Posted tagged ‘family’


November 8, 2012

Something wonderful happened last Sunday.  It is four days later and I am still in shock. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

Jigs and I were HIGH POINT CHAMPION of the North Brookfield Sportsmans Club Eastern Regional Trail ride.  WE WON A NEW SADDLE.

And I didn’t even want to go. (Big thanks to the gals of Bear Foot for convincing me.)

Jigs was perfect. He accepted every obstacle gracefully.  He was a joy to ride.

I am so proud of him.

Wah Wah More Human Emotion

September 17, 2012

Humans have an unwavering propensity toward anthropomorphizing. We have an innate need to see ourselves reflected in the world around us. Maybe it is hubris.

Or is it anti-empathy? We expect outside of us to be a reflection of the inside of us.

Saturday I lost my connection with Jigs.

He didn’t trust me enough to cross the sprinkler obstacle. Not only did he refuse; he gave me ATTITUDE

My feelings were hurt. I thought he TRUSTED me. But nope, he was having none of the water obstacle.

Jigs had no intention to hurt my feelings (just typing this makes me feel like a whinny six year old). He’s a horse. He was only reacting to something scary. Sprinklers aimed at ankles are not natural in the environment.

But, other horses did it willingly.

We  worked on it after the show was over. He did cross it, but not willingly. Not once willingly.

I left the barn edgy and uncomfortable.

I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was a game, supposed to be fun. I wasn’t having fun.

Early evening I went back to the barn to check on him.  The geldings were in the back field so I walked out to see them.

Jigs saw me, lifted his head, whinnied, and trotted to me. I had the halter with me but didn’t put it on. He walked beside me to the gate.

This is not typical Jigs behavior. Jigs does not whinny at me. He does not trot to me or follow me across the pasture without a lead rope. He is ABOVE these behaviors.

Yesterday I told the barn manager about it. She commented that he “seemed like he was sulking” at feeding time and “he just wasn’t himself.”

Sulking is a human emotion. He couldn’t have been sulking, could he? Only humans sulk.

To quote Jigs, “Big sigh.”

Getting Old

February 6, 2012

My body is aging. I’m getting that thick in the middle look. Belts don’t work for me any more. They make me look like a sac of oatmeal. Not pretty.

Some Most mornings it hurts to get out of bed.

The past two Thursday nights, Jigs and I attended practice sessions for barrels and poles. We trotted sedately around them saving a light canter for the ‘run’ to the finish. I had a blast. Jigs couldn’t understand why we couldn’t gallop the patterns.

After all, the young ones ran through at a gallop, using the indoor walls to stop.  Jigs made it clear he wouldn’t mind that.

Yesterday Jigs and I were warming up at Versatility and he tripped at the trot. He went down on both front knees, nearly somersaulting with me on his back. He had to kick into a lope to get righted. I stayed on but, I admit it, it frightened me. I’m still wondering if I looked down and caused him to drop his shoulder.

I spent twenty minutes pestering everyone whether he was ‘off.’ He wasn’t, and when I asked for a lope he leaped into a fast canter. It felt like he was going to  buck but it wasn’t a buck. He really can move off when he gets his hind end under him.

We managed a solid 2:28 through the obstacles- enough for 4th place.. It’s as fast as we can go at a trot.

The ‘pros’ go through the course at a canter, their horses stopping, high headed, open mouthed with frustration at having to stop.

I really don’t want to put Jigs through that, but a soft lope and quick stop would be okay. A bit faster would be better. But not too fast.

I’m getting old. My body is no longer able to hold its own. I worry about breaking. So we go slowly and T-R-O-T.

Poor Jigs. He really wants to go more than a
bit faster.

Getting old really sucks.

Sweet Spot

January 1, 2012

2012 started with Jigs recovering from an abscess. He got better for a few days, and then today was off again. So we are continuing the soak, diaper, duct tape ritual. I actually found some black duct tape with red and yellow flames-looks kind of cool in a 9 year old sort of way.  Jigs could care less, but I think he looks stylish!

