Saturday Evening Diary – a lesson out on the trail

What an absolutely picture perfect day. The weather was beautiful today, sunny, around 75 and no humidity.

I get to the barn and make the walk up to Alfie’s paddock. As I approach the gate, he picks up his head and sees that it’s me and he comes running over. This has taken over 4 years to achieve. Alfie recognizing me, Alfie eager to see me, Alfie choosing to leave his horsey herd for me. I’ve got to be honest, I never thought we would achieve this kind of love and trust.

I’m not sure what kind of life Alfie had prior to me, but I can assure you it wasn’t filled with love. From his absolutely terrifying reaction to bathing, to him being extremely defensive in his stall, to the numerous scars he has on his legs, I cringe every time my mind goes to that place, how could anyone be mean to him?

Alfie – with a beautiful orb surrounding him. Thank you Daddy for always watching us from heaven.

Today’s lesson was a first for us. We were going to have our lesson on the trail. It was also going to be the first time Alfie and I would complete an entire trail ride WITHOUT another horse! Several years ago, I was able to get Alfie out on the trail alone for only a handful of steps. It was literally a handful of steps. If you looked behind you, you could clearly see the barn. That took me 45 min to accomplish. I remember when we headed back to the barn how proud of myself I was. Sure, it took 45 min of asking, insisting, encouraging, and downright disagreeing with each other for me to finally get my 10 steps lol. Today was a much easier feat.

Heading out.

As always, my friend Jenna accompanied us to take pictures of our lesson. And my trainer Kari of course was with us. Alfie loves his Aunty Kari and Aunty Jenna so I figured he would have no issue following either one of them as we headed away from the barn. But my boy was not completely sure of himself with following them. Would they lead him into the scary swamp, or to the scary hunting shed those were some of the thoughts I’m sure were going through his head lol. But have no fear Alfie, I’m here, I’ve got your back always and I’m telling you it’s ok to walk. And he did.

Such a beautiful day to share with my Alfie.
My trainer Kari giving us instruction.

As we passed the scary hunting shack which isn’t scary to Alfie anymore, Alfie let out a big exhale, he wasn’t nervous anymore being out on the trail alone. I successfully gained his trust. We made it to the end of the trail and headed back.

Practicing my half seat going up a slight hill.

We worked on my half seat, leg yielding, haunches and shoulder exercises, all while out in the great outdoors. It was truly a different lesson for us, but Alfie really enjoyed it.

Getting into position.
Leading the way back to the barn.
Heading back into the arena.
A job well done.

As my sweet boy eats his dinner, all I can do is smile with my heart so full of love for him. Yes, he is a challenge. Yes, he plays with my emotions to get out of doing things, and yes he’s got his fair share of mental and physical scars, but he’s mine and I am thankful everyday that the universe brought us together.❤️🐴

My heart.

Tuesday evening diary: half seat at a trot and a visit from the massage therapist.

As I’m driving to the barn, I couldn’t help but notice the clouds in the sky. Dark and looming clouds. I look up at the sky and in my most intimidating mean voice command the rain the stay away! Last week my lesson with Martini was called because of a thunderstorm. My voice worked, as I got to the barn the clouds started to move and the sun came out.

Alfie had his appointment with his massage therapist today. I had some concerns given his stiffness from the weekend so I chat with the therapist before my lesson with Martini. I left her to work her magic and Martini and I head into the arena.

Today’s lesson was a lot of trotting, and working on my half seat. We always work on circles at a walk and today we worked on them at a trot. Trotting in 20 meter circles has always been a challenge for me. Today, well, I did GREAT with them! The trot was steady, it could’ve been more forward but it didn’t matter, we trotted in circles! My balance has gotten so much better, it wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t even trot a few steps in a circle and now I’m trotting revolutions.

After our circles it was time to trot some poles. It’s so funny, Martini always picks up some good speed heading towards the poles but then stops and walks over them. Him and I can never seem to get over those dang poles at a trot on the first try. It always takes 3 tries before we get it. But we got it.

Next is my half seat work. I’ve gotten really good at doing the half seat. I can hold it at a walk just about 1 entire revolution around the arena. Of course, we didn’t just do it at a walk, we did it at a trot. This of course was more challenging but I saw where my trainer was going with this. Being in the half seat at the trot is similar to doing it at a canter. And sure enough, after that it was time to canter.

We started the canter in his more difficult direction. Lately in his harder direction I would only be able to get a few steps of canter, but tonight we got a lot of steps, and I was able to keep him going in a beautiful trot after the canter. I did that a few more times before my legs were officially jello and our lesson ended.

