Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Horse Boy Revisited....Meeting the Author (and Producer!)...

On Sunday I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Rupert Isaacson, the author of the book 'The Horse Boy' and then seeing the Sudance film with the same title. Since I have quite a background in the autism realm (12 yrs. experience), my son's little brother is autistic, and of course my volunteer work at Triple H Equitherapy, this book and movie were of extreme interest to me. I had chatted live with Rupert a couple of times online, and while only getting to talk to him a very little bit during the book signing and in the Q&A session after the movie, I am excited to go to his ranch and really have a good convo. He has so much knowledge to impart, not just in the world of autistim, but as a consumate horseman. Raised in England by South African parents, his knowledge of dressage and eventing astound me. Just a neat guy and I'm sure his wife is just as great. I'm always looking for interesting horse people here in Texas so this was a real treat! The Horse Boy movie came out in independent theaters this week, if you don't read, give it a gander. Or do both like I did!!

Meeting Rupert...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tag! I'm It! From A Hunter In Training....

Tagged a week or so ago by A Hunter In Training to list a few of my likes and dislikes.... Here goes.

I LIKE....Tack Shops and buying horsey related things! I always have a list, I am never done with my horsey arsenal! :)
I DON'T LIKE...The tack shops in my area of Texas are pathetic with no English selection! I'm from the East coast where we have SUPER tack shops so being forced to buy online makes me super sad! If that makes me a snob, too bad... :)

I LIKE...A peaceful drive in the country.
I DON'T LIKE.....Rude, aggressive drivers! Do you REALLY need to try to kill me to get where you're going?

I LIKE...Being a Divemaster...scuba diving! One of my passions that I engaged in when I lived on the 3x5 mile island of Key West and had nary a horse in sight!
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that the only place to dive in Texas are in lakes. UMMM. NO THANKS! Boring after the tropics!

I LIKE....My job as an RN working with infants.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that like any job, there are issues with people, policy and pay that frustrate me and are always challenging. OH! And that I didn't just become a veterinarian!

I LIKE...My son's sense of humor and quirky little ways.
I DON'T LIKE....The teenage (he's 13) mouth, disregard of my rules, and the attitude! Where is my sweet little boy who cuddles with his mama? He called me mama until he was 10, and then one day it was just MOM. I had believed until then that I had the rare child who would always call me mama, and absolutely LOVED it!

I LIKE...That my son has a good relationship with his dad, and that I do too!
I DON'T LIKE...That his dad has been sent to Iraq for a year and that single parenting is just as hard as I remember it, harder with a teenager. And of course both of us worry about his dad's safety....

I LIKE...The fact that the friends that I have are so wonderful and that I have a supportive family.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that my family are all in Pa and that I don't have that many friends here in Texas. (The few that I have are GREAT though!)

I LIKE...My dressage trainer Allison.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that I can't afford more than a bi-weekly, sometimes only monthly lesson!

I LOVE....The fact that I am fortunate enough to have a horse at all, and to have friends to ride with who are ALWAYS super supportive and helpful!

I'm not into tagging folks...if you would like to participate, consider yourself TAGGED!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Substance of Things Hoped For...(Our Story)

Well, a few of you have asked questions when I have mentioned the trials I have had on Jackson--breaking my shoulder, falling off numerous times, and the funniest mishap(afterwards!) hitting the tree-- so that I feel compelled to finally tell our story, and of the night on a camping trip a year ago now, in the PITCH BLACK, that I KNEW I would keep him NO MATTER WHAT.

Jackson was my birthday present to myself in January of 2007, and I met him for the first time on my birthday! Don't that beat Bath & Body Works gift wise?! I knew nothing about buying a horse and knew only what I had read. AND I did everything wrong from A-Z. I should be ashamed of myself, but I am not. I followed my heart, and as my heart frequently is (at least in how I feel about an animal) it was not wrong. But, OH BOY, I simply got lucky! Lucky that he turned out to be a sound horse (as I waived a vet check-DOH!!), and doubly lucky that his owner that had had him since he was a colt (four months old), was honest with me. In my defense, I did not have the knowledgeable friends that I have now, in fact, I had no horsey friends IN San Antonio, really, I had no friends here at all! I had moved here about a year before that. Largely due to this, I had been depressed for some time, and the horse purchase came after about three months of intense thought and yearning to actually have a life and friends again besides work!

