Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Helmet Cam

Ready to see what it looks like riding Quick?
I had bought a cheap $20 little digital camera back in April when my phone camera died. I duct taped it to an old helmet of mine...
Here is the result! The mountain monster in action! I was watching it again last night, and I must say I am super proud of this pony. He has come so far, just powering up this extremely difficult trail.

And yes we got drenched on the other side of the summit and all the way down. :(

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Mare That Started It All

I had been riding for years at Olney Farm. I was a rider, not a great rider not a bad rider but yet just a rider. I was not a horsewoman. I was at a point where I could get around on a horse, do well, but I knew nothing about dressage and only had a basic concept of the care a horse needed.
It was at this point that I was on the look out for a horse. I received an email:
"I just found out that my in-laws had their barn leased out from under them and I need to find a place for my horse until I can find her a home. If you have any ideas (or know anyone who might be interested in a nearly-free, barely-trained thoroughbred), let me know.
I would probably give her to someone who was interested. She's trained, but very rusty. I haven't been riding in a year. She's a great horse, for sure, and has tons of potential. She is registered (Jockey Club) and
has great lineage (mom was a racer, dad was an hunter/jumper). She'll be 8 in April."

I was at home in Maryland so I asked Teresa to go look at this horse for me. She told me she would bring the horse home and allow the owner to board her there at that I would make a decision about her when I got back.
February 25, 2009
First time I met Journey. She had the coat of a shetland pony!

To be honest neither Journey nor I were impressed with each other. Standing next to her was a happy baby thoroughbred Fiyerro, whose sleek coat and muscled body outshone the sad looking mare who wanted to be left alone to eat. Despite that we began our relationship.

I quickly realized that this mare was different than all of the other horses I had ridden. She challenged me to really ride.

Journey in July of 2009. 

So I began a search. I took a dressage lesson from a big name local trainer. She, I kid you not, wanted me to bring Journey's nose behind the vertical (she told me it was OK! Not that Journey had enough issues with her head in the clouds, now teach her to come behind the bit too!), to bend at my waist and bring my hands down to my knees, and to keep 'suppleing' (ie-see-sawing) her. She never said anything about Journey ignoring my one leg or the other things that I noticed she was doing.

I had just injured my knee so I got to work on sitting trot! 
This was before that 'dressage' lesson.

It was after that that I contacted Journey's previous owner and asked about who had started her. I received a name and an email address. And that is how I met Trish. She came out to visit, and I doubt she was impressed with the kid and the chestnut mare. Nevertheless once I moved barns to a place I could ride inside all winter I began taking lessons from Trish. Journey was fine with this new barn, for a while. Then something odd happened, she started breaking crossties. It was out of the blue, and I had to single tie her and she was fine. I still do not know exactly what happened. And she currently cross ties just fine.

The mare knows where her feet are!

I began to play around with energy work on her, I knew very little about it, but she enjoyed it. She would let out big sighs and releases so I knew I was doing something right. She had some lameness issues and interfered up front, mostly because of how she was being shod at the time. He was messing with her angles and wedging one side. At that point I never thought to question a hoof care professional, now it is a different story.

At a Jessica Wisdom clinic

I was able to get Journey a spot at Trish's place. I cleaned more manure out of fields than I had thought possible, and probably not as much as Trish would have liked! Journey was kicked out in the field ( I have a funny feeling she started it though...) She had a huge hemotoma on her rump, the vet drained it once and it came back and she had to go in and have it opened up. So Journey was on rest for a long while, even once the vet cleared her, she was still showing signs of lameness and I was told to give her more time off.
At this point I started riding everything Trish would let me, taking as many lessons from her as I could. (At this point Trish had also told me about her friend who is an endurance rider, and that I should go ride with her.) I learned a lot, had a lot of bad moments, but what was driving me on was the thought that I would become a better rider so that when Journey was back into work I could ride her better.

Halloween Show

Since then I have gotten Journey going a number of times, but when I get super busy (first with getting the Dragon ready for Tevis, and then with getting Quick going) she sits. Her lameness comes back. I also found a saddle that she likes. Which is my Ortho-flex dressage saddle with a Frank Banies tree. The first time I put it on her she went wonderfully, even cantered both directions nicely. (cantering is her worst gait)

My favorite view, between chestnut ears!

Journey and I may never win any ribbons or do anything spectacular in the eyes of the masses, but that is not what riding is all about. Because of Journey I have learned a wealth of information, I have and do strive to better myself, find new answers, and think outside of the box. Journey is the reason I am the horsewoman I am today. Because of her I have learned, struggled, cried, tried and tried again until I figured it out. No little ribbon can show any of this.

It is only because of Journey, because of her idiosyncrasies and quirks that I have challenged myself to learn and grow. With just about any other horse I would have staid where I was at. I would have learned some, for sure, but perhaps I would have fallen into a different group of riders than where I am at. I wouldn't be concerned about nutrition, hoof care, bodywork, training, saddle fit, bitting, and just overall how to correctly ride, how to be quiet and centered in the saddle. I am where I am today because of this mare, she challenges me to step up and learn and is gracious enough to deal with me while I am in the process. I only hope I can do as much for her as I possibly can, to make her comfortable and give her a happy healthy life. Without having pushed myself I would not have been able to help Quick, or ride Battle, or start Diesel, Akilha, Bree, Cookie,Yvette and those yet to come. I didn't have the skill set, the patience, the quiet calm place to go to when working with horses. I had never realized the depth involved with working with these wonderful animals. This is not something to get when focusing on ribbons, this is what you lose.
Occasionally I will voice my dreams, or a portion thereof, because I believe in this mare. I believe she is not broken or worthless. Even if we never get there, I have more to thank her for than can be put into words.
Life is a Rare Journey indeed.