While I was finishing up my lesson with Martini, the massage therapist came into the arena with Alfie. He looked so relaxed and was moving so well. I was anxious to hear what if anything she found with him that might have been off.

The beautiful Martini.

I get Martini untacked and give him some cookies. He is excited to get into his stall as it’s almost dinner time.

I speak with the therapist about Alfie. She didn’t find anything unusual or more out of whack than usual. She agreed the weather with high humidity was most likely responsible for his stiffness and unwillingness to do much on Saturday. This was music to my ears to hear. Alfie actually seemed much more awake and energetic today when I got him from his field. Today’s weather was much more to his liking.

I’m trying to eat mom, put the camera down!

I am so lucky. I know, I say this all the time, but it’s true. I’ve got such an amazing barn family that is comprised of the most amazing women. We are all different yet we compliment each other so nicely. We have all been brought together by the love and dedication we have for our horses. It’s an honor to be part of this barn family. ❤️🐴

Sunday evening diary – a beautiful day for a trail ride with our horsey best friend.

Today’s weather – cooler than it’s been with very low humidity. It was an absolutely perfect weather day for riding.

I get to the barn and my friend and fellow boarder Monika wants to come on our trail ride today. Monika is the owner of Texas, a beautiful older quarter horse who happens to be Alfie’s best horsey friend. Literally, the 2 are joined at the hip. Texas is not obsessed with Alfie, Alfie is obsessed with Texas. It’s actually a very sweet friendship they seem to share.

As I’m walking Alfie in from his field, I notice he has a spring in his step. He is moving beautifully. Yesterday after Alfie’s challenging ride with my trainer, I spoke with our barn manager Regina who agreed that the humidity was too much for him and that his arthritis was having a bad day. I asked her if she could ride him for me to see if she felt anything about him that was off or not right. She’s never ridden him before and was happy to oblige.

I get him all tacked up and Regina gets on him. I immediately can see that Alfie is much less stiff in his movements. He was forward, responded to Regina’s leg and seemed more willing to move today. She gets off and I get on, and he is much better than yesterday. I was able to get him to do some circle exercises in both directions which he did well with. He still seemed a little stiff in spots but overall he was better.

While I finish my warm up, Monika is finished warming up Texas. Regina and Jenna are our designated pedestrians, this is Texas’s first time on the trail. 😊

Heading out, following Texas

As we make our way towards the trail, Texas is both curious and intrigued at the sites. We walk past some rock piles, our manure pit, and he is just enjoying taking in the sites. We walk through the gate and we are on the trail.

Texas and Alfie – the best of friends

As we approach the first bend, we alert Monika that the super scary hunting shack is right around the corner. But have no fear Texas, Alfie’s got your back. As we approach the shack, Texas stops to look and, like Alfie, wasn’t sure what it was. But Alfie is an old pro at this shack and we walk past it with Texas following Alfie.

Alfie leading his buddy Texas ❤️
We walked through puddles today!
My handsome Alfie

As we approach the end of the trail, we turn around and head back. Alfie is completely in his element out here. I was also more relaxed on this ride.

Leaving the safety of the arena has always been hard for me. The unknown trail, today we saw a deer and several frogs in the puddles, it’s these unknowns that scare me. Unless there is some sort of zombie apocalypse happening, no deer is going to be entering the arena.

Over the years people have told me I need to relax more when I’m riding. It was suggested to me I smoke marijuana, or take a shot of vodka before I ride. I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life and a shot of vodka would probably make me super sick, since I’m not much of a drinker. I completely understood though where the suggestions were coming from and why it was so vital for me to not be nervous. If I’m nervous, the horse is going to be nervous.

Logically, yeah, I get that. Getting my emotions to match up with that logic, ha, not so easy. But I’m really lucky that Alfie is so incredibly tolerant of my nerves, and he goes out of his way to protect me.

Despite having these nerves, I’ve overcome them enough to accomplish many trail rides with him in addition to interesting off property events such as cow sorting and obstacle courses. The first time we sorted cows, I had just gotten an Apple Watch and it’s got a built in heart rate monitor. It went off 52 times during the 3 hour clinic because my heart rate was so elevated…but I did it anyway. Alfie had a blast with the cows. So whenever I start to get down about being nervous with things, I just remind myself it’s ok to be nervous – but I’m not giving in to it because I’m overcoming it enough to do these exciting things. And at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.

My best friend

On our way back to the barn, I got a brilliant idea. Next week, weather permitting, my lesson is going to be outside on the trail. I spoke with my trainer Kari, and she thought it was a great idea. We can practice our leg yielding, our shoulder and haunches exercises, trotting, all while outside, in the “unknown.” It will give Alfie and I a complete change of scenery, and some new challenges to overcome. ❤️🐴

He’s so happy on the trail.

