The End of an Era Leads To New Adventures
Following my last post, after countless sleepless hours, I have reached the decision to semi-retire Kidd. While the last set of injections helped immensely, I have concluded that my moral compass simply will not allow me to prolong the inevitable for the sake of ribbons on a horse who trots a 3.5 or worse on a flexion without injections in full effect. His last appointment showed bone spurs where the ligaments attach for his stifle, essentially causing a 'sawing' action with every step he takes. Kidd is a fabulous partner who's heart and enthusiasm outshone any formal piece of paper boasting big name horses, and he's been a fierce competitor, however I ultimately owe so much to my little red sports car that I can't bring myself to push him in the pursuit of reaching new levels.
I'm irrevocably heartbroken, but Kidd will remain in my care until he's no longer comfortable. While there's no time line, I hope to pleasure ride him for as long as his body will allow. While I intend to ride him still, we will no longer be aiming for personal bests in the show ring, or any show rings for that matter. While I may play on him in small schooling shows, I will mainly use him to keep him active, stimulated, and to work on my own riding. I will not ask him to learn new maneuvers, or vastly improve known ones. Kidd will, ultimately, become a semi-feral pleasure pony, and while my heart aches, I know it's the right decision.
In what I can only describe as a chaotic landslide, I decided to loosely begin horse shopping, and in a matter of 2 weeks, I found a handful of horses that really peaked my interest. I had previously decided that while the 'baby thing' taught me so much, it really took a lot out of my confidence. For the first time in 15 years, I was going to buy something at least half-ways broke, with show miles. I wanted a mare, and I wasn't opposed to something older but wanted to stay under 12. As well, due to spending a small fortune on Kidd's vet expenses and not anticipating going horse shopping, I had only pennies to spend. I was shopping for a unicorn on a shoestring budget, but i'm excited to say I think I found my unicorn thanks to a generous owner who entertained a lowball offer and the promise of a great home.
On Saturday, June 9 my hubby and I hopped in the truck in the wee hours of the morning and traveled some 8 hours south to try a mare I had a good feeling about. She was an OTTB turned Eventer, who wasn't scopey enough for the big fences (3'6+) and her owner, who had owned her since birth, has high hopes of competing at a higher level than the mare was capable. Though I used to jump quite a bit, if I never jump another 3ft fence I won't die feeling as though something in my life was missing. Ultimately, I wanted a semi-broke Dressage Prospect capable of doing 2nd/3rd and schooling small Hunter courses. The woman facilitating the sale on behalf of the owner assured me she would be well suited, and I was really excited to meet her.
The setting was perfect and although my heart was in my throat due to the nerves of basically not riding a solid flat ride in 4+ months to hopping on a new horse in front of her owner and a professional trainer, I quickly settled. The entire drive down I assured myself it was better to go home empty than with the wrong horse, and I was going to use my nerves to my advantage to see how she really was with an anxious, unbalanced, garbage bag of a rider.
To add fuel to my anxiety but also the 'test' to her, there was a H/J show happening at the barn she was boarded at. It was busy, with food vendors, lots of horses, trucks and trailers coming and going, announcers, multiple rings, people, and so on. We walked out to her paddock where she softly greeted us with a whinny and energetically walked up to the gate and waited being caught. We lead her into the barn and tied her up while the seller and owner groomed and tacked her. I took the opportunity to stand at her head and give her cookies, which she loved.
The Seller had warned me this was an incredibly difficult sale for the owner and if she could afford to keep 2 horses she absolutely would not have been for sale. Initially she told me she wasn't even going to be present as it was too hard for her, but I assume at some point her mind changed as she remained around for the viewing - which was great for me but also a little nerve-wracking as i'm sure she chose to stay to ensure it was a good home. I loved being able to speak with her and ask her questions about the mare. Given that she had owned her since birth, she knew her inside and out. By the time she was tacked up, my nerves had subsided. She was so calm, standing quietly in a busy alley with a foot cocked and lower lip drooped. The woman facilitating the sale asked if I minded if we took her into the indoor as the footing was better in there, and I told her I was good with whatever she thought was best. She took her into the indoor and got on. I noted the mare tried to walk off but she stopped her and made her stand at the buckle for a few minutes, chatting with another rider before asking her to walk off.
The indoor was small and congested as it was the warm-up ring for the show. There was 4 jumps set up, and at any given time there was at least 3 horses and 1 trainer present. The arena was also VERY loud; when a rail was knocked down it sounded like a gun going off. Additionally, a girl warming up for the show was on a horse who kept spooking and every time he planted his feet it made a huge BANG and to my surprise, the mare seemed unphased. At the far end of the arena there was a pile of jump fill, a large orange tarp, and a few odds and ends to which she didn't bat an eye. As the Seller rode her around she quickly put her through her paces and in less than 10 minutes I was getting on.
