Remember to always listen to your horse, sometimes they can tell you everything without a word.
Ever had your horse just act off? Not lame, but off?
As the owner of mare-zilla, watching my horse’s moods and personality is part of the keys to survival. Owning a mare means some days are just walk/trot days, and you have to accept that. Not by any stretch of the word are they “bad” or and “worse” than some geldings I’ve ridden (I tend to fall off geldings more!) But I really am a Mare Momma and have taken the time to really learn to read Claire’s personality.
With the bizarre Virginia weather thus far we have had everything from 85 degrees to ice storms all in one week! So riding hasn’t been super possible until the last month or so. I’m super proud to say Claire and I had a great clinic recently and moved to a new barn where I was working and able to take lessons from a new dressage instructor. Leading up to my first lessons with her I had been riding well, but Claire like many mares this spring, has had a particularly rough “season”. And by rough I mean we are riding near the pasture and she stops to advertise to the one, clueless gelding on the farm!! Being a mare mom we learn to deal with this and the mood swings like having a teenage daughter however the week afterwards was my first lesson and we would press on and keep practicing.
Saturday before my lesson I noticed that Claire was especially cranky, not back sore, not lame, just not in the mood for work. So we took it easy and tried to make the best of an unhappy horsey. Again she wasn’t mean just maybe “tense” would be a good word for it. My first lesson with my new instructor came and so did Marezilla! Other students had hauled in for lessons and when I arrived, Claire was running the fenceline chasing horses that were working in the ring!! (GREAT first impression to give a new instructor!) I finally got Claire caught, stalled and tacked and though she was ready to explode at any given moment I knew once I got on her she’d be ok. Sure enough, we were better off than on the ground though not all with it.
Our first lesson progressed with a slightly naughty mare who was mildly interested in work but still not my gal. Sure she’s “up” when new horses are around but this was a whole new level! My 20 meter trot circle became a launch pad for a new dressage move I call “back bucking”, in which we back up so fast we are at trot speed while simultaneously bucking… (I did stay on!) While I was totally embarrassed and slightly terrified at what my beast was doing I knew this wasn’t my horse. I just kept telling the instructor “I know you’ve never seen Claire and I but this is just not normal Claire!”
I went home, cried for a bit. Cried because I felt totally foolish in front of this great teacher who was trying SO hard to be supportive, and cried because something wasn’t right with my horse and I had no idea how to even begin to describe it. She wasn’t lame, all we’ve ever dealt with on her is lameness. I couldn’t see past anything other than “She’s not lame”. In the past I’ve had people tell me “It’s her attitude. You need to make her do it or send her to a trainer” when I’ve known that’s not her issue.
Fortunately I am a lucky lady and have an amazing vet. I”ll say I am intentionally glad she’s not part of a group practice because I always get to see the same vet, who takes as much time as I need to make sure Claire is right. I can text her at 3am when my pony mare is giving birth and can send her photos of things to have guidance on if I need her out or if I can manage it myself. So I did the only thing I could do… I called the vet, who has become like a best friend over the last three years, and started crying. That woman takes me in stride so well! We started back tracking to the last month of activities and behaviors. We finally mapped out her moods and behaviors and to ease my mind, she offered to come out.
Well, between the lightning bolts, we jogged, flexed and poked on that pony in all the normal spots she has issues with. We checked the new-ish saddle for fit issues, nothing there, but Claire kept telling us something wasn’t right. Finally we did a bit more looking and a little more poking and we saw that Claire was just having some reproductive issues. She had such an intense “season” that the rest of her cycle followed suit with intensity. Poor gal was properly treated by my vet and I’m happy to say was a gem on the lesson on Friday before the show. My instructor (who actually came back!) couldn’t believe it was the same horse!
The Point of this little blog post is to trust your instincts. If you know your horse is not right, take a step back and think if it’s a training issue or maybe something more. Too many times I’ve tried to tell Claire “behave, you wicked mare!” when I should say “I know something is not right”. Remember to always listen to your horse, sometimes they can tell you everything without a word.
There’s something wonderful about the internet, Facebook, Twitter and social media in general… It’s semi-anonymous. Though your name is attached to your posts and replies, you don’t actually have to face the person you’re speaking to. This leads to an amazing lack of inhibition in people where they are able to just say things, truthfully perhaps, but not appropriately. Things your mom would have your rear end for saying, things that though you’re no expert you feel that you are clearly the most intelligent on the forum and have to interject. Things you would NEVER say to their face or at least that directly… in my blog I really want to expose just how a simple Facebook comment has torn my life apart about horses and how unfortunately I witnessed a Facebook friend receive the same cruel attack just last week.