Saturday afternoon diary – how to tell when your horse is in discomfort or just being a butt.

Today’s weather – hot and extremely humid with rain showers in the forecast. I get Alfie from his field and he happily trots to the gate to meet me.

He enjoys his lunch of hydro hay, I get him tacked up and off we go. He stands at the mounting block for me – WOOHOO!! We then begin our warmup.

From the first few steps I can tell something seems off with him. He’s not lame, his feet are good, but he’s stiff. He doesn’t want to walk and he didn’t want to bend. Now, here’s the thing. Is he being a butt and challenging me like he did a few weeks ago or is something bothering him. After about 10 more min, I get off and my trainer gets on him. Now the normal pattern when he’s being a butt, he won’t pull that stuff with her. Well he did. She felt his stiffness too. She did better than me at getting him to move and by the end of their 15 min ride he was moving better. He seemed to work out of some of his stiffness.

We came to the conclusion that the weather got to him. Alfie suffers from arthritis – which he’s on medication for, but I’ve noticed when the weather is super humid or damp, he seems to be more stiff. Have no fear, his massage therapist is coming on Tuesday. 😊

Listening to your horse. It’s so important. And it’s one of the most difficult things to master. It’s harder than actually learning how to ride. Trying to figure out whether something is medical or if it’s just challenging behavior is a hard line to figure out. So much of my early years with Alfie was spent misinterpreting his behavior for “bad behavior” instead of understanding what he was going through physically. Although I’ve gotten much better at listening to him, I still question if he’s not just taking full advantage of my emotions to get away with stuff. Today, he wasn’t taking full advantage, he was stiff and I listened to him.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be cooler with lower humidity and I bet his movements will be better. As I brought my baby back into his stall, he put his head into my chest for a hug. It was almost as if he was saying thank you for listening to me. I hugged his big head, gave him a bunch of kisses on his cheek and we shared such a sweet moment. Don’t worry Alfie…I will always have your back, I will always listen to you. ❤️🐴

Tuesday evening diary: lesson was called on account of RAIN!

Hot and humid weather, this is typical for summer in NY. As I left my house the air was so thick and hazy, you could chew it.

As I’m driving towards the barn, the sunny sky briefly disappears and a short rain shower attempts to clean the dust off my car. As I get closer to the barn, the sun reappears.

I get Martini from his stall and start grooming him. Because of the heat I tell him, we are gonna skip the cantering tonight. I swear his eyes perk up lol.

We approach the mounting block, I climb the stairs and get on. Because of the heat all 4 doors are open in the arena. There is a nice breeze coming through. As we complete our first lap around I start to incorporate a beautiful 20 meter circle. And then we heard it. The loud rumble of thunder.

A general good rule of thumb, when it’s thundering, you don’t want to be riding a horse. Even if they are totally bomb proof, it’s never a good idea. So I dismount pretty quickly. We take a look at the sky to see what it looks like and sure enough, the storm clouds are right over us.

So I exit the arena and get Martini un-tacked and back into his stall just as the sky opens up with a heavy rain. The storm lasted maybe 15 minutes, but at this point all the horses were ready for their dinner.

Martini – eagerly awaiting his dinner

Till next time my friend ❤️🐴

Monday thoughts…

Found this and just had to share it…

How much weight can a horse carry.
in my experience, a horse can carry an infinite amount.
They can carry the weight of broken hearts, broken homes, and broken bodies. Countless tears sometimes comb their tangled manes. Moments when parents and friends cannot be there to help and hold a person, horses embrace and empower. They carry physical, mental, and emotional handicaps. They carry hopes and dreams; and they will carry the stress from your day when you can’t carry it anymore.
They carry graduations, they carry new careers, they carry moves away from everything familiar, they carry marriages, they carry divorces, they carry funerals, they carry babies before they are born, and sometimes they carry the mothers who cannot carry their own baby. They carry mistakes, they carry joy, they carry the good and they carry the bad. They carry drugs and addictions, but they also carry the celebrations.
They will carry you to success when all you have felt is failure. They will carry you, never knowing the weight of your burdens and triumphs.
If you let them, they will carry you through life, and life is hard, life is heavy. But a horse will make you feel weightless under it all. ❤️🐴

My Best Friend

Sunday afternoon diary – it’s a spa day

Drying after a fabulous bubble bath

I woke up this morning and checked the forecast…high of 92 with crazy HIGH humidity. 😎

As I drive to the barn, air conditioner blasting, listening to some Beethoven – yeah I’m one of those classical music fans – my mind wanders to my lesson with Alfie yesterday. I think back 4 years ago when I first got him. I remember how I was just learning to ride and he was so patient with me, although I’m sure he got frustrated with me at times. We’ve come such a long way. The last 2 months my confidence has grown so much with him. And that confidence has really made a difference. I’m finally feeling like an actual horsewoman.

