I know what you are thinking – gaining weight AND getting fit?? Yes, that’s what is happening – not to me, but to Copper.
When I purchased Copper, I had a pre-purchase exam (PPE) done by a vet. Part of the exam is a body scale ranking where weight, fat and muscle figure into a score. Copper didn’t score highly on the chart, the vet advised that he was going to need weight in order to be able to comfortably do the riding I would be doing.
Finding the right balance of calories/fat to match what he is burning with exercise while keeping him nourished enough to not lose weight is a bit of a balancing act. Copper is turned out in a field full of grass, he’s getting unlimited hay, breakfast, lunch and dinner – which is a combo of grain, hay stretcher, alfalfa, & beet pulp – plus some corn & coconut oil – all good stuff to help him build muscle and gain some fat.
Once the nutrition has been figured out, now comes the exercise. Similar to humans, if you aren’t used to exercising, you can’t just go and run a marathon. You have to train for that. You have to gradually build up to those 20 miles. The same is true for horses. Copper is being lightly worked between myself, my trainer, our barn manager and a few child riders. How is he adjusting to the increased work load?? He’s loving it!
This past week he participated in kids’ week where he was ridden during some group lessons by children – he loved the lessons and all the attention the kids were giving him. I’m riding him 3 times a week and lunging him the other days. Today we worked on the lunge line and followed it up with him and I jogging around the arena together. By the end of the 25 min of work, he was tired – so was I lol, but his muscles are starting to appear so I know we are on the right track.
He is such an amazing soul, I’m so glad he’s loving his life with me so far.❤️🐴
My darling Copper. We are still in the getting to know each other phase and man, this horse has so much talent and training. These last almost 4 weeks have been a fun experiment in getting to know him and figuring out what his different buttons do along with where exactly they are located.
For my first several rides, we would go perfectly straight in one direction and then when we would change direction he would go into a pirouette. It took a few weeks but I finally figured out how to prevent the beautiful pirouette. So now since I was able to do it in the walk, it was time to do it in the trot.
Goals. I’ve learned that one shouldn’t set a goal when it comes to riding because you never know how your horse is going to be that day. They are living breathing animals with emotions, aches, pains and feelings. You can wake up and say, today I’m going to do this, this, this and that with my horse and realize shortly into your ride, your plan, your goal for the ride is completely thrown out the window. So my goals I set are small, usually if I can just get on my horse without anyone holding him that’s a win for me. But today, my goal was to trot in Copper’s harder direction. And when Judy sets herself a goal, watch out everyone, I’m going to see it through as best I can.
Our lesson started out great. Walking in both directions went very well, even crossing the diagonal to change direction was beautiful and so much more improved than a week ago. Then came the trot. We trotted several laps around the arena in his good direction. It was amazing. I was breathing, I was calm, I was having fun, I was on the correct diagonal most of the time, and when I wasn’t I corrected myself. I felt such joy being able to do this with him. Then we changed direction. And that’s when it all fell apart. That beautiful trot wasn’t happening, in fact he basically out right refused to trot in his harder direction.
So, I got off and my trainer Kari got on, to see what the issue was. Well, the issue is me as well as the saddle. The saddle we are using for Copper fits him but not the best. Our saddle fitter is coming next month and I’m hoping she can re-flock my saddle (basically readjust the padding) so that it will fit Copper. So between my wonky hip and a saddle that hasn’t been properly fitted to him, it’s giving him the wrong cues. While she’s riding him around in his hard direction at a trot, he picks up the canter. It’s beautiful. Kari is smiling and my heart just explodes to see this lovely canter.
At this point Kari gets off and I get back on. Copper is so confused lol. My goal, let’s just get the hard direction at the walk and try again. Again, the walk is good but the trot is a no go. Kari says, trot in the good direction and then trot him down the diagonal and change direction at the trot. That way, he’s got forward momentum and maybe we can “trick” him.
