Last week I wanted to have Jean-Luc's shoes reset again before too much snow flies. They were in okay shape but I could tell his front left (clubfoot) was coming loose. I should have called to have it fixed then, but I figured I had a day or so. In true "risking it" fashion, sometime between Tuesday and Friday of last week, the mucky weather stole it! (Did I mention I knew I should have scheduled an appointment!?) However, moments after posting online about the lost shoe, my farrier reached out to me and asked about it - service!
I was worried he may have difficulties squeezing me in this week since the snow is already starting to stick where he lives. But he is amazing and we were able to get an appointment after work TOMORROW! Again, that's service!
I enjoy when the farrier comes because usually, we chat, toss back a few "adult beverages" and relax. Perhaps I'm asking for it, but Jean-Luc, thus far, is a really good man when it comes to having his feet done. Honestly, he's fun to work with on the ground and I believe he enjoys being pampered. In retrospect, the more time I spend brushing out his tail, mane, and coat, the better he seems to act under saddle. Unfortunately, every ride doesn't allow for a forty-five-minute groom session prior!
As a follow up to the bit post last week I would like to thank Liz and Emma for a great suggestion! Afer one wild internet scavenger hunt, I actually managed to find and order an IMUS bit on eBay! This used bit is half the price and worth the investment if it means I get to try one.
Sure, it’s used and not in the best shape but I believe it will absolutely do the trick. My tiny, still relatively expensive hunk of metal arrives this Friday. I must admit, I am pretty excited because this bit will allow me to compare and contrast Jean-Luc’s ability to relax and overall control from the Myler bit we have been using. The IMUS’ claim to fame is just that - it allows the horse "relaxed" movement without pinching. The ability to relax and flex is key for most horses to have the proper collection, so we will see.
The bit is also supposed to offer gaited horses a better experience for their tongue. (Cue gutter jokes, now.) New considerations with this bit also include the use of a curb chain. I haven’t used one with the Myler bit yet, however, the IMUS recommends it. Stay tuned! and #BoldlyGo!
Thankful. Earlier this week, Dad and I took our second trail ride together. “Thankful,” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about life these days. The fact that I started a new job at the end of September that allows me to be at the barn and on the trails by 3:30 PM on a weekday was once a pipe dream. But I’ve realized - life is short. These days, my most precious commodity really is TIME.
I want to spend as much of it as possible making memories with the ones I love before I am unable to. Each morning I spend about 20 minutes at my mom’s house drinking a cup of coffee and solving the world’s problems. Together we discuss everything from politics to how we would solve small issues around town. We chat about any and everything. Now, I have an opportunity to do something similar with Dad. The nature and fortune of these things are not lost on me.
But enough gushing, I’m sure what you’d rather know is how is Jean-Luc? Simply put – he’s a rock star! His winter fur is growing in nicely and I’m looking to have his shoes reset one more time before winter.
Each time we go out our quarrels look less and less like full-blown lightsaber duels, and more and more like Han and Leia’s bickering. I would really like to get one more group trail ride in somewhere before it becomes too bitterly cold. The temperatures are dropping fast, for sure, and my options for weekends are becoming more and more limited.
I also really need to order Jean-Luc his own Myler bit (on the left). I keep putting it off though because I am curious if there would be something even better out there (plus the price tag is about $116).
The lady who keeps her horses down the road from mine also has a Tennessee Walking Horse. She really likes the Imus brand bits, but with a similarly high price tag, I'd like to try it before I buy it. Call me slow, but I just never knew how much a simple bit could enhance your horses performance. Someone I used to work with when I lived at the ski resort assured me that the bit is key to a good gait - so I want to get this right.
That said, I realize the online community that I interact with is mostly endurance or evening based, but if there happen to be any resources out there you may have heard of, I’d love to read/meet / try them. It may just be another trial, error, and learn kind of thing, but I welcome any input!
