Saturday afternoon diary – a very special ride for my friend Heidi and a solo ride for me with Maestro.

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.

Heidi & Ziggy
Alfie stuffing his face while Heidi and Ziggy enjoyed some alone time on their adventure.

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. ❤️🐴

Thunder Baby Shark
The beginning of a beautiful team.

Sunday evening diary – saying goodbye is never easy, even if you know in advance.

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.

Below are pictures of Heidi and Cayman and Alfie.

Cayman – a beautiful soul, inside and out. ❤️🐴

The night of his party
Alfie and Cayman
When Heidi officially adopted Cayman
When Alfie and Cayman became friends – notice Cayman sticking his tongue out at Alfie 😂
Besties
True friends
The beautiful Cayman

Saturday evening diary – Welcome to retirement Alfie ❤️

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. ❤️🐴

Alfie LOVES the spring grass

Wednesday evening diary – a solo evening ride outside

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.❤️🐴

One amazing team.
My love

Saturday evening diary – a bond and love so strong.

An absolutely beautiful day at the barn. Spring is in the air, although it was a bit chilly, old man winter is still hanging around in spots. But the sun is warm and the birds are chirping so winter is packing it in until next year.

I head to the paddock to get Alfie. 2 of his field mates are out and about, but Alfie was down the hill a bit so I walked quietly to the top of the hill. As I approach the shed and look down the hill, I see Alfie, happily eating grass. I stop to just look at him when my foot steps on a branch and cracks it and with that Alfie pops his head up, his eyes widen in excitement and he runs up the hill to see me.❤️

I pet him, turn around and he follows me to the gate. No lead rope, no cookie, just me. Such a simple gesture of love. This simple gesture took almost 5 years to get. I’m pretty sure he would’ve just walked with me all the way to the barn without me holding onto his lead rope.

Our lesson today went well, lots of trotting and trotting over poles, Alfie’s favorite thing to do. We are at the point where if he sees poles on the ground he tries so hard to drag me to them lol. This, the horse that never liked pole work before suddenly he’s all about the poles lol.

After our lesson, it was time to graze. He wasn’t interested in picking up his head for a picture, nothing beats the taste of new spring grass.

Nom Nom Nom
Spring grass

Our bond and love has grown so much over these last almost 5 years. It makes me so happy to know Alfie feels comfortable enough to show his love.❤️🐴

Sunday evening diary – a rainy day, but still a fun day at the barn.

Yesterday, the weather was beautiful. Spring is in the air. Sunny and warm, Alfie and I had a great lesson and even took our first ride outside since the winter. Today, it was raining. Not just a little rain but A LOT of rain. The horses were sleepy, I mean it’s the perfect weather to just sit on the couch curled up with a blanket and watch some Netflix.

A perfect spring day

When I got to the barn, most of the horses were napping, including Alfie. He was leaning against his favorite wall, back foot tilted up sound asleep. I popped my head into his stall, Alfie slowly woke up, blinked a bunch of times and managed to give me a head nod, because he wasn’t ready to move just yet lol. Since I didn’t want to disturb his nap, I took the time to clean my tack. I had been so good at cleaning my tack every few weeks but I neglected my tack for the winter so today, I made up for it.

Shiny, cleaned and conditioned.

By the time I was done with my tack, it was time for lunch, mine and Alfie’s. As I went into his stall to get his bucket, he woke up and was excited for his lunch.

After lunch, we did groundwork. A good grooming, leg stretches and some massage, put Alfie in work mode.

He’s so beautiful

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing he looks for his age? His winter coat is shedding out which is why he looks like a teddy bear but check out his muscle tone. Not bad Alfie, not bad at all.

After our groundwork session, I returned Alfie to his stall so he could finish his lunch. I took a walk outside in between the raindrops to take some pictures around the farm. There is so much beauty here, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

A beautiful moss covered old building.
The weeping willow is waking up from its winter sleep.
These trees in fact are dead, but still they hold such beauty.

As the horses were getting ready for dinner, I took this video of Alfie.

Alfie and his pre-dinner dance.

Such a wonderful horsey filled weekend.❤️🐴

Monday evening diary – my husband is my biggest fan

True Love

Horses and spouses. Sometimes, it can be a slippery slope. Jealousy & resentment can develop quickly when suddenly you find yourself spending countless hours at the barn with your barn family and horse, while your spouse sits alone at home. Trying to find that balance between spending time with your spouse and with your horse is not easy. I often talk about how blessed I am that I have Alfie in my life, but I’m even more blessed that my husband Scott has embraced my passion with 100% support.