Well, Copper isn’t stupid lol, and I tried several times but failed. But I didn’t give up. In one last ditch effort I ask for trot in his good direction…but instead of trot, he cantered. I hit the canter button. Oops.😂
Now for those of you who’ve been following me for awhile, you all know I’m what you call a timid rider. There’s a risk to riding horses, but I have done my best to make the risks I take a bit more calculated as to limit possible injury – hence why I have spent so many lessons perfecting my seat at the walk. It’s that fabulous seat that kept me secure and calm in the saddle while my new horse, who I’ve only had for just under 4 weeks introduced me to his lovely canter today, and I didn’t freak out. 🎉
We cantered about 4 strides and I calmly collected him back to a trot because I still wanted to trot him in his harder direction, even though we skipped right to the canter lol. So I round the arena, we cross the diagonal while trotting, and look at that, we are now trotting in his harder direction!!! I let out a WOOHOO and transition him to a walk and our ride was done. Holy Cow!
Today was beyond awesome. I am so incredibly proud of myself. My growth as a rider and horsewoman is a miracle. For so many years, I doubted my abilities. I doubted my Alfie. I had convinced myself that maybe I just wasn’t good enough, wasn’t skinny enough, wasn’t strong enough – mentally and physically to succeed in this sport. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, this sport isn’t easy at all. What changed for me was a change in environment. What started out as wanting a different environment for Alfie quickly made me realize that I needed a change for myself.
My trainer Kari has led me on this incredible path. She not only turned Alfie into a dressage horse, but she introduced me to Martini, who taught me so much, including believing in myself.
Over 5 years of hard work, the last 2 1/2 years taking two lessons a week, have led me to this point. Cantering my new horse, not being afraid, smiling, laughing, being carefree, these were all things I never imagined for myself, and now they are a reality for me. I’m savoring today, because I have such an appreciation for when things go well, but I have an even bigger appreciation for when they don’t go so easily – because when they don’t – that’s when the true miracle of growth happens. And what a miracle it is.❤️🐴
I started to write my Sunday diary several times yesterday – but every time I wrote a line or 2, I was up and about tending to my boys – or the newest little addition to our barn family – a 5 month old little pig named Nacho Pig.
This past weekend, and even today, has been brutally hot. Hot and high humidity. I got to the barn super early on both days to help out with chores. The mornings at the barn are so peaceful. The horses have just been turned out and there is a calmness in the air. I pull into the driveway and see Alfie, his mane and tail blowing in the breeze, happily grazing. I roll down my window and call to him. He picks up his head, knickers at me, gives me his usual head nod which is like our version of a high five and gets right back to grazing. Oh how I love him so much.
My lesson on Saturday with Copper went well. Watching my trainer Kari ride him is such a joy. He knows so much, and figuring him out is exciting.
So I decide that I’m going to do a totally solo ride with Copper on Sunday. I briefly rode him solo last week but ran into the not being able to go left issue and instead we do beautiful pirouettes lol. After my trainer rode him she figured out to keep him from doing that, my inside leg has to be positioned in front of the girth and my outside leg slightly behind the girth. Copper doesn’t seem to be doing the pirouettes out of spite, my hips aren’t totally aligned perfectly so my seat is giving him the wrong cues. I get him all tacked up and into the arena we go. We start in the better direction where I don’t continuously hit the pirouette button lol. We work on circles and then cross the diagonal to change direction. And there goes my hip…I stop him from pirouetting, and try to figure out the exact position my legs need to be in. Somehow I managed to do it and look at that we went left!
I then figure ok, if I did it once I should be able to do it again, right?! Wrong…I tried a few more times to just get it right and couldn’t. So I decide to change direction again and do some trotting – I will come back to the “left”. We do some nice trotting, I’m in the correct diagonal and we even trotted over poles! The last pole we trotted over I felt my seat come up a bit and I swear he did a little jump over it. All I could do was laugh and chuckle and I said in my giggling voice “that was so much fun Copper!”
My trainer comes in to make sure all is ok and I’m back at attempting going to the left. She comes over and physically moves my leg into the position it needs to be. I feel like I’ve practically got my inside foot literally in his shoulder area but my trainer says to just go with it so I do. He walks to the left with no issues at all, so now I know exactly where my legs need to be.
Our ride ends and I give him a huge hug. A solo ride on my new horse – who’s only been home for a week and a half. Look at us go.😊
With all the changes at the barn, Alfie has been going through a bit of stress. New neighbor – Copper lives next to him, new species living in the barn – the pig and of course ME, spending time between 2 horses now. So to help make him feel just as special and as important as he always will be, I’ve been spoiling him just a little extra these days with his favorite types of treats. Not all horses are as sensitive to change as Alfie is. Alfie tends to be more bitey when he’s stressed or upset. By the time I left on Sunday evening, he was much more like his usual self.
