Posted tagged ‘responsible horse ownership’

Long Winter’s Night

December 24, 2015


The days are getting longer. It will be a month before we really notice, but I have faith this is true. It has been too dark these past weeks. The sun has gone missing.

I rarely get to the barn these days. Even the weekends have been consumed with commitments outside of my control. And when I do get there, riding is been limited as my foot continues to heal. Or maybe I’m avoiding something.

I worry about Jigs and what this funk I’m in means for our relationship. If I’m honest with myself, it is like a temporary separation. I feel guilty I’ve been so preoccupied with non-horse issues.

When I do visit, he seems glad to see me, but truly, it is the treats in the back of my car he desires.  A gelding of few words, he’s never been overly affectionate.  He’s impatient with grooming, not naughty, but I get the feeling he just tolerates it. In the 7 years we’ve been together, I’ve never found his “sweet spot.”

Most horses have one- even Pepper. His lips would quiver in ecstasy when I scratched the side of his withers. This from the horse that hated all things human. It was the only time I felt he liked me.

But Jigs tries to be above all this. Unless food is involved, it is all the same to him. Or maybe not. The other day we were in the ring playing at ground work and unbeknownst to me, my glove fell out of my pocket. The gelding of few words didn’t miss it. He picked it up and gave it to me. I was stunned.

He really is a good boy. I just need to press through this dark and be patient for the sun to return.


Snow Bowl

February 10, 2015

Yes, I did watch the Super Bowl and loved the outcome. Dad was probably doing backflips in heaven. Deflated balls seem silly now.

The past week has been full of snow and cold- the trail head is plowed in.  Riding has been limited to a few bareback circles in the snow filled ring.

jigs versatility in snow 2015

Snow Ring

Below is the 5’ fence in my Mom’s back yard.  I don’t ever remember that much snow- even in the Blizzard of ’78!

Snow of 2015

More snow is one the way.

But like all things in this mortal life, the snow won’t last forever.  Spring is coming….

Driving Lessons

August 24, 2014

A year ago tomorrow, Dad died. It feels as if it was yesterday.  Zac was playing in his first Football game.  I was going to watch a half then catch some of  Caleb’s game. I never made it.

I got the call that he had been unresponsive at the nursing home and was being rushed to the ER. I left my daughter and her family to meet my mother at the hospital.  He was gone before I got there.

It was unreal.

Yesterday I went to the Marshfield Fair to compete in the annual versatility. The course was hard and riders were taking the full six minutes only to get the time disqualification. Jigs and I did okay in our first two rounds but not perfect.  It was a long day; I scratched our third round and went home.  There had been only one perfect round when I left.  I have no idea who won and I don’t care. Jigs did okay, that was enough.  Our score was 85 and we finished well under the time limit.

We returned to the barn late afternoon.  As I was backing my car out, I misjudged and cut to wide, nicking the corner of my friend’s stock trailer. The steel trailer was scratched, but okay;  my seven month old car, not so okay. There’s damage to the rear panels that will require body work.

I felt horrible- upset I hit my friend’s trailer, upset my new car was damaged.  All the while, Dad was in my mind.

The boys had their first games of the year at the same time today. I decided not to go to any of them. Instead, Jigs and I went on a trail ride. It’s what I do when my mind is unsettled. It was a lovely late August day, grapes and drying leaves.


After the ride I visited Dad at Saint Luke’s Cemetery.  There were flowers and the usual Patriot’s flag. A day short of a year and I am still in shock.

As I was leaving, a long buried memory surfaced. I was 15 ½ and preparing for the driving test.  Dad took me to the cemetery to practice turning and backing up. He got out of the car, grabbed a beer from the six pack he had brought, threw me the keys, and walked up the hill. “You drive by yourself. These corners are pretty tight.  I’ll watch from up here. Don’t hit anything,” he said over his shoulder.

I suspect he’s still watching me. He must have had a good laugh at my poor turning yesterday.

Miss you Joe.


Second Place

August 17, 2014

Jigs and I have been practicing on cantering between obstacles.  Today we managed to pick up the canter from a standstill with little effort. Two years ago I would never have imagined we could do that.

We’ve been attending local versatilities in preparation for two upcoming fairs.  We never finish first but usually ribbon.  Our times are too slow for speed events and I’m okay with that.

A few weekends ago Jigs and I were in first place through three rounds.

The last rider was fast but her horse was not cooperating and my time stood.  She decided to pay for another round since a trophy was at stake.

Her horse went through the first half of the course beautifully and it looked like they were going to beat our time by at least 45 seconds.  One of the obstacles was to switch balls from cones, but she came into it too fast and dropped the ball.  It was an led ball that flashed blue when it it the ground.

Our time held.

The rider paid for another round. I sighed, “let’s go untack Jigs, I think I have some carrots.”

We finished second.

It happened again today.  We finished second.

For me it is not about ribbons or a $6 trophy; it is about getting better.

We don’t compete against others; we compete against ourselves.  Our goal today was to canter between obstacles and we did.