Jackson had not been ridden in two years(!)(age 7) as his owner had to have her spine fused along with pending knee surgery (she was older), and despite keeping him at the cheapest boarding place in town, she could no longer afford to keep him. She was up front with me about everything (except one thing, or maybe I just didn't even hear...), I thank God for that, because I was SO gullible, a lesser person could have really taken me for a ride. He would have flown through a vet check, I am certain, but that is the one thing I didn't do that makes me pretty embarrassed. UH, HELLO? She told me that he had been trail ridden extensively, but she did not mention that he HAD NO IDEA how to canter with a rider, which will play into my story here in a bit.

Anyway, after meeting him for the first time I REALLY liked him. I could tell he and his PO (previous owner) Yvonne had quite the relationship and while Jackson was friendly, there was an aloofness (Ok, he was stuck up! He loves me now, but that took awhile!) that I didn't even notice as I was so excited. I told her that I needed to ride him and I could tell that she was nervous about that since he hadn't been ridden in two years. The ride was less than ideal. She brought a horrible Western saddle (he was only ever ridden in an Australian saddle) that was so uncomfortable I wanted to cry. She was thrilled that he performed so well after two years of not being ridden, but honestly, I just wanted off. I couldn't tell anything with that saddle. I only did walk/trot which seemed fine to me. Now I know had I tried a canter I would have been OFF. Most likely anyway.

But I bought him. There was something....I just knew it. Despite the fact that he was completely chomped on from all the mares bossing him around, and had a shaggy winter coat, I could SEE him and what he was. Not to mention that beautiful picture in the sales ad. I have it up in the corner of this blog, the one of him cantering. I could SEE that horse and he was to be mine. And I got him for a steal. At least I think so. A horse is only worth what you think he is, and what someone is willing to pay for him. Bottom line. That is something my friend Lorri told me. She asked me a couple of months ago what I would sell Jackson for NOW (hypothetically) and I went off on his experience since I have had him, his breeding, his papers, YADA YADA...and she comes out with that! I have seen AngloArabs with papers go from $500-$60,000 so I think she has a great point. My trainer Allison told me I got a steal and have a diamond in the rough. Not as rough as we used to be, and a real compliment from her! Anyway, I digress.

So I found a boarding situation I could afford (at the time)and there I met some wonderful horsey friends to ride with. Yvonne and her friend (who boarded at the same ranch) came to meet me there on the 8th of February and we went to pick up my horse. We first went to drop off one of her friend's horses at another friend's ranch, who just happened to be Jackson's breeder, Connie Covington! Connie is awesome and still keeps in touch with me. She has also gotten me in touch with Jackson's full-blooded brother Jack's (Bugsy) owner. (This is the one I want to breed with Lorri's horse). While at Connie's I got to tour and meet some of Jackson's half brothers and sisters and meet his sire, Lamaras Firebusz (Buzzy) the Arabian half of his parentage.

The picking up and loading of Jackson was uneventful, he loads like a dream and his ground manners were very well taught. We got him to the ranch and put him in a stall to settle in for a few days before he would be turned out daily with the other horses and then brought in at night. They were feeding oats and hay and I had to go talk to the ranch hand about starting him VERY slowly on the oats as he thought nothing of just giving him a normal ration. AGH! He said they are easy on the system, but easy or not, they were new to Jackson and I did not need a colic on my hands. That settled, I gave him a few days to settle in before riding him. I had to anyway as my bridle was still on the way!

Our first ride was just a round pen and then an arena workout with w/t transitions and plenty of WHOA's, making sure stopping would not be an issue. It wasn't. We were ready to head down the lane on our next ride. This ranch and the one mile lane each way have been on several local commercials due to the beautiful walnut trees lining both sides. It is a fun ride and we had a wonderful time. We even cantered so I was in horse heaven!