I pull into the driveway and stop and look at my beautiful boy enjoying the grass and the slight breeze. He looks so happy. He picks up his head, and looks at me and gives me a head nod – yes he knows my car.

I park my car and head up to the field to get him. As I get to the field Alfie sees me and again comes running to the gate to meet me. The love he has for me is so special.

After he enjoys some hydro hay, I tell him it’s too hot for our trail ride today, so how about a spa day. Alfie has no complaints about a day of pampering. He enjoys his bubble bath topped off with a couple of cookies.

I get him back into his stall and he parks himself right in front of his fan and proceeds to take a nap. A perfect way to spend a crazy hot day. ❤️🐴

Saturday afternoon diary – you are my sunshine when I’m feeling blue…

It’s been a very emotional last couple of days for me. On Wednesday I had to say goodbye to my cat Soxy. I had him from the time he was a rambunctious kitten. He was 20 years old when he passed. Driving to the barn today, I fought back tears just thinking about him. As I pulled into the barn driveway, my heart was heavy. I stop and look at Alfie in his paddock and question whether I have it in me to ride today.

I park the car and head into the barn with all my stuff. I swear some days I feel like such a bag lady…I have my purse, my lunchbag which has all my bottles of water, a second insulated bag which has my lunch’s for today and tomorrow, and another bag which has some of Alfie’s things in it. Seriously, look up in the dictionary “horse owner bag lady” and you will see my face 😂😂!

I unpack all of my bags and it’s time to get Alfie. I have Jenna, the wife of our barn manager accompany me. Getting Alfie from the field has been tricky lately. He’s totally fine but his field mate Ziggy seems to think when he sees anyone coming to the gate it’s time for him to come in also lol. As I approach the paddock Alfie sees me and comes running to the gate, MOMMMMM!! And then comes Ziggy, running as well. Now it’s a race to see who can get to the gate first….and the winner by a leg is ALFIE!!

As I get Alfie out of the paddock, Jenna gives lots of hugs and kisses to Ziggy as we are able to safely exit the paddock. On my walk down to the barn, Alfie brings his head into my chest, he knows I’m struggling with something, he can sense it. I wrap my arm around him and hug him close, tears welling up in my eyes…he knows how to comfort me in his own way.

I bring him in and he happily starts munching on his hydro hay. At this point my trainer Kari arrives and I manage to pull myself together. I told her I’m not sure what kind of lesson it’s going to be today, my heart isn’t in it.

Alfie finishes his lunch and I walk him into the grooming stall. A quick brush, and I get him all tacked up. We walk into the arena and here we go.

I line him up at the mounting block, he gives me a nudge with his head, I climb the stairs, grab the reins and get on. He stood. 🙌🏻

Our lesson today was a really good one. We get through our warmup nicely, Alfie is bending beautifully and he’s got a nice forward walk. As we cross the diagonal to change directions he walks over a pole with such determination, there’s actually a spark of pep in his eye.

After our circle work it’s time to trot. We start on Alfie’s more challenging direction. His trotting is getting so much better, he’s using his back end muscles and he’s starting to round. As we take a little walk break for me to catch my breath – it’s super hot and humid again – something spooks Alfie and he does his spook move which is a giant leap forward followed by a quick a stop. All I could do was laugh as we tried to figure out what he spooked at. We change direction and start trotting again. As soon as I ask for the trot he picks it up nicely but then breaks into a walk. We start again and this time I give him some big squeezes with my legs and a sight tap with my stick of influence and look at that, he keeps trotting. We end our lesson on that high note.

During our cool down he gets lots of praises. He always tries so hard, and so do I. What was missing today was head tossing, there was none of that. He politely did everything that was asked of him. Tomorrow, is our fun day, we are hitting the trail again. ❤️🐴

He truly is my everything.

Tuesday evening diary: hello old friend

Martini

It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve last had a lesson with Martini, and oh how I missed him.

Some things have changed since I last rode him, Alfie and I enjoyed 2 pretty awesome trail rides. And that left me with a lot of confidence. My lesson tonight was great. We trotted poles and around cones. We cantered around in the most forward canter we’ve ever done.

A truly lovely way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. ❤️🐴.

Martini enjoying his hydro hay.

