wants to destroy whoever she sees. I don’t pick her facial expressions, she is just open and expressive with her dislike of everyone and everything.

"I will destroy you when I get the chance."
“I will destroy you when I get the chance.”

I vaguely mentioned before that I want a jumper foal. I was thinking I was going to buy an American bred warmblood (note: not an American Warmblood) to support our American breeders. (Sure, those Europeans might know a thing or two about breeding, but Americans have to learn at somepoint!) I could find a nice, spunky foal to fill Vintage’s barefoot hooves. There are moments where Vintage seems to be feeling her age, and it seems like they come more and more. It makes me incredibly sad to think I won’t have my fiery little mare anymore.

As I pursue listings online, Dave says, “Well, if you want another Vintage, why don’t you just bred Vintage?” Yes, my husband is an enabler. This isn’t even a one time occurrence, this is whenever I’m feeling the urge, he says to just do it…and I’ve been hemming and hawing for 6 years over this.

I am a firm believer that just because a horse has a uterus doesn’t mean it should be used. There are so many mares that are bred just to be bred. I do not approve of this. I think a mare needs to be purpose bred, with a specific job or function in mind, and not just because, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a baby horse?!” or, “Omg, foals are the cutest,” or even, “I really want to train a foal!”

I don’t care about the foal part – they are cute, but I’m not so easily seduced by adorable babies. I just want a younger Vintage. I love her sassy attitude, her work ethic, her spirit, her soundness (seriously, if she hadn’t jumped out a stall window and banged herself up, I’m sure she’d be 100% sound). She’s a great mover for being so small, and she’s a great jumper. But, if I got a great stallion match, I could improve on what she has, make her a bit bigger, get a bigger jump.

"I jump for you hooman."
“I jump for you, hooman.”

But, she’s old, and I might spend lots of money on what ends up being nothing. She’s a maiden late teens mare – not exactly an ideal breeding mare. The advantages I see here is that I’ll basically extend my time with a horse I love, and potentially not spend a huge amount of money…but also potentially spend a huge amount of money. Another con – I’d have to do it this year, because she’s not getting younger, and I didn’t want a foal next year. I was thinking a few years from now.

If I bought a foal, I could get exactly what I wanted, get it exactly when I wanted, and it would definitely be a high quality horse. But, I would definitely be spending a lot for it. There’s no cheap way of buying the foal I want. But…it would end up being the best horse I’d ever own. A professional breeder is obviously going to do a better job than amateur me.

I’m very torn. I don’t know what side to appeal to, my nostalgia side that wants to keep my teenage horse forever, or my desire for a very high quality, the only limit in competition would be me, type horse, but taking that with a grain of salt. I’m an amateur rider, I likely will never get to a high enough level where my horse is the one holding me back.

Then there’s a part of me that wants to see more appaloosa sporthorses in jumper competitions. They seem so under utilized. If I tried to buy an appaloosa sport horse foal, I wouldn’t even know where to start. Although honestly, I’d be pretty suspicious of anything labeled as an appaloosa sport horse. Maybe a fear of the unknown, verses what I know of my own appaloosa. Also, it seems very open to interpretation, as in, I’m sure some of these sport horses are basically regular appaloosas, or some bizarre cross they label as sporthorses. I googled it now just to check, and got results for a friesian/appaloosa cross. Yikes. Not what I want. (I’m feeling an itch for a slightly related post now…) The appaloosa posts I’m finding seem to be emphasizing the color part, when I could really care less about the color. To me, the color is an unfortunate side effect of being a cool horse, but not actually the reason to purchase. Wow, I can’t believe how prejudiced I’m being against my own horse’s kin. 

With all this rambling, I feel like my current course of action is to get a reproduction work up done on Vintage to figure out if it is even viable. I’m going to let medical science do some of the thinking for me. And hope this doesn’t end up really, really expensive. Hopefully if it’s not going to work, my dreams will crash down early, unless of having this be a long, drawn out progress and then crashing down.

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Broken Reins

We had beautiful weather in Virginia this past weekend. It is basically spring, which means all the plants are preparing for spring, and they will probably die when it goes back to freezing weathering. Only the strong shall survive.

D’Arcy and I took advantage of the nice weather by going for a long trail ride at Manassas Battlefield. I think we rode about 8 miles, mixing up walking, trotting, and cantering with an occasional cross country jump we found. The horses got a little sweaty, but weren’t overwhelmed. I’m feeling good about getting them in shape.

stream crossing
We even went through several streams with no fuss!

However, at one point we were cantering through a field and Berry got a bit strong. I gave her some strong half halts, and then whoopsie, my reins broke (The metal part need the bit fell out). I was galloping through a field with only one rein. I starting to make a large circle, afraid of knocking her off balance, but shockingly, I managed not to panic and thought about stopping her with my body. And she stopped. Truly a marvel to behold: extremely slow and lazy thoroughbred stops when asked.

