Friday, 1 August 2014

I Need to Thank My Guardian Angel

As my grandmother said, I sure keep my guardian angel working.  Thankfully, they were on duty today, I really needed them.

I was riding Artemis and we were loping on a big circle at one end of the arena.  We were coming around close to the wall, nearly at the gate where a few people, including my mom, were standing.  Artemis had dropped her outside shoulder and so was leaning very hard to the outside.  I was trying to correct her and as we came up to the gate, she stumbled.  With our speed and how much she was leaning, she went down.

The stumble threw me from the saddle and that's probably what saved me.  I nearly went headfirst into the wall, I probably landed only a few inches from it.  I hit the ground and she hit it about a second after me, landing on my foot.  She moved and I was able to kick my foot free.  My first thought was to get out of there so I rolled away from her.

I ended up sitting there, learning against the wall and I saw her for the first time.  She was lying against the wall, the complete opposite way we'd been going.  Honestly, for a few seconds, I didn't move.  I was freaking out, trying to figure out if I was hurt or not.  While that was happening, everyone at the gate was freaking out and trying to come in the arena.  Artemis was in between the gate and I so they couldn't see me at all.

My mom came in and that's about when I realized nothing was broken on me.  I jumped to my feet and now all I could think about was Artemis.  She was lying with her head up but she wasn't moving at all and although there was no blood anywhere, I couldn't see if she was hurt or not.  I went to grab the reins because if she went to get up I didn't want her to step on them and hurt herself further.  Apparently I told her to get up but I don't remember that.  Everyone was telling me to back up and give her space.  After a few moments, she did get up.

I was shaking so hard I could barely stand but my only thought was her.  I went all around her, feeling her over and checking her legs.  Believe it or not, she wasn't hurt.  She has a small scratch on her chest and an even smaller nick on her face but other than that, she's fine.  My mom walked her around while I went to sit down before my legs gave out.

It was honestly one of the most terrifying things in my life.  It's one of my biggest fears (as I imagine it is for any horse person) and I really don't know how we both got out of it unharmed.  I am so thankful we did, but really, I don't know how.

I did not get back on her, although I know the logic is I should have.  I couldn't have, my adrenaline was pumping and I was so freaked out I could barely stand.  She calmed down a lot quicker than I did, but we were afraid she was hurt.  My mom walked her around for a while, and then we let her stand in the barn for a while.

I did however, ride Socks afterwards.  I knew I needed to get back on a horse or else I'd be absolutely terrified next time.  Socks was awesome, of course.  I walked, trotted and loped her.  Before that though, we hosed off Artemis and then put her in a grass pen beside the outdoor arena while we rode.  She grazed happily and shook off the fall pretty quickly.

And for anyone wondering, I was wearing a helmet.  I didn't hit my head on anything but it was one less thing to worry about among everything else.  I'm very sore everywhere, I feel like I got run over but I have no real injuries.  Even my arm, the one I basically shattered, seems to have come out of it pretty okay.  It's sore but it could have been a lot worse.  My foot is fine too, the one she did land on.  Even my saddle made it out okay, although none of us can figure out how as she flipped right over it.

It was my first fall since breaking my arm two years ago, and my first fall ever on Artemis.  And despite how terrifying it was, there's a big part of me that's relieved it was from a stumble.  It wasn't because she was misbehaving or trying to get me off, it was just a stupid stumble.

Friday, 25 April 2014

No Sense

This post is not horse related so please forgive me for that.  I feel like I'll implode if I don't say something, and this place has always been a safe spot for my thoughts.

Earlier this month, my community was rocked by a terrible tragedy.  I won't go into details, but the lives of five young people were tragically and violently taken away in an act that's left every one reeling.  No one can begin to make sense of this tragedy and it's affected the entire community.

This one has hit close to home for me.  Of the five, I went to school with four of them, graduated with three of them, and the most painful for me, the last was the brother of my close friend.  I can't begin to describe how it felt, seeing the names, recognizing them, and then for the last one, realizing exactly who it was.

The past few weeks haven't felt real, and all I can keep thinking of is if I am this affected by this tragedy, I can't even begin to comprehend how the families of the victims feel.  Even the family of the suspect, because they have lost their child just the same as the others have.  My heart goes out to all of them.

Loss is not new to me, or to most people, but there is no way to even begin to understand this loss.  There are so many questions and no answers to comfort anyone.  Maybe eventually there will be answers, a reason as to why this happened, but for now, nobody can understand why these lives were taken from us.

I am trying to be there for my friend, but I can't even begin to know what to say.  I don't believe there are words that can make this better, and I only hope that the knowledge that I'm here for them, day or night, is some comfort.  I've spoken to them a few times, and those brief conversations are something I will never forget.