“You’re too fat to ride that horse”.
Ok that one hits this girl at home, and goes probably the deepest with me. I do not care how much scientific evidence you googled up, and I don’t care what every trainer with at TV show told you, and I especially don’t care if you think you’re being “helpful” to the “poor sweet rider who doesn’t know better”. Social Media is NOT the place to do this!
As a “fat” girl (self described) I am fully aware of my body, my insecurities and my life long struggle with weight (therefore I’m not poor, sweet, and unknowing). My horse is one of the few moments of freedom from this. My horse is my escape, the moment where I feel complete and worthy and not defective. Yes I won’t pin in the hunter ring like the other girls, I already know that, but just let me enjoy my show, and tell me “Great Job”. I’m already over-scrutinizing the professional photos noticing my stomach and legs and how horrid my chin looks in a collared shirt like that.
I know you’re trying to help me by telling me I’m fat, trying to guilt me into losing weight, selling the horse and feeling like a horrid horse owner for even sitting on my horse’s back because of my weight but I guarantee it’s been done before, and I don’t need it from the anonymous Facebook gallery!
This brings me to my life story, one that takes me being incredibly brave to tell of my childhood and I’m sure there are many other riders who experienced this struggle their whole lives too but aren’t ready to let the hurt out. I’ve always been big, though not necessarily “fat”; my dad’s a 6′ football player kind of guy and I look that way myself. I’ve never ridden a pony, I started on a hunter quarter horse because from day one at 8 years old I was too fat to ride any ponies. So from day 1 of horses I was wrong, imperfect and fat. My instructor was amazing, she never once told me that and never for a second let me figure it out. I rode my first real “mare” and we bonded, we understood each other and that was enough for me, I knew she had my back. Riding became my passion and my freedom from the world.
Age 12, totally self conscious of my stomach, on my beautiful saint of a lesson horse
My instructor supported me all the way to college. I was never really allowed to feel too big for a horse because I moved up from Meg, the QH to my life long passion of OTTB’s. Frisco’s Phantom or Frisco carried me through lessons, and sometimes I was happy to be the fat kid because I could hold on, and ride him before one of the beginner adults came in for her rides. (He meant so much to me that at his retirement he came to live at my farm and stayed here at peace till he left this world) By fate and coincidence I came to own my first horse, and part of owning him was deciding that he was a physical “fit” for me. Well despite being 16, thinking I was fairly “hot” and having a boyfriend I was pretty insecure about my weight still. Tiny was the best teenage horse a girl could ask for; he was a hoot! I got him totally unbroke from a rescue who takes in circus animals, all he could do was lunge. He was 18h of beautiful belgian that I broke myself (Broke being a loose term, I kinda just hopped on bareback and started teaching him what I knew and somehow he didn’t kill me or throw me…ah to be 16 and fearless).
“Tiny” and I at 16
However even when I thought I had my insecurities under control, the monster of real horse bullying reared its ugly head. Every Christmas I decorated stockings for all the horses, and all my friends and I would fill each others stockings with treats for our horses and each other. I always hit the Dollarmart for the big candy canes to give out. Well, Tiny’s stocking had probably a carrot or two and I had added a candy cane myself, but when we arrived on Christmas day to spend time with out horses, they were gone. Gone were all my treats and someone had replaced them with diet bars, like Slimfast and Atkins weight loss bars. THANK GOODNESS my mother taught me how to have some tact and be brave. I quietly put them in my box and refilled the stocking with treats for my horse. When everyone else left, I sat in that stall and cried my eyes out to my horse. It hurt so much.
After a two year dealing with more weight issues at military college where I didn’t meet height-weight standards but you could see my hips and ribs, I finally hit my breaking point. Enough was enough, I’ve always been big, I’ll always be big, even at an unhealthy body weight (if I was a horse I was at least a BCS 4) I was still just a size 14 in jeans and my hips don’t go any smaller. I quit and transferred to another college, started eating for me and living for me. I tried a few horses but after years of searching I found my mare. One of the biggest selling points for me… she didn’t make me look fat. She’s a beautiful, well bred, Thoroughbred who can carry me, my legs don’t even reach around her belly and I feel confident. Don’t get me wrong I still over scrutinize photos of us riding but at least there’s less for me to beat myself up over.
My big mare and I, feeling pretty confident
My point in spilling my entire life story of horses and weight struggles is that those of us who are “overweight”, “fat”, “fluffy”, or any other word, know it. When my doctor tells me that I should lose some weight (in a tone like she’s having to break it to me that I’m fat) I just kinda look at her funny because I’m trying to figure out where in this process she determined that I ever thought I was at an ok weight to begin with.