General question to everyone – how many reins have you broken in your lifetime of riding? This is the second set of reins I’ve broken. Dave thinks this is two too many, and no one should be breaking so many reins.

fixing reins
D’Arcy doing her best to fix/make useable the reins, and Berry loving being in her lap.

I will start using those saddle pads that have pockets to carry stuff, and I’ll bring rope with me next time, just in case. Of course, I’m sure once I start carrying it, I’ll never need it. That is probably for the best though.

Franken-reins
Franken-reins

The end result was I had very, very short reins. My leather has thick stiffness by the bit, so the best way to do it was to switch it so the thick part was by the pommel. I was basically neck reining with one abnormally short rein.

Obviously this didn’t stop us from continuing to trot, but D’Arcy kept Vintage next to me in case I needed a stopper. This highly technical technique can be summed up by  ramming one horse into the other horse. Luckily the horses are basically best friends, so what actually happened was, once Berry realized I wanted to keep pace with Vintage, she literally just did that.

I found no ticks after this ride, and therefore, it has redeemed itself since my last visit when I got at least 100 deer ticks on me, and that is not an exaggeration. I was treated for Lyme just in case. But, now that I don’t have ticks or Lyme, I would definitely recommend Manassas Battlefield to anyone in the area. I had so much fun, and there’s still like 12 more miles to explore.

There’s still warm weather in the forecast, so hopefully the good riding will keep coming!

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Winter Ride #2

I feel like the above photo wouldn’t look at all out of place in the 70’s. It just has such a 70’s horse feel to it. Something about her (our) pig-like body, and the color tone, it just screams it.

But I digress.

Keeping my motivation going, I trailered back out again, this time taking Shelby with me. We went to the ring again for some gentle riding and a few jumps, emphasis on the gentle. I’m trying to get them in shape, not murder their will to live.

Apparently I took for granted Berry getting the right distances the day before, because she wasn’t finding it easy the next day. I also wasn’t helping her at all. In addition to still having that loose leg, I was tipping forward before each jump. Knock it off, Courtney!

Enjoy my latest attempt at editing a video, complete with draw-ins. I haven’t gotten the hang of this new-fangled technology, but I’ll be sure to keep annoying everyone who watches my videos with my clumsy attempts. Maybe one day I will have the finesse of a professional YouTuber.

I am theorizing that Berry thought the shadow was part of the jump – but that only excuses the second jump, not the first. My excuse for the first jump is that I’m a terrible jumper who hasn’t had a lesson in months and doesn’t know what she’s doing. Berry reminded me of this by getting upset right after the second jump, and did a little crow hop to express her displeasure. Sorry, Berry. I’ll work on it.

Vintage didn’t care about that barrel today though. Yaaaaay. But she did continue to exert way more effort than required over the jumps. I have a good feeling about where this could go as she gets more in shape… Although there’s only so high a 19 year old horse can go.

After some gentle jumping, we were off on a trail ride.

james long park
Shocking, they kept pace with each other this time. That meant actual conversations could be had instead of being 30 feet apart, screaming back and forth: “WHAT??”

In our exploring, we found downed trees. At the first log, I was too nervous to attempt it. It was kind of on an uphill, and it looks intimidating. It was also super simple to walk around. Shelby wasn’t intimidated though, so at the next log, I decided I was capable of it. We ended up passing the same log several times on our route, and while we stepped over it the first time, we decided to jump it the other times. It was nice and easy. Then we came to another one blocking the trail, and Shelby and Vintage popped over it, and I had to hold Berry back so she wouldn’t rush it. That log was no problem at all! I dominated those three single logs.

Basically, what I’m saying is I need more natural jumps to jump. Three logs just isn’t enough.

No log jumping photos, unfortunately, but here's another trail photo!
No log jumping photos, unfortunately, but here’s another trail photo!

Now it looks like snow is in the forecast, thus ending my short lived impulse motivation… or will it!? Tune in next time for the thrilling answer.

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Hunter Pace

riding in the woods

If you’re wondering why I put up posts at a snail’s pace, it’s because I have a new job. It’s a pretty awesome job, but I end up having very little free time. When I get home, I either want to fall asleep, or just become comatose.

Dave, understanding my exhaustion, has been offering to take care of the horses at night. I thought that was pretty great until he said his true purpose: I don’t post enough, and with him taking care of the horses, I should spend the time making a post. I guess that’s still great, it just means I have to use my brain (slightly) instead of going into hibernation mode. I do have some catching up to do, let’s see how fast I can get this all out.

First, we will backtrack into October. I did a hunter pace with D’Arcy. She rode Vintage, and I rode Berry.

Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.
Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.

My horses have not been ridden regularly in a few weeks, so I was anticipating a slow pace. When we first got there, Vintage was her normal self, but Berry decided the grass field filled with trucks and trailers was the most exciting thing she had ever seen in her life. I mounted up as quickly as I could, and while I was waiting for D’Arcy (Vintage was doing the mounting dance where she takes two steps up, and then when asked to back, goes back 5 steps) Berry actually started doing little rears and prancing. The little snot!

