Tuesday evening diary – yes Martini – I’m really gonna ride you

2 days after the horse show and my body is still tired. But it’s Tuesday and it’s my date with Martini.

We kept it light today, we worked on our haunches and shoulder work. At one point Martini seemed bored at just walking so we trotted a bit but honestly my body was in revolt lol.

After our lesson, I stayed to help feed dinner to our amazing horses. Every horse in our barn is so loved and appreciated for who they are.

Tonight I will sleep well, and tomorrow is another day closer to the weekend when I get to ride again. Yeah, I am addicted to riding. ❤️🐴

The magnificent Martini.

Sunday Diary – The Horse Show

Ok, it’s not Sunday, it’s Monday. What an amazing Sunday it was. It was the first horse show held at our barn. It was an in house show where all of my trainers students competed. There were children and adult classes. Several weeks ago I made the bold decision to not only ride Alfie in the show but also Martini. Go big or go home!

Alfie enjoying a pre show meal

The classes I was doing with Alfie included an in hand demonstration, and the adult walk class.

Entering Alfie in the in hand classes has always been hit or miss. Usually his behavior is such that no matter how well I do with him practicing the routine and especially standing still he is usually anxious, fidgety, or down right rude. Today…he was none of that. He was perfect. In fact, he was so relaxed he actually fell asleep during it.😂

Giving him kisses to keep him awake
Showing him the fake flowers are not scary.

We ended up taking first and second in the in hand class. My first Blue ribbon win with him.

Next it was the adult walk. The adult walk was comprised of 4 classes, equitation, pleasure, poles and obstacles. The equitation is judged on the rider, how the riders position is, how well the rider communicates with the horse. Alfie was perfect for this. We won first place in this class. Then came the pleasure…

So the pleasure class is judged on the horse. It’s their time to shine, the winner of the pleasure class is the horse that the judge would want to ride. Well, Alfie apparently only wants ME to ride him because he broke out every obstinate action he could. Let’s start with refusing to move…throw in some head tossing for dramatic effect…and of course his ceremonial bathroom break…and of course, I couldn’t curse, or yell, because people were watching – a lot of people, so I laughed on the inside and politely tapped him with my stick of influence and we continued. We took 2nd in that class.👍🏻

The next class was the poles class. Again, let’s just be stubborn Alfie lol. He firmly planted his feet in the ground and didn’t want to complete the opening circle…another polite tap and he was much better. We did well with that class but took 2nd because of his statue impression in the beginning.

The obstacle class he did well with, and we took first in it. He had to step over some poles and then weave in and out of a pattern of cones.

Half seat during the equitation class
Completing our circle
Finishing the cones.
Walking next to the scary fern 😂
So proud!

Next up…Martini….

There wasn’t much of a break between my rides with Alfie and getting on Martini. I quickly untacked Alfie and got myself on Martini.

The classes with Martini were the same as with Alfie except there was trotting involved. My final ribbons with Martini were 2 first place, one third place and one fourth place. I know I won first for the equitation and I think for the pleasure. The poles and the obstacle I did very well with but he broke several times at the trot and getting him going again was a challenge for my tired legs. At one point when we were trotting and I felt him slowing I tapped him with my stick of influence and he gave a little crow hop which is a precursor to a buck to which I quietly told him to “shove it.” Lol.

The beautiful Martini
Trotting poles
Trotting our circle
So proud!

This show was the culmination of countless hours of hard work. First with Alfie. This was not my first horse show with him, this was my 5th show with him in 4 1/2 years. The first 2 shows were at our old barn. The other 2 were local town shows, and then this one. In all the shows with him, we’ve always done really well, but never well enough to win 1st place…and we didn’t win it just once, we did it 3 times. Alfie has gone from a western horse into a dressage horse in just under 2 years. Oh and so have I lol. I remember the first time I sat in a dressage saddle and didn’t have a horn to hold on to that is found on the western saddles. I sad to my trainer where is the “oh s*it handle”? But there isn’t one. The “oh s*it handle in a dressage saddle is you. It’s your seat, your legs, your feet and your core. There’s nothing to rest your hands on, your upper body strength keeps your hands balanced just above the horses withers. There’s no way to “cheat” in a dressage saddle.