Tomorrow marks the 2 week anniversary of picking up Copper. I am really so excited about what the future holds for us. I hope he enjoys being a part of my family as much as Alfie does.❤️🐴
Copper has officially been in his new home for 1 week. Giving him time to adjust and get used to a new routine, new environment and new people is extremely important. Tonight I rode him for the 2nd time since he’s been with me, and it was fun.
Getting to know him is very exciting. I know a little bit about his background and because he is a registered horse, I was able to look up his show record – which included Western Pleasure classes as well as Hunt Seat. So he’s got not only experience but a lot of skills. Tonight, he showed off just a little bit of what he knows.
We started our lesson like all of my lessons, we walked around the arena. We incorporated some circles and some small figure eights to see how balanced he is and what areas need some fine tuning. His circles were great, he wasn’t sure what to do for the free walk down the arena, but that’s ok, he will get there.
After our warmup we did some trotting. Copper’s trot is very different from Alfie and Martini and even Thunder Baby Shark. Copper’s trot is forward and a bit bouncy. What was so different for me, was the forwardness of the trot. His willingness to move, his ability to slow down the trot just a tad and to keep going at the slightly slower speed is not something I’m used to. My diagonals were perfect in my good direction and a hot mess in the other direction, so I still have to continue to work on that.
So, after we did our trotting, I was attempting to leg yield Copper over to the wall of the arena when apparently I hit the pirouette button. Instead of leg yielding to the left – he proceeded to turn to the right and he did a perfect pirouette. This move is not easy to do, it’s an upper level move for sure and holy cow, we did it. Now I’m sitting there looking at my trainer, and both of us are just in awe of the pure skill this horse just showed us. And of course, I have no idea what I did to have him do that lol.
After the amazing pirouette, I got off and my trainer got on. She was able to leg yield him to the left so clearly the mysterious pirouette button was all me and will remain a secret until I figure out exactly what button I pushed lol.
The getting to know you stage is just like dating. I’m married to Alfie, engaged to Martini, going “steady” with Thunder Baby Shark and tonight I had a coffee date with Copper. I can’t wait for our next date. ❤️🐴
My last diary entry – wondering where my Alfie 2.0 was, must have reached the universe, because the very next day, a woman reached out to me with a horse for sale. A gelding named Copper. A registered Appaloosa. 15.2 hands, English background and can trail ride.
After exchanging numerous messages, I took a day off of work to travel an hour and forty minutes away to meet and try Copper. I made the journey all by myself. I watched his owner ride him for a bit and then it was my turn. The minute I got on him, I felt an immediate connection. It reminded me of Alfie.
We rode in a small arena and we walked and trotted. We then went on a lovely trail ride. By the time we got back to the stable, I knew he was the one. The next few weeks were filled with excitement & anxiety waiting for the day I was going to be bringing him home.
The universe really has an interesting way of making things happen and fall into place just when you begin to lose hope.
Welcome to the family Copper. ❤️🐴
Oh – and if anyone is wondering if Alfie is jealous of his new brother, this is how Alfie and I spent a very hot afternoon together.
The quest, and I call it a quest, to try and find a second horse is proving to be a challenge I wasn’t prepared for.
The quest started months ago, before Alfie was officially retired. The market right now for horses is a hot one. Horse prices are much more expensive than they were several years ago. COVID and the shut down of all indoor activities for adults and children left the door wide open for people to discover the amazing world of horses. This discovery has driven up the prices of horses but has also created a shortage of those unicorns – you know, the ones that have no rear, no buck and no bolt, the ones that can walk, trot, canter and jump small cross rails – the ones that are school masters and are SAFE.
Groups on Facebook have been created specifically for the advertisement of horses that are available for your consideration – since you can’t actually “sell” a horse on Facebook. Many auction houses have actually created Apps where you can bid on a horse from the comfort of your home and have it delivered to you as well. The days of “shopping” for a horse are long gone. Being able to try a few different horses before making your decision are also a distant memory. These days, if you see a horse you like from videos posted online, and you like the description – you pretty much have to take your chances and just buy them site unseen, in a matter of hours those horses have sold.