But the good thing about Berry is that she really doesn’t have that much juice. She was a bit hyper while we walked down, but after warming up and waiting to go, she ran out of batteries. Then she was mostly interested in eyeing up her competition (likely wondering if they could be friends), and rubbing her entire head on Vintage’s body. Surprisingly, Vintage did not seem to mind this, although D’Arcy didn’t appreciate a horse head smashing into her leg every three minutes or so.

The reason I have been waiting to post this is because I really wanted to post one of the official photographer photos. At the very start of the race, there was a small split rail fence. I think it was around 2’3″. This was the shot the photographer was going for. I wasn’t going to do the jump because I hadn’t jumped Berry in forever, and if there’s one thing I am, it’s cowardly. But D’Arcy is not, so she was going to do it.

When they called for us to go, D’Arcy aimed for it, and as she approached, Berry spooked at a truck, because that’s what Berry does. Vintage refused the jump. D’Arcy immediately got her going at it again, and Vintage decided it worked so well the first time, she was going to do it again. She refused. This time she rightfully got a spanking, and D’Arcy went at it again.

That time, she took a huuuuge leap over it. The crowd nearby gave an “Oooooo!” It was magical. And that is the picture we are hoping the photographer got. Who knows if it will surface though…

But, we continued on. The route was about 5 miles, and we probably weren’t as fast as we could have been. Like I said, out of shape horses. But we had some good galloping streaks in.

hayfield
This was a good field for speed.

There were a bunch of jumps that looked like they would have been fun, but again, coward here. I hate that I said this last year too, but maybe next year I will jump them…maybe…

We treked through onward through the woods, where we saw the group behind us was catching up. That encouraged our forward motion.

One of us anyway...the other still moved at a leisurely pace.
One of us anyway…the other still moved at a leisurely pace.

In all seriousness though, despite Berry being the world’s slowest thoroughbred, she is out slowed by Vintage at a walk. Vintage can beat her at a gallop, but Berry wins the walking race. Just stick to your strong gait, Berry.

Turns out the team that was passing us was a jumping team, so they gained a lead. But when one of their horses wouldn’t go over a stone wall we gained a small lead, for about a minute. Then they got over the jump and breezed by our couch potato animals. Somehow, I don’t think Berry and Vintage cared. They don’t have the competitive edge.

We eventually ambled our way to the finish line, and decided we really wanted a good finish photo, so we took up a gallop. The world’s slowest thoroughbred was quickly left behind, so likely our finish photo will actually be two finish photos. Maybe they can be photoshopped together so we look like a team.

Hopefully, I will have the energy to get this blog up to date, and also be able to catch up on you guy’s blogs!

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Local Explorations

My truck is still not usable to pull my trailer, so I’m still grounded at home. I don’t know how anyone can manage without having a trailer because these last two months have been very frustrating.

I really wanted to go trail riding, but since I have no trailer, and no trails, I decided to just head out on the roads. My roads are a little scary, they are paved country roads, but I was going to be brave.

My neighborhood used to have a horse trail, but the property was sold and the new owner put up lots of “No Trespassing” signs. He is well within his rights to keep people off his land, but it’s very sad for everyone who lives in the area, as it was the last local trail. Horse trails have been disappearing at a rapid pace, and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping this trend. When I was a teenager, I could ride out from my house for miles, although I did just assume permissions in many places. Then, neighborhoods and horse farms were built, and fences went up everywhere.

As I’ve only lived in my current neighborhood a few years, I didn’t get to experience any real trails here. My neighbor told me she used to ride all over, and trails were everywhere. But, the same thing happened here, and now everything is closed off.

gravel road
The end of my road.

Vintage is a good solo explorer. I don’t trust Berry not to be crazy, but Vintage I can just sit back and relax…for the most part anyway. She looked around at everything, and she kept trying to tell me she wanted to go home. At one point, I was talking on the phone, and she tried to make a walking dash for home. It was unsuccessful.

murky pond
A pond with very scary geese.

Once we were off my neighborhood roads, everything was paved. It was a little terrifying because people drive very fast down those roads. They’ve got places to be, I suppose.

"Aim for the riders!"
“Aim for the riders!”

We crossed over a portion of road that had a double striped line, and this was greatly confusing to Vintage. Is this a ground pole? Should she jump it? WHY ARE THERE TWO SO CLOSE TOGETHER!?

street

She decided a slight hop with her front end was the solution.

Crossing the lines marked the furthest I’ve ridden from my farm. It was now a totally new area for me.

There was lovely barn landscaping.
There was lovely barn landscaping.

I traveled down that road for a bit, but eventually the shoulder disappeared, and the road had a blind corner. I’m not quite brave enough for that, so I turned around. Vintage was extremely glad to be heading back. I basically dropped the reins and she steered the whole way. She’s very devoted to going home.

Back up my neighborhood road.
Back up my neighborhood road.

Maybe I’ll explore around the blind corner next time… with my car. To see if its safe. Then I’ll go back with the horse. Good plan, I think.