Today was, unusually warm (hit 50 at one point) and the sun was bright. Since we couldn’t hit the trails together, I hand walked Jigs down the street, hoping the pavement would speed along his recovery.

He seemed to enjoy our meandering, staying respectfully behind me and stopping when I stopped. Not that I would expect anything less. It’s just that he is so easy going. I know not all horses are and I appreciate him.

The one thing that perplexes me is where Jigs’ sweet spot is. You know that one spot where horses love to be rubbed /scratched? It puts them into ecstasy.

Even Pepper had one. If you scratched his withers he would stretch his neck, tilt his head into a nod and curl his lips. He entered a different zone.

It was the only time Pepper acted like he liked me.

Jigs does not seem to have a spot like that.

Oh sure, he enjoys an occasional a scratch behind his ear. After a sweaty ride, he lets me rub on the side of his nose because it itches- if I don’t do it, he’ll rub it on the fence himself- but there is no place that sends him to ecstasy.

I got to thinking about it as we walked.

Strange.  He’s such a gregarious creature.

Jigs’ personality is as bright as his coat in the summer sun.  He enjoys playing jokes on the humans at the barn. What fun to walk through the aisle and pull various halters and lead ropes off the stall doors then watch the humans pick them up? Is that Apple someone’s lunch? Not anymore.

He is easy with the babies and toddlers, always careful not to be overbearing.

He loves to play tag  and is gentle with the kids.

His heart is large and generous, funny and trusting.

Maybe that is it!

His sweet spot!

It’s his heart!

A Good Thursday Night

December 9, 2011

I canceled Jigs and my last riding lesson last night. It’s been raining and there is mud. The trailer’s left blinker is not working.

The real reason?  I just wasn’t up for the conversation about the draw reins.

Am I a coward?


But the instructor knows a lot more than me.  She’s a successful instructor and well known in the area for Western Pleasure.

I do like her. She has taught me a lot and I respect that. There may come a time when Jigs and I are ready for lessons again.

But I do know what feels right for Jigs and me and that is to learn collection without heavy aids.

It will take a long time. But we are in no hurry.

Last night Jigs hung out by the barn gate looking for attention. He had a quick grooming. He had eaten. But there were humans, even the small ones, still in the barn. He wanted to be with them.

When the humans ignored him, he reached into the barn and grabbed one of the blankets off the stall door and shook it.

The humans all stopped and looked at him.

I swear, he was smiling underneath the blanket hanging from his mouth.

Lost in the Woods on a Sunday Afternoon (or Humans Can’t be Trained)

August 3, 2011

The Plan: Get Deliriously Lost on Sunday and See Where We End Up…

We packed lunch and trail halters. We had our smart phones. Endomondo and My Tracks were turned on. We knew there were lots of trails we had never ridden before.  We were going to find try them, or at least a way to get to Upton State or somewhere between.  It didn’t matter where.  We had all day.

The horses had other ideas. They know where the grain is kept.

We headed out around 10. It was hot, but once we got into the woods, the temperature dropped comfortably. The bugs were numerous but both Willow and Jigs had their fly hoods on, so they didn’t seem bothered by them.

We cut out of the pine grove by the cell tower and up Stowe Road. It was early enough that the shooting range was silent. Except for one crazy, want to-be monster truck driver, there was little traffic. After a nice canter behind the field of Christmas Trees we were in the woods.

I had a route in my head that would take us behind Hillside Equestrian, parallel to George Hill Road and over to the High Tension Wires. Beyond that was pure chance.

We got there, despite a wrong turn that brought us back to the road, and started down toward Mechanics Street- virgin territory.

After a turn back to the woods and some bushwhacking and we found the Blue Trail. It was perfect. Just the kind of trail I love, narrow, challenging and winding.

Unfortunately the direction we chose came to a dead end for horse traffic. The narrow foot bridge was not safe for all eight hooves and the chasm was too deep and rocky for safe passage.

BOTH horses perked up when we turned. Willow actually managed a trot. That should have been our first clue.