I keep all the families, particularly my friend, in my thoughts and prayers.  I think we've all been reminded how fleeting but precious life is.  It's been a reminder that we are not invincible, and maybe we need to stop and enjoy life more.  I know all of my problems suddenly don't seem so bad anymore, at least I am here to have problems.

I am sorry, writing's always been a release for me.  I feel a little better, just having it out in words.  Now I'd like to go and hug my horses and remind myself to appreciate everything I have.

I know the lives lost will never be forgotten.  They were all wonderful people so full of potential.  And even if their lives weren't very long, I hope they all knew how much they meant to everyone around them.  Each and every one of them was truly an amazing human being.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Learning to Ease Up

About two months after I began riding Artemis, we developed a problem in her trot.  We hadn't done much trotting up to this point, some on the lunge line and then a little bit each ride.  As she grew more comfortable, we increased the amount of time we'd trot.

At first, she was normal, and then she began to get really tense every time I would ask her to trot.  She'd go into this short, choppy trot that was ridiculously uncomfortable and she'd raise her head high.  Not flip it, she bring it high and hold it there.

One day, T was in the arena to watch her daughter ride.  I was riding Artemis, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong when T called me over.  She'd been watching me and she had a theory about why Artemis was so tense in the trot.  She told me to try trotting her again, this time with absolutely no contact on the reins.  I'm not going to lie, I thought she was insane.

I don't ride with a lot of contact on the bit, or at least, I thought I didn't.  However, I know that I do tend to tighten up the reins when my horses go faster.  I think it comes from years of Socks taking off on me the second she got her head (although thankfully we're over that issue bow).  So I thought I already was riding with little to no contact.

T saw that I was nervous and pointed out to me that as we were inside the indoor arena, if Artemis did take off on me, she had nowhere to go (she also pointed out to me that at no point has Artemis even attempted to take off on me).  And thanks to Socks, I know how to stop a runaway horse anyway, so there was no harm in at least trying.  I couldn't really argue with that, and I respect T a lot.  She's a reiner and her horse is one of the most well trained animals I've ever seen.

I asked Artemis to trot, keeping her in a circle that took up about half of the arena.  The only contact I had on the bit was to direct her.  The second she'd do what I'd want, all contact would be gone.  At first, she was the same, tense with her head held high.  She trotted really quickly, you know that fast paced trot before the horse breaks into a lope or canter.  After a few laps though, that head began to come down and her strides lengthened.  I could feel her relax and her head dropped even lower.  Her speed slowed and soon there wasn't any tension and nervousness in her.  Just like that.

T asked me to lope Artemis, doing the same thing, no contact at all except to steer.  This time I let Artemis go all around the arena.  Like with the trotting, for the first lap or so she went really fast, really choppy with her head up.  Then, when she realized I wasn't going to be pulling on her face, she relaxed almost instantly.

It was a big Aha!  moment for me.  It was just one, simple thing and driving home that night, I could see how it explained problems I'd been having with all three horses.  I'm not going to lie, I felt pretty stupid that it was such a simple solution.  I felt even worse that this whole time I thought I was pretty loose with my reins, when clearly, I wasn't enough.

Since then, neither trotting or loping has been an issue for us.  Artemis no longer gets tense and I'm no longer paranoid she's going to take off on me, not that I had a valid reason to be afraid of that in the first place.

To end this, have some pictures of the pasture horses.  It was my birthday Sunday and although I'm still not cleared by my doctor to ride, I still managed to get out and spend some time with the ponies.


Artemis in need of a good brushing

You can see that the creek has flooded again

Artemis and Ebony

Jay the farm dog

Friday, 4 April 2014

Winter Updates

Okay I seriously suck at this blogging thing.  It's been months since I last wrote.  A lot has happened.

First, I had another and hopefully final surgery on my arm.  It was to remove all of the hardware out of my elbow, so all I have left is a plate and some screws in my wrist.  It's made a huge difference, before the surgery my arm was in pain every day and I had to be extremely careful about what I did  not to make it worse.  Now, just over a month after, I have no pain.  The only problem is, I'm not allowed to ride or really, work with horses for three months.  I have a lot of holes in my arm where the hardware was removed so if I were to fall or anything, my arm is more vulnerable to breaking.  So that sucks, it means I basically get to lead the horses and groom them.  At least it's something though.

Okay, on to the updates.


