About this Blog

Meet my very 1st horse, Lazarus.
I couldn't wait for Santa anymore or ask one more time for a pony for my bday (after age 30 it got embarrassing). I took matters in my own hands and I finally decided to pick a pony that needed a new home. Laz found me as I contemplated with this idea. He was sweet yet very sassy, fresh off the track, Thoroughbred (OTTB).
Join us for our re-training, rehabbing from laminitis and testing all parts of mixed up horsemanship and partnership, and luck...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Riding Bareback

Over the winter, we did light riding in the snow, within the arena and I was able to jump on
top of his furried back, with my cuddle duds-jeans-wool socks-ugg boots-ski jacket-wool hat-scarf deer skin gloves outfit. Not much room for a saddle might I add. We did fine, but it was sloooow riding, just walking and some light trotting thru the snow.
(picture above is from Jan 2009..brrrrr)
Last week, I rode him totally bareback which is not as fun I disc
overed. With his bony back and withers (shoulders) driving into my crotch as I still work on my balance and leg strength, I found I probably hurt him along with myself. I had opted for the bare back riding last week, because Laz is klutzy and has three long healing wounds right where his girth would go, so I opted to not girth him, hence, channelled my inner Native American girl "Poca." Poca ached at age 32 and thought, next time I'm using a pad on that back!
(picture above is from Laz's 8th birthday, April 2009)
Today, we used my plush thick (ahhhhh) bareback pad. So cushy, so nice, so purple (gag but limited colors available). Definitely hurt a lot less for us both. He seemed more content with me bouncing around and I felt a whole lot better as well. No driving shark finn into my gut or pelvic bone when he spooked suddenly or when slowing him down from a canter. Again, I know, as time progresses and I get my rider's legs back, my balance will keep me upright...but no judging, ok?! I'm trying! ;)

So today we worked alone in the big sand arena today (I always, always ride with people around..they were in barn, cleaning or grooming etc) but alone outside in the arena. I am working on my confidence as a rider and a guide for Lazarus. Some days are better than others. Today was a great day. It didn't start out that way, however, as when I initally hopped on, he spooked at a butterfly and almost tossed me. Yes, butterflies have seven rows of teeth for those of you that don't know!! So, I re-aligned myself on his back and started him into a nice working walk. Then after a few minutes, decided to give my little man a job. I have found (thru the knowledge of Cheryl my trainer/friend) that he does better with a 'job.' He is able to focus and push thru fear and I found, that I am too. So, we started a nice little trot. But something was off; I wasn't breathing!! Ugh..I was consumed again with this new adult fear of "what will happen next? When I do finally fall, it's going to hurt! Are there more damn butterflies swirling around?!!" It's easy to get lost in those negative thoughts BUT I chose to focus on what was actually happening in the moment; which was pure wonderful riding that needed me for good communication. To force myself to breath, I started singing a great tune I was just listening to by 'Carolina Liar.' Just like that, we were reconnected and all my fears melted away. I think Laz actually likes my voice too as his ears cocked back to listen curiously.

We rode for over an hour, of mainly trotting. We worked deep into the scary corners of the arena by the road, where monsters live in the pine trees with no major blow ups by Lazarus. We trotted circles and circles, worked on bending and flexing and weaving in and out of cones and serpentines and figure 8's and basically pretended to win the Gold for Dressage done in purple bareback pads. I then trotted him over some poles that were flat on the ground, which he obediently jumped over which was fun! The next several times over the poles he learned he could just step over it at a trot and opted to do that instead. The surprise jump was thrilling though I must say! Brought back the fun hunter/jumper days for me! We even cantered a few times and he is learning that a kiss is different than a cluck, and picks up his canter nicely. Being an off the track Thoroughbred (OTTB), he hasn't learned his correct leads. But that wasn't today's lesson, today was a fun hack and for him to understand my leg and hand cues. It's our language. We speak it together and sometimes we don't understand each other correctly, but we both try and listen and learn...and for amazing moments in time, we carry a lengthy conversation of silent communication. Sigh. My legs touching him cuing him to move over, his ears tipping back listening, his sighs, his grunts all mean something and each time we are together, we understand more.
Today, I learned, as I gave him a juicy apple after our ride that he likes me to step on the apple to break it apart for him. So I do now and will always. He had spit the apple out when I gave him to him originally whole, mouthed it a bit, turned it around and dropped it and nudged it. Once I had it cracked in two pieces, he happily chomped on it slurping and drooling everywhere. Oh, that was another surprise..I didn't know horse's drool!
(picture above is from last week, July 09)
After a long and difficult work week, the peace I felt today after our sweet and lovely ride together was the best medicine. Thank you Laz.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My boy's before and after shot...thus far