During my quest to find another partner, I’ve actually only tried out 1 horse. He was a very nice larger sized quarter horse. He was pretty, he seemed safe, he had some good breaks, but I had only about 1 hour to make my decision on whether he was “the one” as the next appointment to try him was rolling in. I ended up passing on him because I just wasn’t sure if he was “the one” and sure enough, he was bought by that next appointment.
A week ago myself, my friend Heidi, our barn managers Regina and Jenna all piled into my car and headed 2 1/2 hours north to a small town known for their livestock and horse auctions. A few weeks leading up to the auction, videos and bios of some of the consigned horses were loaded online. There were about 5 horses I was interested in taking a better look at, but out of those 5, only 1 horse fit the bill.
We got to the auction hours before the horses were being sold, and we were able to go through the sale barn, we watched many of the horses being ridden around the property. We were able to ask questions and really get a good look at them. And then we saw him, the 1 horse out of 180 horses being auctioned that night, the 1 horse that was “the one.” Oh, he was beautiful. The right size, the right skill set, the right experience, and he was calm amidst the chaos of a busy parking area.
We got his number off of his sticker, we found seats inside the arena and we waited. My friend Heidi, you might remember she just lost her horse Cayman about a month ago. Well, a pretty little halflinger named “Dan” came out. She had her eye on him for hours before the sale started. Before I knew it she was bidding on “Dan” and holy cow, she won! She bought him!! I was THRILLED for her!
As the horses continued to come through, my nerves were getting frazzled. The anticipation of “the one” coming up was causing the worst butterflies in my stomach I’ve ever experienced. My heart felt like it was going to beat right through my chest. And there he was – this was it.
The auctioneer started the bid price high, there were no takers… once the bid price was low enough, I raised my shaking hand with my auction number. The next thing I knew, his auction price jumped up by $2,000. And then I bid one more time, but it wasn’t enough. At this point he was already $700 over my original budget, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go any higher. It turns out, “the one” had a reserve – so he didn’t get sold that night. I sat there totally deflated. The waves of disappointment flooded over me like a wet blanket.
So the quest continues. The emotional roller coaster continues. I know there is another “Alfie” out there somewhere, where he is, I just don’t know.
Alfie is enjoying the retired life of just being a horse. Our days together are filled with lots of grooming, grazing and naps. I miss being able to ride him, but seeing him happily be himself makes my heart very happy. ❤️🐴
It’s been 1 week since we said goodbye to the beautiful Cayman. One week later, emotions are still running high, but the healing process has begun.
My friend Heidi came to the barn today to ride one of the school horses. It would be the first time she’s ever ridden him and the first time she’s actually been on a horse in months. Words cannot describe how proud I am of her for getting on Ziggy and walking around our property.
While Alfie and I hand walked behind them, I could just feel the happiness radiating out of Heidi. The best way to help mend a broken heart is to jump back in to what you love.
Many of you have asked how Alfie is enjoying the retired life – I think he’s doing just fine with it. Our days together are filled with lots of grooming, walking and grazing. It was such a beautiful day today, I really missed being able to ride him around with Heidi & Ziggy. The logical part of me has accepted his retirement with grace. The emotional part has gotten better, it’s just still not caught up with the logical yet.
Instead of my normal Saturday lesson, I got a chance to actually take a total solo ride with Maestro. Maestro has a few different names – he goes by Black Thunder as well as my nickname for him – Thunder Baby Shark lol. These last several weeks, Thunder Baby Shark and I have started to form a bond. Similar to my relationship with Martini, we started dating, with a chaperone, today we graduated to a private date lol.
Our ride was great. We practiced circles and trotting in both directions. As I was trotting around, I actually had my diagonal’s correct, and I was breathing!!! As I was cooling him out from our solo ride – when I say solo ride I mean solo ride, Regina our barn manager popped her head in at one point to make sure we were OK, all I could do was smile. Smile with so much joy. I’ve been riding for a little over 5 years now. It’s taken me 5 years to get to this point – total independence with a horse.