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Experiment: TTouch Face Evaluation on Vintage

Many years ago, when I was a wee child, I had no horse, and therefore, I devored every horse book I could find. One of them was Getting in TTouch: Understand and Influence Your Horse’s Personality. I loved it. It talked about interpreting your horse’s personality based on appearance, and ways to influence your horse’s personality. It was fascinating.

The years have gone by, eventually I got my own horses, and I never got around to evaluating my own horses. Every now and then, I’d remember something from the book that would assume something about a particular horse, but I basically forgot about most things.

In my area, there’s a trainer that advertises herself as a TTouch trainer. Every time I see her ads, I alway wonder how popular it is these days, or if it’s almost like one of the fore bearers of the natural horsemanship movement – known of, but kind of outdated compared to today’s standards. Or maybe it is the horse equivalent of palm reading, or voodoo magic – some people might believe it, but it’s not really widely accepted as fact.

Naturally, I must figure out this mystery, so I’m going to run some evaluations of my own horses. Let’s get started!

Case Subject: Vintage – 19 year old Appaloosa mare. I’ve owned her for the majority of her life. I took a series of photos for evaluation, but mostly used the photo above, and a photo further down to figure out her face.

Profile

I had to study her face for a bit, because it dishes in slightly. But upon lengthy evaluation, I’m interpreting her face as a straight profile with a moose nose. It’s not prominent, but I think it’s there.

moosenose

TTouch says: Moose Nose: This shows up as a bulge on the lower part of the nose and usually indicates a horse with a strong character, frequently a herd leader. I think that is acurate. She was very difficult in her younger years, and sometimes she can be rather sassy in her older years. She is currently the herd leader, although she hasn’t always been in other groups.

Jowls

This looks like medium jowls to me.

mediumjowl

TTouch says: Average ability to learn. (You can bring your horse way beyond average with intelligent education). As I said, I’ve had difficulty with her, but I don’t think it was because she was not intelligent, but rather I didn’t really know what I was doing. She seems pretty smart to me, especially as I’ve grown smarter, so I’m not really sure if this indicates anything.

Bumps and bulges

None that I can tell, so skipping this part.

Muzzle

Sloping muzzle.

slopingmuzzle

TTouch says: This characteristic, which I’ve seen at its greatest extreme in warmbloods, differs from the moose nose in that it slopes sharply from above the nostril to the upper lip. Horses with an obvious sloping muzzle have a strong tendency to test each new rider to see who is going to give the commands. I would agree with this. She does not make it easy at first, she tests to see if riders are actually serious that they want her to work.

Mouth

Medium mouth.

mediummouth

TTouch says: Indicates nothing in particular. Agreed!

Second evaluation photo.
Second evaluation photo.

Lips

I had to look at a series of photos to be sure, but even though it seems to have varying degrees of shape, her lips are heart shaped.

heartlip

TTouch says: A lip like this can be an indication of an expressive, curious, and extroverted character. I agree somewhat. She can be outgoing, she can be expressive, and she can be curious…but she also isn’t sometimes. Could be age though, she used to be extremely expressive, and had so many feelings to get out.

Nostrils

In these photos, they look narrow, inflexible.

narrownostrils

TTouch says: Shows lack of mental development, or indicates a horse who has difficulty figuring out what is being asked. The nostrils can change as a horse becomes more interested and develops mentally. Well, I feel like you just called my horse stupid, and I don’t agree with that! Maybe she was confused as to why I was photographing her? I’m wondering if this is more a moment in time type deal, as I’ve seen her make her nostrils pretty large! (Yes, I am just trying to come up with excuses as to why my horse isn’t stupid.)

Chin

Looks like a long, flat, narrow chin to me.

flatchin

TTouch says: Can indicate high intelligence. Generally is accompanied by a longer than average mouth. Often these horses are labeled “difficult.” Well, that’s pretty much exactly true. Vintage was labeled “Difficult” when she was younger. I guess this makes up for her stupid nostrils!

Eyes

She has white around the eye. TTouch says: This is normal for an appaloosa or a horse with a blaze. Whew, that’s a relief!

More on eyes… Vintage has her eyes set on sides of her head.

eyesonside

TTouch says: “These restrict vision. Horses with these eyes may appear disinterested in their surroundings, or alternatively, be fearful and shy away from other horses or vehicles moving towards them.” I don’t see this with Vintage. She’s bold, and most of the time, very interested in her surroundings. I mean, she doesn’t always check out her whole field every day, but she lives there, so I think it probably gets pretty boring. But when we are new places, she loves to check things out.

Ears

Her ears are a bit at half mast in these pictures, but I am thinking they are considered “straight up, same width at top and base.”

evenears

TTouch says: “Horses having this ear set are likely to be energetic and sometimes a little hot.” OMG Yes! That is totally her. She used to to be the energizer bunny, not she’s gotten a bit lazier, but I always have to watch her with new riders in case she starts to feel a bit too good.