Along with the mental acceptance of gearing up to 'own' Lazarus (I say 'own' because to own a 1100 lb animal is ridiculous, you are actually just agreeing to try and work as a team and to take care of each other), I knew I needed help in getting him back to health. We were entering a brisk fall and winter was soon approaching. Not an easy time to keep weight on typically, and I was trying to achieve to have him GAIN weight.
Now where he was currently dumped off at (from the racetrack), was a pasture board only facility. Here is where things can get complicated and I'm not intending to insult anyone here. I am not saying I don't agree with pasture board, I actually like the idea of a horse being out to graze and roam as much as possible. Along with that, I also like the option for him to be able to have a stall, where on cold/windy, or hot/buggy night, he can lay down and nibble on his own hay and really relax and get a deep sleep in. There is a happy medium, for me/us, and it's where we are at now-currently boarding at my friend's farm, where he is with pasture buddies ( 1 Arab, 3 QH's) to play and herd with but also has a clean large matted stall with cushy shavings, to come in when needed.
That being said, the picture of Lazarus below, was when I adopted him. The Vet had told me; "he is in great muscular shape, he does show signs of early arthritis at at age 7 yrs old, and needs his teeth and hooves to be done and to gain about 150-200 lbs." So, farriers in, vets in, floated teeth, check, check, and whoa..speaking of checks, my checkbook was hit! But worth it to get him feeling good, ordered some needed supplements : Cocoasoya, Yucca, Selenium and E, and a joint supplement. That along with the nutritional aid of Master Cheryl (my friend where he's boarded at) with her graining, bran mashes, wonderful grass hay, and alfalfa mixed hays and extra scoops of Senior Pellets for even more calories, Lazarus is starting to GLEAM.
Like most TB's I'm sure, Lazarus is NOT an easy keeper, he burns fat off quickly, is very thin skinned, sensitive to extreme temp's and is a klutzy pig I'm finding out. Somewhat like me (minus the superpower of burning off fat at a ridiculous rate).
So, below is his "BEFORE" in Oct 2008

Here are a couple shots of "AFTERS" taken by a barn mate, in April 2009

Quite full of himself below as he pushes his 15 yr old Polish Arab, Stormy, around.

We worked hard all winter (yes..freezing ass cold winter, days when it was 20 degrees I found myself saying, wow, it feels almost warm!). The only days he didn't get worked were days when it was 10 degrees or below and 'glass cutting your face 'windy and even on those days, I came in (I live an hour away) to groom and work with him to try and connect who I was in his life.
I wanted him to keep his muscle tone; we worked on ground manners (wow..still learning) and lunging and cues, etc. I have to say, I definitely got the Vitamin D this winter by being outside waaaay more than normal. It was wonderful!
The best was of course, on the cold winter days, when you walk into the barn and 8 faces turn to you with perked ears, and steam coming out of their noses, and you hear your boy, "Nnnniiiccccckkkkkerrrr?!"
Who knew that sound can literally make your heart swell and fill with warmth when it's 10 degrees out, and I have so many clothes on that I have to waddle in the barn?
I guess Lazarus did.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to describe "Horse Crazy?"

For those who are "horse crazy," you know, we aren't crazy...just madly in love and passionately incapable of living life without our horse(s).
But what is "horse crazy?"

It usually all starts as a very young child. Or in my case, it did. I had a plastic bouncing horse from the 70's, that painfully would pinch your skin when riding it too rough into a 'gallop.' Other times, it would hit me when walking into a hobby store in Northern Michigan, while on vacation on Mackinac Island, my eyes widening to see the shelves fully stocked of the beautifully carved Breyer toys, begging to be bought. The collection of your first Breyer (John Henry was mine), to in your mid tweens having waaaay too many, and now the want becomes to have a REAL horse. My own horse to love, groom, feed apples and carrots to, brag to your friends and say "YES..he's mine" and to take the very best care of him. For me, it was never to have the horse to show successfully and have a wall splattered of blue ribbons (although that is great too), it was to care and connect and bond with that magnificent animal. To have a horse know me well enough that it nickered at me, that my name was on their halter, that his name was on his very own grooming brushes. It was deep.

Even before the extensive Breyer collection, the obsession grew rapidly when starting my riding 'career' as a 7 yr old and trusting my life to a gentle giant Belgian cross, by the appropriate name of "Tiny." He taught me that riding horses is as magical as seeing a dinosaur up close and being able to feed it a carrot. Thankfully, I had supporting (not always fully understanding but supporting none the less) parents that allowed me to take lessons for years on many horses that continued to steal a permanent place in my heart. From "Tiny" I graduated to "Peanut," who was a feisty Shetland that taught me size doesn't matter and being bucked off a pint sized demon was no fun, but gave me a better seat and legs that could grip. "Sugarplum" showed me don't pet a horse while their ears are pinned back, or else your undeveloped chest will get a huge bite in it!!! "Topgun" was one of my all time favorites, he was an older bay gentleman OTTB that was my first jumping companion and no matter how poorly I steered, he felt my heart and heard my brain screaming "Juuuuuump, Topgun, juuuummp!" and always did. There was stubborn "Juliet" a QH mare who didn't put up with any wrong cues, and made me work harder, and let me cry on her shoulder when I didn't place in a show. To "Montami," "Willow," and "Allegra" three graceful TB geldings that taught my hands to be more quiet and gentle.