And Martini. This horse has taught me so much in such a short period of time. I got on him with such confidence and ability I even impressed my husband. My husband who is my biggest fan, saw me ride Martini for the first time. When I was done all he could do was smile and he said, “damn you can really ride.” I told him I know right?! I really know what I’m doing!

As my tired legs recoup from the show, my heart is full with pride and joy and a feeling of accomplishment. ❤️🐴

My Alfie ❤️

Saturday afternoon diary – horse show prep!

Today was my last lesson with Alfie before the horse show tomorrow! And what a day it was.

Our lesson went very well. He stood totally still at the mounting block for me. We went through the classes and he is ready. Tomorrow might be a different story. Same barn, same horses he knows but there are going to be spectators – not something Alfie is used to.

After our lesson he got a lovely bubble bath, pictured here drying with his cooler on.

Another picture mom??

While Alfie enjoyed his hydro hay bricks, there was no resting for me. As my trainers assistant, I taught several kids today how to properly clean tack. But my day wasn’t done yet lol, while Alfie took his afternoon nap, I helped give Martini a bath and I had the pleasure of having help from Allan, the son of our barn manger Regina.

Martini is as you all know a big horse, over 17 hands tall. So having someone helping to scrub him and rinse him made the bath much easier.

After bathing Martini, it was time to show Allan how to clean tack, my last job of the day.

Tonight, sleep will be hard as I always get excited butterflies for things like this. I told Alfie tomorrow, we are just gonna have fun and do our best. My boy has come so far, I am so proud to do these things with him.🐴❤️

Tuesday evening diary – Martini and I are gonna do GREAT at the horse show.

Today was our last lesson before the show. We practiced the entire competition. My diagonals in one direction were great, but were a disaster going in the other direction. It took me several tries and I finally got it. That’s one thing about me, I don’t give up until I get it right.

We are gonna have some stiff competition on Sunday. Most of my trainers adult students are competing on Martini. Out of all of them I have been riding Martini the longest and know him the best. But her other students have more experience than me. I keep telling myself it’s not about winning, it’s about showing up and doing it. But I am determined, like really determined to set the bar high, do my best, and not give up if I fail. I love this horse, and all that he’s teaching me.❤️🐴

Me and Martini

Sunday Diary – a beautiful crisp fall day spent with Alfie

Fall has arrived. Yesterday, my husband and I went apple picking, it’s a yearly tradition that we both enjoy. We each get a bag to fill. My husband picks apples for baking, and I pick apples for Alfie. Yes, you read that right, I pick an entire bag of apples for Alfie.

Alfie size apple.

I took 3 tiny apples from my bag to share with Alfie today.

Our lesson was really good, we worked on the horse show patterns. We will have 1 more lesson before the show, but I’m very confident we are going to be superstars.

After our ride, it was hydro hay time followed by a nap.

Enjoying my lunch.

So while Alfie was napping I took a walk on our trail and snapped some really pretty pictures.

A beautiful weekend. ❤️🐴

Tuesday Evening Diary – I FINALLY conquered my diagonals!!!

Today’s lesson with Martini was going over the poles and obstacle course pattern for the horse show. This is all at the trot.

First up, posting trot a 20 meter circle, followed by trotting over 2 poles in a half seat, more trotting, 2 more poles, repeating the pattern so it’s a total of 2 laps around the arena and we end with another 20 meter trot circle. 🤪

The obstacle course was next, trotting over 4 poles in the half seat, some walking, trotting through cones followed by a hault, backing up 3 steps, walking forward and trotting over a cross rail jump.🤪🤪

Oh and doing all this while on the correct diagonal and BREATHING!

I rode amazingly well tonight. The biggest takeaway for me was getting every diagonal correct. I finally figured out when I ask for the trot, look down and post when I see the outside leg forward. It only took me 4 years to figure that out lol.

As I was cooling out Martini, I proudly announce to my trainer Kari, I want to go first with Martini (several other students are riding him) because I want to set the bar high. I most certainly am ready for this horse show. Go Big or Go Home! ❤️🐴

The fabulous Martini on the Rocks.

Sunday evening diary – a trail ride, groundwork & cleaning tack.

