I'm doing my Annual Recap early because, well, my horsey-year is over. Between not taking advantage of the re-opening local indoor this year due to time and financial constraints, and Sierra being pregnant, I'm taking a good hiatus from the saddle. I still hope to get my boots dirty from time to time on some of our other horses, but with winter looming in the not-so-far distance, I don't forsee much time being spent on the back of a horse in the near future.
While it gives me a strange sense of desire, it also brings an odd relief. I ended my season on a high, and I'm so incredibly glad I did. Thinking back to roughly this time last year, Sierra had just gotten home from she-who-should-not-be-named, and I found my recently post-partumed ass chucked in a snowbank amid frozen ground. She was wound so tight, full of ulcers and half lame whilst I was confused, upset and disappointed in myself for the situation I found myself in. Once we got her back on the road to better mental and physical health, she re-joined her herd and with my little shadow strapped to my chest, we took advantage of the nicer winter days to do groundwork with Sierra and corral her brain-squirrels as best we could.
Spring arose, and I had every intention to send her to my barrel-racing friend who has legged Sierra up on the roads and trails in the past, but that didn't come to fruition. By the time the weather was cooperating enough for her to be able to exercise her consistently, I had begun riding at home and she was feeling excellent. In addition, I had decided I was going to try and breed her, and as spring drug on, it was becoming too late to send her to my friend for some exercise. Lucky for me she lives a mere 10 minutes away, but regardless, I wanted Sierra home if I was going to try and breed her.
As the founder and president of our local Sport Horse Club, COVID did a number on us. We used to run some of the largest shows north of the nearest large city (6 hours away), but due to regulations and a general lack of bodies, we were forced to take a step back. We didn't have access to the local arena for the past year, which is where we ran all our events, so that also put a damper on things. Despite all that, I was motivated to get on track with Sierra and decided to go back to my tried n' true coach, friend and cousin-through-marriage, Jess. I volunteered my property to host clinics through the club, and we managed to organize and run 3 - Two in June and one in August. Jess was in the area either coaching and/or visiting family (she's from here, but now lives ~7 hr away) so I also managed to squeeze in a few lessons in addition to the clinics, and she put a schooling ride on Sierra once as well.
Our first clinic was hosted at the beginning of June, but Jess was up the week leading up to the clinic and I managed to squeeze in two lessons prior to the actual clinic beginning which set the stage to continue building on just keeping Sierra happy, relaxed, responsive and forward. We spent a lot of time in the walk working on isolating different aids and areas of Sierra's body, while hammering out some major flaws in my own riding. We did some fantastic exercises over poles as well, which was great for us. We stuck just to walk and trot because we knew the Canter would be disastrous. Everyone felt so great coming out of the clinic, we managed to get Jess back in just a few short weeks.
Between Clinic #1 and Clinic #2, I bred Sierra via AI with Fresh Cooled Semen from the Dutch Warmblood stallion Parcival. As a result, she had a fair bit of time off in between the clinics and also dealt with a little bit of body soreness as a result of it all. Between the ultrasounds, insemination and uterine lavaging processes (Read: a lot of my limbs inside her body), a round of Oxytocin for 2.5 days, ovulation, etc it was to be expected. As if that wasn't enough, we also had an insane heat wave hit us that encased the weekend in a stagnant, stifling way that forced us to adjust the schedule in such a way that kept our horses and riders out of the main heat of the day. We kept a cooler filled with cool drinks, a kiddy-pool and a hose at the ready for the horses.
We picked up the lessons where we left off previously, but quickly moved onto some other things as Mrs. Know-It-All Sierra was very much "I know how to do this" and anticipating everything rather quickly, thus losing the quality. We had only been working in walk and trot, but in Clinic #2 I showed Jess the Canter, which I had been mostly annoying because Sierra was so tight in the back she would often hop or get stuck and kick-out at my leg; her neck and jaw were rigid, and she was generally uncomfortable - as was I. As a result of that, I had been just riding her canter in a half seat or two point for the sake of "doing the things", but I never asked anything of her in the canter except to go forward into it. My first lesson was so lovely, I decided to put my Jump tack on for the next day where the plan was to work on the Canter a little more and pop a few fences if Sierra was feeling cooperative - spoiler alert, she wasn't.