Today was the best day Jean-Luc and I have had since we came together back in April, of this year. Around 9:00 AM, my husband and I kicked into gear with a delicious breakfast at our local Bob Evans. Together, we enjoyed someone else cooking our meal, and sipped on our coffee before we both started our respective adventures for the day.
I made it out the barn by about 9:50 AM. The temperature was a delightfully brisk 43 degrees. After cleaning a few things up in the barn, I found the horses munching on dew covered grass in back field.
Though he didn't come when called, Jean-Luc was still a really easy catch. Upon closer inspection I noticed, for the third time in a row, he'd managed to style his own hair with more burs. While I don't mind cleaning them out every now and then, three times in a row is about my limit. However, since I was in no rush and really didn't have much else to do today, I decided I would take the time to really clean him up. I even braided his tail in hopes that it wouldn't attract as many burs later. Regardless, they would be easier to pluck out of the braids.
My man looked quite spiffy when I was finished and I honestly believe he appreciated the braid. His mane was incredibly silky, too. I enjoyed running my fingers through it when I was finished. Additionally, now that his winter coat is growing in, when Jean-Luc is in the sun you can really see his champagne color shine. While "pretty" is never what I was going after, some days I can't help but feel extremely lucky that I ended up with such a pretty boy.
Per our regular routine, after cleaning him up, I tossed a saddle on him and took him into the barn arena for some surcingle work. He was really focused today, paying attention to each cue. He sped up, slowed, and turned nearly on a dime. The few times he didn't were miscues from me.
After our work in the arena, I figured he'd been so focused I would see how far I could get on the trail with Jean-Luc. Usually we don't make it more than 100 ft from the barn. There's an old road cone I try to make it to just before a creek. He always baulks at the little down hill slope of the creek, so I consider it a win we are able to make it to there and just stand quietly.
Today I really wanted to push through this though. It took about five tries, but eventually, with enough hip action and positive reinforcement, we did it! We were past "the spot" and into the creek. We stopped for a drink and I really wanted to see if he would keep going. Sure enough, with a little more hip action and praise, we were moving! In fact we even made it to the field through a way Jean-Luc has never gone! - He's braver than he ever wants to let on, of this I am sure.
I figured I could be pushing my luck, considering how much Jean-Luc truly hates to be away from the herd, but things just felt good so I kept going. He tried me 3 or 4 more times as we went into the woods near the barn. That said, the Mylar bit that I was using, I believe, made the difference. This new bit made it so that he was unable to completely ignore me like in past experiences. Also, I was able to stay really calm.
We made it all the way to a road (a place that I know is about a mile away from the barn). Then we even walked down the road approximately 150 yards before I made a deal out loud to Jean-Luc.
"Get to that tree," I said, "and we can turn around and go home."
Of course he tested me, but we made it. Then, we stood still for about 10 seconds, and turned around to go home. The entire way back all I could think of is how proud I was, not only of my horse, but me! We did a thing today. We did a really big thing. We rode out, alone, and did not have a complete panic attack or meltdown when the herd wasn't with us! Sure, I was tested, but I don't know that this feeling would be as amazing as it is right now had we not worked through those issues.
I'm really proud of this guy. I am also very thankful that the work we are putting in starting to pay off. When we got back to the barn the temperature had risen to about 63 degrees (that's fall in West Virginia for ya). Jean-Luc's chest was pretty warm and covered in sweat.
I let him stand and cool down, showering him with praise before one last treat and tossing him back into the field with his friends. I am looking forward to many more rides like this in our future and can't wait to see the places we begin to explore!
Yesterday I got to hit the trails for the first time in about a week and a half. The best part, I had the opportunity to ride with someone I haven't really been in the saddle with since I was about 13 years old - my dad!
My BM was gracious enough to say he could try riding one of her horses, Lil Bit. Together, we rode out and just relaxed, enjoying the wilds of West Virginia. There is much I could say about that ride, but the short of it is, Dad reminded me of my roots, roots that I am truly proud of.