Swirls

TTouch describes swirls as like the finger prints of humans. They are always slightly different on every horse, and some breed registries record them. I had to backtrack a few days to get a picture that better shows it, but Vintage had a long, single swirl.

swirl

TTouch says: “Indicates a horse who is friendly and particaularly enjoys relating to people. Over the past twenty years I’ve repeatedly found that when horses with this swirl are unfriendly, it is because they are in pain or have been abused.” Well, Vintage has never been abused, and while she might be in pain at times, over her whole life she is what I would consider a schemer. She’s super friendly and sweet when she wants something. But if you have nothing, she’s done with you. She’s a bit of snob.

Some of these are right on target. Others, I’m not so sure about. It could be these are vague enough that people could interpret them to mean something for their particular horse.

I’ll need to run further tests before I determine my own judgement. Berry and Pony are coming up. Additionally, if you want me to run an evaluation of your horse, please send me a profile picture, and a straight on. I would love to run more evaluations! Email me at courtneymarshallick@gmail.com. I’m very friendly, I promise!

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Vintage Bouncing Back

After spending a small fortune on getting Vintage evaluated/treated, I was worried that it would basically do nothing, and I’d have to spend even more money to re-evaluate the issue. They weren’t 100% sure what the issue was to began with, so it was kind of a “This looks like it might cause the issue, let’s inject, hope for the best”.

Fortunately, this method actually is working. I can’t claim that she’s 100% yet, but she’s looking pretty good! I was given permission to ride her, so I started doing that, with gusto. She’s comfortable enough to ride that I don’t use a saddle, so I basically don’t clean her up very well (or myself for that matter), which is why we look like we both rolled in mud.

Pictured: World's laziest rider.
Pictured: World’s laziest rider.

Although I am telling myself that it will be really good for my legs to ride her bareback a lot. Frankly, whatever gets her ridden, I’m okay with, even if it does make me end up with a gross stain.

canter

I will be generous and actually bring out her saddle the next time I have a guest ride her. There was an unfortunate incident where we went out on a trail ride and Vintage’s rider ended up with extremely dirty and wet jeans. Sorry about that, next time I won’t be so lazy.

Vintage can still be a bit stiff, but to be fair, she is 19 years old, and she would get stiff when she’s not ridden a lot before she hurt herself, so I don’t really think it’s related.  She’s moving much better, and the chronic swelling around her fetlock has vanished. She is still on anti-inflammatorys, but if taking a fourth of a pill daily makes her sound, I think that’s pretty minimal maintenance.

Riding her is bringing out the teenager in me. Whereas with Berry, I’m cautious, and I want to make sure I’m setting her up for success, with Vintage, I do whatever seems like fun at any given moment. “How many stupid things can I do today!?” One day, it was trying terrible poses. I haven’t managed any good poses yet (some seem kind of hard on the horse’s back), but I’m confident I’ll get to the standing up pose that so many people seem fond of.

Bareback sidesaddle: A sport for the truly brave/stupid.
Bareback sidesaddle: A sport for the truly brave/stupid.

At this point in her life, I’m sure she’s resigned herself to put up with such tom foolery. Although that doesn’t mean she’s going to be happy about it.

She's also very judgmental.
She’s very judgmental.

The plan with her moving forward is to keep her in work and fit, and the vet will be out soon to determine just how well the injections worked. At this point I can tell that she’s trail/casual riding sound, but ideally, I want her jumping sound again. Might be too much to ask of a 19 year old horse though.

Anyone have a success story of bring their older horse back from an injury?

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A Case of Mystery Lameness

Back in December, I mentioned that Vintage had jumped out her stall window when I took the other horses off the property. She had some stall rest, she got a general lameness check by the vet, and she was declared pasture sound, but not sound for riding, although she was improving. It’s possible if I just kept waiting, she’d eventually recover, but of course, it’s not a definite. I was reluctant to get a full work up on her because she’s 19 years old, semi-retired as it is, and I have two other equines to work with. I was thinking I was content for her just to be a pasture buddy for the rest of her life.

Except when I actually thought about it, I didn’t want her to be retired. She’s already trained, she’s good, and she’s fun. I decided to just bite the bullet, and get the official diagnostic of why she was lame. The symptoms she had were a buildup of fluid just above the fetlock joint, major stocking up when stalled, and of course, she was off.

I made the appointment to go to my vet, because they already have all the equipment set up, and thus would save a teeny amount of money. This proved to be the best idea, because if she had been looked at again at my house, I am confident we still would have zero idea of what was wrong with her. My vet’s great set up was definitely needed for evaluating this horse.

marshall virginia
Paved path for lameness evaluation, round pen, and riding arena. Also a raised platform, to lord over all the peasants below.

In a coincidence that is possibly only vaguely a coincidence, my vet is located directly next to the livestock auction that I got Vintage at way back in 2003. I didn’t live in this area when I bought her, but it makes sense that I’d keep seeing the place I got her from when I live in the same town.