Socks got some fancy new gear from my Christmas money.  It was a big deal, I'm crazy about replacing gear.  Especially her bridle.  My dad gave me her bridle almost ten years ago, and it was the first new piece of tack I'd ever owned and it was the only thing in the barn that didn't get shared among all the horses.  It was just Socks' bridle and I was overly attached to it.  It was really old though, and falling apart so it was time.  She now has a matching bridle and chest strap, with a new pair of leather reins.

This is mostly what's been going on with Socks lately.  About a month ago, right after my surgery, we got a call from our barn owners.  We're not sure what exactly happened, but the conclusion we've all come to is that she slipped and fell on the ice, slicing her knee open.  It's a pretty decent gash, but luckily my barn owners saw it almost right away, and brought her in, cleaned it up and wrapped it.  She was on stall rest for a few weeks just to keep her from running around on it, and she's been in a turnout pen now, for the same reasons.

She hasn't had a lame step, which is a relief, we're just being careful so that it can heal properly.  She's been enjoying all of the extra attention.


Jimmy's been good, I have to admit he hasn't gotten as much attention this winter as I would have liked.  Let's just say he's had a lot of time off, and while I don't think he minded, he seems to enjoy that it's over now.  I don't have much to say about him, he's been good to ride.  We had him on the lunge line yesterday and he was an idiot.  He even bucked, which was a first for him, but he did calm down after a while.

Right now we're just slowly going to bring him back into shape, and hopefully this summer he and I will start seriously working on barrel racing.


She's the reason the other two didn't get worked as much this winter.  Since finding out I wouldn't be able to ride for three months, my main focus was getting Artemis as far along as I could so she'd be alright for my mom to ride her.  She's been absolutely amazing, seriously, she's not your typical two-year-old.  She hasn't had a single explosion or freak out.

When she gets scared, she doesn't panic, she might trot a few steps but then she stops.  We can walk, trot and lope around the arena with no problems.  She's perfect at backing up and stopping.  She's learned how to move off of my leg, though I can't say she does it every time.  She's really good with other horses in the arena, though she doesn't understand why other horses get to pass her.  She's had quite a few chances to explode, like when a rider decided to pass between us and the wall, at a trot, even though Artemis and I had about six inches between us and the wall.  All she did was lay her ears back and move over before the 16+ hh horse nearly ran us over.

She's the same height as her mother now, and probably going to grow some more.  My mom's been riding her since my surgery and Artemis has been great with her too.  She gets ridden about once a week, sometimes twice, with mostly walking, and then a little bit of trotting, and every few rides or so we add in some loping.  We're trying to take it slow with her, and give her plenty of time off still.

This summer, once I can ride again, the plan is to get her out in the outdoor arena and then out in the fields for some rides.  I'd been hoping to get her out in the hay field this winter, but we had such a bad winter, it was always either too cold or the snow was too deep.

That's all for now, enough with the updates, the next posts will be real, I promise.  All of the outdoor pictures were taken earlier this week, and even more snow has fallen since then.  This winter is never ending.  The weatherman keeps saying the temperature is going to be +10, +12, they've even gone as far as to promise us it'll get up to +17.  It hasn't come close, I think the highest it's been is +6, but with the wind, it's been well below 0 every day.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


It's the word that all of us dread.  I've been so fortunate in my life that none of my horses have ever been colicky before.  I guess we were just lucky but it was a threat we knew was out there but had never had to deal with before.

That abruptly changed on Wednesday.  I was just getting off work (I worked a morning shift so I got off pretty early, thankfully) when I got a message from my mom to call her.  I knew immediately something was wrong with one of the horses.  Why else wouldn't my mom say what it was about in the message?  I immediately called her and she said the worst words she could, "There's something wrong with Socks."

So after I somehow managed to not burst into tears in front of everyone I worked with (minus a girl from another store who was in the back room when I called my mom) I went over to my sister's store and promptly burst into tears in front of all her employees and customers.  Go me.  I didn't even care. 

My mom met me there and we drove straight out to the stable.  We didn't have a lot of information.  Our stable owners are on a short vacation so the instructor at the barn was doing chores.  She already does chores some days of the week so she's a good choice because she's familiar with all the horses.  Anyway, when she fed Socks, Socks didn't even come out of her shelter.  That's a huge red flag.  Socks will tear the barn apart to get to her food.

The instructor brought Socks inside the barn to keep an eye on her.  She said Socks lied down a few times but she never rolled or thrashed.  She never kicked at her stomach but she would turn her head and look at her flanks. 

When we got there I was greeted with a big, loud nicker from Socks.  She was up and made her motorcycle noise for a good two minutes as the instructor poured the stall horse's nightly grain into their buckets.

