Monday, May 31, 2010

Confession Time

Alright, it's confession time. I confess to being a terrible blogger. It's the sad, awful truth, and I hope to fix it soon. And by soon, I mean in 16 days, when school finally gets out for the summer. I promise to give a full post on what Bailey and I have been up to since I last talked on here. Until then, here's a picture of us in the crazy warm-up ring of our first and only schooling show (Bailey's first EVER show) thus far.

Yes, I know, the picture of grace and elegance. Bailey was eyeing both the gate and the cameraman, but don't let this picture mislead you. Despite the fact that stopping was a mentally difficult task, she walked, trotted, and cantered quite well with 10-15 other horses in the arena. My favorite moment of the day was when two horses cantered by us. On either side of us. Going opposite directions. If I had reached out with a crop, I could have tapped either rider. Yet Bailey continued to walk calmly and focus on me. Good Snozzlemonster!

Monday, March 8, 2010

My FAVORITE Day of the Year!

Yesterday was a good day. You see, yesterday, our local 4-H club put on their annual tack sale.

Picture this: you are standing in the middle of a very large building with bumpy concrete floors. There are rows of tables to your left, and rows of saddles to your right. You look above you, and you can see the posterboard signs that label the different rows. All the tables are piled high with horse items, and you feast your eyes on the saddle pad table. There must be 300 saddle pads right there, and the clean white dressage pad stands out from the masses. But no! Someone else reaches for the pad and picks it up. You hold your breath as they examine it, hopeful that they might find one better, or the price two dollars too high. But no, they pick it up and carry it with them. Ah well, there are 299 more to choose from. Then, you decide to walk over to the table. Easier said than done, of course, because there are probably fifty other eager shoppers in between you and that table. So you shuffle and nudge and give some excuse me's in an attempt to appear civil as you shove your way to the table. Three minutes, twelve nudges, and twenty excuse me's later, you're at the saddle pad table. But alas! It's too late. The only ones left are dirty, ripped, or suspiciously furry. Maybe if you dig in the pile, you'll find a good deal, or some treasures that no one else has claimed yet. But if you don't find what you wanted, there's always next year...

This vision epitomizes the tack sale, in my mind. It's a 24,000 square foot commercial building, filled to the brim with any kind of horse tack or accessory that you can imagine. Need a tack trunk? They've got that. Or a driving buggy? They've got that too. Well, what about a saddle seat show outfit? Of course that's there! And a chair made out of cow hide and bull horns? Indeed, that as well! There is almost NOTHING you can't find at this sale. Plus, it's all inexpensive, consigned items. I bought a 3-pack of dirty-but-decent saddle pads for four dollars, a set of four standing wraps for a dollar, two pairs of nice brand name breeches for 10 dollars each, synthetic-yet-nice zip up tall boots for 10 dollars, and more! This is a semi-broke horse lover's paradise!

Hence, I love it. All in all, I got most of my show season necessities, and spent exactly $100. I also sold a bunch of my old, unemployed tack and got $450 for the lot of it. This means that I can pay for my upcoming schooling shows and finally shoulder some of the financial burden of my horse. I know my mom pays for my horse because equines are a necessity for my happiness, and I love her dearly for understanding my habit, despite the fact that she doesn't have the horse bug, but I still think it's about time I step up and start paying some costs. I figure this is a good step in the right direction.

A quick update on Bailey:
About ten days ago, she threw a shoe. I lunged her that very day, and she was sound and happy. Two days later, when I finally had time to ride, she had finally gotten sore on it. So we worked on our flexing and giving to the bit at the walk. The farrier came out two days later to put a new shoe on, and I tried to ride that evening. But once again, the trot was just not happening. She was, of course, almost perfectly sound on the lunge line, but not at all sound with me on her back (Did I mention my mare makes me feel fat?) Again, we worked on our bending and flexing, and actually had a nice time with it, but I thought I'd wait a few more days to let her foot feel better. Of course, an essay, an all-day-and-night field trip, the cleaning of my consignment items, and the tack sale (a combined total of 4 hours waiting in line) caused me to miss the better part of the entire week. I lunged Bailey last night and she looked pretty good, although I'm still suspicious. So tomorrow, one week after our last ride, to be precise, is the moment of truth. Ideally, she'll be sound and we can get back to 5 days of riding per week. I just have this lingering feeling that she's not going to be sound and then I'll have to investigate her foot and start thinking about abcesses (right?). Either way, I'll know for sure tomorrow. One of these days, I'll talk about my riding goals, showing plans, Bailey, and my riding experience, so please keep checking by and leaving comments. It makes me just giddy to read them! Thanks for tuning in, folks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An Update on our Forward Progress

No, I did it again!!! Agh, I'm going to get this blogging thing down, I swear. I just have so much going on - essays, CBAs, more homework, pulled shoes, food allergies, sicknesses and ski trips - I'm barely getting to sleep at night.