(Red Building) This place was extremely dumpy back then, but I think they have cleaned up the place since then. It certainly looks nicer on the outside. My vet said they don't sell horses there anymore, mainly farm equipment.
(Red Building) This place was extremely dumpy back then, but I think they have cleaned up the place since then. It certainly looks nicer on the outside. (The front outside, this is the back of it) My vet said they don’t sell horses there anymore, mainly farm equipment.

One of the nice things about going to the vet clinic is as soon as I arrive, the vets swarm and take Vintage literally off my hands. They wanted me to be able to watch everything, so Vintage was always tended to by at least one vet technician, sometimes several.

One of the delightful vets.
One of the delightful vets. (I think Vintage is shrinking in her old age… I have never noticed before how tiny she looks than I did from this visit. I guess hanging out with slightly taller Berry has changed my perspective.)

Upon arrival, they did a flexation test to see where she was at. Without the flexation, she was 1/5, but after being flexed, she was dead lame, didn’t even want to put weight on it for the first few steps. My vet thought she had improved greatly since the last time she saw her, but she was clearly very, very lame. We figured she would be, and it was time for xrays.

They started with the fetlock/cannon bone area. Everyone thought this would be extremely straight forward, after all, that’s where the puffiness in her leg was.

xraying

We all trooped on back to the viewing room to examine the xrays. She had a very old injury, a broken splint bone, and I traced that back to when I took her to a new boarding facility 5 years ago. The vet team said that was not the cause of her lameness, horses frequently broke those bones, and it was not a needed bone. But other than that, her xray was impressive, especially for a 19 year old horse. There was no arthritis, no chips, no roughening, there was nothing wrong with her.

Next up was the ultrasound. The technician searched all over her leg for a source.

ultrasound

She ultrasounded all over the leg. They called in a another vet, who seemed to be the “Head Vet” of the clinic. He ultrasounded the leg. They shaved the other leg, and ultrasounded that one to compare. They searched for some time, but found nothing that would cause lameness.

The vets all conferred with one another to discuss the next strategy. They decided the next step should be to block the fetlock to see if it even if the fetlock. So she was injected in the joint with a blocker, combined with a steroid, that way if that’s what was wrong, it would be treated.

After waiting for it to take effect, we went back out to trot it out.

lamesness exam

She was still lame, although marginally less lame. They decided to look at the stifle next. They xrayed, and looked, and there was nothing wrong with it. All the vets conferred again.

After hitting me in the eye with her tail, her tail privileges were taken away.
After hitting me in the eye with her tail, her tail privileges were taken away.

They blocked the stifle this time, and trotted her out again.

standing

She was still lame, although much less so. The vets all gathered to discuss again, and the decision was made to xray her hoof.

They took a multitude of angles, and finally, they found something that looked abnormal. On the coffin joint, there was an abnormality. They took more xrays, just to be sure, and it was still there. They weren’t quite sure if that was causing her lameness, but it was the kind of abnormality that could cause lameness, so they decided to treat it. They injected the coffin joint with something (not sure what), and whisked her away to bandage her up.

jointinjection

She got to hang out for a little bit while the tranquilizer wore off, and my vet and I discussed the plan for her moving forward. Since they still weren’t 100% sure that was causing the issue, they would need to come check on her in about a month to see how she was doing. In the meantime, if she seemed to be moving okay, she was cleared for walk/trot riding. If this treatment doesn’t help, well I guess we will be back to the drawing board.

Vet waits to be released.
Vintage waits to be released.

We were there for 4 hours. Though a lot of it was spent either waiting for tranquilizers to take effect, or tranquilizers to wear off. When we left, Vintage had a huge bulky bandage on her leg, intended to “sweat” her a bit, since everyone had been messing with her leg so long. She was stalled for the rest of the day and night, and in the morning, I pulled the bandage off with great difficulty. That thing was really on there, I’m very impressed. But her leg, which usually would be stocked up, was tight and firm. I let her out, and she rejoiced her in freedom by trotting across the field, and I could see she was still off. But, the vet said it would take up to a month to see the results, so we will see. I stalled her again the next night, and was wondering how her leg would fare without the sweater, but shockingly, once again it was tight and firm. I’m taking that as a good sign! And also a sign that I need to learn how to wrap like that, because it truly is magic.

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When Other People Think You Should Sell Your Horse

appaloosa jumping

There have been a few times where I’ve felt doubt that I picked the right horse. I picked all my horses without a professional’s help, except for Berry. I did get some assistance when I bought Berry – she came from Pony Man’s current trainer. I went to see a different horse, and I told her what I wanted. She steered me away from the horse I came to look at it, and right towards Berry, a horse I originally had no interest in. Good call, Sarah!

Because I doubt my own ability to pick good horses, I sometimes end up basically talking down my own horse. I was talking to my trainer one day about Berry’s suitability for me. I gave her a few openings where she could have said “Yes, sell Berry and get a better one,” but she didn’t. She didn’t say anything bad about Berry. Instead, she said, “I think she’ll end up surprising you with what she’s capable of.”