By the time I got on, there was about 5 other horses in the ring. I asked her to walk on and she kind of half-ass refused to move. The seller advised me she's quite sensitive to the seat so if you sit heavy, she thinks you want to stop. I rolled onto my crotch and asked again, and she slowly walked off. I took her around the rail and took a feel of contact. She avoided me and I continued to add leg and ask for flexion. She would give me bits and pieces, but never truly worked through her back and came into the contact. I asked her up to a trot and she intermediately went off into a slow, fugly trot. While it wasn't awful, it's not how I like my horses to go. Regardless, I reminded myself training and developing a horse is the least of my concerns. I was shopping for a very specific brain, so I carried on, nervous about what others were thinking of me struggling to ride this horse around the ring.
As riders continued to come and go in the ring, I took her down to a walk at the buckle as I was continually feeling as though I was in other riders way. After all, they were there paying to show and they deserved a good warm up. When I rode towards the seating area, the Seller asked if I wanted to hack her outside as the ring was getting so congested - thank goodness!
I walked her at the buckle through the large door past people, dogs, garbage cans, etc and meandered around the show grounds and through a busy parking lot. To my surprise, she didn't bat an eye at anything. We headed towards an empty outdoor arena and the seller loosely coached me through her paces. Outside, she was much more forward and I felt much more confident after hacking her around. Plus, I didn't have to feel like I was annoying other riders as I had the entire ring to myself. After a few exercises I was able to gain a little bit of a feel for her back end and she became a little softer in the bridle. While it still wasn't where I wanted it, I knew a large part of it was her training being a little different than mine, and the fact that I rode like an absolute sack of crap. If nothing else, it proved to me how forgiving she was, and when it came to ask for Canter both departures resulted in striking off in Counter Canter - 100% my fault, not hers. Once I applied my aids properly she took the correct lead and was lovely to ride. I was sold, and asked her "where do I sign?!".
We jumped through the hoops of paperwork, said our goodbyes and ventured the 8 hours home to our farm. We finally arrived home around midnight. It stays relatively light here all night this time of year, so it was dusk and I took her into the barn to remove her bandages and give her some treats before tucking her into her paddock.
By 7:30 AM I had hardly slept. I was excited to go meet my new pony; any excitement I haven't felt in quite some time with horses. I went out and did chores, and bummed around the yard while she ate her breakfast. I took her into the barn and stuck her in the cross ties and spent some time grooming and loving on her before analyzing my saddle's fit and tacking up. I walked her a lap around my outdoor, unfenced arena which is currently half mud due to the recent rains, and decided to get on. She danced at the mounting block, and I started questioning if her calmness the day before was her, or if she had some help to be that calm. I told myself this is basically simulating a show with a new rider to boot, and I waited her out. I noticed that when she was corrected, she acted as though she was in HUGE trouble. I kept my cool, and waited for her to settle before swinging over. While it felt like hours, i'm sure she only gave me grief for 2 minutes before I was on her. Once on, she patiently sniffed my boot and waited for me to ask her to walk off. We walked a few circles before walking through a muddy spot and she stopped and wouldn't move. What? As she began to go down, I thought ARE YOU SERIOUSLY GOING TO ROLL?! but to my surprise, she let out a groan and stood back up and sighed. I guess she wasn't quite ready to get out of bed and needed a stretch. I laughed at her silly antics and carried on.
I rode down to the 'scary end', where the pond, antique plow and horse eating rock garden is. While she looked and thought she'd see if she could pathetically shy away into my inside leg, she was corrected and carried on. I chose to ride at that end as the footing was the driest, and though I was only limited to about a 20M circle, we rode our w/t/c and she felt much better than the day before. She was much more forward, and I was able to gain connection much easier. My first Canter depart we ended up in Counter Canter again, but once I reminded myself to ask correctly, our next 3 departs were perfect and the transition was fabulous! The first correct transition actually pushed me back into my saddle (Sorry girly); she's got great engagement once I can get ahold of her hind end.
Her flatwork is super, but needs some adjustment. I would best describe it as "Eventer Dressage", lol. I hope to focus on a lot of stretchy work to really activate her back and gain connection to her hind legs, but I know with time it will come. After about 15 or 20 minutes in the ring, I chose to really put her to the test and hack her out through the scary end and down the road. The winds were quite gusty, but she confidently walked out. She flinched at a branch snapping in the wind as we passed the scary horse-eating rock, but was happy to carry on. We went down the road where she confidently marched on, looking around with her ears perked; feeling as though she was happy to gallop if I asked. While I joked about her looking for the XC Jumps, I chose to keep it at a walk to enforce the relaxation of hacks. We rode a little ways down the road before turning back home. I chose to take her in the second driveway to continue my 'test' and she was absolutely lovely. I was in complete love, and I can't wait to get to know her more.
Following my ride, I gave Kidd a kiss on the nose and turned him out with the herd in the pasture; a place he rarely sees because he tends to get so fat. With show goals no longer on his horizon, he can afford to pack on some extra weight and be a happy, happy guy.
So while the days of Spotted Dressage have, more or less, come to an end, i'm excited to introduce "Sierra", a 7 year old Thoroughbred Mare. I'm still questioning renaming her as I don't like it, but it'll probably stick. The only thing I dislike more than her name is changing an adult horses name!
|Trying her out|
|Stopping for a much deserved cookie break|
|Adore her head <3|
|Looking cute all dressagey!|
|Who R U?!|