Sierra was absolutely not interested in anything we had planned for that day, and things got so hairy in the Canter that I nearly cried. We were doing an exercise with 1 pole which started in trot and graduated to adding Canter, but Sierra got extremely hot and frazzled and all the wheels fell off the bus. I was really bummed to be ending the clinic there, and once again I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I was questioning if maybe she was just mentally too far gone; irreversible damage. Our third and final clinic was a month away, and I was determined to give it my all (or at least, as best I could all things considered).
I was working hard with the tools Jess refurbished in my tool kit, but luckily for me she was also back in the area between clinics and she came by and put a schooling ride on Sierra. It was great for Sierra, but also great for Jess since she could then feel what I felt. We all know Sierra rides like a steaming bag of shit for everyone except me (she loves her mama) and things got prettttty sketchy (to the point I was genuinely scared for Jess' life) but it ended well and Jess has some serious lady balls. I absolutely loved how she handled it all, and I swear I could see Sierra think "oh.. shit" with some form of shocked impression while she galloped laps of my arena in a near run-away state and jess sat quietly in a half seat, waiting out her antics. By the time their ride was done, Sierra was in a full-body sweat so I didn't bother riding her in a mini lesson after, and our schedules didn't align to do more before she had to leave, but when Jess returned for our final clinic at the end of August we had some earth shattering break throughs.
For the August clinic, Jess brought her horse for a sleep over at my house as she was competing in a nearby town the weekend after our clinic. Because she was up early, I was once again able to squeeze in an extra lesson and since it was our last chance for the season, I wanted to squeeze all that I could out of her. Every single lesson that weekend was fantastic and I don't think I can even put into words the feeling that overwhelmed me coming out of the clinic. Each lesson felt as though there was massive lightbulbs flipping on left, right and center. The clinic prior I wanted to cry out of frustration, and then I wanted to cry out of pure happiness. I still can't put it into words, but it was an epic high to end our riding season on.
In addition to Sierra and Vida, I myself also had a very breeding season. I launched my Equine Reproductive business, assisting mare owners in making ethical and safe breeding decisions, as well as AI'ing mares for a select few clients in addition to my own. Sierra caught and settled first try, while unfortunately Vida was bred twice, both times the semen arrived in poor condition, and ended up open. I was tired of hemorrhaging money, and decided to cut my losses as the season drug on. I know I wasn't alone, and many people had difficulties getting mares settled this year. Of the 4 outside mares I bred, 1 caught first try. One did not catch, but it could be related to the fact that the foal at her side died a few days after breeding her. Additionally, 2 others caught but absorbed; one failed maternal recognition at 17 days and the other presumably slipped it around 30 days. Neither were bred back. Over all, if you look at the initial 14d checks I came out with 4 of 6 having caught, but unfortunately that was quickly reduced.
Evidently I felt the need to have more responsibility and expense on my plate, so a momentary lapse in judgment brought me to bringing home a mare I had hoped to use as a broodmare, but it just never sat right with me and I ended up exercising the buy-back agreement the seller and I had in place. I felt bad, but it paved the path to Fiona, my latest acquisition for the breeding shed, and I'm really excited about her future with us. I didn't have any foals in 2021, however I did ship my 2020 filly to her new home on the other side of the country in April, and have continued to keep in touch with the owners of my foals and I am loving how they are coming along! I really and truly feel at ease and despite the failures and hardships, feel as though I am on a great trajectory.
From a personal standpoint, I've been picking away at becoming a healthier person both for myself and my family, in all senses of the word - both mentally, and physically. I know, I know, this is a horse blog but I'm also pretty excited to have lost 35 pounds and officially be the lightest I have been in 10+ years and still going!
Overall, the year was full of learning. Learning how to ride properly (lol, always), learning more about breeding, learning how to be a mom, learning how to balance this all and keep my wits about me. We also found time to do a lot of work on our barn, which is still on-going as well as an addition on our house. It seems cliché to say it was a year of growth, but it truly was and I can't wait to see what lessons I learn in 2022.
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Cut off is Nov 10!