With our own self-knowledge and doubts and fears, I hope that you can see why a comment like that is SO hurtful and SO unnecessary on a social media platform. Yes, I’m overweight. No, I’m not particularly proud of it. But most of all I’m doing something about it, seeking support and would appreciate yours! I’m part of FB groups like “Eighteen Hands” where larger riders can find support while dealing with this. My show BFF and I do Weight Watchers together (Try that while eating at a horse show!). My husband eats all the yum things I cook from the WW website to show his support. So with all this positive energy working towards my true health, remember that one nasty comment, one anonymous, repercussionless, careless comment like that on a social media site can destroy all this good and send me back reeling into the bad.
If you want to support me and others just like me, then find a nice way to tell me if you must, or just tell me that my horse is pretty That’s enough for me.
With lots of fluffy love to all the other riders out there,
Lisa and Claire
As the owner of many different equines I have lots of hair to clip… from neat Thoroughbred Ears to the world’s shaggiest miniatures. I’ve been an Oster girl since I was old enough to cut clippers on and scalp my poor draft horse. Nobody told me you were supposed to keep the feathers… I own a few pairs of clippers, the ever industrial (and heavy!) Oster ClipMaster Body Clippers, the Oster Turbo 2 speed and the tiny oster touch up clippers. Well after years of abuse, proper clipper service and repeated abuse my Oster Turbo’s finally kicked the bucket. They still work but they would get hot and clip inconsistently, now that i’m being paid to clip other people’s horses that’s not really acceptable!
Now that I own miniatures I have learned that “hell hath no fury [on clippers] like a miniature” Those things in winter look like Yaks! My sweet refined boy named “Prince Charming” or PC is now affectionately called “Pork Chop” because he’s SO hairy that he looks obese! When my clippers died and it was time to take the financial step and buy good clippers I did my research. The Miniature horse community (Specifically Brooke The Clipper Girl) Rave about the Andis ProClip Excel 5 Speed Clippers. And not just praise them for detail work… but use them for the ENTIRE body clip! I was in serious disbelief! Brooke even claimed to clip 28 in one pair of blades!!! I decided to get brave and step onto the Andis Bandwagon.
So I stepped up, paid my $200 and took my little box home.
Andis ProClip Excel 5-Speed Clippers
And attempted to convince my yearling that it’s time for his first big boy shave…
Two very hairy boys!
Pork Chop Slowly Becoming Prince Charming again!
The Results were fantastic! These clippers run cool, are lightweight, very easy to cut with and relatively quiet. They run in 5 speeds of which I used speed 5 for the body and 3 for the little ears and places where we are extra nervous. I was extremely pleased that I did clip both boys on one blade and have plenty of life to go in it.
Huckleberry’s after shot!
I highly suggest the Andis ProClip Excel 5-Speed Clippers for your leg shaving, face clipping and even body clipping needs!
Dear Gray Horse Momma (or Dad!),
This is our special season, one which we dread while others see amazement in our skills, this is Spring. To the non-Gray horse owner this season is full of naked horses, rolling in the fields and lots of shedding. For the Gray horse owner we begin that special season of weather watching, trying to keep our grays captive in sheets and other devices to keep them clean, having white hair or EVERYTHING!! (black coat, white coat gets dirty so can’t hide it there…)
Assorted cleaning devices… Thanks SmartPak for the Monogram!
While our blessed bay and chestnut friends simply groom hard and pull off that shiny horse at the March clinic, we stay glued to the Weather Channel on our phones, heat buckets of water and pray for a quick bath with quick dry times, lest we scratch our ride. Our bay friends say: “It’s ok! It’s winter, everyone understands” but when your horse is white… and I mean that shade of Gray where it’s white and you wash out every photo, you just can’t do it. That poop stain is mocking you in the face! and it will haunt you and every photo. I sent my hubby a video of my horse and he said “Oh no! Did she cut her throatlatch?” to which I replied “no, that’s a poop stain”.
Blinding our audience with our white-ness even in the shade… (Photo by JPB Equestrian)
I reflect back to a well respected friend and fellow Gray/White horse owner who came home after an amazing dressage test with banner scores and a little note on the bottom “Next time please wash your horse’s tail better” I can’t tell you how bad that burned me and my friend! Wash a tail! It’s March! I did wash a tail… I’m washing 4-5 months of red clay out of a white tail! It was white, stained a touch but God bless a Gray owner for pulling off a clean horse at a winter dressage test.