It was reassuring. Someone else believes in my horse. I can tell my trainer genuinely likes her – she tells her she’s a good girl, she pets her, she praises her, and tells others she’s a good girl. The only time she got mad at her is when we were standing at the ingate and Berry kept touching things but it was my fault for having us stand there. Berry started touching the ring steward’s back, eating the nearby bush, and ended with grabbing the box of ribbons, preparing to dump it all over. She got a swat from my trainer for that.

It may be dusk, and darkening fast, but you just have to ride!
It may be dusk, and darkening fast, but you just have to ride!

No one’s ever told me to sell Berry and get a new, better, improved model. For that, I am thankful, and I respect my trainer even more because she respects that Berry is the horse I choose, and the horse I want to learn on. She’s never told me I should buy a $20k horse – she knows that what I really need is $19k of lessons on my $1k horse. It chips away at your confidence when someone is continually telling you to upgrade, making you doubt yourself, which leads to the downward spiral of, “No one thinks I can do this, I can’t do this because they know better.” I know this, because that’s how it was with Vintage when I was a teenager.

It could have been the appaloosa bias. My trainer at the time (as far as I could tell) hated appies. A boarder there with an appy thought so, too. My trainer didn’t care that Vintage was the horse I choose, for whatever my teenage reasons were. She thought I should sell her, and buy a big warmblood, despite the fact that our barn didn’t show, and I didn’t need a big warmblood to be competitive at the shows we didn’t go to. What I needed was lessons, hence why I was there in the first place.

I got Vintage when I was 17, a gift from my wonderful mother who wanted to support my horse dreams. She got me a saddle too, and I was all set to go. I was the brave teenager who thought I knew everything, and wanted to tame my wild appaloosa. I had plenty of experience riding already trained horses, but I didn’t realize there was a difference with a green horse. I don’t know how much training she had before me, but she wouldn’t even let me pick up her hooves, so she was definitely on the very green side of things. But I was basically a brave idiot, so I taught her ground manners, and attempted to ride. I was pretty bad at the training part, which is why I ended up with my trainer.

There’s something about appaloosa that many people hate. Before I owned one, I didn’t want to own one, but after owning one, I love mine. They do kind of have weird looking faces, a face only a mother would love.

I do love this face! (Dave says it's weird looking.)
I do love this face! (Dave says it’s weird looking.)

But it’s a bit taboo to call someone else’s horse ugly, so they leave it vague why they don’t like appys.

My trainer didn’t like her, and after a few lessons with her, starting recommending I sell her. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but since she was the professional, I decided to put her on the market. She rode Vintage for pictures (oddly, only at a walk, she didn’t trust Vintage at a trot… or she didn’t want to give me a free training ride, I’m not sure which), and I made up the flyers. The horse market was a little different then, and I put her price as my trainer recommended, $3500, which seems absurdly high now for what she was, a small, grade, green appaloosa.

Apparently everyone else thought so too, because I got little interest in her, until I got a call one day from a man looking for a barrel horse for his daughter. They wanted to trade their (allegedly) tall, beautiful thoroughbred for her. I was intrigued, as that was an acceptable breed to have in this barn, and were greatly appreciated at my old hunter barn. We set up a day for them to come look at Vintage.

Before I started going to the trainer, Vintage was half pasture potato, because I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with her. But since I was (half-heartedly) trying to sell her, Vintage was in regular work. I made a huge effort to get her in sale shape, and without realizing it, I was starting to enjoy her.

When the man and his daughter showed up, I had her in the crossties, where she was napping, something that hadn’t been possible just a month prior. I remember pulling off her blanket, and her coat underneath was sleek and shiny, and she was so well muscled. It was when I suddenly had a burst of pride that my horse was so wonderful.

middleburg

I rode her around in the indoor, and she was quiet and well mannered. The girl got on, and I had a sinking feeling that she wasn’t an experienced rider. Vintage is very sensitive, and the girl was definitely confusing her. My poor baby was in pain, and all I could do is watch.

They really liked her, so we set up a date for me to come ride their thoroughbred. I was already starting to have doubt of this working out, as I thought of how poorly Vintage had gone with them, and my maternal feelings were starting to kick in. I hadn’t had Vintage all that long, and prior to this, I wasn’t in love with her, or really attached. But now, after seeing she was starting to go well for me, and she was looking so good, I was starting to get attached.

I went to see their thoroughbred, and it was instant disappointment. He couldn’t help that it was winter, and he was super shaggy, but he was thin, and compared to my sleek, well muscled Vintage, it looked like he wasn’t being taken care of. I rode him, and it was like riding a block of wood. He wouldn’t bend, wasn’t supple and he had only a basic understanding of the simplest aids. I didn’t even leave them hanging, I told them no immediately.