High school for me right now is all about improving my life and creating habits that will stick and help me survive college and my future. I'm riding more, being more responsible for Bailey's care, doing more homework, studying for tests, and actually (kinda) getting to school on time every day. So I suppose I'll have to keep building on that. But that's not the subject I'm here for. This blog is about Bailey, and boy, do I have exciting news for you guys! It has officially been four weeks since this occurred but...


Albeit tiny, they were jumps and we did canter them. I measured them, too, in my excitement. The tallest one from our second lesson that included cantering crossrails (as shown in the picture) was a whopping 15 inches high at the center. That little fact didn't stop Bailey from launching over it once or twice, but she was actually really good about not over-jumping. It might be hard to understand, considering what little information you know about Bailey, but I was so proud of her when I heard her tap that fence once during our lesson. Not only was it a fence she had never jumped in previous days, but she felt comfortable enough jumping that she didn't over-jump it and even let her leg hang a little (She uber-launched over the next jump, but hey, she was just making sure after her "toe-tap incident"). Still, that's a BIG improvement from the days when she often stopped at single ground rails or any kind of striped pole. She still refuses somewhat regularly, but I'm finally learning how to jump a horse, so working with her isn't so scary anymore.

Now that I've conquered some of my fears, she's beginning to do the same. We still have our off days, for sure, but jumping a course is actually something I could see as a possibility due to our new development in jumping training.

Cantering jumps was special for me not only because Bailey and I can do it, but because it shows me that I have enough control of my mare now. The first lesson I had with my trainer, she told me straight off the bat that "no one has any business cantering jumps until they can easily adjust their horse's canter." I couldn't agree more, but at that point I could barely keep Bailey from racing off and cantering her, even on a circle, was nervous business. We've put in some hard work, and the canter isn't a scary gait any more. We have been working on cantering ground poles and elevated poles (at most 6 inches high) for a little while and that day it was just flowing well. (Now, my trainer has a reserved way about her, and isn't too quick to compliment or criticize. She tells you how to use your aids, and when it's right, and is in no way cold or mean - quite the opposite in fact. But she doesn't shower you with compliments either.)

So when I heard her say, "You know, I'm not sure if this will work, but why don't you turn and take the crossrail after the cavaletti?" I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or if I really heard her right, so I responded with, " the canter?" She told me to try it and see if it would work. Bailey was confused about the fact that she was cantering towards a crossrail, and I had no idea of what to expect from her, but we managed to get over it decently enough and repeated the exercise a few more times. At the end of the lesson, I was on Cloud Nine. It just made me ecstatic to see that my trainer approved of our improvement with cantering and jumping. In her own quiet way, I felt like she told me that I was doing something right and really improving. That just kept me beaming all night. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Long Time No Blog

Wow! I've really been slacking on the blogging...not that I ever truly started. I suppose I was waiting for a good opportunity to write about Bailey and I so far, but in my life, there's never that much spare time. So maybe I'll just have to scatter that information in as I go, because I have lots to write about and I just can't wait any longer. I was thinking about this topic last night as I "put Bailey to bed," so I'll go ahead and share it.

Things Bailey and I have in common:

1. Neither of us are morning people.
I am not a morning person. I drag myself out of bed way too early, and I attempt to eat breakfast as I drive to school. I'm always borderline late for my first class. Bailey tends to leave most of her breakfast hay and doesn't even finish her grain in the morning, although she finishes it all when she comes back in for the evening. I can just imagine her groggy little self trying to get up in the morning.

2. Both of us prefer the outdoor arena.
I get to look at the pretty show jumps and practice taking Bailey through puddles in the spacious arena. And despite the sloppy puddles, scary show jumps, and neighboring goats, Bailey is much happier, calmer, and easier to control out there. The indoor arena feels cramped and Bailey is sure that the arena ghosts are going to get her. So we've come to an agreement for the moment, although she still has to behave in there if it's necessary to ride indoors.
(And do you see why we both like it so much? It's nice, and this picture only gets half of it, maybe. You can see a little over half of our indoor arena, too.)

3. Both of us need some confidence-builder fences before we can get down to business.
I've only jumped with safe schoolmasters until now, and Bailey has never had real or consistent jumping experience. Ok, maybe not the smartest combination, but it's a challenge and it's making me into a better rider fast. Once we get done with the first couple of refusals, Bailey realizes that maybe she can make it over, and I become determined enough to get us both over. Then we'll get used to the fact that we're (OMG!!) jumping, and do just fine. We're working on the whole refusing thing, and it slowly gets better with every lesson.