Gray Horse Mommas (and dads!) you chose your horse knowing (or shortly thereafter discovering) the work it takes to maintain a unicorn-esque coat. No one truly understands the nauseating feeling of watching your horse roll in mud (because you can’t just brush that off for your lesson and still be a respectful student!), or that deep set in winter dirt that leaves a semi-permanent saddle mark… all winter long.
A Permitted mud romp after riding. Which ended in a full bath
So smile every time your bay and chestnut friends exclaim “Oh he/she is sooo pretty! How on earth did you get him/her that clean ? You didn’t have to go through all that trouble for a winter clinic” Because you just spent 20 minutes with Miracle Groom trying to get that slant load trailer black mark off your horses butt. It’s a reputation you must uphold because after all everyone knows you as the owner of the “Big White Horse” (for better or worse… though for me it’s often the worse!)
Well if you must act like a lunatic at a schooling show, at least look good while doing it
Because after all… Mr Clean ain’t got nothing on us!
Why I love stalls sometimes…
Lisa and Claire… AKA The Elusive White Giraffe
THE Elusive White Giraffe… (Excuse me while I die a little)
PS Wash your Hot Pink Jammie before attempting to cover every inch of your horse… let’s just say I showed a horse of a different color that time!
On Feb 1 I moved my horse Claire to her home for the show season since my farm doesn’t have an arena. Part of that move is the one part we dread the most… not the convincing my horse she really wants to load up in the trailer, or that moment of fear when she’s turned out into the field with new friends (she gets beat up a bit), but it’s moving my tack trunk and Claire’s other “needs”. My Hubby always winces at this activity despite our many technological advances in trunk design and transportation.
From the first horses domesticated having but a halter (if that) to today’s modern horse jet-setting across the globe with handlers, staff and I’m sure Tons of trunks with multiple saddles, bridles, blankets and more. I’ve sat and recalled my trunk’s varied history and realized that that wooden box has been with me longer than anyone or horse I’ve had.
My first trunk was when I was about 10, I got my first saddle and it was inside! Granted when your equine lesson situation is such that you muck for the lesson barn to pay for lessons your trunk is a little less than a giant clear plastic tub. However I adored it! Toted it to summer camp with the ponies, bought horse themed bumper stickers to put on it, and taped up photos of my horse inside.
Today my tack trunk stands a much more impressive 3’6″ tall and is about 2′wx3′lx3′d. A pretty massive creature! with polo wrap racks inside the lid and a saddle bar in the middle this treasure has been mine since before Facebook! (Though I”m most sure it was 2005 or 2006 when I got it). It was a birthday present from my boyfriend who was pretty handy and built my box based off of dimensions found in a Dover catalog plus my list of ideas that went alongside it. That trunk has stood the test of time being hauled to barns, shows, events and even dropped once with just minor trim damage. Since getting it I added industrial caster wheels to it since it’s just about unliftable without tack, and it takes a set of lawnmower ramps to get it inside the truck bed!
My Tack box (and pony) being borrowed for 4-H
I’m amazed to think of the places that trunk has been, saddles it has seen, and even the places it has gone with friends! I say this as my husband and I lug it full of tack up a muddy hill to try and push it up the ramps again, bound for a new home for the show season, along with 3 giant totes of more tack, blankets wraps and all the fun stuff that comes with moving!
One More haul for the Trunk… Ramps Included!
Where has your trunk been?
Click above to see the whole article with photos
*This blog requires a bit of back story! Hang on HJU readers I’m going to fast forward through 3 years of my life!*
Let’s face it. My world is supposed to revolve around Princess Claire. At least in her opinion… But her own selfishness has led to my attention now being split into 4 horses. She was lonely at home, so I got her a friend, a free little pony we call Z. He’s my childhood dream and standing a fierce 12.1h he’s gone to shows, been borrowed by the 4H club and made it all the way to their state level show. Fast forward a few months to my knee surgery in 2012, I sent Claire to my trainer’s house to keep her in use while I was on crutches and more for 6 months. She learned that being a lesson horse is not fun because you have to work! And her poor Z pony was having a heart attack at home being alone (the most herd bound horse I have EVER seen) I started looking for a rescue to keep him from having a 30 year old horsey heart attack. Claire ended up going with me to a local 4H sponsored open show where she met her greatest fear… Minis, and not just minis but mini’s driving carts. Lets say we ended our show day a bit earlier than planned.
In my barn there’s a rule, if you’re afraid of it you’re going to wear it… That scary feed bag… yep; Tarp? Now it’s on your head!