When my husband and I were married, horses weren’t a part of my life. Ok, well, that’s not totally accurate. They were there on our wedding day.

My Wedding Day transportation ❤️
Of course I had to pet the horse 😍

Being reunited with horses on my wedding day was what planted the seed. While I was riding through town in the carriage on my way to the ceremony, I wasn’t nervous at all. In fact it was the clip clop clip clop of the horses feet on the pavement that put me at such ease. The smell of the horses and leather brought me instantly back to my childhood when I was taking lessons at the local stable.

For our honeymoon, we went to Ireland. It was our first time there, and what a beautiful country it is. You know what there is a lot of in Ireland besides beautiful green pastures – horses. Horses everywhere. Of course there are tons of sheep and cattle, but horses, everyone seemed to have horses in their yards. Was this another foreshadowing sign of what was to come?

When we returned from Ireland, I got my weekly Groupon email and what was staring at me…a Groupon for a trail ride for 2. 👏🏻

Now, my sweet husband was game for anything. I texted him and asked if he would like to go on a trail ride with me. He of course said yes, but he mentioned that he was allergic to horses but said he would be fine, after all the ride was going to be outside.

We get to the farm, sign the waivers and go to try on helmets. We then patiently wait for our horses. At this point, I notice my husbands face is starting to break out with hives. I ask him if he’s ok, and he tells me he is fine so we get on the horses and off we go. The ride was fun, my husband did great. We say goodbye to the horses and get into the car. My husband at this point has swollen eyes and calmly tells me his chest is tight and he could use some Benadryl. I zoom to the nearest Walmart and he takes 2 Benadryl while we are on line to pay. His breathing gets better and he falls asleep on the way home. The hives took 3 days to go away, but this is the kind of man he is, this is the amount of love he has for me. It didn’t matter to him that his allergy to horses was worse than he ever imagined, he knew how much I loved horses and he wanted to support me, even if it meant he might have ended up in the hospital.

After that ride, that’s when I went searching for a stable to take lessons, and I found one close to home. That’s where Alfie and I were brought together, and the rest is history.

Supporting me at one of many horse shows ❤️

My husband. He’s not only allergic to horses but to hay as well. And yet, he has attended every horse show Alfie and I have been in. He loves Alfie even though he can’t really interact much with him. Whenever he visits him he pets him anyway and then runs to the nearest water source to wash his hands. He doesn’t mind that I spend all my free time at the barn with Alfie and the other horses as well as my barn family. He has not only accepted my passion, but he’s encouraged it, supports it, and has never said “no” to anything I’ve wanted to do to further my equestrian journey.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support of this incredible man I get to call my husband.❤️

Tuesday evening diary – a disagreement at the mounting block, a few tantrums, trotting circles, some collection exercises and a forward trot all around the ring – an evening spent with Alfie.

Who me? Nah, I didn’t give you a hard time at all

The summary of my evening with Alfie is accurate. He pulled out some of his greatest hits tonight, the Alfie shuffle at the mounting block, the flying spit wad, dancing into the center of the arena, until finally, the record stopped playing and he started working with me. And together, we made beautiful music, so beautiful in fact, he worked up a sweat in all the right places, including his hind end. Yes, that beautiful butt of his got used, and when that power kicks in, watch out world, because here comes Alfie.

Tonight’s lesson was filled with so many accomplishments, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s been just about 2 years that Alfie and I have been at our barn with my trainer Kari. When we started lessons together, we were a hot mess express. Truly, just a hot mess. Coming from the western world of riding and transitioning to the dressage world had its fair share of challenges for me. But for Alfie, it was so much more difficult.

The first thing I had to address were all of Alfie’s medical issues, from his stomach ulcers, his raging diarrhea, to his anxiety and of course, the condition of his feet. Add to that a new barn, new people, new routine, new discipline of riding, new saddle, it was a lot of change. It took Alfie a good 7 months to fully settle into his new home. But with the guidance of the barn owners at the time along with my trainer Kari, the real Alfie finally started to emerge.

It took me awhile to catch up to Alfie, to become the rider he deserves. This journey has been a journey, one filled with more downs than ups at times. Countless hours spent feeling sorry for myself and my slow progress, countless hours spent comparing the beginning of my journey with horses to someone else’s middle or end. But it’s finally all come together for me and Alfie.