4. We both want to enjoy riding outdoors. Really, we do. Sometimes.
But there are lots of scary things that jump out, like the Killer Blue Heron 15 feet away from us. Bailey keeps on her toes in case Killer Blue Heron is lurking in the bushes again, and I'm on my toes in case she sees Killer Blue Heron, or his equally scary imposter (bush, leaf, horse, bucket). So we're both a little on edge. But I honestly do believe that when I can let myself relax, we'll learn to enjoy it. Just repeat, "Riding outside is fun. Riding outside is fun." It'll transfer into actuality eventually.

5. We both want to gallop on the track.
Unfortunately, we have different ideas on the execution of said gallop. It's been a childhood fantasy of mine to gallop my horse on the track. But it's mostly nervous excitement for Bailey.

6. Lastly, our feet.
They're flat and they need more special attention than they've gotten in the past. Bailey is finally getting the farrier care she needs. And me? I might shop for shoes that legitimately fit my awkwardly-shaped feet if I ever stop spending money on Bailey. Maybe after show season...

Things Bailey and I don't have in common:

1. Our appetite.
I want to eat food all the time! I swear I'm always hungry. Unfortunately, Bailey hasn't acquired this constant hunger, and I just can't stuff anymore food into her. She's just barely below perfect weight, but she still needs the extra to make her look less like a little thoroughbred and more like a fancy show horse.

2. Our will to jump.
I want to jump, I've wanted to since I first saw show jumping on TV as an eigh year-old. I've wanted to event ever since I learned about its existence. I have not done much jumping, nor have I had good jumping instruction until this year. I'm so eager to get out there and get over some fences. Bailey, on the other hand, has mixed feelings. The first few jumps are not exactly willing and they're not pretty. But once she gets going, she gets pretty excited about it and sometimes I get a tiny peek of a jumper. She's still not too sure about it.

3. Our jumping talent.
Completely different from my jumping will, my jumping talent is squat. Not that I've had much training yet, but I have plenty of bad habits that need fixing. My heels pop up, I forget to release, I get left behind, I get ahead, I round my back, forget to bend at the hips, and my timing is something that needs major work. Thankfully this doesn't all happen over every fence, but still. Jumping doesn't come naturally to me, but I hope that one day it will feel right. Bailey, unlike me, is a jumping superstar. She has wonderful form and really knows how to launch over the (foot tall) fences. Not that she needs to, but she does anyways. She has never knocked one down, but if she ever brushes a rail, she is QUITE SURE to get over it the next time. My trainer, who has an excellent eye for talent, has told me multiple times that I have a talented mare who could jump big jumps. Maybe one day, it'll happen...

Hopefully I'll begin to actually write more on here. My goal is one post per week, and I'll increase it as I incorporate blogging into my schedule. I still have lots of thoughts to share, and I'm still excited to share them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Picture Time and an Explanation of Names

I'm the kind of person who just loves pictures. I'm very visual and I like seeing what someone is talking about. So naturally, I'm going to be posting plenty of pictures. Of course, assuming I can drag a friend or family member out to the barn with a camera...Now, I've only owned Bailey for four months, so my pictures of her are fairly limited. But never fear, more will be on the way shortly.

These two pictures, taken by a friend of mine, are from the first week that Bailey was on the farm. 

This was taken by my brother last week. Bailey hadn't been exercised in two weeks due to her need for a teeth float and consequent craziness under saddle. Apparently, she feels more out of control than she looks. Or we were having a calm moment. Or she's just really photogenic.

And on the left, we have the x-ray of Bailey's left hock. The bone spur is circled in red. On the right, there is a comparison photo. This is what a normal hock joint looks like. The bone spur looks small in comparison to the entire joint, but the vet said it was really quite large. And I can believe it, because if you think about it, any bone flaw or extra bone mass will cause problems, because it isn't supposed to be there and it supports a 1,000 pound animal.

And now for an explanation of names. Bailey Slew Bambi Crash is the "full name" of my mare because I didn't know what to name her when I got her. She came to me as Slew. Seattle Slew is her grandsire, and her registered name is Born Again Slew. So sure, Slew makes sense. Did it take an ounce of creativity to think up? Well, no. To me, it's just a boring, ugly name - and for such an exciting and beautiful mare, it just wasn't fitting.