A very angry Claire wearing her tarp on her head
So by the power of fate Lilly Pond Foal Rescue had a mini they needed adopted, who was battling founder and other health needs, and with Claire gone to the trainers I had a spot. Welcome, Flower! In the meantime I had a 4Her who had no horse for the year and we got the wild idea to break my geriatric and super healthy pony to driving. (with vet’s permission!)
When poor Claire came home from her rehab after eye surgery her field was a war zone. A Mini in her field! AND her best friend hooked to some sort of contraption that squeaked and chased him around! After a few drives with Z she suddenly realized that the world wasn’t ending yet but she held out suspicion for the short horse.
One day I got this weird vibe… like Magic Silent Horse Whisperer vibe. While the farrier was doing flower’s feet I looked at him and said “This sounds highly irrational but I think Flower’s Pregnant… I can’t explain it”. He looked at me and laughed a little, but I dismissed it too. But that vibe came back, I decided to wait a few days before texting my vet the exact same thing. She responded back “It’s entirely possible. I’ll see you for our spring shots visit later this week J” Well now I’m in a blind panic… trying not to tell anyone till we know. Dr Carmen jumped out her truck and looks out into the field and says “yep, that looks pregnant” At this point I don’t think I can see straight and I’m pretty sure fainting is the next step after elevated heart rate and blood pressure. My vet seeing the panic in my eyes offers an “Educational Ultrasound” where we put my mini inside the garage for darkness and try to convince her she wants us to poke her with the probe. What I saw next was the closes to true childbirth I may ever get. I saw an eye, a perfect large almond shaped eye, and it blinked at me. I then had my mini try to explode and baby start flailing in there so it was over but it was a moment I’ll never forget. Dr Carmen said “I’ll see you in 4-6 weeks for a baby!” Now what! I proceeded to treat her like a soap bubble ready to burst and stayed up every night thinking the baby’s coming. 8 weeks later… One very sleep deprived human family, and one very amazing FB/Internet community were ready for this thing to come out!
Between my watching and the MareStare camera we installed, the world’s most famous baby was set to arrive. His poor momma was only 36” tall and pushing 72” around, wearing special gel boots because she couldn’t walk anymore we confined her to the run in shed (because I NEVER planned for a baby and have no stalls and no proper birthing barn) for fear that she’d get stuck out in the field. We had a huge emergency plan to get the baby out if he got stuck and I was at stress level 10. I was camped out in the basement on the sofa watching the camera when I saw her go down for real. She’s fake labored every night for about 2 weeks at 3AM so I’m pretty numb to her faking it at this point. I busted out the door and ran the 100 yards to her “stall” and was on the phone with the vet screaming “We’re having a baby! We’re having a baby! We HAD a baby” Dr Carmen was on the way but stopped me catching my change of past tense. He was nose out and she stood up and he fell right out!
2 Day Old Cuteness
He was healthy, grunting and wiggling around, flower turned to go meet her baby but I was already all over him with a towel and cleaning him up. She poked me to get out her way of which my adrenaline turned to her and said “Hey he’s my baby too I stayed up every night with you” we shared our baby foal all night. He was up and nursing within 45 minutes and weighing only 20 pounds was in my lap napping. (April 16, 2013)
It’s been 8 months now… he’s grown like a weed, and looks nothing like his mom (actually he’s getting taller than her!!!) I spent all summer wondering what people do with overgrown mini’s. I mean he was adorable as a foal showing in the weanling classes last year. But seriously, he’s too small for even a child to ride and soon to be too big for the Miniature horse world (Not to mention he’s not registered and they are pretty strict in AMHA shows)
My Miniature partner in crime Tricia introduced me to a new sport… CDE or Combined Driving Event. Along with a host of other driving formats (ADT’s etc.) I learned more about the world of driving. Where he has a welcome home as a VSE or Very Small Equine or even a small pony depending on how large we get!
I got the text last month to pack the bags and grab the car we’re going to go watch a CDE! So off we set last weekend to drive the 7ish hours to Aiken Sc for the Monster Mini CDE. Three truck stops and a tack store 4 hrs off the itinerary we pulled in to Shepard’s Purse farm home of the legendary and gracious Muffy Seaton. It rained the ENTIRE way down and apparently wasn’t about to stop. But I learned that CDE’s are like Eventing on Wheels which means we go in the rain! Below is part of the USEF’s definition of CDE.