I’m proud of my guy!  Like proverbial wine, we are getting better with age, albeit a little slower than everyone else!


Regarding Grade Horses

July 27, 2014

Yesterday Jigs and I took 2nd place at a ACTHA Competitive Trail Ride!  We’ve been doing these rides off and on for a few years.  The first one we did we got 0 points for almost all obstacles.

scores for first ride

We’ve  come a long way.  Here are yesterday’s scores:

Scores for last ride

Yestdays ride

No, it isn’t first place, but I am so proud of what we have accomplished in the past few years.

Not bad for a grade pony!

I constantly stumble across posts and blogs putting grade horses down.  Facebook posters are especially opinionated about them.  “Grade horses should not be bred…you can’t show them…. buy a registered horse…”  I get it, you need the papers  to show. And there are too many unwanted horses.  But I have been around  “registered” horses with  serious problems that made them “unwanted.”

Of course, there is the issue of genetic defects. My beloved Pepper was  a good example this this.  A percentage of appaloosas go blind like he did, a result of uveitis. Other breeds have other risks.  You need to know the pedigree to avoid passing on unwanted traits.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my grade guy for anything!  He solid and sensible. Am I curious about his background?  Yes.  But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  He is who he is and that is enough.



Another Vacation Post

June 27, 2014

It’s that time again- the last day of vacation. There is still the weekend, but that doesn’t count.  It’s back to work on Monday.

Of course I had sensible plans for the week-pressure wash the house, give my room a good scrub, mow the lawn, send hoof boots off to have studs added, sort though my tack at the barn and in the cellar, ride my horse… BUT, not much of it got done.

I did send the hoof boots.


And I rode in my Brand NEW Saddle!   So far we have logged over 20 miles in it!



The house will get pressure washed in a few weeks.  The rest will get done too.  But for now, off to ride!



June 18, 2014

Persistence  sometimes pays off. Jigs and I spent the last two months practicing the rope gate and the pedestal in preparation for the NEECA Versatility.  The result was we now do both well.

We nailed the gate Saturday!  One of the judges noticed a hesitation.  She was right, we did hesitate, but we did it and our scores were as high as they could be with me riding two handed!

No pedestal, bummer.  We were so ready.

Our performance was good enough to win the Novice Division!  Whoo Hooo!

NEECA Versatility 6-14-14

NEECA Versatility 6-14-14

I am really proud of my little red pony!

Judges’ feedback was my scores would have been higher if I neck reined and rode one handed.

This was the first competition where my horsemanship skills were judged. I faired a bit better than I expected.  Yes, we did miss the obstacle with the lead changes.  We got one lead, not the other.  My fault, not Jigs.’ I didn’t pick up the canter quickly enough because I was not committed to cantering at all. I’m just excited that we did canter!

I have two videos of the performance and I can see where we need to work. That’s what I like about Versatility, there is always something new to work on.

So I’m at a crossroad. Should Jigs and I work on neck reining? I’m worried I’ll have to move from my snaffle to a shank bit. Not sure I want to do that. One trainer referred to it as moving to a grown up western bit. Will that change our relationship? Will it be too much pressure on us both?

He clearly enjoys these events. So do I. But do I want to do the really (especially for this old woman) hard stuff to get to another level?

Last night Jigs and I rode down to the water so he could play. He enjoys hacking the trails too.

Maybe, just maybe, we can do both.

The Gate

March 30, 2014

Saturday Jigs and I trotted over the obstacles and even jumped a few times. (He still thinks the object of the cavaletti game is to STEP on them.  In his mind he’s 100%.)

And yes, we cantered a tiny bit.

The gate was one of the reasons for attending the clinic so we spent time on it.  We do almost okay if we approach the gate and side pass to the right.  No so much to the left. My right leg is weak and he takes advantage, ignoring and running through my hands.

I got help from one of the clinicians.  He quickly saw my issue.  I was trying to side pass instead of moving his hind end over. Baby steps before running. Amazing at how clear things become if you break them down into smaller bites.

We’ve got homework this week.  Rather than focus on the gate, we’ll practice moving haunches to the right- the gate only after that is perfected.

He also noticed I favor turning to the left.  “Turn right, not left.”

More to work on… Jigs and I can do this.

Learning to be patient

Learning to be patient

Ghost Horse

March 22, 2014

Back to the clinic today- I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t nervous.  In fact, I had taken to wearing my bracelet made of Pepper’s tail in last few days.  I also had a few conversations with him about Jigs’ yahoo antics.

After the last clinic, we took Jigs and Angel to an indoor and let them loose.  Jigs bounced around bucking and farting until he decided it was too much work.

“Can I come in?”

I stepped into him and pushed him out again.


Nope get going.

“But I’m tired….”

The conversation continued until we were both panting.

This morning, when the trailer pulled into the driveway, Jigs and Angel stopped eating. Both had the  Oh-Oh, something is up look.

Jigs took off for the back pasture at a gallop bucking and farting.


He blew by me again.