The years of that riding always bought the same question to my hard working parents, "WHY CAN'T I HAVE A HORSE?!?! I promise to love it and take care of it" And I meant that but growing up in beautiful Evanston, IL, the closet area to ride was about 20 minutes away and about a mortgage payment to board, not to mention all the other items that come with horse ownership. But to a child's ear..that doesn't mean anything but a broken heart that only a pony can fix. "Can't I empty the dishwasher to earn enough? Can I PUH-lease just have ONE tiny horse?! Seriously, Santa, if you forget one more time.."

But, years went on, and though I continued riding, I also continued to grow in school and other things. Once graduating high school, I headed to Central Michigan University for College. What wonderful years those were, and I was busy as a student and socially, though I tried to always find time to fit in that zen smell and breathing of riding and horses. During one College summer, I worked at the Double JJ ranch in Rothbury, MI and I was a turned barn rat hunter/jumper to a full-out hay baling, tanned and toned 8 hr a day riding cowgirl and couldn't have worked harder and have been prouder. My three steeds that summer were as different as could be. "Sassy" a Chestnut Arab that spooked to keep herself interested on trails, to "Doc" a 2 yr old sweetest Buckskin that would nibble and suckle on my hands, to my favorite beast "Custer" a draft cross with an attitude and the worst gaits to sit. I loved them all and each one taught me so many different ways of riding and dealing with these amazing animals that allow us to ride on their muscled backs. That summer gave my riding a confidence boost like none other. Other than that summer, my horse time was left for when vacationing and being able to love on a random horse in Mexico, England, Belgium or in the Caribbean. (yes, I know my parent's didn't buy me a horse, but by no means did I have a suffering childhood!!:)

So after College graduation and working for several years in the real world in Metro Detroit, last summer, I had an itch.

The itch..the horse itch. It was back and it was back BAD. I told my husband, "I think I want to start riding again" but what I meant was...the sickness is back and this time I think there is no cure. It had been about 10 years since I had really ridden constantly and through the randomness of Craig's list, I stumbled upon a very sweet girl (now a friend) who was looking for someone to lease one of her many rescues. So, hello, I thought..HERE I am!! What fun last summer was, riding her beautiful rescues and chatting with ladies my age with the same love and obsession. Things started shifting from "Oh, I love that new Givenchy handbag" to " Oh, I need a Crosby saddle!?"...er any tack for that case, I had found myself years behind on my collecting!

Later that summer, a twist of fate happened when a trailer hauling in several race horses came in and dumped them off for the Fall/Winter. Some were to be raced still, others to try and sell, and if not successful with that...god knows what. As luck would have it, the horse I was leasing came up lame...and now a pasture full of Thoroughbreds faced me. So I rambled into the pasture to meet and greet these new faces, noses blowing with curiosity. Thin bodies, but pure raw athleticism.
One smallish, thin, bay horse slowly walked up to me and I just melted into his chocolate brown eyes that though, I knew he was an OTTB (off the race track Thoroughbred) he had the most amazing round Arab-ish eyes, kind eyes. It wasn't a scene from a movie, where the black HUGE stallion comes galloping over to the small helpless child and blows gently over their head. No, but it was just as magnificent to me. I said outloud to this strange horse (and to myself), "I'll ride you sweet eyes." And I did...that evening, and the next day, and the next and basically refused to get off his boney back. I couldn't sleep at night anymore, thinking, what will happen to this little ex-racer? Where will he go? Who will or would buy him? Will he go to auction and live a miserable life? The same answer kept coming to my mind, but for some reason this new voice of reason kept saying "Now is not the time, you want to start having children. You can't afford this. You don't have time" and then there it was...the little voice, the 7 yr old girl that simply said, "I love him."

And it was done. Years later, about 25 to be exact, I got my wish of a owning a horse...a dream I never let go of. In this past October of 2008, my husband and I, rescued my first horse; Lazarus.

This blog is dedicated to Lazarus and my husband and I, our ups and downs as we learn together a partnership in horse and horse crazy. I know I am starting this blog late, as I now have owned him for approximately for 9 months but I thought I would not lose another day and get going. We've already come a long way, from loading Lazarus up in my friend's trailor to bring him out to Howell, where I currently board him at a (now very dear friend's) private farm. I had a horse and a halter and not a whole lot more but a lot of support, and that is all I needed.

So (cluck cluck) here we go...