“… Instead of placing emphasis on the style, authenticity, and pleasurable performance of a hitch, a combined driving event is rigorously performance-based and is actually modeled after the mounted equestrian test of three-day eventing. Combined driving is designed to test a horse’s or a team’s speed, stamina, obedience and athleticism, in three distinct and demanding phases usually held over the course of three days.
Competitors can consist of a single horse, a pair of horses or a team of four horses, and they are tested in three phases: dressage, marathon and obstacle driving. The first day’s combined driving dressage class tests a single, pair or team in the areas of obedience, freedom and regularity of motion and impulsion through a sequence of compulsory movements executed within a designated area or arena.
Day two sees competitors tackle the fast-paced and demanding phase known as the cross-country marathon in which a horse’s fitness, stamina, agility and obedience is tested together with a driver’s accuracy and judgment as they are asked to negotiate an intricate series of hazards which can include water, steep hills and sharp turns in the fastest time while accumulating the least number of penalties. The third and final phase, the cone driving competition, tests a horse’s obedience, agility, and after two previously demanding days of competition, its endurance. Simultaneously, a driver’s skill, accuracy and precision are tested as the single, pair or team is challenged with negotiating an intricate course of narrowly-spaced cones cleanly and within the time allowed.”
After meeting USA WEG 2010 competitor Josh Rector and his wife Emily at a pleasure drive event they have graciously answered my million questions about the sport and I’ve gotten to see photos of the big CDE’s! They’ve been gracious enough to help me learn about a CDE before I got there looking totally clueless. (Go Team Nags Head Farm!!)
Big Horse CDE! (Josh and Emily at Southern Pines 2013) Used with permission Team-Nags-Head-FarmThis event was a non-sanctioned informal CDE. I was greeted by a very kind staff from the farm hosting and the Aiken Driving Club. By the end of the weekend I had some wonderful gentleman driving me around the marathon course in a golf cart to learn about each obstacle and to introduce me to some renowned local drivers. Tricia and I were also known as the “girls who drove all the way from Richmond, VA just to watch”.
The Virginia Ladies! (and Tricia)
I took tons of photos and videos through a storm, and a beautiful day to follow and made a video for the HJU community to watch. I hope everyone enjoys my fun footage! Here’s some things I learned about this sport!
Get Ready for this 2018!!
My Sleek Ferrari of a little future CDE buddy Huck! (kinda more like a mini cooper at 35″) Photo from Eagle’s Ring Farm when he was sold to Tricia
In the meantime my addicted self is now the proud leaser of “Eagle’s Ring Bow’s Huckleberry Finn” AKA Huck who will be my driving partner for the next few years!
Click the button above for the full article with photos
Lisa Marie Beckwith sent us this report of an AMAZING learning experience she had at the Thoroughbred Celebration Show at the Virginia Horse Center earlier this year.
Because sometimes you doubt yourself enough that you have to ask your instructor to take a photo of you in front of the sign to prove you at least made it there on your horse…
Sounds cheesy enough, right? But to the beyond broke, grad student whose getting by trading barn help for lessons on top of working a full time entry level pay job with only half a shot at placing, it’s pretty logical.
There’s been more than one show where the photo is all I came home with. I’ve groomed and worked many multi-day shows and been mindblown at the costs and the nerves of riding at that level. Somehow through the powers of time and space, the same day I arrived at the conclusion I wanted to try a three day show and actually ride above the schooling show level, was the same day I got a text from my wonderful coach asking me if I had intentions of attending Thoroughbred Celebration. TC is a show exclusively for Thoroughbreds and particularly OTTB’s, offering every discipline shy of vaulting and driving they are the nation’s only multi day TB show and happen to be right here in my state.
I’ve saved and worked extra for about two months now to get up the money to go, and said to myself being the overly frugal show lady “If there’s a lot of people in my class there’s no way I’m showing”. I’m the kid who is just fine getting 6th out of 6; for me the ribbon is a memory of the experience and a way to go back and revisit what I could improve upon for next time.
Everyone always lectures me that it’s about “the experience” but in my petty mind if I want an “experience”, I’ll hit the local schooling shows at $6 a class. If I’m laying down a few hundred dollars in hauling, hotels and the show then I better have a shot. Now that my wonderful mare has decided for now she’s going to stay sound (See our Winter Submission “We Get So Bored in the Winter, We Go Crazy… My Horse Literally Poked Her Eye Out – Cheer Me Up SmartPak Contest” on HJU) we, or at least I am ready for the big comeback.
We’ve had some hit and miss experiences (well, mostly miss…) at local shows determining that the new eye does not permit us to enter the schooling or hunter ring because there are horses zooming by our semi blind side. But perhaps we like dressage enough to commit.