After our ride, as I was grooming Thunder Baby Shark, I thought of Alfie. Alfie, my boy. My boy who helped prepare me for this moment. My trainer Kari who basically took me back to step one to help me gain the confidence I so desperately needed to progress in this sport. A solo ride on a horse that isn’t Alfie. Who would’ve thought I would ever be at this place. My friend Heidi has always told me – I don’t grow in baby steps, I grow in leaps and bounds. ❤️🐴
Yesterday we said goodbye to a beautiful horse named Cayman. Cayman was owned by one of my very good friends, and Alfie was Cayman’s first horsey friend. In fact, both boys became very good friends very quickly when they first met a little over 2 years ago.
Cayman had cancer, yes, horses can suffer from the same diseases as humans. My friend Heidi, did everything for Cayman that was medically possible, and her efforts gave Cayman an extra year to his life.
The night before we were going to say goodbye to Cayman our barn held a party for him. Cayman, as well as all the other horses got to indulge in fruit, candy, cupcakes and ice cream – none of the horses liked the ice cream but the sugar cones were a big hit. It was a party to celebrate his life. It was a party to honor his life. Cayman was 22 years old and spent most of his life teaching kids how to ride. This horse gave so much to the world, it was only fitting that the last 24 hours of his life be full of fun, love and yummy food.
Horses are viewed by people in different ways. Some look at them as a tool to achieve their own goals in the equestrian world. Those people buy and sell horses like they were baseball cards, disposable once they are no longer useful in getting their rider to advance further in this sport. Then there are the people that take the time to love and accept the horse for what they are, what they can teach them and in return shower them with all the love and support possible. This is me. This is my friend Heidi. This is the majority of people at our barn.
When I first met Alfie, I was a beginner in the world of horses. I had only been taking lessons for about 4 months before fate stepped in and Alfie and I became a team. We started our partnership with a weekly lesson followed by a ground work day. Alfie knew I was a beginner when we first met and boy, he certainly took advantage of me. Countless hours I spent working with Alfie in hand, building a relationship that would take several years to fully flourish.
Here I am now, fighting back tears, as my boy has officially entered the retired life. What does this mean? He is no longer able to be ridden.
The saga of the ailment of his left front foot came to a head early last week, when I noticed the small quarter crack he had on his inner heel had grown, it’s now much bigger. With a crack this big, it will take about 1 year to fully heal and grow out. Alfie is 27 years old, with an entire year off from riding it will be too difficult for him to get back into riding shape. Logically, this decision to retire Alfie was a no brainer, but emotionally, my heart is broken.
Even now, as I sit here to write this, tears streaming down my face, I cannot help feeling sad. I spent so many years afraid of riding him. So many adventures we went on together that I couldn’t totally enjoy because of my fears. And now that I’m no longer afraid, our riding time has come to an end.
But, all is not lost. Alfie can still do ground work. We can still go for walks around the property and trails. We can still jog around the arena together jumping over ground poles. Our relationship has gone full circle, back to how it was in the beginning.
I have so much to be grateful for with this amazing horse. And even though I am very sad our riding journey is over, I am looking forward to spending time with him in this next chapter of our life together.
For those of you that are wondering if I will be moving Alfie to a barn that specializes in retired horses the answer is no. Alfie is very happy where we are as am I.
If you are wondering if I am going to be getting another horse to join our family, the answer is yes. But finding another horse that can follow in Alfie’s footsteps is going to be hard. In the meantime, I will continue my riding lessons with Martini and Maestro aka Black Thunder.
Alfie. 27 years young. Entering retired life with his biggest fan – me – cheering him on every step of the way. ❤️🐴
Yes, you read that correctly…Alfie and I enjoyed a solo ride outside…no babysitter, no chaperone, only us.
We went around the property enjoying the warm sunny weather. It was a short ride but one that was pure bliss.
Alfie and I have been partners for almost 5 years. I spent about 4 of those years scared. Scared of what could happen while riding. Scared of Alfie spooking and running away at 100 mph – ok maybe not 100 mph but super fast. Scared of falling off and getting seriously hurt. Even though I wish that I hadn’t spent so many years being afraid – even though nothing bad ever happened – I am finally able to move past that fear and just enjoy riding Alfie. I’m forever thankful Alfie took care of me all these years, it took a long time for me to get to this point but I finally arrived.❤️🐴