It made me start wondering though. The thoroughbred had been tall, but he wasn’t nearly as nice as ride as Vintage. Once I had put an effort into Vintage, I reaped the reward of having a nicer horse. It truly wasn’t hard, it just required the time. I immediately stopped marketing Vintage, and just concentrated on riding the snot out of her. I started having fun, tons of fun. Vintage was exactly the horse I had wanted when I bought her, and once I pushed my doubts aside, I could see it.  My trainer still didn’t like her, but I started taking lessons on her school horses, and then just riding Vintage on my own, that way she didn’t have to lament at how much she didn’t like Vintage. But even though I loved my trainer at the time, I honestly lost a  bit of respect for her for doubting me and/or Vintage, when we were clearly capable. Vintage was everything a teenage girl could want.

foxchasefarm

A few months later, the same man and daughter contacted me again about a different trade. Apparently they had traded the thoroughbred for a paint, and now wanted to trade the paint for Vintage. I admire their dedication to really wanting Vintage, but now, I didn’t want a different horse. I wanted Vintage. I did go look at the paint, mainly out of curiosity, and he was marginally better than the thoroughbred they had, but it was not enough to convince me to part with her.

Eventually, I got a working student position with a dressage trainer who loved Vintage, and thought she was fabulous. We made great strides with her training while I worked for her.

dressage
Ahh!! Creepy mirror shadow figure!!

It may not have been the smartest idea to buy a green horse***, but it all worked out in the end. I hadn’t needed a big, fancy warmblood, I needed to learn how to ride. Having a big, fancy warmblood doesn’t endow me with riding ability. My trainer never explained to me why I needed to trade in my perfectly serviceable appaloosa. Just that I needed a big, fancy warmblood. In fact, she didn’t even talk to me about my goals with Vintage, or with hypothetical fancy warmblood. If I had told her my goal was to show, it would have made sense for her to push getting a horse that would be competitive. But she never asked.

Vintage surprised me with what she was capable of. She was capable of way more than I ever asked of her. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t push myself harder, because I could have done way more with her. But she was completely suitable for me, I learned a lot from her, and she’s still a wonderful horse to ride.

Vintage didn’t start out being a perfect horse. She was a lump of clay, waiting to be created. I wanted help molding her, not to be told to find someone else’s already created sculpture. My goal was learning the process of training. For me then, it wasn’t about having a perfectly made horse. It was about the journey. It’s about learning how to train, how to manage personalities, and how to react in situations. Having a made horse is fun, but it’s more fun knowing that I’m the one that made it.

Granted, now that my goal is showing, I do wish things were already in place, like those blasted lead changes. But once I figure them out, I’ll be able to put them on Pony, too. And every horse after that. It may mean that I won’t be competitive until I get them, but it’s a great motivation to figure it out.

And the excitement of our first snow adventure!

I’m glad no one’s telling me my horses aren’t suitable for me these days. I have a odd assortment of equines, but I want to find ways to make them all work. I have them sort of figured out, but there’s time for them to develop. I have hard goals, and loose goals, and somehow, they will all fit into them. I don’t need a new or different horse at this time. Once I’ve learned much, much more, I may want a fancier horse to be competitive. But right now, I think I’m good.

***I will say this with a footnote – I don’t think it’s a good idea for a inexperienced person to get a green horse without a trainer. When I was stuck, I got a trainer, which is why I survived. But, as I mentioned, before I went to the trainer, I didn’t accomplish much of anything on my own. It’s pointless to downright stupid to get an untrained horse unless you have a solid plan.

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March Conformation Pictures

Today is the month I start taking monthly conformation pictures of my horses. Next month will be the month I start taking monthly conformation pictures of my horses and my pony, as he is not here right now.

I have never actively tried to take a conformation photo of any of them, and it proved to be harder than I thought it would be. They would either decide to start meandering away, or they wouldn’t look straight ahead. It would be an easy fix though if I had someone help me, but I was hoping they would stand there, like obedient statues. I did manage to get them though (sort of).

7 year old horse conformation
Subject 1: 7 year old thoroughbred mare.

Berry ended up stepping on her lead rope and that pinned her there long enough for me to get a fairly bad photo of her. She suddenly became super camera shy and was constantly looking away from me. Possibly it was urgent she checked out the scenery of the place she’s been living for a while.

"Hmmm, yes I suppose it is a nice view. I should take tiny steps closer to it, she doesn't notice when I move in slow motion."
“Hmmm, yes I suppose it is a nice view. I should take tiny steps closer to it, she doesn’t notice when I move in slow motion.”

Vintage was doing the same, and I failed to get any photos of her where she wasn’t looking away.

"I've never noticed this view before!"
“I’ve never noticed this view before!”

I convinced Dave to come out and hold her for me. I was also too lazy to walk all the way back to the arena, so her final picture is on the dirt path.

appaloosa mare
Subject 2: 19 year old appaloosa mare.

Of course, since Dave is the treat dispenser, she was super interested in receiving some. Dave stepped away to be out of the picture, while asking her to stand still, resulting in her stretching out like a saddlebred.

I’m planning to take new photos at the beginning of every month to see how they develop. It will be interesting to see how their muscles develop. Berry is worked way more than Vintage, so I am sure her changes (if any) will be noticeably much faster. I haven’t even ridden Vintage this year, so possibly there will be little to no progress… but we will see. Hopefully she will be able to be worked into the riding schedule.

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