My Cheesy Stall decor and hot pink horse
We made it there, cheesy decorated stall like a 4-H kid and everything; Riding in a borrowed dressage saddle, stalling at a beautiful facility the winter weather rolled in.
Sleeting as we pulled in and 26 degrees the next morning for my 8:14 Intro A ride time, I was just waiting for my mare to get angry, she hates weather, and she’s going to seek revenge one way or another. But I said to myself “There’s no way I’m not going in that ring, I don’t care if I forget the whole test. I’m here to show my girl is back and that we can do this. I spent too much money and too much hard work to let anything ruin this chance”
It became a huge emotional roll where I recounted the years of borrowing lesson horses and never placing at local shows, while the other girls rode their leased hunter horses around to champions. Always feeling like I wasn’t good enough to ride in a ring with them or even be their friend (they’re actually super nice people), and that this was my chance right here to prove that I can do this and am just as good as a rider. (Ironically enough, they were at the same show with their TB’s for the hunters and they did great!)
I made my coach take a photo of me in front of the horse center sign that was ringside just in case I didn’t place I at least had self-proof that I got in that ring and did it. I actually nailed my Intro A, or at least met my goal of scoring at Claire’s pre-surgery scores.
Due to the weather, the judge was bundled up in her hummer at C so she thankfully couldn’t hear me mumbling to myself everything I’ve ever been told about dressage in a lesson. I walked out of that test feeling cautiously optimistic, it felt good, Claire listened to me and we didn’t drop the last 1/3 of our circles off. Maybe I survived? My Coach very sincerely told me I did a great job and it was the best test she’s seen out of me these last 2 years. (I almost cried! I was so happy).
Intro A Test
We rode back to the barns and had two hours till our next test, I was reviewing the pattern for B and dying to get out there, I was feeling confident which is generally disastrous for me, as I forget to keep working. When I hear on the barn PA that there were a few no shows and that there was an opportunity to bump up to an open ride time. I grabbed Claire and headed out because I wanted this over! I did my B test, with what in hindsight was not enough mental warm up to get her listening. It wasn’t bad exactly… but it took half the test for her to get on my wavelength and we had a huge score change in the second half of the test. Not my best but I didn’t go off pattern which is half the battle some days!
While wandering the warm up arena I spotted the lady stalled next to me, not anyone I particularly knew. Just small talk at the stalls, she was very friendly and had a cute grey gelding that was madly in love with my raging hormones mare. I heard her attempt Intro A earlier in the day, that her horse freaked out and she never made it in the ring. I could tell as she hand walked him down that she was nervous about another repeat. She hauled all the way in for 2 intro tests and had to skip the first one, I felt so bad for her. I saw her get on and he started prancing again, I was upset for her, and I’m trying to figure out how to help her. She’s such a nice lady!
All of a sudden this moment became about more than my tests, I’m always a super nice and helpful person but was trying to be committed to my rides for the morning. I was heartbroken for her and said to her “There’s no way you’re paying all this money to haul out here to not even get in the ring” (<- my totally broke self jumped out!) I looked over at the ring steward and said “You call that judge on the radio tell her I’m walking this horse into the arena because she’s not going home this way.” I proceeded to take my big mare and throw her next to the horse and told the rider “make your horse follow mine, she’s a trail horse, we’ll pony you in” With lots of nasty looks and agape mouths from the Dressage queens I took my ACTHA Trail Thoroughbred turned fake dressage horse and ponied that horse around the outer ring and around the Judge’s hummer.
The judge did roll her window down and I apologized for the lack of convention but that it had to happen, she smiled and let me carry on. I got her all the way around to “A” and told her “I don’t care if she hasn’t rung the bell get in there and walk around, this is about more than a test”. I tried to sneak my horse out the ring so she could ride but her horse wouldn’t have any of it and began the Lipizzaner moves again. She got really worried and tried to dismount, I shouted across the ring “don’t you get off that horse, don’t you let him win!” and tore off across the ring with my mare to come rescue her. He calmed down and we walked a bit then she got off and led him away. Not my most DQ moment… but it had to happen.
I wanted to cry for her, but she held her head high, proud of his experience (turns out he’s never shown before). I told her to stop at the gate and let the professional photographer get photos of her. Later, my coach helped her by riding him around afterwards and working on some of his nerves. I didn’t have much time to talk to her because next thing I heard, was the slightly flustered ring steward calling me for my Intro C test that I hadn’t really finished re-studying, nor had I even cantered my horse yet.