I stood there mumbling, “Nope, not walking back there through the snow and mud.  I’ll wait.”   Sighing deeply I thought about Pepper.  He had pastured in this field. I fumbled with his bracelet. There is a lot I could write about that, but another time.

After a few more high speed circuits, the game was over.  Jigs decided it was too much work and returned to his hay.  I was able to halter him.

The clinic was fun. Jigs enjoyed refusing obstacles and then doing them without hesitation once he realized I WAS NOT kidding.

Several times, I was asked if I was going to canter but I politely said I wasn’t ready. “April.” The truth is, we could have. Jigs was well behaved and soft. More importantly, he was listening to me, unlike the last time. But it is early in the season and we are both out of shape. We trotted a good hour.

We used the trophy saddle and he seemed more comfortable in it.  So was I.  It places me in a more balanced position.  My legs are not as far forward as they are in the Tucker.

I have decided the Tucker is going up for sale.

After the horses were untacked, we took them into the barn to drink.  Loose on the lead, Jigs slipped into a random stall.  “Come on Jigs,” I said as I led him back to the aisle.

“Did you see the name on the stall he went in?” my friend asked.

“No? What is it?”

“Pepper,” she said.

I smiled to myself, not entirely surprised.


Fear… Again

March 1, 2014

Ah horses.  Always something different; always something the same.

At the end of every winter, I’m fearful of cantering. Too much horse. Fear of cantering after a winter of walking and maybe a little trotting if the ice isn’t too bad.

Last weekend Jigs and I had a great lesson. This week it was … not great. The horse that showed up wasn’t my Jigs. I got a forward, let’s go, buck into canter horse, I haven’t seen in…. okay never.  As my friend reminded me, “you have to ride the horse you have.

The clinician told me, “when you come up the long side ask for a canter.”  Took me four times at a fast trot before I did.  Jigs shook his head and kicked out.   I executed a one rein stop.  “Keep him moving forward, don’t reward him with a stop.”

“My fault,” I admitted, “my seat says go, my hands say no”  

He agreed. “Try again.”

I trotted around 5 more times before trying . “Ask for a canter now.”

Jigs picked up a fast canter and we flew down the long side.

“Now try the other side.”

I trotted around counter clockwise a few times.  I kissed to Jigs, but never cued with my leg (lack of commitment again). He took one awkward stride and popped up.  I slowed him down. “My fault again.”

“He picked up the wrong lead and was just trying to correct himself,  try again.”

I did. Jigs dropped his his head and crow hopped to the center of the ring. My foot came out of the stirrup and my seat out of the saddle.  “JIGS cut it out,”  I shouted, all the while thinking, I’m going off.  I’m going off. No. NO  I AM NOT. I found my stirrup and put my butt back in the saddle.

“Don’t stop, you’ve got him. Trot forward.”

We did.

“See, you can ride through it. He’s just feeling good and is a little fresh.”

“Try again.”

“We may have a saddle fit problem,” I said panting. “He’s got white hairs along his back.”

“Is it new?”

“Yes, but we’ve done a few hundred miles in it.”

“But you haven’t ridden much this winter?”

“Only on weekends…”

“He’s just being fresh. He’s been cooped up all winter unable to run. The soft footing feels good to him and he wants to go. You did it in one direction, you can do it in the other.”

We worked on obstacles for a while, messing up and around the gate.

“Ready to canter again?” the clinician asked.

“Nope, I’m just going to trot around for now.”

And we did. Jigs was moving under himself and dropping his head correctly.

“He looks real relaxed and is nice and soft, going to canter now?”


This conversation repeated itself at least three more times.

By this time I was TERRIFIED of cantering. Jigs really wasn’t relaxed. He was spook shopping near the gate and being a general pill.  Trotting, albeit trotting fast, was good enough for ME now.  Jigs was really sweating- the first time all winter.

I would like to say we finished the lesson with a well executed canter but I didn’t even try.

After the lesson, the clinician ran his hand along Jigs’ spine. “He’s not back sore.  May not be the saddle,  but next time you can borrow one of mine if you want.”

“Thanks, but  I may not be here next week because I have another commitment.”  Likely he was thinking, yeah sure, the old woman is going to wimp out.  But I really do have a meeting next week.

My friend and I discussed it on the way home.  I made excuses- Jigs was being fresh. He doesn’t usually act like this.  This winter it’s been too slippery to ride. It was more of a yahoo let’s go issue.  We were not riding enough. But it didn’t make a difference-  the fear is back.

When we got to the barn she admitted, “when he dropped his head, I thought you were going off for sure, but he wasn’t too bad, he stopped.”

We’ve worked through stuff before. (There was the time he gave out three big bucks when someone dropped a barrel behind him.) We’ll figure it out. Maybe. I hope. We have to.

But I’m not young anymore. Hell, I’m not even middle age anymore. I break too easily. This is going to be hard.

Last summer we were trotting, cantering, I even have a photo of us galloping- all four of Jigs’ feet off the ground.  Now I have to work up the courage to get back to where we left off last autumn.  So much for learning to open gates and side passing….

jigs and me runninglets go