I’ve gotten used to Sunday’s with Alfie being our “fun day.” Today we had the amazing pleasure of my best gal Heidi riding her horse Cayman. It was only the 2nd time she’s ridden him on the trails and a first time going with Alfie. Our pedestrian chaperones were barn manager Regina and her wife Jenna.

Heidi and Cayman. They haven’t been together very long, about a year and a half. They are still in the “dating” stage of trying to figure each other out. Today was a great day for both of them. Cayman was a joy on the trail, and Alfie had much more pep in his step thanks to that slight adjustment to his saddle the other day.

After our ride, I removed Alfie’s saddle and brought him back into the arena to work on the ground pattern we are doing in the horse show. He was confused when I didn’t bring him back to his stall but quickly figured out what we were doing. We ran through the pattern twice, and Alfie was perfect with it.

I return him to his stall where he enjoyed his lunch and took a nap. But there was no napping allowed for me lol, it was time to clean his tack for the show.

My beautiful saddle all cleaned and polished.

Cleaning tack is an important step when you are dealing with leather items. It not only makes it beautiful but it keeps the leather soft and supple which then adds years on the life of the leather.

At this point, after cleaning my saddle, bridle and fancy leather halter, I was done. My legs, feet and back were sore from standing for so long.

I walked past Alfie, was able to take this adorable picture of him, gave him a kiss, and headed home.

Alfie AKA Braveheart being all cute.

Driving home from the barn I call my mother. We chat and she asks me about my day. All I can do is smile ear to ear. So many moving pieces in life fit together like a grand puzzle which leave me with this feeling of pure contentment, joy and happiness…and a lot of love. ❤️🐴

Saturday evening diary – watch out horse show, Judy and Braveheart are coming!

The other day, I’m sitting at home minding my own business when my barn manger Regina texts me asking what Alfie’s show name was. I wrote back and said Alfie. I told her he isn’t registered or papered so he doesn’t have an official show name. She then informed me he could have a show name even if he wasn’t papered. So then began the thought process of picking a great show name for him.

I wanted something that would reflect who he was. Regina and I tossed several names back and forth and then she suggested Braveheart. I thought about it, and decided that was perfect for him. He is my brave boy. He has a brave heart for allowing himself to trust people. He has a brave heart for putting on his big boy pants to face and conquer his fear of having a bath, or having the farrier trim and shoe his feet. He has a brave heart for being vulnerable in front of the people who will comfort him when he is afraid.

So, for our upcoming horse show, and any other show we enter, we will be announced as Rider Judy Bennett on Braveheart.

Alfie Braveheart Bennett

Today’s lesson was all about the pattern of the horse show classes we are entered in. First is the in hand class where I’m on the ground walking and trotting him. Alfie and I are the king and queen of groundwork, although we are a little rusty, Alfie did great.

We then switched gears to the riding portion. We did the pattern really well, despite a few objections from Alfie lol – but when does Alfie NOT have an objection…trails lol.

Alfie was much more forward in the arena today. The slight adjustment to his saddle yesterday has made a difference. But again, he was objecting to having to do work when he really wanted to just walk the trails. I kindly explained to him the show is in the arena, not outside and you are just gonna have to suck it up buttercup. A slight tap on his butt with my stick of influence and look at that, he realized it was time to work and his complaints stopped.

After we practiced our walk patterns he wanted to trot, so we did. We ended our lesson on a high note, and again, I couldn’t be happier with the effort this horse brings every time I ride him.

After some rest and some hydro hay bricks, it was time for Alfie to get his new dancing shoes. Alfie was very calm and well behaved for the farrier. In fact at one point he turned his head and nibbled the farriers back while he was getting his new shoe on. I calmly explained we don’t nibble the farrier!!

Tomorrow will be some ground work for the show followed up with a trail ride.❤️🐴

Friday evening diary – a lovely day with my Alfie.

September 11. It’s a hard day to get through for our entire country. We all remember where we were when it happened. This day is always a heavy one on my heart. On September 11, 2002 – one year after tragedy hit our country, my father suffered a stroke, the damage done would lead to his passing on September 29. So getting through the month of September is hard for me. Although I’m really good and hiding my emotions when it comes to my father’s passing, this is a first for me, to publicly speak about it. My father’s name was Alfie. Yes, I named my horse after my dad.❤️

I usually try to take this day off from work and spend it doing something my father would’ve enjoyed doing. No, my father didn’t ride horses, but he was an animal lover, and so, what better way to honor my dad but to spend the day with Alfie.