Cheesy Stall Decor with Pretty Ribbons!!!
I just went in and gave it a shot, I’ve never shown C with my own horse because sometimes we still buck to the left lead. I put in a heck of a test for being so mentally not ready, thank goodness Claire didn’t buck, she blew the lead but she didn’t buck. I like to think we just practiced a counter canter circle.
Walking back to the barns with my new friend who waited for me, my whole team met me and asked me how I thought I placed in A. I said 7th, justifiably because there were 8 in the class and I the girl ahead of me went off pattern. They laughed at me and said 4th, I was shocked, actually I’m just now processing that I got 4th. That was it! I wasn’t going home with just a photograph, I actually did it! I placed in a test at a bigger show with my hop along mare.
The entire show was a demonstration in friendship and kindness. I’m used to grooming at shows where no one will talk to you and it’s a snob fest, but at Thoroughbred Celebration people were actually nice! I spent the afternoon volunteering as the dressage ring steward since the afternoon help was missing. And had a blast! There were a few people who were nervous so I called tests for them and even video’ed rides for people. Turns out that the hunter classes were so full that the jumpers went late into the night and everyone in the jumpers stayed to reset courses and help.
Thoroughbred Celebration taught me many lessons this year:
1. I am actually a decent rider, I’m better than I think but that just means I have more to learn.
2. My mare was worth every penny to see her well this year, many told me to give up but I promised her forever and I meant it.
3. Always remember that there’s someone out there who will need a hand, whether it’s the show manager or a rider, there’s someone who could use help and it’s our duty as horse people to support one another.
4. And a picture in the ring is nice, because sometimes you need proof that you did it, you made it there with your horse and you’ll be back next time to beat them all. I’ve been there, you’ve been there, and I hope my stall neighbor comes back next year and beats my score by a mile! She deserves it.
Lisa Marie Beckwith
We Get So Bored in the Winter, We Go Crazy… My Horse Literally Poked Her Eye Out – Cheer Me Up SmartPak Contest
Click above for the article with photos
Here in Virginia we’ve been lucky to avoid winter storms which have names, we just get rain. Lots of rain, and every few days it rains again! Hovering right between 30 and 50 degrees every day we get to freeze then thaw and rinse and repeat!
Which means the yard, fields, and ring are solid mud, just human shoe sucking mud that makes for no fun in the ring and cautious field turnout time. As the owner of “the most accident prone horse in the world” as her friends would call her Claire is that child that shows you your house really isn’t child proof. In fact when she’s not kept in regular work this mare finds a way to get into every possible predicament!
Since we can’t seem to have any sort of riding surface or chance to get real work in we got so bored one day that we ripped our shoe off and stabbed ourselves with it! Well that earned her an automatic stall rest and some light turnout! Satisfied that she was being treated as the diva child she believes herself to be we began twice daily treatments. But apparently when you’re the diva that’s not good enough! We got so bored with this bad weather + injury confinement that we decided to show mom where the loose nail in the dry lot fence was!
I remember going to a vet lecture where the visiting speaker Vet said “Some horses are so bored they’re suicidal, I’ve sat in that field and watched them sharpen the stick then poke their eye out with it” I always thought that was funny and extremely unrealistic until last week… yep, you guessed it… nail head or at least something round and solid to the eye. My mare, the diva, with the bum hoof, just poked her eye out… Thank God I have an amazing vet.
My mare Claire post-surgery – photo by Lisa Marie Beckwith
So a few home visits, and a trailer ride to the equine hospital one town over and we’re off to surgery for an corneal ulcer graft. I’m fairly certain that she realized just how much trouble she was in when we arrived and they went for an IV catheter. Claire suddenly realized that she probably shouldn’t be so excited to get hurt and was really sorry for what she did.
One graft surgery later we spent 3 ½ days at the hospital and then ran away before they could find my credit cards! Back to home for more rest in our stall, well to be frank at least a month of rest because we can’t be trusted outside of 4 walls. The diva now has all she wanted, lots of hay, her stall, mommy getting off of work 4x a day to give her meds. (Good thing I don’t need this job to pay for your vet bills Claire!) I know I wanted quality bonding time but this is certainly another level!
We do get to see each other 4x a day, and I get to go back to work still picking white hairs out of my coats but I’m still waiting on that part of Claire that decides we are done being hurt and actually want to go for a ride! We’ll miss the opening weeks of show season down here and we’ll miss the big clinic I saved and waited a whole year to attend. So SmartPak… Winter Has been Hell! Cheer me up with some awesome Alexus Breeches, so we can go back to riding sidesaddle again!