The cantering issues started about a week later. We were in the arena and there were lots of things going on that day, team ropers practicing with live baby bulls and lots of horses and people around. When the ropers were taking a break, I took J. into the arena for a ride. I started him into a canter and I still am not sure what happened, but I was soon on the ground. Dusty, shook up, but fine. The ropers caught my horse and were nice. They were all drunk so I'm sure they thought it was funny as hell. English rider falls off. Yes, riding drunk is quite common with the ropers at this ranch! I blamed it entirely on myself, and really, every time I have come off is my fault in my opinion. I have a willing, forward horse and I am (yes, I admit) OVERHORSED. But it took many more spills for me to get this through my skull.

On to the day of THE trailride. Five of us set out and at one point my friend Tami began to lope her horse down the trail. I wanted to GO too and got Jackson into the canter. When I asked him to stop, he did, but since he was green and uneducated (and I include myself in that equation!) he dropped his shoulder and stopped on the forehand. I went one way, he stopped in the other. UGH! I got up, remounted and continued the ride. I had a three inch rugburn type cut (freckles still haven't come back to that area!) and was incredibly nausous with my right shoulder KILLING me. I finished the ride, pretty miserably, but I did finish, mostly because I knew I wouldn't have been able to make the 2 mile journey back on foot and didn't want to ask the whole group to turn around. My shoulder ended up being broken and still hurts every day as it also had torn ligaments and has over the course of 2+ years developed a bone spur. After two weeks I was back up riding and taking lessons from a friend out at the ranch, but cantering was out. Then one day about a month and a half later, Jackson spooked and I went off again. When I tried to remount he was so spooked he re-spooked but I landed on my feet. About this time my main riding buddy Tami moved her horses to her ranch and my nerve was about gone. Especially to go out and ride by myself. I tried it once and ended up in the sand in the round pen just from hitting his butt with my foot while mounting. I had set up a situation where fear was all I felt, and I was not the leader anymore. Jackson knew it and was feeding into that fear. I began to avoid going out to see him. I was at an all time low. I had to MAKE myself go and see my horse? The guilt is indescribable. You should get joy seeing your horse and all I felt was dread and sadness about my situation. I did not know what to do so I put him up for sale. He needed someone who would do right by him and could really ride him. UGH. Horrible feeling. I was also having issues paying my board, and paying that much for a pasture ornament is ridiculous.

You know that saying,'When God closes a door he opens a window?' In my case he THREW open a barn door. I had not answered ONE of the numerous responses I was getting to my ad on equine.com. I could not do it, and I knew I needed to. I work with a lady named Linda and we always talked about our horses. I mentioned that I was selling Jackson because I could not afford the boarding situation anymore. I didn't really go into the chicken I had become on my horse (and I had gained a good amount of weight by this time (40 lbs)!!!) and how depressed and totally distressed the whole thing had made me. Being the type of person she is she said, "Nope, bring him out to my ranch and keep him there, you can pay me $50 a month and pay for his feed and hay." So that is what I did. The barn door got thrown open and I was on my way to getting my nerve back and keeping my horse!

Obviously, this has not happened overnight. My friends have been immensely patient and tolerant of my slowness and encourage me a lot. Over the years they have both dealt with and overcome fear issues; Linda even had a horse rear and fall on her and break her tailbone. LORDY! I can trot forever now when I wouldn't have been able to do even five minutes a year ago. I have cantered on Jackson exactly two times in the past year (and the second time I hit a tree because I didn't give him ANY direction when we got to it! I was so amazed and delighted we were cantering, we came around a corner to a tree directly in front of us, and I did a mini-freak which consisted of not telling my horse which way to go--so we parted ways, and I left marks on the tree where I went SPLAT!) although I do fairly well on my friend's horse. (See two posts ago where I was cantering the spotted app.) Cantering has now become The BIG Monster. The dressage lessons are helping IMMENSELY and I am gaining my independent seat which is riiiggghhhht there. A nudge away. The fear is the problem. I am gaining confidence all the time, I know I will get there. Some of the fear comes from the fact that I have sole custody of my son while his dad is in Iraq, and even if he weren't relying on me, if I get injured, I have NO ONE ELSE to help me with the bills. So injury isn't an option. The living on the street vision helps feed the fear fire in my mind, I tell ya'!