Sunday afternoon diary: an amazing accomplishment for both Alfie and his horsey friend Cayman

When I first started riding 4 1/2 years ago, I met a fantastic lady named Heidi, who quickly became a fantastic riding partner and one of my closest friends. Heidi and I are close in age and her riding experience is vast. From English to Western, jumping and trail riding, you name it, she’s done it. She offered and still continues to offer advice, hugs when I need it and she is my BIGGEST cheerleader.

When Heidi and I moved our horses to our barn, her and her horse Cayman were just in the beginning stages of their partnership. At this point she had only owned him for about 2 months. When you first meet your horse, whether you own them or simply ride them on a regular basis, it’s like dating. There is a courting period, a flirtatious period, an infatuation period, a major crush phase, and an instantaneous “I’m in love” phase. The length of these phases varies. This is the “newlywed phase.”

The honeymoon ends once the “fluff” is gone and it’s time for your horse to test their boundaries with you – and they will test you.

We had been at our barn for 2 weeks when we decided to go on a trail ride with another rider. Alfie was a trail master but neither Heidi or I were really sure about Cayman’s trail abilities. We head out and we get about 2 minutes in and Cayman gets spooked. Our ride ended there, we turned around and came back to the barn. That was in April 2019.

Fast forward to July 2020. Our barn is under new management headed by a lovely and extremely experienced horse rider – Regina. Regina has a lot of experience with riding different skilled horses, super rock steady would never spook horses as well as the ones that do spook. She took an immediate interest in Cayman because she realized how much Heidi missed being able to trail ride and she wanted to help.

So, Regina worked with Cayman for the last few weeks, and after 3 or so rides, she asks me if I would mind riding Alfie while she rode Cayman out on the trails. I of course said YES. Today was Cayman’s 1st attempt at the trail since his spook over a year ago.

Cayman and Regina

Let’s talk briefly about the weather today…it was the first day in about 2 1/2 months that the temperature wasn’t in the 80s. It was chilly, around 66 and damp. When there is a temperature change like that, the horses can get frisky, and they did. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw Cayman, Alfie, Ziggy & Texas running, rearing, bucking and having a grand ole time. Not bad for a paddock full of senior horses. Weather change, frisky horses, Cayman’s first day out on a trail…hmm…I will admit, I was nervous for Regina.

I get Alfie tacked up and we make our way to the mounting block. He stands still but then decides while I was getting on he was gonna move, but it didn’t matter, I was already on lol. We get into the arena, I fix my seat and we start our warmup. The new bit is working great, we worked on our circles, crossing the diagonal to change direction, even got in some nice trotting down the long sides of the arena. Cayman and Regina joined us in the arena to warm up.

After our warmups were done, off we went. Heidi was walking next to Cayman and Jenna, Regina’s wife was walking next to Alfie.

Immediately there is pep in Alfie’s walk when he realizes his heading on the trail. Cayman is in front and takes a really long lead. He’s not rushing or speed walking but his strides are much bigger than Alfie’s. There were several times during the ride Regina stopped Cayman so we could catch up.

As I watched Regina beautifully ride Cayman, and Alfie happily following I couldn’t help but smile with such happiness. In a matter of weeks, Regina had worked out the kinks with Cayman to be able to do this ride. Seeing my friend so happy with the progress her horse made in such a short time, let’s just say there were some happy tears today.

As we approached the end of the trail and turned around, Alfie and I led the way back. It was the first time he led a trail ride so willingly and easily. I was stunned. His confidence, his trust in me has really shown these last 2 weekends.

Regina had a good distance between us, but I kept checking to see how close they were getting to us. After about half way back, Alfie and I pulled over to let them pass us, and we then continued our leisurely stroll. During our ride, I practiced my leg yielding and getting him to round his position. My trainers voice echoing in my head, chest out, shoulders back, head tall like you are wearing a crown, hands in small fists just above the the withers, elbows at my side, heels down, toes pointing forward, knees forward…yes it’s a lot to remember!! But I did my best to remember it all.

Alfie rounding his body
Cayman, Regina and Heidi
Cayman – calm and enjoying himself
Alfie – leading the trail
My super muscular Alfie – benefits of proper nutrition and consistent riding – not bad for a 26 year old.

We ended our ride with both horses happy and relaxed. Cayman was outstanding. Alfie was brave.

Cayman
My Alfie

Horses are complex creatures, that’s a fact. There isn’t anything textbook about any of them except their anatomy. Personalities, temperaments, likes, dislikes, all vary. They don’t come with a manual. And they all don’t respond the same way to people. But show them kindness, love, consistency and they will start to earn your trust. Once that’s been established and your foundation in your relationship is strong, it won’t matter that the “honeymoon” phase might be over, what you are left with is so much better.❤️🐴