"I should have been a cowboy," Dad hollered up to me from behind.
I just laughed. His posture is terrible, back crooked, heels high, but he's still the man who gave me the chance to fall in love with the equine world (my mother, too, even though she's afraid of them).
Dad asked if we could trail ride ride at least once a week for the next few weeks. I gladly told him, "of course!"
AND MORE SURCINGLE WORK
For this week, Jean-Luc has had to share some of my time with a new addition to the family. Mr. Theodore “Teddy” Jones, joined the family on Saturday, October 7, 2017. While I don’t talk about my other critters much, my husband and I have a dog, April. We also had a cat, B.G. (Baby Girl), until this past July. She passed away of a sudden kidney failure while I was away on Jean-Luc and mine’s first ride through Durbin.
The entire event was heartbreaking and one I’m sure many of you have experienced. B.G. was my girl. She was a beautiful Bobtail/Manx-Mix. She truly had one of the most chill, dog-like personalities I’ve ever experienced in a cat. While I took her lose hard, I don’t know that anyone took it harder than our 8 year-old German Shepherd-Mix, April.
For weeks April would walk up and down the street in search of her best friend. They had been together, just the two of them, for 6 years. April’s immediate instinct is Alpha Dog, followed closely by, “mother”. When we adopted her from the pound, we learned that she had puppies, and that they were likely taken from her too soon. Anytime she has the opportunity to be around something even remotely similar to a puppy, she will go into full-blown mother-mode.
That is why my husband and I decided, “April needs a puppy.” We have joked saying this for nearly two years now, but with the loss of B.G. Cat, the jokes became reality. Since July, we have attended several animal shelter events in search of April’s puppy. We are pretty big proponents of rescue animals, and as much as I would adore adding some kind of Corgi, or French Bulldog to the mix, we really wanted to stick to our philosophy and provide a home for some critter that needed it. We decided to not rush things and be somewhat picky when it came to things like size and temperament.
Last Friday, on his lunch break, my husband noticed a sign outside of a little country gas station/market combo known as (brace yourself, it’s bumpkin) “Bob’s Mini Mart,” up the valley. The sign said, “FREE PUPPIES.”
While we usually question things like “Free Puppies” he thought he’d call the number provided. They sent him a photo and it might have been love at first sight. The woman who owned the puppies showed a momma pekingese and poppa beagle with two adorable brown eyed fluff balls. There had been a total of six in his litter and these guys were the only two left.
I’ll admit, I know there is a ton that goes into raising a puppy and I wasn’t sure we could handle it. At nearly 8, April isn’t a spry young thing anymore (even though she sure thinks she is). I wondered if she’d even be up to the task of raising a pup? Would her alpha personality kick in? She could really hurt a puppy if she wanted to.
Saturday morning I enjoyed the last of the fun Mountain State Forest Festival activities (lumber jack contest, mini-horse show, and craft fairs). Then I hurried home to start puppy proofing the house. I purchased a few new toys, one of which is this really fun fried egg with wrapping paper inside that makes it sound like it’s actually sizzling when you move it. God bless the clearance bins! And awaited the new little guy’s arrival.
At approximately 4:30 PM on Saturday, the husband walked through the door with the most adorable bundle of furry joy I’d ever seen. It was strange, he immediately took to me. I, for whatever reason, am his “safe space.” And our dog April has adopted this little guy like he is one of her own. B.G. Was my cat, and I wasn’t sure the next animal we brought into the house would love me as much as she did. I think this guy might love me more.
Together, my husband and I went through nearly 100 names, but on Sunday we dubbed him Teddy. I mean look at him! He just looks like a Teddy. He has a few small, and relatively normal puppy health issues like intestinal parasites from the fact that his previous owners never took him to the vet. In fact, had we not adopted him the day we did he was on his way to the pound.