My dad.❤️

I got to the barn pretty early and spent the morning chit chatting with our barn manager Regina. It was a beautiful day today, sunny, but cool with an delightful breeze. We had decided we were gonna go for a trail ride, so I slowly make my way up to Alfie’s paddock. He sees me coming, I call to him and he comes running to greet me. He bends his head so I can give him a kiss on his nose. I love this horse so damn much.

As Alfie is eating his brunch, I start to groom him. The saddle fitter is coming today, and he needs to be clean. My original plan was to give him a bath, but the saddle fitter texted and said they were going to be arriving earlier than they thought, so no bath today buddy, just a really good grooming. I get him all tacked up and off we go. Regina and Cayman joined us on our ride today, and it was perfect. Alfie is so comfortable on the trail, I even got him to trot on it today.

We come back from our ride, I untack him, and make him some more hydro hay, and brush him again. He’s all ready for the saddle fitter.

For my non horsey friends, let me explain to you what a saddle fitter does. They actually make adjustments to the saddle and/or saddle pad based on the horses body shape. Horses change shape all the time, so adjustments are needed to accommodate their ever changing body. It’s just like humans, if you gain weight, you need bigger pants, if you lose weight, you need smaller ones. A few weeks ago when Alfie started giving me issues with not wanting to move, etc., the first thing I did was check his saddle to see if it was pinching in anyway – it wasn’t, but arrangements were made for the fitter to come out anyway to double check.

When the fitter arrived, she hadn’t seen Alfie in about a year. After she set up her work table and supplies I got Alfie out of his stall and walked him to the grooming stall. Because of COVID, the fitter, her assistant and myself were all wearing masks. As we walked by her she took one look at him and was stunned. She couldn’t believe how muscular he was. Through her mask I could see her mouth was open in shock. She asked what had changed. I told her consistent dressage lessons every weekend at his pace. I explained how I made the decision to keep doing lessons but only at a walk with some light trotting only in straight lines so as to not aggrevate his tendons or feet. I explained all I wanted to do was enjoy him for who he was, and to enjoy riding him for as long as possible.

Again, her mouth dropped open. She told me flat out, what I’m doing is amazing. The weekly lessons are keeping him in such amazing shape and are helping him carry himself well. She commended me for not pushing him beyond his physical ability and for respecting him for who he is. She also said all the body massage work and stretches I do with him are keeping his body in top form. Not bad for a 26 year old horse.

His saddle needed a little bit of adjusting, she said it wasn’t pinching him, but just needed to be a bit more balanced for optimal comfort for not only him, but myself as well.

I was napping mom but OK we can take a picture 😂.

To hear this professional saddle fitter praising my hard work with Alfie, praising me as a horse owner for accepting his limitations and working with him for the benefit of him, hearing this made me feel so incredibly good.

As horse owners, you have a responsibility to them. You have to make sure all their needs are taken care of. You have to do your research about grain, hay, in Alfie’s case hay alternatives, body massage therapy, finding the best farrier for your horses specific requirements, the list is endless. The most important responsibility – listening to them. Alfie will never be able to comfortably enjoy off property trips. He will never be able to safely canter me around the arena without risking injury. His days of 4 hour trail rides are long gone. But what he still can do, is exactly what we are doing together. I love him for who he is, the fittest senior horse in the barn. ❤️🐴

September 2018
September 2020
September 2020

Tuesday evening diary – getting ready for our horse show!

We are having a horse show at the end of this month!! My plan is to enter it with Alfie, but today’s lesson with Martini was to go over what I would be doing with Alfie. The classes I’m doing with Alfie are all at a walk, and he should be fine with what we have to do.

After we went over the walk classes, Martini and I broke out or trotting. I’m getting so much more comfortable with changing my diagonal when needed all while keeping him trotting.

The magnificent Martini.

I was thinking back to the first time I met Martini. I looked at him and was terrified because he was so big. With a lot of encouragement I found the courage to just sit on him. From there it was walking. Then trotting. Then cantering. I am so glad I put on my big girl pants and put my fear aside for the privilege of learning from the magnificent Martini.❤️🐴