While my mom and the instructor spoke, I took Socks out and brought her into the arena to walk.  She was more than willing to go.  She did want to lie down.  She'd walk a step away from me and lower her head to the ground.  That's her sign for let me roll.  I'd give a little tug on the lead rope and she'd stop.  She never once tried to go down. 

Long story short, she did actually begin to improve almost immediately with walking.  We were there for six hours in totally (six, long hours in a freezing barn, I still haven't warmed up). 

By the end of it she was 100% normal again.  All she wanted to do was eat, which she did not get to do much to her disappointment.  She was fine the next day and has been good ever since then.

We've all come to the conclusion that it was just a mild colic, but it was scary nonetheless.  I'd rather not have to deal with that again.  At least the instructor has dealt with colic before, and we had a vet on standby. 

I went ten years without dealing with colic, hopefully I can go at least another ten without dealing with it again.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


I am alive!  I've been a horrible blogger, but I am alive.  My computer broke a while ago so my time online is restricted to mostly my Ipod, and I hate typing on that thing.

Okay, so last time I posted was in...August.  A lot has happened since then.  My riding skills have improved exponentially (I think) I spent most of the summer and September focused on Jimmy.  I learned a lot of new things to do and he's a completely different horse now.  We're both still learning, but it's crazy how much we've both improved these past few months.  We're still working on his lope, and slowing it down and making to more consistent.  I managed to get him out in the fields a few times over the summer and he handled it like a champ.  There isn't anything I've found that can make him lose his mind.

Not much has changed with Socks.  I've applied what I've learned with Jimmy with her, so she's also gotten better.  I bought her a pretty leather halter.

I've gotten the chance to ride with a professional barrel racer a few times.  That has been beyond amazing.  I've learned so much from her!  She's helped Jimmy and I a lot.  Hopefully next summer I'll finally be ready to compete.

The most exciting news though is Artemis.  First of all, she finally hit fifteen hands!  I don't care how big she gets now, I just wanted her to hit fifteen hands.  She's getting to be massive.  I'm sure she'll get bigger, we're all thinking she'll be close to sixteen hands, if not sixteen hands.

Second, I've started riding her.  October 26th was our first ride.  Well our first official ride.  I have previously been on her once and led her around, but I count this as our first real ride because this was the first time I directed her at all.  It lasted for just over five minutes but it was long enough.  I lunged her in the round pen first to make sure she didn't have any silliness in her.  We just had a halter on her, no bridle, and I took the lead rope and tied it around to make reins.  I kept the lunge line on her and my mom came in to hold it.  Then I got on.  She could have cared less.  She mostly followed my mom around, and we worked on stopping her.  She was responding to my mom stopping, but that's okay.  She'll start to realize when I pull back and say whoa, that means stop.  The biggest thing about that ride is I actually got her moving forward off of my own command and no help from my mom.  That was big so we ended the ride there.

The second ride was after it snowed so we had it in the arena.  What was really awesome about this was when we went out into the pasture to catch her, she came galloping from across the creek over to us.  There was another horse being ridden, by a friend of mine, in the arena so there was a little more distraction.  It didn't make a difference.  Again, my mom held the lunge line but we focused more on Artemis listening to me.  This ride was a little longer, about ten minutes, and she stopped and started a few times on my command.

The third ride was again in the arena.  She was awesome.  We got her to walk away from my mom and not rely on her for support.  Again we worked on stopping and going.  She's picking it up so quickly.  She knows what my leg pressure means.

The fourth ride was last night.  Again, she was amazing.  We got her to walk around my mom in a big circle on the lunge line and worked on stopping and going.  This time, I also asked her to change directions.  She had no idea what I was asking her at first, but after a few second, she got it.  Then we stopped and started a few more times before I got off.

I cannot describe how proud of her I am.  I couldn't ask her to be any better.  She has her ears pricked forward the whole time each ride.  She's never scared.  She never reacts when I get on her (she's usually not even paying attention) and even though I'm pushing her each ride, it's not scary or frustrating to her.  When she does get confused she just stops and you can almost see the wheels turning in her mind as she tries to figure out what I'm asking her.  Everything about the rides have been calm.

She doesn't feel like a typical young horse.  A lot of young horses I've ridden feel tense, and like they're about to explode at any moment.  She feels just like Jimmy, relaxed but a little unsure.  She hasn't tried to buck, run or rear once.

Our biggest goal is to maintain keeping every ride calm.  I'm okay if she doesn't learn everything in a night.  As long as she tries and is happy, that's good enough for me.  These short rides (ten minutes long at the most) are working well so far.  They're short enough as to not overload her with new information.  They're long enough accomplish what I want, but not too long to be hard on her.  And she sure loves getting a nice long grooming after them.