My hope is to be able to bring him out to the barn eventually, and maybe one day on trail rides with the group. His legs are WAY too short, so he would have to say behind or ride in my saddle bags. That said, this guy exactly what the family ordered. Welcome to the family Teddy.
Also, Jean-Luc and I have continued focus on shorter surcingle work and I think the shorter amount of time is helping. We usually work for about an hour, but with Teddy at home I have had to cut it back to a half an hour. I am a very routine person, and this reminds how important it is to sometimes toss in a few surprises.
This weekend the largest Festival in West Virginia takes place in my home town. It is called the Mountain State Forest Festival (google it). It is filled with pageantry, fun, and all magic!!! The entire event culminates in one massive "Grand Feature Parade," on Saturday.
I wanted ride ride through the parade, but it seems this year is not the year. That said, "Parade" is an event few people participate in and I wondered if any of you have ever competed in the pageantry or a parade in general?
I would love to hear your parade experience?
Lately, Jean-Luc hadn’t had much focus. Since our 20-mile ride, he was a little all over the place. I figured it had to do with the season changing, so I gave it little thought. Saturday I went out and worked with him for about two-hours in the morning. As you can see, it was a beautiful morning.
We started around 7:30 AM. Let’s just say the beauty stopped with the sunrise. He was a basket case. He whinnied the entire way across the field. After I brought him in the barn he I just kept that crazy look in his eyes. I knew it would take quite a bit to get him to settle.
Our newest focus, as you might remember, is working on strengthening up Jean-Luc’s top line. On Saturday he still wasn’t too sure (or willing) to pay attention to his side reins, for a few reasons, but I believe the main thing going on (aside from attitude) had to do with the fact that I changed his bit.
Until now, we had been using a simple D Ring snaffle provided graciously to us by, Liz. That said, he tends to pull through it, chew on it, play with it, and sometimes, he can altogether ignore it - something I learned the previous weekend. Our BM had an extra Myler SS5 HBT Mullen Barrel Low Port that knew she wouldn’t mind me trying out. She and another boarder acquired them a few years ago at Congress.
At first I wasn’t sure it was going to work. The little monster had quite the rampage when I moved him from the indoor barn arena to the outdoor grass area for work. He threw his head to the ground and assumed a bronco like position. His main malfunction - he wanted to be with his herd and he could see them. At the time I hadn’t given much thought regarding how many new things I had thrown a at him. I did know, however, that I was building on blocks that had already been put in to place.
I knew Jean-Luc was familiar with the side reins. He’d worked outside before (just not successfully without throwing a mini fit). I knew Jean-Luc understood the concepts of lunging and changing directions. He did have a new bit though, and I should have probably expected his mini spazz. Yet, the reality is, I knew I wasn’t throwing anything at him he could not handle (he is 13, and was a part of a riding team prior to my ownership).
The side reins were always on the most lose setting (something to be aware of). Jean-Luc was eager to canter as a means of misbehaving, and I kept him going at the canter outside for his attitude. After only a few minutes (2 or 3) he settled right in, and we continued out day like nothing happened). The bit did give me quite I bit more control after saddling up and leaving the barn. With Jean-Luc in the rare feisty mood he was in, I was pleased to be able to push him through and get him further from the barn than we’ve ever rode alone. Sadly, that is only about 100 feet from where we start out.
Yesterday was much better. Finally, I felt like I had my horse back! Though he made me hike all the way on top of the hill again to find him, he never whinnied once, not even at the end of our time together. We followed the same routine as Saturday, only this time, he could not even see the other horses and he kept his head the entire time.
The only thing we did not repeat was our attempt to see how far we could walk away from the barn. Turns out my saddle had lost one of the screws on the stirrups and I was a stirrup down! It isn’t “No Stirrup November” yet! I found my stirrup but not the screw, so I just figured I would end on an extremely good note. It was a 9/10 kind of day!
Here are a few images of our work focusing on creating the right form with our surcingle. What do you think? We are getting there, slowly but surely.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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