We took the other direction. Eventually the trail came to a fork with three wide paths. We decided we were lost enough that the horses could choose the way.

Ten minutes later we were back behind the Christmas trees. WHAT? How did that happen?  So much for being lost.

We ate lunch before tackling the trails across from the Christmas Tree Farm. I’d gotten lost on these trails before.  One time we ended up nearly cross town. Cool.

Humans have short memories- again, we let the horses choose. They brought us out to a field which we skirted around until it came to a road. George Hill Road. HUH? The entrance was blocked so we road back to the woods. This time Humans choose the trail.

It doubled back to the road again. We gave up.

As we walked by the field again both horses turned and looked at the blocked entrance and sighed.

“Stupid Humans” they just don’t listen.

NOT Cute

June 1, 2011

Jigs is cute. Everyone comments on it. Yesterday one of the other boarder’s vet  said to me, “he’s really cute you know.”

Jigs glared at her.

I heard him clearly, “I am most certainly not cute.”

In his mind the “vampire pony” (Alyssa’s moniker for Buddy) is cute.  It’s why he gets away with the run and nip strategy employed with the bigger horses.

I suspect he thinks little Aiden, my 10 month old grandson, is cute too. That’s why he let him poke his nostril the other day.

Jigs thinks of himself as “the super-cool-dude everyone wants to be.” Remember those kids in high school?

If Jigs were a poet (and he may well be), he’d be sporting a black beret and drinking espresso.

Jigs does NOT engage in fisticuffs. He doesn’t need to. His presence is enough. I’ve seen him turn his back on bullies and walk away, the rest of the herd following.

Unfortunately, most humans don’t see that.  They see this cute, well-put-together, sorrel with the split ear. Where ever we go, someone invariably says, “He’s really cute.”

I’ve given up correcting them.

But then again, yesterday he did bring Winter’s fly mask back to the barn and handed it to Alyssa. How cute is that?

Of course he was probably the one who took it off Winter in the first place…..

Of Equality, Fairness, and the Stoicism of Horses

May 30, 2011

It’s been hard to find good chunks of time to spend with Jigs the last few weeks. Work and just life in general keep getting in the way. I’m expecting more of the same next month.

I’m not complaining. In this economy I’m grateful to be working. And the other stuff is just stuff. You get through it.

Yesterday we loaded up the trailer and attended a ride at my favorite place- Goddard State Park in Warwick, RI. The footing and the scenery were fabulous. It was hot but given the past winter, no one is complaining. Not even Jigs, though he was wet from the humidity.

Jig’s coat has shed out and he is the color of a shinny penny. When the sun is just right, he has a metallic sheen that makes his muscles look like they are rippling. He’s handsome and he knows it.

Makes me think about herd order and how horses accept that order exists. Yes they will challenge their place in the order, but never the existence of the order.

Humans both accept the existence of the order and challenge it. We so want to believe in equality. It is a noble thing after all. But at the same time reality confronts us with inequality. Where ever we look, it is there.  We are born with different abilities, to different circumstances.

Or am I confusing equality with fairness?  Is that it?

I remember my mother’s mantra, “life isn’t fair.” I quoted it to my own kids. Yesterday I caught myself saying it to my grandson.

Well, it isn’t.

Things just happen. Bad guys do get away with their crimes. Good people get sick. Kindness is not always repaid in kind.

Horses don’t worry about these things. They just accept what is.

Jigs knows he’s handsome.

Of Horses and Parenting

January 12, 2011

So I didn’t do a great job raising my kids. That’s obvious.

I never set consistent limits. I spoiled them and made things way too easy for them. I just wanted them to like me. My own insecurities and immaturity got in the way of good parenting.

I worry about making the same mistakes as a horse owner. I so want Jigs to like me. I have to remind myself not to over treat and to always expect the appropriate behaviors.

Leadership is critical to having a good relationship with your horse.

Horses, like children, need consistent boundaries. Like children, horses will test boundaries and respect you for maintaining them. A horse that is allowed to get away with bad behavior may not be safe to be around and will likely end up in an unsafe situation.