But I want to tell you about the TIME I WAS SURE I WOULD BE KEEPING MY HORSE. A year ago this month, Linda, Lorri and I made a five hour trek to Parrie Haynes Ranch near Kileen, Tx which has 55 miles of trails and the rustic (but fun!) accomodations you see below. That cabin was air conditioned and that was good enough for me! We did one 9 mile ride the first day we got there, as we arrived later in the day, and then two the next day. It is the second ride I want to tell you about. Lorri and Linda decided that leaving at 6:30 pm would give us plenty of time to do a 10 mile trail. I had my doubts, some of the trails had proven to be so steep, rocky and perilous that I literally closed my eyes and prayed a couple of times. My awesome horse did it all. I voiced my doubts that we would make it back before dark, but I was overruled. So off we went. And went. And went. And darkness started to creep in. We started to use a cell phone to read the trail markers. And then we were lost. In the PITCH dark. Moon? Nope, not out. We had to establish a system to follow each other by. I had to follow Linda on her white horse and Lorri had to follow me with my white t-shirt, because Lorri was all in dark clothing on a dark horse. I tried following her and totally freaked, there wasn't anything there to see! Linda and Lorri weren't really worried. They knew we could follow the power lines and come out somewhere. I wondered where and how many hours this would entail. How many more hours would I be able to stay on? Could I drape myself over Jacks while we walked and rest my muscles? Lorri laughed her ass off the entire freakin' BLACK ride. I knew my horse could see with no problems, so that really wasn't an issue and did help with some of my fear. He was just SO awesome. Nothing phased him on that trip. Ravines, steep rock going down & up, weird riding patterns, a PITCH black ride; he SO had my back. As I was riding him in the dark I was proud. I knew we were becoming a team. A team coming a bit slowly out of the starting gate, but one that will inevitably win OUR race. We made it out of those woods somehow, and it didn't take all night. Our neighbor's had called the ranger to report us missing (ha ha) and told us that people get lost (REALLY LOST) on the trails at night and have to be rescued quite frequently!

So, that is our story! I am just going to be riding, riding some more, and taking as many lessons as I can afford. And guess what? WHEN we get our canter on you all will be the first to know!!!

The Cowboy Cabin

Pit toilets but HOT showers! No complaints from me!

Up the rock...

A view of a sorta steep part...

Going UP!

Me & Jackson and Lorri with Kite

Linda on Shorty & Lorri on Kite (Those sunglasses of Linda's have miraculously disappeared!!:)

Can you see the marks I left?

Dressage Lesson

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dr. Jones Steals Our Hearts

Last week Linda called to tell me of the latest ranch aquisition and I must admit I was quite skeptical at first. "A donkey? You got a donkey?" "Linda, why?" Apparently a neighbor had him and a couple others and thought Linda would be the perfect donkey parent. Since he was going to be given to her, Linda couldn't just say no thanks, she was kind of obligated to go and take a look. One look later and here he is! I am in love with him as well, so I know after seeing him I would not have been able to say no either!! He is a little loverboy, always in your pocket and wanting pets and love. Linda's son Matt named him Dr. Jones, so we aren't really sure the where, why or what of the name; I must ask him! My son Miles thinks it's a great name too! I call him Baby Jonesy or Jonesy because I feel that he is simply TOO cute (and also too young to be a Dr. of anything) to be called Dr. Jones. It's too formal!!! He is a miniature donkey so will only get to belly button height on us. Linda wants to teach him to carry kids, etc. under saddle and to use him as a pack donkey on trips. His training has already started and we have been leading him around by his bottom lip/chin. You cup your hand under the chin/lip and they are supposed to be able to be lead like you have them on a lead. So far, so good, he is getting it. He is a VERY smart little guy.
Dr. Jones. Yep. Very smart.

Me and Baby Jonesy

Linda and her new Dr.

Could he look any cuter???

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Am Down With O.P.P.!

OTHER PEOPLE'S PONIES!!!! I have been taking advantage of Jackson's healing process to ride two of my friend's horses, Ozzie and Shorty. Each so totally different and each teaching me more and more about myself and my riding. I look at pics and videos of us and go "DOH!", but it is a learning curve and I certainly hope that some things will come together with enough time spent in the saddle. Riding horses other than your own is a wonderful experience, I have found!!! What do you guys think of Jackson's healing? Time for a lesson this coming Wed. or what?

Enjoying some time on Shorty....

Learning on Ozzie...

Jackson's healing stitches...

Looking good!