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.
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.
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. ❤️🐴
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.
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.❤️🐴
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.
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.
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. ❤️🐴
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.
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.❤️🐴
Alfie is absolutely loving these trail ride excursions we are taking. Today we enjoyed the company of Regina riding Cayman.
Since hitting this little trail with Alfie several weeks ago, I’ve noticed a lot of positive change with Alfie. The biggest is the mounting block. He stands. Like a statue. The last 2 weekends, no adjustments were needed. He stands and I get on. This tells me he is happy with our rides.
So before we head out onto the trail, we have to do our warmup. Alfie starts to balk at this notion, as if we haven’t done this exact same warmup every time we ride lol. He firmly plants his feet into the ground and is like nope I’m not moving. Alfie you are so silly, trying to psych me out so maybe I will just turn you around and head out of the arena onto the trail…HA!
With a little persuasion from my strong legs and a light tap with my stick of influence he realizes that some arena work is necessary to be able to go outside. We work on our circles, and even a bit of trot. At this point Regina and Cayman are in the arena warming up and Alfie instantly has more pep in his step when he sees his buddy.
We head out and Alfie is so excited to be with his buddy, he’s actually got an amazing forward walk. In fact, I had to slow him a bit because his nose was actually up Cayman’s behind!
Today’s ride was different – we led for a bit but we also were able to walk side by side. This is new for us. Side by side riding is something we are used to doing in an arena. Out on the trail, we’ve only done it a handful of times usually because Alfie is slower than most horses, and well, to be honest, I always preferred to follow another horse for safety reasons. So if say there is a deer, whomever is first will see it first which will give me time to react. But when you are side by side, you both are first. Today, I felt confident enough to do that. In fact, at one point, we were walking more forward than Cayman.
Alfie had no problem navigating through the small puddles of water today, and he didn’t even care there were frogs in one of them.
My friend Jenna whom Alfie LOVES accompanies us on our rides to take pictures. Her pictures are so beautiful and so incredibly helpful – I can see where my positioning is great and where it needs work. But I can also see the incredible body of Alfie. He’s using his muscles, he has a top line (muscular back), his booty is big and beautiful – just like a quarter horse is supposed to be. But it’s not flabby, it’s muscle.
All in all it was another perfect horsey weekend spent with wonderful friends and amazing horses.❤️🐴
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.❤️🐴
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.
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 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. ❤️🐴
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. 😊
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.
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.
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.
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. ❤️🐴
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. ❤️🐴
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.