First, I wanted to name her Crash. You see, on my way to see her for the first time, someone hit me from behind and my car was totaled. Of course, I didn't get to see her that day, but I had bigger things to worry about at the moment. No injuries occurred (besides the two totaled cars), so no worries there. It seemed more or less appropriate to have an interesting story behind such an unconventional name. And it was kind of funny, both in retrospect and at the time. There's nothing else to do in a situation like that except have some fun with it. My horsey friend (Denali's mom for those of you who know about Denali), who was accompanying me out to see "Slew", and I were having a great time joking about all of the hot firemen who were asking us about injuries, and feeling our whiplashed necks. In addition, Officer Bacon was the one asking us questions and filing the accident report. Talk about an awesome name for a police officer. So Crash seemed like a funny and original name. I quickly took it out of the running, however, when I remembered that horses have a tendency to live up to their names. Ever met a horse named Rebel? Yeah, my point exactly.

My other horsey friend (the one who took the first two pictures) and I were out there that sunny day staring at "Slew" and thinking about what described her. It went something like this: "She's brown...and has very long legs...and jumps really high...and is very reactive...sounds like a deer! How about Bambi?!" We kinda thought it could work. But we chewed it over, and casually brought it up with my trainer, and agreed that it was a ditsy and weird name. It just didn't fit.

One day, my trainer said something along the lines of, "She needs a cool name. One that's not too manly or too girly, but just a nice name. One that she looks like. Like Bailey." I thought it was a possibility, but spent the next week or so still trying to come up with something. Yet, Bailey grew on me, and my mare really looks like a Bailey. Just like many people really look like their names. So it finally stuck.

Hence, her full name is "Bailey Slew Bambi Crash." But I like keeping it simple, so she's just Bailey. And that's the way I like it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Proper Introduction Part II

Meet Bailey.

She was born on March 20th, 1998, somewhere in Oregon. Once she turned two, she started racing. A lot. Her papers show her changing ownership four times in 2000 alone, which makes me assume that she ran a number of claiming races. There isn't anything else written on her papers until February 1st, 2002, when Bailey won her first race, earning $1663. I don't know any more about her racing history, except that it appears she finally found her way off the track in 2003, when she came to Washington State. But what little I know about her history raises a question in my mind - one that I often ask about the racing industry. If she wasn't making very much money, why was she still racing? Bailey had 38 starts. She won a single race, and it was late in her career. Now, I understand that she has a lot of heart. But enough heart to justify racing 38 times? There is no amount of heart that makes 38 starts, with almost no success, necessary.

Moving on from my opposition to the racing industry...

I took Bailey home in the middle of August, 2009, on a one-week trial. And boy, she was fantastic. I knew that after looking at 13 other horses (and making one big mistake with a purchase, more about that later), I had finally found the one. And I was excited. Bailey behaved just wonderfully at the barn - riding in the outdoor arena with only minor spooking at the goats pastured adjacent to the arena, going calmly over jumps up to 2' (my main concern, because the trial rides weren't exactly calm over crossrails, and she's had no formal jump training, let alone an introduction to trot poles), and keeping her manners and brains about her consistently. Heck, I took her out back and hand walked her around the old 1/2 mile track we have, and she never took a step wrong. This was only her first week at the barn, too!

Her one-week trial lengthened into a two-week trial when she threw a shoe the day before her big vet exam, but I didn't mind. I met the farrier my trainer uses (who is positively wonderful. I always look forward to the day he comes and shoes, and I'm there every shoeing just to spend time with my new favorite farrier.) and we got a new set of shoes on Bailey. We also looked into her foot health and her need for some much higher quality farrier care than she was receiving, which was great information for me to know going into the vet check.

The fateful day finally arrived, and the vet came out (early). I didn't make it until the end of the appointment (I'm chronically late), where we had decided to take some x-rays to look at her left hock. She is a lovely mover and her flexion tests were satisfactory, but the motion in her left hind made the vet want some x-rays. The moment of truth and....she has a bone spur. A big one. (Now do you see why I'm so opposed to those 38 starts?) The vet was somewhat surprised, and I was fully crushed. We decided to tack her up and see how she moved under saddle, at which point the lump in my throat and the impending tears sort of held off. Here, we got some good news. The vet placed no limitations on her competition or ability to perform in the future, and just suggested treating her like I already had been. All I had to do was be aware that we'll have to keep an eye on it, and that I'm taking a risk.

With the green light from trainer, farrier, and vet, it was time to talk to the owner. And she was really a great woman, having spent the past five years with this mare and knowing she is a talented girl for a steal of a price. The bone spur had a positive spin on it, because it allowed my mom and I to take 1500 dollars off of her advertised price (we're taking a risk, and she'll require some extra maintenance), and agree on $3000 for a final purchase price. Best of all, we have a first right of refusal contract. If the bone spur takes a spin for the worst and Bailey can't handle competition, it will be okay. In addition, when I go off to college, I might not be able to take Bailey with me. Either way, she will be welcomed back by her previous owner, and that gives me peace of mind. September 2nd, 2009, Born Again Slew was finally under my ownership!