A spoiled child will have problems as an adult.

I wish I had known that when my children were younger. They are adults now; it’s too late to fix my parenting mistakes, but I will strive to do better with my horse.


November 25, 2010

Great Pumpkin Ride 2010

Costume for Great Pumpkin Ride Grafton MA


Great Pumpkin Ride

The past few weeks, I’ve been getting up early(way too early) to soak Jig’s foot and wrap it before going to work- first the Right; then the Left. Abscesses- painful for Jigs and for me.

It’s been a frustrating Fall. Jigs missed some rides. First, we couldn’t go camping because he tore a muscle, then he missed a couple of trail rides. He recovered, but ended up with abscesses in each of his front hooves a few weeks later.

Jigs missed the rides, but I was able to borrow Neato, an old lesson horse, and went with friends. It was fun. Neato even got to wear the costume I had made for Jigs to wear on the Great Pumpkin Ride. We took third place- Rocky and Bullwinkle. And we had our photo in the paper! How cool is that?

Neato is fairly push button. He’s an old Arab who loves to go. One of the folks at the barn refers to him as Tigger because he’s so bouncy. I can’t sit his trot. It’s like trying to stay still on a giant pogo stick.

Taking another horse on the rides has been good for me. Jigs is not finished, and after judged rides, I often end up frustrated by my inability to get him to do something (like side-passing). I don’t take out my frustration on Jigs; I just feel bad about my own skill gaps and start second guessing if I’m the right partner for him. The marble in my head rolls around if he “had a better rider he could do so much more….it’s not fair to him; he’s such a great horse…Wah wah, poor me.”

But Neato does just about everything you ask him, if you ask him correctly. He’s been good for my confidence. I even tried showing Jigs that Neato can side pass. Jigs was not impressed.

Last weekend Jigs stared us down when he saw me loading Neato in the trailer. Do horses get jealous?

Neato is a neat horse, sorry for the pun. Not everyone enjoys riding him because of his bounce. He also likes to go faster than he should. He’s really quite speedy for a 26 year old. There are some teens who ride him every week. They love to canter him around in circles. He always obliges them with good humor. He even tries to jump for them, but it’s not his thing.

Now Jigs in the ring is a different story. He HATES ring work. My guess is that he finds it boring or just plain, stupid. I can hear him thinking, “What’s the point of going round and round to nowhere?” Things he does well on the trail, he will flat out refuse to do in the ring. It’s a battle to keep him going at the trot, let alone lope all the way. He’s even been known to throw a stubborn crow hop in protest.

The truth is I hate ring work too, so it works for both of us. We only do enough of it to practice the stuff we are learning to do together.

Today Jigs is much better. I took the wraps off and let him out with his herd. He gingerly trotted down the field, stopped, spun around and launched himself at a gallop, ears pinned, at one of his herd mates just to let them know that he was back.

Neato watched him from his paddock, sighed,  and then turned to look at me, as if asking me something.

Today is Thanksgiving and I am really thankful.

Yes, the past few months have been frustrating, but Jigs is a really cool horse. We have lots of rides ahead of us. One day I’ll finally figure out how to tell him to side pass.

And in the past few months I got to know Neato. He made me feel much better about my ability to ride. If Jigs had not had these nagging issues, I would never have gotten to ride him. I’d have still been rolling the marble around inside my skull, ‘not good enough, not good enough.”

I’ve been thinking about the look Neato gave me today. Was he wondering if I will ever ride him again? Was he wondering if I was happy to have my buddy almost healthy again? Or maybe he was just wondering if I had a treat for him?

I’ve become quite fond of Neato. Maybe he senses that. He really is a neat horse. Like many older horses, he still has a lot to give. And more importantly, he wants to give it!

So in addition to being thankful for my family, my grand boys, Jigs, I’m also grateful to Neato for making me feel a little more confident and for not making me feel like a foolish old lady trying to relive her childhood passion.

Pretty Neat-o.