I approach him with confidence. I listen to him, even when his opinion is against whatever it is that I wanted to do. There is no plan when I ride. There is no agenda anymore. Every ride I take with Alfie is special. Trotting circles might not seem special to most riders but for me and him, it is. It’s working together as a team. Even when his opinion comes out, guess what, so does mine, along with some really good negotiating skills.

My journey with Alfie is unique. It’s one that I wasn’t sure where it was going to take us. In my mind, Alfie and I have won all the gold medals at the Olympics. We’ve won all the blue ribbons at the Dressage Grand Prix. The reality is, we’ve won because TOGETHER we’ve overcome challenges, fears, pain, & sadness. TOGETHER we’ve experienced love, joy, good health & happiness. At the end of the day, that makes us a winning team. Sure, our next ride together could be pure disaster, but no matter the outcome, we are in this journey together, and for that, I am eternally grateful.❤️🐴

Sunday afternoon diary – a short solo ride full of opinions…

I’m cute but I’ve got opinions.

The time changed last night, we sprung ahead 1 hour. I must say, my body is handling the change OK so far. Last year when the time changed I was a hot mess the first day and couldn’t seem to get on schedule well for weeks.

Alfie, was extremely opinionated today. He was perfect for the mounting block and our warmup and was even game for some trotting around the cones. But he wasn’t in the mood to do much else after that. His opinions became increasingly known, complete with head tossing and flying spit. But I was determined to not let him win. So I regrouped myself and worked through every single head toss, spit toss, and the beautiful art of pulling me into the center of the arena multiple times. For a solo ride, I did great. It wasn’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t perfect. I’ve got an arsenal of knowledge now of how to get through all of Alfie’s tricks.❤️🐴

I was a challenge today but I’m so cute.
❤️❤️❤️

Saturday evening diary – a little light gymnastic work for Alfie

Since coming off his 6 1/2 weeks of no work while recovering from 2 separate hoof issues, Alfie has had a definite spring in his step. He is more forward and only wants to trot. And when he doesn’t get his way, he lets his opinion be known.

You might not think that a 6 1/2 break from working was a big deal, but it wasn’t just that we didn’t ride for those weeks. It was that Alfie was pretty much confined to his stall for the majority of it. Alfie thankfully didn’t put on any extra weight by being in his stall but he lost muscle. He wasn’t able to be turned out in his field, which is rather large and has a nice hill to go up and down all day. So getting him back to work is a bit of a tricky balancing game. On the one hand, if Alfie feels good and wants to trot great but on the other hand, if his muscles aren’t strong enough he can hurt himself.

We’ve had a little taste of spring the last week or so with temperatures going into the upper 50s to 60s. The warmer weather does a lot of good for Alfie’s arthritis, and when I rode him on Tuesday and Wednesday – boy did he fly. Today, the temperature was more normal for this time of year, upper 40s with wind, and Alfie was more stiff today and didn’t have as much forward as last week. So our warmup was a bit longer today.

One of the things Alfie loves to do is walk and trot weaving in and out of cones. You know, those bright orange cones that are all over the roads these days to alert you to a giant pothole, yep, I’m talking traffic cones. My trainer Kari referred to Alfie’s speed and agility through the cones as gymnastic work. So today, we were gymnasts. Alfie sees the cones and immediately picks up speed. As we weave in and out of the cones, Alfie gets faster and tighter with each pass of the cones.

Something that I also haven’t had to deal prior to his injuries were his opinions or tantrums. Prior to his injuries, our rides had been tantrum free for several months. That isn’t the case now. He has brought them back in full swing. But something that has changed for the better is how I handle them.

Now, all horses have tantrums and opinions, and Alfie’s are on the mild side, but they are enough to be a challenge for anyone who is new to riding him. And for many years, those tantrums scared me. But you know what – I’m not scared anymore. I’ve always known what to do when he has one, I know to turn him into a circle and get back on track with what we were doing. But when you are scared and lack confidence, the simple solution of how to deal with the issue, well it might as well been a bucking bronco I was riding – when you are scared, you are scared.

So where did my confidence come from? Riding other horses. Riding other horses that you don’t know very well, that you don’t have a relationship with yet, and where a trusting bond hasn’t been formed. Having Alfie out of commission for almost 2 months really forced me to get out of my comfort zone and broaden my riding experience. Maestro the Magnificent helped bring to the surface the confidence I’ve needed for Alfie. I am so grateful for that.❤️🐴

Not our best selfie lol
After our ride