Ride five will hopefully be tonight.  We'll be switching from the halter to the bitless bridle so it'll really be about seeing how she reacts to it and getting her used to the pressure.  Then she'll get a few days off.

The last exciting news is that my sister's horse, Sadie, is moving to a stable near us today!  It's not actually at the stable Socks and the others are at, my sister wanted one a little closer to home, but I'm still happy to have Sadie around.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Muddy Season

I'm sure you're all asking yourselves (or not) is that Artemis in a stall?  Now why would she be in a stall?  Well, here's the answer to that.

Yup, it's an abscess.  This is what we've been dealing with for almost the past month.  July 18th, she went lame.  I spent the next few days running like a chicken with it's head cut off.  Luckily for me, while I apparently am not good in a crisis (I usually am, but leg issues, because of Cas, and I lose it), my stable owners are.  We began poulticing for an abscess and sure enough, that's exactly what it was. 

The abscess has actually been the least of our worries when it comes to Artemis.  So imagine this, you're a two-year-old, insanely energetic, horse who has spent most of her life living free out in the pasture.  You come up to the barn, do some grown up horse stuff, and then go back out into pasture until the next time.  Then, one day, it ends for you.  Your foot hurts and your thrown into a stall and don't get to go outside.  (Constant rains = insane amounts of mud = no outside time for Artemis)  You start getting bored and your boredom makes you angry.

I've always known we have some holes in her training, I'm the first to admit that I have no idea what to do with her, but those holes have become very apparent when our happy go lucky turned into an angry, hurt, bored demon of evil.

In a way, I'm thankful this happened because otherwise, who knows when I would have become aware of these issues?  And more importantly, at least right now, I had the help I needed to deal with them. 

We knew she was pushy, we've been working on fixing that, but can I just say wow?  She's been doing really awesome lately but that went out the window when she was hurt, bored and angry about being hurt and bored.  I was bringing her in the stall one night and she was good, but then in a second she decided she wanted out.  I was in her way and she didn't care at all.  She probably would have run right over me if E  hadn't been standing right behind me and jumped in to help.  I'm still sore from it, she ran right into my right side.  I still have the bruise and it was almost a month ago.

It was scary and upsetting, I've never had one of my own horses try to run through me before.  But it was a good eye-opening experience.  E helped me a lot with her, and taught me different ways of handling her and honestly, the Artemis I knew before the abscess, is nothing like this Artemis.  This one is so much more respectful of my space.

A big thing I learned is to do everything on a loose lead rope.  I'm sure we've all been there, when your horse is acting up your first reaction is to tighten your grip on the lead rope.  It never worked for me, it never gave me more control.  I learned how to keep her on a totally loose rope, and have ten times more control over her.  It wasn't without battles (mostly between her and E) and she proved what I've always known, she's one of the most stubborn horses any of us have ever met. 

There are absolutely no problems with her going in our out of stalls now, she's like all the proper indoor horses and all you have to do is lead her up to the stall, and she goes in and turns around for you to take the halter off, by herself.  She can now soak her foot she leads like a dream, though you sometimes do have to give her a little reminder. 

As her foot has improved so that she can actually walk on it without intense pain, E started turning her out in the arena by herself in the morning.  I was really happy to hear that not once did she act like an idiot when turned out.  You know how usually when a horse is cooped up for a while, and then you turn them out they run around acting like a fool?  She's not like that.  She walks laps the whole time.  The craziest thing she does is stops and rolls every now and then.  There's no running, no bucking, just calm walking.

On dry days, which are far and few between, she gets turned out during the day and again, she doesn't act like an idiot.  Unfortunately it's usually too muddy and we're afraid the mud will pull of her silver boot of duct tape so she doesn't get to go out unless it's dry.

To say the least, it's been a tough month.  It was really difficult at times, I love my horse but it was hard to have her acting so badly, because I expect better of her, and I honestly thought I had done better with her.  It was still good for both of us though, I think in the long run we'll both be better off.

Here's the demon from a few days ago.  It's not a great picture, she's not actually that butt-high.  One nice thing about her being in the barn is that the second she hears our voices, all we can hear is a loud neigh coming from the barn.  She says hello every time we come in, either by neighing or making her motorcycle noise.  She calls for us, and every now and then for T.  And as an ending note, enjoy this picture of her. 

The horse in the stall next to Artemis was having his teeth done, and she thought it was the coolest thing she'd ever seen.  We walked in the barn and this is how we found her, absolutely glued to the scene.  She left briefly to say hello to us and then immediately returned to continue watching.  I hope she liked, her turn might be coming up in the near future.